Category Archives: Stories

Ritual

His hood is pulled up, casting his face in shadow. The bus rolls to a stop in front of him, and he steps on board. He ignored the driver’s terse greeting. It’s not like he means it. Years of driving kids to school has turned this ritual into little more than a Pavlovian call-and-response.

He walks toward the back of the bus, looking for an open seat. One of the upperclassmen makes room for him.

As he takes his seat, the upperclassman peers under his hood. “You’re looking healthier. Eating better?” he asks.

He shrugs. It’s not like it matters. He always looks gaunt.

The upperclassman notices what he’s holding. “They’ll never let you take that into the school.”

“I know,” he replies. “It doesn’t matter.” The upperclassman nods like this makes sense.

At school, he steps up to the metal detector. One of the guards approaches. “Sorry, Famine. I can’t let you take the sickle in. You can get it back at the end of the day.”

Famine nods. This, too, is ritual. School policy. It’s not like he really needs it.

Originally posted on Ficly.

Listen to Ava

Beth stood on the knoll and gazed at the broken city some seven miles distant. The voice on the city’s public broadcast system was audible, even from here, but distance diluted it such that it merely caused Beth a mild headache. Had she been within the city proper, that voice would have been enough to make her skull pop like an over-ripe tomato.

Thad stepped silently up beside her. “Any change?”

Beth shook her head. “She’s been broadcasting non-stop for five days. The girl’s not human.”

“I think that’s fairly well established at this point.” Thad’s expression was grim, his mouth pressed into a firm line.

The two stood in silence for a while. Finally, Beth spoke.

“They marched a 6-year-old girl down in front of the world press and held her up as savior. ‘Listen to Ava,’ they said, and then the first word she spoke literally blew the top off the heads of everyone watching.” Beth clenched her fists and fired her next statement with explosive force. “I hate that little bitch.”

Originally posted on Ficly.

Conventus

She swirled her finger in the glass, then lifted it to his mouth.

“Just a taste, my lover,” she crooned.

He parted his lips, tongue sampling the drop as it fell from her fingertip.

“Oh, my god,” he breathed. “Amazing.”

He closed his eyes, fell back on the pillows, she on top of him. They writhed together, touching, feeling.

“You are my one…” he whispered.

“…my only,” she echoed.

Their skin split, bone pushing through flesh, cries of pain and pleasure escaping their torn lips. In moments, the union was complete, the nightmare creature quivering on the floor.

They would always be together.

Originally posted on Clarity of Night.

Heritage – Repaid

The gate preventing anyone but maintenance workers from reaching the bowels of the sewer system was frozen solid, having rusted in place long ago. Pudge pushed his way through, anyhow, the space being just wide enough to admit entry to his overweight frame. His unfortunate nickname was a testament to the difficulty of living with parents whose only ambitions were gluttony and sloth. This abandoned tunnel was, for today, his haven from the cruelties of the world.

Pudge clicked on his flashlight, shining it in equal parts upon the floor in front of him and the walls beside him. Vandals had wrought their work, scrawling in paint their profane and sometimes mysterious messages, things like:

I tapped Mary Lee. And underneath that, smaller and in a different color: So did we.

Pudge smirked at For a good time call where the phone number had been painted over by someone else.

Further along, other not-so-pithy messages appeared: Megadeth Rulez! and Ratler Teratory and even Kilroy wuz here. Some had even tried their hand at aerosol art (with varying degrees of success).

The tunnel made a turn, hiding the entrance and the daylight outside from view, but Pudge didn’t notice (and even if he had, he probably wouldn’t have cared), such was his focus on the graffiti. Both art and words continued on for a ways, and then the art suddenly stopped, leaving only a strange array of painted messages with increasingly ominous tidings.

The sins of the father.

Condemnation upon all future generations.

Pudge’s flashlight flickered, casting forbidding shadows on the tunnel walls. He slapped it once, and the beam became steady again. He continued walking and reading.

Pain shall be visited upon the children, even unto the third and fourth generations.

They shall walk in the light,
But the light will know them not.
They shall be rejected, thrust from the light,
And they shall abide in everlasting darkness.

And just to the side of that passage: It devours its own.

Pudge shuddered violently, as though he had felt a cold draft. In so doing he dropped his flashlight. It smacked loudly onto the concrete and went out, plunging him into complete darkness. Fear clawed at his belly as he fumbled for his light.

His fingers finally slipped around the shaft of the flashlight, and he breathed a sigh of relief as he flicked the switch back on. Light flooded the tunnel once more, just as sharp pain flooded his opposite arm. Pudge gagged and turned his head to look. What he saw nearly made him pass out – the tunnel itself had become a gaping maw of grotesque teeth. It had grabbed his arm, all but severing it just above the elbow. The teeth ground repeatedly, and Pudge realized with horror that it was chewing!

As Pudge was slowly and excruciatingly ingested, he had time to realize that, somehow, this maw was retribution for a legacy of transgressions.

The sins of the father…

Originally posted at The Curve Ball Conspiracy.

Mesmerized

The bag of chips was all but empty, just a few crumbs left in the bottom. He shook the bag, bouncing it in his hand, so that the niblets would fall together in the corner. There were so few left – and he wasn’t one to waste anything – so he tilted the bag to look inside to see just how much of his snack remained. The chips in the bottom reflected off the bag’s silver interior, and he was torn between the decision to pinch out what was left with his fingers or to simply tip the bag back and dump the crumbs straight into his mouth. A seemingly simple decision, yet he felt his mind stutter, then freeze up as solidly as two pieces of metal welded together.

And there he remained.

* * *

The two programmers observed their immobile subject on the monitor.

“Brilliant bit of programming there, Bud. How exactly did you induce that response?” Thom asked.

Bud chuckled. “It was pretty simple, actually. The silver lining in the chip bag contains several thousand lines of scrolling code – invisible to the naked eye, of course,” he said with a wink. “The program running inside the bag forced our subject into a state of indecision, then compounded the response, effectively throwing his brain into an infinite loop. The program essentially prevents him from action because the decision-making process never ends.” He glanced at the monitor again. “By now the program’s subroutines have copied over to his brain and should be running all on their own there.”

Thom nodded and asked the next logical question. “So. How do we get him unstuck?”

There was no response from Bud. Thom looked at him and saw that his face had paled and his eyes were wide with shock. Thom felt his gut clench in a combination of panic and fear as he looked at the monitor again. The horrible truth of what they had done came to him suddenly.

There was no way to end the program because the program had no ‘kill’ command – let alone a way to execute it – and no way to ‘reboot’ the subject. Neither of them had thought of that when they started alpha testing their project.

Thom said the only thing that he could.

“Oh.”

Originally posted at 365 Tomorrows.

The Midnight Road

Drive faster!

Rain lashed, wipers slashed, Cort plowed through the pouring rain, the demons of his past – both real and imagined – pursued him close behind.

Wind whistled, debris whirled into the road ahead of him, utility poles fell behind him. That’s how he knew they were still chasing him.

Stomach tied in knots, sweat pouring down his face.

A bump, thump, and the car died. The tension in Cort’s body ratcheted up another few notches.

Gotta run, gotta get away.

Then, They’re here!

He leaped from the car even before it could come to a complete stop. Left the road – that’s where they were – and dashed into the open field beside it.

Gotta hide. Oh, god! Can’t shake them. They’ll find me, anyway, his fevered mind screamed.

Shadows whipped about him, flittered, fluttered. Low hisses of eagerness issued from the assailing darkness.

Skin prickled; invisible claw briefly caressed the back of his neck and was gone. He ran harder.

Out of breath, out of time, out of options.

He screamed in fear and pain. Red ribbons slashed into his back.

Stumbled. Fell.

They were on him in an instant. Dozens of them. Tearing. Clawing. Ripping. He’d never had a chance to get away, even on the highway. Their claws had already been too deeply embedded.

Moonlight filtered through wind-driven clouds. And he was alone, then, as ever he had been.

But the damage was done, life leaking from his savaged body as it lay sprawled there in the moon-washed openness.

Originally posted at Clarity of Night.

Veni, Vedi

“What do you think’s in there, Rob?”

“No idea, Finn. Juice, most likely.”

“Juice?”

“Sure, you know, electricity. Stuff’ll juice you, sure as I’m standing here, if you touch it. Knock you flat, leave your hair all sparkly and curled and smelling like something that crawled out of a wall socket.”

“Oh.”

“What?”

“Nothing.”

“No, what?”

“It’s silly.”

“What? You can tell me. I won’t laugh.”

“Well… it’s just that…”

What?

“I wondered if maybe… it was possible there might be something else coming through those lines.”

“Like what?”

“I don’t know. Magic, maybe.”

“Magic?”

“Sure, why not? Electricity runs back and forth in wires all the time. Why not magic?”

“Because there’s no such thing as magic.”

“See? I knew you’d think it was silly.”

“Now, don’t get all upset. That’s not what I meant. It’s just… you really think there could be magic up there?”

“Sure! If someone were to touch them, who knows what would happen.”

“I don’t know, Finn. That seems a little far- Hey, what are you doing?”

“I’m going to climb up there and touch one, see what happens.”

“Be careful! Those things might be dangerous!”

“Don’t worr- Whoa.”

“What? What’s happening?”

“I… it’s not magic, exactly. It’s something else. I can feel everything, I can see… everything. Rob, you should try th-”

“Finn? Where’d you go? Finn? FINN! There… there’s nothing here. Oh, Finn. You took it all with you. Where did you go?”

Originally posted at Clarity of Night.

Eye of Newt

The black cauldron sat in the middle of the room and hissed menacingly as the green sludge within burbled and glurped.  The stench emanating from the vile brew was overwhelming, nauseating in its potency, but the witch standing over it seemed not to notice.

“Leg of lizard.  Tail of salamander.  African bat guano.”

The bubbling mix sizzled and sparked with every ingredient added.

“Dash of pixie dust.  Cloven goat’s hoof.  Heart of newborn lamb.”

She read from the page she had copied from the ancient tome.  The print had been terribly faded, the language archaic, but from it had come a form of magic that others would kill to acquire from her, if only they had known of it.

“Stir clockwise for three minutes, six turns per minute.”

Her arm ached by the time she was done dragging the mixing rod through the thickening glop, but past experience proved that her discomfort now would be worth it once she was done.

The final ingredient was eye of newt.  This she dutifully added, expecting that the formula would transform into its usual bright blue color, indicating that she had done everything perfectly and that the potion was ready.  Instead, it puffed a cloud of acrid smoke, causing the witch to cough and gag.

When the air finally cleared, she looked to find that her precious Vanity Potion, her secret to ultimate beauty, had turned black and smelled strongly of charcoal.  She cursed quietly and then sighed in resignation.

“Oh, well.  I guess I shall have to start again.” The witch-turned-prom-queen whirled to face the young man – her date – that she had tied to a chair behind her.  His head lolled to one side, revealing a red socket where his left eye used to be.  “I’m sorry, Newton, dear.  I confess I was careless with your gift.” She raised a short dagger and took a step toward him.  “I’m afraid that I have need of your other eye.”

Eternal Sleeper

The Lonely Moon gazes down on me,
The pale, immortal Son of Night.
It wakens the Eternal Sleeper,
Who calls to me, and I answer.

She walked, barefoot, across a carpet of moss. Her song – soft, haunting – danced on a breath of air, spun through the wood.

Only the trees observed her progress, their bony fingers scraping across her skin, clutching her hair, tugging at her thin nightgown. Dead leaves chittered nervously, a lament for other lost souls. She seemed not to notice, hypnotized by the enchantment in the air.

She sang, even as vines wrapped around her and bore her to the great old oak. She greeted it like an old friend, her hand caressing its rough surface.

“Hello, lover,” she whispered. “I have been waiting for you.”

It stood wide to receive her, molding itself to her as she was pressed into it. Washed in the moonlight her features were transformed into gnarled bark as the oak claimed her for itself. Her song ended only after the tree was whole once more.

* * *

Somewhere in the forest is an ancient oak tree with a human face. The legends all say that once upon a time, the Eternal Sleeper reached out from its slumber and called a young maiden to itself, that she went to it willingly and became one with it, a song of joy on her lips. It is also said that when the Lonely Moon shines upon the Sleeper, you can hear her singing still.

Originally posted at Clarity of Night.