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Latest Stories

May 19, 2018
Fantasy Stories Jo Carroll

The Curl and Vampire

She was a pretty thing to be sure, the little girl with the curl. Her cheeks were as red as blood and her skin as smooth as porcelain. And yet there was something odd about her clear blue eyes—something empty and soulless. She sat atop her throne of building…
May 17, 2018
Mystery Stories Nicole Robb

New Frontier

Still groggy from her hibernation chamber, Stacey checked the readings once again on the ship's control panel.She had read them right. "Tom! Something's wrong." "What is it?" Tom emerged from the back where he had been checking on the twelve hundred sleeping…
May 17, 2018
Mystery Stories Laura Ellison

Remedy

The smell of death hung heavy and pungent in the air. Sickness touched the skin and covered it in a dewy glow that in any other situation could have been attractive. Castellan held a scented handkerchief over her nose as she walked through the village to the…
May 17, 2018
Fantasy Stories Dylan Thomas Nichol

Forged in Shadows

Screaming was all that could be heard through the bone chilling halls of the dungeon. This was what the supposedly great nation of Hace really was. An ugly abomination lay underneath the stunning Admor Keep, and Caelin made the long journey through it, his…
May 17, 2018
Mystery Stories Isabel Schwaak

Something Stronger

A thick grey stone wall separated the village of Telly Fenn from the wilderness. A narrow path led the way out of the village and melted into a crossroad, from which a crooked path strayed far into the dark forest. The inhabitants of Telly Fenn were content…
May 17, 2018
Fantasy Stories Jade De-Terville

A Light Bulb Called Tink

“This is more than just a bloody mid life crisis,” Karen said clutching a tattered red book, until her knuckles started going white. She savagely threw the book onto the chequered dining cloth, and ran her hands through her untamed hair. “Oi, mind the…
May 17, 2018
Fantasy Stories April Winters

Area Twenty Four and a Half

I, Jim Roberts, got fired today. I didn’t realize Mr. Kerr, my boss, was standing behind me when I referred to him as Kerr-mitt. He failed to see the humor, and now I have no source of income. Looks like my journalistic aspirations are out the window. I…
May 17, 2018
Fantasy Stories Jeremy Szal

Crimson Snow

16th Day of Regon, Year 455 of the First Dawn I could feel the cold as we climbed higher, the chill reaching into my bones. The wind whispered across the grassland, flapping my black hair over my face. I wanted to lie down. I wanted to sleep. I wanted to…
May 17, 2018
Fantasy Stories B.J.Neblett

Forever

“Segue the next couple of records with a jingle then go into a stop set. I’m gonna get some air.” Hy Lit flashed his agreeable smile, adjusted his trade mark tinted glasses and winked. “You’re a natural, kid.” Then he disappeared out the studio door. The…
May 17, 2018
Fantasy Stories BJ Neblett

Pockets Full Of Wishes

“Don’t put your hands in the pockets!” Jimmy looked at his sister. It was just a winter coat, a used one. It was all his parents could afford. But it was his. He picked it out. Now he stood proudly before the store mirror admiring the blue denim coat with the…
May 17, 2018
Fantasy Stories Laura Ellison

Consumed

Arlia knelt down on a silk cushion in the middle of the room. She took a deep breath and centred herself. Gramps always told her to do this, sometimes he jabbed her in the sides with his walking stick if he thought she rushed meditation. In front of her the…
May 17, 2018
Fantasy Stories Paul Magnan

Scorned

I grasped the rough edges of the tombstone and pulled it from the strands of thick, yellowed grass upon which it lay. I set it in an upright position. The words “Dear Love” were carved along the top of the stone. I had carved those words. For a few seconds…

 

 

Joey saw the grinder and knew there would be trouble. The tilt of the thing in the weeds of the abandoned Cheshire Flea Market, the rust on it, hinted at the monstrous.

His friends—Art, Charlie, Rupe—dropped the empty pop bottles and rebar they’d collected. They clustered around the grinder’s gaping mouth. They buzzed, fidgeted, leaked steam through fixed smiles as they peered from under their snow caps into the black throat of the machine.

All but for Del, who hung back, small in his parka and frowning.

Joey shot a reproachful look at Del. His brother had to brave up before the others noticed.

“Cool as shit,” Charlie said. He worked the grinder’s wheezing crank.

“You could feed a whole pig in there,” Rupe said.

“A baby pig, maybe,” Art said, bending to examine the stains dripping dark from its reservoir.

“Babe the pig,” Charlie laughed. Then they all laughed. Even Joey forced one. All except for Del.

Rupe was first to notice Del huddled outside them.

“You don’t like that idea, Del?” Rupe blubbered, mocking.

“He looks like a baby pig,” Art said.

“Maybe we should feed him in there.” Charlie elbowed Joey. They shared a half grin.

“Look, he’s quaking,” Rupe said. “Baby pig’s so scared!”

“He’s not scared,” Joey said. He knew that was a lie even without having to see Del.

Del was often scared. Scared of the water park, because there might be Jaws in the pools. Scared of Yeti in the snow. Scared of cars and spiders and bedtime without nightlight.

“Come on, Del.” Joey motioned him closer.

“Man, he’s almost pissing himself,” Art tittered, pointing at Del’s shaking legs.

“Am not,” Del whined.

“He’s brave as any of you.” Joey pat his brother on the back. Even the brief contact betrayed Del trembling.

“The fuck he is,” Charlie said.

“He is,” Joey said. He followed with what he thought his Pa would say. “He’ll prove it.”

“The fuck he will.” Charlie snorted.

“Del.” Joey firmed his voice to Pa’s tone. “Put your hand in there.”

“I don’t want to.” Del’s whine scratched higher.

“Aw,” Rupe said, “listen to Babe squeal.”

“Del.” Joey set his grip around Del’s arm. “Do it. Now.”

Del lifted that hand. He slid it in the wide brown maw of the grinder. He looked away from Joey.

Joey stung. Del would do anything for Pa and do it with a smile.

Del rode bikes to show off for Pa even though he toppled from then. He’d been hit in the face by a football a dozen times, but still played catch with their old man. He took his whippings tearlessly even though Joey couldn’t staunch his own tears.

The boys only laughed louder.

“Deeper, Del,” Joey said. Del froze.

“Deeper,” Joey said, and seethed to hear his voice so high-pitched. He didn’t sound like Pa at all. “Now.”

“No,” Del whined, “it’ll hurt.”

“Now!”

Del’s fingers twitched against the rusted teeth of the screw conveyor.

“Such a scared little pig,” Rupe said.

“Deeper,” Joey said. “Don’t be scared.”

Del tugged back a little. Joey leaned in to pin him, shoulder on the crank.

“I said don’t be scared.”

Del shot his fingers down, flinched, tried to pull back. Joey pressed to the grinder to stop him.

The crank turned.

Del shrieked.

The boys startled back. Even Joey jumped. His body hit the crank again, shifting it further, making the screw conveyor growl.

Del’s shriek widened into a scream.

The other boys scattered.

Joey gaped at his brother. Del’s face was a wax mask, a mouth a blue hole cored in its center. Out of that hole came a hooting that rose and fell and rose.

“Del,” Joey moaned, “oh, no, I’m sorry, I’m sorry.”

Del tugged his arm, gibbering, spit somersaulting from lips unable to close. Each tug tensed the screws. Each time Del relaxed, they sucked deeper.

Joey put a delicate hand on the crank. Del shook his head hysterically.

“I’ll try to get it out,” Joey said. He pushed the crank. It locked against turning back. It sank forward. Del was lifted on tip-toe now.  His unbroken cries took on a roar from a throat scraped raw.

“No!” Del yelled. “You’re doing it! You’re doing it to me!”

Joey couldn’t face that. He ran. Behind him, the grinder slowly bit its way up Del’s hand.

 

Joey hunkered in a tangle of trees for an hour before he could think.

The snow was coming down now. He had run until he could no longer hear Del, so there was no telling if the screaming had stopped. Inside him, Joey heard everyone he’d ever known yelling at him: Mrs. Cormier, Doctor Rawson, his Pa, his Ma, Del, Jesus, even Carson Palmer.

The yells didn’t go away. They just absorbed; a dull roar that was now part of him.

Joey imagined the tree a cage, the snow a poison, and hoped that night would bring death.

He hunkered and hung his head, shouting at himself inside to sleep.

It failed. Joey figured he would always fail:

Fail his Pa. Fail to take his beatings like a man. Now, fail Del.

Joey shook his head. Del, he wouldn’t fail. He had, but somehow he had to make amends.

He made his way through the tangle, and when the rumble of cars came, he followed it.

 

Joey stood by Lower Route 7, shivering in the bite of Ohio winter.

He felt the cold eating deep. Joey imagined his blood’s red cells vanishing, white ice crystals deposited in their place by fingers of cold. Soon he’d be all ice.

Better that, he thought, than give up on Del.

The Route meant cars. Cars meant adults. Adults meant help.

The first car to slow for Joey’s waving was a station wagon. It had burlap curtains in the back windows and a green paint that shone even in the dusk.

A spectacled man in surgical scrubs and a fur-lined coat rolled down the window and leaned to call to Joey.

“Out here by yourself?”

“Yeah.” Joey steeled himself to tell the rest. His knuckles cracked in their fists as he forced it out. “I did something while playing and my brother got hurt. He needs help.”

“Hurt?”

“Hurt.”

“Hurt bad?” The man’s expression snapped to a frown, as if serious was a setting it had.

“Yes, Sir.”

“Get in.”

The locks opened. Joey piled in. The man drove the moment the door closed.

“Where’s your brother?” The man asked for awhile.

“A field up ahead. Outside Cheshire.”

“Okay.” The man sniffed. His nose wrinkled and relaxed, bobbing his thick glasses on his face. Joey watched until he realized the turn-off for the Flea Market field was ahead. He pointed.

“Right there, Sir.”

The man didn’t slow. He cleared his throat. He slid sweaty hands over the wheel. He didn’t even glance where Joey pointed.

“It was right back there.” Joey found his voice just as high and broken as before.

The man nodded. He smiled. He went back to serious.

“I really shouldn’t be doing this,” the man said, squinted, looked at his rearview, then shrugged. His smile came back, cold as a slice of meat.

“Doing what?” Joey said.

The man locked the doors. He put his hand on Joey’s thigh.

“Don’t be scared,” he said.

 

Matthew C. Funk is an editor of Needle Magazine, editor of the Genre section of the critically acclaimed zine, FictionDaily, and a staff writer for Planet Fury and Criminal Complex. Winner of the 2010 Spinetingler Award for Best Short Story on the Web, Funk has online work indexed on his Web domain and printed work in Pulp Modern, Grift,NeedleSpeedloader, Off the RecordPulp Ink and D*CKED.

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