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Latest Stories

October 14, 2018
Crime Stories Julie Achilles

The Boy in a Hoodie

I am walking along the road, the road that leads to home and I see him. I do not know him but for some reason I know there is a significance. He is casually dressed and wearing a grey hoodie which is pulled up, yet, I can still see his face. I can see that he…
October 14, 2018
Fantasy Stories M.B.Manteufel

Two Heads are Better than One

He opened the jewelry box with one gloved hand, holding steady a slim flashlight with the other. He cursed under his breath. Empty. Again. Matt Sanders wasn’t used to bad luck. He had become one of the best in his profession because he refused to rely on…
October 14, 2018
General Stories Julie Harris

The Man Who Left His Wife With A Goat

The morning’s warm rain finally drizzled to a wind-blown spray before a strong sun blazed in the cloudless sky. Christine stood motionless at the kitchen sink staring beyond the teardrop stained window to where he stood watching from the summer house.…
October 14, 2018
Mystery Stories Salvatore Difalco

Vertigo

Juan rose to pee in pitch darkness, his eyes fluttering. He found the toilet, but peed all over the unraised seat, splashing his shins and toes. Catching jeweled glints of chrome and glass, his eyes oriented to the darkness. Incomprehensible, his next move—he…
September 09, 2018
Crime Stories Frankie Neptune

It's The End of The World as We Knew It

 Reggie Benangin had always been this way. He couldn’t do anything right. The following is true - Though not even Polish, he couldn’t screw in a light bulb. When growing up in Westfield, New Jersey, his father knew never to ask Reggie to cut the grass. Every…
September 09, 2018
Horror Stories Vidal Martinez

La Llorona

I almost slam my head on the dashboard when the car suddenly stops in the middle of the dirt road. “What are you doing?” He looks behind me. “Right there… those trees,” he says. “Are you serious?” I look out the passenger window, and in the dark distance is…
September 09, 2018
Mystery Stories Roger Ley

Curing Brian

The day started pleasantly enough, we’d met for our regular game of tennis, the old reliables, Chris, Marilyn, Malcolm and me. Then the man in the dirty suit appeared and everything changed. It was summer and the weather was warm, so we’d used the outside…
September 09, 2018
Romance Stories John L. Yelavich

Sunny Souls

I have fond recollections of my high school years roaming the hallways with my best pals and their gals. We all thought that we embodied the right stuff or whatever that mindset was. We were all proud, cocky and cool and never wanted to be labeled pretenders…
September 09, 2018
Science Fiction Stories Majoki

Snarge

What do you think we hit? Can’t say. We went through the critters pretty fast. I’ve never seen anything quite like that flock: multicolored, almost metallic-looking, circling in a protective formation. Very strange. We’ll have to wait until the techs evaluate…
August 21, 2018
Fantasy Stories Roger Ley

Making Babies

Martin Riley unlocked his front door, stepped over the threshold, and stopped dead. Everything was different: furniture, décor, layout, all changed. It didn’t look like his house anymore. A voice behind him said, “Hello Darling, I have some wonderful news.…
August 21, 2018
Science Fiction Stories R.Scott Venegas

How Far Back?

“The test subjects’ mental acuity, such as it is, and physiology are unaffected, the samples it obtained show little out of the ordinary, however it is quite agitated.” “Is it?” “Yes, seems it was spotted and chased.” “Did it do any damage during the…
August 21, 2018
Romance Stories Susan C. Nigra

A Lie is Born

Dec. 12, 2012 was a dreary uninspired winter day, and also the day I returned to relive the beginning of the lie. It was 43 years ago when I first came here at the tender age of 23 in high spirits... high on life, high on being young; and I have returned a…

 

 

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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