Tag Archives: horror

Wisconsin Supreme Court Votes to Invite Vampires into all Dwellings

In a stunning reversal of Governor Tony Evers’s sundown curfew the Wisconsin Supreme Court issued an open invitation to all vampires into every dwelling within State lines. This includes private property, secure facilities, nightclubs, schools, and hospitals.

In vampire lore, ancient magics prevent the undead from entering these spaces uninvited. Once invited vampires are free to come and go until ownership changes. With this ruling, the only way for Wisconsin to rescind its invitation would be to secede from the union.

The effect was immediate

It wasn’t long before photos of crowded blood banks showed up on social media. Bloodsuckers took selfies from the ceiling as receptionists cowered beneath them. Some vampires donned stolen stethoscopes. Others wore brown stained scrubs.

The vampires instructed their familiars to pass around bartending gear. The medical staff was given one instruction. “You’ll need this to live.”

The technicians were immediately overwhelmed, mixing blood cells in cocktail shakers, pouring plasma from liquor spouts, stirring platelets with bitters droppers. Worse still, the vampires swarmed them with esoteric drink orders.

“Barkeep! I’ll have an Ottoman Sultan.”
“I’d like a Judas sunrise, easy on the serum.”
“One red dragon, for me and my friend.”

Once served the vampires clinked their glasses and sang, “Should Old Acquaintance be forgot, and never thought upon…”

Kaylee Suther was doing her rounds when a flurry of red capes descended onto her wing. All of sudden she was cramped behind a gurney mixing drinks. “This is what survival looks like. We watched them flip a colleague, stick him with a spigot, and drain him like a kegger. Every phlebotomist on the floor became a mixologist, like that.” She snapped.

Vampires are expanding their hunting grounds

Emboldened by Wisconsin’s crucifix shortages, vampires are appearing in the suburbs.

One vampire, in a long velvet gown, was seen etching glyphs into neighborhood watch signs. Another, in a corset with a keyhole neckline, was spotted collecting satellite dishes. And another, in a lace ensemble with sleeves that hung to the ground, was seen conducting a swarm of fireflies through the night sky.

Doorbell footage shows vampires scouting homes for defenses, unchaining pets, and ultimately hurtling doors into the trees.

Jason Campbell describes one such encounter. “I ducked behind the kitchen island when I heard the door tear off the frame. There was nothing in the reflection on the oven, but when I peeked around the corner there was vampire at the entryway. His foot was hovering over the threshold like he was testing the water. When he stepped inside he announced his presence, ‘I’ve invited myself in.’ He spoke with a put-on eastern European accent. You know when people sound like hicks, but they’re not from the south? He tented his satin gloves with childlike glee, ‘I’ve waited so long to say that.’

That’s when my father sprayed him with the AR-15. Groin, abdomen, chest, and face. Dad nailed every zone. The vampire fell flat on his back with a splat. I crawled over to check the body, but before I could the vampire was up again, pounding his fist into my father’s face. The vampire spat the bullets into his palm and one by one set them into my father’s gums. My mother and I were helpless to do anything, but listen. After an agonizingly long series of whelps and gurgles the vampire said, ‘Now you look like you’re happy to see me.’

The vampire bared his fangs and bit into my father. He took his time slurping, like he was imbibing a fine wine. He corked the bite mark and took a moment to swish the blood around in his cheeks. After gurgling it down he asked my father, ‘Were you born in 73? That was such a delicious vintage.’”

Fortunately for Jason the vampire drank its fill after draining both his parents. Other communities weren’t so lucky. Just ask Felix Afton the lone survivor of the Woodland Hills massacre.

Vampires are targeting wealthy neighborhoods

Felix Afton describes the night vampires took over his planned community.

“They rammed the gate with a jet black party bus. They blasted Toccata and Fugue in D minor for all the neighborhood to hear. Then they floated up to the windowsills and dove right in. I survived by spending the night inside my tanning bed. I knew those UV rays would keep me safe.”

The next morning Felix Afton found his neighbors’ entrails strung between pillars like a Viking blood eagle, their severed heads lining picket fences, and their bodies impaled on flag poles.

“The worst part is that party bus is still there, blaring Bach. It looks like these leech people are in for the long haul.”

Reports of vampire squatters are coming in from Whitefish Bay, Fox Point, and Elm Grove.

According to Mr. Afton the Woodland Hills vampires have begun draping fumigation tents over their windows, converting panic rooms into mausoleums, and importing coffins.

“Sometimes I see the Vampires walking survivors on leashes. I saw the Hutchens out there in their underwear with ball gags in their mouths. They had bitemarks up and down their necks. The vampires took turns glamouring them, making the Hutchens do tricks for their amusement.”

Mr. Afton has since invested in a fumigation tent, corpse blue body paint, and a pair of prosthetic fangs.

“Last night I saw them burning the Woodland Hills welcome sign in the middle of the street. The next day I went to see what had taken its place. The plaque read ‘Welcome to Hellmouth Heights.’”

Mr. Afton says he plans on moving once the housing market rebounds.

Wisconsin is a test bed for how other states will handle the vampire epidemic

The Fieldview Meat Packing plant is under new management. Lord Nicolai Chrysanthus has cut the first and second shifts and replaced all the nighttime staff. He’s broken contracts with meat suppliers. And according to the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency he’s left a mountain of viable product on the backlot to rot. Surveillance satellites show trucks unloading the plant’s newest meat source. It’s people. Of course it’s people.

Wisconsin’s restaurants are reopening and people are on every menu. Food trucks are serving blood battered limbs and even ice cream vans have a new assortment of toppings.

Disheartened by the carnage Governor Tony Evers said, “It’s like a Transylvanian blood orgy out there. I tried to keep people safe, but Justices Corpsewood, Paganmilk, Thornpierce, and Veintide voted me down. I can only recommend that people avoid crowded spaces, especially ones where virgins might congregate.”

Meanwhile Minnesota is planting garlic along the state lines. Michigan is digging a mote of holy water. Iowa is lining their edge with cheval de frise embattlements. And Illinois is lighting their border on fire.

More on the story as it develops.

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Continue reading Wisconsin Supreme Court Votes to Invite Vampires into all Dwellings

Health Officials Quarantined Until White House can Determine Which One is the Devil

Monday’s Bizarre New Conference

This Monday President Trump held a press conference on his coronavirus response efforts. The event came to an abrupt end when he spoke in tongues, bent over backwards, and spider walked through the Rose Garden.

The first sign something was off came when the president was asked to address test shortages.

“As far as Americans getting a test they should all be able to get a test. They might not be thrilled about the dark passenger behind their eyelids, but they’ll get a test.”

The President was asked if there was a double standard, since White House Staffers could get tested, while normal Americans could not.

“If we didn’t get the tests you’d be up here complaining. I understand you very well. Better than you understand yourself. We children of Belial hear whispers in the ether and yours come through quiet clear. As meek as your internal monologue is, buddy, the angel of lawlessness hears it.”

Reporters were struck by how incoherent and yet articulate the president had become.

Trump was then pressed to elaborate on a tweet accusing former President Obama of the “Biggest political crime in American history.”

“What crime do you believe Obama of committing and do you believe the justice department should prosecute him?”

“Obamagate. You know what the crime is. The crime is obvious to everybody. He sat at Empusa’s table and failed to make a blood offering. Now it’s on us to pick up his tab.”

From there the President’s statements got weirder.

Weijia Jiang of CBS News asked why Trump was bragging about the amount of testing in the US. “Why is this a global competition to you if every day Americans are still losing their lives and we’re still seeing more cases every day?”

The president flared his nostrils. “That’s a nasty question. Don’t ask me that question, ask Mesopotamia that question and when you ask them that question I’ll bet they’ll tell you all about the wrath of Erra. The tower of Babel was battered in blood long before it fell. Believe me.”

“Excuse me? The wrath of who?”

“Can you blame a death god for getting bored when he sees dust upon his swords?”

“What swords? What are talking about?”

President Trump bit his lip. “When his tall shadow stands over your pillow and you feel his weight upon your chest, you’ll know.”

Weijia Jiang’s demeanor shifted. “Mr. President? Do you need us to flag one of the doctors down for you?”

That’s when the president’s eyes rolled into the back of his head and his face went flush. “The dragon has risen. You failed to see the scales for the land. We are but worms writhing on hungry tongues. Soon the hydra will swallow us all!”

The press core heard an audible crack and then the president bent over backward and spat blood across the grass.

A Discovery of Witches in the West Wing

This Thursday, White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany offered an explanation for the bizarre conference. The president was being puppeteered by Satan himself.

“We have reason to believe the devil has been squatting in the Emergency Operations Center. Last Tuesday military personnel noticed a black mold growing in the Reagan tunnels. A closer examination revealed a walled off room where something had been nesting.”

Kayleigh McEnany clicked a remote. A dilapidated room came over the projection screen .

Mold arched over the ceiling like the vaulted roof of a gothic cathedral. The cinderblocks were exposed and eroded down to sand. The floor was littered with paint chips.

Each piece of furniture was an antique, likely pilfered from the White House itself. Everything was arranged in a circle and every surface was covered in candles. The wax runoff streaked to the floor like icicles in a frozen waterfall.

She clicked the remote.

“Military personal found a credenza fashioned into a makeshift altar. On it they found a poppet, more commonly referred to as a ‘spell doll.’ The doll was made from taglocks. These are personal items, which allowed the devil to use sympathetic magick on the president. The items included: a pair of platinum cufflinks, a lock of long blonde hair, a red 60-inch tie, and a custom sharpie pen.”

She clicked the remote.

“Not far from the altar was a cheval mirror laid flat on the floor. White House Spiritual Advisers believe the mirror was used for scrying. Scrying is a form of crystalmancy conjurers use to see victims from afar. We believe the devil used this to surveil the president.”

CBS news correspondent Weijia Jiang raised her hand. “How are you certain this was the work of the devil and not some other agent of evil?”

Kayleigh McEnany clicked the remote again but this time a video began.

The point of view came from a thermal imaging camera. It followed a set of hoofprints from the circle to the wall. There was a strange heat signature on one of the bricks, like a hand with long talons. The camera operator pressed it and a curious breeze whistled into the room. Then the wall spun open.

The camera operator stepped through the door, lost his footing, and fell back on the floor. His boots cast pebbles into the darkness before him. They rattled all the way down, echoing from an impossible depth. Then there was a faint wind tunnel hum with an undercurrent of whispering.

The camera operator tilted the lens. A set of glowing eyes came over the viewfinder. A horned figure, with a mangy collar, was holding onto the wall of the well. It gnashed its teeth, snorted, and charged at the camera.

“We tracked the hoofprints to a grimoire in the White House library. There we found an account of the Order of the Second Circle, a secret society comprised of our founding fathers. Apparently they held orgies in a lair beneath the Vermeil Room. Benjamin Franklin used sex magick to summon the devil and the devil has been down there ever since.”

Kayleigh McEnany clicked the remote. There was a picture of the president boarding Air Force One with toilet paper stuck to his shoe. “The devil has been using black magick to make the President look foolish and arrogant. Many of you may remember that President Trump was once a Pro-Choice Democrat who rebuked David Duke for being a bigot. Then the devil got his hooks him. The president started slurring his speech and muttering about subterranean cities made of bone. But not to fret.”

McEnany’s last slide featured the health officials responsible for guiding the country through the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We believe we’ve isolated the devil to this group of individuals.”

There’s an M. Night Shyamalan Situation in the Situation Room

In a sudden show of transparency reporters were presented with a live feed of the Situation Room. Health officials were seated around the conference table. They appeared to be scrutinizing one another.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, appeared to be building a barrier out of folders. Dr. Robert Redfield, director of the Centers for Disease Control, gripped his name plate like a weapon. And Dr. Stephen Hahn, commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration, was praying.

The lights flickered and the officials cowered behind their rolling chairs. I asked Mick Mulvaney, the White House Chief of Staff, if the devil had some sort of power over electromagnetic fields.

Mulvaney shook his head. “Oh no. We’re the ones cutting the lights.”

“Why?”

“So the devil has an opportunity to kill one of the health officials.”

“How would that help?”

“We believe that narrowing the suspects is the best way to isolate the target. They call it ‘the devil’s meal.’ We got the idea from that movie M. Night Shyamalan produced, but everyone thinks he directed.”

“Won’t sacrificing health officials have a broader impact on the American public?”

“That’s the wages of sin, I guess.”

The feed flickered and a face filled the screen. It had black sunken eyes. The bridge of its nose was an earthquake of frown lines. Its cheeks were high and sharp, and its fangs protruded from a Cheshire cat smile.

Mulvaney reached for the light switch. The feed flickered and the face disappeared.

And just like that there was a body on the conference table, arms and legs spread open, head twisted all the way around. All the health officials ran for a door that wouldn’t budge.

Mulvaney tapped the monitor. “See. It’s working.”

The Situation is Still Ongoing

At the time of this writing the devil is taking his time finishing his meal. The health officials are struggling, blaming one another for the bodies accumulating on the table. Mick Mulvaney keeps his hand on the light switch, ready to make another sacrifice.

As for the president, he’s in isolation while the White House waits for a team of exorcists to fly in from the Vatican.

But what about the American public, who are dealing with a sudden wave of beasts rising from chasms in the streets? Well. Whether we like it or not we’re all we’ve got.

This story will update as it develops.

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3D Horns sculpt by patrakeevasveta
Photoshop by Drew Chial

Continue reading Health Officials Quarantined Until White House can Determine Which One is the Devil

This Year’s Purge Postponed Due to COVID-19

In an effort to limit the spread of the coronavirus, President Trump has postponed this year’s Purge. Health experts urged for a cancelation, but the president was concerned with how that would impact the markets. The Purge, the one night a year when all crime is legal, has been an boom for the economy.

With many Americans out of work the delay will be another blow to their pocket books. Unemployment rates are projected to average 15% this quarter. And this could be the worst economic collapse since the New Founding Fathers came into power in 2014.

President Trump, who ran on a platform of extending the Purge from 12 to 24 hours, faces backlash from his constituents.

Is the Purge an Essential Service?

Back in 2014 some economists were hesitant to embrace the Purge. Critics said it was a social experiment that would create more debt than profit. They harkened it to Detroit’s Devil’s Night, a time for arson, but very little earnings.

Years later the Purge has become an American tradition. Purgers wear customs, decorate vans, and sport designer firearms by Dolce and Gabbana, Gucci, and Versace. They use apps to hone in on homeless populations. And they spend good money on an experience that will last them a lifetime.

Rural communities hold human sacrifice lotteries. Malls have been converted into battle arenas and casinos stage Russian roulette tournaments. Contrary to what economists had worried, the Purge is big business.

People Are Unhappy

This March there will be no Emergency Broadcast warnings, none of the familiar sirens, and no blood battered streets come morning. Although, we will have culled equals numbers from the population.

That’s according to Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. “The NFFA won’t need to perform ceremonial sacrifices of political opponents. Rich families won’t need to violently euthanize the terminally ill for fun, and hit squads won’t need to bolster numbers in the inner city. We don’t need a holiday to kill the poor when a pandemic will do it for us.”

Many Americans don’t think Fauci’s math adds up, like Harlon Jackson, human taxidermist.

Jackson says, “We need the Purge now more than ever. With the dwindling economy and the surge in homelessness we need hunters to reduce their numbers.”

Many Americans have already invested in Purge accessories, like hardcore purger Tristin MacMillan.

“I sunk my allowance into a purge mask that uses facial recognition to track my expression. It flashes ASCII emoticons across an LED matrix. When I have it on I look like a DJ from a hell dimension. Now what am I supposed to do, wear it to the grocery store? Lame.”

But the Purge isn’t just about the pageantry. For many it’s an outlet for their darker impulses, like Karen Lauder, soccer mother.

“This bitch in the Walgreens parking lot was giving me shit for not wearing a mask. So I tracked her license plate, scouted her apartment, and loosened up her fire escape. I got this jagged dagger and I was going to use it to cut out her heart, but now we’ve got to stay six feet apart. It’s bullshit”

Then there’s Kaley Nelson, a Highschool senior, who just enjoys the celebration. She says in the last five years she’s never missed a Purge. “I used to make fun of families cowering at home on lock down. Now I’m one of them.”

The Purge Is Good for the Economy Year Round

Walk into any Home Depot and look to your left. You’ll find electric fencing, tear gas sprinklers, and automated turrets. Look to your right and you’ll see polycarbonate windows, zinc roofing sheets, and armored doors. The warehouse out back is full of fire suppression systems, backup generators, and panic bunkers.

Sharper Image sells squadrons of surveillance drones and armies of weaponized Roombas. Apple sells proprietary security consoles, infrared trackers, and biometric locks. Target sells Class 4 weapons at the checkout counter, and even Amazon sells doorbell cameras.

Ever since the first Purge Home security has become America’s number one industry.

The Murder Industry Will Need a Bailout Too

Without sales from Purge apparel companies like Killer Threads, Bleed Wear, and Hot Topic risk going out of business.

Purge viewing suites in low income communities will sit empty. Landlords may be forced to convert them into affordable housing.

Also at risk are Slaughter Hostels which employ a fleet of laborers every year: from victim scouts to private security. From weapons safety experts to disk jockeys. Not to mention the team of sterilizers who come in after the fact.

Those are just the Corporate Interests

Freelancers, like Thorsten Osouf, might be the hardest hit by the closure. Osouf is an artisan blacksmith who specializes in weapons that are only street legal for 12 hours a year.

“I forge ballistic knives that function like silent guns, wolverine claws that cut through Kevlar, and great swords you can wield from your car.

Osouf scrolled through his Instagram feed. “My clients tag my weapons alongside their victims. You know that grim reaper viral video, the one in the homeless encampment? That was one of my scythes he was wielding.”

Osouf walked us through his forge, noting the dust on the anvils. “Frankly, the only people who want swords outside of the purge are nerds.”

How the Purge Effects the Market

Since the cancelation economists have shifted their concerns to the Purge black market. So much cash trades hands in such a short time it could be listed on the Dow Jones Industrial.

Heroin has a shelf life of three years from the time of manufacturing. Most of it is sold at 7PM on March 21st when wealthy users stockpile for years to come.

Street surgeons work one night a year harvesting organs. A single hitman might take on as many as ten clients. Kidnappers make a fortune on flash ransoms.

Then there are the pop-up services. Bulldozer renters charge premium rates to purgers who want to breach their neighbor’s security measures. Glass bottomed helicopters chaperon spectators. And food trucks sell human meat to the curious.

Without this dark stream of revenue flowing into the economy we’ll be looking at lower earnings across every industry.

But There is Hope

In a Tweet this Saturday President Trump promised to reopen the country with “a week-long purge that will put these COVID numbers to shame!”

He urged Americans to start working on their costumes, painting their vans, and stocking up on hollow points, “Because this one’s going to be special people. This will be a Purge of excellence.”

When the markets opened on Monday stocks surged at the thought of a 168 hour Purge. This could be the shot in the arm the murder industry needs. Blessed be our New Founding Fathers and America a nation reborn.

May God be with you all.

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Continue reading This Year’s Purge Postponed Due to COVID-19

The President Downplays Spread of Headcrabs throughout the White House

This Friday, President Donald Trump met with 20 House Republicans to discuss the annexation of New York by extra dimensional beings known as the Combine Empire. The President spoke for over an hour without noticing that every lawmaker had headcrabs on their skulls.

Headcrabs are weaponized parasites from the Combine Overworld. They look like ticks with tough leather hides. On average they grow to be the size of a pillow. They have stubby legs, but they’re capable of running down rabbits, killing coyotes, and leaping over an elephants.

Headcrabs get their name by hijacking a host’s nervous system and controlling their motor functions. Their mouth works like a beartrap clamping onto the victim’s neck. Their talons work like climbing axes digging into collarbones. Their beak works like a grappling hook embedding itself in the cranium. Once installed the headcrab pilots the host, like a zombie, turning them into a soldier for the enemy.

Most Americans have staved off this threat by wearing motor cycle helmets, spiked pickelhaubes, and coolie hats. The average American has a steel tipped umbrella for when they go to the grocery store, a homemade spear for when they got to work, and Viking horns for when they go to the beach.

Headcrabs in the Whitehouse

Meanwhile the Trump administration has taken none of these precautions.

Raymond Werner, public health advisor at the CDC, said, “We told the president to launch thermal imagining drones, position motion sensitive turrets on the White House lawn, and install parasitoid screeners at every entrance. He said he’d take it under advisement.

Days later we find the oval office overrun with zombified minions and the president is sitting there with a shit eating grin. I asked why he didn’t notice these barnacles on everyone’s skulls and he said, ‘I’m too busy running the country.’ Christ, these things are the size of a jack-o-lanterns. You mean to the secret service didn’t spot a single one?”

Recently Stephen Miller, policy adviser to the president, and wife Katie Miller, the vice president’s press secretary, came down with a case of headcrabs.

When asked how he hadn’t noticed the president said, “Look at Stephen Miller’s face and tell you’d notice?”

Raymond Werner was baffled. “Ivanka Trump’s personal assistant had a parasite the size of a Thanksgiving turkey on her noggin and no one said a thing.”

A spokesperson for Ivanka said, “Ivanka had noticed, but assumed her assistant was having a bad hair day and didn’t want to be rude.”

3D Headcrab model by Elizabeth Edwards

The President wants to Reopen Despite Combine Invasion

The Governor of New Mexico lifted the state’s quarantine despite the serge of portal storms and the ominous green cloud over the Black Mesa Research Facility. Headcrab infections have skyrocketed ever since. The parasites have congregated in movie theaters, nail salons, and gyms.

Raymond Werner warned, “Headcrabs are pack hunters. They sniff out an easy quarry. You can go to church on Sunday, but you won’t be able to pray them away.”

The Combine Empire have taken advantage of the devastation. They’ve installed a suppression field around New Mexico. The field remotely neuters anyone caught within its wavelength by blocking key protein chains. The invaders don’t want us breeding.

Nevertheless the President applauded New Mexico on Twitter. “Congratulations to the great state of New Mexico on very good, and very smart, reopening. If only we could liberate the rest of the country so quickly. #HeadCrabHoax.”

The CDC is Very Worried

Raymond Werner is less optimistic than the President. “We heard the same denialism from Eastern European leaders. They claimed their countries had headcrab immunity. It wasn’t long before they were overrun with parasitic passengers of their own. After that Combine forces erected a dark energy reactor so tall it blotted out the sun. They call it the Citadel. Meanwhile we’re being told to go back to the amusement parks and strip malls, but If we’re not careful we’ll have a Citadel on every corner.”

The Combine in Washington

Since Friday the portal storms in Washington D.C. have only gotten worse. Headcrabs have filled the national mall and affixed themselves to the Lincoln memorial. They’ve swept through the supreme court, the house of reperceives, and the senate. Yes, the infected continue to show up for floor proceedings, if only to groan. Despite these developments the President is moving to wind down the Headcrab Response Task Force.

“Americans need to shrug off these parasites and get back to work.”

One Question Still Remains

How did the president go into room full of headcrabs and not get infected himself?

Raymond Werner was hesitant to speculate. “I think it has something to do with his hair. It could be the synthetic copolymer or the aerosol spray that holds it together, but the headcrabs wanted nothing to do with it. Figuring out why might be the key to saving the rest of humanity.”

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3D Headcrab model by Elizabeth Edwards
Photoshop by Drew Chial

Continue reading The President Downplays Spread of Headcrabs throughout the White House

Why People are Still Going Out Despite the Giant Spiders

Remember last April when the news was filled with stories of murder hornets? These two-inch insects were annihilating bee colonies, tearing heads off drones and collecting thoraxes to feed to their young. Beekeepers treated violated hives like crime scenes and agricultural biologists were on the hunt for the culprits.

After all the hardships 2020 had thrown at us we thought killer hornets was as bad as things could get. How wrong we were. The hornets were but harbingers for that which lay deeper within the earth.

Six Months Later

Winter is coming. Ducks are flying south only to be ensnared. Building frames are teeming with drooping white sacs and skylines are filling with webbing. A curtain of silk stretches from the Eiffel Tower to the hotels below. The roman Colosseum has been fashioned into a nest and the Leaning Tower of Pisa is hanging by a thread.

“It’s like a goddamn Roland Emmerich movie out there.” Said General Duke Granger, head of the Arachnid Warfare branch of the U.S. Military. “There’s netting stretching from the Washington monument to the national mall. And the whole thing is dotted with the kibbles and bits of tourists.”

170 ton spiders, as long blue whales, tower over cities. With redwood length legs, concrete piercing claws, and truck sized fangs. The spiders are proving disruptive.

The first appearance was in the financial district of San Francisco. A giant spider stomped down California Street, stepped into a sinkhole and caused a gas main explosion. The shockwave rippled through the 555 California St Tower. Senior members of Goldman Sachs halted their meeting to check on the commotion.

Marshall Kirkland, an investment banker, was on the other side of the building. He said it was hard to hear what was happening. “First came the car alarms, then the sirens, then the emergency tone, and just underneath there was this terrible slurping sound.”

It turns out the slurping was the spider sucking a victim’s brain from his cranium.

No End in Sight

In a frank press conference General Granger expressed pessimism about our chances. “The spiders don’t bleed. It’s like their pelts are made out of cast iron wool. We’re pumping them full of rounds faster than Northrop Grumman can make them. We have RPGs cross firing all over the city, and our heavy artillery cannons aren’t making a dent. We’ve crashed drones into their eyes. We’ve tried everything from napalm to citrus. They keep right on webbing soldiers up.”

President Trump has ordered General Granger to stay the course. “We’re winning bigly against the spiders. I think we’d win faster if we someone found a way to make spray bottles bigger. Spiders hate those things.”

There are still no concrete answers where the spiders came from. General Granger has heard all of the theories. “Those Berkley climatologists think we did this. Like the spiders were lying in wait until it got too hot. The eggheads at Mount Weather think it’s a spontaneous mutation. Like the spiders took a dip in a nuclear waste repository. Me? I think someone boasted she could weave better than the gods and they punished her by turning her into a spider. I think these things we’re facing are her children.”

The Threat is Getting Worse

The spiders have venom so acidic it burns through tanks in seconds. One spider destroyed a troop of British Challengers with a single burst. The medical personal who approached the ruins were exposed to neurotoxins. They died before they could administer the antivenom.

Spiders have discarded hollow husks in every city, draping kills over powerlines, bus stops, and playgrounds. They’ve turned bridges into hanging traps, shattered skyscrapers, and rendered entire residential districts uninhabitable.

Worse still is how widespread the spiders have gotten. They’ve trounced through suburban streets, leaving tornado-like destruction in their wake. They’ve worked their way to the heartland, picking fights with irrigation equipment. And satellites have just spotted a blanket of webs covering the Appalachian Mountains.

At the time of this writing America lacks the infostructure to calculate the damage much less tally the dead, but there are estimates that put it in the billions.

People Are Still Going About their Business

The National Guard has ordered everyone to remain inside, but in our travels for this article we spotted large groups of young people. They were tending gardens, stacking woodpiles, and hanging out in garages. All places spiders like to go.

We asked why these twenty-somethings weren’t that concerned and this is what they told us.

“The spiders are big, but they’re slow. They’re mainly webbing up old people. I’m young and spry. Why shouldn’t I be able to play volley ball?”

“Yeah yeah yeah. I know. Their silk slices through flesh like razor wire, but I have twenty-twenty vision. I should be able to go for a run.”

“So there’s a few egg sacs in my evergreens. That’s not going to prevent me from barbequing. Look those things are barely moving.”

“I didn’t have arachnophobia before. Why should I start now?”

“The news makes it sound like there’s a Stephen King story on every street, but I don’t know anyone who’s been cocooned. Do you?”
“Quite a few people, yes.”
“Anyone famous?”
“Bill Pullman.”
“See, I have no idea who that is.”

“We all have to die sometime whether it’s from a meteor or a giant spider. There’s nothing we can really do about it.”

General Granger disagreed with this line of reasoning. “If you see a huge ass invertebrate on the horizon you can drive in the other direction.” He ran a hand down his forehead. “Unless you’re so bereft you’ve resolved yourself to a slow painful death.”

This was General Granger’s final interview before he was stung and killed by a murder hornet. We thank him for his service.

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Continue reading Why People are Still Going Out Despite the Giant Spiders

Why Everyone is Stockpiling Amulets

The COVID-19 pandemic has thrown all our lives out of balance. 30 million Americans have applied for unemployment while essential workers find themselves working twice as hard.

Madame Monisha is a spectral officer for Lakeside Village, a planned community in White Bear Lake Minnesota. While the community is young Madame Monisha says there are hauntings abound.

“Most houses have infestations that tenants just operate around. Some Americans live hard lives. They leave nasty stains when they’re gone. The more time families shelter in place the more those ghosts are going to get in their face.”

Meet the Johnsons

Connie Johnson claims she had just such an encounter. “We were in the dining room assembling a jigsaw of the statue of liberty. Joe did his best to keep the children interested, telling them how the statue was built. Oliver’s attention shifted between the pieces and his phone. Grace was engaged, but her arms were dotted with goosebumps. She went to the hall closet and came back with a down jacket.

This was late April and her brother was already wearing shorts. I asked Grace what was the matter, but she kept her gaze fixed at something over my shoulder. I went to feel her forehead, but before I could reach I felt a cold spot. That’s when Grace’s eyes widened at something on the lawn. I turned to see and that’s when I saw it in the reflection.

Four grey fingers were threaded through Grace’s hair. They were nails as long as talons hooked around her chin. The hand came from a black lace sleeve. The blouse was tattered, covered in dirt. Its owner was leaning over Grace’s shoulder whispering into her ear. I could just make out her face in the glass. Her eyes were sunken, her cheeks were gaunt and her nasal cavity was exposed. When she saw me looking the face smiled wide enough to show her gums.

Grace’s eyes rolled back. She reached out with her fingers spread and slammed her palm down on the table. The jigsaw pieces exploded, shooting to the ceiling, and when they came back down. The puzzle was fully assembled.”

It all happened so fast. I don’t know if Joe would’ve believed it if Oliver hadn’t caught a picture of that terrible face. That’s when we reached out to our spectral officer.”

Madame Monisha took her time examining the photo. Connie admitted to feeling antsy.

“Should we join hands to tell her she isn’t welcome?”

Madame Monisha grabbed Connie by the shoulders. “You get down to the Blue Rose and you buy as many amulets as you can fit into your station wagon. Bring luggage bags if you have to.”

National Amulet Shortage

It turns out Madame Monisha was not the only one advising families to stock up. Ever since Americans were urged to shelter in place people have been panic buying charms. The nation’s New Age bookstores are reporting a shortage and social media is cluttered with images of empty endcaps.

Metaphysical supply chains are struggling to meet the demand. According to one warehouse manager the stock is there, but the enchanters who bless the stones are self-isolating. “Good luck getting them out of their commune any time soon.”

The Benefits of Stockpiling Talismans

After the initial scare Connie Johnson heeded her spectral officer’s advice.

“I hung amulets around the entryway, from the ceiling to the carpet. If a ghost wants in they’ll have to pass through a laser grid first.”

Connie toured her security measures. “As for any apparitions in the attic? I dusted the children’s mobiles, pried off the animals, and put amulets in their place. Joe hung them from the rafters and positioned a halogen lamp. Now they’re like gun turrets of healing energy.”

Connie and her husband went all in. They replaced their smoke detectors with sacred relics. Then they set artifacts in light fixtures, in the freezer, and behind all the mirrors.

“The hardest amulet to install was in the toilet bowl. You have to screw it into the ceramic without springing a leak. Do it right, and well, that’s one less place to worry about spirit.”

How Many Amulets Should Families Get?

Madame Monisha doesn’t think Connie has gone far enough. “My insulation is dotted with so many stones they’re like ice cream toppings.”

She recommends having one amulet for every square foot.

“Don’t forget about bookshelves. They are hotbeds of paranormal activity. Every bookshelf has some tome of forbidden knowledge gathering dust. You might not remember where you got it: a cobweb stricken castle, an abandoned institute, or a little free library. It doesn’t matter. The book is your problem now. Burn it out on the grill or shove it down the garbage disposal, it’ll show up right back on the shelf. That’s why I recommend an amulet between every other spine.”

Are there Amulet Alternatives?

Madame Monisha likes gemstones. “If you can find them grab the darkest gems you can. Black tourmaline, obsidian, onyx. The darker the stone the greater the pull. They’re like bug zappers for spirits.”

Madame Monisha’s neighbor Dale Spencer couldn’t help chiming in on our conversation.

He’s skeptical about the value of such rare minerals. “I don’t go in for all them fancy crystals. I make my talismans out of charcoal. It’s dark enough and it works like a dehumidifier for negative energy.”

How Ghosts get into Your Home

It’s not just supernatural stains that has Madame Monisha worried about her community.

“Essential workers are more likely to be exposed to COVID-19, be without insurance, and die from complications. With meat packing plants ordered to stay open, there’s a high probability ghosts are getting in through your groceries. Then there’s Amazon. You always hear about their dangerous conditions. We like retail therapy, but don’t be surprised when your new Insta Pot starts bleeding.”

Madame Monisha showcased the measures she takes to keep her home pure. She ran a carbide tipped drill through her peephole and set a starfire diamond in its place. “It’s like a doorbell cam for the ghost dimension. It lets spectral solicitors know they’re not welcome.”

Responsible collectors bring antiques to licensed curse lifters. Social distancing makes that impossible. While Zoom allows freelancers to conduct business online curse lifters need to feel items for cold spots. With the quarantine in place people buying online do so at their own peril.

Madame Monisha urges people to pause their orders. “The Internet is a swirling vortex of damned souls. Read the terms and conditions. They know. Most impulse items are contaminated with sin. For our anniversary my husband ordered a grandfather clock. I had to burn weapons grade sage before letting that thing in.”

But Why are there so Many Ghosts?

Madame Monisha suspects St. Peter and his staff are struggling to keep up with the influx of the recently deceased. “The pearly gates are like the unemployment phone trees here on earth. They weren’t built to handle the bandwidth. Some souls get tired of waiting and just say, ‘Fuck it, I’m going back.’

They say spirits who linger have unfinished business, but everyone has unfinished business. Whether it’s tracking down your murderer or finding out what happens on Lost. Nobody likes loose ends.”

At the time of this writing amulets have surpassed oil for the first time in the history of the Dow Jones Industrial.

•••

Continue reading Why Everyone is Stockpiling Amulets

The Challenges of Working Through the Zombie Apocalypse

If you’re reading this you’ve survived the rage virus pandemic up to now. Who’d have thought a strain of rabies would give human beings cannibalistic cravings? Now the infection is spreading at a sprinter’s pace, like a bite based relay race. Whether you’re a virologist calling it sixth extinction or an evangelical calling it the end times, you have to admit it’s pretty fucked up.

At least the symptoms are obvious: a spiderweb of black veins spreads across the face. The irises turn bloodred, and foam pools around the mouth. Fever boils brain. Then the body collapses and goes cold. When it gets back up it does the robot down the block.

Smart people are going into hibernation. Doomsday preppers are lowering venison into fallout shelters. The wealthy elite are wheeling whine into panic rooms, and a modern day Noah is leading animals into his fleet of underground buses. Suburbanites are filling bathtubs with clean water, nailing down their windows, installing gun turrets on their roofs, and laying landmines in their lawns.

We’ve been told to shelter in place and while it can be lonely the outside world is not a place you want to be. Trust me.

I’ve watched the infected form human pyramids to get at survivors. I’ve seen them scale commercial buildings like fire ants. Their team synergy is a sight to see and these leaning towers of zombies are hungry. They’re gnawing their way up the corporate ladder, ravaging open offices, chewing upper management down to the bone. A horde can downsize an entire call center within two minutes flat.

…And yet, like many employees whose businesses have been deemed essential, I have to go to work. Despite the blood trial up the block and the downed 747 across the street, Ship and Print’s hours have not changed.

That said I have some criticisms of S and P’s zombie apocalypse strategy.

Corporate has Left a lot to Be Desired

The rage virus is blood based. The masks corporate sent only cover the bottom half of our face. What are we supposed to do when an infected projectile vomits into our eyes? Our manager found some shades in the lost in found, but there weren’t enough to go around. The rest of us had to settle for reading glasses. Now we have to choose between getting puke in our eyes or being near sighted.

Corporate continues to provide inadequate munitions. Each Ship and Print location was issued one police issue Glock 17. Glock 17s take 9 millimeter magazines and yet we keep receiving boxes of 22 caliber rounds. When we emailed headquarters about the discrepancy we were told to make it work.

We’ve been forced to get by slingshots we’ve fashioned from office supplies.

We’re Not Meeting Safety Guidelines

We’re asking customers to wait outside the entrance, but there are intestines hanging from the stations and chunks of scalp on the handgrip. We’re trying to keep people safe, but our milkcrate barricades don’t come close to meeting OSHA guidelines. We tied the crates with zip ties but they topple all the time.

Customers try to ward off the infected by shooting them in the central mass. Even after we put up the sign that read, “Shoot them in the head or else you’re dead.”

I tried printing another with Keanu Reeves that said, “Be like John Wick give ‘em two in thick!” Still, customers are out there unloading their ammo into kneecaps.

Speaking of signage, I want to call attention to the fact that the Employees Rights posters that are required to be displayed by the Department of Labor are all covered in blood. Maybe that’s the reason no one is getting their fifteen minute breaks anymore.

Our Sanity is Wearing Thin

It’s bad enough to hear the infected at our doors, but due to lack of maintenance the office equipment is making strange sounds. Someone lost a finger in the production printer. Now it trumpets like an angry elephant. The copy machine beeps like it’s out of toner twenty times an hour and the fax machine keeps making a tone like a coked-up parrot. Oh and the satellite radio keeps playing “One Week” by the Barenaked Ladies over and over even though we’ve knocked out all the speakers.

Our Supplies are Running Low

We are starving. We keep submitting requests for provisions through the web portal, but they never arrive. Yet all of the planogram display kits keep coming on time. We haven’t seen a fresh water cooler in months, but the armored deposit service keeps knocking on the back door. We pried open the secure shredding container once we ran out of toilet paper. We’d still be using it if the shredding service hadn’t emptied it out.

Yesterday we had no choice but to raid the hardware store next door. It’ll help but we can only get by for so long on Red Bull and beef jerky.

We’ve Tossed Our Green Energy Policy out the Window

The CDC says the infected hunt the healthy by sensing body heat. Corporate didn’t have enough mylar blankets, so they mandated we cake on a layer of mud. Now they want us to keep the air conditioner running at twenty degrees all the time. It’s hard to meet customers with pep when we can see our own breath.

Now the power keeps going out and the backup generator isn’t up to the task.

Corporate sent us a hose to siphon gas from the cars out back. The problem is that most vehicles are too modern. Their fuel tanks have a metal flap to snag the hose and their filler necks have an obstruction to keep us from getting a good flow going. Suck all you like, but you’ll never get those things to come.

We are Overwhelmed

Everyone is over on hours because the infected never sleep. Corporate decided to mandate that when we clock out we leave the premises. That means we have to side step the horde, find a shelter, and get back within the strict five minute window before our shift starts.

If anything Ship and Print should be hiring more staff. We’ve gotten a surge of new customers ever since the infected swept through the FedEx up the block. Now more than ever people need to return their items back to Amazon.

We’re one of the few shipping services where people can mail essentials. Things like: vibrators shaped like eggplant emojis, gemstone water filtration pitchers, Millennium Falcon waffle irons, subscription lingerie, and espresso pods.

Closing Thoughts

My apartment has been in ruins ever since that Range Rover knocked out the support beam, and yet my lease is for twelve months. So I still have to pay rent. Then there’s my student loans. Those aren’t going away any time soon not with all the debt collectors safe and secure in their bunkers. That and I have to make car payments to make. Repo men don’t mind working in Armageddon conditions.

And let’s say someone does come up with a cure for the rage virus. Ship and Print won’t cover it. So I’ll need to start saving up for health insurance.

It doesn’t really matter that there are corpses lying in the intersection, with their jaws hanging open, and tongues rotting in the sun. It doesn’t really matter that Wall Street is now a game trail for the infected. It doesn’t matter that the national guard outposts have been overrun. Capitalism has survived the fall of civilization.

So I’ve still gotta go to work and make that money.

•••

Continue reading The Challenges of Working Through the Zombie Apocalypse

My Best Short Fiction for Self-Isolation

Slush Pile
A con artist creates a scheme to defraud aspiring authors, until one day he’s haunted by the manuscripts he’s cast off into the slush pile.

Shop Dropping
A bookstore owner notices an alarming trend. People he suspects of shoplifting are actually leaving strange books behind. His real problem begins when he makes the mistake of reading one of them.

Tunnel Vision
When an infinite hallway appears in a young loner’s dining room he must venture into the void to rescue his cat.

How to Exorcise a Demon So You can Get Your Damage Deposit Back
Sound advice for tenants who are either trapped with a demon or are just trying to avoid a blotch on their rental history.

Surviving Valentine’s Day
A peek into an alternate reality where Valentine’s Day is a time when the vengeful spirit of St. Valentine stalks the earth forcing everyone to invest in purge shelters.

The Pigeon King Excerpt
A story about a self-isolating podcaster with either a pigeon or a poltergeist problem.

Continue reading My Best Short Fiction for Self-Isolation

A Halloween Carol

It was the Saturday before Halloween and Nathan was walking the edge of his apartment switching on all of the white noise machines. This was his bedtime ritual, but tonight he was tuning the dials early, listening for a tone lower than static and higher than thunder, something in the same range as human speech. The moment he found the right waveform he heard a series of loud percussive booms. Someone was trouncing across the ceiling with stiletto heels on. Nathan had muzzled the party banter, but the floorboards might as well have been made of balsawood.

Nathan threw open the cupboards, the liquor cabinet, and the bathroom mirror. He set a handful of bottles, a cocktail shaker, and an eyedropper on the kitchen counter. His cat, Pazuzu, watched from the refrigerator, a grey gargoyle tallying his master’s sins.

Nathan fixed himself a cocktail of ginger beer, dark rum, Nyquil, and dextromethorphan. He’d dubbed this concoction: a Stephen King-Colada. The blend of depressants and bargain-basement PCP had become a staple of his writing routine. It hadn’t inflated his wordcount so much as it numbed him for keeping count.

Pazuzu backed into the cupboard as Nathan drank the deadly concoction from his skull-shaped mug. The cat knew to keep to the high ground whenever that ceramic cranium was out. Nathan plunked down at the kitchen table, pried his laptop open, and pecked at the keyboard. He typed:

It was a dark and stormy night and a hack horror writer was thinking about giving up on the genre forward, maybe to advance his career, maybe to make first dates a little less awkward. The horror community had met him with cold indifference and now the feeling was mutual.

Nathan sighed. “Bah humbug.”

Then he melted down the chair and into the carpet.

 T.M. COBB

There was a bump in the night, followed by several more. Each one was closer than the rager on the upper floor. Large heavy feet fell across the kitchen table.

Nathan’s torso shot awake while his legs stayed dead asleep. His knees were bent, his feet were at his sides, and his back was flat on the floor. It looked like he’d fallen asleep in the middle of a power slide. The kitchen table creaked as hunched back shadows skulked across the walls. Nathan followed the silhouette certain he’d spot Pazuzu, but then he caught the glint of the cat eyes behind the couch. Pazuzu was retreating, yielding his territory to whatever was huddled atop the table.

Nathan scanned the rim for movement. He saw what seemed like a long sturdy chain, but when it grazed the brim of the table the sound was hallow and plastic. Behind it was a length of jack-o-lantern lights, and a knotted stretch of cobweb.

Nathan couldn’t help but chuckle.

The intruder leapt from the dining room to the coffee table, spun around, and crouched, a prehistoric bird eyeing an early mammal wondering if it were edible. The intruder wore a witch’s hat with horns jutting through the brim. His face was enshrouded in a veil cheesecloth. His cloak was a patchwork of webbing, chains, and rubber limbs. His hands clutched the corner of the table. One featured a Freddy Krueger claw, the other was covered in rubber finger monsters.

Nathan scurried up the chair to find the intruder looming over him from the kitchen table. Beyond the intruder’s veil was a bejeweled masquerade mask and a face dripping with clown makeup.

The intruder lifted Nathan by the collar and raised his veil.

“Boo!”

Nathan squinted, bewildered, but ultimately unphased.

The intruder raised his mask. “You know they say people who don’t react to loud jarring noises are probably psychopaths?”

Now Nathan recognized the intruder. “Thomas Marshall Cobb.”

Cobb raised a corrective finger. “T.M. Cobb, remember. Initials make sales. So sayeth mine publisher of yore.”

Nathan swatted Cobb’s hand away from his collar.

“You’re dead. I know people who went to your funeral.”

“You know them? You couldn’t afford the $160 air fair?”

“I have issues with suicide.”

“Suicide?” Cobb chortled. “Christ, I’m not a poet. I had a heart attack. Is that how they spun it? Did my sales go up?”

Nathan shrugged. “A little. Why do you look like you rolled around in a tub of Hot Topic?”

“Oh this?” Cobb stretched his webbing. “It’s my penance.”

“That doesn’t look so bad.”

“You try taking a dump in this thing.”

“Ghosts have bowel movements?”

T.M. Cobb gave that a long certain nod. “Runny, prickly ones.”

“What’s your diet?”
“Wax syrup sticks, raisins, and rock candy.”

Nathan nodded. That would do it. “So, why are you dressed like a Party City Jacob Marley?”

“Because I betrayed my passions. I gave up on horror and wrote soulless procedural thrillers.”

“And that landed you in Hell?”

T.M. Cobb nodded. “Halloween hell, where all the best parts of the holiday are absent. Where the succubi dress like Horny Helen Keller, Mistress Mother Teresa, and filthy Anna Frank. Where they make you bob for apples in a public urinal and every night we go trick or treating, but the tricks are on us. Have you ever been pelted with a hardboiled egg fired from a potato gun?”

“Can’t say that I have.”

Cobb dropped his trousers, revealing a network of purple welts across his butt cheeks. “These ain’t hemorrhoids.”

Nathan covered his eyes, then his nose.

Cobb buckled back up. “There are no haunted houses, just religious Hell houses where they lecture us on the dangers of vaping grass and premarital petting. There are no scary stories, just Christian comics on the Satanic subtext of the season. Everyone texts via Ouija boards. Everyone travels via hayrides. There’s a drive-in, but the only movie that ever plays is The Exorcist 2. Oh, and I hope you like the Monster Mash, because that shit is running twenty-four seven.”

Nathan shook the opening notes of the tune from his head. “All because you sold out?”

Cobb tilted his head back forth. “I bludgeoned a couple of hitchhikers with a tire iron. I suppose that’s also frowned upon.”

“Why did you do that?”

Cobb threw his hands up. “Why does a writer do anything? For research! I’d lived such nice vanilla life I figured the good lord could toss me a couple freebies. Anyway, I’m here to help you sort your shit out.”

“I’m not too worried about killing hitchhikers. I Uber everywhere.”

“You say that now, but people are fragile. It wouldn’t hurt to score some Karma points while you can.”

Nathan muttered. “I’m pretty sure those dogmas are incompatible.”

Cobb cupped a hand to his ear. “What was that?”

“I said you look like a stay at home dad’s cry for help.”

Cobb swatted Nathan with his claws. Nathan felt his cheek surprised to find blood dripping down on his fingers.

Cobb recoiled at his own handy work. “Whoa! These are plastic. I didn’t think they’d actually cut you. I’ll go get a towel.”

“My cat got me earlier. You just opened the scab again.”

“Why don’t you have paper towels?”

“Why are you here?”

Cobb unspooled a length of toilet paper from his arm and dabbed Nathan’s cheek.

“I had a vision, the last time I was in the toxic trough, bobbing for apples. I saw you turning your back on the horror genre and writing Cozy Mysteries.”

“Cozy Mysteries?”

“They’re like thrillers, but with the stakes way lower. All the violence happens off stage and all the sex is replaced with quant community functions.”

“Like Murder, She Wrote?”

“Exactly like Murder, She Wrote.”

“I knew Angela Lansbury was a bad influence on me.”

“Well, I’ve contracted some entities in the horror community to help steer you back in the right direction. It will be like A Christmas Carol, but not quite as preachy. They’ll show you that there’s still millage in the genre, or you’ll end up like me, or worse.”

“Or worse?”

Cobb nodded, shaken by the thought. “I’ve seen writers in Halloween Hell forced spend eternity dressed as Where’s Waldo.”

“With the red striped shirt and the poof ball hat? But that’s so tacky.”

“I know. That’s why you need to drink the rest of this.” Cobb handed Nathan his half-finished cocktail.

Nathan guzzled it down and went down with it.

THE GHOST OF HORROR PAST

Nathan came to in the middle of a Barnes and Noble as a fleet of sneakers touched down around him. Foot traffic was so congested it phased clean through him. Mothers held their children’s hands as they came around corners. Father’s sucked their guts in as they waited for one another to pass. Children tried to muster the strength to walk with boxsets in their grip.

Nathan teetered to his feet as a train of strollers phased through his torso one by one. Dizzy, Nathan struggled to take in his surroundings. Rolling ladders screeched along their tracks. Book carts creaked through the aisles. Stools scrapped along the carpeting. Everywhere he looked people were reading, riffling through shelves, filling baskets with books.

Nathan examined the endcaps to find a gallery of hand painted horror covers: a procession of black robes, curvy daggers, and tentacles. Reptilian talons rose through the graveyard soil. Porcelain dolls stood at the edge of cribs. Sultry Satanists leaned over cauldrons. Nathan had never seen such a showroom of serpents, skeletons, and flaming pentagrams. He’d gotten used to riffling through Sci Fi/Fantasy shelves for obscure horror titles, but when he rounded the corner he found a horror section that was two isles long.

Nathan reached for a title at random. It read: Confessions of Satanic Cheerleader by Thomas Marshall Cobb. The titular cheerleader had a skull for face, a Red Devils sweater and a pom-pom dripping with blood.

Nathan flipped the book over to find a portrait of Cobb done up like Grandpa Munster: a widow’s peak, caked on makeup, and high collared cape.

“Bet you’ve never seen so many red and black paperbacks in all your life.”

Nathan spun around, but none of the patrons were looking in his direction let alone addressing him.

“Down here. Hep cat.”

Nathan shifted his gaze to a stout little demon with a black beret, red flip shades, and a soul patch.

“You’re not a ghost.”

The demon flipped its shades up. “No day passes for the dead daddy-o. I’m Zazimsberg,  keeper of the infernal archives.”

Nathan was hit with a sudden wave of vertigo. He dropped the paperback in his hand and found himself leaning against the bookshelf.

Zazimsberg scanned Nathan’s eyes. “You still riding the Tussin dragon, son?”

Nathan nodded. “When are we?”

Zazimsberg raised his stubby fingers to the black and red volumes all around him. “This is that glorious era between Rosemary’s Baby and Silence of the Lambs, when gloom-riddled grimoires ruled the nation’s nightmares, when poltergeists and possession kept pages turning, and the supernatural cast a long shadow on the bestsellers list.”

Nathan struggled to maintain his balance as he paced the aisle, scanning the shelves.  “No way.” The horror section was broken into subgenres: Gothic, Cosmic, Supernatural, Psychological, and Slashers. “I can’t believe there was ever this much horror literature.”

“Believe it, syrup head. Back before Netflix, people had either this or the passion pit to get their horror fix.”

“Passion Pit, like the band?”

Zazimsberg snapped his fingers. “Passion pit, pucker palace, pound pagoda…Whatever you call drive-ins these days?”

Nathan scanned his brow. “Cineplex and chill?”

“Well horror was here and there, if you didn’t have anyone to play back seat bingo with this is where you ended up.”

Nathan shook his head as rainbow trails streaked through his vision. “I can’t believe horror was never this popular. I think you’re seeing things through ruby colored glasses?”

“They’re prescription.” Zazimsberg scurried up a rolling ladder and straddled the bookshelf. “Besides this hootenanny is temporary. The horror market is headed for crashville. Once the FBI coins the term: serial killer, a generation of armchair psychologists get hung up on psychopaths. Everyone hip to the supernatural gets seduced by the likes of Hannibal Lecter.”

“Except for Stephen King.”

Zazimsberg rubbed his hands together. “Except for Stephen King. There’s a man who knows his groceries. If you weren’t too Dixie fried on the Dextro, you might noddle this one out for me: why did King survive the horror crash while so many of his peers put an egg in their shoes and beat it?”

Nathan wasn’t sure what decade he was in, but looking at the shelf, Stephen King had already amassed a bewildering bibliography. “King was prolific. He never took a break. His titles were in a perpetual promotion cycle and his brand never went stale.”

Zazimsberg cackled at the ceiling. “Spoken like the mayor of Squaresville. No, King knew people. He gave regular folks something to relate to. Sure, he checked all the genre boxes, wrote his share of dark cellars, but he always made you care about the people who went down there.”

Nathan rubbed his temples. “So characters first, situation second, but what if I’m not much of a people person?”

“You’re going to have to learn to mingle baby, because if people don’t see themselves in your fiction, how are they supposed to get lost in it?”

Nathan nodded, not so much in agreement, but to give himself time to think. “That’s all well and good for you, Bohemian Blasphemy, but what if people don’t feel like talking to me?”

Zazimsberg clasped his sausage fingers together. “Dig this. You ever seen a high class chick with some dumb dopey ape?”

“All the time.”

“Ever wonder how that happened?”

Nathan nodded.

“The ape introduced himself.”

“So what? I should ask a bunch of randos for insights into human condition?”

Zazimsberg pried a book from the top shelf, flung it, and tipped its neighboring titles over. “If you can’t be bothered to care about people, why should they care about your characters?”

“Because they’re in interesting predicaments?” Nathan sidestepped the falling books.

“Like a bug getting its legs pulled off?”

“Sure.”

“Or a cow being tipped off a cliff?” Zazimsberg tipped another row of paperbacks.

“I guess.” The books crashed at Nathan’s feet.

“Or a writer getting belted with hardcovers?”

Nathan looked up right as a big fat art book caught him between the eyes.

THE GHOST OF HALLOWEEN PRESENT

Nathan awoke on the floor of a moonlit corridor. Something tickled the back of his throat. He coughed and watched the particles swirl toward the rafters. Moon beams shone through windows that lined the ceiling. Nathan was in a basement. The dust covers that wrapped the furnishing caught the light, as did the cobwebs stretching from the candelabras, and the suits of armor beneath the tapestries.

“So is this like an Inception thing? Every time I get knocked out I go into a deeper dream layer?”

Nathan’s words echoed off the indifferent checkered tiles.

He wiped the dust from his arms and thighs and pressed on into the dark. “Does this count as R.E.M. sleep or am I going to wake up cranky?”

There were no answers from the corridor.

Nathan hastened his pace as he passed beneath a taxidermy gallery mounted on the wall. He tried to ignore the shadows the antlers cast, but they seemed to stretch.

A breeze wafted through the corridor setting all the furniture skirts aflutter. Goosebumps rose up Nathan’s biceps, his shoulders, and settle upon his neck. A long sheet arose to reveal the source of the cold spot: an open fireplace. The sheet pointed to the Nathan, detached from the wall, and glided over him. In the sheet’s place was a tall elliptical mirror. It had a big baroque frame that was all lion’s paws and golden laurels, like a family crest.

“Alas, a looking glass. I wonder what will happen if I gaze into it?”

Nathan neared the mirror. “So, should I start saying ‘Bloody Marry’ and see where that takes me?”

The mirror already had an answer. There was a silhouette standing beneath a dustsheet. Either it was a trick of the light or of the wind, but the silhouette appeared to be breathing. The goosebumps on Nathan’s neck ran down his arm and settled on his wrist.

He counted on his fingers. “3-2-1,” then spun on his heel.

A figure charged at him with a mallet. “Jump scare!” The figure shouted as she struck a brass gong.

For his part, Nathan didn’t flinch. He nodded, like a disappointed parent.

The Ghost of Horror Present looked to Nathan like a hipster Elvira: straight black bangs, lots of mascara, boots up to her knees, tight jeans, black halter top, and a black denim vest covered in enamel pins.

“They say people who don’t react to loud jarring noises might be psychopaths.”

“I’ve been getting that a lot.”

The Ghost of Horror Present dropped the mallet and gong into a pocket dimension beneath her vest and offered her hand. “Hello Nathan, I’m Leonora, the ghost of Christmas present.”

“You mean Halloween?”
Leonora shrugged. “I’m a millennial. I’ve got a lot side gigs.”

Nathan tried not to stare at Leonora’s chest, but she had more pins than a five-star general. She had the stickman from The Blair Witch Project, Pyramid head from Silent Hill, the killer sphere from Phantasm, and the puzzle box from Hellraiser. She even had the Necronomicon from Evil Deadwith a banner that read: READ BANNED BOOKS.

Curious Nathan turned around and tore the sheet off the figure he’d spotted in the mirror. Sure enough, it was a toned Greek sculpture with a leaf for a loincloth.

“Isn’t this all a little old school for the ghost of Halloween present? I’m surprised I’m not hearing the beat of a telltale heart through the floorboards.”

Leonora spun around appraising their surroundings. “Haven’t you heard? Everything old is new again.”

The back of her vest was a patchwork of portraits of the Universal monsters: the creature from the black lagoon, the phantom of the opera, the bride of Frankenstein, Frankenstein’s monster, the Wolfman, the mummy, Dracula. There was even a blank one for the invisible man.

Leonora raised her fingerless gloves to the ceiling. “Doesn’t all this Hammer Horror shit give you a nostalgia boner for the supernatural cinema of yore?”

She made a beeline for a buckling strip of wallpaper, got a good grip, and pried it free. Then she skipped over a row of shattered tiles, kicked one loose, and claimed it from the floor. She curled her hand back, spun, and hurled it like a discuss. It shattered a window.

Leonora pointed to her handywork. “Look at that matte painted moon and tell me you don’t want to write some shit about an ancient acropolis.”

Nathan looked toward the impossibly large lunar surface filling the window frame then back to Leonora to find she’d disappeared. “Alright Bat Woman.” He sighed, checked his watch, and counted on his fingers. “3-2-1…”

When he turned Leonora hit him with an airhorn. “Jump scare!”

Nathan didn’t jump so much as wince. A pendulum of hair fell into his brow and he took a moment to slick it back up. “I’m not going to lie. I’m digging on this atmosphere, but how’s a horror write supposed to carve out his niche when he’s stealing from the past?”

Leonora laid on her airhorn. “Re-re-remix!” Lightning flashed, confetti shot out in all directions, and plumes of smoke spewed into the room.

When Nathan looked back Leonora was at a turntable. She held a pair of headphones with one hand and worked the knobs with the other.

A dubstep drop, blew the dustcovers off a pair of monolithic speakers.

Leonora shouted. “You take the classics, play with people’s expectations, and put your own spin on them.”

Nathan could just make out the melody for Toccata and Fugue in D minorburied beneath a flurry of distorted bass tones. He plugged his ears. A flurry of shadows sped across the windows. Cracks spread throughout the ceiling. The chandelier shook, plunged toward the floor, and snagged on its chain.

Leonora pumped her fists to the beat. Lasers converged upon a mirror ball Nathan hadn’t noticed until then. Bats flew through the window, swarmed the speakers, and formed a pair of big brown tornados.

Nathan cupped his hands around his mouth. “It seems like we could do better than just adding a bunch of…”

Silence.

“…Jump scares”

Leonora had disappeared. So too had the commotion.

Nathan scanned the corridor for movement, then the furniture and the shadows beneath it. The support beams creaked. The house settled. An eerie wind blew through the window. Nathan cocked his ear toward the sound and raised a finger until he heard a wolf howling in the distance. “There it is.” He took the opportunity to roll his shoulders and stretch his forearms across his chest.

Nathan creaked his neck, cracked his knuckles, and counted down. “3…2…1…”

Nothing.

He shut his eyes, counted on his fingers, and braced himself, but still nothing.

“Alright Leonora. This is not my first rodeo.” He scanned his surroundings. “We already did the mirror thing, and the silhouettes beneath the dust covers. That just leaves…No. You wouldn’t be that tacky.”

Nathan turned to the suits of armor. One suit was not like the others. It was wielding its great sword high above its head, frozen in the middle of a killing stroke. Nathan neared the suit until he was standing beneath the blade’s trajectory.

“I’m going to assume this is like velociraptors. If one of you is in front of me then another is—”

“Jump scare!”

Leonora struck Nathan with a taser. His muscles seized around the white hot surge in his side. Leonora hit him again and again and again. When she finally let up Nathan had collapsed into a ragdoll on the tile. The armor fell forward and the great sword came down upon his cranium.

THE GHOST OF HALLOWEEN YET TO COME

Nathan came to in an open grave. It was teaming with rainwater, knotted roots, and muck. It wreaked of worms and formaldehyde. He leaned forward and felt something hard and slick beneath his palms. He was floating atop a casket. “Oh, for fuck’s sake.”

Nathan dug into the dirt wall, grabbed a long rope of root, and pulled himself up with all the grace of Adam West’s Batman. Moments later he was back on the coffin. He tried to claw his way up the steep incline. He managed to get a foothold, felt the grass at the borders of the plot, and then he was back on the coffin with an avalanche of mud coming down on him.

The mudslide had exposed a second root system. This one weaved in and out of the dirt like stitching. Nathan climbed the handholds, pulled himself back up, and grabbed at fistfuls of grass until he was able to roll onto solid ground.

Thunder clapped and a fleeting glimpse of daylight shone through the surroundings. The landscape was dotted with statues: angels whose wingspan wrapped around their shoulders like overcoats, generals who watched over the cemetery from atop their monuments, and cherubs.

“Fuck all you all motherfuckers.” Nathan said with what the little indignation he could muster.

He then turned his attention to the headstone. “Alright, let’s peep on this epitaph.”

He crawled around the rim of the open grave, careful not to slide back in. As for the headstone, it was tasteful, not too garish, not too small. The base was carpeted with red roses and for a moment Nathan felt appreciated, until he read was etched into the rock:

HERE LIES STEPHEN KING: THE LAST GREAT HORROR AUTHOR.

Nathan stared at the text perplexed. “Shouldn’t there be a birthdate and death date? Maybe something about his wife?”

Lightning struck a redwood not far from the headstone. Cinders shot through the air like fireworks. The blast had cleaved the trunk down the center and set the standing side aflame. As the blaze spread it outlined a towering figure. Its hooded face regarded Nathan with cold indifference. Its tattered robes fluttered against the breeze. Nathan scanned the frayed edges and spotted, not legs, but bunches of squirming appendages: snakes, centipedes, and other vermin. Nathan panned down the figure’s skirt and saw tentacles writhing in the grass.

Nathan ran for it. Monuments, mausoleums, and markers passed in a blur, and as he ran those granite shapes grew taller until they rose above the tree line. The headstones became standing stones and the fire that had consumed the redwood had found its way back into the sky. The storm clouds turned volcanic and the rain turned to ash.

Overwhelmed Nathan lost sight of his footing, snagged his toe and hit the prairie face first, then he just kept hitting it as he rolled downhill. He was still sliding when he’d settled onto his belly. That’s when he saw the gapping maw of the open grave ready to swallow him up again. He dug into the grass, but didn’t stop until he was teetering on the edge of the pit.

That’s when Nathan felt the tentacle wrap around his ankle, slice through his pantleg, and latch onto his calf. Nathan burrowed into prairie down to his elbows, but the dirt did him no favors. “Fuck you, Lovecraft. You racist piece of—”

One good tug from the tentacle and all the dirt Nathan was hanging onto came right down with him.

When Nathan landed he did not feel the smooth lid of coffin, but a writhing mass of angry limbs, poking and prodding at all his tender bits until they got a good grip. A tentacle slid around Nathan’s brow. Its suckers pulsed with hunger. The long grey appendage looped around Nathan’s eyes, ears, and nose, before tunneling into his mouth.

Despite the pressure on his eardrums Nathan could still hear the precise moment his skull cracked open.

SUNDAY MORNING

Nathan awoke on his side kissing a puddle of his own sick. He’d thrown up in the middle of the night. Had he slept on his back he’d have asphyxiated and died. Now little Pazuzu was rubbing his whiskers in the mess. Nathan mustered the strength to crawl out from under the table, scoop the cat up, and sequester him in the bedroom.

Nathan was relieved to be alive, but he had no plan to throw the windows open and ask some young man what day it was. He knew damn well it was October 27thand he needed to shampoo the carpet and wash away the stench of his poor life decisions.

When Nathan was finally refreshed he elected to go out. Now he didn’t gift any turkeys to any needy families, nor did he donate to any charities. He was too broke to play benefactor and there were no Tiny Tims anywhere in his life. Instead, he took a notepad down to the local bakery and let his train of thought careen down the tracks.

Nathan listed the qualities someone had to possess for him care about them. He thought long and hard about what qualities made people sympathetic, fascinating, or praiseworthy. He thought about his friends, family, and coworkers. He dreamt up crazy situations that might reveal the full measure of their character.

Then he listed the horror topes he’d always hated and imagined some fresh spins on them. He analyzed the dream about Stephen King’s headstone and came up with a concept worth riffing on:

What if a horror legend had the ability to navigate the collective unconscious and syphon inspiration from his competition? What if one of those authors found out and tried to retaliate? What would happen if the horror legend summoned demons to stop him?

Nathan gripped the page as if to rip it out. “That is such batshit stupid concept… It’d be a shame to let it go to waste.”

He turned the page, wrote the title: NOVELMANCER, and then he wrote some more.

Continue reading A Halloween Carol

Strange Love: Dating Profiles of the Damned

Submitted for your approval: Strange Love aka Monster Mingle,a dating service for the inhuman, a place where urban legends find romance, where full moons lead to fuller hearts, and all the thirsty singles have fangs.

This is how it works: illustrator Bryan Politte comes up with the creatures and author Drew Chial gives them their backstories.This is a place where you can catch up on the monsters you may have missed so far.

Scryzon Wixelvox Gleep by Bryan Politte

Meet Scryzon Wixelvox Gleep, a serial monogamist from the planet Monogome Prime. He’s had a crush on the human race ever since the Voyager probe entered deep space. Some say he’s clingy others say he’s a parasite… with a gestation as long as the relationship.

Nólatha Torhorn by Bryan Politte

Meet Nólatha Torhorn, former elven maiden, former sacrifice to the Gods of Winter, and current custodian to a handful of artifacts that bestow her divine power. She’s looking for a warmhearted individual to help set fire to the ice cold idols that spurned her.

Roddy Dirge by Bryan Politte

Meet Roddy Dirge, a punk zombie who needs vitamin B12 in order to stay cognizant or risk breaking his vegan commitment. He’s looking for a bodacious botanist who synthesizes nutrients from algae and has an affinity for the Dead Kennedys.

Matilda MacDonald by Bryan Politte

Meet Matilda MacDonald, aka the devil. She wants you to know everything you’ve heard about her is just bad PR. She’s here to enable your artistic temperament, and all she wants in return is one easy payment.

Follow Matilda’s adventures in my book HE HAS MANY NAMES.

Read the prequel short story DRAGON’S BREATH.

Check out the original MONSTER MINGLE profile.

Daisy Diode by Bryan Politte

Meet Daisy Diode, a self-made woman on a mission to find the perfect connection. She’s searching for love in the clouds, or the cloud to be more precise. She’s got the tools to brute force her way into your heart, just look out for malware while she’s in there.

Kadilia Caine by Bryan Politte

Meet Kadilia Caine. She’s been out of the dating pool for a while, but she’s looking to get her feet wet again. If you’re searching for someone to watch over you at night then look no further. All you have to do to win her affection is invite her in.

Continue reading Strange Love: Dating Profiles of the Damned