The Alien Buddha’s House of Horror Showdown: The Final 4

To vote for the winner, join the ABP facebook group at facebook.com/groups/1199211926755548, and find the poll in the pinned posts. The winner will be awarded on Halloween day with $100, an ABP zine subscription, and the inaugural title of Horror Showdown Champion.

The final 4 was chosen with the help of special guest judges Scott Thomas Outlar, Samir Karimo, and Juleigh Howard Hobson.

The stories in this post appear in the order that they do in The Alien Buddha’s House of Horrors 4, and should have no effect on the outcome. Please read all stories before voting.

Join us on the Songs of Selah podcast on October 25th to hear the finalists read their stories live. Link to the show to be posted on our social media outlets.


Jacek Wilkos

What’s Your Emergency?



“911, what’s your emergency?”

“Help! He ate them!”

“Sir, calm down.”

“O my God, he ate them alive!”

“Sir, where are you?”

“I’m at St. Mary’s Hospital.”

“What happened?”

“We were performing a cardiac transplant. The new heart was working fine but after just a few moments the patient flatlined. We tried to resuscitate him, but we failed. He died. And then he opened his eyes. He bit doctor Ross and tore out his larynx. I ran. Locking the operating room door, I saw him and the nurse on the floor. She was screaming while he was eating her intestines. He looked at me and got up to his feet, blood dripping from his mouth… His eyes… Dear God… We didn’t close him, he still had an open chest… I could see his heart… It wasn’t beating.”

“Sir, the patrol is already on the way. Where exactly are you?”

“I hid under the desk in the emergency room.”

“Can you find a safer place and lock yourself form the inside?”

“I’ll try…What was that?… I hear something… O God, it’s him. He found me. No, stay away! NO!…”

“Sir? Sir?…“



Ada Wofford

The Procession


The cries and moans of killing could still be heard through the thick castle walls. Sealed and abandoned more than a century ago, many of us had forgotten about this ancient keep perched atop a hill and nestled amongst a thick copse. For others, it held a strange place in their hearts and led their minds wandering through fantastic myth and lore. I stumbled upon one of its secret entrances after that Parader had knocked me into the sewers. Our town’s grotesque tradition of the Procession has taken place every decade for as long as even the oldest residents can remember, but it has never gone on like this before. It’s been three nights now and they are still roaming. Soaking the streets with blood.

I had been held up at my parents’ house the night it started. Never ones to participate, we boarded up the windows and took refuge in our cramped basement, praying for the sound of church bells which always signaled the end. Elderly, and already quite ill from the long and hellish Italian summer, my parents passed in their sleep during the second night, almost as if they were one being. Perhaps it was from shock–from the Procession, or maybe it was some divine deliverance. My tired mind finds comfort in the latter. They died huddled together against the cellar wall, clutching each other in their dead hands. Alone inside that stuffy cellar the stench of their withering bodies engulfed my senses. I could taste it! See it! Their pale, lifeless faces catching the light from our single lamp, partially illuminating their ghastly figures like some Baroque painting. It was unbearable.

On the third night, as I thought I heard the sounds from outside begin to wane, I decided to make a break for my sister’s house, on the outskirts of the city. The August sun hung low and huge behind the gabled row homes lining the street. I had only journeyed a short distance when the Parader, an older looking fellow with the gleam of murder in his eyes, leapt at me from behind a pile of trash and corpses. I stumbled with shock and fell backward over a low railing into the open sewer, which snakes through our city like a sickly river. Even the old man was sane enough not to follow me into that fetid miasma. He leaned over the railing shouting incoherent curses as I surrendered myself to the current. I struggled to keep my head above the virulent water as it carried me farther and farther away from the center of the city. Eventually, the sewer drained out into an underground basin littered with bodies. Here, the sewage only came to my knees. I made my way to a stone ledge and followed it through the darkness for what felt like hours. The only sounds were the rush of the waterfall that brought me here and the squeaks of rats echoing off the damp and ancient looking walls. As the walkway came to a bend I felt a rush of cool air and was brought before an open door, which led to a wine cellar.

                I knew immediately that I had somehow found my way inside the Castle. Not a soul has been known to have ever crossed its threshold. Tales and legends run numerous throughout the city. In the markets and schoolyards, many have spoken of the Castle’s myriad secrets and always with a certain air of authority and scholarship, but only to make their claims a bit more exciting. Most of us would revel in these stories but deep down we all understood that we were wholly ignorant of the Castle’s secrets. Though a few, claiming to have been touched by the divine or to have heard mystical whisperings in their ears late at night, would hold to their stories of the Castle with all the fervor of maniacs.

One of my most vivid childhood memories is of such a being. Walking home late from school one dark winter evening, a woman in rags revealed herself from within a shadowy crevice between buildings. She raised her arms to the sky and shouted, “Glory be to he who seeks eternal life by the Procession! Who cleanses the sins of man by the fire of the Eternal. Glory be to the one who enters the Castle! Through the zenith of Heaven to the Great One’s chamber, which sits above this world and everything! Glory be! Glory be!” As I ran through the lightly falling snow I could still hear her shouting for several blocks. I’ve had many nightmares of this woman. The scene plays out exactly the same way, only I can’t run. The woman slowly approaches my paralyzed body as she screams, “Glory! Glory be! Glory! Glory! Glory!” And just as she reaches out to grab me I wake up, every time.

                This woman was strong in my thoughts as I made my way through the wine cellar and up the narrow stairs to the kitchen. I still reeked of the sewers but I had gradually grown accustomed to the scent and was able to make out the musty air of the damp castle. The kitchen was enormous but ultimately unimpressive. There was nothing to look at. No food obviously, a few utensils scattered about, and two large wood stoves with nothing but ash in them. But something urged me to press on, something other than curiosity. I made my way through the kitchen into the dark hallway of the servants’ quarters. Even in the darkness I could make out how bleak and bland these quarters were, which by contrast made the floor above seem all the more impressive.

I ascended a handsome set of stairs and entered the second-floor corridor, a grand and enchanting piece of architecture, seemingly endless in both directions. The tall, arched windows stood in the orange glow of a fiery dusk, as the looming August sun continued its slow dissent. Along the floor ran a tattered red carpet, which had lovely ornate bordering done in black, and every hundred feet or so, there could be seen an enigmatic circular crest of the most exquisite detail. As I progressed I noticed a number of statues tucked away in little archways here and there between the corridor’s myriad doors. Some of them were people; ancient, intelligent looking people holding books or strange instruments, perhaps of the scientific nature. Others depicted otherworldly avian-like creatures that stood upright like humans, hunched over with lumbering spines and grotesque beaks attached to their tiny, ill-proportioned heads. The creatures wore curious garments and had long, claw like fingers, which also held books and strange instruments. Scrolls were carved into the stonework above these statues, which held writing, perhaps a name or an inscription, but it was in a bizarre script, the characters of which I had never seen before. Though, some of the archways contained nothing but an empty stone platform, perhaps there were plans for other works of art that were never completed.

I continued on, trying various doors along the way. All were locked, but one. Its door, torn asunder from its hinges, lay at my feet. Beyond it I found an ancient library of the grandest scale. Bookshelves that stretched to the heavens lined the walls. The muted and aged greens and browns of centuries old tomes were crammed into every available nook and crevice. Horribly worn oriental rugs adorned the wooden floor in a haphazard pattern, some long ways, some slightly overlapping diagonally. The place was in the most picturesque state of disrepair one could imagine. Simple wooden tables were scattered about the library, some overturn along with the various papers and manuscripts they once held. Many of the chairs, which were of a lovely and quite curious build, reminiscent of those once found in grand opera houses, were overturned or smashed, but a few remained standing, their cushions fuzzy with mold.

I came across a table with but a single book upon its surface. I opened its ancient cover as gently as one could but it immediately separated from the binding. The pages were yellow and warped with humidity. I took up a thin piece of debris from one of the destroyed chairs and used it as a blade with which to carefully turn the delicate pages without subjecting them to my fingers. It was some sort of manual for the local churches. I found a section that mentioned the Procession. There was an etching of a man holding down another man with his boot as he sawed away at his victim’s neck. The inscription read, “A Parader and his offering.” The book provided me with little information as many of the pages pertaining to the Procession seemed to have been crudely torn out. Most of what was left contained general information that everyone in town was well aware of–the Procession’s reoccurrence every ten years, how it always falls on the full moon of the seventh lunar month, and a little bit about its ambiguous religious significance, primarily dealing with the custom of confirming the end of the Procession by the ringing of church bells, with lengthy instructions on how this custom should be carried out—the length, the timbre, the notes, etc. Of the missing pages, a decent portion of one was left behind. I could make out the first word or so of each line and all of the final line. It read,

Hail…

To thee…

Glory…

Glory…

Thy clea…

Thy gran…

Born by…

And by…

Eterna…

Glory! Glory! Glory!

Looking up from the bewildering text I noticed a small room connected to the back of the library, its entrance slightly obscured by two toppled over bookshelves. Something about it piqued my curiosity. Of course, I’ve always been curious about this place, this strange and fantastic edifice that seemed to persistently linger in the back of our minds. Or perhaps it was something else. Any reasonable mind would have turned back long ago. It’s true, I had no knowledge of the dangers the Castle held, but I was well aware of what lay outside its walls. So, I pressed on.

 I managed to climb over the shelves and make it to the narrow archway. Inside, I found a curious little room with a glass-domed ceiling and decorated with a set of statues. They stood in stone boxes filled with soil, out of which ivy had at some point grown but was now yellow with death. These statues depicted women in flowing garments and the sinuous ivy, which wrapped about them, made the figures appear all the more elegant. There were three, the left and right statues held out candles towards their respective directions while the statue in the middle stood straight, her arms reaching upwards, and her eyes fixed downward towards whoever may be looking. I stood silently for some time, lost in the eyes of the statue as it stared down on me. The woman from my nightmares was called forth once more and the parallels made me shudder.

The sudden sound of feet and the rustle of garments broke me from the statue’s mesmerizing gaze. An old set of windows sat out of place at the end of the corridor. They were fogged over and opaque with age and protected by an ornate steel grating. All that could be seen through the windows was a faint orange glow. As I walked towards them, I heard a man mumbling to himself. “How in God’s name can someone be living in here?” I said aloud. The moment these words left my lips the strange mumbling ceased. 

                “Is that a patron come to visit?” said a low and tired voice from the window. “What’s your business here?” it asked. I stumbled over my speech as I attempted to explain myself. I spoke of the Procession and of the sewer but before I could finish, the voice cut in, “Ah yes, the Procession.” It seemed to linger on every word. “What a lovely thing it is.”

                The mumbling began once more and faded away to the sound of footsteps and the rustle of garments. I stood lost in bewilderment for some time. I shouted for the strange voice to return but the vacant windows refused to speak. Suddenly, an enormous sound could be heard, as if the entire castle had shifted its weight. I followed the sound back over the toppled bookshelves and through the library to the corridor. I found its many lanterns jutting from the walls to be fully illuminated, the whole hallway bright as Christmas. It was a fantastic sight.

I set out along the corridor once more. Now, illuminated by the brilliant light of the myriad lamps, I was able to better appreciate the exquisite detail of the sculptures. I came across another of the fantastic avian-like creatures and closely studied its craftsmanship. This one held an enormous scepter, at the top of which sat a lantern. The strange claws, the beak, the way its tattered garments hung from its malformed torso, truly this was the work of a once brilliant artist. I raised my hand to feel its long beak, when I jumped back in fright. A twitch, a stir. I swore I had seen something. Again, there was the soft rumbling of stone. A small turn of its head. The creature broke from its pose! Its scepter began to shine a wondrous pale blue. I pressed myself against the wall in horror and awe as the creature stepped from its platform and proceeded down the corridor. Soon more rumblings could be heard, echoing through the cavernous castle. The strange creature lumbered down the corridor, his scepter shinning bright as he leaned against it with every step for support. Then I saw the others begin to leave their platforms to follow the pale blue light. The ghastly parade marched along in slow silence as night finally began to descend upon the Castle. Overcome with wonder and curiosity, or some otherworldly impulse, I followed the strange procession.

                Through beautifully ornate arched-doors and up a grand stairwell, I was led to the Castle’s throne room. The throne sat empty and the strange beings huddled around it as if they were waiting for someone. I stood silent in the doorway. The one with the scepter turned its head to look at me. I froze, his gaze made my feet heavy. It turned around fully and held up its scepter. The others began to manipulate their strange instruments and I quickly learned that, despite their appearance, they were not of a scientific nature. Fantastic and impossible music began to form and resound off the walls. The pale blue light beckoned me. The music soothed me. I entered the throne room.

The gathering parted as I proceeded towards the throne, an ancient cathedra of unearthly material, black and gold, shinning strangely in the pale blue of the scepter. The music grew louder as I took my seat, beginning to crescendo to an ungodly level. The players formed a circle around the throne as a ghastly figure began to approach me. Tattered garments hung gracefully from its feminine form, its arms stretched out above its head, its eyes fixed downwards. It was the woman from my nightmares! She did not speak this time though. She fell to her knees and in her hand grasped an onyx-black dagger of the most bizarre and horrific design. I presented my right hand to the woman, as if I had seen this before and knew the procedure. She gently cradled my forearm as she pressed the dagger into the palm of my hand. Crimson flowed out, the skin of my palm receded into itself as the blade made its way from my wrist to the tip of my middle finger. The crowd surrounding me began to part, revealing some twisted mass that almost had a guise of humanity. It convulsed towards me, my faculties entranced by the swirling polyrhythms of the musicians. I felt myself surrender to this lurid ritual as my hand was raised so that the twisted figure may drink from my flowing wound. The room seemed to disappear around us as the being partook of my communion and the music violently vanished into silence.

                A man stepped forward and began speaking a strange language I somehow understood. He said an offering has been found and that the Procession will conclude. He spoke of The Great One’s chamber, gesturing towards the ceiling and I was torn from my body. Released towards the sky, my spirit crossed the zenith of the universe and I was forced to peer into the horrifying void of eternity. I was swept across ancient cosmoses and saw myself shivering naked at the right hand of that twisted figure, which now stood upright like a man. Its tenebrous skin adorned with patches of matted black fur. Horrible appendages, that may have once been wings, jutted from its back. It held a strange instrument or weapon that seemed to be made of its own skin. We were in a barren garret atop the Castle, I convulsed amongst beds of straw and the May of lambs nuzzling at my breasts. The grotesque figure looked on with the kind of frightening approval that bespeaks an inhuman authority. A brief moment of grace fluttered across my eyelids and I violently awoke on the ancient throne, the beings staring at me.

My hands were grey and misshapen. My spine felt heavy and foreign. As I opened my mouth to speak, nothing familiar could be felt and a strange language flooded from my tongue. My body floated above those fantastic beings as they watched me with excitement. The one with the scepter was banging it against the ground in horrid applause. I knew then that it had ended. I knew then why it had lasted so long. I heard the familiar church bells echoing through the city as cries of joy drowned out the last moans of death. I was taken to a little archway tucked into the wall and stood upon the platform. My new form found its natural position and I slowly fell asleep for ten years. 

*

What was needed has been sought for since the last time. What was needed has been found. He rests now. The Procession has ended. The dead may finally be buried.

Hail, Great One!

To thee, we banished children call on.

To thee, our procession upon your world may cease.

Glory to He who enters the Castle!

Glory to He who gives eternal life by the Procession!

Thy cleanse our world through thy Grace.

Thy grant us life through death’s release.

Born by the right hand of the Great One.

And by the light of the seventh moon.

Eternal glory bestows upon you.

Glory! Glory! Glory!


Mihaela Melnic

The Gambler


After a night of revelry spent playing poker with Horse, Mahap and Batboy, Owl was drunk, but not so much as to be unable to return to his house. Batboy was so drenched in booze that he’d passed out while talking earlier. Owl needed a nap away from those sewer rats that surely would have emptied his pockets if he allowed himself to fall asleep on Horse’s worn, ragged couch.

   He had drained glasses of vodka down his throat all night long, interspersing them with frothy glasses of beer and pieces of beef, while with the same skill he grabbed the banknotes that those animals he called friends kept losing with every turn of cards.

   When Owl decided to head home it was nearly dawn. He forced himself up from the armchair and made his way to the door through the thick smoke of cigarettes and sticky patches of stale beer that had dripped on the floor.

   Horse was in the bathroom and Batboy was snoring between two dirty pillows on a bed that was strewn with cigarette butts and roast beef leftovers.

   Owl looked for his shoes but they were nowhere to be seen. Who cares? Owl thought from the bottom of his blurred mind. He shrugged and decided to piece together a pair of shoes from a pile that contained all sorts of objects in the hallway. He found two boots alike of at least two sizes larger than his actual number. He didn’t care about the discrepancy one bit, though, given the nausea he was feeling in that moment. These must be Horse’s hooves, he thought, sneering with his forehead against the wall to keep his balance while he slipped in one foot at a time.

   “Horse, I’m leaving!” he shouted towards the bathroom.

   Horse trotted out of there relieved after having unloaded his bladder’s burden. His eyes popped out upon noticing Owl’s feet.

   “What the fuck, Owl, those are my boots! Drop them!” Horse neighed, craning his neck forward as usual whenever he wanted to assert himself.

   He rushed towards Owl with his Adam’s apple nearly cutting the skin on his own neck, but he tripped over an empty bottle and sprawled out on the floor at his friend’s feet in all his length. Once in that position of advantage, he put into act a series of absurd maneuvers with his huge, twiggy fingers, desperately trying to take back his shoes. Given the lack of success, he started to pull Owl by the jeans in hopes of making him fall as well.

   Owl burst into a howling laughter in the midst of chaos at the sight of Horse in that state.

   “Stop it, you fool, be done with this play!” he eventually cried while extricating his feet from Horse’s frantic hands. “Get up or I’ll kick you right in the nostrils with your own boots,” he sneered in a tone halfway between annoyance and amusement.

   He felt a wave of nausea creeping up to his throat and he pushed Horse away in disgust.

   “When I see Mahap, I’ll break his face,” Owl growled between his teeth a little while later once it had been decided that Horse’s brown clogs would remain upon his feet for now. “That son of a bitch must have stolen my boots!” he cried again, mixing several curses throughout.

   “I fucking told you not to bring him here!” Horse neighed indignantly, pulling his thin and comical figure in its entirety up off the floor. “He’s like those gypsies down the street,” he added with a knowing look. “Not to be trusted. There are even rumors that his mother is a witch.” He spoke the last few words with a lower voice and a grave expression on his camel face.

   Owl gave him an askance look and burst out laughing. He could never take Horse seriously no matter how hard he tried.

   “Why the hell did I name you Horse, I wonder, when you look more like a superstitious camel to me?” Owl was now at the door. “Anyway, buddy, I better get going, and you best go put your horn in the pillow and get some sleep.

   “As for Mahap,” Owl added, “I’ll give him his share sooner or later.” He opened the door and stepped outside.

   “Tomorrow you’ll get your boots back, don’t worry,” he concluded. Without waiting for an answer, he left, slamming the door behind him.

   Once outside, in the freezing air, he pulled up his hood and cautiously began putting one foot in front of the other, heading home, swaying like a cypress in the wind.

   It was a foggy morning, although still dark, of December. Heaps of dirty snow were piled up against the sidewalk and large flakes fell densely upon the ground.

   Owl’s legs felt heavy as lead wearing those boots not of his own and staggering along. He decided to sit down for a moment on the edge of the sidewalk under a streetlamp where a little snowman had been built. He collected a handful of snow, rolled and shaped it into a little ball, and threw it on the street. Then he took the money out of his pocket and carefully counted it. Two hundred dollars. Not bad when you’d only invested five. A smile crossed his lips. He seized roughly half of his winnings from the wad and hid it in the inner pocket of his jacket in case someone assaulted him. That alley had eyes and he knew it well. Gypsies lived there and he was, in a certain way, roaming their territory. He got up on his feet and kicked the snowman (at the risk of also sending one of the boots flying through the air). Then he entered a narrow alley between two rows of ramshackle buildings with black roofs half-hidden by the fresh snow.

   After a few steps, Owl stopped again. He felt at peace with himself and opened his mouth to the sky, letting the snowflakes land and melt on his tongue. He also felt thirsty and hot. Damn it! That vodka in the gut needs some water, he fancied. He scooped a handful of snow from a tree branch on the curb and ate it greedily. Then he took another handful, from off the ground this time, and used it to wash his face. He felt much better afterwards, and so with renewed energy he resumed his journey, whistling carefree in the slowly thinning night that was being penetrated by the opaque light of a misty dawn.

   Owl considered himself to be really lucky at poker. Gambling was his first nature. Drinking was his second. Between the two there was some human nature, too. At least that’s what those who had ever asked for his help during desperate times had later told him.

   At that moment, just as he was pondering such reflections, he noticed out of the corner of his eye a figure darting off to his right. He snapped his head in that direction, but there he saw only fog and the low, barely visible, black roofs covered with a thin layer of snow.

   Blaming the strange occurrence on his fatigue as well as the large amount of liquor and snow he had swallowed, he began to hurry home with his cozy bed in mind when, suddenly, a voice whispered in his ear.

   “Hey, you, look at me!” the voice said.

   Owl froze in place and looked around. Nobody appeared to be there in the thick darkness.

   The voice is in my head, Owl thought. He continued walking while trying not to stumble over his own feet. The cold air and snow, by this point, had sucked the alcohol’s vapors out of him, but hearing voices was never a good sign anyway. He buried his fists in his pockets and shook his head, not wanting to listen to his mind which seemed to be playing tricks on him.

   “Hey, you, don’t you hear me?” the voice spoke again, shrill and impatient.

   Owl looked around, a little vexed, wondering who the hell would dare to play hide-and-seek with him at that time, or at any other time or season for that matter.

    Nobody would dare to make fun of him in his neighborhood. He was Owl – the gambler. Owl – the hothead. Owl – the executioner. He would have beaten to death anyone who dared to challenge him in any way. His knuckles had made contact with so many jaws that he could no longer close his fists without a grimace of pain. Only last night he had stomped the crap out of Batboy for drinking the last drop of vodka without asking his permission. And last week Horse had been punched in that camel face of his for eating the chicken wings that Owl had put aside for himself. He could give Horse and Batboy hay, punches and water anytime, anywhere, but now he was in the gypsy alley…

    Alright, well, they were good guys, peaceful and happy, the gypsies. Their main occupation was stealing without actually harming anyone physically; at least not on their street. Yes, good people, Owl thought. People of honor. If you dared to look at their women, the next day you were a dead man walking. Knowing this, Owl didn’t feel like joking with them so he hoped that the darting figure glimpsed just moments ago and the voices he heard were only in his head and weren’t coming from one of those dismal mansions around him. He lowered his head and continued on his way, casting furtive glances around from time to time as a precautionary measure.

   “Hey, you! Look up and see how I dance!” the voice said again, giggling.

   It never sounded more real to Owl’s ears. The strange voice wasn’t in his mind, he was almost sure; rather, it seemed to be coming from above his head.

   Owl raised his eyes and glanced a little worriedly at the roof of the house to his right.

   Up on the roof, there looked to be, shrouded in fog, a child of about six. He seemed to be wearing a very tight, black jumpsuit as if it were a second skin, if not the first, as was hypothesized by Owl who suddenly could no longer think rationally. That little boy had a grin on his face that was horrible to behold. He did not show the same innocence that one expects to see on the face of such a small child. Owl narrowed his eyes and stood in astonishment as he tried to better understand the situation.

   “What the hell is this!” Owl said with half a voice. Ok, I’m having a hallucination, he thought, a bit worried all the same.

   A child on the roof at this hour, in wintertime and alone? Hmm… and this little guy even has horns and a tail…

   He tried to trick his mind into thinking that he had nothing to worry about and said, “Hey, Halloween is over.” But he found himself muttering the words weakly, speaking more to himself than to the vision he suspected he was a victim of. No, it must be a cat, he decided, or a goat that ran away from the farm. Even so, it seemed impossible and unreal, he thought, trying hard to collect all his neurons to properly put them to work. He blamed it on the fog, the booze…

    “Go away!” Owl shouted, waving his hand in the air. “You are not real!” he said, summoning the necessary courage to face the problem like a real man.

   “Of course I’m real, you imbecile!” the goat-boy cried angrily.

   “Now give me the shoes,” the little fellow stated in a sweet voice through a disfigured grin.

   A strange sensation crossed Owl’s chest as if a snake had unrolled in his ribcage and was seeking a way out. The muscles in his back contracted along his spine and in that moment he knew, he was sure, that this Thing, human or animal, was certainly real. He felt this awareness to the marrow of his bones. He instantly became stone-cold sober. He looked around, seeking other people in his sight. It was still too early, but soon enough many people would be outside on their way to work. In the distance, he saw a woman in a red coat. He hoped she would come towards him, but instead she turned the corner and disappeared from his view behind a building.

   He elongated his pace, staring straight ahead, trying to ignore that disturbing figure.

   But that little, obscure being that seemed to have come out of hell’s womb began to jump in the air, wagging its tail, sticking out its tongue, giggling in a creepy fashion. Owl, who at times still gave him quick glances, was unsettled beyond limits by the circus performance being given in that hour and place.

   “Give me your shoes!” cried again that goaty figure who was pointing a long, black finger towards Owl.

   My shoes?! Owl wondered. I don’t have my shoes, Mahap has them. I have Horse’s clogs. Hoof-like stuff. He shivered at the thought of having hooves for feet and looked down in horror. “Thank goodness, it’s just a wide awake nightmare,” he muttered out loud in relief as his eyes met the boots.

   “Go to hell!” Owl yelled at the roof and his tarry host. But his bold voice did not prevent him from feeling a certain fear anyway.

   The goat-boy looked Owl straight in the eyes.

   Owl began to tremble. Usually, he wasn’t easily impressed, but this creature, that even in his mind he was afraid to name, made his heartbeat like a drum being played by a crazed monkey. He began to pray. This old trick didn’t seem to calm down his shaken spirit, however, because that Thing had begun to pray right along with him, only its verses were hauntingly being hissed backwards.

   In a desperate state, he frantically fumbled in his pockets. There was only one option left to try to get out of trouble: he had to pay. A kind of tax for his body, for his life and perhaps also for his soul. All those nights spent gambling, all those years consumed by drinking and fighting, had to be paid off in some way, he now realized. He pulled the money out of both pockets and threw it all up in the air towards the obscure dweller of the roof.

   “Take them,” he gasped. “Go away and leave me alone!” he implored. Then he started running because he felt like he had reached the bottom of rationality and was only one step away from entering the pit of the darkest superstition.

   The creature chased after him, leaping from roof to roof with horrible shrieks.

   Owl, who was overwhelmed with fear by now, stumbled away as fast as he could, repeatedly risking with each step the loss of one shoe or the other behind him for how large they were on his feet. He mentally cursed Mahap who, drunk as he was, had stolen or more likely mistaken their shoes.

   “Give me those damn shoes and I’ll leave you alone!” snarled the creature during the wild and surreal pursuit. Owl could no longer endure to hear or see that Thing, or to witness its whining and jumping and grinning, so he stopped, panting heavily, to take off the boots. He tossed them towards the satanic goat-boy and, barefoot, took off running again, slipping and falling several times until he finally made it to safety inside his home.

   Once within, he locked the door behind him and blocked it by placing a chair under the handle. Without lingering on any other thoughts or actions, he headed straight to his room. He tore the wooden icon depicting Christ from the wall and raced into the kitchen. Guided by an invisible force, he made a spontaneous decision. The light of madness shone in his eyes.

   He lit the stove and threw the icon into the fire.

   Even now, years later, he is unable to explain why he did it. But as he watched the blackened wood being engulfed by flames on that fateful day, he swore to never gamble again. Not at night, at least. Then, with a vague expression on his face, he plunged exhaustedly onto the bed and instantly fell into a deep slumber.

   He woke up several hours later, around noon, with Batboy standing beside his bed staring at him with a dramatic expression.

   “What the hell are you doing here? How did you get in?” Owl asked as he sat up in bed and reached for the nightstand to grab a cigarette. “What a shit of rest did I have! I think I had a terrible nightmare. My head is aching, holy shit! Did you at least bring a beer? Or did you just come to look at…”

   “Horse is dead,” Batboy said.

   Owl fell silent with the words hanging midair.

   “He went out to get something to drink right after you left this morning,” Batboy continued with a lost glance. “They found him in the gypsy alley. Some gypsy out there must have stolen his coat because I could swear he had it on when he went out. He was wearing only the black jumpsuit we gifted him for his birthday and… his boots.”


Kelsey Bryan-Zwick

Femme Fatale & The Gun

She is all legs that go-on-and on.  A velvet throat that has you thinking of all the wrong ends of a back alley.  In black and white you cannot see the poison of her eyes, but she has those eyes.  You are already imagining the slight-of-hand at the zipper of her dress, a smile that suggests her winsome intentions.  Before she even hums a name, you begin to quiver at the mouth of her possible release.  In your eye she will only ever bend in a soft glow, ready, oh so ready, to get close-up. 

*

The venetian blinds open and close, open and close, blinking in their voyeurism.  A girl like that is always on exhibition.  She could wear a paper sack, be shaved from head to toe.  Something stiffens.  You think it’s your gun.  You want something to be wrong so that you can muster up sweat and pheromones fixing it.  Of course, there is always something wrong, she’s a woman for crying out loud.  Of course, you don’t want to fix that.  You want to cry out loud, the way you already know the venetian blinds will cry over this one. 

*

Looking up from between her legs, their endless pleasure.  And just above the curve of her abdomen, there it is, winking at you, nipple.  Now glistening with the wet stain of your saliva, your head full with the stiff arch of moaning, her velvet throat.  Her hand on the back of your neck, gripping you hard like a gun. 

*

She wakes in the slant-eye of silk sheets.  With a twist of her wrist the venetian blinds open to a glaring of daylight.  An eye too-wide-open.  The way she’d tied you up with gasping you hadn’t noticed the scars.  Her scars.  Even now, in the dizzy-before-coffee-glow-of morning you couldn’t think much past the memories of nipple, anklebone-sigh.  The exquisite squeeze just-below-thigh–but those scars, her scars, the way they looked now—they don’t seem possible.  Before you can consider the depth of them, the texture of finger imprint, there she is again—on top of you, drawing out moans from beyond your capacity to reason. Bullet shaped moans.

*

As you pull the trigger you know you will do it again.  Could only ever do it again.

*

You feel the dark warm stain absorb into the fabric of your suit.  The red splatter across your freshly washed face.  A fleck of blood dotting lips, the iron taste of it.  You rub a smudge away from your eyes. You don’t see the body draining blood.  Hypnotized with the possibility of again looking into the poison of her eyes as that glowing pleasure passes through you.  Even now, in the sweat of this heat, as you pat the corpse down for imprint, you continue to water at the thought of her, as you flee the scene in a melt of wanting. 

*

You look up at her, you swear you see her, but you can’t be sure.  A remembered velvet intoxicates your mind.  Bleary-eyed venetian blinds.  In a half-swoon you stumble, unsure of where you are going.  Only.  Just.  Wherever it is, you suspect that she’ll be there.  

*

That next morning the cold heaviness of gun in your hand.  You know you’d kill for her again.  A little death. Le petite mort.  Even just a taste.  Sitting in a stupor you can’t shake—dizzy with her headiness.  Your piece, you want her to love you for your piece.  You begin to moan again, just for a whimper and a whiff of it.  Your gun hardens with the thought, ready to beg. 

*

Somehow from the smell you know it is her blood.  You rush through towards it.  Silk, sweat, velvet, stale smoke, through all that the scent of her blood draws you out.  Makes you a little crazy with lust, it crawls through the rest of your intentions, mad as any at a siren’s call.  Her breathing pulses like tinnitus in the scoop of your ears.  Envisioning that late night reel of skin that plays over the attention of your gaze.  Rabbid with a desire you can’t drink. 

*

How to exhale?  You rub your hand up against the thought of her skin, her legs that extend beyond physics, her bend: now just a wet-dream-wish. You begin to choke on the hope of attempting her inner pulse.  Holding your breath at her second mouth.  Your skin tenses with the thought, a bit of saliva accumulating with desire.  Stiff, you hold your gun again.

*

She is on you.  Mouth at the trigger-pulse of your neck.  Again: that quivering.  Your skin awash with want.  Gripped in the thought of her thighs, impress of anklebone.  Paralyzed with the thought, nipple. In your mouth.  You imagine her: formed so ripe inside shape of perfect lip-suckle.  Chin-stubble -bristle. The paradise-texture of it.  She pulls the gun off you.  You do not feel the rest of your senses drain away.Your mouth sounds of a bullet.  Your voice caught somewhere you can’t name.  Smoke rises from the gut of your abdomen.  You stiffen. You harden. 

*

You sigh but cannot sigh.  Remembered moan sticks a bit, so you startle a little.  Your breathing grows shallow, in the fever of your want.  You wake like a soft cotton.  You sleep in the curve of skin.  When you make a sound, it is a moan, but it sounds like bullet.  All you feel now: the imprint of her mouth, her teeth on your skin.  And still, your blood rises for her.    

*

You want to beg, but your mouth doesn’t move.  Even if you still had a voice, you can’t remember the words.  You moan, as she holds you like a gun, you moan. 

*

You never realize it’s over, but there she is standing above your body.  Those endless legs.  You know only she could have ever gotten you this stiff, this hard up.  And it shouldn’t be funny, but the little bit of the ghost in you that’s left laughs.  Unheard, of course, on the ephemeral astral plane.  Your body there—limp: shriveled and succored of its juices.  What you wouldn’t give to be milked again.  A husk of yourself, only a carcass of a dream, you eat at the delirium of. 

*

You feel cold now.  A splayed gun.  How you still fit the shape of her hand.  The range of her bullet.

*

You see it now.  Finally.  How: those legs really do go on.  Eight of them in fact, how that coy mouth conceals her fangs.  How good she is with the ropes, so quick with love knots, you forgot to recognize the web.  Love bitten, until you were love stuck, spun, and sucked dry.  Oh, how she sucked you dry.  Still, you think, I’d do it again.  As a second spider-woman enters the scene.  Her legs twice as long, twice as endless.  Your longing now: just as multiplied.  As they begin to kiss the velvet of each other’s throats,  twist of limbs more inner thigh than body.  Well, you know now.  Her—velvet and legs—she was always after blood.  And you would always take pleasure in giving it.   

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