“Meet the Staff” Slide Show on Contact Page

To add a little dark humor to the website, I added a slide show called “Meet the Staff” to the bottom of the contact page. Except for yours truly, of course, these purported members of The Chamber staff are all fictional. I used a random name generator to produce the names and a little background info. I added the job titles and languages they speak and a few odds and ends otherwise. All these photos are from royalty-free, copyright-free (public domain) photos from the websites Pexels and PIxabay, from which I get most of my graphics. These are graphics I often use in posts on on the website in general. A minor side benefit is that everyone can now associate a name with the photo, and no one needs to use some convoluted description to talk about a graphic/character. Here is the slideshow I will add characters to it occasionally.

Submit Your Dark Fiction and Poetry Now.

The Chamber Magazine is seeking articles, reviews, essays, poems, and short stories of approximately 5,000 words or less including flash, micro fiction, smoke longs, drabbles or of any flavor of short fiction that demonstrates the art of writing dark fiction, whether it be prose, poetry, one-act plays, or any other form of literature.  We want to showcase the genre in all its subtlety, intelligence, art, horror, terror, suspense, thrill-seeking, and gruesome detail. We will accept dark humor provided it follows the guidelines below with regards to content and good taste.

To be good short fiction, the shorter a work is, the more power it must pack.

There is no pay for publication, but the author retains all rights. Reprints are acceptable. Multiple submissions of up to three works per submission are permitted. Simultaneous submissions are permitted, but you must tell us if the work has been accepted elsewhere. We usually respond within a week. Works generally appear a month after acceptance.

More details about submissions are available on the website.

Send submissions and queries to thechambermagazine@gmail.com.

The Chamber Magazine is Now Listed at Duotrope.

As of today, March 29, The Chamber Magazine is now listed at Duotrope.

“Duotrope is an established, award-winning resource for writers and artists. We help you save time finding publishers or agents for your work, so you can focus on creating. Our market listings are up to date and full of information you won’t find elsewhere. We also offer submission trackers, custom searches, deadline calendars, statistical reports, and extensive interviews.”

duotrope.com

Duotrope enables writers to set up an inexpensive account ($5/month) where they can search the Duotrope database for magazines and book publishers of every genre to find every kind of market imaginable, paying and non-paying. Enter your submissions and their results into the Duotrope database and they will track your publishing record and even provide basic statistics (such as percentage of works published, etc). Currently, Duotrope lists 7,620 publishers of fiction, poetry, nonfiction, and visual art publishers and agents. As an example of their capabilities, here are the statistics for Duotrope from the seven days ending March 29, 2021 at 9:30 p.m. central standard time:

Listing with Duotrope will enable The Chamber to reach a much wider community of writers and poets and bring more first rate material to our readers.

On another note, The Chamber Magazine has also been listed at Ko-fi.com, where readers may contribute small amounts of as little as $1 to help The Chamber grow and develop to bring intelligent dark literature to every time zone on the planet.

Submit Your Dark Fiction and Poetry Now.

The Chamber Magazine is seeking articles, reviews, essays, poems, and short stories of approximately 5,000 words or less including flash, micro fiction, smoke longs, drabbles or of any flavor of short fiction that demonstrates the art of writing dark fiction, whether it be prose, poetry, one-act plays, or any other form of literature.  We want to showcase the genre in all its subtlety, intelligence, art, horror, terror, suspense, thrill-seeking, and gruesome detail. We will accept dark humor provided it follows the guidelines below with regards to content and good taste.

To be good short fiction, the shorter a work is, the more power it must pack.

There is no pay for publication, but the author retains all rights. Reprints are acceptable. Multiple submissions of up to three works per submission are permitted. Simultaneous submissions are permitted, but you must tell us if the work has been accepted elsewhere. We usually respond within a week. Works generally appear a month after acceptance.

More details about submissions are available on the website.

Send submissions and queries to thechambermagazine@gmail.com.

The Chamber Magazine is Now Listed at Duotrope.

As of today, March 29, The Chamber Magazine is now listed at Duotrope.

“Duotrope is an established, award-winning resource for writers and artists. We help you save time finding publishers or agents for your work, so you can focus on creating. Our market listings are up to date and full of information you won’t find elsewhere. We also offer submission trackers, custom searches, deadline calendars, statistical reports, and extensive interviews.”

duotrope.com

Duotrope enables writers to set up an inexpensive account ($5/month) where they can search the Duotrope database for magazines and book publishers of every genre to find every kind of market imaginable, paying and non-paying. Enter your submissions and their results into the Duotrope database and they will track your publishing record and even provide basic statistics (such as percentage of works published, etc). Currently, Duotrope lists 7,620 publishers of fiction, poetry, nonfiction, and visual art publishers and agents. As an example of their capabilities, here are the statistics for Duotrope from the seven days ending March 29, 2021 at 9:30 p.m. central standard time:

Listing with Duotrope will enable The Chamber to reach a much wider community of writers and poets and bring more first rate material to our readers.

On another note, The Chamber Magazine has also been listed at Ko-fi.com, where readers may contribute small amounts of as little as $1 to help The Chamber grow and develop to bring intelligent dark literature to every time zone on the planet.

“Big Game Hunter” Fiction by Travis Lee

It’s dusk and no one’s coming.

The damn beast wasn’t supposed to charge me. I paid $45,000 to come hunt it, an albino rhinoceros with a nice horn. They made me sign a waiver. This land is owned by a diamond mining conglomerate, and when Pavel looked at my signature he told me I was going in alone. Once I kill the rhino, contact him by satellite phone.

The phone. In the tall grass, maybe still working, or maybe in pieces along with the rest of me because when the rhino charged I was not prepared. Animals have never acted hostile before. You should see the lions. They tear apart wildebeests and buffalo calves, but when they see me they just lay there as I squeeze the trigger.

My arm is aching. I’m trying not to move but my arm. I shift a little. My gut explodes in pain. Blood attracts predators and there’s a difference between a healthy man aiming a gun and a bleeding man under a tree. One’s an anomaly.

The other’s prey.

I went on my first hunt was when I was twelve. My uncle took me to Yellowstone Park and before we set off he pulled me close and said, Congratulations. You’re now part of the food chain.

I haven’t thought of that in years.

Funny what your mind coughs up.

#

I have some pills but I dare not take any. Night has fallen and I’m alert. I have a .357 Magnum with six shots, well, five. Five for the hyenas.

One for myself.

They sound close. I raise the gun, ignoring the pain. It’s stupid, of course, as hyenas hunt in packs. The best I could do is scare them and if that doesn’t work?

One bullet will.

Hyenas can bite through anything. They’ll start at my legs, ripping me apart beneath the clear savannah sky.

At which point do you die? In the middle or does it happen last, after you’ve been mostly eaten?

#

Night passes. No hyenas.

I’m getting weaker. I sip the canteen. There’s enough water for a day, maybe two if I space it out but it’s hot. The sun breaks through the leaves and a fly crawls around my mouth.

#

The satellite phone is ringing.

Beep-beep, beep-beep, beep-beep. The sound of salvation I spot it in the tall grass, green light flashing.

Beep-beep.

Beep-beep.

#

I’ve spent the day making arguments against going for the phone. My uncle’s words keep coming back, circling me like the flies. I’m already part of the food chain, and it didn’t happen when the rhino charged and I stood there like a doofus, too shocked to do anything. It happened the moment I stepped out of the jeep.

A caw. I look up.

A vulture cruises overhead.

I close my eyes. Vultures can smell the dying from miles away.

I open my eyes and reach for my gun. The vulture. I stare at it, my eyes burning in the unfiltered daylight. The vulture spreads its wings and perches on a high branch.

It’s staring down at me.

I tilt my gun skyward, , aligning the barrel with the bird. I do a silent Mississippi-count to five.

I fire.

The bird drops down beside me. Its wings spread open, covering my legs and I look down and scream, brushing it away and igniting a new series of pain.

I shove the dead bird as far as my arm will allow and close my eyes. The smell. A messy infection below and I can smell myself rotting and I can’t hold it in. I turn my head.

I puke.

#

Laughter cuts through the night. My eyes flip open and I grab the Magnum.

Congratulations. You’re now part of the food chain. I had slipped away to somewhere just beneath the pain. My uncle was leading me through the jungle to where the rhino stood waiting in a long field. I lined up to take my shot while the rhino charged and I took it down, one shot. Dead.

Their laughter makes me want to laugh too and I let go of the gun. I cover my mouth with both hands. I laugh, pressing my hands tighter as they approach.

The hyenas move with purpose through the tall grass. Their eyes shine like migratory starlight as they rush their prey. I know they can see me and smell me but do they understand and I know I should grab the gun because this is it, but I don’t.

I just laugh.

And I’m still laughing when the hyenas ignore me. An elephant herd is on the move. I’m laughing when the hyenas slip between the great beasts’ legs, separating a baby elephant from the herd. I’m laughing when they start with the trunk, one hyena tearing it in half and the rest ripping it off. The baby elephant is screaming as the pack swarms and I have my answer: you die at the very end. The hyenas eat the baby elephant to the bone.

I’m laughing so hard I have a coughing fit.

#

The pain is bad and the smell is worse.

The pills are part of the standard first aid kit they issue all hunters. They give you a vacuum-sealed pack of six. One a day.

Or six.

I tell myself it won’t come to that. I look up. The sun hasn’t crossed the midway point yet and the predators hunt at night. I look out across the savannah. The baby elephant’s bones. I feel a laughing fit coming on and I jab my tongue against my cheek. The laughter rises, falls back. I hold my tongue there until I no longer feel like laughing.

I peel one of the pills free.

It dissolves on my tongue in seconds. I lean back, close my eyes and listen for the phone.

#

Beep-beep.

I open my eyes.

Beep-beep.

I close them.

#

I’m awake. For a second I think there is a bear in the tall grass, guarding the satellite phone. I have to concentrate for several minutes, readjusting my mind to the time and the shapes around me.

It’s night. I slept all day.

I wasn’t supposed to sleep all day. God damn pills are only supposed to knock you out for five hours. But you’re also supposed to eat with them and I have no food. The three emergency MREs they give you are out in the tall grass somewhere, assuming the hyenas haven’t gotten to them.

Flies crawl on my forehead.

#

I turn my head to puke but only dryheave. I have nothing to throw up.

#

I’m awake all night, thinking of my rifle.

My uncle taught me how to shoot. We hit targets on his property. And in Yellowstone, he taught me the importance of stealth.

Since we’re part of the food chain we gotta act like it, he said, outfitting a silencer to his rifle.

We tracked the bear and her cubs for days. We weren’t dumb enough to carry our rifles out in the open and once we were in position for a good shot, my uncle handed me his rifle. He showed me how to steady the aim. The cold cylinder in my hands. The weight that decides death.

I can still see the bear. She looks right at me when I line up my sight. My uncle would have laughed so I never told him but I know what I know, and what I know is that bear saw me. She knew I was there to kill her.

Her cubs squealed afterwards. They crowded around their mother, sniffing her, trying to lick her back to life. My uncle told me not to feel sorry for them: turn the tables, and the bears would have me for lunch.

Let’s go, my uncle said.

We’re not taking it?

Where? To who? He gave me a light smack on the back of my head. Yellowstone’s got too much stick up their asses for that.

We left the bear to rot, her cubs to mourn and on the way back home we bought ice cream.

#

A fly lands on my cheek buzzing I brush it away more on my forehead

#

I drift off and wake up hearing the bear cubs sobbing for their mother. What ever happened to those cubs? Male bears will kill cubs that aren’t their own but the bear would eat me if the tables were turned and besides we’re now part of the food chain so we have to act like it.

I cough. Flies. I can’t wave them away. Something is stalking me through the tall grass. I can’t make it out. Hyena? Lion?

Bear?

Where the hell is Pavel? They should have come for me by now. The satellite phone is working, I heard it beep (yesterday? day before?) so they know I’m here.

Where are they?

I don’t have the strength to move but I do have the strength to think and see and combined I think I see what’s out there in the tall grass.

I grab the Magnum. The movement startles the flies but doesn’t scare them away.

Five shots left.

#

Laughter and it’s not coming from the hyenas.

It’s coming from the bear.

Mama bear is laying in front of the satellite phone. She keeps her paws to the side of the phone so I can hear it ring.

Beep-beep.

Laughter.

Beep-beep.

Laughter. Sounds like hyenas but it’s that fucking bear. Congratulations. You’re now part of the food chain.

#

Fucking bear. You haven’t moved all day. The sun sets and I need another pill for the pain and the flies the itching is driving me crazy the smell makes me gag. I dryheave.

The bear laughs.

And this is it. I won’t survive another day out here. Pavel isn’t coming. I need to get to the phone. That’s him calling. Their equipment is broken. They can’t find me unless I answer.

The bear laughs.

Your cubs are dead, I whisper. My voice sounds like it belongs to someone else.

My uncle is beside me. He swats me on the back of my head and hands me his rifle. The rapport might knock me down, but at least mama bear will die and this time she will stay dead.

Beep-beep.

I stand up. Something’s coming closer. A small stampede. The laughter grows. The bear doesn’t raise her head. I aim the rifle as something tears at my legs. The flies have scattered. I try to squeeze the trigger but my finger is too weak and I no longer feel it.

I feel teeth.

I hear laughter.

And somewhere, the satellite phone is ringing. Beep-beep.


Bio:

Travis Lee lived in China for two and a half years, where his short story ’The Seven Year Laowai’ went viral among the expat community. He currently lives in Japan, working as a weather forecaster. Find out more at https://www.travis-lee.org


“The Returning Visits” Poetry by Janice Gomez

In a cold

dark room

she sat silent

on concrete

looking down

at the space

between her toes

rocking back and forth,

to many triggers shots

stealing time preoccupying

her mind 

she reached maximum capacity.

"Talk to me," I whispered.

She looked at me once

and turned her face.

Golden droplets

leaked down her

shaking pants leg

to the ground.

She parted her dry lips

to bite her fingernails,

shaking her head

side to side,

her swollen eyes

looked into mine

she said,

"I want to be erased, kill me now, or I will myself, no matter what it takes."

Slowly walking towards

her we embraced.

Four knocks...

guards open large

metal door.

Stepping out of the threshold

she yelled, "I love you girl, don't come back to My Hell. "

the door slammed closed

for seventy-two hours

and three minutes later,

she was pronounced dead...,

never forgetting

a moment

because

she visits in my head.

JGomez is known for her words deep and heavy in her dark poetry. She grew up in Boynton Beach, Florida, where she has seen and been through a lot to convey the realness of “real life” in her writing. 


A public service message from The Chamber Magazine

“Touchy Hands” Poetry by Janice Gomez

Boiling water

flaming from a

baptism

killing more

than any microorganisms

from inside

young thighs at age six.

The Hallelujahs

were to fool y'all 

and my parents

as their Pastor,

this preacher,

a reacher,

stretching his truths

could've done no wrongs

as they praise his messages all week long,

                      their daughter

reaching for their 

loving hands

but they accepted 

the hands that

holds the man-made bible

speaking from a podium

as if he's entitled 

to congressional crowds

screaming for 

                          believers…, 

                        God forbid if 

I wore the X on my forehead for

the children's voices

that tried to talk,

hustled to eat,

handcuffed and beat,

Whose hands would believe me?

JGomez is known for her words deep and heavy in her dark poetry. She grew up in Boynton Beach, Florida, where she has seen and been through a lot to convey the realness of “real life” in her writing. 


A public service message from The Chamber Magazine

“Forever Young” Microfiction by Diana James

Stuart grinned while his heart fluttered in anticipation. The next stage of his project could finally begin—a new statue for his grand collection. He opened the studio window overlooking the garden where his best masterpieces were on display. His personal favorite was still the first, even nine years later. It stood at the garden entrance, beckoning visitors through the rose-covered archway with a welcoming smile.

            Each statue was of a child, forever capturing the innocence that fades away on the journey to adulthood. Stuart whistled a carefree tune as he poured the concrete over the wire base, taking special care to fully encase the young girl’s corpse within.


Bio:

Diana L. James is an author and freelance editor living in New England. She has been crafting stories since she was a young child but did not discover her passion for editing until much later in life. To learn more, you can visit her website at the-write-affair.com.

Coming Up in The Chamber on Friday, March 26

“Forever Young” micro fiction by Diana Young

A dark tale of a sculptor and his statues

“Big Game Hunter” fiction by Travis Lee

A wounded big game hunter in Africa faces being eaten by the wildlife

“Touchy Hands” poetry by Janice Gomez

A chilling moment of reflection on the narrator’s life

“The Returning Visits” poetry by Janice Gomez

A haunting story of two friends in a poignant moment

“Little Girl Blue” Poetry by Prithvijeet Sinha

Hush! she is a spirit of fine fettle
clad in whole nine yards of mystique,
haunted by a gossamer fabric of heresy.
Maligned in her charm
The halo of an apparition, 
she unfurls her midnight legend.


                                                    
They say those Gothic figurines
register her presence.
Bylanes wallow in her dimming halo,
barks and howls are overpowered
as she marks her spot,
Her abode in the banyan tree's shadows.


                                                       
The Blue Lady denounces articles of faith.
In these summer crests,
she sleeps on orphaned railway tracks. 
Is teased by Dilkusha pebbles,
with mongrel squeals her consolation.
Is seen by the teenaged runaway,
flashing green eyes from train compartments. 


                                                          
Hush, here she springs a surprise,
eyeing a more mortal desire.
That curious commoner on a bicycle
He is the one she fancies,
a mortal lust seen in flesh and blood.




Hear! 
the Clock Tower touts her hour,
Blue Lady declares her midnight manner.
A misunderstood wanderer,
groping his dusky instincts.


Both glisten in the river's pure nocturnal depths.
Twin spirits of fine fettle,
marking this rendezvous since years two-score.

Bio:

Mr. Sinha notes: DILKUSHA: an area surrounding my school La Martiniere and situated in the heart of my hometown Lucknow.

This poem originally was self-published by the writer on his Wattpad poetry collection WHISTLING CHIMES in 2015.

The writer’s name is PRITHVIJEET SINHA from Lucknow, India, a proud member of the faculty of ENGLISH AND MODERN EUROPEAN LANGUAGES, LUCKNOW UNIVERSITY . He is a post graduate in MPhil, having launched his writing career by self publishing on the worldwide community Wattpad since 2015 and on his WordPress blog AN AWADH BOY’S PANORAMA besides having his works published in several varied publications as GNOSIS JOURNAL, READER’S DIGEST, CAFE DISSENSUS EVERYDAY, CAFE DISSENSUS MAGAZINE, CONFLUENCE, THE MEDLEY, THUMBPRINT MAGAZINE, WILDA MORRIS’ POETRY BLOG, SCREEN QUEENS, BORDERLESS JOURNAL encompassing various genres of writing ,from poetry to film reviews, travel pieces, photo essays to posts on culture .His life force resides in writing.
His two poems DREAMS and WISH UPON A STAR have been published in a children’s anthology titled NURSERY RHYMES AND CHILDREN’S POEMS FROM AROUND THE WORLD YOU MAY NOT HAVE HEARD recently, edited by ANITA NAHAL and MEENAKSHI MOHAN, also available on Amazon Books.


“Guardian” Fiction by Ethan Maiden

        Everything has changed in a matter of hours.

        The girl said the road would be long and they would be following – hunting us until none were left.

        The human in me is weeping out by the second.

        I grip my pocket to make sure it’s still there, the remaining item keeping me hanging to the life I had only a matter of hours ago.

                  Memories of the events are starting to fade already, she said they would. The house left behind will be found with the body bleeding out on the lounge floor and contents destroyed. I’d be gone of course, riding down the motorway to a destination unknown.

        My hands gripped the steering wheel as I recollected what had happened.

                 It was pouring rain. I’d set about the night as any other. Bath, dinner, pour a glass of red and toast Jane’s picture that stands on the TV stand. Jane smiles back at me through her glasses. Her bulging brown eyes and short brown hair remind me of the time she was full of life … before she was taken from me.

                 I scratched my overgrown beard and held back the tears.

                 In the photograph I’m standing next to her, my arm wrapped around her shoulder and giving a matching smile to the camera, Our yearly holiday in Cancun – 2002.

               Keep it together Mike.

               I have no one to plough my emotions on. Complications led to no children. I’m all alone in this place I don’t understand anymore.

              The knock on the door came as I refilled my glass.

              The time: 21:54 – too late for visitors.

              I opened the door and there she stood. A small girl no older than thirteen, a drowned rat with pale arms and legs beneath a green summer dress. The rain had stuck the bob of black hair to her head; her eyes black as the night.

            ‘Are you all right?’ I asked.

            The girl stood and said nothing, just a lost blankness upon her face.

            ‘Are you lost?’ I continued. ‘Do you want to come in and call someone?’

            Her head tweaked toward me with a sudden jerk. ‘You’re inviting me in your home?’ she asked; her voice grainy, low and too old to be coming out of this small body.

            I felt an urge to just close the door, shun out this distressed child and get back to my grieving in peace.

            Instead I said – ‘sure,’ and moved aside.

            The girl sprung in.

            Coldness shot past me like a walking block of ice.

            Upstairs I grabbed a towel from the bathroom. The girl wrapped it around her shoulders and remained standing.

            ‘You have a name?’ I asked.

            ‘Eva,’ she whispered.

            ‘Okay Eva, do you need someone to come and pick you up?’

            A shake of the head.

            ‘No family?’

            Same response.

            ‘I’ve only had one glass if you need a lift somewhere?’

            Her head tilted. ‘No, thank you.’

            ‘So, you’re going to head back out in the pouring rain and get hyperthermia?’

            ‘Could I ask a favour?’ she asked.

            I nodded.

            ‘Could I please stay the night?’

            I started to protest. What if the neighbours had seen the girl come in my house? Or even worse – leaving in the morning. I’d be the talk of the town, a threat to society.

            ‘I won’t be any trouble,’ Eva pleaded. ‘I’ll be gone before first light, no explaining to do to anyone.’ She said as though reading my thoughts.

            But I don’t even know you!

            I wanted to say no, take the girl back to the door and make her leave. I would call her a taxi or drive her myself, but having her here made my gooseflesh tingle.

            Instead my good nature took rank and agreed.

            ‘You’re not planning on stealing anything are you?’ I asked. ‘Because I have nothing of value.’

            Eva shook her head.

            I set the fire as we sat across from one another staring into the flames.

            ‘What’s the story Eva?’

            ‘Story?’

            ‘No family, no one to come and get you, outside in the pouring rain. Knocking on a stranger’s door and asking to stay the night. What’s going on?’

            Her eyes flickered in the flames, I strained to see the colour in them.

            When Eva didn’t reply I thought she was hiding something. Maybe she had been a runaway, her parents driving her to run from some hideous life.

            ‘Nothing to tell,’ Eva finally replied.

            Obviously I didn’t believe her but let it slide anyway.

            ‘What about you, Mike?’

            Did I even tell her my name? I can’t remember.

            ‘Now that’s a boring story,’ I said. ‘I’m a sixty year old Steelworker who enjoys a glass of wine.’ I tilted the glass. ‘My arthritis gets worse by the day and sometimes I wonder why I even get up in the morning. Is that uplifting enough?’

            For the first time I thought I saw a glimpse of a smile.

            ‘Old age Eva, something you can look forward to.’

            I took a drink.

            ‘Who’s the pretty woman in the photograph?’ Eva asked.

            ‘My wife, Jane.’

            ‘Where is Jane?’

            ‘Jane died a few years back – cancer,’ I said.

            ‘I see,’ Eva replied.

            There was something about this girl – wisdom.

            ‘I’ll be with her soon enough,’ I said.

            Eva’s face fell blank again, an emotionless portrait.

            I made my excuses and headed for bed. Eva would sleep on the sofa with the blanket from the spare room. I would have offered the guest room but there was something telling me that I shouldn’t allow her upstairs.

            I left Eva curled up on the sofa and staring into the fire.

            I woke at 02:34. The silence was ruptured by a low bang noise from downstairs. For a moment I’d forgotten all about the strange girl who should be sound asleep on the sofa. I pulled my legs out of bed and pulled on my clothes from the night before. On the landing silence had resumed apart from something that made my stomach turn. A squelch from downstairs. Over and over; like a slobbering dog licking its lips at the sight of a treat.

            I crept down the stairs and saw that Eva had moved from the sofa.

            The light to the kitchen was on.

            I moved through the room to the kitchen doorway.

            Eva was crouched in the fridge. She turned, knowing that I was there. Her face had darkened; her eyes completely black. Around her mouth was smeared red stains. Her hands gripped hold of the meat I had been keeping for tomorrow’s dinner.

            ‘Eva, what’s going on?’ I asked, trembling.

            She just sat staring at me.

            I felt my bladder weaken.

            ‘Have you been … sucking on that?’ I asked pointing. ‘I could have made you food … I –’

            ‘My taste is for something else,’ Eva said. The tone in her voice had dropped lower than before. I felt scared beyond anything. The same fear of losing Jane, an incomprehensible fear. ‘Who … are you? What are you?’ I asked.

            Eva wiped her mouth with the back of her hand. I had to double take; I was sure I saw sharp fangs beyond her lips.

            Her eyes shifted to the lounge and to the front door. The way a cat can instinctively hear someone approaching.

            ‘They’re here,’ she said. ‘They found me.’

            ‘What?’ I asked. ‘Who?’

            There was a loud knock on the door.

            ‘Don’t open it,’ Eva instructed.

            ‘Why not?’

            ‘Because they’ll kill you.’

            ‘Hello,’ a man’s voice from the other side of the door said. ‘You’re probably wondering why I’m knocking on your door in the middle of the night. It’s simple really. That thing in there with you needs dealing with, it’s dangerous as you may now know. You made the mistake of inviting it in. now either you give me the same courtesy or I will use force.’

            I’d obviously been having a nightmare. I’d wake up soon.

            ‘I’m going to count to five,’ the man said.

            ‘Don’t … open … the … door,’ Eva reminded me.

            ‘Five …’

            A bad dream.

            ‘Four …’

            Nothing more.

            ‘Three …’

            Wake up.

            ‘Two …’

            I slapped myself.

            ‘Times up chief.’

            The door blew open. The man walked in dressed all in black and holding a firearm in his right hand. Eva scuttled up the wall like a spider and onto the ceiling. I couldn’t believe my eyes. Eva hissed down at the man who opened fire. I ducked as debris fell. Eva dropped to the floor and dived behind the sofa. Bullets kept firing. The photograph of me and Jane shattered along with the TV.

            With instinct I leapt onto the man, wrestling him to the ground.

            ‘You don’t know what you’re doing,’ he yelled in my face. ‘That thing is evil.’

            I’d never felt the warm love of a child, no watching birth or seeing them off to school. No walking a daughter down the aisle or having a first beer on a son’s 18th.

            An urge to protect this child – this monster, swarmed me.

            This guy was the one shooting a weapon after all.

            Then a blast from the gun. A burning sensation rippled through my stomach. The flow of blood ran out of me. I rolled over onto my back.

As the man stood, Eva was on him.

            The fangs she sunk into his neck were long, sharp and devastating. The man yelled in agony as he fell back to the floor. Eva then started on his face.

            I closed my eyes and held my stomach, waiting for death to finally take me, for this nightmare to be over. Jane was waiting for me. I’d have quite the story to tell her when we were finally reunited.

            A hand fell on my shoulder.

            I opened my eyes to see Eva, the child. A pale face, darkened eyes and no fangs. Blood dripped from her chin onto her clothes.

            ‘I’m dying,’ I said.

            ‘You don’t have to,’ she replied.

            ‘I took a bullet to the stomach.’

            ‘I can save you.’

            ‘W … why would I want that?’

            ‘You think Jane is waiting for you. What if I told you that there is nothing on the other side. Jane isn’t there Mike. There is just nothing but eternal darkness. I can shield you from that horrid realisation. You can live.’

            ‘I’m ready to die,’ I said.

            Eva shook her head. ‘You have a good heart. I saw it when you opened the door to me. I was never going to harm you. They reached me quicker than I thought.’ Eva nodded to the corpse of the man. ‘There will be more coming for me.’

            I stared at the broken photo frame. Jane stared at me. If she isn’t waiting for me, then what?

            ‘Exactly,’ Eva said reading my mind.

            Suddenly the thought of death scared me more than anything.

            I nodded to Eva.

            Her head buried into my neck and I felt a sharp pierce. Eva continued to take my blood.

            When she raised, the pain in my stomach subsided. I started to feel better – good even. The arthritis a distant sensation.

            I stood before her. Love swept me up. I don’t know how but I instantly loved the girl. My joints felt like I was twenty-one again.

            ‘You’ve given me life,’ I said.

            ‘You saved mine.’

            ‘What now?’

            ‘We have to leave,’ Eva said. ‘We have to find the others before they do,’ she said, pointing at the body.

            ‘Others?’

            ‘Come on, I’ll explain everything on the way. You’re a guardian of the night now.’

            I took my car keys from the kitchen counter. On my way back I crouched to the picture laying on the floor in broken glass.

            ‘The love for her will pass Mike,’ Eva said. ‘All your emotions will pass, except for the love for your own kind.’             I picked up the picture, folded it carefully and placed it in my pocket. I wasn’t ready to forget … not yet.


Bio:

Ethan works for a utilities company in South Yorkshire.
Writing fiction has become a hobby over the past couple of years and he hopes to one day publish a novel.
Ethan notes Stephen King and H.P Lovecraft as influences behind his work.


“Ashes” Fiction by Ethan Maiden

There you go, daddy. There you go to the next place where mummy is waiting.

I was there when he stopped breathing. Just like I had been there with mum. I had become some kind of grim reaper watching over as they passed over. Did I feel fear? Of course. But did I feel sorrow – unashamedly not.

It hadn’t been a secret that I didn’t get on with my parents. I was an only child and their special little daughter. In my younger years I had been spoilt rotten, getting anything I wanted. Dad (Patrick) had been a partner in a successful architectural firm and we had a significant amount of wealth. It paid for my first car, my education and eventual marriage to Stephen. But behind everything, there comes a price and as they say; ‘you reap what you sow.’

*

 Dad’s funeral took place on a blustery morning in March at 11:00 to be precise. It was a small affair with distant family relatives and his old work associates. Dad had ensured he had a life plan and the whole thing had been paid off in advance. All I had to do was arrange the thing and show up.

            I nodded to the, ‘Sarah, we’re sorry for your loss,’ condolences.

            I hate to admit it, but I resented both my parents. I was told to get out and get a job, to fend for myself. I remember the arguing. I could still see mum collapsing to the floor grabbing her chest. She couldn’t breathe. I reached for the phone to call an ambulance but…

I’d tried to be the rock to get dad through the grief. 

            ‘Sarah, I miss her every day,’ dad would say.

            ‘Me too dad.’

            Little white lies don’t hurt … not sometimes.

*

            Dad had insisted on being cremated instead of a burial like mum.

            The ashes were placed in a grey ceramic urn which found its way onto my fire mantelpiece. Stephen said he enjoyed having it there, like dad was still here with us. They had had a special relationship. They went fishing and had a beer watching the game. When mum died Stephen had been the rock to pull dad through the grief.

            ‘Are you scattering them like he asked?’ Stephen asked.

            I nodded, ‘in the sea.’

            ‘When?’

            ‘He said he wanted to go after a week.’

            ‘Huh?’

            ‘He said to me that when he died he wanted to stay just one more week with me, before he is left to rest forever.’

            ‘Well, you have one more week with him, so enjoy,’ Stephen said.

*

            The following day we met with dad’s solicitor. Marcus Hind was a smart chap wearing a navy pinstripe suit, wavy grey hair and thick glasses that showcased his bright hazel eyes. Marcus’ office was on the top floor of the building which housed other small businesses in the centre of town. Stephen and I arrived at just past noon for our appointment.

Butterflies fluttered in my stomach. Dad had been wealthy, that was common knowledge. However how much was still in question. He took early retirement and amongst his assets were a healthy bank balance, a property in Spain and the manor residence where he had passed away.

            ‘You’ll be wondering what details were in your father’s will?’ Marcus asked staring down at the paper.

Oh, you betcha!

            ‘I’d prefer to have him here, Mr. Hind,’ I said, gripping Stephen’s hand.

            Marcus mumbled something I couldn’t quite make out before staring up at us. ‘So, Patrick left the house and the residence in Spain to you.’ Marcus pulled from below his desk a leather black briefcase. ‘Inside this case is the property paperwork as well as the remains of his entire bank balance in cash. I believe it’s in the region of two hundred and forty thousand pounds.’

            ‘All that money can fit in there?’ Stephen asked, pointing with a gaping mouth.

            ‘You’d be surprised,’ Marcus said.

            I went to take it and Marcus quickly slid it back from my grasp.

            ‘There is one more thing Patrick requested.’ Marcus said. ‘The case is locked and will remain locked for the week. In seven days, I will provide the combination code.’

            ‘What?’ I asked, bemused. ‘Is this a joke?’

            ‘Afraid not,’ Marcus said. ‘That’s the conditions Patrick requested.’

            Marcus slid the case back to us. I picked it up, the weight made me almost drop the damn thing. A scent rushed up to me – burnt paper or smoke from a fire. I took hold of the steel handle and left.

            So much money in my grasp … a week will fly by … no problem.

*

            There is a powerful aura around the thing(s) you want the most. The wealth alone in this case was enough to see me through the rest of my life without struggle. Stephen and I had agreed early on in the relationship that we wouldn’t have children. We or more I was selfish. We enjoyed our extravagant holidays and lived the lifestyle we wanted – a life with freedom and without restrictions.

            I set the case on the kitchen table and went to the lounge. The urn stood tall on the mantelpiece.

            ‘This is your last joke, huh?’ I asked. ‘One more week?’

            The urn stared at me and I felt tingles spread across the entirety of my skin.

            That night – it started.

            I woke at just past midnight. Stephen snored next to me as per usual. For some reason I felt wide awake at such a nocturnal hour. Ice filled the room; it felt more like December than early spring. I sat up and rubbed my arms to remind my body of warmth. When I exhaled I saw my breath float and then evaporate before my eyes.

            My surroundings felt off. I could swear I was being watched. I glanced around the shadow filled room. For some reason our eyes like to play mean tricks on us and I’m sure I saw a silhouette run across the landing. Nothing was there obviously, but I couldn’t shake the unease festering in my gut. I laid on my side and held my eyes closed hoping for the sleep to take me. Eventually it did.

*

            The following day I stood staring at the briefcase on the kitchen table. I stroked and smelt the leather. The combination was set to 0-0-0. I thought about rolling the numbers to see if I’d drop lucky. Maybe there’d be a click and the fortune would be mine.

Jokes on you, papa.

My hands moved closer but before I could make contact there was a small bang from the lounge.

            I headed in and saw that the urn had moved across the mantelpiece to the right by at least a foot. Stephen was at work so there was no way he could have moved it.

            ‘Hello, someone there?’

            My spine arched, just like a cat when you give it a stroke. I had to get out of this place. I threw on my jacket and headed out. I wanted to stay out as long as possible; being alone in this house had my nerves jingling.

            I walked to town to buy a few groceries, that passed a little time and hopefully Stephen would be home by the time I got back. I bought the essentials – milk, bread, eggs and a bottle of white wine.

            On the way back, I saw a homeless man sat on the street. He wore a red beanie hat, green jacket and had facial hair to his chest. He sat sorrowfully with a steel cup that held the change he had been given throughout the day. I ransacked my pockets to see if I had anything to give. My hand waddled out a measly £1.34 but as Tesco say – ‘every little helps.’ I bent down to throw it in the pot when the homeless man stared up at me.

            Have we met?

            ‘I have no need for your blood money,’ he said.

            I stopped before dropping it in, startled by what I’d just heard, ‘what?’

            ‘That money is no good to me.’

            ‘I … I don’t know what you mean,’ I said shaking my head in disbelief.

            ‘You know exactly what I mean,’ he replied, toneless.

            I put the coins back in my pocket and hurried back up the street not daring to look back.

*

            I was pacing the kitchen when Stephen arrived home.

            ‘Sarah, what’s wrong?’ he asked, dropping his work bag down.

            My arms were folded and I bit my nails.

            ‘Something’s not right Steve,’ I said.

            ‘What do you mean?’

            I pointed to the briefcase. ‘Ever since we brought that thing back I’ve been feeling … strange.’

            ‘Strange?’

            ‘I … I can’t explain.’

            He moved closer placing his warm hands on my shoulders. ‘You’ve been through a lot,’ he said. ‘First your mum and now your dad in a short space of time. The grief has no doubt taken its toll on you.’

            ‘That’s not it Steve … I know something is wrong.’

            He grimaced and assured me nothing would happen whilst he was here. He would protect me.

*

            Stephen could say what he wanted but when night came that’s when the shadows played their devious tricks.

Again I woke in the middle of the night. For once Stephen wasn’t snoring. I think it was worse that I was engulfed in silence, it somehow made the atmosphere eerier. At least Stephen’s heavy breathing brought a realism to everything.

            The cold fell over me the same as before. I sat upright and stared at the open bedroom door which led to the landing. The staircase creaked. My heart thundered. Thud … thud … thud.

            Mum?

            I struggled to breathe.

            My throat felt as though it was closing with a barricade of ice.

            I gasped trying hard to suck in the air.

            Stephen woke and started shaking me by the shoulders.

            ‘Jesus Christ Sarah, what’s wrong?’

            ‘Mu … mu …,’ I mumbled pointing to my throat.

            My whole body started to shake.

            Stephen laid me down and held me tight.

            ‘I need to call an ambulance.’

            And then the ice in my throat melted. The beating in my chest relaxed and the air returned to normal.

            ‘I … I don’t know what happened,’ I said finding my voice a few moments later.

            ‘You looked like you were having a heart attack,’ Stephen said.

*

            The following two days and nights went without incident. I put the episode down to a panic attack with everything that had happened lately. Still the briefcase sat on the kitchen table. I had to fight the urge to keep my thumbs from scrolling down the numbers. I wanted what was inside … I needed it.

            My hands reached down and I started on the numbers one through nine on all three dials. After an hour or so I flicked them all back to 0 with a huff and sigh.

            A few more days … that’s all.

            It was that night when my fears were suddenly turned up a notch. My eyes popped open to the cold air. This time I felt no struggle to breathe, well not initially. The cold air puffed out of me and I swamped the quilt to keep warm.

            The stairs creaked and not in the way we expect in the midnight hour. They creaked as if someone was climbing them. Something was coming up the stairs.

            I rolled onto my back staring so hard I thought my eyes would pop out of their sockets.

            Time stood still; I was frozen in time.

            Next to me Stephen slept silently. No snores; no heavy breathing and I actually thought he could be dead.

            I glanced up and saw … it.

            The face.

            The right side of a pale white face peeked at me from behind the doorframe. Its hand crawled round spidery and gripped hold of the frame.

            I wanted to scream. My heart wasn’t beating, it felt like it had stopped altogether.

            Then real fear struck me. It was my dad.

            His black eye on show had sunken into his skull and his pale face matched the moon which crept through the curtains.

            A sinister smile crept on the corner of his lip. Crooked teeth fell from his mouth. Dad was mocking me. Even from the grave he was still making my life hell.

            I rolled Stephen over.

            His face had changed.

            Lying next to me now was dad’s frozen corpse.

            This time the screaming did come and I was shaken out of my fit of fear by Stephen.

*

            I tried to explain everything. Stephen looked understanding but I knew deep down he doubted my every word.

            ‘It was just a nightmare,’ he said.

            I walked to the lounge and stared at the urn. That thing was fucking cursed. Could it really be that dad was still here in some way? I pushed his face out of my head.

            I went to speak with Marcus.

            After explaining everything he sat in silence gathering his thoughts.

            ‘I want that code,’ I said. ‘I want to get the money, take the keys and get the hell away from here.’

            Marcus tapped his fingers in a praying pose against his lips. ‘You have twenty-four hours before you get the code, Sarah.’

            ‘No; I want that damn code now!’

            ‘Twenty … four … hours.’ 

            ‘Well I’ll just take that urn and scatter his ashes in the sea if I have to. Good riddance to him.’

            ‘That’s up to you,’ Marcus said.

            He wasn’t budging his stance.

            I got up and stormed out of the office.

            If twenty-four hours was all I had to wait to get my hands on all that money then so bloody be it. One last push of patience.

That night I got in bed early.

Stephen had stayed downstairs to watch the game with a beer.

When I woke this time, Stephen still wasn’t beside me.

Stood above me was my mother.

Her decaying corpse stared down at me.

Her once tanned face was now rotted flesh and bone.

The stench made me want to vomit.

Mum was almost bald but a few loose strands of frizzled hair.

‘M … mum?’ I muttered.

She wore the white gown she had been buried in, it was dirty with stains of mud and earth flowing from knees to her chest.

Then I heard the distant sound of thud … thud … thud.

That horrific noise.

Was it my heart or hers? I couldn’t be sure.

‘Mum … please.’

She pointed at me and her mouth gaped open as though yelling at me, the way she had done all those years ago.

My dad again peeked from the doorframe smiling with that mocking dead expression.

Thud … thud … thud.

The beating of my heart grew.

Thud … thud … THUD.

I couldn’t breathe.

‘Mum … dad … please,’ I strained.

I fell to the bed and started to panic. My hands and toes tensed so hard I thought they’d snap like chicken bone. The muscles and veins in my neck bulged from the thinning skin. This was it; I was dying and my parents were embracing every second.

Stephen came running up the stairs; dad retreated out of view and mum crumbled to the floor vanishing in an instant.          

‘Sarah … Sarah!’ he yelled shaking me.

I managed to take in some much needed oxygen and filled my lungs to capacity.

‘That’s it baby, long hard breaths,’ Stephen reassured me.

My hands relaxed. My muscles started to unclench.

Stephen grabbed hold of me and hugged me tight.

‘Where were you?’ I asked still catching breath.

‘I fell asleep on the sofa.’

‘You were supposed to be here … to keep me safe.’

*

The day I’d been waiting for had finally come. After a long and otherworldly week I’d get what was due to me. But first I had business to attend to.

I grabbed the urn and threw it in the car. Stephen was working so I had all day to carry out the task in hand.

The seafront was an hour’s drive away.  It was a gusty day which suited me. On the way I caught a glimpse of myself in the rear-view mirror.

Jesus Christ Sarah, you’ve aged. Your eyes have bags dropping near your chin. The creases in your face crater like the Grand Canyon and that hair is in dying need of a colour.

Don’t worry we’ll have plenty of cash to sort these things out. All in due time.

It was my mother’s voice that spoke the words.

‘So, you think you can still dictate my life, huh?’ I asked the urn sat innocently beside me. ‘Coming to me in the night … and using mum!’ I said shaking my head. ‘How dare you use mum to get at me. No … no sir; it will all be over today daddy.’

Sarah, you sound hysterical.

I parked at the pay and display next to the beach. £1.30 for an hour’s stay was fine by me. I used the change which should have gone to that homeless chap that freaked me out. Grabbing the urn and my umbrella I headed out down the stone steps. The beach was quiet, a few dog and casual walkers here and there. The sea – wild with a strong scent of salt infiltrating my nostrils.

Surfers would embrace these high waves.

I reached the sea and put down my umbrella. My feet paddled in the ice-cold water and I took the urn holding it out in front of me.

‘Dad. I want to say something. What I put you and mum through was wrong, and I apologise. Thing is, you being in my home is a constant reminder, and I don’t want reminding of the last time I saw you alive. The night terrors are obviously my mind playing the guilt card. I hope you understand. Farewell daddy; be at peace.’

I unlocked the urn and emptied the contents into the sea.

Rolls of money fell into the water.

Bundles of £50 notes held by elastic bands washed out to the sea. There must have been a dozen or so.

What the hell?

I checked the urn and it was empty. Just an empty ceramic container. No ashes and now – no cash. The sea carried the money out and into the waves. I stood speechless as they disappeared under the water.

*

I ran back to the car as fast as my legs would take me. I yanked out my phone out and dialled Marcus’ office.

‘Hello, Marcus H-’

‘Is this some kind of a joke?’ I asked.

‘Sorry?’

‘The urn … it was filled with cash, not my fucking dad.’

‘I see. You scattered it then?’ Marcus asked, irritatingly calm.

‘Yes I scattered them. What’s going on?’

‘Come by the office and we can sort this whole thing out.’

‘Give me the code,’ I said.

‘Pardon me.’

‘The code … give me the fucking code to the case.’

And then Marcus gave it me. I questioned whether he was joking.

He wasn’t.

*

When I arrived home, I ran to the front door with excitement. My hands rushed the key in the lock and I shot through to the kitchen. The briefcase stood on top of the table as I’d left it. I pumped in the code and pulled back the lid.

My hands clasped my mouth like I’d been hit with an arrow in the chest.

Thud … thud … thud …

I took a double take to make sure my eyes were not deceiving me.

Ashes.

The entire case was filled with ashes.

*

Marcus sat behind his desk. I stormed in and smacked the table.

‘What is happening?’

‘Oh Sarah. You have been a naughty girl.’

‘What does that mean you fucking weasel?’

Marcus slipped his computer screen around to face me. On the monitor was the image of a hidden camera. It was staring at my father’s bed. My dad was in it.

‘Where did you get this?’ I asked.

‘Well, you see that your father had become quite suspicious following your mother’s untimely death. So, he set this camera up for proof if he ever needed it, which he certainly did. Didn’t he Sarah?’

‘No … this isn’t happening …’ I muttered, unable to steady myself.

I fell into the chair.

‘Let’s have a watch, shall we?’ Marcus said and pushed play.

I remembered. I didn’t need to see it, but I couldn’t take my eyes away. I entered the bedroom whilst dad was asleep. I remembered his face. I took the pillow and held it tight against his face. I pressed down harder and harder. Dad’s hands gripped as he fought, damn he tried to fight. Yet he was frail, all too frail. I pushed harder until he fell limp …

‘Oh dear Sarah,’ Marcus said. ‘First your mother and then your father.’

Thud … thud … thud.

‘Dad … had suspicions?’

‘The constant discussions over money? The arguing? He heard you say that you’d kill her?’

Mum needed an ambulance. I could have saved her but I didn’t make the call. I watched her die in front of me. Thud … thud …

‘He set me up?’

‘Of course,’ Marcus said ‘He was a dying man but you couldn’t be patient could you, Sarah? You had to have his fortune didn’t you?’

I was close to tears. Marcus had the incriminating evidence and my life was over.

‘The money in the urn was all that was left,’ Marcus continued. ‘Patrick had sold the property in Spain and donated his fortune to charity. The only possession he had was the manor house, which he has kindly left … to me.’

‘You?’ I asked.

Marcus chuckled. ‘He came to me with his suspicions a while ago and we made a deal. And when you make a deal with me, the agreement is final.’

‘Who are you?’

Marcus just smiled. There was a burning behind those eyes – a blackness.

Suddenly fear had substituted the rage in me. This … thing in front of me made my stomach churn.

‘What are you? Is that what the combination to the case was – a clue?’ I asked.

‘I take great pleasure in seeing a sinner’s world fall apart.’

‘The night terrors … the homeless man, it was you, wasn’t it?’

Marcus again smiled with his crooked teeth and burning eyes. ‘I like to have my fun now and again.’

I rushed to my feet almost stumbling to the floor. The blue carpet had changed to bare floorboards. The nice paint of the office had started to peel away. Marcus just sat watching my disbelief as the surroundings fell to desolation.

I ran out of the door which fell from its hinges to the floor. I headed down the stairs. The other small businesses in the building were vacant. Not a soul in sight. I fell through the door and turned to see the entire building boarded up and worthy of demolition.

I had to get home. I had to see Stephen.

*

I flew over the speed limit the whole way. I wasn’t thinking straight and who could blame me?

When I arrived home, a police car was parked outside the house. What had happened now? Had that Marcus thing got to Stephen?

I ran in the house and found two officers with Stephen huddled around his laptop. My face fell. They turned. I saw behind them the footage of me suffocating my father playing on the screen.

Tears fell down Stephen’s cheeks.

‘Sarah … how could you?’ he asked.

‘I … I’m sorry.’

The police officers moved toward me.

The briefcase of ashes remained on the kitchen table; the code still read 6-6-6.

Copyright © Ethan Maiden


Bio:

Ethan works for a utilities company in South Yorkshire.
Writing fiction has become a hobby over the past couple of years and he hopes to one day publish a novel.
Ethan notes Stephen King and H.P Lovecraft as influences behind his work.


Interview with Author/Poet John Ormsby

Photo submitted by John Ormsby

Bio:

I grew up in Toronto where upon graduating university I landed a job as a copy editor for a legal publisher. The work was poorly paid and mind-numbingly forensic with no room whatsoever for any creativity; we were basically word accountants. Upping sticks, I moved to the UK where I’ve ended up teaching high school. It can be a tough gig some days but the kids are insanely creative and there are always lots of opportunities for laughs with them. Often what I hear during the day inspires my writing.

What is your greatest accomplishment as a writer so far?

My greatest accomplishment to date would be starting my blog and sticking at it. I wrote loads when I was a kid, edited the newspaper at university and almost went into journalism so writing’s definitely in the DNA. And then finally, just over a year ago I got off the pot and started my blog. To date, I’ve posted a collection one publisher has called ‘eclectic’- it’s a mixture of humour, horror, poetry, prose, essays and opinions – which has attracted an equally eclectic readership. I’m proud of my efforts and honoured that others consider it worth reading.

Why do you write?

I guess I’ve got lots to say. Sadly, few of us are gifted orators and writing offers me the chance to get my points across without being interrupted. I’m not a very brave sort but when I write I become a superhero who’s unafraid to pull out the creative big guns and tackle anything. I use different styles and voices I wouldn’t normally get away with at home or at work; it’s very liberating being a homicidal demon one moment, then a camp Martian in hot pants the next.

What is your writing process? (Any favorite places to write? Any interesting quirks, traditions, or rituals you may have? How many times might you revise something before being satisfied with it? Besides you, does anyone else edit your work? Etc.)

I’m writing this on a laptop with my dog snoring next to me on the sofa. Years ago I used to rise early and write until noon, after which I spent the rest of the day making revisions. These days, however, I can write day or night. I’ll often write and then take the dog for a walk so I can mull it over without seeing it. Usually by the time we’ve returned home I’ve ‘pictured’ what I need to do and make the necessary changes. And I revise constantly, often searching days for the right word until I find it. It sounds tedious and it is, but it’s essential because I rarely do anything right the first time in life.

Do you have anyone (friends, relatives, etc.) review your works before you publish them?

As more friends read my blog they’re becoming braver with their criticisms which is invaluable when it comes from those you trust. They’re catching everything from typos to non sequiturs which is surprising because all of them were raised outdoors.

Could you give us an idea of your upcoming works without spoiling anything?

My blog contains the prologue of a novel entitled The Abomination which you’re featuring. It revolves around the First Nation peoples of Canada, the Church and a lot of cultural rituals we no longer notice within our society. It’s a supernatural thriller and I’ve written about half of it so far. Right now I need to kill a character to further the plot but I can’t bring myself to do it. I think I would have made a terrible vet.

What do you hope to achieve as a writer?

I would like every one of my students to have to read my work and then sit a five-hour exam on it. That would be poetic justice after having had to read all their crap. Other than that, like most authors I simply wish to become widely-read because I’m not writing a diary. That’s it, really.

What advice do you have for novice writers?

Write about what you know and research what you don’t know before writing about that. And don’t be intimidated because someone’s already covered what you were going to write about – what you have to say may spin the whole thing on its head. In this life, we have few opportunities to break rules without ending up before a judge; writing has no rules except those you impose upon yourself, so impose as few as possible and go for it.

What do you feel are the most important resources a writer can use?

Honesty: draw ideas from all around but don’t take what doesn’t belong to you.

A decent vocabulary (or a thesaurus): make every word count because the readers deserve it.

Where can people find out more about you and your writing? (websites, social media, etc.)  

The best place to find out about me is my blog: mrormsbyatlarge.com


Dark Music: “Once Upon a Time in Paris” by Erik Satie

Although this is not advertised as “dark”, this work by Erik Satie definitely has a dark, brooding air. Imagine yourself walking for hours along a dark, Parisian boulevard at night, your breath stinking of strong tobacco and Absinthe, during a thick fog sometime during the Second or early Third Republic, mulling over the tragic news of the day or of the tragic events of your life, mustering the resolve to find a way into a better, if not brighter, future. This is how this piece speaks to me.


Special Feature: “An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge”

On Sunday, March 7, a friend of mine, Tim Stamps, whom I have known since college way back in the dark ages of the 70’s, sent me this link to a truly dark video. I thought it would make an excellent special feature for The Chamber. Here’s what he says about it:

“Hey Phil, check this out —A friend [Samuel Hanon is the name on the video] put this together. Playing the Twilight Zone version of “An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge” with a Pink Floyd concert CD “Live at the Empire Pool, Wembley Park, London” recorded in November, 1974. Nothing is edited out or changed, except color effects added. All the lyrics and everything synchronistically match on queue. Play here: https://www.facebook.com/samuel.hanon.3/posts/545802596336504

As you will learn with Rod Serling’s narration during the intro, this is not a Twilight Zone production per se. This is a French telling of the classic tale “An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge” by Ambrose Bierce. It was the winner of the 1962 Cannes Film Festival and of several other international prizes as well. The original version is truly haunting, but the additional soundtrack and colorization take it to a whole new, nightmarishly surreal level.

What I find interesting about the story is that, when it was written in 1890, feelings about the Civil War were still very intense. After all, the Civil War had erupted only thirty years earlier in 1860. Many soldiers on both sides were still alive. Many African-Americans were still alive who had been slaves. Bierce had served with the Union Army and had seen combat several times including at Shiloh. He sustained a traumatic brain injury at the Battle of Kennesaw Mountain, whose effects he felt for the rest of his life. Nonetheless, Bierce penned this story about the hanging of a Confederate soldier told from the rebel’s perspective. Bierce did not see his former enemies as inhuman monsters, which I am sure many former Union soldiers did. He recognized the humanity in them and he brings this out in this story, making his readers, many of whom doubtlessly still had strong feelings about the war, feel sympathy for their suffering as well and made them see the former rebels as human.

In our current atmosphere of political turmoil (which cannot hold a candle to the turmoil before, during, and after the Civil War), there is a lesson for us in this classic work of American literature. It shows us that in spite of our feelings about current political and national issues, no matter how intense they are, we must not lose sight of the fact that our political opponents are as human as we are and feel as deeply and as intensely as we all do. We are people with differing opinions, but we are all still people. We must not lose sight of that fact.

I hope you enjoy this video as much as I did.

By the way, I will take submissions of links to dark videos or films so long as they meet the stipulations in The Chamber’s submission guidelines and so long as the person submitting owns the copyright. There are a wide range of formats to which I can link, so please query first and I will let you know if I can link to it.

Fiction by Ethan Maiden: “Pulp”

Detail from photo by Anni Roenkae from Pexels
Detail from photo by Anni Roenkae from Pexels

A strange name given for such a strange find: Pulp.

The reason I call it this is because I have no other word in my limited vocabulary to explain it. It’s small, black and has the density of rough dough.

Then there’s the colours. Those beautiful and unique flickers of microscopic light in the thing that make noises, words of a language I’ve never heard before.

I’d been walking down the riverside like any other day, the route I take home from work. On the opposite side of the river beneath the bridge, a black patch no bigger than a football caught my eye. At first, I believed it to be some kind of stain, perhaps oil or tar embedded upon the weathered stone holding up the banking.

However, the angle of the sunlight made the patch sparkle with fizzling colour. It was attractive: calling.

My visceral instinct was to leave it alone, to hurry on past and forget about this peculiar patch hugging the waterline.

But then it moved.

It didn’t drip down the rocky surface with liquid texture as expected. Instead the stain slithered in the slowest of motions; changing shape and contracting with itself.

Safe to say the inquisitiveness (or naivety) got the better of me as I raced forward to the river crossing not thirty feet in front of my position.

I had to find out what this thing was.

Some inner conscience suggested that maybe some animal was in danger, overcome with a substance and needed help to be set free back to the wild.

Panic set in when the stain vanished from view. My strides turned into a full blown sprint as I rushed over the creaky wooden crossing and back down the graveled footpath.

I kept my head over the banking, watching the water splash against the rock with murky turbidity.

Still no sign of the stain; my heart raced ready to implode.

I’d suffered from anxiety since I lost my brother to a drug overdose almost eight months ago. He’d been two-years my elder and fallen into the wrong crowd, no matter how much we tried to help him it fell on deaf ears.

Not being able to find the insignificant blob brought all those anxieties flooding back in my body. Too much to bear. I stopped closing my eyes before I passed out. Oxygen intake was minimal as my legs turned to cigarette ash and I fell hitting the ground hard with my backside.

Trying hard to concentrate on my breathing, the world span in shuddering movements making the vomit swell in the pit of my stomach.

The flop made everything suddenly stop dead like a fairground ride coming to a sudden halt.

My senses returned.

Anxiety washed away with the flowing water; my breathing returned to normal as I saw the dough wiggle onto the path. Crouching over the thing I remained cautious; in my twenty-three years in this world I had never witnessed anything as surreal.

The shuffling black blob stopped moving and began to spread on the gravel, thinning out like a puddle, perfectly circular.

That’s when I saw the lights up close.

Blinking rainbows of colour. Colours I’d struggle to describe. Purple intertwined with green with flashes of orange. It was beautiful, like looking up at the night sky observing a fireworks display. The colours wrapped themselves around one another and I couldn’t help but become transfixed.

The voice from the black puddle spoke to me in a tongue not from any place on the earth, yet for some unconceivable reason I was able to understand.

‘I can show you things, secrets beyond this world,’ it said.

‘What are you?’ I asked, my eyes still invested in the lights.

‘Nothing that can be told, but can be shown if you take me.’

I asked, ‘take you, where?’

‘Take me with you, wherever you go and I will show you the places beyond.’

The lights on the black puddle flickered like a power failure slowly fading out. I was left blinking, still crouched over this thing with a severe headache. The black mass had now retracted itself back into the blobby dough – the pulp.

The lights, I wanted to see those gleeful lights again.

Reaching down, I took the black blob into my hands; its texture – smooth and bone-dry. Before anyone could see I rushed home with the putty squelching between my fingers.

I lived alone on the east side of town in a rundown block of apartments. A few girls had come and gone in my disastrous love life up to now, they usually leave when the realisation hits them that my ambition is non-existent and my overwhelming anxious needs take precedent. I’m the kind of person that enjoys routine; anything against the norm brings back that desire to wallow in a shell of self-pity.

Yet, here I am taking this otherworldly thing into my life, somehow against my wish, but it’s attractive … addictive.

I’ve come to see that I don’t need anyone. I have something that no other person has.

I have Pulp.

*

I’ve come to learn that I also don’t need food anymore, I haven’t eaten for over sixty hours and I still feel great. I don’t need so-called friends, Pulp told me that all they do is stab me in the back anyways, which I can believe. That’s why I smashed my mobile phone to smithereens, goodbye social media and good riddance to the backstabbers.

There has been a few knocks at my door wondering if I’m all right from certain people.

‘Hey, are you in there?’ Katy had asked from behind the door.

I replied pretending with a few coughs, ‘I’m fine, just the flu I think.’

Katy had been one of those girl’s I spoke about earlier. She ended the relationship, “friend-zoning” me because of different life aspirations, really I knew it was due to my skydiving psyche.

‘No one has heard from you in days,’ Katy said. ‘Your phone is off; you’re not posting anything online … are you sure you’re all right?’

Another cough, ‘I’m fine … like I said, just the flu.’

Those pesky folk, they think that they can just walk in and out of my life when it suits.

No thank you.

They seem to accept and leave without too much persuasion.

I’m a hindrance you see, Pulp told me that’s what they thought.

The same old question – ‘are you all right?’

I’m more than all right, if only they could see what I have been shown. If only they’d had their eyes opened to the true beauty that exists outside of our perceived reality.

They’re not ready to see my little friend just yet. It told me as much.

I speak with Pulp constantly; it’s all I need in my life now.

Asking its name, it just answers with something far too long for my lips to relay back. I’ll stick with Pulp, it doesn’t seem to mind.

Night and day I stare into the surface of the abyss, transported between the colours, the beautiful colours. I feel them, flashes of light from a distant world: a paradise beyond comprehension.

Everything is lost when I float in between the eternal space. Emotionless. I forget the anger, the anxiety, the need for love and sexual desires – everything.

Because in this void is freedom that I have never experienced.

Just me and the colours intertwining and embracing one another like passionate lovers.

Sleep has evaded me too. When I try to rest, I just think of staring back into Pulp. I just want  to forget everything in this world now I understand the truth of what is beyond.

‘There is much more that you are not ready to understand, child of the earth,’ Pulp said.

It was dead at night and I asked Pulp to take me back to the colours, to relax in the void.

‘I am ready,’ I replied. ‘Please, show me.’

‘If you wish to seek out the truth behind our existence, then you must take us back to where we met.’

‘The river?’ I asked. ‘It’s the middle of the night, but I can do that,’ I said, shaking my head erratically. ‘Sure … sure … sure … anything you ask.’

I stood, dropping the blanket that had been wrapped around my frail body to keep warm. I must’ve broken the record in weight loss over such a short period of time. My bones were visible through my skin, I could feel every solid lump. In the bathroom mirror, my face was no better, huge bags drooped below my distant eyes. The hair on my head had receded at rapid rate.

My teeth: yellow and fragile like a corpse.

‘The body is nothing more than a vessel,’ Pulp said feeding from my insecurities. ‘It’s the soul that will endure into the next phase of existence.

As I went to gather my coat from the floor, Pulp informed me that I wouldn’t be needing it.

When I questioned why I wouldn’t need clothes in the middle of the night, Pulp answered: ‘To see what is beyond, then you must come in the purest of forms. I shall keep you warm, child of the earth.’

My hands took hold of Pulp and it expanded, spreading and then wrapping its warm doughy body around me. It felt ecstatic. Loving.

Outside I set off, feeling the slight breeze hit my face. When we reached the riverbank I crouched down in the exact same place where I found Pulp.

How long had it been now since I met this savior of mine, three days? Two weeks? I couldn’t be sure anymore, time had become irrelevant as everything else. All that mattered now was seeing the truth of what was beyond; learning the secrets of this existence.

‘You have been a great host, child of the earth,’ Pulp said sliding off my body into an even puddle on the floor.

The cold hit me straight away, knifing my naked body.

Pulp started to flash its otherworldly colours.

I watched, mesmerized by the beauty.

‘You have fed me life with your soul, and in return I shall show you what lies beyond,’ Pulp said.

Pulp started to rise on the river’s edge, morphing from puddle to standing mirror.

I stood before it still gazing into the void of colour and ecstasy.

‘Come, child. Come and see!’

Raising my hand, I held my palm against the abyss, reaching out to touch the intertwining colours, to feel their love and warmth.

Tears spilled from my eyes due to all its magnificence.

‘Come with me … come and see what lies beyond.’

I stepped forward as all the colours suddenly vanished.

Losing my footing I fell forward as Pulp dropped to the banking in a heap of dough.

The water tore at my body with its icy blades.

I momentarily debated grappling against the cold and fighting my way back to the banking.  

But my weak and aged limbs made no such effort. As my head bobbed up and below the surface I saw Pulp shuffle its way down the banking and into shadow like a feral animal.

I’d been sucked dry.

Suddenly I realised I was the insignificant one; a pawn in a much grander universe. It was time to leave this world that I no longer understood behind and seek out what lies beyond.

Pulp promised me such things.

The body is just a vessel … It’s the soul …

I didn’t want to believe that it was all treachery on Pulp’s part; I wasn’t just some host to feed the thing before it sent me to death.

No, there’s more, I’m sure of it.

I was ready to see the truth – to awaken.

The body is just a vessel …

Falling to the bottom of the river I wondered if I would ever see those magnificent colours again as all other lights went out.


Bio:

Ethan works for a utilities company in South Yorkshire.
Writing fiction has become a hobby over the past couple of years and he hopes to one day publish a novel.
Ethan notes Stephen King and H.P Lovecraft as influences behind his work.


Interview with Author Olivia Arieti

Photo courtesy Olivia Arieti

Bio:

I was born in Pisa, Italy, spent my childhood in Miami Beach, my teen years in Detroit and Milan, graduated from the University of Pisa and settled in Torre del Lago Puccini where I live with my family and my four dogs. Being bilingual (English and Italian) I have to deal with two languages constantly, and that’s not always an easy task. Since I was a child my parents have exhorted me to write and I am very grateful to them for that.

What is your greatest accomplishment as a writer so far?

I believe that having some work published is an achievement nowadays with all the amazing competition there is.

Why do you write?

Because I enjoy it. My characters whether in a play or a story, end up intriguing me and that’s exciting.

What is your writing process? (Any favorite places to write? Any interesting quirks, traditions, or rituals you may have? How many times might you revise something before being satisfied with it? Besides you, does anyone else edit your work? Etc.)

I prefer writing at my pc, generally in the morning. I do a lot of revision as complete satisfaction is never easy to reach.

Do you have anyone (friends, relatives, etc.) review your works before you publish them?

No, I always review my work by myself.

Could you give us an idea of your upcoming works without spoiling anything?

I’m working on a few short stories and revising a play I wrote years ago.

Do you have any writing events coming up? For example: something being published/released? A reading of one of your works? Interviews? Any speeches or talks?

I have some stories that should be published soon and a streaming of a play in March. It was one of the six finalists in a playwriting competition in London.

What do you hope to achieve as a writer?

I hope to write something good and worthy that may impress my readers and remain in their hearts. 

What do you think of bad reviews? Are they helpful or harmful to you?

Bad reviews are never good and also hurt, but sometimes you can spot some clues that may turn out helpful.

What advice do you have for novice writers?

Keep being creative, never stop nourishing your imagination and believe in your work.

What do you feel are the most important resources a writer can use?

The dictionary and good grammar books are basic tools. There are also useful online resources and writing communities.

Where can people find out more about you and your writing? (websites, social media, etc.)  

On websites that have published my work.


“Cthulhu and Me” Fiction by Jackk N. Killington

Illustration of Cthulhu by H.P. Lovecraft, 1934

Sally was seven, and she liked seven-year-old things. She liked pink dresses, tea parties with her friends, or with her plushies when her friends couldn’t come out to play. She loved going to school and being surrounded by her friends. She also liked slugs, and bats. She kept a lizard skeleton, and snake fang collection in a shoe box under her bed. She even had a pet stuffed squirrel that she kept on her writing desk where she could skritch its head and ask it vocabulary questions when she was thinking her homework out loud. She had a full life, and now that she had the bestest friend in the whole world, Cthulhu, she just knew that her life was complete.

“Sally, you’ll be late for school, honey bear.” Sally heard her mother’s voice waft up the stairway, and into her room from the kitchen downstairs. She was busy filling her pink Care Bear backpack with her needed school things. This was very important to her. Nothing could be missed. Pencils, pens, and erasers in their zippered bag, check. Little sushi and alien erasers, check. Homework for Miss Caliendo, check. Spelling and arithmetic books, letters to Santa, and I love you notes from and to her mother, check. 

When Sally felt that that was all squared away, she gave herself one last appraising view of herself in the full-length mirror that she had leaning against her wall. She was wearing her favorite pink dress, white frilled socks, and pink Sketchers. Her cat skull hair clip to the side. “Ahh, perfection,” she sighed. She grabbed up her backpack, gave Aryclese a few more skritches on his dusty, stuffed head, and left the  room feeling confident about the start of her day.

“Lunch is on the counter Sally,” Sally’s mother said as she came into the kitchen. She was busying herself making pancakes and sausages, while her dad sat at the table, chewing on a piece of bacon while he sifted through the latest issue of Tome Magazine, the leading source for heretical thought, and the leading wealth of material for novice and professional warlocks alike. Her dad always said the Enochian Mysteries were best read at dawn, before he read something truly wicked like The New York Times.

“Thank you, Mom,” Sally looked out the window that led to the front yard where she could see the bus stop a little way down the street. The ten-year olds, buttheads that they were, had not showed up yet, so she would have a few minutes at least before they would show, and their ceaseless barrage of taunts would begin. Maggy, Alex, and Dookie head were standing at the stop. Dookie head’s real name was cliff, but she hated/liked him, so she called him Dookie head. She was excited to spend a few minutes with them before the advent of school. None of them were in the same class that she was. She had her friends in the classroom, but she would be happier if some of the kids that she hung out with outside of school were in her class.

“I gotta go,” she said to her parents as she grabbed her Bratz lunchbox off of the counter. “I love you mommy,” she said as her mom bent over and gave her a peck on the forehead. Then she ran over and jumped at her father, making him lose his grip on his magazine which almost flopped to splatter in his eggs.

“Whoa there little Lilitu.” He said as he fully placed the zine down next to his plate and gave Sally a hug and a kiss on the cheek. “You be a good girl at school today, okay?”

“Yes daddy, I will,” Sally said.

“Right home after school, okay?” her mom said. “The sitter will be here at four, it’ll be Karry tonight. Don’t you be late now, or she might be cross.” Karry Anne was a nice enough thirteen-year-old, but Sally’s parents liked to take stabs at her for being Christian. “Get it?” Sally’s mother asked.

“Carla, you’re incorrigible,” Sally’s father said.

Her mom winked. “You know it Daddy,” she said. Sally’s dad laughed and shifted in his seat, staring at her mother, a sly smile crossing his lips. “Hmmm, you better run off to school now, Sally,” her father said.

“Okay daddy,” Sally said as her father got up and went to stand behind her mom, giving her a hug and kissing her gently on the neck. Sally smoothed down her dress with her hands, and then with backpack on shoulder and lunchbox in tow, she turned from her parents and made her way to the front door. She flipped the deadbolt and the door lock, then turned the knob to let the door open to the outside world. She started to walk outside but then stopped for there was something in her path.

It was a someone actually. The little figure standing before her was about a foot shorter than she was. It was nearly naked and stocky, its arms, legs and torso were a mass of muscles. Its skin was a mixture of greenish gray, with small veins of sandy gold. It had a slick coat on its skin which looked like water, or clear slime. Barnacles peppered the creature’s arms and legs, and it wore a loincloth made out of seaweed. The creatures head was even more peculiar then its stubby, muscly body. Instead of a human skull, it looked to have an octopus where its head should have been. The tentacles of the octopus were flailing about as if they had a life of their own as the creature stared at Sally with four eyes planted on the body of the octopus where a human’s eyes would have been. Two stacked on top of the other.

Something told Sally that she should have been afraid. That she should have turned and fled from the little, angry looking creature that stood before her, ridged body and balled fists. As she looked at this new creature before her, however, she could not help but think about how adorable this little monster was.  

“Hi,” Sally said to the creature. It turned its seething eyes to glare at her. “I said hello. Don’t be rude,” Sally said in a stern voice, her brow furrowing. This seemed to catch the creature off guard, and its anger seemed to break in that moment. The creature stood there for a moment, as if it did not know how to proceed, but then it looked at one of its hands, held it in the air and waved to her. It’s octopus face, tentacles and all turned into the mimic of a human smile. Its little eyes squinted in happiness as if it was truly enjoying the interaction. “Oh my god, you are precious,” Sally said.

Sally looked back at the kitchen where she had last left her parents, and then to the bus stop. She wanted to tell her parents about the incredible new friend that she had discovered right outside their front door. She could see that the older kids had shown up, so she knew that she had very little time until the school bus showed up to take her away. She was in quite the quandary.

The squat figure seemed to understand what was going on and turned around to face the street, and the bus stop. Sally could just see the front of the school bus starting to come down the street as the little figure raised his arms and waved them wildly in the air. Sally felt herself jump a little bit with a crack of thunder that filled the morning air. The world outside of her house melted away all color, leaving only darkness. It was as if the thunder had scared the color away from the world. Leaving only whites, grays and a tint of blue that reminded Sally of the negative filters that her mother had showed her on Instagram.  

The world just stopped, frozen as if it were reduced to a picture. The only sound that she heard was the sound of her father moaning in the kitchen (maybe he was having one of his headaches) and the dead thrum of nothingness from outside of the door. Sally looked at her hands. At her dress. Everything on her was the same as before the world had gone dark. This negative fusion did not seem to affect her, the little man thing before her or her home. He is so cool, she thought as she looked at the creature before her in amazement. Then the creature spoke. Its voice was a warble of textures, as if he were speaking to her from under water. “Hello sally, I would like to speak with my alcol- I mean, I would like to speak with your parents please,” it said. Though she heard the creatures voice, it did not seem to be speaking to her. Rather it seemed as if the words were being broadcast into her brain.

Sally was excited about this. She smiled a huge smile as she reached forward and grabbed the little man creature by his hand. “C’mon, they are in the kitchen,” she said as she half led, half pulled him with her. She already considered the creature to be her new best friend. He was so different and new. She thought he was the most exciting thing to have ever happened to her in her entire short life. “Mommy, daddy,” she yelled as she made her way across the living room. She heard her father curse.

When she came into the kitchen, her father was zipping up his pants and pushing his shirt into the front of his pants. Her mother seemed to be getting up off the floor. An annoyed look filled both of their faces. “Sally, you are going to be late for-” her mother’s voice caught in her throat as she saw the little figure that Sally had been dragging behind her, and she and her father both froze in place.

“I made a new friend,” Sally said, smiling.

She did not understand as she watched both of her parents fall to their knees, bowing their heads, not to her, but to her new little companion. “Lord Cthulhu,” they both said.

Her new friend, The one that her parents called Cthulhu asked her to go out into the living room for a time while he spoke with her parents, promising her that everything would be fine and that she should not be scared of any of the noises that she would hear. He promised her that her parents would be fine. “Do not fear what you hear, my dear little Sally, only what needs to be done will be done.” She chose to believe him; he was her new best friend after all.

She did not really understand what was going on but she walked out into the living room. She crawled up onto the couch and turned on the TV with the remote control, turning on YouTube and watching an episode of SpongeBob SquarePants.

The sounds of thunderclaps leapt from the kitchen. The sound of her parents screaming, and pleading filling the air, but she just turned the TV up louder. It did not last long, and before she knew it the thunderclaps started to die down, the sounds of pleading were reduced to light sobs. The sounds of electric sizzles faded and then disappeared until all that was left was quiet.

A few moments later, Cthulhu came out of the kitchen, his little stubbed wings flapping lazily behind him. Little tendrils of steam trickled into the air from spots on his skin. The barnacles and liquid had left him, replaced by clean, dry skin. The seaweed that he had been wearing was now replaced by a pair of carpenter jeans and a Danzig T-shirt, though she had no idea who Danzig was. A pair of black sneakers covered his feet as he made his way over and onto the couch, flopping down to sit next to Sally. “You do not fear me Sally?” Cthulhu asked.

“Nope, I think you’re cute,” Sally said.

“Your parents have made a grievous error Sally. One that they will be helping me to correct, but while they do so, I am going to be staying here. Would you like that?”

“Yes,” she beamed. “I would like that very much,” her smile widened. “Would you like to be my friend?” she asked.

“Yes,” the dark lord said. “I would like that very much.”

The End


Jackk N. Killington lives in Missouri where he writes, works, and hangs out with his beautiful muse. You can find him on Facebook, Twitter, and his website where he has a list of his published works and other things. Go to:  Fiction Writer | Jackk N. Killington.


The Chamber Improves Its Home Page

The Chamber Magazine has improved its format. Among these is that for interviews the author’s photo goes on the front page with the interview title. Also, featured photos for stories and poems also go on the front page. Check out its new face. We have also added a countdown feature on the Upcoming Stories page to let you know the time remaining to the next issue. Let us know your thoughts.

A public service message from The Chamber Magazine

“The Abomination” Fiction by John Ormsby

Father Marc assumed his usual seat in the front pew of St Jude Church and unfastened his collar. Each evening after mass the old Jesuit liked to collect his thoughts for several minutes before extinguishing the candles and clearing the altar. His church had a cheery interior by day but sunset draped a grey cowl over the building which he didn’t like, entombing everyone and everything inside. Now peering into the shadowy recesses around him, he decided he’d turn on more lights for evening mass, even in summer.

In a grotto to the left of the altar stood a life-sized statue of the Virgin Mary, illuminated by several rows of red offertory candles. Earlier in the day an elderly parishioner had brought in a dozen crimson roses from her garden and asked if she might lay them at the statue’s feet. In the flickering candlelight the carefully arranged blossoms created a dramatic effect against the white linen which he now believed merited closer inspection. Genuflecting before the altar, he followed the raised marble railing which led to the grotto.

Father Marc gingerly lowered himself onto the wooden prayer kneeler before the Virgin. He could remain thus only briefly before his knees locked and he leaned forward to transfer some of his body weight onto the wooden book rest. The solitary figure studied the statue’s expression and thought she looked more melancholy than he last remembered, while the Virgin’s gaze never wavered from the front entrance to the church. Reaching over the rows of offertory candles, Father Marc selected one of the roses to enjoy its scent but discovered it had none. Disappointed, he replaced it and began counting the number of offertory candles lit that day by the hopeful.

Nineteen, no… twenty. Good, but will there be $20 in the donations box, I wonder? I doubt those three lads threw in anything, the little monkeys.

A deep, sinister chuckle rose from within the shadows behind him at this last remark. Father Marc tensed and the hair stood up on his arms; he was not alone. For a moment he thought he’d unknowingly locked in a straggler but dismissed the idea just as quickly. Every instinct told him this was not a believer. The laugh was not human.

“Let me blow those out for you, Father,” came the low, menacing snarl. “You know me… I prefer to work in the dark.”

This time the guttural growl came from much closer yet he’d heard no footsteps. His blood froze and his knees were now on fire as he tried to stand without success. Bracing his arms against the book rest he looked to the Virgin for guidance but her gaze was fixed on what was approaching while her expression had changed from melancholy to pity.

Help me, Blessed Virgin. What has come into my church?

“She can’t hear you, you fool!” the voice snapped angrily. “But I’m listening to your every thought.” It then softened in tone but couldn’t conceal an underlying rage. “Don’t be afraid. I’ve journeyed a long way to find you.”

In one final effort Father Marc managed to get to his feet and turned around but saw no one. The church appeared empty but he knew this was not the case because every nerve in his body  

screamed he was in mortal danger. Whatever was hiding was playing a game. Waiting. Watching.

“I need to make a confession,” the voice whined mockingly. “I’m about to revert to my old ways and you wouldn’t want that, now would you? Won’t you come in and join me? I really don’t want to have to come out there and get you,” it hissed.

At that moment the light above the confessional door lit up, giving the cleric a start. It was in there waiting for him. Father Marc took a tentative step towards the confessional then stopped. As a Jesuit he’d been trained not to fear evil and although every instinct was telling him to flee this was not an option. Whatever had entered his church had no right being there and he grew angry, not only at the defilement but the sheer audacity of the act. And as his anger grew, so did his resolve. His training taking over, he advanced slowly forward.

Blessed Mother, stay with your poor servant.

“It’s only you I want for now, Father,” the voice threatened. “I’ll deal with her later…”

Father Marc was no longer listening to the demon behind the door. Whispering the Act of Contrition, he was imagining what God looked like. He hoped his creator would be forgiving and reward him for what he was about to face in his name. The priest also wondered where God was at this very moment. Was he watching events here on Earth? Was this a test? Was the plan to intercede at the last moment and then reward him for his faith? His mind now racing, Father Marc hadn’t noticed that the sun had now set, plunging the church into total darkness except for the candlelit grotto and the ominous light above the confessional door.

His knees no longer hurt and he’d regained control over his breathing. The only sound was the loose change in his pocket which rattled with every step. He tried to visualise the demon that lay in wait for him and how best to fight it, fully aware the odds did not favour an old man. Martyrdom seemed inevitable and Father Marc accepted his fate with the same grace as previous Jesuits while his mind continued to release thousands of memories, one of which was a prayer his grandfather had taught him as a child:

Aronhiate, onne aonstaniouas taitenr

“You don’t know which gods to call upon, do you?” the fiend tormented him. “How pleased do you think they’ll be to learn you’ve been playing them off against each other all these years? If you’re afraid now wait until they get hold of you…”

When Father Marc arrived at the confessional the light above the door went out. Maintaining his composure, he pulled a plastic lighter from his shirt pocket and flicked it. He listened for any type of sound coming from inside the confessional but the church was shrouded in silence as if every living thing was hiding and holding its breath. His left temple ached and his stomach started turning somersaults.

God have mercy on my soul.

He reached for the door handle but his right hand stopped short and hovered above it, shaking, while the small flame from his lighter continually rose and fell, threatening to abandon him at any given moment. Now scarcely breathing, he silently closed his grip on the door handle and was about to turn it when he had a revelation.

It’s behind me.

Before he could turn around Father Marc was set upon. The old cleric was seized from behind and hurled across the church, landing in a broken heap beside the grotto. Disoriented and bleeding badly, he was again raised off the ground and slammed face-first into the prayer kneeler before the statue of Our Lady. He clung onto the book rest with the last of his strength, realising this was where his enemy wanted him. Daring to open his eyes, he tried to focus but all he could make out was a pool of blood at the feet of the Virgin where the roses had once been.

“We need to talk, old man,” rasped the voice, its breathing now heavy and laboured. “It’s coming and I know you feel it too, which explains that ancient prayer.”

Father Marc couldn’t speak but he knew his thoughts were no longer his own. He also knew these were to be his last moments on Earth, a prospect which now filled him with joy because he was ready to meet his god.

You thought it was me, that’s why you came here.

“Yes, I now know you were only a diversion; a fatal mistake on your part.”

We all have roles to play and I’ve played mine.

“And I’m getting closer each time.”

Time is against you. It’s started and you can’t stop it. No one can.

“I can make one night last a thousand years,” the demon reminded the Jesuit, “or have you forgotten that?”

Raging it had wasted time pursuing the wrong quarry, the fiend had nonetheless gleaned vital information in its race to find answers, but it didn’t like being mocked and Father Marc would pay dearly for his defiance. All promises of mercy were now forgotten as the demon snapped the priest’s head back, breaking his neck, before bearing down for the final, frenzied attack upon Mary’s poor servant.


Bioography

Mr. Ormsby states: “I grew up in Toronto and now live in Lancashire, England where I teach high school. Ever since I can remember I’ve loved dark humour and thrillers, especially those which end in a cliffhanger because they force a panicked reader like me to take over the story from that point, otherwise I don’t sleep.”