Why The Chamber Publishes at 10:00 a.m. CDT on Fridays

The Chamber tries to gain the maximum exposure it can for the writers it publishes, not only in the US, but around the world. To assist people in deciding whether to submit works to The Chamber, I have added the following blurb to the top of the Submissions page:

In order to gain maximum exposure to the English-speaking world, new issues appear Fridays at 10:00 a.m. CDT/4:00 p.m. BST/8:30: p.m. IST/1:00 a.m. AEST (Saturdays).

Submissions | The Chamber Magazine

For those of you who may not be intimately familiar with time zone terminology, this breaks down as follows:

  • 10:00 a.m. CDT is US Central Daylight Time. This is the time in Chicago. It is 11:00 a.m. in New York City and 8:00 a.m. in Los Angeles. Publishing at this time gets exposure to all major population centers at a time when people are awake (having had their morning coffee or tea) and going through their day. Fridays were chosen, because, reportedly, many people are deciding what to read over the weekend on Fridays. That is why some writing groups and organizations advertise this as “Fiction Friday”.
  • 4:00 p.m. BST is British Standard Time. This is the time in London, England.
  • 8:30 p.m. IST is India Standard Time. This is the time in Mumbai, India, which has a large English-speaking portion of its population and probably the most English speakers between Cairo and Sydney.
  • 1:00 a.m. AEST is Australian Eastern Standard Time, the time zone containing the most populous cities in Australia (Sydney, Melbourne, Canberra, etc.)

Articles, updates, and announcements may be published at other times depending upon various factors including simply experiments to determine what practices garner the most readers or to focus on readers in a particular time zone. For that reason, some posts will appear or will be repeated at times such as 6:00 p.m. CDT or 3:00 a.m. CDT.

To do your own time zone calculations, I recommend using TimeandDate.com.

Appearing in The Chamber on May 7

New issues appear Fridays at 10:00 a.m. CDT/4:00 p.m. BST/1:00 a.m. AEST (Saturdays).

“The Collector” Fiction by Andrew Hughes

Andrew Hughes has been writing and publishing short stories for the past decade.

“The Man with a Mole in the Shape of a Cross” Fiction by Benjamin Umayam

Ben Umayam moved to NYC to write the Great American Filipino Short Story.

Five Poems by Edilson A. Ferreira

Mr. Ferreira, 77, is a Brazilian poet who writes in English rather than in Portuguese.

“Dia de Muertos” Poetry by John Tustin

John Tustin’s poetry has appeared in many disparate literary journals since 2009.

Three Poems by Melody Wang

Melody Wang dabbles in piano composition and also enjoys hiking, baking, and playing with her dogs.

Why The Chamber Publishes at 10:00 a.m. CDT on Fridays

The Chamber tries to gain the maximum exposure it can for the writers it publishes, not only in the US, but around the world. To assist people in deciding whether to submit works to The Chamber, I have added the following blurb to the top of the Submissions page:

In order to gain maximum exposure to the English-speaking world, new issues appear Fridays at 10:00 a.m. CDT/4:00 p.m. BST/8:30: p.m. IST/1:00 a.m. AEST (Saturdays).

Submissions | The Chamber Magazine

For those of you who may not be intimately familiar with time zone terminology, this breaks down as follows:

  • 10:00 a.m. CDT is US Central Daylight Time. This is the time in Chicago. It is 11:00 a.m. in New York City and 8:00 a.m. in Los Angeles. Publishing at this time gets exposure to all major population centers at a time when people are awake (having had their morning coffee or tea) and going through their day. Fridays were chosen, because, reportedly, many people are deciding what to read over the weekend on Fridays. That is why some writing groups and organizations advertise this as “Fiction Friday”.
  • 4:00 p.m. BST is British Standard Time. This is the time in London, England.
  • 8:30 p.m. IST is India Standard Time. This is the time in Mumbai, India, which has a large English-speaking portion of its population and probably the most English speakers between Cairo and Sydney.
  • 1:00 a.m. AEST is Australian Eastern Standard Time, the time zone containing the most populous cities in Australia (Sydney, Melbourne, Canberra, etc.)

Articles, updates, and announcements may be published at other times depending upon various factors including simply experiments to determine what practices garner the most readers or to focus on readers in a particular time zone. For that reason, some posts will appear or will be repeated at times such as 6:00 p.m. CDT or 3:00 a.m. CDT.

To do your own time zone calculations, I recommend using TimeandDate.com.

Appearing in The Chamber on May 7

New issues appear Fridays at 10:00 a.m. CDT/4:00 p.m. BST/1:00 a.m. AEST (Saturdays).

“The Collector” Fiction by Andrew Hughes

Andrew Hughes has been writing and publishing short stories for the past decade.

“The Man with a Mole in the Shape of a Cross” Fiction by Benjamin Umayam

Ben Umayam moved to NYC to write the Great American Filipino Short Story.

Five Poems by Edilson A. Ferreira

Mr. Ferreira, 77, is a Brazilian poet who writes in English rather than in Portuguese.

“Dia de Muertos” Poetry by John Tustin

John Tustin’s poetry has appeared in many disparate literary journals since 2009.

Three Poems by Melody Wang

Melody Wang dabbles in piano composition and also enjoys hiking, baking, and playing with her dogs.

Submit Your Dark Fiction and Poetry to The Chamber

The Chamber Magazine is seeking articles, reviews, essays, poems, and short stories of approximately 7,500 words (note revised word limit) 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.

Welcome genres include:

  • horror
  • fantasy
  • action-adventure
  • suspense/thriller
  • literary
  • science fiction
  • historical
  • mystery/crime
  • noir
  • romance
  • Western
  • experimental
  • cyberpunk
  • steampunk
  • weird fiction
  • gothic
  • general
  • humor
  • any mixture of the above

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.

Submit Your Dark Fiction and Poetry to The Chamber

The Chamber Magazine
thechambermagazine.com

The Chamber Magazine is seeking articles, reviews, essays, poems, and short stories of approximately 7,500 words (note revised word limit) 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.

Welcome genres include:

  • horror
  • fantasy
  • action-adventure
  • suspense/thriller
  • literary
  • science fiction
  • historical
  • mystery/crime
  • noir
  • romance
  • Western
  • experimental
  • cyberpunk
  • steampunk
  • weird fiction
  • gothic
  • general
  • humor
  • any mixture of the above

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 Sociopath’s Lament” Fiction by Tim Carter

The Chamber Magazine
thechambermagazine.com

I awoke to a shape standing at the foot of my bed. A man-sized figure, black against dim moonlight leaking through floral-print curtains. He was more a vacancy of light than a person, and utterly still.

It was deep into the night. Perhaps 2 AM or later. Somewhere in the house our dog, Noodles, barked furiously. Angela named the little monster and I accept no responsibility for the mutt or the name. He yapped as small dogs do, with much anger but little effect.

He certainly didn’t deter the thing at the foot of my bed. The figure didn’t speak. It took me a few seconds to remember that Angela was visiting family in Portland. The bedroom door was closed, the dog going mad somewhere on the other side.

My heart raced; my body paralyzed with terror. I ran through ways to fight off an intruder. None seemed realistic. I’m only five-foot-six, maybe one hundred and fifty-five pounds. I lay flat on my back, barely awake, betrayed by my own frozen muscles.

He glided up the side of the bed. I couldn’t see his face and it came to mind that he wasn’t a  human intruder at all but a demon. A malevolent spirit with an otherworldly purpose. He laughed softly. Then he was gone. Neither door nor windows moved or made a sound.

I knew then he’d come to haunt me.

Still, I got up, pulled on my robe and checked the house, just in case.

We live in North Burnaby, a quiet suburb on the edge of Vancouver. Successive municipal governments blanketed the place in streetlights. When the wind blows, they conspire with overgrown pines to fill my modest pied-a-terre with moving shadows. It’s an old house, 1950s, the best I could do on a teacher’s salary.

On a good night, the shadows provide amusing distractions. Now they kept my fear at a low simmer, as if to soft boil me, like an egg. Might be I was rattled, too. A burglar would have been a one-off event, cured by the police, insurance, and a few stiff drinks.

This was different. A beginning.

It was Dieter Runge’s fault, the prick. Runge taught film studies and PE at the school where I chaired the English department. I had been thinking about his neck when I fell asleep. Specifically, about my hands around his neck, thick with muscle and fat, squeezing. About the smell of him, sweat soaking up through his grey hoodie and onto my chest as I choked the life out of him.

I often indulged such thoughts while alone in bed. Runge wore a stopwatch on a cord around his neck, a badge of manliness or something similarly toxic. Sometimes, for variety, I used the cord to garrotte him. Getting both hands inside the loop and twisting, hard, until his life flowed into nothing. Mostly, though, I preferred a more personal narrative. There was something uniquely exciting to his bare, tuna-steak flesh under my fingers.

I had fallen asleep with this film running in my head, my very own pornographic masterpiece of murder. Somehow, in the moment of transition between waking and oblivion, the fantasy must have opened a portal. A door to a darker place that allowed a demon to slip into my bedroom. Maybe even invited him.

So ok, it was probably more my fault than Dieter’s. But he was still a prick. The kind of man who’d been bullying his peers since he was six years old, when a growth spurt and an affinity for junk food had first given him an advantage. He had this way of standing too close to you even when you weren’t arguing, making the point that he was bigger and stronger.

Besides, I’ve never known a PE teacher who wasn’t a tyrant. A certain insecurity-driven assholeness is practically cooked into the job description.

At this point, I hadn’t actually strangled anyone. Not for real. Some people are haunted by what they’ve done. I was haunted by what I wanted to do.

Which made the demon doubly terrifying. Because how could I defend myself? You can control your actions. You’re responsible for your actions. Nobody controls their desires. The heart wants what it wants, as Emily Dickenson or Selena Gomez will tell you.

Neither daylight nor professional boundaries inhibited my demon. He followed me to work, watching me from under a reaper’s jet-black hood, eerily motionless at the end of a long, brightly lit corridor. The school’s fluorescent lighting was no match for his impenetrable darkness.

Students crowded around him, oblivious. I wondered if he was in my head. The prospect did not make him any less terrifying.

Kids today are punks. Clog a hallway with a hundred of them and you’ll find dozens of twisted souls. Probably more. The shit on their phones alone would turn your hair grey. Incest fantasy porn and CGI dismemberment scenes barely scratch the surface. It didn’t matter.

He wasn’t there for them.

He was there for me.

I’m not brave. If he’d asked for something, I’d have done it. He scared the crap out of me, dark and silent and knowing. That was the worst of it. The unspoken realization that he knew everything. It left me naked, my dreadful secrets laid bare, like snakes on a stone floor with nowhere to hide.

Angela returned that night. After so many years, there’s a threshold for how long she has to be gone before I miss her. A week is about right, and that was dead-on this time.

I was hoping her return would chase him away. We had a nice dinner. Afterwards we began to make love.

I felt him before I saw him, watching us over a bedside sconce. Angela’s skin warmed under my fingers, and he began to whisper. Not words I could comprehend, but something. A demonic mantra, maybe. Low, urgent, and demanding. A perfect echo of my desire.

Turned on, Angela responded to my touch, and usually that’s enough to get me going. Now, though, fear and hunger fed my arousal like wind into a bonfire. Each gust pushed the flames, and they in turn sucked harder. Lust hit me like a low-voltage current, curling my fingers and making my heart stutter. I buried my face in Angela’s shoulder so she wouldn’t see my cheek twitching.

I wanted to bite her, to taste blood, to push a forearm into her trachea and feel the way she moved when she couldn’t breathe. Less rhythmic, almost twitchy with excitement. That’s how I got my taste for it. It’s probably why I married her. I pinned her down and she gasped. She couldn’t hear the whispering, but she felt the effects and shuddered in anticipation.

I didn’t dare go further. There’s a line I never crossed, not in how far I went but in how I felt about it in the moment. Fall into that kind of love and you’ll never dig yourself out.

So ultimately it was unsatisfying. Like an alcoholic taking a single sip of communion wine. My demon’s whispers rose and fell with Angela’s orgasm, both tinged with disappointment.

The demon disappeared after we finished. But not for long. From that point onward he was never gone for long. I’d catch him following me. Or sometimes leading, since naturally he knew where I was going. I started looking for him when I left the house, but that only made it worse. The act of looking itself put him in my mind, a haunting by a haunting.

Desperate, I accompanied Angela to church. I’m a sporadic worshipper at best. Angela’s a regular and she was pleased. By then I was willing to try anything.

I might not be devout, but I believe. I hoped God might help. What a joke. The bastard demon walked right past me, up the stairs and into the church. I halfway expected him to hold the heavy oak door for one of the old ladies that made up most of our congregation.

I refused to be intimidated. Or to acknowledge it, anyway. Instead, I prayed. It didn’t help. They were just words thrown into a vacuum. We’re Anglicans, which is nice and all, but far too feeble for a demon situation. I needed Southern Baptists, or some crazy-as-hell Pentecostal lunatics with fire and brimstone and a screaming preacher speaking in tongues to even hope to make a dent.  

Instead, I had Father McGee. Kindly and fat, he excelled at holding the hands of the dying, and his brownies cleaned up at bake sales. He was no help to me at all.

Brazen as all hell, my demon made himself comfortable at the end of my pew. Multicolored rays of light from the stained-glass windows disappeared into him as the sun rose. Like he was sucking piety with a straw and never getting full.

Anglicans aren’t big on confession, but it’s an option. I figured I’d try. Maybe Father McGee could refer me to someone more qualified, or at least more fearsome.

I slipped into the booth. The gate slid open with a harsh snap of wood striking wood and, naturally, the fucking demon leaned in from the other side. The audacity of it gave me a momentary flash of courage.

“You can’t judge me. You of all people. I haven’t done anything. I haven’t done anything.” 

I could see his face now. Familiar, but black as if burned, with dark eyes that didn’t blink.

“Desires aren’t sins. And I don’t feel guilty. Not a bit.”

His smile answered for him. He didn’t believe a word of it. I might as well have been talking to myself.

“Well, fuck you then. I’ll go to a shrink. He’ll listen. The more I talk, the stronger the prescription. And that’ll be the end of it. And of you, too.”

He gave a small, knowing tilt of his head. Calling my bluff. It’s hard to lie to someone who knows your secrets. More than knows, who collects them. Hoards them like rare truffles still smelling of dirt and rot. He casually slid the gate closed, as if bored.

As we drove home, my fear and paranoia grew deeper, richer. My hands shook. Angela asked if I’d had too much coffee. What could I tell her?

He started to visit me in my dreams. I would be giving a lecture on Twelfth Night and realize I was in pyjamas, old flannel ones with stains, and the whole class was laughing. He sat at the back or leaned casually on a shelf filled with old textbooks.

I slept less and less, and the world became fuzzy around the edges. Angela cancelled a painting retreat on a small island off the coast, a favourite for her, out of love and concern.

It was no help. He was with me always.

I could feel a breaking point approaching. I’d eat breakfast or step into a class, and I’d want to scream, to run, to tear out my hair. Anything to make him go away, or even just to be cloaked again for a while, to make my secrets secret again. Instead, I’d sip my tea or open a textbook with shaking hands and fake normalcy as best I could.

It happened, finally, in a kind of waking dream. It started with Noodles, once again losing her goddamn mind at two in the morning. This time Angela was fast asleep beside me.

At least I wasn’t paralysed, and I didn’t want him in the bedroom. Some small shred of decency compelled me to leave Angela out of it. I pulled on the robe and a pair of slippers and left.

The bedroom door opened not into my living room, but instead a school hallway, pitch black, trapped like me in the wasting hours of the night. The waning moon left the building dark and silent, but for the whispering.

I fled, down the hallway and around a corner and then another. The school was a maze that didn’t end. Running was pointless, but that’s dreams for you.

I grabbed a locker to help me turn, the slippers being less than ideal for escaping demons. My hand came away sticky and I saw that it was covered in blood. That I was covered in blood, as if dipped into a deep vat, as if I’ve fallen down a deep and sunless well of crimson.

I stumbled, leaving rusty red smears on doorknobs and lockers, half-slipping footprints trailing back to the black, pursuing shape of the thing.

The whispers invaded my brain and I understood them for the first time. Like tentacles of thought wrapping through grey matter, they wanted to pry me into two. Here, my desires. Naked, shameful, repellant and yet thirsty. So thirsty. Over there my conscience, horrified and covered in blood and aroused and horrified anew to be turned on so. An unsustainable Escher drawing of desire and repulsion.

As the one became two, I had to choose. I couldn’t be both. The demon whispered his advice and I took it, clinging to desire at the expense of all else. I guess you could call it fate.

My disassociated twin ran beside me. Two men, both in plaid robes, pelting down school corridors with torment hard on our heels.

I regressed. Fight or flight, kill or be killed. I threw an elbow, knocking my conscience into the monster’s path. Better him than me.

He slipped and hit the floor, but to my dismay the demon refused to do my dirty work. My other half clawed his way up and closed on me, neck and neck with the demon. I couldn’t tell you which I feared most.

It seemed for a moment that they merged. That somehow, that was the secret. My demon and my conscience were one.

In that flash of insight, I turned and tackled my blood-soaked other half. I expected him to be ghostlike, ephemeral. Instead, the impact shuddered all the way down my spine.

We slid across the linoleum floor in a tangled mess. I took the wind out of him, though, and so ended on top. I kept him flat on his back, my full weight on his chest. I found his throat with my hands and clamped down. How could I know that this would be my first real killing?

He struggled desperately and I took a little pride in that. I could admire him even though I knew he had to go. I wish I could tell you I felt remorse, but that would be a lie. I needed to end it, and this was how.

The light went out of his eyes slowly, like sliding a dimmer switch down to the final notch.

You can’t make friends with your demons. That’s a myth. But you can come to a livable arrangement. Once I’d made the sacrifice, the terror dissipated. I miss him, my other half. I know I should feel sad. Or guilty. I don’t. I guess in the end, that’s what I’ve lost.

But you can’t live in terror your whole life. You’d surely go mad.


Tim Carter is a writer of stories, video games, film and TV.  He is known for MORTAL KOMBAT: LEGACY, the DEAD RISING series of movies, and the award-winning video game SLEEPING DOGS. He lives in Vancouver, Canada with his wife, two dogs, and a disgruntled cat.


“Somewhere” Poetry by Stephen House

The Chamber Magazine
thechambermagazine.com
1

he’s staring into black oily water 
asks how much life i’ve got saved in my now 

it’s disappearing 
i sold some to everyone 
and they owe me for yesterday and the year before  

he puts out his shaking grip
i feed him a pinch and he blazes

so true floating in starlight 
walking on water with you last night 
with the pipe music from who-ever was below 
true and new and warm inside 

your beautiful face and body repeat 
and the way we held each other in the room at the end

was that the end of everywhere 
or just the beginning

how all of the fear of nothing 
and wondering where too from here 
disappear into space 
when the times are so here that the real is no longer the real 

that’s what’s so good about this
when the real is no longer the real

when we are only in us

2

some things mean more to me than what never was
this way i am now isn’t where i’m really at

honestly 

i am somebody 

you’d be surprised what i was doing before all this 
and i’ll get back to it again  
i know what i can do and be

and he hovers softly and i stare into the face 
of a soul like i was once 
where are you from actually 

he says from somewhere i could never be  
and for a moment i remember my other self 
when the world was still the world 
and the way to wander was all ok

and i was ok 

i wasn’t here once 
i could’ve kept doing it there 
been who i should’ve been

truth sits in current death count gone

realized or ignored

3

and he drifts to near the crying river 
it’s grey and the moon shines silver-blue 
in tune with slow deep singing 

far away

dancing never seen 

he says that it’s late and that we’ve got stuff to do
and why don’t we head off
and we crawl silently along the path to where he says
we must

we go and stop in slide 

together
him and me 

and a little bit of love 
is a little bit of love

in nowhere 

Stephen House has won many awards and nominations as a poet, playwright and actor. He’s received several international literature residencies from The Australia Council and an Asia-link residency. His chapbook “real and unreal” was published by ICOE Press. He’s published often and performs his acclaimed monologues widely.






“Clowns at the End of the World” Fiction by Thomas White

The Chamber Magazine
thechambermagazine.com

Billie Jay Radio never thought the End of the World would look like this. His grandmother, a member of a weird cult, had gloomily foretold something far more impressive: horned beasts rising from the sea, raging locust hoards, falling stars, cosmic torrents of blood, spectacular angelic – demonic air battles. Great scenarios for a new disaster flick, but the reality of the actual apocalypse, as it unfolded, was quite different. First, there was the breakdown of shopping mall culture.

Shoppers could no longer browse freely through malls without being obstructed by merchandise–computers, TVs, furniture, stacks of Nike running shoes–dumped into the commons areas by clerks with vacant eyes and odd mouths that seemed to both snarl and smile. Rampant looting appeared to be in progress. Billie Jay thought of those old newsreels of the 60s urban riots he had seen in his history class. However, here the store employees were stripping their own shelves.  Even the manager of the local Salvation Army outlet was seen cleaning out his used clothing bins and hurling green polyester pants into growing piles of designer suits and dresses. When confronted by a mall security guard, the disheveled man only mumbled incoherently about “the end being near.”

 Billie Jay, however, knew there was a real problem when Ashley Baker, the normally very efficient waitress at his favorite upscale mall café, refused to take his order for a double latté, instead calling him a “fuck head who is wasting my time.” Then unleashing a stream of obscenities against Billie Jay—sparked by nothing in particular— she finished with a roaring insult: “And no body is going to tell you to ‘have a nice day’ for the end of days is at hand!” Again, there was the same weird look that he had seen on the faces of other mall employees, a bizarre mask of cruelty and cheerfulness.

Day after day, week after week a race of (otherwise normal looking) weirdos was emerging, dangerous, unpredictable, no longer knowing how to wish customers a nice day or caring about the expensive products they marketed to the well-heeled consumers.

 Soon there was an even more alarming trend. Customers, Billie Jay observed, no longer rushed frantically through the malls looking for bargains. While they could have in fact easily carted away looted state-of-the-art electronic hardware or designer suits, these ex- consumers merely shoved the items aside. Entire mall areas were thus cleared of abandoned merchandise to make room for wrestling matches, Frisbee throwing, dice games, kickboxing, and skateboarding (an extreme version that sought to run down women pushing baby strollers). The security guard, who had confronted the Salvation Army outlet manager for dumping old trousers, was now acting just as strangely, first warmly embracing random passersby, and then violently grappling them to the floor. Others leaped into the fray, until bodies were writhing in heaps like rugby scrums or mass orgies. The old scripts guaranteeing the stability and predictability of life were being lost to rampant social amnesia. This trend was even surfacing in Billie Jay’s professional life. As a seller of gentrified properties, Billie Jay once could count on at least greed as an absolute. Yet even that was slipping away. One couple insisted on negotiating a higher price, and then excused themselves right in the middle of the open house viewing to use the bathroom together. Disgusted by the flushing, giggling, and grunting sounds, Billie Jay waited outside. At least they immediately signed the contract for twice the list price (though he barely shook their damp hands).

Then one day (to make matters worse) the circus came to town. Curiously, though the performers never really seemed to perform, they were instead aimlessly wandering through streets causing traffic jams. Men and women in tights, with the stereotypical appearance of graceful high wire trapeze artists, made obscene gestures at the furious, swearing motorists. Jugglers, aggressively accosting pedestrians, deliberately scattered their balls on street corners causing a hazard. Yet the performers still angrily demanded what they called “entertainment user fees.” Puzzled, Billie Jay searched the internet–even read the newspapers and called the local arts center—for performance information but could find no evidence of any scheduled performance dates. Apparently, the circus was no longer really the circus but had changed into something else. What that was Billie Jay Radio would soon find out.

One afternoon while shopping cross-town at another mall not yet stricken by the strange anti-consumer madness, he observed a gang of clowns roaming through the parking lot. Some thin (indeed borderline anorexic), a few portly, others almost dwarfish, the clowns, their makeup streaming profusely like sweat, and baggy costumes hanging in dirty tatters, bellowed, shook their fists and scattered flyers. Billie Jay picked one up one and read it: The End of Days is upon us. Forget your old scripts and narratives. Everything is changing including the End of Days itself.

Cautiously, at a discreet distance, Billie Jay followed them into the mall (avoiding the slippery, buttery trail of their red and white grease paint). Squatting behind a large pot plant in the atrium, he watched one of the clowns–nasty scowl, bloodshot eyes and stained, pointed teeth emerging from behind his thinning makeup–enter the administrative offices.  Loud scuffling sounds, shouts, and then the clown burst out, waving a pistol at the neck of a scrawny, trembling man–farting uncontrollably from fear. His nametag read, Harold Sorrow, Customer Care Specialist.

With military-like precision, the clowns then marched their hostage through the parting crowds of oddly silent shoppers to the mall’s central commons where a platform, microphone, podium, and chairs had been set up amid the piles of consumer goods. While the lead clown still aimed his pistol at the now crying, still farting, customer care representative, his clownish cohorts mingled casually, as if networking at a cocktail party, among the onlookers, distributing the same ominous flyers. Cranking an erect arm up like a Nazi’s salute, the lead clown strutted, prodding his hostage, followed by his colleagues, up onto the stage. From one baggy, ragged pocket, he pulled a sheaf of paper while carefully still aiming the gun at the whimpering hostage who had curled up in the fetal position on the stage. The clown read in a thunderous voice:

“We are the Clowns from another dimension of reality here to announce that the human race has entered into a new stage: no longer can you count on even the most ordinary desire, hunger or need. Nor can you predict–or hope—that people will behave in any ‘normal human manner.’ In fact, your lives, all societies, the entire globe, as I speak, are lapsing into a series of unscripted pratfalls, thoughtless stunts, clownish blunders, random absurd acts–a ‘circus’ of sorts but one that is funny and dangerous, comical and brutal. In other words, once you paid admission to laugh at me and my ilk… (The clown paused, and waved at the other clowns who clumsily danced, made silly faces, then bowed to the mildly tittering audience) …. however, you will now rage at me for what I am about to do, ‘unexpected behavior’ (clown flashes a smirking smile) from a person normally paid a low wage to amuse the jaded public.(The clown shoots the customer care representative who squeezes into an even tighter fetal ball, then unfurls limply, blood trickling from the back of his neck.   The clown’s red eyes blazed even more fiercely. He bares pointed teeth. Growls escape from his foaming, wrinkled lips).

Very theatrical manner, Billie Jay noted mentally, smiling to himself, again still watching from behind a nearby pot plant. In case the Seven O’ Clock news would interview him later, he mulled over possible sound bites.

As if on cue, there were shouts and sounds of people scrambling and running. CNN camera operators were rushing toward the stage, but gathering even more speed galloped by it, ignoring the bleeding customer service rep’s body and the mad clowns, who were now singing obscene songs at the top of their lungs while the crazed, laughing audience clapped along. Curious as well as bored with the meaningless scenes before him, Billie Jay dashed after the CNN crew, who by now were filming scantily clad models in front of the mall’s Victoria’s Secret outlet. Perhaps if he could tell the film crew what he had witnessed, he could cleverly work in some references to his real estate business. Finding more deranged customers who insisted on paying above market prices would be super. Maybe this new weird, apocalyptic world would not be so bad after all.


Thomas White’s poems, fiction, and essays have appeared in online and print magazines in Australia, the United States, and Canada. In addition, he is a Wiley-Blackwell Journal author, and contributor to various non-literary journals on topics ranging from the meaning of Evil to reality as a computer simulation.  

“The Green Road” Fiction by John O’Donovan

     Come rain or sunshine, John Connors wore the same blue denim jacket to school every day. It was a gift from his father when he came home for a visit last Christmas. The jacket had an inside pocket where there was a letter inside an envelope. The address on the envelope: Mr. Joseph Connors, The Green Road, Ballysimon, Limerick, Ireland. On the back of the envelope, the return address: Mr. Michael Connors, 34 Weston Street #4B, London, England. His grandfather gave the boy the letter to hold it and fill his naive young heart with hope.

     “Grandpa, why does Daddy have to go and live in England?” the boy asked his grandfather.

     “Because that’s where the jobs are and he’s a fine, good carpenter with no work here abouts,” the grandfather replied.

     The boy didn’t know much about his mother. It was not talked. He only knew, “She ran off with the tinkers…too young, too wild.”

     The Green Road was named after the Green family; farmers who lived on that road years ago.

The square, two story house was still there, but abandoned, overgrown with vines of ivy, since old Mrs. Green passed away. Vandals had not yet discovered it. The front entry door, and windows shut down tight.  There was a gray stone wall to front, mottled white with lichen, and a large iron gate with plywood attached, to keep people from seeing in.  

     On his way to and from school the boy passed, not seeing, until one day, the gate open just a crack. It called out to him… John, come visit. He squeezed through. There were out houses; stalls for horses, a hay barn made of four metal stilts with a rust ridden galvanized roof. All falling into ruin, but there was something else; something lives, something watching. His skin began to crawl. He backed away. He went to school.

     Inside the house the watcher watched. He watched the boy through the tattered curtain lace. He had been waiting for him. He set the trap. “He’ll be back.” the watcher said aloud  to the emptiness.

     A two room school in a one street village. The girl was there. When they passed, she smiled at him. Dolores, I would die for you, as her green-blue virgin eyes seared his virgin soul.

     Coming home from school, he came again to the Green house. The gate  still open, he entered. There was an old rusted milk tankard lying sideways. He sat on it, as if to ponder. On the floor of the yard, a large crack ran from the main house to a drain hole in the center. A cluster of dandelion grew in the drain hole, bright green leaves and yellow flowers in stark contrast to the gray-black cobblestone floor.

      He took the letter out, to read again. ‘Dear Father, I will be down in your country next week. I will stop in to see my son, for his  birthday, what is he now, twelve? My gosh, he’s almost a man. See you then. Love, Mike.’

     “To see my son,” The boy said the words aloud. “To see my son…I love her.” His words echoed all around the empty yard followed by a long silence. He felt a chill, like something cold caressed him. Suddenly, a wind came up as a large black cloud swallowed the evening sun. He got up to leave, to run…he heard a noise. Someone was in the house.

     Run John, run…but it was too late. An older man was at the back door. They stared at each other.

     The man spoke, “I don’t suppose you have a fag on you?”

     “No sir, I don’t smoke.”

     A small dog, a Jack Russell terrier, came bounding out and ran to the boy with great energy and excitement. 

     John Connors studied the man briefly. He reminded him of his Uncle Ned, his father’s older brother. They went fishing once, down in the big river.

     “’Tis a dirty habit, don’t be takin’ it up. He won’t hurt you, he’s only a puppy. Jim Gorman here, I’m thinking about buying the place, just checking it out,” the old man said.

      “There’s a girl in my school, I think I love her…and my father is coming to visit,” the boy said as he petted the dog.

     “That’s grand, what’s your name?” the man said, “Will you come in and have a cup of tea with me, looks like there’s a shower coming?

     John Connors remembered then, his grandfather’s dire warning, “Don’t ever take up with strangers, you don’t know what they have in mind for you. “ Yet, the fateful words escaped his lips: “John Connors, sure I will.”

     The old man gently put one hand on the boy’s shoulder and with the other, closed the door behind them as the first splatters of raindrops smacked the cobblestone yard.

      Four hours later, John Connors’ blood streamed it’s way along the jagged crack to the drain hole. In the red-black liquid, a crescent moon reflected, dancing with the ripples. Come daylight, the yellow dandelion flowers would be dead; too much iron from the blood.

     A worker found his body in the rock quarry, ten days later. He was naked except for his blue denim jacket. His genitals had been surgically removed and his eyes gouged out leaving two black empty holes. His lips were pulled back into a grimace, and the letter from his father; folded neatly between his young, near perfect teeth.  His father; the fine, good carpenter, had gone back to England. He never came home for the funeral.


John O’Donovan is an emigrant from Ireland to the U.S. He is a retired carpenter, living in Southern California with his wife and two small dogs. His short stories have appeared in Mason Street Review and Brief Wilderness.

Interview with Author and Poet Yash Seyedbagheri

Yash Seyedbagheri, contributor
The Chamber Magazine thechambermagazine.com

Biography:

I was born and grew up in Boise, Idaho, attended Boise State University, graduated with a BA in political science and went on to Colorado State University to pursue my MFA degree in creative writing (fiction). I graduated from the MFA in 2018, and have lived in in Garden Valley, Idaho since July 2019.

What is your greatest accomplishment as a writer so far?

I would say the several Pushcart nominations I’ve received. I greatly moves me that others see something special in my work, in my craft. So, it’s certainly a good signpost for me moving forward!

Why do you write?

I write because I feel an impulse to write, to create worlds on the page and release my wild imagination. I also write to dissect human behaviors and social conventions.

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 try to write in the morning if I can. Sometimes, I’ll listen to classical music, especially Debussy or Tchaikovsky to provide that needed emotional wellspring to produce. With flash fiction pieces, I can often write and rework a piece in a single setting and send things out the same day. Of course, I probably should let some pieces percolate a bit, which is something I’m trying to do more.

In terms of rituals, I like to try to submit to at least six literary journals a day (and often many more). I like to keep up the habit and submit constantly! I’m addicted to submission! I also seek inspiration from my 3-4 daily walks, whether it’s in shadows, Ponderosas swaying, or a butter-colored light glowing at dusk.

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

I’m a member of a writing group, so with longer stories I do tend to get them workshopped. I also occasionally send poems to friends here and there.

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

I’m always working on something! I am specifically considering writing a novel set in an MFA program, about legacies and egos (with considerable comic elements). I know writing about writing and writing programs is often verboten, but I’d like to challenge that convention.

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’ve just had a flash fiction piece accepted at SmokeLong Quarterly, which is a real thrill for me! Otherwise, I’m just submitting away!

What do you hope to achieve as a writer?

I’d ideally like to get a short story collection published. Possibly a flash fiction collection. And hopefully a novel. But I really believe the short story collection has been overlooked too frequently and flash fiction even more so.

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

I haven’t received bad reviews per se, but I have received constructive critiques of some submissions. And I think they can be helpful. In particular, I think they signal that someone was attracted to a piece and it’s worth continuing to pursue.

What advice do you have for novice writers?

I’d say try to write daily, if possible. Even if it’s a mere 50 words. I’d also say don’t be afraid to submit. Yes, it can be frightening, but having a rejection is proof that you put your work out there. And if you keep submitting and really targeting your submissions, you have a great shot at getting work published!

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

Duotrope has been particularly helpful, due to its wide database of lit mags and various metrics, including journals with fast response times, most approachable, etc. It also gives you a sense of response trends at certain venues, given that so many post their responses.

I’d also say joining a writing group can be helpful. It gives you an impetus to write and submit by deadlines and, best case scenario, offers a range of voices and opinions. It’s especially helpful when multiple group members point out certain issues with a piece, as well as calling out the piece’s strengths.

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

I don’t have a website at the present and I tend to avoid social media when possible, but much of my work can be found online!

Is there anything else that you would like our readers to know?

I’m a self-proclaimed Romantic and a lover of Coen Brothers movies, especially The Big Lebowski. I wish I could abide like the Dude. But I tend to see travesties all around me like Walter Sobchak!

Appearing in The Chamber on April 30

The Chamber Magazine thechambermagazine.com

Interview with Author and Poet Yash Seyedbagheri

Yash Seyedbagheri has an MFA in Creative Writing and several Pushcart nominations.

“The Green Road” Fiction by John O’Donovan

A young boy in Ireland leads a dismal and tragic existence.

“Clowns at the End of the World” Fiction by Thomas White

Enter a middle-class apocalypse of malls, capitalism, and clowns.

“Somewhere” Poetry by Stephen House

A man reflects deeply on his relationship with another man.

“The Sociopath’s Lament” Fiction by Tim Carter

A man rides the fine line between nightmare and reality.

Appearing in The Chamber on April 30

The Chamber Magazine thechambermagazine.com

Interview with Author and Poet Yash Seyedbagheri

Yash Seyedbagheri has an MFA in Creative Writing and several Pushcart nominations.

“The Green Road” Fiction by John O’Donovan

A young boy in Ireland leads a dismal and tragic existence.

“Clowns at the End of the World” Fiction by Thomas White

Enter a middle-class apocalypse of malls, capitalism, and clowns.

“Somewhere” Poetry by Stephen House

A man reflects deeply on his relationship with another man.

“The Sociopath’s Lament” Fiction by Tim Carter

A man rides the fine line between nightmare and reality.

New Items in The Chamber’s Gift Shop

Over the last few days, I have added a few dozen new items, mostly t-shirts and coffee cups to The Chamber’s Gift Shop. These are beautifully dark, mysterious designs. Most are captioned with “The Chamber Magazine/ contemporary dark literature/ thechambermagazine.com” I have used imagery that shows people looking intensely at the viewer in order to not only catch the casual shopper’s attention but to hold it for a second or two as well. Check them out in the Gift Shop and let me know what you think. I am always open to constructive criticism. Nine of the new items are shown below.

New YouTube Video: “When That Time Comes…”

I had a sudden moment of inspiration this afternoon and created the video below. Let me know what you think. I welcome constructive criticism.

I think I made it at too low a resolution. I am not certain but that may actually help it a little, but then I am admittedly have a tendency toward confirmation bias.

Appearing in The Chamber on April 30

Interview with Author and Poet Yash Seyedbagheri

Yash Seyedbagheri has an MFA in Creative Writing and several Pushcart nominations.

“The Green Road” Fiction by John O’Donovan

A young boy in Ireland leads a dismal and tragic existence.

“Clowns at the End of the World” Fiction by Thomas White

Enter a middle-class apocalypse of malls, capitalism, and clowns.

“Somewhere” Poetry by Stephen House

A man reflects deeply on his relationship with another man.

“The Sociopath’s Lament” Fiction by Tim Carter

A man rides the fine line between nightmare and reality.

Submit Your Dark Fiction and Poetry to The Chamber

The Chamber Magazine is seeking articles, reviews, essays, poems, and short stories of approximately 7,500 words (note revised word limit) 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.

Welcome genres include:

  • horror
  • fantasy
  • action-adventure
  • suspense/thriller
  • literary
  • science fiction
  • historical
  • mystery/crime
  • noir
  • romance
  • Western
  • experimental
  • cyberpunk
  • steampunk
  • weird fiction
  • gothic
  • general
  • humor
  • any mixture of the above

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.

“It Was Only a Joke” Fiction by Susan Hatters Friedman

If I’d have known that it was going to kill him, of course I would never have done it. We were young and in love. It was a joke. 

The way he smelled. Like a forest.

His ID bracelet caught in my hair during our first kiss. 

Every single thing about him was sexy. It was 1985. We were nineteen and in love and he could have worn shoulder pads and a crop top and I would have thought he was sexy. 

I loved passing gum back and forth between our mouths when we were kissing. Yes, we were young.

I imagined him giving me the ID bracelet when we moved things to the next level. In novels, guys in the army gave women their ID bracelet. I hadn’t seen anyone our age wearing one. Maybe my gorgeous Michael was old-fashioned in this single lacuna. 

Lying in the grass, I played with it on his hairy arm. ‘You going to give me this one day?’ We were meant to be together.

Puzzled look. ‘Are you seriously allergic to shellfish too? You would also die of anaphylactic shock?’

I hadn’t realized that people wore medic-alert bracelets other than great-grandmothers.

We used to play word games. ‘I would walk through fire for you.’ 

‘I would transfer schools so we could wake up together every morning.’

‘I would do anything for you.’ 

Laughing and tipsy with the chardonnay, I passed him a shrimp instead of gum. 

It was only a joke.


Susan Hatters Friedman is a forensic psychiatrist, who is also pursuing a Masters in Crime Fiction at the University of Cambridge. Her creative writing can also be read in the Dillydoun Review, the Centifictionist, and forthcoming in Drunk Monkeys.

“Catacombs of the Doomed” Fiction by Steve Carr

Leaving the brothel through the alley exit in the middle of the night, Daniel took his wedding ring from his pants pocket and slid it on. In the chill and damp of heavy fog, he tucked in his shirt, zipped up his windbreaker, and lit a cigarette. He looked both ways down the long narrow brick lined alley. What little light there was coming from two lampposts at opposite ends of the alley were no more than small orbs of white light, like embers in a dying fire, surrounded by the thick hazy mist. Taking two puffs of the cigarette he turned toward the faint sound of traffic and began walking. His footsteps echoed along the walls like muted claps of thunder.

Passing by a dumpster reeking of rotting vegetables, he stopped, alarmed by a large gray rat that crossed his path and disappeared in the fog. He inhaled smoke from the cigarette and exhaled, blowing rings that dissipated, then continued on, picking up his pace.  Sensing he was coming to the end of the alley, but not able to clearly see the street ahead, he tried to visualize his location, and realized he had no idea whether to turn left or right once he reached the street. He threw the half-finished cigarette on the pavement. Ahead of him a figure clothed in attire like a nun’s habit appeared, then another, and then another.

Stopping, he tried to make out their faces, and wondered if it was the poor visibility of the night that made their head pieces to the long tunics that touched the ground look dark gray.

“Ladies,” he said, with a hint of questioning.

In the next instant a burlap bag was pulled down over his head and whatever hit him knocked him out cold.                                   

When he awoke, water sloshed around his feet and the scent of decayed earth and sewage filled his nostrils. As he shifted, chains around his wrists and ankles that held him against a slimy earthen wall rattled. The back of his head where he had been hit throbbed with pain. A flame from a single torch fixed to a wall in an otherwise dark corridor provided the only light. A row of bars separated the room he was in and the corridor. Dripping water echoed in the cold stillness.

“Help,!” he cried out.

“That will do you no good,” a man’s raspy voice said to him from the darkness on the other side of the room.

Daniel strained to see. Another man, shrouded in shadow, was against a far wall. “Where am I?” Daniel asked.

“I don’t know for certain ,” the man said. “Somewhere beneath the city.”

“How long have you been here?” Daniel squinted hard, trying to bring the sight of the man hidden in the dark into better focus.

“I have no idea,” the man said. “You’ll find as I have that time becomes meaningless very quickly here.”

“What do they want from us?” Daniel asked.

“You don’t want to know,” the man said.

“What’s your name?” Daniel asked.

“That too has lost any meaning,” the man said.

“Mine is Daniel,” he whispered.

                                                                         #

“Wake up,” Daniel heard, quickly opening his eyes and trying to separate the nightmare he was having from the one he was in. From further down the corridor came the sound of rattling keys, the clicking of a lock mechanism, and the opening of a cell’s metal door on rusty hinges.

“Please God, no more,” a man’s voice shrieked in the darkness.

“What is it?” Daniel asked in a hushed tone.

“You were asleep,” the man in his cell said. “I heard you snoring. Never let them catch you asleep.”

As the screams of the man down the corridor faded, and the cell door closed with a resounding bang, Daniel felt something tugging on the hem of his pants. Looking down, a large, white rat was beginning to crawl up his leg. Even in the very faint light he could see its bright pink eyes. He shook his leg hard trying to shake it loose. The rat jumped from his leg, making a splash as it landed in the fetid water that covered the cell floor and swam into the darkness.

“What is it?” the other man asked.

“A rat. An albino rat, I think,” Daniel said. “These women who are holding us – are they part of some cult?”

“They’re not women,” the man said.

The corridor brightened with the light from more torches.

“What . . . ?” Daniel started.

“Quiet, you fool,” the other man said.

Outside the cell three of the habit-clad figures appeared, each carrying a torch. It was then that Daniel noticed the hems of their garments were not touching the water. They floated slightly above it, standing upright in the air, solid but weightless. The bright light of the torch flame shone on their faces. Daniel almost giggled, thinking he was looking at Halloween masks. Never before had he seen a living person with skin so disfigured by sores oozing with pus and blood. Their eyes sunk back in their skeletal faces.

One of the figures took a ring of keys from a rope around its waist and put the key into the lock. As they opened the door and came in, their stench of rot and decay filled the space. Bypassing Daniel they went to the other man. Then Daniel’s saw the other man’s face. His eyelids had been cut away and his lower lip was gone.

“No, no, it wasn’t me,” the man screamed as they unlocked his chains. “It was him who was talking. Take him.”

They reached beneath the man’s arms, lifted him up and carried him out as he weakly kicked at the water and tried to struggle free of their grasp.

“It was him,” the man shrieked over and over as they closed the cell door and disappeared down the corridor.

Back in the light of the single torch in the corridor, Daniel felt warm urine running down his leg.

                                                                       #

Resisting the need to sleep, Daniel began recounting the fairy tales and fables he had heard or read when he was a child, but each one had an element of evil, like a witch or an ogre, so he gave it up and tried to concentrate on his wife; her looks, the smell of her hair, the lilt in her voice. This only left him feeling more despondent. That he was happily married made his going to the brothel even more reprehensible. It had been his only marital indiscretion in ten years of marriage, but he blamed it for him being in the situation he found himself.

“Other men had done far worse things, so why me?” he wondered as his eyes began to close.

                                                                       #

Awaking to the sound of heavy breathing, Daniel quickly realized it was his own that had awakened him. Raising his head and seeing several torches on the walls around him he also realized he was no longer in the cell but in another larger room that smelled of sulfur and rotten meat. He attempted to sit up, but was held down on a wood table by straps around his legs, chest and arms. Brackish water dripped from small rust colored, spiral stalactites that hung from the ceiling. Drops splashed onto his bare chest and stomach.

“So, you’ve awoken.”

Daniel turned his eyes toward the direction of the voice. Where nothing had been only a moment before now stood one of the habit-clad beings, its face hidden in the shadows of its head piece.

“Why are you doing this?” Daniel asked, aware of how parched his throat was.

“Why indeed?” it said, the pitch of its voice alternating from feminine to masculine. “You were marked.”

 It remained perfectly still for a moment as if  it were thinking what to say next, then disappeared.

Daniel blinked his eyes, hard, disbelieving what he had just seen. “Marked?” he said aloud.

Then a metal door covered in green and blue mildew opened and four of the beings entered. They surrounded the table and tossed back their head pieces, uncovering their ghostly white faces dripping with infection. They bent down and placed their blood smeared lips on his chest and abdomen and began sucking the blood from Daniel’s body through his skin.

He screamed until he passed out.

                                                                        #

When he awoke he was back in the cell and shackled against the wall. His right eye hurt even more than the sores left on his torso. He turned his head toward the torch in the corridor. Unable to blink his right eye, he knew what had been done to it. The clotted blood around the eye socket tugged at the surrounding skin. He closed his left eye as what little light there was in the cell seared both eyes. His right eye throbbed with pain and tears ran down his cheeks. Then the door to the cell opened. He watched as the beings carried in another man, pulled a burlap sack from his head, and stood him against the far wall and chained him there.

Daniel looked away as they turned their faces toward him as they exited. 

“Speak quietly,” Daniel said. “My name is Daniel. What’s yours?”

“Robert,” the man whispered. “What is this place?”

“Catacombs of some kind,” Daniel said. “Were you snatched from the street?”

“I was at home watching television,” Robert said. “My wife and children were asleep. I didn’t hear those things come into my house.”

The sound of a cell door opening reverberated through the corridor, and then the screams of a man pleading to be left alone. The door closed and the man’s screams faded as he was carried away.

Robert whispered prayers.

“That won’t help you,” Daniel said.

                                                                       #

As the four beings carried Daniel toward the room with the metal door he began to struggle much harder than he had previously. As they tightened their grips he fought even harder, finding that their lack of footing on solid floor gave them little leverage as he knocked them from side to side. It occurred to him even as he threw wild punches that seldom landed that others must have fought also, but it didn’t deter him. Just before reaching the door, Daniel was dropped into the slimy water. He hopped to his feet and ran down the length of the corridor, peripherally seeing all the other cells and figures hidden inside among the shadows against the walls.  At the end of the corridor he rammed his shoulder against the bars causing them to break free from the decaying earth. He stumbled out into a pitch dark passageway, slipping in foul smelling water, then blindly ran through a long tunnel until he reached an opening to a sewage pipe. Sliding down it, he landed feet first in a canal alongside a garbage dump. Climbing over mounds of trash he came out on a dirt road leading into the city. He looked up at the night sky and thanked God.

                                                                        #                                                                

Six months later Daniel sat in a pew at the back of the church and adjusted the patch over his eye. He crossed himself then got up and went out. He pulled the collar of his coat up as a he was buffeted by a cold wind. Twilight lengthened the shadows cast by trees along the cobblestone street. He quickened his pace and reached the front door of his home just as the church bells rang. The burlap bag was slipped over his head and he was knocked unconscious before he had time to react.

                                                                  #

After the doctor delivered the newborn baby he handed him to the nurse. She turned, and as the others in the delivery room were busy, she surreptitiously lifted the infant’s left heel. She put it to her lips, sucking a small amount of blood from it, leaving a very small mark in the shape of a pentagram.


Steve Carr, from Richmond, Virginia, has had over 500 short stories published internationally in print and online magazines, literary journals, reviews and anthologies since June, 2016. His paranormal/horror novel Redbird was released in November, 2019. He has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize twice. His website is https://www.stevecarr960.com/

“Catacombs of the Doomed” was previously published by Night to Dawn Magazine in 2018.

Two Flash Fiction Stories by Thomas Elson

Not Yet

I had driven through the bleached downtown area battered by wind and dirt. Across the railroad track – once six tracks wide, now two, and the highway – once two-lanes, now four, I entered a neighborhood unseen in over fifty years. Not much had changed except the basement house on the corner was gone.

A few surviving elms overhung ancient sidewalks as brittle and cracked as when I, as a five-year old child played in the front yard during a time of unlocked doors. A time when screen windows stayed open, a time with no metal detectors to pass through before entering public buildings.

The slightest of winds caused the leaves of the few remaining elms to flatten casting shadows across the side and onto the house where my dog, Ikey, had frolicked.

I stopped the car, rested my chin on the steering wheel, and, within a moment I was at this very spot as a young boy squinting through the screen door of my parents’ rented house. A small child’s attempt to shut out his mother’s headaches and regrets and his father’s scatter shot venom, that constant burn of anger he carried his entire life.

Is it-? My imagination? Is that him?

I called out. “Mr. Childress. Are you-? Waiting for me? Is it time?” He was an old man about the age I am now.

The back door led to my father spewing anger toward whatever was in his line of sight while slopping aluminum paint onto an old garbage can. The front door led to a walk with Mr. Childress.

I heard my mother’s voice. “Your father wants you in the backyard.” My father wanted me to paint the inside of the trash can, but mostly he wanted to clamp his teeth, rip his glasses off, press his forehead against mine and yell. Even at the age of five, I had tread that path a few times too many.

“Okay,” I said, and walked out the front door straight to Mr. Childress so he could take me on another trip.

“Good afternoon, young man.”

“Hi, Mr. Childress.”

I looked straight at his face as he bent to shake my hand.

“What happened to your nose?” I asked.

“Something grew there and needs to be taken off.”

“Does it hurt?”

“Not yet.” He smiled and asked about school, my dog, and what I planned to do that day. Then he took me on trips from the Populist Party of Jerry Simpson and Mary Lease through the heady days of the Roaring 20’s, and into Prohibition, introduced me to Al Capone, and took me on a car ride with Bonnie and Clyde.

We talked the next day too, but Mr. Childress had to go home early. “Got a doctor’s appointment tomorrow so I need to rest up.”

I did not see him for a week. Then one afternoon he was waiting on the sidewalk wearing a wide brimmed straw hat. The bandage across his truncated nose was dotted with specks of black and dark red.  

“What’s that for?” I asked. “Where’s the rest of your nose?”

He grinned and said, “They kept it at the doctor’s office.”

“Does it hurt?”

“Not yet.”

“Is it time for you to die?”

“Are you going to die?”

“Not yet.”

He smiled and patted my left shoulder.

#

I did not see him after that – until today, fifty years later, when he stood in front of that old house – waiting. I saw us walking – his nose restored, wearing his hat, and still with me. I waited until we turned the corner and watched as I held onto him. I heard myself ask, “Mr. Childress. Is it time?”

He smiled and patted my left shoulder.

A Cell in Motion

Why am I here?

Alone each day for eleven years, I – an erudite man of immense education, considerable charm, and the unique ability to twist everything I touch into something illegal – rise, lean my forehead against the door, and stare at a wall six feet away.

The sound of metal beating against itself batters my ears minute upon minute with no moment of peace, nothing to look at other than what others have written on the walls. I step back, sit on a tattered exercise mat that doubles as a mattress strewn across the metal frame embedded into a concrete wall painted institutional green, look at the door, then close my eyes.

When my eyes open, the door has solidified, and, within moments, splits into fractals, divides, then explodes forming a cloud emerging from the center. Walls dissolve. Sink and shower bleed onto the floor, then coalesce into the ceiling.

The single overhead light casts shadows across the hallway floor. Parallel tubes expand – vertically, horizontally – from the solid plate where a key fits, when, once each day, a uniformed man delivers my food.


Thomas Elson’s short stories, poetry, and flash fiction have been published in numerous venues such as Calliope, The Cabinet of Heed, New Feathers, Pinyon, Lunaris, New Ulster, Lampeter, Selkie, and Adelaide. He divides his time between Northern California and Western Kansas.    

“Expired” Fiction by Todd Matson

“What do you want to do?” she asked too many times, and found herself asking again, as if waiting for the final answer on whether the milky way will eventually be sucked into the black hole at the center of it. 

He stirred his coffee, the aroma confessing, “Old, stale, expired!” 

Can one feel jealous of a cupboard?  It was the cupboard, not her eyes, he peered into.  “Where is the artificial sweetener?  Looks like we’re out of artificial sweetener.” 

“Yes, we are,” she sighed with no expression on her face, as he sipped his rancid coffee anyway, grimacing like an infant choking down bitter medicine.   

Bitterness.  She knew it well. And she didn’t drink coffee. 

He looked past her, set his bitter cup half empty on the counter and walked straight away, saying nothing and everything. 

“This is what gravity feels like,” she whispered to no one while watching all her stars succumb to the irresistible pull toward the dark where nothing lives to tell. 

“Is it a horror that laughter and tears, births and deaths, love and lies, intimate secrets and saccharin smiles get swallowed in nothingness?” she asked her reflection in the cup of bitter dregs left behind, “or is it a relief?” 

She waited for her reflection to answer until it drowned in the cup after the sun hid behind clouds, like galaxies in black holes. 


Todd Matson is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist.  He has written poetry for The Journal of Pastoral Care and Counseling and has been published in Vital Christianity.  He has also written lyrics for songs recorded by a number of contemporary Christian music artists, including the Gaither Vocal Band. 

Interview with Author Garrett Rowlan

Born in San Francisco in 1948, raised in LA, graduate in History at Cal State LA in 1971. Read Krisnamurti’s Thing on These Things and decided to follow my heart and do what I loved, basically read and write. Lived in Sacramento four years doing factory work and moved back to LA in 1976. Journalism, computers, caretaker (for my mother) and 26 years a sub teacher at LAUSD, retired in 2012.

What is your greatest accomplishment as a writer so far?

Two novels published. To Die, To Sleep (James Ward Kirk Press) and Too Solid Flesh Melts (Alban Lake Press). 70 other stories published.

Why do you write?

A touch of hypergraphia, ego, the desire to leave something behind, probably because I have no kids.

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 write in the mornings, often take a clipboard and walk around the town of South Pasadena, California, writing as sentences occur to me. A touch of cannabis sometimes helps.

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

Outside of editors, no one else reads my stuff until it is published. I feel that giving yourself some time between versions is the best way to proceed. (Advice I give but don’t always follow.)

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

I have published a few stories and essays about Jorge Luis Borges, and I would like to use his story “The Library at Babel” as the basis for a novel.

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 four stories accepted and a fifth is probable. I just finished a novel and am looking for an agent, but I’ll probably end up self-publishing.

What advice do you have for novice writers?

As I once read on the back of a novel by Anthony Burgess, “Just keep writing.”

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

Wikipedia.

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

garrettrowlan.com

Appearing in The Chamber on April 23

“Expired” Fiction by Todd Matson

A woman reflects on her relationship and existence over breakfast

Two Flash Fiction Stories by Thomas Elson

A man reflects on death and on his nature.

Interview with Author Garrett Rowlan

Garrett Rowlan has authored two novels and seventy short stories.

“Catacombs of the Doomed” Fiction by Steve Carr

A man is kidnapped and whisked off into a nightmarish world within the world.

“It Was Only a Joke” Fiction by Susan Hatters Friedman

A woman reflects on a grievous error.

Appearing in The Chamber on April 23

“Expired” Fiction by Todd Matson

A woman reflects on her relationship and existence over breakfast

Two Flash Fiction Stories by Thomas Elson

A man reflects on death and on his nature.

Interview with Author Garrett Rowlan

Garrett Rowlan has authored two novels and seventy short stories.

“Catacombs of the Doomed” Fiction by Steve Carr

A man is kidnapped and whisked off into a nightmarish world within the world.

“It Was Only a Joke” Fiction by Susan Hatters Friedman

A woman reflects on a grievous error.

“The Rant” Fiction by Todd Matson

I don’t mean to rant – like my father screaming at the tv while he inflates his blood pressure cuff to make sure he doesn’t have a coronary or stroke out when politicians and pundits lie and don’t care who gets hurt. 

And I take no pleasure in yelling at the dead! 

It’s just that, my God!  How many times does it have to be said that feelings don’t last forever?  No one is perpetually happy from cradle to grave. 

Annoyance can turn to irritation, morph into frustration, build to anger, cascade into rage, freefall into guilt, slither away in shame, stew in remorse in a fraction of a mayfly’s life. 

Fear may have the lifespan of a startle, a panic attack, a sleepless night, may come and go like the tides. 

God forgive me, but hurt may last as long as a skinned knee or a widow’s grief, but not forever. 

There are days when sadness goes down with the sun and joy rises with it. 

There are seasons when sorrow lasts for an arctic winter, as if the sun will never rise again, but the sun always gets around to rising, and hope stalks us like the rising of the sun. 

So how could you swallow the lie and act like no one gets hurt?  The LIE – that hopelessness is anything more than fleeting. 

Why couldn’t you wait?  Hopelessness is always eventually eclipsed by hope! 

Hope is a stalker.  Hope always finds us.  As sure as the sun rises.  But as sure as the sun would rise, you turned your lights out with a bullet to the brain before it could. 

Rise it did.  The sun.  With hope. And yet here we are, with you – or what remains of you – lying beneath my feet, with me beating the ground like someone pounding on a door where nobody’s home.  

Wish you were here.  You’re missing out on a sunny day.


Todd Matson is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist.  He has written poetry for The Journal of Pastoral Care and Counseling and has been published in Vital Christianity.  He has also written lyrics for songs recorded by a number of contemporary Christian music artists, including the Gaither Vocal Band.