“The Feverish Fast of Albert Drach” Dark, Surreal Microfiction by Karin Kutlay

It was the third day of Albert Drach’s fast. He had been eating null, inputting nought, defecating null, outputting nought. He was awaiting fever dreams to descend on him. He was awaiting descensions of the kind no one had known before, the way the sun’s sunset sets on the Polish Poppy Proletariat, intoxicated from hours with the black seed, who on their way home would imagine their wives had all slept with a purple fabric seller from Kiralyhida and poisoned their dinners. Albert Drach was awaiting such descensions.

And they did come unto him. (In parts.)

He threw his head back walking out of an ocean; his hair coalesced in one single strand splattering its salt water into a white sky and plopping on his back like a whip. He was groping pebbles in blue, black, and gray, crawling ahead in fast devolution from human form; this here rectangular rock larger than his palm and this here short shard of slippery volcanic vomit. He gasped for air as if his pastel pink lungs were fit for a muddy, pre-Cambrian ocean. Standing on a shore of pure stone, he looked ahead, and without a gaze could feel his nakedness, in waves emanating from his hips, not from shame or negation, but a viscous cold filling in his creaks.

Two and a half girls waited, leaning on layers of white rock squashed into each other for centuries. The half girl had one hand, only hand, in a gap in the wall – but no, it was more of a cliff looked from below, but no, it sharpened as it rose and stood alone, but no – and had her body asymmetrically made. Two feet and two calves and three quarters of a lower body and half a torso and one arm and one hand. It was an artist’s job, this, no sinew or stain in sight, everything perhaps unsuitable to the eye tucked inside a half-wet periwinkle dress. Albert Drach remembered not the name of the poet or the sculptor or the gynecologist, but remembered another immortal work of him, the god Elohim.

The other two sat in an awkward gang. Left girl had her legs crossed, again in periwinkle paper, ruffles rolling over boulders and bishop sleeves. Right girl held a Rodin pose, and a belt of red crepe paper encircled somewhere not her waist. Their faces pale and puffed, eyes small and round, hands fit for a life of craftsmanship at first sight, and after a thought, hands like those after a life of craftsmanship. Left spoke: “We were waiting for someone else.”

Karin is a sophomore studying Physics, from Turkey, and now living in California. She was long-listed for the 2022 Erbacce Poetry Prize, and this is her first published work.

“Teddy Bear” Dark Poetry by A.N. Rose

Teddy bear teddy bear
Cute as can be
Sitting on my dresser
Staring at me

Eyes of glass
Silently taunting
With a smile stitched shut
All the more haunting

A stare so frigid
As cold as the serrated blade
That drew fresh blood
Where we have laid

The only witness
To the end of your life
To the end of your pain
Your suffering and strife

I know I did the right thing...
You would've done it too,
Teddy Bear...
Wouldn't you?

Alex says about his background: “I am a freelance poet, living in the suburbs of Philadelphia with my beloved spouse and children. An enthusiast of everything thriller/horror related, when not writing, you can find me working in a nursing home. You can find my haiku on Instagram @hauntedhaiku82.”

Two Dark Poems by Travis Black: “May My Sorrows Comfort Me in my Time of Need” and “The Sound of a Train in the Distance”

May My Sorrows Comfort Me In My Time Of Need

Gazing out from the pane
Iridescent sky unfold, 

Boundless and eternal

Cold slumber
Pitch sable chamber, 

Sorrow’s grip
Black, icy, delicate and soothing, 

The Sound Of A Train In The Distance 

Metallic and firm
Spectral vision of time from afar, 

Cold and icy 
Apparition haunting hills and mountains, 

Phantom song 
Lyrical composition - sorrow and death, 


Relentlessly and brutally, 



Travis J. Black (He/Him) is a gay poet, writer and visual artist living in Metro-Detroit Michigan. His work has appeared in Peeking Cat Poetry Magazine and the 200th anniversary book Determined Hearts: A Frankenstein Anthology. His work often explores the mysterious, imaginative and darker aspects of life. You can follow him on his author’s webpage at https://www.amazon.com/author/travisjblack

“No Rose without Thorns” Flash Horror by Madeleine D’Este

1. Rose oil

The body was face-down on the kitchen floor. A halo of blood on the polished concrete. A woman with blonde highlighted hair. Another single person household. No sign of forced entry. The only witness, a cat with bloody paws.

Before they turned the body, I knew what we’d find. For four years, I’d been dreaming about the others. The first one was January 14th 2018. Easy to remember, it was the day before my thirty-fifth birthday. Of course, I’d seen worse. Car accidents with nothing but red pulp left behind. But there was something about these bodies that made my skin itch. How many murders made a serial killer? This was number four.

Enticed, you tap. You draw closer to your lit-up screen. Run your hungry eyes over my inventory. Wet your lips as you dream of what my wares will bring. The promises and fantasies in a bottle I sell. But do not fear, I have the perfect one for you.

Your heart flutters as your mind drifts, how my scents on your dewy curvaceous skin will transform you. How intoxicating you will be. His hard gaze on you. His stubbled chin scraping up your neck. His throaty moans. The wolf who wants to eat you alive.

Which one will you choose? The Egyptian priestess, the femme fatale, the tragic heroine. Musk. Rose. Cedarwood. Jasmine. A whisper of romance. A hint of lust. A lingering presence to haunt his dreams.

Staring at your hand-held rectangle, you choose.

2. Jasmine

I didn’t notice at first, it was a pup of a Constable who mentioned it. He was standing in the doorway taking up room.

‘Stinks,’ he grumbled.

At first I ignored him. Thought he meant the blood, he was green after all, couldn’t have been more than a few weeks out of training. I don’t even notice the stink of blood now.

I sniffed and grimaced. ‘I can’t smell anything.’

‘Perfume,’ he said.

I sniffed again. He was right. A floral scent hung in the air.

‘Recognise it?’ I said.

‘Nah. Just hate the stuff.’

The choice is made, your coins tumble my way. But your gold is not my goal. You will make payment in other ways. Not every patron is special enough for my individual attention. I am too wildly popular for that, and far too clever.

As the names rush past my eyes on the screen, I carefully select those worthy to receive a personal touch. Your name jumps from all the others. You chose Fairy Queen. I know you, you covet light-heartedness, flirtation, magic. You see yourself as dull, unworthy and empty. A squirt of my fairy dust at your chubby wrists and ankles will rouse the wolves and bring fun tumbling your way.

Before my little elves package up your purchase, I add a drop of something special to the vial. A concoction so secret I cannot even breathe when I list the ingredients. Handed to me through dreams and trances, after years of fasting and genuflecting, I now have the answer. And today the answer is you.

Swiftly my present weaves through the world. Along roads, conveyor belts and on bikes until a woman in day-glo yellow delivers the small brown box to your door. After another grey day of disappointment and smudged mascara, my gift is a bright spot. You tear open the wrapping and sniff the vial. Across the city, my lips part as I wait for you to take the first spray. We both close our eyes in unison, and swoon as one.

All alone, you sip white wine in your sheepskin boots and dowse yourself in my scent. A smile graces your lips as you snuggle into the couch and I congratulate myself. Once again I have chosen perfectly. But I must be patient, and I know how to be patient. The dosage must be exactly right.

3. Cedar wood

It was the coroner who named the notes. ‘Rose, jasmine and cedar wood,’ he said, sucking air in through his big nostrils. After a twenty-year career surrounded by the stench of death, how he could pin-point the smells, I’ll never know.

‘You know it?’

He squinted, then blinked. ‘No,’ he said eventually.

‘Thanks for nothing,’ I snorted.

Another dead-end. Waste of my time. I went back to looking for proper evidence.


You are greedy, I don’t have to wait long. You ripened exceptionally and three days was all it took. Entranced by the scent, you lather on more and more until your home is a cloud of fairy dust. You leave the door open for me. Of course I know where to find you, you told me yourself. I slide in through the door and you don’t even blink. Your tortoiseshell cat hisses as I stride toward you, my blade gleaming in the flickering television glow. You welcome me with a smile, then loll back your head, exposing your blotchy throat. With the silver tip, I carve you a new smile from ear to ear. I peel back the skin and scoop the nodes from your throat, taking away my treasure in a glass jar.

As you jerk and splutter, then roll face-down on the hard floor, I take back my gift and every trace of my fairy dust, and leave the cat to your blood.

Within the hour, I sup on you, the perfect garnish to my rich venison stew. I raise my glass and say a toast. Here’s to one more year.

Madeleine D’Este is a Melbourne-based writer, podcaster and reviewer. Inspired by folklore and forteana, D’Este writes dark mysteries, including steampunk, historical fantasy and vampire tales. Her novel The Flower and The Serpent was nominated for an Australian Shadow for Best Novel in 2019.

Find Madeleine at www.madeleinedeste.com or @madeleine_deste on Twitter

“Ghost” Dark Poetry by Julie Allyn Johnson

on a gauzy october breeze
tire swing sways
guillotine ballet

sliver of moon perforates 
moldy gray clouds

curl of smoke streams
from brick-broken stack
though the old house
remains dark, shadowless

amber-red lights recede: 
a waning 747

amid rural dereliction
hoot owl punctures 
the hushed
reclusive night

gusty squalls spiral
north, then northwest

a chill intrusion, 
the mesmerizing 
yowl & snap
a frigid perpetuity

Julie Allyn Johnson, a sawyer’s daughter from the American Midwest, loves walks in the woods, gravel-travel, photography, poetry and hiking in the Rocky Mountains.  Her current obsession is tackling the rough and tumble sport of quilting.  Her poetry appears in various journals including The Briar Cliff Review and Phantom Kangaroo. 

“Billy the Killer and Martha Jean” Horror by Rachel Brands

The town outside has gone to hell, and I can’t find anything good to watch on TV. My options are never bountiful when I get off work this late, but The PiYo Craze from Beachbody! feels especially grim tonight.

I came home to find my poor answering machine overloaded with missed calls from my mother, most of which were likely made before she found out Billy Fillerton was running around town, chopping up our neighbors with a katana. I heard myself when a frantic teenager nearly drove a gold minivan through the glass doors of the hospital, seeking help for her mother, who was a pile of limbs and guts.

Polly came running up to me at that point and breathlessly asked if I had heard the news.

“Sure,” I said. “Somebody fucked up Mrs. Abernathy real good.”

Billy did,” Polly moaned. “He’s on a rampage! I mean, how do you not know?”

She then proceeded to show me several videos from her friends’ Instagram Live feeds, all of which showed a big, skulking figure cutting up our townspeople, whose screams populated the warm night air.

Figures. Polly was always getting reamed for being on her phone at work. Mine was carefully tucked away in my locker, like a professional.

“Oh, God, Martha Jean, what do we do?” Polly asked, tearfully.

I don’t know about any ‘we,’ but ‘I’ finished up my shift and went home. The hospital was surprisingly quiet for being in the middle of a town under duress. My guess is that Billy is finishing the job.

On my way out, I found the front desk empty and the discarded phone still on the line with the sheriff’s office. Jo must have booked it as soon as she heard. I hung up the phone and sprinted to my car with my pepper spray handy. Don’t think that’s on account of Billy. I always cross the parking lot like this after the late shift.

I didn’t stick around to see, but I hope Polly went home to her boring husband and squalling baby.

On the drive home, I listened intently for screams akin to those on the videos, but heard nothing. The only clue that anything was amiss was the squad car that went racing past me, sirens wailing. It’s times like these that make me wonder if maybe our town should’ve hired more than two cops.

I arrived home and ate ice cream straight out of the carton in my dark apartment while watching late night TV. The way I see it, Billy will come for me whether I want him to or not, and a bored, unruly part of me wants him to.

It’s that same demented curiosity that made our entire town line up on Main Street to get a first look at Billy after more than a dozen years in the slammer. A bunch of vultures, is what they are. I was so peeved when my boss wouldn’t give me the day off, so I could go.

I hear a noise and whip around, heart racing, but it’s only my air conditioner kicking on. In my fear, I squeeze the carton too tightly and now Neapolitan is dripping down my arm and onto my leather recliner. Cursing, I stumble into the kitchen to wash off in the sink. The running water coats not only my arm, but the stack of dirty dishes, and the backsplash wets my shirt. I hastily turn off the faucet and dry myself with a towel. I wonder if I made too much noise.

Not that it matters. I expect he will pay me a visit tonight and I’m strangely cavalier about it. I just wish I knew how he planned to make his entrance. Would he creep up on me in the night, or bash his way through the entire apartment complex to get to me? I don’t like surprises.

I’m tempted to peruse the socials for any clues on how Billy will approach, based on other townies’ experiences, but I stop myself. If I turn my cell on, I will be assaulted with the many texts and calls my mother has undoubtedly left for me over the course of the night. I’m sure she’s imploring me to take refuge with her and Daddy and the rest of my siblings at the farm, which is her go-to emergency plan for any disaster, such as when it rains too hard for her liking.

No, thank you. I’m good and fine right where I am, Ma, in the dark and all alone.

I putz around the kitchen for a bit, habitually checking the time on the stove, but detect no movement. Billy is taking his sweet time getting over here.

After I wear myself out pacing around the apartment, I give up and decide to crawl into bed. I’m tired and I don’t wait more than an hour for any man. Billy can wake me up before he gets me, or not. It might even be better if I’m asleep. Less flailing.

Impatiently, I stride down the hallway to my bedroom and throw open the door and–

“Billy,” I breathe.

There he is: a husky, hulking mass of a man, filling up my doorframe entirely. His face is obstructed by a Ralph’s paper bag, but I can feel his eyes poring into me through makeshift eye holes. His right hand is curled around the handle of a katana sword, which he slowly raises in my direction. The tip of his sword cuts through my scrubs and pokes my abdomen, producing a pinprick of blood.

My breath catches in my throat.

The last time I saw him, we were fifteen and he shot a woeful glance at me as he was shoved into a squad car for allegedly running over his stepfather with the family truck. When Billy went away, I thought of him often, but never called or wrote. I didn’t know what to say.

I’m frozen, but only for a moment.

Once I’ve regathered my composure, I lean forward and the sword punctures me further. I wince at the pain, but don’t feel afraid. I hear a faint, startled gasp from underneath the paper bag.

“Billy,” I say again, as I move closer still.

He removes his blade from my belly and wipes my blood off the tip with his rough, bare hand. I reach up to stroke not his face, but the side of his paper bag mask and he flinches away from my touch. I halt, but after a moment, keep inching my hand towards him.

I gently grip the side of the bag and the flimsy paper crinkles beneath my fingers. Slowly and carefully, I remove it and look at Billy’s face for the first time in years. Gone is the lanky kid with the chestnut-colored mullet and mischievous smile that I knew in my youth. In his place stands a tall brick house in the shape of a man, with scraggly salt-and-pepper hair and a beard to match. Only his eyes are the same – a steely grey gaze laced with intensity.

I stand on my very tip toes, but even then, I only come up to his neck. He has to bend for our mouths to meet, and he tastes like salt and copper. His bloody left hand cups my chin and I let my tongue out to explore his lips and teeth, familiar territory. When we pull away from one another, Billy is breathing hard and I notice I am pressed against him. Our eyes lock. I caress his bare face with my hands.

He shivers, but it’s a warm night.

Billy roughly grabs me by the waist and manhandles me into his arms. For a moment, I fear he will hurt me, but that moment quickly passes when I realize he means to carry me bridal-style to the bed. Gentleness and grace are simply not two of his strengths.

I hear the katana clatter to the ground and, for the first time, wonder where he got it from.

We fall into the clutches of my unmade bed a sweaty, uncoordinated mess. I’m still in my teal scrubs from the hospital and Billy is sporting a black jumpsuit, which has surprisingly little blood on it, for someone who’s been slashing and stabbing all night long. I experience a little of what my fellow townspeople did that night, as I clench and moan on the receiving end of his bloody passion.

When we had finished, I lay awake on his broad chest for a long time. We don’t say a word to one another, only bask in the moonlight and the pungent smell of sex and body odor. I think back to the last time he fucked me, during the restrictive freedom of our teen years. We lay just like this then, too.

It finally occurs to me to ask about my family, and if he has paid them a visit yet. He tells me with his eyes, imploring for my sufferance.

“Please,” I say.

I don’t know when I fell asleep, but I woke to an empty bed and birds singing outside. The only evidence that Billy was ever here is a deep “down there” ache, and the Ralph’s bag on my nightstand, with a smiley face painted with blood.

He knew that would make me smile and it did.

In the weeks after Billy’s rampage through our quaint little town, we were hounded by a circus-media of paparazzi, tabloid reporters, and other bloodhounds. Ashwald became a tourist trap for those seeking a peek of America’s fastest working serial killer, only to discover he vanished in the night. They went away disappointed, and with a patented Billy the Killer t-shirt.

Poor Billy is a public spectacle, now more than ever, the victim of a mob of excited, chatty no-nothings who will never give him a rest because he is the only interesting thing to happen in this town, ever. His name once again populated our press and earned an array of new nicknames. Most notable of which is the Orphan Maker. The reason for that one is he slaughtered many of our adult population, and left the children untouched.

Well, mostly. He did kill Mike Bell, but that kid was 6’3” and had a full beard at fourteen, so it was an honest mistake.

Some speculated that those he killed played a part in his trial or mistreated him in some way; others believed he murdered at random; a select few counted the male to female ratio of his kills and theorized he was making some sort of gender statement.

I have my own thoughts, none of which I can prove as absolute fact, but I knew Billy best and I think I’m right. I think he simply looked at the faces of every man and woman in town, and in them, saw his stepfather, who delighted in hurting him, and his mother, who let it happen.

I’m in no hurry to correct them, since I know the mystery of Billy will always be more interesting than the sad reality of his life. Billy the Killer, they called him long before he ever killed anyone, thanks to that stupid article that misspelled his name. His stepfather is still alive, for God’s sake, remarried and living comfortably a few states over.

Although, I suspect, not for long.

Rachel Brands holds a BFA in Creative Writing and English Literature from Loras College. In her spare time, she enjoys reading, hanging out with her cat, and watching scary movies. She resides in Illinois.

The Next Issue of The Chamber Appears Friday, June 3, at 10:00 a.m. US Central Time

Chamber cover for June 3, 2022


New fiction by Rachel Brands, June Allyn Johnson, Madeleine D’Este, Titus Green, Alan Catlin, R.P. Serin, Kay Summers, Mehnaz Sahibzada, Gershon Ben-Avraham, Amita Basu, B.C. Nance, and Joseph Buckley
New poetry by Travis Black and A.N. Rose
New microfiction by Karin Kutlay

The Next Issue of The Chamber Appears Friday, June 3, at 10:00 a.m. US Central Time

Chamber cover for June 3, 2022


New fiction by Rachel Brands, June Allyn Johnson, Madeleine D’Este, Titus Green, Alan Catlin, R.P. Serin, Kay Summers, Mehnaz Sahibzada, Gershon Ben-Avraham, Amita Basu, B.C. Nance, and Joseph Buckley
New poetry by Travis Black and A.N. Rose
New microfiction by Karin Kutlay

The Next Issue of The Chamber Appears Friday, June 3, at 10:00 a.m. US Central Time

Chamber cover for June 3, 2022


New fiction by Rachel Brands, June Allyn Johnson, Madeleine D’Este, Titus Green, Alan Catlin, R.P. Serin, Kay Summers, Mehnaz Sahibzada, Gershon Ben-Avraham, Amita Basu, B.C. Nance, and Joseph Buckley
New poetry by Travis Black and A.N. Rose
New microfiction by Karin Kutlay