“The Devil in the Pear Tree” Flash Horror by Joanna Theiss

"The Devil in the Pear Tree" Flash Horror by Joanna Theiss; Painting by Tompkins Matteson (1853) "Examination of a Witch"
Painting, oil on canvas, Tompkins Matteson (1853) “Examination of a Witch”

A bang-smack, the punch of the airbag and a sizzle of hot fluid pissing from the undercarriage. In the cinder darkness, the hood of my mother-in-law’s car has crumpled like a wet napkin.

When something like this happens, I tell myself it’s a dream. I am asleep next to Katie, not standing in a frozen cornfield, not about to call Derek for a tow, who will rag on me for wrecking yet another car.

Outside, the air stinks of dying radiator. Headlights aim uselessly into the field.

“Not again, you drunk piece of shit.” This is my mother-in-law, Marsha, whose voice plays in my head when she’s not there to yell at me in the flesh. This is me, apologizing, out loud, into the black. “I didn’t have that much, I swear. It’s just bad luck.”

“Good luck, I say!”

Not Marsha, but a man’s voice, shiny as silver. The tree I’ve slammed into shudders and something round and hard drops on the hood and lays between two peaks of cracked steel. It’s a pear, pale green like when you’re about to be sick, like I might be, at the idea I could have killed whoever is talking to me from within the branches.

“Is there someone up there? You need help getting down?”

“You hit the nail on the head.” A chuckle like this is a magnificent joke. “All you have to do is say, ‘Release Satan from the pear tree.’”

I’m not a religious man, but something about this feels off, not to mention corny.

“Ah,” the voice says. “Pardon me, I’m a bit rusty. You’ll be wanting something in return.”

So many things. “Happen to have a tow truck?”

“I can do you one better, sir.” A flare of light and Marsha’s busted car is no longer hugging a tree. It’s running, the radiator intact, hood and fender smooth as the sea, the engine humming like a chorus.

The pear rolls off the hood.

“I can’t thank you enough,” he says. The man with the voice bows to me, his toe pointed. He looks like a movie star and smells like mulled wine. Dressed like a historical reenactor at Old Bedford Village but like one of the villains, like a preacher who would have hung some witches back in the day.

 “Care to make an exchange?” he asks.


“Yes. First, I grant your deepest desire, and then –”

Now that the car is fixed, I have one remaining desire: that Marsha won’t ride my ass for how late I get in.

He smiles. “I can get rid of her for you.”

Sounds nice, but Katie wouldn’t appreciate that. “I just wish she’d stop talking.”

He’s very formal, this dude, so we shake on it. He adjusts the fingers on his satin gloves and says, “Now. I’ll need the man that ran the blacksmith shop here, right beside this tree. Do you know him? He is very arrogant and very clever. A magician with metals.”

“I don’t know any blacksmiths,” I tell him, and he gives himself a shake so his cape falls evenly across his shoulders, a gesture that says this is the wrong answer. I tell him he must mean Derek. Yoked and tattooed, been around town forever, got a gift with cars. Probably could have fixed Marsha’s in only a few more minutes than it took this man, but he is a real son of a bitch to deal with.

A half an hour later, I am tucked in beside Katie. She rolls into me, lifts her face to mine, and slips her hand into my boxers, and I feel like a man who has won the lottery.


Across the breakfast table, Marsha is giving me the stink eye. I’m staring at her over the rim of my coffee as Katie runs in with her phone in her hand, pale as last night’s pear.

“That was Cynthia. Derek is dead. They found him this morning in his shop. He was covered in blood, she said.” Katie moans and pushes into my lap. Stroking her back through the soft terry cloth of her robe, I hear the man’s radio voice, solving my problems with a nod, the word he lobbed at me like a gnarled pear.

Exchange.             “Isn’t it awful, Mom?” Katie says, but Marsha, who should be hollering about poor Derek, taken from us too soon, can’t say a word.

Joanna Theiss (she/her) is a writer living in Washington, DC. Her short stories and flash fiction have appeared in journals such as Aquifer: The Florida Review Online, Bending Genres, Anti-Heroin Chic, Fictive Dream, and Best Microfiction 2022. Links to her writing are available at www.joannatheiss.com.

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“To Be a Butterfly” Horror/Thriller by N.V. Devlin

"To Be a Butterfly" Horror/Thriller by N.V. Devlin: blue butterfly in flight

I woke up with a rope around my neck.

“How…?” My shaking fingertips grazed its coarse fibers. “How did I get down?”

Cool tiles pressed against the backs of my naked arms. My eyelids fluttered at the fluorescent light bulb swinging back and forth above my head, throwing shadows along the bathroom walls. A rope dangled from it, its end looking like it’d been chewed off by one of those giant New York City rats.

I swallowed. My throat didn’t hurt.

Blisteringly cold hands glided over my cheeks, my forehead. My skull rubbed along the tile’s grout lines as I tilted my head back, my neck arching–locking–at the pale face staring into mine.

Scars and bruises gilded their skin. Their short, cropped hair stood on spiky ends. Their lips were sewn shut with bleached thread, and their brown eyes were so deep, so liquid, I thought muddy droplets might pour from their tear ducts at any moment.

They were me, and I was them. I saw through them, my ghost.

Those scars had once been mine.

Those bruises; once mine, too.

I glanced down at my bare arms, my legs exposed by ripped jean shorts. I had none of those painful markings. Not from my abuser’s lashing tongue. Not from years of wrestling for her unquenchable approval. Not from my false conviction that her emotions rested on my broken shoulders. It was as if my old skin had molted away; fallen from a cocoon spun by another’s cruelty.

“Get up.” My ghost’s words sunk into my ears, though their sewn lips didn’t move. “Get up. You’re free.”

Free. I sucked a deep breath into my lungs.

Free. I clawed at the rope digging into my throat.

Free. A knife glinted in my ghost’s hand. They slid its teeth beneath the cord and cut it away.

Rubbing my throat, I lay on the floor in wonderment as my ghost faded into the air, sucked away into another space, another time, another life. I stood up, clutching the rope in one hand, and stumbled over to a cracked mirror hanging above a porcelain sink.

Into the shards I looked, no bruises on my neck, as I mouthed my answered prayer: “Butterfly.”

N.V. Devlin writes dark and speculative fiction to better make sense of the world. N.V. was the 1st Runner-Up for Indecent Magazine‘s 2022 Queer Quivers Contest and has had or will have work appear in the Creepy Podcast, Tales from the Moonlit Path, and Rebellion LIT’s The Start anthology. Some favorite authors include Edgar Allan Poe, Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu, Joyce Carol Oates, Shirley Jackson, and Neil Gaiman, and N.V. aspires to someday write even a fraction as well as them. Find N.V. on Instagram (@nvdevlin). 

If you would like to be part of The Chamber family, follow this link to the submissions guidelines.

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“Grinny: Free to a Good Home” Monster Tale/Micro Horror by Douglas Gwilym

"Grinny: Free to a Good Home" Monster Tale/ Micro Horror by Douglas Gwilym

Maybe you don’t have a place in your heart for this adorable (?) little fuzzball, but if you know anything about her (we think it’s a her), please contact us. We can’t figure out what she eats. You can see the teeth on her, but I’ve never seen her so much as nibble a donut.

Technically, she’s Mom’s. But Mom is dead and our place is “no pets”. She died on Thanksgiving, rest her soul. We swoop in for turkey (NOT politics) and then she keels over in the cranberry sauce, flips over and tangles with the bird. Cranberry sauce down her best dress—looked like somebody shot her. Last thing she ever said wasn’t about us, it was about the fuzzball, how it was almost “done with her”. Crazy.

Ma loved the thing, called it something that sounded like “Grinny”, but who knows since we could never-ever get my mom to wear her teeth. Grinny is still here and likes loud white noise. She hides by the AC, but likes AC/DC even better. Ma used to put on my old tapes at breakfast. The neighbors didn’t like that, but maybe yours won’t judge. Running the blender and dishwasher and microwave all at once works pretty okay too tho. (Pro tip.)

Don’t agitate Grinny. If things are too quiet, that’s what you get. Turns everything out and upside-down. Comes from behind the fridge and goes for the trash, couch cushions, potted plants. Juney saw her half lodged in the toilet bowl last week when we were in, cleaning the place. Seemed like she was looking for something but I don’t think she found it.

Sometimes Grinny disappears for as long as a week. When it happened to Ma, she said she missed the company, but she got sleep.

“Why would anyone want this monster around?” you’re asking. Well, that’s the thing. When you pet her you feel… good. Like anything is possible. Her fur isn’t soft the way it looks (it’s prickly like rows of Xactos), but you get used to that. And then it’s all good. Everything is  really good. You could sit there, and sit there, just moving your arms rhythmically, never needing to be anywhere else, or do anything else. I don’t know how to explain it, but thinking thoughts and being places seems stupid when you have your hands in that fur.

We can’t get Grinny to eat anything out of a can. Not anything out of a bag either. We tried dog food. Chinese. Primanti’s. Mineo’s. We’ve done everything we know how to do and we’re starting to worry. She’s getting weird. Okay, weirder. Restless. Maybe she’s almost “done with” us too.

Anyway, call or text or whatever, and do it soon. We’re tired, and worn out, and I have to get back to work, and the estate’s not settled, and Juney doesn’t look so good. Like maybe she’s coming down with something. And right when it’s almost time for Christmas.

Douglas’s story “Poppy’s Poppy” is on the preliminary ballot for a Bram Stoker Award this year, and “Year Six” appeared on Ellen Datlow’s Best Horror #14 recommended reading list after making the preliminary ballot last year. He is co-editing The Midnight Zone’s upcoming first edition, Novus Monstrum, which is jam-packed with modern legends of weird fiction, but is also a showcase of new talent. Read his stories in Lucent Dreaming, LampLight, Penumbric, Diet Milk, and Tales from the Moonlit Path, or listen on Bloody Disgusting’s Creepy podcast or Tales to Terrify.

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“Feminine Growl” Horror Microfiction by Madison Randolph

"Feminine Growl" Horror Microfiction by Madison Randolph: woman holding large drill

“Control is an illusion which is in and of itself a cliche or an illusion of knowledge. A double illusion if you will, but I digress.” She ran her fingers lightly over the tools spread across the table. A feminine movement, albeit yet one she was loath to stop herself from performing. 

“You know darling,” she sighed, her fingers slipping around the handle of her favorite drill, “you’ve always known how to” she clicked the button the whirl filling the room, “turn me on.” 

For a moment all was right in the world. Unfortunately, it was too late to see the fear in her eyes as they’d already been removed, but her ears worked wonderfully well for someone who had been ignoring her genius for the past fortnight. 

As the drill tip lowered towards the knee, her body tensed up in preparation for the unimaginable pain. 

To fight against the flesh is spiritual, and while her mind had always egged her on towards greatness the indolence that seeped from her bones turned her limbs to mush at the slightest hint of effort. 

There was no obstacle, no force, no patriarchal demon that held her future dormant. It was then that morning when the alarm clock went off again after the fourth snooze that it occurred to her the problem. The flesh is weak, but the drill is not.  

Madison Randolph is attending the University of Texas Permian Basin to earn her Master’s in English. Her works have appeared in Friday Flash Fiction, The Drabble, Bright Flash Literary Review, Spillwords, The Chamber Magazine. Also, 101 Words as Ryker Hayes. She can be found on Instagram madisonrandolph17 or Twitter @Madisonr1713

If you would like to be part of The Chamber family, follow this link to the submissions guidelines.

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“Dispassionate” Dark Fiction by Joseph Townsend

"Dispassionate" Dark Fiction by Joseph Townsend: man in bed on phone

When the phone rang Louis came awake with no memory of his dreams and a sinking feeling in his stomach he couldn’t place.  He reached over – wide awake, despite the hour and the sudden pull from sleep – and picked up the handset.

The voice on the other end spoke in a harsh whisper and he sat up with a bolt of animal fear. His hand found his sleeping wife, stroked her thigh beneath the blanket. 

The voice said, “How long until I fall in love did you ever really care what year was it you lost it all how do you feel now is it dead yet are you alone do you feel it—“

He pulled the phone from his ear, looked at it for a moment, and killed the connection.  It beeped and fell silent and he sat still in the quiet dark for an hour with his hand on his wife’s leg.

Then he rose and went downstairs to make breakfast. He was always up earlier and he always made her breakfast, even during the brief time in their late twenties that their marriage had been hanging on by a thread.

Harriet woke to lazy sunlight,  the smell of toast and something frying.  She dressed quickly in a t-shirt and sweats patterned with cats (a random gift from Louis, one of those he would bring home on occasion for no reason at all) and went downstairs.  In the kitchen Louis stood at the stove, frying bacon in a pan.  He didn’t turn to look at her and she yawned, frowned at his back.  “Are you okay?”

“Of course,” he said.  His voice seemed flat.  She sat at the table and watched him, his stiff posture, shoulders bent slightly as he turned the food over.

“Did you sleep okay?” she asked, feeling silly as the words left her mouth – since when did they make small talk?  Louis had always been a somewhat dispassionate man – given more to acts of service than declarations of love – but he was a morning person, it was when his energy was at its’ highest, and this behaviour was out of character.

“Sure I did,” he said, and he turned to her.  His face was as flat as his voice.  Behind his horn rimmed glasses his eyes seemed to float somewhere:  over her shoulder, to the dark expanse of the living room.  She turned, expecting to see something there, and when her gaze returned to her husband the sunlight filtering in bursts through the thin blinds above the kitchen sink triggered her.  She stiffened and her eyes went wide then squinted shut then went wide again and she started to convulse, falling out of the chair, knocking it aside with a splayed foot, and she was aware of it all and the light was so bright and the pain in her locked dancing limbs was excruciating.

*** *** ***

Louis watched until the bacon began to burn.  He turned and slowly shut off the gas, watching the flame recede and go out.  Then he walked past Harriet’s flailing body into the living room, through the hall to the parlour and the second downstairs bedroom. Satisfied that their son Jacob was at high school as he should’ve been, he returned to the kitchen.  Harriet was flat on her back – her eyes filmed over, glassy, following him as he gingerly picked up the kitchen chair she’d knocked over.

“You really ought to be more careful in taking your medication, sweetheart,” he said, dragging the chair to the centre of the kitchen.  He lowered himself onto it and sat with his knees apart, hands dangling, like he was watching a fishing line.

She made a savage noise deep in her throat and he glanced at the iPhone sitting on the table.  His face was expressionless, a wad of putty into which flat blue eyes had been stuck.  “I’ll call an ambulance after,” he said.  “I don’t believe you’ll make it through this one.  They’ve been getting worse.  I’d say that I’m sorry but I don’t know if I feel things like that anymore.”

Her ankle hit the table, sent a salt shaker to the floor with a clatter.

He said, “I got the oddest phone call this morning.”

JP Townsend is a writer of crime, science fiction and horror.  Originally born in Terre Haute, Indiana, he migrated to Australia as a teenager and currently resides in Brisbane, Queensland, with his partner and a very talkative cat from whom he gets most of his ideas.  Currently employed as a motor winder, he has previously been a high school English teacher, a line cook, and an intern editor.  Townsend completed a bachelor’s of fine arts in creative writing at the Queensland University of Technology in 2013, and has been writing since the age of fifteen.

“The Thrill”, a science fiction story set in a post-apocalyptic United States, was published by Aurealis – an Australia speculative fiction monthly – in May 2022.

“Teeth”, originally published on Reddit’s nosleep forum, was narrated here (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Go1zvHMXRx8&t=1223s) and currently has over 40,000 views.

If you would like to be part of The Chamber family, follow this link to the submissions guidelines.

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“Truth Reigns in the Dark” Surreal Dark Flash Fiction by Marie-Louise McGuinness

"Truth Reigns in the Dark" Surreal Dark Flash Fiction by Marie-Louise McGuinness (Ireland)

When the crow-slick dark bloomed in the sky I did not cry, I did not weep. Instead, I allowed Death’s aphotic feathers to tickle long strokes on my porcelain skin, naked and begging for condescension. The sensation spurred a sharp toothed slash of content to cut red through my cheeks hewn to life-deadened marble.

I’ve always known that authenticity fades in the light, the truth bleached weak in sepia hued facade. It is in the nighttime that humanity bites their shackles loose, their muscled tongues looping thick chain links, savouring the iron-rich metal that brands their throats with the soft drip of wrong. For depravity spurs joy when judgement is blind in sleep.

So, as the primrose yellow glare of sun became dotted with ink from the master’s pen, I flooded with relief. I rejoiced as he drew a bumblebee sting of molten venom and released it to creep like mercury through sprawling tree roots and to thread in silver webs that turned solid in water, damming the rivers and streams. Sustenance altered for the new age.

Earthen sweat dripped tangy with fear and the humans crouched low in light of perceived strikes from a vengeful God. Their skin morphed to pallid parchment, cracked papyrus leeching pus sap to glisten upon stricken faces. Tear-choked wails of remorseful prayer thickened the air to a rich soup of torment, a fragrant siren call to rouse the beasts from slumber.

The forests became rambunctious in parliament and switch blade talons sprouted without shame from fur and feathers erect with sparking electricity. In formation, they marched upon the man-made towns; across deserted bridges and down machine-tarred black roads. Their glistening pin-teeth were bared and ready to bite.

The weak among us turned to bone, their flayed meat swallowed raw, but the feral were free to indulge. And in the blood shed of pain and pleasure we were returned to the animal state, civilization eradicated, we were able to live free.

Marie-Louise McGuinness comes from a wonderfully neurodiverse household in rural Northern Ireland. She has work published or forthcoming in Roi Faineant Press, Bending Genres, Intrepidus Ink, Flash Fiction Magazine and The Airgonaut amongst others. She enjoys writing from a sensory perspective.

“Rendition” Dark Fiction by Jan Cronos

It is her rendition that is not a performance for the audience is a cabal. It is a covert interrogation. They deem it an intervention but that is a matter of definition. Her own arms are defined, the musculature interlaced with veins punctured by a variety of finely pointed needles and there is also needlework on her thighs- in that case graven images or purple and ochre graphics commonly called tats. She has inscribed herself in color inlaid on flesh.

A moment’s pause in the rendition: she has stopped breathing-the onlookers gasp at what they don’t understand.

“Has she overdosed?,” a hoarse voice inquires.

With a gush of wind from her hinter parts, she responds, then woofs a cryptic retort.

“She’s gone with the wind,” her birth mother laments.


This is indeed a performance she has put on for the folks-for the older sister straitlaced and stiff faced who’s an old maid and the pop who officiated at the family beer blasts called dinners she never attended and the whoring aunt whose critical rhetoric was a source of frustration. Her own rendition to counter their rendition: “I am no terrorist,” she blurts, knowing they are terrified by her lifestyle, by her consorts, by the bedraggled men with protruding bulges she hangs with, fearing one day she will hang herself. She knows her fear matches their own, she is roped in, swathed in self-pity. Her self-control is abrogated. The chemical agents have indoctrinated her. She has met with Joe Black and sucked his gurgling lips. Her rendition is complete with several expletives from multiple sources, inside and out-a veritable barrage that batters her. The cabal is complicit in her incipient suicide. Her last words are illustrated, and her wounds bleed toxic.

Author lives and writes in NYC.

“How to Become a Butterfly Martian” Dark Flash Fiction by Jeniya Mard

"How to Become a Butterfly Martian" Dark Flash Fiction by Jeniya Mard

First, find two butterflies. 

Butterflies are a crucial part of your transformation, you can’t fully convert without two, so find the biggest, healthiest ones you can. Make sure they're happy, give them nectar, a soft place on your finger to perch, and whatever else they need until a week goes by and they’re still alive and well in your care. Once the butterflies begin to hover around your room, land on your pile of dirty clothes, and stick their thin legs to the lip of your drinking glass, as if tap dancing against it, then you know it’s time. 

Second, set the table. 

First impressions are very important, so it's even more important that you get your scenery correct. If your kitchen table isn’t facing a window with clear access to the moon, move it into a spot where it is. Once the table is in its spot, make sure that all of the lights are off, including any cell phones or smartwatches; it has to be completely dark. Gently set the butterflies down so they lay on their backs against the table, as if they were in some sort of a frame. 

Third, wait until the moon rises. 

Once it’s high enough in the sky that your table is engulfed in the gentle grey hue of the night, pick out a metal spoon and take your seat in front of the table. When the moonlight is hitting your face through the window, take the tip of the spoon and place it in the corner of your eye.

Four, begin scooping. 

You’ve practiced it a lot of times, so there shouldn’t be any hesitation. Penetrate the cornea if you have to, dig into the back and sever nerves and binding tissue if you must, but don’t flinch. You wouldn’t want to scare the butterflies away. Continue until the spoon holds your eye, and allow it to roll onto the table, your iris shivering in the moonlight. 

Repeat until the second eye is out. 

Fifth, reach forward. 

It’s dark, but it won’t be for long. With what little breaths you can take in between the never-ending rush of blood gushing down your face and into your mouth threatening to drown you, take a hold of the butterflies, careful not to pinch or snag at their wings as you used your pointer finger and thumb to raise them. 

Sixth, transform. 

With their feet flailing before your face, place the butterflies within your sockets; press onto their backs with a gentle, asserting force as their feet and wings bob in an uncertain commotion, only for their resistance to stop as they begin to have a taste. Sweet like berries you are; they begin to dig, their antennas dragging against the inside of your sockets as they burrow deeper and deeper until the world suddenly burst with color; the crystallization of their bodies leaving you in awe; vulnerable and willing, all for the moon. 

Jeniya Mard is a writer from Metro-Detroit and has a passion for writing strange, thought-provoking pieces of fiction and poetry. She loves to push the boundaries of what traditional writing looks and feels like, often writing about topics some tend to steer away from, pieces that make a reader uncomfortable in curiosity; wonder. Her writing has appeared in The Central Review, Quirk Magazine, Sky Island Journal, and others. 

“The Last Tweet” Dark Flash Fiction by Ellis Shuman

"The Last Tweet" Dark Flash Fiction by Ellis Shuman

He was a middle-aged businessman from London; she introduced herself as a hospital nurse who lived in Nairobi. They met by chance, in a virtual way, because they were both enthralled by the fiction of Haruki Murakami. It wasn’t clear if he followed her first, or if she was the one to initiate the conversation, but soon they were chatting regularly, in 280 characters or less.

And then their tweets went private, becoming direct message exchanges that were far more personal and far more intimate than what was permissible in an open Twitter feed. He told her of his marital frustrations and she said she was a single mother, working long shifts to make ends meet. Then, on a drunken impulse, he revealed that he had never had sex with a black woman. This was something about which he often fantasized. She tweeted back that she had never slept with a white man. She admitted that thoughts of this type of relationship turned her on.

He flew out of Heathrow on a dark, wintry night and arrived in Kenya on a bright, sunny afternoon. She met him at the airport and they embraced as if they had known each other for years. They took a taxi to a nearby hotel where they checked into the room he had reserved. Afterward they lay entwined on the sweat-covered linens, time slipping away and the real world calling for their return.

Their rendezvous was short-lived. He had a plane to catch. She needed to prepare dinner. He had to return to his business; she had a young child demanding her attention. He was sorry he couldn’t stay; she was upset that their affair was coming to an abrupt, although expected ending.

On his taxi drive to the airport a car pulled close to block the vehicle. Three angry-looking men emerged from within. They dragged him from the cab and pushed him into their car. He tried to protest but they tied a white cloth around his mouth. He had no way of knowing that these were the nurse’s brothers; they had come from their village to protect their family’s honor.

In a clearing they pulled out machetes and axes and had their way with the foreigner. They left him there, or what was left of him, for the lions. Then they wiped their weapons clean and returned to their car. There was plenty of homemade alcohol waiting for them in the village.

Later that night, their sister was at her computer, following her Twitter feed. A humorous tweet caught her eye. The tweeter’s profile was very interesting – he was a teacher from Copenhagen. It turned out they both shared an appreciation for Murakami’s novels. It wasn’t clear if he followed her first, or if she was the one to initiate the conversation, but soon they were chatting regularly, in 280 characters or less.

Ellis Shuman is an American-born Israeli author, travel writer, and book reviewer. His writing has appeared in The Jerusalem Post, The Times of Israel, and The Huffington Post, and many online literary publications. He is the author of The Virtual Kibbutz, Valley of Thracians, and The Burgas Affair.

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“The Last Vampire” Dark Flash Fiction by Roly Andrews

"The Last Vampire" by Roly Andrews, The Chamber Magazine

“Here it is,” he said.

I took the VCR tape from his grey shaking hands, his nails clipped but chipped; yellow. Veins protruding, pumping proudly beneath the skin of his hands, lower arms, and neck. I studied his face; the sockets of his eyes were sunken and dark. His eyes were red, but not bloodshot red, they were more of a dull crimson. They looked dry and painful.

“How long have you got?” I asked more out of interest than concern; years of war reporting and hardnosed political journalism dulling and hardening my sensitivities toward death and mayhem.

“Not long,” he answered without emotion, “maybe a couple of days, a week max.”

“That’s a shame,” I said, “I’m sorry.”

Aldric nodded slightly. “Sailor Vee,” he said, immediately selling me a beaming smile, instantly transforming him from a dying old man into a charming, charismatic dandy.

He really would have been something in his day, I thought, somewhat alarmed and uncomfortable that even now, he still could turn on the charm, and draw people toward him.

“You mean, c’est la vie?” I corrected.

“Oh no,” Aldric answered with a thin smile, lisp, and twinkle. “Sailor Vee always asked how long I had. But he knew the answer well enough. He was such a lovely, lovely man, a Chief Warrant Officer at the naval base on Treasure Island. I used to call him my own personal Rear Admiral, lower half, of course. He’s gone now. Like all the others, all gone!”

Above his wounded smile, I could see a tear welling in the corner of his right eye. His eyes remained parched and sore. The tear was yellow, his liver playing one last indignity on the old man.

“This tape, this cassette,” I asked, “it tells your story?”

“Oh, yes, it tells my story. It tells all my friends’ stories, chronicling our demise, both here and in New York. I had friends and lovers in both San Francisco and New York. And before the 80s we had a blast. Lived the high life! The colour, the creativity, the gentle souls, and free love. Then AIDS came along and changed the world, ravaging the community we fed on. Then it ravaged us. It decimated us. One by one we expired; dried up, turned to dust.”

“So, what do you want me to do with this tape?” I asked.

Aldric looked at me, his face open and relaxed. “I want you to tell our story. I want you to play this tape on your television program. I want the world to know that vampires existed. That we lived, we killed, we loved, and we died. That we were not mythical! I have given my executor instructions that you are to be notified of my death. You are not permitted to play the tape before then—understand?”

“Yes, of course,” I reassured, “but Aldric, one thing I don’t understand is that HIV, is and was contained mainly within the gay and drug communities. How did you and your friends contract the disease?”

“Oh, come on, Lester,” Aldric scorned, “you are not that naive. We are, or at least were, creatures of opportunity. We were creatures of convenience. We targeted those who would not have been missed: the addicts, the young gay men who may have run away from home. And Lester my darling, I may be old and close to death, but only a moment ago, I sensed your loins stir! We are androgynous, we are bisexual, we are vampires, and we will be gone very soon.”

“There are highly effective treatments these days,” I responded, “drugs that suppress the virus, boost the immune system. Why don’t they work on you? Didn’t work on your friends?”

“I’m not a doctor, nor scientist, but the viral suppressants kill us quicker than the complications of HIV. Our choice was simple. Die almost immediately by taking the drugs—believe me, many chose this path. After I contracted AIDS, I had nothing to live for, except, that is, to tell our story. And this is where you come in, Lester.”

Aldric attempted to stand, his elbows struggling to lock as he pulled himself out of the chair.  His arms shook, and he wobbled. I rushed over, bending over to support him. He leaned forward, his arms embracing me, pulling me close. I smelt his cologne; I felt his breath on my throat. I wasn’t afraid.

“You would have been easy,” Aldric whispered in my ear. “Very easy.”

Roly Andrews lives in Nelson, NZ, in his spare time he enjoys tramping. After many years of practicing, he is still trying to learn to play the trombone! A champion for everyone, he has mentored rough sleepers and supported people affected by suicide. He advocates for the rights of people living with disabilities.

While you’re here, why not visit The Chamber’s Submissions page or The Chamber’s nascent project: Rural Fiction Magazine.

“Papa’s Candy Store” Dark Fiction by Hanna Bäckström

Trigger warning

Please be advised that while this content is entirely fictional, it contains graphic references to topics that some readers may find disturbing.

Our father runs a candy store. Ever since we were little, sister and I would leave our house, as ordinary as any other, to come back in the evening to a dazzling confectionary, instead. Nobody knew of this, except for us. It was our secret. Everything a child could dream of, far as the eye can see. Rows upon rows of polka striped candy canes, lollipops swirled in all colours of the rainbow, daintily sealed chocolates in small plastic bags, tied with a red or yellow ribbon. There’s even a cotton candy machine, tirelessly weaving pink clouds through the night. But most fantastical of all, must surely be the life-sized grandfather clock standing proudly in the very centre of the store, made purely out of confections, and sealed behind thick glass so as not to be ruined by a child’s curious hands. Another one of papa’s candy store secrets, is how it manages to tick just as a normal grandfather clock would. Does it have gears made of candy, too?

When papa was our age, his father ran the candy store, and prior to that, his father. It’s a family tradition, father explains, that must be kept a secret to the rest of the world in order for its magic to persist. A paradise loses its wonder once everybody finds out about it, he’d conclude, and sister and I would nod in understanding unison.

When night falls and the confectionary’s lights flare to life, the two of us, two peas in a pod, sneak in as papa locks the door, and as per family tradition, become candy, too.

Like lollipops, father unwraps us to get a taste of our sugar. Sister and I, identical since birth, must have pretty much the same flavour. Her always being mistaken for a boy and I for a girl, under his tongue, we fully become one and the same, and forget our names. The grandfather clock ticks on through the feast. Sister and I, too, fill our cheeks with candy, growing cloyingly sweet as the night goes on, growing hot, burning, syrup oozing down our throats into our sugar-filled bellies, and with thick honey marinating our bodies from father’s porcelain canteen swirling over us, its shadow jumping from her body to mine. When the sweetness burns so sickly it becomes bitter, he slurps away our tears, too. Wasting not a single part of us, papa eats us with kisses that leave sugary marks, his lips traveling from the whites of our eyes to the vertebrae between our spines. Love fills every cell just to the brink of explosion. But, if they did explode, father would surely fill us all up again. Lucky there’s two of us, sister had whispered once, or we’d already have burst like a balloon. Yet, if it’s affection that breaks you, is that really such a bad thing?

When father wraps us up at last, rolling plastic round our heads, we’ve grown thinner again. Eating us without eating us, papa then puts us to sleep. The grandfather clock stops its ticking, and the wonderfully dazzling candy store, filled with everything a child could dream of far as the eye can see, closes for another night.

Hanna states: “I am a Swedish university student with a passion for art and writing. I find it interesting to explore the clash between morbidity and sweetness, which most of my works focus on. My Instagram for dark poetry is @depressedkid.exe and I also am a member of Cosmofunnel, another place where I share my poetry, and go by the pseudonym Sad Girl. “

While you’re here, why not check out our submission guidelines and our bookshop?

Two Works of Flash Fiction by Dylan Thomas Lewis: “Hallowed Cliff” and “They Did It for their Freedom”

Hallowed Cliff

The archway stood firm under the shroud of night, its heart spelled in dripping letters: Hallowed Cliff Cemetery. He could still discern the entrance atop the sodden hill despite the starless sky, through the rain and sweeping winds. The image had been blistered into his unconscious. He marched on through the marshy soil as if he could rid himself of it by way of physical exertion; or perhaps cleanse his spirit with heaven’s baptismal waters. He dared not stop for fear of sinking through the earth and residing himself to an unceremonious yet eternal tomb. Though the world would not make it easy. Several times he lost his footing and slid upon the mud before slamming the shovel head into the ground and forcing himself up, carrying on with stubborn consternation. 

He wiped the muck on his pants as he passed under the arch and trudged forward among the aisles. Over the fresh and dying roses, the pink and purple larkspurs. Past endless processions of graves. Stones of granite. Stones of marble. Sandstone and slate. Some brandishing themselves to the eye, almost arrogant in their novelty. Others having been neglected for centuries, their texts gone as if washed away by Mother Nature for some unutterable slight against her. He eyed the years as he went, capricious, interchangeable; like philosophical tauntings from beyond, calling to him, demanding he decipher their unanswerable ponderings. 

The shovel struck into the ground as he removed a pewter flask from the inside of his shirt, then took a swig and stepped to the grave before him. He looked upon the head with bloodshot eyes, compelled to take in the marking over and over again by light of Zeus and Selene; inconstant; uncertain. 

Eva Meridian Mara
February 21st, 1981 — July 8th, 2021
A Mother
A Friend
A Person
Rest in Peace
Could’ve thought of better.

He drank, then replaced the flask and stepped to the grave opposite. He unbuckled his belt and pissed into the sloshy soil. 

“Apologies, miss — errr — mister.”

He flicked his member clean and redid the front of his jeans, then took the shovel in hand and returned to the opposite grave. With a last look at the stone, he stabbed the shovelhead into the mud and lifted a mound of green and black muck from the earth, tossing it to the side and splattering little balls on the opposing marker. Shovelful after shovelful. Foot after foot. He spent an hour laboring deeper and deeper into the earth, stopping at several points to pour water from his shoes. Finally he was done, breath unsteady, a salty sweat amongst the rain on his brow. 

A great hole sat before him, four by eight in dimension with a depth of six feet, the lid of a dark red casket peeking out the bottom. He lowered himself in and dug along the side until he found the latch. A light hiss escaped as he undid it, like a snake warning him from its burrow. It drew his thoughts toward the darkness within. Toward the all-knowing nothing entrapping the poor soul inside. It struck him with what he felt was an unnatural reverence. A connection and understanding unique to him and him alone. 

He’d always found an allure to such things. A morbid, yet uncompromising curiousness for the shadows — of both sight and mind. For the implications they presented. The universal and contradictory lessons that fed him without frame left him frozen in place, unable to comprehend what lay before him, regardless what his conscious mind would admit. The horror. The humor. The eternal void just below the surface of all. 

He lifted the lid by a foot and shined his phone inside. He saw an arm veiled by a wispy white dress, stiff and pale like a cheap manikin. Spitting onto the earth wall opposite, he slid his phone in and let the lid drop, removing the flask and downing what remained. He washed what mud he could from his hands, limbs, and torso, then rubbed his hands across his face and put his head back to run them through his hair. With a final breath, he gave a glance toward the waning moon in the east and crawled inside.

He set the still shining phone on the cadaver’s stomach and burrowed his way next to it, snuggling close with his arm under the neck. His hands grasped the rigor, the penetrating cold. His eyes traced up and down the ghostly vessel. He imagined her origins, physical and ethereal. Tried to unweave the mysteries and intricacies of her being as well as those who’ve come before and will come long after. The marks of his existence and what it all amounted to. The incalculable sum rendered indistinguishable from its antecedents. 

Rubbing his fingers across her cheek, he stared at the unflinching eyelids, decorated with red and black eyeshadow. At the plush raven hair, the light reflecting off it like stars in the vacuum of space, ever expanding, shifting further and further away. His body began to shake. He smashed his eyes shut and swallowed the snot creeping down the back of his throat. Tears of regret leaked onto his cheeks. A great breath entered his lungs and returned as if unsure of the vitality of its own purpose. 

He reopened his gaze to the eyelids. He reached with trembling hands and placed them directly under. He moved to lift the lids from their perch, but shot back upon touch, reeling as if scorched by some invisible spark. His head hung, he cried harder than he’d ever done. His eyes, half drowned in tears, stared past the light into the darkness and beyond. It stared back. He clutched the body close, burying his head into the bosom as his weeps filled the tomb, echoing back into his shattered sense of self.

They Did It for their Freedom

The sun rose as they moved the slaves young and old through the gates of Cathartra. Off the hardened pozzolana and onto the crude, unkempt path towards the Anglo River. The slaves in their thin, ebony rags amongst the Cathartrans in their flowing, ivory robes. Two days prior, the former had taken captive three of the most powerful families in the land, raiding their property and moving them to the valerian fields in the dead of night. Just before dawn, they allowed one of the captives to flee, instructing him to inform the Council of Six of what had occurred. 

The child dashed through the streets in his soil stained garments until he came to the council building, a band of warriors stationed at the front. Flamed with righteous indignation, the Council rushed to conduct an emergency session. Noon came and the slaves approached with the three families in their grasp. They did it for their freedom, they said. They wished to speak with the council and negotiate a peaceful resolution between their people. To raise the land as equals under Cathartran law.

The eldest seven were invited to discuss terms. For hours the soldiers stayed planted outside, watching the slaves with distrustful stares that were readily reciprocated. The tension pranced amongst them like a phantomed, temptress mare, urging them toward bloodshed until the negotiators reemerged.

The slaves were promised full rights under the courts as well as a mule per person and land at the outskirts of town; roughly forty acres per family. Men were granted entrance within the military and the group as a whole would no longer remain responsible for the trades previously forced upon them. Rather, tasks would be split evenly between them and the Cathartrans and training was to begin immediately so that all could become educated on such matters. Upon graduating from this instructional period, the two groups would come together as a single labor force.

The last promise was, to symbolize their status as true citizens, each slave would be taken to engage in the Rite of Till at the Temple of Kings. In two days time, a party of Cathartrans would lead half the slaves to conduct the ritual while the rest would attend the morning after. This latter group would remain in Cathartra to commence preparations as they awaited the others’ return. Once these terms were announced, the slaves released the families and took camp in the valerian fields while the Council called the soldiers in for the night.

It was noon when the first party marched onto the boats. Cries from the infants had been audible since they left, resounding through the ranks and vexing the Cathartrans’ ears the further they traveled. They docked on the opposite shore and continued on through the Fifteen Fields. Soon the slaves began to sing songs of torment and sorrow. At first, but a single child recited the tunes, though, within the hour, the entire party had joined, rousing a powerful chorus that resounded through the land. Though they spoke in tongues foreign to the Cathartrans, the emotions touched deep within their marrow.

The vocals continued as they entered Brown’s Forest at evening’s dawn, sentiments still rocking like great, granite swings from the gods. From there, the Temple would not be far. As they trudged forward, the grass and trees grew thick and tangled, blocking sunlight from their struggling forms. It didn’t take long for the singing to diminish and eventually die within the darkness, giving once more to cries of infants.

The Temple was dilapidated, overrun with vines and other forms of wildlife. A screech sounded in the distance as an unrelenting stench sauntered about. The Cathartrans looked to the building with a familiar air while the slaves gaped with mixed emotions. Even the children fell silent upon arrival. The Cathartrans led them inside, the lone source of light now the torches in hand. Hordes of cobwebs were scattered about the place, all coated in a clean sheet of dust, including the aged, yet dominant obelisk at the center. It reached near the very top of the Temple, inscribed with pre-Cathartran text.

The Cathartrans rested their torches upon bronze sconces as the slaves gathered around the obelisk, vying for proper views. The eldest of the negotiators shuffled to the front and roamed once around the pillar, sliding his fingers across the text in a slow, gentle stroke, pondering as if caught in a profound, yet forgotten memory. He crouched to examine the base, then rose and whispered in a vernacular unrecognizable to anyone. It was as he did this the Cathartrans unsheathed their swords.


Evidence was taken of their deed as a warning for those left in Cathartra; menial objects such as clothing, necklaces, and bracelets. Some then graduated to thieving sections of the slaves themselves. Eyes, scalps, tongues — even severed legs of the children. The survivors gathered their torches and trudged out of the Temple. The return journey through the Forest was cruel and arduous on account of their labor and the blood-soaked robes holding them down.

When they maneuvered their way into the Fields, there was but a single ray of sunshine glistening over the horizon. The last image one could see as it disappeared and gave way to night was that of their demented figures, united in a call to slaughter. Crimson shapes in the dark. Hellish protectors of their way of life. They stepped forward and left the Forest behind them, marching backward through the night. On toward Cathartra, the glorious polis they loved without condition.

Dylan Thomas Lewis is a writer and musician from Kirksville, Missouri. He graduated from Central Methodist University in May of 2019 after serving as co-editor of the college’s literary magazine for two years. He writes screenplays, short stories, and music, playing guitar for Electronic Rock band Secular Era. His favorite writer is Cormac McCarthy. His favorite filmmaker is Stanley Kubrick. 

His first submission “Hallowed Cliff”* can be classified as Southern Gothic. The second submission “They Did It For Their Freedom” is an experimental piece loosely based on a story from ancient Sparta, mixing elements of Horror, Fantasy, and Historical Fiction. 

While you’re here, why not check out our submission guidelines and our bookshop?

“Mary’s Garden” Flash Horror by Thomas Falater

"Mary's Garden" Flash Horror by Thomas Falater

Mary was proud of her garden: it was lush, green, and magnificent. Mary had more than just a green thumb; she had an almost magical power to grow anything she planted and this power would be put to the test in a most unusual way.

She lived with her husband Elliot and they were both retired. Mary spent most of her time in the garden while Elliot liked to watch her from the front porch. They lived in the town as far back as people could remember and they kept to themselves. Their only regular visitor was their doctor, Mark Thompson, who came to treat Elliot for cancer. His condition was getting worse and worse.

Mary and Elliot went on daily walks through the town, usually in the evening. Mary liked finding plants that other people threw away. She had a knack for bringing plants back to life, and she could even just break off a stem or leaf from a plant and grow a whole new one in her garden.

Mary’s neighbors told others that they could hear Elliot groaning in pain at night while Mary tried to comfort him. They wouldn’t talk about it but the rumor was that Elliot didn’t have long to live.

One day, Mary went to the hardware store and bought a large chainsaw. When the manager asked her what she planned to do with it, she told him to mind his own business. People speculated that she would probably cut trees on her property, but they couldn’t see how a woman her age could do that on her own.

Sometime later, there was a terrible commotion of noise in Mary’s garage at night. Her neighbor heard that she was using the chainsaw, and Elliot was screaming. He called the police, but Mary would not let them on her property. She told them that she was cutting up fish heads to fertilize her garden and it was none of their business. After she agreed to keep the noise down, the police left. 

Doctor Thompson came to check on Elliot the following day, but Mary stopped him at the gate. She told him that Elliot wouldn’t need him anymore. He pleaded with her to let him inside, but Mary assured him that Elliot was resting and comfortable. The doctor left with the promise that he would return in a few days.

Curiosity grew about what was really happening at Mary’s house. People saw her digging in her garden in the middle of the night, planting something. It was not unusual for Mary to be working in her garden, but why do work at night? And where was Elliot? Usually, he watched her from the front porch but he hadn’t been seen for days.

Doctor Thompson became increasingly concerned that he needed to see Elliot in person to check on his condition and he even threatened to take the police with him if Mary would not let him into their house. Rumors spread that Mary had done something to Elliot or that Elliot had died and Mary buried his body in their garden. 

When Doctor Thompson arrived at Mary’s gate, a crowd of people had already gathered to see whether Elliot was alive or not. Mary came to the gate, and even though she was upset by the group of onlookers, she let them enter anyway, explaining that Elliot was resting comfortably in the garden. She led them across her front lawn and through the side gate of her backyard.

In the middle of the garden, there sat Elliot on a wooden bench seemingly alive and well, although a bit pale and dirty. Doctor Thompson was astonished to find him in good health, the cancer had gone away. The neighbors and people from the town were surprised as well. Some even felt embarrassed about their own thoughts about Mary and what she might have done.

As the small crowd huddled over Elliot, Mary quietly raked the last remaining piles of dirt into the hole she buried Elliot’s arm in just a few nights ago, happy for her green thumb, her new husband, and her garden of magic.

Tom is a freelance writer from Southern California. His most recent work appeared in ’50-Word Stories’,  ‘Half Hour to Kill’ and ‘Three Line Poetry’.  He can be reached at tfalater@yahoo.com 

While you’re here, why not check out our submission guidelines and our bookshop?

Three Works of Flash Fiction by Conor Barnes: “The Dream Eater”, “The Duel”, and “Void”

Three Works of Flash Fiction by Conor Barnes: “The Dream Eater”, “The Duel”, and “Void”
The Dream Eater

Their new roommate did not need to eat or sleep. Instead she told them to share their dreams. Her only rule was that she must not be asked to interpret the dream.

They abided. They loved sharing every detail, and soon everybody in the dorm did too. She explained that labyrinths were best. Endless corridors, doors to nowhere, stalkers that changed shape when one turned away. At night the woman sat on the roof and received tribute, framed by the moon.

“I am in a lake and can see my ex hosting a beach party with my friends. I am drowning and they try to save me without leaving the beach.”

This pleased her.

“A snake is wrapping around my legs and I know it wants my teeth. But I check my mouth and my teeth are already gone. I look down and the snake has a human grin.”

This pleased her immensely.

The last night before she was to move on to the next school, a student from another dorm came to her and shared his dream. In it, he became lost in a building. Though he was deep inside, the sun beamed through the walls, and he burned alive.

He could make out the woman’s smile, in the dark of the roof. She thanked him for sharing, then bid him farewell. But he didn’t budge.

“Can you explain it? Is it about my soul?”

Disappointment surged through her. The dream evaporated into meaning. But still, she’d consumed a portion.

The student was still babbling. “I think it’s about my childhood. If you could interpret it, that’d be really helpful.” He turned to stare at the yellow moon. “What does it mean?”

The woman wrapped around the student. As water pushed the air out of his lungs and his skin began burning away, she hissed into his pounding ear: “Nothing. Nothing.”

The Duel

It is an hour until the duel. He thinks I will not kill him because I fear the law. But the law is made of men, and men will honour what I do today.

My wife’s scarf is around my arm, crusted with her blood. The arena will see it when the state observer checks us for hidden knives. He will give me the true blade. The true blade will make us equals. I will watch the market odds vibrate on the neon signs while their red light spills across us. The odds already say I will lose.

When we sign the final form together, I will spit on him. Everybody will begin to suspect. The odds will quiver.

If not for his capital friends, he would have been hanged. It would have millions of views by now. If not for his friends, he would have hanged.

But he couldn’t refuse the duel. He is a fool.

He won’t know until we bow and he sees my eyes. My wife and my son are resting in the bottom of my eyes, in the bottom of my heart. He will know. It will become hard for me to hide it. When I think about this moment, it becomes hard for me to hide it.

We will take the three steps. His will be dedicated to the scum that protect him. My first step for my wife. My second for my son. My third for the markets that make this possible. There is nothing else.

I will take a last look at the odds. They will tick up when the camera sees my face, hiding nothing. He will see the same odds on his side. He will become afraid, like an animal dreaming.

I will turn and throw in one motion, the way I have practiced. If I am lucky, he will fall and very slowly die. If I am unlucky, I will kill him with my hands. There is no fear in me. His blade will not pierce me because there is no place for death to enter me.

I will dip her scarf in his blood. It will free hers. The market will close. The crowd will cheer, many of them newly rich. The announcer will try to interview me before I am arrested. There will be no beauty left in the world.

Fifty minutes until the duel.


This is sacred sand. It was once a sacred temple that fell from the dream of the creator. I shall tell you how it came to be sand.

When the world was born, it was all one thing. Time was the same as space and you were the same as the light after a storm. But the words ‘time’ and ‘space’ and ‘you’ and ‘light’ did not make sense when the world was born. It was only and entirely form, without void, without withoutness.

Then God conceived of time as a separate thing. He did not know that he conceived emptiness as well. He gave birth to twins and then the world began to crack. Time let his brother Emptiness split many things. First the past split from the future, then the sky from the earth. Soon there was emptiness within all things. Things no longer simply were, they began and they ended. Because God does not begin and does not end, He was fascinated. He watched what happened in His creation.

God watched the day become night and said This is good. God watched the wolf kill the lamb and said This is good. God watched the fire eat the garden and said This is good.

Over time emptiness spread and wrapped tighter and tighter with form. Soon things were made of separate things. Soon everything was made of atoms.

Then God was truly pleased with his creation. He went to sleep. While He slept He dreamed new dreams. Everything He dreamed He added to the world. He dreamed the temple and He dreamed the altar. He dreamed Man to worship Him. Man was confused because Man was dreamed by something that is not empty, but Man was empty.

Man tried worshipping God but he was still empty. He tried not worshipping God but he was still empty. Man wandered the earth in rage for three years and learned many things. When he returned to the temple, he split its atoms apart. For a moment there was the radiance of a thousand suns and it was almost like the splendor of the creator. Then there was only sand. God saw it from His dream and said This is good.

Man saw the destruction he had brought and felt shame. He did not know it was good. He wandered the earth again for three years as penance. When he returned, he planted the sunflowers you see now across the sands of the temple. When they were grown, he laid down in them and died, and all of his matter spread across the field and the earth. God saw it from His dream and said This is good.

When the world is reduced to total emptiness, it will no longer be made of separate things. It will be only one thing again. Then God will wake up and bring Man back. He will take him over the waters and the deep darkness and will show him the empty and void world. He will say Do you see what we have done together? Do you see what we have created? Then God will sleep again, and Man will be steward over the nothingness, king of the void.

Conor Barnes is a Canadian writer living in Halifax. His fiction has been published in Literally Stories, the Metaworker, Shirley Magazine, and elsewhere. His poetry has been published in Modern Haiku, Frogpond, and Puddles of Sky Press.

If you enjoyed this story, you might also enjoy “Dream Errors” by Jay Charles.

“Safe Space” Dark Flash Fiction by Alan Caldwell

I spend most of my time in the woods, especially since I retired and my wife died in the same month three winters ago. My remaining friends and my children are convinced that I am too old to live alone in the tiny, powerless, cabin two long miles from the nearest passable road. But I am not afraid here. I have been afraid on city streets, in hospitals, in airplanes, but never in the forest. Sure, one might fall, freeze, twist an ankle, or get lost, but an old man who has experience usually knows how to avoid these perils, usually.  Modernity speaks of “safe spaces.”  My safe space has always been here. Maybe that genuine lack of fear explains why what has been happening to me for the last fortnight is so troubling.

I stepped outside that first night in question to relieve myself and curse my swollen prostate for the second time that evening. The stars were fiercely bright, bright enough to light my path.  The frozen ground cracked beneath my shoes, and my breath was visible for at least two feet.  I suddenly felt very cold, a chill deeper than the climate could explain. I also felt somewhat unlike myself in a way I can’t define, perhaps a slight, quickly-dissipating headache and dizziness, and then clarity. I also inferred that I was not alone. Woodsmen often experience that feeling when a wary old buck is observing them from behind a large Yellow Pine, or when an old gobbler approaches the hunter’s  calls unnoticed.  I contemplated retrieving my bright spotlight and searching the hillsides for eyes, but the cold drove me back to my bed.

When I awoke the next morning, the cold had crept through the cracks in my cabin and I again could see my breath. After rousing the banked fire in the stove and warming a pot of tea in my blue-speckled pot, the cold seemed more bearable. After breakfast, I donned my thickest coat, my wool toboggan, loaded my ancient lever gun with six long, slim, flat-nosed cartridges and set out on my normal westerly route.  I don’t particularly need the rifle; I carry it only because walking without would seem like so much absurdity. My people were hunters, and a man who walked in the forest without a gun on such a bitter morning would earn just derision. My tribe would have laughed at the mere notion of hiking as a rich man’s foolishment.  So I carry a gun because I can justly claim productivity. I walked slowly along old trails and abandoned logging roads, along creek bottoms, and atop ridges. I frequently paused, surveyed the much-colder-than-usual wind, and proceeded. I continued till the light faded. It was, in many ways, so much like every other winter day since I came to live here full time, except that I never escaped the feeling from last night that I didn’t walk alone.

That night I dreamed I was once again back at our old home. It was Thanksgiving, or Christmas, or Easter. I’m not sure which. There were faces of those who still walk the earth and faces of those long since gone. My wife prepared my plate, and the table and sideboard supported dish after dish of the foods that I loved most. There were three or four cuts of meats, soft breads, casseroles, and deserts too numerous to enumerate.  It seemed as if I had been asked to bless the feast and I could feel many hands on my shoulders. I struggled to find the sacred words and felt as if everyone were waiting on me, and still no words came. I could still feel their hands when I awoke with a fright. Again, I was very cold.

And so it went.  For two weeks I walked these  hills in the unseasonable, almost unreasonable, cold, but the once familiar woods now seemed strange. I felt haunted, and maybe, finally, afraid.  Each night I stood at the head of the dream table, the waiting hands again on my shoulders, and again, no prayer would come.

Early this morning I awoke again, wordless and chilled.  I stepped outside, much as I had done fourteen nights ago. The stars were again fierce, and there in the darkness, I could discern a frozen form on the ground, my form, and then all became clear, and warm, and finally I knew what words to say.

Alan Caldwell is a veteran teacher and a new author. He has recently been published in Southern Gothic Creations, Deepsouth Magazine, The Backwoodsman Magazine, and oc87 Recovery Diaries.

If you enjoyed this story, you may also enjoy “Timeshare” Horror by Mark Jabaut.

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“Hurdy-Gurdy” Horror by Billy Stanton

"Hurdy-Gurdy" Dark Fiction by Billy Stanton

This one is here, but it’s not alone; there are many others all over. Forget this minor thoroughfare, still enclosing Victorian gloom between shadowy carcasses of buildings venting sweet-and-sour steam over the vista of burger boxes, discarded Evening Standards and empty see-through plastic baggies. Elsewhere, beyond this area’s queasy combination of flashed-up bars owned by tag-teams of petty Albanian gangsters and petit-bourgeoisie, and the last remnants of the ‘massage parlour’ scene, there are wide high streets clogged with Ubers that see mile-long queues forming at the early-bird openings of the nightclubs. At closing, these same equivalents dutifully disgorge a hundreds-strong multitude of sweating, sneering, staggering bodies, all of them firmly and freshly stripped of their humanity, of care and concern, transformed into vessels of self-regard and base instinct, wordlessly calling for death because no-one seems willing to let them actually ever live (and what is living? What is it? Tell me, please. They’ve kept it a secret from me).

But none of those places have the purity of this one. Here they know there is nothing when the music stops; the crowd knows what ordinarily follows the cessation, and they react accordingly.

For much of the night, they sit around old tables that look fit still to receive deliveries of chicken-in-basket and beers no longer brewed. They don’t talk and don’t look at each other. They stare straight ahead, eyes locked on the sweat dripping on the walls of the humid room. Vast quantities of liquors are consumed in strange combinations. Blue, yellow, green and violet drinks are bought to the table by black-shirted spectres, the glasses and jugs festooned with the decorations of some clung-to fantasy island paradise. When finished, these are chased with hotter, burning drinks that turn stomachs into gargling bags of sludge and strip layers of protection from the inside of throats. Occasionally, white or scarlet powders from small glass vials are ingested.

The men all dress the same: they wear white t-shirts, black leather jackets and suede loafers without socks. Mirrored sunglasses hide their eyes, and the spectres bring them big cigars, which they pretend to know how to handle, emitting great lungfuls of sticky smoke that turn the environs into a shoebox of relentless asphyxiation. The women’s outfits are more distinct: skirts, catsuits, thin blouses and dresses of various lengths and cuts. Make-up drips as the temperature in the room rises; between deep gulps of liquid, the taste in mouths is often that of mascara and foundation, chemical and bitter.

 The music comes several hours into the night. A DJ appears from the wings and walks across the high-mounted stage at the back of the room. He stands behind the decks, looking out from between the stacked speakers of the sound system, and begins bouncing up and down before even the first note sounds. He is full of exhilaration, riding a wave of excitement that seems to have sucked up every bit of apprehension and anticipation from the audience and left them listless. Then the drums sound with terrifying force, shaking the walls and roof, fully waking everyone trying to sleep through the whooping and whistling Soho noise within a mile radius. The crowd rises, pushing the tables to the walls, and awaits the uncanny flourish that signals to begin their bacchanalia. The DJ straps a hurdy-gurdy to himself, leaving the record spinning as synth stabs burst and ricochet between the ceiling and the matte floor, and steps to the stage’s lip. Somewhere within the tumult, the grating, whining noise of his lacklustre playing can be heard by an attuned ear; this is the flag going down, the curtain going up.

For four minutes- no less, no more- the crowd descends into a fury. Bodies convulse and crease with movement, jerking violently to either the thud of the bass or the distant whinnying of the master of ceremonies’ cranked instrument. Punters tear at each other’s clothes and bodies, ripping hair out at the root, drawing and sucking blood from thick nail-torn gashes across chests and arms and faces, shoving tongues down throats and pummelling those holding the short straws to within an inch of life, heads stomped against the floor. The dancers begin to vomit with the exhausting aggression of their performance; other bodies in their joy slip and slide and fall in this mess, this commingling of bodily fluids and unidentifiable alcohols. The hurdy-gurdy player becomes more frantic and somehow much louder, his tune forming a hideous counterpoint to the overriding rhythm, soaring and sailing against it like a boat kept under control against the odds on a sea annihilated by a storm. Every ounce of feeling, every experience which has haunted them for days, weeks, months, years is expelled by the crowd as they flail against each other, destroy each other, rely on each other to form the punchbag, the straw-man, the hunk of meat able to absorb the exorcising brutality of their blows. Where, in the other places, half-measures are drawn, and thus the life lived outside can continue safely ticking along when the big night out is finished, here there is no giving up, no compromise. All is lain to waste; everyone is driven out of the world; everyone loses themselves utterly and for good.

Finally, finally the music stops. The hurdy-gurdy DJ is nowhere to be seen. The crowd stands silently for a few seconds in the remnants of the chaos that they have created. Then every body falls to the floor, limp and lifeless, like marionettes without masters pulling the strings, like scarecrows whose supporting poles have been ripped away, like hand puppets with the controlling hand withdrawn. They lay and stay completely still until they are pulled to the dawn streets by the spectres. One week later, the ritual- always- begins again, old faces mixing with the new.

Billy Stanton is a young working-class writer and filmmaker based in London, and originally from Portsmouth. His story ‘Screwfix’ was recently published in ‘New Towns’ (Wild Pressed Books). His short fiction has also appeared in Horla and The Chamber magazines. His latest short film ‘Noli is currently in post-production. His blog can be found at: steelcathedrals.wordpress.com

If you enjoyed this story, you might also enjoy Billy Stanton’s work of legendary fiction, “Cruel.”

“Just a Phase” Dark Flash Fiction by Alan Caldwell

"Just a Phase" Dark Flash Fiction by Alan Caldwell

Most of my tribe assumed I would seek an early abortion. The others suggested, almost insisted, that I put Chip up for adoption.  “There are a lot of people out there who would love him like their own,” they said.

The rape had left me so muddled that by the time I relized I was expecting, I didn’t even want to consider a procedure, any kind of proceedure.  I didn’t want to be touched, by anyone. I know it sounds cliche, but the knowledge that he was growing inside me made me feel as if I were not alone. I’ve read that many thousands of women are impregnated by their attackers, and that many opt to keep their child. Others fear that they will see their assailant every time they look at his offspring, but I never saw the bastard’s face, only the shiny knife he held to my throat, the same knife he was holding when the police found him, the same knife he was holding when they sent him to Hell. Maybe his death made me feel secure. Maybe that’s why I ignored my tribe.

I know I made the right decision, and I’m not questioning that now, not really. I need Chip’s company. He’s momma’s little man. My female friends are all single … and busy, and I haven’t even touched a man in over five years. Chip has always been an almost-perfect child. Even as an infant, he rarely cried, even when he was teething. I don’t think he has ever been sick for more than a day or two. According to those who write books about child development, he reached all of his milestones early. He walked early, talked early. He could even carry on a pretty good conversation before his third birthday. He’s momma’s little man.  He is the healthiest child I’ve ever seen. That’s why I wasn’t worried a few months back when he started sleep-walking. 

The first time it happened, I heard him shifting around and mumbling. I rolled over and studied the monitor. He was just sitting on the edge of his bed. I went to him, of course. His eyes were open but not looking at me. I asked him if he was ok. He mumbled something incoherent, lay back down and closed his eyes. I covered him with his comforter and went back to bed. I didn’t mention it to him the next morning. To be honest, I didn’t even think about it again.

Then, about a week later, on a Sunday night, it happened a second time, but this time no sound from the monitor woke me up. I felt a touch on my leg. I sat up, well, jumped up, and Chip was standing next to me, his hand on my knee. Like before, his eyes were open but looking elsewhere. I picked him up and placed him in the bed with me. He went straight to sleep. I lay there awake till dawn, my arm around his shoulders.

Monday morning, while trying to look as if I were engaged in yet another Zoom meeting, I Googled my way to expert status on the subject of somnambulance.

“Just a phase,” Psychweb said.

The phase continued just about every third night.  Usually, he mumbles just enough to wake me, and I watch on the monitor as he stumbles around his room for a minute or two and then lies back down.

Three nights ago I heard the unmistakable sound of running in the hall. When I sat up, I saw that Chip’s bed and room were empty. I picked  up the monitor and saw him scramble back into his room and jump back in his bed, as if he were hurrying to return before being caught. He pulled the covers up to his chin. When I went to check on him, he was fast asleep …  I think.

Last night it happened again, the running. It was 3am. I was already awake. I hadn’t even closed my eyes. I stepped out into the hall and saw Chip sprinting into the kitchen. By the time I got there behind him, he was opening the drawer next to the oven, the silverware drawer, the one with the knives. I stopped him. His eyes were open, but, again, looking elsewhere. I guided him back to his room and into his bed without waking him, just as the experts suggested. He mumbled a few times and then was silent. As I closed his door and turned toward my room I swear I heard him say the word  “daddy.”

Alan Caldwell is a veteran teacher and a new author. He has recently been published in Southern Gothic Creations, Deepsouth Magazine, The Backwoodsman Magazine, and oc87 Recovery Diaries.

If you enjoyed this story, you may also enjoy “The Red Eye of Love” dark fiction by Len Messineo.

While you are here, check out The Chamber’s Bookshop.

“bang dammit slam” Dark Flash Fiction by Daniel Solomon


Dammit! she cried. Slam! went her fist on the button,.

Maya drew her face near to the doorknob, as if speaking through it would amplify her sentiment. She tried to steady her voice through angry sobs as she demanded that Re exit the bathroom.

Re whimpered an apology from the other side

Then come out, Maya said. I need you here.

No, Re said, I need to take responsibility for this part.

Maya leaned into the door on clawed fingertips. She told Re it would be okay.

That is the stupidest thing you could say, said Re. We aren’t even gonna get into space.

Just come out, Maya insisted.

From inside the bathroom, Re answered, We’re running out of chances to take control of this.

Maya thought about the machine, and what was left of it. She thought about its too-tiny LED screen.

In no order, she remembered seeing:

The elimination of honeybees.

The nukes going off again. And then one more time.

Reform camps, work camps, concentration camps.

The complete eradication of monkeys from Delhi and Chandigarh.

Everyone who can do so taking shelter behind a gate.

Rhinoceroses burning under napalm appliques as white supremacists retreat from stolen lands in East Africa.

Elites of all stripes doing basically the same thing everywhere, getting ready for an escape to space.

Meat processors equipped with laser scalpels to melt the beaks off of chickens like solder.

Everyone in Pacific Standard Time sitting down to tofu dinner, hearing a distant BANG!, and looking to their windows simultaneously to see one bright flash in all directions only half a moment before everything in the entire world turns off.

No one escaping.

The sum is suffering, Re added. We never win.

Maya wept. Re, this isn’t about the whole world. Come out. For me.

There was silence in the bathroom.

She gathered herself, tried to project authority into the other room.


do not

have to do this.

Your depression

just feels like

the singularity.

You have responsibilities to me.

She pressed her ear to the door. She could hear Re shuffling around. She heard the toilet seat close.

No! she pled. I’ll be right back don’t go alone.

She heard Re draw the shower curtain.

The bathroom door jiggled in its frame as she pulled her weight away from it. She nearly fell down the stairs, two flights of stairs, into the basement, the laboratory.

Maya threw aside the dust rag covering the apparatus she had devised using stolen machine components. On top of the box was a button. Inside the box, the button was connected to a chisel honed to a quantum edge. At the edge of the chisel, in a realm too small to perceive, there was a crumb of circuitry salvaged from the corpse of a computer that had been faster than anything else on the planet. In that realm, the chisel blade hovered like a guillotine over a crystal whose facies flowed in an infinite loop of symmetry.

For only a split second, Maya hesitated. How long was the crystal’s loop?

She announced to the basement, to Re, that she didn’t want to be alone. She drew a long breath–


Dammit! Maya shrieked.

Her fist went slam!

Danny is an ethnographer and natural historian. He teaches anthropology and gender studies in the SF Bay Area. You can find his fiction, poetry, scholarship, and experiments with time at his website, danielallensolomon.com.

“Team Meeting” Dark Flash Fiction by Jacob Strunk

"Team Meeting" Dark Fiction by Jacob Strunk

You’re watching a spot of blood bloom on Marlon’s white shirt. 

Anastasia sterilized the blade, your eyes watching her thin fingers work; it’s just a standard scalpel, which is a little disappointing given all the build up, the mythology. You couldn’t look away as Marlon took a breath, eyes open, not making a sound as he pulled the scalpel across his ribs. You wondered how Anastasia got those latex gloves over her acrylic nails without tearing them. Practice, you guess. And even after all your fantasizing about her, watching her pull on latex gloves is way hotter than you anticipated. She cleaned the wound, applied a bandage, wrapped gauze in three tight bands around his torso.

But despite her care, despite the slow and deliberate playing out of this ritual, you see some blood has soaked through the bandage, through the gauze, and is right now ruining a very nice shirt. A bead of sweat appears at Marlon’s temple, and he grimaces as he pulls his sport coat back over his shoulders.

All hands back in the office starting Monday! was the subject of the email you got last week, the one that landed in the pit of your stomach like a lead weight. Like a pound of flesh. The job was all right when it was remote, easy, but the idea of spending precisely 40 hours a week with these people is another story. Working as a team in person is a critical component of our company culture. But if you’re being honest with yourself, sharing stale office air with Anastasia after two years of on-again-off-again lockdowns sounds downright erotic. Plus the economy sucks, and it’s not like your generation has many options. And you in particular, with your student loans and two useless degrees. You have to take what you can get.

What you got was a remote gig as creative director for Chad Corwin Inc., and what you’ve gathered over the past twelve weeks is that CCI is little more than a tax shelter for Chad’s expensive habits and various side hustles, all of which sound like the cult of late capitalist bullshit to you. But, hey, everyone has a hustle these days, right? And given the disparities between your actual experience as a creative director and what it says on your resumé, if everyone’s got a hustle you might as well own up that this is yours. There are no benefits; no healthcare, no paid vacation. But given the general earth-shaking of this so-called global pandemic, given the looming reality that you wouldn’t make rent if something didn’t manifest, landing this gig was a blessing.

But now you’re watching Anastasia hand a small vial of Marlon’s blood to Chad as Marlon slowly lowers himself into a chair in the corner of the room. Chad’s barefoot, which isn’t surprising, and wearing a $200 tank top, as if scamming hundreds of thousands of dollars annually from well-intentioned but gullible wannabe flyover entrepreneurs somehow elevates him above even the most modest social contracts. Chad’s about eighty pounds overweight, and his expensive designer tank top makes it look like he has breasts. Anastasia peels her gloves off and stands, waiting, while Chad examines the vial like he’s looking for something specific, something more than the pain and humiliation, which you know is the real commodity. It always is. Chad strokes his beard. You can tell he dyes it. Everyone can tell.

When he seems satisfied, Chad nods. Anastasia steps forward and takes the vial. She sets it on a shelf next to the rest. Chad’s gaze falls on Cynthia, and you see her start to shake. Not just tremble, but really shake. Cynthia’s not old, per se, but she’s got twenty-five years on you and Marlon, and she’s spent the past ten here in this office, penitent at Chad’s bare feet. That’s where she goes now, down on her knees. She crawls across the floor toward him, pleading. 

Please, she says. Please, I swear my numbers will be back up next quarter. The words slide out of her, wet, smacking on the floor as they fall. Please, you’re right, I’ve been slacking. Please. I know you’re always right. She squeezes her hands together, rocks back on her feet. Her stockings have torn at the knees.

You realized early on you could half-ass your job because Chad himself was half-ass. Every Monday, you’d watch Chad smoke expensive cigars and sip $60 pours of single malt Scotch at 9:00 in the morning. An overweight fifty-year-old man in a tank top looking to rebrand himself as an influencer. A business guru, as he explains it. Eight other little heads in little boxes just like yours, pixelated faces feigning rapt attention. In your first video call, you watched him yell at Cynthia until she cried. Her mic was muted, but you could tell. You mentioned it later in the employee Slack channel. 

Chad’s a genius, was all anyone would say. We trust him because he’s the best, and you’ll see that soon. You’ll believe.

But for most of those video calls you watched Anastasia scroll Instagram on her phone. Or paint her nails. Sometimes you’d know she was texting with a lover. You could tell. Everyone could tell. When she’d laugh, your breath would catch. And when she’d look up into the camera, once or twice you were ready to grab a screenshot. And if you timed it right, and she was looking straight down the barrel, you could tell yourself later that she was looking at you, only you, ready to tell you secrets.

And now those eyes are here, and they are looking at you, looming brown and large enough to fall into. And you’re standing, and she’s reaching up to push the sport coat off your shoulders as Cynthia falls, whimpering, back into her chair. You hear the click and hiss of Chad’s blowtorch and know he’s lighting a cigar. You blink away the sting of cigar smoke and look down into Anastasia’s brown eyes as she starts undoing the buttons on your shirt. You hear the blowtorch again and know Chad’s heating the brand. Anastasia smiles as she pulls the bottom of your shirt out of your slacks, and you figure, What the hell? I can always quit.

Jacob Strunk has been short-listed for both a Student Academy Award and the Pushcart Prize in fiction, as well as the Glimmer Train short story award and the New Rivers Press book prize. His films have screened in competition and by invitation across the world, and his fiction has appeared in print for over 20 years. He earned his MFA in creative writing from the University of Southern Maine’s Stonecoast program and teaches film and media in Los Angeles, where he lives with a few framed movie posters and the ghost of his cat, Stephen.

Be sure to visit The Chamber’s Bookshop before you leave.

If you liked this story, you may also like “New England Gothic” by Elizabeth Gauffreau.

“Happy Again” Dark Flash Fiction by Kyelar Engen

"Happy Again" Dark Flash Fiction by Kyelar Engen

A trail of crimson blood slowly ran down Jonathan’s arm as he dug the needle into the crux of his arm, his eyes quivering in its silvery reflection. He inhaled deeply, the stench of cigarettes and sweat lingering in the air. He leaned back in his leather recliner, the frigid liquid from the needle creeping into his bloodstream. The floor shuddered beneath his feet, as the front door slammed shut. It echoed faintly through Jonathan’s brain, his body floating like a cloud, full of bliss. Unfortunately, it was cut short by the sharp pitch of Jackie’s voice.

“Oh you’ve got to be shitting me,” she said, “Are you seriously getting ‘happy’ again, Jon?”

“Nahh, of course not,” Jonathan said, “Wha’d make ya say that-at?” He grinned goofily as he slugglishy moved his arm to cover the needle from sight.

“Don’t even bother.” Jackie said as she started walking across the room, her shoes crunching on empty fast food wrappers. She grabbed Jonathan’s arm and threw it aside as he began to giggle, his eyes swimming with happiness. She cursed under her breath as she yanked the needle out of his arm. Dark blood mixed with the creamy white drug spurted out, splattering her magenta skirt.

“Aw, c’mon on-nn” Jonathan groaned. He tried shoving her away, but the drug tightened its hold on him as he started to slip from consciousness. He shook his head, trying to stay awake.

“Honestly Jon, I’m getting sick of this,’’ Jackie said, “I’m not gonna marry someone who’s gonna kill themselves.” She ran the needle back and forth between her fingers, the syringe tapping against her engagement ring. Jackie turned and walked back across the room entering the kitchen. The slight whoosh of water from the sink rattled out.

Jonathan groaned as he pushed himself up from his chair. He stumbled across the room, slamming into the wall on the opposite side. Jackie came rushing out of the kitchen, needle still in hand.

“What the hell are you doing?” she said, as she tried to steady him. He took this opportunity in stride, snatching the needle out of her hand.

“I need it!” Jonathan said, as he stabbed it into his arm again.

“No!” Jackie said, reaching for the needle, but Jonathan pushed her aside. His eyes once filled with dopey happiness, held a maniacal glint. She watched in disgust as he stroked the needle, collapsing back into his chair. Euphoria once again started to spread throughout his body. He grinned at her, still on the floor. Jackie rose, her body trembling. Jonathan kept smiling at her as more of the drug filled his veins. He loved this feeling, this wonderful substance.

“I’m done with you!” she screamed as she yanked her ring off and threw it on the floor. She stomped across the room and swung the door open with so much force it shook the entire apartment. Jonathan chuckled and slowly followed her outside, pocketing the ring. Rain drizzled down, chilling his bones. He gave a slight whistle and three people shuffled in from the shadows. Ripped, ragged clothes that dripped with water hung from their bodies. Their bare feet scraped against the ground, leaving bloody streaks. Jonathan giggled as the three of them pulled worn needles out of their pockets and jammed them into their arms. The milky drug filled their blood and they laughed uncontrollably. The mad sounds only increased in volume as they sprinted towards Jackie, Jonathan in the lead. As she unlocked her car, she heard the wet slaps of shoes against the asphalt. She tried to throw open the door, but she was too slow. They grabbed her, restraining her against the hood of the car. Jonathan came forward stroking her hair, as she thrashed wildly about. She tried to scream but the druggies covered her mouth and held strong. He took the ring out of his pocket and forced it back on Jackie’s hand. Like it should be.

“Ssshhhh,” Jonathan said, “You’ll be happy again soon.” One of the druggies passed him a needle. He pushed on the plunger and watched the milky liquid drip out. Jackie gazed up in fear, her eyes brimming with tears. She caught a glance of more people approaching, their eyes filled with the same insane happiness.

“Happy again.”

“Happy again.” “Happy again.” She heard them chanting and Jonathan kept smiling. She flinched as he drove the needle into her neck. Jonathan waited with baited breath for her to be happy again.

Kyelar Engen is a 21 year old fantasy writer who grew up in the suburbs of Chicago. Starting as a kid onwards he loved reading fantasy and science fiction novels. Becoming inspired by them but not having the confidence to pursue it, he chose instead to join the Air Force at the age 19. However shortly after arriving at his first base, he was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. It mainly affects his legs rendering him in a wheelchair. In the next few months, he went through physical therapy to learn how to walk again. He then got discharged from the Air Force and decided to pursue his writing career. He is now enrolled in college pursuing a Creative Writing degree and developing his own fantasy series. 

Don’t forget to visit The Chamber’s Bookshop or Gift Shop while you are here.

“Revenge is a Dish Best Served Cold” Dark Supernatural Flash Fiction by Phil Temples

Little Johnny holds his breath in anticipation. It’s his third attempt at invoking the ancient incantation, and he’s finally rewarded: the ground opens, unleashing all manner of evil entities from below. One especially hideous, demonic form heads directly for Sally’s open bedroom window across the street.

Trick or treat, he whispers.

Phillip Temples is still trying to make sense of it all. Writing and photography help.  He can be followed at https://temples.com or on Twitter @PhilTemples.

If you enjoyed this story, you might also enjoy “You Monster” by Janelle Chambers.

“Teacher–Listen” Dark Flash Fiction by Louise Worthington

"Teacher--Listen" Dark Flash Fiction by Louise Worthington

‘Listen,’ Miss says, ‘to the wind tonguing its way around loose windows in the classroom. It’s got muscle.’

            Silence grows skin, and I grow goose-bumps because Miss wants us to write about ourselves, to delve into feelings and spit out our hearts.

            ‘Conjure a world away from here!’ Miss waves an arm like a wand. She takes a black marker pen, its nib so thick that her words on the board – ‘Creative Writing’ – even smell masculine to me. Miss knows nothing about me or the place I call home with my father and brother. Miss has it all. All that honeysuckle perfume, fairy-tale ring on her finger and Snow White eye-shadow.

            For inspiration, Miss reads aloud something written by a dead bloke. Words billow out as smoke, squeezing a throat and clenching a heart until its faintness is terrifying.

            I take a biro in my hand like it’s an amulet and feel surprised when ink drips, black as a magpie’s tail.

            Fat Vinny gets out of his chair forcefully as though he’s avoiding a fatal collision. He says it’s too hot to concentrate and cracks open the window like he’s slamming on the brakes. I hear a muffled half-sigh of air. I know it, like breathing into a pillow to stifle pain, subdue a scream, a cry for help. The rest of my oxygen is on paper.

            ‘It’s like a fucking séance in here!’ Vinny says.

            Miss pretends not to hear, as if ‘fucking’ is beneath her. She keeps moving slowly around the classroom, performing some kind of ritual that’s meant to help us weave spells to build our own palaces.

            I conjure a waterfall in slow motion, turning me to liquid, purifying every cell and tissue in my body.

            A reckless gust of wind rattles the window to remind us of its muscle. ‘The wind’s ripped!’ Vinny jokes. ‘Like me.’ And he wobbles the white blubber on his stomach to raise a laugh. His belly button is submerged in the riptide. The motion of flesh drags me out of my waterfall onto a cotton sheet stained the colour of cherries, tomatoes and squashed plums. No amount of washing gets it clean.

            If only words could slice the rotten, heal wounded flesh, and hide what can’t be undone under a permanent layer of snow. Miss will hear my voice soon, like the wind trapped between opaque glass.

            I title my piece Dad’s Stick of Dynamite and sit back. Vinny dislikes something about the freeze frame and throws his chair across the room. Paint red as blood spots chips onto the back wall. He grabs my story and swallows it whole. Hungry – as I am – to fill the hole inside.

            Choking, Vinny tries to cough up my words. The poison of its content clearly doesn’t suit his palate. Miss thumps him on the back with an impressive whack, but still his airwaves are constricted and his bloated red face turns to blue. He jerks forwards, trailing his pudgy hands down the whiteboard, smudging the words ‘Creative Writing’ Miss wrote less than an hour ago before I knew my power. He lands heavily on the carpet.

            Perhaps I do have a voice, after all.

Teacher – Listen” was first published by Horla in 2020.

Louise writes about the complexity and the darker side of the human heart in the genres of horror and psychological thrillers. Many of her stories explore motherhood, mental health disorders, revenge and family. Her tales are imbued with strong emotional themes and atmospheric settings with strong female characters and multi-layered plots. She is at her most poetic describing the dark and disturbing. The latest release is Doctor Glass.

If you enjoyed this story, you might also enjoy “And” by Grove Koger.

“Sandbar” Dark Flash Fiction by K.A. Williams

"Sandbar" Dark Flash Fiction by K.A. Williams

Cavanaugh shielded his eyes from the morning sun, shed his life jacket, and stepped from the motorboat. “I didn’t want this assignment, besides it was Logan’s turn. Why do I always get the weird ones?”

Reed waited in the boat.

Cavanaugh turned. “Aren’t you coming?”

“Yeah, but I have to check some of my camera equipment first.”

Cavanaugh walked to the left end of the long sandbar and gazed over the blue-green ocean toward the seashore. “How many people disappeared here, was it two or three?”

“Three now,” Reed said, restarting the engine and backing the boat slowly off the sand.

“What are you doing?” Cavanaugh ran from the end of the sandbar to where water now separated him from the idling motorboat.

“Mason knows you’re having an affair with his wife. He paid me to strand you here, hopes you’ll disappear like the others.”

“You can’t just leave me! I’ll pay you whatever you want!”

Reed laughed. “You don’t have the money. Everyone at the newspaper knows you lose when you bet at the casino.”

The motorboat sped away, leaving Cavanaugh behind. He flopped down upon the warm sand and looked out over the sea, but there were no other boats. The sea was deserted.

It was common knowledge that he couldn’t swim but how did Mason, his editor, find out about the affair. They had been discreet.

Lost in thought, he didn’t notice the sand around him begin to swirl and sink. Then the sandbar devoured him, like it had the others.

K. A. Williams lives in North Carolina. Her stories and poems have been published in many magazines including The Chamber, Black Petals, Corner Bar, Yellow Mama, Altered Reality, Calliope, The Sirens Call, and Schlock! Apart from writing, she enjoys rock music, Scrabble, and CYOA games.

If you liked this story, maybe you will like these other works by K.A. Williams and published in The Chamber: “Storm”, “Son”, “Lunch at the Lake”, “Cal and Kay”, and “Night Caller”.

You may also like the anthology Ghost Parachute, which you can find in The Chamber’s bookshop.

“Taste” Flash Horror by Madison Randolph

The phrase “tasted like grave dirt” is tossed around a lot. Either people are being disingenuous or there are a lot of almost buried alive cases the news doesn’t report on.

I wonder what makes grave dirt taste different from regular dirt. It can’t be from the decomposing bodies because we bury them in expensive boxes. Could it be all in our heads? Does our subconsciousness tell us the dirt tastes like death and rotting formaldehyde when it doesn’t?

To test my theories, I’ve alternated burying people in the forest and the city’s graveyard. So far my subjects haven’t been responsive; begging for their lives as they try to climb with broken limbs.

One day I’ll find someone as interested in science as I am to complete the experiment. Until then, I’ll keep working. It took a thousand tries to make a light bulb and I’m only on test one hundred and thirty two.

Madison Randolph’s works have appeared in Friday Flash Fiction, The Drabble, and Sandstorm Journal. She has also had work appear in 101 Words under the name Ryker Hayes. She can be found on Twitter as @Madisonr1713 or on Instagram as madisonrandolph17

“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