It’s raining. The first drop touched the corner of my inexpressive mouth. Afraid to taste it, I removed the moisture with the back of my hand. Vacant droplets reached my shoulders. The air, an uncontrollable dampness, raked my nerves. Elusive shattered shelter pushed me beyond the dank cold pour of precipitation. It’s raining. Wet, a drop touched my blouse. The sensation of acid remained on my flesh as the fabric of sanity broke away from the onslaught of venomous rain. Blinking, protected the view in brief cycles of clarity and vision. The damaged vengeful rain touched me. Mocking my forehead it jolted me to the reality of once was to now be. Amid cruelty the smell of desperation hung among the heedless rain. Soaked and sealed with literally nothing else to evade the rain, it bubbled on the surface of empty empathy and painful panic memories. It’s raining. Unidentified articles reasoned about the importance of being one with the nature of rain. Inadequate and inadvertently the causes of rain risk the smallest amount of my sanity. Welled inside a cocoon unbalanced and buried among burdened puddles, I hid the true resemblance of my screaming soul staring at the rain. It’s raining, to mock me. To test my response to reality, my resolve, my values, and beliefs. It’s raining inside my skin, stomach, hair, and veins. Filling me beyond capacity to create, remember, change, or challenge the traditions of storms that swell and sweep away all and everything. It’s raining. As my mind and body fade from this decade to the last. It’s raining.
Francene Kilgore has a Master’s degree in Educational Administration from Concordia University of Austin. She has been teaching writing at an elementary school in Midland, Texas for several years. She says that “Often in my vacant gaze, I hear a melody. Sometimes it’s soft and easing to the mind; other times it’s a frenzy of movements and tones; but most often, it is just you, crossing my thoughts from far away.”
The damn beast wasn’t supposed to charge me. I paid $45,000 to come hunt it, an albino rhinoceros with a nice horn. They made me sign a waiver. This land is owned by a diamond mining conglomerate, and when Pavel looked at my signature he told me I was going in alone. Once I kill the rhino, contact him by satellite phone.
The phone. In the tall grass, maybe still working, or maybe in pieces along with the rest of me because when the rhino charged I was not prepared. Animals have never acted hostile before. You should see the lions. They tear apart wildebeests and buffalo calves, but when they see me they just lay there as I squeeze the trigger.
My arm is aching. I’m trying not to move but my arm. I shift a little. My gut explodes in pain. Blood attracts predators and there’s a difference between a healthy man aiming a gun and a bleeding man under a tree. One’s an anomaly.
The other’s prey.
I went on my first hunt was when I was twelve. My uncle took me to Yellowstone Park and before we set off he pulled me close and said, Congratulations. You’re now part of the food chain.
I haven’t thought of that in years.
Funny what your mind coughs up.
I have some pills but I dare not take any. Night has fallen and I’m alert. I have a .357 Magnum with six shots, well, five. Five for the hyenas.
One for myself.
They sound close. I raise the gun, ignoring the pain. It’s stupid, of course, as hyenas hunt in packs. The best I could do is scare them and if that doesn’t work?
One bullet will.
Hyenas can bite through anything. They’ll start at my legs, ripping me apart beneath the clear savannah sky.
At which point do you die? In the middle or does it happen last, after you’ve been mostly eaten?
Night passes. No hyenas.
I’m getting weaker. I sip the canteen. There’s enough water for a day, maybe two if I space it out but it’s hot. The sun breaks through the leaves and a fly crawls around my mouth.
The satellite phone is ringing.
Beep-beep, beep-beep, beep-beep. The sound of salvation I spot it in the tall grass, green light flashing.
I’ve spent the day making arguments against going for the phone. My uncle’s words keep coming back, circling me like the flies. I’m already part of the food chain, and it didn’t happen when the rhino charged and I stood there like a doofus, too shocked to do anything. It happened the moment I stepped out of the jeep.
A caw. I look up.
A vulture cruises overhead.
I close my eyes. Vultures can smell the dying from miles away.
I open my eyes and reach for my gun. The vulture. I stare at it, my eyes burning in the unfiltered daylight. The vulture spreads its wings and perches on a high branch.
It’s staring down at me.
I tilt my gun skyward, , aligning the barrel with the bird. I do a silent Mississippi-count to five.
The bird drops down beside me. Its wings spread open, covering my legs and I look down and scream, brushing it away and igniting a new series of pain.
I shove the dead bird as far as my arm will allow and close my eyes. The smell. A messy infection below and I can smell myself rotting and I can’t hold it in. I turn my head.
Laughter cuts through the night. My eyes flip open and I grab the Magnum.
Congratulations. You’re now part of the food chain. I had slipped away to somewhere just beneath the pain. My uncle was leading me through the jungle to where the rhino stood waiting in a long field. I lined up to take my shot while the rhino charged and I took it down, one shot. Dead.
Their laughter makes me want to laugh too and I let go of the gun. I cover my mouth with both hands. I laugh, pressing my hands tighter as they approach.
The hyenas move with purpose through the tall grass. Their eyes shine like migratory starlight as they rush their prey. I know they can see me and smell me but do they understand and I know I should grab the gun because this is it, but I don’t.
I just laugh.
And I’m still laughing when the hyenas ignore me. An elephant herd is on the move. I’m laughing when the hyenas slip between the great beasts’ legs, separating a baby elephant from the herd. I’m laughing when they start with the trunk, one hyena tearing it in half and the rest ripping it off. The baby elephant is screaming as the pack swarms and I have my answer: you die at the very end. The hyenas eat the baby elephant to the bone.
I’m laughing so hard I have a coughing fit.
The pain is bad and the smell is worse.
The pills are part of the standard first aid kit they issue all hunters. They give you a vacuum-sealed pack of six. One a day.
I tell myself it won’t come to that. I look up. The sun hasn’t crossed the midway point yet and the predators hunt at night. I look out across the savannah. The baby elephant’s bones. I feel a laughing fit coming on and I jab my tongue against my cheek. The laughter rises, falls back. I hold my tongue there until I no longer feel like laughing.
I peel one of the pills free.
It dissolves on my tongue in seconds. I lean back, close my eyes and listen for the phone.
I open my eyes.
I close them.
I’m awake. For a second I think there is a bear in the tall grass, guarding the satellite phone. I have to concentrate for several minutes, readjusting my mind to the time and the shapes around me.
It’s night. I slept all day.
I wasn’t supposed to sleep all day. God damn pills are only supposed to knock you out for five hours. But you’re also supposed to eat with them and I have no food. The three emergency MREs they give you are out in the tall grass somewhere, assuming the hyenas haven’t gotten to them.
Flies crawl on my forehead.
I turn my head to puke but only dryheave. I have nothing to throw up.
I’m awake all night, thinking of my rifle.
My uncle taught me how to shoot. We hit targets on his property. And in Yellowstone, he taught me the importance of stealth.
Since we’re part of the food chain we gotta act like it, he said, outfitting a silencer to his rifle.
We tracked the bear and her cubs for days. We weren’t dumb enough to carry our rifles out in the open and once we were in position for a good shot, my uncle handed me his rifle. He showed me how to steady the aim. The cold cylinder in my hands. The weight that decides death.
I can still see the bear. She looks right at me when I line up my sight. My uncle would have laughed so I never told him but I know what I know, and what I know is that bear saw me. She knew I was there to kill her.
Her cubs squealed afterwards. They crowded around their mother, sniffing her, trying to lick her back to life. My uncle told me not to feel sorry for them: turn the tables, and the bears would have me for lunch.
Let’s go, my uncle said.
We’re not taking it?
Where? To who? He gave me a light smack on the back of my head. Yellowstone’s got too much stick up their asses for that.
We left the bear to rot, her cubs to mourn and on the way back home we bought ice cream.
A fly lands on my cheek buzzing I brush it away more on my forehead
I drift off and wake up hearing the bear cubs sobbing for their mother. What ever happened to those cubs? Male bears will kill cubs that aren’t their own but the bear would eat me if the tables were turned and besides we’re now part of the food chain so we have to act like it.
I cough. Flies. I can’t wave them away. Something is stalking me through the tall grass. I can’t make it out. Hyena? Lion?
Where the hell is Pavel? They should have come for me by now. The satellite phone is working, I heard it beep (yesterday? day before?) so they know I’m here.
Where are they?
I don’t have the strength to move but I do have the strength to think and see and combined I think I see what’s out there in the tall grass.
I grab the Magnum. The movement startles the flies but doesn’t scare them away.
Five shots left.
Laughter and it’s not coming from the hyenas.
It’s coming from the bear.
Mama bear is laying in front of the satellite phone. She keeps her paws to the side of the phone so I can hear it ring.
Laughter. Sounds like hyenas but it’s that fucking bear. Congratulations. You’re now part of the food chain.
Fucking bear. You haven’t moved all day. The sun sets and I need another pill for the pain and the flies the itching is driving me crazy the smell makes me gag. I dryheave.
The bear laughs.
And this is it. I won’t survive another day out here. Pavel isn’t coming. I need to get to the phone. That’s him calling. Their equipment is broken. They can’t find me unless I answer.
The bear laughs.
Your cubs are dead, I whisper. My voice sounds like it belongs to someone else.
My uncle is beside me. He swats me on the back of my head and hands me his rifle. The rapport might knock me down, but at least mama bear will die and this time she will stay dead.
I stand up. Something’s coming closer. A small stampede. The laughter grows. The bear doesn’t raise her head. I aim the rifle as something tears at my legs. The flies have scattered. I try to squeeze the trigger but my finger is too weak and I no longer feel it.
I feel teeth.
I hear laughter.
And somewhere, the satellite phone is ringing. Beep-beep.
Travis Lee lived in China for two and a half years, where his short story ’The Seven Year Laowai’ went viral among the expat community. He currently lives in Japan, working as a weather forecaster. Find out more at https://www.travis-lee.org
In a cold
she sat silent
at the space
between her toes
rocking back and forth,
to many triggers shots
stealing time preoccupying
she reached maximum capacity.
"Talk to me," I whispered.
She looked at me once
and turned her face.
leaked down her
shaking pants leg
to the ground.
She parted her dry lips
to bite her fingernails,
shaking her head
side to side,
her swollen eyes
looked into mine
"I want to be erased, kill me now, or I will myself, no matter what it takes."
Slowly walking towards
her we embraced.
guards open large
Stepping out of the threshold
she yelled, "I love you girl, don't come back to My Hell. "
the door slammed closed
for seventy-two hours
and three minutes later,
she was pronounced dead...,
she visits in my head.
JGomez is known for her words deep and heavy in her dark poetry. She grew up in Boynton Beach, Florida, where she has seen and been through a lot to convey the realness of “real life” in her writing.
flaming from a
than any microorganisms
young thighs at age six.
were to fool y'all
and my parents
as their Pastor,
stretching his truths
could've done no wrongs
as they praise his messages all week long,
reaching for their
but they accepted
the hands that
holds the man-made bible
speaking from a podium
as if he's entitled
to congressional crowds
God forbid if
I wore the X on my forehead for
the children's voices
that tried to talk,
hustled to eat,
handcuffed and beat,
Whose hands would believe me?
JGomez is known for her words deep and heavy in her dark poetry. She grew up in Boynton Beach, Florida, where she has seen and been through a lot to convey the realness of “real life” in her writing.
Although this is not advertised as “dark”, this work by Erik Satie definitely has a dark, brooding air. Imagine yourself walking for hours along a dark, Parisian boulevard at night, your breath stinking of strong tobacco and Absinthe, during a thick fog sometime during the Second or early Third Republic, mulling over the tragic news of the day or of the tragic events of your life, mustering the resolve to find a way into a better, if not brighter, future. This is how this piece speaks to me.
Sally was seven, and she liked seven-year-old things. She liked pink dresses, tea parties with her friends, or with her plushies when her friends couldn’t come out to play. She loved going to school and being surrounded by her friends. She also liked slugs, and bats. She kept a lizard skeleton, and snake fang collection in a shoe box under her bed. She even had a pet stuffed squirrel that she kept on her writing desk where she could skritch its head and ask it vocabulary questions when she was thinking her homework out loud. She had a full life, and now that she had the bestest friend in the whole world, Cthulhu, she just knew that her life was complete.
“Sally, you’ll be late for school, honey bear.” Sally heard her mother’s voice waft up the stairway, and into her room from the kitchen downstairs. She was busy filling her pink Care Bear backpack with her needed school things. This was very important to her. Nothing could be missed. Pencils, pens, and erasers in their zippered bag, check. Little sushi and alien erasers, check. Homework for Miss Caliendo, check. Spelling and arithmetic books, letters to Santa, and I love you notes from and to her mother, check.
When Sally felt that that was all squared away, she gave herself one last appraising view of herself in the full-length mirror that she had leaning against her wall. She was wearing her favorite pink dress, white frilled socks, and pink Sketchers. Her cat skull hair clip to the side. “Ahh, perfection,” she sighed. She grabbed up her backpack, gave Aryclese a few more skritches on his dusty, stuffed head, and left the room feeling confident about the start of her day.
“Lunch is on the counter Sally,” Sally’s mother said as she came into the kitchen. She was busying herself making pancakes and sausages, while her dad sat at the table, chewing on a piece of bacon while he sifted through the latest issue of Tome Magazine, the leading source for heretical thought, and the leading wealth of material for novice and professional warlocks alike. Her dad always said the Enochian Mysteries were best read at dawn, before he read something truly wicked like The New York Times.
“Thank you, Mom,” Sally looked out the window that led to the front yard where she could see the bus stop a little way down the street. The ten-year olds, buttheads that they were, had not showed up yet, so she would have a few minutes at least before they would show, and their ceaseless barrage of taunts would begin. Maggy, Alex, and Dookie head were standing at the stop. Dookie head’s real name was cliff, but she hated/liked him, so she called him Dookie head. She was excited to spend a few minutes with them before the advent of school. None of them were in the same class that she was. She had her friends in the classroom, but she would be happier if some of the kids that she hung out with outside of school were in her class.
“I gotta go,” she said to her parents as she grabbed her Bratz lunchbox off of the counter. “I love you mommy,” she said as her mom bent over and gave her a peck on the forehead. Then she ran over and jumped at her father, making him lose his grip on his magazine which almost flopped to splatter in his eggs.
“Whoa there little Lilitu.” He said as he fully placed the zine down next to his plate and gave Sally a hug and a kiss on the cheek. “You be a good girl at school today, okay?”
“Yes daddy, I will,” Sally said.
“Right home after school, okay?” her mom said. “The sitter will be here at four, it’ll be Karry tonight. Don’t you be late now, or she might be cross.” Karry Anne was a nice enough thirteen-year-old, but Sally’s parents liked to take stabs at her for being Christian. “Get it?” Sally’s mother asked.
“Carla, you’re incorrigible,” Sally’s father said.
Her mom winked. “You know it Daddy,” she said. Sally’s dad laughed and shifted in his seat, staring at her mother, a sly smile crossing his lips. “Hmmm, you better run off to school now, Sally,” her father said.
“Okay daddy,” Sally said as her father got up and went to stand behind her mom, giving her a hug and kissing her gently on the neck. Sally smoothed down her dress with her hands, and then with backpack on shoulder and lunchbox in tow, she turned from her parents and made her way to the front door. She flipped the deadbolt and the door lock, then turned the knob to let the door open to the outside world. She started to walk outside but then stopped for there was something in her path.
It was a someone actually. The little figure standing before her was about a foot shorter than she was. It was nearly naked and stocky, its arms, legs and torso were a mass of muscles. Its skin was a mixture of greenish gray, with small veins of sandy gold. It had a slick coat on its skin which looked like water, or clear slime. Barnacles peppered the creature’s arms and legs, and it wore a loincloth made out of seaweed. The creatures head was even more peculiar then its stubby, muscly body. Instead of a human skull, it looked to have an octopus where its head should have been. The tentacles of the octopus were flailing about as if they had a life of their own as the creature stared at Sally with four eyes planted on the body of the octopus where a human’s eyes would have been. Two stacked on top of the other.
Something told Sally that she should have been afraid. That she should have turned and fled from the little, angry looking creature that stood before her, ridged body and balled fists. As she looked at this new creature before her, however, she could not help but think about how adorable this little monster was.
“Hi,” Sally said to the creature. It turned its seething eyes to glare at her. “I said hello. Don’t be rude,” Sally said in a stern voice, her brow furrowing. This seemed to catch the creature off guard, and its anger seemed to break in that moment. The creature stood there for a moment, as if it did not know how to proceed, but then it looked at one of its hands, held it in the air and waved to her. It’s octopus face, tentacles and all turned into the mimic of a human smile. Its little eyes squinted in happiness as if it was truly enjoying the interaction. “Oh my god, you are precious,” Sally said.
Sally looked back at the kitchen where she had last left her parents, and then to the bus stop. She wanted to tell her parents about the incredible new friend that she had discovered right outside their front door. She could see that the older kids had shown up, so she knew that she had very little time until the school bus showed up to take her away. She was in quite the quandary.
The squat figure seemed to understand what was going on and turned around to face the street, and the bus stop. Sally could just see the front of the school bus starting to come down the street as the little figure raised his arms and waved them wildly in the air. Sally felt herself jump a little bit with a crack of thunder that filled the morning air. The world outside of her house melted away all color, leaving only darkness. It was as if the thunder had scared the color away from the world. Leaving only whites, grays and a tint of blue that reminded Sally of the negative filters that her mother had showed her on Instagram.
The world just stopped, frozen as if it were reduced to a picture. The only sound that she heard was the sound of her father moaning in the kitchen (maybe he was having one of his headaches) and the dead thrum of nothingness from outside of the door. Sally looked at her hands. At her dress. Everything on her was the same as before the world had gone dark. This negative fusion did not seem to affect her, the little man thing before her or her home. He is so cool, she thought as she looked at the creature before her in amazement. Then the creature spoke. Its voice was a warble of textures, as if he were speaking to her from under water. “Hello sally, I would like to speak with my alcol- I mean, I would like to speak with your parents please,” it said. Though she heard the creatures voice, it did not seem to be speaking to her. Rather it seemed as if the words were being broadcast into her brain.
Sally was excited about this. She smiled a huge smile as she reached forward and grabbed the little man creature by his hand. “C’mon, they are in the kitchen,” she said as she half led, half pulled him with her. She already considered the creature to be her new best friend. He was so different and new. She thought he was the most exciting thing to have ever happened to her in her entire short life. “Mommy, daddy,” she yelled as she made her way across the living room. She heard her father curse.
When she came into the kitchen, her father was zipping up his pants and pushing his shirt into the front of his pants. Her mother seemed to be getting up off the floor. An annoyed look filled both of their faces. “Sally, you are going to be late for-” her mother’s voice caught in her throat as she saw the little figure that Sally had been dragging behind her, and she and her father both froze in place.
“I made a new friend,” Sally said, smiling.
She did not understand as she watched both of her parents fall to their knees, bowing their heads, not to her, but to her new little companion. “Lord Cthulhu,” they both said.
Her new friend, The one that her parents called Cthulhu asked her to go out into the living room for a time while he spoke with her parents, promising her that everything would be fine and that she should not be scared of any of the noises that she would hear. He promised her that her parents would be fine. “Do not fear what you hear, my dear little Sally, only what needs to be done will be done.” She chose to believe him; he was her new best friend after all.
She did not really understand what was going on but she walked out into the living room. She crawled up onto the couch and turned on the TV with the remote control, turning on YouTube and watching an episode of SpongeBob SquarePants.
The sounds of thunderclaps leapt from the kitchen. The sound of her parents screaming, and pleading filling the air, but she just turned the TV up louder. It did not last long, and before she knew it the thunderclaps started to die down, the sounds of pleading were reduced to light sobs. The sounds of electric sizzles faded and then disappeared until all that was left was quiet.
A few moments later, Cthulhu came out of the kitchen, his little stubbed wings flapping lazily behind him. Little tendrils of steam trickled into the air from spots on his skin. The barnacles and liquid had left him, replaced by clean, dry skin. The seaweed that he had been wearing was now replaced by a pair of carpenter jeans and a Danzig T-shirt, though she had no idea who Danzig was. A pair of black sneakers covered his feet as he made his way over and onto the couch, flopping down to sit next to Sally. “You do not fear me Sally?” Cthulhu asked.
“Nope, I think you’re cute,” Sally said.
“Your parents have made a grievous error Sally. One that they will be helping me to correct, but while they do so, I am going to be staying here. Would you like that?”
“Yes,” she beamed. “I would like that very much,” her smile widened. “Would you like to be my friend?” she asked.
“Yes,” the dark lord said. “I would like that very much.”
Jackk N. Killington lives in Missouri where he writes, works, and hangs out with his beautiful muse. You can find him on Facebook, Twitter, and his website where he has a list of his published works and other things. Go to: Fiction Writer | Jackk N. Killington.