“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.

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“Fall Aesthetic” Horror Flash Fiction by Claire Bernay

"Fall Aesthetic" Horror Flash Fiction by Claire Bernay

Images of my surroundings fluttered through my half-closed eyes; orange leaves, rich dark dirt, the roots of a maple tree. An indie pop song, upbeat with a down-in-the-mouth message, don’t get me started, played through the amp between his legs. Jeans and a flannel, with his back to me, he danced to the beat. He turned, shuffling the leaves, making a crisp crunch. The leaves, the outfit, the music, a picturesque fall picnic, the pull of the rope that tied my hands behind my back.

I saw the saw.

Claire Bernay is a creator. She loves writing, pottery, poetry, crocheting, and painting. Claire wants to do everything but mostly make meaningful and compelling art. Her experiences bleed into her art and inspire her to create.

“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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“Stained Snow” Dark Flash Fiction by Townsend Walker

"Stained Snow" Dark Flash Fiction by Townsend Walker -- The Chamber Magazine

The snow was stained with blood as the field ran down to the river. Yesterday, no one would have seen the blood midst the stubble of the field, but snow fell overnight. Weatherman said six to eight inches, drifts to twelve. Ben Weasley, moving his tractor from one of his fields to another along the road, saw it. He turned into one of his neighbor’s places down the road and called the sheriff. Ten minutes later the sheriff and his deputy were at the scene. They followed the trail, cursing every time their feet sunk into a ditch or gully. “It’s human alright,” the sheriff said, “You can tell by the drag marks.”

“Bet they was hoping, snow’d go on, cover the whole thing,” the deputy said, “Give ‘em more running time.”

There was more blood on the riverbank. The two poked around the shallows, but the current, moving fast at that corner covered all traces. “Damn to hell, now’s the hard part, got figure out who’s gone missin’. Hope nobody local.”

“And don’t forget,” the deputy added, “Who wanted him, or her, to go missin’.”

* * *

The wind ponies of her mind go to places she does not want to go. Olivia fears the thoughts ill formed, yet foreboding, of Jimmy’s absence. Her man is a man of habit. He goes out at 8 to do his jobs. He comes home at 6 for his dinner. They watch television. They go to bed at 9. Last night he did not come home He did not call. He always calls when he will be late. She would have gone out to look for him, but the snow: last night she tried at 8, a curtain of white, at 12, a curtain of night white, at 2 white out.

Olivia drifted into a snowy slumber in early morning thinking about Jimmy and his new nightmares, shadows of those that haunted him when he first returned. He called them, “frightened phantoms.” Always running at him.

This morning at 8 he is not home. At 9 she calls the sheriff. He is not in his office. She leaves a message.

* * *

Who has the right to live among us and who must die? It is a judgment reserved to God. By implication, the judgment is often usurped by the individual. It was I who judged Jimmy 10 years ago. To those who knew him in Kansas he was an upstanding man of good habit and character, a good tradesman, a good husband, a pretty good half back for his high school football team. He and Olivia were planning to have children.

Jimmy served in Iraq as a platoon leader for two years and received the Silver Star. In Iraq, he left villages shattered, silhouettes of mud huts with empty windows framing the sky. In Iraq he left nightmares that became shadows, shadows that returned to their cradles and birthed misshapen new ones. In Iraq he left sand littered with bodies, arms, legs, and broken dolls. My name is Basmina, I am the survivor of one of those villages.

Townsend Walker draws inspiration from cemeteries, foreign places, violence, and strong women. He has written a collection of short stories, “3 Women, 4 Towns, 5 Bodies & other stories,” (Deeds Publishing,2018), a novella, “La Ronde,” (Truth Serum Press, 2015) and over one hundred short stories and poems published in literary journals. His website is: https://www.townsendwalker.com

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“New England Gothic” Dark Fiction by Elizabeth Gauffreau

Do you remember reading “A Rose for Emily,” in high school English class? You know the story: William Faulkner’s tale of a prideful vestige of a bygone era who kills her lover and lives with his corpse in her house until she dies, the townspeople’s discovery of the lover’s skeletal remains at the end of the story all Southern Gothic and delightfully chilling? Well, our town too has its story of a woman who killed a loved one and kept the corpse in her house as she went about her business–although in our case, there was nothing Southern, Gothic, or delightfully chilling about it. You must have heard about the case. It made the national news.

On a chilly morning in April, we were all in our respective homes in our quaint New England town eating breakfast, reading the morning paper, watching the morning news, when police cruisers came to Sycamore Street. The reason for their arrival could not be determined by looking out the window, and we poured ourselves another cup of coffee. Then a coroner’s van pulled into the driveway of Marjorie Broe’s small, gray ranch house, and, in due course, someone was wheeled out of the house in a bag. Marjorie must have passed away. Sad, we’d seen her working in her yard just the day before, and she’d looked in perfect health. Still, she was in her seventies, so not a complete shock. Then Marjorie herself emerged from her front door with a uniformed female officer, who led her to one of the cruisers and drove her away. Who, then, was in the bag? The yellow crime scene tape went up. The state police crime lab van arrived, followed by the local news vans.

It didn’t take long for the news media to inform us that the person who had died in Marjorie’s house was her eighty-five-year-old sister Anna. We had no idea Anna had been living there. She’d stayed with Marjorie the previous year, but no one had seen her in months, and we assumed she’d gone into a nursing home. Marjorie, the media informed us, was staying with friends while her sister’s death was being investigated.

Something wasn’t right here. The contents of Marjorie’s small, gray house on Sycamore Street were being methodically removed in sealed bags. The circumstances of Anna’s death slowly began to come out. She hadn’t died where she’d been found. She had died well before Marjorie called the authorities. Her injuries were inconsistent with a fall. Marjorie was arrested.

As we waited for the final autopsy results to be reported, we remembered an incident that had happened about six months before Anna’s death, the last time she kept her weekly appointment at the beauty parlor to get her hair done. She was quite infirm by this time, barely able to walk unaided. Her one pleasure left in life was her weekly shampoo and set, done in the old-fashioned way with brush rollers and the big bubble dryer. Marjorie drove her to the beauty parlor as usual, but instead of helping her sister out of the car, Marjorie leaned across her to open the door, pushed her out, and threw her cane out after her. Then Marjorie just drove off. And she never went back to get her. The shop owner drove Anna back to Marjorie’s house herself. Marjorie was none too happy to see either one of the, muttering about never being a allowed a moment’s peace as she slammed the door. After that no one could recall seeing Anna until she was wheeled out of Marjorie’s house in a bag.

In her youth, Marjorie was a beautiful girl, with fair skin, fine features, and dark curly hair that had no need of the beautician’s ministrations. She had a smile I was about to describe as radiant, but, no, I don’t think it was. Marjorie had an impish smile, the smile you see on the face of someone who has never experienced a moment of boredom in her life. Back in those days, she appeared taller than she actually was, with a figure that the older generation described in the old-fashioned way as willowy. She had a real gift for playing the piano. She’d learned to read music before she started school, and she could play any song by ear after hearing it only once. As you can imagine, she never missed an invitation to a party. When she was crowned Miss New Hampshire of 1952, none of us was surprised.

After her reign as Miss New Hampshire ended, Marjorie married Billy Broe and settled into married life. She was active in her church, singing in the choir, serving on the altar guild, visiting shut-ins, contributing her best coconut cake to the bake sales. She volunteered at the school when the teachers needed extra help, and she started a book group at the public library. She babysat our kids when the young mothers among us needed to run errands unencumbered. The kids would come home all sticky from eating graham crackers and molasses because Marjorie was fearful of hurting their little hands and faces if she scrubbed them clean.

Billy bought her the house on Sycamore Street, and she made it into a nice little home for the two of them, picking out the furniture, painting the walls, sewing all of the curtains and slipcovers herself, at last finding a place for all of their treasured wedding gifts. She even painted the exterior of the house herself, faithfully, every five years, standing on a step ladder with her hair done up in a red bandana as she waved her paintbrush at passersby. Marjorie and Billy never had children, and of course there was speculation as to the reason why, but I don’t think we were mean-spirited about it. I hope we weren’t mean-spirited about it.

As for Anna, she was ten years older than Marjorie, so she wasn’t in the picture much. As far as any of us could recall, there had been no animosity between the two sisters growing up. They’d just never been close. As adults, Anna had her life as a single woman earning her living in a neighboring town, and Marjorie had her life with Billy.

In 1984, Billy died of a massive heart attack shoveling their front walk. A neighbor found him face down in the snow with the shovel still in his hand. When the paramedics got there, they didn’t even attempt to resuscitate him. They just loaded him into the ambulance and took him away. Something happened to Marjorie after Billy died. She dropped out of her community activities and stopped attending church. She gained weight. Her features coarsened and sagged. Her hair thinned and lost its curl. Obviously, we tend to let ourselves go when we’re grieving, but this was different. We all lose our looks as we get older, too, but this was different. Something happened to Marjorie.

Years went by. The people on Sycamore Street reported that an elderly woman was now living with Marjorie. This woman could be seen passing in front of the picture window pushing the vacuum cleaner, out sweeping the front walk on warm days, working side by side with Marjorie in the flower beds. We weren’t surprised. Even with the changes in Marjorie following Billy’s death, we’d expect her to take in a relative in need. We’d expect her to be kind.

The news reports were muddled. Marjorie denied to the police that she’d hit her sister. Marjorie admitted backhanding her sister but not killing her. Marjorie admitted killing her sister but not on purpose. Marjorie confessed to killing her sister out of malice to put an end to her constant demands. Marjorie recanted her confession. Marjorie was arraigned to stand trial. Marjorie was found fit to stand trial. Marjorie was found unfit to stand trial.

In the end, none of that mattered. In the end, blood told the story. There was blood in every room of the small, gray house on Sycamore Street: in the kitchen, in the living room, in the hallway, in the bathroom, in the dining room, in both bedrooms, and on the enclosed porch. There was blood on Marjorie’s clothes in the hamper, blood on more of her clothes in the trash in the garage, and blood on paper towels in the trash. Marjorie had followed Anna through the house for the better part of a day, beating her until she went down and then beating her again when she managed to get up, the blows delivered with such force that the diamond ring Marjorie wore punched patterns into her sister’s flesh. When Marjorie finally tired of it, she delivered a series of kicks that left Anna with twenty-two broken ribs, in addition to the two black eyes and carpet-bombing of bruises on her face and chest, finally leaving her on the floor to bleed softly, gently into her brain until she died. Then Marjorie dragged her sister’s dead body across the living room floor and shoved it down the steps to the enclosed porch, where she left it for three days while she puttered about the small, gray house on Sycamore Street, stepping over the body and back when she went out to the porch to water the plants.

Elizabeth Gauffreau writes fiction and poetry with a strong connection to family and place. Recent fiction publications include Woven Tale Press, Dash, Pinyon, Aji, Open: Journal of Arts & Letters, and Evening Street Review. Her debut novel, Telling Sonny, was published by Adelaide Books in 2018. Learn more about her work at http://lizgauffreau.com.

“The Green Road” Fiction by John O’Donovan

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

     “No sir, I don’t smoke.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Forever Young” Microfiction by Diana James

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

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


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