‘Blue,’ A Body Horror Short Story

Paul Bellow winced when he felt the small splat on his forehead as he was walking by the park near his apartment that night.

“Eww!” he grunted, wiping the gunk off of his forehead with a plain, white handkerchief. “Bird shit?” He hurried over to a streetlight to stand under and see. The spot on his handkerchief wasn’t brown.

It was blue.

“Well, whatever it is, at least it isn’t bird shit,” he said.

***********

Back in his apartment ten minutes later, he washed his face. He looked at himself in the bathroom mirror on the medicine cabinet. Most of the gunk was gone from his forehead, except for tiny little dots of blue embedded in the pores where the gunk had made impact.

“That isn’t me, whatever it is,” he whispered.

He took out his handkerchief, which now oddly had lost its softness and smoothness, yet was also brittle. In his hand, instead of being its original white, with a blue spot in the middle, it was all grey, and it crumbled into what looked and felt like broken-off pieces of rock, pebble, and ashes.

“What the hell?” His eyes and mouth were agape. “I guess I’ll have to buy a new handkerchief.”

***********

The next morning, he got out of bed and, still half-asleep, plodded his way into the bathroom.

As he walked through the bathroom doorway, he mumbled something unintelligible even to himself: “Mmmbzemplibmbizum.”

“His head pricked up a bit after making that meaningless noise.

“Mmm?”

He stood before the toilet, pulled his underwear below and behind his balls, took a deep breath, and waited for his piss to start pouring out.

It did.

It was blue.

“What the fuck?!” he shouted.

It continued to come out all blue, never yellow.

“I don’t believe it.”

He finished his piss, flushed the toilet, then went back to the medicine cabinet mirror.

There was a huge blue spot covering most of his forehead. It looked like a birthmark, like a port-wine stain, only a blue one.

“Oh, fuck me!” he said in a trembling voice. “That may not have been bird shit, but…was it alien shit?”

He rubbed his forehead. The blue spot didn’t hurt, but it didn’t feel like skin, either. It felt rather like soft plastic, if it did feel like anything from Earth. 

“How the hell am I supposed to go to work looking like this?”

************

He went to the office wearing a baseball cap, the stiff bill pulled down at the front to cover the blue spot as best he could. 

This was no casually-dressed office; everyone else in the office, wearing suits and ties like him, or skirt-suits for the ladies, looked askance at him in that cap as he approached his desk.

“Why’s Paul wearing a baseball cap?” a woman whispered to another female colleague.

“He always was weird,” the second woman said. “Who knows what his problem is now.”

He sat at his cubicle, hoping no one would want to chat with him much. Then Craig Whittaker, that bullying piece of shit from the other side of the office, walked up to him.

“Hey, Bellow,” he said. “What’s with the cap?”

“None o’ your business,” Paul said. “Leave me alone.”

“Leemee alone,” Craig said in the whining, mocking tone of a teenager. He snatched the hat off of Paul’s head.

Paul put his hand over his forehead and got up, reaching for the hat that Craig held up too high for him to get. Paul punched him in the gut and grabbed the hat. He quickly put it back on.

“Jesus, Bellow,” Craig grunted as he held his gut. “What’s your problem? I saw some blue on your fore-“

“Fuck you, Whittaker!” Paul shouted. “What’s your problem? Why can’t you mind your own goddamn business?!”

“Hey, what’s with all the noise out there?!” their boss, Ms. Kramer, shouted from the doorway of her office.

“Bellow punched me,” Craig said. “Is wearing baseball caps allo-“

“I’m not surprised he hit you,” she said. “You pick on him enough, which by the way, I don’t pay you for. I do pay you, however, to work. Now, stop fighting and get back to it!”

“Asshole,” Craig whispered to Paul as he returned to his desk.

“And as for you, Muhammad Ali, which sport do you prefer, boxing or baseball?” she asked Paul.

“Please, Ms. Kramer,” he asked her, as if she were his mother. “May I keep the cap on? There’s an embarrassing mark on my head, and-“

“OK, whatever,” she said. “Just get back to work.”

************

That night, back in his apartment, Paul was feeling strange. Not in pain, not uncomfortable, just different. 

There was something inside his body that he knew was not him. Again, it didn’t hurt, it just felt like something other than him…and it seemed to be growing.

He’d kept the cap on, even at home, for he was afraid to see if that blue spot had gotten any worse…any bigger…any uglier. He avoided looking at himself in mirrors.

A local news story on the TV mentioned a blue slime that had been found on the leaves of a tree at the side of the park he’d passed by the night before. No biologist studying the slime had any idea where it had come from. Nothing known on Earth was like it. But it was spreading all over the tree, and seemed to be about to spread throughout the park, so wooden boards were being put around it to stop people from entering, to stop the slime from spreading.

“An alien slime,” Paul said in that trembling voice. “on me and in me.”

Suddenly, in his nervousness, he needed to take a shit.

“Mmzmplitzk,” he mumbled as he hurried from his living room to the bathroom. “Why do I keep mumbling nonsense like that?”

He raced in, avoiding seeing his reflection in the medicine cabinet mirror, pulled his pants down, and sat on the toilet.

As the crap came out like an avalanche, making strange slurping noises as it squeezed out of his asshole, he noticed how it felt even stranger. Again, it didn’t hurt, it didn’t feel uncomfortable, but it didn’t feel like normal turds, diarrhea, or anything in between, either. He could describe the feeling only as…alien.

He finished and wiped his ass. He slowly moved the toilet paper, with a great feeling of expectant dread, to come within his field of vision.

Please, he thought. Just be a brown streak.

It was blue.

“Jesus fuck!” he said, his voice cracking like a pre-teen’s.

He got up, pulled up his pants, and looked down at what he’d left in the toilet bowl.

He saw what looked like blue sponges.

“What the hell is happening to me?” he almost sobbed.

He flushed the toilet, hearing each of the blue things slip through the hole with that slurping sound. Then he went over to the mirror.

He took off the baseball cap and raised his eyes with the utmost reluctance to see his head.

“Oh, my God!”

**************

He went to work with a hood over his head, gloves that tightly covered his swollen fingers, and a scarf around his face, covering as much of his skin as he could. Sunglasses covered his eyes.

He got to his desk without anyone saying anything to him, but lots of people looking at him strangely and whispering to each other.

Please, everyone, he thought, just leave me alone.

Then Craig walked over.

“Alright, Bellow,” he said with a chuckle. “What’s going on—?”

He pulled the hood off, and yanked the scarf away before Paul could react.

“Jesus Christ!” Craig screamed, backing away.

Paul got up and took off the sunglasses, then stared hard into Craig’s eyes. “Here, Whittaker! Get a good look, you’re so fucking curious!”

A woman’s scream was heard from the other side of the office, followed by gasps and groans of “Oh, my God!”

Not only was the blue covering most of Paul’s face, there were bulges on his forehead, cheeks, his right eyelid, and his chin. These protrusions looked like giant blue warts.

Paul stepped towards ever-retreating Craig.

“Are you satisfied, Craig?” Paul shouted. “You wanted to see the freak-show, now you get to see!—NOT ENOUGH BODY,” he suddenly said in a bass, buzzing voice, then his voice went back to normal—“Come on, Craig, get an up-close look! Why are you backing away?”

“Stay away from me, you disgusting, deformed, ugly bastard!” Craig said, his back bumping into a wall. “I don’t want to catch your germs!”

“Then you should’ve minded your own goddamned business, as I told you to do yesterday, but you just couldn’t let it go, could you?!” Paul shouted. “Now, I’m—NOT ENOUGH BODY—gonna give the blue to you!” Paul removed a glove, revealing what looked like blue plantar’s warts dotting all of his fingers and thumb.

“Keep away from me!” Craig shouted, balling up his fist to punch Paul.

“I wouldn’t do that if I were you,” Paul said, his ungloved hand coming within millimetres of Craig’s wincing face. “You hit the monster, you turn into the monster!” Paul laughed like the villain of a cheesy movie.

Ms. Kramer stormed out of her office. “All right, what the hell’s with all of the noise out—oh, my God!” she yelled. “Paul, what the hell happened to you?”

“Did he get that blue shit from the tree in that park on him?” a female colleague asked. “I saw it on the news last night.”

“He lives near that park, Queen’s Park, doesn’t he?” Craig said, trying to dodge Paul’s finger. “Get him away from me!”

“I don’t want to touch him any more than you want to, Craig!” Ms. Kramer said. “Someone call an ambulance to take him to the hospital. Paul, why haven’t you been to a doctor?”

“On my salary?” Paul said. “I can’t afford a doctor! And what doctor can fix this?

“Paul, leave,” she said. “Don’t come back until you’re better.”

“I won’t get better—NOT ENOUGH BODY,” he said, the second part always in a buzzing, alien voice, as if he had a split personality.

“Then don’t come back at all!” she shouted. “Get out of here! You’re fired!”

As Paul took his things and hurried out of the office—with his hood, sunglasses, and gloves all on—everyone getting out of his way like the parting of the Red Sea, Kramer shouted, “Has anyone called an ambulance for him? Don’t let him go home freely. He must be quarantined!”

******************

Paul rushed out of the office building and bumped into a number of people on the way before he got to his car. 

“Hey, watch it!” one man shouted.

“What’s his problem?” a woman he bumped into also said. “And why is he dressed like that, in this warm weather?”

You don’t want to know, lady, he thought as he reached his car. Really, you don’t.

He drove home, which was on the other side of town.

He parked in his apartment basement, went up the elevator, and went down the hall of the fifth floor to his apartment. As he rushed there, the last room on the right side, he passed a mother and her ten-year-old son.

“Hey, who’s that freak, Mom?” he asked.

“Honey, don’t be rude,” she said.

“But some of his skin is blue,” he said.

“Oh, don’t talk nonsense,” she said. “Get in the elevator.”

********************

Two paramedics wearing decontamination suits arrived in the office.

“Someone called about a man with blue skin?” one of them said.

“Yes,” Ms. Kramer said. “We think he may have been infected by that blue stuff found on that tree in Queen’s Park. Did you hear about that on the news?”

“Oh, yeah,” the other paramedic said. “Nobody knows where the blue slime came from, but we do know it’s extremely contagious.”

“That whole park has been walled off so no one can get inside,” the first paramedic said. “The blue slime feeds off of living things. When it’s completely absorbed one living thing, it quickly looks for others, or else it will die.”

“How do you know it will die if it doesn’t pass itself onto another living thing?” a female employee asked the paramedics.

“The tree is no longer blue,” the first paramedic said. “It’s all grey…and dead.”

“Anyway, Paul Bellow is the man you’re looking for,” Ms. Kramer said. “You just missed him, actually. He probably drove home, which probably isn’t far from Queen’s Park.”

“Do you have his home address?” the first paramedic asked.

“Well, uh…, just a second,” Ms. Kramer said, then went into her office to find her employee file on Paul. She sifted through some papers and found his file. She looked it over. “Oh, shit. We have only his old address, which wasn’t in this city. He moved here about a year ago, but he didn’t tell us his new address.”

“Is his address anywhere to be found online?” the second paramedic asked.

“Bellow doesn’t like people, and the feeling is mutual,” Craig said. “So I doubt he’d ever want to reveal that information. Besides, who’d want to go to his home?”

“Well, we do,” the second paramedic said. “We’ve got to find him and quarantine him before he infects anyone else. If he lives near the park, we can ask neighbours there if they’ve seen a strange-looking man.” The two paramedics left the office.

When he poked his finger at me, he got really close, Craig thought with a shudder. He didn’t touch me, did he? Would getting really close be enough to infect someone?

“OK, folks, the show is over,” Ms. Kramer said, then looked at dazed Whittaker. “Go on, Craig, get back to it.”

He mumbled something she couldn’t make out as he walked over to his desk.

*******************

Paul locked the door to his apartment, went into his bedroom, and stripped down to his boxer shorts. He looked at himself in his bedroom mirror, which reflected him from head to toe.

“That isn’t me,” he whispered in a raspy voice. “So much of that is not me at all.”

The blue had spread all over his body in polka-dots of varying sizes, from the ‘plantar’s wart,’ smallest kind, to large lumps on his arms, chest, left shoulder (which made him look almost like a hunchback), and legs. A particularly large lump was on his belly, just to the right of his navel. Several medium-sized lumps were on his back. Many of the ‘plantar’s wart’ variety were on his ass, dick, and scrotum.

He could feel the alien substance in many places inside his body, that almost plastic presence: in his gut, lungs, and especially, in his brain.

“RUNNING OUT OF BODY,” his mouth was forced to utter in that buzzing, monotone, bass vocal fry that had to be an alien’s speech. He sounded like a robot talking at those moments.

“Who keeps making me say things like that?” Paul said, trying to draw the alien intelligence taking him over into a conversation. “First, it was mumbled nonsense, now it’s talk about ‘not enough body,’ as if the aliens have learned how to speak English. Who are you, that’s inside me? What do you want?”

“WE ARE USING YOU TO NOURISH US,” the alien presence buzzed through Paul’s mouth. “WHEN YOU ARE NO MORE, WE WILL FIND ANOTHER LIFE FORM AND DO THE SAME TO IT.”

“You’re killing me.”

“CORRECT.”

“What did I do to you to deserve this?” Paul asked in sobs.

“NOTHING.”

“Then why are you doing this? You’re hurting me. You’re destroying my life.”

“WE MUST DO THIS TO SURVIVE AND GROW.”

“But I need to survive, too!”

“NO, YOU DON’T.”

“Yes, I do!

“NO. ONLY OUR NEEDS MATTER.”

“When you’ve made me all blue, and I die, you won’t have any living things here to latch onto. My apartment has less life in it than Eraserhead’s did.”

“YES, THE LACK OF LIFE HERE IS A PROBLEM. NOT ENOUGH BODY. WE’RE RUNNING OUT OF BODY.”

“So you will die, too.”

NOT NECESSARILY. WE CAN FIND A WAY TO GET YOU OUTSIDE, OR GET LIFE FORMS LIKE YOURS IN HERE.”

“Good luck with that. No one likes me.”

“OUR ARRIVAL ON YOUR PLANET HAS BEEN NOTED BY THOSE LIVING HERE. THEY KNOW WE ARE IN YOUR BODY. THEY WILL WANT TO FIND YOU, AND THEY WILL PROBABLY TRACK YOU TO HERE. WHEN THEY ARRIVE AND YOU ARE DEAD, WE CAN ATTACH OURSELF TO THEM, AND RESUME NOURISHING OURSELF.”

“You’re crazy. Eventually, you will run out of life on this Earth, and you’ll die here.”

“THEN WE WILL FIND ANOTHER PLANET WITH LIFE, AND WE’LL RESUME OUR NOURISHING PROCESS.”

“You survive only by killing others,” Paul noted with horror. “You’re crazy.”

“NO, WE’RE RATIONAL. WE THRIVE. WE PROSPER. WE GROW. LIFE LIVES BY KILLING OFF OTHERS. YOUR EARTH SPECIES SHOULD KNOW THAT ALREADY.”

*****************

The paramedics drove their ambulance to a parking lot just a few blocks away from the walled-off park. They got out and started walking in the direction of the park.

“This is stupid,” the first of them said. “We have no idea how to find this guy’s home. We’re just going to go around asking about this…Paul Bellow?”

“It may not be as hard as you think,” the second paramedic said. “We’re talking about a guy with freakish blue blotches on his skin, a guy in warm spring weather, covering up all of his body in a hood, a scarf, long sleeves, and gloves. He should be strange-looking enough that someone in this area might have seen him.”

“He probably drove home, barely spotted by anyone!”

“Look, we’ve got to try, OK? We can’t let him go around without being quarantined. The police are looking for him, too. We’re just gonna have to try our best. In any case, I have a hunch, I don’t know why, but I have a strange feeling we’re going to find this guy sooner than it seems.”

“Great, we’re counting on your hunches.”

Then they saw a man at a newsstand on a street corner just across from the park. “Him,” the second paramedic said. “Let’s ask him if he’s seen anyone strange looking.”

*****************

Paul just sat in front of the bedroom mirror, watching his body continue to deteriorate. The spreading of the lumpy blue was accelerating; the tiny ‘plantar’s warts’ were growing into big bulges. His hands were so disfigured now that they were no longer usable. His fingers were fusing together, as were his toes.

“RUNNING OUT OF BODY,” his mouth, blue and grotesquely bloated, buzzed over and over again.

Paul no longer spoke; he barely thought his own thoughts anymore. He barely even existed. His eyes, the irises of which were originally brown, but were now blue, just stared at the monstrosity in the mirror reflection with a look of nothing other than despair. 

“RUNNING OUT OF BODY. RUNNING OUT OF BODY.”

His nose had rounded and enlarged into a blue bulge like all the others on his body, including other rounded, wart-like bulges on his face that so resembled what his nose had morphed into, one wouldn’t be able to decide if he had five deformed noses, or no nose at all, but rather five bulbous blue growths instead.

“RUNNING OUT OF BODY. RUNNING OUT OF BODY.”

Indeed, very little of his body wasn’t blue now. Only his left ear, his eyeballs and pupils, a few tufts of hair on the back and sides of his head, a few spots of peach on his face, arms, legs, back and chest, and his right nipple didn’t have that bright, pure blue of the rest of his body, as well as almost three quarters of the plant life in Queen’s Park, the other quarter being grey and dead.

Speaking of the growing blue in Queen’s Park, the blue taking over Paul’s body was working out a solution to the problem of…”RUNNING OUT OF BODY.”

A message was being sent out from Paul’s blue brain, through psychic vibrations, out of his apartment to the blue in the park, which returned such vibrations to the blue brain, in an alien conversation.

Paul’s fat blue mouth buzzed, “GET PARAMEDICS TO PARK. GET BOY AND MOTHER TO PARK. DIRECT PARAMEDICS TO THIS ROOM. THEN TAKE OVER THEIR BODIES. MUST KEEP FEEDING. RUNNING OUT OF BODY.”

The blue in the park sent back a message, vibrating that the paramedics, mother, and boy were already being psychically influenced to meet by the park.

**************

The man at the newsstand didn’t know anything about Paul, so the paramedics continued down the street across from Queen’s Park. A fruit vendor was halfway down that block, and Paul’s neighbours—that woman and her son—were buying some fruit there.

The paramedics stopped there. “Excuse me,” the first of them said. “You haven’t by chance seen a man with strange blue blotches on his skin, have you? He’d be trying to hide his deformity in a hood, with a scarf and sunglasses to cover his face, gloves,…”

“Sorry, I haven’t seen anyone looking like that,” the fruit seller said.

“Mom, that guy we saw in the hall of our apartment,” the boy said. “That freak—“

“Oh, yeah, him,” the boy’s mother said.

“Wait…you two saw him?” the second paramedic asked.

“Oh, yeah,” the boy said. “He covered himself all up so no one could see how ugly he is.”

“Ron!” his mother said.

“I don’t think you’d like it if you were infected by those plants in the park over there, and kids were calling you ‘ugly’ and ‘freak,” the second paramedic said.

“That’s right,” the boy’s mother said. “Show some compassion! That poor man…Do you think some of that blue on the trees got on his skin?”

“It must have been that,” the first paramedic said. “If he lives in your apartment, do you know which room he’s in?”

“Well, no,” she said, “but we saw him on the fifth floor of the Maynard Gardens Building, our apartment building on 36 Bay Street, just down that way.” She pointed in the direction opposite of the way the paramedics had been going. “I’m sorry I can’t take you there now because my son and I have to catch the 11:00 train, and…oh-oh, that’s in ten minutes.”

“Well, where is he on the fifth floor?” the second paramedic asked.

“We live in Room 506,” she said. “We saw him rush past our home, so that leaves a few rooms before the end of the hall. That’s as close as I can narrow it down for you.”

“And that’ll be good enough,” the second paramedic said. “Thanks! Let’s go.”

“You’re welcome,” she said. “C’mon, Ron! We gotta go!” 

Both pairs rushed off in opposite directions.

******************

Paul was little more than a large clump of blue lying on his bedroom floor in front of that mirror. His arms and legs were absorbed into the clump. There was no distinction between a head and a torso anymore, either. There was no hair, no nose, and there were no ears. All that was visibly left of him were his mouth and eyes…and that mouth was essentially only a moving hole. 

He was a blue blob with eyes and a maw that said…

“ALMOST OUT OF BODY! ALMOST OUT OF BODY!”

As for his brain, he barely had a consciousness that was his individual own. What little he had of a mind, mused and wallowed in despair.

So, this is how I’ll die, that vestige of a human mind thought. I thought I’d just die a lonely old man, but that at least I’d die with a human body.

Those blue eyes, now lacking pupils or whites in which blue irises might be distinguished, stared at that mirror. They were Paul’s only sensory connection with the world outside of the blue blob that had consumed his body.

Look at me, he thought. I’m a monster. An alien. A disgusting, inhuman, unlovable thing. I’m a giant blue turd.

“ALMOST OUT OF BODY! ALMOST OUT OF BODY!”

I never had friends as a kid at school, or as an adult at work, he thought. My older brothers bullied me, no girl ever liked me…and look at me now. I’m a huge lump of blue shit.

“ALMOST OUT OF BODY! ALMOST OUT OF BODY!”

I never was worth anything…now I’m really worthless. I’m just a mess somebody will need to clean up.

His sight grew blurry, then darker. Slowly but surely, what he saw grew less clear, with less and less light, little by little…

“ALMOST OUT OF BODY! ALMOST OUT OF BODY!”

After ten minutes, his eyes disappeared, absorbed into the blue mass, which was drying and losing its blue brightness.

Well, at least I don’t have to see myself anymore, he thought, his consciousness beginning to fade. It felt like drifting off to sleep.

To die, to sleep, no more, he thought. And by a sleep to say…

“ALMOST OUT OF BODY! ALMOST OUT OF BODY!” that hole uttered in the same, buzzing tone, the only indication of any kind, however vague, that that blue blob housed life.

A duller and duller blue.

Drying.

Greying.

*****************

The paramedics reached the fifth floor and got out of the elevator. They saw a sign on a wall with an arrow pointing to Rooms 500-510.

“That way,” the second paramedic said, pointing to their right. “Let’s go.” They raced down the hall.

When they reached Room 506, they stopped.

“OK, so what are we going to do now?” the first paramedic asked. “Knock on each door after this one and ask, ‘Excuse me, but do you have blue skin?”

“Shut up and put on your decontamination mask and cap,” the second one said while putting on his. The first one put on his. “Let’s just poke around the remaining rooms and try to find anything unusual about them.”

They went past Room 506, moving as quietly as possible, listening for any unusual noises. When they reached Room 509, they heard this frantic chanting, over and over again:

“ALMOST OUT OF BODY! ALMOST OUT OF BODY! ALMOST…OUT OF…BO…DY…”

“I’ve got a hunch we’ve found him,” the first paramedic said. He knocked on the door. “Hello?”

“AL…MOST…OUT…OF…BODY…AL…MOST…OUT…OF…BO…DY…”

“Hello?” the first one said again. “Can you open the door?”

“He’s ‘almost out of body’,” the second one said. “I don’t think he can.”

“We’d better kick the door open,” the first one said. “It sounds like he’s dying.”

Both men took turns kicking at the door. The door barely budged.

“Let’s kick together,” the second of them said.

After over a dozen kicks, between each of which they could hear, weaker and weaker, softer and softer, “AL…MOST…OUT…OF…BO…DY…OUT…OF…BO…DY…OUT…OF…BO…DY…OUT…OF…BO…,” they finally kicked the door open.

They rushed inside and first checked the living room, then the kitchen, then the bathroom. Then they paused to listen.

Silence.

“The chanting stopped,” the first paramedic said.

“Yeah,” the second said. “Let’s check the bedroom.”

They went in. Apart from the usual things seen in a bedroom, they saw a dry hill of what looked like grey ash. White boxer shorts were wrapped around the middle of it.

“That must have been him,” the second of them said. “Shit.”

“Well, at least the blue hasn’t spread to anyone else,” the first said. 

“Not so far as we know.”

“The park has been walled off.”

“With only wood panels, which can be easily broken into. I wish they’d used something stronger.”

“It’ll be broken into only if someone’s stupid enough to do that,” the first paramedic said. “Anyway, if anyone else has been infected, we surely would have known about it by now.”

**************

Two nights later, Ron and three of his friends were riding their bikes by Queen’s Park. They read the sign on the wall: KEEP OUT! CONTAGIOUS AND DEADLY!

Their bikes were parked at that section of the wall separating the boys from the tree that had infected Paul.

“So, this is where all that alien blue shit is, eh?” one of Ron’s friends said.

“Yeah,” Ron said. “My neighbour got that shit on his face.”

“I wonder what it looks like in there,” another of his friends said. 

“We should find out,” the third of his friends said.

“No way!” Ron said. “That’d be stupid.”

“You’re just a chicken,” the third said.

“Well, if you’re so fuckin’ brave, you ride your bike through the wall,” Ron said.

“Wait,” the second boy said. He took out a box of toothpicks from his jacket pocket. He took four toothpicks from the box, put them behind his back, broke one of them in half, then presented them to the others. “We’ll draw straws.”

“OK,” the first friend said.

They drew the toothpicks, and Ron got stuck with the short one. “Oh, fuck me.” He was shaking.

“Come on, Ron,” the third friend said. “You agreed to it, now ride your bike through the wall so we can see inside.”

Ron remembered the blue he saw on his ‘freak’ neighbour.

He shook some more.

“Ron’s such a pussy,” the third friend said.

“I am not!” Ron shouted.

“Then, DO IT!” all three of his friends shouted back at him.

“OK, OK,” Ron said, then backed up his bike. The other boys backed up as well, even farther away from the park.

Shaking all over, Ron nonetheless charged at the wall, breaking through the wood and plunging his entire body and his bike into a huge blob of blue slime. He was completely engulfed in it. An avalanche of blue fell out onto the road. Grey ashes of the original, infected tree powdered the blue slime as it poured out.

“Holy shit!” the first friend shouted. All three boys rode away.

I’m such a fucking idiot, Ron thought as the blue seeped into his pores.

After a few minutes of unintelligible mumbling, a buzzing voice could be heard from the hill of blue:

“VERY LITTLE BODY! VERY LITTLE BODY!”

My Horror Short Story, “Berserk,” Published in the Horror Anthology, “A is for Aliens”

My science fiction/horror short story, “Berserk,” has been included in this anthology of horror fiction, A is for Aliens, the first of twenty-six alphabetized anthologies, A to Z of Horror, published by Red Cape Publishing. I originally meant my story idea, called Berserkers, to be more or less a zombie story; but I’ve changed my mind, so this short story is meant to give the reader a taste of what it will be about. It’s now going to be sort of like Invasion of the Body Snatchers, but with the influence of Bion‘s notions of beta elements, the beta screen, and bizarre objects. (Read here for more information about these concepts.)

Anyway, “Berserk” is about aliens that come to the earth in the form of tiny dots of light. When they enter you, they take control if you accept them. But if you reject them, they end up driving you mad, causing you to hallucinate when you try to project them outward; eventually, your projecting of them causes your body to be torn into pieces, each with its own independent consciousness, until you finally die. Those who accept the tiny, glowing aliens spread them to other people, who will either accept or reject them.

Other talented authors in this anthology include Mark Anthony Smith, Theresa Jacobs, PJ Blakely-Novis, Daren Callow, Dona Fox, Megan Neumann, Nancy Kilpatrick, Jeremy Megargee, Astrid Addama, and Lesley Drane. (The author/editor wasn’t able to add all of the authors in the author list; for some reason, he’s had this problem with a few anthologies. So my name isn’t included, at the moment, on the Amazon page. My story can be found, however, on page 151.) All of their stories, as the title of the anthology indicates, are about aliens coming to Earth and terrorizing humans in one form or another.

Go out and get your copy of the Kindle Edition. The pre-order price is $1.35, and it will be auto-delivered to your Kindle on March 13, 2020. I want to thank author and editor Peter (PJ Blakely-Novis) for accepting my story. You rock! 🙂

My Horror Short Story, “Itchy,” Published in the Horror Anthology, “Infestation”

My horror short story, “Itchy,” has been included in the Terror Tract horror anthology, Infestation. The story is about tiny, almost microscopic aliens on a meteorite that lands on an open field near the home of the protagonist, who gets too close to it and gets the aliens all over his body, making him itch in the worst way. He keeps scratching and scratching, cutting wounds into his body, and…well, you figure out for yourself where the story is heading.

The other fifteen talented writers in the anthology are Kelly Evans, Josh Davis, Scott M. Goriscak, James Pyles, Norbert Góra, Rob Smales, Andy Rausch, Alistair Rey, Eddie J. Morales, Mark Cassell, R.C. Rumple, Blaze Ward, Jason O’Toole, Dusty Davis, and Cynthia A. Knoble.

As the title of the anthology indicates, all the stories are about getting infected with some kind of deadly disease, and the horrifying results of this happening to the victims. Go get your copy of the Kindle Edition; the pre-order price is $5.24, and it will be auto-delivered to your Kindle on March 21st, 2020. I hope you enjoy my story, as well as all the others.

I want to give a big thank you to Becky Narron for accepting my story. Hugs and kisses to her! 🙂

My Horror Short Story, ‘Bone Cabin,’ In the November Issue of ‘Terror Tract’

I’m thrilled to announce that I have another horror short story of mine to be published in next month’s issue of Terror Tract. The name of my story is “Bone Cabin.” I don’t want to go into any detail as to what the story is about, but let’s just say that when it comes to any place you stay for a vacation, be sure that you won’t be too cramped in…

Other talented writers included in this November 2019 issue are Theresa Scott-Matthews, Cody W. Higgins, John Palisano, Scott Deegan, Howard Carlyle, Dusty Davis, Edmund Stone, David B. Harrington, Andy Rausch, David Niall Wilson, Timothy A. Wiseman, Ryan Woods, Charles Lynne, and Thomas S. Gunther.

Here’s a pre-order link.

So, go out and get a copy of these scary stories. I want to give a great big thank you to Becky Narron for including my story this month. Hugs and kisses to you! 🙂

‘Branches,’ a Horror Short Story

The visitor promised the people in town that he wouldn’t go into the forest. The warning they gave, that whoever went in never came out, because of a demonic presence left there by a witch centuries ago, was a silly tale; but to make them feel better, he promised he’d stay away from the trees.

He walked along a trail with bushes to his left and a fence of jagged wood to his right, with lush, tall grasses of yellow and green jutting out from behind it. The sky was a greyish-blue, but still, overall the scenery was too idyllic to pass up enjoying. Fresh air all around him was a balm to his skin.

He approached the shady entrance to the woods, then stopped. It’s the end of the line, he thought. I guess I’d better turn around and go back.

But he didn’t.

How stupid, he thought. It’s just a forest, no magic. What could possibly happen to me in there besides getting lost? The owner of the diner had said, ‘You die in there…yet at the same time, you don’t.’ What’s that even supposed to mean? 

“Forget it. I don’t have time anyway.” He turned around.

He took no more than one step away when he saw a flurry of dollar bills blown past him in the direction of the entry. A few bills flew into his hands…hundred dollar bills.

“Holy shit!” he whispered, then looked back at all the others being blown into the forest. Without thinking, he ran after them.

As he entered the darkness, he managed to grab a few more flying bills. He stuffed them in his pockets and went in further, reaching blindly for more, unable to see. Enveloped in black…His hands managed to find three more bills, then he groped about in the air in all futility, coming up empty.

The wind blew around him, caressing his skin, sounding almost like a whisper. “Oh…no…don’t…”

After reaching and reaching for more bills with no success, he finally gave up. He turned the way he had entered to leave.

Black. Everywhere.

“OK, what the f–”

Something whacked him in the ass, hard. It felt like a thick piece of wood. Not a plank. A branch.

Now he was shaking.

He stood there, rooted in the spot for about ten seconds. His heavy breathing drowned out any intelligibility in the whispering wind he still heard.

What felt like the roughness of bark rubbed against his arm.

“God!” he screamed, then ran in the direction of the way he’d come in, even though he now saw as black a void there as he saw everywhere else. He kept running and running, in the exact same trajectory as the curve of the path into the woods, but he ran at least three times the distance he’d come in from the original point of entry. Still, he kept running that way, in total darkness.

Until a thick tree branch ran him through like a sword.

It entered his gut, level with and to the left of his navel, then out his back to the right of his spine. He shook all over and coughed out blood. The branch lifted him two feet off the ground.

But he never passed out.

Wiry thin branches coiled around his wrists and ankles, tightened their grips, and stretched his limbs out to the point of his shoulders and thighs hurting.

Then the screaming began.

Not his screaming…the wailing of what seemed a million souls trapped in Hell surrounded him, impaling his eardrums.

His arms and legs were being pulled more and more…the pain was unbearable…yet he never lost consciousness!

He’d surely lost enough blood by now to die…yet he was wide awake! He felt a sharp, almost popping pain in his shoulders and femora/pelvis, which had just been dislocated!

Still, he didn’t pass out.

Then he remembered what the owner of the diner said: “You die in there…yet, you don’t.”

His arms and legs were torn off. Piercing screams all around…not his screams, though: he had too much blood clogging his throat to vocalize at all.

What felt like about a dozen thin but strong branches stabbed through his chest and guts, one through his heart.

A vine coiled around his neck, choking him tighter and tighter until it crushed his windpipe. It was torture not being able to breathe, and in his thoughts he begged to die…at least to pass out.

But he wouldn’t.

The vine was pulling his head up, pulling…pulling…until his neck-bone cracked, the flesh there tore, and his head came off.

He didn’t stop feeling the pain all over his body, though, even with his head removed…he was conscious of the pain everywhere.

Branches slashed and stabbed through his severed arms and legs, even making multiple stigmatas, as it were, through his hands and feet.

And he felt it all.

Branches stabbed into his face: two from the top-back poked his eyeballs out. A thick one went in his mouth, punched out most of his teeth, and went through the lower back of his head. Thin branches went up his nostrils, tore up his nose, and stabbed his brain. One branch stabbed into his right ear and went out his left.

Yet he never stopped hearing the screaming.

A branch rammed deep into his rectum and tore his intestines apart. All these impaling branches now moved in diverging directions and tore his head, torso, arms, and legs into pieces.

This was not the end of the tearing…

…and fantastically, he was still as conscious as if he’d been unharmed.

His shattered body parts could ‘see’ as if he had millions of eyes, and ‘hear’ with millions of ears, all the screams of previous victims. All the mutilated pieces of his body were themselves tearing and dividing into smaller and smaller fragments, by some kind of magical power that proved the townspeople right.

He felt his scattered drops of blood divide…painfully. He felt his cells being torn apart…were his atoms splitting apart? His body felt as if it were a nuclear bomb going off.

The only things unbroken were his continued consciousness…and his excruciating pain. The only coming together he felt was that between him and his fellow screaming sufferers, a solidarity of souls in a Hades of pain, endless waves of an ongoing throbbing.

Still, he remained so aware of his surroundings that he and the battalion of the damned he’d joined noticed those hundred dollar bills fluttering yet again into the forest from the once-again sunlit entry. A young woman came in trying to grab those bills. All he and his kindred sufferers could do, with their infinitesimally soft chorus of voices, was whisper, “Oh…no…don’t…”

‘Bloom,’ a Horror Short Story

Muir Cantell stared at the new flower he found in his greenhouse late that night. How did it get there? If his wife, Paula, had brought it in, surely she would have told him about it.

It was a beautiful, but unique flower. He’d never seen this kind of flower ever before, in all his years of gardening. It had silvery-gold, shining petals, with touches of bright red along some of the edges. A silvery gold that made wealth seem like poverty, a red like freshly-shed blood.

The flower seemed to stare back at him as it emerged from the black shadows; the bright petals were a chiaroscuro contrast to their home in the darkness. The petals seemed to speak to him.

Their language was their scent, an alien, dirty smell, but a smell that made him want to stay by the flower more and more, the longer he smelled it.

He watered it lovingly, then left to go to bed in his house beside the greenhouse, wanting to stay with the flower, but also afraid to stay.

***************

The next morning, he and Paula went into the greenhouse to begin the business day of selling flowers. He hurried over to the new flower, while his wife stayed at the other end of the greenhouse, as if trying to avoid the flower. When he reached the corner of the greenhouse where the flower was, he noticed an odd thing.

There were now two flowers.

The second was an identical twin of the first. The smell of the flowers was, as would be expected, twice as powerful as it had been the night before.

“It’s a…miracle,” Muir sighed, and stood before the flowers, almost as if in a trance. “They’re magical.”

He picked up his watering can and poured water on the two flowers, grinning at their glowing beauty.

The petals opened wider to receive the water. The flowers were like mouths that were opening not only to drink the water, but to thank their loving gardener. 

Tiny black seeds, ones as small as sesame seeds, flew out of the centre of both flowers and landed in the soil surrounding them.

“Does this mean I’ll get two more beautiful flowers by the end of the day?” he whispered to the flowers, imagining they could hear his words.

“Hey, Muir!” Paula called from the other side of the greenhouse. “We have customers here! Come on!”

“You handle it, honey,” he said, gazing at his flowers. “I’m busy here.”

“You bastard,” she whispered, then turned her frown upside down to meet the customers. “So, Helen, what can I do for you today?”

“What are those flowers your husband is so interested in?” Helen asked. “He looks as if he’s under a spell.”

“Something we got recently. They sure are pretty, but–I don’t know, there’s something about them…”

Muir pulled himself away from the flowers and rushed over to where Paula and Helen were.

Wow, he thought, I mustn’t let myself be around those two beauties for too long. They have some kind of hold on me. He went past the two women without saying a word.

“Good,” Paula said, assuming he was going to serve the other customer there, a man in his thirties looking at some orchids. “It’s about time you did your jo–hey, where ya goin’?”

Muir ran out of the greenhouse.

“What?” the male customer said. “I thought he was going to–”

“So did I,” Paula said. “Maybe he needs to use the bathroom. Well, I guess I have to take care of you both myself. Do you want some orchids today, Mr. Gadd?” 

“Yes, Mrs. Cantell,” he said. “But what about those flowers your husband was obsessing over?”

“Yeah, what about them?” Paula asked, then all three of them went over to those two flowers.

When they came within smelling distance, the dirty reek was overwhelming. The three tilted their heads back and said, “Whoa!” at the same time.

“They are pretty flowers, but that smell,” Helen said. “It kind of pulls you in and pushes you away at the same time.” She held her nose, but kept looking at them.

“All they do is push me away,” Mr. Gadd said, squinting and holding his nose. “They’re a dangerous beautiful. It feels like they’re pulling you in to destroy you.”

“I agree,” Paula said, frowning and looking askance at them. “I remember just one flower. Muir seems to have sneaked another flower in here.” She looked closer before wincing. “And what’s that little stem in the…”

“What are you doing?” Muir shouted as he rushed back to the flowers, pushing his wife and Mr. Gadd to the side to get back to his darlings. “Don’t touch them!”

“Muir, what’s the matter with you?” Paula asked.

“Well, they are lovely,” Helen said. “You just have to get used to the smell. I’d like to buy one.”

“They aren’t for sale,” Muir said. “They’re mine.”

“Honey,” Paula said. “You and I are going to have a talk about those flowers later.”

“Yeah, yeah, whatever,” he said, gesturing to them to go away. He looked down at the soil in anticipation. He was practically salivating.

Paula and Mr. Gadd walked away with furrows of worry on their brows. Helen followed, but was looking back at the flowers from time to time.

“Paula?” she asked. “Before I go, could I please borrow your purple hat? I’d like to take it to the haberdasher to have him help design a copy for me. Your hat is so unique, and so pretty. May I copy it, please?”

“Sure,” Paula said. “As soon as we’re done here with Mr. Gadd, I’ll take you over to the house and give it to you.”

“Thanks,” Helen said.

Muir just kept grinning and staring at his flowers, and at the soil where the seeds had fallen and sunk into.

On either side of the two flowers, he saw two little thin stalks growing.

******************

As soon as the greenhouse was empty of customers, which was a mere twenty minutes after Helen and Mr. Gadd left, Paula walked over to Muir, who was still watching the flowers. He was gazing at them in his usual, grinning daze.

“OK, Muir, what’s with you and those flow–” she began, then froze with widened eyes.

There were now four fully-grown flowers.

“Muir, where did you get that flower, the first one, I mean?”

“I didn’t,” he said, finally looking away from them. “I thought you got it.”

I thought you got it,” she said. “What’s going on?”

“I don’t know.” He stepped back from the flowers, and turned his smile upside-down. “Who gave them to us, or rather, what did?”

“Let’s get away from them,” she said, taking him by the arm and pulling him back. “The smell is awful. That flower–those flowers–are giving me the creeps. How could two new flowers have grown out of nowhere so quickly?”

“Three new flowers. The second grew late last night.”

“My God. I’ve never seen that kind of flower in my life.”

“Nor have I. They’re a gift from heaven.”

“Or a curse from hell. In any case, they’re something completely alien. They’re…scary. Let’s throw them away. Let’s kill them.”

“No!” he shouted, picking up a trowel and aiming it at her heart. He scowled at her like a vicious dog, baring a few teeth like fangs; the hand holding the trowel was shaking.

Her whole body was now shaking.

The whites of almost all her eyeballs, it seemed, were showing as she stared at that trowel, then at his own wild eyes. Her eyes didn’t see her husband anymore, for his eyes weren’t the eyes of her husband–she was sure of that.

“Who…are you?” she almost sobbed, then ran out of the greenhouse and back home.

He looked down at the trowel he’d just threatened his wife with. “Indeed,” he gasped. Tears were soaking his eyes. He ran out after her, wanting to scream out an apology, but too ashamed to speak.

*****************

He’d been lying in bed, shaking, for the rest of the day. He was pale. An itch made him want to go back to the flowers…to see if they were safe and healthy, but he didn’t dare, for he sensed what they were doing to him, and making him like what they were doing.

Paula had been sitting on the sofa all day, rocking back and forth, but relieved that at least he understood he’d flipped his lid, and was staying away from the flowers. By the evening, she was finally starting to calm down.

Then Helen knocked on the front door. Paula answered the door.

“Yes, Helen,” she said with a smile to hide her fear. “Are you finished with my hat?”

“No, not yet,” Helen said. “It’s about those flowers. I know your husband doesn’t want to sell any of them, but I just must have one. I’ll pay you any amount he wants.”

“Well…they’re rather dang–I mean, I have a bad feeling about…” She looked up to the second-floor bedroom and thought about Muir, who, for all she knew, was much better now. “Well, maybe we can spare one flower and see what happens.”

Paula led Helen out to the greenhouse. When they reached the far corner where the new flowers were, they saw eight of them. The smell was overpowering.

“Are you sure you want one?” Paula asked Helen. “They smell awful. Oh!

“Oh, it’s not so bad,” Helen said. “If I grow only one, I should be able to tolerate the smell. They’re just so pretty and colourful.”

“OK, but you may find yourself with more than one flower, and sooner than you know. There’s something spooky about…”

“Oh, they’re just flowers. I can kill them if I don’t like them. But I must have one. I’ll give you $20 for one.” Helen held out a $20 bill for Paula, who took it.

“Well, OK,” Paula said. “Pick whichever one you like, not that there’s any variation between–”

Helen had already snatched one and run out of the greenhouse without even saying good night to Paula.

Well, Paula thought, at least we got rid of one of them. Muir won’t miss a flower he never saw grow, surely.

*****************

The next morning, Muir felt unable to stand staying away from his precious flowers anymore, so he ran out to the greenhouse to check up on them.

I saw four seeds fly out of my flowers after I last watered them, he thought as he approached them. I should see eight now. “What?” he shouted. “Only seven?”

He watered the remaining seven with feverish speed, watched seven little black seeds fly out and land in the surrounding soil, then ran back to the house. He found an axe in the basement, then looked up to the ground floor. He was gritting his teeth.

“Paula?” he called up to her. “Come down here.”

“What is it?” she said in a shaky voice as she began descending the stairs. He held the axe behind him as she continued down to the basement. “Are you feeling any better?”

“You sold one of my flowers, didn’t you?”

“No, I didn’t,” she said with a twitch.

“Don’t you lie to me! There should have been at least eight flowers in that corner of the greenhouse, where I reserved all that extra soil for my flowers. There are only seven there now. You sold one. It’s the only explanation.”

“Muir, if you can replace the flowers so easily with new ones, what do you care if you give up one or two? We could make a lot of money with them. Helen gave us twenty dollars for the one I sold her. She was as crazy about them as you are.” Tears were rolling down her cheeks as she presented the money in a trembling hand. “Here, I’ll give you her money. Every one of those flowers that we sell, you can have all the money made from them. I won’t take a cent of it.”

He clenched his bared teeth and brought the axe out front. He started walking towards her.

“Muir…what are you doing?” She stepped back with spastic legs. “I-I think, you’re losing your…you need to see a…doctor. The flowers are doing this to you.”

“You sold my flower,” he growled, raising the axe over his head. “Now I have to get it back from her, and that won’t be easy. It’s your fault.”

“Muir, my God! Don’t! No!

He brought the axe down on her head, chopping it right down the middle, separating her cerebral hemispheres and spraying her blood everywhere.

****************

After showering and changing his clothes, Muir drove over to Helen’s house down the street. He had a small knife in his jacket pocket.

Her husband was at work, and their kids were all at school. She was at home alone. He rang the doorbell.

“Mr. Cantell,” she said as she approached the door. She opened the screen door and let him in. “Are you here about the flower, or Paula’s hat? I know you didn’t want to part with any of them, but I loved them so much that I just had to have one.” 

“Oh, that’s OK,” he lied. “I’d just like to see it one last time, if you don’t mind.”

She led him to the back of the house, where she had the flower.

“There it is,” he sighed, his heartbeat slowing down.

“Yes,” she said with a grin as wide as his. “It is so beautiful, and if you look…” she stepped in front and pointed at the surrounding soil with a trowel, “…a new flower is beginning to grow. See the thin, green stem?”

“Yes, I do,” he said as he pulled the knife out of his pocket. He slowly brought it over to her neck.

“These flowers are a gift that keeps on giving, aren’t they?” she said, still gawking at the flower with dazed eyes and a toothy smile as his knife reached a centimetre or two from her throat.

“Yes, but only one person can have them,” he said.

“You’re right,” she said. Me!

She spun around and stabbed him in the gut with the trowel. He’d only managed to slice a shallow, thin red line along the back of her neck.

He fell to the floor with a thud; only the handle of the trowel was sticking out of his stomach. A pool of blood surrounded his body in a growing circle.

She grabbed a nearby tissue and pressed it against her neck to stop the blood. Then she squatted down. “I knew you’d kill your wife for selling me the flower, and that you’d want to kill me for taking it from you,” she said. “Such is the power those flowers have over us. But now that you Cantells are gone, I can take over the greenhouse, and have all the flowers to myself. Oh, don’t worry: I won’t sell any of them.”

She cleaned up the basement, wrapped his body in old, dirty blankets, then took it out to his car, checking to make sure no one was around in the neighbourhood: everyone was either at work or at school, and the only other housewife of their area, a gossipy middle-aged woman named Mrs. Granville, lived far off on the other end of the street, to the far side of the greenhouse; so Helen figured she was safe from being seen.

She had his car keys, put on Paula’s hat, then drove away to a forest out of town to bury the body there. She drove back the Cantells’ house and found Paula’s body in the basement. 

Showing no emotion at the gory sight of the body (for owning those flowers was infinitely more important to her), Helen disposed of it near Muir’s.

Now the greenhouse was hers.

*****************

When the neighbours wondered why Helen was running the Cantells’ greenhouse business, her excuse was that Muir and Paula had suddenly decided to take a vacation, since they’d been stressed lately. The neighbours were suspicious of Helen running the business in place of the Cantells, since she had no experience in gardening or selling flowers. What’s more, Helen was more interested in watching over those new flowers, which by now numbered over thirty, than selling the others, which were dying from neglect. 

When the customers realized Helen had no intention of selling any of the new flowers, which soon became the vast majority of those in the greenhouse, they all left with frowns.

Mr. Gadd stopped by a week after the murders, and found himself concerned not so much from the change from the Cantells’ to Helen’s management, but about how identical her attitude was to Muir’s.

And the smell of that greenhouse, now with only the identical-looking flowers, put him in a staggering daze once he’d entered.

As he walked back to his car, his staggering changing into normal walking after about ten seconds from exiting the greenhouse, he saw Mrs. Granville sitting on her porch, her mouth in a permanent pout and her eyes and ears out like antennae. 

“Good afternoon, Mr. Gadd,” she called out to him.

“Good afternoon, Mrs. Granville,” he said, then put a small plastic bag in his glove compartment.

“Why didn’t you buy any flowers today?” she asked.

“None to buy that are of interest to me,” he said.

“What about all those pretty new flowers they have, the ones that all look like clones of each other?”

“You mean the silvery-gold-red ones? That’s all they have now. Over fifty of them, I’d say.”

“Well, why not buy one of those?”

“Nah. I don’t like them.”

“I don’t blame you. They all stink. They’re evil, too.”

“That’s the feeling I’ve always had of them. They have an evil charm.”

“C’mere, Mr. Gadd,” she said with a sly smirk and squinted eyes. “I’ll bet I know something you don’t about what’s going on over there.”

“What’s that?” he asked as he approached her porch.

“Y’know how Helen’s supposed to be watching over the greenhouse while the Cantells are in Florida?”

“Yeah, I heard. There’s no way they can afford a two-week vacation in Miami Beach.”

“Well, I remember seeing Helen buy one of those evil flowers, when none of ‘em were supposed to be for sale. She also borrowed one of Paula’s hats, her purple one, the day before she bought that flower. I saw Helen twice driving the Cantells’ car wearing that hat. She’d dragged something big and heavy into the car from the Cantells’ house. Big and heavy enough to be a body.”

“Are you sure?” Gadd asked.

“Yes. I think Helen killed the Cantells to get at those flowers. They’re supposed to return from their ‘vacation’ at the end of next week. I’ll make a million-dollar bet that Helen will still be running the greenhouse business, saying she doesn’t know what happened to the Cantells, then eventually make us believe they were murdered in Miami Beach instead of here.”

“Could be. There’s something about those flowers. Something in the smell. A smell of…covetousness.”

“I agree. That’s what I smelled, and I recoiled instantly upon smelling it. A smell honest people could never stand. You watch Helen over the next week. I sure will.”

“Yes, we should watch her.”

But Helen was watching them from the greenhouse, noting their scowling looks at her.

*****************

Two days later, Mrs. Granville went over to the greenhouse to see what was going on over there. She stood just outside, looking through the glass to see, but not smell, the goings-on inside. 

She gasped at what she saw.

Helen, pale, was swinging a knife at men and women who were trying to take her flowers; worse, the men and women had knives of their own, and stabbed not only at her, but at each other. Helen would need a larger bandage than the one along the back of her neck to cover the bloody gash along her left forearm.

A woman she’d stabbed in the back was lying dead on the floor between her and the other fighting customers, all of whom had cuts and gashes on their arms or legs. All of them ignored the pain, so focused were they on getting control of all the flowers. Some jealously held flowerpots in the arms that weren’t brandishing knives.

Mrs. Granville backed away from the window of the greenhouse when she saw Helen’s scowling eyes aiming murderously at hers. With a shaky hand, she took her cellphone out of her handbag and tried tapping a phone number, grunting in nervous annoyance whenever she tapped any wrong numbers. Finally, she finished dialling.

“Hello?” Mr. Gadd said.

“This is Mrs. Granville,” she said. “The situation with Helen and the flowers is much worse now.”

“How many are there now? In the hundreds?”

“Yes, but that’s not the worst part. She and several customers are swinging knives at each other, trying to take over the greenhouse and have all the flowers to themselves. One woman’s lying on the floor dead…Oh! I just saw a man stabbed and falling–he must be dead, too. All the others, including Helen, are cut and wounded, but still fighting as if they hadn’t a spot of blood on them.”

“They’re swinging knives at each other in broad daylight?” Gadd asked. “They aren’t worried about cops coming to stop them?”

“Of course not. The flowers have driven them all mad.”

“I’m coming over there.”

“Why? It’s dangerous. I should call the police.”

“No! Not yet. They won’t understand what needs to be done. The flowers must all be destroyed.” He sighed, then continued. “Arresting a few people won’t end this problem. As long as there are flowers, people will fight to have them. I’m on my way. Bye.”

He hung up.

Mrs. Granville watched in helpless horror as the fighting continued. She kept backing up slowly, without noticing the curb as her feet neared it.

A man swung his knife in an arc from right to left, slicing Helen across the guts and tearing them open. Shc buckled and fell to the floor, with parts of her intestines snaking out of the wound, coated in blood.

The man reached for the flowerpot she was holding and caught it before she hit the floor, but a woman stabbed him in the back and snatched the flower from him.

“Aah!” Mrs. Granville screamed not only from the violence, but also from tripping over the curb and hitting the road, hurting her right elbow.

A car raced over and was about to hit her in the face. She screamed, but the car stopped, the bumper just a few inches away from her nose. Mr. Gadd got out of the car and ran over to the greenhouse. He had a container of gasoline. 

He began running around the greenhouse, pouring gasoline all along the perimeter. Once he’d finished his tour around the greenhouse, he flicked a cigarette lighter and reached down to the ground.

“Oh, my God!” she said, moaning in pain as she fought to get back on her feet. She limped back to her house, saying, “Still, if those people are mad enough to kill each other over that devil of a flower, maybe they should all burn in the hell of their greed.”

She reached her porch. By the time she’d sat down, rubbing her elbow, she saw a rectangle of fire surrounding the greenhouse. Gadd raced back to his car and drove off.

One woman, the one who’d stabbed Helen’s killer in the back, was the sole survivor of the knife fight…though she wouldn’t survive much longer. 

The flowers by the glass were bursting into flame. As they burned, they made a chorus of squeals so shrill and ear-piercing, they made the screeching violins of horror movie soundtracks seem soothing.

More and more flowers burned and screamed. The woman joined in the screaming as the flames moved further and further inside, inching closer to her and the three flowerpots she was squeezing to her chest in a futile effort to protect them.

“No!” she screamed. “My flowers! They’re dying!”

By the time a fire truck and police cars had arrived, she and all the flowers had burned to a crisp.

Still on her porch and watching everything, Mrs. Granville called Mr. Gadd on her cellphone again.

“Are all the flowers dead?” he asked her.

“Every last one of them, thank God,” she said. “The last surviving woman in that fight perished, too. So awful.”

“Yeah. I feel bad about having caused such a loss of life, but you know as well as I do that those flowers had to be killed, to stop the cycle of human violence. Sometimes you have to make difficult sacrifices to avoid worse suffering.”

“I agree. She was a killer for those evil flowers, so I don’t feel much sympathy for her. Honest people like you and me would never allow ourselves to covet those flowers. Don’t worry, Mr. Gadd, I won’t tell the police what you did.”

“Thank you, Mrs. Granville,” he said. “Well, I have a few things to do, so if you’ll excuse me, we can discuss the rest of this later, OK?”

“Yes, of course,” she said. “We both need a rest from all of this violence. Goodbye, Mr. Gadd.” They hung up.

Mr. Gadd took the little bag out of the glove compartment of his car and went over to his garden.

Now that there aren’t any more of those flowers around elsewhere, I’ll feel safe doing this, he thought. I hated having to kill all of them, but sometimes you have to make great sacrifices to avoid worse violence.

He opened the bag and sprinkled little black seeds on the soil.

My Short Story, ‘Violation,’ in the Horror Anthology, ‘Dig Two Graves, Vol. II’

Dig Two Graves: An Anthology Vol. II–Kindle edition by Death’s Head Press is now published! I have an erotic horror short story, ‘Violation,’ included in it. It’s about a group of young men who gang rape and murder a woman in the woods (or so they think), then realize they’ve gotten themselves into something supernatural and surreal, and a revenge ensues to make I Spit On Your Grave seem mild in comparison. That’s all I’m telling for now; you’ll have to read for yourself to find out how they get what’s coming to them.

Other great stories included in the anthology were written by Wesley Southard, Cameron Trost, Gerri R. Gray, Gary Power, Delphine Quinn, M. Ennenbach, Jack Bantry, Charlotte Platt, Cameron Kirk, Susan E. Abramski, Mark Lumby, Lucas Milliron, David L. Tamarin, Lori Tiron-Pandit, Pete Mesling, G. Allen Wilbanks, Thomas Vaughn, Sergio “ente per ente” Palumbo, Duane Bradley, David Owain Hughes, and Betty Rocksteady.

I want to show my appreciation to Death’s Head Press for including my story in their new anthology! If you love horror fiction, Dear Reader, I hope you’ll go out and get your hands on this collection of scary stories!

A Horror Short Story of Mine Published in ‘The Devil’s Hour’

The Devil’s Hour is an anthology of horror short stories recently published by HellBound Books. I have a short story included in it, one called “The Pet.” I don’t want to tell you too much about it, since I’d rather you got a copy of the anthology and found out for yourself; let’s just say that the pet is always hungry, and he’s a growing boy…

The other sixteen writers in the anthology are these talented people: M.U.Nib, Nick Manzolillo, Richard Raven, Pamela Scott, Thomas S. Gunther, Tim V. Decker, Marc L. Rissmann, Ken McGrath, Brandon Cracraft, James R. Gardner, Lex H Jones, Sergio ‘ente per ente’ Palumbo & Ernesto Canepa, Jim Towns, Sarah Cannavo, Feind Gottes, and J.N. Cameron. 

Above all, I want to thank Xtina Marie and James Longmore for accepting my story. You two rock…and…roll!

‘Heavy Splash,’ a Horror Short Story

[Trigger Warning: some sexual content of a disturbing nature.]

Ayumi Suzuki shouldn’t have been driving. She was about to peak on a combination of ecstasy, ketamine, and acid as she, naked, drove out of the front yard of the country home where the party was still in full swing that summer night. The other partiers, her associates in the porn industry, were too wasted themselves to notice her having sneaked out after a trip to the bathroom…not that they cared. ‘Yummy Sucky’— her stage name—was important to them only insofar as she made money for them. The waves of her thoughts rose and fell like this:

I’ve got to get out of there! I’m just too high. I love to party, but they just don’t know when to stop. All those pills. All that snorting. All that fucking. I’ll die if I keep doing drugs in there. I washed the come off my face and left immediately after. I didn’t even bother to get my clothes. I’m surprised—and lucky—none of Phil’s musclemen stopped me from leaving. I may be naked and stoned, but at least I got away from them. It’s safer to leave now, and to risk it on the road, than to stay, and risk letting them just get crazier and crazier with me, till they kill me. Gotta escape…escape…Drive, drive far away…just keep driving…

She was driving alone down a gravel road lined with trees on both sides. Besides what little light the half moon and stars were giving overhead, her high beams were augmented by the dazzle the drugs were flashing in her eyes.

Are those trees I’m driving past…or are they people, blacks with their hair dyed green? They all look like punk rocker clones of Leon, one of the porno studs who were just fucking me in that bedroom. Man, am I ever stoned!

Her little car was swaying left to right, but mostly staying on the gravel. The tires crushed the bordering grass during the extremes of three sways. Her head was swaying all the more from the mental massage of the high she was now peaking on.

Great party! A way-too-crazy one, but a great one! I’m really fucking high. Now that I’m away from all those fuckers, I can just relax and enjoy my high. Leaving them was kinda like leaving home in Sacramento. I’m so glad I left my parents’ home to live this party life, here in Washington State. I don’t always know which way I’m going, but I’m glad I left that hell of a house back in California last year. Escape…the great escape…I just drove and drove…got far, far away from them…I just kept on driving…

Going through the forest, she took a wrong turn to the right, and then went down an inclining dirt road. She thought she was still on the right path, even though it was a bumpy, downhill one. The descent made her want to slow down, which of course was a good thing. If only she’d been willing to stop.

The road doesn’t seem level anymore. I don’t remember going up or down any hills on the way to Phil’s house. Must be the drugs making me think I’m going downhill.

She was tingling all over from the ecstasy, and the drugs made her vision too blurry to see the difference in roads. The tingles cancelled out the bumpy feel of the road so well that she hadn’t noticed the end of the smoothness beneath her tires, either; the drugs she was on were better than the best of shock absorbers. The darkness of the overhanging trees was beginning to envelope her. There was a small spot of light at the bottom of the incline, where the dirt road was leading to God-knew-what, a kind of light at the end of the tunnel.

Is this a straw I’m looking through, with pure, white cocaine at the bottom, waiting to be sniffed up my lucky nose, or am I driving through a tunnel? Yes, it’s a tunnel! How did I get from the forest to a tunnel? I don’t remember there being a tunnel anywhere on the road from my place to Phil’s house.

Indeed, her high was making her think she was driving through a tunnel at the moment, with a grey glow at the far end. The trees—or the greenish-brown curved tunnel walls, as they looked to her—were rippling like the waves of a serene lake, a peaceful escape from the smut business.

So I’m doing porn now: so what? As a twenty-year-old who didn’t finish college (I’m so glad I dropped out—I’m sick of school!), I didn’t have many other options after running away from home; but even if I had, why should I be ashamed of fucking in front of a camera? I’m freely exploring my sexuality: what’s wrong with a girl doing that? At least I’m not chained to a desk anymore, always pressured to get next-to-perfect grades for my parents. I do whatever I want now. I get high whenever I want. I escaped from home…I just need to escape from the partying and the sex, for a while…Just keep on driving, far, far away…

She drove down to where that light was, and came out from the trees. Dots of blurry light flashed in her eyes: was it the stars, or was it the drugs? Still peaking on her high, every inch of her body sizzling with pleasure, she didn’t notice how the road had ended, and she was now driving slowly on a long wooden pier, one wide and sturdy enough to support the weight of her car, but leading into the middle of a lake—one with as many cans, plastic bags, and chocolate bar wrappers as there were dead fish. For a moment, she stared at the dark spaces between the planks of wood on the pier. The spaces were going straight ahead, in the direction she was driving.

The dirt road looks different. Why are there straight, black lines on the light brown dirt? Are they lines of black cocaine, all chopped up for me to snort on a wooden table? Is there such a thing as black cocaine? I’ll bet black blow gives a freaky buzz. Still, no way! No more drugs for me, thank you. Is that dirt I’m driving on, or is it wood? The sides are black and wavy: where’s the grass? Wait a minute: everything is wavy. Where’s the road?

The car swayed left and right, almost going off the side at one point. To her eyes, that sturdy pier seemed to be as wobbly as the waves of the lake, as did the swaying trees. Everything seemed to be an ocean, as if she were underwater: there was no sense of separation or distinction between her and her environment, or between anything around her…it was almost primordial Chaos, a dark world of death, before the creation of the universe, before the pain of life had even begun, as waste and void as her mind was wasted and void. It was beautiful. Her spirit was about to hover over the face of the waters. No, everything already was water, and she was in it, Ayumi, a drop of water mixed in with her surroundings, indistinct from them.

I’m free now, I’m out of the darkness and into the light: it’s like having found Jesus, and dying with Him on the wooden rood, the Word at the beginning of time; unlike in Mom’s and Dad’s church, those hypocrites and their phoney, conniving pastors. The family preacher never helped me when I complained about Mommy’s and Daddy’s coldness when I was a child, always pushing me to slave away at school, and never letting me have any fun.

Though she was driving slower and slower, she was too stoned to notice how the edge of that pier was getting close.

Well, I’m twenty years old now, and I can go wherever I want, do whatever I want. Neither Mom nor Dad can stop me. No one can stop me. I hate the family’s posing as ‘respectable’ Japanese-Americans, the way they carry on the social lie about us as the good, Christian, Suzuki family, with their religion, a drug for the masses, and my only drug to ease my suffering when I was still living with them. Oh, what bullshit! But I got far, far away from them. I have much better drugs now. I just need a break from Phil and the porn moviemakers, and from the sex, for the moment. I just have to keep driving, driving to safety…

She didn’t even notice herself drive off the end of the pier: it was as if she were going down another dirt road incline. Her car plunged into the lake. The water, fanning out in all directions around the front of her car, was like a great flash of light blinding her. Because everything had been waves in front of her eyes, the sight of undulating water outside her car wasn’t a surprise to her.

Am I being baptized? Yes! I’m being bathed in holiness and redemption.

The car sank diagonally into the water as if it were quicksand, for there was such a mountain of junk dumped into the lake, it managed to slow the car down. The window to her car door, to the left of the driver’s seat, was open by an inch or so. As the dirty water poured through and splashed all over her, she turned her head towards it, letting it splash all over her face. She smirked as she got soaked.

It’s like my last bukkake film. I had so much come all over my face, my mouth, my nose, it was hard to breathe. My director, Phil, got so mad at me for ruining the scene when I asked for help, instead of giggling like the little slut he wanted me to act like. Why couldn’t he just help me? Nobody helped me. I thought I was going to die!

She moved her head back to the front to face the windshield, and took a breath while looking through it. It was so dark out there. She couldn’t see any kind of road. Instead, the outside looked like a forest of giant fungi, dark green mushrooms the size of trees, swaying left to right. She blinked her eyes, still too dazed to be thinking about the water filling up in her car, already a pool with her feet submerged.

What are those orange things floating about? They look like…are they dead fish? No, they can’t be. This is one intense high. Am I no longer driving? Am I dreaming? Am I in an aquarium? I sure am far, far away now. My head is swimming: is my body swimming? What’s with all this water? Why is it so dark outside?

The car thudded against something and stopped moving. Her head jerked forward, almost hitting the dashboard. It was a good thing she had her seatbelt on.

Did I hit something? What is that in front of me?

Some dark, thick mass had bumped against the windshield, cracking the glass slightly. For a second, the thick mass looked like a giant, fidgeting, black octopus, about to wrap its swaying tentacles all over her.

Are those Leon’s hands on my arms? Are we filming another fuck scene? No!

Then she looked again, and saw what looked like a large tree stump. Actually, it was a thick branch, and another, thicker and stronger branch, one parallel to the first, was under the car, holding it in its diagonal position. More dead fish, and the corpses of one or two frogs, were floating by the ajar window, through the top of which the water was pouring in like a waterfall. The water in the car had risen to her knees now.

I’m cold. Now I wish I’d grabbed my dress. Why am I so wet?

She looked to her left, and felt the dirty water splashing on her face again. As it went all over her nose and mouth, she looked out the ajar window and saw a frog’s corpse almost slipping in: its front limbs, having slipped past the glass, were fluttering at her, as if wanting to touch her face. The limbs were inches away from her nose. She could see the frog’s face seeming to stare right into her eyes. She blinked her eyes, and for a second she thought she saw…

Are those my father’s hands reaching out to slap me, the way they did whenever he saw me not studying?

She jerked her head away, shook it for a few seconds, and looked back at the windshield.

No, that can’t be Daddy. I’m far away from him now. This trip is getting just too intense for me. I’m seeing things.

She looked back at the window, blinked and tried to focus. She saw the frog. She sighed with relief, swatted at it to make it float away, and looked back to her front.

I knew it. It wasn’t Daddy. When will that bastard get out of my head? Can’t I just enjoy my high in peace?

The water was a swirling mix of turquoise, brown, orange, and yellow. The face of a large, grey, dead fish approached the windshield, its wide-open mouth kissing the glass. For a second, it looked like a shark about to attack: she saw huge, sharp teeth shining from its widening jaws. She jerked her head, looked again, and saw just the fish. She let out a heavy sigh, and waited for her pounding heart to slow down. As she calmed down, she focused on the waves of pleasure her high’s massage was giving her brain.

Please, no more scary sights. Just let me enjoy my high.

Indeed, her whole body was vibrating, undulating with her high. Had it not been for the scary surroundings, it would have been the best feeling she’d ever had in her life. It was as if she were at one with the water: the boundary between her and her soaking surroundings was as blurred as her vision. It was like death, an annihilation of her ego, but it was also a beautiful oneness. It was peaceful, an end to her suffering. She was one with the waves of the world.

Am I taking a shower? This is like that time three months ago, when we did that film and I fucked that white stud, Jim Johnson, in the shower. I was on really good ecstasy the day we filmed that scene, too, almost as good as the ecstasy I’m on now.

She saw that fish head again, and for a second, it looked like her father’s face. She shook at the sight of it.

Oh! Wait, no, it isn’t Dad yelling at me. That reminds me of when Mom and Dad caught me with a small bag of marijuana in my purse, which my nosy aunt found. I’m so glad I don’t live with my family anymore. I’m safe now, far away from them. It’s good to drive away, to escape from the pain.

The pressure against the windshield caused it to crack into longer crooked lines. The crack was like a giant, emaciated, white spider, wanting to crawl inside the car and onto her face. She thought she saw glowing eyes in the center of the crack, the ‘head’ of the spider.

Ooh! That isn’t a spider, is it? I hate spiders, especially big ones.

Her mind was taken off of the ‘spider’ when a set of six-pack rings, whose plastic had disintegrated somewhat, leaving only two distinct rings, darkened by dirt, slipped through the window crack and landed on her hands. She looked down at them. They looked like grey handcuffs.

Am I doing another bondage film? Phil promised me he’d never make me do that again! Well, he makes a lot of promises he doesn’t keep…bastard. He—Phil Sakamoto—kind of looks like my Dad.

The six-pack rings were washed off her hands by the continuous influx of filthy water, which she was way too stoned to give serious thought to. She looked back down at her hands.

Oh? The handcuffs are gone. Good. Wow, I guess Phil does keep his promises sometimes. Hey, what’s that slapping me?

A few skinny dead black fish slipped through the opening in the side window and slapped against her left cheek as the water continued to pour in. She was up to her waist in water now.

Is that a tree branch in front of me? Where am I? What keeps swatting my left cheek? Something long and black. Is it Leon’s dick slapping my face after I blew him? It sure feels that way. He was doing that at the party tonight, wasn’t he? I hate it when he does that during filming, but when Phil tells us to do a scene a certain way, we have to do as we’re told. I’ll bet Leon likes swatting my face with his cock. Asshole!

The windshield cracked again. That ‘spider’ was growing into a monster, looking like a nuclear mutation. The acid she was peaking on made the ‘spider’ seem to move. For a second or two, the spider seemed to be crawling a bit, then stopping and watching her. Those glowing grey eyes she saw seemed to be staring right into her soul. She jumped at the sight of them, then looked again, and realized the ‘spider’ was just a crack in the glass. The relief wasn’t reassuring, though, for the darkness and freaky visuals were ruining what could have been an amazing buzz.

Oh, shit! I hate spiders. I really didn’t need that hallucination.

The water was up to her belly now. Was she vibrating from her high, or shivering from the cold? The dead black fish were floating in a circle around her, almost touching her skin. She looked down at them, and thought she was wearing some kind of chain around her waist, links of black rotating around her.

Has Phil chained me to a wall? I guess I’m doing a bondage film again, after all. I hate him. What’s that pouring on my head? Is he having someone piss on me again?

She looked back up at the windshield, then back down at her waist. The black fish had floated away.

Oh, wait, I’m not chained up—good. But what’s that smell? Piss? Dead animals? I’m really fuckin’ high, like that time I was snorting cocaine at that other party last week, and I heard Phil and Jim talking about climate change. Jim was warning about the dangers of pollution and shit like that. Phil ignored him, said it’s a liberal myth made up so the government can tax us and interfere with our lives more. I tend to agree with Phil. My dad never believed what the environmentalists say: I hate Phil and Daddy, but I agree with them about that.

Some of the filthy water got in her mouth. She spat it out and coughed.

Did Jim just piss in my mouth?

She looked to her left, but didn’t see Jim’s dick.

No, it isn’t him; but fuck him and his green politics, anyway. Fuck Mother Nature. She’s a whore, like the whore my misfortunes made me into. My mother’s nature was never any kinder to me than Daddy was; she always ignored my childhood need for hugs and love, instead barking at me to finish my homework. Fuck Mother Nature. Fuck everything. We’re all going to die one day, anyway. Death is beautiful. Death is escape. Getting away, far away. Finding peace of mind. We’re all polluted, and we can never un-pollute ourselves. There’s no hope for redemption. Just die, and escape from it all.

The windshield cracked again, making a small hole through which water sprayed like a shower nozzle on her face.

What’s that? More bukkake? Or another shower fuck scene we’re filming? Damn, why am I so wet? This is such good ketamine! It’s as if something terrible is happening to me, but I feel perfectly safe from it. It’s like I’m shielded in armor, or in an electric field of energy, or something. Flashing rays of light are shooting out in all directions around my eyes. Nothing can hurt me, though everything is trying to. I see horrors before my eyes, death everywhere, but a bubble of protection will keep me safe. I’m too high to care, anyway.

The water level was up to her breasts now. Her nipples were freezing and erect.

Am I in a swimming pool? I did a porno shoot in a swimming pool a month ago. I was swimming around, then Leon walked by the poolside naked, his big black dick pointing at me, then I came out of the pool, as naked as he was. Then we fucked. His dick is too big, but I was high on ketamine, so I didn’t feel the pain during the filming. I sure was sore afterwards. Still, I’m not complaining. Fun times!

The water was up to her neck now.

As bad and Phil and his boys get, at least it’s not like life at home in Sacramento, being repressed by my parents after they’d taken me to church services, when the preacher warned of the kind of sins that led to the Great Flood, sinning that Daddy ignored in himself–with his hands on me–even as he punished me for my imperfections, and the pastors ignored my cries for help. Bastards! And when I complained to the preachers about my parents’ strictness, they said that potheads deserve to be treated with strictness! And they all talk of God’s love and forgiveness. Hypocrites, all of them!

The glass of the windshield finally broke. Shattered pieces of glass flew at her face, cutting tiny holes in her cheeks. Tiny pieces of plastic, like scattered rice, but glowing because of the drugs, were flying at her face, too. The tree branch’s jagged front hit her in the face like a fist, giving her a nosebleed. All her blood got diluted in the water that was enveloping her, swirling about her face like fumes from marijuana cigarettes, only they were red.

Who punched me? Was it Daddy, after he caught me in my room smoking pot, the day before I left home? Was it Leon, after I finished blowing him? I remember Phil wanting him to do that, but I refused to let him. Phil is such an asshole sometimes. My jaw gets so sore from blowing Leon’s big cock. Speaking of blow, is this cocaine going up my nose, or is it more bukkake? Sometimes it feels like a glass powder, sometimes it feels like…water…water turned to red wine by Jesus…

She blacked out. Deep black. A far, far away kind of black. It was a bottomless pit of black, like Jonah going into the mouth of the great fish. She phased into unconsciousness, a place where the border between unconsciousness and death was blurred…a peaceful place, beyond the pairs of opposites, those of life and death…shifting back and forth between those opposites…like…waves…

Am I awake? Am I…dreaming? I can’t breathe. The water…is beautiful. Red. Is it wine? Are those…dead, pink fish…floating about me, or are they…severed cocks, Jim’s and Leon’s, after I…bit them off, with their blood…flowing everywhere? I’d sure…like to bite them off. Phil’s, too. I had to…get away from them, far away. Too many drugs, too much fucking, too much sucking, too much partying. It was fun, but it was…dangerous fun. I ran out…of the house, completely naked, with…only my car keys…I had to…get out…of there. I thought I’d…die there.

The line between life and death was, for her, like the surface of the ocean, rippling up and down, up and down…

But out here, dying is better. It’s beautiful…to die. It’s like sleeping. Dreaming. Escaping. No more abuse. No more being…exploited by Phil. No more pain, no more filth…polluting my body. No more drugs…to fuck my head up. If my…body isn’t…getting fucked…my mind is…This is better…Just sleeping, forever. Escaping the world. Getting away…from the filth. The Great Flood, washing away…the sin of the world. With the end…comes a new beginning…a new creation. I’ve found…redemption…through blood…Christ’s blood. Peace. Feeding me…with fish, the Jesus fish. All I’ve…ever wanted…to do…is to get away…to drive away, far away from all the…

‘Biohackers,’ a Science Fiction Short Story

Max Henderson, a young man in a red uniform, smashed through a first-floor window, escaping from the InterCorp building. Only some of his injuries were from the fragments of shattered glass that chipped into his skin: others were bruises from security officers’ batons that had hit him on the head, back, and arms.

Then, there was one bruise in particular—the one on his forearm, just below his wrist. It was a huge spot of purple and blue, in which tiny dots of flashing orange could be seen.

This bruise was self-inflicted.

Before he’d pounded his arm, a blue dot would sometimes flash. A green one, too. And a yellow one, whenever he was disobedient…he was given electrical shocks when that one flashed.

He ran, staggering down the sidewalk. Five men in black uniforms with yellow stripes ran after him; they all had batons in their hands, ready to beat him again.

Within a minute, they’d caught up with him. One officer grabbed his arm; the slave picked him up and threw him ten feet away, where the officer’s body struck a tree. The other four men started beating the slave, clubbing him on the head, chest, and arms. Many blows hit him in the face, breaking his nose and knocking out a few teeth. Though he was receiving new bruises, the bloody cuts from the chips of broken glass were already healing, and the original purple-blue spots were shrinking in diameter, even the one he gave himself.

Still, this new, concentrated beating he was getting was not one he could heal from quickly enough to survive; his healing app wasn’t that effective. Those batons just kept slamming down on his body. After about twenty hard blows to the head, his skull cracked, and he lost consciousness.

The flashing orange dots were no longer visible on his arm. He lay there, lifeless. No quick healing from his microchip implant would save him now.

His body had been taken offline.

***********

Lineups of Lumps, men and women in red, green, orange, and blue uniforms were waiting to have their microchip implants tested. Nora Lee, teary-eyed, stood in line with the green-uniformed Lumps, behind a man being tested by an officer in the same uniform as those who’d beaten Max to death.

“OK,” the officer said, handing the slave, or Lump, a handful of nails. “Look at that stack of wood to your left. With the nails, use your implant to make the wood into a bookshelf.”

The Lump raised his right arm and pointed his fingers in the direction of the wood. A white dot began to flash just under the skin on his wrist. The wood was raised up in the air by a signal from his implant, then shaped in the form of a bookshelf, the shape being determined by the Lump’s thoughts, which were transferred through his nerves into the implant. It was as if the Lump had the power of telekinesis, hence the name ‘telekinesis app’ put into his implant.

The hand that held the nails now flattened. A pink dot flashed to the right of the white dot. The nails flew out of his hand, like a shot from a gun, and over to exact points where they were to be nailed to the wood, only it was as if invisible hammers were nailing them in place. The officer examined the bookshelf.

“Excellent,” he said. “Your implants are fully functional. You will do carpentry for Amy Millhouse, starting today,…” then the officer checked his computer to type in the date, “…April 5th, 2037. The blue dot will guide you to her home. Go now.”

The Lump stepped out of line and left. Nora, still sobbing, stepped forward.

“Ms. Nora Lee, former journalist,” the officer said as he checked her information on his computer implant, with a few taps on his wrist. “Made a Lump as punishment for writing op-eds critical of InterCorp. Of all the stupid ways to lose your freedom. Well, that explains your tears. Give me your arm.”

She reached over to him. He tapped her wrist where a yellow dot could be seen. “Ah!” she screamed as she felt an electric jolt shoot through her body.

“Good,” the officer said. “The restraining app is functional. Can’t have you crying and running away on the job, eh?”

She stopped sobbing, but lowered her eyes and frowned.

“Now,” he said. “Your job will be to wash dishes, make beds, take out garbage, do laundry…domestic chores in general…for George and Tasha Jonson, who bought you earlier today. OK, look at the pile of plates on my desk, and the dishrags beside them.” She did. “Use the pink-dotted app, and make like you’re cleaning them.”

By thinking of it, she made the pink dot flash, then raised her hands and pointed her fingers at the dishes and rags. Each dish hovered in the air with a rag, which then rubbed in circles on the dish. The officer smiled to see five floating dishes being ‘cleaned’ by five floating rags.

“Good,” he said. She made the dishes and rags come back down gently on the desk. “You will go to the Jonsons immediate…”

A disturbance was heard from three desks away, to Nora’s right. A large black Lump in a red uniform had lifted a car over his head with the help of his ‘strength app’, and was about to throw it at the officer testing him. The yellow dot was made to flash on his arm by the officer; the electrical shock forced the Lump to drop the car. The fender hit his leg, making him shout in pain and fall to the floor.

“Whatever injuries he has will heal quickly enough, thanks to his healing app,” Nora’s officer said, then looked at her. “See what happens when you don’t obey?”

***************

Carl Fredericks was walking down the street when he saw Nora in a green uniform. She avoided his widened eyes in shame, her own teary.

She was his girlfriend.

“Nora!” he said. “They got you, too?”

She could answer only in sobs.

“It was for that last op-ed you wrote, wasn’t it?”

She nodded.

“Oh, I warned you not to publish any more of those! How long must you be a slave?”

“You know,” she sobbed. “For life.”

“I’ve got to free you,” he said.

“You can’t. I have to go. They’ll use the yellow app on me if I take too long getting to the Jonson family.”

“You’re working for George and Tasha?”

She nodded. “We can’t see each other anymore. Goodbye.” She walked away, always sobbing.

Now Carl felt like sobbing. George and Tasha hate each other, he thought; Will handsome George and my pretty Nora like each other? I won’t be able to bear it.

*************

A computer programmer, Carl came up with an idea to free Nora. He tapped on his wrist to connect with the central computer, which had control over all the Lumps around the world…though his interest was solely in freeing her.

He knew how to hack through firewalls, and though he was aware of the danger of being caught, his love for Nora compelled him to take the risk. He found his way to the implant that was controlling her, and he put in a virus to free her of her masters’ control as soon as they dismissed her for the day. He knew that slaves’ masters tap a ‘dismissal’ function on their wrist implants to send their Lumps off to sleep. Once that function had been tapped, she would receive a message from Carl, letting her know she’d been freed, and that she should meet him outside of Toronto, in his aunt’s home in Mississauga.

Though she sneaked out of the Jonsons’ house without being seen by anyone in the family, Carl’s implanting of the virus immediately caught the attention of George Jonson, whose own implant was flashing a green ‘alert’ dot.

George had taken a liking to Nora as soon as she entered his home, not just for her brunette beauty, but for the tears in her eyes. The Jonsons were black, and so the father of the house had an instinctive hatred for slavery, though his wife insisted on buying Nora, as Tasha hated having to do housework. He’d fought with his wife over having a Lump at home, but his wife always won their many fights. Their son wept almost every night from the sound of his parents’ yelling.

Should I let her go, or should I get her back? he thought; I’d rather have her than Tasha, that’s for sure. After ruminating over what to do for an hour or so after her having left his house, he tapped his wrist implant, alerting a squad of officers to find her and Carl.

**************

The next morning, officers took Carl and Nora to George’s house. George removed the virus and, curious about it, stored it in his implant.

“Nora,” he said. “Go make our breakfast.” She immediately went over to the kitchen. He smiled as he watched her walk by.

“Nora is mine!” Carl protested, his eyes squinting at how George had looked at her. He tried to run over and stop her, but he got a shock from the new apps added to his microchip implant.

“Have him fitted with a blue uniform,” George said to the officers. “That was a clever virus you made, Mr. Fredericks. Your intellectual abilities, enhanced with mental apps, will be a great asset to InterCorp. Take him away.”

“No!” Carl shouted as the officers were dragging him out of the house. “Nora! Jonson, don’t you touch my girl! I know what you want to do with her!”

*************

In a blue uniform and with a bluer face, Carl was taken into the office of Brent McDonald, CEO of InterCorp.

“So, this must be Carl Fredericks,” McDonald said, getting up from his desk. “You may go,” he said to the officers who brought Carl in. They left. “I understand that you, originally a software engineer who worked on the fifth floor under Mr. Jonson, attempted to liberate your girlfriend, a Nora Lee, by putting a virus into the programming in her implant. Naughty, but clever. Your obvious aptitudes can be put to good use by doing data analysis and data mining for InterCorp.”

“But I have no experience in those fields,” Carl said.

“The apps we’ve added to your implants will enhance your intelligence to the point that you’ll learn quickly,” Brent said. “And since you’ve been reduced to the status of Lump, as Nora was, for crimes against InterCorp, I can get this normally high-paying work from you for free.”

“I’ve always wondered why slaves are known as ‘Lumps’,” Carl said. “Why, if I may, are…we…called that?”

“You are entitled to know, Carl,” Brent said, smiling. “You’re Lumps because you’re lumps of shit, for daring to challenge the new order established by the Free Market Revolution of 2022! No government will protect your so-called ‘rights,’ because the corporations of the world’s Jurisdictions are the state. L’état, c’est le marché! Now, go to your office and get to work. Your apps will give you all the training you’ll need. Off you go.”

Carl left the office, a blue dot on his wrist guiding him to his new office.

**************

That evening, in George Jonson’s house, Nora hid in the kitchen as she heard the yelling in the living room.

“I see the way you look at that Lump scum!” Tasha shouted at George. “If you think that white girl’s so much prettier and shapelier than I am, go fuck her! I’m going!” She stormed out the front door and slammed it.

George let out a big sigh, then ran his hands over his face. He saw Nora standing by the entrance to the dining room from the kitchen.

“Could you go upstairs and make the bed, please, Nora?” he asked. Timidly, she went up to the bedroom. She could hear his son sobbing in his bedroom as she walked by. She wished she had the freedom to hold him, a fellow sufferer.

Standing at the foot of the bed, she pointed her hand at it. The pink dot on her wrist flashed. The messed-up blankets rose up a few feet over the bed, flattened out so the edges would be lined up with the sides, head, and foot of the bed, and then the blankets came down on the bed perfectly.

Knowing what was on George’s mind, she had planned to spin around and leave his and Tasha’s bedroom. But before she could even turn, she felt his hands on her shoulders. “Ah!” she screamed.

“Nora, relax,” he said. She turned to face him, the terror of soon being raped in her eyes. “Don’t worry. I’m not going to…”

The pink dot on her wrist flashed, and a big, hardcover dictionary flew off a bookshelf to his left and hit him on the head. “Oof!” He fell to the floor.

Before she could run out of the room, the yellow dot on her wrist flashed. “Ah!” she felt a shock, and fell to the floor beside him. She looked in his eyes, shaking all over.

“OK, I get it,” he said, rubbing his head. “You don’t like me. You still love Carl. I don’t blame you.” They both got up. “Don’t be afraid. I won’t force myself on you, or use our implants to keep you in my control. I’m not that kind of man. I was just hoping that maybe you’d like me, unlike my wife, who stopped loving me years ago. I understand how you feel about slavery, being a ‘Lump.’ But there’s nothing I can do about it.” He paused and looked at her. “You can go to bed.”

She saw the flash of the brown ‘dismissal’ app on her wrist. She left for her room.

Then, George remembered Carl’s virus, and how he’d saved the program in his implant’s memory.

I wonder if I can improve on it, he thought.

**************

The afternoon of the next day, Carl was in Brent McDonald’s office showing him and Gord Hoskins, CFO of InterCorp, some data mining he’d been doing from the morning until then, assessments of spikes in demand for weapons to be sold for use in wars in the ‘Disputed Areas,’ namely, the developing world.

“Good work, Carl,” Brent said as he looked at Carl’s printouts. “I told you those apps would get your mind working faster. In a mere day, you’ve made huge strides. Go back to your office and get some more for us. We need assessments on the acquisition of fossil fuels in the Disputed Areas.”

“Shouldn’t I be allowed some break time?” Carl asked. “I’ve been at this for ten hours now.”

“You don’t feel tired, do you?” Brent asked, glaring at him.

“No, not at all,” Carl said. “But surely, I should be…”

“Then get back to work,” Brent said in an almost angry tone. “You know full well that the apps implanted in you give you boosts of strength and energy sufficient to work twenty hours a day, seven days a week. A food app gives you nutrients without you even needing to chew on anything. Now, get going.”

Carl left for his office, a permanent frown etched on his face.

“I still can’t help worrying about those performance-enhancing apps in the Lumps’ implants,” Hoskins said. “What if they figure out a way to disable the restraining app permanently, through a virus, like the one that very Carl lost his Petty status for, just to save his girlfriend? We could have strongman, red-uniformed Lumps beating us to death one day, throwing us out of windows to our deaths.”

“Gord, you worry too much,” Brent said, laughing. “We’ve been controlling millions of Lumps globally for over ten years now, with only minor, individual acts of defiance here and there. Remember that we members of the Grande class, as well as those of the Petty class, have apps of our own, secret enhancers to surprise the Lumps should we ever have to fight them.”

“The number of defiant Lumps has been increasing in recent months,” Gord said. “Some in the Petty class have secret sympathies for the Lumps, too. Remember Nora Lee?” Gord gestured with his head in the direction of Carl’s office.

“Yes, but she was caught quickly, her op-ed deleted within hours of publication, before too many people could have read it,” Brent said. “Remember Max Henderson, who bruised his arm to damage his restraining app, a common Lump tactic of rebellion, then broke through our window and tried to run to freedom? Our officers chased him, and managed to beat him to death with their normal strength, and neither Max’s strength app nor his healing app could do enough to save him. We could have killed him by simply activating the death app, but we wanted to let the officers enjoy beating Max to death with their own strength. We also did it to test them—to see if their natural strength alone could kill Max.”

“I hope your confidence is justified,” Gord said.

**************

Carl was finally released from work at 10:00 that night. As he walked down the street to his apartment, he passed by Nora, whose eyes avoided his.

“Nora?” he said. She ignored him and kept walking past, then entered a 24/7 convenience store to buy groceries for Tasha.

“Mr. Jonson’s had her,” Carl whispered. Whether seduced or raped, she let him have her, I’m sure of it.

**************

Back in the Jonsons’ home, husband and wife were having another argument.

“You were hoping to screw pretty Nora, weren’t you?” Tasha said to George with taunting eyes. “I see the guilt in your eyes. She resisted you, though. I see the failure in your eyes.”

George just stared away from her, scowling. “Tasha…”

“She doesn’t like you, because no woman ever would,” Tasha taunted further. “You didn’t use the restraining app on her to rape her, for the same reason you didn’t do her with her consent: you’re not man enough to!”

“Tasha!” he shouted, raising his hand to slap her, but stopping.

“See?” she said with a grin. “You’re not man enough to fight back.” She laughed and walked out of the bedroom. “Go to bed, Ryan!” she shouted at their frowning son, who’d been listening to the arguing in the hall.

I’m man enough to set her free, George thought, remembering Carl’s virus, saved on George’s implant. He left the bedroom and entered his study.

He sat at his desk and went through some notes he’d written about modifications he was about to make to the virus.

Stuck in a shitty marriage, he thought while modifying the malware in his implant. He logged into the central computer, connecting the virus with all Lumps, Petties, and Grandes worldwide. I have to protect Ryan from Tasha. Like Carl and Nora, I’m in a trap. They love each other, but being Lumps means they can’t be together. We’re all slaves to the Free Market Revolution, in one form or another. If I can free them, Carl can love Nora for me. She cares for Ryan; I’ve seen her smile at him. Maybe she’ll kill me and Tasha, who’s the one who wanted to buy her, then take Ryan to safety when the Lumps kill everyone else.

He sent the virus into the central computer. It was 2:00 AM. The virus woke every Lump up. They read a message on their forearms: NOT YET. WAIT.

***************

Carl checked the functioning of his apps, suspecting correctly that the message hinted that the Lumps’ electronic shackles, as it were, had been broken.

All the other Lumps came to the same conclusion, but many assumed ‘NOT YET. WAIT.’ to mean, ‘Get what little sleep you’re allowed (four hours, thanks to their energy-enhancing apps); revolt the next morning.’ And indeed, many Lumps did.

***************

Brent looked through his office window and saw, in the building across the street, a man thrown out of a ninth floor window, shattering the glass in an explosion, him screaming all the way down till his skull’s bloody cracking on the pavement silenced him. “What the hell?” Brent shouted.

Gord watched video on Brent’s computer monitor showing one of the InterCorp manufactories having been set afire, the whole structure burning to the ground. “I foresaw this years ago, Brent,” he said.

“Security will handle it, don’t worry,” Brent said. He checked his computer for video of the rebellion: he frowned as he saw Lumps assaulting Petties and Grandes, even killing some with knives that flew spinning in the air telekinetically. Then he switched to video of another area, where officers were beating and shooting Lumps, killing scores of them. Now he was smiling.

Carl and Nora were among the smarter Lumps. They never let on that they were free. In fact, amid the chaos and confusion around noon, Carl slipped away and tapped his wrist, making further modifications to the new programming, and stopped all the rioting Lumps’ violence immediately.

Grandes and Petties used their restraining apps on the now-still Lumps, and grinned as they saw the men and women in red, green, orange, and blue shaking from their electric shocks.

**************

Back in Brent’s office that afternoon, Gord had been tracing the setup of the virus. “Carl set it up!” he told Brent. “His digital footprint is all over the virus. I told you these enhanced Lumps were dangerous, Brent! He should be executed at once.”

“Wait, no,” Brent said as he scrutinized the digital footprints. “Carl originally used this virus to free Nora, but he also used it to regain control over the Lumps. Look carefully.”

Gord looked again, then said, “OK, but why would he want to help us?”

“I don’t know,” Brent said, “but if you look here, in the middle of the programming, you’ll see the digital footprint of George Jonson, assistant manager of sales, and Nora’s owner.”

“Why would George, one of our managers, want to help Lumps?” Gord asked. “Perhaps he prefers that pretty girl to his overweight wife?”

“We’ll find out the reason,” Brent said. “Then, we’ll kill him.”

**************

Back in the Jonsons’ home…

“Now that the Lumps are all under control again, the officers are going to catch me, and kill me, since they’ll know I spread the virus,” George told Nora. “All I ask of you is to protect Ryan in any way you can. Protect him from Tasha. You’ve seen her hit him. I’d hoped the Lumps would plan a more careful revolution…”

They heard a knock on the door.

“Maybe Carl can find a way to modify the…”

The door was kicked open. Three armed officers walked in the house.

“Mr. Jonson, come with us,” one of them said.

As George left his house with them, he looked back at her and said, “Protect Ryan. Please.”

***************

“So, that was your reason?” Brent McDonald asked George after a mere five minutes of interrogation in the CEO’s office. George nodded. “A black man, who bought a slave, sympathizes with slaves now? Of course!”

“My wife bought Nora,” George said. “I didn’t want her.”

“But you wanted her back, after Carl here tried to free her,” Gord said. “I hear that Nora’s a pretty one, and that your wife is insufferable.”

Carl, showing Brent more data printouts, those of profits made from InterCorp’s dealings in the Disputed Areas, tried to pretend he wasn’t listening to the conversation. George remained impassive.

“Nora means nothing to me,” George said. Carl saw an actor’s eyes in George. “I just can’t tolerate slavery. My wife insisted that I get Nora back, that’s all.”

“Very well,” Brent said, then tapped on his wrist. “If you really don’t love Nora, who Tasha brought here, by the way, and if all the Lumps are as well under control as they seem to be, we’ll put it to a test.”

Nora, frowning, entered the office. She was holding a large meat cleaver. Her arms were trembling with it in her grasp.

“Nora,” Brent said. “Send that cleaver flying so it cuts off George’s head. Tasha won’t miss him, and he knows it. In fact, he’ll recognize the cleaver from his own kitchen, since his not-so-devoted wife gave it to you to use on him. Indeed, Tasha got a few bruises from the Lump rebellion, and she was furious to know her husband was behind it. Go on, Nora: you know how to make the telekinesis app work.”

Nora was shaking all over now. Tears were forming in her eyes. The app, connected to her nerve endings as all the implants were, sent a signal into the cleaver, raising it in the air a few feet in front of her face. It rotated there, like a horizontal propeller, level with George’s neck.

“Do it, Nora,” Gord commanded, “or do you need a shock?”

Tears ran down her cheeks.

“Remember,” Gord added, “if you’re thinking of using it on yourself, we can shock you so quickly, you won’t be able to kill yourself with it.”

“It’s OK, Nora,” George said. “I don’t want to live anymore, anyway. I can’t face Tasha after what happened. Remember Ryan.”

She made eye contact with Carl, whose blank face made it impossible for her to intuit his thoughts.

“Nora!” Brent shouted.

The knife spun at George. His head tumbled into a corner of the room, and blood sprayed from the stump of a neck all over the floor. The others in the room dodged the red.

“Good work, Nora,” Gord said. “Now, clean up the mess.”

Worldwide, TV screens showed George Jonson’s headless body hanging from the top of InterCorp headquarters, with his head on a spike beside the body. A universal shudder was felt, the Lumps shaking the most.

****************

That evening, Carl and Gord were in Brent’s office.

“I must convey my appreciation to you, Carl, for stopping the Lump rebellion,” Brent said. “In fact, as a token of my gratitude, I’m considering restoring you to the Petty class, or maybe even raising you up to our Grande class.”

Gord’s eyes widened. “You can’t be…”

“I’m considering it,” Brent said, “provided Carl…passes certain tests…in order to prove his loyalty to InterCorp. I wonder, though, what motivated you, Carl, to put the online restraints back on the Lumps. Were you anticipating a promotion of the sort that I just described?”

“The thought crossed my mind, I must confess,” Carl said.

“Was there any other motive?” Gord asked.

“Yes,” Carl said. “I wanted George Jonson dead.”

“Why?” Gord asked. “Was it because he had your pretty Nora?”

“Yes,” Carl said with a sigh. “I saw the way he looked at my love—my former love. She’s shown me no affection since she became the Jonsons’ servant. When I’d escaped with her, she resisted; she claimed she didn’t want me to get in danger, but it was already too late to worry about that—she liked her handsome master. Didn’t you see how she wept when she was made to kill him? All proof that not only had he had her, but she’d fallen for him. I gave up my freedom for that disloyal bitch. I don’t care about Lumps; and my life—free or not—has lost all of its happiness. Let the Lumps suffer, even if I stay one of them.”

“And ending the rebellion would facilitate our execution of Jonson,” Gord said.

“Yes,” Carl said. “That’s happiness enough for me, regardless of whether you keep me a Lump, or free me.”

“Interesting,” Brent said. “Still, I’d like to see if you’re worthy of a promotion to Grande. Gord, let’s take Carl and Nora down to Basement Two.”

“Yes, Mr. McDonald,” Gord said. He tapped his wrist to summon Nora.

**************

Outside of Basement Two, no one would see or hear what Brent and Gord were doing with Carl and Nora.

“The program modification Carl made to tame the Lumps isn’t exactly the same as that of the original restraints, but it seems close enough,” Brent said. “We just have to test it, as we have to test the death of his love for Nora…which will be a test, also, of his loyalty.”

“What do you want me to do?” Carl asked.

“Use the electrocution app on her,” Brent said. “The one we use in brief zaps to discipline the Lumps. But,…set it to maximum.”

“You mean, you want me to kill her?” Carl asked, and saw a nod from Brent.

Nora, slouching and hanging her head low, as if she were already dying, seemed acquiescent. “In killing George,” she said, “I’d killed myself right then. Killing me now would just be a formality.”

I knew she loved him, Carl thought, then looked deep into her eyes for a few seconds, as if his eyes were talking mouths.

“Well?” Gord said. “Do it!”

Carl tapped his wrist. She did nothing at first, surprised at not feeling anything.

Then…her whole body alternated between shaking and stiffness. She let out staccato screams. She fell to the floor, still shaking and screaming. Finally, she lay still.

A tear ran down Carl’s cheek, beside which was the bitterest of scowls, as he stared at her motionless body. He tapped something on his wrist—‘Juliet’—as Gord approached the body.

After several seconds of checking, he said, “She’s dead.”

“Good work, Carl,” Brent said. “I’d say you’re a Grande already.”

Two Lumps were recruited to pick up Nora’s body and take it away to be buried. Brent, Gord, and Carl got in the elevator to go back up to the executives’ floor.

“Let me take you to your new office, Carl,” Brent said, tapping his app to free the new Grande from his servitude.

“Thank you, Mr. McDonald, but not right now,” Carl said. “I’m exhausted, both physically and emotionally, after all that’s happened today.” He pressed the first floor button. “I’d just like to get off here, on the first floor, and go home to sleep. I can see my new office tomorrow, if that’s alright with you.” The elevator stopped at the ground floor, and he got off.

“Very well, Mr. Fredericks,” Brent said. “I understand how you feel. In fact, we’ll let you enjoy an extra-long sleep—at least ten hours. Hell, you’ve earned it.”

“Thank you, but seven or eight hours should suffice,” Carl said, then walked off. “Goodnight, gentlemen.”

“Goodnight,” Brent and Gord said.

“Extraordinary man,” Gord said as the elevator continued up. “Killed his own girl for InterCorp. She must have really broken his heart.”

“What matters for our purposes is that he’s firmly in our trust,” Brent said as the elevator stopped at their floor. “Who cares what his personal reasons were for doing our…”

A red light started flashing on Brent’s and Gord’s wrists. The men rushed out of the elevator and into Brent’s office, where he switched on his computer. The monitor showed a mob of red-uniformed Lumps running through the streets, a few with knives and a baseball bat or two. They were attacking Petties and Grandes!

“What the hell?” Brent said. “Was Carl’s program deficient?”

“Was it deliberately set up to fail?” Gord asked.

“He killed his own girlfriend for us, didn’t he?” Brent said. “You’re too distrustful, Gord.”

“I’m distrustful because things like this keep happening!”

“Calm down. The officers are already on them—see? The Lumps are getting cut down by machine gun fire.”

“A few of the green-uniformed Lumps are also using the telekinesis apps to throw knives at the officers—see?” Gord pointed at a corner of the monitor.

“A few knives and baseball bats are no match for guns,” Brent said. “I’m gonna contact Carl and…wait a minute.”

“What is it? Carl’s with the rebellion, isn’t he?”

“No. According to the messenger app on my implant, Carl’s life readings are blank. He’s dead, offline. Somebody must’ve killed him.”

“Was it the Lumps? No, he’s still in a blue uniform. He’s still a Lump, as far as they know; why would they kill one of their own?”

“I don’t know,” Brent said. “Maybe he removed the outer blue vest on the way home, and the Lumps saw him in only black, and thought—correctly—that he’s one of us. Maybe they checked his digital blueprint, and saw I’d freed him.”

“That’s a stretch, Brent.”

“Maybe he got hit by a car! Maybe an officer confused him with one of the rebelling Lumps amid the rioting and shot him? Who knows?”

“Wait, yeah, an officer must have shot him by mistake.”

“Anyway, forget about Carl, and let’s focus on finding out what went wrong with their restraints. Let’s analyze the modified program.”

The two men looked through the coding of the program: virtually nothing looked different from before.

“I don’t understand!” Brent said. “The Lumps should be as secure as always.”

“It must be a virus so subtle, our eyes have missed the differences,” Gord said. “Let’s look again.”

****************

A group of red-uniformed Lumps broke into a weapons storage area. After breaking down the doors and fighting off the guards with their enhanced strength, they rushed at the officers inside. The officers weren’t fast enough with their guns to stop the rush of Lumps, who practically flew at them.

Though a few Lumps were shot, most of them got on the officers, beating them to death with their bare fists, choking them and crushing their windpipes, or picking them up and throwing them across the room, their backbones breaking against the walls.

The Lumps that didn’t take the guns from the dead officers broke through the glass coverings of racks of rifles. They took those and small boxes of ammo, loaded the rifles, then ran out of the building, shooting anyone who got in their way.

A group of green-uniformed Lumps—racing through the streets under cover of night, the dull green of their uniforms being difficult for the officers to spot in the shadows—were headed for the InterCorp headquarters.

****************

Brent looked out the window and down onto the street. He saw the fighting of the officers, the killing of many unarmed, red-uniformed Lumps. He smiled.

“Good,” he said. “It looks as though we’re winning.”

“I’ve been analyzing this code,” Gord said. “I’m starting to notice the modifications. There’s source code, too. Messages like, ‘NOT YET. WAIT.’ Then, next to a modification, ‘TOGETHER. STOP.’ Then, ‘TOGETHER. GO.’ But Carl was killed before the time of this change, wasn’t he? If you check the times given.”

“Yes,” Brent said. “The modification of his life readings switching off –at 9:23—are definitely before the time of that ‘TOGETHER. GO’ modification, which was at 9:29.”

“It couldn’t have been Carl who started this rebellion,” Gord said. “Now we just have to focus on…”

Suddenly, they heard a storm of gunfire and broken glass.

“What the hell?” Brent growled. Both men ran to the window and looked down onto the street. “The Lumps don’t have guns, do they?”

They went back to the computer monitor to get close-up visuals of the fighting, the monitor being linked to video cameras on the streets.

They saw red-uniformed Lumps gunning down officers.

“What?” Brent said. “They’re armed! How did the Lumps get their hands on guns?

“They’re organized, too,” Gord said. “I was afraid this would happen. I knew that implanted tech would be used against us one day. Giving Lumps superhuman strength, telekinetic powers, enhanced intelligence—it was a stupid idea!”

“It saves money,” Brent said. “Unpaid slave labour to build things, lift things, move things about instead of paying for the building and maintenance of machines. We just need to fix the programming, to get the Lumps under control again.”

“Until the next virus?” Gord said.

“The restraints were working well for years, Gord!”

“Who is their leader? It’s too dark to see their faces.”

**************

The fighting in the streets raged on. The bloodied bodies of men and women in uniforms of red, green, orange, blue, and black and yellow were sprawled about the roads and sidewalks.

Their leader wore a green uniform, racing out in front with an automatic firearm set to burst mode and filling officers’ chests and bellies with bullets. Still, the darkness of night made the faces of all the Lumps difficult, if not impossible, to identify.

Some green-uniformed Lumps held pairs of knives, one in each hand, and used their telepathy apps to make them fly in the air like propellers at the officers’ chests or faces; as soon as the blades dug into the skin, they were made to fly back, the handles coming back into their throwers’ hands. As soon as they were caught, the knives spun in the air to stab into officers’ guts once again.

Red-uniformed Lumps used their enhanced strength to jump as high as ten feet into the air, dodging officers’ bullets and landing with their feet on officers’ heads or chests. Then they took the officers’ rifles and shot at those behind the ones they’d jumped on.

When the Lumps had beaten back most of the officers, and were standing in a mob in front of the InterCorp building, two red-uniformed Lumps each picked up an officer and hurled him, screaming, through the glass. The army of Lumps stormed the building.

****************

“The Lumps are inside!” Gord said.

“Haven’t you made any progress in finding out what’s wrong with the restraints?” Brent shouted.

“No. Whoever set up this virus did a clever job of keeping it untreatable.”

“For God sakes! They’re going to kill us!”

“That’s why I’m opposed to this tech we gave them.”

“We’ll have to use our own,” Brent said, tapping his wrist and getting ready. “Get away from that computer, Gord, and get ready to fight! We’re running out of security officers.”

Gord tapped his wrist implant to get ready.

“Attention: everyone in the building,” Brent said into an intercom. “Weaponize your microchip implants. The Lump rebels are inside the building. Our officers have not been able to fend them off. Kill every Lump in sight.”

Gunshots and fighting could be heard on the lower floors. Screams were also heard, screams that suggested Brent’s employees, unaccustomed to fighting, were losing.

“I can’t believe this!” Brent shouted.

“I can,” Gord said, scowling at Brent. “I saw it coming.”

The men could hear the trampling of feet on their floor, stomping growing louder, approaching their office.

“Are you ready?” Brent asked, then gulped.

“Let’s take as many of them with us as we can,” Gord said.

The windows to Brent’s office shattered into pieces as tiny as the microchips in everyone’s forearms, as red-uniformed Lumps jumped in. Brent and Gord tapped black dots on their wrists.

A swarm of tiny, invisible projectiles flew from Brent’s hand, causing the chests of the first row of Lumps to burst with blood. Then the next row of red-uniformed Lumps entered the office through the huge holes where the windows had been.

Gord’s hand sprayed out a toxic, invisible mist. The Lumps clasped their throats, squinted, coughed, and fell dead on the floor. The next row of Lumps was in green uniforms. Brent and Gord were about to fire on them, but two knives flew in the air, spinning at their upraised hands. The tips of the blades stabbed into the men’s forearms, disabling their implants. They screamed in pain, clutched their bloody arms, and fell to the floor. The crowd of Lumps approached, knives held up high and ready to come down in stabs on the two men.

“No!” a female voice called out from behind the mob. “Don’t kill them. Bring them outside, for all to see our victory.”

Brent and Gord were dragged to the elevator; dripping blood in two red paths, and taken down to the ground floor, then dragged outside. The Lump who’d just spoken approached them and showed her face.

“Nora!” the wounded men gasped together. “But…we watched…you die!” Brent said.

“Just an acting job,” she said. “As was our return to submission. The solidarity app just made us act under one will, and the Juliet app helped me play dead by keeping me still, as well as making my heartbeat, pulse, and breathing undetectable.”

“But you two wanted me to kill her!” a familiar male voice called out from the mob of Lumps, then showed himself, in a blue uniform, to Brent and Gord.

“Carl!” Brent groaned.

“Just as I suspected,” Gord panted. “The message of your death was faked.”

“We were going…to bring you…into the Grande caste,” Brent said. “You two still love each other?”

“The love between Nora and me is no more,” Carl said as he scowled at her. “And I blame our coming apart on you, on your slave system. But this is not the worst thing. I learned, through all that data mining and data analysis, that InterCorp’s plan was to invade more and more land in the Disputed Areas—Africa, Latin America, the Middle East, and Southeast Asia—to profit off their lands, just as the competing multinationals, who’ve replaced all nation states as Jurisdictions and promised a peace they never delivered, but kept their wars a secret from the public. The tyranny of the Free Market Revolution is about to come to an end…with worldwide revolutions going on as we speak, and with the deaths of these two murderers, right now!” He stared at them with murderous malice pouring out of his eyes.

“No!” Nora screamed. “I want no part in any more of this bloodshed. If even a fragment of you still loves me, Carl, turn off the solidarity app, so we no longer act on your will alone. Those Lumps who still want revenge may do so freely, but I promised George’s son I’d protect him.”

“Very well,” Carl said with a sneer as he tapped his wrist to free all the Lumps. “Do your will, you whore. You slept with George, you loved him; go be a mother to his son after we kill his wife.”

“I never slept with George! He made a move on me, but I resisted, and he respected my wishes!” she protested.

“You expect me to believe that? Pfft. Who cares, either way? Go. You can leave.”

She ran away, sobbing. What happened to you, Carl? she wondered; I’m wishing I had let George have his way with me. I’ve got to find Ryan before those maniacs kill him along with Tasha.

“Now, as for the rest of you,” Carl said to all the red- and green-uniformed Lumps who were surrounding Brent and Gord, their knives and rifle butts raised up high and ready to beat and stab their two oppressors to death. “Are you ready to do this thing we have to do? Are any of you as soft-hearted as Nora? If so, you may leave.”

A handful of Lumps walked away, mostly those in orange and blue uniforms; but the rest, scores of furious Lumps, ready to carry on the revolution, stayed, though some had hesitation in their eyes as for further killing.

Brent looked up at Carl. “The heads of the Jurisdictions will stop you, Carl.”

Carl sneered at him. “What’s happening here is being repeated all over the world,” he said. “All the heads of the Jurisdictions will die!”

Carl looked at the continued hesitation in the eyes of the Lumps. 

“Need I remind you of the suffering you all were subjected to?” Carl said. “Working ceaselessly, without pay, with a mere four hours of sleep every night, kept awake by the energy enhancements in our implants, enhancements that would have lead us all to early deaths from accumulated sleep deprivation, had we not revolted!

“Of course the Grande class can always replace us by breeding new Lumps, by raping women in the Disputed Areas, and conditioning the resulting offspring, from the beginning of their lives, to accept their lot as slaves, for they’ll have no knowledge of even the notion of life as free people.

“But we are free now, thanks to this Lump Revolution. And to ensure no return of the Grandes, we’ll slay them all, them and their families. We’ll do the same to those of the Petty class if they resist us. For by violence did they acquire power, and by violence is how we shall achieve our new society, our freedom, our destiny!”

Carl looked out on the crowd of rapt Lumps, who all stared back at their godlike leader and liberator, ready for their next command.

“So,” he said, “how shall we dispose of Mr. McDonald and Mr. Hoskins here? Shall I reset the electrocution app and fry them to death, as they’d have had me kill Nora? Or shall you kill them the way they had Max Henderson killed, beaten to death by these men’s security officers? Shall McDonald and Hoskins die Henderson’s death? I leave that up to you, my red- and green-uniformed brothers and sisters.”

Still, the Lumps held their rifle butts and knives up high, ready to strike. Brent and Gord, lying on the ground with bloody hands, looked up at the men and women in red and green surrounding them. The two men looked up in the eyes of the rebels with defiant frowns, wanting them all to see the eyes of the men they were about to murder.

Carl looked on the scene with a smirk. Out of the corner of his eye, he could see Nora sneaking off with Ryan. He huffed at the perceived treason of his one-time lover. Then he looked back at the hesitant, but loyal rebels.

A few of them looked over at Carl, their eyes asking his for permission to kill Brent and Gord. The scowl Carl had given Nora seemed to be an answer.

As soon as one Lump brought his rifle crashing down on Gord’s head, cracking his skull and splashing blood in his killer’s face; all the other rifle butts, and all the knives, swung down on his and Brent’s bodies, spraying blood everywhere, spotting them all over with bruises, breaking their bones, and squeezing screams out of them to compete with the joyous yells of their killers.

Carl looked down on the bloodbath, and smiled.