‘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!

‘Claws,’ an Erotic Horror Novel, Chapter Eighteen

Thurston fixed his tie and looked at himself in the mirror. Aren’t we handsome in that suit? he thought.

He left his apartment and got in his car.

As he drove to the 22 Division police station, he reflected on all that had recently happened.

It’s so good to be connected with Agnes, he thought. Close to her, in body and soul. I really love her; and better yet, there’s no more conflict with the beast. That bullet I put in its head sure did the trick. No more resistance.

He parked in the police station parking lot and got out of his car. He sucked in a deep inhalation of fresh air and smiled.

It’s so good to be fully in control again, he thought.

He walked into the police station, passed a number of desks in the direction of his own. He saw Hicks standing near his desk.

Hicks turned around and saw him approaching.

“Good morning, handsome,” Hicks said with a smile.

“Good morning,” Thurston said.

“Still no sign of Surian?”

“Oh, she’s around.”

“Really? Where? I still need to talk to her about her shooting the beast. If you could tell her to come out of hiding, I’d really appreciate it.”

“Oh, don’t worry about that,” Thurston said. “You’ll be in contact with her soon enough.”

“Very well, whatever,” Hicks said with a sneer, which then turned into a lewd smirk. “And as for us, when are you going to come over to my place?”

“How about tonight?” Thurston asked with a grin.

THE END

‘Claws,’ an Erotic Horror Novel, Chapter Seventeen

[Sexual content]

Ten minutes later, Thurston finally found himself free to move. He swung his arms further than he thought they’d go, and whacked them against the steering wheel and door.

“Oww! Fuck!” he shouted, then: “Hey, I can move. It’s about time.”

Claustrophobic in his car, he swung the car door open and got out.

Fuck driving, he thought. I’ll just run over to Callie’s apartment building. He slammed the car door shut, locked it, and left the area.

Running down the sidewalk, he was approaching her apartment building when he saw a car being driven away from where it had been parked, in front of the building’s entrance. It looked like Surian’s car.

That couldn’t have been her car, he thought. If those visions were anywhere near true, I can’t imagine Agnes walking away from demoness-Callie in one piece.

He ran into the building and raced for the elevator. He pounded his fist on the elevator button over and over again, impatiently with that irrational feeling that doing so would bring the elevator down to the ground floor faster.

“C’mon!” he growled as it floated down floor by floor.

Finally, the elevator arrived. The doors opened far too slowly for his patience, so he pried them open as best he could and squeezed inside. He pressed the seventh floor button.

As the elevator rose with–to him–the same laziness as it had gone down, he shook with rage.

“Come on, for fuck’s sake!” he shouted, then thought, Oh, God, please, let Agnes be OK…at least let her be alive!

The elevator reached the seventh floor. Again, as the doors took their time opening, his impatient hands pried them open faster and he squeezed through.

As he began running down the hall to her apartment, he realized he forgot to hold his breath.

Wait, he thought, stopping halfway there. I don’t smell any pheromone.

Indeed…there was no pheromone smell at all.

He did a light jog the rest of the way to Callie’s apartment, found the door wide open, and took out his pistol. He poked his head in the doorway and looked around. He saw nobody there.

He crept in with wide open, alert eyes. He cocked his pistol as he made his way through her living room area, his eyes darting around everywhere to see if the hairy, clawed beast was hiding somewhere behind the furniture, waiting to pounce on him. He was approaching the bedroom.

Hit the beast dead centre in the heart or in the brain, he reminded himself as he reached the bedroom doorway, the door being halfway open.

Still no pheromone smell at all.

Absolute silence.

He looked past the opened half of the doorway. He saw nobody. He heard nothing.

He turned his head back to get another look around the living room area. No beast sneaking up behind him.

No Surian, either.

Is the beast hiding behind that bedroom door? he wondered, then looked through the crack between the door and the corner wall of the bedroom.

No beast.

He tapped the door open with his foot while pointing the gun straight in front of him, anticipating any possible danger.

The door now all the way open, he saw, on the floor, between the bed and the closet, the hairy body of the clawed beast lying sprawled in a pool of its own blood. That phallic spike was pointing up in a crescent arc from its groin to the ceiling.

Not even a drop of blood was on its sharp tip.

He heaved a huge sigh. I guess those visions deceived me, he thought.

He looked around the rest of the bedroom. Surian was nowhere to be seen, though a fired pistol was lying on the floor next to the beast.

“Where the hell is she?” he said, putting his gun in its holster and taking out his phone. She’s the one who killed the beast, isn’t she? he wondered as he looked for her number in his list of contacts. That’s her gun, isn’t it? It looks like hers. Surely there was at least some truth to those visions, wasn’t there?

He clicked her cellphone number and waited as the ringing repeated eight times before setting him up to leave a message. Beep.

“Agnes, this is Andy,” he said. “Where are you? I’m in Callie’s bedroom with the beast lying here dead. Did you do this? If so, great, but why did you leave the scene? Are you OK? Did the beast hurt you in any way before you killed it? Please call me back ASAP. Bye.” Was that her driving away in her car a few minutes ago? he wondered. If so, why would she just disappear like that, without calling me or Hicks about the beast? I guess I’ll have to get the police over here, instead of her.

Twenty minutes later, the room was filled with police. The beast’s body was taken away on a stretcher, to be driven to a group of doctors and biologists who, having followed the story in the news, were eager to do a necropsy on it to learn whatever they could about it.

Hicks was with Thurston, both of them baffled as to where Surian could possibly be.

“I can’t believe it,” Thurston said. “She found the beast, presumably, shot it, and just left? No calls, no messages as to where she is or what she’s doing? What the fuck?”

“I guess this ‘Callie’ was somehow involved with the beast after all, though she’s as missing as your girlfriend,” Hicks said.

“Where the fuck is she?” Thurston said.

“I guess she ran off with somebody else,” Hicks said. “Try someone else. Try a new experience.” He smiled suggestively at Thurston.

“No offence, but even if I was gay, I doubt you’d ever be my type,” Thurston said. “When we’re done here, I’ll drive over to her place and see if she’s there.”

“And I’ll be at my place tonight if you change your mind, Andy.” Hicks winked at him.

Thurston rolled his eyes.

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

That night, the doctors and biologists were sighing and puffing in frustration as they looked down on the hairy body on the table.

“We’ve been examining every inch of this thing for hours,” a woman among them said. “It cannot be classified as any known species that has ever existed.”

“It doesn’t even qualify as Bigfoot,” a man standing next to her said.

“Is it a hermaphrodite?” a man standing on the woman’s other side asked. “It seems female, but is this spike in its crotch supposed to be a penis?”

“It’s totally baffling, anyway,” the woman said. “I give up. What do you guys think?”

“I agree,” some of them said together.

“It’s late. Let’s go to bed,” the first man said.

“I doubt we’ll gain any more insights from it through further examination,” the second man said. “I say we bury it and forget about it.”

“Yeah, OK,” she said. “If any new insights come in the future, we can always dig it up then and look at the skeleton.”

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

One night later that week, Thurston sat slumped on a chair in his apartment with a frown.

Still no response to my message on her phone, he thought. Every time I go to her apartment, she’s never there. She didn’t die, did she? Ballistics confirmed that the bullet shot to kill the beast was from her pistol. But God, where is she?

Suddenly, his cellphone rang; he checked it–it was her.

“Agnes!” he said into the phone. “Where are you? Are you OK?”

“Yes, I’m fine,” she sighed, as if irritated by the question. “I’m in my apartment.”

“So, you shot the beast?” he asked.

“Yes,” she said. “Are you proud of me?”

“Of course, but…why’d you leave Callie’s apartment?”

Because…the sheer terror of seeing that thing, with its…spike-dick…almost stabbing into my pussy, made me want to get as far away from the scene as I could. I needed to lie low for several days, with nobody to bother me…just to calm down.”

“I see,” he said. “Just needed to recover from the trauma, eh?”

Exactly…but I’m OK now. You, Hicks, and the others took care of the rest of the problem all right?”

“Yeah, of course. Everything’s sorted out, though I’m sure Hicks would like to talk to you. So, you’re at home?”

“Yeah. Wanna come over?”

“I’ll be there in ten minutes.” He hung up.

***********

Ten minutes later, he was standing in front of the front door of her apartment. He rang the doorbell.

She opened the door out wide. His jaw dropped.

Her face was brightly made up, she was in a pink see-through babydoll nightie revealing black lace underwear. She wore white high heels.

He reminded himself to be a gentleman and look back up in her eyes. “Sorry,” he said. “I j-just never realized how…curvy you are under your…normal clothes.”

“Why, thank you,” she said with a grin. “You can look if you want. I don’t mind.” She turned around for him. “You’ve always liked me, and now that the hairy beast is gone, I can confess that I’ve always liked you.”

“Why couldn’t you confess it before?”

“Because I was afraid of falling for you when the beast might kill you. That clawed, hairy animal reminded me of a bear that attacked and killed my old teenage boyfriend in the BC woods–speaking of trauma. If the beast had killed you, I wouldn’t have been able to handle it. It’s gone now, so I don’t have to worry about it. And you and I can celebrate our success.”

“OK.” He was grinning like a high school kid.

“Well? You gonna stand out in the hallway forever? Come on in.”

“Oh, yeah, all right,” he said, then entered her apartment.

“That’s a nice perfume you’re wearing,” he said.

“Thank you.” She took him by the hand and led him into her bedroom.

“Are you sure you want to do this now, Agnes? I mean, I’d love to, but we seem to be going really fast here.”

“You may be old-fashioned, but I’m a modern woman.” She removed the nightie and tossed it on a chair near her bed. He removed his gun and holster and put in on her bedside table, between the chair and the bed. “I’ve been through hell recently; I need some heaven to heal me.”

She kicked off the high heels. She then looked down at his crotch and giggled at the bulge in his pants. He blushed.

She removed her bra and wiggled her perfectly formed breasts with pride.

“Holy shit, Agnes. You’re better endowed than I thought.”

She giggled as she pulled down her black panties to reveal a hairless crotch. She now stood proudly nude before him.

“You’re shaved?” he asked with wide open eyes.

“I did it for you earlier today.”

“Wow.”

“OK, big boy. Now it’s your turn. Don’t be shy.”

“OK.” He stripped down to reveal a hairy body and a full erection. She giggled at it, then licked her lips.

“You’re hairier than the beast…and spikier, if you know what I mean.”

“Yeah, I guess so.”

“OK, Andy. Let’s fuck.”

They got on the bed in the missionary position. Up close, her perfume was a powerful scent.

When he pushed inside her, she let out a shrill wail.

Oh!” she squealed each time with his first thrusts. “That’s…more…like it! Ah!

“What…do you mean, ‘more…like it’?” he panted.

“The beast…with its…spike-dick…almost did…what you’re doing…now. Oh!

“Yeah,…you said…before. It tried to…rape you?”

“Yeah, but…I shot it.”

“That’s good. Oh!

“But it tore…a hole in a…good pair of pants.”

“At least…it didn’t hurt you.”

“No. Ah!” She came, splashing all over his cock. He pulled out. “OK,” she panted, then turned around to be on the bed on all fours. She looked back at him, and with a lewd twinkle in her eyes, she said, “Fuck me in the ass.”

“You’re into that?” he asked with a slight sneer.

“You aren’t?

“Oh, I’m game, it’s just…I never imagined you to be that kind of girl, Agnes.”

“Are you disappointed in me?”

“N-no, it’s just…well, you’re one surprise after another.”

“Andy, how much of my sex life have you ever known about? Like, none of it?

“Yeah, you’re right.”

“Look, the trauma over killing–and almost being killed by–the beast kind of fucked with my head, OK? Wild and wicked sex helps me process trauma, as weird as that must sound to you. I dunno, I’m just funny that way. Can you try to understand that?”

“Yeah, I guess that explains it.” He looked down at her ass. “You’re lubed?

“Yeah,” she sighed. “That’s how horny I am. Terror and trauma tend to get me hot. Now, c’mon, do me before I change my mind.”

“OK,” he said, then slid in. “Ooh! That…feels…good.”

As he moved in and out, he looked over at her face to see if she was showing any signs of feeling pain. She had only a lascivious smirk on her mouth.

I can’t believe it, he thought. I always thought she was the nice, girl-next-door type, like my teenage crush, the one Agnes physically reminds me of. Well, I guess what I imagined of the crush was just an idealized fantasy who has nothing to do with the real Agnes. I’ll have to accept that, and let Agnes just be herself.

Her moans grew louder as he moved in and out, faster and more forcefully with each thrust. Those loud moans began to sound a little bit like grunts.

“Am I…hurting you?” he panted, looking over at her face.

“No, I’m fine,” she said in an unusually husky voice.

“OK.” He kept on screwing.

His legs were as spread out as hers, and his ass was pushed out like hers, too, as if he were willing to get what he was giving her. This would seem appropriate…

…for suddenly, he felt a sharp, bone-like sensation stabbing into his asshole, ripping the anal walls and burrowing deep inside. “Aaaah!” he screamed hoarsely. Blood was dripping all over the bed between their legs. Shaking all over, he looked over at her face.

Agnes turned her head around, revealing the wild, hairy face of the beast, a face combining the features of Callie, Visner, and Agnes. Hair had grown all over the now hermaphroditic body. With painful effort, Thurston straightened up and looked down to see that the curled spike in his ass was coming from her groin…that phallic claw he’d seen on the beast.

He reached for his gun on the bedside table. To his surprise, the demoness helped him get closer to it…by using the phallic spike to pull his body onto her back, merging their torsos together.

Umph!” he groaned when their bodies collided.

He managed to get the gun out of its holster, but Kluh used her power to draw his two arms back to merge with hers, causing him to drop the gun on the bed to the right of the pillow. Their arms slapped hard together.

Ungh!” he groaned at the pain.

He felt his hands and fingers sticking to hers; when he tried to pull his apart from hers, it only hurt, so he gave up on that quickly. His palms felt as if glued to the backs of her hands. His chest was sticking to her back in the same way.

Soon, he could no longer voice his pain from merging with her body, for his face was buried in her hair. His nose disappeared into the back of her head; his lips kissed her neck so hard as to disappear inside it, too.

A bullet, dead centre in her brain, will kill Kluh, as the Yamas told Agnes and me, he thought as he reached with the greatest effort for the gun, fighting against Kluh’s pulling back of their now fully merged right hand. If I kill her, maybe my body will be freed and not killed with her…maybe Agnes will be freed, too. I have to try. If I die, too, at least I won’t live with Kluh possessing me.

His chest and belly had dissolved into her back; their hearts were merging. He felt his still-erect penis elongated and burrowed deep inside her body, plugged into her, as it were. His balls and her vulva were merged; that spike up his ass no longer felt like a stab wound, for it was as ‘plugged into him’ as his cock was plugged into her. Contained and containing flesh was intermingling. Their eight limbs were now four, fully merged.

We’re sharing one heart now–I can feel only one beating, he thought, grasping the gun. If I shoot myself through the chest dead centre, I’ll die with Kluh, presumably. Our brains aren’t yet one, though. If I can point the gun above her ear–which hasn’t merged with mine yet, and if I can put a bullet in the middle of her brain, I have a hope the demon will release me before leaving the physical world.

Despite Kluh’s resistance, he managed to wrap his fingers around the gun, his index finger touching but not squeezing the trigger. His whole face had disappeared into the back of her head. Their torsos were fully merged into one. Only their ears and brains were still doubled, the ears coming closer together, and their brains about to touch.

I don’t have much time, he thought.

It took all his strength to raise the arm with the pistol up to their merging head. No longer on all fours, the body was straightened up by Kluh to be on its knees on the bed. Its fingernails were lengthening into strong, sharp claws.

When the claws were fully formed, the left hand moved over to try to stop the right hand from firing the gun into the brain Kluh was controlling. The back of her brain was now starting to touch the front of Thurston’s. The left claws tried to stab into or slice off the right hand. Because he still had some control of both arms, she was so far only able to slice deep cuts into the right forearm.

She screamed their shared pain.

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

At about the same time that night, the beast’s buried body–the one examined by the doctors and biologists, and thanks to Kluh’s power, not decomposed in the slightest–lay there underground, with its hair slithering back into its follicles. The phallic claw had already shrunk and disappeared into its groin. Its shape was bloating out in the middle.

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

Thurston summoned all his strength to wrest control of both arms from Kluh. Not only was she no longer able to use the left arm to reach over to the right one to slice at it, but he managed–by tapping the tip of his gun on her ear as a reference point to feel his way around–to aim it at the head, the barrel of the pistol pointing more or less at the middle of her brain…which was beginning to merge with his.

Still, it was hard for him to stop the hand holding the pistol from shaking.

I don’t have much time, he thought. Gotta keep my hand steady.

Kluh no longer tried to cut off the right hand with the left. She chose instead to give him a false sense of confidence in his aim. Let him shoot, she thought. But keep his hand shaking…and have it shoot at the right time, putting the bullet either in his brain, or if it hits mine, let it be off-centre. Either way, he’ll be assimilated into me with Sandra/Callie, Visner, and Agnes. All options are working in my favour.

Still, he pushed himself to keep his hand steady. The pistol was barely wavering.

He cocked it.

Keep a rhythm, he thought. When my hand sways forward, it’s pointed at the centre of her brain; when it sways back, it’s off-centre or aiming at my brain. Back, forth, back, forth, back, f…

He pulled the trigger.

***********

The buried body was now completely transformed into the fresh corpse of Sandra Brahms.

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!