ShadowCast Flash Ep#8 Hunting Cabin

ShadowCast Audio Presents:

Hunting Cabin by Jason Warden

read by

Jason Warden

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Music featured on this episode is courtesy of

Christopher Carlson

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Other Sounds courtesy of the Free Sound Project

 

 

 

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ShadowCast Masters of Horror Ep #2

The Masters of Horror: The Anthology

‘The Barnes Family Reunion’ by Angel McCoy

Narrated by Jason Warden

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Masters of Horror Theme by Chris Carlson

This weeks Deathmatch contestants are:

G.P. Ching (@GPChing) with ‘Corn Sugar

&

V. R. Roadifer (@Vandamir) with ‘Empty


Promo and Bumper this week by Tony Noland

I offer you a bonus this week: I’ll also throw in an e-book version of ‘Tattoo’ The parsec nominated novella by Paul E. Cooley In addition to the Masters Of Horror. Also, you will be entered to win a signed print edition that will be given away as we get further along in the anthology. 

Shadowcast 026 Bad Egg

Bad Egg

by Chris Bowsman

read by Paul E. Cooley

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I sit on a high stool near the end of the counter. It’s late, must be pushing three a.m. Still raining. The steaming mug of diner coffee takes the edge off the chill in my bones.

I’m waiting.

For what? I’ll know it when I see it. Until then, just waiting.

Anybody who spends more than ten minutes here leaves stinking like cigarettes and grease, but I don’t mind. I’m here almost every night, so you could say I’m used to it. Compared to what I often go home smelling like, the smoke and burnt-fat reek might as well be gardenias and honeysuckle.

I take a long drink of the coffee, the bitter black liquid burning down my throat, churning in my stomach. I shake a cigarette out of the pack and light it with my Zippo. The lighter chnks shut, and I take a deep drag. The double-lungful of smoke warms me like the coffee can’t. I exhale slowly, lost in the song on the jukebox, “Lonesome Town.” I think about when Marla and I used to come here, back before-

Commotion on the other side of the place drags me back from memory lane. Damn, I don’t even get to finish my smoke in peace.

Some dirtbag is waving his arms and screaming at the waitress. Apparently, his scrambled eggs were overdone, and he doesn’t plan on paying the bill. That’s fine. I wouldn’t want to pay for bad eggs, either.

It’s a shame he decides a dine-and-dash isn’t enough, that he has to hit the girl, shove her into the counter, and kick her on his way out. What kinda guy hits a waitress because of some eggs, eggs she didn’t even cook. I take another long, deep drag on my cigarette, stub it out in the glass tray, drain the rest of the coffee, and decide what kinda guy does that.

A dead guy.

The rain’s coming down hard, makes it tough to see. But I don’t need twenty-twenty to spot the sonofabitch from the diner. He’s about a half-block ahead of me, head down, both arms cinching his coat around himself. I pick up my pace a little, not too much, but enough to catch up with the guy before he can cover the remaining two blocks to the bus stop.

Two blocks with plenty of dark alleys.

Lightning strikes, followed quickly by a deafening thunder clap. I smile. Partly because, along with the rain, I like the lightning and thunder. No matter how big you ever get to feeling, a nearby flash-bang always puts it in perspective, makes you remember lots of things are a hell of a lot bigger.

Oh, and also because I plan on making some noise with this guy.

Before I catch up with him, I slip my hand under my coat, letting it rest on my Glock 17. I like the Glock. It’s an engineering marvel of simplicity, reliability, efficiency. Stick in a magazine, rack the slide, pull the trigger. No switches or gizmos to fool with. A lot of guys don’t like nine-millimeter, think it’s too weak. I don’t buy that. Shoot somebody in the face, they don’t care if it’s a nine-millimeter, forty-five, whatever.

Along with the Glock, I carry a pair of knives. Cold Steel Recon Tantos. These babies have seven-inch razor sharp blades, they’re balanced well enough for decent throwing, and they’re flat black, so they match the Glock.

Unfortunately, I think a lot of the subtleties are lost on the guys who get to see these babies up close. Most of the cretons seem like it wouldn’t matter to them if the knives were bright green and the Glock was hot pink.

Oh, well. I appreciate these things, and that’s what matters. Like Ricky Nelson said,

you can’t please everyone, so you gotta please yourself.

I’m still lagging behind Mister Temper Tantrum by about a quarter of a block. He peaks over his shoulder, gets a look at me. Not a good one, but enough to spook him.

He picks up his pace a little.

I double mine.

About the time he decides to take another glance over his shoulder, I’m within twenty feet of him, closing fast. No way he’s going to make it to the bus stop. I can smell the panic from here. Probably has no idea why I’m even following him. But that’s okay.

I know well enough for both of us.

There’s another lightning strike. I smile. Couldn’t have planned this better.

I pull out the Glock, and put one in the back of his knee right in time with the accompanying thunderclap. He screams and goes down like a ten-dollar whore in the back seat of a Buick. The heavy rain immediately washes away the blood pouring from his ruined leg.

Like I said, couldn’t have planned this better.

I pick the guy up with my left hand, drag him into one of the alleyways. Doesn’t matter which; they’re all dark, smell like piss, and are strewn with garbage and filth.

He’ll fit right in.

“Ughh, my leg… ,” he mumbles.

Christ. He’s crying.

I shake my head. “Should’ve paid for the eggs, pal-”

“Take my wallet, money, I… ”

“Shut up and let me finish. I was gonna say that you should’ve paid for the eggs. And that hitting women ain’t a very nice thing to do.” I put my Glock back in its holster, and lift the guy up about eight inches, so we’re at eye level. I slam him against an old wood door, pull out one of the knives, and drive it through his chest, just under his collarbone, pinning him to the door. He screams.

Too bad for him the streets are empty at this time of night, and with all the rain and thunder, nobody’s gonna hear him.

He looks up at me, hair plastered down to his forehead, rain and snot running down his face. He gets a good look at me for the first time.

I take off my hat for the full effect. There’s another lightning strike as he stares at my bald head, at the scar that runs from where the hair line would be, down my forehead, across my eye and mouth, down to my chin. I give him my best smile, and he screams again.

I’m used to it. I tend to have that effect on people. Particularly the ones I’ve just shot and pinned up in an alley.

Guy tries to say something, but I can’t make it out. I shake my head. First he’s a tough guy, beating on the girl, now he’s Mister Sensitive, blubbering and crying. Not a chance I’m gonna lose any sleep over this one.

“I think that’s about enough from you,” I say, producing the other knife. I step to the side and draw the black carbon steel blade across his throat slowly, severing his trachea and jugular. Blood sprays then flows from the cut, sputtering and gurgling with each futile attempt at a breath. Couple seconds later and he’s dead, most of the blood already washed away.

Thank God for the rain.

Now, maybe you’re thinking that this was all a bit harsh, that maybe I overreacted a little. Maybe this sorta thing should be handled by the police. Maybe a night in the slammer would’ve turned the guy around.

Yeah, maybe.

And maybe this guy doesn’t just beat up waitresses, but also his wife, and his kids. Maybe tonight when he got home, his wife was gonna ask him why he was so late. Maybe he wouldn’t like the tone in her voice, and he’d let her know it with his fists. Maybe when the racket woke up his kids, he’d tuck them back into bed with those same fists.

Maybe now his wife finds a guy who’s good to her, a guy who treats her right. Maybe his son doesn’t grow up to beat on women, and his daughter doesn’t grow up letting guys beat on her.

Maybe that damn song in the diner got to me, got me thinking about things I’ve lost, things that have been taken from me.

We could play this “maybe” game all night. Maybe some other time.

Right now, I got things to do.

I wipe the blade on his jacket, re-sheathe it, then grasp the handle of the one still pinning him to the door. I place my other hand against the wall, and with a hard yank, my knife is free, and Mister Dead Guy drops to the ground.

Before I leave, I feel through the guy’s pockets for that wallet he was talking about. I find it, remove a couple bills, then return it. I put my hat back on, and exit the alley, leaving the bastard in a heap of the scum that he is.

I open up the door to the diner, and the little bell above the door dings. The waitress has a bruise on her face, and she’s holding her arm kinda funny, but looks okay otherwise. I walk up and lay a handful of wet, wrinkled bills on the counter in front of her.

“This oughta square up things from earlier. You know, the eggs.”

She looks at the money, then back at me, one eyebrow raised a little. I look down, and see there’s some blood smeared on one of the singles. I look back at her, and shrug.

I turn to leave, and as I’m halfway out the door, the waitress stops me. She’s holding a to-go cup of coffee. “Hey. For your trouble.”

I take the coffee and nod slightly, and turn back towards the door.

“Must’ve been a total pain in the neck getting the money from that guy,” she says.

I shake my head, walk out the door and laugh quietly, “Not mine, anyway.”

Shadowcast 026 Bad Egg

Bad Egg

by Chris Bowsman

read by Paul E. Cooley

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I sit on a high stool near the end of the counter. It’s late, must be pushing three a.m. Still raining. The steaming mug of diner coffee takes the edge off the chill in my bones.

I’m waiting.

For what? I’ll know it when I see it. Until then, just waiting.

Anybody who spends more than ten minutes here leaves stinking like cigarettes and grease, but I don’t mind. I’m here almost every night, so you could say I’m used to it. Compared to what I often go home smelling like, the smoke and burnt-fat reek might as well be gardenias and honeysuckle.

I take a long drink of the coffee, the bitter black liquid burning down my throat, churning in my stomach. I shake a cigarette out of the pack and light it with my Zippo. The lighter chnks shut, and I take a deep drag. The double-lungful of smoke warms me like the coffee can’t. I exhale slowly, lost in the song on the jukebox, “Lonesome Town.” I think about when Marla and I used to come here, back before-

Commotion on the other side of the place drags me back from memory lane. Damn, I don’t even get to finish my smoke in peace.

Some dirtbag is waving his arms and screaming at the waitress. Apparently, his scrambled eggs were overdone, and he doesn’t plan on paying the bill. That’s fine. I wouldn’t want to pay for bad eggs, either.

It’s a shame he decides a dine-and-dash isn’t enough, that he has to hit the girl, shove her into the counter, and kick her on his way out. What kinda guy hits a waitress because of some eggs, eggs she didn’t even cook. I take another long, deep drag on my cigarette, stub it out in the glass tray, drain the rest of the coffee, and decide what kinda guy does that.

A dead guy.

The rain’s coming down hard, makes it tough to see. But I don’t need twenty-twenty to spot the sonofabitch from the diner. He’s about a half-block ahead of me, head down, both arms cinching his coat around himself. I pick up my pace a little, not too much, but enough to catch up with the guy before he can cover the remaining two blocks to the bus stop.

Two blocks with plenty of dark alleys.

Lightning strikes, followed quickly by a deafening thunder clap. I smile. Partly because, along with the rain, I like the lightning and thunder. No matter how big you ever get to feeling, a nearby flash-bang always puts it in perspective, makes you remember lots of things are a hell of a lot bigger.

Oh, and also because I plan on making some noise with this guy.

Before I catch up with him, I slip my hand under my coat, letting it rest on my Glock 17. I like the Glock. It’s an engineering marvel of simplicity, reliability, efficiency. Stick in a magazine, rack the slide, pull the trigger. No switches or gizmos to fool with. A lot of guys don’t like nine-millimeter, think it’s too weak. I don’t buy that. Shoot somebody in the face, they don’t care if it’s a nine-millimeter, forty-five, whatever.

Along with the Glock, I carry a pair of knives. Cold Steel Recon Tantos. These babies have seven-inch razor sharp blades, they’re balanced well enough for decent throwing, and they’re flat black, so they match the Glock.

Unfortunately, I think a lot of the subtleties are lost on the guys who get to see these babies up close. Most of the cretons seem like it wouldn’t matter to them if the knives were bright green and the Glock was hot pink.

Oh, well. I appreciate these things, and that’s what matters. Like Ricky Nelson said,

you can’t please everyone, so you gotta please yourself.

I’m still lagging behind Mister Temper Tantrum by about a quarter of a block. He peaks over his shoulder, gets a look at me. Not a good one, but enough to spook him.

He picks up his pace a little.

I double mine.

About the time he decides to take another glance over his shoulder, I’m within twenty feet of him, closing fast. No way he’s going to make it to the bus stop. I can smell the panic from here. Probably has no idea why I’m even following him. But that’s okay.

I know well enough for both of us.

There’s another lightning strike. I smile. Couldn’t have planned this better.

I pull out the Glock, and put one in the back of his knee right in time with the accompanying thunderclap. He screams and goes down like a ten-dollar whore in the back seat of a Buick. The heavy rain immediately washes away the blood pouring from his ruined leg.

Like I said, couldn’t have planned this better.

I pick the guy up with my left hand, drag him into one of the alleyways. Doesn’t matter which; they’re all dark, smell like piss, and are strewn with garbage and filth.

He’ll fit right in.

“Ughh, my leg… ,” he mumbles.

Christ. He’s crying.

I shake my head. “Should’ve paid for the eggs, pal-”

“Take my wallet, money, I… ”

“Shut up and let me finish. I was gonna say that you should’ve paid for the eggs. And that hitting women ain’t a very nice thing to do.” I put my Glock back in its holster, and lift the guy up about eight inches, so we’re at eye level. I slam him against an old wood door, pull out one of the knives, and drive it through his chest, just under his collarbone, pinning him to the door. He screams.

Too bad for him the streets are empty at this time of night, and with all the rain and thunder, nobody’s gonna hear him.

He looks up at me, hair plastered down to his forehead, rain and snot running down his face. He gets a good look at me for the first time.

I take off my hat for the full effect. There’s another lightning strike as he stares at my bald head, at the scar that runs from where the hair line would be, down my forehead, across my eye and mouth, down to my chin. I give him my best smile, and he screams again.

I’m used to it. I tend to have that effect on people. Particularly the ones I’ve just shot and pinned up in an alley.

Guy tries to say something, but I can’t make it out. I shake my head. First he’s a tough guy, beating on the girl, now he’s Mister Sensitive, blubbering and crying. Not a chance I’m gonna lose any sleep over this one.

“I think that’s about enough from you,” I say, producing the other knife. I step to the side and draw the black carbon steel blade across his throat slowly, severing his trachea and jugular. Blood sprays then flows from the cut, sputtering and gurgling with each futile attempt at a breath. Couple seconds later and he’s dead, most of the blood already washed away.

Thank God for the rain.

Now, maybe you’re thinking that this was all a bit harsh, that maybe I overreacted a little. Maybe this sorta thing should be handled by the police. Maybe a night in the slammer would’ve turned the guy around.

Yeah, maybe.

And maybe this guy doesn’t just beat up waitresses, but also his wife, and his kids. Maybe tonight when he got home, his wife was gonna ask him why he was so late. Maybe he wouldn’t like the tone in her voice, and he’d let her know it with his fists. Maybe when the racket woke up his kids, he’d tuck them back into bed with those same fists.

Maybe now his wife finds a guy who’s good to her, a guy who treats her right. Maybe his son doesn’t grow up to beat on women, and his daughter doesn’t grow up letting guys beat on her.

Maybe that damn song in the diner got to me, got me thinking about things I’ve lost, things that have been taken from me.

We could play this “maybe” game all night. Maybe some other time.

Right now, I got things to do.

I wipe the blade on his jacket, re-sheathe it, then grasp the handle of the one still pinning him to the door. I place my other hand against the wall, and with a hard yank, my knife is free, and Mister Dead Guy drops to the ground.

Before I leave, I feel through the guy’s pockets for that wallet he was talking about. I find it, remove a couple bills, then return it. I put my hat back on, and exit the alley, leaving the bastard in a heap of the scum that he is.

I open up the door to the diner, and the little bell above the door dings. The waitress has a bruise on her face, and she’s holding her arm kinda funny, but looks okay otherwise. I walk up and lay a handful of wet, wrinkled bills on the counter in front of her.

“This oughta square up things from earlier. You know, the eggs.”

She looks at the money, then back at me, one eyebrow raised a little. I look down, and see there’s some blood smeared on one of the singles. I look back at her, and shrug.

I turn to leave, and as I’m halfway out the door, the waitress stops me. She’s holding a to-go cup of coffee. “Hey. For your trouble.”

I take the coffee and nod slightly, and turn back towards the door.

“Must’ve been a total pain in the neck getting the money from that guy,” she says.

I shake my head, walk out the door and laugh quietly, “Not mine, anyway.”

ShadowCast 025 Deadly Heirloom

Deadly Heirloom

by Effie Collins

Read by Jason Warden

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Dew-cooled morning air swirled lightly around Mike’s knobby and exposed knees; he was still in his boxer shorts. Fifteen damn minutes trying to remember what he’d forgotten and it was his trousers of all things.

“Old age makes a fool of all men,” he said to his screen-enclosed porch. “Especially me.”

With the memory fading and arthritis eating his joints away, he was ready to just quit. He had old people’s disease, rotting in inches, smelling the stink of his own death creep up to greet him from his toes. He knew he was a goner within a few years, maybe months yeah, but he still felt like a man with more years in him. But old men fade to time, as they all do. He was.

Next to the door leading outside stood what he needed. Despite the pain, he must never dare forget this, the most sacred of his morning rituals. She had, of course, earned her own comfort. But not until he’d put on some pants.

In the seven years since his retirement, if it hadn’t been for Kilo, he’d have starved at times. Long, hard stretches of months when the electric company upped the charges, always careful to put their little “E” for “Estimated Service Rates” in the proper column. He didn’t have electric heating and shouldn’t have to pay more in the winter, to his mind. He was a gas man, always had been.
“You can’t kill what’s already in nature. Wood, rock, mineral and yes, gas, were things the Earth gave us to use”, Pa had said.
His voice was gentle and even, but still firm. Always firm.
“Using what she gives, now that’s straight, boy.”
He’d taken it to heart and, as a man, had taken his viewpoint as far as he could. But he ended up paying the increased rates anyway. And during the long winter months, his dog had been his savior. She gave him the extra money to eat, to stay warm. After basic needs, there was no extra money in the winter. She provided that when nothing else would.

But now she was getting old, too old to fight anymore. Some of the young cats down at the ring said he should just put her down when she started losing, but no. Not his girl. He owed her his life.

His very life.

He owed her and as far as he was concerned, she was worth the pain filled trip outside, even when the weather was bad. He couldn’t keep her in, no. She was too big for his tiny house. He tried, for a while. She got her own house when she broke the TV set.

And a nice house it was, too. His only child, Malcolm, had thrown a fit, but he didn’t care. After sixty-seven years on this planet, he was fairly certain he had a right to do whatever he fam-damn liked. His boy could have a calf if it suited, but Kilo had gotten her house, yes indeed. Oh sure, it was a fifteen year old mobile home parked in his yard, but it was hers. Everything in the place belonged to Kilo. Her bed covers, her beer, her newspaper. The girl was set up smart, but by God, she’d earned it. Every bit. Other than Saturday nights, the girl was queen of the scene, mistress of her own house with no master, just her friend, big Mike.

So out he went every morning, rain, snow, sleet, or hail, as the P.O. puts it, and crossed the nearly acre long yard to his dog’s house without complaint. And now, he’d do it again. This time his trousers would go with him.

He grabbed a three-pound coffee can full of dry dog food from the bin next to the door and went out.

He couldn’t help loving her at all; she was as much his child as Malcolm—little Mikey—had ever been. He bought her as a pup, raised her. Mikey never thought of her as anything more than an annoyance.

‘Dad, she’s a dog, for fuck’s sake.’

‘But she’s my dog, Mikey.’

‘You shouldn’t even have a pit bull. They’re dangerous.’

‘Are you shitting me? Dangerous? Kilo?’ He’d laughed, of course, and that had sent poor Mikey into another hissy fit, but he couldn’t help it. His namesake got the best of him at the worst times.

‘I’m not joking a bit, Dad. You see it on the news all the time.’

‘But those dogs are not my girl. She’d never hurt me.’

And then Mikey had said something; something wrong, something mean and spiteful and downright wicked for any son to say to his father.

‘But you hurt her plenty, don’t you Dad?’

Oh the nerve of that boy! If he’d have known what was good for him, he’d have kept his trap shut, but no. That child just widened that cocksucking hole of his until it burst and yes, Mike had socked the boy. Right in the nose, the little shit.

Mikey had never come back. His wife called. Once.

How could you, Mike? Over a dog! I tried to talk to him, but he says he’s done with you and your shit-bitch, as he put it. I’ve done what I could, but I doubt he’ll be back around. Maybe if you came over in a month or so…

He told her that was fine, just fine. Little Mikey’d come around after a while. But he hadn’t and as it turned out, that was just fine too. It was nice to not have to defend your income every time company came around.

He crossed the worn down swatch of fenced in yard surrounding Kilo’s house, mounted the porch steps and moved to the door; he could hear her barking inside, a low and grumbling grawoof that so many people shied from, but he adored. She was hungry, he’d taken a whole extra thirty-five minutes and girl wanted her breakfast. She knew he was out there listening and another impatient howl sounded through the metal door. This was their game, but today she was having none of it.

She was an obedient bitch pit, and as beautiful as any dog of the same breed. Pits were lovely animals and none deserved the treatment they’d gotten. Hell, some of the boys down at the ring didn’t even name their dogs, just assigned them numbers like a government experiment. But not him. No, he loved his girl. She was not an instrument for his gain, but her skills had helped pay for her. She paid for herself ten times over.

Laughing, Mike pushed the door open. She paced, back and forth, back and forth between him and her food dish. She wrinkled her eyebrows, a very human expression for a dog, and snarled low, questioning.

“You want a little to nibble while I mix up this other, huh?” he asked. Her answering tail wag was enough.
“Just a little though. You know how this shit makes you heave when it’s dry.”

Shaking a little into her bowl, he nuzzled the top of her head with his whiskers, just how she liked. Her gentle nip on his cheek; quick kiss, gotta go, food is waiting, Daddy-o. Such is the affection between master and pet.

He straightened and started to turn to the wall mounted cabinets to get out the canned dog food when pain exploded in his chest and up his left arm. A grunt rumbled in his throat and the coffee can clattered to the floor, kibble skittering here and there. His tried to move forward, but his right side, the important side because he was right-hand dominant, refused to move. Numbness spread through him and he pitched forward. The room brightened, then went dark and for a while, he knew nothing.

‘Dad, you have to stop this. You’re going to get caught one day.’

‘Then I’ll deal with it, Mikey. Stop harping on me about it.’

‘I can’t stop. What if she gets hurt bad at one of those fights? You’ll be all to pieces.’

‘She won’t get hurt, Mikey. She’s good.’

She was good. A good dog, a good friend. A good fighter. He loved how she sounded when she was happy… but wait.

He knew that sound. The first sound, not the terrible nuh-nuh-nuh he heard, but the other sound. That rumbling half growl.

Kilo.

Nuh turned to guh and Mike realized that he was speaking. That garbled, strangled sound was him. His voice.

No, he thought. I can’t. Not in here, they’ll never find me–won’t even look.

“Guh-cmuh-guh.”

Girl, c’mere girl.

He could smell that faint clean-dog smell her house always had, a combination of flea shampoo and coconut conditioner that he’d come to love. The high-traffic carpeting beneath his face squished as his mouth worked to form words that wouldn’t come out. Hot, sticky liquid pooled further around his head–his blood. He could smell it too now, that coppery metallic scent. He’d smelled it a thousand times at the fighting rings.

And that sound, that low gut growl that had caused so many fighting dogs to shiver and shake in their corners. Mike’s eyes jittered to and fro, looking for his girl. His Kilo.

‘What a fucking name for a dog, Dad.’

Maybe so. Maybe so.

“Es Guh, nuh-nuh-guh. Ba Ba, Ki-ki. Ki-ki!”

That’s good, no no girl. Back, Back Kilo. Kilo!

He could see her now, her snow and cream fur covered with wretched scars, her roving, expressive amber eyes–eyes alight with hunger. With need.

The very need he’d taught her.

Two fat tears rolled out of his eyes and onto the cheap carpeting, briefly lightening the blood which had now seeped through the fabric and rubber backing into the plywood sheeting beneath. He glanced up and saw blood—and a large clot of what looked like scalp and hair—smeared on the counter top. He must have hit his head when he went down. She sniffed at the clotted mess, lapped it once with her long, pink tongue and turned to him. She could smell him, of course, but now she had the taste.

Blood, blood always blood. Dogs get a taste for it and it was this that made him understand what he saw in her eyes. She’d looked the same way in the ring a thousand times, as her many scars showed. A thousand times.

That taste for blood.

She circled him, pacing back and forth. He spied the coffee can and it’s spilled contents, left forgotten in the floor. She smelled something better, something she’d lived for once a week since he’d trained her to fight.

“Nuh! Nuh!” He tried to force an arm up, willed it to go, but no response from those death-heavy limbs. His son had betrayed him, his dog would soon, why not his body too? Fuck it if it did. He’d go to his Hell just as easily as the next. His own fucking heart had given up on him and gave him a concussion to boot. Well, booger the lot of them. He was done.

Years my ass, he thought. I’m going out now, and damn me to hell, that boy of mine’ll get my dog. He’ll turn her into some kind of pussy house dog, no doubt. Should have put her down, boy. Yes indeed. But I owed her. Owed her my life, I did. He thought of his son taking Kilo home with him and how his little granddaughter, Sheree, had just turned four. Lots of cuts and scrapes and accidents to come… lots of blood. And dear God above, she’s got a taste for it now. A taste for blood—human blood.

Pain shot through his legs as his pet, his beloved Kilo, fell to her feast, ripping through his flesh and to the bone. He would have screamed, but his throat refused to make any sound other than that awful nuh-nuh-nuh.

ShadowCast 019 The Picker’s Harvest

The Picker’s Harvest

by Todd Austin hunt

read by Jason Warden

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Victor looked at his wife from the corner of his eye. She sat on the
end of the sofa, reading a paperback romance. Fabio was on the cover,
with some woman wrapped around him.
She squeezed the pages tight between her hands. Her mouth was open in
that dopey expression, like she was a dummy lost in the woods. Good.

He focused his eyes back on the video playing on the tube. Gellar,
his therapist, had given him the tape a month ago. He said watching
it every day would take his mind off Lucy, help ease the insecurity
that made him go to the damned shrink in the first place. He thought
it would be boring, but watching the mushy caterpillar breaking out of
the chrysalis into something equally as ugly, but powerful devoured
his interest for the twenty-seventh time. Lucy knew he went to
Gellar, but didn’t know why he had to watch the video.
He twitched his nose, feeling that dry hardness in his nasal cavity
building up. Jesus, it itched like hell! Ever since Gellar gave him
this weird butterfly prescription, his nose wouldn’t leave him alone.
He glanced at Lucy again. His left hand, slug-slow, crept up his
side. It patted his love-handle, squeezed it. It poked into the flab
above it, vainly searching for some ribs.
Lucy turned a page. The hand froze. She sighed.
The hand’s fingers probed his fading pectorals, wiggled the loose
skin covering his collarbone. They spread out on his neck, rubbing
back and forth while Victor pretended to sigh tiredly. They closed
into a fist and rasped against his beard stubble. Then, at last, one
of them found his nose. Victor had a very large nose. His nostrils
screamed for relief. Placing the tip of his forefinger on the
outside, he inserted most of his thumb into his prodigious left
nostril.
Thwack!
Lucy’s paperback slapped down on his hand, knocking it away from his
nose. She stood over him. Her lips squinched together into what
looked like a tight, purple anus. She lightly backhanded his cheek
with the book.
“Owww!” Victor whined.
“Gitcher frickin’ fingers outcher nose!” Lucy barked. “What the hell
is wrong with you, Vick? Every time I look atcha you’re spelunkin’ in
the booger cave!”
He started to push himself up, but she slapped his hands away from
the couch. “You keep them filthy hands in your lap until you wash
them in the sink. With hot water!”
Victor stiffened. “This is my house, woman…” he began.
Lucy cocked her head to the side, looking at him as if he was the
retard in the woods. “Are you actually gonna try to defend your right
to pick your nose?” She closed her eyes and laughed. “Now get off
your ass and go wash your hands.” She snatched the remote control off
the coffee-table and switched off the television.
“The video’s not over!” Victor said.
“It’s nine-thirty. We’re going to bed. I’m sick of watching that
stupid bug.” He opened his mouth in protest, but Lucy stared him
down. He sighed instead and went to the kitchen sink to scrub his
hands. Lucy grabbed his beer, which was still cold and two sips away
from being a virgin, and poured it down the drain after he was
finished. He licked his lips.
In the bedroom, he changed into his pajamas and quickly slid under
the covers. He turned off the bedside lamp and closed his eyes,
praying that Lucy would not want to have sex. It was the most
disgusting thing in the world, rutting with her. Her body was always
cold and smelled like American cheese. She made grunting, snorting
noises that sounded like a wild-boar. And she had to be on top.
Victor felt his lips moving. “Oh please sweet Jesus, not tonight,
not tonight…” His breath caught. She came out of the bathroom,
wearing nothing. “Uhhh, Lucy?” he whispered. “I’m suffering from
terrible cramps…”
“This’ll make ‘m better.” She got into the bed with him, leaving the
lights off. As she started doing her duty, Victor thought about his
life without this woman, this assmouth. It had been wonderful. He
never flinched at anything. He never knew what it felt like to be
scratched for careless words. He’d always eaten his sandwiches with
one or two slices of Kraft cheese.
When she was starting to slow down, he felt a tingle in his right
nostril. The tingle escalated quickly into a scurrying itch. Lucy
had his wrists clamped down to his sides. He twitched his nose a bit;
soon his whole face began a series of writhing contortions. But the
itch got worse, making his eyes water. It was one of those itches
that feel as if something is crawling across your skin. Lucy
finished, letting go of his wrists. Immediately Victor’s hand shot up
to ease the irritation. He plunged his forefinger, scratching,
catching debris under his fingernail. The itch subsided, and he
shuddered in relief.
Lucy opened her eyes, apparently thinking the tremor was a response
to her ministrations.
Victor yanked his finger out and cowered under her. Her lips
tightened, tightened. Her eyebrows crashed together over the bridge
of her nose. She hissed and backhanded him, careful to drag her sharp
talons across his cheek. Victor yelped and covered his face, but Lucy
was already standing on the bed. Curling her toes inward, she kicked
him in the chest, in the stomach, caught him in the balls, shrouding
his stomach with that belly-ache only a man can suffer. He tried to
roll off the bed, but Lucy kicked him hard in the ass, knocking him to
the floor.
“You goddamned piece of Judasshit! You stay the hell out of my bed
if you’re going to do that. I’ve had enough of you, Victor. I don’t
know what to do.” She jumped off the bed, but Victor raced into the
bathroom on his hands and knees and locked the door behind him. Lucy
thumped into the other side, shouting. “Yes, you just stay in there
tonight. Maybe you oughta sleep in the tub. Fill it up, and keep
your head on the wet side!” She hit the door again, then retreated.
He listened to her grumbling curses, and the swish of her stripping
the bedsheets. Leaning with his back against the door, he gently
cupped his crotch with both hands, groaning softly. The air stung the
scratches in his face, and he felt them slowly filling with blood like
new rivers, seeping down over his heavy jaw, splattering the vinyl
bathroom floor. The mirror was just a few feet away. His heart
thumped at having to look at himself.
He flicked the light switch and stumbled to the sink. Five large
light-bulbs cast shadow eating light in the bathroom, attached above
the large, rectangular mirror. Victor was revealed and he cursed.
The regular, lumpy nose, milky eyes, Leno-jaw. He cursed at the
bloody rips in his face. Tomorrow he had to go to work like this.
She had never scratched his face. All the guys at the post office
knew he didn’t have a cat; they knew he had Lucy, though.
He could already hear those little chuckles– all those brand-new
jokes and the thanks he would get for comic inspiration.
“You fucking bitch!” he shouted. It started a roar and ended a
squeal. As the swishing ended, he heard her laughing. “Don’t laugh
at me!” All squeal.
“Shut up and start your blubbering,” she said lightly. “It’s a
little easier to say those things locked up nice and safe in the
bathroom, isn’t it?”
Victor waited until he heard her leave the bedroom before he started
to clean the cuts. The water made him wince, and a black cloud of
obscenities shrouded his head while he pressed a towel to his cheek to
stop the bleeding. After applying some mercurochrome, he lifted a
stack of towels for a pillow in the tub, but dropped them when that
itch abruptly possessed the inside of his nostril. His eyes watered
immediately, seeped. He shoved his finger in past the first joint,
scratching, scraping away anything that yielded. The itch subsided,
and he pulled his finger out and rolled what he’d found between his
thumb and forefinger. He grinned, thinking if assmouth saw me doing
this…
Chuffing, he flicked the booger roll into the sink. It landed,
spearlike, in a drop of water on the verge of falling into the pipes.
Victor turned the water on full blast and washed it away. Reaching to
shut it off, he saw his hand tremble, and enormous gooseflesh rose on
his hands and arms. He felt his tight-fitting shirt raise from his
skin. His head convulsed involuntary, a spluttery sound too wet to be
a giggle burst from his lips.
The itch had turned into an insane tickling. It felt as if someone
had tied him up and attacked the inside of his nose with a tiny
feather. He first pressed the palms of both hands against his nose,
rubbing up and down, trying to crush the tickle. The feeling
persisted, centralized in his left nostril. It moved in a slow
circle, as if probing some alien territory. Looking in the mirror, he
saw that his face was flushed. His entire frame jerked like an old
man’s handshake. Victor’s eyes froze on the flesh on the upper-left
of his nose, where the bone gave way to cartilage. The skin bulged
out very slightly; he couldn’t tell unless he looked at his nose as a
whole.
The bulge moved quickly and efficiently. Victor immediately thought
of a bug. The thought was punctuated by a gag. He bent over the
sink, his mouth opening and closing exaggeratedly as he tried to keep
from spilling his stomach.
There’s a fucking bug in my nose, he thought, panicking. It still
tickled, but his disgust had overwhelmed the response to that feeling.
He opened his mouth, even grunting, “Leww…”, but he stopped
himself. Lucy would have his balls in her fist and him on the street
if she knew there was a bug up his nose.
He closed his eyes, covered his mouth and inhaled. Then he leaned
over the basin and blew out hard through his nasal passages. A lot of
stuff sprayed from his nose. Opening his eyes, he expected to see a
roach or something crawling in the sink.
The furious white porcelain was mottled with red and yellow. Mostly
red. The sight of all the blood made him gasp. The bug increased its
chitinous probing, closer to the nostril opening than before. Looking
at the blood, Victor said, “The little shit is biting me!”
Spider whistled through his brain.
He covered his mouth and blew gain, harder, keeping his eyes peeled
so he could watch it fall into the sink. He’d watch the flow of water
envelop it, drag it down into the pipes. Three more times, three more
sprays of his blood. The tickle was gone. It hurt now. It grasped
the tissue in there in tiny, sharp claws or pincers. And ripped.
“Uhhhhhhhh,” he breathed. Or tried to breath. The left passage was
clogged. That side of his nose had swollen to the size of a gumball.
A steady stream of red seeped from the opening.
“Lucy. Luucy!” he shouted. His voice was muffled and sounded
comical, sounded like some creature on Sesame Street. Tilting his
head back, he lifted the tip of his nose, which gave him a piggish
snout. Angling himself so the light would shine into the darkness, he
looked inside and saw the spider moving like a wicked little demon.
He screamed. “Luuucy! Luuuucy!”

Her voice from across the house, “What’re you yelling about, Vic?”
“Dere’s somefink in my nose! Comp’ere!”
She yelled back at him, “It’s just another booger, asshole. Eat it
for all I care!”
Victor wanted to cry. He glanced at the roll of toiletpaper. It
wouldn’t come out from just blowing. The damn thing was fastened in
there. He knew it wanted to crawl deeper, maybe down his throat.
Maybe into his stomach. Maybe….
He had to crush the spider inside his nose. He had to kill it before
he could spray it out. Taking a stifled breath, he wrapped his thumb
with toilet paper, so didn’t have to feel it. Gingerly, he pushed his
padded thumb up into his nostril. He touched the thing immediately.
The hardness of it and the minuscule twitchings he felt through the
tissue paper made him gag reflexively. He almost pulled out, but
nothing could be worse than having this damn thing in his head.
Pressing his index finger firmly against the outside of his nose,
Victor squeezed the spider viciously, wincing at the expected squoosh
and burst within.
Nothing happened.
For a moment.
He started to squeeze again when a stream of searing breath whistled
from his nose, burning his thumb and scoring a red trail down his palm
and wrist. Gritting his teeth, Victor yanked at his thumb, but the
thing had clutched his thumb in its pincers.
Unable to believe, Victor began to gibber. He encircled his raw
wrist with his left hand and heaved. His wrist and the knuckle of his
thumb cracked loudly, but the thing held fast. Worse, the twitching
movements were drawing on his thumb. He watched, horrified, as the
creases of his thumb gradually disappeared into his nose. He tried to
inhale, so he could scream, but his chest was heavy and felt thick.
Swiveling toward the door, making inaudible, piglet squeaks, another
blast of scorched air streamed from his unblocked nostril. It
devoured the fingers of his clinging left hand with pain, causing it
to release and flail away. His lodged right hand continued to tug,
causing him to lose his balance and crash against the sink. The edge
of the sink crushed his elbow into his ribs, and his face smashed into
the mirror. The rush of air halted abruptly, along with the little
thing’s
Little thing? he thought, crying. Little thing?
sucking of his thumb into his head. From this angle, he couldn’t see
the left side of his nose. He didn’t want to. The taut circle of the
orifice fitted his thumb like a ring. It burned from the exhalations
and the stretching. In that moment, Victor tried to exhale himself,
but his lungs expanded and contracted with no circulation, like he was
a little kid trying to stay underwater longer than he could.
Can’t breathe. I can’t breathe. I have to get out of here.
Just as his sneakers gripped the floor, something sharp and small
poked the soft web of skin between his thumb and forefinger. It
punched through, piercing bone and emerged where his wrist met his
palm. Upon bursting through, Victor’s air passages momentarily
cleared and he shrieked, high and shrill, the sound of a small animal
gripped in the talons of an owl. His shriek cut off with a
vaccuum-like inrush of air. The thing inhaled with the power of a
god, and the incredible wind impossibly sucked Victor’s hand into his
face, breaking his teeth, smashing through the roof of his mouth. The
back of his hand crushed his nose from below, sending shards of bone
into his
Oh, fuck what is it It huuurts huuu
brain, relieving Victor of his life. He collapsed on the floor, his
face unrecognizable. His hand was invisible from the middle of the
forearm up, disappearing into the fresh hole in the center of his
face. The edges of the hole were tucked back, also pulled back by the
inhalation.
“Vic?” Lucy called from the bedroom. “Why the hell did you scream
like that?” The doorknob turned. “Victor? What’re you doing? Open
the door. Victor!”
There was a sound. A wet sound. The sound of a tongue licking
something. Victor’s elbow pointed toward the ceiling, and it began to
move in lazy circles. When it stopped, something hummed deeply,
followed by the sound of teeth ripping through skin, crunching through
bone. With nothing to hold it, Victor’s grisly stump plopped out of
the hole of his face and thumped down on the vinyl.
The door rattled. “Victor? What was that sound? Answer me! Open
this fucking door!”
Victor’s corpse stood. Very straight. Twenty-six slender, black
fingers rose from the hole, gained purchase on the gore-strewn edges.
The tip of each finger had three tiny, red appendages of its own, and
those moved wildly, searching for something. Anything.
“You know I don’t have a key, so open this damned door or I’ll call
the cops . I’ll bet you’d love for them to see you like this.”
The fingers shoved against the sides of the hole, pushing apart. A
crack appeared at the top and bottom of the wound and grew in length
like cracks on a windshield. Very slowly, his body was torn in half
by the force of the thing. Its skin shimmered from the wetness of
Victor’s insides, and once either side of Victor hung like banana
skins around a freshly peeled fruit, it shucked the rest down,
stepping out, leaving the split corpse like a husk. Its body was a
maze of crenellations and ridges uncountable. Two black, empty holes
glared out where eyes should have been.
The thing chewed and swallowed the rest of Victor’s hand and upper arm.
“Tastes like me,” it whispered. “Tastes like me.”
“What was that? What did you say?” Lucy squealed. “What was that
tearing sound, Victor? Open this door!”
From within the dark apertures in its head rolled two eyeballs. The
pupils were a stunning blue, but quickly the color drowned in a
milkiness.
“I’m coming, Lucy. Comes the pretty butterfly.” it said. It
scuttled very quietly to the door. “I’m coming and I’m so sorry.”

ShadowCast 019 The Picker’s Harvest

The Picker’s Harvest

by Todd Austin hunt

read by Jason Warden

Download with ITunes

Play in this window

Victor looked at his wife from the corner of his eye. She sat on the
end of the sofa, reading a paperback romance. Fabio was on the cover,
with some woman wrapped around him.
She squeezed the pages tight between her hands. Her mouth was open in
that dopey expression, like she was a dummy lost in the woods. Good.

He focused his eyes back on the video playing on the tube. Gellar,
his therapist, had given him the tape a month ago. He said watching
it every day would take his mind off Lucy, help ease the insecurity
that made him go to the damned shrink in the first place. He thought
it would be boring, but watching the mushy caterpillar breaking out of
the chrysalis into something equally as ugly, but powerful devoured
his interest for the twenty-seventh time. Lucy knew he went to
Gellar, but didn’t know why he had to watch the video.
He twitched his nose, feeling that dry hardness in his nasal cavity
building up. Jesus, it itched like hell! Ever since Gellar gave him
this weird butterfly prescription, his nose wouldn’t leave him alone.
He glanced at Lucy again. His left hand, slug-slow, crept up his
side. It patted his love-handle, squeezed it. It poked into the flab
above it, vainly searching for some ribs.
Lucy turned a page. The hand froze. She sighed.
The hand’s fingers probed his fading pectorals, wiggled the loose
skin covering his collarbone. They spread out on his neck, rubbing
back and forth while Victor pretended to sigh tiredly. They closed
into a fist and rasped against his beard stubble. Then, at last, one
of them found his nose. Victor had a very large nose. His nostrils
screamed for relief. Placing the tip of his forefinger on the
outside, he inserted most of his thumb into his prodigious left
nostril.
Thwack!
Lucy’s paperback slapped down on his hand, knocking it away from his
nose. She stood over him. Her lips squinched together into what
looked like a tight, purple anus. She lightly backhanded his cheek
with the book.
“Owww!” Victor whined.
“Gitcher frickin’ fingers outcher nose!” Lucy barked. “What the hell
is wrong with you, Vick? Every time I look atcha you’re spelunkin’ in
the booger cave!”
He started to push himself up, but she slapped his hands away from
the couch. “You keep them filthy hands in your lap until you wash
them in the sink. With hot water!”
Victor stiffened. “This is my house, woman…” he began.
Lucy cocked her head to the side, looking at him as if he was the
retard in the woods. “Are you actually gonna try to defend your right
to pick your nose?” She closed her eyes and laughed. “Now get off
your ass and go wash your hands.” She snatched the remote control off
the coffee-table and switched off the television.
“The video’s not over!” Victor said.
“It’s nine-thirty. We’re going to bed. I’m sick of watching that
stupid bug.” He opened his mouth in protest, but Lucy stared him
down. He sighed instead and went to the kitchen sink to scrub his
hands. Lucy grabbed his beer, which was still cold and two sips away
from being a virgin, and poured it down the drain after he was
finished. He licked his lips.
In the bedroom, he changed into his pajamas and quickly slid under
the covers. He turned off the bedside lamp and closed his eyes,
praying that Lucy would not want to have sex. It was the most
disgusting thing in the world, rutting with her. Her body was always
cold and smelled like American cheese. She made grunting, snorting
noises that sounded like a wild-boar. And she had to be on top.
Victor felt his lips moving. “Oh please sweet Jesus, not tonight,
not tonight…” His breath caught. She came out of the bathroom,
wearing nothing. “Uhhh, Lucy?” he whispered. “I’m suffering from
terrible cramps…”
“This’ll make ‘m better.” She got into the bed with him, leaving the
lights off. As she started doing her duty, Victor thought about his
life without this woman, this assmouth. It had been wonderful. He
never flinched at anything. He never knew what it felt like to be
scratched for careless words. He’d always eaten his sandwiches with
one or two slices of Kraft cheese.
When she was starting to slow down, he felt a tingle in his right
nostril. The tingle escalated quickly into a scurrying itch. Lucy
had his wrists clamped down to his sides. He twitched his nose a bit;
soon his whole face began a series of writhing contortions. But the
itch got worse, making his eyes water. It was one of those itches
that feel as if something is crawling across your skin. Lucy
finished, letting go of his wrists. Immediately Victor’s hand shot up
to ease the irritation. He plunged his forefinger, scratching,
catching debris under his fingernail. The itch subsided, and he
shuddered in relief.
Lucy opened her eyes, apparently thinking the tremor was a response
to her ministrations.
Victor yanked his finger out and cowered under her. Her lips
tightened, tightened. Her eyebrows crashed together over the bridge
of her nose. She hissed and backhanded him, careful to drag her sharp
talons across his cheek. Victor yelped and covered his face, but Lucy
was already standing on the bed. Curling her toes inward, she kicked
him in the chest, in the stomach, caught him in the balls, shrouding
his stomach with that belly-ache only a man can suffer. He tried to
roll off the bed, but Lucy kicked him hard in the ass, knocking him to
the floor.
“You goddamned piece of Judasshit! You stay the hell out of my bed
if you’re going to do that. I’ve had enough of you, Victor. I don’t
know what to do.” She jumped off the bed, but Victor raced into the
bathroom on his hands and knees and locked the door behind him. Lucy
thumped into the other side, shouting. “Yes, you just stay in there
tonight. Maybe you oughta sleep in the tub. Fill it up, and keep
your head on the wet side!” She hit the door again, then retreated.
He listened to her grumbling curses, and the swish of her stripping
the bedsheets. Leaning with his back against the door, he gently
cupped his crotch with both hands, groaning softly. The air stung the
scratches in his face, and he felt them slowly filling with blood like
new rivers, seeping down over his heavy jaw, splattering the vinyl
bathroom floor. The mirror was just a few feet away. His heart
thumped at having to look at himself.
He flicked the light switch and stumbled to the sink. Five large
light-bulbs cast shadow eating light in the bathroom, attached above
the large, rectangular mirror. Victor was revealed and he cursed.
The regular, lumpy nose, milky eyes, Leno-jaw. He cursed at the
bloody rips in his face. Tomorrow he had to go to work like this.
She had never scratched his face. All the guys at the post office
knew he didn’t have a cat; they knew he had Lucy, though.
He could already hear those little chuckles– all those brand-new
jokes and the thanks he would get for comic inspiration.
“You fucking bitch!” he shouted. It started a roar and ended a
squeal. As the swishing ended, he heard her laughing. “Don’t laugh
at me!” All squeal.
“Shut up and start your blubbering,” she said lightly. “It’s a
little easier to say those things locked up nice and safe in the
bathroom, isn’t it?”
Victor waited until he heard her leave the bedroom before he started
to clean the cuts. The water made him wince, and a black cloud of
obscenities shrouded his head while he pressed a towel to his cheek to
stop the bleeding. After applying some mercurochrome, he lifted a
stack of towels for a pillow in the tub, but dropped them when that
itch abruptly possessed the inside of his nostril. His eyes watered
immediately, seeped. He shoved his finger in past the first joint,
scratching, scraping away anything that yielded. The itch subsided,
and he pulled his finger out and rolled what he’d found between his
thumb and forefinger. He grinned, thinking if assmouth saw me doing
this…
Chuffing, he flicked the booger roll into the sink. It landed,
spearlike, in a drop of water on the verge of falling into the pipes.
Victor turned the water on full blast and washed it away. Reaching to
shut it off, he saw his hand tremble, and enormous gooseflesh rose on
his hands and arms. He felt his tight-fitting shirt raise from his
skin. His head convulsed involuntary, a spluttery sound too wet to be
a giggle burst from his lips.
The itch had turned into an insane tickling. It felt as if someone
had tied him up and attacked the inside of his nose with a tiny
feather. He first pressed the palms of both hands against his nose,
rubbing up and down, trying to crush the tickle. The feeling
persisted, centralized in his left nostril. It moved in a slow
circle, as if probing some alien territory. Looking in the mirror, he
saw that his face was flushed. His entire frame jerked like an old
man’s handshake. Victor’s eyes froze on the flesh on the upper-left
of his nose, where the bone gave way to cartilage. The skin bulged
out very slightly; he couldn’t tell unless he looked at his nose as a
whole.
The bulge moved quickly and efficiently. Victor immediately thought
of a bug. The thought was punctuated by a gag. He bent over the
sink, his mouth opening and closing exaggeratedly as he tried to keep
from spilling his stomach.
There’s a fucking bug in my nose, he thought, panicking. It still
tickled, but his disgust had overwhelmed the response to that feeling.
He opened his mouth, even grunting, “Leww…”, but he stopped
himself. Lucy would have his balls in her fist and him on the street
if she knew there was a bug up his nose.
He closed his eyes, covered his mouth and inhaled. Then he leaned
over the basin and blew out hard through his nasal passages. A lot of
stuff sprayed from his nose. Opening his eyes, he expected to see a
roach or something crawling in the sink.
The furious white porcelain was mottled with red and yellow. Mostly
red. The sight of all the blood made him gasp. The bug increased its
chitinous probing, closer to the nostril opening than before. Looking
at the blood, Victor said, “The little shit is biting me!”
Spider whistled through his brain.
He covered his mouth and blew gain, harder, keeping his eyes peeled
so he could watch it fall into the sink. He’d watch the flow of water
envelop it, drag it down into the pipes. Three more times, three more
sprays of his blood. The tickle was gone. It hurt now. It grasped
the tissue in there in tiny, sharp claws or pincers. And ripped.
“Uhhhhhhhh,” he breathed. Or tried to breath. The left passage was
clogged. That side of his nose had swollen to the size of a gumball.
A steady stream of red seeped from the opening.
“Lucy. Luucy!” he shouted. His voice was muffled and sounded
comical, sounded like some creature on Sesame Street. Tilting his
head back, he lifted the tip of his nose, which gave him a piggish
snout. Angling himself so the light would shine into the darkness, he
looked inside and saw the spider moving like a wicked little demon.
He screamed. “Luuucy! Luuuucy!”

Her voice from across the house, “What’re you yelling about, Vic?”
“Dere’s somefink in my nose! Comp’ere!”
She yelled back at him, “It’s just another booger, asshole. Eat it
for all I care!”
Victor wanted to cry. He glanced at the roll of toiletpaper. It
wouldn’t come out from just blowing. The damn thing was fastened in
there. He knew it wanted to crawl deeper, maybe down his throat.
Maybe into his stomach. Maybe….
He had to crush the spider inside his nose. He had to kill it before
he could spray it out. Taking a stifled breath, he wrapped his thumb
with toilet paper, so didn’t have to feel it. Gingerly, he pushed his
padded thumb up into his nostril. He touched the thing immediately.
The hardness of it and the minuscule twitchings he felt through the
tissue paper made him gag reflexively. He almost pulled out, but
nothing could be worse than having this damn thing in his head.
Pressing his index finger firmly against the outside of his nose,
Victor squeezed the spider viciously, wincing at the expected squoosh
and burst within.
Nothing happened.
For a moment.
He started to squeeze again when a stream of searing breath whistled
from his nose, burning his thumb and scoring a red trail down his palm
and wrist. Gritting his teeth, Victor yanked at his thumb, but the
thing had clutched his thumb in its pincers.
Unable to believe, Victor began to gibber. He encircled his raw
wrist with his left hand and heaved. His wrist and the knuckle of his
thumb cracked loudly, but the thing held fast. Worse, the twitching
movements were drawing on his thumb. He watched, horrified, as the
creases of his thumb gradually disappeared into his nose. He tried to
inhale, so he could scream, but his chest was heavy and felt thick.
Swiveling toward the door, making inaudible, piglet squeaks, another
blast of scorched air streamed from his unblocked nostril. It
devoured the fingers of his clinging left hand with pain, causing it
to release and flail away. His lodged right hand continued to tug,
causing him to lose his balance and crash against the sink. The edge
of the sink crushed his elbow into his ribs, and his face smashed into
the mirror. The rush of air halted abruptly, along with the little
thing’s
Little thing? he thought, crying. Little thing?
sucking of his thumb into his head. From this angle, he couldn’t see
the left side of his nose. He didn’t want to. The taut circle of the
orifice fitted his thumb like a ring. It burned from the exhalations
and the stretching. In that moment, Victor tried to exhale himself,
but his lungs expanded and contracted with no circulation, like he was
a little kid trying to stay underwater longer than he could.
Can’t breathe. I can’t breathe. I have to get out of here.
Just as his sneakers gripped the floor, something sharp and small
poked the soft web of skin between his thumb and forefinger. It
punched through, piercing bone and emerged where his wrist met his
palm. Upon bursting through, Victor’s air passages momentarily
cleared and he shrieked, high and shrill, the sound of a small animal
gripped in the talons of an owl. His shriek cut off with a
vaccuum-like inrush of air. The thing inhaled with the power of a
god, and the incredible wind impossibly sucked Victor’s hand into his
face, breaking his teeth, smashing through the roof of his mouth. The
back of his hand crushed his nose from below, sending shards of bone
into his
Oh, fuck what is it It huuurts huuu
brain, relieving Victor of his life. He collapsed on the floor, his
face unrecognizable. His hand was invisible from the middle of the
forearm up, disappearing into the fresh hole in the center of his
face. The edges of the hole were tucked back, also pulled back by the
inhalation.
“Vic?” Lucy called from the bedroom. “Why the hell did you scream
like that?” The doorknob turned. “Victor? What’re you doing? Open
the door. Victor!”
There was a sound. A wet sound. The sound of a tongue licking
something. Victor’s elbow pointed toward the ceiling, and it began to
move in lazy circles. When it stopped, something hummed deeply,
followed by the sound of teeth ripping through skin, crunching through
bone. With nothing to hold it, Victor’s grisly stump plopped out of
the hole of his face and thumped down on the vinyl.
The door rattled. “Victor? What was that sound? Answer me! Open
this fucking door!”
Victor’s corpse stood. Very straight. Twenty-six slender, black
fingers rose from the hole, gained purchase on the gore-strewn edges.
The tip of each finger had three tiny, red appendages of its own, and
those moved wildly, searching for something. Anything.
“You know I don’t have a key, so open this damned door or I’ll call
the cops . I’ll bet you’d love for them to see you like this.”
The fingers shoved against the sides of the hole, pushing apart. A
crack appeared at the top and bottom of the wound and grew in length
like cracks on a windshield. Very slowly, his body was torn in half
by the force of the thing. Its skin shimmered from the wetness of
Victor’s insides, and once either side of Victor hung like banana
skins around a freshly peeled fruit, it shucked the rest down,
stepping out, leaving the split corpse like a husk. Its body was a
maze of crenellations and ridges uncountable. Two black, empty holes
glared out where eyes should have been.
The thing chewed and swallowed the rest of Victor’s hand and upper arm.
“Tastes like me,” it whispered. “Tastes like me.”
“What was that? What did you say?” Lucy squealed. “What was that
tearing sound, Victor? Open this door!”
From within the dark apertures in its head rolled two eyeballs. The
pupils were a stunning blue, but quickly the color drowned in a
milkiness.
“I’m coming, Lucy. Comes the pretty butterfly.” it said. It
scuttled very quietly to the door. “I’m coming and I’m so sorry.”