Dinner Stains

by River Rivers

$7.25 an hour doesn’t pay the bills.

At least it couldn’t when Tully was a school Janitor. Years passed since those days. He had since moved up in the world, finding respectable work in his trade. His current employer, Immaculate Worship Church, hired him $15.00 at full time with all the included benefits. It was dirty, repetitive, thankless work, but it allowed him to support a large family and spend time with them too.

This morning Tully and his trainee Henry weren’t upkeeping the church grounds, they would be taking the company van out to the worship’s privately owned warehouse. Tully was surprised the boy was ever hired. Henry was a self-proclaimed Protestant, who believed Mary wasn’t an eternal virgin and had natural born children before Christ. Tully reminded Henry when he began to keep his beliefs private. The Immaculate Worship didn’t tolerate such hearsay among its affiliates. Tully learned fast to keep his thoughts to himself. He’d be fired if he told the Elders that the idea of virginity is sexist and promotes slut shaming.

“Be respectful when entering this place,” Tully warned Henry upon arrival. “It’s on these site grounds that the Vestal apprentices who failed to keep their hymens intact before they age to thirty are buried alive under stones to preserve the order’s sanctity.” The Vestals, also called the Roman Women, were virgin priestesses honored among the Immaculate Elders. They attended to the many properties and practices of the church.

The boy nodded his head as he listened, reassuring him with an, “I will, I will.”

They gathered their cleaning supplies into a cart. When allowed inside the warehouse the two Janitors were made welcome by several Vestals. Practicing nudists, the vestals saw the naked form as a non-sexual entity. They were permitted no clothing when performing duties. The common vestal was known for their white cotton masks and pearl jewelry. Their nakedness made Henry uncomfortable. Tully, a married man, took no issue with this and was used to their eerie presence. Only a Lead Mary was allowed to speak on the group’s behalf. Any other Vestals were wraiths that waited in silence, otherwise, they moved about their tasks almost unseen.

The Lead Mary, a tall woman who Tully recognized, greeted them with standard prayers and asked them to drink from the cups her apprentices offered. It was ‘Elders Brew’ a blisteringly hot and bitter tasting liquid which was custom for church hosts to offer their guests. Tully always had to pee minutes after drinking it and would need to use the restroom before getting to work. Henry didn’t feel the need and waited. Upon return he noticed the Lead Mary was carrying a strainer with water miraculously held within, not a single drop had fallen through the mesh holes. She said nothing of it and led them where they needed to be.

The main room was locked and it took an elder’s own key for the Lead Mary to open it. She blessed them with a bow and left. “Is it true that come Armageddon the Elders will sell the Vestals to powerful men in order to secure assets? Virgins go for a high bride price.” The Trainee asked him the moment she was out of earshot.

“What did I say about respect, boy? The Elders could be listening.”

They opened the door to a warm blast of stinking air. Enough to make any man vomit. A poor ventilation system and smoke coming from a recently abandoned fire pit worsened the smell. The scene was pure gore. They walked to the table over lily flowers that covered the floor from corner to corner. By the bust of Athena displayed in the center, he determined this warehouse room was set up to mimic the Parthenon Dining Hall of the main church building. He pictured the Elders in here during the twilight hours clinking their dinnerware and casting spells.

We are cleaning after a Conception Feast. Henry is not ready to see this, thought Tully.

The sins of the cult needed to be washed away. The dinner remains were left a bloody mess as if a giant had spilled a cup of deep red wine onto the room’s contents. Blood didn’t simply stain the symbolic marriage-bed-sheets hung up like tapestries. It stuck to the dinner plates, congealed together in pools on the tablecloth, splattered onto silverware, filled bowls to the brim, even the glasses contained foggy fingerprints. There were too many knives to count and a tattered white dress tossed aside to be forgotten. Strange symbols and words spread out and written in a language he could not read. The evidence of virginal sacrifice and spiritual consumption were obvious. Nothing Tully hadn’t seen or cleaned after before.

However, the boy wasn’t expecting this, he was in shock and trying to process the scene before him. Tully informed Henry they would need more than what was brought in the cart if the task was to be completed in time. Sending him to the van for supplies would save him from viewing the nearby body. Henry would have no idea that the girl’s sacrifice would allow a Vestal, most like the Lead Mary, to become pregnant with a future Master and Elder. That a Vestal was prophesied this century to give birth to the next Prophet, the next Saviour.

Tully then remembered that Conception Feasts came in pairs and a male virgin was more valuable than a female in the eyes of the Immaculate. This sin was forgiven, but soon another will be committed. Suddenly he feared for his trainee Henry. That was a stain he didn’t want to scrub out.


River Rivers is a writer lost in the Cascadian mountain lands of Oregon. He spends his time with his two adopted Pitbulls, Gemma and Murphy. Somehow in between their chaos, he finds a time for work and fiction.

Three Weeks

by C. Joy

Teresa stumbled, the underbrush grasping her feet as she plunged towards the shore. The sound of breaking waves roared nearby. The island was caught in the last rays of daylight, and she quietly begged the sun to have mercy for a few minutes longer. A lone howl made her cast a fearful glance behind her. They were already looking.

Jerkily, she clambered over the slippery, moss covered rocks. Surviving on worms, beetles and little sleep made her muscles scream. Her breath was uneven, coming in short gasps and grunts. The sharp rocks cut her hands, but she ignored the pain, terror pressing her on. A misstep sent her sliding down a large boulder, leaving a crimson trail along the jagged surface and sea green moss. She screamed in frustration, climbing back up. The darkening night air filled with howls and moans, making her skin prickle. The last place she had found solace still lay a hundred yards away.

The yacht lay sideways in a shallow pool. It drifted lifeless, each wave mocking its inability to free itself. Finally, last of the sun disappeared, leaving her to blindly stumble across the uneven rocks. The air was thick, borderline electric. A distant rumble of thunder joined a brilliant burst of lightning.

A storm was coming. Even the stars had hid from the horrors to come.

He mentioned the island on their first date. His story fascinated her, but so had his bright blue eyes. The horrifying tale of an insane asylum on a deserted island, home to the worst and most terrifying , the blight of society. Church leaders and psychiatrist argued between mental illness or demonic possession, he scoffed. Fearing the latter, the Lady Sovereign of the Ursuline Convent was consulted. Soon, fourteen seasoned nuns arrived to manage and care for the asylum.

In theory, it was perfect. The ultimate humanitarians caring for the morally and mentally deranged. They were horribly wrong. Indiscernible scrawls and terrifying images covered every wall and ceiling. Notes were found, detailing futile exorcisms, patients vomiting nails, blood running down the walls, and concerns of a heavy presence of evil.

Nobody survived.

She had listened, scared and enthralled. A small graveyard bordered the convent and asylum, tombstones dated older than both. Years after they closed the asylum, it was there that they’d found the nuns bodies. Chained, nailed, and burned, they were found in various, ritualistic forms of torment, evidence of the evil residing within.

Three weeks ago. Their third date. Out of the blue, he’d suggested a quick sail. Once on the water, he asked if she wanted to see the island. She should have said no.

The sky lit with a deafening peal of thunder. In that brief second, glimpsing an incoming swell, she noticed the waves increasing size and intensity. Panic kicked her sleep deprived brain. Desperately, her round eyes picked a path to the yacht. Glancing behind her, she realized it was impossible to go back as the rocks had been swallowed by the growing waves. And the yacht was dancing in a deepening pool, threatened to break free. She could see a sliver of grass just beyond the yacht. Ribbons of a sand dune crest connecting the rocky shore and the island. The island she was running from.

The sky bellowed with another flash of lightning. In that second, everything changed. A wail escaped her, hope splintering around her. It was the flash of the emblem on the broken hull that caused her to cry out. She had hoped, prayed that he’d escaped. And would return to rescue her. That this was a different yacht she’d stumbled on three long days ago. Waves crashed around her, breaking her trance as the sinking realization overcame her. She would never leave this island. Sobbing, she debated letting go, letting the sea claim her.

But she didn’t.

Tired, weak, shoeless, with her shredded shirt and shorts barely covering the countless bloodied crosses she had cut onto her skin, she climbed past the broken yacht toward the grass and sand. Teresa de Meo, a forbidden descendant of Father Gabrielle de Meo, stood and faced the island of Evil.

Howling wind and sharp needles of rain began to sting her cheeks. Black, wet tendrils of hair whipped her face. Taking a long ragged breath, she began to grasp that this night had been set in motion an eternity before. Destiny had patiently waited, until a man with bright blue eyes and a story like a sirens song lulled her here. Her great-great-grandfather, Father de Meo was a powerful, righteous man. His blood, forged centuries before, was destined to war against the evil Blackness throughout the ages. This blood of triumph and loss mingled with the insatiable need for eternal vengeance, carried for centuries, now stirred within her.

The hair on the back of her neck rose in response to the howls and moans closing in. Her fingers, wet with blood, curled around the silver crucifix in her pocket. One night, as she scoured the island for relief from the night terrors, she had found the crucifix clutched in the hand of a nuns corpse, still chained upside down on the cemetery gate.

She’d been here three weeks. Twenty one days. She had lost four days of memory, and almost her mind to the taunting voices in the asylum. She’d fled to the abandoned convent seeking refuge. Instead, fourteen angry souls tormented her, their work interrupted and unfinished. She spent nights running and hiding in crags, holes and trees, caught in an ageless war between the righteous dead and spirits of darkness, a war no mortal could survive. She knew victory wasn’t promised, but neither was defeat. Gingerly, she made her way up the path.

He was waiting at the gate. She clasped her trembling hands, the crucifix tightly hid within. Small sobs of fear threatened to overtake her.

“Good Evening, Teresa. We’ve been waiting for you,” he whispered, his blue eyes dancing.


Living in the middle cornfields and an occasional burst of trees, C. Joy calls the Midwest home. Writing for fun, but dreaming to hit it big.

Seven!

by Alexander Olson

I knew you’d come crawling back, bloodied, scabbed, torn skin peeling away from your fingernails. You’re a horror victim in reverse; instead of being dragged away, nails digging grooves into hardwood, you’re clawing your way back, leaving gashes in everything like some lovelorn Wolverine.

I cut you out of my life for a reason. You were so clingy, always grabbing, groping, gripping. Moving things without being told. Flipping light switches, locking doors, snapping your fingers together in rhythm to keep count… one-two, one-two. Once, you reached down and began pulling leg hairs out of me, because you saw an uneven number. I can’t wear shorts.

You taped over all the electrical outlets because you read about lightning sending sparks out of them.

Even when I started cutting with that cheap saw with the loose blade, you couldn’t stop. Counting cuts, begging me to make sure it was an even number. Seven cuts to remove a hand was unbearable, eight or ten perfectly okay.

I stopped at seven and broke it off, yet you crawl towards me across dirty linoleum, fingers twitching and writhing like those facehugger aliens. I can’t fight you off, but listen:

Seven is a prime number.


Alexander Olson is from Port Huron, MI. He writes horror and sci-fi about poor people trying to pay the bills. His first novel, “Erosion” is due out this spring. You can find more of his writing on squidthroatonline.com

I’m Awake

by S. P. Carter

Where am I? Can’t see anything. Dark, but not completely. Eyes are closed. Why won’t they open? I try to reach for my face. Arms won’t move. Can’t feel them. Completely numb, paralyzed.

Something covering my mouth and nose, forcing air into my lungs, sucking it back out. That smell. Sterile, like plastic and rubber. How long have I been like this?

Hello? Is anyone there?

I scream in silence. Lips and tongue remain slack. Completely immobile, blind, helpless. Even as panic sets in, my heart rate remains fixed in a slow rhythm. Abdomen steadily rises and falls with each forced breath.

I hear air pushing and pulling. Electronic beeps and chirps. Mechanical humming. Fans, ventilation? What else? Focus. Muffled sounds, barely audible voices. The distinct click of a door opening.

Light brightens around me, shadows drift past. A door closes. Soft footsteps grow closer, then a brief silence. I feel eyes watching me.

“Can he hear me?”

Kate! I hear you! Help me!

“His brain scans show no response to sound, but there’s no way to know for sure.” A male voice speaks from direction of the door.

“I’d like a moment.” She’s close.

“Of course. Take all the time you need.” I hear the door gently open and close again.

“Hi Frank, it’s me,” she says in little more than a whisper. “How are you doing today? I got a call from a hotel this morning, confirming a reservation. You’ll be so mad they spoiled the surprise. I had no idea you planned our anniversary. ” She runs her hand through my hair. Her touch is soothing. Her voice is soothing.

“I didn’t cancel. It’s all still waiting for us. Palm trees, hammocks, sand. It’s all waiting for you to wake up.” Her lips gently kiss my forehead. A tear lands on my cheek and slowly rolls down to my ear.

I can picture her but I want to see her. I need to see her. I frantically strain to move my eyes. For a brief moment, my eyelids tighten then relax. It’s not enough.

“Colin’s home for winter break. He came back as soon as we heard about your second stroke. He was here earlier but they were running tests. He said he’ll be back tomorrow.”

Stroke. The word hangs in the air as she takes several slow, deliberate breaths. “He’s thinking of taking a semester off. He did his best through finals but, you know, it’s just been hard on him. He wants to be close.”

The bed shifts as Kate climbs in beside me. She rests her head on my chest. Her body presses against mine. I feel her leg cross over mine. I want to hold her. I want to wrap my arms around her, make her feel safe, protected.

For a long time we lay together in silence, our chests rise and fall in unison. She takes my hand, tenderly laces her fingers between mine. The tip of my index finger rests on her knuckle. I command it to move. I shout at my hand, move. Move! And then I feel movement. Just the faintest hint of a twitch, my finger taps her hand.

Kate freezes up, tightens against me. Did she notice?

“Frank.” She releases my hand, places her hand on my shoulder. “They’re asking about an advance directive. I can’t even think about that. We’ve worked so hard to get here. We’ve been through so much. This can’t be it. This can’t be it…” She begins sobbing into my chest.

Kate, stop. I’ll to be okay. Just take my hand, you’ll see. We’ll get through this. We’ll be back in the Caribbean getting drunk on the beach.

She gets up and places a kiss on my temple. “I’ll be back tomorrow. Please don’t leave me,” she breathes in my ear.

Kate, please don’t go. I am right here. To hell with their brain scans! I can hear you, every word.

My eyes flutter. My right eye opens slightly. Eyelashes stuck together. Through a haze I see her turn. I see her take steps toward the door. Exhausted, frustrated, my eye closes.

The door opens and closes. The room darkens. She’s gone.

I lay for what seems like hours, listening to the oscillating gasp and sigh of the breathing machine. I try not to think about what she’s going through. I debate cancelling the Caribbean trip. Maybe we’ll go skiing or white water rafting instead. The last place I want to be right now is a hammock.

I hear the door once more, followed by brisk footsteps and swift motions. Clicks and snaps. I feel a rush of cold within my arm.

“She’s a strong woman,” the doctor says. “She’s been here every day since your stroke. You’re a lucky man. Were a lucky man.”

What?

“For months now as your condition worsened. She’s holding onto hope, but you haven’t responded to any of my treatments. It’s time to let go.”

You’re giving up on me? Run another test! I’m right here!

“I know you can hear me, Frank. Don’t worry. I’ll take good care of her when you’re gone.”


S. P. Carter is a software engineer by day, writer by night. He has authored several short stories and is currently working on his first novel, ‘Unraveling’. His writing spans the horror, thriller, sci-fi and fantasy genres, with morally ambiguous characters and stories that challenge the standards of traditional fiction. When he’s not crafting psychological nightmares on paper, he’s reading, reviewing other writers, playing with his children, or on rare occasion, sleeping.

Side Effects May Occur

by KS Avard

Jensen had barely gotten his pants back on when she returned, a thick sheaf of papers in her hands. “Well, I have good news for you, Mr. Howard! I think we can resolve a few of your symptoms.”

Jensen felt his breath leave in an explosive gasp of relief. For weeks he had been suffering from the severest paranoia, barely able to sleep, eat, or breathe knowing that someone was out to get him.

He had noticed the cars following him, the parade of new faces that watched his every move while they pretended to go about their own faked routines. “So you can give me something for my insomnia? And my indigestion? And my involuntary asphyxia?” He waited for her nod. “What the hell are you waiting for then?” he cried.

“Well, it’s an experimental procedure and cannot be reversed if you don’t like the result.” said his doctor. “There is evidence that it’s occasionally toxic,” she replied, chewing her lip. “In fact, there are a whole list of possible side effects.”

“I don’t care!” he bellowed. “I just want to sleep!”

His doctor smiled angelically. “Well, I think we can manage that. I will need you to sign this form here and then turn around so I can administer the shot.”

Jensen scribbled his name furiously on the sheet filled with legalese, not reading the fine print but knowing that, at last, he would finally be able to sleep. “That it?” he asked, smiling in relief as she, too, smiled nodded again. “Now the injection?” he asked.

“Yes, sir! Just turn around and I’ll handle the rest.” He began to unbuckle his pants again, his hands fumbling with the zipper when she cooed, “That won’t be necessary.”

“No?” he asked. Turning to face the wall, he heard a drawer slide open, a click or two as the doctor prepared the needle for his injection. Finally able to begin to relax, he examined the wall, for the first time seeing the most peculiar flecks of red among the whiteness of the wallpaper. A lump formed in his throat as he felt a most un-needle-like sensation. “Exactly what’s in this shot?” he asked, wincing as deathly-cold metal was pressed to the nape of his neck. “Acepromazine? Droperidol?”

She chuckled, the sound hideous and ugly. “No, Mr. Howard,” she said, pulling the trigger.

“Just a little bit of lead.”


An aficionado of the anachronistic, a baron of the bizarre, KS Avard first studied
politics at Rutgers University before discovering the tenets of morality and upright living. From there, he pursued higher education before realizing that his way with words was worth way more than a simple wending of his way through life. Though he has yet to find mass media publishing representation, he scribbles and writes day in and out, new tales delivered daily sometimes, weekly on others, a backpack of books and filled notebooks his company at cafes and coffeehouses. Follow him on Twitter @KS_Avard