A Dog’s Best Friend

by Derek Hamilton

Edgar came home from work – the same as every day. When he got out of his truck and shambled to his front door, he noticed something out of the ordinary. His dog Chuck had a hold of a small, shiny, brass button and was happily chewing away at it. Edgar didn’t recognize it from his wardrobe, and he wasn’t sure where ‘ol Chuck had managed to find it. Then again, he didn’t care to think too much of it.

The next day, Edgar came home to another surprise on his porch. Chuck had a hold of an old, dirty, leather shoe and was joyously chomping on the laces. Edgar tugged the shoe out of Chuck’s mouth only to discover he had never seen this shoe before, and didn’t own a pair even closely resembling it. Edgar didn’t know what to make of it. He thought it was strange, but he also figured it didn’t require any more of his time or energy to investigate.

The next day, Edgar came home to yet another surprise on his porch. Chuck had a hold of a tattered, shabby, stained scrap of cloth and was blissfully gnawing on the corner. When Edgar was able to wrestle the cloth out of Chuck’s grip, he thought the stains looked a lot like dried blood. He didn’t know where Chuck was acquiring his newfound treasures, but now Edgar was determined to find out.

The next morning, he let Chuck out for his usual trek around the yard. Edgar decided to trail his dog, but wanted to keep his distance to avoid distracting Chuck on his new mysterious routine. After circling the house, sniffing around the barn, and tracing the fence line, Edgar was starting to think this was all a big waste of time. That’s when good ‘ol Chuck sat down at the gap in the fence and stared out into the woods.

Waiting.

He sat there intently for nearly five minutes while Edgar thought about how he could have spent the day doing anything else and it would have been more productive than what was taking place right now.

Just then, Edgar heard a faint whistle from the tree line. Chuck’s ears perked up as he popped up in a flash and trotted over to the woods, slipping out of view under the greenery. Edgar hustled over to the tree line to catch up with the mutt.

Edgar peeked through the foliage to find Chuck on the other side of a tree stump, triumphantly munching on a bone. His first reaction was to get him to drop it – who knows what animal that came from, or where that thing has been?

Well, the answer came quicker than Edgar had expected. When he was a few steps away from Chuck, he heard the whistle again. It was the same whistle that called them into the woods, only this time it was right behind Edgar. He slowly turned and saw something leaning against the tree stump.

It looked like a woman in most regards, but she was more skeleton than person. Her leathery skin draped over her bones, poking up in rigid forms. What little flesh she had left was hanging black and rotten. Her skin peeled away in chunks to reveal the viscous meat below. She was hunched over on one knee because her missing leg rested in the paws of good ‘ol Chuck, gnashing the hell out of that bone.

He’s a good boy,” the stranger hissed in a scratchy voice.
“But you shouldn’t let him wander off alone – it’s dangerous in these woods…

Edgar wanted to run, but he couldn’t. The stranger lunged at him, knocked him to the ground, and bit him in the throat – latching her decrepit teeth into his soft flesh. Her jaw locked on so tight that it made tiny popping noises as her molars dislodged from her mandible.

Edgar didn’t even have time to scream. The blood was erupting from his neck, spritzing the surrounding vegetation with vibrant red splotches. He quietly choked and gasped; slowly drowning in his own blood.

Chuck eagerly nibbled on the bone without a care in the world – treasuring every bit of sinew he could retrieve from its core.

Such a good boy…


Derek Hamilton is a writer, musician, voiceover talent, and self-proclaimed nerd from Northeast Ohio. He’s a Columbia College Chicago alumni, a published poet, and currently works as a streaming media producer. You can find more of his work at derekhamiltonedits.com

The Woods at Night

by Heather Adams

Oh – how terrible the woods at night!
How uneven the quality of the light
Where shapes are formed, and shadows grow –
The strange hearts of which soon beat, and glow.
How deep and rough the texture of that wood
To throw up forms where none, before, had stood.

Such creeping madness, a dark blue terror,
Near or far, what does it matter?
All who linger will know the dread
Of a wasted trail in sunlight tread.

For though these woods, you think, are tame,
You hear a hunter’s footsteps just the same.
And in those dusky moments when the day has gone –
And yet in ghostly echoes lingers on –
Each footstep’s fall is death’s hello:
Oh yes, you know that this is so.

The crickets’ call, the rodents’ scurry:
All tell you – yes – oh please – to hurry.
The owl’s harsh cry: a warning blow
That some strange beast no one should know
Is quickly closing in – it’s true –
Is even now, perhaps, behind you.

For when true night walks in, and deepens,
The gloam woods’ sounds may be mistaken
For whispers, calls, both shy and sudden
And danger lurks, at once, unbidden.

No soft blue from the full moon’s ray
Can hope to keep the wild at bay.
Now a world of shadow thrives,
And only the luckiest survives
That array of light, perceived with dread,
That reveals a night both black and red.


Heather Adams is a storyteller living in the admittedly sometimes creepy woods of central Pennsylvania.

Catch and Release

by Steve Carr

Although Carton Laxwell had lived in the hills of Kentucky his entire life, he never liked killing another living thing, but he loved to fish.

He parked his pickup truck on the gravel road about fifty yards from Piney Creek. It wasn’t a creek at all, but a narrow, murky river that flowed gently through the woods just a few miles out of town.

He got out of the cab and went around to the back and lowered the tailgate. He took out a small basket containing his lunch of potted meat sandwiches and two cans of beer, his fishing pole, tackle box, and a folding canvas stool to sit on. He shut the trunk, then with everything either awkwardly held in his arms, or precariously balanced on both shoulders, he stepped into the knee high grass and walked through a grove of maple trees to the bank of the creek.

First making certain there were no birds nests or other woodland creature created habitats in the grass, he then stomped a flat area in the grass, making his own kind of nest, then laid everything down. As he unfolded the chair he saw a piece of red flannel in the grass on the perimeter of his newly created fishing spot. He bent down to pick it up, but pulled his hand back when he saw the cloth was wound around the wrist of a severed arm. The hand portion still attached to it was missing all of its fingers, although the thumb was still there, pointing upward as if giving the okay sign. The skin on the arm was gray and decayed, but teeth marks were clearly visible. There was a tattoo of an eagle on the forearm.

“That’s Neb Duly’s arm,” he said aloud. “I’d recognize that tattoo anywhere.”

With no one else around and uncertain what to do, he covered it with grass and returned to setting up his fishing spot.

Sitting on his chair he took a rubber worm from the tackle box and put it on the hook. He cast the line out into the water and watched the worm sink beneath the surface. He sat back and listened to the birdsong coming from the trees and opened the basket and took out a sandwich and opened a beer. While biting into the sandwich, there was a tug on the fishing line. He sat bolt upright, dropped the sandwich and quickly jerked the fishing pole and began to reel in his catch.

When he raised the line out of the water, a large catfish was dangling on the hook. He stood up and stared into the fish’s eyes as it struggled to breathe. “Well, aren’t you fine lookin’,” he said to the fish. He then removed the hook from the inside of the fish’s mouth and threw the fish back into the river. A few minutes later he threw the line back into the water and returned to his lunch.

“What a great day for fishin’,” a voice said from behind him. Carton turned.

It was Miles Pelroy, the owner of the local hay and feed store.

Miles was wearing rubber waders and carrying a fishing pole and a net. He stepped out of the grove and trampled across his nest and stopped at the bank. “What kind of bait are you usin’, Carton?” Miles said.

“Just a rubber worm,” Carton said.

“You’ll never catch a fish that way,” Miles said. “You got to get right in the water and go after the fish with somethin’ alive on the hook.” He held up his pole and showed a squirming worm that was skewered on the hook. “I always catch a big one on my first try. Pan fried catfish is some darn good eatin’.”

“I don’t eat the fish I catch,” Carton said. “I catch them and release them back into the water.”

“That’s the craziest thing I’ve ever heard,” the man said.
“Ain’t no sense catchin’ somethin’ if you don’t plan to eat it.”

Miles waded out into the water and cast his line with one hand while holding the net in readiness with the other. A few minutes later he let out a scream and began frantically smacking the water with the net.

Carton stood up and helplessly watched as Miles thrashed about, letting loose of his pole and net and was then pulled under the water. Large blood red bubbles quickly rose to the surface. A few minutes later a bloody leg covered by a shredded wader pants leg was tossed out of the water and onto the river bank.

“If only I knew how to swim,” Carton said aloud, “maybe I could have saved him.” He shrugged. “I never much liked him anyways.”

With his pole still in the water, Carton was surprised when there was a tug on the line. Grasping tightly onto the pole he started to reel it in but lost his footing and was pulled into the water. Quickly submerged, he stared, terrified, at a man-sized creature the color of mud, with long sharp fangs, and an exposed human-like brain on the top of a fish-like head. The creature wrapped its sharp claws around Carton’s forearms.

Certain he was going to die, Carton closed his eyes.

A moment later he was flung up onto the river bank a few feet from his nest.

He didn’t take the time to question why he was still alive. He sprung to his feet, gathered his things and ran to his truck and sped off.


Steve Carr, who lives in Richmond, Va., began his writing career as a military journalist and has had over 150 short stories published internationally in print and online magazines, literary journals and anthologies. Sand, a collection of his short stories, was published recently by Clarendon House Books. His plays have been produced in several states in the U.S. He was a 2017 Pushcart Prize nominee. You can find him on Facebook and Twitter @carrsteven960

Rapid Eye Movement

by Kaleb Tutt

My name is Max Walters and I can’t sleep. No, I don’t have some rare sleep disorder. I’m not some medical anomaly. I can’t sleep because I saw my Lucid Self. I wish I had never read about lucid dreaming. It was the worst mistake I ever made. I should’ve just listened to my mom.

Don’t play with your dreams. Your dreams are another realm. You don’t play around with that kind of stuff, you hear me?

I said I heard her, but I didn’t. Not really. I heard the words but I wasn’t listening. I was reading, over and over, drowning myself in esoteric knowledge. Online forums and communities promised me something I never had before – control. They told of splendors and grandeur I could achieve through my dreams. I could be whatever I wanted, have my every desire.

They didn’t tell of the Lucid Self.

Y’know that itch in the spot you can’t reach, the one in the dead center of the spine? No matter how much wriggling and reaching you do, it lies just out of arm’s length? When I first read of lucid dreaming, it was like that itch appeared, but now I could scratch it. With lucid dreaming, anything is possible.

That is not always a good thing.

When you first learn of lucid dreaming, it opens an infinite universe of possibilities. Flying dreams are always fun. Like any drug, though, the mind builds up a tolerance. You can only jump off of so many buildings.

That is when it becomes dangerous.

It seemed so innocuous. I read about it online like any good teenager. Someone told a story about their dream experiment. They, like me, had grown bored of the mundane (odd word for dreams) and wanted to expand their horizons. I recall the story so clearly because I wrote the steps down in my dream journal. In fact, here are those very steps:

1. Perform reality checks throughout the day
*Note – reality checks are when you attempt to do something impossible in daily life; like flying or sticking your finger through your palm. Do this throughout the day so when it works, you will know you’re dreaming.

2. Stay calm. Keep yourself composed to ensure you don’t wake up too soon.

3. Have fun, but stay focused. This dream will be like no other. You will discover things you probably shouldn’t.

4. Find yourself. No, not metaphorically or like you’re “discovering your inner light.” I mean, find yourself literally. You’ll have to search hard. Your Lucid
Self doesn’t want to be found. It has secrets. Knowledge.

5. Once you find yourself, don’t talk. This is vital. Just listen. If it wants to speak, let it. If not, don’t pester. Once you wake up, you will never be the same person again.

The doors of possibility revealed themselves to me through these words. Knowledge. Wisdom. Things unknown and things I shouldn’t know. I guess that’s the real draw, the shouldn’t. What mysteries lie in my Dream World? I can’t wait to find out.

Tonight, I become aware the way a girl crossing the street with her eyes on her phone realizes she’s in the center of a busy intersection. The world around me is real yet artificial, a construct of my mind.

I have been here before. The walls and floor are white as good china. On the wall in front of me hang 6 translucent discs, each the slightest off-kilter from the other. I walk up and touch one and in explosive chain-reaction, they all burst into glowing gold orbs of pure light.

My body tenses as I hear a familiar yet foreign clutch of an opening door. A panel separates from the wall then dissolves. Out from the nether crawls something evil. It has my short chestnut hair, but its eyes are much blacker than mine. Its skin is melted candle wax. Worse, it crawls on upside-down arms. I wonder for a moment how it will share its secrets with me if it doesn’t have a mouth to speak.

My Lucid Self does not want to speak to me. It scuttles away, a swine backed into a corner. Its elongated finger-claws tink against the white porcelain stone as it creeps back into the darkness. It hums a haunting lullaby, calling to me. Arms outstretched in zombie-trance, I follow. It leads me into the nether and as my feet fall from under me, I toss my arms to grab ahold of nothing. The sensation is that of a flying dream but I am not flying. I am falling infinitely into infinite blackness. Faint words of warning whisper in my ears.

Don’t play with your dreams.
Don’t pester. 

My name is Max Walters and I can’t wake up.


Kaleb Tutt is a kid from South Louisiana who has an affinity for the odd. He is currently studying Creative Writing at Southeastern Louisiana University. Read more of his work on his website and follow him on Twitter @KalebT96