A House of Flies

The most merciful thing in the world, I think, is the inability of the human mind to correlate all its contents. – H. P. Lovecraft

A single flickering bulb burned overhead emanating what one might call light in the loosest of considerations. The dying glow of an ember capable only of making the darkness a palpable, visible, thing. Where shadows, thick and endless, lead to impossible realms where only nightmares dared to dwell.

Where the light provided meager illumination, Morgan cautiously wandered from stack to stack of old dusty boxes filled with the mementos of his youth. A rusted tricycle. A collection of journals long thought discarded. A jar of baby teeth. Photographs. Mixed tapes. Letters. Memories surrendered to time itself.

The sharp scrape of metal and the sudden flick of wheel against flint resounded through the dark as Morgan withdrew and ignited his faithful lighter in a single fluid motion. The flame did little to push back the suffocating darkness, but its humble offering was greater than that of the bulb overhead.

Deep within the darkness, further than his light could reach, came the sound of water slowly trickling down some unseen drain. The concrete floor beneath his feet was damp, and small pools of water collected around him.

The air was moist. Stagnant. Thick with the acrid aroma of mold and sweat. And something else? The faintest hint of festering meat, metal, and shit. He choked back the urge to gag, hesitantly delving deeper into the darkness.

Morgan noted another noise. Something just above the sound of water. Breathing. Struggling. Rasping and wheezing in the throes of death. And painfully he became aware he was not alone in the dark.

Insomniac Musings

Sometimes you can’t sleep,
So you think of home.
Not the place you hang your heart,
But the place that haunts you.
Those memories you wish to forget
But remain never far instead.
This is where I find myself tonight.
Sleepless.
Nightmare stirred.

I see images of a brutal man playing at father
While a whore house for Jesus
Exerts ill measured influence
Over a family
In desperate need
Of professional medical intervention.
But in place of intervention
They received old wives’ tales,
Folklore,
And hearsay.

There were monsters behind those doors.
There to torment and tear the family apart.
I tried to send smoke signals and coded messages
Asking for help,
But I must have forgotten to include a decoder ring
Because instead of help
I found the worst kinds of admonishing.

And after all these years,
I still feel guilty for my inability
To keep my siblings shielded from the abuse.

To my father who still lives,
And his filthy devil of a pastor,
Fuck you.
It is you who keep me awake tonight.

Microfiction: I and the Bound Man

I approached the bound man. Bulbous and round, reeking of his own filth. The boastful braggart had nothing to say. A powerful man among his people, but here, he was nothing more significant than an insect. Impotent. Petulant.

I went to work ripping flesh from bone.

Strip by strip I pulled the bound man’s flesh from his body to a soundtrack of tormented screaming. He threatened, he pleaded, he bargained, but never accepted his fate. He was too grand, too great, to die – or so he said. I accepted his challenge; promised to take my time.

Microfiction: The Fall of a Good Man

It was the last straw.

He had sent his supporters to round up and kill those who refuse to silence their protest against the government. His secret cult of followers descended upon protests to incite violence. In the midst of the chaos they’d take as many lives as possible before the police could regroup and stop the killings. Since the killings began, no arrest had been made. No suspects found. Investigations into these murders always turned up nothing.

Morgan was undeterred. His madness had been pushed to the brink, beyond the lines and comfort of reason. He seethed, foaming at the mouth. Unable to see beyond the red obscuring his vision. With stealth and subtlety, he unsheathed the curved blade of his combat knife. Over and over again, Morgan plunged the weapon into soft flesh as he moved through the president’s crowd of counter protestors, leaving behind a wake of confusion and terror.

He looked up and there atop a building stood an woman overlooking the mob. Her skin was like the night, her eyes bright as falling stars. Holy and otherworldly. She wept and held a sign with the names of her slain brothers and sisters written in blood.

With a glance, Morgan caught sight of a police officer raising a long rifle towards the woman. Morgan sprinted forward striking the barrel off target with his free hand and drawing the curved blade across the man’s throat; baptizing himself in a spray of crimson.

Screaming filled the air. The mob turned its focus to Morgan. He was surrounded. Certain his time had come to an end, he leapt into the seething crowd striking out with his blade. Four, five, six, ten, thirteen bodies fell to the earth never to rise again. The crowd, twisted forms of knuckle dragging, inbred, mouth breathers, reached out for the young man. His knife slashed wildly, liberating fingers and opening deep canyons in flesh. He knew he was to die, but refused to do so alone.

Their hands grabbed and pulled at him. Someone drove a knee into his ribs causing several to crack loudly. The blows rain down like stones upon him. A booted foot shattered his jaw. His eyes swelled shut. He was lifted and dragged along by the crowd. He wished he still had his knife, but it had been lost when the tides of battle shifted.

Around his neck the crowd fastened a noose. He felt himself drifting in and out of consciousness. The noose tighten around his neck, lifting him into the air. He wanted struggle, but his body refused to answer his commands.

A heavy wooden board smashed into his shin, fracturing the bone and tearing a gash in his flesh. The crowd cheered. They taunted and jeered. Tomorrow there would be arguments over who struck first, who acted in self defense, but that didn’t matter now. There would be thirteen fewer men to interfere with the protests. Thirteen men who could no longer cut down innocent lives with impunity.

With one final breath, Morgan gave his spirit up to the dark.

Microfiction: Heavy is the Head

It began as it always had, with a whisper. A small voice calling out from the depths of the subconscious mind. Gentle urgings promising incredible reward for so little risk. Now a grown man of power, he grumbled against the voice, though quickly cowed to its will. The crown upon his head might as well have been a rope around his neck – a heavy burden bore for all the wrong reasons.

“Fine.” He said into the emptiness around him. “I will call fire down from the skies. I will run rivers of blood down my streets. Every life an offering – a sacrifice. I will be loved by my followers and feared by my enemies. It will be as you say.”

Traffic Stop

Red and blue lights flashed along a quiet southern stretch of Highway Ninety-Nine. California State Trooper, Howard McCallister, cautiously approached the silver Honda Accord he had just pulled over. The driver’s window had been rolled down and McCallister could see the driver’s hands positioned atop the steering wheel. Light from the officer’s flashlight spilled across a tired face whose eyes stared off into the distance.

                “Know why I pulled you over?”

                The driver of the vehicle sat silently a moment. His hands never moving. His eyes always forward. Seconds passed with agonizing slowness.

                “Hey! Dumb ass!” The state trooper raised his voice. “I asked you a question. Do you know why I pulled you over?”

                “Because,” the driver sighed, “you were assigned to patrol this stretch of the highway. A once exciting assignment rendered slow and unrewarding as families choose to stay home to avoid the pandemic. Bored, you saw my vehicle and said to yourself, ‘you know what, Howard? Let’s stop this asshole and see what he’s up to driving around at two in the morning.’ Sound about right to you, Howard?”

                The state trooper allowed a free hand to find the comforting cool metal grip of his service weapon. Slow. Inconspicuous. The driver had not moved, had not even lifted his eyes to meet the trooper’s flashlight as so many before this man had done, but still McCallister felt an uneasy churning in his gut. The sour tang of fear burned in the back of his throat. Ancient and primal. He had never seen this driver before, yet something about the man, or more appropriately – his energy, felt familiar and filled him with an increasing sense of dread. How does he know my name?

                “You’re a, um, a long way from home. Aren’t you, son?” McCallister asked.

                The driver said nothing. His eyes never seemed to leave the long road ahead of him. He hadn’t done anything illegal. He wasn’t speeding. Used his turn signal while changing lanes despite being the only vehicle on the highway. Arguably, the driver had been a model motorist. His only crime had been to cross McCallister’s boredom. The state trooper glanced around for any devices which might be recording the encounter, though if challenged, he had been prepared to explain he was merely trying to verify there were no other occupants in the vehicle. He saw none. Occupants or devices.

                “Your plates. They say Virginia, but here you are in California. Kind of a bit off course. Where you headed?” McCallister affected a stern and aggressive tone to mask his nervous discomfort.

                The driver sat silent.

                “Look. I’m trying to help you out here. Give you a chance to explain yourself. And you’re not giving me much to work with, so do you want to spend the night in jail? Because we can do that.”

                The driver continued to refuse to speak.

                “Alright. Alright. How about you give me your license and registration?”

                The driver extended the first two fingers on his left hand to bring his license and vehicle registration into view.  He held them like a lit cigarette in the hands of a driver far too focused to lift his hands from the wheel.

                “Hand them to me.” McCallister demanded.

                “I will not.”

                A voice in the back of McCallister’s head pleaded for him to be done; to let the driver be on his way and pray he never looks back. This is stupid. What are you even afraid of? He’s white.

                “I said, hand them to me! Now!”

                “Take them.”

                “Sir –“

                “No. I move my hands and you go guns ‘a blazin’. I’ve seen this movie. I know how it ends. Take them.”

                “Sir, I will not –“

                “Then we are done.”

                “We are not done!” The State Trooper drew his weapon from its holster and trained it on the driver. “Step out of the vehicle! Now!”

                “Howard, you know that small voice in the back your head? The one pleading for you to let me go? Listen to it, Howard. Heed it.” The driver’s fingers curled back over the steering wheel. He sneered, but did not move, nor look away from the road ahead of him. “What’s it gonna be?”

                McCallister stared through the quivering sites of his weapon. His breathing grew rapid, keeping time and rhythm with his heart. He seethed. Boiled over with frustration at the driver’s lack of compliance – his lack of respect. Who the fuck does he think he is! His lips, tight, lifted like curtains over his teeth in a snarl. He went to cut the power from his bodycam but found it already dead. How long it had quit working didn’t matter. Part of him was relieved. Less recorded footage meant less to explain and greater control of the narrative. His act of boredom had escalated out of control. More importantly, he knew if he could not get the situation back under control – his control – then he might have to shoot the driver. If he shot the driver, then he’d have to kill the driver. Riots already raged across the U.S. – a direct result of police corruption and the murders of innocent black men at the hands of law enforcement. An incident here might trigger protests throughout Fresno County. No one wanted that. Not with the pandemic rapidly cutting its way through the whole of the central valley. McCallister needed to control the narrative at all costs.

                “So we’re done, then?” The driver asked.

                The state trooper looked up, ripped from his thoughts. He had somehow managed to step several feet back from the car. “Get out of the car! Right the fuck – “

                Before State Trooper Howard McCallister could finish issuing his order, his body was carried several hundred feet down the highway. The sour smell of burning rubber filled the air as a number of speeding cars and trucks piled on top of one another. Smoke and flames lit up the night sky like an offering of incense to ancient sleeping gods. Amidst the chaos of sirens and death, no one noticed the silver Honda Accord continuing its southward journey.

Bloody Mary

It began with a dare.

A stupid dare.

We were supposed to be adults, but there I stood locked in my bathroom with three lit candles and water rushing from the faucet. Outside the door I hear my idiot roommates drunkenly giggling like tittering children. We might have had one too many drinks when we waxed poetic over early childhood fears.

Monsters under the bed, the claustrophobic confines of the dark, and schoolyard urban legends. You know the ones. They either happened to a kid who used to live down the street or goes to another school. Of course, you can’t discuss childhood urban legends without spending some length on Bloody Mary.

My buddies all swore on various items of questionable importance to have performed the ritual. I had not and remained inconspicuously quiet on the matter, but after persistent prodding and challenges to my manhood, I confessed. I would like to say after some light teasing, we moved on like mature grown-ups, but no.

No. Names were called, dares were made, and ego got out of hand. We spent three hours researching the proper way to summon Bloody Mary. Once we settled on the best ritual, they gathered the ritual components, and I supplied the idiot. Myself – if you haven’t been following.

“I can’t hear you!” Said a voice through the door.

“Yeah! Say her name! Make her come!” Another voice called out before the three melted into a pile hee-hawing jackasses.

“Geezus! Hold on!” I shouted back.

I held two fingers beneath the icy water for a moment or two. Then brought them to my forehead, and finally pressed them against the mirror. One…two…three.

“Bloody Mary.”

“Oh shit! He’s doing it! He’s doing it!” My roommates crowded outside and shushed each other with stupid levity.

“Bloody Mary.” I held my breath and closed my eyes. I was listening to that terrible name roll off the tongue of my internal voice. Her twisted features manifested in the imagination, and I realized I had been trembling. I could hold her name at bay no longer, “Bloody Mary.”

 Opening one eye, then the other, I stood alone staring at my reflection. “That was stupid. Guys?”

I flipped the key in the door, but the knob wouldn’t turn. I flipped the key again. And again. The door refused to open.

“Very funny, assholes. Let me out. Guys? Guys? Guys!” I pounded my fist against the door. Rattled it against its frame. My roommates were trash. I flipped the light switch. Click. No lights because who needs lights after finding themselves maliciously locked in a bathroom post demon summoning? At least the candles worked.

An eternity of silence passed as I dwelled on all the moments where my life had gone wrong, but I trusted my buddies would get bored and set me free at any moment. Nothing. Nothing but silence. No snickering. No crass commentary. No mocking. Just enough silence to let me know my buddies had gone off and forgotten about me. Again, trash. I beat my knuckles raw against the door. Screamed myself hoarse. Not only had they forgotten me, but the lack of rescue led me to believe they were probably passed out in an alcohol induced coma. I settled into the bathtub preparing to hunker down for the night, and probably for much of the following day. Drawing the curtain around the tub, I imagined all the ways I would make my roommates regret their life choices.

Through the curtain I could see the soft glow of the candles dancing along the vinyl material. Towering toothbrush silhouettes hung like spiders from the ceiling swaying alongside other essential toiletries in the light of the flickering flames. Anger melted away as exhaustion set in. The room was calm. Safe.

I couldn’t begin to tell you how long I had fallen asleep before something brushed up against the tub. My eyes sprung open and I was painfully aware I was no longer alone. I strained to listen. The temperature plummeted and I could see my breath rise before me.

Beyond the curtain came a soft humming. Like that of a little girl at play.

“Who-who’s there?” I asked with all the courage of fly before a spider.

The humming stopped. I strained to listen for movement, breathing, humming, anything, but nothing. I laid there quietly a for several moments before finding the courage to sit up. In one moment of panic driven bravery I whipped back the curtains and leapt out of the tub with the grace of a bird slamming against a window. My chin smashed against the sink on the way down to the filthy tile where the rest of body waited in a crumpled heap. A sharp pain shot up through my leg. I had slammed it against the tub during my aerial dismount. It should be illegal to make decisions while intoxicated.

“Who’s there!” The disembodied whisper sounded like it belonged to a five-year-old girl who had been smoking for the last thirty years. Thick with mucus and gravel. The whisper was less a question and more the mockery of a schoolyard bully.

Through the biting pain I managed to hobble to my feet, leaning against the clawed-foot bathtub for support. There was no one else in the bathroom, but I wasn’t convinced I was alone. I limped to inspect around the tub, behind the toilet, and even in the cabinets beneath the sink.

“Hello?” I said.

Uneasy silence answered back.

I spit a glob of blood and saliva into the sink and examined my reflection.  I had bitten my tongue and scraped the underside of my jaw. It hurt, but nothing required immediate attention. I washed up before resting against the toilet.

My head swam from the combination of alcohol and terror. A reminder of all the bad decisions and the likely cause for the hallucinations I experienced. None of the things I thought heard could have been real. It was all in my head. Right?

My thoughts were interrupted by a tapping from the sink. No. Not the sink. The mirror above the sink. I tried to ignore it. It wasn’t real.

Tap…tap…tap.

“Nope.” I said defiantly.

Tap…tap…tap.

“Absolutely not.”

Tap…tap…tap…taptaptaptaptap…

The mirror began to rattle. Slowly at first, then picking up force and speed until the entire wall shook.

“Leave me alone! Please! I’m sorry! I’m sorry!”

I don’t remember diving into the tub, but I must have, for the next thing I knew I was laying in the fetal position trembling against the cold porcelain. I remember screaming. An inconsolable high pitch screaming. Ego be damned. The entire room rocked and it provoked screams reaching ranges on a scale I didn’t know possible.

“L-leave me alone. I’m sorry. I’m sorry!”

Suddenly the room didn’t rock anymore. Quiet fell. The only sound remaining was my hyperventilation and sniffling. It was not my finest moment, but I could not have cared less. I stopped crying when I heard the door unlock and creak open a few inches. Light from the hall spilled into the bathroom.

I peered over the edge of the tub. The candles on the sink had melted down to nubs, barely able to keep their wicks alive. I scrambled out of the tub as quickly as I could and bolted for the door, but the moment my hand was in reach of the doorknob, the door slammed shut with a deafening click of the lock.

My heart dropped. I followed suit crumpling into a puddle on the floor. It was never going to end. This night was never going to end. I summoned some ancient evil and now I paid the price for my sins. I laid there in the pool of myself for some time waiting for the end to take me. I wasn’t in a rush to die, but I wanted it all to be over. I was done.

She must have felt my defeat because in that moment the humming began, and a little girl emerged from the shadows. Her skin was pale. Grey. Decaying. Large patches of flesh hung in strips along her tiny frame. Her eyes were missing. Empty hollows stared through me. She cocked her head to the side. I almost saw pity cross her disfigured face, but it was immediately replaced by a grimace, and then a god-awful screaming. She launched herself at me, jaw unhinging.

Everything went black.

I awoke sometime later. My clothes were gone. I sat up and found I was not in the bathroom, but somewhere else entirely. The tile floor, the tub, the toilet, and the sink remained, but darkness spread out forever in all directions. Above the sink floated a mirror like the one which had been in my bathroom. I stood and gazed through the glass. Not into the mirror, I couldn’t see my reflection, but through it. My bathroom was on the other side.

The door opened and I watched myself enter the bathroom and flip on the light. The me on the other side grabbed my toothbrush and began brushing his teeth. My teeth?

“Hey!” I cried, slapping a hand against the mirror. “Hey! Who are you? Hey!”

 The other me ignored my attempts to get their attention. He rinsed and spit before staring directly into my eyes – not his eyes, my eyes – and flashed a sinister grin.

“Thanks for the new digs.” He said. “Don’t worry. I’ll take real good care of it.”

Of The Soul

The plight of humankind is remarkable. Clumsy. Fragile. Apes. Yet of all possible beings throughout all possible realities they alone bear in themselves the keys to godhood. Flesh and spirit – two parts which compose their kind, yet rarely make them whole.

No. Wholeness for them is found in relation to one another. Relationships between companions, mates, offspring, and community brings them to a form of wholeness which must then be mirrored within themselves. When the flesh fails, their spirit transforms. Though the spirit may dawdle for a time, more often than not, the soul recast itself, subdues itself once again in flesh to begin the journey anew.

On rare occasions the spirit remembers, in part, former experiences. Abilities, which can only be attributed to the Spark of Life carried in the soul, bleed through; elevating the lowly ape. Theories abound as to the meaning of such elevation – some even suggesting when a soul fails to reenter their world (or remain for a time incorporeal) they have transcended beyond all dimensions and realities, or have fallen into a state of eternal undoing. These, however, are only theories.

We that are elevated, high above such lowly apes, are perplexed at best. At worst? Well, let us not dwell on such things.

Keys to Life and Death

“And you are certain this is what you want?”

A mummified mockery of a woman towered over the young man. She bore wings like that of a vulture, dusty and black. Outstretched where watchful eyes gazed out upon him. Her lips, two dark laces, stretched tightly over gnarled teeth.

Her touch was like an ancient sandstorm racing along his frail features. She examined him as one examining livestock. Appraising his qualities. Noting his blemishes.

“It is.” His body trembled before the terrible being. Still, he stood firm and unwavering.

“There will be consequences. You cannot turn back.”

“I understand.”

“What you will do will send a ripple across the universe. It shall rend the very fabric of reality. You will watch people you love die.”

“I will burn that bridge when I get to it! Please! Just help me!”

“Very well.” From a strand of golden light around her neck she retrieved a set of ornate keys. She held out her hand to the young man, carefully unfurling each finger until the keys rested in her open palm. “I give you these. To you will open both life and death. Go. Now. And forget not your debts.”

“Thank you.” He whispered blinking away tears.

“You will not thank me on that day when I come to collect.”

“I understand.”

“No, but you will. You will.”

New Year

The fog rolled in with deceptive speed. Appearing, at first, to slowly swallow homes and streetlights whole from the neighborhood across the way before creeping across the tumbleweed choked field. Within moments the heavy mists had devoured the apartment complex where Morgan St James sat watching the world descend into the depths of some mist-composed leviathan from his second story balcony.

A heavy silence carried itself in the belly of the beast. Wresting from the air every drunken scream, rocket screech, and gunshot ushering in the new year. Morgan shifted uncomfortably in the damp camping chair suddenly aware of the unnatural silence. It was as if the world had vanished in a cold snap leaving him completely alone with his thoughts.

“You owe him that much!” Pastor Richard had shouted before Morgan hung up the phone. News of his father’s suicide sat sour in his chest. Left him fighting an invisible war behind glazed eyes and a distant stare. He hardly noticed the chill biting deep into his bones.

A bottle of amber liquid rose and fell from his lips with unconscious automation. Each gulp a reprieve burning a trail down his throat and settling in his gut. For a moment, the bottle hesitated on the rise. Hovered before his lips to let pass the only words he had left.

“Good riddance, asshole.”

Episode 1: The Problem with Fingers

It’s difficult picking up your own fingers. I knew thumbs were important, and I had taken them for granted. I regret that, now.

But I was scrambling in the middle of the sidewalk madly scooping up dozens of digits. Nineteen? Thirty-seven? Two? I couldn’t remember how many there were supposed to be, but it didn’t matter. A swarm of rats riding on the backs of crows were rushing toward me, wielding salad forks and butter knives, and chanting something about a weenie roast. I counted sixteen fingers and four thumbs – close enough.

I needed to get to a seamstress in hurry, and I didn’t have time for the rats, so I made a hasty escape. Beneath me the sidewalk began to warp and twist into a sort of funhouse mirror image of itself. The cement sloshed over my shoes, rising quickly until I was knee-deep in a river of clay.

Behind me the crow-mounted rats had settled into Nordic longboats. Their chants crying in unison with the swift paddle of their many oars. Hopes of escape sank as my assailants drew nearer and nearer.

I knew I wouldn’t be able to outrun them. Instead I needed to find a place to hide. Luckily, no more than three-feet (as the crow flies) in front of me, stood a beautiful white goat with the words free candy inside painted across its ass.

“Yo!” I said to the goat. “Help me out! I need a place to hide.”

The goat looked at me, then looked at the crow-mounted rats in the Nordic longboats behind me. Their pursuit had slowed to a crawl. A dispute had broken out among ranks, and the rats had begun lobbing rotting heads of cabbage at one another. The goat shot me a wink and unhinged its jaw to open its mouth impossibly wide.

“Geh eeehng!” The goat bleated.

“Excuse me, what?” I said.

“Geeeh eeeeehnnnng!”

“Oh! ‘Get in!’ Yes! Yes! I get it! Thank you!”

Tossing one last glance over my shoulder, I ran up the goat’s tongue, into his mouth, and slid down his gullet. The entrance shut behind me as gravity pulled down mucus-lined tube. Only a few seconds seemed to pass before I was deposited unceremoniously onto a marble floor.

To Be Continued…