Returning Sins

Justice well served in this intense short by A.F. Stewart, ‘Returning Sins’ – new on Pen of the Damned this week!

Pen of the Damned

The smell of rot and dirt displaced the stale air in the bedroom and I tried not to choke on the overpowering stench. Huddled in a corner by the door, shivering in the sudden cold draft, I listened for the slightest sound, praying she was gone. Or that I would wake up from this nightmare.

Scritch, scritch.

There it was, the faint scratching noise against the wood. Fingernails scraping at the grain. I caught my breath.

No. I don’t want to hear it again. I don’t want…

Scritch, scritch.

Only louder this time. Like an animal clawing to get inside. I whimpered and my stomach churned.

“I’m sorry. I didn’t mean it.” The words blurted out before I thought.

“Liar!” A horrid screech ripped from behind the door, shuddering through the air. “Bad, you were bad! Left me alone! Left me to die!”

A thundering crash sounded as something slammed…

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OPEN Call for SUBMISSIONS: The Sirens Call – Winter 2021 – issue 56 | #Horror #DarkFiction #eZine #OpenCall #Reprints #fiction #stories #flash #poetry @Sirens_Call

Open Call for Submissions!


Winter 2021

It’s time once again to pay homage to the death of yet another year with our Winter 2021 eZine.

For the fifty-sixth issue of The Sirens Call eZine, we’re looking for horrifying and well-constructed tales centered around death. Average serial killer pieces will not be entertained. If you choose to go the ‘killer’ route, please be sure to make your antagonist something extra… be that super-human, not human, off their freakin’ rocker in a severe capacity, or whatever uncharted territory you come up with, be extremely creative!

Any and all supernatural, or freakishly heinous deaths are encouraged.

We’ll be accepting short stories, flash fiction, drabbles, and poetry that fit within the horror/dark fiction genre. We welcome reprints as long as you hold the copyright to the piece.

Your piece can be scary, sullen, emotive, freaky, elegant, bizarre, have a dark satirical edge to it, or scare the crap out of us as long as they center around death!

The basic rules:

  • Write the piece well.
  • It must be primarily horror/dark fiction oriented and contain a death.
  • No pieces containing coronavirus/covid-19 references will be accepted.
  • Don’t break our set-in-stone taboos – NO pedophilia, NO bestiality, and NO descriptive rape scenarios.

Be creative, be morbid, be vicious, be clever, and, most of all, write about death! If your piece fits our criteria, we’ll offer it up to our readership of approximately 35,000


Submission Deadline: November 1, 2021

Circulation: Approximately 35,000

Short story word count: 1,000 – 2,500 (limit of one submission per author)
Flash fiction word count: 500 – 999 (limit of one submission per author)
Short flash fiction word count: 101 – 499 (limit of three submissions per author)
Micro fiction word count: 50 – 99 (limit of three submissions per author)
Drabbles: 100 word prose (limit of five submissions per author)
Poem length: 10 – 50 lines (limit of five subs per author)

Reprints are welcome as long as you currently hold the copyright.

All story, flash, and poem submissions MUST be submitted to: for consideration.

Full page ads are available at $10 per ad.
Please contact for advertising information.

Please visit our web site for further details and guidelines:


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Ladies of Horror Flash Project – #Horror #author Melissa R. Mendelson @melissmendelson @Darc_Nina #LoH #fiction

The Ladies of Horror
Picture-Prompt Writing Challenge!


Blue Lights Over Broken Bones
by Melissa R. Mendelson

His large shoes stuck outward, nearly tripping the bicyclist that sped down the rocky street.  A pebble chased after him.  A soft thunk in the small, tin can.  His face was always smiling, but he could feel the white drain away.  He tipped his hat, refusing to say a word as those that walked past him avoided his feet.  He reached into his ragged coat for a tissue, but his fingers came out the other side.
Music flowed through an open window across the street.  She came into view, always wearing a pink dress, showing off her legs.  Whether she knew that he sat there didn’t seem to bother her as she danced.  Arms stretched over her head.  Back straight.  The music had her now, and she spun, almost toppling out the door.  But she caught herself, and for a moment, their eyes met.
He hoped the smile on his face was enough for her, but she was spinning again.  He looked up at the blue lights overhead.  The sky was almost beautiful, but it was never warm.  A dog’s bark made its way down the street to his corner.  Another bicyclist flashed past, nearly missing his shoes.  Another soft thunk in the small, tin can, and she danced.  It was always to the same song.
He promised himself that he would never look.  He glanced at the small, tin can in his gloved hand.  His eyes chased after the pebbles that rolled by.  His back pressed into the brick wall behind him.  He was looking, staring at the knobs on the bottom of her legs, where her feet should’ve been, and the knobs were black, hardened with blood.
She stopped dancing, wobbling, trying to spin her away over to the door.  Her hand reached for the handle.  She fell, landing face first on the floor, and he moved to help her.  But he tripped over his own feet.  She giggled in response.  That made him laugh, but her face morphed into tears.  It was this damn place.  You could never laugh for too long, but he got her back up.  And she started to dance again.
“Please, go,” were the words she left in his ear.  He glanced at the small, tin can in his gloved hand.  He placed it by the door, avoiding her stare.  Another bicyclist whizzed by, nearly knocking him over, and the pebbles laughed, sliding under his feet.  He refused to fall, and the blue lights overhead grew more vivid, chasing after him.  His back the shape of the brick wall that he always sat against.  He paused to catch the music flowing through her window, but as he moved forward, pieces of himself shaped like bricks fell to the ground.
Fiction © Copyright Melissa R. Mendelson
Image courtesy of

About Author Melissa R. Mendelson:

Melissa R. Mendelson is a Horror, Science-Fiction, and Dystopian Author. Her short stories have been published by Sirens Call Publications, Dark Helix Press, and Transmundane Press. She also has a variety of short stories and poetry available on Medium.


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Ladies of Horror Flash Project – #Horror #author D. Kai Wilson-Viola @Kaiberie @darc_nina #LoH #fiction

The Ladies of Horror
Picture-Prompt Writing Challenge!

by D. Kai Wilson-Viola

It’s a tradition we engage in every year. The celebratory auroras, the shortest time in sunlight, the ribbons have a special significance and enfold us.
Inside our little town? We hibernate, then…an explosion of good fortune.
Visitors? They don’t really see anything unusual with the shutters going down. We close for a few days, working towards the prep for the ‘Nightlights’ festival. The mayor, who, this year at least, wears jocularity like a shadow – a tentative and sober face of our town since the viruses ravaged the world in the last three years – speaks tonight. We’ve been blessed with isolation. We are, after all, a sheltered headland community. Miles and miles of forest surround us on two and a half sides. The forest cuts off suddenly at the edge of an area near the back of my house, and the rest of the sundial scenery is cliffs, rocks… sea.
Our Nightlights festival used to be “loidhne teine” Idhteine, but the elders…they renamed it.
If visitors ask? Laughter, answers with no fear, that because it’s the shortest night of the year, and because we’re so surrounded by trees, and that sometimes, because of the weather, there are thunderstorms that follow an always dry season, and that we celebrate and decide what to do for the next year, based on how many fires there were, and that the shortest night of the year seems most appropriate. Not because it’s related with our ‘new normal’.
Our Nightlights though will be significant this year. Nine new homes were ‘converted’ briefly to places to stay. Staycations mean that we’ll have people with us – there’s no problem attracting new people.
Some say they never leave. I prefer the idea my momma told me, when she led the last group away.
“We’ll burn into fire, into the break, into the ribbons. We’ll touch back next year.”
They always do.
(loidhne teine – Scottish Gaelic direct translation of fire line – a deliberately cleared or gapped area to enclose or prevent the continuation of a fire).
Fiction © Copyright D. Kai Wilson-Viola
Image courtesy of


About Author D. Kai Wilson-Viola:

D Kai Wilson-Viola aka Kai, writes in all genres.  She’s currently gearing up to release her first true Crime book and website.  This piece is an offshoot of ‘The Rememberancers,’ which is up in the next batch of plans.
When not writing, she can be found gaming or taking photos with her family in the Cotswolds, where she lives.

Find D. Kai Wilson-Viola on Facebook!


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Ladies of Horror Flash Project – #Horror #author Michelle Joy Gallagher @Aphelia @darc_nina #LoH #fiction

The Ladies of Horror
Picture-Prompt Writing Challenge!


Long Drive
by Michelle Joy Gallagher

John Barton ran ahead of his cousin Sam. The boys had spent a carefree summer together at their grandparent’s farm and knew every inch of the 5-acre plot by heart. It was 1991 and they were 11 and 9 respectively. After their morning chores were done, lazy afternoons would invariably end in exciting adventures in the evening. A picturesque wood bordered the beloved Barton property, and they knew every inch of that too. The wood acted as a sort of calendar for the boys, who easily lost track of the days. When the first few leaves started to fall, they knew their time together would end, and they’d be trudging back to school in different cities.  
John hit the trail in the undergrowth they had worn themselves from months of play, and immediately tripped on a fallen branch. This sent Sam into a fit of laughter. John got up and dusted off his Levi’s giving Sam a dirty look, until Sam’s laughter became contagious, and he softened. He looked down at the place he’d fallen and saw there were many broken branches scattered about, as if something large had disturbed the surrounding trees. Sam was still trying to collect himself when John alerted him to them.
“Hey, Sam, what the hell!”
They’d been trying out the word “Hell” this week. Last week it had been “Damn.”
Sam stopped laughing immediately, hearing the tone in John’s voice. John hadn’t turned around but was staring at the ground. Both boys seemed to discover what had caused the disturbance at the same time, following the path of broken branches and torn wild blackberry bushes that had been ripped up from where they’d tangled themselves among the underbrush. They stared in awe without saying a word.
An old model sedan, rusted from disuse sat inexplicably among the trees. It hadn’t been there the day before, and they were absolutely sure of that, because it was sitting on top of the fort they built. Sam could see some of the old plywood and branches they used. He looked up all around for a possible entry point, thinking Grandpa would be steaming mad about someone dumping a heap of junk on his property in the cover of night but could only find their small trail and a few game trails that had been there for
years. Then he looked up. He tapped John on the arm and pointed. The trees on either side the sedan was sitting had broken branches all the way up on the sides that faced it. It looked for all the world like it had dropped from the sky.
“What the hell!” John yelped.
The boys looked at each other, then bolted toward the car.
“Where do you think it came from?” Sam asked. The plates were printed at the top with the year 1947 and the words “US GOVERNMENT” Sam did the math in his head. 44 years.
“Dunno,” John said, “but I call driver seat!”
Sam rolled his eyes at this then shrugged. John pulled at the handle of the driver’s side door, but the thing wouldn’t budge. He put his foot up on the side of the car and pulled with his full body weight. The door came open with a loud pop and John went flying backward from the unexpected momentum. He laid on the ground stunned for a moment but didn’t want Sam to climb in behind the wheel first. He scrabbled up to his feet quickly only to find Sam staring at what was inside in horror.
A man in a US Air Force uniform was laid out on the seat. His face was covered with blood and burns, and his uniform was singed and soaked in places. He was gasping for breath and reached a shaky hand out to the boys.
“Please…” He said, then hitched a sharp breath in, which obviously took effort. “Please help me.” He finished feebly. A gurgling sound started deep in his chest and his eyes rolled back. A black bilious fluid seeped from the corner of his mouth. When he opened his eyes again, he stared at a distant point in the sky and started screaming. The boys backed away and ran faster than they ever had back toward the farm.
Fiction © Copyright Michelle Joy Gallagher
Image courtesy of


More from author Michelle Joy Gallagher:
blkhwkBlackhawk: Volume 2

Welcome to Blackhawk, Colorado. Blackhawk has always been strange. Natural disasters. Disappearances. Murders. High strangeness is a part of daily life. We can’t hope to explain it, but we can chronicle its past. Learn from it. Fear it. Blackhawk is an experimental fiction series set in a shared universe, written by a variety of talented authors. It is the brainchild of David M Brown (Plague Doctor, Modern Animals) and Carl D Smith (Moleb the Giant, Darkness Out of Carthage). Each story will contribute to an organic, evolving mythology as diverse as the voices behind its tales. For fans of True Detective, Lost Highway, Twilight Zone, and The Terror. This is Volume Two of the series and contains five stories by five different authors, each in tune with the specific strangeness Blackhawk has to offer. NOTE: For fans of Lake Lord Publishing’s prior horror titles, be warned that Blackhawk will contain content that is perhaps more disturbing and mature.

Available on Amazon!


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The Ladies of Horror Flash Project – #Horror #author Suzanne Madron @suzannemadron @Darc_Nina #LoH #fiction

The Ladies of Horror
Picture-Prompt Writing Challenge!


Things Found in the Woods
by Suzanne Madron

She had come to the woods to find herself, and now she was lost.
As she wandered over the faint outlines of what must have been a road, the asphalt now crumbled and overgrown with vegetation, she breathed in the crisp air. Above her, birds sang while around her the deer crunched their way through the underbrush. The dappled sunlight played over the path and she continued onward.
She guessed hours must have passed since she had started her hike. The morning light had shifted to afternoon and the shadows were beginning to lengthen, yet she wasn’t feeling tired at all. She felt like she could go for miles, in fact.
As the sun sank lower on the horizon and she had yet to rediscover a trail marker or a sign of exiting the woods, however, she knew she would need to find a place to shelter for the night. The air that had been warm in the day was shifting to the chill bite of night and swirls of fog drifted across her path. The day sounds were gone now, traded for something more ominous keeping pace with her. She tried not to run but fear was closing in around her with every wood knock and loosened stones on a hillside.
In the gloom ahead, she made out an odd shape in the mist and she rushed over to it. Her heart leapt as she pulled the door handle of the abandoned car and it opened with a shrieking of hinges. The interior was dark and smelled of mold and something else. A crash in the woods and the thundering of footsteps crunching over dead leaves left her no time to reflect and she jumped into the car, pulling the door closed behind her.
After what felt like hours, she decided she must have fallen asleep, as the next moment she was blinking at the glare of the morning sun through the filthy windshield. She stretched and looked around the interior of the car.
A pile of clothes on the seat beside her looked suspiciously similar to the clothes she currently wore. She moved them and felt something hard move within the rotted fabric. The scent that had been faint the night before grew stronger and she recognized it at last as the scent of old rotted meat. What she had thought to be a wig matching her hair she suddenly realized with horror was not a wig, and it was still attached to a head.
She fell out of the car, screaming. She had come to the woods to find herself, and she had never left.
Fiction © Copyright Suzanne Madron
Image courtesy of


More from Suzanne Madron:

For Sale or Rent

The house across the street seems to go on the market every few months, but this time nothing about the sale is normal, including the new owners. No sooner has the for sale sign come down and the neighborhood is thrown into a Lovecraftian nightmare and the only way to find out is to attend the house warming party.

Available on Amazon!


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Ladies of Horror Flash Project – #Horror #author Linda Lee Rice @darc_nina #LoH #fiction

The Ladies of Horror
Picture-Prompt Writing Challenge!

Image_02_Sept2021To Bee or Not to Bee
by Linda Lee Rice

I had noticed the yellow jackets before swarming around the secluded path in the woods. The path is one of my favorite places to walk to get away from whatever the day’s drudgery had brought forth. Usually, the hornets were just going about their business, but today they seemed to have an agenda.
I first noticed it after I drank half of my beer and was lounging against a tree. The hornets seemed to have intense interest in my beverage. I swatted them away as I took another chug. Stupid insects. 
When I put my beer back on the ground, I knocked one of the hornets right into the opening and it landed inside the bottle. Flaying around, it started spitting the beer it inhaled back out. Feeling sorry for it, (and not wanting a good beer to go to waste) I found a stick and pulled it back out.
As it lay on the grass, damp wings drying out, it eyed me up in not a so nice way. Then it flew off to the other yellow jackets as they all settled on a branch. Picking up my beer, I wiped off the rim and gave it another chug. But, it felt a little…fizzy.
As I looked up in horror, the trees shrinking in size, as my shoulder blades itched where wings sprouted. My body shrunk and tiny legs shot out where my arms and legs had been. 
My reflection on the bottle showed my changed appearance in gruesome detail. I crawled up the bottle as the yellow jacket I had dunked landed beside me. It turned its back to me and jabbed me twice with its stinger. 
Falling over the side, I landed in the bottom of the beer, as I started to drown, the last thing I saw was the hornet staring at me with its big round eye.
Fiction © Copyright Linda Lee Rice.
Image courtesy of

More about Linda Lee Rice:

me in burgandy hat2

Linda Lee Rice aka Ruzicka has poetry published in Twilight Times, Dark Krypt, Fables, Descending Darkness, Writing Village, Spine, and Page, Muses Gallery, Bloodbond, Lycan Valley Press Publishers, Alban Lake, Highland Park Poetry, Rosette Maleficarum, The Siren’s Call, Edify Fiction and the June Cotner anthology, “House Blessings” and “Garden Blessings

She has short stories published in The Grit, and Reminisce, Haunted Encounters: Friends and Family, FrostFire Worlds. Plus, a personal essay at Mamalode. She also has various articles and blogs published online as a freelance writer.


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Ladies of Horror Flash Project – #Horror #author Angela Yuriko Smith @AngelaYSmith @darc_nina #LoH

The Ladies of Horror
Picture-Prompt Writing Challenge!


Home Brew
by Angela Yuriko Smith

That tear in the sky
can be fixed with some magic…
stardust and spiders.
Stirring my kettle…
eye of newt, a broken heart…
tears of an angel
thrice fallen and damned.
The darker the souls I find…
the richer the broth.
Heavenly smells waft
from my kettle, and to you.
They seek and they find.
And you can’t resist
the cotton candy despair…
I know you want this.
Magic for your bones
dusty, mortal, earthen bound…
you desire starlight.
You feel the call home.
Your ticket is in this brew…
you just need a taste.
Fiction © Copyright Angela Yuriko Smith
Image courtesy of


More from Angela Yuriko Smith:

Angela Yuriko Smith is an American poet, author and co-publisher of Space and Time magazine, a publication that has been printing speculative fiction, art and poetry since 1966. Together we build a poem as a community each month. Visit “Exquisite Corpse” at to submit.

Catch up with Angela here!


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Ladies of Horror Flash Project – #Horror #author Kendra Hale @DevourAllWords @Darc_Nina #LoH #fiction

The Ladies of Horror
Picture-Prompt Writing Challenge!


Memory in Passing
by Kendra Hale

Lost and alone,
Decrepit and stagnant
Left in the memories of a mind too far gone.
Am I appeasing your dreams?
I hope your dreams all turn to the nightmare that is my reality. 
I can hear the wind here and at least I am surrounded by trees that give me a kind barrier from visitors. 
I have been left undisturbed, watched as the seasons change but that is the only way to measure the passage of time. 
I have no idea what year it is. 
No way to know where my family is or what events in their lives I have missed. 

Do they still miss me? 
Have they given up hope?
Was there a funeral where people said how much they missed me?
Liars, the whole of them. 
Their lives moved on while here I am stuck at twenty nine for the rest of my existence. 
No guide, no light, just this space. 
A rotting metal corpse to match the bones that lie inside lost and barren. 
The flesh has been gone for so long…I couldn’t even describe the form it once took. 
Just the flashes of the face that kept me here and took the spark that must have once lit my eyes. 
The rope still lies on the bones, is that why I am bound here? 
Why can’t I seem to leave?
Stuck in this hollow realm in the changing and yet always the same scene. 
The only change being the wildlife that sometimes unfortunately find me here and stir these feelings of longing. 
But I stay a memory of the one who is the only one who knows how and why I am gone…
Fiction © Copyright Kendra Hale
Image courtesy of


More from author Kendra Hale:


Just Emotions:
A Gothic Bite Magazine Anthology

A collection of poetry.

 Available on Amazon!  



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Ladies of Horror Flash Project – #Horror #author Alex Grehy @indigodreamers @darc_nina #LoH #fiction

The Ladies of Horror
Picture-Prompt Writing Challenge!


“I was framed!” said the Kraken
by Alex Grehy

“I was framed!” said the Kraken.
We shook our heads, not believing a word. His arachnoid strangeness screamed guilt in our minds. We chose not to see the wisdom in his ocean deep eyes.
“I’m not a monster!” said the Kraken.
We shook our heads, recalling the skinless bodies of our townsfolk and tourists, left on the shore where salty wavelets caressed their agony.
“It wasn’t me!” said the Kraken.
We shook our heads, our elders had warned us not to trust the hideous beast, so unlike us, whose lies would lead us to death in his arms.
“Please listen” the Kraken implored.
We erected defences. Stout posts prevented the brute from reaching the beach; protecting the innocent from the flaying grasp of his tentacles.
“Do not trust the shells!” said the Kraken
The shells drew us in, their lovely iridescence awakened our sympathy. We knew, somehow, that they were refugees, driven from the sea by the Kraken.
“They are deadly!” the Kraken cried.
We knew he would come, the shells were the bait. Closer he swam calling his warnings. We pulled the net tight around his flailing limbs.
“Do not touch them!” cried the Kraken.
We did not heed him; our ears filled with sea whispers from the beautiful shells; the sting of their poison unnoticed. 
“Mercy!” begged the Kraken.
We made him suffer for each of the deaths that we believed he had caused. The monster who claimed to protect us. The sea turned purple with ink and blood.
“Give them mercy!” the Kraken’s last words.
We did not understand he was calling to them, to grant us compassion. There was none to be had. The sun set gold, the shells glowed as we fell, gleaming feral as they slithered over our beach naked skins. Their razor teeth rasped, stripped our skins, slowly. Anchored by toxins, immobile, aware, we suffered as he had, betrayed.
Fiction © Copyright Alex Grehy
Image courtesy of


More from author Alex Grehy:


After a lifetime of writing technical non-fiction, Alex Grey is fulfilling her dream of writing poems and stories that engage the reader’s emotions. Her work has been featured by a wide range of publications including Siren’s Call, Raconteur, Bookends Review, and Toasted Cheese. One of her comic poems is also available via a worldwide network of public fiction dispensers managed by French publisher, Short Edition. Her ingredients for contentment are narrow boating, greyhounds, singing and chocolate. It is a sweet life, yet Alex’ original view of the world has led to her best friend to say ‘For someone so lovely, you’re very twisted!

Please click here to discover more!   


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