OPEN SUBMISSIONS: The Sirens Call – issue 51 Halloween/Fall 2020| #Horror #eZine #OpenCall #Reprints Welcome #fiction #stories #poetry @Sirens_Call

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Halloween/Fall 2020

For the 51st issue of The Sirens Call eZine, we’re looking for short stories, flash fiction, drabbles, and poetry of horror or dark fiction that are well crafted, and since this issue publishes in October – feel free to slam home a Halloween theme!

We have a few taboos listed below, other than that, as long as you write a quality piece intended for an adults audience, we’d be happy to consider it.

We also welcome reprints as long as you hold the copyright, however, no attribution is offered though you are welcome to include a credit to the original publisher in your bio.

Your piece can be scary, sullen, emotive, freaky, elegant, bizarre, have a dark-humor twist to it, or be flat out creepy as hell!

The basic rules:

  • Write the piece well.
  • It must be primarily horror/dark fiction oriented
  • 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 and show us what you’ve got. If it fits our criteria, we’ll offer it up to our readership of about 35,000!


REPRINTS ARE WELCOME!

Submission Deadline: August 31, 2020

Circulation: Approximately 35,000

Short story word count: 1,000 – 2,500 (limit of one submission per author)
Long flash fiction word count: 500 – 999 (limit of one submission per author)
Short flash fiction word count: 200 – 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.

Full page/single book cover ads for individual authors are available at $10 per ad.
Publisher/community/multi-book full page ads are available at $25 per ad.
Please contact Nina@SirensCallPublications.com for advertising information.

All story, flash, and poem submissions MUST be submitted to:
Submissions@SirensCallPublications.com for consideration.

Please visit our web site for further details: www.SirensCallPub.com

Posted in Dark Fiction, Fear, flash fiction, Horror, Sirens Call Publications, The Sirens Call eZine | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Ladies of Horror Flash Project – #Horror #author Asena Lourenco @ElaLourenco @Darc_Nina #LoH #fiction

The Ladies of Horror
Picture-Prompt Writing Challenge!

003_JULY_IMGThe Buried
by Asena Lourenco

Sun peeking through the trees,
Autumn falling as leaves of red,
The lampposts waiting impatiently,
For someone to return them from the dead.
Once used as a wedding aisle,
On someone’s special day.
Had now become a cemetery,
Where bodies were left to decay.
The ground remained bumpy,
The leaves not hiding them anymore,
As corpses lay underneath the dirt,
Waiting for someone to come and explore.
Fiction © Copyright Asena Lourenco
Image courtesy of Pixabay.com

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More about Asena Lourenco:

Asena Lourenco is 13 years old. She loves reading, playing Scottish traditional fiddle music on her violin, dancing, and martial arts as well as writing her own stories.

She would like to be a teacher and writer when she grows up. She also loves cats and babies!

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Posted in Authors, Dark Fiction, flash fiction, FREE, Horror, Ladies of Horror, Writing Project | Tagged , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Ladies of Horror Flash Project – #Horror #author Holli Walker @Darc_Nina #LoH #fiction

The Ladies of Horror
Picture-Prompt Writing Challenge!

002_JULY_IMG

The Temple
by Holli Walker

This is it; I have been searching for this temple my whole life. And finally, my team and I are almost at the doorstep. “Aminah!” Called my business partner David “The guides will not go any further. They say we will anger the Gods that are here if we keep going.” He said, his face flushed red from the heat and the aggravation. “Well, at least they lead us to the right path in the woods, at this point I guess we are on our own guys. Thank the god’s for machetes and lamps!” I said cheerfully as my team gathered around. “What if the guides are right? You know people disappear in this forest; they always have.” Said Clarence, the lead of my team, he was an anxious little man, but he was excellent at ferreting out lost treasures.
“Don’t worry, we will stick together. And remember, we are supposed to be here, no harm will come to us. I can feel it, this will be amazing. All right, lamps on! You two with the machete’s get out in front and hack away but remember to stay cautious. “I said as the clearing became illuminated with their lamps, shining off the blades of the machetes, it was blinding.  The guides agreed to wait for us at the mouth of the path, though they would go no further, if we never made it back, they couldn’t get paid.
“Come on, we have a way to go.” I said as we started making our way slowly into the forest. It was slow going, the tree roots and vines had grown up over the path during the centuries since it had been used. We marched for what felt like hours. A few of the team began to grumble, I assured them we were on the right path. I could feel it, pulling me like a string. I have been drawn to the Chimu people my entire life. And finally, I was in Peru, looking for their famed sacrificial temple.
After two days of combing through the forest, we started seeing large boulders on the sides of the path we were on. They gradually got bigger and bigger. Until finally we came to a small clearing, and there it was. The sacrificial temple. A cheer went up through our group. “Just what, exactly are you hoping to find here?” David asked me as we took our backpacks off and sipped from our canteens. “Well, a lot of things, but I would love it if I could find an intact executioners’ knife. Complete with the rattle on the end.” I told him
“A rattle? What are you talking about?” he asked curiously. “Well the knife that the executioner would use for the sacrifice had a bulb on the end, that had seeds in it, so it rattled. Before he sacrificed the victim, he would shake the knife and the rattling would call the specific God to the temple.” I explained, as I talked, I noticed the rest of my team and stopped moving and was listening to me. Okay guys, that’s enough of a break. Let’s look around.”
We started looking around the temple, there was an opening in the middle of two pillars and on either side of the pillars were carvings: covered in vines and vegetation, Part of my team was examining the carvings. As they set about to work, I put on a headlamp and ventured into the temple. “Don’t go in by yourself!” yelled David as I entered the temple. I waved him off, I was supposed to be here. The pulling feeling I had while we were going through the overgrown forest was stronger than ever. It was like it was pulling me into the temple. I looked around the inside of the temple, there were pieces of broken pottery strewed here and there. No jewels as David had hoped, he will be disappointed. I stopped walking and stood still, I had heard something, I don’t know what it was. It was very light but sounded familiar.
Shrugging it off I kept walking deeper into the temple. These hallways went on forever. Eventually I should come to the rooms where the victims were kept until it was their time. Slowly I became aware that I was growing more and more tired. Our walk through the forest had taken more out of me than I thought it did. There was an outcropping of rock to my right. I sat down to rest for a minute.
As I put my head back against the wall and closed my eyes for a minute. I heard that noise again. Only this time it was louder, it was a slow rattle. I drifted off to sleep only to be violently jerked awake by a hand grabbing my arm. They pulled me through the hall, it was so dark, I couldn’t see anything. My head felt fuzzy, like I had drunk too much wine. I saw a light coming in the distance, suddenly there was light all around and I could see!
There were people everywhere in front of me, hundreds of people. I heard a scream to my left, I looked over and there was a man decked out with gold bracelets holding a still beating heart in his hand. He held it up for the crowd to see. They cheered as he showed each section of the crowd the heart. Blood dripped down his arm.
Then I noticed the woman right beside him, blood dripped down her torso, her head was slumped on to her chest, which was split open showing her ribs and other internal organs. Blood kept oozing down her lower torso. Two men came forward and slowly took her down off the podium and carried her carcass back into the temple.
The hand around my arm grew tighter, “Your turn my dear.” As he dragged me to the podium “No, you don’t understand, this is not for me!” I tried to say, but no words would come out. They strapped down my arms as I heard the rattling, it came closer and closer, I saw the glint of the blade in the sun, and then…
I had found my rattle.
Fiction © Copyright Holli Walker
Image courtesy of Pixabay.com

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More about Holli Walker:

107370194_791741324899305_2488792836852353967_nHolli Walker was born and raised in Indiana. She is a member of the LGBT+ community and loves to write about things that move her.  She has a wonderful son and is close to her family.

Please find more of her work here

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Ladies of Horror Flash Project – #Horror #author Sheikha A. @Darc_Nina #LoH #fiction

The Ladies of Horror
Picture-Prompt Writing Challenge!

001_JULY_IMGPhasing
by Sheikha A.

The sun sails in sanguine shadows
on the coast of her lower jaw – land
on the rim of her eyes is a set of twin wells
where her retinas once gleamed like agate
so pristine of clout or blood, visitors
would imagine her the benevolent Gaea
resting on a mass of water like a body
made for beds: for anything that grows,
for everything that grew – bore like fresh
womb. Her veins fester and spray out of
her mouth – showers of salt; the sky rains
through broken hymns – hymens – the star
that makes fire appear like crystals in snow,
its heat so intense, blazes of Hades’ chariot
rip comets into comatose constellations;
that star burns pollen in pistils mid-bloom,
scalds scalps – field-follicles – the green air
meant to sustain; she browns like beauty
meant to entice, her dimples glow as pale
flecks on tanned cheeks. The exotic burns –
thirsty fire – she burns water and lands
and the sky’s ice fall as diamond-tears,
their properties malignant, spreading
as silent gas until the science of it is
abolished, the white pages of invisible
ink, the glyphs on walls dating to ancient
tools, the premonitions that turned to
predictions, and her war-speckled eyes
smiling the sinister truth – their deaths
will be formless; only gradual melting.
Fiction © Copyright Sheikha A.
Image courtesy of Pixabay.com

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More from author Sheikha A.:

Screen Shot 2019-12-17 at 10.57.17 AM.pngNyctophiliac Confessions:
Poems by Sheikha A. and Suvojit Banerjee

“The night is cold enough to inspire poetry,” says Sheikha A. in her poem, “Reading My Bones.” This is the basis of Nyctophiliac Confessions – poems that are introspective and luminal, poems that require a certain amount of silence and space to be fully formed and appreciated. Reading these poems, I imagined that they were the kind of poems that assert themselves unbidden during a bout of insomnia. (A nyctophiliac being someone who loves the night or loves darkness).

Nyctophiliac Confessions is the 17th installment of Praxis’ chapbook series and contains twenty-six poems written by two poets, Sheikha A. and Suvojit Banerjee, interspersed with abstract paintings by Robert Rhodes.

Available Here!

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Posted in Authors, Dark Fiction, flash fiction, FREE, Horror, Ladies of Horror, Writing Project | Tagged , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

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

The Ladies of Horror
Picture-Prompt Writing Challenge!

003_JULY_IMG

Absent of Me
by Melissa R. Mendelson

My body has crossed many roads,
but I don’t recognize this one.
Its beauty captivating.
Soft, red petals falling like rain,
but something feels off.
The ground is covered,
and the sky hidden.
I’ve had this dream many times,
finding this strange place,
but I’ve never walked further before.
But I am walking further now.
I can’t turn back.
My body won’t let me.
Its hands leading me down the velvet path,
and I want to turn my head.
My head is no longer mine to turn.
My arms and legs are merely borrowed
until I come to a bench,
where I am forced to sit,
but there is no wait here.
There is nothing here,
and my body lies vacant,
absent of me
as it starts to move again.
Fiction © Copyright Melissa R. Mendelson
Image courtesy of Pixabay.com
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More from Melissa R. Mendelson:

nmkmmName’s Keeper

I got a one-way ticket out of hell. All I need to do is drive across country with a body in the trunk and run miscellaneous errands, but a lot of those errands come with a heavy price. And if I lose the body in the trunk, then I have to go back, and I’ll be damned if I return down there. I will fight to stay here, even if there is no rest for those wicked.

Available on Amazon!

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Posted in Authors, Dark Fiction, flash fiction, FREE, Horror, Ladies of Horror, Writing Project | Tagged , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

The Ladies of Horror Flash Project – #Horror #author Tiffany Michelle Brown @TiffeBrown @Darc_Nina #LoH #fiction

The Ladies of Horror
Picture-Prompt Writing Challenge!

002_JULY_IMGMiscreation
by Tiffany Michelle Brown

The last thing you remember is the cloying taste of the cheap ass wine she gave you. It was far too sweet for your liking, but her smile was promising, so you drank. Because you wanted to know what she tasted like—probably cigarette smoke and strong coffee—but you never got the chance to find out.
Your head throbs, and you’re sure it’s a hangover—cheap wine will do that. But then you notice the drumming.
There’s a steady beat striking the air around you—air so thick it feels like the sea. As you concentrate on the rhythm, you realize the drumming is keeping time with your heartbeat.
Duh-duh-duh. Duh-duh-duh. Duh-duh-duh.
You push to a sitting position. You’re no longer in her shitty apartment. There are no threadbare couches here, no thrift store art finds, no scents of mold or air freshener.
You’re sitting on stone in the dark. The air around you is all greenery, moss, dampness. There’s an archway ahead, draped in vines, and beyond it, a cluster of statues sitting sentinel. Staring at you expectantly, as if they know why you are here.
You rise to your feet on unsteady legs and focus on a single stone in the archway, rooting yourself to the ground, finding balance.
Duh-duh-duh. Duh-duh-duh. Duh-duh-duh. 
You’re standing beneath the arch now. You don’t remember climbing stone steps.
Duh-duh-duh. Duh-duh-duh. Duh-duh-duh. 
She’s here now, the girl from the apartment. You can’t remember her name, but her smile is so encouraging and familiar.
Duh-duh-duh. Duh-duh-duh. Duh-duh-duh.
There’s a knife in your hand with a hooked blade and intricate symbols etched into steel. You hold it like it’s precious, important.
Duh-duh-duh. Duh-duh-duh. Duh-duh-duh.
She kisses you and whispers, “See you on the other side, mortal.”
 Duh-duh-duh. Duh-duh-duh. Duh-duh-duh.
She’s chanting now in a tongue you’ve never heard. You feel the pressure of metal at your neck, a slice of pain, and then so much warmth.
Duh-duh-duh. Duh-duh-duh. Duh-duh-duh.
And then there’s simply nothing more. The drumming has ceased, the girl is gone, and you’re staring up at a canopy of green-black leaves.
You close your eyes and welcome the darkness.
It’s nice here. It’s soothing. You’re weightless and calm and completely at peace.
But you know you can’t stay here. It’s an in-between place. A passage. A moment. You’ll need to leave.
Eventually, you’ll find the courage to open your eyes again—and you wonder who and what and when and how you’ll be.

 

Fiction © Copyright Tiffany Michelle Brown
Image courtesy of Pixabay.com

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The Ladies of Horror Flash Project – #Horror #author Naching T. Kassa @NachingKassa @Darc_Nina #LoH #fiction

The Ladies of Horror
Picture-Prompt Writing Challenge!

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Death’s Head Fall
by Naching T. Kassa

If not for Bob’s quick thinking and strong arm, Mark would be dead.
The forest trail near Death’s Head Falls had grown treacherous as they traveled. Mark’s foot had slipped on the damp moss which covered the rock and he’d nearly plummeted into the precipice. He stood at the edge, shaking.
“You ok?” Bob asked.
Mark nodded. He avoided Bob’s stare. “Thanks.”
“No problem. Better concentrate, though. It gets worse from here on out.”
“Ok.”
Mark shifted his backpack to one side and followed his friend up the trail. Inside, he cursed himself.
Bob was right, he hadn’t been concentrating. He’d been thinking of Liz.
Liz had come to his hotel room in the middle of the night wearing only a silk robe. When she’d dropped it to the floor and revealed her naked form, she’d taken his breath away. All his reservations had scattered like leaves in the breeze. He had pulled her cool body into his warm bed and—
Regret bit into Mark’s heart. He pushed the thoughts away and forced himself to focus on the trail before him.
Bob led them further up the trail and then halted. The roar of water filled their ears and he shouted above the din.
“Look!”
A huge skull, fashioned from rock, met Mark’s gaze. Water rushed from the mouth into the pool a hundred feet below.
“It’s magnificent!” Mark said.
“Really lives up to the name, doesn’t it? Come on, let’s get to the top.”
Bob hurried along, as sure-footed as a mountain goat. Mark lagged behind, grasping hold of branches and saplings to maintain his footing.
Memories of Liz flooded his mind as he climbed. His name had sounded so good on her lips. She had moaned it many times, all while brushing her wedding ring against his skin. Strange how guilt had deserted him then, how her band of gold had sharpened his passion to a razor’s edge. Mark shook his head. If only she were his and not the wife of his best friend.
“Get your ass in gear, man,” Bob called. “I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to walk that trail in the dark.”
Mark increased his pace. Moments later, he joined Bob at the top of the skull.
“Look at that view,” Bob said. “Worth the trip wasn’t it?”
Beyond the pool, a carpet of green forest lay at their feet. The roof of their hotel glimmered in the distance.
“Amazing,” Mark said.
The falls thundered beneath them. If someone were unfortunate enough to fall into the chasm, their body would be a shattered wreck before it reached the water below.
“I’ve never shown this to anyone, not even Liz,” Bob said. “But, you’re my best friend, Mark. That’s why I brought you here. I want to share this and all my secrets with you.”
The jagged teeth of guilt bit into Mark once more. He couldn’t raise a word in reply.
“Did you know,” Bob continued, “that I was born with a certain gift?”
“You see dead people?”
Bob laughed. “No.”
“Bending spoons?”
“That went out with bell bottoms and disco.”
“I don’t know. What is your gift?”
“The funny thing is, you already know about it. In fact, I think you’re one of the few who’s actually caught on. You used to ask me how I knew things, how I always got A’s on the pop quizzes when I didn’t study. How I knew a girl’s phone number, even though I never asked for it.”
“What? You can—”
“Read minds,” Bob finished.
“But, that’s impossible,” Both men said in unison. “Stop it, man! You’re freaking me out!”
Mark stared at his friend and trembled. “Jesus,” he whispered. “You know?”
Bob nodded.
“And you still saved my life?”
“I couldn’t kill my friend. I couldn’t kill anyone. Unless…they wanted to kill me first.”
Bob lunged forward. Strong hands hit Mark square in the chest, propelling him into space. He clutched at his friend, but the weight of his pack pulled him over. He fell.
One thought comforted him as he plunged into the abyss.
The bite of guilt had gone.
Forever.
Fiction © Copyright Naching T. Kassa
Image courtesy of Pixabay.com
 

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More from Naching T. Kassa:

abArterial Bloom

Lush. Brutal.

Beautiful. Visceral.

Crystal Lake Publishing proudly presents Arterial Bloom, an artful juxtaposition of the magnificence and macabre that exist within mankind. Each tale in this collection is resplendent with beauty, teeth, and heart.

Edited by the Bram Stoker Award-winning writer Mercedes M. Yardley, Arterial Bloom is a literary experience featuring sixteen stories from some of the most compelling dark authors writing today.

With a foreword by HWA Lifetime Achievement Award Recipient Linda D. Addison, you are invited to step inside and let the grim flowers wind themselves comfortably around your bones.

Available on Amazon!

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Ladies of Horror Flash Project – #Horror #author Lydia Prime @LydiaPrime @Darc_Nina #LoH #fiction

The Ladies of Horror
Picture-Prompt Writing Challenge!

004_JULY_IMG

Niran
by Lydia Prime

Guards of bone struggled as they pulled a wispy spirit from within its holding cell. A short journey between buildings, but the creature wiggles tirelessly trying to avoid being chained. With a clever fake out, one of the captors secured it, allowing his cohort to start towards the door. The small structure was nothing short of a sardine can that all unfortunates wallowed in prior to their hearings. However over crowded it seemed, somehow more always managed to be squeezed in; centuries would pass and more were always held rather than seen.
The guard’s bony hand (held together by who knows what) clanged against the iron gate as he opened it for his company to pass through. In front of them was a massive stone crypt, a home for long deceased elders; those who’d stalked the darkness as scaly beasts began to crawl out of the sea. The metal door opening created a slight breeze within the stale room.  Dual lanterns wavered against the damp enclosure, their dim flicker barely illuminated the features of the waiting immortals.
A single ghoul jittered restlessly in his undersized cage; munching on scraps of stubborn muscle that clung to the child femur he’d been able to snatch. Banging echoed from behind the walls – the undead were infamous for their bloodlust. The building shook, the aging stone threatened to buckle from their force.
As the guards held their vaporous prisoner in place with iron chains, the soul eaters of the group perked up, mouths watering from the explosive energy. The mistreated ghoul growled and snarled at them as they passed.
“Niran, of the Phi Pop. Criminal act: exposing the existence of your kind.” A chorus of gags, boos, and curses reverberated around the surprisingly tight chamber.
“Order! Order!” demanded the shadowed speaker, “have you anything to say for this act of gross negligence?” Its long slender fingers rapped against a casket that laid before it.
Niran’s form burned from the sacred iron, but he would not grant them the satisfaction of knowing. He drifted before the court and raised his arms. “The Phi Pop are a proud race. Possessing humans and devouring intestines. Hell, it even takes an exorcism of dancing fools to rid the flesh host of us.” Low murmurs from the back sprinkled over the room’s tense atmosphere.
“Of course, someone would gain proof of our being – how could they not with a rule like that? I ask you, is that truly a crime that I am to be punished for? Would it not make more sense, your dishonorables, to allow me to correct the matter?”
Niran was slick. He always knew exactly what to say in order to get what he wanted. The guards tugged at his chains, callously pulling him back towards them. A heavy silence filled the room, one could almost hear the sound of dust gathering upon the cobwebs.
“Niran, your point may be valid, however an example must be made. You are guilty and let this be a lesson to all Phi Pop; sloppy mistakes will not be tolerated.” The banging started again, the names and dates that marked the walls chipped. Low chanting buzzed through the darkness, dark silhouettes phased in and out of the lantern light. The decomposing representative who spoke for the council stood, opening the coffin he’d been using as a desk. A freshly extinguished human body laid within; bloody streaks still trickling from its eyes, mouth and nose. Its soul was missing, only the meat remained.   “You know what to do.” He rasped as he waved his hand over the carcass and towards the skeletal beings.
Niran felt terror, an emotion he’d only ever been able to experience during possession of a human. He tried to resist, but their grip was absolute. He was abruptly forced into the corpse, his limbs immobile, though he could still hear, still see. The festering prison was a toxin to Niran’s very being. Although in a rapid state of decay, the eyes dashed frantically around the room, trying desperately to see what would happen next.
The horde of fists beat from behind the walls, growing louder and more intense. All manner of creatures howled and clapped as they bore witness. The representative instructed another guard to release the ghoul for some exercise and laughed with such a deep foul humor. The room quieted, all spectators on the edges of their seats.
Slowly and carefully the guard moved the crate near Niran; the cage door quickly removed. Instantly the ravenous ghoul chowed down on the body Niran was occupying. He shrieked in pain as it tore through his chest, working its way to his face. The ghoul bit down on Niran’s tongue, slurping it down while his hands ripped out his vocal chords. The room remained hushed; the wet splashes of sinew hitting the ground and muted gurgles echoed in the chamber.
When it was finished, Niran was trapped inside a half devoured cadaver; his anguish was only beginning.
Stomach protruding, the ghoul climbed back into its crate, happily satisfied with its meal.
“An example: sloppy work will not be tolerated – by any race.” The speaker intoned. “Now bury him beyond the cemetery lines.”
All those in attendance gasped, being buried outside hallowed grounds meant never being able to return in any form. Obediently, the guards picked up the pine box and carried it out of the mausoleum. The speaker returned to his seat and gestured for a recess, he’d grown hungry after that last case. 
Fiction © Copyright Lydia Prime
Image courtesy of Pixabay.com

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More from author Lydia Prime:

GSanthoebookGraveyard Smash:
Women of Horror Anthology Vol. 2

Step through the prettiest cemetery gates you’ve ever seen and experience tombstone raves and widow’s dances, Japanese snow-spirits, Aztec bruja and temple goddesses, vengeful ghosts, djinn and cannibals, vampire hunters, plague bearers, graverobbers, and terrors beyond reason. Read through the night as the dead rise from boneyards all around the world!

#FRIGHTGIRLSUMMER recommended reading!

 

 Available on Amazon!  

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Ladies of Horror Flash Project – #Horror #author Scarlett R. Algee @ScarlettRAlgee @Darc_Nina #LoH #fiction

The Ladies of Horror
Picture-Prompt Writing Challenge!

003_JULY_IMGSparks Like Stars
by Scarlett R. Algee

When you were a girl, your mother always told you stories. Fantasies, fairy tales: the sorts of things that involved unicorns and fairies and fine high castles with clouds crowning their tops, that kept you captivated by all things pink and frilly and princess-y.
But mostly, she talked about your great-grandmother. How she’d married your great-grandfather and brought magic into the bloodline; how the last child she’d borne him had come out feathered and bloody, spreading harpy’s wings, and had escaped into the night through a carelessly opened window.
How, after that, her husband had helped burn her at the stake.
You’d scoffed at the story as you’d gotten older. That had been the early twentieth century; nobody got burned at the stake anymore, and anyway, by then people had figured out that magic wasn’t real.
And your mother had just looked you in the eyes every time and said, Everything burns.
But you’d scoffed right up until yesterday, when you’d coughed while sharing gossip across the fence with your nearest neighbor, and what had come out was a feather: pumpkin orange and copper red, fluffy and curling and wreathed at the edges in wisps of grey smoke.
As it turns out, memories are long.
They must be, because tonight you were forcibly bundled out of your apartment—coughing out bits of smoking fluff all the way—and now you’re chained to a lamppost, with an impressive stack of sticks and split logs and broken pallets under your feet.
Someone pours gasoline onto the wood. The liquid splashes up your legs, the odor tunneling into your nostrils. Then a piece of kindling is lit, a safe distance away, and tossed onto the pile underneath you.
The whoosh of roaring flame is accompanied by the sickening smell of your clothes and hair crisping and burning away. But greater than that is the sudden pressure in your chest, pressure that has a shape of fluttering wings, of a long beak sliding up into your throat. The climbing claw-hook agony of it keeps your eyes open, keeps you staring into the shivering wall of heat as your jaw pops and unhinges and stretches, and you realize that you, too, are releasing something monstrous into the world.
With a final shove at your insides, the creature working its way out of you pops free and shrieks, spreading great red-tipped wings that trail smoke, and whose beats fan the flames out and away in huge rippling waves.
Your—child?—flaps overhead, trailing sparks like stars, and dives into the crowd. The char you smell doesn’t come from your skin; the screams you hear don’t rise from your throat.
Your mother was right.
Everything burns.
Except you.
Fiction © Copyright Scarlett R. Algee
Image courtesy of Pixabay.com

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More from author Scarlett R. Algee:

The Lift: Nine Stories of Transformation, Volume One

The hall is dark and the overhead light flickers. Sounds echo, and there’s a creaking and clanging that gets louder as you stand in the semi-dark. The elevator opens and you’re offered a ride. Step inside and ride it to the story chosen for your transformation. Don’t be afraid, for Victoria, the mysterious girl who operates The Lift, waits to guide you. Set in the same world as the award nominated audio drama, The Lift’s first written anthology features nine all new stories by fan favorite writers and special bonus content by creators Daniel Foytik and Cynthia Lowman. The collection is brought to life with beautiful illustrations by Jeanette Andromeda for each story.

Available on Amazon!

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Damned Words 43 – Pen of the Damned | @PenoftheDamned

Reblog from: PenoftheDamned.com

Skeleton_Grin_resized

Fate
Nina D’Arcangela

Jabba-jaw, raking claw, with haste to the frenzy you did make.
The fray engaged, you are quick to slay any beast brought to slaughter.
Fierce clashing, teeth snapping, bones split beneath hammering rage.
Yet fleet of feet, it has you beat, as it fells your carcass to ground.
The battle fought, fury spent naught; your grin the jester’s call.
With placid lips and eager sips, it sups where you did fall.


The Bones of Her Earth
Charles Gramlich

Her name at ten was Melody. She lived amid the avocado green woods on Millstone Mountain in Arkansas, near a town called Liberty. Melody had hair like a thicket of weeds and eyes no one ever looked into. She had thoughts no one offered a copper penny for, and all her words she kept in her mouth so they couldn’t be slapped away by Mama.

Her name at twelve was Holly, after the necklace and wristlets of red berries she always wore. Most days, she spent in the woods, eating hickory nuts and wild cherries in season, eating other things no one ever thought to name. She caught tadpoles and carried them in her pockets until they dried hard and dark as rabbit turds. Then she buried them and made wishes over their graves. The wishes never came true.

At fourteen, her name was Harmony. She’d learned to sing the pain of her bruises through the heat of the summer like the cicadas. She would lie in the creek and place flat stones on her belly. The smooth weight comforted her scars. Sometimes she slept out under a roof of cedars and stars and dreamt of flying through the trees like dragonflies. She always awoke before she grew wings.

At sixteen, she threw away her names. That was the year she found the jawbones, white on the ground amid frost-killed leaves. She prayed to them as Gods. They answered. Carrying them in her fists, she returned to the house she’d never called home. The bones were no longer white when she was finished with Mama.


Wednesday
Marge Simon

Today is Wednesday, the day the Beast people come for the dying. The grown-up’s call them ghouls. Once, the Beast people lived deep in the earth and ate dead bodies. But now they came up to stay here. They wear long, hooded cloaks and their breaths rattle as they move. It’s like the sound his father made when he was so sick. Papa coughed all night, even in his sleep. On a Wednesday, the Beast people came and took his father away. Now Mama is very sick too.

When the sun passes to afternoon, he is worried about her. If he stays in the house, they’ll come in. They’ll hide in the shadows and wait for Mama to die. That’s what they did when his father got so sick. He’s sure they want her too. Two miles up the road is the cemetery. He decides he will lure them away from Mama.

When he sees them coming, he goes outside and runs as fast as he can all the way to the cemetery. He is out of breath, but first he walks around, searching the gravestones. One of them has to be his Papa’s, but he can’t remember where it is. He’d come with Mama to put flowers on it last week, but there are no graves with flowers and he can’t read. Exhausted, he sinks to the ground, bumping into a peculiar shape. The headstone creaks, the ground gives way and he falls in. When his eyes adjust to the dim light, he sees the cavern is filled with long skulls and old bones. The skulls have the Beast people’s faces.

Above, he hears the rattle of their breathing coming closer. This must be their secret burial place. There’s nowhere to hide. He starts to cry.


In the Forest
A.F. Stewart

Shall I tell you a story, little one?

No, no, wait, don’t back away. Stay here, with me, and listen. I’m sure you will find it fascinating. My tale is about this forest, you see.

They say this woodland is haunted, don’t they? Well, they’re correct. Spirits move past the trees, within the wind, and worse, the ravenous dead walk here, among the bones.

Can’t you hear their murmuring voices growing closer?

They’re hungry. Always hungry.

I think you understand now, why the villagers told you not to come, not to hunt here. This forest kills everything that enters, and nothing ever leaves.

They’re here now. Can you see them, those pitiful skeletons, gnashing their jaws? You can run if you like, but you’ll be dead soon whatever you do. The forest takes us all.

We all remain.

Until we are nothing but bones.

And cursed souls.


New Friend
Lydia Prime

As little Melanie burst through the back door, curtains flew and the screen-door slammed shut. Mommy yelled for her to stop, but she was going so fast in her slippery shoes that she skidded halfway across the room. She could see her mother eyeing the mud on her new lace dress. With hands on hips, and a scowl on her face, Mommy’s pinched lips said everything her mouth didn’t need to.

Melanie started to protest before Mommy could speak, but one quick snap of the towel she always wore over her shoulder was enough to silence the child. As mother’s hand reached out for what Melanie was hiding behind her back, a pot lid rattled on the stove. Mommy turned thinking it was boiling over, but it wasn’t. Melanie took a step backwards.

Focused on her daughter once again, mother reached out and gestured, but Melanie didn’t want to hand over her prize, it had told her not to.

As Mommy took a step forward, she heard something rattle in the ‘fridge. Melanie was slowly sliding backwards into the hallway as she watched her mother open the icebox. The eggs were tipped and fell to the floor with a smash! Mommy bent down to clean the mess, and when she did, the large, glass milk bottle began to jiggle.

Melanie quickly turned and brought her new friend up to her face, panic flashed in her eyes. The chuckle that ran through her sent a shiver down her spine.

Watch, the voice slithered through her mind.

Melanie turned as the heavy jug crashed into Mommy’s skull and split it in two. Now put me in the puddle to feed, the bones intoned. With little choice, Melanie did as she was told. She was, after all, a good girl.


Mask
RJ Meldrum

Cody heard the truck. Pop was back from hunting. He parked in front of the house. Pop had been successful. A buck. Pop climbed down.

“I want this dressed. Skull needs to be bleached, I want it in my trophy room.”

That was where he kept his skulls and stuffed heads.

“I was gonna go swimming.”

His father’s face went dark. He grabbed the scruff of Cody’s shirt.

“I didn’t raise no pansy, I raised a man, one who can see to his own meat.”

“Yes, pa.”

“Now, get working, while I grab a beer.”

Cody went to the back of the truck to see a bloodstained deer on the truck bed. He got to work.

It took hours. His hatred for his father grew. Every day he was forced to ‘man up’. Forced to play sports he hated, crushed by boys twice his size. Forced to shoot helpless animals. Forced to cut them open, cleave their flesh, rip out their bones for display. He hated it all and he hated his father.

He stared down at the skull, boiling in the huge pot on the outside gas burner. After a couple of hours, he removed it from the water and scraped all the meat off. Cody stared down at the eye sockets. What had this creature felt, just before it died?

He knew what he had to do. He had to avenge the deaths of all the slaughtered creatures. He had to avenge himself.

Later, after sunset, he stood on the threshold of his father’s bedroom. Cody had split the skull in half and reattached the two parts with leather straps. He was wearing it, his face obscured. He was no longer Cody, he was nature. He held Pop’s favorite hunting knife.

The moon emerged. It was time.


What Remains
Mercedes M. Yardley

“Hey. Hey. Marissa.”

She ignored it, ignored the way that it chattered and teased and always called her by the wrong name. She walked past it resolutely, a discarded piece of bone nipping at her heels as she strode by.

“Hey. Melanie. Just pick me up. Take me home. Let’s play together. There are so many different ways to play together.” The animal skull grinned at her. Funny how skulls are always forced to grin. She didn’t believe being dead was as much fun as the living were led to believe.

She pulled her laundry from the line and spun around quickly, avoiding the snapping of the skull’s jaws as it lurched at her feet. She hopped over it and headed home.

“Wait. Wait,” it called after her, and she closed her eyes as she heard it whimper and snarl. It buried itself under the leaves and debris, crafting a safe little home for itself until she passed by again in the morning.


Offering
Mark Steinwachs

The streak of sunlight across the bone makes the situation seem worse. The gods illuminating what I could plainly see. Not a scrap left. I crouch down and take the lower jaw, turning it over, hoping there would be some bit of flesh. Clean. My fingers trace the scratches left in the bone. I shudder and set it down. I lift the upper jaw, not wanting to turn it over. Like the piece before, its clean. The teeth marks in this one etched deeper in bone, its hunger not satiated. I stop myself before throwing the bone across the forest. What good would that do? I did the best I could, and my offering wasn’t good enough. I stand up, remove my shirt, and draw my knife. I slowly run the sharpened blade across my chest, blood oozing.

No animal makes a sound. The wind rustling dried leaves stills. I join nature in stillness, my last moments. Silence. A sharp, hissing breath from behind me followed by searing pain. My last vision is its unholy darkness and razor, white teeth.


Apotheosis
Scarlett R. Algee

Find me, the bones had whispered. Find me. Feed me. Let me protect you.

I’d discovered them by accident last night as I’d crunched through the snow blanketing my backyard: the two damaged halves of a jaw, lying in a cocoon of dead leaves atop the powder. What they were, I didn’t know, except that they were too white and too gleaming: scraped clean.

And that they were exactly what I needed.

Now I lay them, still reverently cradled in my gloves, on my laboratory table, apart from all the other pieces I’ve gathered in the past year. Ribs. Vertebrae. Limbs. Teeth. All of them had whispered to me, little indistinct murmurs, little urges of wanting to be again. None had spoken clear words until I’d found the jaws last night.

Find me. Feed me.

Some sort of intelligence resting in the bones. I shake out the rest of my tools: hammer and chisel and screws, lengths of wire and leather thongs. Enough to bind these shards into something whole, because the urge to be is strong.

Listen, the bleached jaws whisper, and I bend my ear to their words and begin to work. First the bones, then skin, then blood.

Listen, I hear again, and I know that whatever I’m creating this night, it will be enough.


Unburied
Lee Andrew Forman

Soaked in crimson, its feasts had been legendary. Limb from body, head from torso, sinew and organs consumed; yet its appetite never fully sated. Memories that live deep within the remains of a banished soul. Unwritten from scripture, cast from history, forgotten by time; these bare, arid bones wait for the caress of the unsuspecting. A taste of copper-tang that will bring about its awakening.


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Image © Copyright Lee Bachh Photography

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