Saturday, December 15, 2012

Issue #42 -- December 2012

by Eric Beetner

Stevie put a hand on the door, stopped to take a final breath, then pushed his way out of the dusk and into the dark confines of the bar. No one turned around. The jukebox didn't scratch to a halt. No one gave a damn he was there.

He shifted the snubnosed handgun in the pocket of his hoodie and found a seat near the end of the bar closest to the door. The tiny gun rolled loosely in the oversized pocket, and Stevie wished he'd spent the extra for a holster.

As many times as he'd told himself to get it over with – to act fast and not second-guess it – when the bartender approached and asked what he wanted, Stevie wimped out and ordered a beer. While the bartender went to the fridge to get his bottle, Stevie took in the other patrons. Five o'clock on a Saturday and the place was nearly empty. Two guys at the far end of the bar who looked like they came as part of the furniture set. One in a well-worn red cap with a bird logo on it, the other in a threadbare olive drab Army jacket. They sat not talking and sipping their drinks in slow motion. A lone man, young, like Stevie, sat in a booth along the back wall. It was early enough in the day, the waitresses hadn’t come on duty yet.

The bartender set down the beer in front of Stevie and went back to washing glasses to get set for the night crowd. He was a man with greying temples and slight stoop when he walked. He paced the narrow confines behind the bar like an animal at the zoo. 

"What do I owe you?" Stevie asked.

"You can settle up when you're done," the bartender said.

"I'm just having the one."

"Four fifty, then."

Stevie put a five down on the bar and thought how stupid it was. He'd come in to take money, not give it away. The bartender let it sit, in no rush to go through the motions of drying his hands again to collect the bill.

“Fuckin' highway robbery,” said the man in the army jacket. “I remember when a beer was fifty cents. And they served it to you in a goddamn glass.”

“Yeah, Clyde,” the bartender said. “And I remember when a good hand job in Times Square would cost you five bucks and ten would get you a blow. What good does that do us nowadays?”

“I’m just sayin' to the young man, Roy. It wasn't always like this.”

“Yeah, well, things are tough all over.” Roy continued to wash his glasses. Stevie got the feeling he’d witnessed a typical exchange between the old timers. Probably the sort that happened ten times a night.

Stevie put the bottle to his lips too fast and foam spurted out the top and down his chin. He sputtered and reached for a stack of small square napkins, cleaning up his spot at the bar quick and with nervous, shaking hands, like a kid about to get belt-whipped for making a mess.

He wadded up the pile of wet napkins and set them next to his beer, then stood and went to the bathroom in the rear of the bar. On his way past, he noticed the young man in the booth had left. Only the bartender and two full-time drunks to contend with. He needed a splash of cold water to get his nerve up. He'd already been there too long. He let his face be seen, made a commotion, talked to the bartender. He brought up a thought already bobbing at the surface since before he walked through the door: Screw it, just go home. Robbery is not for you.

He pushed into the men’s room and went to the sink. He ran cold water, dipped his hands in and slapped the water across his cheeks. He hit himself again, harder.

"You can do this," he said to his reflection.

A stall behind him opened. The young man from the booth stepped out. Stevie saw him in the mirror, then spun around to look at him head-on. As he swiveled, the gun slid out from the pocket of his sweatshirt and clattered into the sink, cold water rushing over it.

The young man looked at the gun, then at Stevie. He reached behind him and pulled out a much larger semiautomatic from the hiding spot in the small of his back.

"You a cop?" the young man asked.

Stevie thrust up his hands in surrender mode. "What? No. Me?"

"Then what the fuck is that?" The young man gestured to the gun in the sink with the barrel of his own gun.

Stevie looked down at the gun and noticed the water soaking it. He reached out and snatched it up from the sink like he was afraid it might drown.

"Easy there," the young man said as he stepped forward to place the barrel of the semi-auto against Stevie's neck.

Stevie froze, the snubnose dripping water in his hand. "Am I under arrest?"

"I ain't no cop."

"Well, then . . . "

The water rushed in the sink, filling the room with white noise. Stevie faced away from the man holding a gun on him, but he could see the young man’s eyes through the mirror, as cold as the steel on the back of his neck. He looked more criminal to Stevie than himself. Black leather jacket in a long 1970s cut, short cropped hair, dark, multiethnic skin. Stevie was just a white punk from the suburbs.

The young man fought some decision. His face twisted with the choice. Finally, he spoke. "I came in here to rob the place, alright?"

"So did I," Stevie said.

The young man looked at Stevie, searching for the lie. Stevie lifted the gun in his hand slightly to indicate his own intentions.

The young man reached over Stevie and slammed a palm down on the faucet, cutting off the water and sealing the men’s room in near silence. Only the muffled through-the-wall sounds of a Neil Young song could be heard.

"You did, huh?"

"Yeah," Stevie said.

"Well, what the fuck do we do now?"

"You ever do this before?" 

"Rob a joint same time as someone else? Fuck, no."

"I mean rob any place, ever."

The man tilted his head at Stevie, still trying to figure if he was full of shit. He kept the gun pressed tight to the back of his neck.

"You mean you never did?"

"First time." Stevie smiled, weakly.

"Fuuuuuuuck." The young man took the gun down, ran a hand through his hair.

"I’m Stevie."

The young man gave a look that made Stevie feel like the amateur he was. "Travis."

"So what do we do, Travis?"

"First, you dry off that fucking gun. Then we go out there and do this thing. We split halvsies."

Stevie nodded and waved his hand in front of the automatic towel dispenser. A length of rough towel came out and he tore it off, wiping down the outside of the gun with it.

"How do we do it?" Stevie asked.

"We go out there, guns drawn, and get the money. Simple as that. Grizzled old guy like that, he's been through this before way many more times than we have. He won't want any trouble. He'll make his money back, and then some, by closing time tonight."

"Did you think of what you're gonna say?" Stevie had a whole list of options to choose from. 

"I don't fucking know. Give me the money, I guess."

"No 'this is a stickup' or 'this is a robbery'?"

"That should be pretty obvious."

"Yeah, yeah. I guess you're right."

"Okay, you ready to do this thing?"

"I guess so."

Travis stepped up and put his gun over Stevie's heart. "You fuck this up for me, and I shoot you. Get it?"

Stevie nodded.

Travis went out first. Behind him, Stevie got caught up in the moment and blurted out, "This is a stickup!"

Both men skidded to a halt when they saw the bartender, Roy, staring back at them with a sawed off shotgun aiming both barrels at their chests.

"What took you boys so long?"

"I told you," said one of the two long-term drunks. "They were sucking each other's dicks." Both men at the end of the bar had turned spectators with the best seats in the house. Each man held their drinks in shaky, over-calloused hands.

"Drop those guns, boys," Roy said.

Travis muttered, "Motherfucker," as he dropped his semi-auto to the wooden floor. Stevie bent down and placed his gently on the floor.

"Kick 'em over," Roy said, waving the sawed off toward the two old men.

Travis and Stevie kicked their guns toward the end of the bar and the two old men leapt off their stools and snatched up the guns before they stopped sliding.

"Mine's wet," said the man in the sweat-stained Cardinals hat.

"Don't matter, Chip," the bartender said. "We don't plan on using them."

"Says who?"

Clyde, who picked up the semi-auto, turned the gun on Roy.

"What the fuck, Clyde? Are you serious?"

"Damn right I'm serious. Open the register."

Stevie tried to catch Travis' eye to get a clue how to handle the situation. Travis was transfixed by the scene playing out before him.

"God dammit, Clyde."

"Just do it, now."

Roy turned his body and aimed the shotgun at his best customer. 

"Don't get funny now, Roy. I was in Nam."

Clyde extended his arm, the gun shaking at the end of it. He may have known how to shoot a gun once, but those days were drowned at the bottom of a thousand bottles of beer.

Chip swung the snubnose up and put it against Clyde's temple. "You lost your goddamn mind." He pulled the trigger, but heard only the wet slap of a misfire.

Clyde pivoted awkwardly and blasted his stool mate in the chest. Chip flung his arms out wildly as he fell back, the snubnose discharging as he flailed and Stevie's beer bottle clear down the bar exploded, soaking his five dollar bill in beer suds.

Roy blasted both barrels into Clyde, who took the shot in his back. The olive drab of his jacket dappled in red as the shot pellets dug in. He spun on his way down and let three quick shots go. The mirror behind the bar exploded and a flash of red spit out from the top of Roy's head.

Travis bolted for the door like he'd just made an interception. Stevie stayed glued to his spot.

Clyde fell back and landed on top of Chip. Roy disappeared in a heap behind the bar.

Stevie stood still as the falling glass sounds tapered off and were replaced by the end of the Neil Young song. Bob Seeger was next up, singing about night moves as if nothing had happened.

Stevie waited for more shooting, for the cops to come bursting through the door, for God to send a lightning bolt down through the roof. When nothing happened, he stepped forward, peeled the soaking wet five-dollar bill off the bar, and went to the door. Stevie put a hand on the door and paused. The cash register was right there, unattended. He'd have to step over Roy's head-shot body to get to it, but the contents of that tray are what he came in there for.

He felt the wet bill in his hand. He thought to himself, technically, I never paid for that beer. That's stealing. Probably good to start out small.

Stevie pushed through the door, leaving the dark confines of the bar and moving out into the dusk.

Eric Beetner is the author of Dig Two Graves, Split Decision, A Mouth Full of Blood and co-author with JB Kohl of One Too Many Blows To The Head and Borrowed Trouble. His award-winning short stories have appeared in the anthologies Pulp Ink, D*cked, Grimm Tales, Discount Noir, Off The Record, Murder In The Wind and The Million Writers Award: Best new online Voices. For more info, free stories and random thoughts visit

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Issue #41 -- December, 2012

By Matthew C. Funk

It wasn’t until Carson aimed the gun at the girl’s face that Ron began to panic.
“If I need to tell you one more time, gas man,” Carson’s white-rimmed lips sped, “I’ll send her brains into your fucking Beer Cave.”
 Ron quit inching toward the alarm under the counter. He quit breathing. His mind choked on the idea of a world where such a thing could happen to the girl.
Not just any girl. Jenny. His Jenny.
“Alright, son.” Ron tried shuffling toward the lockbox. His legs were ice. Just like Jenny’s blue stare, lost in the gun barrel.
“Don’t ‘son’ me, old man! Put your safe’s cash in my hand!” Carson thumbed the Colt’s hammer.
None of this was alright.
Hold-ups did not happen in the universe of Ron’s Cotham Mercantile. Boys like Carson went on to jobs as tobacco field foremen, not meth-starved felons. And girls like Jenny were heaven on Earth.
Nobody should be able to hurt heaven.
A glance at Jenny’s face showed Ron she was more than hurting. She was shaking like she’d been stitched out of insects.
That got Ron moving. He had to make it better, soon as he could.
“There’s a good boy.” Carson sneered. He stepped closer to Jenny. Ron shook his head.
“Just don’t.”
“I will.”

Ron couldn’t imagine how anyone could.
“Just please don’t.” Insistence ran out of gas in Ron’s tone. He’d thought he knew Carson.
Ron had sold Carson his first Sports Illustrated—the NFL preview, 2004—and had seen the excitement leaping in the boy’s features. Carson had always dropped spare pennies from his change in the counter dish. Carson had bought packs of energy drinks and never snuck smokes and always paid for what he opened and ate in the store.
“I so fucking will.” Carson brushed a chestnut strand of Jenny’s hair from her temple with the gun barrel.
Ron had known Carson. But not nearly as well as he knew Jenny.
He studied her face, as if he’d not already memorized it: The cherubic softness of her cheeks. The eye makeup, swept sloppy by her inexpert hand. That pink ribbon mouth.
That mouth could make a smile that would crack a Devil’s heart: Full and immaculate, but for one crimped end, like a bow on a present that’d been handled too roughly.
That mouth was a pale line now.
Those lively blue eyes were empty lamps.
Ron’s hands were wrestling with the lockbox before he knew what they were doing.
“Hurry it up,” Carson hissed. His hand slid over Jenny’s neck.
That neck wasn’t meant for fingers like that, nails bitten to a moist saw. It was meant for kisses.
“I am.” And Ron was, for Jenny’s sake he was, but his fingers wouldn’t work the lock.
“No, Ron.” Carson set the barrel in a direct line against Jenny’s brain. “Is that your name? Ron?”
And Jenny flinched. Ron wondered if it was because she knew his name: She used it every time she came in—every time since she was still in a training bra. Always his name and always that little crinkled smile.
“Ron, what you’re doing now is called fucking around.” Carson sneered at his joke. “I’ll give you five to quit it, then I let the air out of her head.”
Ron’s face set serious. His fingers firmed. They turned the combination on the lock.
Jenny’s head wasn’t full of air, Ron wanted to yell. It was full of talk of angels in the clouds and faeries in the trees. It wondered aloud about rock concerts and big cities. It was a font of wonder.
Ron would have given all he had to know what else was in that head—to hold her one evening and just listen.
“There’s a good man.” Carson nodded. His Colt only dented deeper in Jenny.
She wasn’t making a sound now.
Ron coughed out a frustrated breath.
“Just ease off her.”
“Just fuck yourself.”
Jenny was quiet as a work of glass.
There was a lot she hid, Ron knew. Jenny needed listening.

She needed holding. Tending.

Her jeans were always tattered. Ron had given her patches for them, but still they found places to split. Her jewelry’s random scheme spoke of discount binges at the Flea Market. Jenny always paid with change.

And Jenny sometimes had bruises—peeking through her jeans’ gaps, glowing just below the long sleeves she always wore.

Jenny wanted for much and needed more.

Right now, she needed saving. Ron popped the safe, waved the wad of cash.

“Right here, son.”

“What did I say about the ‘son’ shit?” Carson jabbed Jenny’s head to a sharp angle.

She still made no sound. Ron looked for pain on her face. It was blank.

He saw her hand skirting for a beer bottle set in the cooler door.

Ron waved the cash again. “Here! Here it is. Take it.”

“You come and give it.”


“Quit playing!”

“Here, Carson!”

Matches struck behind Carson’s glare. His jaw shoved as if to take the blow of his name on the chin. The Colt’s aim took Ron.

Ron smiled. Jenny was safe.

Not safe from her bruises’ source. Not safe from having to forage for good things. Not safe from whatever made those blue eyes shine so bright, but safe for now.

“You know me?” Carson shook his head. “Not fucking smart, Ron.”

Jenny snatched the bottle and whipped it into Carson’s head in a single motion. 

Carson fell. Jenny went down atop him. Her lithe little form hunkered, chest heaving.

Ron dashed around the counter. Jenny was pulling a knife from Carson’s belt.

“Quick, Ron!” Jenny’s voice was wind chimes in a summer storm. “Quick!”

“It’s alright now, Jenny,” Ron ran down the aisle, desperate to see relief welling in the eyes Jenny’s mane of brown hair screened.

“It will be.” Jenny flipped open the knife.

She lanced its point into Carson’s neck. Metal separated muscle, jerky with Jenny’s fevered sawing. A ragged gap opened. Blood fled, sputtered, shot wild on the aisle stacks.

“Jenny.” Ron called her. Even at four feet distant, she seemed a world away.

“Got to finish him off! He’ll come back, like in the movies! They always come back.” 

Carson bucked, fought, settled. Jenny’s slicing clacked the linoleum.

The eyes Jenny locked on Ron had never seemed so full of brightness. Her face was calm again. Her voice was just crystal and breeze.

“Okay,” Jenny said as Ron squatted beside her. “Help me pull his head off. Then we can be sure.”

“Jenny,” Ron’s arms reached to do what they’d always hungered for—to hold her. They couldn’t. They could no more embrace her than they could molten metal.


“Jenny, you’re out of control.”

Jenny stared. Ron searched it. They were the same eyes as ever.

“Me?” Jenny beamed with crimped lips. “I’ve never felt more in control.”

The smile fled.

“You’re the one who seems out of control, Ron!” Jenny’s eyes leapt over Ron like fleas. “I see you—I see the way you look at me. I know what that look means!”

“Jenny, no.” Ron trembled out the words.

Jenny snorted. The knife point tented the skin under Ron’s jaw.

“At least my uncle doesn’t lie about what that look means.” Jenny’s tone took on an animal arch. “I don’t like lies.”

“I’m not…”



“You’re totally out of control; you can’t even form a sentence!” Jenny leaned her brow to nearly touch Ron’s. Her breath raked his quaking face. Out came that smile, same as ever, ready to crack any heart. “I know how control works, though.”

Ron didn’t know how anything worked anymore. He could only stare as Jenny whisked his thin hair, gathered, seized with a rude lover’s passion.

“It’s like uncle says: There are rules,” Jenny said. “Some rules you can break. Some rules break you.”

Jenny tugged. Ron nearly spilled back. The blade opened his skin; a blaze of pain to him, not even worth a flinch from Jenny.
“Jenny, I need…” Ron began, almost toppling.

“No.” Her chimes were caked in something rough now: Another voice of motor oil and pig blood and soiled bedsheets. “I’ll tell you what you need, Ron.”

The knife sailed through the skin of his face and blue eyes sunk straight through to the rear bone of his skull.

“You need to give me that cash, Ron,” Jenny grinned. “Then you need to lie face down like a good little girl.”

Ron’s wounds and Jenny’s smile split wider.

“Do it for me,” she said.

Matthew C. Funk is an editor of Needle Magazine, editor of the Genre section of the critically acclaimed zine FictionDaily, and a staff writer for Planet Fury and Criminal Complex. Winner of the 2010 Spinetingler Award for Best Short Story on the Web, Funk has online work indexed on his Web domain and printed work in Pulp Modern, Grift, NeedleSpeedloader, Off the RecordPulp Ink and D*CKED.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Issue #40 -- November, 2012

By Jane Hammons

The sun is high, the morning bright. Robby Six-Killer plays mumbleypeg by the side of the road. He spreads his fingers wide and drops into the V between his pinkie and ring fingers the hunting knife Cherry Elder took from her pa. The handle is heavy and pearly white, the curved blade long. It can't stand upright in the dirt, dry as ash. It used to be that the earth was dark and a little bit wet. When the dust came in black clouds, it killed his mother who coughed a lot anyway because she had TB.

Cherry Elder gave the hunting knife to Robby's brother, Jimmy, because she wanted to marry him. Jimmy already had a knife, so he gave it to Robby. Grandfather says the knife’s too big for a little boy. Jimmy says he’ll grow into it, but Robby knows that if his mother was alive, she'd take that knife away from him. He puts the knife across a fat stick, places the rock near the end of the blade, hits the handle with his small fist, and catapults it across the path that leads to the river. It clunks against the wheel of Grandfather Six-Killer’s wagon.

Cherry climbs the old dogwood that used to flower before everything dried up and blew away. Everyone is going to California, leaving her behind. She’d tried to get Bill Rivers to stay. She opened wide for him. More than once. And she’d tried to trap Jimmy Six-Killer, too. Rivers would have been the best name. Six-Killer would’ve done. Jimmy Six-Killer isn't smart but he isn't dumb either. He took the knife. She hasn't seen him since. That's how it goes. Cherry gives. They take.

Her pa took her fishing in the Neosho. Fishing is what he called it. But they never came back with a fish.

Did her ma ask why? No, she did not. So the little wad of sin growing inside Cherry is going to come out a sister-daughter or a brother-son.

Her pa said he couldn’t help what he done. Cherry hasn't told anyone, but she couldn't help it either when she got him drunk like she's seen women in the movies do with a man. Then she took that knife, cut a big smile in his gut, and rolled him down the riverbank. Anybody looking for her pa can go drop a line in the Neosho at the place near the bend where it meets the Canadian.


Robby looks down the road that leads to the highway and sees another truckload of white folks. The third one today. They get closer and he recognizes Norrie Road’s wild hair that sprouts red in all directions. Grandfather looks up from the back of the wagon where he has been icing the trout they caught and walks around to the front of it. He rakes his fingers through the thinning mane of Worship, the old chestnut who whinnies as the truck draws near. Grandfather used to be a blacksmith and likes a horse better than a car. "Good riddance," he says to the loaded-down, beat-up truck as it rattles by.

"Lazy redskins." Mr. Road grunts. "Got nothing to do 'cept fish and wait for a government check. 'Croppers like us got to go, but the 'skins got their allotments. They get to stay." He squirms in his seat. The upholstery is worn, the wire coils hard on his bones. "Ain't right."

"Looks to me like Mr. Six-Killer’s got a good catch," Norrie says. "He sells fish to the diner over in Porum. Once me and Robby gutted 'em for the cook. Got a nickel and a soda each." Up until this moment, Norrie's been ready to go to the place where oranges hang like gold from trees and tight heads of lettuce big as basketballs line the fields. But when she sees her friend Robby at the side of the road, she gets a pain in her chest and needs to say goodbye.

"I’m going where the ocean is," Norrie hollers to Robby. When her brother Ben slows down for a rut in the road, she jumps off the back of the truck and runs the short distance to where Robby stands.

"Take this with you." He unclips the sheath from the belt loop on his jeans and slides the knife into it. He holds her chapped hand in his for just a second before he lets go. “You might need a knife where you're going." Robby doesn’t know anything about California, but he believes what he says could be true.

"I'll skin you a shark." Norrie's head is full of dreams. Ben signals her with a honk of the horn. “I’ll bring it home,” she says, her voice suddenly a squeak. Robby’s home isn’t hers. She doesn’t have one anymore, but she means what she says. She turns and runs so Robby can’t see the tears in her eyes. She slips the knife into the deep side pocket of her overalls before she climbs back onto the truck. 

"What business you have with them?" asks Doug, her oldest brother, just out of jail for punching some guy to death.

"No business of yours." Norrie presses the sheath still warm with the morning sun that Robby stood in and takes comfort in its shape against her thigh.

Ma smacks Norrie on the back of the head. "Don't smart off."

"I ain't," Norrie says. Ma doesn't understand anything. And neither does Doug. Self-defense but still he killed a man. Now that he's back, Ma treats him like he's some kind of a saint because he's been gone and because he got old there in the state pen. Too bad they didn't leave yesterday, she thinks. They could've gone to California without him.


Grandfather Six-Killer waits quietly while his grandson watches the little redhead leave. "Time to go," he says when the truck is no longer in sight. He boosts Robby up to the seat of the wagon and gives him the reins.

As they head home, Grandfather tells Robby that the dust is the white folks' fault for stripping the earth bare, rutting it with plows, and killing the bluestem, buffalo, and grama grass. The earth got mad and spit dust back at them.

Robby asks Grandfather Six-Killer how come if the earth was mad at white people, it killed Cherokee and Chickasaw and Choctaw, too.

Grandfather says anger is like a flood. It washes over everything.

Jane Hammons teaches writing at UC Berkeley. She has work included in Hint Fiction: An Anthology of Stories in 25 Words or Fewer (W. W. Norton 2010) and is the recipient of a Derringer Award for Best Flash Story. Her fiction has appeared in A Twist of Noir, Crimespree Magazine, decomP, kill author, Shotgun Honey, and Verbicide Magazine.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Issue #39 -- November, 2012

7 Seconds
By Erin Cole

Pam lived a sheltered life, like most of us, ferrets in the cage of a civilized society. She thought life was about work, about the mundane responsibilities of buying milk, taking her car to the repair shop, and recycling. It was about trying to lose weight and lower her cholesterol, about watching Walking Dead, babysitting her niece, and trying to get that promotion that kept falling through her hands like wet noodles. But seven seconds can change just about everything, especially when they are occurring at the speed of fucking terror. 

For Pam, one second proved to be the difference between normalcy and hell. It intruded into her mundane world much like a stick in the ribs when her ex-coworker, Stan, the one who was fired last week, the one who was rude to customers and surfed porn on his computer, walked into the office with a semi-automatic gun. 

Though it seemed obvious to say, Pam didn’t realize then that life was actually about staying alive. It was about keeping your guts inside your skin, ducking your brain matter from the drill of zipping bullets, and biting down on your screams when a friend split open in front of you. Life, as Pam would soon learn, was sometimes, simply, about not dying.

The First Second

The blast from Stan’s gun cut into Pam’s ears as though it were actually shards of glass. She had heard gunfire on the television, in the theater, even music, but never in real life, never standing just ten coffee-break paces away. 

Deafening didn’t describe it. She likened it to the arms of a giant, snatching her by the shoulders and shaking her person from its bones. It reached a hand into her throat and pulled out a voice she didn’t recognize—that of a cowering, sniffling child she thought she had lost long ago. 

The Second Second

Pam didn’t dive to the floor, that instinct to escape danger. Instead, fear raped her of muscle and shoved her down on her knees, kicked her in the gut, and spat on her head. That is how she would describe it later—fear, the goddamn bully that rammed her face in the Berber carpet and made fun of her undies showing, the thin, faded stained ones she didn’t want anyone to see. 

Fear had reduced her to a crawling thing, a blubbering shell of pathetic weakness. In complete mercy to a prick who knew of no mercy. A prick who walked out last week shouting, “Fuck you!” He had pointed at her and others, “And fuck you! And you! And you!  Fuck you all!” He slammed through the front doors—Thank God he’s gone, everyone had agreed.

But Stan wasn’t gone…not in that sense. Stan was just getting started.  He bought more bullets, listened to Eminem, Tool, and Ozzy Osborne, dressed himself in ammo and black leather, and made promises to people he hated in the mirror. Stan was gelling a new mold for himself, birthing the monster he always knew he was. But this didn’t occur out of coercion; it came forth willingly, almost pleadingly, and he petted it. 

Third Second

You are going to die! Pam’s thoughts bawled. She cranked her head to the side as a body flew past her. Not one running or diving to the floor. This one, his name was Tim Reynolds (he was their accountant), soared through midair with a shower of bright, red, chunky blood spraying from the back of his head. Blood that looked more like pureed mushroom marinara. He landed with limbs splayed limp, as though asleep. Slumped by the deformities of death. He’s dead! Stan killed Tim! Tim is dead! More bawling thoughts, all crammed into her head like bees in a hive.

Fourth Second

Shock is a rapid occurrence in susceptible minds, those who are already vulnerable to the voices of the dark, those who don’t carefully plan for the future or analyze the past, but for someone like Pam, it just didn’t happen. It belonged in Wall Street executives, parents of twins, church-goers learning of born-again atheists, and dim-witted sluts in horror movies—not in Pam, not when she was at work, going about her day filing monthly reports. 

But, shock did break Pam, broke her into several unrecognizable parts: there was Scared Pam, I’m So Fucking Stupid I Didn’t See This Coming Pam, Still Single Pam, I’m Going to Key Stan’s Fucking Car Pam, and Tormented Frail Pam. These parts of her self were strangers, and she hated them all. Angry Pam would have been her next self had she not seen a sharp shadow descend over her. The shadow of Bad Stan, with his big, fancy, black automatic gun. Stan who liked plump tits and asses to go with them, Stan who always parked crooked, stole food from the fridge, never returned customer phone calls, and hoarded all the office supplies. Yeah, that Stan—Piece of Fucking Shit Stan with a Loaded Fucking Gun Stan.

Fifth Second

Stan’s shadow might as well have been the devil. He towered over Pam with searing hate in his eyes. She realized then that she didn’t really know Stan and never had. But he didn’t know her either; otherwise, he wouldn’t be pointing his devil-gun at her. People made fun of her too—still, she wasn’t about to go out and purchase a pawn shop gun and shoot their brains out for it. She wanted to tell him that, shove it down his throat until he gagged for pity. People are mean and that’s just a part of life. But here she was, living that fucking part of life. The last of the ink to her story: Homely Woman Shot Dead Before She Could Make Something of Herself

At that moment, Pam wanted to be evil like Stan. His gaze had infected her, and she spat at him with the fiery, nasty hate of a demon child.  

Sixth Second

Stan smiled—maybe he liked her now, now that she had proved to him that she could be vile too. But no, of course not. Life was never effortless like that; it was a merciless, cutthroat motherfucker like Stan, Selfish Stan, The Only Evil Allowed in the World Stan, and he raised his gun and pointed it at her face, his finger curling over the trigger. 

Pam’s body flinched under the pressure of impending death. A blast cracked through the air, further puncturing the tender drums of her ears with invisible splinters of glass. She anticipated the burn of a bullet nailing her to the floor in a pool of ache. But what she realized next melted over her—gooey, chocolate icing on warm brownies or the heat of stepping into a hot tub with a cute guy. It was Stan, sinking to the floor with a blood-soaked hole in the middle of his forehead. Evil Stan, Selfish Stan, Perverted Piece of Shit Stan with his Big Fancy Black Gun Stan. Dead Stan.

Seventh Second

Pam stood, dumbfounded beneath the yellowing corkboard ceiling of the Metroplex Plaza, and took in the architectural revulsion around her: the moaning survivors aghast with horror, the unlucky chosen stilled by the unthinkable, and the lunatic who had orchestrated it all, his expression softer in death than it had ever been in life. There was only one Pam now, I Am Alive Pam. 

One Hour A.S. (After. Stan.)

There were many questions, several police, lots of spinning, red, white lights, most of it just a robotic blur of ‘yes,’ ‘no,’ ‘I don’t know,’ ‘maybe.’ After a long, draining hour, I’m Still Alive Pam walked out of the Metroplex Plaza. A cruel, white-cold sun tucked itself behind the pines. She spotted more police surrounding Dead Stan’s car, which had been parked directly in front of her rental. They stepped away carrying boxes of his things.  Probably more ammunition and some pathetic note about how sorry or how not sorry he was and blah, blah, blah. 

A ring hummed in her purse. She pulled out her phone (the repair shop) and answered.

“Hello?” It still wasn’t her voice.

“It’s Strifer’s Auto Shop, just letting you know that your car is ready.”


He paused on the line, maybe thinking she had simply forgotten about her car, which she had, but it wasn’t for simple reasons. It was because she had blood speckled over her hands and face, blood that didn’t belong to her, dark, red evil blood that shriveled up dry against her skin. It was because she had images, fresh, hot memories and feelings that squirmed in her head and gut in a slimy, scaly life of its own. 

“We’ll be open until 9 p.m.”

“’Kay.” She hung up. 

Life was mundane again. Mundane and tinted with fuckedupness. 

The police were still sifting through Dead Stan’s things. Pam had to walk by his car to get to hers. Gripping the long rental key in her fingers, she ran the tip down the length of Dead Stan’s car as she passed by, starting at the gas tank and stopping at the hood. It grated under her fingers and screeched a quiet bird’s tune in her ear. Her numbness ebbed slightly. Revengeful, Devious Pam smiled to herself, thinking how pissed Alive Stan would have been.

Erin Cole is a dark fiction writer, often lured by the curling fingers of crime and horror, though she manages to ‘blend in.’ She has work published and forthcoming in publications such as, Shotgun Honey, MicroHorror, Pulp Metal Magazine, and Every Day Fiction.  She is the author of the mystery novel, Grave Echoes, and the horror anthology collection, Of the Night.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Issue #38 -- October, 2012


Love is the most dangerous force on the planet, not hate.

More atrocious acts are perpetrated in its name than in the name of all the other gods that govern human behavior.

Jealousy corrodes.

Envy eats away at a man’s soul.

Hate makes men violent.

But love corrupts outwards from a wound. It may do so entirely.

The erosion is both silent and inevitable.

It is the stealth flower with seductive scent that kills.

For in its hallway of mirrors lie the thousand images of yourself you burned and burn to be and those who know how to caress those silent places steal in there and lie drinking the fresh blood from your soul.

For in all the songs that ooze from your radio, and all the depictions of love in all its forms, there is no common ground.

You enter the quicksand.


And so it was that Eduardo Silvestrone entered the newly adorned kitchen of his $5 million house and shot his wife and her sister through the head at point blank.

His hand did not tremble as he held the Glock, nor did he shake when he inspected them for a pulse.

He had spent everything on adorning his immaculate home which was admired by everyone. But no one knew him.

He had been shaking for a week before the incident, a fact observed by his employees at the car plant he owned and had started working at years ago before he acquired it to support a wife thought by many to be a mercenary whore.

He had been shaking that morning when he got up, opened a bottle of Tequila, poured it down the sink, and cursed everyone he could name in the short breath that held the oxygen in his lungs before he vomited bile at the cheap hotel where he had been hiding before he carried out what he later referred as Apocalypse One.

Apocalypse Two could wait.

Eduardo had waited long enough.

Waited wanting death.

Waited while his wife lied.

While she shopped and taunted him.

While he worked.

And watched.

And learned that love was a bruise that became infected.

And if the infection was a lie then the lie needed to be eliminated.

But what if the lie was embedded in his heart with silk knots?

Eduardo decided the name of love was not worth the parchment it was first written on and that humanity was a whore with a tattooed conscience that sold its soul for narcissism and flowers.

For the first time in years he considered himself.

He weighed himself up in all his propensities as he had been weighed up.

He had small brown eyes that lit up when he felt hope.

He had scars on his back from where his mother used to beat him.

Sometimes she would burn her cigarettes into his skin while her lovers watched and they would fuck in front of him as child.

That was before they broke his bones so badly in different places that he was taken to the home.

His mother would entertain different men at weekends after his father left them.

He didn’t remember him, just a face and a voice that he had no connection to. He wanted a father and would imagine him, drawing clear lines that etched a face into the darkness. But  they faded again and again until he gave up his childish doodling, knowing it was the indulgence of hopelessness. He was orphaned by men and was lost within the silent perplexity of his own gender and had no one to lean on. Eduardo hated Sundays.

They were worse at the home where he was treated with the dumb indifference reserved for animals by carers with not even the satisfaction of a decent salary.

He would often get a taste in his mouth that he thought was the memory of some exotic fruit he had eaten as a boy.

And he would try to identify the tang of it, but all he could remember were his mother’s beatings and hiding in the dark with a face so sticky with tears he wondered if his body had lost all its salt.

There was no fruit served at the table of the home, and he longed for the exotic taste to connect him to who he was. Even on the weekends the food was always tinned and cold.

And so it was he gave up on the thought of nourishment. And hated Sundays.

Until he met Mariella.

It was, he said, an epiphany.

He was walking in the park where the summer flowers were dying and he saw her in a lavender jacket.

And in that colour there seemed more life and vibrancy than any petal.

But it was her perfume that caught him.

Exotic and full of promise.

She seemed to reside in its smell, as if it was the signature of her being.

He did not even feel the small and slender hook pierce his skin.

She turned to look at him and in that instant that stretched to some infinity of knowledge and the sum of all he was. He felt trust for the first time.

And he could not name it nor his profound need for solace and so he fell into her trap.

She asked him for directions to a place he knew and in that knowledge he felt important and assured and he suggested a drink.

They sipped cool absinthe while the sun died and he held her in his shaking heart like a bird he had caught by the sea.

They conducted an old-fashioned courtship during which he would often enjoy Mariella’s smiles.

He later learned these were the glances of contempt.

He asked her to marry him.

And so began the only happiness he had ever known.

And it existed only by virtue of the fact that she was deluding him. For she had learned her ways at the hand of such a deep addiction to betrayal that she spun lies from a handheld loom.

She would often lick her lips, running a perfect tongue along their spotless contours, a gesture Eduardo thought seductive.

In time he understood it was nothing more than the anticipation of the pain she would inflict.

And Eduardo loved her deeply and Mariella used him and sank her hungry teeth into this soul.

They bought a house and soon Eduardo’s hard work benefited them enough for his avaricious wife to be fulfilled. They upgraded while he took on extra hours and she abused a series of lovers who she enjoyed humiliating at destinations from which she could never be traced to her home address.

Eduardo brought up two children who he loved dearly.

Everyone commented on what a loving father he was.

He seemed equipped with a deep ability to love them. Not for what he wanted from them but for who they were, as if he had intact within him a reservoir of giving he had never received.

Their real fathers never knew of their existence.

Mariella told her sister, the morning she died so unceremoniously, ‘Men do what I want. I always exploit a situation to its maximum.’

Her sister hated her but used her for her own means, listening to Mariella’s endless ostentation of her vices.

She was Mariella’s only confidante and never saw the gun coming.

Eduardo found out his wife’s poison by returning home early one day with a bunch of roses and hearing her talk to her lover on the phone.

He looked at the petals in his hand and he felt small and obvious and he realized there was nothing exotic in the flowers he bought and that he would only ever be an ordinary victim who was of no interest or use to anyone.

He hired a detective who found out the sordid details and handed him pictures of his wife in various compromising poses that showed Eduardo a side to her he had never seen, and he vowed to kill her there and then.

DNA tests proved he had been fathering the children of other men and that is what hurt him the most deeply.

He bought the Glock from a store on the way home from work one day.

He walked in through the back door, startled his wife and blew her brains two meters out of her open skull onto the new wallpaper.

Her sister’s open mouth reminded him of a cunt, and he opened her head like a rotten piece of meat.

Then he poured himself a beer.

He did not consider crying.

He did not even look at her prone body as she lay there and he stepped over her lifeless corpse and drove away into a deep blue skyline.

He thought about love, about its strange machinations.

He thought that it was a lie invented to manipulate and enslave and he decided to implement the second stage.

His children had to die.

They were staying with friends, which he had arranged as he planned this out.

He collected them without looking at them and drove them to the hotel where he had booked a room, and he ignored their questions about what was wrong with him.

But when he got to the hotel he looked at them and he felt love and knew he could not do it.

That was when he despised himself the most.

He thought of his father.

He tried to remember the distant smell he had once associated with him but it was like a faded dream.

As he sipped some beer the tang from his childhood filled his mouth and he knew what it was he used to taste. It was not exotic, it was the seepage of his childhood wounds dying in his throat.

He had been haunted by the familiar memory of pain all these years. And he had mistaken it for nourishment.

And Eduardo held his children in his arms knowing that they were not his and that ownership was the scorpion in a man’s soul and he walked into the bathroom where he shot himself in the head.

The last thing he heard as he lay there tasting blood was a love song on the radio.

One of his children had put it on and he tried to follow the words, but they were distant and he listened to his dying hart fade, knowing it had already died. 

Richard Godwin is the author of crime novels Mr. Glamour and Apostle Rising and is a widely published crime and horror writer. Mr. Glamour is his second novel and was published in paperback in April 2012. It is available online at Amazon and at all good retailers. Mr.Glamour is Hannibal Lecter in Gucci. The novel is about a glamorous world obsessed with designer labels with a predator in its midst and has received great reviews.  Apostle Rising, in which a serial killer crucifies politicians, is available here.
It is also available for the first time in e-book with some juicy extras, an excerpt from Mr. Glamour and four deliciously dark noir stories, like the finest handmade chocolate.