Darkness Within Ezine

New Short Stories

Mother’s Day

By: Carole Gill

He wanted everything to be perfect. Breakfast in bed with flowers, no newspaper though, Ma hated the news. She said it was depressing. “They just have the worst stories there, in print, so’s people can read them and enjoy all the suffering that’s there! That’s what folks are like. That’s what the world’s like, son best you know now!” He was certain she was right. After all, she was right about most things, clever woman, especially discerning about him. Truth be told, she was harsh sometimes. That is, she could be if her mind was set that way. Her life had been a hard one, so had Pa’s and Pa took it out on her. Smacked her around sometimes when he staggered in drunk on cheap liquor (all he could afford) and smelling of cheap perfume. How she’d glare at him.

“Best go up to your room now, boys.”

He took that as the plea it really was. She didn’t want them to see the beating. Still, Eddie and his brother knew it was better for her…they were only kids, after all, better for them not to see the beating and the punches. The thing was they could hear it.

She never shouted. Hank said she didn’t because she knew it would give their father pleasure if she did. It was just as bad hearing the clouts and things breaking. The sound of china and glass thrown against the wall, hurled at her no doubt.

Sometimes she’d rush outside, but he’d drag her back, and when that happened, it would get worse.

There was something else he knew. His brother wouldn’t discuss it with him, but he didn’t have to. He knew anyway. He heard the mattress springs going a mile a minute even after the beatings. Their room was next to the boys room. Imagine! After an alcohol fueled thrashing he’d take her by force!

Eddie wanted to stop it. Covering his ears was stupid and weak and disrespectful to Ma. But he did it anyway.

“Please, Hank! We gotta go in there.”

His brother refused. “It would be worse for her and for us!”

Maybe.

The mornings that followed were horrible. She’d try not to show her face, but it was impossible not to. He’d see it. His brother used to go out early before she was up to avoid seeing what a bruised and swollen mess she was. Her face, split lip and one closed eye.

“You’re lucky I don’t close ‘em both!”

How many times had he heard that!

Ma was quiet afterwards. She didn’t talk to anyone. She always looked tired, never more so, and her appetite was off. Both he and his brother tried to get her to eat, but with little success. They were young but they knew how badly she was suffering, especially Eddie. She confided in him but not his brother.

“Your pa must have some fancy woman. Women are evil creatures, boy. Don’t you forget that!”

He swore he wouldn’t.

He’d pray for things to get better, but they got worse, Pa began coming home later and later, too late for dinner. When he first did this, he’d stare at his wife egging her on to say the wrong thing. It was obvious to both boys that he wanted her to ask where he had been just so he could tell her in excruciating detail. She sensed it, it was obvious: furtive looks, eyes cast down and her hands shaking as she heard his taunts.

There was so much hatred in the house it was like electric sparks ran through the place. It got so bad Pa wasn’t even coming home for supper after a while.

Ma had had it. One night, she said she was going out.

“You just wait here son. I’m taking the truck.”

The old pickup, a piece of rusty old shit. Eddie wanted to go along. However, she wouldn’t let him. When Ma gave you one of her looks, you obeyed. The thing was he did follow her on foot. Hank said he was nuts. “Don’t stick your nose in. It’ll be worse!”

Eddie waved him off and rushed out. He ran mostly, except for when he had to get his breath. Luckily, the truck was in bad shape. He knew it would take long for her to get there because it couldn’t do more than 35 since the roads were shit.

He caught sight of her at last near Clancy’s Cafe. Clancy changed the name and added the back room when prohibition came in.

Everyone knew they had whores there. Clancy, a devout Roman Catholic had his wife leave him over that. Folks said she had taken their four kids and headed out to Kansas somewhere, where her people were.

After that, Clancy carried on, in fact, he had more whores than he had before. Business was booming as they say.

Surprisingly Ma had walked past there and turned into a dead end. Eddie followed her into an alley. It was then that he saw them. Some half-naked woman with his father who was screwing the whore right there. He saw him pummeling her against the brick wall. She was laughing and moaning.

When she cried out, he saw his mother hurry away with her hand over her mouth. The vomit shot right out anyway. He saw it. Poor thing! He wanted to go to her, but he didn’t want her to know he had followed her.

He rushed away when he saw her get into the truck. He hoped he’d make it home first, what with her crying and banging the steering wheel, he felt sure he would.

How he managed to run as fast as he did, he’d never know. He had read somewhere about adrenaline and something called sense of purpose fueling a determined person on.

His father sickened shortly after this. He began complaining of bad stomach cramps. If she was poisoning him, Eddie reasoned, he deserved it. Old bastard that he was.

It was good to see him laid low, in the so-called marital bed with the shades pulled down. Ma was a perfect nurse though, looking concerned and giving him soup and biscuits. Mostly he couldn’t manage getting much down.

The doctor came a couple of times.

“Gastroenteritis.” He said then left. He knew better than to ask for payment. That was because Eddie always gave him fresh eggs as recompense. He was nice for a doctor, not at all uppity.

If Ma hadn’t expected Pa to recover, she was in for a nasty shock ‘cause he did. The boys were surprised Pa was less of a bastard then. There were no beatings or going off to town. He was quiet and there were no more fights.

Ma seemed to get even more religious then. She was always a devout woman, but now she wouldn’t shut up about the bible and how evil and corrupt people were. Loose and fallen women were her favorite targets.

She’d read from Revelations and scare the shit out of Eddie, Hank just sat there, pretending to listen. He warned his kid brother to take it all with a grain of salt.

Eddie said he was, but Hank just shook his head. His brother knew him too well.

Once Eddie was looking through a movie magazine, he had smuggled in. Ginger Rogers was on the cover. Ma saw it and tore it out of his hands, and began ripping out the pages, page-by-page, shouting:

“Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry!”

He started to shake. Ma didn’t see it because she had stormed out of the room. His brother just laughed about it. He said it was best she got it out of her system.

“Besides,” he added, “I’m going to work on the railroad. There’s a position for a laborer up in Chicago and I already got the job. I leave Friday.”

Eddie pleaded with him to stay. He had his differences, what brothers didn’t? However, no amount of pleading helped. He didn’t like being alone with Ma, not that he didn’t worship the ground she walked on sort of thing, he did. But he found her too domineering and loud sometimes, and the bible readings were getting on his nerves.

Not that she just read them to him, she didn’t. She read them to Pa as well.

Pa told her to fuck off when she first started to do it. Yes, some of his old personality was returning, but things were different. Now she just laughed when he said things like that and told him how he’d burn in the Lake of Fire.

His brother returned, only to go away to work again. But his pay came in handy.

Eddie finally fell out with his brother when he caught him with a girl. Some little floozy from town he picked up and screwed in the pickup. He saw them doing it. He was fascinated what with the girl’s legs spread and his brother’s butt cheeks shaking.

Eddie was aroused. He had been before. There were magazines and French postcards his mother never found, his secret stash. But this was different.

His brother turned around and the girl started to laugh. “Want to join in?” she asked.

He didn’t say a word, well he couldn’t because his brother clouted him one.

“Don’t you ever let me catch you, again!”

Pow! He gave him a black eye. Eddie didn’t want his mother to see. But she did.

“What happened, boy?”

He fell.

He saw she didn’t buy it. But at least she didn’t press him. He was grateful for that. As for Hank, he just laughed at him. “You’re just lucky that’s all you got!”

Hank moved out after that. He’d come home to work on the farm, but he lived in town. His mother didn’t approve. Pa didn’t care because he was out of it most of the time.

Pa was slipping. They were losing him. His mother told him that. “You’re the only one I can count on, boy. You are my jewel. My treasure. I’d just die without you!”

His heart sank. Dead! She couldn’t ever die! He’d go crazy. No! He’d kill himself. No doubt about it. He couldn’t live without Ma!

She seemed to realize how upset she had made him so she tried to calm him down.

“Tain’t nothing to be sorry about. Every one’s got their time, Eddie. Let’s just work hard and see what we can do for Pa.”

Early spring it was when they woke up to some awful screeches. Those cramps again. Pa was yelling. His skin was grey and he smelled of liquor.

“You wasn’t drinkin’ was you Pa?”

Ma’s voice sounded calm considering the scene. He shook his head and gave her a twisted smile. “No, I wasn’t. You know I wasn’t.”

She may have known but everyone in town including the doctor didn’t. Acute alcoholism that was the cause. It was written on the death certificate. Hank came home for the funeral. He promised he wouldn’t leave again but he did. Liar. Ma was right she always said you never know where you are with a liar.

*

Things were tough after that. The brothers did odd jobs around town. Hank knew people. Eddie was pleased because Ma was worrying less. A kind of peace prevailed. Something Eddie had never known nor felt.

Ma thought he met someone. "Your brother Hank did. Some divorcee with two children! I don’t approve of that heaven knows I don’t! Tell me son, you won’t let evil temptation draw you away from God and your ma, will you?”

Eddie was adamant at one point he fell to his knees imploring his mother to trust him. When she put her hand on his head he felt the power of the Lord surge through him. He tried to tell Hank about it, but he just laughed. The brothers started to argue. That’s when Hank told him he best leave Ma. “She’ll be fine, and you sure as hell would be better off!”

Eddie didn’t answer. He was tired of fighting. Besides, there was work to do, Ma needed things done on the farm. He didn’t care either because he was looking forward to doing something for his mother. They had discussed it the night before.

In fact, she knew what he was going to do before he did it.

“I know Mother’s Day is coming up, but please don’t go spending too much on anything. Don’t get rooked now. They make money off people like us—and holidays are always a good excuse.”

He agreed even though he knew in his heart he was going to spoil her. If it meant travelling to another town to get what he wanted, he would do it. He was going to get her the best, fanciest card he could as well as store bought flowers all wrapped with ribbons and tissue paper. Yes, sir, his mind was made up.

There was to be a gift besides that. It was something else that he had to think about. She had what she needed, least ways she always said she did. Still, he wanted to give her something special—a scarf or slippers—or perhaps a nice brush, comb and mirror set. Yes, he thought. Perfect, she’d love it.

When he said he was going to be out the better part of the day in order to accomplish all of that, she sighed and shook her head. “I know you,” she said. “You’re going to over spend and it’s not necessary, son. I know how much you love your old ma.”

He rushed over. Never had his face looked more ardent. She smiled like always then she ruffled his hair. “I suppose I have just about the best son in the world. You always were my favorite.”

His eyes filled with tears because it was something he hadn’t dared to hope, though he fervently wished he were her favorite. Now—she admitted it! He was!

Feeling happier than he could ever remember, he left to buy her gifts. It took all day, too. He travelled far to the biggest town in the state.

He wasn’t used to the rush or the crowds, but it was worth it. He had money in his wallet. Money, he had accumulated for a long time.

He was intending to have lunch, and even though he had enough for hotdogs from Woolworths, he didn’t buy them. Instead, he splurged on an even more expensive card than he had planned to get, that and gifts. Yes, he had decided on a few presents! That was what she deserved.

He arrived home to find his mother in tears. “Looks like it’s just you and me son for my special day.”

“Hank’s not going to be here? Is that what you mean?” he asked sounding incredulous.

His mother nodded. “It’s that lady friend of his.”

She looked sad but when he caught her looking at the packages, she smiled.

“Someone’s been very busy haven’t they?”

“Well…”

“You’re a good son and I’m very lucky. Lord knows how lucky!”

*

He was almost too excited to fall asleep! Mother’s Day was tomorrow. He did eventually sleep because he was exhausted. He got up early, just as he planned, to have breakfast done. He only had to throw away one pan of burnt eggs, but the second batch came out right. Bacon was perfect as was the toast. Gosh, the kitchen smelled good.

She came in looking so lovely. He told her.

“Well I have to it’s my special day and all.” she said.

He saw her eyes wander toward the pile of gifts. She asked like a little girl if she could open them before she ate. That was one of the most endearing things about her.

She could be so childish sometimes.

“Course you can, Ma. You go right ahead.”

He watched her open each gift oohing and ahhing and crying too. She loved the scarf and sachets he had bought her and what about the rose water? “Fragrance!” she had cried out, shaking her head in disbelief.

She held each to her chest. “I will treasure these forever because you gave them to me.”

The giftwrap and ribbon was saved. One never knew when such things might be needed again.

“Now for breakfast,” she said clapping her hands. She loved everything. There wasn’t one dish she didn’t compliment him on.

“This is the best bacon…and the eggs--!”

He thanked her but wondered if she could smell the first of it that had been burned. He asked her finally but she said she didn’t, still he suspected she did.

When she told him, she was going to brush her hair with her new brush and comb set, he just about melted.

He watched her brush her hair making long, graceful strokes.

“I really need this,” she said. “That old brush was frightfully old. I hate to think just how old it is.”

When she stared at her reflection and told him how hard it was to age, he wept. “No,” she said. “There’s nothing anyone can do. It’s just the way life is. We get born, grow old and die…”

The word ‘Die’ did it!

“No, Ma!” he shouted. “Not you, not ever!”

“But we all will. It’s just the way the Lord intended son. Can’t do anything about it.”

He agreed though it saddened him. She saw that it did so she tried to cheer him up. She did in fact, but then she always could.

*

His brother returned from his girlfriend’s house two days later. He looked more stupid than usual and he didn’t even have the sense to tell their mother he was sorry for missing Mother’s Day.

Eddie had just about enough of his behavior. They were arguing about how a small fire started when Eddie exploded. He just picked up a shovel and hit his brother square on the head with it. Hank was deader than a squashed fly in a fly swatter.

No one doubted Hank’s death was an accident, not even his mother. She was upset though.

Seeing his mother crying was the only time Eddie felt guilty. In truth, he enjoyed seeing his much-despised brother buried; though he was all solemn and comforting to his mother. When she said she’d meet Hank in heaven, Eddie agreed and cried because he hoped there was an afterlife. He didn’t say it out loud. She’d have gotten upset being as religious as she was.

When they went home, he told her he’d care for her for the rest of his life. She cried when he said that. “I can’t believe Hank’s gone, son. Hank, my first born.” Eddie hugged his mother. “Yes, but I’m here and I always will be.”

He would have given his life for her in an instant. After she had her first stroke he appealed to God to give them to him instead—but he didn’t. His mother had more.

He knew he was losing her and when she passed from the world on Dec 29, 1945, Eddie knew he was alone.

How he prayed.

The angel came on the first anniversary of his mother’s death.

“I will grant you any wish you like, Edward for being a dutiful son.”

Eddie asked if he could have his mother back. The angel said he not only could, he showed him how to raise the dead.

“Easy as pie! Just say the right words and presto. They come back!”

It sounded funny to Eddie. But he wanted her back so badly, he fell to his knees in prayer.

“Come forth, Augusta Gein!”

The angel’s words and his mother obeyed.

She came forth alright and it was as though she had never been buried. She was speaking to him and laughing with him, sharing time with him, even resting with him at night so he wouldn’t lie alone in his cold bed.

“I’m here son. I always will be but you best get some other friends for yourself, Eddie—a person needs friends. I think I never realized until I crossed over just how true that statement is.”

“Okay Ma, if you think I should, I will.”

Eddie was so pleased he cried, and when the angel returned to walk with him out to Plainfield Cemetery, he felt lucky to be alive.

“I’ll always help you, Edward. Your mother is right. What you need are friends. Friends who really care about you!”

Eddie agreed even though he knew his best friend, his beloved mother would always be with him. Once again sharing the house with him, comforting him and loving him. She was the truest friend he could ever have. Still, he thought, he might like a lady friend as well…

Author’s Note: This story is based on the killer, Ed Gein of Plainfield, Wisconsin. Ed Gein’s crimes inspired Robert Bloch’s ‘Psycho.’

Southern Hospitality Series

by: Bryan Rainey

First Moonlight Description:

Devon Harrison, a freshman student at Jasper Springs Community College, is late for leaving his apartment the night of the full moon.

On his way to a family cottage away from town, he is stopped by a Constable.

He changes in front of the Constable alerting hunters and Metapol.

Another lycan keeps him from tearing apart the Constable.

From then on, things get worse

http://books2read.com/SP2FM ---

Southern Hospitality Series

by: Bryan Rainey

The Phoenix Hunter Description:

It is Destiny's sixteenth birthday!

She learns that she is from a line of half-human / half-angel hunters, but, also, that she will be special among them.

Then, all hell breaks loose...

http://books2read.com/SP1tPH ---

Joseph Hirsch

The Woman who gave birth to Rabbits

Dr. Steiner stood in the center of the operating theater, on the white-tiled floor directly below the gallery where the young medical students sat. The student body was sober, quiet, and dressed in black, giving the impression of being gathered for some conclave that was half-funeral, half-Torah study.

Next to old shatter-pated Steiner with his unruly shock of hair was a much younger man. He wore a worsted wool suit that was bespoke but still bulged from his muscles, which he accrued by participation in fencing, rowing leagues, and by some years hiking with the Wandervogel. He was no nudist, but would have stood worthy inspection next to the most bronzed of sun worshippers.

In his right hand the young doctor held a black M.D.’s bag made of vulcanized rubber. To his left was a large box resting on a pedestal and sheathed in a black velvet cloth. Dr. Steiner grinned at the young man and noticed he had a crosshatch of scars on his face, one of which was the vestiges of a powder burn left from a duel, another of which was caused by the explosion of a bell jar when a chemistry experiment had gone awry.

“Doctor Linz is here from the Viennese Anti-Quack Society to give a brief presentation, which you may find illuminating.” Dr. Steiner gazed around the theater as his voice echoed through its tiers of wooden benches. He then looked at Dr. Herbert Linz, getting him to understand by a slight gesture that he should continue and that the floor was his.

“Gentlemen,” Doctor Linz said, for there were no ladies present, “Here is my story.”

***

We are all of us from a very young age told the story of the Virgin Conception, and, while its particulars are of no concern to the theologian or the layman plowing his field, as an obstetrician I find the faith of my Silesian youth to be in conflict with what I have learned of female anatomy and childbirth.

I say this not to antagonize the faithful, but to merely point out that they are more susceptible to the kinds of hoary chicane I was unfortunate enough to encounter in a small village in Bavaria whose name I shan’t tarnish by mentioning it here.

Suffice it to say that I was fresh from my recent success in exposing a charlatan who claimed that, by application of x-rays from his ‘revivifying box,’ he could restore a man’s waning sexual potency. Many a deutschmark had been squandered by these men suffering from the unfortunate malady of impotence. Imagine their shock then, when, during one of this gentleman’s spiels extolling his nostrum’s efficacy, I pointed out that his revivifying box was nothing more than modified barrel organ, like the ones you see at carnivals, fairs, and in the seedier byways of our Berlin.

The hustler in question fled in shame, so startled that he left behind his contraption, which had a stowaway compartment where the accumulated Danegeld of the swindled and impotent men was stored in large banded stacks. The money’s power may have been diminished by our recent bout of inflation, but I still take some surcease in thinking that I had deprived the bad man of his box and his ill-gotten provender.

That is all mere digression and prelude, though. The main case, and the one I wish to speak of here, involved a tale told to me of a woman who lived in a small town and gave birth to a litter of dove-colored lilac rabbits every Easter. An assortment of country rubes paid this woman’s husband in trade to witness these births, as money was scarce in the country. By the end of each conception the woman would yield a lot of rabbits, numbering eight to ten, each seemingly glazed with placental fluids as they emerged from her womb. And the country folk would leave lighter some chickens, sacks of grain, or whatever meager items could afford them a standing-room-only ticket in the barn where this act took place.

I heard of this rabbit-birthing woman in early February, while hiking near the Alps’ lower ranges and occasionally attempting to make charcoal sketches of nature’s snowy splendor. By mid-March I had found lodgings in the town near the barn in question, in a fachwerk inn situated at the end of a cobblestoned cul-de-sac. I lived modestly on a stipend from the Anti-Quackery Society, and dined on farmer’s fare in the inn’s main room. Nightly I sated myself in the shadow of a stuffed black bear, placed just below a coat-of-arms mounted on the limestone wall.

I let the publican know that I was an itinerant researcher for a large farming concern, there to take notes on the calving habits of the sheep in his region. After sufficiently boring the bartender, I rested my case, convinced that he would not give word that an intruder was in town, possibly to debunk the mysteries of the strange Easter conception. Tales of the rabbit-bearing woman no doubt helped him sell his store of wheat beer at a faster clip than if the town lacked such an attraction.

I kept a small notebook bound in stained red Moroccan hide, the same one I had used to make my previous sketches. I managed to take some notes on the rumors surrounding the rabbit births, soaking up stories in the tavern while eavesdropping on a nightly basis. I also wrote some general notes on the case, which I am partially relying on to give this speech to your medical lyceum, notes which will one day soon form the basis of a chapter to be published in the Anti-Quackery Society’s Yearly Journal.

But I digress.

Easter finally came, its arrival announced by the pealing of the town’s ancient ironclad bells slamming against one-another in the brick-encased belfry of the local Lutheran church. I had done such a good job of keeping a low profile in town up to this point, and I had no desire to suddenly draw attention to myself. I therefore set aside all of my suits of serge and poplin, and instead chose to go to the birthing barn in shirtsleeves and a wrinkled pair of slacks bloused into my hiking boots. A straw boater hat of the kind common in America completed the rugged impression I wished to give, and after grabbing a few other articles I was on my way. The procession carried through town like a Whitsun march, and the sun rising over the flowering edelweiss in the hills gave the festivities a pagan, Sol Invictus quality that belied the Christian nature of our short pilgrimage out of town. Cows and other farm animals garlanded with crowns made of interlocking clover walked in slow-motion, in a pathetic play on the bull run of Pamplona, while young maidens caroled and sang songs I hadn’t heard since the bygone days of my Silesian youth. Tallow and spermaceti dripped from their hands in rivulets as the candles the virgins held began to melt and the menfolk followed behind.

“Come,” a barker in a black top called from the open door of the red barn seated on the other side of a firebreak adumbrating a green field. “Welcome one and all.” The man was obviously in on the grift, and he had a snake oil salesman’s ear-to-ear grin ready for the people as they passed by his cart. There they left dry goods and bantam birds whose Irish was up perhaps owing to their proximity to the little rabbit hutch that was the woman’s womb. I studied all the offerings that went into a wheeled wooden bed that, while dismounted from its car, I pegged as belonging to a newer model harvesting truck. Motorized coaches were rarer than hen’s teeth in this part of rural Bavaria, and I hazarded that this “virgin birth business” had been quite good to those involved in fleecing this particular flock of sheep lacking a shepherd.

I set a number of clanking Groschen in the man’s greased palm and his already-watery eyes grew so wet that I thought he might start shedding tears if he blinked too rapidly. For a moment, I feared that being the only one to pay cash on the barrelhead had marked me as an outsider, worthy of suspicion. A few seconds later though, when that Cheshire grin was still pulling the proud flesh of the man’s face to its limits, I knew he was too greedy to suspect anything.

His part in the ceremony was over at any rate, other than to hold the door open for me and my fellow-marks as we entered into the barn. The roof of the wooden structure was pitched, and because there were cracks in the wood that hadn’t been correctly tarred over, shafts of sunlight were allowed entry unto the tableaux, giving the golden straw that covered the room a holy light. In the center of the room, next to an ancient and rusted threshing device, sat a man and wife.

The woman was as serene and motionless as a sculpted cameo Madonna. Her husband was slightly more animated, and sweated profusely.

He looked up at us as his wife averted her gaze modestly and pulled up her dress whose gingham pattern was so similar to my own mother’s tablecloth that I experienced a moment of Proustian recall, thinking of hazelnut tortes and rye bread. As she hiked the dress higher, my recall grew more protean, nigh-on Dionysian as I gazed on her womb, from which long and silky black hairs coruscated outward like the legs of spiders. The labia were slicked and wet, fatted as if through the artificial action of a bicycle pump.

“Avert your eyes,” the husband said, “for those of you who are squeamish.” The man had a ruddy sunburned face, but his features were fine and thin, bespeaking gentry or at least petit-bourgeois origins.

Most of the men closed their eyes, winced, or gagged, while the women and girls in attendance remained rapt, albeit breathless. This may have surprised the layman, but was exactly what I as an obstetrician would have expected. Woman was born to endure such suffering and thus could not afford the luxury of turning away from what she had either already endured or was an inevitable trial on the horizon, unless she became a spinster or sought out the cloister.

“Ugh,” the wife groaned. “I can feel the rabbits coming.” I and a few others in attendance shivered as if suffering the tremens of morphium withdrawal.

The already-inflated labia pressed outward, and a cornflower-blue mass of fur, fine as angora, pushed free from the wet and ballooning contours of the poor woman’s vagina.

“My god!” A voice said.

Two tiny limbs, rabbit feet absconded miraculously from a human womb, kicked free into the mote-filled air of the sunlit barn.

“It’s a breech,” I said, forgetting for a moment that I was here to find out a scam, so convinced was I by this scene that I thought only of my Hippocratic oath. I, unlike the other men in attendance, was far from squeamish. To cite only one example of my previous work in a woman’s womb, I was once called to a private residence (I will provide no further details for legal reasons) to suture a length of a female’s intestines that had been pierced with a knife and pulled free with tongs during a failed abortion scraping in which the attending physician mistook a coil of intestine for the walls of the uterus. If I could work catgut thread through human offal while breathing in the stench of feces and having my hands soaked in the same, I had few compunctions about performing a Caesarian on a woman to save the rabbits I believed to be trapped in her womb. As for the tiny hare attempting to kick his way free from that contorted mandorla of a vagina, he would either escape or make fine stew and produce four lucky gypsy amulets from his furry feet.

“No!” The husband shouted, and stood as I came forward. As he did so, his wife stood in unison with him, becoming erect and yet flopping like a scarecrow, turbinating like a marionette. And that of course brought my scrutiny to the heretofore-transparent wires attached to the man’s hands at one end and grafted to his wife’s back at the other end of the line like a black widow’s web clinging to its prey. As he ran past me and through the crowd and out the door, the lines severed that had previously attached him and his wife. She flopped to the straw bed like a mere automaton, no longer a virgin in her manger here to perform a miracle for this multiplied fold of wise men, or rather wise women and their squeamish husbands.

“Stop!” I shouted, and now brandished my scalpel in an entirely different manner than previously. The husband continued to run and managed to hop into the wheeled bed where the chickens and grain and my Groschen were stacked. The force of his weight landing on the wooden planks set the apparatus in motion and it began to roll down the hill. His partner shouted to his retreating form as chickens flew from the bounding cart that rollicked until it was out of sight.

“You swinish cur!” The barker shouted, and then turned to the angry throng. He flashed us a wan and queasy smile, realizing the game was up. He sensed these simple Bavarian hill folk, both religious and taken for a gang of fools, were ready to get pitchforks and torches and administer provincial justice out of the sight of the official law.

He may not have been wrong, judging from the grumbles I heard coming from behind me. I quickly put a halt to the escalating tensions, however, by placing my scalpel quickly against the man’s pulsing carotid and speaking. “See here, I am an obstetrician from the Viennese Chapter of the Anti-Quackery Society, and you and your partner have been found out. I don’t ask that you remunerate us as your friend has lit out for more favorable climes already with the meager goods these people sacrificed to see this spectacle. Tell me now your name and the manner of the trick, and you may at least escape with your artery intact. I cannot promise that you will escape imprisonment.”

The man then sighed, so heavily that the motion almost caused me to poke him with the sharp edge of my scalpel without intending to. My blade left only a small nick though in the granulated flesh of his neck. He told me his name and explained that the man who had fled was a mortician, schooled in the embalming arts. The wife in question was his actual betrothed, though she had died many years ago from tuberculosis. Saddled with debts due to his love of the cocaine hydrochloride he ordered by the case from Merck of Darmstadt, the man decided-no doubt under a cocainized cloud- to not only rouge his dead wife’s pale and tubercular cheeks but to empty her arteries, byways, and the various channels of her body and fill them with assorted waxes, putties, and clogging resins. He performed this labor in the backroom of his funeral parlor and then carried his wife home.

Because he missed his wife’s company so, his morbidity soon grew to a desire to converse with his departed, and he thereby developed a great store of ventriloquist’s techniques to give himself the impression that he was still enjoying matrimonial bliss. He set his wife in a wicker rocking chair in his study, and sat across from her in front of a fireplace with a regal marble mantle. There he sipped Vin Mariani and other patent medicines containing extracts from the coco leaf (since he no longer had the funds for the crystalline form of cocaine, and his veins were already a collapsing and bruised patchwork addict’s impression of holy stigmata). His friend related that the husband had so exhausted his nasal cavities that when he wanted to imbibe cocaine through the nose, he first had to heat a knife and then burn a cauterized path through the septum to open a path through accumulated scar tissue and scabbed capillaries. Only then would his nose produce enough blood to flush his sore and reddened nose open. Then he would sniff more of the addictive white powder through his blood-besotted nostrils. Things were bad for the man, and the previously-alluded to morbidity that led him to converse with his wife grew into a desire to copulate with her, though his first efforts were pyrrhic churnings on his part, while his dead and embalmed wife remained ragdoll limp on the connubial bed. In order to give his efforts the feel of something greater than mere masturbatory calisthenics, the man hit upon the ingenious idea to affix a series of wires and thin pulley mechanisms to his wife’s appendages to give her a lifelike quality when the necrophile’s whim struck him. Between his ventriloquism (moaning in ecstasy when he thought his wife might be reaching climax) and the keen manipulation of the marionette strings, he learned to create what was for him a satisfactory simulacrum of genuine coitus. And because he was such an expert embalmer, his wife did not rot or produce stink, and thus no neighbors were alerted to the mortician’s doings, beyond noting that he had allowed his general embalming practice to lapse entirely and had given up on hygiene, grooming, and the cleaning of his quarters.

His house became such a sty indeed that a small pregnant rabbit took up residence in the walls of his home without him noticing. It was only a matter of time until the rabbit gave birth in her secret mouse hole eyrie and the little animals started wandering out of the walls. The doctor, in a dreaded, satanic inversion of the scientist’s Eureka! moment, crafted his device from his wife’s womb (now lovingly shellacked and polished to a high shine with coats of his accreted semen applied over numerous nightly sessions).

I should note at this point that I had the displeasure of unearthing this compartment in the wife’s belly, after having obtained this confession from the barker outside that barndoor at the point of a scalpel. I temporarily remanded him to the custody of the mob (who assured me they would not gibbet him or engage in any other form of vigilante justice), and then I returned to the barn and to the now-immobile lilac rabbit trapped in the wax-encrusted vagina of the dead woman. He had unfortunately suffocated in his breeched backwards attempt at birth, and I moved in haste to rescue his brothers and sisters, who I surmised were hidden in the chamber of the woman’s inflated belly.

A quick slash through the gingham material of the dress followed by an incision to tear through the skin surrounding the stomach confirmed my suspicion. Inside of the woman’s polymer-coated ribs that yielded to my knife as easily as glazed brisket was a nest of writhing, furry rabbits, gnawing at her skin like laboratory rats feeding on water bottles or babies suckling at their mother’s breast. A bellows-like device had caused the artificial inflation of the woman’s stomach and diaphragm cavity, and a gaze inside revealed that the majority of her sexual equipage had been removed in the manner of a hysterectomy.”

***

The young doctor then pulled the black velvet from the glass case in which the woman’s sliced remains rested, finally free of both rabbit infestation and the torturous games to which her husband subjected her.

Dr. Linz stood next to the glass case, silent for a moment, bracing himself on the strange enclosure in which the wife rested, still as a chloroformed frog.

As for Doctor Steiner, he was speechless, mouth agape. The students were rapt, this symposium one of the few to command their total attention, though amid the looks of shock there were also a couple who appeared on the verge of vomiting or bursting out laughing, thinking some kind of prank was afoot.

Dr. Steiner fortified his own nerves by projecting his voice to the young men in black who stood behind the wooden benches going from pit orchestra level up toward the groin-arched contours of the ribbed copper dome resting atop the hospital. “You see, gentlemen, that as men of medicine, you must never avert your eyes.” Despite saying this, though, Dr. Steiner could not bring himself to look into the glass box where the mummified remains of the woman lay.

Dr. Linz had no problem gazing inside however, and continued to stand next to the woman in the box as if she were a trophy he’d bagged with a shotgun while hunting in the Black Forest.

Dr. Steiner grunted, tried to regain his footing, stuttered, emitted a phlegmatic sound and finally said, “Questions for the good doctor?”

There was silence, until one man in the back of the theater, quite ambitious and without reservations, raised his hand, holding his pointer finger aloft. Dr. Linz squinted into the darkness and pointed at the lad. “You, young man. Yes?”

“When you detained this man’s partner …” The boy faltered.

“Yes?” Dr. Linz tapped the glass face of the box that held the remains and the more senior doctor flinched each time the action was accomplished, knuckles scraping on glass.

“Did he ever intuit that there had been any other close calls, brushes with the law, or charges of charlatanism previous to your investigation of the quackery?”

Dr. Steiner seemed to relax, going slack with relief that the question had been tasteful, or at least as tasteful as this session would allow. He was starting to regret inviting the good Dr. Lenz to speak, despite his credentials and burnished bona fides sent in advance by the institution.

“Yes,” Doctor Lenz said, and stood before the glass case now, obscuring the view of the contraption. “The man in question, a one Herman Rathner, confessed that he and the husband and wife team had been travelling near Hohenschwangau, within sight of the spires and turrets of the Mad Swan King’s castle, when they came across a gypsy caravan. The matriarch of this gypsy caravan reeked of opium smoke, and thus Rathner said his friend detained the woman for no short time in an effort to barter or purchase some of the pellets, or perhaps a bit of tincture, if she would be willing to part with it.

“The husband’s affinity for cocaine has already been well-established in my speech here,” the doctor said, moving away from the corpse so that the students could see it in its glass case again. “But he also used whatever narcotics could be found close at-hand to assuage his withdrawal pains when he had depleted his store of hydrochloride crystals ordered from the Merck firm.”

Dr. Steiner visibly winced as if shocked with the lashes of a cat-o-nine. He wanted to tell Dr. Linz that Merck was sponsoring key research at the medical institute, and he was doing no good by repeatedly stating the firm’s name. Dr. Linz was too preoccupied with his speech to notice his aged colleague’s discomfort.

“Through some dealings which Mr. Rathner never elucidated, however, the gypsy matriarch spotted the gutted wife in the berth of the travelling coach, the same coach which the husband later used to escape my clutches, although at this time the bed was hitched to a motorized vehicle.” The young doctor looked down at the wife in the glass case. “The gypsy crone spoke oaths and curses in some dialect, probably Sinti, mixed in with some Yiddish and other bastardized, pidgin tongues, further mangled by the fact that she was enraged at the sight of the eviscerated wife, and also suffering under the influence of opium herself.”

A young student spoke from the gallery, so curious that he forewent order and asked his question without raising his hand or standing. “Any guesses as to what the woman said?” the young man asked.

Old Doctor Steiner was so yearning for the answer that he didn’t even manage to shoot the boy a withering stare for his impertinence. Dr. Linz laughed.

“Well, you will just have to purchase the latest edition of the Anti-Quackery Society’s Journal to read my speculations.”

A murmur of laughter rippled through the black-clad ranks of young medical students. Dr. Linz continued, grinning. “We must all earn our daily bread, doctors as much as grifters.”

Waiting wasn’t necessary, however, for the gypsy’s words, so long-dormant inside the scraped and excavated contours of the dead wife’s body, now animated the girl’s limbs like a jolt of electricity, or Hebrew characters on papyrus slipped into the mouth of a golem. Dead of tuberculosis these many years, plaything to rabbits and men, she punched her fist through the glass plate through which the students stared down on her in voyeuristic wonder. She sat up, her vivisected innards shining luminous and redly for all to see under the operating theater’s harsh white lights. Her pendulous breasts dangled above her empty stomach, the nipples harder than India rubber from age, their supple, gutta percha contours now reduced to something dry as pemmican and covered in purple blotches large as leopard spots that were the result of ill-disguised livor mortis.

The students looked to the doctor, but he had no answer for this, and even if he tried speaking his words would have been stifled as the woman latched onto his windpipe, pressing until a hollow crack caused the bones in his neck to yield as easily as a quill made from a single flight feather. Her action was not motivated by personal animus. It was merely the good doctor’s misfortune to be the first man the dead wife saw upon waking.
Bloody Tales from the Book Table part 1

Sabrina Samples

Tonia sat at her computer going over the pictures from her session with Sabrina earlier that day. Sabrina had a big event coming up and needed the images for promotion. Tonia was putting the finishing touches on one of the images as she heard a knock at the door.

"Come in." She yelled from the kitchen. She turned as she saw her brother-in-law Skot walking through the door. "Oh perfect! Maybe you can help me decide which picture of Sabrina would be better to use for the poster." Tonia turned back and pulled two images up side by side. She turned back to Skot expectantly. As she did she saw a flicker of disgust on his face before it disappeared.

"The black and white one doesn't look that bad." Skot decided without taking much time to consider the images. He walked over and opened the fridge.

"Not that bad? Do you get how big of a deal this is for her? I want this picture to be the best because it is going on the event flyer!"

"Event flyer? I thought this was just a silly little book signing." Skot was dismissive of the situation as he rummaged through the fridge.

"It was before. But that changed when she hit the best sellers list over the weekend. It turns out this is going to be a lot bigger now." Tonia couldn't contain her excitement as she spoke. Skot grew stiff as he listened to Tonia's excitement. "What's wrong with you?" Tonia asked as she saw the annoyance on Skot's face as he slammed the fridge closed.

"Nothing." He snapped at her as he leaned against the counter next to the fridge. "I bet everyone is so excited for Sabrina." He rolled his eyes as his words dripped with sarcasm.

"Actually, yes! The whole family is happy for her!" She paused for a second, "well, almost the whole family."

"Why should I be excited for her? It's not like she is going to share any of her money with the rest of us!" Skot shouted as his body began to shake from the anger coursing through him.

"The money? Is that what this is about?" Tonia spat at him. Her anger written on her face.

"You have no idea what you are talking about!" Skot began yelling as he gripped the counter. "All I ever hear is Sabrina this, or Sabrina that." Skot began to pacing in the small kitchen. Tonia sat at the table watching him.

"Do you know why you hear so much about Sabrina? Because she did something amazing! She worked hard and made it to the best sellers list." Tonia tried to rationalize with Skot but it didn't seem to be working. His head snapped so he was staring directly at her. His eyes grew dark as he took a step toward her and the table.

"Sabrina did something amazing? I can do something amazing too!" Skot picked up the laptop from the table. It snapped closed as he gripped it with both hands.

"What the fu...." Tonia's protest was cut off as Skot smashed the computer into the side of her head. Tonia was stunned as he pulled back readying for a second blow. Tonia's groans filled the air as she was overtaken with the pain from the first strike. When the laptop connected with her head again the screen broke off and fell to the floor. The screen flashed with the two pictures of Sabrina that were pulled up before it went black. Skot began to seethe with rage after he saw that flash of Sabrina.

The blood began to rush down the side of Tonia's head. Her vision became blurred from the blood dripping into her eyes. She began to open her mouth to plead with him but she was met with another blow to her head. With a crack of the keyboard a few of the keys fell off. One of the keys was now protruding from her face as she fell to the ground. Skot rounded the table with ease as he took the side of the computer and drove it into the side of her head. With a sickening crunch Tonia's skull caved in on the side.

Tonia laid on the ground as her breathes were so faint Skot could barely see her chest move. Her brown hair was matted with her blood as it pooled on the floor around her. He lifted his foot and stomped his boot into the side of her head as the rest of her skull caved in. The gurgling stopped and the room was silent. Skot crouched down next to Tonia's lifeless body. He wanted something to remember this moment. He gripped her jaw and pulled. It easily detached from the rest of her face. He stood and appraised his new trophy. The adrenaline was pumping through his body as he replayed the last few minutes in his mind.

"This event is going to be a lot bigger." Tonia's words echoed on his head. He couldn't have that! He had to stop her big day.

With one final survey of the scene before him a wicked smile crossed his face. He turned to leave. "I'm on my way, Sabrina."

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THE WHITE NOTHING

By Phil Temples

I’m running as fast as I can along the heavily wooded ridge, dodging downed tree trunks and avoiding the depressions in the snow. My toe catches on a branch. I take a spill and topple to the ground. My heart is beating out of my chest. I can’t get the memory of what I just saw out of my head. I pick myself up out of the snow, and turn to scan the tree line behind me before fleeing in the direction of the road.

* * *

Paulie and I were best friends. We attended the same schools, played the same sports. We even dated the same girl (but not at the same time) in high school. We had heard the legends since we were children. Folks would speak about “The White Nothing” in hushed tones—at least the ones who believed it. About the “thing with no shape that appears in the winter.” They’d talk about seeing the carcasses of dead animals ripped from limb to limb. Most would say the stories were hogwash—that it was only a mountain lion that roamed the land, although no one had seen a big cat in these parts for over thirty years. But that didn’t explain why the remains were found uneaten or why they bore no teeth marks. Old man Krugman said he found a large elk two winters ago, completely torn apart. He said it would have taken superhuman strength to do that. It was like, “someone—or something—is hunting and killing its prey for sport.”

If I hadn’t gone off the trail some twenty yards away to take a dump behind a tree, I’d probably be like poor Paulie right now. I heard his screams, and I didn’t even stop to wipe myself. I pulled up my britches and ran back to where I’d left him. But there was no Paulie—only a trail of blood. I followed that trail for a few minutes until I found him—or rather, what was left of him: an arm on the left, his naked torso off to the right—and over there, a portion of his leg and buttock. His clothes were nowhere in sight. A rock face with blood trickling down caught my eye. Perched on that boulder was Paulie’s head! His eyes and mouth were agape; I’m sure he was trying to yell out a final warning.

* * *

I can see the road about fifty yards ahead now. For the first time, I’m beginning to feel hopeful, that I might survive this terrible nightmare. I’ll come back here later with the sheriff and her deputies, and we’ll catch whoever did this--

An unseen hand catches my left leg and jerks me to the ground! I look back, and in my horror I realize that there’s nothing there. Only, there is! The dull, gray tree line looks blurry, as though I’m observing the terrain through dirty eyeglasses. The blurry lines are moving, coming closer to me. I scream in terror, but I hear only silence as the blurry lines strike a blow to my head with great force.

There’s no pain, only a curious numbness and a loud humming in my ears. For a few fleeting seconds, my eyes continue to see. I observe my headless body lying in the snow a few feet away. Time seems to crawl. As my field of vision shrinks to an ever-closing circle, I watch, dispassionately, as The White Nothing has its way with my remains.

By Barbara Custer
Marked for death, Alexis accompanies her lover, Yeron, and four survivors of a zombie invasion on a search for the renegades who created a chemical that induces a zombie-like state. On the way, ravenous flesh-eaters attack Alexis’s team; one survivor turns on her. She realizes too late that the renegades have been tracking her every move. When officials capture her, she becomes deathly ill. Can DNA splicing save her? Will Yeron’s attempts at rescue jeopardize all their lives?.

By Frank Julius Palumbo
Deep below Sullen Falls stirs an ancient evil.
Seth left Sullen Falls monastery five years ago in search of answers to his life. With the unexpected appearance of a comet, he is lured back to the town he once called home. There he discovers that an evil warps those he cared about and threatens the woman he loved–Sophia.

By M.J. Boshers
Sophie's seemingly ordinary life is about to be replaced with one full of chaos when she travels to an immortal land for protection. She discovers she is part faery and part witch, but she is more powerful than either. She soon realizes she will have to protect her family, friends, and this new world she has come to love.

Jodie Pierce
In this police paranormal thriller, people start turning up dead all over town completely drained of blood. Are the murders random or whom/what is the common link? Does a vampire have civil rights in a human court of law? When the lead Detective is placed under surveillance, how close will she get to the new man and how much does she really know about him? How much does she even know about her own life? The two work together to bring down the murderer, uncover her past and maybe even make a future together for themselves. What twists, turns and surprises will they find along their way?

Jodie Pierce
A young woman from Rio de Janiero, Brazil wakes up in a mausoleum to find herself all alone with no memory. When the vampire Thomas rescues her, he treats her like the child he never had. However, when Ranato comes into Christiane’s life, she knows she’s in love and leaves Thomas. Is Ranato all that he seems to be or does he have a more sinister plan for her? Will other forces help her or work against her? Will she be able to stay alive and find true happiness? Do you like Egyptian mythology? Then this book is for you.