Rain poured down Valerie Seistucket’s red umbrella, surrounding her in a perfect wet halo in the cement. A bright streak of lightning suddenly bruised the sky a violent cyan, illuminating the café rooftop at which the two had agreed to meet. “I presume you have the video of the Greer boy,” she muttered. A gust of wind blew a strand of her scarlet wig into her lipstick.

“Long time no see.”

“Drop it, Doug,” hissed Valerie.

Douglas chuckled, handing Valerie a flash drive. In the dark of the night, he was almost completely concealed within his black trench coat. “It’s all on there. Every last plunge of the dagger. Maybe now Papa Greer will hand over some of that blood money.”

Valerie sneered and watched as Douglas started to walk away, his moonlit shadow seeming more creature than human.

“Oh, and one more thing.” Douglas stopped. “Next time, find a better fucking place to meet. You’ve turned this whole damned thing into a mafia cliche, and it pisses me off.”




Mr. Greer was known to hire the most attractive dames to guard his estate while he sat locked away in his penthouse suite on the seventeenth floor overlooking New York City. Everybody in New York and their divorce lawyer knew real estate mogul Herman Greer only employed six-foot, blonde beauties with hips and breasts to die for. That’s why it nearly made the headlines when he decided to bring Valerie Seistucket along as his administrative assistant three years ago.

What Greer desired in an employee Valerie lacked. Overall, she lacked charisma; she was a self-starter; she was insanely OCD; and she always brought way too much at the company pot lucks. However, he would be able to overlook all of these shortcomings if she were just prettier, but damn it, she just wasn’t his type. Valerie stood at maybe 5’8″ — Herman likens shorter women to circus trolls — and she was a brunette, all characteristics of his ex-wife Marybette.

The one thing that Valerie had over all the other women Greer had ever employed or interviewed is her ability to manipulate a situation and get things done, no matter how bleak the circumstances. Valerie was a shark, and in a fish tank full of clownfish and sea turtles, Herman needed some teeth. If he did not establish himself at the top of the food chain, somebody else would beat him to it.

“Mr. Greer, here is a list of the scheduled appointments for next week,” Valerie placed a memo on Herman’s large oak desk, she felt as if she were handing a confidential document to the president of the United States. “I made one cancellation per your request for the ten o’ clock on Wednesday, but other than that everything will go as planned.” Valerie’s chestnut hair did not move as she talked and walked around the room, not even as she closed the Greer’s window blinds to keep the morning glare off out of his eyes. Just as Valerie managed Greer’s business life immaculately, she presented herself just as flawlessly.

Mr. Greer sipped his black coffee and mulled over his next week’s schedule, mindlessly clicking an ink pen. His silence concerned Valerie. “Does everything look okay, sir?”

“Set up a meeting with Thomas Black from Phoenix. Cancel my Friday nine and ten. Tell Thomas I want to follow up on the discussion we had last month. About the cancellations, tell them I will make it up to them.”

“One of the cancelations is Lyle, sir.”

Herman took a long swig of coffee and scribbled a note on the memo. “Make it work, Mrs. Seistucket. Lyle will understand. Hell, if it’s that important he can just see me at home on Saturday. Tell him that.”

“Yes sir.”

Back at her office, Valerie immediately made phone calls to adjust Herman’s schedule. She started with the easy conversations first.

“Hello, Mr. Greer.”

“He’s canceling, isn’t he?”

“Lyle, I—”

There was long pause. “I just, I need to see him or talk to him, please. Is there anything you can do?”

“He did say that if it was urgent that you were welcome to see him this weekend.”

“I don’t have that long! You can transfer me; you’ve done that before.” The desperation in Lyle’s voice was heavy. He was crying.

Valerie wouldn’t budge. “I’m sorry, Lyle. Have a good day.” She scratched his name off of her list, exhaled, and dialed a number in her cell phone.

“Hello, Mrs. Williams. I’m calling on behalf of Mr. Herman Greer of Wood Lake Enterprise,” Valerie spoke in a loud, confident manner as she quietly closed her office door.

“Is this line secure?” a man on the other line asked.

“I wouldn’t be calling on it if it weren’t, Eddie.” Valerie’s tone quietened and grew tense. “We need to speed up the project. He’s –”

“Why? Has the father caught on?”

Valerie started drawing tornados on a notepad. “No, he’s completely clueless. But the son about set up a meeting with him.” She cupped her head in her hand and whispered, “Eddie, we don’t have much time.”

“How fast does this need to happen?”

“By Friday.”

Silence.. “Give me some leverage. Our plan has us fixed next Sunday. That’s when Doug and Van were going to get their end set up. But this Friday? That’s in two days, Val. Our guys are confident they could get Lyle to break but they also said that they needed all of that time to get him there.”

“How much money are they offering him?” Valerie asked.

“Five thousand.”

“Well that’s part of the problem. Five isn’t enough. Make it thirty or forty. You’re dealing with the son that’s going to inherit millions within the next ten years. Another issue is what he wanting to discuss with his father exactly. I’ll find out what that’s about and handle it.”

“Do you think Doug and Van can pull this off in two days? What are they planning anyway?”

“Well they presented some ridiculous sham demon ritual to the council and they seemed to like it, but who knows? All I’m focused on is what happens next. Talk soon, Eddie.”


Valerie returned to Mr. Greer’s office an hour later with an updated schedule and a fresh cup of coffee. “Sir, I’ve completed next week’s schedule with the updates you requested. Mr. Black was thrilled to hear that you had reconsidered the discussion and agreed to a meeting on Friday.”

Herman was neck deep in paper work and only partially paying attention. He graciously accepted the cup of coffee, and asked, “And what about Lyle?”

“Oh, he told me to tell you that his meeting was simply unimportant and that it could wait until after the holiday. He is going to be out of town for the weekend, so he asked to set up a meeting in two weeks. I put it on your requests, if you haven’t already received a notification for that yet.” Valerie grinned. “He said he wanted nothing more than to just chat and catch up with his father.”

Herman grumbled. “That boy never learns. He just loves to waste my time with needless chatter. And to think that he would have taken an hour talking about ridiculous things such as which restaurants are now serving vegetarian foods. Ugh!”

“Well, if you’ll excuse me, I’ll get back to work.”

“Thank you, Valerie. I don’t say it a lot, but thank you. And my apologies. My work has me frustrated today. Someone has gone through and changed and moved a bunch of files and such that they weren’t supposed to, and I’m having to fix the lot of it.” He breathed a leaned back in his chair, closing his eyes. “It sure is nice to know I have someone like you to help me out when I’m busy cleaning up these messes.”

“If you need anything, just let me know,” Valerie chirped, offering a warm smile before returning to her office.


At home, Valerie Seistucket quickly dressed down and fed her cat Blyme and waited for her boyfriend to get back from work. Dinner was just some quick leftover meatloaf.

“How was work, Dave?” Valerie asked, pecking her boyfriend on the cheek before heading to the kitchen to start cleaning the dishes.

Dave stretched on the couch in front of the tv, still a little dirty from his job at the construction site, but Valerie did not mind; he learned to clean up after himself thanks to some persuading from Valerie. “Eh, about the same. Not too bad, but it’s getting closer to Friday which means closer to another weekend with you, babe.”

“That’s sweet, but you know it’s not getting you any sex tonight,” joked Valerie.

“Naw, I figured we should do something this weekend. How about we go somewhere?”

“Oh? Where?”

“How about that one forest place you’ve been talking about? The one your parents talked about during Easter.”

Valerie started cleaning the silverware. “You mean Cinther Falls? West of town about sixty miles?”

“Yeah! That’s the place.” Dave got up from his place on the couch and embraced Valerie, passionately kissing her. She got some dish soap on his shirt.

“I think you got yourself a deal, mister,” she said, kissing him again. “I love you.”

“Love you more.”


The end of the week at Wood Lake Enterprises was typically boring and dead for most of its employees, but Valerie hadn’t ever been busier.

“Look, I understand your frustration, but the fact of the matter is that Mr. Greer isn’t interested in any new customers right now, and he’s simply too booked up right now and for the rest of the year to even consider a new project.”

Call after call, the angry messages and voicemails pile up, but none of them leave any lasting damage on Valerie. Curses and bad tempers did not bother her, but she did have a weakness. She would die before she would allow anybody to figure it out, however.

“I’m sorry, but no, Mr. Greer isn’t interested in your staffing agency. As a matter of fact, he’s fully staffed at the moment.”

Herman Greer was used swimming in his fish tank with his protector shark guarding him, but what if the tank shattered? Do all predators turn ravenous when they’re baptized in pools of blood?

Suddenly, Valerie received a call from her cell phone. She quickly closed her office door and answered the phone. “Go.”

“Is this…?”

“I wouldn’t have picked up if it wasn’t.”

“He bought the thirty. It’s happening tonight.”

“Any details?”

Eddie’s voice echoed like he was in a bathroom. “That sham demon ritual like you said. Doug didn’t give me much since it’s Doug, you know. But apparently some bitch offered herself. This shit is legit.” His voice was shaky. “I thought his people were just actors, but I don’t know anymore, Val. I don’t know.”

“Don’t get yourself psyched out. Doug and his team are professionals; if it looked fake, Lyle wouldn’t buy it, you know?”

“You’re right, I suppose,” Eddie admitted, unsure.

“Talk soon.”

After getting off of the phone with Eddie, Valerie looked at the clock, 4:49pm, almost time to go home, also almost time for Doug’s plan to spring into action. She swore her heart thumped three times as fast as the clock ticked, her fingernails dug into her sweaty palms. Her perfect posture broke into a stressed slump. Dave would be expecting her home soon to pack for their weekend away at the falls, but all she could think about was the plan and what it meant for her if it would fail.

Worst case scenario, if the plan failed, Lyle still could not link her to Doug’s plan; however, the truth would come flying out about her lying to his father about him being unavailable on the weekend, which would result in her immediate dismissal from the firm and ultimate destruction of the council’s plan. There was a lot of things riding on Doug’s plan, and her simple lie to Herman about his son could have dramatic consequences.

“I’ll make a note to deal with that on Monday,” Valerie whispered.

Hours pass and Valerie was still in the office. Herman left for the night long before and security believed she was hard at work on reports, but she was simply staring at the clock, sweat dripping from her brow. As each second passed, she felt the lump in her throat grow larger and larger. The bulb in her head swelled with each moment, making her want to take a revolver to her own head and pull the trigger. “Dave must be worried sick about me,” she thought to herself. “But why hasn’t he called?”

Suddenly, at about nine o’clock, Valerie receives a call.

“H-h-hello?” She half expected it to be Lyle.

“Valerie, it’s the Chieftain of Station 8B.” Doug had called at last.

“Y-Y-You’re calling, so, it-it’s done? The Cleansing is…?” Valerie tried to remember if that was what the council had called Doug’s project. Most of the council’s work is all in codewords to protect its integrity, so in high stress situations, Valerie finds herself forgetting what’s called what.

“Alert the council of our success here and begin taking the necessary steps for initiation,” Doug said nothing more, ending the call as cold and quick as he began.

Instant relief washed over Valerie, but that soon turned to regret when she realized what she had to do next.

Tears welled up in her eyes as she entered the number and pressed dial. “Hi, honey,” she spoke softly to avoid completely breaking down. “Something came up at work, and I’m afraid I won’t be able to make it to the falls this weekend.” She bit her lip and squeezed back the tears. “Maybe next weekend.”

Maybe next weekend.




The very thought of food made Lyle Greer want to plunge a steak knife in his gullet, and yet here was at Chux ‘N More. Legend had it that if the grease used at all the other totally health conscientious fast food restaurants were compiled into a location, one would have almost half as much oil in a single Chux Delux 3000. A side of fries though and the area would have to be expanded at least an extra 15 miles. He definitely would not consider it as first date material, but that’s what he got for letting his date choose the location. With his slicked-back brown hair and blazer, most would say he was way overdressed for this dinner date, with which he would concur.

“How’s it?” A blonde haired, blue eyed, mostly overweight Kathy leaned real close, she probably wanted Lyle to smell the red onions farting in her esophagus. “Pretty fuckin’ good, huh?” Her southern twang was nauseating. Lyle forgot to mention he was also vegetarian on his dating profile.

“It’s,” he was at a loss for words, “pretty fucking good.” Could he vomit yet? “I heard them triple Oreo shakes are amazing, too. You going to try them ones?” His grammar teacher of a mother gave him a cold slap from the grave for such a ridiculous and incorrect question, he felt his soul stiffen a little. He hoped Kathy couldn’t tell he was trying so hard to impress her.

Kathy’s eyes bugged like she just witnessed her prized cow give birth to a beautiful calf; except the calf inherited millions from his great granddaddy, was clutching a crimson faux leather Bible, and was also completely Caucasian. She appeared to have came twice in her chair and one of her eyes glazed over. “Triple Oreo? How much does that cost? Will you…? I mean…” Her puppy dog eyes were almost irresistible.

“Kathy, you have to try it. You have to. You won’t be the same; I promise you that.” Lyle took out his wallet and handed her $5. “This will cover a large for you, or a small for both of us. I’d like one too, but that’s all the money I have right now. You get what you think is–” Kathy snatched the money and galloped to the cashier’s counter. “…Best,” Lyle finished.

After a few minutes, an excited Kathy returned with one massive blue cup. Red lipstick already stained the rim of the straw where she had guzzled down a third of the delicious shake. “Sorry hon’, the girl at the counter said two smalls cost a smidge over five, and she wouldn’t spot a few dimes, but a large was only four and some change. What a bitch, ifyaskmuh,” Kathy started on another thought but she drowned it in the caustic lake of Oreo and regurgitated ground beef and mustard. Lyle’s stomach churned.

“It was probably best that I didn’t get one anyway.”

Kathy’s upper lip stretched, exposing a yellow french fry in her gum. “Come again?”

“A shake,” Lyle pointed at the now mostly emptied cup. “I’m lactose intolerant. That shake would’ve torn me up for days.”

“You ain’t one of them kind are you?” Slurp, slurp.

“A what?”

“Y’know…” Kathy popped the lid off the cup and dumped the rest of the dark chocolate contents down her mouth. A piece of cookie slipped out of her mouth and bounced onto the checked table top. It took less than a second for her to pick it up and put it back in her mouth.

Lyle glared, unsure how much longer he could put up with this lady. Although he was hoping to charm her over at the beginning of the date, it was starting to become obvious to him that maybe that was not going to be possible. “What?” He was getting agitated.

“Well you talk like me and you seem nice, but you dress so fancy like and now you’re lactose intolerant?” She tossed the cup in the trash but missed. “Next thing you be telling me is that you’re gay and vegetarian! Lordy, lordy. Please tell me you’re not a liberal fag.”

Liberal fag. Lyle sat on the words for a few seconds, speechless at how she could have reached that conclusion over the simple fact that he could not consume lactose and that he has a sense for fashion. “Kathy, I’m just like you. Don’t you remember why we sat for dinner in the first place?”

Their first conversation started on a dating website. It all started when Lyle sent a simple, Boy howdy! If I followed you home, would you keep me? Followed by a page full of heart-eye and puppy emojis. To be honest, Lyle didn’t think that despicable pick up line would work on anybody, but it got Kathy’s attention. Shortly after, he discovered her favorite cuisine was American and that she loved Rom-Coms. What a catch.

“Lyle, it’s just I don’t open myself up to a lot of people anymore. You’re the first since…” Kathy shifted uncomfortably, not keen on discussing any of her previous relationships. “It’s just been a while.”

People buzzed around Lyle and Kathy in the restaurant and their asses grew numb as they sat in silence, just staring at each other. Neither of them knew the right way to fix the conversation, not really.

“The movie’s going to start in a few minutes,” Lyle murmured, checking his watch. “I don’t think we could make it, and plus we kind of used my last five for your shake.” His eyes flicked to Kathy’s and then to the tiled floor which was surprisingly clean, unlike their table which was sticky and covered in chocolate.

“That’s okay. Truth is I’ve already seen it have a dozen times,” confessed Kathy. “I just like seeing Ryan Reynolds ass in it.” Lyle laughed, focusing on Kathy once again.

“How about we just take a drive, you and me? I’ve got the gas.” Lyle took Kathy’s hand. He felt an inviting warmth in her that he hadn’t felt before, or perhaps it was just gas from the awful dinner. “It’s getting dark out and the city looks remarkable at night.”

“You sound like we live in Vegas. Have you even seen Tarinberg? We’ve got like three buildings, counting this one. Are you sure you’re not some undercover liberal?” Kathy nudged. “I’m only joking!”

Outside, Lyle brought Kathy to his car, a bright red 2015 Dodge Charger his father bought him as a graduation gift.

Kathy especially loved the muscle cars. “I’d never consider you to be the souped up car type of guy.”

Lyle beamed. “Well, I’m a man of many surprises, what can I say?”


Lyle took them down the interstate and through country roads, every mile he could travel to kill time, and Kathy was right. There was nothing to see in Tarinberg except darkness and the occasional stoplight. For the better part of an hour they listened to music and danced to the evening remixes, but after a little while Kathy stopped.

“I apologize for how I acted earlier. I was a bitch, I know I was,” she admitted.

Lyle squints, tightening his grip on the steering wheel. “What do you mean?”

“I’ve just got so much I haven’t told you.”

“You know you can be honest with me. That’s something we mentioned before to each other online that we’ve had issues with in our previous relationships. Just be yourself, Kathy.” He noticed a pair of headlights form in the distance in his rear view mirror. “If it’s any consolation, I think you’re fantastic.” His mother also hated liars; she wouldn’t have been so fond of him if she had been in the car with them at that moment.

Kathy sighed. “I’ve only had one other relationship, and it was ten years ago. I’ve only told my parents and a couple of people this, mostly for my own safety.” She paused. “I know that there’s a good chance that nothing serious will become of this or us, but I do consider you a friend.”

“What are you trying to say?”

“Well, I’m not some killer or anything,” Kathy cackled nervously. “Fuck no, that’s not what this is about! It’s just, ten years ago, I looked a lot different — a lot. I was actually pretty.” She sniffled. “I modeled out of Atlanta and actually had a career. My manager, Eduardo, he promised that if I just trusted him, he’d put me on magazine covers.”

The country road that Lyle had been traveling on suddenly felt longer and longer as Kathy explained her story, and the truck behind them suddenly grew to a line of three vehicles. “Damn! That’s amazing!”

“I ended up marrying Eduardo, but not long after that he fucked me up pretty bad because I refused to whore myself out to other clients of his. So he broke my arm; I had bruises all over my body; teeth missing. My modeling career was over; he made sure of that.” More sniffles came from Kathy, who became almost inconsolable. “And just to see that someone like you, who obviously has a good job and a good mind and just a good everything actually stepped up and gave me a chance — it just means a helluva lot to me.” She reached down and clasped Lyle’s hand. “No matter what comes of tonight, thank you for being kind to me.”

“I, uh, that’s great. I, don’t know what to say -” Lyle was never a wordsmith.

“Are you okay? You’re trembling.”

Lyle slowed down and pulled into the driveway of an old trailer. There was a couple sitting in the front porch, their faces illuminated by a string of Christmas lights. Lights followed a path from the trailer house to a cellar and an old silo.

“Where the fuck are we? Lyle?”

“I think I’m going to be sick. I have to use the bathroom.”

“Lyle you’re not just going up to those strangers and asking them for their bathroom! That’s not how that works.”

“Please just stay in the car.”

As Lyle exited the Charger, three other vehicles stopped behind him. With every step towards the trailer, Lyle did not hear the click of the door handle inside his car — meaning Kathy wasn’t smart enough to try to escape, which was good. She could easily unlock the car and make a run for it.

“I’m here,” Lyle exclaimed, voice fragile. His fingers traced the outline of the car keys in his left pocket.

The couple sitting on the porch is revealed to be two brothers, Douglas and Van. In the darkness they almost looked identical, save for their vastly different height and Douglas’ long beard. “You have what I need as well?”

“In the car.”

The brothers gestured toward Kathy and suddenly two women and a man approached the vehicle, but Douglas held out his hand in a stopping motion. “This is the one, correct? Kathy Pliga?”

Lyle felt his knees buckle and his shoes sink into the earth. “Yes.”

“Unlock the car then.”

“Fuck,” Lyle whispered.

It happened almost instantly. The car unlocked, Kathy raced out, but was napped kicking and screaming by one of the goons. They administered a shot to her neck and in moments she collapsed. Her limp feet drew lines in the dirt as she was dragged into the cellar.

“Very good, Lyle. You did an excellent job,” Van observed. “Everyone, prepare the ceremony. We’ll join shortly.”

“I need the money,” Lyle commanded, his voice cracking the dry night air. “I was promised thirty thousand; I’ve upheld my end. Please.” Lyle’s hands balled up in anticipation.

“You’ll have to forgive me, I left the money in the office. You’ll have to come with me to get it.” There was a peculiar calmness to the night, a kind of order as if nature itself conformed to a new hierarchy — a hierarchy with these brothers leading the pack. “Come now,” they whispered. “We’ll get your reward.” Although Lyle knew the risks, the chances of him escaping were slim enough as it was, so he decided to play nice.

Lyle followed Douglas, Van, and their acolytes into the cellar. The place was kept in pristine condition despite appearing quite old and abandoned from the outside. Inside, the walls were painted black with a single red stripe leading to the center of the cellar: the grand hall. Lyle couldn’t see much else from his position, as he was surrounded by the followers.

“Chieftain, everything has been prepared; the moon is in phase — it is time,” a red cloaked acolyte whispered to the brothers. The brothers nodded and the follower disappeared into another corridor.

Slow, deep instrumental music filled Lyle’s senses as he walked with the brothers through the cellar and into the grand hall. Before Lyle could ask if they were almost to the office, the music grew louder and the brothers turned around. It was the first time Lyle got to really see the two so close up and under bright light.

Douglas was about a foot and a half taller than Van, with a much longer beard, which was neatly combed and braided. He was bald and had a face full of different black tattoos. Van looked far more professional but less menacing, with only a short goatee and no tattoos.

Suddenly, the music stopped playing and the grand hall filled with hooded figures. Everything happened in a flash. Strange symbols appeared on the walls and the ground began to shake. Everyone bowed their head and began to hum. Lyle’s jaw dropped and his eyes grew wide. He fell back in horror as two men carried Kathy into the room, now stripped naked and painted white.

“To praise our Brother Thygalsdi, we offer the Harbinger of the Filth. As her life fills us, the Era of Soot comes to an end and the Sacred Cleanse begins!” the brothers chanted, to which the others parroted.

Paralyzation wore off and Lyle finally picked himself up off the floor and scurried to the door, but he was quickly ambushed by the mob.

“Lyle,” the brothers spoke in unison. “You’re not leaving here without your reward.” They motion toward Kathy, now wide awake but completely silent, staring at him. Her eyes glimmered under the bright light. “As Harbinger, it is your duty.” A dagger is forced in Lyle’s hand. “Do it.” A hint of a smirk formed on Kathy’s face, as if she was taunting Lyle. Liberal fag, she mouthed.

The entire room erupted in chants of “DO IT! DO IT! DO IT! DO IT HARBINGER! FOR THYGALDSDI!”

But all Lyle could see and hear was the pathetic bitch Kathy. The cow who took his money and refused to get him a shake. The sleaze who considered a dinner at Chux ‘N More and a movie she’d seen a dozen times was a date. The liar who made him believe she was an abuse victim for no fucking reason before he sold her for $30,000. The FUCKING BITCH who scammed him from the very start. Yes, Lyle considered himself a hardcore gun control and anti-violence activist, but, fuck, he wanted to stab Kathy.

So he did. And Kathy didn’t even put up a fight. Nobody did. He plunged the knife first into Kathy’s arm, then into her stomach, and then her neck. Then it became a blur. All of his rage, a lifetime of buried anger and hatred and he decided to take it out right then on Kathy, a girl he met in person only hours earlier. A girl he only intended to sell to a couple of men for $30,000 and then he would leave, no questions asked. Now he was standing over her, relentlessly stabbing her over and over and over and over. He cried because she couldn’t; he never gave her a chance. She didn’t have a chance to take a final breath before he sank the dagger one last time into her heart.

The muffled silence was slowly broken by quietened praises for the cultists’ Thygaldsdi and for their blessed Harbinger, but none was as enthusiastic as before.

Instead of bandages, the cultists pressed cups to Kathy’s stab wounds. Red solo cup after red solo cup was filled with Kathy’s blood and passed around the room. Hearty cheers and happy tears were had, and finally Douglas approached Lyle. Lyle was still beside Kathy’s twitching corpse, dazed, his hand clutching the dagger.

“You did us a great service today, Harbinger; here, drink up. It will complete the ceremony.”

“Don’t… fucking call me that.” Lyle shrugged him away and stood up. “Now let me go.”

“Not without this,” he handed Lyle a suitcase. “Inside is the thirty grand. All you have to do is complete the ceremony, and you can leave.” All eyes were on Lyle and his red solo cup full of Kathy’s blood. “Just swallow.”

Lyle dropped the blade and peeked inside the suitcase. His money was in the case, sure enough. He grabbed the cup. “Here’s to forgetting every fucking thing that happened here tonight,” Lyle toasted, swallowing Kathy along with every ounce of his pride.


After Lyle left the cellar and sped off with his $30,000, Douglas made a phone call.

“Valerie, it’s the Chieftain of Station 8B.”

“Y-Y-You’re calling, so, it-it’s done? The Cleansing has…?”

Douglas was quick and quiet. “Alert the council of our success here and begin taking the necessary steps for initiation.”


Intermission + Some Updates

Thursday, November 29 will be the debut of Act II of Masquerade with my new short story Swallow.

From here on out you can expect to see new short stories (~1,500-2,500 words) posted regularly on Thursdays unless stated otherwise, with perhaps some super-short flash fics/poems (>400 words) sprinkled around randomly. (I do looooooove flash fiction.)

I’m overjoyed to return to writing to say the least. I’ve written a good part of Swallow and it just feels like I’m back where I’m supposed to be, like I’ve been on vacation for a year and I’m finally back at home sleeping in my own bed.

That said, having this creative energy flow through me once again is just as terrifying as it is exciting; some poor fictional soul is going to die. Who’s is going to be? My bet’s on the butler.

See you Thursday. 😈

Bodies In the Sandbox I: The Mutant Boy


Photo Credit

The Mutant Boy

Tommy Gillespie fought hard but couldn’t break away. He was tangled in the grasp of George Turnboat, a 6-foot meaty giant, who flashed a grin that could make grown men buckle to their knees and the Stitcherton High girls swoon. At first glance, Tommy appeared courageous, a superhero standing up to the evil villain for every other bullied fourth grader in his school, but that wasn’t the case at all. Rather, his stoic expression was the pizza rising back through his esophagus, and his puffy chest was simply severe Marfan Syndrome. In reality, Tommy was a flea against an elephant, a child against a yeti. He knew very well this wasn’t a battle he could win.

George forced Tommy against the freshly painted lockers, staining Tommy’s backpack and elbows bubbly crimson. “You scared, Mutant?” snapped George, spitting in the boy’s matted chestnut hair. As George released his grip, Tommy fell on his ass with a thud. “Stay away from my girl, or we’ll see if your insides are as red as Stitcherton red, pussy.

For the moment it took George to march out of the main hall, Tommy remained still and reserved. A stream of wet red paint streaked down his forearm and fell off his wrist. “This must be what it looks like if I slit my wrists,” he thought somberly. “Maybe it wouldn’t be such a bad idea, after all.” He waited until the metal doors clashed shut, when he was alone with the welcoming silence, before he lost himself.

Tommy wiped the tears away, striping his cheeks crimson. Never in his life had he talked to George’s girl, Natalie. The only one he ever talked to was his brother, but not even his twin could help him in such a hopeless situation. When George Turnboat wanted to beat the living hell out of the school’s deformed weakling, nobody could stop him from doing just that.

Mrrp, mrrp.

A cellphone vibrated in one of the lockers behind Tommy’s head, reminding him to check his own. And sure enough: “Three missed calls,” Tommy blubbered. Each were from unknown callers. He sat still against the wet lockers for a few more minutes, just crying. With his cherry face, he resembled the Stitcherton Devil mascot suit — flaming red, stinky as fuck, and empty on the inside.

Tommy found his brother sitting atop the monkey bars at the playground, chewing on a wad of bubble gum. “Hey, David,” Tommy sniffed, rubbing the dark welt rising on his throat. “We can go home now.”

David hopped off the bars and landed in the soft grass, trampling the recently sprouted wildflowers. “George again?”


Chuckling, David added: “In the main hall? Y’know Mr. Harris is going to be pissed when he gets back tonight to see your pack print in the lockers.”

“Fuck him,” rasped Tommy. Following his brother to the sidewalk, heading towards home. “Did you know they’re calling me Mutant?” He rubbed his nubby sixth finger on his left hand, kicking gravel into the ditch as he walked.

David beamed. “Started that one myself. Figured it was better than Titty Tommy.”

A semi raced past the duo, stirring up dust and a crumpled page of Stitcherton Daily. When the soot settled down and the boys moved farther from the dirt road, Tommy patted the dirt from his hair and whispered, “He called again.”

David stopped. “Did you answer?”


“How many –”

“Three,” answered Tommy. “It’s not stopping like you thought it would.”

“Whatever. Let’s just get home before Mom grounds us for life.” David’s attempt at quickly changing the subject had no effect, as neither of the boys could escape the thought of what was to come should they continue to ignore the blocked calls.

“It’s going to come again,” warned Tommy.

“And when it does, we’ll be ready.” David swallowed his gum. “As long as we have a bathtub….”

Tommy hid his panic behind a quivering grin. “…We have a fighting chance.”

Where Good Children Play

He fought hard but couldn’t break away. With one hand knotted in his dark, curly hair, my other submerged his head deeper and deeper. He threw and rotated his arms to the side desperately searching for a something, anything to latch onto. His revolving, clamped fists sketched imaginary ovals in the air as he struggled to breathe. His body turned and writhed, his stomach constricting and releasing, under my heavy palms.

I could hear him try to speak, his fragmented pleas floating to the surface as air pockets. But I remained emotionless, just like the other times.

Then, when it was time, I heaved him from the tub, his small figure meeting the bathroom floor in a loud slap. In between asphyxiated gasps, he coughed and spat at his feet. And after wiping his mouth on the front of his shirt sleeve, he looked at me with glistening eyes – his cheeks flushed and his lips curved in a mischievous smirk. “It’s your turn now,” he said.

And I grinned.