It’s Just That Simple

“That’s it?”

“Yup, that’s it.” Charles took a long drag of his cig. “Just don’t fuck up and put the wrong thing in there. Check everything first. It’s a one-way ticket what you stick in there. Usually.”

“What if I gotta deliver something real big then?”

“Don’t worry about it. Just leave it near the slot. They take care of it.”

She shuddered. “You don’t mean… one of them…?”

“Yup. Don’t worry, it’s all in the contract.” Fingers on a long, pale hand reached up, and smoothed back Charles’ glossy black hair, tucking it behind his ear. Kristen glanced at that third hand speculatively as it crawled back into the inner pocket of Charles’ short jacket. She’d only died such a short while ago, she didn’t know yet if it would be rude to ask…

“Well, you going to put ‘em in or not?”

Kristen blushed, “Yes, sorry sorry.” She kneeled in front of the little slot. Such a small little thing. The air breathing out of it was warm, but there were no fires emanating from it. No sounds. She pulled the stack of envelopes from under her arm, quickly flicking through them to check the addresses, just as Charles said. All good. After dropped them in, they walked back to the truck leaving the little lonely slot marked “Hell” behind.

Nightmare Fuel, Day 10


I was just getting done feeding the last skink when I heard the door rattle. Years of honed retail instinct to straighten and greet the customer warred with my personal sense of dread. As a result, I raised my torso with a sudden jerk instead of a smooth professional glide. A stray cricket bounced to the floor and scurried under a nearby shelf. I sighed and put on my game face.

“How may I help you today?” I didn’t bother with sir or ma’am, I was too often wrong about that and not interested in another beating from the Master.

The customer grinned at me, shuffled closer and handed me a piece of paper. A servant sent out with a shopping list, I supposed. I gave it a glance. Great, Mortal Enochian… aka “Fauxnochian.” Guessed this thing’s master must’ve recently died, and hadn’t learned any better yet. “Sorry Bub, you’re going to have to tell your Master we only deal with professionals here…”

It frowned and glowered at me, pushing past me and beginning to crudely rummage through the wares, pushing aside ancient bottles and charms. I was barely in time to catch a vintage boxed kit as it tumbled to the floor. “Hey, hey now, I’m going to have to ask you to leave!”

It was then I noticed my hands were feeling warm, very very warm… hot… burning, even. I looked as the fauxnochian note discorporated along with my finger tips. The customer was also becoming faintly radiant as it frantically began shoving things into its pockets. Where it touched, product smoked and scorched.

“Shit!” I yelled, diving for the phone. I dialed the Master. “Sir, sir, we’ve got one of those Lifeys in here! No, no I didn’t call the cops yet… wait, what? ………Sure… No, I don’t think… alright.”

I followed the directions given to me, and pulled out a long bone staff from behind the counter. Normally I wouldn’t have touched a relic this old, beyond the occasional dusting but the Master deemed this a sufficient situation to warrant it. “Gigantopithecus blacki, don’t let me down.” I muttered. By now the Lifey had found what it was looking for, since it was chewing furiously on something I couldn’t identify anymore and chugging a quart of what I think was aqua vitae. The hot, living glow of it was fading and it was shuffling back to the door. I took a breath and stepped in front of it, holding out the staff. “I’m sorry but I’m going to have to ask you to stay.”

The customer snarled and lunged at me, and I smacked it hard with the bone. There was an unnaturally loud bang as the bone made contact. The thing in the store went down hard, smoke rising from the welt on its face. Blood, beautiful and warm and red sizzled on the floor. The bone itself was bleached where it had hit the creature. Its chest rose and fell, shuddering.

Just then, I heard the familiar clumping of my Master’s hooves as he raced down the stairs from the upper apartments and flung the back door open. He stood there, gnarled horns almost snagging in the door frame. He was an Ancient One, not as ancient as some, but enough that he didn’t look very human at all anymore.

“Damn it, you didn’t kill it did you, you worthless little puke!?”

“It’s still breathing, no worries.” I rolled my eyes. “That thing could have ended me, you know.”

“Good, good.” The Master stomped over to the counter, then tossed me a pair of heavy leather gloves. “Put these on, then take that to the basement. I’m going to grab the #17 shackles. Tell no one. No one. I invoke the geas on this command. You will tell no one of this Lifey here, beyond the merchandise we are going to extract from it, and only then to our special customers… do you understand?”

I sighed, for the millionth time that night it seemed. “Yes, Master.”

“Good. And when we’re done, clean this shit up. I’m going to be down there for awhile.”

As I hauled the repulsive thing downstairs, I’m pretty sure I heard it whisper, “Help…”

“It’s what you get for being a shitty customer.” I told it.


Nightmare Fuel, Day 8 and 9

They Won’t Stop Coming

“For fuck’s sake, here comes another one!” I stared at the murky shadow as it became larger, closer, and more distinct. Fleshy, living hands appeared and pressed against the thin glass. It was trying to come through. “Shoot it now, Will! Shoot it the fuck now!” I backed up and moved to the left of him. Shrugging, Will braced the gun, a Winchester ‘73 that was nearly as old as Will, on his shoulder and fired. The surface of the mirror rippled and splashed like water as it was sprayed with pellets.

I let out a shaky sigh as I saw the mirror darken with blood, then clear. The woman was gone. I felt Will’s hand on my shoulder.

“Easy Jack, you’re letting it get to ya too much.”

“I just want it to fucking end Will, you know that.”

“I reckon it will end soon enough. They’re trying to come here to live, not to die.”

“They damn well need to wait their damn turn, and they know it!” I huffed. “They’re as creepy as fuck, too. Just isn’t natural.” I turned and dug into my bag and pulled out my government-issued laptop. “You going to fill out the report this time, or me?”

“I’ll do it,” Will sighed, “I think you should tuck in early. I’ll let the ladies know we exterminated the problem and give them their leaflet and all that. Just relax and tuck in. Maybe you should file that vacation time you’ve been building up…”

“You know I can’t do that, Will.”

He raised his hands, “Fine fine, but just get going alright? I’ve got this.”

An hour later and I was home, staring at a candle I’d lit to relax. I never really got used to being here. I’m not sure anyone was. But like everyone else, I didn’t know what to make of the Invasion.

It had started soon after I died. I woke up spitting and choking mud, naked as the day I was born. I’d wandered for about half a day in an off-color, off-scented world… ignored by the cars I’d waved at, until I was finally picked up by Transitional Affairs. After a brief interview I was given everything I’d needed to become acclimated and start living my life in the Realm of the Dead. Finding a job didn’t take long— once the Invasion started, I and everyone else that had died near to the event was summoned and evaluated for recruitment for the Extermination Force.

It had started with a single man. At first, no one knew what to make of it. For weeks, there had been strange and unexplained phenomena in the back alleys of town. Seeing people in mirrors, objects moving, doors opening and closing on their own. And then the man. The bricks rippled and he simply stepped through. A 1520’s woman saw it from a nearby apartment. He placed a national flag, right there, jamming it into the cracks between the bricks.

It wasn’t until he walked out to the main street that there was a panic. See, there is a barrier between our worlds for a reason. That flag he planted? It began to burn. It was a familiar burn… the light of life and living. And it hurt. Where the man’s feet and hands touched, it dissolved. That poor woman almost didn’t escape as bricks began to glow and then dissolve. The people on the street, some of them weren’t as lucky. Anyone who bumped into this man on the busy street began to dissolve, unravel… discorporate. The man was glowing at this point. Looking more and more… more… everyone seemed to realize it at the same time: this man was alive. That’s when the riot started, the screaming and running. The police came, the national guard. They quarantined the area.

The official story was that they’d killed the man. Burned him and that section of the city with fire until it was cleansed. But I’d learned the real story as part of my briefing. The man… had simply walked into another wall and disappeared. Back to the living.

It had been hoped it was some kind of anomaly. But anomaly it was not. Only a few months passed before more unexplained phenomena began again. Fortunately, it seemed to take quite a bit of effort before anything or anyone could pass into our world. We learned how to kill them before they came through. But they also adapted, discovering ways to come through without drawing attention to themselves lighting fires with their steps. Disguising themselves and hiding until they slipped up and dissolved someone or, worse.

I am an Exterminator. It was my job to identify their access points to stop them from crossing over. Well, crossing over the wrong way, anyway. Will is a Hunter. He used to prowl the abandoned areas of town and wood, looking for anything that slipped through in uninhabited areas. He’d still be doing that, but currently he is the one assigned to train me.

I hear a sound, and I glance over. There’s a book, sliding across my counter.


Nightmare Fuel 2016, Day 7

Grass Is Greener

“… and one can only imagine the little creatures living their whole lives in the islands of shrub and weed throughout the city. What do they think of the asphalt, the cars, and the animals wandering to and fro? Do they see those others islands, just over there? Do they dream to cross the deadly rivers?”

“Imagine how different everything would be if Mars were green. If mankind were the bugs staring out across the wastelands towards another tiny paradise. And maybe, those other bugs were staring back at us, too…”

I woke every night with that voice in my mind, that voice that lectured to me, inflamed me… guided me. My logos. Every day I moved as an automaton towards the goals dictated by my personal god. And here I was.

The road stretched out before me, worn. The waking, the preparing— that had happened without my knowing it. Automatic. To my right, shrubs on a wall. To the left, old buildings with the paint peeling. Everything was similar but so very different. Colors seemed… strange. There was an atmosphere I couldn’t place. I felt, rather than saw, a curtain pushed aside by an invisible hand. Someone was watching me.

And that was fine.

It wouldn’t change why I was here. What I needed to do.

I wondered if every great explorer was guided as I was. If they heard the same lectures. Did those same whispers cross glaciers and oceans, mountains and plains? Was it there when the world was globalized? On the moon? Did it hold Man’s hand on Mars?

I couldn’t know that. But I knew what I was here for. The last frontier.

I planted my country’s flag while the ghosts watched.

Nightmare Fuel 2016, Day 5