Forward

“Hey, Steve, who do you think this statue is?” She asked, while they were making out under the tree in the cemetery.

“I dunno, some guy who died in World War I?” He wasn’t really bothered by the interruption. They’d been meeting here a long time, and at this point they were familiar enough with each other’s bodies that conversation had ceased being a distraction. Honestly, he really enjoyed it. Caroline was different. Not like the other girls. He looked at her gentle, calm face out of the corner of his eye. Although…

“Hey, want to come back to my place this weekend? My parents are going out to visit a friend a few hours away, and are going to stay the night over there if you know what I mean.”

Caroline sighed into his neck. “What’s wrong with just meeting right here?”

She was always like that.

This felt familiar.

Now that he thought about it, she really was always like that. How many times had he asked her to go somewhere else? He couldn’t quite remember.

“How long have we been seeing each other?” Caroline looked at him when he asked that, her brows wrinkled. She brought a hand up to his face, and peered into his eyes. He began to sweat.

“How long?” he asked, his voice rising. Caroline brought up her other hand, cupping his head as she stared into his eyes. Panic began to bubble up his throat.

“Ssssshhh…” Caroline crooned. “You enjoy being with me, right?” He could feel something being sucked out of him, and his breathing slowed. Caroline pushed herself away from the tree and towards him, pushing him back towards the statue.

“I guess it’s time,” she muttered.

“Time? What do you mean, time?” He was calming down now. He could feel the panic being sucked out of his back.

Caroline didn’t answer, but kept pushing steadily against him, forcing him back until he felt the cold base of the statue against his back.

“I’m sorry, Steve. It won’t hurt, I promise.” He thought he might have felt a prick of fear again, but it was distant now, so very distant. Like his memories. Who was Steve? He couldn’t remember. He stared at the girl pressing him against the frigid, hard surface. Who was she? Something was pulling at his back, sucking at him. Pulling something out through his spine…

Caroline stepped on the pile of clothes as she reached up and touched the statute on top of the concrete base. Was it her imagination, or was it finally getting a little warm?

“Soon…” she whispered. “Just a few more, I think…”
The statue of the fallen soldier had been cast as a daring, brave figure. She glanced at the statue’s face and thought she saw a flicker of fear there, for just a moment, which quickly faded.

“Thank you for your sacrifice.”

Nightmare Fuel, Day 3

Home Is

It knows everything about me. And why wouldn’t it? It’s known me for most of my life.

True, it wasn’t there when I was born— that had happened at a hospital. But I came home to it a day or so later and lived there ever since. The wood was old even then, but not as old as it is now. My hand shakes as I touch the wall, but the shaking has less to do with age than it has to do with fear. It was a beautiful house. Mostly on the outside. Much of the inside as well. But not here. Here the wood was damaged, pitted. Ignored. Forgotten about. The cost was too high to bear, so we rarely spoke of it and even more rarely came up here.

“Michael, sweetie, see you later!” My wife yelled from downstairs. She was leaving for work. Something I hadn’t done in… a while. Not since that day. The day when I became aware. The day I woke up.

The day the house spoke to me.

My wife was still asleep next to me when I first heard the whisper. It isn’t a voice, really. It was instead the sudden realization that the house knew everything about me.

It remembered the secret games I played with my friends. I gasped, sweating. I looked at my wife. The whisper was louder. Could she hear it?

The house told me things. The house told me about the things I said after my grandfather died. The horrible things I had muttered to myself, when everyone else was away at the funeral. How I hated him.

But it knew other things.

It knew about that time, when I’d brought Alison home, while my wife was way enjoying some time with her friends.

The house was everything about me.

It was the first time I’d discovered myself.

It was my father’s belt.

The first time I’d touched a friend.

It was that time I killed my brother’s fish when I was angry, pouring a little bleach into its bowl and lying about it.

It was the time I pretended to not notice invitations.

It was the time lied about donating to charity.

It was me, coming home drunk.

It was the time… I gasped, shuddering.

It felt like an electric current was running through my body, the panic flowing like an electrical surge. Was there a switch, a switch inside me somewhere? I did not know, I could not find it.

I’m sorry, I’m so sorry.

I was in the attic. The mattress was still rumpled from when Alison had come. Careless. As if I’d wanted my wife to find it. I could feel the tears, heavy and hot on my cheeks, streaming into my beard. The window was huge, round, and staring.

The house is an eye.

The house is my father’s belt.

I’m so sorry, dear.

The house watches as I tie the belt.

The house has watched me my entire life.

Nightmare Fuel, Day 2

Keep the Roses

She breathed deeply, taking in the essence of the flower in her hand. Pulled in the air, held it, feeling the particles trapped within. Swirling, as if panicked and seeking a way out, until finally being absorbed by her lungs. She wondered, as she often did, why it wasn’t enough. But she would buy them anyway. She looked at the price, then in her wallet to see if she had enough. Out of the corner of her eye she took in the woman standing near the door. That woman had fallen in love instantly, and was clutching a handful of fat yellow rose blooms. The wrinkles in her face crinkled as she took in the scent. The florist, sensing prey, quickly converged on the scene.

The verbal transaction was ignored. She imagined that woman going home with those flowers. She would take them, and add them to the flowers she’d bought the other day. Maybe she had a table just for the flowers she was collecting. They’d be for her, of course. Different flowers for different moods. Maybe different flowers just on a whim on different days. She’d touch the flowers. She could see the flowers looking at her, with their open keep sockets and wide grins. Then she would feel the flowers on herself. Felt their fingers slide across her skin. She licked her lips, breathed hard. Suddenly she remembered where she was, and her eyes flew open in a panic.

The florist and the woman were still talking. No one else was in the shop. No one seemed to have noticed.

She put down the flowers and hurried out of the store.

That was close.

She was being careless.

She needed to get home. She needed to get home now.
She needed… No, don’t think of that. Do not think of…

And then, she was home. She wasn’t alone. There was a man with her. Who was he? Yes… he had helped her. She was panting, in a panic, when she realized she’d set her wallet down with the flowers. But she had to get home. She licked her lips. He was handsome. She should get her wallet. She needed to get home. He paid her bus fair. He could tell she was in trouble, right? He was forward. He was trash. Why else would he get off the bus with her, a stranger, and lead her to the door? It was alright then, right? He was trash. She breathed him in. The particles floated there, confidently. They didn’t know they were trapped.

She invited him in. Drew him into the living room. The curtains were closed. They were always closed. He sat on the couch, relaxed. Maybe eager. She licked her lips. Was he eager? Maybe he was nervous. She sat next to him. They exchanged words. The words didn’t matter. They never did. They were reflex. Instinct.

She touched him. Caressed his arms, his face. He looked at her, and she could see a moment of fear. She inhaled his scent again. Kissed him. Felt him melt into her. Felt his skin ooze and drip. Felt faint wisps of vapor trickling into her lungs. Eagerly, she gripped his head and breathed in deeper and harder until she finally exhausted herself in a frenzy.

That evening, she spent some time in her study with a glass of wine sniffing the skulls strewn on every surface. She pushed a few aside on one table, and grabbed one off a bookshelf with a complimentary shape and scent and arranged it with the newest one. It was hard to feel regret when she was so relaxed.

Nightmare Fuel 2018, Day 1

To Rule the Earth

When I was a kid I used to love a documentary called Planet of Life. I think it was from the Discovery Channel. I had it on VHS and I would watch it over and over and over again.

From that series, I’d learned that one of vertebrate’s oldest enemies was the long forgotten Anomalocaris. This beast would have been large enough to frighten human swimmers today, as it undulated and flapped through the water and reached out with its stubby claspers. Since it could bite through a trilobite, I’d imagine it could leave a nasty little wound on a swimmer, maybe nip off a toe if it wanted.

I’d also learned that little cells making oxygen and photosynthesis effectively destroyed the world and replaced it with a new one filled with creatures that had mutated to survive in a new toxic atmosphere. To this day, Earth’s original inhabitants are confined to the anaerobic layers of water, soil, mud… and animal bowels.

I discovered that even before that, some of those inhabitants had been absorbed into others… enslaved, or merged over time as over-dependent parasites or symbiotes.

Eventually plants filled the seas and the land, and on land they lead the mutants with them.

And when the corpses of plants burned, nearly all the mutants died.
Later, when the mutants had recovered and grown too big, the plants changed themselves into new forms. Flowers bloomed, deciduous trees replaced conifers and some of the largest of those beasts went extinct.

But the plants had a purpose for many of the survivors. They shaped them into sexual vehicles, into caregivers and vehicles.

Was it a coincidence that the last of those great beasts died as they started to adapted to eating the new forms?

Is it a coincidence that man happens to be a species that responds so well to the nutrition, scent, sight, and flavor of so so many of the new forms?

I read recently that scientists are now working on getting plants to grow in Lunar and Martian soils.


Nightmare Fuel 2017, Day 7

Into the Outside

Breathe.

Breathe.

Run.

Run.

Turn.

Breathe.

Try another door.

Another. Another.

How long have I been trying to escape. How many doors have I opened. Doors within doors.

But windows are doors, too.

Every window is sealed with cement.


Nightmare Fuel 2017, Day 6

She’s Mad Now

That dog of Shelly’s was a real mean bastard. Big German Shepherd, the kind you’d chain up in a scrap yard. There wasn’t a minute in the day that Shelly didn’t baby that monster, giving it treats and attention. And it adored her.

Mean as Hell to anyone else.

When I killed Shelly, it was when I’d caught her coming out of the bathroom, but before she’d made it back to the yard.

Maybe that bastard just hated me, maybe he knew. Who knows what a dog thinks.

After Shelly was gone, I laid back for a bit. Didn’t want to arouse any suspicions. I took care of that mean bastard, best I could. Told everyone how much Shelly had loved that dog so of course, of course I had to take care of him. For Shelly. Poor, poor Shelly.

The dog was almost as good a hunter as I was. Almost.

It was a real big, mean dog. But even dogs go down as easily as a human with a firm crack to the head.

I told everyone the dog had been hit by a car.

I didn’t tell anyone when Shelly and the beast came knocking.

Nightmare Fuel 2017, Day 5

Ghosts of Space

Shortly before the Wood, I’d re-watched the Aliens movies. There was a famous line in there about how our parents told us monsters weren’t real, but in reality there are monsters. Of course, the deeper punchline being that maybe it’s actually our fellow humans that are the real monsters.

When humans had lost the war against the Wood, and had been absorbed, we’d breathed a collective sigh of relief. No more war, no more monsters.

We had lost the war, but won peace and immortality.

But we had forgotten about the ghosts.

And in the Wood, ghosts had an outlet. In the Wood, ghosts had bodies.
I was watching one now, near the water. It had formed from algae and other bits of plant and plant-like pond sludge. I wasn’t sure, but I think it was a woman. It was looking for something, combing through the water with distorted arms and fingers. Reaching, stretching, frantically. It was crying. Looking for a lover? A child? Its thoughts were closed to me, but its intent bled through. Someone important had died here.

A lot of humans had died in the war, but many from suicide and murder, not in the fighting.

Maybe she had drowned her child before the Wood had taken her family.

Before she had known the truth of the Wood.

I moved my consciousness closer.

The ghost’s head jerked up, looked at me. It wailed and tried to run, but its body began to fall apart as I reached out with root and branch.

Come back to us, I urged her. I could sense the bits of her mind falling to the ground, becoming lost. Ghosts barely had anything left to them to begin with, and couldn’t afford to lose any more of themselves. Pieces of her broken mind became open to me as they hit the ground and vanished.

Memories of terror, of being chased. Holding someone small and squirming. Then, holding someone small under the water until that someone stopped moving. Going into the water, then feeling a rough grip around an ankle.

And then she was gone.

Nightmare Fuel 2017, Day 4

I Didn’t Want to See This

The kids were walking to school as usual that morning, being directed by a crossing guard. It was a sunny, hot morning. I had stopped at the light and just idly gazed at them. I wasn’t in a particular hurry to get to work that day.

The kids were walking to school again in the morning. It was a sunny, hot morning again. I was sitting at the light, watching them. I wasn’t in any hurry.

They were skipping a bit as they walked to school this time. It was sunny, but cool morning. I tapped my fingers on the steering wheel as I waited for them to cross.

I couldn’t see the kids, but I could hear them giggling. It was foggy and a touch cool that day. I strained to see them, and didn’t notice immediately when the light changed.

There were shapes in the fog, but they were quiet now. The fog was breaking up. The shadows resolved into deer, herded by a large hulking figure… my hands were shaking as it looked at me.

“Forget you ever saw this,” it muttered. The deer stood waiting in the field. They watched me as I hit the gas.


Nightmare Fuel 2017, Day 2 and Day 3

Into Dust

I don’t know when the dust first came. If things were different there’d probably be an army of scientists working it out… people stringing together incomprehensible data points and painstakingly gluing tiny bits of data to each other. Then would have come the cynics and doubters and deniers. Well, when I think about it that way, maybe everything would be ending up the same anyway. So, in that case, who cares?

But as it really unfolded, as far as I could tell, I was the only one who could see it.

It simply came to be that one day, I noticed something strange. Like when you’re cooking and something starts to burn just a little bit and it takes you a moment to figure out why something in the room looks a little off.

My husband couldn’t see it. There wasn’t anything burning.

I’d had floaters and things before. Things in my eyes. So I was a little worried about that, but not too worried. Not worried enough to get it checked out until a couple days later.

I was getting old, my left retina was starting to detach. Just a little. Nothing to worry about. Not the cause of the haze or the dust. Maybe it would clear up on it’s own, or I’d have to see the other kind of eye doctor. The one that isn’t at the malls. Maybe a neurologist, if it wasn’t that.

I was afraid, so I didn’t go. Silly of me, but I really couldn’t decide if some kind of brain tumor or eye problem was worse. They aren’t really equivalent problems, but the surgeries I would imagine for either and their potential catastrophes were still then too frightening for any calm, logical, rational decision.

In a few weeks, I would have. Once I’d calmed down. In a normal, sane world I would have had that leisure.

The dust didn’t wait that long.

That, too, I didn’t realize right away.

By the time I made an appointment, the death tolls were…

People. Nature. They were getting angrier. More wild.

But it was harder for me to see it.

People, trees, animals, buildings… they began to disappear.

I was the only one who could see it.

Maybe.

Before the end, I was still pretending everything was normal, that it was just my eyes.

I was watching a ferris wheel, the people riding up and down, up and down. I held on to my husband, who was barely there. I could see them, in the baskets. The dust covered everything but for just a moment in the breeze, when they were up high and right before they plunged back down, I could see them realize and begin to scream.


Nightmare Fuel 2017, Day 1

When We Make Our Own Traps

Instead of whining about how I don’t have a better tablet, I finally decided to sit down and just start using my cheapo Windows 10 tablet for art.

Isn’t it funny how we tell ourselves we need this or that special thing and if only we had that we would suddenly become more talented? I think most of us realize that, but it is easy to slip into that kind of thinking and just wallow and whine instead of actually getting better at something.

SPOILER ALERT: I’m totally guilty of this all the time.

It’s a huge time waster, self-confidence destroyer, and wallet-emptier.

I promise myself to let it go. At least a little bit.

headshot of young blue dragon, digital art