We came out of the drop and into complete and utter chaos. They were on us before our chutes even hit the ground. Out of the woods into the clearing they came, faces stretched taut in rage, their jaws mashing, their horrible bloodshot eyes burning.

I had my rifle out and was firing before I even got my footing. Brick was already on the ground next to me, screaming, going full auto.

We were overwhelmed.

They overtook Parsons and his rifle fell back with him, the muzzle flashing up into the sky, and I heard him scream as they bit into his flesh. Brick turned and unloaded everything he had into the group they fell like the sacks of meat they were. Still shooting I glanced back over my shoulder and saw all the new recruits had landed further south. It looked like they were being overrun.

I fired at the last one running toward me from the trees but it was too fast. Almost on top of me, lightning fast I bayoneted the fucker. It spat blue blood in my face, then its eyes rolled back. It was already starting to swell when it fell off the end of the blade.

Somehow, against all odds, we took them out. None of the juniors survived. Green, Oslo and Backtrack didn’t make it either. At the end there was only me, Brick and that quiet kid I’d never spoken with, Blohjek. Just us and all those pale swelling bodies, tumescent bags of flesh turning white in the grass of the clearing, surrounded by shell casings.

“He’s gone,” said Brick, and kicked the ballooning corpse of Parsons. “He’s swelling up just like them.” Most of the skin was still there but the puncture wounds were everywhere.

“Come on,” I said, “the rendezvous point’s at the top of the hill.”

We walked and we walked and we walked, on high alert the whole time, but we saw no more of them. Finally we reached the top and set all the gear down. Brick sat on one of the bags and took off his helmet. The kid lit a fag and the cherry glowed in the day’s dying light.

“What the hell is that…?” he said, pointing to the horizon, back from where we came.

Streaks of fire shot up in the sky, long burning pillars of orange light rising from the ground and up into the dull blue-grey of twilight. I picked up the binocs and looked.

It was them. I saw their bodies within the fire, rising up to back from where they came, their swelling shrinking within the flames, the death falling off them and burning away. I saw our guys in there too. They were burning up and becoming part of the cycle just like the rest.

I remember the horrible weight sinking in my stomach, and the glassy reflection of those pillars of fire in Brick’s watering eyes.

“They are reborn,” he said.

The Professional

“Yes?” I said, looking up from the paperwork on my desk.
“This came for you.”┬áJeanine was holding a large box. She handed it to me as I stood up.
“Oof! It’s heavy.” I said, setting it down on the desk. She left.

There wasn’t a packing slip, just a white envelope on which someone had scrawled my name. I opened it to find a letter on plain white paper, typed, complete with the station’s address and my full name and title in the heading.

Chief Inspector Rivers,

Find enclosed the head, lungs and liver of David L. Greenwood, of 324 Avenue des Pines Ouest. I have loathed David for as long as I have known him, and observed with disdain the foolishness, impetuousness and disregard for others with which he lived his life. That is why I killed him.

You will also find enclosed the murder weapon of said deceased individual, an unregistered Smith & Wesson Model 36, which with my gloved hand I pulled the trigger.

Though I have been informed by certified mental health professionals that I am incapable of feeling empathy, I felt it of importance to say the following for your sake: it is my hope that your department is able to locate and apprehend me in a timely manner, despite my assiduousness in taking every precaution to ensure they do not. This is because following this there will be 46 additional letters of a similar nature – I have compiled a list, Inspector Rivers, and on it your name is the 48th.

It is up to you to figure out why.


Brita Jug


“Sorry dear!” Marvin called out from the bedroom into the kitchen. He wasn’t sorry. Later Sue-Ann refilled the Brita.

The next day, Marvin got up and walked over to the fridge. He pulled the Brita jug out and poured himself a tall glass of water, emptying it.

He walked back to the living room. He saw that the red light was blinking on the answering machine. He pushed the button and drank all the water from the glass, very nearly spitting the last of it out when he heard Sue-Ann’s angry voice coming from the machine.

“You didn’t refill the goddamn Brita, did you Marvin? Did you? How goddamn hard is it to refill the goddamn Brita before you put it in the goddamn fridge? I’ve told you once, I’ve told you a thousand times!

“It’s not just about the goddamn Brita, Marvin. It’s not just about me opening the fridge door and finding that stupid empty jug staring me in the face and picturing your lazy ass putting it back in the fridge. It’s everything. I can’t take it anymore. I can’t handle being around your lazy ass anymore. I can’t handle listening to you bitch and complain all day and never do anything for anyone but yourself. I’ve had enough.

“I really hope you play this message, because I really want you to realize what you just drank. I really want you to learn your lesson before you die.”

Marvin set the glass down on the table next to the answering machine. His stomach felt warm.

The warmth began spreading.

Ocean Boulevard

It was the usual carnival by the time I got there. The flashing lights, the mess of ambulances, firetrucks, and us, the boys in blue. The yellow tape held out the public like the velvet rope at a nightclub. Or maybe not. Maybe it was holding us in. I ducked under it and walked toward the center of the activity.

I saw Detective Eaves crouched down over the body, smoke floating slowly upward into the damp night air from the cig in his mouth. There was something about the way his body was, the way he hung has head, that even from a distance he looked scared. No, more than that – hopeless.

He stood up as I reached him and my earlier observation was confirmed. I’d never seen Eaves this shaken. Not like this.

“Christ Ted, look at this shit. Look at it. When was the last time we saw something like this?” He gestured down toward the body.

There was little blood, except around the low “V” collar of t-shirt, and at the neck. The head was gone, the neck ending in jagged cuts. Zig-zags. Dirty work. Looked like the guy had decapitated the poor sap with a fucking straight razor.

“22 years ago,” I said, lighting a cigarette of my own. Back in my first week on homicide. What a week that had been.

“I don’t like it,” Eaves said. “I don’t mind telling you I’m spooked.”

“Yes, it is a little unnerving isn’t it?” I said coolly. “The nature of this crime isn’t what worries me.” A cyclist sped by down the boulevard, rubbernecking at the scene.

“What do you mean?”

“I mean as usual, Detective, you’re looking in the wrong place. I’m more worried that whoever – or whatever – took off the head of our young friend here was also capable of that.”

I pointed, up and over the rows of emergency vehicles, toward the top of the closest streetlight pole, those unnaturally tall, unnaturally straight steel pillars that the city had made whatever artist so many years ago, and dotted the Ocean Boulevard at regular intervals. At the top of the pole, staked on the point like it was on display on the ramparts of a medieval castle, was the head of the body.

“He’s bragging,” I said, staring up through the fog. “This is a warning. There’s going to be more.”

Closet Monster

“Mommy, I’m scared! There’s a monster in the closet!” Little Johnnie said, holding the covers up against his face.

Susan Patterson sat on the edge of her young son’s bed, sighing once again as they went through this nightly ritual.

“I told you honey, there’s no such thing as monsters. You’re a big boy now and you needn’t be afraid.”

“But there’s a monster in the closet, Mommy! I saw him! I saw him! He’s gonna get me as soon as you leave!”

Susan rose from the blue rocketships of the young boy’s comforter and walked over to the sliding door of the closet. She slid it aside, revealing the young boy’s hanging shirts.

“See? There’s no monster. I know it’s been hard for you since your Father’s not around any more, but try to be brave, okay son? It’s what he’d want.”

Johnnie shook from behind the shroud of the covers. “Okay Mommy,” he said quietly.

“Good. Goodnight son.” Susan Patterson walked over to the door and flicked off the light.

“Goodnight Mommy.”

Little Johnnie lay back in his bed in the darkness still afraid. He heard a noise, and looked over to the closet with terror to see the other door slowly sliding aside. The monster emerged from the blackness toward his bed, a giant dark shape looming with white eyes and yellowed teeth glinting in the darkness.

“Hello son,” the monster said.

That Escalated Quickly

Everyone is pushing, pushing and shoving – busy, busy, busy in the mall. Everyone in a hurry to get somewhere, anywhere, not sure where but they need to get there fast and shop, shop, shop.

“Hey man, your shoe’s untied,” a hipster with a skateboard says, rudely cutting in front of me and boarding before I can.

The escalator is crowded and I can feel the other bodies around me in my bubble, pushing against my personal space, all standing, rising slowly with the brainless mechanical steps as they complete their transcendence to Pedestrian Transport Valhalla, only to be reincarnated at the bottom as steel amoebas and do it all over again.

I reach the top and the hipster steps off in front of me. I follow him but am jerked back suddenly.

“Dude, your shoelace!”

And then I’m stumbling like an ungainly newborn fawn trying to find its feet. The brainless hungry steel machine is eating my shoelace like a stringy earthworm – pulling it slowly down into its hidden mechanical depths and my leg with it. The other passengers behind are piling up on top of me, alarmed, shouting, not knowing what is happening, trying to get past me.

“Help me! Please!”

The escalator continues churning away, pulling my foot into the tiny crevice between reality and abstract thought where the stairs disappear. The gap is a giant steel mouth with hideous sharpened steel teeth, pulling me in, crunching the bones of my ankle with its monstrous jaws, eagerly devouring its meal, as I can only listen to the sounds of my bones crack and grate against the brainless mechanical beast, helpless.

Taking It Slow

I awoke into blackness. I was blindfolded and my mouth taped shut. My legs and arms ached and felt numb they were bound and I was immobile. I tried to call out but my cries only came as muffled noise and pulled the tape against the skin of my mouth.

Then there was a burning as the tape was ripped from my mouth and the blindfold lifted. My vision returned. I was in someone’s condo, bound to a chair in the living room. The space was devoid of furniture save for a small television and VCR atop a table placed in front of me, and another table to my side, whatever was on it covered beneath the folds of a blue bedsheet.

I turned to face my captor. It was her.

“Oh my god,” I said. “You!”

“Hello Francis,” she giggled psychotically. Her curly blond locks shook. “I was wondering when you’d wake up.”

“What are you doing? What… what is this? Release me!” I cried.

“Oh Francis, silly, silly Francis,” she giggled some more. “It was just one date Frankie, but one date was enough! Did you think you’d never see me again, like all your other whores? That I wouldn’t find out about her?”

She flicked the knob on the television and the screen showed the tape running.

“Elizabeth!” I cried. She sat bound, gagged and blindfolded in a chair just like myself, and my captor entered the picture. She had a long kitchen knife and circled my fiance and then…

“Oh god!”

“Yes, I took care of her, Frankie, I took care of her good,” she said over Elizabeth’s screams coming from the TV set. “Now it’s just you and I, and we’ve got all the time in the world.” She smiled, and somehow at that moment that was more terrifying than anything.

She walked over to the table next to me and pulled the bedsheet away dramatically. Beneath it lay a fearsome array of tools and household objects: boxcutters, kitchen knives, pairs of pliers, a claw hammer, screwdrivers, a rusty old electric drill, a portable belt sander, a clothes iron, a meat cleaver, a corkscrew, a potato peeler…

She saw me look with terror at the meat cleaver.

“Oh don’t worry, baby, we’ll get there. But we still hardly know each other. And now we’ve got all the time in the world.”

She picked up one of the boxcutters. “I just wanna take things slow…”

Disappearing Act

It was he that had done it, the bastard. He’d sabotaged my shows, coming in disguise, heckling and revealing the secrets of all my tricks. I couldn’t prove it, but I knew it.

What a fall from grace! From the sublime to the ridiculous, from revered and admired to mocked and despised, from world famous to the grimiest depths of ignominy, and now he took my place up on center stage, stealing all of my tricks, no less! How could no one else recognize it?

Well, vengeance would be mine today. Two can play at this game, Great & Mysterious Riebold! For how could you possibly know that the bearded man in the audience beneath the bowler is none other than your arch-enemy, the Mysterious and Mystical Ernest R. Peabody! Here to reveal the secrets of all the tricks you stole from me, and bring you back down into the depths of obscurity! Soon it will be you performing in the dockyards next to the burlesque shows and opium dens, not I!

“And now for my greatest trick,” Riebold shouted out over the audience melodramatically. “I will produce from thin air, summoning from the very depths of hell…..”

Pain gripped my chest. An intense pain like none I’d ever felt before. It was as if some foul demon had staked a garden spade into my ribcage and driven it home. I clutched my chest and gasped, and the audience members all around shushed me.

My vision blurred, and in the distance on stage I blearily saw Riebold lift something with triumph, something red and spherical. The crowd gasped, then erupted into thunderous applause.

“…..a human heart!”

Club Crimson

I followed them on a whim.

I saw the group of girls – thin, pale, dressed with all the accoutrements of a night out on the town and attracting the opposite sex – turn down a blind alley and go through an unmarked black door. It must have been one of those hidden clubs, a secret place that only the coolest people get to know about by word of mouth.

What the hell, I thought. One final nightcap and I might even be able to chat one of them up.

Coming through the door, I strangely found myself entering directly into the heart of the place. Everything was red. Bright red. Crimson. The club was well lit and everything was like blood under the scarlet illumination. I felt like I was a piece of meat being kept warm under a hot lamp.

Stranger still, the club was completely silent. There was no thumping electronic music playing, no din of voices and drunken laughter, no sounds of bottles and glasses.

The place was empty save for the girls I’d seen walk in and a few others they’d joined. They were sitting in a booth in the corner, all similar in appearance and dress. They were fawning over a lithe sliver of a man, bare-chested beneath a black leather vest and sprawled out on the red upholstery of the booth.

“Hello,” he said, his goatee waggling. “Welcome to The Crimson Club.”

“Uhhh, thanks,” I said. The silence was unnerving. “Anything to drink around here?”

“There is now,” he said, baring his fangs.