Room Key

Damn, I thought, where the hell did my room key go? I always kept it in my front pocket but now, curiously, it was missing.

I walked down the long dim corridor of the hotel and wondered about where it could have gone. Did I take it out with my billfold when I got a drink at the bar? I couldn’t remember.

I continued to search my pockets in vain as I arrived outside my hotel room. The door was open just a crack, letting a long sliver of light peek out onto the wall opposite.

Great, and I didn’t close the door all the way behind me either. I pushed it open, expecting to find my room ransacked, or a knife-wielding serial killer waiting for me on the other side. There was nothing of course, just the flutter of tacky floral drapes above the air conditioner.

I scoured the room for the key to no avail. I stepped in front of the nightstand between the two Queens, picked the handset off the receiver and pushed the button for the hotel bar, the one with a little martini pictogram next to it.

“Hello, I seemed to have misplaced my room key, did I happen to leave it there? No? I was just there.” Strange, I thought, I normally never misplace things and always remember to close the door behind me. I was having an off day. “Okay, thank you, I’ll do that. Goodbye then.”

As I set the receiver back into place I felt cold bony fingers slowly encircle my ankle, and looked down to see an arm reaching out from under the bed.

Workplace Performance Issues

“I’m terribly sorry,” said DeBiers. “But your performance as of late has been completely unsatisfactory. We’re going to have to let you go.”

“Unsatisfactory?” replied Carson, incredulous. “UNSATISFACTORY??!” He began to breathe quickly and his face became flushed. His chest rose and fell in rapid succession as his supervisor watched from across the mahogany desk.

“Now Carson, understand that it’s nothing personal.” DeBiers cleared his throat. “Nothing to get upset about. There have been complaints….”

“UNSATISFACTORY????!!” Carson became fully enraged, and slowly stood up from the office chair. As his shoulders rose and fell he actually seemed to be getting bigger; with each breath his chest extended further and further, almost impossibly so.

DeBiers began to back away. Finally Carson’s spasms reached their apex and tore his shirt apart. His bare abdomen split down the middle into a jagged fleshy maw, revealing rows of enormous triangular teeth. Spiky insectile arms burst from his back and unfolded in a bloom.

DeBiers turned to run, but the monstrous insect limbs ensnared him, and he was pulled, screaming, into the waiting jaws of his ex-employee.

I Love You More Than Ever

When I woke up he had already gone off to work. I turned in bed to find a steaming cup of hot tea on the bedside table, next to a simple white card with an embossed heart on the front. Our anniversary! He hadn’t forgotten!

Inside the card was one sentence written in giant black cursive: I love you so much.

In the kitchen there was my favorite breakfast: toast with peanut butter and jam, eggs and bacon, and a cup of granola with yogurt and berries. Another card: I love you more than ever. I ate the delicious breakfast and beamed when I thought about how much I loved him.

At work my cubicle was dominated by a giant vase of enormous roses and a heat-shaped box of chocolates. Next to it was another card: I love you more than ever, more and more each day.

Finally work was over and I went home. I just wanted to take him in my arms and kiss him and tell him how much I loved him too. I burst through the front door and into the kitchen.

His body was slouched in one of the chairs around the kitchen table. The front of his dress shirt was slashed open and stained with blood; he’d been stabbed multiple times. My world collapsed and I cried. It wasn’t until after I had called the police, still crying, that I found it. I read the message, blurred by my tears, one scrawled and scribbled in a psychotic hand on a simple piece of brown butcher’s paper: I love you more than ever. SEE YOU SOON

True Love

Mom always told me that true love isn’t easy.

That’s what I’ve found with John. We’ve had tough times. We’ve had good times. But still we remain together. Our love has been something that has come together slowly and gradually. It’s something we’ve had to work at.

At first I didn’t even love him. When we first met he was so insistent, forceful even, and I was shy and resisted. But eventually he charmed me, and now we’ve spent enough time together that I’ve truly grown to love him, and our relationship is something we work at every day. It’s so satisfying to share such a beautiful thing with another person.

It’s not always the easiest for me, because I know that our relationship is so uneven. John knows this too; the world I live in is much smaller than his, but I still try to be the best I can for him. When he comes home I always make sure to have a smile on my face, and ask him about work, and give him all the space he needs – especially if he is tired or had a rough day.

I love John so much, and am so glad that I have him in my life. As Mom taught me, true love isn’t something you just fall into where everything is perfect, it really is something you have to work at. And I’m so glad we’ve made things work like this. I really couldn’t be happier.

Still, I just hope that one day John will love me enough to unchain me and let me out of his basement.


“How can you treat me this way,” she implored, “After all that we’ve been through together?”

“I don’t know what the fuck you’re talking about,” I was furious. “I’ve always treated you better than you deserve and you fucking know it!”

Jenny cried.

“I hate you!!!” More tears. “You’re horrible!! Horrible!!” Wah wah wah. Boo-hoo.

“I don’t think you even actually know how horrible I am, do you Jenny?” My anger gave way to bemusement. I started to grin and the feeling of it spreading slowly across my face was strange.

Jenny stopped crying. The tears gave way to a look of concern, then fear, then horror.

She finally saw that I was carrying the claw hammer.

“Tristan…. what… what is this? Don’t -”

Those were the last words she ever spoke.

I raised the hammer and my grin turned to a mad grimace of insane fury. I brought the hammer down onto Jenny’s blond head, over and over again.

Crack. Boo-hoo. Crack. Boo-hoo. Crack. And then only silence. Crack. Blood. Crack. Blood. Crack. Brains. Crack. Crack. Crack. Crack.

The warm red liquid spattered against me, coating my arms, my shirt, my face. I grinned even wider yet. Now I was slamming the hammer against a lifeless body, what had been the love of my life. I didn’t care. I kept pounding away.

Crack. Insane laughter. Crack. More blood, spattering. Crack. The laughter turning to sobbing.

The grin broke and there was more weeping. The swings of the hammer slowed. I licked my lips and tasted copper.

Jenny was dead; my grin, gone.

Walk-In Freezer

“First shift, eh?” My new co-worker muttered while stirring up some of the meat frying on the giant grill. “Well, ya seem like a smart girl and I heard ya worked in kitchens before so you’ll be fine.”

“Right,” I said, and looked down. I tried not to stare at the massive tattoos covering his arms.

“Great, we’ll put ya on prep to start then,” The meat sizzled. “Actually, go n’ grab some more ground beef from the back wouldja, from the walk-in.”

“Sure thing.” I walked past the rows of pots and pans with things bubbling and sizzling, and the array of knives and cleavers laid out on the wall on a magnetic strip.

When I jerked the large steel handle on the freezer door it relented with a loud thunk. As I stepped inside the door immediately swung shut behind me. A wave of panic hit my body along with the intense cold – it was pitch black inside. It wasn’t until the lights flickered on with a hum that my panic rose to terror.

The fluorescent lighting illuminated rows of mutilated bodies hanging from meathooks, and revealed that the door had no handle on the inside.

Clinical Trial

“I see you’ve finally found us,” Dr. Mallory said, his back still turned. “Congratulations.”

“How could you do this to so many innocent people?” I accused with indignation, still catching my breath. “How could you administer the treatment and not tell us what it actually was – what it would do to our minds, to our souls?”

Mallory laughed and turned from the view of the night skyline to face me.

“Why surely you misunderstand,” he said, smiling. “There are no others – it is only you.”

The Horde

With axes, daggers and rusted spears they came. Their pale demonic faces were alive with rage as they chased me through the night and the trees of the dark woods.

The hideous creatures showed no sign of relenting as I felled them in my wake, one after another; I hacked and sliced and stabbed with my steel blade, turning it red with rivulets of their blood. They would not relent – the onslaught of monsters stepped over the bodies of their fallen as they came. Baring white teeth and uttering unworldly screams, they stared into me with beady eyes inset in spherical skulls.

I was doomed.

I sliced the arm off yet another one of the monsters, leaving my side unprotected. A jagged axe sunk deep into my flesh.

The last thought I had as I watched the blood run over my fur was that I would not be able to warn the others. Soon they too would be overrun by the horde of approaching creatures known as humans.


I’m a solitary man.

So as you can probably imagine, I wasn’t overly pleased about someone shacking up with me without even so much as asking.

Oh, no, wait – not like that. You see, I discovered the other week that I have mice. Well, that is to say I have a mouse.

I know what you’re thinking. You’re probably thinking, just one mouse? That’s pretty damn specific. And you’re right. It is. Real damn specific. Because that’s exactly what I have.

I live in an old house, because I like my space – so I have what the people in the real estate business call a heritage property. A century house. That is to say, it’s old and cold and drafty and I love it that way – because I like my damn space and my home being built out of wood, not fucking particleboard. I like my space and narrow stairwells with banisters and attic and cellar and crawlspace, so there.

But I do not like this mouse invading my property. It’s my home, rodents are vermin and that’s trespassing.

I could hear the damn thing in the night, squeaking and scratching and chewing. It was eating through the old wood in my beautiful home, turning it all into sawdust inside the walls and shitting out little black pellets. I could feel it.

I saw it once in the kitchen – damn thing was stupid enough to come out hiding and into the open. As I was frying up bangers and mash I heard it scurry out along the linoleum. It froze and looked up at me with those beady little black eyes and wasn’t even afraid. It was taunting me in my own home.

I grabbed another pan off the stove and chased that little bastard as fast as I could, screaming and smashing the floor behind, but it got away. My glorious breakfast was ruined by the agony of defeat and the escape of my nemesis.

This was war.

I became single-minded in my determination to regain the solitude of my beautiful home. I became a commando of the dark arts of pest extermination – every rat poison, every trap, every strategy and tactic for killing rodents – I learned them all.

Yet still the little bastard persisted. I found unsprung snap traps with the cheese gone. Glue traps with tiny footprints across them. Holes I had packed with steel wool were inexplicably open again the next day.

And still always the scratching. The scratching and the chewing. How they tormented me! It came from the ceiling above my bed when I tried to sleep at night, in the kitchen walls around me while I ate my dinner, and especially beneath the kitchen floor in the crawlspace.

I had to up the ante. The little bastard was getting the better of me. I set more traps, everywhere. I bought more and more rat poison with bigger and more extreme warning signs. I bought all manner of traps – live traps, super-sensitive high tension snap traps, electric wire barriers, pressure sensitive micro-projectiles. Still nothing.

Now I had to tiptoe around all the lethal hardware in my own home but that little bastard had the run of the place. Then one day I saw it again. The mouse made the mistake of coming out into the kitchen once more, and this time I was ready. I grabbed a meat tenderizer from one of the drawers and chased the little plague-bearer with all the fury and hellfire in my soul.

This time it didn’t run back into its hole but across the open floor. Ha! stupid vermin – I’ll pulverize you!

Out of the kitchen, down the creaky basement stairs and onto the concrete floor it skittered. I knew there were many holes down there it could escape into any moment, but I couldn’t stop now. I had to kill my miniature aggressor – I had to reclaim my home. Into the crawlspace the rodent fled, underneath the stairs, but I couldn’t let it get the best of me now. I grabbed a big flashlight from the workbench, threw aside the board covering the hole and army-crawled in after it.

Again I heard that abominable chewing. It seemed to come from everywhere around me, in the maze of two-by-fours which held up my old home. The mouse was here somewhere and I’d smash it yet. I crawled deeper and deeper into the crawlspace, shining my light all around and trying to locate the pest.

The chewing stopped and so did I. The regular creaking of my house above me turned to a loud groaning. I heard a sharp crack, and a cloud of sawdust from a shot downward from above my head, blinding me. One of the beams had snapped. As my vision cleared I heard the groaning deepen and I shone the light forward.

The last thing I saw as the house collapsed around me was the mouse sitting up on a beam ahead, and its little black eyes and smug look which seemed to say: I can set traps too.

Los Coyotes

I want to tell you the story about my family vacation. Well, actually that part is not really that important; what is important is that it’s the story of how my baby sister died.

When I was younger my Dad took our family on vacation to Mexico.

Now when you most people that that, they probably think of going to a nice resort for an all-inclusive vacation where you can sit on the beach in the sun and drink margaritas to your heart’s content until you are drunk as a skunk at two o’clock in the afternoon while your bratty kids play in the surf and you ogle the gold-digger with a supermodel body in a tiny bikini in the beach chair next to you out of the corner of your eye and hope she or her fat old rich husband don’t notice because your wife sure as hell won’t because she’s passed out next to you in another beach chair from too many damn daiquiris and has her wide sun hat pulled down over her face and a New York Times bestseller that Oprah recommended splayed open facedown on her chest.

This was not that sort of vacation.

You see, when I was growing up, my family was poor. My Mom was homemaker and my Dad held down a blue-collar job – he worked the line at the plastics plant just across the tracks before they brought in all the robots and computers and fired everyone.

But goddammit my father was a proud man. Even though he was poor and could barely afford to feed me and my baby sister sometimes, we were going to go on a vacation.

So we went to Mexico, not to a resort with surf and sand and unlimited food and drink, but to a ranch in the desert. As determined as ever, he drove our family through the sweltering heat for 12 hours straight, in that beat-up old blue Chevy with no air conditioning. I sat in the back and sweated and read comic books while Mom sat in the front and took care of the baby.

Finally we pulled in off the desert highway to the ranch where we’d stay for the week. It was a big property and the room where the four of us stayed in wasn’t bad for what my Dad was paying – it was about what you’d get at a cheap motel back home.

The ranch was owned and run entirely by two tall Mexican brothers, who constantly wore giant grins and spoken quickly and excitedly, mixing Spanish and English. They did everything – the older and taller one, Alejandro, greeted us at the desk when we arrived and managed the grounds. The younger brother, Eduardo, cooked delicious Mexican meals 3 times a day in a cramped little kitchen in the dining hall. When he wasn’t doing that he was working with the ranch machinery – tractors, generators, pumps – at a big shed on the edge of the property.

The problem was there wasn’t a whole lot to do on the ranch, other than stuff ourselves with food or ride the couple of horses they had around the fenced-in area by the stable. My Mom mainly just took care of my baby sister, and sat in a chair on the deck outside our room.

I think it was around the third or fourth day when I started to get really bored. I had finished reading all my comic books and explored the ranch as much as I could. There was just nothing else for a kid like me to do.

Later that evening Mom and Dad were sitting out on the deck chairs. Dad was drinking a beer and arguing with my mother about the baby. I just wanted to get away from their shouting.

“Dad, I’m bored.” I said, and sat up. “I’m gonna go exploring.”

My Dad stopped yelling at Mom for a bit. She was rocking the baby which had started crying because of their arguing.

“Alright son,” he said, and took a long pull on his bottle of cheap Mexican beer. “But don’t wander off too far, it’s getting dark out. Come back soon, ya hear?”

“Ok!” and off I ran.

That night I wandered far off into the desert, past Eduardo’s big machine shed and over one of the hills surrounding our little bit of civilization. I wasn’t worried because I could always see the lights of the ranch, but had never explored out that far before. It got quite dark out and what I could see was illuminated by the light of the full moon.

I came down the side of another hill and stopped. There, off in the distance, I saw it – two green eyes, reflecting the light of the full moon back toward me. I was afraid. What was it? It didn’t move – the black shape surrounding the eyes just stayed there, perfectly still, and stared back at me from the next rise. When I finally slowly took a step forward it darted off up over the hill, kicking up plume of sand behind it.

That was enough for me. I high-tailed it back to the safety of the ranch lights.

I asked Alejandro about it in the morning when he was serving us delicious piles of his brother’s huevos rancheros.

“Ahaha, little señor, oh you were out exploring the desert at night?” He laughed again. “Strange things live in the desert my little amigo, I think perhaps you met some of our neighbors, no? los coyotes!” I smiled at him but didn’t understand the last words.

“Coyotes, huh?” my Dad answered gruffly through a mouthful of egg and refried beans. “Half wolf, half dog, son.” I found out later that wasn’t true. “I toldja not to wander on out there. Yer lucky he didn’t make a meal of ya. Best be more careful.” I nodded and Alejandro kept smiling.

“More frijoles?”

It was our second last night at the ranch when it happened. I guess Dad drank too many beers and didn’t close the door all the way behind him when he went to bed.

I woke up halfway through the night and thought I heard boards creaking outside, and a scratching at the door.

“Dad! Dad! Something’s outside!”

“ehhhhhh? Go to sleep son.” He rolled over in bed next to my mother. I know I heard something. I was frightened but closed my eyes and managed to fall back asleep.

In the night I dreamt about the hills of the Mexican desert, the green eyes of los coyotes staring into me, and my baby sister crying.

In the morning I woke up to the sound of my mother screaming and sobbing. I had never seen my father like I saw him that morning, and never did again – he just got real quiet and had this far-off look in his eyes.

It killed my little sister. I looked over at the overturned crib and her body laying next to it on its side. Whatever it was had come in to get her – there were claw marks on the door and a trail of sand from the desert. Two perfectly circular puncture wounds were in her tiny throat, and the body was pale, as if all the blood had been drained out. I’d never seen anything like that before and to this day wish I hadn’t. I cried and cried and buried my face in my hands.

The brothers came by later that morning. The tall one, Alejandro, tried to console my mother, and called the police from our room. They were in the next town which was 30 miles away so didn’t arrive for another half hour.

The other brother, Eduardo, looked more like my Dad did. He just got really quiet after he saw my sister’s body, and then just stared at the ground without saying anything.

Later the two brothers argued in Spanish but I didn’t recognize any of the words: sangre, policía, niña muerta. Alejandro kept talking quickly and loudly, but Eduardo just looked down at the ground and quietly murmured responses.

Coyotes, los coyotes….. the older one kept saying, over and over again.

“No,” said the other, sadly, without looking up.

Even though I didn’t understand, I remember feeling a chill run up my spine when I saw him mouth the next words.

el chupacabra.