I walked out of the lobby and into the broad light of day. Far off, down the sidewalk, I saw an old man ambling toward me, a long black cane in his hand, tapping against the grey stone.

The light changed and I crossed. I rounded the corner and saw the street filled with people – old people, young people, businessmen in suits, middle-aged couples with young children.

In each and every one of their hands was a black cane, tapping against the sidewalk. The din was like roar of a thousand sea monsters, pulling doomed viking ships down into dark stormy waters.

A young boy looked up to me, his eyes sharp and cutting.

“You!” he said, and pointed with his cane. Everyone in the street stopped and turned to face me. The din ceased as all the walking sticks were held just aloft of the pavement beneath.

Then they all rushed me, black wooden sticks flying in the area as they ran.

They encircled me and rained blow after blow down upon me with the hardness of the canes. I screamed out for them to stop, not understanding what was happening, where I was, what this was. I felt the stinging blows exploding into pain over and over in my leg. I felt my shin bone shatter. I screamed again and the flurry of black wood increased until everything turned black.

I awoke in my hotel room, and turned to rise out of bed. My leg ached again, as it always did when the weather was wet. I grabbed the black cane from my bedside, and hobbled over toward the bathroom to shower.


It was dark all around me and smelled of death.

I stumbled through the blackness, clumsy, lost, disoriented, reaching out in front of me for something, anything, to support me in my fumbling through the void. The cold of the stone walls around me greeted my reaching hands, and I continued forward, feeling my way along them.

My eyes adjusted to the dimness, and I saw the lumpy gray rock sheets enclosing me, and between them ahead, a black hole leading into the nothingness, beckoning me. From the hole a figure emerged, a small silhouette. As it came closer I saw it was that of an old woman in a dress.

As she drew nearer I saw that there was something wrong – just wrong – with her. Even in the blackness I could see her face was discolored and bloated. Red blood showed through in places where the skin was torn away, and her eyes were gone: there were only vacant black pits staring out at me.

It was my mother.

“You left me son,” she said in her feeble voice. I smelled the cigarette smoke on her breath, just like I had when I was child. “You left me to die in that home. Why didn’t you take care of me? Why didn’t you tell me you loved me before I turned into this? Before it was too late?”

“I’m sorry!” I called out to her, but my words were broken somehow, muffled like I was underwater, like I was smothered beneath a thick blanket. I called out again and again, but I knew she could not hear me.

“Why son? Why…?” Her voice grew more and more feeble. She began to fade into the blackness just as she’d emerged from it. “Now I’m doomed to wander here forever. Forever. Just as you are.”

“No! No!” I screamed, but my words were even more distorted than before. And then I felt myself falling, and the blackness closing in, heavy and thick and full of malice, and mother was gone.

I awoke covered in sweat, and rose from bed and put on my black suit. I gathered the crumpled pages I’d written the night before from the bedside table, from their place next to the empty glass.

The funeral was at 11. I couldn’t be late. Mother would have disapproved.


Before the first could even get his gun out I bounded onto the cushion of the armchair and then high above him. I came down onto him, his face alight in surprise, and slashed across his throat. Blood spurted violently against the wall, painting it in furious red streaks.

The other blasted his shotgun but it flew by me, detonating the lamp on the glass end table. I ran and uppercut the blade up into his throat and red spurted downward in a torrent, staining his white suit jacket and the blue shirt beneath.

The last one charged, swinging the crowbar he held. I threw the knife and it went over his right shoulder, then I pounced upon him and we were down on the ground and I was slamming his head against the white tile of the floor, and I heard his skull cracking, the bone splintering, and his dark red blood was spattering everywhere: onto the sofa, onto the plant, onto the mask over my face, until finally his lifeless eyes rolled back into his head and the cracking noises stopped.

I picked up the crowbar with my blood-soaked hand, and took off the rubber mask. I stared down at it. For a moment my mind slipped back to my hallucination, my dream – or had it even been a dream? – of those strange animal-headed people in my living room, and the flies buzzing all around, and the smell of rotting corpses, and I thought of the first question the rooster-headed man had asked me, the man whose likeness I now held in my hands – “Do you like hurting other people?”


Night Drive

The night is dark and the headlights of the oncoming traffic are blurred and hazy, not entirely from the rain. My head my feels light and full of stuffy air and cobwebs. I shouldn’t be driving.

“Dad-day! My seatbelt!”

Mikey is crying and fussing in the passenger seat next to me. It wasn’t bothering him before, why now? Rain pours and the windshield wipers beat out their syncopated song. I stop at the light, its redness is blurry beneath the water still trickling down the windshield, refusing to succumb to the machinations of the wipers.

“Don’t fuss, Mikey, here, here,” I unbuckle him and try to buckle him in again.

“Dad-day! Dad-day!”

“Mikey, stop!” I struggle with the metal tip and his resistance at being resecured.

I lean over, too far, I feel the leaden liquor pulling me down. My foot slips from the brake.

“Dad-day!” he screams.

The car rolls out into the intersection but I feel – I know – it’s already too late to do anything. I realize I’ve seen this moment a thousand times before. Lived it, a million times before, and only once.

The world of the car interior is blasted with blinding white light, the headlamps of the oncoming transport truck. The horn sounds, loud and low and angry.

“DAD-DAY!” Mikey screams one last time, the terrified scream of an innocent child, and then there is only the sound of the collision and twisted metal.

I awake calling his name into the empty darkness of the bedroom, and the coating of sweat on my face is indistinguishable from my tears.

My son is gone, again, until tomorrow night.

The Girl with the Death Mask

I walked along the sand, scarcely feeling the scorching heat of the sun beat down upon my neck, upon my unprotected skin. I passed the cactus patch at the edge of the pueblo and wandered out deeper into the desert.

Far in the distance, I saw a shape, a tiny moving shape, low to the ground. As I came closer I saw it was a tiny person, and I could see their face was unnaturally white, even from the considerable distance I was away.

Coming closer I saw it was a little girl. The little girl was wearing a mask; a white mask, that of a skull, of death – the kind that the revelers wore during Dia de los Muertos. She was playing in the dirt and hunched over something.

“¿Qué estás haciendo, niña? Why do you play in the dirt?”

She stopped and stood up and looked back at me, wordless and resolute. I saw now that thing she had been hunched over and paying so much attention to was a human head, the severed head of a person, old and rotted and turning green.

She stared at me, emotionless through the disguise of the mask, with those cold, cold eyes. Her silence was evil and full of dire portent.

I stared at the shriveled face, and the little girl beside it, a demon, and my blood ran cold in my veins. She slowly began to walk toward me, her black eyes affixed upon mine, never breaking her stare from behind that bleached white mask.

I awoke in my bed from the night terror, to the sound of my own voice calling out into the dry emptiness of the bedroom. Far off on the horizon the sun was rising and casting the golden rays of morning through the hole in the stone wall that was the window. I rose, still shaking, and walked over to the basin, and splashed water on my face. My tired eyes looked back at me in the mirror.

What a strange dream. It was The Day of the Dead, and I had awoken with only fear and the knowing that something terrible was going to happen today.

The dream was a sign of ill omen. The girl in the skull mask had visited me so many nights these past few weeks leading up to this day. But what did it mean? Because each time it was only upon waking that I realized I recognized the shriveled head she hovered over, the object of her interest in the dry, unforgiving heat of the desert. The face of the severed rotting head was one I knew all too well – it was mine.


In my dream I am cold and it is dark. Slowly I walk the narrow path afforded me. I can see my breath in the fingers of light, steaming in the cold, dry, air.

I am walking through the dimness amongst hanging bodies. They are naked. Most are dead. Some still live, but barely – I can hear them softly groaning, weakly calling out to me. Kill us, they moan. The bodies are bloody and dismembered. Missing arms. Legs. Torsos sliced open and entrails falling to the ground. Blood slowly oozes down them, dripping onto the hard concrete of the floor.

I am shaking but not from the cold. I am trembling but not because of what I see. As I reach the end of my journey I come to a long steel table. The bodies are hanging from meathooks. I am holding the cleaver.

The Jellyfish Dream

I dreamt of jellyfish.

I floated peacefully in the clear blue of the ocean, naked, and watched the beautiful alien creatures drift with me. I was unafraid. I did not hold my breath, I knew I didn’t need to.

I felt completely at peace as I slowly drifted with them. They were all around me, their translucent amoeba-like forms slowly undulating, slowly pulsing and pushing them through the warm salty water. They were so beautiful; so beautiful and so alien. I felt a oneness with them around me and their impossibly long tendrils, which snaked down from their mushroom bodies like running droplets of fleshy red ink.

The current rose and suddenly I was afraid. The water was pushing me toward the jellyfish and I could feel their thinking; their thoughts were alien, cluttered, buzzing, but I could tell they meant to hurt me. I tried to turn and swim away but found I couldn’t. Slowly, ever so slowly, they flapped their translucent bodies and floated closer toward me. The terror rose in my chest as their stinging tendrils crept ever closer to me, helpless and floundering.

The first tentacle dragged along the skin of my leg and it stung like acid. Then they were slowly closing in, still pulsing, and surrounding me. Oh god. Oh god, no. The burning. They flapped and flapped, now faster as their tendrils stung me over and over and they swarmed. My skin was searing, my heart pumping fast, my body twisting, flailing; I was tangled in them now, and in a panic. I thrashed my arms but they were wrapped in the malicious searing tendrils. The burning, oh the burning. I was tangled. I tried to swim, up, anywhere, shake them off me – and then, one, coming toward my face – oh god it hurts oh god don’t let me die oh god….

I awoke in terror and a cold sweat. The tentacles of my imaginary aquatic aggressors tangled around me were the sheets of my bed. I panted and my heart raced. Slowly, my breathing subsided and reality faded in. I was alive. I wasn’t drowning. I wasn’t dying. There were no jellyfish.

Where was Chelsea? She had being lying next to me, come to sleep against me because she’d been scared of the monsters.

I looked over to see Chelsea’s body, her face blue as the ocean in my dream, the sheets tangled and wrapped around her tiny neck like a tentacle. She had choked to death in the night. She’d suffocated in her sleep right next to me while I was wrapped in the sheets and my horrid nightmare.

I shook her lifeless body, screaming her name, hoping that somehow my anguished cried words would bring my daughter back. I cried, hot tears of rageful sadness and not understanding.

I wept and my tears were the salt of an ocean – a dead, uncaring ocean without mercy, one full only of the beautiful pulsating forms of the heartless jellyfish.

(for Ready, Set, Done 3 at The Daily Prompt)


I dreamt of wrists.

Giant, hulking and pale, white wrists with dark veins swollen with blood floated up above me.

The sense of terror was palpable, the kind of visceral knowing you can only have in dreams, when your surroundings don’t make sense but you know something terrible is going to happen. I knew something terrible was coming, something which would hurt me, and I was afraid.

Then above me amongst those monstrous appendages, those prescient spectres looming over me, was a blade.

I dreamt of wrists, a rusty chipped blade slashing them, slicing their thin white skins deep in long horrible jagged paths.

Thick blood gushed out like the sea, and poured down upon me. It coated me and was cold as ice, and I knew that it was death. I could feel it pooling and its level slowly rising. It sloshed back and forth around my feet. My ankles, then my knees, then my waist. The blood rose ever higher and filled my tiny cage.

As the icy liquid slowly rose above my neck and reached my mouth, I knew I was going to die. I looked up and let out one final horrified sound as the blood covered my open eyes.

The sound of my scream melded with that of my wife, the scream which awoke me. It echoed down the hallway from the bathroom, from her final resting place in the bathtub. The sound mixed with that of water, overflowing and splashing onto the floor, itself mixed with the blood from her wrists.