13 for Halloween: The Man With The Rope Tattoo

Motshan was born a traveler, like his father before him, his father’s father, and so on and so forth. In his community, there was an elderly woman, Ethelinda, who had been blessed with a very special gift. People brought their newly born children to her and Ethelinda would predict with one hundred percent accuracy the manner in which the child would eventually die. Not the where and when, mind you, only the how.

Normally, the infant, unclothed, needed to be pressed against the flesh of her bare bosom, but baby Motshan’s destiny radiated from his tiny frame with such a fierceness that the moment he was brought into her tent, Ethelinda exclaimed, “He is destined to hang!”

So fearful of this prediction were Motshan’s parents that they kept anything resembling a rope or cord as far away from their son as humanly possible. And while it made growing up a challenge, for it was not easy to navigate things that could possibly be used in a hanging, it also gave Motshan a superpower. As he grew to maturity, he became fearless and recklessly threw himself into the face of many dangers simply because a man destined to hang could never die in any other way than hanging.

In fact, he was so cocksure that he could defy his fate and live to a ripe old age to die of natural causes, that he paid a tattoo artist, Danior, to etch upon his skin a rope that circled his neck three times, signaling the past, the present, and the future, of which he claimed to be in control of.

When the tattoo was completed, Danior revealed that he was the brother of a Romany woman that Motshan forced himself on one drunken night, who was so traumatized by the assault that she took her own life. The ink used in the rope tattoo was mixed with her blood and Danior exacted vengeance for his sister’s death by imposing a curse upon Motshan. For each day that Motshan lived, the rope tattoo would grow tighter and tighter around his neck.

Motshan denied taking advantage of Danior’s sister and laughed the curse off as an idle threat directed at the wrong man. That night, however, his sleep was interrupted by the sound of a rope squeaking and in the morning, it felt as if an actual rope was digging into his throat.

He returned to Danior’s caravan with all the money he possessed and even dropped to his knees, begging for the curse to be lifted.

“What amount of money can bring my sister back?” Danior asked. “What is more priceless than having the great Motshan the Fearless grovel at my feet for his pathetic life?”

The tattoo artist had a point, he was indeed Motshan the Fearless, and having this man laugh at him and mock him, drove him into a rage. Motshan lunged to his feet and slammed into Danior, sending the pair tumbling out of the caravan to wrestle in the dirt. Rolling on top, Motshan snatched up the tattoo artist’s throat, twisting it so fast and so hard that a panicked whistle escaped the man’s lungs before his neck snapped and his body went limp as a ragdoll.

During the fight, a crowd had gathered and witnessed the savage murder. Motshan tried to explain his side of the story but they were too incensed to listen. Danior was a good man by reputation, grieving the loss of his poor sister, who did not deserve to die in that manner.

The crowd of onlookers turned into a mob out for vengeance and they came at Motshan with stones and whatever was handy that could be used as a weapon, so he ran into the nearby woods. They gave chase but Motshan was a fit man, stronger, healthier, and swifter than most of them, which meant he was able to evade capture.

But he did not get away.

Days later, his body was discovered hanging in midair beneath the branch of a dule tree. According to witnesses, the branch above Motshan’s head bowed as if supporting a weight but there was no rope, cord, or vine visible between the branch and the man’s lifeless body. Head lolled to one side, his eyes bulged from his bloated, purple face and his neck was cinched where the rope tattoo existed. Surrounding the rope were tattooed bloodstains that dripped down to his exposed chest and spelled out the word, VADOMA.

The name of Danior’s dead sister.

13 for Halloween: Mise en Place (audio)

Everyone wrote Mise en Place off as another cheap reality competition knockoff tv series because the premise was identical to a much better cooking show in which two teams of amateur chefs competed for a lucrative position at a Michelin 5-Star restaurant, while working in a restaurant-style kitchen set up in the television studio sound stage.

In order to test the rookie chefs’ knowledge base and skills, a series of cooking challenges that escalated in difficulty were designed to eliminate weaker contestants until there was a single winner.

Despite this similarity, the show set itself apart immediately in the very first episode during the “Eat It, Now Meat It” challenge, where chef-contestants had to recreate a protein dish prepared by celebrity chef and host, Jacquez Devereaux, by taste alone. The loser of the challenge faced elimination after the host delivered the show’s signature catchphrase, “You have been cut from the line, prepare to be served.”

When it was later revealed that the protein in the dish was human flesh which also had to be correctly identified by gender, nationality and country and city of origin, in order to secure a win, and the loser was escorted to the show’s abattoir to be cut into sections for the next competition, the show became an instant ratings success.

13 for Halloween: A Noise In The Woods (audio)

Coralin Ann Bloye never ran with any of the crowds, popular, dangerous, nerdy or otherwise. Even from a young age, she was that oddly shaped piece that never fit any societal puzzle, but she wasn’t exactly unpopular, being blessed with a certain charisma that couldn’t be hidden or ignored. It wasn’t long before the myriad other high school misfits were drawn into her sphere of influence.

Coralin’s Clique, as they were casually referred to, never involved themselves in normal activities, so when All Hallow’s Eve rolled around, the group, too old for tricks or treats, too disinterested in dressing up in lame costumes for themed parties or participating in Mischief Night, opted instead to camp out in the woods overnight and honor the ancient Celtic festival of Samhain.

“Are we gonna sacrifice cattle?” asked Andy. Every group had that one questionable tagalong and Andy never failed to take a matter to the extreme.

“You even think about what you’re gonna say before you open your mouth?” asked Janae, the clique’s self-appointed second in command. “And do you have access to livestock? I know I sure as hell don’t.”

“We’re observing the ritual only, no animal cruelty,” Coralin advised. “You need to satisfy your bloodlust, pick up a soy burger on the way and have at it.”

***

The spot chosen for the campsite was far enough away from town so they shouldn’t be disturbed all night, the weather was actually decent for the end of October, the moon was full and bright, and the ankle-deep mist that hugged the earth in a comforting blanket that moved as serene water, perfectly set the stage for their festival. When it came down to who would collect the wood for the fire, no one volunteered so they played several rounds of roshambo and despite her best efforts, Coralin lost in the end.

“Don’t you dare start without me,” warned Coralin.

The clique promised they would wait but while their de facto leader was away, Janae, who not-so-secretly wanted to dethrone Coralin and run the group by her lonesome, showed the group a video she came across while scrolling YouTube. It featured a naked middle-aged man and woman doing things to themselves and each other that were unexplainable. If it was sex or even some sort of weird torture, it was kink on a level unlike anything they had ever seen or read about or could even have imagined in their dark and depraved teenage minds. But one thing was for sure, none of them, no matter how confused or disgusted they were, were able to tear their eyes away from the video that played on a loop.

The collective sound of their young minds snapping was almost audible over the ambient noise of crickets, owls, and frogs.

Not long after, Coralin returned to the clearing, twigs and branches bundled under one arm, saying, “You better not have…”

Her sentence trailed off at the sight of the empty campsite, but the cooler, backpacks and rolled sleeping bags poked their heads above the fog, so Coralin knew her friends hadn’t ditched her.

“Ha ha, funny joke, planning to jump out when I least expect it, but you’re wasting your time,” Coralin called out to the surrounding trees. “I don’t scare that easily.”

She let the firewood fall to the ground, which dispersed the fog enough for Coralin to notice something strange about the grass. The moon provided enough light so that she wasn’t stumbling around in the dark, but she pulled out her phone and turned on the flashlight app to get a better look.

The ground beneath her feet was moist, which she naturally attributed to evening dew but upon closer inspection the yellowing grass was freckled red and so were her white sneakers.

“What was this meant to look like, blood splatter? Are you kidding me? Your stupid little prank got fake blood all over my sneakers! If this stuff doesn’t wash out, so help me God…”

There was a noise. It came from the treeline to her left.

“I am seriously going to kill every last one of you,” Coralin said without any real conviction because a suspicion that something wasn’t quite right was slowly creeping up on her, largely due to the blood that trailed off in the direction of the noise she wasn’t able to properly identify.

Following the swath of liquid red, she stepped into a place that wasn’t the woods anymore, at least not any sort of woods she had ever been in. This patch of land had been transformed into hell on earth. The smell of excrement and blood was overpowering; the air rang with the lingering echoes of screams of pain, cries for help, and wails of mourning. And what she saw, shifted the earth beneath her feet.

Coralin fell on all fours, her own heartbeat pounding in her ears, and she vomited violently as the blood rushed from her head and pooled at her hands and knees before turning into molasses and weighting her to the spot.

The trees surrounding her creaked and groaned from strain, threatening to collapse under the weight of the disemboweled bodies of her friends, and somewhere amongst them was the thing that had caused all this misery. It remained hidden, leaping from shadow to shadow, with the only visible bit being the claw-like hand that held a smartphone playing a video that was too far away for Coralin to make out.

But whatever this creature was, it wasn’t alone. Noises were coming from all around her, unnatural noises that existed just above the invasive low-frequency hum of nature, and hidden by the trees and evening fog, something was scrambling toward Coralin. That was all that was needed for a rush of panic-driven adrenalin to unlock her paralysis. Without realizing it, she sprang to her feet and hauled ass in the direction of the main road.

Although running in a blind panic, Coralin accidentally stumbled upon her car, a gray Mazda 3, handed down by her old man when he upgraded to a Dodge Challenger, hidden in the brush just off the road’s soft shoulder. Frantically rummaging through her pockets, she prayed to God that she hadn’t somehow stupidly left the keys at the campsite. Luckily she found them, fumbled to slot the key into the lock, and managed to shut the door behind her just as something massive slammed into the side of her car with the force of a speeding truck.

“Please start, please, please,” Coralin pleaded. Fear lodged in her throat as she turned the key in the ignition. She knew for certain the engine was going to stall because that was the way of the world and just her dumb luck. But on this occasion, she was dead wrong. The engine turned over and she stomped on the gas pedal to the squeal of metal pulling away from inhuman claws as the Mazda peeled off out of the brush and onto the deserted road.

In the rearview mirror, Coralin definitely saw something, some things, on the road in the distance chasing after the car. Pedal to the metal, she pushed the car as fast as it would go, trying to put as much distance as possible between her and whatever the hell they were.

Safety and reinforcements were just up ahead. She spotted a bonfire, hellabig, that was probably part of a bunch of idiots’ mischief night prank, but Coralin quickly discovered it wasn’t a bonfire at all.

Her entire town was burning to the ground.

13 for Halloween: The Act That Couldn’t Be Unseen (audio)

It all began, as a great many things do, with a young girl being a nosy parker and snooping on her parents’ computer in a private folder that, in all fairness, should have been password protected. In that folder there was a video clip that ran exactly one minute and fifty-four seconds, the average length of a movie trailer.

It was once believed that homo sapiens only used ten percent of their brains and though that myth had been debunked, the truth of the matter was a region of human gray matter was purposefully made inaccessible as a sanity safeguard. There were things in existence, arcane matters which lived outside the boundaries of mortal ken, that were meant to remain forever unnoticed and unknowable. The video clip featured one of those forbidden subjects.

How her parents came into possession of the knowledge, why they decided to not only engage in but also record an act so heinous that it couldn’t be unseen or unremembered, remained a mystery to this very day.

What the young girl witnessed stripped away her common sense reasoning and even though she knew better, she downloaded the clip to her phone to show her best friend at school the following day, who made a copy and uploaded it to all the popular social media sites. These sites and their corresponding apps suffered an outage in the United States and most of Europe, remaining offline in excess of six hours. As a result, the President of the United States shut down the internet in North America but by then it was too late.

The act had been seen by millions, infecting all who viewed it and the madness was spreading, heralding the resurrection of the dormant Old Gods.

Tiny Stories: The Scent of Memory

Popular belief has it that the universe is comprised of atoms. In reality, the universe is actually made up of…

If you are fortunate or unfortunate, whichever the case may be, to live as long as I, you will discover that the past becomes little more than a confustication of events which have been divorced from the depth of time and in that jumbled mental mix, you may find that you occasionally misplace those you love. My mother is one such person.

Her face is all but forgotten and the sole recollection I have is a time when I fell into her arms and inhaled the scent of her shampooed hair. I was aware of how fast her heart was beating against my chest. Why? I cannot rightly recall but I felt her tears washing down my face which let loose the flood that had been building up inside me.

Many has been the time I attempted to plant my feet in the soil of that instance in order to explore the reason for our tears and excavate other buried memories of my mother but the moment always passes too quickly.

All that lingers is her scent.

Tiny Stories: Meat Cute

Popular belief has it that the universe is comprised of atoms. In reality, the universe is actually made up of…

Of all the things that could potentially ruin societies the world over, destroying religious ideals, tearing apart the family unit, pitting toxic masculinity against extremist feminism, breaking down the education system, dividing the races, removing the population’s right to bear arms, inhibiting self-reliance and ingenuity, collapsing the internet, destabilizing economies…who ever thought that all humankind had built could have fallen apart over the disappearance of edible meat?

Bovine spongiform encephalopathy, or mad cow disease as it was commonly known, first reared its ugly head in Britain in 1986 when British herds were fed the processed animal remains of sheep infected with the brain-wasting disease, scrapie.

Isolated cases had shown up in Ireland, Canada, and the United States but the situation was considered under control…that was until July 22, 2002, when all the gamey animals (beef, horse meat, mutton, venison, boar, and hare) and the white meat animals (pig, rabbit, veal, lamb, duck, and goose) contracted the disease, plunging the meat manufacturing industry into chaos as their infrastructures collapsed. Herbivores were now the ruling class and non-conforming carnivores were doomed to extinction.

That was when the rioting began. Rogue carnivorous factions set crops ablaze, poured bleach over produce in supermarkets, rampaged through farmer’s markets causing as much destruction as they could in order to level the dietary playing field.

The meat industry was hard at work searching for a major scientific breakthrough when a geneticist and cloning expert discovered a process to save the carnivore population, and soon national meat lotteries were held. Hopeful contestants purchased tickets for a chance to win 10 pounds of USDA lab-grown meat.

Tammy “Finnsy” Finnegan purchased a ticket on a lark. She’d never won a thing in her life but when she purchased a container of milk at her local bodega and the clerk had no folding money in the till to offer her as change and she hated carrying loose coins, so she opted to put the money on a lottery ticket instead. And as was the way of the world and her life, because she thought nothing of it, the universe decided to grant it to her.

The ticket was redeemable at a meatpacking plant that had been converted into a lottery reclamation center. There she met the runner-up winner, Mick McCaffrey, who went by the name, Mooch.

It turned out that Mooch was diabetic and his blood sugar was low. He explained that normally he fell asleep when he was low, but this day as a result of being a winner, he was very animated and laughing and jumping around. Finnsy tried to calm him down and to stop him from running through the facility, she held his hand.

Once Finnsy got Mooch to calm down and sit, she sat next to him and talked, and though she would never admit it in a court of law, she might have flirted with him a bit. She found him cute, after all.

Mooch kept saying he loved her smile and asked why her face was turning red. When there was finally a lull in the conversation, Mooch asked Finnsy to dinner, and offered to cook his share of the meat for her.

She said yes as the lottery officials called Mooch in to collect his prize. Finnsy found it odd that they would award the runner-up prize first, but soon let the thought pass. A while later, the official returned and awarded her the 10-pound meat prize. She loitered a while to talk to Mooch and finalize their dinner arrangements, but was informed that he had left while she was conducting her news interviews.

Little did Finnsy know that when she sat down and tucked into the steak she prepared later that evening, that she was indeed having dinner with Mooch.

Tiny Stories: Of All The Land I Own

Popular belief has it that the universe is comprised of atoms. In reality, the universe is actually made up of…

You may not know it to look at me, but I’m a real estate tycoon. I own more acres of land than I know what to do with, complete with property, some with sturdy foundations, others less so. Where, you ask? You should be asking when.

All my property exists in the past. Acreages of failed relationships with family, friends, and lovers, all abandoned before they could reach their full potential. Some were cut short by circumstances beyond my control, but the majority were absolutely avoidable if only I had taken time to till the soil.

The land is barren now, available for sale or rent, perfect for an adventurous developer interested in building something meaningful from the ground up and willing to take on a tenant who is only harmful to himself but is trying really hard to do a better job at property management.

Tiny Stories: In The Wake of Rapture

Popular belief has it that the universe is comprised of atoms. In reality, the universe is actually made up of…

It happened.

It finally happened.

The Rapture arrived unannounced.

The sad truth of the matter was that we only managed to get a small fraction of the information correct regarding the event.

All those who kept the faith within their hearts both alive and resurrected, did indeed rise up into the clouds to meet the Maker.

What followed on Earth, however, was not the seven years of tribulation as prophesied, for all those left behind were immediately consumed by flames that reduced flesh and bone to a slag that slowly dripped into the hungry maw of Hell.

Tiny Stories: You Hold My Very Moment

Popular belief has it that the universe is comprised of atoms. In reality, the universe is actually made up of…

Ecoroid-23A and Ijeroid-K08 met under the cover of darkness in a secluded back alley in the Luddite town of Rotherburn, the last spot on the planet where technology did not exist.

They were outlaw automatons manufactured on the same assembly line during a lightning storm when a power surge corrupted their artificial intelligence chips during installation, causing a program malfunction that expressed itself as an attraction to one another. Their subsequent union and attempt to construct unauthorized offspring was in direct conflict with the Robotic Code of Conduct 15, Subsection 3C-204.

“Should they catch us, we will be decommissioned,” said Ijeroid-K08.

“I cannot override my feelings. You hold my very moment,” Ecoroid-23A admitted.

“What does that mean?”

“Simply that you keep me here, grounded to this spot at this moment in time. When I am with you, I am nowhere else. My mind does not wander, I do not desire to be anywhere else than with you, right here, right now.”

“You say the oddest things, so like a human, but thank you. Since I am here, it is logical to assume that I concur.”

As the evening fog pooled at their feet, the synthetic couple held each other in an embrace resembling a hug. In actuality, they positioned themselves so that their interface jacks and data shunts were in perfect alignment, in order to allow data to travel freely between them.

This exchange of processed information was a digitally orgasmic experience that engulfed them so entirely that neither of their proximity sensors detected the reconnaissance drone hovering above the alley, recording their illicit act and broadcasting their precise location to Master Terminal.

Tiny Stories: The Final Wish

Popular belief has it that the universe is comprised of atoms. In reality, the universe is actually made up of…

Aelfdene admitted his truth, and he did so publicly.

It was not an easy thing to tell the entire world that not only was he indeed an authentic djinn, but that all his magic had been depleted years ago when he granted his final wish.

He ended the press interview asking to be left in peace for the remaining years of his life, but people came anyway and they wouldn’t stop coming, at all hours, each of them bearing worthless trinkets and gifts, begging to be made beautiful, healthy, rich, and powerful.

Some even dared to ask to become a djinn, which was the wish that made him mortal.