Blood

The Skinning Ice…

©Tanya Grout

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My memory dragged itself out of lockdown. It had been deep in a coma, a dream perhaps, or some other state of unawareness. Maybe it was drugged. Whatever the case, it was annoying.

 

It scared me. How could I trust a mind that wouldn’t reveal details about a few moments ago, that wouldn’t tell me where I had been and what I had done?

 

I urged it to take me back to the last thing it remembered: a day of work followed by the gym and dinner with my ex. Then a few drinks: Bourbon on the rocks, “Old times…” Bad idea all around.

 

Time was missing – a lot of it. When were those drinks and how did I get from that bar to this harsh reality?

 

I was walking on ice that stretched far out over a frosted psychological landscape, blinding in its ghastly sameness and terrifying in its unending expanse.

 

I looked at my bare feet. They left red stains like I was trudging paint. No, it was too watery for paint… It was more like blood!

 

I looked at my soles. They were burned from the cold but they weren’t bleeding. It must be someone else’s blood…

 

I turned back to see an endless trail of red prints on white. I could retrace my steps, go back to the source, find out what happened – but I wasn’t sure I wanted to know what I had done this time – that is if I had done anything.

 

See, this was the thing with my mind: it always made me guilty. It wanted me to suffer. If I didn’t know what had gone down, it would just make shit up for fun. I knew this, yet I still bought into it every time. I got caught up in the story and the environment it created. I got lost in the details and then I’d question myself. Was this real or a fabrication? And then I just wouldn’t know.

 

It was a punisher, an endless thinker and a twister of facts. It made me feel like a bad person, even though I had never done most of the things it convicted me of.

 

In fact my behaviour was usually flawless, as I was terrified of making mistakes. If I did my mind would thrash the Hell out of me. I hated playing games with it. I would never win. And now it had sent me to Siberia to play MindFuck 101 !

 

Anxiety brought me back to my present dilemma: I’m walking with bloody footprints, from nowhere into eternity, holding a knife… A knife!

 

It wasn’t there a minute ago. I know it wasn’t. See this is what I mean. It’s cruel to do that. My mind put that knife there to complicate things. And now I was naked too, with scratches all over, like I’d had a big fight – one that I’d won by the looks of it.

 

Goddammit, I hated this place. I wished I could get out – out of my fucking mind! It was always painful in here and I was trapped again like a hare in a snare.

 

A hare in a snare…

 

Okay, so I’d fantasized about killing him, several times – even when I saw him over drinks. He’d screwed around. What can I say? But that doesn’t mean that I did it, does it?

 

If only I could make contact with him to make sure, make sure that he was still alive, that I was in the clear, that I hadn’t…

 

But I was out here all alone – just me and my thoughts and the details of a possible murder: the evidence in my hand, on my body, my feet.

 

Fuck it, I’ll just run. They’ll never find me. I’ll hide in this friggin ice desert. God knows no one else is here – that is if I don’t die of hypothermia…

 

Oh for Gods sakes, I’ll turn myself in. I’ll confess just to stop this bullshit, this torture. I’ll accept the punishment. “I’m sorry, so sorry,” I’ll say. Then there will be forgiveness and a jail sentence or something. God knows, I was serving one already in my brain.

 

I walked faster, away from the alleged crime.

 

I yelped, then fell to my knees from a searing pain. I saw cuts. My feet were bleeding now, as were my hands from the fall.

 

This new ice had razor blades slipping out of its surface in perfect symmetrical lines that covered the entire beyond. I would be ripped to shreds and skinned alive if I moved any further. Could it get any worse? Wasn’t this fucking endless freezer bad enough?

 

Goodammit! I’d have to go back. Face it, face myself. Or, I could just stay here and die..

 

“Shut up!” I whispered to myself. “Shut the fuck up!”

 

I took a deep breath in. I closed my eyes. I let the breath slowly out.

Breathing in, breathing out until everything disappeared, got quiet.

 

Finally calm, I opened my eyes.

 

Midnight, downtown. Jack-o’-lanterns filled the town square, their grimacing fiery faces flickering with evil. Cold white flakes kissed my skin as my feet shuffled into a fresh fall of snow. I’d been sleep walking again. Naked. Embarrassing. I always walked to the same place.

 

This was where I saw him a year ago. He was stealing kisses from that girl, like a teenager under the sheeted ghosts that hung from the town clock as it struck twelve – not caring how I would feel or how devastated I would be.

 

His betrayal had left me confused and lost. I kept looking for his love like I would a stolen object – unable to fathom that it was no longer there where I left it unguarded, or that someone would take it.

 

I guess I was still confused, haunted.

 

A kind man put his coat around my shoulders. I looked up. It was that cop with the soft eyes.

 

“Come on Brit,” he said gently, I’ll take you back. You need to rest up. The trial starts tomorrow…”

 

©Kym Darkly

HUNTER…

©KYM DARKLY 0

Hunter’s eyes dropped to the floor. Horrified she watched blood drip, drip, drip onto the aisle beside her feet. It came from the cabin that held her suitcase above.

 

In truth she didn’t know how she got here or why that suitcase was hers. She was coming out of a stupor, a drug-induced amnesia it seemed, and was trying to remember, trying to put it all together:

 

Just an hour ago, she had watched each toe swing into view as she had started to come to – one foot in front of the other: click, click, click.

 

She’d felt a weight in her right hand: a steel handle dragging a suitcase behind over gravel and concrete. She’d looked up. She was headed for the bus depot! But why?

 

She’d felt inside her pockets and pulled out four things: a ticket, a key tied to a tag that read #15, another smaller key, and a note. She’d stopped. The ticket was a one way to Gravesmouth. On it was a name. She said it aloud, “Hunter Price.” She assumed it was hers.

 

She’d opened the note and read: Get on the bus. Do not call attention to yourself. Suitcase remains closed at all times until you get to Motel 26, room 15. Do not talk to anyone!

 

She had nowhere else to go. Once on the bus, night fell fast and early. Tiny lights scoured down carving shadows into skeletal cheeks and hollow eyes.

 

It was a slow trip of empty roads and tall trees with a few memories slipping back in: a scuffle, a knife, some blood and someone screaming…

 

Flipping back to the present: horrified, Hunter watched blood drip, drip, drip onto the aisle beside her feet. It came from the cabin that held her suitcase above.

 

There was a man in front listening to some music, and an old woman behind who seemed to be sleeping. Hunter’s hand flew up and switched off the light. She took off her dark, wool coat, removing the contents of the pockets and putting them in her purse. She laid her coat on the floor, using it to sop up the crimson evidence of something she hoped she wasnt guilty of.

 

Hunter slid out of her seat. She would have to pull the suitcase down to stop the blood. She quietly opened the cabin and padded her hand around for the handle. Another hand moving in behind made her jump. It was the man from the seat in front. “I can sure help you with that ma’am.”

“No!” She said.

He seemed surprised.

“It’s not as heavy as it looks.”

The man looked puzzled. He reached in again, “You sure. It ain’t no bother.”

“Yes!” She snapped. “You should never do for someone what they can do for themselves, right?”

Puzzled, the man nodded his head and sat back down. “Just bein’ polite.”

“Thank you,” she said.

He turned back to his seat and put his headset back on.

 

Hunter removed the suitcase. Sitting down, she pulled it in close and pressed the coat around it with her foot. What had she gotten into?

 

Arriving at Gravesmouth, everyone scattered from the depot quickly; even the driver had run inside to get some smokes. It was desolate except for a sole black cab that appeared to be waiting for her.

 

Soon she was inside #15, alone with the case. Peeking through the blinds to make sure no one saw her come in, she locked the door. Turning back, she swallowed hard, then fumbled for the little key in her purse. She shoved it into the lock of the case and rattled it back and forth as hard and fast as she could. What the Hell was inside? As the latch finally broke open, she flung the lid back.

 

She gasped as she saw a face beneath some thick plastic and a pair of hands cupped around the chin.

 

Shaking, Hunter grabbed a pen and paper from the nightstand and wrote a quick “Do not disturb” note to post on the door, but she was arrested by something familiar. She dropped the pen. She stepped back. Ice rippled up her spine.

 

She pulled the note from her purse and held it beside the one she just scrawled. The writing was the same. It was hers. Had she written that note of instructions to herself? If so, why? Why would she do that?

 

Hunter rushed back to the suitcase. She ripped the plastic off the face – at once hit with a disturbing smell and the disgusting sight of a neck that had been sawed through: flesh, blood and bones, mushed with crushed pearls.

 

She bolted backwards. Again something was familiar. The face: she knew this face – the mole, the scar. And then the hands, she knew the ring… What the Hell was going on? Was she crazy?

 

She rushed to the bathroom, turned on the taps. She splashed herself with water.

“This can’t be happening. It’s not happening,” she said looking up at her face – Her face! She leaned in closer to the mirror.

 

Her lips trembled uncontrollably. Her body shook and her knees were giving out.

 

This was the face she saw in the trunk. She touched the grooves in her cheeks, stole a finger over the mole on top of her lip, caught the shine of that ring and the pearls. Was it her? Was that her head? If so, what was she? Was she alive or was she dead?

 

A hard pounding made her gasp. It was the door. Maybe it was the police, but what would they think if they saw her in the flesh and her head in the suitcase? Maybe they’d think she was a magician or that shed killed her twin. Did she have a twin? Maybe she was hallucinating.

 

Another pounding shook the walls. They weren’t the only ones who wanted answers, she thought. She wanted them too and she was ready to face whatever this was, no matter how terrifying.

 

She ran back into the other room. The panes trembled and there was a deep rolling under the floor. A massive shadow stood outside the door.

“I want my merchandise!” its horrific voice yelled.

 

Hunter froze, her mind unraveling, as the door blew off and the panes flew out with a force that sucked her into the air and threw her against a wall, falling at the shadow’s feet.

“I like it when my commodities deliver themselves in pieces,” the voice blasted.

 

And suddenly Hunter understood. It all came back to her in a flash. She’d done one bad thing after another her whole life. Shed been on one long trip to Hell, and someone had made sure shed get there quickly possibly her husband.

 

She, a humble ghost, had delivered her own head to the Almighty Fallen Angel. She had arrived…

 

©kym darkly

 

 

SOUL WITCH…

©Tanya Grout

The ramming boulder took the door right off its hinges. Old rotting wood flew back across the room, almost hitting Kari – a startled eight-year-old who darted behind the leather sofa.

 

The police were astounded at what they saw: Old Woman Ireland was secured in her rocker by the window, anchored in. The green tendrils of a plant behind had shot up horizontally from their heavy urn, and plumbed deep into the woman’s ears. From here they had torn painfully through her skull, through parts of her brain and then had ripped out her eyes, pushing the ocular tissue to the side in strange, bloody bulges.

 

The sturdy stalks had then crawled down her face, crisscrossing into her nasal cavities, plummeting down her trachea and into the trunk of her body, exploding out of organs, creating a maze of convoluted control over this powerless body.

 

Shocked EMS personnel cut off the old woman’s shirt, as the photographer documented parts of the plant that could be seen under Mrs. Ireland’s wrinkly skin. Some of the vines had travelled down her arms bedside fragile veins, riveting each limb immovable in a right-angled position. These slender stems had then spilt off and out of her fingers forming an extended hand of woody digits, with little green shoots that trapped many a fly with their undulating stickiness.

 

Other vines had carved a stronger journey through her trunk and pushed through the fragile tissue of her lateral thighs, sliding off the chair and down to the floor. They had then grown through the soft wooden planks; deep into the basement and into the soil underneath, where they had became rooted.

 

There was just one question from the lead inspector: “How on earth could this happen?”

 

Only Kari knew, as she had envisioned it, had planted the little bulb in the urn and had fed it thoughts to help it grow. Although #158 hung from her mother’s toe at the morgue, the magic had been passed on at birth and Kari had used it well to avenge her mothers murder, keeping Granny Ireland alive through the whole torturous ordeal. Yes she was still alive…

 

© kym darkly

FANTOM…

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It had come again in the middle of the night, undulating under the sheets like a flat fish might swim at the bottom of the ocean.

Petrified, Bobby jumped out of bed. He watched the creature, with its wave-like motion, slink under the covers heading down to where his feet would always be, the place where it would wriggle before slipping off and away.

In his mind he thought he would catch it and maybe even cook it, if it was a fish, although his mother had said that ghosts couldn’t be eaten or cooked.

You’re not escaping this time, Bobby thought, ripping the sheet right off in an attempt to expose the mystery. But he didn’t see anything. It was invisible as ghosts tended to be.

Bobby got closer, bravely holding out his hand in the terrified hopes that he might touch it. He padded around until finally his delicate fingers landed on top of the slippery creature. Bobby yelped, but kept his hand there on the invisible eeewy fish, desperate to make sense of this thing that haunted him night after night.

The wires from his head sent out crazed signals to computers and machines that measured his brain for activity. Suddenly the sleep lab was full of personnel, but Bobby was oblivious. He was trying to hold onto the cold ghoul that kept escaping his grasp.

Suddenly angered, Bobby grew violent. He threw the sheet back on the thing to see where it was and grabbed his heavy Bible to kill it with. Slam, Slam!

“Ughh, it’s already dead,” said Dr. Rupert from behind the lab’s glass. Doesn’t he get it?

“No, he doesn’t get it. He’s just a kid,” said Rebecca – his striking sidekick.

“I know darling, but we need a kid who can catch one, so we can study it,” replied Rupert.

Bobby’s vital signs were in trouble. The beeps jolted them back to the computer screens.

“Its attacking him. This always happens,” Rebecca said, “Just stop it right now! We dont want to lose him.”

Ignoring her, Dr. Rupert gave a go-ahead signal with his hand through the glass.

The crew did what they were instructed to: sprayed the phantom with a new liquid that had been developed by the brilliant grad student: Rebecca McCauley.

This new variation worked and the crew grew excited as they could finally see a true ghost, albeit a vicious orange jelly that had planted its entire sticky being over Bobby’s face and torso.

Their own faces turned to horror quickly as they witnessed it sucking his brains, blood, tongue and other tissue out of his eyes, ears and mouth with a vicious pumping cycle, ultimately sending out a huge splat of blood back up at the glass of the lab.

 A flat line, and the ghost released its obliterated victim. There was no more live tissue to refuel its dependency needs and so it slipped back into invisibility and disappeared before it could be captured.

Dr. Rupert sighed – annoyance. “Call the parents, our condolences, he went mad, congenital defect and we couldn’t save him.”

“You fucking do it. I’m done,” Rebecca snapped. On her way out she slammed the door, torn over why she still loved this cold-hearted man…

In the blood splattered lab, Dr. Rupert reconsidered. “I’m not sure that’s a ghost…”

© kym darkly

THE VOID…

The smell of metal and gasoline, a dirty place.

Coming to in complete darkness. Rolling back and forth on her side, no arms. Where were they? Tied, tied behind. Knees tucked in so as to fit. Feet also tied… like a pig.

The stocking was making her gag. Too tight. Her tongue was swollen where it had been bitten. It must have been a horrible fight. Starving, parched. Blood flowing. It was hers. She sucked it in, drank it. Disgusting. Gagging, but strong willed. She was weak. She knew it was the right thing to do.

Memories: the woozy feeling at the bar after one drink. Drugged, led away, knowing it was wrong, bad. Wanting to yell out but unable to speak, hearing that man tell everyone he’d take her to the hospital, he’d take good care of her, she’d be okay… but did he intend to take her like this: naked, bruised and tied in a trunk?

A flicker of the dark empty parking lot: the pain of a smashed cheek. The hammer, how it came crushing in from the side.

The worst pain of all: her mother encouraging her to waitress at that snazzy club. She remembered the proposition and the cash, the emptiness beneath the glamour. She remembered her bad decision, and that this was only her very first trick…

© kym darkly

VOYEUR…

His problem was curious. It was a stockings and stilettos ordeal. He’d grown accustomed to following them home, clickety clack, late at night and they’d never suspected anything. Sometimes the gams belonged to a friend of the girl he was dating or a muse from work, but tonight he was the unsuspecting one.

Tonight the peep show would be different. Not even he was prepared for the rush of blades and the silken skin cut into thin red lines, high on a thigh.

He was frozen in the dark, mesmerized, anchored to the frosted window and suddenly he understood. Her strawberry blond self-destruction took him back to his childhood: the stockings, stilettos, the blood, his mother, her killer…

© kym darkly