Pride–It's What Drives You and I. A short, sweet piece of speculative creative writing written just for the Enigmatic Monster. This story features a couple thoughts on Pride: who it sleeps with, additional names, and how to use it against someone.

Pride–It’s What Drives You and I

Pride–it’s what drives you and I. Here are my thoughts:

Ambition and Pride

Ambition and Pride share a bed, so to speak. Pride is a thing which you can give, take, or swallow. What’s with all that ambition though? Well, Pride is also a feeling, isn’t it?

Yes.

And if the feeling is so good it’s considered a sin if you overindulge. “Don’t become a glutton!” That’s what the older folks used to say, isn’t it? Ambition is desire, drive. Another thing. It results in success. Success equals pride.

The good feeling it gives you, that sweet nectar which lights up your life–how long will it last? Longevity always relies on other factors. Doesn’t it depend on the person, too?

More, more! A tiny voice will say to you. This feeling is not enough. It can’t end! More!

Ambition and Pride lust for one another like dogs in heat. If they can’t find one another, then they’ll go on to the next best thing.

A Rose By Any Other Name

The Thesaurus and I spend a lot of time together. Jealous? Resentful? Envious?

I think not!

Self-esteem. Self-love. More words for the thing called Pride. They’re wonderful things, in just the right amounts. It’s just not socially acceptable to love yourself too much. Too much of a good thing isn’t so wonderful. It’s selfish, arrogant. Sinful.

We’re like containers. Jars, bottles, cans. Some have holes. We allow ourselves to be filled to the brim. If there are no leaks, we become insufferable. But too many leaks and there’s a problem. Dried up we look for a refill. Maybe a refuge.

A friendly face answers our call. The Other.

Not all those who seem friendly, are friendly. How do they say it? Pride goeth (or cometh) before the fall?

This leads us to to the next thought.

Social Warfare

Remove our pride, our armour–our shield–and suddenly whatever ambitions we had can wait. A weapon, wielded by the other, the erosion of our pride–or self-esteem– has a crippling effect.

Give us a taste, watch us puff up. Suddenly we take space. Then prick us. Draw blood and watch us shrink.

Parents are an exceptional example of this. When proud of their children, they heap them with love, praise. The child can’t help but feel good, feel proud of themselves. Why, they deserve it! But, when a parent is the opposite of proud, or simply withholds love from their child–if a parent hurts the self-esteem of the child–it’ll appear as if they’ve really deboned a fish. What good is a person without a spine? With nothing to feel good about, the child will shamble along: pitiful, mad, hungry, like a junkie.

Without pride we’re naked. The problem with this is that we grow up entitled, but stupid. Some people were never taught to think for themselves. Likewise, some people were never taught to love themselves. People become dogs. Dogs are ever loyal to their masters, obeisance demonstrated through fear and adoration; they endure the gaslighting for those sweet, delicious morsels. Pieces of meat …

Good things to be proud of, confident of.

But don’t blame Pride! It’s our responsibility, after all. The onus falls on us. We must stroke our own egos. Don’t give that power to the Other. They’ll take advantage of it, and they’ll abuse you like a privilege.

But they gave us the world! They catered to us! They wrapped our world in brown kraft paper, the same kind that the butcher uses to wrap up his meat. Therein lies the problem: in being given the world, we’ve let go of ourselves. And we are all the weaker for it.

Pride isn’t the monster in this story. As a person, it’s simply the spectator.

 

Anger-It Might be Cliché, written by P.L. Cobb for the Enigmatic Monster Project, an original horror blog.

Anger–It Might Be Cliché

It might be cliché, but hey: anger is a part of our life now.

It’s bad, but can be good, somehow. Good in the way controlled fires are. Left alone, and who knows what chaos it shall mete out. Destruction by the metric tonne.

Also, when driven by anger, you are master of none. No one. Zilch, And there’s no way to change that.

When anger owns your ass, you’re better off as food for the worms, or the grass.

But it all depends, and in the end isn’t that all we can hope for?

If I could pay my bills in rage, perhaps I’d be less than poor. But loathing takes its toll, and always asks for more. So much so that every inch of me feels sore. It’s as if anger has had me whipped, saying: “This is it, bitch!”

Bleed me till I’m dry, let me spend myself until I’m empty. Strip away all my layers, questioning why I pretend to be so complex, so human, when I am really Anger’s whore.

In the end, isn’t that what we all are? Whores?

ABCs of Horror Screenshot

Pity

“How can I ever repay you?”

As soon as the words left her mouth she regretted them.

The demon, however, was delighted. He listed the options on his fingers. “Well, well,” he drawled. “You can do two things for me: bear my child or give me your blood.”

She fought the urge to cringe. Neither choice was pleasant. The last one, though, sounded like the lesser of the evils. “I’ll take option B.”

He gave her a mysterious look. “Pity.”

Lust: A Timely Topic

Lust: a timely topic for the rest of this year, not just for the month of February. In this ‘essay’, unfinished and unpolished, I have a few things to say. Some are said in rhyme.

What’s the crime?

Lust, goes well with sexual desire, but keep that from a man and you’ve just lit a fire. With every denial henceforth you’ll just be stoking the flames, raking the coals, preparing a nice hot inferno–right under your ass! And the funny thing is, you’re not to blame!*

But don’t tell him that. He’ll call you a liar.

Repressed sexuality seeks release in power, just the right size for a pair of small hands. Absolute power corrupts absolutely, but what if the grape was already sour? The apple pre-rotted?

His demands for fairness and equality sound sweet, but beneath the veil he’s not quite well in the head. Power is not enough. But what could possibly fill the void?

When is a man without a soul not like a gaping hole?

Maybe when he cuts a hole where his heart should be, and fills it full of feces, maybe then he’ll be a real boy. If there is a heart underneath that cold exterior we could kick it around like a football, treat it like a child’s toy! How drole that would be!

Who said we were any better than our fellow citizens? We’re monsters, built from children’s teeth; parading about in our human suits. You’re so close to us you should be burning.

If that, my friend, is not a show of real power, then I’ve got little else to say . . .

*As if you could force someone to feel something. If you could they wouldn’t be screaming. You would. At them. And they’d be the ones feeling sorry for themselves!



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After Hours

With a shaky inhale she grasped the wall looking for support. There were some things that humans were just not meant to witness.  Swallowing hard she couldn’t believe what she just saw. No … This had to be some kind of sick prank … It wasn’t real. Closing her eyes tightly she tried to block out the images that came flooding back in her mind. Her heart began racing again. No, this couldn’t be happening. She had to call the police! They would know what to do! Wouldn’t they? What would happen if they didn’t believe her? What would happen if they took too long to get here and he had cleaned up the mess in his office?

Jill reached in her pocket for her phone. She didn’t have it! It was stuck in her purse, which was back in his office, along with her car keys and everything she held dear. Her mother’s voice whispered in her brain … Only the gifted are selected. We come from a long line of protectors. It’s our job to protect the world from demons. Demons? What about psychotic bosses who decided to go on murderous rampages? He wasn’t a demon, but he was a murder.

A loud scraping sound sent a shiver crawling up her spine. He was close. He was going to find her! She had done everything for him. She was his cheerleader. She had followed him around like a lovesick puppy! She wanted to have a relationship with that monster! He was a monster. Jilly knew she had to get out of the building. They were the only two people left here. She just had to get pass him and then run … Run like her life depended on it because it did!

Jill Ombright worked for Frank Gelworth for the last five years. She watched him as he rose in the ranks from intern to upper management in one year. She had been thrilled when she was hired to be his assistant. Jill always felt like there was chemistry between them. It was only recently that she was beginning to see what a leach Frank could be. He was her boss and took credit for her work at every turn. He had her work late all the time and she was more than happy to take on his workload. She was a fool. Never in a million years she would have thought he was crazy. Lazy at times but not crazy!

“Think Jilly … Think,” she whispered to herself. She had to get out and get away from him. Once she got outside she could hopefully find someone who had a phone and call 911. He couldn’t get rid of that mess so quickly. He couldn’t even wipe his desk off when he spilled coffee he would call her in to do it. No, he was crazy but there was no way he could get rid of that mess. There was so much blood everywhere. They had specialists that could find blood even after someone cleaned up a crime scene. Her stomach lurch at the thought, covering her mouth with a hand; she couldn’t afford to get sick here. He would surely hear her and then she would be like the very nice security guard Mike Black. No, she couldn’t risk it! Trying to focus her attention on something else. Laundry–she had a basket full of dirty clothes and if she didn’t get out of here they wouldn’t get done. Her family would come in her home and find a basket full of laundry.

Swallowing hard she peeked around the corner and saw that it was empty. Where did he go?  The stairs were less than three feet from her. If she made it to the stairs and got down to the lobby surely she could get out the front door! The throb of blood pulsing in her ears was making it really hard to hear. Holding her breath she decided to just make a break for it.

Keeping low she raced for the stairwell and as she was reaching for the handle Frank swung his ax at her hand nearly cutting into her skin. Yelping she jumped backwards and stared at it wide eyed. Willing her legs to move she was paralyzed and was finding it hard just to breathe.

“Jilly … Jill, I didn’t give you permission to leave work early.”

Her eyes drifted to his face. He looked the same as always. This just had to be some kind of dream … A nightmare. This couldn’t be happening in real life.

He reached out and put his free arm around her and guided her back to his office. Jill thought she was going to have a heart attack along the way. She wasn’t spared the torture of seeing the remains of Mike lying on the floor in a rich warm red pool of his own blood. She opened her mouth to plead for her life but nothing came out.

“Jill I don’t know what you thought you saw here tonight but I assure you it was nothing.”

She couldn’t take her eyes off Mike.

“Jill, I’m talking to you.”

Swallowing she felt herself hyperventilate. He came over and stood between her and Mike and all she saw was his face. He seemed full of concern.

“Jill can you hear me?”

She opened her mouth again … Gasping.

“Jill you need to calm down. You’re going to kill yourself.”

Her head began pounding clutching his arms for support she couldn’t look at him. Air she needed air. Then everything went dark.

Her eyes fluttered open and she forgot where she was at first. Then it all came flooding back. Her eyes went to the spot where Mike’s dead body had laid. He wasn’t there! The place looked clean! What? How?

“Jilly,” Frank came over to her quickly holding a glass of cold water out to her. “Here drink this” His voice soft and full of concern. Kindness, he was showing her kindness.

“But … But …. Where is … I saw …,” she stammered.

“What is it Jilly?”

“Hey you two still here?” Mike poked his head in.

Jill’s eyes went wide … He was alive! How?

“Hey Mike, yes we’re just wrapping up.”

“Jill are you okay?”

She nodded.

“She passed out.”

“Would you like me to call the paramedics?”

“No,” she shook her head slowly as she sat up. She was sitting on Frank’s sofa. Grabbing her head she closed her eyes. What the hell, did she have a nightmare? A vision? Her mother did warn her that seeing their own deaths ran in the family. Could that have been a vision?

Mike came in the office and rested his hand on her shoulder. “Are you going to be alright Jill?”

She looked up at him and felt her stomach lurched as his eyes were glowing red. Looking over at Frank she saw his eyes were glowing purple. She was suffering a delusion or something.

“I think I’ll be fine I’m just going to go now.” She got up.

“That might be a good idea.” Mike patted her on the shoulder.

“It’s on bitch,” Frank growled.

“I think we should get Jilly out of here first,” Mike snarled.

“Yes, let’s get Jilly out of here first,” she whispered. Her heart began to race as she remembered this was how her vision had unfolded. It wasn’t that Frank was a monster … Mike was one too. She was supposed to be a monster slayer of sorts but she just didn’t believe her mother. Jill wished she had taken her mother more seriously. Just like in her vision she made a break for the door just as Frank attacked Mike with an axe! She was as good as dead. The visions are a blessing and a curse but they are never changing, as her mother’s words whispered in her mind she raced for her life.



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The Stagnant Fountain

The Stagnant Fountain, story and art by P. L. Cobb

From afar the fountain looked normal: stained marble with patches of lichen spattered here and there.

Story and art by P.L. Cobb

The thing had been in his grandparents backyard for as long as he could remember; the funny thing was that he had never seen it working, and neither had anyone else. He found that odd, but perhaps it had been broken? Continue reading

His Old Self

His Old Self, written and photographed by Penny  C. http://theenigmaticmonsterproject.com/2015/07/09/his-old-self/

Memories of the past flooded him with regret.

Story and photography by Penny C.

Chrystopher. I am now Chrystopher, he told himself once more.

It had been a long time since he had done this . . . Reflect upon himself. Chrystopher promised a new beginning.

That was his hope.

He still couldn’t trust himself not to fall back into old habits–to fall back into his darker self. When everything was young he had been different; he swore that he had never been so evil. He had simply grown into it.

He hated that, but it was the truth. “I hate myself,” he murmured. Chrystopher wasn’t trying to be hard on himself, just honest.

Again with that? a part of him said in derision. Just forget it; it’s futile and you know this. Don’t disappoint yourself!

Perhaps that part of him was right?

“It probably is,” he reminded himself. It was him, after all. At that thought he allowed himself a deep chuckle.

“I was such a bastard!”

You still are! the cynical voice replied. That part of him was his darker self. Chrystopher didn’t have to like it, but that part of him would always be with him; he was better off accepting that now. Memories of the past flooded him with regret. Sometimes he wondered what his life would have been like had he woken up to himself sooner?

Would the king out of darkness still have his wife?

Would his son still have aligned himself with the opposing faction, and would he still have disowned and exiled him?

Would he have absconded his duties as a father, and would he have allowed his mistress to terrorize his children?

Would his youngest daughter be alive today?

When Marianna left he had hated her for it; she was unhappy, and because of that had left him and their children. Da’Kiri–his old self–had fallen into madness. That had been so long ago, he wouldn’t be surprised if she had passed into oblivion.

“Forgive me. I am a bastard.”

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Severed Head

Severed Head, story and art by Penny C. http://theenigmaticmonsterproject.com/2015/07/08/severed-head/

“What the hell?” I head-butted the creature, stunning it.

Story and art by Penny C.

The thing made a chittering noise in my ear. My blood ran cold; I could feel my heart pounding in my chest, faster and faster until I couldn’t bear to breathe. It was horrible. We had fought, and the insect had won.

Well, this sucks! I told myself. On the bright side, you massacred its nest . . . And you managed to deal a lethal blow to it. It’ll bleed out soon. See? Your death won’t be pointless.

I suppose the thing hadn’t won at all . . . “What the hell?” I head-butted the creature, stunning it. I rolled to the ground where my axe had fallen, picking it up. Then I swung with everything I could muster.

THUD!

In one cut I had severed the head from the neck.

But not without sustaining damage. A spray of blood hit me, and immediately my skin began to burn. I screamed, falling to the ground.

“I suppose I am going to die then . . . ”

coopid

Septembre

Septembre, written and photographed by Penny C. http://theenigmaticmonsterproject.com/2015/07/07/septembre/

I had questioned my experience, and it was years before I saw another expression of his existence.

Written and photographed by Penny C.

It was in Septembre of last year, on a dreary day . . . It was the first time I saw him. He was squatting, balanced atop a mouldering fence post. The red raven, standing on the edge of a knife; the red raven, whispering his words, his secrets, his life. That was the day I discovered his true nature. It was only a matter of minutes, but they were like an eternity to me. How it must have felt to the force before me. I could almost smell his ennui.

And then he was gone, like he had never existed to begin with. The only evidence I could find was the fence post, now a pile of smoking coals.

I had questioned my experience, and it was years before I saw another expression of his existence.

But it wasn’t the same

The lustre and the shine had vanished. What replaced it resembled a wet dog. I saw a troubled man  instead of that proud god. Ragged,tired, wearied, exhausted . . . All of the same words to describe the same thing.

I am afraid.

I am afraid because I have never witnessed the slow death of a god.

It troubles me, not because it is a death caused by human hands, but because it is a death brought about by the gods themselves. Perhaps even him. The gods, these forces . . . Existence relies heavily on their movements; their wars, their chaos, their peacemaking–all a constant struggle, a simple game of tug-of-war.

Where is order if there is no chaos?

The spider has dealt its last blow.

I am afraid because the gods want us to die. Everything. Nothing spared.

And I am afraid because the raven has allowed this to occur. He has lost his will to fight.

Party Time?

Writing, horror, weird, short story, and photography

The next night rolled around, and she couldn’t sleep at all.

She felt surprised and relieved to find that the front door was still locked. Lynda grunted in satisfaction.

She had been rudely awoken during the early hours of the morning to what seemed to be a wild party downstairs. Lynda shivered at the memory. “It was just a dream,” she told herself in a reassuring whisper.

When it happened again the next night she wasn’t so sure about it.

The next night rolled around, and she couldn’t sleep at all. As soon as the noises started up Lynda began to creep down the stairs. Halfway down she saw her living room swarming with creatures straight out of a nightmare. Her whole body froze at the sight. Lynda could feel the blood draining from her face too. What . . . ? Her mind went blank as her eyes scanned the room.

Was there anything she could do, she wondered, looking from nightmare to nightmare. Some were rather benign, while others resembled the demons pictured in Medieval texts. Others she had no word to describe them with . . .

Who is that? Lynda’s eyes stopped roaming and focused themselves on one of the creatures. He was one of the bigger ones, not the biggest, but still larger than her; he was one of the demonic ones too. What set him apart from the rest were the black robes he wore. None of the others had that. He is rather handsome, she realized, In an odd way.

His eyes met hers and the party came a halt. There were a few awkward minutes that followed, before Lynda worked up the courage to say anything.

“Get out of my house.”

ashkenaz

Collection

writing, horror, art, short story

As my eyes became accustomed to the light I noticed at the same time that there was an awful smell that permeated everything.

I woke up not knowing where I was; I could not tell what was up or down. My body could not move, and I could not see. For the first hour or so (or so it felt) I spent all,of my efforts on calming my nerves; the pounding of my heart, and the rushing of blood was all I could hear. My imprisonment came to an abrupt halt when I realized I was in a room . . . Not a box, as I had feared. As my eyes became accustomed to the light I noticed at the same time that there was an awful smell that permeated everything.

I sat up off the hard surface I was laid on, and then stumbled my way in the dim light. As I did so, I bumped into a table. There was a sliding sound. My mouth went dry. By this time I had guessed where I was.

On the outskirts of the city there was an old house. There was an old myth about a strange ‘man’ who collected hands–specifically the left ones–and eyes.

The hands he kept for himself. The eyes he gave to his dead lover.

ashkenaz

No One

photography, photo manipulation, horror, short, writing, story

The creature was barking strange noises at him. Talking to him, he assumed.

He liked to stand at the very top of the hill and look at the landscape from all angles. It was nice, quiet, and lonely. Just the way he liked it.

He turned around to look at his catch: a squirming sack. His prey had managed to spit its gag too, he noticed. The creature was barking strange noises at him. Talking to him, he assumed. This particular prey always tried to talk to him. No one talked to him. He grunted.

He hefted a club and hit the sack once with it.

The quiet returned, and immediately he felt better. With no one but just himself he began to prepare his supper.

ashkenaz

What Were They Doing?

This past Saturday I had inexplicably found myself night-walking. The time was well after 12 pm (which means that I was technically walking by myself early on a Sunday). I was alone and free; I walked down the empty sidewalks, taking giddy steps and smiling as I did so. There was no one was to judge, no one to make their unfair, incorrect assumptions about me.

There are no stigmas in the night, I thought to myself. It was a good thought, if not weak. If the wrong type of person had suggested it, I would have torn it apart like a wolf. I knew that then as I know that now. Then, it didn’t bother me. There are no stigmas in the night; there were stigmas about the night, and unfair, incorrect assumptions about some of the people who walked it . . . But there were also no people to judge me about it.

Or, no one to incite my anxieties. My insecurities.

Those were the things that the gods in my sub-conscious warned me about. I didn’t want to think about them at the time. So I didn’t. Simple.

I had turned around, after dancing in the middle of the road for what had seemed like an eternity. It was time to go home. I heard the forlorn call of the loon; it echoed off the river (the St. Mary). Something caught my eye, and I glanced down at the sidewalk. A millipede was crawling on the cement, going somewhere, hundreds of little legs propelling it forward. As I came closer and closer to my street, I began to notice that there were thousands of them . . .

. . . Thousands upon thousands, upon thousands upon thousands . . . Millipedes crawling on the side-walk . . . Making their way towards some unknown destination.

That’s when I realized what those sub-conscious gods were desperately trying to say.

coopid

The Cult of Acceptance

“I call it the Cult of Acceptance.” Da’kiri grinned. “But it’s anything but accepting.”

“You know how I love catches,” Offrith purred. “Go on.”

His grin quickly morphed into a snarl. “Of course, my lady.”

The lady laughed at his sudden change of character, treating it as if it were something commonplace.

“They preach their acceptance, crusading for anybody, anything; it’s all for nothing though, they never learn. The truth is that they only accept those who think like them . . . Who are them, essentially. When they realize that mistake they quickly become horrified, but it is the other person who is wrong–they are the ones who are mentally ill!” He stopped, cocking his head to the side, as if listening. “In the end they still push everyone to the margins. It’s almost like their cult of happiness . . .”

At this the lady gave pause. “What a bunch of animals. Your understanding of them always astounds me. I gave up on the things a long time ago.” She smiled at that; time was of no consequence to her.

“Understanding them is not always simple,” Da’Kiri conceded.

“That is why you are the king in the shadows though, is it not?” she said in a soft whisper. “You are such a demon!” Her grin turned into a horrible snarl.

coopid

Look Away

He couldn’t shake the feeling. Something, or someone, hated him with a burning passion. Only out of the corner of his eye could he see anything worth seeing, and what he saw was highly suspect. Was it a trick of the light, the consequence of having too-sensitive peripheral vision? Or was there really something there, looking at him?

Finally he concluded that it didn’t matter either way. But he just couldn’t look away from the things–or look elsewhere. Something in what he saw held a power over him. It could have been fascination, or some meaning rooted deep in his subconscious.

He wasn’t too fond of the things he was semi aware of.

Still, he found it very hard to look away.

As if paralyzed.

ashkenaz

Depression

Some days she had no idea it was there. That was the thing which scared her the most; there was nothing she could do about it, except pretend that she was unaware. It didn’t like being watched, and if someone thought about it too much . . . Imagine having your brain sucked out of a little hole in your head, a painful hole punched through your skull by a long proboscis. She was allowed to think of that.

The thing was inside of her, after all. She wanted to laugh, but that would alert it to her own presence. It moved deep within her, and she shivered.

“I hate you.”

coopid

Two Dimensional Toasters

The day is almost at an end, and I am late. Like so many times before we’ll pretend it never happened (this lateness). Today consisted of me tackling with the goblins and the clowns (of my mind).

It’s no secret that I love the movie: Killer Klowns from Outerspace. The thought of them making a remake/sequel fills my heart with so much joy it is about to burst (from so much pain). Personally I think that if they do make a remake they need to have one handsome killer klown. Just one. It would be perfect because the other klowns are so wonderfully ugly (it almost hurts me to think just how ugly). The pretty one could be the brunt of some sort of twisted joke, I’m sure.

Plus, just one pretty one? Out of hundreds of ugly ones? Is there someone who would not find that funny?

See?

As for the goblins . . . Well, they stole my toaster today. I’m not sure how but they stuck it into the wall. It’s almost like a painting now. Surprisingly it still works, as they’ve been teasing me all day by making toast. I’m most sure what they did, but they are somehow living as two dimensional beings in this three dimensional world. Insanity.

Whatever.

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Constantly Ringing, Ringing, Ringing

tinnitusConstantly Ringing, Ringing, Ringing

He always heard ringing in his right ear. It started when he was in high school, and it had endured all the way to university. Back then he had been able to ignore it, giving him a false reprieve for a time. For a time. Those blissful moments of ignorance were what he craved most. Back in the present– the cold, empty now–he had lost his touch. Ignorance had eluded him.

That bastard.

He supposed that the only way to stop the ringing was to go back to its source . . . Back to the run-down shed he had broken into with a group of friends. They were all fine, or so they said. Why just him? That was the question that had burned him for six years.

“It’s not like they didn’t see it too,” he told himself aloud. At the sound of his own voice his head began to throb. He squeezed his eyes at the pain. A constant ringing meant a constant headache. To admit that his life had come to this was embarrassing. What he was going through was debilitating.

Paul, he thought, wincing, You need to get it together!

The pain was a thousand times worse when he thought. Paul could almost hear the words that spoken inside that shed; he could swear that he saw the incident unfold in front of his face. The shed loomed before him, somehow stark against a backdrop of blighted trees, giving off the illusion of bleeding into the structure. Once again that eerie silence wrapped itself around him, pulling him in. Closer, closer, closer.

Stop.

The broken doorway stared at him. It captivated him. Through it was the source of the silence, the thing which devoured the light.

When Paul woke up he found himself spread eagled on the floor. As he checked himself in the mirror he noticed that the right side of his face was stained with blood.

It is inevitable, a voice said.

His eyes rolled into the back of his head. The ringing . . . 

ashkenaz

The Contest

the_contest

The Contest

They sat at the table in the middle of the night, staring at one another under the dim light. The girl stared the creature square in the eye from the other side of the table. “You’ll lose,” the creature told her. It’s eyes were the colour of milk.

“I don’t care, the girl told it. “I’m not in the mood for your games right now.”

“Call them what you will, you’ll still fail,” It sneered.

“I’ll survive!” she retorted quickly. “Failure means nothing to me.”

“Is that so? I’m learning so much about you, Anna. You have no idea.” It made a mockery of a smile on its face.

Her nose crinkled in distaste. “Ugh, don’t do that!” Anna spat. “It doesn’t suit you.”

The creature obliged. It had tried everything, but for the past twenty-odd years Anna had remained unshakable. “Good girl,” it hissed.

Anna smiled.

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I Made This Up In My Head

“I’d always see him–not in real life, but in my mind. And it was more like I was imagining him going about his daily life. We crossed paths often; he saw me too, I know that . . .”

I Made This Up In My Head

” . . . I usually stop thinking about things for a while, and then I come back to them later on. Not this one. Letting go wasn’t easy for me,” she continued. “One day, I saw him in my mind, and held out my hand. I don’t know what I was thinking. Something had to give, and I just wanted the visions to stop–vision’s the right word for this?”

“Yes, it makes sense.”

She sighed. “Okay, good.” Then she paused, her mouth open, like she had forgotten what she had wanted to say.

“You held out your hand?”

“Yes,” she said slowly, still thinking. “Then he reached out and grabbed my hand. In real life, not in my head.”

The listener nodded thoughtfully before adding: “You were missing for five years. Gone, and no hints, no trace.”

She shook her head. “It’s just so surreal, remembering it all. I didn’t really think it was happening at the time. I just couldn’t accept it. That’s how I managed to stay sane, I think. The things I saw . . .

” . . . When I finally came to realize that it was all real, I was horrified at everything. Frightened by him.” She turned to her psychotherapist. “Everyone’s so happy to see me alive, but I can’t really tell them what happened to me, I can’t show him to them.”

“Who is he?”

“His name is Druzinga. I just call him Druzi–did it to see if I could annoy him at first, to be honest. Getting anything from him was difficult,” she looked away for a minute, her eyes visibly unfocused. “Everything was wrong,” she added.

“With him?”

“That, and the situation,” she replied.

A long pause followed, which the therapist finally broke. This Druzi was another matter altogether. Getting anything from him was a nightmare.

The creature, as they referred to him, was puzzling. It was clear that it had the capacity to understand and communicate with humanity, it simply refused to speak to them. Any form of analysis, or examination for that matter, was all but impossible without Marianna’s presence.

The thing existed.

That was enough for them.

“How did it make you feel?”

“I don’t know,” the reply was instant, automatic. Hollow. It rang true nonetheless. “Angry at first, then lost. It’s not easy being with someone you have nothing in common with.”

“Did you ever blame yourself?”

“I can’t say that I didn’t, but it wasn’t something I beat myself up over. Obviously he’s not human.”

“No, that he is not.”

ashkenaz

The Thing Which Devours All

I sit in my comfortable chair, drinking beer from a blue goblet. I’m just fancy like that. With each sip thoughts of the current winter pass through my mind; so far it hasn’t been so bad. At least I’m not cold. Last year was cold, but last year I still worked at Walmart–you’ll always be cold there (cold with anger, that is).

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The Thing Which Devours All

What does this have to do with winter? I don’t know, it’s just a black and white photo of a flowering maple. I always come back to it when I scan my photo gallery. Years ago I took the picture. Like many plants, they flower in the spring, waxing and waning in the summer and fall, falling into a deep slumber in the winter months.

The snow, the cold. Nature has fangs, and it will use them. Not out of spite, and yet not without a reason. Just not spite.

Winter is like reality: it’ll swallow you whole if you’re not ready for it. Which is funny. Winter is a part of reality. It’s also a mystery. The holidays just don’t seem festive without the snow. A fresh covering of snow quickly changes a landscape into a marvellous wonderland. We don’t want it, and yet we can’t really live without it.

Somehow I feel as if I’ll never understand it.

As for the picture, black and white photography has its own mystery. Without any mystery,  things would get very dull, very fast.

Which begs the question: what is the thing that devours?

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You Go Under It

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“That building’s been sitting there for years. It’s abandoned, but people would use it for photo shoots and such. A few years back, someone decided to set it on fire. Got sick of looking at it.”

You Go Under It

“It’s an eye sore,” he replied. He was new to the area, and had asked an older woman about the building, out of curiosity. “You’d think the city would have torn it down by now.” It was sitting smack dab in the downtown area.

“You’d think,” she shrugged, “Easier said than done. Take care now!” she gave him a pat on the shoulder before turning to go.

“Thanks for your help!” he smiled at her. It was a small city, but very friendly. He followed the fence down a smaller side street, searching for a sign. The sole reason for his visit was to fulfill a promise he had made to a friend. There was something they had left in the building, and now he was here to retrieve it.

A bright object caught his attention. Bending over to look at it, he found that it was a tube. Tucked inside was a note. You go under it, it read. Assuming that meant the fence, he began walking again. A few yards away, the fence was lifted up enough for him to get through.

There were no cars in sight, and no one had seen him so far. Or no one cared. Either way, he had made it into the building without any problems. He brought out his flashlight, clicking it on. Another glint caught his attention, and true enough he had found another tube. Where do you get a tube for messages? he questioned as he scanned the note.

Basement.

And why make a friend promise to pick up your old belongings, from an abandoned building no less? He found it strange that he had only just begun to find the situation strange.

The basement was musty, but otherwise dry. The walls and floor were both concrete. Everything else was burned or buried. What he wanted, however, was a metal box.

His foot kicked something over; he could hear it tinkling across the floor. “Another tube!” he exclaimed, oozing sarcasm. This time the note said, Under the stairs. He sighed, thankful for the affair to be over.

It was late when he finally checked into a hotel. He was laying on the pristine bed, staring at the box in his lap.

What’s inside?

He gingerly opened the latches, then lifted the lid–his mouth made a pronounced ‘O’ shape at the contents. A strange ebony skull grinned up at him. It was humanoid. Somehow. Long, thin, with a jaw similar to a wolf’s. With a grimace, he lifted it out of its container, turning it over in his hands, trying to get a sense for how it worked.

A strong, unpleasant odour of rotting meat came from it. It clung to his hands, coated his nose and mouth, caused his eyes to water. He locked it back inside the box, disgusted.

He had promised to retrieve the box from the building, but there was no longer any intention of giving it back.

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Walking in the Dark

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Grocery shopping on an empty stomach is never a good idea, she conceded.

Walking in the Dark

She could barely see him in the dark; due to the season, the sun set much earlier now. It was only six, and it was already twilight. At first she had thought he knew her, after all, there weren’t many people who went out after dark in the neighbourhood. That’s why she hadn’t run. When it became apparent that he was a stranger–an uncomfortably peculiar one–she wished she hadn’t said hello.

I have no idea what he’s thinking now, she realized. Would anything happen?

Or did he mean well?

After a few minutes of painful silence, broken only by the sound of his peculiar foot falls–pat pat pat, like he was walking barefoot–he said again: “Where are you going?”

She made an effort not to look at him. It was so hard to tell what anything looked like in this light. The few street lamps didn’t help either. Finally, she said: “It’s a partial secret. Sorry.”

“Partial?” he said. He had a deep, mellifluous voice. She almost wanted to trust him because of it. What she was seeing with her eyes did not match up with what she heard with her ears though. The stranger was tall and, judging by the way their clothing looked, was wearing all black. She couldn’t say anything about the colour choice seeing as her coat was a dark blue. But those foot falls. Pat pat pat.

It almost appeared as if he was skipping beside her. And yet . . . It didn’t. It was more like he was bobbing up and down. Is he crouching? How tall is this bastard?

“Yes,” she told him. “Because it’s obvious. IF I invite you to come along, that is.” That sounded weak to her, but at this point she was pulling things out of the air to survive.

The stranger didn’t miss a beat. “I suppose you won’t give me that, will you?”

“Not tonight. So sorry!” She kept her eyes on the road ahead of her.

“Perhaps another time, then,” he said softly. It grew brighter when they passed a street lamp. Despite how difficult it was for her, she fought the urge to look directly at him; she said nothing to him, even going as far as pretending that he no longer existed. It wasn’t till she had rounded the corner to a new street that she realized she was alone. He was watching her, though. There was an uncomfortable feeling racing up her back–a tickling itch that left her in a cold sweat. The urge to look for him returned, stronger this time.

Dammit! she scolded herself. You’re going to the grocery store! He isn’t real, you saw nothing.

To be honest, she had no idea. What she did have was the sense to call a cab.

That was the last time she would ever go out in the dark.

He would be there.

And he wouldn’t let her go a second time.

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