Monthly Archives: April 2013

Hand In Mine by Erin Cole

Not the red-warm glow of a burning fire greeted me.  Their torches blazed of rage and vengeance and stabbed through the abominable darkness of the frosty night.  Torrid tempers protested at the footsteps of the Horton’s house where I had been dragged.  Inside, Mrs. Horton struggled for breath.  Margaret Worthington, the coroner’s wife, shouted to those who had gathered around outside.  She spoke to me in a damning tongue.

“Prove to us that you are not with Satan’s league!”

The death of the doctor and the other midwives had fallen blame on the one who had worked with them the closest.  “Coincidence or black magic?” they murmured in the undisclosed backdrops of church pews and street corners.

And what would happen now?  Who would deliver Sheriff Horton’s baby?

Certainly not me, the girl with the birthmark of an upside-down cross at her neck.  The girl who had never played well with other children, stole the gaze of taken men, and was always present where unfortunate events unfolded.  But I was the only one experienced in child delivery.  No one else knew what to do.

“She can’t be trusted!”  Sarah Thorton, the seamstress.

“She’ll give the babies to Satan!”  Boyd Finley, the baker.

“They’ll be marked forever, damned to the Devil!”  Annette Harris, a friend no more.

Inside the Horton’s house, moans escalated under the crowning of the child.

“She needs the calming reassurance of a skillful hand,” I told them.

Desperate, the townspeople shuffled me inside.

“Deliver the baby alive or you will die.”  Sheriff Horton himself.

Forty agonizing minutes later, the child was born at midnight.  Six toes on the right foot and an inverted star-like birthmark on his chest.

Screams erupted.  I managed to flee out the back door into darkness, across the ditch and into a well in the field.  I climbed down and waited with drawn breath.  My shaking uncontrollable and not of the freezing temperature.  I could hear their protests, their threats, the thunder of their hunt for me.  Their search ended in a riotous cheer as sharp weapons and crucifixes shadowed over me at the top of the well in a blade-studded circle.  I was their feral beast, captured.

Voices (of those who I thought I knew) rose and fell around me like a cold, winter ocean: my father, begging me to surrender or face execution … my music teacher, Nell, praying for God’s forgiveness … and Beth, my sister, humming a church hymn, her passive hate further branding me with the sharp glare of damnation.  Beth the angel, who had miraculously survived birth in the death of our mother, the first of many terrible events to surround me.

Shouts gained rhythm and became a chant.  I crouched back into the darkness.  Pulled it around myself like an old lover.  The blood of birth had glued between my fingers.  I wondered how long before it might be my own.

In the distance, I heard a holler.  The people’s voices softened.  Someone drew near.  It was Father George, our new pastor, the hero in a town suffering from a recent black storm of bad luck.  Everyone had taken an unnatural liking to him, and he to me.

“Help her, Father!  Help her.”  Beth playing the part—loving sister.  Pretending I am good enough to be saved.  Believing evil is not in hand with mine.

“It is not too late.”  Father George leaned over the well.  His eyes locked on to mine, a gravitational pull, hypnotic-like.  I felt the earth spin below me, then spiral up into the steady pulse of my own heart.  I had the urge then to love him, as though my soul had awakened from a dull slumber.

“But she is with the Devil.”  A stranger, who knew me no better than I him.

“She is with the town of Sheffield,” Father George corrected him.

He stepped down the ladder and reached for my hand.  It was strong and warm, and filled me with images when he squeezed it gently, none of which Margaret Worthington would have found holy.  I saw mass graves, the intermingle of flesh, lightning and fire, and every form of the bizarre and deviant, all beneath the shadow of Father George.

“Come, my child,” he said to me with a smile deeper than the darkest of seas.  In that moment, I felt it, the red-warm glow of the burning fire.  I smiled back at him and took his other hand in mine.

 

SAMSUNGBIO: Erin Cole is a writer of dark and speculative fiction.  Her work has appeared in over 50 publications, and she is the author of the novel, Grave Echoes, and the horror anthology collection, Of the Night.  She daydreams that one day, Hell will freeze over, and she’ll get that tree fort she always wanted.

www.erincolewrites.com

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Green Green Grass by Matt Hilton.

The hand written advert Blu-tacked on the front door of Mulholland’s Pool and Snooker Hall said: 

Cleaners required for occasional work.

Involves some heavy lifting and rubbish disposal.

Some night work.

Hourly rate exceeds Minimum Wage Limit.

GSOH and discretion essential.

 Apply Within

Ask for Bull

There were no lies in the job description, but in hindsight he asked for Bull, and Howard Lawson got plenty of it.

***

‘I could just eat a bacon sandwich.’

‘You’re one sick puppy, Rod,’ said Howard, pulling his T-shirt over his nose and mouth.  He tried to breathe only through his mouth.

‘I always heard that burning human flesh smelled like roast pork.’ Rod Spencer jammed the shovel he was wielding in the guts of the man hanging over the fire and gave it a gentle nudge.  Intestines spilled out, plus fluids the colour of bile.

‘For Christ’s sake!’ Howard turned away as a fresh waft of evil-smelling, ash-laden smoke billowed around them.

‘What’s up, Howsey? Haven’t you the guts for the job anymore?’ Rod grinned, showing the gap between his front teeth.  His gums were too yellow to be healthy.

‘Stop poking the bloody thing,’ Howard snapped. ‘It stinks to high hell and you aren’t helping.’

‘It’s not the meat that stinks; it’s the cheap fucking tracksuit our boy was wearing. Smells like smouldering plastic. Whadda they call it again? Bakelite or some such shite?’

Howard was trying to avoid smelling the burning corpse, let alone look at it.  But his gaze went back to it: what was left of Gary “Spacker” Adams.

‘Maybe we should’ve stripped him first,’ he said.  Spacker’s tracksuit had melted and now clung to the stumps of his legs, arms and chest as a black, dripping mess.

‘You some sort of homo?’

‘Fuck you and your sick mind,’ Howard said.

‘Always thought you were a bit of a Nancy Boy, Howie. You have to be a man’s man to do this kind of work.’

‘I didn’t sign up for this kind of crap.’

Rod offered a malicious grin. ‘You want me to tell the boss you want out? I’m sure he’ll give you severance pay.’

With that he lunged at Howard’s throat with the head of the shovel.

Howard flinched, but the steel edge had stopped an inch from his neck.  Rod grinned again. ‘Made you jump, chump.’

‘Just fuck off, will ya?’

‘Ha! I’m only messing with you. Not as if I’d really chop off your head.’ Rod winked. ‘Not unless the boss asked me to.’

He wasn’t kidding.  Howard had watched him cleave Spacker’s skull with the edge of the shovel earlier.  Punishment for smoking away some of the profit from the drug deals they conducted on behalf of Bull Mulholland.  Spacker claimed it helped calm his frequent epileptic fits but Bull didn’t give a fuck.

‘Let’s just get this done and get the fuck out of here.’

‘Throw some more of that petrol on ol’ Spacker. He’s going out.’

Howard complied, dousing the corpse with more fuel from a jerry can.  Flames roared, a huge plume of black smoke reaching for the tops of the trees rimming the abandoned quarry.

‘Hey, go easy on that stuff,’ Rod moaned. ‘Don’t you know how much it costs a fucking litre?’

‘You siphoned it off from your lawn mower,’ Howard pointed out.

‘Yeah, and what’s left’ll go back in it. Got me mam’s front lawn to do tomorrow.’

Howard shook his head.  He couldn’t picture Rod The Vicious Bastard Spencer performing any menial chores like gardening.  Shit, the only landscaping he was used to was when he was burying what they couldn’t burn in a shallow grave.

‘Have to watch out for my profits,’ Rod went on. ‘Less beer money for me if I have to buy more petrol.’

‘You charge your own mum for cutting her lawn?’

‘Fuck yeah. What do I look like, a fucking charitable institute?’

‘No. You look like a greedy twat.’

Rod laughed.  No offence taken.  He knew exactly what he was.

Spacker was now a charred cinder hanging from a discoloured chain.  Howard brought the hatchet.  Time to get on with the real dirty business.

Rod unhooked the chain and what remained of the corpse fell in the ashes.  He dragged it out with the shovel. ‘Get your chopper out and do your stuff, Howsey.’

Howard clutched the hatchet, staring down at the shell of humanity, all which remained of their former colleague. ‘I can’t believe it’s come to this, Rod. It’s fucking evil.’

‘Speaking of evil, what they say isn’t true, y’know,’ Rod pointed out. ‘Money isn’t the root of all evil, it’s the lack of money that forces us to do such shit jobs.’

Howard didn’t answer.  He was beginning to think that no amount of cash was worth what they were doing to Spacker.

‘I mean,’ Rod continued putting thought to his warped sense of morals, ‘who’d fucking cut grass if they weren’t being paid?’

 

BIO:  Matt Hilton quit his career as a police officer with Cumbria Constabulary to pursue his love of writing tight, cinematic American-style thrillers. He is the author of the high-octane Joe Hunter thriller series, including his most recent novel ‘Rules of Honour’, published in February 2013 by Hodder and Stoughton. His first book, Dead Men’s Dust, was shortlisted for the International Thriller Writers’ Debut Book of 2009 Award, and was a Sunday Times bestseller.

Matt is a high-ranking martial artist and has been a detective and private security specialist, all of which lend an authenticity to the action scenes in his books.

www.matthiltonbooks.com

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It’s Time…..

SUBMISSIONS ARE OPEN.

It is with trepidation, and my heart in my throat, that I take on this daunting task.  This new mag has some very big shoes to fill and with your help I think we can do it.

All genres are accepted but they must be gripping and well written.  Crime, Thriller and Horror are the preferred but I am partial to a bit of Western and down-and-out slice-of-life kind of writing.

Send me your best 1000 words, BUT, please, please follow the Submission Guidelines.

Bring it on people…

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Under Construction

Thrills, Kills ‘n’ Chaos will be up and running soon.

Please read the ABOUT page and SUBMISSIONS page to get up to speed with things.

Submissions will be open soon.

Thanks,

Ed.

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