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Burning the Undead at Happy Hour

Molotov Cocktails aren’t actually full of alcohol.

Most people might not realise that.

Surprisingly, movies and video games sometimes turn the dials down on ‘realism’.

It’s just a ‘fun name’. Because War is fun.

Alcohol doesn’t burn that well; anything less than 50% is just a waste of Liquor.

The best substances would be turpentine, diesel, or jet fuel.

Unfortunately I’ve not been stranded next to an Airport fueling station for the past fortnight.

Fortunately, I’ve been stranded on top of an outdoor strip mall for the past fortnight.

Unfortunately, the dead rose a fortnight ago.

Fortunately, they’ve not been able to get up to my roof fortress, booby trapped in pigeon shit and cigarette ends.

So, swings and roundabouts really.

There’s an access hatch on the roof that leads to all the stores. At night I grab food and supplies from the 7/11 and the kitchen of the Chinese and Mexican restaurants.

But mostly I go down to get booze from the liquor store. It’s got a steel gate and no windows. I’d sleep in there if it wasn’t for the moans and thumps against the gate.

Oh, funny thing. I sleep in a pillow fort on the roof. It’s mostly cushions I grabbed from the furniture store and anything else that would fit, braced and taped together. But yeah, it’s a pillow fort.

There’s nearly 400 of them out there.

I’ve counted. About five times.

Some are unique and stand out, ‘main characters’ if you would. Beard guy with rebar in his chest. Old man in a windbreaker missing an arm. Poor man’s Amy Adams, with bullet holes in her chest. Zombie 18th century Professor.

I’ve not burned them yet. A couple are too far, and some I’ve just grown accustomed to. Like fish.

I’ve burned a lot though. Makeshift molotovs have become my post apocalyptic hobby. I went through about six bottles before I realised high grain content works best.

Whiskey and Vodka primarily.

I drank a few bottles at first, just to try and get to sleep and wait for help. 

I gave up that idea and, on a desperate whim, tried something more practical with all that booze.

At first it sickened me, the fact I was burning something ‘human’. 
It was just a panicked survival instinct, bought about by wild necessity. I thought maybe I could burn them all away and escape. But there’s too many, and it seem like more join the audience every day.

But then what unsettled me was the harrowing nonchalance of it all.

How the glass would smash and whip tongues of fire over them How the couple who caught aflame would march as usual. Uncaring. No screams or pain, just emotionless, purgatorial indifference as their flesh bubbled and skin peeled. Like a building slowly collapsing in on itself, or a drunk stumbling home.

It’s enthralling now. Honestly, I enjoy it. A lot.

I never imagined I would.

But it’s mesmerising in it’s simplicity and erosion.

Like watching a candle melt, or time lapse footage of ants on a carcass.

I time it.

I try and alternate between hitting feet, then torsos, then heads. Multiple undead burning in various areas, creating Zombie screensavers of flame and rot.

I see if I can create chain reactions, dousing a ‘patient zero’ in flame and see how many others they spread it to.

I’m honestly addicted to it.

I’m an alcoholic you could say.

Just of a different kind.

(HA)

Part of me hopes this never ends.

There’s liquor in there for months. I haven’t touched a drop in weeks. I sleep just fine now.

I ran out of rags so had to use fabric from the furniture store. I threw everything wooden I could carry over the edge and made a disassembled wicker man.

That burned for a while. It was fun.

I’m going to have to start using pieces of my pillow fort soon, but fair enough, I need all the fun I can get.

I burn dozens a day, but the herd never thins.

The first step is admitting you have a problem right?



Pete Smith graduated Lancaster university with a degree in English, creative writing and practise, and immediately put it to zero use.
He writes short horror stories, and has worked freelance for sites such as cracked.com and https://thenewsdump.co.uk/. He once got paid by the BBC for a joke about putting your finger up your bum.

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The unclosed Case of Little Emily B.’s Disappearance.

For the fourth time that year, a train had been abandoned at Warton station, with no explanation.

Johnny Farrell had been the most recent driver to leave the train at 10am on 5 May, on the pretence of a comfort break, never to return again.

Brandon James had been called to investigate. One Friday evening, under cover, he had befriended Johnny and bought him drinks at The Anchor.

After his eighth pint, Johnny had told him about the bare feet little girl with the hollow eyes, regularly appearing on the rail tracks clutching her teddy bear and mouthing “save me”.



B F Jones is French and lives in the UK. She has stories published in various UK and US literary magazines: EllipsisThe Cabinet of HeedRejection LettersSpelkIdle Ink and Storgy amongst others. Her debut collection, The Fabric of Tombstones, was released in April 2020.

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Two Poems By Lisa Lerma Weber

1. GOING UNDER

She was beautiful—

eyes the color of icy waters

and midnight hair, soft as silk.

She was everything to me—

our love deeper than any sea,

it saved me from the abyss.


But one day the ocean stole her,

left me drowning in whiskey and sorrow.


I stood on the beach one night

whiskey bottle in hand,

searching for her as I always did,

and there she was—

the full moon’s opal eye

gazing on her floating body.


I threw myself into the waves

and swam towards her,

but the jealous water carried her

farther and farther away

until I lost sight of her in the darkness.


Cold and alone, I floated

until something wrapped around my leg

and pulled me under.

I could not see

but I knew it was her—

my love returned to me,

never to leave me again.



2. OMEN

As I walked, I noticed a crow

circling above my head,

feathers shimmering

like obsidian blades

in the late afternoon sun.

I continued on until the crow

swooped down and landed

on a iron fence beside me,

the railings bleeding rust.

I stood still, looked into

the crow’s empty eyes

as it cawed over and over

like some emergency siren.

The sun retreated behind the clouds

and I ran away from death’s messenger praying he was lost.



Lisa Lerma Weber loves to laugh. Her words and photography have appeared online and in print. Follow her on Twitter @LisaLermaWeber

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Hair

I’ve just gotten rid of the last of her when the radio says the police are going to be searching the woods today. I fight the urge to speed as I drive through town. 

“Weather looks good today, Amber!” Oliver, the gas station owner calls out to me, his usual greeting. I smile and nod at him as I fill up the truck’s tank. Kim tells me how her kid is while she rings up my groceries at the store. My cheeks start hurting from maintaining my polite smile. Alibis, like peoples’ good opinions, are shaky things that can be ruined by one mistake, one off interaction. They need to be built carefully to withstand the storms suspicion can bring. 

Janine can’t get me in for a manicure at the salon until next week. It’s not ideal but I go ahead and schedule the appointment anyway. My nails are jagged from digging but if anyone asks, I’ll say that I’ve been planting flowers. No one’s asked so far today or cared about how dirty I am but at least I have an answer. 

Dana had been digging around in front of the house. We were going to have a lovely walkway of peonies leading to two boxwood bushes that would guard the door. I’d even taken her with me, both of us disguised of course, to pick out the plants we wanted. There had been missing persons signs around with her picture on them but I made sure she didn’t see them. But then she’d overstepped. Then she’d made me mad. 

I browse the library for half an hour then buy a six pack from the liquor store just to put the cherry on top of my alibi. Radio reception grows spotty and full of static the closer I get to home, but there’s no update on how the search through the woods is going. I take that as a good sign and decide to have a beer on the porch once I get back. That way I can keep an eye out and enjoy a cool drink on this sticky day. 

My late parents never could understand why I loved this three room cabin that we would rent for a week during summers. As soon as I got enough money, I bought it from the old couple who never knew what a treasure they had. I can hear myself think out here. The only noise is the wind in the trees. The only eyes that look at me strangely are those of the animals. They’re generally more afraid of me than I am of them so they’re pretty easy to scare off. Not unlike most people, I’ve noticed. 

I shove my groceries in the cupboards, thanking myself for mopping up the blood last night instead of leaving it for today like I thought I would have to. I pull a beer from the six pack and bend to put the rest in the fridge. That’s when I notice it. 

A strand of hair, long and brown that in no way matches my shoulder-length blond. Dana had such lovely hair, wavy and thick. I’d loved playing with it, twisting and teasing it into all sorts of styles. I’d pull on it when she wouldn’t stay still. She often flinched or tried to get away and once even cried out because of it. I think she secretly liked it when I pulled, though she never showed it. Toward the end she’d started yanking on her hair all the time. She wouldn’t stop, no matter how many times I asked or yelled at her to.  I had to cut her hair while she was sleeping. This hair must have gotten in here before that. 

I pluck it out, close the fridge, then throw it away. I take my beer to the door and stop when I find another hair, easily noticeable against the kitchenette’s while linoleum. I throw that one away, too. There’s another one wedged in the metal grooves that line the threshold. How did I not notice these before? 

I set the beer down on the counter and go into the bedroom, just to make sure I vacuumed the carpet good enough. It looks alright. I check in the closet and see one of her hairs sticking out of the pocket of my jean jacket. There’s one on the hem of a skirt. Three strands in a pair of shoes. 

I open my dresser. Her hair is everywhere. In my socks, on the waistband of my panties, pooled in the cup of my bra I thought she looked so beautiful in. 

“I think they’ve found her scent!” A man’s voice rings out, too close. Dogs bark then go quiet and I hear the earth being turned over as they dig. Dana had kept pulling at her hair while she’d been getting our pathway of peonies ready. Burying it. She’d seen the missing signs after all; made sure she did what she could to lead them right to me. She was so smart. One of the reasons I loved her and wanted her to stay. 

The banging on the door is like a judge’s gavel calling the court to order. 

“Police! Come out with your hands up!” 



Elizabeth Hoyle is from southern West Virginia. She should spend more time doing her reading for grad school than writing whatever comes into her head. Her fiction has been featured in The Daily Drunk, Blind Corner Literary Magazine, 365 Tomorrows, and other print and online publications.Her poetry has been featured in Poke: A Journal of Kink and Erotica, What Rough Beast, and others. Find her on Twitter @ERHoyle

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Edgar & Emily sitting in a…bookshelf

Last night, I heard Poe whispering 

from somewhere within the pages.

In a hush he said “Nevermore!”

and something about a raven.


His voice cracked, and then came the sobs.

“Annabel.” And then came tapping.

My heart thumping out of my chest,

unprepared for what was happening.


A new voice then entered the scene.

From an alabaster chamber,

she asked Poe to “Keep it down, please…

talk about something a bit saner.”


Emily then crawled back down in,

her “fairer House” amongst the pages.

An unkindness of ravens arrived in the room.

Poe got on eBay hoping they sell cages.



Elizabeth Bates is a teacher and writer from Washington state where she lives with her husband, son, and two Siberian Huskies. Bates is the editor of Dwelling Literary. She is a columnist at The Daily Drunk. Her writing has appeared or is forthcoming in VersificationSeaborne MagazineDream Journal, and elsewhere. Follow her on Twitter at @ElizabethKBates.

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Scream

I pour new coffee into old coffee, place it in the microwave, and set the timer. It is an old microwave, circa 2008. It heats slowly. The tray circles for six minutes. Beep, beep, beep. I remove the cup; undulant steam swirls upward. I blow cooling breaths and take a sip. It is red-hot. My head jerks. The coffee spills, splashing the floor. As I stoop to wipe the puddle, I recall the night my stepfather doused my foreleg with scalding coffee. It was punishment. I screamed. He screamed. Now, a taut, pear-shaped yellow scar stretches like pulled taffy from groin to knee. It is a tattoo hewn of sinful flesh.

~~      

Each night, I slide beneath the bedsheets and stroke myself like the hands of my stepfather; after, I linger for mercy. Then, I lotion the scar. I trace its contour. I caress its firmness. I finger its texture. I smell its memories. It reminds me of the tormented face in Edvard Munch’s The Scream.

~~

I awaken with a jolt. I smell coffee brewing.



Paul Rousseau is published in sundry literary and medical journals. He is a lover of dogs, and currently marooned in Charleston, South Carolina.

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Down the Road

At the edge of a field, a deer flickers as if projected. It’s the same road as before, but now the trees are taller. Your engine stopped running sometime in the night, but still the miles fall behind you like a spilled basket of years. Through the woods you hear the sounds of construction, diesel machines and pneumatic hammering, and in the morning you drive into the new steel sunrise, white and silver and shrouded in clouds of suspended metal shavings.  

Ahead is the abandoned power station, still humming. The summer lightning here is green. Shark people live in the forest, their fixed smiles, their graphite skin glittering in the moonlight like powdered diamonds. Don’t visit here, you’ve been told. Your car slows, then stops.



Justin Bryant is the author of the 2013 memoir ‘Small Time,’ published in the UK by Bennion Kearny. His short fiction has appeared in Volume One Brooklyn, Modern Literature, Thin Air, VLAK Magazine, and others. He is a 2008 graduate of the MFA program at New York University, and lives in Raleigh, North Carolina.

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Parole Denial of Doctor Alec Kaiser

Deputy Commissioner Gonzalez: We’re on the record at Kern Valley State Prison. Today is August 23, 2045.

Presiding Commissioner Talbott: This is a parole consideration of Doctor Alec Kaiser, CDC Number 203182. Inmate Kaiser was received in the early 2020s from Los Angeles County. The commitment offense is murder.

Commissioner Gonzalez: Looking at your parole suitability factors, you’ve done a remarkable job in prison. You have no section 115 violations, and not even a 128. You’ve taken part in every program at the institution. You’re one of two inmates the Warden selected to help maintain the prison’s critical functions in the event of a natural disaster or incapacitation of the guards and staff.

Commissioner Talbott: The commitment offense, however, was particularly grisly. You’ve elected not to talk about it, and that’s your right. We can’t hold that against you, but we can consider it as a factor. You’re highly educated with a Ph.D. You were a university professor and a scientist before the crime. How did you end up here?

Inmate Kaiser: My business plan occurred to me after a family visit to Seattle around February 2019. The area received record snowfall—the most in seventy years. It rains in the Pacific Northwest, but snow is rare in that part of the country. A teenager from Idaho, where it snows heavily, also happened to be visiting before the storm. He had coincidentally left his snowplow attached to the front of his truck when he made the trip over. Seattle had only a few plows, and some of the surrounding cities had none. So the kid set up a plowing service charging five- to eight-hundred dollars an hour. His phone rang off the hook, and he made something like forty-thousand in a few days.

Commissioner Gonzalez: That is a lot of money now, but back then . . .

Inmate Kaiser: That’s right. I was working at Caltech, and when I got back from Seattle I remember sitting in my office thinking what if that happened here? We never get snow in Southern California, well, maybe the tips of the San Gabriels or Saddleback Mountains will get dusted, and that’s it. But, I thought, if the snow really hit we’d have a total meltdown.

Commissioner Talbott: So, things just took off from there?

Inmate Kaiser: Yes, I used my resources at Caltech and worked with colleagues at Berkeley, and we found a way to change the weather patterns and create snow in an otherwise semi-arid climate. We bought fleets of plows from a manufacturer in Denver and had them shipped down. We rented storage facilities all over to house the equipment until it was time. I hired a crew of about five hundred to help. Then we dumped two feet in L.A. and Orange counties. It was like World War Three, worse than the Rodney King riots with people looting and shooting at each other. When everything came to a standstill, I published my website and called the municipalities offering help, charging hefty fees, of course. I became a multi-millionaire in a week.

Commissioner Gonzalez: Well, you also caused billions of dollars of damage to California, the fifth-largest economy in the world at the time. Not to mention the property damage from burst pipes, to historic buildings and landscaping at the Getty, Huntington Library, all those homes.

Commissioner Talbott: And of course, the real tragedy was the loss of life. Thousands of people died in wrecks, and some of the elderly froze to death in their homes. The area could not cope with the chaos you created.

Inmate Kaiser: I’m remorseful. I’m not the greedy person I used to be.

Commissioner Talbott: I believe that, but the death toll was staggering. And that’s not even why you’re here. You pled guilty, so they never prosecuted you for all those other crimes. You’ve elected not to talk about the offense, and that’s fine, but it says in the appellate opinion that an employee tried to steal your idea. He planned to replicate it in Florida, but you tied him up in a storage facility and ran a push-style snowblower over him. Says here it was the kind with the auger designed to chop chunks of ice. You went back and forth until he was shredded to pieces. The security video shows you laughing.

Inmate Kaiser: [snivels, inaudible]

Commissioner Gonzalez: With that, I’m going to close the hearing. We’ll take a brief recess and come back on the record with our decision.



Michael Carter is a writer from the Western United States. He’s also a Space Camp alum, volcanic-eruption survivor, and wannabe full-time RVer. When he’s not writing, he enjoys fly fishing and wandering remote wilderness areas of the Northern Rocky Mountains. He’s online at http://www.michaelcarter.ink and @mcmichaelcarter.

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The Shape Of Him

I am curved smile and rot, a blaze of color on the front porch.

The boy calls me Jack as he scoops out my innards and drops them onto newspaper. I watch the seeds that birthed me obscure an article about a chili cook-off and allow myself to imagine the boy bringing me inside: sitting on his desk lit from within, a spark in the night.

“No such thing as the boogeyman,” the boy says under his breath. “Stupid Richie and his dumb friends.”

Up and down the street, trees are rioting. They shrug off their leaves like a lady sliding a coat from her shoulders, a reminder that everything fades. When the girl across the street bounces down her steps, I watch over the boy’s shoulder and feel my grin widen involuntarily under his blade. Suddenly I wish I could shout a warning, let her know that while the sun might paint auburn highlights in her hair now, it will bow itself to darkness later. She is already gone, knee socks flashing like a signal.

***

When the boy finishes, he places a candle inside my cavity and leaves me alone. My light is small but strong, a beacon in the hushed violet gloom. Soon there will be children filling the sidewalks, swinging bags with sticky hands and chattering excitedly. To be young and unaware is perhaps the greatest pleasure, I think, and one we can never enjoy in the moment. 

The wind rushes up and wakes the trees with a sound like a mother shushing her baby, heralding the arrival of someone new. He walks with purpose through the grass, white mask nearly glowing in the orange sodium street lights. Knife in hand, he keeps a steady pace until he reaches the hedgerow. There, he waits, a pale Shape against the night.

***

The boy emerges from the house, resplendent in his costume.

I watch him run down the steps to meet his friends, a throb of worry constricting inside me. The Shape doesn’t move, barely breathes. The boy passes without incident and I find myself wishing I had lungs to fill with relief, until I realize that the danger is not yet over. He watches the house across the street and tightens his grip on the knife, readying. I remember the flash of knee socks in the afternoon’s citrine glow and how they felt like a warning.

A wind kicks up, sending a clutch of leaves dancing across the sidewalk; the candle flame flickers and then goes out completely, leaving behind a thin stream of smoke. In a moment there is only darkness on the porch, with nothing to prove the light was ever there.



Amanda Crum can be followed on Twitter @MandyGCrum.

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THE WATCHER

It’s no more than two yards from my apartment building to the adjacent building. My living room window faces his living room window. He’s always there, sitting at his window, watching me, staring at me. His eyes are sunken and ringed with dark circles. His gaunt cheeks and hooked nose give him the appearance of a bird. An angry bird. His face is hideous. Horrifying.

He doesn’t move unless I move. We haven’t tried to speak to each other. He keeps his lips sealed, as do I. I close the curtains so that he can’t watch me, but when I open them, he’s there, waiting for me.  

My wife never sees him. “You’re imagining things,” she says.

She has no idea how it feels to know that there’s someone stalking you who lives only a few yards away, who does nothing but sit at their window waiting. Always waiting just for you. 

I once called the police and reported him. Two cops came to my apartment and said they checked out who lived in the apartment, who was watching me. 

“No one lives there. The apartment is empty,” they said.

“That’s impossible,” I screamed. I opened my curtains and there he was. He stared right at me. “There he is,” I shouted.

They took my wife aside and they spoke in whispers.

“I’ll have him seen by someone,” she told them as they went out the door. 

“I’m not crazy and I’m not seeing a psychiatrist,” I told her.

In the middle of the night when I open the curtains, in the partial glow of moonlight or streetlamps, I see his grotesque face half hidden in the shadows. 

Enough is enough.

This evening my wife is out with friends. I open the curtains and stare into his chilling, murderous eyes. I go into the kitchen and take the butcher knife from a drawer and hide it inside my jacket. In the darkness I go from my building to his, careful not to be seen. I take the elevator to his floor and pound on his door.

“What?” he says, when he opens the door. He looks different. He’s wearing painting overalls. But it’s him. It has to be him. Who else could it be? I pull out the knife and plunge it into his heart. He falls to the floor. A pool of blood quickly forms around his body.

As I look at his body the relief that he’s gone – that he will never watch me again – washes over me.

I close the door, step over his body, and go to his window. I stare through the glass,  immediately terrified. He’s in my apartment, watching me from my living room. 

I wipe away the blood that had splattered on my face.

He does the same thing. At the same time.



Steve Carr, from Richmond, Virginia, has had over 440 short stories published internationally in print and online magazines, literary journals, reviews and anthologies since June, 2016. He has had seven collections of his short stories, Sand, Rain, HeatThe Tales of Talker Knock and 50 Short Stories: The Very Best of Steve Carr, and LGBTQ: 33 Stories, and The Theory of Existence: 50 Short Stories, published. His paranormal/horror novel Redbird was released in November, 2019. His plays have been produced in several states in the U.S. He has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize twice. He is the founder of Sweetycat Press. His Twitter is @carrsteven960. His website is https://www.stevecarr960.com / He is on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/steven.carr.3597