Volume 3 Issue 2

Welcome to Monster Summer. We don’t do many themed issues here at From Whispers to Roars, but like 2020 has demanded, new adventures are necessary. This issue is a good one. Creepy and fascinating. Captivating and intriguing. Thank you for all of your amazing contributions!

Photography/Art Winner

Rhyolite Ghosts - Bike by Jeremiah Gilbert

Rhyolite Ghosts – Bike by Jeremiah Gilbert

Poetry Winner

Surrealistic Circus by Lindsey Grant

It is where I move along to the gallery of same-sex sandwiches

Corridors of condiments and condemnation that entreat me and repeat

Revulsions that make my eyes water from within and without

It is where I move along to the bemusement of the money-changers

With oily-pompadours and scaly smiles who seduce virginal buds of solitary joy

With Kewpie dolls that weep from within and without

It is where I move along to the carnival of barren billets,

Respite from wanton favours and rhyme. It speaks of the daze of summer

Which make my heart break from within and without

It is where I glide along the midway of freaks and pinheads

The zealot whispers the walrus song; the barker offers me one on a stick

In the lad of screams, I must choose from within or without

It is where I am. I am trying to move along, my head a Casaba

My feet a blacksmith’s envy. The stale corridors, sterile hopes and baby soaps

The observed, observer and absurd, to my chagrin and my doubt

Short Story Winner

M… by Thomas Lesh

Please allow me to introduce myself, which, as a matter of fact, presents certain difficulties, given that, strictly speaking, I do not exist.  Really more than just strictly speaking.  I mean to say that the single thing that gives me reality is my non-existence.  I daresay that – like God but in the opposite sense – should I exist in reality, I should have to be denied.

It was in truth many years ago in more carefree days that I began my quest for affirmation, for acknowledgement, call it what you will, in the house of the family N – I shall withhold their true surname.  More specifically, I made my dwelling in the room of their only child, Louis, a boy of no particular distinction and less imagination.

I will say nothing to prejudice the reader either in favor or against the child.  I will only attest that Louis was given to the usual unthinking cruelties of childhood and adolescence, as well as its compulsive fears and insecurities.  When he was quite a small boy, he would cut up earthworms for no apparent reason.  He would also capture fireflies – they were a great deal more common in the city then than they are today – keeping them in a glass jar until they had exhausted their fire and then flushing them down the toilet.  On one occasion I observed Louis eating a dead bug.

It was this event that provided a first opportunity to call the child’s attention to the nameless empty thing that dwelled beneath his bed.  Whether it was because of indigestion or guilt, I was able to enter his consciousness whilst he was dreaming or in a waking dream.  Louis, however it happened, became aware of a strange efflorescence emanating from beneath his bed.  It was pretty weird and pretty scary and even to this day I am not certain how I was able to pull it off.  I was young then, I suppose, and capable of the odd irrational prank that even I could not explain, especially as I did not exist at all in a real, palpable, material sense.  Or, come to think of it, in any sense at all.

Now you will object, of course, that I was merely a figment of the child’s imagination, that I was, if you will, a projection of his own creation or, worse yet, the product of weary, dying neurons in the process of replacement or reorganization.  Have it that way if you like. 

When Louis reported the first incident – or some semblance of it, for the child had great difficulty articulating exactly what he saw or seemed to see – his parents came to the room.  They looked about and under the bed.  They reported they could see nothing.  This in itself was an insight more profound than they might imagine.

In any case, Louis continued to report difficulties sleeping.  He would awaken in the middle of the night and report strange feelings and irrational fears to his parents.  At length, they installed a night light.  When this did not entirely assuage Louis’s fears, they allowed him to sleep with the light on.  It helped, but did not entirely eliminate the child’s unhealthy preoccupation.  Every now and then, and some nights more frequently than others, Louis was compelled to lean over and look under the bed.  He never saw anything, but he was never quite reassured.  He was convinced at some deeper level of his being that something was living there, just at the limit of his perceptions, a monstrous presence that threatened in some nameless fashion the integrity of his very being.  Or something like that.

Really, I needed to do little to stimulate the child’s attention, although I felt I must assert my monstrous presence in order to achieve the semblance of my own existence.  For his part, Louis found it impossible not to look under the bed, to imagine all sorts of monsters rather than the void, the nothingness, the empty space that was surely all that existed in that place. 

Louis’s room was on the upper level of the family’s home.  Actually, it was a late addition to the structure that occupied about a third of the upper story, the rest being what remained of the original attic, a large, dusty, unfinished space that was separated from Louis’s room by a rough, dark door.

The interior of the attic space contained unimaginable horrors for Louis.  Its emptiness inspired only terror for the boy, although actually it contained only some old wardrobes and bins of discarded clothing, tools and old toys, just bric-a-brac, if you will.  The room had no wall switch for its lights.  It was lighted only by two or three bare bulbs with pull-chains that hung from the ceiling, the first of which was some way into the shadowy cavern.

Occasionally, Louis was dispatched to fetch something from the attic, things like Christmas ornaments or the tree stand.  These errands filled the boy with dread.  The journey from the door to the first hanging bulb seemed an eternity for him to cross.  To tell the truth, although I quite liked the emptiness of the place, I never really haunted it.  I did not need to, inasmuch as its dim and drafty presence gave rise of itself to sufficient spookiness without the need of intervention on my behalf.

At length, Louis’s parents bought him a small white dog to keep him company, maybe to protect him from his own imagination.  I must confess to an inordinate affection for this animal, I suspect because without the slightest effort on my part, he recognized my presence and tolerated it without any question.

The reader may have observed – and if he or she has not, I might suggest he or she ought to have observed – that animals frequently establish boundaries beyond which they will not tread.  Often their human companions are at a loss to explain their behavior.  Suffice it to say that such was the case with Louis’s dog, who would not venture under the bed under any circumstances for any purpose whatsoever.  Nor would he cross the line that separated the attic from Louis’s room.

I surely cannot demonstrate the point, but it is my sincere belief that to the extent that I may be said to exist or to have existed or to have been perceived or believed to exist, it is only through these two beings, Louis and his dog, that the assertion may be advanced.  Of the two, I much preferred the company of the animal in all respects.

Louis grew up and went off to college and then to a career.  At least I suppose he went off to a career.  He rarely visited his parents.  When he did so he seldom if ever ventured to his old room.  After his departure, my only visitor was the little dog who would sometimes come upstairs and lie about on the floor or atop Louis’s old bed.  I enjoyed his company whenever he did so, though the two of us never acknowledged the other’s presence except through the mutual boundaries we had set.  The dog lived for a long time, but after a while he no longer visited the room.  I assumed he had died.

Louis’s parents maintained the home for many years.  They grew old.  I never bothered them, never asserted my presence or non-existence, wishing to spare them sad memories of earlier times and of their son’s youth.  Eventually they both died, first the father, then, some years later after a steady decline, Louis’s mother as well.

Some short while ago, Louis visited the house to wrap up his family’s affairs.  Movers sorted through the dusty attic, removing everything, leaving nothing of the bric-a-brac behind.  Louis came up to his former room before he finally left the old house for good.  He told his wife that when he was a child, he was afraid of the attic, and that he, like many children, was convinced of an alien or monstrous presence under his bed.  They laughed about it.

When his wife had left the room, I sent the merest hint of an image suggestive of an aspect of the little dog, a blur of whiteness caught in the blink of an eye, to the periphery of Louis’ vision.  It is an image dearer to me than any I might have possessed and treasured had I existed at all.

He sat down on the bed, visibly shaken, moved almost to tears.  He sat there for a long time lost in reverie, alone with uncomfortable memories. I hoped he would carry the image as a reminder of the horrible chasm of nothingness that lies behind the veil of perception. 

It is in that nothingness that I dwell.  I am alone now, merely a space behind a human construction that exists only in my own imagination.  The bed that was the boundary of my space has been moved out.  All the furniture has been moved out.  Soon a new family will move in. That, at least, is my hope.  Or the house will be demolished.  Will I survive first as empty space?  That is my profound wish.  That I should expand to fill this void with my own emptiness

Carnival of Dolls #14 by Talmadge Krajowsky

Carnival of Dolls #14 by Talmadge Krajowsky

Jack O’Lantern by Robert J. Ward

You were awful, back then,

                                                joking and smirking, beaming as you

                                                mocked the setting, disturbed class,

                                                cajoled other jerks into becoming

                                                as empty as you, basically ruined life.


                                                Your parents were no help,

                                                your mother too proud to realize

                                                you were the wrong crowd;

                                                your father, presented with your petty

                                                crimes, fretting about homework.


                                                Years later, married, one might suppose,

                                                though most likely tossed out,

once exposed; or perhaps, instead, still

                                                at home, a hollow head with eyes

                                                aglow, grinning from the doorstep.

Corposants – Midnight Summer by Kate MacAlister

Yesterday I

swallowed glass

in the dark



Cutting open 

that undisturbed



barbed wires

 lively arteries

and quiet veins


My mouth becomes

A scarred graveyard

all the words 

I swallowed 

are buried here


This unholy soil

turned them into


on my mind


    laid bare


My heart is still

   In the right place



    in this untangled swamp

I follow the strange flashes




my voices

in the mist

where my worlds


Hera’s Curse by Lauren Finkle

the anger scrapes sharp as a blight across my collarbones and up the column of my

throat, so i bring death to this summer’s day — or something even more cruel. i can feel

the snarl of my pulse against my thin skin until anyone can see the secrets i’ve tried to

hide behind my sternum and i hate that i am so obvious. what use is a diadem when only

the cosmos listen to my rage? so i lash out, level curses i don’t mean in tones that sound

broken, and the words feel ugly against the nature-slick of my teeth and the sweet-peach

skin of my cheeks. i wish now that i could remember how to bite my tongue.

Around The Corner by Joseph Patterson

She lay quiet and still, holding her breath to make little movement as possible so she wouldn’t be seen by the intruder.   The room was dark, but she could clearly see him standing motionless at the foot of the bed. Trying to make her believe that he was not there. But she could see him, because he was darker than the room itself.

A sound outside caught his attention and he turned his head toward the window.  She thought if she had a chance for escape, it would be now, while his attention is elsewhere, but fear kept her in place.  She couldn’t move.  Try as she might, she couldn’t place her feet on the floor, her arms from her sides, or her head toward the direction of the door.  She was paralized and trapped by an eight hundred thread count cotton blue sheet, and the two ton weight of fright that lay heavy upon her chest.

A tear formed in the corner of her right eye, rolled halfway down her cheek, then dropped from her face and fell into eternity.  The sound it made when it struck her pillow was nothing more than a silent poof.  A nothing sound.  A sound so insignificant it was forgotten even before it was heard.  But sometimes, forgotten sounds are loud enough to wake the dead.  And to the intruder, it sounded like thunder.

He snapped his head back toward her.  The realization that she had gained his full attention again was enough to make her scream, but no sound came from her.  It was locked, somewhere deep inside her under that two ton weight. Trapped forever like she was to this bed.  She hoped he would take her things and leave.  She prayed that if she were raped that it wouldn’t be brutal.  At that precise moment the intruder realized her predicament and smiled.  And in that same moment she understood that this was no man, and he was here for something different.

No man has a smile that big, that bright, that seems to go from ear to ear.  No man could be so dark, so hidden, that he could only be seen by his silhouette.  This was no man here for robbery or earthly pleasures.  This was something else.  Something else that is here to deliver pain and suffering of a different kind.  The kind that is unknown.  The kind that you anticipate but never comes.  All you can do is lay motionless, and wait, and hope that you will rise along with the sun, if it comes up again. 

Crossroads by Brad Christy

Men armed with rifles gathered on a dirt road just outside the rural town of Clementine, Alabama. The mid-August air clung to them, thick and stagnant, choked with swarming clouds of mosquitos. Nobody spoke, listening for any noises that weren’t the croak of frogs or droning bugs in the tree line. 

Billy Watkins sat on the bumper of the Mayor’s Bel Air, fanning himself with his fedora. “Mr. Mayor, I don’t see why we need a bunch of-”

“Because this isn’t our problem,” interrupted Mayor Beau Belmont, keeping his eyes on the road that stretched out into the darkness. “It’s not even just my problem.” He spit and ground his boot into the dirt. “This is a town problem. Last I checked, they live here, too, and have as much right to defend themselves as any us.” 

Billy wiped sweat from his hairless scalp with a handkerchief. “I’m only saying-”

The Mayor held him with a scowl. “Get off my car, Billy.”

After fifteen minutes of the wondering if the Mayor’s invitation would be accepted, the First Black Baptist Church of Clementine leadership stepped into the car headlights. Pastor Freeman’s onyx face glistened with sweat. Dozens of dark skinned men stood behind him with guns and torches of their own.

Everyone was on their feet, sizing members of the other party up.

“Thank you for coming, Pastor,” said Mayor Belmont, extending his hand.

Pastor Freeman glanced at the hand, hesitating for only the briefest of moments. “What befalls one, befalls us all,” he said gently, and shook the Mayor’s hand. 

“Glad we see eye-to-eye.”

“While you boys was moseying-” started Billy.

“Are you in such a hurry to face the Devil?” interjected the Pastor, not breaking eye contact with Mayor Belmont.

“How dare you interrupt-” started Billy.

Mayor Belmont grabbed him by the collar. “You act right or leave.” He looked around to the others. “How many of you have lost family and friends to unexplainable accidents? Suffered crop failures or watched your businesses go under? We’re all here for the same reason!”

T he men who came with the Mayor averted their eyes. Billy Watkins looked at the ground and nodded. 

“Am a truly sorry for your son,” said the Pastor. “And we prayed for his safe return before coming here. But tell me, mister Mayor, what are you prepared to do?”

A boy’s scream cut through the night. The frogs and bugs went silent. A crane flew from its perch in the trees, a black silhouette in the moonlight.

“For the greater good,” said Mayor Belmont, pulling a shotgun from the back seat of his Bel Air.


Claire pushed record on her camera.

In front of her, a good-looking kid dressed completely in black walked backwards into the T-intersection. Behind him stood a weathered, 1950’s-era billboard covered in rust and vines. On it, a cartoon man in a cardigan held his blonde wife and kids as they looked upwards at him in reverent awe. A faded caption read: Blessed are those who mourn – Matthew 5: 4

“We’re about a half mile east of Clementine, Alabama; the site of an epic showdown between the town’s folk,” he paused for effect, “and the Devil himself. I’m Fred Rector, and this is Haunt Hunters.”

Fred jumped as a truck blew through the intersection. The driver flipped him off. “Get out of the road, asshole!”

Claire nearly dropped the camera, then doubled over in laughter. 

“What the hell, Doug!” yelled Fred.

Their portly technician looked up from his phone. “What?”

Giggling, Claire showed him the video.

Doug snorted. “Oh, sorry, man.” He scratched the bristles on his cheek. “It’s really hot out here. Can we get lunch?”

“I know it’s hot, Doug. It’s August, and it’s like a million more degrees in this jacket.”

“I could eat,” said Claire.

Fred threw his head back. “Fine! We’ll talk edits at the diner.”


The bell above the diner entrance jingled and a breath of air-conditioning greeted the Haunt Hunters. Tables were topped with plaid cloth. The smell of grease permeated everything. Old photos and high school sports calendars lined the walls.  

Patrons looked up from their meals in unison.

“I think I just heard a record scratch,” Claire muttered as a waitress gestured for them to take a seat anywhere. “Why did you bring us to East Deliverance, again?”

Doug snickered without looking up from his menu.

Fred shook his head and leaned in. “I got a call from a fan who said in 1950-”

“1952, actually,” said a woman standing next to their table. “Mayor Veronica Belmont. I was the caller.”

Record, Fred mouthed. “I’m with Mayor of Clementine Veronica Belmont. Thank you for having us. Perhaps you can shed some light on what happened here in 1952.”

“According to town lore, Beau Belmont, who was mayor at the time, led a daring campaign against the demon plaguing our community.”

“Is it safe to assume that Mayor Beau Belmont was a relative of yours?”

“That’s right. He was my grandfather.”

“So this story must be deeply personal to you and your family.”

The Mayor smiled. “It’s personal to all of Clementine, Mr. Rector. A piece of living history that we hope you will respect.”

“Of course. Can you tell the camera what you told me over the phone?”

“Well, story goes that when his son, my uncle, went missing, he formed a posse of local leaders. Segregation be damned, everyone pitched in to beat the Devil.”

Fred leaned in. “How does one beat the Devil?”

She smiled sweetly. “More bound than beat. In 1952, that intersection you was at earlier was a crossroads, a crossroads that tempted and ruined quite a few people. By the expenditure of blood, the town managed to destroy part of it, trapping the demon so no more deals can be made. That billboard serves as a reminder of the sacrifices this town has made.”

“Creepy,” whispered Claire.

Her smile widened. “What’s creepy is that the billboard changes.”

“Changes?” asked Fred. “How do you mean?”

“You’ve seen it, Mr. Rector. Does it look like it’s been repainted lately? No. Yet every six months, the message changes under the full moon.”

“Like tonight’s full moon?” Fred asked rhetorically. “Which is why you asked us to document it.”

She put her hand on Fred’s. “As Mayor, I want what’s best for Clementine. You understand. For the greater good.”  


Facing the billboard, the Haunt Hunters took their positions and waited for the sun to set. 

“What’s the greater good for Clementine?” asked Doug, slapping a mosquito on his neck.

Claire smirked. “Exposure. Even if it’s fake, we can just say we didn’t catch anything tonight.”

Fred checked his hair in the van’s side mirror. “Either way, it’ll boost tourism. Ready to start rolling?”

Claire gave a thumbs up and pointed the camera at him.

“One… two… three…” Fred struck his usual dramatic pose. “In 1952, this intersection was a crossroads, the infernal place of business for a demon looking to make a deal. But is this just a local legend? Or is this the actual location of a town’s collective victory of good over evil? If it is just a story, and the demon just a legend, then why erect this billboard that effectively ends a perfectly good road,” he paused, “unless to destroy the crossroads. We…”

Three cars pulled up behind the Haunt Hunters van. Mayor Belmont stepped out with several armed men. “Don’t mind us, Mr. Rector. We’ve just come to watch the show and ensure the demon doesn’t rise.”

“Okay?” Fred looked back and forth between Claire and Doug. “I gotta tell you, ma’am, the guns kind of make me nervous.”

  “This is the South, Mr. Rector. We all have guns.” 

He kept his eyes on the guns, but asked Claire to keep the camera rolling. “Okay. Where was I? Okay. One… two… three… After the town banished the demon, this billboard, with its family unit and Biblical-”  

“I never said banished, Mr. Rector,” said the Mayor.

“What?” asked Fred.

“You said we banished it. Not so. I said it’s bound here. And it’s been my family’s duty to see it stays that way.” The men raised their weapons. “I truly am sorry about all this, and I wish it could just be an episode on your little internet show, but I’m sure you can appreciate the much larger draw it will have if instead ya’ll go missing during the filming of it.”

Claire turned the camera on the Mayor.

“You guys stay behind me,” said Fred as they backed away.

The Mayor shrugged apologetically. “This sacrifice we make tonight is for the greater good.”

Doug let loose a gurgling shriek. 

Fred spun around. Vines from the billboard were snared around Doug’s neck and were dragging him across the road. 

The cartoon man and his family now looked down, wild-eyed and grinning menacingly. 

Fred grabbed the vines, but thorns sliced his palms.

More vines whipped out, seizing Fred’s arm. Blood sprinkled the pavement as he struggled. 

The vines pulled Doug flat against the billboard. They wrapped around his head, squeezing his jaw out of place. Pockets of fat bulged and ballooned under the pressure. He squealed and thrashed as blood poured down the sun-faded beams. Thorns split his skin and sawed into his flesh. The cartoon family appeared to be gleefully tearing him apart until he thrashed no more.

Doug’s shredded body fell to the weeds with a meaty thud. 

The cartoon family silently rejoiced, and stared down at Fred as he was slowly dragged, screaming, to the billboard. 

The caption changed to read: Blessed are those who suffer for doing what is right – Matthew 5: 10-12.

Frozen, Claire couldn’t turn away from the grizzly scene.

The Mayor put her hand on Claire’s trembling shoulder. “Like I said, only the expenditure of blood keeps the Devil from roaming.” She slipped the camera from Claire’s hand, and ended the recording. 

Death by Alan Bern

Death by Alan Bern

In Worship of Suburban Goddesses by Brigidh Duffey

I walked down to the creekside shore 

To greet the great, grey lady there

Who rose up from the muddy deep,

Some bike spokes tangled in her hair. 


She was as glad to see me then

As when I was a hoodwinked girl

With thistles hanging from my mouth,

And sunburnt skin, and unkempt curls. 


I saw her sister on my way. 

She slept in the retention pond. 

Her morning feast was a golf ball

And dinner was mosquito spawn. 


And at the all night laundromat

I chatted with the local wraiths

Just there to wash their winding sheets

And drink some pop and snag an eighth.


In later years I moved away

To where the lights kept me awake. 

But still, I longed for thistle days!

When I came home, I came to change:


No great, dripping lady love,

No turgid babble of decay. 

The lawns were neatly manicured,

No foot marks from a restless fey.

Suggestions for an Elegant Deathday by John Laue


       The same as a wedding cake

       except it should be

       in whatever flavor

       favored by the celebrant:

       vanilla, chocolate,

       and red, yellow, orange, blue

       or even white if that’s their taste.

       Put either a figure 

       of the same sex

       or the opposite

       on top of it

       unless the preference

       is for a group.


Other Foods:

       Try peaches and watermelons

       (not in cubes but balled);

        assorted sausages and cold cuts, 

        bananas in their skins, 

        and, or course, ice cream—

        a choice of tutti-frutti

        and/or rocky road,

        with non-fat frozen yogurt optional 

        for those who don’t want to be heavy.

        For hors d’oevres

        have mixed assorted nuts, 

        crackers and pungent cheeses,

        breads with sesame seeds. 



        Scores of miniature boxes

        filled with off-color jokes; 

        reproductions of old masters;

        snakes which, if you pull

        their tails, will rise like cobras,

        also tiny riddles

        hidden in the holes of donuts. 



       Sprigs of hemlock;

       pyrocanthus berries  

       fermented on the branch,

       balloons in the shape

       of cigars or dirigibles

       (to be blown up on the spot

       by guests who’ve filled

       their lungs with helium);

       crepe paper in several colors

       radiating from a center

       which may be a Maypole

       or a monkey-puzzle tree. 



      Baby’s breath and tulle wrapped ferns

      surrounding immaculate red roses;

      birds of paradise, lilies of the valley;

      orchids, chrysanthemums, magnolias, 

      even lilacs might be right

      but pull no daisies, please. 



      Not the Grateful Dead or Kiss

       unless the celebrant is young;

       but old Beatles records,

       perhaps Judy Collins

       with her more insightful songs. 

       Also Ravi on sitar

       alternating with  whale calls

       or cries of loons

       on an undisturbed Maine lake. 



       There’s no need to have absinthe:

       tequila with a worm will do

       plus a magnum or two

       of some fine wine, 

       perhaps a pinot noir,

       fruit punch for the children, 

       a variety of teas, 

      and for those who want water

      several colorful empty cups. 



      A laugh machine (as in carnivals).

      An optional mask

      for the celebrant to wear 

      (After all, it’s his/her deathday 

      and he/she should be given 

      the choice of anonymity.)



      All this needs revision

      if the person hasn’t yet

       returned from hell, 

       in which case

       hug them if they let you, 

       give a listening ear,

       some kind and careful words. 

       Most important,

       don’t be put off  

       if they look like corpses. 

       Be a loyal friend

       and someday 

       sooner than you think

       they may be there for you

The Monster Eats an Oreo by Calvin Olsen

Minuscule in hand. Such careful crunch.

What is this magic? Some force

pulls the eyelids back a fraction,

then loosens them in turn, forcing

the ingester into silence, recognizable

moans. What invisible adhesive fuses

the pieces into congress even after teeth

have rendered ragged a sweet symmetry,

dust and tiny crumbs reconstituting

to a thick little mass on a molar’s crevasse.

It’s only a moment, but there are more,

and more still, a melancholy sweetness

for it is fleeting, too soon disappeared

in a swallow. Farewell, dark delectation,

black mirror, tasty treat, farewell.

Star by L.S. King

Star by L.S. King

Cycles by Chelsea Fanning


Abandoned shorelines

shake, relentlessly haunted

by endless oceans.


The lake: half frozen /

half open blue embryo

waking with intent.


Moldering sunlight

indulges rivers brimming

with bloated bodies.


Wet pavement plastered

with crumbling leaves, the patter

of rain in dark rooms.

A Warning by Jennifer deBie

The first girl was an accident.

A rabbit of a woman stumbling and crying and running into my den—I knew that run.

Knew that slap-

slap of bare feet on stone. Knew the uneven rasp of her breath, her heart…

I still hear her heart some days. Some nights.

pitter-pat pitter-pat pitter-pat

over and over

Pitter-pat, like the half-fear that accompanies first love.

It was not love that drove the girl with the pitter-pat heart and the slapping feet into the

cave where I’d

hidden myself since the night of my own escape from the Virgin’s temple.

It was not lust hoarse in pitter-pat’s throat.

And the man behind her? The man with the heavy step and the big hands and the hungry


He did not see me until after he’d entered my cave.

He never left my cave.

The pitter-pat heart came back, I’m not sure when. One morning there was a bottle of

wine that

smelled like her hands laid at the mouth of my home.

It was the first wine I’d tasted since the night I became …

Since the night the father of the gods choked me with ambrosia to make me quiet.

Pitter-pat’s wine was sweeter.

The second girl ran to my cave like she knew it was there.

The third burned incense to me.

The fourth erected my alter.

I had a name once. A Human name.

A name given me by my mother, shouted after me by my sisters.

A name I pledged to the Moon herself on the night I took up my bow and followed her

hunt. Swift as

hounds, shining as stars—we were beautiful, her disciples. I was just one of dozens.

Then I was just one.

One defiled.

Desecrater of Temple.

Foulest betrayer.


No daughter may scold her father, but any goddess may punish her priestess.

It is a life gone. A name forgotten.

I am other now.

Mine is the stonemason’s curse.

Mine is the shrine at the cave.

And the names the girls gave me? They mean guardian, protectress, cunning.

And the men?

Even a marble throat may hiss a last word.

A last warning.


Safety Coffin by Alison Clare

This is what comes from the cloying craving,

the kick of Jenever, the easy enchantment

of ethanol effluvium; the decline

of a bathtub degenerate, a resident of the Rookery;

palace scum, seeping and spilling down

amongst the depraved, the debauched; the consequence

of enslavement, fixation

with the floral scent of juniper,

column-distilled sloe, creeping citrus;

the device of debilitating debt to the extract,

the exhaust,


and blooming botanicals;

ostensible oblivion, death-trance catalepsy;

a string in one hand,

a scrabble and scrape of nails

against wood

with the other.

This is what comes in the dark;

the desperate hope,

the fervent longing

for the bell.

Bedtime Stories by Jenny Hayut

Ghosts by Glenn Pape

Fifteen minutes

before the sunrise,

my kids, my diet

and a subtle urge to pee

enter me like ghosts

returning home

to haunt again.

Deeper Orbits by Elena Malkov

      Dusk stole across the sky’s gold crown until only a sliver of light remained on the horizon, defying the coming darkness as the earth rotated ponderously away. T and W sat on opposite edges of the couch, bodies half-contorted, facing each other. 

      W spoke first, eyes closed, dredging up the memory: They looked like children but were not. The boy, gangly and dust-colored, flashed exaggerated grins, taunted W at the dinner table (“feed me, please, I’m starving!” practically screeching – no one else in the family saw him, of course), hid behind closed doors, jumped on the bed. The little girl, his sister, was smaller and greyer, with sparkling eyes but deep lines around her brows. She prayed in corners, murmuring with her forehead pressed against the wall. Around food she sobbed, working herself up into a ravenous hysteria as W tried to eat. They fluttered with menacing abandon around the house, unnoticed and unchallenged. W never spoke to them, tried always to look away and deny them, but sobbed when darkness shuttered the sky, shivering as their breaths trembled over the bed like pale moths.

      So the body receded. Air pockets bloomed in the bone. The head bobbed weightless, encased in gauzy cloud. The boy grew lethargic as W’s appetite waned, the girl prayed more, but quietly. Time fled. Darkness collapsed.

      Unmoored, floating among the frozen stars, W tried to look past death but could see only the murk between two poles, the hidden state of objects transforming into dreams. A prayer for peace was insufficient. Perhaps more exalted, but no more useful than a prayer for appetite – to eat, upon convalescence, a bone broth of the children, whose gristly joints would fill the glimmering stock. The prayer uttered, W dipped into the waters of consciousness once more, and soon, puffs of new flesh settled carefully atop the hips and shoulder blades. 

      W grinned and gazed out the window: sky the color of amethyst crystal, trees black as absence. T waited for the story to continue, but it did not.

      And the children – T saw them. Standing in the kitchen, facing the wall. They did not move, but the boy screamed sometimes, and the girl prayed as tears slipped over her translucent eyelids, leaving nacreous streams on her cheeks.

      At night they left but could still force their voices into the bedroom, and T woke to fragments of words like arteries bursting against eardrums. 

      “Whose bones were they?” T asked into the settling night.

      “There are plastic molecules in the water,” came the answer. 

      It was T’s turn to speak. 

      The young woman crossed the narrow stretch of grass behind the houses on T’s childhood street and entered the woods on the other side. Her steps were slow but forceful, her body seeming about to heave forward, or so said the three people who watched from their backyards as she walked. T saw her too, from the kitchen window. 

      She did not return, so search parties swelled at the forest’s border, neighbors linking arms and combing through the trees. After several barren months, her mother dragged a pile of clothes out onto the front lawn and threw herself into them, wailing. When her cries finally ceased, she grew quiet and started stalking the children on the street with her big wet eyes. T felt her pursuing gaze everywhere, and at night her face hovered at the bedroom window, pale and pockmarked as the moon, eyes consuming the air. 

      T tried to stay awake, but would drift into half-sleep, where the woman merged with the demonic texture of dream and became blood-drenched deities tending to holy fires. Kneeling to receive the fire’s baptism, T always woke right as the flame’s heat licked at the lungs.  

       The stories were told. Now subsumed by the night, W and T leaned their heads away from the window, staring into the floor and reaching hands timidly towards each other, as though for the first time.   

      So they sat, still and silent, feeling the tremors in each other’s skin across the bulbous dark. Willows bent low over a crystal lake – or yet a clamoring brook.

Syllabub by Manny Blacksher

Dark Arts for dessert. Not what mothers

teach but what their girls would learn. Nice cream

curdles for kicks. How to make a daydream

stand with just a drop of vinegar.

Tell the maiden she must hold the bowl

beneath the udders. Whisper how teats ache

until they’re milked. Make her squeeze lemons. Break

every good egg. Fold the wine she stole

in Daddy’s tarnished loving cup. Lay

it up to seethe until she owns the rhymes

are coiling snares she schools herself to say.

“Happy the cook that cracks the plate that wastes

the bride who crumbs the cake and scatters lime

upon the grave my true love’s tongue shall taste.”

Still at Large by Catherine Lee

Still at Large by Catherine Lee

Dreaming War by Marisca Pichette 

We were wolves, once.

I walk across the fields that abut the mountains’ feet, feeling the hardness of the ground where my ancestors once hunted with claws and teeth. A winter separates that age from ours, the time of fur and packs as distant as the Shornbacks’ territory far to the south. My harvest from the day is strapped to my back, a basket of potatoes coated in coal-black soil, smelling still strongly of the earth. 

Tonight the moon is like a cat’s pupil, its slivered black gaze watching from above, iris pocked and white. As I near our village I drop onto all fours, quickening my pace, heading for the light of the fires. 

Our village grows from the mountains at its back, rocks tumbling down into caves and pillars carved with stories that glow when the moon finds them. In the light of the night wolves dance, wolves hunt. 

We do not dance anymore. We do not hunt. Looking at the pillars reaching up into the night, I wonder—not for the first time—what it was like to live before the winter that spanned a millennium. A winter that changed us from what we once were into something more, and less.  

I trot past our village’s gate and into the fire’s warmth. In the soft blue light emanating from the pillars I see Grandmother sitting with my brothers near the center of the village. I drop my basket onto the hard-packed soil and it leans, coming to a rest against the base of one of the pillars. Black soil colors the grey-blue ground like storm clouds over a twilight sky.

Grandmother looks up as I approach. She is balding, the hair that was once thick retreating from her limbs in shreds of grey and white. I enter the ring of light that holds her along with my two brothers, Mais and Horj. Grandmother pauses in the story she was telling before I arrived and waits until I am crouching beside them. Smoke in my nose smothering all other scents, Grandmother tells us of our ancestors.

We grew from pups. Our teeth were longer, sharper, honed each time we tracked a prey to its end. Grandmother spreads her arms, skin hanging diaphanous from her thin frame. Her eyes glitter yellow in the firelight. Our ancestors knew every track in the dust, she says, every pebble on the lake’s shore. 

Grandmother pauses, and I think about how we have changed. I can smell better than a Shornback, and run faster, too. But the purity of what we once were has been lost to time. 

There is no longer a lake between our civilization and the Shornbacks’ territory in the south. Where our ancestors prowled around black waters there is now a trench of barren soil. Not even potatoes can grow there. And on the other side—Shornbacks.

My gaze wanders to the pillars shining around us. Along with the once-hunt they depict the war that came before the winter. Wolves not chasing, but being chased across stone, pursued by Shornbacks bearing axes, wearing wolfskins. 

The outcome of the war was never decided. Instead the world shook, cracked open and filled the sky with smoke as black as soil. And the winter came. We fled to the mountains and learned to live on fungus instead of meat. Over the centuries, our bodies changed.

Siku, Grandmother says, her voice the sound of wind in grass. I pull my gaze from the pillar and look into her wrinkled face. You are thinking about the winter’s end, she murmurs. 

I nod and look down at my feet, not so different from a Shornback’s. When the winter ended and our people emerged, they thought the Shornbacks would not have survived the long winter. But they did.

Grandmother nods. She tilts her snout to the moon. And so the war continues, she says.

Grandmother stands, her body moving smoothly despite her age. She lopes away, leaving us circled around the dying fire, exchanging looks that say nothing. I turn my eyes to the moon.

Ama is the name Mother gave to the moon. It has always captured me, the slit than grows and grows but never fills. Ama swings between brightness, a black disc the center of its pendulum path. On one end, it fills until it is a hair away from total revelation. On the other, it is a sliver of light pushed to the edge of a shadow world. 

I have never seen it fill all the way. We sleep when the moon completes itself, when the spirits rise. When the wolves come back to hunt. 

Tonight is the apex, the night before Ama completes its cycle. I rub my arms, flattening the hairs that stand on-end in the cold.

A restlessness chews at me as I stand and follow my brothers to our cave. For the first time, I feel a strong urge to run—away from the village, away from the mountains. I want to run all the way across the miles of open land that separate our civilization from the Shornbacks’. And at the end of that journey—what will I find?

I pause at the cave mouth and turn back to the night. Tomorrow, the ancestors continue the war that no winter, no death can stop.

Siku, Mais calls from inside our cave. Come inside. The blessing will not come if you are out here all night.

The blessing. My stomach flutters. It has been a month since we last tasted meat. Tomorrow’s feast brings me back from the edge, and I turn away from the fires and retreat into darkness, to sleep.


But I do not sleep for long. After what feels like only a minute, my eyes open. While my brothers are resting, I roll onto all fours, and run.

Down the mountain’s foot, skirting the edge of the village cloaked in the smoke of dying fires, the pillars gleaming blue beacons in the dark. I run past them, my shadow leading me south. I run faster than I’ve ever run, ignoring the scrapes of rocks on my hands, the scrabbling of my toes each time I slip. 

As the village fades behind me, I hear them.

Howls fill the night and suddenly I am singing with the ancestors, singing a song of war. I run, the mountains shrinking behind me, the night cast in the glow of the near-full body of the moon.

But no. When I look up, Ama is a perfect sphere, a face bone-white and deadly. A mask of war.

When I look ahead, my shadow is no longer visible. Wolves made of moonlight run ahead of me, a pack of beauty and determination lighting my way. 

I do not know how long or how far we ran together before the horizon flares with fire. The ancestors howl and I howl with them, my own voice unfamiliar in this altered world. The fire on the horizon brightens as we enter a territory as different from us as Ama is from the sun.

A crack splits across the night. The Shornbacks have seen us coming.


Morning. I twitch, the echo of a scream cut off as sleep leaves me. Someone is moving nearby, speaking with my brother’s voice. I stir and open my eyes to find myself on my mat in my cave. Was it a dream?

Siku, get up, Mais calls. It is starting. 

I roll onto my side, the images from last night flying away from me. I gasp as I try to stand, my legs quivering. I struggle upright, flexing my shoulders and wincing at the way they pull under my skin. If what I experienced was a dream, it afforded me no rest.

I walk shakily behind my brothers down to the village. A large fire blazes in the blessing pit and Grandmother is singing, her chin raised, her teeth blunt and bared. I look at her, and then my eyes wander to the struts suspended over the fire, their burdens shining in the sun. At the sight of them, I am not exhilarated as I usually am, when this monthly blessing comes. Instead all I hear is dream howling, and my muscles ache.

The Shornbacks hang from skinny ankles, their hairless arms limp and stiff above their heads. The ancestors have gifted us ten of the creatures, their throats emptied of blood, their entrails piled by the fire. Grandmother circles the offering, her claws unsheathed and translucent in the sunrise. 

The war continues, she chants, her voice dipping in and out of a growl, and our ancestors are victorious. Siku!

I jump at my name. Grandmother turns to me, her lips still peeled back. She raises her arms and I mimic her, my shoulders aching with the action. When I look up at my hands, my claws are not translucent, but stained red. 

Siku, Grandmother calls, her declaration buoyed by the wind. You are now Siku Kali. You have joined the ancestors in dream-war, and you have triumphed at their side. 

The wolves live on inside you, Grandmother says.

The ancestors run across the moonlit grass. Their phantasmal howls still echo in my mind.  

We remember the wolves, and they remember us.

Final Resting Place by Jamie Shombert

Final Resting Place by Jamie Shombert

Werewolf Feet by Gary Smith

Werewolves have smelly feet.

I don’t think the amount of stench associated with a werewolf’s feet is common

knowledge. I wish I remained as unaware of this nugget of truth as the rest of society.

Don’t bother to ask a werewolf if its feet stink. They all lie.

Okay, that last remark may be out of line. I’m sure there are honest werewolves. I’ve never

met one. But it seems unlikely that every single one of them lie out of some natural

underlying instinctual need to tell lies.

From personal experience though, I stand by the stinking feet comment.

I consider myself lucky that I am still alive to spread the truth of werewolf foot aroma. It

means that after years of hunting these nasty creatures, I have come close enough to

smell them yet have walked away from each encounter. Or ran. Many times I ran.

I wonder if my family recognized an odd smell before they were slaughtered. I’ll never be

able to put my mind to rest on that matter, but I do know without doubt which of the furry

beast took them out. His name is Stan.

What kind of werewolf name is that? Stan.

If I were to become a werewolf, I believe one of the first things I would do is have my

name legally changed. I would want it to be something ancient and cryptic. Something

like “Lunthgar” or “Vilarory.” The only real question would be if I would change my name

before or after setting up regular pedicure appointments to fight off that terrible stench.

From the tree I am currently in, Stan the werewolf looks a million times more imposing

than his name implies. He is the largest stinky furbag I have ever seen. His size isn’t

currently an issue.

His energy level is. One silver bullet is all it takes to put down a fursack, regardless of

size. But a target that uses supreme strength and speed to make an empty parking lot

look like a pinball machine is hard to hit.

I swing my rifle left in hopes that Stan will stand still long enough for one shot. The barrel

snaps a twig from the limb I am sitting on. It happens right in front of me. I see the twig

break, but I don’t hear it. Stan does. He stops and turns my direction.

I have a split second to take the shot. The instant that small twig snaps, I think “Oh, shit.”

Stan most likely thinks “There he is.” He is motionless long enough for me to pull the

trigger. He is not still long enough for my brain and finger to communicate properly that I

should pull the trigger now.

The last thought I have is that a werewolf’s breath smells even worse that his feet.

Reasons Never to Fall in Love with a Djinn by Bayveen O’Connell

1. People will think you’re crazy. When you are smoking a sneaky joint, he’ll wind his

way out through your lips in your musky exhalations, demanding to be kissed, so

you’ll be standing there on the fire escape looking like you’re making out with thin


2. You’ll be exhausted. Demons don’t have refractory periods. He’ll make your whole

body tingle: all of your zones one by one, and then all at the same time. So many

fingers, so many tongues. He’ll make you his X-rated play mat.

3. He’ll scare you half to death by floating past your 25th floor office window on a

Stratus cloud, asking if you’d like to get lunch.

4. He’ll distract you from your job. He’ll summon the fog and shut down the city when

he thinks you’re owed a duvet day. Then he’ll turn all the broadband cables into knots

of writhing snakes so you can’t work from home.

5. He’ll make your water bills sky-rocket. He’ll materialise in the shower steam and

insist on scrubbing every inch of you, very, very slowly.

6. He’ll keep lighting bonfires in your allotment because he wants to dance with you by

the light of the flames.

7. Your kitchen will seem haunted while he cooks you dinner. Whilst unplugged, the

kettle and the cooker will animate themselves: boiling, bubbling, and frying, as he

appears in a flume of dry ice, popping open a bottle of champagne.

All the Wicked Ghosts in Hell and Then Some by Dave Sims

All the Wicked Ghosts in Hell and Then Some by Dave Sims

McCall’s Farm by Liz DeGregorio

It’s not quite All Hallows Eve, but almost.

The air is that early October crisp,

(everyone knows what that means).


Everywhere smells like smoke and pies and crunchy leaves.

Everyone wants to go back to childhood and bob for apples.

Everyone wants to go back to college and go to a homecoming game 

(in theory).


Everyone who wants a scare heads to 

McCall’s Farm.

They wait in line for two hours

only to climb aboard a school bus

and be ambushed by a chainsaw-wielding “maniac”

(a play-acting maniac, naturally).


Teenagers and up scuttle through the haunted farmhouse,

bundled up in sweatshirts emblazoned with college names.

Couples, friends, everyone is holding hands

(the delighted terror is palpable).


A suitcase creaks open,

petrified visitors lean forward to see what’s inside.

They’ll never forget what they see

(it’s too frightening to reveal).

La Llorona by Charles Venable

They say, the guardrail bends;

It cups the little white cross,

The wreath of plastic flowers,

The cursive letters of her name,

It says: With Love, Drive Safely.

Epithet, threat, and promise,

But which is which, I don’t know;

Her ghost doesn’t know either.

They say, she haunts this curve;

If you drive twenty over the limit

With your headlights turned off,

You will see her on the roadside.

They say, it was really a murder:

Her mother unlocked the door,

Her mother cut her seatbelt,

Her mother saw the curve ahead.

They say, before she died, she flew;

Shattered glass fell like stars,

And she was at the center,

A meteor falling, falling, falling.

They say, at the bottom,

A river flows backwards;

It caught her and the glass,

Carried her away.

The mother says, it’s cruel

To claim she murdered her,

Her own daughter;

It was a horrible accident.

The news says, someone,

Broke into the mother’s house

And painted La Llorona

In red on her kitchen table.

They say, when the mother died,

If you drive twenty over the limit

With your headlights turned off,

You will see her on the roadside.

They say, you will see her there,

With the ghost of her daughter,

Wearing a white dress,

Tears running down her cheeks.

She says, With Love, Drive Safely,

And it sounds like tearing metal,

And it sounds like shattered glass,

And it sounds like a distant splash.

Galvanized Gut-Bucket by Stella Beratlis

Tell me about the heart, metal chair.

The scarred skin.

The fibrous pericardium,

that biological pocket encasing those four


The endless receiving and discharging

the loosely connected tissue that binds

many centers.

Brittle inside chest walls:

immersed electrodes

in the same bucket can surely never


The science of defibrillation;

electricity’s signal.

O toppled statue of terror:

galvanize me, give me form—

animate flatline love, Frankenstein me.

Weepy Warlock by Adam Coday

It’s funny:

I call myself a witch,

and yet

my one attempt

at magic

failed miserably. I drew

six crosses

with my own blood

upside down

on my bedroom doorframe


I might conjure you, but

you’re with God

and that Love

of His I can’t help

but envy.

Genevieve, Marcella,

visit me soon.

I won’t mind it if you startle me


I’ll know it’s you.

I spent

more time at the saloon

than I did

in your living room,

but I know

no demon could ever truly

mimic you. I know

what you look like.

I know

how you feel


better than I ever imagined.

Your skin

was thin: forgiveness hurts

to distribute.

But were you aware

it was

my hand that caught

your vomit

as you died? I held the basin.

You were in some delirium


with frightened nurses

all around you.

And when they cleaned you up, it was

my lips

among many that kissed

your forehead.

That’s enough,

isn’t it?

I was far more present

than your son

and my tears were real.

Could you even hear it

as I cried?

Did you know I think

of suicide?

I bet

you know all the secrets


like how to fly

without a broomstick

and where one

might find a potionless


Will you teach me

in a dream?

I see your house often

at night

with extra rooms and corridors

in it

through which I glide,


you’re never home.

You’re far too otherworldly


Take me with you.

And may this cold, dark presence

stay behind.

Black Bouquet by Jordan Adler






We built our love on Necromancy.






Our gift to us, our final test:




at the dawn

of our days,

Chicken Bones

Runic Stones

A Candle


A Blade

Our fortunes told, our fortunes sold, our debts all settled and paid;

We know it’s true and for the best,

& by the black bouquet we vow

together, as one, till eternal rest.

Urban Legends by Jaclyn Hogan

Don’t be afraid of the man with a hook for a hand,

He only wants to dig into your heart

And all hearts are broken, sooner or later

Don’t borrow your party dress

From a dead girl

Embalming fluid is bad for your complexion

Do pick up hitchhikers

Sometimes even ghosts

Need a ride home

There are spiders in your hair

And your boyfriend’s body is hanging from a tree

Above your car

There’s a madman under the bed

And a serial killer in the attic

And an escaped prisoner dressed as a clown in the children’s bedroom

Why be afraid of rising sea levels,

Drunk drivers

Or the common pain of losing those you love?

When more baroque fears are hiding in the back seat of your car

You won’t get out alive

But no one does

They Haunt The Empty Spaces by Chris LaMay-West

Have you ever thought

about the cars that


You know the ones I mean—

headlights hot on your tail before a


but then you don’t see them follow,

nor do they go through the intersection


It’s probably just a trick of timing

and persnickety blind spots, but


I’m not saying it’s Men in Black, Angels,

or Demons, but can you say it’s


I Sing Dead People by Lindsey Grant

I Sing Dead People by Lindsey Grant

Eyes Gone Black by Gavin Bourke

The eyes continued to sink, back into, crumbling cranial matters,

justifications through prisms, of discoloured patination,

fragrances masking, rats gone putrid, long ago.

Sporadic rages for innocuousness, final warning, offences.

Disease-ridden logic, behaviour and emotion,

fake murder-machine, when ripe, for the axing.

The black stones, falling backwards, into the orbits,

Medusa, unstable on wet larvae, without any debridement.

Filtered through, sabre-teeth and overwhelming halitosis,

a mouth, full of puss, validated by half-eaten parasites.

Opening cavities to dead odes, false consciousness,


Registered sickness, discombobulating in folds of lard

and fleshy outbursts of bile and sublimation.

A wide-bone, flattened, bent, by head-banging,

snorted, farted, belched, vomited diarrhoea and dead flies,

popping bizarre powder puffs, soiling denim, chuckling,

the skeleton, didn’t notice, this morning, gasping,

at the light.

The mind, eyes and brain, sitting heavily, seething in the

front of the skull, pressing down on angered facial features

and rotten teeth, far from the frontiers of consciousness.

Said, they were all paedophiles, at one stage, one day,

as a mouse, looked out, through the missing eye,

eating a can of spam, with the tin, unopened,

legs full of festering sores, ignoring,

the overbearing, stench of ammonia.

The Cat by Ana Fores Tamayo


Lost in the labyrinth

of a zoological doorway.

Foot dragging


with the fervor of intimacy.

Fingers twitching,

she inhales

the turbid fumes of smoke

burning in her lungs.

Can she throw it all away?

The feline eyes yellowed

behind those shadows

penetrate her being,

burn a hole

in her lungs in her soul,

making the indentation

of her path

pronounced and pensive…

Like the cat

whose fiery hell lunges

at her dreams of passion

and destroys

that fantasy of lucid love,

she becomes the grimalkin,

waiting, attentive,

ready to strike,

yet always paralyzed.

Walkies by George Stein

Walkies by George Stein

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