I cradle Mother at my breast until the conductor comes to stamp my ticket. The man doesn’t seem to notice her trembling beneath my coat.
“Where you headed, young lady?”
On the opposite bench, a grizzled older passenger wakes without opening his eyes, presents his ticket, then slumps back to sleep. When the conductor departs, I close the door behind him and unbutton my coat. Beside me, the raven spreads her wings and caws.
“Be still, Mother,” I whisper. “We’re going to the black water. We’re going to make you well again.”
I pull my suitcase down from the luggage compartment and retrieve the glass medicine bottle. “Just a thimble’s worth to dull the pain.” That was what the doctor said. The raven pecks violently as I try to hold her steady. I part the beak with one hand, and tip the silver thimble with another. Then the raven changes, and now a tawny bobcat is curled beside me. I stroke her spotted pelt and her ear twitches, and I listen to the rhythm of her laboured breaths.
The steam engine roars, and the carriage rumbles; the train whistle blasts. I struggle to withhold my tears.
I wake with a start in the dead of night, and the sickly bobcat is gone. Rising, I glance out the window. Beyond looms a skeletal wilderness of naked birch like some sprawling orchard of bones. All is dark and silent; the train isn’t moving. By the pale moonlight, I discover my grizzled fellow passenger isn’t moving either. His big lungs draw no breath. A trail of blue-black blood leads from his mangled throat out into the corridor. The tracks are like none I’ve ever seen.
I knew Mother was ill the moment her teeth sank into my wrist. She had gone out in her wolf skin to hunt for our dinner. When she didn’t come home, I scoured the woods and found her whimpering, scratching her head against the bark of a tree. I ran to her side, and she lunged at me; I tumbled backward. Mother soon realized her mistake and hoisted me up in her strong human arms.
“What have I done? My poor, sweet Matilda. What have I done?” My blood still streaked her mouth and chin.
At the homestead, she bandaged my wound with ointment and herbs then retreated to our bed. There was no dinner, and Mother didn’t rise for three days. On the third, I crept once again into the surrounding woods and followed the path into town.
I walked back with Dr Ellis under cover of night, lest any of the townspeople notice us. Dr Ellis wasn’t like other men in town—the godsmen who raised torches and cried “witch” or “devil woman.” I could see the way he looked at Mother, and I knew this was because he loved her. I’d read of such things in my books.
Once, when I was little, the men with torches had come to our door, and Mother greeted them as a great brown bear. The godsmen scrambled away, screaming.
Mother could still control her magic then and changed her skin at will, not at random (like she does now). Now, I can’t be certain what skin she will inhabit next. Raven. Bobcat. Monster…
The lamps in the corridor have all gone dark as well. I poke my head out and listen to the darkness. Amid the susurrant snoring of sleeping passengers, I detect another, stranger, sound. A low, guttural growl. A claw tapping gently on glass. Mother is hungry, checking the locks. One door, several doors away, clicks and slides open.
I pursue the sound with silent steps, parallel to the trail of blood. I grip the medicine bottle tight, prepared to wrestle Mother to the ground. My body quivers at the memory of her jaws clamping down on it. But I must be brave, lest anyone else be killed. Perhaps more than a thimble is needed this time.
When Dr Ellis came out of the cottage that night, he found me sulking under the tall willow. (Many nights I dreamt the doctor would ask Mother to marry him and come to live with us at our homestead and be my Father.) He knelt beside me, and held my wounded hand.
“I suspect your mama,” he said, “has a tumor in her brain. I’ve seen similar cases before. This tumor is making her very sick.” He said something else then about “X-rays” and a “radiologist on the coast,” but I’d become suddenly dizzy, disoriented. “Sometimes,” he continued, “sick people behave unlike themselves. But you must always remember: your mama loves you very much.” That was when he handed me the bottle, explained how to administer the medicine and how much and when.
“Is Mother going to die?”
He responded without saying a word. I sprang up and knocked his bottle to the ground. I told him I knew a place, Blackwater Spring, where the water healed the sick through magic—not with “X-rays.” Mother had said so when I was little. I told him I’d bring her there and make the tumor disappear.
I pause at the open door of the sleeper car. Moist chewing sounds reverberate within. “Mother?” I hiss.
A black silhouette rises up on its hind legs and turns toward me. My breath catches in my throat. I drop the medicine. I remember our last night at the homestead. It was also the last night I’d ever touch her human skin, gaze into her human eyes, and listened to the music of her human voice. Gazing now into these glowing noctambulant eyes, I recognize no trace of her at all.
Mother has gone out into that skeletal wilderness, and I don’t give chase. As I stare up at the ceiling and the blood pools around my head, I reach out for the thimble and broken bottle of medicine. “Just a thimble’s worth,” I think aloud. “To dull the pain.”
Kirk Bueckert is a young writer living on the unceded territory of the Musqueam, Squamish, and Tsleil-Waututh Nations. His previous work has been published by Scarlet Leaf Publishing House and the League of Canadian Poets. He hopes you enjoy reading this new story as much as he has enjoyed writing it.
“I still think you went the wrong way,” insisted Trudy.
Dave glanced at the rear-view mirrors, ensuring that the camper he was towing didn’t go off the narrow pavement or clip one of the many limbs hanging over the path. “I turned where the sign pointed. It said to go this way for sites 38-66.”
“It said sixty-five.” Trudy crossed her arms and leaned back in her seat.
“Either way, we’re not turning around until we get to the end. It does seem like a long time since we passed the last campsite.”
Trudy’s inevitable statement of “I told you so” was interrupted by the sound of the bottom of their camper scraping the road as they hit a deep dip. The screech sent a chill up Dave’s spine.
He maneuvered the pick-up around another tight corner and exhaled at the sight of a clearing ahead. A small wooden post marked the spot as campsite sixty-six.
“There. I knew I was right.” He pulled to a stop and climbed out to look at their home for the next three nights.
“It’s a long walk to the bathroom and showers,” announced Trudy.
Dave slapped at a mosquito buzzing near his ear. “I’m more worried about backing the camper in. It’s a tight fit. You’re going to have to direct me.”
Trudy rolled her eyes. “You know I never can help you. You always get mad at me.”
Dave didn’t reply. He swatted another bug and returned to the pick-up. Then, he pulled a short distance beyond the narrow driveway and rolled down the windows. Shifting into reverse, he cranked the steering wheel to the right and began backing up. Immediately the camper veered off in the wrong direction. Muttering to himself, Dave stopped and pulled forward slightly. He would have to start again.
“That was the wrong way,” yelled Trudy.
“I know that,” he screamed back.
On the next attempt, the camper turned the correct direction but too sharply, heading directly for a large oak tree.
“Watch out for that tree.”
The next try found the pick-up nearly hitting the wooden post that displayed the campsite number. “What evil maniac put the post that close to where I have to back up,” thought Dave.
The fourth effort seemed to go better. Dave stopped and waited for Trudy’s verification.
Eventually, she yelled, “Why aren’t you moving? I’m waving you back.”
“How am I supposed to know that. I can’t see you when you stand behind the camper.”
“You don’t have to yell.”
“Yes, I do. So do you. That’s the only way we will be able to hear each other.”
With a deep breath, Dave began backing up once again.
“Stop,” shouted Trudy, “you’re going to hit a stump on the left. You’ve got to pull forward and try again.”
Fifty-two tries, forty-seven minutes, over one hundred silent swear words and at least half that many not-so-quiet curses later, the camper was finally in the campsite. It sat at an awkward angle and tilted heavily to one side.
The pick-up sat nearly perpendicular to the camper, and its front half was nestled in the underbrush that surrounded the clearing. Dave hopped out of the cab and stepped into what appeared to be a patch of poison ivy. After going out of his way to avoid a large beehive hanging nearby, he began the long process of unhooking the camper. The tally of curses uttered continued to climb.
Dave pulled a toolbox out of the back of the pick-up and set it on the ground. His knees cracked, and he felt a sharp pain in his back when he knelt to get the tools needed to steady the camper before unhitching it. The process would go much easier with Trudy’s help, but that ship had sailed a half-hour earlier when she had trudged off in anger.
After what seemed like an eternity, Dave finally finished. He tossed the toolbox back into the pick-up, banging his knee against the hitch while he did so. There was only one job left to do. The annoying itching sensation around his ankles was becoming impossible to resist. He didn’t give in to the poison ivy, but he did scratch the mosquito bite on his cheek and the three welts on the back of his right hand. Smiling at the sarcasm, he pulled the “Happy Camper” flag from a storage bin, rubbed a knot out of his back, and went to hang the sign on the campsite marker.
As he approached the wooden post, Dave was struck by a strange feeling that he had done all this before. It was more than deja vu. He’d been to this campsite before.
He hung the banner and took a step back to look at it.
The flag no longer showed a marshmallow roasting over a campfire with the words “Happy Campers” embroidered above. Instead, it now showed a camper engulfed in flame and “Unhappy Campers” in bold letters.
A deluge of memories erupted in Dave’s mind. He remembered everything.
Knowing what he would see, he looked at the campsite number. This was not campsite 66 but site 666.
A mosquito settled onto Dave’s ear. He didn’t care; he was too busy screaming.
“I still think you went the wrong way,” insisted Trudy.
“I turned where the sign pointed. It said to go this way for sites 38-66,” replied Dave.
James Rumpel is a retired high school math teacher who has enjoyed spending some of his free time trying to turn the odd ideas circling his brain into stories. He lives in Wisconsin with his wonderful wife, Mary. Together they enjoy board games and, of course, camping.
At first, we thought it was a trick of the mirrors. Jake was only a few steps ahead, and the mirrors twisted and stretched his reflection. He disappeared around a sharp corner, and when he returned, Kristen couldn’t help but scream. His head was too large, and his neck was too thin, and there were new bits which I’ve never seen on a body; bits shiny-slick and looked as though they belonged on the inside of a person, not out. His chest was moving quickly—he was having trouble breathing from the hairless pink flesh rope that was strangling his ribs. He heaved around on the floor like a seizing snake.
I slapped Kristen silent since my head was beginning to hurt, and I took hold of Jake’s wriggling scalp, ripping back the black hair that was trying to wrap around my wrist.
The hair instead wrapped around Kristen’s ankles and began dragging her across the tilted floor. The wisps and tangles dove toward one of the mirrors and disappeared into the mirror world. Kristen dragged her nails across the floor as her legs broke through the surface-tension of the mirror until half her body stuck out, while her lower half was stuck in.
I grabbed hold of Kristen’s hands and angled my feet to push off the mirror. Deep in the reflection, rancid splotches of red opened and closed their bristle-lined eyes. Or were they mouths? I could feel my feet sinking into the cool liquid mercury, trapping them into place.
The shouting alerted the staff, and the flencers rushed about, brandishing their machetes. They weren’t supposed to show themselves in daylight, as their appearance would send any fun-seeker running, but since this was an emergency, they did what they needed to do. They saw what was birthing from Jake’s chest, tearing through his white cotton T-shirt, and the blades began their work, slashing and hacking until there were splashes of blood everywhere. Jake made a mewling noise and used his spaghetti-thin arms to hold the sides of his chest together. I could see his heart beating through the gleaming split.
Two more flencers grabbed Kristen’s arms and pulled, but the mirror wouldn’t give up so easily. The red splotches grew larger until they were pressed up against the glass, thumping against the other side. I felt their chittering teeth through my sneakers. Kristen gasped and began to spew blood.
Finally, they had to cut her body in two, not with any precision, but like chopping away at a tree stump. The mirror swallowed her lower half while Kristen’s upper half flailed around on her elbows, leaving a trail of red slime in a circular motion on the floor. After the red splotches swarmed and made short work of her lower half, the mirrors now reflected Kristen’s torso, doubling it into two.
After a few blinks, I realized it wasn’t a reflection, or if it was, I didn’t want to see what now remained.
Lena Ng shambles around Toronto, Ontario, and is a zombie member of the Horror Writers Association. She has curiosities published in eighty tomes including Amazing Stories and the anthology We Shall Be Monsters, which was a finalist for the 2019 Prix Aurora Award. "Under an Autumn Moon" is her short story collection. She is currently seeking a publisher for her novel, Darkness Beckons, a Gothic romance.
Man is the last species to die,
for he can eat all the others.
Plankton, plant, pork or porgy
All go down his maw.
Forget about cockroaches and rats,
Man dines on them both.
Consider seafood as example.
sea urchins and periwinkles,
sharks and slugs and squid,
unless rotted, all eaten.
And after man consumes
all the plants and animals
he’s apt to eat
other men as well.
Ed Ahern resumed writing after forty odd years in foreign intelligence and international sales. He’s had over three hundred stories and poems published so far, and six books. Ed works the other side of writing at Bewildering Stories, where he sits on the review board and manages a posse of six review editors. Follow Ed on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.
Frank’s end began with a black spot where no black spot should have been. And Frank knew, though he pretended not to, that it meant Big Trouble.
Frank had always been different, the bad sort of different. He was awkward and angry with things nobody was ever angry with.
After the death of his wife, he drifted further, life’s tether stretching thin and strained. At the office, everyone supposed he was grieving, and gave him consideration. But over time, Frank became the odd character. First pitied, then scorned. He was an uncaring victim of sidelong looks and water-cooler jokes.
Today had been stressful for Frank, as all of them were anymore. But now he was almost home. The city bus had only one more stop, and Frank’s turmoil was receding. Sighing, he turned and looked out the window, allowing himself the luxury of letting his mind go blank, taking in the view without really seeing the children playing in the park.
The bus lurched to a start, and he tiredly turned to face the front. Suddenly he jerked back towards the park, confused and searching.
There! Far back in the trees behind the bandstand was an alien, inky shadow. A dark black circle where no shadow should have been in the gentle twilight. He blinked, and it was gone.
“What was that?” he whispered, mouth dry like a piece of black velvet. Or, a sly voice suggested, a portal.
It happened again two days later. Idle at his desk, staring out at highway traffic, his heart suddenly skittered with fear. This time the vivid black spot was a tire on a delivery truck. When Frank blinked, it was gone and the tires were normal. Even as he told himself he was seeing things, he had noticed the black spot was bigger than before.
After the fourth time (something is opening), Frank told himself it must be a problem with his vision. Surely not important enough for a doctor. At the pharmacy, he bought eye drops. He told himself, “It’s nothing serious.”
But then the thing changed, and he knew it was worse than an eye problem.
The Big Change happened when the spot began shifting into an emerging man-shape. After this, Frank became nervous and twitchy. He avoided looking out windows and would conform his body awkwardly to do so. When he walked, he stared at the ground. When he spoke, his darting eyes never lingering. He whispered to himself.
His co-workers noticed. The old rumors of his wife’s death began again.
“Frank has never been the same since his wife died.”
“Never did get all the facts, did we?”
The boldest went further, “They called it a suicide, but it sure was strange, wasn’t it?”
And the thing kept coming. Growing. What was it, was it a man? No, it was too thick, too broad.
Frank got a closer look one afternoon at home when he let his willpower lapse. Standing at the sink, washing dishes, he lifted his head and looked out the kitchen window. Immediately, as if it had been waiting for him, the shape strode out behind a nearby house.
Frank froze, soapy dishrag in hand, unable to move or think. Before it disappeared behind the next house, Frank saw a large, beasty creature, reddish-brown, hairy and menacing. The worst thing? At the last moment, it turned its shaggy buffalo head and looked straight into Frank’s window.
Frank squeezed his eyes shut and stood trembling, heart pounding with tremendous runaway force. He tried to unsee the thing and remember it at the same time.
He now knew the thing was coming for him. It knew who he was. He thought of the old poem by Yeats. The slouching rough beast.
After that, Frank’s world shrunk into a tightly wound sphere of fear and denial.
Am I going insane, or is it real? It can’t be real. If it’s real, then everything is real—all the impossible things are true: vampires and monsters and all the fairy tales and God and Hell. And if that’s true, all the things we call normal are phony and flimsy.
Or is this what it means to go mad? To wrestle inside a shadow world while pretending not to, and people just live their lives around you as if nothing is happening?
On his last day, Frank loaded the old revolver and carried it in his pocket everywhere he went. At bedtime, he placed it on the night table.
He didn’t sleep; he didn’t toss or turn. He just laid there, lamp on, holding his breath—listening . Just make it to sunrise. Make it to another day.
When he heard the first footstep—it could have been anything—there hung a split second where it wasn’t real yet. But then another step, and another.
Frank grabbed the revolver and lay with wide eyes, staring at the closed bedroom door.
The steps came on, louder, overly forceful, taunting. Then, Frank heard heavy breathing, and it was at his door and was close enough he could smell it. Rank, fetid, inhuman.
Impossibly, the doorknob began to turn, and though Frank wanted to close his eyes, he was paralyzed with terror. The door swung open, and a great, shaggy head peered around the doorway. It opened its mouth in a grotesque smile, huge yellow teeth slimed and dripping.
Frank’s last thought was this: It isn’t real! If I speak to it, it will disappear. He shuddered, opened his dry mouth, and with a forced croak said, “I’m sorry.”
The next day, little was done at the office. Each new piece of the story caused groups to gather in cubicles, the lunch room, or the water cooler.
“Went the same way as his wife.”
“Everyone could see Frank was having problems.”
“Police said it was suicide. Doesn’t surprise me.”
“And with the same gun his wife used.”
Mr. Thomas once studied journalism at Eastern Illinois University and now after more than 20 years in the manufacturing industry, is chasing his American dream of becoming a full-time novelist. His published works are listed on his website rf-thomas.com. With lifelong roots in the Midwest, he currently calls Central Illinois home.
one late autumn
the bitter water spread
through the entire building
filling mouths with a caustic taint
but the tenants did not care enough
until the dreams came:
a thousand agonies of loneliness
the sum total grief of mere being
the cats howling, the dogs whimpering
a hundred people—men, women, children--
feeling that they were falling, falling, falling...
forever and forever and forever,
after two nights of mass distress
the grim hysteria bubbled over
and—making a connection--
they finally sent the super up to the water tank
he lifted the lid and there she greeted him:
floating face down, fully clothed
her backpack still about her thin shoulders
her stygian hair clumped like rotting seaweed
some of them had been wondering
where she had got to
she had been such a nice girl
a little quiet perhaps.
Harris Coverley has verse published or forthcoming in Polu Texni, California Quarterly, Star*Line, Spectral Realms, Corvus Review, Spank the Carp, Better Than Starbucks, View From Atlantis, Poets' Espresso Review, Once Upon A Crocodile, The Rye Whiskey Review, 5-7-5 Haiku Journal, and many others. He lives in Manchester, England. Follow Harris on Twitter @ha_coverley.
You know how TVs have advanced so far they show details better than real life? A giraffe at the zoo seems unrealistic and vague, like you expect it to have more pixels or something. Well, that’s how the Nebraska sky operates.
It blares an eldritch blue, too bright, too bold. It shouts like a bathroom LED bulb, revealing your red splotches where none showed in the forgiving yellow light of the bedroom vanity.
Unnatural. Too real. Too high a frame rate.
At first, it will fascinate you. Hypnotic. But don’t stare too long. Sometimes, at high noon on December days, when the cold freezes the moisture in your nose into tiny stalactites, the sun ricochets off the blanket of snow back up into the cloudless, windless sky, and the air tastes like peppermint because of nostalgia, a shadow appears in the East.
In other states, the human eye can’t catch it, but the blaring blue presides over the prairie and uncovers the outline of something with wings. Angelic? No, not angelic. Those who do spot the silhouette shudder and gibber at reporters in semi-coherent sentences.
“Heavy,” they say. “Like it wants to fall.”
The reporters snigger and smile at each other, and the cameramen try to capture the ‘weather phenomenon’ with their high-tech cameras. They never do. The lens cannot grasp the loudness of the Nebraska sky, cannot capture the vastness of the open horizon that somehow adds to the crescendo of it all. The reporters don’t see it, either, because they stare at the wrong times and never for long enough.
But the weight of that silhouette presses like the drop on a rollercoaster. A sinking. An inevitability. A judgment for decisions you cannot withdraw, no matter how much you scream and throw your hands into the air to surrender.
Step over the state line with trepidation, and don’t look up during cloudless days. The locals know. It’s a horizon transplanted from another place, where giant shadows show up in the florescent heavens. Shadows heavy enough to fall.
Emmie Christie’s work tends to hover around the topics of feminism, mental health, cats, and the speculative such as unicorns and affordable healthcare. She has been published in Intrinsick and Allegory Magazine, and she graduated from the Odyssey Writing Workshop in 2013. She also enjoys narrating audiobooks for Audible. You can find her at www.emmiechristie.com. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram @EmmieChristie33 and on Facebook @EmmieChristieFiction.
At first, they kept Her on the chair in Veronica’s room. Little Veronica who collected rocks and kept them in the pockets of her coat when the family would go for walks in the wood. Little Veronica, who would proudly tell you she was five even though she’d been six going on seven months now.
After little Veronica woke up the entire house screaming about Her, they’d moved Her into the attic. It was the only way to stop little Veronica from screaming and thrashing in her bed.
Her words were slurred with a child’s mercurial terror, but the message was clear anyway, “She’s watching us sleep! She’s watching us sleep!”
It was dear Dad that saw it next. Dear Dad, with his ugly ties and bags under his dim eyes. Dear Dad, with a house he couldn’t afford and a job that was eating away his life 50 hours a bite. He’d awoken to a creak. Dear Dad had walked into the hallway, only to find the stairs into the attic extended down. He’d closed it, understandably dismayed. When he’d come back to bed, Her was sitting on the bedside table.
Dear Dad dropped Her into the dumpster outside, cursing her under his breath as he went along. He didn’t want it in his house, even if he didn’t believe that Her was anything more than what she appeared to be.
It was lovely Mother—while dear Dad was at work—who found Her at the kitchen table. Lovely Mother smiled because she knew her little one was playing, growing, imagining. It warmed lovely Mother’s heart and made her wistful all at once.
Her watched, Her watched.
It was vile Her who found her way into the bed of Mother and Father, vile Her with her porcelain skin, blue dress, and black eyes. No one had purchased Her, no one had carried Her home from any vendor or store. She appeared one day in the house of this family, an invader from another place and another time. Vile Her, with her hungry eyes and voracious appetites.
It was Vile Her who looked over lovely Mother and found Her way into the fleshy part of lovely Mother’s brain, the invader breaching those soft walls.
When the morning came, Vile Mother sat with Little Veronica and Dear Dad. Her family continued on their lives, blissfully unaware of what had transpired.
It was Vile Mother who watched. It was Vile Mother who would act next.
Logan Noble is a horror and science fiction writer who lives in England with his wife and two dogs. His short stories have appeared in a number of anthologies and magazines, including Pickman's Gallery, Miskatonic Dreams, Deracine Magazine, and Sanitarium Magazine. His fiction and blog can be found on logannobleauthor.com and you can follow him on Twitter @logan_noble.
On my broken back I carry the world: hungry children
drinking the minerals from my exposed bone; battered
women prickling me with needles, yet even they,
adept at the art of patching things up, defeated
by my tectonic fissures and split vertebrae;
men who—for lack of softness to scar—destroy
themselves, fashioning bandages out of my peeling skin.
And those who are neither man nor woman,
dangling from my ragged clumps of fur,
clinging tooth and nail to the forces trying
to forsake them.
Rotten roots attempt to trip me, birds made
of pure keratin and spite, swooping down.
Carnivorous bracken find no flesh left to nibble.
The tears of my passengers, acid rain over ravaged earth.
I run quadrupedal, leaping over fermented fords of ichor,
bounding through woods of my fellow skeletons
growing into trees, limbs into boughs. But I have
many more journeys left inside me before I fall apart
and my passengers do too, before we are all dust
and ghosts, feeding this broken-backed world.
Avra Margariti is a queer author, Greek sea monster, and Pushcart-nominated poet with a fondness for the dark and the darling. Avra’s work haunts publications such as Vastarien, Asimov’s, Liminality, Arsenika, The Future Fire, Space and Time, Eye to the Telescope, and Glittership. “The Saint of Witches”, Avra’s debut collection of horror poetry, is forthcoming from Weasel Press. You can find Avra on Twitter (@avramargariti).
The funeral parlor smells of potpourri and faux beauty. There's itchy chairs with floral upholstery that almost match the wallpaper and green carpet. The body of Our Father lays in a cherry wood casket at the front of the main room.
We're all wearing our ceremonial cloaks to honor Him who left before His time. Brother Coleford stands by the casket with a lit candelabra, whispering and begging Him to give us words of wisdom from beyond the grave.
Brother James asks the funeral manager if he could step outside and give us a few minutes alone with the one we lost. The manager is hesitant at first. I can tell by the way he studies Brother James’ face, but he agrees to give us a little time. A little time is all we need. Brother James and I walk him out. I prop one of the chairs under the handle of the door and turn the deadbolt while Brother James shades the windows with the blinds and chintzy curtains.
Some of the other Brothers pull jars of sacramental oil from their cloaks, and we all circle around the casket to hear the final words Brother Coleford has to say about the Great Man Himself. Without Him, we Brothers are lost. Without His leadership, the meaning of life, our existence, and who we are is dismantled. He was great for His ideals. Great for everything He did for us, for mankind. He left before His time, so not many in this terrible world heard the pure words or message He tried to spread.
Not many followed Him. But those of us who did, we know the truth. We believe His message. We know what it will take to cleanse the world of its disease. We’re ready to begin.
The funeral manager must’ve changed his mind about letting us be here alone. He tries the door, and when he finds it won’t open, he starts beating on it, his shouting muffled by the thick oak doors.
We ignore the distraction. Brother Coleford reads a passage from Our Father’s own diary. A message about the Great Cleansing of the world. About peace. We bow our heads while we listen and repeat The Cantos as a group.
The wicks in Brother Coleford’s candles are diminishing. We’re almost out of time.
The Brothers with sacramental oil pass the jars around the circle. We each take turns spreading some of the oil on our cloaks. It’s putrid but potent. It won’t take much for the flames to lick and take. We douse the ugly carpet around us, the casket, and Our Father Himself.
We loved this man. We loved His wisdom, His teachings. And we know that death will have no hold on us. We know we will rise again, stronger. Equipped to cleanse the world of its souls. To be the hand of damnation to unite the living with the dead.
We are Brothers of the Sacred Order. And so we have no fear when Brother Coleford starts the flames to our cloaks.
We will return.
Eric Fomley’s work has appeared in Daily Science Fiction, Galaxy’s Edge, and Inferno! Volume 6: Tales from the Worlds of Warhammer. You can read more of his stories on his website ericfomley.com, follow him on Twitter @PrinceGrimdark, or support him on patreon.com/Fomley.