Past Tense
By Tony Rauch

We pull up to our house. My wife gasps and points as we slow up next to the curb. I turn off the engine and look up.

Standing on our roof, silhouetted in the darkness, hopping up and down is a caveman. In his vague, dark outline we can make out his loin cloth flopping as he bobs up and down. We stare in disbelief at his long, dark, scraggly, matted hair, his long arms, hairy shoulders, his hunched posture.

Another appears in the darkness. And then another. All back-lit by the bright moon, clouds passing in front of them to cast waves of eerie light on our lawn and house.

I sigh, dejected. Defeated.

One of them holds out a club, and then begins banging it against the side of the house, rattling the gutters, bang bang bang, in a very confrontational manner. Another beats his chest with one fist, then lets out a wild, blood curdling howl. The third one just sits crouching up on the roof dumbly, staring vacantly at nothing.

My wife points, spotting another in a shadow by our boat, and I notice one hulking back and forth, loping up on the garage, another grunting behind a bush and maybe two more in the shadows up in a tree. “Oh, boy,” I sigh wearily. My wife sighs heavily too.

I start the ignition, rev the engine a few times, then step on the gas, flooring it. We jump forward, a plume of exhaust and shards of grass and dirt rain down behind us as we turn onto the soggy lawn and head straight for one of them, the back of the car swaying as we fish-tail in the mud, my wife reaching to clutch the dash, bracing herself . . .

“Not this again,” my wife groans, reaching to pull a club and a torch from under her seat. She straightens to light the torch as we hear a tremendous crash from inside our house.

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Tony Rauch has three books of short stories published – “I’m right here” (spout press), “Laredo” (Eraserhead Press), “Eyeballs growing all over me . . . again” (Eraserhead Press). He has additional titles forthcoming in the next few months.


By Monic Ductan

I dreamed that I baked in a stone hearth. Not bread or cupcakes or cinnamon buns. My own body baked. I was placed on a large roller, similar to those they use at the morgue to transport the bodies. A six-fingered hand slowly rolled me into the hearth. I lay flat on my back, unmoving, like a sticky bun against a cookie sheet.

Though I lay on my back, my toes and knees were turned 180 degrees, like that time you cut off your doll’s legs and glued them back facing the wrong direction.

I welcomed the stove’s warmth. My toes were cold from the breath of winter, but my feet remained outside the hearth. My body was too long for him to close the iron door. I heard the metal sing as he pulled a knife from its block. And then, he began to take me apart at the ankles, so I would fit inside.

I felt the blade against my skin, eating it open. Felt metal against bone. The blade moved back and forth, like a hacksaw against a wood log.

He paused.

I saw his face as he leaned in to add lighter fluid to the flames. He was a man with long, wooly hair, tanned skin, and a full beard. I saw his crown of thorns, the bloody nail-scarred hand bled onto the can of lighter fluid as he shook his wrist, fueling the fire.

Temperature increased.

The flames leapt up, took control of my hair and crawled toward my scalp.
The skin of my cheeks melted like thin plastic in a microwave. He began to saw again; and once the bone snapped, he wrenched my ankle, tore flesh from flesh. He started on the other leg. It gave less resistance. Snapped smoother. Quicker.

My face was on fire. The flames crawled in from my forehead and the periphery of my cheeks. I felt his hands against the skin of my severed feet as he picked them up and clunked them down on the rolling pan beside my thigh.

He shut the door.

The heat was so intense that my eyes melted, sat in my skull, pools of muddy gelatin.

As I died, I heard the god say, “She’ll be ready to eat in a little while.”

“A-man,” came the voices of his congregation. I couldn’t see their faces, but I imagined them sitting around the table, preparing for their feast. I heard the voices of my mother, my father, my high school tormentors, my old Sunday school teacher, the psychopath I knew in college, that crazy man from the bayou, his crazier girlfriend, the devil, and you.

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Monic Ductan is a Southern fiction writer and poet from rural Georgia. She has an undergrad degree in English from Georgia State University. Contact her at monicductan@yahoo.com.


By Chad Stroup

So you have sucked all of the sanguine life from your peons; their chapped hands cannot serve your well-manicured ones any further. You have also made the unfortunate discovery that the blood of the poor carries far too many transmittable diseases to continue with its consumption.
Time to search for new and exciting sustenance!
(Try macaroon cookies, escargot, tofu lasagna, tuna sandwich with the crusts cut off.
Perhaps Monster Energy Drink®, pandan cake, filé gumbo, un burrito de frijoles sin manteca. Cheap labor, persons who are not considered legal and will not be missed.)
You must attempt to forget about the lust of the kill, the teething sex, the finely starched white collar that makes you who you are. Sweat replaced by the coldness of machines that think.You must sacrifice what it means to be human in order to thrive.

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I am an MFA Creative Writing Student with a focus in fiction at San Diego State University. I enjoy twisting the possibilities of the darker side of fiction. I also run a blog at http://subvertbia.blogspot.com/


McIntire's Dog
By Michael Albani

McIntire’s house is a desolate shack. His lawn is an overgrown patch of weeds. McIntire doesn’t care about his house or his lawn or even his life. All he cares about is petting his dog.

Things weren’t always like this for McIntire. He used to have a modest but happy home with a glorious green lawn. He also used to have a loving wife and daughter. Then he found that dog.

It was a big, black Labrador Retriever. McIntire saw it wandering along his street one day when he was driving home from work. It reminded him of the beloved black lab he had when he was a boy. It didn’t have a collar or tag, so McIntire saw no harm in bringing it home with him.

It was a strange dog, though. It didn’t eat. It didn’t sleep. It didn’t even “go” in the yard. It would just curl up close to McIntire and McIntire would lovingly pet its head.

McIntire’s wife was afraid of the animal. She could tell that there was something wrong about it, something very wrong. She wanted it gone.

Before she could tell her husband about her fears, though, she disappeared. Not long afterward, the dog hacked up a big, black stone.

McIntire was devastated by the disappearance of his wife. Where could she have gone? What could have happened to her? How was he going to live without her? Still, McIntire knew he had to stay strong for his daughter’s sake. She needed him now more than ever. His dog would have to come second.

It was not long before McIntire’s daughter disappeared as well. Like with the previous disappearance in the family, the dog hacked up a big, black stone. This time, McIntire picked the stone up and examined it.

It was a fairly small stone, but it was very heavy. McIntire had to put all his strength into his right arm just to lift it. It was warm too. It felt like there was some faint source emitting heat from inside it. The stone was mostly smooth, but McIntire’s heart almost stopped when he discovered that it was encrusted with two rhinestones, the rhinestones from his daughter’s earrings.

As McIntire made this discovery, his dog barked. It stared at him with its inky black eyes. It shook its tail back and forth. It wanted to be petted.

“Daddy,” McIntire’s daughter once said, “did you know dog spelled backwards is god?”

“Yes,” he replied, “I know.” To this day, McIntire sits and repeats that answer over and over again to the darkness as he continues to pet his dog, his god.

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My name is Michael Albani and I am a native Michigander and a student at Albion College. I am the founder and editor of the new online environmental fiction zine Appalachia Fiction and Fact and I have previously been published for my horror fiction in Flashes in the Dark, Deadman's Tome, and Linguistic Erosion.

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