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Wormwood Prophets Society

Source: Wormwood Prophets Society

HORRGASM PRE-ORDERS

TOUCH ME, I’M SICK IS IN THIS ANTHOLOGY

 

Martine sat uneasily in her chair as a moth fluttered around, trapped in her florescent clear body. Martine would listen to it’s humming as it drew closer to the glowing light bulb situated near her furiously pumping heart. One of Arthur’s inventions, keeping his wife alive.

 

The darkness fell quickly on the city outside Martine’s window. Decayed and depraved gray buildings that lined up beside each other for as far as the eye could see. Martine never went out of her apartment. She only sat at her window and watched the world go by. Watching blue-pink spheres rotate in the sky, leaving a gray film over the city. The poisonous gas in the air would shatter her clear plastic body, if Martine would step outside, others, without a gas mask, would turn into a lump blackened flesh as if they had been in an oven.

 

She would sketch the happenings out there, people walking along the sidewalk, to their jobs, back to their homes. Children playing in the streets, or going off to school. It was a way to try to forget all their troubles, especially the bills.

 

Arthur came home.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Martine was glad to see him. She ran to Arthur and hugged him. He took off his gas mask and threw it in the corner of the small one room house. He stood there, gently shut the door as he put his arms around her. She looked up smiling at him. Arthur kissed the top of her head.

 

“What have you been doing all day, then?” He went to the kitchen table with her hanging on to his arms. He sat down, tossed his duffel bag on the bed that was only a few inches from the table.

 

“Just drawing,” Martine said. She sat next to him. “How was your day?” She handed him her sketch book.

 

“It’s always the same at the factory, Martine,” Arthur thumbed through the pages quickly until he came across a picture he liked. He laughed. “Mrs. Quran and her awful kids. This is a real good one.”

 

The sketch was more of a caricature than a resemblance. It showed a large woman with three heads, one smiling at a man on street, one crying, another with large teeth biting at her children.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“What did you make today?” Martine asked. She went to the stove and stirred a brown liquid that bubbled to the top of the rusted pot. She returned to the table, placed the pot in front of Arthur. She sat down, her eyes transfixed on him.

 

“It’s the same everyday, darling. Creating the perfect flower and planting it to restore oxygen to the atmosphere here in our city.” No. That wasn’t what he was making. He was mass producing the Police cameras, a robotic EYE.

 

“Eat,” Martine touched his hand.

 

“Are you having any?” Arthur took the metal spoon and scooped some of the brown goo out. He put it to his lips and cringed. With eyes closed, holding his breath, Arthur swallowed the only nourishment the Uppers allowed his people to have.

 

“No,” She shook her head. “I ate yesterday. I’ll be fine for the rest of the week.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It was true that brown muck was made from a wheat germ grown inside the testicle of a pig, which itself is grown in laboratory; has all the requirements a human body needs to survive.

 

Arthur ate the entire pot, immediately he felt his stomach ache. He ran to the bathroom. Just a room with a non-working commode, a cracked mirror, and a rusted sink. He sat on the commode just in time.

 

 

There was a knock at the door. Martine answered it, precariously. Standing in the doorway was a tall, thin man in a black trench coat and a gas mask, which was surgically attached to his face.

 

She screamed and slammed the door shut. Martine ran to the bed and crawled underneath the cot. There was the sound of continuous rapping. A voice calling out Arthur’s last name. Martine was shaking. She closed her eyes and wished the situation would disappear.

 

She felt hands on her. She was being pulled from under the cot. She opened her eyes and saw Arthur. She threw her arms around his neck, sobbing loudly.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“I’m sorry,” Martine said.

 

“It’s okay.” Arthur whispered. “You didn’t know who it was.”

“I just thought it was one of the neighbors…Mrs. Quaran. or her kids.”

 

“Mr. Hope…you owe the City Corporation four thousand crowns,” The voice was computerized with no human touch involved at all. “Pay or face the consequences.”

 

Bill collectors were Automated beings. Once activated, you either pay what you owed, or everything inside the building is destroyed. You can not argue your way out of the situation. But, they can not come inside the building unless invited in or acknowledged.

 

 

 

Martine acknowledged it.

 

Now the second faze has been activated. It will find entrance at all cost.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

They heard it on the roof of the building. Footsteps echoed, the ceiling bowed. Tile and dust fell upon Martine and Arthur’s heads. Arthur was not going to be a sitting duck. He left Martine and went to the window to see if the lights from the Police vehicle the Bill collector had rode in was still shining.

 

Martine rolled back under the cot. She closed her eyes, still wishing it would all disappear.

 

Arthur slipped on his gas mask. He put on his bomber jacket and took a screwdriver with him. Outside, the sky was a velvet cover no stars could enter. The only light the city was allowed outside was the EYE, a Police vehicle that a huge silver ball-shape with long spider-like legs and a camera attached that could see up to a thousand miles from it’s resting place.

 

Arthur approached the EYE, it lowered a it’s gun, it’s target was set. An automated voice sounded off a warning. Arthur ignored it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Arthur fell to the ground on his stomach, just as the EYE fired a green beam from it’s gun. The beam just barely missed Arthur. He rolled left, another beam shot past his face. It burned a larger hole in the city street than the first. Arthur was still holding his screwdriver in his right hand. He placed the point of the screwdriver into a crevice between the the ball and the legs.

 

As soon as Arthur could feel electricity move from the EYE to his fingertips, he dropped the screwdriver and rolled from underneath the machine. Blue and pink sparks covered the EYE, an electrical prism had been born.

 

The EYE crumbled from the lack of stability. It’s front leg fell to the asphalt, wires still attached to it’s now exposed hardware, a circuit board going haywire.

 

Arthur watched the machine fall apart completely, dust and rubble enveloping it. Soon the human Police will arrive. An entire army. He will be shot on sight. But who will take care of Martine?

 

Then he remembered Martine. He remembered the Bill collector. He remembered

the danger she was in.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

He ran inside the house, or what was left of it inside. The table was obliterated as well as the bed, where he left Martine. Large holes in the walls , sharing the outside world, poisonous gas and the red glow from other Police EYES swarming the night skies.

 

There, in the middle of a mattress turned to pulp, was what was left of Martine’s body…pieces of her…her clear plastic chest cracked wide open….her internal organ lay disconnected from her circuit board…..the light bulb that was once beside her beating heart, now in shards next to her along with remnants of dust from the Atom ball. She had a peaceful smile on her partial face.

 

From behind him he heard the Bill collector’s voice. “Paid in full—or suffer the consequences….” The Bill collector held in both open hands the particles from the personal Atom ball he’d just cracked open.

 

Arthur was motionless. Stunned. Only his hands shook, his mouth was left gaping, a tiny gurgle meant as a scream rose from his dry throat.

 

A moth fluttered by Arthur, momentarily taking his eyes from the Bill collector.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The moth flew to the Bill collector and disappeared into a tiny crack on the left side of his gas mask. He flinched, began waving his arms desperately. The Atom particles fell to his trench coat and immediately blew him apart. A small mushroom cloud formed from detached body.

 

The moth flew from his gas mask and fluttered around Arthur’s face. He opened up a hand. It gently fell on the palm, crawled to the end of his index finger. He brought it up to his gas mask. It crawled around until it found a slight opening on the right side, eased itself inside.

 

Arthur heard it whisper his name and he knew it was Martine’s voice.

 

 

Franz could not rise from his chair, nor leave the table, for the Face on his stomach would not allow him to leave a feast especially prepared for him.
Every time he would try to stand, the weight of the Face on his mid-section was so great, he would have to sit again or fall forward on the table. The Face would screw up it’s eyes and laugh heartily.
“You can not leave the table until you are full,” It told him.
“But I am not hungry,” Franz spoke in weak voice.
“Make yourself eat!” The Face growled.
The Face had always been with Franz. It’s horrible scowl on it’s large square pink canvas. It spread as far as Franz big round belly was wide, but not as tall as his chest. Even when he was a baby, that old man- face, wrinkled and dimpled forehead, had been born as a birthmark. Or as the wet nurse said a curse. Franz Father turned to the bottle, which caused quite a bit of problems being the village school headmaster. Franz Mother refused to believe the Face ever existed. She pushed for Franz to be treated as normal as everyone else. She never allowed him to acknowledge the problem.
“I never liked your Mother,” The Face said. Mira, his maid entered She put more dishes down containing more vegetables, corn, eggplant, asparagus. The Face made lewd sounds at her. Mira wrinkled her nose at him.
“Shut up about my Mother,” Franz picked at a turkey leg that had been placed on his plate by Mira. She leaned across him, letting her breast brush against him. “My Mother was a saint to put up with things.”
“You are speaking of your Father, aren’t you? Not me, of course. Now, your Father, that was a fellow only bums and cheap guys could have respect for.”
“Are you alright, Mr. Franz? Should I gag him?” Mira smiled big, those lovely ruby lips sparkling under the lights. She put a hand upon her dark hair, making sure it was still in the bun she’d fixed. Her green eyes danced back and forth between Franz and the Face.
“No, Mira, thank you. It wouldn’t help matters now. He still wouldn’t permit me to leave the table.”
“As you wish, sir,” Mira pranced to the door of the kitchen. She stopped, turned to Franz, blew him a kiss.
The Face felt stirrings in Franz nether parts. It laughed. “You know she only likes you for Uncle Havel’s money.”
“Leave it!” Screamed Franz. He placed his hands over his head and wished there was something he could do with The Face. Perhaps, it was right. Mira only found Franz attractive because of the vast family fortune Havel made from black market electronics he sold on the streets of Prague in the nineties.
“Eat!” The Face demanded. “I’m starving!”
“God have pity on me! You are always starving! Please let me up…give me back the use of my legs. Just for a few minutes. I wish to go to bed.”
“Eat! Damn you, you’re trying to starve me. I know it.”
“All right! I’m feeding you, you demon from hell!” Franz grabbed a bowl with potatoes and sucked them down. He ate like a wild man, just as much turkey fell on the floor and his clothes as it entered his mouth.
Then Franz stopped eating. He heard The Face enjoying the food from Franz plate. The sounds it was making was sickening and annoying. Franz threw his hands over his ears. Still, he could hear The Face gurgling and cooing. Smacking it’s lips.
“More!” The Face growled once more. “Feed my face! Or you will never leave your chair!”
Franz could take no more. He had snapped. He laughed uncontrollably, tears welled up in his eyes. Franz had made up his mind.
“Yes,” He said, ringing the bell and Mira swashed in. He motioned for her to bend down. Franz whispered his diabolical plan in her ear. “Let’s both never leave the table.”
Mira was horrified.
“What do you mean?” The Face said. “Have you lost your mind. Yes I can tell that by your pernicious laughter. You always want to leave the table.”
Mira left. Ten minutes later she returned with two mirrors. She set one on a smaller end table she’d moved to the right of the table. She placed another mirror on the other side of the first mirror to catch the image from it, pointed the second mirror toward Franz midsection.
She drew a chair next to Franz, pulled him and his chair away from her.
“What madness is this?” The Face said nervously.
“Madness indeed,” Franz retorted with a small giggle.
Mira carried on with her work, an infinite amount of sadness overtaking her emotions. She took from pockets a large spool of thread and a needle. She pushed through the eye of the needle the end of the thread, weeping softly.
Franz looked in one of the mirrors and saw The Face closing it’s eyes. “Oh, no, you demon. Don’t close your eyes, by all means. You wouldn’t want to miss this for the world.”
Mira forced the needle into the left side of Franz lips, pulled the thread through. He winced, blood dribbled down his chin. Mira carried on, with a shaky hand, tears falling from her cheeks, the needle and thread made a long zig- zag across Franz lips.
“Nooo…” The hungry Face cried out, petrified by the terrible mirror images.

On a lonely street corner, off Main and 3rd, a bag lay on the opposite side of the trash cans scattered in a dark alleyway. Once in a while a street light would shine it’s florescent blue light on the pavement to reveal movement inside that bag. Just tiny inklings that something was definitely inside it. The sound of scratching, and a low growl. But the bag never moved from it’s spot.
On other street corners in the city, the hustle and bustle of people and cars making their way to their destinations. On one of those particular streets, Dave Lomax was fighting his way through a crowd outside an Adult theater to find a seat to spend his third night of restless sleep while men in trench coats explored themselves watching people have sex on the screen.
Just as he was sneaking through a side door, a hand grabbed him. The hand belonged to extremely large black man in a leather coat.
“You don’t think you were goin’ in there without payin’, were you, Chief?” He said pushing Lomax into a brick wall outside the theater.
Lomax felt the pain in his back surge. He shook his head no. “I actually got confused what door to go through.” Lomax smiled.
The black man’s nostrils curled up. He sniffed the air. “Shit, man. Go get cleaned up. Look, I don’t want to be a hard on, but you can’t keep sneakin’ in my house smellin’ up the place. You need a place to sleep, I know the Boys club has some beds open for the holidays. If I give you a twenty, you promise not to drink it all up?”
“You’d do that?” Lomax was stunned. The couple months he’d been kicked out of his house by Lisa, he’d witnessed the dregs of humanity. He’d gotten a place at hotel with a roommate, Charlie Day…a real scumbag-drunk—stole the last fifty from him, then kicked him out when Lomax couldn’t procure the rest of the rent.
The black man smiled. “Dude, I know what it’s like on the streets. I might run a movie house that shows tits and ass, but I still follow the laws of our Lord, Jesus Christ. Here you go. Don’t–” He placed the twenty in Lomax’s hand, pulled it away, Lomax still had a piece of it. “Don’t drink it up. Understand?”
Lomax nodded quickly. “Yeah, yeah. I don’t usually drink, just lately–“
The black man shoved Lomax into the gutters. He fell into the icy snow caked on the vents.
“Merry Christmas. Get cleaned up,” The black man wagged a finger.
Dave Lomax just sat there. “Merry Christmas,” he whispered, his spirit crushed.
Lomax picked himself up and headed down the street the opposite way. He stopped a minute to stare at the many HD Tv’s that were in a store window. On the screens was the Charlie Brown Christmas.
Christmas is not what it used to be, he thought.
He shuffled along, kicking snow with his boots, letting some of it ride on the top for a few feet. Before he realized it, Lomax was down an alley that had no outlet. He looked up and he was on Main and 3rd. He heard a noise behind the trash cans. He saw a stray dog sniffing at a yellow bag that resembled potato bags at grocery stores. The bag moved to the left and the dog jumped at it, wagged it’s tail.
“I’m not drunk,” Lomax said to himself. “I haven’t even started. But that bag….oh….it’s cat in it.” He rubbed his tangled, greasy hair. He laughed, walked toward it. “Hey, you dumb dog. That’s just a cat in that bag–“
A thin green arm reached out. It’s three fingered claw took hold of the stray dog by the back of it’s neck and pulled it inside the bag. The dog gave out a yelp and disappeared into the dark opening of the bag.
Lomax stopped dead in his tracks. Stunned, he staggered back a few steps. “What the hell?” He cried out, his voice bounced off the cold dark night.
Lomax looked behind him. No one there. No one saw it. He rubbed his three day old stubble, put a hand in his pocket. His eyes grew wild. He felt in a once empty pocket and found paper there. He pulled his hand out. Lomax was holding several hundred dollar bills. A few minutes before the event with the dog and the bag, he was thinking about having money–lots of money—so much, in fact, his pockets would never be empty. The twenty was still in the other pocket.
Lomax knew this to be strange. I’m not dreaming, he thought. Because he’d just pinched himself. He looked behind him, no one standing there. He trotted to the bag, which was still moving on the pavement. He heard rustling, a low growl. He hesitated at first. Then decided to scoop up the bag.
“Funny,” He said. “On Christmas eve I find Santa’s bag.” He slung over his shoulder and heard the thing growl louder. The stray dog yelped. “Hey,” Lomax yelled at the bag. “I don’t know what you are, but you be nice to that dog.”
He walked to the other side of Main and hailed a taxi.
The hotel room was dingy and smelled of garlic salt. That was because Lomax’s roommate , Cedric, cooked everything with garlic salt. Even toast. Lomax didn’t need a key to get in, the lock never worked. All he had to do was jiggle the door knob and the door was open.
Cedric was sprawled out in the middle of the floor, a bottle of Jack Daniel in his hand.
The room was a mess. Take-out boxes from various places littered floor along with dirty laundry. The TV was on, the weather man showing a map where Santa Clause was last spotted, Turkey it seemed.
Lomax sat on the torn sofa, bag beside him. He kicked Cedric a few times. Cedric looked like a gulley dwarf from the latest Peter Jackson movie. His brownish-red beard hung past neck, inching toward his chest. He must have grown it to make up for the lack of hair on his head. His round, plump body heaved and he coughed every time Lomax kicked him.
Cedric shot up, ready to run. He yelled out something inaudible, waved his hands around wildly.
“Cedric,” Lomax said. “It’s just me. Cedric, It’s Dave.”
Cedric looked confused, staggered where he stood. Clarity came to him. He looked at Lomax, snarled.
“I kicked you out, you bum,” Cedric tried to pick up the bottle twice without falling. The third go was success. But he soon tossed the bottle when he found out it was empty.
“Yes, you did, my so-called friend. I’m here to pay my share of the rent,” Lomax threw down a hundred dollar bill on the floor. Cedric’s eyes grew big, he leaped for the money, fell on his face.
“Oh, yeah, and tell you to fuck off.” Lomax stood grabbed his bag. Cedric held on to his legs. “Get off!” Lomax shook Cedric off.
“Don’t go, my friend! Please take care of your Cedric! He will do anything–well almost anything–for you! For you!” Cedric was on his knees, pleading, praying to Lomax. “I don’t care how you get financial aid, even if you sell yourself on the street–“
“I don’t do that, you idiot.”
Cedric’s eyes moved back and forth, he was thinking. “No?”
“No. I think it’s this bag.”
Cedric stood. He only came up to Lomax’s chest. he scratched his bald head. “A Santa bag?”
“I thought the same thing when I saw it,” Lomax said happily. “I found this bag—I was thinking of money—oh, you wouldn’t understand.”
“Stay. Explain it to me. I know I could relate–we’ll order a pizza. Yes?”
Lomax thought about it. He was hungry. Oh, Cedric was alright.
“Yeah. Okay.”
Lomax turned his back to call from Cedric’s cell phone when he heard a scuffle and Cedric screamed.
Lomax turned back around. On the phone a voice kept repeating “Hello, hello?” His Santa bag dropped to the floor.
Lomax sighed. “Shit,” He said, pressed a button on the cell phone and the voice disappeared. He threw the phone on the sofa and picked up the bag. He heard a low growl from the bag and more scuffling. Then he heard Cedric call out for help.
“Hi,” he heard a female voice.
Lomax nearly jumped out of his skin. A short brunette was standing in front of him. She was wearing a blue halter top and and short mini skirt. Lomax dropped the bag. His mouth was hanging open. He couldn’t believe it. Just as he was calling for pizza his mind roamed. he began thinking about sex, then his thoughts became a lot more specific.
“You called for a date,” the brunette kissed Lomax.
Later on, Lomax just sat in the hotel room, bored out of his skull. It was eleven pm now. The brunette had long disappeared. He was sick of hearing the dog whine, Cedric cry and beg for help, and whatever that thing was in the bag growl and terrorize the dog and Cedric.
“This is shit,” He said. He should be with Lisa and her kids, getting smashed, opening presents. He should be with Lisa. Yes. She should not had kicked him out, settled in with Jack. All because he lost his job at the plant and he couldn’t handle her taking his spot as the breadwinner.
Well, all that has changed now, Lomax thought. I’ve got money. Endless money. Now I can take Lisa back, buy her anything she wanted. Jack can be out on the street, like Lomax was.
“Yeah….I’m going over there and bring loads of presents…food…booze….”
Lomax stood in the driveway of his ex’s trailer, the only trailer in an upper-middle class neighborhood. Her father had left it to her, never thought of building a house because he thought it was too much work and a waste of money, he already had a home. The trailer was old, at least twenty years, and the aluminum siding was not silver anymore but a depressing rust color.
Good, Lomax thought. Lisa is home. He could see her Toyota in the driveway, but he also saw Jack’s Prius.
“Shit,” He said to the thin layer of Christmas lights on the telephone pole. The lights blinked on and off, telling Lomax not to worry about Jack. It told him he was in charge of the situation. Plus, he had two plastic bags of groceries and his Santa bag.
The trailer was lit up with way too many lights, at least ten strands crossing each other. And in the front yard was a snowman missing an eye and his plastic carrot meant for his nose, was now comfortably in his crotch.
Lomax knocked on the screen door.
Lisa opened the front door. She stepped outside on the step, shut the door. Her short brown, wavy hair was stirring slightly in the cold breeze. She was cold, the Christmas sweater exemplified her best assets, but those green eyes always melted Lomax’s heart.
“Hi, Lisa,” Lomax grinned at her.
“What do you want, Dave?” She said coldly, folded her arms.
“I wanted to see you and the kids,” Oops. I didn’t get the kids anything. He thought. Trish, 9, Cory, 6, what would I get them anyway? I never took time to get to know them—
“You know Jack is here. And after the last shenanigan you are not welcomed here.” She turned to open the door, Lomax touched her shoulder. She shot a cool look his way that was like a knife through his heart. Lomax withdrew his hand.
She was referring to a drunken incident when Lomax climbed through their bedroom window and passed out in their bed. Jack beat Lomax with a baseball bat, thinking he was burglar. After the ER room, Jack was apologetic.
“Who is it, Lisa–Oh, it’s Dave. Let him in, Lisa.” Jack was the best looking guy Lomax had ever seen and the nicest. That’s one of many reasons he hated him.
“He was just leaving–” Lisa’s nostrils flared up, and that cold stare–all Lomax could do was avert his eyes.
“Nonsense, Lisa. Come inside, Dave. God, the kids really miss you. They will be glad to see you.”
oh yes, they were glad to see me, Lomax thought. He’d been there thirty minutes and the kids said hi, rushed off to bed. Lisa went to her bedroom. Jack was the only one happy to see him. loads of endless fucking questions. It was a slow death. Being with a man who stole your life and he was happy to eat his cake too. The fucker.
“So, what’s with the bag? Are you playing Santa this year?” He was smirking. Thinks he can tell a joke. The fucker. “Is my present in there?”
Suddenly an evil grin overthrew a depressing scowl on Lomax’s face. “Actually…it is. Would you like it now?” Lomax stood from the couch and walked toward the corner where the Christmas tree was. Jack followed closely on his heels.
“You didn’t have to–yes. Yes. I’m honored….look I really want to be friends, Dave…could that…?”
The bag was gone.
They heard a noise in the hallway to the bedrooms. Something loud hitting the tin floors of the trailer. Lomax and Jack rushed to see, they found the bag there. It was inching across the floor. They heard Lisa’s voice, the kid’s, of course the dog and Cedric. All of them simultaneously making a horrible mash of noise. Then there was the growling, the sound of something scraping the inside of the bag, followed by them screaming.
Jack backed away from the bag. “What’s in there, Dave? You’ve got the devil there haven’t you?”
Lomax didn’t know what to say. He shook his head half-heatedly. “I don’t know what’s in there. I don’t…maybe it is…but I don’t think it hurts anyone…all I know is it takes things, then whatever you wish for…magically appears…”
There was a knock at the screen door, very loud pounding.
Someone has called the police on us, Lomax thought. Jack ran to answer it. Lomax pushed him out of the way. They found a short, over-sized man in a monk’s frock. The Monk bowed, removed his hood.
“I’m sorry to bother you so late. I think you have something that belongs my temple.” The Monk said.
Lomax was pushed aside as the monk made his way through the front door. The monk smiled. He nodded. “Yes, you surely do have it.”
“Is that the devil in that bag? Your here to do an exorcism, right?” Jack came to the monk, wild-eyed.
The Monk laughed. “No, far from it. Gumar is not a devil…but a poor unfortunate creature that seemingly tricked one of my brothers to take him into the city.”
“Will he–does he hurt anyone in the bag with him ?” Lomax interrupted the monk’s jolliness.
“No, by all means. Gumar loves to have fun—well his fun is scaring people, holding them in the darkness. He harms no one. He is a bit aggressive. It was terrible for Brother Sella. He apparently was robbed at gunpoint, beaten and left in an alley. He came back to Temple with that story.”
” How did you know where the bag was? ” Lomax said. “Can you get them out of the bag?”
The Monk shrugged smiled. “I followed the smell. Do you not smell the terrible stench?”
“I thought it was Dave, since he is homeless.” Jack said.
Lomax cut his eyes at Jack.
“As far as releasing everyone,” The Monk sighed. “That depends on you,” He turned to Lomax. “Would like to keep receiving presents from Gumar? Or…give the bag back to the Temple. It’s up to you.”
Lomax thought a minute. “Yeah…I’d like to give the bag back to the Temple.”
The Monk smiled. Lisa appeared, as did the children. They immediately clung to, she hugged them nervously.
Then Cedric appeared, the dog ran from one person to another, happy it was out of the bag.
The Monk threw the bag over his shoulder. Lomax saw him to the door.
“Look, ” Lomax placed a hand on the Monk’s arm. “I don’t get it. Where was my last present when Lisa and the kids were in the bag?”
“Remember,” The Monk walked outside. He turned to Lomax, laughed. “You wished this would be over. And it is.”

SIN-AWAYcopyright 2011 m.s.

Otis Brinkley walked confidently in the offices of Cromwell Industries, a five story building on Pinkerton ave., demanding to see the head of operations.
The secretary looked at this old tramp with a beat up suitcase and stifled a laugh.
“He’s not in Mr…?” Ms. Jeffers fiddled with her blouse lapel with a hand. She kept the other hand over her mouth as so Brinkley couldn’t see her smiling at his presence.
The little old man beamed. He pushed the mismatched frame of glasses back on the brim of his nose. “Otis Brinkley,” He said proudly.
Ms. Jeffers cleared her throat. “You can only see Mr. Cromwell by appointment,” She crossed her legs, still fighting back her giggles at this ridiculous little old man.
Brinkley opened his suitcase. He smiled at her, pushed his glasses up on his nose. “I’ve been exchanging letters with Mr. Cromwell.” He tossed a small stack of envelopes on Ms. Jeffers desk. “We’ve discussed my new product at length.”
Ms. Jeffers rummaged through the dusty papers, mystified. She opened the first one, unwrinkled the yellow paper.
Brinkley stood briefly. “That one has told me to come to the office….” Ms. Jeffers threw him a look, Brinkley sat back down. He put up his hand apologetically.
“Well, the office is closing in a few minutes as you can see it’s nearly five—”
“Mandy!” A man screamed from the adjoining office.
Brinkley looked toward the office, smiled. “He’s in after all.”
A second later a man with a receding hairline, dark circles under his eyes and a girth hanging over top of his belt waddled in the lounge. Immediately Ms. Jeffers sprung from her chair and ran in her stockinged feet to Cromwell, still holding one of the letters in her hand.
“Mr. Cromwell, a Mr. Brinkley is here to see you.” She flashed an uneasy smile.
“I don’t remember any Brinkley–” Cromwell looked at his digital watch that hung snugly to his wrist. “It’s nearly five–”
Brinkley stood, rushed to insert himself between Cromwell and Ms. Jeffers. “We exchanged letters a few weeks ago. To discuss a new soap product?”
Cromwell looked at Ms. Jeffers. “Oh,” She shrugged. “It says it all here, Mr. Cromwell. Your signature is at the bottom and I suppose I forgot to schedule the meeting.”
Cromwell’s upper lip curled up. “Oh, for cryin’ out loud. Okay, okay.” Cromwell stormed off to his office. Brinkley smiled sheepishly at Ms. Jeffers. She resigned, her face fell.
She walked toward the adjoining office. “If you’ll follow me.” She said.
After Brinkley went inside, Ms. Jeffers closed the door. She looked at the upper right hand corner of the letter. The date on the letter was March 15, 1985. She was taken aback.
Brinkley sat gingerly in a small plastic chair opposite Cromwell’s desk. Cromwell sat there in silence, a finger on his lips, sizing Brinkley up. Cromwell swiveled his heavy set body in his leather chair. The chair squeaked in pain.
“So what is it your selling, Brinkley? Make it good, make it fast. I’m almost out of time.” Cromwell snorted.
Brinkley nodded, “Yes, yes.” he opened his battered briefcase and retrieved a a small square cake wrapped in green paper. “This,” He tossed it on Cromwell’s desk. The hard shell of the square clanged on the desk, bounced a few times, slid toward Cromwell.
Cromwell picked up the square, turned it a couple of times in his hand. He then unwrapped the green paper to reveal a bar of soap. He looked at Brinkley, scouring. Cromwell laughed heartily. He balled up the paper and tossed it over his shoulder.
“Soap?” Cromwell lifted an eyebrow. “Your selling me soap, buddy? I already own Hand print who makes several scented soaps—”
“My soap is not scented, Mr. Cromwell.” Brinkley adjusted his glasses on the bridge of his nose.
“Then what can you possibly have to interest me, little man? The market in gutted with all kinds of soaps from body wash to your baby’s ass-wash. Soap is nothing new.”
Brinkley waggled a finger. “Oh, my soap only clenses one thing.” Brinkley nodded his head. Cromwell started to get seasick from watching the old man’s head bob up and down so much. “It cleans the soul. But only use it three times….or it will be too much.”
Cromwell glared at him for a few seconds, blinking rapidly. His disposition turned sour. He no longer thought the joke was funny.
“Get the fuck out of here!” He railed at Brinkley.
“Wait, hear me out,” the little man put his hands up.
“Don’t come in here and tell me some bullshit to con me!” Cromwell tossed the soap at the little man.
“Look, I’m telling the truth. I stumbled on it. This soap—i swear to you, Mr. Cromwell. You have committed a discrepancy of some kind—”
“I did what?” The large man stood from his desk in a threatening manner.
“Only saying it as an example— well…you bathe in my soap and all is not only forgiven, but forgotten. I call it SIN-AWAY.”
The color of Cromwell’s face was a bright red. His eyes were strained, cataracts
and veins were definitely showing. “Get out of here,” He whispered at first.
“Mr. Cromwell…”
“Get out of here!”
Brinkley hopped out of the chair and grabbed his briefcase. “I’ll just leave you a sample,” Brinkley said as Cromwell rushed him out of the office. Brinkley scooted past Ms. Jeffers in the hallway. She sniggered and leaned against the wall, watching the little old man disappear around the corner.
Cromwell stood outside his office, wiping sweat from his forehead with a handkerchief. “Can you believe the nerve, tryin’ to swindle me.”
“I take it the meeting didn’t go so well,” Ms. Jeffers said.
“If I ever see that candy-ass again, I’ll break both of his legs.”
Ms. Jeffers reached out, took hold of Cromwell’s tie, pulled him toward her. “Shh…” She said. She touched his face with her fingers, touching his cheek and slid down to his chapped red lips. Ms. Jeffers felt Cromwell’s hand steal up her skirt. She leaned in and kissed him soundly on the lips. She turned, still holding his tie, led him inside his office.
She was adjusting her skirt, re buttoning her blouse. Cromwell was trying to catch his breath and zipping up his fly. He’d backed away from her, when he realized the best way to have sex with a woman like Ms. Jeffers was to bend her over his desk just he’d done.
The theme to the GOOD, THE BAD, AND THE UGLY sounded off, Cromwell’s
cell phone lit up.
“Who the hell could that be?” Cromwell tucked his shirt in.
“Maybe it’s Don to tell you about Singapore,” Ms. Jeffers rescued the cell phone from under scattered papers and files. Her smile disappeared when she read the name to herself. She sighed, closed her eyes. She handed Cromwell his cell phone. “Delores,” She said solemnly. “A missed call from Delores…”
Immediately, Cromwell panicked. He ran to the window of his office, opened the blinds, looked out. Delores was standing at her BMW smoking a cigarette. She was a tall blonde, dressed to the nines, and although no one could see her eyes for the sunglasses, Cromwell could see she was furious from her body language.
“You have to get out of here,” He swallowed hard, closed the blinds again.
Ms. Jeffers was already playing back the message Delores left on his phone. “Oh, you snaky son of a bitch! I know you and that slut secretary are carrying on in there. You idiot. You didn’t think I’d find out—Ms. Jeffers shut it off.
“You better go take a shower. Say your getting ready to come home to take her out,” Ms. Jeffers ushered Cromwell to the Men’s room in his office.
Nervously, Cromwell did as he was told. Out of haste, she tossed him the open bar of soap.
Ms. Jeffers ran out of Cromwell’s office only to meet Delores in the hallway. Delores back into the office, right into a chair, where she promptly sat.
“I know exactly what’s going on, you slut.” Delores actually had forgotten, but ten years before, she was in Ms. Jeffers shoes. She’d been the other woman, working as Cromwell’s secretary. She was being screamed at by his third wife. But that didn’t mean she would cut the whore any slack, she knew for sure someone was gonna pay for her unhappiness.
“He’s not all that,” Delores snarled. “He’s a lousy father. All his kids hate him. He pays through the nose to three ex-wives, all of which he’s cheated on. You wont be the last if you win him.”
Ms. Jeffers was unemotional. “I don’t want to win him.”
“Don’t try to sell me on a crap campaign, Missy. I know how good that fat man is in the bed. For what it’s worth, he always said I was the best piece of ass—” Delores suddenly stopped speaking. She looked as if she was in a daze. Her thoughts were far off. Then she seemed to loose balance and Ms. Jeffers was quick to help, placing her in a chair.
Cromwell appeared, drying what was left of his hair. “Hello girls,” He said with a nervous giggle. “Talking about anything interesting.” He was ready to face the firing squad named Delores.
“I don’t think she feels well,” Ms. Jeffers said, taking a few steps back.
“You okay, Delores? What happened?” Cromwell pretended to be concerned.
“I felt faint is all. I don’t even remember why I came here.” Delores put hand to her forehead and massaged.
“You don’t?” Cromwell and Ms. Jeffers said together.
Delores blinked a few times. “No…I don’t. Someone called me and in no time I was in my car driving here…for what…I’m not sure of.”
Cromwell was confused for a minute. It dawned on him and a big ugly smile crawled on his face, the kind that frighten children. “Ms. Jeffers, tomorrow, get a hold of that nutcase I saw today. I think we can do business.”
“Are you sure?” She said.
Cromwell shrugged. “Yeah.. I’m sure. In the meantime, I’m taking my wife out to dinner.”
On the other side of town, through the heart of the city of iron and steel, high rises and subway system; was a broken down house with no windows and the top floor almost completely gone. Cromwell stood in the middle of the street staring at the weather beaten black house, avoiding a game of stick ball. He approached the house with much disparagement. His phone went off.
“Hey, sugarlips…what? Some men…police…oh. Yeah. They in the room with you…good….your in the toliet…oh, yeah, don’t let them hear this. I did move some funds from the company bank account to my account. Yes, I know that’s stealing from the company. It doesn’t matter. Look, baby, with this soap all my sin’s will be washed away. Yes. I do believe it. You saw what happened…Delores forgot about us…yesterday morning hit someones car and drove off. That afternoon I fired Benchley’s son—yeah I know the twirp is on the board of directors….everything will be fine. In the morning we can hop a plane and off to the Carribean, baby! I gotta go.”
He stood on the porch, briefcase in hand, stepping in a black oil slick of some kind. Cromwell cursed under his breath. The door swung open. The little old man peeked out. He was delighted to see Cromwell.
“You came!” Brinkley stepped out on the porch. He pointed at the oil slick. “Watch your step. Another interested party tried to steal my soap and was caught in the rain.
“Did I have a choice?” Cromwell snarled. Brinkley ushered him inside the house, slammed the front door shut. Cromwell looked around the drafty house. Cobwebs at every corner, very dim lighting. Cromwell felt uneasy.
Brinkley locked the door. He smirked at a surprised Cromwell. “Can’t take any chances.”
“Chances?” Cromwell looked around himself.
“Someone stealing my ingredients. No one can know the recipe…” Brinkley laughed. He took the stairs to the top floor, Cromwell following close behind.
“Where are we goin’, pop’s?”
“To my lab—where I make that wonderful soap.”
Cromwell stepped in the dank room. Half the floor was missing, one could see the downstairs. Ceiling was coming down, the beams were barely holding it up. Books littered the floor, several animal parts lay on a counter beside a knife stained with crimson. Jars on shelves lined the walls all around. He could only guess, but Cromwell wasn’t sure, more animal parts. In the middle
of the room was a large black cauldron, steam rising from the top. A black book was next to the cauldron on a stand, opened to right page.
“You gotta be kiddin’ me,” Cromwell said. “This is a joke.”
“No, Mr. Cromwell. This is serious business.” Brinkley looked into the cauldron,began stirring with a wooden plank as long as his arm. The water simmered, boiled to the top. It turned an orange- white when he popped in what looked like the foot of a dead dog.
“Oh, no,” Cromwell shook his head. “This is bullshit. You can’t mass produce this soap this way.”
“I’m afraid this is the only way to make my soap. No other way, Mr. Cromwell.”
Cromwell rubbed his face with a hand. “I guess we can start slow. Go for the Organic market. Specialize in small shops first.” Cromwell opened his briefcase. “Get these signed. How much you want for this?”
“Two million.”
“What?!” Cromwell screamed. “We’re not that big of a company..” It wasn’t true, he was just cheap.
“I guess I could take it somewhere else..” Brinkley was smirking at him. “For my troubles.”
“What troubles? Hey, you never said where you came up with this–”
“No, no, Mr. Cromwell. I didn’t come up with anything. You see, this recipe is an old family recipe…thousands of years old…I believe Jesus knew one of one of my family members.”
“Your crazy…but I think I can make something of your product. I need to know what does the trick…..tell me the recipe.’
Brinkley laughed again. This time the sound cut right through Cromwell. His face grew even more red with the look Brinkley was giving him.
“Your small mind wouldn’t even comprehend it’s concoction.”
“Your gonna tell me, you little fart.” Cromwell grabbed Brinkley by the throat with both hands. He squeezed as the little old man struggled to finish the last of his merriment. He squeezed until Brinkley’s lips had released his last sigh. Cromwell let go of the old man, his limp body hit the floor.
Cromwell stared at the cauldron. Then at the book. “Shit,” He rubbed his face with a hand. “He’s right. I don’t understand it. Should have let him finish more soap, then killed him. Oh, well. Just hire someone to finish it.”
Cromwell’s phone went off, the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly echoed throughout the house. It was Ms. Jeffers. He answered it quickly.”I’m comin’,” He said.
Cromwell walked through the offices, through the lounge, past Ms. Jeffers and a plainclothes officer with two uniformed policemen. Ms. Jeffers tried to speak just as the all three policemen, all simultaneously. Cromwell put his hand up for quiet. He went into his office, smiling at them. They followed him in.
“Hey,” Cromwell said. “Can you give a guy a little time in the john?”
“Mr. Cromwell, I need to speak—”
Ms. Jeffers said, following him to the bathroom.
“Don’t even think of any funny stuff–” The plainclothes officer said.
Cromwell slammed the door shut in every ones face. There was the sound of water running from the shower.
The plainclothes officer sighed and folded his arms.
“Mr. Cromwell needs several showers a day,” Ms. Jeffers flashed a smile.
“I’ll bet he does,” One of the uniformed officers said sarcastically.
Cromwell screamed. They rushed to the door. Ms. Jeffers banged on the door, called out for him. The plainclothes officer nodded to the other two policemen. They brushed Ms. Jeffers aside. It took three tries, but the bathroom door was Jarred. The officers went inside, opened shower curtain, turned the shower off.
“What the hell?” One of them said.
Ms. Jeffers rushed in. Cromwell was no where in sight. Ms. Jeffers peered in the shower. All she could see was a large oil slick spread out on the shower mat.
Wide eyed, she threw both hands over her mouth to stifle a scream.

LITTLE TUSK copyright2011 m.s

Emma hated yard sales. Her Mother, younger brother Ben,were dragged to a yard sale the week before Thanksgiving by her AuntFlora.
They had to move in with Flora while Father was awaystationed half-way round the world. Flora was alright, just a littleodd, too odd for Emma’s nine year old sensibilities. She cookedbreakfast for supper almost every night, and played opera music whiletaking a shower. Even dressed her Pomeranian, Gus, as famouspresidents. Flora had a strange habit of videotaping Cooking showsshe never watched. She said she was saving them for when she had moretime to study the Chef’s expertise.
Evert item they came across Flora would sigh or becomeover excited. Emma’s Mother talked Flora out of buying these items. If she hadn’t, the car would’ve been full of Tupperware and Man’sclothing. Ben also showed enthusiasm for boardgames. Already he’dspent five dollars of his allowance, which he’d saved thirty-fivedollars since last spring. That really irked Emma. She couldn’t savea dime. Emma always seemed to buy too much Goobers or buy the newestvideo game for her DS.
Mother only bought a red scarf. Emma could tell shemissed Father. Mother had several red scarfs, and always when Fatherwas away. Emma heard Mother a few nights before telling the story ofhow she met Father. She was standing on a bridge watching the moonreflect off the water when the wind blew her scarf from her hair andshe chased it until a sailor caught it for her. That sailor, ofcourse, was Father.
They were almost out of the Yard sale when Aunt Flora sawthe item that made her heart skip a beat. Emma was first to the carwhen she heard Flora cry out. Emma put a hand on her head and made agrunting noise.
“I can’t believe I found it!” Flora exclaimed. “Ineed this for my collection.”
She held in her hands so delicately was a porcelainElephant with white tusks. Yes, Flora did have a very largecollection of porcelain figures, mostly of animals or circus relateditems. The worst of those were the clown figures. Emma hated thosethings. They unsettled her. Once in awhile when she was in the livingroom by herself watching Animal planet, she would climb on top of thecouch and turn the clowns around facing the wall. Flora always askswho did that, no one would answer. Flora also had a terrible habit ofnaming her porcelain figures.
Aunt Flora placed the porcelain Elephant on the mantlenext to her two porcelain circus tigers. She stood back and admiredit. She looked at Emma and said, “Little Tusk. That’s what I willcall him.” She cackled and Emma plugged her ears with her fingers.Then Flora saw that her collection of clowns were facing the wallagain. She was infuriated. “Who did this?” She exclaimed, hereyes shifting to all in the room. No one said a word. “One day,”She said. “I will find out who does this—this–terrible act!”
The next day, Emma awoke to a car hissing by herwindow. It sounded like a cat trying to sing. She wandered into theliving room, eyes half closed. She stepped over Ben, who was lying inthe middle of the floor eating brownie cakes and watch IRON MANcartoons on TV. The house was very quiet. Emma spun around, trying tofind the source of her confusion.
“Mama’s gone,” Ben said, entranced by thescreaming voices and exploding cars and buildings.
“Gone where?” Emma said in a drone voice. Shewas making her way slowly to the kitchen for a bowl of corn pops andraisin bran mixture. Emma was a genius of creating new cereals.
“Last night Daddy called. He said his boat–”
“You mean ship, doofus.”
“Ship—whatever!” Ben raised his hand atEmma, then continued. “His SHIP, was close by. So Aunt Flora isdriving Mama to the airport.”
Emma placed her hands on her hips. Hereyebrows lowered, her lips tightened up. “Why am I always the lastto know everything? I’m the oldest. She always forgets to tell mefirst! It always comes from you—and wait! If his ship is close by,then why is she catching a plane to meet him?”
Ben wiped crumbs from his mouth. He saidcalmly, “Why your always last to know is your always late home oralways asleep, and your a brain fart. I don’t know why she has tocatch a plane. They didn’t tell me.”
Emma walked up to Ben, placed her dirtyfoot, which she hadn’t washed in a day, in his face. She held it,began to push, while he screamed as if he had just been stabbed.There was the sound of keys rattling in the front door. The doorswung open and Gus ran inside, immediately peed on the floor. AuntFlora stepped inside and slammed the door shut.
“Ah hah!” She screamed. Emma quickly removedher foot from Ben’s face and jumped away from him. Ben wiggled aroundon the floor sputtering and moaning about germs in his mouth. “Theadults are away and we can play!” Aunt Flora bellowed, thencackled.
Ben had crawled all over the living roomfloor, coughing and spitting. He was pushing the cushion from thecouch and bumped the couch, which bumped the wall and shook thewall. The shelf attached to the wall above the couch rattled. AuntFlora’s statuettes moved slightly, several hung on to the edge ofthe shelf. Flora screamed as if something cataclysmic was happening.Emma smiled. Ben was about to get into trouble. Serves him right forcalling a brain fart.
Ben saw the porcelain elephant fall from theshelf. It tossed and tumble through the air. He placed both handsout, just as he’d seen a wide receiver in a football game on TV. Theelephant fell directly in his hands. He cupped the statue in bothhands and rolled across the couch.
Ben looked up andsaw Aunt flora was in pieces. Then she ran to him and knelt down tokiss him.
Ben had saved the day!
Emma snarled at him as Flora dotted on him. TellingBen he could have all the candy and soda he wanted. Ben smiled hugelyat Emma.
Ben turned the porcelain elephant on it’s back in hishand. He eyed a few words that were not recognizable.“Timbur…Ork…Roknal?”
Suddenly, the elephant jumped out of Ben’s hand. Itlanded on the couch, upside down. Ben looked down at it. He noticedthe elephant was moving. It’s trunk wiggled. It’s eyes blinked. It’smouth opened and closed as it’s tiny legs kicked in the air. Now itwas right side up, standing. Ben bent down, eyes wide withdisbelief. The elephant sounded off in his face. Ben fell overbackwards away from it.
Flora dropped to the living room floor. She passedout cold. Emma ran behind the TV set and peeked from behind it,watching the tiny porcelain elephant sprint back and forth on thecouch. It was stuck, thinking at first there was no outlet. Gus tookoff to Flora’s bedroom to hide under the bed.
“This is the craziest thing I’ve ever seen!”Emma exclaimed.
Aunt Flora regained consciousness just in time towitness the small elephant scale down the arm of the couch, walkacross Ben’s head, neck and arm, to the living room floor, where itpromptly pooped.
“Oh, stop that thing!” Flora cried out.
Ben threw both hands out for it as he leaped at thesmall elephant. The elephant sensed the position of Ben’s hands andthrust forward it’s tusks. One of the tusks pricked Ben on the palmof his right hand. Ben yelped and withdrew. The wound only bledslightly, but he felt a surge of pain that caused him to weep bucketsof crocodile tears. Ben ran to Flora, hoping for motherly attention,only to receive expressions of confusion.
“Look!” Emma said, pointing and laughing.
The elephant was using it’s trunk to swat the TVremote control like it was hitting a hockey puck with a hockey stick.It was running wildly up and down the living room, all four powerfulsmall legs pumping furiously. It was moving so fast it became a blur.Finally, as it approached Ben and Flora, it took one last swat,sending the remote high in the air. The remote caught Aunt Floraright between the eyes. She fell on her back on to the floor, onceagain loosing consciousness.
“You jerk-head!” Ben screamed at it. Hebegan chasing after the small elephant. Lamps, books, DVD’s,pictures from the wall….after the great chase, the level ofdestruction the two amounted was impressive. Even the TV, which washiding Emma somewhat, was overturned. The chase headed to thekitchen, where loud crashes of dishes falling to the floor along withpots and pans. Back into the living room, more destruction mounted.The two chairs were pushed over. Aunt Flora’s collection of statuteswere among the victims. The circus animals, even her beloved clowns.All fell to their porcelain grave.
Emma had found a new hiding spot behind thecouch, had a terrible vision of Ben and the pint-sized elephant inher room causing all kinds of chaos and destruction. She had an idea.She called over to Ben. He stopped in his tracks, turned to her,huffing and puffing. She reached over at the hat rack where hermothers new red scarf dangled from a wooden hook.
“Here,” she tossed one end to Ben.“Grab hold of that and drop to your knees when I say go.
The elephant avoided hitting the wallfor the thousandth time and turned right at broken vase. He washeading right to Ben and Emma. The elephant put it’s head down andgained more speed.
It was right there at the point and Emma screamed outgo. Ben and Emma dropped to their knees. The scarf formed goal ofsorts like in a soccer game. Ben smiled at Emma, Emma smiled at Ben.They knew they had the elephant.
The elephant rushed through the scarf, it’s tuskscutting the scarf in two pieces, like a ribbon being cut tointroduce a new building. Ben and Emma’s looked in bewilderment atthe piece of material they hand in their hands. The elephant passedby them several times, still running at full speed.
Emma stood and threw down the shredded scarf in anger.“That’s it, Elephant,” She said. “No more Mr. nice guy.” Emma had a backup plan. She wasn’t sure if it would work, but it wasworth a try. Her eyebrows lowered. “Timbur…Ork…Roknal!” Emmayelled.
The tiny porcelain elephant stopped dead, it’s legsfroze up. It blinked it’s eyes, then they froze up. It raised it’shead and froze up. It stretched it’s trunk out, sounded off,stiffened up
Emma sighed, flopped down on the couch. She feltsomething squishy under her bare feet. She knew what it was, but wereafraid to find out for sure.
Aunt Flora awoke, raised up, saw the damage. She was fineuntil she saw all of her porcelain statuettes were in pieces. Sheplaced her head in her hands and burst into tears. “All gone.”She said. “All gone.”
Ben slowly approached Aunt Flora. “Well…” He said ina consoling voice. “You still have Little Tusk.” Ben handed theporcelain elephant to her. Flora shrugged and accepted the gift. Shehugged Ben, turned to Emma.
“Now we have to clean this mess up,” She said.

The Palace of Humbert was clean. Joad turned to Father Goarand smiled. “I’m done your Holiness. May I eat now?”
Father Goar held out his hand and the boy kissed his ring.“As you pass by, check in on her Ladyship.”
“As you wish Father,” Joad quipped and rose to his feet.
It was in the bottom floor of the Palace that they keptquarters. Above them were mostly servants taking care of near emptyCastle. After king Leon died of the plague, it was decided upon byall concerned, his rooms left for sometime so that the disease couldleave on it’s own accord. Father Goar was happy to stay at the bottomof the Palace for the Abbey and the Library were next to each other,as well as a makeshift kitchen.
Father Goar turned to face his desk. He picked upthe letter from the Cardinal. It read that he was sending Father Sylto take over his post and he was to relocate to Quam. Father Goar wasnot happy about that. He had kept this post at the Palace for fiveyears. He’s been instrumental in keeping king Leon’s death a secret.He felt the church owed him something and sending him to aplague-stricken village was not what he counted as gold in hispurse.
Joad passed by Lady Seriphine’s bedroom door. HerLadyship had not been feeling well for the past four months. Eversince she joined father Goar and Joad in the Palace. Joad hadn’tunderstood anything that was going on since her arrival. Why was shenot with Lord Florentine? Where was he? The civil war between theland has been over for a year. Barely any mention of Lord Florentineor his troops.
Joad stopped at her door. “Lady Seriphine?” Hewhispered. He heard rustling. “Lady Seriphine?” Still no answer.But there was heavy panting and a muffled cry. Joad touched thedoor knob, it was ice cold. He withdrew his hand quickly. Joad took afew steps back. He turned to leave, thought better.
Joad flew open the heavy wood door. Lady Seriphine layon her canopy bed, writhing about, her back arched up, her skirtsaround her waist. She was thrusting back and forth. Joad was nofool. He was seventeen and had one sexual encounter with an olderservant woman and he knew the position.
Lady Seriphine was in the middle of lovemaking, buthad no lover upon her.
Joad backed away from the door, watched a momentmore, then ran down the hallway calling for Father Goar.
The Royal surgeon was called in by Father Goar to havea look at her Lady Seriphine. At the moment, her Ladyship wasresting, and Father Goar was not allowed to question her.
“It is apparent that I speak with her soon, DoctorHera.” Father Goar placed a hand on Hera’s shoulder. The smallthin man pulled away gingerly, half-smiled.
“I’m afraid something terrible is happening toLady Seriphine, Father. It’s not spiritual I assure you.” Herawalked along the long corridor, Father Goar followed.
Father Goar looked confused. “But, Doctor, my assistantsaw her in a state of repose…”
Hera clucked his tongue and wagged his finger. “A boy’s eyes in such a lonely, dark place as such. Often one can see thingsthat aren’t real.”
“You are not a believer, are you, Doctor?”
“Yes… I believe enough.”
“Enough as your soul will not be eternally damned. Isee.”
“Let’s move on to our Ladyship, eh? She hasscratches and bite marks. I can see she has been with a man…..shealso has been beaten…..rather savagely.” Hera stopped to ponderthis. “Well, I’m not altogether sure she did not enjoy her…timeof this event. However, she is very much distraught. She does notseem to respond well to conversing with others. Anyone comes near,she flinches. What is troubling, is she has more than likelyexperienced this more than once.”
“It is the first I have heard of this. I only spokewith her that morning. All was well….though….she longed for Lord Florentine.” Father Goar stopped Hera, showed him his room.
“Hmm….no one has heard from him…anotherstrange event.” Hera opened the door. The musty air of the roomtickled his nose. He sneezed. Father Goar blessed him.
Lady Seriphine lay in her bed looking at her ownreflection in the mirror beside the dresser. She was feeling slightlybetter than before. She touched her long flowing strawberry blondehair and wished she could cut it all off. She touched her full lipsand wished they were slack and droopy. She wished her green eyes werecrossed and the her backbone uneven. She wished her supple breastswere small like a twelve year old boys. She wished she could join theSisterhood with all the other unlucky women in society.
Lady Seriphine closed her eyes. She’d growntired. She hadn’t even dressed for bed, nor asked for a new pot. Shereopened her eyes for moment. There was movement in the mirror. Itwas quick. But there was something scattering back and forth throughthe mirror. She sat up. She looked behind her. Nothing there.
Lady Seriphine sighed. She felt a chill runthrough her body. Her eyes drifted back to the mirror. Her gaze wastransfixed.
She saw it. It moved slower this time. It’s milky skinnaked to the world. A scaly face with mismatched features. It wasstaring at her with small red eyes and sneering, showing all of itstiny sharpened teeth grinding together.
Lady Seriphine tried to rise from the bed, butsomething was weighing her down. She panicked. A scream became amurmur in the back of her throat. There it was, the thing from themirror, sitting on top of Lady Seriphine’s abdomen, swishing it’sprickly tale back and forth. A purr and a growl intertwined in a high pitch voice. It lowered it’s arm and took hold of her by herlong swan neck, it’s nails scraping at the clean white skin.
Hera had been passing by, he heard the rustling inSeriphine’s room. The grunting, the panting…the growling.
The door to her room flew open. Hera was shocked. Thecreature had hold of Seriphine, it’s claws deep in her breasts. Itturned quickly and looked at Hera. It bounced off Seriphine andscurried inside the mirror. Hera reached down and picked up the brasspiss pot. In one sweeping motion, the brass pot shattered the mirror,several pieces of shard filtered the air, littering the floor.
Hera heard a scream.
He rushed out of Seriphine’s room into the hallway tofind Father Goar laying in pieces, like broken glass. Hera bent down,picked up a piece with Father Goars mouth. He felt the last of FatherGoar’s cold breath on his face.

I was standing in the middle of the dump withManny when we found magic in the form of Television.
I have found the best time to watch the peoplein my neighborhood is between twelve am and five-thirty am. I sitback in my chair, turn the huge black knob on the T.V. and turn tochannel zero, there they appear. I’ve often found myself watchingthem for hours instead of sleeping. No. That’s not true. All Istare at is static and dead air on the screen.
Sometimes I glance over at the chair with therainbow colored throw hanging on the back and wonder what my ex- wifeis up to. I wonder who she is with. Then I close my eyes and wish allthe past to stay buried.
It was several weeks ago that I was at thedump and I had found this wonderful old television set. It was aDumont T.V. / Radio set RA -113 with cherry red cabinet, thespeaker on the bottom. It also had a nineteen inch picture tube and aseventeen inch screen. I was amazed I could find such a rarity asthis. Manny who owned the dump, also collected Vintage items andrestores them to sell on Ebay, was flabbergasted. He kept at me for aweek on the telephone, wanting me to sell it to him. Strange, Mannyand I have a relationship that has lasted longer than any that I’vehad. Longer than my marriage, which was only lasted four years. I’veknown him since school.
Manny was considered a nothing and I was a jock. Isecretly collected things such as comics and old record albums. Hecollected old books, sixteen millimeter films. In my senior year Ididn’t care who knew what I did. I lost almost all of my friendsbecause of my association with Manny. So what. Life goes on. Margretalso hated my obsessive collecting. The first three months of ourdating, she knew nothing of the collecting, which now includedantiques lamps.
It’s what I did on the weekends that upset Margret. And in theevenings I restored what I found in the dump. She was a lot more of aneedy person than I thought before I married her. She was alwayshovering over me, asking when I would have time for her. Alwaysbitching at me. We never fought over normal marriage things likenormal married people. Bills and sex. No, it was who didn’t make thecoffee in the morning and why I shave I left in the sink, or ofcourse, when I would have more time for her and play board games. Ireally pissed her off when I started collecting board games. She rana clothing shop the last year of our marriage. I never saw her. Sheclaimed to be working late. Then she just didn’t come home at all. I wonder what she’s doing now. So what. Life goes on.
I occasionally work as an advertising artist. Only when I needmoney. I know a few people in the ad world that need a speedy job.
“ It was funny about that old Dumont. I had a look inside andeverything was pristine,”
I told Manny at thedump.
Manny handed me a beer from the small fridge in his officeshack, which was well stocked with his favorite spy novels and VHStapes of old T.V. Shows. Manny hadn’t shaved that ugly ginger beardsince high school and his long tangled hair was loosing a few strandson top. He never wore his Kansas city Chiefs cap inside any buildingand beyond that Charles Manson gaze, he was a very low key person.
“I’m not sure how long that had been here in the dump. SinceGeorge had it, I would think.” The George he was referring to washis alcoholic father, who was a very nasty human being that literallydied from eating too much.
“Surprising how well it works.” I drank down the cheappiss water Manny has a penchant for. “All I had to do was put anew coat of cherry red on the cabinet.”
“You wont sell—”
“Manny…stop asking, will you?”
Manny shrugged, after a few seconds I stopped lookingat him sideways. He went to the window, chuckled to himself, shookhis head. “That Cartwright fool is out there with a metal detectorlooking for gold coins.”
“I thought you kicked him out of here months ago.”
“No. That was Mrs. Newsome. I don’t like foullanguage. So you get anything on that Dumont?”
“Just static,” I couldn’t drink anymore ofthat swill. I left my half of can sitting on his T.V. As usual. Asusual, Manny screamed at me as I left his office.
I was in the garage having one of myfantasies that I could watch Margret on the Dumont. I could see hersitting at her dressing table applying lotion to her very pale body,counting the wrinkles on her face. Her bedtime gesture every night. I reached down into my igloo and took out another beer. It was mysixth and it wasn’t the piss water that Manny always bought. Ifound it difficult to keep my eyes open anymore.
The noise from the static woke me hours later. My body hadbecome numb from sitting that beach chair, the plastic had almostbecome part of my ass. I heard a car alarm going apes hit outside inunison with the Craven’s German Shepard bringing out the bass. I feltlike I was in one of those techno clubs that Margret drug me too.Headache and my heart riding up in my throat. I leaned forwardintending to rise from the beach chair and turn the Dumont off.
The T.V. Buzzed, the screen blipped. An image tried tobreakthrough the static. A woman in black and white was placing acake in the oven. She was obviously dressed from the early fifties.More static usurped the image.
I stood, dropped my beer to the garage floor. I was stunned.
The image appeared again. The blond haired woman turned tothe camera, leaned in and blew a kiss. “All for you, no one else.”She said. Then she dis appeared into a sea of static, the screenawash with scrambled feedback.
I ran to the Dumont and slapped the sides of the T.V. Idid this for ten minutes straight. The image of the woman would notcome back. Disappointed, mind disjointed, I turned off the Dumont,headed for bed.
As I lay in my bed, half-awake, I saw a shadow emergefrom the corners of my room. It drifted from one corner to the nextfrom one side of the room to the other. I rose from my bed slowly. Itmoved from as I did, staying ahead of me one step at a time. We movedfrom my bed to the living room. I dared not switch the lights, forfear that it may disappear or blend in with the rooms. It felt likeages, chasing this shadow in Geritol pace. In the kitchen it tried tohide behind the fridge, but the cords to the appliances kept itgoing so far in. The shadow seemed to try to speak as it emerged frombehind the fridge and hovered over the table. There was words, butfeedback, or some sort of interference interjected.
“I’m sorry,” I told the shadow. I don’tunderstand you.”
It began again, the voice pitch overtaken bystatic. Suddenly, there were several voices speaking at the sametime. There was a pain in my ears that is indescribable. I squeezed my eyes shut, the pain dispersed. When I reopened my eyes the shadowhad moved on to the door leading to my garage.
I followed.
The shadow found it’s way across the cold cement of the garage floor,wavering across the beach chair. I knew it was going for the Dumont.I acted quickly. In four steps I had been in between the shadow andthe television set.
As it slid inside the television screen of the Dumont, I took hold ofa leg and it pulled me inside with. At first I had thought I hadblacked out. I was surrounded by darkness. When my eyes adjusted tothe black and white all around me, a seething pain from my pupilsextended to the bridge of my nose. My head felt like a train had usedit for tracks.
I was laying on a linoleum floor with rose patterns. I looked around.Obviously I was in someones kitchen. A stove as well as a fridgeharkened back to the early fifties. I heard high heels clicking onthe floor behind me.
An exasperated, husky female voice spoke. “Dave…get up. I justgot that suit back from the cleaners.” I turned and saw the blackhigh heels open toed and ankle straps mere inches from hand. My eyesmoved from the white-gray swing skirt to a statuesque blond with herhair up in a bun.
My jaw dropped to the floor.
“Well,” She said. “Don’t just sit there with your mouth open.Come and help me set the table.”
Iwatched her sashay off into a room that was dinning room. Odd. Youdidn’t see many of those in a house anymore. Reluctantly I pickedmyself off the floor. Dusted off the pristine dark suit with myhands. I passed by a china cabinet and caught a glimpse of my image.I was now clean shaven, and the shortest my hair had ever been. I wasstartled when she touched my hand.
“Hey,” She took hold of my arm. “Don’t be so jumpy, dear.”Her plump, moistened lips were smiling at me, reassuringly….almostcreep…but sexually inviting as well. “No need to be nervous. It’sjust Bill and Cookie coming over for dinner.” She leaned in andkissed me full on the mouth. My knees went weak. I swear, my legswere like rubber.
Ichuckled. “Your right…” I was stuck. I didn’t know her name.Then it hit me. I was in a a nineteen-fifties T.V. Show. They alwayscalled each other dear, or honey. “Honey….hey, wait.” I grabbedher by her skirt.
“Hey! Don’t!” She sounded off with a nervous laugh. “If you tugtoo hard, Bill and Cookie might catch me in a bad way!” She rolledmy arms, her backside pressing hard against me. I kissed the nape ofneck.
“Forget them. We’ll pretend we are gone and send them away. Just usalone…”
“Nooo…Bill needs to have a good cooked meal and entertained forthe evening. You need this promotion. Oh! Hey! Run to the marketquickly and get a cake! They’ll never know the difference if I didn’tbake it.”
I sighed. “Sure thing,honey.”
She kissed me again. I nearly fell again. My mind fogged up, Iwalked to the front door, waived to her. I went out the door and hitcomplete darkness.
When I came to, I was laying on my garage floor staring blankly atthe Dumont. It was on, the channel switched to channel zero, thescreen engulfed with static.
Shit. I was back in my own miserable world.
I ran to the telephone in my living room and called Manny rightaway.
He was not too thrilled to hear from me.
“Where the hell have you been?” He screamed. “You dropout of sight for a month—then call in the middle of the night.”
“I haven’t been gone a month–”
“I thought you went and offed yourself.”
“Manny, listen—that Dumont is no ordinary TV—”
“No, it is. Look, stop talking about things likethat, okay? People will think your crazy.”
“Manny—I’m telling you, this TV isdifferent—I was inside it. I went inside the set and was in somesort of black and white show. I remember reading years ago thatDumont had their own network at one time—broadcast on a kinoscope.Look…what if those shows were lost out there and still beingbroadcast—in Analog or something freaky–”
“Get help, old friend. You’ve lost it.” The phonewent dead.
I didn’t care what Manny said. I know it was real. Ilived it. I wasn’t crazy. I stayed in my garage the rest of thenight, waiting for that shadow, the Dumont left on channel zero.Nothing happened. In the morning I was awaken by the mailman knockingon my door. When I answered he looked at me like he was staring at aghost. He handed me the package and his hand slipped through my arm.The old man tipped his hat back on his head, eyes wide. He backedaway from front door slowly. He caught his balance when he slipped ona curb. He turned on his heels and ran to the mail truck.
I was left standing at my doorstep holding thepackage, looking at my left hand as the sun’s rays seared through thefaded skin.
Maybe Manny was right. I have lost it.
I opened the package inside at my kitchen table. Itwas a scrapbook from Margret. I looked through it. Lots of picturesof us in places I don’t remember being at. Nor did I really care toremember. I grabbed the scrapbook and tossed it in the trash can.
Fuck her.
I went back to my garage. There had been a phone call, someoneleft a message wanting me to design a cookie package. How could I goto work now when I know that the magic inside that old TV wasbeckoning me. I opened the champagne that I bought last new yearshoping Margret would come back to me. I sat in front of the Dumont,tuned into channel zero, drank the whole bottle.
At two in the morning I heard a broadcast. I stiffened up,groggy, but definitely awake. There was two men in suits and fedorasaiming guns at each other. I recognized the one actor. It was RalphBellamy, and I wasn’t sure, but I believe it was MAN AGAINST CRIME.He played a private detective and almost always solving the case inthirty minutes.
The images began to disappear in a raging sea of static, a lowhum burrowed inside my eardrums. From behind me there was a scuttleof noise from a dark corner of the garage. A rake and a snow shovelcollapsed behind some sort of movement. The shadow slid out slowlyfrom the corner toward the gas cans. I knew exactly where it washeaded. I stayed in my chair, motionless, my eyes steady on it.
It took awhile, but the shadow finally made it’s trek to theback of the Dumont.
The shadow extended it’s body along the TV set, placing ahand on the cabinet. It moved along the flickering screen. A darkhand slid inside the waves of static, then the shadow pushed forward,before long it’s right shoulder was in. I took hold of the shadow’sleft arm and it pulled me in.
Total darkness.
I came to, shook off the headache, the noise in my earsleveled off. My eyes focused. I was the other man holding a .38 snubnose at Ralph Bellamy. He gave a wooden laugh.
“That gun doesn’t change the fact your a coward whowould shoot an old man in the back,” He said.
I stared at him blankly. I gurgled, dropped the .38.I turned and ran down the hallway of the office building, headed forthe door at the end. Bellamy fired twice, both missing me. I reachedthe door, flung it open. In near darkness a stairway spiraled upward.I took three steps and heard a popping sound. I felt something catchin my back, then a burning feeling. I fell forward and rolled on thebottom step.
Again, total darkness.
White noise consumed me. Feedback pierced my eardrums. I swamthrough the
waves of static. Isaw a bright light that grew smaller as I came closer. I reached outto touch it and fell to a floor. I looked up and saw Manny standingnext to the Dumont. We were in his office at the dump. I caught aglimpse of myself in the windowpane. I had become the shadow.
I opened my mouth to scream, only white noise could be heard.
I stood, leaped for the screen of the Dumont. I felt a handgrab hold of my ankle as I hit the waves of static. I swam throughit, taking Manny with me into TV land.