Short Horrors Collection
In the writing process, there are many stopgaps at which a story can break down: in the idea itself; in translating the idea into a coherant plot; in moulding a compelling protagonist; in finishing the intial draft; and in rewriting the draft into a more comprehensive form. It's a treacherous journey that leaves far too many potential stories at the waistside, all of which represent a considerable degree of passion. Many writiers find that it can be helpful to render these tales into bite-sized forms, not exactly flash fiction, but an exercise in exploring the burden of a writhing fantasy. Once you spin out such a model, it opens you up to either the satisfaction in its miniature existence, or the clarity that you absolutely need to expand upon it. This page will be an ongoing repository for such tales, suited better for a campfire than a candle-lit study, and I encourage you to partake in the fun.
Don’t worry, there is a virus that will never infect humanity.
It will never burst from our corpses in the form of crystalized blood pollen, raining upon insects and lizards and small mammals passing through the grass.
It won’t inflame the circulatory system and over stimulate our hearts until our ventricles pop off. Our bodies won’t seem blue and bloated like a sailor lost at sea.
You will not have to look into the eyes of your loved-one as their iris grows milky white, mouth agape as they mimic the habits which defined the quiet and forgotten moments of their life.
This particular strain of violent bacteriophage cannot break down the enzymes in our brains to slowly liquefy our neurons, like a frog in a pot of water, almost blissful as our memories slip away from us.
You are free to bask in the beauty of it all, to poke and prod at our animal brethren with wild abandon, to taste and chew as their meat grows all the more tender.
There is a virus that will never infect humanity.
It does not want us.
Have you heard the stories? They say there is something wrong with the water in our town.
Don’t believe the theories, the idea of conspiracy is only a dull comfort. More often than not, the malevolence of the world is either quick and thoughtless or ever-permeating, carried out in small portions by the good people that fill our lives.
Every morning I wake up a little groggy and grab a glass of tap-water, sourced from the local river, before taking a shower.
I use this water everyday, it’s not murky and doesn’t taste acidic; in fact, it’s quite refreshing. If there was something wrong with it, I’d be the first to notice.
I read these little write ups from time-to-time, on some social media site like twitter or reddit, usually from someone that never set foot within ten miles of this little hamlet.
One of the main things they cite is a red glow that comes off of the water on a dark night. There is an inordinately large sediment of clay in the river, but it’s filtered out long before it reaches our sinks.
Another aberration they cite is a strange sour smell that wafts from the liquid, which becomes unbearable with our periodic bouts of fog. The amount of water you need to drink or bathe, though, renders it imperceptible.
Then there’s the fact that no birds live near here, nor do they ever deign to fly over our heads.
This is no defect, this is by design.
You may not remember how it was before that woman came to town, bearing the rites to treat our drinking water, but I know firsthand.
I know what we had to seal away in that old well on my grandfather’s plantation, thrashing and gnawing through the burlap coverings we hastily threw over it.
I’ve done my job well for over three decades, I don’t appreciate strangers disparaging the necessities of my technique.
Growing up as a white suburban kid, I think many of my friends and neighbors would be surprised to learn that my mother was a vampire.
Hell, this is the first time I’ve ever talked about it with anyone but her. I’m an only child and, as you might suspect, vampires are infertile. I was adopted.
There were a lot of things that I never learned about her, whether she was turned just before I was born or a millenia ago. The name she used, her social security number, neither were hers, but no one seemed to mind the discrepancy between her and the blonde-haired blue-eyed lady on her driver’s license.
At least once a month my mother would invite young, beautiful women over to our house, but they would only stay once while I spent the night over at a friend’s place. I think people around the block knew that she was a lesbian, but I don’t think they could pin down her exact taste.
Mom finally came out to me when I was fifthteen. A friend of mine ate some bad sushi and her parents had to send me back home. I called my mom and she said it was fine if I walked home before the sun went down, her voice trembling slightly. When I reached the house, her “friend-from-work” was nowhere to be seen and all the lights were turned off.
I found my mother in the upstairs bathroom, dried-blood brown and caked around her mouth, while she spewed coagulated chunks into the toilet bowl. I could see the red and blue veins running like electrical wires through her translucent skin, but the eyes she saw me with were those same sad olive that greeted me every morning.
She was surprisingly light when I carried her back to her bed, as if she were only half there beneath the outer facade. I don’t believe she had the strength to speak, but I didn’t need to hear it to know she was sorry that I had to see her like that. I tried to just go to bed, but I was too terrified to sleep, too terrified of the woman that shared her home with me.
Around three AM she appeared in my bedroom doorway, looking like her usual composed and intelligent self, waiting for me to acknowledge her presence. I brought my eyes up to her and she sat at the foot of my bed. Calm and with an even tone she told me what she was and how she lived in no uncertain terms, never once breaking eye contact. She said that, were it my wish, she could give me a loving, ordinary family, and I would have no memory that she was ever a part of my life.
I was crying when she said that, as she bowed her head to her lap to let me make my decision. Pushing away my duvet, I hugged her with all the might of my heart. I told my mother that I never wanted to forget her and that she would always be my mom.
Now, ten years later, I don’t regret what I said that night. My mother was the kindest and strongest person I ever met, and I cried like any daughter when I heard that she had been murdered. Unlike other daughters, however, I have no casket to mourn over, no grave plot to visit, not even ashes to spread over her garden. Everyone I speak to thinks I grew up in a methodist household with five siblings, and they balk at the idea that I was an adoptee.
I still remember. I still remember the way she’d comb her fingers through her raven hair whenever she was on the phone. I still remember the cool chill on my neck when she’d come and kiss me goodnight. I still remember the Jehovah’s Witness that showed up on our doorstep one week ago, cheerfully prompting my mother over whether she had heard the good news.
My mother gave me many things, but I did not inherit her mercy.
As of 2:30 this morning, Lester A. is the last living human being.
The second-to-last living human being died in a country half-way across the world in a hospital bed, succumbing to a long and arduous struggle against leukemia. Lester had no means to know any of this but, as far as he knew, he had been the last living human being for five years. He lives alone in the house his parents bought when he was born, not even a pet to keep him company.
When Lester woke up, he went about his usual routine for the day. Upon waking up, he went to the basement and checked the inventory of his supplies, marking down any changes on a clipboard by the stairs. While down there, Lester grabbed a roll of toilet paper and an assortment of vegetables and fruit, blending them together into a nutrient-rich slurry. The smoothie was a little acidic, but otherwise inoffensive to his taste buds.
In the corner of his wood-paneled living room was a rocking chair, an end table, and a bookshelf. Back when he could watch television, most of these books had just been for his own piece of mind, but now he had made his way through 25% of them in half a decade. Lying face-down on the end table, ear-marked and yellowing, was a copy of Thus Spoke Zarathustra. Lester hummed to the jingle of a carpet cleaning service he remembered from his youth, unaware of the unplugged desk fan at his foot.
Caught off balance, Lester just barely managed to keep himself from falling face first into his carpeting, though the same could not be said for his drink. A huge red stain spread across the off-white wooly floor, slowing soaking into the fibers that starred at him every waking moment. Lester swore to himself. He could not abide this, but he didn’t have any bleach.
His hand trembled as he squeezed the pistol in his jacket pocket. He bit his lip a few times for a few jolts of sharp pain, both to build up adrenaline and punish himself for his clumsiness. Around his neck hung his mother's crucifix, a parallel talisman to the ski-mask he wore. Lester knew that he was a rare breed, so it was best to hide the telling hair and skin pigment behind heavy clothing.
Six hours after he became the last homo sapien upon the planet, Lester stepped out into the cold mid-october morning from his secluded fortress. A few blocks down, he knew there was a convenience store that still had the cleaning products he needed, and maybe some booze to take the edge off. The day that it all ended, Lester was the only man for miles around that could do any looting, so he only has himself to blame if he must go sober. The others could not imbibe alcohol, though he wondered how many tried when they first discovered their affliction.
A van came down the road that Lester was walking, so he ducked behind the fence of what was once his neighbor Fred. Printed on the side in smooth vinyl lettering were the words “Blood Transfusions: Types O and E for All in Need.” Though the others had adopted some of the same terminology for blood types, their fluids were much more viscous and black than that of humans. Like some sort of grotesque ice cream truck, the van sat around for a few seconds before driving on, and Lester waited a few more before returning to his trek.
In front of the convenience store, Lester stood stiff as an arrow drawing deep breaths as he prepared to enter the building. The windows were coated with filth and graffiti, far too opaque to see if there was anything inside. Sufficiently steeled, he pushed against the door, a sharp whine of rusty hinges accompanied by the tingle of bells above him signaled his entrance.
One shot rang out for miles as the door fell back in place.
The small thing fell down in the middle of the aisle, still clutching a dented up can in its tendrils as it kept gasping for air. Lester had shot it in what approximated the stomach, dealing enough damage to incapacite it as he stepped into a flanking aisle. Leaning down to pick up a hefty container of bleach, he could hear the adolescent thing pulsating and hiccuping mute whines. He reasoned that it must have turned within the past couple years, ‘cause it still tried to cry out with the orifice that sat where it’s mouth once was.
Around the corner were the freezers, and Lester smiled to himself when he saw a remaining pack of lite beer for the taking. As he approached, however, the vision of that disgusting creature, coated with its own inky ichors, had crawled its way towards the same destination. When it recognized him, it began to fold its haunches and cower away, but it was still far too close for comfort.
No matter how many times he saw them, it got to him how their eyes were still human, with tear ducts to drip out yellow pus as their pupils dilated in fear. Once the second bullet went through that right eye, it was mere moments before a single thought projected itself into Lester’s mind: Mom? Where are you? Why does it taste so sour? Sitting against the wall, Lester set the bleach down between his legs and tore open the cardboard box to grab a beer. This was not the first time he contemplated which one he should drink.
For today at least, Lester A. would remain the last human being alive, ready to clean up the stain he has left.
I’m one of those kids that grew up in a very religious family, surrounded by an intensely religious community that constantly echoed our own prejudices back at us. It’s really not an uncommon childhood in middle America, so it’s funny how alone I felt. Moreover, it took me years to fully realize the industrial decay all around me that this zealotry plastered over.
My childhood home was situated in what a sociologist or economist might call the suburbs, but nobody there had the means to fulfill such a promise. The most interesting thing going for it was a half-hour drive to the megachurch in a more affluent neighborhood, a drive my parents and I made every weekend. It’s quite the strange picture to imagine us driving in the early morning, sunlight peeking through the gap of a giant door, while the silhouettes of abandoned silos and rusting textiles littered the landscape.
Have you ever been to a megachurch? I find that most of my friends couldn’t recognize one if we drove right past it, let alone detail its inner workings. Putting it simply, it’s a pyramid scheme with weekly seminars built-in alongside a handful of holidays. I’m sure that people get something out of these places, though I can’t say it’s worth it, because the cost certainly outweighs your gains.
Sometimes I wonder if it’s unfair that this one particularly egregious strain drove me away from something with the variety of christianity. My parents are still christians, I partake in their little rituals when I visit, and there is a comfort in playing out these old habits. Then, in these moments of agnostic self-doubt, that’s when I remember him:
When you imagine a priest, what do you see in your mind’s eye? Maybe a grandfatherly figure that clasps your hands to wish you a good day as you exit the church doors. Perhaps a stern and authoritative orator, preaching fire and brimstone from the pulpit. You might even imagine a heroic archetype, someone like father Karras from The Exorcist. The Priest was like no other, yet somehow he could be all three at once.
The Priest stood at center stage, more his natural habitat than whatever house he secreted away to once prying eyes scattered. All were enraptured through the piercing blue of his sight, and a chill ran down your back whenever he looked your way. Were it a contest between Christ himself and that man, I would bet you everytime that anyone in that room would have chosen the latter.
He preached that the modern world had fallen to sin, warning us all to check our pillows in the morning to prove we were not turning into pillars of salt. What sins were those? Potpourris of the general and specific, systemic and individual, largely tying back to the secular liberalism of the state and the blasphemy of homosexuals. His serenade made it easy to believe that such abstract concepts (at least, abstract to my phenomenal perspective) were the cause of all our ills, and not the austerity behemoth right outside our doors.
That voice wasn’t the only weapon in his arsenal, though, as he always seemed particular to staging miracles. He’d browse his congregation until he found someone to cold read, revealing one of their lost loved ones at God’s side, eliciting rapturous joy from the mark. Only once did he try this on someone in my family, my father, right after his estranged brother had died. Years later I would learn that my uncle was gay and that he was shot in a conveniance store a couple states way. I can’t imagine what must have been going through my father’s head as I saw those warm rivulets spill down his face.
The Priest also performed spirit healings, summoning the sick and vulnerable up to him so that he could float over the traitorous organs with his righteous and gnarled hands. If it were a disease of the mind, often dementia, he’d gently push them into a paralyzing euphoria, a stage hand always ready to catch them in a trust fall. If someone couldn’t walk, or see, or hear, they’d be overwhelmed with long forgotten sensations, leaving their wheelchairs, sunglasses, or hearing aids at the waist side. These people I only ever saw once, drifters with no friends or family in the different cliques of the church, and no one could verify whether or not their miraculous recoveries took.
The most esoteric and rare of these exhibitions, however, were his scalpel-less surgeries. He’d lay someone down on a card table wheeled brought up to the stage, usually terrified due to the diagnosis of cancer that their meager healthcare wouldn’t cover. The lights would dim as the Priest felt up and down their torso, dousing the location of the malignant flesh, and carefully placed his fingers inside of their body cavity. The subject never cried out in pain, so the process must have been somewhat unintrusive, but you would notice their pupil’s dilate and the color drain from their face. After just a few minutes, the Priest would turn around and produce a desiccated mound of flesh, as if he had pulled it from a jar in the pharaoh's tomb. No matter how far away you sat, it was easy to spot every individual tooth in his beaming smile, impossibly large yet somehow sticking to his face.
These lucky few were active members of the community, and uniformly they had a second opinion that revealed their tumors to be benign. Some of them even kept the article of clothing they had on during the surgery, showing off the few splotches of dried blood where their cancer had been like some badge of honor. The thing is, over the years, more and more of the people attending the church started developing tumors, multiple in the cases of those already “cured.” The Priest never explained why he only worked his magic for select people every few months, because dozens of lost lives should have otherwise been saved.
Eventually the Priest was gone without comment, a much more mundane man there to take his place, and no one but me seemed to notice the change. Sure, they knew there was a priest before the current one, yet none can say exactly when one left and the other arrived. The last time I prompted my parents for the answer, they both earnestly told me that it happened a decade before I was born. Alongside this, his name would never stay consistent, nor would his appearance. He could be white, black, asian, with long hair or no hair, and he might be remarkably short or tall. The only constants were that he was a man and that he had pale blue eyes.
I’m twenty-five now, and it seems like every time I think about it seriously, that it has always been five years since I last saw the Priest. That can’t be the case, I moved out of my parents house when I was eighteen. Still, I can picture it, once again captive in his audience, my hypnotized parents staring ahead, their skin a little grayer and missing hair and teeth. I know he is looking at me, but he’s not on stage, just his huge, pulsating hands with knotted knuckles and too many fingers. They’re ready to phase through the floor and pick something out of the earth, something incredibly dry and hidden by God. That is where the memory stops, and my mind returns to the college class I should have been attending that day.
Where will I be five years from now?