Phantasmagoria by Donna L Greenwood

Winner of February’s Zero Flash Competition

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Art by Andrew Howell @Realmonstieur

The Walrus is snuffling in my ear and I am freaking out.  I need to get out of here. I want to lift my prone body off the bed and make like a tree and leave. Except the goddamned cobwebs are twisting spinny-like around my ankles, and my arms appear to have turned into mangos.  No, not mangos – I’m not insane – pineapples.  The Walrus is trying to speak to me; its words are fluttering in the air around my head. I lift my pineapple arm and grasp one. With a quick snip-snap, I gobble it up and then instantly regret my foolish spontaneity.  It was a lie and lies taste like metal and shit.  Why would the Walrus lie to me? I vomit up the lie and it slithers under the bed.

The Walrus looks suitably ashamed and pulls a string of shiny truths from its gaping maw.  The brightness of these little truth jewels blinds me for a moment.  And then I see. The jewels are angels and they fly around, luminous in this liminal world of bedtime talk.  But these angels of the Walrus have teeth and they fly into my face and nibble at my eyes and ears.  Their teeth are small but they draw blood.  I flap them away with my clunky fruits which are useless against the angels’ sprite-like agility.  Their gnawing is unbearable and I plead with the Walrus to stop.  It relents and the bedroom darkens as it eats up its sheeny-shiny angels one by one.

I turn my back on the Walrus and reach under the bed.  I grab the lie and swallow it whole. It doesn’t taste too bad second time around.

The Groom

No one can stop him tonight – not on his wedding night.

By Donna L Greenwood

The bride runs down the street, her wedding train glistening under the mad glare of the moon.  She stumbles forward, trying not to fall or cut her feet on the hard, cold stones.   Her mouth and eyes are wide with terror but another emotion is fastened to her face – anger.  The bride knows she will find no sanctuary in this place – though curtains twitch and candles flicker – nobody will open their doors for her tonight.

He glides behind her – all polish and poise.  His pale and delicate hands gesticulate in the night, conducting an orchestra only he can see.  The Groom does not hurry for he knows his bride has nowhere to hide.  He waves royally at the dark windows and smiles when huddled figures duck out of sight.  No one can stop him tonight – not on his wedding night – it is his right to pursue what has been bound to him by the laws of God and man.

“Please!” screams the bride at the faceless houses, “For God’s sake, somebody help me!”  A soft and distant echo of her own despair is the only answer to her plea.

Finally her strength bleeds out and she falls down defeated in the street.  The Groom is upon her like lichen.  He presses his face close to hers and he gulps down her breath and he licks off her skin and he drinks in her sweat and tears.  He burrows inside her and he devours and devours until there is nothing left but bones and a blood-wet wedding dress.

As the early morning sun laces its insipid yellow fingers around the street, the townsfolk find a single red rose lying in the gutter where the bride’s body had been.

It isn’t long before some foolish girl, with dreams of romance in her heart, skips by and claims the red rose for her very own.

We Are All Alone When The Dark Comes

devil

By D.L. Greenwood

In the dark it clicked. She knew from the sound it wasn’t human.  There was something insect-like about the way it skittered across the floor.  Sometimes it came so close to her that she could smell it.  It smelled like the drains when her mother needed to get a man round to fix them.  Mostly it kept its distance and just scuttled around the blackest corners of the dark which surrounded her.  She couldn’t find her feet or her fingers but she was free to walk around, avoiding the corners, of course.  She wasn’t frightened because most of the time she could hear the people talking and that made her feel safe.

There was a chink of light in her dark world and this also brought her comfort. The thing in the corner hated the light and so the girl huddled within this small bar of brightness, listening to the voices, smiling when she heard laughter, crying when the mood turned sorrowful.

She missed her mother’s face and sometimes tears would fall.  This excited the creature in the shadows and it would move closer to her, hissing and clicking and clattering.  One time, when her tears fell more heavily than usual, it came up close and she felt its hot and rotten breath upon her face.  And then with one spiteful hiss, it sliced her cheek with something sharp – A claw?  A talon?  Her blood had fallen as quickly as her tears.

She was lying within her small patch of light when she heard the voices talking once more.  Her mother was crying.  Yes, she was sure it was her mother.  She was pleading with someone,

“No, no, please, we need more time, we need more time.”

The girl frowned.  She had never been able to discern the words before.  Then a voice, male and authoritative,

“I’m sorry, Mrs Geddes, but we have done all we can.  Mary has been brain dead for some time now.  It is only the machine that is keeping her alive.”

The girl recalled that her name was Mary.  In the darkness, she heard the creature begin to stir.  From a distant world that was no longer her own, the sound of weeping was merging with the sound of a machine bleeping.

“Mary, my Mary!” howled the woman who was her mother.

And then the bleeping and the weeping stopped.

‘Mummy?’ whispered the girl in the silence, a solitary tear falling from her lash.

The light blinked out.

Behind her the thing in the dark grew large; the girl screwed up her eyes tightly and her face grew hard.  She wiped away her tears and turned to face her foe.  The darkness was her territory now, and she would fight for it.

 

Monsters

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Ask Grandma, her bones talk

 

Published in FormerCactus magazine 2017 and one of the winners of BR-Lit flash competition

by Donna L Greenwood

Lights out and the creeping starts.  She pulls the sheets over her head as the air begins to whisper its insanities.  From an unseen corner the wolf growls and she hears the clickety clack of its claws as it circles the room.   In the middle of the night its mouth can widen and swallow you up in one gulp.  Ask Grandma, her bones talk.  At the end of her bed, the goblins are yacking in a low dark tone.  Their bone white eyes shine in the murk as they look for her.  Their tongues loll with appetite.

She stills her breath, trying not to alert them to her presence.  Under the sheets, the witch sleeps beside her; crooked hands are entwined with the child’s hair and a hairy knee rests on her thigh.  The child lies as still as death but she is not afraid, for this child is a child of the times and she knows about monsters.  She closes her eyes and feels for her weapon, careful not to disturb the gnarly skin bag by her side.

Down her chimney climbs Blue with his sooty beard and bag full of bloody heads.  She knows he comes for her family tonight and her hands tighten around Mama’s scissors.  She must be brave; cry-babies die in the dark so she stifles her fear lest they smell it.  Familiar with fighting for her life, she acts quickly – snip snap – she cuts off the witch’s tongue, rendering her filthy spells useless.  Now she is just an old woman whom the child bucks off and pushes out of bed.

Next – stab stab – she pops out the goblins’ eyes; they writhe in pain and, like salted slugs, dissolve into muck.

Blue stands behind her.  She falls to the ground and tumbles backwards through his legs.  She has the advantage now.  When he turns, a sickening smile tearing through his skin, she holds the scissors steadily in her hands and points them towards his belly.  He raises his murderous axe ready to claim his prize but years of easy terrorising have made him fat. And slow.  The child is quicker; she lurches forward and stabs the scissors into the monster’s gut. Streams of intestines splatter to the ground and Blue follows them, a puzzled, cheated look fastened to his face.

A growl behind her and claws rake her back.  Even now she makes no noise though hot pain rips through her skin causing tears to erupt in her eyes.  She falls to the ground and the wolf pounces. Its breath is warm and salty on her face.  She brings the scissors up and through the jaws of the beast.  It falls and joins its blue-bearded cousin on the floor.

Lights on and Mama appears.

It’s late.  Go back to bed.

The child obeys.  The lights go out.

Mama and Papa are safe for one more night.  Beneath her sheets once more, the child licks her scissors like ice-cream.