Another One?

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Davis: Another one?
Wilson: ‘Fraid so, sir.
Davis: Third in a week…
Wilson: Yep, it’s turning out to be a bumper crop this year sir. Business is booming.
Davis: That’s one way of looking at it.
Wilson: Beats actually looking at it, but we have to sir. Because the face is even worse this time. Looks like they half carved it off.
Davis: Why do you keep saying ‘they’ about the deaths Wilson? You think we’ve got more than one killer here, like a gang or somethin’?
Wilson: Dunno sir. Just looks like somethin’ that’d take more than one person to do. It’s always so precise and all – like at least two were involved – one to hold the person down and one to carve..
Davis: Because the disfigurements are always pre-mortem?
Wilson: That’s what they say about all the other ones sir. Somethin’ about the blood spatter or somethin’.
Davis:(sniffing) Well, they would know. Guess we can expect zero forensics again with this one too?
Wilson: If it’s the same people..
Davis:Looks like the same to me.
Wilson: Me too sir…..sir..I reckon it’s a cult, right?
Davis: You read too many horror novels Wilson.
Wilson: (pointing the victim): Or not enough sir? That ain’t no movie.
Davis: (sighing) No, that’s true, and you ain’t Brad Pitt either mate. Let’s get to work.

(c) Helen M Valentina 2020

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Mask

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I believe my aunt knew she was dying long before the cancer finally took her that cold September evening last week. I do not believe it from prejudice or even knowing her well – no indeed, I barely knew her and honestly no-one did, not even in our family. My father’s sister – the one he called the ‘misfit’ and the black sheep of the family perhaps, but one we still circled like vultures as the prognosis was proclaimed, as she was very, very rich in the end. She’d had a knack for playing the stock market and built a small pension into a fortune. And just how she did it was another thing no-one knew.

But she knew she was dying and when. Of that I’m sure. Because she was so prepared. And she had the last laugh too, and in a way, despite everything, I rather like that.

Her lawyer called us – the estranged family – once she died. We gathered with faux solemnity at his offices and listened as he told us that we could have anything we wanted from her home. He said everything that matters to her was there, and that it had the key her fortune and whoever found it first could have it all.

So of course we all rushed over to her large estate with greed and excitement. Each of us thought, no doubt that we’d be the one to find the key to her fortune, the bank account documents and whatever else cloaked her in such money in her final years.

But when we entered her house we found…nothing. The place was empty – completely bare – no furniture, no clothes, no ..anything..and certainly no desk filled with bank details and deeds to her fortune.

There was only one thing, in her main living room, on the bare wall. A simple mask one might wear to a ball, hung on a single hook. My family cursed her name and stomped away, oblivious to the mask, but I remained, looking at it with a curiosity that moulded itself to suspicion. After all, the lawyer said the key to her fortune could be found here, so if this is all that could be found, then the key it must be. My family are far too literal and too greedy and my aunt had been too prepared for them and knew them far better than they knew her.

But still, but still, she had everything stripped from the house but this – this one mask on the wall. So perhaps her dying wish was that someone might understand and prove themselves worthy from our wretched family. Once I knew my siblings and parents were gone I approached the mask and lifted it from its hook. I turned it to look at its back, imagining putting it to my face. Wearing it.

Was it just a toy, a final joke played on us – with me the biggest fool of all – or was it something else? There would be only one way to know, but not now, and not here. I opened the empty briefcase I’d brought with me, hoping to fill it with bank papers and the like. I placed the mask in gently, closing the lid softly so it would not break or be marred in any way.

And tonight, tonight, I will wear the mask and finally know. Is it a joke or the key? Or neither, just a mask on a wall, from a woman who knew her family too well?

Ah well, we shall see….

 

(c). Helen M Valentina 2020

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Clarifying Pain

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The clarifying pain
Remains beyond the tears and cries
And all the bargaining and lies
Even now as the blood red dries
And the Inquisitor dabs
The weeping eyes
Which watch him with such dull surprise
Till once again
The visceral pain
Takes every last morsel of sanity
That yet remains
Our souls are stained
Our salvation spiralling down the drain
With the clarifying pain
The clarifying pain

Where does the Torturer stop and the torture begin?
At his hands the world is laid bare
And what of his brutality, his pitiless sins
Does even one Angel weep, despair or care?
There’s no-one there but he and the one
On the bitterest altar of all
Where every last shred of humanity falls
To the whips and the chains and his call

The agony so close to ecstasy that he
And we might turn our heads and pray
And believe we are justified even this day
And we’ve nought to explain
Just the purity of pain
Repeated again and again

(c) Helen M Valentina 2020

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Sigil Magic

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Lucy was strange little girl, everyone said. Always with her head in a book. The ‘Library Nerd’ one crueller playmate called her. But that was right before the playmate disappeared in the nearby woods and she hadn’t been seen for weeks, so no-one remembers the cruel name for Lucy. Except for me, but I’d never use it. I like Lucy.

Our teacher Marion didn’t really appreciate her literary aims either. She had a set curriculum to take all us children through and when Lucy wouldn’t stop reading her damn book while the maths lesson was on she made her stand up and turn her back to the class in the corner and she took Lucy’s book – strange and heavy and old as it was. and locked it in her desk drawer at the front of the class.

I heard Lucy crying, and some of the other children laughed at the sound. But that was a few days ago and the teacher is nowhere to be found either, and the children who laughed have all come down with whooping cough and the doctors in town are frantic, unable to help. So no-one’s laughing about Lucy being in the corner now.

Lucy got her book back too. I saw the teacher lock it away but now I see her with it in the library. I don’t think it belongs here, anymore than Lucy really does, but I’ve always been curious and I don’t judge. My ma always said there’s room enough for all the strange ones in this strange world.

So I go up to her and ask her what she’s reading. She looks at me with wide, saucer eyes, and it occurs to me that no-one had ever asked before. She shyly turns the book towards me and I can’t make head nor tail of what I see on the pages. Not words, just squiggles and images I can’t understand.

‘It’s sigil magic,” she says, as though that explained everything.

I liked the sound of that though. All kids like magic don’t they?

“Cool” I say.

Lucy smiles so big a smile I thought her face would crack. I haven’t seen her smile before, and something tells me that there’s more to this than a smile, and maybe, just maybe, she’ll let me in on the secret. And I’ve always been curious, as I said.

“Cool,” I say again. “Show me how it works.”

(c) Helen M Valentina 2020

 

 

 

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Retribution

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A simple price to pay for efficient work is always welcome. I have no tolerance for fiddle-faddling about. The law is far too slow for sweet revenge and far too blind. You cannot count on that. No, it seems to me that a bargain is always best. You get what you pay for, after all.

I’d heard good reports on her work in the shadowy parts of town where all the truths lie hidden. They say she made her own bargain many years before, to some voodoo king or other. I’m not that interested in her history, only her efficacy. And they said she was the best.

The only problem is that her work is rather singular and very much final. There are no subtleties here. She does not have a range of pain and humiliation up her sleeve, or the slow deterioration of your victim’s life. No, her work is swift and fatal and that’s it.

I might quibble that this lacks some artistry, but there is no doubting the efficiency of her Art. She’s not one to argue or barter with either. Her terms are her terms and the only terms. Still, why would I push the point? She could just as easily turn her doll and pin in my direction after all. No, it’s better by far to be a focussed customer, and thereafter a satisfied one.

And I’ve been both. Just yesterday I stood with the other hypocrites mourning the passing of my target, the rain falling on our shrouded heads like the gods trying to wash away the truth. I had to hide my satisfied smile as they lowered the coffin into the moist, pitiless earth.

It’s all hidden now, just like the body of the one I hated. Food for worms. All that’s left is an electronic transfer of funds from one bank account to another. A normal, unremarkable thing in this normal, unremarkable world. But under that, something far more remarkable.

And me, a very satisfied customer indeed.

(c) Helen M Valentina 2020

 

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All These Mine

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All these mine
And more in time
The poet never knows the rhyme
The killer never knows the kiss
Such sweetness he will always miss
And yet in time
All these are mine
Just mine

All these mine
They’ll never find
The tape will play and still rewind
The words I spoke still float downstream
Melody lost within a scream
And yet in time
All these are mine
Just mine

All these mine
And never kind
I leave their history far behind
As judge and jury execute
My rulings far beyond dispute
And so in time
All these are mine
Just mine

(c) Helen M Valentina 2020

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Programming

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They show me these awful images, on repeat. They call it conditioning – a necessary step to the evolution of my mind beyond the lesser experience of empathy.

The heart, they say, is but a muscle, and we must strengthen it and take away its sentimentality, its compassion – all the weaknesses that leech away our strength. We must be wiped of all fellow feeling to truly feel our own essential freedom.

All this they say. But all I want to do is run, to scream, to throw up as each image scars my brain. There is something deeply wrong here. There must be. For the images are real, not make up, not special effects. Such suffering they show or promise. And for this, there must be victims, and I am to forget that? For freedom?

But what did my friend Laurence say? That those that do not manage the programming become the victims. The ultimate test of Darwin’s law – the survival of the fittest. To resist is to become one with the pictures in a far worse way. It is to become their subject rather than their audience.

He knew, he saw it all. He was always the clear one of our gang. But I haven’t heard from him in days, and something in me fears that he failed the test, as I may yet do if I cannot hold down the bile threatening to rise up my throat even now.

And oh my god, this picture now, this torso, torn and tortured – looks too familiar. Looks just like Laurence, but the face is mangled beyond recognition. Still I see the tattoo on the wrist, the single, flying dove, and I know. I know it’s him.

And that they’ve shown me this for a reason – they already suspect I may not pass the test. Who knows, maybe in those final moments evenLaurence gave me up and told them of my doubts. I’ll never know, and his death now is like the bell, tolling for me.

For if he failed, then surely so will I.  So will I.

(c) Helen M Valentina 2020

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The Monks

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We’re not sure when the monks turned, or why. Rumors had swirled thought the Vatican for years.  People pointed to the snake like architecture of papal lodgings and meeting rooms. They whispered about secret meetings in the bowels of the buildings, and just when the religion turned from faith to denial.

Rumors are hyperbolic of course. It is their nature. I cannot say if the Church itself turned, only the monks in this one chapter I reviewed. Feeling like a Witchfinder General from the days of the inquisition or something, I studied them from within. I joined their ranks and I watched their ways and as the hints were dropped I took the bait.

They let me into their secrets, their rituals, and the god they now worshiped. The fallen one, the star of the morning, the Venusian luciferian one. And I could have almost believed them, their gnostic views, their arguments on theology and philosophy and history. They were clever and eloquent and they’d clearly convinced themselves at least. And they might have convinced me..except..except for the children.

It was the children. the death of the children. The sacrifice of their light. That’s what spurred me to reveal them and bring the down. That’s what made me turn against all their sweet words. In truth I’d entered the investigation in two minds – constrained by and doubting in my faith. But there’s nothing like seeing the real dark to remind you why you yearn for the light.

The real light, not the false flame of the falling star of the morning. And the real faith, not that of the fallen monks with more blood on their hands than in their broken, charcoal hearts.

(c) Helen M Valentina 2020

 

 

 

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All In A Day’s Work

 

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When they called it the Purge I thought, hey yeah, that sounds cool. I mean, it does, doesn’t it? I wasn’t thinking about that horror movie franchise of the time and all the political garbage that showed.  No, I was thinking when you purge something you get rid of something bad and you feel better, right? So I signed up.

After all, jobs were hard to come by back then and nowadays it’s even worse.  You’d think with all the culling of the herd it’d get better, but no such luck.  Automation, they said. AI, they said. Make your life easier they said. Well, never listen to what they say.

Just doing my bit, I told my ma. She wasn’t that impressed. Thought she’d wasted all that money on my education, but education these days doesn’t equip you for anything but debt. And I had debts to pay off, and besides, I cottoned on real quick.  Get with the program, help with the purge or be purged, right?

Free stuff they said. Universal health care they said. Don’t worry about the cost.  First we’ll have the Purge and get rid of anyone who can’t pull their weight. Pro-active death panels. Made sense, and I was fit and ready to jump right in. I’ve always been ahead of the curve.

Now the only curve I’m ahead of is the one in this blasted road. And my job is weighing me down, in more ways than one. Another death, another statistic for the record books, just all in a day’s work.

There’s no end to it, and bit by bit you lose it all – all your friends, your family. They took my ma and purged her a few weeks back and by then I didn’t feel a thing. I haven’t felt a thing for ages really except the aching of my back, the tiredness of my legs, my shoulder whinging all the time from the load I carry.

Still, I purge. It’s that or be purged. While the so-called saviours of our world with all their free stuff live high on the hog, grabbing all the world in their greedy hands as they thin out our herd.

I can’t complain though. I’ve got a job. These days it means something. And if that something is lugging dead bodies to exhumation plants, at least it’s an honest day’s work.

Right?

(c) Helen M Valentina 2020

 

 

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The Old School-House

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The old school house
They closed it down
When children went missing
All over town
When people gossiped
Said in its walls
The monsters crept
We heard their calls
Hysteria rising
Each passing day
The old school principal
Passed away
And stories of rituals
Did the rounds
The old school house
They closed it down

The old school house
Still stands today
Its gardens broken
It’s in decay
The children whisper
To never go
Within its doors
It scares them so
A haunted house
Would never be
As fearful a place
To you or me
And if it’s true
I dare not say
As the old school house
Still stands today

Helen M Valentina (c ) 2020

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