Johannes Punkt’s Flaskpost

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Tag: horror

Silk

Here, Brad (@Squidshire), I wrote a fanfic about you.

~

A thought stopped him dead in the middle of the moment, and he forgot what he was doing. He had been holding a knife, but he was not holding a knife anymore: it was safely lodged in the middle of a loaf. He always cut the loaves in half, in half in half in half until they were the thickness he preferred, this was his way, a thought stopped him dead: I wonder how things would go if I pupated right this moment. Another thought: Leather gets more grim the more you think about it.

He bought long bandages of silk and they arrived rolled up like papyrus scrolls. He half-expected there to be hieroglyphs, but it was just so smooth. Right this moment – perhaps a moment could be a few days long. Brad had always considered moments to be like loaves of bread, infinitely divisible. Maybe a moment was composed of several moments closely stacked together. In someone’s eyes, in the eyes of a very old tree spirit perhaps, his whole life was but a moment. He paused momentarily. What was he doing?

He was in the bathtub. He was wrapping himself in silk, a contorted dance in a small space, and he could already feel the new enzymes in his body begin to bite at him, break him down. This was good. People said you could not feel your insides, because you have no nerve endings there, but Brad had always felt inverse like that.

There was the issue of whether he should leave room to breathe or not. He decided against it, but he covered his nostrils the very last thing that he did, writhing around in the bathtub because he had wrapped his arms in silk and could not move them. And then he felt the oxygen leave him like a lover, reluctantly saying farewell, promising to come back.

He was in a deep sleep.

He had never considered himself to be divisible by half, but it turned out that he was. By half by half by half. His organs, once content to be contiguous, loosened their border policies and enmeshed. The silk was his skin and not. New organs were forming, like ex-Soviet states after the fall. He had never counted his organs before but he was sure there was more of them now. Something cracked. It was the sarcophagus he had made himself of silk; to think that something so soft could still crack like ice.

Brad realized that his life was divisible by half, and he had just heard the crack. The thought that had stopped him dead had actually killed him, and for a transitional period he had been dead. He looked at his wings in the too-small mirror of the bathroom, after wiping away the dust. There was a lot of dust to wipe away.

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Guest Story

Red. Brown. White. Green.

Yesterday I moved my bed to sweep the floor, and in the corner of my room there were mushrooms. They were growing out through a crack in the wall, rotting away the wooden floor and feeding off it. The caps red-brown, the feet white-green. I ripped them all up, threw them in the garbage bin, scrubbed the corner with soap and warm water before putting my bed back.
  Two hours later, I caught a sweet fungal scent from behind my bed and pulled it out into the middle of the room.

Red. Brown. White. Green.

The mushrooms had returned. Smaller this time, but still growing, very much alive. I tore them all up once more, scrubbed the corner, poured alcohol down the cracks, then acid. I stretched out in bed and stared at the corner, waiting to see if this time I had beaten them.
  A bead of red formed in the crack, like a drop of blood in a wound. Another, growing bigger. A whole string of red beads in the crack, spreading their red caps and slowly reaching down to the floor once more.

Red. Brown. White. Green.

Perhaps one could eat them. If they were going to keep on living in my home, perhaps at least I could find a use for them. I picked one of the bigger caps, sniffed at it. The smell was not bad; it was sweet and fresh. A lick at it. A hesitant bite.
  The taste was just like the smell. I had had much better mushrooms, but it was not in any way bad. Just a bit uninspiring.
  “With colours like yours, shouldn’t you at least taste bitter?”
  The mushrooms did not reply. They were mushrooms, and mushrooms are too good to speak to lowly animals like humans.

Red. Brown. White. Green.

It was easier to just let them have the corner. Trying to get rid of them was just an act of futility, and they tasted all right. During the night they spread across the floor to beneath my bed where they created a small mushroom kingdom emitting a strange, green-and-violet light. When I rolled over in the morning, I noticed that they had surrounded me and several of them were crushed as I just tried to leave bed. The fully grown ones were already getting darker, dripping a shadowy liquid from the edges of their caps, looking as if they were melting, and when I cleaned them away they left dark red stains on my skin.

The red stains turned brown. My white skin turned green.

The mushrooms were retreating back into their corner crack as the sunlight moved across the floor. The mushroom kingdom beneath my bed remained, hidden in shadow, but no green-and-violet light shone from within it. They had encased the dark space with a spongy, grey wall. The mushrooms in my bed dissolved and soaked into the bedsheet, duvet and mattress as the sunlight washed over them. The sunlight made my head hurt and I understood that it was my enemy.

My fingers turned dark and dissolved into an ink-like liquid.

I kicked at the grey wall beneath the bed until it was coated in dark liquid from my feet and gave way.

I saw a green-and-violet light and crawled into it to melt.

~

by Pao (@Panterdjuret)

Noise

There is an empty bedroom and a trail of dropped blankets, teddy bears and stuffed dolls leading out through the door, which is ajar, into the living room. The trail disappears but is taken over by footprints. The TV is on, hissing static and snow into the room like an open window in a storm. The tiny sole-marks are almost oversnowed now, but there is another, larger, set of prints around them. Both sets lead into the machine. There is a thick rope, too, tied to one of the legs of the marble coffee table. It is stretched taut now.

Red Warning Lights

Bubbles form on the floors of vast tanks filled with liquid, and on the thick black plastic cables that run from somewhere far above the tanks into them, and in the wrinkles of the brains floating perfectly still in the middle of the tanks, with cables sprouting out of them like they were potatoes. Some of the brains are tiny, some are large. Each brain has a little monitor displaying what it is thinking about. Some of the older brains are dreaming about reading stories about brains trapped in vats. These have been marked with red warning lights above them.

Dead Sleep

There will be plenty of time to sleep when you’re dead. There will not be enough air. There will be no temperature, but you will invent one. That will be cold. There will not be enough duvet, and your dreams will be restless. It will be like being underwater, and the uncertainty about which way gravity is pulling you. On occasion, you will come closer to the surface and you will almost wake up, but it will be like a sheet of clear ice lies between you and true consciousness, and off you drift again, thinking, “Just five more minutes.”

2013 NaNoWriMo Excerpt #9

This was how they remembered it: The hospital was big and merciless. The sliding glass doors did not open with a vertical gap in the middle like most doors, but rather irised open like a mouth. The place was more sterile than an airport, and the people sitting in the waiting room were more like cut-outs than anything else; if you looked at them directly you would see them for their lack of depth, but Janelle had made sure to not look at them. A well-meaning doctor had said hello to them, opened another mouth in the building to get to the lift, and held it open with a strange and oversized speculum. “Come in. We will see your dead son now.”

2013 NaNoWriMo Excerpt #8

The doctor pulled out the slab of metal on which their son lay with a black sheet over his body. “This is your last chance to back out,” he said. His voice was sonorous and instilled confidence, like he knew what he was saying, but Janelle and Eric did not back down.

They saw their dead son, with a giant hole in his head, and they smelled the sulfur and gunpowder, potent and stark.

“It’s called the gunshot virus,” said the doctor, pulling the sheet back over the dead child. “We don’t know how it works, but these are the results. I’m so sorry for your loss.”

Séance

A year and a half after my mother’s funeral, while the reception is still fresh in my mind like mushrooms growing on cow dung, I find myself in a seedy part of town. I have two thousand pounds cash in a folded envelope right next to my balls. It kind of chafes, and when I later pull it out, it will smell like the sweat that gathers down there on nervous days in black cars with tinted windows. I have this fantasy that someone will, on the short walk from the cab to my destination, jump me because they recognize me from the papers. They will then steal my nearly useless wallet and the clean cell phone I’ve brought for just this occasion, and I will walk away with my pride wounded but two thousand pounds intact. Still, I worry about the odour.

This is the place. This has to be the place. I do not know why, but this place must be it, where the signs are all neon and mostly foreign. The most common word I can make out is “SUSHI”, helpfully written in white over the green windows outside. I tell the cabbie to stop.

Smoke hisses out of cobblestone cracks, door gaps, and the throats of chimneys. I thank the cabbie, hand him a crumpled note, and watch him speed off. The effect is somewhat ruined by his having to stop at a zebra crossing twenty metres ahead, to let a man with a pushchair cross. I walk up to the restaurant. No-one mugs me.

I step inside this Japanese restaurant where the staff are all clearly speaking Vietnamese with each other, and a sign tells me to wait to be seated. The smell of minty shrimp caresses my cheek softly, before raw seaweed knocks out my sense of smell completely. It is very crimson in here, and I can only see part of the restaurant, most of it is artfully hidden behind beige screens with paintings of birds on them. I can just about make out the silhouettes of people if they’re sitting near the screens, it looks like the birds’ shrubbery is rustling, while the birds sit completely still.

“Have you made a reservation?” asks a waiter, a big smile plastered on her face.

“I want to talk to the psychic.”

The waiter narrows her eyes, but she’s forgotten to remove the phony smile so this new expression is grotesque.

I don’t speak good Vietnamese, but the word for “pervert” gets thrown around a lot in the short tennis match of a conversation she has with a colleague the other side of the room. She grunts, rearranges her facial muscles a bit, and shows me to a paper-thin screen that hides a door. She rolls the screen to the side and gestures to the brass doorknob.

In this new room, the buzz of the restaurant is muted, like I’m hearing it under water or through a drunken stupor. It’s a small room, and it gets smaller when the lights go out; I am robbed of three of my favourite senses. Fortunately for me, a stocky bloke appears, with hands like a panda. He starts feeling me up, which reassures me that I haven’t lost my senses of touch or discomfort. He puts his paws down my pants and brings out my envelope.

“Payment,” I say, “for dinner with the ghost girl.” I talk slowly, condescendingly, to pretend that I’m the one in charge in this little room. The panda grunts. He hands me back my envelope, and a faint whiff of piss claws at my face, welcoming me back to my senses. I step through a doorway into the next room.

I’m in a room without windows now. There are two doors out: through the kitchen or by the panda. There is a couch, redder than the walls, sorely lacking a table. From the ceiling, lanterns hang, like paper cocoons. A young sous-chef greets me, bows to me. Her hat stays on her head the whole time. When she speaks, her accent is closer to Japanese than Vietnamese, but it’s slight enough that I can’t tell for sure. She says, “You’ve come for sushi.”

“But I’ll stay for the conversations with dead people.” I turn my remark into a mumble, thinking better of it about halfway through.

“You have two thousand pounds sterling with you.”

I flash my envelope, which I have stuffed into a more sensible place, an inner pocket on my coat. She takes my money, counts it, prints out a receipt for me, and leaves through the backdoor. I enjoy the panda’s company in the couch for about an hour, though he stands up the whole time. I ask for a beer, and he mutters into his wrist and a minute later a beverage arrives. I am informed that it is on the house. It is dark and bitter, like a family reunion, or spending time in the old house where she died. I convince, unconvince, and reconvince myself that this is worth it.

In rolls a table, on it a naked woman. The wheels squeak a bit, I think they are supposed to. The shivering girl, hardly 20 years old, is the colour of something afraid of the sun. Her hair is short and black, and she is covered with cold food. Little green leaves carrying sashimi flowers, sushi rolls, or in the case of the minuscule leaves covering her nipples, strawberries. There is a small gutter cut into the wood of the table, and it is half filled with water. Her hair is wet from it. I can see the way her stomach inflates and deflates with every breath, disturbing the food. A few rolls of seaweed have fallen over but are staying on their leaves. I try to look as though I’m fully expecting all this.

The sous-chef looks at me. “Who is it you wish to speak with?” She lights a match and, with the match, a single candle placed between the girl’s thighs. I make myself look away.

Maybe she doesn’t know who I am, maybe I’m just not a celebrity in this part of town. “Augusta Maxwell,” I say. “Born the 14th of November, 1942, as Augusta Bernarde.”

The girl stirs. “Ethan, is that you?” she asks, in a thick Japanese accent. “Is it really you?” The rhythm of her breathing is different, calmer. The fragrance of lemongrass and oyster sauce laughs at me – the perfume she used to wear.

“Yes, this is Ethan,” I say. “And for the record, who am I talking to?”

The girl on the table sucks her teeth just like she used to do, but when she talks it is barely English.

“Eat your food,” the sous-chef tells me. “Or she goes away.”

Reluctantly, I pick up a roll of seaweed and rice with my hand. The girl’s skin feels as if she’s been stowed away in the fridge. The sushi roll is covered with caviar, and I put it in my mouth and chew it down. The taste envelops my tongue, and the Japanese turns to the English that she spoke – British laden with money, whiteness, and South Africa.

“… child. You know who I am.”

“I’m serious. I have important things to tell you, and I need to make sure it’s you I’m talking to, that I’m not being ripped off. Tell me something only you could know about me.”

She is silent. Contemplative. “Are you testing me?” It is around this time that I notice that the girl is paralysed, save for her mouth. Her eyes are fixed, staring upwards, her hands are clenched and her nails are probably digging into her palms. There are two small plugs in her nose. She can’t blink.

I reach for another roll, but think better of it. I crack open a pair of chopsticks, rub them together like a hobo trying to stay warm, and I pick up a ball of rice from somewhere on the girl’s abdomen. It tastes sticky and slick at the same time, and it refuses to be swallowed without the last swig of my beer. “Yes,” I say. “Yes, I am testing you.”

“How am I supposed to know anything like that? Our whole lives have been under public scrutiny. Oh. Oh no. Ethan, Ethan, Ethan,” she says. “Oh no.”

I pick up the next roll of seaweed from just above her hips, very carefully avoiding her skin. “What?”

“You’re not at one of those psychics, are you? Are you wasting your money on talking to me, is that how you’re talking to me?”

“I don’t think it’s a waste of money,” I inform her, and the girl’s body temperature rises a degree or two. I’m chewing and swallowing as slowly as I can, keeping the burning candle in my periphery whilst trying to avoid noticing her pubic hair. “But I’m serious. Tell me what nightmares I had as a child.”

She sighs, a puff of smoke flies upwards. “You dreamt that there was a factory of Mums, and that I died every night, after being taken by aliens. So they sent you a new Mum and you couldn’t tell the difference. After a few months of dreaming that, you started to suspect that there was a factory of Ethans, too.”

I bite my cheeks until the taste of blood makes its presence known. The sous-chef, leaning against a wall and looking at her nails, clears her throat. I pick up a sashimi. I hold it too hard and I crush it, I have to pick the pieces up one by one. The girl sucks on her teeth; someone pours me some sake. I take the girl’s hand. “That’s right.”

“Oh, Ethan,” she says. “Did you really go to a psychic?”

“Actually, I went to several, but this one’s the only one, ah, carrying through.” I swallow some more sticky rice. “I want to talk to you about the house.”

The sous-chef starts pouring soy sauce over the girl, on one of the bits of sashimi I’ve been deliberately avoiding. It is a baby tentacle and it is now wriggling; I think the salt is making the dead thing twitch, I have read about that.

“The house?” she asks, and there is a childlike overtone to what she is saying, as if I’m suddenly talking to the ghost of a 9-year old. “The one on Hartlake Street? You know, that was always my favourite place in the whole world. It’s where I and your dad married, you know! Oh, you were so little back then, you couldn’t possibly remember. Let me see if I can find the old photographs–” The ghastly girl is opening and closing her hands at random. I realize that if she cannot move her eyes, she is staring directly at one of the more dim paper lanterns.

I am in control. Expertly, I cut the baby tentacle in half with my chopsticks and eat it, along with most of the rice. It keeps dancing on its way down my throat. I let her talk, and the Japanese accent comes back. She starts having problems finding the right words, she was never this demented when she was alive. I swallow another riceball, and someone pours me some sake, and her accent is restored.

She coughs, but she cannot move most of her muscles. Some phlegm runs down the side of her face. “What did you want to say about the house, my son?”

“Well, I had a long talk with Dad on the day of your funeral. I knew he owned the house, on the papers, and I thought – if a family of three or possibly more is going to live in that house now, we might need to renovate. So I asked him to let me have it.”

I pick up a rose made from salmon and I sniff the air. Her perfume still clings to the room with insistence; she said she wore it because she wanted certain men to lick their lips when she entered the room. In her heyday, she could have had her pick of nearly all men in nearly any room. Only people of certain wealth would recognize the fragrance of oyster sauce, and only people with certain tastes would lick their lips when they caught a whiff of it. She says, “How did you get Michael to agree to that?”

“It was a day of emotions. He still has a place for you in his heart, you know, despite appearances. That’s why he let you have the house, after all those years. He told me he regretted letting the house go decrepit on you like that. He wanted to make it up to the family somehow. I think your death rattled him.”

Her mouth twitches and the dried spittle running down from the corners of her mouth make it all seem like her old tanned wrinkles are still there, just under the young, pale skin of this girl she is possessing. It’s running down lines that aren’t there on the psychic’s face.

I drink a whole cup of sake.

She says, “What was that you said about a family of three?”

I smile. Apparently, it is actually possible to tell if someone is smiling just from hearing them speak. That was a skill I never learnt. Nevertheless, smiling, I say, “Oh, Andrea is pregnant. Four months now.”

On days that were good days, she no longer wore the saucy perfume of her heyday. Those days, she wore no perfume, simply odourless deodorant, and the living room would smell of her, what she really smelled like. I lure out those smells with my words now. I don’t know that I’ve ever seen the old woman as happy as that Japanese girl is seeming right now. I can see the gaps between her teeth when she smiles, she was always conscious to hide those.

“But don’t worry,” I say, “we kept it looking as it did when you first moved in there. We just touched it up, reinforced walls, that sort of thing.” I swallow more balls of rice with fish on them. There are few left. The candle between her legs is now on level with her pubis mons. It’s dropping quickly. I can guess what this means.

“Tell me more,” she asks me.

Another chunk of rice crawls down my throat like a chimbleysweep. I now try one of the lonely green leaves surrounding her navel, but it is bitter and inedible. I speak a little quicker than normal. “We replaced all the broken windows in the greenhouse and we planted tomatoes in there in spring. It gets really hot in there. They’re just blooming now, they are huge and round and pulpy. I should have brought one to show you. The whole garden is coming along greatly, there are hardly any brown spots left.”

I swallow the last piece of the tentacle.

“Tentatively, the wedding is set for August next year, we don’t want to rush anything now that we have all the time in the world.”

I find out that smiling actually hurts your cheeks after a while.

“And we redid the kitchen, and we got another gas stove. Andrea’s been learning to cook on it, bless her. She’s come a long way, I should tell you, from pancakes with onions in them.”

She laughs, we both laugh.

I skewer the two strawberries adorning the ghost girl’s nipples, and I hold them up, my chopstick like an old-style teacher’s pointer. “But everything I said was a lie, you old hag.”

“What?”

“You heard me.”

“I don’t understand,” she says.

“There is no garden anymore. Dad didn’t come to the funeral. I scrounged up some money and I bought the house from him, fair and square, and I am turning it into a parking lot. The machines have already been there, and it’s unbelievably smooth and grey now. I broke up with Andrea, I haven’t heard from her in eight months. She didn’t like me going to psychics, I guess.”

The candle has almost run out. The girl’s head is shaking, her eyes rolled back. Someone, maybe the sous-chef, shouts “Seizure!” as the dead woman starts convulsing. It sounds violent, but I am looking away, walking past the panda man, chewing on my strawberries as slowly as I can.

The Slaughter of the Lalk

This was their last lalk. They shouldn’t have, but they had been eating them, their deep insides at least. Their poisonous skin had been given to the more resilient animals at first; however the poison had still kept potent inside the pigs, which was why their children had ribs that poked out further than the ribs of the children of the other families in the village. In the end, they had to burn the parts of the carcasses that couldn’t be eaten, and stay away from the smoke.

Elder Mari comforted the lalk. She had let her grey hair fall all the way past her waist and undone her braids so it seemed just like a shimmering sheet. She sat on the big stool in the pen where you would sit to handfeed the lalk, but it knew something was wrong. It shied away from her touch – her black-gloved hands were not welcome, though the beast was too hungry to say no to food. It stood directly opposite Mari, as far away as it could, and it stretched its long, scrawny neck toward the bowl Mari carried. It was apples, its favourite food. It never got apples. Apples had to be traded from the neighbouring farm, and that was a rare occurance. That family got along poorly with this one, as every human in the village knew.

The lalk knew nothing about the families, or about where apples came from. It became afraid still. The other lalk had received a similar treatment; they had caved quicker than this one. And this one needed to trust Mari completely, not just enough to go into the barn where it could be held down. It grabbed just one apple and jerked back to the farthest corner of the pen and it swallowed the apple whole. Mari Battye saw the bulge make its slow way down the lalk’s throat until it disappeared. The lalk coughed, pigeoned with its head a few times and then stood still. There were still apples in the bowl. It was still hungry.

The elder sat there patiently for hours, and when the sun was about to rise the frightened animal let her pet it. One of its eyes – the left one – was closed now, the right brain in half-sleep like its ancestors used to do to keep swimming. The lalk tried to keep swimming. But it rested its head, just for a little while, in the warm lap of the elder human. There were no more apples. Its right eye kept staring up at the sky.

She grabbed its ear and held its face up to stare at it. There was nothing but compassion and tragedy in her eyes. A few strokes against the grain on the hair under its chin and then she climbed down from the stool, stumbled and dropped the empty bowl, and walked toward the barn. She let the handwoven bowl stay in the mud as she unlocked the door to the barn and walked in. It smelt of hay and wet hair.

In the middle of the barn there was an altar, of sorts. It looked like a set of winner’s pedestals for a competition. When the lalk curiously poked its head into the barn, the Battye woman had kneeled and placed her head with one ear flat on the lower of the two pedestals. The lalk whistled, a high-pitched rattling sound. Mari whistled back.

It took a few awkward steps into the dark room and blinked to adjust to the light levels. It whistled – Mari Battye whistled back like a lalk would. A year ago, the farm had been galore with the squeals of pigs and shrieking whistles of lalk, and complex conversations had been carried out in those frequencies. Sometimes the lalk wondered whether the humans knew they could hear what the pigs were saying, but it did not wonder like a human would. It was not a possibility in its mind, rather, its left brain believed one thing and its right brain another. It thought both things, but not always. It tried to squeal, and Battye made a human noise.

The noise continued. It was harmonic, and not harmonic. If the lalk did not trust her, if it did not imitate her and lie down with its head like her on the pedestal intended for it, there would be a problem. If it did not do this by the end of the song, the whole thing would be a fluke and the games would not begin and the village would most likely starve. Her voice cracked and she kept singing, and the lalk half-fell, half-knelt and twisted to place its head on the pedestal like its friend had.

It tried to sing, too.

The slaughter was swift, as the blade had been sharpened that morning.

Urban Legend

If you find yourself in a certain park at night, there will be a man in a black trenchcoat, standing on a tree stump, holding out his arms. You can ask to buy ‘product’ off him, and he will take your money and leave and you will stand there feeling stupid.

Three days later, when you’ve forgotten all about the incident and moved on, you will wake up with the urge to look yourself in the mirror. It’s dark so your pupils have dilated, and you can see what’s inside them.

Don’t do that; it will know that you’re there.