Friday, February 24, 2012

As Dark as it gets? Grave Demand presents "Broken Teacup."

Yes, this may be as Dark as it gets, or at least in the running, though in stating that, the story deals with love, baby, love sweet love...and the desire to know exactly what it is.  Which in this case and with these characters gets extremely explicit and messed up in ways you cannot imagine.  Trust me, you really can't.  Okay, perhaps some of you sick folks can, which is what "Broken Teacup" deals with.  Our host, Bobby, and his scummy best friend, Lemmy, and their newly recruited cohort, Elvis.  Bobby and Lemmy create Power Electronics noise laced with perverse samples, all based on bands I have had the pleasure of hearing, reviewing, and wondering as to their status as human beings--negligible at best?--and more. (And enjoying.  Admit it, John Claude, you're as sick as...)  After events open up, they move on to internet snuff videos and it only gets worse from there.  A trip to the SF East Bay from their humble abode amidst the blood-spattered landscape of Texas sets them up to meet the title character and...


Oh, yes, you were wondering what kind of title that was for such a depraved piece of horror fiction, eh?  Well, out cruisin' one morning, Bobby spots a woman and...well, let's let him take over.  Here's a sample, crude as it needs to be.


     “There.  Over there.  Look at her.”

      “What?  It’s Sunday morning and there ain’t no hookers—”

      “Fuck that, she’s lookin’ for some action.  She’s perfect, look at her.”

       I was smitten by this dyed blond bitch with a rockin’ shape and looking all nervous and shit.  If she’s hooking, it’s clear it’s not been for long, that’s for sure.  She’s got victim stamped onto her corneas with that pleading look.

      “She’s perfect, look at her eyes, that desperate look, she really needs something, boys.  And that smile, kind of like a broken teacup, some kind of beautiful design scarred, chipped, she’s barely hanging on, can’t you see it?  Can’t you see her future, peering into the broken teacup and reading the tea leaves and there’s nothing left but this dismal existence…?”

     Lemmy pulled the car past her, into the Lucky grocery store parking lot.  I know I looked hard at her when we passed by, so obvious what she was doing.  The brakes squealed as we stopped and the car felt hot, like death and sex and more death just waiting to be distributed. 

     “Well, Shakespeare, I think your eloquent description is a prime example of what Mr. Liu is looking for, so I’ll—”

      “No, I’ll get her.  I’ll…do her.  I’ll give Mr. Liu everything he wants, and more.”

     “What the fuck, you gonna get your hands dirty, eh?”

     Without looking at him, and with no malice: “Fuck you.  I’ve killed before, just because you get most of that out of the way don’t mean I won’t do it again.  Like now.”

     “Don’t scrunch your scrotum, pal.  She’s yours.”

     I was love-struck, but my love was dangerous.  Everything about this damaged bitch had my balls tingling and my cock starting to strain in my jeans.

    I leaned out of the passenger side window, waved her over.  She was still looking at me; I saw an impression of a smile caress her lips, not really taking hold.  God damn, this was too easy—and I wanted her.  Something in me really wanted to destroy her, break her into a thousand little pieces.


A lot of my stories deal with love in all it's grand and miniscule and harsh and heartfelt ways.  You read that tidbit and think these are simply bad guys and why should you care, but there's so much more going on. 

Especially when the mysterious Mr. Liu makes his appearance and all hell, heaven, and imagination gone wild springboards into focus.  The story may seem like it's got no redeeming quality, but it's got layers of possibilities being explored, options, choices, even love...if Bobby understands his predicament.

Don't want to give too much away, but must say, of all the short stories I've ever written, this one is right there among my favorite two or three.  It originated after reading a piece by John Everson in which the main character was just bad news, yet by the end of the story, the reader was made to somehow care for him.  Same deal here, to some extent.  (Not unlike "I Wish I Was A Pretty Little Girl" from my collection, The Dark is Light Enough for Me, which really makes readers uncomfortable at the beginning, but by the end, an understanding is formed, which is all I can ask, hehe...) (Yes, I am an insidious soul sometimes!)  (And, please, tell me you've bought the collection.)  

The magazine with the cajones to publish this truly hardcore piece of fiction is a new one, Grave Demand.  I'm delighted to be in their debut issue.  Here's what they say they want to publish:

"Grave Demand Magazine is dedicated to producing uncompromising articles and fiction that are too extreme for mainstream. Incendiary and transgressive content with a purpose: to broaden and illuminate the darkest aspects of the human condition."
Sounds Perfect for a lot of what I write.  I've read samples of the other work, some rough, rough stuff.  Finally, a magazine that asks for "too extreme" and backs it up!  I'm anxiously awaiting my contributor's copy and info on ordering will come through any day now.  I will post that info as soon as I get it so you can buy a copy and support what promises to be quite a magazine for the extreme horror enthusiasts!
Here's the cover art.  Looks like I'm in stellar company.  Can't wait for all of you to get your hands on this one. 

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Lovecraftian Horror: "Dark Ambient Metamorphosis" Sound & Vision in the Lovecraft eZine.

That's a lot of Lovecraft going 'round there, eh? 

"Dark Ambient Metamorphosis" is my attempt at writing something completely modern with a Lovecraft vibe.  I don't use any of his creations, yet the story has elements that 'feel' like they would fit into his world, perhaps.  I used to write music journalism, including a million and a half or so music reviews.  I took that knowledge and my love of weird music--dark ambient, power electronics, noise, all the side avenues of sound that relate--to create this story, which might also have a Clark Ashton Smith vibe, if only for the use of sound as an instrument in, well...wait a minute!  I cannot tell you everything. You simply have to click on the link and check it out, as well as the other stories, as I will be doing right after I post this.  I've enjoyed reading previous issues of the Lovecraft eZine, so I'm quite happy to be a part of the TOC in this one.

When you click on that link, you have the option of reading the story as well as listening to it!  Yes, this is the first audio take of one of my stories and it's sensational.  Mars Homeworld does the reading and some special tweaking for the alien language that is sooooooo damn good.  My hats off to Lovecraft eZine for the great presentation, the strangebeautiful artwork by Galen Dara, and this truly unique reading because...because...How in the world did he learn to speak that bizarre language so fluently? Hmmm...I wonder if Mars Homeworld is even really human. 


I'm in impressive company, what with A.J. French, W.H.Pugmire & Jacob Henry, Mike Davis, Patricia Correll, and Brian M. Sammons.  Thanks to everybody involved.  Good reading to be had there!

* * *

I should also point you in the direction of my latest interview.  I'm up at Wombat World, a blog by the excellent writer and Internet Royalty, Kate Laity.  It's her Writer Wednesday feature and I had a lot of fun answering the questions.  Looks great, too.  Here's the link:

* * *

I also had one of my personal fave short stories I've ever written, "Broken Teacup," published in the inaugural issue of Grave Demand, a magazine and story I will get into more once I am holding it in my hands and they have their ordering links set up.  This one needs more talk, because it's a story that goes to places you cannot even imagine. 

* * *

Also (another 'also,' John Claude; c'mon, you're pushing it!) sold a story to the Peep Show Volume 2 anthology, which is a wild bit of circularity.  Is that a word?  I don't care, I'm going to coin it now for this tidbit.  I had a story way back in...what was it?  2004? I had a story published in the first volume of that anthology, "The Sunglasses Girl," under my former pen name, John Kiel Alexander.  Well, I'm back in the follow-up volume using my real name with a story called, "The Misfits of Mayhem Meet Their Match." Yes, alliteration madness prevails!  Can you stand it?  :-P


Speaking of which...the collection.  Here's the pertinent links for The Dark is Light Enough for Me.
Enjoy, buy it and make me happy, check out the new reviews; heck, check em alllllll out!

Barnes & Noble:


Amazon Germany:

Amazon France:

Lots of good reading to already said that, this, whatever. Here's the cover art for the Lovecraft eZine.  Dig Mike Dominic's outstanding work!  

Monday, February 13, 2012

My Bloody, HEARTfelt Valentine: "Numb."

In 2005, I went through a relationship break-up, wallowing in the misery, the whole damn deal.  Life made no sense.  After a few months of simply existing, and barely at that, I started writing again.  A bunch of short stories came out of that, writing leading me out of my internal darkness.  Yeah, yeah, I know, I love the darkness, I love going there and spending time with the dark characters and more, the monsters and madness, but this was a different, less appealing kind of darkness.  After a dozen or so short stories, I remember on September 6, 2005, sitting down in front of my computer and saying out loud, "I am going to write a novel."  And I did, my first, more details on that at another point, because the focus here is on one of those stories.  Story number two.


This one has been published twice: in From The Asylum, an online zine--actually, it was also in the yearly print anthology they did, too; and in The Hive Mind, another online zine that has a few other pieces by me.  Both times it has been published it has been for Valentine's Day. 

How friggin' devious.

You see, it's not a cheerful affair at all.  It was a miserable time and this cold, sharp little excursion into self-mutilation was the result of that time.  But since it deals with love, though love lost, in a visceral, fantastical, yet still very emotional, though more so emotionally dead way, um...the editors and yours truly have always felt it had the appropriate jolt for the Valentine's Day blues.

An interesting aside before I post it: this is one of those stories that people who are perhaps in a similar mindset, lives in turmoil, love out of whack, they really latch onto it. I have found it in online searches a couple times or more.  Once, a young woman/girl on myspace, who's picture made me think perhaps she DID understand it.  And once by a young man who I believe was stationed overseas, a part of the troops over there--this was a few years ago, according to the date of the blog--and it was one of the last blog posts he posted.  I may be a bit off in this but, either way, I always find that a bit disconcerting. I wonder...

But, for your reading pleasure, here's a taste of what it's really like when one's heart is...well, more than broken.

*evil, very evil grin*
[oh, my, what an evil person you are, John Claude, to smile like that while knowing what's next...]


John Claude Smith

He feels nothing: numb, empty    

He resorts to cutting himself as an exercise in sensation, in trying to feel something at a time when he feels nothing. 

But even that does not break through.

He still feels nothing.

Acquiring a scalpel was easy, Tammy works at the clinic.  She brought one to him without questions.  He took it from her two days ago and closed the door before she had the opportunity to invite herself in or intrude in any other way. 

He did not care about how rude it came off.

He does not care about much of anything.

But her.  Alicia.  The woman he loves.

The woman who left him.  

(How could she leave me?  How could she give up on us?  The thoughts roll by in his head like a never ending freight train, its self-destructive cargo branded in torturous repetition.)

He places the scalpel against his naked chest, pressing hard.  The blade digs deep, blood streaming over his abdomen.


He grunts from the effort as he pulls the blade down.  The incision is deep, opening his insides to the world.  Well, not quite…  It opens him, but will require the effort of his bare hands to continue the process.

Still, he is numb.

He sets the scalpel down and thrusts his fingers into the fresh wound.  Pulling with supreme effort, he pries his chest wide open.  Muscles and bones are wrenched from their usual homes, tearing and breaking.

He stops, sucks in a weary breath, and gazes into the moist red cavity.

He jostles things, moves them about, rearranging the internal in ways that give him access to his goal.

The thick muscle’s rhythm is consistent, even though this more extreme exercise would normally render one dead.

He feels dead inside already, so…

He reaches in with both hands, scalpel severing arteries, clean cuts that lack precision yet serve their purpose.  Within minutes, he holds the beating heart in his hands.

And still feels nothing.

Well, what is the point of it all, then?

(He remembers how she used to put her hand on his chest, palm down, feeling the love, their bond, sensing the rightness of it all, staring intensely into each other’s eyes—enraptured--we are one…and her cherishing it, him as well, so close, so close… “Let me drown in you,” she would say, and he would plead, “Let’s drown in us, please”…and both of them meaning it, unconditionally, without fear because this is what people live for in the first place!)

(And drowning now…drowning…flailing…sinking…)

He walks calmly to the car and starts it up, pulling out of the parking lot.  The night is deep and uncaring.  Nobody notices because at least other people can sleep. 

He hasn’t slept in weeks.

He drives to where she lives.  Sitting in the car, he stares at the apartment where she rents a room. 

He scribbles a note on a piece of paper and exits the car.

He places the still beating heart at the foot of the door with the note. 

No reason to knock or ring the doorbell; let her sleep.  Let them all sleep. 

Maybe someday he will sleep again as well…

He rereads the note: Since you own my heart, you might as well have it.

Unhappy and exhausted, he leaves, his head still reeling as the freight train rolls by.  

Perhaps this gesture will help her to understand. 

Perhaps she will just scream.

Numb, he drives alone into the deep and uncaring night….


Always odd for me to read some of those stories and the novel, though I can do it quite easily now without it all dredging up memories that hurt.  I am still here.  And the path of my life has finally led me to the woman I was always meant to be with, my Beautiful Alessandra.  She helps this strange ride make sense.  I have taken it all in and continue to live, learn, love, crash and burn--more than once, of course--and love again. 

And write about it.  

Yes, that is a Heart in a box of chocolates!  What? Oh, yeah, quite icky! Now, if the heart was dipped in chocolate, that might make for a special Love treat.  Hmmm...


Thursday, February 9, 2012

Author Platform: Literary Horror or...

So, when I started this writing gig many moons ago, the world was a very different place. Now being a writer entails so much more than simply writing. There's blogs, promotions of this and that sort, a dozen times a dozen Other Things to deal with, all related to the central cause of getting your name out there and getting noticed.

There's also this thing that's imperative, it seems: Building your Author Platform.

Finding that thing about your writing, that niche, that people can go to when they want there fill of that type of fiction (or non-fiction) as related to genre as related to...well, it's a quandary when you write as I do. But I've decided what I do, as has been noted in observations by my agent and other astute readers, as well as an inner acknowledgement I've known all along, is literary horror.

So...I am John Claude Smith: Literary Horror Writer.

But...that doesn't seem to say enough about what I do, at least not to yours truly. Hmmm...

Perhaps I will borrow from some of the reviewers.

One reviewer said I "transport the reader far beyond the horror genre." How can I incorporate that? John Claude Smith: Literary Horror Writer who transports the reader far beyond the horror genre. Sure, I kind of like that. It's more honest. As in, yeah, it's dark literary stuff, not all horror, but when it bites down, it hurts, baby.

Perphaps that's what I need to add. Let's see how that reads: John Claude Smith: Literary Horror Writer who transports the reader far beyond the horror genre, dark literary stuff, not all horror, but when it bites down, it hurts, baby. Hmmm...

I think we're getting there.

Another reviewer states my writing, "isn't for the sensitive or the faint-hearted. Many of the stories are edgy, working on concepts and thoughts that all us adults are familiar with, but rarely talk about. Smith isn't being quirky, or finding satisfaction in the gory, sexually perverse or the profane. No, he is writing this stuff because it unbalances the reader. Disturbs. Sometimes frightens - the essence of what quality horror/dark fantasy is all about."

I like that. Let's see how I can fit some of that in: John Claude Smith is a Literary Horror Writer who transports the reader far beyond the horror genre, dark literary stuff, not all horror, but when it bites down, it hurts, baby. It's not for the faint-hearted. Many of the stories are edgy, working on concepts and thoughts that all us adults are familiar with, but rarely talk about. His writing unbalances the reader. Disturbs. Sometimes frightens--the essence of what quality horror/dark fantasy is all about.

Almost there. It, um...almost feels write, er, right. But...

Another reviewer had this to say: "...behind the window-dressings of dark, speculative fiction we find the musings of a philosopher. The concepts of guilt, ennui, ostracism, addiction and rage are examined just as keenly by Smith and his horror as they would have been by the likes of Sartre, Camus, Kafka, Nietzsche and Kant. The reader is forced to think along with feel, a dark dialogue open straight into your psyche."

Well, something of this needs to be added, to really define what I do as a Literary Horror writer, y'know? Let me mix it all up here.

John Claude Smith is a Literary Horror Writer who transports the reader far beyond the horror genre. Dark literary stuff, not all horror, but when it bites down, it hurts, baby. It's not for the faint-hearted. Many of the stories are edgy, working on concepts and thoughts that all us adults are familiar with, but rarely talk about. His writing unbalances the reader. Disturbs. Sometimes frightens--the essence of what quality horror/dark fantasy is all about. Behind the window-dressings of dark, speculative fiction we find the musings of a philosopher. The concepts of guilt, ennui, ostracism, addiction and rage are examined with a fine-tooth precision akin to Sartre, Camus, Kafka, Nietzsche and Kant. The reader is forced to think along with feel, a dark dialogue open straight into your psyche.

I forgot to add another fave, "not your average horror." And what of an observation in a private message on FB today: "You write "sitting on the patio with a glass of wine" stuff. Non-rushing, thinking, rethinking, mind exercising work."  (But it's horror, remember; or at least pitch black.)

Let's see, how can I...


John Claude Smith is a Literary Horror Writer who transports the reader far beyond the horror genre. Dark literary stuff, not your average horror, but when it bites down, it hurts, baby. It's not for the faint-hearted. Many of the stories are edgy, working on concepts and thoughts that all us adults are familiar with, but rarely talk about. His writing unbalances the reader. Disturbs. Sometimes frightens--the essence of what quality horror/dark fantasy is all about. Behind the window-dressings of dark, speculative fiction we find the musings of a philosopher. The concepts of guilt, ennui, ostracism, addiction and rage are examined with the fine-tooth precision akin to Sartre, Camus, Kafka, Nietzsche and Kant. The reader is forced to think along with feel, a dark dialogue open straight into your psyche. Sitting on the patio with a glass of wine, non-rushing, rethinking, mind exercising work.

3, 2, 1...[vacuum sucking sound as John Claude's head implodes]

[deep breaths, the head re-inflates like a tattered balloon]

I think...I think we'll tone it all down to:

John Claude Smith is a Literary Horror Writer. With a twist. Of acid. On your brain. And...


Can't I just say I'm a writer of dark stuff for dark minds?

There! That works!

John Claude Smith writes Dark Stuff for Dark Minds.

Or perhaps...


It's a never ending quest, my friends.


That's right! Kick back with your bunny slippers and your pipe filled with something besides tobacco, have a sip o' the good poison, and like this devil, enjoy my collection, The Dark is Light Enough for Me. Literary Horror: Dark Stuff for Dark Minds. Dig it!

With a twist...

[Shhhh, John!]

Saturday, February 4, 2012

The Good, The Bad and The Ugly: Cover Art Shenanigans.

Actually, working with the art team at Ampichellis, which is one person who knows and appreciates my work, it was a rather good give and take of ideas being tossed around.  Though there was some bad and ugly, we kept twisting things until we got it right.   Take my hand as I guide you along the stained yellow brick road we traveled in order to get to the amazing cover art for my collection, The Dark is Light Enough for Me.

My girlfriend, Alessandra, suggested a Vanitas-style piece would be appropriate for my dark words.  Subtle, a skull and candle and book, something like that.  We suggested this, and below are some examples of what Ampichellis came up with:

The last one kinda works, eh?  Tasty.  The first two are okay as well, though perhaps a little too clean. 

At about this time, Alessandra and I thought we found the perfect vanitas, one that made sense to us.  But within a week or two after we had made our discovery, while browsing in a book store in Rome, lo and behold and what the heck, there it was, on a new release by Iain Pears (or re-issue, I am not sure) and...wait a bloody minute!  Researching his work, to pull up the title to show you the art, I do not see it!  Was it another writer?  I think not, I'm quite sure it was Mr. Pears.  Was it a hallucination? Did we magically see the art on a book that does not exist, at least not in this world (perhaps in the AlternaWorld!), so as to deter us from choosing it, suggesting it to the art department and...

This quandary may never be resolved.  A mystery, just like what Mr. Pears deals in.  Hmmm...

As we got deeper into the process, I suggested a few pieces by Heironymus Bosch, or possibly something by Goya.  The sense of Weird, of horror but something beyond horror in both of these artist's paintings, worked well for my head.  I was politely informed that, "Those dead folks are out of our financial range," or something to that effect.  As in, "hey, are you crazy, John Claude?  Do you think money grows on trees?"  Alas, I can dream. 

Then there was the girl with the pitch black eyes, "The Sunglasses Girl," referencing that wicked piece of fiction from the collection.  A way early mock-up shows just the idea, quite imperfect, but the gist is there.  I kind of liked this but knew something would have to be added.   Not sure what, though I remember having an idea for a tattoo that relates to the book, the story--a rat, perhaps.  Here she is, a striking contrast to the other pieces as well as within the photo itself, what with the blonde hair, pale skin...and those eyes. 

Scary, or simply odd, and not quite my sunglasses girl--she had dark hair--but still an intriguing side-step.

I have deleted or misfiled a few of the other covers I wish I had to show you.  There was the gargoyle one, rather simple, deep red, looked nice.  There was the quirky one with a woman laying down, a brick wall with figures rather like ghosts watching over her, which was close for me, but it needed something more as well.  Always something more with me, hehe...  Though I can see with some work it might be good for my next collection because of a thematic element for that one that it hooks into quite nicely.  Then there was the ultimately freaky peacock with the brilliant green background, as in, a peacock head, all its color, and a background, not a landscape, just a brilliant green background and, I swear, I really looked hard at that one.  I knew it was not right, yet something there worked.  Alessandra loved it but, again, we knew it was not right for this collection, yet I ended up looking for something else that related and found another peacock piece of art I loved, capturing the beauty and strangeness that the collection needed, but we could not find out who the artist was on that piece...and I don't think the art department was as taken by it as I was. 


Then there were these two, which really appealled to my love of...of what?  They simply worked for me because of their rather stark, grainy look and color tones.  I especially like the one on the left, like that layout, which might be why we made a variation of that for the final product.  [looks again]  No, actually I think it was the one on the right I liked the most, but with the layout of the one on the left.  I believe that was my suggestion.  [looks again, tilts head, marbles ricochet off my cranium] 

Has my tense gone wacky here?  Excuse me...anyway, here they are.

But as much as I like these, and could see something like this being used by a publisher as a standard look for a horror book line, we kept looking.  Apparently, we all felt that ever-present "something more" would be better...and we were right. 

When they initially sent me the art with the woman with her hands over her eyes, palms open to reveal those eyes, I was hesitant because it immediately made me think, "Pan's Labyrinth."  I thought that would be the focus of others upon seeing it.  But, she's different.  Dirtier.  A suggestion of sensuality.  A weird mix.  And gloves.  Odd in ways that drew me into her grimy charms.  But what really made it work for me was that over the span of a few days, and with many truly mangled layout takes on this woman, the art department pulled up that damn freaky, bleak room and put it right below her.  

Now we were on to that something more we were searching for.  See, for me, the element of horror as mixed with the strange that she brings is essential, a perfect companion, the perfect visual accompaniment for the stories.  But adding that room, something that suggested an overwhelming ambience of wrong, of dread thick and clinging to the walls, with a history so dark--despite the harsh light, which only magnifies this sensation for me--I want to know the stories it tells.  Yes, that room, the stories IT tells, ahhhh...if the walls could talk, eh?  I knew we finally had what we needed.  I knew it contained that something more we so wanted.  Here She is, along with The Dark Room:

So pretty, my monstrous, nightmare mistress.  No, wait, Alessandra, just kidding, honey, I don't dream of her...oh no.  hehe... But that room, yeah.  The Dark Room.  There's a story there, perhaps many, and I want to discover those stories.  Perhaps in dreams. 

I'm listening...

Are you listening?  Are you reading my book?  Have you bought it yet? Well, here's the link which includes both the digital and print hook-up.  It's also available via B&N and OmniLit.  Check it out, buy it, review it, talk to me about it, "like" the page.  Let me know you're out there...

Oh, and as a final salvo tossed your way, we did think about putting an author photo on the print version, but apparently nothing was thought appropriate, I don't really know. I mean, I thought those nekkid ones might help sell a few copies for the sheer audacity of using them.  But the art department said, "Yes, you pervert, you might think them appropriate, but not with the penguin!"  Or, um...there was this one from probably thirty years ago, a photo of "The author as a misguided young man," moments before he tumbled backwards into the SF Bay...or was shoved over the edge, deservedly so.  Oy!  Now THAT'S a scary picture!

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Fred is My South Park Kenny: "Mutinous Facial Abstractions."

Fred is my good friend.  I've known him for 28 years, give or take a couple.  He has made it into a handful of stories, usually ending up dead, yet back again in another story, only to end up either getting his throat slashed in a strip club ("The Lust Vacuum"), or simply referenced during needle to the vein shenanigans ("The Anatomy of Addiction").  He's even one of the main characters of my novel being shopped around, The Wilderness Within, and I can't even get into what happens there, oh no!  Some surprises are worth the wait.  Actually, the house by the forest in that novel is loosely based on his house up in Northern California.   

He is my South Park Kenny.  Always coming back for more.

In the stories which I have Fred in mind, I usually call him Frank, though on occasion, he's Fred.  Now, as a reference for character, sure, I start with him, but the character diverts enough into a fictional alter-ego to make the reference more for my amusement than anything else.

Anyway, the following flash fiction piece, originally published in Nocturnal Ooze in 2003, stars Fred...and what happens to him in this piece veers heavy into bizarro fiction.   

You might think twice about that toothache you've been trying to avoid after reading this one.

As with all the flash fiction pieces, they are more of the claw hammer lobotomy type, a blunt lil' blurt of weird and done.  You want depth, check my collection, The Dark is Light Enough for Me.  (Amazon print and ebook:
Also available via Amazon in the UK, Germany and France, as well as OmniLit.)  Or hope, as I do, that a publisher comes along who loves the novel, because that one, oh yeah...layers, baby.  But for now...Enjoy this bit o' bizarro, "Mutinous Facial Abstractions."


We each have a breaking point.  Fred had reached his.  He had to stop the voices in his head and he had to stop them now.

For six months he’d noticed the ever increasing rant of static voices as they traipsed through his skull at all hours of the day and night.  They’d started as slippery, snake-like whispers coiled around his eardrums, indescribable clipped vocal blips that nudged for space amidst his thoughts, but now they had escalated to a constant, thought devouring roar as they bored into his mind and corrupted everything within the cramped confines of his aurally congested cranium.  After two weeks of cat naps at best, it was time to put an end to it.  He needed his sleep. 

It was the vibratory ache that pointed him in what he thought was the right direction, pointing him towards the two painfully pulsating fillings in the back of the right side of his mouth.  Uncertainty hung like a damp rag over a feverish forehead; he’d been feverish and moistly uncomfortable for the last week.  He wasn’t sure if the fillings were the means by which the voices had invaded his head, but he’d heard of instances in which a filling (or fillings) had served as a receiver (or receivers) of nibbling, squealing distortion radio transmissions or some similarly aligned intrusion.  He’d heard of this phenomenon, not really sure of its validity, but it seemed as good a proposition as any.     

Out of work for ten months, with no money or insurance, it was time to improvise. 

Fred took a swig of Jack Daniels, stuck the pliers in his mouth, grasped the nearest of the two enamel culprits capped with the traitorous, unknown amalgamation of metals, and pulled.

As the muscles in his arms tensed, he grimaced and a scream gurgled amidst the iron and saliva as the tooth, with a caustic sucking sound, was extricated from its bony roost.  He tossed it into the sink, spitting blood all the while, sweat pouring like Niagara Falls, body quaking and shaking like San Francisco, and determinedly continued his uprooting.  Two more shots of Jack Daniels, squeeze, grip and pull, and the pain seemed to split his skull with all the potency of an axe splitting wood as he ripped the second offender out of his mouth. 

But the voices still murmured, mysteriously present.  Fred thought it was maybe an echo, maybe the fillings had left their final unwanted radio messages in the cavity of his mouth before being rudely dismissed for their irritating conduct.  He leaned toward the mirror, mouth wide open, inspecting…when he saw them. 

From the ragged red caverns where the teeth had once resided, tiny creatures climbed out, as if released from the prison of his jawbone.  Like chrome-plated insects, but with faces like scuffed baseballs--the scuffs indicative of blinking, droopy clusters of eyes--and serrated mouths in constant movement, they clamored for space within his suddenly crowded mouth.  He tried to close it, to move his tongue, to spit them out, to no avail.  They unhinged his jaw with the strength of their exponentially accumulative presence. 

The voices were loud again, a convoluted cacophony, abruptly silenced by his shrill caterwauling. 

Their response was pointed—a scalpel in search of skin—the voices yelling in unison: “Shut up and do as we say.” 

Fred was swift to shut up, despite the stunning turn of events.               

“Get a spoon.  We need you to scoop out the eyes to let out the rest.”

Fred’s initial thought, barely registering amidst the racket and insanity overload, was, “Why couldn’t they just use the nostrils?”  But already his keening whine, like a whirring dentist’s drill, soared towards an ear-shattering crescendo as he stared into the mirror.  His mouth was full of these things, these tiny creatures, his bloated cheeks puffing out like those of a happy chipmunk, gleefully swollen with a harvest of nuts. 

He stared into the mirror, his aching eyes feeling like skewered onions, the pressure from behind and within causing them to bulge and roll obscenely, reminiscent of a chameleon’s disconnected visual perusal.  With abrupt shock, his left eye was jettisoned with all the force of a dislodged champagne cork, obscenely smacking the mirror, before spinning like a roulette ball in the sink, finally resting in the drain and dully staring back up at him.   As more of the tiny creatures crawled out onto his face, Fred’s ascending cries shattered the overhead light bulb and popped his eardrums.  His stunned reflection was trapped within the mirror’s cracked spider-web countenance.   

He had succeeded in achieving the silence he had so wished to attain, but he knew the sleep that would follow would not be satisfying.  It would be permanent. 

In the dreary, dreadfully drawn out seconds before his right eye succumbed to the same ludicrous fate, with Death waiting in the wings, Fred stared in disbelief and dour fascination as the slightly pudgier than infinitesimal—and quite incomprehensible--invaders continued to scurry out from within him, and his face started to crumple in on itself, a crinkled skin implosion of soft, malleable flesh devoid of skeletal foundation.     


Fun, eh?  BTW, as an interesting aside, it should be noted that I have never had a cavity.  Probably just my way of detering strange invaders.

Upcoming: a couple short stories are about ready to be published, another interview, etc., on and on.  Join in, follow here, buy the book, please and thank you and...

Here's a picture of poor Kenny doing what he does best.