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Horror Pod Class


Hey class!  Come meet Mike and Tyler, two high school teachers who absolutely love to talk and write about the horror genre!  We also own and write for a website named Signal Horizon, where you can get the latest news, reviews, and analysis of works from the horror and dark science fiction genres!

Apr 22, 2019

We are excited to announce the finalists for our April Flash Fiction Contest.  Below you will find all four stories.  Check them out and then vote on our Facebook poll and on Twitter.  The winner will receive the $50.00 cash prize.  April's topic was "The Global Weirding", and we were all truly impressed with the quality of work submitted.  If you did not make the finals this month feel free to submit next month as we will announce the flash fiction topic on May 1st for the May Flash on the Horizon contest.  
 
Finalist #1 TEETH by Laura Ryan
 

We were on week three of the quarantine when the man arrived. Ioni noticed him first and ran excitedly into the living room where mother was removing the last of papa’s teeth.

“Hold still,” she hollered as she twisted and yanked inside his mouth. She held the pliers in one hand and a bloody kitchen towel in the other.
Ioni yelled excitedly but she was hard to understand. Her teeth were removed a week ago and she still had trouble speaking clearly. The rest of us had already learned how to use our tongues in a way to make speech comprehensible.
Mother stopped what she was doing, mid yank, when she finally understood what Ioni was saying. I was in the corner sharpening the knives and stopped suddenly, feeling a sudden tightening in my chest. Mother’s panic was contagious.
“Get in the basement. NOW!”

I jumped up and grabbed Ioni and hollered for the others as we headed for the cellar. We practiced this drill countless times since the quarantine began. Sometimes mother and papa woke us up in the middle of the night, startling us with shouts and loud noises, so that we were automatically programmed to run to safety.
Huddled on the old couch in the basement we listened to the voices above us. We heard mother and papa and then a stranger, the man, talking in words that were unintelligible. But we understood the tones —- harsh, guttural, pleading. Silence.
Then the man’s voice became louder. We understood that he was now inside the house. I looked over at my brothers and sisters, wide eyed. We had not seen another person outside of the family for months, even before the quarantine. Our farm, miles away from the nearest neighbors, afforded us unique protection. We were prepared with food and supplies, and our generator kept our batteries charged. We knew about the virus, the chaos, the danger of others.

We also knew about the danger of ourselves. Once the virus infected the central nervous system, it destroyed the prefrontal cortex of the brain. No more rational thought, no more mind controlling the brain. The brain operated solely via the amygdala, which became a hot locus of rage under the virus’ command. Rabies was the old name, a lyssavirus that was transmitted from the saliva of animals, now mutated to spread between humans. This mutation appeared out of nowhere, and with the rampant destruction of civilized society, its origin was impossible to determine. Those with the infection were attacking others, in a blind rage, spreading the virus through bites. Death was rapid, hastened by injuries, and inevitable due to hydrophobia, a virally mediated fear of water.

I silently crept to the base of the stairs, straining to hear anything from above. Silence. I slowly climbed the steps despite the wild gesturing of my siblings. No one made a sound but their terror was palpable. I continued to the door and pressed my ear against it.

Silence.
I pushed the door open a crack and peered through. I could see mother’s body on the floor, blood pooling around head. Despite my fear I pressed on, needing to know what lay around the corner. I pressed my back tightly against the wall and continued to edge further from the basement door.
I saw him then, crouched in the corner of the living room, examining the knives I had been sharpening just minutes before. He turned to look at me, wild, disheveled, a layer of grime coating his face. His eyes were black, but his teeth. His teeth were a grotesque, dazzling white.

Finalist #2 The Monolith by Ross T Byers

Today, God crushed Svetlana under His stone heel, mashing her meat and marrow deep into the soil.  God, like the wind over the steppes, never ceases when one is in the way.  Or, perhaps it is more accurate to say that the wind is like God, never pausing to notice us.  The steppes are littered with cragged, sharp, broken stones, the bones and bodies of God’s brothers, whom He slew.  He broke them apart, divine fratricide, and scattered the pieces.  The grass is low and yellow, the sky is always gray, and the wind never rests.  It is best to get close to God at night, for his body blocks the wind, but those too near are crushed to death when He rolls over in his sleep.  It is safer to sleep near the bones of His long-dead brothers, though the wind always finds its way around to us.  In the morning, we scrub the bird excrement off God.  We must do it in the early light, before He wakens and rises.  Those who plummet from His towering stone shoulders, or who are crushed under His massive granite feet are left in the mud, their blood nourishing the yellow grass.  We must always follow God.  He is our protector.  He is our life, our purpose, our joy.
 
II.
Once, Nadezhda failed to climb down from scrubbing God before He awoke.  She clung to the fissures in God’s torso, wedging her finger-tips into the crevices as God stood.  God looked down at Nadezhda, gravel flaking from His neck, His wind-worn face no more than an outline, a suggestion, its expression fixed.  He cupped Nadezhda in His left hand.  We wept at the sight.  We knelt in awe.  God had never acknowledged or touched one of us before.  Nadezhda lay prostrate in God’s palm, senseless with bliss.  Then God braced the middle finger of His right hand against His thumb, and flicked Nadezhda off His palm.  For a moment, a misty red cloud hung in the sky, suspended above God’s palm as the pieces of Nadezhda scattered to the horizon.
 
III.
The wind always wins.  Many people tire of its ceaseless howling, the endless struggle, how it always blows in our faces no matter in which direction God is leading us.  He is our only shelter.  He walks forward, into the wind, never blinking or halting.  We avoid His footprints, which are deep and wide, and sometimes fill with groundwater.  Only when there is a flooded footprint can we slake our thirst.  His footprints are long and wide enough for ten families to kneel and drink.  It takes us one hundred steps to match one of His.  Though his stride is long, it is slow, which allows us to keep pace at a respectful distance behind Him.  Stones fall from God as he walks.  We keep those that are small enough to carry.   Those of us who carry a piece of God are blessed.  The wind whips our hair and tugs at our flesh.  Those who tire of the wind run ahead of God, in order to stand under His falling stone foot.
 
Finalist #3 The Cry of the Demon Elk by Bryan Dyke
 
“You’re perfect,” the woman says to me as she sits up in the bed.
 
Her body is a work of art; smooth lines merge with the soft sheets as the gentle, morning winds caress her. The succubus eyes flash as her dark lashes flutter and her jet hair parts.
 
I can feel the ground shake softly. Something is wrong.
 
My smile breaks and I look away from her, through the bedroom and French doors, past the balcony to the tops of the buildings. There is the sprawl of New Orleans beyond those doors; the ramshackle glory of a ruined city sprawls in the morning sun. The shape of rickety sheds atop run-down buildings are crisscrossed with slouching cables and a web of over-loaded clotheslines. The city smells of burning tires, rotten milk spread across pavement, and, of course, stale bourbon. The heat is already swelling in punishing waves. There is a playful sound from the street, a haphazard jangle of horns and laughter, the subtle shouts of both pain and pleasure, the barks and growls of nearby dogs fighting for food.
 
I look back to the bed and watch her once more; white sheets and white walls, the light is blinding. There is a drink by the pillows that sparkles clear as crystal. She waits for me there.
 
“Come back to bed,” she purrs prowling.
 
For the first time in as long as I can remember, my head doesn’t hurt and feel wrong. I ignore the humid waves of air as they swoon from the street.
I take the glass and drink, but the water tastes like my own mouth, hot, a broiled nothingness of spit and blood, the thirst unquenched, the craving unappeased.
Before I can touch her, however, there is a knock at the door.
 
Now the stale pause hangs sure. Lust is gone, leaving horror and heat… leaving wrong.
 
“Who could that be?” she asks.
 
I know the answer. My hand finds the pistol under the mattress. I get up and the ground shakes harder now. I’m nearly lifted off my feet.
 
“What was that?” she demands. The passion and desire are gone from her eyes, surrendered to fear. I know the look well.
 
The door knocks with even more anger. Relentless. Pounding. I rack the bolt to the Glock and listen for them through the door.
 
“Get under the bed,” I order.
 
More tremors rumble outside. Now the balcony is covered in sooty clouds. The haze is a choking smoke covering the city. The heat has come alive.
 
Again, the ground shakes. I can feel the world shimmy as if I’m on a boat riding the waves. Thunder sounds, louder than anything I’ve heard before. Louder than even the bombs as they dropped over San Francisco and broke the world.
 
The knocking hammers. Wood splinters. I hear voices in German outside my door. Boots. They’re here. The bastards finally found me.
 
I fill the door with two rounds…maybe three…my ears scream in protest.
 
“Where’s my rifle?” I bark at the woman on the bed. For a frantic moment, I’m lost in the confusion. Then I see it. The carbine is leaning against a chestnut dresser ready. Yet before I can reach it, glass shatters and I’m shoved by an unseen force out on the balcony.
 
Flashbangs erupt within the apartment. My head slams the wrought iron gates and blood trickles down. My ears are on fire.
 
The armed soldiers flow into the room- an orderly stack of helmets and grey bodies clad in bullet-proof vests with submachine guns. The point man barks commands in German, all muffled through his gas mask.
 
“Police, freeze!” someone else shouts. His accent is thick. My eyes are burning with oleoresin capsicum and the sensation wakes me out of my sweaty stupor. Not a dream.
 
I raise my pistol and blast the lead man in the neck. Red blood spits outward. The next man freezes in the door, unable to get past his fallen comrade. I plug him as well, but his thick vest takes the round and merely knocks him flat. I fire four more shots, two blindly into the drywall next to the door.
 
I need my rifle, I think, but it’s nowhere to be found.
 
I can feel the woman tug at my arm to lift me up, her nails sinking into my flesh. She is screaming but now I can’t hear her voice. I lift my hand to my ears and feel them coated in blood.
 
Now I look back again to the French doors and outside. Oven doors. Dusted plaster is everywhere, the city is a pocket of hell. This is not another nuclear bomb. The heat is rising, unbearable.
 
The sky ripples with crackling booms. I cannot take my eyes off the smoke outside, off the clouds and sky. Distant, there is the call of an elk, an ungodly animal-like cry, and my whole body quakes.
 
“Sich...” the German voice calls from the breach, but I interrupt him with two more rounds toward the door and wall.
 
The hall outside goes silent. The world has stopped. Just then, I notice I’ve been shot as well. The red blood drips from my shoulder, but all I feel is burning heat and listen to a silence interrupted by the sizzling of my blood as it taps upon the wrought iron.
 
The city goes dark, I look out across the clotheslines, and rooftops, to see the maw of hell itself open. A black spire of awful storm churns. The ground boils. Madness. The clouds part and the form of the colossal knee-cap and elephantine shin lumbers through the sliver of sunlight. A shin. The shadow above it is huge, a giant humanoid mountain, a monster beyond anything I could imagine. A shadow….a shadow that burns.
 
I drop my pistol.
This is the way the world was broken.
The distant sound of an elk cries.
Blood and tears boil away.
 
Finalist #4 Clean Slates by Eleanor Sciolistein

Aside from the event that changed the world forever, May 11th was a typical Tuesday. People got up and had breakfast. They sent each other emails and commuted to their jobs. They talked, and fought, ate and made love. They laughed and cried, were born and died. Just like any Tuesday.

Some, living in the parts of the world where the sun rose first, had already said goodnight to Tuesday by the time the blackout came. They’d set their alarms for Wednesday, and blindly fallen asleep, confident that the next day would be pretty much the same. Only, it wasn’t.

The blackout came at 5.15pm GMT. It lasted exactly 7.4 seconds. 7.4 seconds in which everyone, the whole world, went to sleep. When they awoke, in their new reality, every person’s soul, was visible.

For most, to experience even a seven second blackout, was terrifying. There were of course circumstances where those seven seconds made a big difference. There were hundreds of thousands of accidents globally. Some people died as a result of the blackout. For those who remained, it took a while to realise that it wasn’t just you.  Everyone had felt it. One minute you were going about your day, then suddenly, it was like someone had hit the pause button. When you came to, you knew time had passed. Only a tiny sliver, but, you knew. Then of course, there were the nodes.

By 5.16pm GMT on Tuesday 11th May,  every human being on the planet had grown a node. It sat between the eyebrows, around the size of an aubergine and looked as if it were made of delicately blown glass. Inside, a thick white liquid swirled and eddied. Within days doctors had proclaimed to the world’s frantic media, that the nodes were connected via tissue and nerves to the human brain at a point between the eyebrows, where some cultures believed the so called ‘third eye’ was located.

How the entire globe had suddenly sprouted a new, visible, organ in the centre of their foreheads was a matter of much discussion. Some said it was a form of evolutionary process that we were unaware of. Others, a spontaneous mutation brought about by some massive cosmic event. The consensus only really formed when the nodes started to change.

For the first week or so, everyone’s node was the same. Early in the second week however, some people’s nodes started to alter. The effect was like seeing a droplet of indian ink fall into a bowl of milk. A small black spot would appear and slowly begin to bleed out, leaking into the pearlescent whiteness of the liquid. Then, more black spots would appear, like cavities in a tooth, spreading with a sense of creeping decay.

It was in the third week that people began to agree on what the nodes were. Somehow and in some way, the transparent bulb in the centre of each person’s forehead, was the physical, visible, content of their soul. It was noted that children had bright white nodes that would remain virtually unblemished ‘till adolescence. Newborns, still innocent, had nodes so white they almost seemed to glow. In prisons across the globe, violent offenders attempted to shield the fact that their nodes were blackened, like something burnt. Experiments were done to track the effects. Evil deeds made it blacken, selfless deeds made it whiten, though some stains were hard to remove.

Who the arbiter of the nodes was, remained a mystery. As did their origin and purpose. What was no longer a mystery however, was a person’s character. Highly respected individuals were revealed to be venomously wicked people with soot black souls, their protestations of innocence falling upon deaf ears. Some politicians had their nodes tattooed to conceal their blemished souls. Secretive wrongdoers suffered. Their evil exposed. Their souls, like rorschach tests, splattered and stained by their deeds.

 

The first year of visible souls was beautiful. There was peace, harmony, a species of love. Knowing that their every action was visible and held a consequence made people behave differently. They became gentle, considerate, more thoughtful toward each other. The world was almost, for a moment, loving. It was not, however, truthful or free and the cracks began to show.

It was early in the second year that dissenting voices were heard. They talked about freedom, human nature, survival of the fittest. They said that whiter than white, was unachievable, unnatural. They said that a life being ‘good’ for fear of punishment was a life wearing chains of your own making. They said the human soul was meant to have dark spots, that evil didn’t exist, but that violence was natural. Violence drove survival, our evolution.

Within weeks the phrase ‘Free Will’ was plastered on every surface. Overpopulation was still a problem that needed to be fixed.  As pressure increased, thoughts of now and of me, became more important. People became less forgiving, less tolerant, less pathetic. Soon enough, the colour of the soul, helped the strong pick out the weak.  

Something snapped and a necessary change occurred. The whitest souls were labelled as freaks, burdens and parasites. First they were rounded up, then many were eliminated. In the fight for resources, being kind doesn’t help. The stained were the strong, they said. The unblemished  were the weak. Only the stained are really free they said, only the stained are truly human.

Noone wants to be unblemished now. Sin is survival. You learn to be a predator or end up as the prey.

Last year we crowned a leader. His node is black as ebony and this, they say, is right. Now the stained rule, the unblemished live as slaves. I can’t help but wonder, if whoever gave us souls, would despair to see what we have all become,  or if,  instead, they’d rejoice at what they’d helped us to achieve. The true realisation, of who we were really are.