Monday, May 21, 2018

Salmon Run by Hector Duarte Jr.



Salmon Run

They’re pointing guns at me. They think I’m strapped.

“Keep your clothes on, Trey. We’re just taking you in to get better. You know the drill.”

Samantha’s talking to the new guy. I don’t know him. They’re whispering, too far away. I can’t hear what they’re saying.

I don’t know why the new guy drew his gun. I haven’t had a gun pointed at me in I don’t know how long. 

I can’t go back to the ALF. Everyone there speaks Spanish. They look at me like I’m from Asia or some shit. I’m speaking English, motherfuckers. The only good thing about that place is how easy it is to get out of there. Just take my meds with a smile, tell them it’s working, and I’m out the door. If I want to go back home, I just jump in front of a car and fuck up an ankle. Soon enough, it’s bandaged up with a phone call to mom, who comes to scoop me up because I’m her son after all. Everyone knows blood is thicker than mental illness.

Mike takes a couple steps closer after the new guy’s done talking with Sam.

She’s only ten but, God bless her, can she read through the bull shit. That’s why they’re here. I just wanted to get out of the house, take a little walk. That Miami sun is such a beautiful thing to see some days, and it makes me want to walk, walk, and walk.

Jesus did that: walked and walked, picking up people who followed him, curing diseases, turning water into wine. I just want to walk like that and get in adventures.

Mom was screaming at me to take my pill before I left. I take that thing, in thirty minutes I won’t want to walk anymore and, fuck me, it’s too pretty a day not to walk under that bulbous sun. Just look at that thing.

“Trey, just get in the car and you’ll be back soon.”

Mike’s a good guy. Always has been, but today he seems angrier. I think he’s trying to set an example for the new guy.

The way the new guy points that gun at me with his hand shaking, I know it’s not true. This time, they’re taking me in for good. I see it in the way tears run down Mom’s cheeks and Sam hangs on to the side of her leg.

I just wanted to leave. Right out the door and into that bright day. Walk the shit out of Miami. Sam was trying to help Mom out when she got in front of the door. I get it, but I just had to leave.

Sam’s so small and light, it wasn’t hard getting her out of the way. Soon as I did, though, she started crying like crazy. Mom’s screams filled the house. I knew I’d done something wrong by the way Sam cried, so I waited for the cops. I took off all my clothes, so they’d see I wasn’t strapped, and sat on the lawn. Mike looked worried when he saw me. I said I just wanted to walk. 

Everyone’s really pissed off this time. It’s because I pushed Sam. I’ve never messed with her before. It’s usually a big screaming match with mom, maybe a light shove.

The new guy won’t put the gun down and I can’t stay here. The sun is so bright, I have to get walking. Imagine being at the beach right now. I have to go. When I come back, it’ll be better.

“Don’t fucking move, man,” the new guy yells when I bend over to pick up my clothes.
Why does he have to curse around my little sister?

“Don’t yell at my sister, sir,” I say, loud enough so he can hear me over the traffic on 117th.

The new guy doesn’t like that. He doesn’t hear an older brother protecting his little sister. He hears a naked black dude sitting on the front lawn of a residential neighborhood. You know, wanting to be respected now that he’s finally in uniform.

Maybe he’s scared, so I put my hands up and walk closer to him to try and shake his hand. I don’t like that he yelled at Sam, but if we talk it out maybe he can be like Mike. I might actually get through to him and he can get to know the drill, how things work around this house. How I’m a regular call on their squawk box. Everyone on the block knows me as the guy with problems, cops are an extended family in this house.

There’s this thing salmon do when they want to spawn. It’s called magnetoception. No matter how long they’ve been away, no matter how far out they’ve ventured in the ocean, they use Earth’s magnetic field to find their way back to the river they were born. Sometimes, they migrate back to the very spot. All to swim up to shore and die. Scooped up by birds and bears so the next generation of fish can make it. No matter what, I always hone in on Sam and mom.

“Don’t fucking move, man,” the new guy shouts. 

Sweat pocks Mike’s forehead as he tells me and the new guy to calm down.

The new guy shakes like Muhammad Ali.

He’s not cut out for this. But I’m not the guy to tell him, so I walk to the car and put my hands on the roof. I’ve done this so many times before. I turn around.

Mom’s still crying. Sam’s gone inside, but I see her staring through the window at my naked self leaning against the cop car. My little sister rubs her eyes hard.

“I’ll be back, Mom. Don’t worry. Go inside and wait. Just a couple of days.”

The new guy approaches with the gun still on me. I can’t leave things like this. It isn’t right. I run back to the front door to give Sam a hug and let her know I’m sorry. 

Mom’s eyes go wide the closer I get to the door. I know she’s happy I’m trying to make things better with my little sister. Mike is screaming at me, but I need Sam to know everything will be okay.

The new guy tells me to stop running. His voice is shaky but it’s louder than the traffic.

Mike yells at him to drop the gun.

Mom closes her eyes.

Sam might not like me right now but the one thing we have in common is home. Take me as far north as possible. Lock me deep inside the scariest mental health place you’ve got, with the biggest walls possible. Like a salmon to Earth’s magnetic pull, I’ll always find my way back home.

-End-

Bio Hector Duarte, Jr. is a writer out of Miami, Florida and current co-editor at The Flash Fiction Offensive. His work has appeared in Flash: The International Short Story Magazine, Sliver of Stone, Foliate Oak, Shotgun Honey, Shadows and Light: An Anthology to Benefit Women’s Aid UK, The Whimsical Project, Spelk Fiction, HorrorSleazeTrash, Pulp Metal Magazine, and The Rumpus. He teaches English-Language Arts to high school students and listens to, (as some friends might argue), too much Phish.

He has lectured at The Crime Fiction Here and There and Again Conference in Gdansk, Poland; the second and third Captivating Criminality Conferences in Corsham, England, and Theorizing the Popular at Liverpool’s Hope University. He has also moderated panels at Miami Book Fair and the AWP Conference in Los Angeles.

He loves his cat, Felina, very much

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Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Music Review: Providence Canyon by Brent Cobb



At some point or another, we’ve all heard a song that we sing non-stop but have no idea who the artist is, this was the case for Brent Cobb and myself. People kept telling me to check him out and for whatever reason or another I didn’t. One day I was looking up the lyrics to one of my favorite songs by Whiskey Myers, Mud, and the author of that particular song happened to be Brent Cobb. He’s also related to one of our favorite producers here at Story & Grit, Dave Cobb (Sturgill Simpson, Jason Isbell, Whiskey Myers, Chris Shiflett, Amanda Shires, etc). After realizing what a great lyricist he is I decided to dive into his own body of work and start exploring. It was a nice coincidence that he just so happened to be coming out with a new album which meant an opportunity for me to review Providence Canyon.

Starting with the title track, we’re treated to a mellow country rock jam. It kind of reminds me of Sweet Desert Childhood by the Flying Burrito Brothers. The pedal steel is easy on the ears and Brent expresses his sentimentalities of having a good old southern time at a really nice state park in Stewart County, Georgia. Get your friends together and have a couple of brews while this song plays in the background. You’ll get a feel for how we like to get together down south. King Of Alabama follows up the title track with some serious laid back groove. Mornin’s Gonna Come brings the rock. The backup singers in the chorus bring a soul dynamic to this already steady rocker. Come Home Soon is one of the real heavy hitters of the album. I found it personally relatable because leaving the south was a challenging thing for me to do and Brent Cobb describes the dilemma very well in this tune.

Sucker For A Good Time brings back the groove. There’s a really good jam about two and a half minutes in with guitar work the hearkens back to Gary Rossington’s work with Lynyrd Skynyrd. If I Don’t See Ya is another seriously awesome rocker this album has to offer! This song is proof that the south has a sound all its own. You can hear hints of every great southern rock band in this song but I wouldn’t call Brent Cobb’s music southern rock or say he’s trying to copy anyone. Seriously, his band kills it during this one! Lorene was one of my personal favorites on the album. It’s a nice ballad of a tune with some great guitar and pedal steel work. We hear Brent tugging on the logic of someone unsure of whether or not to chase their dream. This is a great song to listen to if you need encouragement.

Whenever I review albums I try to imagine scenarios in which that particular record would be useful. In this case, I recommend finding a back road which leads to nowhere and riding around with your friends until you all find something you’ve never seen before. You could also play this one while you’re drinking beer with your friends by the lake. However you choose to listen to Brent Cobb’s music, I can’t imagine anyone not enjoying it. I have a feeling he’ll be around for a while turning out songs that will stand the test of time. Give it a listen and let me know what you think at storyandgritreviews@gmail.com!

Bio Matthew Westmoreland (or Matty, as his friends call him) was born in South Carolina, grew up in Georgia, and rambled everywhere in between. Currently located in Mendocino, California with his wife and two sons, he spends his days writing songs and his evenings listening to & reviewing albums for Story & Grit before gigs. Look for his debut album in late 2017 and keep up with him in the meantime at facebook.com/westmorelandsounds
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Monday, May 14, 2018

Music Review: Love Notes by Caitlin Jemma


Back in October, I did one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do. I traveled back home to Georgia to attend my Nanny’s funeral. When I got back to California I was devastated because her death took us all by surprise. On the heels of that little episode, my buddy Joey Goforth asked me to be a guest on his Self Service podcast. I was delighted at the opportunity and decided to listen to the older episodes to get an idea of what the experience was going to be like. I discovered two of my new current favorite songwriters this way, Caitlin Jemma and Margo Cilker. At the end of the Caitlin Jemma episode, it played a song called, Ain’t That Something. It was a LONG wait from October to May when I finally got to hear the new Caitlin Jemma album in its entirety but it was worth every minute!

It starts out with the song I mentioned before, Ain’t That Something. We’re introduced to this album with an acoustic guitar before giving way to a horns section. You won’t be able to turn back the dial after the intro. I promise! The next irresistible thing Caitlin Jemma has to offer is her voice. I always think it’s unjust to compare artists but remember how awesome it sounded coming through the speakers the first time you heard Hank Williams yodel Long Gone Lonesome Blues? That’s how revelatory Caitlin Jemma’s crooning vocals are in this song (Is crooning even the right word? Hopefully if she reads this she won’t take it as an insult). There aren’t enough exclamation points to describe how much I enjoy the opening track to this album!

Next comes Xxoo. This song rocks (for lack of a better word)! It’s a great follow up track to the opener because it shows how versatile Caitlin’s music can be and how many different ways her band can boogie, her voice at the centerfold once again. The outro builds into an awesome train whistle-esque chant. Lean On My Love slows the train to a steady roll. There’s a lot of good vocal and trumpet interaction with the melody to this one and the lyrics are pretty awesome. Still Dreamin’ keeps the groove locked down tight. If I could ask Ms. Jemma any question in the world it would be where she comes up with the arrangements for her songs because the fact that music like this isn’t debuting at the top of the billboards is a travesty. This song seriously has it all.

The next song, Evangeline, was my personal favorite on the entire album. It’s super stripped down, the lyrics are gold, and the vocal harmonies add a texture to the song which makes it heavenly. How It Is was another compelling track because it has a wild R&B flare that’ll make it hard for you to sit still. All Night was another stand out with some risqué lyrics. Ladies, hide your man for this one because it’s hot! I’m going to leave the rest of the album for the listener’s interpretation because I don’t want a song by song analysis to ruin anyone’s expectations of what a stellar record this one is.

It’s hard for me to find albums that I can listen to from start to finish these days. I work a full-time job, I’m a gigging musician/songwriter, a Story & Grit journalist, a husband, and a father to two boys. New artists must manage to drown out the traffic in my life as well as the melodies I hear in my own head to make it into my collection (yes, I still buy music). Caitlin Jemma’s music brought me a lot of joy during a difficult time in my life and this record will stay in my collection for a long time to come. As of this review, Caitlin Jemma is touring the Pacific Northwest to support the release of Love Notes. I’ve listed her tour dates below so if you see your city go to a show, buy lots of merch, and tell all your friends in every city across the country to make this girl famous. Good music ain’t gone, it’s just underground where it shouldn’t be!

05/03 Portland, Oregon
05/04 Eugene, Oregon
05/05 Olympia, Washington
05/06 Astoria, Oregon
05/08 Port Angeles, Washington
05/09 Port Townsend, Washington
05/10 Conway, Washington
05/11 Belingham, Washington
05/12 Seattle, Washington
05/13 Willamina, Oregon
05/16 Redding, California
05/17 San Francisco, California
05/18 Folsom, California
05/19 Sebastopol, California
05/20-21 Modesto, California
05/22 San Louis Obispo, California
05/24-27 Bradley, California
05/29 Knight’s Ferry, California
05/30 Carson City, Nevada
05/31 Carnelian Bay, California
06/01 Chico, California
06/02 Talent, Oregon
06/15 Moscow, Idaho
06/16 Bozeman, Montana
06/17 Livingston, Montana
06/19 Helena, Montana
06/20 Spokane, Washington
06/22 Missoula, Montana
06/23 Sandpoint, Idaho
06/25 Enterprise, Oregon
06/26 Hood River, Oregon

Matthew Westmoreland (or Matty, as his friends call him) was born in South Carolina, grew up in Georgia, and rambled everywhere in between. Currently located in Mendocino, California with his wife and two sons, he spends his days writing songs and his evenings listening to & reviewing albums for Story & Grit before gigs. Look for his debut album in late 2017 and keep up with him in the meantime at facebook.com/westmorelandsounds

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Thursday, May 10, 2018

Ink-Quisitions with Paul Beckman

Q. You oversee numerous New York readings at a place called the Red Room. I’m guessing it’s a bit different than the Red Room in FIFTY SHADES OF GRAY. So what can you tell us about your special playground?

A. Located on the third floor of KGB in New York City, the Red Room was once Al Capone’s speakeasy. It’s a beautifully refurbished room with an excellent sound system, comfortable seats, its own bar—a terrific Manager Lori, and always of great wait staff.

The Red Room is eclectic. It hosts the New York Writer’s Workshop, The East Coast Salon, Mistress Velvitina’s Variety Show, and NeuroNetic Institute of Poetry Monthly. My Fbomb and NY Flash Fiction readings take place the first Friday of every month. For the FBomb flash fiction series there is no cover but a two-drink minimum. We usually have between five and seven readers of either flash fiction or prose poetry.

Q. When you’re not playing around at the Red Room you write a helluva lot of flash fiction. When did you first start writing—and what attracted you to flash—besides the imaginary sex appeal I associate with this form?

A. I’ve been writing flash for well over thirty years and before I knew there was a name for it. I’ve always written short—under 2,000 words—and as I got to read more of the genre I found myself drawn to the under 1,000 word flash mark and also to the under 300 word micro mark. It’s a challenge that doesn’t allow me to go wondering with back-stories, multi-layered descriptions, and more characters than are needed for a flash or micro story. I’m basically a no BS kind of guy and so my personality and my writing are simpatico.

Q. It’s well known in certain circles you used to hang with a dubious crowd. And seein’ as how you’re talkin’ to me, some might say that you still do. But was there an event or series of events that led you to walk a different line? And assuming you aren’t currently in a witness protection program, are there any memories from your old life you might feel inclined to share?

A. Growing up on the opposite side of the tracks I hung with guys whose moors were different than mine when I first moved to the projects. Stealing a car was big time but running numbers (as I did in high school) and filching (God I love that word) apples, bread, spuds, Devil Dogs from small local groceries seemed to be okay. Also, being in a supermarket where ladies leave their pocket books open in the baby seat was akin to taking a number at the deli counter. So much was the challenge rather than the end result. Delivery trucks didn’t lock their doors to make a delivery, people didn’t lock their car doors, and I was most likely the only one of my “dubious” crowd who filched (that word again) library books or books of any kind. All that and I loved Damon Runyon’s Guys and Dolls and the pulps.

Q. Your stories have appeared in places like Yellow Mama and Spelk Fiction alongside many members of the Crime Writing community. Yet while you’ve written Noir and crime, your overall body of work remains diverse. What are some of the reasons you’ve shied away from a single so-called genre? 

A. I don’t think I’ve shied away from a specific genre—I write what comes into my head at any given moment. Sometimes it’ll be a few crime stories in a row and more often it’ll be dysfunctional families, which are fertile fields for me to plow. I always say I’ll stop writing about dysfunctional families when I meet a functional family. I believe I’m safe. Every family has secrets and most secrets are juicy and even juicer when I create them. Being a writer is like having a God complex or an orchestra maestro—good spots that let you control. Maybe that’s also why I could move a lot of planes when I was an Air Traffic Controller. As Mel Brooks said, “It’s good to be king.”

Q. In terms of sheer numbers, you chance to be one of the “busiest” writers I’ve encountered. Your sixth flash collection KISS KISS was released in April by Truth Serum Press—and you show no signs of easing up. What compels you to write so often?

A. Fear. I always have the fear that were I to stop I couldn’t start again. Plus, I like to write and since I rarely know what my story’s going to be about until I finish it, I look forward to seeing what’s going on in my own head.

Q. Your story “All for the Love of a Good Burger”—which found a home at Yellow Mama, remains one of my favorites. So in the greater New York area, what are your top three places to grab a burger?

A. This is the toughest question. I’ll give you two: PJ Clark’s Cadillac Burger on Third Ave and The Luger Burger from Pete Luger’s steak house in Brooklyn. (Big enough to share.)

Readers hungry for flash can find Paul’s KISS KISS assortment here:

http://bit.ly/pbKiss  paperback

http://bit.ly/KisseP  e book

You can also visit Paul on Facebook. Or find him at his website (which contains Links to his published stories that readers can sample for free).

https://www.facebook.com/paulbeckmanwriter/

http://paulbeckmanstories.com/

Going to be in NYC? You can find the schedule for KGB and the Red Room here:

http://kgbbar.com/calendar/

Interested in learning more about the Fbomb Flash Fiction Reading Series which was created by Denver writer Nancy Stohlman in 2013? Then here’s a good article from Smokelong Quarterly in which Paul was interviewed alongside Nancy:

http://www.smokelong.com/cool-stuff-writers-do-fbomb-flash-fiction-reading-series/

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Tuesday, May 8, 2018

Bad Ass Book Reviews: Kiss Kiss by Paul Beckman



Reading KISS KISS is like delving a box of chocolates without a cover as your guide. And Paul Beckman's latest Flash Fiction collection contains 78 crafted confections that ought to curl your toes. Sure you'll discover stories with soft, sweet centers. But some are just as jagged as biting into an almond—hidden inside white nougat—and drizzled with red icing.

Or is that icing actually blood?

So expect to pucker up—but not always for a blissful kiss. A strip poker-playing granny? Tough to banish that gal from your mind. And while the doting couple in "Honey and Darling" remain devoted to each other? Well, they sure ain't your average love birds.

One common ingredient in all of Beckman's stories is suspense. He consistently cooks up ways to keep us off balance ... coaxing us to wonder if and when he'll suddenly tug the paper rug from under our jittery noses. Like when a stranger in "Father Panik Villages" gives a homeless girl a ride and buys her empty stomach lunch. Is he a savior or a creep? Until this tale at last unravels we simply can't decide.

If humor's a flavor you savor, you'll find your share of that as well.

Sure I could say more. But I never kiss and tell. Far better to grab KISS KISS—and let Beckman's characters do the smooching.

Best be careful though. Some may try to jump your bones. Or lure you with the Kiss-of-Death.

Anyone with an urge for these Zero-calorie snacks can find Beckman's KISS KISS assortment here:

http://bit.ly/pbKiss  paperback

http://bit.ly/KisseP  e book

You can also visit Paul on Facebook. Or find him at his website.

http://paulbeckmanstories.com/

https://www.facebook.com/paulbeckmanwriter/

Kiss-Kiss!

Jesse Rawlins

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Monday, May 7, 2018

Della Goes to Hell by Samuel Edgar



Della Goes to Hell

June 6th

She sat on a cheap foldable stool hiding in the forestry overlooking the bridge. A pair of binoculars were glued to her eyes, and she held them with such tightness, blood escaped from her hands leaving bony, white remains. June sixth, it was every June sixth, she told herself. Della had been doing this for two years now, and tonight was the night to end seven hundred and thirty days of misery, of determination, of having nothing and everything all together. She’d remembered the day two years back.

Hells Gate. She’d heard of it but never really felt the need to visit during her twenty eight years on earth; the dilapidated bridge with rustic blood awnings, and a huge concrete slab that stopped cars from driving on it, a precaution of safety she was told by one old lady while she served her at the Chicken Salad Chick . She’d heard the stories, the old folk-tales of times living in Alabama—the dead couple dying on their wedding night, falling off the edge—the wet seat trick where if you looked back in your car, you’d see the patches of where somebody once resided, and of course, where the entire place earned its name; to look back and see Hell. Inevitably she’d already been there.

It was two long years of preparation, of sitting and waiting. After the first, with constant police calls, she was blacklisted as a nuisance and her reports of cultists around the area were simply ignored. Whenever police arrived at the bridge, they would be gone; scrambling into the dark whence they came, but cockroaches always came back. The heathens would always return. She knew it was every three months they’d come back. June sixth was the next date, and this time, she wasn’t going to allow them to run this time. They’d have no time, they’d have nowhere to go.

She’d prepared in advance. Every time they came, they’d light their candles, do their chants, and would begin to do sexual acts on each other, sacrificing small animals. She’d become so consumed with watching them that she felt like it was now or never, or she’d never get her life back.

They appeared slowly in her view, walking onto the bridge silently. She took off from her camp and kept to the shadows as she watched the black-hooded figures walk to the end of Hells Gate. Strapped on her back was her father’s Winchester Model 70, bolt action. Between working the monotonous, robotic routine of Salad Chick to fund this obsession and living rough, she’d spent all her time at the range practicing, making sure she’d never miss a shot when it came to it. But two years of bitterness whittled away and she’d told herself that she wanted an overkill. She snuck closer to the rusted underside of the bridge until she could hear their voices chiming together, singing something in a language she did not care to understand.

Underneath the bridge pylon out on the far end of the bridge, leading to nothing but a drop in a lake, was the thermite she’d spent months creating. She’d wrapped fusewire around it to keep the burning heat hot enough to ignite. She was under them now, hearing their footsteps creaking against the ancient wood; dust falling onto her dirty blond hair and staying there. She grabbed the coil of fuse-wire and slowly went up the side of the bridge. Each footstep was light, and she made sure to not be in view until the last second. To her left was the huge concrete slab and as she moved to it, she caught a glimpse of the hooded figures sat in a circle, three of them chanting away, unknowing. Their huge, black hoods covered each of them like blankets.

She jumped the concrete slab and slid the Winchester off. Its aim was upon the hooded figures who jumped up quickly and froze. “Don’t y’all move now,” she screamed, bitter hatred cruising in her voice.

“What is—she fixin’ to shoot us?“ said the short one on the left.

She slid back the bolt and it went loud. Silence hung in the air. For a moment the familiar sounds she’d once heard here came back to her, but she would be strong, for herself, and for Evan. She moved closer but kept her aim steady.

“Take off ya damn hoods. Now.”

The three of them proceeded to lower the black clothes and the three faces ahead of her weren’t recognizable. One of them was skinny, his face covered in acne with patchy red hair and glasses. The one on the left was an attractive girl with a shaved head and dark brown eyes. The one in the middle, however, didn’t lower the hood.

“I told y’all to lower your hood. ”

“Holds your horns, girl,” said the hooded one. He leaned toward the girl and said: “she ain’t gonna shoot us, she doesn’t know what it’s like to take a li—“

The sound of the gunshot roared out. The bullet ricocheted and hit the wood mere inches from their feet, splinters of rotting wood went up and sprayed. The three of them jumped back and the one in the middle raised his hands in defense. “Okay, okay—okay just wait, here...I’mma lower it.” The hood slipped off the man and a very tanned, bald-headed man with a grey goatee stared back at Della. He crossed his arms.

“Do you remember me? Huh?” Della raised the rifle.

“Nope. Don’t reckon I do,” replied the man. He was very cool under the circumstances. “Should I?”

She lowered the rifle a little and let out a gasp, out of exasperation, out of disbelief. “Evan. Bartlett.”

The bald-headed man smiled. “Oh, him, yeah well, of course, we remember him. He was supposed to be with us.”

“What?” Della’s eyes widened.

Baldie rubbed at his temple as he spoke. “Evan Bartlett. That must make you...Della Burton. Yeah, yeah—y’all were his lady, I remember you. Feisty bitch.”

“You don’t know me,” she said more to herself.

The bald-man took a step forward. Della aimed straight. “Move again and you’re gone, fucko.”

Baldie’s two friends were rooted to the spot, shaking and not moving an inch but he was smiling at her. He lowered his arms and sighed.

“Chunk that rifle, Della,” he said but Della remained like a pillar, aiming, unwavering. Baldie shrugged, creasing his hoody. “I guess it’s you been callin’ the feds on us then. I don’t blame you, I’d be pissed too if my boy’s innards were lookin’ like pulled pork,” he said with a sly smile. He knew what he was doing.

She lowered her aim and pulled the trigger. The gun roared. Baldie let out a yelp of pain and slammed backward onto the bridge flood with a shrill scream that clawed its way out of his lungs. He held his cloak which poured with blood, thickening but not taking any color in the light until rustic liquid dropped onto the floor beneath. Della looked at the other two. “Sit down,” she said through gritted teeth. “Don’t make me put ya all down now.”

“You crazy bitch—you crazy bit—you don’t even know, do you?” Baldie leaned on his front and screamed at her, fresh saliva dripping from his dirt-ridden face.

Della looked back to the coil which was yet to be lit and stormed over to Baldie. She swung the Winchester, held it like a bat, and swiftly smashed the butt down on his face. The deafening crack of bone was almost as loud as the bullet before and Della immediately smiled as if weights had fallen from her with every tooth she had just broken, hopefully. Baldie keeled over, holding his bloody face. He let out muffled cries as Della walked back to the coil and watched the two sitting cronies stare in disbelief. “Come on, guys, what’s a lil assault to what y’all’ve done? Huh?”

The girl’s face contorted into a grimace, one that spelled out I’m gonna kill you.  “He’s gonna come for you, Della.”

“Who? Satan? No thanks, I’ve already been in Hell.”

Acne-boy chimed in. “You think so, just cause you saw Evan’s body all over the place. Ya so stupid,” he said with his nasal voice, sending daggers through Della as she sat down and aimed the rifle lazily. Acne-boy yelled to Baldie, “Hey, hey, Lou—tell her the truth, go on.”

Lou. So that was his name. She watched as he scrambled to get up. Fresh blood poured from his mouth and nose and he got to his knees and took a deep breath before he spoke:

“Evan, ya precious boyfriend, was gonna kill you with us, whore. He was in on it.”

“You’re a liar.” Della gritted her teeth and looked towards the coiled fuse-wire. It would be soon.

“Evan Bartlett was gonna sacrifice you, we need fresh blood in order to make this work. We need to evoke Baphomet—evoke the spirits for—“

“Evan wasn’t in no cult, no brain-dead, hick-fuck cult killing people because they’re pieces of shit and watched The Exorcist too many times.”

“He was gonna,” said Lou.

“He backed out,” replied the girl with a shrug, “so we needed a yearly sacrifice. He was a prime candidate,” she added with another shrug. She dead-eyed Della who was staring in disbelief and with an impassive face she simply said: “Now we got you.”

“You think you’re comin’ near me, bitch?”

“We won’t, but he will,” the girl replied.

“Who?”

“You’ll see when ya look back.”

Della slowly craned her head to the left and looked back to the concrete block. The sound of padded feet on wood went out and she felt the vibration beneath her. Turning back, she shot her eyes to see the girl was up, running towards her with a shimmering curled blade high in the air. Della aimed up, fast and pulled the trigger again. The bullet whizzed, and she fell back with a drop of her arms, the blade hitting the floor. She gripped her stomach then and looked to Della, her eyes wide with confusion or shock. Tears fell from her eyes and she suddenly fell down and folded her legs up, going full fetal. “Save me, Light-One, save me,” she chanted again and again as she held her stomach; fresh crimson pouring onto her hands, onto the bridge that had already seen so much blood.

Images of Evan poured into her brain. His organs laid out, the pentagram painted in his blood. His face pale and twisted into an open scream, his eyes towards the cement block.

“That’s it,” said Della as she got to her feet and moved back to the coil. She reached into her pocket and pulled out Evan’s Zippo. With a metallic flick, the flame burst to life.

“What are you doin’?” yelled Lou over the sound of the girl’s pleas.

“Ending this place.”

“You stupid bitch! Ya don’t get it. He was gonna kill ya anyway!” Lou yelled.

“And then he didn’t,” she replied with a shrug.

She held the flame to the wire and a spark burst out, moving along rapidly, blackening along the way. Lou stared, transfixed. Acne-Boy laid down and covered his head, praying to his favorite deity Della reckoned. The girl began to claw her way towards Acne-boy. She weakly clamped her hands on him and he held onto her, their lips mashing together. Lou looked at them with pure hatred and then lunged for the boy. “IAN—CASS IS MINE.” Della pulled the bolt on her rifle –click clack— and Lou stopped dead. Beneath them was a raging amount of heat and brightness that spread out across the water. Della stepped back and climbed the concrete block. She saw Lou pounce on Ian as they all argue amongst one another.

She looked up. The sound of straining metal went out like a whale’s call. The wooden floor rumbled and the three murderers fell back and looked around as fire spread up and then everything happened fast. The bridge fell, smashing into the water with a huge splash, sending old, dirty water upwards, looking like a log flume ride. The concrete slab, with nothing to hold it back, slid down the Hells Ramp, barrelling towards the cultists which had gone silent over the sound of crashing metal. The block rolled, and suddenly a deafening scream of Ian and the girl went out, and their screams were cut short. Della moved towards the bridge, swatting away dust from the old wood which was suffocating. The sounds of straining metal could only be heard now, and the raw smell of rustic iron burning filled her nostrils as she looked to where the concrete block was half submerged in water.

She had to be sure. She had to know it was done, that this was all done before the police showed up and arrested her. She slid down the bridge which creaked loudly and put her rifle back behind her. She slid slowly, making her way to the slab. As her feet stood at an angle, she could make out two of them. Ian was quickly drowning, pinned under the water where his hands thrashed as his lower body was under the slab but Cass had suffered a quick end, half her body was in the water, half of it was under the block. Fresh blood seeped into the river. Lou.

Water sprayed her; Lou scrambled to the surface; clawed his way forward towards Della with wild, mad eyes. “I’ll kill you, you stupid bitch!”

She reached for her rifle but it was too late. He was on her. His hands clawed at her feet and his eyes were red with rage. Her legs went tight with his grip and she slid from her stance, slamming her back against the concrete block with a loud thud. Pain went up her back and she let out a gasp as Lou clawed his way on top of her and wrapped his hands around her throat. Her clenched fists slapped his face, reddening his skin but his yellowish teeth and bulging jaw seemed frozen as his fingers grew tighter around her throat. “You stupid bitch. He’s not gonna be happy when he finds you’ve killed two of his disciples. No problem. I’ll make him proud of me,” he said through gritted teeth. “Just like Evan was gonna make us proud until he got his little cold feet. Tell him I said hi.”

Hands were upon him. Darkness was clawing its way into Della’s vision, blood escaped and she wanted to shut her eyelids. Her eyes flickered but then she saw it, another hand wrapping around Lou’s neck; one that seemed to be wearing a tuxedo of some kind. Another pair of arms wearing laced white gloves. Lou let out shrill screams as the hands tore away at him and dragged him back. Della leaned to her side and watched as half of Lou’s body was already under the water. He let a final scream escape as Della watched, barely conscious, as the blurry shapes of a man in black and a woman in white thrashed and struggled to pull Lou downwards.

As air seeped back into her lungs, she focused and saw the mangled corpses of the woman, her eyeless sockets staring at her as she slipped under the water. The skeletal remains against rotting flesh of the man in the tuxedo shot through her as fresh waves of terror took over anger. She trembled. Lou was sucked under the water as if a vacuum was beneath him and then there was silence. Della coughed hard and let fresh air seep into her. Eventually, she got the energy to climb to her feet and ran up the once-working bridge of Hells Gate.

She climbed to the top, and slid, looking back to see two floating heads in the water staring at her. She climbed to the top and stumbled, crashing forward with rushing gasps of air. Her hands scratched against the gravel of the floor, but she didn’t care. She ran and then she made the mistake.

She looked back. As if all light had suddenly escaped, only a black hole seemed to be behind her, growing and engulfing the remnants of Hells Gate. Pure heat burned from it. Then she fell forward, landing on her side, air barely escaping. In front of her was the black hole, gaping and blowing the stench of rotting chicken and sulfur. As her vision cleared, the shapes came into view against a low-ember color of red. Twisted, contorted remains of things clawed their way towards her on all fours. Screams of the dead, screams of her name.

There in the dark hole toward her was Evan, tall and stretched; his torso an empty shell giving way to the deep reddish skeletal remains beneath. His jaw stretched low and with wide, hollow eyesockets he hobbled towards Della and screamed out “It should have been you, not me.”

Fire poured out, flowing with streams of contorted naked bodies which crawled across the floor. Each shape screamed out, and against the back of the hole she could see a red haze, and against it stood something tall. Its height was too tall for a human, and it was as if a cape flowed down whatever it was. It seemed to have a thin, bald head with horns poking out of its head. He’s real. Am I real?

Della let out a bloodcurdling scream as she looked towards him, approaching with a million faces of anguish behind him, and the roars of fire blowing out. She stared at the beast which looked at her silently, looking over his domain and two years melted away into a mishmash of looking through broken glass. She turned and ran, screaming wildly into the night, seeing herself run as if she wasn’t in control. She ran and ran and ran with thudded steps behind her and with each thud, she ran harder and harder, until her lungs burned and the heat behind her lessened. Blood poured from her arms and as she ran it sprayed across her.

She could feel the Beasts eyes on her until finally she fell and looked back, only to see the road behind her empty and quiet. There was nothing behind her but the road, the fields, and silence. She laid there, bloody, broken, and beaten. Tears fell from her and she couldn’t stop them. She didn’t want to move. The blaring light of a streetlamp kept her safe from whatever she’d seen.

She roared and wailed not in control anymore. Not knowing what to do except cry until she could do no more. She’d never return to that place she told herself between the wailings, and finally when she could do no more. Her manic tears gave way to laughter, and she screamed on into the night, imagining the thing staring at her; Satan. He was real, was he real? There was nothing left in her. She slammed her head to the floor, and quickly the black hole from before followed her and she remained still, frozen in fear knowing she’d hopefully cut off Hell Gates from ever coming back again. Or maybe, she thought, maybe she’d been engulfed and this was her Hell.

-End-

Bio Samuel Edgar runs a nightclub and spends his days writing. 

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