Authors: A.P. Matlock
Tags: #horror, #speculative fiction, #dark fantasy, #magazine
EDITED BY A.P.
Notes” Copyright © 2013 by
Eyes” Copyright © 2013 by
© 2013 by
“A Little Piece
of Heaven” Copyright © 2013 by
Copyright © 2013 by
Copyright © 2013 by
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Magazine is a free monthly Magazine dedicated to original short
fiction in the Horror, Dark Fantasy, and Speculative fiction
Genres. Released on the first or second Tuesday of each month
I’ll keep this short and sweet. I’m very
excited to get the first issue out. We’ve got five great writers in
this month’s issue, some names you may be familiar with and some
names that may be new to you. I hope you enjoy reading these
stories as much as I did.
* * *
is a Writer and the
“How dead is
he?” John Bass said around a mouthful of sunflower seeds. “Is he
sort of dead or real dead?”
dancing, if that’s what you’re asking,” Cestus Clay said. Clay
looked at Bass from the corner of his eye, taking in the lean, bent
shape that sat on the hood of the battered Ford pick-up. Bass was
old, but like a tree he just got harder with age and tougher.
Short-clipped iron-gray hair and round shoulders that strained at
the flannel shirt he wore beneath his suspenders. Scarred fingers
dug into the bag of sunflower seeds as he spat out the chewed
younger, by several decades. Young and tall and strong, he still
felt small next to the other man. He wore a stiff blue suit and
tugged at the knotted tie at his throat every few minutes, glancing
at the simple split log house that was set back into the gentle
slope of the hill beyond. “He’s dead. Dead is dead.”
Dead.” Clay didn’t look at Bass. Bass, however, looked steadily at
Clay. Birds whistled around them, flitting through the tree
branches. There was another sound as well, just under the birdsong,
and barely audible. Like the clink of a serpent’s scales over dry
know damn well I wouldn’t have been invited to no Clay funeral if
dead was dead. Now, you done got me all the way up here-” Bass
gestured, indicating the slow rise of the Appalachians where they
crested across the snout of western South Carolina and Oconee
County. “From my comfortable home, I might add, and for what?”
Bass’ home was further south, down near where King Cotton gave way
to Queen Sugar, and mountains became swamps. The Clays were related
to the Basses, but only distantly. And John Bass had never been one
for familial obligation.
ain’t entirely dead,” Clay said, hesitantly.
“No, it ain’t
either,” Clay said. He chewed his lip. “Uncle Jim had them
rattlesnake eyes, you know.”
nodded. “No. I didn’t know.”
did.” Clay shuddered. “Seen him freeze a deer once, before he shot
it. Big buck. Uncle Jim just caught his eye and froze him stiff the
way a snake does a bird.”
been a sight,” Bass said.
fell quiet. Then, “You really do that hoodoo?”
“I know some
things.” Bass offered the bag of seeds to Clay, who shook his head.
“I ain’t no witchity-man, if that’s what you’re thinking, but I
know some things.” Bass looked at the other man, his eyes narrowed.
His lips folded into a thin smile. “Otherwise, why drive all the
way down to Jackapo County and come fetch me up to Oconee?”
truth and no lie, I suppose.” Clay turned, looking back at the
house. His daddy had built that house. People in dark clothes
milled around outside, dressed in their Sunday best, but with faces
that were white and strained. “He was supposed to be in the ground
“You must have
known there was bound to be trouble,” Bass said. Clay nodded.
Momma said there wouldn’t be, but I knew Uncle Jim.” He shook his
head. “Momma liked to see the best in her brother.”
best to him, then?” Bass said, sliding off the Ford and dropping to
the ground. He stuffed the bag of seeds into the back pocket of his
Levis and dusted his hands clean.
Momma was concerned. The rest of us could go hang.”
looked around. “How many times you tried this, then?”
said it with finality. “Week before last. Then last week. Then
yesterday…” Clay trailed off. “Every time.” He’d gone to fetch Bass
after the second funeral, and by the time they’d arrived, the third
was in full swing. Until, suddenly, it wasn’t.
swallowed, feeling ill. He looked at the house where he’d grown up
and found it unfamiliar. It reeked of something that he couldn’t
put a name to, even at this distance. There was a hum, way far in
the distance, like an active hornet’s nest. And that snake sound,
omnipresent like the dull rush of water from the Whitewater River.
If Bass noticed any of it, it didn’t show.
“He-ah-and-and-the doctor said it happened sometimes. A body gets
stiff. Bends in awkward ways. So we broke it. Broke his back.”
Bass said, knowing the answer.
“Like a damn
jack in the box.” The humor fell flat. “And his eyes...I told her
not to do it until I got back,” he said. Then, more softly, “I told
reply. Instead, he eyed the house as if sizing it up. “I’ll need
some salt. Some loose iron if you’ve got it. Nails, for preference.
A hammer. A mirror?”
“I don’t know
as if we’ve got one,” Clay said hesitantly. Bass grunted.
Clay looked around and pointed at one of the men in the yard.
“Harold! Go get a bucket of water! Frank! Eugene! Go get some salt
work,” Bass said, starting towards the plank steps. He stepped up
onto the porch. It creaked under his weight and the birds stopped
singing. Bass glanced over his shoulder. The gathered Clays were
watching him with wide, shocked eyes. Waiting to see what would
windows, the curtains twitched and Bass was reminded of the
undulation of a rattlesnake as it shook its tail-tip.
known Jim Clay, but the stories spread far. He had been an old
fashioned sumbitch, hog-mean and quick on the fly. He’d worked for
the Baldwin-Felts for a bit and some change, and some folks said
his momma had seen the Eden serpent in a dream the day he was
Bass turned as
Harold dropped the bucket of water on the steps and backed away
quickly. Iron, in the form of a bag of nails, and a sack of salt,
were next. Their deliverers backed off just as quickly as Harold
had. Clay watched from the yard.
John Bass,” he said.
reply. Instead, he scooped up the bucket, stuffed the nails into
his pocket, grabbed the sack of salt and sidled towards the door.
It opened at only the slightest touch. A stink like spoiled meat
and rotting eggs swept out, curling around him like fingers.
Holding a handkerchief pressed to his mouth and nose, he stepped
inside, kicking the door closed behind him.
The sound of
hornets, muted before, grew suddenly loud. Like a thousand small
voices all speaking at once. In the corners of the square room,
shadows coiled in on themselves, thickening perceptibly. Bass froze
for a second, the hairs on his neck dancing and then he carefully
set down the bucket of water and the bag of salt. He then tied the
handkerchief around his face to keep out some of the stink, shoved
the hammer through a belt loop and scooped up two handfuls of
The room had
been cleared of all furniture save a few chairs and the big table.
On the table was Jim Clay’s coffin. It was a simple pine affair,
nailed neatly and smoothed to a polish.
Jim Clay, for
his part, dead as he was, was sitting bolt upright, his cloudy eyes
wide and staring. Staring straight into the horrified eyes of his
sister, Abigail Clay, who sat not five feet away on a
rickety-legged chair, hands folded in her lap, mouth open.
It was bad
hoodoo to meet a dead man’s eyes. You looked too close they might
just take you with them to the grave. It was even worse when the
dead man had rattlesnake eyes.
the table and the first row of chairs, spreading salt with an even
hand as he walked. He kept one eye on the corpse and the other on
the room. The sound of hornets grew stronger and so too did the
smell. The shadows spread despite the sunlight falling in through
the windows and lapped at the cuffs of his trousers, sending a
chill up his legs. Something scuffed across the wooden floor,
rasping loudly, though he couldn’t see what. When he’d finished the
circle, he clapped his hands clean and said, “Jim Clay. I know you
can hear me.”
There was a
sudden pressure in the room, like a great weight had settled over
everything. The floor and the chairs and the walls creaked in a
rough harmony, and Bass felt his heart drop into his stomach. The
hornet whisper grew louder, a thousand voices spitting mountain
curses in his ears. He braced himself on the back of a chair and
said, “Jim Clay!”
The corpse of
Jim Clay didn’t so much as glance at him, but Abigail made a
moaning sound deep in her throat and Bass saw that her body was
trembling like it had a fever. Her tendons showed thin against her
skin as if she were fighting some dark pull. Bass reached for her
and every floor board gave a sharp shudder, sounding like the
rattles on a snake’s tail.
grew stronger, wrapping around him and the buzz hammered at his
ears. Shadows crawled up his legs as the room grew as dark as
night. He stepped back, teeth gritted, and fumbled for a handful of
nails. He flung them around the chair where Abigail Clay sat and
the house gave a long, low groan.
“Jim Clay, you
let her go,” Bass said. He pulled the hammer loose and began to
pound the nails into the floor around Abigail’s chair. The
floorboards rippled beneath his fingers and splinters sprouted in
his palm and knuckles. Bass ignored the pain and hammered the nails
one by one. Abigail began to move, thrashing slightly like a woman
waking from a nightmare.
When the last
nail sank into the wood, she flopped from the chair and the coffin
rocked as its occupant shuddered.
averted, worked his arms up under the woman and lifted her. He
heard flesh and cloth rub against wood and felt his hackles tingle.
“Jim Clay, you lay back down. You loved her and well, though you
loved no one else at all. You really want her to suffer down in the
dark with you?”
As if in
answer, the coffin fell from its perch with a loud clatter. Bass
was on his feet now, Abigail in his arms. He stepped towards the
door, and could hear something slithering across the floor in
pursuit. The floor itself felt warped beneath his boots, and he
stumbled on an unseen protrusion. The chairs were like a forest of
roots and stumps, unmovable and entangling. Behind him he heard the
buttons on Jim Clay’s funeral shirt clicking against the floor.