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The Mule  

Posted by Scott Wilson

The Mule
By Scott Wilson
Word Count: 480

Aiden felt sweat drip down the back of his shirt, drenching his clothes and making him feel uncomfortable and nervous. He looked ahead at the queue in front of him at the Bali airport, and then looked at his watch. The flight left if one hour, but time seemed to be moving in slow motion.

A small girl tugged at his shirt.

“You’re all wet, mister,” she said.

Aiden turned around and pulled his shirt away from the girl, sweat dripped onto the floor from his jerking motion. He smiled sarcastically at her then faced the front of the line again. There were now only three people before he checked in.

“Look, mister,” the girl said. “The police are coming to get you for making a mess on the floor.”

Aiden looked in the direction that the girl was pointing. Three armed Thai Police Officers were heading directly towards him.

“You stupid kid,” he said, then left the line and headed to the toilets.
Aiden heard the police yell something in Thai at him. He ignored it and pushed passed a group of America tourists to get to the toilets. He quickly locked himself in a cubicle, pulled out a bottle of Castor Oil, and gulped it down. He gagged and held back the oil coming straight back up.

“Come out here now!” one of the Thai officers yelled.

A barrage of banging began on the cubicle door. Aiden pushed ferociously, trying to expel the contents of his stomach. The door crashed in and two officers grabbed Aiden and pulled his trousers up.

“You got drugs!” The third officer yelled.

“No,” Aiden said. “Not me, I’m got Bali Belly, you gotta let me go man.”

“Liar!”

Aiden’s stomach groaned and gurgled.

“Let me go, I’m going to shart myself.”

The third officer pulled out a baton and rammed it into Aiden’s stomach, winding him. Another blow, then another blow.

“Stop it, please,” Aiden cried.

The officer hit him in the gut again. Aiden felt something in his stomach tear, and then a warm sensation rippled outward. He felt a wave of nausea, and then his head became light.

Another hit from the baton burst something else in Aiden’s stomach and he slumped in the two officer’s arms.

“Whoa,” Aiden said, no longer feeling the pain of the beatings. “Chill out dude, I need to go, like, now man.”

Aiden kicked his pants off and his stomach groaned loudly again.

“Stop him!” the Thai officer yelled, but it was too late. Aiden released a bowl motion that streamed out and down his legs. Amongst the faecal matter were a number of ripped condoms.

“Look at the lights,” Aiden said, then slumped forward, dead from the massive overdose of heroin.

THE END

Top of the Town  

Posted by Scott Wilson

Top of the Town
By Scott Wilson
Word Count: 545

Randall loaded a fresh bolt in his crossbow and aimed it at the dark figure perched on the gargoyle across the road. From the top of apartment block, Randall could see the three vampires positioned atop each building at the intersection, and chose the one he knew to be the leader to take out first. Using the night scope on the crossbow to line up the vampire, Randall gently pressed the trigger and breathed out as the bolt cleared the edge of the building.

The bolt hit the wall where the vampire had stood a second ago. Randall reached into his heavy leather trench coat and pulled out wooden stake before he pivoted and hurled it at the head vampire now standing a few feet behind him. The vampire flung his arm up to hit the stake aside. It pierced his palm and pinned his hand against the vampire’s chest.

Randall leapt forward and took the vampire’s head off with one quick stroke from his machete. The body fell to the ground and burst into a bright purple cloud before disappearing into the night.

“One down...” Randall began to say before being kicked in the centre of the back. He stumbled forward and crashed into satellite dish perched next to the air-conditioning vent.

Randal ripped the dish free from the tangled wires and swung it around just in time to deflect another kick from the second vampire. He pushed the dish upwards and knocked the vampire off balance, then hurled a stake at the tumbling figure. It hit the vampire in the back, tore through its ancient flesh, and ruptured its heart. The vampire toppled to the side of the building and over the side.

With two creatures of the night taken care of, Randal only needed to take care of one more for the hit to be finished. He looked at the roof of the building to the left and then to the right before seeing the remaining vampire running towards the fire exit. Randal rushed to his crossbow and reloaded it. He took a deep breath, aimed, then fired. The bolt hurtled across the gap between the two buildings and pinned the vampire to the door of the fire exit by the shoulder. Another quick shot pinned the last vampire to the door through its heart.

“Deed is done,” Randall said into his Bluetooth headset.

“I’ll come up and help clean up,” Randall’s partner, Geoff replied. “I’ve already tidied up the other body down here on the street.”

“Meet you downstairs in a few minutes.”

Randall retrieved the charred remains of the wooden stake on the rooftop and twisted it slowly. Inside of the stake was a small, titanium tube with a retractable needlepoint. Randall pulled the tube out and clicked the needle into place. He stuck the needle into his arm and injected the small amount of vampire blood into his vein. It was enough to sustain him for a few days. Randall knew he had to capture a vampire to find a cure for his condition, before it killed him or turned him into a full-blooded vampire.

THE END

Life in the Burbs  

Posted by Scott Wilson

Life in the Burbs
By Scott Wilson
Word Count: 218

We knew Roger Auckland was depraved. He had the baby-kissing smile of a corrupt politician or an unfaithful governor. There was just something about him that told you nothing he said was going to be the truth. It wasn’t the fact that he always smiled and never said a bad thing about anyone or anything, no that fooled most people. Nobody except my brother Dave and I heard the strange noises coming from his house in the dead of night. We should have left it alone, but a few days back, the screams where so loud that we had to try and help whoever Roger had in his garage.

I hope Dave got out of Roger’s yard okay. I think he must have, Roger didn’t grab us both together, and I never heard Dave come back after I was dragged to the slaughterhouse Roger calls his garage.

After Roger caught me, he cut out my tongue, poked out my eyes and stuck long needles in my ears and ruptured my eardrums. I can’t feel my arms or legs now, actually the only thing I feel now is cold, the pain seems to have passed.

THE END

The House of Oliver  

Posted by Scott Wilson

The House of Oliver
By Scott Wilson
Word Count: 775

“The old Oliver place?” The rube in the big straw hat said. “Well, now. You go three quarters a mile down that away, and turn right at the fork. But you gotta know this, that house is haunted.”

“Most obliged, partner,” Brent Caulfield, the bounty hunter said.

Brent downed his glass of whiskey and walked out to the dusty main street of Halford. A few locals walked along the boardwalk in front of the general store and looked away when Brent turned their way. He knew looked mean, no matter what he tried to do or how he dressed. There was just that something about him that shouted out Bounty Hunter.

“You going down to the spooks house, mister,” a young boy said to Brent.
Brent turned slowly and smiled.

“I don’t much believe in such fairy tales, son.”

“Neither did any them other men, just like you they were. Rode into town looking for that old fella, Mr Oliver. None of them ever come back, ain’t no other roads leading away either so they just stay there. Dead is what I reckon.”

Brent hoped on his horse and lit a cigarette.

“You saying there isn’t a way for Oliver to sneak out the back?”

“Yer, Mister,” the boy said, squinting at Brent. “Mountains all round that old house. Can’t see how you’d get anywhere easy.”

Brent tipped his hat and tossed a coin to the boy.

“Much obliged, son.”

He turned his horse around and rode towards the Olive house, somewhat disturbed by the words from the child. The scorching midday sun beat down on his back, yet a cold shiver ran up his spine.

The ride took just shy of an hour at a steady gallop, but the mountains seemed to get further away, the closer he got to the house. It was a typical homestead, nothing sinister or strange in its appearance, but somehow the uneasy feeling rose up in Brent’s gut as he neared it.

“So where are all of the horses?” he said, thinking that there should be a fair few strays milling around if there were as many bounty hunters with one way tickets as the boy reckoned. Brent saw none.

He swung out of the saddle and led the horse to a water trough near the front porch. The horse neighed and bucked, not wanting to get any closer to the house.

“Got you spooked to, has he girl?”

Brent patted the Palomino on its pale mane and let go of the reins. The horse would not leave without its master, so Brent did not tie her reins down. He dusted his sleeves and trousers, and then walked slowly up the front stairs. His gun rig was out of view beneath his tan jacket, but Oliver would probably spot him as a bounty hunter anyway.

“Who’s there?” A voice whispered from inside.

“Mister Oliver. I am Brent Caulfield; I have some documents relating to your Uncle’s Farm. Can I speak to you please?”

Brent leaned to look in one of the front windows. They were black as a snake’s belly and he could see nothing, and no one inside. The cold shiver ran down his spine again and he stepped back from the window.

“What the heck” he said.

When he stepped back, he was stepping backwards into the house, looking out. He stepped forward, but the window remained out of his reach.

“It’s too late, now,” a voice behind him, whispered.

Brent spun around and drew his six-shooter. Countless familiar faces stared back at him. Each one long and drawn, void of all signs of life and scared with an O burnt into their forehead. He pivoted back to the window and let loose with his pistol. Each bullet splashed into the glass like a stone hitting the water in a pond. Brent spun the chamber out and emptied out the spent shells, and quickly reloaded with six fresh bullets.

Outside, the smiling face of Oliver grinned at Brent before turning and leading his horse into the small barn across the yard. The gap between the open doors rippled like water as Oliver walked through. He reappeared moments later with a wicked grin on his face and a red-hot branding iron in his hand.
Brent stepped forward, but could not get closer to the window. He realised then that there was no door leading outside.

“Only Oliver can leave this house,” one of the spectral bounty hunters said in a low, monotone whisper.

THE END

Automated Justice  

Posted by Scott Wilson

Automated Justice
By Scott Wilson
Word Count: 197

“Hey, the jury is back. We’ll get their verdict in just a few minutes,” Walt’s Attorney, Samuel said cheerfully.

“How do you think we’ll go?” Walt said.

Judge Grange hobble back to his seat and banged the gavel against the bench, “Madam Chairperson, has the jury reached a unanimous decision?”

“We have, Your Honour.”

A solid, cylindrical Perspex tube lowered around Walt, sealing him from the other courtroom occupants.

Samuel held both thumbs up at Walt and smiled.

“The decision, Your Honour,” the court officer said, handing Judge Grange the folded piece of paper.

The Judge unfolded the note and slid it into the slot next to his gavel. Two thick tubes lowered and latched onto opposite sides of the Perspex tube. Walt grabbed at his throat, gasping for air before collapsing against the side of the tube and slowly slid to the floor.

“Excuse me, Judge,” The Foreperson said. “The jury found the plaintiff innocent.”

The judge looked at the slot on the bench and noticed the previous jury’s note stuck in the reader.

THE END

Moving Up in the World  

Posted by Scott Wilson

Moving Up in the World
By Scott Wilson
Word Count: 167

“Good to see you on the train like this Al. Have your girl call my girl and we’ll set up lunch,” Hank said to his old friend.

Al looked at Hank with one eyebrow raised. The last time he saw his friend, he was homeless and living in a cardboard box behind a dumpster. Al hardly recognised him, and wondered how Hank’s life turned around so dramatically.

“Wha...” Al began to say as the train stopped abruptly at the next station. He felt as though he had been punched in the chest and winded.

Hank flicked a gold embossed business card onto Al’s lap, winked sleazily, and then left the train before Al could say anything.

Al looked took a moment to regain his breath before turning the business card over. It read; Hank Jones – Stealer of Souls. Reasonably rates for repossession.
THE END

Real Estate  

Posted by Scott Wilson

Real Estate
By Scott Wilson
Word Count: 1,078

Raymond Stubbs flicked through the business card holder on his small, student desk in his single room flat. There were sixty or so Real Estate agent business cards, each with a glamorous photograph of the agent taking up a third of the face of the card.

“You’ll do today,” he said, pulling out the card of a middle aged woman, Paula Stark.

Raymond dialled the number of the office.

“Good morning, my name is Dave Parker,” Raymond said. “I am looking for a small three bedroom house in Balmoral.”

“Good morning, Mr. Parker. You are in luck; I have just listed a property in that suburb.”

‘Like I didn’t know that, you dumb bitch,’ Raymond thought to himself.

“When can I see it?”

“I can show you through this morning, at...say, 10.00 am.”

“That sounds fantastic, what is the address?”

“17 Oxford Street, that’s the main road at Bulimba.”

“Great, see you there at ten.”

Raymond hung up, and then went to the bathroom. He opened the top draw of the vanity, pulled out his costume kit and selected a thick moustache and tortoise shell glasses. He doubted that she would remember him, but better to be safe than sorry.
At nine o’clock, Raymond drove to Oxford Street and pulled up in front of the house. Paula’s face was plastered across the For Sale sign on the fence. The house was an old Queenslander with a spacious yard; one of the few not yet knocked down for a block of units in this prestigious part of Brisbane. He walked along the street, checking that the neighbours were all out to work or at least, not home to be witnesses.

The time went quickly and Raymond recognised the Real Estate agent’s car, a SAAB, as she pulled up in front of his old non-descript, Ford Falcon. He was waiting for her at the front gate, smiling like a small child on their birthday.

“Mr. Parker?” Paula said, stepping out of her car.

“Yes, that’s me,” he said, putting out his hand.

Paula shook his hand, firmly, but her grip was soft and feminine. Raymond could tell there was no real strength in her, so this was going to be easy. She then led him into the house.

“Nice,” Raymond said, looking at the security screens and dead bolted doors.

“Yes, the owners have spent a considerable amount of time and money renovating this piece of Queensland history and are reluctant to sell. I shouldn’t be telling you this,” Paula said softly. “But the husband has just been promoted and they have to move overseas by the end of the month.”

‘Just what you probably said to the people you showed through my house,’ Raymond thought. ‘Bet you’ll knock a few thousand off to sell it quickly so you’ll get your commission sooner.’

“So, I’d have a fair chance at bargaining the price down?”

Paula smiled, thinking she’d hooked him. Nothing like sweetening the deal to make the buyer think they have a better chance of securing the purchase. Once she had them hooked, she’d up the ante and lock both the seller and buyer into a deal that neither would be happy with later on.

“Have a look around, and then we’ll put together the paperwork for your offer. I’m sure we can negotiate a good deal for you.”

“What about the seller? Will they get the best deal to?”

Raymond thought, ‘That’s why you have a picture of the house on the sign and in the newspaper, rather than your shameless self promotion by putting your ugly fucking face on all the ads. Raymond bit his tongue. He was losing his cool, the old feelings of rage surfaced.

“I try and match the buyers and sellers as best I can,” Paula said. “If I do my job right, then everyone is happy.”

‘Then why did you take eight months to fail at selling my house. Make me get so far behind in my mortgage that the bank sold my house in a week, leaving me with nothing.’ Raymond thought to himself.

“Fair enough,” Raymond said. He walked casually into the kitchen, leaving Paula in the hallway.

Raymond walked casually around the house, pretending to be interested in its features until he reached the bathroom.

“Excuse me, Paula,” he said, sticking his head out into the hallway. “Can you come here; I have a question about something in here?”

“Yes, no problems,”

Paula walked briskly down the hall and into the black and white tiled bathroom with a large wall mirror above the basin.

Raymond grabbed her and shoved a tissue drenched with chloroform over her mouth and nose. She struggled, but her strength was no match for Raymond’s rage. In less than a minute, Paula was unconscious.

Raymond dropped her limp body to the ground and went to the dining room and returned with a chair to prop Paula up on in front of the mirror. He then pulled a Stanley knife from his trouser pocket and began to work on Paula’s face, careful so as to prevent her from bleeding to death. The cuts were deep and would scar, but she would like. And that is what Raymond wanted, to scar every Real Estate agent vain enough to use their photo on their ads, business cards and signs. He believed that these salespeople were only interested in self promotion, rather than being a professional property conveyor.

“I’ll teach you a lesson about what buyers want,” Raymond said, laughing as he carved away. “And it has nothing to do with your ugly fucking face.”

He sliced both of Paula’s nostrils, then her ears, dropping them into the basin after severing the tough cartilage.

“If you spent that money on promoting my house instead of yourself, I bet you would have sold my house. One thousand dollars on advertising and all I got out of it was being homeless. Don’t see why I should have paid for your publicity, you bitch.”
Raymond stopped butchering and looked at Paula’s face in the mirror. He then pulled a small digital camera from his pocket and took a photo to put on the business card when he got home. Raymond smiled, and then slowly walked to his car, thumbing through a pile of other business cards on his way.

THE END

Hookers, Hobos and Hustlers  

Posted by Scott Wilson

Hookers, Hobos and Hustlers
By Scott Wilson
Word Count: 468

“Great party, Thomas,” Jektol, the three-headed alien said.

“Yes, top marks,” Ingalenstool, the lizard-headed creature added. “But why do all of these themed parties have the female in a derogatory role. I mean Hookers for the females and Hustlers for the males?”

“Well,” Thomas said. “In the early history of Earth, the males dominated politics, the workplace, and society in general. I suppose they liked the idea of having a party where the ladies wore as little clothes as possible. You know, to give them another power high.”

“Did the females ever hold themed parties later on when they gained the equality that they fought for?” Jektol said.

“No, not really. You see, the balance of nature always seemed to have the female ratio a lot higher than that of their male counterparts. They never had the need to use their power or status to get a man.”

“That doesn’t make sense,” Ingalenstool said. “If there were more women, then wouldn’t that mean that men would have had more partners to choose from, not the other way around?”

“In theory, that is correct my friend. But men were also born with a much higher libido and sex drive than women. Men always seemed to need to have a partner for their physical needs, where women seemed to be able to go through their whole lives without bothering to have sex unless they wanted to have children.”

“That makes sense,” Jektol said. “Men had more partners to choose from but in reality, they had much less of a choice.”

“Exactly, Jektol.”

“But that still doesn’t make sense?” Ingalenstool. “Why would the women dress up in skimpy clothes to attract a man, if they had no desire for a sexual relationship?”

“Back to the balance of power, my friend,” Thomas said. “Women had a commodity that men wanted, themselves. Some women would degrade themself to a sexual object so that they could gain a relationship with a man of wealth and power, to have a better quality of life. In the early Earth history, a woman was not able to amass a fortune by themselves, and even when widowed, they often lost their inheritance to a male in the family.”

“I’m surprised that the women didn’t start a violent revolution sooner,”

Ingalenstool said. “How could they stand being so oppressed?”

“Balance of power, my friend...”

“Hey, hooker!” yelled a female lizard headed creature. “Over here, pleasure me now!”

“I have to go,” Thomas said. “Like I just said, it’s all about the balance of power.”

Thomas adjusted his corset and garter, and then pranced over to the awaiting creature to perform his duty as a hooker.

THE END

Night Thugs  

Posted by Scott Wilson

Night Thugs
By Scott Wilson
Word Count: 800

“Listen Mac,” Jacob said. “You don’t flash your money around like that. In this neighbourhood, that’s pretty damn stupid and likely to get us both rolled.”

“Ain’ nobody gonna mess with us, hoss,” the short, stocky thug said.

“You might be a bigwig downtown, but this isn’t our turf. You see, we don’t know the intricacies of the gangs in this part of town.”

“But we’s just did over Jonnie the Barber upstairs, didn’t we. Won’t that upsets peoples?”

“Most likely, but if he ripped off the locals like he ripped off our boss, then the goons would be more likely to be angry with us for depriving them the chance of doing the same, rather than taking the money he owed Big Lou.”

“Well, let’s get off the street and back to our turf then. I like counting my monies.”

“I’m sure you do, Mac. But one day you need to learn how to count the denominations as well as the number of bills you have. They all have different values, you know.”

“Never bothered me before. I’s just hand over what I thinks is fair and nobody seems to argue.”

“That’s probably more to do with the pistol you hold in your other hand than the other party being in agreement with your style of bartering.”

“Stick ‘em up, mister!” a squeaky voice said.

Mac and Jacob turned around to face the owner of this voice. They had to look down as it came from a child, or one of the two children standing a few feet away.

“You should be careful, young master,” Jacob said calmly. “You could end up in serious trouble sneaking up on adults like...”

“Shut it pops!” the other child yelled and shot Jacob in the knee with a round from the automatic pistol he held.

Jacob fell to the ground, clutching his shattered kneecap. Mac instinctively went for the pistol in his shoulder holster. The second child shot Mac in the elbow, then the other arm for good luck. His partner smiled and said, “Good one Pete. He looks like he’d be trouble.”

“Thanks Tommy,” Pete said. “Now, hand over that money and we might think about letting you crawl back home.”

“How’s can I hand over anything!” Mac yelled. “You’ve shot both my arms you little bastard.”

Tommy shot Mac in the forehead with a single shot, killing him instantly.

“You got any questions about how to hand over that money you stole from my dad?” Pete said.

“No,” Jacob said.

Jacob tried to get to his feet, but Tommy kicked him in the injured leg.
“I think you’d better crawl.”

“Yeh,” Pete said. “Like the dirty dog you are. Stealing my dad’s money. That was for my birthday party.”

Jacob slowly crawled to his fallen comrade and lifted his arm to grab Mac’s wallet. Tommy shot his elbow out.

“Use your mouth, mister,” Tommy said.

“Yeh,” Pete agreed. “Don’t want you reaching for that pistol instead of the money.”

Jacob was about to argue, but the vacant look of the two kid’s faces convinced him otherwise. There was just nothing behind those eyes, no hate, no anger, and no innocence.

“Okay, just don’t shoot me again, please.”

Tommy lifted his pistol and shot one of Jacob’s ears off.

“Didn’t you hear us, mister? Get that money.”

Jacob began to cry. He thought himself a dignified English gentleman, above the common street criminal common to the city. But lying in a pool of both his and Mac’s blood and with three bullet holes in him, he couldn’t help but weep. He managed to get the wallet out of his colleague’s pocket and sat upright slowly.

“Bend down and put it on the ground,” Pete said.

Jacob complied without a word. Before he had a chance to sit back up he felt a snap in his lower back. He fell face first into the filthy bitumen sidewalk. The pain did not last long before disappearing, but then the numbness kicked in and so did the realisation that his back was broken.

“Hey, good one, Dad,” Pete said.

Jacob could not turn his head to see Jonnie; all he saw was a cockroach crawling under his face towards the lump of flesh that used to be his ear.

“I think that’ll do, boys,” Jonnie said. “Donnie said he’ll send the cleaners around to take this trash away.”

“Can I play with them when they get here?” Pete said.

“Yeh, why not. It was his twelfth birthday yesterday. Give him a hand.”

Another kid. Jacob thought, how the hell am I going to get out of this, this is one tough neighbourhood.

THE END

Bossy Mites  

Posted by Scott Wilson in , ,

Bossy Mites
By Scott Wilson
Word Count: 337

Mosquitoes buzzed, but kept their distance as the aroma of insect repellent overpowered the smoke coming from the dying campfire. Brian, the church counsellor was getting to the good part of the ghost story and the campers were all quiet, straining to hear the raspy whispers of the protagonist. The sudden sound of footsteps approaching on the pine needle carpet silenced the group. All heads turned simultaneously and the little girls screamed when a man emerged from the tree line, dressed in torn clothing and carrying a pack. The pack started to move as an infant's startled cry joined the panicked chorus.

“Help...me...” the man said softly before collapsing face first.

“Jake, go grab the first aid kit from my tent,” Brian said, rushing to assist the stranger.

“Let me help,” Jane, the eldest teenager in the group said.

Brian carefully took the infant out of the backpack and passed it to Jane, who tenderly wrapped it in her jumper and rocked it.

“Aargh!” screamed one of the teenagers.

“What’s that?” said another one.

Brian rolled the man over and revealed a mass or wriggling, writhing oversized maggots, pouring out of a hole the size of a tennis ball in the stranger’s chest.

“Everyone, back to the campfire please.” Brian said.

Slowly, the group of ten teenagers backed away, scared but also wanting to see what had happened to this stranger.

“Bossy mites...” the infant said.

“What’s a bossy mite?” Jane asked.

The infant pointed to the direction that the stranger came from. At first, Jane could not see anything in the dark, but then her eyes became accustomed to the dark and she saw something slightly larger than a bat flying towards them.

“Bossy mite,” the child repeated.

“Everyone to the van!” Brian yelled. “She means mozzie bites.”

Pouring out of the trees and straight towards the camp buzzed a swarm of giant mosquitoes.

THE END

Rust Never Sleeps  

Posted by Scott Wilson in , ,

Rust Never Sleeps
By Scott Wilson
Word Count: 642

“It's better to burn out 'cause rust never sleeps” Neil Young, Rust Never Sleeps 1979.
Captain Jamieson landed the shuttle on the strange planet’s surface effortlessly. It was his thousandth and last mission before retiring to a humble, but adequate pension to enjoy the rest of his life with his wife, Andrea.

“Okay, boys,” he said to the entourage of marines and scientists. “It is time to do your thing.”

“Lock and load, marines,” Sergeant Gunnery shouted. “This is a purely scientific mission, but I want you all on full alert. We still know little about this planet.”

“That’s just asking for trouble,” one of the marines grunted.

“Stow it!” shouted Gunnery.

With a heavy groan, the loading dock door opened slowly, letting a red dust swirl in and cover the crew lightly. The atmosphere outside contained enough oxygen to sustain life commonly found on the high mountain tops back on Earth. The marines lead the way down the ramp and onto the sandy surface, followed closely by the team of scientists. The marines did not offer any assistance in carrying any of the heavy testing equipment; rather laughing at the fumbling and stumbling as the scrawny men and one woman struggled down the ramp.

The captain was the last down the ramp, signalling to the two marines left with the shuttle to close the door.

“Let’s have a safe mission, boys,” Jamieson said as he made his way to centre of the line, amongst the scientists. “How long do you need to retrieve your samples?”

A heavily bearded man scratched his chin, twirling the long whiskers, and then said, “Two hours should be sufficient. You’ve landed exactly in the location we requested, so no travel time will be required. Just a few deep drill samples, surface samples, atmospheric readings...yes two hours.”

“I want a secure perimeter, marines!” Gunnery shouted and the troops dispersed to a hundred meter radius.

Jamieson pulled his Zippo lighter from his utility belt and shook it; even though it had been securely tucked away it seemed to be covered with the red dust. He flicked the lid open and it crumbled under his touch.

“Looks like time for a new lighter, Cap’n,” one of the marines said.

“This one was only given to me before we left on this mission, a kind of farewell present from the boys in the landing crew back at base.”

A few meters away, one of the scientists shook a cylindrical apparatus that appeared to be not co-operating with him. The scientist put the device down and rummaged through a case, looking for another piece of equipment to test the atmosphere.

“Ouch!” he yelped, pulling his hand back with a jagged wound running along the back of his arm.

“What happened?” another scientist said.

“All of the equipment is falling to pieces. Friggin Dynamoter crumbled and slashed my arm.”

“What the...” a marine yelled.

Jamieson looked over and saw the marine tangle in the straps of his backpack. The metal buckles appeared to have rusted away.

“Gunnery,” Jamieson said. “I think we’d better get back onboard the shuttle.”

“Why’s that?” Gunnery said.

“For some reason, all metal objects are rusting rapidly and I don’t fancy flying back to base with half a ship.”

“OKAY!” Gunnery yelled. “Marines, round ‘em up and board the shuttle, pronto. Leave the equipment, we have to move immediately.”

The marines began herding the scientists toward the shuttle. Once onboard, Jamieson headed straight to the cockpit, stumbling on his way.

“You okay, cap’n?” a marine said, noticing Jamieson had a blood nose.

“Yer, just have a bit of a headache.”

Jamieson rubbed his head then collapsed in a heap. The side of his skull looking unnaturally concave.

“Oh, crap!” Gunnery said. “The captain has a metal plate in his head.”

THE END

 

Posted by Scott Wilson




AHWA NEWS DIGEST [02.06.09-15.06.09]

The following digest of recent horror news is compiled from pieces published to HorrorScope and the Australian Horror Writers' Association website.

Government Review of Western Australian Literary Awards

The Department of Culture and the Arts (DCA) has initiated a review of both the West Australian Premier's Book Awards and the Australia Asia Literary Award and is now inviting submissions from authors, publishers, book sellers, librarians, academics and members of the public. If you have a view regarding the future of the Awards, or suggestions on how the Awards might be developed to achieve greater impact and/or improved outcomes for the West Australian writing sector then this is your opportunity to contribute. writingWA encourages you to provide your input into this process. Further information about the aims and objectives of the Awards and details of the review process are available by visiting the DCA website. Submissions close 5pm June 25. Click through for contact details.

The Text Prize for Young Adult and Children's Writing
The Text Prize for Young Adult and Children's Writing
is an annual prize awarded to an outstanding unpublished manuscript. It aims to discover more wonderful new books for young readers, by Australian and New Zealand writers. Both published and unpublished writers of all ages are eligible to enter with works of fiction or non-fiction. We are now accepting submissions for the 2009 prize. All entries must be received by Friday 31 July. Judged by a panel of editors from Text Publishing, the winning book will be announced during the Melbourne Writers’ Festival. The winner will receive a publishing contract with Text and a $10,000 advance against royalties.

Jason Nahrung reading on Terra Incognita

Terra Incognita Speculative Fiction Podcast #008 is now available for your listening pleasure at www.tisf.com.au; also available on iTunes. This month, Jason Nahrung reads his outback vampire story Smoking, Waiting For The Dawn (from Dreaming Again), and Keith Stevenson reviews Canterbury 2100, edited by Dirk Flinthart. The Terra Incognita Speculative Fiction podcast is presented by Keith Stevenson, and brought to you by Coeur de Lion books.

2009 Bram Stoker Award winners
The 2009 Bram Stoker Awards for Superior Achievement in Horror Fiction published in 2008 have been presented by the Horror Writers Association at the Stoker Awards Weekend in Burbank, California (USA). Click through to view a complete list of winners in all categories.

Call for Entries - 4th Annual A Night of Horror International Film Festival
A Night of Horror International Film Festival is now accepting feature films, shorts, music videos, and screenplays for the 2010 event. John Michael Elfers, director of the feature film Finale speaks glowingly of his experience at the 2009 festival: “Saying that we had a tremendous experience at A Night of Horror would be an understatement. It was our world premiere and exceeded our expectations. The festival is committed to helping independent horror filmmakers find their audience and get noticed. They put our film in the hands of distributors, reviewers, and got us on the radio. The personal attention was unlike anything I've experienced at other festivals.” More details are available at the festival's official site: www.anightofhorror.com.

Facts About Speculative Fiction panel cancelled
Due to a lack of bookings, the Victorian Writers' Centre have had to cancel the Facts About Speculative Fiction seminar on Wednesday 17th June. Those who have already paid for the seminar, will be issued a refund, or alternatively can keep it as a credit in the system to be used at a later stage. For the other outstanding genre writing offerings, check out the previously reported news at HorrorScope. For a full listing of the 2009 VWC program, visit the Victorian Writers' Centre website.

Andrew J McKiernan's new website
AHWA member, Australian spec-fic and horror author and illustrator, Andrew J McKiernan now has a new website. The image gallery contains samples from the forthcoming SHARDS: Short Sharp Tales collection by Shane Jiraiya Cummings & Andrew J McKiernan (Brimstone Press - June 2009 - ISBN 978-0-980-56772-4), as well as illustrations that have appeared in Aurealis magazine, Orb Speculative Fiction, and a number of other collections and anthologies.

Genre Publishers Tell All
Join a guest editor from Black Dog Books, Stuart Mayne (Aurealis Magazine) and Janet Rowe (Five Mile Press) as they discuss their genre areas of writing and publications. This diverse panel of guest speakers will provide insight of the manuscript submission process, market trends and readership. There’s something for everyone who has an interest in SF, children’s or crime fiction and non-fiction writing and are looking to get published. Who knows, you may even be writing a SF, Kid’s crime novel! Victorian Writers' Centre, Tuesday 30 June 2009, 6:30PM - 8:00PM.

The Hero's Journey with Paul Collins
Join Paul Collins and create both a world and a plot in a single day! Working in groups, participants will learn the 12 point structure of fantasy, drawing on examples from the best known fantasy novels such as Lord of the Rings and the Harry Potter books. At the end of the workshop everyone will have a map, plot and scenes from their fantasy novel. Paul is best known for his young adult fantasy and science fiction series: The Quentaris Chronicles, which he co-edits with Michael Pryor, The Jelindel Chronicles and The Earthborn Wars. Along with a dozen SF&F anthologies, he edited The MUP Encyclopaedia of Australian Science Fiction and Fantasy. His current project is The World of Grrym trilogy in collaboration with Danny Willis. He is also the publisher at Ford Street Publishing. Paul has been short-listed for many awards for his fiction, and has won the inaugural Peter McNamara, Aurealis and William Atheling awards. Victorian Writers' Centre, Sunday 28 June 2009, 10:00AM - 4:00PM.

Cops and Robbers: writing the perfect crime scene!
Ever wanted to write a crime novel or short story? Chances are you'll have at least one detective wandering your pages. But how do you get the procedure right? What about dialogue? You don't want an Aussie detective to sound like a character off the set of CSI, do you? And what about the crime scene? Who strings up the plastic tape, who calls in homicide and the coroner? In this 6 hour interactive seminar you'll learn the ins and outs of real life police drama and how to apply this to your characters and plot, giving your stories the essential ingredient of every great crime writer; verisimilitude. Jarad Henry has worked in the criminal justice system for more than ten years, is currently a strategic advisor for Victoria Police and has two novels published, Head Shot and Blood Sunset. Victorian Writers' Centre, Saturday 27 June 2009, 10:00AM - 4:00PM.

Let's Network! Genre / Popular Fiction Writers

An opportunity for like-minded VWC writers to get together, form new networks, exchange ideas, and strengthen literary community ties. From new and emerging writers, freelancers, non-fiction, genre fiction to editors, each month will give focus to different literary groups, along with special guest speakers attending over the year. This month will feature guest speakers, Lindy Cameron, convenor of Sisters in Crime Australia and Murray MacLachlan, President of the Melbourne Science Fiction Club. Victorian Writers' Centre, Thursday 18 June 2009, 6:30PM - 8:00PM.

2009 Ditmar Award winners
The 2009 Ditmar Awards for Australian SF, fantasy, and horror were presented on Sunday June 7 at Conjecture in Adelaide. Click through to view a complete list of winners in all categories.

2009 Sir Julius Vogel Awards winners
The Science Fiction and Fantasy Association of New Zealand is pleased to announce the winners of this year’s Sir Julius Vogel Awards. This year's Sir Julius Vogel Awards were voted on at Conscription, the 2009 New Zealand National Science Fiction Convention, on Sunday 31st May 2009. Click through to view a complete list of winners in all categories.

Applications now open for Regional Arts Fund (NSW) 2010
Applications are now being accepted for the Regional Arts Fund (NSW), one of the key funding sources for arts and cultural activities in regional, rural and remote communities of New South Wales (Australia). Funding is available for projects commencing after 1 January 2010 in the categories of New Initiatives, Partnerships and Residencies and Mentorships. Funding is available for one, two or three year projects. Applications for the Regional Arts Fund (NSW) close on Friday 14 August 2009.

Prey to open in USA in June
Top Cat Films and Damage Releasing have steered Australian horror movie Prey through the international market screening process, and released the following media blurb: Less than a week after a near-full 10am market screening at Cannes Film Market, surprise Aussie 'candy horror' treat PREY has taken down rights for Germany, the Czech Republic, Russia and is honing in on a coterie of Asian territories. PREY opens in the United States on 23 June. The DVD release in Australia is slated for June 30. (Extract only.)

2009 QWC/Hachette Australia Manuscript Development Program for Fiction Writers now open
Queensland Writers Centre (QWC) and Hachette Australia are proud to announce their national program for fiction writers in 2009. This program has been created for emerging Australian authors of fiction who are either unpublished or have no more than one significant work commercially published. Up to 10 emerging fiction writers will work with publishers for Hachette Australia to develop high-quality fiction manuscripts. Applications open in May 2009. The deadline for submission is last post 24 July 2009. The manuscript development retreat will run in southeast Queensland from 20-25 November 2009. Click through for full details.

4th Biennial Watermark Literary Muster

The Watermark Literary Muster invites readers and writers to celebrate the literature of nature and place. In 2009 the theme is 'wood' - forests, trees, fire, artisans and artefacts, philosophies, opinions, conflicts - and the literature and stories that embrace it. The packed program includes readings, conversations, panel sessions, nature excursions, literary meals, performances, art, book launches, formal and informal discussion. 19 - 22 June, Kendall, NSW.

AntipodeanSF #132
AntipodeanSF Issue 132 is now available on the net. Please visit for your monthly fix of fantastic flash fiction, another ten stories from everywhere around the world, and spanning subjects that stretch even further than that.

The John Marsden Prize for Young Australian Writers 2009

Tired of scratching around your pockets for money? Well it's time to get writing because The John Marsden Prize for Young Australian Writers 2009 has now opened. $4500.00 in prize money is up for grabs! In its fifth year running, The John Marsden Prize offers the chance for young Australian writers to have their work judged by author John Marsden, be published in Voiceworks, and receive some cash as well! Entries close 5pm Friday 28th August, 2009. For more information including the entry form, please visit www.expressmedia.org.au.

Submitting News


If you have news about Australian and New Zealand Horror publishing and film, or news of professional development opportunities in the field, feel free to submit news to Talie Helene, AHWA News Editor. Just visit HorrorScope, and click on the convenient email link. (International news is not unwelcome, although relevance to Antipodean literary arts practitioners is strongly preferred.)

For information on the Australian Horror Writers' Association, visit australianhorror.com.

This AHWA NEWS DIGEST has been compiled, written, and republished in select Australian horror haunts by Talie Helene. Currently archived at the
AHWA MySpace page, and Southern Horror; hosted at the social networking sites Darklands and A Writer Goes On A Journey; and hosted by AHWA members Felicity Dowker, Brenton Tomlinson, Scott Wilson, and Jeff Ritchie (Scary Minds: Horror's Last Colonial Outpost).

If you would like to support the AHWA News effort by hosting a copy of the AHWA News Digest on your blog or website,
contact Talie to receive a fully formatted HTML edition of the digest by email.

terature and stories that embrace it. The packed program includes readings, conversations, panel sessions, nature excursions, literary meals, performances, art, book launches, formal and informal discussion. 19 - 22 June, Ken

The Outlaw  

Posted by Scott Wilson

The Outlaw
By Scott Wilson
Word Count: 1304

Randall blew softly over the smouldering tinder as Emerson looked, shaking his head with an apprehensive scepticism. Emerson knew this was a bad move but his disparity with Randall over the intricacies of fire making was a mute point. Neither of them had eaten any solid food in almost three days and Randall was not about to eat his fresh killed fox raw. He was willing to take his chances with the fire. But then again the type of ruffian Randall was. He was always willing to take as long as it took to prove a point, even if it meant putting someone else at risk. Emerson was in no position to argue. Randall was the meaner and ruthless of the two and he was not beyond putting some lead in him if for no other reason than to shut him up or better yet, to not have to divvy up the fox with him.
Randall continued to tend the fire and Emerson grudgingly went about gathering what firewood he could find in the starless sky. They had made camp far too late and now they had to fumble in the dark until a decent fire was established.

As he walked outside the campsite, he could see Randall’s silhouette as he added a more fuel to the slowly growing campfire. It was obvious that anyone tracking them would have no difficulty in seeing them out in the open with nowhere to shelter them. He hoped that they had a fair enough lead on the posse chasing them so they wouldn’t be sitting ducks. The thought had no sooner entered his mind than something caused him to stop dead in his tracks. He was already nervous about the fire and now he was hearing things. Slightly cocking his head, he stood silent in the dark and listened intently. Emerson thought he saw some shadows move in the distance, but not that far from their location. It appeared that Randall had heard it as well. His iron was already drawn and he sat motionless, keenly listening for the exact location of the movement. Randall was an excellent gunfighter and did not need the daylight to get a bead on his target. A single shot pierced the silence and Randall dropped to the ground letting loose three quick shots before rolling away from the fire. Emerson dove for cover behind a small group of cactuses and squinted to make out how Randall was going and if he caught the bullet or was lucky enough to dodge it.
Randall lay motionless and Emerson was not sure if he was avoiding the attention of the unseen gunman or dead. Emerson stayed low, motionless, and far enough away from the campfire to give away his location if he was lucky.

Emerson began to cramp up in his calf after lying motionless for over an hour. Each time he looked toward the fire he saw the still body of Randall, and after a few good, hard looks, he could tell that not even Randall’s chest was moving anymore. It appeared that the single shot had hit its target and laid Randall out for good. Emerson slowly stretched his leg back and forth to ease the cramp without giving away his location. He did not know if the gunman was still out there or long gone after hitting his target.
The night dragged on. Emerson decided after a few hours that he had to make a move and get to some cover before the morning came and he would be out in the open. From his calculations, the rocky mountains were a few hours further to the north. Randall steered them East, towards the gambling town of Goldrush, to spend their newly found fortune. If the posse guessed that, then Emerson felt pretty sure that his change of direction would not be realised until he had a good head start again.
Emerson slowly crawled along the hard, dusty ground backwards until he was twenty or so meters from the campsite. The fire had dwindled out to all but the soft, red glow of embers, giving off virtually no light at all now. He gradually stood up and walked quickly to the east.
By daybreak, Emerson was far enough from the campsite to feel a little safer. His legs ached from walking for almost three days straight and now his gun hand was stiff from carrying his pistol all night. He holstered his pistol and flexed his hand. If the posse hadn’t tracked him from the campsite, when they were so close, then chances were he was in the clear now.
Emerson knew he had to get to shelter soon; he was exhausted from a sleepless night and too many days on the run. His eyes ached and he almost missed the horse tracks a few yards to the left of the path, he was on. Cautiously, he walked closer to the tracks and saw splotches of dried blood in-between the hove prints. Drawing his gun again, Emerson followed the tracks until he saw the owner of both trails. Slouched across the horse’s back was the limp, lifeless body of a bounty hunter. It appeared that Randall had managed a perfect shot just before he died, hitting the stranger directly in the heart.
With the hope that this would buy him some time, Emerson got busy. It was mid morning when he finished burying the two men. Not that he felt either one of them deserved it. His main concern was in hiding any evidence that could point someone else in his direction. After taking what few useful provisions the stranger had on him, he hid the saddles and the tack. Randall and the stranger’s horses were left to go wild. He then took the money he and Randall had gotten from the bank they held up back in Railway Gorge several days ago and stuffed it into his saddlebag. Emerson mounted up and continued east, away from where he and Randall were to meet up with some acquaintances to plan their next job. Emerson had no plans on becoming an outlaw, and was dragged into the robbery after losing a poker game to Randall. He had no doubt Randall cheated, but he had had too many whiskeys to outdraw Randall in a gunfight. Emerson was lead to the bank to withdraw his entire account as payment of his gambling debt. Before Emerson knew what was going on, he was already an accomplice in the robbery.
While Emerson only worked as a station hand on one of the medium sized ranches just outside Railway Gorge, he had saved enough to buy a share in the Evenstar Bar. Now that plan was shot to pieces and he was a wanted man, an unlikely outlaw. Sherriff Brady was a decent, law abiding, God-fearing man and would most likely believe Emerson, but the bank manager, Bob McKinley, would rather see him hang. Emerson had less money than McKinley, but first dibs on the share in the bar because of a distant relative, both the current owner of the bar and Emerson had in the family tree. That and the fact McKinley was as popular as a rattlesnake at a square dance.
Luckily, Randall’s friends did not know about Emerson, so he would not have them on his tail when Randall didn’t rendeaveux with them in a week’s time. Emerson counted the money and smiled. He would be able to make a fresh start in another state, maybe even buy a small bar outright. A good shave and haircut should disguise him from anyone who knew the rough and rugged cowboy he used to be.

THE END

Office Politics  

Posted by Scott Wilson

Office Politics
By Scott Wilson
Word Count: 1,130

Jess knew that she was a bad boss and an outright bitch, but she just could not help it. She knew how much she took advantage of the guy she replaced when promoted six months ago. Out of the office of five women, all of them were friends, or had become friends since starting work together; they often went to the pub at lunch and on a Friday night. The only male in the office was the manager, who was not a particularly secure man. If any of the girls didn’t feel like doing something the manager asked them to do, they would start carrying on about having their period, that was a sure fire way to make him go away. Sally Cho, the most rude and abrupt of the girls, often stuck a clipboard up at the end of her cubicle saying ‘Too Busy, Go Away’. If they worked in private industry and not the public service, there is no way they would get away with their actions.

Only a few weeks after Jess got the promotion, all of her friends left, moved on to other jobs at the university or outside, anywhere to get away from her appalling management skills. She looked after herself first and lacked any meaningful kind of empathy, often looking like she was amoral. Jess would not listen to her employees when they asked for help, or needed time off for any personal issues, especially child related. She was forty, single, and had no interest in the family life, preferring to pick up a different guy every Friday night to make her feel attractive and desirable. Her friends had partners and thought she was a bit of a skank, but were used to her flirtatious nature.

Pub lunches were still a big favourite with Jess, and most afternoons she reeked of booze on her breath and out of her pores. The one-hour lunch often, slide into an hour and a half or two hours. Because of this, she was extremely strict with the staff timesheets, even going as low as asking another manager in the same office to monitor how long her staff had for lunch, or when they arrived or left. That was mainly because she didn’t usually start work until around nine-thirty and had long lunches herself.

Being out of the office for so long each day, she was never available for assisting the staff or answering question they might have. Jess would rip them a new one if they didn’t finish the work she asked them to do, even if she were too drunk to clearly explain exactly what she wanted them to do. Half the time, she forgot entire conversations she had with staff, even if it were at the weekly staff meeting.
In the last six months, Jess had achieved a one hundred percent staff turnover. The longest any employee lasted in her section was three months. Her favourite trick was to employee a bright, young, and upcoming guy at the end of their degree. She would flirt with them and lead them on to think that they were in line for a promotion if they put in the hard yards. Jess knew that there was no position to move into apart from hers, and she wasn’t giving that up anytime soon. Apart from that, she knew that she would be able to do a job in the real world; she had absolutely no knowledge of her job, or any other job of the same level.

Tony gave his resignation to Jess in the morning, after only two day of working in the office, a record for even Jess. He caught on tho her real personality when she must have forgotten how long he worked in the office for. Instead of the slow build up of demands and bitchiness, Jess let loose a barrage of verbal degradation and abuse when Tony couldn’t understand a direction she gave him. Of course, it was in the afternoon, after a few Strong bow Cider’s and in the stupid time of day for her. Even though Jess quickly realised what she had done, it was too late; the damage was done. This happened on Thursday and Tony gave notice Friday. Jess planned to drown her sorrows later that night, along with picking up a guy or two.

* * *

Jess ended up going out by herself; the girls were all busy with their partners or family. She went to a usual haunt, The Paddo, where she often chatted up one of the bartenders for cheap drinks.

As the night progressed, Jess found herself with a group of Greek men, suave and smooth, and extremely well off by the look of them. They chatted with her, bought her drinks, and eventually offered to take her back to their place. Jess decided that some group sex might not be that bad, especially after the day she had just had. She hoped in a cab with the three guys and headed back to their mansion at The Gap.

Jess quickly undressed as the tallest of the trio did the same, the other two went out of the room for a short period before returning with a camera and video recorder. Before Jess could complain, the footage was taken, as was her clothes.

“What’s going on?” she said.

“Oh, just a bit of just deserts, you bitch,” Tony said as he walked into the room.
Jess tried to grab something to cover herself, but there was nothing lying around in the large lounge room.

“What are you doing here?” she said.

“What, at my brother’s house?” Tony said. “He works for ASIO and has quite a lot of resources at his disposal. Like access to the name and contact details of everybody you have screwed over in the last half a year.”

Jess heard footsteps on the polished wood floor. A steady stream of past employees and guys she’d picked up and used for sex then dumped, flowed into the lounge room until there were over fifty men and women surrounding her.

“No,” Jess cried, trying to cover herself with her hands. “You can’t do this to me.”

“Yes we can,” said the oldest of the three men from the pub. He played back an mp3 recording that sounded like Jess agreeing to dance naked in front of the crowd at Toni’s party.

“Yes, Jess you’d better give us a good show. I mean, you’re going to be streaming live on YouTube as you go.”

The crowd laughed and clapped.

Jess trembled and looked at the multitude of cameras and video cameras trained on her every move.

THE END

The Gauntlet of Peril  

Posted by Scott Wilson

The Gauntlet of Peril
By Scott Wilson
Word Count: 1049

Despite its name, Black Falls was an ordinary small town in the southern province of Grendale. Situated on the banks of the River Cain it made a convenient stopover for river traders and passengers throughout most of the year. A few barges, rafts and sometimes even a large sailboat could usually be found moored at Black Falls.

However, all that was long ago, before the creation of The Gauntlet of Peril. At the beginning of summer every year now, the river is crammed with boats as people arrive from hundreds of miles around, hoping to witness the breaking of an ancient tradition in Black Falls and see a victor in The Gauntlet of Peril.

On the first day of summer each year, warriors and heroes come to Black Falls to face the test of their lives. Survival is unlikely, yet many take the risk, for the prize is great – a purse of 5,000 Gold Pieces and Dukedom. However, to become Champion is no easy task. Some years ago, a powerful Earl of Black Falls called Hashvein decided to bring attention to his town by creating the ultimate contest.

With the help of the townspeople, he constructed an elaborate and dangerous labyrinth deep in the hillside behind Black Falls, from which there was only one exit. The labyrinth was filled with all kinds of deadly tricks and traps and loathsome monsters, all trapped by the Earl’s expert rangers. Hashvein designed it in meticulous detail so that anybody hoping to face its challenge would have to use their wits and intellect as well as prowess with hand-to-hand combat. When he was finally satisfied that all was complete, he put his labyrinth to the test. He picked ten of his handpicked henchmen and fully armed, they marched into the labyrinth.

They were never seen again. The tale of the ill-fated henchmen soon spread throughout the land, and it was then that Hashvein announced the first The Gauntlet of Peril. Messengers and newssheets carried his challenge – 5,000 Gold Pieces and a Dukedom to any person surviving the perils of the labyrinth Black Falls. For the first year, only fifteen bold and hopeful treasure seekers attempted ‘The Gauntlet’, as it later came to be known. Not one was even seen alive again. As the years passed and The Gauntlet of Peril continued, it attracted more and more challengers and spectators. Black Falls prospered and began to prepare itself months in advance for the spectacle it hosted each summer. The townsfolk decorated their businesses; tents were erected near the entrance, dining-halls built, musicians, dancers, fire-eaters, illusionists, and every sort of entertainer hired, and entries registered from hopeful individuals’ intent on making ‘The Gauntlet’. The last week of spring found the people of Black Falls and its visitors in wild celebration and festivity. Everybody sang, drank, danced, and laughed until day broke on the first morning of summer, when the town thronged to the gates of the labyrinth to watch the first challenger of the year step forward to face The Gauntlet of Peril.

Having seen one of Hashvein’s challenges nailed to a tree, Joktar, a Sembian Ranger from the far northern lands recognised the artist’s sketch of Hashvein as the mighty wizard Sniesha. A rogue who he had been searching for the last five years, to bring to justice in the courts of Queen Geraldine, whose husband had died at Sniesha’s foul hand.

Joktar arrived the day after the first entrant began his journey into the labyrinth, too late to pretend to be a contestant and gain an audience with Hashvein. Any serious contestant arrived days before the commencement of The Gauntlet to enjoy the free food, women, and wine offered to all entrants. Though the second contestant would not enter until the corpse of the first was brought out for all to see, no late entries were accepted. This usually occurred within hours of the contest beginning. From the array of bloodied and battered armour on display in the great hall, seven warriors had already met their untimely demise in the Gauntlet.

The great hall was full of life, music played in the background as wenches served ale to the masses. Joktar tried to blend in the crowd, mingling and slowly making his way to the contestant board to see how many more entrants were left to make their way to The Gauntlet. Seated at the head of the great hall the daunting figure of Hashvein sat on a throne high above the others at the table.
Hashvein waved at a guard, who directed Joktar to a seat at the far end of Hashvein’s table, an honourable position for one to be granted. A drink wench poured Joktar a drink and winked at him. He brought the mug to his mouth and sniffed, thinking that there was a familiar aroma to the ale. He felt drowsy and quickly fell face first onto the table.

* * *

Joktar woke with a throbbing pain running through his skull and down into his chest. He tried to sit up, but cold steel pinned his arms and legs to the rough wooden bench he lay upon.

“Ah, our guest has decided to join us,” Hashvein said. “Welcome, ranger.”

“I know who you are,” Joktar said. “I’ve been searching for you for a long time now.”

“Unfortunately, for you. I found you the moment you walked into my hall. You are not the first to have found me. Many have come before you, and found themselves in this same room, in this labyrinth.”

“Yes, a great way to hide in plain sight, holding these competitions of yours every year. How many victims of this labyrinth have not been contestants?”

“Numerous and each one has helped me make this tournament even more challenging.”
The sound of a savage growl echoed outside the chamber.

“Now, I must go. But please, do smile at the silver orbs floating around the passageways; they show me how my victims are going. Those shackles should release in a few moments, maybe even before that Minotaur sniffs you out.”

Hashvein mumbled an incantation and vanished, leaving Joktar to contemplate his future.

THE END

Brian's Brown Paper Bag  

Posted by Scott Wilson

Brian’s Brown Paper Bag
By Scott Wilson
Word Count: 425

Brian fished a crumpled up shopping bag out of a street-side wastebasket, and looked in the bottom of it, not believing what he saw.

“What the...”

He looked around; making sure nobody else could see him, or what he was going to take out of the bag. There generally weren’t that many people under the expressway, apart from a few other homeless people. Around midday, like today, the others were off begging, or picking up people’s leftovers in the Myer Centre eatery.

Brian pulled the object from the bag, keeping the barrel of the browning pistol pointed away from his body. He fiddled around, trying to work out how to release the magazine to see if it was loaded. It took a few minutes to find the mechanism that let the detachable container slide out into Brian’s lap. From the weight of it, Brian could tell it had bullets in it, either that or most of the pistol’s weight was held in this part of the gun.

Brian slid the magazine back into the handle and looked the pistol over again. He found a small lever that he assumed was the safety and flicked it on. To make sure it was safe; he pointed the gun away and pulled the trigger. Nothing happened.

“Drop the gun and put your hands on your head!”

Brian turned quickly to see who yelled at him and felt a burning pain explode in his right arm. He dropped the pistol and clutched at the wound with his left hand.

“Put your hands on your head!” the police officer yelled.

“You shot me!” Brian said.

“This is your last warning, HANDS ON YOUR HEAD!”

Brian lifted his hands to his head and winced in pain. A second officer stepped forward and handcuffed Brian behind his back, then picked up the pistol with a clear zip-lock evidence bag.

The officers dragged Brian to the waiting police car, leaving a trail of blood from his wounded arm. Out of the shadows, a tall, thin man in black jeans and a black Iron Maiden t-shirt appeared. He knelt down and put a finger in the pool of blood, licking it when he brought it to his lips. Framing the homeless for his murders was no longer a challenge. He contemplated who to kill next, and who to take the fall for his crime, while he sucked on his bloodied finger.

THE END

Zombie Picnic  

Posted by Scott Wilson

Zombie Picnic
By Scott Wilson
Word Count: 485

“It’s going to be a great day for a picnic. I wonder why I don’t feel good about it at all.” Beth said.

“She’s apple luv,” her husband Jeff replied. “We’re almost over the danger zone.”

Beth looked out the window of the shuttle, cringing at the sight of the zombie infestation in the area previously known as Brisbane. Twenty years after the initial breakout and the virus was contained to the major cities, which were now sealed off and heavily guarded.

“There we go,” Jeff said, pointing to the Stradbroke Island beach. “Just in time to, looks like the barge is arriving. We should get a prime picnic spot before the crowds get there.”

Jeff landed the shuttle in the old car park and opened the door from the cockpit to the hull. Beth followed him and bundled up the picnic basket, while Jeff picked up the Esky and rug. They left the shuttle, walked down the sandy path to the beach, and set up under a shady tree on the grass just before the sand began.

“When do you think they’ll clean up the cities?” Beth said.

Jeff played with his wife’s hair as she lay with her head on his lap.

“It’ll take them years, hon,” Jeff said. “To save the buildings and environment, they have to take the infected out individually. Can’t bomb or nuke the infected zones or they’ll be uninhabitable for us.”

“I don’t know if I’d want to live in any of the old cities now. You know, knowing those creatures lived there.”

“I don’t think people will start moving back in our lifetime. They’ll have to exterminate the infected, dispose of the bodies, clean up the streets, then buildings.”

“It they...”

A scream interrupted Beth. It sounded close, too close. Jeff leapt to his feet.

“Get back to the shuttle!” he yelled, then pulled the corners of the picnic rug together to carry everything back to the shuttle.

“What is it?”

“I don’t know, Beth. But I don’t want to find out.”

They ran back along the sandy path, Beth in front by a few meters as Jeff clumsily ran with the swag over his shoulder.

“Look, there! On the road from ferry.” Beth yelled.

Jeff slowed down and looked at the crowd of pale, lifeless bodies staggering towards the car park.

“Zombies!” Jeff yelled.

“But how?”

“In the front, that guy is wearing a military uniform. He must have been infected on duty and didn’t report it. Bastard’s going to set the whole thing in motion again.”

“Come on, we should be able to make it to the shuttle before they get here. We can report it; maybe they can contain it on this island.”

“Great, another part of the world lost to the living.”

THE END

Class Reunion  

Posted by Scott Wilson

Class Reunion
By Scott Wilson
Word Count: 316

The handsomely engraved invitation to the charity ball was a scam. It was all part of the plan to lure the classmates of ’88 together for one last time. Billy had a plan, a big plan to make a name for himself, both with his classmates and with the world at large. Twenty years on and Billy had become nothing, exactly what most of the tossers in his senior class thought would happen. His hatred of the world stemming from an unhappy childhood made him none discriminatory. Even those classmates who never teased him were part of his plan.

Only one person, Melissa Jones, declined the invitation. No big drama sorting Melissa out so she would not miss the fun. Billy flayed her in the basement of her office block and rubbed salt in her skinless flesh and left a box of rats on her lap for company.

Billy thought it was a good start to a big night. He did a quick head count, made sure everyone was there, then chained the doors and fire exits securely before pressing the open button on his remote control.

He was disappointed that he could not hear the screams and gnashing of teeth when he released the werewolves. The music had to be cranked up loud so the howls could not be heard.

Billy grinned as he loaded the magazine of his .303 with silver bullets to dispose of the beasts once the carnage was over. The police would only find the savaged remains of the class of ’88 and two naked skinheads with silver bullets through their hearts.

Next on his list was the termination of past bosses and supervisors. His batch of zombies was just about ready for this event.

THE END

Triple Treat  

Posted by Scott Wilson

Triple Treat
By Scott Wilson
Word Count: 505

The old man lay in the hospital bed. He looked around at the family and whispered, “Listen, there are some hidden assets, the first clue will be in the house, you’ll have to go from there to find them,” he groaned, closed his eyes, and he was gone.

The machine hooked up to his arm via an array of tubes beeped and howled loudly, calling out for help, though the man was well beyond that now.

Two nurses came in, scurrying about like ants at a picnic, amongst the relatives. They weaved in and out of the distressed family members and busily tried to revive the old man until the doctor arrived.

Ten minutes later, he was pronounced dead.

Twenty minutes later, the youngest son made an excuse to leave the hospital to go to the house and find anything that looked like a clue.

Half an hour later, the eldest brother and his wife arrived at the family home.

“Should have known you’d be here first,” the eldest brother said to his sibling.

“Yeh, well I know you and Charlie will probably get the biggest chunk of the inheritance. If I can get a head start in this treasure hunt, I might just end up with and equal share.”

“Dale, Grant,” a voice said from the open front door. “I hope you were going to wait for me.”

“Charlie, you know you were the old man’s favourite. The will probably has you with as the sole beneficiary,” Dale, the youngest brother said.

“Oh, grow up Dale,” Grant said. “You’ve always been paranoid. Dad would have left us an equal share. We’ll all look for this ‘hidden clue’ together.”

Two hours later, Grant found the clue.

“I’ve found it,” he called to his brothers.

The three brothers sat down in the lounge room and listened as Grant read out the note.

“Dear boys, I know each of you expect to receive part of the family inheritance. Your bickering and fighting nearly drove me insane over the years, so I’m leaving only one of you anything, and everything. There are three notes under the clock on the fireplace. One with instructions for each of you for finding a unique will. You have a limited time to find the wills, though. Only one will be valid, an incendiary device in the storage box they are stored in will destroy the other two. Your directions are based on your knowledge of your siblings. I don’t expect any of you to find your will before it self-destructs, and in this case a final will will be opened by my lawyer. This one leaves everything to the RSPCA. I hope you found this note shortly after you came back to the house. You have three hours to find your wills, and your piece of the pie.

Good luck. I hope you work together to solve this.”

THE END

Lucky Lenny  

Posted by Scott Wilson

Lucky Lenny
By Scott Wilson
Word Count: 176

“I don’t get it. Why is them cops on my case? I ain’t done nothin’...honest,” Lenny said.

“I dunno, Lenny,” Stu said. “It’s like they have it in for us, just cause we grew up in this part of the city.”

Lenny gathered up the tray of diamonds and placed them into a soft velvet bag. He tossed the display tray into the duffle bag to dispose of later.

“They’s never caught us doing anything wrong before have they?” Stu said, carefully plucking off the Michael Hill Jeweller price tags from the tray of rings.

“No, Stu,” Lenny said. “We’s never left behind any evidence or any witnesses to give us away.”

Stu looked at the storekeeper on the floor with the bullet hole in his forehead.

“Nope, Lenny. We’s never left behind anyone to dob us in. Maybe, one time you can make sure there’s nobody left. Makes my guts feel all yucky.”

THE END

Flight 631  

Posted by Scott Wilson

Flight 631
By Scott Wilson
Word Count: 351

“When the port engine cut out, all I could think of was that plane that went down in the Atlantic. I was really scared, but the engine coughed and then came back to life...thank goodness,” Brendan said to the stranger sitting in the seat next to him on the plane. “Was this same airline, flight 631, come to think of it, just over a year ago to the day?”

“Yeh, thanks,” said the old man. “Thanks a lot. I hate flying as it is, without any tales like that to cheer me up.”

“What did you say your name was?”

“I didn’t, but it is Frank. Frank Halford. Now, if you don’t mind. I’d like to try and sleep,” said the stranger before pulling his hat down over his face.

Brendan turned and looked out the window, wanting to continue his conversation, but knowing the old man would pretend to be asleep for the remainder of the flight, just to avoid him. If the stranger wouldn’t listen to him, then Brendan would just have to do something about it, make him listen.

The plane shook fiercely, knocking the hostess pushing the drink trolley to the floor and sending glasses flying.

“What was that?” someone cried.

“Did we hit something?” another passenger yelled.

The sky was clear outside, not a single cloud to be seen. The fasten your seatbelt light flashed on and the captain made an abrupt announcement. “Please remain seated, we are experiencing some mechanical issues, but there is nothing to worry about.”

Brendan smiled, watching the engines die in a splutter. The plane dropped rapidly and anything not secured flew up and hit the roof of the cabin.

“You’ve jinxed us!” said the old man sitting next to Brendan.

Brendan turned and grinned.

“Like I said, the engines cut out. Just like this and we dropped, we were on a roller coaster for about three minutes before the pilot regained control again. It changed my life forever.”

THE END

Sunset at Boxtown  

Posted by Scott Wilson

Sunset at Boxtown
By Scott Wilson
Word Count: 625

When the gunslinger rode into town, on a neat sorrel, leading a very handsome packhorse, everyone thought it was some kid wanting to grow up quick. When the rider got off it was a girl, and one of the wise guys started giving her a very hard time. He pushed to a showdown, and before he could clear leather, he was down, with holes in each shoulder. She looked around and said, “Anybody else?”

Nobody piped up to give her any lip, but one of the wise guy’s friends tried to get the drop on the gunslinger behind her back. In one smooth motion, the gunslinger pivoted and blew the pistol from the coward’s hand, taking three fingers in the process.

“I ain’ much like snakes like that,” she said in a slow, Texan drawl. “Man who would shot a lady in the back ain’ much of a man.”

The gunslinger fired another round, making the coward even less of a man by blowing away another appendage, this one a bit below the belt. The coward dropped to the ground screaming and clutching his bloodied crotch with his seven remaining fingers.

“Stow your iron, ma’am,” a deep and authoritative voice boomed to the side of the gunslinger. “I’d say you had just cause for your actions, up ‘till now. Anymore and I’d have to lock you up.”

The gunslinger turned slowly to face the owner of the powerful voice. He stood with a cigarette in one hand and the other resting on his Colt Peacemaker.

“I’ll gladly stow my iron,” the gunslinger said in a soft, sweet voice. “If you tell those two wise asses in the saloon to take their bead off me, lest one of them accidentally forgets they have a hair-trigger on their shotgun.”

“You heard the lady, boys. Pack it in. Lester had it coming, trying to get the drop on anyone packing a piece. He was bound to meet a decent opponent sooner or later.”

“What about Jed?” One of the men yelled back. “He didn’t deserve getting his junk blown off!”

“The way I saw it boys. He didn’t have any balls to start with, trying to shoot a visitor to our peaceful town in the back.”

The two men lowered their Winchesters and headed back into the bar to get a stiff drink to calm their nerves. The gunslinger reloaded her pistol, and then slowly returned it to the holster on her belt. She tipped her hat at the sheriff and turned to walk back to her horse.

“You got a minute ma’am?” The sheriff said.

The gunslinger patted her horse and poured some grain into a feedbag hung from its neck. After tending to her travelling companion’s meal, she walked back to the sheriff.

“Not much of a welcome wagon your boys put out for strangers, now.”

“I think you’ve finally put the wind up them though,” the sheriff said. “That body lying in the street is Lester McGraw. He was the ringleader of that motley crew, and a lowdown bully. Thanks to you, the gang will most likely disperse to greener pastures without Lester’s thuggish influence.”

“Seen his type plenty around these parts,” the gunslinger said. “Most of them are so cocky, they don’t think a girl could best them at anything, little lone a showdown.”

“Having those top three buttons of your blouse kind of distracts their attention, ‘specially when you don’t seem to be wear any undergarments?”

The gunslinger casually did her shirt up and winked at the sheriff, who was blushing.

“Sure does give me an edge over most men.”

THE END

 

Posted by Scott Wilson


AHWA NEWS DIGEST [16.05.09-01.06.09]

The following digest of recent horror news is compiled from pieces published to HorrorScope and the Australian Horror Writers' Association website.

Australian Shadows Award expands

Australia's top honour for horror fiction, the Australian Horror Writers Association's Australian Shadows Award, is now open for 2009 but with a major difference — this year, the Award has expanded from one to three categories; awards will be issued for the best works in Short Fiction (short stories), Long Fiction (novellas, novels, and single-author collections), and Edited Publication (for editors of anthologies and horror fiction magazines).

The Australian Shadows Award reading period is open from now until December 31. Works of horror and dark fantasy written or edited by Australians (or New Zealanders) and first published in the 2009 calendar year are eligible. Authors, editors, or publishers seeking to enter eligible work must contact Award Director Shane Jiraiya Cummings to arrange for the material to be submitted to the judges (no entry fee required). Click through for more details, including competition judges.

'Nameless' Competition open
Read the story (accessed through the AHWA site), get to know the story elements, the characters, their journey and their motivations. Then, write a fitting ending for ‘The Nameless’ and give the tale a title while you’re at it. The competition will run for one month - submissions close June 30. The six best endings will be featured on the HorrorScope site. A special guest judge will decide the winner. Click through for guidelines.

Dymocks Southland Bestselling Horror Titles for May ‘09
Dymocks Southland is a general bookshop in Cheltenham, Victoria, boasting an extensive range of genre stock. Dymocks Southland publishes Dymensions, a monthly SF, fantasy and horror newsletter. Click here to subscribe. Click through for the Top 10 Bestselling Horror titles for May 2009.

Victorian SF Chronos Awards opens
The Continuum Foundation has opened nominations for the inaugural Chronos Awards for excellence in SF, fantasy, and horror in the state of Victoria in 2008. Nominations from "natural persons active in fandom" or from full or supporting members of the Continuum 5 SF convention are open from now until June 28. The Chronos Awards will be presented at Continuum 5 in August. Nomination details available at HorrorScope.

Alan Baxter's RealmShift competition
Australian author and AHWA member Alan Baxter is offering a signed copy of his novel RealmShift to one lucky reader. Competition details are here. Competition ends June 9.

Midnight Echo #2 - Coming in June
This month watch out for Midnight Echo #2, edited by Angela Challis & Shane Jiraiya Cummings, and featuring creepy stories by Kurt Newton, Bob Franklin, David Conyers, Andrew J. McKiernan, Joanne Anderton, Shaun Jeffrey, Felicity Dowker, and many more... plus artwork from David Schembri and many talented dark fantasy artists.

BlackOnline Twitter
Black Magazine staff writer Gary Kemble has set up the Black Online Twitter site. For Twitter users, this is the ideal place to get all the latest dark fiction news in bite-sized pieces (including articles syndicated from HorrorScope and Robert Hood's Undead Backbrain). The BlackOnline Twitter site is here and the RSS feed is here.

Submitting News

 
If you have news about Australian and New Zealand Horror publishing and film, or news of professional development opportunities in the field, feel free to submit news to Talie Helene, AHWA News Editor. Just visit HorrorScope, and click on the convenient email link. (International news is not unwelcome, although relevance to Antipodean literary arts practitioners is strongly preferred.)

For information on the Australian Horror Writers' Association, visit australianhorror.com.

This AHWA NEWS DIGEST has been compiled, written, and republished in select Australian horror haunts by Talie Helene. Currently archived at the
AHWA MySpace page, Southern Horror, and Darklands, and hosted by AHWA members Felicity Dowker, Brenton Tomlinson, Scott Wilson, and Jeff Ritchie (Scary Minds).

If you would like to support the AHWA News effort by hosting a copy of the AHWA News Digest on your blog or website,
contact Talie to receive a fully formatted HTML edition of the digest by email.

1988  

Posted by Scott Wilson

1988
By Scott Wilson
Word Count: 879

David’s soul was stuck in 1988, the final year of high school and the first year he’d tried to kill himself. He couldn’t seem to move on from this point in time, even though 1988 was over twenty years ago. The music he listened to every day was released prior to this year, his memories and thoughts seemed to stop registering after this time as well. Even the books he read were printed before his final year of high school. Nothing new seemed to appeal to David, and it frustrated him to no end.

“Sorry sir,” the barmaid said. “I’m afraid you can’t smoke in the pub.”

David entered the current year again and put his cigarette in his near empty beer glass after looking around for an ashtray and not finding one.

“Sorry, ma’am,” he said. “I was daydreaming. Must have forgotten where I was.”

The barmaid knew David as well as anyone else. He came in after work and sat in the same chair at the end of the bar, except for Friday when the bar stools were removed for the crowds to have better access to purchase their drinks. She occasionally chatted with David when the bar was empty, but it was kind of awkward now. A few years back David took her friendly flirting as a sign of interest in him and asked her out. Since then, he was embarrassed as was she.

“Here, give me the glass. If anyone see’s that butt, we’ll both be in the poo.”

She quickly tipped the dregs and cigarette down the drain and washed away the evidence.

“One more for the road?” she asked.

“Yeh,” he said, rummaging through the coins in his pocket for enough change to buy his seventh beer for the evening.

Under the Milky Way, by the band The Church came on the music channel and David turned to watch the film clip. It was okay to listen to as it was released towards the end of 1988. He sighed. He didn’t know why he liked to listen to music that triggered his depression; it was like an addiction that he had no control over.

As the music played, David drifted back into the past, remembering the girl he had a giant crush on in his Art Class, Paula. She was a Goth and showed no particular interest in him at all, but he couldn’t stop thinking about her either back then or now. It was this desire to be loved by Paula that eventually led to his first attempt at suicide.

“You’re not going to light that!” the barmaid said.

David snapped back to the present and realised he had another cigarette in his hand. He sculled the beer and slowly stood up.

“I think I’d better go before you kick me out.”

David staggered out of the bar and towards the Myer Centre bus station, thinking that he might go back to the freeway overpass near his high school and finish what he tried years ago. He was drunk when he walked out of class, planning to jump off the overpass to kill himself in 1988. The same overwhelming feeling of loneliness swept over him again as though in were only the next day and not years later.

On the way to the bus he put his iPod on and listened to some more tunes from the eighties, Guns ‘n Roses, The Cult, Def Leppard, The Smiths and U2. His emotions tossed and turned with each memory the music dug up like a grave robber, stealing any joy or happiness lingering around his heart.

By the time the bus reached Garden City, David was well and truly in a morbid state and sobered up somewhat, making things worse. Without the Dutch courage, he knew he wouldn’t follow through with his plans.

“Well,” he mumbled. “Guess I’ll just have a look at the old school while I’m waiting for the next bus home.”

David lit a cigarette and wandered down the walkway between the overpass and the high school, to where he passed out in 1988. He sat down next to an old tree and pondered his wasted life.

“You’re a selfish bastard!” a voice said.

“Who’s there?” David said.

“You are, or I am. I’ve been stuck here for twenty years.”

David looked around, but could not see anyone.

“I’m here you fool,” the voice said. “And I’m taking back my life.”

David felt a pulling sensation like a thousand fish hooks ripping at his soul. The pain intensified and a blinding light flashed in his head. He fell backwards.

“You can bloody well hang around here now,” the voice said.

David blinked trying to clear his sight. Walking back towards the bus stop, he saw his body. It was giving him the bird as it hurried away.

“Who are you?” he yelled.

David began to chase after his body, and whoever had stolen it. He passed through a tree and shuddered.

“What’s happening?” he said.

His body turned back and smiled.

“I’m the part of you that you left behind. The part of your soul that wants to live.”

THE END