June 2012



Come in, sir.  Have a seat won't you?
Thank you, Doctor Croneburg.  It's good of you to see me on such short notice.
Not at all.  And how can we help you today, Mr. Kringle?
I'm tired, Doctor – God, I am so tired.
Tell me a little about that, would you?  How long have you been feeling tired? 
I don't know, a long time; I haven't had a decent night's sleep in ages.  And it's not only that, I'm putting on weight too.  I've started smoking the briar again, I'm snapping at the elves – to tell you the truth, I don't think I have another Christmas in me.
Well feelings like this are hardly surprising, Mr. Kringle.  Especially for someone in your profession at this time of year. 
Doc, this isn't just a blue day, it goes a lot deeper than that.  I mean, I don't feel I'm even I'm needed anymore.  And you know what?  I'm not even sure I care.  The commotion, the booze, the stress, the desperation, the Sale-A-Brations.  The merchants have stolen my holiday.  Now it's their holiday.  They're like sharks in a feeding frenzy.  And the kids – oy!  I can't stand the little - um – I can't stand them any more.  Their squeaky little voices, their drooly mouths, sticky fingers, most of all their tiny, glittering, greedy eyes – they've become a bunch of crass, mercantile, little vampires, all of 'em.  'Bwing me a skateboard, Santa, bwing me a TV, I want Vipers Of The Universe, Transformers, Nintendo, Laser-Tag and a remote-controlled Dinocopter.' 
They say it's better to give than to receive.  Well, I've been the Guru of Giving since Day One and where has it gotten me?  The Missus says she's leaving me, the elves are going union, the animal rights people want to inspect the stables . . . O God, God, God.
There, there, surely it can't be as bad as all that.  You've garnered the love of children the world over.  Surely that's worth something, don't you think?
It's not me they love – it's the fucking presents.  They'll love anyone who gives them stuff.
Oh, come now, do you really think that's true?  
What the hell you mean, 'is it true?'   Am I paying you to ask dumb questions?  Of course it's true, what the hell do you think?  You think I don't know my clients? 
Please, Mr. Kringle, I'm asking to help us clarify things.  Let's take a few deep breaths, shall we?
Yeah, sure, okay . . . deep breaths.  It's only that everything is so sordid and ugly now, so empty of wonder.  What wouldn't I give to hear a kid ask for peace on earth again?  That's what they used to ask for, you know.  'Peace on earth, food for the hungry, bless mommy and daddy, make grandma well again.'  O sure, they were fond of their presents back then, too.  But puppies were what they wanted in those days, rag dolls, coloring books and crayons.  Maybe a bicycle.
You seem to have strong feelings about this, Mr. Kringle.  Just how exactly do you see me helping you?  What kind of an outcome would you like to see from our visit today? 
Well . . . you know what I'd really like?  I'd like to go back to when Christmas filled everyone's hearts with love and good will.  It used to be a season of good will, fellowship and forgiveness.  Everyone was left feeling rekindled and at peace.  There were no big deal presents back then, no gluttony, no drunkenness, usury, loneliness or suicide – no office parties.  Just a tranquil recounting of the year's blessings, a renewal of kindness and compassion, love for the family of man.  One more Christmas like that.  That's what I want.  Is that so much to want?
Well, Sir, I can see we need to discuss this, but our time is up for today.  Why don't we schedule another session next week?  You can see Miss Murcheson on your way out. 
Mr. Kringle?  Sir?  Are you all right?  Try to compose yourself, won't you?  There's a box of tissues on the end table.

Allen Izen is a a Hawaii-based writer.  Recent work has appeared in The Big Book of New Short Horror, Leading Edge, the North Atlantic Review and Yule Tide Tales of Horror.

Return To Cinder

Being a far-from-picky eater with omnivorous tastes and having a body type that adjusted well to changes in the weather, Pam’s physical needs were few. Whether under a roof or living outdoors was a matter of complete indifference to him.

The care and feeding of his psyche was another matter entirely. Pam felt lonely and unwanted. 

Despite his special skills, he was out of work. He’d been unwaged for such a long time it seemed unlikely he would ever again return to full employment. Adding insult to injury—ruffled tail feathers on top of a fragile ego—practically no one in the workaday world believed in his abilities anymore. That was quite a comedown for someone who’d once been a pioneer in his field, much in demand, flying constantly from one assignment to another.

In an attempt to see how other once iconic, some might even say mythical figures were faring in the modern world, Pam paid a visit to a Christmas Village that was open all year round.

When he saw the sign “Santa Wanted” in a display window, he stopped in his tracks to mull over his qualifications. He had no fear of chimneys or fireplaces and he felt right at home on rooftops no matter how steep or slippery. His spindly legs might be a drawback, but surely Santa’s red suit would conceal them, and Pam more than made up for that one deficiency with his impressive upper body bulk. In many ways he was an ideal candidate for the job. He wouldn’t even need any padding.

Although most potential employers readily accept résumés submitted to them online, Pam was unable to go that route because he was not very proficient at pecking away on a keyboard. Since he also had difficulty in holding a pen, he had to ask for assistance when filling out a job application. He found the whole process frustrating and at times downright humiliating.

Pam asked for directions to the personnel office, found it, and went inside.

“I see here that your name is Pam,” the personnel clerk in a well-furnished modern office said to the imposing figure looming in front of her desk. She was the second person to take on the job interview. The first clerk had gone out to lunch and hadn’t come back. “Is Pam your given name or your surname?”

“Both, and it’s pronounced ‘   .’”

“I’m sorry, sir. I didn’t hear that.”

“You weren’t supposed to.”

“I don’t understand. Perhaps you can confirm for me how your name is spelled.”

“P as in ptomaine, A as in aisle, M as in mnemonic.”

“All of those words start with a silent letter,” the clerk observed.

“That’s correct. My name is silent. I don’t answer to it anyway, because it isn’t my real name.”

“What is your real name?” the clerk asked.

“I don’t have one. I can see by the look on your face that you don’t believe me. Please don’t give me any static about my having an identity crisis, just put P-A-M on the form anyplace it asks for a name and go on to the next line. And one more thing; put my gender down as male. That’s what I am and that’s what I always intend to be.”

It felt good to vent. Pam hated paperwork even if he wasn’t doing it himself.

As the interview dragged on and on, his fiery temper began to get the better of him. He felt like he was burning up. The expression “hot under the collar” would have been apt, if only he’d been wearing a shirt. As it was, he’d have given odds that you could fry an egg on his forehead and he’d have won the bet. 

Looking at the upside-down, partially-filled-in form lying in front of him on the clerk’s desk, Pam yelled, “Phoenix is not where I’m from—it’s what I am.”

Going by the nom de plume Pam, as an acronym for Phoenix, Avian Magister, the some-would- say- mythical firebird that could be consumed by flames and then spring up again from the ashes, had not worked out so well.

Just before he spontaneously combusted and collapsed into a pile of smoldering feathers, Pam decided next time around he’d pick out a pseudonym for himself that would be somewhat less ambiguous—something like Chris, or Jess, or Dana, or Jamie….

John H. Dromey was born in northeast Missouri. He’s had a byline (for brief, humorous items) in over one-hundred different newspapers and magazines. In addition to a mini-mystery published in Woman’s World, his fiction has appeared online at Liquid Imagination, The Fast-Forward Festival, The Red Asylum, Sorcerous Signals, and elsewhere, as well as in a number of print anthologies, including Ghost Stories—Western Style (Static Movement, 2012).


The room fell silent as Sigi entered the pub. She waddled toward the bar because that was the way she walked. She waddled.
Finding an empty stool, she slung a leg over it and planted her substantial bottom on the wooden seat. She signaled to Günter, the innkeeper and bartender.
He smiled when he saw her, not unkindly. "Something wicked this way comes, eh?"
"Oh, shut up," Sigi said. "I don't feel like putting up with it tonight, Günter. Just pour me a wormwood brandy, please."
Günter shrugged his shoulders and picked up the nearest mostly clean glass. After filling it with Sigi's poison of choice, he deposited the drink in front of her and retreated to the other end of the bar. He knew from experience that she could be a might nasty when she was in a foul mood.
Sigi had barely taken the first sip when Adler, the acting Grimm, burst into the bar. "Is she here?" he asked the room. "Sigi Stormcaller. Is she here?!" Günter pointed to the end of the bar and had the good sense to keep his mouth shut. Sigi took a rather large sip of wormwood brandy and waved to Adler.
"Down here, lovey," she said.
Adler marched across the bar, the atmosphere having lost all its comfort and appeal. Two trolls near the door who may or may not have been doing business that was, strictly speaking, on the up-and-up ducked out the front door while the Grimm closed in on his prey.
"Am I to understand," he asked with a pompous wave of his hand, "that you've been baking again?"
Sigi coughed.
"Pies, I take it? Meat pies?"
"Perhaps," she conceded.
The Grimm sighed and sat on the stool next to Sigi. "Angel Tears, straight up," he said to Günter. Turning to Sigi, he continued in a much quieter voice, leaving the room to wonder what he said. "Sigi, you cannot keep this up. The last time you baked these woods were crawling with townsmen for three weeks. My chief responsibility as Grimm is to keep humans out of these woods. Do you realize how hard you're making that on me?"
"Acting Grimm," Sigi said.
Adler shook his head and downed his drink in a single gulp. "As you will. Acting Grimm. No matter, I am the Grimm right now and it's my duty to keep men at bay and maintain order here."
"Have I broken a law?" Sigi asked.
"A law?" the Grimm said. "No. You know damn well you haven't broken a law. But what you did could easily encourage the humans to come snooping."
"If I've broken no laws, then let me be. I'd like to drink in peace."
Adler gave Sigi a look. "Curious," he said. "I saw the smoke from your house. I assumed you'd been baking. Did they...oh, Sigi. Tell me they didn't get away."
Sigi made a sour face. "Yes," she said. "Both of them. Little brats. The girl tried to push me into my own oven."
"Odin help us," Adler said. "They'll go back to the village and tell everyone." He shook his head in disgust and motioned for another drink. "No wonder you're in such a sour mood."
Sigi set her drink down. "Yes," she said. "I'm in a sour mood. I haven't had a decent meal in months. I mean, a real meal. A witch's meal. Those two children would have been enough to keep me satisfied for some time to come, but they are gone and with winter coming it's doubtful there'll be any more near enough for me to snatch for months."
"You shouldn't be—"
"Hush," she demanded. "Hush you, now. I know you don't want me snatching children, but it's not against the law of the woods and, damn it to the four winds, I'm hungry. Adler, you're too young to be Grimm. You don't understand things. Please, just let me drink. My old bones needed the life and energy those two would have given me. Please, just let an old woman drink."
"Old witch," he said, standing up.
"Watch yourself, or you'll be a dead Grimm."
Adler stared at her for a moment and then thought better of it. "Fine. Odin take you." Then he was gone.
Sigi called for Günter. "Another," she said. "And do you have any of those fried fingers left?"
"Sorry. We ran out of those last week. I have some pickled pixies."
"That'll have to do," Sigi said.
And so she passed the first evening of autumn dining on poorly seasoned pickled pixies and drinking too much brandy. From time to time she would murmur, "Damn Hansel," or "Wretched Gretel," and then order another drink. Günter kept the drinks coming, and tried to stay well out of her reach.

Dex Raven (via the inspiration of his muse, Violet) writes dark fiction somewhere between fantasy and horror. He is working on his first novel. Check out his blog at RavenSpeaks.

The Bereft

 Joni gritted her teeth as she brought the axe down. The priest’s head squelched as Joni buried it in his skull. Or was “he” an “it” now? She never considered the living dead to be human. She flinched as the blood decorated her tanned face and the front of her shirt.
“Only four of us left,” Matthew muttered, as the priest’s body crumpled to the floor. Joni wasn’t paying attention, though. Instead she was focused on her brother, Nikolai, who was lying curled up on the ground a few feet away. It only took her three steps to cross to him. Kneeling down, she forced him to sit up and carefully, almost frantically, looked him over. Not a scratch. Joni let out the breath she’d been holding since the priest turned and grabbed at the only relative she had left.
“You OK?” she asked.
Nikolai was only six, but he was resilient. He had taken this zombie apocalypse very well so far, even after their parents had been turned. Sometimes Joni wondered if he even realized this was really happening, or if he thought it was all just some big game. Nikolai nodded in response to her question.
Joni now turned to her friends. Matthew was right behind her, gripping his dad’s rifle, while Heather stood farther back, her hands covering her mouth. Joni knew Heather was trying to hide the fact that she was biting her nails like crazy. It was a nervous habit, and Heather’s anxiety had been out of control ever since the first zombie appeared stumbling down the street seven months ago. It didn’t help that her medication had run out. Joni pitied her friend, but at the same time wished she would just suck it up sometimes.
“We should move,” Joni said. Without waiting for a response, she stood up and began grabbing what little belongings they had left. Matthew willingly followed her, and soon Nikolai and Heather began to move as well.
Within the hour they had left the church they had claimed as their sanctuary behind in search for a more habitable area. One without zombies, if that was possible. But Joni knew that those prospects were slim.
“Where are we going?” Matthew asked, breaking the silence that had followed them. It was important to remain quiet in order to listen for the sounds of approaching zombies.
“Anywhere,” Joni replied.
“We could be walking forever!” Heather said. “What was wrong with staying at the church?”
“We couldn’t. Not after what happened—“
“But you killed him, Joni.”
“Yes, but we don’t know how he got bit. We don’t know if there were more around.”
Heather scoffed. “Like they’re smart enough to find a way in…”
Joni rolled her eyes. She put up with Heather for Matthew’s sake. She was his girlfriend after all. If she could have, she would have left her behind months ago.
The sound of snapping twigs made Joni stop. She held out her right arm and felt Matthew walk into it.
“What?” he asked.
“Shhh,” Joni said, pressing her index finger to her lips. “I thought I heard…”
Before the words were out of her mouth, five zombies came shambling into the clearing. Joni gripped her ax tighter as Heather let out a high pitched scream. The one good thing about zombies was they weren’t fast like the movies depicted. Within seconds she had severed the first zombie’s head from its body.
Heather, Matthew, and Nikolai didn’t hesitate, but within only a few steps they were stopped by zombies coming the other way. Matthew began letting loose bullets like fireworks on the fourth of July,  as Joni continued to try to chop away their enemy. But with only two of them fighting, the odds were against them.
Between the heat of battle and Heather’s incessant screaming, Joni was getting a headache.
“Heather!” Matthew suddenly shouted. Joni turned in time to see Heather become engulfed by the horde. Her boyfriend, always there for her, didn’t hesitate. Within seconds he was gone, too, leaving Nikolai standing unarmed. To Joni, it was like he was naked.
She started to fight her way over. Many of the zombies were too preoccupied tearing at Matthew and Heather’s flesh to notice the tiny, vulnerable boy in their midst. But not all.
As Joni was steps away from him, a zombie with bloodshot eyes, blood spattered clothing, and a hole in his stomach grabbed hold of Nikolai, who was now completely frozen in fear. Her eyes grew wide as the creature sunk its blackened teeth into her brother’s cinnamon skinned neck. Tears filled her eyes and anger seared through her at his ear piercing scream.
It was then that she noticed Matthew’s rifle abandoned just inches away. She quickly grabbed it and blew off the zombies head. Nikolai crumpled to the ground, just as the priest had done. The other zombies no longer mattered. In fact, it was as if they weren’t even there. For the second time that day, Joni knelt next to her brother, fearing for his life.
“You OK?” she asked, fighting back tears.
However, this time Nikolai shook his head. His eyes were clouding over and Joni knew she only had minutes left. She knew what she had to do.
The tears started to pour down her cheeks as Joni stared into her brother’s grey eyes for the last time before placing a bullet in the middle of his forehead.

Casey Murphy has been writing fiction since the fifth grade. She currently has 7 fiction pieces and 1 creative non-fiction piece published in several online and in-print literary magazines. Feel free to visit her at: www.simplydelete, wordpress.com