August 2012



“Over here! I found some!” Lester crouched behind a shrub. An early morning jogger averted her eyes and quickened her pace as she passed.
Wilcox had to admit that Lester did resemble a bum taking a dump. He didn’t blame the jogger for her reaction. But they were here to find scat, not make it. “What have you got?” He crouched down beside his apprentice.
“Cookie,” said Lester. “Chocolate chip.”
Wilcox’s knees creaked as he stood. “No.”
“No? But –”
“It’s just a cookie, left out in the rain.”
“How do you –”
“Because. It hasn’t been chewed. And it’s not the right shape.”
“Well, I tried.”
“I know.” Wilcox offered Lester a hand as the younger man stood up. The park looked dismal in its coat of slush and mud. Wilcox thought about Jolly’s patience with him, back when he was training. But thinking about Jolly inevitably made him sad. “Let’s go,” he said.
Two weeks later, in an alley behind the Greek bakery downtown, they found a long thin coil, pale yellow, almost white.
Wilcox picked it up in his gloved hands and broke it open. It was fluffy inside, almost as if it had been freshly baked.
“Challah,” said Wilcox.
“Egg bread. The best in town.”
In an obscure corner of the art gallery’s rooftop sculpture garden sat the heaped remains of an entire Chinese meal. In the lightly macerated tubular formations Wilcox identified noodles, snow peas, and stir fried beef. The scent of soy sauce and ginger wafted from the pile.
“This is fresh,” said Wilcox. “And see how it seems almost dehydrated? The water’s been absorbed, but nothing we would call digestion has occurred.”
Lester nodded.
Wilcox regarded his apprentice critically. “And why would our target consume such a meal, if he derives no nutritional benefit?”
Lester’s brows furrowed. “Camouflage. To get close to people. Or – to one specific person. A victim.”
“To lull the victim into a sense of normalcy.”
“Gold star, Lester.”
Lester smiled.
“Now, let’s go rest up. Tonight we’re dining out.”
Le Chinois. Gate of India. Papagayo, the upscale Mexican place. They ate at all the nicest restaurants in town, but never caught their target in the act.
They found the evidence of meals, though. Rice and curry behind a dumpster. A bratwurst, torn into bite sized pieces and recomposed in something very much like its original shape, hidden in the alley between a dive bar and the Black Forest Inn.
They caught their break when they found three variably aged servings of seafood pasta, extruded as if through a pastry bag and covered by piles of leaves in a west end backyard. A pattern. Repetition.
“There’s one thing I don’t get,” said Lester over prime rib at Bistro 1010.
“What’s that?”
“Why don’t they use toilets?”
Wilcox had asked Jolly the same question when he was an apprentice. “We don’t really know. Perhaps the call of nature is rather abrupt. Think about the last meal you had that went right through you. How much time did you have to hit the can?”
Lester laughed quietly.
“More likely, we’re dealing with an old one. Study your European history. Toilets are rather recent. In some periods, the nobility disdained to use them. The halls of Versailles, Lester, were littered with shit.”
Lester chuckled and took another bite of prime rib.
“And consider that our target digests his usual sustenance completely. When he eats regular food, how uncomfortable he must be with the one reminder that he was once just like us.”
Lester’s gaze shifted to something over Wilcox’s shoulder. “Tall, pale, and gruesome,” Lester whispered. “He’s got a girl with him.”
“How tall?”
“Six feet. There’s a mole.”
“Right cheek?”
Wilcox shivered. It was the one who killed Jolly.
The tall man sniffed the air. “You!” he shouted. “I smell you!”
Wilcox hoisted himself to his feet and turned, pulling the stake from his jacket pocket. Too late: the vampire’s hand was already around his throat, squeezing his windpipe.
As black walls closed in on Wilcox’s vision, he saw people scrambling for the door. He saw something else, too.
The vampire stumbled. He released Wilcox and pitched forward. As he fell, he crumbled into ash.
Lester stood where the vampire had been, holding a wooden stake in his trembling hand.
“Good show,” said Wilcox.
Lester offered his arm for support and smiled. “Gold star?”
“Gold star.”

Elizabeth Twist's piece "Voop" has appeared in print before, at Everyday Weirdness in April 2010. The rights EW purchased have since expired. Her work has also appeared in One Buck Horror and Enchanted Conversation,and is forthcoming in Dark Faith 2.

The Thrill Ride

After filling his gas tank, Carl stepped into the office to pay the clerk. The fairly new gas pumps stood in stark contrast to the station’s dilapidated office, which looked as though it belonged alongside the mother road, Route 66. A gritty-looking mechanic stood the cash register, and gave Carl the once over.

“Where you headed?”

“Kansas City.”

“Why don’t you take the interstate? It’s a hell of a lot faster and safer.”

“Nah,” Carl replied. “My old man drove this road when I was a kid, and we visited relatives on holidays. I guess I‘m bring a little nostalgic.”

“Well, maybe it wasn’t a known fact then,” the mechanic said, “but this stretch of old highway carries the moniker of Suicide Alley.”

“I can’t say he ever mentioned it, but I’m curios. Why do they call it that?”

 “It’s got dips and turns that are deceiving as hell, and the fog at night is probably the worst you’ll ever see. Yep, it’s claimed more than its share of fatalities. Of course, few people drive it anymore since the interstate went in.”

“Oh yeah, I remember the dips. My old man loved to drive over the top fast; it made our stomachs tingle. Anyway, I better hit the road.  Thanks for the information, though.”

The countryside’s pastoral serenity had not changed, nor had the hills. As darkness set in, the warm air cooled, and a light haze hovered overhead. It gradually thickened into a soupy fog and descended on the road, swallowing up his headlight beams.

Carl slowed to a crawl and used the centerline as a guide when visibility was cut to a few feet from the bumper. He sped up but stayed close to the center, though whenever the fog lifted and visibility improved.

When the blurred headlights from an oncoming car appeared in the fog ahead, he moved away from the centerline. The lights vanished, but reappeared a moment later over a dip in the road.

Their bright light temporarily blinded Carl and he flashed his beams. The driver responded by crossing the centerline, and barreling toward him like he wanted to play chicken. Carl pulled toward the road shoulder, but the other car, an old black one that resembled a hearse moved over as well.  

Just as impact appeared imminent, his tires caught the gravel. The car swerved and Carl wrestled with the steering wheel to maintain control.

The hearse sped past, missing Carl’s car by inches. In the split second his headlights swept across the driver’s side window, all Carl could see was a demented-looking smile. 

The car disappeared into the foggy darkness without even slowing. Carl pulled back onto the road, grumbling about how that jerk was going to kill somebody. He decided to report the incident to the highway patrol at the next town.

An hour later, headlights reappeared in the rearview mirror. Carl accelerated, certain the crazy diver from earlier still wanted to harass him.

He alternated glances from the centerline to the rearview mirror as the other driver closed in on his bumper. Carl braced for a rear end collision, but instead of colliding, the hearse dissolved into a translucent aura and drove through Carl’s car. A blinding white light and chilling draft flooded the interior.

The hearse then sped ahead, and disappeared into the darkness. Carl pulled off the road, and jumped from the car, rubber-legged and nauseous. Although he felt what had just happened was a fatigue illusion, he felt damn certain the car playing chicken with him earlier and the fear he felt was real.

Rage suddenly roiled inside and Carl jumped back into the car. He floored the accelerator, and fishtailed back onto the pavement, chasing after the hearse.

If he could find that son of a bitch, Carl thought, he’d make sure he never did it again. He climbed a sharp rise in the road lifting in his seat as he crested the hill. Carl strained against the seatbelt harness as though he was on a county fair thrill ride.

The undercarriage scraped on the pavement as the car bounced as it hit the downhill pavement. After several minutes, a light fog wafted across the road, and Carl spotted a pair of dim headlights. They grew brighter, and appeared to coming straight at him.

“So, you want to play chicken, eh?” he hollered. “Well, so be it!”  

Carl gripped the steering wheel and sped toward the headlights. In the rearview mirror, the dashboard lights cast his face in a shadowy, greenish glow. Milky green, glowing eyes floating in the deep-pitch pools of their sockets stared back at him.

 A putrid odor filled the car interior as lips curled in the same crazed smile he saw in the black hearse. Carl’s insatiable rage refused to acknowledge that the reflection was not his.

Upon reaching a sharp curve in the road, he leaned forward and pressed his chest against the steering wheel. Carl smashed through the road sign that reflected his own headlights.


The primeval scream mutated into maniacal laughter as the car soared over a drainage ditch. It slammed head on into a tree, and exploded into a fiery mass of twisted metal.

The hearse backed out of the inferno and returned to the road. Several miles later, it pulled to the side of the road as emergency crews sped past. No one noticed the driver’s twisted smile. The hearse disappeared into the night, once more lending credence to the road’s moniker of suicide alley.

Harold Kempka stories have been published in magazines and ezines such as Yellow Mama, Black Petals, Blood Moon Rising, Flashes in the Dark, Microhorror, Night to Dawn, Death Head Grin, Thrillers Killers and Chillers, 69 Flavors of Paranoia, The New Flesh, and Twisted Dreams, as well as a long list of Anthologies. He is a former Marine and Veitnam Veterine who lives in Highland, California.