Happy weekend to all you Stitched souls! We have just one story submitted this week – but what a story – We have the absolutely outstanding Hair of the Dog by Aiden Leingod, which has to be read to be believed. And, because we believe in spoiling you with excellent fiction, we have the seventh instalment of In Dire Straits by Alisha Jordan and the standalone tale Wanna be a Cowboy? by Nick Paschall.
We’ll be having a break of a week, and then we’ll be presenting you with some inspiration next week – pictures or a theme – for your next horrific tales.
Until next week, #StayStitched!
Hair of the Dog – Aiden Leingod
Even an early payday and too many stiff pre-drinks to count – somewhere between shitload and comatose – couldn’t make this sorry state of a night out better. Venue’s too small, music’s too loud and that bloody slack-jawed compere got my name wrong twice. It’s Willow with an H. Ta.
What the hell is this dirge anyway? Sounds like something your dad would dad dance to at a wedding. Obviously after he’s had a more than a few and been sat for hours at the table in the far corner with the weirdos no-one wanted to invite but had to anyway to keep everyone happy.
It’s my night.
And don’t I know it. All these soppy cards. Some carefully passed over by flaky red hands at total odds with their scratty painted nails and glossy make-up. A kid could do better. Blindfolded. With left-over Play-Doh and a wonky fucking trowel that could very well belong to whoever ‘made’ my Victoria Sponge. Doesn’t stop anyone from taking a piece – or several.
Others landing carelessly on the table I’ve the misfortune to be sat at. Still damp with a nauseous mixture of yesterday’s puke and spilt – no, wait – wasted alcohol. Might taste like crap, and that aftertaste. Christ! Never had to keep down anything so bitter in all my life – note to self: never down another shot – but that’s a sorry excuse if ever I’ve heard one. And if you’ve heard one, you’ve heard ‘em all.
Not to mention the crooked hearts, embarrassing pet names and boastful claims of ‘(insert stupid in-joke) was here’ drunkenly carved into the chipped wooden veneer.
Apparently there’s not enough coasters in the world, let alone ones with faded prints of grinning bulldogs wearing little Union Jack hats and perfectly poured pints of radioactive piss-poor yellow lager; a brightly obnoxious logo for a random brewing house plastered over both in big white block capital letters. Reminds me I should probably drink some water. Probably. But unlikely.
The cards I’ve bothered to open all have colourful drawings of hearts and balloons and animals and balloon animals. Neatly joined handwriting and kisses like they’re some sort of a veiled death threat underneath laughably bad puns. Serious jokes.
Bit like the people really.
And the best joke of all: I paid for all this. Almost had to take out an overdraft. Again. My bank loves me. What a crying shame I don’t.
Actually makes me sick to my stomach.
I don’t even know where the ladies are in this god-forsaken place. Knowing my rotten streak of luck, I’ll have to force my way through loads of sweaty dad dancing just to get to them.
*Sigh* Of course I do.
Some idiot almost spilled a round of shots and a heavy-looking fishbowl swishing-back-and-forth and overflowing with swirly purple gunk on me. Wouldn’t have been a problem if the first had taken my head off like he was aiming for with his ceaselessly dabbing arm, trying to attract anything with a pulse. The whites of his eyes blindingly vacant; not even a flicker of apology. Could have sworn only corpses were meant to twitch.
Least the toilets are much nicer than the dance-floor. Still hear the dirge tunelessly thumping through the paper-thin walls though. Seems there’s more talent in the cleaner’s little finger. Pretty dark in here though.
Those fluorescent lights don’t exactly have a habit of capturing your good side. Smokers do their bit as they do their smouldering tab ends too.
Slurred accents and slang I can’t understand or pinpoint even as I scrunch my face and raise my mismatched drawn eyebrows and unwittingly overhear gabbing on and on about impossible in-jokes; fit blokes and fat slags lounging outside somewhere as if they haven’t bothered to take the sweet time out of their busy trash-talking schedules to read the dubious-at-best claims on the table that’d give their miserable cold calling jobs a run for their bare minimum wage and zero-hours contracts.
Get in the queue, thieving gits.
So stuffy in here. Wish I could crack open a window. Don’t think I’d fit if there happened to be one. Bet one of these twigs’d fit. I can most definitely understand the sound of vomiting.
I almost can’t bear to look at my own reflection. That’d be the icing on my crap-filled Sponge. Wouldn’t even bother if it wasn’t for something in my eye. Bet it was those lashes. Or – yeah – that mascara. I specifically told her not to use that shade!
Tch. Gotta be sorted out I guess. She’ll never hear the end of this though, mark my words, cross my heart, hope she dies. Not painfully. I’m not harsh like that. This time anyway.
Nothing out of the ordinary in the mirror. Just the same old. Needs a touch-up though. Lippy, maybe some blusher. Small mercy if I can find it in here. Half-empty pack of pocket tissues. Hold on to ‘em just in case. Vanity case in urgent need of oil on its squeaky hinges.. Two mirrors, like two heads, are not better than one, contrary to popular opinion.
Ah! Think I’ve g –
What. The. Actual. Fuck. Or who. Right behind me. Does no-one else notice? Too strung out most likely.
It’s OK. Just relax and take a deep breath. I’ll handle this. No problem. I’ll give the Lech a piece of my mind in case he thinks he can take a piece of ass.
Well, it’s like I said, no problem. Back to it then. As I was also saying before I was so rudely interrupted, think I’ve got it. Yep. There it is. One lipstick, almost worn down the utter nub. Now for that much-needed touch-up. Then another drink.
Again! The fuck?!
Shit. There goes my lipstick. Rolling under the sink like it simply can’t wait to get away from me. No way I’m using it after it’s touched this floor.
In short: fuck this noise.
Right – time to deal with this prick once and for all.
Huh. Now where did he go? Hiding in one of the cubicles? Find out soon enough I suppose. Fat chance of the wasted tools packed in there knowing danger if it slapped them in the stupid faces.
But there’s definitely eyes on me. Know the feeling. Pretty sure its not the usual suspects that already admittedly have cause to give me the evils. Changed my mind. Could use that water now. Not out of these mangy taps though.
Somehow out the corner of my running mascara I can see him again. His undulating fuzzy black silhouette superimposed on the blemished-ridden mirror, any real sense of depth distorted like a ethereal optical illusion. A brimming dark mass where his insides should be.
Fancy words for what basically looks like a tall fizzy glass of coke as seen through extremely thick beer goggles.
“Bad day?” he says to no-one in particular, his voice cutting dryly through the unbridled chaos behind me.
I narrowed my eyes. Don’t raise my eyebrows in case they stay that way. He looks up. I look around. He looks at me. I begin to back away. Slowly. Don’t want to look like a weirdo. No more than I already do at least. Not more than one step before he sighs.
“Is this a two-way mirror or something?” I whisper, unsure if this is an elaborate prank, a hidden camera show or maybe something else really dodgy. To be honest, they’re all the same really.
“Nope,” he answers. “I just saw someone in need,” he continued. For the life of me, I don’t know why, but I continued likewise.
“Must mean this lot,” I say, furtively tilting my dangling braids towards the smokers. He glances over the straps on my shoulder but doesn’t seem concerned by the vomiting despite it being in direct view; some poor yet brave sod holding – hopefully – her bezzie mate’s straightened hair back in a tightly balled fist, one bad slip on the not-so-slick tiles away from a compound fracture and an all-nighter in A & E.
Great result if you’re looking to score. Or in desperate need of a place to lay your sore head for the night. Scratch that. Can’t even count on that these days.
“Again: nope. It’s you,” he said, like I’ve just won the lottery.
“Ooh, what did I win?” I say, mocking his tone.
“Nothing,” he said, hanging his head. “Yet,” he continued, looking back up.
“Eh?” I expressed, puzzled.
“Sorry. I forget sometimes,” he says, drawing a short breath, as if annoyed. Not sure who at. I’m curious to see what he’ll say next so I’ll hold my tongue. For now.
“Ever played that game before? The one where you look into a mirror and say a name, a phrase or perhaps even a rhyme a certain number of times?” he asks, gently.
“Once, maybe,” I coldly reply after careful consideration.
“Once,” he says, so soft I can just barely make it out. Is he smirking?
“Why?” I blurt out, folding my arms. He stares at me for a brief second. His turn to be silent.
“I told you: the right place at the right time,” he huffs. “Urban legends. Fairy tales. Campfire stories. Most people are only familiar with a few. The details change every now and then but the source material, the general idea, remain the same. And actually, there’s trillions of us. Too many to count, really.”
“Us?” I say, perturbed.
“Us,” he repeats, calmly.
“Whatever. I don’t believe in…well, whatever this is.” I say, bluntly.
“Luckily for you, it doesn’t matter,” he ripostes. “What does matter is that I can make all of this go away,” he continues, in an appealing-but-not-at-all-appealing tone.
“Sounds too good to be true,” I dismiss sternly, subtly shifting my body weight to show I am unimpressed thus far, arms still folded.
“Look; don’t question it. I don’t know how it works. I’m just….” he broke eye contact and turned away from me. “Think of me as the spokesperson,” he said, turning back after what seemed like an eternity, though his opaque black eyes now somehow seemed tinged with regret.
I opened my mouth and raised my hand.
“But…I guarantee it will work,” he keenly added, before I could respond.
“And just how do I know you’re telling the truth?” I responded.
“Really?” he said, quite surprised, his face mirroring his disbelief.
“Look? I’ve seen these magic shows on TV before. Even the ones where they go behind-the-scenes. The magic circle. I’m not an idiot,” I explained.
“The customer is always right. The customer is always right. The customer is always right,” he muttered under his breath, turning away, breaking eye contact again – thank Christ – and pinched the gap between his eyes tight with his thumb and forefinger. He took a deep breath and turned back, looking me once more right in the eyes.
“I didn’t say that,” he said assertively, arm returning to his side.
“Didn’t have to,” I flashed a sarcastic smile, my tone more so.
“Do you want my help or not?” he asked, wearily.
“Fin – I mean, yes. I do,” I said, quickly correcting myself, hoping I wouldn’t live to regret my hasty decision.
“Fan-fucking-tastic,” he said dryly.
“It speaks,” I said, smirking. “How exactly do you propose to make, ‘all of this go away’ then?” I asked inquisitively, making air quotes.
“Don’t make me repeat myself. Again,” he grumbled. “Look inside,” he said, indicating to the straps on my shoulder with a wave of his hand.
“Better not be a mind trick,” I chunter. Sure enough, in my handbag, there’s a small bottle which definitely wasn’t there before.
I’m pissed but not that pissed.
Whatever gunk’s inside shimmers with a pallid blue glaze. It’s almost strangely hypnotic – despite nothing about this encounter even registering as normal. So much so I swiftly turn back to the waiting black silhouette.
“There. Abracadabra,” he says; the unnecessary added touch of sarcasm did not escape my attention.
“Is that – ” I begin to ask.
“That’s it,” he says, nonchalantly cutting in, a tinge of relief in his voice. “My work here is done, evidently,” he says sadly.
Suddenly, he turns away from me and begins to shrink completely into the individual blemishes on the mirror, like mitosis in reverse.
“Wait!” I say, surprised at my own expression. He stops, in a manner that painfully reminds me of a pantomime actor waiting for the audience to cry out for an encore. “So, what’s your name?” I ask, out of breath.
He sighs. Draws a short breath. It’s different this time. He turns slowly to face me, flaxen sparks dancing erratically in the hollow sockets where his opaque eyes once were as they burn incandescently right through my own, wide open in anticipation.
“Remember that night? It was cold on the riverfront,” he says quietly, pausing as he hangs his head. I say nothing and listen intently, confused for more than the first time during this, in my opinion, one-sided conversation. “That’s being kind. It was more like a glorified canal path. No room for one, let alone two, or even several,” he continues his bad impression of a meaningful monologue.
“What that’s got to do with the price of fish?” I ask him in a playful pitch, intending to disarm the rising unease.
I get that sinking feeling.
“Everyone’s a comedian.”
I was right.
“Especially….” he said, trailing off. “But they don’t mean it,” he looked up, not at me, but through me, resolved.
I can’t breathe. Bloody passive smoking, must be.
A bittersweet smile breaks out over his admittedly handsome face, before he finally dissipates into the mirror without so much as another word. The only trace of him left are words that simultaneously appear on the glass as if written in bright red lipstick, the same as my shade. The same one underneath the sink.
“You get what you pay for.”
In Dire Straits – Part 7 – Alisha Jordan
For the first time in her life, she felt empowered. She stood over Boone who lay wretched and moaning in pain. She could see the fear in his eyes, agony etched in every crease of his sadistic face.
She realized after a moment, she was screaming. She couldn’t hear her own cry, but her vocal chords vibrated and her throat cracked. Every emotion she had been harboring her entire miserable life was surfacing through an adrenalized shriek.
Fury fueled her now.
She climbed on top of Boone, straddling his chest and used her left hand to cup his chin. She pushed his head right beside Daddy’s and jammed the blade of the straight razor through his lips. He screamed as the blade scraped against his teeth, pushing to his tongue.
Swiveling the knife, she cut out his tongue and used the same hand still holding the blade to shove it down his throat. Boone choked and gasped, groaning inaudibly as Mama had in her last moments.
She screamed into his face again, feeling the sides of her mouth froth with saliva as she pushed both thumbs through Boone’s eyes.
After she gouged his eyes she sat back on his chest and watched as he grasped at his empty sockets and torn lips with trembling hands.
She took her time with the blade, enjoying the sounds of suffering he produced while sawing at his neck until his head was practically removed.
Boone made no more sounds, and his blood darkened the sheets, trickling over top of Daddy. She threw her head back and took in a deep breath, her body vibrating with adrenaline. She slowly pushed herself off Boone and stood over he and Daddy. Dear Daddy, stiff beneath the mangled monster.
“You’re free now.” Ivy whispered.
A warm breeze caressed her face from the window making her wounds sting and ache.
She felt free.
She walked slowly down the stairs, unfeeling of the glass gouging her feet. She sauntered in a hypnotic state to the kitchen and drank for several minutes from the tap. She walked to her old room, Beth’s limp body laying a pool of blood on the soiled carpet. She stared for several moments at the mounds of dirt covering dear Mama and Ivy’s torn remains. The quiet was deafening.
“I’m sorry Mama.” She said solemnly before turning to walk away.
She found a pack of smokes on the dash in Boone’s truck and lit one before firing up the engine. She noted her blood-stained fingers, but her mission was not over.
When she entered the police department, she was greeted by a handful of stunned stares. No doubt one of the most gruesome spectacles to enter the department.
She looked to the left and saw one of the girls she worked the corner with, Ginger, sitting in cuffs on a bench.
“Sugar?” Ginger uttered in astonishment.
5 days later…
“Chief,” Detective Delaney threw a stack of papers onto Chief William Decuir’s desk, “You’re not going to believe this shit.”
Chief Decuir looked up and set his pen down, “This must be the Holly Boutin case?”
“AKA Sugar, you got that right.” Detective Delaney took a seat. “What a mess.”
“How’s the poor girl doing?” Chief Decuir rubbed at his temples.
“You ain’t gonna be feelin’ so sorry for her once you read them coroners reports.” Detective Delaney looked bemused.
“Spit it out while I read it over.” Chief Decuir picked up the paperwork.
“So, you know how we couldn’t find this Boone individuals body,” Detective Delaney leaned in, “I don’t think the son of a bitch even exists.”
Chief Decuir stopped reading the documents and listened intently.
“The truck is registered to an Olivia Comeaux, AKA street name Ivy. After Ginger identified Holly, Ginger said Ivy was taking Holly to see her parents who had just moved.”
Chief Decuir crinkled his nose, “And…”
“Ivy is the other body we dug out with Mrs. Boutin, Holly’s mother. Coroner’s report says Ivy was the first to die, then the father, then mom was chained up and tortured in the yard.” Detective Delaney lowered his voice as if speaking cursed words.
“So, no Boone? She said she killed him up with her daddy’s body.” Chief Decuir started chewing on a pen, a habit he only partook in when stressed.
“There’s no Boone, Chief. Flip to the back.” Detective Delaney flipped through the pages and brought up diagrams of the autopsies. “The tongue being removed, head practically severed, body all ripped to shit… that was all done post mortem.”
“What in God’s will…” Chief Decuir muttered to himself reading over the report.
“Psych eval is stating she has some kind of methamphetamine psychosis. Like schizophrenia or something. Fuckin junky murdered her friend and parents thinking it was an imaginary captor.” Detective Delaney sat back in his seat and shook his head. “Fucked up part is, she had no drugs in her system whatsoever. Tox came back clean.”
“You do enough of that shit and it don’t matter if you’re clean, your brain is fried. The dog?” Chief Decuir tried to let it all sink in. He had sat in the interrogation room with Holly, listened to her entire story.
“No dog, medics said the bite wounds were self-inflicted. Inconsistent with any kind of animal.”
Detective Delaney grimaced, “we’re booking her this afternoon. Just wanted to give you a heads up because the media is still going crazy.”
“Ah hell,” Chief Decuir spat to the side, “maybe this will be a good anti-drug campaign for the county.”
The men sat in silence, both reflecting the recent revelations for the most horrific event to touch their county.
Wanna be a Cowboy? – Nick Paschall
Craig walked through the Central Market, idly picking up fruit to examine before placing them in his basket. He tried not to look to obvious that he was looking at the girl shopping as well. She was a young thing, maybe in her mid-to-late twenties, with long dark hair to match her dark eyes. She had an amazing smile, one that gave Craig all sorts of ideas…
He grunted as he was bumped into from behind, almost knocking him to the ground. His cowboy hat slid over his eyes and his shirt caught on a sliver of wood from the stands holding the fruit, tearing a hole in the threadbare shirt. Craig growled as he stood up, his greasy hair falling around his eyes as he adjusted his hat. He turned to look at an old man, a large nose with wide ears full of gray hair and glasses magnifying his foggy blue eyes. He was dressed in brown khakis with a button up green shirt with a brown coat over it all. He was also holding one of the baskets, which was full of bottles and bags of fruit.
“Oh my goodness, are you alright young man?” The geezer asked, moving closer to examine the tear in his shirt. “Oh my, this isn’t good.”
“You’re damn right it isn’t good! This is one of my favorite shirts you old ninny!” Craig exclaimed, poking the man in his brittle chest.
The old man looked down at Craig’s hand before looking him in the eyes. “I see that your jeans have tears in them as well. Am I responsible for that as well?”
That took Craig by surprise. The old-timer had been so friendly by had instantly turned frosty once Craig spoke to him. He didn’t care though he was angry and he could whoop an old man any day of the week!
Craig sneered. “It’s called fashion Pops, maybe you should join us in this century and update your wardrobe?”
The old man laughed though Craig had no idea why. “I can understand that. I remember when I was your age; I thought all old people were so out of touch. Well let me tell you a little secret:
we’re not out of touch, we just don’t care to know!”
Craig frowned. This wasn’t how this was supposed to work out. The old man was supposed to be afraid of him, maybe offer him some money to get a new shirt. Instead, he seemed confident and jovial, like he hadn’t a care in the world.
“Listen,” Craig said, shoving a finger under the man’s large nose. “You either pay up for the damage you caused or I put the beat down on you. How’s that sound?”
“I have a better idea!” The old man said with a laugh, eyes darting up to Craig’s hat. “You fancy yourself a cowboy, huh?”
Craig was taken aback by this and looked at the old man, trying to judge what his intentions were.
The geezer continued without so much as waiting for a response. “I can tell you want to look more rugged. Maybe to get a little female attention? Maybe from a dark-haired lovely over by the frozen foods?”
Craig turned and, sure enough, the girl he’d been eyeing was now standing in front of a freezer, looking over a selection of ice creams that were low calorie. Craig looked back at the man, who was smiling gleefully. “Maybe. What of it?”
“I’m a cobbler by trade, and I happen to have some boots that would look perfect on you! I offer
them to you, free of charge! Think of it as an apology for your precious shirt.”
Craig thought about that. He had been saving up for some new boots, as they were pricey, and here he could get a free pair. He nodded, “Yeah, sure. Let me pay for my stuff and we’ll meet out in the parking lot. Come to my car, the yellow Geo Metro with the fuzzy dice on the rear-view mirror.
“Sure, I’ll be right behind you,” the man said with a gracious smile.
They both paid for their goods and, once they were bagged, made their way out to the parking lot to deposit their purchases in their respective cars. The old man was parked next to him; his vehicle a large suburban that Craig thought might be as old as the cobbler himself. He snorted at the thought and closed his trunk before turning to find the old man standing there, holding a pair of weathered black Lucchese Alligator boots. Craig couldn’t believe his luck! This was perfect!
Who cares if they’d been worn a bit, he thought as he grabbed them, loving the texture beneath his fingertips. They were surprisingly smooth and pliable, the Alligator hide bending beneath his fingers.
“Try them on, let me see how they look on you,” the cobbler said, folding his hands behind his back.
Craig kicked off his worn sneakers and dropped the boots to the ground, pulling them on while leaning against his trunk. They were a snug fit, and amazingly warm! He wiggled his toes and found there was plenty of space for his feet; they were just his size!
“Is this a good enough payment for your shirt young man?” The cobbler asked, cocking his head to the side.
“They’ll do old man, they’ll do,” Craig said, trying to hide his excitement. “Just don’t let me see you here again, you get me?”
“Oh, you’ll never see me again,” the cobbler said as he walked to his car door. “I guarantee it.”
“Good. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go back in the store and see if I can grab the brunette’s phone number,” Craig said, adjusting his hat as he took a step forward, loving the feel of the boots on his feet. They didn’t even need to be broken in!
The cobbler pulled out and left, a black plume of smoke coming from his exhaust as he pulled off onto the access road. Craig didn’t give him a second glance as he walked back into the store, looking for the girl.
Sure enough, there she was in the fruit section. Craig brushed some dandruff off his shirt and swaggered over towards her, giving a wide toothy grin as she looked at him, her eyes glinting in the warm light.
“I’m sure you get this all the time, but ah-ah-ahhhh!” Craig began before descending into a scream, falling to the ground. His feet felt like they were being pulled through a wood chipper! Looking down, he heard the cute girl scream as blood erupted from the soles of his boots, the Alligator-skin boots slowly climbing his leg, grinding his muscle and bone into a bloody pulp.
“For the love of God, help me!” He screamed, reaching out for the girl, whose legs were stained red from his blood spatter. His screams grew louder as the boots traveled past his ankles and up to his calves, the feeling of teeth crushing through bone and flesh wracking his body as he convulsed on the floor.
A panicked manager was on the phone with emergency services while several other men and women looked on, not know how they could help. The screaming stopped as the Craig, now pale with blue veins tracing along his arms and neck, passed out from the loss of blood.
And still the boots ate. And on the highway, the cobbler smiled.