by: Bert Stanton
All he wanted was a bag with handles. Just one large bag with two handles. Paper or plastic, didn’t matter. Big enough to fit the contents of the brown bag sitting on the checkout counter, almost filled to the top with enough food and assorted sundries to get a modern person through another week. The same brown bag that, if not put into a bag with handles, would prove too difficult to carry in one arm, while the other did God’s work; if God fumbled with house keys, showed transit passes to bus drivers, swiped right, and discretely scratched himself in public. That bag would dip and slip and dance and spill. Maybe even burst. Maybe at the bus stop, maybe on the bus itself. Maybe as he was sprinting towards the blinking walk sign on the other side of the dark, rainy, intersection filled with agitated and impatient honking. None of them would care. They just wanted to get home.
And he just wanted a bag with handles.
The cashier stared him down, smacked her gum, shot jaundiced rays of impatient disgust and heavy disdain at him through narrow eyes unable to care. Each smack smack smack of her gum became louder and louder and louder, her lips wetter and wetter and wetter. Every time he blinked, both the top and bottom lip swelled, as if someone stabbed them with a basketball pump and started furiously pumping away. Her breasts swelled too. So did her hips. And so did the cocked angle which she rested one hand on her hips, and continued to smack her gum at him.
“I would like a bag with handles.” he said, calm and flat. It wasn’t a difficult request.
“Ain’t got none.” she replied, each word enunciated with wet, smacking lips.
“Certainly you have to have at least one.” he replied.
“Nope.” she said, and for a brief moment, he wanted to grab the pen holding her piss poor dye job in place and stab her lips, her breasts, her hips, her thorax. Not in any mean or misogynistic way. It just seemed like the right thing to do. Put her out of her misery.
“Can I look around at the other registers?” the man asked. There were eleven other registers. None were open, but surely must be stocked. Surely one of them would have a two handled bag.
She shook her swelling head, and turned back to the register, to whatever occupied her thoughts when there were no other customers. Particularly nasty ones like him who would never take a no for an answer. Who thought they were gods of all creation over price labels, clearance items, and expired coupons.
“Can I speak to a manger?” he asked. The cashier didn’t turn around, just pointed one long, gnarled, overly manicured finger towards a young man with green hair standing at the end of the line of registers.
He looked too young and too frail to have any authority, yet his name tag read ASSISTANT CASHIER MANAGER. It also read BRAD.
“We are out of bags with handles.” Brad said, his words moldy with repetition.
“I need one, though. I need it for my groceries and sundries. I need it or I may not make it all the way home.”
“We are out of bags with handles.” Assistant Cashier Manager Brad repeated.
“Are there any in the back?” the man asked.
Brad’s head started to turn, then spin, around and around and around. 360 degrees to 720 to 1440, and on and on. With each turn, Brad’s head spiraled upwards, his neck an elongated screw, until the top of his head touched the high ceiling. His eyes bulged to the size of basketballs.
“WE ARE OUT OF BAGS WITH HANDLES” his dull, metallic voice boomed from the roof.
“This is not a difficult request.” The man who wanted nothing more than a bag with handles said. “I just need a bag with handles.”
But it was useless, and he knew it. Still, he pushed on.
“Give me a bag with handles.” he said, and then said it again. It quickly became a droning chant, each repetition blowing his body outward, as if someone stuck the hose of an air compressor into his left ear and let it rip. His body ballooned up and out, up and out, up and over the cash registers and any merchandise or people that got in his way. Soon he was face to face with Brad, both madder than the heat of a thousand suns.
The roof broke apart, as their metamorphosis into A CHEAP LO-FI KNOCK OFF OF 1970S RODAN and ASSISTANT CASHIER MANAGER BRAD ONLY NOW MUCH LARGER neared completion. They hovered over the building in the light of a clear, full moon, each trying to remember which secret Japanese government laboratory originally spawned their embryos.
NORAD mobilized the Air National Guard, but the pilots stopped off en route for a pool party at a secret government laboratory atop Mount Hood. This one was a United States government laboratory, and unlike the Japanese they learned long ago to not fuck around with dinosaur DNA, to just leave it alone. After all the United States has Lt. Colonel Jeff Goldblum on their side to warn them of such irresponsible dangers. Just stick to chemical and electronic warfare, ya dinguses. It’s a lot less likely your country will be trampled by an annoying lizard god. The pilots drank and laughed and tried to remember how much sexual assault was allowed under the Uniform Code of Military Justice.
When A CHEAP LO-FI KNOCK OFF OF 1970S RODAN and ASSISTANT CASHIER MANAGER BRAD ONLY NOW MUCH LARGER finally collided, the ensuing mushroom cloud could be seen as far as Tacoma, Washington, and leveled the ten blocks surrounding the store, which was super convenient for the city planners who were trying to hurry up gentrification in the area.
Anywho, that’s why the Freddie’s on 82nd and Foster is now closed.
Bert Stanton lives and writes in Portland, Oregon.
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by: James Burr
He danced in the dry ice, his limbs staccato-jerking in the strobes. He’d cleared a space for himself and was dancing on the spot, breathing heavily through his nose and mouth, his eyes glazed and staring blankly ahead. “I’m dancing, I’m dancing,” he kept repeating as he danced and danced. Around him, sweating clubbers pointed and whooped and high-fived him, this consummate dancer, as the beat rattled and the bass wobbled and dropped.
The next time I saw him was at a Rugby Club Ball, standing on a table, Harlequins jersey stained with curry, leading a drunken rendition of Father Abraham, Stella Artois spilling and splashing those who stood around him, laughing and cheering. At the end of each line he thrust his hips with a powerful snap, his cheering, ruddy-faced compatriots doing the same, following this seeming best friend to all, as they slapped him on the back and cheered and roared their drunken approval.
I spoke to one of his friends later at the end of the evening, after the lights had come up and the bar had mostly emptied save for some stragglers trying to stay awake as they drank in small groups or a couple trying to finger new girl friends in the shadows. He could barely focus and was slumped on a table, the sleeves of his blazer sodden with beer, but despite my describing the man in detail and saying what he had been doing all evening, one of this man’s seeming core group of friends had no idea who I was talking about, my questions only prompting vague recollection of someone being there but nothing more.
But then I saw more of him after that. At demonstrations outside the Student Union, his hair dyed purple, surrounded by cheering social justice warriors who applauded his railing against the patriarchy, and at poetry evenings, clad in tweed and thick-rimmed specs, his verse received with standing ovations before he then retired to the café where he held court to the assembled poets and performance artists and spoke of the merits of repetition, word play and the importance of oral storytelling. Occasionally, I’d see him out of the corner of my eye, walking around a corner surrounded by an adoring group of chavs, baseball cap on his head and can of White Lightning in hand or entering a Metal club, all in black, illegible band logo on his T-Shirt, and always, always the centre of attention, effortlessly the leader of the group, clearly the best friend to all.
Sometimes, I’d speak to these people about him, sometimes only moments after he’d left, but they could only vaguely recall him, just remembering a few details, a tinge of an accent, a mannerism, an odd recollection that someone had indeed been there. No-one seemed to know him; no-one knew who he was yet whenever I saw him, he was always the centre of attention, the focal point of that social group.
So I wasn’t that surprised when the next time I saw him was when I went to a friend’s house for a quiet smoke. As I opened the door to the living room, through a hashish haze I saw him holding court, expertly skinning up as he mumbled about his travels to Tibet and his experiences of various drugs, my friends relaxed with his company and enraptured with his conversation. And I watched him through the evening, this consummate Head, as he expertly selected the music, Floyd then Orb then ambient trance, as my friends mumbled their approval at his selections. But as the night progressed, my limbs grew heavy and my head filled with warm cotton wool, the others slowly went home or shuffled upstairs until I was finally left alone with him, the first time I’d seen him outside of a group.
We sat slumped on the floor as the ambient wash pulsed and throbbed around us and as for a moment I think I saw a look of panic pass across his face as he realized we were alone. Then he turned to me, his face an exact mirror of my own. I wanted to ask him who he was, how he seemed to know everyone, be liked by everyone. But my mouth was dry and I could feel myself sinking into unconsciousness. As I closed my eyes, I thought I heard him say, “I’m not sure I want to find myself….”
When I woke up the next day, I found his “body”, if you want to call it that, on the floor where I had last seen him. Lying on the carpet amidst the full ashtrays and fragments of discarded cardboard was a man-shaped transparent vessel, a brittle glass container, empty and dead.
His hollow frame shattered into a thousand fragments when I threw it into the bin outside, and when my friends slowly surfaced, rubbing their eyes and shuffling to the kitchen to make mugs of hot tea, like everyone else, none could remember him or even recall his name.
An English writer of dark, humorous, paranoiac fiction, James Burr is the author of Ugly Stories for Beautiful People and is working on a novel titled Razor Moccasins. You can follow him on Twitter and find more of his stories here.
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We’ve been hearing forever that Punk is Dead. And zombie stories are even deader. ZOMBIE PUNKS FUCK OFF is here to show that is bullshit. This antho is loaded with 14 stories of gnawing teeth, shredded entrails, rotting masses, punk as fuck fury, post-punk weirdness, and beautiful decay. Within these pages are a touring Christian Punk band run afoul of a horde of living dead, a group of zombie-infected anarcho-punks staging a revolution in London, Hank William’s far-distant great-grandson struggling against the restraints of universal fame, and guitars that gently eat.
“This is my dream book, I can’t believe it exists!”
–Jeff Burk, author of Shatnerquake and The Very Ineffective Haunted House
Zombie Punks Fuck Off will be officially released on October 9, 2018, and can be pre-ordered HERE
It’s October and Madeleine Swann wants weird stuff for Halloween! Send her links, videos, or other strange, spooky things via email (firstname.lastname@example.org) and she’ll react to it in an upcoming video on her YouTube channel! See her video request below. This is a lady who wants to be weirded out! Help her out, bizarros!
*THE (LIMITED) KILLER CASSETTE EDITION!* A lovely little bludgeoner-book, perfect for concealing in your pockets… An adult-diaper wearing Casanova discovers a potent ability to actualize wild, gonzo porn fantasies. An Unsolved Mystery episode equipped with mind-reading tech takes a seriously wrong turn. A particularly repulsive coworker finds himself in a wrestling match made of equal parts dream and nightmare… and we’re just getting warmed up. Armfield’s collection is a treasure-trove of treasures best left buried. Throughout this collection, sex meets filth, and the two embark on misadventures more than twisted enough to leave your psyche permanently crippled. Weak stomachs need not apply. If you’re made of the right stuff, Armfield’s humor and energy will amply reward you. If not, find a vantage point close to the nearest stall – don’t worry, you’ll thank me later. More fun than a barrel of maggots, you’re guaranteed to depart from this wellspring of bizarro flavored gross-out a changed human, assuming you’re still human at all. And while we’re on the topic of change, you should pack a change of clothes. Things tend to get messy in here.
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by: Martin Rutley
It was late, Saturday night, when they brought me in. Strapped to a stretcher, disinfectant smeared into the corners of my eyes, the smell of petroleum in their greasy sideburns. Dressed in the green and gray of the company uniform, each of the six had joyously taken his turn at the head of the pack. They fired off their questions, one after the other, their voices all baby talk and laughter—Who cut your gooky fucking hair? How’s your pancreas feel about the pre-cancerous cells in your liver? Is that Benzo Fury in your bloodstream? Are you aware those idiots at the CIA can’t work so much as a soda machine? Did you know Andromeda’s fucking Ryan from data capture? What kind of schmuck reads Asimov with a hairbrush in his ass? This wasn’t a dissection of what it was made me tick—they didn’t give a shit about the ins and outs of a rodent like me—this was an institution at play, a muscle, uneasy at rest, flexing itself.
I was beaten into the early hours of the morning. A solid workout for the boys on night shift. Each put in his fair share, no slacking or slipping out for a quick cigarette in the reading room—these boys were keen. Of the six, Hunter’s blows landed hardest. He continued long after the others had had their fill. He ended with a particularly brutal strike to the base of the spine—The Hunter Ray Heel Kick, he’d christened it—a signature maneuver none of the others had attempted. Several of them had marveled at his movement—the fluidity of force from deltoid to extensor, the anatomical precision inherent in a curving knee strike to the hepatic duct of a functioning liver. Finally, I was stripped to the waist and given a near-lethal dose of Seventh Heaven, a well-known ventromedial manipulator and driver of grunt warfare since 2037.
“Side effect city,” someone yelled. “Hold on to your DNA.”
“Hold on to your cahoonas,” yelled another.
As he’d spoken, the electrons in the heavy elements of my body abandoned their orbits and I collapsed into a pre-biological soup of ionized hydrogen. I reemerged a nanosecond or so later and pulled on the trigger of a .45 jammed against the roof of my mouth.
“Bang,” yelled Hunter, and the others erupted into what my ex-wife would have described as spasms of ‘screw you’ laughter.
He knelt with uncanny grace and pressed his face into mine. “Makes you cry for Mommy, don’t it?” he whispered.
Later, the others filed silently from the room—not separately, but as one—hairless mandibles held high in the air.
Hunter must have been a hundred feet tall. Had he wanted, he could have ground me into the earth and joined the others for baked lobster fideo or whatever it was these people ate. He assured me he was a killer of some reputation. He’d risen through the ranks of the corporation due to a willingness to do what others wouldn’t. I gave him everything with a candor I hadn’t known I possessed—a complete schematic of my habits and tendencies, end of the world codes, exit points, atom hacks, bombs strapped to the underside of elephants in crowded malls at Christmas—children tugging at their leathery ears, time holes, reset procedures, insert generators—I betrayed everyone and everything dear to me.
Hunter applauded and folded into a smile that pulled at the lids of his eyes. “These elephants, Mr. Lewis, do they exist?”
“If I shut off the TV once in a while, they would.”
“Inserts,” I said. “Harvested from interstellar space and nano-engineered to resist all known modes of interrogation—terrestrial or otherwise. Exquisite animals.”
“Including the Abdominal Slap?”
“Yes, sir—in more than a thousand documented simulations.”
He crouched, scooped me into his hand, and raised me level with his enormous face. Were he to swallow me whole, I’d sit in his small intestine and drift into in a telepathic union.
A single, giant tear descended his cheek. “I want a million of those things.”
I stood and extended my arms perpendicularly in search of at least minimal balance. “I’ll need a quantum entangler, a hundred billion dollars, identity reconstruction, and five hundred thousand square feet of prime off-planet real estate.”
He pursed his lips and blew, rotating his wrist as he did so. I fell into his palm and grabbed at the base of his pinky finger. His hand upturned, I hung helplessly and waited for him to speak.
“Little man, we’re going to save your life,” he said.
He’d spoken carefully, rigidly—as though repeating words previously reordered and rehearsed in his mind. Perhaps the Seventh Heaven was talking, but there was compassion in those dark, cavernous eyes and I couldn’t wait to begin.
Martin Rutley lives in Manchester, UK. His short fiction has appeared in a wide variety of publications, including Pedestal Magazine, Locus Novus, The Fortean Bureau, Vestal Review, and Raven Chronicles. He also makes films—some disturbing, some batshit crazy. You can stream Amnesiac on Amazon.
Send your weird little stories to email@example.com.
From two-time Wonderland Book Award-winning author, Cody Goodfellow, described as “one of the best writers of our generation” by grandmaster of horror Brian Keene, and “the Ellroy of speculative fiction ” by acclaimed cult author Jeremey Robert Johnson, comes a novel of desperation and degradation in the city of mutilated dreams.
Loathe him or hate him, nothing can stop Charlie Parsons from living the Hollywood dream––not homelessness, not a shady agent who sends him on daily suicide missions, not even the combined might of the LAPD and the infamous Blood Eagle Security. With only a tattered tell-all bio of the most problematic child star in TV history for guidance, Parsons is going to get famous if he has to blow every studio mogul in town to make his dream come true.
But Charlie slides into a nightmare when he touches the bulging belly of a runaway pregnant woman with the unborn son of a cult-leader so powerful, thinking his name could give you cancer.
From the empty LA River to an eternal, interdimensional A-list party, Charlie is running for his life, crashing through twisted alternate Hollywoods where the religious right rules all and bloodthirsty studio execs hunt the homeless for sport. On a quest to save the proverbial damsel in distress, he’ll have to pitch a dozen shit-hot movie ideas, slay the dragons of his problematic past and somehow overcome the temptation of the most dangerous addiction in the dirty business of dreams––true, unselfish love.
Sleazeland is one of Cody Goodfellow’s absolute best works of bizarro fiction. A parable for the harsh realities of surviving in one of the filthiest industries on Earth.
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