Sunday, 13 April 2014

Horror Bites Challenge #2 - "Evil Inside"

I could not resist the Horror Bites Challenge, but first...

Recent news is that my Steampunk novelette, "Hole in the Sky", has been accepted for inclusion in the Cogwheels anthology, and also the feelers of The Shadow Fabric are reaching out.

Before I start another large project (it'll be Sci-Fi Horror, I know that much already)here I am again attacking flash fiction. Always a pleasant stepping stone between longer pieces.

The Horror Bites Challenge... I love that. Say it: "Horror. Bites. Challenge." Doesn't it play nicely between your tongue and your lips?

What is the Horror Bites Challenge?

More information on Laura Jamez's Office Mango blog, but the challenge is simple: write a 200-300 word flash piece on the image above. She adds the special request of, "Try to scare me, or at the very least create a little bit of darkness".

Hmm, darkness? No problem, Laura.

Evil Inside

By Mark Cassell
(300 words)

I have no happy memories of her when I was a little girl. The woman broke my doll. That had been, what, thirty years ago? She wasn’t even a relative—just one of those people you referred to as “Aunty” out of respect. That sweaty chin, her jowls swaying as she bent down, insisting on a kiss…only ever in front of mum. Once we were alone, she had a bear-like grip. I’d be dragged, thrown to the floor, always bullied by a glance; a spear of blatant irritation. Her voice, like a shovel dragged over gravel, and that heavy stink of body odour, cabbage, damp. Breath like something rotten.
         I resent my mum for always leaving me with her, and perhaps you could blame mum for what happened last week. What’s that? Yes, I suppose this is a confession. She broke my doll, I told you.
         The crunch of her bones wasn’t as loud as the crack of my doll’s head as it smacked the kitchen floor all those years ago. Aunty still has the same floor, funny enough. Yes, I still call her “Aunty”, even now.  And her head didn’t bounce like my doll’s did. I remember the way those little plastic eyes broke loose and shot inside the head, the rattle as they settled, the darkness within. Black, like my Aunty’s soul.
         Of course, I had to do the same to Aunty’s eyes. When my thumbs pushed into her sockets, that wetness oozing, popping, there wasn’t any darkness there. Even if, as I truly believe, her soul is black, there was nothing to suggest the evil inside her. I guess you could say I’m disappointed. There was a gooey redness. So much, it spurted. No black. Just red.
         Oh look, I think there’s still some under my fingernails.

Did you enjoy the flash fiction?

Here are the opening pages of The Shadow Fabric

Unable to blink, I shot a quick glance around the dining room. My heartbeat stormed my head. I had to get out of there, I had to leave the other men to it. These brothers had a lot of hate to throw around.
       The black fabric draped across the table and chair, tracing every contour. It flowed over the wood like liquid. Hugging tight whatever it touched, it turned everything into a shadow, a silhouette, a featureless dark blot of its former self. The way it moved defied physics.
       My throat clamped around a cry that came out a whimper.
       I had no idea what Stanley intended. The strange fabric didn’t travel far from his hand, and where the material ended, it rippled and pulsed, pulling further away, yet unable to claim more of its surroundings. The more it unfolded, the dimmer the room became. My skin itched as it sapped the light.
       Victor and Stanley stood facing each other: Victor, with his eyebrows pushed together, the ornate blade clenched in a fist, and Stanley, with his jaw tight and a twitch at the edge of his mouth. In Stanley’s grasp the fabric quivered, its material reminding me of the way midday sunlight reflects from the surface of a swimming pool, the ripples a criss-crossing of movement. It was peaceful to behold, hypnotic almost. But this thing was dark and stifling to observe.
       There was nothing remotely tranquil about this.
       I wanted to leave them to whatever absurd game this was…yet my feet refused to move. The familiar ache in my knee rushed through my body, drumming in my skull, telling me I was useless. Since the car accident the knee often was useless. I couldn’t leave Victor, I knew that. The man looked as terrified as I felt.
       “I hate you, Victor.” Stanley’s nose was no more than a thumb’s width from his brother’s.
       “No,” Victor gasped. His hand shook, his knuckles whitening around the knife. “Don’t!”
       I didn’t know who or what Victor spoke to. Was it Stanley? The shadows? The knife?
       In a blur of darkness, shadows coiling his arm, the blade slammed into Stanley’s chest. Blood spread and he staggered back.
       Victor’s eyes widened. Clutching the weapon, he stumbled from the fireplace, away from his brother. The knife slid out, sucking at the wound. A jet of scarlet misted the air, and then oozed.
       I could only see darkness…so much darkness, and my lungs went tight.
       The fabric—the Shadow Fabric—closed around Stanley’s buckling legs.
       The remaining material swept from the table, away from the violin case. Black tentacles whipped and grabbed Stanley. The darkness enfolded him as his eyes glazed over. It dragged his body along the carpet a short distance and tightened its grip.
       My jaw muscles twitched as I clenched my teeth.
       The Fabric began to shrink. Still in its embrace, the last I saw of Stanley was his dead stare.
       “Vic…” I whispered, and gripped the back of the sofa.
       My boss dragged his eyes away from the retreating shadows and stared at the knife. Behind him, the mantel clock hammered out several seconds before the weapon slipped from his hand onto the carpet, where it bounced with a red splash.
       He fell to his knees. “Oh God.”
       The Fabric vanished.
       I dashed across the room as much as my leg would allow and staggered to a halt beside him. Sobs wracked his frame as I grasped his bony shoulder.
       On the table next to where Stanley had been standing was the violin case, still open like a crooked yawn.
       A million thoughts tumbled through my head, but I couldn’t find the words. I’d been Victor’s chauffeur for no more than a day, and already I’d witnessed him stab his own brother. What the hell?
       I don’t know how long I remained like that, holding him, with light creeping reluctantly back into the room. Victor shouldn’t have been surprised that the shadows had taken his brother. After all, those shadows—the darkness—are associated with all that is dead…or should be dead.
       Silence clogged the air like we were buried in a tomb.
       For some of us, there is a moment in our lives where all we’ve believed real is whipped out from under us and we’re left to survive in a world that’s a lie. All the things in life we’ve taken for granted are sheathed in a weak veneer, behind which stands the shadows.
       For me, this was one of those moments.

Mark Cassell's dark fantasy novel is available
from all bookshops and also Amazon.


Author photo (c)Christopher Shoebridge
Mark Cassell lives in a rural part of the UK with his wife and a number of animals. He often dreams of dystopian futures, peculiar creatures, and flitting shadows. Primarily a horror writer, his steampunk, fantasy, and SF stories have featured in several anthologies and ezines.

His debut novel, The Shadow Fabric, is a supernatural story and is available from Amazon.

Twitter: @Mark_Cassell Facebook:


  1. OMG I love it, totally dark, totally creepy & just awesome!!!! Thanks so much for joining in.

    1. My pleasure, Laura. It was fun. I'm looking forward to reading others.

  2. And that's how to write horror! I can't get the images out of my head. Totally dark and grim and awesome. x

    1. Thanks, Lizzie! Glad the images have stuck. Haha! Right, I'm off to read yours now.

  3. Very good indeed. Dark, with just a smidge of twisted. It left me longing for more :-)

    1. Hi Katie, thanks for that. I enjoy dark... And twisted. :-D

  4. Holy cats that last line made me squirm. xD Well done, Mark. I was going, "What the heck, what the heck, what the heck," the entire time.

    1. Thanks, Drew! I'm glad it hit you like that. Often I labour over those final lines, but that one came easy if I recall. :-)

    2. What a horror, Mark! I must admit I don't read much in this genre... but this is just too chilling to resist. Great read!

  5. Nice one. Really enjoyed it. I have quite a low attention span and often call it a day half way through. Not this though. Well done.