Thursday, 10 July 2014

Horror Bites Challenge #7 - "The Donation"

Once again I'm here to attack the Horror Bites Challenge. But first, I must announce the release of my novelette, "Hole in the Sky", which features in Rayne Hall's recent anthology, Cogwheels: Ten Tales of Steampunk.

The Horror Bites Challenge is simple: write a bite of flash fiction (200-350 words) inspired by the image above. More info can be found on Laura Jamez's Office Mango blog. All she asks is: "Try to scare me, or at the very least create a little bit of darkness".

The Donation

By Mark Cassell
(350 words)

From a crouch, I fell backwards and my arse thumped the floor. I kicked the sack away. Red flecks spotted the carpet as a pair of women’s shoes tumbled out. The stink leapt up my nose. The sound of those severed ankles as they knocked together… Dead. Final.
         Still in her chair, Dot peered around the counter. “What on Earth is wrong with you, boy?”
         I dragged myself backwards and my spine smacked a shelf. Something rattled. Our only customer shot me a glance through looming clothes racks. He clutched a paperback. His eyes washed over the sack, and his brow creased without revulsion. Didn’t he see those shoes? Couldn’t he see the splintered bone and curl of pallid flesh? And what about the blood?
         “That—” My tongue stuck to my teeth.
         Dot said, “They’re a pair of shoes.”
         Blood pooled, soaking the carpet, as my own blood rushed into my ears. Like someone else’s limb my arm floated before me, finger rigid. “That!”
         Leaning forwards in her chair, Dot snatched the shoes. Crimson splashes peppered her trousers. She ran a finger along leather seams, streaking blood. “These are nice.”
         “Like a pair I used to own.” She scratched her face, leaving a red smear across a cheek.
         “Seriously…” My heart thundered. It was as if she couldn’t see it either. Was I hallucinating?
         She pushed her wheelchair forwards, trousers flapping around the area where her own feet should be. Leaving the shoes on her lap, she reached down and began rolling up her trousers.
         My vision whirled.
         Dot revealed the aged stumps where once her feet had been—working at the charity shop for over a year and I’d never summoned the courage to ask how she’d lost them.
         Now holding a shoe in each hand, she pressed the bones up into the wrinkled flesh of those stumps. Something cracked and snapped as she twisted the shards in place. The sound echoed. Dead skin flapped like soggy paper, and fresh blood oozed and dribbled over her knuckles.
         “Just like the pair I used to own,” she whispered.


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, could almost feel that! Perfectly done. Nice job!

    1. Thanks, Miranda. It was fun to write. And the ending kinda snuck up on me!

  2. The best endings always sneak up on us, and that was a brilliant one. So pleased you joined in and congrats on the release of your novelette.

    1. Laura, you know I'm always happy to contribute to the horror! And thanks for the congrats - it's all exciting stuff at the moment. :-D

  3. That was some fine horror-the ending was scary enough to stay with you for days!