Sunday, 23 November 2014

Horror Bites #12 - "Breaking the Mould"

Laura from Office Mango has thrown another Horror Bite Challenge at me.

For those who are unfamiliar with the challenge: write a bite of flash fiction (200-350 words) inspired by an image supplied by Laura. More info about the challenge can be found on Laura's blogAll she asks is: "Try to scare me, or at the very least create a little bit of darkness".

Breaking the Mould

By Mark Cassell
(350 words)

Blood trickles from the metal rim and creeps through rust, curling around a loose bolt. It drips onto the yellow start button. Overhead the bare bulb flicks shadows across the dented panels—it still swings from when my boss had kicked it.
The stink of metal and oil scratches my throat. I cough.
As though having flexed its muscles, the machine looms between conduits that zigzag into girders. Cracked skylights allow dusk to leak into the factory; a reminder of the time. Beside me, a chain-link conveyor, equally rusted, claws across cracked tiles.
Neglect, such a common disease in this place.
Maria had always been a tight boss, bleeding the equipment dry as well as her employees. She really should’ve been more sympathetic when I told her my car had broken down.
“Get your arse here,” she’d blasted down the phone. “Now!”
I’d made sure to hang up before I called her a bitch.
Three hours late so she’d made me stay three hours past home time. Everyone had left—except me. And her. Not only that, I had no way of getting home.
Until now.
She’d been a lot heavier than I’d expected and thinking back, perhaps I should’ve removed her shoes, her clothes. But that was not something I would’ve relished. Trust me, Maria isn’t—wasn’t—a woman you’d want to see naked.
I punch the start button. The machine hums. Blood smears my fingers and I wipe them down my overalls.
Something clanks, rattles. Echoes.
Where I’d wedged her body into the hopper, triangular panels heave and shake. Rust flakes, floating. More clanking. Steam hisses from vents, and plastic granules mist the air. And blood.
The stink clogs my nostrils.
This batch of crappy garden furniture will be special.
A cream and crimson length of mangled plastic slaps onto the conveyor. It’s like a giant wedge of raspberry and vanilla ice cream. Torn fabric twists with plastic and bone splinters. Jagged, broken, a blended swirl of what I guess is her arm, her hand.
In my own hand is Maria’s car key.
I can go home now.

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. Superb, you really do dark and sinister so well. Great detail, with textures and smells.

    1. Thanks. Well, I just can't do nicey-nice-nice, you know? :-D

  2. As Miranda said you do dark so well, loving 'seeing' what you write, the imagery is awesome :)

  3. Those sounds. Eegads. I can't get that rusty screech out of my head without blaching my senses. This is a great flash, I love it, it's perfectly despicable. <3

    1. Ha. Well, I was hoping I'd get that response. :-)

  4. You do use the senses to their max with vivid imagery and vocab. I have to admit, I feel rather sick now. Fabulous job. xx

    1. No offense of course, but I'm glad I managed to make you feel sick... :-/