Black Petals Issue #94 Winter, 2021

BP Artists and Illustrators
BP Guidelines
Mars-News, Views and Commentary-Chris Friend
Basement Dweller-Fiction by Justin Swartz
The Beating of Their Wings-Fiction by Brian Maycock
Does the Bogeyman Live Downstairs?-Fiction by Clive Owen Barry
Dark Little Boxes-Fiction by C. M. Barnes
Death by Midnight-Fiction by Charlie Cancel
Forearmed-Fiction by Jan Cronos
Inconceivable-Fiction by Rich Rose
The Wolf's Den-Fiction by J. B. Polk
Treachery-Fiction by Ramon F. Irizarri
Tumour Wakes Up-Fiction by Alexis Gkantiragas
The Opal Ring-Fiction by Michael Dority
Flora and Fauna-Flash Fiction by Roy Dorman
Gnaw-Flash Fiction by Tony Kidd
Mad Money-Flash Fiction by Cindy Rosmus
Madonna of the Damned-Flash Fiction by Hillary Lyon
Special Teeth-Flash Fiction by KJ Hannah Greenberg
The Death Set-4 Poems by Hillary Lyon
Five Haiku-Poems by C. D. Marcum
Misanthrope-Poem by Donna Dallas
The Wish Tree-3 poems by Christopher Hivner
Nebulous-3 poems by Juan Manuel Perez
The Sphinx at Night-5 Poems by Meg Smith
Nameless-Poem by David Barber

Art by Darren Blanch 2021



by Rich Rose



“Mommy, where do babies come from?”

Vera Gibson tucked the corners of the bed sheet under the mattress and picked a fuzzy Ninja Turtle doll off the floor. She handed it to her son and smiled.

“Well, the Stork brings them, honey. See, when a Mommy and daddy love each other very much, they write a letter, asking the Stork to bring them a little piece of happiness. Then they fold that letter up into an airplane and, when it’s midnight, they throw it out of the highest window in their house. That plane flies off into the night and if they’re lucky, it’ll reach the Stork. Nine months later, a bundle arrives on theirdoorstep: a little baby, wrapped in a white blanket, all for them.”

“So, is that how you got me?”

“Of course.”

Josh wrinkled his nose and thought. “But Tommy in my class says the Stork isn’t real.”

His mother ran a hand through his sandy hair.

“Of course he’s real, Joshy. Where else would babies come from?”


“The penis is inserted into the vagina. When the man is sufficiently stimulated, he ejaculates sperm.”

The room erupted in giggles. Someone at the back of the room shouted, “Va-gineeeer!” then Billy Potts formed a circle with his right hand and began rapidly jamming the index finger of his left one through it. Jack Webb laughed so hard he snorted.

Mr. Beatty sighed. It was the same puerile ritual every year.

“Yes, yes,” he said, pinching the bridge of his nose. “Get it out of your system.”

The boys continued to snigger as Mr. Beatty wearily drew a sperm on the whiteboard. Only one boy remained silent.

Josh Gibson stared wide-eyed at the diagram in his textbook: a densely labeled illustration of an erect member deep inside a strange tube, its tip only a short distance from something called the ‘Cervix.’

“When the sperm reaches the egg,” Mr. Beatty continued, “they fuse. This begins the process of fertilization.”

Beads of cold sweat had broken out across Josh’s brow. He was the youngest boy in his class and would not be turning thirteen for another six months, but that did not explain why the other boys seemed so much more comfortable with this information than he did—it had not come as a total shock to them. How had he remained so clueless?

Of course, he’d heard plenty of jokes about sex, often from his classmates, but it had never occurred to him that any of it was actually real. He’d always assumed they were just being gross for the fun of it.

“This forms the embryo, which—William Potts, stop doing that!”

Josh closed his textbook and raised a trembling hand.

Mr. Beatty clicked his tongue impatiently. “Yes, Josh, what is it?”

Josh swallowed. “But what… what about the Stork, sir?”


Vera Gibson placed the steaming casserole dish in the middle of the table and sat.

“Dig in, boys, while it’s hot.”

Her husband, Mark, leaned over the dish and inhaled deeply.

“Mmmm, smells fantastic.” He kissed her on the lips. “Josh, pass your plate and I’ll serve you up.”

Josh did not move. His eyes were fixed on the dish; his face was pale and drawn.

“Is anything the matter, sweetie?” asked his mother. “You’ve barely said a word all evening.”

Mark Gibson surveyed his son curiously and poured a glass of water.

“At school today we… we learned where babies come from.”

His parents froze. His father placed the jug of water down and put his hands together under his chin.

“I see,” he said. “And what exactly did they tell you?”

Josh looked up slowly. His mother gave him a reassuring smile.

“Go on, sweetie,” she said.

“Mr. Beatty said that… the man’s penis goes inside the vagina.”

His father slammed a fist on the table, causing the plates to bounce. “God damn it,” he snarled. “I knew this would happen. I knew they’d go filling his head with this nonsense sooner or later.”

“Let’s just stay calm, hun,” his wife pleaded. “You know you can get carried away sometimes.”

“I told you, Vera, we should’ve home-schooled the boy!”

“Mom,” whispered Josh. “Is it true?”

His mother looked at him for a second then over at her husband.

“It’s—it’s difficult to say. It’s how some people choose to do it, I suppose.”

“Well, not in this house!” bellowed his father. “Now look, son, you know full well how babies are delivered. We told you when you were little, didn’t we?”

“Yes. But that doesn’t make any sense, Dad—not really. It’s just a story parents  tell little kids. But I’m older now and… and you should have let me know sooner that things aren’t really like that. I was the only one in my class who had didn’t know. I felt like an idiot.”

“You’re just upset,” his mother said, taking his hand. “It’s a lot to take in all at once. Maybe you’re right though; we should have told you that there are… other ways.”

“Damn it, Vera,” snapped her husband. “Don’t you go confusing him as well!”

Josh’s father took his glasses off and ran a hand over his face. He leaned back in his chair and fixed Josh with a deep gaze.

“Son,” he said coolly. “Some people may choose to do it in that primitive fashion, but not the Gibsons. In this household, the Stork delivers babies and that’s that.”

Josh opened his mouth to object but a look from his mother told him it wasn’t worth it.

“Now let’s put all this nonsense behind us. Who wants to say grace?”


“Man, your parents are nuts!”

Andy Robbins was Josh’s best friend and could always be relied on to tell it exactly as it was. Neither boy was remotely sporty. So while the other kids ran around the playground, kicking balls and inflicting beatings on one another, Josh and Andy slouched on the tarmac, their backs against the gymnasium wall, gobbling snacks from the cafeteria vending machine.

“I know,” said Josh, biting into a squashed Mounds Bar. “I don’t know why they still won’t just admit that sex is a thing. I think they want to protect me. They think I won’t be able to handle it or something.”

“I mean, it is kinda gross,” sniggered Andy. “Imagine: your parents had sex. Then you came out, right by your Mom’s ass!”

Josh punched him on the arm. “Shut up! So did you.”

“Nope,” said Andy. “A stork dropped me on the doorstep.” He let out a loud guffaw.

“He must’ve dropped you a bit too hard.” At this, the two of the boys fell about laughing.

“Seriously though,” said Andy, catching his breath. “It is weird. You should just say to your parents: I’m old enough to handle it. Stop treating me like a baby.”


As he brushed his teeth that evening, Josh’s mother peered around the bathroom door.

“Mom!” Josh turned with a start. “You made me jump.”

She smiled. “How was school today?”

Josh spat into the sink and rinsed his mouth with water. “It was okay. I got 79% in my Math exam.”

“That’s good. Room for improvement, but not bad at all.”

“Uh-huh. Well, goodnight Mom.” His mother remained in the doorway.

“I was wondering,” she said, running her finger down the wooden doorframe. “Would you like me to tuck you in tonight?”

Josh hesitated. “I… I dunno. I’m a bit old for that, don’t you think? I mean, you haven’t tucked me in for years.”

“I know,” she said. “But sometimes I miss it. You’re getting so big I won’t be able to do it all before long. Will you let me do it just this once? Please?” She gave an exaggerated pout. “For me.”

Even though her tone was playful, there was something behind her eyes: a kind of sadness—even a hint of desperation.

“Okay,” said Josh, reluctantly. “Just tonight though.”

She followed him into his room and watched as he got under the covers. When he was in, she sat at the corner of the bed and pulled the sheets tightly across his chest.

“That’s a little too tight, Mom,” he grunted. “I can barely move.”

“Sorry,” she said, loosening them slightly. “Just want to make sure your cozy. And safe.” She looked out of the window at the dark sky. “I know your dad can be a bit much sometimes,” she said softly. “He doesn’t mean to snap. He’s just very traditional, that’s all.”

Josh thought about raising the subject of sex with her. Away from his father, she might be more inclined to give him the answers he needed. He opened his mouth to say something but found he didn’t know the right question to ask. Besides, it was just too uncomfortable.

His mother seemed to sense what was going through his head. She pinched his cheek gently.

“You’re getting older and certain things can be confusing,” she said. “I realize that. I’d just say take some of what you learn at school with a pinch of salt. After all, teachers don’t know everything.” She turned off the bedside lamp, casting the room into darkness. “Sleep tight, Joshy.”


“Joshua Gibson, get up here NOW!”

Josh’s heart skipped a beat. He closed his homework diary and stared at the wall.

“Joshua, I won’t ask you again!” his father yelled. “Come upstairs this instant!”

Josh stood and walked somberly up the stairs. When he entered his bedroom, his father was standing by the cupboard, his face a deep shade of crimson.

“Yes, Dad?” Josh asked, tremulously. His father thrust the magazine in Josh’s face. “Care to explain this?” A naked woman stared out from the glossy cover, her hands cupped over her breasts, one leg crossed above the other at the waist.

Andy had found the magazine under a pile of boxes in his parent’s garage: a  comical memento from his dad’s bachelor days. Of course, Andy had long ago managed to disable the parental lock on his family’s Internet, so he had no need for the magazine.

Josh however, was not so fortunate and, after much pleading, Andy had agreed to give him the magazine in exchange for a week’s worth of pocket money.

“I… I just found it, Dad.”

“Just found it, my foot! Let me guess, you were curious? Is that it? You just had to see for yourself.”

Josh felt a sudden anger rise inside him. “Yes, all right, I did!”

He snatched the magazine from his father’s hand and opened it on a folded page in the center. “Look, Dad—it’s true! Everything they taught us in school! So why do you keep lying to me? There is no Stork, so stop acting like there is!”

His father stared at him for a moment. Josh had never acted out in this way before. “I’m picking you up from school tomorrow,” his father said quietly. “I want a word with this Biology teacher of yours.”


Mr. Beatty placed a mug of jet-black coffee on his desk and sat. The chair creaked under his weight and one of his knees clicked audibly. He loosened his tie and covered his mouth to suppress a yawn. On the other side of the desk Josh sat by his father’s side, eyes fixed on the floor.

“What can I do for you, Mr. Gibson?” asked the teacher.

“Well, firstly, I appreciate you seeing me on such short notice. Now, this is little awkward Mr. Beatty, but I wanted to discuss—” Josh’s father placed the Biology textbook on the desk in front of him, open on the offending page. “This.”

Mr. Beatty cast his eyes across the page then picked up his coffee and blew before taking a lengthy sip. “I see,” he said. “What exactly is the issue?”

“Well, honestly, my wife and I don’t feel comfortable with our son being taught this kind of thing. At least, not at his age.”

“His age?” Mr. Beatty let out a snort. “Mr. Gibson, it is a part of the curriculum that students be taught Sex Education. Not only that, but I would argue it’s an important part of their development as adults. In fact, if it were up to me, they’d be taught some of the basics even sooner.”

Josh’s father winced. He forced a polite smile. “Mr. Beatty, whatever your personal opinions on the matter might be, I think you ought to respect mine. My wife and I may be considered a little old fashioned but that is our prerogative. If, when he’s older, Joshua chooses to go down the route your lessons propagate, well that’s up to him. But while he is living under our roof, I do not want you filling his mind with this pornography!

Josh looked up and caught his teacher’s eye. He could feel his cheeks burning with embarrassment.

“Mr. Gibson,” said Mr. Beatty, flatly. “I appreciate your concerns but Josh is at the age now when hormones are beginning to kick in. Naturally, he’ll become curious and it is important that he understands these feelings are normal.”

“They are not normal! Just look at these images.” He tapped his finger angrily on a photograph of the inside of a uterus. “All this slime and effluvia. Revolting! I mean if you must teach your version, there ought to at least be some obligation that you educate the students on alternate methods as well.”

Mr. Beatty cocked an eyebrow. “Alternate methods, Mr. Gibson? What alternate methods would these be?”

Josh’s father leaned forward and placed his hands on the desk. “The Stork, Mr. Beatty. I’m talking about the Stork.”

There was a long silence; the only sound was the lazy ticking of the clock on the wall. At last, Mr. Beatty said, “If this is your idea of a joke, it’s not a very funny one. I’ve had a long day and I don’t appreciate having my time wasted like this.”

“Who’s joking?” exclaimed Josh’s father. “I can assure you, I am being deadly serious.”

Mr. Beatty stood. “That’ll be all, Mr. Gibson. Goodnight.”


The wipers juddered across the windscreen as rain lashed the car. Mr. Gibson glanced in the rearview mirror and caught Josh’s eye. His son arms were folded across his chest, his brow creased in anger. They had not spoken since leaving the school. “I can tell you’re annoyed with me, Josh, but frankly he has no right teaching you that filth. Genitals and embryos, placenta and zygotes! The man should be ashamed.”

“You’re crazy,” said Josh. “You and Mom. You’re both crazy.”

His father glared at him in the mirror. “I don’t think I like your tone, young man. You just watch how you speak to me, understand?”

“I said you’re both crazy! The Stork story is just for little kids. I’m not a kid any more, Dad! I don’t believe that crap and neither do you, so stop pretending it’s real!”

The car slammed to a halt. Josh rocked forward and slammed the back of his

head on the seat rest. His father spun round, his eyes wide and furious. “You get all these ideas put in your head and you think you know it all, don’t you?” he hissed. “Well you don’t know it all. You used to be such a polite, respectful child.” He gripped Josh’s knee forcefully. “You would do well to remember one thing, Joshua. It’s true that the Stork delivers children to mommies and daddies, but if those children don’t work out in some way—if they’re naughty, or mean, or disrespectful—there is another bird… a bird that takes them away. You wouldn’t want your mother and I to have to write to that bird now, would you, champ?”

Josh yanked his leg away. His father turned back around and drove on. “Crazy,” Josh murmured. “You’re both crazy.”


At lunchtime the next day, Josh told Andy what had happened.

“What?” Andy baulked. “Your dad told Mr. Beatty he should be teaching us storks deliver babies? Are you serious?”

“Yeah,” said Josh. “He’s a psycho.”

“You know what you need to do,” said Andy. “You need to prove to your parents that you know they have sex.”

“What! What the hell is wrong with you?”

“No, really,” said Andy, seriously. “They’ve obviously done it, because they have you, right? So you need to sneak into their room when they’re not around and find something that proves they do it. That way, they can’t lie about it anymore.”

Josh considered this. “What am I supposed to find, though? I mean, what would prove it?”

“Well, Mr. Beatty talked about condoms and those pills that stop women getting pregnant. Maybe you’ll find some of them. Or even some fancy underwear. Hey,” he grinned widely, “if you do find some of your Mom’s lacey stuff, you gotta show me.”

Josh hit him in the ribs.


That evening, while his mother prepared dinner, Josh quietly entered his parents’ bedroom. The place was spic-and-span, as always: there wasn’t so much as a rumple in the bed sheet. His parents’ pajamas were ironed and laid out on the bed: Mom’s on the left side, Dad’s on the right. Josh tiptoed across the room to the bedside cabinet and pulled open the top drawer. There were no oils, ointments or prophylactics inside; just a Bible and a few spare buttons. He closed the drawer. He made his way over to his mother’s wardrobe. Perhaps there would be something provocative in there: a fluffy bra or some item of negligee. Josh nearly gagged at the thought. Bracing himself, he counted to three then threw open the door. He pushed aside the dresses and jumpers to find… nothing. He closed the wardrobe, both disappointed and somewhat relieved. He looked around. Where else could they have hidden something? Under the bed! He knelt and squinted into the darkness. Downstairs he could hear his mother bustling about in the kitchen, pots and pans clanging erratically.

There was something under there; he could just make it out. He reached in as far as he could and managed to snag the corner with his little finger. Then, with a bit of effort, he was able to hook his entire hand round and drag it out.

He sat against the bed and held the cardboard shoebox on his lap. It was very old and the top was covered in a layer of dust. Josh’s heart pounded against his ribs. He dreaded to think what he might find inside. He’d heard some of the older boys talk of dildos and ‘beads’—he didn’t think he’d be able to stomach anything like that. With trembling fingers, he removed the lid.

Inside was a pile of paper. Josh removed the top sheet. It was run through with creases where it had been folded at some point. He turned it over. It was the fancy cream-coloured stuff that his father used for official letters and legal documents, headed with his parents’ names and their home address. Underneath, in his father’s unmistakable cursive, it read:

Dear Sir,

My name is Mark Gibbons. My wife, Vera, and I have been happily married for six months and we feel we are ready to take the next step in our lives. We are good people, with a deep-seated belief in the importance of family values. We do not smoke, gamble, or fornicate. I am personally partial to the odd glass of wine, but only on special occasions. We both have stable jobs with good incomes and we are confident we could provide comfortably for a child.

We have a lot of love to give and hope you will see fit to bless us with a bundle of joy to call our own.

Thank you for your consideration.

Kind regards,

Mark Gibson

Josh couldn’t believe what he was reading. They really believed it then. His parents thought the Stork was real. He dropped the letter back on the pile, his head swimming. He was about to replace the box lid when he noticed something poking out at the bottom of the heap. He pinched it with his fingers and carefully pulled it out. It was a long, white feather.

Downstairs, the front door closed. Josh threw the lid back on the box, kicked it under the bed and ran out of the room. He peered over the bannisters. At the foot of the stairs, his father removed his had and coat. His mother emerged from the kitchen in a pink apron and gave her husband a peck on the cheek.

Josh straightened himself out then walked downstairs, trying to look casual.

“Hi Dad,” he said, with a bit too much brevity.

His father surveyed him through narrow eyes.

“Hello Josh,” he said. “How was school?”

“Fine. Mrs Jenkins said my English essay was the best in the class.”

“I’m glad. And how was Mr Beatty?”

His mother cast a furtive glance at Josh.

“He was okay, I guess,” said Josh. “But I think I’m going to take everything he says with a pinch of salt from now on. I mean, teachers don’t know everything.”

His father paused for an instant then a warm smile spread across his face. “Well, I’m pleased to hear that, son. Good for you.” He gave Josh a playful knock on the chin.

“So, what’s for dinner? I’m starving.”


Josh crouched and pressed his ear against the bedroom floor.

“We’ve got a good kid, there,” he heard his mother say. “Wouldn’t you agree?”

His father said something unintelligible.

“I don’t think we have any cause to worry,” she continued. “And you shouldn’t be too hard on him. He listened and took on board what we said.”

Josh heard his father cross the room.

“Vera, I found something today. In our bedroom.”

There was a pause. Then his mother said, “Oh.”

“He’s a sneak, Vera. We’ve raised a little sneak.”

“I’ll—I’ll talk to him tomorrow.”

“No, Vera, no more. You mollycoddle the boy. I’m not having him snooping around, spying on us. I’m afraid this time, sterner action must be taken.”

Josh jammed his ear closer against the cold wood, straining to hear.

“Oh, Mark. What are you going to do?”

His father’s voice became muffled. Josh held his breath but could not make out what was being said. Careful not to make a noise, he stood. Sterner action. What did his father mean by that? Josh knew he would not be able to sleep with that threat hanging over him. Perhaps if he apologised for going into his parents’ room, his father would be more lenient on him. He decided he would go down and face his punishment like a man. He descended the stairs two at a time and pushed open the kitchen door. His mother was sitting at the table, with a scrunched-up tissue by her hand. Her mascara was smeared and her bottom lip trembled feebly. Behind her, his father was busy doing something on the countertop. He turned when Josh entered.

“Mom,” he said. “Dad. I—”

“Go back to bed, Joshua,” his father said. “It’s late.”

His mother smiled wanly, her eyes shiny with tears. “Do as your father says, sweetie. We’ll talk tomorrow.”

Josh hesitated then closed the door and returned to his room. He climbed quietly into bed. A couple of hours later, there was a knock at the front door. Josh opened his eyes; he had not slept a wink. He turned on the bedside lamp and looked at the clock. It was a couple of minutes before midnight.

The front door opened, then he heard his father’s voice. “Thank you for coming. Please, come in.” Footsteps down the front hall: slow and faintly clumsy. “Upstairs,” his father said. “First door on the right.”

Josh’s mind began to race.Don’t just lie here, he though t. Get up!

He threw off the covers and crept over to the door. He pushed it open a few inches and peeked out. The landing was dark, with only a thin strip of light from downstairs. A shadow moved across it. Josh hastily closed the door. Someone was coming for him. He looked around desperately for something to barricade the door but nothing was big enough. His eyes shot over to the window. The drainpipe was located at the corner of the house, right by his room. If he acted quickly, there was a chance he’d be able to shimmy down it in time.

He ran across the room and yanked the window open. The garden was a good twelve feet below. His stomach did a queasy somersault. There was a creak outside the room. Josh stuck one leg out of the window and stretched out his arm. The weather had been unsettled that day and the drainpipe was slick with rain.

“Come on,” he said, through gritted teeth. “You can do it. You can do it.” The bedroom door swung open. Josh turned his head to see the silhouette of a man, standing in the doorway. He was tall and thin, in a baggy trench coat and pointed black shoes. He was wearing small, dark glasses and had a shock of white hair, which framed his head like a halo.

“Who—who are you?” Josh demanded. “Get away. I’ll jump if you don’t!” The man switched the light on. Josh almost toppled out of the window but managed to steady himself. The man was gaunt and deathly pale, with a thin, almost lipless mouth and a very long nose, which ended in a sharp point. Nothing was visible behind his dark glasses. Very slowly, he removed them. At the sight of his eyes, Josh began to scream.

The man’s eyes were round and glassy and intensely yellow, with large, black pupils. A thin membrane flitted across them twice, in a horizontal blink. They were not a man’s eyes at all. They were the eyes of a bird.

“Please...” was all Josh could manage, in a pathetic squeak. The man opened his mouth, revealing a glistening pink maw. His oesophagus was impossibly dilated and, if he had any teeth, they were so small as to be invisible in his narrow gums. The lower jaw began to inflate in size and a slimy, ribbed tongue flicked out, coiling and turning in the air. It was cylindrical in shape and continued to elongate as the man’s mouth stretched, wider and wider.

Josh scrabbled for the drainpipe with both hands but could not get a firm grip. “Mom!” he wailed. “Help me!”

The tongue snaked across the floor, over toys and games, tasting the carpet, searching Josh out. It stopped beneath his foot then rose and wrapped around his leg, one, twice, a third time. Josh watched helplessly, immobilised by fear, as the tongue slithered over the waistband of his pyjama bottoms and onto the pale flesh of his stomach. As it contorted and writhed, Josh saw that it was not a tongue at all, but a rubbery, pink tube, with an opening at the end like a small mouth.

“Mom,” he groaned. “Please.”

There was no response from downstairs.

Suddenly, the end of the tube latched onto his skin, suctioning against his navel. The jolt was sudden and intense, like an electric shock. Josh yelped. He tried desperately to yank it off, but it was fastened tight, the end of it indistinguishable from his skin. Then the tube began to pulsate, juddering horribly from side to side, with a twitchy peristalsis.

Josh could feel his last meal being sucked out of him; he felt so hollow all of a sudden, he thought he might pass out. Then the tube began to extract more: blood and marrow and vital cells. Josh could feel himself growing weaker. His breathing became tight and laboured. He slumped forward and the tube dragged him off the window ledge, onto the floor, with a thud. The man in the corner was no longer there. Something else was in his place.

The Pelican stood roughly eight feet tall. Its feathers were greasy and coarse, and here and there patches of pimply skin were visible where they were missing entirely. Its yellow legs were spindly thin and its long bill was hooked at the end. Its throat sack was the size of a large garbage bag.

The tube pulled Josh limply across the floor. When he was directly below the awful bird, it let out a piercing noise—not a roar or a squawk, but a kind of terrible scream. The sound of a thousand babies crying at once.

The tube began to retract, back down the Pelican’s gullet. Josh was hoisted up, until his head practically touched the ceiling. Then the bird threw its neck back and Josh fell forward, landing with a squelch inside the dark pouch.

The lining of the colossal mouth was warm and spongy and coated in iridescent goo. Josh kicked his legs madly. The end of the chord remained fastened to his belly.

With what little strength he had left, he dug his nails into it and tried to wrench it off—but it was no use. The pouch began to shrink in size, closing in on him, as if he were an item being vacuum-sealed. His head was forced between his legs and his knees jammed painfully against his shoulders. He felt his spine crack under the pressure. As the bill slowly closed, Josh looked up desperately at the last ray of retreating light, before he was finally sealed inside the dreadful womb.


Mr and Mrs Gibson stood waiting by the front door. Mr Gibson gently squeezed his wife’s shoulder.

The man walked back down the stairs, his dark glasses covering his eyes once more. His stomach was full and round now, causing him to teeter.

“Thank you,” said Mr Gibson. “We appreciate it.”

The man cocked his head but said nothing. They watched as he waddled out into the night. Mr Gibson closed the door. “There, there, honey,” he said, as his wife blew her nose.

“Oh, Mark,” she moaned. “Are we bad parents?”

“Of course not,” he said, kissing her tenderly on the cheek. “You mustn’t think like that.”

“What will we do now?”

“Well,” said Mr Gibson, removing a fountain pen from his breast pocket. “I guess we’ll just have to try for another.”

Rich Rose is a writer from London, England. In 2017, ‘Whipped’, a TV show pilot that he co-wrote was produced and subsequently featured in The Guardian in an article detailing the best pilots that should make the move to TV. He has previously had work published in The Horror Zine, The Honest Ulsterman and Storgy, as well as freelance articles in Total Film.

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