Black Petals Issue #94 Winter, 2021

Madonna of the Damned
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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

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Art by Hillary Lyon 2021

Madonna of the Damned

 

Hillary Lyon

 

       He speaks to me now. Oh sure, it's mostly sentence fragments said in dream-talk, but still. He tosses and kicks, stretches his arms occasionally. Turns fitfully, wrapped, trapped, in those soft fleshy sheets. And so hungry! Always complaining, mewling, for sustenance. I hear him, even if no one else does.

       I read to him; anything and everything I can get my hands on. Books of fiction, collections

of poetry, news articles. Not only so he recognizes the sound of my voice, but also to inform him, to educate him on the world at large. So when he wakes up, when he finally comes out, he'll be prepared to face what's waiting on the outside.

       It's what a loving mother should do.

#

       I go out at dusk, when it's cooler, to do my shopping. The streets of this city are always crowded, no matter the time. So many anonymous faces! No one knows me, and I know no one.

       I carry my shopping bag in one hand, keep the other hand protectively on my swollen belly. Sometimes, a stranger glances at my stomach. Sometimes they smile, sometimes they scowl. Either way, I grin and nod.

       The proprietor of the little market by my apartment recognizes me. She now looks puzzled though, when I come through her doors. In broken English, she asks how I'm doing, nodding towards my belly. I say fine, just late, but any day now! I've been saying this for weeks.

       I load my basket with five pounds of red meat, plus a half dozen oranges. It's always the same. The proprietor, Ms. Kim, offers prenatal vitamins or suggests fresh veggies. I thank her but say, gotta eat what I crave! Her answer is a smile is full of concern, bordering on dread.

       I may have to find a new market.

#

       Walking home in the dark, I drop my shopping bag. On purpose. My groceries spill out on the dirty concrete like seeds from a broken pod. A kind-hearted passer-by stops to help me gather my things. Even in such a big city as this, there will be one person who, fancying themselves a hero, stops to assist me, a hugely pregnant woman, all alone at night.

       He will walk into the dank alley to collect my oranges, which have rolled away into darkness. I follow. As he bends to pick up a stray orange, I place my hand on his upper back. I'm much stronger than people imagine. I push him down behind a dumpster. I work fast, especially when I'm hungry.

       When we're hungry, I mean.

#

       Back in the apartment, I draw the shades and lock up tight. I put the meat in the fridge; I can always squeeze the juice out of it, if I wake up hungry, and have no other immediate options. I left the oranges in the alley.

       We're both full and sluggish now. I crawl into bed, too sleepy to read. He protests. Bored now, he caws. His voice knocks about inside my head, relentlessly, until I get up and grab a book, any book. I open it up. A classic work of high fantasy. Large paragraphs detailing a gorgeous, fanciful world fraught with cruel intrigue, dark magic, and mortal danger for the good guys. My stomach flexes with percussive movement; he kicks with joy. It's a very good book.

       Listening to me read, his thoughts coalesce into coherence. His vocabulary increases exponentially. He has found his purpose. His fire.

       One day soon, he tells me, he will erupt, sword in hand, into the desperate, decadent world at large. Slay metaphorical ogres and feast on the flesh of monsters. Rule the weak without mercy. He will provide me with entertaining tales of his adventures, so that I might write the book of his life.

       He will do for me, as I have done for him. He promises.

       What more could a mother ask?

Hillary Lyon is an illustrator for horror/sci-fi and pulp fiction websites and magazines. She is also founder and senior editor for the independent poetry publisher, Subsynchronous Press. An SFPA Rhysling Award nominated poet, her poems have appeared in journals such as Eternal Haunted Summer, Jellyfish Whispers, Scfifaikuest, Illya’s Honey, and Red River Review, as well as numerous anthologies. Her short stories have appeared recently in Night to Dawn, Yellow Mama, Black Petals, Sirens Call, and Tales from the Moonlit Path, among others, as well as in numerous horror anthologies such as Night in New Orleans: Bizarre Beats from the Big EasyThuggish Itch: Viva Las Vegas, and White Noise & Ouija Boards. She appeared, briefly, as the uncredited "all-American Mom with baby" in Purple Cactus Media’s 2007 Arizona indie-film, "Vote for Zombie." Having lived in France, Brazil, Canada, and several states in the US, she now resides in southern Arizona.  https://hillarylyon.wordpress.com/

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