Black Petals Issue #107, Spring, 2024

Editor's Page
BP Artists' Page
BP Guidelines
Mars-News, Views and Commentary
(After) Life is What You Make It: Fiction by Richard Brown
Gauche Cuisine: Fiction by Gordon L. Stewart
Here's to Forgetfulness: Fiction by Roger Johns
Insights Into the Trajectory of Human Cetacean Communication: Fiction by Andre Bertolino
Mal Ojo: Fiction by M. N. Wiggins
No Dark: Fiction by Bill Dougherty
Overtime: Fiction by Dennison Sleeper
A Cut Above the Rest: Fiction by Roy Dorman
Resemblance: Fiction by James McIntire
Sign of the Times: Fiction by Liam A. Spinage
The Attic Party: Fiction by Michael Fowler
The Renovators: Fiction by Hillary Lyon
The Balance: Flash Fiction by Rick McQuiston
Bawk Dark: Flash Fiction by Michael C. Jessen
The Incident With the Mismatched Man: Flash Fiction by Charles C. Cole
Radio Tower: Flash Fiction by Blair Orr
Take Me With You: Flash Fiction by Steven French
Slippery: Flash Fiction by Cindy Rosmus
Where Dead Babies Come From: Poem by Nolcha Fox
302 Asylum Avenue: Poem by Joseph Danoski
Another Story: Poem by Joseph Danoski
Home Repairs: Poem by Joseph Danoski
A Creepy Leap Year: Poem by Kenneth Vincent Walker
Funeral Memorial: Poem by Kenneth Vincent Walker
BatGrl: Poem by Casey Renee Kiser
Twin Flame: Poem by Casey Renee Kiser
Shadow Play: Poem by Simon MacCulloch
Dark Ride: Poem by Simon MacCulloch
Leviathans of the Void: Poem by Christopher Hivner
Sunbursts: Poem by Christopher Hivner
Into the Eyes: Poem by Anthony Bernstein
Airtime: Poem by Peter Mladinic
Gloria: Poem by Peter Mladinic
The Sorcerer: Poem by C. Walker
Frozen Eve: Poem by C. Walker

James McIntire: Resemblance

Art by Luis Cuauhtémoc Berriozábal © 2024



James McIntire



Shel kept her head down. She was so exhausted from running—exhausted from surviving. The men around her stared and ogled and at this point, it was harmless. She felt calm and safe. It was easy to deal with, given what had been happening. She ignored them. They were all the same, but she did not fear them. Not in the same way she feared it. She stared down at her beer. The bartender checked in on her. She played it off with a smile and an "I'm fine, thank you." She could hear the murmuring and the jokes. It didn't matter; this was the safest place to be for now. She was a fighter, and she could survive this lion's den. But the second she left, she would no longer have the advantage. She needed the cover of a large crowd. She needed the distraction of lights and sound. The club would have to do until it figured out how to blend in. Then Shel would need a new plan.

As she stared at her warming beer, she thought about how it all started. A story no one would believe. They would call her irrational. They would say she was exaggerating. Tell her she was misunderstanding or misremembering the whole thing. No. It was real—all of it. The mind could play tricks. Sure, it could. But there was no confusing or misunderstanding this problem.

She remembered when she first saw it. Shel was out for a walk in the local park. The woodland trail always brought comfort and escape. It was late in the afternoon, and the canopy of leaves provided more shade than usual. She had the company of The Editors in her ears. As people passed by, she would smile and nod. Typical old couples out power walking. Sometimes, a brigade of shirtless men would jog by. Some would catcall. Others would shout out crude comments. She couldn't hear them over the sound of Tom Smith and the boys.

Then for a while on the trail, it was quiet. There seemed to be no one else. No one passed by. No one catcalled. The thickness of trees and vegetation increased. There were walls of green on both sides. Shel continued on the path. She knew it by heart, and this area was the best at this time of day. She could see someone running towards her from across the clearing. At first, they looked like a jogger. But as they got closer, something was off. She noticed it in the face. A large twisted grin and bulging blue eyes. This face was humanoid, but it was also a mockery. As it got closer, she observed other inconsistencies. It appeared to have long red hair that never seemed to move with the wind. Its cheeks were reddish, and they seemed to pulsate. The forehead was also pulsating and varicose. The nostrils were flared on the enlarged nose. It appeared to be shirtless, wearing ripped-up khakis. It was taller than the average person but also very thin. Its arms seemed to inflate and deflate as it ran. It was still grinning from ear to literal ear. And it was getting closer.

Without a second thought, Shel turned to run in the opposite direction. This man was clearly coming toward her. He wanted her. The problem was this was not a real person. It was a facsimile of humanity. A bootleg man jogging toward her. As she ran, Shel thought about the uncanny valley. She pondered the idea that at one time our ancestors must have run into something pretending to be human. In either case, the uncanny valley was personified today. And it was now chasing her.

Shel ran as Interpol’s “Slow Hands provided a soundtrack. The image of outstretched deformed hands gave her the motivation to never stop. She never looked back. She didn’t want to see. Shel wanted it to be a mistake. The imagination going for a jog with her. Shel would rather lose her mind than accept this shambling grotesquery as reality. The old couple from before was coming into view.

They couldn't see the thing behind her. They were not close enough. Shel started waving her hands in the air, frantically signaling for danger as she ran. The old couple was getting closer and could see her spiraling arms. Both of them just smiled and waved back. Shel didn't understand. Did they not see the fake flesh work stomping behind them? Shel stopped to look behind her. The thing was standing there, doubled over.

It appeared out of breath. Like a normal person. Maybe it was imagination. She was just tired. Shel had pushed herself in everything she did. Work and relaxation often require the same effort in her life. That's all it was—just exhaustion of the brain. Logic taking a break. Shel formed a half smile as she watched the old couple power walk toward the man. Shel took out an earbud.

The smile quickly fell away as she saw the giant rise up. This time his hair was short but fit on the head like a helmet. It was still red but looked rubbery. The face was almost human. There was the presence of a massive smile. All pearly whites were on display. Its mouth was too big to belong to a modern-day human. The eyes were sunken in but big and still piercing blue. The nose was smaller. The face appeared to be clean of all blemishes and wrinkles. Almost too perfect. Too perfect to be human. Too perfect to be real.

Its eyes were trained on Shel but slowly drifted toward the smaller couple approaching it. The old man raised a welcoming hand. Shel watched as the thing responded by lifting the old man off the ground with one hand. The mockery of human life examined the man. Shel could hear moans of fright from the man and chilling screams from his wife. The thing tilted its head, taking in all of the details. This creature had modified its appearance to look a little more human. It still wasn't right, but right now it was studying. Gathering more information to shape itself again. The fake human tossed the man into the trees on its left. The old woman screamed. Shel heard the unmistakable sound of shattering bone and sloshing blood. The thing picked up the woman next. It was still grinning as it placed its other massive hand on top of the screaming woman's head.

Shel did not watch. Instead, she ran. She had to. She could not help right now. She needed to survive this thing. Get someone who could help. She kept running.

At this point, U2 was singing about a bloody Sunday. Shel could still hear the breaking bones over the Edge's guitar work. At this point, she dropped the other earbud from her fingers. Shel could hear the old man breaking against the trees. She didn't see the aftermath. She didn't need to. Then the woman. That thing placed its hand. It clearly intended to rip. Shel pushed harder to leave the scene.

This thing was real. It was indeed not human. It had the makeshift appearance of humanity, but it was monstrous. Both in appearance and behavior. Shel thought of the story-Little Red Riding Hood. The Wolf had devoured Grandma and wore her clothes as a disguise. This wolf or whatever was walking around in a skin suit.

Shel needed to know if it was following. She had to look back. She was starting to lose breath from the running. She slowed her pace to a light jog and eventually to a walk. The adrenaline was catching up, and the debt of energy was outstanding. Shel did look back. The thing was far behind but still within sight of the naked eye. It was walking and in no hurry. Almost as if it was aware that it had all day. It has plenty of time to inflict violence and slaughter. Nothing could stop it. No. Something had to give here. Shel needed to stand up and do something.

She took her phone out of her pocket. She shut down the music just as Depeche Mode was starting up. Shel dialed 911. She kept her eyes on the thing as it walked on the horizon. There was plenty of daylight to expose this creature. Its violence was so shocking and blatant. Shel watched as its head bobbled from side to side. As it walked closer its shape vanished under the curving pathway. Shel stepped forward to recapture her gaze.

The operator came on. Shel told the whole story in record time. Of course, the operator demanded she slow down and start again. Shel could not see the thing anymore. The horizon of the hilly curve required Shel to get closer. She explained the whole thing again to the operator. Shel described what it looked like. As she got closer to breaking the optical obstacle, the thing was increasing his stride. This time, it appeared older with long gray hair. Like the older couple. It had also tried to duplicate signs of aging. It had created wrinkles all over its face and shirtless body. However, the wrinkles all formed a consistent pattern. It was a repeating series of corrugated lines.

Shel shouted to the operator, demanding her to send help now. She hung up the phone and began running again. The thing was building up its pace into a light jog.

She needed to get out of the park. She needed to be somewhere public. A place where other people would see this horror and perhaps deal with it. Or even worse, join in. Make fun of and tease. Perhaps encourage and egg on the monster. Shel knew the risks and possible outcomes all too well. She had lived it herself.

She had been told how crazy she sounded. She had been told that she misunderstood the situation. She had been told she was wrong about what she knew damn well had happened to her. But she was also resilient. She could brave that kind of problem and come out better for it. She would need to in order to deal with this new threat. Time heals wounds, but it never erases the scars. Not to punish the wounded but to remind them that they survived. And that it will never happen again.

If she could get to a busy area someone would have to intervene. The world is full of shitheads, but the populace is not only shitheads. She wouldn't look back. Shel already knew it was following close behind. It didn't seem to make noises. It preferred to stay silent and get right to business. Her apartment was near the park, within walking distance. She knew better than to lead it home. She needed to go elsewhere. She needed to keep jogging toward the heart of downtown. At this pace, she could get there in another ten minutes.

Her lungs were on fire and her sides were cramping. Her legs were wearing down. But much like someone climbing the Himalayas, the body powered through. Running on autopilot. The body knew all. She could not stop. Stopping meant a variety of outcomes Shel had no interest in.

As Shel raced through alleyways, she looked back only once. It was following. She caught a glimpse of its shape bubbling. It was changing again. She made it to the main streets of the market district. Two shop owners stood on the corner of the alley. They turned their heads and smiled. Her language had to be gibberish as the shop owners kept smiling.

"Need help!" Shel gasped.

"Hey, calm down now, dear. It's alright," the short owner placed his hand on her shoulder. Shel winced it away.

"Easy, lady. We just want to help," the taller owner explained.

Shel turned and pointed as if on cue. The thing was there. Standing in the middle of the alley, observing.

"You want to help," Shel gasped again. "Then deal with that." The thing began stomping toward the trio. The shop owners approached to meet him halfway.

"What's this now? You hassling my lady friend?" the shorter owner snapped.

"He's a big bastard," the taller man noted.

“Yeah, well, that don’t matter. He ain’t doing jack to me! You hear that? Now, fuck off!”

“He ain’t fucking off, man!”

The thing continued its advance. This time, it was younger. It still bore a plastic smile. One eye was big and another small. The nose was flatter. Its hulking frame now bore two massive arms. Shel thought of a silverback gorilla. It was looking through them. It saw its prey. It saw what it wanted. The shorter man stepped in its path. Shel watched, wishing she hadn't. She watched as the thing casually picked up the shorter man. One by one it placed both hands around the man's ears. Then the thing pressed as if it was squeezing juice. Bones crunched and blood splashed all around.

"Oh my God, no!" the taller man screamed out. Brain matter dripped between the massive fingers. Then it tossed the body behind itself like a bag of garbage. The other man tried to run. The thing grabbed him instead. Shel ran. She didn't want to see. She could hear the screaming from the alley.

This thing defied all reason. Or maybe it made perfect sense. Given what Shel had already experienced. All things have a reflection. All people bear some kind of resemblance to someone, or something else. She had seen cruelty. She had seen abhorrent behavior firsthand. This was just the reflection of life back on itself.

She tried hiding in several places. The thing continued to stalk Shel. She found refuge in a public but often quiet place. Inside of the local library. This time its face appeared to be a caricature of a chiseled statue. The chin was bulky, and the jawline resembled thick concrete. The eyes were both small with almost human quality to them. It was learning. But there was something else that was new. Something that shook Shel to her core. Oh, it was learning. It was indeed learning. It wore a bloodied police officer's shirt. The shirt was torn at the sleeves. The thing forced it on like some twisted cartoon character.

Shel was able to duck the thing and avoid a scene. It meant no one else dying. In the library, at least.

She ran inside a local fitness club. Boxers worked each other over inside of an old dusty ring. The thing followed her there. This time, its face resembled that of an old crone. It even wore a bloody bonnet to go along with its blood-stained uniform. The boxers caught a glimpse of the new girl and the weirdo. A challenge was thrown down. A dark-skinned boxer leaped from the ring. He tossed a powerful jab at the thing's large nose. It only knocked the bonnet to the ground. The thing responded by backhanding the boxer. His neck broke instantly.

The owner of the gym stepped forward. A short man sweating through his suit. "Whatever this is, take it outside!" Shel was already gone. The thing stayed, but not by choice. The other contenders wanted justice. The thing didn't waste much time with them.

Out on the streets, it caught up to Shel. She passed by groups of ordinary people. The thing towered over the crowds. Some people did double-takes. Others did not notice the danger. The thing did not attack this time. Police sirens could be heard in the distance. Perhaps going to clean up its mess.

Shel knew it was back there. Following at a methodical pace. Sometimes she would catch a glimpse of it. Its features were morphing constantly. At times it seemed to almost have the human frame down. But there were still imperfections that stood out. Little things that were shown in the eyes and fake smiles.

 Always in pursuit and never giving up. At one point, she questioned her sanity. Was it even real? Was it just appearing to her? But then she remembered the acts of violence. The corpses strung out in random places. That was very real.

It was still practicing the human form. But its height and facial features were never quite right.

She was growing tired. The body was reaching its limits. Even just walking, the body had been through a gauntlet. The thing was still there, keeping up. Drawing glances and remarks from the crowd. More proof it was real. It would never leave her be. But it was not violent right now. It was learning. Its appearance still needed work, but it was learning not to bludgeon every person it met. What was it going to do to her if it caught up? Shel had no plans to find out.


          That led her here. The nightclub. It didn't follow her in. That was the confusing thing at first. But Shel thought about it. It was still learning. There was no way it could get what it wanted by going inside. It was going to wait for her to come out. Some time passed while Shel hid among the drunken and drugged-out dancers. Then another thought crept in. It's trying to find a new way inside. A new form. One that could fool even her.

          Shel looked around the room. Everyone seemed normal at first. But the more she observed, the stranger everything became. Laughter became exaggerated. Some of the limbs became elongated. Facial features were morphing. Soon everyone around her appeared to be fake. Just like it. Evil masquerading as humanity. She felt panic. Shel was going to run. The bartender was snorting and chuckling. All sights and sounds were altered.

      "Can I buy you a drink?" a calm male voice offered. Shel looked up at this stranger. He was handsome with short red hair. His smile was welcoming. His face was human. His voice was human. Everything on the outside defined a normal human being. But is he? Shel just stared up at the smiling face. But is he?

Residing in Greenwood, Indiana, James McIntire writes horror and sci-fi. Always looking to subvert all expectations with each story. James is the author of short story collections Visions and The Guide Book For a Bad Time. James has also written a variety of articles for the website He is a mad scientist creating the most depraved and bizarre stories possible.

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