Black Petals Issue #107, Spring, 2024

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(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

Rick McQuiston: The Balance

107_bp_thebalance_bholtzman.jpg
Art by Bernice Holtzman 2024

The Balance

 

 

Rick McQuiston

 

          “What's inside?” Sammy asked, his beady little eyes fixed on the center of attention situated on a small pedestal between the three boys.

          Ian put a hand on his friend Sammy's shoulder. “I bet you there's nothing in it,” he said, residual crumbs from his afternoon snack trickling down his chin like tiny boulders. “Probably found it at a garage sale.”

            Justin sneered at the other two boys.

          “No, I didn't get it at a garage sale,” he said with a trace of annoyance in his voice. “My dad gave it to me before he died, and his dad before him, and his dad before him, right on down the line.”

          “I call baloney,” Ian snapped. “It just looks like a box with some weird carvings on it.”

          “It is.”

          “So what's inside it then?”

          “I don't know.”

          “What do ya mean you don't know?”

          “I haven't looked inside.”

          The air in the room thickened. The only sound was the rapid heartbeat in Justin's chest. He remembered once hearing his parents talking about the box. He was only a little kid then and happened to be playing near the bedroom window. It was cracked open a few inches so he was able to hear what they were saying.

          Denise, we can't tell anyone.

          I know that, but can't we at least lock it up better?

          No. If it suspects anything it'll open all the way, and that wouldn't be good. It's best to keep it as it is. It only lets out a trickle of its contents, just enough to balance everything in the world.

          His parent's words always stayed with him, but now here he was, ready to open the box for the first time.

          Both Sammy and Ian took a step back. They had sensed something evil, something scathing hot and yet numbing cold at the same time.

          A shadow grew outside the window. It was bipedal, 6 feet tall, 6 feet wide, and 6 feet thick, a huge conception of the unholy number of the Beast.

          It swayed there a moment, perhaps two, before stretching out a hair-thin filament that inched forward, eventually drilling a minute hole in the window's glass. The tendril then entered the room seamlessly and spiraled through the dank air in an unwavering trajectory, heading straight for the three boys standing around its intended destination.

          “Well, let's have a look?” Justin blurted out, surprised at his own words.

           It only lets out a trickle of its contents...

          He reached out a hand.  

           just enough to balance everything in the world.

          He felt the icy heat, the frigid inferno, the frozen warmth touch his fingertips.

          It was then, at that exact moment, when he noticed two things simultaneously: the lid on the box was slightly ajar, just an inch, no more, no less, and the winding tentacle, so thin as to be barely perceptible, distinguishable solely from the contrast it created from its movement.

          All three boys were rooted where they stood, too afraid to move. They were hypnotized by the gentle yet determined journey of the tentacle.

          The tentacle reached the box quickly. It brushed up against it, gently prodding the edge, shuddering with anticipation, slipping beneath it, and with one violent movement, exposed its interior to the world.

          A wave of black gushed out of the box, an unyielding shade that swallowed everything it touched. It swallowed the three boys in a flash, growing fat with each morsel, and soon spilled across the room, leaving nothing untouched, nothing uneaten.

          The shadow outside smiled, a thin slit stretched from one side of its head to the other. It had grown dissatisfied with the slow, controlled release of evil into the world, the result of an agreement with the forces of good, and now it wanted more. Now the balance would not be even anymore. Now it would be in favor of chaos.

          The shadow spun around on cloven hooves away from the house as a pair of large curved horns sprouted from its head.

Rick McQuiston is a fifty-five-year-old father of two who loves anything horror-related. He's had over 400 publications so far, and written five novels, thirteen anthologies, one book of novellas, and edited an anthology of Michigan authors. He's also a guest author each year at Memphis Junior High School. Currently, he's working on a new novel.

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