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

Charles C. Cole: The Incident With the Mismatched Man

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Art by Wayne F. Burke 2024

“The Incident With the Mismatched Man”

 

Charles C. Cole

 

What follows is a heretofore little-known supernatural disaster, an explosion in an illegal mine being quietly carved out of the base of a sacred mountain by prison labor.

Many had their bodies fragmented by an intense percussive wave. Pieces, those still identifiable, were collected and saved in a large, refrigerated warehouse with the intent of later collating the remains into piles which best represented individuals.

Though few realized it at the time, the explosion had been due to a pressurized pocket of trapped “proto-creation vapor,” PCV, being pierced by a pick. Except for this incident, PCV has been only dreamt of, an extreme theoretical notion of prehistorical forces in place on newly formed earth.   

Limbs were saturated by a potent mixture not seen on earth’s surface in hundreds of thousands of years, thus imbued with raw life-energy in such a fashion that they simply refused to die.

Instinctively, a leg found another leg which found an arm and another arm and a torso, all from different men. One hand was milky white with the long soft fingers of a visiting administrator, while another hand was bruised and rough, having been attached to one of the laborers. One leg was thick and short while its companion was long and lean.

While the magic coursed through them, these segments were able to reassemble themselves into a single body, mismatched and awkward.

“I was the first,” said Caleb Landry. “We immediately started loading limbs like cord wood into these wagons we towed with golf carts. Squint, grab, toss. Everything smelling like copper.

“The foreman took a load and left me. I could see the hole in the wall where something had burst into the tunnel. The walls were smooth and glittery. I got dizzy and backed away, thinking maybe it was some kind of gas pocket.

“That’s when I heard movement around a bend and saw light approaching. It was pretty obvious this was not a victim in the ordinary sense. The ‘lantern as a head’ might have been funny at a party, but it scared me. I think it kept approaching because it wanted to get out of there as badly as I did.

“No eyes or ears, it must have found me through vibrations in the rock, from my screaming. I tried being still and quiet. It worked. It went wandering by. I tossed some debris, giving the thing incentive to keep going.

“About then, the foreman returned. He had a fresh shirt on, so I figured he’d probably thrown up on the first one. He let out a yelp I can still hear today. So, it headed right for him! He jumped out of the cart and double-timed back the way he’d come, probably looking for a fresh pair of pants this time.

“I couldn’t let it get to the surface. People see this headless zombie, they’re gonna say the place is cursed. Many hard workers would lose their livelihood, including me, such as it was. I honked the horn of the golf cart, and company came calling.

“I figured the best thing to do, as cruel as it sounds, was to draw it into the pocket and then close the wall around it. It was that or torch the thing to cinders, which I didn’t have the stomach for.

“I had a two-way radio. I turned it on with the volume up full. It crackled to life. I tossed it into the hole. The thing walked right to the edge – and hesitated. Did it know it was a trap? Or was it just in awe of the gas that had manufactured it?

“With all the muscle I could muster, I shoved it in. It fell. The lantern head crashed off its shoulders. While it was disoriented, I jumped in the golf cart and rammed the already weakened wall, making a mess, but doing the trick.

“The agitated foreman came back with reinforcements. ‘Where is it?’ he asked. ‘Where it can’t bother anyone,’ I said. ‘Guess we’re gonna be a few parts short,’ he said. ‘Guess we are,’ I said.

“Over the following weeks, the replacement people heard rustling behind the wall. I told them it was bats.”

 

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Charlie lives in the Maine woods and loves cats. He’s had over 30 pieces published in Black Petals, the last being pre-COVID, in 2017.

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