Black Petals Issue #101 Autumn, 2022

Editor's Page
Mars-News, Views and Commentary
BP Artists and Illustrators
Dig Deep, the Therapist Said: Fiction by Hillary Lyon
Dinner Club: Fiction by Mark Jabaut
God of the Winds: Fiction by Scáth Beorh
Head Pot: Fiction by Spencer Harrington
His Deadly Muse: Fiction by Roy Dorman
Patrick Hatrick: Fiction by Bruce Costello
Squawking Chimes: Fiction by Robert Pettus
The Courier: Fiction by Billie Owens
The Midnight Sonata: Fiction by David Hopewell
The Wolves are Coming: Fiction by Mauri Orr Stone
Abduction: Flash Fiction by Laura Nettles
I'm Your Garlic:Flash Fiction by Ron Capshaw
Ho/Ma:i - (Ho-maaa-ee): Flash Fiction by Rani Jayakumar
Mona Wants to Die, but She Lets the Weather Decide:Flash Fiction by Riham Adly
The Cookie Crumbles: Flash Fiction by Cindy Rosmus
The Right Knife: Flash Fiction by David Barber
A Devilish Matter of Disinvitation: Poem by Carl E. Reed
Abhor the Light!: Poem by Carl E. Reed
Shadow House-A Writer's Retreat: Poem by Carl E. Reed
Accursed Personae: Three excerpted Poems by Isaac Stackhouse Wheeler
Remember When We Watched "Kill Bill" Together: Poem by C. Renee Kiser
I Die, You Die: Poem by Joseph V. Danoski
Northbound Train: Poem by Joseph V. Danoski
The Haunted Liquor Cabinet: Poem by Joseph V. Danoski
The Candlelight Killer: Poem by Kenneth Vincent Walker
Wooden Soldiers: Poem by Kenneth Vincent Walker
The Curse of Verse: Poem by Kenneth Vincent Walker
When a Star Dies: Poem by Kenneth Vincent Walker

Billie Owens: The Courier

Art by Wayne F. Burke © 2022

The Courier




Billie Owens



    It was his first thought. Not in a serious way, of course, not really. But the second Cutter looked up from the road and saw those strange twin yellow lights fixed firmly between black and heavy clouds, that was what had immediately flickered up in his mind.


    To say it had been anything else would be a lie. 

Cutter had just passed through Yuma and was now driving up the I-8 at a rigid 75 miles per hour, exactly the speed limit. His headlights, taillights, brake lights, turn signals- all working perfectly and, in the case of the turn signals, being used religiously. He had no intention of being pulled over now. 

    He’d gotten through four different border patrol checkpoints- including the one at the actual border. There were two big German shepherds there, nosing around either side of his ‘17 Kia Optima, each being handled by a stone-faced police academy reject. 

    It’ll be fine, it’ll be fine, it’ll be fine-

    The officer in front peered into the car from Cutter’s open window, chewing gum in the smacking, open-mouthed way rude children do. He looked him up and down. 

    “American citizen?” 

    Cutter showed him his passport. 

    Between smacks, the officer glanced up at the other two with the dogs. Cutter’s heart was pounding but his face was casual, relaxed, almost bored. He’d been at this job for the better part of a year now, and this part was always the scariest and most exciting; it made him think maybe he should’ve tried acting when he was younger. Shit, maybe he still could. Didn’t that one guy from Home Improvement get busted that one time for-?

    Suddenly Cutter snapped back to reality. The gum-chewing guy was finally waving him by. 

    Cutter tipped him a finger and drove. As he crossed into the US he couldn’t help but grin to himself. He was good at this. Shit, maybe he would try acting some time. But first- 

    Yes. First he had to get to Phoenix- 

    Meet up with Retch- 

    Make his drop-

    Get paid-

    So yeah. No. He had no intention of being pulled over now over a broken taillight or headlight or being caught going just a little too fast in front of a cop that was just a little too bored-

    No. Not a chance. Because- 


    Because under his seat- meticulously Saran-wrapped and stuffed into an airtight compartment cut right into the floorboard of the sedan- was eighteen raw pounds of hot, pure Mexican crystal meth. 

It’s not a plane. They’re just sitting there. 

    Cutter’s eyes were like those tacky old cat clocks, darting to the left to look at the lights in the sky, then quickly darting back right, to the road, to make sure he wasn’t drifting into the other lane. Back and forth and back and forth and back and forth. 

    Some kind of electrical tower or something? 

    It couldn’t be. The lights were high, high enough to be level with the clouds, which had only recently begun to clear after a desert rainstorm which had left the road slick and shiny in his headlights. 

    Two small circles of light in the sky, smaller than the moon but bigger than any star Cutter had ever seen, and yellow, like the warm glow of a lightbulb you’d find screwed into a lamp on your bedside table. They weren’t moving. They weren’t blinking. They were just...hanging there.  And they were bright. Cutter had never seen anything like it. 

    What the fuck…

    Suddenly the car was shuddering with the rapid thud-thud-thud-thud-thud of-

    “Fuck!” he hissed, and swerved back into his lane. Dammit! he cursed himself. What the fuck is wrong with you? After all that back there, after all that, you wanna fuckin run yourself off the fuckin road staring up at a fuckin airplane-

    But his eyes were already drifting back up over to the sky. Now one of the lights- the one on the left- was fading, like it was literally burning out. It disappeared. Cutter squinted. Another light, this one slightly below where the other had been- that same yellow hue- sparked into existence, falling downward like a shooting star, then fading out before it could touch the horizon. Was it even far enough to touch the horizon? It’s not a plane, Cutter thought again. And suddenly-


    The second light flicked back up in the sky- 

    “Goddammit!” He cut the wheel again, swerving back into his lane, but this time he had overcorrected. He felt the car sliding too far, hydroplaning-

    Thud-thud-thud-thud-thud-thud- now on the other side of the road-

    The two yellow lights in the sky became three, then four, then eight, then ten- and they were moving now, all in unison, moving down, moving towards him-

    Cutter gripped the steering wheel. His foot stayed off the pedals. The Kia regained its traction and steadied, but Cutter had no time to sigh, because- yes- because the lights were wobbling across the sky and through the clouds, towards-


    Towards him. 

    They were mounted to something, a great big disc-like thing, long and flat and made of black metal, and he could make out blue flames licking out of its smooth plating in a dozen different places; every now and then one of those yellow lights popping off it and falling toward the ground in a flurry of blink-and-you’ll-miss-them sparks and then burning out, and yes, it was, it was a-

    “A flying fuckin saucer! Aliens! I knew-” But the words died in his throat. He hadn’t been serious when he’d thought that earlier, of course not, and-

    “Jesus,” he whispered. “Jesus Christ.”

    It whirred and sputtered, sending a shuddering jolt through Cutter’s entire body as it passed over and in front of him. Cutter whipped his head to the right to follow it, still going his even 75 despite losing control a minute ago. There were more blue flames coming out of the flying saucer now, its wobbling getting more severe, its bulk falling closer and closer and closer to the ground. 


The thing from outer space couldn’t believe what was happening. It belched black foam. A stupid mistake, stupid, and now- 

    Its long green fingers snaked frantically over a thousand strange knobs and levers and buttons. It cursed itself, wheezing, in a cosmic tongue spoken in a frequency that no human ear was capable of picking up. The thing was sick, with what it didn’t know, and-

    Behind it, within the golden walls of the ship, something popped. Smoke began to fill the compartment and what you could call the thing’s lungs. More black foam burst from its maw, splattering onto the glowing displays before it. 

    Oh, this was bad. This was very, very bad. 

    The thing from outer space shut its huge eyes, so black that not even the light from the brightest star in the galaxy could make them shine. 

    Suddenly the smoke stopped. It was like it had hit an invisible wall, and it began to retreat back as the thing’s eyelids fluttered. It hadn’t had to use this power in a long time. 

    Something else popped, this time to its left. Its pulsing green face was suddenly glowing blue from a fire that had started at one of the control panels. Then another. Then another. The thing from outer space had a choice to make. 

    It kept its eyes shut for a millisecond longer, furrowing what one might call its brows. 

    A choice… 

    And all at once the invisible wall was gone and the thing was engulfed in the smoke. 


Cutter watched the flaming disc hurtle to the ground in awe. It was nothing but a field of desert; dirt and cacti and rocks and dry, sparse bushes. The flying saucer exploded on impact, sending up an electric mushroom cloud of cold blue fire and black, heavy smoke. Behind the carnage, a train passed. There was no one else on the road that he could see. And then-


The thing from outer space had never concentrated so hard in its entire life, which had been unfathomably long. 

    It had never been particularly talented at organic teleportation, had never really had much use for it. The thing could never quite land exactly where it had intended. Plus it was sick, so, so sick now. But- 

    As the ground rushed up at it- 

    Impossibly fast- 

    There was no time to- 


And then Cutter couldn’t breathe. It was like in an instant all the air was sucked out of the car. He clawed at the window button, the car swerving again, and this time he didn’t care. A sound like the crack of thunder shook Cutter’s bones, every hair on his body stood up, his balls prickled so far up into his body that they ached, and he couldn’t breathe- 

    Where- Come- ON-


    The window rolled down and strong wind blew his hair back and he gulped deep lungfuls of breath like a man dying of dehydration suddenly given access to a waterfall. In his panic he had floored the gas pedal- he was going 90. He lifted his foot from it, instinctively glancing up at the rear view mirror, and- 


The thing had been aiming for a rocky spot in the clearing, far from where its ship’s wreckage would end up, where the thing could be relatively concealed from any passerby while it regained what strength it could. 

    When it opened its big, impossibly black eyes, it was sitting in something strange and hot and dark and oddly hard yet soft at the same time. The thing knew immediately where it was. It looked up in time to see two weird, widening eyes in the small rectangle of glass up ahead-

    Oh...oh no- 


Cutter saw it. In the rear view mirror. Green oval face, pulsing under the skin as if its veins were made of live worms. Tiny mouth, slightly parted to reveal small serrated teeth, a trickle of black fluid running down from its corner. Big, black eyes. Big, big black eyes. Cutter- 


    And he SLAMMED on the brakes, the tires screeching, his head thrown forward, his seatbelt locking painfully against his chest- 

    The alien in the back seat flew forward- 


    Cutter still screaming, the brakes still locking, the tires still screeching-

    And the alien’s head exploded against the windshield. 


     It was raining again. 

    Cutter’s fingers were wrapped so tightly around the steering wheel he thought the skin on his knuckles would split. His foot was ground into the brake pedal so hard his calf was cramping. He didn’t move. He couldn’t move. He-


    An angry truck blew past him on his left. The Kia was stopped in the middle of the road, engine idling gently, big, fat dollops of rain smacking on the roof and against the windshield. He loosened his grip. 

    Thick, mucusy gore was splattered across the windshield and all over the dash. The alien’s head- what was left of it anyway- rested there in a mound of its own weird brains and bits of bone. Its skull had split open, and was leaking a fluid that glowed a dull, dim purple. Its body bent forward over the heater controls and the center console in a broken cobra pose, its arms hanging limply at either side. Cutter touched his face and was horrified to feel slime. 

    He shrieked and scrabbled furiously for his seatbelt. At last it came undone and he flung the door open and lept out into the rain, scrubbing at his face and at his neck and at his arms. 

    “Ahhhhhh! Ah! AHHHHH!” He danced on the pavement, adrenaline coursing through his veins, feeling like he was going to- 

    He vomited into the rain puddles forming at his feet. His mouth tasted like pickles and battery acid. He held one hand on the car door to steady himself. 

    “Oh Jesus, oh Jesus, what the...” he trailed off. He peered into the car at the corpse. What the fuck, what the fuck, what the fuck, what, in the holy name of fuck and all her disciples, was he gonna do? 

    A million thoughts raced through his head. 


    (That’s a fuckin alien in there-)

    Yeah, obviously, but how-

    (Dead, a dead alien, oh Jesus Christ what the fuck-)

    You have to call someone-

    (Who, like the cops? Did we forget about-) 

    I dunno, the government or something-

    (You have eighteen pounds of glass in there, and you wanna call the-)

    Well you can’t just leave it-

    (Eighteen pounds, eighteen pounds, that’s, what-?)

    Thirty years, thirty years at least-

    (Well you can’t just leave it-)

    I know-

    (And what about Retch-?) 

    The money-

    (You’ll never do a year of that thirty if you fuck this up for Retch-)


    (Remember that Puerto Rican guy a few months back-?)

    Oh Jesus-

    (Got busted with half- shit- less than half-)

    Oh, Jesus, fuck me-

    (Retch had him castrated-) 


Cutter screamed in frustration. He threw a punch at the back window and heard his knuckles crack. 

    “FUCK!” he shouted, cradling his bleeding fist. What was he gonna do?

    Suddenly he heard something. Far away, coming from beyond the paved hill up ahead. But he knew what it was. He knew immediately. 



Cutter didn’t remember getting back in the car. He didn’t remember hauling the corpse up by its armpits- the flesh slick and sickeningly soft, almost gelatinous to the touch- and shoving it into the back seat. Nor did he remember scooping up the strange glowing goo that was its brains and one big black eyeball up off the dashboard in haphazard handfuls and shucking them back over his shoulder into piles on top of the dead alien either. He didn’t remember wiping the black blood off the windshield as best he could with balled up McDonald’s napkins he’d had in the glove compartment, and he didn’t remember pushing the start button on the Kia, accelerating back up to his steady 75mph as a seemingly never ending stream of wailing police cars and fire trucks and ambulances appeared over the hill and barreled up past him toward the fiery blue blaze on the other side of the interstate. But he must’ve done all those things. Because now-

    Now he was cruising once again up the I-8, trailing behind a Wal-Mart semi. A sign came up on his right. Gila Bend, a run-down nowhere-town seated halfway from Yuma to Phoenix, was just fourteen miles away. 

    Cutter breathed. The smell was awful, like a thousand bodies dead for weeks, rotting in wet, warm weather alongside shit and weeks-old fruit. It seemed to be getting worse. 

    He rolled a window down. Breathed deeply as fresh air billowed in. It really only dampened the stench, though. He could feel it burning holes in his septum. 

    I’m gonna go crazy in here. 

    The thought made him laugh. Surely, given the situation, he was already there. 

    His plan was a simple one. Once through the two miles it took to pass through Gila Bend, Cutter would take one of the detours before hitting the 85 toward the I-10, one of those rough dirt roads leading to nothing but desert for miles around. He would drive up maybe a mile, maybe two, and he would bury the corpse. Then he’d drive on to Phoenix and Retch and he would apologize for being late and he would get paid and he would never speak of this to anyone for the rest of his life. Never. 

    He had considered just dumping the body and leaving, just pulling the car off to the side of the road somewhere and hauling the alien out onto the pavement and never looking back, but ruled that thought out as quickly as it came. If forensic cops could lift fingerprints and trace DNA from murdered humans, what did he think fancy government agents could find on a dead alien found in the desert fifty miles away from where its ship had crashed? Cutter had a record. His fingerprints were absolutely sitting in some database, just waiting to be found at some crime scene and send the cops knocking at his cheap, thin, paint-chipped door-

    No. The alien could not be found. 

    The exit was coming up. He lifted his index finger to push the turn signal stick up when- 

    It clicked up. Cutter looked down. He hadn’t touched it yet. 

    I’m going crazy, he thought again. Of course he had touched it. He was just a little on edge. Who could blame him? 

    Cutter took the exit and rolled down into Gila Bend. 

    He didn’t notice the drops of alien blood and flecks of alien brain begin to float up behind him and swirl, swimming through the air and hanging there suspended like drops of dense ink in water. 


The thing from outer space was not alive. It could not move. It could not feel. It had no real consciousness at all. 

    And yet…

    And yet there was something. An essence. Some lingering...something. Like a ghost. 

    The thing from outer space had left something else behind as well.

   In this strange new world, shrouded in darkness as the planet made its nocturnal orbital turn, the virus from outer space glowed a dim, dull purple. 


    Cutter stared nervously up at the headlights reflected in his rear-view mirror. He had turned down the dirt road about a half a mile back, and those headlights had followed him. He kept hoping they would turn at one of the intersections he kept passing on the way, the Kia bumping and grinding with every rock and dip in the road, but they just kept following. 

    Cutter put his blinker on and turned right, hoping the car behind him would just continue going straight. Cutter watched the rear view- 

    The headlights slowed, blinking, then turned into full view in the mirror. It was following him. 

    “What the fuck is your problem?” he muttered.

    Then, as if in answer, Cutter’s worst nightmare- 

    Oh...oh no…

    His stomach instantly filled with lead, his mouth went dry, his head began to pound- 


    Reflected in Cutter’s rear view mirror, strobing with cold, authoritative indifference, were the red and blue lights of a police car. 


“Do you know why I stopped you sir?” 

    Cutter stammered. He was blinded by the shine of the cop’s flashlight. “I...uh…”

    “Your tags,” the cop said, bored and impatient. “They’re two months expired.”

    The tags? Cutter’s stomach lurched. Fuck.

    When Cutter had pulled off and stopped, he’d frantically torn off his jacket and spread it hurriedly over the dead alien. He hoped that would be enough. 

    God, let it be enough. 

    “License and registration please,” the cop said. He was wearing the tan and brown colors of a county sheriff’s deputy. Cutter eyed the gun hanging from his hip warily. 

    Don’t smell it, he prayed. Don’t smell it. Don’t smell it. Don’t smell it.

    Cutter fumbled for his wallet and handed his license to the cop with a weak smile. 

    The cop frowned. “Registration, sir?” 

    Without a word, Cutter reached over to the glove compartment and fingered the latch. It fell open and he dug out the registration and handed it over. The cop took it, not looking away from Cutter’s wide, frantic eyes. 

    “Alright,” his eyes squinting, “I’m gonna need you to step out of the car.” The flashlight trailed off Cutter’s face and shined on the back seat. 

    The cop’s eyes widened. 

    In a heap, the body-shaped mound that lay crumpled under a faded denim jacket was almost comically obvious. The cop’s hand shot to the butt of his gun and it was drawn in a flash. “Freeze! Hands on the wheel, now!” 

    Cutter froze. 

    With his other hand, the cop was already speaking into the radio clipped to his shoulder. “I got a 10-54 out on Copperton going north, I need a 10-35, repeat, 10-54 on-” 

    And suddenly Cutter felt sick. His stomach grated, and-

    Oh, shit, oh, he felt really sick, sicker than he’d been in years, maybe ever. His stomach lurched again, painfully. His hands fell from the steering wheel to clutch at it. 

    “Hey!” The cop’s finger moved down to the trigger “I said freeze!” 

    Cutter looked up at him-

    The cop couldn’t believe what he was seeing. Cutter’s skin was writhing, as if the veins under it were made of live worms. 

    “Oh, god-” the cop said, and then Cutter vomited, black foam bursting from his lips and splattering the cop’s angry face, his alarm turning into real horror. 

    The cop stumbled backwards, his eyes burning where the black foam had leaked into them. “Hey- hey!”

     Cutter had opened his door and fallen out onto the dirt, crawling behind the back of the car. He coughed again and more black foam speckled the rocks in front of his face. 

    The cop fired two shots after him, missing a flailing leg with both but hitting the bottom of his seat with one. Inside the hidden compartment, one of the Saran-wrapped packages of crystal meth was hit. It burst open, spilling white shards of glass into the pool of alien blood- black and swirling with the dull glowing purple liquid that had been leaking out of the alien’s split skull-  blood that was now beginning to seep in from where the bullet had exited. 

    The cop shuffled around the car, gun still drawn and pointing out in a firing position. He rounded the corner at the back of it and- 

    Cutter was sitting in the dirt. His eyes were open, but- 

    “Get your hands where I can see them!” the cop shouted. “Get your fuckin-”

    Cutter didn’t move and- 


    -the cop saw-

    Cutter’s eyes were black. The skin on his face was pulsing. His veins writhing. And- 

    Something bumped against the cop’s cheek. His concentration broke and he looked up. 

   “What the fuck…” 

    All around him, rocks and dirt and that black foam floated and swirled through the air. An empty Coors can touched his knee. Another rock grazed his nose. 

    “What the fuck,” the cop repeated, softly, in shock and awe and wonder and terror. Then- 

    Then Cutter- 

    Closing his eyes-

    Black, black, so black-

    Eyelids fluttering-

    Suddenly the cop began to scream. He tried to grab at his head, where it hurt, it hurt, oh god, it hurt so BAD, but it was like his arms were being held in place by tight, heavy chains. 

    He screamed, and screamed, and his eyeballs began first to leak tears and then leak blood and then finally his eyeballs burst in their sockets, sending trails of blood and gelatinous ocular membrane to hang down his cheeks, and he couldn’t see but he could still feel and it hurt, it HURT, and then the cop began to shriek, and blood poured- sprayed- out of his nose and then out of his ears and then- 

    Blood and brains and bits of bone drenched Cutter’s face as the cop’s head exploded. The cop stood standing for a moment, headless, and then finally his body fell forward onto the dirt with a crunchy thud.

    The desert was silent now.


Cutter buried the cop along with the alien in a grave he dug literally with his bare hands. By the time the last handful of dirt was thrown onto the mound, all of his fingernails had torn off and the tips of his fingers were ragged, bloody stumps. 

    He had coughed up plenty more of the sick, black foam, which at this point had become a steady trickle that leaked out of the corner of his mouth constantly, and when Cutter saw that along with it he was spitting out some of his teeth, he did not react. 

    Aliens, he thought, and then thought nothing else. 


By the time he got back into his car and set out once again for Phoenix and Retch and his payday, the sun was beginning to rise. Once, as he drove, he craned his neck up to the rear view mirror so he could see himself. He looked away immediately. His skin was pulsing, translucent, sagging, seeming almost to be melting off his face.

    The veins swimming underneath. 

    The foam bubbling out between his lips. 

    His eyes- black, black, oh, god, so-


As Cutter passed the sign that said Phoenix was now only 37 miles away, he spat out the last of his teeth. It was a molar. It landed in one of the cup holders below the gear shift. It was black and pitted and stinking. 

    Then Cutter realized something.


    All that, after alllllll that- 

    He began to laugh. A shrill, shrieking, hysterical laugh. He went on laughing until another spurt of black foam choked him on its way out between his lips, splattering the windshield and running down onto the dash like seafoam off a coastal rock. And then Cutter went on laughing. 

    He had forgotten to do something about the cop car. It was still just sitting there out in the desert, its drivers’ side door ajar, parked and alone and collecting dust on the side of a road he didn’t know the name of. 

    He laughed, and he laughed, and he laughed- 

    Alllllllll that, after allllllllll THAT-

    Cutter came up behind a slow Amazon truck. Still cruising at that rigid 75mph, he flicked on his turn signal. He slid over to the next lane. Passed the truck. Flicked the turn signal again. And slid back over. 

    Allll that, after-

    (Alllll that, after-)



    And then Cutter began to scream. 

    But still he drove.


Under his seat, inside that hidden airtight compartment cut into the floorboard of the sedan, the meth that had spilled out into the alien’s blood rattled softly with the vibrations of the road.

    It glowed a dim, dull purple.

Billie Owens is a writer of horror fiction and poetry. He has been previously published by Honey and Honey Publishing, an indie publisher located in Phoenix, AZ. He is also not real. Those scratching sounds? Don’t you worry about that, dear; it’s probably just the house settling. 

Now go to sleep.

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