worst fear? Got two. First . . . a power outage.
The Big One: where it’s dark all over,
like in Deep
Space. And sweltering, ‘cos it’s summer. You’re scared the power will never come
Finding a corpse.
Not walking in Grandma’s room after
stopped in her sleep. Finding a gruesome body. Maybe murdered. But no accident.
Now put them together.
That huge blackout, back in August
2003? The day it happened (at 4:10 PM),
I’d called in sick. On Manny’s (my married guy) last day at work. How proud I’d
been that I’d stood him up for lunch. But he never showed up, period.
“’Mail me my check,’”
Kitsy, our coworker had
mimicked, when I called. “’Good riddance to that psycho.’”
Meaning me. Thanks, Kitsy.
At 4 PM, I was trashed, bawling my heart
in the background. Cold beers, but I would’ve drunk them piss-warm. Icy Jager
shots. I was wailing along with “Free Byrd” as I opened the freezer once more.
That horrific “Beep!” as the
A/C and music died. My
“’Fly . . . high’” came out flat. No guitars, or twangy voices to save me.
“No!” I screamed. Instantly,
it felt hot. Like I
was floating in warm beer. I rushed to the window.
Outside, neighbors were bitching. The traffic
lights were out. My whole block was fucked.
Mine, and who else’s?
No TV to hear the news, no phones. Back
had no cell. Not even a basic one.
How long would this last?
I’d leave. Better hot, fresh air than
I’d head over to my friend Freddy’s. His landlady had a pool.
Outside, Raoul, my super, was with a cop.
all over,” Raoul told me, “Radios say halfway across the country! To Ohio.” The
cop looked grim.
This was Jersey. Neighbors in cars listened
their radios. Bad news everywhere: cancelled flights, halted trains, traffic
jams. Over in the City: pandemonium! New York was not the place to be.
Thank God, I thought, I’d caIled in
smug voice maddened me.
But Kitsy, I realized, was trapped at work.
I laughed all the way to Freddy’s.
Back in the 80s, he and I were neighbors,
Jersey City. Drunk every night, usually unemployed, but always there for each
“Don’t be surprised,”
he said, now, “If Kitsy
fucked Manny, too.” On a raft in the landlady’s pool, Freddy sounded relaxed,
I leaned against the pool’s rim. “Think
He sat up and sipped from a tiki bar glass.
All his landlady’s shit, he used:
pool, propane grill. Maybe that deep freezer in her cellar, too.
But this yard was a fool’s paradise.
Mrs. Ward was
a real slob. Till her dog died, there’d been turds all over the grass, ‘cos she
was too lazy to walk him in the park. The yard had smelled like shit.
Somehow, it still did.
“Maybe she left meat out to defrost,”
about the smell. “Before she split.”
Mrs. Ward loved travelling. When she wasn’t
a safari or road trip, she was holed up with her creepy professor lover, Chandler.
Once, I’d seen them from Freddy’s
car: A chunky
chick in a Crocodile Dundee hat and an ageless scarecrow with dagger eyes. The
look he gave Freddy chilled me.
“It’s OK, Shelley,” Freddy
said later. It was getting
dark, and the power was still out. Mosquitoes attacked us, and that shit-smell was
still there. “I assume everybody fucks everybody.”
“’Cos you do,” I joked.
“Not everybody,” he said, smirking.
“But guess who?”
I knew it. “Dagger Eyes?”
We howled with laughter.
“But he got the guilts,” Freddy
said. “A closet
case. So, we made like it never happened. Some guys,” he added, “Go nuts over
I sipped my drink. “Some guys are
“You hungry? There’s steaks
in her Deep Freeze.”
Steaks. If he wasn’t gay, I’d
say he fucked Safari
“They’ll only go bad.”
He got up and stretched. “Flashlight’s
around, somewhere. Can you fire up the grill?”
I was too drunk to, especially in the dark.
And why did we still smell shit?
When he opened the cellar door, the smell
bad, I actually sobered up.
“Oh, my God!” He gagged.
In the shadows, what looked like a severed
was the Crocodile Dundee hat. But the head couldn’t be far. So many bloody
knives, all over.
The beam from the flashlight showed blood
dripped down the freezer, adding to the foul puddle beneath it.
Freddy’s hand shook so the beam danced
cellar. When we saw what hung from the overhead hook, we grabbed each other.
Some guys, Freddy had said, go nuts over
Pantyhose tied around the throat. Nail marks
swollen, purple cheeks. And, in the scarecrow’s eyes, the power had gone out.
Cindy is a Jersey
looks like a Mob Wife and talks like Anybodys from West Side Story. Her
noir/horror/bizarro stories have been published in the coolest places, such as Shotgun
Honey; Megazine; Dark Dossier; Horror, Sleaze, Trash;
and Rock and a Hard Place. She is the editor/art director of Yellow
Mama and the art director of Black Petals. Her seventh collection of
short stories, Backwards: Growing Up Catholic, and Weird, in the 60s (Hekate
Publishing), will be out, soon! Cindy is a Gemini, a Christian, and an animal
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 Easy, Thuggish
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