(Content warning: death, suicide, incest, rape, murder, and other assorted morbid trash.)

15. What Remains

My neighbor ran after the garbage men screaming, “Stop! Stop! He’s in there!” after they took her trash. All three of them are throwing bags and boxes out onto the street, poking around in the back of the truck trying to find him.

16. Hungry

Tanks have come to confiscate all civilian arms; suspicions arise as pets start to go missing, then small children. On the news to follow are warnings about an overpopulation of ‘alligators’ in the area and food scarcity drawing them to our doors; they line the streets; we can’t leave our houses, and no one else is coming.

17. Reap

The book explains, accidents and events are not coincidences. It goes on to say, we’re entering into thinly veiled times where no one can hide from karmic consequences.

18. Man

I am certain a man is following me; I stare at him, and he skips maniacally, piercing me with his eyes and sharp hinging movements; when I glance from my peripheral he bounds towards me, and I’m not sure which of the two is worse. If I turn my back he is right on me with his putrid breath, hot and invasive, insisting I fold myself up into—‘this bag.’

19. Foul Play

They exhumed the body during the trial. It looked exactly as it had the day it was buried, except the head was replaced with a balloon full of human tongues.

20. Last Request

“They’re coming to steal my carbon.” My grandpa gasped before he died and pleaded, “Don’t let the worms get inside me.”

21. Visitation

A sharp click wakes me, and under me is an uncomfortable bed I don’t recognize; a spotlight illuminates something across an unfamiliar room—my sister in a coffin, all bloated and blue. The light snaps off as I realize I’m lying in one too.

22. Hellhound

A black dog keeps appearing everywhere I go, peeking at me from around corners, sitting in odd places and in awkward positions as if waiting poised for something. One morning a foul odor descends as I leave my house; I hear the dog panting as it advances, but I can’t see where it’s coming from, can only hear it snarl, feel it ripping as I fall and am pulled away.

23. Grave

A man in a floppy brown hat is digging with his back turned. Two young boys playing far from home call out to him, and when he doesn’t reply they throw rocks; still the man, waist deep in a hole, holds tight to his shovel pushing the blade in deeper and deeper.

24. Call the Morgue

I slid the razor blade down my arms, vertical. The way the exasperated EMT showed me would work.

25. Incest

My father has been raping me for years. After I got pregnant, he took me to get an abortion; the doctor told me I was lucky to have his support.

26. Decay

There is a lady stumbling up from the lake towards my house. It looks like she’s been down there a while.

27. Sentient

A grasshopper flew into my windshield. He’s alive and gesturing towards his crushed abdomen.

28. Strike

A boy dropped a bowling ball out a ten story window. Below everyone gathered for Macy’s Day Parade.

29. Gangrene

When I was playing by the train tracks, rebar punctured my boot and went all the way through my foot. Without looking or telling anyone, I went to bed with my boot on that night.

30. F5

A cloud outside my car window looks like a fishing hook; I see it creeping out of the corner of my eye as my dad drives faster. Houses with families inside start to break open as tornado sirens sound.

31. No Disclosure

Taking note of the low price, I ask the realtor about the smell and brown stain. She smiles and says, “The seller is installing all new carpet!”

32. Boo

My mother-in-law gifted me a vintage doll that looks just like her. I keep throwing it out, and it keeps coming back more twisted and mangled each time.

33. End Credits

The mirror in my hallway broadcasts a mini movie of how my friend will die. I don’t look into it anymore.

34. Say Ahh

I wake up from the anesthetic with a mouth full of gauze. I try to speak but find my lips have been replaced with a zipper; when I get them open, all that is left inside are thirty-two empty sockets.

35. Morse Code

I feel a tapping inside my ribcage. Whatever it is, I think it wants out.

36. Heinous

A tree in a painting of an old plantation house changes with the seasons. Bodies come and go and kick and sway as the man on the porch puffs his pipe rhythmically, watching.

37. A Guest

Before I turn my key in its lock, I hear my front door’s deadbolt slide open. I live alone.

38. Fading Kitten Syndrome

It was a hard labor for my cat; two babies were too cold, and we couldn’t warm them. After they died I heard them crying at night to come back inside.

39. Afterlife

The worm said, “Welcome to Hell. Your options are: stay awake and watch the movie of your daughter’s life on repeat or forever choke suspended above a smoldering fire.”

40. No Loophole

I regretted taking my own life as I relived the day again and again. When I asked the red man when it would stop he snapped, “Suicide is infinite.”

41. Waiting

Everyday vultures gather in a tree above my son’s sandbox. When I shoo them they don’t rustle, and I swear I hear their almost inaudible whispers of his name dripping off their beaks.

42. Boy Burger or Grilled Girl

After Mr. Lock’s barber shop went out of business, he questioned the town’s loyalty. Despite the numerous cases thereafter of missing children and the dark cloud that had settled over the mourning townspeople, Mr. Lock’s new food truck became a booming success.

43. Please Stop

The hem of my dress caught in the doors as they closed. The subway began to move as I screamed out to the people inside to pull the emergency brake, but there was no one there.

44. Malnourished

A hole formed in the middle of my kitchen floor, and as I picked to resolve it, it grew, a pungent gape. A voice from somewhere inside it demanded—“Feed me or be eaten!”

Image credit:Robert Zunikoff

Kaci Skiles Laws is a closet cat-lady and creative writer who reads and writes voraciously in the quiet moments between motherhood and managing Crohn's Disease. She was a 2023 winner for Button Poetry's short form contest, and her short story Eugene was nominated for a pushcart prize in 2022 by Dead Skunk Mag. Her most recent poetry has appeared in 3Elements Review, River Teeth Journal, Blood Tree Literature, and elsewhere. Her poetry books, "Strange Beauty" and "Summer Storms" are available on Amazon, and her most recent chapbook, "Smile, Child" is available from Bottlecap Press.