Sample of "Maiden of the Underworld"
A Villain's Story
Horror & Mythology
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From “The Lady of the Flames” by Autumn Lishky
Loowit’s spirit flames dissipated, shrinking her, wrapping her in the cage of squishy flesh before the god Takhoma deposited her halfway down her mountain. She tumbled the rest of the way into the blood spilled from the dark maiden, staining Lootwit’s pale skin and white hair red. Her hands grew wrinkled, lined with blue and spotted with browns. Sagging and knobby bits swayed as she drew to her knees—hard, bony, and restrictive.
The maiden’s heart lay dark against the pale grass at the mountain’s edge—no longer beating, as it had been when the chief of this southern village tore it from her.
Large, rough hands lifted Loowit’s newly gained body, and she wobbled.
“That was a nasty spill, old maid.”
Loowit brewed a sharp look, finding the strong creased lines of the chief’s face. Old Maid. Voice as clear as the River of the Gods, just as it had been when she sat on her mountain to guard it.
He tugged her forward.
Skin moved against the air, and Loowit couldn’t understand how flesh could restrict and expose at once. Gathering herself in her arms, Loowit hobbled with the chief for pure loss at what else to do with her new spongy form.
“What were you doing up there, skyclad?”
Another of her looks scrutinized his face. A relatively young chief, he was old enough for a grown child but not yet for grown grandchildren.
“I was falling.”
He walked her in silence, and her flesh cut open to the rocks and roots underfoot. Beneath, the forest cover grew dark and noisy in the way the open sky and wind cannot be—with crackling, hissing, snapping, and grunting. An eerie sense of danger loomed, gnawing on her heels: the soul of the sacrificed maiden. The same young sunned woman with the midnight hair that danced around her breasts and stomach as she trembled, with the starry eyes telling of true fear.
Hair gathered from her shoulders, the chief drew back her head, sliced into her chest to empty her blood, and removed the maiden’s heart. As purity’s shell fell to the warmed earth, her still beating heart raised in the hands of her keeper, an offering Loowit never wanted. Loowit had cried out in distress, blowing dark smoke out into the air, embers circled her home, and tainted the river with her mourning.
From “Where the Arrow Flies” by Patricia J. Esposito
Claire watched her son flip his spring jacket over his shoulder as he spotted her car in line at the school. He was five years old and had the mannerisms of his father—his father who had left to live elsewhere. She ducked and waved to him, inching forward with the rest of the parents relieved to spot their children.
As he signaled the teacher on duty, the jacket twirled on his finger. She wanted to forget Kevin. She wished Jeremy would lose all resemblance. Clicking open the backdoor, he tossed his backpack inside. The door slammed with a hollow echo.
“Mrs. Cameron read a story today about Apollo.”
Claire handed a juice box back to Jeremy and eyed him in the rearview mirror. His hair was getting long, brushing over his eyes.
“He has this great chariot with fire, and he rides across the sky.” Jeremy’s arms flung out like flames whipping by. “It’s supposed to be the sun,” he said then, with practicality, arms down, hand secure on the juice box.
“A chariot across the sky sounds like glorious fun,” she said.
“Well, it’s kind of his job.” He sipped, the box suctioning in. Claire leaned forward to check traffic, waiting to merge onto the rural route home. “He’s the god of light,” Jeremy continued. “And he has dolphins and crows. Or he turns into … I don’t know. I liked the fire.”
A silver-grey Camaro whipped around the curve just as Claire was about to merge forward. It streamed by, glinting in the low spring sun. A dolphin.
“I think I read your mind today, Jeremy,” Claire laughed, following the slippery dolphin car. “I thought of dolphins.” And crows, she realized. Odd coincidences. Life was funny that way.
Tantalizingly bloody tales featuring human pitted against beast and gods, with the true majesty and horrors of the afterlife, with love and death and desire…
Eight writers modernize ancient mythologies in DISTORTED, proving that not every story has been told.
From “To Sing Which Tune” by Heidi C Vlach
Thinking that way made the truth weigh heavier: Helen might have picked up soda bottles on the beach last week, and worked on biochemical equations last night until her head screamed for mercy. She had stroked her own ego for attending her university’s Sound The Sirens fundraiser gala, one where she wore an actual dress and some mascara. But she wasn’t doing enough.
She couldn’t think of Odyssia’s face without a grey burden of guilt. The face that had beamed all throughout her childhood, crinkled with merriment around her eyes and poured joyous, warbling songs from her lips. Taught Helen songs she hummed offhandedly, even now. But these past few months, Odyssia barely smiled. She stared longer at Helen; like two stars with a void between them.
Sirens attack yacht, 2 dead.
Putting down the newspaper, Helen rose from the kitchen table to go get dressed and do something recklessly expensive. This was a bigger issue than one homicide case. Bigger than the one siren Helen owed a debt of love to. Bigger than her personal credit rating could make a dent in, but she had to try.
From “Bullman” by Anthony S. Buoni
“I’m still not sure it’s a good idea,” Cassandra said, adjusting the top of her black corset. Dressed like a cyber goth club kid, multicolored glow sticks dangled from the zippers and belt on her baggy black pants matched her glowing bracelets, necklaces, and earrings. She scratched her short, spiky black hair with hot pink tips from her eyes before crossing her arms.
Theo wasn’t sure why Icky wanted Europe so bad—Cassandra’s green gaze and hourglass figure made her the prettier of the two. Other than a hint of social awkwardness and her taste for illegal intoxicants, Cassandra was a catch.
“Chicken,” Icky said, clucking.
“Well, what is it?” Ariadne asked. “Going to sit around with your fingers in a bowl of peeled grapes and tell each other stories about vanishing hitchhikers and perverts with hooks for hands attacking Lovers’ Lane?”
“No,” Icky said. “Something way better. We’re driving to Hamilton Heights and looking for the Bullman.”
“The Bullman?” Theo asked conscious of his date’s aggravation. The tale stemmed from a dark page in her family’s history, so he tried downplaying it. “There’s no such thing.”
Everyone knew the town’s most famous urban legend.
Before Ariadne was born, her parents’ first child came into the world stillborn. Refusing any public response or funeral, the prominent family ignored the tragedy, and, as will often happen when scandal rubs elbows with the rich, their terse reaction prompted immediate gossip.
Stories claiming that the child survived began circulating the community. The myth grew, taking on an insidious nature.
The most common account had Ariadne’s mom falling in love and fornicating with their prize winning snow-white bull, resulting in the birth of a ferocious monster. Fearing disgrace, Judge Hamilton ordered the creature destroyed. Their doctor, taken by the genetic anomaly and unable to terminate the atrocity, gave the creature to hobos living in scattered shacks dotting the dense woods outside of town so he could study it in secret.
According to rumors, the creature matured and now lurked the forest near Cretan Road andHamilton Heights, a sprawling park on the lake bordering the state’s thick wilderness. Campers and hikers would return from the forest with stories of a hairy, malformed creature stealing food and gear from their campsites before scurrying off into the brush. Once in a while, someone would vanish in the woods, and parents told their kids that the Bullman roamed the neighborhood streets after sunset, stealing and devouring misbehaving children.
No one ever managed to photograph the thing.
No footprints emerged in the rich, dark soil or red clay hills surrounding Hamilton Heights.
Despite a lack of hard evidence, the stories lingered on the public tongue, whispers spoken around crackling campfires and in tight alleyways.
The Hamilton family did not appreciate the yarn and ignored the accounts, debunking them whenever the newspaper reported sightings or ran spotlights for their Halloween editions.
Of all the embarrassing things that could go wrong on a first date with Ariadne Hamilton, Theo couldn’t think of anything worse than Icky seeking out her fabled brother.