tiny frights vol. 2 no. 1
… to the third issue of tiny frights! Some familiar names are found in this issue, including Mort Duffy, Eve Ott, and Jason Ryberg, as well as new (to us) writers such as David Estringel and Cecilia Kennedy. Also, we right an ancient (six month old) wrong by publishing a poem by Douglas Domingues that was accidentally left out of the previous issue.
Verity, Hollow Doll’s microfiction “Wasp” for insects, body horror, trypophobia.
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(I don’t add content warnings, but if authors/artists do, I will include them.)
A word about the next issue
tiny frights will be open for submissions from May 1st to September 30th for the Halloween 2023 issue. I’m particularly interested in reviews of horror media: books, movies, music, art, and so on.
And, as always, I want good, short poetry, microfiction, and visual art. Especially art. Very little of that in this issue.
That’s it. Creepy reading!
– Carl Bettis, 4/30/2023
Art, Fiction & Poetry
nekasroF Don't you dare to stare me In this deplorable state Covered in blood Whose it is I bet you know So close your eyes To avoid the horror Of having to face me Leave me alone You know I deserve to be All by myself This side of the mirror — Douglas Domingues
by David Estringel
Candle flames speak in sparks and sputters, filling the air with chatter and the scent of dime store roses. Nine glasses, kissed by fresh rue leaf and cigar smoke, are filled with cool water, crowning the tabletop, and sparkling—on white linen—to a playful dance of religion, shadows, and sacred fire. One by one, we place flowers, reverently, like prayers into an old vase, invoking loved ones with showers of velvet and petal, paving their ways, smoothly, back to us, back home.
Daisies for happiness. Hyacinth for direction. Lilies to never forget.
Then, we light the palo santo to disperse the shade—for devils, inside and out, above and below.
Carefully, cracked plates of braised pork, fish head stew, and fried plantains are lined up on the floor between cups of beer, wine, and cool water—the largest, one of rum with a lit cigar on top. Nine taps of the opa iku—stick of the dead—calls them to order, to us, and to their dumb supper: all within the confines of moons and suns drawn on the floor with powdered eggshell—cascarilla—in the corner of my kitchen near the pantry door that sticks. Silently, we watch for messages—mensajes—that tell us the curtain’s been crossed…and wait.
Bubbles going up mean prayers rising to Heaven. Bubbles going down, something evil’s near. Hand on my shoulder…they’re here.
[Originally published at Hispanecdotes]
by Verity, Hollow Doll
CW: insects, body horror, trypophobia
There's a wasp living on your neck. You feel that incessant pain where it clings to you, chewing your skin into the muscle underneath. You’d swat it if you weren't afraid of the sting, so you endure the pain for fear that you will suffer more should you seek relief. You're grateful that it hasn't bitten your carotid as it crawls in your flesh.
Your friends tried to remove it, but you stopped them until they stopped trying, then stopped inviting you, then stopped texting you back. You continued to accept your suffering.
It came as a surprise when you woke up and didn't feel the bite of your companion digging into your neck. You went to the mirror to inspect the damage, and recoiled in shock to find what the wasp had left behind. A lattice of white globes surrounded by brown paper was embedded in your neck. A nest, and as soon as you had recovered from your screaming, you saw the first of the pearls split open as a new insect crawled out, soaked in your blood.
The eggs hatched, crawling out of their nest and on to your skin. You turned on your phone and shined a light on the nest. Dozens of holes went deep inside you, revealing gore-slick bone at the bottom.
Your concentration was broken by a bite. Then another, then another. The bites of the young wasps burned even more, and there were so many of them.
You sobbed, praying that they would gnaw through your arteries this time.
realization the wood tick’s death lasts as long as mine — sylvester hobson
The Welcoming Committee
by Cecilia Kennedy
In Culcreed County, no one greets the move-ins, but there’s a forest that beckons with its branches. I park my car next to the corn fields and walk the dirt path to the trail that leads further in. Red-berry bushes stand guard on either side, and I make note of them, as a trail marker.
Thirty minutes in. There’s nothing but a straight path and branches that curl overhead. Sunlight pours in through the spaces, cutting patterns on my skin. It shouldn’t be that hard, if I get tired, to turn back, walk in a straight line.
The air shifts. The shadows on my skin lengthen. I turn to head back, but the path grows hazy.
Branches stretch out, an offering, an open palm. I look for the berry bushes. I see them ahead, too soon, I think.
The path wavers, floats, becomes iridescent. No cornfields, no road. Behind me, nothing but dirt, with the clouds hanging low. The ground shifts, and I can’t tell which end is up.
I see the red-berry bushes and run for the car, but the path lengthens again, with only waxy leaves. Lying down, face up, I drop berries into my mouth. They taste like everything I’ve ever imagined poison to be. My hands turn purple, and I throw them up over my head, let them fall between the leaves—listen for a rustle—and a voice: Mom, is that another dead hand? And a reply: Yes. The forest is full of them.
Welcome Icy-fingered sleep appears dragging her heavy shadow over my body until it forgets to be me. — Mort Duffy
Attempted Escape Foiled The conflict between longing and rage too much for him to bear, he drove to her house, rang the bell, and shot her before fear finished widening her eyes. Without the rage the longing dropped him to his knees. — Eve Ott
The Forever Apocalypse The cataclysm hides until you're not ready to receive it, until you're innocent, until you've obeyed the command to become as a little child, found again Beginner's Mind, your spirit a pool clear and still, and then it is there comes a thump on the porch. If you're old enough, you might for a second think it's the newspaper landing, until you think. Curious as a toddler, you open the door. The small thing there is alive but wounded beyond healing, moaning beyond comfort, clumps of fur sticking to the wood when its limbs twitch. This is your creature, and you must bring it inside, live with what you've made it, or shut the door, knowing it will disappear by morning, and you can hose away the hair, the blood, the stain. — Carl Bettis
The Word on the Streets There’s been strange rumors floating around (since the beginning, they say), that Death, himself, has been writing a tell-all memoir about all of us, meaning those of us, at least, with what they call agency and the intentional stance, freedom of choice and some capacity for morality, and they say the word on the streets is that he thinks we’re all just a bunch of sick fucks. — Jason Ryberg
for night terrors motion's third law: limbs against floor sheets against wall a lurching crawl a stinging bite a plea for light — endless forms [“for night terrors” is licensed under a CC-BY license]
The Yawning Grave What waits (for you) beyond cold reliefs of endless sleep and the gossip of earthworms? I scry the shadows (for answers) stretching ‘cross your new marriage bed— a stone for a pillow and blanket of red posey— but they scurry and scatter like children with the rolling of clouds across the sun. How I long for the cradle of loving arms and the smell of kitchen on your clothes. Though I hear the beckoning of the yawning grave, wailing and ached, like a baby bird awaiting its first taste of flesh, I will not take its hand nor tarnish my finger with its dubious promise. Summer is no time for the cold. — David Estringel [originally published at Beyond the Veil Press]
Malvinia Patterson, English Teacher Picture Ivanka Trump, but older, thinner, paler, more steely-eyed, and grimmer, with longer, sharper nails and teeth, and then you have Malvinia. Each day in class she lowers the shade to block the bright Orlando sky. A few fluorescent lights flicker. Her students are noted for their palor. Each day she has them close their eyes as she recounts dreadful literary scenes— the walling up in “Cask of Amontillado,” the removal of a cat’s eye in “Black Cat.” DeSantis doesn’t dare touch her curriculum. Those who protest are sent to a dark cloakroom, some never to return. As for lively discussions, are you kidding? Everything is gloom and tomb, her words like footsteps ascending a dark stairway, her nails on the blackboard like the screech of ravens as she rants about commas, colons, conjunctions, pronouns, parallelism, personification. Papers come back specked with red—frag! sp! ref!— and renderings of crow sounds—awk, awk, awk! No wonder kids call English their worst subject. No wonder they are using math. — Patricia Lawson
Night Comes Down Cows doze along one side of the barb-wire, tombstones on the other, a few ragged leaves and a cigarette wrapper scurry across the highway, a skittish breeze is playing a child’s game in the corn-rows while rattling all the skeletal trees out behind the house like a forest of spears. It’s true, out here on the prairie, night comes down before you even know it. — Jason Ryberg
The Language of Angels I write the language of angels with the red ink of your body. Who could have guessed that such colors were locked up hidden within your lovely form? I've opened many such boxes some older, weathered others newer and taut. But the colors within are vibrant blues, greens, yellows. The shapes are exquisite. Nature is a marvelous artist. Painter, sculptress, gastronomique. The smells, the smells! Pungent and thick. Each organ gives its own gifts. Like any good dish It is best to eat while it's hot. Decay sets in after a few days and the dish is spoiled. — John Alex Hebert [This poem previously appeared on the Ghoulish Discord]
About the contributors
Only contributors who provided a bio are listed below. If you sent a bio and I lost it, please accept my apologies.
Carl Bettis (he/him), the editor of tiny frights, is a software engineer and writer in Kansas City, MO. He is also the tech guy for Riverfront Readings (https://riverfrontreadings.com)
Douglas Domingues is a Brazilian author living in São Paulo. He mostly writes bizarro fiction short stories in Portuguese, but is adventuring himself to publish in English these days. He'd like to say he's the king of self-deprecation, but he doesn't think he's that good at it. Domingues has two self-published books because self-publishing became too easy. He will keep publishing as long as he can. Nobody cares.
Mort Duffy cultivates a rich inner life, finding the external world too drearily real. He collects sensations and dreams. His ambition is to one day become a stray thought that troubles a stranger's mind before disappearing into the ether.
David Estringel is a Xicanx writer/poet with works published in literary publications, such as The Opiate, Azahares, Cephalorpress, Lahar, Poetry Ni, DREICH, Somos En Escrito, Ethel, The Milk House, Beir Bua Journal, and The Blue Nib. His first collection of poetry and short fiction, Indelible Fingerprints, was published April 2019, followed by Blood Honey and Cold Comfort House in 2022. David has written three poetry chapbooks, Punctures (2019), PeripherieS (2020), and Eating Pears on the Rooftop (2022). His new book of micro poetry little punctures will be released in December 2022. Connect with David on Twitter @The_Booky_Man and his website www.davidaestringel.com.
endless forms is a fractal, delirious actress, a dusking peculiar mood. she writes on cohost.org/endlessforms; a blend of poems, fiction, and stream of thought.
John Alex Hebert is currently navigating the Sensorium and denying the programming of the biological imperative.
Verity, Hollow Doll is a microfiction writer who writes stories of horror, trauma, and coping with the loss of personhood. Its work has been featured in the anthology Emptied Spaces and can be found on Twitter @DollVerity and on tumblr @verity-hollow-doll.
sylvester hobson is a mammal of genus homo, species sapien, who aspires to become a holy fool. he writes when the words rise within him.
Cecilia Kennedy (she/her) is a writer who taught English and Spanish in Ohio for 20 years before moving to Washington state with her family. Since 2017, she has published stories in international literary magazines and anthologies. Her work has appeared in Maudlin House, Tiny Molecules, Rejection Letters, Kandisha Press, Ghost Orchid Press, and others. You can follow her on Twitter (@ckennedyhola) and Instagram (@ceciliakennedy2349).
Jason Ryberg is the author of fifteen books of poetry, six screenplays, a few short stories, a box full of folders, notebooks and scraps of paper that could one day be (loosely) construed as a novel, and, a couple of angry letters to various magazine and newspaper editors. He is currently an artist-in-residence at both The Prospero Institute of Disquieted P/o/e/t/i/c/s and the Osage Arts Community, and is an editor and designer at Spartan Books. His latest collection of poems is The Great American Pyramid Scheme (co-authored with W.E. Leathem, Tim Tarkelly and Mack Thorn, OAC Books, 2022). He lives part-time in Kansas City, MO with a rooster named Little Red and a billygoat named Giuseppe and part-time somewhere in the Ozarks, near the Gasconade River, where there are also many strange and wonderful woodland critters.
About tiny frights
tiny frights is a free e-zine, published on the tiny frights website, via Substack, and in EPUB and PDF formats. No print edition is planned.
The zine is published twice a year, appearing at the end of April (Walpurgis Night) and the end of October (Halloween).
Facebook: tiny frights
Editor, publisher, social media team, and webmaster: Carl Bettis.
Thanks for reading tiny frights! Subscribe for free to receive new posts and support my work.