Raves For Me!

12 10 2023

Here is an ARC reader reviewing “Saints of Flesh” on Goodreads!

and here is a fan comment on BlueSky!

The Saints Are Here. Reality Will Never Be The Same.

19 09 2023

Olivia sat waiting fifty years for her daemon lover to return. When someone, somehow, steals her way to find him, she possesses a desperate woman as a catspaw. Their revolting discoveries change reality.

Available NOW on Kindle and in paperback! The sequel to the lauded novel “The Flesh Sutra”.

Amazon.com: Saints of Flesh: The Flesh Sutra Sequel eBook : Burke, Tim: Kindle Store

Today, Celebrate The Saints Of Flesh

19 09 2023

An undead sorceress in San Francisco needs her daemon lover. But some fool stole her only way to find him. To find him, she possesses a cancer patient. What they find is a new hell within….

Amazon.com: Saints of Flesh: The Flesh Sutra Sequel eBook : Burke, Tim: Kindle Store

Tomorrow, The Tumors Decide If You Have Ever Existed

17 09 2023

Gothic Body Horror meets Weird Fiction.

She wants him back. Someone stole her way to find him. Would *they* allow her to exist?

Amazon.com: Saints of Flesh: The Flesh Sutra Sequel eBook : Burke, Tim: Kindle Store

Will YOU Still Exist?

17 09 2023

Two days until Saints of Flesh!

The tumors awake and will create a new age.

Will *you* still exist?

Amazon.com: Saints of Flesh: The Flesh Sutra Sequel eBook : Burke, Tim: Kindle Store

New Book Launch! “Saints of Flesh” Pre-Order Link!

7 09 2023

The sequel to “The Flesh Sutra” launches on September 19. This standalone novel follows Olivia Cormier Spalding on a quest for lost love and stolen keepsakes. It is a Gothic Body Horror with a frisson of The Weird. Ebooks can be pre-ordered at Amazon. Paperback available September 19.

Amazon.com: Saints of Flesh: The Flesh Sutra Sequel eBook : Burke, Tim: Kindle Store

If you need to indulge in this gruesome, beautiful world, the Stoker long-listed “The Flesh Sutra” awaits. Ebook or Paperback.

Amazon.com: The Flesh Sutra eBook : Burke, Tim W.: Kindle Store

Working On A Gross Short Story. This Is My Process.

21 08 2023
I based my kaiju on sea slugs.
Photo by Thomas Bannenberg on Pexels.com

Since watching “Cloverfield” many years ago, I thought the most interesting thing about kaijus are the pests the enormous creatures would bring along. Not many stories about kaiju, and those stories seemed to leave this subject unaddressed. I finally got to working on the idea. Below is the process of putting it together so far…

I had no idea where the story was going to go, but I had a Serious Introduction which I imagined read by Stefan Rudniki, who does a lot of spec-fic podcast narration:

The kaiju’s physical path of destruction – its kinetic path created by pseudopod and sheer mass – crushed pavement and cement down to the bedrock, carving a ragged canal twenty feet deep coated with dull green mucus, fringed with gushing pipes, sparking cables, vents spewing steam.

The kaiju’s residual path of destruction spread over a mile beyond in each direction. Its slime dried in the sun, crusting all it touched in a fetid mucoprotein up to ten centimeters thick. Those counting their blessings for having the colossal animal pass them found that the creature exuded a torrent of bodily waste.

Stinking of ammonia, the rot of the deepest sea,

Animals never before seen on land under sunlight crept and crawled, feeding. Feeding on the mucoprotein. The waste. And those enveloped, blinded, scalded by the excretions.

Which had been the nickname for a defunct megamarket chain. Reduces the formless terror into casual contempt, if not acceptance.

Plenty of refugees knew where the new breaks in the fence, or where this week’s rent-a-cops slept in their patrol cars, or someone’s cousin in the guard wanted fifty bucks.

He wheeled the black plastic trashcan, the clatter of its contents muffled by the folded black tent. This was expedition number five.

“You idiot. You fucking idiot.”

He left his cellphone at home this time; he was sure that’s how they caught him during expeditions one through three. He’d bought a Pathfinder LG-1K, the best ground positioning indicator with the newest tracking blocker, made by the company which made the trackers.

The containment trucks were just down the block from her now. From her last location. He had to find her first. Tonight was his last chance.

A whoop echoed. Then he noticed there was a deep thumping beat, as quick as his heartbeat, now that the wind had eased. Then both sounds drowned with a fresh gust. There was an orgy nearby. Kaijuiceheads broke in every night to slam and fight and fuck.

Had an idea of scientists on site and a way to use my fave parasite Toxoplasma Gondii:

“They found new bacterium in their blood. Toxii bacterium, like the ones in cat feces that make the rats chase after cats.”
“Maybe we have it.”
“This place kills any boner I could possibly have.”

More NPR/3rd Person Omnicient:

Three days of horror before being driven back into the sea by the air-fuel bomb.
Column of white mucus that stretched 100 m, trapping victims within, before snapping them back for mastication. The final casualty count is over seven thousand dead, 13 thousand injured, over four hundred missing and presumed dead.
Each year passes with a national day of mourning. Downtown Las Angeles still rebuilds.
But the destruction rippled into even greater carnage, as our institutions battle the kaiju for dominance.
This is Fresh Air from NPR.
What brought it from the Pacific? Why Los Angeles? Global warming? Ocean pollution? A divine act? Theories still claw through the internet.

I knew this framing device was too cute by half. But I did not go back to ponder it. I continued with the drafting by researching critters I would use:

What first responders called “traumatic hysteria” had symptoms of “rampant priapism”, “manic episodes”, and “hyposomnia”.
nematodes are themselves infected with () causing ().
intestinal and urinary parasites, causing tumors. Lacking a clear cause of the kaiju’s assault, no lawyer is willing to sue to cover medical costs.
microarthropods living in basins within the rubble.
Sealife uses for pharmacology. Horseshoe crabs, kelp, venoms used in medicinal research.
medicinal benefits found from the slime. Binds severe wounds with minimal scarring. Explosive anaphylactic shock. Its manufacturer has declined to sell it over-the-counter.

Here are potential plot points for this big-picture-satire:

Insurance companies battled using legislation and litigation, demanding all rebuilding costs be paid through new taxes and debt. The expenses are otherworldly; the lowest estimates still being several years Gross Domestic Product.

National Guard units protected the disaster area. People break in every night and party. We thought they were morbidly curious and a loto fo them are survivors. They do all sorts of things. No shame.

Symptoms included sleeplessness, aggression, and hypersexuality. Like toxiiplasmosis, it affects the hypothalmus, overriding hesitancy. Effects had been noticed within two weeks.

Realtors noticed an odd trend.

Tens of thousands moved to Los Angeles within the following year.

One survey suggested strong correlation between kaijuice use and new residency in Southern California.

“TF is a sturdy organism. No laws on sharing it. Not right away. Get a sample. Use gelatin and a fridge and you’re set.”

Research is ongoing, but aside from the mentioned effects, users seem to not suffer any physical or mental issues.

The bacteria had been cultured by start-ups. They sold infection to thriving markets: businessmen, body-builders, recreational drug users; all of whom desire more work time, more confidence, and enhanced sexual enthusiasm. One start-up was purchased by a pharmaceutical company for eight figures. It’s expected to earn that much this year.

“No real chance of genetic drift. Damn thing left how much behind? One hundred ninety-thousand metric tons of sample behind.”

An analysis of ocean currents discovered the kaiju pheromone in open water. A laboratory declared that the pheromone would affect in amounts as little as one part per two billion in water or in wind. But other effects have been theorized. The malaria parasite modifies the skin odour of its human hosts, increasing their attractiveness to mosquitoes and hence improving the chance that the parasite will be transmitted. Does TF alter us to make us more attractive? We know nothing about the kaiju. We know next to nothing about Toxii Fuckasaurusia.

The parasite was named after the later, vulgar name for the kaiju.

The plasmosis existence provoked questions: how had it provoked such specific response in mammalian brains? It was theorized that the plasmosis infected whales, who would seek out the kaiju’s pheromone trail and be eaten.

Police worldwide discovered kaijuice labs even in small towns.

The local party scene called it “kaijuice”.

I realized this big picture POV wasn’t engaging emotionally. But how could I get all these neat ideas in with a POV limited in time and space? TWO POVs!

The guy digging up dead lover.

Scientists on site (CDC and Smith-Kline) Zorach and Mike; guys from Cabin In The Woods; fearful and sardonic; blue-collar and upper-middle;

“It’s surprising how many people want to nuke the ocean.”

“So far, this composition doesn’t play well with others. It does like ().”

“You’re isolating that.”

“If we can reduce the explosive anaphylaxis.”


To find a cluster after sixteen months!

Would this next dump be for an omnicient POV or would the NPR angle cover it better? Ah just write it down!

Thriving party scenes rose in major warm water coastal cities worldwide. The Center for Disease Control and the Food and Drug Association both cautioned against kaijuice, but Congress had T. Fuckasaurusia declared “a prebiotic”. It’s legal to sell if the manufacturers refrain from making claims to efficacy.

Reports from () Province state another kaiju crawled into the harbor of ().

The source states that the kaiju returned. But not alone. A video shows a beachfront mobbed with frenzied people fighting, rutting, livestreaming. Again and again, columns of mucus shot out.

Government sources have cast doubt on the stories.

In the event of another kaiju assault, insurance companies have demanded government support against any claims.

Towns in the inland states have been ruined as businesses flee crushing taxes and predatory retail chains.



Big pharma – clinics now feature TF treatment covered in part by Medicaid,

Religion: monolithic, destroying the sinners on the coasts, even as infected friends and relatives relocated

Toxic Individualism: up to the people to decide what ought to be done with this valuable, sexy creature. Up to us to use this natural, God-given gift.

Media: became grist for crime dramas and low-budget sf productions.

Deniers – CGI, mega-dosing folic acid, shortages of leucovorin delaying chemotherapy treatments, cure rates are inconclusive

The larger the organization, the less adept at handling nuance.

Worshipping kaiju Church of Jesus. Wielding the kaiju like an ar-15.

Nematode slips under the skin of the warm-blooded, shedding amoebas, infecting with necrotizing fasciitis. Travels up major arteries through lungs, to be coughed and swallowed, then shit. Trailing the amoebas through the entire route.

Crabs still being found. They eat feral cats and dogs, venturing into homes as far away as the Sierra Mountains.

Fungi thought to have thrived in deep-sea thermal vents have gained a foothold, especially among the unhoused community. They call the lung contagion “K-thrush”.

The planaria hear their victims through membranes in their skin. Those same membranes vibrate to create sound. The planaria develop a rudimentary response mimicking that life, presumably to attract more prey. Those sounds are chilling.

“I called out for him and I heard…” “What if? What if he is in there?”

Weeping. Screams.

“Ayy! Ayy!”

“Ohmygod! Help me!”

“Momma. Momma.”

“Ayy! Ayydiosmio!”

(the last words spoken into phone with POV, then) You idiot. You idiot.”

Those copying voices had been dissected, and found to have consumed humans.

All found were stomped, cut up, shot, gathered, smuggled, brought home as pets, made to entertain at parties, confiscated by authorities, examined, dissected, contemplated for ramifications to science and theology.

Here is my first attempt at POV #1: Guy looking for remains of dead girlfriend and the screamerworms who ate her:

Faint like a scream with the speaker turned way down. “Dios mio!” Burrowed or buried, it made no difference. He left the clumping bin at the corner. The slime had long dried and weeks of footprints had ground it to flakes like dried snot.

He showered for hours using the methods he had seen online, but the smell like overripe, briny Swiss cheese stayed in the air.

The red brick powder could have been the law offices at the corner, the last remaining historical home on the block.

A pitch. A dying fall. His heart plucked at the sound. Out came the recorder with its audio gain cranked all the way up. He wrenched his neck to put on the headphones. Under the soundproof cans, the distant generators roared like jackhammers. He turned slow, eased the microphone around him.

That sound! Again! He crept, then walked, then trotted after the microphone as the sound grew louder, bumping the digital meter’s wall of green noise up into yellow. Into red. He whipped off the headphones. Kicked and scraped at the curbside until the last thin layer fell inward. A sewer grate. Crusted over, but now revealing itself intact.

“You idiot.”

“You fucking idiot.” “You idiot.” “You idiot.” “You idiot.”

They overlapped.

It took a while to recognize her blouse from the limp black shreds.

Gray bones reduced to shards by the hungry creatures. Having none to listen to except their ancestors, all could only learn and repeat her last moments as they ate her.

He pieced together: truck tracks were snow plow; grate covered by plowed mucus; in storm basin behind grate she had hid from Big K, Big K left a load of parasites on her. Ate her alive in the dark after the plow covered her escape.

He found these planarium-things and tied on the rubber apron and stretched on the rubber gloves. Scraped with snow shovel. Accidentally smashed a few until he figured out how to leverage the edge under the slimy flesh. into a runny, briny jelly. Dumped the rest into the storage bin. He lost count around fifty. He smashed the rest. No one else would have her.

She was in them, the scientists said that. How much was in there? Could it be taught to remember? Remember the feel of his skin? How to touch him? He laughed: could they vote?

Keep telling you to stay out, man! Us and the feds and authorized personnel!”

A theme of culture is a kaiju emerged. This is handled by POV #2: the scientists looking for samples or doing something official:

“It took a little of us with it. Our microbes. Our proteins. Toxins in our bodies and clothes. That may be the way we get in our punches.”

“Big K’s still fighting. Big K versus our giant monsters. All this…”

He indicated the Border Patrol agents squatting to straddle their ATVs. The containment trailer up Pennsylvania Avenue, its hose gulping pounds of flakes per second. Generators growling, blades raising, pistons flexing, lights upon lights.

“It’s about which monster wins. How much each monster takes from the other. Figure out the cost ratio per monster.”

“I prefer the monster I know.”

“There’s bias, sure.”

“What are we infecting Big K with?”

“My guess is microplastics and self-loathing.”

Down the beach, another crimson geometry blossomed.

Mosquitos can smell who has been infected with malaria. The malaria smell draws the mosquitos to bite.

Everyone worried that the kaiju would come back. Bombed, burnt, it had fled double-quick (speed up to ten kph) back to the bay and back out to the trackless depths.

Hell yeah, it’d come back. He chuckled. He knew he would. He’d bring friends.

All of the action is happening outside of the story. What would the kaiju attack look like on the ground?

Something like a white train whipped by, cracking a stinking wind of brine and rotted cheese. It lay within arms reach, as big around as a minivan, glistening. Debris embedded in its side.

A whoop, another whoop into a open-mouthed mindless scream. Another babbled “what this – get this –”

The train tugged backward. A woman, young, black, her gushing wound spraying over her face. As it hurtled back, he glimpsed things. An arm waving, fingers scrabbling. Masses of mud. A wooden barricade, shattered to show wood. Rattling uprooted trees.

It had turned its funnel up () Street. Heaped upon the brownstone at the corner and collapsed it. A white train spat from the funnel. No, a column of white shot from the funnel. The column branched like a lightning bolt to wrap upon the collapsing brownstone. Riding it down into a surging heap of brick.

The column snapped back. Things in it screamed.

More research:

Fresh slug slime is hard to wash off our skin due to its stickiness and hygroscopic nature. Although it may be tempting to immediately reach for soap and water if we’re covered with the slime, it’s easier to let the material dry and then rub our hands together. The slime will form little balls that are easy to remove.

More NPR:

The creature’s path of residue spread over a mile beyond in each direction. Its slime dried in the sun, crusting all it touched in a fetid mucoprotein as deep as your elbow. Those tourists counting their blessings for having the colossal animal pass them found that the creature exuded a torrent of bodily waste.

Stinking of ammonia, the rot of the deepest sea,

Animals never before seen under sunlight crept and crawled, feeding. Feeding on the mucoprotein. The waste. And those enveloped, blinded, scalded by the excretions.

I decided to go with THREE POVs. The attack is experienced by frantic woman (POV 1) who is being harassed on the cellphone by obsessive who has recorded the conversation, and is using that video to track where her body may be (POV 2), with scientists with still vague agenda (POV 3). At this point, I start “casting” the characters. The obsessive searcher I abstracted having a bad day back when I was in my 30s. The poor woman I’m still working out. The main doctor I modeled on my late brother, who had a hard-nosed pragmatism and a dry sense of humor. I needed to sort out their arcs:

  • First para: kaiju attack, Guy calls
    • City in ruins
    • Guy plays video, this will be his last chance to search
    • Starts at base of landmark, has new data for new place to search
  • Intro scientists, need cluster
    • Sees landmark from distance
    • K-Rave/Toxo
  • 20%
  • Guy follows Her recorded steps
    • Things are jumping off of it
    • Whale sounds?
  • Scientists survey, need cluster
    • “The screamers. People taking them as pets. Think maybe they contain the victims’ souls.”
  • Guy searches
    • Hides in basement.
    • Screamers whale sounds become Her shouts for help
    • She says “How do you make this about you? How?” “Its about how much I love you!”
  • Scientists search in same street
  • Guy finds,
    • Screamers by the dozen “asshole”, “asshole” beside skeleton
    • Guy chased, then overwhelmed
  • Scientists pass by where Guy is trapped, do not hear Guy.
    • “You don’t need to be responsive to be human. Hell, can they vote?”
  • Two weeks later, scientists find cluster with Guy’s last words.
    • “Damn, dumbass couldn’t catch a break huh?”
    • Scientist humphs.
 HerCop GuyScientist
1At work in shopCutting off screams on app. Sneaking past K-Rave into ZoneDrive by K-Rave; need fresh cluster of screamers
2 Hero, to save HerFauna for study
3Fresh start w/o GuyLast chance to find Her(needs clock); philosophy of identity; disillusionment with profession;
4Kaiju attackBegins last search, plays recording; new clue?2a) Drones sense Cop Guy, need to kick him out
5 Scientists nearby; sees discussion “Yeah, that movie is good! Wish I could add…”2b) Discuss ai generated kaiju movie on streaming
63 a) Guy calls, recording begins4a) Digs into access tunnel, dangerous2c) “Let’s look for this guy.”
7Sees kaiju5b) First screamer, so loud!Hears screamer
85a) Flees down the streetDig down, encountering moreBack in the saddle dealing with these lil fuckers; catches Guy
96a) SAFE!6b) Finds her!6c) Plan is explained; Scientist is appalled
107b) Torrent of slime, crabs, screamers7a) Chased through tunnels7c) flees
11Trapped in basementTrapped in basement; explains Planflees
12Screams at GuyPlanarium and screamersFinds, hears what she’s saying
13Don’t believe I put up with youYells at scientists to helpScientist ignores
14Screaming “asshole” into the phoneFinally overwhelmed, Her voice “asshole” 
15Bones and screamersbones and screamersGlum scientist, intern doing job

The draft as of a few days ago:


            Four months after the attack, after South Wildwood had been flattened and eaten and infested, its streets and houses stood empty. The only sound was of traffic on Route 47 to and from the quarantine zone, the buzz of surveillance drones, and sometimes the beat of party music from the Sandlewood resort. The sea air now stung with the extra saltiness of the creature’s residue with the undercurrent of rotten cheese.

Billy drove past the resort. Shuttered, near-abandoned, the strobes and thumping was the all-day-everyday fight-club-orgy of bodies slamming fists, organs, fists into organs, organs onto fists. Alpha-bro streamers, influencers, all partied and fought and screwed – all natural, they said, on energy drinks and ocean prebiotics. Billy sneered. Empty lives.    Most people talk a good game about living to the fullest, but Love requires total surrender. Doing anything, being able to see, and accept.

          Billy pulled over to the curb. He pulled out the backpack frame with the collapsible bin secured. It may be his last chance to save her; there were more demolition crews and officials every day. His need for her weighed his body every moment like a flu, stained everything, droned in the back of his soul, pulled his gut down with a strand of barbed wire.

 Now on his Fifth Try to Find Her, the detestable cold sucking weight of doubt. Billy needed inspiration. He punched his home security app on his smart phone, thumbed “Billyland”. The stacked storage tubs on that camera sat quiet, the shadows within still, so he yelled “Hey!” Within the tubs, shadows bumped against the sides. His phone vibrated with the cries for help. The sound burned away the cold suck in his heart.

          Walking back to State Route 47, a white SUV swept by, and he noted the government emblem. In that white sports utility vehicle, Dr. Durham drove Dr. Jelnik and two contractors with sidearms. Durham pointedly kept to the precise speed limit.

          He turned down the latest country hit. “If we find something, we what?”

They chimed in: “Don’t get creative.”

 “Right. Don’t want to end my illustrious career trying to save you. I’m not that kind of doctor.”

They laughed and he smirked at his joke landing well. “Mark what you find on the GPS app and add notes. Let the poor bastards in samples team deal with it.”

          Figures ran across the highway ahead of them. Clad in white, laced with glowsticks, painfully skinny men and women. Open shirt revealed a torso a furnace-hot red rash of necrotizing fasciitis. The contractor in the passenger seat kept eyes on them until well away. There were a lot of flesh-eating bacteria infection in the town now; one of the reasons for this field trip.

          State Route 47 came to a hill and before them South Wildwood. The brightness of the day seemed unsettling, surreal, until you noted that not a bird, not a single seagull hovered over the town.

          The creature’s physical path of destruction – its kinetic path created by pseudopod and sheer mass – churned beach sand and boardwalk and pavement to the sea-level bedrock, carving a ragged, briny canal ten feet deep crusted with dull green mucus, fringed with broken pipes and cables.

          Sparrows, crows, gulls swarmed over everything, pecking at the things eating the crusted slime trail.

          On the rear bumper was a scratched sticker: “It’s A-MIN-O World Without Proteins!”

          His brows dropped into what was known among his peers as The Scowl.

          Durham had a husky physique made confident as an offensive lineman, an Eagle Scout, a stint as an Army officer, and by bulldozing the annoying. “Call your watch commander.”

          As Durham spoke with the guardsman, Billy flipped up the collar of his coat and joined a group of soldiers walking through the gate. His poncho was army issued, just like the Border Patrol, and he bought their same belt and gear online. His backpack frame with the container just another such among many entering through the gate. Once past the inside parking lot, he split off from the soldiers and pulled out his phone.

          The search crews had ceased work. Cranes lifted splinted timbers of the boardwalk. Two guardsmen thrust staves into a gap where Billy had been before and secured a prize. This was definitely his last try to find her. The barbed wire in his gut pulled deeper.

          Carlos thumbed his smartphone screen. The sight of her in his recording of their last conversation, up close, with her coffee shop’s window behind her, soothed the jangled, cutting need for her.

          She hissed. “I told you to stop calling me.”

          On that recording, his voice had strained with worry. “There’s an emergency in Wildwood! How could I not call?”

She paused, for some reason stunned at what he had said. “How could you not…? How can you make this about you? How?”

“This is not about me! It’s about how much I love you!”

          But she had turned to the window. “There’s people screaming. My god, what’s going on –”

          He thumbed pause. She made no effort to show him what she was seeing, but he’d seen enough video online. The sheer enormity of the creature was old news. He believed he had become expert in this creature and its parasites.

          His boots crunched the mucus-crusted sand. depression at Hildreth Avenue Beach, looked toward the stinking inlet leading from the beach along and followed his GPS app to where her coffee shop had been. Opened the mic plugged into his phone and turned the sensitivity all the way. Through his wireless earbuds, the mic enhanced his hearing.

Faint, just above the surf and the breeze, filtering the bass tones of the demolition, came a man’s voice: “Get them off me…get them off…” There were fewer voices now, even compared to yesterday. The voices repeated, same inflection, intonation, tightness of screams. A long whine dropped into a crackling rumble. Billy knew from the experts that was a whale song. These things had eaten whales before being dropped in South Wildwood, and found new food.

          Billy had already taken other worms with voices back home to his basement, taken in frustration from not having yet found Josie. He looked at his recording of Josie and touched play.  

          Out the door of her coffee shop, under that bright August sun, a mass like a towering, deflated blimp heaved farther onto the nearby Hildreth Avenue Beach.  The creature’s sides cascaded seawater, and teemed with things, some black, others shiny. The phone swung away as she stepped across the wooden boardwalk. The heads of people waiting by the darkened wood.

          Lay against the sand. A funnel opened at its front, something like a meat grinder the size of a big rig tire. Bathers, partiers, the daring, crossed in front if the creature, though not very close.

          A train of white shot from the funnel. Glistening, obscene, engulfed the daring then snapped back them into the funnel. He thumbed ahead.

          His next glimpse was the creature surging forward. Now halfway up Hildreth Avenue Beach toward where she stood, it lay flat again. The white shot out and the boardwalk rocked. A thick arm of white wrapped around the wood railing mere feet from her.

          It all blurred as she ran, feet thumping on wood. The bell rang on the coffee shop and the door slammed. Other people shouted useless nonsense, the audio now clearer from being indoors.

Josie screamed and ran –

          He put the screen down and turned that same direction. Dried mucus flaked and scattered like sunburnt skin. The stabbing guardsmen pulled out a slippery shovelful of flatworms, which flexed and exclaimed “Get them off me!”

          He sped the video ahead past the jolting. Something else in the wreckage caught his eye. A white SUV slowly bumped along about fifty yards away, to where () street had been. All the other vehicles in the zone were olive hummers, so it had to be the people from the gate. They got out and looked down the beach past Billy to where that festival was going on.

          Jelnik looked to Durham and shook her head. “Mark my words: toxoplasma as a prebiotic supplement? It is going to bite them in the butt.”

          Durham nodded. “Oh yeah.”

          “They’ve found it in the brains of whale corpses. That ain’t good.”

          “I read that report.”

          He pointed. At the horizon, a long flat ship waited. “Barge of Liquid Petroleum Gas is in place in a few hours. That would incinerate to a mile inland. Its supposed to be for if that thing returns, but there’s little hope of keeping this new fauna contained. So…is all this worth keeping alive?”


          She blurted in an excited rush. “When a new culture is encountered? Diseases are exchanged, sure. But so are ideas and perspectives. Venereal disease, small pox, democracy, algebra, all the way up to smartphones into the deepest Amazon, right? New concepts. New vocabularies. This creature brought a whole new biome! These things might be smartphones into our Amazon.”

          “What are you studying?”

          “Dual PhD. ”

          This time he groaned.

          Liberal Arts bringing its current fixation to bear. Creative types bringing the blithest of fantasies, never mind real-world implications. Academic trends just warped, seldom saw.

          “Not-quite-zero percent chance of unimagined influence.”

          Durham grunted.

          An intern interrupted his thoughts. “What did we infect it with?”

          The doctor looked back at the Sandlewood. “Microplastics and self-loathing, hopefully.”

          “Science can only speculate on facts, not imagine.”

“Society doesn’t have the tools to deal with it.”

          “Can’t adapt to something we can’t imagine. I know I’m ready for this. Are you?”

          “Been ready.” He looked past Jelnik to the debris farther down the block. “What’s that guardsman doing? Too dangerous to be by himself.”

          “Is he a looter?”


          Billy had clambered through the timbers, and found pieces of her coffee shop’s plastic fake cane-back chairs. A pile of brick had been the same yellow as the shop’s back wall. He picked ahead. Stopped at the clues as she ran. Followed the readout of the GPS.

Kuttner’s Candies had been right here. Broken Scalzi for Town Council billboard, beside the candy store. A glimpse of the awning of Clover Landscaping…the GPS search had said it was one block up on Ocean Avenue which now a cliffside. At Reach Travel Agency, she ducked left to get off the boardwalk. He took that turn to pick through the shattered wood to Ocean Avenue.

On his screen, she turned to look behind her. Something like a white subway train whipped by along the boardwalk. Someone whooped, and the whoop became an open-mouthed mindless scream. Another babbled “what this – get this –”

The train tugged backward drag-racer fast. A woman, young, her face wound spraying red. As it hurtled back, an arm waving, fingers scrabbling. People dragged along the wood, leaving spatters and sprays.

The creature rose up over the single story boardwalk shops. It had turned its funnel toward East Cresse Avenue. Heaped its mass upon the boardwalk and splintered it with a crack of thunder, grinding it under folds. A white train branched like a lightning bolt to wrap upon the Adventurer Beachfront Inn. The column snapped back. Things in it screamed.

          The phone flailed again, then turned down to her feet. Surging along the boards, a tide of pallid fluid like spoiled milk. Within its surge, life flopped and clutched.

          “It’s up the street, heading toward…” She coughed. “What is this crap? It’s like ammonia-a-a….”

          That was its bodily waste. Estimated six thousand tons of it. Bug-like things teemed over her open-toed flip-flops. She shrieked and stomped, running to the brick wall anchoring the boardwalk.

          The dog yelped and bit at its back legs. A ridged worm the size of a snake flexed into the muscle of the dog’s haunch, making it bulge.

          She pushed backward into the

          Pulled at her toes and the things wriggling, trying to gain purchase under her painted toenails. Weeping she picked them all away.

          “Help me! Call someone!”

          Billy had kept his voice low and commanding. “No! I’m staying with you!”

          “Get off my phone!”

“Don’t hang up!” he had snapped. “Stay with me!”

Her fingertip thrust at the screen over and over. “Get off my –”

          Her world tilted. Collapsed. The ceiling crashed down. Lights blinked out, casting all in darkness. He knew the creature had humped its full weight along the boardwalk, and brought the entire construction down. He touched pause.

The end of the boardwalk lay in a sloped heap of timber and brick. She was one of these three last shops. He took out his army-issue folding trenching tool from his belt and stepped down to the wreckage. Under his boots, the sea lice crackled like rice cereal.

          Durham, Jelnik, and the interns watched him descend. They looked into the bin containing what the workers had shoveled. Things thumped and rolled like diseased tongues.

          An intern paled. “Videos don’t do them justice.”      

          The darkness squealed. The size of a large hand. Vibrated, letting out a long and plaintive cry.

          The other intern groaned. “That’s a whalesong.”

          Jelnik nodded. “Enticement. Brings the whales closer for the host creature to feed. Again, a whole ecosystem working together.”

          Dr. Durham spun his hand to the town and the wreckage. “Is it worth the damn risk of keeping all this alive?”

          She crossed her arms. “Are we risking our ecosystem or just our sense of propriety?”

Durham wasn’t theory, he was practice. Abstractions and probability were fine for artsy oafs like Dr. Jelnik. Art gave people unreasonable hopes. It was a-min-o world without proteins, after all. He grumped to himself: All artists should be exiled without two rocks to stack together.

          “Get them off me!” something cried.   

“Ecology and social mores are linked. Society demands that animals should not eat living people. Not lots of people. And not entice other people into being the second course.”

“Listen, you’re right about that, obviously. This is new ecosystem with the potential to expand our society. Why did the creature come here? Where did it go? Not only do we need those answers, those answers will affect our attitude towards nature.”

          Durham’s chuckle also sounded like a grunt. “Best practices going forward.”

          “Studying animals helped us humans see we aren’t alone in intelligence or compassion. Who knows where studying all these –”

She pointed at the bin. “– will take us? What has it brought from the depths? Secrets from the dawn of time? Primal bubblings of consciousness? Wait!”

          Jelnik looked over her shoulder. “Did you hear that?”

          On the other side of that debris pile came a different whale scream. On Billy’s phone, she cried. “They’re all around me!”

          The screen showed her flip-flop as she tried to scrape the creature off her leg. She screamed in pain, the phone flailing, the scream opening into a wail of anguish.

“I can’t believe I’m going to die talking to you, you asshole! Asshole! Asshole! Ass-“

He tapped it to pause.


          Billy looked to his phone and saw it was in pause. He gasped with joy. Did he find her?

          Just past the tips of his boots, under the landslide of wood and brick, came her voice: “Asshole!”

          Behind him, someone spoke. “Did you find something?”

          Billy turned.


          Durham, Jelnik, and the interns saw a tall, skinny man in soldier garb with scraggly beard and features soft with youth. But the man’s eyes burned with stark need.  

His gaze darted between from these people to the mewling dark. “I’m doing, uh, an audio sweep, uh…”


          Billy melted a little from bliss. He blurted. “Yes! Yes! That’s her. That’s my love. I’m going in to save her.”

          They listened as the voice echoed from under those long-broken timbers.

          “Save who?” asked Durham.

          Her voice echoed more, overlapping, breaking, overlapping again.

          Billy’s very being seemed to seep toward the gap. “As many of her as I can get. Then I’ll leave and I’ll never come back.”

          Jelnik spoke with slow enunciation. “’As many of her-r-r….”

          “What’s with the tub?” asked an intern. The other nudged and glared.

          But the guy seemed eager to explain. “There’s human DNA in them, right? The ones that have voices?”

          All fairly cringed at Billy’s question. Durham spoke softly. “They mimic. Then they…”

          “Made a part of them! They absorbed the souls! The consciousness! I’m convinced the people are still in them!”

          Durham grimaced with exasperation. “No they’re not.”

“I’m saving her! I’m bringing her back –”


“– bringing her back home with me where she belongs!”

Jelnik motioned the interns back to the SUV, staring at Billy with revulsion.

          The doctor clenched his eyes shut and pinched the bridge of his nose, restraining an angry outburst. “Sir, I am sorry for your loss, but you’re trespassing. You’re not even supposed to be here by yourself. It’s dangerous.”

          “I’ll only be a few minutes. I’ve done this before.”


          “Other people. I brought them home and –”

          “Bring them home?!” Durham caution exploded into astonishment. “Home? There’s a quarantine!”

          He searched his thoughts. “Haven’t they been dying?”

          Billy nodded. “Yeah! Right? I keep coming back and getting more and more and they –”

          Seeing Durham’s broadening disgust, Billy reddened. His jaw clenched with anger. “You can’t judge me. I do what I have to do. I have a gun.”

          More from disgust. “Alright. Just go. Go.”

          Billy ducked into the gap and pulled the tub behind him. He tumbled into a concrete lined basement. She echoed everywhere.

          Durham turned and tapped his palm as if dialing a smartphone. The interns pulled out their phones and dialed the security center.

          With scarcely a pause Billy clipped the flashlight to his belt and crept into the burrow. It was a tight fit, but he managed to squeeze himself along. He crept along the burrows as rapidly as he could, occasionally barely able to squeeze his lean body through the narrow walls.

Brine and rot thickened the air. So much closer, he knew it, but the crumbling and crawling dirt worried him. A minute, surely she was this close. Belated fears were beginning to crawl, maggot-like, within his mind, but his need, his Love pulled him onward. He crawled ahead, onward. His fingers found the mouths of adjoining tunnels. Lumps of dirt dropped onto his legs. He unhooked the flashlight from his belt and turned it on for comfort.

Had it been a minute? Love wrestled the icy grip of Preservation.  Another cold wet clod fell on the back of his neck. Now that he knew where she lay, he could come back. Attack from an easier angle. Yes, he could come back. But the burrow was too narrow to allow him to turn. Another clump dropped in front of him.

There had been a side tunnel though. Yes, and he found he could back awkwardly along the tunnel until he came to it. He thrust his legs into it, writhing until able to turn. Skin raw and itching, lice creeping inside his clothes, he scrambled back.

His leg seared with pain. He kicked out frantically, feeling the weight of something up his pantleg. Flashing the light behind him, Billy choked back a scream. His legs fairly oozed with flatworms. Bristling gray misshapen slugs, as large as rats, soaking his canvas pants with digestive acids. He slapped and kicked. Like slimy, rotted leather, they tangled in his fingers. His skin scalded at their excretions. Billy himself wormed forward as he slapped them off.

He pressed his feet into the side of the burrow and he kicked himself forward.

He crawled on, pausing briefly, the black gap of a side tunnel at his elbow, as he made out a shapeless huddle on the damp clay a few yards ahead. For a second he thought it was a mass of earth that had been dislodged from the roof, and then he recognized it as a human body.

The flatworms denuded flesh to the bone, even the marrow. She lay in a jumble within frays of digested cotton, a polyester coffee shop apron, her plastic flip-flops, and a corroded phone with a cracked screen. All seemed to vibrate, slathered with pests.

“Asshole!” “Asshole!”

Masson flung himself frantically into the burrow at his side. He heard a scrambling noise at his heels, and the things screamed as they came after him. Masson, glancing over his shoulder, screamed and propelled himself desperately through the narrow burrow. He crawled along awkwardly, sharp stones cutting his hands and knees. Dirt showered into his eyes, but he dared not pause even for a moment. He scrambled on, gasping, cursing, and praying hysterically.

Squealing triumphantly, the rats came at him, horrible hunger in their eyes. Masson almost succumbed to their burning before he succeeded in beating them off. The passage was narrowing, and in a frenzy of terror he kicked and screamed.

He found himself crawling under a great timber, embedded in the roof, that dug cruelly into his back. It moved a little as his weight struck it, and an idea flashed into Masson’s fright-crazed mind: If he could bring down the timber so that it blocked the tunnel!

The earth was wet and soggy from the rains, and he hunched himself half upright and dug away at the dirt around the stone. The worms were coming closer. He saw their wet gleaming from the flashlight’s beam. Still he clawed frantically at the earth. The stone was giving. He tugged at it and it rocked in its foundation.

A worm was approaching—the monster he had already glimpsed. Grey and leprous and hideous it crept. and in its wake came the blind dead thing, groaning as it crawled. Masson gave a last frantic tug. Clods showered upon his legs. He dragged them free with difficulty. The entire tunnel was collapsing!

Gasping with fear, Masson threw himself forward as the soggy earth collapsed at his heels. The tunnel narrowed until he could barely use his hands and legs, and when he tried to raise himself he found that the sodden ceiling was only a few inches from his back. Panic shot through him.

He made a futile attempt to dig with his feet at the earth from the collapsed burrow that blocked his retreat. If he were only able to reverse his position he might be able to claw his way through to air … air …

The tunnel collapsed. He thrashed and clawed and screamed. Sand fell into his open mouth  and he turned onto his stomach and gagged. He pushed up.

And broke from the ground, from the burrow now so shallow to the surface. Feeling his freedom, he shouted with joy and tried to stand. His curved back struck broken timber and was gouged by loose nails. Up into a loose crouch, he discovered himself in a jagged juncture where two joists had crashed together, supporting shattered boards and brick. A wedge of sunlight cut from the wall of debris. Punching at that sliver of light, he saw a shadow stood, so far, but so tantalizingly close. He shouted.

“Hey! Hey! Help!”

The shadow crouched. Leaned forward as if in disbelief.

Billy wiggled his fingers through the crevice. “Yeah! Over here!”

Crept closer. It was the old guy from the white SUV.

“I won’t shoot you!” Billy cried. “I never had a gun. Please!”

          The old guy seemed to be by himself. “You find her?”

Billy gathered himself and forced himself to smile. “Yeah. There’re worms all over! Hungry bastards! I’m thinking she doesn’t recognize me. Help me out!”

Jelnik walked to stand beside Durham. The interns had found ()

The rubble of the wall lay atop the collapsed boards and supports. The kid clawed the wood away splinter by splinter. The wreckage trembled precariously.

Durham scowled. “You think they’re people! You put them in tubs so you can torture people.”

          “No! No, I don’t hurt them! I save them! I protect them!”

          Close by behind Billy, she cried. “Asshole!”

Jelnik looked dubiously past Billy’s shoulder.

He’d have dug himself out by the time Border Patrol dragged themselves over here. They still hadn’t arrived from their first phone call.

“Yes, but they keep dying! I’ve been looking for her and I’ve been so lonely and please get me – Hey! Hey, no!”

          Durham kicked at the splayed timbers. Jelnik gasped, but only took the slightest step to intervene.

          Billy turned behind to the darkness to kick and shriek at multiple voices. “Look! Look! We can sell them! People will collect them! Please lady you gotta –”

          Jelnik grimaced and joined the stomping. The interns shouted behind them, querulous, puzzled. The doctors both put their weight into one last kick.

The loose bricks slipped and slid over the gap where Billy’s eyes widened in horror.

White-hot agony lanced through his breast, throbbed in his eyeballs. His head seemed to be swelling, growing larger and larger; and suddenly he heard the exultant squealing of the rats. He began to scream insanely but could not drown them out. For a moment he thrashed about hysterically within his narrow prison, and then he was quiet, gasping for air. His eyelids closed, his blackened tongue protruded, and he sank down into the blackness of death with the mad squealing of the rats dinning in his ears.

          Jelnik and Durham had brought the interns back with them to sit in the SUV. The radio was turned back up with the air conditioner fans humming full blast. Durham’s expression was flat, but he seemed paler, and sagged a little. Jelnik fidgeted in her seat, her mouth twitching into a frown.

          An intern suggested lunch.

Dusk had cast shrouds of shadow across the beach when they stopped back at that pile. Durham grappled with what he had done. Murder, he couldn’t shirk from the word, he had left the kid to die. That kid had been a mad dog really, but should not have been for him to judge. They had proper tools in the SUV, so moving the bricks and wood aside took little work. They found where Billy had stood. From that darkness came the voices.


“No! No, don’t! No!”


“No! No, don’t! No!”

“Got your soul!”

Durham and Jelnik both jolted with adrenaline.

          Jelnik shook her head. “Poor acoustics.”

“No! No! Don’t!”  Definitely that nutbar’s voice.

          “Got your soul!”

          The doctor’s breath stopped. Had those words changed? Yes. It was the same shriek, but now was there a lilt of defiance? Even a bray of glee?

          “Got your soul!”

          The unmistakable words seemed to have hollowed out Jelnik. Her jaw hung open, eyes wide. “His phone…it must have been…a recording?”

          The two interns had not interrupted their scanning of their surroundings. The sun was now behind the ruins. Beyond that darkness lay the town, dead but for these timeless unknown things skittering, slithering, and waiting.

          Jelnik drew out words as ramifications piled beyond imagining. “Oh-h-h, we’re leaving this alo-o-one.”

          She grabbed the splintered end of a timber and pulled. The bricks and debris and slipped back over the gap.

          Durham spoke into his phone. He scowled. “The answer is ‘no’. Do not wait for my report. Initiate protocol.”

In the distance, a siren began to blare. Looking out to the ocean, he pointed to the SUV. The interns scrambled inside.

“We did not see a damn thing.”

“No-o-ope,” Jelnik opened her door. “No-o-o, we did no-o-ot.”

Some Inspirational Viewing!

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Final Book Trailer for “Saints Of Flesh” (w/captions)

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