SHALLOW GRAVES: A Collection – Story Notes

SHALLOW GRAVES: A Collection – Story Notes

We thought we’d share where we got the ideas from for the stories in our new collection, SHALLOW GRAVES. Three of the stories are collaborations, added to this are four each of our own stories. SHALLOW GRAVES is available on paperback and kindle from Death’s Head Press.

“Starving Artist” by Robert Essig
Robert: Having grown up in San Diego and spent time in and around the beaches, I saw many a homeless hippy selling their wares on the Boardwalk. Beaded necklaces, incense, hemp bracelets, and even street art. I wondered what could be so captivating in a piece of third-rate street art that would have someone so enamored that they just HAD to buy it. How could owning such a piece go wrong? There’s also commentary on how people treat one another and abuse the kindness of strangers. It’s a little abstract, but its in there somewhere. I like this story a lot, so I was pleased with the great response when it was first published in SAN DIEGO HORROR PROFESSIONALS VOL. 1.

“The Itch” by Jack Bantry
Jack: Out of all my stories this is my favourite, originally written for Bloodshot Books’ NOT YOUR AVERAGE MONSTER antho. It was rejected because it was too far out there. A group of men go on a stag-do to Amsterdam and the main character becomes a little obsessed with one of the ladies in the windows. He ends up with a case of the killer crabs and not your Guy N Smith variety! It was originally published by The Sinister Horror Company in their BLACK ROOM MANUSCRIPTS VOL. 3 anthology along with the likes of Paul Tremblay, Guy N Smith, Paul Kane and Glenn Rolfe. I think Bloodshot missed out there.

“Clarissa” by Robert Essig & Jack Bantry
Robert: I wrote a story about a polygamist cult in which yearly two of the young women would be impregnated. One would have the child to be a new member while the other had to give their child up as a blood sacrifice. The young woman who would have to sacrifice her baby was having second thoughts, planning an escape with the young man who was the father of the sacrifice. I wrote maybe half of the story and there was no end that wasn’t predictable or a big letdown after the build-up, so I sent it to Bantry and asked if he had any ideas. What he sent back was way different. Almost a complete story, really, with a few elements of my original idea. I liked what he did, so I continued on and wrote the end. After that we polished it and sent it off on submission.

Jack: Yeah, Robert sent me Clarissa. I butchered it! When reading Robert’s original draft, the story of the real life monster, Josef Fritzl sprang to mind… We didn’t need a cult and the result is much more effective. Clarissa was published first in CREEPY CAMPFIRE STORIES and then in Comet’s YEAR’S BEST HARDCORE HORROR VOL. 1.

“Like Ants On A Carcass” by Robert Essig
Robert: I wrote this story in the midst of the economic recession, and it shows. I was a painter, making a good living repainting and fixing up bank foreclosed homes. Listening to talk radio on my headphones I heard a story about someone who had to get rid of stuff a tenant had left in a rental. The listing said that everything was free and must go. When desperate people with nothing to their name and less to lose showed up, they started digging plants out of the ground and ripping light fixtures out of the ceilings. The story was so ridiculous that it made me laugh, but I couldn’t get it out of my mind, so I had to explore just how depraved such a miscommunication could get, particularly when people are desperate.

“Special Delivery” by Jack Bantry
Jack: As a postman delivering in rural North Yorkshire I used to go to many farms and isolated homes. You’d get to know the people and have a chat on a daily basis. Special Delivery is what would happen if the customer had ulterior motives. This was originally much longer and was accepted by an anthology which never happened. Shame really because Graham Masterton was also going to be included. I ended up making it into a flash piece. Preferred the pacing and I think it works better for it.

“A Lesson in Renegade Filmmaking” by Robert Essig & Jack Bantry
Jack: I got the idea for this one from a Pink Lincolns song called “Monsters”. One line in the song read: “Yesterday I believed in Monsters, People are more hideous than monsters.” I began writing a story about a young horror movie-loving kid called Bagley. He was kidnapped by the guy from the video store and held in a cage. It was a bit sick and didn’t work, so Robert took over and transformed it. This could possibly be our strongest collaboration. Renegade was published by Max and Lori at Dark Moon Digest.

Robert: After reading the original story I absolutely loved the first half. I could relate to the kid so much. I added a completely different second half of the story, and then Jack came in and changed the ending. We agreed that it would have taken more time to develop the plot and the relationship between Bagley and the video store owner to try and pull off what I was going for. Leaving it the way it was, we would have been seriously testing the reader’s suspension of disbelief.

“Dermousfusion” by Robert Essig
Robert: This one goes back quite a few years. It has undergone many facelifts and close calls, ending up on a few prominent short lists, but never quite making the cut. I’m reluctant to publish unreleased material, figuring maybe it’s not good enough, but I believe in this story. Where it came from…? I have no idea. None whatsoever. I asked myself how disastrous it would be if our flesh couldn’t touch without fusing together. How scarred we would be. How we would have to protect ourselves. How dangerous sex would be. How hard it would be to hide past mistakes when they’re tattooed on our bodies in the shape of nasty scars where skin touched skin unprotected. Why in the world would I think such a thing? Because it’s fucked up, that’s why.

“Rejected” by Jack Bantry
Jack: Rejected is about a stoner postman who gets bitten and turned into a werewolf. I have no idea where the idea came from. The main character was stoned when he was turned and therefore only turns on a full moon if he has no THC in his system. Some of the story is autobiographical and that’s all I’ll say about that.

“Wicking” by Robert Essig & Jack Bantry
Robert: This was mine and Bantry’s first collaboration. I had contacted him and asked if I could send him a story for Splatterpunk Zine. He passed on the first story, so several months later I asked to send another called “In the House of Wicking”. He said it sparked ideas and would I be interested in a collaboration. My history with this particular story goes back to originally writing it as a 90 page screenplay in high school. I’d completely rewritten it a few times since. You want to change shit around and make it better? Be my guest. And boy did Jack make the story better. I was so impressed by his ability to switch things around a bit and add more emotion to my villain that I gladly accepted the offer of collaboration and we were off to the races.

Jack: Can’t really add any more to this. Robert sent me it for the zine. I Iiked it, but it didn’t quite work. It was a bit too muddled, so I cut a load out and restructured it.

“By Maggots Be Driven” by Robert Essig
Robert: Here’s another one I have no recollection of writing. I don’t know where my head was at, what I was thinking, what spurred the idea. I can say that at the time I was fairly obsessed with the idea of people losing their minds. Not a new idea (Lovecraft and other authors of the weird tale beat this dead horse into the ground), but something I am truly and deeply afraid of. So I asked myself, what causes people to lose it? I also asked, what if maggots began to appear spontaneously? They only eat dead flesh, and yet they’re so disgusting and for some reason they feel threatening. Junkies see maggots or bugs or whatever and scratch their skin bloody, so what would cause a young widowed mother to see bugs? And now I wonder if I really asked those questions or not, because I really don’t remember.

“Keep Safe” by Jack Bantry
Jack: Keep Safe was my first published story. I used to work as a postman – write about what you know. Instead of the mail building up on your doorstep when you go on holiday Royal Mail hold it in the office until you return. This is called a Keep Safe. Therefore postmen know when certain houses are empty, and when the owner will return. I had the idea for a robbery, but I was never going to commit one. Instead I was gonna make up a story and for the protagonists, things never go as planned. It was published by The Horror Zine.

Robert Essig is the author of a dozen books including STRONGER THAN HATE, SHALLOW GRAVES: A Collection (with Jack Bantry), and MOJAVE MUD CAVES, which was published as a signed/limited edition through Thunderstorm Books. He has published well over 100 short stories and edited two small press anthologies. Robert is currently at work on his next novel and editing the CHEW ON THIS! anthology for Blood Bound Books. He lives with his family in east Tennessee.

Jack Bantry is the editor of Splatterpunk Zine. He’s the author of THE LUCKY ONES DIED FIRST; AIN’T WORTH A SHIT, INSATIABLE and SHALLOW GRAVES: A Collection (all co-authored with Robert Essig); and he’s the Splatterpunk Award-winning editor of SPLATTERPUNK FIGHTING BACK and SPLATTERPUNK FOREVER. He resides in a small town at the edge of the North York Moors.

 

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CARNIVOROUS LUNAR ACTIVITIES by Max Booth III (Review)

CARNIVOROUS LUNAR ACTIVITIES by Max Booth III (Published by Fangoria)

I had been looking forward to reading CARNIVOROUS LUNAR ACTIVITIES since it first came out. I’d previously read TOXICITY and HOW TO SUCCESSFULLY KIDNAP STRANGERS. Both were awesome and you should be reading these now if you haven’t already. CARNIVOROUS LUNAR ACTIVITIES is published by Fangoria, WTF! I have about a hundred back issues of Fango in my parent’s attic. If you are my age you will know what this magazine means to people who love horror. Fan-fucking-goria! Wow!

CARNIVOROUS LUNAR ACTIVITIES is about two guys, the main character, Ted. Or Teddy as his buddy often calls him, and Justin. Ted’s wife has just left him and he can’t go on without her. He doesn’t want to go on without her. Then out of the blue his old best friend, Justin, calls him up, demands he goes to see him. Ted doesn’t want to go, refuses. He’s got enough on his plate, but after some persuasion he agrees to go. Justin has a story to tell. Ted doesn’t want to hear Justin’s shit, but deep down he doesn’t want to kill himself either. Ted drives to the rundown shithole Justin calls home and over Mackie D’s Justin starts to tell a story about how it became a werewolf. Does Ted believe him? Of course he fucking doesn’t. Now you, the reader, will have to buy the book and find out what the hell happens.

CARNIVOROUS LUNAR ACTIVITIES is a great book. I couldn’t put it down. I blazed through it which proves how good it is. Max Booth can write, but I already knew that. What I also know is Booth is getting better with each book. The story is a simple premise, what hooks you is the great dialogue between the two characters. They’re a couple of punks who have moved on with their lives, but deep down remain the same, young at heart, and in a way, still living in the past. I loved this book, laughed out loud reading it, and I think you’ll love it too! (Jack Bantry)

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Past Indiscretions: The Very Best of Splatterpunk Zine

Past Indiscretions: The Very Best of Splatterpunk Zine

13 stories of classic splatterpunk taken from the pages of the cult horror zine, featuring some of the best writers working in the field of horror fiction: Tim Curran, Brendan Vidito, Shane McKenzie, Bracken MacLeod, Kit Power, WD Gagliani & David Benton, Monica J O’Rourke, Ryan C Thomas, Nathan Robinson, Ryan Harding, Jeff Strand, Adam Cesare and JF Gonzalez.

Published by Splatterpunk Zine and available on Kindle and Paperback

Praise for Splatterpunk Zine:

“Splatterpunk Zine is 100% the real deal, and if seedy-but-brilliantly-written hardcore horror is your pleasure, guilty or otherwise, I’d say this zine is essential reading.” – Ginger Nuts of Horror”

This is an old school handmade hardcore horror fiction zine… I liked it a lot.” – Mark Sieber, Horror Drive-In

“Bantry is providing a great time for fans of horror fiction. If you haven’t jumped on this viscera-covered bandwagon, what are you waiting for?” – Sean Leonard, HorrorNews.net

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Insatiable by Jack Bantry & Robert Essig (Pre-order)

Insatiable by Jack Bantry & Robert Essig

Published by: Grand Mal Press  (http://www.grandmalpress.com/)

http://www.grandmalpress.com/Insatiable.php

From Robert Essig, author of Death Obsessed, In Black and People of the Ethereal Realm, and Jack Bantry, author of The Lucky Ones Died First and editor of Splattepunk Zine.

For some of the punks, it was just another night at a local gig.
Partying with crazy people after gigs was nothing new, but on this night there was something in the air. Was it all the tequila and weed? Something was turning the locals into maniacs . . . deviants. Something was giving them an INSATIABLE sexual appetite!
For Megan it was another late night at the lab, but when she needed another cup of coffee what she discovered in the break room would shock her to the core.
And that was just the beginning…of the end of the world!
Punk rockers, secret labs, sexy cops and animal rights activists. INSATIABLE will take you to hell and back!

“Vampires, werewolves, living dead…none of that…welcome aboard an epidemic of ‘insatiable’ sex-crazed maniacs. Taste this new virus, and you will be the next to be fucked. A high voltage enjoyable reading, between Laymon’s ‘Virus Black Widow’ and a satirical science fiction B movie.” – Alessandro Manzetti, Bram Stoker Award-winning author of NARAKA

“A ferocious adrenaline overload delivering a thick slab of gore-encrusted brutality on a platter of libido-fuelled perversity.”
– Chris Hall, DLS Reviews

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Ain’t Worth a Shit by Robert Essig & Jack Bantry

Ain’t Worth a Shit by Robert Essig & Jack Bantry

Published by Sinistergrinpress.com

Available from Amazon: https://smarturl.it/AintWorth

“You get the feeling that nowhere is safe right from the outset, lending the book an effective layer of simmering tension.” – Kendall Reviews Books

“Ain’t Worth a Shit is fast-paced, compelling, and entertaining on a sick horror fan level.” – Bibliophilia Templum

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Insatiable by Jack Bantry & Robert Essig (cover reveal)

A new novella from Jack Bantry, author of The Lucky Ones Died First and editor of Splattepunk Zine and Robert Essig, author of Death Obsessed, In Black and People of the Ethereal Realm. INSATIABLE!

Cover reveal at: http://kendallreviews.com/feature-cover-reveal-insatiable-jack-bantry-robert-essig/

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Excerpt from the novel ‘Shanti – The Sadist Heaven’ by Alessandro Manzetti

SHOTS AT THE GLORYSLOTS

Excerpt from the novel ‘Shanti – The Sadist Heaven’ by Alessandro Manzetti

(Necro Publications, April 2019)

A fat citizen, his pants down, drags himself into the Desert Siren, gloryslots room.

Places like this are technically illegal in Shanti, of course. Periodically, they are shut down, but gloryslots are kind of an old, almost-tolerated tradition; and the whores in service at the Emptier, during their fifteen days in the holy city, can put together some extra credits with these little side jobs.

The man would like to enjoy the slits row on his left, which shows a dozen of holes, each encircled by a crown of red lighting stars, filled with whores’ mouths waiting for their food.

What a wonderful sucking machine! thinks the man who prefers to empty his balls in the old-fashioned way. You guys can keep your fucking nosey software to yourselves.

The other slits row, on the right side of the room, seems a hive of waving male and female butts, wagging, waiting for their unknown masters.

Maybe next time, the fat man says to himself, turning toward those voracious red, blue and black lips luring him with their swirling tongues.

He chooses the third hole, pulls down his underpants, his flabby cock flops out, and he shoves it inside.

Hmmm, baby, do your thing, he whispers, while a fleshy mouth starts working on his shiny glans. Whoa, you’re doing great, honey, now faster…even more!

Then, the whore hidden back there, a fifty-year-old skank with worn knees, screws up and bites by accident the fat man’s dick, right in the middle of the good parts.

God damn it! shouts the man, doing a back tuck off the hole.

He sees his cock bleed, limper than a slice of lox.

This is a scam! Where’s the boss? This is not over, there will be hell to pay!

He’s right: a display above the slits row, which looks like a departure & arrivals screen at a train station, claims that holes from number 1 to 3 are managed by old toothless sluts, who are required to get rid of their dentures before starting to work.

Shit. It burns!

The fat man is beside himself with rage, he bends over his trousers piled on the floor, and from a pocket he pulls out a Walther MicroQ gun, the size of a pinkie, emptying it against the thin partitions. Now there are many more holes there. The squawking voices of the whores’ platoon under attack are making a damned mess, some of them are trying to fix their huge breast implants by tucking their fingers into the bullet wounds, to prevent loss of silicone.

Alarm: security rushes in.

“Where’s the prick? Gil, you go right with your men, hurry!”

Cipriano, Security Chief of the Desert Siren, is dazed. In the holy city, all weapons are forbidden; how the fuck that bastard…

He has never had a situation like that to handle. The worst were insignificant brawls. Until a few years ago, he used to command a brigade of the Mexican Mar Rojo legion, the most dreaded mercenaries on the planet. Now, he has hanged up his combat boots and just enjoys the privileges.

Cipriano feels confused and rusted. Holy shit, his brain is not as quick as it used to be. I’m a wreck, he thinks.

And retirement is close, by now.

Shanti has always entrusted itself to technology: droids and integrated systems. Security forces—those in flesh and bones—are limited. They are scenography: camo suits, shiny weapons, big-ass tactical goggles. They enhance the safety perception in shaved-ass citizens and traditionalists. And they do a little off-the-books work in low-tier places like the Desert Siren, where you cannot rely on the official city droids.

“Gil! Gil! Do you hear me? Jesus, can’t hear shit with these things!”

The Desert Siren automatically enters lockdown mode.

The fat man in underwear keeps shooting, damaging the structure, squealing like a stuck pig: “I just wanted a pair of soft gums, not reach for the moon, for fuck’s sake.” The fat citizen is out of his mind, never mix Indian sparkling wine with Cloud 6, everyone knows.

“Get me a fucking octogenarian with orange lipstick. Now!”

The four security guards take position two-by-two on opposite sides of the room. They command the citizen to throw away the weapon and surrender.

Cipriano takes the situation in his hands; he wants to avoid further bloodshed. He knows what he is doing, he has experience and knows men. Someone on his way for a quick blowjob is not a terrorist.

And then, some riddled old slut is something you can live with. But a Shanti citizen torn apart—in an illegal place, on top of that—is not nice. Cipriano knows he risks losing his job, for a fuck-up like that.

Fuck no, I’m not going back out there, not yet.

“Sir! You hear me? You’re surrounded and outgunned…come out and let’s put an end to this!”

He orders not to open fire, to stay calm. They are four against one. Gil, on the other side of the room, relays the order to his men.

The man in underwear is out of sight, hiding somewhere behind the torn partitions Cipriano insists in his negotiation.

“Sir, we’re here to help you. If you don’t cooperate, they’ll put you on the King’s chair. You know that, right? Come out, so we can work this out. But you have to do that now…”

Finally, a voice answers, “The service here sucks, you know? Who are you to guarantee anything? I expect to be satisfied, so take your best old whore here. And don’t forget: I need gums, not fucking teeth!”

Cipriano thinks that the man is in his hands; he drops his pulse rifle and comes out in the open.

It is almost dinner time; the incident must be fixed right now.

Gil takes his face in his hands. Shit! That one has lost his marbles.

“Okay. Do you see me now? Cipriano Morales, Security Chief, I’m unarmed. Let’s end this, sir. You’ll have what you want. We’ll work it out, you’ll see.”

A dull shot. One only. Cipriano’s skull explodes. Fucking aim, not half bad.

The Security Chief of the Desert Siren stands for a few seconds more, without head. Old Cipriano still cannot believe he is going to skip dinner. And not only that.

His jaw dropping, Gil takes a breath and stops dillydallying, “Fire! I want that asshole’s balls on a tray, well cooked!”

The weapons roar full-force. The gloryslots partitions are hit and set on fire. The Desert Siren fills with smoke. The man in underwear is still nowhere to be seen in that mess.

A different alarm shrieks. Shanti red alert. Shots never go unnoticed: official forces are incoming. A PA message, gently perverse, warns about the imminent droid intervention:

 

HUMAN ACTION EXPIRED.

CITY SECURITY DROIDS ACTIVATED.

PLEASE LEAVE AREA.

 

“Let’s go, everybody out!” Gil manages to push his men away from the critical area. He well knows that Hell is about to break loose. This is going to be no joke.

Smoke, confusion, curses. Everybody squeezed against the emergency hatch. Exits locked.

The hiss of magnetic cushions, the moment has come. The iron army is out of the workshop. The ill-fated song of the IG-99 combat droids echoes.

Gallop of circuits, of multilayer perceptrons. Incandescent synapses.

Stuff which costs millions. Shanti stuff.

From its side turret, one of the two tank droids launches a minirocket, opening a breach directly into the room from outside. Red alert allows them to make a clean sweep. And do it quick.

A second launch, then another. Killer droids join the assault, guaranteeing better flexibility and attack dynamics. No-way-out sequences. Collateral damage unavoidable.

The Desert Siren flares up: crystal rain, metal shards in irregular orbits. The man in underwear, wherever he is, has no longer a single molecule whole. He is meat confetti.

Pieces of bodies scattered everywhere. The survivors slip on organic slush: blood, burnt muscle, mush of brain and liver sprayed on the ceiling.

Gil has hacked it, only a hand has gone melted. But one of his men did not make it.

The killer droids approach, frame the two surviving men in their sensors. They stink of death, too, but they are moving, they are almost whole. They are dangerous. The red alert is not stopping, the fire has blocked the security system.

It will restart in a couple minutes, too many. Altered configurations. The droids’ deterministic software condemns everybody.

Gil holds Eusebio, his brother. The younger man is not down with being executed: he opens fire against those metal bellies. Shitty energy-suckers! The droids advance in rank, and they finish the massacre with flamethrowers, like you do with bugs. Job terminated.

The city alarm turns off… With the fire out, aspirators and servo-drones begin cleaning up the place. Those citizens who are uncomfortable with the perversion-reading tech of the Emptier will have to wait for another gloryslots place to pop up somewhere in the holy city.

Many people have gathered outside the structure: voices, jokes, conjectures. From the ruined place, a long line of singed sluts come out, escorted to the whores’ clinics. A fatty is bleeding from her ass, she leaves a wide red stroke behind her. Laughter.

ONE PIECE AT A TIME

Excerpt from the novel ‘Shanti – The Sadist Heaven’ by Alessandro Manzetti

(Necro Publications, April 2019)

Malo and Brice face each other, a threadbare cube dividing them. Eyes in the eyes, teeth ready to grind. The challenge: five dishes in front of them, hidden by a dull thermolite lid.

The contents, the food, hardly visible. Ulysse, short legs, the referee of the Meat Roulette, is ready to start the game. Stubby fingers, the big ring on his middle finger supporting a threebreasted bust, languidly lying among his hairs. Five hundred credits for the winner: a long line for the competitor selection, many punch-ups outside the Cafe. Spits, broken bottles, stabs.

Brice is the champion. For Malo, this is the first time. He must win, unless he wants to keep eating green shit. Slowly getting ill, ending up among the waking junk. With the lighthouse of awareness lit and his body turned off. Feeling your legs sawed off, ending up on the menu of the creative restaurants of the apocalyptic district. Either becoming a second course to be nibbled at, or surviving a few months more, in your shoes.

Ulysse, with his odd hopping walk, approaches the cube and delivers the dice to the rivals.

A flock of black faces surrounds the scene. Buzzards, audience, raptors, wretches. Drool wetting those warped snouts. Green foam, like the green shit.

Malo must roll his die first. His hands tremble: Brice is undefeated after seventeen matches. A real master of the Meat Roulette. A sudden burst of blue rain disfigured him; with that half-melted face he looks even more terrible. A draft of fire splinters which drew arabesques on his cheeks. His right ear melted away, it no longer has a shape, looks like a big purple cyst. Protoskin suits are not for all budgets.

First cast: the die rolls, shows its face to the red perblix ceiling: four. Fuck, not bad! Malo resumes breathing, his chances are good.

“My turn, now… I hope you’re not too squeamish…” Brice laughs out loud. The buzzards behind his back join the chorus, showing their vacant gums. He rubs his die between his fingertips, blows on it his rat breath. That mouth, after many challenges at the Une piece a la fois, is sealed by thick, rotten membranes.

Throw: the die runs to the border of the cube. Shit, it’s a zero if it falls! But after a final, slow tilt, it sets on the edge, a few millimeters from the abyss. From Ulysse’s open palm. Letting the dice drop on the floor, during the Meat Roulette, is bad luck: everybody knows that.

A two: this time Brice twists his grin in a weird, unnatural way. He straightens his back and farts, he doesn’t seem to worry too much: “Don’t kid yourself, dickhead, it’s just the first round. And then, I don’t mind a bite, actually…let’s see: what do we have here?”

Ulysse, the short referee, slowly lifts the lid, revealing the contents of the first dish. It’s Brice’s turn to eat: he has lost the first roll.

The spectators groan, get their noses closer, stretch their senses. They ask themselves what the fuck is that shit. A small, dark-colored lump; round-shaped, more or less.

Someone tries to guess:

One of Ulysse’s nuts! That small, it can’t be anything else. Hey, midget! You put your own balls into play this time…not that you needed them anyway…

But don’t you see how dark it is? Rat shit, that’s what it is. Those green-eyed beasts splashing around in the Rouge Seine. I’ve seen them, those bastards…

What the fuck are you saying? I’m betting ten credits that’s a nice lung meatball! Some poor devil who made an ugly end. The midget is a motherfucker…he won’t play it that easy.

Brice pushes back the buzzards, looks Ulysse in the eye. The champion waits to learn the truth about his morsel, before swallowing it. Those are the rules. Whoever gives up, whoever does not enjoy the disgusting dishes of the Apocalypse Cook, is out of the game.

The midget spills the beans with his faggot voice: “Fried green shit kneaded with mutated sperm, Brice. Not easy to find in solid form. I flaked it from the curb, not far from here, after the last boiling rain. Assholes who kept screwing on the street when the display already showed the last orange warning. The dickhead must have come right during the mess… So, Brice, are you up to it? Shouldn’t be bad: nutritious, crunchy: caramelized sperm.”

Brice grabs his morsel, he does not waste time. He detaches half of it with the vise of his right molars, and swallows. His face is frozen, no expression.

A buzzard throws up on the midget’s shoes. What the fuck! Out of here!

Malo understands that beating Brice will be hard: that animal doesn’t fear anything. Sperm is a formidable death carrier.

“So, dickhead, can we go on?”

Brice doesn’t yield one centimeter; he has swallowed the rest and now he is gulping down a glass of tequila. Everything under control.

Second dice roll: this time Brice throws first. The die finishes a tight turn and shows a three.

Unlucky day for the champion. Malo takes courage, he awfully needs those five hundred credits. His son, Patrice: his legs are so thin he could plant him in the tarmac like a road sign.

The die in his hand feels heavier.

“Come on, what are you waiting for?” Brice doesn’t give him respite.

Malo watches the second dish; the outline of the next special morsel looks bigger, it will be hard to swallow that. Whatever it is. But the midget’s lids trick the eye. The Meat Roulette is a dangerous game, it can drive you crazy.

His hand shakes, the die does not come off his skin. And yet, Malo’s chances of rolling higher again are good, a three is not that high. But he cannot do it. That whitish shape in the dish, which seems to slide on the bottom with soft, primal paws, is too much for him. He thinks about Patrice, his crumbling bones. But it is really too much.

“I’m out, guys, I can’t go on.”

Ulysse lets a red handkerchief drop on Brice’s shoulder: the winner, once again. Then he approaches Malo, shoving his tongue into his ear. Malo knows the rules, he lowers his head: he must accept the consequences.

The buzzards move away, disappointed. The game has ended too soon, not even time enough for side bets to take flight.

Midget, what the fuck, choose your players better! There’s people waiting outside, ready to everything.

Malo follows Ulysse toward the backroom. He has to slow down his pace several times.

The hopping, slanting rhythm of the midget is too slow. Short legs.

The door shuts: a small room without windows. Choked oxygen. A long table, beside a PX carving machine. An old model. Obsolete technology, sharp steel. Blades and pivots. The snakes of extractor tubes. Cauterizer.

“What do you choose? Come on, I must get back there before those sons of bitches swipe everything.”

Ulysse’s faggot voice cuts deep like his shitty machine. It is not easy to choose a piece of your own body to be hacked off, to be used as a dish for the next Meat Roulette games.

Malo is shaking; he has gambled too much. In a corner of that room of madness, human pieces are heaped, packaged and sealed. Silver-colored bags of different size. Holographic tag. Meat ready for the midget’s arcane meatballs. Malo notices a hand in the pile. The lesser evil, at this point…

“My left hand…okay?”

Without answering, Ulysse turns on the carving device. The hand is good. Perfect to create several Roulette appetizers. Fried fingers, for example. Fantasy has no limits, at Une piece a la fois.

Ulysse stares at Malo’s wrist, on the tray of the machine. “We’re cutting here, okay?”

Malo throws up tears. Without a hand, finding a job in South Paris 5 will be even harder.

Patrice’s bones will fall to pieces, one by one. Son’s dust, this is what he’ll have left of him.

A few weeks, tops. Pulp to fill up a small blue box, twenty centimeters, but the child will keep screaming in his head forever.

“Stop…listen, I can scrape together some credits, I just need a couple days. I know they’re looking for…”

Malo’s words, thick with despair, are cut short by the midget. Index finger on his nose: silence, please. Ulysse locks the door, approaches and pulls down his pants. All clear: the faggot gladly exchanges one left hand for a screw.

Both of Malo’s wrists are bonded to the carving machine. He has to bend on his knees to find the right position. He arches his back, joint geometries. You cannot beat the thrill of buying a soul. Much stronger than cutting simple, mindless chunks of meat. With no longer memories to record.

Malo lowers his head, clenches his teeth. It hurts, like everything else has been for years.

Blurbs:

“If, as Umberto Eco said, ‘Reading is immortality backward,’ then reading Alessandro Manzetti’s Shanti — The Sadist Heaven is seeing mortality into a future coming apart at seams and stitches as civilization metastasizes before your eyes. The hyperreality of Manzetti’s nitty-gritty prose gives a kaleidoscopic fly’s-eye view of the Hell that is South Paris 5 and his poetic metaphors burrow into your psyche to lay mind-blowing oospores. This is an epic of stunning imagination, a veritable pleasure palace of perversion where humanity and cancer are indistinguishable.” — RANDY CHANDLER, author of Bad Juju, HELLz BELLz, Duet for the Devil, and co-editor of Year’s Best Hardcore Horror

“Manzetti guides us through a depraved and soul-scouring journey into the brutal and apocalyptic world of South Paris 5, where human flesh is the entree du jour and body packaging services a thriving business.  Here desperate degenerates play Meat Roulette, a hideous game of chance in which losers get to choose which body part will be hacked off, and teenaged girls are recruited to service the scum of an experimental detention program in the baking emptiness of the Sonoran Desert. A master of extreme horror, Manzetti describes a world steeped in cruelty and perversion with a lyricism that often verges on the sublime. For those undaunted by the subject matter, his work is an experience not to be missed! ” — Lucy Taylor, author of Dancing with Demons and Safety of Unknown Cities

About the Author

ALESSANDRO MANZETTI (Rome, Italy) is a Bram Stoker Award-winning (and 7-time nominee) author and editor of horror fiction and dark poetry.

English publications include his novel Naraka – The Ultimate Human Breeding, the collections The Garden of Delight, The Massacre of the Mermaids, The Monster, the Bad and the Ugly (with Paolo Di Orazio) and the poetry collections No Mercy, Eden Underground, War (with Marge Simon) Sacrificial Nights (with Bruce Boston) and Venus Intervention (with Corrine de Winter).

His story collection The Garden of Delight has been nominated for the Splatterpunk Awards 2018.

He edited the anthologies The Beauty of Death Vol 1, The Beauty of Death Vol. 2 – Death by Water (with Jodi Renee Lester) and the 2019 Splatterpunk Award Nominee anthology Monsters of Any Kind (with Daniele Bonfanti).

His stories and poems have appeared in many Italian, USA, UK magazines and anthologies, among them: Splatterpunk Forever, Best Hardcore Horror of the Year Vol. 2 and Vol. 4, Dark Moon Digest, Splatterpunk Zine, Disturbed Digest.

Forthcoming books in English: The Place of Broken Things (Poetry Collection, with Linda Addison, Crystal Lake Publishing, July 2019); The Radioactive Bride (Collection, Necro Publications, Q3 2019), New Sodom (Novel, Necro Publications, Q2 2020), The Keeper of Chernobyl (Novel, Omnium Gatherum, release date to be determined)

Website: http://www.battiago.com

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