Copyright 2015 by Carine Engelbrecht
Thank you for downloading this e-book. Although it is free, it remains the copyrighted intellectual property of the author and may be reproduced, copied and distributed only for non-commercial reasons and provided that the content remains in its original, complete form. It is a work of fiction.
For my sister, Janneke, who, despite not being much of a horror fan herself, attended each of my readings at the Bloody Parchment Reading Event, except for the last one. She had a good excuse for her absence, though, and I know she was there in spirit. Hope you enjoy this collection, J.
And for Nerine, thanks for bringing this event to life, (2009-2014).
Right. I’m at the door, like those Jehova’s Witnesses that always come round early on a Sunday morning, when everyone civilized is still asleep. Except, of course, you called me, didn’t you?
Remember me, voice on the phone talking pepperroni and double mozzarella? Yep, it’s the pizza guy, right at this sorry excuse of a door separating me from your generous presence, hint, hint…
What a dump! Look, I don’t mean to criticize, but if I had the price of this pizza, plus tip to go, I’d upgrade my living conditions first. I mean, this place looks like a squat.
Customers. In my humble opinion, the pay’s not enough for dealing with all the stupid questions. Take addresses, for instance. If you’re calling out to have a pizza delivered, it’s pure logic that the delivery guy needs to know where you live. There’s no such thing as, I’ve been ordering for years, they all know where I stay. What do they think? Our drivers are psychic?
You have no idea how many people don’t even know where they live. Like, how did they get there in the first place? Are they aliens from Mars that just landed?
In case you haven’t noticed, I’m not really the delivery pizza guy, I’m the talk-on-the-phone-taking-your-dumb-orders pizza guy.
Like there’s a difference, Tony the bossman always says.
At least fifty IQ points in the upper direction, I always tell him back.
I’m only here because Johnno seems to have disappeared.
By the way, you didn’t see where the old geezer went to, did you? I see his van’s still parked out front and Tony sort of needs him to cash up before he can close the shop.
On the other hand, I can sort of imagine it. Bit of a boozer, Old Johnno. Or maybe he went for a walk, if you know what I mean.
Now, don’t get me started on the pizzas.
Had a guy phone in earlier who didn’t even know what a pizza was. So, how did you know you wanted one, I asked, which got nothing but a dirty look from Tony, who happened to be standing right behind me at the time.
So, I had to go the whole routine of Look, you take a piece of round dough and then you add tomato base, what do you mean, what’s tomato base? but because Tony stuck to me like superglue, I had to go the whole hog. When we got to add-ons, I wanted to cry, because the guy made me read the whole list from artichokes to zuchini and I had to explain what everything was and then he wanted to add everything to the pizza. That was when Tony’s eyes began to water with greed and I thought, Holy crap, this sounds like a dud.
Wait a minute – that was you, wasn’t it?
Well, it’s on your plastic, the card went through like a dream and, if you don’t come to the door at the count of ten, it’s my supper.
So, tell me, just out of interest, are you hiding some army of aliens from Mars in there, because, as I remember it, this is your second super-size pizza for the night.
Speaking of which, the pizza – guaranteed hot or your money back.
If you’ll answer your frigging door, that is.
That’s more like it…. hey wait, where did… Oh my God, what’s this?
Hey wait, that’s Johnno’s cap! He never takes it off. Wait, don’t close the door!
Can you switch on the light, maybe? Listen…
If you’re thinking of playing games…. Switch on the light, man, I nearly tripped on your shoes here. What are they? Filled with lead?
Oh my…. this has got to be some sick kind of joke. This can’t be. It feels like somebody’s foot. Ahhhhh! It is somebody’s foot. I think I’m going to be sick.
So, it’s not the pizza you’ve been calling for, is it?
Hey! Let me out of here!
(read live at the Book Lounge, 27 October 2010)
Oops! Here goes…
On the 13th year, on All Hallows Eve, if you follow the instructions carefully and take the necessary precautions, it is possible to find the ever-shifting market fair of the damned and the undead, to gain an unholy object, an artefact, who knows, a fully functioning spell, an amulet that could bestow terrible powers of the kind not meant to be seen here on Earth. You might trade with a demon, a succubus, a vampire, a zombie, a werewolf, a lost god – careless folk, these gods – an undead sorceress, a demented wizard out of his time, or even the devil himself…
Or, you could end up with me….
Is it a con – a masquerade of clever thieving gypsies like myself and their accomplices? Don’t be too hasty to decide.
But beware, the way is perilous and few are the ones who do not find themselves lost, or become wares to be traded themselves.
Well, here’s a little foretaste of what to expect. Tonight’s special is the mask of Arrakutt. Look a little plain, does it? Well, don’t you be fooled by its relative simplicity. Leonardo had it once. Do I need to tell you which Leonardo I’m referring to? He wasn’t the only one. Galileo also owned it. And threw it away, the superstitious fool, for all that history calls him a man of science. But perhaps… he was wise after all. Van Gogh waited too long. Jim Morrison went to bed with it…
Ah well, want me to tell you what the mask of Arrakutt can do for you?
Have you ever longed for that moment of absolute, brilliant clarity, when all makes perfect sense, of knowing everything in context… of being omnipotent… like God himself…
Beware… it only lasts a moment… and if you want to prolong the moment… absolute, terror-filled madness follows. But, do you know the exact measure of a moment? No we’re not talking modern minutes and seconds here – an old-fashioned moment like they had them in the bad old days.
Would you know when to yank it off?
Would you have the courage to put it on in the first place?
Go on, the rewards can be so…. interesting? Wanna be Bill Gates? Lady Gaga? Now there’s an interesting moment. My offer expires at midnight…
Any takers? You?????
Are you ready to meet your maker? That is the question that each and every one of you in the audience down here, must ask yourself, as we come to the 173rd episode of The Greatest Lottery on Earth.
Good evening also to you, our television audience. As you all know, complete footage from each of our 84 hidden webcams of the private activities of our participants can be accessed in individual streams from www.lotteryplus.com, if you have a platinum subscription. For those of you with gold and silver subscriptions will be able to download a maximum of 500MB and 250MB respectively. Bronze subscribers are still able to view the prime time lottery selections and will receive a weekly bulletin link containing a few show highlights sent their email accounts. You can upgrade your subscription at any time, by dialing 0800 15573112. Calls charged at .75 per minute.
Exempt from tonight’s draw is the winner of episode 172, ladies and gentlemen, give a big hand to Gavin Oxbow, a butcher and serial killer from Grahamstown all the way out in the Eastern Cape region of South Africa. This was by the way, his third win – looks like we are likely to still have you with us for a little while, Gavin.
For those of you watching this at home, if you move your cursor over Gavin’s image, a prompt will come up and you will be able to access all of Gavin’s history, including unique police files and court transcripts. The same goes for any other members of our studio audience that attract your interest.
Now, a word to your studio audience. Some of you are familiar with the rules, but I see quite a few new faces tonight, so lets get started. Each of you have been given a number upon entry. This number was also simultaneously linked to your Greatest Lottery Show on Earth profile. If your name is called out tonight, you may leave this studio at once through the exits marked A or B. You will have exactly 30 minutes before the rest of the studio audience will become your executors. If your number is not drawn, the challenge for survival is yours. If you kill the one whose number is drawn in tonight’s lottery, you will be exempt from the draw in episode 174. Worth playing for?
This show is produced by the Paxton Private Prisons Programme, but most of our other sponsors prefer to remain anonymous. Let’s get to the business of the evening, the drawing of that all important number so that the show can commence.
Forget the Zombie Apocalypse. The Troll Apocalypse has come and gone and guess what – no one noticed…
They were all too busy on facebook or twitter…
The first wave of the invasion hit me when I opened a link to some story on blabbermouth dot net.
It sounded like this:
My temperature shot up and my breathing became faster. I began to type ‘attention whore’…
Then I looked down. Warts were forming on my hands. They leaked green puss onto the keyboard. It was too late. I was infected. My inner troll had taken over.
The stall was located in the most shadowy sector of the Sandburg Music Expo, but everyone passed it sooner or later. It was the last stall on the way to the jazz.
Most people failed to notice the 10ft demon and, if they did, they put his knowing wink and insidious leer down to a trick of the light. Or drugs. There were plenty of those going round as well. Or perhaps some special effect or trick of animation.
Thanks to a particular cocktail of substances, both legal and illegal, Marty Meistakiller came to an unscheduled halt directly opposite the demon.
He blinked. Was the guy for real? An unfortunate side effect of Marty’s chemical enhancement was just the right blend of stupidity and cockiness that made him say, “I thought the devil would have been able to afford something a little less dinghy than this. What’s the matter, dude? Budget cuts bleeding through all the way to hell? Well, you have my sympathy. Ha-ha-ha-ha, sympathy for the devil, geddit? Ha-ha-ha…”
The devil acted with surprising swiftness. He reached out and grabbed Marty’s arm so tightly that a thin trail of blood dribbled down the Grim Reaper tattoo and across the inked metal graveyard below. Nothing wrong with the sharpness of the devil’s claws.
“This location suits my purposes,” the devil hissed. “It’s ideal for flushing out traitors, so to speak.” He squeezed a little harder and there was a whiff of burnt flesh.
Marty was getting a little nervous. I mean, what do you say to the devil, when you are more or less compelled to make conversation with him.
“You know, I c-could be persuaded to make a deal with you,” he stammered.
“Really?” The devil squeezed a little harder.
“I’d happily sell my soul, if you could find some way out of that shitty contract I signed with Hellbound Records,” Marty went on.
“Indeed?” said the devil. His claws dug into Marty’s flesh. The pain was excruciating. “Are you sure?”
The devil’s face briefly morphed into that of Harv Hellebore Kalan, the pig-faced CEO of Hellbound Recornds.
“You weren’t paying attention, were you, boy? Haven’t I told you I was here to flush out traitors?”
The devil let go. Smoke oozed from the torn skin of Marty’s arm. $1000 worth of top notch tattoo art ruined, but that was the least of his worries.
(This story was first read at Bloody Parchment on 29 October 2014)
Yes, sir. He is the last of his kind. All 130 pounds of him. Well, that’s what he weighed the last time we got him onto a scale, but, as you may have noticed, he leaks and oozes constantly. We try to keep the environment cool to minimize further decomposition, but he was already in a fragile state when he came to us. Arizona born and bred, that’s what the paperwork said, so I suppose we’re lucky to have him at all.
You thought he would have smelt worse? You have the air con filter to thank for that. Before the current system was installed, our park regularly ran out of barf bags over weekends and on public holidays.
Real? Sure, he’s real. As real as they come. You don’t believe me? I’m insulted. The only genuine specimen in the world and you think I’m kidding.
Yes, I’ve heard that. The theory is highly controversial, that much of the world’s population was put in suspended animation in kryogenic warehouses while a handpicked few fought it out with monstrosities such as this one, but that was the Second Dark Age and the evidence is right before your eyes. The last zombie of the world.
Yes, I know. The anti-gun lobby have been circulating that old conspiracy theory for decades, that the Zombie Appocalypse was somehow artificially engineered by a few rabid gun owners creating false flag events, but our museum is very proud to present a collection of informative displays featuring audio visual material and interactive computer models. All the material you see before you, recaptures actual events in the First and Second Zombie Wars.
The zombie wars were anti-democratic, you say? Now where do you get that kind of crap from? Listen, the zombie killers were proud defenders of democracy, not its enemies.
You will remember, the gift box at the door, will you? We rely on donations from the public to keep our work alive.
Yes, alive is rather ironic.
Charlie Bravo, come in. We may have found a replacement when Old Adam loses it. Yes, a live one. Questions the whole timeline of the zombie wars. Well, he’s about to learn, not only that zombies do exist, but that he’s about to become our next specimen.
All of these stories were originally read live in front of an audience at a very special event, which goes by the name of Bloody Parchment.
First, a little bit of history. In 2004, Paul Blom and Sonja Ruppersberg of Flamedrop opened the first event, a film festival held in Cape Town to showcase some of the cinematic classics and rareties in the horror genre. The event grew rapidly to a ten day festival with screenings in two cities (Cape Town and Johannesburg) as well as a number of side events. Since 2009, the opening event or prequel to the SA Horrorfest has been Bloody Parchment, a storytelling event that takes place in the early evening at the Book Lounge, Cape Town’s number one independent book shop. Over the years, participating authoers have included Lauren Beukes, Sarah Lotz, Sally Patridge, Joan de la Haye, Henrietta Rose-Innes, Sam Wilson, Maya Fowler, Rachel Zadok, Diane Awerbuck, Cat Hellisen, Nerine Dorman, Terri Dunbar-Curran, Sanette Gildenhuys, Brett Bruton, Toby Bennett, Hennie Lombard and Zane Marc Gentis. And me, of course.
As a mostly indie author (and probably not one of the most prolific at that – let’s be honest), I’ve always felt as the odd one out. I could almost hear people thinking, but who is she? That question stumps me as well. Who am I? I’m still working that one out. Some of my stories might be clues, others red herrings. Up to you to decide which is which.
It all started with The Curious Case of the Pizza Guy, as the story was retro-actively named by the organizers. The story was inspired by my years in the call center at Mr Delivery, one of those “permanent temp” jobs or McJobs, as a friend of mine terms them. Six years of weird requests and anonymous intimacy with the disembodied voices of random strangers all found expression through this story. I quit Mr Delivery in 2008, so those experiences were still fresh enough 10 months later, when the Pizza Guy was born.
There are probably reflections of the Night Market of Neil Gaiman’s Neverwhere as well as Christina Rosetti’s poem Goblin Market in The Mask of Arrakutt. For the reading of the story, I adopted the persona of Black Rapunzel (whose 3ft long spider-infested black braid can be seen on the cover of this volume) and I solicited a pre-arranged scream from the event’s M.C., the incomparable Estee Kira.
The Greatest Lottery on Earth tied in with the zeitgeist of stories like The Hunger Games and reality shows like Survivor, but with my own twist. On a prison island, the life and death struggles of its inmates are broadcast live to subscribers. Once a week, a lottery takes place and one prisoner’s number comes up. What happens to him or her, is detailed in the story.
Congratulations to all who noticed that the 2013 story The Troll Apoccalypse seems to be very short. There is a good reason for this (besides the usual ones such as general laziness or running out of story too soon). That year we decided to focus on a little known art form called the drabble, which challenges authors to pen a work of exactly 100 words. Sure, go back and count the words if you want. Write a few of your own. It can be lots of fun. The inspiration for the story was of a much more serious nature. A few weeks before the event, a teenager, Amanda Todd commited suicide, following a viral campaign of cyberbulling against her, highlighting the damaging impact that trolling can have on young lives. Notably, a video she posted before her death, as well as a page created in her memory saw an influx of negative and abusive comments, even after her death. This clearly illustrates how very contagious trolling can be, as a social disease.
I love metal and plead guilty to regular visits of a certain online metal tabloid. Around the latter part of January and February, news stories and videos are usually dominated by a certain large music industry trade fair, featuring workshops by some of the best musicians in the genre. Since rock is often called the devil’s music, I got to wondering one year whether the Prince of Darkness might have a stall of his own, and what he would use it for. Read The Last Stall to find out.
As told before, the Curious Case of the Pizza Guy resulted from several years as a low wage telephone operater in the call centers of Mr Delivery. But I’ve moved on and now work as a ghost writer via the Internet. One of my repeat topics in recent years has been around travel and tourism and some of those influences crept into some of my writing as I tried to imagine presenting a museum exhibit billed as The Last Zombie in the World.
Thank you for reading. Peace. (And hope you make it home safely).