Flash Fiction: Succubus

By J. L. Mayne


She dances with the room. The music from the speakers vibrates up from the floor, radiating through her bones. She takes in the bodies around her, the crowd moving as one, the addictive notes caressing their brains, they submit to the melody. The sweet smell of sweat and alcohol permeating her nostrils. She allows one to pull her in, their two bodies moving synchronously.

She moves with him for a time before passing to another. A girl, with long blond hair and tight jeans. She tastes her neck, presses her breasts against the girl’s back, grinds against her, then shoves her away in a fluid motion, all part of the dance. All a part of her game to find the perfect morsel. She drags in another, flirting with her eyes, with her seductive sway, with playing that she is almost innocent; innocent, but willing to do just a bit more than dance.

He grazes her inner thigh with his fingers,wanting to feel her, she pushes his hand away smoothly as they dance. His hand returns, another attempt, she allows just a little more, waiting like a spider with its prey. Allowing it to get just a little closer. An easy kill is always best.

Their sway changes with each song. She beguiles him, hints at things to come. His hands feel her curves through her skin-tight blue dress.

Others watch them, envy plain in their eyes. They flock to her as though under a spell. Her sweet nectar just out of reach. She waits to consume them as though she were a pitcher plant; them the flies. Falling into her, only to be consumed.

She slides her hand up his leg, his back, nails dig at his neck, she pulls him in to taste his breath and whispers in his ear; succulent nothings that torment his loins.

She guides him to her apartment. Their groping continues up the flight of stairs. A pinch, a flirtatious smile with a blush on her cheeks.

The door slams shut behind them and the lock clicks. They fall onto the couch to continue their movement as one. She attacks him with her whole, tearing off his clothes. The facade of innocence removed now that she has him captive. She bites his neck, digs nails into his back.

He begs her for more.

She doesn’t care what his name is. Doesn’t expect that she will see him for long. She never does. She only cares that for now he belongs to her. Any whim she desires he will deliver, as long as their dance continues.

She crawls off of him, adjusts her dress and hair and takes a picture of him with her phone, a dumb smile plastered on his face. He doesn’t know who she is. Never will. He only sees the body, only cares what next piece of meat he can put his dick in.

She smiles back, playing into the act. Letting him believe she is his. That this meant something.

He’s just another piece of meat.

Film Review: Climax (2018)

by Ben Arzate


After an intense rehearsal, a French dance troupe throws a party to relax and unwind, enjoying the sangria that the choreographer leading the troupe made for them. However, they soon discover that the sangria has been spiked with LSD. Trapped in their rehearsal hall in the dead of winter, they try to figure out who is responsible for drugging them as their highs cause them to act more and more violent and erratic.

Gaspar Noe is known as a unique, but polarizing director. Many praise him for his unflinching and confrontational style while others dismiss him as a puerile nihilist for his dark and disturbing stories. It’s no wonder one of the first English posters for this film was a message from Noe saying, “You despised I Stand Alone, you hated Irréversible, you loathed Enter the Void, you cursed Love, now try Climax.

When I went to see it, there were only two other people in the theater. I think it’s safe to say the film is effective. By the end of it, the other two were crying, and, as much as I admire the film, I was glad it was over.

One thing I was surprised to learn is that almost all the actors are dancers with no previous acting experience. The movie spends a good amount of time establishing the numerous characters both through their audition tapes, their masterfully filmed dance scenes, and their dialogue. All of them give excellent performances. Especially when the shit hits the fan and they drink the dosed sangria. Their freak outs are disturbingly convincing.

Many other staples of Noe’s films are here, including his unusual cinematography, use of title cards, and use of audio to disorient the audience. Half the film is one long shot and by the climax  the film is almost entirely upside down. It’s like a waking nightmare. Noe manages to take upbeat Eurodance music, including from Thomas Bangalter of Daft Punk, and make it extremely terrifying. The second half of the film is filled with screaming and moaning as the dancers’ conditions get worse and worse.

While there is a mystery aspect to it, the dancers trying to figure out who was responsible for drugging them, it’s somewhat in the background as they try to deal with their own freak outs. Instead, a big focus is on the psychological aspect of how each of them handle the LSD high. Some engage in self-destruction, others lash out at the other dancers, but a few come out having confronted the deep feelings they couldn’t handle before.

For example, one dancer’s signature is to twist himself beyond what most people can. After he’s drugged, he starts pushing himself harder and harder to twist himself into even more unnatural positions. Eventually, he breaks bones doing this. The LSD pushed him to further his art as a dancer until he was beyond human limits. Another is a brother-sister duo forced to confront the incestuous feelings they have for each other.

Climax is an intense experience. It goes without saying it’s not for the faint of heart, but it shows Noe is still one of the most unique, powerful, and confrontational directors working today. I especially recommend seeing this one in the theater if you can.

The Maze (2010) Movie Review

by Zakary McGaha

Warning: This review has spoilers.

I don’t like writing bad reviews. I don’t enjoy using gigantic amounts of snark to tear things apart. But The Maze, a 2010 horror film directed by Stephen Shimek, deserves more than snark: it deserves super snark.

The Maze is a film I used to see all the time back in the days of video stores…as in, I saw the DVD collecting dust on various shelves. I don’t recall ever having picked it up, which is strange considering its poster is pretty neat. I guess it’s true what they say about psychic abilities: they’re stronger when you’re a kid.

I knew avoiding the thing was necessary without knowing anything about it. These days, my psychic abilities must have diminished greatly considering I was excited when I saw the familiar poster pop up on one of my streaming channels.

I went in expecting a fun, Halloween-tinted slasher story about people in a corn maze. I figured a nostalgic chord would be struck. Being a country boy, I have fond memories of corn mazes. They’re the perfect settings for slasher stories because anyone can easily hide along the trail, and if they know the layout better than you, you’re in for a doozy. Given this, how could a slasher film set in a corn maze NOT be good…or, at the very least, passable?

Watch The Maze if you want to see how the proverbial “they” can screw up the most foolproof of concepts.

It’s a common thing among people who love shitting on horror movies to say, “Them characters is stupid.” But, concerning this movie, they’re entirely justified. The “killer” of this film (who turns out being the most non-imposing dirty cop in the history of law enforcement) has everything going for him in terms of carrying out his sadistic fantasies with ease.

He finds himself up against the most incompetent, ANNOYING group of personality-lacking losers who’ve ever shamed the whole of cinema with their presence. We learn literally nothing about any of them (except stupid shit), and, unlike in good slasher movies, none of them are interesting enough to keep us entertained before they get killed. Hell, I don’t even care about “liking” the characters in slasher movies before they’re killed. I just want characters who are…I don’t know, “fun” to watch? Not boring?

Anyway, non-characters aside, let’s focus on the kills. Uniformly, every single one was lame. The “killer” (who I will continue to reference in quotes in order to exaggerate his lameness) carried around a wimpy switchblade or something, and all he did was shank and cut people.

The blood was minimal, and the “killer” spends the entire movie looking like some sort of “no-one-understands-me” teen in a red hoodie and jeans. He’s quite the scrawny villain, which made it hard for me to wrap my head around how he was able to swipe at everyone with his switchblade.

Said “killer” also spent a lot of time doing stupid shit, like putting his victims in chairs and placing hats on them.

Coming up with things to say about this movie is hard due to its overall emptiness. It was basically a generic, poorly done, passionless slasher movie that ended up being a dirty cop movie for the last twenty minutes.

There are no reasons to watch this movie: none of the characters (including the “killer”) are interesting enough to watch, there’s zero gore, there’s no style, there are no themes…there’s, simply, nothing.

It’s hard to imagine why this movie was made. They couldn’t have possibly thought that people would pay to see it.

I probably come across as a sour reviewer, but I’m not. I like cheesy, generic horror. It’s my thing. My only stipulation is that it’s at least made with fun. I mean, if watching this movie felt like a chore, I can’t imagine what making it felt like.

0/5 stars.

Dreams of Death and Pimps: An Interview with Author and Editor Garrett Cook

by Ben Arzate


Garrett Cook is the author of several strange, entertaining and, at times, downright disturbing books. He also works as an editor for Eraserhead Press as well as a freelancer. When he’s not writing or editing, he teaches online writing workshops. A quick disclaimer: I’ve taken some of his workshops and he’s done some editing work for me.


Ben Arzate: Introduce yourself. What is Garrett Cook?


Garrett Cook: I teach and implement directed dreaming. Whether it’s through helping develop books or turning my own nightmares into fiction, I work with dreams and the molding of the subconscious into something expressive. So, I think I’m someone skilled with and sustained by dreams.


Ben: Is getting your inspiration from dreams what attracted you to Bizarro and horror fiction?


Garrett: Part of it. What mostly attracted me to it was that it allows people to create a profoundly personal aesthetic and cosmology. I’ve always felt that realism didn’t explore reality or get to the nature or heart of situations as well as horror and allegory. My nightmares and dreams have always had really visceral and meaningful symbology in them and I’ve learned a lot from them. I feel that kind of storytelling is more personal and expressive then exploring what lit fic and Fox Searchlight have said are relevant situations. 90s TV was loaded with “relevance.” I had enough of that growing up.


Ben: How would you describe your style of writing to someone who hasn’t read any?


Garrett: I would say sparse but rhythmic. I prefer to let a few set pieces or a character set the scene over creating a firm sense of place. I kind of prefer moods and textures over concrete objects and sometimes those happen through rhythm, repetition or omission.



Ben: A God of Hungry Walls is one of the most intense horror novels I’ve read. What was the inspiration behind it?


Garrett: A feeling of separation from the idea of home and the idea of family and the impossibility of them. I saw a lot of people in my generation torn from and separated from those possibilities. It’s literally a house that trauma built and one that deals with the idea of an acquisitive and hateful society eating us alive.



Ben: Crisis Boy is the latest book you’ve had published. Can you tell us a little about it?


Garrett: It’s essentially a cosmic horror novel where instead of Cthulhu or something, the existential threat is a world that runs on bullshit. The main character is an invincible teenager whose job is to be seen getting killed in violent atrocities. He decides that he’s tired of this and he’s afraid of a girl he likes being killed in a school shooting so he teams up with the only person unhinged enough to believe in the conspiracy that spawned him. It’s a vicious mockery of right-wing conspiracy culture and our indifference to kids getting murdered in shootings.


Ben: When you’re not working on your own writing, you’re often running writing workshops. What got you into doing that? How has the experience been?


Garrett: I was starting to get more and more editing clients and several of them had questions about process, questions about writing in the genre, or wanted guidance developing stuff. I thought it would be a good idea to bring these people together, make some extra money and use what I’ve learned working in writing and publishing to help make more work happen. It’s a great experience because as a writer and editor, you don’t get a lot of instant validation. When you get a chance to see a win happen or see someone grow, that’s a good, strong hit of morale and morale matters.


Ben: Which book that you’ve written so far is your favorite and why?


Garrett: I would say A God of Hungry Walls. It gave me a chance to speak from the mouth of a lot of demons and explore toxicity in ways that I think have made me a better person for it.


Ben: What are you currently working on?


Garrett: I’m doing a book called Charcoal for Clash. It’s kind of an arthouse Queer extreme horror take on The Picture of Dorian Grey. I’m also working on a Sword and Sorcery Mythos novel with lesbian heroines taking on the Elder Gods in a Lovecraft/Smith/Howard infused 17th Century Earth. They’re both very much about fighting off trauma and the power the past holds over us.


Ben: What’s the story behind the purple hat? Or do you just wear it because it looks cool?


Garrett: Purple is a color that in Vodou is associated with the dead and that which came before us but at the same time, in death, there is raucous celebration, ecstatic heat, and joie de vivre. I gave Time Pimp a purple hat because of that. A few weeks before the Bizarrocon where I had a big Time Pimp reading, I saw a purple fedora from a pimp costume on sale for $3.50 at CVS. It had a leopard hat band that I took off it but the hat made me feel good and people on the street said nice things about it. I keep it with me everywhere ever since.


Ben: Any links or anything else to plug?


Garrett: Still space in May and June’s workshops. Anyone can hit me up on Facebook if they want to do some fun exercises or develop a novella. It’s always a blast. Also, Anna Suarez’s new poetry book Papi Doesn’t Love Me No More from Clash is amazing and deserves all the love and attention in the world. It’s up for pre-order now: https://www.amazon.com/Papi-Doesnt-Love-Me-More/dp/1944866396/


Ben: Thanks so much for your time, Garrett!


Garrett: You are most welcome. Thanks for the ink.


The Gleaming Crest by Brandon Adamson – Chapbook Review

by Ben Arzate

Arizona poet Brandon Adamson is the author three prior poetry collections. The Gleaming Crest is his fourth, though technically his first as it’s a re-release of a handmade chapbook created in 1995 when Adamson was still in high school. It’s even designed to resemble the original chapbook with its typewriter font and the intentionally crude looking hand drawings by Mark Shoenecker.

Personally, I want every single poem I wrote in high school to be burned and the ashes buried six feet deep. However, Adamson had some of these poems published in literary magazines at the time, so it seems he was farther ahead in his writing abilities than many other high school writers. Reading the chapbook, I can confirm that’s the case.

Some of the themes of nostalgia and futurism that appear in his later collections are here as well. For example, “Computer Animated Glass Sphere” is a mediation on a commercial for an IBM Aptiva commercial. Specifically, about a young man wearing a beanie who briefly appears in the titular glass sphere in it. It reminds me of the hope for where technology could take humanity which ran throughout his later collection Skytrain to Nowhere.

Some of Adamson’s poetry here is pretty mature for having been written by a high school student. For example, there are poems here about drifting away from friends which are neither whiny nor place any blame. “Three Year Reunion” is in the form of phone conversation. One person calls the other with the intent of reconnecting after years of not seeing each other.

However, it’s clear the person he’s calling has too much going on in their life to be able to take the time to reconnect. This is also the theme of “Cereal Boy,” where Adamson describes meeting an old friend who’s changed a lot as being “like a bowl of ‘Alpha-Bits’ cereal that no longer contains alphabet letters.” It describes these feelings of loss without delving into overbearing angst as many lesser high school poets do (ahem).

There still is, however, an aura of juvenilia around much of the book. “Diamond Poems” is a set of three poems shaped, as the title suggests, like diamonds that are little more than word associations. Some of the rhyming poems, like “The Lonely Beach,” read like the lyrics to a not particularly great song.

The Gleaming Crest does show that Brandon Adamson had talent from a young age. However, this book is really only for those who’ve already read his other works. I would recommend his poetry collections Beatnik Fascism and Skytrain to Nowhere first. If you find those compelling, then pick this one up.