Today is the seventh entry in our month-long look at the stories in CHROMOPHOBIA, our upcoming horror anthology edited by award-winning poet and author, Sara Tantlinger. We will be bringing you at least one new story per day, Monday through Friday. CHROMOPHOBIA is our big release in 2022, and we hope you are as excited as we are!
by Jess Koch
Here’s an except:
The smell of burnt feathers clings to her clothes. She can’t get the screeches of dying birds, dying half-birds out of her head. In her mind, she rewinds to early that day and sees the aviary standing, the great glass dome reflecting back a low golden sun. And then she is inside again. And there are the birds, perched above her head on high branches with their blue and yellow plumage. Colors so bright they almost look like they give off their own light. There’s a woman sitting in the garden. But she’s not just a woman. She stretches her arms—no, her wings—out wide to either side of her. She hears the click of the lighter again, feels the heat of the fire. Mags reaches out toward the woman as her feathers catch the flames.
She opens her mouth to scream.
But then Sahra’s voice cuts in. “Mags, what do you mean?”
And Mags is back in the bar, rubbing her temple. She takes another sip of her drink, buying herself a moment. “I don’t know. All the others were…disturbing. Wrong. But this one was…” She wants to say beautiful.
“It wasn’t any different. Illegal and messed up is what it is. What they all are.” Sahra downs the last sip of her wine and shakes her head. “Besides, we’re not paid for our opinions. We’re just the muscle.” She taps the lighter with her index finger, then digs into her pocket and pulls out a twenty. “This one’s on me. I’m gonna go home.” She turns her head to sniff the collar of her coat and crinkles her nose. “And take a shower.”
Mags watches her leave. The bar is mostly empty now, except for the bartender and a couple sitting in the corner booth giggling flirtatiously, maddeningly while the screaming woman’s voice still echoes in the hollows of her mind.
Her reflection stares back at her from beyond the wall, a mocking patron, as if she’s saying: This is all you are, all you’ll ever be. But Mags ignores her and takes the last sip of her drink.
She leaves, coat pulled close, a secret in her pocket.
Jess Koch is an up-and-coming author who has published in places like Metaphorosis Magazine and Fusion Fragment, and has upcoming pieces being published by Ghost Orchid Press and Bourbon Penn. She is currently working on a novel. You can follow her and her work HERE.
We certainly hope you like what you’ve seen! Being able to publish emerging writers alongside more established voices is always an honor for Rooster Republic and Strangehouse Books. You can pre-order the special hardcover edition of CHROMOPHOBIA from Rooster Republic Press HERE.
And if you’ve missed any of our previous CHROMOPHOBIA showcases, catch up at the following links:
Thanks for stopping in and thanks for your interest!
In the meantime, did you know that CHROMOPHOBIA editor, Sara Tantlinger, has begun a roundtable series, featuring authors showcased in the upcoming anthology? Check out part one over at Sara Tantlinger’s website, HERE.