Pandaemonium, oil painting by SRS, June 2014, 28 x 35 cm An acrid smell hangs in the air of the suburban street. Grey plumes from the nearby processing plant stain the sky. The sun blazes relentlessly on two teenagers washing a car. An elderly man sits in a bus shelter reading his newspaper.

A little girl of five or six plays with her ball in the front yard of a box-like house. The girl’s mother -- a woman in her mid-thirties with bleached blonde hair -- talks over the fence at her next-door neighbour, an older woman wearing a surly expression.

The neighbour pretends to listen while aiming a garden hose at the dry and tattered remnants of what once might have been lawn. The younger woman smokes a cigarette. A pall of grey smoke surrounds her head like a mist of flies.

There is a stranger on the street -- a dirty, sweaty stranger in tattered clothes -- as strange to himself as to others. A long and ragged beard obscures much of his face.

He cannot remember who he is, was or will be. Cannot remember or doesn’t know his purpose, where he is going, what he is supposed to do. Doesn’t know where he is, or how he got there.

He gazes into the middle distance with glazed eyes of confusion and anxiety, his pale skin turning red under the fierce rays of an unsympathetic sun.

Suddenly, a dog barks from behind a rusty wire fence, startling the stranger so that he falls and hits his head on the edge of the pavement. Dazed, he tries to sit up, blood beginning to trickle from a gash in his forehead.

Touching the wound he feels wetness and brings his hand away, surprised to see the red stain on his fingers. He tries to get up, but is too dizzy. Tries to call out but his throat is too raw, parched. His tongue feels swollen. He runs his fingers through his long, greasy beard, as if trying to remember something.

The sound of a radio floats through the hazy air. The newsreader's voice is warm, relaxed, mellow.

...plague ravaging Eastern Europe …death toll rising into the millions. Scientists still have no answer to the mystery disease …earlier today World Health Organisation Spokeshuman said…

Cigarette dangling from her lips, the woman continues talking at her bored-looking neighbour, “...and he goes, like, fuck you, got rights too, but. Fucken prick! Can you fucken believe it? Coupla weeks later, jus’ like that!”

She snaps her fingers to illustrate, then continues her diatribe: “Fucken social worker, like, y’know, she goes, like, he'll never stop, right? Fucken shit. Never fucking stop, but. Like. Fucken brung it on hisself, poor bugger. Fucken shitstorm!”

UN forces in Antarctica continue to suffer heavy casualties as the spring offensive moves into its second week. The use of biological warheads targeting rebel bases was condemned by...

“Mum,” says the little girl hesitantly, looking up at her mother, “canna have a ice pop?”

The woman ignores her, carries on talking. The little girl waits for a break in her mother’s monologue, then very softly and hesitantly says, “mum…”.

The woman flings her cigarette on the ground, and stamps on it. “Christsake! Fucken don't go on like that, OK?!,” she says in a loud voice, “Shit! Do I look like a fuckin’ fridge, huh?”

...with sea levels expected to continue rising, the mass evacuation from low-lying...

The heat and the brightness press heavily on the stranger. The sun glitters harshly off the metal bus shelter, within which is the promise of some shade. It would be cooler there. A good place to rest. Just for a minute. And then he would go on. Must go on.

On the bench in the shelter the elderly man’s posture says, “I am reading the newspaper and do not wish to be disturbed and I do not notice strangers lurching erratically toward me.”

...over 666 bodies so far, including women and children, in the jungle compound built on land leased from the previous government. In Jerusalem, a Spokeshuman for the Cult said that ...

The elderly man in the bus shelter sneaks an anxious glance at the shambling figure approaching. The headline on the newspaper says

Millions die in Tokyo ‘quake.

Almost there, two more steps. The stranger stumbles into the bus shelter, but as he turns to sit -- swaying like a drunk -- he topples over and bangs his head. The elderly man scuttles crab-like to the very end of the bench, his nostrils widening in disgust at the stench of sweat and decay. His eyes dart everywhere but at the man lying on the floor.

The stranger groans in pain as he reaches out a grimy hand in supplication.

“Get out! Get out!” the elderly man screeches as hard as his emphysematic lungs will allow, throws his newspaper into the stranger’s face, then shrinks as far back as he can into the shelter, trembling with fear and impotent rage.

The teenage boys look up, wondering if they can get a piece of the action.

“Cruisin’ fer a bruisin’,” says the one to the other.

“Too fucken hot,” is the laconic reply.

... the fourth day of food riots saw an estimated 666 dead and hundreds more injured as the military maintains its protective cordon around the main distribution centres...

The little girl walks slowly over to a large shrub. Next to the shrub is a tap, but she lacks the strength to open it. She manoeuvres her head under the tap and turns her face to catch a few drips upon her tongue.

Her mother continues unabated, “...always fucken on me bout something, like y'know, shit! As if he could do any fucking better, like, I mean, she ain’t no lil angel,” indicating her daughter with a backward shrug of her head, “Jeez! Like, y’know, every fucken night, pissin' abed, and she can fucken well lie in it too!”

Sitting in the shade of the shrub, the little girl stares at the ground, her narrow shoulders hunched, her head bowed. Three ants scurry across her dusty feet.

...the Climate Change Council today released its preliminary estimates for the next precipitation cycle, with the Presiding Meteorologist again voicing his opposition to self-regulation for the cloud-seeding industry...

The stranger crawls away from the bus shelter, grunting softly with new pain as the pavement gravel bruises and scrapes his knees through the threadbare fabric of his tattered trousers. Blood from the gash on his forehead drips onto the ground. He doesn't know which way to go. But he has to keep moving. Something to do. Something important. Can't remember. Must.

The dog barks hysterically, aggressively.

The elderly man collects up the scattered sheets of his newspaper. Then he resumes his former position on the bench.

The bigger of the teenage boys nudges the other as the stranger comes toward them.

“Wanna drink, shithead?” Picking up the bucket, the boy sluices the dirty soapy water over the crawling stranger.

“Drink this, fuckin' wino!”

The boys enjoy the joke. They hawk gobs of spit over the crawling man as he tries to get past them.

The elderly man continues pretending to read while surreptitiously watching the proceedings with interest, if not satisfaction.

In the distance a siren wails like a tormented beast. No clouds float across the brilliant sky. The air is redolent with stench and corruption.

…local news now, police have issued the description of a man who fell from a second story window at the Shadow Valley Detention Centre in the course of routine inquiries. Details yet to be released …went missing while undergoing medical treatment …could be suffering from amnesia …concern for his safety… should not be approached

Flies circle the stranger’s sweaty face. One alights on his forehead, another at the corner of his mouth, another at the corner of his left eye. He does not wave them away. He slumps against the fence, unable to continue crawling.

The little girl watches him through the fence, her brow furrowed in concentration. He lies on the pavement like a broken doll, pale skin red and blistered.

The woman lights another cigarette. Her neighbour yawns then belches.

One of the boys throws the bucket into next-door’s yard, then both get into the car. They know where they are going.

The elderly man reads his newspaper. He watches everything, understands nothing.

The little girl opens the gate and slowly walks out onto the pavement. She approaches the dying man shyly, but without fear. She thinks he might be thirsty too.

…arrested yesterday ...refused to identify himself ...police warn he could be dangerous …public are advised not to approach …

The stranger and the little girl look at each other for a long moment. Understanding passes between them.


CONTINUES in NIGHTMERRIES: THE LIGHTER SIDE OF DARKNESS out now at Amazon This so-called "book" will chew you up and spit you out on the carpet, frothing and twitching and giggling like a deranged banshee! More than 60 darkly feculent fictions. Copiously illustrated with over 20 grotesque images you wouldn’t want to meet in a dark alley. Includes all the twisted tails in Mastress, Hags to Haggis, and Fiends & Freaks, and THEN SOME (more). WARNING: Immature content! Adults maybe!


eBooks by Cosmic Rapture:

NIGHTMERRIES: THE LIGHTER SIDE OF DARKNESS This so-called "book" will chew you up, spit you out, and leave you twitching and frothing on the carpet. More than 60 dark and feculent fictions (read ‘em and weep) copiously illustrated by over 20 grotesque images you wouldn't want to meet in a dark alley.

AWAREWOLF & OTHER CRHYMES AGAINST HUMANITY (Vot could be Verse?) We all hate poetry, right? But we might make an exception for this sick and twisted stuff. This devil's banquet of adults-only offal features more than 50 satanic sonnets, vitriolic verses and odious odes.

MANIC MEMES & OTHER MINDSPACE INVADERS A disturbing repository of quotably quirky quotes, sayings, proverbs, maxims, ponderances, adages and aphorisms. This menagerie holds no fewer than 184 memes from eight meme-species perfectly adapted to their respective environments.

FIENDS & FREAKS Adults-only Tales of Serpents, Dragons, Devils, Lobsters, Anguished Spirits, Gods, Anti-gods and Other Horse-thieves You Wouldn't Want to Meet in a Dark Kosmos: 4th Edition

HAGS TO HAGGIS Whiskey-soaked Tails of War-nags, Witches, Manticores and Escapegoats, Debottlenecking and Desilofication, Illustrated