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Twelve Daze of Christmas


Hey, it's Tom Pitts-whipping boy Hector, here. As you know, a few months back Tom and Joe Clifford snuck off to the summit of a Peruvian mountain where they gorged on ayahuasca, came back, and offered me a position as co-editor. I'm still waiting for their long, strange trip to end, have them come to their senses, and tell me to hit the road. 

For now, I'm still here and haven't stopped bugging Tom over the last few weeks to let me try something new with the site. Remember Chester and Spike? Something like that. 
I guess I was enough of a bug in his ear that he finally gave in and let me indulge in The Twelve Daze of Christmas.

It's pretty simple. In the twelve days leading up to Christmas, we're going to publish one holiday-themed flash story a day right up until the 25th. Because in The Gutter, we're all about bringing yuletide cheer. 

So, submit your holiday-themed stories today. Submission guidelines are pretty much the same as always, except for the following, which are VERY important:

1) Stories must be holiday-themed.
2) We will not be accepting anything longer than 700 words. (It's a bit of work reading, editing, and publishing stories twice a week, let alone every day for a short stretch. [I may wear out my welcome here, folks]).

Aside from that, go to town. Show us what you got. Choke someone with Christmas lights, stick a dreidel in someone's eye, or spike the eggnog with rat poison. Point is, have fun, but, please, remember to do it in under 700 words. 

When you submit, make sure to let us know, (either in the title or the body of your message), that you want this to be considered for the Twelve Daze of Christmas. We'll select the best twelve and get back to you. 

If you don't make the cut, buck up. There's always next year. (Fingers crossed).

Looking forward to see what pops out of you maniacs' heads. Cheers. ~ Hector. 


It's important to be thorough in every facet of life.

Especially if you work in the Gutter.

Scrubbers by D.V. Bennett

“You gonna shoot him?”

“No, Benny.” Nick Pertwee opened a pocket knife and stepped around the body of the man lying at his feet. “I have questions for him. I need answers.” He grabbed a reel of heavy twine and cut off a ten foot section.

Benny Davis pouted. “I wanted to watch. Shit.”

Pertwee looked disdainfully at his partner. “What have I told you before, Benny? Watch your mouth. Profanity is a crutch, for the inarticulate motherfucker. Turn him over.”
Benny flipped the man onto his stomach.

“Man,” he said, “you really cracked him good.”

“Get his wallet out.”

Benny fished it out and flipped it open. “I thought his name was Caddy. Says here it’s—”

“Give me that.” Pertwee snatched the billfold from the smaller man, “Caddy’s his nickname, idiot.”

Caddy had earned fearful respect in his few years on the Chicago streets, and coming at a guy like this from the front would have been stupid. Pertwee knew everybody had the wrong idea about Caddy, because he drove  a candy apple red ‘73 Cadillac . The man hadn’t acquired that handle because of the car, though. Pertwee knew it was because he carried all the “iron” for his drug-dealing pimp of a boss.

Benny held a hand out, “We split his money, right?”

Pertwee’s patience was wearing thin. He threw the few hundred bucks in the air to see Benny scramble after the fallen bills, clawing them up from the concrete floor.

“Junkie shitheads.”

Benny stopped. “You shouldn’t swear. It’s an inevitable guy’s crutch.”

Pertwee pressed his fingers against the area above the bridge of his nose. He could feel a headache coming on.

“He’s waking up.” Pertwee bound the man’s arms behind his back with the length of twine.

“Bet you didn’t think you’d ever see this day coming, did you, Caddy? The big man.” Benny kicked him hard in the ribs.

“You do that again, Benny, and I’ll put a bullet through your skull.”

“What’d I do?”

“We need him to talk.”

“Then maybe you shouldn’t have hit him so hard.”

They had broken into the old chop shop and waited for Caddy to enter. Four minutes past midnight, the big man had strolled through the door. Benny had tased him, but he hadn’t gone down. He’d was still fighting it when Pertwee stepped in and pistol whipped him.

“Hey.” Pertwee tapped at the man’s cheek several times with the back of his hand. “C’mon, wake up.” 

The eyes opened, centering on Pertwees’ face. 

“You understand me?”

The man nodded, so Pertwee dragged him up to sit against a wall and squatted down next to him. He used the tip of his knife to clean a fingernail, making a show of it. “It’s been decided that you and the man you work for are a detriment to my employer and his business, Okay?”

The man shook his head.

“Right,” Pertwee said, “not okay. You’re well known in this town. People admire you because you’re good at what you do. I don’t have any such regard for you. I think you’ve built a reputation as a cheap bully, and you’ve been torturing and murdering people for so long that you’re believing your own press. If you were as good as you think you are, you wouldn’t have allowed us to take you down. I think you’re a sad, worthless waste of skin without a clue, and tonight you’re going tell us where your boss lives.”

The man shook his head, his eyes wide.

Pertwee stood, leaning over to a workbench to grab a set of bolt cutters. “You know what’s nice about these? They don’t have to cut all the way through a chain link before the metal snaps in two from the pressure. It won’t cut all the way through your toes, either, but you’re going to snap from the pressure, just the same.”

The man tried to kick away, but Benny moved in to sit on his legs and remove a shoe and a sock. Placing the jaws of the cutter over the big toe, Pertwee looked down at his prisoner and raised an eyebrow. “Last chance.”

In the ten seconds Pertwee used to slowly bring the handles together, the man never screamed. A high-pitched moan escaped, more breath than whine.

“You’re every bit as tough as your reputation, Caddy. I’ll give you that.” Pertwee selected another toe. “This little piggy?”

“Hey Nick,” Benny said, pointing.

Pertwee turned to see a large man, leveling a revolver at Benny’s chest. Even with the warehouse lights on, the muzzle flash was briefly disorienting, to say nothing of the sound.

Benny stood for just a moment, pointing at his sternum, where a dark spot grew, trailing quickly down the middle of his shirt. He crumpled to the floor.

The gun rose to a point between Pertwee’s eyes.

“Raise your hands,” the man said. “Turn around.”

Pertwee complied, and something hit the back of his head.

Pertwee woke up to find his hands tied behind him and his back against a wall. His feet were bare, and the big man was sitting in a folding chair in front of him. The bolt cutters straddled his lap.

“My name’s Caddy,” the man said, “and you’ve made a huge mistake. You see, my cousin had an important date tonight, and I allowed him to use my Cadillac. That sweet guy has gone through a lot in life. He can’t talk. He’s deaf and he’s mute. Now, because you assholes were so stupid, I have to explain to his mother why he’ll be going through life without a big toe on his left foot. That makes me unhappy, but not half as unhappy as you’re going to be before you die, you dumb, miserable piece of shit.”

What an inarticulate motherfucker, Pertwee thought.

DV Bennett lives and works in Southeastern Washington State, where he trains in martial arts and writes crime fiction. Find out more about him at

Review Tuesday: A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to Billingham Forum, by Martin Stanley

It has been a long wait, but Martin Stanley’s new Stanton Brothers novel, A FunnyThing Happened on the Way to Billingham Forum, is finally here and it just may be the best book in the series (and that says a lot). As always, the brothers are up to their necks in crime and violence, and also at each other’s throats.

When the brothers get some intel from a snitch and agree to hijack a drug deal, they anticipate a smooth plan. Troubles arise when they need to bring a new crew member on board and they are unsure of his ability to keep to the plan. Sure enough, he takes too much liberty during the commission of the crime and he leaves them exposed and on the radar of some dangerous men. Instead of taking their money and running away, Eric Stanton insists they do the honorable thing and help their contact out of the rough spot he now finds himself in. Trouble and violence soon follow suit and the Stantons must extricate themselves from this round of trouble, as well as try to stop some former cronies from getting their desired revenge on the brothers.  

Stanley has a knack for doing everything right in his books. His writing is both fun and engaging, with a nice layer of suspense thrown in for good measure. The banter between the brothers gives his books a nice touch of comic relief, but not so much as to distract from the action. This book rises above the many crime novels I have read due to the level of character depth Stanley infuses into each character. The characters come to life through the backstories Stanley weaves into his narrative and the reader truly gets the sense each character is 3-dimentional and alive; allowing us to understand them, their motivations, and allowing us to understand their actions.

I really have enjoyed seeing Eric Stanton grow throughout the series. He is a deep character and, although he commits amoral actions, he has a moral center to which he stays true. He is a good man who resides in a bad world. He makes decisions that only hurt people he feels have it coming to them and he does his best to keep innocent people out of harm’s way. Having his brother as his sidekick allows him to have muscle as well as an opposing viewpoint for every decision he is faced with. The two characters play off each other very nicely and add a great amount of humor and tension to the book.

Overall this is one of the better books I have read this year. From great recurring characters, fresh new characters that have great depth and show great depravity, a good plot, and some excellent writing, this book should attract a large audience of readers who are looking for a fresh take on a familiar plot tale of a robbery gone awry.

Highly Recommended.

Reviewed by Derrick Horodyski. 

Sheila, Take a Bow

Family ties bind.

In the Gutter, they tend to stumble and bumble. 

Sheila, Take a Bow by Paul D. Brazill

She’s lost the plot again. It’s the third time this week. Sheila should never have come off her meds in the first place and now she’s just bounced straight back onto the cider. In fact, she’s bouncing around my front room at the moment, smashing into the telly, and knocking over the ornaments. As she waves a bottle of White Lightning cider around, I fear for the glass coffee table. I really do.

She’s wearing a polka-dot swimsuit and pink sunglasses with heart-shaped lenses. She keeps saying she’s Lolita and though she may have the body of an emaciated twelve-year-old, Sheila is knocking on sixty.

She falls onto the black leather sofa. ‘Why not, eh?’ she says. ‘Why the fuck not?’

In less than a minute, she’s sound asleep, snoring like a chainsaw.

There used to be an annoying BBC comedy show on the telly in the seventies called Some Mothers Do Have Em. Well, some sons have mothers like Sheila, too.

I’m cleaning up the room when I hear the ice cream van’s chiming of ‘That’s Amore.’

I freeze. It’s just after midnight and I know it can only be Alberto.  I put a checked blanket over Sheila and wait for the knock at the door. It doesn’t come. Instead, it’s kicked off its hinges.

The Monolith storms through the door first donning the usual: a long leather coat, shaved head, and wrap-around shades. Behind him is Alberto Amerigo, a tiny little man with dyed black hair and a pencil moustache. He wears a shiny white linen jacket with a pink carnation in the lapel. He looks like a spiv but he used to be a barber, then an ice-cream man, and now a loan shark.

Alberto looks around the trashed room. ‘Magnifico, bonny lad,’ he says with a smirk. ‘You’ve been redecorating, I see.’

I shrug.  

He clocks Sheila’s snoring form. ‘Your mother back for a bit?’ 

I nod. ‘For my sins.’ 

Alberto smirks.

‘Families, eh?’ says Alberto. ‘They’re a bind, at times. Which conveniently brings us to the dosh you ripped off from my Alessio.’

I shuffle my feet, feeling the urge to run. When it’s a choice between fight or flight, I do a runner every time. Especially with The Monolith in the room.

‘I didn’t rip him off. I beat him fair and square,’ I croak.

Alberto nods and The Monolith punches me in the guts.

‘Playing snooker with a half-drunk kid who is also colour blind is not fair and square as I see it, ’says Alberto.

I see Alberto has a point. As well as a pair of knuckle dusters that he gives to The Monolith.

‘I’ll pay you back,’ I say. ‘Really.’

‘I know you will, bonny lad. And then some.  But I’m guessing you don’t have the dosh at hand?’

‘Naw, sorry. Greyhounds.’

I shrug. Alberto nods and The Monolith hits me again.

‘As I thought. So I have a plan. A way you can pay back me and my nephew. And maybe earn something yourself.’

‘Is it risky?’ I say. 

‘Yes, bonny lad. Very,’ Alberto says.

He and The Monolith look at each other and start laughing.

Which is when Sheila wakes up. She throws off the blanket and staggers off the sofa, legs wobbling

‘Friggin hell. It’s The Walking Dead,’ The Monolith says. 

He turns and grins at me as Sheila smashes the cider bottle over his head. Then, she head-butts Alberto and jabs the broken bottle into The Monolith’s throat before slashing it across Alberto’s face.

The men’s screams meld with Sheila’s laughter and all I can think is, that’s more bloody clearing up to do.

Paul D. Brazill is the author of Cold London Blues, The Last Laugh, Guns Of Brixton, and Kill Me Quick! He was born in England and lives in Poland. He is an International Thriller Writers Inc. member whose writing has been translated into Italian, German and Slovene. He has had writing published in various magazines and anthologies, including The Mammoth Books of Best British Crime. He has even edited a few anthologies, including Exiles: An Outsider Anthology, and True Brit Grit.

Brit Grit Alley

Brit Grit Alley features interviews, news and updates on what's happening down British crime fiction's booze and blood soaked alleyways.

By Paul D. Brazill 

A BRIT GRIT ALLEY guest blog from RICHARD GODWIN for your delectation. 


Publishing really is in a state of flux, with the rise and rise of Amazon and it still seems many publishers do not know what they are doing and behave with a lack of the kind of professionalism and regard for Artists that you would expect given the fact that without the author without the novelist there would be no publisher, a fact that seems all to easily to have been forgotten. 

I have had four novels already published this year, Savage Highway, The Pure And The Hated, Ersatz World, and Disembodied. This September sees the translation of my novel Apostle Rising into Slovenian, now that seems postponed, and the coming months are going to be busy. One interesting event, or two rather, have been the demise and behaviour of two Italian publishers, Lite Editions an imprint of Atlantis, and MeMe. I received notification from Lite that they are shutting down, no explanation, and then I had to email them repeatedly to get the right letter and payment from them. As a result I have the full rights back to my erotica Noir Novel, Noir City, which I have extensively re-written and which is available here and here

This is a synopsis: 

Dangerous, blonde Gigolo, Paris Tongue, uses his looks to seduce beautiful and wealthy women and introduce them to the Secret Hour, that hidden time when they can escape their lives. Using his inheritance to travel, he penetrates the erotic essence of different cities, from London, to Paris, Rome, Madrid and Dusseldorf. But his sexual escapades begin to catch up with him. When he sleeps with the wife of a Mafia Boss he is hunted across Europe by hit men. He manages to evade his assassins, until they find him in Spain. But by then he has understood the deeper philosophy of Eros at the villa owned by the illegitimate granddaughter of Georges Bataille, and he sees them off. He is, after all, the bastard child of a killer, who knows how to survive. In Germany he meets Anja from Croatia, the first woman he wants to settle down with.

MeMe contacted me to say they are selling the company and I waited for six months to receive further news, none came. So I got my rights back to Confessions Of A Hit Man.

Once again a synopsis:

Confessions of a Hit Man is a high octane thriller with a plot that adds velocity like a well-oiled chicane. When ex-Royal Marine Jack becomes a paid assassin, work comes easily, especially when working for the Sicilian Mafia, until he gets drawn into a government plot selling enriched plutonium to a rogue Nation.

My new novel Buffalo And Sour Mash is now out from Down & Out Books, and you can buy it here and here. It is a crime novel about distorted love. A Western. A lyrical slice of the prairie, a frontier narrative. A noir novel about obsession and revenge, desire and predation. A look at one man’s grip on insanity and a story about female beauty and showmanship. 

‘It was those wild eyes that did it to them every time. Every look as intense as a cobra stare, as if he was looking through the spider webbed surface of a broken window.’

I am on the BBC talking about it soon. My novel Locked In Cages is to be published this December. 

Here are a few words on it: The therapist was paid to take their nightmares away, their abductor is putting them back in

That’s nine, not bad for a year, and next year looks like it will be eight, including the long -awaited release of the sequel to Apostle Rising. 

You can find out more at my website :

There'll be more carryings on down Brit Grit Alley very soon, sorta kinda thing, like.

Paul D. Brazill's books include The Last Laugh, Guns Of Brixton, A Case Of Noir, Cold London Blues, and Kill Me Quick! He was born in England and lives in Poland. His writing has been translated into Italian, German Finnish, Polish, and Slovene. He has had writing published in various magazines and anthologies, including The Mammoth Books of Best British Crime. He has even edited a few anthologies, including the best-selling True Brit Grit – with Luca Veste. His blog is here.


The whole point of a career change is to move up the ladder. 

But here in the Gutter, a job change means ending up in ... the gutter.

Gusher by Tom Leins

The rain is so heavy I can barely see the cop car.

Red and blue lights dance across the parking lot, like diseased ghosts, so I know they are out there. Fat cops in government-issue windcheaters, clutching pump-action shotguns worth more than my life insurance policy, are likely out there right now. Squinting at the Testament Savings & Loan Association, blinking away the greasy rain.

Walter convinced me to smash all of the strip-lights, in case one of those bastards out there wants to try a head-shot, and now we are sat in darkness.

Dumb fuck.


Walter ‘Waxwork’ Wallace is tall and gaunt. He is a man of degenerate appetites. He is the kind of guy who uses prostitutes as alibis. He quit wrestling after suffering a prolapsed rectum almost a decade ago, but stuck around Testament like a particularly virulent STD.

Walter was what is known in the trade as a gusher. A dude who would blade himself for shock value. Open up an old cut above his eye and wait until the blood was dripping off knuckles, boot-heels, turnbuckles. What with the blood-loss and his albino complexion, he would end up looking like something out of a fuckin’ snuff movie.

I only agreed to the bank caper to shut him up. He knew that I’d done bad shit south of the border. Hell, I’ve done bad shit north of the border too, I’m just less inclined to boast about it.

Walter smiles benignly, scratching at one of the fibrous boils on his neck. His hunting rifle is balanced across his shoulder.

“Are you having fun yet, Gringo?”

I scowl at him and spit on the linoleum at his feet.

Rotten motherfucker.


The great Gringo Starr: reduced to robbing banks. If my fans could see me now...

I could have been a contender, once upon a time, but I got greedy – like I always do. Wrestling paid well enough, but I followed the lure of the Peso down to Tijuana, and fought bare-knuckle for a man named Ballantine. He had thinning, sandy hair, and a face that was scarred up like a bar-room toilet seat. He set me against the worst of the worst: drug-addicted ex-cons and Tijuana Cartel enforcers. We would fight in a drained swimming pool out near the airport in Otay Centenario, while elderly gringos in open necked shirts got drunk and talked amongst themselves. Ballantine would pace the algae-streaked tiles, taking bets on a satellite phone. He smiled no matter who won. Either way he got paid.

Every few weeks I snagged a legitimate wrestling gig in Mexico City or Acapulco, but the crowds never warmed to me. I don’t blame them. My face and torso were ragged with scars from the unlicensed fights – and the fights after the fights. The ones with broken bottles and box-cutters. Most of the time I would just fight to the death in the T.J. swimming pool.

My stay in Mexico ground to a halt when I found out that Ballantine was trafficking eight-year-olds out of the slums to work in a boy brothel he co-owned Zona Norte. I snapped his neck so hard I almost dislocated my own shoulder. I left town that afternoon – my stash of Pesos crammed into a duffel bag and returned home to Testament.


The cashier is sat on a stool, playing with her rosary beads.

“What’s your name, darlin’?”

She looks up, eye makeup smudged with tears.


“Rosa. That’s a pretty name.”

“I guess. The nun’s gave it to me.”

I grunt, already bored. She reminds me of a girl I went to school with named Tupelo. She was a smart cookie – an academic compared to most – learned how to offer head in three languages before she was 15. She was around for a good time, not for a long time, and wound up dead in a dumpster, gutted with a hook before she turned 21.

I lean against the counter, and picture the cashier in transparent stilettos, working the afternoon shift at the Slop Shop, my greasy dollar bills stained with her pussy sweat, and the thought makes me hard underneath my stolen Testament Electric boiler suit. She looks at me and shudders, and I almost feel ashamed. Almost.


The elderly security guard is face down on the linoleum. In the darkness it looks like someone has spilled a bucket of red paint next to him. Only the ruptured mess where his guts used to be gives him away.

The triggerman was Walter’s estranged half-brother, Wade. The brain-trust reconvened at a halfway house in Testament Heights, and decided to plan a heist. Wade was a lanky streak of piss. He turned up shivering, despite the heat. The rent-a-cop shot him through the neck as soon as he saw the cheap nickel-plated pistol trembling in his junkie fist. Wade managed to put a slug in him, and the old bastard seemed to burst on impact.

Then Walter shot the bank manager in the face, just to prove a point. The only man with code to the fuckin’ vault…


I was working as a slaughter-hand when I signed my first pro-wrestling contract in Testament. I’m not afraid of a little blood, but Walter has traipsed it across the bank, and I find it distasteful – even in the dark.

He is next to the cashier, whispering sweet nothings into her pretty little ears. Cigarette-stained fingers wandering across the curves under her rayon blouse, playing with her hair.

“Hey, Walter…”

He turns around, diseased-looking smile between his thin lips.

“You ever miss the wrestling?”

He stops scratching his boils and runs a finger across the deep scar that stretches from jaw-to-ear.

“I guess not.”

I nod.

“Dumb fucking racket, right? You know what a smarter man than me once said?”

He shrugs again.

“Wrestling is just like show-business, but with more blood.”

He smiles, knowingly.

Then I squeeze the trigger and blow his brains all over the motherfucking counter.

Tom Leins is a disgraced ex-film critic from Paignton, UK. His short stories have been published by the likes of Akashic Books, Shotgun Honey, Spelk Fiction, Near to the Knuckle and the Flash Fiction Offensive. He is currently working on a novella entitled Boneyard Dogs. Get your pound of flesh at

Review: Grizzly Season, by S W Lauden.

S W Lauden has taken the potential that he displayed in his debut novel, Bad Citizen Corporation (BCC) and turned himself into the newest must-read author in the PI genre. Grizzly Season, the follow up to the kick-ass Bad Citizen Corporation follows the exploits of Greg Salem as he deals with the aftermath of his heroics  in BCC.

While Salem is looking to clear his head by taking a mountain bike ride with his best friend and former bandmate, Marco, he stumbles into the clutches of Magnus,a drug dealer who has a plan to hit the big time with one massive drug deal which will allow him to retire. Magnus has been developing a high-grade strain of marijuana that's mixed with some higher potency drugs that delivers a Grizzly Bear high. He tries to strong-arm Salem to join the operation, but Salem manages to escape, and while he manages to rescue Kristen, a young drifter caught up in Magnus’  scheme, he is forced to leave Marco in the clutches of the dealer.

While Salem may not have been able to get Marco out of Magnus’ camp, he refuses to give up and spends his time teaching the mountains and woods for signs of his friend and Magnus and he is prepared to do anything necessary to rescue his buddy. Mix in a new love interest for Salem, an impending family life, a desire to be a role model for his friend’s fatherless son, and the baggage from the shooting of the boy with the blue hat (detailed in BCC) and you have a book that is on a slow simmer just waiting to boil over.

In Grizzly Season, Lauden offers readers the perfect mix of sex, drugs, and (punk)rock-n-roll, but also infuses it with heart, heart-break, and most importantly, a poet’s touch. Lauden offers so much more than a standard PI read, he offers up a raw, gritty picture of the life of the PI, warts and all. Salem is no saint, but he is a man who has heart, seeks to do the right thing, and is looking to make the world a better place for those he loves. The fact that Lauden strips Salem down to the core and shows the reader his struggles to be a good friend, a good father, and most importantly a good father, while also allowing his insecurities and vulnerabilities to shine through is a huge strength to this book. Salem is a character worthy of a series and the ending to this great read will have you salivating for the next book in this series.

Highly Recommended.
Reviewed by Derrick Horodyski.

The Vortex

"Hang up the chick habit. 

Hang it up, daddy, or you'll never get another fix."

The Vortex by Yesenia Berrios

He was a safe place away from the scorched earth and tungsten street lights. I sauntered into his studio apartment at a quarter to nine. I'd been there dozens of times before. The furniture was scarce but the floor cozy.

Our conversation was a stream of consciousness that poured slowly like the Cuba Libres down our throats. The flirtation burned evenly on both ends, in puffs of smoke from my joints and his cigarettes.

At two in the morning, my eyes watered and my stomach cramped from laughing. God damn was that motherfucker charming. He had a deluded self-confidence that lured me in; handsome if you love him but unassuming if you don't. I found myself, as I often did, somewhere in the middle. I had to get home before infatuation set in.

"Driving is out of the question," he said.

I nodded in agreement. How sweet he was for wanting me to stay.

I really had to get home. 

It's a special kind of desperation when your abuser is someone you could have loved. It feels unreal, as if looking at the world through the chlorine-filtered aquamarine of a pool as you drown. It is equal parts beautiful and terrifying. With every exasperated breath my fear grew stronger. God, this is too far.

“I’m serious,” I said. “I need to get home.”

His breath wafted onto my neck like hot steam out of a sewer grate. I felt dread tingle through my limbs and between my legs.

"Will you fucking STOP?" I moaned, angling my hips away from his and pushing my palms into his chest until they were white from the pressure.

He smiled sheepishly. “Oh, please.”

I dug my nails in, branding his face with crescent moons until he bled. As I pleaded with him, I felt the bile in my throat and the rum sloshing around in my stomach. He continued, impervious. Maybe the moans were indistinguishable from anguish. Maybe the tears turned him on. 

Weak from the heat and lactic acid burning in my muscles, I surrendered. A blurry dot in the middle of the ceiling widened and enveloped the room. Spinning, confused, and nauseous, I imagined it didn't happen this way. I went to a cooler place where I wanted him, begged him, to fuck me. I needed to feel something more, anything more, than tired. Then I noticed his stare. The words he seemed not to hear flashed across his brown eyes. He knew. He just didn’t want to know. 


A Sunday just before sunrise. A Miami summer like any other: eighty-four degrees and humid. The fire has been trapped inside for thirty days. In this city where the heat makes people crazy, desire runs rampant.

It looks like something out of a science-fiction film. The sky is an eerie ombré of purple and indigo against the cityscape. Hearing, let alone seeing, another flesh and blood human feels like making contact with an extra-terrestrial but I know exactly where to go nowadays.

I strut past him. I can spot the creeps and violators with little effort now. Time does a lot to a girl’s gait. Once a month, I remember that night seven years ago and rescue that girl. I cradle her against my chest in that golden hour between sleep and wakefulness.

They only atone when they’ve been outwitted, when panic swallows their eyes. By then, ego disappears but my palms are already white from the grip.

The first swing is always the most satisfying. I give it all I've got. I remember that night, when I first reached for that glimmer of hollow aluminum in my periphery. That silvery white bat that saved me when I was moments away from being permanently hollow myself. Nowadays, it feels more like a club.

A faint mist covers my chest, dampening my skin, luxurious as rose essentielle. If only I could find a lipstick shade so perfect, unicorn’s blood maybe.

"You're fucking crazy," he gurgles through the frothy blood bubbling at the corners of his mouth.

The sky changes colors like a mood ring on a cold finger.

I’m invigorated by the heat, lactic acid burns in my muscles, my stomach is warm like the comfort from a cup of cocoa. Was I crazy?

I was once intimately familiar with dread. I recognized it in his brown eyes.

Oh, sweet, sweet boy, this isn’t crazy.

"Please, no lectures," I sigh, pressing a finger lovingly over his lips.

I wind up. On the second swing, his yells are deafening. I watch intently as steam from the sewer distorts his face. 

Every swing thereafter could be the first. Screaming has made him hoarse and inaudible. The only sign he still yells are the veins tattooed over his throat, bulging upward and into his skull. No one is listening. No one who would help anyway. 

 I part his hair and my breath on his neck. "You didn't mean to,” I whisper. “You’re sorry."

Respite cutting through the air, I hear the warm familiarity of sonic boom as bat connects with skull fragments. I feel the warm familiarity in my pussy. The heat of which emanates toward my fingertips. 

His lecture stops and plasma oozes like slick garnet out of his ears. Only now do I notice the pounding in my chest, and feel it in my throat.

For the briefest window, I thaw. The rage floats to the surface, dissipating across my wet skin. I bask in the mist of blood and sweat.

I surrender.

The mermaid song of sirens wails in the distance, faintly chiming in my ears. I knew they weren't coming for me.

They never did.

Yesenia Berrios is a Nicamericana named after a movie and telenovela gypsy. She works full-time as an Education Director in Miami, Florida where she encourages kids to stay weird and question the status quo. On weekends, she devotes her time to her side hustle where she styles, models, and sells thrift-store clothing. Yesenia runs on creativity, curry mustard, and dreams of revolution.