The Gutter is a nasty, mean, rotten place, with little love, and even less sympathy. It will kick you when youre down, and piss on you the moment you begin to feel the hope to stand.

And thats just on a Tuesday.

Home by Drew Merchant

The smell met Samantha all the way out in the yard as she carried her bags from the taxi. Her Acapulco sunburn—all the way down to her Brazilian—was painful and she stepped bowlegged, careful to keep her thighs from touching each other as she walked up the steps to the cottage where she and her cuckold husband lived. All the way on the flight back she had rehearsed her alibis, made up little stories about how silly and dull the conference had been, meanwhile shifting uncomfortably, not only from the sizzle of her skin but from the bruise of her loins, which Davis had brutalized for three days and nights with his enormous circus cock.

The door was locked but she could hear Basher bounding and scraping at the other side, barking like a maniac as usual. But when she pushed the door open, the odor hit her like a fist in her face. It smelled like someone cooking liver and onions in a wino’s raincoat. She swallowed her disgust and then yelped when the dog leapt up to greet her, his paws landing on her tender breasts. The dog lathered her face with his wet tongue, making her involuntarily giggle. “Okay okay okay okay! Hi baby! How’s my doggie! How’s my doggie! Oh, your breath is awful! Where’s your papa? Alex? What’s that smell?! Have you been trying to cook again?”

She set down her bags, putting one white-gloved hand to her nose and pushing the dog to the floor with the other. She made him Hush. Sit. Stay. Worried now, she tried to hide it with false cheer as she called out. “Alex?” To the dog: “Where’s papa? Huh? Where’s your papa?” But the dog was mute other than panting and as she began to move through the apartment—littered with pizza boxes, beer cans, cigarette butts, and broken glass, vials all over the furniture and floor—she could hear only one sound, growing louder as she walked down the hall to the bedroom: it was wet and pulsing like someone kneading hamburger with both hands. “Alex?”

She saw it all in a flash, and even before the synapses of her brain could register the scene, she screamed.

Her husband was on the bed, a shotgun lain across his chest, business end toward what had been his face but was now a meaty cavern beneath his two enormous plate-like black ears. It thrived with a million humming maggots, joyously busy at their work. Just as her disbelief was registering and she took a step backward, Basher burst in from behind her, knocking her out of the way and off her feet. The dog jumped to the bed and stood on all fours and bent head down to what had been Alex’s face and made horrible lapping noises.

She vomited onto the carpet and looked back again just before she fainted. The last images her eyes registered were her dog feasting—continuing to feast, she understood from the bloodied paw prints on the bedspread and floor—and a one word note scrawled over the bed on the white wall in her Cherry Passion lipstick: CUNT.

Drew Merchant is a writer and editor living in Seattle, Washington.