Thursday, December 24, 2015

Santa in Black

by Jonathan Moon

Little Billy Skip dreaded the Christmas season, not for its candies and gifts- which he enjoyed quite a bit, but due to his crippling fear of Santa Claus. The other children would tease and laugh, they found his Santaphobia a real gas, but Little Billy saw something sinister in the Jolly Old Elf and his holly decked halls. 

He would write him no letters, nor sit on his lap. He trust not his wide smile, his jiggling belly, nor his silly sagging cap.

On Christmas Eve Little Billy would go to sleep as early as he could, in hopes of sleeping through his Santa-themed nightmares to wake up to presents and everything good. His brothers and sisters awoke from visions of sugarplums dancing in their heads by a thunderous thud-thudding downstairs which scared Billy right under the beds. They ran downstairs to watch Santa dispense his gifts, leaving Little Billy alone to cry and sweat in nervous shifts. Billy sat thinking of years past, the flashy presents and the joyful laughs, soon he was scampering after so silent and fast. He tip-toed noiselessly down tinsel wrapped stairs, only to find headless his mom, dad, brothers and sisters.

A pale, thin Santa with scabby face and filthy beard, all dressed in black from his boots to his cap, was dropping their heads into his swollen black sack. Billy ran to his room, to hide in the safety and gloom. He dashed to his window, and threw it open in a panic to scream out for help, but, sadly, fear choked his voice and he could manage only a yelp. On the street outside below Little Billy saw dozens of Santas in black, one and all a heaping bag slung over his back. 


You can find more of my work here. :)

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Grasshopper Season 8: An End to Every Season by Jonathan Moon

8: An End to Every Season

There is something in the air which Captain Long just can’t put a word to. It clings to the trees as harsh as the evergreen bark. It rises from the ground like autumn fog. It runs through the debris-clogged gutters. It stains the rubble and ruins, and seems to stick to his stiff fabric of his uniform. It feels greasy on his skin and  tastes bitter on his lips.

Captain Long was one the first helicopter flying over St. Jim’s after the plethora of emergency calls reported from the area. Even with under an hour and a half of fly-time they were too late, and treated to a view of the small town as she burnt to the ground. He saw the corpses of giant grasshoppers littering the destroyed town. He watched the dying grasshoppers creep through the ruins of the smoldering town, to the forest where they buried themselves in the soil. He did his best to make quick mental notes of them when he saw them, linking them with landmarks he would be able to find from the ground because he knew he would have to hunt the big bastards down.

The rescue mission was a failure, as no one was saved. Early estimates of 385 dead or missing, with those numbers expected to rise. No full corpses, only pieces-small gnawed pieces. Carnage unlike anything Captain Long has ever seen. A media circus unlike anything Captain Long has ever seen. Insects unlike anything Captain Long has ever seen.

Thousands of grasshopper corpses littered the town’s gore-streaked streets. Many looked the standard size, shape, and coloration of the common regional grasshoppers; though most were swollen with human flesh or even had tiny scraps hanging from their minuscule maws. And the black ones, the ones with the oily sheen in the deep black of their chitinous exoskeleton, the ones they are calling ‘alien-in-nature’…they were everywhere and they were the ones Captain Long saw burying themselves in ash-covered ground of the forest surrounding St. Jim’s. These strange, ‘alien-in-nature’ grasshoppers, so sleeks and smooth, are from the size of a large late-season male (roughly three inches long) to about the size of a one-ton-pickup (roughly fifteen to twenty feet long). The scientists would have a heyday with the mutants, hell they already were.

Captain Long’s men have spent their time acting as babysitters to the scientists and their crews charged with loading up the giants up on flatbed trucks, covering them securely with tarps and carting them off to be picked apart in a warehouse-sized lab established just for this specific catastrophe. The thousands of smaller samples are being gathered, in what seems to Captain Long to be a mind-numbing process, and each stickered with identifying labels scrawled with tiny excited gibberish.

Captain Long’s men have spent their time keeping the growing number of increasingly vocal reporters at bay. Families of the missing are camping out on the borders of town, which the Captain had no choice but to station armed men along. He is confident his superiors are spinning a half-believable yarn to explain the town’s utter destruction, but the scope of the disaster is quickly growing quite larger than first expected and the much needed reinforcements should be arriving within the next hour or so. Hopefully, the next group of damage control specialists will have people with them trained to deal with the media so his men could get back to the other tasks they are charged with.
Captain Long’s men are working with independent contractors to clean up the worst of the town’s destruction before the camera crews get through the guarded barriers. More importantly than that, Captain Long’s men are working with independent contractors to hunt down and destroy the buried grasshoppers before the media circus closes in any tighter. His men are working with CDC agents, and escorting them over the hillside to aid in the hunt and study of the mutants. His men, trained and experienced killers all, are slipping in the mud with men in white storm suits and good-old boys in jeans and plaid; the scene stirs memories of bad jokes playing on social class or race. Captain Long has stood on countless battlefields but the ominous feeling in the air is completely different, it almost hollows him out with every breath.

Now, Captain Long is walking the charred corpse of a forest service mountain road while his best men scamper about hunting the burrowed monsters. Ash still floats lazily in the air and smoke still puffs persistently from small piles of debris. The charred skeletons of trees still stand all around him, blackened and stripped by the raging inferno. The uncountable gallons of water dumped on the town and surrounding forest turned the dirt to thick ash-colored mud. As violent and bloody as the carnage was back in town it makes much more sense to Captain Long, it doesn’t hollow him out like the scorched apocalyptic forest landscape. Blood he has seen, and tasted, and bathed in but the burnt out groves and blackened mountainsides carry a fearful primal heaviness. His feet slurping and slapping in the mud like his casual stroll violates the soiled mountain road with every step.

Although he hasn’t said it out loud the blood has a much stronger sense of finality. He knows the killer grasshoppers are still there, just hidden under the sludgy muck and mud.

Captain Long walks the forest road with his hands behind his back and staring straight in front of himself, yet he still catches all the grays and blacks of the devastated forest around him with his highly tuned peripherals. Far behind him on the road a transport truck rumbles up the steep grade. The captain hears a voice shouting behind him, but in front of the supply truck. Captain Long doesn’t slow his step.

Within a matter of moments he hears deep breathing and footfalls punctuated by splashes in the puddles filling the ruts in the road as the voice catches up to him. “Captain Long, sir, wait up.”

Captain Long continues his determined steps around a bend in the road and stands facing a clear-cut ridge which remains largely untouched by the flames which ravaged everything around it. His chest burns at the cruel mockery of a breath-stealing view. If the surrounding trees weren’t charred and smoking and the underbrush reduced to shifting ash piles it would be a true lovely site as the mountain cuts back on itself in a sharp, extended fold of rock and earth and trees. The Captain’s keen eyes spot a battered yellow pick-up parked half-way down the clear-cut. Without slowing his step, Captain Long adjusts his path in the direction of the abandoned pickup truck. He steps off the gravel road and his heavy boots sink in the mud. Captain Long takes advantage of the mud, by leaning back on his heels and controlling his slide down the mountainside, shifting his body weight and leaning slightly side to side as he descends. 

Sergeant Brown rounds the same corner the Captain had seconds before. Brown’s eyes go wide, scanning the deserted road for his superior officer until he sees him sliding down the ridge-side in the mud. Sergeant Brown rolls his eyes at the back of his stoic leader and stomps across the road to the slippery path Captain Long created down to the crashed pickup. The Sergeant steps on the path, but doesn’t lean back or take the time to adjust his balance. He hits his ass into slick mud and slides down the mud path bellowing Captain Long’s name the entire way down.

Captain Long reaches the crashed vehicle first, and stands with his arms folded across his chest as he examines it. It is a small Ford Ranger, most likely from the late 1980’s and painted a Forest Service yellow with a Hoo-Doo County Forest Services logo emblazoned on the driver’s door. The truck is impaled on a sizable stump. Every window shattered, the roof dented in as if it rolled a few times. The wreckage is covered in a fine layer of ash, in some places the ash is darker, and through experience the Captain knows the ash stuck to slowly drying blood.  Sergeant Brown’s slide comes to an end near the rear of the truck, where Captain Long helps him to his feet. The two men lean against the truck’s tailgate while Captain Long allows the Sergeant to catch his breath.

After a few moments, Sergeant Brown taps a cigarette out of a dented softpack and offers one to his Captain. Captain Long stares at the smoke for a moment before taking it and placing it between his tight lips. Sergeant Brown smiles a goofy smile, knowing the Captain isn’t normally one to smoke the devil cigarettes, as he holds his flickering flame first to his leader’s smoke and then his own. As both men take slow, deep, drags off their cigarettes Sergeant Brown remembers why he chased down his Captain.

 “Two things, sir.”

Captain Long raises a questioning eyebrow.

“Do you think it smells like Christmas or camping?”


“You know, because of the fire and all.”

Captain Long says nothing, his questioning eyebrow still arched.

“Me a-a-and the other fellas were, you know, joking about-”

“About the slaughter of an entire town?”

“Uhhh.” Sergeant Brown’s smile dissolves into a shameful grimace.

“Stop being an asshole, Sergeant.”

“S-s-sorry, sir.”

“What else?”

“Sir?” Sergeant Brown asks thinking perhaps his apology was lacking something still.

“You said ‘two things’, if your foul attempt at humor was one, what is the second?” Captain Long snuffs out his smoke in the mud at his feet and then tucks the soiled butt into his chest pocket. As soon as he is finished, Sergeant Brown sheepishly offers him another cigarette. Captain Long takes half as long to consider the offered smoke, and light for it.

“The second thing, sir, is Major Bollock has found an abandoned camp site. I believe at the bottom of this very ridge even.”

“Any survivors?”

“No, sir. He has indicated there are victims though. Several.” Sergeant Brown responds, his head refocused on the terrible business around them.

“Any giant fucking grasshoppers?”

“Yes, sir. Biggest buried one yet.” The Sergeant beams proudly. “Heat readings show it to be at least as big as the three we hauled away on flatbeds. They just need your permission to blast the bastard. Uh, I mean target, sir.”

“Oh, it’s a bastard, Sergeant. But, let’s start there next time and keep your shitty jokes to yourself, huh?”

“Yes, sir.” Sergeant Brown bows like a scolded child.

“Well, tell ‘em to sink the bomb and kill the bastard, Sergeant!”

“Yes, sir!” Sergeant Brown snaps to attention, his cigarette still gripped tight between two fingers, before speaking into the com-unit on his shoulder to pass the order along to Major Bollock at the bottom of the ridge.

Down at the bottom of the ridge, standing next to a babbling little creek obscured by bright green ferns misted with fine dots of blood, stands Major Bollock supervising his rag-tag crew. He has been tasked with hunting down the grasshoppers which buried themselves, and the hastily constructed squad consists of Bollock himself, his longtime teammate Major Avado, two full bodysuit wearing CDC officials, and four good-old-boy-local-contractors to help with the drilling through the Earth and the subsequent bombing of the hideous insects. The com-unit on Major Bollock’s shoulder squeals, and he effortlessly shifts his M-16 to his other arm to answer it.

“Major Bollock here.” He speaks into the small plastic square while watching the four civilians place the tri-pod over the indicated giant. He knows the call is going to be giving the order to sink and destroy. He wants to be ready.

“This is Sergeant Brown, Major. Have you located the target?”

“Yes, sir. Target acquired and mapped through use of the heat-sensors. Tri-pod in place and ready for drilling, sir.”

“The Captain has given the order, Major. Sink and destroy.” Sergeant Brown’s voice crackles over the static and what sounds like an approaching vehicle in the distant background.

“Sir, yes, sir!” Major Bollock barks into his com-unit. He slings his M-16 over his shoulder and helps Major Avado open the wooden crate containing the small specialized bombs they are using for the extermination. Though the small missiles are only a foot long and an odd spiraled oval shape they pack enough of a wallop to shake the ground when they do their thing. Each missile in the crate weighs close to a hundred pounds and it tasks both Majors to hustle it site to site.

“Drill it, boys.” Major Bollock grunts to the civilians crowded around the tri-pod as he and Major Avado shuffle towards them with the crate of bombs.

A heavyset man named Clark gives the straining Majors thumbs-up as he flicks the switch on the tri-pod. The drill roars to life, the sound of a chainsaw eating a lawnmower, and massive 12’ diameter titanium bit slams towards the ground. Dirt and rocks cloud the air and pelt the men as the drill eats into Earth chomping at the beast buried beneath. The drill comes to a sudden, whining, stop as the hillside rumbles underfoot.

“Shit!” Major Avado yells while rushing the tri-pod, “pull it back before-”

The second Major means for his civilian counterparts to reverse the sinking drill before it can snap the bit, but rather than the bit breaking the entire drill shaft begins to bend and warp from the pressure it is encountering underground. The drill bit gives before the shaft, and when it snaps the ground rumbles with such force to tip the tri-pod over. Major Avado dives forward and yanks the broken bit from the ground with his bare hands. The jagged metal instantly shreds his gloves, slashing at the tender flesh of his hands and smearing his blood all over the broken bit and the ground he frees it from. Three of the civilians struggle to get the tri-pod back in place, while the forth, Clark, assists Major Bollock in removing the first ground missile from the crate. The two CDC officials accompanying them stare at the unfolding scene through their clear faceplates but make no effort to help.

Major Avado bellows as he tosses the broken drill tip away and helps the three men get the tri-pod back into position. The second it is in place Major Bollock and Clark fit the missile into the top of the tri-pod’s secondary shaft even as it slams down into the beginnings of the hole the drill made.  

“Sink it!” Major Bollock yells.

His order is instantly followed, and the missile is shot into the ground to detonate. The hillside heaves and rumbles, the men all swaying to catch their balance even as Major Bollock screams, “Sink another!”


The time has come. The new eyes, the human eyes, open.

The ground next to her exploded, the giant burrowed grasshopper taking the brunt of the explosion and sparing her to spread the Pulse to the other humans. The humans have machines to find the grasshoppers with their body heat, but the human is cold and dead. The Pulse reads the remnants of decaying thought, and it knows her name was Elizabeth and she died full of sorrow. Her brain is almost too destroyed for the Pulse to control, but the cosmic parasite has its filthy soiled tendrils twitching to hold it all together. The Pulse might not be able to control her flailing limbs once she is free of her earthen tomb, but it can control her snapping mouth. It doesn’t have to last long, just long enough to pass the Pulse on to another human. From there begins the great feasting, the Pulse will taste the flesh as they taste the flesh but only the Pulse will consume the souls.

The dirt shifts. Rainbow eyes shine. The new season begins.


Before Major Bollock’s squad can fire the second missile the ground below then sinks and rolls, uprooting and tipping several hundred foot pine trees surrounding them and tossing them into chaos. Without warning Clark’s heavyset form sinks waist deep into the fractured ground so quickly none of the others have time to react before he is screaming at the top of his lungs. The three men struggling to hold the tri-pod steady abandon their post to help their trapped friend. The two CDC officials remain shock-faced and still. Major Avado, left alone to balance the heavy metal tri-pod yells over his shoulder at them as the tri-pod thrashes in his straining arms.

“This shell is live, you assholes!”

As if to punctuate his statement the tri-pod’s shaft warps until it detonates the missile stuck halfway down it. Major Avado’s legs disappear in a cloud of blood and dirt that sears away most of his facial features as it chokes the camp. The civilian nearest Avado suffers the same fate, his death quick and bright as the explosion consumes him.

The explosion allows the other two men to tug a babbling, gagging Clark from the ground. They drag him several feet away, and both have to hold down vomit when they see the severe jagged wound bisecting Clark’s meaty thigh. Finally one of the CDC officials unfreezes as his training kicks in and he dashes forward to stem the flow of blood drenching the ground under Clark.

“Hey!” Major Bollock yells over the rumble of earth and panicked screams around him.

All eyes turn to him, each set bloodshot with fear. “We need to sink another.”

The two civilians remaining shake their heads at him, silently begging not to. Next to them, the CDC official gives up on applying pressure to Clark’s wound as the flow goes weak and thin. He looks up and shakes his head sadly at Major Bollock though Clark’s friends don’t see the gesture.

“The hole is lost, no damn way we are getting it back as shook up and unstable the ground is now, and the fucking tri-pod is ruined!” The civilian in blue plaid nearly screams in Major Bollock’s face.
Major Bollock raises his M-16, points it at the man’s forehead, and tells him, “Our friends gave their lives to kill this thing, now help me sink another.”

The other worker dives for the destroyed tri-pod, since his friend has a machine gun inches from his face, but he slips face-first into the mud and knocks the heavy tri-pod completely off the mound and into the invisible creek.

Major Bollock growls in frustration as he spins away from the man down the end of his barrel to the fallen man. Bollock grabs the clumsy one by the scruff of his neck and jerks him up from the mud. The man’s face comes free with a slurping sound which gives way to his pained screams. The Major rolls the man over and sees his face has been chewed off. His head snaps back to where he jerked the man free and he sees a gray-faced girl rising from the muck. Her eyes glow a terrible rainbow of colors which almost convinces the seasoned Major to swallow his rifle. Above her glowing eyes, a bullet wound crusted around the edges with tiny neon worms poking out. Major Bollock looks back and forth between the man he just pulled free, now as dead as Clark behind him, and the girl as she stumbles awkwardly towards him with one hand making circles at her side, the fingers on that hand twisting and bending each other uncontrollably.

His heart pounding in his ears, his face flushing red with a dread unfamiliar to him, Major Bollock narrowly avoids her snapping mouth when she throws her body at him. He tucks forward, somersaulting through the mud to pop back up behind her. He is much quicker than her and has her in his sights before she spins back around to face him. As she does spin, Major Bollock catches a glimpse of Clark attacking the CDC official and his sole remaining friend behind her. His finger a feather on the trigger he hesitates when he notices the mud dripping slowly from the tip of the gun barrel.

 The rainbow-eyed girl lunges at him again, this time one arm slashing wildly as she charges. He dives to the opposite side of her, rolling past and swiveling back. He raises his weapon as he rises, swinging it like a baseball bat at the back of her head. Her skull caves in and her face explodes as brain is forced out on to the forest floor in front of her, though the sound is far less satisfying than Major Bollock expects it to be. It lacked the solid crunch of bone he had expected, and the butt of his weapon has a strange black slime covering it, but he doesn’t have time to ponder it all because he hears the growling behind him.

Major Bollock faces the threatening sounds behind him and sees Clark, his two buddies- now faceless twins, and one CDC official snarling at him with bared teeth and glowing rainbow eyes. Behind them the other CDC man struggles up the steep muddy ridge-side his helmet still on and clipboard still clutched tight in his hand. Bollock readies to swing his rifle at the men, but they all dart forward in exact unison. Their movements far more sharp and coordinated than that of the dead girl they surround Bollock and rip the gun from his hands before he has a chance to put it to task. He fights for all he is worth but his fists and kicks don’t faze the dead men, or slow them despite hearing him hearing their bones break from the force of his strikes. Clark slashes him across the face with jagged fingernails and Major Bollock feels it. He feels the Pulse, warm and neon and hungry, and he falls into the waiting jaws surrounding him.

The last CDC official miraculously reaches the tree line before Major Bollock rises from the dead with his own neon eyes, but unfortunately he slips in the mud and slides back down the hillside a good twenty feet. He had watched them all fall, had counted on them to still be chewing on Major Bollock, so he doesn’t risk a look back down at the carnage. He fights he way through the slick mud, grabbing on tree trunks and underbrush to work his way back to the tree line. He finally makes it, and sees Captain Long and Sergeant Brown a few hundred feet above him leaning against a pickup and smoking cigarettes. He screams for their help, and then realizes they can’t hear him through his helmet. He clicks the release button on the side of the helmet, but as the face shield whooshes back he is grabbed from behind and dragged back into the trees to the waiting jaws of the dead which quickly tear him to shreds.

The rumble of the transport truck on the dirt road above echoes through the clear cut Captain Long and Sergeant Brown are standing in even though the truck still has a few turns before it reaches them. Captain Long crumples the cigarette he is smoking and tucks the butt into his chest pocket. Sergeant Brown wordlessly offers the Captain another, but it is declined. The Sergeant notices the distant look in the Captain’s eyes.

“Have you heard anything from town, sir?”

“Yeah. The flesh-eating insects may be gone, but the new scourge at the gate is twice as venomous.”

“The press, sir?”

“Yeah, ‘the press’.” Captain Long says the word the way some people say ‘nazi’.

“I tell you, sir, for something labeled TOP SECRET there are more people on this mountain than there was before the massacre.”

“You speak the truth, Sergeant. A bunch of goddamned vultures and fools.”

The rumble of the huge transport truck rumbling into view above covers the sound of the five dead men scampering up the hillside behind Captain Long and Sergeant Brown. Before he knows he won’t be heard above the roar of the truck the Sergeant shouts his final words, “At least it is the end of grasshopper season, sir!”

The dead men overtake the Captain and his Sergeant but the running truck covers the sounds of the scuffle and their subsequent demises. Captain Long manages a few hard palm strikes before a dead man in a blood-stained CDC jumpsuit ducks below his arms and sinks its teeth into the meat of his crotch. The Sergeant fares no better as Major Bollock knocks him off his feet by clubbing him in the face with his fists, allowing Clark and his faceless friends to fall on him. The truck rumbles and groans to a stop uphill from the slaughtered soldiers.

Captain Long stands back up, missing his left ear, most of his right cheek and a mouthful of pecker meat. His eyes shine a rainbow of hideous neon colors in stark contrast to the dismal scorched forest around them, the strange colors pulse in the same rhythm as those around him as they all look up hill at the truck and the driver shouting down to them.


 In a small shack not two miles from the ridge something malevolent stirs.

The dead run towards the truck and the Pulse in the Dark sees through their eyes.

The Corn Eater returns to the shack, changed and hollowed, and the Pulse in the Dark sees through his eyes as well. The crimson bearded hermit sulks around the shack, he isn’t needed to lead the new swarm as the Pulse can lead them all from where it coils, but other tasks are necessary for his fragile human hands. The Corn Eater tears a plank away from the wall of the shack and tosses it over his hunched shoulder.

On the dirt road at Tree Horn Ridge, the dead men with the rainbow eyes reach the truck. Captain Long and Major Bollock tear the driver’s side door away at the exact same moment the Corn Eater tears away his first plank. The driver is yanked screaming from the cab and eviscerated the instant he hits the ground. The men in the back of the truck begin shuffling out but Sergeant Brown leads his dead troops up and into the canopy covered cargo area slaughtering the dozen confused soldiers riding back there before any have the chance to fire a single bullet.

The dead men feast on the flesh of the fallen, and the Corn Eater tastes the blood as he jerks away another plank. The Corn Eater tastes the blood, but only the Pulse in the Dark tastes the souls. Another plank, and the shack slumps in on itself. The Corn Eater smiles as he tastes the flesh and the blood, he knows there will be more, so much more. The dead will swallow the world and the Pulse will grow fat with its gluttony. As more dead men begin to rise with their rainbow eyes, the Corn Eater shoves the weakened shack away from the cosmic parasite it has sheltered. The Corn Eater drops to his knees and begins clawing at the dirt surround the smooth glowing coils of the Pulse. Fingertips bleed as earthed prison is removed fistful by fistful.

The Pulse will soon shine too bright for the shack.

It will light up the forest, and then it will light up the world.

All will rejoice in the warm glow of the Pulse in the Dark.


You can find more of my work HERE.


Saturday, April 5, 2014

Grasshopper Season 7: The Chaos Before the Storm by Jonathan Moon

7: The Chaos Before the Storm

Chaos. It hangs thick in the air. It clings to the trees as harsh as the evergreen bark. It rises from the ground like autumn fog. It swirls with the smoke from the burning town miles away. The animals of the forest, large and small, flee with no destination, driven by fear and instinct. In their sudden absence silence rings and buzzes throughout the dense forest.

Deep in the woods surrounding the town of St. Jim’s, in a small decrepit shack nestled at the foot of a ridge the Pulse in the Dark throbs and glows. It is older than most of the stars in the sky and has been buried in the Earth’s crust since the planet formed; an ageless cosmic parasite with unrelenting hunger. It glows, changing colors with every twitch of its vast coiled form. Only a few lumps of its smooth, glowing flesh poke through the ground, and like the tip of a morbid iceberg the majority of the creature is buried under tons and tons of Earth and rock. However, enough has been exposed to Earthen air to call the human, the Corn-Eater, those many years ago.

The Pulse sees through his eyes and it shows him the depths of the abyss. The Corn-Eater has proved helpless and loyal, forsaking all he had in his life to serve the Pulse in the Dark. The Pulse grew him food, ripe with the blood the Pulse leeched from the Earth from centuries of atrocities and the twisted darkness which the Pulse itself ascended from. The Pulse has used the human so effectively until now. The Corn-Eater followed the swarm, the thousands, a manifestation of the Pulse’s control in the hermit’s glowing eyes to guide then where they need to go. The Corn-Eater lead the swarm, the thousands, and each tiny mouthful of flesh was tasted by the Pulse and the Corn-Eater as the grasshopper feasted.

And then, something unforeseen, the Corn-Eater has tasted the flesh of his own. So long ago the Pulse reached into his mind and crushed it, the sliver of remaining humanity curled into itself and hid from the brain-picking malevolence. The taste of the flesh of his own has sent that sliver of humanity buried deep inside the Corn-Eater’s mind recoiling and thrashing in disgusted abstract terror. In order to maintain its control over the Corn-Eater and the Swarm, the thousands, the Pulse had to infuse his ugly human servant with its unholy power. This power filled the human’s shell when that last sliver of humanity fed itself to the Pulse, this power so strong and crackling it killed every grasshopper within a hundred feet of the Corn-Eater with the resulting spike in mental energy. The Pulse felt each grasshopper’s dying agonies as their tiny brains exploded with the Corn-Eater’s madness reaching its own hellish crescendo.

The swarm, the thousands, has been devastated. Between the Corn-Eater’s inadvertent mass murder and the roaring blaze which erupted during the chaos most died in St. Jim’s. The remaining grasshoppers wandered around aimlessly, mindless shells created only for consuming flesh for the Pulse in the Dark, until the Pulse could regain control of its pets and call them back to the cool dark of the forest. The fire which ceased their planned advance blew back through town eviscerating the blood-streaked ruins and scorching the blood to the asphalt.

The human, the Corn-Eater, has transcended into a shell the Pulse’s conscience can completely fill like a fist in a glove. The Pulse sees through its eyes.

Beautiful black grasshoppers, dead and dying.

Loud angry machines, spilling water on the town and shoving away the ruins.

The Pulse, in its infinite wisdom, knows humans pilot the machines without needing to smell their foul odors or taste their flesh. The humans exit their machines, and poke at the dead grasshoppers not consumed by the flames. They are amazed at their size and apparent appetite. They call more humans to the blood.

The Pulse wants the humans to come and be fascinated by the creatures it infused with its essence. Congregate and study. Gather and debate. Crowd and be slaughtered.

The Corn-Eater stumbles through the forest, glowing eyes shimmering in the middle of slack emotionless face. Through his eyes the Pulse sees everything in bright smears of abstract colors which hum with their energies. It feels the colors it sees. Inside the disgusting human shell the Corn-Eater is sleek and smooth and glowing.

The remaining grasshoppers burrow underground.

The humans are in flying machines and landing now.

The humans call each other to the blood.

The Corn-Eater reaches the shack and shoves the door open. Inside, the Pulse in the Dark glows, its reflection shimmering on every surface within the small space. The Corn-Eater falls to his knees and begins digging at the Earth surrounding the Pulse in the Dark. The Pulse is seeing through new eyes now, as it saw through the eyes of the swarm, the millions of eyes of the thousands. Human eyes again.  

It sees only dirt.

Next 'episode' posting up between April 9th-12th 2014

You can find more of my work HERE.

You can read the rest of the Grasshopper Season series HERE. (the first is at the bottom, sorry for the backassward display order.)

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Grasshopper Season 6: Hell Hops Into Town by Jonathan Moon

6: Hell Hops into Town

St. Jim’s is a small town built at the base of the mountains at the north-eastern end of Hoo-Doo County. Early settlers to the region built homes and businesses along the popular trade route which followed the Merwin River down from the Hoo-Doo Mountains to where it meets the Palouse River. They used trees they logged from the unnaturally thick evergreen forest which grew up the side of the mountain range. As they clear cut their way up the side of the mountain people bought the cleared land at discount prices and built affordable housing to settle their families in. Within a few years the town reached up from the valley floor into a mushroom shaped cluster of houses and businesses all surrounded by the dense forest.

Gold, and all the promises its mere presence whispers, was discovered to the south, and the town’s population suffered accordingly. Those who stayed behind continued to farm the land and log the mountains but over time the region, and all the towns scattered throughout it, were rumored cursed after winters cold enough to freeze cattle to death in barns followed summers burning too hot and fast to produce valuable crops continually sent people fleeing.

After what is commonly referred to as the ‘Last Nasty Winter’ (the winter of 32, spring of 33) by locals and historians alike the quadruple average snow fall melted freakishly quick, forcing the Merwin to swell and flood the lower portion of St. Jim’s.  The waters rose quickly overnight, drowning over one hundred people in the freezing snowmelt as the sun was rising. Eventually the flood waters receded leaving a devastated town in its wake. All of the buildings in lower St. Jim’s were damaged by the flood, those which didn’t crumble on their own where brought down by the cleanup crews from the local logging company Kambitch Brothers.

Again, the land was offered cheap, and, again, it was purchased and settled quickly. Rather than rebuild the lower half of the town farmers planted fields down the rolling foothills all the way to the banks of the murderous Merwin River. These new crops grew well enough to support the now smaller, easier to manage, town. Bold famers cut into the forests surrounding the town, finding the soil on the back side of several ridges to be very fertile and easy to farm. These successful farms brought more industry which in turn brought more people.

So came the second breath of life to the town.

Now, as the swarm darkens the sky it begins its second death rattle.

Moses Richardson is first to witness the swarm of mutant grasshoppers as he is perched at the highest point in the town, the top of the town hall tower, but as he is not the smartest or cleverest man at all he can’t think of a way to alert anyone of its arrival. The sky tints black with shimmering purple as the swarm descends, and Moses scampers back and forth on the tower’s small ledge panicking to his core. Moses doesn’t own a cell phone, or even a home phone for that matter, but he knows his boss Carl would know what to do and who to call. So Moses screams for his boss in as loud a voice as his husky vocal cords can muster. During his frightened excitement Moses inadvertently bumps the ladder he used to shimmy up to the tower. The ladder falls with a metallic clatter to the roof below him, and Moses bellows for Carl in a voice wet with fear.

Moses is older than Carl, he doesn’t know by how much because he doesn’t know how old he is. Carl is his boss and best friend. Carl runs the town’s maintenance crew, and Moses is his dedicated right hand man. What old Moses lacks in smarts, for he is certainly a simple man, he more than makes up for with his positive attitude, strong work ethic, and eagerness to please. Moses has known Carl for as long as he could remember, though his memories are always warped and unreliable, streaked with vibrant colors which frighten Moses and render recalling memories or engaging in deep thought strenuous and terrifying. Even now, Moses lives in a single-wide trailer Carl let him put down in the back end of his six hillside acres. Over his many years in the town of St. Jim’s a great deal of the families took him in from time to time, and he has spent his years repaying the town and its people for their kindness to him.

Moses’s daddy left the summer before the Last Bad Winter and the resulting murderous flood from its freeze. His momma swore up and down, and to Jesus and everything, that daddy done went of chasing gold in Californ-y streams. But Moses swore up and down, and to Jesus and everything, he watched his daddy wander off towards Tree Horn Ridge, which Mrs. Simpson from next door had kindly answered him when he asked, was not in the same direction as Californ-y. Moses knew the ridge because his daddy would take him hiking on it almost every day. Even as a small child the ridge, however beautiful and serene, filled Moses with a sense of dread which was near as strong as the wonderment his daddy felt for the mountainside. Moses used to be able to remember toddling after his daddy over and around logs, down slick narrow paths and up steep jagged cliff-sides chasing something his daddy could never really explain to his young simple son. His daddy would talk funny out on the ridge, non-sense and babble talk that Moses still hears in his frequent nightmares. Daddy would take little Moses camping along the ridge-line sometimes, staying out for days at a time and coming home to an irritated momma. It didn’t matter how mad momma got because daddy couldn’t stay away from the ridge, couldn’t let his search relent, and he would be gone again. Daddy said it was out there somewhere, and he’d find it one day and bask in a rainbow of powerful lights. Moses always figured daddy to be standing somewhere, smiling as colors wash over him instead of kneeling in a cold creek panning for gold. Still, when momma said daddy went chasing gold rush streams Moses kept his little opinion to himself for he loathed upsetting his momma.

His momma had a taste for a strong medicine she’d get from the Chinese who emptied the outhouses and ran the laundry. A taste so intense she imbibed heavily before, during and after her pregnancy with Moses. He couldn’t understand the ramifications of the liquid she’d drip into her water, and he though her dulled senses and glossy eyes her natural state of being. Her little amber-colored bottle was empty and Moses couldn’t wake her up where she slept pale-faced on the couch the morning of the Great Flood. Mr. Simpson from next door carried him out of the house over his broad shoulders, the tears leaking down the old lumberjack’s cheeks in no way born of the small boy’s fists and feet as he thrashed for his momma. Momma wouldn’t wake up and those freezing waters rose up and swallowed her while the kind loving Simpsons dragged him kicking and screaming to safety. They couldn’t bury momma because the receding waters took her away and left their old house empty and water-damaged beyond repair. Moses lived with the Simpsons until old-age claimed them both, and other families were always there to take him in when he needed a place to sleep and food in his belly. He was treated like a son the whole town shared, and loved despite his imbecilic nature. Over the years he has outlived all those who once knew first-hand of his sad past, until Moses became the oldest living person in St Jim’s and isn’t even aware of it.

Now, the spry old Moses has no other words other than Carl’s screeched name as he watches the swarm descend on the unsuspecting town as people bustle about. He slaps his leathery hands on the side of the wooden tower, and hears the heavy thudding echoing throughout the floor below. Moses can see four colossal black grasshoppers, each bigger than the work truck Moses and Carl spend their days in, and countless other black hoppers from the size of cats to the size of golf carts, crawling all over down below him while the air turns thick with an incredible number of the normal summer grasshoppers. The larger hoppers smash into cars and buildings, shattering windows with their hardened exoskeletons and allowing others to leap through. From all directions screams rise on the early morning air up to Moses’s ears.

From his precarious perch Moses watches a group of men in front of the hardware store do battle with a group of black grasshoppers with rakes and shovels. The young muscled clerk Moses recognizes as one of St Jim’s football heroes from a few years ago manages to impale a fiercely clicking hopper with a pitchfork. One prong still wrapped tin the manufacturer’ s sticker stabs through twitching insect dripping orange slime. Next to him, two other men beat a grasshopper nearly as big as them with a shovel and a gardening hoe until they smash through smooth black exoskeleton and splatter bright orange grasshopper guts all over themselves and the street they battle in. The tide turns in the blink of an eye when the ex-football hero is tackled into eternity by one of the colossal giants. The other men rally against the monster but are torn into bloody chunks by the smaller hoppers the moment they turn their attention to it.

A drunk man who Moses recognizes as Tanner Webber runs in an erratic zig-zag pattern down the middle of Main Street, fleeing a grasshopper the size of an elk and half blinded by the six-inch beasties chewing at his face. The milk delivery truck from Hopkin’s Dairy careens around the corner and Tanner is dragged under its wheels when their zig-zagging paths collide in the middle of the street. The truck bumps obscenely and leaves a wide bloody smear in its wake. Tanner’s mangled corpse flops away from the milk truck as it banks hard to the left and crashes into the post office where it explodes in grand fashion belching boiling milk and shards of glass onto the people standing nearby.

The four biggest black grasshoppers throw their heavy bodies against the buildings downtown, reducing the brick and wooden buildings to rubble. People try to flee the crumbling structures only to be violently devoured in the street by the other hoppers.  The Main Street Bar begins crumbling and a flood of people who had sought refuse within scampers back out into the confusion and carnage. Moses watches a heavyset woman with bright blue curlers in her hair get torn in half by two six-foot grasshoppers in a primal display of greed which spills her sloppy innards all over the thousands of small hoppers crawling across the blood streaked asphalt. The smaller grasshoppers are scampering all over the ruins of the once fine buildings, feasting on survivors and leaving a multitude of tiny bloody tracks over the wreckage.  

Moses watches another one of the four giants smash into a school bus, tipping it on its side and allowing the smaller hoppers to attack. Tears form and slip down his weathered cheeks as he hears thin, terrified, high-pitched screams cut short. Moses jerks his attention from the horrors of Main Street, and nearly swoons and slips from the tower when he realizes the carnage has already spread throughout town. He clutches tight to the tower, his eyes closed against the horrors below but the sounds of random gunfire, harrowing screams, tires screeching, vehicles colliding and exploding all still assault his ears as tears continue to stream down into his own bushy beard. He wagers a look back out over the town through blurry eyes and aside from the brilliant splashes of crimson coloring the street below he sees pillars of smoke are reaching into the morning sky from all over town. The people of St. Jim’s are dying terribly and there is nothing Moses can do to help them all.

The grasshoppers’ song rings through the air, muffling the screams, and Moses can’t help but think of his daddy, though he doesn’t know why now of all times the old scoundrel would enter his panicked thoughts. Before he has time to get lost in his jittery confusing memories Moses hears the familiar squeak of the window below signaling Carl’s return. Relief flushes Moses’s face and he slaps the wooden walls excitedly, unable to form words to express his rampaging emotions.

“What is all the racket out here, Moses?” Carl asks as he pops his round face out of the window below.

Moses finally finds another word. “Grasshoppers!”

“Jeez, old boy, I’m talking about all the crashing and booming and shooting I’m hearing not the insect situation!” Carl’s good-natured tone sounds a little shaky to Moses, the slight tremble in his tone still evident when he notices the ladder Moses tipped over. He wiggles his rotund form through the tower window to flop onto the easy sloped town hall roof top. He stands next to the ladder and looks up at Moses with a gentle smirk. “Holy shit, Moses, are you stuck up there?”

Moses leans over the edge to stare down at Carl with his bloodshot eyes and tear-dampened cheeks. Next to Carl is the ladder Moses tipped, and just behind Carl Moses sees the townspeople he so loves being slaughtered ruthlessly in the street and in their homes. His answer comes in a hot flood of shouted words and ends choked with emotion.

“I am stuck up here, Carl! But it don’t matter none, ‘cause giant grasshoppers are eating everyone in town! I know that sounds like crazy-people talk, but I been watching some terrible things, Carl.”

Carl looks up at Moses with a look of uncertainty shaping his jovial features. He opens his mouth to say something but a sudden loud, scraping, crash births a huge fireball above one of two of the gas stations in town. Carl curls into a ball at the force of the explosion and the sound reverberation that pounds the morning air and rattles his teeth. He slowly faces the direction of the explosion and sees the sky blackened above the flames consuming the east side of St. Jim’s. He steps on wobbly legs to edge of the roof top so he can look down at the carnage below for the first time.

People Carl has always known are be chased up the street and overtaken by the mutated grasshopper and torn to wet ribbons of quivering flesh. Buildings Carl remembers from his childhood have instantly been reduced to smoking, blood-smeared ruins lining the gore speckled road. Cars and trucks are colliding with each as they try to flee the carnage engulfing the town.  Carl watches the bright yellow Toyota driven by one of the town mechanics, Stanley Ray, slam on its brakes right in the middle of Main Street when two of the giants block its path. Carl waves his arms over his head while screaming Stanley’s name, but before Stanley possibly has a chance to look up at his panicked friend a dozen giant black hoppers are crawling all over the truck and muffling the screams within.

Moses can’t handle watching Stanley’s terrible demise, so he turns away and looks away from town. His blurry eyes notice the shape of an old man walking down the road into town from the directions the grasshoppers came from. The old man’s beard is as long and gnarled as Moses’s childhood, and as crimson as the blood-stained road. The carnivorous grasshoppers leap all around him, but none attack him. Something stirs deep within Moses’s very core, when the old man begins shouting. The crimson-bearded interloper doesn’t manage any actual words, but the long-string of gibberish he screams at the grasshoppers echoes within Moses’s skull and injects his already rolling stomach with an eerie sense of dread. The sound of the ladder slamming against the ledge breaks Moses’s stare from the red-bearded old man and returns it to Carl’s pale frightened, pale face below.

“We gotta do something, Moses. It’s bad down there. Everyone I’ve ever known is being ate up by giant grasshoppers. Oh, no, Sadie and the girls…oh, Jesus…”

Moses reaches for the ladder, but it lifts away before he can grab it. He leans over the edge to see Carl put it back down where it was.


“Sorry, Moses, but you’ll be safe up there. Safest place in town. I gotta go get Sadie and the girls, and I’m bringing them back here. We’ll wait it out together, okay, Moses. Stay put, old fella.”

Before Moses can protest, Carl is ducked back through the window and running through town hall. The old man in the street shouts again, and even without facing him the gibberish rings within Moses’s head. The sensation is personal and offensive and draws his eyes back to the horrible scene below in the street.

The red-bearded old man points at a station wagon parked in front of the ruins of the bank while screaming his wild babble. A cluster of black hoppers leaps where he points, crawling over, under and into the vehicle. As the mutant insects go under the car two humans, a man and a woman, scamper out from hiding to escape them. A black hopper leaps from the dented crater it created on the car’s hood to the man’s chest. He huffs, red-faced, at it. It gnashes forward and rips his throat out with clicking mandibles. The woman turns on the red-bearded old man and screams at him.

Moses’s squinting eyes see a smile worm its way onto the old man’s oddly familiar face, and his eyes glow strange neon colors like a cartoon. A grasshopper the size of a bear leaps right past the old man and smashes the woman into the passenger-side of the station wagon she had been hiding under. With the force of impact bone cracks and splinters, glass shatters, metal creaks and bends. The giant hopper jumps away, leaving the woman to slip slowly to a heap in the street just barely obscured from Moses’s view. The red-bearded old man screams and points at her fallen body and more black hoppers respond. A fine mist of blood in the air and sprayed across the destroyed station wagon signals her end.

Moses throws up his breakfast over the edge of the tower, and has to hold tight and fight the sway he feels coming. He screams with all his will for Carl. The, he screams for his daddy without knowing why.

Far below him, the double doors at the rear of town hall are thrown open as Carl bolts through the parking lot towards his own town-issued work truck. Before he reaches it one of the four largest hoppers smashes it to shards of metal and plastic. The colossal monster hunches down and hisses at Carl.

“Run Carl!” Moses screams down at his dear friend.

Moses’s panicked cry breaks Carl from his fear-frozen state, and he darts around the side of town hall towards the Clem Chem Co. gas station across the street. As Carl runs black grasshoppers leap at him, but he ducks and rolls managing to only get a few deep, but not lethal scratches across his back and legs as he crosses the street. As he reaches the front row parking, the colossal hopper that destroyed Carl’s work truck smashes into a fully-loaded Kambitch Brothers Logging truck, forcing the eighteen-wheeler into the gas pumps. Carl sees a dozen pale faces staring at him from behind the plate glass seconds before fire erupts behind him and consumes him and everything in his world.

Moses watches the massive fireball swallow Carl, the group of black hoppers chasing him, and the crowded gas station in the time it takes for him to bellow Carl’s name one last time. Surely Carl couldn’t hear Moses’s bellowing through the roaring of the flames eating him, but the red-bearded old man turns his strange rainbow gaze up to Moses on his perch. Moses feels caught in the strange gaze as a whirlwind of blurry neon memories whiplashes his simple terrified mind. While staring down at the old man with the crimson beard tears start leaking down Moses’s cheeks again. He can’t pull his eyes away, and when the red-bearded old man starts whispering his odd gibberish again Moses hears it as if he is shouting it directly into his ears. The tears slipping down Moses’s cheek which don’t soak into the gray of his beard drip down to land on his hand clutched white-knuckle tight to the ledge. While Moses is in a fear trance, his trembling hand slips on the tear-slick wood.

With the red-bearded old man’s haunting babble echoing in his head, Moses pitches headfirst off of the ledge. He falls the seven feet to the roof and lands with a sickening crack. The last sensation Moses is aware of in his body is a tight painful pinching and then all-consuming numbness. His eyes dart back and forth as his limp body begins slipping down the roof’s slight incline. He whimpers weakly but can do nothing to slow his descent down the slope. He reaches the edge, and falls the three stories to the ground; a helpless blurry tumble ending in another hard awkward landing. Moses hears many of his bones break upon impact but he feels nothing below his neck. As simple as his mind may be, Moses knows his neck is broken and he knows what that means. Blood trickles of his nose when he exhales, and the smells of burning death and spilt blood reach up his nostrils and rape his dead gag reflex when he inhales.

Moses stares helplessly ahead as the red-bearded old man staggers into his line of sight. The old hermit points at Moses and screeches his gibberish in a tone which inflicts as my pain inside Moses’s head as the fall did to his body. A black grasshopper as big as Moses climbs on top of chest, chattering and clicking excitedly. Moses doesn’t feel anything, but as he body is jerked and shook by the beast he realizes with hellish clarity he is being eaten alive. His own warm sticky blood sprays Moses in his face but he can’t take his eyes of the red-bearded old man. As his life slips away Moses sees everything the Corn-Eater sees, he knows what happened to his long-lost daddy, and he weeps at the beauty of the rainbows his world explodes into. 

Next 'episode' posts up Friday, April 4th

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