Happy September, everyone! The Phoenix is hosting our second mini-contest this month. In honor of Stephen King, whose birthday is September 21, the theme of our contest is horror/suspense! You are invited to submit a work of flash fiction (no longer than 500 words) or poetry (no longer than 30 lines), that fits with the theme. The deadline is September 25, and winners will be announced September 31! Prizes TBD! Please email all entries to firstname.lastname@example.org
Congratulations to Max Meyer, who won our September contest with his flash fiction piece, “Inside the Butcher’s Shop.” Max Meyer is a Senior at the University of Tennessee. He’s majoring in English with a focus in creative writing and minoring in cinema studies. After graduating in May of 2016 he intends to go to graduate school and receive his MFA as well as continue to publish short stories and novels. His literary interests include postmodernism, absurdism, and surrealism.
Inside the Butcher’s Shop
Everyone thought the smell was just meat—the nearly rotting carcasses of cows, sheep, pigs that had yet to be cleaved and sloppily displayed in the glass window next to the sign that read
Our Meat Can’t Be Beat!
If only that were the case.
It started when the man four streets over began vomiting uncontrollably in the street. Right there in the street for everyone to see, thick pieces of ruby red flesh and sinew surrounded by a thick soup of snot-green bile.
Looks like he was too hungry to cook it first!
He was written off as an isolated case; just a man who was too hasty, too famished after a long day at work to thoroughly cook his beef or pork or chicken or goat. Maybe he’ll learn his lesson and have more patience next time. Only there will be no next time– the spirit of life had left his dehydrated, withered body. He left behind a wife, a son, and a pile of putrid pieces, presumably pork. His gravestone read
Here lies Jim
May he rest in peace.
What did him in?
Some raw roast beef
Two days passed; the town returned to its usual pace. The pile left behind by the sick man was slowly cleaned up, though not by any townspeople. They were afraid to touch it. The stray curs, the alley cats had their fill on that which killed old Jim.
My poor Scruffles!
A woman cried, her voice filling the shadowy streets. Attention was roused and the scene soon became clear. No heartbeat to be found on the mangy feline, no breath, no sign of life. Beside his head lay a hairball. Upon closer inspection the hairball perfectly preserved a reddish-pink gem; a diamond in the rough.
Comparisons were made and the talking began. Both the beloved Jim and the less-beloved Scruffles dead in the same week? An investigation was conducted.
There were the initial, obvious suggestions: poisoning, lack of clean water, maybe even just coincidence. Finally someone noticed a similarity between the flesh in the hairball and the flesh from the remnants of Jim.
Where did this meat come from?
A shadow loomed over the butcher’s shop, tinting the meat in the store window a faint green. Nobody was sure, however, if this was an effect of the poor lighting or simply a quality of the cuts themselves.
As the concerned citizens entered the shop, a loud crunch rattled the walls as the butcher slammed his cleaver down upon a particularly tough bone, surrounded by a slightly discolored layer of meat.