FEINSTEIN: How did you decide to come forward?
FORD: Ultimately because reporters were sitting outside my home and trying to talk to my dog through the window to calm the dog down, and a reporter appeared in my graduate classroom and I mistook her for a student, and she came up to ask me a question, and I thought she was a student and it turned out that she was a reporter.
So at that point, I felt like enough was enough. People were calling my colleagues at Stanford and leaving messages on their voicemails and on their e-mail, saying that they knew my name. Clearly, people knew my address because they were out in front of my house.
by Heather N. Thomas
narrated by Nika Harper
She was living in squalor. At least, that’s what her friends had said and now she never saw them anymore. Their looks of disapproval with undertones of disgust were displaced, undeserved. It was bullshit.
She’d let some things go. Her apartment certainly needed a clearing of clutter and a good bleaching to get rid of the smell. Empty boxes and rancid food containers piled up along each wall. She couldn’t remember the last time she had taken out the garbage. She couldn’t be bothered. The place had been a shit-hole long before she’d signed the lease.
The pale blue glow of her computer screen was the only source of light. Her shuttered windows covered by thick black curtains blocked out the rest of the world. Her time was consumed with packages. So many packages. All she had to do was point, click, and they’d be taken away.
This had all started with her panties. A friend had once mentioned that she knew of girls that sold theirs for serious money. The idea was so absurd and degrading that they’d just laughed it off. Later her curiosity got the best of her and she searched online. Turns out lots of women did this and they were making serious money indeed.
After she had sold about a dozen pair, the messages poured in.
Hey baby. u look so sexy in those little panties. do u have anything else to sell?
At first, she was afraid to ask exactly what they were thinking, but again her curiosity won.
Thanks cutie. What u looking for?
The requests ranged from the mundane to the bizarre, to the downright vile. These men disgusted her. But Jesus, the money was too good.
After she had sold most of her clothes, it wasn’t long before she was scouring through her trashcans to fulfill the orders. Kleenex, sanitary napkins, q-tips, hair shavings, nail clippings, piss, shit; they wanted all of it. Piece by piece, she shipped herself all over the world. The more she sold, the more sickening the orders became. She satisfied every one.
She’d often promised herself that she would stop. Her closets and drawers were bare. Her fingers were bloodied from over-clipping. She was nearly bald. She’d covered every mirror in her apartment, unable to stand the sight of the pallid hairless thing which stared back at her. It had to stop.
One morning, she received a message with the subject of, “how much?”
You have the most elegant white thighs.
I’d like to eat your skin.
How much for just a small strip of it?
She read this over several times, becoming more nauseated with each scan of the words. She ran to the bathroom and vomited into a ziplock bag. She stumbled into her kitchen. Her pale, bony hand slid a paring knife from the block. She stared at it for an endless moment.
She sat down at her kitchen table and began to cut.
I AM YOUR DOG
by Jen C.A. Morris
narrated by Austin Malone
You are really pretty.
You are really smart.
You smell really nice.
My favorite is at the end of the day
When you walk by in your shoes
Smile at me, I say hello
I am sad when you go.
But I know you will come back
I know these things because
I am your dog.
One day you didn’t come in for your cigarettes.
You are _supposed_ to do that.
I waited but you didn’t come.
I was so sad
And my head was so red.
On break I peed some places
Then I felt better.
My boss was mad though.
Said “Don’t throw a weirdo fit again or I’ll call your parole officer”.
I thought: It’s OK, you will come back
I just need to wait nicely.
I know these things because
I am your dog.
The best best thing happened the day you
came into the store and said
Your office bathroom was broke.
Asked nice to use.
Boss said okay
Then you left.
You flushed. Too bad!
I still likked the bowl.
Maybe can taste you.
It’s OK because I am your dog.
Dogs do that stuff all the time.
You walked by my work.
I tried to wave.
You waved back but didn’t come in.
So I ran up to you and jumped a bit
I said “Don’t you want your cigarettes???”
You were so surprised.
Said “Not today. I quit!” and smiled.
Then a car came. Picked you up.
A man in the car.
He kissed you.
_He kissed you._
I growld and growld.
You drove away not looking
Look at me!
My boss grabbed me
But I am your dog so I bit him
Gotta be stray now
I would be sad but
I know it’s just until
I find you
Then we will be fine
I’ll keep you safe
Because I am your dog
At school I learned you use a phone book
to find where people live.
I knew your name because it is on the sign
At your work.
It is a weird name. I wrote it down.
Dogs don’t do this.
I just need to find you.
Just that one people thing,
Then I can go back
To being your dog all the time.
2 names in phone book.
First one opened the door
I am sorry was so excited ran in.
There was Someone
Old Lady. I broke her hip
She was screaming real loud.
Can’t help it.
Not her dog, just visiting.
I find your house.
Waited. Saw you go inside
From the bushes.
I skrich skrach on the door.
I see in movies when
nice ladies open the door?
They see a puppy all alone
And they let them come in.
Because they are nice.
You are a nice lady right?
and I _am_ your dog.
The House of Jack’s Girls
by Lee Battersby
narrated by Chloë Yates
The waiting room is full of terrified boys. Their fathers bring them. For most of them, it’s their first time. Boys without even a razor rash, stinking of pomade and sweat, here to face the horror of a woman.
Madame is on form tonight. She’s a gentle introduction to the evening’s festivities: urbane, charming, and cajoling, as long as your money is good and you approach her with respect. I’ve seen men run screaming from her, their pants soaked with piss and eyes rolled back in their sockets. But there’s none of that tonight, not in front of these boys who barely lift their eyes from shyness. Tonight she is all smiles and gentle words. Her message is clear. You are too young, too callow to satisfy me. But you will get a taste of the future tonight. A taste of what may come to be. You are a shadow of your father, as my girls are a shadow of me, and they are all that you deserve. She is intriguing, infatuating: a glimpse of the unfettered sensation to come. The boys can barely resist the urge to run.
We peek at them through the curtain strung between the receiving room and our quarters, giggling at the boys’ nervousness and pointing out choice specimens. Once everyone is as comfortable as possible, Madame will lead us out in ones and twos, to wander amongst the clients and see who responds to our charms. The boys choose us, never the other way around. It’s been that way since the dawn of time: men always select their women. Some of these men were here when they were young, brought unwilling by their fathers, who were brought by their fathers in turn. Some families have been coming for generations, and each has their favourite. Half the youngsters in the room picked their girls before they even walked through the door, wooed by family tradition and the stories of their elders. Still, there are conventions, and rituals to be followed. We are civilised people, in a civilised trade. We must observe the formalities.
As if on cue, Madame raises her head and beckons the first of us forward. Martha is an easy introduction. Tall and restrained, with only a modicum of indecency about her, she attracts the mildest of clientele: those who wish the thrill of contact without fully exploring the depths of their fascination. I see most of the boys visibly relax. Perhaps their emotions are not as sophisticated as older men, or perhaps I have been here so long that even their responses are ritualised. Either way, their thoughts are obvious: perhaps this will not be so bad. Perhaps I will get through this just fine, become a man at last, an equal in my father’s eyes. I can do this. I can do this. Several boys shift in their chairs, straightening spines and doing their best to greet Martha’s chat with what they hope is sufficient wittiness and maturity. An equal number begin to move, only to be restrained by a fatherly hand on their shoulder. Ambitious men, men of importance in the City outside these walls. They know better. They know what prizes come to a boy who quells his impatience and tastes the treats available further down the table.
Martha has it easy enough. Within minutes a nervous, mousey father has matched her with his equally nondescript offspring. The rest of us dissolve into the shadows as she brings him back through the curtain and down the hallway to her room. Then it is the turn of the next girl, and the next. Slowly, the ranks of the uninitiated are winnowed. Slowly, the girls who are chosen become more exotic, more to the tastes of the hard-faced fathers in expensive suits and positions of power who remain.
In under an hour, we are down to five. These are the men who matter, the ones who sit in the highest positions of power. These are the men who have learned just how far they are willing to go in order to sit in the thrones in the shadows of London, and make the City dance to the strings they pull. They had their first lessons here, at the command of their fathers and the bodies of my companions and me. They sit still and quiet, now. Waiting, with their sons still and quiet next to them.
Mary Ann is first, as it was back in the day, as it has always been. Her boy is quiet as she approaches. He stands before she arrives, moves forward and takes her hand. It is an awkward movement, clearly rehearsed at the behest of the man at his back. His father performed the same uncomfortable act of fake gallantry, as did his father. The longer we are here, and I fear we will be here forever, the more things begin to blur.
After Mary, it is Annie’s turn, and after her is Long Liz. Each one is a taste more refined than the last, a story more entrenched in London’s bloody history. Each one represents a greater distillation of the City’s power, its hatred and violence and repression. Each one is a token to be possessed, earning her owner entrance into the alleyways of true power. We melt into the darkness of the corridor and allow each boy to pass without seeing us as we truly are. And in doing so, pass our power and ownership into his possession.
Then two boys remain. Two fathers sit by their side. Men of steel, and concrete, and unforgiving history. Catherine steps through the curtain.
She was never beautiful, Catherine. But what Jack did to her changed her in ways that only the most particular of tastes would desire. Her face is barely a face, her throat nothing more than a ragged hole where flesh once hung. Where her belly sat, full and gassy, a bloody cavern drips and shows glimpses of dark organs. Some men like it. Some men use it. One of the boys stiffens. His father whispers harsh words. I wonder if he was one of those men, and what acts have been murmured on nights when men of his family have gathered. Then Catherine is back, her young beau walking stiffly beside her. There is only one white-faced boy left, and he is mine.
150 women are killed in London every year. Not all of them are prozzies. But some. And not all of them find their way here. But some. Not all who become restless are people. Places can be murdered, too. Buildings can die with their tasks on earth unfulfilled, and become a spirit, trapped in time and purpose. And just as prozzies are more likely to suffer abuse and assault and murder at the hand of a bloody man, so are brothels. So we find each other, and haunt the living, and try to find a way to live with the world that destroyed us but will not let us go.
And of all the prozzies who have died over the centuries, none are as famous as we unhappy five. Jack’s women. Jack’s trulls. Dead as we are, mutilated and destroyed and trapped by our fame. There will always be men who desire us, who will pay to touch us and possess us and smear their skin with our ever-flowing blood. Men who know about this place, and come to taste what they dare not want in the living world.
My name is Mary Jane, who sometimes called herself Marie Jeanette, and what was done to me was beyond the understanding of all women and only most men. When I come through the curtain and accept the hand of the only boy left in the room, I look into the eyes of his father, who once was a boy who came to me and possessed me, and know that he is not most men. His son will, after this night, be forever a member of that small fraternity that understands why such things are done, and will bring his own son to me, in turn.
I take him down the quiet corridor alone, shut the door of my room against the judgment of the world. The boy is almost in tears. I drop my dress, and let him drink in my devastated flesh. Now he does cry, helpless, weak tears of disgust and desire and sacrifice. I take the back of his head in my hand. I have no breasts. Jack put one beneath my head and one between my feet. I pull the boy’s face into the raw meat of my ruined chest. I feel him sob, and whimper, and gasp short, terrified breaths.
Then, slowly, infinitely slowly, with a trembling fear that would break my heart had Jack not ripped it from my chest and burned it in the fire, I feel his lips and his tongue and his fingers begin to explore.
About the Authors
Lee Battersby is the author of three novels and over 80 stories in Australia, Europe, and the US. He is the winner of the Aurealis and Australian Shadows awards for horror fiction, as well as the Australian SF ‘Ditmar’ awards and a White Raven for children’s literature. His work has been praised for its consistent attention to voice and narrative muscle. He is sadly obsessed with Lego, Nottingham Forest football club, dinosaurs and Daleks.
Heather N. Thomas is a jewelry expert by day, and a narrator and aspiring horror writer by night. She is wildly enthusiastic about all things horror, and often can be found scouring through antique shops to add to her macabre collections. “The Stripper” on Pseudopod is her first ever (and first professional!) horror publication. Heather has narrated various tales for Chilling Tales for Dark Nights, the Creepy podcast, The Wicked Library and other podcasts. She lives in Denver, Colorado with her husband and her 2 cats.
Somewhere between taking care of her family in Toronto and participating in activism in a few areas, Jen does her best to keep getting all of these ideas out of her head and onto the page. She has been a participant of the Critters writing workshop, and is an affiliate member of the Horror Writers Association. “I Am Your Dog” is Jen’s first professional sale. While she works on getting the next one out there, she can be found on Twitter at @jencamorris and on Instagram at morris.jca.
Jen would like to promote the Lions Foundation of Canada Dog Guides program, as her son is a client of the Autism Assistance Dog Guide program. If anyone would like to donate to the Foundation, they can be found at www.dogguides.com
About the Narrators
Nika Harper is a writer and performer who spends long, solitary nights on the internet because her brain won’t shut up. She lives in Los Angeles, CA, where she houses her collection of magic wands and an overwhelming stockpile of empty journals. You can check to see if she got any new tattoos recently at ThisisNika.com and chat about horror on Twitter @NikaHarper.
Chloë Yates has written many stories and some poetry for Fox Spirit Books, although her latest publication, ‘Go Forth in the Dance of the Merrymakers’ can be found in the Kristell Ink Anthology Hanging On By Our Fingertips She’s currently working on a novella for Fox Spirit. You can contact her through her website www.chloeyates.com while she wanders through Twitter under the sobriquet @shloobee. English born, she currently lives in the middle of Switzerland.
Austin Malone is a short-fiction author who lives in New Orleans, and is the coordinator of the Crescent City Critters writer’s group. Those who are curious about his work and would like to use their personal summoning-circle to conjure his presence for further discourse are urged to use vanilla-scented black candles and only top-shelf rum. Seriously. If you even think about using Bacardi he’ll rip your soul out through your nostrils. Just don’t. For those who would prefer to enjoy his words at a safe distance, he invites you to visit sippinghemlocktea.com