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We like our viscera with less heavy breathing behind the camera, thank you very much.

Join us as we cry to the heavens Mark L. Groves grew up in the Ozark Mountains of southern Missouri, where his love of trees and sky and things that go bump in the night began.

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He earned a degree in Communications from the University of Missouri-Columbia, and went on to a career spanning two-plus decades in the radio industry. He also writes plays, short stories, novels, songs, and poetry. Shelby Dollar got her B. She currently lives in Kansas City. Flames ate her hair. The smell of burning flesh, sweet and greasy like a hog roast, carried in the cold night air. He sucked it in.

Savoured it. Fed on it. Amid the crackle of the fire he waited. Listened now for the moment when he heard her skull crack and sizzle. Popping chestnuts!

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How he just loved to peel away those crisp, burned outer shells. The blaze illuminated the pit that he stood in. It was almost three metres deep, seven metres wide and fifteen metres long. It had been dug by the landowner as foundations for a house that never got built. Dead dreams. He stayed until darkness had faded seamlessly into the dawn, then he raised a gleaming stainless-steel spade and began softly singing.

He sang in English, complete with a near-comical Dean Martin accent. Slammed the blade of his spade across the snake of her spine. He searched the scorched ground. And then he chopped again. This time he used a small hand-axe on the troublesome hip, cleaving through the sacrum, coccyx, ischium and pubis. Would her beauty have stayed with her into her thirties, forties or fifties? Would her children have inherited those hypnotic eyes? The ponderings amused him as he drove to the sacred spot where he laid them all to rest.

Publication: Frightmares: A Fistful of Flash Fiction Horror

He dug again. He slapped the old steel buckets with his hand. Cleared the last of the dust — the last of Francesca — that stuck to the sides. A couple of smashed bones were still larger than he liked.

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He stomped them into the earth. The first coral-blue hues of morning fought their way into the angry sky as he completed the burial.

Frightmares: A Fistful of Flash Fiction Horror

He bent his head, closed his eyes and slowly prayed: Domine Jesu Christe, Rex Gloriae, libera animas omnium fidelium defunctorum de poenis inferni et de profundo lacu. Before leaving, he urinated on the freshly dug grave. Partly because he needed to. Mainly because he liked to. As he zipped up, he wondered whether God would indeed heed his prayer to free the soul of the faithfully departed from infernal punishment and the horrors of the deep pit.

But then again, he asked himself, did he really give a fuck? It was a walk in the park compared to the life sentences he should have served for several murders and countless sadistic assaults. Few had been that brave.

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Maybe the fact that three of his arresting officers had been shot in the legs, and the local carabinieri headquarters had been burned to the ground, had something to do with the silence. The Camorra message had echoed around every street corner. Cross the Family — get brutally punished. No one needed telling twice. As witnesses withdrew, even the local cops heeded the warnings. Vital evidence vanished from inside the station house. One young woman came forward and testified about being threatened. It was enough to get him the five years.

One day — soon — he would find her and make her pay. Three guards marched the Camorrista into the discharge area for him to collect his personal effects and change out of his prison clothes. He gave them the finger as they watched him strip. Above his left breast a tattoo declared who owned his heart.

Frightmares: A Fistful of Flash Fiction Horror

Not a woman. No way. It belonged to the Finelli clan. From its mouth dripped three blood-red words: Onore. The Finellis were one of the few Camorra clans to wear gang markings. Valsi jabbed a finger at the word Vendetta and his jailers looked away. Prison life had made the trousers too big in the waist and the jacket too narrow across the chest. You get hard. Jail rock hard. Prison had changed him in other ways too. He was meaner. One of the bigger and more senior guards walked him the final distance to the front gates.

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Valsi stood inches from his face. Jacket over shoulder, he blinked as he walked into the sunlight. To the far east rose the slopes of Vesuvius and Mount Somma. Hardly anything of value had been built here without kickbacks to the Camorra clans — the Families who ran the System — an invisible web of corruption that supported and strangled the socio-economic life of the Campania region. Valsi gave the guards the finger for a final time. Prison gates creaked shut behind him. Giant bolts slammed. Heavy keys turned. In the safety of the jail the guards cursed back at him.