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The Theatre Phantasmagoria—Earl’s Big Chance, by Paul Wilson

“𝘏𝘦 𝘸𝘢𝘴𝘯’𝘵 𝘢 𝘴𝘪𝘤𝘬𝘰. 𝘏𝘦 𝘩𝘢𝘥 𝘯𝘦𝘷𝘦𝘳 𝘵𝘰𝘶𝘤𝘩𝘦𝘥 𝘢 𝘥𝘦𝘢𝘥 𝘸𝘰𝘮𝘢𝘯’𝘴 𝘣𝘳𝘦𝘢𝘴𝘵 𝘰𝘳 𝘴𝘵𝘳𝘰𝘬𝘦𝘥 𝘩𝘦𝘳 𝘩𝘢𝘪𝘳. 𝘉𝘶𝘵 𝘵𝘩𝘪𝘴 𝘴𝘦𝘦𝘮𝘦𝘥 𝘰𝘬𝘢𝘺. 𝘏𝘦 𝘬𝘯𝘦𝘸 𝘩𝘦𝘳. 𝘖𝘬𝘢𝘺, 𝘩𝘦 𝘥𝘪𝘥𝘯’𝘵 𝘬𝘯𝘰𝘸 𝘩𝘦𝘳, 𝘣𝘶𝘵 𝘩𝘦 𝘸𝘢𝘴 𝘢 𝘧𝘢𝘯; 𝘩𝘦 𝘩𝘢𝘥 𝘢𝘭𝘭 𝘩𝘦𝘳 𝘮𝘶𝘴𝘪𝘤. 𝘛𝘩𝘦𝘺 𝘩𝘢𝘥 𝘴𝘩𝘢𝘳𝘦𝘥 𝘵𝘪𝘮𝘦 𝘵𝘰𝘨𝘦𝘵𝘩𝘦𝘳, 𝘦𝘷𝘦𝘯 𝘪𝘧 𝘴𝘩𝘦 𝘯𝘦𝘷𝘦𝘳 𝘬𝘯𝘦𝘸 𝘪𝘵.”

Greetings boils, ghouls, and other creatures of the night!

A warm welcome back to Night Terror Novels’ ongoing flash fiction series, The Theatre Phantasmagoria, and to our Flash Fiction Fridays—where we bring you fresh dark fiction of 2,000 words or less at the end of every week.

With The Theatre Phantasmagoria, a new theme is announced each month, and by the end of said month, four stories are selected from our call for submissions to be featured here on the site in a Friday post. These pieces will also be published in a “wrap-up” anthology at the start of 2023, showcasing the original works that debut here at Night Terror Novels throughout 2022. If you’re an author yourself and this has piqued your interest, please find details regarding our current flash fiction theme and submission window here.

The theme for January’s submissions was fresh starts and new beginnings: stories centred around New Year’s resolutions, starting over, resolving to change, or similar such concepts. Our series launched last Friday with Mia Dalia’s powerful piece titled Primal Scream. In this second offering, author Paul Wilson delivers a delightfully warped story of obsession and celebrity worship through the lecherous gaze of a mortician in Earl’s Big Chance. You can find out more about the author featured in today’s post down below, including links on where to find them elsewhere.

We here at Night Terror Novels hope that you enjoy today’s terrifying tale, and remember to check back in on Fridays for future showings in The Theatre Phantasmagoria

Welcome to …

The Theatre Phantasmagoria

CONTENT WARNING: This story contains strong sexual content; reader discretion is advised.

In Shy Town, there are many legends. One that rises every summer, as the humidity turns the air into a dripping sponge, concerns the Skin Wearers. These poor souls are confined by the loose skin of their jailers and bound to their will. Used as little more than animals, they are subservient slaves, a cautionary tale against obsession.
Beware those who fill your eye, or you might wear their skin there.

Earl knew the girl on his embalming table. Everyone did. He just couldn’t believe she was here. She was nineteen, achingly beautiful, and the most famous pop singer in the world.
Her name was Norma Johnson, but fans knew her as Kitty Corner, the velvet vixen who captivated as many people by her voice as her bump and grind dance numbers.
She was dead. She was naked.
She was really here. In his mortuary. He couldn’t believe it.
How many men would kill to see what he was seeing? To be close enough to touch.
Earl licked his lips. He was shaking.
Every corpse had to be naked for the cutting, of course, but this was a different kind of naked. This was her naked. There was her musical note tattoo. There was her belly button ring. There was the mole inside her forearm. Even dead, she was a goddess. Goddess of the dead? It seemed so.
Earl had seen her naked before. Everyone had. Everyone who cared to look. Kitty had done a sex tape. Of course. All the “influencers” did these days, but only Kitty’s was downloaded to his laptop and phone and home computer. Only Kitty’s had been found by his girlfriend and caused a break-up bolstered by words like obsession and pervert.
He wasn’t obsessed. He would admit to being fascinated. Sure. He had an appreciation. A joy. Her beauty was art.
He … well, he wasn’t in love with her. He was in lust. And was it so wrong? So was every other guy he knew. She was made to be looked at. Worshipped. She filled his eyes.
Earl licked his lips again. He wanted water, but that was in the fridge all the way across the room. Away from her. It could wait. He didn’t want to leave Kitty.
He reached out. Drew his hand back. Reached out. Stroked her breast. He did it until the radio in the corner blared static. WKAS wordlessly started Alice Cooper’s “I Love the Dead”. Earl laughed. It was an unsteady warble. He wiped his lips. The motion produced a sound like sandpaper.
He wasn’t a sicko. He had never touched a dead woman’s breast or stroked her hair. But this seemed okay. He knew her. Okay, he didn’t know her, but he was a fan; he had all her music. They had shared time together, even if she never knew it.
Earl ran his fingers through her pubic hair. The idea to shave it was sudden fire. Finally, he moved. He ran hot water, lathered her, and shaved slowly as his erection grew uncomfortable. He took breaths sporadically. He didn’t blink.
Baby oil on the skin. Inside her folds, lubing her secret place. Sliding his finger in and out. What was he doing? He was in a trance. Sweet Jesus, it was like he couldn’t stop himself!
But this was Kitty Corner. How many men desired her? How many men wanted her? And he had her. Right here! In private. This was a chance to do something no one else could. This was a chance to do what had only been fantasised about.
His pants were off before he was aware of it. Kitty’s body was cold and stiff until the oil and his own secretions parted the way. He thought of her dancing at the MTV Music Awards—that body—this body! He was inside her: she was cold. It was like balancing on top of a bag of frozen steel rods. Where they joined began to warm. There was a pulse there. Earl concentrated on it. It was better than her slack face, her blue lips, the puddles of her breasts. What was he doing? That heat. Growing. Earl felt his evil orgasm building. He opened his eyes and filled them with her. God, her face! Then everything spilled over. Electricity tore through his limbs. He gasped with the force of his ejaculations. He came hard. His body jerked.
And Kitty Corner screamed. Her eyes flew open like pulled window shades. Her hands shot out, pistons, catching Earl in the chin. He jerked back, lost his balance, and fell off the table. His penis made a wet pop as it exited her. The back of his head hit the floor. Sight and consciousness dwindled.
‘Ahhhh … Ahhhhh …’
Her voice was horrible. It was wind forced through barbed wire. It was crackling leaves at the bottom of a rusted soda can. Earl scrambled against the wall, penis bobbing idiotically. He couldn’t blink. His hair felt like a halo around his skull. His eyes bulged. They pulsed.
She reached for him, mouth open. Her lips had gone purple. Her eyes were dull marbles surrounded by black pockets. Her voice was from somewhere beyond this world. It was male and female and grinding glass.
‘The Banker says it’s time to pay.’
‘Pay? I’m sorry! I’m sorry!’
‘He wants me to pay, but I’m not done yet.’
She sat up on her knees. Earl heard things popping inside her. Kitty looked down at herself. Her skin was blue. Her breasts were pulled to a perfect porno sculpt now that she was upright. She reached between them and dug in her nails. They pierced her flesh as easily as a spoon in butter, and jellied blood fell from the holes.
‘I bought this for you. This body. For people like you. So you all would hear me.’ Kitty sneered at Earl. ‘You desire this? Huh? You want this?’
She ripped the entirety of her skin from her body. It came away in a slurping wet tear, like a sheet pulled from a broken washing machine. She flung it across the room at Earl. The steaming drop-cloth of her form wrapped around his arms, his chest, and swooshed around his face. He flopped gracelessly as Kitty’s skin tightened around him. He could smell rot and metallic blood, but he couldn’t scream. Her skin filled his mouth. He tasted his own seed dribbling from it.
‘I made a new deal with the Banker,’ Kitty said as she slid from the metal table. She left a red snail trail behind. Gore drooled from the table’s edge; it steamed in the room’s cold. She was all red glazed muscle, her eyes silver drops. No pupils. No humanity.
‘He will let me stay, grow me new skin, if I bring him others in my stead.’
Kitty knelt before Earl and fingered his cheek. He tried to pull himself through the floor. He struggled against her skin, but it tightened as he fought to escape. It was a living straitjacket. It hated him. The hate made it warm. Her belly button ring dug into his cheek.
‘I thought of giving you to the Banker. What’s one less pervert in the world? But you’re big. Strong. I will need muscle.’ Kitty smiled. It was a crimson, skeletal grin, and it sucker-punched Earl’s sanity. Blood fell from her face in tracks. It splattered the floor and his feet.
‘You can be of use to me. And you know the dead, don’t you?’
Kitty stood. She snapped her fingers. Her skin forced him to follow in hobbled movements. Earl looked out of one twisted eye hole and her left nostril. He wore an oversized sweater of loose flesh around his head, and thick blanket bands of it bound his arms and legs. A section tightened between his balls, and he gasped. Kitty laughed. It held him. Controlled him. And answered only to her.
‘Come, maggot. We have a harvest to reap. The life you knew is gone. You belong to me now.’
Earl tried to scream his negation, but his mouth was full of her flesh. He followed Kitty out of his theatre, out of his life, his eyes so full of her he could see nothing else.

About the Author

Black Rose Writing published PAUL WILSON’s fantasy western novel Cassidy Smith Book One in September 2021. He has been published in three Writer’s Unite! anthologies (Dimensions of Paranormal Volume One and Two and Dimensions of the Wild West Volume Two), as well as Theme of Absence, Electric Spec, Dream of Shadow, and Tales from the Moonlit Path. In October 2021, Paul published in the Input/Output Press And the Dead Shall Sleep No More anthology and Hallowzine’s second issue. In November, he was published in Vampire Cat Magazine. In December, Paul’s work appeared in Mischief Press’s Love Bites anthology. Bullshit Literature will publish his first story of 2022. The author’s short story collection Tricks and Treats and novel Hostage were published by Asylett Press. Paul won the Aiken Community Playhouse’s first playwright contest, which produced and performed his two-act play (You’re Invited to) Uncle Fangenstein’s Last Show.

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By J. D. Keown | Night Terror Novels

JOSHUA KEOWN lives on the outskirts of the North York Moors with his feral little hound of hell, Lola. Despite his proximity to Whitby and a lifetime aversion to being out in the sun, he would like it to be known that he is definitely not a vampire. Joshua has always been an avid enthusiast of the horror genre in all its forms, and he now writes ghastly, ghoulish stories of his own. His debut short story “Krodha” can be found in the Wild Violence anthology from Blood Rites Horror, his second short story “What Ye Sow” can be found in Issue #X of All World’s Wayfarer, and a third titled “Whisper, Whisper” appears in Issue #63 of Dark Dossier. Joshua is also the founder of Night Terror Novels and edited its debut anthology, Ceci n’est pas une histoire d’horreur (This is Not a Horror Story) in 2021. His debut novella, Maggot Brain, is coming soon, for which the full details can be found on the Night Terror Novels website. Joshua can be found prowling almost every corner of the internet in some capacity, but is most easily reached through his business email address,, or via Instagram or Twitter, @JDKAuthor.

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