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The Theatre Phantasmagoria—Meat is Murder, by Angela Sylvaine

“𝘑𝘦𝘢𝘯𝘯𝘪𝘦 𝘩𝘰𝘱𝘦𝘥 𝘊𝘳𝘺𝘴𝘵𝘢𝘭 𝘸𝘰𝘶𝘭𝘥 𝘮𝘦𝘭𝘭𝘰𝘸 𝘰𝘷𝘦𝘳 𝘵𝘪𝘮𝘦, 𝘣𝘶𝘵 𝘴𝘩𝘦 𝘰𝘯𝘭𝘺 𝘣𝘦𝘤𝘢𝘮𝘦 𝘮𝘰𝘳𝘦 𝘥𝘦𝘮𝘢𝘯𝘥𝘪𝘯𝘨. 𝘈𝘧𝘵𝘦𝘳 𝘑𝘦𝘢𝘯𝘯𝘪𝘦 𝘴𝘸𝘪𝘵𝘤𝘩𝘦𝘥 𝘵𝘰 𝘤𝘢𝘨𝘦-𝘧𝘳𝘦𝘦 𝘦𝘨𝘨𝘴, 𝘵𝘩𝘦𝘯 𝘴𝘩𝘦 𝘸𝘢𝘴 𝘵𝘰𝘭𝘥 𝘴𝘩𝘦 𝘴𝘩𝘰𝘶𝘭𝘥𝘯’𝘵 𝘦𝘢𝘵 𝘦𝘨𝘨𝘴 𝘢𝘵 𝘢𝘭𝘭, 𝘳𝘦𝘢𝘭𝘭𝘺, 𝘰𝘳 𝘢𝘯𝘺 𝘬𝘪𝘯𝘥 𝘰𝘧 𝘮𝘦𝘢𝘵, 𝘣𝘦𝘤𝘢𝘶𝘴𝘦 𝘮𝘦𝘢𝘵 𝘪𝘴 𝘮𝘶𝘳𝘥𝘦𝘳.”

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 the flash fiction theme for our February 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 in January with Mia Dalia’s powerful piece titled “Primal Scream”, and was followed by Paul Wilson’s gnarly story of obsession, “Earl’s Big Chance”. Tonight, author Angela Sylvaine joins this month’s lineup with “Meat is Murder”, a twisted offering about the trials and tribulations of finding a suitable roommate. 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

Bleach fumes stung Jeannie’s nose and throat, stripping away the lingering smells of patchouli and rotting food scraps and cleansing her of the anger that had gradually fogged her brain over the past few months. Clean house, clean mind, her mother always used to say, though Jeannie never really got what she meant until now. Crystal, the roommate from hell, was gone for good, and Jeannie’s home was hers again.
When she’d seen the realtor’s for sale sign in the front yard of the adorable row house with the aqua facade and white scalloped trim, she knew she’d found her dream home. Even the narrow backyard, too small for anyone with children or pets, suited her perfectly with its privacy fences on either side, raised garden bed, and patio perfect for sitting in the shade of the trees with a nice book.
The mortgage stretched her budget to its limit, but her mother moved in and helped with the bills. The two of them painted the walls of every room in different shades of blue and installed crown moulding, befitting the loveliness of the space.
Then her mother died.
Jeannie had lost the person she loved most in the world, and she was at risk of losing her dream home. She’d been forced to take on a roommate, not a prospect she looked forward to, but preferable to losing her house.
Crystal seemed nice at first, just opinionated.
‘Jeannie, you should really make sure to get free-range eggs.’
So she had. They were only thirty cents more a dozen, and she didn’t like to think of poor little chickens stuffed in cages either. A reasonable request, she thought.
‘Jeannie, I replaced your detergent and fabric softener with a more environmentally friendly brand that doesn’t leave behind harmful chemicals.’
Okay, fine. Her laundry didn’t get as soft and fluffy, but she could live with that. She wasn’t completely inflexible, after all.
‘Jeannie, could you not play those old musicals when I’m around? I don’t know how any self-respecting woman can listen to such sexist crap.’
That was too much. She’d grown up watching musicals with her mother and had all the songs memorised. Now they were suddenly sexist! Okay, My Fair Lady had its issues, and once she started really thinking about it, she had to admit Oklahoma wasn’t great, and maybe Carousel. Miss Saigon was pretty cringey, not to mention Beauty and the Beast. Couldn’t she even just enjoy the music that reminded her of her mother without analysing every word?
‘Jeannie, you really should limit your showers to five minutes. Every extra minute uses up to five gallons more water, and water is our most precious resource.’
She barely managed not to laugh out loud. Crystal showered no more than once a week, resulting in a BO problem that her all-natural deodorant couldn’t hope to combat. Jeannie told her roommate she should shower more, not less, but stopped short of saying Crystal stunk, which she most definitely did.
Jeannie hoped Crystal would mellow over time, but she only became more demanding. After Jeannie switched to cage-free eggs, then she was told she shouldn’t eat eggs at all, really, or any kind of meat, because meat is murder. Crystal joined PETA and became vegan after watching Food, Inc., which she forced Jeannie to sit through, as well. So, she stopped keeping animal byproducts in the house, only eating them as a treat when she dined out.
No one could say she hadn’t tried.
Next, Crystal removed even the eco-friendly cleaning products, replacing them with ineffective homemade concoctions of water mixed with vinegar or lemon juice. To someone that actually enjoyed cleaning, this felt like a personal affront. Once again, Jennie held her tongue.
Instead of the sharp, antibacterial scent she loved, the smell of homemade tofu and incense filled the house. She’d thought that was bad, until Crystal announced she’d begun composting. The large bin in the backyard wasn’t so bad, but the collection can beneath the sink stunk of rotting food scraps. To make matters even worse, mason jars filled with yellow liquid appeared on the counter, and Jeannie learned Crystal had also begun collecting her own urine for use in fertilising the garden bed. Since Jeannie couldn’t use air freshener—for fear of being berated about the harmful substances released into the air—she took to avoiding the kitchen.
When Crystal demanded that Jeannie cease her daily showers and insisted she wear each set of clothes at least three times before laundering, going so far as to create charts to track both challenges, she stormed out to avoid punching the woman in the face. She paid the utility bill, and she’d damn well use as much water as she pleased.
Jeannie began to isolate herself to her bedroom, which had become more of a dorm room, where she wore headphones to listen to her musicals for fear of a “Crystal rant”. A small bookshelf beside the door served as a makeshift kitchen, the shelves filled with snacks, a cutting board, a pilfered chef’s knife from the kitchen, and bread to make sandwiches. She’d even snuck in a mini-fridge for water, milk, and other forbidden perishables. Even there, she couldn’t completely escape Crystal, who slipped “educational” articles her beneath her bedroom door, always marked to please recycle.
One day she arrived home to find the door to her bedroom open and Crystal inside. The place had been ransacked: framed family photos knocked from her nightstand, contraband cheese and other food strewn across the bed, and her treasured handmade quilt from her grandmother discarded on the floor. Crystal said she had known Jeannie was hiding something terrible, and here was the proof. With that proclamation, she held up the most damning evidence of all: bottled water.
The sight of her roommate standing in what had been Jeannie’s one safe haven ignited the fuse of the anger she had kept tamped deep down inside. With a shrill scream, she grabbed the knife from its place atop the cutting board and stabbed Crystal in the throat, cutting off her incessant ranting. Blood gushed from her neck and she slumped onto the discarded quilt, staining the patchwork fabric red.
Jeannie left the body lying there, the knife still embedded in its throat, while she made a trip to the store for her beloved bleach-based cleaners and other supplies. Lemon juice and vinegar were no match for a corpse.
Now, the house was immaculate. Even the tub where she’d chopped Crystal’s body into pieces small enough to fit in the backyard compost bin had been scrubbed until not a trace of blood remained. Jeannie had to admit the bin was a good idea, a much more effective way to dispose of organic waste, and she mused that Crystal would have liked ending up as fertiliser for the garden bed.
Inhaling the first breath of clean, untainted air she’d had in months, Jeannie placed the “Roommate Wanted” sign in the front window. The first five hadn’t worked out so well, but the next would surely be a better match.

About the Author

ANGELA SYLVAINE is a self-proclaimed cheerful goth who still believes in monsters. Her debut novella, Chopping Spree, a homage to 1980s slashers and mall culture, is available now. Her short fiction has appeared in various publications and anthologies, including Places We Fear to Tread, What One Wouldn’t Do, and Not All Monsters. You can find her online

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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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