This is the first publication of the following piece of flash fiction, which attempts to give another turn of the thumbscrew to one of Ray Bradbury’s most macabre stories, “The October Game.”
By Joe Nazare
“These are the witch’s eyes,” Nathan intones, for the benefit of all those circularly assembled in the October dark. “The source of her baleful glare.” The pair of orbs he circulates is warm and gummy to the touch, suggesting the yolks of insufficiently-boiled eggs.
While the denounced organs are still making their round, Nathan takes hold of another piece. “This is the witch’s gut. The cauldron of her poisonous spirit.” Noses wrinkle at the offal smell as Nathan passes along what feels just like chicken innards.
“This is the witch’s hair,” Nathan continues his litany. “Filthy as the pelt of a wild beast.” The horrid crop he proceeds to share with the group has the texture of rotted corn silk.
“These are the witch’s dugs,” Nathan offers next, his voice devoid of adolescent titter. “Which only the devil himself would suckle.” Two leathery, slacken purses are groped in turn by the gathered males.
Meantime, Nathan seizes and lofts the foremost portion. “This,” he proudly recites, reveling in his oratorical role, “is the witch’s head–”
“And this is the witch’s curse,” the at-once-animate head mouths, its rasping sentence punctuated by a derisive cackle.
Nathan and his brethren gasp in unison, relinquishing their terrible trophies as if scalded. But the unhanding doesn’t come soon enough. Assorted splats and thuds are succeeded by the crackle of deadfalling sticks, the rattle of pelleting stones.
Decry as they might, these overzealous defenders of Salem won’t be pointing fingers of blame ever again.