Over here in Spec Bookshop land a big sticky, beautiful lump of an anthology has landed.  Slave Stories: Scenes from the Slave State

The latest offering from Chris Kelso– Slave Stories: Scenes from the Slave State a collection of stories from the wonderfully horrific Slave State.  Set in the 4th Dimension; it is a place of desolation, where people are forced into mines to gather inessential minerals until they die, where gangs rules the streets, where humans roam like rabid dogs, a land of lies, deceit and suffering.  I think you’ll agree, a fantastic setting for an anthology.

The list of contributors really is impressive.  From first timers to well established writers every base is covered.  Please go check this out here

Even better news!

We have a taster story for you by James Sposato.


by James Sposato

“There is no bad part of Ersatz, there’s just bad parts of people.”

“But Ersatz is full of people…..”

Lipless Jimmy was going to rat out the Hampton Family. He had been threatening for a week or so, threatening to march right down to the Clancey Street station and shout to the fat old bull always flying the desk whenever he got pulled in “Hey! You wanna hear sumpthin’? The Hamptons got a naked girl livin’ in their basement! She ain’t a slave or nothin’ they just got her down there and they’s treatin’ her like one!” threatening to do so unless the clan Hampton kept him floating in junk. And they had been.

Up until today when young Deever Hampton thought it might be funny to step on his morning fix with a little drain cleaner. Now Lipless Jimmy is smack in the middle of Crime Alley on his way to the station, arm held akimbo at an agonizingly peculiar level as he tries to keep the flesh from sloughing off onto the dirty pavement.

Hunched in his raincoat, he looks like some kind of verminous beetle stuck with a pin to the seeping brick wall by a collector more concerned with quantity than quality. The rain landing on his sleeve stings terribly, but it’s better than the roaring dire that shoots through him whenever he moves the sleeve and besides he doesn’t want to look once more into that hideous bubbling mess, making the pain more real.

Lipless Jimmy scrapes his cheek against the wall as he turns his perpetually grinning face up towards the rain to catch a drop or two on his tongue. Lipless Jimmy staggers away from the wall

making the pain more real

when i was nine i sold greeting cards from the back of a comic book and i didn’t know the neighborhood because mother let me out so rarely so i didn’t know about the big dog behind the fence at the brown house and when he rushed me i ran and he tackled me bit me and when i was twelve i saw that same dog outside in the street it must have been hit by a car and it whined and squealed and i kicked it i kicked it for quite some time oh christ my arm looks like that my arm looks like that now

and takes another brave step towards his goal.

He feels the footsteps behind him before he hears them. He’s not afraid. He has spent so much of his life in terror it’s sometimes hard to remember what simple fear feels like, but he can tell by the sagging of his guts these footsteps are headed for him and him alone.

Fishgut and Markie Hampton sidle up along either side of him, bracing him like solid brass bookends supporting cheap dime novels. Lipless Jimmy winces as Fishgut plays an extra-knuckled finger along his outstretched arm.

“Where ya headed, Jimmy?”

“Oh. Nowhere,” Jimmy says putting on his best casual air, “I just thought I’d see Doc Van Klee ‘bout my arm.”

The finger taps.

“Why? Hurtcha?”

“Yeah it does a bit.”

Lipless Jimmy tries to pull his arm away, succeeds after a bit more probing by the finger which in his mind has grown to enormous proportions. His sleeve brushes the length of the wound, tugging what’s left of the skin and making fire race along Jimmy’s brow, but he remembers

making the pain more real

when i was fourteen and that lighter exploded as i lit the pipe and i heard the laughter before i started screaming and everything went white and when i woke up i was in a white bed and i felt something brushing my mouth and i tried to wipe it away and the white bandages came away red and white fire burned and the pain took me to pieces little white pieces but oh christ this is worse

he’s suffered worse and clenches his eternal grin tighter playing it off to Fishgut as a smile.

Fishgut smiles back, closing in, bombing the squirming junkie with breath. Fishgut was born without a stomach. The only one left at the hack shack doctor to place inside his tender mewling infant form was the stomach of a sea otter. Fishgut’s life was saved but thereafter the only food he could safely digest was raw fish in incredible quantity and as the cardial notch in his otter stomach was non-existent, all the noxious gases formed by digestion continually roil out his mouth in a steaming cloud.

Lipless Jimmy smells the Fishgut smell as his stomach rolls like a sedan off a cliff in a Republic serial. Fishgut stares at Jimmy and Jimmy stares at Fishgut, his heartbeat like deathwatch beetles. Markie suddenly breaks the quiet tension of clockwork moments ticking towards dreadful violence by letting quietly go of his grip on Lipless Jimmy’s other arm and shambling urgently forward.

“Puppy,” he says firmly.

Fishgut told Old Man Hampton this morning he hated working with Markie, but the twisted fuck threatened to let Spiderleg loose on him. Or the Giggler. Sometimes Fishgut wondered what kind of bastard he was working for. Anyone who would do that to his own kids…

“Hey!” he shouts after Markie, “where you goin’?”

Markie turns and looks at Fishgut as if he were a man who hadn’t yet noticed his face was on fire.

“Puppy,” he repeats and points down the street.

Fishgut follows the stubby finger. Down the opposite end of the alley, Fishgut sees a familiar shape of shadow. How the fuck Deever manages to both scuttle and saunter at the same time Fishgut would never know. Why Markie calls his twisted sociopath of a brother “Puppy” Fishgut didn’t want to know.

Lipless Jimmy takes the opportunity to ease some of the pressure off his ruined arm. He sees Fishgut roll his eyes and scowl as Deever and Markie embrace and head back towards them. Suddenly he realizes he has something he hasn’t had in quite some time. A chance.

He was a junkie. Regardless of the hook, most junkies especially on the nod are no longer people to those around them. They have become things. People tend to speak more freely around just things. Even people as guarded as the Hampton Clan. Lipless Jimmy had spent a week or so knocking around the Hampton place and heard stuff.

If he could have, he would have smiled.

“What the fuck do you want, Deever?” Fishgut growls.

Deever chortles deep in his throat. “Easy there, Big Fish. I just wanna see it. I didn’t get a chance to this morning before the rat took off.” He looks at Lipless Jimmy eagerness shining in his mismatched eyes. “Show it to me, skaghead.”

“Fuck, Deever,” says Fishgut, his face a mask of disgust. “We got work to do here.”

Before Deever can reply, Lipless Jimmy holds up his hand. “I guess I better do what he says. After all, he’s in charge now he’s here.”

Deever laughs that bubbling laugh of his. “Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. I’m in charge now. You ain’t family. You ain’t a Hampton. You gotta do like I say.” There is a dreadful moment of tension slick with potential viciousness until Fishgut nods. “Sure, Deever. Whatever you say.” Only the tightness of his jaw and the grim burning in his eyes betrays his smile.

“So let’s see it Skaggle Rock. Show me. Show me. Show me.”

Lipless Jimmy braces himself against the damp brick and grabs his sleeve.

“Show me. Show me. Show me.”

He pauses, wondering if slower or all at once would be better, the intense deep fire or the dreadful slow knife.

“Show me. Show me. Show me.”

He steadies himself and yanks the sleeve back in one quick jerk.

Fishgut looks away. He’s seen a Black Dog victim up close, but she was dead. This is something else. Markie as ever looks blankly and without interest. Deever, wide-eyed, sighs like a child on Christmas morning.

“I gotta touch it. Gotta gotta gotta.”

“For fuck’s sake, Deever.”

Surprising even himself, Lipless Jimmy is able to look at Fishgut mildly. “Remember who’s in charge.”

“Yeah. Me. I’m in charge Fishnuts. Me. Me. Me. Touch it.”

Deever reaches out and sticks two fingers into the greasy drooping flesh of Lipless Jimmy’s arm and begins to play. The pain is making the pain more real when i was nineteen and george the greek got busted and there was a sudden drought and i woke up in the middle of the night sticky with my own filth from both ends cramps stabbing my guts and broken glass pressing against my eyes and i had to do something and fixed whatever i found lying around the room and watched a thin line of black begin to creep up my arm and cut to let it out oh christ it hurt but at least i knew it would stop why wont he stop stop stop stop…….stop incredible.

Lipless Jimmy distantly hears a high rabbit-like scream and it takes a minute for him to realize it’s him. It goes on and on and on. He can’t —


Fishgut lands a powerful elongated fist squarely in Deever’s creepy smiling face. One of Deever’s teeth hits the pavement only slightly before the man himself. Lipless Jimmy buckles and slides down the wall, forcing himself to not pass out. One chance.

“You sick fuck! You fucking sick fuck! You and your whole sick fucking family! Fuck the whole fucking sick fucking lot of you!” Fishgut punctuates each fuck with a sharp kick. Deever’s face turns raw and bleeding. His gurgling reminds Fishgut of his laugh so he kicks him again. The gurgling stops, but Fishgut kicks him again. And again. Again. Ag—

He feels Markie’s hand slide around his throat.

There is a flurry of sensation. Markie’s skin, strangely cool; his feet leaving the ground; the pressure flooding his face, surrounding his eyes, forcing his tongue out of his mouth where it catches a drop of acrid rain; a tightness in his chest; a looseness in his bowels. Everything begins to grey at the edges. He hears only a roaring in his ears. He is barely aware of raising the gun to Markie’s chest and firing. He empties most of the clip before Markie’s grip eases.

Fishgut slips hard to the pavement. Markie follows. The situation has spiraled out of control but Fishgut doesn’t care. He’s too busy sucking wonderful life-giving air into his lungs. With more effort than he had put into anything else ever in his life, Lipless Jimmy struggles to rise.

There had been an advisory indicating smog, smoke and Black Dog microbes were at hazardous levels, but Fishgut doesn’t care. Lipless Jimmy leans against the wall until the spinning while not stopping, becomes tolerable.

Each breath brings a new, unique sensation of pain, but Fishgut doesn’t care. Eventually his breathing reduces from rushing ragged gasps to something near normal. His throat a raw mess of fiery runnels. Lipless Jimmy looks down at Fishgut.

“Welcome to the shallow end.” His voice has cracked from screaming.

Fishgut looks up at him curiously.

“You’re a dead man. Maybe, just maybe, you can make it out of the city and disappear. Shell County maybe. Spittle might be far enough, but the Hamptons got a long arm. And it’s not like you’re inconspicuous.”

Fishgut, unable to speak, raises his gun.

“Even if you bring me back, you think that’ll balance killing two of his kids to Old Man Hampton?” Fishgut sags and leans against the alley wall. As quickly as he can, which is still agonizingly slow, Lipless Jimmy makes his way to the end of the alley and continues on his way to the police station.

Fishgut sits on the cold grime of the alley, looking at the gun in his hand but seeing only a protracted future of running, hiding, cowering and spending his life in terror until simple fear becomes hard to remember. Eventually, night comes.

Perfect introduction to the Slave State.  If anyone else fancies sending us a story in we are always here… thespeculativebookshop@gmail.com


Slave Stories: Scenes from the Slave State…. Taster Time

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