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Our first original! I am so glad to present Choking Instructions by Michael Carter. It’s a piece of fine flash and a very fitting first for the HauntedMTL Original series.

Choking Instructions

by Michael Carter

            Running over that little girl as I raced through the intersection was a bad thing, but was it something I should die for?

            I was speeding; yes. The light turned yellow, and rather than risk T-boning someone, I hooked a rookie.

            And there she was standing on the corner, in her pigtails and green dress, in the wrong place at the wrong time. She was with the man in the blue blazer and fedora hat. I clipped the curb and ran over her foot. The light was dead red by the time I made the turn.


            Her screams pierced through the roar of my engine and then the squeal of my brakes. When I approached, she looked up and said, “Why, why did you do this?” as she caressed her bleeding foot.

            The man in the fedora grabbed my shoulder. “You need to slow it down and follow the rules, like the rest of us,” he said as heat emitted from his hand. It burned through my jacket, collared shirt, and undershirt, to my skin.

            “Follow the rules,” he repeated as he pulled up the little girl while she continued to wail. Then they disappeared into the crowd that had encircled the scene.

            “Hey, wait,” I said. But they were gone.



            The little girl in pigtails and green dress died that next week. It was all over the news. They said she formed a blood clot in her leg, and it caused a brain aneurysm. “Hit-And-Run Driver Kills Girl Downtown,” the headlines read.

            Wait a minute, I thought. I stopped, and the man left with the little girl.

            Or did I?

            I wasn’t entirely sure what happened. Speeding through town, the stress of the situation, the strange man in the fedora, what he had said to me, it was all too much.

            Had I left the scene without doing the right thing? If so, what was I supposed to do now?


            Follow the rules and turn yourself in. That’s what I kept telling myself. But I couldn’t do it. Why should I ruin my life over a freak accident? The girl was gone. Turning myself in couldn’t bring her back.


            I lay catatonic in my bed the following day, paralyzed by what had happened and conflicted about my next steps. I thought about drinking. Instead, I just slept.

            I woke a half day later, hungry. I wasn’t in the mood for cooking, so I looked for something quick in the fridge. A package of hotdogs stared at me from the meat compartment drawer. Precooked and easy, I thought. They may be made of lips and assholes, but they’re protein, and they’ll keep me full.

            As I pulled a hotdog out of the plastic wrapper, I saw a flicker of wording above the list of ingredients, in bright-red letters: “Choking Instructions.”


            I blinked and looked again, thinking I had misread a choking warning. Sure enough, it said what I thought it said.

            “Choking Instructions: For children under 4, cut hotdogs lengthwise and crosswise into small bite-sized pieces. Children should always be seated and supervised while eating. For adults, do not cut hotdogs into pieces. Instead, cram as many whole hotdogs into your mouth as you can. While chewing, pinch your nose shut and inhale deep gasps.”

            “Follow the rules . . . ,” I heard in my head as I stood in the kitchen holding that package of hotdogs. My skin started to burn where the man in the fedora had grabbed my shoulder.

            “Follow the rules . . . ,” I heard again.

            “Follow the rules . . . .”


            I tried to look away, but I could not help but to stare at the choking instructions: “For adults, do not cut hotdogs into pieces. Instead, cram as many whole hotdogs into your mouth as you can.”

            And so I did. I followed the rules and crammed those rubbery meat sticks into my mouth. I kept cramming as my eyes watered and hotdog juice dripped to the kitchen floor. I crammed and crammed and chewed and punished myself like I knew I deserved. Then I grabbed my nose and sucked in air.

            I gasped and choked as pressure built under the skin of my face. When I stumbled, I released my nose. The smell of freshly chewed hotdogs burned into my nostrils as I inhaled.

            I fell to the cold tile of the kitchen floor and gasped for air, like a fish out of water. I reached for my throat and felt many Adam’s-apple-sized bulges.

            Then the tile warmed and the little girl in pigtails and green dress appeared in my kitchen. The man in the fedora was there, too. The tile became hot and seared my cheek as I lay on the floor. My shoulder and nose continued to burn as I choked.


            The little girl and the man in the fedora stared at me. They smiled. I couldn’t be sure, but over my gasps, I think I heard the girl giggle. No, she cackled.

            That’s when I knew I had found my special place, right there on the kitchen floor, that I would never leave. I had found that special place reserved for people like me who don’t follow the simple rules of life and do the right thing.

            It is there that they will always smile at me, and she will always cackle. It is there that I think I will choke forever.


Picture of horror author Michael Carter. He is holding a Force be With You cup, which is cool as heck :)
Author, Michael Carter

Michael Carter is a short fiction and creative nonfiction writer from the Western United States. He’s also an attorney, a Space Camp alum, and a volcanic eruption survivor. When he’s not writing, he enjoys fly fishing and wandering remote wilderness areas of the Northern Rocky Mountains. He can be found online at and @mcmichaelcarter.

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Book Reviews

The Roots Grow Into The Earth



Launching next month The Roots Grow Into The Earth was a delightful read. It’s the premiere novel by horror author Bert S. Lechner. And after reading it, I hope it’s not his last. 

The stories

The Roots Grow Into The Earth is a collection of nine short stories and novellas, including three previously published stories. The tales are all part of one larger story. A story of darkness, and madness. A story of a creature released that should never have been. That begins then to sink its roots into the Earth and infect innocent people far and wide. 

One such example is The Wall. This is the story of a man named Sam and his wife Nat. They have a lovely normal life full of morning coffee and weekend pizza nights. Until Sam notices something on the wall of their home. While it appears to be nothing, a vision starts taking shape. With Sam’s help.


Another story that really moved me was The Orchestra. 

Let me first stay that this was not a particularly fleshed out story. We do not see The Conductor before she’s infected. We don’t see the fallout. No real picture is painted for us, it’s more like a sketch. 

In the case of The Orchestra, though, this is exactly the right choice. We don’t need to see the whole picture in gruesome technicolor to get what’s happening in this ill fated concert. We understand perhaps too well what’s occurring. And I thought that was brilliant. 

What worked

I just want to start by gushing over this storytelling style. Short story collections always have a soft spot in my heart. In the case of The Roots Grow, all of the short stories come together to create one truly dark tale. 


I also loved the clear Lovecraftian influence of this story. It’s clear that this was something that the author was going for, from interviews and social media comments. But I could tell before I saw any of that. 

The story in The Roots Grow is one of madness. But more than that, it’s one of madness and destruction that the victims could not have avoided. There was no being clever enough to avoid these dark roots that touched them. There was no being strong enough, or selfless and good enough. If the roots reach out and touch you, you’ve already lost. 

Finally, I want to extend some praise to my favorite character, Joanne. She is dealing with her own madness, her own demons. But she still finds kindness and strength to help others when they need her. Even against some truly dark odds. 

What didn’t work

All that being said, I will say that some of the short stories felt incomplete. One prime example is What Lies In The Icy Soil. This appears to be nothing more than the tale of a person possessed by the need to dig. He digs up something that for sure shouldn’t be dug up. But there’s nothing more to the story. We don’t know who this person is. We don’t know who might be missing him, or what might come of this thing he dug up. As a part of the whole story, it fits. But if we are to consider every tale by its own merit, this one doesn’t have much of anything going for it. 


That being said, this is one story in a round ten that wasn’t much of anything. The rest of the stories were wonderfully eerie, both on their own and as part of a whole. 

The Roots Grow Into The Earth comes out on October 7th. And I think it would be a perfect addition to your Halloween reading list.  4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)

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Book Reviews

Strange Eons Review: Cornfields and Eldritch Gods



“The elder gods arrived in the sky in early September, like an unholy aurora borealis stretching across a midnight sky. Their vastness blocked the sun, an unending eclipse, a liminal state, a breath that was inhaled but never let go. Lovecraft got it wrong, I think. It was not the sight of the gods that made humanity go mad. It’s what they destroy that hurts us. Somehow, these elder gods, these aliens, had killed time itself.” – Strange Eons by Keria Perkins

Strange Eons is a short story published in Bourbon Penn Issue 30 by Keira Perkins. Perkins, is an Indiana writer of short fiction and poetry that has also appeared in Non-Stalgia and The Heartland Society of Women Writers. Bourbon Penn is an online and print journal that specializes in speculative, odd, and surreal fiction. All issues are available to be read online for free or can be purchased as a paperback from

Strange Eons follows a young woman struggling to adjust to a life post-Lovecraftian apocalypse. This is a cozy story, the majority of which takes place as the woman lays in a cornfield and hides from well-meaning but unhelpful family members. While cozy, the piece is ominous, tackling the terror associated with pregnancy. Specifically, the terror that comes from living in a Red State and finding a significant lack of resources or options.

As a Hoosier capable of becoming pregnant, Strange Eons resonated with me. The imagery of cornfields and cicadas were very Indiana. However, so is a young woman covertly asking her sister to drive her to Illinois to receive healthcare. I loved how Perkins merged cosmic horror with the horror of receiving reproductive healthcare in Indiana but also the United States as a whole. All that was missing were predatory billboards advertising fake pregnancy centers! Talk about maddening and terrifying! Throughout the short story, the most horrific part of the young woman’s ordeal is not the eldritch gods appearing but her rather typical, hellish circumstances.

Aside from content, Strange Eons is well-written. It keeps you guessing where the story will go next. If you like a non-tropey cozy take on Lovecraftian horror or have struggled to receive reproductive healthcare, I highly recommend checking out Strange Eons! You can also check out the other stories in this issue of Bourbon Penn here. Or you can see what else Perkins is up to on her website.

5 out of 5 stars (5 / 5)

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Book Reviews

Walking Practice – A Book Review



Walking Practice is Dolki Min’s debut novella about an alien named Mumu, who must learn what it is like to perform as a human. Victoria Caudle, the translator of this unique Korean story, experiments with the English language to properly convey Min’s style. This, complimented with Min’s various drawings of the story’s protagonist, creates a poetic, outlandish reading experience that keeps you hooked from beginning to end.

Walking Practice: Never Enough Practice

After the destruction of their home planet, Mumu crash lands their spaceship in a desolate forest far from human life. They survive by having sex with humans then, with graphic violence and great diligence, eats them.

Mumu has a strict schedule and regimen for this process; they must shapeshift their body to the specific gender and personality their date is attracted to. While this process of gender conformation is a difficult one (as the alien will often tell us), it is nowhere near as hard as the ridiculous habit humans have of walking on two legs. This is one of the many obstacles Mumu must struggle with while playing the game of life.

Dolki Min with the Korean Herald
Dolki Min in an interview with the Korean Herald

Mumu is a rich, self-aware character who seems to trust only one human: the reader. They address us directly, asking questions and indulging us with their theories on what it is to live on Earth. They are knowledgeable about the complexities of personhood, and aware that a person’s gender and sex are complex and not one-size-fits-all. After years of experience in multiple genders, the alien theorizes that humans are treated as people as soon as they have a sex and gender assigned to them. However, depending on the sex and gender, that treatment is never equal.

While Mumu performs various genders and personalities to match the sexual desires of their future prey, they do not identify as human. At the end of the day, they go home, stock their human leftovers in the fridge and freezer, and unleash their natural form. Their only priority is their own survival and pleasure (which, arguably, is their most humanlike quality).


“I’ve learned that my face arouses homicidal impulses”

Walking Practice uses horror, science fiction and satire to create a passionate queer narrative. While Mumu is a serial killer who prides themselves on their murderous skills, it is hard not to feel for them when karma strikes back and they are hurt. The poetic elements of Min’s story and Caudle’s translation support our empathy for such a vicious character

Min’s artwork, depicting Mumu’s alien forms, complements Caudle’s stylistic choices. There is enjambment in several paragraphs, (which can be interpreted as the alien either having a flair for the dramatic or genuinely pausing to find the right words), thus enhancing their internal dialogue. There are moments when the Mumu’s stream of consciousness confuses reality from imagination. They will also lose all learned human skills and revert to their mother tongue; words either run together or are spaced apart, and sometimes there are unintelligible symbols. At the surface, it looks like a linguistic nightmare. Once immersed in Mumu’s narrative, it is a work of art.

The Verdict

Walking Practice‘s balance of ambiguity and transparency keeps the reader close while also allowing an array of interpretations. It is an eccentric piece of fiction that plays with the literary status quo, resulting in an entertaining affair with an unforgettable alien. 5 out of 5 stars (5 / 5)

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