Abigail by Daemon Manx  (2022 Splatterpunk Awards)


Adrian Billard is an artist who never quite fitted in, his obsessive-compulsive tendencies and homosexuality marking him as an outsider from his youth. His present social circle comprises an upcoming date and a local bartender; but if his quiet life is lacking in Wildean scandal, it is at least sprinkled with Wildean wit:

There was little that was subtle about Adrian if anything at all. He was flamboyant and overt, with a definite flair for the dramatic, especially when it came to displays of emotion. He had once been told by a former boyfriend that he wore his pain like a chartreuse ascot; loud, proud and in your face. Gabriel, the bartender, had been within earshot of the spectacle, took notice, and felt obliged to enquire. He had known Adrian for years and had been the one to point out the ascot/pain analogy.

Returning home from the bar, Adrian finds a wicker basket on his porch. Inside is a baby, left for him to adopt, the only explanation being a small card that gives her name as Abigail. The baby, it transpires, is a strange one indeed:

A wide pair of violet eyes looked up at him. Silver flecks around the reptilian pupils flashed in the pale glow of the porch light. A hypnotic chimera washed over him as he fixed on the strange gaze. Suddenly, he felt weightless and out of the body; the sense that he was floating several feet above ground was consuming. Adrian found himself face to face with the most peculiar vision.
“Gee-hee-he,” the strange baby looked up at him and laughed.

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“Sun Poison” by Stephen Kozeniewski (2022 Splatterpunk Awards)


“Sun Poison” opens with a colourful description of the effects of sunburn upon the main character’s feet:

I open my eyes. My toes have transformed into ten little cherry tomatoes. I hiss in pain. The heat radiating off my piggies rivals that of an Easter ham, fresh out of the oven.

She buries her toes in the sand to protect them from the heat but merely burns them even more, the lower layer of sand being somehow hotter than the surface. She looks for her parasol, but it has vanished from the beach. So, indeed, have all of the other sunbathers, including her own family. The protagonist is alone beneath a burning sun that continues to cook her.

“Sun Poison” is a short, brisk and surreal story. The narrator describes the familiar beachside sights – hotels, ships, pancake houses – that are inexplicably absent. She comes up with theories to explain her sudden isolation – shark attack? Oil spill? Storm? – but none fit the facts. All of her musings are no more than temporary distractions from the horrible reality that her husband and children have vanished and that she is being slowly roasted to death in a strange landscape where even the water is scalding hot.

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“Next Best Baker” by Jeff Strand (2022 Splatterpunk Awards)

A group of contestants on a TV baking show are each given the task of putting together a cake that contains four specific ingredients: mint, carrots, pistachios and dog feces. This may seem a distinctly unorthodox assignment, but Tiffany, Cyrus, Helga and Mark all take things in their stride – because on Next Best Baker, making a cake from fecal matter is actually one of the less outrageous challenges. Come the final round, the game moves from the merely repugnant to the outright horrific…

“Next Best Baker” is gross-out humour of the driest sort. Its deadpan treatment of the repulsive subject matter is evident from the reactions to the dog-mess assignment. “I do wish that the dog shit was a bit more subdued”, says one judge of Tiffany’s cake; “it doesn’t really blend with the other flavors.” Mark, meanwhile, makes his entire cake from feces, with the other ingredients serving as decorative toppers: a little fence made of carrot sticks, a sprig of mint as a tree, and a pistachio with a face drawn on to represent a dog. “It could just as easily have been a happy pistachio”, remarks an unimpressed judge. “From an appearance standpoint, this is probably your worst effort all season.”

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