The Horror Zine
Terry Grimwood

The April Selected Story 2 is by Terry Grimwood

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Terry Grimwood


by Terry Grimwood

“Take it,” the runt in the business suit snarled in Nick Capaldi’s face. “My billfold. . .  Just slide your hand into my pocket and take the fucking thing.”

Nick could’ve snapped the guy in half. But he wasn’t going to, even though the runt had pushed him against the subway wall and was holding a knife at his throat.

He didn’t want trouble. After all, who would the cops believe: a clean-shaven guy who dressed like a company president, or a grizzly in a wool hat and pea-coat who’d been taking free vacations in the state penitentiary since he was eighteen? And who would believe that some guy was holding Nick up to give away a wallet? Wasn’t it supposed to be the other way around?

“Look, buddy,” Nick said. “Just put the knife away and walk on by. It ain’t worth it.”

“Oh it is,” the runt said and glanced over his shoulder. “You have no idea how worth it.”

“Okay, okay, I ain’t arguing. Just give me the billfold since you want me to have it so badly.”

“I can’t. That’s the fucking problem. You’ll have to help yourself.” He was breathing hard and his eyes were as wild as the crap he was talking. “I can’t give it!”

Maybe the guy wanted to feel Nick in his clothes. Ah, what the hell, he’d had worse. He slid his right hand into his jacket.

“Hurry it up!” the runt in the suit said. “For God’s sake, hurry it up!”

Nick found the billfold, drew it out—

The runt stumbled back, then hesitated, dancing around, muttering, like he was trying to run away but couldn’t bring himself to leave. “You took it. You bastard, you took the billfold, my billfold. Mine!”

“Yeah, and I ain’t giving it back.” Nick shoved the billfold into his own pocket and made to leave. “Not after all the trouble I’d been through to get it.” And suddenly the runt was all over him, knife flicking out to slice his cheek. That hurt. That made Nick mad.

A gust of wind blasted through the subway. The runt moaned, staggered back against the wall, stared about like the crazy bastard he was, then ran off. His footsteps and shadow followed him around the corner and out of sight, and Nick was left to cover his bleeding face with one hand while clutching the billfold with the other.

Throw it down, Nick told himself. Walk away, forget it ever happened.


“Oh my God,” said Maria when he got back to their single-room apartment.     
He was bleeding all over the threadbare carpet and Maria looked scared.

“It’s okay, hey, calm down, honey.”

He held her tight, though not too tight, she was a lot smaller than he was.

After a minute or so she looked up, red-eyed and crumple-faced. “What happened? Did the cops see you? Were you fighting?”

“No I wasn’t fighting, I was mugged.”

“What? Someone mugged you? Was he crazy?”

“He was crazy alright. And quit worrying, I didn’t have nothing to give him and I didn’t lay a hand on him. Just get me a band aid and something to drink.”

It wasn’t until he was sitting on the bed watching TV that he realized that the billfold was still in his coat pocket. He didn’t remember bringing it home. He had meant to drop it. He must have forgot. One thing was certain, the billfold was staying in his pocket and his mouth was staying shut. Nick didn’t tell Maria about the billfold. He didn’t want to worry her. Maria worried too much. Especially about him. Tomorrow he’d throw it in the river on the way to Aloe’s Diner—where he made a living frying hamburgers.

Maria came back to him from the corner of the room they called the kitchen. The drink she brought was coffee. Nick didn’t take anything stronger anymore. Not since he met Maria. She was the reason he stayed out of trouble. Hell, she was the reason he stayed alive.


It was late, dark, and Nick couldn’t sleep. He untangled himself from Maria’s arms, crept over to his coat and pulled out the billfold. He took it to the window where a little street light spilled through the slats of the blind. He weighed the fold in his hands, touched it, felt scuffed leather. 

Inside there were no cards or identification. But there was something in the zipper compartment. Money. . . no, it was warm, it was…Christ!

He dropped it and jumped back, like it was a tarantula.

The billfold moved. . .

It was warm, and it pulsed, like a heartbeat.

He rubbed his face with his hands. They were shaking. Okay, okay, this is a flashback. Use enough LSD—and Christ knows he had—and you can suddenly trip years later.
But why did that guy want to get rid of it so fast? Was it because he found something weird in there as well? And if he did, then this wasn’t no flashback. This is real.
Nick couldn’t leave it on the floor. It could get damaged, forgotten. Maria might find it. Anyhow, it was his now. It was given to him, no one had claimed it, so that made it Nick Capaldi’s property.

Didn’t it? 

He picked the wallet up, ran his fingers over the warm part.

Uneasy now, he parted a couple of blind slats at the window to look outside. Nothing but trashcans, a wino asleep on the sidewalk, and the back of the next apartment building. Nothing to be scared of. Nothing to worry about.

He pulled the zipper.

Blue-white light spilled out of the crack. The light was noisy. Not noise you could hear, not screams or bells; this was silent noise. He started with surprise and snapped the billfold shut.

And something heard it. Jesus, something. . . out there. . .

He put the billfold back in his pocket. Maria stirred and muttered as he climbed in bed beside her and tried to sleep.


The next morning he stood outside a jewelry store, staring at a necklace that glinted in the window. He couldn’t take his eyes off it, or stop thinking about how great it would look around Maria’s neck. There were a couple of problems, however. The price tag and the fact that he was due at Aloe’s in twenty minutes, which wasn’t long considering he needed to go down to the wharf first to drop something into the water. . .

Inside, the store was all carpet and wood-panel walls and soft-lit display cases. The jeweler was short, slight. and the neatest guy Nick had ever laid eyes on. He glared at his customer and said “Can I assist you?” in a voice that sounded as if the words didn’t taste so good.

“I’d. . . I’d like that necklace outta the window,” Nick mumbled. He always mumbled in places like this if he wasn’t wearing a mask and totin’ a Saturday Night Special.

“Are you sure?” the jeweler spat through those thin little lips of his. “It is rather expensive.”

That did it. Suddenly Nick was fumbling in his pocket and drawing out the billfold. “I’m sorry sir,” the jeweler said as Nick took a step towards him, opening the billfold’s zipper as he went. “But I really don’t think. . . ”

Nick held the wallet up to the jeweler. The jeweler’s eyes widened; he coughed, swallowed, then slowly dipped his carefully manicured fingers into the unzipped compartment.

“Mother?” the jeweler muttered. “Oh God, Mother, I’m so sorry. . . I. . . ” He started to cry.

Then, recovering, the jeweler blew his nose and said, in a breathless kind of voice, “I’ll. . . I’ll fetch the necklace, sir. One moment, if you please.”

Nick knew that he should be happy, but he was as scared as hell, because he’d heard that silent sound again, and this time something answered. He glanced over his shoulder, nervous now, needing to get out of there and down to the river.


“Jesus, Nick. . . ” Maria’s backed away, as if Nick was holding out a snake to her instead of the most beautiful necklace he’d ever seen.

“I bought it for you, honey.” He was confused. Why wasn’t she happy? Why didn’t she throw her arms round his neck and kiss him?

“What with? We don’t have any money. Look around this dump. This is all we’ve got. You must have stolen it.”

“No, no! I’d never—”

But she was on the bed, sobbing and calling him a stupid bastard and yelling that the cops were probably on their way on their way and. . .

Nick daren’t tell her about the four-by-four sitting outside, all shiny and mean and waiting for him to get back behind the wheel. He’d planned to surprise Maria, drive her to some swanky restaurant, make those waiters bow and scrape at her feet. But it was all going wrong.

Then he heard himself shouting, “The lottery, Maria! I won the lottery!”

She stopped crying and frowned as if she couldn’t understand his words. He sat beside her and took her hot and shaking hands. “I bought a ticket. I know we said we wouldn’t, that we’d save every cent we had, but I was feeling lucky.” He smiled, but didn’t know where the smile came from, because lying was shriveling his heart and turning it black.

“Are you telling the truth, Nick?”

He evaded by saying, “I promised I’d never lie to you no more.”

“You swear to me you never stole that necklace, or the money to buy it with?”
That one he could answer outright. “I swear.”

“You’d better not be lying. If you lie to me I’ll walk out that door and I promise you, Nick, you’ll never see me again.”

She meant it. Maria never said anything she didn’t mean. That’s why Nick knew that he should tell her the truth. She’d be mad and she’d screech and rant, but in the end she’d forgive him. All he had to do was explain about the billfold and what it did to people and how he’d wanted to throw it in the river but couldn’t (he’d even made it to the wharf, but, somehow. . . ). He should tell her now, while he still had a chance—

But he said, “I swear on my momma’s grave that I won the lottery, Maria.”

“Did you spend it all on that necklace?” she asked. Her voice was almost too quiet to hear.

“No, I just kept a few bucks aside so we can treat ourselves.”

She still wasn’t certain. “May. . . Maybe you should take the necklace back. We need the money. We shouldn’t waste it.”

“Don’t you like it? I thought you’d like it. . . ”

“Oh Nick, I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to hurt your feelings.” And her arms were round him at last and she was crying and laughing all at the same time. Nick stared over her head at the wall and heard doors opening and something terrible coming through.

The billfold’s doing bad things to me, he told myself silently. It’s gotta go. But not today. Hell, suddenly I’m rich. People will do anything, give anything, to touch what’s hidden behind that zipper. They cry and smile and whisper names of loved ones, I guess, loved ones that ain’t here no more. They’re happy, so I’m happy. Don’t I deserve one day of having everything I want? Don’t you, honey? Because you never complain about how little I can give you.

So they did rode in Nick Capaldi’s new four-by-four while the CD deck played Bruce Springsteen and Maria sang along and Nick felt better because she was happy and looked like a million dollars in that dark maroon dress and fake fur he’d bought her.

And if he joined in with “Blinded by the Light” and concentrated hard on the way Maria’s hand was resting on his thigh and on how much he loved her and how happy she was, he didn’t hear. . .

The head waiter sauntered towards them with his nose turned up like we they were something he’d wiped off his shoes. “Nice quiet table,” Nick said, holding his stare.

“I’m afraid we’re full, sir—”

“I don’t think so,” Nick grabbed his arm and hustled him off to one side, away from Maria, and opened the billfold before he had a chance to protest. “Take as much as you need.”

The head waiter did just that, dipping his delicate fingers into the blue light until his pinched-up old face softened and tears dribbled out of his eyes. He sighed a woman’s name and told her that he missed her so much.

There was a candle on the table, and a rose in a skinny little vase and silver cutlery and a bottle of red, on the house. Maria’s eyes shone like Nick had never seen them shine before, her hand held his across the top of the table and his scarred old heart melted into mush.

“Our luck’s changed,” he told her. “From now on, we only get the best.”

Coming. . . it was coming. Suddenly he could hear it, and see it in his mind, howling through the shadows, scattering garbage, making stray dogs yelp and cats yowl. Prostitutes and winos clutched their coats closer and shivered. People hurrying home from work, hurried a little faster. Cops glanced over their shoulders, reached for their sidearms. . .

Bullshit! Just feeling guilty, that was all. Nothing comes for free, even the things you steal. And Nick Capaldi had paid for everything he’d ever taken, paid double, treble. He poured red wine and lifted it to his lips before he knew what he was doing. He didn’t hesitate. He was shaking, he needed a drink, just a sip, just enough to steady his nerves.

“Nick. . . you mustn’t drink.”

“Ah come on, we’re celebrating tonight. Let’s have some fun.”

Down it went, sliding over his tongue, trickling into his throat, chilled and sour and so, so good. Another glass, then he’d forget about that thing out there, the thing that wasn’t really there at all.

Wow, a little dizzy now. Maria was still smiling but looking worried. Nick filled her glass, clinked his against hers. They’d leave the four-by-four outside, get a taxi home. No problem. No problems anymore, ever. . .

Closer now. It could smell him. Sweet Christ. . .

No. He wasn’t running. Not Big Nick. Big Nick’s going to face you down.

The conversation, not loud in the first place, went quiet. People looked at each other, glanced uneasily at the door, at the big plate glass window with its lace curtains and old fashioned oil lamps.

There was a monster out there.

A monster that wanted what was his.

“No way, you fucker,” Nick growled.

Maria, red-faced and angry, snapped at him to pipe down. People turned, stared.

“What’re all of you looking at?” Nick snarled. The waiter was coming over, bringing reinforcements. Nick lurched to his feet, fists clenched. Looking for a fight? Well come an’ get it boys—

The window exploded inwards. There was glass and screaming.

And wind, cold and wild, swiping at table clothes, knocking over glasses and bottles, ripping dresses and scattering toupees. Maria cried out.

Nick got up and ran.

He told himself it was to protect Maria and all the people in there. But he was lying. He was running because something inside him, something that was like a little baby in the dark, was crying. . . and so, so scared.

That was why he beat his way through the panicking, struggling mass of customers trying to get to the door. That’s why he leapt through the shattered storefront, tore his new pants on glass, felt the hot pain of sliced leg-meat, then the cold and the wild, wild wind. Trashcans were rolling, people lurched round, clung to one another, huddled against walls. Cars were stopped in messed up heaps all over the street, horns blared, cops blasted on whistles, and everywhere there was broken glass and busted metal and fractured bones.

Sirens wailed, blue lights flashed. 

Dizzy from the booze, and from losing blood. Nick ran, like he’d never run before, because if he stopped, if it caught up with him. . . Jesus, he could feel it’s hunger.
He had to get rid of the billfold. He had to give it to someone, or rather, someone had to take it. No use dropping it. If he did that, it would still be his. That was the rules. That’s what the crazy runt in the subway was trying to tell him.

There, about to cross the road, a fat, soft looking guy, who didn’t see Nick Capaldi until he’d rammed him against a storefront, got a hand round his neck and hustled him into an alley that separated the store from a second rate diner. Then it was too late for the fat guy.
The place was narrow, badly lit, furnished with trashcans and decorated with garbage. Steam spilled out from the diner’s air con unit. The shadows moved, because the shadows were rats. A wall blocked off the end, and it was topped with razor wire.

“Duh. . . duh. . . don’t hurt me. . . ” The fat guy gibbered.

“Take it,” Nick snarled in his face. “My billfold. . . just slide your hand into my pocket and take the fucking thing.”

“I’ve only got a few bucks on me. . . ”

“I don't want your money!” Nick squeezed the man’s neck a little tighter and he gasped, looking as if he was about to pass out.

“I want you to take my billfold. Okay? The one inside my coat. You’ll have to help yourself.” Nick was breathing hard and betting that his eyes were as wild as the crap he was talking. “And hurry it up.” He glanced up and down the alley. A breeze stirred the garbage. A trashcan clanged as it tumbled. Something growled wetly.

The guy stared into Nick’s eyes as he slowly moved his hand into his jacket.

Nick stared back, wanting to stop him, wanting to break his arm because the billfold was his. His. . . then he saw, in those scared, scared eyes, a wife and kids, waiting for Pop to come home.

Well, Pop’s gonna come home with a hell of a lot more than he left with, folks. Pop’s got a brand new bag.

The fat guy jerked his hand free and greed blossomed in his eyes. He didn’t just grab that billfold, he clutched it to himself and glared at Nick like a cornered animal.

He’s got the billfold, Nick realized, panicked now. My billfold. He made a grab for him again. This time he really was going to bust his arm—

The wind came.

Blasting round the corner, sniffing at the shadows, poking at the garbage. It tore at Nick’s expensive new clothes and rubbed grit in his face. Then it seemed to find what it was looking for and the world went crazy as it swept both men off their feet and hurled them against the wall at the end of the alley. Nick saw the fat guy crumple, double up, gasp for breath. Then Nick was up and trying to make for the exit.

And there it was, walking towards him. Nick stopped in his tracks. The thing was some sort of man maybe, though he must’ve been twenty feet tall, big and all out of shape somehow. His body stretched and twisted and bubbled as he moved. There were too many arms and. . .


The thing was made of people. Naked people. Dozens, scores, maybe hundreds or thousands. Heads, arms, torsos tangled and writhing and sliding all over each other and back inside and out again. And those faces, Christ! Oh Christ, those faces. . . twisted up in pain and anguish, eyes rolled to the whites, mouths open, moaning and crying out. And they stank and they were rotten, like they were dead.

Nick cowered back, bladder letting go warmly in his pants as he waited for their Hell to become his Hell. But the thing walked past him, limbs waving like tentacles, hands grasping.

It passed close enough so Nick could see into all those eyes, could see torment, could see despair. He was deafened by a million cries of agony. And he sensed something else, deep inside that walking mortuary, something even more terrible and so, so powerful, something that laughed at the world as it snuffled and slobbered over its banquet of souls like a hog at a feeding trough.

“Pay me,” the creature hissed and bubbled at the fat guy who had started a wail of his own. “Paaaayyyyymmmmmeeeeee!”

Go, that’s what Nick should do. Now, while he still could. He’d passed the billfold on, given it away. To ol’ lardy Pop down there. To the little guy who’d been working hard all his life so he could give his family what they needed and pay off all his debts. Christ, he’d got one hell of a debt to pay now. . .

What did Nick Capaldi care? It wasn’t going to be him. He’d paid his dues. He deserved a lucky break. So he stumbled to the mouth of the alley. Not looking back. The street was bright out here. There were cars and people, and a few blocks down, there was a smashed up restaurant and there was Maria.

He heard a scream, behind him, and turned round. He couldn’t stop himself, he had to turn around. To watch. It was his fault, he gave the billfold to that guy and now he was gonna—


Back down the alley, back to the fat man, back to the thing, shouting so loud his throat felt as if it was tearing itself away from the back of his mouth. The creature had the fat guy now, lifting him, thrashing and kicking, off the ground by the front of his jacket.

“Hey!” Nick yelled. “Hey, fella, hey!”

From somewhere in his panic the fat guy saw him. He started to shout and shriek and beg Nick to help him, please, please, PLEASE.

Nick stumbled past the creature, in time to see it pull open a hole in its writhing corpse belly and thrust the fat guy’s flailing legs inside. Then the hole closed and the sucking began.

“Can I have the billfold?” Nick asked. “Come on, can I take it? Huh? Can I take it?”
Lardy Pop glared at him, even though he was now chest deep, even though there was only a little spark of sanity left in his eyes. He glared and bared his teeth and told Nick to go to hell.

“No. You don’t understand. Let me take it. Think of your wife. . . your kids. . . come on, come on!”

The anger faded, the fear came back.

“Take it,” the man snarled. “Just take the fucking thing.”

And Nick was into his coat, grabbing at papers and coins and a key.

And the billfold.

He danced back. Christ it felt so good to have it again that he hardly heard the fat guy’s grunt as he was shot out of the creature’s abdomen and into the garbage on the ground of the alley. The fat man scrambled onto his hands and knees, dripping slime, whimpering and staring up at Nick. And his eyes said mine then thanks then mine again…

“Run,” Nick yelled. “Now, now, NOW!”

The fat man was up, barging past the creature who didn’t give a damn about him anymore.

It gave a damn about Nick Capaldi though.

“Pay me,” it dribbled out of a thousand mouths as a thousand rotting hands flailed and grabbed.

“I’m sorry, Maria,” Nick whispered. “I’m sorry babe, but the buck’s gotta stop somewhere.” Then he threw back his head and screamed her name over and over again. And he was going to keep on keep screaming it. Forever and ever and ever. . .



The city grew quiet. The dark got darker. In the alley, the rats squabbled, ate and rutted.
A gentle gust of cold wind bumped against the razor-topped wall and stirred the garbage at its foot to uncover a scuffed leather billfold. Just in time, because there were footsteps. A wino perhaps, looking for a place to rest his booze-addled head, or a prostitute, tired out and needing a quiet corner where she could empty her night’s earnings into her veins through a hypodermic needle. Whoever it was, it would be a loser.

Because no one came down this street unless they were clean out of lucky breaks.

Blues singin’, harmonica blowin’, jam-nite perfomin’, tea drinkin’, college lecturin’, always-writin’ Terry Grimwood lives in England and has been published in a wide variety of magazines and anthologies, including Bare Bone, Nemonymous, Midnight Street, Darkness Rising, Peeping Tom, ParaSpheres and The FutureFire. He’s even slipped a romance into People’s Friend! Terry’s first collection, The Exaggerated Man and Other Stories (with an introduction by Gary McMahon) has been called “Brilliant modern horror” by The Horror Zine’s Jeani Rector. Terry also has a trio of plays under his belt, available to anyone who is interested in performing them: just let him know via his email address below. In fact, if you love writing and reading and all things books, he’d love to hear from even if you don’t perform in plays! Terry is married to the transatlantic poet, Jessica Lawrence, and her collection Dreams of Flight is available from The Poet Launderette Press. Oh, and Terry’s own Exaggerated Press has recently published the not-to-be missed John Travis’ collection, Mostly Monochrome Stories.

The Exaggerated Man and Other Stories is available from either or (which is a cheaper way to buy it!).

The Exaggerated Man







































































































































































































































The Exaggerated Man