The Horror Zine
Andy Mee

The August Selected Story is by Andy Mee

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Andy Mee


by Andy Mee

He could hear his Labrador barking, and the sound seemed to be travelling further away. The man in the pale red Macintosh shouted the dog’s name. "Judy! Where are you, girl? Judy!"

Inquisitive at first, it was the sort of bark Judy made when questioning the sanity of her owner for throwing the evening’s leftovers into the bin; then the barking became louder, urgent, almost hysterical. The growing howls of canine angst were coming from inside the yellow, brown autumnal wood. That was the point at which the man in the Mac realised something was wrong. Judy sounded, uncharacteristically, agitated.

The man in the Mac had been careless, losing Judy ten minutes previously. The dog had been sniffing its way along the line of leaning brown-red oaks by the side of the half-frosted lake, searching for the last of summer's old stale bread that people fed to the ducks, decaying amongst the fallen autumn leaves. The night-lights, from the old mansion house on the opposite bank, shimmered on the glassy lake. Morning stars faded as the dawn’s light came on. The man looked down and was certain he saw ice forming there at the lake's edge. Cold enough, he thought, bitter cold.

Judy had wandered off, deep into the old oak and weeping willow woodland. The man in the Mac had been sitting on the bench smoking his rolled Swan Vesta and enjoying the beauty of the early morning. It was the only time he could smoke without his ears bleeding from the verbal abuse of his wife.

He sat, dormant in the cold morning rain, savouring each berate-less inhale, admiring the young mallards as they floated their way towards the old bridge on the southern side of the lake, and watching the swans as they bathed in the grey, autumn morning drizzle.

And then the ferocious barking suddenly ceased with a high squeal, concluding into an eerie silence; even the ducks became quiet.

Rising, he got up from the bench, and half-cursing, threw his cigarette on the ground and began calling for his dog. He scanned the peripheries of the semi-leaved ashen-brown woods. No sign of her. "Damn dog," he whispered hoarsely to no one.

She was a placid dog, and always had been, so all this barking had been uncomfortably unusual. The man in the Mac made his way over the frozen, stiff grass into the woods, and felt sleety rain-specks fall on his grey-black hair, still calling for his dog as he half-strode, half-ran.

There was no answering bark, no howl, no whine. He changed to a semi-sprint and felt his heart thumping at his rib cage. He entered the brown wooded area, breathing heavily as he ran.

"Judy!" he shout-panted.

The sleet gave way to rain, and then a downpour ensued just seconds later. The noise of the raindrops hitting the broken woodland canopy made a low echoing rumble, making the man in the Mac think of tribal drums, and, although he refused to acknowledge it, terror was tugging at his tight chest. Something was wrong.

Inside the woods, the greyness of mid-autumn had gotten much dimmer as he ran through the heavy browns of mid-winter. The further into the forest the man ventured, the darker it got, but still the damn dog refused to acknowledge his calls.

The oaks and alders made way for the deep green pines, closing around him so that three to four at a time were within touching distance. Rain ran down the man’s face in blinding rivulets, his grey hair now soaked, eyes stinging. He shivered. The frosted, glassy leaves crunched and cracked under his racing feet. His calling had become a hard-forced wheezing as he felt his lungs empty with each cry. "Judy!" sounded more like a dead-beat, rasping ‘Hoodee.’ Still nothing.

Then came the buzzing.

It was a low humming at first. The man questioned whether he was just imagining it. Was it the head-buzz of exhaustion he sometimes got on that darn treadmill? The man in the Mac slowed to a half-walk, heading in the general direction of the strange, low humming.

The rain was starting to raid the forest, robbing it of its musky autumn aroma. Warnings were probing the back of his mind, telling him to go back to his bench by the lake, but he felt a strange compulsion to head towards the humming, an inquisitive yearning; and besides, he needed to find Judy. He loved that damn dog. This was the direction where he’d last heard her. He knew it. But where was she?

"Judy?" he whispered, not realizing he even spoke.

The buzzing blended with the rain, hitting the leaves of the old oaks, but now, as the man got nearer, the buzzing drowned out the noise of the falling rain. Only the running rivers of rainwater cascading down his freezing face told him that it was still torrential. His eyes were half-blurred. Wiping his face with soaked coat sleeves had been effective before, but now it was futile as he squinted into the dark alcove of thick pines. The forest had a choking, deep musky taste, which was beginning to linger in the back of his throat as he gasped for another lungful of cold morning air, and he struggled to catch his breath.

The hypnotic, almost orchestral buzzing, slowly drawing him, appeared to be coming from behind a mass of evergreen bushes just ahead. There seemed to be life in them; they had luminous greenness amidst the greys and dead browns. And, God, the buzzing! It was now almost deafening.

The man’s head began to throb. The loud noise, combined with the blanketed anxiety now smothering him, became ingredients for the dull pain witch-dancing within the man’s temples.

Still, like a magnet pulling a cold steel tack, the man in the Mac was drawn to the green luminosity ahead. The pine trees closed around him, stepping inwards, he was sure. The woods grew darker still, a thick, purple-grey.

And then the man noticed the smell.

Decay. Rotting meat. The forest not only looked dead, it smelled dead. The only sense of life in the woods were the glowing evergreen bushes ahead. The bushes looked luminescent, too bright, like a beacon.

"Jooodeee?" he called, still feeling the fingers of fear on his spine.

The man saw small white stones on the ground, lying on top of wet leaves. Chalk or limestone, he thought. The stones seemed to have been arranged into the shape of some type of Celtic cross. Kids, the man thought to himself, but still found himself looking over his shoulder to stare back at the stone cross yards after he had passed it.


The man noticed a small cloud of flies (too small for bluebottles?) escaping from somewhere inside the bushes. It was strange to see flies so late in the season. And certainly such small insects couldn't be the cause of all that noise.


The noise was now deafening, painful. He clasped his soaking sleeves to his ears. He had no idea what it could be. It sounded as if it might be something radioactive, and he kept telling himself that he should probably turn back. But he couldn’t; he had to find that dog. His wife would kill him if he didn’t come back with Judy.

The man in the Mac kept moving towards the light-coloured bushes, unable to resist the draw of the buzzing.

The man reached the bushes.

He reached out to move a branch, touching it; inspecting it. It was then that he saw the larvae. Thousands of squirming white insect larvae were completely covering the leaves. The man had never seen such an infestation in all his life. The bushes looked alive, white with crawling vermin.  

Repulsed, the man dropped the branch and quickly moved past the bushes into the crow-black clearing beyond. And there on the ground was a multitude of milling insects; a swarm so grotesquely huge that it made the air seem coal-black. There were millions of them! The man’s mouth dropped open. He turned and looked to his left as the mouth of the swarm drew open around him.

And then he saw what remained of Judy.

A Labrador carcass, almost devoured, was being impossibly held in mid-air by countless swarms of demonic flies.

The man in the Mac was frozen to the spot, eyes unbelieving. Then the swarm began to close its mouth around him, and his vision greyed like a television losing transmission.

From the depths of a slowly fading sanity, a voice in his mind screamed "Run!" His immobile legs suddenly obeyed.

Stumbling backwards, he coughed out disbelieving monosyllables, unable to muster enough breath to scream, as his black boots drove his weaving body through the dense bracken. The rainwater in his stinging eyes made the world around him a kaleidoscope of browns, greens, and heavy grey blurs.  

He scurried blindly into the thick bottle-green foliage of ferns and nettles, stumbling over vine tripwires, while the thunderous buzzing grew in intensity above him as he battled to keep his footing.

Instinctively swatting, flailing like a drowning man, he hurled his rain-glossed red arms upwards, repeatedly throwing fists into the buzzing black blur, as he wove through the stinging thorns of gauze and nettle. He ran blindly through the trees, branches slapping his soaked face.

Suddenly, burning pain flared as his ankle twisted, and he fell on the potholed forest floor. Thudding heavily upon the soft, mud-soaked earth, the last of the man’s breath was driven from his lungs, coming out in a groan.

He could feel insects moving on his back; a heavy, crawling overcoat that weighed him down. He crawled onwards, silently mouthing Help me in a last, desperate plea for salvation. He gritted his teeth and summoned one last ounce of strength, and tried to stand.

Rising, he manically threw his arms into the carnivorous black cloud as it swallowed what was left of the dull gun-metal light. Mind-shattering pain seared his hands as the gloves he wore began disintegrating because the carnivorous flies devoured them like piranhas.

The man could feel the buzzing insects enter his open, screaming mouth, as the agonising pain began to spread through his entire body, burning in his throat and, seconds later, his lungs. He never saw the flesh of his arms turning black; huge blisters growing and bursting like flowering plants which exploded into deep crimson geysers. Bone yellow-white showed as his flesh became a bubbling swarm of living-black and, finally, with his last breath, the man screamed.

The screaming echoed across the lake, and a few of the swans jolted, rising out of the water and flying away from the woodlands to land on the other side of the lake.

And then all was silent. The mallards continued their trip to the bridge; the swans went back to ducking for food, and Judy was never coming home.


Andy Mee is a teacher of English Literature working and living in the Welsh valleys with his wife and young daughter. Occasionally, when finding time away from analysing other authors' writing in the classroom, he likes to dabble with language and spin a yarn of his own. Andy has written short stories and poetry for a number of small press publications.