Horror Fiction

This story contains themes or mentions of physical violence, gore, or abuse.

“We’re screwed.”

The night is black, the road desolate, a seemingly endless stretch of unlit asphalt that disappears into the murk of impenetrable fog.

“We just need to keep heading south,” Brendan says.

“We’re screwed,” Chari says again. “No map, no GPS, we shouldn’t have taken this back road.”

A deer runs out of the fog, into the beam of the headlights.

Brendan turns the wheel to avoid the animal. Chari screams. The car skids off the road, into the ditch. A hard stop. Seatbelts bite into their flesh.

* * *

Standing outside the car, Chari says: “Now what?”

“We’re screwed,” Brendan says. “No bars on my cell phone. How about yours?”

“No signal.”


Headlights, the sound of an engine — deep, throaty. Then, out of the fog, a vehicle emerges, black, long. It’s a hearse, but a steampunk masterpiece of a hearse, with heavy ironwork, mechanical intricacies of clockwork cogwheels and pipes worked into its metal surface, insectile, like a macabre exoskeleton.

The hearse stops, the driver’s side door opens, and a man steps out.

He is tall, very tall, six foot five at least, and thin, so thin at first he seems fragile like he might break, but when he moves towards them he is sinewy, strong. He is dressed in black from his shiny, pointed boots to his black top hat, wearing a black suit, black shirt, black driving gloves. His hair is jet black, as are his finely formed eyebrows and his pointed black beard and thin mustache. His skin is a pale white, his eyes a hypnotic swirl of silver and grey.

“Seems like you could use some help.” His voice rich and smooth as aged whiskey. Chari feels it hit the pit of her stomach, burning, then a chill, both soothing and unsettling.

“Indeed we could,” Brendan says. “Looks like you came just in time.”

“That’s one hell of a ride you got there,” Chari says. “Very… unique.” She holds out her hand. “I’m Chari. Short for Charikleia.”

“Charikleia, that is also very … unique.” He accepts her hand, his grip cold and strong, and he holds it just a little too long. “I am Airon Bellerophon Chevalier.” He turns to Brendan.

“Brendan,” says Brendan. “Schuyler.” He shakes Chevalier’s hand.

“So, it’s Brendan and Charikleia Schuyler,” Chevalier says, then winks at Chari. “But you go by Chari, right?”

“That’s right, Mr. Chevalier.”

“Call me Airon.” He opens the door to the black steampunk hearse. “Let’s get you to a warmer place.”

* * *

The logs crackle in the fireplace in the dining room in Chevalier’s mansion.

Before them is an enormous feast of sliced meats, three kinds of gravy, seven kinds of cheeses, olives, fruit, and bottles of red and white wine.

“Chari, you’re not hungry?” Their host has already eaten one plate full and is loading up a second.

"Well, yes … no … " Chari pushes away the plate with two small slices of meat and one olive, none of which she has touched. “It’s too late.”

“At least try one bite,” Chevalier says. “For hospitality.”

“It is really good, honey,” says Brendan.

Chari shoots him a look. Brendan looks away.

Chari pulls her plate closer and cuts off one small bite of the sliced meat.

* * * 

“I’m glad to see you enjoy the meal,” Chevalier says, his voice as smooth as the red wine he pours into her glass. “It’s not often I get guests who appreciate my… unique culinary skills.”

Chari looks up from her plate — her fourth plateful devoured in a dreamlike frenzy — and drains her fifth glass of lush red wine.

"I can’t believe I — " She looks at the empty plate. “That was the best meal I’ve had in … forever.”

“I am so glad you liked it,” Chevalier says, leaning back in his chair. “I have a penchant for… unusual ingredients. Gives the dishes a certain… je ne sais quoi.”

“But I really shouldn’t have.” Head dizzy from the wine, Chari feels relaxed, and — for the first time in a long, long time — full and satisfied. “You see Mr. Chevalier —”


“Airon … you see, I’ve recently lost a lot of weight, more than fifty pounds.” She looks at Brendan. “For our wedding. And for … other reasons.”

“Starving yourself,” Chevalier says.


“You lost weight for your wedding. And other reasons. What other reasons, if I may ask?”

It all tumbles out. The hurtful comments on social media, the shaming, the cruel words from bullies hiding behind anonymous usernames and false profile pictures. A world that should have offered connection and companionship, social media is a cesspool of judgement, an arena for public shaming, a constant reminder of society’s obsession with the ‘perfect’ body, a judge that never sleeps.

Even when she logged off, the words followed her, their echo as real as any physical wound. Every laughter she heard, every sideways glance, she attributed to her appearance. The mirror reflected not just her physical self, but the cruel words that had been etched onto her soul. It was a relentless war, one that she fought every day, every hour, every minute. Chari’s struggle wasn’t just with her weight — it was with a world that refused to see beyond it.

“I understand,” Chevalier says. “I too lost a great deal of weight, a long time ago. I hated feeling famished all the time.”

“You don’t seem to have a weight problem,” Chari says.

“Not anymore.”

* * *

Chari wakes up in the soft bed in the dark room, at first disoriented, then it all comes back to her.

She reaches out to Brendan’s side of the bed.

It’s empty.

“Brendan,” she whispers.

No answer.

Chari gets out of bed, pulling on her robe, turning on the flashlight on her phone, the light dancing around the room. No Brendan.

In the hallway, the floorboards creak under her feet.

What is this on the floor.

Drops of blood?

No, it’s red candle wax.

Chari follows the candle wax drippings down the stairs, into the dining room, then into the kitchen, all the way up to a door marked:


She opens the door.

The room is cold.

The light from her cell phone shivers across the far wall, then up to the ceiling where she sees iron chains hanging down. At the end of the chains, meat hooks. And the “meat” …

Human cadavers.

“But you already knew, Chari.”

Chevalier is right behind her.

She swings around, the flashlight illuminating him as he towers over her.

“Stay away.”

She backs up, bumps into something cold, hard — frozen meat.

“You knew,” he says, as he moves closer, “and yet you ate.”

“I didn’t—”

“Oh, yes you did. But do you know who I am?”

“Your’e … you’re a cannibal.”

“And …”

“A serial killer. What have you done with Brendan?”

“More importantly. What will I do with you?”


“Is that all.” He approaches, two more steps and then he is right next to her. In the dark, the flashlight catches his eyes and they glow red. “Cannibal. Serial killer. Is that all I am? Search your mind, Chari.”

“No.” Why does she suddenly feel so calm? “No, there’s more to you.”

“‘And behold, a black horse’.” He holds out his hand. “‘And its rider had a pair of scales in his hand’.” There on the back of his right hand, the tattoo of scales. “That is who I am. Do you recognize it?”

“The tattoo?”

“No, the passage of scripture. It is from the Book of Revelation. Chapter six, verse five to be precise. The Rider of the Black Horse, the Third Horseman of the Apocalypse. Famine. That is who I am.”

Chari laughs, and she can’t stop laughing, the laughter echoing in the cold room, her breath condensing in white puffs of misty clouds.

And then she notices. There is no condensed air emanating from him.

“You’re not … breathing.”

He grabs her hand, places it on his thin chest.

No heartbeat.

“Who are you?”

“I just told you. Do you believe?”


“Good. I am so tired, Chari. You will be just right for the job.”

“What do you mean?”

“The Third Horseman. Famine. It is a job, Chari. As with any job, it has its compensation, its perks. As with any job, it can get wearisome, over time.”

“I don’t understand.”

“I have been the Third Horseman for four hundred years. I am ready to retire, to hand over the reins to this black horse. I am offering you the job.”


“Yes, Chari, you understand famine, that particular modern-world, self-imposed famine — starvation to earn appreciation.”

“I don’t—”

“Let me tell you about the perks of the job, Chari. You can eat whatever you want and you will stay thin. You will have eternal life. Eternal youth. Forever. Or as long as you still want the job, until you tire of it, if ever you do.”

“I don’t want to eat human flesh.”

“That is not part of the job description, Chari. It is merely my own particular … taste.”


“You can eat whatever you want, according to your own peculiar tastes, Chari. Do you want cakes and hamburgers, nachos and chocolate, donuts and chicken wings, steak and ice cream, candy and chili dogs, pizza and margaritas, cookies and Kung Pao? Eat whatever you like, as much as you like, forever, and no matter what or how much you eat and drink, you will effortlessly stay thin. Let all the haters envy you. Let them starve themselves. Let them eat rice cake. Let them famish while you enjoy the feast of life. To accept the job, there is just one thing you need to do.”

* * *

“Chari?” Brendan pushes open the door to the meat locker. “Are you here?”

It is pitch black.

Brendan shines the flashlight from his phone, and there, in the corner …

He sees Chari, back to him, hunched over Chevalier.

“Chari, what are you doing?”

She stands up, her back to him still.

The lifeless form of Chevalier slumps over, revealing the bloody mess of his stomach, ripped open.

Chari turns to face Brendan, blood all over her face, and she’s chewing, chewing. She brings her hand to her mouth, sinks her teeth into the red hunk of flesh torn from Chevalier’s corpse, rips, chews, swallows. There is a tattoo on the back of her hand — scales.

“Honey,” she says, “I have a new job.”

August 04, 2023 14:30

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Sarah Saleem
16:33 Aug 31, 2023

Thrilling read! Loved the take on modern dieting culture!


Geir Westrul
11:04 Oct 09, 2023

Sarah, thank you! I'm so glad you liked the story.


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Mary Bendickson
16:54 Aug 05, 2023

Echo chamber here. Echoing what others have said.


Geir Westrul
11:05 Oct 09, 2023



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Kevin Logue
13:17 Aug 05, 2023

That was thoroughly engrossing, great flow, well written and kept me guessing. A great submission Geir! Love the idea that the jobs of horsemen pass to a chosen person if they so desire. And the reflections to starving for the sake of social media added such a deeper edge. Well done! I noticed a small typo early on - "He is dressed in black from his his shiny,..."


Geir Westrul
11:07 Oct 09, 2023

Kevin, a belated thank you for catching the typo. I was able to update the story before it closed for the submission. I'm glad you enjoyed the story!


Kevin Logue
16:20 Oct 09, 2023

No problem at all, if I could only spot them in my own stories it would be half the battle.


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06:58 Aug 05, 2023

Nice little horror tale Geir. The names are great I'm a sucker for unique character names. Like the idea of bringing the horsemen into the modern are via social media. Makes perfect sense actually! We all have to upskill these days to keep relevant 😂 Great work!


Geir Westrul
11:08 Oct 09, 2023

Derrick, yes, I suppose the horseman always have to stay up with the times, which it why it makes sense to pass on the job to the next generation from time to time.


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Chris Miller
17:40 Aug 04, 2023

A fun bit of horror, Geir. Nope, you probably wouldn't expect to stumble on an opportunity to become one of the horsemen of the apocalypse! Lovely selection/creation of character names. Her experience of social media is why she's suitable for the job, but it will also be how she does her work as a horseman to bring about the apocalypse. Good story. Thanks for sharing.


Geir Westrul
11:04 Oct 09, 2023

Chris, yes, it qualifies as "something you wouldn't expect".


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Graham Kinross
06:01 Jan 18, 2024

This feels like something from Good Omens or Preacher. Nice modern twist on famine. Self imposed starvation is an odd phenomenon.


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