Book Review: Nothing But Blackened Teeth by Cassandra Khaw

Author: Cassandra Khaw

Publisher: Tor Nightfire

Release Date: October 19th, 2021

My Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars

Nothing but Blackened Teeth is a rare kind of horror novella. It’s a luxurious thing, keening and crackling with regret, haunting, and eventual viscera.

From the start of the story—as we are introduced to our principal characters—we can see the writing on the wall. There is Cat, a woman who is reluctantly attending the destination wedding between her best friend Faiz and his snide fiancé Nadia. The destination is a rotting Heian-era manor somewhere in Japan. This outing is being paid for by the story’s fourth major character, an all-American frat boy named Phillip. Cassandra Khaw’s story captures an interwoven mess of interpersonal relationships that are as overgrown and broken as the house where the plot unfolds. The story is part Gothic and part rotted fairy tale, complete with candles and legends of old.

Cassandra Khaw unspools Nothing but Blackened Teeth with powerful sentences that hum and crackle with energy. They’re the kind of sentences that other writers get jealous of, and I’m course including myself in that generalization. In turn, she builds her paragraphs carefully, each utterly readable sentence teeming with choice turns of phrase and description. The horror is present from the very first page and grows as our characters are consumed by the eerie atmosphere.

The true mark of a good horror writer is the ability to find the emotion beneath the terror. Cassandra Khaw does that and so much more. She can find the horror in nearly every moment, whether it’s in a mirror’s reflection or in the very human smell of international travel. Nothing but Blackened Teeth is a triumphant new work from Cassandra Khaw, and it will undoubtedly be an end of the year favorite when it releases in the cool of October.

(An ebook copy of Nothing but Blackened Teeth was provided for an honest review by Tor Nightfire.)

Interview in the A.M.

Photo credit: United Artists

Happy Thanksgiving, gang! This is my second holiday post, but it just kind of happened that way.

By now you’ve likely finished your football eating and food watching, so now you can move on to less made-up Thanksgiving activities. Let’s talk cake.

To celebrate National Cake Day (and Thanksgiving I guess), I’ve put out a free story over at Curious Fictions. It’s called ‘A Slice for Delilah’, and I think it’s quite a bit of fun. This also serves as a birthday story, so there is that.

I was also interviewed over at Horror Talk Radio earlier this month. We talked horror movies and publishing tips. It’s my first interview about my work, so it was pretty exciting. Check it out if you’re interested!

As a reminder; stay safe out there. Wear your mask and keep your distance.

Secluded Reminders, Transmitted Directly

Photo credit: Paramount Pictures

My wife Liz and I are currently in quarantine. No, We haven’t been exposed to COVID-19. And yes, we’ve moved from our place in Ohio and now I live in the UK! This is not a permanent arrangement. We’ll be here for the next couple of years, and then we’ll be off to parts unknown. We arrived in country last week, and we are currently mid-way through the aforementioned quarantine. A little while longer we’ll start the process of transitioning to our new life here in England…

So that’s a big life change! In regards to writing, I’m using this quarantine time to catch up on some writing, reading, and video games. It’s a little dull, but we are getting along okay.

Since the last night I posted, I’ve had a couple of pieces pop up into the world. Both reprints, and both on fiction podcasts. The first is a reprint of my lost media story ‘The Mouth That Opens’, which was featured on the Nocturnal Transmissions podcast. The second was my Lovecraftian piece ‘They Come Crawling’, done with incredible skill via The Night’s End Podcast. I love hearing my work adapted by talented people; it makes me look good.

I’m currently editing stories for two submission calls (one involving cake horror!), that I hope to have wrapped up in the next day or two. One positive aspect of quarantine; I got the time!

I have about four stories out on submission now, so once I hear something I’ll let you all know.

For now, I’ll be seeing you on the other side, on a far more open shore…


The Allure of Boulder Escapism

Image credit: Paramount Pictures/Lucasfilm LTD.

We are living in some strange times. I got to thinking about the site today and how I haven’t posted anything since January. This has to be the longest four months of my life, and I know that I’m not alone.

So what have I been up to? Well, since I work in a hospital, I’ve been staying plenty busy at work. When I’m not working and thinking about COVID-19, I’ve been doing what everyone else has. Watching TV & movies, playing video games, reading books, etc. I re-watched the main Indiana Jones trilogy, which continue to be the gold standard for everything adventure films should be. Globe-trotting and boulder escapism have never seemed more alluring.  Under that same category I watched the John Wick trilogy, which rock harder than I could have ever dreamed.

I’ve been gaming like a fiend as well, writing features for my Medium publication. It’s called Game Loot, and it’s an experiment. I’ve mentioned several times that I’ve wanted to write about games, and I figured the most fun way to do so is to try out Medium! I have mixed feelings, but I plan on sticking with it at least until December or January of next year.

I’ve been catching up on my reading as well, and I’m using this thread to capture my thoughts on what I’m reading through-out the year. Lots of good horror, lots of good fiction.

Last thing before I wrap this up: I’ve got a couple stories I’m actively working on. Even though the world is a mess, publications always need work. As always, when stuff drops I’ll post about it on here.

Quick ranking (best to the very absolute worst): Raiders, Temple of Doom, Last Crusade, Crystal Skull

post script: I put together a flash story. It’s a small thing, hidden away on my Letterboxd account. I hope you like it. The spring always needs more ghost stories.

Incoming Nocturnal Transmissions

As we near the tail end of January, I thought I’d drop in to update you all on the happenings in my writing world.

The first (and biggest) news is that a podcast called Nocturnal Transmissions will be adapting my short story ‘The Mouth That Opens’ for an episode! It was originally published in the relaunch of Sanitarium Magazine (featured here), so I’m thrilled that it will be published again! Though I don’t have an exact date for the episodes release, I’m excited to see what the talented team at Nocturnal Transmissions can do.

I also have a few pieces out at Signal Horizon. They are not writing focused, instead high-lighting my interests in video games. One is about my favorite games of 2019, and the other is a short review of a comedy-RPG called Cthulhu Saves Christmas! High Fever Books will also be publishing a new book review from me next week, as well as a list of horror books to look forward to throughout 2020. A little reminder: as I publish stories and get more freelance work, my Bibliography will be updated accordingly!

My Favorite Things of 2019

The year that was 2019 has (thankfully) gone away, leaving us to start anew in 2020. While 2019 wasn’t as great entertainment wise as 2018, it still had a lot of incredible things worth checking out. If you want to see what I liked last year, you can click here.

Just like last year’s piece, instead of giving each media form an article, I’m just going to sum everything up in this instead! So buckle up and let’s dive in…

My Favorite Movie of the Year

Once Upon a Time… In Hollywood

Once Upon a Time.gif

I’m not shocked that this has earned the spot. Quentin Tarantino’s newest feature is a love letter to a bygone era. It’s got a dynamite cast and all the Tarantino style that you could ever want. This is also the director’s most mature work. While it’s violent and loud, we spend a lot of time just hanging out in this world. I could spend another ten hours with Clint and Rick.

Honorable Mentions: Doctor Sleep, Spider-Man: Far from Home, Marriage Story, Us, Annabelle Comes Home

Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to watch a number of well regarded films. Parasite and Little Women being up there. Doctor Sleep was my second favorite, which proves that Mike Flanagan can do no wrong.

My Favorite Video Game of the Year

Pokemon Sword & Shield

Pokemon Sword and SHield.gif

I just hit 100 hours and I don’t think I’m even close to done yet? Pokemon Sword & Shield loved up the promise of our first console entry. Even though it’s release was met with some controversy, I think it has since proved itself as a fantastic entry. The Galar region is one of the best maps in ages, the new Pokemon are instantly iconic, and the Wild Area is extremely inspired.

Honorable Mentions: Fire Emblem: Three Houses, Death Stranding, Control, Days Gone, Super Mario Maker 2.

The moral of the story for gaming in 2019: Nintendo is back in a very big way.

My Favorite Book of the Year

In a year where I devoured short story collections like sinister candy, I found this choice particully diffucult. I read a whole boatload of excellent fiction by authors both new and old to me. I’ve added multiple authors that I will will always be on the look out for now.

Wounds: Six Stories from the Abyss by Nathan Ballingrud


Wounds deserves the top spot. I’m in awe of this collection. It’s all at once haunting, grotesque, stunningly original. I said in my Goodreads review that it is a testament to what a horror collection should look like. As I acculimate publications and look to build a collection of my own, it’s books like this one. Also: I got a chance to meet Nathan at NecronomiCon Providence, and I can confirm he’s a super nice guy. Read Wounds. You won’t be sorry.

Honorable Mentions: Into Bones Like Oil by Kaaron Warren, Full Throttle by Joe Hill, Song for the Unraveling of the World by Brian Evenson.

Though I don’t have a catergory for it, I also read a handful of older books that deserve to be talked about as well. The Elementals by Michael Mcdowell is an undersung masterpiece, and is my favorite novel of the year. It released back in 1981, so it did not qualify for the top spot here. In anticipation for HBO’s adapation of Stephen King’s 2018 book The Outsider, I read that as well. It felt like vintage King filtered through his more controlled approach to story-telling.

And that’s it! Happy 2019/2020 everybody!


Changes to the Blog

Hello everyone!

Though I’ve been around, I took a small break for the holiday season. Thanksgiving is chaos and the Christmas season is more of the same. This small break has made me realize something: I need to change something up here.

In the past twoish years, I’ve been dedicated to three posts a month here on my blog: an interview, a feature, and a Monthly Wrap-up at the end. For awhile, I enjoyed these pieces. But, as time has gone on, I’ve seen a problem. I now do freelance work for multiple sites that have been eating up my non-fiction writing time. The interviews are amazing (I’ll still be doing those!) but the Monthly Reviews are by FAR my lowest viewed articles. So, for 2020 and beyond, I’m switching things up.

I’ve been studying what other author websites look like, and I’m going to adopt their methods. I’m going to do different pieces, but they are going to be focused on sharing what I’ve got going on in other places. New reviews, features and other publishing news. I’ll still be doing a Monthly Interview, but my input will likely fall away here. If I want to I’ll likely still post random articles, but I’ll be doing less lists and features here.

I’m excited for 2020. I have a flurry of posts coming this month and then in January, but then things will slow down. I’ll still be around. But it will likely be in other places and forms.

Thanks for everything you folks do and I’ll see you again soon.

Loading: My 10 Favorite Pokemon

In honor of a new game in my favorite franchise (Pokémon Sword & Shield!) I wanted to talk about some of my favorite Pokémon! I love this franchise and all of it’s colorful, interesting monsters. These games have entertained me for about two decades, and this new entry on a console is something I’ve been dreaming about for forever. So let’s rank some Pokémon!

Number 10:

250px-635HydreigonI wanted to start my Top 10 list with the mini-King Ghidorah himself: Hydreigon! Every generation has it’s pseudo-legendary Dragon type, and Black/White had this beast! I grinded to have one of these guys for what felt like a million years back when I played it in 2010. A menacing design and decent stats help this guy earn my #10 spot.


Number 9:


Being the horror writer that I am, I love me some Gothic design. Slap a creepy mansion on the side of a crumbling cliff and I will come running. With some of the new Pokémon appearing in Sword/Shield, I’m one or two Pocket Monsters away from a Gothic themed team. And that’s why I love Chandelure. If you excuse me, The Manderley is calling…


Number 8:


Excuse me… What took so long to get a T-Rex Pokémon!? It took forever! But I think Tyrantrum was worth the wait. Just look at him! What a beast. This dude’s got Cool Points to spare. And they even gave him Dragon as a secondary type. Be still my tyrant heart.



Number 7:


 And now for my first dip into Gen 1. Dragonite has been one of my favorite Pokemon since the very beginning. When Lance (with that CAPE!) sent his first Dragonite out, I was blown away. It wasn’t what I expected, but the design remains powerful and iconic all these years later. Though he may be a little derpy, Dragonite has earned his spot on so many of my teams.


Number 6:


Look… I have a thing for the Pokemon used by region Champions. We aren’t even halfway through this list and you’ve seen two of them. But! Metagross is a beast. Used by Steven, he’s a rare mix of Steel/Psychic type. He may be slow, but his formidable design on the field is nothing to scoff at. While Generation 3 has never been my favorite groups of new Pokémon, Metagross is its highlight.

Number 5:


We are at nearly a thousand Pokemon. But Generation after Generation, the original three starters have stayed at the forefront of fans’ minds. I’m one of those fans. The Venusaur line was not my first choice growing up. Grass=lame. But this earth-shaking tree-dino has loomed large for me as I’ve gotten older. One of the stronger starters competively, if I need a Grass or Poison type, I look to my boy Venusaur first.

Number 4:


We are nearing the end. The lights are fading. What’s that? Is that a smile in the dark?

Gengar is terrifying. He was the Boogeyman in Red/Blue, a Pokémon that I desperately wanted for years. For me, he’s the ultimate Ghost type. Great stats and iconic design, coupled with what is perhaps my favorite Mega-Evolution. It’s rare that Gengar doesn’t pop on my team.


Number 3:


Since the day that I first played Pokémon Red, Charizard has always been one of my favorites. He was my first starter, and a legend on the playground, whether he was on a foil card or leading your digital team. Though he’s been outclassed competively by other Fire types, Charizard will always stick in my mind. Plus, Game Freak keeps giving me new forms to be amazed by. Stop being awesome, Game Freak!


Number 2:


My number two slot belongs to the mighty Sandstormin’ Tyranitar. While every Pokémon on this list holds a special place in my heart, Tyranitar stands tall among them. One of my favorite designs wrapped up in a pseudo-legendary that awed me from the first moment I saw it. Whenever I create a Pokemon team, Tyranitar almost always earns a spot. When I learned that his line appears in Sword/Shield, I knew this new Generation was going to rock.

Number 1:

250px-230Kingdra.pngWe’ve arrived at my Number 1 pick. Kingdra is my definitive number 1, and here is why. Looking at the rest of the list, you can see all the reasons that these other Pokémon are here. They have iconic designs. They are strong battlers. They either play to my nostalgia or have been found on my team before. I prefer intimidating, terrifying Pokémon. I think Kingdra fills all these stops. When Clair first sent out Kingdra against me in Gold, my team was wiped out. When I finally found a Dragon Scale and convincing my friend to help me evolve my Seadra, I was over the moon. Kingdra’s cool typing and design have always appealed to me. He ticks all the boxes. It’s how it is. Kingdra is my favorite Pokémon of all time.

We are two days out from Sword/Shield! I’ll be there day one, ready to catch them all.


Monthly Review: October 2019

Happy Halloween!!!!

Before we sit down for Silver Shamrock’s giveaway tonight, let’s do a quick Monthly Review!

I put out a lot of awesome pieces to celebrate this month. Two free stories (one in an entirely new format for me!) and a few other non-fiction pieces. But before we get to them, let’s talk submissions!

Story Submissions:

New Submissions: 2

Stories Still Out in the Wild: 3

Acceptances: 0

Rejections: 1

Two new submissions this month! The flash fiction story I mentioned in last month’s review was not picked up for the contest, so I’ve submitted it to a flash fiction venue. Fingers crossed on that!

The second submission is a new piece, in a completely new format for me. It’s an Interactive Fiction piece entitled The Crimson Terrors of Delamay House. If you’re unfamiliar with interactive fiction, think of old games like Zork, or even those Choose-Your-Own-Adventure Books that everyone used to love. The market is a thing called ECTOCOMP 2019, where people submit their interactive story to see who can get the most votes. The only stipulation was that the story had to be written in under 4 hours. So, this piece isn’t 100% polished. It’s a great idea, and as soon as I heard about it, I knew I had to participate. The game can be played on your phone or right in your browser. It’s only a few minutes long, so it will be perfect for Halloween! Voting has begun today, so I’m going to cross my fingers! Should be exciting!

What else have I been doing?

The Noble Horror Film Festival (2019)!


This is the second October that I’ve done this, and it was such a fun thing to write. I tried to dig in a little deeper in order to make my ultimate all-night horror fest this time, and I think I put together a dynamite line-up.

Best Books For Halloween

Best Books For Halloween

Every October I do my best to fill my month with the best that Horror Fiction has to offer. And judging by the other lists I found online, I’m not the only one. So, I thought I would offer up some suggestions on some of my favorite books for these sacred autumn nights. I think there is something for everyone on this list.

The Glowing Dark


And on to the other free story for this month! I wrote this story specifically for my blog! I made my promise earlier this year that I write a fungi monster story. It’s a monster I haven’t touched on yet, and I figured this was the time. This story features The Harwood Twins, two twins that hunt monsters. I wanted something pulpy and just a little silly, and this story is exactly what I needed. This is also perfect Halloween reading. I hope you enjoy it!

And that’s it for October! It was a wonderful month filled with all the things that make the horror genre so very special. I’ll see you again in November!

The Glowing Dark

It’s Halloween Week! I’ve written a story to celebrate this glorious holiday, and I wanted to share it with you great people!

This story fulfills two of my writing goals for 2019: put up a free story for Halloween and write a story featuring a certain kind of beastie… I’d like you to meet the Harwood Twins and witness their cold quest. I hope you enjoy this story. I know I enjoyed writing it.

The Glowing Dark


The Harwood twins chartered a ship from the village. It had taken a considerable effort and a lot of money, but they’d made it happen. The only person willing to take them to the north shore of Ballaghbrack Island was a drunk captain that piloted a rusted lobster boat.

Cassandra leaned on the rusted railing of the boat and fished out a cigarette. The ocean churned and thrashed before her, the overcast sky turning the sea dark. The ship moved with it, dipping low and heaving with every crashing wave. The rumble of thunder could be heard in the distance, but rain only threatened. The remnants of the day’s sunshine were being smothered by the storm.

Cassandra snapped her fingers at the end of her cigarette and a green spark appeared. She lit it and then shook her hand to extinguish the tiny flame. Her brother Cash, seated on a derelict bench behind her, was looking over their supplies one last time.

The brother and sister team did not travel light. It was a reality of their profession. They were monster hunters, called upon to dispatch any denizens of the night that over-stepped the natural order. Cassandra and Cash both carried a set of pistols on every job. While bullets were useless against some creatures of the night, they worked beautifully for others. They also carried a myriad of other weaponry, each customized to deal with different situations. Shrapnel bombs filled with broken cross wood. Knives and stakes. Some modified heavy artillery (always Cash’s favorite). Their father, Lord Harwood, had taught them that the right weapons could always save the day. And in the five years that they’d been hunting together, that knowledge had served them well.

Cassandra puffed on her cigarette and looked back out toward the ocean. The island would be making its appearance soon enough. Like most of the islands on this part of the Irish coast, Ballaghbrack Island was just a rocky slab, devoid of vegetation and inhabitants. Though it was unattractive, fishermen did find reasons to visit its shores. But then fishermen started going missing. One such fisherman ran into the village screaming about ‘swollen monsters’. That lead to the village elder looking for help. That’s how he found the Harwood family.

Because the fisherman’s description had been vague, Cassandra made Cash bring all of his deadly toys. Cash handled the weaponry and loved doing it. Cassandra had her own methods of destruction. She—like many of the people in their family—had special abilities. Cassandra could conjure flames from her hands. While prolonged use of her ability was dangerous to her health, it gave her an edge in certain kinds of encounters. Cash had no such ability, but he was as well-trained as Cassandra in all manners of combat. They’d been raised to be true warriors.

The rain came. The wind whipped it hard enough to sting. Cash cursed and closed their bags, his eyes squinted to protect them from the deluge. Cassandra grunted and tossed her cigarette over the side. Through the wall of rain before them, she could just make out the hard shore of Ballaghbrack Island.

Cash joined his sister at the railing, holding out her bag. Cassandra took it and slung it over her shoulder.

“What do you think we’ll find here? What kind of creatures are we up against?”

“I’m not sure, Cash,” Cassandra said, shrugging.

“The elder said the island was once used for worship. He said we should head to the altar on the southern side.”

At the word ‘altar’, Cassandra looked at her brother. “Maybe it’s some kind of evil deity? Something we need to put down?”

Cash grinned. “We’ll find out soon enough, sister.”

The island came closer, and before too long they were right on top of the beach. The captain blew the ship’s horn and the siblings readied to disembark.

“It appears that the Captain has no wish to speak to us again before we head off to face the monsters of Ballaghbrack Island.” Cash said, hazarding a look back toward the ship’s cabin.

Cassandra scoffed. “He’s probably hoping we don’t come back.”

The boat bumped into the shore and the siblings hopped overboard. Their boots crunched rock. Cash gave the boat a shove and it went back out into the choppy water. Cassandra waited, her eyes on the darkening sky. The arrangement was that the captain was to set up anchor and wait for the siblings to complete their hunt. Neither twin had much faith in this captain.

The two of them set off across the island. The soil was hard, and what little grass persisted was brittle and long dead. Weak looking trees had somehow clawed their way through the harsh ground. Because they were both fit and accustomed to long walks, the two of them made good time.

After a while, the rain tapered down into a thick mist. As the two siblings walked, they kept their eyes peeled. The further inland they went, they began to notice more vegetation was finding its way through the stones. As they reached a particularly steep hill, Cash paused and knelt down. The ground was overgrown with patches of spongy growth.

“These rocks are covered in mold.”

“And?” Cassandra grunted.

“It’s late autumn in Ireland. There’s no humidity. Just rain and cold. Mold shouldn’t be growing here on the rocks.”

Cassandra looked to the slope. The mold patches grew more frequent as they went up, each thicker than the last. “That seems odd. But we’re hardly fungi experts. Maybe some kind of local strain?”

Cash stood up. “I suppose so. Let’s keep moving before the rain comes back,” He motioned toward the hill, “I feel like we’re close.”

The siblings crested the hill together, rocks tumbling away as their boots found purchase. At the top, they both stopped.

Cash chuckled. “I hate it when I’m right.”

The hill sloped down dramatically on the other side, leading straight into what they had come for. A circle of stone monoliths, each standing over ten feet tall. In the very center of the stones appeared to be a crude altar. All around it, on nearly every surface, was the same mold that the siblings had found before. It grew thick and violent, with troops of misshapen mushrooms popping up intermittently.

Cash squinted. “How is this possible? It’s everywhere!”

Cassandra drew one of her pistols. “It must be the monoliths. Something is exerting an influence here. And my guess is the influence will do anything to protect itself.”

“As much as I would like to avoid it, I think we should continue down to the altar.” Cash said, eyeing the ground. Even though they were both protected from disease by magical wards, the idea of taking the chance didn’t appeal. Cassandra nodded and began to walk down.

As the siblings neared the first monolith, they looked up at it. Though covered in mold, they could both make out some features. A beak-like countenance. Grand wings. Huddled figures, arms raised in veneration.

As they stepped into the stone circle, the ground trembled beneath their feet. Then, the mold began to glow green. It started light, and then grew glaring.

All around them, the ground began to break. As the rotten ground peeled up, figures pulled themselves from the dirt. They were vaguely humanoid, but all humanlike features had been consumed by the mold. Layers of heavy mushroom growth hung from their bodies, weighing them down. Their arms were swollen mounds of glowing green flesh, flowered and horrible. The Fungi Monsters numbered in the dozens. And they were advancing.

Cash drew both of his pistols. He spun and opened fire, the gunshots echoing out. Cassandra dodged a clumsy grab from the nearest monster and emptied her guns into it. The bullets tore into the meaty fungus, throwing chunks to the radiant ground. But the bullets did nothing to slow them down. All the while, more monsters were being born from the moldy ground, dragging their enormous bodies toward the siblings as they fought.

Both of Cash’s guns clicked empty and he threw them aside. “Forget about guns, Cassandra! They’re useless!”

Cassandra threw her own guns back into her holsters. “Use the incendiary bombs! Let’s see how these things like fire!”

Cassandra held out her hands. Emerald sparks flew from her fingertips and two balls of flame came to riotous life. With a growl, Cassandra thrust her arms forward. The twin fireballs struck the nearest Fungi Monster with a ripe whoosh. The creature let out an unearthly howl, its flesh sloughing off in burning chunks.

Cash cheered and lit a bomb. He spun and rolled one under the feet of the nearest monstrosity. Boom. The fungi creature was thrown into the air, blown nearly in half. The twins continued to fight. Cassandra threw fire. Cash threw bombs. Fire roared and devoured. The mold on the ground caught fire and spread, racing outward. The air stank of burning mold and flesh.


The fungal army was beginning to slow. Cassandra and Cash stepped closer to each other, their faces drenched in sweat. They’d found a bare patch of ground, free from mold and from flame.

“What’s the end game here, Cassandra? Burn the whole island down!?”

“These creatures are born of the mold! We burn the mold, no more problem!”

Lightning split the sky and a great grinding noise broke through the air. Cassandra and Cash spun, their faces alight from the flames around them.

The altar had broken in half, leaving a jagged whole in the center. Steam rolled from the shattered stone, glowing and billowing into the night mist. An enormous arm shot out of the fissure, a massive claw at the end of a long, ebony arm. The claw stabbed into the ground before the altar and began to pull.

The creature that emerged bore a resemblance to the visage on the monoliths. It was thin and bent, as large as an elephant. Its beak-like face opened and closed, revealing gnarled teeth and a glowing gullet. A set of crusty wings attempted to unfurl, but were impeded by the growth that had overtaken its ebony body. Monstrous clusters of fungal growth had encased its limbs and torso, grey and mottled with age. Two green eyes blinked and spin, its focus set on the siblings.

“I think we found the source of the mold.” Cash said.

“We need firepower. All of the firepower.” Cassandra whispered.

“Coming right up!”

As Cash turned away, the Fungal Bird suddenly raced forward. It opened its jagged beak and let out a fearsome screech.

Cassandra let out a scream of her own and threw up her arms. She let loose two streams of bright green fire, both of which struck the Fungal Bird square in its chest. The force of it staggered the beast for a moment. The flame glanced off its foul skin and ignited the masses of scattered fungi that hung from its body. But it wasn’t enough. The Fungal Bird’s head turned. It took one shaky step forward. Then another. Cassandra’s arms shook and her flame stream faltered. Soon, it would be upon them.

“I’ve been looking forward to using this.”

Cash stepped up and shouldered a grenade launcher.

“Bye bye birdie.” Cash said, grinning. He pulled the trigger.

The grenade launcher kicked up and the grenade struck the Fungal Bird in its wide chest. Cassandra dropped her arms, her power spent. For an agonizing moment, the fired grenade spun on the ground beneath the massive creature. The twins hit the dirt.

The grenade exploded.

The shrapnel tore up and through the Fungal Bird’s torso and legs. The creature screamed and pitched over, its broken body slamming into the smoldering ground. The Fungal Bird screeched weakly, blood running from its obliterated body. As the siblings watched, the creature slowly died.

Cash, grinning like a fool, looked around. What Fungal Monsters they hadn’t destroyed had crumbled into piles of flowered flesh. The battle was done.

Cassandra collapsed, her eyes fluttering.

Cash knelt beside her. “We’ve done it! I certainly wasn’t expecting a bird demon to come out of the altar, but I guess these kind of things happen.”

“I’m glad you brought that gun,” Cassandra said weakly, “I thought we were dead. Heavens. I’ve never thrown that much fire before. Ever.”

Cash considered that. “Father would be proud. He always knew you had potential.” Cash looked at all the smoldering corpses around them. “Let’s get out of here.”

Cassandra nodded. “Help me up.”

Together, Cassandra and Cash began the long walk back the way they had come. As the last of the Ballaghbrack Island fungi burned, the storm clouds broke. The moon shined through, bathing the island in natural light.