By Jim Graves

He stared into her eyes. To him it was the most intimate thing you could share with someone, staring them in the eye. It gave you an insight to the person’s soul. Or so he thought.

There were three stages to this. The first was shock. They couldn’t believe someone was actually trying to strangle them. This was the stage that involved the most resistance. The fighting and kicking. But once he had hold, well, it was pretty much onto the next stage.

Fear. That’s when their eyes open wider and they finally realize they can’t breathe. That was his favorite stage. To see that look of fear mixed with surprise. The struggling, the guttural sounds fighting to make way from their throats. He was no rapist but he definitely got pleasure from this. Their life was literally in his hands. For the next six minutes – give or take – he was God. He could allow them to live or he could and would take their life. What a rush.

It takes between thirty seconds and one minute of pressure for someone to pass out. And another four and a half to five minutes of constant pressure to ensure death. It’s not for the weak. You have to be in shape to strangle someone. You also have to be mentally strong. You’ve come too far to back out. If they survive, you’re looking at at least ten years in prison. His motto was, never start what you’re not going to finish. He always finished.

The third stage is acceptance. They realize there is nothing they can do and they just give up. Well, actually, they pass out. Same thing in his book. If they really wanted to live they would have fought harder, right? Right.

But his attention was always drawn to the eyes. You can actually see them change color. Not just the whites of their eyes, which will become bloodshot from the blood vessels bursting, no, the eyes will actually start to fade a little, lose color. And eventually, if you watch closely, you can see them start to turn a pale shade of gray. He always preferred to call that the death stare. The eyes are open but not for business. When you see that shade of gray, that’s when you know you’re straddling a dead body.

They’re so perfect at that point. No faults. No judging. No lies. Just perfect human beings, albeit dead, but still. He had strangled forty-seven at last count, but he never was any good at keeping count. You don’t really worry about the numbers when you enjoy what you’re doing. You just do it for the sake of doing it and go on with your life. After all, isn’t that what life is all about? Make time for the things you enjoy. If not for that, life would be pretty dull, wouldn’t it?

Death Of A Porn Star by Jim Graves

He was concentrating, thinking of baseball, golf. It wasn’t working. He slowed down. Nope. It was going to happen. And it did. It was obvious to anyone who had been in the business for a while.

“Cut!” The director yelled. “What the fuck, man? You just blew the money shot. You get paid for the goddamned money shot, you know that, right?”

“Sorry, I got excited,” Hank said.

“You got excited? What is this, your senior fucking prom?”

“Fuck you. You can’t talk to me that way. I’m a star,” Hank said.

“A star? Do you believe the ego on this guy?” The director said to no one in particular. “You’re nothing but a dick in a gonzo. The people want to see the girl. They want to see the girl getting fucked. And they want to see the cum on her tits. They don’t care who you are. You’re just the dick. Your days of being a star are long gone. You need to get that through both heads.”

“Fuck this shit, I’m out of here,” Hank said.

“Go on and leave. You know how much you made today?” The director said. “Not a goddamn dime. You think you’re the only nine inch dick in town? There are guys waiting in line to take your place. And they’re a hell of a lot younger than you. The choices for old timers like you are few and far between and you just blew your chance of ever working with me again.”

“He came inside me.” The girl said. “Am I gonna be okay?”

“Yeah. He’s clean. He’s just a prima donna asshole.”

Hank stormed to the closet that was used as a dressing room.

No one talked to him like that. Anyone who had been in the business long enough, knew you treated the talent with respect. He was Hank Buttler. The name alone deserved respect. More than twenty years in the business. He had been featured in Porn Superstars Of The ‘90’s, goddammit!

After he dressed, he left through the back door and got into his ‘72 Camaro. Turned the key and stomped on the accelerator on his way out of the parking lot. Macho anger. He had been in the business since the eighties, when he left his home in Arkansas. He knew then if he made it out to California, he would be a star. He was right. And he was still a star, in his own mind. Time has a way of changing things. Stars fall.

He was pulled over less than a block from the parking lot. Speeding. It’s one thing to live a lifestyle, but it’s a whole other when reality slaps you in the face.

Hank handed his license to the officer. His license did not read, ‘Hank Buttler, Porn Superstar’. No. It read his real name. Harold Jarvis. Plain and simple. Just like any other work-a-day Joe. That’s reality. Harsh and to the point.

“You were doing seventy in a forty-five,” the officer said.

“Yeah. I was a little pissed off,” Hank said. “Do you know who I am?”

“Well, according to the name on your license, you’re Harold Jarvis.” The officer said. “Is that correct?”

“Legally, yes. That’s my real name, but I go by the name, Hank Buttler, two t’s,” Hank said. “Adult film star. I’m sure you’ve heard of me.”

“I don’t watch that shit. It it were up to me, they’d run all you people out of the valley. It gives us a bad name.” The officer said. “Sign here,” he said, handing the ticket back to Hank. “Be in court on the tenth.”

The officer handed his license back and turned and walked back to his car.

“I’m Hank Buttler,” Hank yelled out through his opened window, “you’ve never heard of me?”

The officer pulled back onto the street and drove away.

“I’m Hank Buttler, goddammit,” Hank whispered.

He drove back to his one bedroom apartment on Tulsa Street. How long would he still be living here? He tried to push the thought from his mind as he walked inside and saw the message light blinking on his phone. He smiled.

He closed the door with a swing of his hand and headed toward the phone. Yeah, he was being called back. He had been in the business long enough to know that they would always call the talent back once they knew what they had lost.

His smile faded as the automated voice told him his cable was being disconnected due to non-payment.

“Fuck everybody!” His voice echoed through the small apartment he had been living in for the last twenty years. Sometimes sharing it with women, but most times, not. Relationships in the business, usually didn’t last long. Unless you could come to an understanding with others who worked in the industry, you were more or less labeled a whore, male or female. You fucked for a living.

The phone rang again. Hank hesitated.

“Yeah?” He said as he grabbed up the receiver.

“Mr. Buttler?” The voice said.

“Are you a bill collector? I really don’t have time for your..”

“Mr. Buttler, please hear me out.” The voice said.

“Who is this? I don’t have time for any bullshit,” Hank said.

“Oh, I agree completely, Mr. Buttler. Or should I call you, Mr. Jarvis?” The voice said.

Hank waited. He didn’t know what to say. They had used his real name.

He finally answered, “Buttler is my name. Hank Buttler. Two t’s.”

“Yes, I know. I just want you to feel comfortable.”

“You need to tell me your name,” Hank said.

“For now, you can call me Pete,” the voice said. “And I’m offering you an opportunity, Mr. Buttler.”

“Hey, I’m always open for opportunities,” Hank said.

“This one is a little different than those you have been offered before,” Pete said.

“Okay, let’s get this straight, I don’t do gay stuff. Okay?”

“Oh, no. That would never be acceptable,” Pete said.

“Well, then, let’s talk,” Hank said.

“Mr. Buttler, what I’m offering will last an eternity,” Pete said.

“Not sure I understand,” Hank said. “Can we meet somewhere for drinks or something?”

“I can arrange that,” Pete said.

“Cool,” Hank said, “I’m free tomorrow at about…”

“How about now?” Pete said.


It suddenly grew dark in the apartment, except for one light shining at the end of the hallway, leading to the bedroom. No sunlight shone through the blinds. A shrouded figure appeared before Hank, floating in front of him. A long flowing beard on the face of a thousand and more years.

“You’re Pete?” Hank said.

“Yes, Mr. Jarvis, I’m Peter. Keeper of The Gate.”

“Wait. Why am I seeing you? This is a dream.”

“No dream, Mr. Jarvis. Or, Mr. Buttler, as you prefer. No dream,” Peter said.

“You’re telling me I’m dead?” Hank said.

“Yes. You died two hours ago. Not long after you came home. A mixture of pills and alcohol. It wasn’t intentional. You would never take your own life. You loved yourself too much for that,” Pete said. “You remind me of that song, what was it? ‘You’re so vain’? Yes, that’s it.”

“It’s your choice, Mr. Jarvis. Your time to choose.”

“What choice do I have? You never even listened to my side of the story. You didn’t give me a chance to explain.”

“Explanations are made by decisions. If one had the chance to explain life choices then it would take an eternity to listen. One decides ones fate day by day. The choices made decide their fate. That is only fair, is it not?”

“No,” Hank said, “it’s not fair. What has God ever done for me? A father who never had anything to do with me. A fucked up childhood. Stepfathers who treated me like shit. Relationships that never lasted. What has He done for me?”

“You, like so many others, ask for so much. But did you ever give?” Peter asked. “Did you ever give thanks for the times of warmth when you were cold? Did you ever give thanks for anything?”

“No, I didn’t,” Hank said. “I was angry for the things I never had. He wants so much but gives so little in return.”

“Last offer, Mr. Jarvis,” Peter said. “I would take it.”

“No. I’m good,” Hank said.

“Fair enough,” Peter said.

Hank hit the button on his alarm at eight a.m., showered and dressed. He drove to the set to start the same day over again. It would never end.

July 14, 1962

by Jim Graves

Little Eva belted out her hit single, ‘The Locomotion’. Bill’s sister always had her portable record player on the front porch on those summer Saturdays, playing her records and dancing along.

Bill sat and watched from the porch swing. He liked the music and there was not much else to do that could keep a kid out of trouble during those lazy hot days. He could hear them arguing inside the house. Hard as he tried to block the sound—focusing on the music—he could still hear them. They always argued when they thought no one was listening. But Bill always listened.

He knew his stepfather was not a nice man. Even though everyone else thought he was a good man, Bill knew him for what he was. A user. A man who took advantage of everyone’s kindness. Someone who took advantage of situations. And in their case, a single mom with two kids? What better situation for one of his kind?

The record continued to play and Bill tried to keep his thoughts on the music as he waited for the argument to end. When he heard a door slam, he got up from the porch swing and went inside.

His stepfather sat in the dining room, eating a bowl of buttermilk and cornbread. Bill had always found that to be disgusting. But then again, he felt the same about his stepfather.

By the age of twelve, Bill had formed more than a few opinions of the world and those who filled it. These opinions were not all good. His stepfather fell into the not good category.

“Sounds like y’all are having a real party out there. Need to turn it down some. A man can’t think with all that damn noise.” His stepfather continued spooning the slop into his mouth.

Bill shrugged his shoulders and went into the kitchen. He had originally gone in for a drink of water, but during the fifteen seconds between the front door and the kitchen, his mind had taken on a whole new perspective as he heard the saxophone solo from the record. He found himself staring at the dish drainer. Turning on the tap, he filled a glass with cold water and drank.

Earlier in the day, he had noticed what looked like a bruise on his mother’s upper arm, partially hidden by the sleeve of her blouse. He had never seen his stepfather put his hands on her, but he had heard things. He had heard enough to know that sometimes their arguments became physical. The one time he had mentioned it to his mother, she had told him everything was fine and to not worry. But he did worry.

Bill finished his water, sat the empty glass down on the counter, and took a knife from the dish drainer. Walking back into the dining room from the kitchen, he grabbed his stepfather’s forehead from behind, and stabbed the knife into his neck, leaning into his ear, whispering, “You’re mean to my mother.” He shoved the knife deeper, pushed forward and twisted the blade as his stepfather struggled to stand, his feet sliding on the linoleum flooring. Bill tightened his grip on both the knife and his stepfather’s head until the man finally collapsed—lifeless—in the chair.

Bill smiled, in his blood stained T-shirt, returning to the front porch and his seat on the swing. He laughed and clapped his hands, trying to keep time with the music as blood puddled beneath a chair in the dining room.

Hold Your Breath

by Jim Graves

Some people are just born bad. Samuel Dryden (Sammy D to those who knew better than to call him Samuel) was one of those people. His biggest thrill in life was making sure everyone else was miserable. It was said that he once threw a bag full of puppies in the creek, laughing and yelling, ‘Hold your breath you mangy mutts’. No one doubted the validity of that story. At the age of sixteen, it was obvious that Sammy D’s future involved incarceration.

Chris Mueller was the latest in a long line who had found themselves on Sammy D’s people to fuck with list. It didn’t take much to make the list. Basically, all you had to do was wander into his line of sight. Sammy D had made it plain, earlier that day, that he would be seeing Chris after school.

“What are you gonna do?” Danny Jacobs whispered.

“I’m gonna run like hell, that’s what I’m gonna do,” Chris said, looking at the clock above the door. Ten minutes til the last bell. The second hand seemed to be spinning like a fan blade.

Chris had a plan. He wasn’t sure if it was a good one, but it was a plan. He would avoid going to his locker and use the exit at the south end of the building. That would lead around back, past the practice field and into the woods down by the creek. From there, he could follow the creek for about a half mile and come out behind the Super Save. With any luck, he would make it home with his head still attached to his shoulders. His ego would suffer some bruises, but hey, he could live with embarrassment and shame.

Chris’s friend, Danny, turned around as the bell rang. “Good luck.”

Without answering, Chris got up and headed for the classroom door, hoping to blend in with the rest of the students crowding the hallway. He kept a careful lookout through the crowd as he made his way toward the south exit. His heart was pounding as he reached the door and put his weight against the push bar, giving way to a brisk October chill.

He ran around the end of the building and could see the practice field and the woods that lay beyond. Looking back over his shoulder, he tried to keep a natural pace, not wanting to draw attention. It was about thirty yards to the edge of the woods. As he got closer, he began to relax. Things were looking pretty good after all. And then he heard Sammy D yelling. He looked back to see Sammy D closing in on him and that was all he needed to spur him on. He began to run. Fast.

He made it to the edge of the woods, never slowing as he reached the creek bank and leaped to the other side. His right foot sank in mud at the water’s edge but he quickly regained his footing and scrambled up the hill, leaving one shoe behind. He could hear Sammy D laughing, but he didn’t dare look back. He could imagine what would happen if he were to slow down. And then the laughter stopped.


It was Sammy D yelling but Chris wasn’t going to be fooled. He did however take a quick look back over his shoulder.

“Hey,” Sammy D yelled again, “something’s got hold of me.” He was digging his fingers into the creek bank as he fought against whatever had hold of him. Something was pulling him back into the water. “No fooling, shithead, something’s got me,” he said. His fingers dug deeper into the muddy edges of the creek as he tried, with little success, to pull himself out of the water. “Help me!”

Chris stopped, bending over and putting his hands on his knees, trying to catch his breath. He looked at Sammy D, there on the creek bank, his hands covered in mud, and waist deep in the water. There was genuine fear in his eyes.

“Help me,” he said.

It was then that Chris saw what was trying to pull Sammy D back into the murky brown water. It was the skeleton of a dog. Or almost a skeleton. There were pieces of flesh and burlap hanging from bone. Gray, oozing masses filled the eye sockets. Two more of the creatures emerged from the creek, joining the other, biting and pulling at Sammy D. Chris watched in horror as the creatures pulled furiously.

“Oh, shit! What the hell is it?” Sammy D yelled, looking down at the creatures that had hold of him. “Get me outta here!”

Chris watched in silence, too shocked to speak. He couldn’t believe what was happening. They were pulling Sammy D deeper into the creek and all Chris could do was watch. He was more afraid of these things than anything Sammy D could have done to him, but he was still unable to turn away from the hellish scene taking place before him.

Sammy D began to scream. Surely someone from the school would hear him. Someone would come to help. But as the screams continued and Sammy D was dragged deeper into the brown, muddy water, Chris knew no one would come. He also knew he would not help. He watched as Sammy D failed to free himself, his fingers searching for any hold they could get, but the ground was too soft here on the shaded creek bank. Chris heard one last plea for help before Sammy D went completely under, the water bringing a choking end to his cries. His tears mixing with the muddy creek water.

As Chris watched, only three words came to mind; hold your breath.


by Jim Graves

He didn’t know what the problem was. He had washed his hands for the third time and it was still there. Why wouldn’t the blood go away? He had never had this problem before.

The guy had begged. They all beg. ‘Please don’t kill me?’ They start praying to a God they have never acknowledged in their entire lives until the moment they are faced with their own demise, hoping He will hear them and send down some divine intervention. He never does. They all die.

He washed his hands again. Still there. “Why want it go away?” He stared at his reflection in the bathroom mirror.

The man had cried at the end, ‘Please, don’t do this? I’ll give you money.’ He had been offered money before. Did they not understand he’s already getting paid? But still, the man had cried and begged. It wears on you.

He washed again, scrubbing with the wire brush. Why were the stains still there? The floor beneath him was covered in blood. He couldn’t remember how many people he had killed.

He put the barrel of the pistol in his mouth and squeezed the trigger.