From the Editors

Welcome to the fourth installment of The Dread Machine. This quarter’s issue features original fiction by Ai Jiang, J.L. Akagi, Josh Rountree, and many more. We snagged an unforgettable reprint from Christina Ladd and are presenting our first triple-feature with three stories by Mark Towse. You’ll also find a poetic dive into cyberhell, a king’s grotesque suit, and more beautiful, dark stanzas designed to paint pictures that will haunt your dreams.

Our Q4 Stats and Annual Stats are now available! You can see them here.

If you haven’t heard, we switched things up a bit on our first anniversary. We want our stories to be read, shared, and loved by the whole world, so we’re converting to a nonprofit organization, and starting in January, stories will be made publicly available the quarter after they’re published. Only active subscribers—our loyal Cultists—will get to read stories when they’re released each week. Subscribers also receive issues in epub format, plus all downloads we develop during their subscription period, including our games, interactive narratives, and Katerina Belikova’s gorgeous cover art as downloadable desktop and phone backgrounds! (Individual Access Packs will remain available, but will only include the epub and cover art.)

On this page, you’ll find summaries and links to every Issue 1.4 story, along with information about some of our featured writers. If you’re a subscriber, you’ll be able to access everything here. If you’re not ready to commit to a subscription, consider purchasing the V 1.4 Access Pack, which includes the epub of this issue and the cover art (created by the talented Katrina Belikova, aka Ninja Jo) as downloadable desktop and phone backgrounds.

NEWS & Updates

New Merch

Alin is gradually expanding our merch line, but nobody is policing her, so we now have a coffee mug designed exclusively for our Kazoo Crew. (Despite only being available through a secret link, the item quickly became our top-seller.) 

Cultists enjoy 10% off all purchases, so if you really need a neon Dread Hamster glaring at you from its ceramic prison while you work—or know someone who does—we’ve got you covered.

The Dread Machine Playlist

In other news, we created a Spotify playlist for weirdos who get it. The playlist is routinely updated as songs are suggested in our Discord server. (If you aren’t part of our Discord community, you should be.)

Mixtape: 1986

Mixtape production is done! Interior files are completed. Our only outstanding task is the finalization of our back cover and front matter. Our printer requires six weeks of production time, so once the files are sent in (early-January), we should have proofs by mid-February. Proof approval won’t take long (perhaps a week, at most), so our first print run should be here by mid-March. We are so grateful to everyone who supported this project. We won’t be opening preorders, but if you’d like to download the solo journaling RPG we created for the anthology, you can do so here.

Help Fuel The Dread Machine

On our first anniversary, we decided to make our content available for free the quarter after it’s published, but we’re a paying market with dreams of being able to pay our writers pro rates ($0.08/word). Unfortunately, Alin’s freelance income can’t reliably support that, so we’re hoping our readers can help bridge the gap. Consider becoming a subscriberbuying access to this issue, purchasing some merch from our store, or sending us a small donation. Every single penny of Alin’s income (and the publication’s revenue) is reinvested back into The Dread Machine’s contributors.

Why should you subscribe to a free magazine? Subscribers gain a number of benefits, including access to stories as soon as they’re published (everyone else has to wait three months). Only subscribers can visit secret areas of the site and our Discord community. They receive 10% off all purchases and have the ability to influence the direction of our projects by participating in polls and project-related discussions. Any downloadable games or interactive stories we produce (which generally sell for $7-20 each) are gifted to active subscribers for free. Magazine issues are delivered in two formats each quarter: ebook (epub) and virtual (what you’re looking at here), in files containing all downloadable content. 

Thank you so much for your support!


Just Us

by Stephen S. Power

Read the story that inspired this quarter’s cover!

Jane meets her boyfriend’s parents via “connection,” a direct mental link. What could go wrong? Happy Holidays from The Dread Machine.

Meet the Author

Stephen S. Power’s novel, “The Dragon Round,” was published by Simon & Schuster. His short fiction has appeared most recently at “Analog” and “The Arcanist.” He tweets at @stephenspower, and his site is


Betobeto Teketeke

JL Akagi

The narrator has a follower, and she wants to tell you all about it.

Meet the Author

JL Akagi is a queer Japanese American with an MFA from the New School. Her work has appeared in Strange Horizons and forthcoming at DreamForge Anvil.

Falling Apart

Justen Russell

You sell the little finger on your left hand first. This is not the prudent way to do things. You should sell the whole hand, but you are not trying to be prudent.

Meet the Author

A synthetic biologist by trade, writing offers this scientist an outlet to explore the futures his work in the lab may be hastening forward. See his complete bibliography at

Nucleus Accumbens

Maura Yzmore

A celebrity begins seeing a glowing purple cloud that materializes over time into something exceptional.

Meet the Author

Maura Yzmore is a writer and scientist based in the American Midwest. Her speculative fiction can be found in Flash Fiction Online, The Arcanist, The Molotov Cocktail, and elsewhere. She is a member of the Horror Writers Association. Find out more at or on Twitter @MauraYzmore.

Like an Itch You Scratch

Daria Lavelle

The playground’s got this tunnel we figured we could hotbox. This was right at the start of everything, so it was shut down, caution taped, and Jen figured we might as well use it if no one else was gonna.

Meet the Author

Daria Lavelle writes fiction, most of which features a healthy dose of unreality. Her work has appeared in or is forthcoming from Breadcrumbs, The Arcanist, and The Deadlands, and has been shortlisted for prizes by The Master’s Review and Molotov Cocktail. She is an MFA candidate in Speculative Fiction from Sarah Lawrence College, and holds an AB degree in Comparative Literature and Creative Writing from Princeton University. Find more of her work at, and her occasional tweets @darlavelle.

Daily Gratitudes

Patrick Hurley

What if we all just took a few minutes of every day to be grateful?

Meet the Author

Patrick Hurley has published short fiction in dozens of markets, including work in Deep Magic, Galaxy’s Edge, Flame Tree Press, Paizo’s Pathfinder, The Arcanist, Abyss and Apex, Third Flatiron, Aurealis, Cosmic Roots & Eldritch Shores, and The Drabblecast. He attended the 2017 Taos Toolbox Writer’s Workshop taught by Nancy Kress and Walter Jon Williams and is a member of SFWA. Find out more about his work at


Martín Merino

The more followers you have, the more important you are. Right?

Meet the Author

Martín (he/him) is just getting started! “Followers” is his first published story.

Mona Luna

Christina Ladd

I go barefoot in my boots rather than take a single thing from Mona Luna.

Meet the Author

Christina Ladd (she/her) is a writer, reviewer, and librarian who lives in Boston. She will eventually die crushed under a pile of books, but until then she survives on a worrisome amount of tea and pizza. You can find more of her work in Vastarien, A Coup of Owls, Strange Horizons and more, or on Twitter @OLaddieGirl.

Blood Runs Cold

Josh Rountree

Two bankrollers make their escape after a botched job, but one of them may be far more than what he seems.

Meet the Author

Josh Rountree writes horror, fantasy, science fiction, and a lot of weird nonsense. His short fiction has appeared in numerous magazines and anthologies, including Beneath Ceaseless Skies, PseudoPod, Realms of Fantasy, and A Punk Rock Future. A new collection of his short fiction, Fantastic Americana: Stories, is available from Fairwood Press.

Josh lives in Texas and tweets about records, books, and guitars @josh_rountree.

The Ledge

Michael Meyerhofer

The best spot on the ledge is still just a spot on a ledge.

Meet the Author

Michael Meyerhofer is an active member of the SFWA whose his work has appeared in Asimov’s Science Fiction Magazine, Analog, Orson Scott Card’s InterGalactic Medicine Show, Heroic Fantasy Quarterly, Strange Horizons, and other journals. He is also the author of the Dragonkin Trilogy, the Godsfall Trilogy, and several books of poetry. For more info and an embarrassing childhood photo, visit

Digital Ghouls

Justin Permenter

Ciphers flicker and spin like firemoths in the lambent glow //
Bending and twisting in cyclone contortions


Belicia Rhea

You float through our house to the sky //
black with your skeleton storms.

Just Smile

Dawn Vogel

A bartender educates a patron on why he should never, ever tell a woman to “just smile.”

Meet the Author

Dawn Vogel’s academic background is in history, so it’s not surprising that much of her fiction is set in earlier times. By day, she edits reports for historians and archaeologists. In her alleged spare time, she runs a craft business, co-runs a small press, and tries to find time for writing. Her steampunk adventure series, Brass and Glass, is available from DefCon One Publishing. She is a member of Broad Universe, SFWA, and Codex Writers. She lives in Seattle with her husband, author Jeremy Zimmerman, and their herd of cats. Visit her at


Ai Jiang

A house down the street catches my attention. It sits half painted, the other half peeling white, with a quarter of the driveway paved. The cracks are still visible. A shadow passes by one window in the upper level. It looks like my daughter. I know it can’t be. I left her shadow inside the new house.

Meet the Author

Ai Jiang is a Chinese-Canadian writer, an immigrant from Fujian, and an active HWA member. She draws on cultures and landscapes of the lands she has walked for inspiration. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in F&SF, The Dark, Dark Matter, Star*Line, Prairie Fire, Hobart Pulp, Jellyfish Review, among others. Find her on Twitter (@AiJiang_) and online (

Triple Feature: Mark Towse

Mark has an uncanny ability to nail down the exact blend of humor, weirdness, and creeping dread that we look for. This quarter, three of his stories rose to the top of the slush pile. We’re proud to have published eight of his stories (so far) and encourage you to check out his other work, including his recent novella, Nana.

A Holiday Romance

An alluring insect seduces an unhappily married man on a second honeymoon with his equally unhappy wife.

The Bedroom Window

Ed’s brother is dead. Why won’t he leave?

The Neighbours
from Hell

What do you do when the neighbours outstay their welcome? 

Meet the Author

Mark Towse is an Englishman living in Australia. He would sell his soul to the devil or anyone buying if it meant he could write full-time. Alas, he left it very late to begin this journey, penning his first story since primary school at the ripe old age of 45. Since then, he’s been published in the likes of Flash Fiction Magazine, The Dread Machine, Cosmic Horror, Suspense Magazine, ParABnormal, Raconteur, and his work has also appeared on many exceptional podcasts such as The Grey Rooms, No Sleep, Creepy, Tales to Terrify, etc.

But You Mustn't Look Back

Beth Cato and Rhonda Parrish

You know what it means but you mustn’t look back.

King's Suit

Colleen Anderson

You need fine clothes to make the man.

Back to Normal

Matthew Barron

A woman awakens to find life strangely normal after murdering her husband, but normal is a world of constant dread, and the voice in her head is worse than the corpse in her bed.

Meet the Author

Matthew Barron writes diverse fiction in various genres and mediums, including short stories, comics and plays.

Where the Babies Come From

by Sam Rebelein

Danny wouldn’t stop asking where the babies come from, so finally Jon got tired of it and took him to the loading dock at the end of the city so he could see.

Meet the Author

Sam Rebelein holds an MFA in Creative Writing from Goddard College, with a focus on Horror and Memoir. He is currently a PhD candidate in English Literature & Film at Texas Tech University. He has work in a number of speculative fiction magazines, including Bourbon Penn, Planet Scumm, Dark Moon Digest, Shimmer, and elsewhere. His fiction has been featured in Ellen Datlow’s prestigious Best Horror of the Year, and his award-nominated “Black Fanged Thing” was listed as a stand-out story of 2018 on Barnes & Noble’s “Sci-fi & Fantasy Blog.”

You can follow Sam on Twitter @HillaryScruff.

The Casket House

Nick Chianese

Charlotte Ephram, the bereaved widow, moves with her young son into the mansion of an estranged uncle.

Meet the Author

Nick Chianese was born and raised in New Jersey, where he developed a passion for storytelling at an early age, thanks to Goosebumps.  He graduated from Vassar College in 2014 with a major in film and a minor in creative writing. His published stories include “The Spooky Season”, found in Grinning Skull Press’s 2020 Holiday Horror Anthology, and “The Tragedy of Longmorn” (written under the pseudonym Ramsey Wallaus Heath), released by Rainfall Chapbooks in the U.K. Some of his favorite writers include Stephen King, T.E.D. Klein, and H.P. Lovecraft.

With Love, Aunt Mercedes

by Crystal Sidell

Why would Jocelyn’s favorite aunt and uncle send her a doll from Italy?

Meet the Author

A native Floridian, C. L. Sidell grew up playing with toads in the rain and indulging in horror stories. She holds a master of arts in both English and library & information science, moderates two creative writing groups, and reviews books for the Florida Library Youth Program. Her work has appeared (or is forthcoming) in 34 Orchard, 50 Haikus, 805 Lit, Dark Moments, The Dread Machine, opia, Quarantine Quanta, Spark: A Creative Anthology, and others.

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