Chilling Chat: Episode 167 | Selah Janel

chillingchat

Selah Janel was blessed with a giant imagination, even if it made her gullible enough to wonder if fairies lurked in the woods and vampires waited in abandoned barns outside of selahtown as a child. As an adult, she writes in various genres, including horror and dark fantasy. Her work has been published in multiple anthologies, magazines, e-books, and a short story collection. She likes her music to rock, her vampires lethal, her faeries to play mind games, and her princesses to have adventures and hold their own.

Selah is a wonderful and natural storyteller. We spoke of acting, writing, and the creative process.

NTK: Thank you for chatting with me today, Selah.

SJ: Thanks for having me!

NTK: When did you discover horror? How old were you?

SJ: Oh, man. I’ve been aware of the genre my whole life. I was such a gullible scaredy cat as a kid—relatives convinced me all sorts of things were real and coming to get me. I was also super curious—I was the kid that would sneak off at the video store and read the boxes of every horror movie even though I couldn’t even sit through the movie commercials. When I hit junior high, I began to read Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark, got into urban legends, that kind of thing. In college and doing theater, I got into Anne Rice, Ray Bradbury, Stephen King…I’d hole up in bookshops on my non-show days and read when I was away working. And then, I began to do work on haunted houses, so I felt like I had to up my game and learn the genre. It’s been a slow progression my whole life!

NTK: How do you work with haunted houses? Are you a ghost hunter?

SJ: I mean haunted houses in the entertainment sense—amusement parks. For about ten or eleven years, I did a lot of work in that area. It started with performance to make some side money, and, because I also do costume work, it turned into that and character design and some concept work on ideas and themes for different houses and mazes. Not that I haven’t seen some really odd things in actual haunted places, but in this case, it’s all entertainment!

NTK: Oh, I see! What is the strangest thing that ever happened while you were performing in a haunted house?

SJ: Oh, man. It’s all on a scale of weird, really, because these are situations you just don’t walk into during normal life. Performance-wise, it was more about the people coming through. They get weird ideas of what’s allowed and tend to forget there are people under the makeup, so I got really good at being aggressive and chasing people out of the maze— I was the main character in the last room—so they wouldn’t try to grab me and try anything. Tech-wise, a lot of meetings you’re talking about things that sound insane—what’s the right amount of blood, which zombies need which clothes, etc., though a lot of that is safety and logistics, too. For me, nothing will beat the night I was walking between buildings to put some things away and these club cars zoom up and start chasing me. It’s like one in the morning and, at first, I’m blowing it off because there are people decorating, but they weren’t slowing down, so I take off running and get cut off by one. The headlights were blinding and I was already tired and freaked out, so when the guys driving these things jumped out and I saw they were covered in blood and had fangs I about lost my mind…until I realized they were friends of mine who were also working late setting things up after a rehearsal. Pranking each other during those runs is definitely a thing.

Also, I was in the Friday the 13th theme park show. Jason killed me five times a night. Six on Saturdays! (Laughs.)

NTK: That is really scary! (Laughs.) Did this job inspire your story, “Wallpaper?”

SJ: In terms of how I think of things, probably. Even doing costumes we’d usually tour the houses or zones and look at the rooms to get an idea of the environment so things could match up. As far as direct inspiration, it started with a picture I was given for the Ladies of Horror Flash Challenge—those participating get a picture and have to do a flash piece for it. “Wallpaper” started as my original idea for it, but it went long on word count so I tucked it aside and did something else. But physical places and the possibilities in them definitely intrigue me. We all go through our lives so quickly these days, it was interesting to think that something as innocent as wallpaper could change a life.

NTK: Awesome! What’s your creative process like? Do you plot? Fly by the seat of your pants? Or a little of both?

SJ: I do some of each. I like to have a beginning and end point at the very least unless it’s a flash piece. For me, those are more about moments with a small plot arc. For longer pieces, usually a concept or idea will hit me and I’ll sit with it a while. I want to make sure there’s an actual story there. If I get more ideas or feel really excited I’ll jump in and aim toward the end goal. Usually, while I’m writing things will change direction or characters will make different choices than I’d planned. I try to stay open to that because some of my better ideas and story moments have come from that instinct.

NTK: So, your characters have free will? You don’t control them?

MoonerSJ: I’d say they have input, but I’m controlling the reins. If something doesn’t feel true to them then I’m not going to do it. I’m willing to change direction to a point, but if a moment doesn’t fit the story it doesn’t fit the story. I do think that sometimes I can get really in my head plot-wise, wanting to check off boxes, so those are the times where if something comes out of nowhere, I’ll at least explore it. It’s definitely a balancing act.

NTK: What horror authors have influenced you? Who is your favorite author?

SJ: There are so many! Ray Bradbury. All of his work is exquisite, and I love his use of description and little emotional moments that build his stories. In his horror work, he’s so good at his endings. I think he said that he wanted things to feel like someone missing a stair, and that’s exactly what it feels like, this okay…wait, oh my god! I also really love Neil Gaiman. His use of folklore makes me so happy, and he just really GOES there in some of his pieces. Emotionally, he’s a dark, beautiful, uncomfortable, fantastic ride. I read Nancy A. Collins’ Sonja Blue books in my early twenties and they’re amazing and horrifying. The world building is so good underneath the layers of atrocities and nihilism. It really showed me that I can be a woman author and still go in hard if I want to. I like a lot of Clive Barker, love Shirley Jackson. I love a lot of horror comics and manga— I feel like so many people are missing out because they don’t realize how good the stories in those forms are. You can’t beat Junji Ito for creepy body horror. In terms of a favorite author, that’s so hard! Probably a tie between Bradbury and Gaiman, though there are a LOT right behind them.

NTK: So what is your favorite novel?

SJ: American Gods by Neil Gaiman. I get something new out of it every time I read it. It’s unsettling, relevant, and the world and character building are exquisite. The car raffle gets me every time!

NTK: Is American Gods also your favorite horror TV show? If not, what is?

SJ: I’ve only seen the first season so far— I’m one of those that likes to wait til a season is out so I can watch it all at once. I think American Gods does a lot right—there’s a lot of people who would like it to be more like the book, but I don’t have any big complaints on the first season, and I love that they give the female roles more time. In terms of my favorite, I’m probably going to have to say the original Twilight Zone, though I haven’t seen the new one yet to compare, so that’s not me taking a stance on anything! I love anthology shows, and to me, there was such a great aesthetic there. Not all the episodes were great, but because of sheer volume, I think people got exposed to a lot of great “what if” lines of thought that gets under the skin.

NTK: What’s your favorite horror film?

SJ: I feel like the moment I give any answer besides this, people are going to come after me, so it has to be The Lost Boys. Granted, I haven’t seen it in years, but I first saw it in its entirety at a low place in my life and when I was really getting into the genre. Despite the eighties-ness, there are real stories of family and connection going on, and the production design is so cool. It felt accessible enough to me at a time when everything felt above my head while I was still in school for theater and felt like writing could only be a sometimes hobby. Along came this movie into my life and it hit me, “Oh wow, I could do something like that.” If we’re talking any other horror movie, I still kinda pick and choose because I’m more of a wuss than people realize, but I like a lot of Japanese horror, and I liked most of A Quiet Place, loved The VVitch and The Babadook.

NTK: You have experience with acting, who do you think is the best actor you’ve ever seen in a horror film? Who really made it believable?

SJ: Oh man, that’s so hard! The performance that’s really impressed and haunted me within the past few years—from what I’ve seen—is Essie Davis in The Babadook. She juggles a very real portrayal of grief with dealing with the stress of motherhood and the difficulties her child is experiencing. She just goes there in a way that for me is really raw and true. This isn’t just running away from a monster—this is dealing with so many layers and juggling emotions. You feel for her character and you dislike her in places. She comes across as so human, which can be so hard to do, to portray a role like that naturally. There’s a bit at the end when she’s been through hell and is standing in the basement just experiencing the aftershock of things—it’s intense. And when you compare that to the fact that she’s also Miss Fisher, which is WAY on the other end of the genre scale—I never would have initially believed it was the same person. Those are the types of surprises I love and the performances that really impress me.

NTK: What does the future hold for you? What works do we have to look forward to?

SJ: I feel like I’m mid-transition at the moment. I had to really take a breath and figure out where I was going and what I wanted to do a year or so ago, and make changes Lost in the Shadowsaccordingly. I’m doing a lot of writing at the moment, a lot of submitting, so as far as concrete projects, that’s still in flux, though I think a lot of artistic life is like that, more than a lot of people realize. I’m editing some books I hope to shop around in the future that I’m really excited about, and writing things of all different lengths. I’ve also been exploring screenwriting and learning from that, so really while there’s nothing I can talk specifically about at the moment, I think there are going to be some really cool things down the road.

NTK: Thank you so much for joining me! You were a great interview!

SL: Thanks again for having me! This was so much fun!

Addicts, you can find Selah on Facebook and Twitter.

Amateur Flash Fiction, A Series. Author 4 – Ana

winter horror series

Part four and the final story in our Winter Horror Flash Fiction series begun here.

Four fairly new authors took part guided by a particular inspiration and produced very different settings and themes for our December 2015 topic of ‘Winter Horror’ and so we wind it up here with this chilling tale by Ana Gabrielli. Stay warm, Addicts!

Winter Hunger

The blizzard blew in without warning while Frau Bruhls’ twins played outside in the field.  Everyone in the village prayed for a quick end for the girls’ sake, but the massive storm tormented them for an entire week. All hope was gone, slowly snuffed out like a candle left to burn at night as the days passed. Instead of bringing back children, the men of the village would carry back two little corpses for the Bruhl family to bury if they found the girls at all.

The entire village grieved in unison when the blizzard finally broke. Herr Ren pulled on his heavy winter furs grimly and strapped his snowshoes on. His wife, pale and haggard, kissed his whiskered cheek and made him promise to come back before nightfall. He patted his own children’s heads tenderly, his touch lingering a little too long. He was sick with grief. To lose such young children so quickly and so tragically was unimaginably painful.

The men of the village gathered silently before the town hall, each one bigger and burlier than the next. Their eyes were dark with grief as if the blizzard had claimed one of their own instead. They were all fathers and every one of them was imagining himself in Herr Bruhl’s shoes.

They set out quickly with their torches and rifles. There was no time to dawdle.

The lull after the storm was unnatural. It was as though the entire world had come to a standstill beneath the layers of snow and ice. All he could see was the empty whiteness that stretched before him for miles upon miles. All he could hear was the crunch of the snow underfoot. It was as though life as ceased to exist.

Tracking the girls was a hopeless endeavor. The wind and snow had already obliterated their footsteps, but they started in the field first. Blizzards were blinding. Maybe the girls had simply hunkered down and fell asleep on the ground? Herr Ren prayed that was that was the case. Daylight was scarce. They couldn’t search all day or else they would run the risk of becoming lost as well.

God didn’t answer his prayers. The field turned up empty and Herr Ren swallowed his bitterness. They left the field in hopes of having better luck in the forest. The fat evergreens blocked the worst of the winds and the surrounding caves offered refuge from the pounding snow. Maybe the girls had wandered into one of them and managed to survive? Harnick was the one who stumbled upon the cave by accident. With a shout he summoned the rest of the men to him. They assembled at the craggy mouth, their torchlight hardly putting a dent in the thick wall of blackness yawning before them like the hungry mouth of a demon.

Herr Ren hesitated at the edge. They all did. He didn’t know why. He had never been afraid of the dark before but now he was itching to flee. He did not want to go inside. He did not like how their firelight sputtered or how the wind whistled eerily inside. The earth breathed low and deep as though something worse than a sleeping bear rested inside the cave.

“Magda! Freda!”  Von Essen shouted into the blackness. He possessed a blacksmith’s muscle but his voice trembled inside his throat. Von Essen was afraid. They all were.

The men waited, hardly daring to breathe, as their ears strained for a response. For minutes there was nothing until the smallest sob drifted up from deep inside the darkness. “Help me. It’s so cold, and I’m so hungry.”

The men jumped into actions and rushed inside, suddenly unafraid. Deeper and deeper they marched into the bowls of the earth. The thought of saving the twins and returning them safe and sounds to their parents was unexpected. It had never crossed the men’s minds that the girls could still be alive. Herr Ren’s heart pounded for joy as he shouted to them to stay put, that they were coming for them, that the whole village would be happy to see them again.

Down in the belly of the cave all but one torch was out. The cold down there was thick and impenetrable. It drifted inside their clothes and chilled them to the bone. The men stopped and peered hard into the darkness, shivering beneath their fur. The blonde, chubby faced twins were not there to greet them. Instead a tiny figure stood alone.

“I’m so hungry.”

“You’re safe now,” Herr Ren promised, slowly raising his torch. “You’re coming home with us. Come here Mausi, let us take you home.”

The light traveled across the rocky pit to fall upon the girl’s naked feet. The cold had ravaged the girl’s small toes and turned them into broken, blackened nubs. Herr Ren swallowed hard. He raised his torch higher. The light illuminated her shredded dress and stained apron. Was that blood? Had the girls managed to catch a rabbit in the cave?

“I’m so hungry, Herr Ren.”

“I understand. Where’s your sister?”

The light finally reached her face. He did not know what stood before him. Horror churned his stomach violently. The men behind him reached for their rifles.

The black voids of a demon starred back at him. Her lips were gone as if they had been torn violently away from her skull, or eaten. Her bare teeth gleamed in the firelight; shiny, sharp objects covered in black blood.

Herr Ren trembled. He had never seen such a monster before. Everything inside him screamed to ready his rifle but he didn’t dare drop the torch. He would just have to trust the men to keep him safe. “Where is your sister, Mausi,” he asked again. Its eyes were on him. He needed to keep it that way. If it noticed the rifles pointed in that direction it would either bolt or attack.

“My sister?” Those disgusting claws rose to rest across its abdomen. “Why, she’s here. In my belly, Herr Ren, but I’m still so very hungry. I’ve been hungry for so long. Will you help me?”

**************

Ana Gabrielli enjoys the simpler things in life. Dark libraries, rainy days, and stories that spook her socks off.  Her notebook is always within reach in case she needs to jot down what the monster in the window is doing. It looks like he’s hungry. She ought to invite the poor thing in.

 

 

Amateur Flash Fiction, A Series. Author 3 – LNoir

winter horror series

Part three of our Winter Horror Flash Fiction series begun here.

We called on several amateur authors to use a film as inspiration to write a short fiction piece limited to 1000 words in the theme of Winter Horror. This is our third installment.

Violets in Winter

Violet has always been a rather precocious girl. A gifted and talented child, who enjoys drawing and listening to the violin. A quiet girl, but happy all the same. A reveler among her gifts. Someday, she’ll surely capture some young man’s heart, but for now she claims mine.

Now, she is not without her faults, my Violet. She is a spirited child, whom often finds herself in trouble. Accidents abound in regards to my Violet, particularly in the cold. Once, it was a slip on the sidewalk, another time, an accident with the knife. Every time, she leaves quite a mess in her wake. Each time, a valuable lesson. The willful girl she is, with each mistake, she hides herself away. Initially, I suspected that she was cross with herself, and with me for noticing. One would think she’d grow out of such fits, but old habits die hard.

With each accident, I clean up the remains myself. I take the broken toys and fixtures into the basement, working late into the night to fix them again. Over the years, my Violet has amassed quite the collection of dolls, and each I have repaired at least once. Each of them her size, with her hair and her eyes. Her collection is ever growing.

Some may think of me as a bad father. After all, what sort of father goes for months without seeing his daughter during her fits, and fixes up her dolls in the meantime? A loving father, I assure you. Make no mistake. Though she puts herself into exile, she always returns eventually, once the weather is warm.

In fact, this very year, it was when I was making a walk past the playground that I found her again. Her dark hair, her light eyes, staring at me in clothes I did not recognize. She came to me with a smile, and walked with me. Violet loves to play games. She was playing pretend that day. She said her name was Elizabeth, and that she lived in another part of town – such imagination. I took her by the hand and brought her back home. She was upset, of course, I had cut her playing short.

In the days after, she was still clearly angry with me, but all children eventually come around. We enjoyed many warm days of happy memories, drawing, reading, a sort of bond only a parent could share with their daughter. Some nights she would fall asleep in my arms, leaving me to carry her upstairs.

My Violet is very precious to me, you must understand. Perhaps that is why I was so heartbroken when I saw they she had once again had one of her characteristic accidents. It was on a cool crisp day when she told me she was leaving, going home, playing her game again. I tried to tell her now was not the time for games and jokes, but willful children are never inclined to listen. I grew ill-tempered, I admit, at her adamant tone. I turned my back for a moment, only to hear the fall.

When I looked, I saw her broken doll in a pool of blood. Yet another accident. She had already fled, no doubt, still cross at me. No matter. Dutiful as ever, I scooped up the doll and brought her downstairs to begin my repairs. Cleaning up marks of scuffles and making her pristine again. Hours of work completed before I set her upon the shelf, alongside the others. My work this time was particularly good – good as new, really. It is hard not to stare at that dark hair and light eyes without a semblance of accomplishment. Surely Violet will be glad to know that I’ve kept all her dollies in such fine condition, even when she has gone off to be cross with me. No doubt I will once again find my Violet, when the weather is warmer, and our cycle will start anew.

With my work done, I give one final admiring glance over the latest doll. The firm coldness upon my hand seems so final, yet her expression is so serene. Elizabeth is this one’s name. A lovely doll, for my lovely daughter.

Yet, all that goes through my mind is my dear child. My precocious girl. Someday, surely she will grow out of her angry tantrums. Surely, one year we will be able to spend a winter together, she and I.

**************

LNoir
Clearly just three gremlins in a trenchcoat with an obsession for dolls, tea, vampires, cats and the depths of the human psyche.

Amateur Flash Fiction, A Series. Author 2 – Harry

winter horror series

Part two of our Winter Horror Flash Fiction series begun here.

Several authors took part using a particular inspiration film and had a limit of 1000 words to play with. They had a lot of fun with the theme of Winter Horror and so the stories continue…

Christmas Eve

In the cabin Todd has rented,
Mary looks at the Christmas tree
he bought on the way and says
“It reminds me of what is
wrong with Christmas:
it is made of plastic and too expensive.”

Mary listens to the waves
crashing against the cliff below
which mystically calms her.
Mentioning this to Todd he says,
“It sounds like someone
is continually flushing a toilet.”

Mary had adopted Odd Todd
in high school because
his poetry turned him into a pariah.
She had held his hand for three years
enjoying his trembling, undisclosed
sexual longing for her.
Todd had kept his poetry to himself while
Mary spent her nights fucking college boys.
After a gang-banging at a pizza parlor,
everyone quit talking to her, except for him.

Upon graduation they had ignored each other; but,
seeing Mary at a bar at Christmas break,
Todd had asked her to dance,
expertly pushing and twirling her like
she was a slave to the music.
Drenched in sweat and smelling like 2 am,
it appeared that living away from a small town
that regarded them as untouchables
had been good for both of them.
She had stopped cutting red marks on her arms,
Todd was no longer shy and odd.
He had unashamedly pressed his erection against her asking,
“Why don’t we spend our Christmas day together?
I know a cabin we can rent.”
“I can do that,” she had simply replied.

In the Christmas Eve cabin
everyone is hiding something,
everyone has secrets. Mary says,
“You can hurt me, do whatever you like.”
Todd kisses her lips like a serial killer, and replies,
“It will be crazy beautiful, just like the sun.”

***************

harrypic

Harry McDermott enjoys writing,
especially when he can use it
like a knife to stab into the heart
of the unsuspecting reader.

Flash Fiction Friday: Kadirah Wade

They Buried Her Deep

by Kadirah Wade

 

They buried her deep late one day

She died at sea by the Inlet Kay

She watched them as they walked away slow

Their heads hung down in pain, sad and low.

When they turned to reach the avenue bridge

She sprang from her grave and ran to the ridge

“I will head them off and scare them bad

I do not believe them to be sad.”

As they reached the top of Old Drummer’s Hill

She appeared with a scream, so loud and shrill

They all felt fright, near to a dead faint

Some called out loud to an unknown saint

The steam rose above, her body still warm

They scattered and ran from her ghastly form

She chased them down and snapped at their heels

She heeded not their mercy appeals

“You’ve all brought about my dreadful demise

You taunted and teased and spread vicious lies.”

And one by one they each met their fate

She did them in by the evening, late

Never again would their mocking be heard

She ended their sniggering cruel words

Then she returned to the peaceful sea

And fell asleep in her sodden lee.

Flash Fiction Friday: Sumiko Saulson

Bloodsuckers

By Sumiko Saulson

The hotel was seedy, but at least it was poorly lit. That didn’t sound like much of a perk, but helped obscure the water stains on the walls and the roaches in the corners.  Best of all, it had free wifi. Sure, it was slower than molasses. It was provided courtesy of one five IP address wireless router rented from the cable company. The management knocked on your door and complained if you stayed on it more than an hour.  But it was wifi.

Dennis used it to go troll the dating sites looking for a hook-up. That’s how he met Courtney, single white female, twenty two years old, brown hair, brown eyes. She was a cute girl, kind of chubby, but interested in casual. Casual was good. Very good.

She was in a white hooded sweatshirt and blue jeans when she came to the door. Dennis was in a green terrycloth bathrobe and tattered BVDs. He invited her in.

“Nice place you have,” she said, precariously perching her butt on the edge of the king sized mattress furthest away from him. She looked quite a bit older in person than she did on the photo.  She claimed to be twenty-two, but looked thirty-five. It figured. These girls were always lying about their age and their weight, but never mind all that.  Why should he care? He was thirty-five, but claiming he was twenty-seven.

“Can I get you a beer, sweetie?”  he asked, grabbing a cold one out of the cooler by his feet.

“Sure,” she said, grabbing the bottle and prying the cap off like a master barfly. She sucked it down in two minutes flat and asked for another.  Dennis was bending down to pick it up when he felt something bite him on the back of the neck.

“What the?” he hollered, slapping his neck. The hand came back covered in blood. Stuck in the middle of the stain was the tiny black corpse of a fallen insect. He wasn’t sure if it was a mosquito or what, but something bit him.

Courtney inhaled the second beer as fast as the first. She was starting to get a little tipsy, it appeared.

“I love your robe,” she giggled. “Especially the belt you have it tied around your waist with. You should let me tie you up with it.”

“What?” Dennis asked. He wasn’t usually into the kinky stuff, but he was horny, it had been a while. Besides, this Courtney was really chesty. He wanted to check her out. He was just about to suggest she take off her hoodie and get comfortable when something bit him, again. This time it was on the ass. He felt stupid smacking himself on the behind.

“Well?”  Courtney said.  “In or out?”

“In,” Dennis said reluctantly. The girl tied him to the bed, and but damn she had a strong grip.

“Whoa woman, that’s a little tight,” he complained. She ignored him, continued her work. When she was done, she stepped back and began to unzip her jacket.

“Nice,” he said, watching the zipper slide down and reveal her ample cleavage.

His salacious glee was short lived. As the blouse came down, he began to notice that what he at first thought was a black tank top was moving. Tiny black dots swarmed all over the surface of her chest.  His eyes widened as they began to traverse the short distance between where she stood, and where he was tied to the bed.

“What the hell?” he asked. She did not answer at first.

They covered his legs, nipping and biting into the exposed flesh. His legs started to itch terribly.  Unable to use his bound hands, he began to rub the big toe from one foot against the calf of the other to scratch his leg.

“I am sorry,” she said finally, “but I must feed.”

She extended her arms, and more and more of the tiny black creatures leapt on the bed and crawled over his body, piercing and pinching his skin. Raised red dots began to appear on the surface of his flesh. Then, the wounds began to bleed.

That was when he started to scream.

Courtney pulled a filthy sports sock off his foot and shoved it down his throat to silence him.

As the tiny insects drew blood from his flesh, they turned around and returned to her, full and bloated. A sea of minuscule, blood-filled life crawled up to her face. When she opened her mouth, it poured in between her lips and down her throat. Her well-trained little minions sacrificed their infinitesimal lives just so they could deliver his blood. One by one, they drained him, and returned to her, engorged with blood and ready to be devoured.

When they were finished, his body was drained. White, and covered in a rash of red dots more vibrant and painful than acne, Dennis moaned on the bed. Courtney pulled a needle out of her pocket. She released him from his mortal coil with a hot shot of heroin. She shoved the incriminating rig into his failing hand.

Courtney licked the corner of her mouth as the last bed bug died on her lips. Then she turned to go.

Her minions had been many over the years. Mosquitoes, ticks, fleas and any number of other tiny vampires bought meals of fresh blood to her lips. She didn’t need any fangs or knives to feed. All she needed was her servants.

She turned around and left. Leaving her pale victim dying on the filthy mattress, she closed the door. There would be many more where he came from.

She thanked all that was wicked that there was bed bug epidemic in San Francisco.

**************

Sumiko Saulson’s blog “Things That Go Bump In My Head” focuses on horror fiction writing and features author interviews, writing advice, short stories and editorial pieces. She is the author of two novels in the science fiction and horror genres, “Solitude,” and “Warmth”, and a Young Adult dark fantasy series, “The Moon Cried Blood”, which was originally a novel.  Her fourth novel “Happiness and Other Diseases” will be released October 18, 2014.  She is also the author of a short story anthology “Things That Go Bump In My Head”.  She writes for the Oakland Art Scene for the Examiner.com. A published poet and writer of short stories and editorials, she was once profiled in a San Francisco Chronicle article about up-and-coming poets in the beatnik tradition. The child of African American and Russian-Jewish American parents, she is a native Californian, and was born and spent her early childhood in Los Angeles, moving to Hawaii, where she spent her teen years, at the age of 12. She has spent most of her adult life living in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Flash Fiction Friday: Jeremiah Donaldson

One Vote
By Jeremiah Donaldson

Marvin’s sweaty hand made the registration card soggy. He’d never voted. Anticipation twisted his gut. Soon, he’d help decide the country’s fate for the next several years or longer.

He forced himself towards the booth.

Christ. What party did I register with?

Just vote. It didn’t matter who he voted for. Besides, the politicians worked for the same corporations anyway.

He ducked into the booth, almost bowling over the touch screen sitting on a wooden pedestal. Sweat stung his eyes and his vision blurred, so he randomly reached out.

Huge letters flashed: ‘THANK YOU FOR VOTING’.

Done. He’d voted.

Marvin hurried out the front door.

He got in his truck and spun some gravel pulling out of the church lot. The static filled radio coming from one good speaker made him wish that the Eight Track player hadn’t died 25 years before.

“We interrupt normal broadcasts for a special weather alert…”

He frowned and changed the station.

“Cuba has joined NATO…”

He twisted the knob again.
“Wall Street brokers have started a fund to benefit low income…”

Again.

“We will start pulling troops out of the Middle East immediately…”

The radio died with a final blast of static and left him with the noisy muffler.

Black storm clouds had gathered by the time he pulled into his driveway. He got out and a gust blew the driver’s door shut so hard the window rattled. Trees lining his yard creaked while leaves swirled down.

Massive raindrops pelted him like stones. Something squishy landed on his shoulder and moved to his neck. Marvin shuddered, flicking at the rubbery thing crawling up the back of his head. It fell to the ground and hopped away.

He stomped on the weird blue frog, then looked up and shivered.

Must have fell from the tree.

A thud prompted him to turn. A red frog lay exploded in the middle of the bashed in truck hood.

Dots too large for rain fell from the sky. Something slammed into his forehead, knocking him backwards. He stumbled several steps before tripping to the ground with fluids running down his face. He blinked, wiping thick slime and cold blood off with his shirt while getting up.

A red frog smashed to the ground beside him as the truck windshield shattered.

A small blue one landed on his shoulder. It hopped away and joined other survivors among the bodies in the purple yard.

He made it to the porch before something surprisingly firm slammed into the center of his back. He stumbled, and caught himself with the handrail, stopping long enough to punt the huge blue frog into the yard. He pushed through the front door and leaned against it protectively, as though the amphibians could have turned the knob. His heart pounded so hard he feared a heart attack.

Pots banged against one another as his wife called out. “So, who did you vote for?”

———————————-

Jeremiah Donaldson lives in London, Ky with his daughter and pets. He’s currently working on multiple projects, including two that will be available later in 2014. He can be found at his home on the web at: www.ephiroll.com

FLASH FICTION FRIDAY: ANN WILKES

Surprise!

By Ann Wilkes

 

After removing her cheesecake, Francine tapped the cheesecake button on the fridge’s touchpad. The fridge hummed softly, updating the grocery list to include the ingredients from Francine’s recipe. Being Type H, Francine liked to make cheesecake from scratch, in order to control what went into her food.

She brought the cheesecake into the living room where china dessert plates, forks, napkins and serving utensil waited on a whitelist-tagged, lace table runner on the coffee table. “Dana, I can’t believe you had to endure that,” she said to her friend as she joined her on the sofa.

“I’ll never eat there again, I can tell you. Imagine! Non-filtered ice and a sticky tabletop! Ooh, that looks delicious.” Dana’s eyes sparkled and she leaned forward to help herself. “Ouch!” She jerked in her seat, her hand moving to her pocket.

“Are you okay?”

“Yeah, I saved Jimmy’s toy from the vacuum this morning and forgot to put it away.” Dana pulled out an action figure from her front pants’ pocket and set it on the corner of the coffee table — or tried. It bounced off and hit her right on the nose. “Ouch!”

“Oh, no,” said Francine. “Are you ok? Let me have a look. Oh, dear.”

“I forgot about your repeller mat,” she said as if through a tunnel. “You should put a warning sticker on it.” Her nose began to swell. After putting the toy safely on the table runner, she sat back, tilting her head up to stop the throbbing. Francine ran for ice.

#

After seeing Dana off, Francine admitted to herself that she found the unexpected event exhilarating. When was the last time I was surprised by anything? she wondered. She questioned–not for the first time–her insulated Type H existence. Since high school, she had only associated with her personality type. Henry and she only frequented Type H places of business and only attended Type H parties. In high school, before the segregation, Francine thought, parties were fun, because people were flawed, varied and funny.

The next day, Francine called Stepford Industries to schedule a tune-up of all her SI Neat and Clean Devices. Repelling was one thing. Hurling heavy objects back at people would not do. The company assured her a Type H repairman would be there by the end of the day.

The repairwoman came three hours later, while Francine was gardening. Checking the woman’s ID on the security screen on the back patio, she read “Char Blake”. The letter in the lower left corner was a C! Francine opened her mouth to tell her to leave and send a Type H as agreed, but she realized what this was: a surprise! Instead, she said, “I’m gardening just now. You know where everything is.” She buzzed her in from the garden.

A thrill shot through Francine at the prospect of having a Type C in her home. What would Dana say? Or Henry? It was like a dirty secret. Type Cs didn’t worry about cleanliness, order or germs. They dreamed big, but finish things. They also procrastinated and eschewed promptness.

#

Char started with the repeller mat. Next, she serviced the laundrybot, the vacuumbot and the spillbot. Once she located it behind a dresser upstairs, she set to work on the bug-eating lizardbot. She would finish in the kitchen with the fridge and smartstove.

As Char bent over the bot’s open housing her nose dripped on the circuit board. She was burning up. She rubbed her runny nose and stood to adjust the thermostat leaving the lizard bot’s green tummy opened, circuits exposed. “Went and caught Clyde’s virus after all,” she muttered to herself. She went downstairs in search of something cold. She couldn’t believe the neatness of the fridge. Did she alphabetize, too, or just sort by food group? She had thought there were too many fussy-bots for a Type C house.

Char heard Francine cross the threshold to the kitchen right before she sneezed into the fridge.

Char shut the door and wavered. She looked at Francine. “Type H?”

Francine nodded, her eyes wide.

Cramps gripped her stomach and she vomited onto the counter, the front of the cupboards and the floor. Now she felt chilled. When she realized the Type H was going to be more concerned about infection than helping, she moaned.

“Call . . . ” she gasped.

#

Francine couldn’t move her feet. Where was the spillbot? The vidphone rested on the vomit-splattered counter.

The tech moaned again.

Francine willed her feet to move. She could use the vidphone in the den. As she strode by the kitchen, her blouse up over her face to keep from smelling the vomit, the lizardbot launched at her from the stairs. She shrieked and fought it off as it clung to her with its powerful, suction-cupped feet. She stumbled backwards into the kitchen as it darted its tongue out and licked her hair, pulling it out of her head. I must have gotten a bug in it from the garden.

She beat on the bot’s back trying to get to let go. Then she slipped on the vomit. Coming down with a thud, her head landed on the tech’s stomach. This triggered more vomit – right into Francine’s face. She wanted to scream, but dared not open her mouth. Then she passed out.

#

When Francine’s husband came home two hours later, he found his wife and a strange woman in coveralls on the kitchen floor. Francine’s mouth gaped open. Her red face looked like it’d been scrubbed raw. Her eyes didn’t focus. She didn’t move. Henry smelled spillbot cleaner. He stole himself to touch his wife’s ankle, not daring to come closer. She was stone cold.

The other woman whimpered, her eyes fluttering open.

In a panic, Henry ran out of his house for help. And then he just kept running. And running. And running. He couldn’t take surprises either.

******

As Ann Wilkes, Ann writes science fiction and fantasy. Her short stories read like Twilight Zone episodes – often tragic, funny or both. Her latest sales have been to Every Day Fiction and a Fantastic Stories anthology edited by Warren Lapine. Under her legal name, Ann Hutchinson, Ann writes memoir, fiction and lyrics. She is also a freelance journalist, copywriter and editor. She is currently co-editing an anthology to benefit the local YWCA as a labor of love. Ann loves dancing with her husband, Kevin, with whom she teaches private lessons. Read more at annwilkes.com, clevercopy.net, scifiodd.com and socodancebeat.com

FLASH FICTION FRIDAY: Tim Reynolds

*Temper Temper “*

by Timothy Reynolds

Leon slammed the spade’s blade into the dirt cellar floor. “Hack my Facebook account will she? Bitch! No wonder Dad ran off with the babysitter-slash-cheerleader when I was ten.”

The pile of dirt grew.  A car door banged shut. He dug faster, mumbling. “I’ll kill her, bury her, hack ‘her’ Facebook account, and make it look like she’s travelling.” The shovel hit something hard.

“What the hell?” He brushed off dirt. In the dim light it looked like two skulls and a pompom.

“Whatcha doing, Honey?”
Leon spun at the sound of his mother’s voice, but not fast enough.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

This story was a winner of the Kobo Writing Life Jeffery Archer Short Story Challenge in early 2013. All rights belong to the author.

——————————-

“Tim Reynolds’ published stories range from lighthearted urban fantasy to turn-on-the-damned-lights-now horror, and include the story of a bus driver who kills all his passengers (in ‘Horrible Disasters’ from HorrorAddicts.net) and a dark, depressing view of the near future of reality TV and child-rearing. He can be found online at www.tgmreynolds.com.”

FLASH FICTION FRIDAY: James Hoch

Packin’

by

James S. Hoch

 

Revenge, that’s all I want.  Revenge.  I know how to do it.  I’ll go to whatever ends to have it, and I will take whatever means to accomplish it, she thought to herself as the hatred grew inside her.   I have somethin’ for you that will make you hurt real bad.  I’m comin’ for you and I’m packin’!

She plotted her revenge as carefully as any five star general going into battle.  Dressed all in black as if she were ready for secret military covert night ops, she gave one last look at her dead children, and her destroyed home.  What monster can do this despicable thing?

It was easy to pick up the trail of the man who destroyed her life.  I can smell your foul odor; I see your every move.  For days, she made her way closer to the monster.  Just when she thought she had him, he moved on.  At times, her frustration grew to a maddening point.  She would lash out at just about anything that crossed her path – just scaring them – never using her lethal weapon.

Finally, her relentless pursuit and patience paid off.  She found the beast that was responsible for her misery.  It was dark.  Only the occasional flash of a passing motorist’s headlights illuminated the room.  Slowly, she inched her way towards the man’s outstretched body.  She relished the moment, taking in his defenseless form.

The anger and hatred seethed to a boiling point; it was ready to erupt as though it were a violent volcano. You will feel my vengeance.  You will suffer as my children suffered.  I have you now.  After a soft caress to his cheek, she reared back and struck a deadly blow.

* * *

“Glad to help, officer,” the apartment manager said walking down the hall.  “It has been odd that I haven’t seen John in about a week.  He always says hello when I’m out picking up the paper.”

“Yes, ma’am.  His employer is concerned.  He hasn’t been to work in over a week.”

One of the curlers fell out of the manager’s hair.  The officer bent down and picked it up.  “Oh, sorry.  Thank you.”  She stood in front of the apartment door, took out a master key, and unlocked it.

“Oh, dear God what is that smell?”

The officer knew exactly what it was—a decaying body.

They walked into the bedroom.  The apartment manager screamed.  “Mother of God!”

The officer went over to the bed.  John’s head was covered in spider silk.  An enormous black widow spider sat defiantly on his forehead, perched above a festering welt on his cheek.  The spider reared up revealing the telltale red hourglass.  Vengeance is mine!

 

 —————————-

JAMES S. HOCH 

Brought up on Thriller, Twilight Zone and Outer Limits, James has kept all his dark friends chained up inside his imagination only to let them out little by little in his novels and short stories. For 38 years, he enjoyed a productive career as a music educator. Retirement gave way to a new creative outlet-writing. SynegEbooks is the publisher of his Crimson Pursuit vampire series and his supernatural post-apocalyptic thriller, HECKEL CASEY, is published by Imajin Books. His sci-fi/technothriller, TATS, is available from Amazon. Hoch’s short stories have appeared in Horror Zine, SNM Horror magazine, Pill Hill Press, 69 Flavors of Paranoia, Sanitarium, SNM Books of Blood V, Dark Eclipse, and Dark Oak Press.

website: www.jameshoch.com

FLASH FICTION FRIDAY: Jeremiah Donaldson

Raining Tears

by Jeremiah Donaldson

“What an awful picture,” Cindy said.

Howard sighed. “You’ve said they’re all bad. This is a mass produced print museum. None of these so called paintings were made for more than adorning cottage walls.”

“This probably has the deepest meaning.”

The plaque read: ‘The Crying Boy’. To its right hung one of a girl. Its plaque said: ‘The Crying Girl’. Both subjects had tears streaming down their cheeks. A sheet with barely readable, dot matrix letters hung between them.

‘Mysteries surround these now rare prints. G. Bragolin’s signature adorns these, but several  artists are credited with similar prints from the same period. The boy is thought to be Don Bonillo, a.k.a. Diablo, so called for the strange fires wherever he went. When grown, he was killed in a car explosion. The girl subject has never been identified.’

Cindy sneered. “The awful pictures have an awful story. You won’t leave without them now.”

“And pass the chance to add weirdness to our inventory? These will be better than the Charles Mansion painting.”

“Except that cost as much as both of these.”

Howard grinned. “You want both?”

“Not really.”

“One doesn’t make a set. And it’s my turn to buy.”

Cindy crossed her arms. “That, it is.”

“You got that velvet Elvis I didn’t like.”

“You said you didn’t mind.”

“I didn’t. You paid.”

“I can get whatever I want next time?”

Howard thought a second. No way out. “Of course.”

“Remember that when the time comes.”

“Yes, dear.”

***

Howard’s stomach rumbled as he merged onto the expressway. “What do you want to eat?”

Cindy frowned. “Anything that doesn’t give you gas.”

“Not many options.”

“There’s one.”

“You want hibachi grill for lunch?”

Cindy nodded. “And a drink.”

“This early?”

“Never too early for a drink.”

“The hard life of an art dealer.”

“Hibachi here we come.” Cindy smiled so bright she looked 20 years younger.

The playful exchange ended with a rush of smoke from the back that made them cough.

“My, god!” Cindy slapped at the flames igniting her styled hair.

“Hang on!” Howard stomped the brake.

But the Mercedes didn’t stop. He put both feet on the brake and pushed, but the pedal didn’t move. They careened side to side at 90 and gaining.

Cindy’s screams turned to chokes when fire engulfed her head. Howard smacked at the flames as she wilted in the seat. Blisters rose on his palm. Something in his hand cracked on her skull while she moaned her last. Flames spread to her clothing and seat. They crawled across the center console, blistering the plastic and burning the leather. Heat licked the back of his neck. His hair flared like a match. He screamed, stomped the useless brake, and turned into the guardrail to try stopping.

They rolled into a 100 mile-per-hour cartwheel.

Flames spread across his vision, and he didn’t see the prints tumble, unharmed, out of the back.

**************************

Jeremiah Donaldson lives in London, Ky with his daughter. He’s currently working on multiple projects, including a table top RPG and story collection that will be released later in 2014. He was featured on #17 of HorrorAddicts.net His home on the web is: www.ephiroll.com.