Free Fiction: Serenity by Tanisha D. Jones

SERENITY

by Tanisha D.  Jones

He was a constant explorer and that was what brought him to the dingy alley in Chinatown. The smell of old fish and mooshoo pork wafted through the steaming grates in the ground as the late October air, whipped through his expensive Armani trench coat. Being one of the richest men in the country afforded him the luxury of his eccentricities. It also afforded him a degree of anonymity. Never a public figure, media did not hound him, as a matter of fact, not many people knew him as it were. And that’s the way he preferred it.

It was damp, dark, and hard to see, but he didn’t need to see, he knew where he was going in the bleakness of the desolate alley. He found the door, the same hidden door camouflaged to look like the dark worn bricks of the decrepit buildings that lined either side of the alley. He knocked twice, then stepped back and waited. A brick shifted, and then slid open to reveal two piercing black eyes. They peered at him briefly, then the brick moved back into place and the wall opened to reveal a small Asian man with thick glasses wearing a food stained t-shirt, old khaki pants an apron and black bedroom slippers that had seen better days. He waved him in impatiently, before slamming the door.

“Good Evening Mr. Walters. Back so soon?” The old Asian spoke in crisp clear tones, his English tinged with a slightly British accent.

“Mr. Cheng. And please call me Max.” He slipped off his coat and tossed it on a nearby table. The room was warm and decorated in bright floral prints. The furniture was old French Country and smelled of fresh coffee and potpourri. Mr. Cheng motioned for Walters to have a seat and he willingly sat on the plush floral sofa. It was as if he were back in his grandmother’s living room. Everything seemed so pleasant in the windowless room; the mock fireplace glowing orange and casting warmth through the room. Delicate dollies lined the many shelves and tables, pedestals for several dozen brick aback and chotchkeys that Mr. Cheng and his late wife had collected over the years and their extensive travels.

“Tea?” Mr. Cheng offered as he wiped his hands on the already dirty apron.

“No thank you.” Max Walters shifted impatiently. He didn’t fit in this room. He was a tall man, nearly seven feet tall, with coarse jet-black hair that was prematurely graying at the temples. His skin was smooth and tanned and he was in extrodinary physical shape. The startling blue eyes seemed the only semblance of telling his age. They were lively and seemed to dance when he spoke.

“When you called you said that you had something different” Mr. Cheng nodded and smiled, exposing perfect white teeth.

“Yes, yes. Of course.” He motioned again, this time for Max to follow him. They walked out of the room to a narrow hallway, off to the right of the hallway was a bustling restaurant kitchen. Waiters and busboys in crisp white shirts moved back and forth in elegant dance of routine. Mr. Cheng looked inside and shouted something in Cantonese, before leading Max to end of the hall. The further they walked the darker and more claustrophobic the space got. The walls seemed to close in on them, to the point that Max had to turn sideways and nearly shimmy through the narrow space, the ceiling pressing down on the top of his head. Finally, when they reached the end, a door opened and Max entered. Ducking his head as he scuttled past Mr. Cheng, he stepped into the abyss laid out before him, his feet connecting with, what he pictured in his mind to be a dilapidated, wooden staircase. He wasn’t sure, as he had never actually seen the staircase; he could only feel the wrought, exhausted railing that ran the length of the steep decline.

Mr. Cheng followed him down a narrow staircase that creaked under their weight. The darkness surrounding the staircase was ominous, and on several of his midnight treks to this god-forsaken place, Max had felt as if he’d walked right into hell. The first time he’d been led down this path, he had feared for his life, now, it was a routine that he relished. He could feel the excitement whelm in his stomach, as he imagined the various oddities Mr. Cheng and his assistant had collected. As the pale pink light at the end staircase, which began as a tiny point of light spread to expose a entry to a much larger room, he could feel his stomach twisting in nervous knots.

The room smelled of perfume and sweet smelling soaps and flowers. Mr. Cheng called to someone in perfect French, then gave Max a pat on the shoulder, before disappearing back into the darkness. Max sat on one of the many satin draped sofas and looked around. The room was decorated in black and white art deco furniture. There were fluffy white rugs on the floor and elegant paintings on the walls as several young women and men milled around, all in satin pajamas and bedroom slippers. The males all wore simple satin drawn string pajamas bottoms, and the females, the matching tops. They were all young, and beautiful, and physically marred in some way. There were several youth missing limbs, one beautiful young girl with the most delicate blonde hair and large soulful brown eyes. She was lovely and had a gentle way about her. She was affectionately called Angel, as she had large flaps that ran along the underside of her arms and connected to her waist like massive flesh wings. There were the twins, known only as Pisces One and Two, a brother and sister, both with long dark hair and somewhat Asian features, both born with their legs fused together. There were more, maybe a dozen or so, the most extreme was a boy, found the jungles of South America, who had bright red and orange scales that covered his head like fiery plumage and followed the track of his spine to his tailbone. He had bright yellow eyes and spoke in a soft whisper of a voice. They were medical anomalies, and Max found them beautiful. They greeted him with bright smiles and hugs and kisses. Reaching into his pockets, they pulled out treats of candies and little trinkets that he always carried for them.

The person Mr. Cheng had called, Max knew very well. She appeared out of nowhere, it seemed. She was tall, blond, her hair pulled away from her face in a delicate bun. She wore no make up and was the only person, other than Max, completely dressed. She wore he standard uniform of tailored, black tuxedo pants and a crisp white shirt, unbuttoned just enough to expose the curve of her ample bosom.

“Mr. Walters, back so soon?” She smiled as he rose to greet her. She offered her hand and Max gave it a brief shake.

“Selena.”

She nodded and turned on her silver stilettos and Max obediently followed her out of the room down a brightly lit hallway lined with doors. Each door had a name neatly painted in either black or pink lettering, beneath, which was a small shaded window. The walls seemed to vibrate with the sounds of sex, and he could feel himself getting hard at the thought of what was to come. He had been in many of the rooms, and knew of the pleasure that would come from these beautiful special people. They were loving and gentle, and since he had discovered Mr. Cheng and Selena, regular sexual encounters never fulfilled him. He had found it more and more exciting to come to this place, night after night. It had become his home away from home and he found that even here, his depravity was more than he could handle.

Selena paused at a metal door at the very end of the hallway. “This is her.”

There was no name painted on the door, instead of a window like the other doors, her door housed a metal slide large enough for one person to look in. He peered inside and saw a girl sitting at a vanity slowly brushing her shoulder length hair, which was a startling shade of red. Her skin was pale and her bright green eyes seemed to be too large for her face. She turned and looked at Max, a coy smile on her lips. Around her ankle was a shackle, and a heavy chain that was bolted to the wall. The room’s walls were covered in satiny pink padding. It was like looking into a diorama of a doll’s house, with a perfect porcelain doll at its center.

“She’s lovely.” Max whispered, both disgusted and intrigued. “She is not what I expected. When Mr. Cheng spoke of her, he gave me the impression –”

Selena took a key from her pocket. “She is not what she seems, but I assure you Mr. Walters, she is exactly what you requested.” She pushed the door open. Max stood on the threshold, knowing that this was the last chance. This was his last chance to be a just walk away. He could walk out of here, live a full and fulfilling life and never set foot in this place again. He could forget about Mr. Cheng’s menagerie of fantastical creatures and never give the place a second thought. But the moment Selena opened that door; he knew there was no turning back. He was immediately drawn to her. She wasn’t like the others; there was no hint of malformed limbs or even a scar on her that he could see. She was just a pretty girl in a room full of pretty things.

“What’s her name?” He heard himself asking, looking around the room.

“My name is Serenity.” She spoke in a deep, husky voice, which belied her features. Nervously, he glanced at Selena who seemed unfazed by the entire situation.

Max asked, even as he found himself stepping into the powder pink bedroom.

“As I said, she is not what she seems. Serenity is very special. It is not often one comes across one like this.” Selena cleared her throat and when Max looked at her she raised one perfectly arched eyebrow. He nodded, absently reaching into his pocket and withdrawing a large envelope stuffed with cash. Selena took it and began to back out of the door. She paused for a moment, her lineless face creased as she expressed the first hint of emotion he’d ever seen.

“Are you sure this is what you want, Mr. Walters? There are many others here you can try.” He waved her off, his eyes drawn to the girl who continued to brush her hair and sing a pleasant melody. He was transfixed by the dulcet tone of her voice. She turned to look at him, smiling coyly over her shoulder and he moved further into the room. “Very well,” Selena said with a resigned sigh. “As you wish.”

He didn’t even realize that she was gone until her heard the door closed behind him with a slam, the sound of the lock, startling him. He glanced back, just as Selena slid the metal cover over the peephole shut. He was frozen in place, staring at the room. It was a child’s room, complete with stuffed animals on the bed. She stood and came towards him, in her soft pink satin pajamas and pink fluffy slippers.

Sitting on the bed he stared into her eyes and smiled, then motioned for him to have a seat on her animal laden bed. He obliged, never taking his eyes off of her and that beautiful scarlet hair. She was a striking girl, with a playful smile. He motioned for her to sit beside him on the bed and she did, willingly. “I’m Max.” He said. She smiled brighter, shaking his hand vigorously.

“Nice to meet you, Max.” She said. She moved her ankle and winced in visible pain. The shackle was pinching her flesh and she tried to ignore it, but the pain was etched in her face. Max felt twinge of guilt as the chain rattled with every move she made. She leaned with her head on his shoulder, gently stroking his inner thigh.

“My, you have such lovely red hair. It’s very pretty.” She looked down, knowing what was coming and began to undo his pants. “You are a very pretty girl, Serenity, but I guess you hear that all the time.” She shrugged non-committal.

“I think you’re very pretty.” As she spoke, she placed her hand inside of his pants, stroking with delicate fingers until he became hard. “You have such a pretty mouth, can I kiss you?” She brushed her lips across his and in that instant, the prey became the predator. “Your mouth is soft. You taste like honey. Sweet honey.” She purred.

“Did Selena tell you to say that?” Again, she shook her head and kissed him again, gently pushing his shoulders back, until he found himself lying on the bed. The more she spoke, the more he felt as if something about this young woman, this girl barely out of her teens, was wrong. Her voice had an almost hypnotic effect on him, and his body had a mind of its own.

“Don’t be scared,” She mumbled. “I will make you feel good. That’s why you came to this place Mr. Walters-Max. To experience the forbidden, the unexpected? And that is what you will get; the pleasure will be so worth it.” The statement, he thought, was an odd one. But this girl was odd. Something in this situation seemed unnatural and rehearsed. She whispered sweetly nasty comments and stoked his hair.

“I’m not afraid of you. And you- don’t be afraid of me. It’ll be painless, I promise.” Her tone was teasing and light, but he still felt as if he should leave. In his head that little voice was screeching at him to leave. From the moment he’d laid eyes upon her he’d had the niggling feeling that something about the girl was wrong.

She brushed her thin lips against his, her tongue slipped between his teeth and he was lost in the feel of her. As she began to undress him, the warning bell in his head started to ring again. This was wrong, something about this was wrong. This room, the locked steel door, the padded walls. The chain on her ankle- this was uncomfortable and wrong. Yet, he couldn’t stop himself from wanting this waif of a girl. The way she touched him, and looked at him with something that he could only classify as want.

“Kiss me again Max.” She ran her fingers through his hair, as her mouth came closer her could smell her breath. It smelled of warm spun sugar. “Kiss me.” Her mouth covered his in a hungry, expert kiss. It was as if she were trying to devour him, pushing his mouth hard against her own. He was startled by her strength and aggression, but, inexplicably, he liked it. The surrendering of control to this delicate girl seemed to excite him even more.

As her kiss deepened, the faint taste of almond filled his mouth; almond and something sweet and sticky, something both unfamiliar but comforting and soothing. His mind clouded over, and the room became hazy, as if he’d been drugged. He could feel her moving over him, undressing him with professional ease, yet he couldn’t move. He could feel her body moving against his, and in his hazy, the image of her nude body flashed before him. He could feel her mouth warm and moist on his bare flesh. And her skin seemed to be nearly too hot to touch, but he welcomed her warmth. He found himself confused by his euphoric state, as she mounted him, taking him deep inside of her. She seemed to fit him, as if she were made for him, only him. He wanted to touch her, nuzzle her small breast, and run his hands through her flame red hair. That hair, that beautiful strawberry scented hair. He tried to reach for her and discovered that he couldn’t move. He couldn’t lift his arms. He could only lay and enjoy her surprising sexual prowess. She seemed to know how to bring him to the edge, and then back off just when he felt he was ready to explode.

“What did you do to me?” He could barely choke the words out, he tongue felt thick and heavy in his mouth. Her only reply was a series of moans and the rattling of the chain against the side of the bed. She looked at him, excitement lighting her emerald eyes, then rocked her hips slowly, so slowly that the thrill was agonizing. The pleasure was so intense, so deep; it was like nothing he’d ever felt before. Unable to focus or move, he closed his eyes and gave into it, reveled in it, listening as she murmured words of seduction in her deepening voice.

The soft girlish murmurs that had soothed him into relenting were getting louder as she spoke in a language he did not recognize. The murmurs became louder and louder echoing in his brain in an incoherent cacophony of voices screaming in his head. She twisted, seeming to bring him deeper into her, her body, slick with sweat, moved against him. Wherever she touched him, his skin prickled with new sensations, new bliss. She was, in a word, mind-blowing.

“What did you do-”  He opened his eyes and began screaming at the sight of her. No longer did his lovely Serenity there, above him; instead, looming over him was this horrendous thing. That was the only way to describe it; a thing with bright blue and red soft scale like feathers that covered every inch of it. Its features were avian but beakless; its mouth running the entire length of is flat saucer like face. It had human comparable appendages, from what he could see and breasts; there were breasts, covered in the same blue red scales. He screamed louder as it moved with an animalistic fervor over him, the bright green too large eyes staring at him.

Paralyzed, he continued to scream as it climaxed, spilling a gooey pinkish black substance across his groin and stomach, before digging its razor sharp nails into the flesh of his thighs. He immediately went numb; it was as if she’d doused him in novocaine. Not only could he not move, he felt nothing. Without saying a word, but laughing in a deep husky baritone, it moved its face to his; sweet cotton candy breath engulfed and nearly choked him.

“Serenity is so, so, hungry.” It said after sniffing him, then opened its mouth exposing three rows of pointed yellowed teeth. He opened his mouth to scream again, when its mouth clamped on his throat, tearing the flesh and bone away until there was nothing but a large bloody hole. Blood seemed to spray across the room in brilliant rivulets. He could feel the life leaving his body and the sense of relief filled him. This was the way it was supposed to be. He thought as the life drained from him and the creature that was Serenity fed upon him. There was no pain. He realized as the room went dim. There was no pain, only the gentle and somewhat erotic sense of being suckled at the neck. No pain, he thought, just as she’d promised.

She was worth every penny.


Tanisha Jones is a writer of Urban Theological Mythological Slightly Erotic Romance or Paranormal romance for the less creative thinker.  She was born and raised in New Orleans, where she still lives with her daughter.  When she isn’t writing, she is a true New Orleanais either cooking, reading or watching the New Orleans Saints.

Follow Tanisha at:

Tanisha D Jones, Divinely Dark Romance:  http://tanishadelill.wordpress.com

Twitter: @tanishadelill

Website: www.tanishadjones.com

Free Fiction: Dayfall by Tanisha D. Jones

Dayfall

by Tanisha D. Jones

The three suns of Eldorra were setting in the South when I rose from my slumber atop my down mattress.  The cold had crept into the loft that was my bedroom and chilled my bones.  Careful not to wake my sweet sister Lua, I dressed in my warmest jumper and fluffy woolen socks and I crept down the ladder to the main room of our little house on the edge of Mesic, our village near the harvest fields.  Tonight we prepared for harvest and acte d’elecció, when I would become a dona, a wife.  My name is Lycia Monglave, I am fourteen cycles old and I am the caçador, hunter, of our family.

Papa was in the kitchen, frying fat sausages over the fire, mulled cider was already warmed and waiting for me on the table.  The small living space of our cúpula was nice and toasting, taking the chill from my bones.   Beside his chair were the soft white leather boots Papa had cobbled for me and the delicate embroidery of my choosing night gown.  It was soft ivory with delicate lace snowflakes in the colors of Eldorran moons, pale blues, lavenders, and silver .Of all of the men in the village, Papa was the best sastre; all of his embroidery and stitching were beautiful.  He was also a very good cook, creating the most delicious meals for us.  As I came across the room, Papa looked at me with those shining bright eyes and smiled.

“Good Dayfall, Lycia.” He said in his cheerful chipper voice.  Today, Papa was Papa again.  It was hard to tell which Papa I would awake to each dayfall.  Since the beasties had taken Mama he was moody and unpredictable.  Some nights, I would awake to find him sitting near the hearth, his silver eyes filled with tears as he mooned over Mama.  Some nights, he would not even bother getting out of bed at all, ignoring Lua and little Wilkie and keeping me from going out hunting.

Other nights, he would be like this, my Papa with his smiling eyes.  On nights like this I would return from the outlands to find him with the other men of the village weaving baskets or doing the wash on the banks of the lavender spring that rushed past the village.  Nights like this were becoming more frequent as the pain of his losing Mama was becoming more bearable, not just for him but for us all.

“Good day fall, Papa.” I said and sat to drink my cider. It was warm and rich and tasted of fresh hehku berries.  As we sat in silence, the smells of sausage and cider filling our home. Outside the moons were rising and off in the distance we could hear the faint cries of the beasties, those who hadn’t returned to their warrens before the glow of the moon caught them.  I watched the pained expression on Papa’s face and realize he looked older than his years.  His silver white hair had dulled, the sheen of his skin had begun to ashen, only slightly and the sparkle in his brilliant   eyes was fading.  I watched as his handsome face tensed then relaxed.

“Papa,” I mumbled and he looked at me as if he had just realized I was sitting with him.

“I am sorry.   That was near to the village, they are already coming closer. You will not stay out long, will you Lycia? “I gave his hand a pat of reassurance. The beasties always ventured closer to the village at the times of the Soltaia. I understood his fear, I did not share it.  I could not, I would not be able to go out into the night to hunt for food and hides so that we could survive.

“I am just going to prepare the traps and I will be back before the moons are high. And I will mark them.”  I began to eat my sausages and drinking my cider before they cooled.   He gave me a tight smile and I knew what he was thinking. We lost Mama during the Soltaia harvest a full cycle ago.  The snows had come early making it difficult to see the traps that had been set in the outlands.  She had stepped on one and was waiting for help to arrive when the beasties found her.   I understood that Papa was worried, but Soltaia was the only time the mererabits transverse from the north lands to the lands beyond the lavender lake.  To have those pelts is what kept us leysi and made it possible for me to not have to go out as often as the others.

Soltaia was also the time when the suns and moons rose and set at the same time. It was the time when we lost the most villagers because the beasties would be out both night and day.  There was no day fall to protect us, the rays from the seven moons would be dulled allowing them more movement, more freedom in our fields. We lost many during the Soltaia and not just hunters. Sometime those pink skinned devils would make their way into a cúpula. Once they had gotten into the cúpula of a family who’s Dona had gone out to hunt. It had taken all of the children and the marit before she returned and killed it.

That had been the saddest harvest the village had ever seen and that was why the cúpulas now circled the square and hall had entrance doors that faced the square. The cúpulas had no windows that faced away from the village and were built close enough that the possibility of a beastie sneaking between them was impossible. We had not had another beastie in the village since this had been done.

Since Mama had been lost, I was the only hunter we had until Lua was of age, and that was many cycles from now.  So Papa would begin teaching Wilkie his duties as a future marit.  Any Dona would be lucky to have a marit like Wilkie if he was half at skilled and as beautiful as Papa was. Even though it had only been one cycle, there had been talk in the village by many of the Dona to take Papa as a marit, once he was over his sorrow over losing Mama. And since I was at the age of choosing my own marit, Papa would be alone soon with two little ones to care for.  He needed a new Dona to hunt and protect him and the wee ones.

Even with the strain of losing Mama and caring for the family on his own, Papa was still a young man of only thirty two cycles.  He still garnered giggles and whispers from the donas in the village square whenever he went out. Papa was not a tall man, but he was a lovely man, with skin the color or stardust and eyes like the western lavender moons. The most wondrous thing about Papa was his smile, blinding and bright. When he smiled at you, it was if the heavens opened just for you.  Yes, Papa was a lovely man and he world make any dona a very good marit.  Mama had been the envy of many when she and Papa had chosen each other during their first acte d’elecció.  They had been a striking duo, well matched and so in love.

I had been gifted with Papa’s lavender eyes and silken silver white hair, but I was taller than the girls my age, with Mama’s curves. I had developed strong legs and arms from many hours spent hunting in the outlands. I was also going to have my pick of the young men in the village; I had seen the looks when I went to fetch water from the well.  There were many handsome men of my age, but only one held my heart.

My beautiful Kurt. He was so delicate with soft blue eyes and pale yellow hair that shone golden in the moonlight, his skin was silken beneath my fingertips and he had the softest lips to touch mine.  He would wait for me when I returned from my hunts, sitting on the steps to my cúpula with a cup of hot mulled cider and he would rub my feet. Kurt would often come to care for the little ones in the fest nights after Mama was taken, cooking meals and preparing my bath from those first nights I would go out alone. I would come home covered in blood and filth with those paltry weaslets, Kurt was always there to help me peel the heavy furs from my shivering frame.  He had been sent from the heavens on those first nights. That’s why he was already my chosen one.

Up in the loft, I could hear Wilkie crying as he woke. A fussy boy, he never ventured from the comfort of the loft alone. Sighing, Papa rose to go fetch him and Lua for their meal of sausages, steamed milk and warm porridge.   He would take them into the small koupelna for their baths afterward, then they would go out into the village square with the other fathers and children.  They would be guarded by the soldiers who stood watch from the high towers that looked over the entire village.  Before that, I went in to clean up and prepare for the night ahead.  If I were to keep my word to Papa I had to get moving.                      `

As usually, I pulled the heavy red mererabit fur over my jumper, and plaited my silver white mane to keep it out of my eyes.  I washed my face and brushed my teeth to remove the smell of the sausages and cider before returning to the outer space of our living area.

Papa, Lua and Wilkie were at the table now. Papa was trying to feed Wilkie who sat in a beautifully carved highchair Mama had made when she was heavy with me.  It had been mine, then Lau’s now it was Wilkie’s.  The beautiful white Birchwood was delicately decorated but still fit the girls of the family well.  Wilkie, being Wilkie, had more porridge on his face than he ever actually ate.

“Come now, eat little pup.” Papa coaxed, but Wilkie preferred playing in his food to eating it.

Beside him, Lua sat with her brow furrowed and her sharp pale blue eyes focused as she concentrated on getting the heaping spoonful of porridge into her mouth instead of her lap.  At five cycles old, she had another cycle to wait before she could be trained as a caçador.   Suddenly, I was overwhelmed with sadness as I watched them. Soon, I would have a cúpula of my own with my own marit and pups. The thought made my heart hurt.

I left them to their ritual, pulling my boots on before leaving the warmth of the cúpula.  My traps had been cleaned and oiled and hung besides the front door and waited for me now. I stared up into the dull dusky sky at the seven moons as they rose over the western hills, then to the south where the suns were slowly fading but still hung in the sky like great orange balls.  One of the suns was three times the size of the largest of the moons, making their rays that much deadlier.  It had already begun; tomorrow they would remain high matching the moons, each cancelling the effects of the other.  I would make fast work of checking my traps and returning to my cúpula and the warmth of the hearth.  Thankfully, Papa had done the wash the night before; he would have no reason to leave the safety of the village square.

I looked around the square and saw that other caçadors were leaving their cúpula’s as well.  Some looked at me and waved greetings, some did not. Some had ill feelings toward me because of my love of Kurt and his for me; Kurt was mine, body and soul, and I his. I shook my head, clearing my thoughts as I tucked a blade into my boot, another into the back of my jumper beneath my heavy fur, but accessible if needed.  One thing Mama had always taught me was to be prepared for anything.

We gathered our things and filed past the sentries that guarded the only entrance and exit to the village.  During the sunlight, the sentries were replaced by a gate carved from the same moonstone as the cupulas.

Like the light of the moons, moonstone was intolerable to thee beasties.  There were no tools that they possessed that could as much as scratch the stone. It had been a perfect solution to the sunlight raids of the beasties, but that was long before I was born.

As usual, they checked out faces and names as we filed into the outlands, each moving in different directions.   Most of those in white moved south to the already snowy hills beneath the silver moons, where the foxens were plentiful.  Those in brown went east beneath the blue moons, hunters of the felcks and bison, the yellow clad went north to the shores of the lavender waters of the sea that was home to the sliver and tumtum fish.  The yellow of their cloaks blended into the high thistle weed that lines the shores.  I pulled my heavy fur lined hood over my head to travel west, through the barrens and the forests that housed the warrens of the beasties, but they were the most fertile grounds of the mererabits.  I hunted alone.

As I trekked through the crisp frozen grass setting my traps, I thought of Kurt. He had not been in the square that night, which was not unexpected.  He had gone on and on the night before about his suit for the acte d’elecció. He and Papa had worked so hard on the colors matching and the snowflake pattern that Papa had created for my gown. He was going to braid his hair to match mine and he had prepared already a special garland of pink and yellow flowers to present to me when he was chosen. Pink and yellow were my favorite colors and he said they made the silver in my eyes glow.  Kurt was a full cycle older than I and this was his second acte d’elecció. He had been chosen last cycle, by four different donas. He had not chosen any of them in return, instead he waited for me.  My soon to be marit, my beautiful delicate Kurt. Hopefully Papa would be chosen by a new dona tomorrow night as well.  He did not know that I had seen him many nights with Susi, the butcher.  She was a beautiful dona with bright red hair and she always made sure Papa had extra cuts of meat. They would steal glances at each other in the village square when they thought no eyes were upon them. She would be a great dona for my Papa and a good mother for the little ones.

I climbed my way up the ridge toward the higher ground   following the path the mererabits would follow across the harvest fields and through the woods, pausing to look down over the village. From where I stood, the cúpulas looked like a circle of perfectly sculpted balls of snow, two dozen side by side linked by tiny underground walkways.  At the back of the circle was the largest cúpula, the meeting hall that was being prepared for the choosing ceremony.  I could see the marits decorating the façade with the bright pink caleda flowers, the spicy fragrance would fill the square my dayfall tomorrow. Though pretty to look at, the flowers were also used to deter the beasties.  Something about the smell dissuaded them. Behind every few yards there were watch towers where sentries stood watch.  The soft lights from the towers would sweep the harvest plains beyond the village, watching for beasties in search of entry.  By next day fall, those sentries would be on high alert, watching and waiting.

I wandered beyond the ridge to the low country, the valley in the forest where the beasties had their warrens. As quietly as possible I began setting the traps, moving smoothly and on silent feet as I dug into the icy earth. I needed to spike the traps down so that they would not dislodge one it was sprung. The first cycle of hunting, I had lost more traps than captured mererabits because I’d failed to spike them properly.

I was lost in thought as I clipped a bright red strip of leather to mark my trap’s location, when I hear it. It was the soft pattering of footsteps. At first, I thought it to be a mererabit, but these steps were made by a solitary creature.  Mererabits were average sized creatures, larger than the foxen but much smaller than the bison and felcks.  I could carry only two at a time, which is why I set traps.  I set traps throughout the forest and world return the next night with a sleigh to bring the carcasses back to the village where they would be rendered and skinned.  The pelts and meat would be traded with the other families, as was our way. We traded with the farmers for fruits and vegs, the other hunters for meat and fish, the weavers, the lumberers. It was our way and it has worked from hundreds of cycles.

The creature making those noises was much, much larger.  I pulled my hood back so that I could better hear, the lining of the fur muting the footfalls on the frozen ground.   Three or four tree lengths away, I saw it moving slowly, but coming closer.  It was taller than any man I had ever seen, it was lean and moved as a predator does, its noise high in the air as it sniffed.  It wore dark, heavy furs, protecting its delicate pink skin from the low hanging moon, its dark piercing eyes locking with mine and I froze.

My heart thudded against my ribs, loud enough for me to hear. I wondered if he could hear it as well. It must have, because it moved closer, and took a step back right onto the trap I had just set.  I covered my mouth with my hand as pain cut through me like a knife and down I went, hitting the frozen ground with a bones rattling thud. The snap of the closing trap was tiny but the beasties have acute hearing and he was moving toward me, lopping with long easy strides between the trees coming closer.

It was over me in a split second, its hooded face hidden as it stood blocking out the moon.  Slowly, it pushed the heavy hood off back, but not completely off of its head so that I could see his face. Not many villagers had ever really seen one in person, not many that had lived to tell about it.  There were sightings of shadows and the sounds of them whispering as they moved on the outskirts of the village. Those soft hushed clicks and whistled they used when hunting. We heard the howls when one was caught out in the light of the moon, unprotected.

I reached for the blade I had tucked into the back of my jumper with shaky hands as it knelt beside me. It wore a heavy leather hooded cloak over a dark pants heavy boots. His hands had been covered in thick black gloves that protected them from the rays of the moon that burned and blistered their skin. The face of the beastie was worse than I imagined. It was a male, I assumed but his features was harder than any male in my village. Not soft and delicate like my beautiful Kurt or Papa. It had a strong jaw, with sickening white teeth that were even and gave it’s already horrid face a more sinister look.  Its eyes were of a black that I had never witnessed and its skin wasn’t pink at all, it was more the color of a tanned animal hide.

“Well,” it said in a voice much too deep and harsh to be a man’s. “Look like you’ve been caught in your own trap.  Just like the last one. What am I to do with you little one?”

I swung my blade at some area beneath the hood and he easily avoided it, laughing a deep throaty sound that seemed to rumble from deep down in his belly.  He gripped my wrist and pulled the blade from my fingers and stared at it in amusement.  The blade fit into his hand as if it were a splinter, tiny and lost in his massive fist. He tossed it aside and stared at me for a long time, his eyes narrowing as he stared at me.

“You are a pretty little one aren’t you?” He ran his large thick fingers over my hair, holding it up to the light and I struggled to free myself from him. He only held me tighter, his thin lips tightening in frustration or excitement, I was not sure which.

“This mane will fetch a pretty price; you will feed me for a quarter cycle.” He said. “I suppose you never thought your night would end like this, did you, pretty little Mesic? Silent?  No screams? No pleas for mercy? Let us see the rest of you then.” He said and I felt the knots in my stomach twist tighter.  I slapped at his hands as he reached for the collar of my jumper, tugging at it. I clawed at his face until he had no chose but to fight back. HE slapped me hard across the cheek and I could taste blood in my mouth, but I would not give up.

He fought with me, finally managing to rip the jumper and fur from my body. Tossing them aside, he exposed my bare flesh to the light of the moon. I had already flowered as a dona, my body ready to bear a child.  He stared at me, before reaching to touch my exposed breast, and I slapped his hand away, scratching and growling as I fought off his disgusting touch.  My body was not his to molest, my body was to only be touched by Kurt, my marit.

“I knew you had fight in you. I like that, I may just keep you as a pet for a while.” He said and stroked my arm. With my free leg, I kicked at him, hoping to hit his male parts, if he had any.  I missed and he laughed in quiet amusement.

Shaking his head, he grabbed my neck, pushing on my throat until I could no longer breathe, with the other massive hand he released the trap and lifted me as if I were a sack of feathers.  He held me at arm’s length, my feet dangling in midair as he held me in the moonlight, his monstrous face twisted in confusion.

“Still no cries? Do you not know that you will die soon, little one?” He asked, bringing my face close to his, but holding my arms tight to my sides. I was bare, cold and unable to reach the blade that was in my boot.  “You are a brave one.” He looked down at my leg, the one he’d released from the trap and stared at the pristine white of my fur lined boot  and intact skin.  “Why isn’t your leg broken?” He asked, more to himself than to me.

The moons of Eldorra have different effects on the people of my village. The silvery moons in the south gave us an unparalleled strength.  The sick and injured would travel to the south and lay naked in the moon’s glow to heal.   The blue moons of the west were rejuvenating, soothing and promoted fertility. At the end of the Soltaia, the new couples would journey to the cottages of the west and spend their choosing night. It is the place donas go to ensure that they are full with child during the snows. The lavender moons did something different altogether that is why I am the only one to hunt these fields, it is the reason I wear such a heavy hooded fur and jumper.

I could feel the glow of the lavender moon on my skin and a smile began at the corners of my mouth.  I tossed my head back as the transformation began, I could feel the muzzle pushing out, elongating my mouth and teeth. The silver white fur started on my belly and face as it always did, and I began to laugh a deep hallow laugh as I stared into widening eyes of the beastie.

“Because I am not the one who’s going to die.” I said. He released me and turned to run, but it was much, much too late. I landed on all fours, growling as I gave chase through the frozen waste lands of the barrens.   This is why I wear a red fur in the stark barrens of the outlands a bright beacon in a colorless landscape.

The rise of the moon isn’t the only reason the beasties hide at day fall. My name is Lycia Monglave, I am fourteen cycles old and I am a caçador.

 


Tanisha Jones is a writer of Urban Theological Mythological Slightly Erotic Romance or Paranormal romance for the less creative thinker.  She was born and raised in New Orleans, where she still lives with her daughter.  When she isn’t writing, she is a true New Orleanais either cooking, reading or watching the New Orleans Saints.

Follow Tanisha at:

Tanisha D Jones, Divinely Dark Romance:  http://tanishadelill.wordpress.com

Twitter: @tanishadelill

Website: www.tanishadjones.com

Free Fiction: Breeder by Tanisha D. Jones

BREEDER

By

Tanisha D. Jones

            They had been traveling for what felt like months under the unrelenting heat of the sun when they finally reached the metal wall that encircled the Forbidden City.  Their food had been exhausted after the first week, their last rations of water just the day before, so seeing the gleaming metal in the distance had been a wondrous revelation.   Their bodies were so void of water that they no longer had the ability to perspire. Instead, they simply stumbled forward hoping to find relief.   At first, they had believed it to be a mirage, a trick of the mind.  But as they moved closer, the shine of the polished silver nearly blinding them, they knew that they had reached their destination. Finally, as they were ready to lie in the scorching sand and let death take them, they had received a reprieve.

They’d left the cool dank tunnels of the hidden valley in search of this dome of chrome and steel. The fabled Forbidden City had been spoken only in hushed tones in Gizli, their home since the great wars that had ravaged the planet.  Millions had died, but those that had survived had been forced underground in the lush mountain valleys of the east.  The west had been devastated, with many cities wiped from the earth. Only the myth of the domed city had remained, the city that had been protected and survived the annihilation of a planet. There had been stories of the strange and unnatural creatures that were to inhabit it. As children that had been told stories of the others in warning.  “Mind your mother or the other will take you to the Forbidden City”, had made many a child heedful. But today, it was to be their salvation.

Screaming for assistance with voices that barely worked above a whisper, they were relieved and horrified.  They had come so far, yet they still were outside of the city, still unable to reach help. Falling to their knees, they pounded the searing metal with hands crackled and bleeding from the unrelenting heat. Finally, exhausted, the two collapsed into a heap in the sun backed sand, too dehydrated to shed tears.

They flinched slightly as the blast of cool air washed over them as the massive wall parted. From inside the darkened cavern sever white clad figures emerged searching the horizon for more travelers. Realizing that these were the only outsiders to venture to their compound, they took them in.  They half dragged, half carried the limp bodies behind the great wall into their fortress, the heavy doors sliding closed as they went deeper into the darkness.

“Where do you think they came from?”

“I wonder if there are more of them.”

“They must come from a cooler climate. Look at the clothes.”

“They had to come from the east.   It’s been decades since we’ve seen anyone else.”

“They are so young. They will be missed.”

“How did they get so far from home?”  Men were speaking around her; she could hear them through the haze of her exhausted sleep. She could also hear tiny rhythmic beeps and the hiss of something over her head. There was something on her face, something soft and assaulting her with cool, fresh air.  She lay in a cocoon of warmth and felt herself drifting back into the darkness when someone touched her arm.

“She’s waking.”   She struggled to open her eyes to see who was speaking in the hushed, strangely accented tones around her.  She tried to speak, but she couldn’t find her voice. The only sounds she could make were soft moans and grunts.

One of the people around her ran something hard and metallic across her face and she opened her eyes, slowly at first.  The room was blurry then gradually came into focus.   The people she had heard were men, seven of them. They were tall and thin with intelligent eyes and dark hair. She stared for a moment, not sure if she were fully awake. They were of similar height and build, all dressed in white.  Some were older, some younger, but all similar. The resemblance was eerie and could only be familial, she thought.

She blinked and stared from one to the other before turning her attention to her surroundings. The room was bright with electric light, and unlike anything she had ever seen before.  She was in a bedroom.  A true girl’s bedroom with an actual bed and carpeted floors. There was a bureau and closets and deep fluffy down pillows and a soft duvet that enveloped her in a cloud of pink and white.

“Can you sit up?” One of the younger men asked, and she nodded, weakly pulling herself into sitting position.  She looked down at herself as the covers fell to pool around her hips and waist. Her thick dark hair had been loosened from the head wrap and tumbled over her shoulder in thick braids.   They had removed the long earth colored duster she’d worn to protect her skin from the sun and replaced it with a long and pristine white dressing gown with a high collar.

She’d seen gowns like this in the tattered books and magazines that had been housed in the records room of the Gizli.  The beeping she’d heard were machines that monitored her heart and breathing. She looked at her arms to see tubes running from her arm to a bag that was suspended besides the bed where clear liquid flowed into her.

“Is this a – hosepitol?” She asked through the mask that was secured over her nose and mouth.  He reached up and gently removed the mask, making it easier for him to understand her.  She flinched as the cool air hit her raw and hoarse throat from days of being exposed to the elements. Her eyes still stung as if sand had been embedded.  She had been cleaned though, bathed, her hair washed and her skin smelled of rose water. She looked at the men, wondering which of them had seen her bare body, or if they had all taken turns staring at her lithe, tanned body.

“Hospital?  Sort of.  This is your room.  What is your name?”  The youngest of the men asked.  His hark hair had not yet began to grey like some of the other men.  His eyes were bright and clear, and as blue as the sky.  She had never seen eyes like that. The people of her valley had dark eyes and hair, their skin a tawny brown, where these men were pale as if the sun’s rays never touched their skin.  They were pretty men with soft features, she thought, thin lips, high cheekbones and round faces.  The men from Gizli had strong angular faces.  She found them to be mystifying and peculiar creatures, alien to her.

The others stared at her, then at the young man before the six slowly and silently exited the room.

“I am Sebastian.” He said when she did not answer.

“Lucy.” She mumbled. Suddenly, her heart began to race and the beeping increasing as she felt the dread knot tightening in her chest.

“Oliver. Where is Oliver?” She asked, ripping the mask from her face.  Sebastian placed a staying hand on her thigh and shushed her as the other men backed away.

“Oliver is fine.  He was in much worse condition and he needs more rest.  You two came a long way. “ She relaxed, feeling a sudden calm over her. Something in this strange man’s soothing tone and gentle touch worked like the sleep elixir her mother had given her when she’d been afflicted with the fevers.

“What were you two doing out there, Lucy?” He asked. She liked the way he said her name. She liked the way he looked, she decided.

“Oliver and I left before the Goä  began the matching ceremony.”  She said, tears welling in her deep brown eyes. Sebastian’s pretty face creased slightly.

“What is the matching ceremony?” He asked.

“The matching ceremony is when the Goä, the elders, match breeders to husbands. “  She said as if this were common knowledge.

“Breeders?” Sebastian asked.

“Women who can born a child. “  She said, her own brow creased in confusion.

“I do not understand. “ Sebastian said.

“After the great wars, most of the women in the valleys were taken by illnesses. Of those left, only a few were able to born a child, a healthy child.  The Goä decided that it would be best that those women were matched to the strongest and smartest of men.  In the valleys, men outnumber women ten to one. After a girl has her first year of bleeding, she is matched.   She is given to a husband, and if she borns two boys, she is matched to another until a girl is born.  Some women have been matched ten time or more. My own mother had seven matches before I was born.”

“And you wanted to be matched to Oliver?” He asked. Lucy laughed and shook her head.

“Oh goodness no.  Oliver is my kin, we share a mother.  Oliver is outcast in the valleys. He is- he does not- he – he is of like mind of the women.”

“You mean he is homosexual?”  Sebastian asked.

“You use such words,” Lucy sighed, a smile on her lips.  She was quiet pretty when she smiled, Sebastian thought as he looked at her. “Oliver lies with men the way a woman does.” She said.

“How old are you Lucy?”  He asked.

“I am eighteen years old.”

“And this is your first time being matched?”

She nodded and tears, once again filled those expressive brown eyes.  She sniffed and smiled weakly.

“I was a later bloomer.  Mother said that it is good luck. The women who bleed later almost always born girls first.   I was matched to the Goä Supreme. “

“And you did not want this?” Sebastian asked.

“Goä Supreme is very old and very cruel.  All of his matches have died while trying to born his children.   They all went to the illness. All of them. I did not want to be the next.”

“So you came here?  How did you know of this place?”

“As children we are told the history of the great wars.  We are told of the wars that started across the seas, about the magic city under the dome where the forbidden men and women live and do evil things with magic and machines. Only Oliver, Oliver found a man. A man who had come from the west many many years ago.  He lived in the broken city near the seas, where the fruit trees grow.  The man told Oliver that as a boy he had come from the City in search of more survivors.  He said the people here were scientists and smart men and women who lived in peace. He said that people like Oliver would be welcome and accepted. Oliver asked him to bring him here, but the man could only show him the way with his maps. When it was foretold by the Goä Mother that I was to be matched with the Goä Supreme, Oliver and I ran. “

“This man, who was he? What did he look like?” Sebastian asked.

“I never met the man. Oliver did. All I know is that he was very old when Oliver met him and that his name was Adam. Can I see Oliver now?” She asked, her throat becoming raw and dry, her eyes becoming heavy.

“Later.  We will talk again after you have rested and eaten. Rest well, Lucy.“  Sebastian said and left the room as quickly and as quietly as the others had.  The electric lights dimmed as he exited the room and she immediately feel into a deep dreamless sleep.

 ***

             For several weeks, Lucy and Sebastian followed this same pattern. He would enter her room, waking her from her slumber to ask her questions about illness and those in the east, but mostly he would ask her about Adam.

“I did not know Adam,” she would say,  ”you must ask Oliver.” He would test her blood and look at pages of test results.  One of the older men, the ones who did not speak to her had come and taken the tubes from her arms.  The beeping machines had been taken from the room and she could stand and  walk across the room.

On the first day she was allowed to walk across the carpet, she had found the sensation exhilarating.  She had been eager to sink her feet into the plush pink carpeting.  She got on all fours and sank her fingers into it, then lay on her back and reveled in the feel of the softness of the floor. The food that was brought was the most delicious she’d ever had, fresh fruit and fish from clean streams, beef, chicken and vegetables. Sebastian explained that the dome had its own ecological system and there were farms and gardens as well as schools and entertainment vaults.  One some nights he would bring actual movies to her bedroom and they would watch television shows on DVDs. They would listen to music and he would bring her books that still looked new.  He would teach her his words spend time with her. He was her friend, but she still felt unease with him sometimes.

She had even attempted to lift the shades on the windows to see what was on the other side. She had never seen and actual window and was curious as to the world inside the dome.  Instead, she found the shade locked into place.  Every day, Sebastian would come and every day she would as to see Oliver.

“He is still resting.  You will see him soon.” Sebastian would say before leaving her to the darkness of the bedroom.  On her second day, Lucy realized that something was strange about this place.   She only felt that way when Sebastian was not in the room with her.    She was never allowed beyond these walls. She had her own bathroom with a bathtub with hot and cold water, and new clothes. Her every need met, and all she had to do was let Sebastian and the others take her blood every few days. A small price to pay for everything she could ever need or want, yet she felt trapped. Like a prisoner in a perfect cell.

During the fifth week, when Sebastian entered the room, he found Lucy standing at the window. Her arms wrapped around her waist, her face set in grim determination.

“Good Morning, Lucy.” He said with that smile.

“I want to see Oliver.” She said ignoring the pleasantries.  “I want to see him now.”

“Do not upset yourself. You are still very weak-“He reached for her and she moved away.

“I am not weak.  That is something you know very well, with all of your tests and machines. You know that I am strong. I am also very smart, Sebastian.  I want to see Oliver, Now!” She screamed.

“Please, be calm. I will take you to see him.  Come.”  She calmed as he went to open the door, but she did not come close to him. She would not let him touch her.  Something about his smile was much more sinister than it had been before and it made her skin crawl.  He placed a hand on her lower back, and from the corner of her eye she saw a flash of metal only a split second before she reacted.

Deftly, she slapped at his hand, surprising him with her strength. She crouched low and kicked, sweeping his feet from under him.  He fell to the floor with a muted thud, the syringe embedded deeply into his upper thigh.  He grunted , slowly pulling the needle from his thigh seconds before she made her way for the door.

She threw the door open and raced down a narrow corridor awash in harsh yellow lighting. She ran blindly, pausing only briefly at the doors that lined that hallway, testing them, calling Oliver’s name before moving on.  Sebastian was hot on her heels, his pretty face twisted in anger as he raced after her.

“Lucy, Come back. Wait!”  He pleaded.

She was nearly ready to give up when she saw the bright light at the end of the tunnel. Her feet hurt as they pounded against the concrete, her breath coming in painful bursts.  Her side ached and she felt as if she were going to vomit. Instead, she pushed harder until she reached the end of the hallway and her expected salvation.

Instead, she came up short, stopping abruptly as she  came to stand on a metal grate  at the end of the hallway. She stared ahead in confused terror, her heart pounding and her eyes filling with tears.  Slowly, she approached the railing that lined the grated balcony that loned the interior of the massive room, her jaw slack.   Behiond her, she could hear Sebastian approaching. His own breathing labored and strained as he came to stand beside her.

“What is this place?”

She stared up at the curved ceiling of the dome, and then down across that massive interior her heart twisting in her chest.   She stared straight ahead at the massive structure; the girders that crisscrossed the space were lined with hundreds and hundreds of pods, filled with a pale blue liquid.  Above and below, the dome was lined with platforms exactly like the one on which she found herself.  Men in white coats moved on the platforms, taking these pods from the girders and loading them onto mechanized trollies. While others added pods that seemed to be empty.

The illuminated egg like pods shifted and rotated as the process continued. The grinding of metal and the smell of medicine filled the   canned air that filtered into this part of the dome. As the pods moved, she could see shapes behind the thick milky glass and her stomach twisted into knots. Some were full grown; others still developing, but the faces, young and old, were all the same.  Dark haired, soft featured men, all of them were…Sebastian!

All of them accept the newest additions to the unending assembly line.  Tears welled in her eyes as the angular features of Oliver drifted past.  “What have you done?” She asked her voice that of a mouse coming from some far off place.

“We also were affected by the great wars.   But unlike your people in the east, it hit us much, much harder. The survivors were devastated and even with our medicines and  science, we began to die.  Until Adam, the first of us and he was the last of us.  Adam was a great man of science and he found a way to keep us alive. Each of us is Adam and he is each of us.  When he realized that he could no longer sustain us or the dome on his own, he went in search of the others.   He had been gone for many years and we had given up hope.  Our genetic code was starting to weaken and we were dying. You can only copy a copy so many times before it is no longer a viable copy. So when you and Oliver came, it was a blessing. A gift sent by Adam to continue our line. We needed you, and you came.  You and Oliver are adding to our genetic material. You are our salvation. Don’t you see? “He embraced her and she pushed away.

“I want to go. Let me go!” She screamed, turning back to the sight before her and gasped as the next row of pods moved into view, covering her mouth with her hand to keep from screaming as a row of faces just as her own, floated before her eyes. Some had her tawny skin and dark hair, some had dark hair and rounded features, but the faces were all a variation of hers.  The one that looked most like her, opened her eyes and she groaned inwardly. It was her face with deep blue eyes, the color of the sky.   She didn’t even feel it when he injected her, only felt the suddenly heaviness in her eyes as she drifted into unconsciousness.

“We can’t let you go, Lucy. Not ever.  We need you. We need a breeder.”


Tanisha Jones is a writer of Urban Theological Mythological Slightly Erotic Romance or Paranormal romance for the less creative thinker.  She was born and raised in New Orleans, where she still lives with her daughter.  When she isn’t writing, she is a true New Orleanais either cooking, reading or watching the New Orleans Saints.

Follow Tanisha at:

Tanisha D Jones, Divinely Dark Romance:  http://tanishadelill.wordpress.com

Twitter: @tanishadelill

Website: www.tanishadjones.com

Winter Book Suggestion: Lucy Blue The Last Winter Knight

In the Cure for the Holidaze special, Dan Shaurette mentioned this book as a good Gothic read for winter.

The Last Winter Knight by Lucy Blue

“Dear heart, listen to me closely.” His eyes were a shocking shade of blue. “I smell petrol. This vehicle is seconds away from exploding, at which time I intend to be well away with you tucked snugly to my side. I draw the line, however, at carrying your suitcase.”

When Christabel loses control of her car on a mountain road in a freak, late winter blizzard, she is rescued by Bernard, a quirky-hot scientist living and working in seclusion at his family mansion nearby. Snowed in miles from civilization in a manor house straight out of Downton Abbey or Wuthering Heights, she finds herself falling head over heels in lust and maybe even love with this knight in shining snow shoes. But all the best knights have a dark side. The better she gets to know Bernard and his mysterious home, the more she realizes her finding herself there might not have been an accident at all.

 

We interviewed Lucy Blue on Episode #97 of HorrorAddicts.net. Listen below to hear the interview.

Follow Crystal Lake Publishing!

Crystal Lake Publishing is the sponsor of our Next Great Horror Writer contest and we’d like to share their vision with you.

With unmatched success since 2012, Crystal Lake Publishing has quickly become one of the world’s leading indie book publishers of Horror, Mystery, Thriller, Dark & Speculative Fiction, and Suspense books with a Dark Fiction edge. Crystal Lake Publishing puts integrity, honor, and respect at the forefront of their publishing operations.

They strive for each book and outreach program that’s launched to not only entertain and touch or comment on issues that affect their readers, but also to strengthen and support the Dark Fiction field and its authors.

Not only do they publish authors who are destined to be legends in the field, but they also look for men and women who care about their readers and fellow human beings. They only publish the very best Dark Fiction and look forward to launching many new careers.

Crystal Lake Publishing is and will always be a beacon of what passion and dedication, combined with overwhelming teamwork and respect, can accomplish: unique fiction you can’t find anywhere else.

They do not just publish books, they present to you worlds within your world, doors within your mind, from talented authors who sacrifice so much for a moment of your time. You, the reader, is what it’s all about.

Crystal Lake Publishing is one of the best small presses out there. So how can you support Crystal Lake?

Support their Patreon page: https://www.patreon.com/CLP

Purchase some of their books: http://www.crystallakepub.com/book-table/

Subscribe to their YouTube channel: https://www.youtube.com/c/CrystalLakePublishing

Subscribe to their newsletter: http://eepurl.com/xfuKP

Follow them on Twitter: https://twitter.com/crystallakepub

Follow them on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Crystallakepublishing/

Thank you for supporting Indie Publishing.

Review: Witch House by Evangeline Walton

WitchHouseWitch House by Evangeline Walton is a creepy novel written in 1945.

A doctor travels to a large ominous house on an island separated from town by a lake. This house is inhabited by evil either imprinted there or from ghosts of past family members. The doctor’s task is to confront and cure a small girl who has either been seeing poltergeist activity or causing it. Also residing in the house are the girl’s mother, and her two male cousins. The three adults must live together for the terms of the will if they wish to retain ownership, but when the ghost activity gets physical and people start dying, even the ownership doesn’t seem like that big of a loss if they want to save their lives. Most of the ghostly legends center around Aunt Sarai, a woman who ruled the house with an iron fist and who may still rule from beyond the grave.

The house reminds me of the movie The Woman in Black although it is distinctly American, but the house is also separated from the town by water. The residents of the town could be plucked from one of Stephen King’s novels in that they embody the small New England townsfolk who tell stories about the folks that “live the house.” Yet, this book was written in 1945, long before King’s career.

What drew me to read Witch House was the intriguing cover. I wanted to see the scary witch painting come alive and attack the poor little girl. It never happens that way, but the woman called Aunt Sarai does seem to terrorize the child. Although the book is slow and much of it is about how the doctor tries to convince the girl that the objects and people tormenting her are harmless, there was a spookiness to the tale that I enjoyed. Because it’s slow, the payoffs take a long time to present themselves. Scary corridors with no end, strangely solid ghost figures, and a large black hare all add to the scare in this book. In the end, I felt the scare never was as scary as the build-up. However, passages like…

“Broken through the dark webs of her destiny…”

and

“The full moon should give that watching figure this semblance of flesh as well as shadow…”

…kept me reading. It’s evident the writing is from another time, but instead of irritating me, the style drew me in. Sure, the ending is not as scary as I would have liked and looking back nothing truly frightening happened that I’ve not read a hundred times before, but her language and description kept me in the world of Witch House and I’m not sad I gave it a try. If I were a child experiencing these things, I would truly be terrified. It’s just not up to our 2016 standards as far as fear. I’ll leave with you one last passage which is my favorite.

“The room was dark now, totally dark, too dark for the dangerous half-light that aids materializations…but at the windows there were touches of moon-silver twilight. Presently they enabled him to distinguish…something darker than the darkness—the skirted silhouette of a woman. He knew the shape and the folds in which the dress fell; he had seen them in Aunt Sarai’s portrait… Each detail appeared gradually now, thickening and blackening into perfection, out of the nebulous darkness…”

Tonight in bed don’t let Aunt Sarai’s silhouette in the window scare you. She’s not real. She’s a figment of your imagination…or is she?

Review: Alice in the Country of Hearts by Quinrose

alicein the countryAlert: Herbivores beware, rabbit discrimination! Warn your kits!

“These aren’t rabbit ears! They’re just long! I swear I am not a rabbit. I eat carrot cookies, cake, and tea. I like stuff made from carrots but I could never eat a carrot straight, so I’m obviously NOT a rabbit.”

How dare Alice group people together based on the size of their ears! This is just one of the amusing quips in the awesome manga series Alice in the Country of Hearts by Quinrose. This has to be one of my top ten manga series of all time.

The first thing that drew me to these beautiful books was the art. Illustrated by Soumei Hoshino, the detailed display of clocks, sweets, architecture, and fashion is phenomenal.

I think any Alice lover will enjoy the new twists on our most beloved story. First, Alice is not the Alice we know. Instead of being curious and following the white rabbit, he tricks her into falling down the hole and then traps her in wonderland by force-feeding her a potion through a kiss. She finds herself in a land where everyone has a clock for a heart and they are fighting a war based on reincarnation. The characters are so detailed and interesting, I’m not even sure I can pick my favorite one.

Our favorite Mad Hatter in this book is Blood Dupre, a Mafia Don who leads The Hatters in war against the other factions. He is a gothic dandy, more interested in seducing Alice than the battle at hand. In his posse are two young boys dressed in fashionable military outfits and a non-rabbit enforcer named Elliot March. Something this author picked up on from the Lewis Carroll book, that I never thought of, was the possibility of the White Rabbit and the March Hare fighting. I found this storyline beyond amusing.

Another sect of Wonderland is the Amusement Park District where Alice can enjoy all the normal sort of rides while being shuffled around the place by overly peppy park attendants. The owner of the park is Mary Gowland, an older hippie man who takes to drastic mood swings and plays the violin very badly. Gowland and Dupre are in a war because Dupre makes fun of his name, which when said in such a way, sounds like Merry Go Round. The fights between Gowland and Dupre are fun to read. Gowland can turn his violin into a gun and Dupre doesn’t even flinch when his hat gets shot off.

Boris Airay plays the part of the Cheshire cat.  A cosplay kitty boy who loves to get in scrapes. He is often found by Alice, in the woods, sometimes nude, with horrible injuries that heal when he licks them.

The Queen of Hearts is pretty much the same as in the original Alice story so far, not much is known about her yet. The caterpillar is Nightmare, a handsome, eye-patched man dressed in elegant blacks. He mainly just gives more info to Alice, explaining terms the wonderland folk use and adding a sense of foreboding as he hints at dangers unseen.

Two new characters to the Alice tale are perhaps the most interesting to me. Julius Monrey is in charge of the Clock Tower Plaza, a neutral zone in wonderland and the place where all clock hearts are repaired. Ace is a knight from Heart Castle that helps Julius recover the hearts when someone is killed. He seems a double agent, but can’t navigate to save his life. Not too smart, you might think he would fall prey to the Hatters, but he is a pro at sword fighting so that keeps him safe.

Even though this is a manga about the cheery, happy world of wonderland, the author keeps that sinister air about it so that you are just as curious and frightened as Alice. The most chilling part of this retelling is the connection between the shadow people and the servants with no face. I’ll let you unravel that one on your own.

FLASH FICTION FRIDAY: Ladyaslan

Gothix

by Ladyaslan

“It was only a tree struck by lightning”, she said. The shadows seemed to come after us as they grew from the walls and crawled to the ceiling…watching us, like moonlight over a silent loch, we heard only a low moan from the wind, like the moan of a veiled Italian gypsy casting a magic charm against a perverse icy cold apparition.

We spoke of science and things of the ordinary at first and then the storm became worse. “Lightening is the fundamental energy of the universe”, Jacques spoke of it naked on the top of the castle in the rainfall. The winded rain made my face sodden and my white chiffon dress translucent.

A slow and soundless undead monster came alive that night and it came closer to us, as we all made out in the parlor. The moaning wind consumed us; which is why we started our erotic orgy that dark wet night. We shut the windows tight and chanted protection spells to be freed from its horrible cursed spell in-between our free love sessions. The ghastly specter moved towards us and we were frozen in fear…maggots and leaches were everywhere; all over the apples and cherries and maggots were swimming in the Absinthe, as the ghost moved away from us, I was unable to move or shut my eyes, I felt moved in ways I should not have. Jacques was enthralled with the visions and dreams, he spoke erratically and passionately of them. The others in the room were consumed with empting the bottles of Opium and Absinthe.

The Opium and Absinthe had kicked in and I was ready for a cold bath. I needed to be set straight once again…the hallucinations were strange and unbarring at times. The madness was that; the specter, it had two bloody pricks and they had eyes…the ghost had gone, but the imagined remained.

Wolfs howling in the distance echoed with the wind and danced in our ears for what seemed like a thousand and one years. I stood atop the loft and watched the madness below, like a hatter at his own card game. “Sleep” I was told by a haunting voice, but sleep I could not, for I kept imaging a wee imp on my chest with his mutilated hands upon my neck and he seemed to play hide -n-seek with the lightening crashes in the darkest shadows of the room.

“Lenore, can you feel it?” she asked me, as I lay right next to Amelia, Lord Blanca’s mistress and my half-sister. In her opium-induced coma, she grabbed my hand and placed it upon her stomach. Quickly I pulled away and had a vision of being buried alive and then my next vision was of love and irresistible beauty as blood dripped ever so slowly down my neck and in-between my breasts.

As the Lord sauntered into the other room he gazed down upon the wooden floor and saw a horse’s head, decapitated and bloodied then it turned into the screams of smothered children and then it turned into the head of his mistress. His past was coming to him…making him fear, fear. Absinthe had a way of doing that to a man’s soul.

I had lain in bed recovering from the opium-induced evening when I could feel his lips upon mine as he pulled my panties aside. Deeper he forced his tongue inside of me and the louder I moaned, inside deeper and deeper. Then he kissed me on the mouth and threw my hands up over my head and held me down as he penetrated me repeatedly. I never wanted Jacques to stop.

The room smelled of erotic pleasure and the Gods & Goddesses looked down upon us eager and lustful for more; as for Jacques and me, we were pleased for more. Vampires, ghosts, demons, and whatnot where are all around us watching and moaning for another round of foreplay. What had our distorted minds created that evening in the dark castle?

No one could escape from this English madhouse and the eerie laughter roamed the halls like a vacant breeze with no home. We could smell the damp evil that decided to plague us that dreadful stormy night. We were trapped like a dream in human form…what was left to see or do?

We all regrouped in the conservatory still light headed and slightly aroused, raise we heard a voice come through the wall and say: “Come to me and I will show you your futures…come look in my eyes.” As we all peered into its eyes, it said, “No, look into my eyes…” and as we all looked on it opened its trousers and there were two eyes staring back at us! “Don’t laugh at me” is all it repeated. However, since we switched to the Green Absinthe, that was all we could do, was laugh and run amuck through the Lord’s ancient castle.

The rain let up and the moon went to sleep. We all felt as if we were road hard and put away wet. “No ghosts can get you in the day-light,” Jacques said to me as we all cleaned up and readied ourselves for our homeward bound journey across the loch in our decedent little row boat. We realized we provoked something in our drugged out evening of debauchery.

Across the lawn we heard a thunderous bellow, the barn door swooped open and a decayed mass of blood and bones road away on a horse of fire…we must rid ourselves of our fear…we must rid ourselves of our fear…”the creature chanted those hallow words into the innocent dawn of morning. It just kept repeating its words as it road over the dewy moors into nowhere never to be seen again.

***********

FB PROFILE PUNK JACKETBy day, Anitra DeLorenzo is a mild mannered LMT/LME, graduated from Florida College of Natural Health and holds an Associate’s Degree in Science and Natural Health and additional certifications in the medical esthetician field. By night, she transforms into Ladyaslan-the author of Victorian Days and Punk Rock Nights. Her book has been in the Virgin Top 100 Indie Books list for the last two years. Ladyaslan is a poet and short story novelist. She also is co-host to The Asylum Internet Radio Show ft. Dark Delights by Ladyaslan; it’s an underground horror / music internet radio show with a live unscripted show platform.  Ladyaslan was poet of the year in 2006 and 2007 and holds a Certificate of Accomplishment for Honors in poetic writing by Noble House out of the U.K. She is published in many compendiums including the most recent Poisoned Lullabies( 2010 ) by Kim Acrylic and In The Midnight Hour-An Anthology of Horror Poetry ( 2012 ) and Into The Night ( 2013 )-by Dark Night Publishing. Ladyaslan can be found in the Halloween 2013 edition of Fangoria magazine and Gothic Beauty magazine in regards to her books and most recently in 2014 Ladyaslan’s writings and radio show has been featured in Gorgeous Freaks Magazine out of Costa Rica and Diabolique Magazine. Ladyaslan is a huge music enthusiast and loves 70’s and 80’s Punk and Goth music, but not limited to, other genres. Ladyaslan likes long walks on the beach at midnight and watching candle flames dance in-between the realms. Ladyaslan is currently working on her second book of poetry and short stories; Lipstick and Absinthe, expected release is late-2014. Check out her Facebook Page.

 

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.”

Alice in the Country of Hearts by Quinrose

alicein the countryAlert: Herbivores beware, rabbit discrimination! Warn your kits!

“These aren’t rabbit ears! They’re just long! I swear I am not a rabbit. I eat carrot cookies, cake, and tea. I like stuff made from carrots but I could never eat a carrot straight, so I’m obviously NOT a rabbit.”

How dare Alice group people together based on the size of their ears! This is just one of the amusing quips in the awesome manga series Alice in the Country of Hearts byQuinrose. This has to be one of my top ten manga series of all time.

The first thing that drew me to these beautiful books was the art. Illustrated by Soumei Hoshino, the detailed display of clocks, sweets, architecture, and fashion is phenomenal.

I think any Alice lover will enjoy the new twists on our most beloved story. First, Alice is not the Alice we know. Instead of being curious and following the white rabbit, he tricks her into falling down the hole and then traps her in wonderland by force-feeding her a potion through a kiss. She finds herself in a land where everyone has a clock for a heart and they are fighting a war based on reincarnation. The characters are so detailed and interesting, I’m not even sure I can pick my favorite one.

Our favorite Mad Hatter in this book is Blood Dupre, a Mafia Don who leads The Hatters in war against the other factions. He is a gothic dandy, more interested in seducing Alice than the battle at hand. In his posse are two young boys dressed in fashionable military outfits and a non-rabbit enforcer named Elliot March. Something this author picked up on from the Lewis Carroll book, that I never thought of, was the possibility of the White Rabbit and the March Hare fighting. I found this storyline beyond amusing.

Another sect of Wonderland is the Amusement Park District where Alice can enjoy all the normal sort of rides while being shuffled around the place by overly peppy park attendants. The owner of the park is Mary Gowland, an older hippie man who takes to drastic mood swings and plays the violin very badly. Gowland and Dupre are in a war because Dupre makes fun of his name, which when said in such a way, sounds like Merry Go Round. The fights between Gowland and Dupre are fun to read. Gowland can turn his violin into a gun and Dupre doesn’t even flinch when his hat gets shot off.

Boris Airay plays the part of the Cheshire cat.  A cosplay kitty boy who loves to get in scrapes. He is often found by Alice, in the woods, sometimes nude, with horrible injuries that heal when he licks them.

The Queen of Hearts is pretty much the same as in the original Alice story so far, not much is known about her yet. The caterpillar is Nightmare, a handsome, eye-patched man dressed in elegant blacks. He mainly just gives more info to Alice, explaining terms the wonderland folk use and adding a sense of foreboding as he hints at dangers unseen.

Two new characters to the Alice tale are perhaps the most interesting to me. Julius Monrey is in charge of the Clock Tower Plaza, a neutral zone in wonderland and the place where all clock hearts are repaired. Ace is a knight from Heart Castle that helps Julius recover the hearts when someone is killed. He seems a double agent, but can’t navigate to save his life. Not too smart, you might think he would fall prey to the Hatters, but he is a pro at sword fighting so that keeps him safe.

Even though this is a manga about the cheery, happy world of wonderland, the author keeps that sinister air about it so that you are just as curious and frightened as Alice. The most chilling part of this retelling is the connection between the shadow people and the servants with no face. I’ll let you unravel that one on your own.

Haunted House by Mitsukazu Mihara

Haunted_House_MiharaHaunted House is a great graphic novel about a “normal” boy who lives in a house with horror enthusiasts. Poor Sabato.  He just wants to fit in at school and have a girlfriend, but his family tortures him by scaring off girls and making him appear a freak to his classmates.  His mother is the reincarnation of Morticia Addams.  His father is the stereotypical Dracula figure with black slicked black hair and a full suit with cape.  His two sisters are goth-loli’s from hell.

“Your mother and I fell in love at first sight.  We met at a movie theater.  It was a beautiful movie.  Bloody Bayou: A Hoedown In Hell.”

Even though all you gloom cookies out there may love to live in such a house, poor Sabato hates it!  And with good reason.  His family is evil!

First they pretend they will play nice when his new girlfriend comes over, but when she walks in, his father has a bullet hole in his forehead that is dripping blood and his mother is butchering a live chicken.  Another day, Sabato wakes up late for school and rushes there, only to find everyone staring at him because he has blood on his face, zombie makeup, and a chilling message scrawled across his forehead: DEAD MAN WALKING!

My favorite part is when Sabato sleeps in one day.  His father says,

“Trying to become completely nocturnal are we?  At this rate you should just become a vampire.  That’d be nice.”  Sabato scowls.  “No! That would not be nice!”

This is a fun read for any horror enthusiast.  You will love the tricks the family play and the reactions Sabato gives.

A Christmas Carol Vision by Willo Hausman

A Christmas Carol

VISION

Director: Willo Hausman 

Melancholy Lurking 2Being a director who is smitten with ghosts and monsters I was immediately drawn to taking on the job of directing a theatrical version of Charles Dickens’ haunting tale.  When I think of A Christmas Carol I go immediately to the world that the author so clearly created in this classic story. None of the schmaltzy over-bright happy-go-lucky stuff that is so often presented in this traditional holiday fare.

The Undertaker Man_Samuel Millard

So the first rule of thumb in taking on this endeavor, was that I would be allowed free rein to stick to the original story with all it’s strange and ominous intent.  The elements that make this novel intriguing and caused its incredible success depict frightening ghosts (four of them to be precise), depressing poverty and illness, the permanence of death and a central character that is an incredibly mean-spirited man, living his life in miserly bitterness. It is only at the very end that Scrooge is redeemed and if we have gone through this truly dark journey alongside him, experiencing all the nightmares that he does, then we too will rejoice in his enlightenment, as well as our own.

Bob CratchitI first pitched the idea of putting up A Christmas Carol to Steve Coleman, The Throckmorton Theater’s fabulously gifted set designer. After realizing that we were kindred artistic spirits and connected creatively in numerous ways, the notion of putting up this play burned that much brighter in my mind.  I felt even more driven to direct this piece on that particular stage, surrounded by such appropriate ambiance. There is a very old-fashioned charm to this space (it began as a cabaret in the 1920s) and it really rang true for the vision I had in mind for this production. This inspiration was fueled even further after reading a certain version of the script, written in England (by Charles Ludlam) and true to the original tale; shadowy, mysterious, witty and finally, upbeat.

The Bag LadyAs Scrooge enters the realm of his memories, confronts the truth of his present and imagines a future without hope, we learn what truly matters; truth, kindness and heart. What better way to impart lessons then with spooky apparitions, intense imagery, haunting realizations, rich dialogue and in the end, utter spectacular joy? Dickens does it best with his original intent, just as the fairy tales of old were wont to do. With this production we planned to stick as close as possible to the real message within the authors words and use his inventive tactics to present them.

Bag Lady Pomegranate

We ended up with a terrifically twisted and authentic set (which ultimately went through 18 shifts during the show, carried out primarily by the performers themselves); a talented cast of 25 (aged 7-77), consisting of both professionals and amateurs; old-fashioned stage trickery (we used black-lights and human-made sounds to announce the arrival of Marley’s ghost); new-fangled elements (9 fantastic projections depicting Scrooge’s memories and ghostly travels, filmed by the masterful Mark Bowen) and mesmerizing Ghost Girllive sound fx (Steve Kirk, our composer, designed an incredible cinematic score, which underlined the action and added to the shadowy mood). We also mixed in a few modern day splashes via our fantastic costume designer, Morganne Newson, who brought some steam-punk hues to her slate of Victorian clothing and then topped it all off with fantastically unique looks created by Maya Lopez and Leonie Meissner, our hair and make-up designers, who worked their magic on our diverse set of characters.  Many of the actors played up to three roles each and needed to change looks fairly rapidly.  After the initial opening night jitters, the play acquired a great rhythm and the audience (including Robin Williams) laughed and appeared in awe at all the right places.  Happily, I even heard reports of some folk being rather frightened by the eerie specters and mesmerizing illuminations.

The Nephews Party

Currently in the works are a grand scale version of FRANKENSTEIN, a theatrical trilogy of GRIMM and a play based on the intriguing life of my mother, actress Diane Varsi. In active development are two feature films: CLARE, a murder mystery revolving around a clan of modern-day clan witches living in the midst of a bustling metropolis (screenplay by Maria Bernhard) and AMONG THE WONDERFUL (based on a novel by Stacy Carlson); a vintage circus tale set at Barnum’s NYC museum circa 1842 with a giantess and a taxidermist at the center of the mix.  Also on the slate are a sitcom THE VIBE (written by Jon Mosher), an Edward Gorey based film, a Buster Keaton bio-movie and a documentary film about mental illness.

Willo Hausman Bio

Director WilloAfter graduating NYU with a BFA in acting, Willo was the Founding Artistic Director of NRG, a theatre company in NYC which primarily employed a film-based crew and performed verite’ style throughout Manhattan.  NRGS’ most notable endeavor, THE HOBBYWOOD CANTEEN, was performed on a soundstage at Culver Studios in LA where it received much kudos and notoriety.  While attending he Tisch School at NYU Willo was also honored with the opportunity to perform in a few David Mamet movies where she honed her skills as an actor.  Willo enriched her film knowledge by continuing training on many high-powered film sets, working in a multitude of capacities, including NOBODY’S FOOL (Stand-in/Perdiem-Envelope-Stuffer and Art Department Production Assistant), FAMILY THING (Set PA and Casting Assistant), PEOPLE VS. LARRY FLYNT (Extras Casting Director), TWILIGHT (No, not That Twilight, a different film with Paul Newman and Susan Sarandon) as a Producer’s Assistant and MAN ON THE MOON (Camera Assistant).  Willo also spent many years working by her father’s side at his NY-based production company, CINEHAUS.

FAIRIE was Willo’s filmic directorial debut. A fantastical tale about 9 fairy creatures celebrating the new millennium at the Hollywood sign. Willo also shot and directed LAST DAY AT CINETEL, a short work in the reality genre, humorously revealing the inherent frustrations of being an artist trapped in a menial job. Recently, Willo directed a well-received and elaborate theatrical production of A CHRISTMAS CAROL, combining cinema, an original score, Victorian Steampunk costumes and an exquisite gothic-hued set. She has also helmed an innovative stage version of DRACULA.

Willo is the founder of GRYPHON PICTURES, a LA and SF-based film company.

MY COMPANY WEBSITE

www.gryphonpictures.com

http://www.gryphonpictures.com

FACEBOOK PAGE-GRYPHON PICTURES

https://www.facebook.com/gryphonpictures

Manga Review: Book of Friends by Yuki Midorikawa

bokNatsume is an orphan who sees spirits called yokai. In Japanese folklore, Yokai are a class of monsters that are mostly portrayed as humans, but can shape shift into other forms. In Book of Friends, they are interchangeable as demons or spirits.

Not only can Natsume see them, but he has been tortured by them all his life. One day, Natsume meets a demon named Nyanko who is trapped in a lucky cat statue. Nyanko can also change into his natural form which is a giant cat three times the size of Natsume. It’s pretty scary when he stands over Natsume while he sleeps, wondering if he should eat him. Gives new meaning to waking up with a cat on your chest!

Nyanko tells Natsume his grandmother used to play games with demons. She saw the supernatural too and for reasons he is yet to understand, she locked hundreds of demon promises in a book called the Book of Friends. Whoever owns the book may call the demons and they have to obey their orders. Nyanko follows Natsume and kind of helps him because he wants the book himself to control demons. Natsume tells Nyanko he can have the book when he dies.

Just like any good hero, poor Natsume doesn’t want to own demons. He just wants to get rid of them so they stop trying to kill him. By calling the demon’s name, stuffing the paper with their name on it in his mouth and clapping, the demon promise is released from the book and therefore, the spirit is free to live their life without fear. However, if Natsume tears, burns, or in any other way destroys the page with their name on it, the demon will tear, burn, or die in whatever means the paper did.

During Natsume’s quest to free the demons, he meets many different, strange spirits. They remind me of the minister creature at Beetlejuice’s wedding. One spirit he meets (and eventually frees) is Tsuyukami, the God of Dew. Once worshipped by many, he has only one worshipper left, an old lady with little time to live. As his worshipper’s dwindle, Tsuyukami gets shorter and smaller until he is now just the size of Snap, Crackle, and Pop. He peeks around Natsume’s bowl one morning and asks him to be free.

Each spirit is different and I enjoyed finding out who Natsume will meet next! Some are sweet, like the one who used to be a swallow bird, and just wants to see the man who picked her off the pavement and put her back in her nest, but others are horrifying. This is a fun read for anyone into demons or spirits.

This manga is available at Amazon, for Kindle or print.

MMM Contestant 3: Donald Pitsiladis

The following text is posted as part of HorrorAddicts.net‘s annual Master of Macabre contest.
This text is presented as is, from the author, with no editing.
Contestants should be judged on text, audio, and use of the challenge items listed. Please read the bottom of this post for voting instructions. Audio is playing at HorrorAddicts.net, #93.

Donald Pitsiladis
Location: Old School House
Item: text book

*******

Memories

By

Donald L. Pitsiladis

Barry pulled his car into a parking spot and closed his eyes.  He didn’t need to see the shattered windows or the broken door to know what they looked like.  The decayed building had been a recurring place in his dreams for many years, but he never believed it to be real until just then.  Fear and guilt flooded his mind when he opened his eyes and saw the building stare at him from the rear view mirror.

He stared at the school, unsure of what to do.  The building reached for him and, before he realized it, Barry found himself at the foot of the stairs.  “Come inside,” a little voice whispered, and he climbed the stairs without another thought.  Once through the door, it slammed with a bang that sounded a lot like a gunshot.  It knocked him to the ground hard enough to throw dust into his face and he began to sneeze uncontrollably.  He tried to open the metal door to get some fresh air, but no amount of force got it to move. The only option left was to venture deeper into the school and look for another way out.

The further into the school Barry went, the stronger his feeling of excitement and dread became.  He remembered attending the school when he was the poor fat kid and the torment and torture his classmates inflicted.  Tears welled in his eyes at the whispered insults when a door opened and the voices beckoned him.  “Go inside.  See the surprise we have for you.  You really need to see it.  Go on in.”  Barry entered the room and saw a gray haired man in a bow tie and white lab coat pace the room with a smile.  It was his favorite teacher, Mr. Jenson, the only teacher to treat him with kindness.  When the gentle man’s eyes met his, the smile fell away and an explosion of red blossomed from his chest.  He fell back in slow motion with arms flailing like a kite tail, while the students erupted into motion when they realized what happened.  Then, two bigger boys sprawled to the ground with similar wounds in their backs before things faded to the empty, dust-covered classroom.  Barry felt the rapid beat of his heart as he tried to make sense of what he saw.  A chilled hand gripped his left shoulder, but nobody stood next to him.

A sound of shuffling feet drew Barry into the hall where he found only undisturbed dust and debris on the floor.  “Keep moving,” a disembodied female voice whispered, so he walked on.  Not long after, a bright flash and muffled boom drew his attention to a dented locker a few feet to his right.  A blond girl with a large gaping hole between her once perky breasts slammed into it.  Her confused eyes met his for a moment before she slid down the length of the door and her head sagged to her chest.  “I loved you,” the female voice whispered and he felt arms envelope his body in a cold embrace.  Barry tried to wrap his arms around the girl, but found empty air instead.  Tears welled in his eyes and he moved on to the next room in his spree.

He found himself in the cafeteria after a short walk. There he pulled up a chair and looked around the room full of unaware students and teachers.  His best friend Jamie entered the large room from the far door and, with a look of disbelief on his face, ran towards him.  “Don’t shoot!” he shouted. “You don’t need to do this!”  The pleas drew people’s attention, so Barry pulled the trigger.  Three people fell before a football player grabbed Jamie and pulled him in the line of fire.  Before the first clip emptied, both boys lay on the ground.

“You killed us,” Jamie said and appeared next to Barry with blood oozing from the holes in his chest.  “Why?” the dead boy asked as his face drew near Barry’s.  “Why did I die, Barry?  I was your best friend.”  The blond girl appeared with her arms still around Barry’s body, “Margaret wanted to be your girlfriend. What did she do to cross you?”  The middle-aged teacher gripped his shoulder tighter as he materialized.  “What about Mr. Jenson?  You were his favorite student.  He treated you better than any other student in his classes.”

Barry’s bottom lip quivered and he stammered, “I… I don’t know.”  He looked at Jamie and said, “I didn’t mean to shoot you.  It was that stupid football player’s fault.  He pulled you in the way.”  When he looked at the other two, his eyes squinted in thought and admitted, “I don’t remember.”  Margaret pulled away from him with a hurt expression that stabbed into him.  “The hospital I went to after made me forget a lot.” He took a step toward her with an apologetic smile, but the look on her face remained unchanged.

“That’s quite all right, my boy,” Mr. Jenson said in his jolly way.  “We’re here to help you remember.”  He led Barry to a desk in the middle of the cafeteria and gestured for him to take a seat.  Jamie plopped a textbook in front of him and opened it to the first page.  “I’m sure this will trigger some of your lost memories,” the teacher said as they looked at his body in a pool of blood.  The gaping hole in his chest and the empty eyes drew Barry’s attention to the photo, and then he noticed how a small trickle of blood from the corner of the teacher’s mouth led to a caption which read “Victim Number One”.  As Barry paged through the book and saw the lives he either ended or destroyed, Mr. Jenson walked behind the counter and returned with the same gun used so many years ago.  “This will be your final exam.”

Margaret sat down next to him and pulled Barry tight against her.  “We want to make sure you’re ready for your afterlife when it is time for your Judgment,” she said with a comforting smile.  Barry felt the comforting grip of his best friend’s hand as it grasped his right shoulder.  The whispers of the dead beckoned him to study.

*******

To vote for this story, send an email to: horroraddicts@gmail.com with the subject line: MMM. Voting ends September 24th, 2013, 11:59a, PST.

MMM Contestant 1: Rish Outfield

The following text is posted as part of HorrorAddicts.net‘s annual Master of Macabre contest.
This text is presented as is, from the author, with no editing.
Contestants should be judged on text, audio, and use of the challenge items listed. Please read the bottom of this post for voting instructions. Audio is playing at HorrorAddicts.net, #93.

Rish Outfield
Location: The White House
Item: An unopened letter from 1842

*******

White House Tour

Rish Outfield

In the summer of 2013, I was ten years old.  My mom had remarried, and my new stepdad, Corin, had decided to take us to Washington D.C., to see the nation’s capital.  Corin loved history and the founding fathers and war and stuff, so we went to see the Reflecting Pool, and the Lincoln Memorial and Washington Monument, and something not-at-all-scary called the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, and on our last day, we were going on a tour of the White House.  Best for last, they kept telling me.

I wasn’t bored, exactly, and Mom had lectured me before we left about not being selfish, and to look at this as a new beginning, and I did try my best to like Corin.  After all, he made my mom so happy, and the smile on her face when he held her hand or put his arm around her or, yuck, even kissed her was a smile I didn’t used to ever see.

We had to wait almost two hours for our turn to join the tour–there had been a whole busful of kids in identical uniforms that got there right before we did–and I kept busy with my iPod until the battery died, and then I had to sit quietly, which isn’t easy as a grown man, and certainly wasn’t as a little boy.  My feet hurt from all our walking, and Corin’s response was that a man doesn’t complain about sore feet.  I responded that ten years old was only a man in Mexico, but he didn’t think I was very funny.

When our tour began, Mom mouthed “Be excited” to me, and I tried to do that too.  I know I wasn’t a brilliant kid, but I had been convinced that we’d get to meet the President–it was Obama in those days–and was really disappointed to find out that wasn’t part of our tour.

The White House was a big, low-ceilinged building, much more like a museum than a house.  There were lots of paintings and desks and cabinets and things under glass, and while the tourguide, a nice stocky black lady in her thirties, was exuberant, I couldn’t get excited about it all, or even pretend to be.  There were a couple of children in our group, but they were drugged or something, because they stayed quiet and looked around with wide eyes like we were at a zoo or toy store.  I thought about sneaking off, going exploring in the huge place, trying doors and seeing if I could find the room where the missiles were or something, but everything was roped off, and there were actually security guards with pistols who were probably just waiting for something to do.

I was staring at a motion detector in the upper corner, watching the red light blink when I moved when I realized I was being left behind.  “Come on,” a voice said, and I was relieved to see another kid my age waving me over.

“Jonathan?” Mom said at about the same time, and I hauled butt to catch up.

“Don’t lag behind, okay, buddy?” Corin said, and I did my best not to scowl at him.  Maybe in his mind we really were buddies.

“Hey,” the boy said, and I said hey back.  “Have you ever been to the White House before?”

“No.  You?”

“I’ve been on more tours than you could imagine.  But I live here, so what else am I going to do?”

“This is our first trip to Washington.  My mom says there’s a lot of crime here.”

“Yes, but there’s crime everywhere you look.  I’m Willie.”

“Jonathan.  How do you not get bored here?” I asked, and I saw Corin stiffen in front of me.  I lowered my voice.

“I do, sometimes.  But Mardelle is a good tourguide.”

I looked to the head of the group to our guide, who was talking about Canadians trying to burn the building down.  I tried to pay closer attention.

“If you’re lucky,” Willie whispered, “she may talk about the ghosts.”

“What ghosts?” I wondered, at full volume.  Whoops.

“Excuse me?” the guide asked, looking right at me.  Now everyone else did the same.

“Are there really ghosts?” I asked.

I saw the embarrassment in Mom’s eyes–but not in Corin’s curiously–but the tourguide smiled.  “I do get asked that a great deal.  And it’s not an easy question to answer.”  She addressed everyone now, and I liked the way her voice projected.  She wasn’t shouting, really, but we could all hear her clearly.  “I, personally, have never seen a ghost here, but many believe the White House to be haunted.  In the three years I’ve worked here, I’ve been on three, maybe four tours, when someone has claimed they saw one.  So, look carefully, and maybe you will too.”  She started walking again, and we followed her.

“See?” Willie said, and his grin was infectious.

“Whose ghost do they see?” asked a man with a cool accent.

The tourguide stopped walking and turned around.  “Usually, it’s Abraham Lincoln, our 16th president.  He’s been spotted here, in the halls, at the window on the east side, and in the Lincoln bedroom, which was a meeting room in his day.”  An old woman on the left looked around as though she was afraid she’d see him too.  My mom glanced back at me and raised her eyebrows.  I did it back.  The guide continued.  “The man who was head tourguide when I first started claimed he had seen Lincoln twice, and heard him several times more, but I was never sure whether he was exaggerating, or just telling a good story.”

“And is he wearing the hat and beard and everything?” I asked.  Corin didn’t seem pleased by this, but I was actually getting into the tour, so he shouldn’t have been able to complain.

“The hat sometimes, but the beard definitely,” the guide said, and people chuckled.

“And how close was the ghost to Daniel Day Lewis’s performance?” my step-dad asked, and most all of the adults laughed at that.  There had been a movie about him around that time.

The guide resumed the tour, now talking about other things.  I wanted to ask more about the ghosts, but got the feeling it would be rude, even though it was relevant to what we were doing.

We passed a big brown chair that looked almost like a throne, and somebody I couldn’t see asked how much of the furniture and stuff was the same today as it was back then.

“None of it,” said Willie beside me.  He was starting to look bored too.

“Hardly any of the original furnishings are still here, though much has been reproduced to look like it did,” said our guide.  “Even most of the walls and ceiling are new.  In fact, today is the first day tours are going into the Autumn Alcove since they renovated that room.  There was a water leak at the base of one wall, and it was all replaced, but it looks identical to how it did before.  Interestingly, they found some coins, some papers, a rusted fork, and an unopened letter from 1842 in that wall.”

“What was in the letter?” I asked, but didn’t dare to raise my voice.

Willie said, “It was nothing.  A dull request for more militia in Rhode Island.  Something about the Dorr Rebellion.  Did I mention it was dull?”

The tour continued, so I whispered to the boy.  “Have you ever seen ghosts?”

Willie shrugged.  “My mom heard Andrew Jackson’s ghost here once.”

“Who’s Andrew Jackson?” I asked.  Not because I was stupid; I knew he was somebody famous, but I couldn’t remember for what.

“Andrew Jackson?” the tourguide said, not at all irritated by my question.  She was cool.  “He was the seventh president of the U.S..”

“Old Hickory,” my new step-dad exclaimed, which didn’t mean anything to anybody.

“Is he a ghost too?” I asked, more to the lady than to Corin.

The tourguide chuckled at that.  I was beginning to think she was pretty.  “Yes, he is–reportedly–one of the ghosts who haunts the White House.  As well as Presidents Cleveland, Harrison, Tyler, and Thomas Jefferson.”

“See,” Willie said beside me.  “She’s the best guide.  One of them, Rodrigo, won’t even mention the ghosts if you ask.”

“They should have a tour that’s just about the ghosts,” I said.

“Shhh,” my step-dad said.  His goofy smile was gone.  Of course, nobody shushed Willie.

I tried not to say anything for the rest of the tour.  Another lady asked if we’d be visiting the Oval Office, so I wasn’t the only one who thought we’d be meeting Obama, but the guide didn’t make her feel stupid in the least.  Being a tourguide didn’t seem like the worst possible job in the world to have.

“Do you want to go exploring?” Willie asked, as we were going around a corner.

I did, most definitely, but I didn’t dare.  I thought I’d been on my best behavior, but I got the impression Corin didn’t agree.  I wondered who Mom would side with, and I dreaded learning the answer.

A few minutes later, we reached the end of the tour.  Mardelle asked if anyone had any questions, and a lady asked about the letter.

“Which letter is that?”

“The one you found in the wall.”

“Oh.  I didn’t find it, some workmen did,” said the guide.  “I never even saw it.”

“But what was in it?”

“Like I said, it was unopened.  No one knows what it was about yet.  Somebody at the Smithsonian is going to take a look, but apparently, that’s a lengthy process.”

“What about the coins?” asked Willie. “Who gets those?”

The woman didn’t answer.  She asked if there were any more questions.

It occurred to me again that nobody shushed Willie, and that I didn’t see his parents around.  “Are you by yourself?” I asked.

He shrugged.

“Do they do reenactments here?” I asked.

“What?” Willie asked.

The tourguide glanced my way, but a man with a–what do you call it–a turban asked her something and she turned her attention to him.  I looked at my new friend.

“Why are you dressed that way?”  He was in old fashioned clothes, though I had only noticed it when I saw his shoes.

“Oh, this.  My mother chose this outfit for me.”

“She works here too?”  Once again, my new step-dad shushed me.  We had reached the end of the tour, so he shouldn’t have cared.  But typically, he still did.

Willie leaned close to me and whispered, “Come on another tour.  They can be fun.”

I nodded, but I doubted we would ever come back.  Little Rock was an awfully long way away.

“Ask another ghost question,” he prompted.  I tried to think of one.

“Any other questions?” she asked.

Somebody asked how much she got paid, and she dismissed it.  Silence hung in the air for a moment, and Willie said, “Ask her if she’s met Willie Lincoln.”

After nobody acknowledged his words, I cleared my throat, and repeated it.

“A good question,” the guide said.  “Another history buff?”

I didn’t know how to answer that.  Willie seemed to be stifling a laugh.

“Yes, another reported ghost is that of William Lincoln, the eleven year old son of Abraham Lincoln.”  Corin gave me a look, but I couldn’t tell if it was irritated or impressed.  Maybe both.

She continued, “He died here in this house, of typhus in, oh, the early eighteen sixties.”

My mouth started to open, and I turned to look toward Willie to say something to him, but he was gone.  Of course he was gone.

We left the White House, got on our bus, and Corin never criticized me for my behavior.  That was nice, but I almost would’ve preferred he yell at me, for the distraction.

When I got back to our hotel room, I plugged in my iPod, and got on the internet.  Sure enough, the friend I’d made on the tour was none other than William Wallace Lincoln, looking exactly as he had in the photograph that came up, the one from his obituary in 1862.

The trip ended up not so boring after all.

*******

To vote for this story, send an email to: horroraddicts@gmail.com with the subject line: MMM. Voting ends September 24th, 2013, 11:59a, PST.

Manga Review: Princess Ai by Courtney Love, DJ Milky, and Mishaho Kujiradou

Princess-AI-Volume-1-9781591826699Princess Ai is a girl with a slammin’ body who finds herself lost on the streets of Tokyo.  Her clothes are in shambles and all she has as a clue to who she is and where she came from is a heart shaped box.  The scantily-clad bombshell meets a young innocent student named Kent who attempts from that day forward to help and protect her.  Ai soon becomes a singing star, has tons of adoring fans, and sprouts wings! The secret of Ai’s origin is one that unfolds so well in the books, that I wouldn’t dare spill it.

kurtandcort

If any of you know anything about Courtney Love or her late husband Kurt Cobain, you can surely see the connection between them and the story.  Ai means “love” in Japanese and it is said that Ai is loosely based on Love’s life story.  Her heart-shaped box, which is prominent in the story, was a hit song by Nirvana and referred to a present Courtney gave Kurt.

It is interesting to see the evolution of fashion in these musically inspired books.  The first volume starts with simple shredded outfits and ends with an almost Playboy Halloween costume Lolita dress.

princessai2

Volume two adds some cosplay elements and ends with an even more Bo Peep-ish Lolita dress.  There is also a vampire-like adversary who is dressed like a succubus vixen, reminiscent of Morrigan Aensland from Darkstalkers.  Volume three brings in a lot of Victorian elements as well as kingdom and Edwardian styles.  The art in all of the books is the kind that you can stare at for hours, whether you are inspecting AI’s costumes for inspiration, or her body for pleasure.

Special features in the books include:

Volume 2: An article about the making of the Princess Ai dolls.

Volume 3: Ai paperdolls, an afterward by DJ Milky, and a cosplay Ai look a-like-contest review with pictures of the fans.

For those hard core Ai fans, you might want to invest in the Princess Ai Roses & Tattoos art/poetry book.  This book does not have any more story in it, but it does have plastic sleeves with 16 full color pin-up pictures of AI.  Each pin-up has poetry on the back.  There are also 12 pages of AI stickers that you will never want to use because they are just so cool.

aicolorI also own these other volumes:

  • Princess Ai: Rumors From The Other Side, which is a fan art manga with different stories drawn by really good fan artists. The art ranges from traditional manga, to some that looks like Archie cartoons, to comic book vixen style.
  • Princess Ai Color Me Manga Coloring book, which contains about 60 one sided coloring sheets of Ai and Kent.
  • Princess Ai The Prism of Midnight Dawn, Volume 1 by Christine Boylan & D.J. Milky.  This is the first of the trilogy and my copy came with a music CD of Ai songs, though I am not sure all copies do.  I found it enjoyable, but not as good as the first series.

Princess Ai successfully combines a love of art, music, and fashion into a series that will have you occupied for hours.  Happy reading!