Free Fiction : On Darkwater by John C. Adams

On Darkwater 

The boys had been out on the lake for hours without success.

‘You need to hold me under longer if it’s going to work,’ Gerald snapped. ‘That last time I just got inky darkness and nothing more.’

The ten year old pinched his cousin. Brett scowled back and rubbed his arm.

Gerald took a deep breath and nodded that he was ready, but something indefinable held back the usually fearless Brett.

‘Don’t blame me when yer half drowned.’

‘There’s something down there. Help me see it!’

Brett ducked Gerald’s head under and held him firmly when he struggled. The seconds ticked to a minute and beyond.

Near death. Oxygen deprivation. Terrifying visions. But Gerald was determined.

As Gerald stiffed, Brett believed for the first time that this could actually work. That it might be more than his cousin’s fancy and fledgling interest in medicine taking shape down there.

Finally, Brett gripped Gerald’s shoulders and dragged him back out of the water, flinging him onto his back. After a few terrible moments of pale paralysis, he spluttered back to life.

‘Well?’

Gerald’s smile unnerved Brett. What had he seen down there?

The silence coiled around them, its poison dripping into Brett’s veins, until he doubted his ability to tell his cousin’s truth from fiction.

Brett shivered. Gerald seemed suddenly very self-contained and insular. Perhaps, if there was something down there, Brett didn’t want to know after all.

‘That’s enough for today,’ he said.

END

________________________________________________________________________________________________

John C Adams is a nonbinary author and critic of horror and fantasy fiction, reviewing for Horror Tree, British Fantasy Society and Schlock! Webzine. They’ve had short fiction, reviews and articles published in many anthologies from independent presses, on the Horror Addicts blogsite and in various magazines including the Horror Zine, Sirens Call Magazine, Lovecraftiana Magazine, Devolution Z Magazine and Blood Moon Rising Magazine.

They have a Postgraduate Certificate in Creative Writing from Newcastle University, and were longlisted for the Aeon Award twice. John’s latest horror novel ‘Blackacre Rising’ is available to preorder now on Amazon and Smashwords.

 

 

https://www.amazon.com/Blackacre-Rising-Ivy-Spires-Book-ebook/dp/B087Z4499D/ref=sr_1_1?dchild=1&keywords=blackacre+rising

My Darling Dead : Bastards – Episode Seven, Crown and Children

Orteg was drunk. Ensconced in the king’s chambers, he had been supplied with a bottle of wine so far removed from the ditch liquor he usually could afford that his taste buds could scarcely cope with it. He lolled on the private throne, drinking from the bottle, wine slopping down his chin. Zavier stood at the window overlooking the kingdom to the east, listening to wine dripping from Orteg’s face.

“King!” he slurred, waving the bottle. “I rather like it. Now, Zavver, you said you’d be staying around?”

“If it is the king’s will, Sire.”

Orteg nodded vigorously, taking another drink. “I need a magishan around, thas for sure. Who knows when things’ll get all bollocksed up.” He squinted at Zavier. “Can I make you my adviser?”

“The king may do anything he wishes, Sire.”

“Then I hereby pronounce you my Royal Adviser,” said Orteg, and giggled.

“Your Majesty bestows a great honor upon me,” the wizard said, bowing his head slightly. “Might my first suggestion be an official proclamation, lest the council members become threatened by my position and hasten to remove me.”

“Yesh! Of course,” Orteg cried, waving his wine goblet. “None shall dare say a word against you, Zavver, because if it wasn’t for you, I’d still be in that miserable tavern, with a miserable life, wishing every day for death–”

“Your pardon, Majesty,” Zavier said, and gestured out the window. “But unless I am mistaken, trouble comes yonder.”

“Eh? Wha’ trouble?” Orteg heaved himself up from the throne and joined Zavier at the window, shouldering him out of the way.

“A party of guards is returning to the castle, Sire,” said Zavier, moving from his spot. “Unless my eyes deceive me, there appears to be a bundle containing three small children carried betwixt them.”

Orteg lowered the bottle, squinting in an attempt to bring the scene below into greater focus with only marginal success. “I can’t see. Whatsit you—”

The world shifted before him, things far away rushing toward him as his feet stood still. With a yell, he threw up an arm to block everything crashing into him.

“Your Highness, you have nothing to fear, I have merely enhanced your vision,” Zavier said, his voice respectfully amused. “Look again.”

Orteg opened first one eye, then the other in amazement. He watched one of the guards slide to the ground from his horse, so clear he was able to see the light reflecting off the beads of sweat on the man’s brow. He looked to the bundle they carried beneath them and his brow furrowed. He was about to speak when a single tousled head worked its way free of the brown bundle.

“My son—!” Orteg gasped. “That bundle is from my home, made of the bearskin rug upon my floor! How came they hither? Wizard, explain!”

There was no answer. Furious, Orteg turned to see the room empty. The wizard had vanished.

“Well done, Sir Antion,” Barris beamed at the leader of the guards as the man walked in, the large brown sack slung over one wide shoulder. “The mother did not make it in, then?”

“She met with an unfortunate accident, Prefect,” Antion said, a nasty smile on his face. “Would you like to meet your captives?”

“Please,” said Barris, his smile wider than ever across his jowls.

Antion grabbed the bottom of the sack and upended it, sending three little figures tumbling out onto the floor. They whimpered, clutching each other, as they stared into Barris’s meaty features.

“Children,” Barris said, keeping his voice low and soothing. “Little ones. You have nothing to fear from us. Your fate will be decided by another.”

The door banged open and Orteg came lurching in, breathing heavily. “My children! What are you—”

“Daddy!” one child cried. Orteg took a step toward the children, still huddled on the bearskin rug. In a trice, Sir Antion’s sword was at Orteg’s throat, stopping him in his tracks.

“My lord king,” Barris said, his smile now so wide, both sides were in danger of meeting behind his head. “My liege. I have a proposition for you.”

“I will hear any propositions after you have released my children, Prefect! Unhand them at once!” Orteg snarled around Antion’s swordpoint. The latter smirked.

“Not possible I am afraid, Highness, as my proposition includes these three adorable children just as they are.”

“By the gods, unhand me and free them at once or I shall—”

“I offer you a simple choice, Sire,” Barris said loudly. He poured a goblet of wine from a nearby tray and sipped it daintily. “The crown or your children? You must give up one. Choose now.”

Orteg gaped. “Are you telling me… that unless I adjudicate the throne, my children will be murdered?”

“Murdered, done away with, put out of the way, removed, however you wish to phrase it.” Barris waved his glass. “The point is, you cannot have both, and you must choose now.”

“My children… but where… where is my wife? Where is Dashani?” asked Orteg, his voice distant as his brain struggled to comprehend what was happening.

“Yes, Antion, where is the Lady Washburn?” Barris said, his smile huger than ever. “I confess I am curious as well what became of the good woman.”

“That choice has already been made for you, Majesty,” Sir Antion said, his smile nearly as wide as Barris. “She attempted to escape and I was forced to dispatch her.” He tugged at the crotch of his armored trousers, thrusting his hips. “Your wife is—was, a beautiful woman. I confess, I could not control myself.” He laughed at the look on Orteg’s face. “Be comforted, she was no longer alive at the time.”

Orteg let out a roar and would have been upon Antion, sword or no, had the latter not thumped him on the head with the butt of his sword, the heavy ruby sending Orteg into darkness with no more racket.

“Did you really penetrate his wife after you killed her?” asked Barris, fascinated.

“Twice,” Sir Antion said, and grinned. “I did not even get to tell him how the second time I used the wound in her throat.” He licked his lips. “Still warm.”

Logbook of Terror: Dean Can’t Drive Sixty-Five

Russell Holbrook

Startled by the roar of an engine and the screeching of tires, Dean looked up and nearly spilled coffee down the front of his partially wrinkled button-up shirt. He sputtered and coughed as the hot liquid went down the wrong way. The car charged toward him until its driver slammed on the brakes and swerved to a stop mere feet in front of him. The car door flew open. The driver leaped out. Stomping toward Dean, she yelled, “You have to do something with this goddamn car!”

Bewildered, Dean said, “Excuse me, miss, I-”

“It’s the car!” The woman screamed, cutting Dean off in mid-sentence. “You have to get rid of the car!”

Dean examined the woman, observing the fear in her eyes, hearing the sincerity in her voice. He glanced at the car which sat idling before him. He knew it instantly. Holy shit, a Delgorian 130, just like in the movie! Dean held out a hand to the woman. “I’d love to help, if you could just-”

The woman cut him off again. “Just get rid of it! Put it somewhere no one can find it!” She pulled an envelope from her bra and slammed it into Dean’s chest. It was the first time he’d been touched by a woman since his divorce six months earlier. He flinched and spilled his coffee. His eyes watched the envelope fall to the pavement below.

Several potential customers and employees who were milling around the used car lot stopped to observe the commotion.

“You deal with cars,” the woman shouted, “You deal with this one!”

She took long, deliberate strides back to the car, reached inside, and snatched up her purse. Throwing the strap over her shoulder, she glared at Dean, let out a heavy sigh, and then said, “And for God’s sake, whatever you do, don’t drive it. Don’t let anyone drive it. Please.” She stepped closer to Dean. “Do you understand me?”

Dean fixed her with a blank expression and squinted.

“Do you fucking understand me?!” She shouted.

Dean gasped and stepped back. He nodded. “Y-yes. I understand you.”

The woman stepped within inches of Dean. She lowered her voice. “No one drives this goddamn car, especially not you. Got it?”

A soft wind blew the woman’s scent of perfume and fresh shampoo up to Dean, stirring bleak memories and sorrow within. He nodded again and said flatly, “Yeah, I got it.”

The woman turned and hurried away, the short heels of her shoes clacking harshly against the pavement. Dean’s thoughts caught up with themselves and he realized how attractive he found her. He wondered if she was an actress or a model. He picked up the envelope and opened it. Inside were several folded papers. Dean glanced up, intending to call after the woman, just in time to see her ’round the corner out of the lot and head down the sidewalk. He looked at the car. It idled calmly. Dean suddenly felt like it was staring at him.

“Fuck me, man, a Delgorian 130!” An excited voice declared. “Where the hell did this come from? Don’t tell me someone was dumb enough to fuckin’ trade this in?”

“A woman just dropped it off,” Dean said to his co-worker.

“What?! You gotta be shittin’ me!” The co-worker boomed. Alec was loud, almost all the time.

Dean raised his eyebrows and shrugged. “Yep, she just left it, just like that.”

Alec looked around. “Well, where’d she go?”

“Fucking took off,” Dean said.

“What?!” Alec yelled.

Dean winced at Alec’s volume. He explained, “Yeah man, she roared in here –literally- scared Beelzebub outta me, told me to take the car and get rid of it, slammed this envelope on my chest, made me spill my coffee, and took off.”

“Dude,” Alec said, “She made you spill your coffee?”

Dean nodded. “Yes, that she did.”

The car’s engine revved and sputtered. The two used car salesmen started at the sound.

“A Delgorian 130,” Alec said, his tone nearing reverent awe. “On the shittiest car lot in the shittiest part of town. What the actual fuck, man.”

“I know, right,” Dean said.

The late afternoon sun sparkled off the spotless silver hood of the car. Dean saw his and Alec’s images reflected in the dark, tinted driver side window. Their reflections bent and warped. Their bodies curved in the middle. Their faces melted. Their mouths opened and stretched as if in a silent wail.

Dean jumped back. “Did you see that, man?”

“See what, dude?” Alec gave Dean a look of concern. “I didn’t see anything other than a badass car, man. What’d you see?”

“I…” Dean began. He stopped. “Nothing, man, I think it was the light or something.”

“Alright, man,” Alec said.

Dean cleared his throat and straightened his tie. “Um, let’s get this car moved off the lot before Hinland comes out here and starts giving us shit. We can explain it to him later.”

“Good deal,” Alec agreed.

With a foreboding feeling in his gut, Dean walked toward the car. The engine cooed in a low idle. Dean approached the door, which the woman had left wide open. Get in, a voice said in the back of his mind. Dean’s brow wrinkled. He stopped. The woman’s admonition rang loud in his memory: No one drives this goddamn car, especially not you. He quickly reached in, killed the engine, and tore the keys from the ignition. They dangled loud as he stuffed them in his pocket.

“Um, hey man,” Alec said.

“Yeah?”

“I thought you were gonna move the car.”

“The lady said not to drive it.”

Alec scoffed. “What?”

“Yeah, she said no one should drive it, especially not me.”

“Dude,” Alec said. “Why would she say some shit like that?”

Dean shrugged. “I dunno. She just did. And it gave me this weird feeling too, you know. Let’s just get Tony to move it with the wrecker.”

Alec shook his head and held out his hand. Dean sighed and turned over the keys. “Don’t be superstitious, dude,” Alec said.

Dean eyeballed Alec as he slipped into the car and brought it back to life. He revved the engine and lowered the window. “Hear that?” He shouted over the revving engine. “That’s power, dude!”

Alec stuck out his tongue and hooted. Dean chuckled and felt a bit of his apprehension slip away. Maybe that lady was just some whack job, he thought. Dean watched the car purr its way up the hill to the garage and he walked back to the showroom to get a new cup of coffee.

***

He hadn’t been able to stop thinking about the car. When Dean found himself in the garage standing in front of it that evening, he wasn’t so surprised. Alec had hung the keys with all the other sets after he parked the car in the farthest stall of the garage, after which he’d seemed to forget about the car altogether. Inexplicably, none of the other employees seemed to notice that it was there. None but Dean, who now held the keys tight in his right hand.

The woman’s stern words from that morning rang loud in his memory. A feeling in his gut and a fear in his heart told him to heed her warning. There seemed to be something wrong about the car. But what could be wrong about such a beautiful, perfect creation? Was this even a machine? It just seemed so… alive.

Dean’s pulse quickened. His mouth watered. His thoughts raced. It’s just a car. It’s just a car. It’s just a –

A sudden rush of pain registered in Dean’s mind. He opened his hand. He’d squeezed so hard that the car keys had cut into his palm. Blood glistened on the silver metal of the keys. “Ow, fuck!” He said.

Broken from his trance. Dean hurried out of the garage.

***

Dean was late to work the next morning. He slouched into the break room and grabbed a mug from the pantry. Alec stood near the coffee maker finishing the last bite of a doughnut.

“Dude, you look like roasted shit,” Alec said as Dean poured his first cup of coffee.

“Wow, thanks, fucker,” Dean returned.

The two chuckled and sipped on their coffee.

Dean said, “Hey, did Hinland mention anything about the car?”

“Um, which one? We work on a car lot.”

“You know, the Delgorian 130,” Dean said.

Alec laughed. “Yeah right, as if one of those would ever be here!”

“What the fuck do you mean? You drove it into the garage yesterday. Remember, that wacko lady left it here?”

Alec looked puzzled. “Uh, what lady? You alright there, buddy?”

“Of course I’m alright, I’m fucking fine!”

“Hey, dude, no need to raise your voice.”

“I’m not!” Dean screamed.

Alec stepped back and took a deep breath. Exhaling slowly, he said, “Dude, I don’t know what the fuck this is all about, but I think you need to walk outside and cool off, and I think you need to do that right the fuck now.”

“I. Uh. Gree.” Dean said through clenched teeth. He took his coffee, left the breakroom and stomped out onto the lot. Two minutes later he was standing in front of the Delgorian 130, eyes wide in terror, wondering why the front of the car was covered in blood.

***

“Hey Dean, what’r ya lookin’ at?” Tony said.

Dean stuttered. “Th-th-the c-c-car. Th-the b-bl-blood.”

“The what?” Tony said, “There ain’t nothin’ there, bru. That stall’s been empty all week.”

Dean stopped breathing. His coffee mug fell from his hand. The mug exploded on the concrete floor. Tony stepped back.

“Hey, watch it, bru!” Tony exclaimed. “You just got frickin’ coffee all over my new work shoes!”

Dean faced Tony. The salesman’s mouth hung open. His skin was pale and clammy. Sweat was breaking on his brow.

Tony recoiled. “Jeez, bru, what the frick is wrong with you? You need to go to the doctor or sumthin.’”

Dean’s eyes jumped back and forth between Tony and the car, the car and Tony. His lips trembled. He babbled nonsense under his breath.

Tony reached out a hand. “Bru, lemme help you, c’mon.”

Dean yelped, turned, and ran out of the garage.

***

Reaching the showroom entrance, Dean slowed to a brisk walk. Trying to be inconspicuous, he slipped into the building and headed straight for his desk, where he collapsed into his chair and buried his face in his hands. He took deep breaths to slow his heartbeat, inhaling and exhaling slowly. Above the sound of his own breathing, he heard the showroom television. Someone had turned on the news. Dean tuned in to the droning voice of the reporter.

“It was here, in this off-ramp tunnel referred to locally as ‘bum alley’, that a classic sports car roared through the tent city at approximately two o’clock this morning, killing seven and wounding three others,” the newscaster said.

Dean raised his head toward the mammoth television. The screen cut to an eyewitness. A haggard woman dressed in varying shades of camouflage said, “It was a Delgorian 130, just like from the movie. I’d know that car anywhere! It came flying into the tunnel, musta been doin’ over a hundret, and ran everybody down and just kept on goin’. I didn’t see the driva, though, cause the windas was all kinda black. I was lucky I was over here and they didn’t see me and try to get me too.”

Another cut brought back the on-location reporter. “Lucky, indeed,” he said. “Police are asking that any sightings of the car in question -a silver 1985 Delgorian 130- be reported immediately. This is Leslie Keene reporting live for Action News. Back to you, Cindy.”

Dean puked in the plastic wastebasket by his desk. Tears streamed down his face. “What the fuck what the fuck what the fuck what the fuck oh god oh god what the fuck,” he whispered to himself.

With a trembling hand, Dean opened the top left desk drawer to retrieve the package of tissue he kept handy. Through blurred vision he saw the envelope the woman had left with him the day before. He opened the envelope and removed the car’s registration, bill of sale, and title. Dean frowned. His eyes watered anew. He let the registration and bill of sale fall back into the drawer. He held the title in his shaking hands.

“Oh God,” he sobbed.

On the title, on the line marked “New Registered Owner”, Dean saw his name, in his handwriting, written in what looked like dark red ink. He glanced to his right hand. A dark red spot bloomed on the white bandage that covered the gash in his palm. Dean dropped the title into the drawer and slid it closed. He remembered the keys in his pocket, and suddenly, he felt like going for a drive.

My Darling Dead : Bastards – Episode Six, Summons

Dashani, wife of Orteg pushed the hair back from her face and tugged at the knot holding the bandage to her gangrenous leg. Ignoring the smell and the pain, she cinched up the knot and turned back to the stove. Stoking the fire within, she stirred the mixture of corn and water she had been boiling for over an hour, softening it for her children who had been blissfully asleep beneath the bearskin rug. For the hundredth time, she leaned back from the stove, looking out the window and up the path for Orteg.

Instead of her husband, she found six large men coming up the path on horses, clad in the black armor of the castle guards. Their spears were tall and sharp, their faces cruel beneath the helmets. Dashani felt her stomach sink into her feet. She dropped the spoon in the pan of corn and limped across the room to her children, reaching them just as the door crashed open. The children, wakened by the noise, cried beneath the blanket as the soldiers stomped into the room, three of them leveling spears at the family.

“Dashani Washburn and children?” said the leader, his face a hard blank.

“Who are you? What are you doing here? Why–?”

The butt of the leader’s spear struck Dashani in the leg on her bandage, bringing a fresh welling of blood forth to redden the dirty cloth. Dashani screamed in agony as the leader bellowed in her face

“Are you Dashani Washburn and are these your whelps or are they not?” The point of the spear swung around to poke her in the throat. She gulped back her screams as blood trickled from the wound in her throat. “By the gods, woman, answer me now or all four of you will perish for the time you have wasted me.”

“I am she!” Dashani wailed, her voice cracking as the children screamed beneath the bearskin rug. The leader swung the spear away from her throat and barked a harsh order in another language to the rest of the men. Four of them grabbed each corner of the bearskin rug, heaving mightily as they brought all four corners together with a twist, locking the three children in a bag with its edges neatly tied. The muffled cries from within pierced Dashani as the fifth soldier leveled his own spear at her.

“Move,” the leader said.

Dashani was bullied out the door, nearly falling from the stairs to the ground but catching herself on her injured leg, which nearly buckled. She turned to see the soldier carrying the sack which contained her children sling it over his horse and seat himself in the saddle behind it. The leader swung himself onto his own horse with a quick practiced movement and before she knew what was happening, she had been pulled forcefully up behind him. He wrapped her arms around his chest and turned his head to speak.

“We ride to the castle. Hold tightly. If you make us stop, you will regret it.”

He shouted a command to the other soldiers, now mounted, and heeled his horse in the ribs. The horse reared, Dashani clutching in terror to the leader’s armored chest. He nudged the horse again and it galloped down the trail. Behind them, Dashani could hear the thunder of the other horses following them. She closed her eyes, resting her head against the impassive back of the man, and waited for the pain in her leg to stop.

Over the course of that long ride, Dashani tried several times to talk to the man, shouting questions in first one ear, then the other, in case he was hard of hearing. Each time she was met with silence. The last time, the man turned his head just a little and the look he gave her was enough to motivate her to stop trying.

They went on and on, over bridges spanning muddy creeks, past withered orchards with hornets buzzing around their heads. At one point, they were followed by several rat people who scurried along the sides of the road after them, making strange shrieking sounds between them. Dashani felt a moment’s fear but the leader just urged his horse on to greater lengths and they were soon lost.

Finally, they rounded a bend and the castle loomed in the distance. The sight of it awoke the terror Dashani had been keeping barely at bay. She fixed her eyes on the castle, the dread in her rising as it got closer. Whatever had caused them to be summoned here, it could be nothing good.

The leader felt her grip on him loosen, then it vanished. Looking around, he saw the foolish woman rolling in the dust before pushing herself to her feet as well she could and diving into the bushes lining the path. With an oath, the leader wheeled his horse around, waving for the other men to continue on their way. Skidding to a halt, he slid to the ground, listening to the hoofbeats of the other soldiers fade. Slowly the silence of the countryside reasserted itself. He stood perfectly still, listening to the sound of birds and the little brook nearby. A puff of wind rattled some leaves. Time passed. Then, a twig snapped. The leader grinned and moved toward the edge of the road.

Dashani crouched in the tall brush lining the road, down several feet in a ditch which ran both sides of this section of road. She was about ten feet off the road and did not dare to make another move. She could not see the road but she couldn’t hear anything. Still, there was no way the man had not stopped to retrieve her. His threat made her blood run cold. She could not believe she had jumped. She could not remember doing it. What had she been thinking?

She was terrified to move, afraid he would hear her. Still, she couldn’t stay here forever. She turned her head. Seeing the brush thin slightly, she moved toward it. Beneath one foot, a twig snapped. She screamed curse words and admonishments inside her head as she held her breath and waited. Several moments passed and she had almost worked up the nerve to try again when she heard the whinny of a horse.

Dread fell upon her like a scalding blanket. As she turned to run, a slim silver dagger flashed through the mid-morning sun and stabbed her through the throat. She fell to her knees, clutching at the handle protruding from her neck as blood spurted from the wound in strengthening gouts. Trying to gasp, she coughed on her own blood, spraying the foliage before her, painting it a bright red. Fighting for breath, she saw the leader materialize out of the bushes right in front of her. She had time to marvel at how quiet he was for such a big man before he pulled the knife from her throat.

“I warned you, foolish woman,” he said. He knelt beside her and pulled her head back, raising the knife. Her eyes grew wide and her bloody mouth managed to form the word NO before the knife’s keen edge sliced all the way through her windpipe.

The man watched her bleed, her eyes wide as she struggled for breath and her hands covered the gash in her throat, mindlessly attempting to stem the flow of blood as her movements grew weaker. He licked his lips and his breathing grew ragged as he surveyed the rest of her. Except for that nasty leg, she was in pretty good condition. He felt himself grow hard as he watched the light fade from her eyes, color rising in his face as it drained from hers. It would be a nuisance to remove his armored leggings, he thought, loosening his belt, but it would be worth it.

Logbook of Terror: Debbie’s Box

Russell Holbrook

A chilly wind brushed Debbie’s hair back from her shoulders and caused her eyes to water as she stared down at the box in her hands. Children and their parents milled around her, exploring the items strewn across the tables at the yard sale. Low thunder rolled across the gray sky and Debbie’s mother appeared at her side.

“Whatcha got there, kiddo?” Debbie’s mom asked.

Debbie successfully repressed the urge to roll her eyes at her mom’s use of the word “kiddo” and replied, “It’s some kind of weird box.”

Without asking, Debbie’s mom took the box from her teenage daughter’s hands. Thunder cracked again and the wind picked up. Her mother squinted at the box, a rectangular chest that looked like it could’ve been built by a high school shop class dropout. It was composed of ill-fitted, matte black planks of wood held together by tarnished silver corners, hinges, and clasps. Both the sides and top were adorned with symbols that leapt and curled in bright, sparkling purple. Painted in pink cursive, the proclamation “Debbie’s Box” was plopped down into the scrawl of symbols that covered the top of the lid.

“Huh, look at that,” Debbie’s mom said, pointing at the lid. “It already has your name on it.” She added sarcastically, “It was meant to be.”

This time Debbie let her eyes roll while her mother laughed at her own joke.

“You want it?” Debbie’s mom asked.

“Yeah, I can keep my tapes in it,” Debbie said.

Debbie’s mom chuckled. “It’s 2020 and cassette tapes are making a comeback. I didn’t see that one coming.”

Debbie frowned. “It’s an underground movement, mother.”

Debbie’s mom smiled and handed the box back to her daughter. “I’m sure it is.”

Another clash of thunder reverberated overhead. Debbie’s mom looked up. “That one was closer. We better settle up and get back home before the rain hits.”

Twenty minutes later Debbie was sitting on her bed, staring at the box, wondering what -if anything- might be inside, and who the other Debbie was; what was she like, and what did she do? Where was she from and where did she go? The woman running the yard sale hadn’t had had any answers to the questions that Debbie asked her. She’d claimed she didn’t even know where the box had come from and assumed that one of the other three yard sale participants must have brought it. There wasn’t even a price tag on it so the lady had just accepted Debbie’s mother’s offer of five dollars.

Debbie reached out and flipped the dull silver clasps. She lifted the lid and leaned over to peer inside. A putrid stench wafted up out of the box. Debbie coughed and recoiled, covering her mouth and nose. With eyes watering from the odor, she slowly moved closer and looked into the box.

There were teeth. They covered the bottom of the burgundy velvet-lined box. They looked human. Debbie’s brow crinkled. She looked closer. Mixed in with the teeth were locks of hair, all blond and all held together with pink bows. Debbie counted the clumps of hair. There were thirteen. Beneath one of the locks of hair was a folded square of notebook paper. Debbie brushed the hair aside and picked the paper up. She unfolded the square and read.

Dear Debbie,

             If you are reading this note, you have found the box and been led to open it. That also means you have been chosen and you are now the new Debbie. The burden and chore which were mine are now yours, may you carry them well until the time comes for you to pass them to another.

             Sincerely,

             All my love,

             Debbie

            

“What in the…?” Debbie gazed at the box and its contents, confounded and bewildered.

Footsteps echoed in the foyer. Debbie’s mom called her name from the bottom of the stairs.

“Yeah, mom?” Debbie answered.

“Soup’s ready!” Her mother yelled.

“Okay, I’ll be right down!” Debbie replied, even though she thought it might be difficult to eat with so many questions brewing in her mind.

******

The soup was terrible, as Debbie’s mom’s homemade soup always was, but Debbie choked it down and felt grateful to have a mother who would cook her something warm to eat. An hour later she was hungry again. She found her mom in the den watching TV and told her she was heading out to the supermarket to get her favorite, frozen cheese pizza. Her mom told Debbie that she was nuts to go out in the storm but handed over the keys anyway, gave her a kiss, and sent her on her way.

The supermarket was empty. The standard pop fare flittered out of dull, hidden speakers. Debbie stood in front of the frozen pizza selection, wondering if she would try a new brand or just go with the usual. She heard a voice next to her. A man. He said, “Can’t make up your mind?”

Debbie turned and their eyes met. He’s cute, Debbie thought, looking into his blue orbs, taking note of his clean, blond hair.  She smiled.

Holy fuck I can’t wait to get this one back home and take my hacksaw to her filthy baby maker, the man thought.

Debbie gasped. Her face hardened. “Excuse me?” She said.

The man grinned and held up his hands. “Woah there, I was just saying it looks like you can’t make up your mind on which pizza to get.” You dirty goddamn slut.

The man’s thoughts and intentions invaded Debbie’s mind, heart, and soul, cutting her, bleeding her spirit. She felt tears well in her eyes. She remembered the note. The burden and chore which were mine are now yours.

Debbie cleared her throat. She chuckled nervously. “Oh, yeah, just trying to decide if I should try a new brand or stick with the old reliable.”

The man grinned again. Suddenly, Debbie saw the smile through the eyes of another woman, and another, and another, and still yet another and another. Blood dribbled from the thin lips, trailing down the chiseled, handsome chin. The smile widened and revealed sickeningly white teeth. Debbie saw what the teeth had done. She blinked. The visions faded.

“I think it’s healthy to try new things,” the man said, still smiling.

Debbie’s mind focused. A bright, new power bloomed inside her. She felt a smile of her own growing across her lips. She opened the freezer door and grabbed the first cheese pizza she saw. It was a brand she’d never heard of before.

“You know,” she said. “I think you’re right.” She dropped the pizza into her basket. “How do you feel about frozen cheese pizza?”

The man seemed to smile even wider. “I think I love it.”

“Good, because I don’t like to eat alone,” Debbie said, simultaneously marveling at the words coming out of her mouth and the confidence with which they were being spoken.

“We can go to my place, it’s just around the bend,” the man said.

“Wonderful,” Debbie replied. “I just need to swing by the hardware section and pick up one last thing.”

“Oh, what’s that?” The man scoffed.

“A hammer,” Debbie said.

“What for?”

Debbie let her own smile widen and fill with mischievous glee. “I’ve got some work to do.”

The man shrugged and followed Debbie out of the frozen foods aisle.

My Darling Dead : Bastards – Episode Five, Sharing the News

The sound of hoofbeats roused the castle guard from its late-night lethargy as two horses came thundering up the path. At the gate, the riders halted their steeds. One of the men hallooed the walls, a low echoing sound.

“Who goes?” came a voice from atop the wall, thick with drowsiness.

“The rightful king!” Orteg started to bleat, a kick from the wizard silencing him at the last moment.

“We have a message for the council,” called Zavier, his voice low. “Let us enter, in the name of the kingdom!”

“You have not told me yet who goes, sir,” returned the wall guard. Murmuring voices behind him told of numerous others. “And none enter here without at least that. I’ll ask you again, what your names be.”

Orteg saw Zavier sigh before throwing back his cloak and producing a long staff of polished wood, shining but very dark. Zavier slammed the butt of the staff into the ground beside his horse, sending a tremor through the ground to which only his horse seemed immune. All the men atop the wall went to their knees, fighting to stay upright. Orteg felt as though he had consumed some of the southern ditch liquor which made the drinker go blind and dumb.

“You have twice asked and twice been refused,” Zavier roared, his patience at end. “You will regret pursuing this line of questioning and you are advised to desist and withdraw after opening the gate to allow our passage. This you will do, now.”

The power Zavier had summoned retreated, allowing the guards atop the wall to clamber to their feet. One of them dropped below the wall, and in a moment the gate began to grate open. Zavier stepped forward, muttering, “Honestly!” Orteg followed, attempting to look in every direction at once.

The wizard strode through the courtyard, nearly deserted at this hour, taking one of the doorways with no hesitation. Orteg followed as they turned down a long corridor with many doors opening to each side. Again, with no hesitation, Zavier made for the large door at the far end of the corridor.

Barris started as the door slammed open. A tall figure in a black robe strode in, a small man with an ugly face scuttling in his wake. The tall figure marched up to the council table without a pause and threw back his hood. His long dark hair flew around his face.

“Council members,” the man said, his voice projecting. “I am come to inform you that the time of your rule is at an end. I have the rightful heir to the throne beside me.”

The council was silent, furtive glances darting back and forth between them all. Agathas looked at Barris, her eyes afraid. His were cool as he addressed the wizard.

“Your authority is not recognized, wizard. You come before this council with no papers, no identification and only an unsubstantiated claim that this cringing cur–” he gestured to Orteg, “is the rightful king of Dandoich. Either provide evidence or be thrown from the castle walls for your impertinence.”

“You need not believe the word of the wizard Zavier, when you can see what he speaks is true!” retorted Zavier, the shining staff sliding from its place beneath his robe. Zavier rapped it twice on the chamber floor and spun in a circle, the staff before him.

Immediately the room was drowned in darkness. Before the council members could do more than give a surprised yelp, light blazed into the room in a brilliant flash. They saw Orteg, a tiny baby but unmistakably the same, being born to the Washburn family, saw the tuppence the king provided every month, the loose lips of the father sealing the family’s fate, the child being raised with only part of the truth, resenting the crown he was to inherit, being confronted at the tavern by Zavier…

The room was plunged once more into darkness, then bathed in its natural light as Zavier ended the spell and returned everyone to the present.

“Kneel in the presence of your king,” Zavier commanded, his voice hard. “Unless you feel you have a claim to the throne, this man is your lord and master. Hail, Orteg, King of Dandoich!”

Zavier dropped to one knee before Orteg and bowed his head, the picture of subservience. One by one, the council members rose from their seats and dropped to their knees before Orteg, who had never felt so uncomfortable in his life. Out of the corner of his eye, he could see Barris and Agathas sinking slowly to their knees, their faces carefully neutral.

“Er…” Orteg said, raising a hand. “Thank you, all. I’ll be wanting to keep you all on as advisers, of course, since I don’t know the first thing about running a kingdom…”

“Your Majesty!” Barris said, his voice fruity as he struggled to rise his bulk to his feet, Agathas doing likewise beside him. “Let me be the first to welcome you to the castle, and to many years of a fruitful reign of peace and prosperity. And may I just say…”

Barris droned on for a while before Zavier was able to get a word in edgewise and shepherded the new king away from his would-be advisers. The moment the door was shut behind Orteg and the wizard, the smile fell from Barris’ face like a landslide. The council members looked at him, fearful.

“Tell no one of this meeting,” Barris said, his voice low. “Back to your quarters, all of you. Someone send the captain of the guard to me.”

The captain of the guard had been in charge of the castle guards and the dungeons since before Barris had been old enough to know his own name. When Barris first saw the captain, he was a gnarled, wizened old man who somehow radiated a terrible strength. Now, decades later, the captain of the guard who appeared before him looked exactly the same as the one he remembered from his youth.

“Sir, I have need of your unique skillset,” Barris said, offering the man a goblet of fine wine. “I would have your assistance, and your silence.”

The man took the goblet, looking at Barris with no expression. Slowly, he raised the goblet to his lips and took a sip. Barris held his breath.

The man let the silence drag out a few more moments before extending a hand, palm upward. “I am waiting.”

Barris let escape a sigh of relief, then began speaking.

 

Logbook of Terror: Ranger Danger

Russell Holbrook

The park ranger crouched in the bushes. Moaning voices echoed from a nearby tent. Black clouds collected overhead and the thick aroma of a gathering storm filled the night air. The ranger smiled. Roy had been doing this for years but it never got old. He looked up. A flash of lightning lit up the sky. Roy felt the familiar, electric buzzing in his bones. With stealth that was practiced and perfected, he crept up beside the tent. The mercury fillings in his teeth hummed. Roy stood up straight, right next to the tent. A woman in the tent announced that she was coming. A man testified in agreement. Their voices rose in tandem. They called out to God. Thunder roared. And a furious bolt of pure, white lightning hammered the tent. 

The lightning bolt pierced the tent’s ceiling. Burning heat struck the lovers. Electric waves fried their insides while their screams echoed in Roy’s ears. Flames danced inside the tent, growing and spreading over the thin fabric to create a funeral pyre. The bodies of the man and woman bounced in the fire. Their screams echoed through the mountains. Roy drew his gun. He waited. 

The woman sprung out of the fire, her skinned blackened and her hair ablaze. Roy shot her in the forehead. She stumbled into the brush and collapsed. The man followed. His arms flailed. He shouted and ran toward Roy. The ranger shot the man in the stomach. The young lover collapsed and Roy shot him two more times in the back of the head. Roy looked down at the young man’s charred skin. It glistened in the moonlight. “Barbeque for the bears,” he sneered.  

After watching the burning tent dwindle down to a smoldering pile, Roy stomped out the embers and strolled into the woods. 

***

“Yo, this weed is the bomb,” Mickey said. He coughed out a monster cloud of smoke and passed the joint to his left. Jane handled the fat spliff in her nimble fingers. She took a long drag and broke out in a coughing fit. Mickey giggled and took back the joint. “Damn, you’re gonna be so fried.”

Jane snickered. “I’m toasty.”

The two teens laughed and swung their legs from the tailgate of Jane’s truck. Leaves rustled and twigs snapped in the darkness behind them. 

“What the eff was that?” Mickey said, looking around. 

“What the eff was what?” 

“What?”

“That’s what I just asked you.” 

“Oh,” Mickey said.

“Oooohhhh!” Jane exclaimed.

Guffaws pealed from Mickey and Jane, covering up the rustle and crunch of approaching footsteps. 

Thunder cracked and shook the forest around them. Lightning burst through the sky, lighting up the dark, revealing Ranger Roy standing in front of them, his beady black eyes peering out from behind his thick glasses. His singed ranger hat sat snug on his head. A crooked smile crossed his face. 

Mickey and Jane started with a screech. Pure reaction caused Mickey to toss the half-smoked joint onto the ground. The ranger stepped closer.  

“Hey, kids, great night for a smoke, ain’t it?” Ranger Roy bent down and picked up the smoldering doobie. Smirking, he put the smoke to his lips and inhaled deep once, twice, three times. He held in the smoke and then let out a great plume into the air. The wind blew and carried the white cloud away. Another peal of thunder rattled the pines. “Ah, that’s a fine flavor there.”

Ranger Roy handed the joint back to Mickey and retrieved a cigarette from the pack in his shirt pocket. “Helluva storm brewing,” he said. “You kids might wanna find shelter or head on home.”

Jane stared at the forest ranger through the thin slits that her eyes had become. “Old dude?” She said.

“Yes, young lady.”

She pointed at the black mark that covered the top of Roy’s hat. “What happened to your hat?”

“Oh, that’s just where I got popped with a bit of lightning,” Roy answered.

“Shit, man, I’ve heard of you!” Mickey piped in. “You’re that ranger.”

Roy grinned.

“What, is he like… famous?” Jane asked as Mickey passed her the joint.

“This old dude has been struck by lightning seven times!” 

“No shit?” Jane said.

“Seven times!” Mickey repeated. “He’s like, a fucking legend. You’re a legit legend, aren’t you, old dude?” 

The ranger cleared his throat and spit. “My name’s Roy, young man.” He straightened his hat and pulled his shoulders back. 

Jane elbowed Mickey. A deep, intoxicated smile came over her face. “Seven times… Seven times!” She fell into Mickey, laughing uncontrollably. 

Mickey sputtered and his sputters became wide, echoing booms. He and Jane clutched each other, wrapped in hysterics, oblivious to the lightning crisscrossing the sky overhead. 

“Seven times!” Mickey shouted, doubling over and nearly falling off the truck’s tailgate. “How does that even happen?”

Ranger Roy felt indignant. “Just an occupational hazard, that’s all.”

“Maybe you should get a new job, idiot!” Mickey howled.  

As the teens made fun of Roy, he felt the same, reliable buzzing in his back teeth. A pulse of electricity tickled his veins. The rolling chortles from the stoned teenagers punched him in the heart. He screamed, “Shut up!” 

 A monster bolt of lightning shot down from the clouds, forking just above Mickey and Jane, striking each of them in the face. Like melons under a jackhammer, their heads exploded. Blood and flesh and gore showered ranger Roy. Spewing blood from their necks, the teens’ headless corpses swayed and fell off the tailgate. 

“That’s what I’m talking about!” Roy shouted at the sky. He cackled triumphantly and skittered off into the trees. 

***

“Really, seven times?” The man asked.

Ranger Roy nodded from across the campfire that burned in the center of the small clearing. The man on the other side appraised the ranger.

“How’d you get all that blood on you?”

“Exploded teenagers.”

“Yeah, that happens.”

The man wore a careless, disheveled appearance. Roy figured him for either a weekend camper or someone on the run from the law, or, maybe even one of those hippie vagrant types. Ugh, hippies. The man took a long swig off the whiskey bottle and passed it to Roy, who allowed himself a generous gulp. He winced as the liquor burned its way down. Thunder struck above them, close. 

Ranger Roy glanced up. “Storms almost here.” 

The camper joined Roy in gazing up into the night sky. “Yep,” he added. 

Roy handed the bottle back to its owner. The man gripped the bottle and turned it up before setting it down at his side. He coughed and cleared his throat.

“So,” the camper began, “If you don’t mind me asking, why are you still out on the job if you’ve been struck by lightning so many times? I mean, considering the probability, seven times is a high number.”

“I’m just doin’ the lord’s work,” Roy sighed. “Someone’s got to, you know.”

The camper snorted. “The lord, yeah right.” He spit into the fire. “I always wondered about you rangers. Are you protecting nature from us, or us from nature?” 

Roy grimaced. “Nature don’t need my protectin’, I’m just doin’ what’s asked of me, that’s all.” 

“What did nature… ask of you?” The camper said. His eyes glazed over as the whiskey took hold and slowed the man’s words. 

Roy looked at the man with hard, serious eyes. “Just to help maintain the balance. That’s what I do. I help.” Roy pulled out a cigarette and lit up.   

“Sure you do, old-timer, sure you do.” The camper eyeballed Roy’s cigarette. “You got another one of those?”

Roy reached into his front shirt pocket. The camper leaned forward and reached out his hand. A crack of low thunder bounced through the trees. A jagged streak of lightning shredded the darkness. The white-hot bolt stabbed the camper’s outstretched hand. A second flash lit up the pines and a ribbon of light nailed the man in the back. He cried out in agony. Electrical currents filled his body. Foam poured from his mouth.  

A third firebolt struck the camper on top of his head. Bright bolts of electricity bounced over the man’s convulsing body. He surged forward and fell face-first into the campfire. Ranger Roy stood up slowly. The camper’s body spasmed and became still. Roy threw his cigarette down on the man’s burning corpse. He removed a piece of paper from his pocket and unfolded it. He grimaced.

“I thought I recognized you,” Roy said, looking from the paper in his hand to the man in the fire. 

In stark black and white, the leering face of the camper stared up at Roy from the flyer. Above the photo, bold letters announced that the man was wanted for the murder of a family of four. Roy tossed the flyer into the flames and watched it change form. He reached into his pants pocket and retrieved a short newspaper article. The headline read: After Killing Five Year Old Child in Hit and Run, Marijuana Using Teens are Released on Technicality. Roy thought of the teens’ exploding heads. He grinned and dropped the column of paper into the fire. For a third time, Roy reached into his pocket. Another article. A malicious husband and wife burned down a nursing home and eluded police. “They didn’t elude me,” Roy muttered. He tossed the paper into the fire. 

Roy lit another cigarette and listened to the quiet of the forest, of his home. He smiled and looked up into the dark sky. “Nice workin’ with you tonight.” 

A bright star peeked out from behind the cloud cover. It glimmered in the dark and seemed to wink at Roy. The tired old ranger laughed to himself and shuffled into the darkness, satisfied with a job well done. Once he was deep under the canopy of trees, the first drops of rain began to fall. 

My Darling Dead : Bastards – Episode Four/ Council Feasts

The Honorable Prefect Mosh Barris had been running what remained of the kingdom of Dandoich for many years now, ever since he had been slim and a deceptively wide-eyed and innocent youth. He had swindled and conned his way into a position right beneath the then-acting ruler, a duke with pretensions and enough soldiers to back them up. Barris attached himself to the duke and fed off the man’s power for many years, growing more bloated as he did so like any true parasite. When Barris had absorbed enough of the ruler’s power, the man was found dead in his bed by an apparent self-inflicted dose of poison. Only Barris and an apothecary several townships over had any idea otherwise. 

Once Barris had eliminated the apothecary, he wasted no time in claiming rulership of the kingdom, citing his years of experience as the late duke’s advisor. Learning from the example of the many dead kings to precede him, Barris was too wise to declare himself the reigning ruler de facto. Instead, he immediately appointed a council of twelve, with himself at its head, equally matched between the sexes. The decisions of the council would be reached democratically, he explained in those early days to the skeptical kingdom, and would no longer depend on the whims of one man. What Barris failed to divulge was that the council was made up of his own circle of like-minded individuals with whom he had come into contact as the parasite of the previous ruler. This council sought pleasure and had no qualms treading upon the citizens of the kingdom to obtain it. 

It was to this council that the rat woman who had overheard Zavier and Orteg in the forest was brought. The chamber door burst open and two large armored men carrying large pikes in one hand, one of the rat woman’s scrawny arms apiece in the other, her frail body elevated between them. Her biting and scratching glanced harmlessly off the armor with squealing sounds that rose hair on the back of Barris’ neck. 

“Guards!” boomed Agathas Pyle, to Barris’ right. “What is the meaning of this intrusion?” She waved a roast turkey leg in the direction of the rat woman. “Such a creature as this near puts me off my meal.” She belched and tore off another chunk of the turkey leg. Barris chuckled. Several other council members tittered. 

“We crave your pardon, Honorable Prefect,” said one of the armored figures, his voice echoing out of his helmet slits. “This creature did assault the very gates of the castle and raise such a racket that we were compelled to respond.”

“Well, what is it doing here?” Barris asked impatiently, seizing a roast turkey leg of his own and taking a huge mouthful. Bits of flesh sprayed from his mouth as he continued. “The rat creatures are to be flogged until they are driven away, or executed. Why bring it to the council?” He chewed slowly, juice dripping down his chin. 

“Honorable Prefect, it spoke your name.” One of the armored guards gave the rat woman a firm shake, rattling her head on her neck. “’ere you, stop that fussing and say what you said to us.” 

The rat woman’s vocal cords had not been properly used in many years. This one (a long-time tavern wench in her past life) had spoken far more words than many in her days serving customers. She had managed to retain just enough of her speech to be able to relate what she had heard from the treetops. As she did so, the color drained from Barris’s face, his turkey leg falling unbidden to the table. The council members muttered to each other as Agathas looked at Barris, eyebrows raised, chewing. When the rat woman had finished, Barris dipped into his money pouch. 

“Give her this,” Barris said, flicking the coin through the air to one of the guards, who caught it. “Give her meat scraps from the kitchen and then get her far away from this castle. The sight of her sickens me.”

“Barris!” Agathas blurted, shocked, around a mouthful of meat and wine. “Surely you cannot believe anything that it—”

“Do as I have ordered,” thundered Barris, rendering Agathas mute. “By the gods, remove this creature at once.”

The room was silent but for the clanking of armor as the two guards hustled the rat woman out, slamming the stout door behind them. Agathas glanced at Barris, then at the rest of her council members, all of whom were trading their own uneasy looks. 

“Honorable Prefect ,” ventured one of the councilmen. “I must inquire—”

“The matter is closed,” Barris said briskly, pulling his plate closer and reclaiming his turkey leg. “Now, back to our feast, I wish to hear no more about it.” 

The man, Daghved Chancey, pushed his chair back and stood, hands on his hips. “Seems to me, Honorable Prefect, that after such a display as that, your council members are owed an explanation of some sort.”

Barris looked up from his plate, frowning. “Explanation?”

“It is common practice to destroy the rat creatures on sight, not reward them and set them free to infect—”

“I owe you nothing,” said Barris, chewing. “You are advised to desist.”

Chancey advanced on Barris, his voice rising. “You are advised to explain yourself sir, how and why you departed from the law stating—”

Barris moved like lightning, belying his bulk. The silver drinking horn in his hand collided with the side of Chancey’s head, sending him crashing to the ground howling. Blood oozed from the wound to mix with the wine as Barris roared, advancing on the stricken man, “You will not presume to lecture me on laws I myself put into effect, Chancey! The kingdom’s subjects cannot be trusted to think for themselves as I can. Perhaps this will help you to remember everything I have said.” 

Before anybody could react, Barris pulled a mace and chain from the sleeve of his robe and brought the metal ball crashing down on Chancey’s head. The man’s head rebounded from the floor with a dull thud like a falling sandbag. Barris placed one meaty foot on Chancey’s chest, bearing down, forcing the air from Chancey’s lungs as the latter gasped for breath, hands opening and closing as they grasped at nothing. 

“What have I just said to you, Chancey?” Barris asked, grinning, bearing down still harder as Chancey fought to speak. “What did I just tell you to remember?” There was a cracking sound from deep inside Chancey’s chest and he let out a squeak that would have been a scream with more air.

At the council table, Agathas had her hand between her legs beneath her robe, eyes glazed and jaw slack as she watched the life being crushed from the man on the floor. The rest of the council watched avidly, exhibiting their own signs of estrus as the darkness surrounded Chancey and his struggles for breath grew less meaningful. He was about to drift off into a peaceful sleep when the crushing weight lifted and he felt nourishing life-giving air trickle into his lungs like a stone knife. He sucked greedily at it and the darkness cleared a little. 

“What are you supposed to remember, Chancey?” asked Barris, swinging the mace and chain in front of Chancey’s eyes. Fear flashed in them as Chancey attempted to scramble away. One leg was half-paralyzed and hindered his movement as Barris advanced grinning. “Can’t remember?”

Barris raised the mace. Chancey’s breathless scream was cut off by a thick meaty thud and the sound of a woman’s orgasm, Agathas reaching her climax just as Chancey’s brain splattered across the walls. She shuddered in her chair, convulsing, her eyes rolling back as she moaned. Barris dropped the bloody mace on Chancey’s body and wiped his hands on his robe. He stepped back to his seat at the table, drew his chair under him and sat. 

“Agathas, when you’ve recovered, summon a steward for wine and to clean up what’s left of Chancey,” said Barris, and sunk his teeth into another turkey leg. 

Book Review: Seven Ghostly Spins by Patricia Bossano

Seven Ghostly Spins by Patricia Bossano
Reviewed by Emerian Rich

I met Patricia Bossano at the Berkley Book Fair and she impressed upon me she’s a bright, energetic author with loads of imagination. Her main book series, Faerie Legacy, features a teen girl living in the faerie realm. But I am here to talk about her ghost story book, Seven Ghostly Spins, which also includes one story by her daughter, Kelsey E. Gerard.

A collection of paranormal tales based on harrowing legends and nightmares, Seven Ghostly Spins reads more like a haunted travel book than a fiction book. For those of you who like realism in your ghost stories, you will enjoy the walk through seven worlds where humans aren’t quite sure if they are in the real world or dealing with something supernatural.

My favorite story in the book is “By the Iron Gate” which tells the story of a girl who—in the 70’s—has haunting dreams that are manifested by a real love story that took place on the same property in the early 1900’s. The description and way this story unfolds is so realistic, it had me wondering if some of the imaginings I have experienced were maybe just real event impressions from beyond.

The other stories included are:

Alison–The adage goes “no self-respecting theater house is without its ghost”
Peery’s Egyptian Theater; Ogden’s historic movie palace, joined the ranks in 1924.

She Caught a Ride–Gone but not Forgotten
Night after night, young Florence awaits a secret signal,

Abiku–In this paranormal thriller, a seventeen-year-old boy unwittingly summons a demon from across the sea, setting off a heart-stopping countdown into madness.

A Curse Lifted–Experience the power of a parting gift.

205 1/2 25th Street–A haunting encounter featuring the legendary Rosetta Duccini Davie; seductive madam of the most elegant brothel on Two-Bit Street in the mid 1940’s: The Rose Rooms.

Carolina Blue–Hundreds have heard the anguished scream or have seen the wisp of blue on the railroad tracks… only a precious few will overcome experiencing the lady’s haunting cries.

Several of the stories have a little blurb about the real place or ghost the story was based on so you may be able to visit or look more into the location. A couple of these tales, including “Allison,” are truly heartbreaking. Most of the stories revolve around teens, so that makes the book skew younger just by theme alone.

The majority of these stories will be too tame for the hard-core horror junkie, but if you are looking for a good gateway for your younger family members, are into real ghost stories, or maybe just want to read something light and creepy, this book is for you.

Logbook of Terror : The Tree That Shot Henry

The Tree That Shot Henry by Russell Holbrook

Al had seen a lot in his three-hundred and eighty-seven years. Too much, he felt. But, such was the life of a tree; besides watching and occasionally swaying, there really wasn’t much else to do. Of all that Al had observed in his life, the creatures called humans were what fascinated him the most. As repellant and absurd as he found most of them to be, he couldn’t help becoming enraptured in their daily dramas. There was one human Al found particularly fascinating. His name was Henry, and Al lived in his yard. It was a nice yard on a nice farm and Henry was a nice enough man. One day Henry brought home a very nice girl, who had long blond curls and called herself Carrol.

Henry and Carrol spent many summer afternoons in the cool shade of Al’s branches, laughing and talking, having picnics, and enjoying each other’s company. One night when the moon glowed bright and full, the couple gathered under Al’s arms to play with the Ouija Board. Carrol had been talking about it for weeks but Henry had protested, saying that he thought the Ouija board was boring and pointless because most spirits were bad conversationalists who talked too slow. Still, Carrol persisted until Henry relented and on that night of the full moon they sat under their favorite tree, their hands on the planchette, looking into one another’s eyes. And Al looked down from above. 

After several dud attempts at communicating with whatever spirits may have been around at the time, Carrol and Henry got a response. Carrol gasped. Her bosom heaved. 

Henry felt a stirring in his groin. Hmmm, heaving bosoms

A peal of thunder sounded in the far distance, and Carrol began her questions. 

As it turned out, the spirit didn’t want to talk about their favorite color, their favorite food, or whether or not they liked Ferris wheel rides on brisk, fall evenings. The spirit said their favorite color was hate, they preferred murder over pancakes, and the only ride they liked was the ferry over the river Styx. Henry was both aghast and offended by the spirit’s sarcastic answers which did not produce any further bosom heaves from Carol, who simply felt disappointed. 

“This spirit is a smarty-pants jerk,” Carrol said.

Henry nodded in agreement. 

“Why don’t you ask a question,” she said to Henry. 

Henry sighed but agreed. After a moment’s contemplation he said, “Spirit, is there buried treasure in my yard?”

The planchette moved. Yes 

The couple’s eyes lit up. They smiled together. 

“Spirit,” Henry said, “where is the treasure buried? How did it get here? Can you provide exact coordinates?” 

And the planchette began to move as the spirit began to speak. 

Long, long ago there was a farmer who lived on this very land. The farmer was very poor, and being poor made him very, very sad. Although the farmer had a loving wife and a kind-hearted son and a working farm, he wanted money and riches above all else. One day the farmer’s teenage son came home from the market with a large goat who had a coat blacker than a starless night, a fierce gray beard, burning red eyes, and long, gnarled, pointy horns. The sight of the mysterious animal filled the farmer with trepidation. Upon the father’s inquiry, the boy revealed that the goat had been given to him by a fellow farmer, a haggard man whom the son had never seen at the market before. Happy that the farm would have a buck, the son gladly accepted and brought the goat home. He named the goat Black Francis and gave him his own room in the barn. 

A week later the farmer was watching Black Francis wander around the yard. When the goat stopped to poop, the farmer noticed something peculiar: Francis’s waste seemed to sparkle in the sun. The farmer went over to inspect and discovered that Black Francis had expelled a small pile of gold. He was a very special goat indeed. 

The farmer became obsessed with Black Francis. He neglected everything and everyone but the goat, and spent every day following him around the yard. And every time Black Francis made a pile of gold, the farmer would bury it where it fell. 

Henry interrupted the spirit’s tale. “But why would he do that? Why not collect all the gold and store it somewhere safe?”

The planchette moved, spelling out: I do not know; I was not there.

“Spirit, you don’t have to be rude! Please finish your tale,” Carrol said. 

Okay, the spirit replied, and the planchette resumed its slow movement over the board. 

For days and weeks and months, the farmer stayed by Black Francis’s side, barely eating, hardly sleeping, simply watching, waiting, digging, burying, hoarding every single drop of the golden dung. The farmer became consumed with paranoia, believing that everyone was out to get his gold, even his family. His dear wife, frightened and having lost all hope, took her teenage son and fled to her parents’. 

The following evening the farmer sat beneath a grand old tree that stood in a corner of the yard. While trembling in his delirium, the man had a sudden and striking moment of clarity and he knew what he had to do. The time had come to claim his rightful fortune, to leave the farm and his family and start a new life where no one would bother him or try to take his riches. Surely there would be so much gold that he would never have to work another day in his life. His mind beamed with the prospect. So the farmer fetched his shovel and he began to dig. 

All through the night the farmer dug for the gold he had buried and when the gray dawn broke, he still hadn’t found a single bit. Exhausted, he saw Black Francis leisurely chewing on grass in the early morning light. The farmer cursed the odd buck and went to the barn to get a length of rope with which to lead the goat back to the market and pass him on to another hapless fool. When the man returned with the rope, the goat was gone. The farmer searched the property and the neighboring farms but the goat was nowhere to be found. Flustered and enraged, the farmer returned home and did the only thing he could think to do: keep digging. And he dug and dug and dug until, after three days of non-stop digging, with his hands bloody and raw, he collapsed in the field and died. And there was never any gold to be found, not even one little bit. The end. Copyright 2020, Azazel Beelzebub Azaroth McAllister-Smith. 

Carrol clutched her side and fell over laughing. “A goat that pooped gold! Ouija Boards say the craziest things!” 

Henry’s eyes were wild with excitement. He panted.

“What is it, Henry?” Carrol asked.

“Gold!” Henry whispered. 

“That was just a story, dear.” 

“No, not just a story!” Henry snapped, “I know there’s gold here. I can feel it! Your magic board was actually telling a truth!”

Carrol sat up. She inched back, looking closely at Henry’s face. His features seemed to blur in the moonlight, as if shadows were gliding over him. Her breath hitched in her throat as a glint of red flared in his eyes. 

“Henry, are you alright?”

Henry dug his fingers into the earth. “Gold!” He whispered again. He laughed to himself. “I’ll be rich!” 

“What has come over you? Why are you…?”

Henry lept to his feet, cutting Carrol off. “There’s no time!” He shouted, adding, “I’ll call you tomorrow!”

He ran to the tool shed to get a shovel.  

“Goodnight, then!” Carrol called out after Henry as he ran away. Then she packed up her Ouija Board and walked home. 

*

Henry didn’t call the next day, or the next, or even the one after that. Filled with anxiety, Carrol went to Henry’s house. When she arrived, she found him wearing the same clothes she saw him in last, covered in dirt and sweat, digging in the yard. Small, shallow holes dotted the yard for as far as Carrol could see. She brought her hand to her mouth. Slowly, she approached. 

“Henry,” she said, “what are you doing?”

He kept his eyes fixed on the earth and rammed the shovel down. “Digging. What else would I be doing?”

“Didn’t you go to work today?”

“This is my work,” he grumbled. 

Carrol stepped closer. Softly, she ventured, “Why don’t you come inside and have a rest? I’ll fix you a cool glass of lemon pepper soda.”

Henry grunted and replied, “There’s no time for rest; I have to find it!”

“Find what, dear?”

“The gold!” Henry roared. He turned toward Carrol. His eyes burned a deep red. “Don’t you remember, you stupid bitch!?” 

Tears flooded Carrols eyes. Henry is a kind man; he never speaks to me this way!

“The spirit of the magic board told me there’s gold buried right here and I know it’s true, I know the treasure is here- I know it!”

“Henry, the board, that was just a game!” Carrol sobbed. 

“That wasn’t the game! This is the game- you and me! You’re playing me! You just want all the gold for yourself, you goddamn, lecherous cunt!” White foam and dry spittle flew out of Henry’s mouth. “I fucking hate you! I hate you I hate you I hate you!” He screamed. “You don’t care about me, you just want my gold! My gold!” 

His face turned red. “Get out now or I’ll fucking rip out your entrails and ram them down your throat!” He raised the shovel and stepped toward Carrol. 

She screamed, “Henry, please, I love you!”

“I hate you and I want to fucking kill you!” He howled.  

Henry swung the shovel. Carrol lunged back. The shovel flew past her face, its tip nearly grazing her lips. She whirled, caught her balance, and sprinted across the yard. Henry slammed the shovel’s head on the ground over and over again, screeching curses and insults and horrible, unforgivable words that grew and towered and chased Carrol from the yard. Once she was out of sight, Henry returned to digging.   

*

Carrol burst through the front door, startling her mother, father, and brother who were in the den playing a late-night game of Shark Versus Swimmer. Before her family had time to react, Carrol stood before them with her father’s revolver pressed under her chin. Her father cried out for her to stop, to please, God please put the gun down. She simply screamed, “Henry!” and pulled the trigger. 

Blood, bone, and brain painted the ceiling and walls. Carrol’s parents and brother wailed. Her mother fell to the floor weeping. Her father and brother ran to Carrol’s fallen body. Her father cradled Carrol’s exploded head in his lap, calling out, “My Carrol, my dear sweet child!” over and over. 

Carrol’s brother took the gun from his sister’s dead, still-warm fingers, and promised to bring vengeance down upon Henry’s house. With the cries and protests of his parents ringing in his ears, he ran into the night. 

*

When Carrol’s brother arrived, Henry was digging beneath Al’s limbs, his shovel clanging against the giant roots of the great tree. 

Carrol’s brother raised the gun at Henry. He shouted, “You monster! You broke Carrol’s heart and she took her life because of it!”

Henry looked up from his work. He smiled. “Carl, what are you doing with that little gun?” 

“You’re the reason my sister is gone! It’s your fault!” Carl roared. 

Tears blurred his vision. Carl pulled the trigger and the second bullet of the night hurled straight toward Henry’s head. 

Henry spun and fell face-first into the dirt. Carl trembled. Sweat poured down his face. He’d just killed a man. His vengeance was complete, and since there was nothing more he could do, he turned the gun on himself.  And Al, the great old tree, watched in distress as young Carl blew his own face off and fell to the ground. 

For a long while, Al contemplated how a person so young could end their life in such a rash and sudden manner, especially when Carl hadn’t even completed his task. He had simply knocked his intended victim unconscious; the bullet that was meant to kill Henry was lodged painfully in Al’s trunk.

*

In pain and confused, Henry opened his eyes. The first rays of dawn were puncturing the dark canvas of night. He sat up and touched his face. A bloody gash ran the length of his right cheek. He thought back. He remembered: Carl, the gun, the shot. He tried to kill me. He missed! It was then that Henry noticed Carl’s corpse lying nearby in the grass. He giggled. His eyes flared red. I have to find my gold! I’ll clean that mess of a dead body up later. 

Henry stumbled to his feet and started digging. A breeze blew and a leaf lilted onto his filthy shirt. Henry frowned at the leaf and shucked it off. Another leaf fell. He looked up into Al’s branches. 

“Stop it,” Henry said to the tree. 

Another leaf glided by on the wind. Clouds were gathering, blocking out the morning sun. 

Henry stomped on the ground and glared at Al. “I said stop!” 

A gust of wind blew a handful of leaves out of the limbs. They sailed past Henry. 

“Stop mocking me!” Henry screamed. He flailed and slammed the shovelhead on the ground. He stared up at Al, the old and patient tree. Henry’s eyebrows curled. His chin dropped. “It’s you, isn’t it? You’re doing it; you’re hiding my gold! You’ve got it all under there, under those roots!”

Al’s branches swayed in the wind. Gray clouds turned black. 

“You’re not going to do this to me. It’s my gold and you can’t have it!” Henry shouted. 

Henry struck Al’s great roots with the shovel. He dug fiercely into the soil surrounding the base of the tree. It was no use; he could barely even break the ground. Henry cursed, threw down his shovel, and rushed to the shed. Moments later he was pushing a wheel barrel full of dynamite toward the tree while lightning and thunder filled the sky. 

“You can’t have my gold!” Henry shouted. He tied the explosive sticks together and lined them around the base of the tree. 

Al watched Henry with sad amusement. I suppose this is it for me, he thought. 

The wind died down for the briefest of moments. Henry struck a match and put it to the fuse. The fuse lit and Henry stumbled away. Seconds later, a mammoth explosion shook the sky.  

Shards of wood flew through the air. Al creaked and groaned. His mighty trunk faltered and snapped and a report echoed above the noise of cracking and breaking wood. Henry felt a sharp sting between his eyes. The sting was followed by liquid. The wet ran down Henry’s face. He grabbed at his head and, upon pulling away his hands, saw that they were covered in his own blood. He remembered the sound, the report. He looked up at Al. The great tree was falling straight toward him. “You shot me,” Henry mumbled. 

A great and mighty limb struck Henry on the top of his head. Al put down his full weight and crushed the tiny human into the dirt. Ah, a satisfying conclusion to a glorious life, Al thought as his life-force slipped away and his spirit went back into the earth. And three counties over, as dark rain began to fall, a curious black goat grazed in a farmer’s field. 

Logbook of Terror : Just a Scratch!

Just a Scratch

By Russell Holbrook

Devon’s appearance was plain and unremarkable, and that’s the way he wanted it to be. He believed that blending in helped him move through life without being noticed too much, which made things easier for him. But Devon’s appearance wasn’t what the strangers he met on dark streets were thinking about. They were usually wondering why he was plunging a meat cleaver into the side of their neck. Well, sometimes it was a hacksaw or a plain, old-fashioned butcher knife. That last one was an undeniable classic, and besides, Devon wasn’t too picky about his instruments. He liked having variety in his work. He was saving up to buy a chainsaw.

It was on a Thursday evening that Devon ran into his arch-rival, Mach Tudor, at the local Slurp Fountain and Elixir Emporium. Devon fixed his enemy with a harsh glare. “I thought I told you to stay out of here, Mach.”

Mach returned Devon’s glare with a grin. “I can go where I want.”

“That’s not a reasonable explanation.”

Mach stared at Devon and sucked bright blue Slurp through an orange straw. 

Devon stepped closer. He clenched his fists and whispered, “Get out. This is my spot. It’s where I go to think and right now you’re interrupting my thinking.” 

“I like it here,” Mach replied. 

“If you don’t leave now, I’m going to make you,” Devon said, fire burning behind his eyes. 

Mach leaned his lanky frame against the counter and took another casual pull off his Slurp. “Yeah, I’m sure,” he said. 

Devon fumed. “You arrogant prick! You know how much I need a Slurp after I…” he looked around and lowered his voice. “After, you know… I’ve been out… working.”

“Uh-hu,” Mach said. He took another drink. “I needed one too. I just did my sixth one of the night.”

Devon’s nostrils flared. “Six!? In one night?! That’s impossible!” 

“Not when you’re as good as I am. Everyone knows I’m the best in town.” Mach’s voice lowered. “Maybe even the greatest of all time.” 

Devon frowned. He looked Mach over, taking in the tall, trim man’s swagger and appearance. He’s so cocky, so self-assured, Devon thought. But I have to admit, he really is well put together. Then, something caught Devon’s eye: a bloody rip across Mach’s tight, ironed, otherwise spotless gray slacks. Devon could see through the tear, which was near the top of his right thigh, about three inches across. He pointed at the wound. “What’s that?”  

 Mach looked down, following Devon’s finger. “Oh, that?” Mach said. “That’s just a scratch.”

Devon grinned wide. “They fought back?”

Mach nodded. “Hard.”

“I like it when they fight,” Devon said. 

Mach shrugged indifferently. Devon felt outraged by Mach’s flippant attitude toward the work that he himself had dedicated his life to. He shook his head and plowed into Mach’s personal space. His broad, muscular shoulders edged Mach out of the way. “You take no pride in your craft. You have no respect. You don’t care about anything. Get the hell out of my way.” Devon grabbed an extra-large cup. 

“They’re out of grape,” Mach said lackadaisically.

“Dammit!” Devon cursed. He threw the cup on the floor and watched it bounce away. “I was having such a great night before I saw you!” 

Devon stomped away from the purring Slurp machine and picked up the cup. He slammed it into the trash can. “Six? Really?”

“I have their heads in my trunk if you don’t believe me,” Mach said.

“I thought you drove a hatch back.”

Mach slurped the last of his drink, dragging his straw over the bottom of the plastic cup. He swiped the back of his hand across his mouth, sat the empty cup on the counter for the clerk to clean up, and walked past Devon toward the door. Devon followed. 

Out in the murky night, in the empty rear parking lot, Mach popped the trunk. There, spread out on black plastic trash bag, sat six severed heads. Devon leaned in and inspected them under the trunk’s dim light. Dammit, they’re fresh

“Told ya,” Mach said. His upper lip curled like he was about to do a Billy Idol impersonation. 

For a moment Devon was speechless. He had no idea of what to say. Then, a new perspective, sudden yet welcome, came upon him. He turned to Mach. “You really think you’re hot potatoes, don’t you?”

“The hottest.”

“You’re an idiot,” Devon spat, “an arrogant, reckless, idiot. You think you’re invincible, but you’ll get caught and that’ll bring the heat down on the rest of us, and then everyone’s work will be in danger.”

“Shut up! I’m never gonna get caught!”  

Devon sighed. “We’ll see.” 

“I’m too good to get caught,” Mach asserted. 

Devon walked away to begin the long trek back to his basement apartment. He hung his head and mumbled to himself, “We’ll see.”

Mach considered yelling a sarcastic remark or an insult at Devon’s back, but then felt that it wouldn’t be worth the effort. He reached down and plucked one of the heads out of the trunk. It had belonged to a student who was taking night classes at the community college. Her name was Sandy. She had been pre-law. Sandy’s mouth was locked in the scream position. Her canines protruded out beyond her thin, bloodless lips. Mach held the head up to eye level. “Hey there, little fighter,” he said, just before he shut the trunk and hopped behind the wheel with Sandy’s head cradled in his arm. The night clerk of the Slurp Fountain and Elixir Emporium found Mach’s empty cup and cursed the lazy customer’s insolence just as Mach squealed out of the parking lot. 

Cool night air rushed in through open windows. Sandy’s head rested in Mach’s lap. His favorite band, The Power Trippers, came on the radio and he turned it up. As the chorus kicked in, Mach felt something cold and slimy sliding across the wound on his upper thigh. Ugh, what the… His eyes left the road and shot down to his lap, where Sandy’s head was tonguing the gash in his leg. He screamed. The car swerved. Reflexively, Mach’s leg bounced. Sandy’s head sunk her canines deep into Mach’s flesh. His scream turned to a wail. He slammed the break and slid the car off the road. He lept from the car with Sandy’s teeth still buried in his leg. Running into the woods, with a howl Mach tore Sandy’s teeth from his leg and threw her head into the trees. Pain radiated through his leg and lower body. 

“I give you the honor of being a part of my work and this is how you repay me!?” Mach shouted into the woods at the severed head which he could no longer see. “You can just stay out there all alone forever!” 

Grumbling to himself, Mach got back into his car and drove home. When he reached his house, he carefully placed the other five heads in the freezer and went to sleep. 

Five Days Later

The headline surprised Devon so much he had to read it twice. House of Horrors Discovered on East Side. Devon’s eyes jumped down to the front page article. Gripping the paper between shaking hands, he read:

When local, award-winning jewel thief Kristen Calle’ entered 618 Maple Street on a routine heist this past Friday night, she found something most people hope to never see during the course of their lives. It was a sight so grisly, so macabre, Ms. Calle’ ran from the residence and didn’t stop running until she burst through the front doors of police headquarters in tears. Officers and CSI units were immediately dispatched to the scene and, following a routine survey, investigations began in earnest. Over the next five days human remains in varying stages of decomposition were discovered throughout the home, which CSI veteran Pauline McCabe called, “A museum of grotesque depravities.” She went on to say, “In all my thirty-seven years on the force, never have I witnessed such a vile display of human carnage.” 

Devon was spellbound. He read on. 

To date, the remains of three-hundred and sixteen victims have been discovered, having been found buried in the backyard and cellar, boxed up in the attic, hidden between walls and beneath floors, and stored in the refrigerator. The kitchen pantry was full of dried and cured skin, and a bedroom had been converted to a walk-in freezer which was dedicated entirely to the preservation of severed heads.  

“Nice touch,” Devon said to himself. He turned the page and straightened the paper. 

Investigators have linked the crimes to the home’s owner, local tennis shoe model MachTudor. Mr.Tudor was found unresponsive in the master bedroom, the apparent victim of an infected leg wound. As the number of remains discovered continues to grow, investigators suspect that Mach Tudor will go down as one of the most prolific serial killers of all-time, if not the most prolific, ever. Lead investigator Saul Grey stated, “All he needs is a spooky nickname and he’s ready for the true-crime history books. This guy was a true sicko; clearly, he really loved his work.”

Devon’s face turned red. Trembling, he ripped the paper in half and threw the pieces to the floor. He fell out of his easy chair and rolled across the floor, beating his fists against the hardwood floor and screaming, “Dammit!” over and over and over again. Disturbed by the violent outburst and annoyed by the noise, his upstairs neighbors called the police. Half an hour later, two officers knocked on Devon’s door. 

Nightmare November : Night Terrors by Daphne Strasert – Part 1

Editor’s note: Daphne Strasert is a writer of horror, science fiction and fantasy who works out of Huston, Texas.  In 2017, she placed third overall in the Horror Addicts’ Next Great Horror Writer Contest. She offered the following tale of horror for our November Nightmares feature and we thought it so suspenseful that we decided to give it to you in three weekly episodes for your reading pleasure! Enjoy!

My wife doesn’t remember the night terrors.

After all, Miela’s not even awake, not really. Her eyes are open, but unseeing. They aren’t focused on me, but on something that closes in on her from all sides. She shrieks until she chokes on her own bile, terrified tears streaming down her face. She throws punches and kicks at an invisible assailant until she tangles in the sheets, unable to do more than thrash against the bonds.

As a doctor, I’ve treated parasomnia before, but only in toddlers. Miela is decades older than any of my other patients. Medically, I know that the terrors are nothing to worry about. They’re just changes in her brain chemistry as she switches from one deep stage of sleep to another. It triggers the release of adrenaline and a fright response. They’re scary for me, but they don’t hurt her. But when she wakes with a shriek at three in the morning, that’s impossible to believe. Her few minutes of panic are agony for me as I try and fail to console her. The helplessness is the worst of all, holding her hands to keep her from clawing at her neck as if something is wrapped around it. And as abruptly as they start, she falls asleep again. When she wakes in the morning, she doesn’t remember them.

But I do.

Miela warned me, I suppose, before we got married. I was so busy finishing residency, we never had time to move in together. I could hardly ever stay the night. She told me about her troubles keeping a roommate, rounds of medications she’d tried to ease them. Maybe I thought she was exaggerating. Maybe I thought the sleepless nights at the ER had prepared me, that I could sleep through them somehow. I’m a doctor, for Christ’s sake – I’ve had more sleepless nights than I can count. I thought I’d seen sleep deprivation. I thought it couldn’t faze me. Holy hell, was I wrong.

I haven’t slept for weeks, not since our wedding night. I catch a few minutes or so, but each shift of her body jolts me awake. The creak of the house as it settles seems to be the precursor to a scream. Every sigh, every murmur heralds the coming fright. My body refuses to rest, too closely tuned to every movement of hers. Waiting. Waiting for the terrors to start.

And they always do. I can see them coming now. She doesn’t frighten all at once. It begins as a low moan, twitches of protest. She pulls away from something. Then she wakes. Or she seems to. She jolts upright, hands tearing at her clothes and hair. She rakes her nails against her skin hard enough to draw blood. And she screams. Long, unearthly sounds, nothing like what they record for horror movies. It’s worse than that, like something in the clutches of death itself.

Weeks of this. Weeks. She’s tried everything: pills, therapy, hypnosis, acupuncture. Nothing has worked.

I hold her against my body, stilling her as she shakes in my arms. Her screams rebound off the bedroom walls and rejoin to create a maniacal chorus. She struggles against me and pushes me away far enough to punch me in the nose. I let go, clutching my hands to my face. She scrambles across the bed on all fours like a wild creature and I retreat to the far corner of the room, watching her through the pain that throbs in my face. After a few minutes, she stops screaming and falls into an exhausted sleep, a peace I can’t reach.

I take deep breaths, my adrenaline coursing in response to her. The pain in my nose dulls. It’s not broken, but it will be bruised. As I go back to bed, something moves against the headboard. I think it’s my shadow, at first, but it shouldn’t cast that way. Light shifts along the paint, like the reflections of a car’s headlights against the wall, except there is no window there. I squint a little harder, but the effect is gone. All that’s left are the shadows, waiting where they should be.

 

Logbook of Terror: Ruins Of Castle Rocca Sparviera!

The ruins of Castle Rocca Sparviera!

After a frightful and dreary travel in which I mistakenly visited the wrong location and was chased from a decaying castle by the rotted corpses of a mob of re-animated skeletons, I finally arrived at my destination: the ruins of Castle Rocca Sparviera. A chilly night had fallen and a storm brewed overhead, hiding the moon and stars behind layers of thick, foreboding clouds. Thunder cracked nearby and with only the light of my electric lantern to guide me, I set out to explore the ruins. 

I walked the perimeter of the formerly grand castle, treading carefully over rocks and desolate mountain terrain, wondering what lonely spirits might be left wandering these hills. After hiking to what seemed to be the edge of the property, I turned and strolled along the inner side of a disintegrating wall. After several minutes I halted to take stock of my surroundings and, up ahead, saw a spot of soft light swaying in the darkness. Could it be a fellow explorer making camp and a fire for the night? I hurried on my way to find out. 

Upon drawing closer, I saw that the light was pouring out through a doorway in another crumbling wall. I stepped through and found myself in a great dining hall. My head swam in disbelief, for the hall and all its contents were in pristine condition. The stone walls and floor were clean, polished, and intact. High wooden beams secured the solid ceiling and the entire room was alight with the soft glow of a myriad of candles. The luscious aroma of fresh cooked meat, bread, and vegetables drew my eyes to the huge table in the center of the room. A disembodied voice called out to me, welcoming me home, inviting me to feast. The ghostly voice spoke in French, a tongue completely foreign to me, yet I understood the voice’s every word.  

Smiling guests materialized around the massive banquet table, their regal clothes in tatters and covered in dust and cobwebs. Their gray skin was spotted with deep holes, from which worms wiggled in and out, and blood and pus trickled in rivulets over decaying flesh. With loud, hollow voices the dinner guests beseeched me to join them. Entranced, I approached the table. 

Thunder crashed over the high ceiling. A fierce flash of lightning lit up the table and I saw before me, two children, their flesh roasted, their small bodies chopped in pieces and placed carefully on garish silver platters. Their heads were intact. The two dead little girls turned their eyes to me. Help us! Help us! They pleaded. 

Lightning and thunder exploded. Rain poured from the ceiling. The pieces of the children joined and melded together, forming the hacked children into morbid wholes. Once reformed, they rolled off the great table and crawled toward me. The dinner guests sang a church hymn while their bodies melted in the rain. I felt the children’s small, dead hands grasp my ankles. Feast with us! They screamed at me. Feast with us! Their small eyes burned bright red with horror. I gasped. Shocked out of my trance, I broke the children’s hold and ran. 

Once out of the banquet hall, I ran to the path at the edge of the property. There, I saw a woman in royal dress. She stood upon a large rock. Tears stained her face. She held her arms high and screamed a curse into the night. I felt a sudden surge of heat behind me. Turning, I witnessed what surely could not have been: a fully intact castle engulfed in flames of grief and fury which were so intense, not even the deluge of rain could quench their angry burn. The royal woman turned her fierce eyes on me. I knew at once –it was Queen Jeanne! With terror in heart, lantern in hand, and my satchel over my shoulder, I sprinted away down the mountain, desperately hoping to outrun the curse that the queen was casting. 

I do not know how long I ran. Dawn seemed to arrive without warning and I was back on a road with the warm sun drying my sopping clothes. Not far into the morning I was able to secure transport with some locals who were en route to a nearby village. They spoke clear English and we began to converse. When I remarked on the previous night’s storm their faces turned grim. They inquired if I had been at the ruins during the night. I confirmed that I had. The driver shook her head and said that the region had seen no rain for over a week. The driver’s companion held up her left hand. Her skin was maligned, covered in burn scars. She said that she too had seen the queen, apparently too closely. 

After the kind couple dropped me off, I acquired proper food and lodging. I have resolved to stay in this quaint and pleasant country village until I receive my next assignment. The past several nights have been difficult. Sleep eludes me, for whenever I close my eyes, I see those of the dead children staring up at me.

Free Fiction: Smart Machines | A Short by Kay Tracy

It was a Saturday, before the holidays. I had to pull some overtime on a few reports for the boss. Friday night, in the winter, now well after dark, and I couldn’t get the door to open. Something moved behind me low on the floor. A mouse? 

That was three weeks ago, and I am still here. I can’t get out. Gods help me, I truly wish I could say it was because of my boss.  How I wish a mouse was what I had glimpsed!

The firefighters who broke open the door keep trying to tell me I was in shock.

People sometimes ask about it, but no one really ‘knows’. Folks really don’t want to know. 

You have seen them in many offices, those machines that will print, copy, and, staple.  Oh, to be sure, there is someone who is designated to change the ink or toner as it calls for it.  And usually, office etiquette says, if you empty the paper, then you are supposed to put more into the machine.  Easy enough, but there is one thing most people never think about. I know I never did. At least, not until now. 

It was trivial at first. I started noticing little things go missing. It was easy enough to think it was my co-workers.  Steph had run out of paperclips and took some from my desk. No worry there. The odd safety pin that I would keep in my drawer was next. I did think it was a bit rude for folks to go into the drawers of my desk without asking first. I mean, really!

In talking to others, I found out that they too had had things go missing from their desks. Small stuff at first.  Then James complained that his new steel mug and thermos was gone. Julia’s power cord to her computer was next. Harold had an entire desk lamp disappear. The objects were getting larger, and stranger. Soon, anything that was made of metal was going missing.  Small pocket change, keys, it seemed odd. Then William asked when we got the pretty staples. Everyone came to see, and there on his desk was a stack of reports with copper-colored staples. I wondered about all those pennies that were once in the coffee fund can, which was now missing.  But then, so too was the coffee maker!

I am desperate now, trying to find a way out of here.  The parts inside the phone are gone now. The thing grows longer snakelike arms every day.   The larger, more complicated items it brings to me for disassembly. I have no idea when it will have all it wants or needs, maybe then I can leave.

People really should know about these things.   Maintenance includes more than just the paper and ink.  More than just the “machine guy” every three months for a cleaning and lube. The staples should not be overlooked on these ‘smart machines’.

My Darling Dead : Episode 10 | The Blacksmith

As Alasin fled the hut, she forgot that it was not sitting on the ground, but raised on stilts three steps high. She flew out the door and the ground rose to meet her sharply.  Tumbling end over end she landed in a heap at their bottom. She lay there, winded, her eyes unfocused as the cloud of dust she had raised settled in the early morning rays of sunshine. 

There was a scuttling noise from under Madam Flood’s hut that slowly acquired her attention as her eyes began to focus. Finally able to breathe, Alasin pushed herself up as she turned to face the noise. As her eyes focused, at last, she froze, her heart hammering in her chest. 

A small, thin woman had come out from under the house and was creeping toward her, crouched low, eyes bright and teeth bared. Her hair was matted and thick with dust, as were her clothes. Her nails, long and broken, reached out to Alasin, who could smell the foul creature from where she lay. The rat woman let out a high pitched cackle that sounded devoid of sanity and pounced. 

The woman was in the air for the briefest instant before a large hammer swung out of the blue and pulverized her face. Alasin, who had opened her mouth to scream, was showered in bloody chunks of skull, brain and flesh. She spat as though her tongue were afire and finally laid eyes upon her rescuer. He was a large man, thick shouldered with a blacksmith’s apron over a muscled chest. A dripping blacksmith’s hammer swung from one huge arm.

“Strewth! But that’n almost had ye! Still, no harm done, I’ll reckon. Up y’come, miss!” He said, and extended a hand to her with a smile. 

Alasin wiped her hand on her skirt and gave it to the man with a shaken smile. “Thank you, sir, and thank you for dispatching that…what was that?” she asked as she was pulled upright as though she were a feather. 

“Oh, ar,” the man said darkly, swinging his hammer over his shoulder, unmindful of the muck coating its head. “Them’d be the changed ones. Rat people, I call ’em. Best to do is put ’em down before they hurt somethin’.” He sighed. “Even though some of ’em be my best o’ friends.”

“Madam Flood mentioned something about them last night.”

The man’s face brightened. “Ma’am Flood! That’s right, this be her place, don’t it? How be she?”

“She’s, er… fine,” Alasin stammered, hoping he wouldn’t insist on speaking to the old woman.

“She in?” inquired the man. “I hain’t seen Ma’am Flood in an age, and I be–”

“No! She, ah, said she had somewhere to go this morning and left before I woke, so I took myself for a walk and fell down her stairs because I wasn’t used to them you see and then the creature came from under the stairs and–”

“Ne’er mind,” the man boomed, his chuckle cutting off Alasin’s frantic blather. “We best get ye where ye wish to go, little miss, lest one more of the nasty rat people get ye. Strewth!”

Alasin awoke in pitch darkness, a giant weight upon her chest. Her head was pounding and her mouth tasted of rot. She pushed at the weight. It felt like a dead animal, cool and smooth-skinned with a light coating of hair covering it. It was large, and heavy. Her fingers explored down its length. Her heart shot into her mouth as her fingers touched a palm, then fingers. She was able now to identify the giant weight as an arm, slung across her, as she lay in this bed. 

HIS bed, she realized as unbidden, memories began flooding into her fevered brain. Going off with the jolly blacksmith(whose name she could not recall) after he had saved her life, finding out that she really liked him, turning aside his questions about who she was and where she was going so she could spend longer with him, until he finally stopped asking. Becoming tipsy as they dined and drank as the sun first rose and set in the sky, finally a fog of stumbling back to his own hut and going to bed together. Now she could tell that beneath the arm and the animal pelts that served as a blanket, she was naked. 

Whimpering, she pushed at the arm which held her in a death grip, immobile in its deathly contraction. Finally she was able to wriggle out from underneath it and fall to the floor, sobbing as she pushed herself to the farthest corner of the room, wrapping her arms about herself against the night’s chill. There she sat, struggling to produce silent tears as she wept, for her own terror, for poor Madam Flood, for the unnamed blacksmith, before turning her tears back upon herself. 

When she awoke again it was the gray light of dawn, the sound of birds filling the silence that comes when most people are still asleep. Her neck ached from where she finally fallen into a doze, huddled in the corner hunched over. She was still nude, and shivering violently. Her gaze fell upon the corpse in the bed, face frozen in a peaceful expression, massive arm extended over where she had fallen asleep beneath it.

Unbidden, the tears started again, but she knuckled them aside and pushed herself up, hobbling on stiff legs across to the bed and pulling the bearskin blanket off of the blacksmith’s body, wrapping it around herself as she tried not to look at what remained of her lover. She stooped, picking up her scattered clothing piece by piece. As she did, her little bottle of wizard’s powder and chain dropped to the floor with a clink. With a happy swoop of her stomach, she dropped to her knees beside it and availed herself. 

“Farner! Hey mate, ’tis Bron! Yer not at yer shop! What gives?” 

Alasin’s head jerked up at a pounding from the door, white powder coating her nostrils, her eyes wide. She jammed the lid on the bottle and grabbed up her clothes while the pounding increased before the latch was pushed open from the outside and the door banged open. A small squat man stood framed in the early morning light, his face nothing but a silhouette.

“C’mon, I needs me sword t’day, Farn! Git yer…hoho, what’s all this then?” he said, noticing Alasin, looking frenzied as she clutched her clothing to herself. An ugly grin spread across his face. “Well hey there sweet’eart, me name’s Bron and I guess my man Farn’s been stickin’ it to ya, eh?” 

Alasin’s eyes were huge as she did her best to sidle sideways to block Bron’s view of the bed and Farner’s lifeless body. Bron was fortunately too busy examining the curves of the sheet Alasin draped around herself to notice the bed. 

“Porked ya good did ‘e?” giggled Bron, grabbing his crotch and making exaggerated grinding movements with his hips. 

Alasin’s eyes flashed with temper but Bron sniggered and to her great relief turned to leave. As his body moved, the shadow he had cast upon Alison moved as well, letting a slab of sunlight smack her in the face. “Well I’ll not begrudge ‘im a lie-in after a night wid a beauty like you. Yew tell ‘im Bron stopped by, an’…”

He trailed off, eyes widening. He took a step forward and looked more closely at Alasin. 

“You…” he whispered. Alasin’s heart, hammering like mad, simultaneously froze. 

“Yer…yer the princess!” Bron blurted, raising a hand to point at her. 

“Yes, you festering sore,” Alasin said, drawing herself up to her full height and looking down her nose regally at the little man. “I am Alasin, Princess of Dandoich, and I command you to depart from here immediately and speak of this to no one. Is that clear?”

“Yer… the princess,” the man said, a stupid grin spreading over his face. “Huh… what are you doing here?” His eyes crawled over her, insolent in their lingering. His tongue wet his lips. 

“Dog!” shouted Alasin. “How dare you look upon me! You have been given a command and you will obey at once. Leave!” She raised a hand and pointed to the door. The clothing she had clutched to herself slipped and fell to her waist, exposing a breast. 

“Whoaa…” Bron said, his eyes huge. Alasin swore and snatched the clothes to herself again while attempting to maintain her composure. She saw his grin had become nasty. He stepped inside and shut the door. 

“No one knows yer ‘ere, or yew wouldn’t be wid ‘im,” Bron whispered, gesturing to Farner’s still motionless body. “And that means, I can do what I likes wid ya. Farn won’t mind.” He was beginning to breathe heavily, massaging his trousers as he moved toward her. “And you can’ stop me, Princess, wee slip of a girl like ye.” 

Alasin did not move as he advanced. The rage in her at being spoken to thus had completely blotted out any hint of fear. In one move, she dropped all her clothing and stood before him completely nude, sending his jaw dropping. 

“Hear this, you squalid peasant,” Alasin said, her voice like iron. “If you come for me, you will end. Heed my warning, and desist.”

Book Review: The Butcher’s Tale

Hello Addicts.

Imagine a future where people addicted to reliving other peoples’ memories they will give up everything for the experience. That is where former shock jock, Johnny C. Vid, finds himself at the beginning of The Butcher’s Tale by Nicholas Walls.

In the future, a new technology known as Vicarious Reality (VR for short) has become a popular past time.  It allows you to experience your greatest fantasies without actually doing them yourselves.  Even though it is someone else’s memories, you feel like it is happening to you.  The sights, the smells, the excitement, all feel like the real thing when it is nothing more than a replay piped through a physical connection in your brain.  That is where we find Johnny C. Vid, a former popular shock jock, turned unemployed and homeless VR addict.  So desperate for a fix, he goes to where his current supplier obtains his recordings in the lowest levels of the city. It is there that he finds a massive man wearing a pig mask hunting for people to torture.  It doesn’t take long for Johnny to find himself impaled on a meat hook, wishing for death.

The first half of this book was a good read for fans of slasher horror tales.  The amount of blood and violence is on par with what you’d find in a “Friday the 13th” or “Texas Chainsaw Massacre” movie.  Johnny also gives off serious Captain Ahab vibes as he remains focused only on his pursuit of destroying the man in the pig mask, whom he calls “The Butcher.”  The reason “The Butcher” tortures his prey is also clearly given: he too is a VR addict.  The difference? He rips the recordings from his victim’s minds so he can relive every juicy moment of pain, fear, and anguish.  For Johnny C. Vid, it’s not some noble quest to vanquish the demon but straight-up vengeance.

What took me out of the story was, after the midpoint, the narrative shifts from horror to space opera/spy thriller.  To me, it felt a bit disjointed after Johnny got his revenge, and the horror aspect ended.  Overall it is a good read, but only if you look at it as two books, an original and the sequel, for the price of one.

Until next time, Addicts!

D.J. Pitsiladis

Logbook of Terror : Doll Island

A fictional representation of a real Cursed Location – Doll Island

I never should have taken the doll down from that twisted, blackened tree. I wish to heaven that I’d left its decayed, plastic corpse where I’d found it. But I’d promised my dear niece Tabitha a truly unique character to add to her growing collection of morbid and obscene figurines, and I would be damned if I was going to leave this cursed island without it. Taking a doll, just one of hundreds of thousands, seemed an innocent offense. I assumed that surely no one would notice its absence. Alas, I had been wrong… Dreadfully wrong.

The tourist group was easy to break away from. I waited in the shadows of a dense grove of tangled trees, observing until the last ferry boat had returned empty and the employees were gone for the night. Apparently, not even a single one of the workers had the courage to stay on the island after dark. When the last failing rays of sunlight gave way to the deep purple glow of sunset, I left my hiding spot and walked among the dolls. Thousands of eyes of every color and type stared at me, tracing my every footstep. Vegetation rustled beneath my shoes. Insects sang and welcomed the oncoming night. I breathed in the humid air, the odors of age and neglect, of rot and decay, that floated around me. A voice whispered behind me, high-pitched, like a whistling in the wind. I stopped. I shuddered. My eyes darted back and forth. Smiling doll faces, half-melted and faded by the sun, glared back at me. Cold fear slithered down my spine. Hairs rose along my neck. High, hollow laughter echoed through the trees.

I quickened my pace. I had to find a suitably awful doll and escape this place before I ended up in the trees myself.

In the steadily increasing dark, I rounded a curve and walked along the edge of the canal. Another laugh flitted through the air. I froze and looked into the trees. There, above me, I saw her: a most wretched, withered dolly hanging just within arm’s reach. Thin blonde hair covered in green mold, weaved itself over a grime-covered, cherubic face. A tattered and faded pink dress clung to the doll’s body. Her eyes pierced my heart with their cold stare. It was then that I knew. She was the one. Tabitha would surly adore her!

Retrieving the dolly from the tree proved to be as easy as I’d hoped. The twine holding the toy in place practically disintegrated in my fingers as I unwound it from the doll’s limbs. Night had fully fallen and I held the doll up, inspecting it in the moonlight. She was wonderfully awful–a truly unholy relic indeed!

After carefully placing her in my roomy satchel, I set out to find shelter for the night, as after a good night’s rest I planned on blending in with the first tour group of the morrow and taking the boat back to Mexico City as if I’d been with them the whole time. Nary had I taken a dozen steps when I heard the sound of quiet splashing among the lilies in the canal.

I stood in place and listened. My mind told me that any creature of the water could have made that sound but my heart told me that it must be something far more sinister. A trickle of sweat broke on my brow. I turned. With eyes wide, I saw her standing atop the lilies–the girl whose legend told of her drowning in the canal so long ago. She pointed a ghostly finger at me. Her black eyes stared like the marble eyes of the dolls. A thin, watery whisper crawled from her throat.

“Llevar a su espalda, ella me pertenece a mí!” The girl floated across the water toward me, her phantasmal form radiating a soft white glow, illuminating the mud, moss, and slime that clung to her tattered dress.

My mind told me to run but my feet would not obey.

“Llevar a su espalda, ella me pertenece a mí,” the girl repeated, her dark eyes fixed on the satchel slung over my shoulder.

Although I needed no translator to know that the girl from the water wanted me to fix the doll back in her resting place among the tangled tree limbs, through my limited Spanish vocabulary I knew that she was saying, “Bring her back, she belongs to me.” However determined as I was to bring a gift home to my adored niece, I would do no such thing.

Fueled by purpose and terror, I ran along the canal. The words of the girl floated on the wind and stung my ears. Still, I did not stop. A feeling of some strange possession came over me, warping my sensibilities. With my feet and heart pounding, my voice wailed in my mind, repeating, “She will never have her back. The doll is mine!” I then determined to commandeer my own vessel and leave the island at once after which point I would trudge back to the city on foot. I had lost all sense of reason. Onward to the docks–like a madman–I ran.

The drowned girl’s voice grew from a singular moan to a choir chanting a miserable command. Voices assailed me from every angle. I saw them in the trees. Small mouths of porcelain and plastic moved in their ghastly cadence. My eyes watered and my skin grew cold.

All the island’s dolls cried out, “¡Traerla, ella nos pertenece a!” Again and again they demanded, “Bring her back, she belongs to us!”

I shrieked at the dolls to cease their infernal wailing. Then, running across a tangle of roots, I lost my footing and crashed to the ground. I writhed about as if one stricken with demons, the rising chant of the dolls’ voices bearing down on me, enveloping me, tearing at my collapsing sanity. Cold, wet hands grasped my collar. The girl from the canal shook me and screeched. Her mouth stretched wide. Fetid brown water–mixed with blood–gushed onto my face, filling my gaping, scream infested mouth. I choked on the vile liquid.

The girl gazed deep into my heart with her pitch black eyes as water rushed from her mouth, pounding onto my face. Instead of splashing off my skin, the water held place and rose as if the girl were submerging me in a body of water.

I cried for mercy. Bubbles floated up through the water. The grim visage of the girl swam above me, fading, becoming murkier by the second. I felt my satchel slip from my shoulder. I sank deeper into the water, the pale moonlight barely visible above. I echoed a final plea for the girl to let me live before the water entered my lungs and my eyes fell shut.

What may have been moments or mere seconds later, an old man was beating on my chest and shouting at me in Spanish. Gasping, I rolled to my side and spewed bitter water from my mouth. I was on the bank of the canal, the full moon shining down. A young boy who carried towels and wore a shocked expression stood at the old man’s side. The old man sighed, shook his head, and helped me to my feet.

After leading me to their hovel, while drinking tea and drying off by the fire, the young boy explained in broken English how he and the old man lived on the island, that they were the keepers of the dolls, and that they had found me face down in the canal, on the verge of drowning. In return, I told them my tale of the girl who had pursued me and of the voices of the dolls which had driven me to the brink of madness. I inquired to the man and the boy if they had my satchel, and that’s its contents were of great import. They simply nodded and told me to try to sleep.

Dawn broke early on the morrow and cast a brilliant, sweeping glow over the island. Although the sun was warm and welcoming, it could not wipe away the previous night’s terrors. I shivered as I followed the old man and his young companion along the path to the docks. While en route, I dared look up into the trees. There the doll sat on her perch among the gnarled limbs, precisely where I had found her the night before. Upon seeing me, her eyes brightened and her lips curled. A faint laugh echoed from her chest and I fell to the ground screaming.

Two days later I regained consciousness in a hospital in Mexico City. I was informed that an old man and his grandson had admitted me and that I had been in a most fearful state, raving about dolls that wanted to kill me and destroy my eternal soul. I had been subdued and placed under watch. The physicians had seen this before and were apparently not surprised.

The next day as I rode the bus out of Mexico City, I vowed to never again trifle with dolls. Although I surely wanted to bring a present home to my dear Tabitha, she would have to grow her collection of foul figurines without my assistance.

 

Logbook of Terror : Plague Island | Poveglia Island, Venice, taly

Plague Island!

Pressing the sharp tip of the chisel hard against the young woman’s temple, I screamed at her to settle down and hold still. I was her doctor, I knew best. I kept telling her this, over and over, my voice rising in pitch and volume, my patience diminishing, my contempt for these unruly patients increasing. Didn’t they understand that I only wanted to help them? As I’d told her, I just needed to get inside her brain. If I could remove the plague infected section which caused her insanity, she would be cured, and then we could all leave this god-forsaken island. I steadied the chisel and raised my mallet high to strike.  

The male patient on the gurney to my right struggled against his restraints, spouting off some rhetoric about not hurting her. Oh, the cries of the insane, how they bore me! “Leave her alone, don’t hurt her! Please, doctor, please!” Always with the begging and pleading. Such weakness; how it sickens me! I am far above this station –a genius such as myself has no business in these wretched climes. How did I get here?

I felt my hands shaking. A sudden, agonizing jolt wracked my brain. Static, as if that of an olden television set in between channels, spit flurries of white across my vision. The well-lit operating room became a dirty, decaying chamber full of cobwebs and ruin. The female patient in front of me was tied to a grimy, rust-covered gurney, held tight by some type of colorful rope that I did not recognize. The man beside me was also strapped down with a similar colorful rope. He wore strange clothes which I’d never before seen: a coat made of a material unknown to me, orange and shiny and slick, that made odd swooshing noises when he turned beneath his restraints. As well, his shoes and trousers were indeed not from a time familiar to me. He howled at me in protest, his face turning red, spittle flying from his mouth, clenching his fists and struggling. I shook my head and blinked my eyes. It must be the ghosts again, I thought. When will they cease with their torments?

My eyes turned back to the male patient. He was once again dressed in his urine stained gown, his wrists bound with white cloth that held him to an almost clean gurney. I smiled. He screamed. Turning back to my female patient, I raised my mallet once again. 

A hard punch landed in my gullet. I doubled over, dropping the mallet and chisel. My patient had somehow wiggled free of her restraints. Curses! Another blow landed hard on my back, sending me to my knees. The woman was screaming. I could hear rustling cloth. She was freeing the male patient. No! They cannot escape! I must complete my work! I cried out for them to halt, snatching up my surgical tools and rushing after them as they fled the operating room. 

I gave chase to my patients through the corridors of the hospital, dodging pale and dirty patients who wandered the halls, their black eyes staring. Their mouths hung open, emitting a green vapor and filling the air with moans of pain and horror. How strange, the hospital’s residents seemed to appear almost translucent. Had they always looked as such? As we rushed past, the loitering patients turned to follow. 

Determination blazed in my mind –these two would not get away!  We scrambled through another short hallway, down several flights of stairs, and burst through a service entrance, out into the night. I grinned. I had anticipated their steps. As I suspected, they were heading for the tower! 

The sweet smell of rot and burned corpses filled my nostrils as I ran. The moans of the following patients echoed behind me. The screams of the two escapees led the way in front of me. Sweat poured from my brow, raining down my skin, stinging my eyes. I called out, commanding them to halt. I was their doctor, why weren’t they listening? Without looking back, my two patients rounded a corner and disappeared through the arched tower door. 

The ghoulish moans increased behind me, growing closer and closer with every step. I glanced back to see an endless stream of pale, rotted and decomposing patients hurtling toward me. They seemed to move effortlessly, as if floating at an ever increasing velocity, howling, crying out for my doom. Their empty eyes burned terror into my heart. These foul beings were not my patients; these were the cursed apparitions, back to torment me again! But they would not have their victory. I ran on, fleeing into the tower. 

Pursuing the living while being pursued by the dead, I pressed on, up and up the tower steps. Finally, reaching the top, I burst into an open room. Cool night air poured in through the open windows that lined the walls. I cried for my patients to show themselves. Without word, they pounced from the shadows, both assailing me at once. Grappling with one another, we stumbled back and forth. The male patient leveled a blow to my side. He screamed fiercely at me, calling me by a foreign name but speaking as if he knew me, telling me that some ghoulish force had taken control of my mind, begging me to halt my rampage. There was another flash of static –fierce and hot- and a quick, jarring memory filled my mind: A chance meeting at a café in Venice, a boat, a secret trip to a haunted island. Then my wits returned. I knew it was but a ruse, for he was my patient and I, his doctor and there was but one objective: to free him from the clutches of insanity. 

During our struggle, none of us had noticed the crowd of apparitions that flooded into the room. Icy hands gripped my shoulders, neck, and arms. My patients screamed anew, crying out for help. The female patient shouted in my face. I blinked. I saw her. It was Clarice, an American traveler who, along with her fiance Michael, had befriended me two days prior. We had met in the city. I had invited them to join me on my paranormal adventuring. 

I saw my own hands. I saw my own clothes. I remembered who I was. Horror filled my being at the realization that I had attacked my companions. But there wasn’t time to worry about that, for the ghosts were throwing us off the tower.

The three of us fell, screaming into the night. A dense bank of mist which surrounded the tower’s base swallowed us away. I waited for the impact of solid earth and the smashing of my brittle bones but such pain and agony never arrived. I floated in the mist, calling out to my friends, pleading for their forgiveness. Their voices echoed back at me from somewhere deep inside the fog. Then it came- the dreaded crash, only, it was soft. I rolled along the ground and came to a stop. The mist had deposited us at the island’s edge. We three watched in shock as the fog left us, floating out to sea and fading into the night. 

It seemed as if we screamed until we had no voices left. Just before dawn we were rescued by a passing craft helmed by local fishermen who were kind enough to ferry us back to Venice. Upon returning, my fellow adventurers and I vowed to never set foot on Poveglia again, the cursed plague island. May its malignant ruins one day be buried deep beneath the sea!

My Darling Dead: Episode 7 | The Assassin

The captain of the guard, Bortix Legional, stood atop the walls, looking down into the valley. It smelled like rain, and he was looking forward to being indoors for the night, having done his share of guard duties in seasons past. He was distracted from his vigil by the clattering of footsteps as a figure made its way up the dim steps. 

“Beggin yer pardon, sir,” the voice of Klinden the guardsman said, mounting the last step and turning to join Bortix at the battlements, “but there has been an unusual report from the northern realm.”

Bortix rolled his eyes. “There are always unusual reports from the northern realm, Mister Klinden,” he said. “Continue.” He reached into his shoulder bag for his pouch of tobacco and pipe, loading it and striking a match as Klinden continued. 

“Farmer in the near north sez that he came into his abode and beheld a man who resembled a rat. He ate a dead mouse, then attacked the farmer, until the farmer was able to subdue him.” He grinned a little. “Not a pretty sight. Took a rock, an’–”

“I can imagine, thank ye.” Bortix inhaled and sighed. “What the ‘ell am I s’posed to do about it?”

“That’s a good question, sir,” Klinden said, nodding. Bortix glowered at him.

A young cadet named Stroveta sprinted up the stairs and skidded to a halt. “Sir! There has been an assassination attempt upon the queen!”

Bortix stared. “Say again, soldier?”

“Chap with a camouflage robe managed to sneak in somehow, the queen disarmed him herself before he could put a blade in her but she’s not happy at all. She commands you attend her in her chamber after you interrogate the prisoner. Sir!” The cadet threw a salute and stood awaiting further orders. 

Bortix raised an eyebrow at Klinden. “Mind the watch, Mr Klinden. Cadet, back to your post.”

The queen and her daughter had long been students of self-defense, learning from Bortix how to disarm and disable in case their guards should fail in some regard. Bortix, while instructing them, gravely advised that failure on the part of his soldiers to protect the royal family could result in execution, but that a headless guard would never bring the queen or her daughter back to life. So when the man posing as a servant made a wild stab in Hespa’s direction, she reacted without thinking, snatching the man’s wrist, applying pressure to a point in his wrist and twisting his numb hand up behind his back, forcing to him to the ground. At a shout from her, five guards burst into her chamber, swords drawn, spears at the ready. They beheld their monarch standing behind a stranger who was kneeling before her, tears running down a very red face with an expression of agony as she jerked his arm ever higher between his shoulder blades. 

“This scum attempted to put a blade inside me,” snarled Hespa, breathing heavily as she addressed the first guard. “Find out who he is and where he comes from.” She jerked his arm up savagely and a loud, wet pop reverberated in the chamber and in the ears of every guard. The man sucked in a breath to scream but before a sound could escape his throat the queen’s voice was hissing in his ear. “Suffer in silence or I will end you myself right now.” In her hand suddenly appeared a long slim blade, the tip a fraction of an inch from the man’s eye. He shut his mouth, tears streaming down his face as the soldiers jerked him to his feet and marched him from the room. 

Hespa paced back and forth in her chamber, her mind still racing. Her narrow escape bothered her, not because of her own mortality but because it spoke to the lack of security from which the castle suffered. She was not in the habit of looking at her servants as they attended her and only the quick movement in the reflection of the window had alerted her in time to turn and block her would-be assassin’s arm.

There was a knock and Bortix stood in her doorway. “Your Highness.”

“Enter, Bortix, and tell me that the slime has divulged his master and purpose and departed this realm,” the queen snapped, moving to pour herself a glass of amber liquid and sip from it as Bortix made his report. 

“Lady, the assassin was sent by the kingdom of Heyworth, in retaliation for the death of the prince murdered by the Princess Alasin.”

The queen’s eyes grew wide and she swallowed half her drink. “Did you learn anything else?”

“Nay, milady. Alas we were unable to get anything more out of ‘im, for the techniques employed to acquire as much knowledge as we did left the prisoner so diminished that he expired shortly after sharing that information.” A ghost of a smile flitted around his mouth.

“Good,” muttered the queen.  

Alasin stood at her window, staring into the darkness and at her reflection. She blinked. It blinked. She smiled. 

It did not.

“Good evening, Princess.” 

Alasin jumped and whirled, half raising a hand to strike before she saw it was the wizard.

“Sapius!” she gasped. “Announce yourself!”

“I apologize madam, I merely acted in haste to inform you of your mother’s wishes.” He spread his hands apologetically.

“What is it?” Alasin asked, her hands shaking. “What does she want?”

“It regards the fate of Prince Heyworth, madam.”

“His fate was known to my mother and she was unbothered by it,” Alasin said, doing her best to maintain her composure. 

“Yes, but that was before she had survived an assassin’s attempt to dispatch her as retribution for your crime.” The wizard’s voice was flat, but chills reverberated from it. 

Alasin froze, her eyes moving back toward Sapius slowly, her face an expression of horror. As if on cue, there was a knocking at her chamber door. “Milady, guards.” 

The princess’s face was the color of parchment as she stammered out “Enter” and looked with terror to Sapius, who only smiled in that infuriating manner. 

The guard who entered was a simple man. He had been a farmer before he had tired of the physical labor and joined the armed forces. He had no  time for theater nor playing games and was a favorite to play cards with, for his face was an open book. Alasin read on it now, fear and loathing as the guard looked at her. 

“Princess, the queen bids you join her in her chamber.” He stepped back, into the corridor, spear at the ready, waiting for her.  

“You could not honestly have thought that your secret would not travel.” the wizard said, sounding severe. “Three soldiers beheld you in the act of murdering the prince. We had them killed as soon as possible, but it was too late. They have told, and those have told, and it didn’t take long for spies to relay the word to Heyworth kingdom that Princess Alasin murdered Prince Heyworth with her poisoned blade. It took even less time for a cadet to spread the word that the queen has already narrowly escaped assassination.”

Alasin’s eyes grew huge. “You mean… does everybody know?”

“You may draw that conclusion, Princess,” said Sapius.

Odds and Dead Ends: Scary Shadows | Analysis of H G Wells’ ‘The Red Room’

 

H. G. Wells might be more known for his science-fiction novels, such as The Time Machine and The War of the Worlds, but some of his short stories might as well have been written by H. P. Lovecraft. The Red Room is a straight up ghost story in the same vein as M. R. James. It’s a little gem of a story, and I’d like to share some of my thoughts as to what makes it such a delight.

The Red Room details the protagonist taking up a challenge of sorts to stay in a cursed castle bedroom overnight. The opening sets this up nicely in what might now seem a cliché. The opening line that ‘“I can assure you,” said I, “that it will take a very tangible ghost to frighten me,”’ is reminiscent of Jack Torrance in Kubrick’s The Shining saying ‘“That’s not going to happen to me”’ when Ullman speaks of the previous caretaker going insane.

This single line perfectly sets up the beginning of the character’s arc (from skeptic to believer), tells us the genre of story (supernatural), and the character of the protagonist. His skepticism is reinforced when he says that ‘I half suspected the old people were trying to enhance the spiritual terrors of their house’. He is ‘abbreviated and broadened to an impossible sturdiness in the queer old mirror at the end of the room.’ He sees himself as a rock, immovable against anything that passes his way. However, the mirror has changed his appearance, and just as he sees himself to be a rock in a storm, his faith is soon to be changed.

The protagonist’s disbelief in ghosts is due to a fear of age and dying. It is said that he is ‘“eight-and-twenty”’, which is twenty-eight for those who don’t speak century old English, making him a young man. This is in contrast to the three elderly people who apparently live in the castle. This fear of their age presents itself when the protagonist remarks that ‘There is, to my mind, something inhuman in senility.’ Age removes human qualities, and so something very old is to be seen as disgusting, or feared. Spirits, dead for many years, must be terrifying to him.

As the protagonist leaves the group for the room, they are described as ‘dark against the firelight’, which is one of the many allusions to shadows peppered throughout the opening. This further links them to the spirits that will eventually come to haunt our protagonist. Just a little later the protagonist himself expands on this idea, even remarking that ‘their very existence, thought I, is spectral.’

Along with this is the line ‘“It’s your own choosing.”’ This line is repeated like a mantra throughout the opening, and though it may be a bit overdone, the message is clear. By disobeying the warnings given, he brings the doom upon himself. This cliché also gets played up in The Cabin in the Woods, when the group ignore the warnings not to go up to the cabin. You get what’s coming to you.

Soon, even before we enter the room itself, Wells drops the recurrent image that will pervade the remainder of the piece, that of moving, sentient shadows fighting against the candlelight. There’s something very primal about this opposition, very simply a play of light against dark, of good against evil. ‘My candle flared and made the shadows cover and quiver.’ That the shadows are anthropomorphised, being said to have ‘came sweeping up behind me, and another fled before me into the darkness overhead’ is disturbing. Light has to be controlled by man, dependent on him, but the dark can move as it wishes.

The repetition and enhancing of this play of ghostly shadows is what drives the remainder of the piece. ‘The door of the Red Room and the steps up to it were in a shadowy corner.’ The protagonist must move into the realm of darkness if he is to attempt to hold out against it. The room itself is a ‘huge shadowy room with its black window bays,’ full of dust and ‘black corners, its germinating darkness.’ And against all this the candlelight has very little effect, ‘a little tongue of light in the vast chamber; its rays failed to pierce to the opposite end of the room.’

Despite being disturbed by ‘some impalpable quality of that ancient room,’ the protagonist tries to ‘preserve my scientific attitude of mind,’ and examines the room ‘systematically.’ He lights several candles throughout the room, illuminating all that he can, but despite this he still puts his revolver ‘ready to hand.’ Have all his efforts been in vain? He tries to maintain that he is in control of his emotions and that his ‘precise examination had done me a little good,’ and yet ‘I still found the remoter darkness of the place and its perfect stillness too stimulating for the imagination.’ All the build up at the beginning of the story begins to pay off, as our anticipation for ghosts and ghouls overrides the common sense saying that there is nothing there. Every mention of a black spot, a shadow in the rafters, is somewhere we search for ghosts in between the lines, looking for subtext. We are literally jumping at shadows.

A draught enters the room, and soon the candle in the alcove begins to flicker, which ‘kept the shadows and penumbra perpetually shifting and stirring in a noiseless flighty dance.’ An attempt to light more candles gives us his humorous remark that ‘when the ghost came I could warn him not to trip over them.’ Though this line is obviously a joke to himself, he’s brought ghosts into his everyday vocabulary, thinking of them as existing in his world. He’s begun a path away from disbelief into acknowledgement.

And then the candles start to go out.

Now that Wells has ratcheted up the tension by implication alone, he brings on the scares. The alcove, where the deepest shadow has been, is suddenly in darkness again. A candle has gone out. When trying to relight it, two more go out. The shadows do not give him time to bring back the light, and immediately move in for the kill. Again the comparison of the darkness to calculated activity is drawn, as ‘the flames vanished as if the wick had been suddenly nipped between a finger and thumb.’ The protagonist moves closer and closer to hysteria, and ‘a queer high note getting into my voice somehow.’

The protagonist, hysterical, again breaches into the realms of ghostly belief by exclaiming that ‘“those candles are wanted… for the mantel candlesticks.”’ He begins to fight against the shadows’ continuous extinguishing of the candles, ‘the shadows I feared and fought against returned, and crept in on me, first a step gained on this side of me, then on that.’ It is a fight that he can only lose because as was said many times at the beginning, it was a fate of his own choosing.

And yet the ambiguity is still maintained, because the draught was never initially shown to be ghostly in nature, and when he picks up another candle, ‘abruptly this was blown out as I swung it off the table by the wind of my sudden movement.’ Wells continually holds the reader in suspense of wanting to see something overtly supernatural, so that we voraciously follow the protagonist’s stumbling with our own clumsy speed, running headlong through the pages. It is Wells at his finest.

His escape from the room is even deliberately non-supernatural, battering himself up by his own stumbling in desperation and anxiety. And in the end, the final revelation of the nature of the malevolence in the room is a beautiful touch. ‘“Fear that will not have light nor sound, that will not bear with reason, that deafens and darkens and overwhelms.”’ It is described as being a supernatural force, but it is entirely possible to view it as a kind of mass hysteria. Somewhere creepy that instills fear that causes people to essentially, accidentally kill themselves in terror. The disorientation of a sudden acceptance of the possibility of spirits, of the loss of a guiding light, combined with his fear of age and decay, all fuel a Todorovian fantastic story. It’s a wonderful touch to end the piece.

In conclusion, The Red Room is a masterfully crafted ghost story that should be remembered with the best. A great build up to a frantic fight of the rational vs. the irrational part of the brain, with memorable descriptions of the sentient shadows, in a spooky gothic castle. It’s inspired my own work[1], and I hope that you’ll find something delightfully spooky from it as well.

-Article by Kieran Judge

-Twitter: KJudgeMental

Bibliography

King, S., 1977. The Shining. United States: Doubleday.

The Cabin in the Woods. 2012. [Film] Directed by Drew Goddard. USA: Mutant Enemy.

Todorov, T., 1975. The Fantastic. New York: Cornell University.

Wells, H. G., 1896. The Red Room. [Online]
Available at: https://repositorio.ufsc.br/bitstream/handle/123456789/157356/The%20Red%20Room%20-%20H.G.%20Wells.pdf?sequence=1&isAllowed=y
[Accessed 23 06 2019].

Wells, H. G., 1897. The War Of The Worlds. United Kingdom: Pearson’s Magazine.

Wells, H. G., 1931. The Time Machine. New York: Random House.

[1] For those interested, the piece in question, The Voice-Snatcher, will be released in The Sirens Call #45 at the end of June/beginning of July.

My Darling Dead: Episode 1 – The King

 

 

As a hurricane is preceded by calm, the kingdom of Dandoich had known peace and prosperity for many years. The townsfolk fought, argued, lied, cheat, stole and generally behaved as humans do, but they were content within their sphere of existence. There had been the odd uprising against this noble or that plantation owner, but it was swiftly quelled by the kingdom’s royal guards, often without too much bloodshed. A true civil war had not happened in centuries.

King Wendell had been ruling the throne for over sixty returns of the season and had taken care to extract the maximum enjoyment from his posting as he was able. Wary of the fate of his own father, Rockney the Beheaded, he exercised his kingly power with discretion, well aware that he was ultimately at the mercy of his own people whose population far outnumbered him. As a result he was well loved by his subjects, who knew their grievances would be fairly heard out and attended to in a fair and just manner.

Today, the bells were tolling as though for a wedding, but with one tone missing. The bell carrying the middle C note had been silenced, and the altered tone of the bells told of the christening of the princess, and all hastened to the square to bear witness. Christenings were the common practice in the kingdom, but the christenings of royalty were done by a fairy, and many of those living in the kingdom today had never beheld a fairy in the flesh. They were mystical beings, rarely seen unless they chose to reveal themselves.

Queen Hespa looked at herself in the mirror, her gown’s dark green blended with her red hair nicely but she could have shattered the mirror and used its shards to cut her own throat. Her smile remained frozen as her ladies in waiting bustled about her, adjusting a stitch here, a loose end there, an unbasted seam somewhere else. They were a hive of activity about her and she wondered, once again, if today would be the day she would take her own life.

The king, ensconced in his own chambers, looked up from the wench servicing him to beckon another to refill his glass with the honeyed mead he preferred. Another set his ceremonial crown on his head, and he could feel his neck creaking. He never wore the enormous heavy thing except for formal occasions, and his daughter’s christening would definitely qualify if nothing else would. He took a mighty drought of mead and hiccuped. It was his third such mug, but with the fairy Esmeli appearing tonight, he would need all the strength and nerve he could get. He glowered at the servicing wench, who had paused for breath.

“Did I tell you to stop?”

Dutifully, she returned to polishing his boots.

The princess Alasin, not yet two months old, wriggled in her crib as her nurse changed her. She had no idea that her very existence would bring about the ending of the way of life that so many generations before her had enjoyed. She did not know that her father’s affair with the fairy Esemli would plunge the kingdom into turmoil for years to come. She simply slept, dreaming baby dreams, oblivious to the world around her.

Two guards stood at the entrance to the castle, bedecked in garlands and flowers to mark the christening day. Both felt like the posterior of an equine, but knew better than to remove them. The only soldier who had done so was now on latrine duty for being out of uniform.

“Cor,” grunted the larger guard. “’ot as ‘ell today.” He spit.

The other nodded, yawning and exposing several yellowing teeth. “Aye.”

“’most noon,” said the first, squinting at the sky.

The second looked to the sky as well, nodding as he did. “Aye.”

“I never seen’t a fairy before,” the first continued, looking up at the sky as though he expected her to drop from the clouds. “They purty?”

The second licked his lips, unaware he had done so. “Aye.”

The first guard chortled and scratched himself. “Where do a fairy come from?”

“D’no,” the second said, shrugging. In his mind, he came upon a fairy in the woods, missing most of her clothes, chest heaving. His manhood throbbing, he walked up to her and…

“I’ll thank you, sir, to remove that filth from your head this instant,” a cool voice whispered in his ear. The guard jumped a mile, colliding with the larger guard who was still staring at the sky.

Esemli stood with her hands on her hips, long blonde hair waving in the gentle breeze. Her dark green tunic and leather boots were of the deepest forest greens and browns the guards had ever seen. Her green eyes matched them perfectly as they radiated scorn at the second guard, who at that moment felt the size of a worm.

“A thousand apologies, Milady,” he stuttered, stumbling over his words as inane jabber raced through his head. “I was… you see we…”

Esemli held up her hand and the guard’s voice froze in his throat, though his mouth still worked, attempting to speak. “Do not finish. You will go inform the Lord Wendell that I have arrived and await his pleasure in his receiving room.” So saying, she lowered her hand and swept past them through the door they guarded as the larger guard followed, leaving the second guard to regain control of his vocal cords and pray the fairy did not speak of his discourtesy to the king.

When King Wendell arrived in his receiving room, the windows had been covered and the torches burned with a dark red light, casting large shadows in the room’s corners. Esemli’s blonde locks were a muted bright spot in the dim room, and the king made his way toward her, blood rushing unbidden to his loins.

“My lady,” the king said gravely as he approached her.

Esemli turned, the shadows giving her face a sinister cast as she smiled and dropped her tunic from her shoulders. “My lord,” she whispered, and moved to greet him.

Queen Hespa stood outside the receiving room door, listening to the sounds coming from within. There were no tears from the queen, only rage. With the strength of fury she raised a foot and kicked the door open with a bang. The sun was behind her coming through a window slit and it fell neatly through the door and illuminated the king atop the fairy.

Horror Addicts Online Writers Conference – A HOW How-to Video!

 

Kristin Battestella aka Kbatz answers Your Questions about the HorrorAddicts.net Online Writers Conference and explains some of the Forum Technology and Live Events happening at HOW.

 

 

Join us February 24-28 for Writing Workshops, Author Videos, Publisher Chats, and More. It’s Free to sign up and So Easy you can do it in your Purple Peter Cushing PJs – say that Three Times Fast!

 

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BHH: “Outcasts” by Valjeanne Jeffers 2 of 3

“Outcasts” by Valjeanne Jeffers 2 of 3

Monique watched the airships ready for take-off through the bars of her cage, hanging beneath the cliff. She still bore a black eye—the latest bruise from her mother. Only this time she’d fought back: punching and scratching. She’d done no more than was needed to fend Isabelle off and stop her beating. Still, two more weeks were added to her sentence.

 

Longing pierced her soul, as she gazed at the puffs of steam streaming from the ships on their way to patrol, and the wooden wings flapping. Suddenly, the first one was airborne—flying past the slender rocks that separated the triangular stacks of boulders at the edge of her village. The sound of palms on drum-skins beat in refrain to the ships’ wings, as if the drums were were the reason they could fly.

 

One. . . two. . . three … and now they soared into the distance. Monique stared at them until they were lost to her gaze. She gripped the bars of the cage. Suspending prisoners outside during the day, and letting them return home at night, was supposed to be a kinder punishment than perpetually confining captives indoors.

 

I’m still a prisoner. Being outside just makes it worse.

 

The rumbling of her belly and the shaking of her cage let her know it was time to eat. In the next moment, two women hoisted her cage up from under the rock and shifted it to the ground. Their narrowed eyes and pursed lips revealed what they thought of her. The strange one who lusts for the flesh of her sisters. The bad daughter who beats her own mother. 

 

One of the women reached into the folds of her dress and produced a skeleton key. A few moments later her dearest friend, Angelique, sauntered over.  She was a plump young woman, her skin the color of ripe bananas with a thick head of hair. She carried a basket and there was a blanket under her arm. The delectable smell of diri kole ak pwa, brown rice with red kidney beans topped off with red snapper, tomatoes and onions, drifted toward her.

 

Angelique smiled, her teeth flashing against her cafe au lait skin. “Let’s find somewhere nice to eat.”

 

Angelique was a mulatto Affranchis: a wealthy descendant of the union between slave owner and slaves. Birth determined the Affranchis social position, and intermarriage between them solidified this caste solidarity. Some of them had even owned slaves, before General Toussaint had emancipated all living in Saint-Domingue.

 

Angelique knew how the ships were put together, what made them tick and she could fly. So she said. She and Monique’s mutual interest in airships had brought them together and they’d quickly become friends—in spite of their dissimilar backgrounds. How she’d come by her knowledge of airships was a mystery. But she’d shared all she knew with Monique and swore her to secrecy.

 

She was also in love with John, the dark-skinned son of former slaves. Because of his social status Angelique’s parents, who followed the old ways of class solidarity, had forbade any courtship between their daughter and John. Tradition meant she must obey her parents’ wishes or suffer the same fate as Monique.

 

“But I’m going to marry him anyway,” she’d whispered. “See if I don’t.”

 

Monique secretly thought Angelique made half of her stories up, although she never said so. Still, she tells pretty tales, non?

 

Monique followed her past the cottages to a meadow, took the blanket from her friend and spread it on the grass. “If you don’t stop being so nice to me, they’re going to get someone else to bring me lunch.”

 

The young women sat down, unpacked the food and began to eat. “I bet you wish now you’d just taken the punch instead of fighting back, eh?” Angelique said, her sympathetic eyes belying the coldness of her words. “Next time will be probably worst you know. Isabelle has always been ill-tempered. She’s so angry with you. She had her heart set on grandchildren.”

 

Monique frowned. “I can’t help the way I am. Just like you can’t help loving John. . . Your parents will never let you marry him. They’re going to pick out a man for you.”

 

Her best friend grinned slyly. “So they believe.”

 

“What does that mean?”

 

Angelique bit into a piece of fish and didn’t answer. For awhile they ate in silence.

 

“Do you miss Simone much?”

 

Monique’s eyes filled with tears. “Wi. . . It is an ache.”

 

“So you love her?”

 

“Wi.”

 

“What is it like. . . loving a woman?” Although they’d been best friends for years, they’d never discussed this.

 

Monique shrugged. “Like your love for John, I suppose. For me, it is as natural as breathing.”

 

“Well, perhaps after tonight you will met another woman and fall in love.”

 

“Loving someone, whether man or woman, is not like picking vases from the well. If one is empty, you just pick another one, n’est-ce pas? Love is not like that. . . What makes tonight so different?”

 

“Stay awake and find out.”

 

Monique shook her head. “I can’t go fishing. I need my sleep.”

 

“Who said anything about fishing? You must pack a bag and stay awake.”

 

“Poukisa wap fè sa? What are you up to?”

 

Angelique laughed like a child but would say no more.

 

Monique gazed at her friend with exasperation and affection on her brown face. “Why do I always listen to you?”

 

“Because I’m your best friend! Who else would you listen to?”

At that moment, two women plopped on the grass to their right, close enough to hear what the friends were saying. They fell silent and finished eating.

 

##

 

To be continued… Feb 8th, 2019… stay tuned!


Valjeanne Jeffers is a graduate of Spelman College, a member of the Carolina African American Writer’s Collective, and the author of eight books.Valjeanne was featured in 60 Black Women in Horror Fiction. Her first novel, Immortal, is featured on the Invisible Universe Documentary time-line. Her stories have been published in Reflections Literary and Arts Magazine; Steamfunk!; Griots: A Sword and Soul Anthology; Genesis Science Fiction Magazine; Griots II: Sisters of the Spear; Possibilities; and The City.Book I of The Switch II: Clockwork was nominated for the best ebook novella of 2013 (eFestival of Words); and her short story Awakening was published as a podcast by Far Fetched Fables. Preview or purchase Valjeanne’s novels at: Valjeanne Jeffers official site

#NGHW 500-Word WINNER! Harry Husbands

Winner for episode #139

VIRTUAL REALITY IS REVOLUTIONISING HORROR

by Harry Husbands

This winner’s entry will be read an discussed in full
on the Cemetery Confessions podcast, June 2nd, 2017.

Here is just a taste of the blog:

“Imagine you enter a theatre in the year 2025 and take a seat. In front of you is a device that you place on your head and over your ears. Your vision is blackened. Thirty minutes of adverts begin because some things just never change. Eventually the film starts and you’re in a corridor where the lightbulb flickers and a putrid smell of rotting meat wafts to your nostrils. You are creeping forward when the light goes out completely. There’s icy breath on the back of your neck. You not only hear it but you feel it too…” Hear more on Cemetery Confessions June 2nd.


Listen to the contestants battle for points this season on HorrorAddicts.net

#NGHW 500-word Horror Blogs, the Runners Up

#NGHW 500-word Horror Blogs, The Runners Up featured on #139
Daphne Strasert and Quentin Norris

  1.  # 2 HORROR BINGE by Daphne Strasert

    Fear evolved to be a fleeting physical reaction. Fight or flight is only supposed to last long enough to escape danger. Psychologically speaking, humans aren’t built to endure hours of sustained terror. Yet, whether it’s Penny Dreadful or Stranger Things, horror addicts love to curl up with Netflix for a marathon of dread. Watching horror isn’t like it used to be. With the rise of streaming services, the horror genre faces the new challenge of binge-watch culture. What effect does this medium have on scare factor and can it take horror to new heights?

    How did we get here?

    Before streaming, television horror was constrained by weekly time slots. Creators had to contend with an unreliable audience, so they structured series for casual viewing. Shows adopted a “monster of the week” format that worked well even if watched sporadically. However, what worked well for syndication floundered when viewers started consuming a decade’s worth of episodes in a single weekend. Faced with a fundamental shift in how audiences watch television, producers adapted their approach. Netflix pioneered the world of “binge content” by releasing shows in season-long chunks and optimizing them for marathon viewing.

    A new approach to story telling

    With longer run times and no commercial breaks, binge content plays by different rules. For better or worse, creators have changed how they make shows to keep you clicking “Watch Next”.

    • No Filler

    Binge shows don’t waste time on scenarios (or infuriating Christmas episodes) that won’t be mentioned again. Every installment stays on track and, with no fluff to waste time, the storyline moves forward at breakneck speed. Episodes bleed together without having to rehash plot points. Twists and turns pile on each other with never-ending suspense and mystery. Stranger Things is a perfect example—more like a seven-hour movie than a television show. The long format gives the creators room to develop a complex story.

    • Stifled Experimentation

    Tight plots and fast pacing can have drawbacks. Sometimes an amazing concept doesn’t stand up to a full season of scrutiny. These ideas benefit from single episode exploration. Buffy mastered this with one-off monsters like The Gentlemen.

    • No anticipation

    A tortuous wait between episodes isn’t always a bad thing. A horror show that updates every week stews for seven days, allowing imagination to fill in horrifying implications while the show isn’t playing. American Horror Story capitalizes on this by leaving key doors open at the end of episodes to bring viewers back each week.

    As viewers increasingly turn to streaming services rather than cable subscriptions, we can expect binge content to grow and adapt. We are already seeing the medium evolve. Stephen King and J.J. Abrams are teaming up to bring us Castle Rock. It isn’t out yet, but internet whispers say that it could bring us an anthology show that breaks the mega-movie mold. So, look forward to new terrors as horror masterminds push the envelope of an already edgy genre.

  2. ********************
  3. #3 FIVE FILMMAKERS CHANGING THE FACE OF HORROR CINEMAby Quentin Norris

    It’s no secret that horror is one of the most easily dismissed genres in any medium, especially in film.  It’s hard to blame the critics. There are always exceptions, but the early 2000s were too bogged down with tepid remakes of ’80s gems to make any true impressions on cinephiles. Horror’s reputation has been changing thanks to exciting visions from the following filmmakers who are breathing new life into the genre:

    Alice Lowe: Alice Lowe took no prisoners with her feature film debut, Prevenge, a twisted tale of a mother-to-be who is slave to the will of her sociopathic unborn child. Lowe starred in the film while seven months pregnant and used her own fears as inspiration. Lowe conjures up the most delightfully wicked scares mixed with pitch black humor with the most limited of resources, and the results are nothing less than entertaining.

    Jordan Peele: Although the well-noted sketch comedian had been discussing his desire to make a horror film for some time, no one quite knew what to expect from Get Out, but what we got was a groundbreaking wake up call for America, and could not have come at a better time. The filmmaking is inspired by past films — particularly the dread of Rosemary’s Baby — but the subject matter is extremely modern, exploring the inherent terror of being a person of color in modern society. Like many great horror films before it, Get Out uses socio-political themes to reflect something deeper inside everyone.

    Oz Perkins: As the son of Anthony Perkins, the original Norman Bates, horror runs through Oz Perkins’ blood, although he’s had a bit of a rocky start. His first film, The Blackcoat’s Daughter, is only now being released, while his second, I Am The Pretty Thing That Lives In The House, was quietly released on Netflix late last year. Pretty Thing may have been released to little fanfare, but it is a striking film that is well worth a watch. Feeling like a cross between Terrence Malick and David Lynch, the film creates a gothic ghost story like no other before it.

    Robert Eggers: Scaring Stephen King is no easy feat, but that is exactly what Eggers did with his excellent feature debut, The Witch, a creeping tale of a doomed New England family haunted by a demonic presence that feels like a knife slowly digging under your skin for an hour and thirty minutes.

    Julia Ducournau: This French-Canadian filmmaker’s feature debut, Raw, gained a reputation as a gross-out film after audiences fainted at a film festival screening. While there’s no shortage of gooey body horror to be found in the film, it is much more than just that. The film is a layered, emotional coming-of-age film with enough body horror to make David Cronenberg beam with pride.

    And that’s just to name a few. There are many more independent genre filmmakers and many more to come who just can’t wait for the opportunity to collectively scare us all in the dark.


Listen to the contestants battle for points this season on HorrorAddicts.net

#NGHW 300-Word WINNER! Naching T. Kassa

Winner for episode #138

The Laughing Man

by Naching T. Kassa

The heart was still warm when I found it near the latrines. It hung from the barbwire fence like some hellish Christmas ornament, dripping blood into the muck below. I wasn’t sure who it belonged to.

It might’ve been Private Jefferson’s or Lieutenant Blackmore’s. They’d gone missing and Sargent Collins had laid the blame on the Hun’s doorstep. I knew the truth, though. My mum had told me long before I took up my gun and gasmask.

“Go to sleep, Johnny,” she’d said one night before bed. “Sleep before Laughing Man comes. If he catches you awake, he’ll rip your heart out and hang it up to dry.”

“Does he come every night,” I had asked.

“He does. If you smell almonds, he’s coming. And, if you hear him whisper your name, he’s testing to see whether you’re awake.”

“What if I can’t sleep?”

“Best pretend, love. Pretend and pray.”

The memory of her words kept me from the trench and the squirming shadows which filled it. I returned to my dug-out as quickly as I could.

The blanket had grown cold in my absence. I huddled under it and would’ve drifted off if the scent of almonds hadn’t wafted in.

“Johnny?” a voice whispered.

I froze. Something moved in the moonlight. It dropped to all fours and peered through my doorway.

“You awake, Johnny?”

Moonglow didn’t favor the creature. Instead, it laid bare every flaw in his leprous face. I shut my eyes but the image of oozing sores remained. He hadn’t changed.

“Johnny?”

I answered with a snore as I had always done. A moment later, his cold hand clutched my throat.

“I’ve always known you were awake,” he said.

Laughter echoed throughout the dug-out and, like a malevolent lullaby, it bore me to my final rest.


Listen to the contestants battle for points this season on HorrorAddicts.net

#NGHW TOP Seven 300-word Stories

TOP 7 / 300-WORD STORIES featured on #138

  1. 1: LARVAE by Sumiko SaulsonLARVAE – A sliver of sunlight pierced the stagnant air of the subbasement, illuminating claw marks in the mossy walls. Under the stream of light I observed bloodstains at the base of my torn nailbed. I winced. The iron-rich smell would attract the creature.Its piteous mewling arose from the depths. I nervously kicked soil into the tunnel at my feet. I had to escape before it returned. Clutching the soil, my fingers dug deep within. Quickly, I ascended. I was six feet up when I felt a tug at my feet. Looking down in horror, I witnessed the creature’s bloated, white body creeping up my pants leg.

    “Get off me, foul thing!” I screamed, kicking the hideous larvae. It was three feet long. Its maw oozed putrescent yellow fluids reeking of fetid lard. That evil oral emanation hit toe of my sneaker, melting canvas and eating away at flesh. I screamed in pain, kicking loose the shoe, sending the maggot dropping below with it.

    The small crevice at the top of the well was just feet away. Heart racing, I redoubled my efforts to scale the wall. A nail broke with a gut-wrenching crack. I felt blood rush out from under the cloth, hot and sticky. I began to calculate how much pressure it would take to knock the wooden cap off the well.

    A new sound emerged. Loud buzzing that grew rapidly closer. I felt wiry hairs touch the back of my neck. Against my will, I turned to look.

    A monstrous fly stared at me with its compound eye. It’s voice, high-pitched and querulous, vibrated against my maddened eardrum. “I bet you didn’t know we evolved,” it said, arrogantly hissing before its mandibles slid into the unyielding flesh of my eyelid, tearing asunder the fragile orb underneath.

    2: THE PET by Daphne Strasert

    THE PET

    You first found your precious baby while she cowered under a car—tiny, trembling, more fur than flesh. Such a helpless angel… you couldn’t leave her to the cruelty of the streets.

    You recline on the couch, Netflix droning in the background and your snuggle muffin nuzzled against your chest. Her breathing lulls you into the blissful space between sleeping and waking. You stroke her fur, careful to avoid the sharp spines, and trace each of the prominent bones that protrude from her back. The tip of her tail coils around your wrist, forming a vice of soft hair. Loving cupcake, you’d do anything to keep her happy.

    You coo at her and she raises her head, blinking each of her four eyes in turn. A rumbling hum passes from her body through yours and she stretches to rub her nose against your arm. She nibbles at your finger and three rows of jagged teeth prick your skin, a minor pain while you swim in an ocean of bliss. Warmth trickles along your hand, followed by the rasp of your sweet pumpkin’s tongue and a crunch as her jaw snaps bone. You murmur affectionate words of encouragement. You would never deprive her of happiness over something as insignificant as an appendage. She gnaws at the edges of your mangled finger, mewing between nips.

    Blood and flesh—you have plenty to spare for your darling. After all, your body is useless if it cannot cater to her. Any pain is worthwhile if you can provide what she needs. Isn’t that what you want? To be with her—a part of her—together forever? You’ll give anything for your dear pet. Even your life.

    Especially your life.

    Story 3: LINGUA by JC Martinez

    LINGUA

    The rotten smell comes from the body it left in the shower. It’s grown worse. It’s almost my time.

    I hear something. A muffled splash, like a wet towel hitting the floor repeatedly. Its footsteps. Then, another sound, like the towel getting wrung. It’s disposing of the body. It’ll come for me next.

    I close my eyes as the closet doors fly open. I close them hard, but I still see it. There’s nothing human about its shape, except for the… tongues. It’s all made of lilac tongues, grouped together like tangled hanks of yarn. I don’t know how it sees, for it has no eyes. I can make out no noses or ears either, just those tongues that wiggle wildly in all directions.

    It grabs me by the waist, pulls me toward it. God, no. It yanks my feet, lifting me effortlessly. The tongues are everywhere now, all over my legs and arms and torso, leaving a slimy trail that dries swiftly over my skin.

    Its tongues are over my closed eyes too. It pulls gently at my eyelids, as if caressing them. I want to scream, but I don’t. All I can do is cry silently, and that’s exactly what it wants.

    It tastes my tears. It drinks them.

    Over the next weeks, it’ll keep me alive, feeding me that strange marmalade that I don’t know where it gets from. It’ll keep me alive, savoring my tears and sweat and saliva, and any other body fluid that it craves.

    After it grows tired of my taste, it’ll leave me to starve to death in that putrid shower. I’m not sure how it’ll do away with my body, but since I can see no other, I guess it’ll devour it whole.

    So much for an open-casket funeral.

    Story 4: BLOODWORM by Jonathan Fortin

    BLOODWORM

    It started with wriggling under her fingernails. Sam ignored the feeling. It was late, and most of the office had left, but she had to finish this report.

    Then came heat, flushing her back and brow with sweat. Sam slipped off her hoodie. She was probably reacting badly to the meds she’d ordered off eBay. They’d looked shifty, but she’d had no choice—this scummy place didn’t provide health insurance.

    The wriggling sensation spread through her body. She felt dizzy and numb, her fingers punching random keys. “Shit…” She couldn’t let this distract her from the deadline. She tried to sit up.

    Her body didn’t respond.

    A red worm poked out between her knuckles. Then another, from her wrist.

    Terror hit her like a train. The meds—did they house parasites? Was she now their host? She’d been so stupid to take them!

    She tried to scream, but instead fell off the chair and became fetal on the floor. She choked as worms crawled up her throat and out her mouth like regurgitated noodles. They plugged her nose and burrowed out her eyes, popping them. Pain rushed through her as worms ripped out her back and twisted into sinuous, red-soaked ropes.

    Blind, she felt her body rise up from the floor, like a puppet. She took steps against her will.

    “Sam?” A voice. Her boss! She tried to tell him to run, but her mouth was blocked. Vomit rushed up and back down again.

    She couldn’t stop. Her hand collided with something, just as her boss began to scream. She pummeled over and over amidst wet sounds until the screaming ceased.

    Sam felt his still body with her fingers. She felt worms slip out from her and burrow into him.

    And then, soon after, she heard him stand.

    Together they lurched.

    Story 5: The ODDMENTS Monster by Adele Marie Par

    Corners hold secrets that burst forth like rotting fruit when darkness falls.

    A blackness within the dark. Shapes that form to become objects of dread as they begin to move. A puppet dance with no master.

    This is the jerky, raggedy birth of the Oddments Monster.

    Tommy’s safe world no longer existed. It had exploded into shards when his father died.

    The house became a lifeless tomb that he and his mother shuffled through.

    She trailed dust and dirty clothes behind her.

    Tommy was a ghost, incorporeal, unheard.

    Perfect conditions for the Oddments Monster.

    Wrapped up like a mummy in his bed, Tommy waited. Frightened into silence and rapid puffs of breath.

    A crackling sigh vibrated around the room. A slithering sound followed, evocative of a snake shedding its skin.

    The atmosphere became heavy. He gulped air like a fish stranded on land. He felt compelled to look and when he did…..

    Blackness filled his dirty clothes. A striped t-shirt wavered and flapped. Jeans bent at the knees and wobbled into an upright position. A crusty, grey handkerchief became a face. The centre puckered inwards to form a rudimentary mouth.

    The monster moved.

    Tommy cried.

    It lurched towards him, eyes made from lost buttons. Black as coal with twin, red, pinpricks of evil intelligence behind them.

    The raggedy thing leaned over Tommy’s paralyzed body.

    The stench of its breath was forgotten memories and sorrow.

    “Dust and ashes you will be, Tommy boy.”

    His trembling bladder gave way and the sharp smell of urine drew the monster closer.

    Ancient bubble gum drooled from it’s puckered mouth and dribbled onto Tommy’s face.

    He opened his mouth to scream but the monster kissed him. He tasted death and dirt as the monster sucked his breath.

    Story 6: THE LAUGHING MAN by Naching T. Kassa

    The heart was still warm when I found it near the latrines. It hung from the barbwire fence like some hellish Christmas ornament, dripping blood into the muck below. I wasn’t sure who it belonged to.

    It might’ve been Private Jefferson’s or Lieutenant Blackmore’s. They’d gone missing and Sargent Collins had laid the blame on the Hun’s doorstep. I knew the truth, though. My mum had told me long before I took up my gun and gasmask.

    “Go to sleep, Johnny,” she’d said one night before bed. “Sleep before Laughing Man comes. If he catches you awake, he’ll rip your heart out and hang it up to dry.”

    “Does he come every night,” I had asked.

    “He does. If you smell almonds, he’s coming. And, if you hear him whisper your name, he’s testing to see whether you’re awake.”

    “What if I can’t sleep?”

    “Best pretend, love. Pretend and pray.”

    The memory of her words kept me from the trench and the squirming shadows which filled it. I returned to my dug-out as quickly as I could.

    The blanket had grown cold in my absence. I huddled under it and would’ve drifted off if the scent of almonds hadn’t wafted in.

    “Johnny?” a voice whispered.

    I froze. Something moved in the moonlight. It dropped to all fours and peered through my doorway.

    “You awake, Johnny?”

    Moonglow didn’t favor the creature. Instead, it laid bare every flaw in his leprous face. I shut my eyes but the image of oozing sores remained. He hadn’t changed.

    “Johnny?”

    I answered with a snore as I had always done. A moment later, his cold hand clutched my throat.

    “I’ve always known you were awake,” he said.

    Laughter echoed throughout the dug-out and, like a malevolent lullaby, it bore me to my final rest.

    Story 7: Always Hungry by Cat Voleur

    ALWAYS HUNGRY

    It was horrible when the sound stopped. For the last few hours Kimi had been forced to listen to the slurps of the creature’s messy eating – interrupted only by the occasional cracking and crunching of bone. Sickening though it had been, it was preferable to the silence in which she was now stuck.

    They have an insatiable hunger for human flesh that grows as rapidly as the beasts themselves.

    Her grandmother had believed strongly in the Algonquin lore with which she had been raised, and Kimi had heard many such stories growing up.

    If only I had listened.

    The beast had stopped eating, which could mean only one thing; it was out of food.

    For a moment it lingered, still crouching in the bloodstained snow a safe distance from dying campfire. Elongated limbs extended from the emaciated torso at strange, unnatural angles. Even in the warm glow of the embers Kimi could see that the skin stretched thinly over its skeletal frame was a sickly, mottled gray.

    It was all she could do not to gag as the thing straightened and she caught a whiff of its decaying scent.

    At its full height, she saw that it was clearly taller than it had been prior to the feast, and Kimi gasped at the realization its head would now be level with the branch where she was hiding.

    It turned toward the noise.

    For the first time she could see it in all its grotesque glory. Teeth jutted in all angles from the gaping, gore-filled maw. Its distorted facial features were dripping with blood. Worst were its eyes – two black orbs that were sunken deeply into the deformed skull, reflecting no light.

    She knew in that instant she would not be spared.

    The wendigo is always hungry.


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#NGHW TOP 100-word Stories

TOP / 100-WORD STORIES

  1. Last Days of Sunlight

by Feind Gottes

Her heart began to pound in her chest as though it would burst at any moment. The steel bands of anxiety tightened threatening to suffocate her. The last beams of light were coming through the window now, ushering in another nightmare filled night. He only crept in to torment her once the sun was gone. Blood dripped to the floor from the dozens of wounds covering her tiny frame. The last ray of sunlight burned out and died signaling a new night of terror. The last, she hoped. A tear rolled down her cheek as the door creaked slowly open.


  1. Bully

By: Naching T. Kassa

Bobby stood by his grandfather’s grave, his eye swollen shut. Cory ran up, Bobby’s blood on his shirt.

“Give me your money,” Cory said, as he halted. “Or I’ll break your nose.”

Bobby glowered at his tormentor. “No. He told me not to.”

Cory glanced around. They were alone in the cemetery.

“Who?”

“My grampa.”

“You’re nuts.”

Bobby flipped him off.

Cory charged forward. Bobby side-stepped him and he fell on the grave.

A dirty skull rose from the earth and sank its teeth into Cory’s throat. He screamed.

“You shouldn’t have come,” Bobby said. “Grampa eats bullies for breakfast.”


  1. MOUNDS

by Jess Landry

The rain started to fall just as I finished up. As the cool mist washed over me, I was reminded of something my Baba had told me when I was little.

“Julia,” she had said. “There will be two great loves in your life. The first will be a beautiful home—”

(Currently burning to the ground)

“—And the second will be a caring, loving man to call your own.”

I tossed the shovel aside. The rain cleared the sweat and grime from my face as I sat on the mound of dirt I had once called my husband.


  1. Lily House

By AE Kirk

Walking down a gravel path at twilight, I made no sound as I stopped and saw a wooden cross that had been taken by the wind. It bore no name. It was just a simple marker. I placed it in my pocket. I passed by the others who came before me; they stared at their marble, their sandstone or slate. I felt sorry for those whose stones were covered by ivy, or ravaged by weather and time. I found my stone, newly cut, placed just today. Lily House. 1994-2000. Rest In Peace. I cried and lay beside my grave, alone.


  1. A True Artisan

by Timothy G. Huguenin

The baker thought of Carol as he kneaded. He’d been captivated by her frame—slight, tender—he loved her.

The dough was too wet. He reached into his flour sack. Empty. He had to make more. A true artisan, he milled his own flour. Nothing like stone-ground flour.

The walk to his shed was cold. No matter; the mill would warm him.

The light from the opening door fell upon his dog, gnawing a bone.

“Git outta there.”

The dog slunk away.

The light expanded to show the old millstone and the bone pile, waiting.

Carol, he thought. He smiled.


  1. Tributaries

By Sumiko Saulson

In horror films, there’s a moment the audience knows our heroine should run. We scream at the idiot looming large before us, hoisted high above on silver lenticular projected through cellulose in particles of light.

Yelling at the movie, I don’t notice the monster leaning against me for comfort. Nearby monsters are difficult to identify.

A raised rash spreads over my shoulder where your head lay against me. Mold spreads outward, green and black tendrils where your fingers grasped mine.

This isn’t your fault.

Now, we are trapped, phantoms in the theater, offstage, in seats below, no audience watching us.


  1. The Count of Three

By Cat Voleur

“I love you,” he said, who had never loved anyone.

“I love you too,” she said, who had loved far too many.

“Together, then?” He asked, though he was not prepared to jump.

“Together,” she said, stepping up onto the ledge beside him.

“The count of three?” He asked.

She was ready, so with a sad smile she started off their count rather than to answer. “One.”

“Two.” He replied.

“Three.” She pushed him off and watched lovingly as he plummeted toward the rushing waters below. He didn’t scream as he fell. That was disappointing. Her other boyfriends had screamed.


  1. Wax on the Doorknob

By Quentin Norris

Emily called me at three in the morning, still breathing hard. She told me she’d seen the man standing behind her in the reflection on her phone. Standing under a streetlamp, he wore a black coat, his face and hands were covered in dripping wax. He’d followed her home, and tried to open her door, and was now standing in her yard. I peeked out the window at her house across the street, yet saw nothing. Everything seemed fine as I walked over, but my heart stopped when I reached for her doorknob and saw wax cooling on its surface.


  1. Fairies

by Jonathan Fortin

Fairies are eating my ex. She lies on a banquet table, smiling at me as they pierce her eyes with needle teeth and drag razor nails down her breasts. My breath quivers. I instinctively know she’s no longer mine, even if we never broke up.

“It’s wonderful, darling,” she says, with a voice that’s not her own. “I am devoured every night, and reborn every morning. I am courted, danced with, and given beautiful dresses.

Dearest, won’t you join me? Won’t you be eaten too?”

I know I should run, but I miss her so much. I reach for her.


  1. Friend

By Adele Marie Park

A scratching, beastly noise. The prick of fear, sharp as a needle quivers through me. I am alone in the house.

I grip the bannister. Knuckles blanched. Only shadows thrown by the electric light.

I climb. My pulse racing deafens sound. Breathing laboured. Suffocating with foreboding.

Sweat moulds hair to my face. I turn the handle and push the door. Shadows sharpen into familiar objects except: an unknown darkness manifests before me.

My throat fills with bile. Frozen in terror. I scream.

Putrid smell of garbage fills my nostrils. Revulsion gags in my mouth as shrivelled lips tickle my ear.


  1. Grandma

By JC Martinez

I close my eyes, because Grandma asked me to do so.

I sit on the floor, behind the bed, as far away as possible from the room’s door, just like Grandma instructed.

The hinges creak. The sound makes me cringe. The footsteps even more so. But it’s just Grandma. I think.

She doesn’t speak, but I feel her breath on my face. I can smell it. Minty. Almost like toothpaste.

Something wraps my nose. Something slimy and wet, like a tongue. Makes me feel… uneasy.

But I don’t open my eyes. I never do.

Because Grandma told me not to.


  1. The Inevitable

By Harry Husbands

The black shape ballooned upward from behind Doctor Forster’s shoulder, then began to take on a human form made entirely of shadow. It was not the first time Michael had seen this figure—though never so close—and with muscles tensed, gripping his knees, he tried listening to the Doctor who spoke with an ashen face of pity.

“It’s cancer, Michael.” The Doctor said before continuing on at length about potential treatments and support groups. Michael paid no attention. His eyes were fixed instead on the apparition and the awful grin that emerged from its otherwise dark and featureless face.

 

  1. Dinner at the Millers

By Riley Pierce

Babysitting for the Millers the first time, Abby pressed the channel button looking for something that would keep her attention long enough to stay awake through dinner. Clutching the baby monitor, she ate another bite and smiled. The colicky child was now silent. It had only taken an hour, but she was proud of herself for handling little Eric and his seemingly endless cries. Happily settling on a cooking channel, she glanced at the clock and wiped his blood from her cheek. Daniel and Jayda would be home soon. Stew next, Abby thought, I think I’d like to try stew.


  1. Till Death

By Daphne Straasert

My bridesmaids would think I’m nuts if I told them. Nothing’s changed about him—he has the same face, same laugh as my fiancé—but he’s different.

The wedding blurs by in a parade of hugs and congratulations. I’m not alone with him until the limo door shuts behind me. In the silence, the air between us chills.

“What’s wrong, sweetheart?”

I slide my hand from his. “You’re not Michael. You’re not my husband.”

His smile doesn’t warm his eyes. “Maybe not Michael… but your husband?” He leans forward so his breath tickles my ear. “Until death do us part.”


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Free Fiction Friday: Bellamorte by Alex S. Johnson

Bellamorte

by Alex S. Johnson

Rising from her bath, Bellamorte took a moment to regard herself in the oval silver and jewel-framed mirror that stood in the east-facing corner of the tiny hut in the woods. Beside the fireplace hung the copper basin in which she’d heated the water.

Vanity, her good stepmother had called it. Self-regard, a sin for which the consequences were death. Yet, good as she was, Clarissa allowed it nevertheless.

She was convinced, bless her dear soul, that Bellamorte would eventually see the error of her ways and accept the true Savior.

Amazingly enough, all it took was a blush and a bowed head, simple words of a contrition she would never feel, for Clarissa to believe that her stepdaughter was headed down the true path. Give her time, and she would come around to righteousness.

Righteousness, yes.  For Bellamorte, this was her fine 18-year-old figure, droplets of water glistening in the firelight. Miniature echoes of her full breasts, womanly hips and dark thatch. Her waist-length, straight raven hair. Subtly Asiatic eyes.

Her younger sister, Donella, had not been as understanding. Donella clung to her prayerbook and her Bible like talismans. She lectured and read aloud from the volumes the village priest had given her.

Probably for a stiff price, smirked Bellamorte.

But Donella had been dealt with. Sternly, but more mercifully than she deserved. Bellamorte would never stoop to the cruelty of the priest and his kind.

She stoked the fire again with the poker and threw in a sprinkle of the rust-red powder from the pearl-colored sachet.

The fire snapped and sparkled. For a moment, a face appeared in a burst of grey smoke: the Lady of the Castle.

Her face was white as snow and her lips a rich scarlet. Long dark ringlets gathered on her shoulders.

Her eyes: terrible and beautiful at the same time, like the sweet tongues of Hell.

Fair Lady, I will be with thee soon.

Thoroughly toweling herself off, Bellamorte scooped a handful of the unguent–a clear gel that smelled of burning leaves, blood and opium–and carefully applied it, first to her forehead, then her shoulder blades, her breasts, and further south.

Her skin tingled, and at first a strawberry rash burst from the places she had touched. Then the rash receded and the slow bloom of ecstasy traveled in two directions: up her spine and down her flesh.

Deeper down. Crosswise.

Acorus vulgare, Verspertillionis sanguinem, Solanum somniferum, boiled together in oil. Indian Hemp and stramonium. To bind it, the blood and fat of night birds.

Then the charm was firm and good.

Outside the virgin snow spread across the countryside. Stars like diamonds studded the night sky. The moon was pregnant and about to give birth.

Bellamorte reached for the dress, a magnificent creation in violet: shot silk, with a ruffled collar, lacy puffed sleeves, low-cut decolletage, silver hem. She rolled the white silk stockings over her knees. Then the burgundy shoes.

The hut was ever so quiet.

Ever so peaceful.

And she looked and smelled and felt like Magic.

But she was losing time. The Lady was very strict about her new appointments, and Bellamorte did not wish to disappoint.

Gathering together her offerings of love, Bellamorte placed them in the wicker basket and covered it with a blue cloth. She plucked the half-eaten apple from the rude wooden shelf her grandfather had built and took a big bite. The sugar rushed through her bloodstream like living flame.

Now she would go.

She spun before the fire, counterclockwise, stamping out the rhythms of the Rede on the tamped earthen floor.

Bellamorte took one last look around the cottage. Her sister, stepmother and father, still as statues on the hay-stuffed cots. Three gifts for the Lady.

She pulled the thick woolen shawl around her shoulders and poked her head out the doorway, through the apron of cured leather.

Sniffed the air, the clean early-morning scent of nothing.

And bid farewell to the hut in the forest forever.

Guest Blog: An Encounter In the Dark by A.D. Vick

An Encounter In the Dark

by A.D. Vick

For a little over twenty years, I have been the caretaker of, and lived by two historic cemeteries that exist on the side of a mountain in the Arkansas Ozarks. East Mountain, as it was once called, is the local at which some of the first pioneers arriving at what is now the City of Fayetteville decided to settle. It is also a place where the local history and tales of the supernatural co-mingle to create a rustic atmosphere in which both are equally believable—and sometimes felt.

The larger of the two cemeteries contains the remains of hundreds of soldiers who fought for the Confederacy during the War Between the States. Most of those buried here struggled against Union forces at nearby battlefields that are today commemerated  at Prairie Grove State Park, a bit to the west of here, and Pea Ridge National Military Park, twenty or thirty miles to the north. The Battle of Fayetteville took place in April, 1862, when Confederate forces under the command of Brigadier General W.L. Cabell launched a surprise attack upon the occupying Union army. That struggle took place only a few blocks from where I live and the Confederate attackers set up their artilary literally a stone’s throw from where I am typing this story.

Those who died upon the nearby fields of war were at first buried on the battlefields; it was not until the year 1873 that their bodies were exumed and delivered here to East Mountain for a final resting place. I often wonder, given those circumstances, if any of their traumatized spirits still linger in the vicinity of their remains.

A distance back into the woods that border the east side of my driveway lies a deep ravine known as Ghost Hallow. Although the hallow is situated close to the center of town, it remains a remote and very isolated piece of land. In the year 1852 a newlywed couple from Fort Smith moved into a log cabin owned by the son of a distinguished Revolutionary War veteran. At the time, the log cabin stood  approximately a quarter-mile up the road from where I currently live. It was situated very close to the above-mentioned ravine.

One winter night the young lady got too close to the fireplace, catching her dress on fire. In a panic, she ran outside toward the ravine screaming. She didn’t survive her ordeal; and due to that winter’s bitter cold, it was necessary to store her body above ground until the arrival of spring’s warmer temperatures. It is said that those venturing close to Ghost Hallow at night can hear her screaming through the darkness. Although I live very close to where she burned to death, I cannot honestly say that I’ve ever heard her screams. Still, I have spoken to those who swear that they have.

Friends who used to live at the base of this mountain and considerably closer to where the Battle of Fayetteville occurred, once told me of a young girl they would occasionally see roaming around their back yard upon their approach home. Yet, she would always vanish by the time they pulled into the driveway. One day, information imparted at an historical event forced me to seriously consider the possibility that the disappearing young lady might have been killed during the Battle of Fayetteville, but that’s a story best left for another time. I would however, like to relate a story about my own personal encounter with the unusual—and the event took place only steps away from my front door!

My encounter with the paranormal (or so I believe) took place on an August night during the 90s. That evening, I sat with my guitar, as I often did, on the stone wall that encloses the Confederate Cemetery. Opposite me, a security light, which thankfully no longer functions, cast its light into the cemetery and upon a nearby monument once erected in memory of a soldier named James Davis, who had also been a Mason. The monument cast a long shadow, dividing some of the nearer, more illuminated grave markers apart by its veil of darkness.

For a while, I remained almost oblivious to my surroundings as I concentrated upon my musical instrument. Eventually, I took a breather; and gazing into the cemetery, noticed a shadowy figure sitting atop one of the illuminated grave markers. It appeared as a heavyset male figure sitting with an elbow on his knee and hand under his chin. At first I considered the possibility that I was looking at my then neighbor Brad, who used to live directly across from the cemetery entrance. On second thought however, I realized that it likely wasn’t him. Brad would generally drink when he got home in the evening; and at those times,  he’d become quite loud, almost obnoxious. There’s no way he could have resisted interrupting me. Further, the figure sat upon a grave marker that only measured an inch or two in thickness and stood only about 1.5 feet above the ground.

It was my job to ask visitors to leave the cemeteries after dark. On that night however, I decided to leave this particular intruder alone. There was simply something mysterious about him and I considered the possibility that he was enjoying my music.

The mystifying figure maintained his position for the next ten or fifteen minutes while I continued with my musical endeavors. Eventually though, I’d had enough and decided to go inside. I took a look at the visitor as I climbed off the wall and headed toward the cabin. I took only three or four steps before once again gazing back at the strange man. He was nowhere to be seen and had simply vanished within a matter of seconds.

Looking back on that long-ago incident, I can come up with no definitive answers as to what or whom I saw sitting upon that grave marker. I know this much though: No human being could have vanished from my line of vision as quickly as that shadowy figure did on that night.

There are a number of ghost stories associated with the hill that was once called East Mountain. I  take a certain satisfaction in knowing that I’ve related my personal tale to some folks that have come to visit here. Perhaps in the distant future a day will come during which those wishing to hear stories of the past will learn about the dark man who once sat upon a grave marker at the Confederate soldier’s final resting place.

**********

DSCF1060A.D. Vick is short story writer living in Northwest Arkansas and is the author of a blog entitled The Gothic Embrace, which features a variety of entries of interest to the Goth subculture. He is also involved with the maintenance and preservation of some historic cemeteries and spends his quiet time with one rather large cat named Mr. Gray. He enjoys listening to a variety of music, which ranges from heavy metal and dark wave to classical, and takes great pleasure walking through the woods and burial grounds that surround his home.

Guest Blog: Touched by a Ghost by Loren Rhoads

Touched by a Ghost

by Loren Rhoads

            After I paid for the first Haunted Mansion retreat, I worried what I’d do if the mansion really was haunted.  I wouldn’t be able to drive to Mount Tamalpais for the long weekend, since I couldn’t leave my family without a car.  If I caught a ride with a stranger, I would be trapped at the mansion.  What if things got really bad and I was afraid to sleep?  I wouldn’t be able to slink out to my car and sleep in it.

            HMP2coveritunesI also couldn’t call my husband — assuming the isolated mansion got cell reception — to come and get me in the middle of the night.  No way could I ask him to get our seven-year-old up, put her in the car seat, drive across the Golden Gate Bridge, and rescue me from the ghosts.  If I went, I had to stick it out.

Probably, I told myself, if it got that bad, someone else would have the sense to want to leave.  I could ride back to the ferry or a bus stop with them.

Of course, I was pretty sure that we wouldn’t face an all-out Poltergeist-style freak out.  As I packed for the weekend, my new worry became that I’d spent a couple hundred dollars to write for a weekend in a haunted mansion — and nothing would happen.  The ghosts would ignore us, or they’d prowl around downstairs while we were all upstairs asleep.  How disappointing would that be?

See, I have a healthy respect for ghosts.  I’ve seen their shadows since I was a kid.  Generally, they don’t do anything more than make the hair on the back of my neck stand up.  I feel cold and slightly jittery.  Most of the ghosts I’ve seen were people I knew, or at least people I recognized.  They weren’t trying to scare me.  My body’s reaction to them was scarier than anything they ever did.

Rain hadn’t told us much about the ghosts that she’d encountered in the mansion.  She wanted us to have our own experiences, to form our own opinions.  So I went into it blind, knowing no one other than her.

I met Scott and Eunice for the ride over to Mount Tam.  Eunice had come up from Southern California; Scott would drive the two of us from San Francisco’s Marina District across the Golden Gate.  I was relieved to find them your typical very nice horror writers.  They made me feel comfortable, like I wasn’t making a terrible mistake going away with strangers to a haunted house for the weekend.

We arrived at the Haunted Mansion in the middle of Thursday afternoon. As we carried our bags into the mansion, Rain was standing in the grand staircase.  She offered to give us a tour, so we could pick our rooms for the weekend.  We hurried to move our luggage into the first-floor parlor and followed her up the stairs.

The second floor was a maze of interconnecting rooms that encircled the stairway.  Almost everyone else had come with a friend with whom they planned to share a room.  Since I was solo, I wavered between asking to share someone else’s room or taking a room of my own.  Would the ghosts be more or less likely to mess with me if I slept alone?

There were only eight of us there that first night, rattling around in a house that seemed able to sleep a hundred.  Rain said we would all stay on the second floor, even though that was where she’d had the most intense of her ghostly encounters.  Most of the second-floor rooms were pass-throughs:  each dormitory-style room connecting to the next.  I don’t sleep well at the best of times, so I wasn’t eager to choose a room where people might walk through in the night to use the bathroom.  Since I wander a fair amount when I can’t sleep, I also didn’t want to wake anyone else.

Rain’s tour paused outside a little blue room tucked between a suite — reserved for the one married couple among us — and dead space.  I’m not sure what lay on the other side of the wall: maybe a linen closet?  It wasn’t another guest room, anyway.

The blue room felt very restful to me, very welcoming.  It helped that it only had one door, which faced the bed, and a window that looked out on Mount Tam.  The energy felt inviting.  When I stepped inside and saw the artwork hanging above the vanity — a piece of white silk featuring a bright Chinese phoenix — I had to have that room.  I wear a phoenix tattoo on my left arm.  The room and I shared a kinship.

*

            My little room proved to be a great haven, especially after I set my suitcase in front of the closet.  Not that I thought anything was going to come through there — or that I felt the suitcase provided much of a barricade — but I’ve seen Poltergeist too many times.  You never know with big empty spaces.

I settled into the double bed, feeling safe in a way I wouldn’t have in a room with more doors.  I closed my eyes, exhausted and slightly drunk from Rain’s good Argentinean wine.

Sleep wouldn’t come.

I thought I heard whispering voices, then a man speaking, but Yvonne and Weston had the suite that shared the minuscule balcony outside my spider-guarded window.  I gladly put on my headphones to block the voices out.

As I lay there in the dark, trying to sleep, the light in my room kept changing.  Smudges and smears of light flashed through the well of shadow that lay between the bed and the vanity.  The sliver of light coming in around the door grew wider toward morning, as if the door was inching open, but it wasn’t.  Even so, I didn’t turn my back toward the center of the room.

Finally, about 4:30, I told myself that I really needed to get some sleep.  I rolled onto my stomach, clutched the pillow, felt myself relax.  Sleep was washing over me when someone touched my hair.

Someone touched my hair.  Electricity thrilled through me.  I knew I was still alone in the room, but opened my eyes anyway.  The room remained silent and empty, holding its breath to see what I would do.

It occurred to me that a spider might have fallen from the ceiling on to me. However, the sensation of being touched hadn’t felt like something practically weightless dancing across my head. My hair is just not that sensitive.  Something the size of a hand compressed the hair on the right side of my head.  Without a doubt, someone touched me.

“Hello,” I whispered softly.  “It will be dawn soon.  I’d really like to get some sleep before then.  Can we talk in the morning?”

I waited, but nothing more happened.  Sleep was remarkably easy to find.

 ***

 CIMG0977-headshotThis is an excerpt from an essay I wrote for The Haunted Mansion Project: Year One, published by Damnation Books in 2013.  I served as editor for The Haunted Mansion Project: Year Two, published by Damnation Books in 2014.  Both books in the series collect fiction and poetry inspired by our retreats at the mansion.  They also include reports of the hauntings we experienced and evidence reports by the GhostGirls.

The third Haunted Mansion Writers Retreat is in the planning stages for September 2015.  You can see the details and register for it here: http://hauntedmansionwriters.blogspot.com/

Review: An English Ghost Story by Kim Newman

englishghostAn English Ghost Story by Kim Newman was different from any other ghost story I’ve ever read or seen on film. The ghosts are cool and there are plenty of spooks and scares to satisfy even the pickiest ghost story reader. However, there is also a deep message about family bounds and how this particular family can endure pain, hardship, and multiple issues, but still come out of it with their souls and lives intact.

The tale is about a modern family who buys a house in the country that once belonged to children’s book author, Louise Teazle. When they move in, all of her stuff is still there and thus begins a fun scavenge for things she once held dear, many of which appeared in the pages of her books. What a dream for an avid reader, to own a house with an author’s personal belongings still intact. What a dream for many of us, no matter how unrealistic that is in today’s world with everyone money hungry over bestseller’s unpublished manuscripts, but still a fun concept.

There are four distinctive voices in this book and I loved and despised each of them at different times, sort of like you do your own family.

Whether you connect with…

  • Dad, the businessman who feels the weight of the families’ success on his shoulders and is battling with anger and control issues,
  • Mom, the flighty creative one who can never quite make her talents pay for themselves and has a destructive relationship with an outsider who makes things worse,
  • Big sis, an anorexic teen who borrows identities from 50’s icons because she doesn’t really like who she is or,
  • Little bro, who lives his life in a complete combat fantasy world to escape the fact that he’s the low guy on the totem pole without much of a voice in this screwed up clan,

You will find someone to take this crazy, strange, wonderful, horrifying ride with. Frequent point of view changes kept me interested as each member of the family experienced different occurrences and reacted in their own ways.

The author did an awesome job of weaving each section of the book in a way that not only showed the family in different mental states, but forced me as the reader into these same mental states. When they first got the house and were excited about moving in, I was excited by the discovery. When they were confused seeing ghost things happen, unable to decipher quite what they meant, I was there, just as confused as they were, trying to put the puzzle pieces together, but coming up short.

I really enjoyed how there are mini books inside the main book, one of them a children’s book by the famed Louise Teazle. The family and visitors talk constantly about the children’s series and to be let in on one of the texts added a little fun for us book lovers and a bit of whimsy apropos for a children’s book author like Louise.

I found two parts in this book particularly scary and I’m hard to freak out. Without giving away any spoilers, I’ll just say the way dad gets into the closet and what mom puts in the top drawer of the little dresser near the end will stay with me for years to come.

Great chilling read with a message we all need to hear.

Paula Cappa on Horror Writing

Paula Cappa on Horror Writing

Creating The Story

Where do stories come from? I don’t know where my stories come from most of the time, but I’ve learned to trust the creative process for the story to unravel. I’m not so much writing the story as it’s writing me. My novel The Dazzling Darkness (synopsis: Antonia Brooke searches for her lost child, Henry, in a haunted cemetery in Concord, Massachusetts where an ancient secret is buried.) began with a thought by Ralph Waldo Emerson of Concord. He wrote in his essay Nature … “Even the corpse has its own beauty.”

DazzlingDarknessCappa_7Final4Shocking statement, right? Why would someone say that? We don’t normally think of corpses as beautiful. And while we can read that as metaphorical, I had to find out Emerson’s meaning. The more I read about Emerson’s personal experiences with death, the more my story began to take shape. Emerson lost his young wife Ellen only a short time after they were married. He buried her in the family vault and a year later, still driven by intense grief, he opened her coffin. What a heart-breaking experience. And then twenty-five years later, after his young son dies at five-years-old, Emerson viewed his child’s corpse. These images all connected for me: images of a cemetery, images of coffins opening, viewing the dead, a cemetery keeper.

My character Elias Hatch emerged as the cemetery keeper in Old Willow Cemetery and became the threshold guardian in the story. He knows the secrets buried there and is a transcendentalist like Emerson. So it seemed natural for Elias to reveal the story to me. I let him lead on the page and found plot and theme moving forward with every scene. Ray Bradbury once said, “First, find out what your hero wants, then just follow him.”

My goal in writing this story was to explore death and consciousness. Where do we go when we die? Where does our consciousness reside? This is the story of five-year-old Henry and what he experiences inside Old Willow Cemetery with the dead that reside there. Elias Hatch provided me with plenty of narrative tension to play with because he had the most to lose if the secrets of Old Willow were exposed. Hatch created not only conflict and mystery but also motivation for the other characters to dig harder to resolve the issues and locate Henry.

Some writing gurus advise to develop your story plotted out on index cards. For me, that’s like going to jail because the characters can’t express thoughts, can’t express desires, can’t express fears on the flow of the pages. Horror is a serious fictional form and often about the dark inner consciousness. Maybe letting a character guide the writer deeper into that dark world is the path. What is your path to creating a story?

***********

PaulaCappaphoto1New ImagePaula Cappa’s novels include Night Sea Journey, A Tale of the Supernatural, and The Dazzling Darkness (Gothic Readers Book Club Award Winner for Outstanding Fiction and Readers’ Favorite Bronze Medal Award), published by Crispin Books. Her short fiction has appeared in Dark Gothic Resurrected Magazine, Whistling Shade Literary Journal, SmokeLong Quarterly, Every Day Fiction, Fiction365, Twilight Times Ezine, and in anthologies Journals of Horror: Found Fiction, Mystery Time, Human Writes Literary Journal. Cappa’s writing career began as a freelance journalist for newspapers in New York and Connecticut. She writes a weekly blog, Reading Fiction, Tales of Terror http://paulacappa.wordpress.com/  

Visit her web site at http://paulacappa.wordpress.com/author/.

 

WWW Challenge Story #5: Merry Go When

Merry Go When by Tonia Brown
Beast: Horse… (Any equine incarnation)
Location: Kentucky
Blessing: Time Displacement Device
Curse: Chrononaut’s Ague

*~*Judging panel has not altered/edited this text.*~*
*~*Text is posted as sent by the author.*~*

Merry Go When

By Tonia Brown

 

Father had the carousel brought in special, all the way from Germany. The purchase was the result of a successful auction, in which he claimed to have outbid at least one hundred other buyers from all over the world. Why he wanted the thing was quite beyond me. My father wasn’t normally given to such childish proclivity, which made the purchase seem all the more out of place. Thankfully, he hid the thing in the garden behind our Kentucky home, where one had to travel down the field and past a small copse of trees in order to find it.

A few days after he had it in place, I inquired about the carousel’s state of being, to which my father sharply assured me it was none of my concern and commanded me not to revisit the matter. He surprised me with his gruff tone and unexpected anger. I hadn’t heard him use such a voice since mother left him for a much younger man.

Father never quite recovered from her abandonment.

The night after his outburst, I awoke to sudden movements just outside our quiet home. I stepped to the window, pulling aside the curtain and peering into the moonlit yard beyond, where a strange sight greeted me. The shadowy form of my father making his way to the garden in the middle of the night.

At first I thought he had taken to somnambulism, and I decided to go after him. I caught up with him just before he reached the carousel and I called out his name. My father turned to me with his mouth agape, as if shocked by my intrusion. This softened into a look of uneasy embarrassment. I demanded to know what was going on. With an unusual candor, he took my hand in his own and explained that the carousel was special. It was said to possess certain rejuvenating powers. That according to legend, the machine acted as a kind of time displacement device, removing years off of one’s life, and restoring the rider to an unbelievable degree of youth. He called it a blessing. A gift from God.

I couldn’t believe what my father was driving at. He was so desperate to be young again, he had fallen for a childish fairy tale. Some outlandish occult legend. To make matters worse, I knew it was all in an attempt to win back my mother’s heart. I begged my father to leave off this odd behavior and return with me to the house at once. He grew angry at me, pushed me aside and stormed off toward the carousel, hell bent on proving his words.

Even by moonlight, the machine was a breathtaking work of art. A large affair, at least thirty feet across, the carousel consisted of an intricately woven pattern of wrought iron, wood and brass. To the left of the entry ramp there extended an arm from the base of the thing, reaching away from the platform then doubling back once more toward the carousel proper; a delivery system equipped with brass rings, ready for the grasping. There were thirteen horses in all, each as large as a real stallion, and each bound by a post that ran the length from the roof to the floor, spearing each animal through their back.

I spied my father inside of the inner ring, manning the console. At his attention, the carousel sprang to life and light. The horses set into an up and down motion as the platform began a slow and steady rotation. This movement was accompanied by a cheery calliope played by an organ hidden somewhere about the mechanism.

My father stepped onto the moving stage, mounted one of the rising and falling steeds, and settled into place. Though he did so with the same aloof severity he reserved for business matters and other affairs of import. He didn’t smile, didn’t speak, didn’t seem to enjoy himself at all. He just held onto the steed and remained silent, as if concentrating on something other than the experience of the ride.

As the carousel turned, the platform spun faster and faster, and I began to grow concerned about my father’s safety. The music rose in pitch, to match the quicker rotations, driving into a wild orgy of wheezes and strained notes. And the horses … I know how this sounds, but the horses came alive! Their nostrils flared and steamed, heavy with breath. They kicked out, bucking against their poles, chomping at their bits and tossing their feral heads. Without warning, my father reached out and in a blur of motion, snatched one of the brass rings from the holder near the ramp.

At this the music lifted into a single, high pitched note, screaming into the wild night. The horses changed with this shriek, melting into nightmarish black steeds, each with matching crimson eyes, gnashing fangs and whipping forked tongues. They roared out, as one, in a single identical note as loud and chilling as the screaming music. I was filled with an utter dread for my father’s life, one that said should those beasts break free from this carousel, the town below our home would suffer in the most horrid of ways.

As the unnatural horses howled and bucked, the carousel’s lights grew to a blinding degree, and I had to shield my eyes.

When I was able to look again, the light dimmed and faded, and the carousel slowed to an eventual halt. The horses were normal once more, both stationary and plain. There was no sign of my father. I called out his name and searched about, worried that he had been flung from his demonic mount in the frenzy of the ride. Instead of my father’s voice, I heard the low croaking growl of something inhuman. I froze in place, worried some wild animal had been attracted by father’s carousel, and was now poised to attack.

In the thin moonlight, a creature emerged from behind the very horse my father had chosen as his mount. It crouched, at almost half my height, and was covered in a dark, leathery skin. Its mouth was stuffed with twisted, yellowing fangs, and nearly bisected its face with an abnormal width. The unholy thing clambered up to squat on the horse, looking out over the garden with wide glassy eyes that rested upon the top of its head. It grabbed at the air with wretched webbed paws and let out another soft, weird croak.

I screamed. I couldn’t help it.

Of course once I did, the thing whipped about to face me, that large, fang filled mouth snapping closed with a resounding click. It then lunged for me, leaping down from the carousel horse and almost atop me. It reached out for me, clawing the emptiness between us. I backed up a few nervous steps then took off in a run, heading for the safety of the house. Thankfully, the beast was slow, hopping in stunted bursts as if it had forgotten how to move its own webbed feet. Once I reached the house, I locked and barred the door, and headed immediately for father’s study, seeking father’s elephant gun—the single weapon he held onto from his younger, more adventurous days.

The beast was not far behind me, and began to scratch and beat on the front door. I loaded father’s gun, returned to the foyer, took aim for the front door, and fired. The door splintered into fragments as the shot tore the wood apart. With the blast of the weapon, the clawing and banging ceased. I switched on the electric porch light and stepped up, peering beyond the ruined wood to find my prey in a slump at bottom step. I reloaded the gun and, holding it before me, I stepped through the ruined door and made my way down the stairs, intending to finish the beast once and for all.

As I approached the creature, it gave a pained croak and flopped onto its back. With the added illumination of the porch light burning behind us, I was able to see the creature’s eyes more clearly. I gazed into those oversized orbs when a strange sensation befell me. I clearly recognized the beast’s eyes as my own kin. But how? Answer my silent question, the beast relaxed a webbed hand, and from it rolled a brass ring, spinning across the pavement between us until it came to rest at my feet.

It was then I understood what had happened.

Father was wrong. The carousel wasn’t a blessing. The machine, this time displacement device, did exactly as the legends proposed it would. It had displaced time from my father, only, it took too much. An unbelievable degree of youth, indeed! He thought he would step off the carousel a young man, but instead, in some kind of weird time traveling side effect, a type of crononaut’s ague, he came back a de-evolved monster.

A monster I had just slain.

With tear filled eyes, I lowered myself to his side, cradled my dying father’s head in my lap, and held him to me as he shuddered and exhaled his last breath.

************************
To vote for this story in the 2014 Wicked Women’s Writing Challenge, send an e-mail to horroraddicts@gmail.com
Voting ends: July 28th, 2014

WWW Challenge Story #4: What Happens In Vegas

What Happens In Vegas by Lindsey Goddard
Beast: Rabbit
Location: Magic Act in Vegas
Blessing: Mirrors
Curse: Jealous Magician gone MAD!!!

 

*~*Judging panel has not altered/edited this text.*~*
*~*Text is posted as sent by the author.*~*

What Happens In Vegas

Lindsey Beth Goddard

Vivica tapped her six inch stilettos on the floor and waited for her cue to enter stage left. Her chest heaved in her sequin push-up top, and she fanned herself with both hands. Calm down, she thought, before your eyeliner runs and you turn into the world’s sexiest raccoon.

 

Stage fright was something Vivica had never experienced. She always said her nerves were stronger than steel; they were titanium. But you shouldn’t have done it. It’s a dirty trick, and it’s going to blow up in your face.

 

She watched Harvey on stage as a Burmese python slithered up the sleeve of his tux. It reappeared, center stage, in a cloud of confetti and smoke, and the crowd cheered. Vivica frowned as Harvey’s words from last night replayed in her mind. She remembered the way he had scowled at her, had moved so close to her face that she could feel his drunken body heat. “If I catch you flirting with another man again,” he had hissed through fetid whiskey breath, “I’ll feed that goddamn rabbit of yours to the snake.”

 

He smiled on stage. He turned to the crowd with a dramatic sweep of his arms. “For the next bit of madness, I’ll need some assistance,” he bellowed. “She’s hypnotic. She’s erotic. She’s not afraid of the blade! Please welcome… Ms. Vivica.”

 

Vivica entered the spotlight with a seductive swagger. She stepped over to a large wooden structure. It was circular, painted red and white like a huge target. She pressed her back against the wood. Harvey tightened her restraints.

 

He stepped back, took aim, and within seconds knives whizzed through the air, stabbing an outline of her body in the wood. Thunk, thunk, thunk, thunk. A blade struck the board mere inches from her face. She gritted her teeth. I’m getting too old for this.

 

The show dragged on and on, until finally the moment arrived. The hat trick. Harvey loved his tired old hat trick. “An homage to the ancestors of magic”, he called it.

 

There was a secret compartment in the table below his hat. That’s where Abra Cadabra was supposed to be waiting. Sweet, fluffy little Abra Cadabra, the bunny Harvey had threatened to kill just one night before. Vivica smirked.

 

He plunged his hand into the hat and felt around for the rabbit. He froze. A look somewhere between pain and horror crossed his features. His eyes grew wide, and he let out a scream so loud that it made Vivica cringe. He writhed and tried to pull away, but something yanked his arm deeper.

 

Vivica knew the rabbit would bite. That was the whole point of the prank—to startle Harvey, to deliver a blow to his pride in front of a huge audience. But this? Something wasn’t right. Harvey was in too much pain.

 

He freed his hand from the hole, and the fat, hideous rabbit dangled there, its yellow teeth buried deep between his knuckles. Blood and foamy saliva moistened its face. The hat was stuck between Harvey’s elbow and the frothing little beast. It made it difficult for him to get a good view of his predator.

 

But Vivica could see it. She gulped. What exactly was she seeing?

 

Triple the size of Abra, this rabbit’s beady red eyes were slanted, its hackles raised. Its sharp claws sliced the air. Harvey gripped its plump body with his free hand and attempted to squeeze the life out of the critter as it mangled his knuckles, whipping its mangy head back and forth.

 

It opened its bloody maw and chomped down, severing fingers. Blood squirted from the amputated digits. The theater filled with screams. It spat the fingers out and lunged forward, ripping into Harvey’s arm. Tears of pain welled in his eyes. Blood coated his shirt.

 

He reared back and flung the rabbit to the floor. It growled, exposing a mouth full of fangs. It hopped over to him and used its claws to scurry up the fabric of his pants. He tried desperately to kick it off, doing a one-legged dance with his mutilated hand tucked under his armpit. It scrambled across his chest. Its face hovered just over the pulse at his jugular.

 

Vivica ran to him. A scream of agony echoed through the sound system from a nearby microphone as the creature tore into his neck. He fell to his knees, ripping the little monster from his throat with both hands as crimson gore soaked its fur. Harvey’s fingers went limp and he dropped it.

 

Vivica’s shadow fell over the rabbit. It glared at her, yellow teeth bared. She lifted a slender leg and stomped down with all her might, driving the thin metal of her stiletto heel through the top of the rabbit’s skull with a wet crunch. The rabbit’s paws twitched as she removed the metallic heel from its brain. With one last feeble kick, it stopped moving.

 

She dropped to the floor beside Harvey. Blood spilled from his neck. It soaked her knees and pooled around them as memories of last night washed over her. The strange man’s words… “I have the perfect rabbit for you,” he had said. His eyes shined like obsidian in the dim track lighting of the hotel bar. “An extremely rare breed. One that will teach old Harvey a lesson.”

 

“I’m sorry. I’m not following. W-what do you mean?”

 

His teeth seemed too large when he smiled. “He deserves a little payback, don’t you think?”

 

“For… for what?”

 

“For what? Why, for threatening to feed your pet rabbit to his snake. And in public. I imagine he’s even worse when you two are alone.”

 

She had nodded. He’d certainly hit the nail on the head there. She felt odd opening up to a stranger this way, but she nodded all the same.

 

Harvey had embarrassed her, that was true. This was a business meeting, nothing more. The man she sat with at the lobby bar was a dealer of rare animals. Vivica had been hoping to retire Abra Cadabra and introduce a more exotic rabbit to the act.

 

But Harvey had come through the hotel and spotted them at the bar together. He’d made a scene, made accusations. As if she were the unfaithful one! Ha! She knew about Harvey’s indiscretions in the matters of monogamy. Still, he always found a way to point the finger at her.

 

“I’ve got a rabbit that is very different from the rest.” He flashed that peculiar smile again, all tooth and no lip. “She’s a biter. Positively vicious.You won’t need to handle her, of course. I’ll take care of everything.” He winked. “Just imagine, if you will, the great and powerful Harvey, humiliated by a rabbit!”

 

Why had she agreed to such a reckless prank? The memory pained her now.

 

The spotlights dimmed as crew members trickled out from backstage. The audience fell silent.  Harvey’s body convulsed against the floor. His eyes rolled back in his head.

 

The color drained from Harvey’s face, and his movements slowed to a stop. One last, shaky breath left his lungs. And then, Harvey started to change…

 

Thick fur sprouted from his skin. It covered his neck, his cheeks, his nose—every part of him. His missing fingers grew back. Then all ten digits fused together into a disturbing human-like paw. Curved claws grew from the tips. His ears grew, too, rising up from his head, and he rolled to the side, coughing, sprinkling the floor with human teeth. Saliva glistened on his freshly grown fangs.

 

She scrambled back and rose to her feet just as Harvey sprang to his. Well, it was really more of a hop than anything. He tracked her with his beady red eyes. His still-human lips curled into a sneer beneath thick fur, and she could see the sharp points of his teeth.

 

She removed her high heels and prepared to run. He lunged at her, but she managed to sidestep him and bolt in the other direction.

 

Her bare feet slid in a river of blood. Blood from when Harvey had died. Time seemed to slow down as she fell, and all she could think was: He did die. I saw it with my own eyes. He did. The Harvey I know is long gone.

 

She hit the ground, flipped over, saw him closing in.

 

Beside her was a table with a mirror affixed to the front. On any other night, the mirror was just another prop used for an optical illusion. But tonight, it was a godsend.

 

She tightened her grip on the stiletto shoe in her hand and smashed the metal heel into the glass—once, twice, three times. It shattered. She selected a long, jagged piece, squeezing it so hard that it sliced into her palm. Blood trickled down her wrist as he fell onto her, straddled her, opened his mouth wide, ready to rip her throat out.

 

She stabbed the piece of glass into the side of his head directly below his giant ears. It sliced into his temple. Blood rained down on her face. The glass maimed her hand, but she kept on pushing, driving the shard deeper and deeper into his head, until his clawed paws loosened their grip and Harvey’s mutated body slumped to the side.

 

She crawled away from the monster that had once been Harvey. Trembling and hysterical, she cried on stage before an audience of horrified faces. And in that sea of faces, for the briefest of moments, she could swear she glimpsed a familiar one. His eyes so dark they glimmered black. A toothy grin, too big for his head. She was certain he’d been there… smiling.

 ************************
To vote for this story in the 2014 Wicked Women’s Writing Challenge, send an e-mail to horroraddicts@gmail.com
Voting ends: July 28th, 2014

WWW Challenge Story #3: The Gray Girl

The Gray Girl by Stephanie Lenz
Beast: Goat
Location: Mardi Gras
Blessing: Gris-gris
Curse: Your cocktail has been spiked with a voodoo potion!

*~*Judging panel has not altered/edited this text.*~*
*~*Text is posted as sent by the author.*~*

“The Gray Girl”

Stephanie Lenz

 Mardi Gras, 1981

Since her mother’s disappearance, Maia had been drawn to the old St Louis cemetery. Mardi Gras made people careless so she had hope. Locked again but at its base, just inside the gate, she found a palm-sized rag doll. It smelled of lavender and she hugged it to her face. Attached to its dress was a note with words Maia couldn’t read.

Inside, a yellowish curtain of light seemed to cut the cemetery in half. A woman walking through the graveyard caught Maia’s eye. Not a ghost. Maia couldn’t see ghosts. Just people and their colors. She was as real as Maia herself and she glowed faint violet. The woman smiled, took three steps, and disappeared into the light.

In the morning, Maia found a woman sweeping beads, paper, and broken glass into Bourbon Street. She held up the doll and asked for help. The woman fingered the note, then wrapped an arm around the child and invited her inside. She made Maia a sweet cherry-almond drink that drew the damp from her bones, then made a telephone call that began, “Queen, I have a kid for you.” She smiled and draped cheap purple beads around Maia’s neck, adding, “Hold tight to that gris-gris, girl.”

“Gray girl?” Maia pulled at a goat’s hair poking through the fabric.

August 2005

The child had been curled in the corner of Queen Clémence’s shop since Giles had brought her the day before. No magic, real or imagined, could get her to speak, move, or take a sip of water.

“I can’t leave the Quarter,” Maia said, sipping a beer and leaning on the register counter, her bronzed arms glistening with sweat and work.

“Maia, it’s mandatory this time.”

“And the police,” she replied, pointing at his badge, “are trying to turn me into a babysitter. That is not what I do.”

He leaned forward. “I know what you do. That’s why I brought her here.”

Maia looked down toward the girl, barefoot with the dampness of the Ninth Ward still up to the knees of her pants. “What color was that man? The policeman who just left. Not his skin. His other color.”

The little girl allowed her eyes to meet Maia’s. “Purple.”

“I thought he was more of a pinkish-purple.”

The child unfolded and curled her legs alongside her body like a mermaid’s tail.

“He told me your name is Espie.”

“You’re purple too.”

Maia held up a finger, then opened the purse with the strap that she wore across her chest. Removing the doll, she asked, “Do you know what this is?”

The little girl’s eyes opened wide. “My dolls are all at home. Under the water. With my grandmamma.”

“Have you ever made a gris-gris?”

“Grandmamma says voodoo comes from the devil.”

Maia offered her hand as Espie stood. “Did she show you how to keep him away?”

Mardi Gras, 2014

“Goat Herder, wasn’t it?”

“You remembered.” She accepted the cocktail Hunt delivered to her, jostled by tourists spilling beer on her emerald green Tulane t-shirt.

He watched as she drank. “My, my, Maia. We never thought we’d get you.”

The potion he’d mixed into her cocktail rushed under Maia’s skin. Her protections, her memories, her training, as impossible to grasp as handfuls of water. His aura dissolved from pink to dusty orange.

She spotted this year’s kid on the other side of the club, his gris-gris bag knotted through a belt loop, as he sipped beer from a plastic gold cup. He’d gone from red to purple, the strongest aura Maia could sense. Hunt couldn’t see him. She’d done her job.

“Clémence’s hand-raised kid. Savior of the goats without horns.” Hunt ran his hands over her shivering flesh. He kissed her neck and whispered. “I’ll drain your mind before I’ll drain your blood. The meat,” he said with a squeeze, “is least of what I want. I might spare your precious Quarter for the year if you give yourself – all of yourself – to me, ma biche.”

As he spoke, Maia’s fingers searched her purse for her own red satin bag filled with herbs, cemetery dirt, and goat hair. She found it. He couldn’t see her or feel her but it was only temporary magic, a few minutes at best. She ran toward Basin Street, darting through the crowds to St. Louis #1.

As the night’s last tour group filtered past, carelessly dropping bits of stolen brick, Maia slipped through the gates, clutching the gris-gris with both hands over her pounding heart. The darkness rose like water.

“Voilà,” Hunt’s voice echoed off the marble and brick. “Maia Gray, Protector of Goats.”

Maia positioned herself carefully. The old border of the Vieux Carré ran right through St. Louis #1, soft, yellow, and pulsing. She took a step backward. The other colors of her world faded into gray.

Hunt picked plaster from a whitewashed tomb. “I have a lot to repay you for. Twenty-five years of hornless goats we didn’t get, plus that kid you kept as a souvenir from the Feast of Katrina. We’re hungry and we’re inviting you to the table, ma biche.”

Another step backward. Her dark curls lifted in a low breeze.

He recognized what she was doing. “You made a vow, Protector. You can’t leave The Quarter.”

“You’re right. I’ll never leave it.”

“You knew. You knew what I was gonna do, didn’t you? How long have you known?”

“All eight years.”

He nodded. “You drank it of your own free will. You know who I am, what I want. There’s nothing to save you from me now. Nothing to save the Quarter. Nothing to save your precious ‘kids.’ Let me feast on your fear, Maia.”

She dropped the gris-gris.

His eyes followed it, then fell on her face. His expression changed. The shadows around him swirled and rose like smoke. “No fear. How are you unafraid? For yourself. For the Quart… Another Protector? Th-that’s impossible! Tell me!”

Au revoir.”

His scream caught in his throat as Maia took her final step backward and disappeared.

Hunt de Chèvre had promised he would deliver The Protector, that they would finally devour her – body and soul. Instead, they would starve. He waved a hand in front of the cemetery gates to open them. He didn’t see the orange sparks that flew from his hand.

The young woman sitting cross-legged on a low tomb did see. She’d always seen the colors. Grandmamma had told her it was a curse. Miss Maia showed her it was a blessing. Maia had also taught that those with this blessing were called by the Quarter to protect the innocent. Otherwise they – prey and Protector alike – would become “hornless goats,” sacrificed and consumed by de Chèvre and his followers. The final lesson had been how to dissolve into the Quarter if, by time or by trickery, your powers grew too weak to protect anyone, including yourself.

She carried two gris-gris in her bag: the one she’d made with Maia and the one Maia had given her. The Gray Girl, she’d called it.

Esperanza slid along Bourbon Street like sap over bark. She hooked a finger through a set of discarded purple throw beads, looped the beads around her neck, and let the Quarter lead its Protector into its heart.

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To vote for this story in the 2014 Wicked Women’s Writing Challenge, send an e-mail to horroraddicts@gmail.com
Voting ends: July 28th, 2014

WWW Challenge Story #2: An Appetite for Trouble

An Appetite For Trouble by Chantal Boudreau
Beast: Monkey
Location: A Jungle Temple
Blessing: Candy Bar
Curse: Cannibals!

*~*Judging panel has not altered/edited this text.*~*
*~*Text is posted as sent by the author.*~*

An Appetite for Trouble

                When Doctor Toyin Katabe, professor of anthropology, had been preparing for a journey to examine a potential find in the jungles of East Africa, the association awarding her the research funding had insisted she not go alone.  It didn’t matter that she had originally come from that area and was familiar with the language and customs there.  It also didn’t matter that she had been studying ancient cannibalistic civilizations since completing her masters three decades before.  Despite the fact that she was perfectly healthy, far fitter than the average woman her age and stronger too, they had insisted she take a graduate student along with her, and preferably one who was both young and male.

While not surprised that the old-fashioned, old-money codgers who chaired the association had placed such foolish demands upon her, Doctor Katabe had still been insulted.  She had always been perfectly capable of taking care of herself while on these outings.  Extinct ancient tribes hardly posed a threat to the living.  Insects were a much bigger danger, so unless a grad student was intending to follow her around with a giant flyswatter, she didn’t need him for protection.

Besides, Toyin knew her away around a jungle and had a talent with handling wild animals.  She even owned a trained monkey, Bobo, as a pet.  More than a pet really – she considered Bobo a service animal because he could do things for her she couldn’t manage for herself.  He could scale heights or squeeze into tight spots to retrieve things for her, and he had a few other special tricks he could perform with the right incentive.  As far as she was concerned, he was better than any graduate student playing assistant.  And while she might welcome human companionship while searching for evidence of Neolithic cannibals in Europe or South America, she preferred to visit her home turf alone.

At least, this is how she had felt initially, before it had turned out that the extinct ancient tribe of cannibals hadn’t been quite so extinct after all.  Doctor Katabe and her six-foot-two twenty-something chaperone, Derek, had been searching through the aged evidence of ritualistic cannibalism – cannibalism similar to that of the Mangbetu tribe that had brought them to the Congo Basin in the first place – when they were ambushed.  The swarm of mostly-naked jungle natives that surrounded and seized them had painted faces and wore jewellery made from carved pieces of cranial bones.   It reminded Toyin of a scene out of an old adventure serial.

Derek had tried to fight but was quickly overcome.  Toyin had known better.  She would wait until the odds lay more in her favour.  That way, unlike Derek, she was conscious when they bound her arms.  She could bunch her muscles as much as possible to allow some slack when she relaxed them later.  It might provide her with the opportunity to escape when they were paying less attention.

Along with being taken by surprise and frightened by the cannibals aggressive swarming, Doctor Katabe also suffered the disappointment of watching Bobo scramble screaming into the jungle.  His loss was more grievous than watching Derek succumb to a well-placed blow to the head.  She had never counted on any real help from the grad student anyway.  He was there merely as a watchdog for the privileged old men who had funded her trip to prove to their cronies they supported education and the exploration of different cultures, like good gentleman should.  Bobo, on the other hand, was her right arm.  Without him, her chances of escape dropped to almost zero.

Now, captured and held in their secluded village, Doctor Katabe had to admit that taking Derek along had been worth it after all.  The cannibals had taken one look at his youthful form and brawn and decided to eat the grad student first.  In their place, Toyin likely would have made the same choice.  One look at her silvering hair, lean muscle and wrinkling dark skin, and she would have assumed such a person would make for a tough and stringy meal, like chewing old leather.

She had been forced to watch as Derek had begged for his life, the young man in tears as they had prepared him for decapitation with a well-balanced blade that resembled the Ngombe cult weapons.  Toyin didn’t see the point to grovelling.  If she ended up at a place past any hope of escape, she would accept her fate with dignity.  Why get upset when death was inevitable?

But she wasn’t there yet – she still had hope despite watching blood gush from the place where Derek’s severed head had once rested and his brawny form twitch in its death throes.  She had time too, the lost tribe still full after cooking and devouring her grad student.  She only prayed Bobo would make an appearance before it was her turn.  If he did, she might not end up serving as the second course.

Doctor Katabe was depending on Bobo to follow the tasty trail she had left him while on route to the secluded tribal village.  Knowing Bobo’s affinity for sweets, the anthropologist had secured a small bag of stuffed figs from a vendor outside her hotel, which she kept in her pocket as rewards for the monkey.  She also had a chocolate bar secured in her shirt flap, but that needed to be saved for emergencies only.  With her hands only loosely bound in front of her, she had managed to ease the figs one by one out of her pocket and drop them along the way.  As long as Bobo’s appetite for treats drove him forward, he would reach her eventually. Toyin was relying on that.

In the meantime, she had been worrying at the ties that bound her wrists and she was close to the point where she would be able to free her hand to use as she pleased.  She would need that free hand when Bobo arrived, in order to reach the chocolate bar in her possession.  Her fate would be decided in that one moment: would she be liberated or would she be lunch?  She certainly was aiming for the former rather than the latter.

Toyin had been pretending to sleep on the mat they had laid out for her, still struggling with her bonds, when she heard the first delightful signs of that Bobo had arrived, making curious little noises from the shelter of the trees.  His arrival happily coincided with the somewhat painful removal of one hand from the ties.  She smiled inwardly.  The cannibals had no idea she was about unleash her worst weapon upon them.

Unbeknownst to the cannibals, the anthropologist truly had trained her monkey to protect her with the right prompts and the right incentives.  Fortunately for Doctor Katabe, Bobo would do anything for chocolate, including attacking people upon her command.

“Chocolate, Bobo – chocolate,” she whispered, sliding the candy bar from her shirt flap.  It was squishy, melted from the heat, but the monkey wouldn’t care.  Toyin tore the oozy packaging in two, passing one to Bobo who had emerged from the shadows of the trees with his mistress’s tempting summons.  She returned the other half to its original location.  “You know what you need to do for the rest of it,” she told Bobo as he sucked the last of the brown, sugary sludge from his half of the wrapper.

The next few seconds that followed were pure chaos, when Bobo’s shrill shrieks attracted the cannibals.  Once they came into view, he set upon them as if rabid, leaping upon heads, scratching at faces and biting at ears, gouging at eyes and clawing at scalps.  Multiple attempts were made to grab at him, but he was more agile than those who sought to snatch him up. Soon cries of agony and blood from the rending of flesh added to the pandemonium.  Toyin took the opportunity to free her ankles from their ties, while her captors were fully distracted by Bobo’s rampage.  After a few hearty rubs to restore some feeling to her numb legs and feet, she lurched away from her mat and sprinted off into the jungle.

Her flight was hurried and haphazard, trying to put as much distance between her and the cannibal village before they noticed she was gone.  The adrenaline generated by the memory of what had happened to Derek kept her running long after she normally would have succumbed to fatigue.  When she finally did slide to a shaky stop, she had to count herself lucky for not tripping on some root or stone in her path, or impaling herself on some unfortunately-placed tree branch.  She could no longer hear Bobo’s enraged hoots or the cannibals’ shouts of distress.  Either they had managed to subdue him, drive him off, or Toyin had succeeded in running far enough that they were all now out of earshot.

She hoped Bobo had survived unscathed and had made his own escape.  If so, she would definitely see him again.  He would most certainly track her by scent, demanding the remains of his prize once he had found her.  Doctor Katabe, in the meantime, would rest as best she could until morning, when she would reorient herself using the rising sun and make her way back to base camp and then the hotel.  She had gathered more than enough data by that point to consider her venture into the Congo Basin a successful one.

Toyin realized, as she settled down into the greenery to relax under the moonlight, that her stomach was grumbling.  She hadn’t eaten in over a day, the cannibals having only provided her with water to drink.  For the briefest moment she contemplated devouring the second half of the gooey chocolate bar resting securely in her shirt flap.  She reminded herself that it would be far better not to, despite the temptation.  The melted candy would only dampen her hunger temporarily.  After the crash from the sugar high, she would feel far worse.

And then there was Bobo. If and when he returned to her, she could only imagine how he would react to the fact that she had robbed him of the other promised half of his reward.  His response to her would likely be more violent than his attack upon the cannibals.  Toyin didn’t want to risk that, not when her monkey had such an appetite for trouble.

With that in mind, she left the chocolate bar where it was. She’d rather not invite that kind of pain.

Closing her eyes, with the vague chance of sleep, Doctor Katabe prayed that no other denizens in the area would also decide she looked and smelled like lunch.  She had had enough of playing potential snack for a lifetime.

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

To vote for this story in the 2014 Wicked Women’s Writing Challenge, send an e-mail to horroraddicts@gmail.com
Voting ends: July 28th, 2014

 

WWW Challenge Story #1: Photo Finish

Photo Finish by D.M. Slate
Beast: Dragon
Location: A Japanese Night Club
Blessing: Hairspray
Curse: Hallucinations

*~*Judging panel has not altered/edited this text.*~*
*~*Text is posted as sent by the author.*~*

 

Photo Finish

By D.M. Slate

Liza steps out of the cab, closing the door behind her.  She shields her eyes from the sun, looking up at the sky scrapers that line both sides of the busy street.  The over-cluttering of Japan’s rich, vibrant colored signs makes her smile.

Tossing her silky blonde locks over her shoulder, Liza straightens her shirt and heads for the front doors.  Her photo shoot today is on the top floor – at the White Serpent night club.  She enters the elevator, taking a deep breath as it begins to move.  Today is Liza’s first time working with Chuu, the photographer, and her stomach jitters with nervousness.  Being a petite blonde American has made modeling work easy to find in Japan, but learning the language has been a much harder task.

The elevator comes to a stop, and as the doors open Liza’s breathe catches in her throat.  The White Serpent’s décor is stunning.  Glowing chandeliers of red, blue and purple dangle from the ceiling, accenting the sleek white chairs, booths and couches that line the hard-wood floor.  A massive sculpture of a white dragon slithers around the chandeliers from one corner of the night club to the other.  To the south, a wall of windows provides a penthouse view of the bustling city below.

A man steps out from behind the bar and the movement catches her eye.  She hadn’t seen him standing there, silently observing her.  She smiles, raising a hand in a typical American greeting, before catching herself in mid-motion.  Pulling the hand down, she gives a proper bow, instead.

Chuu approaches, speaking a mouthful of words that Liza can’t decipher.  She’s taken aback by his appearance.  Dressed in noting but black, his tall slender form seems to float across the floor toward her.  His goth-like attire is complete with a sliver-link chain that hangs around his neck, and a head full of spikey black hair.  When he comes to a stop next to her, Liza notices the eye liner that accentuates his almond shaped eyes.

Agitated with her lack of verbal response, he sneers at her.  She rattles off the only greeting she knows in Japanese, which does little to win Chuu’s approval.  He spins on the heel of his boot, walking away.  Liza timidly scurries after him.  The photographer retrieves an outfit off of the bar and hands it to her, pointing her in the direction of the women’s restroom.

Once inside the bathroom, Liza lets out a deep breath, trying to calm herself.  Scoffing at the clothes, Liza shakes her head as she changes into the skimpy pleather outfit.  A cross between animee design and sexy-school girl attire – the mid-drift top, short skirt and knee-high socks seem to be essential items in most of her Japanese shoots.  And today, a pair of six-inch spiked heels completes the outlandish outfit.

Liza gives the shoes a trial run in the bathroom, terrified to trip and fall in front of Chuu.  Satisfied that she’s stable enough on them, she stuffs her clothes down into her massive purse and slings the bag over her shoulder.  Taking one last glance in the mirror, Liza digs down into the purse retrieving a bottle of hairspray.  Giving her hair a final spritz, she drops the bottle back into her bag and exits the restroom.

The club has taken on a new life and her eyes sparkle with wonderment.  Fog machines pump thick plumes of smoke out from the ceiling, filling the room in cloud of white.  A fan blows lightly against a wall of various colored silks, and the materials dances in the breeze.

The lighting equipment for the photo shoot is set up next to the silk wall, so Liza saunters in that direction, looking around for Chuu.

She gasps in surprise when he steps out from behind a pillar wearing a red dragon mask.  Covering his entire head, the large dragon-shaped mask seems unproportionate to his thin body, and Liza wonders how he’s able to bear its weight.  Seemingly unaffected by the mask, Chuu points toward the couch by the silk wall.  Liza approaches it, leaning lightly on the arm of the couch in one of her typical model poses.  Chuu begins to snap photos, holding the camera up to the eye piece of the dragon mask.  The lamps pop with a flash of light with each photo that is taken.

Ignoring the strangeness of the situation, Liza concentrates on posing for the photos.  Feeling light-headed and dizzy, she leans her full weight onto the couch.  The camera continues to click, and the lights continue to flash brightly before her eyes.  The bulbs seem to stay illuminated longer now, and Liza finds herself staring at the lamps, drawn to them.  Her mind is wandering, and before long, she forgets why she’s even at the nightclub.  Looking down at clothing her mind spins in confusion.

With each inhale of the drugged fog, Liza slips further and further from consciousness.  Chuu places the camera on a tripod, setting it on auto-click.  He disappears into the cloud of smoke and the camera continues snap photos.  By the time he returns, Liza has slumped to a seated position on the couch, staring blankly ahead in a drugged stupor.

Her eyes follow the movement of his large butterfly blades as he swings them from side to side.  The twelve inch knives are curved – slender at the bottom, wide at the end – and he holds one in each hand.  Fog dissipates and swirls around his crimson dragon mask as he slices the daggers through the air.  Liza’s transfixed, unable to look away.  With each swing of the blades her eyes hallucinate.  Tracers following the curving arches of the knives transform into fluttering wings on the sides of this red dragon beast.

Liza’s brain never processes danger, until the first slice tears through her flesh.  The razor-thin dagger bites into her pale white skin, gouging a deep cut into her thigh.  Blood sprays through the air, and the butterfly blades continue to swing.

Scrambling away from the monster, screaming, Liza sprints toward the elevator.  The spike of her heel tilts to the side, twisting her fragile ankle.  She crumbles to the floor, crawling on her hands and knees, trying to escape.  Another swing of the knife slices her lower back, sending her flailing to the floor.  Liza’s hand snags the strap of her purse, and her fingers clamp down around it.  She pulls the bag toward her, reaching for her phone.

The fatal slash of the blade penetrates the back of Liza’s neck, severing her spinal cord.  Gasping for breath, her brain slowly begins to misfire.

Chuu reaches down grabbing Liza by her feet, pulling her body back across the floor.  Reaching the couch, her rolls her onto her back, looking down into her dying eyes.  Picking her slender body up with ease, Chuu places her on the couch, in a sitting position.  Blood pours from the back of her neck, cascading over her shoulders and trickling down the front of her body.

The red dragon yanks the purse from Liza’s death-grip, not wanting it to tarnish his perfect photo shoot.  The camera continues to snap on auto, click, click, click. Chuu marvels at the perfection of the scene he’s created.

He tosses Liza’s purse carelessly aside.  The hairspray bottle rolls slowly out of the bag into the fog, but Chuu doesn’t notice.  Brandishing a blade in each hand, he swings the butterfly knives again, triumphantly.

Side-stepping out of the camera’s frame, Chuu’s foot lands awkwardly on the hairspray bottle.  Thrown off balance, his arms flail through the air as he trips, and falls.  The razor-sharp blade pierces the soft flesh of his lower back, skewering his internal organs, before exiting his stomach.

Impaled on his own blade, Chuu struggles to breath.  The mask falls from his head and his wide, dying eyes stare up into the fog.  Blood trickles from the corner of his mouth with every laborious exhale.

All the while the camera continues to snap on auto, click, click, click to capture the glorious photo finish.

************************
To vote for this story in the 2014 Wicked Women’s Writing Challenge, send an e-mail to horroraddicts@gmail.com
Voting ends: July 28th, 2014

WWW Contestant 13: Amy K. Marshall

The following text is posted as part of HorrorAddicts.net‘s annual Wicked Women Writers Challenge.
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, #94.

Amy K. Marshall – Paternoster

Disaster – Loss of all fuel sources

Location – elevator

Helpful Item – Swiss army survival knife

Disability – sprained swollen ankle

*******

 

Amy K Marshall

Paternoster

 

 

My name is Lily…

It’s been three days since the world went Dark. At least … I think it’s been three days. It’s been two days since I last heard a human voice. At least…I think it’s been two days. The last voice I heard was Perttu’s voice.  He called to me from the 4th floor landing. He never liked elevators and he hated this Paternoster with an irrational vengeance. Yeah. Irrational. Not from where I’m sitting now. Nothing irrational about that now…

It’s Dark. It’s mostly silent. There were people in the elevator’s other cars. I remember people hopping on and off. I remember my car shifting and swaying…. Don’t know what a Paternoster is?

It’s Europe’s Death Elevator.

It’s also the quickest way up to the 6th floor—that’s where Dr. Mikkel  Akselson has his neuro-opthamology lab.  But that’s a million miles away now…

You stand there … watching… the cars rise without stopping. There are two lights on the floor … they blink … red – red – red – GREEN – red – red – red – GREEN. You see, when it’s GREEN, that’s when it’s safe to hop into the car. It doesn’t wait for you, though. It just keeps moving.  It’s like one of those rotating filing cabinets … only this one is for people .. for bodies … now, I’m sure it’s for the dead…

It was evening … and the lobby was crowded. People were happy, talking, laughing … it was nearly the week-end, and, well, I was looking forward to time away from Copenhagen with Mikkel. Just Mikkel and me.

I hate this elevator. I was too lazy to take the stairs.

Red – red – red – GREEN.

Too late.

I hear unflattering things behind me in Danish. I know they’re unflattering because Mikkel and Perttu and I got drunk one evening and they decided I needed to learn how to swear in Danish.

Det passer sgu ikke! Means that’s not bloody true.

Jeg er ligeglad … that’s a good one because it means I don’t care.

Hold kaeft! That means shut up … I think. They laughed quite a bit over that one…

Det er sgu rigtigt! That means I’ll be damned

I’ll be damned. Sure as hell … I’ll be damned…

Red – red –red – Green!

A hand in my back shoved me forward.

OW!

Dit rovhul!

I hope I said that correctly.

I hit the back of the car and turn – I see their smirks as the car moves upward.

Upwards.

There’s no top to the car. I see the chain mechanism.

I rise.

The floors slide by. On the third floor, a red-haired young man starts to step in, but pulls back.

I rise.

Getting on is one thing.

Getting off is another.

Fifth floor.

“This, you must see…” I hear Mikkel’s voice slide through my brain. I can feel his hand on my arm. He smiles, and I’m lost in his eyes. I’m such a sucker for eyes. “Up and over—“

His gaze holds mine as we clear the 6th floor.

What the hell –

I’ve forgotten to get off!

The car rocks up and over the top of the mechanism. A large flywheel slips and spins, cranking the car around.

Get off on 6, you idiot …

“I’ve saved the best for last.”

What the hell is going on? I can still hear him. I think.

I miss 6.

I slide to 5.

To  4.

The young man on 3 is gone.

Two.

One.

“Into the darkness…”

I hold my breath.

We slid beneath the ground floor. Red signs slide by…they’re in Danish.

Mikkel’s breath is warm against my cheek as he leans closer in the darkness. “Keep Standing.”

“Pardon?” I breathe, my knees weakening.

Did I mention that Dr. Akselson is something you wouldn’t think of pushing out of bed?

“It’s what the sign says,” he replies.

“Oh…”

Deeper.

Darker.

We pass across the bottom of the mechanism.

We rise into light.

“I enjoy the darkness,” he says, his accent thickening. “Peaceful…like the grave.”

“Pardon?”

“No, no … I’m not saying it right.” He smiles.”My English.”

My Danish sucks, so what can I say about his English?

I’m lost in thought.

Third floor.

The red-haired young man is back. He doesn’t move. He just…watches. I feel his eyes follow me up.

Remember to get off on 6.

What the –

What the hell was that?

Hello?

Hello?

In those first moments, I strained my ears. I couldn’t hear anything. They rang with the remembered grinding of the Paternoster. The reverberated the bang of its stopping.

Hello?

I could hear others in other cars saying the same.

I changed tack.

I’m here! Are you there? Are you okay? What’s happened?

But … they’re all speaking Danish. No one answered me. Well, no one answered me so I could understand.

It won’t be long.

Hours passed.

Long hours passed.

This is crap—waiting for a rescue.

I rummage through my bum bag (that’s a fanny pack for you Americans) and come up with

A Swiss Army Knife.

WWMD?

What Would Macgyver do?

Better yet, what would Macgyver’s writers do?

Two blades … a corkscrew…and me without a bottle of wine … that saw that really isn’t a saw. Two screwdrivers, a way to pry open a beer, tweezers, and a toothpick.

Just.

Brilliant.

Keep Standing.

Screw that.

I slumped to the floor, flipping the blade open and closed. Open and closed. Open and closed.

Red – red- red- GREEN

But…there’s no light.

Open and closed. Open and closed open and –

That’s when I heard Perttu.

Hey, Lily! You okay?

I press my back against the back of the car and get to my feet.

Perttu?

How the hell does he know I’m here?

Stay put, Lil! I’ll get you out!

I hear him stagger away.

I mean … I listen to him …. Stagger…

What the hell is going on?

Then … there’s nothing.

It doesn’t occur to me that there’s nothing.

No one.

Only silence.

Open and closed open and closed open and –

What the hell was that?

The elevator starting up?

Closed and open –

Yeah … the elevator. It’s resetting or something…

What the –

SCREAM!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Uff! Ow! Som’bitch!

(sobs) My ankle.

Som’BITCH! My ANKLE!

There was something there! In the dark! On 3!

It was … him… I swear … that guy … that red-haired guy was on 3!

Hey!

Hey!

Can you hear me? Can you hear –

(growl)

(heavy breathing) What the –

Shhhh…… shhh….  (heavy breathing)

There’s something out there –

Where is it?

I scrabble against the floor.

It’s only a Swiss Army Knife, but – what the HELL is that SOUND??

Those are … footsteps…

Oh … my God ..

Mikkel … Perttu … what the hell is this?

I’ve gotta get out of here.

But my ankle … Shit …

Ow …  maybe if I –

(loud thump)

Oh … my God …

It’s dark. I press back against the side of the car. It’s dark. I can’t see it and it can’t see me…right? Right??

(low growl)

Right … right … shhhh…..

Maybe if I just –

(attack sound)

SCREAM!!!!

Get off! Get off! Help! Help!

Perttu! Perttu!

(heavy breathing) … no way …

Ew… is it? I mean … it’s not dead. I don’t think it’s dead…

Oh … my God … is it dead?

What is it?

(low growl)

Oh my God, it’s NOT dead!

It will be now –

(heavy hit)

(sawing)

I don’t know what it is… it’s not…human. It doesn’t look human at all. But, I’ll bet there are more of them.

I know what to do

(sawing)

It’s what I did.

The only thing I could think of to do.

(sawing)

“What did you do?”

“Pardon?”

“What did you do?”

(sawing)

I cut the skin off it. Carefully of course. It skinned like a rabbit. Like a little coat. One incision around the neck, and then I unzipped it. The guts made the floor slippery, but that was okay. Make it smell like a kill. Maybe that would keep them away. Or attract them.

Have you ever tried to skin something big with a Swiss Army Knife?

Sucks. Let me tell you.

Thank God I had a decent edge on that blade.

“What did you do?”

I ate part of it. I mean, three days is a long time, and it didn’t taste particularly rancid. I mean. I was still fresh.

And then, I wore its skin.

You see… that was the trick to getting out.

There were more of them. I tucked its skin around me. I cut away its face and wore it like a mask.

The Paternoster has no top.

Three days I waited … and then the thing got a little wormy, but my ankle felt like it could support some weight … so I tucked the skin around me and climbed out. It took a little balance on top of the car, but I’d cut away its claws and used them like pitons – you know, like mountain climbers use.

I climbed until I got to the ground floor.

There were bodies everywhere … but there were no creatures. Just…bodies. I saw the remains of the two guys who pushed me onto the Paternoster. I felt bad, ‘cause they’d saved my life.

It was night. A stinking night. And I walked out into it and –

And –

And –

“And?”

I noticed how the skin looked different.

“In the moonlight?”

“I don’t think moonlight had anything to do with it.”

“What do you think?”

“The air was clearer.”

“Indeed.”

“Can I see Mikkel now? I want to see him now.”

“You’ve seen him for days.”

 

It was later that I found Mikkel’s notes … his research had taken the darkest of turns before it became Night. Neuro-opthamology includes the study of reactive chemicals that can fool the brain into believing in hallucinations. He found the perfect dose.

“I got the idea from a book on Lily’s shelf,” he had written. “It was all about things underground and the dark … and monsters … and the monstrous dark. Perttu doesn’t believe such a random test is a good idea, but the chemical is only slightly reactive in the quantities I proposed. A slight hallucination for test subjects in the Paternoster. They are in a contained space. We can keep them in the cars for up to an hour. We can play at an elevator malfunction.”

What could possibly go wrong…?

*******

To vote for this story, send an email to: horroraddicts@gmail.com with the subject line: WWW. Voting ends October 7th, 2013, 11:59a, PST.

WWW Contestant 12: Sumiko Saulson

The following text is posted as part of HorrorAddicts.net‘s annual Wicked Women Writers Challenge.
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, #94.

Sumiko Saulson – A Birthday Present

Disaster –  Sinkholes

Location – Bowling Alley/ Pool Hall Bar

Helpful Item – Cue Stick

Disability – Lost Glasses

*******

The Birthday Present

By Sumiko Saulson

 

The high, thin whine of easy-listening music slid into the room through the high-mounted ancient speakers of Sheckley’s Rock and Bowl, adding to the creepy jaundiced ambiance of the place provided courtesy of it’s filthy, yellowed neon lights. It was a bowling alley and pool house, and I was pretty sure that it hadn’t been rocking since the 1950s. It smelled like stale corndogs, damp drywall with molds growing somewhere deep in it’s innards, and the occasional loaded diaper that the visitors on family day casually tossed into one of the beige bodied and red-lidded plastic trash bins in the bowling area instead of in the bathroom where they belonged.

I was sitting in the corner seat, smashed between my aunt and my mother, waiting for my turn. Squishing my toes up and down in the stiff-soled, tacky tri-toned rented bowling shoes, I silently contemplated the various fungi that were undoubtedly living within. I wondered whether or not my black cotton business socks would provide a thick enough barrier to prevent the athlete’s foot fungus from creeping forth and latching onto the sensitive skin in between my toes? The medicated powder I’d liberally doused the innards with before slipping on the hot and sweaty size sevens probably wasn’t enough. I was busy contemplating the animated mushrooms from my old Super Mario Brother’s video game dancing around in my shoe when my mom jabbed me in the shoulder with her long, sharp fingernail.

“Ouch!” I cried out.

“Don’t be such a baby,” my mom said between loud smacks of her sugar free chewing gum. She always seemed to use the nail file to rub each fingernail into an evil inverted v-shape, as if she were expecting to engage in a catfight to the death momentarily. “Your turn, Minnie,” she said sourly. The muscles under her foundation-caked face twitched angrily. I jumped up and moved for the ball, eager to avoid an untimely slap to the face by the maternal claws of doom.

Mom was a pretty fifty-eight year old woman under her too-thick Maybelline, and when I was a little thing everyone said I looked just like her. Well, I wasn’t a little thing anymore. Now, I was an acne-covered, overweight teenager with hot-comb burned overly straightened hay hair and coke-bottle glasses. My brother and sisters were grown now, and I was the last one left in the home… maybe that’s why mom was making such a big deal about my sweet-sixteen party. I don’t think she truly understood my age, that I was nearly a woman now. I wanted to do something cool for my birthday, like go to a concert, but no, instead I had to be stuck down here on Family Discount Bowling Night with a bunch of families with their funky rug rats howling in the background.

I felt a migraine coming on.

Mama had invited everyone up here to Sheckley’s Rock and Bowl, “everyone” being my twenty-two year old brother Joe, my twenty-four year old twin sisters Alicia and Felicia, and my oldest sister Angelyne, who was twenty-eight and had a nine year old daughter, Tammyline, my mother’s first and only grandchild. The other girls were from momma’s first marriage to Darnel, a serviceman who died in the war. Little Joe was the son of her second husband, Big Joe, a much older man who died of a heart attack before I was born. Big Joe was my daddy, too… on paper, but by now I was old enough know better. No pregnancy lasted fourteen months, at least no human one. One thing was for sure: no one was expecting me, what with momma being over forty and daddy being under dirt on the day I was born.

The whole lot of siblings, aunties, uncles and cousins began a round of distracting applause as I stood up and brushed the popcorn off of my hand-me-down Applebottom jeans. My momma might be skinny, like I used to be back when she gave me the nickname “Minnie” after that Austin Powers sidekick mini-me, because I was supposed to be a mini her, but I wasn’t anymore, and neither were my aunts. We weren’t mini anything. As I stood, I inhaled the deep aroma of stale popcorn, body odor, and sewage-tainted trashcan water that was the perfume of Sheckley’s Rock & Bowl.

Out of the corner of my eye, I spotted Gary, the boy from my P.E. class who always tried to talk to me. “You sure run fast for a girl your size,” she remembered him saying last Tuesday, as he made steady eye contact my cleavage squished below the XXL school issue gym tank v-neck. It turned out he worked at Sheckley’s concession stand. He was staring right at my booty as I walked towards the ball rack. I didn’t really like him, but I liked the attention, and I admit that I was swishing my butt a little as I walked over to select my favorite bubble-gum colored bowling ball, the one with the sparkles in it.

I walked up to the bowling alley with my pretty pink bowling ball shining like the best oversized rubber bouncing ball ever, the hot overhead bowling alley lights gleaming reflectively from the glitter embedded inside. I imagined myself walking in slow motion, hair bouncing and curves flashing in the spotlight like a plus sized beauty queen, a model, maybe Queen Latifah. I was really feeling myself when I tossed that ball on the aisle…

Maybe that’s why I was so horrified when I heard the loud “carrack!” sound.

I reached around with both my hands, grabbing my backside, feeling around for what must have been a rip in the seat of my pants, but I couldn’t feel anything. My face burned hot with embarrassment. A strange aroma of swampy water and sulfur filled the air. If it wasn’t a tear, maybe I’d farted?

It was just then that the bottom of the aisles began to crack and twist. My ball bounced hard up and down as the lane writhed like a snake. A crack down the center of it began to expand, until suddenly a sinkhole dropped open right in the middle of it. My ball rolled forward undeterred until it dropped, suddenly, into the ground. Two equal sized holes opened up in the adjoining lanes, and it looked like a pool ball falling into the center pocket of the table as it when sliding down into the hole. Smoke rolled out of the holes like a thick, putrid, stinking fog. That’s when the screaming started.

Sinkholes were opening up all over Sheckley’s. The elderly lady the next lane over was just standing there with her fingers still in her bowling ball hole, purple polyester pantsuit flapping in the reeking breeze when a hole opened up right under her feet, and she dropped down into the ground. Was it my imagination, or had the stinking steam emissions belching forth from the pit melted the flesh off her contorted face in the moments just prior to her sudden sinking?

I was still staring at the puddle of pink and purple putrescence that used to be Alice Worthington of the Little Old Ladies Bowling League when my aunt Janice came barreling past me with such force that when she knocked into my arm, it sent me spinning, and my glasses flew off my face in the general direction of the terrible pit of stench. My eyes are very bad, without my glasses I am so nearsighted that I am legally blind, and a sense of sinking dread came over me, as I determined that I was totally screwed.

Everything went into soft-focus all of the sudden, like a really cheesy romantic film, only one that was loaded with carnage and death. I could hear the mothers with their hordes of infants screaming in and wailing in unison. Fear seemed to be the equalizer for all ages and genders, because one man’s scream blended in with the howling of his infant in perfect, hellish harmony. As blind as I was, I could still see the sinkhole that my ball had fallen into stretching and expanding, so that it joined with the two on either side of it and stretched across three lanes. I was sure it was big enough to swallow a car by now. I turned around and ran for the door.

I couldn’t see very well, but that wasn’t going to stop me. I just kept racing forward in the general direction of the mass of bodies that was flooding towards the door. I was about to pass the bathroom when a weird, scaly hand grabbed my arm.

“Stop, Damiana,” the commanding voice uttered.

I blinked rapidly. Damiana was my name, but no one called me Damiana. Everyone called me Minnie. My mom tried to make out like Minnie was an appropriate way to shorten my name… Damiana, Miana, Minnie, but we all knew that it was the mini-me thing.

“I am your father,” it announced, and the tone of voice was not even remotely reassuring. I looked on in horror as a sinkhole appeared before me – right in front of the door – and swallowed up the crowed of neighbors, strangers, and relatives who were busily shoving and jostling towards the exit. They fell like dominoes into this latest opening, and I stood there feeling my jaw drop, helplessly aghast at this latest happening. My favorite aunt Meredith was clutching at the edge of the abyss before me, her shrill screams echoing against the roof of the bowling alley. I watch in horror as the acidic fog escaped the pit and melted the flesh off of her grasping knuckles. Liquefied meat and skin slid off the bones and sinew, and soon only a skeletal hand remained, identifiable only by her distinctive turquoise birthstone ring. I felt hot tears gushing from my eyes as I stood there, frozen.

Everyone else with a punk-assed absentee father was frustrated because daddy wouldn’t send child support checks and the kids were in hand-me downs, but not me. No, that wasn’t bad enough for me. Me, I had to have a dad who would melt aunt Meredith like an ice cream cone in a microwave. Who wants a daddy like that?

At last, the screams subsided.

“Let me go!” I yelled, jerking my body ineffectually against the iron grip of the claw. I began kicking against the thing’s knee, but it didn’t do any good. I felt its steely hand begin to forcibly turn me to face it. I twisted my body the other way, but it did no good. Soon, I was looking through bleary eyes at the fuzzy face of what appeared to be a lion’s face with curved antlers.

It starred deeply into my eyes and whispered, “see…”

Suddenly, I was able to see perfectly, as if I had on the world’s best pair of lightweight contact lenses. Why on why did I have to start seeing perfectly when there was nothing to look at except for this horrible mess? Everywhere, I saw the fleshy molten body meats pulsating at the edges of the sinkholes like the bowling alley had just turned into the nastiest pockmarked face you could possibly imagine. Bodily fluids were flying out of the holes like pus from a really nasty zit. I couldn’t help myself. I vomited all over my so-called father.

“All of this will be yours,” he shouted, gesturing with his free hand at the bowling alley wasteland. Now that I could see better, his crinkled face looked less like a cat, and more like some kind of hairless pug dog with twisting horns that looked like that one time when Grandma Louise decided to stop clipping her finger and toenails and they grew out and got all twisted and bent. It really looked like crap, man, her hands and feet were a hot mess, but no one could tell her anything… all brittle and yellowed and broken. This guy’s horns were that skuzzy.

“I don’t want it,” I spat back at him. “You can keep your hell bowling alley.”

That’s when I spotted it. In a corner, untouched by the many sinkholes, there was Goofy Gary from my physical education class, that guy who kept trying to keep up with me when Mr. Fields had us running circles around the track. He was standing on a pool table, trying to avoid the horrible flesh-eating fart juicy smoke.

He grabbed a pool cue off the nearby wall and looked at me and cried out, “Here Minnie! Catch!” I reached up in the air and grabbed the stick. With all of my might, I slammed it through that demon’s big orange cat eye. A horrible stew of blood and pus-like yellow crud came sliding down the pool cue as I forced the stick through his skull and watched it pop out the back of his head.

“Nooooooo!!!!” It screamed as it dropped my body and fell to the floor. As the life oozed from its body, my lousy eyesight began to return. Whatever magic trick it used to improve my vision was fading along with its life. The sinkholes began to shrink, and suck the fog back into the ground with them.

I suppose it was all over. But nothing would ever, ever be the same.

As Gary and I limped out of the bowling alley, we saw the evidence that disaster that had happened not just in the bowling alley.  It was all around us. Partially devoured cars protruded from the ground out of spots where the sinkholes used to be.

Gary turned to look at me. It was a serious look, a deep look.

“Let me help you,” he said. “You have a little something on your face.”

I smiled a little. He had something in his hands. He looked so cute as he unfolded my glasses and grinned sheepishly as he slid them across my nose.

“Thank you,” I said. Goofy Gary was kind of cute when you took a good look at him. Especially right now, when he was looking so shy and sweet.

“Wait a minute,” I said, snapping my fingers. “I forgot something.”

That was when Gary’s head exploded. I guess I shouldn’t have snapped my fingers just then… when I looked at my hand, where the nasty yellow eye go had touched it, it was kind of bubbling and writhing where the fluids were sinking deep into my flesh. My eyes began to grow bleary, and once again I couldn’t see. I thought it was because I was crying at first, but I was wrong. Finally, I understood that it was my glasses that were making my vision blur – I didn’t need them anymore.

I took them in my hand, and flung them on the ground.

It seemed that my birth father had a present to give me for my sweet sixteen, and he was going to give it to me whether I wanted it or not, no matter what. I looked around at all of the carnage and blood, which was all that remained of my past and the family I knew, and I began to sob in earnest.

I didn’t know what the future held. I didn’t even know who I really was. I only knew one thing… that party really sucked.

*******

To vote for this story, send an email to: horroraddicts@gmail.com with the subject line: WWW. Voting ends October 7th, 2013, 11:59a, PST.

WWW Contestant 11: Maggie Fiske

The following text is posted as part of HorrorAddicts.net‘s annual Wicked Women Writers Challenge.
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, #94.

Maggie Fiske – A Quarrel for Jimmy Lee Killscrow

Disaster –  Solar Flares/ or Gamma Rays

Location – Hunting in the Mountains

Helpful Item – Crossbow

Disability – Hungover

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“A Quarrel for Jimmy-Lee Killscrow”…                by Margaret Fiske

 

“That’s him,” says Detective Baxter.  He points at a white speck nestled in the BitterrootMountains and holds binoculars up to my face.  All I see is a beat-to-hell camper among the pines.  A bearded man with hippy hair steps into view.  It’s Jimmy-Lee Killscrow, the devil who left me for dead out in the sticks when I was 15.  Now he’s a Lumber-Christ in flannel.  I’m disarmed.  How can Iow HHow can I  kill Jesus?

 

Baxter tries to talk me out of this vendetta.  He says, “Just head back to Bozeman before the solar storm hits tonight, Claudine.”

 

I scoff.  “Baxter, after Y2K and 12-21-12, who listens to that disaster crap?”

 

He doesn’t get it.  The only way to stop Killscrow is to kill that bastard before he beats me to the deathblow.  I knee open the Jeep door and push my crossbow pack out onto the road.

 

“Stay in one piece,” he says, and skins out of there quick with his money.

 

My name is Claudine Archer, but nobody remembers that.  I’m just that hitchhiker that got her arms chopped off.  ¯ ¯

 

By the time I hike to Jimmy-Lee’s camper there’s a high sickle moon reaping the Montana starfield.  I set up Stakeout at the mouth of a small cave near the camper to scout his movements tonight.  He’ll die in the sun tomorrow so he can see my hook squeeze the bow trigger.

 

I watched Killscrow gun his pickup down the dirt road at 7 p.m. sharp.  According to Baxter’s notes, he’s gone bar hopping in Lolo Springs, where he’ll pass out redemption tracts to barflies and save his own soul from sobriety.  I’ve got time to kill.

 

Wind cuts through my fleece poncho, making my teeth clack.  I stashed a bottle of Cuervo to celebrate Jimmy-Lee’s demise, but decide to drink it now.  I tuck the tequila under my armpit and twist off the cap with my molars.

 

Liquor lets the memories slink back easily…

 

I endured nineteen surgeries.  When the stumps finally healed, I was fit with battery-powered myo-electric prosthetics which transmit electrical impulses from my muscles to open or close the metal hooks.  These can openers scare the bejeezus out of little kids and potential suitors.

 

Amputation forces you to relearn how to be an adult.  So I compensate for my loss of hands with other body parts.  Lips, hips and toe tips all become my grip.  I retrained my muscles to perform both with and without prosthetics.

 

I’m messed up on the inside too.  Migraines, vertigo, nightmares, panic attacks, –sucks to be me.  But I also grew strong, and athletic in ways I never dreamt.  I have the flexibility of a Cirque du Soleil acrobat, and moxie that puts Miss Congeniality to shame.  Call me handicapped and I’ll kick you in the teeth.

 

My arms are buried in an unmarked grave in Boise that was a secret between me and the gravediggers.  Every anniversary I bring them sunflowers.  Last summer, there was a nasty present.  A pair of chopsticks stuck in the dirt.  My inner killer grabbed the wheel.

 

I blew the last of my donation money on 3 things: An Excalibur Phoenix crossbow, tattoos, and Detective Baxter.

 

I chose the crossbow because it’s my legacy. With a surname like Archer, bows flow in my blood.  I became a self­-taught arbalist.

 

When the skeptical sporting goods clerk asked what I plan to hunt with the bow, I told him, “Jackass,” and dry-popped the trigger at his heart.  Then for many moons I practiced kill shots on thawed turkeys in the backyard.  I turned Katniss.

 

For my full sleeve, black wing tattoos I commissioned Karasu Ono, the cutting-edge tattoo artisan in Spokane.  I asked her to transform me into the Angel of Death.  Her jeweler’s loupe goggles captured every minute detail.  Each shiny 3-D Photoreal feather scalloped like a hand of rummy.  Badass! ¯¯

 

My phone chimes midnight.  Time to check armaments.  I tune the tension on the Phoenix to deadly perfection.  I inspect the fletching on a dozen four-headed arrows, which are aptly called quarrels.  The quarrel flies with a wicked little twist which can drill a half-dollar sized hole clean through a body.  All my quarrels bear an icon of Venus de Milo etched on the shaft.

 

Tonight, Venus and I are vigilantes on a vigil.  The Aurora Borealis simmers up North, just like in the summer of ’77…        ¯

 

He picked me up outside Pocatello, hitchhiking to Yellowstone just for kicks.  Too young to drive, too dumb to realize a killer can drive a yellow Pontiac with a Mormon Youth Camp bumper sticker.  He was clean-cut, with gentle eyes and a cardigan.  Who’s afraid of Mr. Rogers’ dorkier cousin?

 

I barely shut the door when he said, “Meet Jesus,” and a claw hammer cracked my cranium.

 

Time telescoped when he dragged me into the trees.  5 chops with a hand axe hacked-off my arms at the elbow.  Pain jolted me into another dimension.  He left me to bleed-out.

 

Somehow, I picked myself up out of the ditch to cheat death.  I remember laughter behind me.  There was a small murder of crows skipping through my blood puddles.  I raised my arms to mimic wings.  It staunched the blood flow as I staggered toward the light of the living.  ¯

 

Whew!  I’m feeling all flushed from cocktails and flashbacks, so I strip down to my tank top.  I want wind on my shoulders.  And behold, the solar storm strikes.

 

The sky ignites in swirling acid green flames bright enough to read the warning to pregnant women on the tequila label.  Lolo Springs falls dark.   Northern Lights curl in a tsunami of electrons that charge the air.  I wobble to my feet in awe. Spec-(hic)-tacular.

 

Suddenly, the sky fills with chirping shadows.  A vortex of panicked bats descends on the cave to roost.  I dart, skid on gravel, tumble into a starless pit. ¯¯

 

I wake to sunlight hammering my eyelids.  I feel like I faceplanted a speeding beer truck.  Hands down, this is the evilest PMSing stepmother of all hangovers.  I can vaguely tell that my drunken ass fell into the cave and that there’s a junk refrigerator and some bald tires around me.  I try to sit up, but the pain… oooooh!

 

“Ahhhh,” somebody echoes.  I freeze.  A chorus of groaning surrounds me and I realize the nauseating truth.  There’s at least a dozen girls like me, all missing body parts.  Girls that didn’t get away.

 

It’s zombie apocalypse.  I’m at ground zero in Killscrow’s body dump in his grotto of Slain Angels.  Pink rags shuffle backwards on beef jerky legs in the shadows.  They’re still hitchhiking.

 

I feel the tug of someone braiding my hair and smell her rancid pork chop breath.  I turn.  Half her face is tomahawked.  She hisses.  A buffet line of maggots wriggles in her tongue stub.  I puke Cuervo till my ribs ache. The girls scuffle toward me, drawn toward the light of the living.  I back away, but bump into an unstable Frigidaire that thunders end over end down the rocks, making a godawful racket.

 

They surround me with blind cavefish eyes.  I frantically search for a weapon and spot my bow and a pair of quarrels strewn beside a torso in a Cheap Trick t-shirt writhing in the dirt.  As I scoop up the bow, she chomps at my hooks.  Only 2 quarrels.  A quarrel for Jimmy-Lee Killscrow and one left to take out 12 zombies if they queue up ear to ear.

 

Outside, the camper door slams.  Jesus is risen.  He yells.  ““Hey!  Who’s up there?”  I must become bait to lure him into a deathtrap.  I cry out, “Help!  Help me!”  He snickers.  “Hold on, lady.  I’ll get you !”

 

The cadaverettes advance.  I plead to them. “Remember who you were!  Remember what he did to you!”

 

Killscrow enters the cave, waving an axe.  He hesitates as he spies his resurrected victims.  “You ladies should’ve stayed dead!” he roars and splits a one-armed girl like a winter cornhusk.

 

I cock the bow, but something’s wrong.  I can’t grasp the trigger.  Solar flares fried the batteries in my arms!  “It’s o.k.,” I think.  I can still launch the shot by pulling the claw back with my whole shoulder.  But the Phoenix feels clumsy.  I miss.  Damn!

 

He’s cocky now.  “What’s wrong, Claudine?  Need a hand?

 

No!  I can compensate.  I wriggle out of the arm straps… heel peel off boots and socks… grasp the last quarrel between my toes.  He brags,  ““I’ll chop your head off this time.  Keep it in the freezer for a lonely night.”

 

The Angel of Death rises up inside me.  I spread my wings in challenge.  Killscrow can’t take his eyes off my tattoos. I flex, I feint.  I punt his balls deep into his end zone.  The axe fumbles as he buckles forward.

 

I tell him, “Meet Satan,” and lift the quarrel to my mouth with my foot.  With clenched teeth, I lunge into the face of my nightmare.  I jab Venus de Milo into his gentle blue iris.  A geyser of blood and eyeball juice pops as it sinks into the socket till it hits skullcap.  Bull’s-eye.

 

He yanks out the quarrel skewering a chunk of cerebellum kabob along with it.  For a second he does a freaky little grand mal jig.

 

“Brains!” croaks a dead chick.  The pack pounces.  There’s still enough kick left in Jimmy-Lee for him to realize that he’s dying piece by piece by piece.  The Angels feast.  ¯¯

 

I scramble out of the cave, soaring with joy, for I have no more quarrels.  I embrace the sweet pain of life with phantom limbs.  Every bruising stone underfoot gives me wings.

 

I am the crow he could not kill.  ¯¯

 

You just heard “A Quarrel for Jimmy-Lee Killscrow” by Margaret Fiske, part of the 2013 Wicked Women Writers Challenge.  Please vote for my podcast by sending an e-mail to horroraddicts@gmail.com.

*******

To vote for this story, send an email to: horroraddicts@gmail.com with the subject line: WWW. Voting ends October 7th, 2013, 11:59a, PST.

WWW Contestant 10: R. L. Weston

The following text is posted as part of HorrorAddicts.net‘s annual Wicked Women Writers Challenge.
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, #94.

RL Weston – Drug Z

Disaster –  Dirty Bombs

Location – Zumba Class

Helpful Item – Workout Towel

Disability – Children Left Alone in gym daycare

*******

Drug Z

By: R.L. Weston

“With more on the string of explosions laced with Drug Z, a terrifying hybrid of Bath Salts and Krokodil, we have Pat Cheney, Government Defense Strategist and Hal Corp CEO.”

A cold chill ran down Alice’s spine as Pat Cheney’s face flashed onto the screens of the televisions suspended above the row of ellipticals on the north side of the gym. Alice knew he couldn’t see her making her way toward her covert meeting before Zumba class, but her pace quickened all the same.

“We will not tolerate these terrorists in our midst,” the bronzer caked on Pat’s face couldn’t completely hide the grey, reptilian coldness of his countenance. “The use of dirty bombs by the Liberty Militia will be met with the use of extreme force by Hal Corp’s Defense Team. Citizens are urged to come forward with any information that will lead to the arrest of these fugitives.”

Alice’s Zumba class was a cover for a small cell of the Liberty Militia, a group opposing Hal Corp’s slow but deliberate takeover of government and their violent, fascist attacks on citizens. Members of the Liberty Militia had been victims in every dirty bomb attack to date and now Hal Corp was trying to frame them as suicide bombers.

“Sorry I was late,” Alice said as she greeted the half-dozen other members of her group. “I was held up at one of Hal Corp’s checkpoints. I was sweating bullets when they opened my gym bag.”

Alice handed the CD marked “Zumba Mix” over to Carol. “Big Ugly is out there on every T.V. screen spouting his lies again. Hopefully this will be what we need to hack his system and get some evidence on our side.”

“This has all the new codes on it?” Carol asked.

“Yep.”

“And they didn’t touch it when they searched your bag?”

“No. You think I would have come here if they had?” The energy in the room felt more nervous than usual. “What’s got everyone so rattled today?”

Carol glanced at Jan. “Jan’s husband was detained today.”

Jan stared at the floor, tears welling in her eyes, and fidgeted with the hem of her t-shirt. “They didn’t find much on him. He had a few posters hidden behind the lining of his briefcase, but, it’s enough.”

“Hey, it’s going to be O.K.” Carol wrapped her arms around Jan as Jan sobbed harder. “We’re going to get him out of there.”

Jan shook her head, backed out of Carol’s arms, and gave a quick look to the clock on the wall, “I need to go. Visiting hours start in twenty minutes.”

The group watched Jan as she left. Carol waited until Jan had shut the door behind her.

“O.K., we need to make this quick because we only have a couple minutes before the rest of the class starts showing up.”

“I’m surprised they aren’t here already.” Alice looked out the windows and her eyes fixed on Jan, across the gym at the daycare center, checking her children out for the day.

“The dirty bomb attacks are becoming more frequent,” Carol began. “We can’t start carrying gasmasks because that would be too conspicuous. But, if you can fold up some fabric, moisten it, and hold it over your face and nose it can keep you from breathing in large amounts of Drug Z until help arrives.”

“Hey, she left her bag.” Taylor, a tall blond woman, grabbed Jan’s bag and held it up to Alice who was closest to the door. Alice didn’t respond.

“What is Jan doing with all the kids? Where’s the sitter?” Alice took a few steps toward the windows. The entire gym was empty. “Where’s everyone?”

Jan led the children through the front door. She didn’t look back before closing the door and running down the hall.

Alice turned to Taylor, “What’s in the–“

A small, distinct beep interrupted Alice’s question.

 

Alice felt like she’d been tossed into a cement mixer set on high. Her ears were ringing and she felt blood dripping down her earlobes. The side of her head and face throbbed where she’d been thrown against the door. The tight pain in her lungs reminded her of the danger still posed by Drug Z. Alice held her breath and reached for the towel that had been blown off her shoulder.

She still needed water. Alice tried to stand and retrieve some from the drinking fountain next to the door but the change in elevation made her vomit all over her towel. Alice lay in front of the door and pressed the vomit soaked towel to her mouth and nose. This was no time to be picky about liquids.

The wall of windows still stood, but each of the panes was riddled with cracks and sprayed with blood. Six motionless bodies lay strewn about the blast radius. Taylor was missing both her arms and most of the front side of her body.  Carol lay against the equipment locker with her spine twisted at an impossible angle. Bits of skin and hair were plastered to the walls and floor.

Alice fought the urge to lower her hand from her makeshift mask and just go to sleep. Her eyes kept trying to close until she noticed movement on the other side of the room. Carol was trying to sit up. When that didn’t work, she rolled over onto her stomach.

“Carol!” Alice could feel her mouth move but she couldn’t hear a thing; coupled with the pain in her chest and lungs, she couldn’t tell if she was screaming or whispering. “Are you ok?”

Carol didn’t respond. Instead, Carol pulled herself over to where Taylor’s body lay twitching and took a big bite out ofTaylor’s thigh.

That’s when Alice did the unthinkable. She passed out.

 

Alice woke to the sensation of being pushed across the floor. Someone was opening the door behind her. Her makeshift, puke-stained mask had fallen away from her face and every inch of her skin burned with an unbearable itch. One black-booted foot casually bumped the back of her head as its owner shuffled farther into the room.

Alice opened her eyes. Carol was only a foot away now, dragging her limp legs behind her; her dead eyes on the open door and the man who’d just stepped inside. Two of the others had woken and were finishing off Taylor’s body.

The black-booted man gave the door another push and Alice took the opportunity to roll onto her belly and push her face against her towel. The man stepped forward and stuck the barrel of his AR-15 against the flaking flesh of Carol’s forehead.

“Sorry, babe, the handicapped need not apply.” The black-booted man pulled the trigger and Carol’s head hit the floor with a wet thunk. “Quick, grab the other two; they’ve got some work to do.”

Alice’s head swam in a fog between fear and hunger as she watched six men in riot gear struggle to wrangle her former comrades. Her thoughts came to her in rudimentary words and crude images. Food. Streets. Terror. Plan.

The black-booted man watched his teammates drag Alice’s friends out the front door then lifted the mask of his helmet and took one last look at the room. As he turned to leave, Alice looped her towel around his ankle and pulled. The man managed a surprised grunt before his teeth smashed against the drinking fountain and he fell onto his back against the doorframe.

The pain and nausea were gone and Alice was on him in an instant. The black-booted man tried to shoot but she was too close and he was too scared. The bullet barely grazed Alice’s temple as she leaned in close and bit his lips right off his face.

*******

To vote for this story, send an email to: horroraddicts@gmail.com with the subject line: WWW. Voting ends October 7th, 2013, 11:59a, PST.

WWW Contestant 9: Julianne Snow

The following text is posted as part of HorrorAddicts.net‘s annual Wicked Women Writers Challenge.
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, #94.

Julianne Snow – Not All Jacks are Created Equal

Disaster –  Super Volcano

Location – Commuter Train

Helpful Item – Bottle of Jack Daniels

Disability – Naked

*******

 Not All Jacks Are Created Equal…

Julianne Snow

Why won’t this idiot get off of me? As I pushed him forcefully back, I felt the cool rush of air enter the space between our bodies. Like I actually cared if he was done or not!

I have to admit I was extremely exasperated by this point. Surely this asshat had felt the jolt like I had? I know my butt was the one on the edge of the sink, but how could he have not? It shook the entire train or at least I assumed it had given that all the cars were connected.

I need this fucker to get off of me so I can get dressed and figure out what is going on. I hope we didn’t hit another careless pedestrian… That was when he hit me. While I was shocked by the violence, I wasn’t truly surprised by it either. I didn’t know this jerk apart from the small moments we’d shared across the aisle from each other for the past six months. His name was Jack, he was gorgeous and I was single; sometimes things happen.

And it had happened today on our ride home. How I got myself into these situations was always beyond me, but I have to live up to the fact that I attract trouble.

The knock of his fist dazed me long enough for him to gather my clothes and duck out of the tiny bathroom we had shared for the short moments of our tryst.

Fuck! My clothes! What the fuck was I going to do now with nothing to wear?

At least the idiot hadn’t taken my purse or tote bag. That was something to be thankful for, right? Pulling out the bottle of Jack I’d purchased before getting on the train that evening, I took a long swill and as it burned down the back of my throat, it reminded me that life had the knack for kicking me in the face when I least expected it.

How the fuck am I going to get off this train unnoticed now? I was talking to myself, swallowing more of the amber alcohol than I probably should have given the circumstances. But then, what the fuck did I care? Some asshole had just punched me in the face and stolen my clothes. And I had been wearing my favourite dress too! A vintage Diane von Furstenberg I’d found for a steal in a charity shop a few years ago.

I took another long swallow and returned the cap to the bottle before sliding it back into my bag. It was time to face the rest of the train in all of my naked glory. Hopefully someone would be nice enough to offer me their jacket…

Who the fuck am I kidding? No one is going to offer me anything. I was talking to myself again but the action of it helped calm me down a bit. At least I still have my shoes…

I started to laugh heartily. Here I was, standing naked in a tiny bathroom on my way home thinking life was looking up because I still had my shoes. At least I hadn’t lost my sense of humour – yet.

The train rocked with another jolt and through the door I heard panic begin to spread. It was an odd mix of raised voices and shouts of disbelief. What the hell was going on out there?

Gathering my wits about me, I opened the door to the bathroom, grateful that it swung inward and peeked around its edge. I could see people trying to run down the small passageway in both directions, having to slow down just enough to let each other pass. Their faces betrayed a growing sense of panic and it frightened me. Had something really terrible happened?

My brain ran through all kinds of scenarios, but I quickly discarded most of them as completely stupid. Whatever it was couldn’t be so bad; we were still moving.

The force of the full stop threw me forward into the sink’s metal edge with enough force to leave a welt. The door swung free and slapped me on the ass, propelling me further against the sink and plastering my face against the grimy mirror.

I heard the screaming clearly now without the sound of the wheels on the rails in the background. Did I just hear what I think I heard?

A volcano?

I pried myself away from my own reflection and grabbed my purse and bag. Holding each of them in the best semblance of modesty I could attain, I cautiously inched out into the passageway.

Fairly soon my attempts at modesty were forgotten as I fought to hold onto my belongings amidst the rush of people. The doors to the cars had opened and people were fleeing the sanctity of the train in increasing numbers.

Not knowing what was going on and not trusting my ears since the idea of a volcano was pure lunacy, I fought the throngs of panicked people to an empty bank of seats. I wanted to sit down for a moment and shuffle through the information being thrust at me from all directions. It crossed my mind I should exit the train as well, but the cool temperature of the fall evening kept me inside – at least for the moment.

As I sat there, collecting my thoughts and watching the people run in the direction we had been travelling from, I couldn’t help but wonder why. What had spooked them all so much?

I heard a rumble in the background, but assumed it was a natural occurrence – something I hadn’t heard over the din of the train in the 6 years I had been riding it during my commute.

Then it hit me—maybe the train was on fire! That would explain the jolts I’d experienced while in the bathroom and even the noise I heard now. There must have been an explosion in one of the forward cars and here I lingered in the false sanctity of the train like an idiot.

Feeling the panic grow in my stomach, I made for the exit, believing I only had moments to escape. There were still people fleeing from the forward cars of the train, but none of them spared my nakedness a second glance.

As I stepped down from the car, thinking the drop was awfully far given the fact the train was not at a station with a platform, I stole a look toward the front of the train. The sight stopped me cold.

Those screams of panic and disbelief I had heard were not wrong. A volcano was erupting in close proximity to the train. The sight was astounding.

In an instant, I felt the heat of the event against my skin. I witnessed the flakes of ash as they floated to the ground. It was a mother-fucking volcano and it was erupting only a few miles from where I stood.

My nakedness now felt like a serious disadvantage – how would I protect my delicate skin from the heat and the ash that fell? What about burning embers? I couldn’t even think as more people ran by me, one of them crashing into me, propelling me backward against the bottom step I had just hopped down from.

I heard the crack as much as I felt it. Pain radiated up my back and into my brain while numbness permeated through my legs. I looked down and saw the odd angle created by my left leg as I slid to the ground in a heap. The resulting pop shook my body for the briefest of moments.

Fuck! It was the only word that fit the circumstances. I couldn’t feel my legs and my back hurt more than my last Brazilian wax.

No one noticed me on the ground in their haste to flee and I didn’t shout my insistence they see me either. I was going to die in that spot, dressed in the suit God had given me and there was nothing I could do.

Except drink of course. Opening the tote I had gingerly protected in the fall, I withdrew the cool bottle of Jack Daniels. Unscrewing the cap, I raised the bottle to my lips and let the fire spread through my stomach.

With a massive expulsion of ash and smoke, the volcano burped flames skyward. Rivers of red began to stream down the sides of the mountain, flowing freely and consuming whatever they touched.

The screams of those bolting dulled as they concentrating on escape and I was left in the relative quiet of the natural disaster. The lava flowed faster than I could have imagined and within short minutes it had reached the front of the train.

Molten rock met the metal in a fight to the death, the train easily losing the battle, shifting slightly in its tracks. With no means of escape, or the time to finish the bottle, I drank as much as I could before hot tears welled in my eyes.

The first kiss of scorching lava sent knives of pain along my nerves but they soon burned away as my skin succumbed. I remember feeling the pain and wishing my body would just give out, but it wasn’t going to be that easy. I watched in slow motion as the molten rock covered my body, eating away my flesh and melting my bones. Knowing I only had time for one last sip, I took it as the meat of my forearm seared, then separated from the bone. The weight of the bottle proved too much and it dragged my arm into the sea of death surrounding me. In that moment, it was over. My death wasn’t much more than the melting away of skin and bones until nothing remained.

Had anyone mentioned death on a volcano’s terms would help me in the afterlife, I would have laughed at them. But to be honest, burning alive has made dealing with the heat and humidity of Hell slightly easier to tolerate…

*******

To vote for this story, send an email to: horroraddicts@gmail.com with the subject line: WWW. Voting ends October 7th, 2013, 11:59a, PST.

WWW Contestant 8: Rebecca Snow

The following text is posted as part of HorrorAddicts.net‘s annual Wicked Women Writers Challenge.
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, #94.

Rebecca Snow

Disaster – Bio- Terrorism

Location – Golf Course

Helpful Item – Scissors

Disability – No Medicine

*******

 

Hazard

Rebecca Snow

The vines peeked over the sills of Meadow Haven Golf Course’s club house and wound their way toward the shingled roof.

“What do you think it is,” Megan asked.  She stood before the picture window and watched the rapid growth while trying to ignore the creepy feeling that her body was being scrutinized.

“Maybe some scientist seeded the clouds with Miracle Grow.  That powdery, green rain got on everything.”  Carl leaned on the counter and dragged his sweaty hands across the glass case as he let his gaze roam Megan’s backside.  “I’ll have to scrub the stuff off my car.  How much would it take for you to do that wearing a white t-shirt?”

Megan cringed.  “The treasury hasn’t made enough yet.”  She turned to face the leering young man.  “You drive the Hummer, right?”

Carl licked his lips and nodded.

“You’ll have to find it first before you can wash it.”  She motioned with her thumb toward the lot before pulling her sweater tighter around her shoulders.  “Looks like the weeds are hungry.”

With perfect timing, glass popped and metal twisted as the runaway foliage crushed a vehicle that had been parked illegally in the handicapped spot.  Carl jumped the counter and pressed his face against the window, his nose smashed like a four year old’s looking into a toy store.

“Aw, man!”  He banged on the pane with his fists.  “Somebody’s gonna have to pay for that.”

“I’m sure your daddy will be able to afford the repairs.”  Megan slid behind the counter and tapped her fingertips on the greasy glass.

Carl’s shoulders tensed.  Megan counted several breaths before she saw him relax.  Spinning in a precision move she was sure he’d learned from his stint in military school, he turned.  A sneer spread across his face.

“And why do you say that?” he asked, taking a single step toward her.

Megan shrugged and dropped to retrieve the glass cleaner and a wad of paper towels from the lower cabinet.  When she stood, Carl was pressed against the opposite side of the counter, his eyebrows pulled together in a scowl.  Megan flinched and sprayed a stream of vinegar scented cleaner on the handprints.  She mopped the towels through the spatter of particles, accomplishing little more than spreading the grime into circular smears.

“I asked you a question,” Carl shouted, grabbing her wrist.  “Why do you think my father would pay for my car?”

Megan twisted free and pulled open a drawer.  She grabbed a pair of scissors and spun, the blades nicking her skin as she pointed them toward Carl’s approaching form.

“Because he paid for…your get out of jail free card when you…put Mandy in a coma.”  Megan wheezed through her own snarl.

What passed for a smile in a back alley spread across Carl’s face.  He took a single step toward Megan.  She backed away from him and skittered around the counter.

“The cops didn’t have any evidence to link me to that.”

“You asked her out…that morning.  She told me, and she’d called me…when you picked her up.”

He took another step forward, his lips pulled together in a thin line.  He stared wide doe eyes at her.

“I never made it to her house.”  Carl tilted his head and mewled.  “My car wouldn’t start.”

Megan glanced over her shoulder as the room darkened.  The vegetation shaded the windows like blinds.  She caught a glimpse of Carl’s flattened ride before the green leaves blocked the entire scene.

“Liar,” she hissed and threw herself into the front door.  She pressed with all her weight as the overgrown branches blocked her way.  “Stay away…from me.”

Carl strode across the room.  As he reached for her, the door gave way and Megan stumbled onto the moss-padded sidewalk.

“Come back here,” Carl called as he sprinted to the door.

Megan kicked at the winding vines and ran, only turning when she heard Carl scream.  Threads of honeysuckle wound around his wrists and ankles and lifted him into the air.  He shrieked twice before an arm popped loose.  His body flopped like a ragdoll when the creepers dropped him to the ground.  She didn’t know if he was dead or just unconscious.  A strand of thorny rosebush coiled through his blood and into his hair.  Megan bolted toward the course.

The manicured lawn had grown to her waist.  Tendrils of long grass tickled her ankles and thighs as she lurched through them.  She dove into one of the larger sand traps.  In the relative safety of the hazard, she tried to comprehend her surroundings.  The rough that ringed the course had become a jungle.  The trees had grown to resemble the Redwoods Megan remembered from her trip to California.  The vines that hung from them could have supported Tarzan and his whole family without complaint.  A few dandelions at the edge of the lawn dwarfed several overturned golf carts as the mountain laurel’s massive blossoms crushed the canopies.

The grass continued to stretch toward the ever-diminishing sunlight.  Several blades braved the sand bunker and touched Megan’s knee.  She wheezed, opened the scissors, and snipped.  The stems recoiled, neon green oozed from the wounds as their amputated ends browned in the sand.  Megan retreated to the center of her oasis and dropped to her knees.  Distant screams echoed through the lush woodlands that had been city streets that morning.  A stray wind murmured through the dense leaves.

Megan rasped in a breath of air and patted her shorts’ pockets.  Her inhaler had been in her purse under the counter.  She stood and peered over the waves of tall grass.  What she could see of the clubhouse reminded her of the old paper route and the abandoned houses that had been swallowed by Kudzu years before she was born.  A tendril of lawn brushed her ear.  Her inhalation burned in her lungs.

“Get away,” she coughed.  She snapped the scissors closed around the shaft of green.  The wounded shoot pulled back into the thickening wall of meadow.

A pop sounded overhead.  A flash of orange glow lit up the postage stamp patch of sky left in her line of sight.  A deepening green fog sifted through the air around her.  The plant life twitched like a waking baby.  Vines and branches seemed to inhale the hazy mist.  Megan’s chest tightened.

She gasped and toppled to the sand.  Her hands dug through lintless pockets.  All hope for an overlooked inhaler died.  Pulling her knees up to her chest, she rested her head on them and tried to focus on her breathing.

A slender arm of foliage caressed her neck.  Megan hiccupped a gasp and shot to her feet.  She clamped the clippers around the slithering frond and squeezed.  She sawed with the little shears until the ragged remains retreated.  A dot-to-dot pattern bloomed in front of her.  She watched as the black spots morphed into a Rorschach configuration. Rubbing her eyes with the heels of her hands, she blinked most of the spots away, but her clouded vision remained.

Sinking onto the sand, Megan tried to catch her breath as she felt two more weeds stroke her legs.  She crushed both of the invaders with the dulling, metallic blades and rolled on her side.  The edge of the hazard seemed to be holding back most of the plant life.

Her neck tingled as though she were being watched.  She turned her head.  An endless wall of vegetal arms waited.  She swatted at the encroaching shoots with one hand and clutched her chest with the other.  As she gasped to fill her lungs, a vine wound around her ankle.  She heard the foliage whispering before the blotchy patch of sky went dark.

*******

To vote for this story, send an email to: horroraddicts@gmail.com with the subject line: WWW. Voting ends October 7th, 2013, 11:59a, PST.

WWW Contestant 7: Anastasia Marie Robinson

The following text is posted as part of HorrorAddicts.net‘s annual Wicked Women Writers Challenge.
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, #94.

Anastasia Robinson – Motherhood

Disaster –  BUGS!

Location – Circus

Helpful Item – Backpack

Disability – Small child or baby to care for

*******

 

Motherhood

by Marie Robinson

 

Well aren’t I just pathetic?” Sable thought as she slithered through the hordes of couples. There weren’t just couples—there were parents pulling along tearful toddlers and packs of chattering preteens—but surely Sable was the only one at the carnival by herself.

What was the occasion for the festivities anyway? Sable searched for an explanation in the tattered, faded banners and in the flashing marquees, but she found none. However, she did find something that caught her eye. Through the revolving rusty beams of the Ferris wheel she spied a wooden sign painted red with bold black letters. It read, “Oddities”.

I suppose ‘Freak Show’ isn’t politically correct these days,” Sable thought to herself as she headed down the narrow alley over which the sign hung.

A muddy, hay-strewn aisle was lined by fluttering red and white tents. As Sable gingerly pulled open one of the tent flaps she saw that it was populated by under a dozen people crowded around a figure perched on a stool. It was a man, who Sable guessed to be around sixty years of age, though it was hard to tell since seemingly every inch of his skin was covered in tattoos. He was naked from the waist up—his baggy skin sporting a rainbow of ink, its color worn by the sun.

Sable shook off a strange ominous feeling that followed her as she backed out the door of the tent and moved on to the next one. Inside this tent there was a small, circular stage with a ring of men gathered around, their eyes set hungrily upon a woman who danced on the stage. Given that she was only clad in a sheer, black lace bra and a thong, you could see nearly all of her ivory-skinned, voluptuous body. Her hair hung in inky black curls, her pouting lips painted red; she looked weary, and with closed eyes she appeared as though she could be dancing in her sleep.

As she twirled around, her arms stretched lazily above her head, Sable stifled a gasp with the palm of her hand. At the bottom of the woman’s spine, just above her soft, round bottom there sprouted a long, flesh-colored protrusion. It was stiff and thin, and hung down to her thighs—a tail.

Sable turned and tried to leave as quickly but politely as possible. “One more and then I’m out of here,” Sable thought, her morbid curiosity getting the better of her. She pushed into the next tent; this one was packed full of people crowded around a stage similar to the one in the last.

A wiry man loomed above them, and before him on the stage was the most horrid creature Sable had ever seen. Standing about three feet tall, Sable could not decide if it more resembled a slug or a maggot. The skin—slimy, milky, and somewhat translucent—was stretched tightly over the fat being; the pulsing veins and organs seemed as though they would tear right through and flood forth onto the audience. Two rows of sharp, needle-like digits flexed down the length of its body and it appeared to have no eyes or mouth.

“Now, keep your distance, folks,” sang the announcer. “This here is a new, unidentified species and we haven’t the slightest inclination as to its nature. Hell, we don’t even know what it eats! Could be you if you don’t back up, sir!”

The announcer jabbed a man in the chest with his cane that pressed himself up against the stage.

“This gorgeous feller was discovered in a barn in Iowa—the farmer who found him claims the creature came from outer space! I don’t have a better guess—do you? Hey, buddy, back up!”

The same man in the crowd was stepping closer again; he reached a hand up toward the thing. A low hissing issued from the bug and where before there appeared only tight skin, a small hole had opened. It continued to gape wider, revealing a round mouth lined with small, jagged teeth.

“Good God, get back!”

But before the inquisitive man could stumble backwards the creature sprang upon him. The thin, sharp legs of the beast imbedded themselves in the man’s sides, and the mouth closed around his face. While the man writhed in agony under the monster’s firm hold, a cream-colored, curved stinger grew from its abdomen. The dripping end disappeared into the man’s stomach with a cruel jab. The man collapsed to the floor, the creature still holding tight to him.

Sable jumped as a bullet ripped through the beast. The announcer was now toting a shotgun; he fired another bullet into the bug as it leapt from the corpse towards him.

The monster fell dead in a bloody pulp at the announcer’s feet.

On the ground, the man’s corpse was violently twitching and thick black liquid oozed from his gory wound. With a sick explosion, insects the length of a forearm came crawling from his chest. They were smaller versions of their mother, and the color of ink. They moved quickly along the ground and each sought out a pair of legs to scurry up to repeat the same grotesque process, plunging their stingers into the bellies of the awestruck crowd.

Sable stumbled backward, too horrified to scream while the announcer kept firing away at the beasts until a horde of them crawled upon the stage and overtook him; he disappeared in a seething black mass.

Sable’s stifled scream finally ripped from her throat as something bumped against the back of her legs. She whirled around, her heart frozen by the notion that it could be one of those ravenous insects. What she found, however, was somehow more disturbing.

It was a stroller with a silent, sleeping infant in tow. Sable searched the crowd wildly for the parents, but everyone within the tent was lying dead or violated, and the few that remained alive were fleeing.

Sable paused for a moment of trepidation. She knew next to nothing about how to care for a child, especially one that wasn’t even hers! Then again, she couldn’t just leave an infant to be massacred by these monsters…

Noticing a slit in the tent, Sable grabbed hold of the stroller’s handles and quickly wheeled the baby toward it. The opening led them to an aisle of abandoned ticket booths. Screams mixed with the maddening calliope.

She looked down at the child and felt a rush of panic, wondering what she had gotten herself into—but an unexpected feeling of courage drowned out the uncertainty. She would not abandon this baby.

Looking over the stroller, Sable noticed a backpack shoved into a compartment above the wheels. When she retrieved it she found that it wasn’t very heavy and seemingly only contained a few articles. She unzipped the backpack and rifled through, pulling out each object her hand found to examine it.

Within she found a bottle, half-filled with formula, a pack of diapers and wipes, a can of bug-spray—

Why not?” Sable thought and doused herself with the stuff. She rounded the front of the stroller and knelt before the baby. Pressing a palm softly over the child’s closed eyes, she sprayed a layer of insect repellent on the baby’s smooth, mahogany skin. The baby’s peaceful face immediately crinkled as the pungent mist rained over it and the eyes fluttered open.

Tears welled in the almond orbs and small, choking cries sputtered from the infant’s mouth.

Sable’s chest tightened as the cries turned to wailing. She shushed the baby, wordlessly begging it to stop, but she was helpless. She lifted her gaze over the stroller and saw one of the black insects—already twice the size it had started at—slither out from the tent. It knew where they were and began twisting toward them on dozens of clicking legs.

Sable felt her insides contracting in terror but managed to snatch up the backpack and feel blindly inside for something—anything—to save them. Frustrated, unable to recognize any of the objects within by touch alone she overturned the backpack and dumped it onto the ground. She was pleasantly surprised when a handgun fell from the bag into the dust.

With no time to think Sable picked it up, cocked it and fired at the monster. She hit it—and the bug flew onto its back, long body flailing as liquid leaked from it, until it finally curled up and froze into a lifeless ball.

An exasperated laugh of disbelief escaped Sable’s mouth as she lowered the gun and whirled around, shoving the firearm down into the backpack.

“Let’s get out of here,” Sable wheezed through her burning chest. Pushing the stroller she blocked out the sounds and sights of chaos all around her. The horrible orchestra that was created by screaming, crying, ripping, shredding, mixed with the maniacal calliope turned into a dull fuzz in her ears. The collapsed tents, broken windows, dilapidated structures and blazing fires were unseen by her; Sable had eyes only for her destination—the Ferris wheel.

Somehow they made it there alive. The operator was surely long gone; the Ferris wheel spun in a slow, continuous ring. Sable swung the strap of the backpack over one shoulder and picked up the baby, whose little face was beat red and covered in tears.

Two corpses occupied the first carriage that drifted by—a teenage couple whose stomachs were savagely torn open. Sable gagged, took a deep breath, and waited for the next carriage. It was empty; she scrambled into it, keeping a hold of the baby as it screamed in her ear.

As they were lifted up towards the sky Sable rummaged through the backpack, searching with a clawed hand until her grasp claimed a pacifier. She popped it in the baby’s mouth, silencing its piercing cries. Sable peered down into the child’s eyes, which were wells that never seemed to dry; she suddenly felt a calm, a warmth, a peace.

“I don’t know your name,” she said softly. “I don’t even know if you are a boy or a girl yet. But I promise, I’ll keep you safe.”

She hugged the child tight to her, and just as they were perched on the peak of the arc the carriage stopped and the whole carnival plunged into darkness, leaving them nestled up in the stars.

*******

To vote for this story, send an email to: horroraddicts@gmail.com with the subject line: WWW. Voting ends October 7th, 2013, 11:59a, PST.

WWW Contestant 6: Rebekah Webb

The following text is posted as part of HorrorAddicts.net‘s annual Wicked Women Writers Challenge.
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, #94.

Rebekah Webb – Prey

Disaster –  Super Virus

Location – Restaurant

Helpful Item –  Baseball Bat

Disability – Allergic reaction

*******

 Prey

By Rebekah Webb

The woman crept up to the window, looking through grimy glass to the scene inside. Several people huddled together, surrounded by overturned tables and chairs, forming a barrier like circled wagons, though the tables were too short to be of any real use.

The building used to be a restaurant, a small café filled with the smells  of cooking food and sounds of clinking glasses and idle chatter. She remembered how it used to look, with warm sunlight pouring into the windows, falling onto the soft navy blue walls and pale brown tables, glinting off the polished metal counter in the back and  closed in glass cases with their assortment of sweets and breads.

Now, the glass was streaked with grime, so thick that some parts were black. Thick wooden boards covered the windows, leaving small grime covered spaces for the sun to force its way through, giving the café a dim lighting, like an old church or crypt. The counter was no longer polished, but scratched and dented, the glass cases cracked and filled with dried out crumbs. The only sounds were the soft frightened breathing and hushed conversation of the people in the center of the table and chair fort. The only smells were the sweet tang of their body odor. The woman breathed it in and let it hang on the back of her tongue, tasting the fear that came off each one of them in waves.

She moved closer to the small space of dirty glass between the boards and watched the group, their whispers clear in her ears as if they were being shouted.

There were four of them, two women, one man and a child, a little boy about the age of five. One woman had long light hair, with pale skin and pale clothing. The other had dark hair and dark clothing, possibly deep blue or black. It was hard to tell through the dim light and grime. The man had a ring of long unkempt hair around his head, the top smooth and barren, giving him the look of a candle that had started to melt at the top.

“We can’t stay here,” he said, his voice rising slightly but still staying a whisper. He clutched a dirty hat in his hands and twisted it around as he spoke. “It’s not safe.”

The pale haired woman shook her head. She had the small boy in her lap and stroked his hair absently. He leaned against her with his eyes closed, sleeping the peaceful sleep that adults were no longer capable of doing. Their sleep was always rushed, tiny slips of unconsciousness filled with movement and screams.

“We have nowhere else to go,” she said. “The roads are crawling with those things. We were lucky to make it here. There’s food in the kitchen and boards on the windows. We’ll be safe here for a few days, at least.”

“A few days?” the man roared in his whisper. “They’ll be all over us in a few days.” He removed one hand from his hat and waved it around the room. “Just look around. Where are the people who boarded up those windows? It wasn’t very safe for them.”

The pale haired woman frowned and kept stroking the hair of the young child. “Those windows are still boarded, aren’t they? If something happened to the people before, there would be signs of a struggle. This place is untouched. Hell, even the display case was still plugged in.”

“What about the counter?” the man asked. “It looked like someone used it for target practice! With their feet and fists.”

“I highly doubt a pack of those things rushed in, attacked the counter and rushed out again, leaving everything else untouched.” The pale haired woman looked over at the counter. “Vandals, most likely, dumb kids having a laugh before all this happened.”

“I still think we shouldn’t stay too long,” the man said. He stopped twisting the hat, but still clutched it tightly between his fingers. “Those things are bound to come here sooner or later.”

“And we’ll be gone before they do,” the pale haired woman said. “A few days to rest up and then we’ll head off again.”

“You guys are missing the most important point of all,” the dark haired woman suddenly said, the first words she had spoken all night. They both turned to look at her.

“What’s that?” the pale haired woman asked.

“That no matter where we go, they’ll find us,” she said. “Eventually, we’ll run out of places to run to. It doesn’t matter if we stay here for a night, a few days or a few years. They’ll get us in the end.”

The other two didn’t respond and the room grew silent, with only their frightened breathing filling the air. The woman outside smiled and backed away from the window. She crept around to the back of the café and pulled a small key from her pocket. The key fit into the back door and it opened silently on oiled hinges. She slipped into the kitchen and walked across the empty space and over to the door leading to the main room.

She took a deep breath and breathed in the scent of her prey, before bursting in on them with a wild cry. She easily leapt over the protective barrier and landed smoothly on the other side. The people stood up and shouted to each other, the pale haired woman still clutching the now sobbing child in her arms.

They man and dark haired woman rushed at her, swinging a baseball bat and thick piece of rusted pipe. The woman pulled both weapons from their hands and watched as they both stumbled, the sudden exertion causing their limbs to lock up. It didn’t her long to snap their necks or toss them out of the flimsy circle of tables and chairs. The pale haired woman was still standing, but the panic was sending her limbs into the same weakness as the other two. She went down on one knee and pushed herself away, clutching the boy with shaking arms that slowly fell down to her sides.

“Leave us alone,” she pleaded, her voice rising into a scream. “I  don’t know if you can understand me, but please, at least spare my child.”

The woman laughed. “I can understand you perfectly,” she said, as she grabbed to small child. “And I will spare your child.” She sunk her teeth into the boy’s arm and tossed him aside, then kicked the woman in the head, collapsing her skull like an egg.

She left the wailing child on the floor and went about her business, picking up the chairs and tables and setting them back into position. Then she walked into the kitchen and unlocked a small trap door, revealing a stash of food. She pulled armfuls out and restocked the refrigerator, filling it with temping morsels of bread, meat and jars of condiments, each laced with special chemicals crafted to absorb into the bodies of those who ate it, gestating for hours before causing an allergic reaction like the toxin of a snake, their own pumping hearts locking their limbs and making them easier to kill.

She walked back into the main room and admired her handy work, smiling at her carefully set trap. She didn’t have to roam the roads or work in a pack like some sort of animal. Most of her kind didn’t. Those were distractions, scouts sent out to drive prey to carefully maintained traps. This was her duck blind, her tiger pit. The humans underestimated her kind, seeing them as mindless, feral animals. That made them easy prey.

The woman looked over at the boy, who had started to froth at the mouth, the virus inside her now coursing through his veins. In a few minutes, he would be like her, stronger, faster and smarter. She would share her meal with him and then teach him how to join in on the hunt, a new ally to help corral the wandering prey, carefully guided and maintained like deer in season, to fill her kind’s bellies for years to come.

*******

To vote for this story, send an email to: horroraddicts@gmail.com with the subject line: WWW. Voting ends October 7th, 2013, 11:59a, PST.

WWW Contestant 5: Chantal Noordeloos

The following text is posted as part of HorrorAddicts.net‘s annual Wicked Women Writers Challenge.
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, #94.

Chantal Noordeloos – Out of a Storm

Disaster –  Super Storm

Location – Haunted Hotel

Helpful Item – Rope

Disability – All Alone

******* 

Out of the Storm

By Chantal Noordeloos

 

It all starts with darkness and my ears ringing. Where am I?

I know my eyes are open and for a moment I feel panic slide its cold, clammy fingers from my stomach to my throat, but then I realise I can see light in the distance. Need to remember.

The ringing in my ear seems louder now. No, not ringing.  It is the storm. I remember the storm, but through a sea of cotton that seems to have replaced my brain.

The dark is disorienting, and I use the cold concrete ground as a bearing. My palms stick to the chilling surface, and I almost scream as the side of my hand brushes against something that feels like hair or fur. Carefully I let my fingers explore, curiosity stronger than fear.

A rope.

It pricks my fingers slightly, little bristles piercing the skin of my palm. My hand grips it, finding comfort in its presence. I can tie myself down when the storm comes. It’s a ridiculous thought, but somehow I know that the rope is important.

I sit up, tucking my feet under my skirt, and my right hand, cold from the concrete, rubs the bottom of my nose. I feel so alone. There was a storm, and I had to run. I had to find safety, and I came here… where is here?

Images trickle back into my mind, thick and distorted, a story told in fragments. I’m watching the news that talks of the storm. There is no alarm at first, it is far away, in countries that I couldn’t even point out on a map. At first there is indifference, but as the death toll rises, there is pity. Pity turns to fear when the reports change. The storm is not letting up, it is growing, mutating. Like a living monster, it devours everything in its path. People are frightened, this storm is unlike any other. People give the storm a face, a name; Ouranos. The greek personification of the heavens, the god who ate his children. This storm, this mythical being, is eating us.

It leaves nothing in its wake, nothing but remains of the world as we once knew. People flood the streets with signs declaring that the end of the world is upon us. Some turn to god, different gods, but the intention is the same. Some turn to the government, or to science. But nothing matters, there is nothing that can protect us. This storm, it finds us in our hiding places and rips up all our defences.

I watched the images of a brave camera man’s last moments. The winds on the screen dragged trees out of the ground by their roots and tossed them around. We watched in silent horror. But there was more, a darkness in the storm. Something kept me hypnotised, through the screen I could see tenebrous pulsating in the depths of the storm, I can see the monster within. It would come for me, it would come for my body and my soul. The camera fades from chaotic images to black, as the man working it is sucked up by the storm.

We needed to run. The little wooden house in the little wooden neighbourhood could not withstand this monster of a storm. It would devour us. Body and soul.

My mother does not want to go to the shelters. They are too cramped, too many people seek refuge. There is one other option, one place no one from our neighbourhood would dare to hide….

I know where I am. The realisation sends electrical tingles to run up to my skull.

I know why it is so dark. I am in a basement, in the basement of the local hotel. The storm hit unexpected, it spread through the world like a raging cancer. Mutating and multiplying in size, and we ran into the only place we could think. We ran to the haunted hotel.

The place I feared most as a child. In the fifties one of the guests was responsible for the murder of seventeen guests. The hotel never lived down the reputation, and like the seventeen guests, the hotel died a slow and agonizing death. The owner, a man driven mad by the incident, hung himself from the chandelier.

As children we would dare each other to enter the dark building. I never did, convinced that this place would hold my soul a prisoner. My father called me sensitive, the other children called me cowardly, but I knew there was something about this place. Just as I know there is something about the storm.

If only I could remember getting here. It’s so dark and I don’t know where my parents are. The darkness prevents me from calling out. There is a slight sound, like a squeak that causes me to move. I fear what I can’t see. Far away I see a sliver of light. It must be a door, or perhaps shutters of a window. I stand up, waving my hands in front of my body to protect myself from invisible obstacles. My hair brushes lightly against something that is above me. It could be anything, a lamp, a spiderweb. I am too afraid to touch it, this time fear wins. It gnaws at my stomach.

The light comes from a little crack in a window shutter. It takes a lot of effort for me to open it. The strength seems to have left my fingers and hands and I tear the wood away with sheer willpower. Light pours in, blinding me. Through a small basement window I can see the world outside being consumed by chaos. I can see it now, Ouranos, I can see it for what it really is. A great big creature, a God. It smashes the houses, breaks the trees into kindling. Its great big translucent hands, shaped as dark storm clouds, pick up humanity and sucks the flesh of their bones, the souls from their vessels. It eats all, cars sticking from its grotesque mouth. All but this hotel. This haunted hotel. It’s different.

Then I remember. The fear and sorrow of watching my mother die, consumed by the storm. Seeing my father being torn limb from limb. I remember it all now. It wasn’t my parents who wanted to come here… it was my choice.

I turn around, with an agonizing slowness, my hands clutching the rope so tightly that the material bites in my palms. There is something behind me I need to see, but part of me isn’t ready. It takes all the courage I have to let my gaze slip from the floor to the ceiling. There, hanging from a rope, dangles a body.

The face is contorted, a black tongue protrudes from swollen lips. The tips of the naked toes point down to the floor. Tears run from my eyes.

It’s me.

Outside the storm rages. It eats all that is alive, swallowing it whole. It will destroy the living, but it can’t reach the dead. It cannot obliterate me as it does all else. I will continue to exist in this ethereal form.  Here, in this building that traps souls, I am safe from the storm out there. Here I am a survivor.

The end

This has been an audio podcast recording of the “Out of the Storm” written and performed by Chantal Noordeloos. If you enjoyed this story you can vote for Chantal to win the 2013 Wicked Women Writers Challenge at horroraddicts@gmail.com

Please share this recording with friends.

If you are interested in other works by Chantal Noordeloos please go to http://www.chantal noordeloos.info Thank you for listening and we hope you enjoyed this audio recording.

*******

To vote for this story, send an email to: horroraddicts@gmail.com with the subject line: WWW. Voting ends October 7th, 2013, 11:59a, PST.

WWW Contestant 4: Chantal Boudreau

The following text is posted as part of HorrorAddicts.net‘s annual Wicked Women Writers Challenge.
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, #94.

Chantal Boudreau – A Wing and a Prayer

Disaster –  EMP Blast

Location – Airplane

Helpful Item –  Rubber Tubing

Disability – Pregnant

*******

 Chantal Boudreau

On a Wing and a Prayer

What sort of cretin clobbers a pregnant woman?

That was my first thought as I came to, my mind foggy and my head throbbing incessantly.  It would take one hell of a scumbag to knock out a lady who’s been knocked up.  And with me, my current “condition” is pretty damn obvious.

I then recalled that I had been en route to Winnipeg in a small plane when I had been struck upside the head.  I listened for the drone of the engines, but aside from some shuffling and mumbling in the rear compartment of this dinky toy of a machine, there was only silence – silence and the sensation that we were falling.

Instantly, my heart was in my throat and beating a million miles a minute.  I don’t get scared easily, but I had always hated flying for a reason, and this was a prime example of it.  Having things crap out on you in the middle of the sky really sucks.  The plane was going down.  Memories of what had happened to me before the blow to my head started flooding back to me.

I had been working in the field office of a mining excavation site in Northern Manitoba when my pregnancy had started to show – the results of having a little too much to drink one evening and getting too friendly with a co-worker.  I didn’t want to leave, but the bastards insisted I had to go – something about occupational health and safety regulations, liability issues, and the availability of health services.  Bah!  There were men on site with problems worse than mine.  You didn’t see them shipping those guys out.  I tried to fight it, but in the end, I lost.

We were on our way south, just the pilot and me in this tiny plane, when there was a sudden message on the radio from a nearby remote military base, warning about an anticipated nuclear strike. “What the hell?”  I asked myself, “Why in Northern Manitoba?” Right after that, a vibration shook the plane, a pulse that made everything that used power just come to a dead stop.  The pilot’s face went ghost white and he mumbled something about nuclear weapons and an EMT blast.  As the plane started to plummet, he scrambled into the back.  I started to follow, only to notice, just as he did, that there was only one parachute hanging on the hooks in the back – one chute, two of us.  That was when he had turned on me without warning and hit me in the head.  I saw stars and the lights went out.

He hadn’t noticed that I had regained consciousness and he was in the process of trying to hoist the chute onto his back so he was ignoring me completely.  The asshole probably figured that because I was preggers, I was some sort of fragile flower he could beat into submission with one pretty pathetic blow.  I’ve been working up North since I was nineteen, a good fifteen years, and I can promise you if you’re not  tough when you start, you certainly are after your first few weeks there, never mind a decade and a half.  I’m as tough as nails, and my head is even tougher.  The jerk clearly had no clue who he was messing with.

I crawled forward as quietly as I could, searching the compartment for something that I could use as a weapon.  The only thing that struck me as potentially useful that was within reach was a coil of rubber tubing.  I closed my hand over it and waited until he had his back turned to me, as he reached to slide part of the strapping into place to secure the pack for the chute.  Then I thrust myself up onto my feet in one swift but awkward movement, looping the tubing over his head and around his neck.  Working around my bulging belly, I yanked the tubing tight across his throat and held on for dear life.

He fell to the floor, maybe expecting he’d have better leverage there, or that he’d be able to shake me off in the process.  He was wrong – I guess I’m a lot stronger than he was anticipating for a pregnant woman with a head wound.  From that angle, I could actually manage to wedge my knees in his lower back, underneath the pack for the parachute, and pull even tighter.  He tried to reach back and grab me as he gasped and choked for air and when that didn’t work he clawed at the tubing that was strangling him.  That didn’t work either.

Do you want to know what was the most annoying thing during all of that?  It wasn’t the fact that my head was pounding like someone was thumping it with a hammer or that my ankles were so swollen I figured I was going to have to cut my boots open when it would come time to take them off.  Nope – the worst of it was that the nuisance of a little parasite in my belly decided he or she wasn’t too happy about the whole situation.  All the while I was throttling this guy with the tubing, the pest wrestled around inside me like he or she was trying to shove a way out.  It’s really distracting when someone jabs their toes in your liver or lung while you are trying to keep a grip on your strangulation method of choice.

In the end, despite the constant distraction, my stubbornness prevailed.  The antagonistic pilot stopped thrashing around underneath me, his face blue, his eyes bulging and his tongue lolling out of his mouth, kind of like one of those nasty slaughterhouse pictures of a dead cow or sheep.  I got to my feet, gave him a couple of hearty kicks to the head for good measure with my painfully-tight steel-toed boots and then started pulling the chute pack off of his back.

Now I’m just praying I can get the pack on and launch myself out of the plane before it’s too late.  I’m not sure if I’ll have time to get clear of the plane and pull the ripcord with enough distance between me and the snow-covered ground.  I’d prefer not to turn into a splotchy red puddle of goo when I hit bottom.

And the wriggling pest inside of me?  Well I guess I can consider my predicament punishment for not watching out just who I got drunk with.  I’m hoping whoever’s inside of me is as tough as I am, considering all this mess.  That little one may have survived a beating and a brawl, but that’s just the beginning of the problems we’ll have to endure.  As I fling myself out of this doomed plane, I’m just wondering how he or she is going to handle a super-long hike in subzero temperatures in the hopes of reaching anything resembling civilization.  And if we make it that far, if we actually find refuge, then we’ll probably run into the issue of fallout and radiation.  I guess we’ll just have to handle that crisis if and when we get to it.

*******

To vote for this story, send an email to: horroraddicts@gmail.com with the subject line: WWW. Voting ends October 7th, 2013, 11:59a, PST.

WWW Contestant 3: DM Slate

The following text is posted as part of HorrorAddicts.net‘s annual Wicked Women Writers Challenge.
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, #94.

DM Slate – Veil of Darkness

Disaster – Strange Matter/Anti-Matter

Location – Interstate Freeway

Helpful Item – Gas Mask

Disability – Elderly Parent

*******

 

Imagine a world where uncertainty is the only thing that’s certain.  A world where an entire city block can be swallowed and literally disappear, in the blink of an eye.  That is the world that we live in, the world that is now our reality.  In retrospect, it seems fitting that our apocalypse would be manmade…we did this to ourselves.  Scientists created a strange-matter vacuum with greater power than they could’ve ever imagined, and now, there’s no containing it.

 

Veil of Darkness

By D.M. Slate

 

Beads of sweat drip from the nape of my neck, running down my perspiring back.  The sun is relentless, scorching my arm as it glares through the driver’s side window.  Reaching for the air conditioner, I flip the switch to high.  Pete sighs in relief, and I glance toward the passenger’s seat, smiling through my sadness.

Tearing my eyes away, I look back toward the grid-locked interstate, choosing my words carefully.

“You know Pete, Sunny Acres is a really great place, and you’re going to make so many new friends that you won’t even have time to miss me.”  The large black cat nuzzles against Pete’s arm, meowing.  “And Gizmo will be there to keep you company, too.  You’ll see…”

Slamming on the brakes, I grasp the steering wheel as vehicles collide and pile up in front of us.  “What just happened?  Pete – are you alright?”

With wide, disbelieving eyes, I stare through the windshield at the rift that’s opened up just before us, in the middle of the interstate.  The black-hole creates a vertical wall of chaos, devouring everything in its path.  Stranded motorists escape their cars, fleeing in all directions, running for their lives.  I grab for the door handle, but then I hesitate, looking over at Pete.  The man has become a father-figure to me, since my own family was swallowed in the Denver rift, last fall.

He’s slumped forward over his seatbelt, head hanging limply.  In that split-second of indecision, the choice was made for me… the rift is upon us.

****

Nausea turns my stomach and my head spins out of control.  I raise a shaky hand to my temple, pressing firmly against my skull.

It takes all of my strength to will my eyelids apart.  Heart racing, I look to my right.  Pete‘s there, motionless, with Gizmo prancing in his lap.

Confused, I scan the horizon.  Its pitch black outside, and I can’t see a thing.  I catch a dim reflection of my own eyes in the rear view mirror, and in that instant, the memory of the rift returns.

Gizmo nuzzles his head against my side, a small reassurance of life.  I pet the animal briefly, before pushing him aside.  “Pete?  Can you hear me?”  I shake his shoulder, gently, but he makes no response.

Reaching for the ignition I turn the keys, but nothing happens.  Panic stricken, I crank again, and again.  The car gives no response.  Batting at the dash, I hit all of the switches.  Only a dim interior light, and one single headlight respond.  The beam of luminescence cuts through the suffocating black abyss, creating a single line of vision down the ominous black highway.   I peer out, into the murky darkness, searching for answers…

It’s then that I finally stop, and listen, for the first time.

This isn’t right, at all.  Squinting, I peer through the windshield, trying to make sense of the situation.  Scattered before me, I see the haunting outline of several mangled vehicles.

“Gizmo, what’s wrong?”  I turn, looking for the cause of his feral meowing.  Then, I hear the noise.

Covering my ears, I try to muffle the sound.  Its deafening…painful, even.  Smacking at the radio I turn all the knobs in an attempt to make it stop, but the speakers aren’t emitting the noise.  It’s just vibrating in the air, all around, from all directions.

Burying my head in my arms, I use my biceps as earmuffs.  My brain rattles within my skull, and then, my body begins to seize.  Shaking and twitching, I feel my eyes roll back into my head, and then everything goes black.

****

Gizmo’s sandpaper tongue rakes across my cheek once, and then again.  I’m slumped against the driver’s window, and it takes an incredible amount of effort to sit upright.  My body is drained.  Weak.  Everything moves in slow motion, and eventually, I make eye contact with myself in the mirror.  Startled, I jump, alarmed at my own appearance.

A clotted trail of blood leads from my nostrils, down onto my lips, and then to the bottom of my chin.  I swipe at it, clumsily smearing the half dried blood across my cheek.  A black tar-like substance oozes from my tear ducts, blurring my vision.  Crying out in horror, I claw at my eyeballs with both hands. Staring in the mirror again, I realize that that eyeball its self is changing color.  The blackness spans from the tear duct, to nearly the center of the eye.  My jaw gapes in horrified disbelief.

Looking to my side I see Gizmo, and then, I remember that Pete is here, too.  My eyes skim past the elderly man to the crazed cat in-between us.  He continues to howl, and a stiff ridge of hair sprouts on his back.

“What is it, Gizmo?  What’s wrong?”  I peer out the windshield.

My heart skips a beat when I hear a car door slam.  I subconsciously hold my breath, waiting. Then, a small movement catches my eye.  At the far edges of the light’s reach, I see someone, or something, approaching my car.  The gait is slow, and uneven. I can’t make out a distinct outline, but I can see the denseness getting closer, and closer… yet always just out of view.

Gizmo is plastered to the floorboard, now silent and still.  I’ve lost track of the thing’s movement.  It’s out there, but I don’t know where.  And then, I feel its eyes upon me.  Ever so slowly I turn my head, looking out the driver’s side window.  There, on the other side of the thin glass, stands a boy no more than 7 or 8.  He stands motionless, staring blankly at me with his black orb eyes.

Without warning, the child disappears in a swish of air, followed by a trailing scream and the crunch of bone.  I recoil from the door.  My erratic motion jars Pete’s shoulder, driving him sideways into the passenger’s door.

“Pete – you have to wake up!”  I shake his arm with intensity.  He lifts his head, blinking several times, before turning his gaze upon me.  My stomach drops.  Blackness covers his eyeballs, and another eye-lens has grown over the orb, blinking with independent timing of the outer eyelid.

We stare at each other for a split-second, before he lunges.  In a frenzy of flying arms and scratching nails, he comes at me, full force.  Constrained by his seatbelt, I manage to avoid his grasp and flop into the back seat.  Scattered boxes and belongings fill most of the space… there’s nowhere to go.

Now free of his seatbelt, Pete turns upon me.  Frantic, I grab for anything I can find in the clutter.  My fingers snag the rubber eyepiece of his World War II gas mask, and I swing with all of my might.  The large metal-nosed filter connects with Pete’s forehead, stopping him in mid-motion.

The elderly man keels over to the side, unconscious.  Without a hesitation, I lean forward into the front, opening the passenger’s side door.  I stare out into the blackness, terrified.  Adrenaline urging me on, I shove with all my strength, until Pete’s limp form slides out of the car.  Clambering into the front, I pull the door closed, locking it.

Listening, I hear movement outside…something’s out there!

Before I have time to react, the piercing vibrations tear through the air again, rendering me unconscious.

****

My eyelids flutter open, and I squint in response.  There’s a distant light on the horizon.  Steadying myself, I focus on it, and then I realize what I’m seeing.  It’s the sun.  It’s rising!  Hope flutters with my being.

I look to the mirror, finding my eyes to be no worse… the blackness hasn’t progressed.  Creeping to the passenger door I look out.  Pete’s body isn’t there.

Calmly, I sit in the seat and stare forward through the windshield, toward the rising sun.  At this point, all I can do is wait to see what’s revealed, once this veil of darkness is finally lifted.

 

****

Veil of Darkness
by
D.M. Slate

To vote for D.M. Slate in the 2013 Wicked Women’s Writing Challenge,

Send votes to horroraddicts@gmail.com

To discover more D.M. Slate stories, visit dm-slate.com

Happy Reading!

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To vote for this story, send an email to: horroraddicts@gmail.com with the subject line: WWW. Voting ends October 7th, 2013, 11:59a, PST.

WWW Contestant 2: Shauna Klein

The following text is posted as part of HorrorAddicts.net‘s annual Wicked Women Writers Challenge.
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, #94.

Shauna Klein – Static

Disaster –  Terrorist Invasion

Location – Greenhouse

Helpful Item – Skateboard

Disability – Migraine Headache

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Static

Shauna Klein

Living in the country has its benefits. I get to enjoy fresh air and fresh food from my garden and to listen to the birds chirping. I even have a pretty big greenhouse that helps us during the winter. It’s just me, my husband and our dogs but we love it.

Everyone had been hearing on the news about nuclear strikes and threats from North Korea. Just like anything else, life goes on. You worry but you hope for the best. That day, my husband had headed into town to help out a friend with a car repair. I had the whole house to myself other than the dogs so I decided to head out to the greenhouse to check on the plants and to rinse off the skateboard we’d picked up for my nephews birthday.

I wouldn’t have had to clean it up if my husband hadn’t decided to act like he was the one with a 12th birthday party. Instead of wrapping it, he wanted to try it out first and ended up falling off. The skateboard flew off into the mud and my husband Rich had a bruised ego and a bruised ass to show for it. It was kind of funny but I was glad he didn’t get hurt.

Unfortunately, I had a splitting migraine. Not the kind that some have where you’re stuck in bed all day but just enough to make me irritable and angry at the world. Once I got done I figured I’d go lie down for a while.

As I was in the greenhouse, I heard something strange on the radio. The newscaster was saying something about an air invasion. I mean, really? What is this, Red Dawn? About that time I heard something.

It sounded like something big hit the side of a building; almost like a large truck or something. As I poked my head out the door I saw it – well, not it but them – it looked like guys with parachutes dropping in. I know, Red Dawn flashed through my head too. I wondered why the North Koreans would bother with my town anyway when I saw something strange. All of the “guys” dropping in had what looked to be old, torn clothing and what made absolutely no sense is that they were all black and white. I don’t mean their race either; everything about them was something out of an old movie. And they weren’t Korean at all.

Now when I was younger I though the world used to be in black and white because of the television shows but these things actually was. I actually closed my eyes a moment thinking I was dreaming or my migraine was actually some kind of brain tumor I hadn’t Googled yet and I was seeing hallucinations but nope, when I opened them again, the colorless sky droppers were still there and landing one after another. The noise I heard was them dropping to the ground. Every time one hit, the sound was enormous. It made no sense at all and I honestly thought I was losing it.

As I stood there staring at them, riveted in one spot – one of them spotted me. I mean they couldn’t have been more than 50 yards from me and like an idiot, instead of hiding I was staring at them like I’d seen a Martian. I might as well have because they made no sense at all. As this thing saw me he stopped and pointed, made some kind of noise that sounded like static and the others looked as well.

At that point I ran back inside of the greenhouse. Little good that would do me considering it’s a big building with glass walls. It’s not like I could hide and it’s not like I had any kind of weapon. Who brings a gun to a greenhouse?

As I tried to find somewhere to hide I noticed I still had the muddy skateboard in my hands. Lot of good that would do me but it’s the only thing I had and I held on to it like a lost kid with a teddy bear. I didn’t have a rake or any kind of weapon in there so all I could do is wait and pray.

As I stood there trembling, just about to pee myself one of them opened the door and stepped in. “Get away,” I yelled. He just stared and brought his gun up and pointed it at me. Oh, did I tell you they had guns too? Everything about them was like some kind of paratrooper but from an old black and white movie. He was about two feet away when I brought the skateboard back and hit him square in the face. He didn’t just fall over or anything, he static’d. It was like an old TV when you can’t find a station – horizontal lines and stuff. His gun went off and shot a burst of electricity into the air but fortunately it was pointing upwards or I might have been fried into a smoking piece of nothingness.

Although nothing made sense at all, the one guy just disappeared. I hit him, he turned into a TV station and poof, he was gone. Now this did nothing to the others except make them follow suit and start to come inside. There were about ten of them and oddly, I’d seen no plane or where they came from. It was like they dropped out of the sky on some kind of old-timey satellite feed from space. I have no idea why the skateboard vaporized the one but it was my only shot so I started swinging wildly. Of course my head was about to explode but obviously that nap would have to wait.

I hit one after the other, trying to make sure to stay out of the line of fire just in case another gun went off. When all was said and done there was nothing left. No old clothing, no guns, nothing; just me in a greenhouse with a muddy skateboard and a few fried plants.

I carefully stepped out of the greenhouse and saw nothing out of the ordinary. It was like it never happened. I headed back into the house and tried to call my husband but the cell phone wouldn’t get a signal. I tried the computer – nothing. . I turned on the TV to see if anything was going on but all that was on the TV was static, like an old TV from the 60’s. I tried flipping a few channels and found some live stations but all they were playing was I love Lucy. In fact, every channel I could get was playing old black and white shows. Odd huh? That’s when I saw her, Lucille Ball was in my kitchen baking a cake and all of the Little Rascals were at the table. At this point I knew I really needed that nap and besides, who doesn’t like cake?

This has been an audio podcast recording of the “Static” written and performed by Shauna Klein. Be sure to vote for Shauna to win the 2013 Wicked Women Writers Challenge at horroraddicts@gmail.com

If you liked this recording please share it with your friends and encourage their votes as well.

To listen and read more from Shauna Klein please go to shaunaklein.com – that’s s-h-a-u-n-a-k-l-e-i-n .com

Thank you and we hope you have enjoyed this audio recording.

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To vote for this story, send an email to: horroraddicts@gmail.com with the subject line: WWW. Voting ends October 7th, 2013, 11:59a, PST.