Kbatz: Witches of East End Season 1

Frightening Flix

 

Witches of East End’s Season 1 is Too Muddled

by Kristin Battestella

 

Based upon the novels by Melissa de la Cruz, the late Lifetime series Witches of East End had plenty of magical potential. Unfortunately, this ten episode debut falters in balancing its bewitching tales and romantic plotlines, resulting in perhaps too many growing pains.

Artist Joanna Beauchamp (Julia Ormond) is surprised to see her wildcat sister Wendy (Madchen Amick) after a century apart – for unbeknownst to Joanna’s daughters Ingrid (Rachel Boston) and Freya (Jenna Dewan Tatum), they are a family of exiled and cursed witches. The immortal Joanna is doomed to see her daughters continuously born, grow up, and die, and this time she has steered the bookish Ingrid and romantic Freya away from their dangerous magical abilities in hopes of giving them a fuller, longer life. An old enemy, however, is after Joanna, taking on her lookalike form or shifting into other guises as needed to threaten the Beauchamps and interfere with Freya’s impending wedding to Dr. Dash Gardiner (Eric Winter). While her future mother-in-law Penelope (Virginia Madsen) is slowly warming to Freya, Dash’s wayward brother Killian (Daniel Di Tomasso) makes for a much more steamy adversary to the nuptials.

Glitz, glamour, saucy dreams, and ominous rituals in the garden open Witches of East End, and the “Pilot” moves quickly with fast talking folks and one blink and you miss it spooky incident after another. There’s a lot of house history and paranormal exposition shoehorned in the first ten minutes alone – making it tough to appreciate the morphing red flowers, poofing photographs, doppelgangers, pentagrams, and murder afoot. Did I mention the trite love triangle also being introduced? Witches of East End has much to digest, and although based upon its own book series, comparisons between Witches of Eastwick, Charmed, and Practical Magic are understandably apparent due to this initial patchwork and too similar feeling. Fortunately, Victorian flashbacks and glimpses into the twenties anchor past pain and fate coming to catch the titular ladies – unique tales that might have set Witches of East End further apart from those aforementioned comparables had it been set as a period piece. While it’s nice to have all age appropriate adults and realistic looking dark haired ladies instead of cliché teen bimbos, the enemy evil is told about more than it is actually seen, strong women are always being attacked by icky men, and attempts to be self aware about such cliches end up playing into that very same old. Witches of East End takes too long to get rolling, superficial threats are too easily resolved, and hello look at that shoddy police work. Thankfully, the intercut spell editing and smaller threats in “Marilyn Fenwick, R.I.P.” tie into the intriguing premise’s overall revenge and magical consequences. The sardonic comedy and rules of being a witch remain fun while serious conversations on whether magic is a gift or nothing but problems add drama. Rather than speedy shockers, time is taken with magic training and spell practice in “Today I am a Witch.” More sepia flashbacks and a long list of enemies shape the storylines while magical mistakes, face to face confrontations, and debate on whether these potions and powers should be used for protection and defense or the offensive help Witches of East End get a foot on the right moonlit path.

Fun guest stars, more sinister, and villainous history further up the conflict, surprises, and retribution in “A Few Good Talismen,” and the rules of the realm are established in “Electric Avenue” thanks to ghosts, legal tricks, and courtroom encounters. Witches of East End over relies on fast talking delivery and conveniently mentioned witchcraft information after the fact – we are told about more spells being done that we don’t get to see. However, when action actually happens, it is entertaining and weighted with supernatural arguments. Is the witchcraft right and justified in one scenario and wrong in another? Unfortunately, the pretty people making moon eyes in the pool in “Potentia Noctis” detract from the historical nuggets, turn of the century saucy, and spell casting magical brownies. The period apothecary, rival magics, multilevel spells, and mansion tunnels are top notch, again making one wonder why Witches of East End didn’t just dance the dance and begin with all this quality past beguine. The zombie resurrections and good girls gone bad consequences in “Unburied” are also hampered by the intercut romantic scenes. Yes, the magical hair pulling torture is kind of hokey, but the deadly high stakes is just a bit more important than love la dee da. New character dynamics and more evil shapeshifter meaty end up uneven or stretched thin because this need for dreamy keeps undercutting the magical ruses, occult research, fantastical dangers, and titular charms in “Snake Eyes.”

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Whoa, whoa, spoiler alert! Forget the love triangle soapy, the Beauchamps come from Asgard, can never go home, and more family has been left behind – and all this news is dropped with a mere two episodes left in the First Season. Say what? Knowing this information makes Witches of East End a lot more interesting, even as we again wonder why the series didn’t shoot out the gate with this enchanting who, why, and how it effects the present family. Any and all fantastical dalliances could have come through the town portal for our learning to be witches to wrangle each week and we got sweet nothings at the local pub instead? It’s great to see the sisters going head to head and banging up the house, too – even if the animated laundry is laughable. “A Parching Imbued” has the supernatural feeling Witches of East End needs with the eponymous gals in white robes on the beach casting spells while the evil shifter interferes directly with counter magic. Doppelgangers walk down the street, powers are lost, and conflicts arise over surprise character twists. Granted again the evil torture chamber looks more like an industrial art museum display, but deaths, harbingers of doom, and threats both mortal and magical disrupt the wedding preparations in the “Oh, What a World!” finale. Why ruin all the Asgard answers, bad omens, and major dramatic developments with too many sappy montages and pop songs? I’m ready for the verbal bitch slaps and magic battles! Although the easy, rushed resolution leaves Witches of East End on a cliffhanger and the San Francisco flashback shows the audience the tavern with magic cocktails we already know, the connection to present truths create some much needed character changes to up the ante for Season Two.

Thanks to the lovely at any age and foxy but poised Julia Ormond (Legends of the Fall), the viewer immediately likes immortal witch and mother Joanna Beauchamp. She’s trying to keep her daughters safe due to a horrible curse and that live forever quality doesn’t mean that enemies aren’t out to test her immortality. Ormond’s accent is an odd mix of toned down British and put on American, which may bother some, but it can also be excused thanks to her long lived times – there’s certainly some fun Latin and doppelganger mayhem to chew on, too. Despite her continuously telling lies and withholding information, we don’t blame Joanna for hiding the witchy ways in order to save this generation. Everything she does is to protect her daughters, to give them normal lives, and help them realize being a witch isn’t their be all end all. Witches of East End’s uneven focus between the ensemble love and Joanna’s ongoing enemy plot wavers too much – sometimes we don’t see our star very much from episode to episode. However, the backstory and family revelations late in the season add new spins. Joanna has her own moments of happiness amid the dangerous, and her second love interest should have been recurring all along gosh darn it. It’s amazing to see a strong, mature, and classy lady working to keep her family together. Joanna admits she can’t deal with her history and magic on her own, and her coming round to magic uses, accepting her past, and embracing her power gives Witches of East End a positive anchor.

It’s unfortunate that Rachel Boston’s (American Dreams) Ingrid is always siding with Wendy while Freya is most often with Joanna, as these limited pairings inhibit plot variety and keep critical information from all the players – who often behave more like four women in separate events rather than a core family. Unless you read some of the series’ apocrypha, the audience doesn’t get all the details, such as Ingrid being the older sister. Her level headed skepticism and slightly awkward but honest chemistry is a welcome change of pace early on Witches of East End, however her uber shrew detesting of Meg Ryan and Katherine Heigl movies is too textbook on the nose and used more to differentiate her from her dreamy lovestruck sister than develop her own personality. Ingrid is a realistic student of history and witchcraft that suddenly jumps the gun and writes spells because she’s really powerful with a saucy evil past and not just a shy librarian after all. From episode to episode Ingrid is either awed, wide eyed, whoopsie surprised, and scared of her magical mantle or being selfish and stupid with serious life and death spells. It’s great to see when her magic gets out of hand with erroneous consequences, but the character is made smart and stupid at the same time and too often caught in over her head whilst we are also repeatedly being told she is the good one. Which is it?

Likewise, Jenna Dewan Tatum’s (Step Up) wishy washy romantically confused shtick gets old fast, and I wish I could skip over her ‘he’s oh so dreamy’ scenes. We don’t know anything about Freya except how she is torn between two men. Even when she finds out she is a witch, she turns princess and doesn’t want to get her hands dirty with spells – only to be angry later when her powers don’t work. Why couldn’t the love triangle plot be developed later once Freya knows who she is and has accepted her powers? Instead she always needs to be saved by one of her men. Meh. This same old melodrama wastes time Witches of East End doesn’t have to spare, and honestly, I would rather have seen only one daughter in a learning to be a witch plot with more focus on the elder sisters. Isn’t Freya too old to be this juvenile? She learns of her magic history but would rather talk about boys, and she’s a bartender who’s good at potions, ba dum tish! I’m not opposed to Gothic love triangles done right in paranormal fantasies. However, I do expect to know something more about an allegedly strong woman – an immortal witch from Asgard no less – before knowing who she’s boinking as though the boinking is the most important thing about her. As if!

Thankfully, Madchen Amick (Twin Peaks), is a feline delight for Witches of East End as Joanna’s wild sister Wendy. She has nine lives to live and now in her slightly mature age uses her experience to protect her family. Wendy is self aware, sarcastic, and educates her nieces on good magic just as much as she imparts don’t be like her reckless wisdom. Of course, that’s not to say she doesn’t get up to wrong doing spells and danger, but Wendy remains a positive sounding board. Some of her plots do move too fast – they use up her lives quickly and swoop in a love interest, too. However, some of the speedy exposition works when Wendy is dropping witty asides and one line adventures about being widowed, married, divorced again, or eaten by a crocodile. Her knowing how to fix or undo a spell is also a convenient dues ex machina used too many times on Witches of East End, but the sisterly pros and cons are well done with both Wendy or Joanna each being short sighted at times in their magical knowledge or uses. Where Joanna seeks to motherly protect, Wendy would rather empower her nieces. Is one way better than the other or can both styles strengthen the family? Amick is a fun counter balance whose personality doesn’t change from week to week – unlike the under utilized Virginia Madsen (Candyman) as Freya’s snotty future mother-in-law Penelope. It takes half the season for what we already suspect of Penelope to come to light, making for another missed opportunity that Witches of East End should have indulged from day one.

Dimension also comes too late for Eric Winter (The Ugly Truth) as Freya’s fiance Dash. Why couldn’t he have been a doctor first and foremost instead of one half of a limp couple? Scenes with science investigation to counter magic end up going nowhere, and time focusing solely on the brotherly rivalry is so slow compared to the rapid witch pacing. We can see man pain anywhere, and Witches of East End could have at least completed the trifecta and had Canadian Italian model Donald Di Tomasso play hockey instead of serving up the same old dark, mysterious, music, and motorcycle Killian brooding. The series continually falls back on this teen wannabe bedroom ho hum, and such glaring plots don’t belong on what’s supposed to be a sophisticated, women-oriented supernatural show. Fortunately, familiar guests including Matt Frewer (Max Headroom), Joel Gretsch (The 4400), Jason George (Grey’s Anatomy), and Freddie Prinze, Jr. (Scooby Doo) add mature, supporting sensibilities to Witches of East End. It is, however, disappointing to see the charming Tom Lenk (Buffy) and Kellee Stewart (My Boys) typically typecast as the gay and black best friends, respectively. Tiya Sircar (The Internship) as Amy also starts with medical intelligence and character strengths, but is ultimately made stupid with Witches of East End once again wasting better, progressive plot opportunities and giving both its interracial and mixed couples ill fates. Tsk tsk. All these independent, confident chicks and ensemble support possibilities, yet it appears the only purpose of Witches of East End’s unfocused storytelling is to toss every woman a man. Bechdel test my foot – when we do get all the lady librarians, doctors, immortals, and witches together they still end up talking about men!

Witches of East End has a fitting mood with black cats, bewitching eyes, skeleton keys, Latin curses, and a pink Victorian house that belies the spooky within its quaint. Books, photographs, ominous lighting, small period piece doses, and freaky bathtubs should be used even more for a slow burn atmosphere, yet once again I come back to the faulty execution at work. Witches of East End could have been styled as several television movies or at least had a feature length pilot episode, however the ridiculous playing at double speed opening title card is a lighting bolt blink and bam indicative of how by the pants these 42 minutes or less episodes were steered. The witch effects and magical movements are cheap and quick, as if making them one second longer would cost too much. Trite ‘if this were a movie, this would be the part where happens!’ dialogue doesn’t excuse borrowed ideas – like the trapped in the painting plot lifted from The Witches. Cell phones and modern lingo are intrusive, and unlike The Witches of Eastwick, everything in Witches of East End feels lighthearted, too soft with little edge or dark style. Cursing and some near nudity amid brief 1906 orgies are fine, but such saucy is also an obvious, late in the hour desperate move – and something turn of the century should not be montaged with contemporary pop music! Witches of East End never fully establishes its titular setting, and we know almost nothing about the town’s size, how many shops there are, or what the main street layout may be. Are there no nosy neighbors to spy on these backyard spells? Is the Beauchamp name beloved or notorious in the community? Viewers don’t find out the town is shrouded on a map and secretly famed for its occult history or hiding a gosh darn gateway to Asgard until it is too late. Good job, everyone!

If you are familiar with other magical material, Witches of East End will be very derivative. Some audiences may like that whimsical comfort, readers of the series especially I imagine, but that unfulfilled basic may be disappointing for others. Undivided viewing attention is needed for this incredibly fast moving design, and a marathon session is a must to both keep up with the fast moving plots or exposition dumping and breeze over the spinning tires romance. The steamy attempts may cater to the Lifetime audience but such trite strays too far into soap opera over the top at the expense of the unique core potential. All that should have happened to start Witches of East End comes in the second half of the season, with numerous writers and directors falling flat over a backward execution – which is surprising since there is a literary source. Though Witches of East End is certainly watchable for paranormal light fans looking for a streaming weekend or ladies growing out of Charmed, the weekly witchy, immortal trials, and magical tribulations feel like they should be bigger somehow – leaving this debut with more than its fair share of flaws muddling the magic.

 

You Have To Make Up Your Mind

SerialScribbler

As a publisher, I see this every day. People making excuses for not writing.

“I’m very busy.”
“I have kids.”
“I have a full-time job and go to school.

Stop.

No, seriously. Stop. If you have time to post status updates, and catch up on DVR’ed shows and/or movies, you have time to write. I challenge you today to find out how many minutes you spend posting, typing statuses and how many words you’ve typed in the Facebook (or other social media) vortex.

Is that number over ten? You have time.

Are you watching at least one show a night? You have time to write.

Are you vegging out doing nothing for thirty minutes a night? You have time to write.

The real question is, “Is writing a priority to you?”  That’s where you need to make up your mind. Writing takes hard work, dedication, and commitment. There’s no boss over your head most of the time making sure you’re not slacking off. You have to be in it, every spare moment that you have. If you can DVR a show and catch up with it at night or for a few hours on the weekend, you have time to commit, you just aren’t doing so.

If you sit down to write and someone can talk you out of it, you’re not committed to it. They don’t believe it’s a priority because you haven’t set the standard or the boundaries.

Writers that are serious about their craft do not allow interruptions. Friends and family will learn that it’s “Do Not Disturb” time and eventually, you will have time to write.

Recently, with my publishing company we held a meeting and discussed what our slogan for the month would be. We chose, “Are you all in?”

Well, are you?

Wicked Women Writer’s Challenge 2015 – LAST CHANCE!

www980120

HorrorAddicts.net is proud to announce the

REMINDER!
Wicked Women Writer’s Challenge 2015

is now open for registration!

Who Will Be…. MOST WICKED?

 

THEME: This year’s theme is “Tarot Card Audiodrama.*” This year we’re pushing the challenge to the next level by asking participants to write an audiodrama revolving around one of the tarot cards from the Major Arcana. Who will find justice in a horror world of zombies or werewolves? Will your story include Death in all his sexy glory or will the Empress use her skills to tame the beasts of the underworld? It’s all up to you!

Every contestant will be given:
*A tarot card from the Major Arcana
*A supernatural/evil being
And every audio must include:
*At least two different reader voices in their production.

To register now, fill out the registration form here:
https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/FJRKL5F

You will receive your specialized contest items and being to create a fantastical, horror-filled, terrifying audiodrama for the listeners of HorrorAddicts.net to enjoy.

Sign up by April 13th, 2015. The sooner you sign up, the more time you have to prepare.

*Note: The Wicked Women Writer’s Challenge and the Master of Macabre Contest share a theme this year “Tarot Card Audiodrama”, but they will still be aired and judged separately.

 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~FURTHER DETAILS~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

SPECS:

  • As a contestant, you will write and record a horror story, fitting the theme and incorporating your extra elements. The style should be decidedly audiodrama, meaning music, sound effects, and two or more voices should be incorporated.
  • Audio mp3 and text will be due to horroraddicts@gmail.com by May 13th, 2015, 11:59 pm PST. Contestants will then be narrowed down to 5 semi-finalists. Those 5 authors will go on to compete for the final prize of being “Most Wicked 2015”.
  • The audio can be no longer than 10 minutes.
  • The text can be no longer than 3000 words, but may be submitted either in story or script format. Usually 1000 words=10 mins, we are giving you 2000 extra words for stage direction.
  • You may have someone else record your story for you, but it must still include 2 voices and none of the HorrorAddicts.net staff or previous winners may help you.
  • You may not compete if you have won the “Master of Macabre” or “Most Wicked” awards before. You CAN compete if you have submitted in the past but did not win the final award.

 

VOTING CHANGES SINCE LAST YEAR:

There will be a 3-part voting system.

  • 1/3 of the vote will still be the voters emailing in.
  • 1/3 of the vote will be judged on podcast quality and will be judged by seasoned podcasters.
  • 1/3 of the vote will be judged on writing quality and will be judged by seasoned writers.
  • These 3 sections will be added together for a final score
  • The winner will be honored with the coveted title, “Most Wicked 2015”.

 

Dates to know in 2015:
April 13th – Registration closes
May 13th – Audio and text are due.
Week of May 25th – finalists will be announced
June 27th – Audio airs (text will begin posting near this date)
June 27th – Voting starts
July 27th – Voting ends
August 22nd – Winners will be announced on the HorrorAddicts.net show.

 

Questions should be addressed to: horroraddicts@gmail.com with the subject CONTEST QUESTION.

Wicked Women Writer’s Challenge 2015

www980120

HorrorAddicts.net is proud to announce the

Wicked Women Writer’s Challenge 2015

is now open for registration!

Who Will Be…. MOST WICKED?

 

THEME: This year’s theme is “Tarot Card Audiodrama.*” This year we’re pushing the challenge to the next level by asking participants to write an audiodrama revolving around one of the tarot cards from the Major Arcana. Who will find justice in a horror world of zombies or werewolves? Will your story include Death in all his sexy glory or will the Empress use her skills to tame the beasts of the underworld? It’s all up to you!

Every contestant will be given:
*A tarot card from the Major Arcana
*A supernatural/evil being
And every audio must include:
*At least two different reader voices in their production.

To register now, fill out the registration form here:
https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/FJRKL5F

You will receive your specialized contest items and being to create a fantastical, horror-filled, terrifying audiodrama for the listeners of HorrorAddicts.net to enjoy.

Sign up by April 13th, 2015. The sooner you sign up, the more time you have to prepare.

*Note: The Wicked Women Writer’s Challenge and the Master of Macabre Contest share a theme this year “Tarot Card Audiodrama”, but they will still be aired and judged separately.

 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~FURTHER DETAILS~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

SPECS:

  • As a contestant, you will write and record a horror story, fitting the theme and incorporating your extra elements. The style should be decidedly audiodrama, meaning music, sound effects, and two or more voices should be incorporated.
  • Audio mp3 and text will be due to horroraddicts@gmail.com by May 13th, 2015, 11:59 pm PST. Contestants will then be narrowed down to 5 semi-finalists. Those 5 authors will go on to compete for the final prize of being “Most Wicked 2015”.
  • The audio can be no longer than 10 minutes.
  • The text can be no longer than 3000 words, but may be submitted either in story or script format. Usually 1000 words=10 mins, we are giving you 2000 extra words for stage direction.
  • You may have someone else record your story for you, but it must still include 2 voices and none of the HorrorAddicts.net staff or previous winners may help you.
  • You may not compete if you have won the “Master of Macabre” or “Most Wicked” awards before. You CAN compete if you have submitted in the past but did not win the final award.

 

VOTING CHANGES SINCE LAST YEAR:

There will be a 3-part voting system.

  • 1/3 of the vote will still be the voters emailing in.
  • 1/3 of the vote will be judged on podcast quality and will be judged by seasoned podcasters.
  • 1/3 of the vote will be judged on writing quality and will be judged by seasoned writers.
  • These 3 sections will be added together for a final score
  • The winner will be honored with the coveted title, “Most Wicked 2015”.

 

Dates to know in 2015:
April 13th – Registration closes
May 13th – Audio and text are due.
Week of May 25th – finalists will be announced
June 27th – Audio airs (text will begin posting near this date)
June 27th – Voting starts
July 27th – Voting ends
August 22nd – Winners will be announced on the HorrorAddicts.net show.

 

Questions should be addressed to: horroraddicts@gmail.com with the subject CONTEST QUESTION.

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.

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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 #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.

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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 #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