Sunday, October 30, 2011

Ouija Bored by Alex Morgan - Happy Halloween!

Happy Halloween!  Here is a comedy tale for your Halloween reading pleasure!

(Note: To my fellow Baltimore Ravens fans.  This was written several years ago so that explains the reference to a dismal football season.)


OUIJA BORED




The cold, biting wind rattled the windows of the small townhouse and added a sense of macabre to the last night of October. Rain threatened from the heavy clouds, aglow from the lights of Washington, DC below. However, the unseasonably cool weather did little to subdue the enthusiasm of the millions of trick-or-treaters infesting the neighborhoods in search of sugary rewards.


Inside the townhouse only a few miles south of the Pentagon, four writers sat in a dimly lit room among countless empty bottles of beer, rum, whiskey and gin and boxes of pizza strewn about. At this late hour of the night, no ideas for stories had been developed and the constructive suggestion to run naked up I-395 toward DC had been soundly defeated.

“We have to stick with our original plan” was the consensus of the foursome.

“That’s the only way we’re going to cure our collective writers’ block,” insisted Red, as lucid as he could for someone with a blood alcohol level that would pickle a full-grown horse.

“Yes,” Nomar added emphatically. “We agreed we’re going to use the Wheezy board…”

“Ouija board.”

“Whatever. To contact the spirits of our favorite dead authors to help us out,” he tried to focus on the bottle in his hand. “I’d like to start with Glen Moray.”

“He’s not even a real person, Nomar,” Alex said waving another empty bottle. “He’s a brand of Scotch. Not like Captain Morgan! Let’s try him.”

“Come on, guys,” Bran urged, as the voice of reason that had been dipped repeatedly in Crown Royal and coke. “It’s almost midnight. We gotta get the Squeegee board…”

“Ouija board.”

“Whatever. Before then,” he finished.

“Got it right here!” Red shouted, digging through a pile of Coors Light cans, Doritos sacks and crumpled up papers. He pulled a box out from underneath the garbage and with a sweep of his hand knocked everything off the coffee table to make room. He laid out the board with the planchette while Alex doused the remaining lights and lit a few candles.

“All right! Let’s get to it. Who wants to go first?” Red asked.

“I do!” Bran said with excitement. “I would like to summon…what’s that smell?”

“It’s from the candles,” Alex replied. “I have Cinnamon, Fall Harvest and Holly Berry.”

“You’re not supposed to use scented candles at a séance!” Red snapped.

“Tough shit! Besides, they’re all I have so we’ll just have to make do.”

Sighing in annoyance, Red turned back to the board. “Who are we bugging tonight, Bran?”

“Stephen King.”

“Um, Bran. Stephen King isn’t dead yet,” Nomar reminded him.

“I know,” Bran said unperturbed. “But I don’t think that he is going to allow a little thing like not being dead stop him from chatting with us.”

“Good point.”

The men concentrated on the board and the planchette began to move.



“Look!”

“Shh!” Red warned. “Is that Stephen King?”

NO. The planchette indicated.

“Who is this then?” Bran asked the air above the board.

HIS TWILIGHT PHONE

“Twilight phone? You mean like the Twilight Zone?” Red asked.

YES

“But that’s Rod Stewart, isn’t it?” Bran sounded dazed and confused.

“No, that was Rod Steiger.” Alex interjected.

“It was something like ‘surly’,” Nomar put in.

IT’S ROD SERLING, EINSTEINS

“Wow! How did we end up with you instead of Stephen King, Mr. Serling?” Red asked the board.

HE FORWARDED HIS SUMMONS UNTIL HE IS DEAD

“Well, that just blows!” Bran said in disgust and tossed back a shot of Crown Royal.

“Let’s try someone else,” Red suggested. “Nomar, who do you want to try?”

“I like Edgar Allan Poe.”

“Great! Perfect for a spooky Halloween night! Everybody, focus on Poe,” Red instructed.

Soon the planchette began to move again.




“Is that Edgar Allan Poe?” Nomar whispered with the fumes of an expensive, single malt Scotch riding on his breath.

YES

“Cool! I have a question about inspiration for writing horror.”

DROP DEAD

“How rude!”

Nomar, too drunk to be offended, pressed on. “How did you deal with writer’s block?”

BITE ME

“Man, he’s kinda cranky tonight,” Alex noted.

“Mr. Poe, why are you so angry?” Nomar asked.

RAVENS WENT 3 AND 13 LAST SEASON

“But they picked up a quarterback in the draft this year,” Alex responded.

BIG DEAL. OFFENSE STILL SUCKS

“He’s got a point, you know.” Alex swirled his rum punch thoughtfully.

“OK, enough of that,” Red said. “Alex! Your turn!”

“Thanks, Red. I want to contact Agatha Christie. I think she’s been through a séance or two herself.”

“Cool! Agatha it is.”

The planchette did not move.

“What do we do now?” Bran asked in a hushed voice. “Open a bottle of poisoned wine?”

“Hey, Brits like gin!” Nomar remembered.

"I'm on it, Nomar." Alex opened a bottle of Beefeaters and waved it around the room, allowing the vapors to call the otherworld.

“Look! The planchette’s moving!” Red said.

“Is this Dame Christie?” Alex’s voice was stilted and automatic.

NO

“Then who are you?”

I AM THE GHOST OF CHRISTMAS YET TO COME

“Damn! We got the wrong number!”

“Christmas is two months away!”

“Wait!” Alex shouted. “While we’ve got him on the line, ask him what the NFL playoff picture will look like then.”

DONT KNOW. DONT CARE

“Why not?”

IM BRITISH, YOU WANKERS.

“How rude!”

“Oh, that reminds me,” Alex said, nearly spilling his drink as a memory shoved its way through the rum-soaked bog of his mind. “Amanda wanted us to contact someone for her if we did this.”

“How did being insulted by a ghost remind you of that?” Nomar asked.

“She’s British and she thinks he’s a wanker,” Red replied matter-of-factly.

“Gotcha.”

“Who does she want us to find?” asked Bran.



“Erma Bombeck, the greatest female comedy writer of all time,” Alex answered.

“Groovy! Let’s see if we can get it right this time,” Red turned back to the board. The planchette began to move at once.

W U

“Huh?” Red was surprised. “What does that mean?”

HOW R U 2DAY

“What? She’s texting?” Bran was as shocked as the other three.

YES :)

Alex recovered from his surprise. “Ms. Bombeck, our friend Amanda wants to know what your secret is to becoming a great comedy writer.”

OMG LIKE IDK, MY NEW BFFS.

“You know that Amanda’s never going to believe this,” Alex looked up from the board.

“Maybe she will. This seems to be Erma’s brand of humor,” Bran said. Alex nodded.

Without warning, the planchette moved again.

BEWARE

The four men were stunned into silence.

“Beware of what? Of who?” Red asked in an excited whisper.

“Shouldn’t that be ‘of whom’?”

“Fuck you.”

“Now we know why all the spirits have been in bad moods tonight.”

BEWARE OF ALEX

“Me?” Alex was bewildered and dumbfounded as Bran, Nomar and Red looked at him.

“I don’t think this is Erma Bombeck any more,” Nomar stated with hesitance.

“Why should we beware of Alex?” Red’s eyebrows knitted together in concern.

HE IS A CRAZY BASTARD

“Yes, and?”

HE IS A TWISTED SONOFABITCH

“And?”

KINKY AND PERVERTED

“Like duh.”

“That’s old news.”

“Tell us something we don’t know.”

HE IS STALKING ALL OF YOU

“We know that, too!”

“OK, Grandma! That’s enough,” Alex found his voice.

ALL RIGHT DEAR. JUST LOOKING OUT FOR YOU

“Thanks, Grandma. Love you! Say hi to Grandpa for me.”

WILL DO. LOVE YOU TOO. BYE.

The planchette came to a stop.

“Well, that was awkward,” Alex said, feeling his face heat up. No one spoke. He jumped to his feet. “So who’s up for running naked along I-395?”

“I am!”

“Me, too!”

“Count me in!”




(c) 2008 Alex Morgan

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Escape Through Darkness by Nomar Knight - A Halloween short story

One of my favorites from Nomar!  A little humor mixed with horror. 

Escape through Darkness


Three men ran into the woods as twilight seeped through pockets of wilderness. A bald, Latino cut ahead, pushing branches aside as if he knew where he was headed. Following closely behind, a brown-haired, Caucasian, motivated by the metallic pistol the third man, a fat African-American, held at his side.


"Hernando, wait up!" The chunky hoodlum wore baggy jeans, untied Nike sneakers, and a Polo shirt that could probably cover a baseball diamond when it rained. His dread-locks swung as he huffed and coughed, worked up some saliva, and spat on the ground.

The lead runner, Hernando, eased up and nodded in disgust. "Come on, fat boy!"

Unlike the heavy man, the Latino was lean and muscular. He wore tight-fitted charcoal-gray jeans and a blue tank-top. His light, bronzed skin glowed with moisture.

"We lost them, man," the fat one said between breaths.

"Look, Andre, we have to keep moving. It's going to be dark soon and we only have one flashlight," Hernando said.

"Uh, excuse me, fellas, but I vote to get out of these woods and back out on the road."

"Shut up, white boy!" Andre pointed his gun at the nervous man.

"Aw, shit!" Hernando grimaced.

"What?"

"You told this fool our names."

"So did you."

"Uh, excuse me, but if it'll make any of you feel better, you can call me, Alex."

Alex's eyes opened wide when Andre walked over to him and pointed the gun at his head, "Who the hell gave you permission to speak." Andre raised the gun and made like if he was going to strike him, but didn't. Alex flinched, grateful for the lack of contact. Besides, he'd hate to get blood all over his pink Armani shirt.

"Come on, we have to keep moving," said Hernando.

"Nah, man, this is fine. We'll camp out here."

Branches rustled about nearby.

"Shush, did you hear that?" asked Hernando. They remained silent. They were surrounded by patches of greenery. The men stood on a clearing of dirt and scattered rocks, surrounded by thick trees. "If we keep moving, we'll find a way out of this dump."

"Screw that, man!" Andre leaned against a large tree. "I'm staying right here."

"Your friend is right, we should keep moving."

"When the fuck did I give you permission to speak?" Andre turned to Hernando and asked, "Do we need this sucker anymore?"

"He's our hostage. Hell yeah, we need him."

Once again, the men heard something that sounded like twigs snapping.

"I hope we don't run into it," Alex said.

"Run into what?" Hernando scanned his surroundings.

"The beast. They say it feeds at night, and only on living things."

Andre laughed, "Bullshit!"

Hernando joined him. Both men laughed while Alex hugged himself. Another twig snapped and Andre screamed. A huge snake hung from his backside.

"Get it off! Get it off!"

Hernando aimed his nine millimeter at Andre, "Hold still."

Andre's large brown eyes opened wide, "No! Get it off!"

Alex stood still enjoying the show. He hoped that one carjacker would shoot the other.

Andre managed to squeeze the snake so hard, that it loosened its grip. He threw it in disgust and it slithered away.

"This shit hurts, man! How bad is it?"

Hernando looked at the wound and cringed. Alex took a few steps closer, and glanced at the torn denim. All he could see was ripped jeans and some blood.

"What do we do now?" Andre's eyes watered.

Hernando shrugged, "Shit, how should I know?"

"Take off your pants," Alex said.

"What? Hell no!" Andre shook his head.

"I'm not too sure, but I think the snake was poisonous. If you want to live, do what I say."

Hernando nodded in agreement. Andre pulled down his pants.

"Take them off."

Hernando took off Andre's sneakers, and helped pull off the wide, baggy pants.

Twilight dwindled, and the night air brought a cool breeze. "Damn, I'm getting cold."

Alex crouched by Andre's back and examined the wound by sight. "Yep, it was poisonous."

"Shit, so suck it out!"

"Ha," Alex chuckled, and then he looked at his two kidnappers, "Oh, you're serious?"

Hernando aimed his gun at Alex's head, "Help my brother or I'll shoot you right here."

"Your brother?"

"We’re foster brothers. We grew up in a broken home. Judging by your Escalade, you wouldn't know anything about that."

Andre's lips were beginning to turn blue and he was soaked with perspiration.

Alex raised his arms slowly and faced Andre. "I've got good news, and I've got bad news. Which do you want first?"

"Give me the bad news."

"I can't suck out the poison, because then I'd be risking my life too."

"What's the good news?"

"There's a way to neutralize the poison."

"How?"

Alex unzipped his fly, pulled out his manhood, and said, "Get on all fours big boy, this will only take a minute."

"Damn, you're a faggot? We got us a fucking queer!"

Alex raised his right index finger in the air, "Wait a minute, yes, I'm gay, but you misunderstood my intentions. I need to piss on the wound."

"Hell no! No white fairy is going to piss on my ass."

The previous pockets of light vanished under a moonless night. The men could only see silhouettes of each other. Hernando put away his gun in favor of the flashlight.

"Alright, Andre," Alex sighed, "Die then."

Andre cried when he saw Alex tuck it back in and said, "Wait! Hernando, you do it, man."

"What?"

The breeze became a strong wind. The trees and branches bowed to the unseen forces of nature. Alex glanced at his surroundings, no longer concerned for the wounded brute that carjacked him. He sensed something out there in the woods, waiting, watching. "We have to hurry up, gentlemen. We have to get out of here."

Hernando saw the concern in Alex's dark eyes. He walked over to Andre and said, "Turn around and don't peek." He handed Alex the flashlight and muttered, "You too."

"I have seen one before, you know."

Hernando ignored Alex and urinated on Andre's wound. They gathered their composure, although, the hoodlums lost what dignity they had left. Alex led them through a trail, flashlight in hand. He paused and whispered, "Listen."

"To what? I don't hear anything," Hernando said.

"Exactly. How come we don't hear crickets, or frogs, or owls? The animals are quiet. There must be a predator on the loose."

"You mean like a wolf?" Andre's big eyes tried to focus behind the ominous shadows the flashlight cast.

"Worse." Alex smirked and continued his trek through familiar territory. He didn't volunteer that he and his dad used to hike in these woods. He knew that the trail would lead to a creek and his old cabin would still be there.

"Hey, white boy," Andre said.

"It's Alex, fat man."

"Whatever, what kind of a rich white man doesn't take care of a luxury vehicle?"

"My lover told me to get the alternator fixed, but I forgot."

Andre spat behind him in disgust. He held his ribs and said, "Hey, guys, give me a minute to catch my breath."

The two men didn't stop. They continued ahead without Andre.

"Alex," Hernando said in a low voice, "Thanks for saving my brother."

Alex smiled but since he was in front of Hernando, the Latino never saw it. He couldn't very well tell them that the snake wasn't poisonous. He was surprised that the boa attacked. They usually are afraid of humans. He almost chuckled, when all of a sudden, Andre screamed.

The two men froze. Hernando wanted to go back for Andre but Alex grabbed his shoulder. "Don't. He's dead."

"What? How do you know? We have to go back and see."

"We shouldn't. These woods are dangerous. The night creature roams."

Hernando pointed his gun at Alex, and ordered him to follow. They doubled back and found wet vegetation along their left side. A bloody Nike sneaker, still connected to an ankle, stood next to an arm torn from its socket.

"I don't care if you shoot me, but there's a cabin half a mile from here. There's a shotgun and we need it. Your damn pistol won't be enough. It didn't help your brother, so let's go."

Hernando shook but didn't argue. He dragged his feet until he managed to put his legs on automatic pilot. They sprinted through the darkness. Their hearts pounded as the wind picked up in intensity. Alex worried that it camouflaged the beast's movements.

When they reached the creek, Alex stopped and took in gobs of air, trying to catch his breath. Hernando did the same. A cabin stood a few yards away. The trees that surrounded it looked like the long talons of a creature of destruction. The more light hit the surrounding branches, the more the men noticed that the vegetation was dead.

"Death awaits," Alex muttered.

"What did you say?"

No sooner than Hernando asked the question, a shadow loomed across the field and stopped behind him. Blood squirted, spraying Alex across his face. Bone crunched under the grip of the beast, until Hernando collapsed in a heap.

He stood face to face with a black hairy creature, part man, part wolf. Its red pupils surrounded by yellow, adding to a menacing growl.

Alex took off his shirt which the wind carried away. The beast snarled. Alex removed his paints, his underwear, and his shoes. The lycanthrope calmed, its breathing more relaxed. It began to transform into a man before his eyes.

"Hello, father."

"I heard on the police scanner that you were carjacked."

"Yeah, I'm glad you put a cutoff switch in the Escalade. The dummies were easy prey."

"The fat one had enough meat to last me the night. This one's yours."

Naked, Alex began changing. He grunted as his pale skin filled with excess hair. His head contorted and his face widened. The clean-shaved image replaced by a rabid dog, complete with remarkable incisors. His arms elongated past his hairy knees, and sharp talons pushed through, replacing his nails.

At last, the dark beast stood over Hernando's corpse and tore off his head, holding it to the heavens like a trophy. Blood trickled down landing on his outstretched black tongue. His howls reminded the surrounding nocturnal creatures, that dangerous beasts lurked in the woods.

(c) 2008 by Nomar Knight

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Review of One for Sorrow, a John the Eunuch Mystery by Mary Reed and Eric Mayer



Mystery authors give their sleuths some interesting handicaps. C. J. Sansom’s Matthew Shardlake is a hunchback. Bruce Alexander’s Sir John Fielding and Caroline roe’s Isaac of Girona are both blind. Candace Robb’s Owen Archer is missing an eye from a failed attempt on his life. Lord Chamberlain John in One for Sorrow by Mary Reed and Eric Mayer is a eunuch, cruelly castrated by his abductors from an enemy country and then sold as a slave to Emperor Justinian I. Despite his austere introduction to the court, John has climbed the career ladder to Lord Chamberlain to the emperor, making him one of the most powerful men in Constantinople, the capitol of the Byzantium Empire.


I wondered at Reed’s and Mayer’s choice of injury for John, since his condition had no bearing on the mystery nor did it give him insight and skills that other men might not have. It did give him a distinct advantage in a fight at close quarters during the climatic solution. A knee to the groin, which would incapacitate any normal man, does little to a man who has no genitals. Interesting twist and bad news for John’s attacker. However, John lives life to the fullest he can with an injury many men would consider a fate worse than death. For the reader, John is a very intriguing sleuth. He’s still a soldier and still in love with the woman he lost years ago when he was captured.

In One for Sorrow, the Emperor’s Keeper of the Plate and good friend of John, Leukos, is stabbed to death in an alley one night. Many write it off as an unfortunate circumstance befalling one who ventures into the dark, dangerous places of Constantinople. John isn’t convinced and the Emperor charges him to uncover the mystery of Leukos’ murder.

One of the last men Leukos met with was Thomas, a red-headed soldier from the distant land of Britain sent by King Arthur. He’s in Constantinople on a quest for the Holy Grail. As if the mystery isn’t convoluted enough, John’s former lover Cornelia shows up in the city with Europa, the daughter John never knew he had.

Somehow, all of these events are connected and John must unravel the mystery to protect his family.

The political environment of Constantinople in the sixth century reminds me of seventh century Ireland in Peter Tremayne’s Sister Fidelma series. Christianity is becoming the official religion but many still hold onto their pagan beliefs in a changing religious climate. John remains pagan but loyally serves his Christian emperor. The clash of cultures is relatively minor in this depiction of Byzantium even though pagan temples have been banned. There is an interesting scene of a ritual and promotion of a follower of the god Mithra. Gruesome but it does take the story to another level.

It’s also what helps set this mystery series apart from other ancient settings, a glimpse into another time and place. One for Sorrow is definitely required reading for mystery lovers.

Witches in the Trees by Brandon Hooks - Halloween Reading!

This is one of my favorites by this author!

Witches in the Trees



“So how would you like to die, pretty boy?” the young dark man in the black mask asked me.


My body lay strapped to a tree trunk in the Pine Level, Alabama woods off of Troy Highway. My girlfriend lay lifeless, bloody, and violated on a tree trunk to the right of me. The monster raped her before viciously cutting her throat. I shed every last tear I had over her death. I was trying frantically to keep at bay the tears of being faced with my own death.

What was my own death destined to look like? I thought. The dark man’s question hit me again just like a sniper’s bullet.

“So how would you like to die? Don’t make me ask you again,” he said in a thunderous voice.

I quivered and responded, “H-hey, d-don’t d-do th-this.” I finally found my voice again. “All I was doing was flashing you so that you would turn on your headlights. What did we do wrong?”

The man slowly unveiled his mask, revealing both a cruel, masculine face, and a slash of a nasty grin. He looked to be the age of thirty. He placed his right hand over his shirtless body in the same format as a soldier does while pledging allegiance to the flag. He said, “My name is Leroy Groom and I pledge my allegiance and trust to the Bloods, my eternal gang. I will dispose of this traitor so that I may be counted worthy of your family and its heritage. May this second murder complete the initiation process. In you’re hands I commit my spirit.” A pulsating horror rushed through me, setting off an uncontrollable sensation of flailing limbs and the jerking of my head.

Leroy held up the cake knife, stained with my girlfriend’s blood, and walked up to me with his lantern blaring in my eyes and leaves rustling. I was a dead fish. The rope was wrapped so tight around me, resulting in a struggle for me to breathe properly. He stopped before me and grinned. With the knife in preparation for murder, he asked what would eventually become the final question of his life on earth. “So, would you like to take it in the throat or the gut?” He painted his face with the brightness of the lantern, exposing a set of gold teeth. “Yeaaahhh, you're wanting to take it in the throat like you’re better half here,” he said in a cold and cruel laugh. He pressed the blade of the knife against my Adam’s apple and held it there. He rubbed the bloody blade against the rough hairs on my neck, forcing my Adam’s apple to roll downward and back up in response to the terror I felt at the moment.

As I waited for him to carve a hole into my throat, a low moan wafted through the air. I could hear the gentle movements of tree branches swaying. The odd thing was the fact that there wasn't a breath of wind in the air. Where I stood, the air was still and somewhat humid. I couldn't feel any brush of wind on my body. The moan increased and resembled a cry of suffering. Leroy still stared into my eyes with the blade pinned to my neck. Was he oblivious to the behavior in the air? I asked myself. The forest moaned louder, "Ooooooohhh, urrrrrrrrrghhh!" My attention turned from the black eyes of Leroy to a giant black shadow slowly descending down close behind the killer. "Oooohhh, uhhhhhhh!" the forest moaned. Leroy placed the mask back onto his face and turned his right hand over in preparation to carve, like a father readying himself to carve the family turkey.

Before he could succeed in my murder the forest came alive without any warning, and an immense tree reached down and seized the killer. Screams pierced the silence of the Pine Level woods, and then the corpse of Groom fell from the night sky and onto the ground, directly in the epicenter of the lantern’s brightness. His entire body frame had been pulled completely off! I stared down into the light and noticed his bloody skeleton before me. His bloodied bones were hanging from gummy, caked up guts that made my stomach churn. I shrieked in hysteria, and was immediately silenced when the witch tree that I was pinned to came to life and threw me to the ground. All I could hear was the thunderous breaking of branches as the tree which held me captive, fled away in the darkness. This gave me just enough time to apprehend the dying lantern and search for the way out of the forest.

The next day two corpses were found by hunters. Both had been stripped clean of their bodies, courtesy of the witches in the trees!


(c) 2007 by Brandon Hooks


Monday, October 24, 2011

The Call by Alex Morgan (Another story for your Halloween reading enjoyment!)

A piece of flash fiction I wrote last year.

The Call:


Claire looked out her kitchen window and uttered a cry of shock and anger. Wiping her hands on a dish towel she sped across the room and threw open the back door.


“What are you kids doing digging in my yard?” she snapped.

Three tow-headed children whirled around from the small hole in the ground with a mound of fresh dirt around it. All had sheepish looks at being caught but they didn’t move from their spot.

“Sorry, Miss Babione,” the tallest of the three, a young boy of six replied. “We’re looking for buried treasure.”

Claire bit her lip to keep a smile from belying her words. The neighbor children usually were never any problem but this behavior needed to stop before it got out of hand. She was about to reprimand them again when he held up a small object caked with dirt.

“Maybe it’s a piece of gold from a pirate ship,” the middle child said. The youngest child, not more than three, merely grinned and Claire couldn’t help a little laugh. She figured he was just following his older siblings, not wanting to be left out of any adventure.

She took the object from the child and scrutinized it. “I hate to disappoint you but I don’t think that many pirates came this far in from the sea.” She looked at their downcast faces. “I tell you what. I’ll try to clean this up for you. If you will fill the hole back in, I won’t tell your mother.”

All three faces beamed.

“Thank you, Miss Babione.”

Claire returned to her kitchen, hoping she hadn’t made a mistake by abetting them in their adventure hunt and began washing the dirt off the children’s treasure. As she worked, she watched the kids fill in the hole and then return to their own yard. Layers of dirt fell off and ran down the drain. Soon Claire began to make out features on the strange object. What she thought would be nothing more than a metal slug or an old pop bottle cap, started to look like a coin. She held it up to the light coming in the window but couldn’t make it out.

It must’ve been buried so long, whatever was imprinted on it has been worn away, she thought. She took it outside and held it in the sun.

It flashed brightly in her eyes, filling her vision with a blinding light. Then her world went black.

**

“Claire? Are you okay?”

She awoke to find a woman kneeling over her. “Petunia? What happened?”

“I don’t know,” she replied. “I heard what sounded like a sonic boom. Our whole house shook. I came to check on you and found you lying here on your back.” She helped Claire to her feet.

Claire remembered the reaction of the coin when exposed to the sunlight, but decided not to say anything.

“Have my kids been digging in your yard, too?” Petunia’s hands rested on her hips and her chin jutted out. She looked to where the three children extracted the coin a short while ago.

“It’s all right, Petunia,” Claire said. “They filled it back in, so no harm, no foul.”

Her neighbor didn’t look placated. After staying a few minutes to ensure Claire was fine, she returned to her house.

Claire picked up the coin where it rolled underneath the kitchen table and peered at it intently.

It looks like a dog’s face or a wolf’s face, but I can’t be sure, she said to herself. She went back inside depositing the coin on the table. She set about finishing her chores, fixing supper and getting ready for the next day. The coin was forgotten as she climbed into bed several hours later.

**

A sound outside her bedroom window jarred her out of her slumber. Claire lay listening. In the distance, she heard a howl, lonesome and plaintive. She jumped as a branch bumped against the house as the wind picked up. The howl was followed by a second and a third. Each seemed closer than the one before. Soon a chorus of howls sounded as if they were just beyond the fence.

Claire lay in fear. She wanted to look out her window but was too afraid of what she might see. The howling continued for what seemed like hours to her but slowly drifted off as dawn approached.

Grateful for the light but missing her sleep, Claire rose and prepared for work, an unpleasant task usually made even more onerous with her lack of slumber. As she opened her front door to leave, she screamed as a man stood on her porch. The old-fashioned style of his suit did not bother her near as much as his fleshy face and thick jowls. His brown eyes seemed to pierce her soul. He reminded her of a bulldog, but without the comical friendliness.

“Miss Babione, I fear you have something that doesn’t belong to you,” he said flatly.

How does he know my name? Who is he? I’ve never seen him before. Alarmed, she blurted out, “I don’t have anything. I don’t know what you’re talking about. Now please go away!” She slammed the door, leaning back against it and slumped to the floor, covering her face in her hands.

“It’s not a coin, Miss Babione,” the man shouted through the door. “It’s a talisman. You must return it to where you found it. You’re in grave danger.”

Claire sat on the floor, hand over her mouth, trying to choke down the panic rising in her. It took several long minutes to calm down. When she managed to stand, she opened the door a crack and peeked out. The bulldog-faced man was nowhere in sight.

Slightly relieved, she fled to her car and drove to work. Claire hoped the regiment of her routine duties would take her mind off of the talisman, the strange man and last night’s howling.

But her thoughts kept returning to the macabre happenings. She couldn’t focus on finishing the simplest task. Shortly after lunch, she excused herself, feigning sickness and returned home.

Even among familiar and comfortable surroundings, Claire felt no better. She watched television without paying attention, curled up on the couch. As the sun moved lower in the sky, she dozed off.

**

A loud howl, very close by, woke her up with a start. She hadn’t turned on the lights before she fell asleep so her house was dark, except for the blue light from the TV screen. She had muted the sound before dozing off. Everything sat in a tomb-like silence.

Another sound frightened her even more. She heard a low growl outside the window. A full moon lit the world outside changing her yard into an alien landscape. She gasped as several dark shadows approached the house from the back fence.

More growling and sniffing sounded outside the back door and other windows. Claire sat petrified, too frightened to move. A pair of glowing eyes peered at her over the bottom sill of a window. Then another. The howling, snarling and growling escalated in volume.

Her heart pounded so fast and hard she was feared her chest would burst open. She couldn’t breathe as terror clutched her throat.

They were in the front yard now and the side of the house. Her mind reeled trying to comprehend the horror but not a single, coherent thought came to her. The floor pitched to one side as if the house had been lifted by a corner.

The door handles began to rattle as if something outside was attempting to enter. Her heart leapt at the sound and she slipped into unconsciousness.

**

Claire jumped awake to bright sunlight beaming through the windows. The horrors of the night before seemed to have vanished.

With trepidation, she rose from the couch, muscles stiff from hours of crouching. She cracked open the back door. The outside of it had been shredded as if by dozens of claws. The ground around the house was dug up as if something tried to tunnel underneath the foundation.

She grabbed the talisman off the table and ran out into the yard. She buried it in the hole made by the neighbor children.

Claire ran back to the house as fast as she could.



(c) 2010 by Alex Morgan

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Review of An Excellent Mystery by Ellis Peters



Ellis Peters usually writes great stories, with intrigue, excitement and plenty of surprises. Unfortunately, An Excellent Mystery, the eleventh chronicle of Brother Cadfael, has little of those. In fact, Cadfael is almost relegated to a secondary role while the minor characters play more important parts in this cozy mystery.

The civil war between Empress Maud and King Stephen has reached a stale mate as the king languishes as a prisoner of the empress. The queen, however, has forced Maud into retreat, holed up in Winchester. The queen’s forces are putting a stranglehold on the city to starve the empress out.

During the retreat, Maud’s forces torched religious communities, scattering the members across the country. Two such refugees arrive at the abbey of St. Peter and St. Paul, an older mortally wounded brother and his young, comely, mute companion.

The elder Brother Humilis has accepted the fact that his days are numbered. Enter a squire, Nicholas, who served under Humilis before he took the cowl. Nicholas asks permission to request the hand of a woman Humilis was once betrothed to three years ago. Therein lies the mystery. Where is Julian Cruce? She hasn’t been seen or heard from since Humilis entered the faith.

The book follows Nichaolas has he trvales the English countryside retracing Julian’s steps on a trail three years cold.

When Cadfael unravels the mystery of the missing woman, the solution is rather anti-climatic. An Excellent Mystery certainly won’t discourage me from continuing the series, but it’s one that other readers can skip.

The Master Race by Nomar Knight - for your Halloween reading pleasure



Salvador Ramos carried his six-year-old daughter through the moonlit forest, hoping he could lose the government's elimination squad–Fire Walkers. He needed to cross the border or they'd take his only child.


"Papa, am I going to see Momma again?" She lifted her head off his shoulder.

His heart tightened but he managed to hide his emotions, hoping his wife, Evangelina, made it safely to the other side. He whispered, "Nothing could keep your mother away from you, Crystal."

The cover of trees thinned, providing him with a clear view of an ancient tunnel. The locals called it the Tunnel of Tortured Souls. Tribal leaders had sacrificed many lives to appease the moon god. He froze, gulping saliva down his throat. "Crystal, let's play a game." he trained his stare until she met his gaze.

"I want to walk, papa."

"When we get through the tunnel, but now I need you to close your eyes and no matter what you hear, keep them closed. You promise?"

Crystal said, "Okay."

Salvador saw one of the soldiers slumped over, partially hidden by shrubs. He inched his way in a semicircle formation, careful to become one with his environment. The stench of death reached his keen sense of smell.

He wondered how many of them waited inside. His heart pounded for he knew the Fire Walkers were ruthless. Crystal's warm breath contrasted with a cold breeze humming through the tunnel. Shadows sprung to life by torches, exaggerating their silhouettes as if Quasimoto himself dared to defy the Fire Walkers.

The grunge arched ceiling loomed larger. For the first time, Salvador doubted himself. He almost cursed at the wind for aiding the enemy, but bit his lip. A familiar scent alerted his heightened senses to more death. With every step, his arms became numb. Considering that twenty four hours ago, he was in a wheel chair, a little discomfort was worth the price of freedom.

He stopped. Another dead Fire Walker lay before him. His lifeless eyes accompanied by a frozen state of horror.

“Papa?”

Salvador whispered, “We’re almost there, sweetheart.”

Two Fire Walkers jumped in front of his path. One aimed a flamethrower, the other a crossbow. “Hold it! Give us the girl!”

Salvador cupped Crystal’s head to keep her from looking. While earlier he thought the howling wind created a disadvantage, he grinned at how the torch flames made the shadows come alive. Together, the elements provided the perfect cover for their protector.

The flame carrying Fire Walker asked, “What are you smiling at? You’re going to die.”

“Papa, what’s happening?” Crystal shuddered.

The other soldier repeated, “Give us the girl. You don’t want her to be condemned to a life of darkness, do you? Let us save her.”

Salvador gazed behind his enemies. A dark shadow approached at blazing speed.

“Papa, I smell momma.”

Salvador almost felt sorry for the two Fire Walkers. Evangelina struck quick. Fangs penetrating, blood drained.

She wiped her mouth. “Baby!”

The mortal child jumped in her arms, “Momma!”

by Nomar Knight (c) 2010

Friday, October 14, 2011

Dead Woman's Crossing by Alex Morgan - 50% off Halloween sale!



Starting tomorrow morning at 12:01am, one of my earlier works Dead Woman's Crossing will be 50% off until midnight October 31! Just a little 'Happy Halloween' from me!



http://www.loveyoudivine.com/index.php?main_page=document_product_info&cPath=3&products_id=342

The Demon of Dewey County by Alex Morgan - A horror story by yours truly for Halloween month!


The full moon lit up the night sky and fields giving the landscape an eerie glow. The headlights of the car illuminated little of the road ahead. Margaret shifted uncomfortably in the passenger’s seat as she looked out the window. Although she wasn’t cold, she hugged herself to keep out the chill she felt.

She and her husband Tim made this trip to his grandmother’s secluded, uninhabited farmhouse only two or three times a year to make sure it did not fall into disrepair. Earlier trips took place during the daytime hours but Tim had to work late and with traffic leaving the city clogging the highways, their arrival at Grandma’s house got pushed back to well after ten o’ clock.

From the driver’s seat, Tim seemed to sense her uneasiness. “You okay?”

Margaret hesitated before answering. “Yes. I’m fine.” She didn’t sound convincing to herself. She knew Tim wasn’t buying it either. But without knowing the source of her discomfort she couldn’t say anything, lest Tim scold her for being silly.

“What’s wrong?”

She heard the concern in his voice. “I guess I’m spooked about staying in your grandmother’s house tonight. It’s creepy enough during the daytime.”

Tim slowed to turn off the road into a driveway that consisted of well-worn tire tracks amongst the encroaching weeds and tall grasses.

Margaret’s ill-ease increased as the headlights shone forward into nothing. The moon hung in the sky directly in front of them, illuminating the drive in defiance of the ineffective headlamps from the car. She gasped as something scampered along a tree branch stretched overhead, across the driveway.

A cat? She thought, forcing down the sudden fear rising in her. That was way too big for a cat. Must be my imagination running away with me. Tim didn’t seem to have noticed, which gave her a little comfort. I need to calm down. Why am I so jumpy tonight?

Tim maneuvered a slight curve in the path and the two-story farmhouse loomed in front of them, lit dimly from the headlights. It sat dark with no signs of habitation, since nearly all of Grandma’s belongings were removed when she went into the nursing home in Oklahoma City several years ago. These visits with Tim were to ensure the roof hadn’t started leaking, pipes hadn’t burst or vandals hadn’t destroyed any of the property.

The stranger-than-fiction truth was that nobody wanted to go near the place, and no one lived around for a great distance. Dewey County sat in a rural area of northwest Oklahoma. The nearest town to the place was Taloga, nearly twenty miles away. People just didn’t come around here.

Tim killed the engine and they climbed out of car. With the moonlight, they could see their way to the porch without the flashlight Tim carried. Margaret slid next to him in step as if his closeness would put her mind at ease.

“That’s odd,” Tim muttered, stopping suddenly.

The uneasiness that rose in Margaret now rang in her ears. “What?”

“The front door’s open.” Tim sounded more confused than worried.

“Don’t go in!” Margaret hissed. She tugged on his arm toward the car. “Let’s call the police!”

“No, that’ll take too long.” He clicked on the flashlight with his free hand and trained the beam on the door jamb. The wood around the lock splintered where it had been forced. He stepped onto the porch dragging Margaret, who kept pulling in the opposite direction, with him. Tim pushed the door open wider, slowly, keeping the flashlight directed in front of him.

A putrid, rotting stench assaulted their nostrils and Margaret put a hand over her face to fight down the urge to vomit.

Tim staggered back, holding his nose. “What the hell?” Keeping a hand over his face he pushed the door open completely. He let out a yelp of surprise, jumping back. Holding her breath, she stepped behind Tim, peering over his shoulder.

On the floor at the bottom of a staircase, a body lay rotting and covered in maggots, a mass of putrid flesh. It had decomposed to the point it was unrecognizable. Margaret’s mind raced with thoughts trying to comprehend the horrible scene in front of her. How could a familiar setting so peaceful and serene in the light of day be so violated by a corpse? The disgusting sight brought another rush of bile and her hands dropped to clutch her stomach. She slipped to the floor and the room pitched before her eyes before everything went black.

**

Tim and Margaret sat with his grandmother Eileen in her room at the nursing home. She sat in an old worn-out recliner, wrapped in several blankets to keep away the perpetual chill in her bones. When told of the break-in, Eileen reacted with horror even before she learned of the condition of the intruder and retreated inside of her mind. Family members, friends, doctors and even the agents of the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation had tried to talk with her, but she remained close-lipped, staring into space. Soon she stopped taking food and the nursing home resorted to inserting an IV to administer sustenance and nutrients.

Tim and Margaret visited her on a regular basis, trying to bring her out of her seemingly vegetative state. After many days, she began to show signs of recognition and response. Then nursing home staff called to say that she had recovered from her self-imposed catatonic state.

She appeared to have finally dealt with the shock and came back to lucidity. But the fear remained.

They perched on uncomfortable, plastic chairs provided by the nursing home. A few other items gave the sparsely decorated room a more familiar feel; framed photographs of family and friends on the bureau beside the small television set; pictures hand-drawn with crayons from grand-children and great-grandchildren taped to the walls; a faded prayer embossed on varnished wood propped up on the nightstand next to an array of pill bottles.

“From what the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation determined from the level of decomposition, the guy must’ve busted in about two or three weeks before we found him. He fell down the stairs and broke his neck,” Tim recited to his grandmother.

Eileen nodded but didn’t respond. Tim glanced at Margaret, who shrugged. “I know this must be a shock to you, Grandma, but nothing was taking from the house. It appears he went up to the attic and was running back…”

“No!” Eileen shouted with sudden terror in her features.

“Grandma?”

“NO!”

“Grandma!” Tim’s voice edged with annoyance and fear cut through his grandmother’s hysteria.

Eileen fixed her eyes on her grandson with a piercing stare. “You must seal up the attic again.” Her words trembled as she spoke, but Tim harbored no doubt that this was not the babblings of a delirious old woman. Eileen was terrified.

“Grandma, what’s up there?” Tim asked. “As long as I remember that door to the attic has been boarded shut. Mom even said she was never allowed in there growing up.”

“I can’t tell you, dear, but you must go back there and close it back up at once!” She grabbed his hands in hers, which felt like ice to Tim.

“Why? It’s empty, the police said. They think something must’ve scared the intruder because there are footprints in the dust on each step going up there and in the attic. Coming back down he was taking them two or three at a time, when he slipped and fell breaking his neck.”

Tears formed in Eileen’s eyes. She turned to Margaret and asked her for a stack of newspapers from Taloga on a small table near the bed.

As Margaret collected them and stretched her arm out to hand them to Eileen, she looked down at the top one and froze, the color draining from her face. Tim stood up and walked over to her, looking over her shoulder. Together, they read stories of cattle mutilations that got closer and closer to the town. Then farmers and their families were slaughtered in their homes, their bodies ripped to shreds as if by a wild animal. The inhabitants of Taloga lived in fear of an unknown being bent on killing, which happened every night for over a month.

“The killings started about the time the OSBI think the intruder broke into your house, grandma.” Seeing that his grandmother was on the verge of breaking down, Tim knelt beside her chair and hugged her. When she seemed to pull herself together, he released her and sat back on his heels.

“What’s in the attic, grandma?”

**

Eileen pulled the blankets up around her to fend off the sudden chill she felt as her memories threatened to overwhelm her again.

“I was about twelve when my brothers and sisters and I were playing in the creek that ran next to our farm one day, something we very rarely got to do. We heard a strange cry from somewhere downstream, a sound we had never heard before. We couldn’t figure out what it was or where it was coming from, but we weren’t scared.

“Later that evening, my older sister Esther realized she was missing a shoe and thought she dropped it by the creek. I went with her with a lantern to find it. When we got there, we heard…” Eileen shivered under the blankets. After a few seconds, she resumed her story. “We heard the same strange noise again, but it was much closer then. We saw something glowing in the brush near where we had been swimming that day. Esther and I were so frightened that we ran all the way back to the house without looking for her shoe.

“Mother and Father were so angry that we didn’t come back with her shoe, they told her to just go bare foot until she found it. They didn’t believe us about the glowing light or the strange sound. Nor did they seem to care that Esther and I were so terrified we were crying. Our brothers and other sisters just laughed at us and called us scaredy-cats, even though they knew about the sound. They had heard it, too.”

Tears ran down her cheeks. She was vaguely aware of the growing looks of concern on Tim’s and Margaret’s faces.

“That was the night of the first cattle killing. One of ours. The next night it was one of our neighbor’s cows. People thought it was a coyote or a wolf maybe, but the carnage was too brutal for either of those animals. Something was killed every night. Even men who stayed out in their fields at night to protect their herds were slaughtered without so much as a shot being fired. Esther and I tried to tell anyone who might listen about the strange noise and the light but they dismissed us. Father and Mother started believing us because they heard it and saw it, too. People from all over the area searched for it but could never find even a trace of it.

“The killings kept on for over month. We were all terrified. The one night we woke up to my sister Amelia screaming and screaming…” Eileen broke down in sobs, weeping into a handkerchief she pulled form the depths of the blanket. Tim and Margaret rushed over to her, putting their arms around her. It took several minutes for her to calm down and suppress the shudders.

“Grandma, you don’t need to tell us anymore,” Tim said, with pleading in his tone. “This is obviously too much for you to--”

She held up a hand. “No, it’s all right, dear. I have to tell you this.” She took a deep breath and suppressed another round of sobs. “We ran to her room. Father was there first with a shotgun. He kicked open the door. Whatever it was must have come through the window and was attacking her.” Tears flowed again. “It came at us when Father kicked the door open. He shot it at point blank range with both barrels. It staggered back but I don’t think it was hurt. Father shouted for us to get out for the room. He had to reload. The creature jumped on him and knocked him back into the hallway. Mother started being it with a broom so we all attacked it, hitting it with whatever we could find. I think I beat it with an umbrella. It released Father and ran up the stairs into the attic. We chased it and shut the door, trapping it inside.

“Father was badly hurt but he lived. Amelia was…” Eileen chocked. “Amelia was dead. She had been ripped to shreds. Blood everywhere.” She heard Margaret sniffle and felt Tim shudder with his arms still around her shoulders.

“Our neighbors and people from everywhere came to help us. They waited to ambush it when it left the attic. Nobody wanted to go in there, fearing what would happen to them if they did. It was a very small room. We opened the door at night so it could get out and we could kill it but it never did. We finally boarded the door shut. There weren’t any windows up there so it couldn’t leave that way. Everyone hoped it would starve to death.”

The worst of her tale behind her, Eileen relaxed slightly and the tears abated. “As strong as it seemed to be, it must not have been strong enough to break through a door. We thought that it did finally starve or died from the gun shot until…” She left the sentence hanging as she turned to stare at Tim.

“Until the burglar unwittingly set it loose,” he finished her sentence in a voice just above a whisper.

“It must’ve gone dormant or have been hibernating all these years and then woke again when the attic door was opened.” Eileen had regained her composure with her story told.

“Why haven’t you told anybody, even Mom about this, Grandma?”

“Really, dear. Do you think you would’ve believed me if I told you there was a vicious demon hiding in our attic?” She gave him a small smile.

“Couldn’t you have moved away or destroyed the house while it was trapped inside?” Margaret spoke up at last. “Why stay there?”

Eileen turned her watery eyes to her. “Sweetie, this was in the last years of the Dust Bowl. We had no money to move. To leave home or destroy it would most certainly mean starving to death. The creature was trapped inside and couldn’t get out, so we had to deal with it and continue with life. There were no easy solutions back then. Only very hard choices.”

**

For the second time that month, Margaret found herself on the way back to Eileen’s house after dark. She and Tim hadn’t said a word since leaving the nursing home. They stopped at a hardware store on Interstate Forty before leaving Oklahoma City, but she stayed in the car. Neither had anything to say after the horrible revelation from the old lady. Tim drove recklessly. He seemed to have forgotten about everything other than returning to the farmhouse.

The full moon sat just above the horizon when they turned into the dirt driveway as it had just four weeks ago.

“A blue moon,” Margaret muttered. “It should be romantic.” She shook her head at the irony. Nothing stirred in the trees overhead this time. She closed her eyes in fear at the recollection of the cat she saw in the trees a month ago. The realization of what it may have been gripped her heart with fingers of ice.

Terrors notwithstanding, she and Tim had a terrible and dangerous task ahead of them: Reseal the attic and trap the demon that had resided there for decades.

Tim left the headlights on high beams as they pulled up to the house and jumped out of the car.

“Do you think we’re in time?” Margaret asked in a low whisper.

“The newspaper reports said the killings took place after midnight, and it’s only ten-thirty, so we should be okay. Let’s hope it’s still asleep.” He grabbed some small boards, a bag of nails and a hammer from the trunk. The door of the house stood open. Gathering up his bravery, Tim mounted the porch and flipped on the light switch inside the doorway. He breathed a sigh of relief as the overhead light came on, bathing the room in a welcoming glow, but Margaret felt no warmth. She ignored the stain from the body on the floorboards that the bio-cleanup crew couldn’t remove. Margaret ran through the house turning on all the lights while Tim disappeared into the cellar.

“Where are you going?” she shrieked.

“The gas line is down here. I have an idea how to destroy that thing,” he called from the darkness.

When he emerged a few minutes later, they ran up the stairs to the second floor. Looking down the corridor, they saw the door to the attic stood wide open, revealing only blackness beyond.

Margaret felt an icy chill that emanated from the opening, one that permeated her body as it had that night a month ago. She noticed a putrid stench, unlike the odor of the decaying corpse but still nauseating and overpowering.

The eagerness in their bolt up the stairs evaporated at the foreboding sight. They crept forward listening for any sound, any indication the demon was aware of their presence. The house sat deathly quiet. Margaret held her breath as they reached the opening. Tim grabbed the door knob.

The lights went out plunging them into pitch black darkness. Margaret gasped in shock. She felt Tim put his hand on her arm.

“Margaret!” he shouted in alarm.

A hissing noise snapped their attention to the top of the stairs in the attic. A hideous, skeletal figure with a skull displaying a protruding jaw and jagged teeth descended the wooden stairs with the appearance of floating instead of stepping down. An eerie dim glow shrouded the demon, bathing its emaciated body in an ethereal light. Its skin stretched over the rib cage narrowing to an impossibly thin waist and then clung to a deformed pelvis. From there, the light faded where the legs would have been.

The creature, with red eyes shining evilly from the dark, reached out with bony claws for Margaret’s neck.

Tim grabbed the door and slammed it against the demon’s arm, who howled in pain as its limb got pinched in the threshold. He seized Margaret’s arm, jolting her out of her frozen state and yanked her back down the hallway. He turned the flashlight on, its beam bobbing up and down in a frantic motion as they ran. The demon hissed furiously behind them in pursuit.

Tim and Margaret bolted down the stairs. The car headlights shone through the open front door, illuminating their path out of the house.

Tim pulled the door shut behind them and held it closed, dropping the wood and flashlight on the porch. The demon shrieked behind it, tugging on the doorknob.

“Margaret! Nail it shut! Hurry!” he shouted.

She scooped up the boards and secured one across the door as fast as she could. With one in place, Tim let go and helped her with the rest. Soon the door was sealed shut and the demon howled in rage behind it.

“Is that it? We just leave it in there?” Margaret’s voice shook with fear.

Tim nodded. “Grandma said it can’t get out,” he said in a tone as shaky as hers. “That’s how they kept it trapped in the attic all these years.”

“But there aren’t any windows in the attic! It can probably break these,” she shrieked pointing at the front windows.

“Then get in the car!” Tim ordered and Margaret obeyed without hesitation. She gasped as the demon glared out of a window at them, its red eyes glowing with hatred. Its claws scratched at the glass. The headlights formed strange shadows on the walls behind it. Margaret feared the window would break, releasing it once more.

“What do we do now?” She panted in terror.

“While I was in the cellar, I opened a gas valve and lit…”

His sentence was cut off when the house erupted in a huge orange fireball. Margaret screamed at the explosion. Even in the car, she felt the heat of the blast. Splinters and debris pounded the windows and roof of the vehicle. It rocked violently from the shock from the detonation.

The fireball faded, leaving a raging inferno in its place. As smoke rose from the ruined building, a faint shriek rose with the ashes and faded to silence in the night.





Tuesday, October 11, 2011

A review of Pretty, Pretty by K. C. Oliver



The only things missing from K. C. Oliver’s young adult mystery Pretty, Pretty is a Great Dane and his shaggy human friend. Everything else is already there. An isolated haunted hotel. A spooky specter prowling its corridors. Secret passages. Meddling kids.


Five years ago, I might have put the book down when I realized the progatonists were three teenagers but I wanted to see what kind of mystery literature young adults are reading.

Quinn and Holly are bff’s working at the Hawaiian hotel for six weeks (only six?) during the summer before Quinn starts college to study psychology. Holly wants to be a writer. Jax is on vacation with his parents.

Their first day at work, weird things being to happen. Personal items vanish. Mysterious messages appear on mirrors. The teenagers see a strange cloaked figure walking around the hotel. An odd mailman tells Quinn spooky tale about the place being haunted. The handsome Jax falls for the less-pretty Quinn.

Then Jax’s parents are unexpectedly summoned back home but they leave their son to enjoy the rest of his vacation. Leaving a teenager by himself in Hawaii? Either Jax is the most well-behaved teen in the world or his parents are the dumbest.

Unencumbered by parental units or a rigorous work schedule (Quinn and Holly are the only two employees at the hotel besides the elderly and creepy brother and sister owners), the trio set out to uncover the mystery of Barrington Hotel.

In her author notes, Oliver credits Nancy Drew mysteries as one source of inspiration for her work. It’s not difficult at all to imagine Carolyn Keene or Franklin Dixon lurking in the wings while Oliver wrote her story.

I suppose for teens, young adults or those who prefer cozy mysteries, Pretty, Pretty will be a perfect read. For those of us older and more jaded, we need to look elsewhere for excitement.





A review of Anne Boleyn by Evelyn Anthony



The cover of Anthony’s book claims it is a novel but many times it seems to struggle with its own identity. Is Anne Boleyn a novel or non-fiction? Clearly, Anthony bases her novel on the fact surrounding Boleyn’s ascension in Henry VIII’s favor to queen, to her fall and ultimately, her death. The fiction would most likely be the conversations that took place between the different factions at court and in the many theatres around the country as people conspired with or against the ill-fated queen. But the creative liberties Anthony took in writing give the novel a realistic edge, as if the reader were watching the drama from the shadows of the castles.


Anthony’s book, published in 1957, does not contain a bibliography but it appears to be thoroughly researched, since there isn’t anything that refutes or is contradictory to anything I’ve read or seen before on this era during Henry’s reign.

Anthony adds depth and feeling to the fiery passion Henry had for Anne in the beginning of their courtship; the cleverness and cunning of Nan as she manipulated and schemed to get Catherine of Aragon and daughter Mary out of the picture clearing her path to become Queen; Catherine’s obstinate refusal to bow to the King’s wishes and confess their marriage was illegal, and; the cruel methods Nan’s enemies employed to influence Henry into ending her.

In many places in the novel, reading becomes confusing since perspective shifts from one character to another within a scene. These are instances where the novel sounds like a non-fiction work. But what were Anthony’s sources? A bibliography isn’t necessary but helpful, even for a work of fiction. It helps the reader determine what is factual and what is pure fiction.

Despite the confusion, Anne Boleyn is a great read for fans of the Tudor era.









A Burial at Maple Hill by Brandon Hooks - A spooky story for your Halloween reading pleasure!



The glare of an early summer full moon bore down on Mitt Croonquist, thirty-eight, as he prepared himself for the final stages of the despicable act. A sliver of a brown-red cloud split the moon’s face in half, but still permitted enough light to peel away some of the darkness that was Maple Hill Cemetery in Huntsville, Alabama. Stars were absent for the night, leaving in its wake a slight, red firmament. A sulfur-like odor mated with the moisture-laden air to birth problems for Mitt. However chastised he was by the atmosphere wasn’t good enough to force him to steal away from the scene and call it quits. He would see his plan through come hell or high water.


Leaves scrambled over and around his feet as a lone breeze passed through. Sickly trees that were normally vivacious hung their branches down against a backdrop of hundreds of black headstones, while the peek of a hill in the distance rose to kiss the breastplate of a Christ statue. The hill cut sharply to the right, and descended about a fourth of a mile into an additional part of the cemetery. The yard appeared as though it were burdened with a conference of thousands of demons in rituals due to how the moon’s light failed to reach this part, and how the darkness masked each headstone.

“That’ll show em,” Mitt mumbled as he hammered the remaining nail into the doomed, nameless guy’s coffin. His thoughts of how the idiot cut him off in traffic just yesterday drowned out the unearthly screams that shook the exposed coffin. His heart was exempt from sympathy. He didn’t care about the kid. And he sure as hell didn’t care about the fact that God above was trying to poison him with sulfur, and trying to suffocate him with humidity. Nobody cuts me off in traffic, and lives to see another day, he thought.

He stared into the hole that housed his victim’s deathbed. “So… what’s it like down there? How’s the weather?” He thrust his head skyward and laughed.

“LET ME OUT! PLEASE! GET ME OUTTA HERE!” In an insane fit the victim drove his arms into all corners of the coffin until bones protruded through his skin. His eyes widened and quivered, tearing the eyelid muscles.

“Nobody can hear you, guy. Everything in town’s closed, and people have turned in for the night. Can’t help you there, bud.” Tim proceeded with throwing the dirt on the hole. As each bit of dirt hit the coffin the screams curdled more of his blood, but he shrugged off the nightmare and steadily buried his victim within the earth.

Two things excited him as he went to work on the burial. He couldn’t believe how isolated he was from the other gravesites. He could not have picked a better place for the murder. No chance of disrupting the resting places of Ford Gilmore, and Terry Madding, he thought. What thrilled him the most was how after the road rage incident his father responded abruptly by racing to the scene once he’d knocked the driver unconscious with his iron right hook. He just hated that his father had to rid his wife of the coffin he put her in so that his son could have a spot for his victim. They transported the thing by way of his father’s big rig while the victim lie soundly in the back of his 2008 Chevy Silverado. So they’d made a night of it. Father and son heading out for a manly night on the cemetery. He was told to give him a call once the job was done and he was leaving. How did he actually agree with what I was doing? Tim thought. Murder… of someone simply cutting me off in traffic? What the hell!

As he finished the final touches in the burial the screams began to dwindle into muffled sobs and prayer. Like that would do any good. He directed his thoughts to the incident again. A little over twenty-four hours had passed so the details were still remarkably vivid. It was amazing how he and his dad were able to transfer the body to the truck without being noticed. No sign of evidence he knew of that would put them away for good. When the driver got out of his car and walked over to him in confrontation, he just calmed him down enough to walk with him and talk with him away from the traffic, and away from public view. Then he belted him in the face, and that was that. So here he was, now down to the closing act of his performance. The curtains were about to close. When he’d shoveled the last patch of dirt into the hole the screams were gone. He stood over the site while leaning on his shovel like an old man supporting himself with his cane. It was done. That ghost face, Marilyn Manson looking punk would be dead within thirty minutes… maybe an hour.

The moisture in the air and the rotten eggs smell began to feel insufferable. He wasn’t sure where this stench was coming from. He took a whiff of his arm pits. Nothing but the Burberry Touch Cologne caught his senses. Man, I feel as though I could one night stand someone and get’em pregnant. What woman could resist this fine, fine fragrance. He took a seat on the headstone of Terry Madding and sat staring at his achievement. He looked down and said, “So, can you not resist this cologne? Hmm? If only you were up here with me then maybe I could show you a good time out on the town.” Oh well, he thought.

He reached in his pocket, pulled out the cell phone and dialed the number. “It’s done dad.” “Really? So the job is done. He’s really dead?” the voice on the other end asked. “Yep. He’s gone. I can no longer hear his screams. I’m sure he’s done torn so hard at the walls of the coffin that his painted nails have worn away.” “You’ve made me proud, boy!” His father shouted in triumph and praise. He ended the call and shoved the phone back into his pocket. Man I need a nap. Just thirty minutes should suffice, he thought. As he shut his eyes he could hear a bit of a punch to the wind. The sulfur was all around now and increasing by the second. A burn to the air weakened the vessels in his nose creating a trickle of blood. He wiped away at it and sniffed the clot all the way back up to the roof of his nose. He would nap nevertheless.

He dreamt of the victim of his crime. The object of murder was grungy, huge in height, and he let his black hair extend down to his back as if he were a Metallica punk gifted with a supermodel’s head. He was quite certain he could pass for a twin of Marilyn Manson, and almost betted that people wrongly desired his autograph. What made him stand out from other gothic looking guys was his build. He packed a punch in his physique. Most of these types of guys were scrawny, but not this particular individual. He himself was not as built as this guy was, and it was only a sheer miracle that he was able to lay him out and bury him without interruptions.

He wiped his nose again, and squirmed at the discomfort of the egg-rotting stench that led to a succession of coughs and gags. The humidity succumbed to blazing heat. He tried to wake up but something felt as though it were pressing hard against him. He imagined himself paralyzed. I can’t move! He awoke to faint breathing. Who’s watching me? He wondered. He did a scan of everything in the area; nothing out of the ordinary. All was silent. His victim was probably dead for good now. With that knowledge and assurance he closed his eyes, readjusted himself on Terry Madding’s headstone, and indulged himself in another nap. Before images of his victim could flash across the screen of his mind again, footsteps approached him. The heat amplified as if it were a black summer day. He jolted up from his nap to see nothing but the shadows that were the gravestones, and the hill rising to meet the breastplate of the Christ statue. All in my head.

Instead of taking to Madding’s gravestone again for a nap, he fell to the ground, and shut his eyes. Mother Nature blew a fresh breath of sulfur on him, and the heat was reaching high magnitude. He thought he’d heard stifled laughter. “WHO’S THERE?” He shouted. The wispy cloud that had teased the full moon was gone. It shone down in all its glory on the scene of his atrocity. His heart began to beat faster. He feared he had been watched the whole time. If so his life was over. The sulfur was so extreme now that he bent over and vomited. The heat made him sweat, and the fatigue was still potent.

Once more he collapsed to the ground and fell asleep. For thirty minutes he’d gone without dream or thoughts on his successful act. Sleep consisted of nothing but the blackness that were his eyelids. When thirty minutes had ended he watched as his mind ran scenes of him once again being transported by his victim as if he were unconscious and being rescued from a blazing house. He squirmed in his sleep-this time he couldn’t wake up. Something felt hard against his body-paralyzing him all over. He tried to waken but couldn’t. He was bathing in sulfur now, and the heat was beginning to scorch him. He slapped at his face in hopes he could end the stings of heat.

He dug his fingernails into his eyes and pulled them open to find his victim staring into his eyes. This time his eyes were a deep penetrable, almost seductive purple. They widened then decreased as he looked his killer all over, staring down into the very fiber of his black soul.

Mitt drove his arms into all sides of the coffin breaking his bones, and hammered the right side with his head.

“HELP ME! GET ME OUTTA HERE! HELP!!!”

“Nobody can help you now. You’re mine forever, Mitt. I’ve been watching you since you were conceived. When you arrived I helped fashion your mind to what it is now. I molded it and shaped it. God the Father couldn’t have it. Jesus Christ couldn’t claim your soul. You had no desire for the good things of the soul. With that I took your heart from you. I robbed the Father of the very essence of who you are; your immortal soul. So I set up the traffic incident for your final downfall. I even took your father too. I molded his mind and convinced him he didn’t need to tolerate his wife’s naggings any longer. So I took control of him, Mitt. I forced him to take the life of his own wife.”

He laughed.

“So now I say it’s time to come with me. I have LOTS of friends and family awaiting your arrival. They’ve been waiting thirty-eight years. Come with me so I can show you your new home. The thing withdrew his face as Mitt lay lifeless from a stopped heart. His eyes were replaced with milky white films, and his face was locked in an expression suggesting a screaming fury up to the time of his death.





Friday, October 7, 2011

The Rarest of Treats by Nomar Knight - A Halloween story


I entered the YMCA trying to tie a knot on my silk tie with latex gloves on my hands. I spotted a few middle-aged women pacing in the lobby. Three young men wearing basketball shorts and tank tops were being consoled by the police psychologist. The smell of fresh blood hit my nostrils the moment I stepped on the indoor basketball court. A thick, red smear led to a once white sheet.

“Hey, detective! Are you going to the Captain’s Halloween party?”

The question was accompanied by a high nasal voice that could only belong to the coroner. The plump man stood to my right. I sighed, “It depends on what’s under the sheet, Saunders.”

Saunders pointed a fat digit at the body and said, “The victim was a six foot-seven inch Goliath.”

I froze in place as a tingling sensation crawled up and down my spine. Judging by what lay before me, a sizeable amount of cadaver was missing. The stained covering could have been hiding a child. I didn’t have to raise the sheet to know what I’d see. “It’s All Hallows Eve.” I said, “The crazies are back.”

Saunders had been chewing on a toothpick. He let it slip out of his mouth and juggled it with his gloved hand, making sure it didn’t contaminate the crime scene. He gulped loudly and uttered, “Hey, ten years ago we found a bunch of cadavers in this condition. If it’s all the same to you, Detective Valens, I’ll skip out on tonight’s party. I'm nobody's lunch.”

I couldn't believe how fast ten years had passed. While the coroner mentioned particulars about the corpse, my thoughts drifted back to that dreaded night. My partner, Steve Holter and I were working the subway system in plain clothes, looking out for any weirdos that stood out. We were on the four-to-twelve shift on a cold Halloween night, enjoying the creativity of some strap-hangers as they paraded on the platform in strange outfits. A huge Samoan wore lederhosen stockings and flashed thick legs. He claimed to be Helga. A pair of vampires sucked face while they waited for the train. All seemed routine until near the end of our shift when my partner spotted a uniformed police officer.

Steve tapped my shoulder, “Bobby, get a load of that guy.” My heart began to race when I realized the costume looked authentic, down to the nine millimeter Glock in his holster.

I said, “The guy looks young.”

I followed my partner to the kiddy cop. Steve said, “Can we see some ID, officer?”

He sized us up all the while looking at us as if we spoke a foreign language. At last he uttered in a low voice, “I’m a cop.”

I said, “Yeah, out of what house?”

“House?”

If he was really on the force, he’d know that house meant precinct. The fact he didn’t, prompted my partner to pull out his gun. Steve said, “Don’t move!”

I circled behind the impostor, maintaining my hand on my weapon.

The Halloween cop said, “I’ve done no harm. Why are you bothering me?”

Steve said, “It’s against the law to impersonate a cop, pal.”

The next thing I knew, I’m waking up in the train tracks, listening to people screaming, some crying. I reached the ledge and almost fell back on the tracks as my hands slipped on liquid. It wasn’t until I stood on the platform that I noticed my hands and slacks were drenched in blood. My veteran partner, Steve Holter, lay in a puddle of crimson. Well, at least the lower half of his body did. His head down to his chest appeared to be torn right off and never found.

“Detective Valens.” Saunders’ annoying voice brought me back to my present predicament. “I’m locking myself up tonight. I suggest you do the same.”

I lifted the white sheet. The top half of the basketball player was missing. “I can’t do that Saunders. This shit has to stop tonight.”

Saunders touched my shoulder, “but you can’t stop them. The last time they were here, there were numerous attacks in different parts of the city. They all occurred within a twenty-four hour period. Just let them take what they want and they'll leave again.”

I got off my knee and finished straightening my tie. “I may not get them all, but I’ll be damned if I don’t bag at least one of them crazies, tonight.”

***

When I got home, I found a Halloween card under my door. I opened the envelope and saw a drawing of a tiny body with an incredible set of jaws. Sharp teeth similar to a great white shark entrapped the upper half of a man. I opened the card. It was an invitation to a costume party. The host called himself Officer Child. He promised to take a bite out of crime…solvers.

“The bastard’s taunting me.” While my brain told me I’d be walking into a trap, I understood that there’d be no better time to avenge my partner’s death. I envisioned an image of Rambo and muttered, “Wait till you get a load of me.”

***

The party was hosted in a house located in a secluded neighborhood. Right from the outset it was clear that Officer Child had major financial resources. The house epitomized a haunted mansion, complete with manufactured cobwebs, dark windows, and a spooky quality that seemed to go beyond the norm.

I entered the place expecting trouble right away. Instead, a vampire Playboy bunny offered me a glass of what looked like champagne. I ignored her and searched through the busy partiers. Zombies rocked on the dance floor, accompanied by mummies, a Frankenstein, a few half naked witches, and some werewolves. Quick movement drew my vision to a corner where tables were set up. A tiny nurse caressed the face of a man wearing fireman’s garbs. There was something odd about the way she moved. As I got closer, I noticed she looked like she couldn’t have been more than ten years old.

Someone poked my backside. When I turned, I immediately pointed my shotgun at Officer Child. The wacko had the nerve to appear exactly like he did ten years earlier. He wore the same police uniform, complete with a real firearm. It looked like he hadn’t aged a day.

I said, “What are you?”

He waved for me to follow him. I assumed he wanted to go somewhere with less noise, somewhere more private so he could eat me. Well, I was dressed like Rambo, and I had plenty of real fire-power to deal with the likes of his kind. I followed him through a chamber lit by torches. Murals of half-eaten bodies sprayed the walls. I couldn’t hold my curiosity any longer. I blurted, “What the fuck are you?”

He ignored me and maintained an easy pace. Eventually, he reached a heavy iron door which seemed to open by an unseen force. A cold draft chilled me on the inside as much as my skin. A momentary darkness at the entrance of the chamber, gave way to a light more acceptable to my eyes. He followed a carpeted path, climbing five steps until he sat on a golden throne.

I waited by the foot of the stairs, all the while pointing the muzzle of my shotgun at him.

He spoke, “Detective Bobby Valens, so good of you to accept my invitation.”

“Why did you kill my partner?”

The thing that called itself Officer Child said, “I don’t have time to provide you with a real history lesson, but surely you don’t think humans are on the top of the food chain.”

He paused and smirked at me like I was some sort of stupid creature. Then he said, “There are many galaxies and several suns. By the way, I take offense to what you call us. We’re not crazy.”

“I admit I didn’t expect you to act civilized… bottom line, you ate my partner,” I said.

He waved at me dismissively, “I only took what is considered a rare delicacy on our planet. I ate his brains and heart. Eventually I spat out what was left of his skull and chest.”

It was my turn to be demeaning, “That’s mighty cordial of you. Steve Holter had a wife and son who had to bury what was left of him in a closed casket.” My eyes watered and I chambered the shotgun.

His beady, black orbs grew the size of two half dollar coins. “Surely, you people don’t apologize to the animal’s kin once you kill and consume them.”

Screams! Somewhere in the distance screams reached the creature’s royal chamber. He smiled. “Ah, the witching hour has begun."

I knew other small terrors were feasting on the partygoers. Their terrifying screams rocked me to my core. “Aren’t you going to try to eat me?”

Officer Child laughed. “If I wanted you, your measly weapon couldn’t stop me.”

I didn’t wait for him to make any aggressive gestures. I pulled the trigger. The loud blast left me partially deaf as it echoed throughout the chamber. Officer Child’s head tore clean off his shoulders. To my dismay, another head took its place. Horns protruded from its skull. Purple skin slipped itself over the head until indentations formed eyes, a mouth and nose. Ears grew. The horns sunk through the skull and the creature opened its mouth. Then the horns divided into what looked like shark’s teeth.

I thought about firing another round, but the creature squealed and growled, and somewhere in the middle of all its bickering, I heard my partner’s voice scream, “RUN!”

There are many things I don’t understand about our world. Most of us live blind to what’s really out there. Most of us think of Halloween as something to make fun of, but I say, fuck those crazy bastards. I know the truth. I know we need to be prepared. That’s why I’m no longer a cop. That’s why I dedicate my time to recruiting an army that will blow these creatures away. We have ten years to prepare for their return. We have to make the most of our time now.

So are you with me, fellows?

The Three Bears, a Bearotica story is available today from Loveyoudivine Alterotica!



My latest work, a Bearotica story "The Three Bears" is available today from loveyoudivine!

Warning: This ain't your mama's bedtime story!




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Thursday, October 6, 2011

Invisible Curtain receives 4 1/2 Hearts from MM Good Book Reviews!



Portia de Moncur reviewed Invisible Curtain for MM Good Book Reviews and gave it 4 1/2 Hearts! 

Read her review below:

http://mmgoodbookreviews.wordpress.com/2011/10/06/invisible-curtain-by-alex-morgan/

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Old Lady Eldridge by Brandon Hooks - A story for October!



Devon Penny and Blaine Roby lived on Dubuque Street in the Gunter Grove neighborhood. Unfortunately, for old lady Eldridge, so did she; and she was about to become the next victim of the boys’ cruel pranks. Devon and Blaine were known throughout the Gunter Grove community as pranksters, and hard-core troublemakers. Their track record of activity was astounding when it came to the elderly. Any chance they could get, they trespassed, rang doorbells, and threw rocks at houses. They escaped detection from the police every time. Parents forbid their children to associate with the hoodlums, forcing Devon and Blaine to have no friends, and to cherish one another.


The boys’ favorite pranks included wrapping a house with toilet paper, or spray-painting the windows. When they were lucky enough to get hold of them, they set off firecrackers, waking the whole neighborhood. Ms. Eldridge of Dubuque Street was next on their list of elderly harassment.
The old lady lived all alone most of her adult life, and now three scrawny cats were her only companions. Perhaps it was self reliance which enabled her to keep active well into her nineties. Each day, her familiar figure, still upright and without the support of a cane, scurried the length of Dubuque Street, laden with shopping bags. This furthered their cause to terrorize her. The one thing they were in agreement on was that they despised the elderly, and this one was fresh meat for their undertaking. She lived in the establishment alone, and without a man protecting her honor.

There wasn’t a call for violence against her. The mission was easy and painless; make her aware of who ran the neighborhood. There method for achieving this outcome was to knock on her backdoor many times, and insult her with the vilest words possible. When this was done, they would hide in her storage shed, a structure that stood in solitude within the closed in, but well kept backyard.

Typically old ladies like Ms. Eldridge lived in ramshackle, neglected properties, like the one across the road from her superior abode. However, this singular old lady had bought and maintained a prestigious home with neat paint-work and tidy gardens. It was her retirement savings that did this for her. She worked many years of her adult life as CEO of an explosive, worldwide, law firm. Within two years of her retirement, she’d accumulated a vast fortune through the use of an IRA savings account. It was obvious that she didn’t see the need to put any of the money into her looks. She kept it saved and decided the riches outweighed the need to do something about the level of her comeliness. I can attest to you how unattractive Ms. Eldridge was by the actions of one particular neighbor when she was seen outside for the first time tending to her rose bushes. A neighbor running into the house as if a tornado was barreling towards him is a solid, reasonable depiction of her incapability to show the world a beautiful woman.

There were certain, concentrated parts of the house that fed her obsession. She washed the purple drapes that hung in the window frames twice a day! She seemed to nurture a fear of robbery, as was evident when she was continuously observed pulling at the bars on her windows like a mad-woman trying to escape from her own house. The front door was black, and so it remained, even after the weather had delivered punishment on its color and texture over the years. When it showed signs of dying into a light, dirty, brown, she would simply take out the old Sherwin Williams paint bucket, and drive the brush over the door with a fresh coat of black. The huge rose bushes flourished every day, singing its music to the world, and to old lady Eldridge’s lonely heart.

For three days during the week of the promised attack, the boys watched her house. When the fourth night arrived, Ms. Eldridge was gone. Her driveway was vacant. Maybe she was shopping for groceries, they thought amongst themselves. The entire day had gone by, and she never returned. They were too excited and carefree at heart to pay attention to the fact that it was after 1:00 am on Friday morning when she finally returned home.

They met each other Friday night by the street light at the edge of the crippled, abandoned house across the street from Ms. Eldridge’s dwelling. It was ten forty five, and all lights were off in the old lady’s house. They ran like marathon contenders to her backyard, and stopped at the back door. A gentle breeze tickled them as they stood at the door that divided an antisocial, old lady from the world.

There was silence behind the back door when they walked up to it, and then one of the cats whined softly, thrusting them backwards as if they had seen the old lady’s face for the first time. Then something else happened that stilled the currents of their blood. There were slow, heavy footsteps approaching the door. One step… two steps… a third step… and silence.

The cat screeched in anger as a loud thump pounded the floor. Devon held his chest, hoping he could slow the pounding of his heart.

Blaine whispered to Devon, “Pssss, get ready to run to the shed. I’m gonna knock ten, hear me, ten times. When I finish knocking run as fast as ya can. I will stand here and wait until she turns the knob. Then I will catch up with ya.”

Devon said nothing.

“Hey, don’t ya be an ole wuss like ya were a couple a weeks ago when the ole man pulled the gun out on us for trespassing and rolling his house.”

Devon nodded his head and said, “Okay, jus knock on the door so we can get this over with. I hate the way I feel about this. Old ladies scare the shit out of me!”

Blaine covered his mouth and chuckled. Devon stood away from the door, and prepared to make a run for the shed. Before Blaine could even conceive of knocking on the door, something occurred that almost forced Devon to heave. The old lady was talking to her cats! Her tone was sad and weary, and each time she spoke, the cats howled as if in answer.

“How could that young man do such a thing to me, my darlings? How could he physically violate me like that? He is a heathen destined for the pits of Hades.”

Blaine could feel a scream begin to form. Before he could unleash it, he pounded on the door ten times. Devon darted towards the shed as if his very own life depended on it. He shut the door enough to where he could still see the back door. Blaine stood there waiting for Ms. Eldridge’s arrival. Devon shut the door and sighed.

“Hey, ya ole turkey! Let’s see yer ugly face!” Blaine antagonized.

Man, it is hot in here! Devon thought.

A long time passed, and all was silent. Blaine was still at the door waiting to play the joke.

Geez, what was taking the old lady so long? He thought.

He felt himself getting hotter by the minute. A breath of wind, like a thief in the night, slapped the storage shed, causing him to jolt, and sending a ringing throughout the structure. Following this came the sound of soft footsteps, like someone slowly walking through a yard of leaves.

Well, it is about time, dumb ass! His thoughts screamed as Blaine walked instead of running to the shed.  Typical Blaine; can’t even follow his own plans!

There was a dead silence as the footsteps ceased.

What was he doing?

He thrust open the door, and before him was The Grin! It was not the type of grin where the person is thinking, I’ve got you right where I want you now! No, this was the type of facial display where this person was preparing to delight themselves over a brutal murder. This type of person wanted to see their victim witness a small glimmer of eternal hell, and they wanted to be the one to make it happen! This was old lady Eldridge, the woman rumored to be lonely, but harmless. She now stood before Devon. In her right hand was a sword that he was all too familiar with. It was a 16th century Renaissance Sword. It was a deadly sword he had read about a couple years back while surfing the internet during his unhealthy obsession over swords. This time the sword was no longer the object of his fascination. Instead it was an object of horror, a long piece of European metal bathed in Blaine’s blood. She held his corpse up with the sword. Saliva dripped off her milky, white teeth as she uncoiled her enormous tongue and wiggled it.

My God, what was this thing, or should I dare even call her a woman?! He thought, as he was too paralyzed to waken the neighborhood with his screams.

Nothing else in the world mattered but that smile! He couldn’t remember if he even caught a full glimpse of her body. He knew that she must have been skeletal in her frame; by the way the corner of his eye captured her. There was a stream of white hair that flowed from her head, but his pounding heart had an intimate relationship with one thing; the smile! Her black eyes and cold blooded grin did all the talking, and that was enough to cause Devon’s heart to beat the walls of his chest. Her grin spread further and saliva dripped as if she were a famished animal, hurting for Devon’s blood.

Blaine’s face was pulled downward and apart as if a monstrous hand had pushed out of his throat and was stretching the mouth to escape. All his facial bones and nerves were shattered. His face remnants consisted of a cross between unimaginable horror and unprecedented shock at what had been done to him by such a harmless lady.

Devon watched as she threw Blaine’s corpse on top of the shed. She approached him with growing speed. As she stood at the door before Devon, she spit and cursed him. This time around her voice was weary.

“Young man, may I ask what you're doing in my yard this time of night… hmmm?” She asked as if she were just an annoyed old lady.

Devon fell to the side and hit the wall.

Ms. Eldridge grabbed him by the shirt and said, “Young man… hey!”

She slapped him across the cheek.

“Hey, I’m talking to you! What are you doing in my yard?”

Devon struggled to find the words.  “I…”

“I asked your friend up there the same question and he had the same answer. Well, I had to just answer for him I guess.”

She held up the long, bloody, European metal and gave it an adoring look.

“These ere such nice, fancy weapons, wouldja say? Perfect for the disposal of heathen children.” She asked as she transferred the blade of the sword to Devon’s throat. His heart pounded louder. Eldridge’s ears pricked up like a dog hearing the sound of food hitting his bowl. Ever since she was raped by the bipolar 16-year old boy, her insanity had given her permission to hear everything! Now, her ears were in tuned to the pounding of his heart.

“Calm down there, young fella.” She said. “Yer soul is gonna be so stretched with terror before I can shove this sword into yer heart.” She said. “What good would it do me ta try and touch that heart when it is cold, scared, and barely functioning?”

“I… I don’t know.” Devon said.

She lifted his chin up and stared into his eyes.

“Hey, it won’t hurt that bad. I will make it a painless death. Promise.”

“Please don’t kill me. I won’t tell anybody…. promise!” He cried.

Ms. Eldridge’s mood suddenly changed. It went from cold blooded lack of remorse to vicious. Her face was dark with a contorted snare.

“Yer not gonna tell anybody, huh? Now, let’s see if I have this correct. You and yer friend up there come trespassing into my backyard, wanting to play a joke on me, which by the way would never work to begin with.

While she spoke she took the sword and pointed it to the back of the storage unit. Devon looked back and noticed the frame of a skeleton like body lying face down. The frame was youth-like in size. His heart raced so fast it managed to skip beats.

She smiled again.

“Yes sir. That was the last young 'un to try and outsmart me. Foolish boy!” She said.

“So, anyways, you and yer friend up there want to trespass on my property, and you say that you’re not gonna tell anybody what I have done!”

She stretched her neck and faced him as if she were preparing to plant a kiss on his lips. The irony of her pleasant smelling breath was tremendous.

“My boy, you will be the one that will be going to juvy. I just did what I had to do with an unruly boy.”

Devon couldn’t scream. Even the sight of another murdered boy couldn’t help him with it. He felt pale and weak. He never thought a person could literally be scared to the point of death, but it looked like he was the exception to the rule.

She withdrew her head from his face and pointed the sword at the area of his chest.

“I think I will shove it rigghhtt there.” She said with a wink.

His heart beat louder and he felt weaker. He didn’t care anymore. If she was going to do it, she needed to get it over with. His heart couldn’t slow down from the brink of destruction. It had been pumping its terror-stricken blood for what seemed forever. The adrenaline racing through his body kept him alive a little bit longer.

Ms. Eldridge quickly withdrew the blade and looked towards the driveway.

“Did you hear that?” She asked.

The sound of car doors slamming relieved him a little bit, but not long enough, when he realized that whoever was out there was in terrible danger. The old lady’s eyes rolled back in her head as she stretched her neck to see who was visiting this time of hour.

“Sssshhh!” She whispered to Devon as she scurried away from the shed and into the darkness towards the back door. The visitors were police officers.

“Hey, new guy. We’re just gonna try and ask this person here if they know anything about the robbery that took place around this area a week and a half ago. I know it’s late, but tomorrow I’m off, and the sergeant wants me to feel you in on how we question citizens who might know something about a crime in the area.” The chief officer said.

“Affirmative.” The rookie responded. They knocked on the front door. The shadow of the old lady turned and flailed in the dark near the back door. Devon’s head ached, and sweat saturated his palms.

It is a perfect time for me to get the hell out of dodge! He thought, but it was just that, wishful thinking that couldn’t come to reality because he was paralyzed by the events playing out.

It was as if he’d been chained and couldn’t move. The tides of blood in his stomach seemed to be sloshing around, as he felt his bowels move. He bent down and gripped at his buckling knees.

Must not have a panic attack! His mind screamed as if shouting at himself would somehow alleviate the doubt that was there. Hell yeah I was going to have an attack!  My best friend lies dead above me while I stand here in these four walls of searing hell, worrying myself to death over two cops whose fates will be sealed by their own blood if I don’t do something to stop it!

The quiet night returned, and time passed by. A dog howled in the distance.

God, just let me die! His thoughts screamed again.

What followed next was the sound of a door slamming in the house. Trees bending slightly under the influence of a coming storm preceded screams from inside her house, like the cries of a tormented soul in hell trying to get the Almighty God to hear them all the way from the glory of heaven. Devon retrieved what was remaining of his strength, and flung open the door in a last attempt at escape. He ran into the throat of the night with a certain knowledge that would terrorize him for the rest of his life. He left behind two souls that didn’t know anything about the evil that lurked in the mind and heart of a lonely, violated, misunderstood woman.

Devon was diagnosed with severe schizophrenia and paranoia. He was the patient at Bryce Mental Hospital in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, where his parents visited him frequently. Over time he made progress and began to forget about the events that occurred that night. He thought about Blaine a lot, and wished he was still alive so that they could carry on their destructive pranks. Kids will be kids, the old saying goes, and these two boys were pure kids, immature, and reckless.

Ms. Eldridge escaped jail time for the murders on substantial proof of her insanity. She was institutionalized as a result, and would remain there. Devon never knew he could cry like a screaming baby, when one night he awoke to the door slamming, and seeing the Grin at the foot of his bed. He wasn’t sure if he’d caught a full glimpse of her body, though.