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A Bloody Valentine: Eric Dean

Published February 14, 2015 by administrator

Oh, what a treat this is! One of the State of Horror authors must really like me, because he answered my questions AND gave me a short story to post, all for nothing! I feel so loved!

INTERVIEW WITH ERIC DEAN

It’s Valentine’s Day. What’s your take on the “Most Romantic Day of the Year”?

To me, Valentine’s day is 2/3 crap. If you’re single, it’s a painful reminder. If you’re in a long term relationship, it’s one more day you’re forced to spend money because society said so. If you’re in a new, exciting relationship, then yeah, it’s one more exciting excuse to get buzzed and make love, as if you NEED an excuse. For those people, in those circumstances, it’s great. For everyone else, it sucks.

What made you decide horror would be your genre of choice?

Fate. I originally wanted to be a fantasy and sci-fi writer, but it turns out I’m much better at horror.

From where do you pull your horror inspiration?

Usually, my dreams. I dream often and vividly, and I’ll usually take the most interesting kernels from my dreams (or nightmares) and expand them into stories.

What is one horror stereotype you absolutely despise? What is one you love? 

I absolutely hate the dark and mysterious tough guy who is always prepared and never afraid (a la Batman). I absolutely LOVE the opposite – the average Joe or Jane who may not be adequately equipped for the situation at hand, but through blind courage and dumb luck manages to pull through (Billy from Gremlins).

What scares you?

Three things: The idea that I’m less than think I am, and others are too polite to tell me, the idea that I might be crazy, and the thought of dying alone. Real talk.


THE BLACK MEAT

by Eric Dean
Posted with Permission of the Author

The first time I tried the black meat was also the last, though not for lack of interest. As a journalist, I’d written many articles about the product – the one you’re reading being, obviously, the most recent. It was cloudy and raining the day I received my hostess’ unexpected invitation, by private courier. It was unusually warm for early January, and I’d left the house in only a wool shirt. A driver picked me up at my home at 3:00 pm. He stoically checked my driver’s license and matched it to a picture he’d been given, and then silently opened the rearmost door of the black limousine and motioned me inside. The letter the hostess had sent was hand written on a fine natural paper. It requested that I leave all electronic devices, including my phone, and that I bring only a pen and paper for taking notes. It asked that I give the letter itself to the driver, who arrived precisely when the letter said he would, and that I politely not photograph or transcribe the exact text therein. I complied with all requests. We drove in silence save for classical music at a very low volume – I think it might have been Debussy. I was given a blindfold and a flute of champagne, both of which I used as implied.

***

The black meat had been described by a certain surly, sarcastic TV chef as “like chewing through decomposing wood… wood that tasted like an odorous French cheese with a vinegar edge… notes of molasses and bourbon. Not pleasant necessarily, but not entirely bad. Dare I say… fascinating?”

The production of the meat was steeped in as much mystery as its ingredients. Saffron robed monks with ash caked skin hid away in log-built smoke-houses and hummed surreal melodies over their fires. They’d emerge, faces striped with gray ash cut by rivers of sweat, humble and bowing, and trade out with their replacements in a nearly silent and well-rehearsed ceremony before retiring to nearby tent or yurt barracks. They’d have crates and packages shipped in whose contents were protected by special laws – the same special laws that protected the production and consumption of the black meat. “Government sanctioned cannibalism,” had been thrown around in the early days, to no avail. No one really knows where it started, or with who – someone in the 1% had discovered it during travel abroad; no doubt, exposing it to the elite of the elite. The quiet, old money was first, and the young new money followed in never ending emulation of extravagance.

It became fashionable contraband, like cocaine and Cuban cigars. Rock stars made references to the infinite complexities of the flavor in the lyrics of “fictional” ballads and tabloids were plastered with stories in which certain leading men of Hollywood were rumored to have tasted the black meat. Moral debates raged across the aisle as new bills were proposed to ban consumption, and calls were made for the UN to publically denounce it. Amid the fervor, a bill was quietly presented with bipartisan support – aged senators with red and blue ties and American flag lapel pens spoke of “religious ceremonial freedom” and “traditional memorial practices”. The bill mentioned nothing of the black meat, nor its consumption, but ensured that one’s remains could be dealt with as one saw fit, in keeping with one’s religious traditions and practices, despite any pre-existing laws, so long as the wishes of the deceased were clearly laid out in the proper legal documents and no unwilling parties were involved or directly affected. The bill passed with a comfortable margin, and a subsequent Supreme Court case found that consumption of the black meat could be protected under the new law, given that close controls be put in place to ensure valid legal documentation of a party’s wishes to be processed prior to their passing, validation by a licensed coroner that the party’s passing was natural or accidental, as any hint of foul play or unusual circumstances would be in violation of the “non-incitamentum” (no incentive) clause. A further appeal from the moral minority ended in a compromise – an amendment to the law which required that any portion of the black meat sold be procured from a single party, and that the party’s (previous) identity be clearly labeled on any packaging.

It wasn’t long before various churches of the black meat sprang up on the internet. Sign up from the comfort of your own home, attend an occasional web-service on YouTube, and print out your own certificate of membership. The churches’ dogmas were tongue-in-cheek lists of variations on a theme – a theme of mostly libertarian, sometimes borderline hedonist, personal freedom and privacy. “Thou shalt drink whatever thou wishes to drink, in whatever amount thou wishes to drink it, so long as thou does not drive inebriated or in any way harm another person outside of thyself.” Membership in many of these churches also required proof that the applicant had also drafted what became known as the “black meat clause” into their legal will. Many lawyers provided this service at a discount until the option showed up on the automated will-builder of a popular legal document website.

Unsurprisingly, this clause evolved into a very specific form in which a party could not only dictate their wishes to be processed into the black meat, but also dictate a specific party or parties that could then receive the product – assuming either party could afford the exorbitant cost of processing. Crazed fans left themselves to rock stars. Lovers left themselves to one another in a final and ultimate act of intimacy. Controversy arose when a frightening number of terminally ill patients began leaving themselves to wealthy patrons “as a thank you” for said patrons charitably relieving their families of their medical expenses. These charitable acts soon included college scholarships and luxury items as the poor had begun bidding for the opportunity to ceremonially thank the rich, and the rich, as it were, had begun to literally eat the poor.

The ash-masked, saffron clad monks (if they were even really monks at all), faced competition from a commercially mass-produced product out of China. It was generally agreed upon by the culinary elite that this was a vastly inferior product, often leaving less wealthy consumers with strange parasites, and in a few documented cases, a fatal variant of Creutzfeldt–Jakob disease.

Many dubious internet articles claimed to know the secret traditional recipe of the black meat, and though each varied slightly, most seemed to rely on the same general protocols. The body was skinned, and the skin cleaned and put aside to dry. The meat was separated and packed in rare spices and various dried berries while the rest of the body was cremated and pulverized. This pulverized ash was mixed with salt and packed into earthen jars. The meat was buried in this salt and ash mixture, and the jars were capped and set aside to allow the meat to cure. After some time, the meat (including the ash, spices, and berries) was removed and coarsely stone-ground into a dry, charcoal-gray hamburger. Other spices and oils were added, and the meat was packed tightly into the now plasticine skin, tied with natural fiber twine, and left to smoke above the other crematory fires.

***

We arrived about an hour later. I stepped out onto wet, well-manicured grass, though as dead as my own humble lawn. We walked through what appeared to be an outdoor shooting range. I kicked aside the occasional broken bits of orange clay and a single yellow shotgun shell. The driver checked over his shoulder to make sure I was still following. An icy breeze swept across the large yard from somewhere over the surrounding pine forest and made me regret not wearing a jacket. He led me toward a high wooden fence, or wall, more accurately – built not with planks but 8-foot wooden posts driven into the ground side by side, like the defensive walls of an early colonial settlement. Smoke billowed from the other side of the wall. A large wooden gate was opened, and my hostess, whose exact description she requested be kept undisclosed, was, suffice it to say, a beautiful and well-known old-money socialite. We exchanged formal greetings and she motioned me inside. She was dressed pragmatically, with rain boots and a large golf umbrella – a duplicate of which she offered to me. With our matching umbrellas, we crossed the large inner courtyard, leaving the driver at the gate, standing in his suit and tie, stone-faced against the rain and cold.

My hostess reiterated the conditions she’d laid out in her letter, all of which I, again, agreed to, assuring her that I had complied, to the letter, with each. She led me toward a log-built smoke-house. She explained that she’d tired of navigating the legal channels that bottle-necked the product in the face of high demand, and that her own standards of freshness and quality were far above what had become the standard. She admitted that this, her private operation, was both very illegal and very expensive, but that she complied with all moral and ethical criteria laid out by law. “I have an application process,” she explained, “and interested parties must meet certain physical and genetic guidelines. I also demand a level of freshness that simply isn’t possible under the federal protocols. For this,” she smiled, “they are compensated far beyond the norm.”

From the smoke-house emerged an ashen-faced monk clad in saffron robes grayed with ash – exactly as I’d imagined. He bowed, and we returned his bow. He presented to my hostess a parcel wrapped in oily brown paper and tied with string. My hostess guided me to a nearby table set up under a crudely built gazebo. The driver had prepared two more flutes of champagne, and offered me a cigar. “For after,” he said quietly. I politely declined. The hostess placed the parcel between us and unwrapped what appeared to be a human hand, twisted into a Buddhist mudra. The hand seemed to be translucent and over-stuffed, like a partially inflated latex glove. Before I’d come to terms with the situation, my hostess had casually cut into the meaty, outside edge of the hand, opposite the thumb, and carved out a small wedge of densely packed, black meat, flecked with exotically colored spices and small, dried berries. I took the oily wedge in my hand and turned it, noticing tiny hair-like spices protruding from the coarse mixture. I smelled it – indeed, an odorous French cheese. Then, after a quick sip of particularly good champagne, I took a bite, chewing slowly and allowing the oils and flavors to flood my mouth and my mind.

An odorous French cheese with a vinegar edge. Perhaps notes of molasses and bourbon. Spices I could not identify. Beyond this, an infinite and overwhelming complexity of incomparable flavors I can only describe as…sentimental. Bittersweet. The familiar voice of a long lost lover somewhere in a crowd. A quiet, comfortable shame. An ecstasy of solitude on the tongue, and after, the familiar sorrow of loneliness at the back of the mouth. I felt the lump in my throat even before I’d swallowed. A knot that rose… and I began to softly weep. When the bit was gone, and I again opened my eyes, the grays and browns around me had become somehow more vibrant. The gemlike eyes of my hostess, also wet with tears, were now the eyes of a friend… the eyes of someone who knew, and who knew that I now knew, that we were on the same page.

I don’t remember the drive home, nor the rest of the evening I spent in darkness, sucking on my tongue and swallowing my own saliva. It’s been two days now, and I remember only the impossible flavors of the black meat, and the feelings I can’t adequately describe. I no longer know what’s right or what’s wrong… I don’t even know if it matters. I only know that I’ve seen beyond the veil. I know the orgasmic bliss of surrender to the black meat, and I know I’ll continue to seek the experience. Until then, I know I will taste it on my tongue until the day I die, and I know, now, what I would like done with my body.

THE STATE OF HORROR SERIES

Edited by Jerry E. Benns
From Charon Coin Press

Eric Dean is featured in State of Horror: Illinois.

State of Horror: Illinois State of Horror: New Jersey State of Horror: North Carolina
State of Horror: Illinois State of Horror: New Jersey State of Horror North Carolina
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Tuesday Teaser: Haunted

Published July 22, 2014 by administrator

So I have this novella. It’s a pretty good one, and it’s been through a few versions in the span of its short life. Mocha Memoirs Press has done an outstanding job bringing it to life. Between Michael’s top of the line editing and Nancy’s beautiful cover, I’m absolutely thrilled to see it out and about in the world.

It’s scary.And I’m going to let y’all read a little of it.

Oh, and its cover looks like this:

Haunted by S.H. Roddey

The Blurb:

When Bobby Gaston walks into a diner and orders a beer with his breakfast, he can’t quite remember why he needs the fortification. While he wants to remember, he’s pretty sure he doesn’t want to know what happened. He strikes up a conversation with the cute little waitress, Sheila, who offers him a ride back to the house on Normandy Road where he claims his ghost-hunter friends are sleeping after a night of exploration in the spooky old mansion.

Only, Bobby knows his friends aren’t just sleeping. He inherited the house from his grandfather, and while his memory is hazy, his unerring knowledge that something evil lurks inside makes him hesitate. But with the spunky and impetuous Sheila by his side, the darkness doesn’t seem so bad… until she leaves him hanging.

Bobby is left with two options: turn tail and run, or face his personal demons while fighting against the evil that waits for him.

 

The Snippet:

This is the first few pages of the book. I’d love to know what y’all think. And if you want to read the rest, you can buy it at Amazon, B&N, or the MMP Store.

***

“I’ll have an egg-white sandwich with a side of sausage. And a beer, if you’ve got one.”

The waitress couldn’t have been more than sixteen. She looked at me strangely for a moment with her faded blue eyes, shot a sideways glance at the clock, then shrugged and turned to call in my order. It was a greasy spoon, and it was deserted, save my ragged presence. From the girl’s reaction, nobody had come in here asking for a beer in nearly two years.

“Hey Rick!” she called to the guy on the other side of the pass-through. “Do we have any beer?” Either I was sitting too low, or the guy was really short, because all I could see was the tip of a greasy, white paper hat.

“You know you’re too young to drink, Sheila!” he called back. “But for a fee I’ll see what I can do for you, hon.” I could hear the sarcasm and sleaze dripping from his voice. He had been trying to get into this girl’s pants for a while now.

“Not for me, jackass!” she snapped and punched her hands against her hips impatiently. “You know I can buy it any time I want! This guy wants a beer.”

“At six in the morning?” he asked, sounding dumbfounded. I suspected confusion was a typical state of mind for him. “Check the blue box in the closet,” he replied, his voice much flatter than before.

The girl, Sheila, smiled weakly over her shoulder at me and disappeared behind a grimy, unplugged jukebox. While she was gone, the heavenly scent of frying sausage filled the dusty air of the little diner, and though I wasn’t particularly hungry, my stomach started doing backflips.

After what I’d been through, what I could remember of it, I doubted I’d ever be able to eat again.

Sheila reappeared a moment later, her oily pigtails bouncing alongside her ears as she skipped back toward the counter. She blew a thick layer of dust from around the bottle cap, and the telltale blue ring of PBR caught my attention.

“Sorry if it’s a little old,” she said, nodding her head slightly as she popped the top, “but we don’t get much demand for beer around here.” She handed the bottle to me, and from the moment my fingers touched it, I knew it was not only flat, but skunked. It didn’t matter; I needed the fortification.

I held my breath and took a long draught from the bottle. It was every bit as disgusting as PBR should be, and then some. But it was beer, and it wasn’t overly hot. Despite the bile creeping back up my throat to dispel the ghastly taste, the alcohol grounded me slightly. My fingers ceased their shaking a little, and my vision didn’t seem like it was confined by quite so long a tunnel.

“What’s got you drinking beer at six in the morning, sugar?” Sheila asked me, though she couldn’t have sounded more disinterested. “You act like you seen a ghost or something.” I cringed at her horrible grammar, but kept the comments to myself. Suppose I did tell her I’d seen a ghost; would she believe me? Not likely.

“Just a kick start,” I lied, and fought to swallow the beer that was steadily rising in my gullet. I washed it down with another long swig. “Long night.”

“So, who’s the lucky lady?” she asked, turning those pretty blue eyes back to me. Now she was interested, which was strange. Nobody ever paid attention to me unless I’d done something wrong.

“No lady tonight, hon,” I replied and tried to smile. It must have worked, because she smiled just before her lip turned downward into an apologetic pout.

“That’s too bad,” she said with returning disinterest. Not really, I thought. “What’s your name, darlin’?”

“Bobby,” I said.

She nodded, and I could see the gears in her brain turning to process the new information. She looked me in the eyes again, this time with building curiosity.

“Well, Bobby,” she started, but Rick quickly cut in with a smack to the bell in the window and a loud shout.

“Order up!” he called a little too loudly into the emptiness of the restaurant.

“Jeez Louise, Rick!” Sheila snapped, turning her attention to him. “I’m standin’ right here!”

“Just wanted to make sure ya heard me, doll.”

“Can it, dickweed!” she snarled, her pretty little pink mouth curling downward into a sneer that could have stopped a truck. Something about the shape of her lips as the word fell from them was disturbingly erotic.

She lifted one perfectly-manicured hand to pick up the plate and turned back to me with another of those flashy smiles. She was definitely too young; her teeth were still too white and too many to belong to an early-morning waitress. She was as dingy-looking as the establishment around her, but that radiant grin could cut through any layer of grime.

“So, Bobby,” she repeated and set the plate in front of me, shooting a dirty look over her shoulder I was certain Rick wouldn’t be tall enough to see, “what brings you into The Breakfast Bowl so early?” As she said it, she motioned to the empty building. “We usually don’t see customers until after the sun comes up.”

Normally I wouldn’t have had a problem answering that question. This morning, though, was a different story. I picked up my fork and toyed with a sliver of egg hanging off the toast. The night had been one for the books, no doubt. I couldn’t really remember much of it, but I knew there had been blood. Lots of blood. The memory of it nearly brought back the stale beer.

“Just headed home,” I said over the rampage of my own memories, and the sudden eruption of gastric juices settled.

“Where ya from?”

“Wellington, just on the other side of Wichita.”

“Well, what’re you doing in Newton at this hour if you’re from Wellington, Bobby?”

I discovered I couldn’t answer her. The events of the night – the clear parts – were still too surreal for me, though when the sun came up and the house was discovered in its current state, it would be all too real. I knew the police would come for me, even though it wasn’t my fault.

“Waiting for my friends to wake up,” I heard myself say, though the sound of my own voice was distant and alien, “so I can catch a ride home.”

“Where are your friends?” she asked.

“Normandy Road.”

“Well, what are they doing over there?” she asked, wide-eyed and innocent. In the kitchen, I could hear Rick grumbling about something and slamming dishes. All I could gather was he was angry over my presence interrupting his attempt to woo her.

I hesitated in answering her again. I couldn’t just announce what they were doing on Normandy Road was lying dead in someone else’s home. That would scare her for sure. No, I definitely couldn’t tell her that.

THUNDER ON THE BATTLEFIELD!

Published August 6, 2013 by administrator

I have absolutely no idea how to start off except by saying this:

WHEEEEEEEEE!

Since finding that pretty acceptance email in my inbox from the wonderfully talented James R. Tuck all those months ago, I have barely been able to contain myself. I’m a fantasy nut, and when given the opportunity to submit not just for a sword & sorcery anthology, but to James as the editor and Seventh Star Press as the publisher, I was absolutely over the moon. I didn’t think I’d make it, of course.

You know, girls aren’t supposed to be able to write good speculative fiction. *coughbullshitcough*

Then James decided he liked me (he says it’s my story but I don’t believe him) enough to let me come play in his universe. Then edits came (and I made a few diva-ish comments that he seemed to ignore) and went, and then we waited.

And waited.

And waited some more.

Then he sent this glorious email with the cover art proof and I immediately decided I wanted to print it out in wide format and wrap myself in it because it’s so gorgeous. Wanna see?

Thunder on the Battlefield Cover Art

Yes, kids, it’s a two-book deal. One piece of artwork, two gorgeous books. My story, Black Ice, is in Volume 2. Oh, and the book hits E-shelves Thursday. It’ll be in print later in the month as well.

Wanna know more? How about a little teaser from my story?

*****

Excerpt From

BLACK ICE

The fetid stench of garbage permeated the woods near Kossuth. Serath Frostbourne knew it was Kossuth not from experience, but from the stories of her Barbarian brethren. As a Tarulan woman certain things were expected of her, including an impeccable memory for storytelling and the strength of a warrior disguised by the grace of a thief.

She had those traits.

She remembered well.

And she wanted to vomit as she huffed shallow breaths against the disgusting odor around her.

Even on this dark, moonless night she knew she neared her destination. Outside the weak circle of torchlight, the pitch threatened to consumer her, to snuff out the thin sliver of peace she carried. This tiny ball of visibility afforded her only three clear steps ahead and behind, but it bled on her right into another dim circle of flame. No matter. She would press on, if not for herself then for her suffering kin waiting in Tarulas.

At the very edge of her light, something moved. In a flash the blade across her back – nearly taller than she – flew, snicking softly against its hide sheath as she drew it and cut the night. A small cloud of dust puffed as the blade sank several inches into the ground, severing the offender’s head from its body. The menace tensed, convulsed, and died as she watched.

“Come on, Serath! You didn’t have to do that!” her companion cried, breaking the silence surrounding them. Nesting crows squawked from their high perches, their wings flapping against the dry winter branches. “It wasn’t going to hurt you!”

“I hate snakes,” Serath gave a delicate shudder. “The only good snake is a dead snake, Mungo.” Pulling the blade from the ground, she carefully wiped away the fine trail of blood from its face before sheathing it.

Mungo Shortwick – who lived up to his name by being the shortest creature she’d ever met, even for a Borean halfling – thrust his torch into her hand and knelt to retrieve the carcass.

“Best not to let it go to waste,” he said.

Serath huffed impatiently.

“Don’t be in such a rush to sell yourself, girl!”

“It isn’t that,” she replied tartly.

“Are you still afraid those monkeys your brother hired are going to catch you and drag you home to marry that other monkey?”

Serath cut her eyes at Mungo, but it did no good. His short back was turned as he drained the blood from the dead snake’s long body. “Hardly,” she scoffed. “I need to get to that well.”

“I know!” Mungo snorted and hooked the snake’s fangs over a glass vial to remove the venom. “I know you feel compelled to save the lives of your people – people who all but cast you out, might I remind you! But you can’t know that this fool plan will work.”

“I do know. I have faith.”

“Faith?” The Halfling laughed and tucked his treasures into his belt pouch. “I thought the only religion the Tarulans subscribed to was war.”

“Not all Barbarians are warmongers, nimrod.”

Mungo snorted. “So now we’re reduced to juvenile name calling?”

“Anything to get you moving, short stuff.” 

He turned to her and extended his hand. “Hello pot. I’m kettle. So very nice to meet you.”

“Shut up, Mungo.”

*****

To find out what happens to this unlikely pair, you’ll have to buy the book.

 

Not Quite a Tuesday Tale…

Published October 30, 2012 by administrator

So the week (and weekend) sort of got away from me… I didn’t get my links up or my post in on time for the Tuesday Tales deadline but I’m making it a point to have something up every day. Lucky for you guys out there in internetland, that means you get something fun to read.

It’s a Halloween something-or-other that I started awhile back and haven’t quite finished yet. This is the first part.

It’s called “Trick or Treat”.

Comments or suggestions on where to go, please scream. I need all the help I can get right now.

***

“Trick or treat!”

A piece of candy landed in the bottom of the empty bucket, starting the night off in a good way for Kelly and her toddler son, who wore a bright orange pumpkin-suit.

“Trick or treat!”

Another piece of candy hit the bottom of the bucket, its wrapper rattling against the one already in there.

“Trick or treat!”

A third piece of candy bounced off of the other two.

For well over an hour, Kelly walked the little boy up and down the street, aptly named Candy Lane, collecting sugary treats and tiny little “trick” toys.  With the child’s bucket full and his eyelids growing heavy from the excitement, she lifted him into her arms and started home.

Once the sleepy child was tucked safely into bed, she went into the living room of her tiny house and picked up the big, plastic bowl of candy sitting on her own coffee table, then switched on her porch light, signaling that she was ready to join the festivities from the other side.  As she sat at the door, child after child, each one in his or her own festive costume, scrambled up to her door, holding out a bag or bucket and repeating the same mantra, “trick or treat!”

It was late when the stream of children tapered off.  Kelly, worn out from the excitement, pushed her front door closed and turned off the porch light.  With only a few bits of candy left in the bowl, she laid it back on the coffee table and started down the hall to check on her son.  Her husband would be home soon – his second-shift job always prevented him from sharing in her fun.

As she reached for the door to look in on the sleeping child, a heavy fist rapped three times on her front door.  She paused, considering it, and stepped into the room anyway.  Her little boy slept soundly, a soft smile on his cherubic face.  Only two, she knew she’d kept him out too late, but it was Halloween, after all, and the first one he would remember.

She’d already forgotten about the latest caller as she crossed the hall to her bathroom.  When she started to push the door closed and prepare for a shower, the fist pounded on the door again. Apparently this new visitor wasn’t going to go away easily.  Kelly stepped back into the hall, pausing just at the doorway to the living room.

“No more candy!” she called out, but the pounding started again.  With a frustrated growl, Kelly stormed across the room and jerked open the door.  “I said there’s…” her sentence died in her throat as she looked up into a gruesome mask floating nearly a foot above her head.  A low, deep chuckle issued from behind the mask, and a pair of gloved hands rose from the dark-clad sides.

“Trick or treat,” the muffled voice said, and snatched Kelly out of her front door, leaving it wide open with her son still sleeping in the back of the house.

~+~+~+~

“Babe, I’m home!”  Robert called through the front door, still puzzled by the fact that it stood wide open well after midnight.  The lights in every other house on their street were already out, the kids long-since put to bed after their adventures.  It was now November first.  The time for celebrating was over.

He glanced around the living room, still in perfect order save the two candy wrappers lying on the coffee table – evidence that Kelly had been in the candy.  Nothing else was out of place except the damn door.  And his wife still hadn’t answered him.

Pushing the door closed, Robert turned the deadbolt and started down the hall, calling after Kelly again.  Still no answer.  His son lay in his bed, face turned toward the wall, sleeping soundly.  With the baby still here, she couldn’t have gone far.  Pulling the door toward him to block some of the light from the hallway, Robert turned around and opened each door in succession – the bathroom, the office, and finally their bedroom.

Maybe she’s just outside, he thought, battling the panic rising in his chest.  He took off down the hall again, jerking the front door open and screaming her name into the darkness.

No answer.

Her car sat in the driveway.  Her keys hung on the rack next to the door.  He coat was in the closet.  Even her shoes still sat on the welcome mat by the door.  She never went outside without shoes.  That small detail told Robert one thing with absolute certainty.

His wife was not in their home.

He fumbled twice pulling his phone from his pocket, and immediately punched the emergency number.

“911…what’s your emergency?”

“My wife… oh, my God, my wife is gone!”

~+~+~+~

Kelly came to in pain.  Every part of her body ached, from the roots of her hair, all the way to her toenails, which from her dangling position, scraped painfully against the ground with the gentle sway of her body in the breeze.  The very, very cold breeze.

Her first instinct was to panic – to suck in a deep breath and scream at the top of her lungs while struggling against whatever held her just out of the floor’s reach.  But rather than let her fear and her emotions get the best of her, she drew in a breath  through her nose – shallow from the way her shoulders bent back at a violent angle and constricted her lungs – and began to take stock of her situation.

Something heavy covered her head.  It felt like burlap against her skin.  Whatever it was, it wasn’t breathable material, and it smelled of old sweat.  Thin dots of light filtered between the fibers, but keeping her eyes open hurt as the material scraped against her eyelashes.

That same cold breeze blew against her skin – someone had removed her shirt, but her pants were still there – she couldn’t feel the wind on her legs.  The cool air came in bursts – someone had obviously turned a fan on her.  With each gust, her nipples tightened further, drawing up into painful little knots on her chest.

Her shoulders ached.  Her arms had been pulled behind her with some sort of heavy rope, her elbows close to touching, which threatened to pull her shoulders out of their sockets, and something ran beneath her elbows, holding her from the floor.  Her hands, she assumed were bound, but she could no longer feel her fingers.

Her toenails continued to scrape against the hard floor – what she assumed was concrete.  Warmth against her toes told her that her feet were probably bleeding.  There was no telling how long she’d been hanging here.  Or why.  Or who had done it.  She couldn’t really remember anything except the mask.

~+~+~+~

“I’m sorry, son, but we can’t list it as a missing persons case until forty-eight hours after her disappearance.”

Robert had never, ever wanted to punch someone the way he did this man.  He knew the detective was only doing his job and they couldn’t go on the gut feelings of civilians… but damn it, this was his wife they were talking about!  Kelly never left the baby, even to go to the store – she loved him, and she took him everywhere!

“I understand, but the circumstances…”

“The circumstances are unusual, yes, but I cannot bend the rules for one family.”  The detective tucked his notepad into his shirt pocket.  “I’m sorry about this, I truly am.  When we reach the twelve-hour mark, I will file the paperwork and we’ll see what happens.”  With an apologetic nod, the uniformed man stepped out the door and pulled t closed behind him.  Unable to support himself any longer, Robert collapsed to the floor, his face buried in his hands as panic-stricken tears began to fall.

Tuesday Tales: Finger

Published September 25, 2012 by administrator

I have returned!

First of all, thank you so much to Jean and the Tuesday Tales Group for letting me come back. The last few months haven’t been the best, as is probably evidenced by the gross little number I’m offering up for you this morning. The latest addition to a work in progress titled “Easy as Pie”, this story focuses on a young lady named Callie who has had some less-than-pleasant experiences.

WARNING: This is true horror. If your squick-alert goes off easily, I suggest not reading this. Otherwise, consider yourself warned.

More Stories:

Tuesday Tales Blog

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Callie began to hum. No matter how bad the situation, cooking always helped. It was the very reason why she opened the bakery in the first place. This little shop – the one thing in this world that truly belonged to her – was her sanctuary.

Turning away from the stove, Callie picked up a bowl, this one filled with chocolate chips. She drizzled over the top a few drops of corn syrup, then pulled a measuring cup from the microwave and poured heavy cream into the bowl. Picking up her whisk, she scraped and stirred until the ganache was smooth and creamy. The aromas of chocolate and cooking meat battled for dominance, causing her nose to twitch. The juxtaposition of sweet and salty made her smile. The little voice inside giggled with manic glee.

She reached behind herself to stir the meat then returned to her chocolate. Callie took a cookie sheet from the cabinet and lined it with parchment. A small plate sat beside the sink, its meaty bits still steaming from their recent stay in a pot of boiling water. She upended the contents into the bowl of chocolate and stirred them well.

Had it coming…had it coming…

“Won’t do that again, will you Matt?” she said aloud. Her voice echoed around the empty kitchen, disturbing the quiet stillness. Callie paused… she was so happy here. This bakery and its industrial, all-steel kitchen truly was her refuge, her home away from home, her quiet in the storm.

But even this place couldn’t protect her. The door with the board over it in the storefront stood as a hard, harsh reminder of that fact. When he couldn’t get the door open, he’d broken it down. She loved Matt, she truly did, which is why she’d taken so much of his shit over the last four years. But lately as his drinking increased, so did his anger, and tonight…

He deserved it… the bastard had it coming.  You know he did…

Tonight was the final straw. He pushed the wrong buttons, and Callie? She made him pay.

Placing the bowl of chocolate to the side, Callie turned back to her pan and spooned the meat into the prepared, paper-lined bowl. Pouring the majority of the grease into a coffee tin, she returned the dregs to the flame and began to throw in other ingredients. Soon she had a beautifully colored, though slightly soupy, gravy. Callie patted the meat dry, enjoying the fine, slightly gamey smell of it, and tipped it back into the pan with the gravy.

Venison…tell them it’s venison when they ask. She stirred it together and turned it down to simmer.

“I should have soaked it in water,” she said aloud. “It would have smelled so much better afterward.” With that task accomplished, Callie picked up a pair of tongs and swirled her chocolate treats around the bowl. Then she lifted each one and placed it on the prepared pan. Giggling sickly, she pulled out a container of almond slivers and laid one on the end of each, then took up a pastry bag and drizzled white chocolate across them. Her candy-coated fingers were so pretty!

“I’d call them lady fingers, but that’s not entirely true,” she said as she looked down at her latest confectionery creation. The sight made her want to simultaneously laugh and vomit.

Precious treats!

She shoved the pan away. At least she had the forethought to boil the fingers first and remove the skin and bones. In her rage she’d even replaced the real bones with some of those cute candy ones she had left over from last Halloween.

Tuesday Tales: Crippled Playthings

Published March 12, 2012 by administrator

Here’s to a new venture – Tuesday Tales.  Having been invited by a close, personal acquaintance, it’s only right that I join in.  This week’s topic is “Legs”, which lends itself perfectly to my current work in progress, Crippled Playthings.  It’s a horrid, little story about the driving need to walk and it features a Louisiana Steampunk setting.

You think I’m kidding? I never kid about things like this.  Read on.

And after you’re finished, click on the picture to go back to the Tuesday Tales blog and check out the other talented authors there.

***

You want to walk again?  I can make you walk.

The words echoed in Trina’s head long after the mysterious man behind the curtain left the room.  His very presence was like something out of a twisted version of The Wizard of Oz, but the more the offer reverberated, the more desperately she wanted to believe it was true.  Six weeks ago a drunk in a logging truck had t-boned her little Kia, leaving her with a severed spine and no quality of life.  The prognosis she received once she woke from the anesthesia had been grim at best.

“I’m sorry, Miss Tipton…but you will never walk again.”

“But I can still feel my legs,” she argued as she struggled against the straps crisscrossing her chest, “I can move them, see?”

“No, you only think you can feel them.  Phantom sensation is common, and will lessen over time.  Though your brain tells those nerves to move your muscles, the nerves no longer reach your legs.  Your spine was severed between your lower thoracic vertebrae – L2 and L3 to be exact.” To emphasize his statement the doctor turned to the side and pressed his knuckles into the small of his back.  Like that would fix her.  “The damage is complete.  I’m sorry, Miss Tipton.”

For the following five weeks and four days, Trina lay in bed, feeling sorry for herself.  Nurses hooked her legs up to machines that worked the muscles to attempt to stem the atrophy, but she scarcely noticed.  She refused her medicine, requiring her doctor to order it intravenously.  She refused food – after all, what was the point of eating and keeping her strength if her life was over?

Now this… the one thing she prayed for – for this nightmare to suddenly be over – had been offered.  I can make you walk.

It had to be too good to be true.

***

The ability is yours…you have but to accept my terms.

“But what are his terms?”  Henry Gaston turned his wheelchair toward the bathtub and looked at it with utmost disgust.  The sink, like the rest of his home, had been altered specifically to cater to him.  A childhood victim of polio, he hadn’t walked since he was three.  Until last night, though, the fifty-two years he’d spent in a wheelchair hadn’t bothered him in the slightest.  Walking was never part of his life, so was not something he ever learned to miss.  But to experience it for the first time?

The offer was almost too good to be true.

Pushing it to the back of his mind, Henry reached for the cog-laden chain over his head and pulled, listening to the smoothly-running clicks and jingles of the mechanism that would descend and ultimately lift him into his bath. The water would be icy but he wasn’t about to complain.  After all, a Louisiana July night didn’t cool down until long after the sun set, and even then it didn’t cool down much below abject misery.  If a cold bath was the only way to keep himself sane and wipe the crazy idea presented the previous night out of his head, then so be it.

***

Bertram Granville lowered the goggles over his eyes and turned the dial the brought his welding flame to a roil.  The rod and cog on his worktable turned red-hot as he applied heat, and in seconds the two items fused to one another.    To that cog he attached two long, flat rods, and to those he screwed a set of leather straps.  A slow smile spread across his face as he inspected the contraption, stretching and twisting it from one side to the other.  A crude creation if he said so himself, but it was a start.

Once someone accepted his offer, he would have plenty of time to perfect the design.  As he pushed the goggles up to his forehead and wiped his greasy hands on his dirty pants, Bertram wondered if he would ever find someone desperate enough to accept an experiment without question.  Yes, he could make them walk in theory… but perhaps his idea of walking and theirs might be two different things.

The Monthly Update

Published January 13, 2012 by administrator

Yeah, I know.  I suck at updating.  I suck at pretty much everything right now.  Being pregnant will do that to a person.  So what have I been up to, you ask?

Well, Haunted will be out soon.  As soon as I have the shinies to link for purchase, I’ll share them.  In the meantime, I have a free read up in the No Boundaries Store.

Last Ride is very short, very straightforward, and more than a little creepy…at least I think so.  Grab your free copy today and let me know what you think.

Also…

Kharisma Rhayne and I have a new pet project.  Together, she and I are determined to bring back the horror genre as a real genre, and in the process promote the bloody, gutsy goodness of Splatterpunk.  Click on the picture above to check it out.

Yeah, we’re twisted… so what?

Chats, Resolutions, and Sparkling Balls of Death

Published January 3, 2012 by administrator

First – a bunch of us are hanging out on the No Boundaries Facebook Page today.  Anyone who wants to come play with us is welcome.

So about those resolutions…

I haven’t made any.  Don’t plan to.  Resolutions are sort of like a trap to me.  Last year I did make one resolution – to actually get off my duff and publish something.

As you can see – I’ve just about accomplished that.  Siobhan has lots of stuff out and under contract.  I have a freebie coming out on the 8th (more details to follow), and then Haunted comes out toward the end of the month.  I’m very excited.

Now that I’ve met that goal, I don’t think I want to force myself to have so many contracts or do this or do that… especially not with Miss Alice steadily trying to claw her way out (we’re down to about 3 weeks before her debut, folks), a full-time job, and a series of opinionated and demanding cats.

My goal this year – THIS IS NOT A RESOLUTION – is simply this:  don’t give up.  No matter how frustrated I get with the process or how outdone I become with myself and stupid ideas, I can’t let myself give up on this.  Not when it’s the one thing I’ve wanted to do my whole life.

Oh, yeah…I mentioned death, didn’t I?

While I do personally know one big sparkly ball of death – fellow NPBer and real-life friend Zillah Anderson – she isn’t the one I’m talking about.

No, I’m talking about the ticking disco ball of destruction in my head.  Siobhan keeps trying to take control and write hearts and flowers among the mayhem.  I’m just NOT in the mood for that crap right now, so she’s not-so-patiently waiting in the corner and pouting.  Could be a good thing – if I piss her off enough, she might even decide to help me.

Considering I feel like I’m starring in the movie Alien, I’d much rather massacre things.

So right now I’m killing people in two ways – really gory evisceration, and ritual old-world body-snatching sacrifice.

While blood and guts don’t exactly sparkle, it really is sort of like a disco ball in my head – a constantly rotating thing throwing off shafts of – well, not light necessarily, but something that gets people’s attention – and I’m a bit helpless to escape its pull.

And one more thing…

I have a free read due out through NBP on January 8th, called Last Ride.  Cover and Blurb, you ask?  Why of course…

 


Jim has to escape, to put as much distance between himself and the carnage as possible, but as his truck slips and slides on the snowy North Carolina interstate he discovers that it might already be too late…