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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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SHAMELESS PROMOTION!

Published August 15, 2013 by administrator

Because I am, as the title of this post says, completely shameless.

Lost in the Shadows is officially available in paperback through Amazon, and I’d love it if everyone in the world went out and bought a copy, because it would mean that I might actually be able to pay my bills this month. YES, I AM THAT SHAMELESS. I WILL GUILT YOU INTO BUYING ONE.

Ahem…not really. But it’s worth a try, right?

Truth is, I’m ridiculously proud of this book, and I know Selah is too. It’s our first step toward taking over the world. If you’re wondering which of us is Pinky and which is The Brain, you’d best go ask someone else, because neither of us knows. I think we swap roles on a daily basis.

NARF.

Yeah, I’m going to stop talking now.  How about another teaser? I’ve got over twenty stories in the book, so I might as well use them to the fullest extent of my ability.

 

Lost in the Shadows

BUY A COPY!

Paperback | Ebook

Downing Street

From the front it appeared no different than any other house on the 200-block of Downing Street – a well-kept two story monument standing as a proud testament to pre-1900’s architecture. Festive decorations adorned the front porch while spooky blow-up caricatures lined the steps like undead marching soldiers. Even a pumpkin graced the front lawn, hiding inside it a peeping Frankenstein. Orange and black lights blinked along the trim of the wide porch day and night without fail. Hidden in the front hedges was a motion sensor that exuded an eerie laugh each time someone passed by. Many people paused to gaze at the spectacle. Some took pictures, but nobody ever stopped. Just because it was six days after Halloween with no change in scenery didn’t mean the still-standing decorations were that unusual.

No, it just meant that the owners of the house were dead.

If the passersby were to look closely they would have noticed that the broken door jamb was real, and that the dark trail marring the bright-white boards of the steps was blood, and it led across the threshold. If they were to push open the ruined door they would notice other things out of place – a broken crystal goblet and an overturned bottle of scotch to start. The trail would continue through the house into the kitchen where a once-beautiful blonde woman lay, face up in a pool of blood that had long-since oozed from the angry gash across her throat. From there bloody footprints would lead upstairs where her husband lay sprawled on the landing, almost completely disemboweled. Intestines would be strung along the banister much like the lights out front. His eyes would still be open, staring sightlessly ahead.

But nobody would witness these gruesome sights, because nobody paid attention. Nobody would stop to see what was wrong. Nobody would care.

At least, not until Christmas.

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.

 

Where Are They Now: Toy Davis

Published August 5, 2013 by administrator

Mornin’, Creeps. We’re back for another round of Where Are They Now, sponsored by the now defunct No Boundaries Press. Today’s victim guest is the lovely Toy Davis, here to tell us a little bit about where she has been and where she’s going.

*****

From the Mouth of Toy:

“Since I left NBP I was picked up by Nevermore Press. one if the co-owners was an editor for NBP, and worked on my book. Since she knew my work she happily welcomed me into their family, which was good because I was crushed when NBP closed. included is the book information of my first release with Nevermore Press :)”

Author Toy DavisAbout Toy

Toy Davis has always used writing as an escape from the boring reality she found herself in. She writes stories she enjoys, and hopes others will enjoy it as well. A lot of her stories and novels begin with a ‘what if’, and then become so much more. She loves food and dancing as well, and this is usually reflected in writing. Today she lives in California with her long time boyfriend, and two bratty cats.

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About Secrets & Sins

Secrets and Sins is a collection of dark tales, where you can take a look into the minds of beings that would rather remain in the dark. Join us and visit worlds you may not want to know about, but once there you will get lost in it. Follow a tale of a girl whose sickness can end a life with a simple touch, or so she thinks. Fall into Not Again twisted world where humans are not in charge. Find the Darkness Within where you learn the errors of your ways, and see what the evil within can really do to someone.

SecretsSins

Excerpt

Not Again

The cold concrete pressing against Jerry’s flesh woke him up. With a heavy head, he pushed himself up. “What the?” He didn’t remember going outside. He was surrounded by plastic buildings and walking animals. “What the fuck?”

The dog couple walking past him stared as if they had never seen a human before. His brows frowned when a cat sniffed the air as it walked passed him. This can’t be real– he shook his head. It can’t.

Costumes, he told himself as he placed a smile on his lips. “Of course, it’s one of those hidden camera shows.” Feeling better, he rose to his feet.

Another cat slowed its pace when it saw the human. Arching an intrigued eyebrow, it continued on its way. Jerry pulled his shoulders back as he faced the striped being. “Great costume.”

“Excuse me pet,” he hissed. His lids lowered with disgust.

He took a step forward to face him. “You heard me, great costume.”

“Costume?” His head fell to the side in thought. “What’s a costume?”

“This is.” Without warning, he lunged forward to rip the head off the costume. Hissing, he extended his claws. Jerry felt them dig into his upper arms. “Shit,” he cursed. He desperately searched for the bottom of the mask. There was no bottom. Zipper, there has to be a zipper, he told himself. Fear gripped him.

The cat’s hair stood on end as it snapped at his neck. Ducking, he circled around it. No zipper appeared. Before he could rip off his shirt, he bounced around to face him. “You shall pay for that human. How dare you touch me!” His eyes filled with burning silver fury.

“Human? We are both human man,” he smiled, shock numbing him.

“How dare you!” He rose to his full height to tower over him. His claws rose into the air, ready to strike. “You shall die.”

Swallowing his fear, he had no idea what to do. His blood was already dripping down his arms. “There he is,” a deep voice yelled. Jerry heard footsteps rushing towards him. He was too scared to turn away from the enraged cat before him.

“He attacked me,” the cat pointed at him.

With his brows frowning, he finally turned. Stern dogs in uniform and carrying nets, glared at him. “We’ll add it to his charges,” one assured the cat.

Pleased, the cat nodded.

“Charges? What,” stunned he stared up at them. “Where am I?” It’s a dream, he thought, still refusing to believe.

One of the dog cops tightened its hold on the net. “So human,” he snarled the title. “Are you going to come along with us easy or not?”

“Come easy?”

He smiled, making him appear scarier than before. “Good.”

Slowly, they moved in on him. They’re going to take me in, he realized. Fear shot through his body, making him move. He ran the other way.

The dog cop’s smile dropped from his lips. “He’s going to make it hard.”

“Don’t they always?” The other one sighed.

Lost in the Shadows Cover Reveal!

Published July 18, 2013 by administrator

I know I’ve been quiet, but it’s for a really good reason. I’ve been busy. Well, Selah and I have. We’ve been scrambling to put together this super-secret collection of short stuff to share with the world. It’s an experiment and an adventure. We’re self-publishing this puppy, so it has been a lot of work. We’ve argued over cover art and finagled formatting and as of last night, sent it on its merry way to CreateSpace. When it’s available for purchase, you guys will be the first to know.

So, without further ado, here’s our precioussssssssss new cover:

 

Lost in the Shadows Cover

Ain’t it gorgeous? I think so anyway.  It’s 300 pages of speculative goodness for your reading pleasure in paperback and eBook! Come on, Creeps…you know you want a copy.

And while we’re here, how about a Teaser? I’ll share one of my more interesting pieces with the world. This one is included in the book

TOOLS

My love is my vengeance.

I only hope he knew that when he looked at me that last time.  I never expected my love to go quite so asunder, and when he came home covered in blood, the skin on his neck flayed open like the wings of a bloody vulture, I knew there was no going back.

Having spent the last ten years as a zombie hunter, when I left my home, I always tried to warn him that he could not follow.  He had no right, and he knew it.  Still, my beloved Charles did not understand my reluctant profession, as incidental as it may be, nor could he trust that which he feared.   He had to see for himself the very thing that would ultimately bring an end to our union.  Had I known he had crept along to watch, I would not have been out so long.  I would not have been forced to face my ultimate fear.

****

It was late when I opened the door that led into the darkened, silent kitchen.  The house was empty again.  With a sigh I removed my boots, poured a glass of tea, and returned to the porch, hoping Charles would avoid trouble and come home safely.

Hours passed in silence, ticking slowly away while the anticipation at the back of my mind grew.  I needed to go find him.  He was never gone so long without calling.  With each second that ticked past, the rapid beat of my heart increased.

When something in the bushes next to me moved, the nervous energy inside me exploded and I found myself on alert, crouched close to the warped floorboards with weapons in hand.

I anticipated my nemesis, but prayed for a small animal.  What greeted me was not either lost scavenger, but my Charles, his mouth unhinged, wrenched open in a perpetual, silent scream, his throat reduced to ragged meat-on-bone at the hands of some unknown undead.

     His skin had already begun to pale and wither. The humanity was gone from his eyes, following the life that had been pushed out by the infectious bite.  This thing was no longer a man, no longer my lover. He had become a demon.

Charles finally understood my burden, too late though it may have been.  Dead hands reached for me, his eyes avoiding mine. Aslow, bloody slobber started at the corner of his mouth, leaving a pink stain on his blue-hued skin and turning to a puddle on his torn t-shirt.

     When the thing did look at me, it paused and a glimmer of Charles came back to its eyes.  It hesitated as I backed away.  My machete was still clutched in my right hand, drawn of its own accord; a natural reaction to the sight before me.

     I knew not to hesitate even as I did it.  It would have meant my ruin as well, had this not been a familiar monster.  His focus was quivering, death struggling to overcome the last shreds of humanity, and soon he would strike. Charles was leaving forever.

     “Forgive me, my love,” I begged tearfully and raised the weapon.  The sharpened blade severed bone and nerve easily, and the body collapsed, the brain separated from the nervous system.  The limbs twitched as if they were attached to electrodes, and those beautiful, haunted, dead eyes stared up at me while I struggled to reconcile the destruction with the murder of my husband.

I would never again hear his laugh, or feel his hands along my spine.  I would have to live with the memories of his warmth next to me in our bed, and the gentle patience he exuded when listening to my constant complaints about my thankless job.  And I would always remember that it was I who stole his life, who ended his existence.

 ****

 His blood still stains my hands, and his head lies at my feet.  I fall to my knees, tears streaming from my eyes with the grief of my own loss.

“I love you,” I whisper, my voice a disembodied sound as I lift the head from its place in the dirt and press my lips to his.  The skin is cold and stiff, and the smell of death rises from the stilled, black blood dripping from its neck. The body twitches one last time and is still.  I can feel my heart breaking in two as I lay the decapitated head in the dirt and with my fingertips close the eyes I love so much.  My lover is dead.

Enough, I tell myself as I rise and walk away.  There is no room for sorrow in my life.  The time for mourning will come with the rise of the sun, and only then will I be allowed to begin the healing process.  My life is not over.  My job is unfinished.  Right now, I still have work to do, and I need to find a shovel before dawn.

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: Crippled Playthings (Again)

Published June 18, 2012 by administrator

I’m baaaaack!

And as it’s Tuesday Tales time, I’m here with a new installment of Crippled Playthings.  It’s moving along nicely, too.

Here, Henry gets to share a few personal musings before things get ugly.  Only he doesn’t know how ugly it’s going to get.

Today’s Prompt:  CITY

Be sure to check out the rest of the Tuesday Tales while you’re out and about!

**********

From the air, New Orleans glowed.  A city of magic, mystery and intrigue, Henry couldn’t help himself as he leaned against the rail and marveled at the sparkling blanket of gas lights and coal lamps beneath him.  The dirigible’s turbines rotated around until the blades lay parallel to the deck, giving him a clearer view of the urban sprawl.  As the aircraft sank closer and closer to solid ground the sparkles turned to bright orbs and between them in the early morning house movement began.  Specks of scurrying energy turned to ants which in turn morphed into people, carriages, and the occasional horseless contraption.

Because of his condition, Henry never got to see the world.  Those in wheelchairs – however advanced their tinkered accessories may be – were rarely able to travel with ease.  This trip, however, promised to be the beginning of a new life.

Watching the waking New Orleans on the forty-minute descent to the landing pad, Henry told himself again and again that this was not wrong, that he was making no mistakes, that walking would be a dream come true.  A dream he never dared to dream until recently, but a dream nonetheless.  This place, so richly steeped in magic and tradition, offered a modicum of comfort, the smallest belief in the impossible.  His nerves didn’t work.  His muscles were worn and useless.  But if there was a single place in the world that could make this better, it would be the makeshift home of the voudou priestesses.

Anxiety filled him as the ship touched down and technicians moored the anchors to huge iron bolts on the ground.  The gangplank slid silently from its home beneath the deck and two-by-two passengers began to disembark.  Sitting alone on the opposite side of the deck was the young woman in the wheelchair.  She appeared as anxious as he felt, and as she wheeled herself forward her pressed the hidden levers on the steering bar attached to his own chair and took up a spot by her side.

“Beautiful city,” he commented, once again trying to draw her into conversation.  She still refused to look at him.  Henry sighed. He wanted to help her, but even with the change of scenery and the sense of excitement trickling into his bones, she seemed as unaffected as the moment she first boarded this great masterpiece of human ingenuity.  He supposed his tinkerer’s sensibilities were what made him so amiable.

One day he would remember that not all people were good.  Not that she wasn’t good – she just appeared to be part of the crowd that really needed saving.  He wondered briefly as the wheels of his motor-chair hit the smooth stones of the walkway if he might be the one to save her.  They were connected far deeper, he mused, than even he was aware.  That much he could feel.

Tuesday Tales – Night

Published March 26, 2012 by administrator

This week we’re continuing with “Crippled Playthings”, my steampunk horror story about people with an overwhelming desire to walk.  I warn everyone yet again that this is a horror story, and likely will not have the happiest of endings.  When we left off, Henry Gaston was just deciding that he wanted to take the stranger up on his offer.

More Tuesday Tales!

*****

Henry watched the dim haze of the hamlets slide past, each one acknowledged only by flickering streetlamps as the world slept below the dirigible.  The girl still refused to speak to him, but he could only assume she was on this journey for the same reason at him: to walk.

Funny, he thought, that with all of the modern conveniences and technological advancements – they were flying after all – that the surgeons could not find a way to repair spines and cure crippling diseases.

The only civilian left on deck, Henry marveled at the great airship’s propellers, studied the feel of the wind against his face – somewhat of a draft created despite the windscreens affront the ship.  Overhead the night sky was littered with stars.    The moon, little more than a pale sliver, hung low on the horizon.  The atmosphere would begin to change color soon – he could feel morning coming.

They were two days out of New York, and still another day from New Orleans – the destination he’d only learned upon boarding.  With each night that melted away into dawn, Henry’s anxiety grew.  He hadn’t a clue what was in store for him, but the closer he came to his destination, the more he felt he’d made a grave mistake.