#ShortStory: Death Express

Hello my Freaky Darlings,

It’s Friday!

So … here’s another short story for your reading pleasure. Hope you enjoy it.

Death Express

The screams of delight mingled with exhilaration and echoed from the roller-coaster rides as we explored Gold Reef City, south of Johannesburg. It was one of the first times we’d been out in public together. I’d been having an affair with David for a few months and we were feeling reckless. His wife was away for the weekend, visiting her family at the coast, and we felt we deserved to have some fun in the sun as well. We were trying our relationship on for size and seeing if it still fitted outside of the bedroom.

We rode the Anaconda about six times. David wasn’t a big fan, but he sat in the front of the ride with me because he knew I loved it, which made me love him even more. His wife was an absolute fool who didn’t appreciate him. She was also a jealous and possessive cow who gave him little freedom. Or that’s what I told that nagging, guilty voice scratching at the back of my mind.

To take my mind off the guilt, I decided to up the ante for an even bigger rush. Only one ride could give that to me. David screamed like a girl on the Tower of Terror and couldn’t understand how I could laugh as we plummeted. He didn’t know the guilt I felt about having an affair with a married man had finally been silenced by the adrenaline rush. I’d be back to feeling like a home wrecker once it wore off, but for a few moments I could enjoy being in love with him.

His legs shook as we got off and I couldn’t help kissing him. It was the first time we’d kissed in public. It took us both by surprise and felt so right. We held hands for the first time while we explored the rest of the gold mining theme park.

We considered going straight back to my place after that kiss, but decided we’d try one more ride. Just one more ride and then we’d make love and never let each other go.

“Promise me, after this ride it’ll be just you and me forever?” I asked, as butterflies danced in my stomach.

“I promise, after today, you’ll be mine forever.” His smile made my heart stop for a second. I knew I was acting like a silly school girl, but couldn’t help myself.

With the promise made we started our search for that last ride.

The Death Express was new and the queue wasn’t as long as those for the other rides. I wasn’t even sure what it was supposed to be, and the expressions on the faces of the men and women as they came out were interesting, to say the least. They all looked haunted and completely freaked out. It gave me the creeps.

“How about we forget about this one and just go home?” I suggested. “Start our new life together?”

“Why? I thought you liked these kinds of things?” David said; his eyes opened wide and his eyebrows rose, giving him that rather comical surprised look.

“I do, but I want to get you home and into bed more than I want to go on some stupid ride I haven’t even heard about.”

“Let’s just try this one. It looks like it’ll be more my speed. I’ve gone on all the ones you chose. Can we try this one? Please.”

“Okay.” I smiled and pretended my stomach wasn’t in my throat. I couldn’t understand why, but there was something about the looks on those faces that made me want to run in the opposite direction. I’d seen a similar expression on my sister just after her car crash. The doctors said she’d been clinically dead for a few seconds. Her eyes had lost their shine. She’d had the eyes of a corpse.

“Do you know what this ride is like?” I asked a red-headed girl in front of me.

“No. No one does and no one who’s been on it will tell me, so I have to see for myself.”

“Oh,” I said. “No one will talk about it? That’s a bit weird.”

“It must be one hell of a ride.” David’s eyes shone.

The queue moved along faster than expected and before I could chicken out, we were at the entrance. I barely had time to read the small print on the sign board at the door. I had to squint to make out the words: Experience your death. Then I was inside before I could consider the ramifications of that line. People were herded one by one into dark cubicles. Someone screamed in the dark then I heard a cry. It was filled with pain and remorse. I wanted to get out but the door was locked and I was trapped in my own dark cubicle. This wasn’t like any ride I’d ever been on and I didn’t know where David was.

The darkness closed in on me, surrounded me. I couldn’t breathe or think. The floor whirled under my feet, making me dizzy. The air was sucked from my lungs and my legs buckled under me. I knelt on the floor, but I was no longer in that small dark cubicle.

I looked around, feeling dizzy and sick to my stomach. Something was very wrong. I was in the Gold Reef City parking lot. David stood over me, a knife in his hand. Where the hell had the knife come from? The thought had only just formed in my mind, when he thrust the knife into my chest. Sharp, excruciating pain sent my nerve endings into spasms. Blood gushed out of the wound. The look in his eyes as he killed me was cold and unemotional. Shouldn’t he be really angry to kill me? I looked into his glacial eyes as I took my last breath. My body tingled as my heart pumped the last bit of blood through my veins.

Then there was nothing. No white light. No singing choir. Nothing! I’m not sure what pissed me off more – the fact that the man I loved had just stabbed me for no apparent reason or that there was nothing at the end of the line.

I don’t know how long I lay in a puddle of my own blood in the parking area, but I woke in the cubicle, where I started. I checked my chest. There was no blood and no stab wound. It was as though it had all been a dream. But it hadn’t been a dream. It had been too real. I touched my cheeks and felt they were wet with tears. I hadn’t even realised that I’d been crying, but at least I felt real to my own touch

A bald man with a goatee came into my cubicle and gestured for me to follow him. He didn’t say a word as he led me towards the exit. He made no offer to explain what I’d just experienced.

“What happened to me?” I asked, as I grabbed his arm. I needed an explanation. I had to have one.

“You died,” he said, without any emotion or sympathy. “Everyone’s experience is different, but what you felt and saw is what will come to pass. What you do now, is up to you.”

“That’s not possible. What I experienced isn’t possible. There’s no way that’s going to happen.”

He simply shrugged and led me out into the bright daylight. The red-head from the queue looked lost and confused. Her eyes were red and puffy. Tears ran down her pink cheeks.

David walked up to me and put his arms around me. He smiled.

“That was amazing. I’ve never felt more peaceful than I do right now. How about you?”

“I’m not sure how I feel right now. I just want to go home. Can we please go home now?” I fought for control of the hysteria welling up inside me. It wasn’t possible.

We walked to the car in silence. David held my hand and smiled. I didn’t understand how he could be so happy about his death.

“What did you see?” My voice caught in my throat.

“I was an old man and died happily in my bed with Jess sitting at my side, holding my hand.” He sounded so happy when he said that, so bloody peaceful.

“Your wife? Jess?” I couldn’t believe it. His promise earlier had been a lie. Everything between us had been a lie. Shock clenched my stomach and then his feet moved.

“Yes. My wife.” He punched me in the gut. My senses reeled as my burning stomach muscles clenched and nausea welled up. All the air rushed from my lungs and I fell to my knees in front of him. Small, sharp stones cut into the thin layer of skin covering my knees. I didn’t see from where he produced the knife. The memory of how the ride predicted my death slammed into me.

And happen it did, just the way it had a short while ago. The knife was thrust deep into my chest before I could ask why. My ribs were torn apart by the blade, sending hot flashes of fresh pain to my brain. I struggled for air like a goldfish out of water. His eyes held the same coldness I’d seen in them before. I didn’t understand. How could the man I love and gave myself to – so completely – kill me, without the slightest show of emotion?

I waited for the nothingness to come, but it didn’t. I lay there in my puddle of blood, looking up at him, watching him wipe the blade of his knife on my dress. I kept hoping for that nothingness but it never came. Instead I was a prisoner in my own body as he loaded me into the boot of his car.

The car stopped about an hour later. We’d been driving on a dirt road for the past ten minutes. My corpse bounced around a bit. If I’d been alive to feel it, my teeth would have rattled rather badly, but being dead does have its advantages. I felt nothing. The pain was gone, only numbness prevailed.

I got a glimpse of sunlight as he opened the boot. He bent over me and took out a shovel. His feet crunched leaves and he grunted as he dug my grave. It didn’t take as long as I thought it would. He smiled as he hauled me out of the car and carried me to the open hole in the ground. A beautiful willow tree provided shade. The wind rustled the leaves above us. I landed in the grave with a thud, on top of another girl. She was a brunette. She must have been pretty, but time in our grave had not been kind to her. I stared into her empty eye-sockets, hoping for some glimmer or sign that she was like me, trapped. Then she smiled. Her lips were shrivelled and decaying. Her teeth, while still white, wobbled in her receding gums. I wanted to scream but no sound came out.

Sunlight was replaced by darkness and still the nothingness eluded me. I longed for a true death. I wanted the type of death I’d been promised since childhood. The one that included a heaven with choirs of angels. Was this my own personal hell? Was this my punishment for being a bad girl? Or was it an after effect of the Death Express? I had a feeling I would have an eternity to figure it out. What I knew for sure was that David would be back to visit us soon. He would be bringing another tenant to share the grave.

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This story was originally published in Bloody Parchment: Hidden Things, Lost Things and other stories

Thanks for Reading cat

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#ShortStory: Firelight

Hello my Freaky Darlings,

It’s Friday!

So … Here’s a short story for you.

Firelight

The dead leaves danced in the icy wind. The old Nun stumbled. Her left arm tingled. The shock of what she’d seen quickened her heartbeat and shattered everything she’d believed in. The crumpled and tarnished silver cross fell from her hand and landed in a pile of brown leaves. The light from the windows of the pub beckoned her. There she would be warm and safe. It wouldn’t be able to follow her inside. The Firelight would keep it at bay. She hoped.

The Nun and Dragon, the village pub, was just a few steps away. Sister Mary Margaret had never set foot inside it or any other pub. Pubs were not the sort of places that good Christian women frequented, especially not Nuns or women in their eighties. The irony that the pub was called The Nun and Dragon did not escape her. She knew the village Vicar, Father Peter, often crossed its threshold and threw back a few pints with some of the parishioners. She hoped that tonight was one of the nights he could be found building bridges between the church and the villagers. Sister Mary Margaret needed him to tell her that she wasn’t cursed, that everything they’d been taught to believe hadn’t all been a lie, that her faith wasn’t just a foolish superstition.

She was panting from exhaustion when she reached the door. It took all her strength to push it open. Warm air enveloped her as she fell to her arthritic knees. She heard a collective gasp coming from the shocked patrons. She must have looked quite the fright on her knees, with her habit half falling off. She didn’t even want to think about what her face looked like. Getting up off her knees without the aid of a bench or a pew was difficult, to say the least. She shouldn’t have left her walking stick at the convent. Father Peter and Gregory, the bartender, were the first to reach her and help her to her feet.

Gregory set one of his more comfortable chairs in front of the fire and brought her a pint of his homebrew. It seemed to be the only beverage they served in the establishment. She’d never been a beer drinker; she was more of a red wine person. She’d always felt that if wine was good enough for Jesus, then it was good enough for her, but she had to admit the Nun and Dragon’s homebrew was soothing on her palate and went down easily enough. It tasted of honey and cinnamon and something else, something she couldn’t quite identify. She smacked her lips together in satisfaction and sighed. Her heart rate slowed down as the beer and the fire did their work. Life returned to her limbs and the tingling sensation in her left arm ebbed away.

“What happened to you?” Father Peter asked as he pulled a chair closer to her.

“Oh Father,” she said. “It was just so frightening.”

The memory of her encounter caused her heart rate to jump once more. Her hands shook and tears threatened at the corners of her eyes and her breath caught in her lungs. Taking another glug of beer with shaky hands, she tried to compose herself.

“Are you alright,” Father Peter asked.

She could only manage a shake of her head and then the dam wall of her emotions burst. Tears flooded down her cheeks. Father Peter handed her his blue and white checked hanky. He always had one in his pocket. During confessions the hanky was often used to stem the tide of tears.

“When you’re ready,” Father Peter said. “Take your time. There’s no hurry.”

The fire cast a warm, protective glow around them. She felt safe. The fear she’d felt for the last few hours started to fall away. Her clenched jaw relaxed. She knew she could tell Father Peter the story without worry. He wouldn’t judge her. Taking a deep breath, she prepared herself for the tale. Once she started talking she couldn’t stop. It burst out of her.

“I was walking home from Ashley Morgan’s home. She’s been very ill. I took her some soup and a few groceries. I think her husband’s been having a rough time keeping up with things. So I thought if I took them some food, it would be at least one night where the poor man wouldn’t have to try and cook. The little ones were very grateful that they didn’t have to have a microwave meal again.”

“That was very kind of you,” Father Peter said. “Very Christian”.

“Thank you! Anyway … I left just after five. It was already getting dark. I’ve never been afraid of walking in the dark, but tonight … I don’t know why, but the moment I left the Morgan’s I felt like I was being watched. I’ve never felt my hair prickle at the back of my neck. I’ve heard other people talk about it, but I’ve never actually felt it, until tonight.” She took a deep breath and breathed out slowly. The beer made her head feel a little fuzzy and also a little nauseous. The room started to spin slowly. Father Peter covered her hand with his big flat hand which would have suited a labourer better than a priest. The room stopped spinning. She drank some more beer and her stomach stopped churning.

“Where was I?” She asked Father Peter, a look of confusion haunted her eyes.

“You felt that you were being watched …” Father Peter’s voice was anxious.

“Oh yes … The Morgan’s live on the outskirts of the Village, as you know, and there’s a short cut through the forest to get to the convent. I’ve walked that footpath on many an occasion over the years. When I was a young girl I’d imagine I was Red Riding Hood walking along that path. Silly, I know. I never imagined that, like her, I’d meet an evil creature along the way.” She shivered. Father Peter patted her hand.

“It’s alright. You’re safe now,” he said.

A gust of wind smacked against the windows, making them shudder in their antique wooden frames. Another sip of beer and she was ready to continue with her story.

“I didn’t hear him approach. He was so quiet. I walked right past him. It was only when he called to me that I noticed him leaning against a tree. It was one of the old oak trees. The protected ones … Anyway … He just stood there leering at me with his jaundiced, yellow eyes. And then he smiled. Oh God preserve me. That smile. I’ll never forget it.” Her hands shook as she took another sip. “His teeth were pointy. They looked like they’d all been filed into razor sharp points. His smile, well, it was more of an evil grin, made me believe that he would tear me limb from limb and he would just keep on smiling.” Another sip. “But the strange thing was the way he was dressed. His clothes were immaculate, but his suit looked to date back to the seventeen hundreds. He even wore those ridiculous white stockings that men wore in those days. My heart raced at the sight of him, much like it is now. I’ve never been the sort of woman who was easily frightened, but I was afraid, more afraid than I’ve ever been in my life. And then he spoke. His voice sent shivers down my spine.” Mary Margaret paused to take another sip but her glass was empty. She gestured to Gregory that she needed a refill.

“What did he say?” Father Peter leaned forward in his seat.

“I can’t repeat it. It’s too vulgar,” She said looking around to see where Gregory was with her beer.

“Please tell me,” Father Peter said. “What did he say?”

“He said that he’d always wanted to … I can’t say the word he used … that he’d always wanted to fornicate with a Nun.” Her cheeks turned scarlet. “That he wanted a holy … a holy … fu … fu … fuck,” she choked the word out and instantly clamped a hand over her mouth, shocked that she’d uttered it. The word felt dirty on her tongue. Thankfully Gregory brought her another glass of beer and she could wash the word away. The beer travelled down to her toes and made them feel warm and fuzzy. Stretching out in her seat, she placed her feet closer to the fire and wiggled her toes inside her shoes. The fire warmed the tip of her cold nose, turning it pink. A contented sigh escaped her mouth.

“Sister Mary Margaret.” Father Peter’s indignant voice reminded her that she’d just said that word. “I’m shocked and appalled.”

“I’m so sorry Father, but you did ask me what he said and that was the word he used,” she said, taking another sip of the delicious brew.

“I did, didn’t I? My apologies. What happened next?” Father Peter asked.

“I froze. I couldn’t believe my eyes or my ears. I was shocked. No one has ever said something so disgusting to me before and coupled with his horrendous appearance I didn’t know what to do. I wanted to run, but my legs haven’t been equipped for speed for quite some time now. And then he was right in front of me. I didn’t even see him move. His breath reeked of blood and sulphur. The most abhorrent stench that’s ever wafted up my nostrils. He smelt worse than mother superiors rude noises after bean soup. I brandished my crucifix as though it were King George’s sword. He simply laughed in my face. His spittle smacked my left eye. It stung like the devil, which is probably what he was. Can you see if my eye is still red?” She blinked her left eye a couple times.

“It looks a little red, but I’m sure it’ll be fine.”

“I hope you’re right. It really is rather scratchy.” She sniffed, and rubbed her eye.

“I’m sure it’ll be fine. What happened next?”

“He yanked the crucifix from around my neck and dangled it in front of my nose. And then he had the audacity to tell me that my God has no power here. Dropping the cross in the palm of his large claw like hand, he crumpled my crucifix as though it were made of tinfoil. My mother gave me that crucifix the day I took my vows.” A tear trickled down her cheek as she remembered her mother fastening the chain around her neck on that special day. Using the hanky she dabbed her eyes and then had another sip of beer. “Then as though that wasn’t bad enough, he breathes on it and set’s it on fire! I couldn’t believe it. After he blew the fire out he handed it back to me as though it were the most normal thing in the world. I tell you, if I’d had my umbrella or my walking stick with me, I’d have bludgeoned him over the head with it. I was so angry. Humph.” She stomped her foot.

“I’m so sorry,” Father Peter said and patted her hand. “It must have been a terrible ordeal.”

“That wasn’t the end of it,” Sister Mary Margaret said. “He slowly walked around me, circling me with his stench. He trailed his hot fingers along my back. His hands were so hot; I thought he would scorch me dress and that my skin would blister. Grabbing my hair, he yanked my head back and thrust his forked tongue into my mouth. His tongue slithered down my throat. I gagged on it and his foul breath almost made me faint. And then he just disappeared. His laughter and his stench hung in the air after he’d left. His laughter followed me all the way here. I’m sure he’s still out there waiting, lulling me into a false sense of security. I know he’s out there waiting for me. He wants to do bad things to me.”

The old wooden doors to the pub flew open and Sister Mary Margaret’s devil waltzed in.

“Hello Greg,” he greeted the barman. “How about a pint of that magic ale of yours for a weary traveller?”

Gregory stared; slack jawed, at the new comer. The beer glass tap tapped against the metal arm of the beer tap as he poured the drink. A hush fell over the busy pub, and twenty pairs of eyes watched as Sister Mary Margaret’s devil picked up his glass and sauntered over to the fire, where Sister Mary Margaret sat in shocked silence.

“Oh that does feel good,” He said as he stood with his back to the fire and warmed his backside.  “’Ello Ducks. Fancy another kiss?” The devil winked and Sister Mary Margaret fainted.

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This story was originally published in Tales of The Nun and Dragon

thanks-for-reading-puppy

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#ShortStory: Trapped

Hello my Freaky Darlings,

It’s Friday!!

Here’s a short story for you…

Trapped

Hey you! Yes, I’m talking to you. Don’t pretend you don’t see me. There is no way you could possibly miss a woman locked in a box in the middle of a field. You’re not completely blind are you? Please don’t just walk away. I need your help. Come a little closer. I won’t hurt you. Can’t you see I’m trapped in here?

Okay, I can see from your expression that you think this is some sort of hoax. There are no hidden cameras. No one’s going to jump out from behind a bush and scream “surprise”. Have a look around; it’s just you and me. Yes, I feel it too. It feels like we’re being watched, but I’m sure it’s nothing. Please just get me out of this thing. Sorry! I shouldn’t have yelled at you. I’m a little frustrated. Being locked in a box for a night and all day will do that to a girl. They’ve all gone. Packed up and left in the middle of the night like something was chasing them. Hopefully whatever was chasing them isn’t here. Don’t worry. I’m sure it’s not.

Those freaks from Dark’s Carnival left in such a hurry they left this field scarred by their caravan wheels. It’ll take the earth a while to recover from their destruction. And that god awful smell, in case you’re wondering, is elephant and horse shit. It’ll be dark soon and if I don’t get out of here before then something terrible is going to happen to me. Don’t pull that face. This is no joke. I’m being serious. Look, I’m still not sure how it happened or why she did this to me. I didn’t insult her, or at least I don’t think I did. Did I? Okay, so I might have told her that her tarot reading was the biggest load of crap. And maybe I did freak out a little, but if she’d told you the things she told me, you would also have freaked out. Anybody would. I’m not some homicidal demon stuck in human form. The woman is clearly off her rocker. Tarot readings are supposed to be fun. They’re not supposed to be all gloom and doom, are they? I’d never had one before. Have you?

Anyway, Madam Zinzi and the rest of her tribe of unwashed carnie folk left me here, stuck in this bloody box stage magicians use to saw people in half, with only my head, hands, and feet sticking out. They wrapped that chain around the top and the bottom and the padlocks are out of reach. They also didn’t leave me a key to unlock them. I don’t suppose you have any tools in your car? I’m not an escape artist for fuck’s sake. It doesn’t matter how hard I bang around in here, I can’t get out. And now thanks to the constant rain my head is also soaking wet. I just know I’m going to get a cold. Those bastards told me I had until sundown then he would come for me. You’re not him, are you? It’s not an unreasonable question. You are a he, aren’t you? And it’s almost sundown, and you’re here in this field. So it’s not completely beyond the realms of possibility that you’re him. So … are you him? No. You sure? Okay. I believe you.

Sorry. I’m rambling. I’ve gotten a little ahead of myself and forgotten my manners. Let me take a breath and a virtual step back so I can tell you the story as calmly as possible. I’m Josephine. If you take a step over this way, I can shake your hand. It’s a pleasure to meet you. I don’t suppose you can move your umbrella to cover my head as well as yours. I’d really appreciate it. Thanks.

So … This mess started last night when my friends decided that a trip to Dark’s Carnival would be a good laugh. Boy were they wrong. It certainly started off as a fun night out. Who doesn’t enjoy candy floss, toffee apples, and carousels? I know I certainly do. We even met a few attractive guys from town who bought us a couple drinks at the beer tent. Some of the men from the carnival were also rather cute, although there were a few freaks as well. The elephant man scared the crap out of me. Don’t get me started on what some of the women looked like. If I had a face like some of them I don’t think I’d have a mirror anywhere in my house. Were you here last night? Did you see what the bearded lady looked like? Talk about being hit by the ugly stick. Sorry! I’m digressing. I tend to do that when I’m freaking out.

It was shaping up to be such a promising night. Jeff, I think his name was Jeff, asked me if I’d have dinner with him next week. I even gave him my number. I don’t normally do that but it’s been such a long time since I went on a proper date. I was actually feeling a little giddy. I haven’t felt like that since I was a teenager. Jeff took me up on the Ferris wheel. I hadn’t done that in years. I couldn’t bring myself to tell him that I’m afraid of heights, but I think he guessed that I was scared and held my hand the whole time. We kissed right at the top and, for a few moments, I forgot all about my fears. For that moment in time I was just a girl enjoying her first kiss with a boy. It was all so very romantic.

The hall of mirrors was a little creepy. A sign of things to come. I always thought that those mirrors were only supposed to make your body look a bit funny, but this one was different. Jeff said it was just trick lighting, but I’m not so sure. I kept seeing a shadowy figure just at the edge of the reflection, but when I turned around to see if anybody was behind me, there was nothing there. When I turned back to look at the mirror, my reflection was different. My eyes seemed to change. It was slight, almost imperceptible. My eyes went from brown to red then back to brown. I would probably have thought it was a pretty cool trick if it hadn’t been for that shadow giving me the creeps.

I was already feeling a little on edge when Jodi came up with that hare-brained scheme. Stupid bloody woman. She decided that we all had to go have our fortunes read. Madam Zinzi was at the edge of their encampment. The bright red caravan stood out of the dark like a beacon in the night. Mist from the river swirled around our feet, giving the whole place an otherworldly feel. Although she may also have had one of those fog machines they use in night clubs. I wouldn’t put it past that bitch. We all took turns to have our fortunes told. Jodi went first and came out in tears. Apparently Madam Zinzi had seen death in Jodi’s near future. I mean, everybody dies at some point or another. Nobody gets out alive. Why death was such a shock to her system was beyond me. But then the rest of the gang had similar experiences. Which was a little strange, I grant you. They all came running out one by one, with these horrified expressions then they all gawked at me as though I’d killed their dogs. From the looks they gave me, one could have sworn that I was pointing a gun at them and threatening to pull the trigger then and there. It was completely nuts.

Madame Zinzi’s voice came from inside her blood red camper, calling my name. I must admit the sound of her voice gave me a shiver up my spine. One of my so-called friends must have told her my name. There’s no other explanation for it, is there? She couldn’t have known it by herself. She couldn’t have plucked it out of the ether, could she?

My heart was thumping up a storm as I walked up those steps to her caravan. Candles were burning all over the place. A real fire hazard if you ask me. She sat in the corner behind a small makeshift camping table which looked like it would buckle under the weight of her ample breasts. They had to be a double D at the very least. After I recovered from my cleavage envy and got my heart to stop racing I managed to observe more. A crystal ball rested on the counter. I was mesmerized by the smoke churning inside. The smoke formed into a huge eye and as I watched, I felt as though I was being pulled towards it. The eye was staring at me, into me, and examining my soul. Judging by what happened next, I think my soul came up wanting.

The candle flames flickered in the breeze, but I couldn’t figure out where the air was coming from, the door and windows were all closed. Madame Zinzi’s eyes went pitch black. My throat tightened and my palms got sweaty. The hair on my nape stood on end. I’ve always heard that expression but never actually experienced it until last night, and I hope never to experience it again. My heart still hasn’t recovered. My ears itched and felt blocked. You know how your ears get blocked up when the cabin pressure changes in an aeroplane? Like that. I didn’t think things could get stranger, but I was wrong.

Madame Zinzi shuffled her deck of cards and grinned at me. Her teeth were skew and yellowing from smoking too many cigarettes. A cigarette smouldered in a dirty ashtray that was already filled with butts. The smoke mingled with that from the candles, the small space filled up with smoke quickly and I struggled to breathe. I’ve never suffered from claustrophobia, but last night I did. I wanted to run. I needed to get out of that tiny, smoke-filled caravan, but the door was locked. I know I didn’t lock it when I went in. I know I didn’t. No matter how hard I tried, the damn door wouldn’t open. I even tried kicking it, but it wouldn’t budge.

‘Calm yourself.’ Her voice was sharp and heavily accented. She sounded Russian. I couldn’t help but do as she commanded. I was transfixed. I had to obey her. ‘Come. Sit.’ The cards flew through her fingers as she shuffled. The Tower, Death, and The Hanged Man landed on the table in front of me.

‘A sacrifice is required.’

‘What is that supposed to mean?’ I asked. I thought it was a perfectly acceptable question, but she didn’t seem to think so. She just ignored me

‘He is coming.’ She sounded like one of those cryptic oracles foretelling death and destruction.

‘Who is coming?’ I asked. Once again she ignored me. It took me a while, but I eventually realised that she was channelling something. Madame Zinzi had left the building. Okay the caravan. Same thing. You know what I mean. There was something else inside that camper, and I don’t think it was human.

‘He comes on the wind calling for Josephine. All will die who stand in his way. He searches for his mate, his other half trapped inside the human. She must be given to him. Death will follow swiftly unless he is reunited with his love.’

The next thing I knew I was in this box and everybody was gone. My friends abandoned me. I can’t believe they left me here to die. How could they believe that fortune teller? Don’t look at me like that. Not you too? It’s ridiculous. I’m not some demoness trapped in human form. I told you the crazy bitch was off her rocker. I’m not some great evils long lost love. I know that crap is all romantic in the movies, but when you’re the one shoved in the box waiting to be sacrificed, it’s not so romantic. Trust me.

What are you looking at? Do you see something?

Shit! The sun is setting. I have to get out of here. Please. Help me. What was that? Did you hear that?

No. Please don’t leave me here alone. Come on. Be a man. Where’s a hero when you need one. I’m sorry I didn’t mean that. Please come back. Fuck! Please don’t leave me here. I’ll do anything. Oh! Come on. This is so not fair. And now I’m talking to myself. Great. Just when I thought things couldn’t get worse, it goes pitch black. Oh my god! What the hell is that thing? No!

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This story was originally published in Noir Carnival

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#ShortStory: The Trial

Hello my Freaky Darlings,

Since it’s Friday I thought I’d share another short story with you. I hope you enjoy it.

The Trial

The Judge presiding over my case sat on his oversized and overstuffed throne. He was one of the three men who decided over life and death in our city. Judge Farris had a reputation for being a hard case. He’d put more people to death during the culling than all of the other judges put together. He would be the one who would decide if I was a useful member of society or not. If he decided I wasn’t, that would be it. I’d lose my head. The thought of the executioners axe coming down on my scrawny little neck made me want to run to the bathroom again. I hadn’t stopped needing to pee since my number had been drawn.

In every town, in every part of the world, identity numbers had been thrown into wooden boxes and one by one our numbers were drawn to decide if we would live or die, depending on how useful we were. Prisoners were executed first, and prisons stood as empty, reminders of the past. Then the over sixty-fives were crossed off the list, their assets seized by the state and their organs recycled. Those with IQ’s under 110 were also immediately crossed off the list and deemed as unfit breeding stock. The culling had begun two years ago, and the executioner was very busy.

I’d been one of the lucky ones who’d had those extra two years of life. It had taken the courts longer than anticipated to get through all the numbers. They’d only managed to execute about two thousand people in our city over the last two years through the court system, not including the prisoners and over sixty-fives. Two years of daily executions can be deadening on the spirit, but I’d had the time to meet my nephew, see a few more sunsets, and enjoy the feel of the sun on my skin, which so many others could no longer do. It’s amazing how the small things that count when your number could be up at any moment.

The world population had reached the nine billion mark. Famine and water shortages raged.  Governments all over the world came to the conclusion that there was only one solution. The courts were tasked with deciding on which members of society were the most productive, whose life had the most value. My mother had been one of the first to go. She had been over sixty-five. My sister was a teacher, with an IQ of 130 and therefore useful. My brother, a farmer, was also found useful in a world where there wasn’t enough food and too many lawyers and accountants. The old university degrees, once so sought after, were no longer as important as they once were — now it was genetics and intelligence that mattered. If university graduates didn’t have an added skill, or were not the best at what they did, or were not classified as good breeding stock, they were crossed off the list; even being prematurely bald was a reason for being culled. No ordinary citizen was safe.

My heart felt as though it was trying to escape from my chest. I understood its desire for escape. The thought of running away had crossed my mind more than once, but there was nowhere to run. At this rate, I’d die of a heart attack long before the trial was over, saving the judge the trouble of deciding my fate. My trial wouldn’t take long. I’d have a day at the most to convince them that I was worthy to continue breathing. I was allowed to plead my case because I had good genes and a relatively high IQ, but the question was: was I useful? Was a writer needed in this new society? Was a freethinking author someone they wanted to keep in the new world order? I didn’t hold out much hope. I wasn’t a bestselling author or famous; the rich and famous were pretty much exempt for their ‘social’ contributions.

The courthouse had been built in 1802, two hundred and fifty years ago, and had survived two world wars and an attempted bombing two years ago by terrorists protesting the culling — they’d only succeeded in blowing themselves up, four more people the courts didn’t have to worry about. The wooden panelling on the walls of the courtroom was a dark mahogany and made the room feel solemn and yet strangely warm.  It felt right that my fate would be decided in a room as old and as grand as this one.

“Marin Brown,” the Bailiff called. I heard my name through a wall of nervous fuzz in my ears.

I walked down the stairs and stood in the wooden box, where the Bailiff told me to stand, my legs wobbling under me. I wasn’t sure how I’d manage to stand throughout the ordeal. Judge Farris sat on my right, looking down his nose at me. His white wig looked like it dated back to when the court had first been built; it probably itched like hell. His eyes were dark and cold. He probably only had another five years to go before he too was culled. The thought gave me some comfort, but not much. My bladder wanted to go, but I would have to hold it till the end, there would be no recess.

The Judge banged his gavel a few times, calling the court to order. The wood hitting wood reverberated through my brain and made the hair on my arms stand up. I spotted my brother and   sister sitting in the front row. They would speak on my behalf during the proceedings. It was up to them and the few people who had read my work to convince the judge that my life should be spared. There would be no lawyer to defend me; the few left were too expensive for a poor writer. I would have to argue my own case, fight for my own survival.

The judge looked over the rim of his glasses and stared down at me from his judgemental height. His beaked nose reminded me of a Dickensian character. I couldn’t decide if he looked more like Martin Chuzzlewit or Fagin.

“Stand up properly young lady,” Judge Farris said. His voice was hard. “This court has been called to order, and you will stand to attention throughout the proceedings. If you sit at any time I will make my ruling immediately, and it will not be favourable. Do you understand?”

“Yes sir,” I choked. My tongue was too thick for my mouth. My brother’s neighbours, who were often spectators at trials and had seen Judge Farris in action, had told me that the Judge felt that standing to attention was a point of respect, and failure to do so was to demonstrate contempt. He’d once made a pregnant woman stand for several hours before declaring that she had to have an abortion. It had been her third child, and unless she was prepared to have one of her other children culled, she would have to get rid of her latest addition. He had also declared that if she didn’t start practising safe sex, she, too, would be culled.

“Would those who are here to speak for this woman stand?” Judge Farris instructed. My sister, brother, a few fellow writers, and a couple people I didn’t know, stood. Together, they didn’t even fill up half of the front row. There had been a public announcement letting people know about my trial, the usual notification that went out for all trials, asking anybody who knew me to show up and speak on my behalf. Notifications, however, were only sent out the day before the trials.

“Your testimony must be completely accurate. If you are found to commit perjury, your status will be called into question and you will find yourself in the dock. Is that clear?” The judge instructed.

The witnesses for my defence nodded in unison. My stomach fell a few notches. Nobody would lie for me or exaggerate my usefulness — I wasn’t worth dying for.

“You,” the judge pointed at my brother, his short, cropped blond hair, calloused hands, and deep tan screamed that he spent many hours working the land, “step forward.” Jason took a few tentative steps closer. “Come closer,” the judge commanded. “Stand where I can see you properly.” Judge Farris leaned forward in his seat. “Who is this woman to you?” The judge asked.

“She’s my sister, Your Honour,” Jason replied.

“Besides being your sister, is there a reason she should be allowed to continue to exist in our midst?”

“Y… Yes your honour,” Jason stammered. “She’s a very talented writer, she helps my wife with our child, and she cooks really well, and she pays us rent when she can.”

“Did you get permission to have this child?” The judge asked with a furrowed brow.

“Y… Yes your honour.” Jason’s face turned white. The implication in the judge’s question was obvious. If he didn’t have permission, his son’s life would be forfeit.

“And your sister stays with you?” Judge Farris raised his eyebrow.

“Yes your honour. She used to stay with our mother and looked after her, but when Mom was culled, my sister moved in with me and my wife. We needed help with our baby because our nanny was culled.”

“Why was your nanny culled?”

“She was classified as being poor breeding stock, but as you can see my sister is from very good breeding stock.”

“Is she?” The judge looked over at me. I felt his eyes roving over every inch of me, judging me, looking for imperfections — they wouldn’t be hard to find. My slightly crooked teeth and pale blue eyes, indicative of eventual bad eyesight, were painfully obvious. Even though I didn’t need glasses, my eyesight was not perfect and the judge would most certainly use it against me. Then there was my broken nose too, which I’d broken when I was six while trying to prove that I could climb a tree just as well as Jason.

“You may be seated.” My brother was dismissed. His testimony hadn’t lasted as long as I thought it would. At this rate, my trial wouldn’t even last an hour. I had a feeling the judge had already made up his mind.

He then called up my sister, Iris, to testify. She looked every bit the teacher, but unlike me, her eyesight was perfect. She and Jason both had brown eyes, the same as our mother. I’d inherited our fathers blue eyes and poor eyesight. Her testimony was even shorter than my brother’s. He asked her only one question. “Does your sister make enough money from her writing to support herself or is she a burden on your brother and you?”

My sister looked like a doe caught in the headlights.

“She’s not a burden, Your Honour,” Iris finally managed to say. “She pays her own way.”

“Does she?” Judge Farris leaned further forward and eyed my sister over his glasses. Iris took a step backwards. Her lower lip shivered, usually a sign that she was about to cry.

“Dismissed,” the Judge said, and sounded bored. He leaned back in his chair and sighed. “Next,” he said without looking to see who would be speaking for me. I didn’t recognise the man who stepped forward. He wore an old tweed jacket and looked like a university professor.

“Have you read this woman’s work?” The Judge asked.

“Yes,” the stranger said.

“Did you enjoy it?”

“Yes.”

“Would you buy anything else she wrote?”

“I think so, yes,” the stranger said looking at me and smiling. I tried to smile in return, but my face didn’t co-operate.

“Dismissed.” The Judge then looked at the handful of people still standing. “Are the rest of you all here to give similar testimony?”

They all nodded in reply.

“So noted. I’ll stipulate for the record that the remaining witnesses all stated the exact same thing as the previous witness.” The Judge banged his gavel when audience members started to chatter amongst themselves at his decision. The stenographer typed out his stipulation. His decision recorded for posterity. “Looks like I’ll make my tee time after all.” The judge sounded pleased with himself.

“May I object to that ruling, Your Honour?” I asked, my voice just above a whisper.

“No you may not.” Judge Farris banged his gavel again. “I’m ready to deliver my verdict.”

“But I haven’t had a chance to defend myself,” I said, my voice rising above the sound of the gavel.

“I have made my decision and there’s nothing you can say that will change your fate. You are a burden on your family. You are not prolific enough or good enough to compete with other high calibre writers. There is not room in our society for yet another mediocre author. I therefore sentence you to death. You will be sent from here to your place of execution. There will be no reprieve.” The Judge banged his gavel.

My sister collapsed in a hysterical heap. My brother stared at me, his mouth open in shock.

“Bailiff, take her away.” I heard the Judge’s words as though from a distance. My skin tingled on my face and I desperately needed to go to the toilet, but I refused to embarrass myself. I promised myself that I would be culled with some dignity.

We’d all heard the stories of how some people carried on when they were led away, the hysteria. I would leave that to my sister. I squared my shoulders and allowed the bailiff to lead me out. There was a part of me that still clung to some small hope that the judge would change his mind, that he’d realised he’d made a mistake, but I knew those hopes were futile. The judge never changed his mind.

I would be dead before sunset.

There was a short queue waiting for the executioner in the holding cell. There were three trials everyday, of which two, at least, ended with a death sentence. It didn’t happen often that one of the judges allowed someone to carry on existing, especially Judge Farris.

Another woman waiting to be culled sat in a corner, sobbing. She had paint splatters on her clothes. From the way she was dressed, she looked to be an artist. I sat down next to a man who stared at a spot on the wall opposite us. There was nothing remarkable about him. He was dressed in a simple, cheap suit. His shoes were cracked and looked more plastic than leather. He rocked himself slowly. The shock of where he was and what was about to happen to him stamped on his face. I probably wore the same shocked look.

Two men in uniform came into the holding cell. They headed straight for the woman in the corner and dragged her out. I heard her scream as they took her down the passage towards the chopping block. Next would be the man sitting next to me. I would be the last of the day. The executioner would take a break between each of us; apparently chopping people’s heads off is hard work. Two hours later, they came for him. He went quietly. He hadn’t said a word while we waited and he was silent when they culled him.

They’ve come for me. I try to stand, but my legs betray me. One of them helps me to stand and I thank him. My mother taught me to be courteous. I thank them again for helping me to walk, with some dignity, to the execution chamber.

The chopping block is a huge piece of black granite with a hollowed out bit where I place my head. They tried to wash away some of the blood from the previous two victims, but they missed a few spots. The site of the blood makes the little bit of food I managed to get into my stomach before my trial travel back up my throat, I swallow it back down. I hate that I will die with the taste of bile on my tongue. It’s rather rude that they didn’t even give us a last meal.

The executioner stands with his axe resting on his shoulder. The blade looks sharp enough. I hope he’ll be able to do it with one blow. He looks strong enough. I kneel and place my head in the hollow. I’m grateful that they didn’t allow any family members to attend. It’s a private matter. It’s just between me, the executioner, and whatever god I believe in. Only problem is I’m not sure any god exists.

Well… I’m about to find out.

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This story originally appeared in AfroSF: Science Fiction by African Writers  in 2013.

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#ShortStory: The Reunion

Hello my Freaky Darlings,

Since it’s Friday, I thought I’d share a short story with you. Hope you enjoy it.

The Reunion

The wind howled over the small lake causing white horses to form on the surface. Frank had inherited the old house from his grandmother and turned it into a boutique hotel. The old lady was probably spinning in her grave at the idea of the local riff-raff sleeping in her bed, but the house was the perfect setting for honeymooners or couples on romantic getaways. The only problem was that when the cold weather rolled in, his love-struck guests rolled out.

He’d sunk all of his inheritance from his grandmother and his parents into fixing the house up so that he could turn it into his dream – a five star boutique hotel. Unfortunately, the monthly expenses to keep it running exceeded the income from the hotel guests. His cooking wasn’t good enough to make the restaurant a draw card for the Johannesburg culinary types or for the less picky Pretoria bunch.

The Magaliesburg was known for its B & B’s and little hide-away restaurants. Most of them were close to the main access roads, but Frank’s place was hidden and only accessible by dirt roads. Someone kept stealing the signs he put up on the main road, so his guests kept getting lost on their way to him and then decided to stay at one of the places they could find more easily. In short, the competition was stiff and Frank was broke. But he kept hoping that with just the right marketing strategy those honeymooners would start streaming in, even if the weather was cold and the roads were crap.

As it was, his wife had just left him. Tracy hated the hospitality business and her feelings towards Frank were decidedly cold. He was now running the place on his own. The only help he had was Bettie, the maid he’d inherited with the house. She was eighty, and managed to make him feel like he was a naughty school boy who needed a smack every time he asked her to do something. He’d known Bettie his whole life. She’d practically raised him. It was Bettie who’d taught him to tie his shoelaces, not his mother. He’d learnt to speak Zulu before he’d learnt English. Bettie’s grandson, Mpho, had been like his brother. Mpho had died of AIDS several years ago, and Frank still missed him. They should have been running the hotel together. Bettie would have liked that, his grandmother and parents on the other hand may not have felt the same way.

As he went through the house, closing the windows to guard against the unseasonal storm that was heading his way, a small, bashed up old Mini Cooper bounced along the drive towards the hotel. A young couple, who made no effort to keep their hands off each other, fell out of it in a giggling heap. They’d obviously had a few drinks. How they made it down the dirt road without crashing or how they’d managed not to get pulled over by the Johannesburg Metro cops was a mystery to him. He made his way to the front entrance to greet them, like any good hotelier should. After all, hospitality was the name of the game.

He stepped outside the front door and noticed that the sky had turned that grey yellow colour that always seemed to precede a hailstorm. Winters in South Africa were supposed to be dry. Storms happened in summer, but lately the weather had been unpredictable and the storms were the worst he’d seen in twenty years. It looked like the latest one was going to be one for the record books. One of the wooden deck chairs that he’d forgotten to fold up and put in the storeroom rolled across the front lawn. The chair impersonated tumbleweed with remarkable aplomb. Its journey to the water was stopped by the canoe he’d pulled out of the water and turned over to resemble an elongated turtle. The house wasn’t really equipped to withstand a bad storm, but that wasn’t something he would put in the brochure. In anticipation, he’d stocked up on candles for the inevitable power failure. He needed a generator, but couldn’t afford one, so paraffin lamps and candles were the best he could do, and that combination probably wasn’t a good idea. He reminded himself that the house had been standing for a hundred years and would probably, with a little maintenance and some cash, be standing for a hundred more.

The couple clung to each other as they stumbled up the long gravel pathway towards the front door. A blast of wind tried to separate them, but only managed to make them crumble to the ground in a hysterical mass of laughter. A flash of lightning cracked the sky. The thunder clap was only a few seconds behind. The lightning strike was close by, only a few kilometres away and getting closer judging by the rumble. The man got back up on unsteady legs. He looked to be in his late teens, early twenties. He’d probably only been shaving for a year or two. The girl was even younger – fresh out of high school and still wet behind the ears. He didn’t envy either of them the hangover they were going to have in the morning, but he couldn’t help but envy their youth and the happiness they shared in their drunken stupor. Had he ever been that young and that in love? He couldn’t remember.

Something shimmered at the periphery of his vision. The hair at the back of his neck and on his arms bristled. He put it down to the electricity in the air created by the incoming storm, but a feeling in his gut made him look over his shoulder. In that instant he wished he could rewind those seconds and ignore his gut. Four men stood behind him. Their pale skin and blood shot eyes turned his stomach. Not to mention the assortment of knives, axe’s, and bloody machete’s they carried. Fear and confusion tore at his brain. He blinked hoping that they were simply a horrific mirage. When he opened his eyes the men were gone and he was still alive. He let go of the breath he’d been holding and thanked a god he’d never been sure he believed in, but saying a little prayer seemed appropriate. He chalked the ghostly vision up to his overactive imagination. There’d been a few grisly murders in the area over the last couple of years and no matter how much security he put up, sooner or later someone was bound to show up and try and take what was his.

The young man, who on closer inspection was little more than a boy, stood behind him holding up the girl. He had one of those ridiculous patches of beard on his chin and the girl had bleached her hair that silvery white blond that seemed to be the fashion with young girls. They both wore happy grins, which made him feel old. Frank wondered how they’d gotten up the pathway so quickly. Just a couple seconds prior, they’d been falling about laughing at their car. It should have taken them longer to make their way up the pathway. He’d only turned away for a split second, he was sure of it. He shrugged his confusion off and chalked that one up to being over tired.

Men’s laughter came from inside the parlour. Those men were inside his house. They hadn’t been a figment of his imagination. He tried to calm himself down. Panic would only get him killed. He’d last seen Bettie upstairs pretending to dust some of the bedroom furniture but he knew, from previous experience, that she’d probably dosed off on one of the beds. Bettie was a tough old bird who wouldn’t have let anybody, who wasn’t a paying guest, inside without a fight. He hoped that she was still asleep and blissfully unaware that they had unwanted guests. His other, newly arrived, guests looked at him expectantly.

“Hey bro,” the boy-man slurred. “Can we have a room? We just got married.”

“Look, now’s not a good time,” Frank said. He couldn’t let the kids inside. He needed them to get help. Although he wasn’t sure they were capable of doing much of anything in their condition.

“Sounds like there’s a party going on,” the boy ignored him and pushed past Frank, stumbling inside with his young bride hanging on his arm.

“Shit,” Frank swore under his breath. He didn’t want to die. He hadn’t changed his will yet. Tracy would inherit the house and that would really piss him off. She’d probably sell the place off for a fortune and spend it on her new toy-boy. He took a deep breath, pulled his shoulders back and tried to control his bowls as he stepped inside the house to face his deadly guests. Perhaps he was wrong about his visitors. Perhaps they were simply there to have a good time. Perhaps their idea of a good time didn’t include killing anybody. A man could hope.

The four men stood at the bar his great grandfather had built in the 1920’s. Their weapons had been carelessly discarded on the polished mahogany surface and they’d each poured themselves a generous glass of Johnny Walker Red.

“I can still remember how that little boy squealed just before I stabbed him again and again. He only stopped squealing after the fifth time I stuck him like a pig,” one of the men said, fingering a knife lying on the counter next to him. His hair looked like he’d put one of his fingers in an electrical socket and the bulge in his pants caused by his recollection was disturbing to say the least. Frank wanted to run away screaming, but he and his two young guests were transfixed.

“The boy probably sounded like you did when they fried your brain, Sparky. I always did enjoy a good electrocution, especially when a paedophile like you gets fried. They should never have gotten rid of the death penalty,” the man with a face like an exploded melon said. “If I’d been on death row I would have lived longer and had a better last meal.”

“I might have been fried, Pretty Boy, but at least I didn’t get a beat down like a bitch in the prison yard.”

“Fuck you! Those guys were a bunch of cowards and I took a few of them with me.”

“Who are you calling a coward? I gave you that face,” said the man with a missing eye.

“And I took your eye for your trouble. So I guess we’re even, One-Eyed Jack.”

“Not by a long shot. It took me a week to die from an infection thanks to your dirty finger nails. Do you know how crap it is to die in a prison hospital? My nurse was a horny inmate with a cock like a bull who thought it would be funny to rape me while I was in a coma. My arse still hurts. You and I will never be even.”

“Do we have to go through this every year? For twenty years I’ve been listening to you idiots moan about the same shit. Can’t we just kill a few people and enjoy our weekend without all the other crap?” Asked a man with rope burn marks around his neck and blood shot eyes. There was something familiar about him. Frank was sure he’d seen his face before. A memory scratched at the edge of his brain.

“Speaking of victims,” One-Eyed Jack said. “Slim pickings this year. You really picked a crap spot. I told you we should have gone to Knysna. There are tourists there all year round.”

“You can choose any spot you like when it’s your turn, but I had the pleasure of raping the slut who used to own this place upstairs in her bed. She was my first. I made her boyfriend watch before I slit his throat. She came to say goodbye at my execution with my kid on her hip. She smiled and made my son wave goodbye when they made me do the hangman’s jig. This house has a special place in my heart,” the man with the rope burn said as he looked around the room and nodded. “Good memories here.”

Frank’s grandmother had never spoken of what had happened to her when she was a girl, but he’d seen old newspaper clippings in the attic. That was why the man’s face was familiar. He’d seen his face in those old clippings and it was his father’s face. What had happened all those years ago was something nobody in the family ever talked about. No-one spoke about the fact that his grandmother never married or that his father had been born nine months after the rape. She’d kept her son when most women would have given him up for adoption. Sometimes he wondered if it wouldn’t have been better for his father if she’d done that, though. Knowing that he’d been the product of rape and the offspring of a notorious serial killer had haunted his father all his life.

“And here’s the fruit of my loins. He’s a disappointing sight, isn’t he?” The ghost of his serial killer grandfather said. “Must take after his mother’s side of the family. Doesn’t look a thing like me.”

“Lucky for him,” said One-Eyed Jack. “I thought this was supposed to be our reunion not a family one.”

“It’s not a family reunion, just some unfinished business.”

“What unfinished business?” Sparky asked.

“That’s between the kid and me,” his grandfather said as he put his empty whisky glass down and walked towards Frank with a panga in his hand. A bolt of lightning struck one of the trees outside the parlour window. The windows rattled from the blast. An orange glow emanated from the flames as they licked the dry tree branches. Frank hoped the rain would put out the blaze, he didn’t foresee any fire fighting in his immediate future. As his grandfather walked towards him his future looked short and bloody. The girl screamed as One-eyed Jack pulled her towards him. The boy tried to punch Sparky’s leering face, but his fist passed right through what should have been solid matter.

“Hey,” Pretty Boy said. “Where’s mine?”

“Up-stairs, asleep on the old slut’s bed,” Frank’s grandfather said. “She’s waiting just for you and she probably hasn’t seen any action in the last twenty years.”

Pretty Boy’s laughter as he ran up the stairs to find Bettie stirred Frank’s watery bowls.

“Just don’t piss yourself,” his grandfather said over the sound of Bettie’s and the girls screams. “Me and the boys get together every year and remember the good old days when we were alive and killing our way across this country. We have fun together, just like we used to,” he said as he put his arm around Frank’s shoulder. Frank got a whiff of old blood as his grandfather waved the panga around under his nose. “Your grandmother was a slut and I should have killed her the night I put my seed in her belly. I should have come back when I found out she was having my bastard, but the cops stopped me before I could. I let your father live because he, at least, was a man. That little wife of his knew what would happen if she didn’t respect him. He knew how to give her a good slap if she stepped out of line. But you, my boy, are a disappointment. Look at yourself. You’re a disgrace.”

Blood sprayed the curtains as One-Eyed Jack and Sparky sliced and diced the young couple. Bettie’s screams came to an abrupt end followed by the sound of Pretty Boy’s gurgled laughter. Frank watched as his grandfather brought the panga down on his neck. His own, short lived, screams were accompanied by the sound of the rain and thunder.

“Don’t worry, Son. That wife of yours won’t live here for long. The boys and I’ll pay here a visit next year on our way down to Knysna.” His grandfather stared down at him as his blood pumped out of his severed artery. He drifted off to the sound of laughter, glasses clinking, and rolling thunder.

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This story was originally published in Tales from The Lake Vol 1.

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Blog Tour and Giveaway

Hello my Freaky Darlings,

blog-tour-banner

I’m on a blog tour and you, dear reader, stand a chance to win your choice of either Shadows, Requiem in E Sharp, or Fury.

All you have to do is enter at any of the blog stops along the way until the 26th of October 2016.

For more information pop into the Silver Dagger Scriptorium and don’t forget to enter.

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13 Questions with Michael McCarty

Hello my Freaky Darlings,

Today we have Michael McCarty in the interrogation seat.

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Michael has been a professional writer since 1983, and the author of over thirty-five books of fiction and nonfiction, including I Kissed a Ghoul, Modern Mythmakers: 35 Interviews with Horror and Science Fiction Writers and Filmmakers, Laughing In the Dark, A Hell of a Job, A Little Help From My Fiends, Dark Duets, Monster Behind the Wheel (co-written with Mark McLaughlin), Lost Girl of the Lake (co-written with Joe McKinney), Conversations with Kreskin (co-written with The Amazing Kreskin), The Scream Queen series Night of the Scream Queen and Return of The Scream Queen (co-written with Linnea Quigley), The Bloodless series Bloodless, Bloodlust and Bloodline (co-written with Jody LaGreca), and Liquid Diet & Midnight Snack.

His latest book is Dracula Transformed & Other Bloodthirsty Tales (co-written with Mark McLaughlin) and published by Wildside Press.

He is a five-time Bram Stoker Finalist, and in 2008, won the David R. Collins’ Literary Achievement Award from the Midwest Writing Center. He lives in Rock Island, Illinois, with his wife, Cindy, and pet rabbit, Latte.

  1. What drives you to write?

mike-mccarty-dracula-transformedWhat drives me to write? My car? Alcohol? My legion of fans? I am a very driven person with or without an automobile or booze or fans. LOL.

Actually, I have this driven desire to write books because I like the process of writing: I like creating a story from scratch, I like having characters you care about and a book you’ll remember for a long time after reading it. I enjoy doing book signings. I also like getting good reviews on Amazon, GoodRead and Barnes & Noble – so please keep them coming too. And any pocket change left from the sales is always a plus. LOL.

  1. What attracted you to writing horror?

I think horror was attracted to me, like the alien popping out of the space egg and attaching itself to my face.

I like the dark side – don’t be afraid of the dark. I also add a twist of dark humor to horror like any good martini, you always add a twist to it.

  1. Who are your favourite horror writers?

You want me to get in trouble, huh? If I tell you 10 names, I make 500 enemies.

Well, I can include the ones I interviewed in Modern Mythmakers: 35 Interviews With Horror and Science Fiction Writers and Filmmakers published by Crystal Lake Publishing:  C. Dean Andersson, Ray Bradbury, Ramsey Campbell, Elvira, Rusty Fischer, Neil Gaiman, Mick Garris, Laurell K. Hamilton, Jack Ketchum, Dean Koontz, Thomas Ligotti, Bentley Little, Graham Masterton, Richard Matheson, Joe McKinney, Christopher Moore, William F. Nolan, John Saul, David Snell, Darce Stoker, Peter Straub and Whitley Strieber.

I suppose it is safe to name my collaborators too:  Mark McLaughlin, Sherry Decker, Linnea Quigley, Stan Swanson, Jody LaGreca and Joe McKinney.

  1. Which horror novels do you think every horror fan should read?

That’s easy: Dracula Transformed & Other Bloodthirtsy Tales by Mark McLaughlin & Michael McCarty.

In the novella “Dracula Transformed,” Dracula is brought back from beyond the grave in a manner that gives him startling new powers. Using these powers, he begins a bloody campaign of vengeance. In “Lucy Transformed,” you will learn of the relationship between Dracula and his daughter Zaleska, as well as his growing fondness for Lucy Westenra — a fondness that will seal Lucy’s doom. Even more vampiric horror awaits you in the remaining nine tales.

You might want to read that other Dracula book too, Dracula by Bram Stoker.

  1. Ebooks or paperback?

Paper or plastic? LOL …. Paperbacks of course.

  1. What would make you pick up a novel by a new author?

The storyline, the character, the cover, the blurb.

I stumble onto a lot of new books and buy them. My fans say the same thing about my work. If you find an interesting new book, please check it out.

  1. Who is your favourite fictional character?mike-mccarty-modern-mythmakers

Of the ones I have written probably Tommy Wharton from I Kissed A Ghoul. I also have a fondness for Daniel Peck in the Bloodless series: Bloodless, Bloodlust and Bloodline  (co-written with Jody LaGreca)

Of all time? Too many to list.

  1. Do you plot your stories or does it just unfold before your eyes?

Both. My writing is really more organic; the story dictates how it is written and what happens. For example Night of the Scream Queen (co-written with Linnea Quigley) had an outline. The sequel Return of the Scream Queen (co-written with Linnea Quigley and Stan Swanson) didn’t.

Monster Behind The Wheel (co-written with Mark McLaughlin) had an outline. Dracula Transformed & Other Bloodthirsty Tales (co-written with Mark McLaughlin) didn’t have an outline.

I Kissed a Ghoul had an outline, but I ended up not using it. LOL.

  1. Do your characters take on a life or do they do things you didn’t plan?

Both, really. In Monster Behind The Wheel (co-written with Mark McLaughlin), I did a 22-page interview with the protagonist Jeremy Carmichael. Mark said, “How would the antagonist Frank Edmonson answer those same questions?” The novel became three-dimensional after that.

With I Kissed a Ghoul the character just came to life and it was my job as the author to put the beast back into the box. LOL.

  1. Do you listen to music when you write or do you need silence?

I listen to music when I am writing. Silence when I edit.

  1. Do you do a lot of research for your stories?

Yes! Yes! And oh God, yes! For Dracula Transformed & Other Bloodthirsty Tales (co-written Mark McLaughlin) Mark and I did a lot of research on the original publication of Bram Stoker’s Dracula what was cut out and why. Plus we did a lot of investigations into the Vlad Dracul family and found it interesting that the Prince of Darkness did indeed have a daughter, which led us to the story, “Lucy Transformed.”

In Bloodless (co-written with Jody LaGreca) and published by Simon & Shuster. I researched the hell out of the sinking of the Lusitania and the Hindenburg explosion disasters.

Sometimes I spend more time researching fiction, than I do nonfiction.        

  1. Facebook or Twitter?

I have both, but like Facebook a lot more than Twitter. Personally, I find it difficult to post links and photos to your books on Twitter.

  1. What really pisses you off about writing?

Maybe pisses off isn’t a good expression, but what I find heartbreaking about the publishing industry in general is this: so much attention and sales is spent on the 1%, the Stephen Kings, the J.K. Rowlings, the James Pattsons, the Harlan Coburns, the Nora Roberts, and so on, that the rest of the 99% of us; have to fight tooth and nail to get attention and sales.

So please go out and support the Mark McLaughlins, the Jody LaGrecas, the Joe McKinneys, the Terrie Leigh Relfs and Michael McCartys out there.

Please check out my books! All of my work is available on Amazon, Barnes & Noble or ordered at your local bookstore or library. You can find me on Twitter, GoodReads, FaceBook, and my blog site. And of course, I love to hear from my fans, so you can snail mail me at this address: Michael McCarty, P.O. Box 4441, Rock Island, IL 61204-4441.

Thank you, God Bless, and Godspeed.

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