Wednesday, December 18, 2013

TERRIBLE MINDS FLASH FICTION CHALLENGE: 200 WORDS, PART FOUR

Well, here we are at Part Four of this incredible writing challenge.  I chose an untitled piece, and I sure can't think of what to call it, so I'll leave that for whoever finishes this up in Part 5.  I really hope someone does too--lots of ways this could end.  So, here is one started by Adrienne, continued by j, continued by Smoph, and lastly, by me.  It comes in now at 803 words.  Please enjoy.

UNTITLED

Part 1 of 5 (Adrienne)

The trio looked at the fence in front of them.  It was a simple chain link, but it had to be about ten feet high, and the razor wire on top added another two feet.  He was expecting this, but he was not expecting to have two girls on his coat tails.  He could take care of himself, now he was pretty sure they would all die.

Except for his heavy breathing and the muffled sobs from the girls, it was silent.  The setting sun was hidden by an ominous sky, promising rain at any moment.  He knew what happened when the rain came, so he needed to move fast.  He surveyed the barrier one more time, but froze as the wind brought an all too familiar smell.  He turned to face the direction they were running from.  The trees edging the clearing began to sway as the wind picked up.  He could hear the soft pattering of rain on the leaves.  The air rushed out of his lungs as the storm descended upon them, bringing with it more than just wind and rain.  The three had to move now or accept certain death.

They were coming.

Part 2 of 5 (j)

He picked up one of the girls and hung her on the fence as high as he could reach.  Then he did the same with the other.  Knowing what was coming, he had to take a steadying breath before he started up.  A lost moment was better than panic.

At the top, he threw his coat over the razor wire.  It would help, a little.

He flipped himself over the fence.  He’d taken some damage but it wouldn’t kill him.  For a moment, he thought about leaving the girls.  The things coming out of the woods would find the girls first, give him a bigger head start.

Shit.  When had he gone soft?

He hung himself back over the fence.  The wind tore into him but it was that or what was left of his soul.

He stayed as still as possible while the girls climbed over him.  They were slow.  The sun was probably already down but it was hard to tell with the storm moving in.

Where were they?  Shouldn’t the damn things be on top of them already?

Finally, the girls were over the top.

He pulled himself off, ignoring what he left behind.  Then he dropped down and pulled the girls off the fence.

Part 3 of 5 (Smoph)

What they had to do was find shelter, and fast.  He didn’t fancy being out in inclement weather with these young girls and they were better off hidden from their pursuers.  He could see a barn, edges blurred in the falling dark.  Shelter and a hayloft to hide in were too appealing to pass up.

He set off at a slow jog, the girls struggling to keep pace, their tired feet dragging in the dirt.  He made them go around the barn, through a stand of trees behind, and in through a smaller back entrance with a door that squeaked traitorously.

They waited until it was dark before slowly edging the huge barn doors closed.  With a penlight that grew ever weaker, he showed them the way up to the hayloft, tucked them into some canvas and took watch.  He would wake one to take his place so he could catch a few hours later.  As a precaution, he pulled up the ladder.

An urgent tug on his arm and he was sitting bolt upright, straight from sleep.  Wide blue eyes looked to him out of a terrified face.  Beyond her, there was the squeal of a door on its hinges.  Their hiding place had been discovered.

Part 4 of 5 (me)

“Show yourself.”  The rancher’s voice was deep and menacing.  “I know you’re in here.  I can smell you.”

“Please,” the man said quietly, as he slid the ladder down.  “I have children with me.  We only seek shelter.”

He sent the girls down the ladder; both were crying.  Once he climbed down, he pushed the girls behind him.  He hoped he would be killed first.  He could not bear to witness the murder of innocents.

“I know who you are,” the rancher said.  “You are the ones being hunted.  Do you know what would be done to me if it became known I harbored such as you?”

The man knew all too well.

“I know they’re close,” the man began.  “But, if we move quickly, we can distance ourselves from you.  Or, let the young ones go and I will remain.  When they come, they will decorate you as a hero.”

Both girls wrapped their arms around the man’s legs tightly, tears streaming down their faces.

The rancher stepped back out of the doorway, motioning for them all to go.  The death of these humans would not be on his conscience.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

TERRIBLE MINDS FLASH FICTION CHALLENGE: 200 WORDS, PART THREE

For Part Three, I picked up an untitled starter from Shane Vaughan, which was added to by Paul Them. Part Three comes in at a total of 594 words.  I'm going to give this a working title of Going Home to make it easier to follow.  I hope someone picks this up to continue.  I can see this one going lots of different ways. Please enjoy.

GOING HOME

He is cold. It's always cold around this time of year. The sun decides it's had enough and pops off for a quick solstice nap. Not that he minds. He's used to the cold by now. 

He props his collar up, puffs his scarf to cover all exposed skin; all that dead, gray skin. He tucks his gloves down over the wrists and sucks on the butt of his last cigarette. Damn things never last. His wife used to say it'd give him cancer, not that it matters now. He lowers his woolen packer hat over his brow and stares at his reflection in a shopfront window. He used to recognize himself, now what is he?

It had all happened so fast; the heart attack; cracking his head on the tile floor; the ethereal sensation that he was losing life, as though it were seeping out of a hole somewhere. And then the doctors. The nurses. The scalpel. He saw it all, from outside his body. He watched as they operated, trying so heroically to save his life, but in the end the line went dead.


So what the hell is he doing back on Winthrop street in high Winter, and how did he return?

- - - - -

The door to the shop swung open and closed to a chime of bells. Instinctively, the man flicked his cigarette to the ground and stamped it out. He turned from the window to face a young woman.

“Hello, John,” she called.

John stared at her awhile. He had lived in this town for most of his life and frequented Winthrop Street, but he did not know this woman.

“I didn’t think you’d recognize me,” she continued, beckoning him to join her.

John stumbled forward, his legs stiff and robotic. With each painful step he took, he stared at the red-haired woman before him. She gazed at him with warm eyes and her thin lips formed a half-smile.

When at last he reached her, she took his hand and led him off Winthrop onto Northup Lane. They walked silently past farmlands with overgrown pastures but no horses there to graze; past a lake where a fisher had cast his nets but no fish there to be caught.

They ascended a hill and reached a wooden bench overlooking those vast, empty acres. “Why did you lead me back here?” John ventured.

The woman dropped his hand. “This,” she cautioned, “is your last chance.”


- - - - -

John was confused. Why was he feeling pain and being led through the town he grew up in by this woman? How did she know his name? Would there be no resting in peace for him?

“What’s going on?” John asked, frightened, knowing he didn’t really want an answer.

“Look out into that field, John, and remember. It was a cold November night. You were 17 and out with two of your friends for one last good time before graduation. Do I look familiar now?”

John wasn’t sure how it was possible, but he began to feel sick to his stomach.

“You’re the one we…, I mean the girl they…, I only…” He had blocked out the memory of that night which was now forcing its way back in with a vengeance.

“I know,” she said with a deep sigh. “You only watched what they did. Then, you left town and never looked back. I didn‘t pull through.”

The sudden onslaught of sleet was stinging his face.

“I didn’t…, I’m so…, am I forever damned?” John began to cry.

“Not yet,” she said quietly. “Not quite yet.”

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

TERRIBLE MINDS FLASH FICTION CHALLENGE: 200 WORDS, PART TWO

This is Part Two of the Terrible Minds challenge.  I chose a dark little scene created by Simon B and added my spin to it.  This now brings this little tale to 396 words.  I'm calling it Jesper, simply so it has a title; although, it can, and most likely will, be changed every step of the way, if it's picked up for Part Three, etc.  I really hope someone does continue this, and I'm sure Simon does too.  I've placed his original starter in bold type and my continuation follows.  Please enjoy.

JESPER
WHUM
Jesper was lying on a floor somewhere. He was certain of that.
He managed to open his eyes for a brief moment before they overruled his decision and squeezed themselves shut again. It was bright. He shifted position with a grunt. Body parts were beginning to form an orderly queue to complain about their recent treatment.
WHUM
Jesper spent a few moments panning for gold in the murk of recent memory. Not even a glimmer. The floor was oddly warm. Under different circumstances it might’ve been quite nice.
After some trial and error, Jesper found a way of squinting that allowed him to survey his surroundings without blinding him. He peered tentatively through his lashes, trying to discern shapes from the resulting fuzz.
WHUM
He was in a room maybe eight feet by five. The walls, floors and ceiling were brilliant, stinging gloss white. A solitary bulb set crudely into the ceiling was the only fixture Jesper could make out – no windows, no furniture.
A sudden sneeze forced Jesper’s eyes shut again. He lifted an aching arm to wipe his nose with his sleeve and was only momentarily surprised to find there wasn’t a sleeve there at all.
WHUM
As he brought his right arm closer to his face, the ache became a steadily intensifying pain.  He shut his eyes tightly, then forced them open as wide as he was able.  For a brief moment, he believed a second glance would reveal a more favorable result.  It did not.

From his right shoulder down, his arm was wrapped in several layers of gauze, secured with small metal clips and encased in a clear plastic sheath.  His eyes continued on past the small stump at the end, as if his will alone would cause his obviously absent hand to appear.

WHUM

Jesper screamed.  He sat up and quickly took inventory.  His other arm remained intact, as did both his legs.  To his great relief, both feet were still attached.  His head felt as if it had been placed in a vice, and the pain in his right arm was so severe that tears were beginning to sneak into the corners of his eyes.

“Please,” he gasped.  “Why?”

“Mr. Riley…Jesper if I may,” the voice was deep and menacing.  “Do not concern yourself about the minor procedure performed.  A mere trifle, Jesper.  A mere trifle.

WHUM


Monday, November 25, 2013

TERRIBLE MINDS FLASH FICTION CHALLENGE: 200 WORDS

What an incredible writing challenge Terrible Minds has offered this week.  Actually, it is only Part One of a five-part challenge.  This week, we are to write the start of a story (200 words max).  Next week, we take someone else's 200 words and add 200 more to continue it.  Then, the following week, do the same and so on until a 1,000 word story is complete.  Here's the link to the challenge so you can join in.

My offering for Part One of this challenge comes in at 198 words.  It is only a beginning, and I really hope someone picks it up and continues it.  I'd love to see where this could go.  But, for now, here's Reunion.  I hope you enjoy.

REUNION

They are waking up slowly, one by one.  It has been so long since we have been together--so much time and distance between us.  Fate stepped in and assisted with my plans for our ten-year reunion.  Their surprise will be my sublime pleasure.  I will greet them with a smile, as they often did me.  Mine will be counterfeit.  Too.  As I watch and wait, I remember.

Our childhood games.  Simon Says go play in traffic.  Hide and Seek, and I am left for dead.  Scrabble dictates slit your wrists.  The promise of friendship broken as it was pledged.  Rejected, abandoned, deceived.  Ah, the sweet memories of my youth.

These three companions, these three acquaintances, these three schoolmates, these three abominations.  I did not fit with them.  Or anyone.  They still pulled.  And pushed.  And tormented.

The bars and floor of their cage are wired.  In my heart, I know they will be pleased with this game I have selected.  It will be so familiar.  So typical.  So fitting.

Wake up, my friends.  My very dear friends.  Let us share one last stroll down memory lane.  One more, before I flip the switch and turn on my hose…




 

Sunday, November 17, 2013

TERRIBLE MINDS FLASH FICTION CHALLENGE: FIND YOUR FAVORITE OPENING LINE

Last week, the Terrible Minds Flash Fiction Challenge was to write an opening line of 15 words or less. This week, the challenge is to write a 1,000 word story based on one of those.

I didn't participate last week--my current work in progress was holding me hostage.  It has since loosened its grip, so I thought I would select one of the openers and slide in a story after it.  Brennan's opening line (set in bold type) was what I chose, and it worked beautifully to begin my twisted little tale.  Please enjoy.


FORGET HEAVEN

The sun shone down as it always had, and for a moment, everything was perfect.  Oddly, this had seemed a good idea at the time.  Wearing nothing but a black cloak to mock the darkness of the world we were departing, and to pay homage to the darkness of the world we would be joining.  Our eternal bond sealed with a last kiss as we leapt from the cliff to be impaled on the jagged rocks below…

Yeah, I know.  Sounds like an old B movie, but I figured it was all some kind of mystic symbolism.  At sunrise, Willow and I would strip down in the parking lot by the observation area, put on long black capes, and walk to the edge where she would chant some nonsense while waving around some foul-smelling incense.  After she was done with all that crap, we would head over to my beach house and she would screw my brains out.  Not a bad way to start the morning, huh?

My name is Ralph Mobo.  Not exactly a made-for-Hollywood moniker, but I’m not exactly a made-for-Hollywood guy.  I’m a semi-pudgy, 66-year old retired CPA, widowed close to 4 years.  With the firm’s retirement package and my 401(k), the oceanfront condo was a steal.  The house on Morning Glory Drive belonged to the old me--the one who was married 41 years to a well-educated, socially accomplished, not-too-hard-on-the-eyes woman I had met in the stacks at college.  I found myself in a bit of a fog after she passed, but once it cleared, I decided to grab life by the horns and take it on.

I was walking through the park one afternoon when I saw her by the fountain.  White gown, long blonde hair, humming, and splashing paint on a canvas.  I wondered what it would be like to do it with an artist.  She noticed me watching, dropped her brush and pallet, ran to me, and said I was her destiny.  Okay.

“I am Willow,” she whispered.  “Unlock your shackles and live with me on the wind.  Let us unite our souls.”

I was all for that ’uniting our souls’ bit.  I took her to my condo and we did it on every surface in the place.  She said it was important to cover everything with our spirits, to aid the wandering dead with their quest for solace.  Whatever.

Last night, after a particularly rigorous one-on-one, from out of left field this 19-year old wild child springs this ‘we need to jump off a cliff tomorrow morning’ thing on me.  Naturally, I didn’t take her literally.  She always spoke in metaphors and tried to create elaborate illusions with her stories.  I never understood any of it, but, since she’d be all over me while she told her little tales, I’d smile and nod.  Every time.

So here we are.  The point’s deserted most mornings.  Good thing, because we’re both stark naked, doing it on the hood of my Mercedes.  When we’re done here, I’ll run it through the car wash on Fifth and Delmont.  If nothing else, they’re discreet.  The cloak she made for me looks like a black bed sheet with ties.  This is definitely not something I would want to be caught dead in.  Good one, huh?

“The time has come for us to surrender,” she says.  “We shall seek darker regions still and remain forever in torment, punished for the sins of humanity.”

She dons her cloak, takes my hand, and moves us closer to the edge.

Wait a minute.  All I wanted to do was try to break out of my mold and maybe unclog an artery or two, but this kid‘s serious.  She releases my hand and leans in for one last smooch.  I give her a slight nudge.  She just a wisp of a gal; drops like a stone.  The mist-covered shoreline obscures my view, but I’d heard the thud.  I quickly put on my jeans and sweatshirt.  A fella could freeze his woo-woo’s out here.

As I pass the old fairgrounds on my way home, I notice the circus is back in town.  I pull in and watch the high-wire gal rehearsing.  I wonder what it would be like to do it with a…


Wednesday, November 6, 2013

NaNoWriMo Time--Yay!


Here we are in November again, and that means NaNoWriMo.  I always look forward to this time of year.  Of course, it's time for Thanksgiving, being together with family and eating until you can't move.  Too, once Thanksgiving is over, Christmas is just around the corner.  Then again, time with family, eating wondrous meals, sharing gifts, and looking forward to the new year and lots of new beginnings.

There is also that terrific event that occurs each November, and that is National Novel Writing Month.  I have participated for years now, and will continue.  Thirty days to write 50,000 words?  Is it stressful and do you end up putting a great deal of pressure on yourself?  Definitely.  Is it an incredibly enjoyable way to push yourself into creating something you may not have created otherwise simply because of the timeline factor?  Absolutely.

NaNoWriMo is time-consuming and requires dedication and a lot of work.  But there is nothing negative about the experience.  It's a personal challenge that is so fulfilling at the end of the month when you look back at what you've created.  This novel you've written does require major editing since during NaNo time, you only write.  And write.  And write.  There's an editing event through NaNo too, but I've never tried my hand at that one.  Not yet, anyway.

One of the novels I wrote during NaNo was able to be divided into a six-part children's/young adult's fantasy series, Choices, which I had published.  I'm currently in the process of completing the editing process on another one of my NaNo projects, and it will be ready to send to my publisher in the very near future.  There is another that requires completion, and of course, major editing, that was a NaNo project and then, we have the one I am currently writing.  Do I take NaNo seriously and follow through on all my projects?  You bet I do.

My point being, while NaNo is a wonderful experience and as far as I'm concerned, great fun, great things have occurred for me as a writer as a result of my participation.  Not only has my work been published, but writing 'with abandon' I believe has helped me to be a better writer.  The first time through, while I am mindful of sequencing, spelling, grammar and all the basics, I'm not obsessed with those things.  My obsession is directed at the story, the characters, and continuously moving it forward.  Isn't that where a writer's focus should be directed?

I would encourage anyone, regardless of where you're at as a writer, to participate in NaNo.  It's interesting, fun, and it makes you crazy for 30 days, and you'll be so glad when November is done.  You will be holding in your hand a creation of yours.  Perhaps not complete, perhaps a grammatical nightmare, but there's plenty of time to go back and fix.

Use November to simply write.  Give it all you've got, and when you're done, be very proud of yourself and treat yourself to some reward.  Go to a nice restaurant and have your favorite dinner.  Buy yourself that outfit you've been admiring in the store window.  Order that season's worth of DVDs of that television show you watch every time it comes on.  Pat yourself on the back and award yourself a prize.  You've earned it!

Sunday, October 20, 2013

KIRK'S LANDING by MIKE YOUNG: A REVIEW



Question.  What is the critical attribute a law enforcement officer needs to successfully infiltrate a gang involved in criminal activities?  Why, of course, it is the ability to blend in; in fact, blend in so well the gang hardly notices you at all.  Corporal Dave Browne of the RCMP operates undercover in just such a role and his ability to ‘blend’ far surpasses that of his team members.  You see, Dave doesn’t simply blend in--he actually fades away--literally disappears and reappears at will.  Handy, huh?  You bet.  That is, until the one time during a ‘fade out’, he ‘fades in’ at quite the inappropriate moment.  Cover blown.  But, how?  Why?  No time to theorize and analyze.  If he expects to survive, time to get re-assigned.

His superiors relocate him to Kirk’s Landing, a town in Manitoba, to serve as Commander of the detachment.  A neutral enough position to bide his time until the fallout from his last assignment clears.  After all, it isn’t as if anything really serious was going to occur while he was there.  What could a sleepy little town’s crises amount to anyway?  A couple of domestic disputes, buddies scrapping with too much beer under their belts, kids playing their music too loud…  Just the usual small town stuff, right?

Dave discovers there is absolutely nothing ‘usual’ about Kirk’s Landing.  Behind those friendly smiles are dark and sinister secrets.  Everyone has a skeleton or two in their closet, and those bones are restless.  Dave was instructed to put in his time there and make no waves.  But, as the seemingly picture-perfect fa├žade of Kirk’s Landing begins to crumble, Dave finds he cannot turn a blind eye to the shadows lurking around each and every corner.

A missing person’s case hangs over the town like a shroud.  Rumors abound concerning issues at the mill.  When Dave tours the facility, he is made to feel like an intruder, and the information he receives is vague and misdirected.  Is there a connection?  Did the missing man discover unethical or illegal goings-on and need to be silenced, or was it just another case of a hiker losing his way in a snowstorm?  Dave isn’t receiving a lot of input from the locals.  They need time to basically figure him out and determine whose side he’s on.  Is he there to help hold the community together, or is he just like all the others before him--there to simply help himself to whatever he can take from them.  And, as if all of that wasn’t enough for Dave to contend with, Evil itself decides to follow Dave to Kirk’s Landing, and threatens to permanently tear the community apart.

Kirk’s Landing has everything a story needs:  Three-dimensional characters, diverse cultures and customs, and enough twists and turns to keep your head spinning.  The puzzle is there, to be completed one piece at a time, chapter by chapter, page by page.  If you enjoy suspense, action, and mystery, along with a sneak peek into man’s dark side, you’ll love Kirk’s Landing.  Make sure you allow enough time to finish it once you start though.  There’s no putting this one down!

Kirk's Landing is now available on Amazon, and the link to purchase it is here.  I've made it nice and easy for you, so go ahead and order your copy.  You'll be SO glad you did.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

CHUCK WENDIG'S FLASH FICTION CHALLENGE: THE COOPERATIVE CLIFFHANGER, PART TWO

The challenge this week, for Part Two, was to select one of the cliffhangers from last week (not your own, of course) and finish it.  The story I chose was called Hello World by Sam Barnett.  This was a story I felt needed to be continued, but actually ending it didn't seem right somehow.

Before you read Home, make sure you read Sam's story here.  It sets quite the impressive baseline for what follows.  Please enjoy.

HOME

Today is the one-year anniversary of that horrific, yet oddly liberating, event.  After the Enforcers had departed, I began to extricate myself from my mother’s body.  Like others of my kind, within moments of my birth, I was able to function independently.  Within 24 hours, I had achieved the appearance of an adult, and became able to move virtually unnoticed among them.

Inexplicably, I became aware that, upon my mother’s death, it was my obligation to consume her, but I could not defile that gentle soul.  I made the decision that my father, who had allowed the love of his life and his unborn child to be brutalized and left to die, should sustain me.  His flesh was bitter and without merit, but it would be weeks before I required another meal.

Through my interactions with the humans, I have discovered this species consists of not only the weak and the strong, but strangely, there are numerous variances between.  My kind is comprised solely of those who obey and those who enforce.  Having experienced the one and having inherited my father’s memories of the other, I can but only wonder which is most equitable.

Life thus far has been difficult, at best.  Locating nourishment, however, has never been an issue.  These creatures, these people, literally profess everywhere how much they care for one another.  They ‘love’ this scent, they ‘love’ the sound of that music, they ‘love’ to band together to protect and serve.  I find these proclamations quite amusing considering not one of them seems even slightly annoyed when their own begin to disappear.

Humans in towns appear to be more mindful as their numbers decrease, but not so in the cities.  As they are generally oblivious to those who no longer frequent their customary habitats, the same disinterest is demonstrated regarding any outsiders who replace the missing.  It is for this reason I have chosen these large regions in which to survive until…; well, since I know not what destiny awaits me, I simply go on.  Resigned to exist from sunrise to sunset--searching, and hoping.  That is, until I met Elise.

In this, my latest metropolitan refuge, I walk tree-lined paths that provide me with a pleasant sensation called ‘peace‘.  It is not a substance one can see or touch, but is a feeling that all is right and there is nothing to fear.  It is not often I am privileged with this intense calm, but strolling through this park is guaranteed to allow me to believe that, at least for the moment, I am safe.  Deep in the surrounding woods is also a ready supply of sustenance.  Some humans have no permanent structure to retreat to when their world goes dark, so they congregate in camps.  When necessary, I fetch one or two of the denizens to satisfy my hunger.  These camps constantly replenish themselves however, as, for every two I may take, at times, three or more replace them.  This practice also reinforces the hypocrisy of their kind.  When one or more go missing, those who remain confiscate and claim their meager belongings as their own.

It was on one of my treks along the trails when I passed a bench for resting.  It was there I saw her.  She was beautiful and delicate and her smile brought a warmth to me I had never experienced before.  Her skin was pale and smooth, and her dark eyes revealed many lifetimes.  I knew immediately she was not human, so I was as much filled with dread as fascination.  She held out her hand to me and her touch brought my father’s memories of love flooding in.  My future was with Elise, and the humanity within me pledged if we were to meet the same fate as my parents, I would not follow in the footsteps of my father.  I would not die on my knees.

We made a life together, and I was happier than I’d ever thought possible.  She never spoke of that other world, and I never asked.  She and I would sit comfortably together in silence for hours upon hours, and we shared our hopes and dreams for the bright future that lay ahead.

After a few months, Elise began to change.  She insisted on taking midnight walks alone and requested I leave our home for specific periods of time during the day.  I wondered if she was with child, but dare not ask.  I knew all would be revealed when the time was right.  One afternoon, I decided to surprise her with a snack and returned a half hour earlier than expected.  A young man from one of the camps had been killed by his comrades for his shoes; I simply took him out of everyone‘s way.

I was drawn to her voice.  She was in the bedroom, speaking into a transmitter I had never seen before.

“Target is ready to be terminated.  Come tonight when I am out.  He will be drugged and offer little resistance.”

“Why?”  I asked her.

Startled, she quickly tried to restore the connection.  I pulled the microphone from her hand and destroyed the unit.

“You are the child of a violator,” she explained, her tone devoid of emotion.  “My task is to locate and befriend such as you, then alert the Enforcers when the time is right.  You half-breeds tend to fight, so I introduce sedatives so the execution is effortless.”

I killed her quickly since time was precious.  She bled profusely as the blade caressed her throat.  I left her for others of our kind to dispose of.  I had no taste for betrayal.

So, I am yet again on the run.  I have learned much since the day I was born.  I have learned about love and lies and trust and the death of all things.  I must go on.  I am home.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

CHUCK WENDIG'S FLASH FICTION CHALLENGE: THE COOPERATIVE CLIFFHANGER, PART ONE

The flash fiction challenge this week was to write an unfinished story, around 1,000 words, that leads to a cliffhanger of some kind.

Next week, for Part Two of this challenge, someone else may write the end of your story, provided you entice them enough to want to, that is.

I would love to see someone take this story further.  What would be your choice?

LIGHTS, CAMERA…

The director sighed.  Already had a buyer for his usual fare, and now this happens. One hundred thou offered to make a snuff? An actual, honest-to-fucking snuff film? The order’s from some big-name actor, so the money’s real enough. The actor’s rep let Clyde look at it in his briefcase. Let him feel it up for a sec too. Even brought the gun he wanted to be used. A nice shiny new 9mm Glock--loaded. ‘Like your other films, please’ he said quietly, ‘except this time, when the girl puts the gun into her mouth and pulls the trigger…’

Clyde felt like he was going to be sick. So far, he’d had no problem unloading his work. He has the girl make herself feel real good, then she sucks on his old Colt 38 with the broken firing pin for awhile, pulls the trigger, looks right into the camera and laughs. But this time?

He’d picked this cutie up at a bus stop on the edge of town and brought her out here to the cabin. Told him she was 18, but he didn’t believe a day over 15. Promised her a few bucks, make her a movie star, you know the routine, and she’d come willingly enough. But, still. A snuff film?

He took her into the master bedroom, where he had his lights and camera already set up. Clyde told her to lie on the bed and get comfortable and try to relax. He handed her a bottle of some cheap whiskey he had stashed there for just such occasions. As soon as she unscrewed the top, she started gulping it down. Clyde hoped to hell she wouldn’t puke it up later on film. A scene like that would certainly decrease its value. He told her he had some stuff to take care of in the other room, but he’d be back in about 15 minutes and then they would make the movie. She just nodded and kept gulping. Clyde went into the back bedroom he’d converted to a kind of office and sat down at the desk. He really needed to think this through.

He put the Colt and the Glock on the desk and lit a smoke. This should have been an easy decision, but he couldn’t just wave off a hundred thousand dollars. At the rate he was going, that’s more money than he would see in 25 lifetimes. But, we’re talking death for real here…

Clyde always figured there were two sides to everything. Were there this time?

Nobody makes snuff films. Not for real, anyway.

Apparently, there’s at least one guy out there who believes I would.

This kid can’t just disappear.

Told me she had no family--totally on her own.

I’ve never even punched anybody out, much less killed anyone.

I wouldn’t actually be pulling the trigger.

How could I live with myself if I let this girl die?

A hundred thou buys a lot of therapy.

Doesn’t matter how you look at this. When all is said and done, it comes down to cold-blooded, premeditated murder.

Yes. It does.


Four o’clock. Clyde thought the kid must be pretty well looped by now, considering she’s probably been gulping steady for the past 15 minutes.

Showtime.

He picked up the gun from the desk and went into the bedroom. The girl had already removed her clothes and was on the bed, sitting up against the headboard. Her eyes were barely open and lifeless in the room’s dim lighting. The bottle of whiskey sat almost empty on the nightstand against the wall.

He placed the gun on the bed next to her and asked if she knew what she was expected to do with it. She closed her eyes, nodded slowly, picked up the gun and began caressing it.

He positioned himself behind the camera and said, “Five, four, three, two…”

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

barcode: Pure Slush, Vol. 8 -- A Review


Pure Slush's anthology, barcode, is a collection of 32 stories all about bars and the individuals who frequent them.  As you make your way through each of the stories, you will find yourself drawn into a different world with each turn of the page.

You will meet those who are searching for love and acceptance, and those who have long ago bitterly renounced both.  You will bear witness to the hopes and dreams of some who still believe wishes can come true, as well as some to whom Life has dealt the cruelest hand.  You will be privy to thoughts and emotions that should never have been shared, as well as joy and fulfillment desired yet never realized.

barcode is a collection in the truest sense of the word.  It is an assemblage of places, of sentiments, of memories, of lives.  The characters in each story are as different from each other as night to day, yet they all seek--something.  Relief from loneliness, to create new memories, somewhere to discard painful old ones, affirmation of their very existence, or perhaps something as basic as a friend...

These are stories you can enjoy over and over again.  Take your time with each though; sip them slowly as you would a fine wine.

The link to where you can obtain your copy of barcode is here.

Friday, August 9, 2013

SCARE ME by Richard Parker - A Review


Okay.   It’s the middle of the night.   You’re in bed asleep, or at least wrestling with the concept.  Your cell rings and since there’s a chance it may be a family member you‘re expecting, you answer it.   A woman asks when did you last google yourself, and addresses you by name.   That is followed by ‘kiss, kiss, kiss’, and the caller disconnects.   Wrong number, right? But she knew your name…

So, what do you do?   Chalk it up to kids making prank calls and go back to sleep?   Or does this odd, yet seemingly sinister, event compel you to climb out of your nice warm bed and head for your den to fire up the desktop?   Well, when this happens to Will Frost, to say he’s a bit freaked out about it would be putting it mildly.   The call awakened his wife, and since he doesn’t want to unnecessarily frighten her, he tells her it’s a wrong number.   He waits until she’s fallen back asleep, makes his way downstairs to his office, and boots up his computer.   Before he has time to really think this through and decide he’s been conned into running a fool’s errand, he types his name into a search bar.

William Frost

Page after page appears detailing the numerous phases of his career, as well as photograph after photograph of his successes.   On and on, screen after screen, the details of his accomplishments cascade before him.   He knew at that moment the call had been some type of dark joke.   Perhaps a reporter he had rebuffed?   An interview he had declined?   But, then he remembered how the woman had finished the call.   The three ‘kisses’.   The link was there. williamfrostxxx.net.   Just the link though--no information provided with it.   What could this mean?   He had to click on it.   Had to.

Image after image of the outside, and chillingly, the inside as well, of his home.   One image contained his wife, Carla, working at her desk, which meant whoever took these photographs was not only inside the house, but a mere few feet away from Carla.   Following the last image was a message to check his email and go ‘home‘.   As during his initial search, he found routine correspondence until the one entitled ‘Last Snaps’.   Vacation pictures of his daughter, Libby, and her boyfriend, Luke, who Will and Carla were expecting for a visit.   Carla had risen and was standing behind Will as he brought up the last image.   Whether to share the details of the distressing phone call with his wife became moot as this last photo showed Libby and Luke within metal cages, bound together with flex-ties, and gagged.   At the end of a string around Libby’s neck was a card.   On it was written a mobile number.   Will called the number and only screaming was heard.   But his and Carla’s nightmare hadn’t yet begun.

Returning to the site with photos of their home, Will clicks in the corner on the word ‘HOME’.   There are messages stating that if police are called, his daughter and her boyfriend will be dead, and if he doesn’t follow instructions, they’re dead.   He’s instructed to get on the first available flight to Orlando International, take his laptop and await further instructions via that site.   What choice did he have?   Whoever was behind this was obviously not in a negotiating frame of mind.

Thus begins Will’s being directed to city after city, state after state, house after house, to discover and retrieve.   In the first, he finds a family brutally murdered and he has been instructed to locate, and remove, an item.   He makes his way to the second house and discovers yet another family massacred, with a hidden treasure for him to find.   And on and on this horrific crusade continues, but to what end?   For what purpose?   And, for whose amusement?

Who wrote the playbook for this twisted game, and why is he being forced to play it?   To save his daughter, he must visit one bloody crime scene after another and defile the victims by taking something that has been left with one of them.   But, as if all of that isn’t enough, he must also make sure he avoids the police who will ultimately arrive on scene.   What would happen to Libby and Luke if he should end up being arrested for having committed these murders?

This story is a nightmare from which none of the characters can awake.   Richard Parker has crafted a dark tale of mystery, fear, and desperation.   You can’t put this one down until it’s done.   You won’t want to either because you need to know.   Just like Will…

Links to where you can get your copy of Scare Me are on Richard’s website here.

Make sure you also click on the tab for Richard’s first novel, Stop Me.   That is definitely another must read--a thriller and then some.   Click here to see my review of Stop Me.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

TURNER HAHN AND FRANK MORALES ARE BACK!

Homicide detectives Turner Hahn and Frank Morales are back on duty in their new novel, Guilt of Innocence.


The two are investigating a couple of murders which pushes them to the limits of their wits.  One case involves the death of a very successful corporate lawyer.  A high-priced corporate lawyer who happens to be married to a woman who heads the largest cosmetics firm in the country.  How the murder took place is perplexing enough.  But as more bodies begin to drop, Turner and Frank soon realize they are facing a maniacal mastermind who may very well be smarter than both of them combined.

Twists and turns, dead ends and red herrings...with an ending that will truly be surprising.  This case has it all.  And this is only case number one!

Case number two involves the disappearance of a young girl fifteen years earlier.  A Cold Case File.  Except it is not a cold case any longer.  The girl has returned.  And now lies on a cold metal table in the morgue.  Someone has gone out of their way to make the homicide look like a suicide.  Apparently, a crime syndicate is frantic to make sure neither Turner nor Frank find out the facts surrounding the girl's disappearance fifteen years earlier.  A hit man is in town grimly eliminating everyone who may have known the girl.  A hit man with orders to possibly rub out Turner and Frank as well.

And again, the real killer is someone whom no one would have ever suspected.

Turner and Frank are at their best.  Dry wit, interesting characters, lots of action, vivid imagery, and two genuine classic mysteries.  All of it can be found in Guilt of Innocence.  Find it here, or anywhere ebooks are sold.


B.R. Stateham is a six-four year old curmudgeon who writes genre fiction.  With an antiquarian's body, yet with the mind of a fourteen year old boy, the author's imagination still wanders down dark alleys and mean streets looking for a dangerous rendezvous or dons a Federation uniform and straps on his waist a 20 megawatt laser blaster to go out and hunt Martian grave robbers.

Friday, May 10, 2013

FLASH FICTION FRIDAY, CYCLE 127, OPEN-ENDED: LIGHTS, CAMERA...

Forgive my recycling another one of my stories, but considering the prompt this week, writing a tense scene with an open ending, I felt this one was quite appropriate.  It also fit well under the word limit.  So, let's take a peek into a make-shift movie studio, and I'll let you decide how it ends...

LIGHTS, CAMERA…

The director sighed.  Already had a buyer for his usual fare, and now this happens. One hundred thou offered to make a snuff? An actual, honest-to-fucking snuff film? The order’s from some big-name actor, so the money’s real enough. The actor’s rep let Clyde look at it in his briefcase. Let him feel it up for a sec too. Even brought the gun he wanted to be used. A nice shiny new 9mm Glock--loaded. ‘Like your other films, please’ he said quietly, ‘except this time, when the girl puts the gun into her mouth and pulls the trigger…’

Clyde felt like he was going to be sick. So far, he’d had no problem unloading his work. He has the girl make herself feel real good, then she sucks on his old Colt 38 with the broken firing pin for awhile, pulls the trigger, looks right into the camera and laughs. But this time?

He’d picked this cutie up at a bus stop on the edge of town and brought her out here to the cabin. Told him she was 18, but he didn’t believe a day over 15. Promised her a few bucks, make her a movie star, you know the routine, and she’d come willingly enough. But, still. A snuff film?

He took her into the master bedroom, where he had his lights and camera already set up. Clyde told her to lie on the bed and get comfortable and try to relax. He handed her a bottle of some cheap whiskey he had stashed there for just such occasions. As soon as she unscrewed the top, she started gulping it down. Clyde hoped to hell she wouldn’t puke it up later on film. A scene like that would certainly decrease it’s value. He told her he had some stuff to take care of in the other room, but he’d be back in about 15 minutes and then they would make the movie. She just nodded and kept gulping. Clyde went into the back bedroom he’d converted to a kind of office and sat down at the desk. He really needed to think this through.

He put the Colt and the Glock on the desk and lit a smoke. This should have been an easy decision, but he couldn’t just wave off a hundred thousand dollars. At the rate he was going, that’s more money than he would see in 25 lifetimes. But, we’re talking death for real here…

Clyde always figured there were two sides to everything. Were there this time?

Nobody makes snuff films. Not for real, anyway.

Apparently, there’s at least one guy out there who believes I would.

This kid can’t just disappear.

Told me she had no family--totally on her own.

I’ve never even punched anybody out, much less killed anyone.

I wouldn’t actually be pulling the trigger.

How could I live with myself if I let this girl die?

A hundred thou buys a lot of therapy.

Doesn’t matter how you look at this. When all is said and done, it comes down to cold-blooded, premeditated murder.

Yes. It does.


Four o’clock. Clyde thought the kid must be pretty well looped by now, considering she’s probably been gulping steady for the past 15 minutes.

Showtime.

He picked up the gun from the desk and went into the bedroom. The girl had already removed her clothes and was on the bed, sitting up against the headboard. Her eyes were barely open and lifeless in the room’s dim lighting. The bottle of whiskey sat almost empty on the nightstand against the wall.

He placed the gun on the bed next to her and asked if she knew what she was expected to do with it. She closed her eyes, nodded slowly, picked up the gun and began caressing it.

He positioned himself behind the camera and said, “Five, four, three, two…”

Monday, May 6, 2013

FLASH FICTION FRIDAY, CYCLE 126: BLIND DATES--DELIGHT OR DISASTER


This is my twisted take on a blind date; an oldie, but a favorite of mine I wrote for A Twist of Noir.  My main character is based on the deaf hit man character created by Christopher Grant in his story, Reverberations, which you can read here. 

Jimmy Callaway followed with Closed Captioned, that featured this fascinating fellow, and you can read his story here.

Mine, entitled Blind Date, follows, and was the third in this delightfully bizarre series.  I hope you enjoy them all.

BLIND DATE

Well, today’s been quite the eventful day.  I’m still having a hard time believing it, and I was there.

This morning started off pretty much the same as all my other mornings.  I was enjoying my usual morning fare:  a nice hot, high fat, high cholesterol, high sodium, and let’s not forget all the sugar, delightful meal at my favorite haunt.  I’ve been coming here for over 20 years and I’ll be coming for another 20.  Small, homey, and most of all, private.   In my line of work, confidentiality is king.  My clients aren’t in the mood to advertise their meetings with me and I’m not much for social networking.

I was on my third java refill thinking about how sweet it would be to get away for a few days.  Don’t get me wrong.  I’m not trying to run away from something, because I never run away from anything.  It attracts attention.  It’s just that I recently finished a job that ended up being a bit messier than I like.  The client was new, but had passed muster, so I took the gig.  But, there were a few more individuals involved than originally agreed upon, so it required a bit more effort on the part of yours truly.  Mind you, I was never at a disadvantage, but more usually means noise, and noise means trouble.  Now, noise doesn’t bother me any.  I’ve been deaf since the day I was born.  But, I can see it being made--I can feel it.  People running around yelling and banging on stuff?  Noise.

I got the situation under control as I always do, but I figured my new client owed me a bonus for the extra sweat he’d caused.  Oddly enough, he didn’t see it.  I didn’t see or feel any noise while I was persuading him to my way of thinking, though.  A nice bit of closure there.  True, no actual bonus, but closure still.  A job well done.

M point being, I needed some R&R, when an old friend that I haven’t seen in years strolled in and joined me at my table.  He and I go way back and are in the same line, but it’s not like a competition thing between us.  His old lady inherited big bucks from her last sugar daddy, and he’s set for life.  He takes the occasional job just to keep a hand in and stay sharp.  Most he turns down flat regardless, if his gut tells him it’s hinky.  You know, I think I trust his gut more than I trust anyone or anything in this whole world.  If a gig clears his checkpoint, and he’s strapped, he’ll offer it to me.  I usually oblige.  A friend in need… and all that crap.

When he gave me the deets on this one, I thought he’d jumped the track.  He handed me a letter from the prospective client and told me to just read it and consider.  He hadn’t met her yet--yeah, it was a dame--but thought this might have some merit.  I nodded, shook his hand, blinked, and he was gone.  Probably on his way to catch the Concorde to Paris.  Again.

The letter read like an advice column plea.  It seems a Miss Makafee had decided it was time to seek a better half.  She didn’t trust computers--a Big Brother’s Always Watching complex--so she joined a mail order type service.  She provided a complete description of herself (blonde, blue eyes, 5 feet and 2 inches, 110 pounds) and listed her favorite activities as watching old movies, drinking hot chocolate with mini marshmallows, and walking in the rain.

For a quick sec, I had the urge to marry this hottie myself.  It passed.

The response was from a chap who claimed to be a rugged six footer, medium build, with dark hair and eyes.  Said he loved old movies, and fantasized about them holding hands sipping a mug of cocoa.  They set up a meet.

Well, knock me into a week from Thursday.  The mope shows up, and he’s 5 feet if he’s an inch.  Medium build?  Compared to what?  A Frigidaire?  Dark eyes?  Maybe.  If you could find them under all those bags hanging around ‘em.  She didn’t get a chance to quiz him in the likes and dislikes department because when he saw her, he started to laugh.  Didn’t say a fucking word to this babe, just laughed, like it was all some sick prank.  Little honey starts tearing up, runs out of the joint and catches a cab home.  She’s got his number, knows where he lives, and that’s where I come into the picture.  Well, not exactly me; it was my guy, but you already know that part.

So, she’s hurt and all, but more than that, she’s pissed all to Hell.  She wants him ‘eliminated’.  Her word--not mine.  Classy dame is my guess.  One hitch, though.  She’s light on the green.  Now, I’ve got as much heart as the next fella, but I don’t get a tax break for charity work.  Still, we could meet and see where it went.  I don’t take payment in trade, but maybe this chick’s got something I could use.  Never know.

Got a bud to take her a note to meet me at the diner at 4, cause 4 is too late for lunch and too early for dinner.  If the whole thing turns sour, all I’m out is a cup of Joe, tops.

So, I get there early, and I’m on my fourth refill and she walks in the door carrying the white rose I sent along with the note.  First thought that crossed my mind was how could that son of a bitch laugh at her.  She took my breath away.

I mean--literally--I couldn’t catch a breath.  Five foot two?  Maybe.  If she could actually straighten herself upright.  There’s a medical name for that, but it escapes me.  Saw somebody once with that condition in an old Boris Karloff movie, though.  She did have blonde hair alright--or, at least a couple of tufts of it on the right side of her head.  I think one of her legs was shorter than the other by a few inches.  That might have accounted for the fact that she kinda walked sideways; like, take a step and slide, take a step and slide.  You get the picture.

She made it over to my table during my fifth refill, sat down, waved the rose at me, and smiled a funny little crooked smile.  In my head, I was counting my meager blessings and wondering what the fuck I was doing there.  But the answer soon became very clear.  When she winked at me with her one good eye, I knew.  I thought about the basic philosophy I’ve lived my whole life with.  You make do with what you’ve been given and it’s got to be enough.

Maybe there wouldn’t be a tax break on this one, but bullets are cheap, and somebody really owed her.  By the way, I sprang for an early dinner too.

Friday, March 8, 2013

A KILLER SHARES: AN INTERVIEW WITH THE EPITOME OF PURE EVIL OR A FOR-HIRE PERSONAL AVENGING ANGEL?

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to take a peek into the mind of a professional killer?  Well, here's your chance.  Through his liason, B.R. Stateham, I was granted an interview, via the Internet, with a gentleman known as Smitty.  In polite circles, Smitty could be referred to as a sort of privatized Human Resources Administrator who handles terminations.  Or, we could simply get real about it and call him what he is:  A 'hit man'.

Let's get some insight into what makes Smitty tick.

1. Do you see yourself as providing a type of public service?

Do I provide a service to the public?   An amusing thought.   What I provide is closure; I end the terror that stalks the innocent.   I remove from the scene the monsters who are exponentially far more monstrous than I am.   Sometimes I provide hope.   Hope for those who, for years, have lived without hope.

But most of all I provide revenge.   Or justice, if you want to call it that.   Funny, isn't it?  The distinction between revenge and justice.   Is there really a distinction?
 
2. How are potential clients able to contact you?  I don't recall seeing your name and number under any of the Removal categories in the Yellow Pages.
 
I have my ways.   People whisper in the night.   People know people who know people . . . the kind of people whom a priest or preacher would recoil in horror from.   I have contacts who keep their ears open for any possible client seeking my help.   For a price, of course; always for a price.
 
3. Once your unique skills have been requested, what factors influence your decision to accept a particular assignment, or do you accept any and all requests?
 
Sometimes it can be an arduous process, this acceptance of a contract.   I look at the client's intent.  I look at their ability to pay.   Although monetary rewards are not necessarily the reward I seek.   I must decide on their loyalty.   Will they try to turn me over to the authorities if circumstances become uncontrollable?   Or will they try to control me because they have a source of blackmail to manipulate me?
 
I look at the prey.   Their history, their intentions, their guilt or innocence.   In fact you might be surprised at the number of lucrative contracts I decline because the targeted prey does not warrant my particular brand of expertise.
 
4. How does one wake up one morning and make the decision to follow the particular career path you have chosen?  Is there a particular event from your past that drove you to your specific trade, or was it simply the thrill of the hunt that attracted you at the start, and continues to do so to this day?
 
I would suggest you read one of B.R. Stateham's attempts to record my history . . . the one called There Is No Johnny---Just Call Me Smitty.   I believe the story can be found in volume one of the Smitty anthologies entitled, Just Call Me Smitty.   You'll find it remarkably accurate as to how the personna Johnny died and Smitty came into being.
 
5. May we ask about your personal life?  Do you have a special someone, and if so, is that individual aware of what you do for a living?
 
My personal life is rather reclusive.   For obvious reasons. I will say that I move from one location to another often.   And each time I move, I try to give myself a different appearance.   Disguises, therefore, are part of my repertoire.   To date no clear photo has been snapped revealing my true identity.   I plan to keep it that way.
 
As to a significant other . . . let us just say that after the sudden death of my wife a few years back, only one woman has seriously affected me.   A woman by the name of Charlene Hicks.   You may be introduced to her somewhat when B.R. Stateham completes the novel he is working on entitled Retribution.   It will be the first full length novel highlighting one assignment of unusual interest I recently completed.   I am told it will be completed sometime this year.
 
6. What is your weapon of choice, and the reasons behind your preference?
 
My weapon of choice is the switch-blade.   I believe a murder, or execution, should be up close and personal.   But I do not limit myself.   Almost anything can be used as a weapon.   Someday I might relate to B.R. the time I killed a remarkably tough gangster with a Tangerine.   One of my more unusual contracts.
 
7. How did you come to be known simply as 'Smitty', and if you're able to tell us, is that the only name you use both in your personal and professional life?
 
I refer you to question number four.   But I will say that I have about a dozen names I use.   A dozen names with complete background information and documentation in case a curious official wants to look it up.
 
It is always beneficial to be fully prepared in my line of work.
 
We want to thank Smitty for taking time from his very busy schedule to speak with us.  If you would like more information about Smitty, you can go right to B.R. Stateham's blog here.  It's called In The Dark Mind of B.R. Stateham.  If, however, you'd like to get up close and personal with this dark-eyed mysterious assassin, make sure you get the following:
 
Volume One:  Call Me Smitty:  Dirty Little Secrets (available here)
 
Volume Two:  Call Me Smitty:  See You In Hell (available here)
 
Volume Three:  Call Me Smitty:  There Are No Heroes (available here)

 
 
Also, make sure you follow B.R. Stateham's blog so you don't miss out on the release of Retribution.  More of Smitty's secrets to be revealed...
 
 

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

FLASH FICTION FRIDAY, CYCLE 114: SURPRISE! SURPRISE!

The prompt this week was to be about planning a surprise party and then revealing the outcome for both the ‘surpris-ee’ and the ‘surpris-er’. I took a less-than-typical approach with the surprise party thing, but I think this is still in line with the prompt. Hope you enjoy.

A BIG SURPRISE

“I’m telling you, Rachel, he is one. I know it. All the signs are there and I am not imagining things. We’ve got one of them living right across the road from us, and we need to figure out what to do.”

I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. A young man, probably in his mid-30s, moved into the house across the road from us this past Saturday morning, and my sister, Sarah, ever vigilant, is already suspicious of him. She is suspicious of anyone who moves into that property. Apparently, the house was built on some ancient burial ground and the house, as well as the entire property, is cursed for all eternity. According to Sarah, only creatures of some sort would dare cross the threshold and dwell within. She’s never told me where she obtained this information, but she firmly stands by it. Let’s see now, there have been werewolves, zombies, mummies, ghouls, and a couple of aliens, and our new neighbor certainly fits the bill because according to Sarah, he’s a vampire.

“Sarah, you really need to stop reading those magazines from the library and especially, stop talking to old Mrs. Mumford. To hear her tell it, she’s abducted weekly by Venusians, experimented on, and then brought back to her front door. Now, you don’t believe all that nonsense she puts out, do you?”

“Of course not. She’s just trying to draw attention to herself. But, Rachel, I’m not trying to do anything of the sort. I don’t go around telling everyone in town about that house. I only tell you so you make sure you stay away and don’t get too friendly with whoever moves in. Those spawns of Satan love to prey on single, elderly women like you and I and I just don’t want some fanged thing visiting me in my bed.”

It’s true we’re both unmarried and I’ll admit we’re both in our 60s, but I have a difficult time believing that creatures of the night would deliberately zero in on us. Considering all the late-night creature features I’ve watched, don’t the cloaked and fanged ones usually go after the 20-something, blue-eyed blondes who prance around at night in filmy negligees?

“Rachel, you don’t notice things like I do. I watch these creatures to see if I can identify which category they belong to. You have to do that, otherwise if they attack, you can’t defend yourself.”

“Sarah, we were born in this house and have lived here all our lives. When has anyone every been attacked in this whole town?”

“Just because it hasn’t happened yet doesn’t mean it won’t. Getting back to this vampire we now have as a neighbor, I’ve been watching him closely and that’s how I figured him out. He never comes outside during the daytime because they don’t, you know. They sleep in a coffin, and only when the sun goes down do they awaken. I’ve seen him slip out at night just walking down the highway. Once he gets out of sight, he must turn into a bat and fly into the city to feed. That has to be it since there have been no reports of anyone being bitten in town.”

“Maybe the man works out of his home during the day, and maybe he has trouble sleeping, so he walks. Heaven knows, it’s safe enough here. He could walk for miles and not be bothered by anyone. Have you considered that?”

I don’t know why I bother. Sarah just shook her head and went back to the front window with her binoculars. Normally, I just ignore her ravings because the folks that moved in there were either couples or our age. But this young man? I’ll bet he’d be perfect for Susanna Mitchell, our new librarian. She’s his age, and single, but so shy. Pickings are pretty slim here for boyfriend material for young ladies and this fellow might be just what she needs. If I could just figure out a way to introduce myself to him. Wait. I’ve got it.

“Rachel, it was a brilliant idea to get him over here pretending to welcome him to the area. I‘ll be ready for that bloodsucker. He is going to get a big surprise.”

I had called and invited him to dinner to find out if he was married or attached in any way so I could fix him up with Suzanna. His name was Jonathan Wellesley (classy, huh?) and his voice was smooth as silk. He said he’d be delighted. Sarah promised to behave herself, but did tell me she had a vampire test for him. Oh goody.

When our doorbell rang, I opened the door and invited our guest in. Forgive an old lady, but he looked delicious. All decked out in a three-piece pin-striped suit, he reminded me of any one of the numerous movie stars I’d had crushes on in my youth. Startlingly blue eyes you could get lost in and a dazzling, warm and comfortable smile. After I shut the door however, Sarah came rushing in wearing a necklace of garlic cloves, holding a spray bottle filled with what she announced was water blessed by Father George in one hand and a sharp stick in the other. Understandably, our guest was taken aback.

“Perhaps I should come back another time?” He inched his way backward toward the front door.

“SARAH, STOP IT RIGHT NOW! Jonathan, I’m terribly sorry. My sister…”

“Stay right where you are, whatever you are. I command you to answer.” Sarah had really outdone herself this time. I made a mental note to call Dr. Hargrove first thing in the morning to discuss having her committed.

“Are you a vampire? Be assured evil one, I have the power of good in my heart and you shall be defeated.”

Jonathan took a deep breath, smiled at Sarah, and quietly said ‘no‘.

“Alright then,” Sarah said and put the garlic, bottle and stick in the front closet. “Let’s eat. Dinner’s ready.” Sarah took Jonathan’s hand in hers, and they headed for the dining room. I made a mental note to check with Dr. Hargrove about having myself committed.

“WAIT JUST A MINUTE!” This was too much. “All this time, he’s a vampire, he’s undead, he’s this and he’s that. Then, you ask him, he says ‘no’ and it’s over, let’s eat? Am I the only one who sees the craziness here?”

“Rachel, you don’t know about these things. Once you invite a vampire into your home, he has to tell the truth and you have to be ready to take him down. But, now we know Jonathan is one of us, so it’s alright.”

Dinner went well after I washed a couple of aspirin down with a highball. We parted company around eleven. Sarah went straight to bed and I stayed up to try to figure out where to go from here. I love my sister, but I can’t go on like this. I never know from one minute to the next how she’s going to act, or react, and it’s not harmless delusions anymore. I mean, she ran at our neighbor with a sharp stick. Maybe there’s some outpatient treatment she could…

What was that? It sounded like a gust of wind in the hallway. I’ve told Sarah to keep her window closed and locked at night. I started to get up to scold her when our new neighbor walked into my bedroom with blood dripping from his lips.

“Jonathan, what are you doing here? What have you done? Where’s my sister?”

“Your sister’s dead, and soon you shall be also. This town will feed me well and you two may as well be the first.” There was that smooth as silk voice again. But the fangs were new.

“This can’t be. When Sarah asked if you were a vampire, you said no. I thought you had to tell the truth if you were invited in.”

Jonathan began to laugh. “Where did she get her information--from the late show? If you invite a vampire into your home, the only thing that accomplishes is that it grants him access at his discretion.”

As he moved toward me, I realized that Sarah and I were the ones who got the big surprise…