Intermission + Some Updates

Thursday, November 29 will be the debut of Act II of Masquerade with my new short story Swallow.

From here on out you can expect to see new short stories (~1,500-2,500 words) posted regularly on Thursdays unless stated otherwise, with perhaps some super-short flash fics/poems (>400 words) sprinkled around randomly. (I do looooooove flash fiction.)

I’m overjoyed to return to writing to say the least. I’ve written a good part of Swallow and it just feels like I’m back where I’m supposed to be, like I’ve been on vacation for a year and I’m finally back at home sleeping in my own bed.

That said, having this creative energy flow through me once again is just as terrifying as it is exciting; some poor fictional soul is going to die. Who’s is going to be? My bet’s on the butler.

See you Thursday. 😈

We All Float On, Ch.3 (finale)

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Read chapters 1 and 2 here!
(Also sorry for the change of POV! I totally forgot the first two were in 1st, and don’t have time to go back and adjust.)

Jess’s eyes painfully flutter open to a wet stage. Elephant tears slowly drop from a dark ceiling, the mucous liquid smelling more like piss and sweat than anything else. Icy chains and brutish spikes shine from the glint of moonlight beaming from a shackled window. Curious mice pinch at her aching feet.

“Get the fuck,” she groans, “out of here.” The words slid off her tongue like sticky rice down a dry metal slab. Her tongue the size of an egg, she tries to scream.

She must have been out, what, a couple hours? The moon was still dominating, with no glimpse of morning light peering over the horizon. Jess smacks the stone floor and cackles. Her forced laughter brought life to the dark cell. She found humor in the fact that, if she saw her father again, at least he would stop suggesting she take part in beauty pageants. With a broken leg and at least five other cracked bones, she could count on living life entirely different, a life without Karl, Sheila, and… “Oh, god. Stephen.” The distressed giggles went silent, and then Jess felt her eyes well up. “Stay focused, Jessica,” she squeezed her eyes shut. “Everything will be okay; everything is okay.” Willful thinking was not her strong suit.

The cuffs carve warm, pulsing bracelets into her wrists. Her heart thuds an enchanting beat in her ears. Suddenly she could see how people who spend too much time in the dark end up in the ward. Gritting her teeth, she forces herself up against the wall. Condensation clung to her chest. Then she remembered the safe word. “Spaceship!” she yelled, her cracked lips bleeding from the commotion. “Spaceship, spaceship, spaceship!”

A dull hum brings forth bright light and hooded specters. “So how was that, boys?” Jess asks, squinting.

Nathan Kensington flashes a wide grin, his teeth as bright as the moon, and stops the night vision recorder. “You tell me, Jess. How do you think you did?” He kicks a clump of bloody mud from his shoes. “And why did you stop? We had planned another half hour or so.”

“Because I’m thirsty and tired, Nathan.” She sighs, snapping for a refreshment.

The other man and woman walk up to Jess, offering her a towel and a drink of water. They remove the chains and bring her a chair. “If you ask me, you could have pulled a more convincing struggle,” the Amazonian woman advises. “But it’s hard not to believe those tears, I have to admit.”

“Stephen, what did you think?” Jess latches herself onto the masculine man standing beside the amazon. She missed being snuggled in his hairy chest.

Stephen gives her a peck on the cheek, his hot tongue washing Jess’s clean. Jess runs her fingers through his stiff hair as he grips her ass. She winces, reminded of her broken leg. “Everyone is going to eat this up. You’re going to be a fucking star, baby.”

“The victim of the century,” Jess pipes, clasping her sexy dead man. “Gimme five and we’ll shoot the sequel, kay?”

We All Float On, Ch. 2

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Read Ch.1 here!

“You’re getting all worked up for nothing, baby girl!” Sheila yells from behind. During my swim back to the shore, she drifts farther out. Her head is barely visible under the cool moonlight.

And she is probably right. It was more than likely the boys playing a trick on us, but what kind of friend and cousin would I be if I did not respond to such a commotion? All I need is Stephen using my ignoring their joke as an excuse to never speak to me again.

“Karl? Stephen?” I call into the dead night, slowly walking across the rugged beach.

My eyes scan the dark bank. Rotten logs and driftwood cast long shadows, connecting the obsidian water to the tree line, leading up to the forested crags we trekked to get here. A capsized white boat lies cracked down the middle farther down the beach, its resident rodent hisses at me before disappearing into its dusty den.

A short, quiet giggle comes from within the thicket and something grazes my shoulder. “Guys,” my voice is shaky, “this isn’t funny anymore. Stop with the games.” No response.

Goosebumps bubble up on my arms, making me realize I’m walking the bank nearly naked. Then I see it again, the moving shadow. This time I hear it grunt and hobble out of sight in the forest.

Soggy, hurried footsteps suddenly sound from behind me. As I try to make a run for it, the footsteps get louder and faster. The sand is getting damper as I am forced to head to the water’s edge. I blindly race down the bank, my heart in my throat. An owl nearly decapitates me as my sprint startled the giant thing. I don’t take a second to recuperate, and I continue to run for my life.

Unfortunately, the wet sand is pulling my feet down, forcing me to stop and fumble over. On the way down, I slice my leg on a sharp boulder.

I look back at my pursuer. It was Sheila. Her body was covered with mud. The only way I can tell it was Sheila was for her pink bikini. Without it, she’d appear to be a crazed, figure of dark mud and soot chasing me down. I let out an exhausted cry.

“Goddamn, girl! It’s just me! I split my foot on some glass on my way back to shore and had to crawl a lot of the way, which made me filthy dirty.” She grins, her white teeth shining through the mud. “You okay?” I take her hand and get back up on my feet.

Shaking my head, I reply, “Something’s wrong, Sheila. I can’t find them.” Tears well up in my eyes. “I can’t find them!”

Sheila planted her palms on my shoulders and shook. “That’s what I was trying to tell you! They’re back now. See?” She motions back at our little spot on the beach. Sure enough, Karl and Stephen were crouched around a furious fire roasting wienies and downing Coors.

Arm in arm, we limp back to the site. I never realized how much muscle Sheila had until now. Her sinewy body tensed against mine, making me feel like a shrimp in comparison. It is no wonder men preferred Sheila over me. All I had was brains and a somewhat slim body. She was a fucking amazon.

Only, when we get back, I realize it’s not Stephen and Karl at all; rather, it’s two scraggy old men wearing some terribly printed –

“SHIT!” The men were wearing the boys’ face! As if it were some sick and twisted Halloween trick. Blood still seeped from the flimsy flesh masks, down the imposter’s hairy chest. Their thick hands are caked in red slime.

I try to break free of Sheila’s grasp but fail, discovering that wasn’t Sheila either. In the flickering light from the fire I can see very well that it was never Sheila. This woman’s face was too round to be Sheila.

Her hot breath blistered my skin. “Why do you want to leave, puddin’? The fun’s about to start!” The men laugh as the woman thrusts my head in the sand and digs her sharp toenail in my thigh.

They pin my writhing body down and suddenly I feel a sharp pain on my head. As my eyes roll and the world turns black, I hear their maniacal guffaws. I fade into unconsciousness with their hearty bellows and putrid stench filling my senses.

Chosen

“Never mind the screams. You’ll get used to them after a while,” the dark one shouts over a chorus of desperate pleas. He slaps the cold basement wall with a gloved hand. “These walls don’t hold sound like they used to.”

Nickolas clears his throat, eyes falling to a gummy mess of slime on the floor. “So, uh, after I get the prisoner checked in and stowed away, what next?”

“Oh right. Well I usually take a seat in the back and read a book. The thing is that there isn’t much you can do once the main job is complete.”

Their footsteps echo down a narrow hallway, with doors to various torture chambers lining the sides of the cramped corridor. With the dim lights and musty air, the place closely resembled a mortuary sentencing its residents to a lifetime of agony and blackness. Nickolas could get used to this.

The dark one continues, “My previous apprentice, Blaine, used to creep into the chambers so he could play with captives when he got bored. Even though I don’t believe you’re that kind of guy, I’d advise you to control any…” he spits, “urges you have.”

Nickolas’ heart nearly jumps out of his chest. For years he turned his sadistic habits upon ragged runaways he picked up from the interstate, and to finally have an outlet to direct his hatred – well, nothing can beat that. “Oh, you don’t have to worry about anything like that, sir,” he lies. Ideas of what he would do to a taut, resisting body send a shiver down his back. “I can’t wait to get to work.”

The two enter the door at the end of the hall, revealing a large room filled with random junk; old, toppled televisions, broken sofas, crushed Diet Pepsi cans, and dusty boxes fill the area. In the place of a once great window is an ugly nautical painting.

“Aren’t we underground?” Nickolas asks, pointing at the empty window frame. “What was that for?”

The dark one chuckles, resting his heavy hands on the apprentice’s shoulders. “Fifty or so years ago, we’d be looking out into a beautiful forest; we could even see the mountains in the distance. But Vladimir had the building restructured and sculpted the landscape to form a place more inconspicuous. At the time, he had no idea the success of his plan, but he was always forward-looking. And in the end he was right to bury the first four floors of the old castle.”

Noticing a plastic crown in one of the boxes, Nickolas mutters, “Castle? So he was like a king, then? And with his death, he passed it all onto you.”

“According to that way of thinking, yes, I suppose you’re right.” He nestles the crown onto Nickolas’s head. “And I guess that makes you the king now, starting tonight.” The old man’s hot whispers tickle the apprentice’s ear drum.

A conniving smirk sweeps Nickolas’s face as he imagines his first actions as the new dark one. The terror he will wreak on the land will surmount all past travesties, and he’ll be immortalized through his evil deeds. But there was still one thing that was eating away at him: “What ever happened to Blaine? I know he the apprentice before me.”

“Blaine let the darkness consume him; his lust for inflicting pain on others led to his undoing.”

“Really?”

The dark one shrugs. “Eh, somewhat – he contracted HIV from one of the slaves during a distasteful orgy he orchestrated. Aren’t you glad you’ve got enough sense to not take part in any of that stupid shit?”

Suddenly, being the new dark one isn’t so appealing to Nickolas.

“Of course,” he mumbles. “That’s just absurdity.”

Devils Dance, Ch.1

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Mr. Brewer wrapped his arms around a little pig-tailed girl. “You come back and see me now,” he said quietly. “Next time I won’t be so tired, I promise.”

The hint of a smile appeared on the child’s face. “I love you grandpa. I’ll come back as soon as mommy lets me. Like maybe next week.”

“I’ll be counting the days,” Mr. Brewer stated, releasing his granddaughter from his weakening grip.

Everything had happened so suddenly; one minute he was lying next to his wife back in Atlanta, the next his love had died of pneumonia and he had been deemed too much of a burden to care for by his only daughter Shelly. She wasn’t wrong, however, and Mr. Brewer by no means had any animosity toward his daughter. She simply had made the decision that was most appropriate for her family, and that was just fine.

But life at Serenity Summit was not what Mr. Brewer had expected it to be. On the pamphlet Shelly had presented him during his last weekend as a free man, he noticed all the folks living at the Summit were smiling and having a blast, their images plastered under the title, “Serenity Summit #1 for its Engaging Family-Oriented Atmosphere.” Although it was true that during his stay he had acquired new friends, actual family visits were scarce – he imagined he wouldn’t see his granddaughter again until next month, but Shelly’s demanding lifestyle was to blame for that, not so much the hospital.

“Goodbye,” Mr. Brewer shouted, to which the girl shot him one last hopeful grin before walking out of the facility.

Suddenly, a nurse dressed in Peanuts scrubs nudged the man in the shoulder. “Wow, Hayley has sure grown a lot since I first saw her.”

Mr. Brewer stared blankly into the nurse’s eyes, the name echoed in his mind. “Who?”

“Your granddaughter, Mr. Brewer. You remember Hayley, don’t you?”

Irritated, the old man straightened his posture. “Granddaughter?” He chuckled. “You’re mistaken, miss. That was my daughter Shelly. Isn’t it a bit early to be talking about grandchildren? I mean, by God, she’s not even six yet!”

“You get some rest now, Mr. Brewer, so you’ll be full of energy for the bingo game tonight,” she encouraged, giving him two pats on his knee before walking over to another resident.

Hayley. The name resonated in his head. Surely the nurse was mistaken, he thought. There was no way he could have a grandchild.

In an attempt to find a photograph of his daughter, for proof that he wasn’t losing his mind, Mr. Brewer rolled himself into his room, and sure enough he found it. On his nightstand was the picture of a grown woman who closely resembled his Shelly – she even had the same birthmark on her face just like his daughter.

“Damn,” Mr. Brewer cursed, dropping his head.

He hadn’t realized his roommate Greg was in the corner reading a newsletter dated from 1942. Nor did he realize that Greg’s record player was on. Mr. Brewer finally realized that his wife Nelly was right: he had gone bat-shit crazy.

“What’s the matter? Nurse didn’t get you that green Jell-O you like so much?”

“Naw, just seein’ things more clearly for the first time in a while, is all,” he replied, noting that the music was getting louder. “Hey, turn that down would you?” He motion toward his buddy’s record player.

Greg was dumbfounded. “Huh? I don’t hear nothin’. It’s not on.”

Mr. Brewer wasn’t about to let himself be played as an ignorant fool. Just who did Greg think he was, anyway? “Greg, I said turn the fucking music off. It’s not the ‘40s anymore, so you need to stop reading that goddamned paper and listening to that ridiculous song every afternoon!”

“Bud, I swear there ain’t no music playin’.”

The old man lost it and knocked a vase to the floor, sending dozens of ceramic shards spiraling across the cream-tiled floor. “You listen to me, bud,” spat Mr. Brewer. “I’m not taking your shit anymore. You’re always treating me like a sucker, and it’s going to stop today.” Then, with one of the longer pieces of ceramic, Mr. Brewer shoved the spike into Greg’s throat, puncturing his jugular artery.

The white room was painted red in seconds, after a frenzied Mr. Brewer continued to stab his old friend. With each puncture, a memory was brought back to Mr. Brewer: with a gash to the jugular came that of his wife Nelly, who had given birth to the most beautiful baby girl in the world; then a splurge of hot blood on his face brought a replay of Shelly’s wedding into his vision, and then of Hayley’s birth; with a swift plunge to the chest, he remembered that his withering consciousness and his temper were what landed him in Serenity Summit to begin with. His rage subsided after the strings of red goo expanded into a dark crimson pool. His buddy reduced to a ripped blood fountain, the gurgling of blood made Mr. Brewer vomit into his palm.

“Oh my God, what I have I done,” he asked, dropping the bloodied ceramic shiv – the spike shattered on the hard floor. Turning to the record player, he realized that Greg was telling the truth after all; there was absolutely no record spinning, but Chattanooga Choo Choo still blared through the speaker.

Suddenly, Mr. Brewer opened his third story window, revealing a beautiful expanse of wilderness. And to make it even more desirable, the music didn’t reach outside. So, with his face chapped with tears, he jumped. He never felt freer than the second before his skull met the sidewalk.

Several states over, a similar chilling melody hummed down a drive of freshly fallen snow. Death’s stale tune whisper met the door of an honors boy and precious Mumu.

Silver

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With the final call from my brothers, my silver eyes open to a bright white sky. I can’t remember where I was or who I was before this very moment. My mind is bound in a barbed-wire cage and an inferno bellows in the pit of my stomach, filling my body with black smoke. I wipe away the blanket of snow on my chest, and I snarl. The claws. I always forget about the fucking claws; they’re like razors. But my self-inflicted chest wound heals fast until it is only the snow that is tinged crimson.

The smell of blood causes my muscles to tighten and I let out a ravenous growl. No matter how hard I try to stop myself, my legs tear under me at an unrelenting pace. Sprinting through the forest, I barrel through frozen trees and leap over fallen boulders, and my eyes scan every leaf and branch of the woods in front of me – my ears cover my peripheral. My heart races in my chest as I grow closer to my prey, until I’m so close that I whimper from years’ worth of hunger and cravings. A small buck is lapping at an ice-covered pond, but it doesn’t last long. I send my heavy body at the young deer and tackle it, forcing its thick body through a rotted tree trunk. It doesn’t have time to react before my hands rip the animal apart, and my long tongue and teeth invade its abdomen and other juicy innards. A crazed cackle leaves my mouth, leading to an eruption of a lumpy cocktail of blood and grass down the corners of my mouth. Clumps of guts and red slime slap the ground as the stream of regurgitated venison leaves my maw.

It’s not enough, though. Centuries of hibernation demand more than only a small meal. And in moments my body once more surges me forward through the woodland. Another scent fills my nostrils as I’m half-consciously running. It’s not unlike that of the other wildlife, but it’s sweeter. It’s definitely sweeter. And suddenly whatever conscience I have left is submerged in a boiling pit of hot tar. I feel my conscious eye slowly close, the final pillar of my humanity crumbling, and allow the fiend to hunt in the flesh.

……

I awaken with a sharp pain of ice emanating steady, swift pulses of agony throughout my body. My silver eyes fall upon the figure of a young boy, whose trembling hands grasp the hilt of a metal stake with which I am pierced. For the first time since I can remember, tears stream my face and I emit a thunderous roar.

For a few seconds I feel the metaphoric cage loosen and I look around. Bodies are strewn on top of vehicles, houses, and about the street. The sidewalk is lined with strings of guts and vomit, and doors and windows are sprayed with blood. Torsos of men and women lie in pieces around torn bits of their children. A baby blanket entwined in a welcoming sign waves in fragments – as if it was solemnly dismissing the souls that were just slain.

The flood of my humanity extinguishes the malicious firestorm that once flickered in my bowels, and I am once again staring into the face of a startled young boy who is paralyzed with fear. His blond hair flows in tufts with the wind, and his chapped face shines white, shaming even the blinding blizzard. With some of my remaining strength, I fall backwards, releasing my body from the silver sword. Memories of the past fill my mind and I can almost visualize Annie’s face. Almost.

The boy is still sitting there and comes to when I throw my hand to grab his arm; I want to explain everything. But he straddles me, crying out as he drives the blade into my body again, again, again, and again. But his new found rage and thirst for retribution isn’t his own. With my last breath wasted, before I could inform him of the curse that has befallen him, I see his beautiful cerulean eyes fade into a menacing silver.