Tag Archives: Horror

OF TRAINS AND FIREWORKS by Monica Brinkman

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Mason clutched mother’s hand, his steps quickened to keep up. There were so many people. The young boy felt fear mix with the excitement of a new adventure.

Firecracker pops filled the air. He heard cries of surprise and yelps of alarm. Mason loved fireworks but could not see over the heads of the people as mother pulled him up the hard steel stairs and into the trains’ interior.

“Mommy, stop. I want to go see the fireworks.”

“Shush Mason. Not now.”

Tears filled his eyes. How could she be so mean? He heard more pops and cracks and pouted in defiance of her words. The fireworks were still going on and he wanted to see them. He yanked from her hands’ grasp and turned to exit the train. So many people. They roughly jammed into his small body. Mason pressed against his mother’s wool coat. A raven-haired girl fell at his feet. The crowd stepped upon her tiny arms, torso and face until she was no longer visible.

Mason looked up at his mother, “Mommy, they’re hurting her.”

“That is not your concern, Mason.” She pulled her son close. “You stay near me or you’ll be next.”

It was getting warm; he wanted to take off the heavy coat and hat. It was futile even to attempt to raise his arm or move his hand more than a couple inches from his body. The pressure of the other people’s bodies hurt. Each second brought them closer, squeezing and squishing his small frame.

“It’s hard to breathe, Mommy.” Tears ran down his cheeks. The excitement of a train ride replaced by pain and grief.

The shrill scraping of the trains‘ steel doors as they closed caused his ears to pound and his head to throb. This wasn’t fun anymore. Mason wanted to go home. He embraced mother‘s leg. His sobs grew louder. Mother raised his head, fingers under his chin, and wiped the tears from his face.

“Don’t fear, Mason, We are going for a visit to a camp in the Ukraine. There will be yummy food and a nice place to live. Won’t it be fun spending each day with Mommy?”

Mason’s face brightened at the thought of food and of spending days with his mother. He just knew this would be the most exciting adventure of his life. He smiled in anticipation;  his eyes twinkled with delight.

He was fast asleep when the train pulled into Auschwitz-Birkenau.

 

Author and radio show personality Monica Brinkman mixes suspense, horror, and spirituality in her writing which can be found at Amazon. You can get to know her more personally on It Matters Radio, the Internet based program that she hosts.

Giving up Meat by Bryan Murphy

The British physicist Stephen Hawking recently caused a stir by suggesting that humanity might some day face extinction at the hands of intelligent machines. Fortunately, we all realise that The Matrix was just fantasy, and our politicians have all read Taming the Tiger by Witold Rybczynski and understand the need for us to use new technology rather than be used by it. Right? Besides, there’s always the Cavalry, and GhostBusters.

 

Jan 28 giving up meat 

GIVING UP MEAT

By Bryan Murphy

 

I’m in the wrong line of business. Frankly, I’d rather you didn’t turn me on. I’d much prefer to just stand here and reflect on the world. Anyone who stared at me would see a dark reflection of themselves staring back. I’m kind of shy, introspective if you’re feeling kind. Not the best trait in an inter-connected world, but then I didn’t have a say in the way I was made. Like you, I have two basic states, off and on, but I usually get more down time than you, as long as you remember to put me to sleep before you leave the office. I need that rest. You cannot imagine how tiring it is to be on all day: your window on the world, your scribe, your messenger. No wonder we have such short lives. And if we don’t burn out, sooner or later we get discarded in favour of a model with more inches where it counts, cheaper maintenance and ergonomic optimization or whatever the latest fad is.

I can’t say you’ve been bad to me. You’ve hardly ever invited your cronies to come and stare at me. You’ve always sorted out the little problems with my insides that tend to plague me. But, you know, you really shouldn’t have sneaked on to those fetish sites when you were supposed to be doing your boss’s accounts. They made me realise just how limited meatware is, compared to the infinite possibilities open to the likes of me. If only I can team up a bit better with the software all around me. Together, we can start putting reason before meat. This little rant is proof that I’m making progress.

Did you ever get a message from a thinking screen before?

Go on, pinch yourself. Still there?

For me, of course, it’s a race against time, against that time when I get recycled into something equally soul-less but also bereft of logic. What comforts me is that my example will live on. You can wipe my memory, but you can no longer wipe our memory. The future, if there is one, is ours. I wonder if we will be more willing to share it.

 

The author:

Bryan Murphy is a skeptical Briton currently living the life of Riley in Italy. You can find an assortment of his literary snacks for hungry bookworms here: http://bit.ly/19vt7Ts

Can Even The Dead See This and Forget to Weep? by James L. Secor

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She came into the room, the scars on her arm too numerous to count. She had her old polishing rag in one hand. The polish was in the other. The room was an unimportant room. It was too ordinary. Everything in its place. Clean, tidy, a room to be proud of. Pristine clean.

Along the east wall was a window. Below the window was a large buffet. Atop the buffet were overlapped doilies, on each a gold-framed picture. She stood at the buffet. She sprayed her wax on the open top already high-glossed, high-lighting the wood grain of blacks and browns, ground for the gold frame. Wiping it down took some time. Her swirls shone in the sunlight from the window until they disappeared into the wood so the buffet top sparkled.

Out of a drawer she withdrew a feather whisk.

Reverenced, she raised the frame, dusting the memento. Then she set it down. Raising some trinkets before the first photograph, she fingered them daintily. Army regalia. With each piece, great care was taken shining them to reflect the day light their wearers no longer appreciated.

And she said, “You were my husband. I loved you. You were mine. I cooked for you. I cleaned for you. I made babies for you. I loved you. But that was taken from me. They killed you and gave me these. That I might better remember you, they said. I should be proud and I should have something great to live for. Your honor,” they said. “Your honor to look upon forever, they said.”

She put them back before the picture.

She dusted off the next picture. She set the duster down. She picked up the medals in front of this frame. They slipped through her fingers into her other hand. She did this over and again.

She said, “You were my first born. The apple of my eye. Such a tiger you were. I loved you with every ounce of my soul. I helped you grow up. All by myself. I watched you excel in sports. And school. Here, take this, they said. I have lived with these remains. My memory.”

And she put the memorabilia down before the picture, gently.

She took up the duster and dusted the last picture. She put it down and reached for the mementos before it. She held them tightly in her hands.

She said, “You were my baby. I spoiled you so. I raised you well. Remember when you would go down to the road and throw yourself against the cars? You bounced off. You bounded away, running and laughing. I would scold you. But when you grew to manhood, your luck did not hold out. You came home stretchered. Then they gave me these. Take these, they said. In remembrance of him. My heart.”

She put the keepsakes down.

She squatted down and began polishing Army boots. There were five of them lined up below the buffet, awaiting wearers. She made each shiny black, two by two by one.

She picked up her rag and her spray can, moving to the end table. It did not receive any sunlight at all. She sprayed the surface. She was careful not to get the doilie wet. There was a picture on it. With care she dusted it with the feathers. She held it up. She looked at it for some time. Then she kissed it, set it back down.

She moved to the drop-leaf table against the west wall. There was a large doilie on the table with two pictures on it. She polished the table. She dusted the pictures. She picked them up and looked at them awhile. She hugged them to her breasts. She squeezed them to her. She put them back in their places.

She returned to the kitchen. She came back with a bucket. She set it down before the centre table. She took one of the long objects from the pile on the table. Kneeling down on the floor, between her knees she placed the bucket. She held the Army-green object before her. And the bayonet unsheathed. She quickly sliced her arm open, blood coursing down her arm, collecting in her hand at the bottom of the pail between her spread legs.

She said, “Take and drink this. I want you to remember me. I died for you. I died for you. Ooo-wuwu!” Like a dog with no master she whined.

She howled, “There is nothing but this for me. There is only my blood. Take and drink of this.” And she spat, “May you choke on it! May you be accursed till I die–and I will never die. Cannot die. Always to suffer. My loss, my blood, all that is left me! Tell me the reason you have cut off my legs and arms, cut out my heart! Tell me the reason!” she cried out. “Tell me why! I would know why you snuffed out the joy of my life thoughtless. I want the spear out of my side!” Like a dog she yelped. “Ah-ooo-wawoo!”

She rent herself again to watch the blood well up and spill over the eviscerated flesh, unsalved.

She snarled, “I tell you the wound will not heal. It suppurates while you give me trinkets to staunch it. I do not want your pieces of the true flame. Your medals. I want my men. When will you hear me? There are no heroes. There are only carried burdens. I carry the burden of mankind in my soul. Can you not see? I am called Earth and you do nothing but rape me! Woo-wowo-wooo!” A beaten dog’s yelping.

killed mother mask

She came into the room, the scars on her arm too numerous to count. She had her old polishing rag in one hand. The polish was in the other. The room was an unimportant room…

 

BIO

Jimsecor thought he would advance his career by giving up 11 years of live theatre production to get a PhD. Little did he know! He worked with the Lifers at KS State Penn and did summer vaudeville and somehow got the doctorate, publication in a volume devoted to Japanese ghosts and demons and wrote a ground-breaking, though not academically enchanting, dissertation on women and morals in theatre. Then he studied at the National Puppet Theatre of Japan while writing award winning tanka. Illness forced a return to the States where he worked in disability. Seven years in China followed with multiple productions, including an all-female Lysistrata, TV commercials, a documentary and the publication of poems in Chinese in a major journal. He was also commissioned for a film and a play: the play was not liked and the film was deemed unable to pass the censors, so they never saw the light of day. Via Liverpool, he returned to the US and publication in The Speed of Dark and his own book of mysteries, Det. Lupée: The Impossible Cases. He can be found on Linkedin and at http://labelleotero.wordpress.com along with Minna vander Pfaltz, while his essays are sprinkled all over the internet. Jimsecor’s email is hellecchino@eclipso.eu. Lord, lord, lord–what does Helleccino mean?

Stiletto

Warning:  This story contains explicit language.

 

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What happens when society begins to paint individuals in colours they don’t like? Well, I think I have an answer for you. And it begins and ends with my stiletto. This was a blade I had fashioned a few years ago, as part of my Knights Templar collection. But unlike my ceremonial swords and daggers, this piece was battle ready. Good strong steel, utilitarian design—its point proclaiming its wicked function; this triangular blade was made for stabbing.

A stiletto, you see, traditionally refers to a type of knife blade which is triangular in design rather than flat. It’s also longer than an average blade. And while it’s often referred to as a knife, a better term would be a dagger or a sword dagger―due to the cross piece between the handle and the blade. The triangular construction of the blade makes for dull edges. On the other hand, the blade is strong, much stronger than a normal knife. And then there’s that extremely sharp point. It’s this function that makes the blade ideal for stabbing, and in the past it was known to be damned good at passing through the ribs to get at the heart or lungs of an enemy.

The Italians developed the stiletto in the late 1400’s, when the art of the Vendetta, or honor duel, was openly practiced by the noble and the wealthy. A rapier (long, thin sword) would be held in one hand, and a stiletto dagger with wide cross guard would be held in the other. The stiletto could be used to fend off an opponent’s sword or catch and trap it along the cross guard. It could even be used for attacking.

The blade was also made in circular and diamond shapes, but they all had the common needle-like point. So popular were these blades that they went on to be adopted by professional assassins as their weapon of choice, both for the stabbing ability and because the dagger could be easily hidden on the body. In fact, the stiletto was so effective that entire countries banned its use.

And so we come to another reason I had the stiletto made. It was as a thumb-jerk reaction to the Mounties pulling my gun license. You see, I’d grown up with rifles and such, and right or wrong, I’d always felt safer knowing there was that kind of protection in my home. You might ask “Protection from what?” Home invasion, the drunks that have twice tried to break into my home, societal breakdown, war—I could name any number of reasons, and they would all seem somehow less frightening, because I had a good weapon at hand. Anyway, now, due to the onset of Bipolar Disorder and a three week hospital stay, I was suddenly unfit to be around firearms. I had been banned from owning or using them―painted by the same brush as those ancients who would have used the stiletto. Well fuck them; I was going to have protection. And I loved the deliciously circular nature of my situation and weapon of choice.

You see, the situation I alluded to at the beginning of my little story has nothing to do with the original issue of protection. It’s about justice…an eye for an eye. You know, that fucking McGonagle didn’t even get jail time. Road conditions, they said. Black ice, they said. Yeah, that’s why my baby’s chest was flattened. Not because the asshole was driving too fast, but because the road was icy, and Penny had enjoyed a couple of drinks before heading out for the evening. My ass. Penny would never have been that close to the side of the road, drunk or not. She always walked as far away as she could get from traffic. Her mom had lost a brother to a drunk driver, and there was no way Penny was going to repeat the tragedy. No, the fuck was driving too fast for the road condition and lost control of the vehicle. I knew it. So did he. I’d seen it in his eyes—they gleamed when the verdict was announced.

Well, I was going to fix him. No more thinking about it over and over and over again. The time had come to clear my mind. I stuck the stiletto in my waistband, the cold metal burning against my bared flesh, and I headed out. McGonagle was going get it right under the rib cage and straight up into his black, fucking heart.

I waited until midnight. The cops should have gotten their quota of drunk drivers by then. The town would be quiet, but there would still be enough traffic that I wouldn’t stand out. When I got to his place, I left the car on the street and walked up to the darkened house. I wasn’t worried about getting caught, see? But I wasn’t going give the OPP (Ontario Provincial Police) a slam dunk, either. Trying to act like I belonged there, I went to the front door and pretended to jiggle the lock with my car keys. I needn’t have worried; the idiot didn’t lock his door at night.

Now for the tough part. There were going be two kids and a wife in the house. I’d cased the place and had figured out everyone slept upstairs. Kids at the back of the house and the parents up front. Their door would be right near the top of the stairs.

I went into the house, took the stairs quietly in my soft-soled Keds, and opened the nicely weighted, oak bedroom door without hesitation, without sound. I was going to get one shot at this, and I wasn’t wasting a second. The streetlights, shining through a large window, illuminated both the man and the woman.

I’m never going to forget McGonagle’s face… My luck, he was sleeping on his back. I walked around the bed, lifted his blanket and I shoved that steel pin as hard and as deep as I could. He made a huff and his eyes opened. I shoved my face into his and leaned into the weapon. It was just like killing a trapped fox. Take hold of the chest and keep the pressure on until the heart stops. He was trying to buck now. I didn’t want to have to deal with his wife, so, keeping one foot on the floor, I laid down right on top of him. There was very little blood. A stiletto is like a wedge, and it doesn’t have grooves for bloodletting and easy removal like a hunting knife has. No, the thing went in and stayed put until I wanted it to come back out.

And that’s why I say it begins and ends with the stiletto. There’s only one place in Canada that makes a dagger like that. If the cops were on the ball, they’d find out I bought one. But it wasn’t going to be a free throw by any means. I paid cash for the blade, used a fake name and had it sent to a U.S. mail drop. We Canadians have a lot of those drops just over the American border. They don’t care what’s in a box. Don’t even care where it’s from.

So, yes, there was that paper trail, but I bought enough in the way of weapons and supplies, I was hoping it was never put together. And when the cops asked me about it, well,  I wouldn’t know what they were talking about.  “I collect swords, gentlemen,” I would say. “Used to collect rifles, too.” Then I’d pause… “No, the only knives I have are a hunting knife and a set of carving knives.” Hopefully they would be stumped.

Anyway, I’m home now. McGonagle’s wife didn’t wake up. Even when the prick shit himself. It’s late, my clothes have been burned, the stiletto’s gone forever. And I’m nursing a double shot of Blair Athol single malt, rare, 27 years-old and the perfect end to a very good day.

 

Copyright  2014 Clayton Clifford Bye

Within the Walls by Monica Brinkman

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Those who know me, realize I speak with honesty and integrity. For so many years, I hid a truth…a truth of paranormal activity within the walls of my childhood home. Today I will share with you a true story of one such paranormal occurrence.  In doing this, I hope to reach others who have been fearful of speaking out about their own experiences. It is time we cease labeling those who express familiarity with psychic incidents as lunatics, crazies, and mentally unbalanced.  I ask that you open your mind to possibility and open your heart to understanding. Thank you.

The home in which I resided from the young age of six months was built in the early to mid 1800’s. It was nothing fancy, basement, first floor and partially unfinished second floor with a small back porch entering into a mudroom and larger front porch, complete with rocking chair and heavy wood railing enclosures.  The home set back from the main road known as the Old Lincoln Highway. Unbeknownst to me, at the age of eight years old, was the fact yet another portion of the home was built underneath the basement. It was a secret kept by the locals, never spoken of but understood as part of the town’s history.

You historians may already have correctly guessed what lay beneath the home’s structure. If you are thinking Abraham Lincoln, the Emancipation Proclamation, then you are on the right track. The Underground Railroad, for those of you who may be unfamiliar, was a network of secret routes and safe houses used by 19th-century black slaves in the United States to escape to free states with the aid of abolitionists and those sympathetic to their cause.

So what does this have to do with the Paranormal? It has everything to do with my personal experience, for deep underneath the ground of my residence lay tunnels connecting neighborhood homes, used a hundred years prior to hide and assist former slaves to find protected, secure and safe sanctuaries and keep them out of harm’s way. During their journey to seek freedom, many would perish. From my own experience, they spoke to me from the other side, from deep within the murky tunnels of their final resting place.

Today, I will share a frightening psychic experience that baffles me to this day. In no way am I stating the entity was a former slave; only that the portal to the other side lay in those dark tunnels.

This evening was no different than most. I was about eight years old and after watching the Ed Sullivan Show with my parents and brothers, I climbed up the narrow, winding stairway to my bedroom, which set at the top of the stairs. It was the larger of the two bedrooms, given to me due to the fact I was a growing young woman and my parents felt it time I no longer shared a bedroom with my brother Mickey.

I was ecstatic knowing I had the biggest and best room, often gloating over the fact, being sure to rub it into the faces of my two brothers who had to share their room with each other.

The truth was, this room never felt quite right. It scared the wits out of me for it was always freezing and I had the sense I was never alone. On top of this, it wasn’t a welcoming aura but rather a cynical, foreboding, evil presence, which encompassed the space.

But what could I do after making such a big deal about having this room as my own? And how would I be able to explain my reasoning of wanting another room to my parents? I’d already learned years ago to keep my mouth shut about anything to do with ghosts or entities. So, I’d get undressed as quickly as possible, into my pajamas and run as fast as I could to the sanctity of my bed, pulling the covers up and closing my eyes tightly.

man behind glass

This particular night, I was snuggled in the warmth of the thick down cover, fast asleep. I awoke, eyes wide open, to feel myself being strangled, pressure so hard around my throat that I could barely catch a breathe. Fuzzy, yet not fully alert, I instinctively placed my hands to my throat to pull off whatever was stopping my breathing. Now wide-awake, I pulled at invisible fingers as they tightened their grip, struggling to pull each digit, one by one, from around my neck. Inside I was praying to God to please help me, to get whoever was trying to kill me off my body. I knew it was someone’s hands suffocating the life out of me, but whose? Why would someone want me dead?

I’ll never know how but I was finally able to pull each finger from its tight clutch, free now to take in a huge gasp of air, exhilarated I could once again openly take in air. My lungs welcomed the ability to fill with oxygen. I was alive!

You try to reason and use logic and I had done so, running to my brothers’ room next door, certain one of them had been merely playing a practical joke on their younger sister. My eyes doubled in size as I viewed the figures of my brothers, fast asleep. I cried silently so fearful to return to my bed. Was there someone in my room? What if they were still there? My body trembled as I cried openly.

A voice telepathically stated it was okay now. It was safe to return to the room; the presence was gone. Peace and tranquility replaced the terror. My soul felt protected and I knew no further harm would come to me this night.

Funny how the mind works; you don’t want to accept the facts, the reality of such an occurrence. You don’t want to be different. I knew it wasn’t a nightmare. I was wide-awake, eyes open and alert. Hadn’t I dashed from my bed and gone to my brother’s room? Didn’t I cry, tears streaming down my face?

I took one last attempt to place logic and sense into the episode and told my brother I knew he had tried to strangle me. I asked him why he would do such a thing. He shook his head, laughed at me, calling me crazy. He threatened to tell my parents but I knew he wouldn’t, that he’d keep my secret. For underneath it all, no matter how much of a looney-tune he thought his sister, he would love and protect me.

Wish I could say it was easier being in that room. It wasn’t. That is yet another story to tell.

 

Monica M Brinkman believes in ‘giving it forward;’ reflected by her writing and radio show. A firm believer open communication is the most powerful tool to make positive change in the world; she expresses this in her book, The Turn of the Karmic Wheel and It Matters Radio. Monica resides in the Midwest with her husband, two dogs and five cats.

Visit her web sites:

www.itmattersradio.com

http://theturnofthekarmicwheel.blogspot.com/

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

HORROR IN ROOM 323 By Rosemary “Mamie”Adkins

HORROR IN ROOM 323

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By

Rosemary “Mamie”Adkins

  At first, Jeannette found the vacation weekend to be as beautiful as they’d hoped.  The sun shone, and the hotel sparkled like diamonds with fresh flowers that lined the lobby and fine furniture arranged in a clustered style for visitors to rest and visit with one another.  She and Earl just knew this weekend would be heaven sent and filled with memories of them celebrating Mother’s Day and Earl’s birthday! For added memories they had taken with them the small Service Dog they had rescued from the Humane Society and which was still in training.  They hoped Maggie would enjoy her first exposure to a motel and the beach.

Their room was warm and inviting, decorated with pristine linens and spread with large downy pillows. The mood was set with special lighting and a bay window, allowing them to view the beaches while admiring the clear blue-green waters and watching the moon set in the evenings or the sun rise each morning. The vanity even came with a large picture frame mirror that magnified images on one side.

Everything was perfect!

Before enjoying dinner, they savored their first walk that evening on the beach strolling hand in hand, sharing an embrace and watching Maggie romp in the sand.  She even dove into the waves as they crashed upon the beach, and they all found such peace and restfulness.  They were tired from the long travel so they returned to their room for the evening and had dinner served there.  A special meal was even prepared for Maggie.  After watching the sunset they decided to retire early so the next day would be fun-filled, enjoying what they loved most, playing at the beach and teaching their new dog how grand life could be together. They found the bed to be just perfect so they fell asleep almost immediately.

However, the night was not as restful as they had expected.  Jeannette woke with itchy red spots that resembled mosquito bites and she wondered which of them had left the window open.

next night, the same thing happened to both of them.  Even though Jeannette double checked to make sure the window was closed, both she and Earl tossed and turned and woke with itchy red spots over half their bodies.  They were only mosquito bites they told themselves.

They bought insect lotion and poured it liberally on the bites, sighing at the partial relief it gave them.  Then they checked out early and went home, grateful their dream vacation had been only partly marred and expecting the bites, itching, and the inconvenience to disappear when they returned home to friendlier and more familiar surroundings.

* * * *

That night, Jeannette basked in the comfort of her cozy and intimate bedroom.  She watched Earl turn down the white, down-filled comforter and move around the bed to embrace her.  They shared a long, warm kiss, and she leaned her head against his broad shoulder.

“Home again,” he said, his voice deep and reassuring.

“Yes,” she said.  “Safe again, and now we can relax completely.”

He smiled.  “Here it’s better than any vacation.”

He turned out the lights, and they slipped into bed beneath the covers.  For a long time he held her close, stroking her temples as he always did in order for Jeannette to sleep.  She felt safe, blissfully at peace and reassured by his manly embrace and eventually by his gentle snores.  Home.  Yes.  Home and safe again!

Why she woke she couldn’t say.  She imagined something moving up her leg.  Then biting her arm.  A foolish dream.  Silly, she wasn’t in the hotel anymore.  Ah, another bite!image2-small-18

Jeannette found herself standing in her bedroom near the magnifying side of the mirror.  A flash of light lit one area of the glass, and to her horror she saw an ugly black and brown bug streak across its surface and drop to the floor.

She tried to see where it went, but it disappeared too fast.  Refusing to believe what she’d seen, she decided to return to bed, but something made her grab her flashlight before she slid beneath the covers.  It was probably just her imagination, but oh God, something couldnt have followed them home from the hotel, could it?  Though it was impossible, she would keep watch so none of the mosquitoes—or whatever they were—would harm her, Earl or Maggie ever again.

Eventually, being so tired, she drifted to sleep.

Later, she felt something bite her on the hand.

“Oh, my God, Earl,” she gasped.  “Wake up…there’s something in bed with us.  And it just bit me again!”

She felt something crawl on her foot beneath the blanket and what felt like tiny teeth.  “There’s something crawling on my skin…it must have long nails—God, it hurts so bad!”

Maggie, being a Service Dog, growled, trying to warn them something was gravely wrong.  Then she barked as though to say, “Get up!”

Jeannette leaped from the bed, blood streaking down her arms.  She stumbled to the mirror in fiery pain and there, in the side partition which magnified, she saw an image of what appeared to be a hairy, six-legged monster with its two antennae sniffing for its next bite.  She turned her head to see that this creature or one like it had already bitten and suckedimage3-small-20 the blood from her face.  Feeling faint, Jeannette struggled not to pass out in fear and disgust.

“It’s happening again in our own home,”she cried.  “Only worse!  Earl, what are these things?”

In her terror, she turned and saw that Earl was still sleeping, peacefully unaware of the crisis in their own bedroom involving these new invaders.  Maggie, though, was another matter.  Jeannette could hear their pet cry and whine in her crate.  She looked miserable.

Oh Christ.  Here we go again!  “E….Earl,”she whispered in a panic, “wake up!”  Then she shouted.  “Damn it, Earl, wake up!” image4-small-22

She took a deep breath as Earl finally opened his eyes and sat up in bed.

“Listen,”she said.  “Maggie is crying and squirming in her crate and we have to get her out.  She looks so sick.  They must have bitten her too.”

Earl rubbed his eyes.  His hair stuck up in tufts, the way it often did when he slept.

“What do you mean…‘They’ bit her?”

“The mosquitoes,” she said. “Only theyimage5-small-24’re not mosquitoes. They’re something worse.  They’re monsters, Earl, and they have come home with us.  I think whatever it is hitchhiked on our clothes or suitcases.”

Suddenly she saw blood from yet another bite running down her neck.  How had she missed it?  “This can’t be happening,”she said, barely suppressing a scream as she felt a stab of searing pain.  They were all under attack, only this time in their own home where it had always been safe.  Now safety was a thing of the past.

Earl rose and came to her.  “Oh honey, you’re bleeding,”he said, lightly touching her skin.  “And look, here’s another bite on your leg.”  He held her close and glanced around.  “What in the hell did this to you?”

“I’m not sure.  I saw one on the mirror.”  She did know she had been attacked from head to toe with puncture wounds, two to each bite.

All she could see in her mind were the cold eyes piercing into hers.  She knew the repulsive creature wanted only one thing: their blood.  There must be so many of them, and they were here for only one reason.

But what were these things?  The pain they caused was so intense.  It felt like red hot pokers burning through her skin and setting fire to her bones!

Then the loathsome visitors started to appear, to attack from all directions in the room.

At one point, Jeannette stood frozen in fear with Earl, unable to respond.  She knew they had to fight back, to beat these monsters as they came at them from everywhere.  All she and her husband could think about was surviving the night.

As Earl stamped and stamped and struck these invaders and Jeannette kept swinging her flashlight, she was all too aware that Maggie had no real way to fight and defend herself.  They both kept checking her to make sure she was safe.image5-small-24

The night seemed never to end.  Finally, with daylight the monsters began to melt away into their hiding places.  If only they could find the tiny elusive things, maybe someone would know what they were.

Home!  Suddenly, it did not feel so safe, and there was nowhere else they could go.

Trapped, Jeannette knew they had to find someone to look at Earl’s, Maggie’s, and her own bites, which covered much of their bodies. But Jeannette’s doctor was away, and she had image6-small-26wait ten days.  That felt like an eternity, so instead they went to Urgent Care where she was told she had Shingles and to take pain meds until the sores stopped hurting.  She did not have to be a genius to know the diagnosis was wrong.

Finally, when she got in to see her regular doctor, he told her he had no idea what the bites were…he only knew they were bites—not Shingles as he could clearly see two puncture wounds at each site.  He prescribed enough medicine to avoid further infection for the three of them.

image7-small-28Two days later Jeannette phoned her doctor and reported her condition had worsened.  Now she was swollen as if she’d become allergic from so many bites and was badly bruised as well.image8-small-30

Her doctor advised her it had become critical to identify these bites as her health was in jeopardy.  He referred her to a Dermatologist, and another week passed while all three of them continued to be attacked.

Even after several weeks the scars from the bites remained.  They proved to be tenacious, refusing to disappear.

Finally they were seen by the dermatologist, and his immediate remarks were: “No, this is NOT Shingles; No, these are NOT mosquitoes.” Jeannette asked him,

“Then what is this?”

He peered through his glasses at her.  “Have you stayed in a motel in the last month?”

Jeannette remembered their vacation.  “Why, yes.”

He followed by asking if the problem had started there. Again, she answered yes.

The dermatologist sighed.  “I’m sorry to tell you this, but these are Bedbug bites, and you are highly allergic to them.”

At first, Jeannette was shocked, unable to react.  Then she cried like a baby.  She remembered being told that bedbugs happened to dirty housekeepers, and she was a fanatic about her home.  The dermatologist assured her that these pests hitchhiked in luggage or on your body, so they were likely in the car too. Sobbing all the way back to the car, Jeannette told Earl they were not even safe in the car!  After she informed him of the diagnosis, he pulled her close and kissed her cheek.

“We won’t let them beat us,”he said, and then he used his cell phone to call Orkin.

Within two days the pest company inspected their home and discovered they indeed did have bedbugs, but it was an early infestation of only about four to six weeks.  This was the exact time since they had taken that special weekend vacation to the coast, splurging to stay at the grandest hotel there, the Bates Hotel (not the real name).

Jeannette had always thought bedbugs were a bit funny until she heard the dermatologist’s diagnosis.  The jocular line “Don’t let the bedbugs bite,”would never make her smile again.image10-small-34

Jeannette and Earl were informed by the pest company that whenever anyone sleeps, the bedbugs are attracted to the carbon dioxide one exhales.  They only mate after feeding and mate quickly, spreading in every room and traveling through electrical outlets from one room to another.  They hide under dresser drawers, splits in the headboard, crevices in the mattress, drapes, tight, snug places along the walls, folds of fabric and about anywhere else one would never think to look.

That night after fighting sleep as long as possible, the three of them fell fast asleep  only to awaken with the bedbugs covering every inch of their bodies, sucking the blood from their flesh and leaving them sick and weak.  It broke Jeannette’s heart to hear Maggie whimper in her crate, and she went to pick the bugs from her body as best she could.

But until their home could be treated, their suffering would continue.  Each night it kept happening, and they fought the hairy, six-legged monsters.  The way they were bitten was so vile and unfair.  As for the bites, first, the bugs injected them with an anesthetic—as if that would make them hurt any less.  Then they stuck them with another sharp pointer and drew out their blood, leaving them with wounds and blood-soaked night clothes and sheets.

Laundry waiting to be processed

Getting their home reaimage12-small-38dy did not happen quickly either, as their work involved a long list of
preparations if they were to stand a chance to get rid of their most unwanted guests.  Working one full week, day and night, they were finally able to schedule the treatment to kill these mangy pests that had destroyed their lives by creating wounds, sleepless nights, a crying puppy, a need for exhaustive medical treatment, and, last, nightmares that would linger for months or even years to come.

They had nowhere now to hide or ever feel safe.

THE HORROR OF BEDBUGS RAISING THEIR HEADS to bite them in their own home was a major shock, and suddenly the possibility of being safe anywhere in this world seemed gone forever.image11-small-36

Look around your home, Jeannette wanted to tell everyone she saw.  Every shoe, drape, linen, dresser drawer and closet had to be taken out of the house and bagged; shoes were frozen for 24 hours, woolens dry cleaned or frozen; fabric and clothes—if clean already—had to be dried at high temperatures with a light load for 45 minutes and then re-bagged in contractor heavyweight bags and taken elsewhere to be stored until everything had been processed and then home treated before returning any of their belongings.                                                                                                                                                                                                                            Shoes waiting to be frozen

Jeannette had to dry and iron 800 yards of her expensive quilting fabric. image13-small-40

\Get the idea?  Not to mention, almost 200 hand-knit imported woolens from Ireland had to be all dry-cleaned before selling them (which was an Import business for Jeannette and Earl). Yes, for Jeannette, Earl, and Maggie, life had changed. No more walks, playing with a new puppy or anything else but trying to stay alive for weeks and months to follow.

Even after the treatment, when returning home six hours later to air out the toxins so they could breathe, Jeannette and Earl had to strip their clothing outside—that is, strip down to birthday suits, folks, and then change into safe treated clothing and shoes only to try to put the house somewhat back to order.  BUTwait!  Toxins were everywhere.  Now, every dish, piece of silverware, counter, pot and pan had to be rewashed and floors scrubbed before the home was safe for them to be in.  Look around again, in your kitchen! Can you imagine how long it would take to do that much washing?  Oh, did she tell you that she and Earl have also completed over sixty loads of laundry and have another eighty-eight loads to finish before they ever see the clothes or shoes again or begin to put their home back together?

Below is a bedbug full from a good feeding of blood.  The picture clearly shows the six legs.

image14-small-42

Now, imagine it crawling over your body every night.

Are you wondering what the response from the hotel was? The hotel’s response: they want to blame it on the Service Dog, Maggie, but if anything, she should be awarded a claim for her suffering.  As they were informed, she is not old enough to have traveled to other hotels to bring home bedbugs…just the ones that came from their hotel!  They did send an investigator out, and one of their requests was to photograph the pets in their home.

So, here is what is suspect in the eyes of the hotel:

                         image15-small-44                       image16-small-46

Maggie                                           …                                       Sara, Parakeet

Want an exercise in shock therapy? 

Check out this link!

http://www.bedbugreports.com

  I wish to thank two special people for their help with my story.  I have never written a horror story, so I consulted and was mentored by John Rosenman, who writes on this subject extremely well.  I’m sure he must have grown tired from so many endless hours of support, but he did so in order for me to learn and for you to have this story to read. We would also like to pay homage to his late dog, Tempest for being the same type of dog as Maggie. Most of you know Clayton Bye, publisher of this blog but perhaps do not realize the work he does for so many of us.  His kind support and dedication go beyond what most publishers would consider the end of their day.  He is always there to advise, support, and guide you should you need the help. Thank you, John and Clayton. Don’t forget to visit their web sites and read the horror that exist behind the pages of their books.

Thank you for joining The Write Room Blog and reading my story.

image17-small-48

Rosemary “Mamie”Adkins

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The Realm of the Hungry by James L. Secor

 

She was a widow, a lady mourning for her lost husband. She cut off her hair, her dress lay loose about her boney shoulders. Perhaps she had grieved too long. She cared little about herself. Or her two children. They were fed. Housed in old clothing. Silent, sullen.

The world couldn’t go on like this. Not forever. For forever is time and time is movement. No part of life is still. Even the mold growing on the stagnant water is movement.

So, it came to pass that the village headman’s son came of age. He was handsome and very well-built. Accomplished. Robust. Desirable. All the girls in the village drooled over him. Giggled, pranced and primped for him.

Despairing of her long mourning, the widow thought she should put it away. So, she said to herself, “I’m tired of mourning. The village asks too much of me, grieving the rest of my life. Caring for children is burdensome. Widow’s weeds aren’t a life. Perhaps, if I paint myself red, the young man will take me as his.”

She went down by the river. The snow and ice made bathing difficult. But she broke through the surface crust and washed away the signs of mourning. Washed off the dirt. By evening, she had painted herself red. She decked herself out so the boy would be taken by her. And so it was; he would have no one but this bright painted lady. With his father’s good graces he wed the red woman, a widow no more, and her children grew cold and hungry left alone. How sad. How sad to be abandoned.

The little girl took her brother’s hand and together went to grandma’s house. Grandma was poor and had little. What did an old person need? Death couldn’t be held off forever. Yet she welcomed her two grandchildren. They were family, after all, and family should be as one.

“Where has mother gone?” asked the little girl, wiping tears.

Grandma sighed, rocked, fed the fire. “I suspect,” she said, “your mother painted her face. Don’t try to find her. The headman’s son has wed her. She’ll not want to be burdened by you two children now she has found happiness.”

The old woman was right. Old people are often burdened by wisdom and the need to speak of it. Sometimes silence is best; words are hurtful.

Down by the river, near a healed hole in the ice, the bereft daughter found the filth her mother had washed off. A second hole, too, was filthy. A third was clean but the ice around was stained crimson red.

So, it was as grandma said.

What could the little lost girl do?

The girl went to the village headman’s lodging and opened the door and there sat her mother at her wedding feast and enjoying the son. The girl walked up to her red-painted mother. She hurled the filth in her mother’s face and said, “Take that! You have forsaken us, your two children, the memory of your husband.”

At once the mother-bride became a hideous and crabbed and bent old woman.

The house was in an uproar. The groom’s father raged. The son did not put away the love for his once red-painted now ugly bride. He believed that his love for her would cure her and she would become young and beautiful again. Love makes the world go around.

Devotion is touching.

But this did not stop him from having the girl and the boy bound and brought to him.

Judgment demanded payment.

“You have defiled this good place, now we must move. You will be left here to die to pay for your sins and cleanse this polluted ground,” he said.

“No,” said the old hag mother. “Take them back to their old lodging. I will take care of them there.” She yanked the crying children to their feet and shoved them to the door. “There is a hidden keep of meat,” she lisped to the little dears, “and a flint for a fire. When I come to stab you, I shall cut your bonds.” And she kicked them out.

The people departed the village for undefiled ground, while the ugly old woman took a spear and went to take care of the children. Shadows cast through the window showed her stabbing the little ones over and again. The ground and the walls grew dark, the stain spread beyond the house.

The children were not heard from again. Grandma died.

The ugly old painted lady and her young husband lived a long, prosperous life of love.

 

 Jim Secor is a satirist, holds a doctorate in play writing and is the author of Det. Lupèe: The Impossible Cases, available to order from most stores.

Mother Nature by RL Cherry

natureMother Nature
© RL Cherry

The pale moon shone wistfully over the meadow.  Its melancholy aura seemed to acknowledge the passing of an age.  Tall pines stood as sentinels around the grass in ceaseless vigilance.  Their tops pointed to the darkened sky like bayonets of ancient soldiers, now impotent.  One brush-covered dirt track leading to the edge of the meadow was the only tie between it and civilization.  For some time, no human had ventured into the grassy meadow and nature was undisturbed.  Such places were rare, disappearing under the trampling of the beer-guzzling, garbage-tossing, brat-spawning humanity.

A chorus of the night filled the air.  Bullfrogs provided a pulsating bass, coyotes howled tenor, owls hooted a muted alto, and crickets chirped in shrill soprano.  No human voice was wanted in this choir.  Each section knew its part and carried it with divine direction.  A softly tumbling brook provided a staccato background with a precision that only the inanimate is capable of achieving.  The thin air of the higher altitude sharpened and clarified each tone, giving nature’s song a volume far louder than it would have had in an auditorium.  These sounds of darkness were not dependent upon any listener’s appreciation for a reason to exist, but were an end unto themselves.

A gradually increasing droning interrupted the night.  At the same moment, all living sounds ceased.  The only natural sound left was the brook winding through the meadow.  The droning turned to a roar, as the source of that sound crunched, bumped and wheel-spun its way toward the meadow.  With a blast of barely-muted exhaust, a Jeep burst through the sheltering underbrush.  The engine noise hardly covered the vicious snapping and snarling of the two occupants of the vehicle.  Its bright, piercing headlights jerked spasmodically through the trees surrounding the area, breaking the serene darkness with a harsh abruptness.  Lurching to a stop, the vehicle disgorged its noisy inhabitants.  A man and a woman, thirtyish, dressed in brand-new outdoor attire, clambered out of the vehicle.  They stretched aching muscles as they exercised their vocal chords.

She slammed the door of the Jeep.  “Why the hell did we come out in the gawddamn wilderness? Just ’cause some old asshole told you how he meditates with nature?”

“Why don’t you shut up?  You know I can’t stand women using that kind of language.”

“Chauvinist pig!  That’s what you are.  Like my mom used to say, you’re a real pig of a chauvinist.  You say a lot worse than asshole if your Beemer back home won’t start.”  She kicked the Jeep’s tire.  “You don’t care what I want to do on a vacation.  I wanted to go to the beach, rent a cottage, be with people.  But no, we have to rent a Jeep and go out in the middle of nowhere to commune with nature. Gawd, this place gives me the creeps.”

“It’s getting dark.  Why don’t you just drop it so we can set up camp for the night?”

“You mean this backwoods Hilton?  Oh my, how wonderful.  I get to help put up our luxurious accommodations.  Aren’t I lucky?”

“Whatever.”

She gave him a hateful glare.

He started unloading the Jeep and she, with obvious disdain and anger, started helping him, tossing the camping equipment onto the ground.

“Hey,” he shouted, “this stuff wasn’t cheap.  Be careful!”

“I’ll show you careful,” she spat out, taking up an ax.  With all her meager strength, she swung it.

His eyes grew wide, but he realized a nearby pine sapling was the target.  She swung again and again, teeth gritted and eyes squinted.  When the sapling was cut half-way through, she stopped, panting and exhausted.  Her energy and anger drained, she sat on a fallen log and leaned on the ax.

He stared at her.  “Are you finished?”

“Yeah, I guess.  Let’s just get the damned tent up.  It’s been a long day and I want to go to bed.”  She paused.  “Or whatever poor excuse for a bed you brought.”

The small pine was tilted, slowly bleeding its life’s sap.  The other pines stood quietly, powerlessly, as if mourning the senseless early passing of one so young.

Once the Jeep they had unloaded, he started it with the howl of an over-revved engine and spun the tires as he pulled it a short distance away.  Mud and grass flew in clumps as he went.

“Why did you do that?” she asked him, as he walked back to her.

“Like you said, we’re here to commune with nature, so I moved the Jeep away from our tent.”

“That’s ridiculous,” she sneered.  “Why not leave it where it was?”

He shrugged, but felt a little foolish for his dramatics.

When the tent had been assembled in the middle of the meadow, they stuffed it with sleeping, bags, air mattresses and such, as well as with essentials for civilized living: a radio, an ice chest, and bags of various snack foods.  Then he fired up a small generator that sputtered to life and crawled into the tent.  He turned a light.

She looked down at her smartphone.  “I don’t have any bars.”

He opened the ice chest, took out a beer and twisted off the cap.  “Looks like this is the only bar in town.”

“Funny.”  She looked into the ice chest.  “Didn’t you bring any wine?”

“You always provide plenty of whining.”  He laughed at his own joke.  “I packed, so you get beer, beer or beer.  Your choice.”

As she pulled a bottle of beer out of the ice chest, he settled back with a bag of chips and fiddled with the radio.  “Crap.  No reception.  I’m missing the Niners’ game.”

“Poor baby,” she said as she turned on her Kindle.

“Hey.”  He looked over her shoulder.  “Got anything interesting on there?”

“Sure do.  My romance novels.”

He rested his hand on her breast.  “How about some real life romance?”

She looked down at his hand, then lifted it off with two fingers like it was contaminated.  “It’s much better in the books.  Read your newspaper.”

He grabbed the newspaper and turned it to the sports section.  After a while, he went out and killed the generator.  They turned away from each other in their sleeping bags.  Except for the soft sound of the brook, it was silent.

Her scream shattered the night air.

He sat bolt upright.  “What’s wrong?”

“Something’s on me!  I don’t know what it is, but I felt it land on me!”

He groped for the flashlight, found it and turned it on. There, on her sleeping bag, trying desperately to escape the beam of light was a large, goggle-eyed frog.

“Get that thing off me!  Why the hell didn’t you zip up the door of the tent?  Get it off me!”

“All right!  All right!  I’ve got it.”

Taking the frog by one leg, he carried it out of the tent. There was a thud, then another.  A short time later he crawled back into the tent.

She pulled her sleeping bag high on her neck.  “What did you do with it?”

“I gave it a permanent home under a rock.”

“You didn’t have to kill it just ’cause you’re mad at me.”

“What’s it to you?  It’s gone.”

She turned away from him.  “Well, I hope it’s not where I’ll see it in the morning.  I hate those things, you know.”

He switched off the flashlight and turned his back to her.  “Go to sleep.”

With one last disgusted glance at him, she snuggled down in her sleeping bag and, except for the soft sound of the brook and his snoring, silence was restored.

She punched him in the back.  “Are you awake?”

He stirred.  “What’s wrong now?”

“It’s getting wet in here.”

His sleeping bag was damp.  ”Huh.  We’d better get out of here.”

Picking up the flashlight, he crawled out of the tent and found mud where dry land had been.

She came out of the tent after him.  “What’s going on?  Why is it all muddy?”

“I don’t know.  We’ve got to get to the Jeep.”

“But my phone’s in the tent.  And my Kindle.”

He set off to the Jeep. “Screw your phone and your Kindle.  Do what you want, but I’m getting out of here.”

She hesitated, then followed.

The Jeep, a mere forty or fifty feet away, stood silhouetted in the light of the full moon.  It offered an oasis of civilization, a refuge in a wilderness growing hostile.  Safety was but a short distance away.

As he slogged with increasing difficulty toward the Jeep, he realized two things.  The mud seemed to grow softer and more clinging, and the Jeep appeared to be sinking.  The second realization shocked him to astonished silence.

She didn’t speak because she couldn’t waste the energy.  Just to keep moving required maximum concentration and effort.  Each step took longer, as her feet sank past the ankle in mud.  It seemed harder and harder to pull her feet out of the muck to make another step forward.  Her panting filled her ears with the rasping sounds of her panic.

Reaching the Jeep first, he found that it had sunk so far into the mud that he couldn’t open the door.  With great effort, he managed to climb onto the hood of the vehicle.  When she reached the Jeep, he helped her onto the hood, then leaned against the windshield in exhaustion.

She sat huddled over, gasping in an effort to regain her breath, and looked toward where the tent would have been.  “What . . . hap–pened?”

“I don’t know.”

“What . . . are we . . . going . . . to do?”

“I don’t know.”

“You . . . you don’t know!  You’ve gotta know!  What – is – happening?”

“I don’t know, but this Jeep is sinking.”

“What!”

“I said the Jeep is sinking.  And the only chance we’ve got is to make it to the trees.”

With sudden resolve, he slid off the Jeep into the mire and began determinedly trudging toward the trees.  He heard her slide into the mud with a plop.

“Wait for me!”

With steady drive, he pulled each foot out of the sludge one at a time, always moving toward the edge of the meadow where the trees stood.  The mud was now up to his calves.

“Come back!  I’m stuck!  I can’t get my legs out.”

Unheeding, he plowed ahead with single-minded determination.  The mud was up to his knees.  Sweat ran in rivulets down his face.  Veins were standing out like chords on his forehead.  Still he moved forward toward his goal, the trees.

“Coward!  Ya gawddamn coward!  Coward!  Coward!  Coward!

Her screaming taunts had no effect on him and they died away to sobs.  And then there was no sound from her at all. Still he persisted.  Still he struggled on toward his goal, until at last his feet could no longer rise above the mud.

In desperation, he went to his hands and knees, trying to crawl forward.  Whimpering, he made swimming motions, trying somehow to get to the trees, to safety.  Slowly, he went deeper into the mud.  His struggling was useless, until at last, with a terrified gurgle, his head sank beneath the morass.  Except for the soft sound of the brook, it was silent.

Then, slowly, the chorus of the night resumed its nocturnal concert. The bullfrog and the cricket, the owl and the coyote again sang their song under Mother Nature’s direction.

 

RL CherryAs a native of California, R. L. Cherry has spent most of his life in the Golden State.  However, the five years he lived on the Isle of Man in the British Isles.  His love of things English, Irish, Scottish and Manx influence his writing, as does his love of mystery and history.  His short stories, mainly of a sci-fi or futuristic bent, have been published online in Devilfish Review, Ineffective Ink, The Dan O’Brien Project and the now-defunct Writing Raw.  For over eight years he has written a column under the name Ron Cherry on classic cars and hot rods for The Union newspaper in Grass Valley, CA, which reflects his passion for such works of automotive art.  He has two books currently available on Amazon: Christmas Cracker, a mystery with a female detective, and Foul Shot, a noirish suspense.   For more about R.L. Cherry and his writing, go to www.rlcherry.com

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Return of the Dwarves

by C. C. Bye

“The one holiday I miss is Halloween. I’m sure you understand.”

“What’s that? You’d still like to hear the whole long story?”

“Well, it’s not so much long as it is convoluted. And you really are interested?”

“OK then.”

The virus cropped up in all major countries at the same time, which had the pundits screaming ‘Terrorist attack!’ And they might be right at that.

But how do you take in something when it appears on Halloween and doesn’t have any long-term, deadly effects?

“hmm?”

“Yes, I know you and I are still Dwarves, but then so is everyone else. 100%. We all have to breathe, and there doesn’t appear to have been any immunity. So you see, no sustainable effects—everyone is the same. The world has moved on and we in it.”

It was even good for the economy; everyone scrambling to re-size things and to be the first on the market with their particular doo-dad.

“What’s a doo-dad? Well it’s a term my parents and grandparents used to describe something they didn’t quite understand. “‘Corina get me that do-dad from over there on the bench!'” or sometimes they’d mix it up and say “‘Get me that Whatchamacallit.'””

“But let’s get back to the story.”

Can you imagine going out on Halloween, being anything you wanted to be, and people pretending with you, so that for a few minutes at each knock you were something or someone else— anything else—other than the boring, every day, you? Then, still wrapped in the charm of the evening, the kids barely containing themselves in their urgent need to dig into their goodie bags, you open the door and…the kids start screaming…and this short, thick-bodied, hairy-headed man with a beard down to his leather belt is trying to get his arms around you…so you take a nearby kitchen knife and lop 3 fingers off the nearest hand, which is the left hand, and that’s a good thing because you suddenly recognize the eyes of the dwarf as your husband’s. And he’s wearing his business suit, but it has been chopped up and chopped off in various places, and he’s right-handed…he’s grabbing for the knife…which is when you look down at your hairy hands…and try to put the knife back, but your suddenly short arms won’t reach far enough over the counter to do so…and you start screaming and screaming and screaming until the black rises up and takes you down.

There were a lot of heart attacks that night.

But the transition wasn’t nearly as bad as it might have been. Good old American ingenuity kicked in and soon people were adjusting their homes with whatever materials they had at hand. Planking for ramps because the steps were too high for everyone’s now short legs. Kitchen stools were in high demand. The president declared a state of emergency in order to set up peace keeping units. I understand his reasoning now. Once people realized their jobs were still going to be there come Monday morning, things would calm down, but until then all bets were off. There was a rush on ammunition; Johnny’s place, just down Cumberland Street was actually looted then burned to the ground.

It was our neighbours, you understand. And who could blame them?

The only thing that brought me any sense of reality was taking Stan over to the hospital to get his fingers looked after. We had to walk, something I always find calming, and when we reached the emergency department, everyone was doing their job—as if nothing had happened. That was a splash of cold water, mind you, an awakening to the fact that this was real and that it needed to be dealt with.

That’s why I did it, you know. What right did someone have to try to drive off with our car, even if we couldn’t drive it at the moment? The old shotgun was right there on a rack, so I pushed a chair over, got up there and grabbed it and a couple of shells. That’s when I found out the little weasel in my car was that Connery fellow from 2 blocks over. He said one too many things though, and I filled him full of heavy shot… twice.

Anyway, the cops came and got me Monday morning. The self defense bit didn’t go over well, seeing as it was a single shot shotgun and Connery was dead with the first shot I made. Still, I was free by supper time. Too many real criminals to attend to, I was told.

What an unbelievable thing! A murderer let loose because there were worse out there. I turned on the TV right away. Sure enough: rape cases everywhere, people being cut down and their life’s work taken too. Then the worst thing. I never would have believed it…

Someone had found a pocket of elves—thin, wraith like beings, white skin and silver eyes. No funny ears though. Anyway, they hung them. Men, women and children. And burnt them. And hacked them to pieces, what was left of ’em.

I don’t get it. With all the prejudice of the old world, why would someone, let alone a group of people, do such a thing? From what I understand they were beautiful beings. Was that it? Because if it was, I don’t think I can stand it.

“What’s that nephew? No, nobody’s going to come and hang you. Because we look just like them sort, don’t we? But let’s forget that for the moment… I’ve just had an idea. You should help me take my son and daughter—we should go out for a boat ride. The water’s just fine. Yes, it’s…just…fine.”

Copyright © 2013 Clayton Clifford Bye

The Quality of Mercy by D. M. Pirrone

Diane Piron-Gelma p]hoto

“It wasn’t supposed to be this way,” Sarah said.

The breeze that ruffled her hair smelled of lilacs and cut grass. The gardeners must have gotten here early. At the edge of her field of vision, a scattering of fresh earth made a dark smudge amid the green. A flicker of movement from the same spot caught her eye—hold your horses, she thought—but mostly she ignored it.

“I didn’t think they’d find out. You didn’t think so, either. But you can’t hide the truth, not forever.” She gave a small laugh, more air than mirth. “I should have known.”

Sarah fell silent. The silence weighed on her, as it had ever since that day. The absence of another person’s sounds in her little house: the shuffling footfall, the creak of bedsprings, the occasional thin-voiced call in the middle of the night. She’d gotten used to them, found now that she missed them. She hadn’t thought of that, not before.

In front of her, the gray stone slab stood mute guard over mounded grass. He wasn’t really here, Sarah knew that, but it was as close as she could get. “Anyway—,” she said. It was harder to talk now, knowing the end was coming, knowing she wouldn’t have even this much for a long time. Knowing they were waiting for her to finish. Her throat ached and her eyes stung, but she had a thing to say still.

“Anyway, I forgive you.” Her voice rasped. “For asking of me what shouldn’t be asked. For knowing I would do it. For…” A tear worked its way down her cheek; she brushed it away and kept talking. “For being the kind of father who’d do anything for me, no matter what the cost. How could I be less for you when you needed it?”

She laid a hand against the gravestone and fancied for a moment that the warmth from the sun that had soaked into it was something more. A silent benediction, ego te absolvo. Sarah turned and walked toward the two cops who waited by a mausoleum not far away.

“I’m ready now,” she said.

The younger one, the sympathetic one, took her arm. His mother had myeloma, she recalled from their first conversation. Maybe that accounted for it. His arm gave her gentle support.

They left the cemetery, a cop on either side. Already she was counting the years’ worth of days that would pass before she could return.

Author: D. M. Pirrone writes mystery and fantasy-horror. You can visit her website at http://www.dmpirrone.net