Thursday, November 3, 2011

Post Halloween Syndrome and a new story to share

So, halloween has come and gone again. Used to be my favorite holiday of the year. I would spend hours setting up my mom's front yard and staging elaborate makeups on me and my girlfriend ( wife now, so apparently all that smelly glue on her face either wasn't so bad, or the fumes caused permanent brain damage) for a mere few hours enjoyment. Now it's just another day, but one my son enjoys. And I get to share in his candy. And I didn't even keep up with my tradition of viewing the original Halloween (no offense to Rob Zombie, but you shouldn't mess with a classic). And of course, the second halloween is over, you jump right into the Christmas season. Don't get me wrong, I love Christmas too, but even it has lost a lot of what it's really all about. Every year I say I'm gonna do something special next halloween, and then fail to do so. It's just the new routine.

Let's move on, shall we? I originally submitted the following story to the Writer's Digest short story contest. One of 11,000-some entries. The results have been published. A grand prize winner, and ten top winners in several categories, including genre fiction, which I submitted in. The names of the winning authors appeared in the newest issue. Mine was not among them. Oh well. So we persevere. At least now I can safely share it. (And Kevin, if you're reading this, you probably already heard it at the Circle.) It's not too long, about 2900 words. Hope you like it.


If you lost something, the most important, and the most cherished possession in your life, what would it be? Think about it. What means the most to you? How would it affect your daily life? Your emotions? Even your sense of being; your existence, your reason for walking this earth? I lost the most important thing in my life once. My reason to live. Several years ago, seven to be exact, I lost my wife. She was gone for three years, and then I got her back.

Our day had begun simple enough. I was about a year in from saying hello to retirement, and I was fortunate enough to create a comfortable nest egg so as to afford me the luxury of retiring early. I was fifty-six, new lease on life, married for thirty-two wonderful years and thoroughly enjoying every aspect of it. We were planning on traveling. As a matter of fact, that particular day we were going to the mall to shop for supplies and items to stock the RV we had ordered. We were to pick it up a week later. That would never happen.
            The mall was busy as usual, on a weekend and a month and a half before Christmas. First we stopped and picked up some plastic (but nice) dishes and drink ware. I don't much care for it because I can taste the plastic, but it was necessary for durability I suppose. Then onto another store for cookware. At this point we were a bit hungry. It was a little past lunch time, and we had eaten a light breakfast, so our next stop was an Olga's Kitchen. By this time we had quite the bulky ensemble of packages being toted around. The next move was going to be one of those storage lockers you can rent to put stuff in, thus freeing your hands to accumulate more. Very convenient. But then, Rose's radar zeroed in on a pair of shoes in the Baker's window. There was no stopping her, she had to investigate. Feeling both tired and stuffed to bursting, I told her I would park my keester with our booty of traveling kitchenware on the mall bench that looked so inviting, about three or four stores down, and I would wait while she quenched her shoe euphoria. Off she went, and that was the last time I saw her for three years.

            I don't feel the need to go into a great deal of detail about everything that occurred after. I'm sure you have all seen enough news programs and such depicting the procedures that follow a disappearance. Needless to say, the entire mall was scoured, top to bottom and inside and out without the slightest trace of her found. I would have thought at least some of her jewelry would be discovered, tore from her as she no doubt struggled against her kidnappers, particularly the fragile blue-rose pendant that I had just given her three months earlier for our anniversary. The rose has significance for us both, but I don't feel at liberty to say why. Some things just need to remain personal.
            There were never any leads, never a ransom demanded, body ever found. It was as if she simply vaporized into a puff of smoke and merely wafted away. I was crushed to say the least. Devastated. Unable to cope. My daughter, God rest her soul now, came to stay and care for me. I was a complete ass; all I wanted was to be left alone and waste away. I didn't care. Without Rose, life meant nothing to me. Twice I was hospitalized, rushed there by my daughter to have my stomach pumped following my first two suicide attempts. By the third one, as I held the knife to my wrist, something in the eyes of that broken creature staring back at me in the mirror stopped me. It is something even now I cannot explain. The closest I can come is that it was a feeling of being lost, of wandering around in a gigantic room filled with darkness and yet searching for something. Like I had unfinished business on this rock and I hadn't yet discovered what it was.
            I couldn't remain in the house that Rose and I shared. It was too painful. It was sold and I moved into a modest condominium. I could not rest. I had to go on, alone, without Rose but with only her memory and the precious time we had together. I wish I could say that my feelings of self destruction had completely left me, but they hadn't. Not, at least, until my first discovery, and I can't say if it simply took the place of those feelings, or if this was what the unfinished business was, and I was embarking on a new journey. In either case, books saved me.

My maiden book, a first edition of A Farewell To Arms by Hemingway, was chanced upon in the basement of an old woman who had passed on by her daughter who had erroneously just cast it into a box of other books to become garage sale fodder. I admit I have always had a soft spot for literature and in particular old books, first and second editions and even more so in those that contained a dedication or note by the authors. I once owned a second printing of Tom Sawyer, inscribed with a note of gratitude to a girl named Marie written by Mark Twain himself. Apparently she had found Twain's stray cat and returned it to him. A little research told the story of a nine-year-old neighbor of the author's whose name was, in fact, Marie, and the edition was no doubt signed and given to her. It was passed to me- given as a gift actually-by a friend's well-read son who worked summers in the basement stock room of the local library. How it came to be there remains a mystery.
            So, anyway, now I seek out old and rare books for clients as well as buy and sell unique editions on Ebay. Retirement had lost its luster with Rose gone, and I just didn't know what to do with myself. Perhaps it wasn't so much a calling as a distraction from my never-ending heartache to losing Rose, a mystery itself that still held no answer. Eventually, the assumption that she was no longer alive had to be realized, and I finally came to grips with it as I watched my daughter die of ovarian cancer.

No one should have to experience their child dying before them. It is one of those moments in life that force you to question if there is a God and how could he allow such a thing. Another of the great mysteries of our Heavenly Father. The death of my daughter was unbearable enough, but to watch her go the way she did nearly brought up all those suicidal thoughts once again. First Rose and then our only child. She was thirty-five but still my little girl. All that time she spent caring for me while I grieved the loss of my wife, all the while my selfishness not even considering how much pain she could be going through from losing her mother, and now I had to witness her wither away and die and there was nothing I could do for her but hold her hand at her bedside. It was the most helpless feeling in the world and I wouldn't wish it upon anyone. It was three weeks after I buried her that I received a request from a client that would eventually set me on the destructive course that brought me to where I am now, but soon that won't matter any longer. As a matter of fact, nothing will.

I was searching around, mostly on the web, for a first edition of Dicken's Tale Of Two Cities. This particular individual owned a second printing that was a little worn but all in all in fair shape. But it wasn't enough. The man wanted the first edition, in good shape, and was willing to pay whatever was necessary to obtain it. I was curious if I could actually find it, the client would then hope for the actual document in the author's hand and the previous find being inadequate for the book junkie's greed.
            I had developed several very good resources, and barring disclosure, I admit that some of them were also a little less than legit. I mentioned I had done well in my previous working life, with finances enough to carry me to my eventual end with no problem, so, regardless of what the client was willing to pay, that was not the motivating factor. For me, it was more about the thrill of the hunt, and the victory of discovery. I actually get a bigger kick out of that very first awestruck expression that washes over a clients face when I produce the goods that they hired me for. I wonder if some do it just to see if I can deliver. My track record's not perfect, see, I did have a few dead-ends, but that is also how I became privy to the black market. Is there a dark side to book collecting? You bet there is, and I was just another pawn to fall victim to it.
            In my searching, I discovered a small shop of antiquities and obscurities online, a source I hadn't come across before, and so perhaps that is how destiny works. I was also overjoyed to find that it was only a hundred and fifty miles from home. So upon discovering this establishment, the Guginol Shop Of Trash , Treasures and Obscurities, a hell of a title to fit on a business card, I decided to make a day of it. Take a little trip in the mini van I used for my hunting (it's much easier to load books-some quite heavy-into the rear gate of the van) and check out the area where the shop operated, see if it was a culturally hip place, like Portland Oregon, but in the warm Florida climate. The shop's website mentioned that they had books, so I was intrigued and I could have called, but I get a kick out of perusing the shelves, always on the lookout for a gem. On the day I walked into the place, I discovered a gem that I think very few, if any, in this day and age, ever do.

It was very warm the day I stepped into the Guginol and, like nearly every establishment in Florida, the a/c was humming steady which is good for old, fragile texts. Obviously moisture and humidity are a natural enemy. I thought I stood a decent chance of finding something salable and in good shape. A first edition of A Tale Of Two Cities, probably not, but it was a day of discovery in an entirely different way.
            I wandered around the shop which was larger than what I was expecting, and struck up a conversation with Saul, the curator of this little museum. After some idle chat that gave Saul an idea of my fervor that was book hunting and that it was a serious passion, he eluded to the hint that the books on the shelves in the storefront weren't the only ones in his possession.
            He asked me to follow him into a back area that was uniquely hidden from the rest of the shop behind a false wall. It was like something from Scooby Doo, and Saul explained that it kept his more valued treasures from view of would be thieves and scoundrels. It was, in fact, quite ingenious. Saul clicked on a light that illuminated a twenty by twenty room with all manner of organized shelves and racks and what appeared to be a couple of built-in closets. There were only curtains drawn across them which made them look like fitting rooms.
            Here in this room were more antiques and some rare and unusual museum quality pieces. Saul began a little tour that seemed rehearsed, almost like a carnival barker but quiet and subdued. He showed me weapons of old and other torturous devices. He showed me a few animals, both jarred and preserved and some strangely taxidermied. He showed me human bones and a particularly interesting skull cut down the middle vertically and hinged at the rear so you could open it up-like a book-and study the interior structure. Although not actually a book, it was quite fascinating and I had to consider it as a possible item to purchase, although Saul had not yet suggested if these items in the hidden room were for sale, but I suppose everything has it's price, and after all, why else would he bring me back here. It's as though he knew there was reason why I was here and that there was indeed something I was searching for and in one magical, horrifying and enlightening moment, the object of my deepest desire was revealed.
            Something caught the light and glittered, attracting my attention. I craned my head to see what it was, merely from curiosity which was certainly heightened in this room of oddities.
            “You want to see her?” Saul asked me. I assumed another of his unique possessions that he was quite proud and fond of, hesitant to part with but, as I thought, everything has a price. Before I could even reply, Saul had nearly glided across the room and pulled the curtain aside. A small spotlight mounted inside the closet was what caused the sparkling that caught my attention and when Saul slid that curtain, I staggered back a couple of steps and had to steady myself against a glass cabinet to keep from falling. Suddenly my legs were like rubber bands and I thought surely I was going down.
            “She” was revealed to me, and at that moment, all I could think of was Dorothy yanking that green curtain back exposing Oz. The glittering was the intense spotlight reflecting off the gilded sterling framework that held the blue rose pendant together. She was still wearing it, but she was very different. It sickens me still to know that upon seeing the mummified remains of my beloved wife, I could only liken her to jerky. She was still wearing the same clothes she had on when she went missing. Her body was completely intact, but of course, she was dead, her skin perfectly preserved, shriveled, but still beautiful. The hide of her face had shrunken and pulled taught to her skull, her lips were stretched thin and receded some, exposing more of her teeth than I remembered. And, thank God, her eyes were closed. I don't know that I could have bore looking into those dried marbles that had been so intense and lovely. But there she was. I could do no more than gape, open mouthed, aghast at the love of my life. I think Saul began speaking, attempting to bring me back to the day, but my mind went somewhere else. They say that love makes you do crazy things, and that is absolutely no lie.
            When I did return, Saul standing between Rose and me, waving his hands in front of my face, I only looked at him and blinked. I did not believe that this man was responsible for her death or mummification. And strangely, I didn't care who did. I had her back and that's all that mattered. I asked Saul how he had come about her, not revealing that I knew her identity, and wished I wouldn't have when he simply told me “craigslist”. That hurt.
            I had to have her, caring the least what it would cost me. Frankly, I honestly believe that if Saul absolutely refused to relinquish Rose, I could have killed him, or at least cold-cocked him good and ran off with her. I decided however that to be unwise. I didn't even want the authorities involved. I wanted my wife back. And, I got her. It did cost a lot, but worth every penny. On top of the twelve thousand dollars, well, lets say that my entire book collection was transferred and has put me out of that business. At least for now. I'm sure I could start it up again sometime, slowly of course since Rose and I were now practically broke, but not before I purchased a new RV. It's funny the way life works out sometimes, how it twists and turns and occasionally spits you right back out where you were to begin with. The first motor coach we ordered was planned out for every aspect of comfort imaginable. Now it seemed my only absolute requirement was a full-sized onboard refrigerator to ensure that Rose would be with me for as long as that big rolling home carried us off into the sunset.
            Rose was gone three years, and now I have her back. Our conversations are just as enjoyable and entertaining as ever, and the only faux pas is trying to get used to more of a toothy kiss, but, as somebody said, love makes you do crazy things. It turns out, even at times of tragedy, you can still have your happily ever after.


The inspiration for this tale came mostly from watching an episode of Oddities on cable. Used the old what if? question. Anyway, until next time, I'll be planning what special thing I'm gonna do next halloween.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

I suck at blogging

Yes, you heard right. I'm not good at blogging. Sometimes (most times) I cannot think of anything clever to post. Does everything need to be clever? No. Informative? Not necessarily. Entertaining? Probably. I mean what's the point, bottom line so to speak, for a blog if nothing else but to be entertaining. Does this entertainment always have to be in the form of the written word? I guess not. That being said, let me share this pencil sketch I did several years ago of the late Donald Pleasence, someone that ought to be with all of us with interest in horror.

It is taken from a rather old photo I came across. My apologies to the photographer. I don't know who shot it, but the lighting was cool enough for me to want to reproduce it in graphite. I'm trying to determine if I'm a better artist or writer, both or neither. And I guess, does it really matter? So long as I do what I enjoy right? I know, your thinking, what is he talking about? Where is the discussion on Italian horror movies? Well, I just had to post some thoughts on weather this whole blogging thing was right for me or not. I'm not sure. I suppose, time will tell.

As for Italian horror movies. The top of the list: Dario Argento and Lucio Fulci. Zombie, Suspiria, Demons, Gates Of Hell (or City of the Living Dead if you prefer), The Beyond, Phenomena (Creepers here, with Jennifer Connelly(sp?)), and I know I'm forgetting some. And as for the music? Don't even get me started on Goblin, Claudio Simonetti, or Fabio Frizzi!

Until next time.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Ok, so... now what?

Yeah, yeah I know. Finish the story and I bail on you. Sorry. Just been busy. I've returned to the north and am settling back into my comfortable and familiar routine. Although I'm not really looking forward to the winter here. Oh well, at least I'm used to that too.

So I have two possible stories to post next. One is a story written in blog form and is meant to seem like an actual blog. It's not exactly a horror story per se, but it has horrific elements to it. The other is a good old fashioned ghost story with the main character, a writer (new concept huh?) haunted in a rather unusual way. I haven't decided which one to share with you yet.

In the reading department I have finished Scott Speigler's Infected and found it quite enjoyable and interesting that it takes place in locations that I am familiar with. Particularly in the end. Now I'm on to (and don't say anything like it's about time) reading Stephen King's Dark Tower series. I'm only on the second one, The Drawing Of The Three. Interesting so far. I also have an old Clive Barker novel, Sacrement, that I've never read and am looking forward to. I sometimes find I have a difficult time trying to read authors other than these two, but I'm working on it (like Speigler's story).

And next week perhaps we'll have a little discussion on the awsomeness of Italian horror films, some of which are big favorites (who doesn't love Lucio Fulci's Zombie?).

For now I'll bid you adieu. I'm slightly distracted trying to watch The Goonies with my kid.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Finally...the conclusion of Last Stop

Well here we are. Finally to the conclusion of Last Stop. I hope you have enjoyed reading it. I've been glad to share it. We will meet again here very soon to ruminate further on the subject of horror. Why else would we be here? So sit back, put on your glasses if need be, and read on. Last Stop Part 11.

Last Stop Part 11

          David regained consciousness with incredible pain in the back of his head. He attempted to raise his hand to rub the spot and realized he couldn’t move. He also realized that he was looking up at the ceiling, and upon turning his aching head around, discovered that he was in the middle of the kitchen, restrained to the central table, and also discovered he was completely naked.
            His first thought was embarrassment at such exposure, then all of the events of the night came swarming into his mind, culminating in the discovery of the caged children, and he was suddenly filled with alarm, remorse, and anger. He struggled against the bindings to his wrists and ankles, arched his body up from the nylon table, then dropped back down, the motion reminding him that his nakedness and limp member was on display for whoever put him into this predicament. David screamed and the sound echoed off the stainless steel cabinetry. He heard a deep voice shush him.
            “Nobody can hear you,” it said, and David craned his neck, his skull pounding, and settled his gaze on William walking up to the end of the table.
            “You crazy son of a bitch, let me up. Let me up and I swear I’ll kill you!” David seethed. William snickered and looked to his right.
            “Hey ma, you hear this guy?” William said. David glanced to the foot end of the table and gasped. Remarkably, Muriel stood over him, still slashed.
            “Yeah, I ‘ear ‘im. Not much of a p’sition for that though is’e,” she said, reaching up and suddenly pulling the slashes from her face. David realized they were fake rubber. He again flushed with embarrassment that they had stripped him down and left him this way.
            “Nope, he isn’t,” William answered his mother. Something very wrong is going on here, David thought.
            “Why are you doing this?” David said and began to sob, “there are children…”
            “No,” Muriel said, pulling the last of the latex wounds from her face. She smiled. “They’re lambs dear, ‘member me tellin’ you that?”
            The horrific illustration hit David like a club to the head. His body broke out in a full clothing of goose bumps.
            “Oh my God,” he sputtered, realizing now what the meal earlier had actually consisted of. David began to dry heave, his stomach empty, and he choked, coughed, and gagged. Moments passed as his captors just watched as the fit passed and David was able to speak again.
            “You people are crazy,” he said, “sick and fucking crazy.” He began to struggle again to no avail. The leather straps that bound him were too strong.
            “Now, now, you ain’t goin’ nowhere,” Muriel said, wiping the red, dried liquid from her face. David remembered something that he had heard or read somewhere and realized what the sweet smell was that he had encountered when he thought he had discovered Muriel’s dead body. Kayro syrup. That’s what they used in movies for fake blood. Maybe all this was a setup. One of those reality shows where they scare you real bad and have a laugh at your expense. Then, unsettled that it took so long, David remembered his wife. He coughed once more, “Where is Carrie? What did you do with my wife?” He feared she may have become a lamb also.
            Muriel looked at William, who looked back at Muriel, and they laughed, then they looked past David.
            “Hello David,” a soft voice said from behind him. He craned his neck up and back as Carrie came walking into view. She brushed her hand over his shoulder, down his arm, across his chest and then teasingly along his limp penis.
            “Carrie,” David gasped, “what?”
            “I know,” she said, walking over now and standing beside Muriel, “this is the part that always gets me, right ma?” She glanced to Muriel.
            “Wha-?” David stammered his mind reeling attempting to process what he was witnessing. Carrie? Muriel’s… daughter? No, that’s impossible. Then again, he had never met any of Carrie’s kin. That makes William her? David looked to William.
            “Yes,” Carrie said, her voice slightly different than David had come to know it, a bit of southern inflection perhaps, like her… mother, “he’s my brother.” She nodded towards the man-child who no longer seemed like one.
            David could tell his brain wanted to shut down, wanted to force him into unconsciousness again, not wanting to realize this and accept this. He forced himself to stay awake, to stay alert. He wanted to figure this out, wanted to understand, wanted to get away, and now he realized he no longer required to find his wife to escape with him. Why? Why? David repeated this to all of them, although he glared at Carrie.
            “Why?” he sobbed again.
            “That’s what they always ask,” Carrie replied.
            “They? You…you’ve done this before?”
            “Mr. Wright? W-was he one?”
“No,” Carrie said suddenly sorrowful, “Mr. Wright… is my dad. He was a great man. A brilliant man. My hero,” she touched Muriel’s arm gently, “he loved literature, and loved to write, would spend hours doing it, and so, well… after he died…”
“Why?” David repeated. He couldn’t believe this was happening. It all seemed so surreal, like a psycho-delic nightmare.
            “Your inheritance David,” Carrie responded rather nonchalantly. There was no remorse in her voice. She mechanically spoke the words, as though she were simply bored and recited what she read on a teleprompter. “Your inheritance will help to fix up the outside of the house and sustain us for quite a while.”
            “But…” David stammered, “my… you can have it Carrie. This isn’t necessary. You, your family, it’s yours, just let me go.” He couldn’t believe this seemed to be about money. The entire relationship. Their courtship and marriage. All about money. The money he foolishly told her about that started it all. David was enraged that he could be so stupid, and prayed he could find a way out of this situation.
            “Carrie, please, you can have the inheritance, just let me go.”
            “Can’t do that son,” Muriel responded. David looked to her, then back to Carrie. A ghostly draft went through the kitchen, again reminding David of his vulnerability. He again struggled against the restraints.
            “Let me go you bitch!” he spat at his legal wife.
            “Now, now, calm down son, we don’ want ya to bruise y’self.” Muriel told him.
            “What…what are you going to do to me?” David asked, but already figured the answer.
            “You’re a lamb, dear,” Muriel said as David screamed. His mind could still not process what was happening. This only happened in movies. There was a real world out there, one that he was a part of. People would miss him. They would look for him. And although he couldn’t recall if he had told anyone where they were going, his new bride and himself, David had to believe that they could be tracked down, that somehow, these people would be caught. But of course, at this point, it would do him no good anyway. Tomorrow he’d be hanging out there on the front porch, tempting passer-by’s-not that there would be many-with his savory smell.
            No, this all had to be an elaborate joke, a put-on. He had fallen victim to a terrible practical joke. Why else would they go to such great lengths to put on the show that they did? There had to be cameras throughout the house. The entire thing had to have been an extravagant production with David as the hapless, unknowing victim for all of America to be amused by. Carrie had just been a part of the whole scheme; it had been her idea even, maybe. David began to laugh as he continued to sob.
            “This…” he said to his captors, “this is all some big joke,” his voice trembled. “This is all just a big put-on, right?” You got cameras all over and this is just some weird cable show.” He chuckled slightly. “Right? Right Carrie?”
            The trio burst out laughing, looking at one another, looking at David who joined nervously in their laughter. Then Carrie stopped and the other two quickly relented also.
            “No David, sorry,” Carrie said and motioned a nod to William. Then man picked up the meat tenderizer that David had carried around all night.
            “No…please,” David pled. William walked up alongside the table, raised the tenderizer, and struck David in the head. And then he struck him again. And again. And again…

                                                      THE END

So, what did you think? Did you like it? Was it too predictable? My wife figured it out before the end, but she has a knack for doing that. This story was written rather quickly without much editing. And would you believe inspired by many cinematic horror gems. I collected Fangoria magazine for years, and have every issue from #1 to a hundred and something. Anyway I hope this tale hasn't scared you off due to either fright or boredom and you come back for more. I may post another story soon. Until next time.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Say what you mean (or at least what your characters would) and Last Stop Part 10

Before jumping in to the next installment I feel that I should caution you about the use of expletives. You know, dirty words, vulgarity. This part has one, as does the next (which by the way is the conclusion). Stephen King, often imitated, never duplicated, says to keep it real. Write what your characters may say, think and feel in their situation. Don't sugar-coat it. And so I take this advice as golden as many writers in the genre do. Real people say vulgar things, some often, some occasionally, and some only in certain situations, particularly when angry or terrified, as is the case here. So with that warning in mind, I caution you to continue with Last Stop.

Last Stop Part 10

          Upon returning to the kitchen, David had run several scenarios through his head as to what he might do in case he came across William. David was fairly certain he was capable of injuring the man enough to incapacitate him and allow escape. The worse case of course was to kill him, and when it came right down to it, regardless of all that had happened, David was unsure if he could take the life of another human being. Who was he to make that decision, and where would the nerve come from? What part of his psyche would he tap to put human emotion, right or wrong, and everything he had ever been taught about it aside and tap that primal instinct that was required. He was sure that if a confrontation presented itself, and particularly, depending on the state of Carrie’s being, which he didn’t even want to think of, his inner rage and will to live would take over leaving him safely on autopilot.
            As David approached the door at the far end of the kitchen, he noticed that the plot had changed once more. The door stood slightly ajar, unlocked, and uneasily inviting. Did this mean that Carrie was now free and safe? Did it mean she was harmed and either incapacitated or worse, and no longer a threat to run? Did this mean that she was no longer behind the door, and taken elsewhere so this ridiculous and mind numbing game would continue? David prayed the first question was the one that would be answered but knew that, based on the night’s events, it wouldn’t be that easy.
            David slowly eased the door open, the tenderizer still in hand and ready to be used. It seemed to be heavier and it made David aware of how fatigued he was. No doubt, aside from the mental exhaustion, he had put a lot of ground on his still bare feet throughout the night traipsing around the peculiar hell house, up and down stairs and running about. He wanted nothing more than to find Carrie, get them out and just return to their normal life, if that would even be possible, and sleep for three days.
            As David passed through the door, there was no light to allow a visual inspection of the room. The light afforded by the kitchen behind him gave just enough to see a fifteen foot pathway straight into the room, where David spotted a light bulb with a pull chain. Although the room was dark, it seemed rather unstill. David could hear shuffling-like noises and squeaks and scrapes, like metal on concrete, and it made him feel even edgier if it were possible, hearing these things in the dark and being unaware of their origins. His only recourse was to bolt for the light, pull the chain and hope that it worked, and be ready to retaliate against whatever or, more specifically, whoever, came at him. There was no doubt in his mind now that it would be William, and for the first time this evening, David gave thought to the man’s size and build, assessing how substantial he might be with what David could recall of the man, memories that already felt like they were from a year ago. Could he overpower him? William had the home court advantage, not to mention he probably wasn’t going about in his pajamas and barefoot, hoping that a kitchen utensil would suffice as a weapon.
David scoffed at how ludicrous this all seemed, and heard a noise suddenly that sounded remarkably like a person sniffling, then more scuffling and squeaking. Was Carrie hidden in the darkness somewhere in this room, gagged and bound? If he called her name, she might be able to make enough noise for him to locate her, and it occurred to him that he had been standing here for a vulnerable amount of time, silhouetted by the kitchen light, holding what could appear to be small sledgehammer. Perhaps Carrie could see him and, mistaking him for her captor, thinking he was here to finish her off, has remained subdued. David had no choice but to run for the light and hope for the best, but be prepared for the worst.
David bolted suddenly into the room, his bare feet stamping damp footprints onto the cold concrete. He swung the tenderizer around him haphazardly to block and defend against any would be assailant, and as he drew nearer to the light, the weapon clanged against something metal causing whatever it was to shift and scrape against the floor. The light was within reach and David groped at it, tried to grasp the pull-string, hit it and sent it circling. He could hear shuffling and now grunting noises nearly upon him as he grabbed at the string and yanked. The light fluttered on and David swung the tenderizer around in a wide arc around him. It connected with nothing.
The dingy, concrete-walled room seemed to disappear into darkness beyond the light’s illuminating capability, cavernous and stretching further then the house’s foundation. David glanced around and then downward and then sank to his knees, his lip quivering as he was about to shed tears at the sight before him.
Sitting on the cold concrete floor was a semi-circle of six, large, dog cages. Some of them had stains under and around them, dark and unidentifiable. Two in particular were what brought David to his knees and to tears. Two of them were occupied. Dirty and disheveled, but rather quite plump, one boy, and one girl, perhaps around the age of seven, sat locked in cages with thick foam pads under them and blankets to cover with, staring blankly at David. Neither one spoke but just kind of uttered word-like sounds. It seemed they may have been rendered mute by some barbaric, surgical method. Heavy padlocks on the cage doors held the poor children captive. David noted that Carrie was nowhere to be seen and drew his attention back to the kids. He felt utter sorrow and instant rage. What kind of monster would do this? Again, the blame goes to William.
“I’m going to get you out,” David squeaked, his mouth and throat dry. He grabbed at the lock on the girl’s cage, yanked at it knowing it wouldn’t simply open, then reached into his pajama shirt pocket where he had stored the keys he found in Muriel’s room. David felt pity for all the unfortunate souls he had come across this evening, and for the one that mattered most to him that he hadn’t found. Yet, he told himself. His mind began to wonder how he would continue his search for Carrie, be on the watch for William and now tote along the two children to safety and try to protect them from further harm.
He set the tenderizer onto the floor and sorted through the small ring of keys, trying to choose one that looked like it would fit the locks, found one and reached for the padlock on the girl’s cage. The two children watched, then became panicked and grunted protests, their eyes wide and David realized they were both making pointing gestures, not at him, but apparently behind him. Oh shit, David thought as he turned, attempted to grab the tenderizer from the floor, saw a pair of slender, bare legs and feet, and then felt a tremendous force clock the side of his head and upper ear, splitting it open. Darkness swirled around in his vision and as he fell backwards, the light bulb came into view overhead, seemed to steadily grow dim, and then everything went dark.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

North vs South, seperation anxiety, and Last Stop Part 9

I must say that this blog was never intended to be a textual manifestation of my personal life, and I will attempt to keep it that way. At least as much as possible. But the past two weeks have been a mind-boggling, stress inducing, tumultuous roller coaster ride that seemed the car would certainly jump from the track. The transition of this Yankee to the south has been difficult to say the least. From exuberant optimism to complete disgust and disappointment in a matter of days. From all hope was lost and throwing in the proverbial towel to a complete reversal of fate in a single day. A bonafide horror story in itself. And one that I hope soon to turn around and have the ever so glorious Hollywood ending. Well, early Hollywood anyway. My family has gone back up north sans myself and now I face struggling and sacrificing to maintain our dream and yet not go Overlook Hotel alone.
On a less personal note, the situation will at least afford me the opportunity to read more (reading Scott Sigler's Infected currently), and to write more (which as I have a few ideas and stories currently underway, the aforementioned issues of the previous paragraph I must now overcome and return to a creative state of mind. Get back into my right mind. Or is it write mind?).
We shall see what the future holds. North vs South, left vs right, success vs failure. I'll attempt to keep that more to myself and get back into the task at hand; the horrific, both in print and in film. For now let us get back to our unfortunate protagonist, David, and Last Stop Part 9.

Last Stop Part 9

          David advanced down the darkened hallway to the next door. He stood outside a moment, listening for any noise beyond it, and fearing what the next disturbing discovery may yield if any.
            Nothing more than heavy silence permeated the area and David readied himself again with the kitchen utensil. He glanced down and noticed a sliver of light coming through from beneath the door. Reaching out and sampling the doorknob, it turned easily and David swung the door open.
            Another lavishly decorated room, so ridiculously contrasted to the establishment’s outward appearance, welcomed him. And as David stepped into the room, scanning the dark spaces which the small lamp that sat upon the bedside table failed to illuminate, another grisly scene presented itself. David gasped and put a hand to his mouth, yet managed to hang on to the tenderizer this time. William had obviously gone berserk. It was the only thought that registered in David’s mind as his eyes moved over the sight upon the bed.
            One could easily have mistaken the bed sheets to be a rich, silky, red velour, but upon a more thorough examination, would conclude, as David now was, that the linens were saturated with blood. Lying in the middle of the bed was Muriel, who if not for the visceral state of her being, would seem to be sleeping. Long gashes ran diagonally across her face, and her nightgown was riddled with holes that David could only assume were from where she had been stabbed repeatedly. Blood soaked the gown and ribbons of it were splashed across her face, neck, and arms. Her bare feet, pointing to the ceiling were all that was spared.
            David realized his stomach was about to purge itself, and it did. He vomited onto the floor beside the bed, the liquid and bits of undigested food from the great meal earlier, mixing with blood that had soaked the floor. He wiped his mouth along the sleeve of his pajama top.
            “Oh God,” he managed, attempting to comprehend the doubtless seriousness of his situation. Was this the same fate that he and his wife were to encounter? Did Carrie already?
            “No,” David said, “I can’t accept that.”
            And if the gruesome scene weren’t enough to process, there was a sickeningly sweet smell about the room that David just couldn’t place. He attempted to will his wobbly legs to walk and remove himself from the room, almost feeling a little remorseful for the woman lying on the bed. Obviously she wasn’t a player in the evening’s events and all the blame could be placed upon her disturbed son.
            David glanced around the room, unbelieving that there still seemed to be no telephone to call for help with. And then he noticed something shining upon the nightstand alongside the lamp. Keys. A small ring of them, and David was certain that one of them had to match the padlock on the door that held his wife captive.
            Still determined to release Carrie to safety and get them out of this place and away from the psychotic William, David reluctantly walked closer to the bed to retrieve them. As he approached the bed, the odor became stronger. It smelled almost like cake icing or candy which made no sense at all. He again looked to the poor woman’s face and could have sworn her eyelids fluttered just slightly. Could she still be alive? He leaned a little closer, the sweet smell nearly causing him to be sick again. Muriel still remained motionless and David guessed it was just the light and his confused and panic stricken mind toying with his senses.
            He leaned back, snatched the keys from the table and left the room, closing the door and the unfortunate fate of the old woman behind him. David prayed that he would encounter William and get the upper hand upon him and bash his skull in with the tenderizer. With the keys in hand and feeling rather confident, David ran back down the stairs, heading for the kitchen.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Last Stop Part 7 & 8

So, the family and I went on a little camping trip this weekend both for fun and as a test drive for our rather old camper. Next week we will be taking it to Tennessee with the probability of being my new home for a short while as we transition ourselves down there. It might prove to be hectic next weekend so I will leave you with parts 7 and 8 of the story. Part 8 is actually quite short and so I thought it should tag along. And we are almost coming to the story's conclusion. Stick with me, the next couple weeks are gonna get bumpy.

Last Stop 7

Determination wasn’t a characteristic that David had been consciously aware of during his climb to a professional career, but it was now as he sought to realize Carrie’s release. He would begin his search of the second floor, first trying each door along the hallway, and if it wouldn’t open with a turn of the knob, he’d kick it open.
The first on his left did in fact open when he grasped the knob, turned it, and flung the door open, brandishing the tenderizer and ready to engage it. A quick scan of the room however deemed it void of any people, seeming to be used only for storage. Several pieces of furniture sat under dust covered sheets, some of it blowing up and swirling about from the draft caused by the rapidly opened door. David left it open as he ducked out of the room and moved onto the next.
He came to the entry of the room that had been occupied by Carrie and himself on the right and for a moment he thought to skip it, then changed his mind in the event that someone may be hiding in the room possibly waiting for him. Muriel or William were the two he was obviously seeking and he wanted no space left unchecked. This door too opened with a turn of the knob, and as he did, David tried to recall if the door was opened or closed the last time he saw it. He couldn’t remember and went into the room. He looked around and realized the last time he stood at this threshold he was whispering to his wife lying on the bed, and his heart sank a little more.
It occurred to David that it might do him well to call the authorities and make them aware of what was happening at the bed and breakfast. He glanced to the side table where he remembered leaving his cell phone and, no surprise, it was gone. He shuffled around to the bedside and checked the floor and under the bed, all the while assuming it was pointless. He looked over to Carrie’s side of the bed, or what used to be, and saw that her Blackberry was gone too. Obviously someone had removed them. David examined the room, trying to recall how it looked when he had last left it, and except for the missing phones and the absent wife, it all seemed the same. There sat their luggage and belongings, exactly where they had left them, untouched. David walked to the bathroom door, peered in, advanced to the shower, raised the tenderizer, and yanked the curtain back, but the tub was vacant. As he exited the room, his feet crunched something into the plush carpet and he looked down to find another portion of the chain that Carrie had been wearing around her neck. He picked it up and examined it, noticing the fragile chain broken open as though it had been forcefully removed. This only reinforced his determination and he continued on out of the room and returned to the hallway. That was when he heard a thump from behind the door across the hall and he rushed to this one next.
David tried the knob and found this door locked. He knocked on it, wondering why as he did so as he really didn’t expect anyone to just open it for him and ask what he wanted.
David tried the knob again which still refused to turn, and then pressed the weight of his body against the door. It continued to hold firm. He stepped back, considering giving it a solid, swift kick, but reserved instead to bumping against it with his weight as quietly as he could. It seemed to loosen a bit and he bumped it again. This time, the latch gave and the door swung open, bouncing off the wall behind it.
David’s eyes took a moment to adjust to the eerie red glow that was cast about the room, making it impossible to determine the d├ęcor of the space. It didn’t matter. What mattered was the rotten egg smell in the room and David focusing his gaze on the scraggly-haired silhouette of a figure sitting at a desk placed at the far end of the room. He also noticed a great number of shapes seeming to hang from the ceiling and as his eyes adjusted further he realized they were air fresheners, the kind that hung from automobile mirrors. They did little to repress the pungent rotting odor. The tenderizer firmly clutched in his hand, David walked slowly into the room, his eyes darting about, scanning the room and then back to the figure.
“Hello?” David questioned the stench nearly unbearable enough to open his mouth. No reply was offered. He advanced closer to the silhouette, undoubtedly a human being although the gender was indeterminable. David stepped closer, taking in and letting out small breaths, and then fell into a retching fit.
The red light was coming from a small lamp upon the desktop and afforded David the sight of a human hand grasping a pencil which was poised upon a sheet of paper. David narrowed and strained his eyes to read what appeared to be a single word written. Help. David realized the hand holding the pencil was quite thin. Beyond thin. It was skeletal.
David walked up alongside the figure and gasped, putting a hand to his mouth, either to suppress a scream or to keep from vomiting. The being appeared to be smiling graciously, but it wasn’t. The grin was caused by the dried and mummified lips pulled taught around large, nearly perfect teeth. The eyes were gone and the two black holes where they should have been housed a gathering of maggots. Still unable to determine if this was the corpse of a man or a woman, the clothes that hung on the mummified frame were those of a man. And the name tag that sank in one of the folds of the button-down shirt read, ‘Hello, my name is…’ with Mr. Wright scrawled in jagged letters in the blank space.
“Oh my God,” David stifled and backed away from the corpse. He bumped into the post of the bed behind him and let out a slight yelp as he turned and ran from the room. The finding of Mr. Wright made it obviously clear what the intentions of his and Carrie’s hosts were, and David scurried down the hall, intent on dismantling the ideas from the heads of Muriel and William.
Terrified and rather disoriented, David came to the next door down the hall and simply kicked it in. It easily gave, smacking against the wall and coming back towards him. With panic coursing through him, he smashed the tenderizer into the door to keep it open and burst into the room. It was dark and David felt for the light switch, found it, and clicked it on. Bright lights appeared leaving starry flashes in his retinas.
“Come out, damn you!” he yelled, but the room appeared empty, decorated in much the same way as the one he and Carrie had occupied. The only difference was a stack of magazines upon the dresser. David walked over and glanced at them. On the cover of the top one was a picture of a man, but with a pig’s head, brandishing a ludicrously huge chainsaw. The magazine’s title was ‘Fangoria’.
“Who are these people?” David said to no one and turned to face the closet door. It was closed. He crept to it, the tenderizer poised and ready to strike. David listened a moment, his ear to the door, heard nothing, and grasped the handle. He flung the door open and raised the hammer-like weapon above his head. No one charged or assaulted. David’s eyes focused on shelves, floor to ceiling, and they appeared to contain heads. Many, many heads; some seemingly misshapen and distorted.
David pulled the chain of the overhead light bulb and tried to hold back another scream but failed. Then, studying the heads, chuckled as he realized the heads were not decapitated trophies but rather a bizarre assortment of masks. Some were indeed human and grossly distorted and bloodied, but obviously rubbery and artificial. The monsters were all here too. A vampire, a werewolf, Frankenstein’s creature and more.
“What the hell is going on?” David said, and, attempting to think at least something resembling rational, began to wonder if this was all part of some practical joke, like one of those murder mystery parties. This was all too surreal to be real, wasn’t it?
People don’t really act the way Muriel and William did, do they? Did we stumble upon some kind of hidden camera TV show? Did we miss something on the web site? This has to be some kind of a setup.
“Okay, I give. You got us,” David yelled aloud, waiting for the production crew to come out of hiding. But nobody did. Everything remained quiet and the masks just glared, scrutinizing him. David began to shake, his hands and arms twitching. It caused him to drop the tenderizer which landed on the top of his bare foot, causing pain and snapping him from the panicked jerking. His mind worked to comprehend the situation but was unable. A severe feeling of nothing more than wanting to live, wanting to survive, wanting to free his wife and escape this lunacy grabbed his mind and mentally slapped him back to reality.
“Oh God, please. Please get us the hell out of this place,” David said. He shut the closet door, not wanting the rubber heads to stare at him any longer. He picked up the tenderizer, took another glance of the room, the exited, determined to find somebody, anybody, find a phone, call for help and put this nightmare to an end.

                                                                   Part 8

          After a lifetime of living in the same house, William was able to quietly navigate his way down the stairs, unseen and unheard, by-passing the areas of the steps that he knew creaked. So far, David had acted just about how they all thought he would, proving to be yet again another predictable participant.
            William could hear the man upstairs, shuffling around, making discoveries, becoming more panicked and careless and was pretty certain what David’s next move would be. At most times, William detested playing the part of the dumb and quiet son, but after so many years it was a role that he had perfected, and it proved most effective on this charade. He glanced at the clock in the hallway and noted the time. The game was approaching the end and right about on schedule.
            William hurried down the stairs to the basement kitchen, ensuring he’d be in the proper place for the next phase of the game. He went to the steel door at the end, unlocked the padlock, and maneuvered through the entry, reaching around to re-hang the lock in the clasp but leaving it unlocked. William estimated David’s arrival back to the kitchen within fifteen minutes and needed to make sure that the camera was ready to go.
            William turned and faced the dimly lit room and smiled a mischievous grin as he looked upon Carrie sitting on the floor amongst the cages, singing quietly.