The cross on a grave site signaled peace at long last for one man; but, for the woman it meant that her nightmare has just begun.
The cross on a grave site signaled peace at long last for one man; but, for the woman it meant that her nightmare has just begun.
Stephen King in his famous writing book, On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft, has this to say about his daily word count:
Wow…that’s a lot of writing!
What about you?
Two girls running through the dark woods not as friends but as a predator chasing her prey.
This morning I perused through my Twitter feed and saw a blog on Martians Attack in regards to “YouTube Tuesday” that I figured I’ll take part and see where it takes me. 🙂
I’ve recently got into watching short films, and this particular one is an awesome Horror flick that’s not for the faint-hearted. The film by Matt Sears is about 8 minutes long, and is based on a two-sentence story:
A girl heard her mom yell her name from downstairs, so she got up and started to head down. As she got to the stairs, her mom pulled her into her room and said “I heard that, too.”
Watch it (if you dare) and let me know what you think.
If you’d like to participate in YouTube Tuesday, for this week, post a short film (from YouTube) that you enjoyed and tell us a bit about it. Don’t forget to include the link to this post in yours so I can check it out. Also, if you’re on Twitter, post a Tweet about your post using the hashtag #YouTubeTuesday.
It came from space in a fiery cluster of molten steel, shattering the solitude that covered the blue water below as it plunged deep into the cold darkness. There it would lie dormant, to be stirred by life that flourished both in the water and above.
The sun was a hazy object in the sky as dense mist hovered over the gray water of Lake Champlain. The cries of the sea gulls overhead were the only sounds heard other than the low droning noise of the 21-foot boat’s engine as the water splashed up against the hull of the Coast Guard’s navigational vessel. Anna Mae Hart leaned her petite body against the railing as her short brunette hair flapped in the brisk breeze. Her green eyes studied the dark dot of an island ahead that could barely be seen within the wall of white haze. She reached into her jacket’s pocket and pulled out a stick of gum and placed it onto her tongue.
Chewing heartily, she studied the sky for a moment. The sun was already a crimson color in the early morning hour which signaled another hot day in the North Country. As a native from Georgia she welcomed the steamy days while the locals moaned and fretted. She liked it here even with the cold, hard winters that plundered the northern state for well over seven months at a time; it was the quietness and the slowness of life that enticed her to stay.
For most of her thirty-four years of life, she had known nothing but instability and chaos; she came from a dysfunctional family, and as soon as she graduated from high school she joined the Navy and spent the next nine years traveling the world, and was trained in skills and knowledge shrouded with secrets never to be revealed to the common people. By the time she turned thirty Anna wanted a normal life. It was during her visit to upstate New York where she met Darren LaMonde and his family. After a short time, he offered her a position with Division 15 for the 1st District Coast Guard as a Patrol Specialist. She accepted it without hesitation, and never looked back.
“Looks like it’ll be another scorcher.” Darren was saying as he stood behind the wheel in the center of the boat. His dark mass of hair flew in every direction in the wind. He was handsome even at the age of fifty-six with no signs of gray or wrinkle. His hazel eyes were dark as they studied the lifting mist.
“You call this a heat wave? Oh, pl-lease.” Anna smirked as she continued to stare out across the lake to the island ahead.
“I don’t get how you like this humidity. It just saps all the energy right out of me.” Darren throttled the engine down as they quickly approached tiny Green Island, one of the 70 plus islands of the lake.
“Sweetheart, you just weren’t raised right.” Anna drawled in her thick southern accent and then chuckled as she leaned further into the railing as the boat gave a gentle lurch forward when Darren put the engine into reverse. They slowly drifted up to the wooden dock where there was also another boat for the Plattsburgh City Police Department.
This was the one part she disliked about her job; having to deal with dead bodies from time to time. Darren had called her around 4am to relay that a body has been reported and the police had asked for their assistance in the investigation.
As soon as the boat was aligned against the short dock, Anna jumped out and anchored the boat. Quietly they walked off the dock and down a graveled pathway towards a small cabin that was nestled in the trees. Suddenly, Anna stopped.
“What is it?” Darren asked in a whisper.
“I’m not sure.” Anna strained to see through the fog. “I thought I heard something.”
They continued until they reached the rustic cabin where they were met by two individuals dressed in dark clothes. The tall, stocky black man was the first to speak as he held out his hand. “I’m Lt. Jean Picaur, and this is Dr. Madeline D’Louverne, a member of the crime scene unit.”
The older woman was taller and thinner than Anna. She took Anna’s hand. “We’re glad you both could come out so quickly.”
“We came as soon as we heard.” Darren said. “What do we have?”
Picaur and the doctor exchanged a look as they stepped aside.
“You better come inside.” Picaur spoke as he opened the door and led them into the building.
It was a two-bedroom cabin with a large living area in the center. The small kitchen was on one side, and the bedrooms on the other side. As Anna studied the largest room she could see stark evidence of struggle everywhere. The back door’s window was smashed. The couch in the living room was overturned. There were dried blood and mud splattered on the walls and floor. The kitchen looked as if it was hit by a hurricane with utensils and dishpans scattered all over the floor and countertops.
Anna then saw a distinct trail of blood that ran from the kitchen floor over the carpet of the living room and into the den where it ended at the desk. She walked over and stood over the desk that held an older computer model; there was blood splattered over the monitor and across the keyboard, and a single bloodied handprint near the mouse pad with no mouse. The computer had been turned on. Anna assumed that it was being checked for evidence.
“Jesus H. Christ!” Darren exclaimed as he glanced at the shocking sight spread before him.
“This isn’t your ordinary homicide.” Anna spoke as she looked directly at Picaur.
The officer met her gaze and slowly shook his head. “No.”
“And we were called here why?”
“To help us sort through evidence.”
Darren turned to the Lieutenant and asked. “How many were staying in this cabin?”
Picaur pulled out his Blackberry and glanced at the little green monitor and answered. “There were two couples staying here for the weekend. They were from New York City. University students.”
Anna took a step forward. “How many bodies were found?”
Darren looked over at Anna before turning to Picaur. “Then what happened to the others?”
“At this point we’re assuming they’re also dead, but without any bodies we can’t be certain.”
Dr. D’Louverne replied with an even tone. “We do have some evidence that seems to point the time of death around 11pm Saturday. The body that was found was one of the women who we think was the last survivor to die.”
“Not a domestic homicide then?” Darren questioned.
“No. These kids were not killed in a conventional sense.”
“Dr. D’Louverne seems to think they were killed by something … not human.”
Anna’s eyes widened slightly as she turned to the older woman. “Animal?”
“I can’t make a determination at this point. We were hoping you would be able to offer any insight.”
Anna turned and studied the officer intently, without replying.
“I’ve seen your record, Ms. Hart. You have a background in Marine Biology and various classified military experimentations.” Picaur stated.
Darren shook his head. “You’re saying that some marine creature came out of the water and killed four people in a matter of days?”
“In a matter of hours actually.” Dr.D’Louverne corrected. “I’m saying we’re not sure at the moment.”
Anna looked around the cabin once more. “Okay. Show me what you got.”
Dr. D’Louverne sat down at the computer and brought up a blog site on the internet.
“The deceased, Shelli Watson, blogged on this site regularly. She recorded their last hours.”
The doctor, with gloves on hands, worked on the keyboard until she leaned back. “You can start here.”
Dr. D’Louverne then stood up, stepped aside as Anna took the chair. She accepted a pair of latex gloves from Darren and pulled them on over her hands. She then read one of the postings.
“July 7th, Friday, 7:45pm. Whew! We finally made it after driving for God forever long, all 7 hours of it! We spent another 2 hours at a lakeside boating store trying to find a boat we could afford to rent. Lisa and Mark are making dinner, spaghetti I think; and Dru, not sure where he took off to, probably out exploring the island. I can’t believe we’re actually spending an entire weekend on a tiny little island in the middle of a lake, not an ocean, but a fresh water lake! Dru and Mark have been dead set on going out on the lake to fish, and hopefully also catch a glimpse of the local legend monster, Champ. Lisa and I keep telling them that those were only stories to lure tourists to the area, but boys will be boys. While they are doing that, we’ll be out on the beach sunning ourselves. Well, I’m being paged …”
Anna, using the keyboard, advanced to the next posting.
“July 8th, Saturday, 8am. The guys are off on the lake, fishing and looking for Champ. I keep telling Dru, in vain I know, that he wasn’t going to find anything. Oh well. Lisa and I are now off to relax for the morning.”
“Sounds like typical 20-something kids to me.” Darren commented.
“Yeah.” Anna replied with a nod. “Next post.”
“July 8th, Saturday, 12:35pm. The guys came back all excited. Dru claimed he got a picture of Champ. Lisa and I didn’t believe them, not until they showed us the picture. It doesn’t look quite like the pictures I’ve seen online of Champ, but it is definitely something. I’ve included the link here in case anyone was curious to take a look. Feel free to comment on what you think of it.”
Anna tabbed until the link was highlighted and hit the enter key. A picture filled the screen. Darren leaned over Anna’s shoulder and they both studied the picture. It was slightly blurry but there was a definite dark form rising partially above the surface of the water; the boat filled the bottom of the picture as one of the men had taken the photo looking across the lake towards the mainland. Anna studied this form. The sun was directly overhead, casting shadows on this figure, which obscured any clear view.
“What do you think?” Darren asked.
Anna shook her head slightly. “Not sure. Shelli was right. This doesn’t fit what we know about Champ. This doesn’t look like any amphibious being I’ve seen before. This here looks like a head.” She ran a finger along the profile of the form. “Champ is much more rounded. This looks like an arm, and a hand, or more like claws …” Anna leaned closer to the monitor. “To me it looks as if this creature was swimming towards their boat.”
“And perhaps followed them back here to the cabin.” Darren said blandly.
Anna exited out of the picture and continued to read.
“July 8th, 2pm. A strange thing has happened. Our boat’s gone. Mark swore he tied it to the dock. Now we’re stranded. Grr! None of our cells seem to be working now. Odd. We have no choice now but to wait until someone shows up to get off this island.”
Picaur then spoke up. “When we arrived there was no sign of their boat.”
Anna gave a quick nod and read on.
“July 8th, 6pm. I’m freaking out. Dru’s gone. Lisa’s hurt bad. There’s something out there trying to get in. I want to go home now. I’m so scared.”
“Someone that was wounded had been on the couch.” Dr. O’Louvern pointed to the torn, upturned furniture. “I found dried human blood.”
“There were also tracks around the cabin. They are unlike any animal prints I have ever seen.” Picaur added.
“Let’s see what happened next.
July 8th, 8:30pm. There’s still no sign of Dru. I can still hear him screaming in my head. He had gone into the woods to find Lisa while Mark stayed with me. Then I heard Dru screaming, and Lisa came running back a few moments later. She was covered in blood. And her right arm was completely gone! My god. What is happening here?”
Anna leaned back in the chair, rubbed both hands on the back of her neck. “This creature’s intelligent. It stalked them, watched and studied them. Waited. Dru was the first to die. Lisa was allowed to get away. Kind of like a cat and mouse game.”
“Like a predator hunting its prey.” Picaur muttered. “Would this be anything the military’s responsible for?”
Anna glanced over at the big man and eyed him momentarily before she answered. “No, this creature was not created by the military, or by any other country that I know of.”
She turned and focused on the monitor for a moment. “Nor is this any marine specie I have ever encountered before. This is either specie we’ve never seen before now or …”
Anna looked up at Darren as he asked. “Think this has anything to with the meteor shower we had several months ago?”
She shrugged her shoulders. “I’m not sure. Perhaps.”
Picaur took a step closer. “What are you suggesting?
Anna nodded. “I still have some connections in the military and I inquired about this meteor shower we had here a few months ago. I was told that an unidentified object exploded just above the earth’s atmosphere. Pieces of it rained down and landed in this lake. Nothing was ever recovered. Not too long afterwards people began reporting strange sightings of a creature that wasn’t Champ. Fish and other water life became scarce.”
She paused to glance over at the closest window before she met Picaur’s dark brown eyes. “The point is that this creature didn’t appear until after the so-called meteor shower, and as far as I know it never killed … until now.”
“Perhaps the guys did something to provoke it.” Darren suggested.
“That is a possibility. Okay, the final posting.
July 8th, 10:40pm. I can hear it scraping around outside. It’s growling. Mark is standing watch by the back door. God, I don’t want to die. Please, anyone who’s reading this send help. Please! “
They were quiet for several moments before Anna stood up and peered over at the back door where the window was shattered.
“It came through the window.” Anna began. “Killed Mark on the spot. It then came after Shelli. Shelli fought and died hard. Then it killed Lisa, or perhaps she was already dead.”
“How would it have gotten out?” Picaur asked.
Anna walked over to the back door and studied it for a moment. “It simply just opened the door and walked out.” To demonstrate she turned the door knob and the door slowly swung open on its own. She then stepped out and onto a small deck. “Doc, shine your laser light over here.”
Dr. O’Louvern did just that. “Blood. It goes down the steps and into the woods.”
“This is where we go as well.” Picaur said.
When Picaur and Darren started down the steps Anna reached out and touched Darren’s arm. “Wait. The sun’s gone. Looks like a storm is coming.”
Darren peered up at the sky and sure enough, the sky was now covered with dark clouds. The wind, now cooler, had picked up in intensity. He looked over at Anna. “You’re thinking it’s still out there?”
Anna’s eyes were focused on the moving shadows of the trees as the wind whipped through them. “Yes.”
Everyone stood still for several moments as they listened to the howling of the wind and the rain started to splatter on and around them in big drops. Just then, Picaur gave a shout as he stomped to the other side of the deck.
“God damn it all! The boats are gone!” He bellowed.
Darren moved besides him. “Both of them?”
The women came to look as well and saw that both vessels had simply vanished.
“We should get inside.” Darren muttered.
They quietly went back inside the cabin with Picaur being the last one in as he shut the door behind him. He ran his fingers through his wet hair and said almost in a whisper. “So, now we’re the hunted.”
“It appears that way.” Anna replied. “We need to be ready. The doors need to be secured.”
Darren gave a nod as they worked together to drag the ragged couch over and leaned it against the back door. The other door they barricaded with the heavy oak coffee table.
Picaur took a step back to study what they had done. “These probably won’t hold it back for very long.”
“No.” Anna answered as she checked her weapon to be sure it was fully loaded. “But it should buy us enough time to respond.”
They all suddenly froze when they heard large branches outside cracking and snapping.
“The winds have died down some.” Darren whispered.
“The creature?” the doctor asked in a shaky voice.
For the next several moments, they stood completely still as they waited. The silence in the cabin was eerie. Anna held her breath as she strained to listen for any sound from the approaching creature. She heard nothing until suddenly, a loud bang slammed against the back door as the couch literally shot across the room, smashing into both Darren and Dr. D’Louverne as they flew across the living room floor.
Before either Picaur or Anna could react, the officer yelled out as a claw-like hand reached inside and grabbed one of his feet and pulled him effortlessly outside into the rainstorm and fog. It happened so fast the creature and Picaur were nothing but a blur to Anna.
Next thing she knew, she stood alone.
* * *
The wind had died down as the fog settled heavily over the island. Rain came down in large droplets. As she stood in the doorway, Anna stared out in disbelief. The fog was so thick she couldn’t see beyond the deck. As she looked back into the cabin, she saw both Darren and Dr. D’Louverne lying on the floor, still breathing. They were alive. For now. She listened for sounds but could not hear anything above the pouring rain. It would make no sense to go out into the storm, blind and practically deaf. It would be suicide, not to mention foolish. Picaur was most likely dead. Her responsibility now was to the injured inside.
Anna stepped inside and went to close the door but saw that the hinges were damaged, so she left it partially ajar. She needed to get them off this island; however, she had a feeling this creature didn’t intend to let any of them leave alive. This left her with only one choice. She must find a way to kill it.
* * *
Darren moaned as he tried to sit up, but Anna, as she knelt beside him, pressed him back down. “Easy there, cowboy.” She spoke gently. “You have a head injury and I don’t want you moving too quickly right now.”
He met her eyes that held no emotion. “Picaur?”
She shook her head. “I don’t know. He’s gone now. The doc is fine. She’s over there sitting up with a broken arm.”
He turned his head gingerly to see Dr. D’Louverne sitting on the floor, with her back against the kitchen’s counter. “Did you see how fast it moved?”
“I did. I saw a glimpse of it too. It’s bigger than I thought, about seven feet tall.”
“It was standing?”
“Yeah, like a human, yet it’s not human. I’m not sure what it is.”
“So, now what, partner?”
Anna was finished with his head bandage as she stood up. “You and the doc are going to try and get a message to the mainland to send help. We still have power, for now.”
“Done.” Darren slowly sat up and leaned against the wall. “What about you?”
Anna avoided his eyes as she looked away, “I’m going hunting.”
“Bullshit!” Darren attempted to stand up, but intense dizziness threatened to overwhelm him so he sat back down. “Anna, I’m not letting you go out there alone against that thing.”
This time she met his panicked gaze as she laid a hand on his shoulder. “You are in no condition to help. I need to buy you two time to get help out here.”
He shook his head. ” No talking you out of it, is there?”
“Help me up. Shit.”
As she placed her hands under his arms Anna helped Darren up to his feet. As he stood he leaned against the wall until the dizzy spell passed and he was steady. “You come back, ya hear? Or else the chief will have my sorry ass.”
Anna smiled at her partner and friend. “I come back in one piece and you owe me an extra week’s vacation.”
* * *
With the loaded gun in hand, Anna stepped down off the deck. The rain had stopped, but the fog remained dense. She slowly made her way towards the woods where her instincts told her she would find the creature. It was mid-day, but with the thick mist that hung over everything it felt like dusk. The woods ahead of her were dark and full of shadows. She swallowed hard, and knew that any of the shadows could be the creature. As she moved into the trees she felt pressed by the overwhelming sound of silence where even her shallow breaths sounded too loud.
Anna glanced at the fir needle-riddled ground; she could barely make out the path. Then something shiny caught her attention as she bent down to inspect. It was Picaur’s badge. Picking it up she turned it over a few times in her hand, and fought back the hot tears that threatened to spill from her eyes. She slipped the badge into her pants pocket and continued onward. She was on the right path. It was only a matter of time now.
The narrow path led her up a steep incline and deeper into the fog. She could barely see inches in front of her. Then, somewhere behind her, she heard branches and dried fir on the ground crackling and snapping. For an instance, Anna froze as her heart pounded in her chest and she could hear the blood roaring in her ears. It was coming directly behind her. She must act now or die, like a coward.
She was no coward.
When she heard the low growl, Anna swung around, dropped down to her knees, aimed and fired into the fog. The bullet found its mark as she heard the creature screeched, and then came loud crashing sounds, and then silence.
A voice. She heard a voice. It sounded like Picaur! Cautiously, Anna stood back up and jogged towards the source of the sound. As she looked down the hill, she spotted a figure on the ground.
Anna quickly ran down the fir covered path to the figure of Jean Picaur as he sat on the ground, leaned back against a dead tree stump. He had an open gash in his left thigh, but he was alive.
“By the devil, Anna, it’s you!”
“Yes, sir.” Anna answered with a smile as she knelt down beside him.
He placed a bloodied hand on her arm closest to him. “I thought I was a goner.”
“Don’t thank me yet, lieutenant.” Her eyes scanned around them. “I only wounded it, and I’m sure it’s really pissed now.”
He gave a solemn nod. “Gotcha.”
With her free hand, Anna pulled the man up to his feet as he leaned heavily against her.
“Alright there?” She eyed him closely.
“Just feeling woozy.”
“It’s from the blood loss.”
One step at a time they slowly made their way back up the hill and down the other side towards the cabin. Overhead the sun was now visible as the fog began to retreat.
“Thank goodness the sun will be out soon.”
“Not soon enough.” Anna barely whispered as they came to a sudden stop. She focused ahead. They were close to the cabin now as she could barely make out its outline beyond the tree lines. To their left was Lake Champlain. Just ahead on the path, she saw the dark shadow of the creature as it stood between them and the cabin.
Anna couldn’t quite make out the body other than it was tall and lean, but she saw the eyes. It was like tiger’s eyes, red and black. Its face was human like but scaly and greenish like a reptile that held no nose, only two slits. The mouth was as wide as the width of its head, and as it seemingly grinned at them the mouth spread open to reveal razor sharp teeth of a carnivore. The growl that escaped from its body sounded so deep and low it resonated through her body from the feet up to her head.
She’d known fear and death, and had faced predators, but nothing like this. All she wanted to do was curl up on the ground and whimper.
“Holy mother of God!” Picaur exclaimed in a hoarse voice.
They both stood, unmoving, as did the creature.
“What is it waiting for?” the officer breathed in a whisper.
“For us to make the first move.”
“Jesus, we’re dead.”
As she kept her eyes on the shadowy form ahead, Anna tightened her grip on the gun.
“Do you still have your gun?”
“No, I dropped it by the deck after it grabbed me. I-er-can see it from here, on the ground.”
“When I count to three, I’m going to give you my gun. You keep it busy long enough for me to get to your gun, and we’ll blast it to hell.”
“Beats just standing here.”
In one movement, Anna placed the gun in Picaur’s waiting hand and dashed to the right. The officer instantly began firing as she ran as fast as her legs would go. She could hear the creature hissing and growling somewhere nearby. She didn’t know exactly where it was anymore. Her focus now was the gun on the ground, as she bounded forward, dodged low branches and leapt over rocks and fallen trees.
The deck was now only a few feet away, but so was the roar of the creature. Anna took a deep breath and jumped high up into the air and flew for the gun that lay on the hard, bare ground. As she landed on her side, she felt the air whooshed right out of her lungs with a loud thud. She wrapped her hand around the gun, rolled over onto her back just in time to see a flash of white teeth, and fired. Then there was nothing.
* * *
Her head roared and spun as she slowly became aware that her body was on the cool, wet ground. She opened her eyes to see both Darren and Picaur standing over her; both wore wide grins on their faces.
“Damn, girl! You gave us a scare!” Darren cried.
Anna tasted blood as she carefully stood up onto her feet. Her eyes scanned around her.
“Where is it?”
Picaur sat down on the steps of the deck as he spoke. “You shot it point blank in its face. I don’t know how the hell you got the shot off; it was practically on top of you.”
“So, I shot it. Where did it go?” Anna asked again.
Picaur looked over towards the lake. “It crawled into the water. It was wheezing and bleeding. Then it was gone.”
Anna, steadier now, walked to the edge of the shore. She could see its blood on the rocks and sand. It was a black-red color, and lots of it.
Darren and the hobbling Picaur came and stood on each side of Anna as they studied the water. Everything was still. Calm. The fog was completely gone and the sun shone brightly.
(Published in Piker Press August 24th, 2009)
She hurt all over. Inside and out.
She wore no shoes against the jagged rocks on the trail, and no jacket against the skin-biting cold of the late autumn air. She had run away so quickly there was no time to grab anything.
The pain in her chest throbbed as she tried to ignore it. She hated feeling this way. It was a nagging reminder of all she had lost.
She stumbled on as she kept her back to the destruction that lay behind. Black smokes rose to the sky as the putrid smell of burnt flesh permeated her nostrils. Bile burned in her stomach as she covered her cracked lips with a dirt-streaked hand.
Images and thoughts tried to force themselves into her mind, but she shook them away. No, she couldn’t face them now. They would break her into a million of pieces, pieces that she could never put back together.
A snarled tree root suddenly snagged a foot as she tripped and fell to her knees with a whimper. The impacted skin burned, and something warm trickled down that foot.
She brushed the once golden-brown-now-mud-caked hair away from her pale face, and stared down at herself. The left pant-leg now torn which exposed her ankle completely. There was a gash on the top of her foot where blood oozed from. As she sat on the icy, hard ground, she debated with herself on whether she should bother to continue. With an injured foot, she’d either be an easy prey, or die from an infection.
Stifling back the urge to scream, she pounded the earth with both fists. Hot tears blinded her as her teeth ground together.
Life was so unfair! What had she done to deserve such a cruel fate? What?!
The snapping of nearby branches startled her as she sat up and peered ahead. All she saw was a thick canopy of dark hardwood trees. A moment later though there were several shadows moving within them.
The predators have found their prey.
“N-no!” She rolled over on her knees and stood up. She then scanned around but realized that it was too late to run. She reached down and grabbed a sharp-edged rock.
Ignoring the burning pain, she faced the wavering shadows as they neared. Her nails dug into the rock as she fought to steady her panting.
Would death come quickly for her? Or would they take their time as they tortured her?
She tried to swallow but discovered that her mouth had become parched as she licked her chapped lips, and tasted blood.
The awning of the trees closed in as roaring filled her head. With her other hand, she pressed against her temple.
She couldn’t pass out now!
The sound of a horse’s neigh roused her back to full consciousness as she turned towards the source, and sucked in her breath.
The high stature of the animal clopped towards her. Its brown coat shiny with sweat and rain water. A figure sat on it, draped in a long, black coat. Her eyes moved up the muddied black boots, black pants, and finally to the face which stayed hidden behind the hood.
“State your name.” A deep male voice spoke.
Her body began to tremble, but she forced herself to stand tall and steady. “I’m called Traviata.” Her words barely came out in a hoarse whisper. Her hand gripped the rock tighter.
The hooded figure turned its head towards the smoke-laden sky above her. “State your crime.”
“Crime?” Vivid memories of her past life filled her mind. “The only crime I’ve committed is by being born!” She couldn’t hold the pain and rage back any longer as she threw the rock, and it smashed against the back of the black figure. The explosive movement caused her to fall forward as she landed hard on her knees and hands. There she stayed as she allowed the tears to flow freely down her face.
Unmoved, the low voice asked again, “Your crime?”
Without raising her head, Traviata answered, “For being me. That’s my crime.”
“You were forced out of your home?”
“Yes, by my own family!” Her chest heaved. “A-abandoned. They burned the house and my cats!” She needed to get it all out. “Why? For what? For not being like them, normal? For choosing my own path and not theirs?” She shook her head. “Why? I don’t know why — they couldn’t accept me as me. And somehow that became my crime.”
Several moments of silence passed as she continued to stare down at the gray earth. She expected pain to come at any time. She prayed that the end would be swift.
The leather from the saddle creaked, and then a loud thud sounded when a pair of boots hit the hard ground.
“Traviata.” The tone now soft, kinder.
She hesitated before glancing up. The figure now stood before her, exposed. The golden-brown eyes that adorned a youthful face squinted as a smile spread across his lips. He held out a hand to her. “Stand, please.”
Traviata exhaled and then reached for the hand. The man pulled her gently up.
“You are a jewel. Rare and precious.” His face radiated benevolence behind the smile as he continued to hold her hand. “Come with me and leave your old life behind.”
She blinked at him, and then smiled back.
Rob gripped the steering wheel as he watched a brown leaf roll across the gray hood. His haggard face covered with salt and pepper beard helped conceal the white scar across his right cheek. He stared ahead as he half-listened to the car radio.
“The President is expected to address the nation tonight for the final time.” The radio garbled. “Before leaving with his family to an undisclosed location.”
He leaned over and changed the stations.
“CDC still have no answers as to what is causing the flu-like pandemic, nor are they any closer to an effective vaccine or treatment…”
“With the death toll skyrocketing across the country and hospitals completely overwhelmed with the sick, medical personnel are urging everyone to stay indoors in hope of slowing down the spread…”
“Ten more police officers gunned down by looters as they struggle to protect the civilians still in the downtown area…”
The radio went silent when Rob opened the door. He didn’t bother to close it as he staggered into the expansive cemetery. Shadows lurked everywhere yet his own moved with each faltered step. His shoulders slumped forward as he buried both hands deep in the pockets of the ragged trench coat.
He passed rows and rows of old and broken stones until he approached a mangled oak tree. He stooped over a particular headstone, half-buried in yellowed grass. He pulled his right hand out and pressed it on top of the cold stone.
Born March 3, 1972-Died November 12, 2010
Born April 15, 2008-Died November 10, 2010
He bowed his head, eyes closed. “Jules…three years, Jules.”
He stood still for several moments. A dark lock of hair fell over his left eye as his lips quivered. Rob then deliberately reached into the right pocket, and pulled out a pistol.
“I’m so tired of just surviving.” He mumbled as he shifted the weapon to his left and then back to the right hand. “Everyone’s gone.” He pressed the trigger back. “I don’t want to be alone anymore.” And raised the gun towards his temple.
He suddenly paused midway when the branches of the nearby tree swayed and creaked. A breeze swept over his thin body as his hazel eyes searched each and every stone.
“Jules?” His voice shook.
Everything grew still. Including the shadows.
Rob sucked in a trembling breath as he extended the free hand into the left pocket, and extracted a tarnished, gold-colored pocket watch. He used the thumb to flip the lid open.
“7:15.” He whispered.
He blinked several times. There was something engraved in the lid as he continued to stare at it.
79 S 30 W
A smile slowly spread across his lips. “Dad, you son of a b–” He chuckled as he snapped the lid shut, and dropped the watch back into the pocket.
Rob leaned against the headstone as he pushed the trigger back down.
“There’s something I need to do, Jules.” He muttered with excitement. “I’ll be back to…” His voice trailed off when he turned around.
A piece of wood slammed against the side of his head, and he instantly slumped to the ground. As he lied in a heap, his eyes remained open.
They saw nothing.
A murky shadow moved across the earth and enveloped the body, and lifted the watch out of the pocket.
“Whatcha got, Jim?” A scrawny girl in a tattered dress appeared next to the corpse.
The male teen’s crooked smile revealed two missing front teeth as he grasped the ticking object in his grimy hand. “Lunch!”
(First published with Asylum Ink on April, 11th 2014)
There is a new serial fiction in town!
This idea pretty much tortured me for well over a year, and I figured the holiday season was a good time to start it. It’s mainly a fantasy story, but it also has zombies, werewolves, elves, and other magical creatures. And yes Virginia, there is a Santa Claus but that particular aspect of the story will be unlike the one we now have in this world.
Not Your Usual Christmas Story
Early next year, I plan to create a “book” trailer so stay tuned for that!
Samantha Dunham lost everything, her husband and her young son, to a virulent pandemic that’s sweeping the world.
Struggling to find the will to survive, she finds herself swept up with a small group of survivors made up of mostly children who have been placed in her charge. Along with Lieutenant Lance Shirley, they all will soon find themselves journeying to another realm that will prove to be fantastical as well as terrifying.
*Today we have a special guest interview with short-story writer, poet, and author, James Dorr! Enjoy! Be sure to check out his links below too.
If you were to introduce yourself to a group of strangers, what would you say?
I’m James Dorr.
I’m a writer.
I write short fiction and poetry, mostly dark fantasy and horror, but also occasional science fiction and mystery.
Yes, I do see a difference between horror and dark fantasy, dark fantasy, to me, incorporating elements of the supernatural while horror is more a description of the readers’ reaction, evoking feelings of fright or unease. So there can be psychological horror as well as such things as dark mystery, dark science fiction, dark romance, even dark humor. Comedy is similar, in this case evoking laughter or at least a chuckle (whereas “horror” as a word is derived from “horripilation,” a physical bristling of body hair as when one has “goose bumps”), so there can be comedy-mystery, humorous science fiction, etc. But then I write cross-genre work as well.
Tell us what first drew you to writing.
I think, in general, I felt a need for self-expression. When I was younger I thought I might be a painter or graphic artist, or something in the visual arts, even perhaps something like a cartoonist (as an undergraduate, for instance, I became Art Editor on my college’s humor magazine, as well as illustrating for other publications). But I seemed to have more talent for describing things in words, rather than lines or colors, to tempt the reader to visualize things for him or herself, and for more than just the visual impression – to try to evoke other senses as well, to feel a thing’s texture, a speech’s music (I might mention I also lead and play tenor in Renaissance recorder consort), to see for a moment within a different character’s mind .
Or maybe it’s just an urge to show off.
You have a new book coming out in 2017. Tell us about it.
On a far-future, exhausted Earth a ghoul – an eater of corpses – explores the ruins of one of its greatest cities in hopes of discovering the one thing that made its inhabitants truly human. This is the premise, the quest that introduces us to the 16 stand-alone chapters of Tombs: A Chronicle of Latter-Day Times of Earth, about half in fact already published in various venues as complete short stories, loosely inspired by a pair of quotations from Edgar Allan Poe, of the most poetic subject being the death of a beautiful woman (which also informs, in its way, my previous book The Tears of Isis) and of the boundaries between life and death being “at best shadowy and vague.” If these statements be true, and in an already dying world, can love be a power to even transcend death?
What inspired you to write it?
For Tombs the stories, at least the first of them, preceded the book, yet they seemed to “want” to come together, rather like the stories in books like Amy Tan’s The Joy Luck Club or Ray Bradbury’s The Martian Chronicles. That is, even if complete in themselves, they seemed to be part of something bigger, in this case a sort of future history of a people already aware of its approaching doom, if not in this lifetime, at best in no more than a few generations. That’s far enough, then, that one needn’t despair, to strive to live only in the moment, but nothing that one accomplishes is going to be long remembered either. Yet legends still are, somehow, created – perhaps through some larger need of humanity – and these are the legends presented here. Ones that, in having created this world, I felt myself compelled to discover.
What seems to be the recurring theme(s) in your stories?
That’s hard to say, because I’ve published several hundred stories, at least as many poems, and in several genres and combinations of genres. One thing I seem to come back to, though, is the idea of love as a redemptive quality, which I think informs a number of the Tombs stories too. Then in my 2013 collection The Tears of Isis, while assembled from stories for the most part already written, I tried to adhere to a theme of beauty and art being in some ways at odds with intimacy and life, opening with a poem about the Medusa seen as a sculptress who, whether through art or through her myth, turns men into statues. Does the artist’s model then, of necessity, become an object, but in that way gain a kind of immortality? And then there are vampires, in a different way preying on life but becoming immortal themselves, leading to a series of flash stories I’ve been working on (two of them published recently in Daily Science Fiction) depicting the “casket girls” of New Orleanian legend, who allegedly brought vampires with them from France in 1728. And then, thinking of that as an urban legend, I’m fascinated by people’s beliefs, of myths and even fairy tales, a number of which I’ve also worked into stories or poems.
How do you get into the minds of your characters?
That’s something that I think gets easier with practice. I’m thinking right now though of an expression, that you shouldn’t judge a person until you’ve walked a mile in his boots, and I think that’s a key. Imagining yourself as different people and learning to empathize, both in life and in art. So I try to imagine a major character’s previous life – one of the “casket girls, above, for instance, as a child growing up in Eighteenth Century France (and, yes, researching Eighteenth Century France too), then the hardships of a voyage at sea, the not knowing what to expect ahead, the hopes and fears — and then placing that character in the new situation the story presents them with. What would I do if I were that person, as modified by what I’ve “learned” of their past?
And then not to “tell” what the character thinks, or at least not too much, but to try to show her or him in action in such a way that the reader can sympathize with that person too. (In short, to see through my character’s eyes instead of my own, to hear with its ears, smell with its nose, taste with its tongue, feel through its emotions, think with its brain, and do my darnedest to make sure you, the reader, do so as well.)
In your opinion, what are some of the biggest obstacles facing writers today?
Nowadays a main one, I think, may be what happens after a book, or a story within a book, gets published. In the past the publisher took the responsibility of getting it into bookstores and into the hands of reviewers and doing at least a minimal amount of advertising. Now, however, writers are much more on their own. And of course there’s self-publishing too, but even with a traditional publisher it still comes down now to promoting oneself – how to prevent the book you slaved over from just being buried under the crowd of other books coming out at the same time?
This is one reason I thank you, Carrie, for being willing to interview me here, to introduce myself to your readers (as in turn, hopefully, some of my readers will see this here and stay around to see more of your work). In this way we all can help one another and, on the same token, I’d like to urge readers, if you come across a book you enjoy, please consider writing a review, even if only in a sentence or two just saying you liked it, and sharing it in places like Amazon and Goodreads where people will see it.
Any additional comments or advice you’d like to add for our readers?
Perseverance. Don’t quit your day job. Those are the clichés, but they’re still true, that most writers aren’t going to make much money until they’ve been at it for some time, if even then. But the real advice I would give is to enjoy what you’re doing, as well as to strive to do your best.
Follow your bliss, to repeat that cliché. Be proud of your work, but be practical too — if an editor advises you to make changes, take it seriously. But remember it’s still advice, especially as you gain more experience, and the one you must please, ultimately, should be yourself.
Born in Florida, raised in the New Jersey, in college in Cambridge Massachusetts, and currently living in the Midwest, James Dorr is a short story writer and poet, specializing in dark fantasy and horror, with forays into mystery and science fiction. His The Tears of Isis was a 2014 Bram Stoker Award® finalist for Superior Achievement in a Fiction Collection, while other books include Strange Mistresses: Tales of Wonder and Romance, Darker Loves: Tales of Mystery and Regret, and his all poetry Vamps (A Retrospective), as well as, forthcoming, Tombs: A Chronicle of Latter-Day Times of Earth, a novel-in-stories from Elder Signs Press in spring-summer 2017. He has also been a technical writer, an editor on a regional magazine, a full time non-fiction freelancer, and a semi-professional musician.
“The city had once lived, blazing with light. The books all described this. The Ghoul-Poet sat in the midst of a heap of them, pages torn, rotting, spread out all about him. This was a library, the pride of New City, or rather a square that had faced the library, that had received this avalanche of thought — words embossed on parchment — that cascaded down when the library burst, its walls weakened by age. It was a treasure trove, this mountain of dreams and abstracts, histories and myths. Some true, some perhaps not.”
These, then, were the legends of the Tombs, the vast Necropolis and its environs . . .
. . . of corpse-trains that plied bridges crossing the great river, bearing the City’s dead, braving attacks from flesh-eating ghouls
. . . of ratcatchers, gravediggers, grave guards, and artists
. . . of Mangol the Ghoul, of musician-lovers Flute and Harp who once played back a storm, of the Beautiful Corpse
. . . of seas filled with monsters, a mass-death of animals, secret tapestries teaching children about a past great war, the dangers of swamps
. . . a city consumed by a huge conflagration, a woman frozen for thousands of years
. . . a mission by airship to rescue a man’s soul
. . . a flower that ate memories. . .
These are just some of the wonders, the horrors, to be found in the pages of Tombs: A Chronicle of Latter-Day Times of Earth, scheduled to be out from Elder Signs Press in Spring-Summer, 2017.
Like many of my fellow writers, I am participating in NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) all this month so the postings here may be a bit erratic. I’d like to apologize ahead of time.
As some of you may already know, I’ve been writing a serial fiction, Tomorrow Falls, for the past year. Part one initially posted as a novella with Juke Pop Serials (and was selected to be one of the top 25 Summer Writing Projects), and is now currently running in a serialized format with Piker Press. I intend to use NaNo to write Part two.
Instead of describing what this story is about, I created a short trailer:
Why I Write
Submit a 250-word essay or a poem on why do you write.
Top three finishers will have a choice of seeing their essay/poem featured on A Writer and Her Adolescent Muse blog , or be interviewed for the same blog (Purpose? More exposure!)
Interested? Click here.
Super Short Halloween
In honor of the upcoming frightful holiday, write a super short horror story (100 words max).
Story should be no more than PG-13. Think like Hitchcock…be creative and don’t rely on gore to scare the pants off your readers.
Interested in this one? Click here.
I need your feedback on a story I’m currently working on. The first novella is done and live on Juke Pop Serials. I’m struggling with which genre to place it in. The story is called Tomorrow Falls.
Some of you may know that I’ve been writing a serial fiction over at Juke Pop Serials called Tomorrow Falls. I entered TF in to the SWP16 (Summer Writing Project) contest sponsored by both Juke Pop Serials and 1888 Center, and on July 1st, TF was among the top 25 selected as finalists for the next round!
What does this mean?
Throughout the month of July, the top 25 writers selected will be participating in a series of events, essays, and podcast episodes as well as workshopping and promoting our stories. On August 1st, the story with the highest participation by its readers (how many hits the story generates, the time spent reading each chapter, etc.) will be selected to be published.
Throughout this month, please share this link with your readers to help me promote Tomorrow Falls. I will be posting some of the items I’m participating in throughout the month as well (interview, essays, etc.).
(*Note: For all 25 of us, our stories are WIP meaning we will also be tasked with editing/revising over the course of the month as well.)
In the END there are three things that last: faith, hope and love; and the greatest of these is love.
In a matter of days, Tess’ world became nightmarish. Something was unleashed that turned people into hideous, blood-thirsty creatures. She soon became the hunted as she fled the only home she ever knew in search of a safe haven.
Beck has always been running from something. Until he met Tess. He knew if she ever found out about some of his past sins, he feared she would never forgive him.
Can they survive what’s to come, together? Or, will they be ripped apart by past secrets that could ultimately doomed mankind?
Let’s do something fun today!
Can you name a writer (living or not) that has the same initials as in your name?
I shared the same initials as Charles Grant, a sci-fi and horror novelist. One of his better known books was The Dark Cry of the Moon.
Okay, your turn!
Whenever you write a story, have you ever envision it being created into a film? If so, ever picture in your mind who you would have play your main characters? This is what I’ve done for my current horror serial; for fun, mind you although I’ve always dreamed of having one of my stories produced into either a short or feature film 🙂
(Click on picture below to see my choice of actors)
Who would you have as actors to play your main characters? Dream big! Have fun 🙂
For those who write web serials, you’re probably familiar with Juke Pope Serials. If not, read on.
“Reinventing the Book Publishing Model” (taken directly from the Juke Pop’s website:
“JukePop was formed to help publishers better locate new emerging talent by nurturing talented writers that are often uneconomical for major publishing houses to handle. JukePop serves as a content incubator, allowing publishers, to glean the “right” books from its trove. The platform pro-actively and constantly tests readers of a specific demographic to gauge the acceptance (or not) of individual books. JukePop also provides the individual writer with access to publishing channels for his/her work. Unlike conventional and other ePublishers, JukePop’s distribution begins as soon as a writer completes his first chapter. In terms of literary content, JukePop is rejuvenating the lost art of the serial pioneered at the dawn of publishing, when authors such Charles Dickens reached mass audiences by serializing novels a chapter at a time in newspapers that nearly everyone could afford.”
To read more on how Juke Pop Serials work, check out the link: How It Works
Writing web serials isn’t for every writer. I write them as a way of creating a book one chapter at a time while receiving feedback from readers as to what works or what doesn’t work. It’s also a good way of testing certain ideas or story-lines ahead of time to gauge the readers’ readiness to embrace them. There are several formats to have your web serial presented to the public (aka readers). You can post the chapters on a blog, or go through sites such as Wattpad. You can submit to Web Fiction Guide to have your serial listed to make it easier for readers to find your story. You can also use Juke Pop Serials which I’ve decided to give it a try with my current web serial, Chronicles of the Claus.
The challenge? Like televised series, a serial on Juke Pop needs to receive enough votes from the readers in order for it to continue. And for those serials whose stories are hot, Juke Pop will reward the authors.
I submitted the first chapter for Chronicles of the Claus to Juke Pop a few weeks ago, and it was accepted. The first two chapters have been published on their website and I’m looking for readers’ votes to help keep my serial alive 🙂
To read the first chapter, here’s the link: The Last Normal Day
If you’re a writer and would like to give this a try: About Juke Pop Serials
Spread the word!
Please welcome G. J. Owens who is here to talk more about the plot vs. characters in fiction.
The question of the relative importance of engrossing plot versus engaging and lifelike characters is an age-old one, and not entirely dissimilar to the “skillful writing versus great story” debate. Of course, neither option pitted on opposing sides of these examples can stand wholly alone without some supportive aspect of the other. For the latter, I think it a much more rewarding pleasure to read the deft writer, whose every sentence is a joy even if the plot is lacking, than to muddle through a work of poor structure and style in order to “see what happens next” in a masterfully conceived story. For the former, and to the question at hand, I believe memorable fiction rides on the backs of its characters.
It is fully realized characters with whom the reader can establish an empathic connection that will drive a reader page after page. With the only possible exceptions being some sorts of experimental fiction, a great story can only go so far to entice the audience to make the trip if the characters are hollow and uninteresting. Only in the more streamlined fiction of cinema do characters more easily take a backseat to the overall story, but books require a greater investment, and thus greater commitment, from the audience.
Of course, the ideal scenario is for character and plot to bolster one another in equal amounts to the betterment of each. However, if one of the two must be chosen, I would certainly gravitate toward characters that feel as though they live and breathe in my mind–even if they are despicable and irredeemable–over a rich plot that is well thought out and executed. That too is a benefit of great characters; readers can come to comprehend mindsets and deeds we would not otherwise imagine and use them as a mirror for our own, which is the epitome of the human condition.
As a writer, inevitably I would just so happen to have a clever and handy analogy. I like to think of the balance of plot to character as a rat maze. We as observers can view the scientific construction of the empty maze and find appreciation for the obstacles, the twists and turns throughout, but it is a very sterile process. It is absorbed, analyzed, and then set aside. On the other hand, once that confused yet determined rodent is dropped inside, we become invested on a personal level. We root, laugh, jeer, and empathize with the living creature as it struggles to find its way, imagining how we ourselves would react if placed in the same situation. Our investment is transformed from academic to emotional, and I believe this is the most important aspect of literature. It must move the reader on a basic level, and I believe it is through the connection with the characters that these feelings are best achieved.
If you would like to add your own opinion or have questions for G. J. Owens, he’d love to hear them!
G. J. Owens has been writing in various mediums his entire life. Having dabbled in film and music, he always returns to his first love of telling stories. Check out his website for more! G. J. Owens is the author of the horror novel, The White Door.
Be sure to return here next week to read what author Craig Hart has to say on this topic!