Excellent News!

I entered a scary story contest at MidContinent Library this month (October) and …

I won!

I placed second place in the Not So Scary Story Contest and third place in the Scary Story Contest.

There’s a small gift card prize but the coolest part is that the stories will be published in an anthology by Woodneath Press. I will officially be published.

This gives me the warm and fuzzies, let me tell you.

 

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Teensy Update

booksI have been holed up in my writer’s den all month. I’m still here, I’m just concentrating on big projects.

I’m hoping to wave goodbye to this novel as it makes its way into the capable hands of an editor.

It’s time, for sure.

Also, I’ve been walking. I’ve gotta earn my hours in the chair each day.

Additionally, I’ve been enjoying the hell outta my new library. Did I mention that I live in a library? That’s not far from the actual truth. I’ve been busy restructuring the books I own already, acquiring more (I may need a 12 step program and an extra lifetime at this point), and setting it all up in my living room and bedroom.

It is glorious being me,  at times.

Okay, back to it…

The Last Thing You’ll Ever Read

If you knew the world was going to end and you only had time to read five more books, which would you choose?

I found myself pondering this question today while looking at the long expanse of new bookshelves in my bedroom. Filled with so many delicious titles to choose from which of my many books (how many do I have?) would I pull off of the shelf and savor?bookshelf-clip-art-home-ideas-for-bookshelves-for-kids-clipart

 

Here’s my short list:

#1 Catcher in the Rye by JD Salinger. I see this book referenced everywhere and no I’ve never read it. Go figure.

#2 To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee. Another one that is so much a part of our cultural lexicon and that I’ve never taken the time to read, and yet still own.

#3 The Turn of the Screw by Henry James. Supposedly the quintessential horror novel and yet I’ve never read it–partly I think because of what my mind does automatically when I see the title. I turn it into Turn of the Shrew which must come from mixing it up with The Taming of the Shrew by Shakespeare. Either way the word shrew annoyed me away from the title.

#4 The Stand by Stephen King. This one I have read and it holds the number one most favorite book spot in my heart. Also, if the world were going to end this would almost be preparation for it.

Hmmm… #5.  I might leave that one open. Perhaps this one’s not on my shelf yet.

What would you add to the bottom of this list? What would be on yours?

My Take on H

H is for Happiness
Word count: 871

 

His wife was acting squirrely. Anna was normally a very serious woman, practically no sense of humor at all and that suited Abraham Hesse just fine. He was a scientist, she was a scientist, there wasn’t much room for silliness in their professions, nor in their home. Thankfully, they’d had two kids, Peter and Olive, who were just as serious as they were.

He’d first noticed the change in his wife on Tuesday. She’d been in the kitchen, on her phone, giggling. Anna was not a giggler, it didn’t need to be said. He’d asked her what was so funny but she’d flipped her phone over and said something about adding to the grocery list.

It was true that Anna kept a running list on her phone so he’d dismissed it at once. Perhaps he’d only misheard her. Perhaps she’d been clearing her throat.

However, before dinner on the same night, he was sure he heard her humming. Anna was not a hummer, that went without saying. That was, in fact, ridiculous. When he got closer to her, the sound stopped and she turned to him questioningly. Her face was unlined, he was startled to see how much younger she looked. He quickly left the room without saying anything.

On Wednesday morning, Anna got up much earlier than the rest of them, and when he blearily turned off his alarm he swore he could hear her singing in the shower. Anna was not a singer. In fact she was very close to tone deaf and rarely even listened to the radio. When he approached their shared bathroom door, the singing stopped, and the space seemed filled only with the rush of water. Could he have imagined it? A slip of a dream still in his mind when he awoke?

Maybe.

The following day he caught Peter, Olive, and their mother huddled together in the kitchen. As soon as he entered the room they sprang apart, each going their separate way. He stood for a moment, annoyed, then left by the front door without a word. Perhaps they’d only been planning something– a school project maybe. A coincidence that they had scattered like rats with a secret, nothing more.

On Saturday his serious faced son Peter (so much like his own, that face) had a soccer game. Abraham attended as usual sitting in the stands with the other parents–keeping himself purposely separate. He hated small talk. After awhile he grew puzzled, then concerned. The boy looked like stranger– a smile ready on his face, his gaze easy and relaxed. He was enjoying himself on the field. It was Peter out there, but it wasn’t Peter.

At home his daughter Olive stared at him blankly when he greeted her and he had to admit that she probably hadn’t heard him. There were earbuds in her ears and he realized with horror, she was actually dancing away from him, down the hall and to her bedroom, the door of which she closed with a thump.

Had his whole house gone mad? It was too much. He could tolerate a little eccentricity from his wife but to have it affect his children? Never. Their futures were at stake.

Dancing, music, jokes, humming, singing. He had to put an end to it all. Right now.

He called a family meeting. They met in the living room. He in the chair, his son across the marble coffee table, his wife and daughter closest to him on the sofa. Despite the stern look on his face and the tension in his shoulders, they all had the audacity to be smiling at him. Unsettled, he realized his wife and daughter were even holding hands.

“What is wrong with all of you?”

His wife glanced at her children. They all nodded and then turned back to Abraham.

“I said, what the devil is wrong with all of you?”

Their eyes got bigger, bolder; their smiles faded, slipped away. The skin of their faces rippled, just slightly.

Abraham shrank back, afraid.

The skin on their arms rippled, tiny rivers bucked and entwined just under the surface. Abraham’s breath came faster and faster.

“Dear god,” he said, although he had never uttered the words before. He swallowed hard. “I’ll think of something. I’ll fix this. I know I can.” His voice was barely a whisper, his body didn’t move out of the chair. He was riveted in place by the sight of his family, and their condition.

“There’s nothing to fix, Abraham,” his wife said.

His son reached for his hand, but Abraham sat back out of reach. He was studying a problem that he meant to solve. His concentration was total.

“How can I kill it,” Abraham whispered. “Maybe I can cut it out?”

His wife laughed, sweet and bell-like, like nothing he’d ever heard before. “Abraham, you can’t kill happiness. No matter its form.”

She moved closer to him, leaning over and gently kissing the center of his forehead. The touch was light but he was instantly contaminated; he could feel it spread across his forehead, down his cheeks to his smile muscles, settling there.

Idiotically, he began to smile.smiling man

Doesn’t It Just Figure

A Dab Will Do You
Word count: 521

 

Last night–rough. Tom tried to roll over but found that he couldn’t move at all. What a bender. He really needed to stop going out with the Davis Brothers, Thorne and Jack. He couldn’t possibly out drink those two. The headache, oh man.

Jack had yelled,  “If you found the fountain of youth, would you drink?” and Tom’d lifted his drink and said something about wasn’t that what they were doing? And then laughed, so much laughter. A little hard on the ears if he was honest. A little overdone.

What had Thorne said? Drinking it was like drinking off the devil’s tongue. He’d said, only a sip will do you, but had Tom listened? Did he ever?24825_zoom1

He was paying for it now. He couldn’t even turn his head, couldn’t open his eyes.

He could hear though, the sounds of voices. A lot of them, but subdued. Maybe he was on the floor of the bar. He didn’t remember making it home last night. Maybe the TV was on.

What had possessed him to drink so much? Oh, that’s right. Jack’s wife left him, that ballbuster. Tom’d felt a kinship to him having been tossed by the wayside himself. Together they’d toasted their new lives, their freedom. Jack’s wife had wanted a taste of the good life without him. Hook up with whoever, that Brent guy probably, they all knew that. She’d wanted to taste the wine, sit in the Queen’s spot. Well now she had it, didn’t she?  Along with a misogynistic playboy with a penchant for battery in a trailer with no AC in the middle of July. It was almost funny, if you had that kind of sense of humor.

“I’m so sorry, Jack.” Tom could swear he heard Bella. “It was just a stupid accident.”

You don’t leave somebody on accident, Bella. If only Tom could move his face, he’d be sneering. Stupid woman.

“It’s my fault, Bella.” He heard Jack say and Tom wanted to shout–never admit it man! Don’t let her back in! “I brought the drink.” He could hear Jack’s tears, the man was bawling like a lost three year old.

Tom was confused. Bella hadn’t left him over booze. That was more Tom’s wife’s problem.

What the hell was going on?

He was feeling nauseated now. If he didn’t get it under control he would be revisiting the Bombay duck he’d eaten. Don’t swallow, that was the trick. Tom found he couldn’t swallow anyway. His mouth was too dry.

More voices. He was really tripping. He could hear his mother murmuring, was that his sister? What was going on here?

“I’d like to say something.” Who was that? It was so familiar. “All of us who knew Tom knew he was capable of anything–he had so much potential. He just had demons to fight. Unfortunately, I was one of them.”

Was that Marissa? Anger bubbled in his stomach. Who let that wench in? The woman who, at the divorce hearing, swore to never look him in the face again unless he was– dead?

Oh no.

 

Skeleton in the Breeze

A Ray Bradbury inspired story:
Word count: 451

 

Tom discovered it first thing in the morning on the way to his mailbox.skeleton

It swung in the crisp fall breeze, covered in vapory thin clothes, bones rattling against each other, a macabre wind chime prominently displayed from the old tree. Tom’s cat hissed at it, skittering away from it into the bushes leading out to the old field.

The skeleton swung, unperturbed.

Tom stood silently watching it swing and twist. Occasionally, a lone leaf would fall off a branch above it and scrape across the old bones.

His wife joined him. “My God, Tom. Will you look at that?”

“I am looking,” he muttered, running one hand through his white hair.

“Do you suppose it’s some kinda joke? Bored teenagers, or something?”

He shrugged his shoulders, continuing to stare until his wife sighed, rubbing at an arthritic knee, and headed back towards the house. “Just get it outta here, will you?” she said.

Tom fetched the ladder but when he set it up he found himself unmotivated, stuck halfway up. Why did it even need to come down? He liked it, though he couldn’t say why. Its clothes were faded red, sleeves torn and pants ripped but it felt more alive to him than he, himself did. It didn’t hurt like he did, wasn’t bent and crooked, achy.

Its teeth rattled at him, seeming to talk, or maybe just chomp in his direction. He leaned closer to it and saw that there were wispy bits of white hair attached to its scalp, not unlike his own.

He climbed back down, leaving the ladder and the skeleton to the morning sun.

Into the night the skeleton danced among the bare branches of the tree. Frayed clothes knitted together, twisted muscles stretched across its bones.  Blood dripped from fingertips that covered slowly with skin. Eyes bulged, then covered with eyelids, teeth hid behind lips, wispy hair thickened and coarsened, turned dark.

The sun crested the old field and filled the little farmhouse with light, shining on Tom’s side of the bed, which was empty. Tom’s wife rolled over grasping the blanket to her chest, slumbering.

The cat stood in her place in the yard, swishing her tail back and forth, watching the slow and ponderous figure making its way through the field beyond the leaf littered yard. Watching its shoulders roll and the clothes on its back flutter and whip, the red plaid flannel shining in the early morning sunlight. Soon the figure walked more steadily, then confidently, striding. Youthful hands swept once through dark hair before settling over his heart. As light painted the meadow a golden hue he broke into a run, an old man turned young, and disappeared from view.Belle-In-The-Sun-Part-2.1

My Take on F

Flashbang
Word Count: 267side_jpg

The moon hung high in the sky, yellow, bloated, expectant. Every man in the group was aware of it, but none more so than Alex. His eyes slid toward the orb, then back down to the grass. Then back up again.

Bad luck follows the moon. An odd superstition for a swat team member, maybe, but he knew some of the other men were also on edge, could see it in their lined faces, their furtive glances into the shadows.

All around Alex the slight shufflings of movement sounded, of boots on hard packed earth, of weapons held at check.

In front of them, the small yellow two story house sat in darkness. Trees hovered around the roof occasionally making scratching noises and some kind of bug trilled shrilly in the bushes.

Sweat dripped off Alex’s brow.

Inside a drug dealer slept. Mark Belltrollis, aka Bellman, aka Belltolls, a midlevel worthless punk who was hardly worth the week of preparation Alex’s team had put into his capture. Hardly worth all of the anxiety coursing through his brain, and his nerves, and his muscles tonight.

The soft whisper of an ear radio signalled that the other team was ready.

Two of Alex’s colleagues stepped forward with a door ram, then slammed it against the door, bursting the wood, and each man rushed inside.

Alex was third in line and the first up the stairs. He cleared the landing, stepped aside as Rourke slid beside him, tossing the cannister into the room. A pause, then the flash bang went off, and the shrieks began.