Flash: Glow

Image courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net, adjusted by Erin Penn

“Is it suppose to be glowing like that?”

Kneeling on the stonework before rusty gate, the teenage boy asked distractedly while adjusting the flashlight imbedded in his hat “What’s glowing?

“The statue, man, it’s glowing.” His companion complained in a raising whine. “Why is it glowing green?”

Glancing over to where his friend rocked back-and-forth, the flashlight in his hand bouncing around the large room, Franklin shook his head. “Dude, calm down.”

“Is it part of the haunted house?”

“Emmet, chill. We aren’t there yet.” Franklin turned back to his task, pulling out a set of tools from his inside jacket.

“I am chill. Chilled to the bone. Why isn’t this place heated?” Emmet’s frightened voice echoed in the chamber.

Rolling his eyes, Franklin put a measure of distain into his voice only a junior in high school can manage. “It’s a catacombs. Duh.”

“Stupidest idea in the world going through a freaking cemetery to get to the haunted house.” Emmet hugged the large black bag he carried tighter and got closer to his friend and further away from the statue.

“….p.a.sssss”

A couple of leaves brought inside with the boys tumbled in the breeze as Emmet spun to face the room. He managed to bite back a little girl scream and, in the silence, Frankie commented, “Great advertising, you got to admit it. Go past the cemetery to the abandoned farm and its House of Terror.”

As a distraction, Frankie’s comment didn’t each make third place. “Come on, come on. What’s the holdup?”

“They chained the gate. Guess they finally found the entrance.”

“Well that’s just great.” Emmet’s flashlight shakily ran over the room once more as he juggled the awkward, lumpy bag against his chest. “Why would they chain an underground gate?”

“I may have pranked them last year.”

Emmet looked over his shoulder, down at his friend. “Brilliant Einstein. Could have told me before I dragged all the equipment out here.”

“It’s one bag.”

Biting his lip, torn between exasperation and fear, Emmet’s belated response sputtered out after a moment. “….Of equipment. I’m carrying it.” He moved the heavy bag in his arms again before turning to the rusty gate built into the stonework of the room and his friend who still was fooling with a heavy metal chain and lock. “And I’ll be dead if dad finds out it’s missing.” He shuttered at how much grounded he would be between the laptop and wi-fi cameras he had “borrowed” from his dad’s private investigator business. He might be able to attend the graduation ceremonies next year.

“ssssshall … passssss”

Emmet jumped, managing a full turn without his feet touching the ground, landing to face the catacombs again. “What’s that?”

“What?” Franklin pushed with his back against where his friend was bumping him as Emmet backed up to the closest living thing in the room.

“The hiss.” Emmet paused listening.

Franklin enjoyed the silence and the light not bouncing around the room like a freshman who had drunk his first Red Bull.

“I think the statue is glowing brighter.” Emmet whispered.

Really, it was getting beyond annoying. “Emmet, the statue is not glowing.”

“Yes it is. Look!”

Franklin peered over his shoulder. “Okay, light is reflecting off of it.”

“Hello, the only light is this flashlight and it is white.” Tired of being ignored, the straight A math student brought out Logic.

“Has to be something from the haunted house.” Franklin muttered.

“Fine.” Iron replaced the whine in Emmet’s voice. “Let’s find out by getting out of here and into there.”

Franklin blew out his breath. Anger would not help. “I’m working on it.”

“Come on. You open all kind of doors with those picks you made for LARPing.” The whine returned another octave higher.

“Yeah, this one is a Master lock. Takes a bit.”

The wind sighed again and a raspy voice proclaimed. “You shall not pass.”

“Dude, don’t quote Gandalph to me. I’ll get it open.”

“I didn’t say anything,” said Emmet softly.

 

          *****

 

“Watch the squishy bit there.” Lance waved his hand toward some of the gore the scene techs has marked just to watch his partner’s face pale. Paul made things too easy sometimes. The junior partner dropped his head to concentrate on what he was doing, but Lance wasn’t through teasing. “Look around a bit. They still haven’t found the second kid’s head.”

Once the other detective finished pulling the shoe coverings offered by the Crime Scene Investigators, he raised his eyes again and they skittered over the brightly lit scene refusing to fully absorb the … the …. Closing his eyes, he breathed through his mouth getting the taste of copper and mold and diesel mixing on his tongue. Better than his nose. He concentrated on the generator noise; the catacombs had no electricity of their own so they brought in a generator to power the spots lighting scene for the investigators.

“Decapitation,” Paul stated with no inflection whatsoever, “then quartering.”

“Yep. That is what the doc said. The body parts were chopped off after the kids died but only by seconds.”

His eyes still closed, Paul continued to process the scene he couldn’t look at. “The second head is behind the statue.”

“Well, wha-da-ya know.” Lance bounded from the gate situated between the cemetery catacombs and the old moonshine hole the farmer family next door had dug during prohibition into their barn’s floor. Rounding the stone statue of a knight grasping a bare sword blade with two hands in front of his chest, Lance verified Paul’s observation. “I knew I kept you around for a reason.” The older officer waved the techs over.

They had been concentrating on the blood bath at the gate. No tracks had led to the statue nearly twenty feet from the primary scene, no blood residue at all. Deep in the shadows caused by the unnaturally bright lights they had brought, a teenage boy’s head stared up in terror.

“Lance, could you have them turn off the lights for a moment?” Life had returned to Paul’s voice but in a creepy way. Uncertainty did not become the detective who had rocketed through the city’s ranks in three years to become partner to the most decorated officer presently serving on the force.

Frowning toward Paul and the generator, Lance shook his head in wonderment. The younger detective was still swaying with his eyes closed. “Umm, can it wait until they take their pictures?”

“You know Lance, maybe not.” Paul turned toward where Lance’s voice was emanating beside the statue and opened his eyes. He immediately closed them again, taking a step back. “I think I see something.”

“And you are going to see it better in the dark?” Lance chuckled.

“I think I see a Younger thing.”

Lance stopped and blinked once. “Well, fuck.” He tapped the shoulders of the tech taking the photos of the newly found body part. “Back off boys.” He waved to everyone in the large stonework room and ordered loudly. “Way back.”

Those techs who have worked scenes where Younger had been involved moved very quickly. Younger wasn’t a police detective or even on the force. No one knew what he was involved with, but he always came out clean and it was obvious to everyone involved if Younger hadn’t done whatever it is he does things would have been much, much worse.

Once everyone but the lead CSI and the two detectives had returned to the cemetery proper above the ground, Lance nodded and the tech squelched the lights.

Both detectives stared at the scene, not needing to wait for their eyes to adjust to the blackness.

“So, Lance, is it suppose to be glowing like that?” Paul asked dryly.

Lance growled, “You got him on speed-dial. Call him.”

(Words 1,298 – first published 10/22/2017)

Flash: Mannequin

Image courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Brandson approached the mannequin cautiously. Too many weird fucking things have happened recently. Things appearing to be alive weren’t, things that shouldn’t be alive were, and we don’t even describe what was happening with the dead things. But to get to the other side of the room … to get to the next door which may lead out of this mad house … he must pass within arm’s reach of the mannequin.

“Because of course the door leading out is located directly fucking behind you.” Brandson commented out loud. “No offense darling, you’re beautiful but I stopped dating blowup dolls a while ago.”

All the room’s illumination pointed to the mannequin, making her plastic face shine. Her arms, covered with long black gloves, wrapped around herself tightly in fear; a feeling Brandson was becoming more and more familiar with. An evening gown stretched downward, wrapping her legs tightly together, before spilling down the small dais located immediately before the door he hoped lead out of wherever he was. Threads flowed out, crossing the only lighted path available.

Behind him, he heard a thump and a wet screech. “Yeah, yeah. I know you’re still there you mother-fucking salad!”

He hoped the last nightmare couldn’t uproot from its planter.

Brandson considered taking a step off the well-lit area to avoid the unraveling threads. He peered into the darkness. The four spotlights, each hovering in seemingly empty air, destroyed any night vision.

He returned to studying the mannequin, and jumped seeing her hands had moved. Instead of hugging herself, she was now trying to pull her hair from around her neck. Her complicated coiffure started in a bun at the top of her head, secured with a few sticks topped with cut gems. Multi-color strands wrapped around her head, behind her nape and then again around her neck.

“Shit, are you alive?” he asked, staring. The plastic face and hands made no movement. The eyes seemed to focus on him, pleading rescue, screaming in fear.

Looking down, to make certain he didn’t step on a thread, he discovered the cloth had pulled back to dressy cocktail length. The hem now skimmed the top of her very sexy, plastic knees and her shapely legs continued down to strappy black heels. Her toe nails were painted the same exact bright shade as her lips.

The mannequin looked a whole hell of a lot better than the blow-up his brother bought him as a joke when he went off to college. Shit, if Old Susie had looked this good he may have stayed away from Psycho Miranda. How long ago was that?

The floor raised into a little meter by meter square for the mannequin to stand on. The lighted path only extended a decimeter either side of the step. He debated looking up again to see what the plastic being was doing, but decided against it.

Muttering “No guts, no glory.” he made a run for it. Keeping an eye on his feet and tapping peripheral vision to watch the black skirt and the dark shadow, he rushed by the podium.

A gloved hand grabbed him as he passed and yanked him hard enough one of his feet took a step onto the platform before he could regain his balance. Brandson looked up to see the mannequin’s hair was wrapped around the arm grabbing him. She had pivoted and now faced the door denied him.

As he watched, the multi-color strands writhed where they separated the fingers gripping his arm.

“Please, sir.” The plastic doll begged. “Leave while you can.”

The woman’s face still shined plastic, but now looked like a clear plastic mask glued over a human face. Her eyes no longer were glass orbs, but bottomless green lakes of fear and concern.

“Is this the way out?” He asked. Brandson tried to take a step back only to find her fingers were not letting go. In addition, something had snaked around the foot located on the dais.

“I don’t know.”

The hair crossed from her fingers and started to wind around his bicep. Brandson  yelped.

“Is This The Way OUT?” He asked, his voice getting louder and louder as he used his other hand to untangle the strands.

Tears pooled, turning her eyes pure jade. “I don’t know.”

He dropped his eyes to his foot and discovered his own jeans hand lengthened to merge into the wood platform. “Then what the fuck do you know?” He asked contemplating how to escape the second part of the trap.

Her voice changed, picking up speed from her previous slow cadence, and a gutter hiss punctuated each word. “Dolly dear in spider web, bite your mate so you can live.”

“What the fuck?” He asked, snapping his head up to look at her face. For a second, he saw hairy legs reach out from the bun on her head. Mulit-faceted eyes blinked once on their stalks before returning to their gem-like camouflage appearance.

He felt her free hand unbuttoning his fly. Brandson’s eyes widened in surprise.

“Help me push them down,” she instructed.

“You’ve got to be kidding me.” He said as her hand stroked his dick, pushing the jean fabric apart. After a second thought, he started pushing the cloth down. They both worked the tight denim until gravity took over. He was almost ready for the killing kiss as a release by the time they were through.  He started to lean towards her.

“Sir, … I will not free myself at another’s expense.” Her plastic mask moved as her face tensed. Still staring into his eyes, she brought up her free hand and crashed it down on the arm held in place by the spider silk. The plastic shattered.

With the detached hand still gripping his arm, he fell backwards against the door. His jeans remained attached to the dias.

With her remaining hand, the woman was holding an arm ending shortly past her elbow. Plastic goo froze mid-drip from white shards. Her plastic face, returned to looking like a plastic doll, was twisted in pain.  Four feathered boas rose out of her bun as though supported by wires and bent inward to frame her face. Her gown was once again tight around her legs. The trailing loose fringe hem had all the threads stretching towards his jeans and him.

Reaching up, he used the doorknob to help stand. Keeping an eye on the woman and her captor, he whispered to her. “I wish I could help you.”

He opened the door and stepped through to discover what was beyond.

(words 1,096 – originally appearing at Sunday Fun on Breathless Press 4/15/2013, published on old blog on 4/21/2013; republished new blog format 9/10/2017) 

Book Review: The Big Bad 2

Amazon Cover - The Big Bad II

Book Cover from Amazon

The Big Bad II, an anthology published by Falstaff Books.

BOOK BLURB ON AMAZON

Everybody loves the bad guys, and this second edition of The Big Bad brings you more to love! A collection of best-selling fantasy and horror writers brings you twenty-four all-new tales of vampires, demons, ghosts, zombies, and the most terrifying monsters of all – humans. Crack open the pages, if you dare, and explore two dozen tales of humor and horror by some of the brightest names in the business!

 

MY REVIEW

Much more consistent in story quality than the first book (but slightly less daring), Mr. Hartness and Ms. Leverett seem to have their strides with their second anthology of Big Bad. 

So often we see the put-upon minority, the bad guys, get trampled, locked up, even killed by good guys and government agents (unless, of course, those are the bad guys). It is a pleasure seeing them not only survive, but thrive … I think.

Feels like Justice to Me by Edmund R. Schubert may be one of the best justifications I have ever read for someone doing something unusual. An amazing character piece! This one is a five star. It’s about half-way through the anthology.

And Stuart Jaffee for his Portrait of a Psychopathic Man wins the “what was I thinking reading this anthology at midnight” award. Really I was reading this anthology at midnight – WHAT was I THINKING?

Quick rundown on some of the other 24 stories
A Family Affair – by Selah Janel – So nice to see a son take after his mother. I can see him growing up to be just like her … she should be worried.
Old Nonna – by Gail Z Martin – A lovely twist of an ancient Russian story transferred to mountain folk everywhere.
A Day in the Life – by James R. Tuck – Some days are better than others, even for the fiends of Hell. But you know, a good working environment can help make the difference.
Overkill – by Sara Taylor Woods – Word of advice, don’t make a Southern waitress from a redneck bar angry. She will bless your heart.
A Fitter Subject for Study – by Sarah Joy Adams – All in the name of science. (I can soooo see this as the first stage of a Call of Cth game. … Little surprised the editors choose to have two letter-based shorts, but they are both horrific fun.)
Ghost and Sands – by Jay Requard – Another short about Mr. Conjer whom we met in the first Big Bad Anthology. Pleased to see him still in business.
The House on Cherry Hill by Emily Lavin Leverett – Some old houses are more than just money pits.
Phone Home – by E.D. Guy – A sci-fi! So much of the horror genre is historic or contemporary; so nice to see one proving bad guys continue to destroy humanity in the future.
I Think of Snow – by J. Matthew Saunders – This author’s beautiful language perfectly capture a love interest (ummm, maybe not the right description). 

and finally …
The Cully – by D.B. Jackson – A Sephira origin story … enough said, if you like the Thieftaker series.

Book Review: Cellar

Amazon Cover - Cellar

Book Cover from Amazon

BOOK BLURB ON AMAZON

Cellar by Karen E. Taylor

Something’s not quite right about the neighborhood of Woodland Heights. Five years ago six children disappeared in this suburban heaven. When Laura Wagner moves into a house that had been vacant for most of those five years, this something comes alive.

Laura Wagner, divorced mother of two, addicted to alcohol and Valium, sees nothing wrong with her life; she sees nothing much at all. She gets by as well as she can, aided by the solace of her drugs and whiskey, until the day she backs into a police car in the parking lot of her favorite bar and is sentenced to involuntary rehabilitation treatments.

Returning home clean and sober is an eye-opening experience. The spirit dwelling in her house reveals its true, evil nature and begins to prey upon her, her friends, even her children, avid to spread its message of death and despair.

Laura must learn to control her inner demons before she can subdue these outside forces threatening to break free. She must learn how to distinguish hallucinations from reality, learn how to stop the spirit that requires her death and the deaths of her loved ones.

Author’s Note:
CELLAR is a re-issue of my previous published book (Twelve Steps from Darkness, Copyright © 2007 Karen E. Taylor.) The story, while essentially the same, has been edited and expanded upon in certain areas, resulting in several new scenes and an epilogue.

 

MY REVIEW

I finished reading Cellar by Karen Taylor at midnight last night – not exactly the best time to be reading this horror-ghost-recovering-addict story in a house with a damp, dark basement and parts of the house which knock at random moments. Yeah, bad idea.

First off, this is not my normal fare. I avoid horror and mental-health/addict stories, but it was in the Modern Magic pack where I knew a number of Urban Fantasy authors so I read it. It took a long time to get to the “modern magic” part. But in the meantime a solid character study was created for Laura, the Main Character – an alcoholic whose downward spiral included backing into a police car when leaving a bar. After coming home to the empty house following the sentencing, voices whisper in her head about how worthless she is – children taken by husband, loss of job, and soon to spend a month in rehab where they would take the one thing she loved from her – the alcohol. “She would be better off dead.” Again and again the whispers tell her, or is it her own mind spiraling down.

And that remains the question with each situation – it is real or her addiction altering her world? Is the depression external forces or an natural internal reaction to her situation? And the real kicker – should she even care? Every step forward she attempts is matched by a failure twice as great. But three people do not give up on her – her two daughters and one police officer who has already taken the journey back from the bottle.

Will it be enough to recover from her descent into the cellar of life with the alcohol and to fight whatever has decided to reside in her basement?

Not for the faint of heart. I’m not sure which is scarier: the “horror” story or the alcoholism whispering its siren song to her.

Author Spotlight: Jake Bible

Z Burbia Amazon Cover

Book Cover from Amazon

If one combined all the energy of a four year-old, the charming arrogance of a sixteen year-old, and the plain crazy of an eighty year-old paranoid dementia patient and sprinkled in some ADHD, mech zombies, and medieval space stations, you may begin to understand who is Jake Bible. He writes from middle grade to adults, horror to fantasy, thriller to science fiction. Whatever comes out of his blender mind gets put on paper. A lot of it – the man publishes six (or more) heart-pounding books a year.

I am not kidding about the mech zombies, the Apex Trilogy starting with Book 1: Dead Mech. The blurb reads: “Hundreds of years after the zombie apocalypse decimates the world, human civilization has put itself back together again. Their secret weapon against the zombie hordes: the Mechs. Massive robotic battle machines. But what happens when a mech pilot dies in his mech and becomes a zombie?”

And the medieval space station can be seen in the Reign of Four. Other series include Dead Team Alpha, Z-Burbia, and ScareScapes (middle grade), just to name a few. Mr. Bible nails the horror, the gooshy, pus-flowing, zombie-filled horror, even if the bodies don’t stay down – you think the creatures had claw hammers to dig those nails out. 

He presently resides in North Carolina and can be seen at various conventions in the area. If asked on a panel how to fix a dragging portion of a book, his response is always “Blow something up.” with a gleeful grin.

His website is: Jake Bible Fiction and his podcast is Writing in Suburbia (unscripted, NSFW – has very mellow voice, tends to have rants about writing).