Category Archives: Stories

Valentine’s Day – A Dark, Twisted Love Story – Burning Passion by Rebecca Besser

buring passion

BURNING PASSION

By Rebecca Besser

            There she was, his beautiful blonde siren, leaving her house to go to work. She did a really good job of pretending she didn’t notice his old gray van sitting a block down facing her house. She swung her hips provocatively – like she knew he was watching – while she walked to her car in her smart navy business suite that was tailored to fit her perfectly; it drove him crazy when she wore it and teased him with the contours of her body. He fantasied about taking it off of her slowly while she moaned and begged, panting with her heated desire to have him.

She pushed the button on her remote to unlock her shiny black BMW convertible and it chirped once with a flash of the lights.

She opened the door to climb in, but stopped suddenly and looked up at the house – a man was standing in the open doorway. He blew her a kiss and waved, and she did the same in return.

~

            Doug Thomas seethed with rage as he laid his binoculars on the passenger’s seat beside him. How dare that bastard blow kisses to my woman? he thought while growling and punching the steering wheel.

“She’s my woman!” he screamed, gripping the wheel with both hands until his knuckles turned white.

He started the van and clenched his jaw to wait for “his woman” to pull out of her driveway and head to work. He followed her shiny black car and glared at the prim and proper two story house “the bastard” was now closing the door on as he too prepared to go to work.

Doug followed the blonde object of his affections all the way to work, and he parked and watched her walk into the corporate law office with his binoculars. Once he was content that she was safely inside, he headed off to his own job at a recycling center.

Four weeks ago he’d been released from a mental care facility. He was keeping up with his therapy visits and had procured a job at a recycling center, working part-time. The entire three years he’d been incarcerated they’d counseled him in how to be a good citizen and productive member of society. Along with the long talk sessions, they’d also given him a handful of pills to take. He no longer ate the mind control drugs, as he thought of them – he’d stopped taking them as soon as he’d walked out the door of that horrible place. He honestly believed that the drugs were what had kept him in their grasp, and that they’d intentionally toyed with his mind to make him their mindless pet; he refused to live that way. He was finally free and he was determined to break their hold on him.

He had done one thing that was suggested in therapy: he was building relationships. The troubling thing, though, was that none of the people he’d built relationships with seemed to want to reciprocate.

His girlfriend, for example – the blonde in the BMW – wouldn’t acknowledge him at all, and she was cheating on him. Of course, it wasn’t her fault. She was too nice to hurt the bastard’s heart. He honestly believed she’d tried to break it off with the man, but he wouldn’t let her go – he had the sneaking suspicion that he was beating her and she was scared for her life. That’s why he had to watch her all the time and keep her safe.

They’d been spending a lot of time together for the last couple of weeks. He drove to work with her – like he’d done that morning – and he had lunch with her every day. Yesterday he’d met her at a restaurant and he’d sat at the table beside her. It was the crazy woman beater’s fault he couldn’t sit with her so they could hold hands and look deep into each other’s eyes. The blankness he’d seen in her eyes every time she’d glance over at him and smiled broke his heart. He’d paid for her meal and that had brought a spark to her eyes – he knew she’d known it was him by the smile she’d been wearing as she’d headed out the door and back to work. This had deeply pleased him. She didn’t acknowledge their relationship often, but when she did it brightened his world.

Doug drove his van through the dregs of the city to the recycling center, and pulled into the rough gravel parking lot that was choked with dumpsters and beat up, rusted vehicles of various ages. He squeezed the van off to the side of the lot and parked. As he was getting out, he heard a gruff voice barking orders to the workers within the grey, filthy, nondescript metal pole building the crusher was housed in. He grabbed his work gloves from behind the driver’s seat of his van, slammed the door closed, and headed toward the building.

He didn’t notice the harsh, sickening sweet odor of the intermixed soda and juice seeping out of the dumpster with the aluminum cans, or the molding, rotting smell of various vegetables and foods rotting in the tin can dumpster. His mind was filled with the beautiful face of the woman he loved, and he breathed deep of the memory of her perfume, which he’d gotten a breath of from the scarf she’d dropped for him last week. The treasured item was sealed in a gallon storage bag at home under his pillow where he could be alone with his thoughts of her and pretend she was there with him.

“Where have you been, maggot?” Hank Townsend snarled as Doug walked through the door of the metal building.

“I had to take my girlfriend to work,” Doug said, slipping on his gloves, grabbing a shovel from against the wall and jumping right in to help with loading cans into the crusher.

Charles Davis – his coworker – glanced at him as they loaded a shovel load of cans at the same time and smiled briefly before getting back to work.

Hank laughed harshly.

“I don’t see how an ugly fuck like you could have a girlfriend. She either has to be blind or you have the biggest cock in the city! That’s the only way a woman would ever be with you.”

Doug paused and turned his head to glare at Hank, but the man was already outside; the heavy door banged against the frame as it closed behind him.

He growled angrily.

“Don’t let him bother you,” Charlie said, smirking. “He’s just jealous ‘cause he ain’t gettin’ no pussy.”

Doug looked at Charlie and couldn’t help but laugh; he shrugged and got back to work. But the words his boss had said cut deep. He knew he wasn’t a good looking man – his reflection in the side of the stainless steel machine attested to that – but he liked to think that his kind, caring heart made up for his lack of stunning good looks.

“You havin’ lunch with her again today?” Charlie asked. “At that fancy café place?”

Doug shrugged and said, “Yes, I plan to, if that’s where she wants to go.”

“Man, you’re a lucky dog to have such a classy lady,” Charlie said, then smirked as he continued deviously, “You givin’ her some hot sausage, ain’t ya? To keep her interested?”

“I would if she’d let me,” Doug growled. “I’m still trying to get her to leave that beating bastard. I’ll kill him if I have to, just to keep her safe.”

Charlie shook his head and sighed.

“Why do the moth’fucks get the great broads and smack ‘em around?” he asked heatedly. “It just don’t seem fair when here we be, wantin’ nothin’ mo’ than to give ‘em the lovin’ they deserve!”

“I don’t know, man,” Doug said, shoveling fast to help burn up the hot rage that was taking hold on him while he thought about another man hurting his woman. “Life’s not fair. I will keep her safe though, and I’ll make sure she’s damn happy when she finally comes to me.”

“I knows ya will!” Charlie exclaimed with a smile. “An’ if you need any help wit’ that, ya call ol’ Charlie to come help ya out!”

Doug laughed and said, “I will, you old pervert! But I think I can handle her all on my own.” He winked and continued to work hard so he could have a long lunch with the love of his life.

~

            Noon came fast, and the crusher building floor was clear, so Doug and Charlie headed off to lunch. They knew there would be plenty more work for them when they got back that afternoon, but this was the highlight of their day.

Leaving the grimy, smelly metal building, they went their separate ways with a smile: Charlie ate a packed lunch sitting on the tailgate of his battered pickup truck; and Doug drove off to have lunch with his woman.

He found a parking space mere seconds before his blonde goddess came out to her car. The sight of her made his chest tighten and his manhood swell; he didn’t know how much longer he could handle this game of her being his but living with another man. He had to have her soon – all her teasing was making him hot and hard with wanting.

Doug followed her to the same café they’d eaten at countless times before, and was disgusted when “the bastard” met her in the parking lot and kissed her and groped her ass. He fumed and punched the steering wheel in a fit of rage; it took all he had not to get out of his van, march over to where the couple stood, and beat the bastard down right there in front of her so she would know she didn’t have to be afraid of him any longer.

“I love you!” he yelled, but knew she couldn’t hear him.

His hands began to shake and the world around him faded in and out of darkness – one moment it was all bright sunshine with cars parked around him, the next it was pitch blackness with hot rage burning just under his flesh.

He started scratching his arms in an attempt to relieve the pain, and the next thing he knew – when he glanced down – blood was dribbling down his arms from where he’d torn through his skin with his fingernails.

“Fuck!” he screamed, and fumbled to retrieve the first aid kit he had stored on the floorboard behind the passenger’s seat; this wasn’t the first time this had happened.

After his shaking, blood slick fingers finally got the latch open, he grasped a couple of bandages to apply to the wounds, but he didn’t put them on right away. Instead he looked down at the red liquid seeping out of his arms and thought about passion. It’s because I love her so much she can do this to me, he thought. She makes me feel so much and gets under my skin and I just can’t help myself. I have to protect her…make her mine. Soon! Very soon, my love, I’ll rescue you from the hell that is your existence.

With sharp, decisive movements he dressed his wounds, noting that the pair were no longer in the parking lot, but had wandering into the café. He couldn’t see them through the windows and he figured they’d chosen one of the back booths. Yeah, I know what you’re up to, you fucker, he thought. You’ll take her back there so you can smack her or pinch her and no one will see. You’re a sick fuck, you bastard!

He fumed and raged inside as he climbed out of the van and headed into the café. He’d thought about driving down the street to a fast food joint to buy himself something to eat, but he decided that fuck no he wasn’t slinking away like a coward. She was his woman and he wouldn’t give her up to “the bastard” without a fight.

I was right, he thought and almost screamed, when he saw them sitting close together in a private corner booth. He noticed the bastard had his hand on her knee under the table, kneading and squeezing it while they talked. You’re gonna leave bruises where no one can see, aren’t you, you fuck? his mind ranted as he took a seat at a table where he could watch them at an angle.

A waitress came to take his order and she blocked his view of the couple, which annoyed him greatly; he glared at her the entire time he was placing his order, and she practically ran away from him as soon as she was done.

Doug’s allotted lunch time passed quickly, without him even tasting the food he’d ordered. He had to leave and go back to work before the couple, and he thought about staying, but decided he shouldn’t push his luck with Hank after being a couple of minutes late this morning.

He paid his bill at the register, threw one pissed off glance back at the couple in the corner and stormed back out into the world alight with harsh sunshine. The warmth did nothing to improve his mood though, as he knew it would be sweltering at the center while he worked through the afternoon.

He climbed into his van, started the engine, and pulled out into traffic without even looking to see if anything was coming. Luckily, this time, nothing was, and he sped through the streets, cursing at the other drivers to vent his pent up emotions.

When he arrived back at the recycling center, he noticed that they’d had a delivery of cans over lunch, and he knew he’d be stuck in the crushing building again. With a sigh, he parked, got out, and headed back to work.

Charlie wasn’t inside when he went in, so he figured they must have received a load of glass too – crushing it was Charlie’s favorite job.

Doug was glad for this because he had a lot on his mind and he didn’t want to discuss “the bastard” being at lunch. His mind swirled with random, chaotic thoughts of how he could handle the state of his love life. His thoughts were so jumbled with emotions, ranging from crushing depression to burning angst, that he couldn’t make sense of anything.

I know, he thought, finally deciding on a plan after working for a couple of hours and using up some of his energy so his mind could clear, I’ll talk to my therapist about it tomorrow morning at our meeting! He’ll know how I should handle everything.

With all his problems set to be resolved the next morning by someone else, Doug happily worked the rest of the day, dreaming about all the things he’d do with his woman once she was freely his.

~

            The next morning was overcast and Doug frowned as he stepped out the door of the heap-of-trash trailer he was renting. He knew the place wasn’t pretty, but it was functional, and was all his for as long as he paid the extremely low rent – that’s all he needed. He was saving up his money so that when his woman came to him, they’d be able to get a nicer place to live in. Everything he did or suffered was for her and he knew that’s why she loved him so much.

He locked the door behind himself and walked over to his van. On impulse, he slid open the back, side door and peered at the bed inside; it was still made up neat with clean silk sheets. He smiled, envisioning his blonde goddess naked laying across it, loving the feel of the silk beneath her and aching for the feel of him on top of her.

“Soon, precious,” he whispered, “soon.”

He slid the door closed and opened the driver’s door to climb in. Just as he closed the door behind himself a torrent of rain fell from the sky, coating his windshield with little droplets and making him feel sealed off from reality – something he liked intensely.

He sat there and thought about his woman: how her skin would feel…taste; how she would sound when she moaned his name; how it would thrill him to excite and satisfy her; and how it would feel to be satisfied by her body.

Without giving it any thought – letting his natural urges take him – he unzipped his pants and got himself off while he imagined having sex with her.

Once he was finished, he cleaned up with some fast food napkins he kept in the glove compartment and rushed to make it to his therapy appointment on time. If he was late or missed, he could end up back in confinement and he didn’t want that. For some reason they’d previously deemed him unstable and thought he could pose a threat to the general population when he’d supposedly raped and killed a young woman. He’d told them repeatedly that they’d had a long term relationship and she’d consented to the sexual contact, and that he didn’t know who’d killed her, but it hadn’t been him. He was devastated without her and had been more than willing to let people take care of him while he’d grieved, hence his stay at the mental care facility. The stay had been court ordered, but he hadn’t fought it.

The short-term stay had become more long-term when they’d charged him with rape and murder, having found evidence against him. He still maintained he hadn’t done anything wrong and that someone else had done everything and was framing him. He vowed to find whoever had done it all and kill them, ranting like a mad man at anyone who opposed him.

That’s when the pills had started. Those mind controlling drugs that had kept him enslaved to their will. But he’d tricked them…tricked them all by not taking them once he was away from their choking grasp.

Despite everything, it had been hard for him to leave and go back out into the world. He’d loved Melissa – the young woman he’d been accused of raping and killing – and didn’t know how his heart would ever mend. He never thought he would be able to love anyone again, until he’d first seen her, his blonde goddess. She’d been jogging down the street – one he just happened upon as he drove aimlessly – and he’d instantly fallen in love with her. Sure, most men would have lusted after her in those skin tight exercise clothes that emphasized every curve and dip of her body, but he’d looked beyond all that to her soul. She had a truly beautiful soul. The sad thing was…it was being tormented by the bastard she was living with, and her beauty, her heart, her life was being smothered by his heavy hand. Her soul cried out and begged Doug to love her, to help her. After that, he made it his life’s mission to do right by her and free her for real happiness with him.

Now, as he drove through the city to his therapy appointment, he hoped all the battles he’d been fighting to get to her were worth it. He knew that he’d get some sound advice from his counselor, because he always had.

He pulled into the prestigious medical building parking lot and parked his van. He climbed out, slammed the door behind him, and checked to make sure he hadn’t gotten anything on his pants and that they were fastened properly. Once he was sure of his appearance, he headed for the main door of the brick building; they slid open in welcome but he didn’t go in. He turned left and walked around to the back of the building where an alley lay between it and another. He walked into the dim passageway and headed toward a large cardboard box lying on its side.

“I’m here,” he said, stopping to stand in front of the opening. “Right on time too.”

“Did you bring payment?” a voice croaked from within the tan confines of the box.

“Of course!” Doug said, reaching into the back pocket of his pants, withdrawing the agreed upon payment – whiskey. “I wouldn’t come to see you without payment.”

The voice in the box laughed.

“Good,” it said. “Set it down and let’s begin.”

Doug sat the bottle down on the pavement that was slick with a coating of slime built up from the rain and alley grime.

A hand reached out into the faint light and curled its long, thin fingers around the bottle, lifting it; the bottle disappeared, along with the hand, back into the box.

Doug didn’t know for sure if his therapist was a man or a woman, but he always assumed that the person inside the box was male, so he called the therapist a he. Once, when they’d first started their strange sessions, he’d thought about asking why they were meeting in an alley, while he hid in a cardboard box, but he’d decided that would be a rude question. He wasn’t opposed to sitting in the outdoors to talk about the things in his life that bothered him – he actually liked it better than a confining room. He figured the therapist had read that in his file and wanted him to feel more comfortable. He also assumed he knew about his privacy/trust issues and that’s why he’d insisted on hiding; keeping things anonymous made Doug feel more comfortable sharing. The only thing that did bother him was that there was nowhere for him to sit and he had to stand through the entire visit, or plant his ass in the sludge of alley grime.

Shifting from one foot to another in nervous frustration, Doug tried to tame his thoughts enough to share them.

“It’s complicated…” he started. “I’m in love, but the woman is stuck in an abusive relationship with another man and I don’t know how to help her.”

“Free her,” the voice croaked from within the box. “Follow your heart and free her.”

“How?” Doug asked. “She’s with this man and he seems to follow her everywhere – he never lets her out from under his thumb.”

“Does she love you?” the voice asked.

“Yes!” Doug all but shouted, getting angry. “She loves me so much, but can’t get free of him.”

“You’ll have to take care of him then,” the voice said quietly. “You have to get him out of the way so you can be together – it’s the only way.”

Doug sighed. “That’s what I thought, but I wasn’t sure. Thank you for your advice.”

“That’s what I’m here for,” the voice said. “Is there anything else I can help you with today?”

“No,” Doug said. “I have some planning to do. Thanks again.” He turned and walked out of the alley, climbed back into his van, and headed home.

~

            Dusk was starting to change the appearance of the world when Doug stepped out of his trailer. He breathed deeply of the sweet, cool air evening brought with it and smiled broadly. Tonight was the night he and his blonde goddess would be together once and for all. They would be free to love each other, like they should have been for a long time now.

He practically bounced down the decaying wooden steps leading to the ground and danced all the way to his van. He had so much to look forward to with his woman free to love him back.

He climbed into the van – which tonight he thought of as his grey steed – started the engine and was off. Streets, cars, and people went by in a blur as he headed toward his destination; in less than twenty minutes he was parked down the street from the prim and proper two story house where his love had been held prisoner. He watched the place for a little while and there didn’t seem to be anyone home, so he got out and walked toward it. When he reached the driveway, he turned and walked up it like he was supposed to be there. He knocked on the front door and was pleased when there was no answer. He circled around to the back of the house and investigated a sliding glass door that connected the kitchen of the house to a cement patio; it was locked. With a sigh he decided he would have to break in, but he’d actually expected it to come to this.

He turned and picked up one of the heavy, metal patio chairs and slammed it into the glass of the door; it shattered loudly and splinters of glass sailed through the air in every direction.

Doug didn’t mind the sting of the shards; it was a small price to pay to rescue his princess from the evil dragon. That’s how he’d begun to see the adventure he was on. He was the knight is shining armor, accosting the cursed castle to rescue the damsel in distress so they could live happily ever after. He’d always loved fairy tales, so he thought it logical that he should star in one. After all, he was pure of heart, valiant, and willing to sacrifice himself for those he loved.

He stepped over the threshold of the broken door and looked around cautiously. He’d expected there would be an alarm, but after a quick check, he realized they didn’t even have a system in their house. He thought that odd, but then shrugged it off knowing they lived in a “nice” neighborhood where nothing probably ever happened.

He moved through the house, picking up random object and pictures, looking at them and then putting them back down where he’d gotten them; there was something surreal and eerie about being in someone’s house while they weren’t home, but it didn’t bother him, it excited him. He couldn’t wait for someone to get home from work so he could put his plans into motion: if “the bastard” arrived first, he planned to kill him and throw the body out back; and if his blonde goddess got home first, they would get to know each other and express their love freely and he would kill the man when he arrived. He was harboring some thoughts of making the bastard watch while he and the blonde goddess slacked their passion with each other, like he’d made Doug watch so many times when he’d touched her, but Doug didn’t feel like sharing. He wanted her all to himself so she would feel free to enjoy herself.

While going through a stack of mail, he discovered the name of his woman.

“Bree Heller,” he read aloud. “What a beautiful name…” He sighed and whispered her name again, “Bree.”

A noise from the door – sounding like keys jingling and one being inserted into a lock – alerted him that someone was home.

He dropped the envelope he’d been reading and stealthily made his way over to the foyer to hide inside the archway leading to the living room.

The bastard came through the door as it opened. He turned and kicked it shut with his foot, juggling his briefcase and a large takeout bag full of containers.

Doug’s stomach growled as the aroma of Chinese food waft to his nose.

The bastard’s head shot up and looked in the direction of the living room; he froze, listened, and stepped into the living room.

Doug heard the man coming and watched him step into the room. He waited until he glanced in his direction before slamming his fist into the bastard’s face.

The bastard hit the floor with a loud thud and Doug stood over him grinning.

“Thanks for picking up supper, you fuck!” he exclaimed with glee, righting the takeout bag so the food wouldn’t spill; he took the bag to the kitchen, sat it on the counter, withdrew a large knife from the cutting block, and went back out to the living room.

He stood over the prone man who was dressed in a slate gray business suit, having a hard time deciding if he wanted to finish him quickly or make him suffer. He finally decided on quickly, because he knew Bree would be home soon and he wanted to prepare them a special dinner at the table with the food the bastard had brought.

Kneeling down, he sank the blade into the bastard’s neck and sliced it all the way across. Blood shot out into the air as he cut, then seeped out into a puddle once he was done.

“She’ll be happier without you,” Doug said, smirked, stood, and kicked the bastard just because he wanted to.

He took the time to walk back to the kitchen and put the bloody knife in the sink before he dragged the body outside to the patio. For some strange reason, he thought it would be funny to sit him up in one of the chairs and make it look like he’d fallen asleep, so he did it while giggling hysterically.

“You look like an ass,” he said to the bastard, shaking his head as he went back into the house, crunching through the broken glass.

He washed his hands and looked through the kitchen cabinets until he found what he was looking for – plates and wine glasses. He took two of each out and carried them carefully to the dining room, where a large dark wood table sat quietly. He set them down and went back to the kitchen for the bag of food and cutlery.

He’d just finished setting the table when the front door opened and closed. Then he heard the sweetest voice in the world calling some man’s name; it wasn’t his.

“Bree, my darling,” Doug said, walking out into the living room to greet her. “Welcome home!”

She froze halfway through the living room, her eyes wide with fear. Without warning, she dropped her briefcase, turned, and ran for the front door.

Doug, expecting this of her, knowing she wouldn’t know the bastard wouldn’t hurt her anymore until she’d seen his lifeless body, bolted forward and caught her just before she could reach the door. He wrapped an arm around her waist and whispered Shh! in her ear when she started screaming. When she wouldn’t be quiet, he clamped his hand over her mouth and dragged her through the living room and the kitchen to the patio so she could see for herself that she was safe.

Her eyes fell on the lifeless body of the bastard and she went limp, sobbing.

“That’s right,” Doug said, thinking her actions were from relief. “I’ve freed you from him so we can be together. You don’t have to be afraid anymore!”

She shook her head and sobbed harder.

He turned back toward the house and half-carried, half-dragged her to the dining room, where he sat her in a chair at the table.

“Are you hungry?” he asked. “What would you like?” He spread his hands, displaying the array of food containers on the table.

She shook her head and covered her face with her hands.

He sighed and said, “I know this is a lot to take in at once, but we don’t have to hide our love anymore! You don’t have to be afraid anymore.” He reached over and pulled her hands down from her face. “No one is going to hurt you anymore. I love you and will take care of you.”

He noticed that her eyes were crazy and her breath was coming hard in sobbing gasps.

“I think you need to relax before supper,” he said, standing and extending his hand toward her. “Come with me.”

She jumped up from the chair and tried to run out of the room, but he easily caught her again.

Bree fought hard, screaming, biting, and kicking.

With a deep sigh, Doug said, “I didn’t want to have to do this, but you’re leaving me no choice.” He drew back his hand and slapped her hard across the face; she crumpled to the floor in a ball, sobbing even harder than before. “I’m sorry… I didn’t want to hurt you, but you need to calm down.” He pulled four large cable ties from his back pocket and used them to bind her wrists and ankles before he carried her upstairs.

When she wouldn’t direct him to the bedroom, he started checking every room until he found the master suite.

“Oh, what a lovely tub,” he said, depositing her on the bed and looking through the doorway into the bathroom. “That’s what you need…a nice hot bubble bath to help you relax.” He winked and headed that way to start the water.

He turned the taps on the large, two person bathtub and adjusted the water to the perfect temperature. He then chose some fragrant bubble bath from the counter and added it to the water.

Once the bubbles were forming nicely, he stripped off all his clothes and headed back out into the bedroom.

Bree lay on the bed where he’d left her, still sobbing.

“Please, no,” she begged. “Please, please, please, no!” She squeezed her eyes shut tight.

Doug knelt by the bed and brushed her hair away from her face and kissed her forehead.

“It’s okay,” he said. “I’ll take care of you.”

With strong hands he ripped her clothes and slowly slid them off of her body while letting his hands trail over her soft skin.

“Beautiful,” he whispered. “More beautiful than I could have ever imagined.” He didn’t stop with just touching her and began to lick her skin and then nibble.

She screamed, but Doug believed it was from passion and that he was somehow fulfilling her fantasies, so he kept going.

When he took her it was more rapturous than he could ever have imagined, and he felt their souls touch and become one. He knew she felt it to by how she shuddered with ecstasy and groaned.

“I’m sorry, my love,” he said, getting up from the bed. “I couldn’t wait to have you.” He caressed her tear slick cheek and headed into the bathroom to turn off the water that was still running. While doing so, he accidently spilled the bubble bath solution on the floor, because in his haste he’d forgotten to put the cap back on.

“Shit!” he exclaimed and righted the bottle before setting it back on the sink. “I’ll clean that up later.” He came back out into the bedroom, picked her up, and carried her over his shoulder into the bathroom.

He was just about to lower her into the water when his feet slipped out from under him and she went flying through the air.

Bree screamed and landed with a thunk and a slash.

Doug picked himself up off the floor and peered into the tub – he couldn’t see Bree at all. He scooped away some of the bubbles that were swirled with thick, red blood, and peered into the water.

Her lifeless eyes stared up at him, and he could see more blood swirling out into the water from a dent in her skull.

Tears filled his eyes as he fell back onto the tile floor to sit on his butt; his hands were shaking and he was having a hard time breathing.

His love had been taken from him just as they were finally free to be together. He felt robbed by life – cheated. Anger and pain warred within him for release, but there was nothing for him to lash out at but himself.

He stood and glared at himself in the mirror. Brown eyes stared back at him from a plain, nondescript face. He reared his head back and smashed it into the glass, shattering the reflected image of himself. Large pieces of the silvery glass fell all over the counter and into the sink, shattering into even smaller pieces.

Doug reached down and grasped a long, knife shaped piece, gripping it tightly, not even paying attention to the pain of it cutting into his hand. He stabbed at his face with the shard, desperate to get the pain, the burning, out of his head. He couldn’t take anymore disappointment and hurt. Everything he loved was always taken from him.

He screamed as he sank the glass into his flesh again and again. Chunks of skin and meat fell into the sink and blood ran in floods down his neck and chest. When the burn eased and he didn’t feel the pain anymore, he stumbled over to the bathtub and looked down at his beautiful Bree. His blood dripped into the water, turning the bubbles pink and them red; the water soon changed to the color of passion as well. The color of passion, he thought, as he fell to his knees, too weak from blood loss to stand any longer. Her blood and mine. Her passion and mine.

~

Three days later…

Doug woke up in a room with blank, off-white walls, a window covered by a metal grate, and straps restraining his body to a single metal framed bed in the center. He glanced around apprehensively, but his face hurt terribly when he moved, so he tried to hold still.

Distantly he heard a door open and the sound of footsteps getting closer.

“Ah, I see you’re awake,” a woman in light green scrubs said. “I’ll get the doctor – he’ll want to see you.”

She vanished from view and footsteps receded, and again a door opened and closed.

He didn’t know how much time passed while he was laying there; he couldn’t think straight because his mind was fuzzy.

The mind control drugs… he thought and chuckled to himself, wincing in pain as his face muscles moved under their protective gauze.

He jumped when he heard the door open and close again, and this time two sets of feet walking across the hard, smooth surface of the floor.

“Douglas Thomas?” a male voice asked in a somewhat bored, overly calm tone. “I’m not surprised to see you back here…since your escape almost a month ago the authorities say you’ve been up to your old hi-jinx: raping and killing innocent women. It seems that this time you also killed the woman’s husband. You know you’re not getting out again, right? We know how you escaped and have taken measures to prevent it.”

Doug laughed and tested his restraints.

“You can’t control me,” he muttered. “I’ll be free to love!”

“What?” the doctor said, stepping closer, trying to hear what Doug had said.

“You can’t control me!” Doug screamed at the top of his voice, thrashing violently on the bed, laughing. “I’ll be free to love! You can’t stop me!”

The doctor shook his head and he and the woman left the room.

Doug kept muttering to himself, envisioning Bree’s beautiful face.

“Bubble bath of blood,” he raved. “Passion! Red, burning passion!”

His rants and laughter soon turned to sobs, and the sounds of his inner torment floated out into the corridor and down the empty hallway to haunt anyone who came close enough to hear. He knew he would never get out again, but it didn’t matter. His heart was broken beyond repair, and he’d remember it for the rest of his life every time he looked in the mirror. The damage was done. The burning passion had taken his very soul and twisted it beyond repair.

 

©Rebecca Besser, 2016. All rights reserved.

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Santa Suit by Rebecca Besser – An Evil Christmas Story

Santa stepped out of the electronic toy factory and looked out at the other, surrounding buildings, each a factory that made different types of toys. He breathed deeply of the cold, dry, clean air of the North Pole as he watched elves scurry this way and that, getting ready for Christmas that was three days off. They were in the homestretch, preparing for their biggest day of the year and everyone was working hard.

He smiled as he stepped down off the landing onto the stairs leading to the courtyard. The smile disappeared when he slipped on the ice-coated concrete and his feet went out from under him. He fell hard, smacking his head off the edge of the landing.

***

Cinnamon Sparkle was coming out of the Cocoa House Café with her cart, ready to make her deliveries to each of the factories off the square. She glanced up just as Santa fell and knocked himself unconscious. For a moment, she just stood there with her mouth hanging open, not believing what she’d just witnessed. But the sight of his bright red blood leaking out of the wound on his head and freezing in long thin trails on the stairs as it met the ice convinced her what she was seeing was reality.

She darted back into the Cocoa House Café and screamed, “Get help! Santa’s hurt!”

All activity inside the café halted. Elves that had come to the café on their break, to enjoy some hot, fresh cocoa froze with wide eyes and mugs in midair to stare at her. Servers kept pouring cocoa into mugs, overflowing the dark, hot liquid onto the candy cane stripped circle tables. The workers behind the counter stopped what they were doing, oblivious to the workings of the machines they were using as they whined on.

As if as one being, waking up from a nap, all the motion returned to the café in an instant. And the name on every elf’s lips was “Santa!” in a single cry of concern and anguish.

The flurry of activity continued as everyone charged out of the café’s door, knocking Cinnamon Sparkle out of the way as they went by. The elves streamed through the door and spread out in various directions, some going to help Santa and others going to various locations to get the medical team and more elves to help if they were needed.

All progressive toy making and preparation activity came to a halt. Every elf in the North Pole was now concerned about their leader. Without him, there would be no Christmas.

***

Mrs. Clause sat beside the hospital bed that held her unconscious husband.

“There’s nothing you can do for him?” she asked Dr. Tinsel without looking up from Santa’s slack, expressionless face.

“If there were, I would have done it already,” the doctor replied. “He’s in a coma. He could wake up in an hour or a year.” Dr. Tinsel shrugged. “There’s no way of knowing.”

Mrs. Clause turned her eyes to the doctor; unshed tears clung to her white lashes.

“What about Christmas?”

Dr. Tinsel sighed, opened his mouth to speak, shut it again without uttering a word, and shrugged.

He turned and left the room.

Mrs. Clause looked back at her husband and let her tears flow as she sobbed.

***

Claws clicked and scratched against hard, hot rock as a lowly demon rushed into the throne room of Hell.

“Master, master,” he cried, coming to a halt at the feet of Satan, “I have news for you, master!”

“What do you want, you sniveling wretch?” Satan asked, annoyed with the intrusion of his sanctuary. He was planning out the regiment of torture to be dealt to the most recent souls sentenced to his lowly domain.

“Master, I have news from Earth,” the demon hissed out swiftly, knowing he’d better talk fast to save his own hide. “Santa Clause is injured.”

Satan lifted an eyebrow. “Why should I care about Santa Clause being injured?”

“My master, be kind to your servant and hear me out…” the demon implored and watched for a sign of permission to speak.

Satan sighed and waved his hand, giving the demon the go ahead. He figured the sooner he gushed out his pathetic thoughts, the sooner it would be over and he could get back to his evil business.

“Thank you, thank you,” the demon gushed, and then continued. “My master Satan, you and Santa have the same letters in your name, but in a different arrangement. Would that not give you enough name power to take over his identity?”

“I can only do that if the subject is dead,” Satan said with an air of speaking to someone simpleminded. “The soul must leave the body completely for me to take the possession I would need. I’m much larger than you mere demons and require more space, you know.”

The demon shifted his weight excitedly from foot to foot while wringing his tail in both his claw tips paws nervously.

“But, master, Santa is in a coma!” he squealed. “His soul has left his body for now. It’s the perfect time for you to destroy Christmas like you’ve always wanted.”

Satan stood from his thrown with a roar. “What?!”

Every demon present in the throne room cowered and whimpered. The demon in front of Satan, who had brought the news, threw himself prostrate in front of his master with a fear-filled cry of anguish. His entire body shook with terror.

“Is it true? Is it possible?” Satan asked the room at large. “Someone find out if it’s true and possible! Do I have the name power to take over Santa’s identity?”

A flurry of activity took over Hell as all available demons rushed to do his bidding.

“Rise up, lowly coward,” Satan said to the demon that had brought him the news. “If what you say is true and it’s possible for me to ruin Christmas, you will be promoted to an advisor’s position.”

The demon rose slowly, bowing every few seconds with many thanks uttered from his mouth.

It wasn’t long before the intel that Santa was in a coma was confirmed. However, the name power wasn’t 100% confirmed. The demons could only come up with enough information to confirm that there was a 72% chance of it being enough power, since all the letters were the same, but in a different order. With that percentage, Satan knew he could take over Santa’s identity, but his time allowance would be limited. If Santa started to pull out of the coma, in essence, his soul returning to his body, Satan knew he would slowly be pushed out again.

Satan decided it would give him just enough time to bring terror to the people of Earth for Christmas, and that’s what mattered to him.

Satan gloried in the news and rushed to get his “Santa suit” on, as he jokingly called it.

***

Mrs. Clause sat beside her husband’s bed, holding his hand and talking to him, hoping he would wake up.

She gasped when Santa squeezed her hand.

She looked at his face with a huge grin, overjoyed that there was a sign of life from him. The grin slowly melted away when she saw the malicious, twisted smirk on his normally merry face. His eyes darted all around the room, taking everything in before he lifted his head. His eyes finally settled on her, and while there was a margin of recognition, there was no warmth or love in their depth.

“I’ll get the doctor,” Mrs. Clause said in a hoarse voice, trying free her hand from his without making too much fuss. She was freaked out and she hoped the doctor would say this was all normal and she was overacting. She didn’t feel things were…right with Santa. He wasn’t himself – she was sure of it.

He let her go and sat up slowly. He focused his attention on his hands flipping them over and back, looking down at them while a grin spread across his face.

“Excellent,” he said in a husky, deep voice.

Mrs. Clause had a hard time not fleeing from the room. She was deeply disturbed, but forced herself to walk calmly. Once she was out in the hall, she stopped to catch her breath and compose herself. She didn’t want to seem frantic and scared when she spoke to the doctor. She didn’t want him to think there was now something wrong with her.

With each step toward the nurse’s station, she noticed the grim expressions on the faces of the elves that worked in the North Pole hospital. She took note for the first time how hard it was for them to smile at her when they made eye contact. It struck her how much Santa’s injury had drained the joy and Christmas spirit from all their lives. She just hoped that Santa’s return to consciousness would lift their spirits once more. She hoped the magic of Christmas would be re-sparked. The children of the world were depending on it.

***

“Santa,” Dr. Tinsel said as he entered his patient’s room, “how are you feeling?” He was smiling, excited that Santa had come back to them so quickly. He couldn’t wait for it to be announced that Santa was back and Christmas wasn’t going to be cancelled.

“I feel great,” Satan-Santa answered, grinning at the doctor.

Dr. Tinsel paused and his brow wrinkled as he looked at Santa. Something was off with his voice; he hoped it was just from the time of unconsciousness. It wasn’t that strange for someone in a coma to get a dry throat and have a hard time speaking when they awoke. But that was usually someone who had been in their coma for weeks or years, not a little less than twenty-four hours.

“Wonderful,” Dr. Tinsel said, extracting Santa’s chart from the foot of his bed. “A nurse is going to come in and check your vitals, and if everything is okay, I’m going to release you from the hospital.”
“In time for Christmas?”

“Yes, Santa,” Dr. Tinsel said, feeling relieved to see a glimpse of the Santa he knew; his face lit up when he mentioned Christmas. “You’ll be released before Christmas if everything on your tests looks all right. We wouldn’t want to disappoint the children, would we?”

Satan-Santa laughed. “No. We wouldn’t want to disappoint the children.”

The hairs on the back of Dr. Tinsel’s neck stood on end at the sound of Santa’s laugh. It wasn’t right. It wasn’t a merry, jolly sound, but evil and sinister.

He glanced over his shoulder and spied Mrs. Clause standing just outside the doorway, frowning. He could tell from her expression that she was noticing the differences too. When she glanced at him, he smiled. He planned to explain that a head injury could cause some temporary changes and they just needed to exercise patience until everything was healed and back to normal.

***

Satan-Santa stood at the window to Santa’s office with the fingers of both hands entwined behind his back. He was grinning as he watched the elves scurry this way and that, trying to meet the new demands he’d placed on them for the Christmas deadline. He couldn’t believe how much power he had over the entire work force. At that very moment, he was waiting for elves to bring him the naughty and nice list. He was going to completely reverse it all so the naughty children would get the presents they wanted and the nice children wouldn’t.

He turned at a brief knock at the door to watch ten elves bring in box after box of papers containing the naughty and nice list.

“Is this all of it?” he asked.

His assistant, the head elf, Hazelnut frowned and shook his head.

“No, Santa, this is just for the children whose last names start with the letter A.”

“Ah, yes,” Satan-Santa said, “I’d forgotten. My head injury… Things come and go for me, but it gets better all the time.”

Hazelnut smiled sympathetically and ushered the other elves out of the room.

“We’ll leave you to it. Let us know when you’re ready for the letter B section of the list.”

Satan-Santa nodded and they all left him alone with the list. In minutes he had it done, using his evil powers to make the changes quickly and easily.

He sent for the B section, then the C section, and so on and so forth until he had the entire list redone. He knew the delivery mix ups alone would cause chaos for the emotions of the children that believed in Santa, and that pleased him. He planned to go well beyond just the list though, to spread his evil on Earth, and he needed to hurry before Santa’s soul found its way back to his body.

While in the coma, Santa’s soul was essentially a balloon filled with helium, still connected by a thin string to his body. When all the helium made its way through the rubber as it aged, he would slowly sink back into his mortal self and Satan would be kicked out of the “Santa Suit” he was now wearing.

***

Christmas Eve dawned bright and cold at the North Pole. The elves were in a near panic finishing up their work in a surge of unbridled excitement. They’d even finished making the strange scary-looking dolls Santa had ordered them to make at the last minute. They didn’t like them, but they’d made them, figuring Santa knew what he was doing. He was their leader and had never steered them wrong before; they trusted him blindly even though he seemed a little…off.

Everything was prepared, just as it always was, right on time.

All the elves gathered in the square to see Santa off; they lived and worked their entire lives for Christmas and didn’t want to miss a single moment of the joy and excitement.

***

As Satan-Santa stood in the sleigh, waving at all the cheering elves, he couldn’t believe how easy it all was. He was positive that elves were the stupidest beings on Earth. He was going to enjoy every second of ruining Christmas. He was overjoyed that he would have access to countless innocent children to do what he wished with them. Never before had he had such broad access to human children all at one time. He was drunk with the power, and that drunken state came across as overwhelming joy and happiness to the elves. They thought it was Christmas spirit and that’s what he wanted them to think.

In minutes he was off, calling out the names of each reindeer in turn as he knew he was supposed to. He’d learned all of their names just for that purpose – he had to keep up his ruse.

As the sleigh took to the air and all the elves cheered, Satan noticed that his vision became blurry for a moment and he felt a mild weight settling over him. In that instance, he knew Santa’s soul was beginning its journey back to his body.

“Just wait a little longer, you fat jolly bastard,” Satan mumbled. “I have terror to unleash!”

He sailed through the sky, off to visit the houses where children slept, waiting for someone kind, loving, and full of Christmas Magic to bring them what they were hoping for.

The first house he stopped at was that of a naughty child. He left five presents for the child, since there was a surplus of toys from the original naughty and nice list – there had been more nice than naughty children then. That made it possible for him to be overly generous after he changed the list around.

The next house he came to, there were two nice children. For each, he left one of the strange dolls he’d had the elves make, after chanting a short incantation over them. As he turned his back to leave, their eyes started to glow red and their little arms and legs began to twitch. He knew that by the time he was off to the next house, two demons would inhabit his version of voodoo dolls and would torture the children and kill the adults in the house. Once their deed was done, the demons would be welcomed back into Hell, birthed to a new rank and position in his kingdom for their faithful service.

As the sleigh glided from the house’s roof, Satan-Santa heard the bloodcurdling screams coming from within. In his mind’s eye, he imagined the walls of the children’s room being painted red with their parents’ blood when they came to check on their screaming children. The children would be left alive, because their young innocence would deny him their souls. But the adults – most of them – would become his in Hell. And when the children grew up orphans, they would carry pain and sorrow in their hearts. One day, their souls would belong to him too, since most would fester in that pain for the longevity of their lives.

Satan-Santa went from house to house, repeating his gifts for the naughty children and the nice children. Each house he stopped at, he felt more and more pressure settling over him. Until, halfway through the night, he could barely breathe. He knew his time in Santa’s body was over, so he landed the sleigh in the middle of a city, spoke his incantation over all the remaining dolls, and left Santa’s body.

***

It took a little over an hour for Santa’s soul to return to his body completely. When he became aware of the world around him it was to the sounds of people screaming in pain and children calling out and crying with fear and loss. He didn’t know what was going on, but he knew he was in his sleigh, in the middle of it all.

He wasn’t sure if he should take off or stay where he was, but when thousands of little blood-soaked dolls with glowing red eyes surrounded the sleigh, he knew he had to leave; the reindeer kicking the evil dolls out of the way as they took to the air. He knew Christmas had to continue, that he had to move on. He didn’t know why he didn’t remember the last few days or how he’d gotten to where he was, but he didn’t have the time to dwell on it.

As the sleigh crested the rooftops, he was surrounded by war planes from the local military. While Santa was trying to figure out what was going on, below and in the air, missiles were deployed in his direction.

Santa had time to breathe the word “no” just before the missiles hit and the reindeer were blown to bits in the center of a fireball. Just as he realized what had happened, he was consumed as well.

***

Satan watched from Hell as Christmas was ruined forever. He hadn’t reached as many homes as he’d set out to, but the loss of Santa was more than he could have hoped for. He hadn’t counted on the households without children calling the police and the police calling the Air Force to take care of Terrorist Santa.

He wouldn’t make it to the rest of the houses, and that would let down the children that still believed. The news reports about the night would have ruined his reputation, but with no Santa at all, Christmas would have no hope except for Christ. But he’d fooled the majority of Earth’s population into not believing in Him long ago. Now Christmas had nothing left.

All the demons of Hell celebrated their master’s success.

©Rebecca Besser, 2014. All rights reserved.

Happy Thanksgiving! – Turkey Day by Jaime Johnesee

Author Jaime Johnesee
Author Jaime Johnesee

 

Thanksgiving is my favorite time of the year. I love having so many of the people I care about gathered around sharing what we’re thankful for. I just absolutely love what the holiday represents. I don’t want to get into the history and the politics of the holiday, I only want to speak about the spirit of it. It’s very important to take the time to appreciate the things around you. With our busy lives we so often forget to take that time. Sometimes we take the people, and things, we love most for granted.

Also, the food frigging rocks. Succulent turkey (or tofurky) with that crisp buttery skin, steamed Brussel’s sprouts topped with butter, creamy mashed potatoes with thick gravy made from the giblets, cinnamon sweet potato casseroles with toasted marshmallow topping, ended with the tangy spice of pumpkin cheesecake… Bliss.

So, in the spirit of being grateful and sharing, I’m grateful to share this NC-17 short story with you – Happy Thanksgiving, everyone. May your families and friends be healthy, happy, and grateful for you.

Sincerely,

Jaime Johnesee

 

Turkey Day
by Jaime Johnesee

 

Every year we would go to the Jacobsen’s farm and pick out a turkey. I hated the screaming of the bird when Mr. Jacobsen would grab it to lop its head off. Every damn time that turkey would scream and every year I would beg my dad not to take me back there. I didn’t like it, didn’t understand why we couldn’t just buy a frozen turkey from the grocery store. He didn’t listen, and so, year after year I had to participate in the slaughter of a poor, defenseless, admittedly tasty animal.

Although I shouldn’t say defenseless because this one time Jacobsen got his ass handed to him when a big thirty pound tom decided to fight for his life. The turkey broke his nose and punctured his right eye before a farm hand managed to pull the thing off him. I was rooting for that turkey. I’d like to think he went to his grave a hero. He was absolutely delicious as a sandwich, so I guess he had that going for him.

Dad died before Thanksgiving this year and, as I held the frozen Butterball in the aisle of our local grocery store for the first time ever, I found myself oddly missing that much-loathed trip. I put the store brand turkey back in its place on the frozen pyramid and walked out of the store. I’d go to Jacobsen’s and get the turkey myself. My wife and I would dedicate the dinner this year to Pop and we’d make sure all his favorites were on the table.

I waved goodbye to the cashier, my neighbor, and headed for my car.

“Looking for a turkey, mister?” The boy approached on my right and startled me. He couldn’t have been older than sixteen.

“Yeah, I’m going to Jacobsen’s right now, actually.”

“I can get you just as good a bird for cheaper. Won’t make you watch the end, neither. ”

That appealed to me greatly and I stopped and faced the kid. I’d never seen him around before.

“Which farm?”

“Huh?”

“Which farm do you represent?”

“Oh, uh, Smythe’s.”

“Are the turkeys organic?”

“Are they what?”

“Organic. No antibiotics, hormones, fed a good diet, allowed to run free?”

“Sure thing, mister.”

“Lead the way, kid.”

We got into our cars – his a beat up, blue and gray 1977 Jeep Honcho. I followed him to Oak Street and grunted as I realized he was taking me out of town. I preferred to buy as local as possible so this wasn’t something I was comfortable with. It was the Wednesday before Thanksgiving and I wanted to get the turkey and get home quickly. I had a case of beer back home that wasn’t going to drink itself. Holidays were stressful times and the only times of the year I actually drank. Then again, family will do that to you.

The boy drove to the edge of the county and just when I was about to turn around and head back (any savings on the turkey would be offset with the amount of gas my SUV would guzzle), he pulled into a driveway that led through a dense patch of woods. I began to feel slightly uncomfortable about the whole thing. As my car slowly drove through the thicket lining either side of the tatterdemalion drive I felt sure that there was no way someone could possibly live there. The driveway looked like it had been overgrown for at least two years. I ignored my instinct to back up and head home, certain I was going to get a turkey, go home, hole up with my case, and drink the whole damn weekend away. Uncle Fred hitting on my wife was not going to bother me this year. It’d still bother her though, for sure.

I pulled up into a yard that was just as overgrown and choked with weeds as the driveway. The house sat derelict and broken. The windows were boarded up and the porch roof had collapsed. Nobody lived here, nobody could – the second story had collapsed into the first. I stopped the car and threw it into reverse, but I was too late. Another truck blocked me in. It was the twin of the one in front of me. Fuck, I thought to myself. They were going to rob me, or worse. I’d seen Deliverance I knew what crazy guys did to sane ones. I felt no urge to squeal like a pig. I locked my doors. It was stupid and pointless as I was basically in a windowed box. If they wanted in they’d get there.

A man climbed out of the Honcho behind me and came to my window.

“You looking for a turkey, son?” He was old, at least seventy, and I relaxed a little.

“Yes, sir.”

“Why you looking so nervous, boy?”

“Well, sir, I’m blocked in at a house I don’t know by two people I don’t know. It’s a mite uncomfortable.”

“Aw, yous just a poor baby, ain’t ya?” He chuckled.

“Sir?” I was certain the squeal-like-a-pig moment had arrived and I screamed at myself not to cry.

“What sorta turkey you want, son?”

“Twenty-pounder would be nice.”

“Oh, yeah, bird like that’d be real nice for sure. Bet it’d cook up nice, buttery, and crispy on the outside, moist and juicy in the center.”

“That’s what I’m hoping for. My family just loves Thanksgiving.”

“What decent family don’t?” He gave me a mean sort of squint and I nodded my agreement. I took a quick look at the boy who had lured me here and saw him get out of his Jeep. He went around to the back, took out a tarp, an axe, and a bag of apples. It reminded me of some crazy Wile E. Coyote trap and I just stared, transfixed as he began setting out the tarp. A small TV tray came out next and on it the boy assembled a myriad of odd tools.

“What are those for?” My voice came out much smaller and squealier than I had expected.

“For guttin’ the turkey. You can’t take a turkey home with the innards left inside. Why, that’d ruin the meat.” A small bead of drool appeared at the corner of his mouth.

What the hell had I gotten myself into? I was starting to feel slightly panicked when the boy grabbed a cage from the back of the old man’s Honcho and set it on the tarp. There was a turkey inside. I almost sighed with relief.

“He be ready soon. You gon’ watch him end that bird’s life, right?”

“He told me I wouldn’t have to.”

“If you’re to be takin’ a soul’s life then you ought to look ’em in the eyes while you do. Dontcha think?” He looked at me hard and I felt like I was sitting in my old family home  getting chastised by my father. My horrible, evil, rotten father. Suddenly, I hated this man. I despised his very being.

“Stupid fuckin’ turkeys,” I mumbled.

I was never able to face the truth behind what really went on at the Jacobsen farm with my dad. That’s why he created me. I was there to step in for him at those moments.

When the old man stuck his face closer to mine in an effort to hear me better I grabbed the pen from my shirt pocket and thrust it up through his jaw. He started trying to scream, but the blood pooling in his mouth made screaming near impossible. This wasn’t my first time wielding a pen. I prefer close kills. It’s something Daddy taught me. Well, drilled into me, really. All those neighborhood pets he got me started on. Yes, sir, every Thanksgiving we went out and found us a turkey. As much as we liked the Jacobsen’s family, the meat we got off them was getting too stringy. The homeless that showed up to work their ranch tended to be way to lean to make good turkeys. This year was different. This year there’d be two.

Oh, I couldn’t have taken the two together, but I have a good chance with the boy now that the old man is gone. I opened the door of my car and stepped out, moving closer to the boy with every step. He had his hands wrapped around the turkey’s neck and didn’t even see me pick the axe up. I swung it overhead and let gravity do my job for me, it slid into his skull and he doubled over, releasing the turkey in the process.

The bird looked at me and said, “Hey, thanks, man” before running off into the woods.

“Happy Thanksgiving, bird,” I called as I went to load my turkeys into my car. The family would be eating good tonight. We had so much to be thankful for this year.

 

Visit my interview with Jaime Johnesee to learn more about her and her “Bob the Zombie” series:

https://rebeccabesser.wordpress.com/2014/11/12/jaime-johnesee-interview-2014/

Bob The Spy graphic

©Jaime Johnesee, 2014. All rights reserved.

Winter of Zombie 2014 – Jay Wilburn’s “Dead Song” Teaser

Author Jay Wilburn

 

Excerpt from “Dead Song” appearing in Zombies: More Recent Dead with Prime Books. Soon to be a full length novel exploring the world and life of Tiny Jones.

 http://www.amazon.com/Zombies-More-Recent-Mike-Carey/dp/1607014335/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1413262341&sr=1-1&keywords=zombies+more+recent+dead

 

Dead Song

By Jay Wilburn

 

The man walked into the dark room and closed the door behind him. He put on the headphones and sat down on the stool. Images of zombies flashed on the screen in front of him. He ignored them and opened the binder on the stand. He pulled the microphone a little closer and waited.

In the darkness, a voice came over the headphones and said, “Go ahead and read the title card again for us slowly so we can set levels.”

The man read with particular slowness and articulation, “Dead Doc. Productions presents The Legend of Tiny “Mud Music” Jones in association with After World Broadcasters and Reaniment America, a subsidiary of the Reclaiment Broadcasters Company, with permission of the Reformed United States Federal Government Broadcasters Rights Commission.”

He waited silently after he finished.

The voice finally came back on, “Sounds good. We’re going to get coverage on the main text for alternate takes. We’re also going to have you read the quotes as placeholders until we get character actors to replace them. Read them normally without any affected voice. If we need another tone or tempo, we’ll let you know and we’ll take another pass at that section. There is also some new material we are adding into the documentary.”

“Okay,” the man answered.

The voice ordered, “When you’re ready, go ahead with section one, then stop.”

The man took a drink of water, swallowed, and then waited for a couple beats. He began, “Dead World Records was one of the first music companies to come online after order was restored. They were recording and signing artists during the height of the zombie plague. Tobias Baker and Hollister Z are credited with founding the company.”

“They operated from a trailer and storage building on Tobias’s family farm, surviving off the land, and clearing zombies from the property between recording and editing.”

A black and white image of zombie pits scrolled across the screen as the guys in the booth ran the images to check timing. The man ignored it.

He continued, “They do deserve credit for recognizing the continued value of musical culture and history while everyone else was focused purely on survival. They had the vision to gather and record the unique musical evolution of the Dead Era which shaped all music that came after it.”

A grainy video of the men working in their studio rolled on the screen. The man stopped and watched as he waited.

The video froze and the voice said, “Skip to section four. The text is edited from the last time your read it. Read it over once and tell us when you are ready.”

The man obliged them by scanning it over. He said, “Ready.”

The voice said, “We’re rolling on section four.”

The man took another drink before he began, “The real unsung heroes of the rise of Dead World Records Inc. are clearly the collectors that agreed to bring the recordings back to the studio. Many of them were musicians themselves and trekked hundreds of miles through zombie infested territory to find musical gatherings of the various unique pockets of survivors.”

A picture of Tiny flashed on the screen with his name under it. He was wearing shorts, hiking boots, and holding a walking stick. A picture of another man wearing a helmet and carrying a bat replaced it. The name below it was Satchel Mouth Murderman.

The man continued, “Music from this period is clearly defined by both isolation and strange mixtures of people and cultures. The gatherings of these musical laboratories (many of which were destroyed and lost long before the zombies were) is the legacy of men like Tiny “Mud Music” Jones.”

Stills of Tiny with arrows pointing him out passed over the screen.

The man read on, “Tiny traveled farther and gathered more than any other collector. His introverted style and musical talent won trust and entry into enclaves of people no one else could penetrate. Some historians believe much of what we know of Dead Era culture is built off the exploration of Tiny Jones.”

*   *   *   *   *

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The stench of frozen rotted meat is in the air! Welcome to the Winter of Zombie Blog Tour 2014, with 10 of the best zombie authors spreading the disease in the month of November.

Winter of Zombie 2014 Blog Tour

 Stop by the event page on Facebook so you don’t miss an interview, guest post or teaser… and pick up some great swag as well! Giveaways galore from most of the authors as well as interaction with them! #WinterZombie2014

https://www.facebook.com/events/1524813084430035/?ref_notif_type=plan_user_joined&source=1

 

AND so you don’t miss any of the posts in November, here’s the complete list, updated daily:

http://armandrosamilia.com/2014/11/01/winter-of-zombie-post-list-winterzombie2014/

©Jay Wilburn, 2014. All rights reserved.

The Three Zomb-Egos by Rebecca Besser

THE THREE ZOMB-EGOS

By Rebecca Besser

            It was an overcast afternoon when Shawn, Nathan, Cal, and Tim met at the local bar in a small town in Virginia. They’d become friends online and planned the get together so they could discuss their most common interest – zombies.

            The establishment was nothing short of pathetic on the outside, which almost made the men decide to traverse elsewhere, but Cal joked that it looked like his apocalyptic dream house, so they decided to stay.

            Inside the alcohol peddling abode, the men found a plethora of zombie and science fiction collectables, proudly displayed in lighted chrome and glass cases.

            “This place is sweet!” Shawn exclaimed, and the others agreed.

            They seated themselves at a round table toward the back of the empty deserted room, and took in the sight of the place for a couple of minutes.

            “Oh,” Tim said, jumping up and dashing over to the bar that ran almost the full length of the right side of the room, “light sabers!” He picked up one of the toy collectables and swung it to make the plastic cylinders extend from the base, just as he pushed the button on the hilt to make it light up; an electronic hum rent the air as he swung it.

            All the men’s faces lit up and they joined their friend at the bar to play with the sabers.

            “Could you imagine having a real one of these babies when the Z-poc happens?” Nathan asked with glee painted across his face, making him look like a kid.

            “That would be kick ass!” Cal said, but was disappointed when he noticed there were only two sabers.

            Shawn, having also arrived at the bar too late to have a saber of his own, frowned.

            “Let’s just see how well those things do against zombies…” he said, and moaned, lunging toward Tim like a zombie from hell.

            Tim, Cal, and Nathan laughed, and Tim swung his saber playfully at Shawn.

            Shawn didn’t give up his attack easily, though, and soon had Tim pinned against the bar, snarling like a raging hungry beast intent on having Tim for lunch.

            Cal, amused by Shawn’s actions, did the same to Nathan, and in seconds they were on the floor, rolling around.

            At that very moment, the proprietor of the establishment came in through the back door, heard the noise out by the bar, and called the police. He’d been outside, taking bags of trash to the dumpster, and when he’d returned, he found lunatics in his bar!

            The police told him to stay hidden, so he went into his office and locked the door behind him.

            The noise continued for a while, and was abruptly ended when something glass shattered.

            “Oh, shit!” Shawn exclaimed, noticing that they’d knocked a glass off the bar with their playful tussling; he looked around, but didn’t see anyone. “Hello?” he called, hoping someone would answer him.

            Cal and Nathan stopped wrestling and looked up, and around, to see what had broken and what Shawn was yelling about.

            “You’re probably going to have to pay for that,” Cal said, motioning to the broken glass on the floor.

            “I know…” Shawn said, still searching for someone who worked there, so he could do the right thing and offer to pay for the damage. “Where the hell is everyone?”

            Tim laughed. “Z-poc!” He started moaning, limping, and shuffling in circles.

            Shawn shook his head, and still trying to find someone, spotted a broom and dust pan behind the bar. He didn’t want to go back there, in case someone did finally appear – they might have a gun and think he was robbing the place – so he picked up the light saber Tim had put down and grabbed the other one out of Nathan’s hand.

            Nathan protested with a whine of, “Hey!” but Shawn ignored him.

            Cal nudged Nathan to distract him from losing his toy and started moaning and pawing at Nathan like he was a zombie; Nathan shoved him away, and did the same.

            Shawn, meanwhile, was using the sabers – one in each hand – to try to pinch the broom and dust pan together so he could pick them up and lift them over the counter; he kept getting frustrated because the cylinders kept folding down when he tilted the sabers at a certain angle.

            Tim, Cal, and Nathan got bored with aimlessly shuffling around the room and trying to bite each other, so they converged on Shawn in a horde of chomping teeth and (what they hoped sounded like) deadly moan.

            They were all around Shawn, clawing him with wild eyes – while he tried to shove them off, focused on his broom retrieval task – when the police came charging in with their guns drawn.

            “Freeze!” they yelled. “Put your hands up where we can see them!”

            All four men froze and spun to face the officers; Shawn accidently slapped Nathan and Tim in the head with the light sabers as he lifted his arms.

            “Sorry,” he muttered.

            “No talking!” one of the officer’s yelled – the tall, bald, skinny one. “Drop your weapons!”

            Shawn opened his hands and let go of the plastic toys, and as they fell, one hit Cal in the head, and the other bounced off the top of the bar and into a row of liquor bottles, knocking them to the floor. They all shattered with a tickling of glass and a splash of liquid.

            “Smooth move,” the other officer said – the short, slightly chubby one. “ All of you – turn slowly and put your hands on the bar.”

            “What’s going on?” Cal whispered to his friends.

            “I don’t know!” Shawn whispered harshly. “Shut up.”

            “Hey!” the tall officer said. “No talking!”

            The room went silent as the four men were patted down by the two officers.

            “Stand up, put your hands behind your heads, and turn around,” the short, chubby officer commended; the four did as they were told.

            “Where are you from, and what are you doing here?” the tall, bald officer asked.

            No one spoke for a moment, and then Nathan – who had experience with law enforcement – spoke up.

            “We’re friends who met online,” he said confidently. “We’re all writers, and we decided to meet for a drink, since we lived close together.”

            “Oh, really?” the tall officer asked, glancing at his partner. “Can we see some ID please?”

            Shawn produced his, and so did Tim.

            Cal and Nathan searched their pockets only to realize they’d left their wallets in their cars.

            The officers, getting aggravated, decided they would have to go and get them.

            “We’re going to take a small field trip outside together,” the short officer said. “I don’t want any fun business from any of you, understand?”

            The four men nodded and proceeded as they were instructed outside.

            Nathan and Cal were allowed into their cars to retrieve their wallets.

            The officers then had them walk to the rear of their vehicles and stand with their hands behind their heads while their IDs were examined.

            The chubby officer glanced up and noticed the license plate on the back of Shawn’s car. He did a double take and then looked at Cal’s…and Nathan’s. He couldn’t help but laugh.

            “What the hell?” he asked. “Are you zombie worshippers or something?”

            The four men frowned in confusion and shrugged.

            “We all write about zombies,” Nathan said, trying to understand the man’s meaning. “Why? Did you recognize one of our names? Have you read our books?”

            All four of the men’s eyes lit up as they looked hopefully at the officers, expecting at least one of them to be a fan of their work.

            “No,” the short, chubby officer said, and motioned to the license plates. “I was referring to those.” He glanced at Tim’s car. “Who doesn’t have one? Does he still need to be ‘initiated’ into the group or something?”

            Tim looked down at the ground and clenched his jaw; he didn’t want to admit he didn’t have a zombie license plate like his friends. He wanted one, but just hadn’t gotten one yet.

            Shawn stared off into the distance.

            Cal looked down at the ground and kicked at a small pebble that was lying in front of his foot.
Nathan shifted his weight from one foot to the other with nervous energy.

            “Not going to tell me, huh?” the chubby officer asked. “Fine, I have my own way of finding out. I’ll run the non-zombie plate.”

            He walked over to the police cruiser and opened the door. He slid into the driver’s seat and typed on the cars computer, pulling up the license plate that didn’t have anything to do with zombies.

            He climbed back out of the car and sauntered back over with a triumphant look on his face.

            “So, Tim,” he said, “are you just not zombie enough to have a zombie themed license plate? Or won’t your wife let you?”

            Shawn, Cal, and Nathan burst out laughing.

            “Shut up, you fucking wacktards!” Tim snarled.

            “He’s just jealous we’re better zombie men than him,” Cal joked.

            “His wife did say he moans like the dead…” Nathan said with a snicker.

            “He’s been known to prance around town screaming, ‘I’m a rainbow vampire! I’m a rainbow vampire!’” Shawn said, and doubled over laughing.

            “You’re all bastards,” Tim said, and sighed; he noticed the officers were laughing too.

            “Calm down, my friend,” Nathan said, trying to catch his breath.

            “Look at it from a zombie perspective…” Cal said, “…at least when the Z-poc happens, they won’t know you’re out to get them.”

            The officers were shaking their heads at the men and their antics.

            “Okay,” the tall, bald officer said, “let’s get back to business. What was going on in the bar?”

            The four men told them about finding the light sabers, pretending to be zombies, and the broken glass.

            “Well,” the chubby officer said, “as long as you pay for the damages, and promise to leave, we won’t take you in.”

            “Thank you,” Shawn said, even though he now had to pay for multiple bottles of liquor because the cops made him drop the light saber and knock them over.

            The officers escorted Shawn back inside the bar and let the owner know what had happened. He paid for the glass and the alcohol, and then made his way back outside where his friends were waiting.

            “I guess we survived that,” Shawn said.

            “Well, we are all survivors!” Nathan said, grinned, and winked.

            The four men said goodbye and headed their separate ways, knowing that their story would someday be told online…

 

 

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©Rebecca Besser. All rights reserved.

New Release – Torched from Nocturnal Press Publications – Edited by Eden Royce

 Available July 26th, 2014!

Torched from NNP
Torched Edited by Eden Royce

 

Our relationship with fire is an intimate one.

From the intrigue of the warmth to the draw of the light,

it spans history—yet who tamed the beast was never recorded.

From the Norse funeral to the Pagan celebrations,

fire has burned its way through our lives,

a passing mark on some, an indelible scar on others.

Within this tome lay 18 authors from across the globe,

each with their own burning tale to tell…

…… Doubt thou the stars are fire?

 

Table of Contents

The Foreigner -Tim Jeffreys
Home Fires – Ed Ahern
Ride to Hell – Rebecca Besser
City of Fire – James Dorr
Kleevar: The Prophets of Profanity – Dan Weatherer
The Light of the Divine – Tom Olbert
Stir the Ashes – Joshua Calkins-Terworgy
Things Seem Different by Firelight – James McAllister
Flaming River – Timothy Kroecker
He Ain’t Heavy – J.M. Lawrence
Without Sin – Mark Taylor
The Burning Times – Brandon Ketchum
Premonition of a Fire Man – Alexis Allinson
The Flame in the Ice – D.J. Tyrer
Internal Combustion – B. David Spicer
Heat Stress – Claire Ibarra
The Little Matchbox Girl – Lara Ek
Captain’s Last Job – D. Jonathan Matthews

An excerpt from my story, “Ride to Hell”:

“What’s up next, tour-guide-of-horror?” he asked.

            She laughed and tapped her lips thoughtfully with her finger. “Hmm…how about Serpent Slither?”

            “Okay,” he said, amiably agreeing.

            They mounted the short flight of stairs, leading up to the platform to the ride. The carnival wasn’t very busy so they only had to wait for one other couple to be strapped in before them.

            When it was their turn, they stepped forward and took their seats beside each other. Instead of facing forward, they faced off to the left side of the ride – Steve was beside the woman from the previous couple and Renea was positioned by a member of the following couple.

            The ride started after everyone who was in line was aboard. Once the ride operator stepped back and flipped a lever, the “serpent” took off with a jolt, speeding up and jerking back and forth like a roller coaster on its side, suspended in the air; Steve thought numerous times they would be thrown through the air. This fear was further encouraged by the squeaking and grinding of the seats and the frame of the ride.

            Finally the ride was over and they climbed off.

            “That was fun,” Renea exclaimed. “Do you want to go on Soul Stealer or Be Damned next?”

            “Why not Bowels of Hell?” Steve asked, gratefully becoming acquainted with solid, none jerking ground again; he wasn’t quite sure he was ready for another ride just yet.

            “We’ll save that one for last,” she said, “its my favorite.”

            As they stood talking, Steve looked around and noticed the ride operator leering an evil grin at him. Something about the look in the eerily skinny man’s eyes gave Steve the chills; he shrugged the feeling off and focused on Renea.

            That’s where I’ll propose, he thought, figuring he could make a dramatic display before they traversed the “Bowels of Hell” together.

            “Let’s try out Soul Stealer,” he said, hoping it wouldn’t be as dramatic as Serpent Slither, but knowing it probably was. He was determined not to show how unnerved he was, or how bad his stomach was churning at the thought of going on another ride.

            “Okay,” she said, and grinned wickedly. “I have to warn you – it’s intense!”

            He laughed, while inwardly groaning. “I can handle it with you by my side.”

            As they approached the ride, Steve began to wonder if he could handle it, even with her. Naked seats with simple straps waited for their bodies. Renea climbed right in, smiling at a small woman with black teeth and drool running down her chin, who was helping her buckle in.

            “Come on, scaredy-cat!” Renea called out, and slapped her hand on the cracked leather seat beside her.

            Reluctantly he climbed aboard; the same woman helped strap him in as well – she chuckled under her breath as she stepped away from him. His unease grew.

            The woman flipped the switch and the seats started to climb up a mechanical tower behind them, until they were well over twenty feet high. The seats stopped and Steve looked down to see shiny silver spikes had risen below them, from the platform.

            “What the hell?” he mumbled, wiggling and trying to get a better look. The straps were too tight to allow him a good assessment of the danger below them and that increased his unease – he felt trapped.

 

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©Rebecca Besser & Nocturnal Press Publications, 2014. All rights reserved.

Zombie Christmas Story – High Price for Hope by Rebecca Besser

Jerrold Brown sat by the small fire burning in a fifty-five-gallon barrel that had been cut in half. He watched his wife across the room, tucking in their son and daughter. Sighing deeply, he looked into the fire, thinking about Christmas. It was hard to believe it had been a year since the zombies had arrived. It was the worst Christmas Eve he’d ever experienced. He still remembered tucking the kids in that night–trying to get them to fall asleep so Santa would come. But he’d never arrived, just the rotting corpses of the animated dead.
With another sigh, Jerrold rubbed his face with both hands. His wife, Dawn, drew the blanket curtain they used to partition off the kids sleep area closed, and joined him by the fire.
“What’re you thinking about?” she asked quietly, her voice barely above a whisper.
“I’m thinking Christmas will be here in a couple of days,” he mumbled.
“And?”
“I think it’s sad that we don’t have any presents for the kids. Last year they didn’t get to open the presents we bought for them–we were too busy fighting for our lives. After a year of being sequestered in this basement we have lost all sense of hope.”
“What are you getting at?” Dawn asked, a suspicious look on her face.
Jerrold dragged his hairs through his hair, closed his eyes, and bowed his head. He knew she wouldn’t like what he was going to say next.
“I’m going to go out and get the kids presents. They deserve to have a decent Christmas, no matter what the condition of the world.”
He heard her gasp, but didn’t look up, just rushed on.
“We need food, too. I should have gone a week ago. You know it as well as I do. I might as well see if I can find some presents while I’m out there. Who knows, maybe all the zombies are gone, moved on to somewhere else in search of people to eat.”
Jerrold looked up at his wife, dreading what he might see in her expression. Tears were sliding down her sallow cheeks. It hit him again just how much they’d suffered–how much they’d had to go without. Clenching his jaw, he decided, be damned all danger, he was going to make this Christmas special for all of them, no matter what she said.
Dawn’s eyes were trained on the fire. The shifting light from the tongues of flame licking at the wood that feed it sent shadows dance over her features. She was upset. He could see that from the tightness of her jaw.
“Sweetie,” he said, caressing her wet cheek. “I have to do something. I can’t bear them not having some joy in their lives. What kind of existence is that for a child?”
Closing her eyes, she pressed her face into his hand and took a shuddering breath. “It’s too dangerous. I don’t want to lose you.”
“You won’t lose me,” he said, taking her into his arms and kissing the top of her head. “I’ll be careful. I promise.”
“I can’t bear even the thought of losing you,” she whispered and wrapped her arms tightly around him. “It’s not worth the risk. I don’t want you to go. Stay for me. Please.”
Jerrold took a deep breath and rubbed her back, tears coming to his own eyes at her pleading. He eyes fell on a stick that was jutting out from beneath the curtain to the kids sleeping area. It was crudely carved to resemble a human. He remembered making them for the kids for their birthdays. Their eyes had lit up and it was the only time he remembered seeing genuine smiles on their faces since they’d been down here.
Squeezing Dawn tight, he whispers, “I have to do it–for the kids. They should have sometime to play with, something to enjoy. All they play with are those damn sticks, or what they can draw on the cement floor with charred pieces of wood from the fire. They should have more. They deserve more. What kind of childhood are we giving them?”
She pulled back and looked him in the face defiantly.
“We are giving them the best childhood we can under the circumstances,” she hissed. “It’s not like we have a choice. We are doing the best we can with what we have. Those damn zombies took everything from us, but we have our lives and we have each other. That should be enough.”
“Believe me,” he said. “I am grateful that we are all alive and together, and I’ll never be able to express how glad I was that we found somewhere that had a good supply of food and water to stay, but it’s Christmas. I really need you to understand and support me in this, I need to do this, for all of us.”
Dawn clutched at the front of Jerrold’s threadbare shirt, kneading it in her almost skeletal hands. Tears ran freely down her face and dropped on her shirt, also threadbare and almost sheer in its overuse. Choking back a sob, she buried her face in his neck and whimpered. She took a couple of minutes to get herself under control before she spoke in a pained whisper.
“When will you go?”
Wrapping his arms around her and rocking her gently, he mumbled into her hair, “In the morning. It’ll be Christmas Eve. I’ll arrive back just in time to put the presents under the tree, just like Santa.”
He laughed at the irony of the thought, as he too choked back sobs.
She nodded against his chest and clutched at him, not wanting to let go, not wanting to think about what the morning would bring, when her husband would leave their den of safety and venture out into the world that held who knew what.
They sat by the fire, crying and holding each other for hours before they added a couple more pieces of wood to the fire and went to bed. Even though they’d been careful about sex, using condoms to make sure that Dawn wouldn’t get pregnant–which they’d run out of a couple of weeks ago–they made love that night, throwing caution to the wind. The action was full of desperation. They spoke to each other with their bodies, conveying their love and their need to be with each other, hoping that the bond they created would be stronger than the separation they would face in the morning, stronger than the fear of never seeing each other again.

*   *   *

The next morning Jerrold was up and dressed before the kids awoke. He kissed them gently on their foreheads, brushed back their hair and said a quick prayer for them. Behind him, he heard the sound of Dawn’s bare feet padding softly across the cement floor. She paused at the curtain and sighed heavily. He could feel the tension radiating from her. Turning, he stepped up to her and wrap his arms around her, burring his face in her hair.
“I’ll be careful,” he whispered. “I promise I’ll come back.”
With a quivering breath, she nodded and pressed her face into the side of his neck. “I love you.”
“I love you, too,” he said, pulling back and kissing her.
Wrapping her arms tightly around his neck, she stood up on her tip toes and put her soul into the kiss, making it clear to him one last time how much he truly meant to her.
Breaking away reluctantly, Jerrold picked up his 30/30 rifle and his bag, and headed for the door.
“Make sure you put these back up as soon as I’m through the door,” he said, taking down heavily pieces of lead pipe and angle iron they had at different levels of the door. “I’ll padlock the door at the top of the steps from the outside, instead of the inside. Do you remember the knock I’ll use when I come back, so that you know it’s me?”
Dawn nodded, but he was facing the door and didn’t see her.
Turning, he looked at her. “Do you remember?”
“Yes,” she said. “Three fast, two slow, three fast.”
He smiled and nodded, stepped back over to where she stood, and kissed her one last time. Looking deep into her eyes, he said, “I’ll be back tonight.”
She smiled weakly, nodded, and closed the door behind him as he picked up his rifle and bag again, and stepped through.

*   *   *

Jerrold stood in the shadows of the apartment building basement, waiting to hear the scraping of metal as Dawn replaced the bars on the boiler room door. They’d been lucky to find such a place to stay. They had heat, and had been draining the water out of the building’s pipes for months. He’d also feed them on what the building had to offer. Each apartment had provided canned goods and everything else they had needed. The zombies had left the building after the people who lived there had died or been turned into one of the walking dead. Now their supplies were getting low, which after a year, they couldn’t complain. But this time he would have to venture beyond the safety zone and into the unknown.
Satisfied after he heard the last bar being placed across the door, ignoring the sobs he could hear from his wife, he mounted the steps to their second defense–a padlocked metal door that lead into the main lobby of the building. Withdrawing a small, sliver key from his bag, Jerrold quickly and quietly unlocked it. Taking a deep breath, he pulled the door open slowly. The hinges screeched loudly and Jerrold froze for a moment. Deciding it would be better just to get it over with, knowing the sound would have already alerted anything in the area to his presence, he jerked the door the rest of the way open and jumped through. Whipping his rifle around from where it hung on his back with a shoulder strap, he held it at ready and spun in a semi circle to check the room around him. Seconds passed and all that could be heard was his panting breath. No danger presented itself.
Turning back to the door, he quickly shut it and attached the lock to the latch he’d installed when he’d gone on his first ‘raiding’ trip. They kept it locked from the inside when they were all at ‘home’, and when he went out, he locked it from the outside.
Surveying the room again, Jerrold noticed that the only thing that had changed since the last time he’d been here, was that more plants were growing through the openings of the vacant windows, which had been shattered long ago.
It was still dark, the sun was just beginning to rise, casting a light yellow glow to the backdrop and in between the buildings he could just make out beyond the vines. Stepping carefully, holding his rifle in front of him, ready to pull it up at any moment, he advanced to the busted out glass door that had once been a grand entrance. Pushing aside the greenery, he stepped out into the world, breathing deeply of the fresh morning air, something that seemed almost foreign to him since they’d sought haven below. The sweetness and crispness of it almost made him cry, and at the same time, overwhelmed him with joy.
A bird flitted past and called to its mate, which soon joined it in a tree that had once neatly graced the sidewalk of the city, but was now growing wildly. Old Christmas lights hung from the branches, providing a ladder for the vines to climb–the tiny, twinkle light bulbs looked like alien berries waiting to be picked.
With a grin on his face, Jerrold shivered as a strong wind blew, cutting through his worn out clothes. He’d forgotten how cold it was outside when fall gave way to winter.
“First things first,” he said to himself, heading down the street to where he knew a man’s clothing store used to operate, knowing he needed a coat, gloves, and a hat if he was going to stay warm long enough to hunt for gifts and food.
The sound of his voice startled a black squirrel who’d been searching through the weeds for the last of the nuts from a small walnut tree. It chattered at him angrily as it ducked inside a faded blue BMW that was parked at the curb.
Bending down slightly, Jerrold could see that it had made itself a nice little nest in the interior, where it had dug into a rip in the seat and was not living lavishly in leather and insulation.
Chuckling and shaking his head at the absurdity, yet genius, of the upside down world that they now lived in, he continued on in search of warm clothes.
Soon he reached the store he was looking for. But, to his chagrin, he noticed that all the showcase windows of the front of the store were intact. Smeared on the inside was a dark-brown substance that he knew was dried blood, which meant someone or something could still be inside.
Jerrold stood there for a moment, indecision warring in his mind of the possible dangers of breaking the glass and alerting any zombies that might be lurking somewhere, and the possible danger of going in period when something could still be in there. A strong gust of wind easily penetrated his clothes and bit into his skin with tiny, pin like teeth, made the choice for him. He had to have something more to wear, and if he didn’t go it there, he could waste hours searching for the right items, and then hope they would fit him.
Looking up and down the street, seeing no movement, he lifted the butt of his rifle and broke one of the windows. Glass hit the pavement with a tinkling of accusation, as if angry for having been broken and disturbed after so long a silence.
Jerrold held his gun at ready and waited for a ghoul to jump out at him. He’d had it happen plenty of times before and had always come away the victor. Nothing happened. No one and nothing came from the new opening. Glancing up and down the street again, not seeing any movement, he started knocking away the jagged remains of the glass so he could get through. His hands were so numb from the cold he didn’t feel when a small sliver penetrated his palm, breaking the skin and letting out a small trickle of blood.
Entering the store, he hurriedly located what he needed. He found himself a new pair of jeans, a shirt, underwear, socks, boots, a coat, gloves, and a hat, piling them in the center of the store, where he could see all around him. Quickly he shed his worn out clothes, donned his new apparel, and took out his old hunting knife, adding it to his new outfit in case he did meet a zombie. Leaving his old clothes laying on the ground where he’d taken them off, he grabbed some more clothes and shoved them into a shopping bag he found behind the counter. Knowing that he couldn’t carry them around all day because he would be collecting more items he decided to jog them back down the block and leave the bag outside the door to the basement sanctuary.
While Jerrold had been searching through the racks of clothing, the small sliver of glass had come free from his hand, but he still hadn’t noticed. Unknowingly he began a blood trail, starting with the glass, to the racks, to the clothes he left lay, and the counter where he’d gotten the bag. The gloves he’d chosen were thick, and they absorbed the red liquid, only to start dripping around the cuff after he’d left the bag at the basement door. He didn’t think anything of it, as now his hands were warm and his palms were sweating.
Jerrold decided that clothing and food should be top priority for this trip, even though he wouldn’t return without presents. He just knew that finding appropriate gifts would take longer, and if he got his ‘duty’ done first, then he would have more time to ‘shop.’
Turning to the right this time when he left the building, he went to a department store he knew would have clothes for his entire family. There were plenty of shopping carts sitting around, so he used one to procure clothing for his family. Having not seen any zombies for a while, he started to let his guard down. He assumed they’d moved on to where they thought people might be more numerous.
Christmas decorations and fake snow were on all of the displays, some still standing and some destroyed. Strings of lights dangled drunkenly from cash registers, and Santas that had been placed close to the windows had faded from red to pink, where the sun had bleached them through the summer months. Seeing these relics reminded him of last year–of what a disaster Christmas had been.
After getting all the clothes the cart could hold, he paused to think of anything else they might need. Batteries came to mind. He searched around the counters where he remembered having seen batteries when he’d shopped there long ago, but there were none. The empty racks stared back at him menacingly, as if mocking his stupidity for thinking he’d find something there.
All the snacks and candy bars were gone as well. There was nothing of use or value.
Pushing the overloaded cart out of the store was harder than he’d first thought it would be. There was so much stuff knocked over and in the way, the wheels kept getting stuck and he had to continually clear a path. It was at one of those times, while he was bent over pulling an inflatable snowman, that had deflated long ago, from beneath the wheels that a noise from behind him alerted him that he was not alone.
Slowly he stood erect, sliding his rifle strap off his shoulder he prepared to fire. Spinning suddenly, he brought the butt of the 30/30 tight into his shoulder, and looked down the sights with the ease that only comes from practice.
Standing no more than ten feet from him was an old woman and a young boy, but they were no longer human. The wasting of their flesh released a stench that he should have noticed and probably would have if he hadn’t been constantly moving. But the fact of the matter was, he was accustom to the smell of death, he’d been living with it for a year now, and it wasn’t something he noticed anymore.
They stared at him, the little boy holding the old woman’s hand like they still thought they were living and he was going on a shopping trip with grandma.
The stand off ended when the old lady hissed and her dentures fell from her gapping, rotted mouth. Her cheek split and her bottom jaw slid from its sockets to dangle below her face by loose, flapping skin.
She darted forward at Jerrold, as if it was his fault she was falling apart. Not seeming to realize that she was still holding the boys hand, she ripped his decaying arm off as she came for Jerrold, the only fresh meat she’d seen in months. It didn’t matter that she didn’t have any teeth, or that she could no longer bite, she attacked him anyway.
Not wanting to draw unneeded attention, Jerrold quickly side stepped the woman, and grabbed the long knife that was strapped to his thigh. As he spun, he brought the blade down into the back of the old woman’s head, penetrating her skull with a sickening squish. She was so rotten that she was literally falling apart.
Amazed at how easy it had been to kill her, for a moment Jerrold just stood there marveling at the corpse, and didn’t pay any attention to the boy.
Suddenly, a shriek sounded–it was high pitched and angry. Turning toward the sound, Jerrold saw the boy had climbed up onto an empty rack and was about to propel himself at the him.
Jumping back and losing his balance when he slipped in the black blood that had oozed out of the old woman, he landed hard on the marble tiled floor, the knife fell from his grasp and slid a few feet away. For a few moments he couldn’t move, the breath had been knocked out of his body, and he’d jarred his back.
In those precious moments, the boy took advantage of the situation. Hissing and clawing, he scrabbled across the floor on all fours. He was a wild beast and he smelled blood.
No sooner had Jerrold got his breath back, than he saw the small body pounce into the air above him. He frantically searched around himself for his knife. With the boy in the air, merely two feet from landing on him, Jerrold gripped something and brought it up at an angle in an attempt to knock the boy sideways. He succeeded, hitting him directly in the head.
The boy fell to the side with a whimper and didn’t get up. Jerrold looked over at the boy, slowly sitting up, forcing his back to stretch. He’d picked up a large plastic candy cane, and had, by a miracle, stabbed the boy in the temple with it, killing him.
Sadness gripped his heart. He was here to get things that his family needed to survive. He knew that the boy had been a zombie and there was nothing he could have done to save or help him, but he still felt bad about ending his existence.
It took Jerrold precious minutes to get his back to stretch enough to allow him to stand. After that, he hobbled his way out of the store. By the time he was half way home with the cart, his back was almost back to normal, with only a few spasms every now and again. Pushing forward and through the pain, he made it back and dropped off the cart, leaving it beside the bag he’d brought back earlier.
Now that he’d seen a couple of zombies, his guard was back up. Slipping off his glove, he wrapped his hand around the padlock, giving it a swift tug. Looking back over his shoulder when he heard a rustle in the rubble, he slid his hand back into his glove. Not seeing the blood he had smeared all over the padlock. Holding the rifle in front of him like a combat soldier creating a perimeter, Jerrold snuck over to where he’d heard the noise. A rat jumped up from a hole and scurried away. Startled by the sudden appearance of the rodent, he almost pulled the trigger.
With a deep sigh, Jerrold bent over and closed his eyes for a moment, still thinking about the boy he’d just killed. Mentally shaking off the thought, he reminded himself why he was out here, and left the building once again, this time going straight across the street, heading into a residential area, where he had the best chance of finding food and presents.
The first house he entered was small, and it looked like it had been the home of a young couple with a small children. Baby toys were strewn about the decaying, dirty carpet. They looked as if a small animal had decided to play with them. Having gotten brittle over time, the soft plastic and plush toys now sported holes and teeth marks.
Quickly doing a check to make sure there was nothing moving around upstairs–where he found a crib and a toddler bed in one of the rooms–he ventured back downstairs. Sitting under the Christmas tree were many presents. Jerrold knew his children would be too old for the toys, but he knew he could use the bright red wagon to haul food and gifts. Digging it out from beneath the packages, he was about to leave, but then thought he better check a couple of the woman’s presents to see if there would be anything Dawn would like.
Knelling down, he tore open a small, somewhat flat, rectangle box. The paper came off easily as the weather had broken it down. He discovered that it was a new cell phone. With an ironic smirk he tossed it aside–the once vital piece of technology no longer having a purpose. He dug through more of the pile and opened a few more packages, finding CDs, DVDs, and all kinds of other things that needed batteries or electricity to function. He was about to give up when he came across a small box far back under the tree. It held a dainty opal ring. He slid it into his coat pocket, knowing that Dawn would love it. Deciding to open one more thing and then check the kitchen, he found a collection of children’s books. They were too young for his children, but they hadn’t had much experience in reading and he knew that it they could use them to practice. He hoped he would find more age appropriate books at another house. It would be great for what little schooling and teaching they tried to provide.
A quick check of the kitchen cabinets yielded a couple of cans of soup and vegetables, bu not as much as he’d been hoping for. A door standing in the far wall of the kitchen was slightly ajar, and Jerrold decided to check it out, and was glad he did. It was a pantry, and all kinds of canned goods and dry goods where stored on the shelves.
Feeling like a kid at Christmas time, the thought of which made him laugh, he pulled the wagon close to the door and started to fill it.
He wasn’t paying much attention to what he was grabbing and when something warm and furry slithered against his hand, he screamed and dropped it. He looked down at a box of corn flakes that had a hole chewed through the side. The light tan flakes inside moved and wiggled. He knelt down and gently brushed the cereal aside to see a rat’s nest.
Standing, he kicked it off to the side and was more careful while loading the wagon. Once it was full to the point of over flowing, he set out for another house. Pulling the wagon with the hand that was injured caused it to bleed more profusely. Blood ran down the handle and dripped on the ground, but Jerrold didn’t notice, he was still on a high from finding so much food in one place. Now all he had to do was find a few more gifts and he could go home. He had plenty of time before the sunset.
The next house he entered smelled like muscle cream, even after the time it had sat vacant and open to the elements. He knew that an older couple had lived there, it was a smell that no other dwelling would have possessed. It reminded him of his own parents, and what it had been like to visit them. He didn’t look through the presents, but he did take the time to look through the medicine cabinet, taking anything that he thought might be useful.
Two houses later, he hit pay dirt. Quickly securing the house had shown him that a boy and a girl had lived here–there was a room for each. He took some of the decorations from each room for his children, so they could decorate their sleeping area. But he was mostly happy with the books he found on their shelves. After carrying them downstairs and putting them in the wagon, he knew he would have to find something to make sides for it. If he hit one bump on the way home he would lose everything.
With a little bit of thought and some quick innovation, he fashioned sides for the wagon out of shelves from a book case. He held them on and together with a roll of duct tape he’d found in a small tool box underneath the kitchen sink.
The family had purchased a live tree, which was now dry and bare of all needles. They lay on the floor of the room in a carpet of brown strands. Pushing them aside Jerrold dug through the presents and was disgusted when he had to throw more than half of the items aside. Electronics. They were so worthless now.
Finding a couple more books, he added them to the wagon, along with the other gifts he thought his children would enjoy. He left the house, focusing his attention on the wagon as he maneuvered it down the front steps. When he turned around to look forward, he noticed there were five zombies stumbling down the sidewalk toward him from the way he’d come.
Frowning, he wondered where they’d come from. Lifting his rifle, he shot the first zombies in the head. The bullet pulverized its rotting brain and still had enough power to hit the third one back in the neck, taking out enough tissues for its head to fall off–both fell to the ground at once.
The second, fourth, and fifth in the stumbling line up kept coming, ignoring their downed comrades lying in their path.
Jerrold clenched his jaw, hating to fire once, but hating even more to fire again, knowing now that there were still zombies around and they would come searching for the source of the sound. He wouldn’t be able to search for anything else, he would have to hurry home after this or risk serious danger.
Jerking the lever action of the rifle, releasing the spent casing and chambering another bullet, he took aim again. Hoping to do intentionally what he’d done by accident with the last shot, but it wasn’t to be.
After three more shots and a stab with his hunting knife, the zombies were all down. Hurriedly, he jogged in a round about way back to his home. It took him a half an hour, with all the curbs and debris he had to navigate through.
The sun was beginning to set now, as the apartment building came into view. He breathed a sigh of relief and increased his pace even though he was exhausted. The thought of seeing his wife, of holding her and the kids, gave him the strength he needed to make it back.
Fatigue made him lazy, and he didn’t even take the time to peer into the lobby before rushing in with the wagon clattering noisily behind him.
Twenty zombies were gathered around the door that lead to the basement, pushing and clawing at each other, fighting over who got to lick the lock. They turned, as shocked to see him as he was to see them.
Jerrold stood frozen in shock until the zombies started to cock their heads and sniff the air, inching closer and closer to him.
Raising his gun once again, he blasted as many as he could. Some of the zombies went down as legs were severed in a splash of thick, black blood.
Jumping over the reception desk, Jerrold took cover and reloaded the gun, when he stood, hands that had been stripped of flesh reached for him. Stepping back, he let bullets fly. The rotted corpses were so far gone that the bullets had almost nothing to stop them. They went through two or three zombies before losing momentum.
He caught glimpses of eyeballs dangling from sockets and grotesque figures with missing or damaged limbs. Face after face of hungry horror eager for him to fill their bellies or join their ranks.
After a couple more reloads and attacks, he killed fifteen of them, and the other five were wounded to the point where they were no longer a serious threat. Jumping back over the counter, he thanked God they hadn’t been smart enough to find the little swinging door, or the latch that held it shut, otherwise they would have gotten back there with him and he would have been trapped.
He finished off the last five with his knife, retrieved his bag from the wagon, and attempted to unlock the padlock. His gloves made him clumsy and he dropped the key. Biting one of the fingers of his glove, he yanked it off. Crying out in pain, his teeth parted and the blood soaked glove fell to the ground.
“That’s how they found me,” he whispered to himself. “I was leaving a trail.”
Knowing now that it was just a matter of time before more zombies showed up, following his trail of blood, he quickly picked up the key and unlocked the door. He threw his bag of clothes down the stairs, and then moved to the cart. Armload after armload of clothes followed the bag.
Heaving the cart out of the way, rushing to the wagon, and dragging his feet in a shuffle so he wouldn’t fall in all the blood and guts, he retrieved the wagon.
As he made it to the door, more zombies came falling through the entry way in search of the fresh meat they’d been trailing.
Rushing and panicking, Jerrold pulled the wagon down the stairs after himself. Scrambling, he struggled to reach around the wagon and close the door. He slipped and the wagon, with all its weight, shoved him down the stairs. He tumbled down the stairs, landing hard at the bottom, his head hitting the pavement just beyond the pile of clothes.
Dazed and fighting for consciousness he was only vaguely aware of what was actually going on. His eyes focused on the door to safety, to sanctuary, it was his only chance. Forcing himself to crawl, he made his way to the door to the boiler room where his family was safe from the danger that hunted him.
Knocking on the door, just like he had told Dawn he would, he was relieved to hear the metal bars being quickly removed. He sighed with relief and closing his eyes, he let his forehead rest on the cool cement floor, too confused to understand that there were now six zombies stumbling down the stairs after him.
Dawn opened the door and he looked up into her sweet face, smiling, but frowning quickly at the look of fear he saw there–her eyes were focused on something behind him. Half rolling onto his side he saw what she was looking at–a huge brute of a zombie stood over him.
The zombie growled, with what would have once been a grin on his decaying face. He lunged forward and overpowered Dawn in an instant.
Jerrold cried out weakly, holding his hand up as if pleading with reality, asking it not to be real. He cried out again, this time from physical pain as two of the other zombies bit into his legs, tearing flesh from bone.
As he bleed out, Jerrold stared into the eyes of his dead wife who lay on the floor in front of him. When death was about to overtake him and his eyes drifted closed, he heard the chorus of screams as his children were eaten alive.

 

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