Halloween Blitz – Cold Fingers By Suzi Albracht

Cold Fingers

By

Suzi Albracht

 

I have had experiences with ghosts and the paranormal all my life. I have heard voices, seen apparitions, and felt their cold touch on my flesh. This ghost story is one I will never forget because it was the one time a ghost wrapped his cold, gnarled fingers around my throat.

I was seventeen years old when my mother decided to divorce my stepfather. They shared five children, so it was decided that my stepfather and my siblings would stay in the family home while my mother and I would move into a house not far away.

The move was exceptionally awkward for me because my mother already had a boyfriend, he was the reason for the divorce. And I suspected, he would be a part of our new household. While I didn’t feel obligated to my stepfather for personal reasons, I really hated my mother’s new boyfriend. Add to that, I had a fear of being discarded by my mother. But I had no other place to go, no one else to take me in. I had to make the best of what I got. My life was about survival.

To make matters worse, the area my mother and I moved to wasn’t in the best part of town. It was on the outskirts of urban downtown Moline, which meant dealing with things like vagrants and rats.

On the plus side, I only had to take three buses to get to school.

The house itself was an older home that still had a coal chute in the basement, so when it rained parts of the basement flooded.

The main living area on the first floor included one bedroom, a bath, and a kitchen. A staircase off the living room led to the second floor with one small bedroom and several closets.

And then there was the attic room. Just off the kitchen, there was a door. When you opened it, there was a set of steep, rickety stairs that led up to a third-floor converted attic. That room had small, floor-level windows. It also had no heat, and ventilation was poor.

It was clear that things were not looking good for a new beginning. To this day, I remember the feeling of doom that came over me when I was told I would sleep in the third-floor attic room.

***

My mother moved us into our new home while I was at school. To be honest, I didn’t even know we were moving or anything about the house ahead of time. And it was the same day I learned of the divorce.

I remember coming out of my school and seeing my mother’s car by the curb. That afternoon, she had come to pick me up, something she never did, and then brought me to our new house. I followed her up the front stairs and inside as she said, “This is it. Help me unpack the kitchen.”

Later, when my mother was busy on the phone, I had walked around the small house, noticing there was only one bedroom on the first floor. I had also seen the staircase in the living room that led to another bedroom, but my mother had already told me it was off-limits. Mentally, I crossed my fingers, praying that she wouldn’t expect me to sleep in the basement.

“Where am I supposed to sleep?” I asked as I stood at the kitchen sink, getting a drink of water.

When she didn’t respond, I turned to look at her. My mother pointed toward a door that I hadn’t seen earlier.

I frowned and walked over to it. Touching the handle, I felt a black veil of doom creep up my arm. I pulled my hand back.

“Can’t I sleep on the couch?”

My mother went to the sink and busied herself.

“Mom?”

“I told you that I need my privacy. You can’t be downstairs when my friend is here. As a matter of fact, you better head up there now. And take your books with you.”

It was still light outside, but I knew better than to argue with her. My mother didn’t have motherly instincts or nurturing skills. I was a burden to her and knew I was lucky that she let me live with her at all. I had no choice except to do as I was told.

And so, I opened the door to find a steep and narrow staircase. I inched my way up stairs so narrow there was no way to get real furniture up them. Near the top, I had to turn sideways to slip into the room.

It didn’t surprise me to discover that the room was a closed-off section of the attic. The windows were floor level and tiny. I didn’t see any vents so I knew it would be stifling hot in the summer and frigid in the winter. Living in the Midwest, those were our only two seasons if you didn’t count the three days of spring and the five days of fall.

And then when I pulled the chain on the single, hanging light bulb in the middle of the room, I noticed how sparsely my room was furnished. There was an old cot in the middle of the room and a bookcase in the corner. A couple boxes containing all my worldly possessions sat in the corner.

The light bulb was still swaying when my breath caught in my throat. There was a shadowy figure in one corner. For a second, I was frozen, unable to think or move. I forced myself to turn my back on the shape and sprint toward the door. When I got to the door, I turned to look back. The figure was gone.

Maybe it was my imagination.

I took a deep breath and decided I should just stay. I didn’t have any other place to go anyway, and I had lots of homework to do. So, I walked over to the cot and sat down. The mattress was thin and worn, as was the blanket and what passed for a pillow.

Yeah, home sweet home.

***

I may have had a sucky home life, but at school, I was aces. Schoolwork was my escape from whatever was troubling me at the time. The one thing that kept me moving forward.

That evening, I was in the middle of my English assignment, when I heard a scratching noise across the room. My eyes flew to look at the mouse skittering across the windowsill.

Oh, great, now I had to worry about mice crawling over me in the middle of the night.

I rummaged through my purse until I found a package of crackers. I had discovered a trick to training mice while living at another house. I found that if I led the mice away from where I didn’t want them to be, in this case, my bedroom and then fed them regularly at the new location, they would relocate to be closer to the source of food. Easy peasy.

So, I made a small trail of crumbs out the window and put a couple whole crackers on the ledge outside. It wasn’t long before the little creep went for it. Relieved, I shut the window behind him. Now I just had to remember to feed him every day.

With the mouse taken care of, I went back to my homework. The next few hours flew by until I heard laughing and the sounds of clinking dishes downstairs. I desperately wanted a snack, but…well, you know.

By then, I was starving. Struggling to ignore my growling stomach, I wished I had kept back some of my crackers. But I had been hungry before, so it wasn’t a new experience for me. I knew all too well that eventually the pangs would pass. I decided I would make a late-night raid on the fridge once my mom and her friend were occupied.

Later, after I finished my homework, I pulled out my Stephen King paperback to read for an hour or so. Thirty minutes in, I fell fast asleep. I had a very vivid dream, probably because of Stephen King, but other than that, my first night in the attic room was uneventful. I wish that was the end of my story, but it wasn’t.

***

A week later, as I opened the door to the staircase, I heard a strange noise upstairs. This time, I wasn’t concerned since I had already gotten used to various sounds the old house was making. Hurrying up the stairs, I hoped to get a head start on a new English assignment.

The minute I stepped inside the room I noticed a small piece of paper on the floor. It was a corner of one of my English papers

Damn mouse. Didn’t you like the crackers I left out?

Snatching the paper up, I noticed that there were no chew marks. It had been torn. I felt myself frowning.

There had to be chew marks, right?

As I stuck the paper inside my books, I heard the noise again, but this time it sounded like a low, menacing growl. Every hair on me, from my head to my toes, stood on end.

I backed up, my eyes scanning every nook and cranny in the room.

If I can get to the stairs, I can get down to the kitchen. And then if I run into my mother or her friend, I’ll just say I was hungry and take whatever heat they hand me.

Turning, I nearly stumbled and fell, but I thought I could make it. All I had to do was take two more steps. I heard the growl again. Turning, I saw it.

The shadowy figure was back…in the corner…moving. This time, I was convinced it was real. But I couldn’t move.

Minutes passed, or so it seemed, as I stared at it. I blinked…it was still there. I blinked again, and then time, it changed. I took a step closer. And another. It was then that I realized the thing I had seen was nothing more than a spider web.

Oh, for God’s sake. Your imagination is running wild. Get a grip.

My gut told me that what I had seen was much more than that. It was a ghost who could shift into other shapes. At the same time, my logical brain told me to calm down and do whatever was necessary to get through the night. I kept reminding myself that I had no other options, nowhere to go, no one to help me…no one to believe me.

Suck it up, I told myself.

Yeah, I was still brave.

Mere hours later, I would regret staying.

***

I found myself tossing and turning, unable to sleep. So, I got out my Stephen King book again and buried my nose deep. At some point, I don’t know when, I ended up in a dead sleep. Troubled, but deep.

When I first felt the hands, I thought they were part of a dream that I couldn’t wake up from. Fingertips brushed against my collarbone. I thought it was nothing, so I swatted them away and rolled onto my other side. Then the fingers touched the base of my neck. I rolled my head and buried my head deeper into my pillow.

A male voice growled my name, “Suzi.”

My mind snapped to attention as if ice cold water had been splashed in my face. I threw my covers off and grabbed the sides of the cot to lift myself up. At least I thought I did.

And then my eyes flew open. I tried to move, but I couldn’t. I was pinned to the bed. I attempted to raise my arms, but I was paralyzed. From my toes to my head, I felt crippled except my eyes. My gaze moved from left to right. I didn’t see any bindings or anyone.

How could I be pinned if nothing and no one is holding me?

I squeezed my eyes shut, as tight as I could, fearful of what was going to happen.

A second passed…I tried once more to rise up on the cot. This time, I felt a full body against the length of mine. It was hard, sinewy. My eyes flew open. This time, I saw him. It was the ghost from the corner. I could see his wavery outline.

The ghost pressed harder against me. I looked again and realized the ghost had no face. Somehow, he was more threatening because he was missing his face. I wished I had kept my eyes shut.

And then I felt his fingers again. They had been around my throat the entire time. Squeezing and tightening. I felt a scream from deep within me crawl up my throat. It caught and I couldn’t shake it loose.

The man’s fingers felt cold and gnarled as they squeezed even harder. I tried again to cry out, this time, he pressed his thumbs into my flesh. I couldn’t breathe. The pain was excruciating. I felt myself gasping. I yanked my hands from their invisible bindings and reached up, fighting to pry his fingers off my throat. I could feel the sinew in his fingers, the jagged cut of his ragged nails and scaly callouses I knew were filthy. I dug my nails into his flesh.

He squeezed again. I felt them dig deeper into the soft flesh of my throat, tearing and bruising my flesh. There was no ignoring the intent.

My eyes rolled up into my head. I no longer cared about the pain or the ghost.

I was done.

***

I woke around dawn.

My hands immediately went to my throat. I felt raw inside, but outside nothing seemed to be injured. I jumped out of bed and ran to my purse. Retrieving my mirror compact, I tried to open it, but couldn’t. My hands shook, I almost dropped it. Finally, I pried it open.

Staring, I could see bruises and scratches all over my throat. There was also a large bruise on my chin. And then my eyes caught my stare. Something was different in my soul. The ghost had changed me…forever.

Grabbing my books and my clothes, I ran from the attic room that an evil ghost called home.

I dressed on the staircase that day. And then I went to school and swore I would never return.

***

When I returned home from school, I found a note from my mother telling me she would not be back for a few days. I was so relieved, I cried. That meant I did not have to go upstairs. I did not have to see the ghost again or feel his hands on me. Instead, I could sleep on the couch, in peace, until my mother came back home.

Unfortunately, my mother returned to our house the next day. Mad as anything because she and her boyfriend had a fight. He told her he was done.

I waited until after dinner to make a pitch I hoped she’d agree to since the boyfriend was out of the picture.

“Do you think I could sleep in the second-floor bedroom? It’s really suffocating upstairs.” I asked as I washed the dishes.

“I don’t know. Reggie might be back.” My mother lit a cigarette and blew smoke at me.

“When he comes back, I’ll go back to my room. No problem,” I said.

Suddenly I felt her eyes on me. She got up from the table and came over to stand next to me.

“What’s that on your neck?”

“Nothing. Isn’t your show on soon?” In my mind, I begged her to just go back to the living room.

She poked the bruise on my neck with her nail.

“Who did that to you?”

“No one. I got my purse caught in the bus doors. I practically strangled myself…if you want to know.”

No way was I telling her about the man upstairs. She wouldn’t understand or believe me.

“Did anyone see it? Did you tell anyone? We can sue you know.”

“Mom, it was an accident. No one else was there.”

She stared at me. I suppose trying to break me. She didn’t understand yet that I was unbreakable.

“Fine, but cover it up. Make-up, a scarf, something. I don’t want any social workers coming around.”

She put her cigarette out in the dishwater and left me alone to finish cleaning up.

When I finished, I noticed the door to the upstairs was open. I considered leaving it open, but remembered that if I didn’t shut it, my mother might send me up there to sleep. I inched my way over and just as I reached for the doorknob, I heard a voice. Growling. Calling for me.

“I’m waiting for you, Suzi.”

I slammed the door shut. I backed away until I was in the middle of the kitchen. And then I heard footsteps on the staircase. It sounded like the ghost was coming down the stairs. When he reached the door, the ghost pounded on it. Relentlessly.

My mother yelled from the living room.

“What are you doing out there?”

“Nothing, Mom. Just dropped a pan is all.”

The pounding continued until my mother came to see what I was breaking. She walked in, looked around, saw nothing was going on, and went back to her show.

The minute my mother was gone, the growling whispers started again. “I know you are in there. Come upstairs and play with me, Suzi.”

***

Do you believe in Guardian Angels? I do.

The next day, when I came home from school, I found my mother sobbing on the couch. Her boyfriend had dumped her for good. She was devastated. I felt terrible for her, but I was happy for me. In her grief, my mother told me I could stay in the second-floor bedroom because she didn’t want to feel alone.

I never slept in that attic room again. I paid a little neighbor boy to bring down my clothes and I moved into my new bedroom that day.

I still heard the voice taunting me whenever I was in the kitchen alone, but for some unknown reason, the ghost could not go past the attic door.

Not long after, another more affordable house became available that was closer to my school and my mother’s job, so we moved.

I never went back to that house with the haunted attic.

But one day, years later, I happened to drive by on my way somewhere. I was stopped at the light waiting for my turn when I heard a voice…growling my name. I didn’t look around, I didn’t want to know where it came from. I just hightailed it out of there and never looked back.

I’ve been told the house still stands, but it’s been unoccupied for decades now. I know I’ll never go near it again.

I’m a survivor.

 

Suzi Albracht … The Queen of Scream

I always feel a little naked when asked to talk about myself. So let me put something on first. Ahhhh, that’s better.

I am an author of Supernatural Horror Crime Thrillers and Paranormal Romance/Ghost novels. Currently, I have two series. The Devil’s Due Collection—Supernatural Horror Crime thrillers. And An OBX Ghost Haunting Series—Paranormal Romance/Ghost novels. I am known to my fans as The Queen of Scream.

I currently live near Annapolis, Maryland. That places me halfway between Washington, D.C. and Baltimore, MD. My horror books take place in these metro areas so anyone who lives here will recognize some of the locations.

My Paranormal novels take place in the Outer Banks of North Carolina or the OBX as it is known to locals. We vacation there every year. Many of the locals have read every book in my series. I’m especially partial to North Carolina since I will be moving there soon.

I’ve had many fascinating things happen to me along my life’s path. The first President Bush gave me a shoulder/back rub when I was visiting the compound in Maine one hot August in the 80s. I went to church with Princess Diana once (she was stunning, Charles was a lot shorter than I thought he would be). I’ve been to Las Vegas to shoot pool in the APA Championship twice. I won’t share all of my adventures. Where would the mystery be if I expose all?

I would consider myself to be a fair and giving person who loves hard. I am a nice person, but if you do me wrong, I will never forget. I may forgive, just to get past it, but you will never get close to me again. I am loyal to a fault. I’m into shoes and purses, they have their own room here.

I can honestly say my twitter bio describes me to a T – Write, scare myself, turn all the lights on, write some more. Take a break, play pool, kick butt/get butt kicked, go write more horror, double lock door.

You can find my books on my Amazon page at: author.to/SuziAlbracht

And now I am naked again because you know too much.

Copyright © Suzi Albracht 2019

 

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Halloween Blitz – Twisted Pathways by Rebecca Besser

Twisted Pathways of Murder & Death by Rebecca Besser is free on Kindle from Oct. 8-10th!

 

Click on cover to visit title on Amazon!

 

Twisted Pathways of Murder & Death

by

Rebecca Besser

 

When emotions go to extremes murder happens.

Sometimes it’s because of betrayal.

Sometimes it’s in revenge.

Sometimes it’s to hide a lie or in self-defense.

Sometimes it’s to feed a secret hunger.

Whatever the reason, the human mind lends itself to twisted pathways that lead to murder and death…

 

Author Rebecca Besser

 

Rebecca Besser is the author of “Undead Drive-Thru, Undead Regeneration, Cursed Bounty, Twisted Pathways of Murder & Death, Hall of Twelve,” and “Nurse Blood (Limitless Publishing).” She’s also a graduate of the Institute of Children’s Literature. Her work has appeared in the Coshocton Tribune, Irish Story Playhouse, Spaceports & Spidersilk, joyful!, Soft Whispers, Illuminata, Common Threads, Golden Visions Magazine, Stories That Lift, Super Teacher Worksheets, Living Dead Press Presents Magazine (Iss. 1 & 2), FrightFest eMagazine, An Xmas Charity Ebook, The Stray Branch, and The Undead That Saved Christmas (Vol. 1 & 2) and the Signals From The Void charity anthologies. She has multiple stories in anthologies by Living Dead Press, Wicked East Press, Pill Hill Press, Hidden Thoughts Press, Knight Watch Press, Coscom Entertainment, Crowded Quarantine Publications, and Collaboration of the Dead (projects), and one (each) in an anthology by Post Mortem Press, NorGus Press, Evil Jester Press, Horrified Press, Atria Books (S&S Digital), and Nocturnal Press Publications. She also has a poem in an anthology by Naked Snake Press and a children’s poem in Oxford Ink Literature Reader 4 from Oxford University Press (India).

Her nonfiction children’s article about skydiving, written for her writing course with the Institute of Children’s Literature, was published by McGraw Hill for NY Assessments.

She’s also an editor and has edited: Dark Dreams: Tales of Terror, Dead Worlds 7: Undead Stories, and Book of Cannibals 2: The Hunger from Living Dead Press; Earth’s End from Wicked East Press; End of Days: An Apocalyptic Anthology (Vol. 4 & 5/co-edited) from Living Dead Press; and she co-edited Feast or Famine (a zombie anthology).

 

Copyright © Rebecca Besser 2019

Halloween Blitz – Deadsville by Dale Elster & T.D. Trask

Click on cover to visit title on Amazon!

 

Deadsville

by

T.D. Trask & Dale Elster

Welcome to Rock Creek, New York.
A one-stoplight town in the middle of nowhere, on the way to nowhere.
A town ruled by quiet, country boredom.
The locals have another name for it:
“Deadsville.”
But not for the reason you think.
Rock Creek has a deadly secret. It’s a place where nothing is as it seems. Where killers walk amongst the townsfolk.

Where monsters are real.

Where old houses serve as something more than gateways to sprawling farm land.
It’s evil’s hometown.
So be prepared to stay.
You’re going to be a permanent resident.
Because even if you get out, you can never escape.

1 Town. 2 Authors. 13 Tales of Horror.

Deadsville is a collection of ALL NEW horror stories from authors T.D. Trask and Dale Elster, set in the fictional upstate town of Rock Creek. Consider these words your personal invitation to join them as they reveal the darkness lurking there, hidden within the people who walk its streets. Haunting the places daylight never finds.

Waiting for your arrival.

 

Author Dale Elster

Dale Elster is a dark fiction writer. He is the co-author of Deadsville, a short story anthology that’s seen high praise from reviewers and bloggers alike. His other stories and flash fiction pieces have appeared in several indie and small press anthologies, including I Can Taste the Blood (ebook edition) from Grey Matter Press and Shallow Waters, Volume 3 from Crystal Lake Publishing. All are available on Amazon.

He lives in upstate New York with his wife and two children, where he is currently writing Deadsville: Welcome Home as well as several other works-in-progress.

 

Copyright © Dale Elster & T.D. Trask 2019

Halloween Blitz – Stiff Breeze by Brian J. Smith

STIFF BREEZE

By

Brian J. Smith

 

My Uncle Jay and I were inside of his house when everyone went stiff.

It was a bright sunny day in July when my mother, Nina, and my father, Calvin, and I headed out to Uncle Jay and Aunt Linda’s place for a cookout we always had before I was dragged back to school for my freshman year. We never invited any of our other family members because we had to deal with their snotty stuck-up asses at the family reunion every once a year which was always a stretch. Although Dad and Uncle Jay never got along, it didn’t stop us from going.

Jay and Linda lived in one of those stucco bungalows with a red clay-tiled roof and a big backyard that was bigger than the front, crammed inside of a close-knit cluster of other houses just like it. Dogs barked and pools splashed from a distance I was comfortable with.

Uncle Jay was standing on the patio in front of his massive propane grill, flipping three different kinds of meat (not counting Aunt Linda’s veggie burgers, bleh) and flashing narrow-eyed glances at Dad every time he finished a beer and then plucked a fresh one from the case sitting under the picnic table between his feet. Mom and I were tossing a bright-yellow Frisbee around the front yard for a while until Aunt Linda finished cutting the trimmings for burgers and then took Mom’s place. “Sunshine of Your Love” by Cream spewed from the little boom box Mom bought Uncle Jay last Christmas.

When he slid the last hamburger onto the platter sitting next to the grill, Jay peered over Mom’s shoulder and said, “Hey, Mattie. Could you run in and get the condiments out of the fridge.”

“Sure,” I said, my voice strained from exhaustion.

Before I reached the porch, I glanced next door and saw a young middle-aged couple leading a little six-year-old boy with blond hair toward their back door. The boy carried a stack of action figure in his arms and sobbed as if he were about to carry them to the electric chair; dirt caked his fingernails, clung to his kneecaps, and streaked the front of his bright blue t-shirt.

I ignored them, tossed the Frisbee onto the front porch, and entered the house through a pair of sliding glass doors. I bobbed my head to the music spewing from Jay’s boombox loud enough to vibrate the kitchen windows and opened the fridge. I heard the patio doors slide open again, spewing a split second stream of music into the house and then slide shut again.

I caught a shadow out of the corner of my right eye and grew tense, my scalp and skin prickling with cold fear. I thought this had been Dad’s opening to sneak in behind Mom’s back and grope me as he’d done three months ago after my thirteenth birthday. I know I should’ve said something by now but we both knew who Mom was going to believe and it wasn’t her daughter; she would’ve ignored anything I said because Daddy’s money made her more submissive and unaware than I would ever become.

“Hey, honey,” a familiar, but chaffing voice said.

I slumped against the fridge, breathing a sigh of relief when the mixed stench of flop sweat and stale beer were replaced by the pleasing scent of Stetson that only Uncle Jay wore. I shook off the uneasiness and smiled at him while all six-foot-four of him moseyed over to the other side of the kitchen with a perturbed grin on his big doughy face.

“Your aunt sent me in here for her fucking multigrain bread,” he mumbled, then snorted. “She’d eat poison ivy if they made a loaf of bread with it.”

I chuckled and knelt in front of the open fridge to resume my search when the breeze picked up and swept over the house. It muffled the music spewing from Jay’s boombox, shook the treetops like newborns, and reminded me of the whispers my friends shared behind my back before homeroom. When the breeze dissipated, a low wheeze filled the kitchen, merging into a loud startling gasp.

I rose to my feet and cocked my head to where the sound was coming from.

Jay leaned across the sink, his thick-fingered hands gripping the edge of the countertop until his knuckles turned white; the loaf of bread had flown from his hands and rolled across the kitchen floor. He glanced out the window, his eyes and mouth wide from shock as the color began to drain from his face. I hadn’t seen him this scared since back in 2016 when Aunt Linda had her first of two miscarriages.

“What the fu–?”

The panicked wheeze in his voice lured me over to the window, my body racing with curiosity. I massaged my hands and peered through the white crop-top curtains draped across the kitchen window. I couldn’t believe what I saw, but it was as plain as the nose on my face.

Nina and Calvin and the hummingbird fluttering in front of the bird feeder above Dad’s head and Aunt Linda were frozen in place. Stiff and motionless, they looked like nothing more than wax figures in a museum: Mom was caught hovering above the bench seat across from Dad, her hands hugging the back of her dress and tucking it underneath her thighs as if she were about to sit down; Dad was crumpling an empty beer can in his hand and letting off an old fashioned burp through a lopsided grin in a non-comical display of manliness; and Aunt Linda was caught balancing herself on one foot with her head cocked toward the front of the house and both hands cupped around her mouth.

The grill kept going and so did Uncle Jay’s radio which switched from “Sunshine” to “Just an Old Fashioned Love Song” by Three Dog Night. Something glinted in the corner of my eye, but the procession of footsteps parading across the kitchen drew my attention instead.

I spun around in time to see Uncle Jay tearing ass toward the living room, mumbling Linda’s name over and over again.

He bounced his right leg off the corner of the coffee table, hissed through half-clenched teeth, and lost his balance. He teetered back and, arms pinwheeling out from his sides, slammed his massive bulk onto the living room couch. In the soft blue glow of the television, he stared up at me with a mingled expression of surprise and shock on his face.

“Jeez, Mattie,” he sighed. “Don’t just stand there and wait for me to bust my head open before you decide to help me. I need to get out there and see what the fuck happened.”

I shrugged and hurried over, my heart racing with panic. The light coming from the television shifted from a soft blue glow to plumbeous tint that made Uncle Jay sit up immediately. He brushed me off with a dismissive wave of his hand, snatched the cable remote from the coffee table, and thumbed up the volume.

“In case you’ve just joined us,” a middle-aged brunette in a bright-yellow blouse stated in a soft informative voice, “we’ve been following a breaking news story. There have been reports that a vast number of American citizens who have suddenly frozen in place. There have been numerous reports that the breeze had started from the northwest corner of The United States before sweeping down across the rest of the country, but we don’t have any real information to confirm it. We have live footage from all over the country and those of you watching at home parental discretion is advised.”

The first footage showed a cul-de-sac in Eugene, Oregon; the wind had swept through during a big block party leaving the streets dotted with wind-blown litter and rotund metal barbecue grills spewing tails of thick white smoke that dissipated in the breeze. The second piece of footage came from a monolithic water park in southern Texas; the stairways leading toward tall colorful water slides were streaked by stiff-legged swimmers while others floated lazily in the wave pool like a child’s ill-forgotten bath toy. The other pieces of footage took place in an amalgam of highways clogged with broken chains of mid-afternoon traffic, shopping malls with neon-gilded signs declaring false promises, and residential parks crowded with stiffs that reminded me of store-front mannequins.

“We will do what we can to bring you all of the informa–”

Uncle Jay muted the television, slid the remote back onto the coffee table and inched up to the edge of the couch. He raked his hands across his clean-shaven head, slid them down his face, clamped them across his mouth, and sighed.

I thought back to the footage at the block party and recalled the golden retriever wandering and whimpering at the motionless crowd, wagging its tail as it sniffed at their feet to get their attention.

I replayed that heart-wrenching image in my head until I felt my chest constrict and my cheeks flush. A river of hot tears brimmed in my eyes and slid down my cheeks, but before I could wipe them away Uncle Jay had leaped up from the couch and hugged me.

He buried my face in the front of his t-shirt and patted my back in a series of slow concentric circles that made me think of those late-nights when Daddy came up stairs to grope me before the whiskey put him down.

“It’s okay, honey,” he whispered. “Everything’s going to be okay.”

As much as I wanted to believe him, everyone was a skeptic, including me. If I were to shed tears for anyone outside of this house, it should’ve been Aunt Linda and the lost dog. My drunk horny father and my submissive mother on the other hand would receive as much sympathy as he would’ve had he gone to prison.

I broke the hug and hurried across the house toward the bathroom. I slumped over the sink, clamped my hands over my tear-soaked lips, and sobbed until it hurt. I snatched a hand towel from the shelf beside of the sink, tucked a strand of pineapple blonde hair behind my left ear, and swiped the rag gently across my face.

The cold touch from the rag cooled my flaming red cheeks, but failed to ease my fears. I was very familiar with the whole “end of times” spiel especially on the news during New Year’s Eve or in the midst of 2012, but I took it all with a grain of salt. I always thought that the apocalypse could happen due to anything between an airborne disease and a great massive flood.

“No!” A familiar voice bellowed from inside the kitchen. “Oh, God no!”

I flinched, my body rigid with fear. I bolted out of the bathroom and stopped halfway to the living room; a lone tear slid down my right cheek.

His face sagging under a mix of panic and terror, he leaned against the sink and gazed out the kitchen windows once more. He mumbled something under his breath because it might’ve been something I wasn’t allowed to hear.

I followed his gaze and felt my eyes widen with fear. Mom’s left arm jerked, giving a loud brittle snap that was obviously drowned out by the roar of Rush singing “Fly by Night” coming from Jay’s boombox. It slid out from underneath her chest, dragging her thin-fingered hand toward the edge of the tabletop and slid off at the shoulder.

We watched in horror as Mom’s arm slid down her left hip, bounced off the edge of the bench, and plopped onto the ground like a fish out of water. Blood pumped at the air, soaking the grass, and sliding down her left hip. She toppled back, her right arm jutting out from her hip, and struck the front of the house; the same bone-jarring thud that shook the windows also rattled my bones.

I pivoted, pressed my hand against my chest and sat down in the middle of the kitchen floor. I clamped my right hand across my mouth and hunched over to keep my body from shuddering; nausea churned the pit of my stomach and stung the back of my throat.

“No, no,” Jay pleaded, lips trembling. “No, no oh, dear God, no Linda not her he–”

The panic-stricken tone to his voice coiled around my spine, rooted me to the floor, and prickled my skin. His gaze never wavered from the front lawn as streaks of sunlight underscored the big red splotches flaring across his cheeks; his lips trembled.

I glanced up at him and, opening my mouth to mutter the first incoherent word from my lips, when something flashed in the corner of my left eye. I cocked my head around, scooted across the kitchen floor and peered through the triple-paned patio doors. I gazed across the driveway passed Uncle Jay’s Chevy and Mom’s Honda, at the rear of a two-story white clapboard house next door.

It had a wheelchair ramp that led up to the back door and a strand of white clothesline struck up between two oak trees rooted diagonally along the far right side of the yard. I scanned the house and caught it on the third try. A flickering orb of bright orange light whipped across the second story window on the far-left corner, snatching at the shadows filling the house.

“Look, Uncle Jay,” I gasped, rising to my feet. “Who lives there?”

“A young couple,” he stammered. “Why does it matter?”

When he joined me by the window, he perched his left hand on my right shoulder. He cupped his hands around his eyes, pressed his face to the glass and scanned the property as if he were looking for Waldo.

“We need to help them. That little boy could be hurt.”

“No, we don’t. What we need to do is keep our asses inside of this house until The National Guard comes.”

“Those people could be hurt,” I pleaded. “They could use some medical attention or maybe some food.”

“And if they need it.” He pointed toward the floor. “They’ll call for it, but for right now I think we need to stay in here until we get all of the information we need.”

“It looks like they’re trying to signal for help.”

“I know you want to help them,” he said, bracing my shoulders, “and that’s very brave of you, but we just can’t risk it. What are we going to do if we go out there and the next current comes through?”

I cursed under my breath, slapped his hands away, and spun toward the patio doors. I wasn’t mad at Uncle Jay because he wouldn’t help, but I was angry at the fact that everyone who I still cared about were dead. My world was shattered and yet here I was about to help a group of complete strangers with or without his help.

Before I could wrap my hand around the knob, the pleasing scent of Stetson hit me square in the face. Uncle Jay wrenched his hand around my wrist, clutched the back of my shirt with the other, and flung me back like a rag doll. I spun around on drunken wobbly legs and grasped the edge of the stove to keep myself from hitting the edge of the countertop.

Jay flipped the lock into place, leaned against the door and laced his arms across his chest. His mouth shrunk into a tight angry grin.

“We’re not leaving this house,” he declared. “In the past ten minutes I’ve lost my wife and my little sister. I’m not going to lose you, too.”

Something shattered from inside the house. We froze and perked our ears to hear where it might’ve came from. Two seconds later, a loud squawking sound burst across the house, but we didn’t know exactly where.

“It’s in the goddamn basement,” Jay said through tightly clenched teeth.

We made a mad dash across the house, our feet pounding quick but softly across the floor, matching the rhythm of our heartbeats. We ran across Uncle Jay’s office (which once served as a carport after the house was built), ignored the stacks of paper cluttering his desktop, and ran toward a flat wooden door on the far right corner of the room. Jay grasped the curved metal handle jutting up from the wooden door, his sweaty panic-stricken face scrunched together, and yanked it with all his might.

When he flung the door open, my skin prickled. I stepped back, my hands curled into tiny white-knuckled fists, and peered down a flight of solid stone steps. Shafts of sunlight spread abnormal shadows across the rough concrete floor and grasped at the scarred brick walls; the diverse smells of mildew and paint wafted upward, spun around my head, and made me wince.

I glanced down for a second to see what might’ve caused the noise. A dead bird, maybe a sparrow or a robin, was lying spread eagled in the center of the floor next to Uncle Jay’s work table. Its beady black eyes glistened like wet stones; its fat brown-feathery head was twisted too far to one side; and two jagged shards of glass were strewn across the floor beside of it, glinting amongst a second bed of broken glass.

Before I could investigate any more, Uncle Jay screamed, “Fuck, fuck!”

He leaped back from the open door just as the wind sighed through the treetops and whistled through the crack in the window. He cradled his left hand in his right fist, sat down hard enough to jostle his teeth and scowled in pain. His face and eyes flaring from a mix of panic and shock, he pressed his fists tightly against his chest and bit down on his bottom lip.

“Shut the door, Mattie,” he said through trembling lips. “Shut the goddamn door.”

I stretched myself across the open doorway to avoid the gust of wind spewing through the broken window, pressed my fingertips against the edge of the door, and pulled it toward me. The door’s rusted metal hinges shrieked as it struck the floor like a judge’s gavel before an unjust sentence. I took a few deep breaths to calm the fire in my nerves and, my chest rising and falling, hurried over to Uncle Jay.

“Don’t touch it, honey,” he sighed, waving me off. “I don’t even want you to see it.”

He rolled over, pressing his injured arm against his chest and used his other hand to hoist himself up.

I inched over, braced his hips in both hands, and walked him back into the living room.

He stretched out onto the couch, tore the brown and orange braided afghan from the back, and wrapped it around his hand so I wouldn’t see it; through the blanket’s honey-cob pattern I saw tiny gray dots spread across the back of his palm like a case of tombstone freckles, but I knew that if I said anything he would be angry.

I sat down beside of him and held his good hand while we both cried. Outside, the wind died down; the treetops bowed. We wiped our tears away and tried to gather our thoughts—whatever the hell they might be.

A thick gray cloud rolled over the sky, drenching the house in a soft somber glow that edged the living room curtains. He cried himself to sleep five minutes later and although I wanted to wake him I just couldn’t bring myself to do it. I got hungry instead.

I thought about bundling myself up in a ton of jackets and ski gear and see if I could go outside to get the food that Uncle Jay had cooked earlier, but I didn’t want him to wake up and lose his shit when he couldn’t find me. Instead, I took advantage of the fact that we still had electricity and made a pan of macaroni and cheese. I locked the doors then the curtains and drew the blinds shut when I saw that Dad’s right leg had come off at the knee; his head disappeared two seconds later.

I turned on the television in time to see more reports coming in about everyone’s limbs falling off and chuckled at their timing. All across America, everyone was losing something and soon Uncle Jay would lose his hand if not his mind by the end of the week.

It’s true what they say.

There’s no news like bad news.

 

Author Brian J. Smith

 

Brian J. Smith has been featured in numerous anthologies, e-zines and magazines in both the mystery and horror genres. His books Dark Avenues, The Tuckers, and Three O’Clock are still available on Amazon for Kindle. He recently completed a short story collaboration with fellow author Lenore Sagaskie. He lives in southeastern Ohio with his brother and four dogs where he eats more than enough spicy food that no human being should ever consume, already has too many books and buys more and doesn’t drink enough coffee to suite his palate and cheers on The Ohio State Buckeyes.

 

Copyright © Brian J. Smith 2019

Halloween Blitz – Re-Civilize: Liam by Rebecca Besser

Re-Civilize: Liam by Rebecca Besser is free for Kindle from October 5th-7th!

Click on cover to visit title on Amazon!

 

Zpoc Exception Series: Book 3

Re-Civilize: Liam

by

Rebecca Besser

 

Liam earned a full scholarship and escaped the small town of his birth. When his father passes away, he’s sucked back into the life he’d worked so hard to leave behind.

Reluctantly he leaves school and travels home to the farm he grew up on. The farm where working with his hands was worth more than the knowledge he garnered from the books he read to escape reality.

He tries to help his mother settle his father’s estate and plan the funeral despite her emotional guilty trips, but things go horribly wrong in a short span of time. In a last attempt to do something right and ease his guilt, he heads back to school to try and rescue his girlfriend, Stella. But everything has changed in the world beyond the vacant acres he’s been protected by while dealing with his home life.

The world as he knew it has crumbled into something unbelievable. Zombies have taken over and ripped society to shreds…literally. Making it back to Stella becomes impossible.

When he realizes the futility of his journey, he’s forced to a safe zone to preserve his life. Once there, Liam has to make a decision that will change the course of his life forever.

Author Rebecca Besser

 

Rebecca Besser is a horror/thriller author who resides in Ohio with her wonderful husband and amazing son. They’ve come to accept her quirks as normal while she writes anything and everything that makes her inner demons squeal with delight. She’s best known for her work in adult horror, but has been published in fiction, nonfiction, and poetry for a variety of age groups and genres. She’s entirely too cute to be scary in person, so she turns to the page to instill fear in the hearts of the masses.

 

Copyright © Rebecca Besser 2019

Halloween Blitz – The Night Weaver by Monique Snyman

Some Folklore That Inspired The Night Weaver

Those scary stories that’ve been passed down from one generation to the next are the ones I enjoyed the most as a kid. We’re talking Dagon (not the H.P. Lovecraft version, the one Afrikaans parents use to keep their kids in line), Headless or Legless Anna (the ghost who apparently haunts every Afrikaans primary school in Pretoria), and the Match-Maker (demon? ghost? Hell if I know what the game’s about, I just know I was scared senseless the couple of times we played). I have always been drawn to obscure folklore and mythology and have always been fascinated with darkness. That’s just who I am, so, while I was writing The Night Weaver, I instinctively knew I needed to put in something that would’ve both scared and captivated me as a young adult.

My problem was finding a boogeyman that would frighten a teenager back then and right now.

I mean, we’re living in a world where teens have a much higher scare threshold. Back in the 00s, R.L. Stine’s Fear Street series hit all the right buttons for me, but things are different now, realer to some degree. Still, there are things out there, fantastic things that can’t possibly be real, that can frighten us—if not the monster, perhaps the allegory …

It took me about a week of research, but eventually I found the perfect creature to be my antagonist—the Black Annis. The reason I decided on this specific figure from English folklore was mainly to try and recreate the chills I use to get as a kid when I read horror novels. After all, what’s scarier than a cannibalistic hag stealing children from the safety of their own beds? Even today, few things can top that on the “fear-o-meter”. Even today, there’s a spark of realness in the legend.

So, I changed her up a bit, made her fit my story, gave her a backstory that’s not necessarily accurate to the legend. I turned the Black Annis into The Night Weaver.

But what could possibly push the Black Annis’ creepiness over the top? What would make her a force to be reckoned with, I wondered?

That’s when I realized I already had the perfect “alteration” to the legend: Darklings.

Darklings are completely made-up creatures, shadow-like beings that actually inspired the entire book. People think I lie when I tell them that one night, while I was wandering around the house in my sleep deprived, somewhat depressed state, the shadows spoke to me, but that’s exactly what happened. The shadows grew and moved and danced on the walls, and I listened to their story.

In some ways, these Darklings were the ones who chose the Black Annis as the main antagonist, not me, because they have a mind of their own. They work independently sometimes, but other times they work with a hive-mind. It’s this characteristic that made it possible for The Night Weaver to feed on darkness without ever being near anyone, to trick adults into giving up children without her ever having to leave her lair. The existence of the Darklings also made it possible for me to change up the Black Annis’ mythology and turn her into a dark Fae (or rather a Miser Fae).

There are other things about the Black Annis that needed to be changed to turn her into my perfect boogeyman, the one that could scare a teenager back then and now. We’re talking personality traits and a certain magical object, amongst other things.

And although I would love to explain everything in depth, it would take away a lot of the mystery that surrounds her. Also, spoilers would start appearing, and we certainly don’t want that.

But, in some ways, I feel I was able to give an obscure folktale a second chance at life. Perhaps one day, when my readers are all grown up and have children of their own, they will remember the Black Annis—or rather The Night Weaver—and recall the chill they got when they read about her.

Or maybe the Darklings will visit them now …

Who knows?

Click on cover to visit title on Amazon!

About The Night Weaver (Harrowsgate #1)

Shadow Grove isn’t a typical town. Bad things happen here. Children disappear, one after the other, and nobody is doing anything about it. Parents don’t grieve, missing posters don’t line the streets, and the sheriff seems unconcerned.

Seventeen-year-old Rachel Cleary lives on the outskirts of Shadow Grove, next to the creepy forest everyone pretends doesn’t exist. Usually the forest is filled with an eerie calm, an unmistakable graveyard solemnity. But the trees have started whispering, forgotten creatures are stirring, and the nights feel darker than ever.

Something is stalking the residents of Shadow Grove, changing them into brain-dead caricatures of themselves. It’s up to Rachel to stop the devouring of her hometown before all is destroyed and everyone she loves is forever lost.

About Monique Snyman

Monique Snyman’s mind is a confusing bedlam of glitter and death, where candy-coated gore is found in abundance and homicidal unicorns thrive. Sorting out the mess in her head is particularly irksome before she’s ingested a specific amount of coffee, which is equal to half the recommended intake of water for humans per day. When she’s not playing referee to her imaginary friends or trying to overdose on caffeine, she’s doing something with words—be it writing, reading, or fixing all the words.

Monique Snyman lives in Pretoria, South Africa, with her husband and an adorable Chihuahua. She’s the author of MUTI NATION, a horror novel set in South Africa, and the Bram Stoker Award® nominated novel, THE NIGHT WEAVER, which is the first installment in a dark fantasy series for young adults.

Visit Monique Snyman at www.moniquesnyman.com or follow her on:

 

Copyright © Monique Snyman 2019

Halloween Blitz – The One That Got Away by Dale Elster

The One That Got Away

by

Dale Elster

 

This is how the story ends.

My best friend Sam, he was always telling me to stop living in the past, to move on with my life. He’d follow up that part of his speech by saying, “There’s plenty of fish in the sea,” or some other cliché.

My sea only had one fish. Sam never understood that. How could he? Before he married, Sam was a notorious womanizer. After he married, he didn’t slow down much.

Missy Ramer was my fish, so to speak, and I let her get away.

It was Debbie Swartwood who started the rumors about me. Rumors that ultimately drove my love away. Debbie said I was creepy. Said it was me who did those awful things to Missy’s cat, Buttercup.

It wasn’t me.

I would never do anything to hurt Missy.

But I’m getting ahead of myself.

I met Missy in the summer of 1979. We were twelve, our birthdays a week apart. I loved her immediately. Even a year later, when we were close friends at the beginning of the greatest decade ever, I couldn’t summon the courage to ask her out.

Even when she could date, I was too chicken to make a move on her.

Shortly after we turned fifteen, Missy made a move on me. We went with Sam and some other friends to a matinee of John Carpenter’s Escape from New York.

I can tell you now there was something different about her that day. Her subtle displays of affection. Laughing at my corny jokes.

But I was too stupid to pick up on her signals back then. Besides, I was still too chicken to reciprocate.

By the time I realized what she was up to, it was too late.

Debbie Swartwood started spreading the cat-torture rumors about me.

After that, Missy rejected my offers to hang out. She hung out with other guys instead—dated some of them, too. Then in the summer of our junior year, she moved away. I made one final plea to reconnect with her, to explain to her that the rumors weren’t true. Finally, she believed me.

We promised to stay in touch. Social media didn’t exist then, and there were no text messages to send. Only letters and phone calls. I held up my end, and for a while, she did too. But within a few months, my letters and phone calls went unreturned, and the thing I’d feared most came to be: Missy had moved on.

All these years later, I still haven’t.

We were meant to be, ya know?

That’s a truth I feel in my soul.

But you shouldn’t have to serve a life sentence for missing a few signals.

These days, I refuse to participate in social media, as Sam suggested I do. He figured it’d be a way to reconnect with her.

I don’t want today’s Missy.

I want the Missy I knew. The Missy I fell in love with back then.

I still live in the same house I grew up in. I keep it just like it was in the ’80s after my dad took off and left Mom and me to fend for ourselves. She didn’t mind me sticking around after high school or passing up college. I was good company for her. I took care of her when she got old. I kept the lawn mowed and the snow cleared. When she passed away, I inherited the place.

I like to watch VHS tapes of Knight Rider and The A-Team on the same kind of TV we had back in my high school days. The fancy new flat screens hurt my eyes.

Recently, Sam talked me into going with him to New Orleans. A business trip for him, but a chance for me to get laid—his words, not mine. I was desperate, but not in the way Sam meant. I went to see Ms. Marie—a practitioner of voodoo—instead.

That’s how it read on her sign: “Practitioner of Voodoo.”

I told her what I wanted. She performed a spell and ended it by leaving a mark on my chest, right over my heart. And with that spell came a promise that Missy would soon return to me.

Sam thought it was all bullshit, of course.

He changed his tune when he dropped by to visit me a week after we got back and saw Missy standing in my living room, looking exactly as she did in high school.

I didn’t plan on Sam’s reaction being so negative. He accused me of kidnapping some girl that looked like Missy. Even took out his phone and threatened to call the police.

But Missy protected me.

She had to drop her disguise to do it. Her serpent’s tongue flicked out, tasting the air between them as she approached.

Sam’s phone bounced off the shag carpet as he backed away. He eyed the front door, but before he could run, Missy’s dagger-like tail speared him through the heart.

In the end, I was sad to lose my friend, but I was glad he at least knew the truth. I didn’t want him going to the grave thinking I was some demented child predator.

And, yeah, maybe she’s not exactly the real Missy. But she’s the Missy I want.

I put Sam in his car and sunk it in Clifford Pond.

When they finally found him, it looked like he’d gotten drunk again and went off the road.

I didn’t go to his funeral. That decision caused a few bridges to burn with some old classmates who turned up for the services, but I just couldn’t leave Missy’s side.

Instead, we made love for hours, and it lived up to all my fantasies and more. We watched all the classic ’80s movies like War Games and The Breakfast Club. We played Atari games for days.

Missy and I are building a whole new life.

I’m finally ready to move on. Together this time.

A new couple can’t be stuck forever behind these four walls now, can we?

We’re eager to get out into the world.

This is how the story begins.

 

Dale Elster is a dark fiction writer. He is the co-author of Deadsville, a short story anthology that’s seen high praise from reviewers and bloggers alike. His other stories and flash fiction pieces have appeared in several indie and small press anthologies, including I Can Taste the Blood (ebook edition) from Grey Matter Press and Shallow Waters, Volume 3 from Crystal Lake Publishing. All are available on Amazon.

He lives in upstate New York with his wife and two children, where he is currently writing Deadsville: Welcome Home as well as several other works-in-progress.

 

Copyright © Dale Elster 2019

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