Friday, March 23, 2012

9 Days of Madness Presents: The Bookworm, by S. K. Adams

Shaun Adams is another new name to me this year. But, now that I've read one story by him - it certainly won't be the last. I'll definitely be checking out his stuff at Thrillers, Killers n' Chillers. Those fine folks have discerning taste, and after reading "The Bookworm," I know they've seen the same thing in Mr. Adams' writing as I have.

He writes with a no-nonsense style that still manages to be eloquent and paint stunningly vivid pictures in the reader's minds.

This is all very apropos, given the subject matter of today's story. Here is "The Bookworm."

~~ 9DOM ~~

The Book Worm
An empty bottle dropping on to the carpet drew Cuthbert’s attention away from Kimball O'Hara on the Great Trunk road and firmly back to the wheel of things. While retaining his grip on the paperback he glanced furtively at his wristwatch then peered over his glasses to where Elspeth was stirring.

Cuthbert pretended to read as his wife rose unsteadily to her feet. He bit into his lip as he recalled a line from Melville’s classic’ That night, in the mid-watch, ... "there she blows! A hump like a snow-hill! It is Moby Dick!"

Immediately he felt a gamut of emotions, guilt being not the least of them, poor Elspeth. He did not know when passion had given way to disappointment and years of indifference.

He held his breath as she made several abortive attempts to force her pudgy feet into her slippers, hoping she would make her way to bed tonight without passing comment. His heart sank when she shuffled across the room and paused in front of his bookshelf.

“Oh, Cubby, put down that silly book, take mamma to bed, it’s been so long.”


An icicle of dread played xylophone on Cuthbert’s spine. She had not spoken to him like that in years. He looked up to see her pressing her ample backside against his beloved book collection, making the shelves creak in protest. Her nightgown splayed open divulging a voluminous topography of cellulite craters intersected by stretchmark highways.

Fuelled by alcohol and desperation Elspeth began to bump and grind her body against the bookshelf making it sway alarmingly.

“Stop that this instant,” said Cuthbert leaping to his feet. His fists balled in petulant indignation.

Elspeth leered in her husband’s direction, her expression darkened. Grabbing a book from the shelf, she opened it, tore out a page and stuffed it into her mouth. She chewed noisily, her eyes daring Cuthbert to react.

Howling in rage Cuthbert ran at his wife, but she was ready for him. She lifted a heavy volume above her head and hurled it at him. The book hit him squarely on the forehead stopping him dead. His knees buckled and he tumbled to the floor.

“Stay down here with your books then, you useless worm. Tomorrow I will find a real man who can satisfy me.” Screeched Elspeth at the top her voice, she made a grab for the bookshelf pulling it over, sending an avalanche of books spilling across the carpet.  Satisfied, she turned on her heel and staggered out of the room.

Cuthbert groaned as he tentatively fingered the throbbing gash in his forehead, he tried to push a loose flap of skin back into place but the overwhelming pain made him feel dizzy. His hand came away slick with his own blood. A knotted vein pulsed in his temple; the smell of citrus fruit assailed is nostrils. For the first time in years, he felt strong emotions welling up inside him. Writers make their characters suffer all manner of terrible indignations while readers like Cuthbert absorb that pain vicariously day to day. Now though, Cuthbert felt the spotlight was on him. He was  the main character in his own story. He surveyed the wreckage of his bookshelf and wondered why he could smell lemons. He winced as a pounding filled his head. His skull had become a bell and a mighty hammer beat within it.

“Oranges and Lemons,” he whispered as he struggled to his feet. He stumbled out of the house, heading for the garage.

There carefully wrapped in a hessian sack Cuthbert found what he was looking for.

Brand new, with a hickory handle, designed for optimum cleaving results, according to the blurb and with impact protection sleeve. That’s a bonus thought Cuthbert, admiring the axe.

Two sticks and an apple,
Say the bells of Whitechapel.

He giggled as he fumbled for the light switch and quietly closed the garage door behind him.

Pausing at the foot of the stairs Cuthbert listened for sounds, he grinned when he heard snoring coming from upstairs.

“It’s time to go up the wooden hill and on to Bedfordshire,” he mumbled placing a foot upon the stair.

 Old Father Baldpate,
Say the slow bells of Aldgate.

He had to hold his breath half way up, to stifle a sudden urge to giggle, the axe felt slippery in his hand.

Elspeth lay face down, sprawled upon the double bed,

When will you pay me?
Say the bells of Old Bailey.

Cuthbert hefted the axe in both hands; slowly he raised it above his head.

“Cuthbert, What are you doing?”

“Here comes a candle to light you to bed, here comes a chopper to chop off your head.”

Cuthbert realised he had spoken aloud as Elspeth began to convulse with laughter, her body jiggling like a jelly on a plate.

“What the hell are you babbling about Cuthbert, are you trying to seduce me?”

“Oh no dear, I’m just taking out the rubbish before bedtime. Goodnight dear.”

The axe fell, slicing cleanly through the back of her knee; it also bit deep into the mattress below, snagging the springs. Cuthbert tugged at the handle, an eerie lowing sound like a cow in labour filled the room. Elspeth had begun to thrash about trying to turn herself over. Oily squirts of blood pumped from her severed limb. 

She turned with amazing speed snatching at Cuthbert’s arm,

“Whad tha thuck...?” She said.

Panicking now, Cuthbert turned to see his wife’s open mouth, bubbles of blood burst on her lips; she had bitten off her own tongue.

He jerked free of her clutches, freeing the axe in the same motion. With a strangled cry of desperation, he swung the axe, hearing a satisfying ‘chunk’ sound as it sliced through Elspeth’s neck and embedded itself in the headboard. Her eyes seemed to stare at him with incredulity for just a moment before her severed head rolled forward onto her chest.

Cuthbert chortled as he picked up Elspeth’s head in his hand and looked into his her vacant eyes.

“You know I do believe you're losing weight Elspeth. I am so proud of you. Would you like me to read you a bedtime story tonight?”

~~ 9DOM ~~

S.K. Adams writes short stories from the darker side of imagination. He has three short stories published at Separate Worlds E-zine. His work has also been published online at Thrillers Killers’N’ Chillers, Short 'N'Scary stories and Short Story Nation. He says there is a monster in his head, waiting in the dark, if he invites him out with his shiny new pen, he will be in your head too.


  1. Loved it. The lines from the children's rhyme served to make it that much more chilling. Poor Elspeth. But she did ruin his books...

  2. Where this story started making me giddy (in the light-headed-wondering-what-is-real sense of the word) was "Whad...tha thuck."

    I cringed. But then it hit me that her first reaction to an axe wound was peeved annoyance. That's one tough Elspeth!

  3. I feel far too much sympathy for Cuthbert. Why must people interrupt us when we are CLEARLY READING A BOOK? Much like when people interrupt when we are CLEARLY WRITING. These are first degree offenses. Cuthbert is my hero.

    Shine on, Mr. Adams. May your blade always be sharp.

  4. Yeah, touch my books, get the cleaver! I dig that. Good writing and dialogue. I thought Elspeth's realization that she was in serious trouble was played out well.
    Nice job, fun read, S.K.

  5. “Whad tha thuck...?”

    That is a brilliant piece of imagery. It painted the wound in my mind with brutal clarity. Lots of bloody fun in this read!

  6. Many thanks for your kind comments. It was interesting to discover where your sympathies lay.

    Thank you very much for this opportunity Chris. I have enjoyed being part of 'Nine Day's Of Madness'

  7. Haha, loved that “Whad tha thuck...?” line! This is in the running for my fav story so far. Loved the grinding against the book case, her eating the book page. You got to the very essence of what knocked the chip off his block. I felt like I was right there in the scene of bloody madness with axes and books, and horror- oh the horror! And not only that, you managed to sprinkle in humor and fun with the children's rhymes. “Here comes a candle to light you to bed, here comes a chopper to chop off your head.” Oh baby! And I have to say, did anyone else feel like they were reading ol' Pete Straub here? I'm looking up more of your work S.K

    1. Thank you Jodi, you can find what I have available through my blog I'm glad you liked the story and do be likened to such a great author is...well amazing.