Thursday, March 29, 2012

9 Days of Madness - the eBook!


All the stories from this year's 9 Days of Madness Event have been collected and are available to download on Smashwords starting... now! It can be yours today to keep and upload to your favourite e-reader for the stunning price of FREE.

It's currently pending "Premium" review, so Smashwords is the only place to get it right now, but I'm confident it will pass muster and soon be available everywhere that "Eight Days of Madness" can be found. (Which, incidentally, is up to 378 downloads!) I'll most likely make another announcement when the book hits the premium catalogue.

Thanks again to all the contributors. I'm so very proud of how all your stories came together and made this year's event one to remember.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

9 Days of Madness: Day 10 Wrap Up

Yes, Becky, I'm putting
the smileys away now.
Thank you, everyone for coming to take part in the 9 Days of Madness.

I was extremely happy with the quality of stories I received this year, and even found that I had to make some tough choices in order to pare the list down to nine. From the comments I've seen this week, you've all confirmed my choices. The talent on show by all the contributors is humbling, and reading them makes me want to work harder on my own writing.

Speaking of which - last year, I ended the event off with a story of my own ... a "bonus" story. Because I was assured of having nine solid entries this year (unlike last year, where it kind of went down to the wire), it was great to be able to watch from the sides and enjoy the event.

If you missed any of the stories, I've set up links on the right side of this page, for you to check out anytime. I'll also be putting together an e-Book of all the tales from these past nine days (plus the exquisite prologue I featured the week prior.) Once it's finished, the links will disappear, and I'll tell you all how to get the PDF version.

As for me, it's time to get back to work on project "A" for the year, which is still looking like an April debut, and will require me to discover my inner editor, then feed the bugger and make him work.

So - thank you all again. This event literally couldn't have happened without you. All things being equal - same time next year!

Monday, March 26, 2012

9 Days of Madness presents: Forever in These Walls, by Erin Cole

Erin Cole is one of the hardest working writers that I know. It seems that she's always got something going on - a new short story here, an anthology placement there. I know this from reading her excellent blog, now located on Wordpress.


The thing is, Erin's backing up the stuff she's talking about - Grave Echoes has been out for just over a year now, and it's an amazing debut novel. She mentioned a short story collection one day - BAM - short story collection available on Amazon. So, when I see that she's got the sequel to Grave Echoes and a new werewolf novel on the go, I know it's only a matter of time before those see print, too.


What's even more amazing is how, given how prolific she is, that each story is so meticulously crafted. You get the impression in reading it that there is not a single word that she did not carefully select. It's something that writers (and let's not kid ourselves - 99% of the fantastic folks who read these stories on the many sites in the blog-o-sphere are also writers in their own right) can appreciate. I know I do. The effect is some of the most kick-ass fiction I've had the pleasure to read.


With that, I'm very proud to be able to present you with "Forever in These Walls".


~~ 9DOM ~~

Forever in These Walls

Lindsey crept behind their turned backs across the tiled hallway, acutely perceptive to their growing numbers.  The phantoms were a gang now; she had no doubt of that.  They didn’t carry guns, though she wished they did.  One could at least try to dodge bullets … but the kiss of death, that was inescapable.

In her efforts to remain unseen, she neglected her path and slinked directly beneath a light bulb.  It droned, flickered, and popped with a bright clap.  They turned around.  They, with pasty, fanged mouths, red eyes, and bone-tipped fingers that gored into spirits like her, holding them still for death’s kiss.
Lindsey began her chant, the morgue, the morgue, the morgue.

* * *

Some have said that she will never leave this place, that where her heart stopped is where her soul will live forever.  This idea is difficult for Lindsey to absorb, in addition, to the passing of time.  She has been at Riverside Hospital for a stretch now.  Months?  Years?  She can’t tell.  Time isn’t fluid anymore.  It is segmented into a mosaic of broken images, tendrils of memory that curl around the other like black dye in water.  When she thinks of a place, click, and just like that, she is there.  By only a thought—

* * *

Lindsey hid in the bottom row of metal vats next to the door.  It smelled bad.  She listened intently for the scrape of phantom footsteps.  The gang hissed with dark want; they would take anything that moved.  Even hospitals had dead rats.

A vat door opened above her with a slick whoosh.  She heard the desperate snivel of another spirit.  It was too late.  There was nothing she could do to help.  She had watched it happen before, how the phantoms groaned together, circling a humble, lone spirit.  One of them reached out, snagged ethereal life, and sealed its mouth over the spirit’s own.  What it felt like or what was actually happening to the spirit, Lindsey couldn’t tell, but their expressions had ranged from pain to confusion to hate.  Though she was unable to see the spirit’s expression, listening to the carnage had its own horrors.

* * *

Shafts of the summer sun tunneled through a nearby vacant room and brightened Tanya’s desk with God-like radiance.  Lindsey stood in front of her like reflected sunlight.  Some days, Tanya saw her, other days she didn’t.  Tanya was punching pathogen records into a calculator and recording the totals.  From the pictures taped to the outer perimeter of her monitor, Lindsey knew she had two boys of her own, an older brother, and a mother.  Her younger sister met her ill-fated end five years ago after getting into the wrong car with the wrong person.  Lindsey had read about it in her journal one day.  Turns out, she wasn’t the only one.  Six other women met the same wrong person.

Down the hall, lights began to flicker.  Lindsey feared the phantom gang had returned.  She fastened a place in her mind and was about to chant to herself, when a young spirit, one she had never seen before, raced through the admissions center.  The girl yelled and flailed her arms.  A buzzer lit up on Tanya’s desk.  By the speed of her movements, and the girl’s urgency, Lindsey gathered that another patient had arrived in the emergency room.  Tanya fled the front desk.  Lindsey followed her.

The operating table held a man covered in so much blood, it was difficult to tell where, and what the extent of his wounds were.  Lindsey believed the medical technicians’ thoughts paralleled her own as they wiped at his skin with oversized cotton balls and searching eyes.

But Tanya was fast.  Lindsey had watched her in the operating room on several occasions.  She didn’t lose many.

Lindsey looked over at the girl.  She was cut up the same as the man, and so distraught, she didn’t take notice of her.  She screamed at the ceiling instead.  “No!  It can’t be like this.  Please, God!  Please!  Don’t do this!”  She paced in front of his bed, clutching her head with fisted palms.

The technicians couldn’t hear or see her, but their movements were clumsy, their voices heightened, as though her presence had affected them the same as if they could.  Tanya was struggling to get the man’s blood pressure.  Her cheeks deepened to dark rose.  She wiped sweat from her brow.  “I need 3 cc’s of tranexamic acid!  Hurry!”  She feared she was going to lose this one.

The young girl stormed closer to the man.  Her teary eyes brimmed with what looked like rage.  She started banging on his chest, only her punches never made contact.  “I hate you!  I hate you!  You were supposed to die in the wreck!  Not me!”  She reached for a scalpel on the surgical tray, but her palm slipped through it.

Lindsey felt small, as if she were shrinking.  The dark story emerging from the girl stunned her with further terror.  She had tried to murder the man, but her plan had backfired.  Adding to Lindsey’s turmoil, Tanya had stopped helping him.  Her gaze stilled on him like ambushed prey.  The other doctors noticed her ceased assistance, but continued working on the man.  They didn’t have time to ask her what was wrong.

Tanya stepped back, near against Lindsey, and said in a voice that only she and the girl could hear: “It’s him.”

The girl looked to Tanya and Lindsey for the first time.  She nodded.  “Yes.  It’s him.  It’s him!”  She motioned her thin, cut-up arms to the man on the gurney.

Lindsey knew whom they were both talking about—the wrong man.  The girl was an eerie resemblance to Tanya’s younger sister.  And, he was about to escape penalty once again.  His eyes opened.  He tried to speak to the nurses, but his lips, minced from shattered glass, flapped languidly, and so no one could properly understand him.

The girl tried for the scalpel again.  It was of no use.  Lindsey could pick it up, but the girl didn’t know that.  Above the man’s head, a large heart-rate monitor was bolted to the wall.  The girl’s eyes traced the path of Lindsey’s. 

“Rise,” Lindsey told her.

The girl pursed her lips together, crumpled her brow, and began to ascend toward Lindsey.

Lindsey’s fingers contacted the monitor.  It was like touching the surface of water.  The girl’s hands fell through it.  “You’re thinking about it too much.  Let the object come to you.”

She tried again and smiled in success.

The man looked at both of the girls now.  He had one foot in their world and one in his own.  He jabbed a finger at the monitor above his head, but the technicians strapped his arm down.  They didn’t realize what was about to happen.  Tanya watched on in disbelief, hands splayed over mouth.

Lindsey and the girl pulled on the monitor with resolute force.  The young girl was a fast learner, and the monitor tilted forward.  The man shook his head back and forth.  The doctors must have thought he was going into a seizure.  They reached for electrode paddles next to the bed.

The monitor bent away from the wall.  The bolts loosened from the studs.  The doctors looked up, but the monitor was already in the arms of gravity, toppling onto the right person.  The nurses and doctors shouted with maddening energy as they lifted the monitor from his head.  His arms twitched, and then they fell limp to the table.  An indigo shell of him lifted from his body.  Wrath behind his eyes fixed on Lindsey and the girl.

Oh, no.  Lindsey grabbed the girl’s hand.  Cafeteria.  Cafeteria.  Cafeteria.

Click.

Like dye in water, she and the girl traveled through the walls. The phantoms would follow—they had an eternity to do so. 

~~ 9DOM ~~

While she’s currently building a plank out of rejection emails, Erin’s work has been published in various online and print publications such as the Boston Literary Review, 5x5 Fiction, Trembles Horror Magazine, and MicroHorror, and she has work forthcoming in Aiofe’s Kiss and The Fabulist.  Last year, her paranormal short story, "The Wall of Never Doubt," placed 10th in the Writer's Digest 80th Annual Writing Competition, Genre Short Story Category.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

9 Days of Madness Presents: Extinguished, by Laurita Miller

The first time I saw Laurita Miller's name, we were sharing a table of contents in the "Elements of Horror" anthology. Laurita's story was one of the best of the bunch, and she's graciously allowed me to share it with you here today.

Since that first anthology, I've followed Laurita's writing, and found it to be the very definition of professionalism. She can relay a travelogue of her recent adventures with such colour that the reader is almost literally thrown into the shotgun seat and taken along for the ride.

In the next turn, she'll give you a slice of life that is equally believable in every detail and then, without warning, guide you lovingly into a haunted house full of foreboding and terror. When she sets her sights on telling a chilling tale from start to finish, though, it is truly something to behold.

She's a fellow Canadian, she contributed a phenomenal story to last year's "Eight Days of Madness", and she has another story  to tell you.

Here is "Extinguished."

~~ 9DOM ~~

Extinguished


He stood silhouetted in the red glow, the smoke from his cigarette mimicking the dark plumes rising from the house.  I stopped beside him and stood near the fence, watched flames flicker and climb with increasing hostility.  His expression was completely blank.  He may have been just another passer-by drawn by the acrid smell and morbid curiosity.

Several minutes passed before he spoke, his eyes never straying from the flames that now flicked through holes in the roof. 

“Lived here for twenty-three years,” he muttered.

I could tell that the old farm house and been pretty once, before neglect set in.  Even through the black soot and flames the peeling paint and broken railings were noticeable.

“Twenty-three years is a long time,” I said.

 He grunted.  “Too long.”

Sirens sounded in the distance, too far to make any difference now.  

“My wife picked out this house,” he said, then was silent once more. 

“Where is your wife?” I asked.

He stubbed the cigarette out on the sole of his boot, threw it on the ground, and looked back toward the house.

“She’s still inside.” 



~~ 9DOM ~~

Laurita Miller sits in the dark, spies on the neighbours, and writes what she thinks she sees. Her stories are scattered across the web and jotted on scraps of paper. She has trapped some of them on her blog Calling Shotgun.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

9 Days of Madness presents: A Stranger Comes to Town, by Christopher Grant

Christopher Grant is the last of the featured authors this time around that I'm meeting for the first time. Checking out his extensive writing and editing credentials though, I must have been living under a rock!


This guy writes atmosphere so thick  that dust clouds puff off the screen, and femmes so fatale the mere mention of their perfume is enough to get you high. His plots are tight, and the twists are fair - what more can you ask for?


As with the other "new" authors I've met this year, I'm definitely keeping my eye out for more by Christopher now. And it's with great pleasure that I present: A Stranger Comes to Town.


~~ 9DOM ~~




A STRANGER COMES TO TOWN 
Red dust, for as far as the eye can see. When the sun sets on it, it looks like spilled blood. Appropriate, I think.

I've been here for two weeks. The first day was next to useless. The stab wounds had been taken care of professionally, well-cleaned, stitched up and wrapped or bandaged. Leg would heal properly given time. Didn't have time.

But it's always been this way, hasn't it?

One night, fictional worlds exploded out into reality.

Or was it the other way around?

Killed my old man.

Did what?

Took a gun and shot him dead.

That's how all of this started.

In the distance, two riders are approaching. One rides a pale horse. Coming out of the setting sun, they look like Death and Pestilence. As they reach me, I see that they are Death and Pestilence.

"The future's uncertain and the end is always near," Death says to me and continues riding past me.

"You should cover your mouth when you cough," Pestilence says and rides on after his friend.

I kick my horse in the sides and we move towards the setting sun.

A half mile on, I find a red horse sprawled out, its rider full of buckshot, his dead eyes open and staring at the heavens. He is missing an arm. The horse once had fire in its eyes. Now there is only cold gray. It looks up at me and tries to snort. I pull my shotgun and grant it mercy.

Another half mile and a black emaciated horse has succumbed at last to its hunger. It is eating the bony leg of its master, who is trying in vain to ward it off.

"Help," he says. Half of his face is a bloody mess, the wound's origin lost in the blood.

I give him all the help he needs, blasting the horse, then him.

Around the bend, there's a cave and I decide to set camp there for the night.

I dream various dreams during the night.

In one there is a woman. Red hair. She grabs me up in her arms and suddenly, we're airborne. She is naked and I notice that I am, too. Suddenly, we are making love in a room somewhere in the future. There are men and women all around us, watching us. I am close to orgasm when she dissolves into water and becomes nothing more than a puddle on the sheets of the bed.

In another dream, I am shaving in a mirror when I notice that I have two reflections. The first of these is my face, normal, clean-shaven and more modern than now. The second is my face but not normal. I am baring my teeth and growling. I have become something else. I can't stop myself from doing whatever it is I'm going to do next. I charge at the mirror. It shatters.

I wake up, breathing heavily. I can't seem to control my heart. I feel heavy, tired. Finally, I calm myself and fall back to sleep. The rest of the night is uneventful. The dream, however, stays with me all throughout the next day.

Two days later, I ride into a bustling boomtown, past a saloon and a hotel. The railroad has just gone in on the outskirts and tourism must be the town's major source of income, though, for the life of me, I cannot figure out what this town has to offer that any other town doesn't.

Down the street, I see a brothel, with the demimonde hawking their virtues, mostly their breasts, at the passing cowboys, as well as proper gentlemen with wives that are buttoned all the way to their necks. The proper gentlemen most definitely have hard-ons and are attempting their best to walk with them and pay sly attention to the source of their torment. Whether that torment comes from their wives or the whores, flip a coin.

And there she is. The red-haired woman from my dream. Same nose, same eyes, same mouth.

She's dressed differently, though. Dressed differently for this time. Most women don't look like she does. A hat like mine, a duster, a pair of leather gloves. She wears trousers like a man, wears a white shirt under a vest under the duster. She walks the boardwalk, getting catcalls from the men, getting middle fingers from the whores. "Dyke!" one shouts in her direction.

She walks past me, pauses and turns back to face me.

"Martians speak in clipped, short sentences when they speak at all," she says before she continues on her way, going into a gun shop.

I hitch my horse down the street and enter a saloon. The men inside are traders, buffalo hunters, gamblers, gunslingers, killers, officers of the law, miners, bounty hunters and men out of work spending their last dime.

I head for the bar and place my foot on the rail.


"Whiskey," I say and the man behind the bar pours a shot. I down it. I feel every eye in the place on me. "Again." I down it and slap a fifty cent piece on the bar.

I go back out the double wing door and walk in the direction of the gun shop.

The red-haired woman is just coming out when I reach the shop.

"How bad?" she says.

"Bad," I say.

*
She fucks like a woman is supposed to fuck. She doesn't just lay there, she gives as good as she gets and, when she comes, she doesn't bite her lip and keep quiet. She shouts that she's coming and she comes like she's on fire.

Afterwards, she kisses me and rolls out of bed. I watch her naked ass sway as she goes to the basin, pours some water into it and takes a rag and wipes her cunt clean.

She comes back to bed with a bottle of something dark and takes a swig before offering the bottle to me. I taste her on the bottle and drink.


"Why are we here?" she asks me, laying down next to me, putting her head on my chest.

"What do you mean?" I seriously don't know what she means.

"Here, now, instead of where we should be," she says.

"Where should we be?" I ask.

"Not here," she says. She grabs hold of my cock. I'm not limp but I'm getting there. I don't want to get there. I want her to work her magic again and get me hard again and let me fuck her again.

"Where then?" I ask.

"Do you remember the flash?" she asks me. "Before we were here."

I nod and drink more of the liquid in the bottle. It is fruity and good.

"I was on the street," she says. "I was about to get in a car and then...I was riding a horse, naked. I came into this town at night and broke into a general store to get some clothes. I don't know how to live here."

"I killed my old man," I say. "This is how it all began."

She sits up and looks at me. Her face is hard now.

"You did this?"


"I think so," I say.

She lays back down, her head against my chest, her hand on my cock.

We are silent for a long time.

*

The sun wakes me. The sound of gunshots make me realize that she's gone.

I go to the window and outside, in the street, I see her. Her body is in the dirt. She is looking up at the heavens.

I throw on my pants and rush down the stairs.

Her shoulders is shot to shit.

She's gritting her teeth.

Somewhere else, this would be easy to fix.

Here, I'm not sure. If the bullet is bouncing around in her shoulder, it might tear the shoulder apart. If it's lower, she might be drawing her last breath.

She might lose the arm completely.

She's whispering something to me.

"I want to go home," she says.

And then she's gone.

*

I'm in a room with a dim bulb hanging from the ceiling over a white table. Across the table, a man in a white lab coat sits and observes me. I simply stare at him.

A heartbeat and then he produces a pen and writes something on the chart in front of him.

"So what is it you wish to talk about?" he says.


"Going home," I say.

"I'm not sure that that's possible," he says. "Progress needs to be shown."

"Progress," I say.

"Progress," he says.

I've been here for an indeterminate amount of time. I can remember her red hair, her smell, the way her skin felt, her last words to me. After that, I have no idea what happened.

And then...here.

I am a prisoner. I know this because I am allowed one hour out of my cage and I see all other prisoners. Some of them mill about in the yard. Others, like me, are regulated to a hallway or, at best, a commons room.

There is a black guy named Heath. Not sure if it is his last name or his first. He plays chess. Ten minutes earlier, he took a bishop and stabbed it into another prisoner's windpipe. The guards watched it happen, removed the body and left Heath to continue to play.


I sit down across from Heath. Ten moves and I defeat him. Heath bows his head to me in acknowledgement and then tries the bishop trick with me. I'm too quick for him, reach out and grab his forearm, snap it in two, take the bishop out of his hand and toss it across the room. My hand works so much better than a chess piece. To his throat, fingers around his windpipe.

"You're one of them or you're working for them," I say. "I'm on to you."

The guards step in and swing truncheons into the back of my knees and I let Heath go. He should get his boo-boo looked at as soon as possible. I might have hit an artery.

"Progress," I say as they take me back to my cage.

*

I dream three dreams that night.

One:

I'm in a long hallway. Down at the end of the hallway is a blackness that slowly creeps towards me. I turn and face the other end of the hallway. A light is speeding towards me. Somehow, the blackness makes it to me before the speeding light. As they collide, I am thrown from the hallway.

Two:


Red dust. Blood red when the sun hits it. I am back in the West. There are four riders approaching me. One rides a pale horse.

Death, Pestilence, Famine and...the red-haired woman.

Death says, "This is the end."

Pestilence tells me to wipe my nose.

Famine simply pokes my ribs.

The red-haired woman asks me if I would follow her into hell.

I say, "Yes."

"Then follow me," she says. She rides ahead of me but she is too fast and I lose track of her.

Three:

I am in a bar. South Something. There is a nude dancer at the center of the room. Her tits are obviously fake. She shakes and shimmies down the pole.

A cop is sitting next to me and asks me if I want to buy some cocaine. I know he's a cop and tell him to fuck himself. He leaves the club.

Ten minutes earlier, a man named Heath served me a whiskey. I downed it. "Again." I downed it.

I walk outside and there she is. The red-haired woman. She wears a silver skirt and a red shirt tight against her body. She looks at me as she passes, heading for the gun shop down the street.

I start to walk in the opposite direction and then head back toward the gun shop.

When I wake up, I'm standing in front of the gun shop.

She comes out of the gun shop, a revolver in her hand.

"How bad does this make me look?" she asks me.

"Bad," I say.

*

"Where was I?" she asks me, her head on my chest, her hand on my cock.

"I don't know," I say.

"Where were you?" she asks.

"I don't know."

"What are we going to do about that?" she asks.

"I don't know."

We are silent for a long time.



*

When the sun wakes me in the morning, she is gone.

I pull on pants and rush to the street.

She is sitting on the stoop, smoking a cigarette.

She holds the gun in her right hand.

"If I shoot this," she says, "I shoot it to kill."

She looks at the gun, takes another drag on the cigarette.

"Will you follow me into hell?" she asks me, her blue eyes looking up at me.

"I will," I say.

"Then follow me," she says and starts walking down the street.

I follow her.


~~ 9DOM ~~

Christopher Grant is a writer of crime and noir and of bizarro/experimental fiction. He is also the editor/publisher of A Twist Of NoirEaten Alive, and Alternate Endings. 

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.”

“Elspeth?”

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.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

9 Days of Madness Presents: Recording, by R.S. Bohn



R.S. Bohn is another writer I “met” during Erin Cole’s 13 Days of Horror awhile back. (That is actually one of the main reasons I started this series – I selfishly wanted to meet new writers and read great stories.)

What immediately impressed me about Ms Bohn’s writing was the confidence with which her characters are imbued. She writes fearless women and devious bastards alike. Having become more familiar with her body of work, I can say that she brings the same gutsy tone to any genre she chooses to work in, be it romance, oh-my-erotica, and straight up fantasy.

If that doesn’t impress you, she likes Boston Crème donuts and is a dog person, to boot.

And she writes a hell of a story.  Here is “Recording”

RECORDING

In the first dream, a belt with a padlock. The back of a man's skull, crushed. 21L-3R-34L.

He forgot the numbers, sketched a belt, the padlock tied at one end like a hipster's belt buckle.

Another dream: a tire iron smashing a window, clearing the glass so a man can climb through and use the iron to beat the little dog inside to death. White fur. White fur. White teeth.

He draws a barking dog. Like a cartoon.

The fifth dream, he goes to the police. The station isn't far: two bus stops, no changeovers. The cameras on every corner of the building coolly catch a man in a red hoodie, notebook in his front pocket. It takes him an hour before someone sees him, and he's aware instantly that the cop is just there to placate him.

"You dreamed it? So you didn't actually witness these events?"

He can't explain. He's not psychic, doesn't believe in such things. The cop is nice, but his patience wears thin quickly. If the cop thought he was homeless, he'd have given him some coffee, but as it is, he gets a polite, rushed goodbye: "Thanks for coming by."

The cameras watch him leave. There are no dreams for six weeks. And then:

The mirrored door to a bathroom cabinet, removed with a screwdriver. Taken off its hinges. It comes down on her face when she comes home. Again. She's shorter by almost a foot, but doesn't fall until the third blow. The mirror shatters.

When he draws the broken mirror, there is a face. It's not hers. He doesn't know who the man is, but he carefully draws it again, without the shards of mirror. A puzzle. He brings both drawings to the police station. While he's on the bus, a young woman stands and pees herself. Others look away, embarrassed. He looks at her dreamy face, imagines it crushed under a brick.

He doesn't tell this to the officer – young, this time, and pissed off because he's on desk duty instead of out on the street – but simply repeats his dreams, shows the drawings, including the new one.

The young cop doesn't hide his suspicion. Asks how long he's had these dreams. And does he like having them.

He replies that someone, or maybe many someones, are out there, doing these things. Can't they stop them?

They hold him for a while, in a room. There is a camera he tries to ignore on the ceiling. But at last he looks up at it. Its curved lens shows him in miniature: red hoodie, clean-shaven, bald.

When he leaves, at last, he feels oddly empty.

No dreams for almost three months. He enjoys his job, reading the mail, and cooking bacon. His apartment is tidy, blandly furnished. The requisite milk crates standing in for: ottoman, t.v. stand, bedside table, and cd holder. Eau de divorce clings to everything. He'd bring a woman here if he had the energy. Women take a lot of energy.

He's getting tired again. When the dreams return, they're of  two-by-fours, cracking across the side of a man's face. There is a rifle, turned around, its butt crushing the larynx of a young man. Two ballpoint pens are emptied, sharpened, taped together. They are perfect for puncturing a woman's neck. She has a tattoo of a name. Brandy. The twin pens obliterate the name.

He draws. He's a terrible artist.

When it gets too much, when the notebook starts to fill, he rides the bus again. But he doesn't go inside. The cameras swivel, and he basks in their blankness. At last, he turns around and goes home.

He sets his shoddy digital camera to record. Buys a Flip. It's cheap, and it stands on its own. He keeps them plugged in to charge. Sometimes takes them with him at work, until a supervisor gets uncomfortable. Through a process of trial and error, he finds that just twenty minutes a day of recording is enough to keep the dreams at bay.

Here is what he records himself doing: watching rented movies, waiting for coffee to brew, putting up a new smoke detector. Other things. He doesn't play them back; doesn't need to.

In the time of no-dreams, he finds a woman whose energy is so minimal, it's a hum. Almost background noise. She's wary of the Flip in the living room when she enters, but he shows her that it's off, and tells her he won't take it into the bedroom. They end up fucking on his futon. Halfway through, he notices the light. The Flip is on. It's recording. He looks down at her, her face drowsy, dreamy, like the girl on the bus.

He reaches for a milk crate. She opens her eyes too late; the milk crate is on her head, he's pressing it down with all his strength. It crushes her throat, reduces her screams to a burble. He presses and presses and finally comes.

He doesn't need to draw anymore. The Flip is there.

The Flip is there. It's always on.

When he looks at the notebook later, he recognizes the face in the mirror shards.

He starts at the beginning. 21L-3R-34L.

He puts the Flip in the front pocket of his hoodie, stroking it as he walks. While he rides the bus. Four stops later, he gets off.

A man passes him on the sidewalk, hunched over, the back of his head bristly and slick with sweat.

He follows him.

~~ 9DOM ~~

 RS Bohn has perfected staring into space for indefinite amounts of time, a crucial quality for a writer. Her heart belongs to the fantastic, the Bradbury and Bradbury-esqe, and you can find more of her work at http://rsbohn.blogspot.com Look especially for her in the upcoming volume of Cast Macabre's best from season one, with new work on the horizon, including a book, to be finished in the next half decade. Approximately.