I sit around and mentally poke my gray matter, trying to come up with new ideas for magazine themes. I write them all down and put them aside for a day or two, like a vintner who has picked fresh grapes off the vine. I return to these ideas in due time and see which ones have ripened and which ones have grown so spoiled a cockroach would gag on them.
One of the recent choice fruits was the idea for a Steampunk-Plus-Monsters issue. I mean, I liked the idea, and I hoped that the writers who find this little magazine on Duotropes, or from the web would would like it, too.
I received some very good stories for this issue.
I hope readers of The Were-Traveler will like them, too.
Issue #10: The Little Magazine of Magnificent Monsters
Detective Myers stood next to the body lying in the garage, scanning the area for any clue as to what had happened. Finding the only thing unusual to be the bloody corpse stretched out on the concrete floor, he turned to the medical examiner inspecting the deceased and asked, “Do you have any idea on the cause of death?”
“Not yet. His name’s Edgar Winthrop. He’s the homeowner here, or was—along with his wife. She found him just like this. There are a lot of puncture marks and small cuts on the body, but I’m not sure what sort of weapon might do this. Looks like there was a struggle, though. Lots of swelling. I’ll be able to tell more once I get him downtown.”
“Yeah, great,” Myers mumbled. “Can’t say I’ve seen anything like this before. Nothing better than starting the day off with a mystery. Let me know as soon as you get something.”
“Grayson?” he said, turning to his plain-clothes sergeant. “Check out the shed, the shrubbery, the back of the property. See if you can dig up anything. And take plenty of pictures.”
“Got it,” Grayson replied, pulling out a small camera and checking the settings before striding away.
Myers walked over to a couple of uniformed policemen and told them to start a door-to-door check of the neighborhood to determine if there were any witnesses or if someone had noticed anything out of the ordinary that afternoon. They nodded, and then proceeded down the driveway to the street.
With the crime scene in process, he walked back toward the house to where the deceased’s wife, Mrs. Winthrop, sat in a lawn chair just out of sight of the tragedy. She was an unremarkable gray-haired woman, perhaps seventy years of age, appearing as if she could be anyone’s grandmother in her flowered housedress and white shoes.
“I’m sorry for your loss,” Myers said to her in a matter-of-fact manner. “I was wondering if you were up to answering a few questions.”
“I’ll try,” she said, dabbing a handkerchief to her eyes.
“You found your husband just as he is now? In the garage workshop?”
“Yes. He was lying on the floor, bleeding from all those cuts.” She paused for a moment before continuing. “I knew he was dead the moment I saw him,” she said while trying to hold back her emotions.
“Do you know what he was doing in there?”
“Edgar had bought these models of insects and such he’d found at an estate sale. You know, spiders, scorpions, centipedes. He was trying to clean them up a bit.”
“Models of bugs?” Myers asked incredulously. “I didn’t see anything like that in there. Did you take them out of the workshop?”
“No. I certainly wouldn’t have done that. They were awful, and so dreadfully real looking. I didn’t want them in the house. I can’t believe anyone would steal those horrible things.”
“Can you describe them?”
“They were engraved like grotesque little knick-knacks, all very fancy, and looked quite old. I think they were made of iron because they had rusted. They were much bigger than in real life, though, and rather heavy.
“Were they valuable?”
“I can’t imagine how,” she replied, holding the handkerchief to her nose. “I mean they were just old decorations, I guess, if you could call them that. Some of them, you know, had a sort of wind-up key on the top, but they wouldn’t turn. Maybe they made a noise at one time. He only paid a few dollars for them. And like I said, they were all rusty. Is this really important? I mean, someone’s murdered my husband!”
“It’s hard to say, Mrs. Winthrop. I know this is difficult for you, but I need to find out what was going on here. Why did he buy something like that?”
“Oh, he was always picking up some useless bit of junk to tinker with. He loved going to flea markets and estate sales. He was very handy, you see. He could fix anything,” she added as she fought back tears. “It was a hobby, I guess. They were in that wooden box.”
“The box on the workbench?”
“Yes, the one with the odd writing on it.”
“I’d better get Grayson to take a picture of that,” he said, turning to look around for his sergeant. The detective called out a couple times, but there was no reply. “I wonder where he’s gotten to now?” he muttered. “Anyway,” he said, returning his attention to Mrs. Winthrop, “when was the last time you talked to your husband?”
“It was about two o’clock, I think, or maybe a little later. I—I’m not exactly sure.”
“And he was alright at that time?”
“Yes. He was working on the models.”
“So he was in his workshop when you saw him?”
“Did you see anyone else around—anyone that looked suspicious?”
“Why did you go out there?” he asked, continuing to check for Grayson.
“Edgar had called to me, and I came out to the workshop from the house to see what he wanted. He thought some of the parts of the models might be movable, but they were very old, you see, and rusted. We keep a small bottle of oil in the pantry, you know, for squeaky hinges and such. He had asked me to bring it out to him. I guess he didn’t have any in the workshop.”
“And you did that?”
“Yes, and then I went back inside. He just wanted to put a drop of oil on them, that’s all,” she said, holding the handkerchief to face, sobbing. “After a while I went back out to see if he needed anything else, and he was dead.”
Myers grabbed an officer that was walking past and whispered, “See if you can find Grayson, will you? I don’t know where the hell he disappeared to, and I need him back here.”
“All he wanted was a drop of oil,” she said looking up at Myers through her tears. “That’s not important, is it? Just a drop of oil?”
K. R. Smith is a full-time Information Technology Specialist and a part-time writer, frustrated by his inability to get any meaningful programming code to rhyme and still function properly. While mainly interested in writing short stories of the horror genre, he occasionally delves into poetry, songwriting, and the visual arts. His escapades may be followed by reading his blog at www.theworldofkrsmith.com.
Josh figured he would hurt a lot more than he did. He didn’t feel much at all. Wasn’t it supposed to be painful when you got hit so hard that you went to sleep for a little while? Uncle Lenny would have pretended to be sorry, but he’d only be worried that Josh remembered the story: he’d been clumsy and fell down. But when he woke up, Uncle Lenny wasn’t around. Probably out burning his memories with the Devil’s Juice, as Mommy called it.
Both the hands on the clock pointed at the twelve when his vision cleared. Usually he left Uncle Lenny’s house when the little hand pointed at the nine. Maybe the clock was broken. No matter how forgetful Uncle Lenny made himself, he always pushed Josh out the door. And if not, Mommy would pick him up. It’d make her mighty mad, but she’d do it. But no Mommy, so Josh walked home like every night.
Usually when he passed the cemetery, the girl stood on the wall, far enough where he couldn’t touch her, but close enough that he could see her scars. She had some of the same ones, so she must have an Uncle Lenny of her own. Or did. She was a ghost, he knew that. If he looked hard enough, he could see right though her body. Mommy said it wasn’t polite to stare, but this girl didn’t seem to mind. She stared right back. She wouldn’t talk, but that didn’t stop him from talking to her. He told her about Uncle Lenny, how he hit him with his fists or belt or anything else he could find, and how he threw him against the wall or pushed him down the stairs. If he told Mommy about any of it, Uncle Lenny promised he would pop one of Josh’s eyes out, or rip off an ear. He wanted to keep all his parts, so anytime Mommy saw a new mark, he told her how clumsy he was. Uncle Lenny just laughed and swore he’d never seen a kid so accident prone.
The girl always listened, but when he asked about her marks, she’d shake her head and run away, disappearing after a few steps. But he didn’t mind. He was grateful she let him talk. It made lying to Mommy easier.
Tonight, like every night when Uncle Lenny hurt him, she stood in place, waiting. He wasn’t sure where to start. Should he tell her how Uncle Lenny smacked him a good one upside his head, or about the strange state of the clock. Maybe she’d know why it read midnight but Mommy hadn’t come. Not that she’d answer, but Josh would feel better for asking. Since questions made her go away, he decided to start at the beginning.
“Uncle Lenny hit me so hard tonight that I blacked out.”
She took a few steps forward, coming closer than she ever had before, and spoke for the first time. “Necks aren’t supposed to bend like that.” Her voice came out creaky, like her throat was dry and she needed to swallow some water.
He reached up and touched his neck. Sure enough, it tilted at an odd angel. He hadn’t noticed, figuring he was still woozy from Uncle Lenny’s smack.
The girl sat down on the wall, her feet dangling in front of him. He fought every urge to reach out and touch her to see how solid she was. That wouldn’t be polite, though, and Mommy, if she found out he’d been rude, would punish him. Not near as bad as what Uncle Lenny did, but Josh preferred to stay on Mommy’s good side.
“My big sister used to babysit me,” the girl said. With each word, her voice cleared a little more. “She wanted to go out with her friends, but Mama needed her to stay home with me. She wasn’t happy about it, and hated me a great deal. She beat me almost every night, like your uncle does to you. One afternoon, while clipping my bangs, she got a phone call. A boy asked her out on a date, but she couldn’t accept because of me. She was awful angry when she hung up, and I didn’t want her cutting my hair anymore. I tried to cheer her up, and told her she could play with my dollies. She sneered at me, yelled that everything was my fault, and slashed the scissors across my neck. You can still see it.” She lifted her chin, and Josh indeed saw a long, jagged rip in her throat, though no blood leaked out, not anymore. “When I woke up, I was here.”
She stood, and Josh expected her to walk away and disappear, but she didn’t. Instead, she put her hand down for him to grab, and she lifted him as if he were made out of that floaty air in balloons. He’d seen inside the cemetery once. It looked like a huge park filled with smooth rock slabs with writing carved into them. Headstones, he thought they were called. But this time the park and rocks were gone, replaced by a shimmering white light shaped like a door.
“We’re supposed to go through that,” the girl said, “but I’m too scared to do it by myself. Maybe you can come with me?”
Josh stared at the light, feelings of peace and joy coursing through him. He looked down the street towards Uncle Lenny’s house. There were flashing red lights, like when an ambulance and fire truck went past. He thought of Mommy, and though he would miss her, he wouldn’t miss getting whooped by Uncle Lenny. He took the girl’s hand, shared a smile with her, and they floated all the way in.
“Can’t you sleep?” August asked his little brother from the open balcony where they would normally play and watch the streets of the grey ghetto.
Ludwik was standing inside, by the doorway of the room they shared, stretching. “I couldn’t sleep at all,” he replied. “Are you spitting again?”
“No,” said August, who then sighed instead of laughing.
“Where’s your arm band?” asked Ludwik.
“I was getting tired of it.” August added, “Because the night felt like forever.”
Ludwik nodded in understanding. “Where’s mama, papa?”
By their parents’ bedroom, the door was shut. “Still sleeping, probably.”
“Let’s go wake them.”
“You know we’re not allowed to go in there,” recommended August.
“Close the balcony door, then,” said Ludwik, shivering. “It’s getting cold.”
“First come see here,” said August.
“What’s going on?”
“Remember what mama and papa said, the rumours?”
Ludwik leaned on the railings with his brother. The lamp posts were still lit below. “Hm?”
“The ghetto’s been talking about a purge lately.”
“A purge? What did mama and papa say?”
“I think the rumours are true, Ludwik. They’re coming to take us to the camps after all. I knew it.”
“Who?” Ludwik’s voice trembled a bit, his teeth chattering.
August pointed to the leftward horizon, where the sun was only beginning to rise. It was there, up the street, from which a rumbling noise, commands, could be heard. The smoke of transport trucks parked there made it seem as though there was a new mist. Shadows emerged, becoming figures. Rows of infantry could then be seen, urgent in their march, intent on occupying the street. The soldiers gathered neatly on the pavements both sides of the street and readied their rifles, taking orders from a pair of frothing commandants. All of them wore the swastika on their uniforms, and the two boys knew this symbol well, too well.
“The monsters,” said August. “The monsters have come.”
Ludwik looked up at his brother, distraught. “Are they going to kill us, August? Tell me they’re not, brother.”
“Don’t panic,” said August, holding Ludwik’s hand. “They can come and try, but we’ll fight back.”
“Are you sure we can take them?”
“I promise you, we’ll be fine.”
“I can’t fight, August. We should really wake up mama and papa.”
“Don’t be silly. Leave them.”
“But this is important, August. This is our lives.” Ludwik’s heart was beating out his chest. He couldn’t bear August’s composed demeanour. He didn’t understand it. He wormed out of his brother’s grasp and stormed back inside.
“It’s no use,” said August, solemnly.
“They can’t be asleep,” protested Ludwik. “Not at this hour, surely?” Half sobbing, Ludwik turned the handle of their parents’ bedroom door several times, then gave up.
“Do you see?” said August.
Ludwik, slumped, returned to his brother’s embrace. “What do we do?”
“We hope.” August pointed to the building opposite theirs, the one the soldiers were instructed to first enter. “Look.” Lights were turning on in some of the apartments.
“What are the monsters up to? They better not come here.” Ludwik was trying to sound menacing. But when that bloodcurdling scream came from their neighbours, Ludwik couldn’t help but sob more violently.
The soldiers came back out of that building, this time escorting fifteen of the ghetto’s tenants, who had their hands touching the backs of their heads. They were shoved, mocked, and then told to get on the ground, on their stomachs, on the gravel of the street, where old death lingered. An elderly man was shot first, and then a child, who couldn’t have been older than Ludwik. And then a pregnant woman.
Ludwik was on his knees, clutching his ears against the gunfire, so stunned he didn’t notice the dribble hanging from his mouth, the tears pooling on the balcony floor, the wetness in his pants. August forced his brother to his feet and hugged him, and wouldn’t let go. There was a river of blood in the street, a strange quietude that even the commandants were inclined on assuming for a forever-minute. The bodies went into the trucks.
“The monsters won’t touch us,” said August. But this time August wasn’t so sure; he was trying to convince himself. As he held Ludwik’s head, he saw that his own hands were shaking involuntarily. “They’ll go away. They’ll leave us alone.”
“Breach the fifth,” they could hear a commandant say. Unit five—that was their building.
There were sounds of footsteps on the stairs, in the passage. Then hammering. At the front door. Once, twice, and there wasn’t time for the boys to think, and the door came unhinged, and the monsters were inside their home, stalking their prey with their big guns.
“Hide,” August told his brother. Ludwik did what August was doing, hiding by the walls of the balcony beside the door, where they couldn’t be seen from the inside. They didn’t dare breathe. They didn’t dare spy, although they could hear the destruction the soldiers were wreaking on their possessions. With every crack and shattering, the boys were jolted, and as they could hear the soldiers nearing, their knees grew weaker.
Ludwik wanted to hold his brother’s hand, so he reached out, despite August shaking his head, telling him not to. Then they were found. They were staring right into the cold, blue eyes of one of those monsters, one who had come to the balcony for a brief smoke. It happened so fast.
He had them in his sights.
And he was doing nothing, but they swore the monster could see them. Yet the soldier turned away, flicking his cigarette into the air before going back inside, having had his name called. August and Ludwik looked at each other, in awe, wondering if they had been made invisible by prayer.
“They must be in here,” said a voice inside; another monster.
August and Ludwik could tell where the ensuing bang had come from: the door to their parents’ bedroom. They winced with the noise.
“Bastards,” said the same voice with a chuckle. “They’ve already done themselves in. All four of them.”
“9mm Luger,” said another voice, scoffing. “Where could they have gotten this?”
“Never mind. Get to the next door. On the double.”
There was complete silence in the home when the monsters left. The brothers stood in the doorway of the balcony, peering in. The dining table was split in two, the cupboards undone. What remained of the family cutlery, shards. Their photographs on the wall, on the ground.
“Do you think we can go see mama and papa now?” said Ludwik, wiping away his last tears.
“No, Ludwik,” replied August. “Let them sleep.”
“What about us? Where do we go? What do we do?”
“Imagining things will help us through the rest of our journey.”
“You mean like when we play?”
“Yes. We can imagine fun things, what can be.”
“What could’ve been,” said Ludwik.
“That’s right, brother. We can imagine what could’ve been.”
David Edward Nell writes from Cape Town, South Africa. http://www.davidedwardnell.blogspot.com
This story was previously published in Something Dark in the Doorway by Static Movement.
Michelle sat under the crumbling gray eaves of the old house and waited.
She supposed she was waiting for the woman to come back. But the woman, her ‘mother,’ had been gone a long, long while now. The house had been white when the woman last left it, and there had been doors which opened, and stairs and floors. Now, if there were doors at all, the hinges were rusted shut and they were impossible to open. The stairs had long since rotted away and the second story had collapsed and was now just piles of decayed rubble in the rooms of the first floor. None of this troubled Michelle.
The house was an empty shell without a middle. Michelle thought this was just fine, because she was an empty middle without a shell. In this way, she and the house complimented each other. She had no great love for the house, however.
She came to the house in the morning, and returned to her place down by the creek at dusk. She spent all of her moments from dawn to dusk at the old house, waiting.
She was also searching.
She sat on the sagging porch, or went inside the house and drifted like a pale shadow from room-to-room and dug a deep well in what passed for her memory, each day trying to dig a little deeper.
Sometimes she found objects in the house that triggered memories. Like the poker by the fireplace, for instance. And the old blood stain on the kitchen floor.
But the precise memory she was looking for had no attachment to the house, or her time spent here. She was trying to go back to the time before. Before coming to the house. Before the outbursts of an ill-tempered woman. Before the violence of fists and pokers.
She was digging deep in the well today, tracing time backwards (there was only backwards-time now, no more going forward for her). She was in a car. Crying. Playing with a dirt-smudged dolly. It was raining. The woman was shouting at her. “SHUT UP” screamed in time with the thudding windshield wipers. A stinging slap. The first of countless other blows.
Before that…dimly…another woman, and a man. She tried to dig deep enough to see their faces. It was all silver mists and shadows. She tried to see in her mind’s eye the house…the other one…the one she’d been in before the woman had picked her up at school.
“I’m your Aunt Sally. No, you’ve never met me before now. I just got into town. C’mon, I’m here to take you home,” she’d said.
Of course, they hadn’t gone home. They’d come here.
Michelle was sixteen years old when it happened.
By that time a part of her had come to believe the woman really was her mother. But another part of her rebelled at the idea…a vision of a red-brick townhouse swirling in the mists of memory, something of pink hydrangea and a foggy image of a blond-haired man and woman. Hair as blond as hers.
When the argument escalated (Michelle had wanted to go on her first date with Bobby Allen, but her ‘mother’, always overly protective, said ‘no.’) the mists cleared for a moment and she’d voiced her suspicion.
“You can’t tell me what to do! You’re not my real mother! You’re not even my Aunt Sally!” She’d stomped angrily off to her room. She’d crossed the line, she knew it, and she waited fearfully for the woman’s footfalls on the stairs. The reprisal. It didn’t come that night.
In the morning, she went downstairs to a quiet house and entered the kitchen in search of breakfast.
She caught a split-second glimpse of the swinging poker in the corner of her eye, a dull CRACK! and she saw no more.
She woke up on the creek bank. She could hear the woman somewhere nearby.
Michelle stood up and when she turned around, saw herself lying on the ground.
“I’m dead,” was all she could think.
The woman was digging her grave.
She did not stay to watch her burial. Instead, she strolled along the creek bank, watched autumn leaves floating in the current and marveled at the way the sunlight made everything it touched look like liquid amber, and wondered why she never noticed these things when she’d been living.
She returned to the house the next morning, consumed with rage. She devoted all her ghostly energy into tormenting the woman. Her favorite was walking through her, causing her sudden chills. She rapped on doors and windows and made loud noises at night, keeping the woman awake and terrified. This made Michelle very happy, to see her former tormenter propped up in bed, lights on, teeth chattering with fear, with the pouchy gray bags of sleeplessness under her eyes. Finally, the woman moved out, leaving Michelle alone. Other people lived in the house over the years, but they never stayed long. It was devoid of living dwellers for over fifty years now, left to fall into its current state of disrepair.
It’s the memory of that car trip she most longs to recover from her deep well. But she’d spent most of it crying. She has snippets, though…hydrangea bushes…a turnpike…a long bridge over a wide river…but then the vision grows hazy and the mist closes in. She keeps trying, though. Every day she glides through peeling walls and digs desperately for each new vision along the road…and when she finally has it…the mists will part and there she will see it…
Like a signpost…pointing the way home.
Maria Kelly is an author, caffeine-drenched college student, and the editor of The Were-Traveler. You can read about her writer ninja adventures and her plans for world domination on her personal blog at http://mariakellyauthor.com.
The huge two story red brick building spanned several city blocks and was constructed back in the 1940’s. Yea, it’s old and real damn creepy. Trent has worked here for almost forty seven years on the swing shift, from four in the afternoon until midnight. He puts the handles on the coffins. That’s all he has ever done here is put those damn handles on every casket that comes down the assembly line. At first he was somewhat freaked out about working for a company that made these items for the dead, but he eventually got used to it and eventually it became a normal, everyday job.
Trent didn’t have a car, so he walked everywhere. It’s a small town and everything he needs is well within walking distance. His small house is only a few blocks away from the factory, so the daily commute to and from work is also of the pedestrian style. The streets are not well lit at night but he usually takes the even darker alleys to shorten the distance home. The alley passages are narrow blacktopped lanes running between the rear entrances of the numerous shops and stores along his route. But lately, the walk home has begun to get somewhat eerie.
At first it was odd noises that echoed in the cool night air. Then strange smells started to accompany the noises with repulsive odors of rotting meat or some sort of decomposition. He walked the route in the daylight hours on his way to work, but nothing ever happened then, only in the dark hours of the night on his return trip home. He even began leaving for work an hour early to inspect the nooks and cranny’s along his route to search for dead rats or raccoons that might be the cause of the deathly odors, but to no avail.
Then, one very foggy night, Trent was almost half way home when the hissing started. It sounded like a huge snake coming straight toward him. He stopped cold in his tracks and listened intently, quickly realizing it wasn’t a snake hissing at all. It was actually a low, endless gasping sound. It didn’t stop to take a breath, it just remained steady. He thought it must be some sort of leaking steam pipe, but he had never noticed any pipes before. He began slowly backing up, but the gasp seemed to follow. Then, he quickly turned around and took off running back toward the casket factory as fast as he could.
He certainly wasn’t gong to tell any of his co-workers that he was afraid of a hissing steam pipe, so he sat alone in a janitor’s closet waiting for dawn to break before resuming his walk home. When he left to go home the second time, the fog had not quite lifted yet and he decided not to take the alley, but decided to instead make his way home along the wide street in front of the stores and shops. It was a few minutes after six in the morning and the streets were still barren of people or cars. He walked rather fast through the misty, lingering fog and eventually made it home without incident.
For the next several days, he took the longer route home from work by way of the well lit street. On the third night, the street route proved to be just as dangerous as the narrow, dark alley.
It was a crystal clear evening and the sporadically placed street lights were somewhat of a comfort, but the calm stillness was suddenly broken. As he casually walked along, the bulbs on the street lamps nearest him began flickering and quickly went out. The air once again filed with that eerie hissing. Trent froze in place. He was almost exactly half way home. It was the same distance to safety in either direction. He looked in the direction of his house but there was nothing there, then glanced back toward the factory, but again, he could see nothing. The hissing became louder and closer. He made his decision. He darted down the street in a mad dash toward the next brightly glaring street light in the direction of his house. Just as he entered the illuminating ring of light on the sidewalk, the bulb exploded with a thousand shards of glittering glass tumbling down through the air. He kept running as his face and arms became bombarded with tiny spears, tinkling as they landed on the hard concrete all around. He kept barreling down the darkened sidewalk toward the next street light, but it exploded with another loud pop, then the next and the next. The entire street was suddenly thrown into complete darkness with glass tinkling all around. The hissing was now growing louder and closer. He ran harder and harder, faster and faster but whatever it was, had caught up to him. The hissing was now louder than a locomotive horn blaring in his ears but Trent kept running, feet clomping, charging through the blackness.
Then he saw it. A tall dark figure standing straight ahead, cloaked in black robes with a large hood shadowing its face in total darkness with two glowing, burning red orbs in place of eyes. The hissing and stench was coming from within the hood. The breath of death rushed out like a jet engine, blowing into Trent’s face with the stink of a thousand corpses. His nostrils filled with the disgusting odor of rotted death. Eyes watering, ears ringing, nose burning, Trent stopped running, frozen in place, stunned by the vision before him. Then the apparition was moving, floating across the ground, directly toward him with a scythe raised high in the air, ready to slice at his tender neck. He could do nothing but raise his arms to protect his head.
Then a car rounded the corner, headlights splaying across the store fronts, right toward Trent and the apparition. A shadow was suddenly cast upon the wall. It was the elongated form of Trent, and then a second shadow was cast by the creature, but not in the shape of robes and a hood, no, this shadow was a glimpse into the pits of hell. Only flashing for a few seconds, Trent saw the silhouette of bare, decomposing skulls screaming for release with a hundred rotting arms reaching out with a thousand bony fingers scraping for purchase in the world of the living, trying to escape the damnation of hell. Then it vanished. The shadow was gone. The creature was gone, as if neither had ever been there at all. But the street lights were still dark and broken. Glass still glittered in the street from the car’s glaring headlights. It had been real. Something had been here, seeking to kill Trent, wanting to take him to hell.
From that day forth, Trent feared the night. He carried three flashlights with him every day to and from work. He slept with the lights on. He never entered a room or went anywhere dark or without a light. He knew that thing was out there, lurking, watching, patiently waiting to take him to hell, and he knew it was the Reaper.
Audiowriter is an entrepreneur of many endeavors and a seasoned musician, located in southern Indiana.
He has an obsessive compulsion to spend every available moment creating written text and audio recordings of melodic musical notes. He currently has several completed novels on the shelf awaiting publication, varying from graphic horror to commercial fiction. Also in his literary arsenal is an abundance of short stories, drabbles and lyrics. Many of his original songs and music are directly inspired by the intriguing tales flowing from his wildly descriptive imagination.
Should you dare to enter the realm of Audiowriter, go to - www.customaudioproductions.com/Audiowriter
At long last, the issue for which the magazine gets its name has come into being.
A long time ago, I had a crazy notion of writing a story about a lone traveler, a space-faring werewolf.
That idea turned into this here spec fic magazine…and then I put the task of telling the lone wolf’s travels to other authors.
This is the result.
There are space wolves in this issue, but there are also some tales that take place on planet Earth, and some alternate history werewolf adventures, too.
I’m happy to report that although my own story didn’t quite make the cut, the authors in this issue penned some imaginative stories.
Enjoy these hair-raising tales!
Happy New Year;
A hotel for werewolves sounded like the premise to a terrible late-night TV show, but the Blue Moon chain of high-end (yet affordable) suites was both very real and not what it seems.
Linda was employed at their Denver airport location, and was the highest paid hotel desk clerk in the country. Not just because of the secretive and high-pressured demands of the lycanthropic hospitality industry, but also because she had been thoroughly trained in the art of interrogating a werewolf at taxpayer expense.
That specific duty was not called upon nearly as often as she had hoped when she’d accepted the job. As it turned out, a werewolf was far more likely to be a law-abiding citizen than an untainted human.
“It has something to do with the duality of human nature,” the day-shift manager had said to Linda, several months into her position. “People have a dark side that seeps into their lives and pushes them down dark paths. Werewolves grow fangs and howl at the moon for a couple nights a month, and that pretty much gets it out of their system.”
This disappointed Linda, who had been counting on a job that would give her a string of naughty monsters to take her own dark side out on. Instead, she was paid an obscene amount of government salary to deliver freshly dry-cleaned suits to men and women covered in dried rabbit blood and behaving far more politely than she could stand.
Then came the day Elliot Pettygrove checked in. The non-assuming, little man had been on her watch list since Linda first started the gig, and she nearly squeaked with glee when he said his name to her. Getting through the check-in process without bursting into an unstoppable fit of excited giggles was the most difficult thing she’d done in a year. Once he was safely in the elevator and on his way to the room she’d kept perpetually empty for the last two years, she jumped and danced and wiggled as she tapped out a message to her superiors on the multi-million-dollar message encryption app they’d installed onto her phone.
Several hours later, a transformed Mr. Pettygrove was euphorically tearing away at a sheep that room service had lowered into his room, when one of the walls disappeared.
It hadn’t really disappeared, but he’d been so engrossed by the tasty sheep, he hadn’t noticed the wall rolling up like a garage door. when he did finally notice, it was the sight of Linda that made his animal brain forget that it was weird for an extra room to suddenly appear.
Linda had changed out of her Blue Moon Hotels & Suites issued polo shirt and khaki pants, and into a garishly pink bikini with a comically large cotton-ball tail glued to her backside and a pair of adorably floppy bunny ears perched atop her head.
“Oh no,” she said, jutting her lower lip out as far as she could in a helpless pout. “I’m a lost little bunny rabbit, all alone in the big scary forest.”
Mr. Pettygrove leaped across the room and sailed head-first into the carbon-reinforced Plexiglas barrier that stood between him and the tasty little bunny. A furious snarl erupted from his throat as he frantically clawed at the invisible cage. The bunny hopped around in circles, seeming to take no notice of Mr. Pettygrove. Whatever human subconscious remained in Mr. Pettygrove quickly vanished at the intoxicating aroma of the little bunny rabbit’s fear, which was in actuality a mere adrenaline-scented perfume that was being released into his room through the air vents.
“Come closer, little bunny,” Mr. Pettygrove said, the words gurgling from his chest and twisting around his massive teeth.
“Oh my!” Linda squeaked, pretending she was suddenly surprised by his presence. “A wolf! A big bad wolf come to eat me up!” She hopped around in quicker circles now, throwing her hands about the air in a condescending act of faux-shock.
“I’m going to shred your innards and drink you like a soup,” Mr. Pettygrove said, relishing the extra heady fright that wafted from her as he growled the words.
“Dear, oh dear,” Linda responded. “You must be the meanest of the mean old wolves!!”
Mr. Pettygrove threw back his head, a bone-chilling laugh-howl filled the room.
“I am the last living nightmare’” he said, shamelessly living up to the stereotype of a boastful werewolf. “I have toppled kingdoms, broken homes, torn apart families, and crushed my enemies into the ground.”
“Goodness,” she said, trying to look as amazed and impressed as a helpless bunny could. “You must be the most famous evil wolf in the world!”
Another condescending laugh; “Stupid bunny! Nobody knows I did this!” He scraped his claws against the Plexiglas again, punctuating his dastardly deeds. “I made perfect forgeries of the income records. I bribed every appraiser. I signed every schmuck up for negative amortization, even when they didn’t want to. I collected millions in commissions on properties that weren’t worth the weeds growing on them.”
Sparks flew as Mr. Pettygrove’s claws raked against the carbon nanofibres. “I brought this country to it’s knees, and I did it as a human! Just imagine what I will do to you as a monster.”
“But how?” Linda pleaded, sort of. “How does one big bad monster do all that?”
“How else, you cotton-tailed moron?” Mr. Pettygrove snarled. “With minions! Human servants. To destroy you, I’ll use my claws. To destroy the nation I use mortal men.”
“Really?” She cocked her head to one side, genuinely curious. “Who?”
And just like that, Mr. Pettygrove gladly listed the names of his co-conspirators.
The next morning, Linda had already reported her findings and gone home for the day by the time Elliot Pettygrove came to the front desk to settle his bill.
“I got the lamb, right?” He said to Stanley, the front desk clerk for the morning shift.
“That’s what you ordered, Mr. Pettygrove,” Stanley responded. “I don’t see any notations as to a substitution. Why do you ask?”
“I don’t know,” Mr. Pettygrove shrugged. “I have this vague recollection of a bunny rabbit.”
The two of them shrugged at the seemingly inconsequential peculiarity of it all, and Elliot Pettygrove returned to the hustle and bustle of his elaborately illegal life.
Jonathan Ems has been making up lies since he was born. The world of fiction has opened his eyes to the possibilities of lying for a living. His collection of essays “Obviously, I Anticipated This…” and his science fiction mystery novel “Modus Operandi” can be found at Amazon.com in paperback and Kindle formats, and for all other ebook formats wherever ebooks are sold. Links to his blog, Twitter, and Tumblr pages can be found at SmileNaked.com.
This story was previously published in Flashes In The Dark Magazine.
“Circle the wagons,” the wagon master shouted. “Get ready to fight for your lives. That’s an Indian war party up there on top of that hill.”
Within minutes, two dozen wagons formed a circle. Women and children poured out and hid underneath, while men prepared for battle.
Clayton, the Wagon Master, walked around checking their defenses.
“Mr. Clayton,” shouted the prettiest woman in the group. “Is there some way we can prevent them from attacking until dark?”
“None that I know of, Miss Elizabeth. Why do you ask such a strange question?”
“Well, if they don’t attack until it’s dark, I can assure victory with no casualties to our group.”
“What makes you say such a foolish thing?” he said to the only single women traveling from Kansas City to California.
“Come closer, and I’ll tell you in your ear.”
An invitation from such a stunning woman was a gift from heaven. Clayton imagined her lips brushing his ear as she spoke. Maybe she’d even press her body ever so slightly against him as she got close enough to whisper.
His heart pounded as he approached her. The closer he got, the more he could smell lavender—so unlike the aroma of the other ladies who reeked of brown laundry soap.
The delicious, delicate fragrance of Elizabeth’s slender form made him think of things forbidden between married men and beautiful single women. Things he craved for ever since waving goodbye to his wife and children back in Kansas City. Things that made him momentarily forget the impending danger from hostile natives.
His blood pressure shot up when her breasts brushed his arm, as she spoke into his ear. But he went cold as she spoke.
“What in the hell are you talking about?” he snapped. “What does that word mean?”
“It means you’re saved. All of you.”
“Woman, I think the prairie heat softened your brain. Don’t waste any more of my time with your crazy talk. Go over to that wagon and stay by Granny Higgins. Do you know how to shoot a pistol?”
“Then take mine,” he said, passing the weapon and a handful of cartridges. “And make every shot count. Don’t shoot until you—”
“See the whites of their eyes,” she said. “My daddy was a captain in Lee’s Army. He used to say that all the time when he taught me how to shoot.”
The hot afternoon ended without a single attack by the hostiles. Everyone figured the Indians would make their move when the full moon rose.
As it grew dark, Indians imitated coyote yells. The sounds unnerved everyone in the wagon train, except the wagon master who’d fought Plains Indians during previous continental crossings.
“Don’t let them get to you,” he whispered, as he made the rounds again, reassuring the folks under his care. “We’re lucky the moon is full. Keep a sharp eye out for moving shadows. They’ll sneak up on us in groups of two or three. If you hear a sound, shoot at it.”
He kept Granny Higgins’ wagon for last, hoping to speak a while with Elizabeth. He felt the need to inhale her aroma and hear her soft voice before the battle began.
“How you doing, Granny,” he asked.
“I was fine until she left me here by myself.”
“What do you mean she left?”
“Five minutes ago, she said she’d be back later on. Next thing I knew, she was flat on her belly and crawling in the direction of the Injuns.”
“What! You sure?”
“Yep. Left me this here pistol. Told me how to use it.”
“Give it to me,” he said. “You might end up shooting yourself. Follow me. I’ll put you in with the Fiddler family. You’ll be safer with them. Mr. Fiddler told me he won medals in the war.”
After settling Higgins, Clayton went back to his own wagon. That’s when the howling began. Terrible night sounds that the fifty year old never heard before. Sounds that made his blood curdle.
An hour passed. Still no attack.
Once again, Clayton made the rounds. “Just because you ain’t seen them yet, don’t mean they ain’t coming. They’re hoping you’ll get real tired and fall asleep. Don’t even let yourself close your eyes for a second. The minute you do, one of them will sneak up on you and slice your throat.”
When he reached Higgins’ wagon, he was surprised to smell lavender.
“What the hell’s going on, Miss Elizabeth,” he whispered. “I looked all over and didn’t see you anywhere. Why did you leave Granny? Where’d you go?”
“For a walk. Everything’s fine now. You can tell everybody to relax. Tell them to build fires and make supper.”
“I never ran into such a crazy women like you before. You smell good and look good, but your brain is soft as corn mush.”
“I swear on my mother’s grave, they’re dead. All forty-seven of them.
“How can you say such a thing?”
“Because I killed them.”
Clayton spat and went back to his wagon.
The night passed without an attack.
At dawn, Clayton and three others rode toward the hill where he’d first spotted the Indians. Well before he arrived, he found bodies torn to pieces and scattered everywhere. He counted forty-seven decapitated heads.
“What on God’s Earth happened to these varmints?” he said aloud, covered with chills. He’d never seen such horrendous destruction, even during the most savage battles against the Confederates.
Returning to the wagon train, he ordered everybody to resume their journey.
“What happened,” some asked.
“They’re all dead. Thank the Lord. We were saved by warriors greater than the Indians. Hopefully those brave souls are up ahead. Maybe we’ll spot them so we can thank them for saving us.”
As the wagons headed toward the Rocky Mountains, Clayton pondered what Elizabeth had whispered in his ear the day before. And once again he wondered what the word meant. Going from wagon to wagon, he asked if anybody had a book that told the meaning of words.
“We got one,” said Fiddler.
“Can your missus read?” asked Clayton.
“She reads pretty good.”
“How about asking her to look up a word for me.”
“What’s the word?”
“Come to think of it, it might even be two words: where and wolf.
Michael A. Kechula’s flash and micro-fiction tales have been published by 150 magazines and 50 anthologies in 8 countries. He’s won 1st prize in 12 writing contests and 2nd prize in 8 others. He’s authored 5 books of flash and micro-fiction tales, including a book that teaches how to write flash fiction. See his publisher’s site at: http://www.booksforabuck.com/ to read a free story or chapter in all of his books.