Join me for 30 Days of Horror in which we spotlight one horror book every day until we reach Halloween!
So yes, I failed to keep up with this once again, but that means you get two picks for the price of one today and tomorrow.
My first pick for day 27 is a non-fiction book that I’ve only recently come across. It’s like everything I love about trashy horror in one book!
Available in paperback & digital, 256 pages
Published September 19th 2017 by Quirk Books
Take a tour through the horror paperback novels of the 1970s and ’80s . . . if you dare.
Page through dozens and dozens of amazing book covers featuring well-dressed skeletons, evil dolls, and knife-wielding killer crabs! Read shocking plot summaries that invoke devil worship, satanic children, and haunted real estate!
Horror author and vintage paperback book collector Grady Hendrix offers killer commentary and witty insight on these trashy thrillers that tried so hard to be the next Exorcist or Rosemary’s Baby. It’s an affectionate, nostalgic, and unflinchingly funny celebration of the horror fiction boom of two iconic decades, complete with story summaries and artist and author profiles.
You’ll find familiar authors, like V. C. Andrews and R. L. Stine, and many more who’ve faded into obscurity. Plus recommendations for which of these forgotten treasures are well worth your reading time and which should stay buried.
My second choice for today is a book that I really enjoyed. It was much better than the film, but it was still worth a watch.
Available in all formats incl. audio, 460 pages
Published June 19th 2014 by Orbit
Melanie is a very special girl. Dr. Caldwell calls her “our little genius.”
Every morning, Melanie waits in her cell to be collected for class. When they come for her, Sergeant Parks keeps his gun pointing at her while two of his people strap her into the wheelchair. She thinks they don’t like her. She jokes that she won’t bite, but they don’t laugh.
Melanie loves school. She loves learning about spelling and sums and the world outside the classroom and the children’s cells. She tells her favorite teacher all the things she’ll do when she grows up. Melanie doesn’t know why this makes Miss Justineau look sad.
The Girl with All the Gifts is a sensational thriller, perfect for fans of Stephen King, Justin Cronin, and Neil Gaiman.
Welcome to the second annual flash fiction battle in which four brilliant independent horror authors will battle it out to be crowned the King or Queen of Horror, (well, Horror October at least).
Horror fans, blog friends, waifs & strays; the time has come.
All four stories based on the winning theme, ‘Master of Cemeteries’ have now been posted and it’s time for you to pick your favourite.
Which story had your skin crawling, or got you reaching for a comfort blanket? Which one made you do a jaw-drop? Or maybe one just had that extra something?
Have your say and vote for your favourite creepy quickie.
Voting ends on the 30th at 19:00 (GMT), and I will crown the winner on Halloween! All four entries are copied below in case you missed them the first time around. And if you can’t decide on a favourite you can vote for more than one story.
Please do tell us who you’ve voted for and why in the comments
#1: Holding On
by Sean Seebach
“It’s my job,” Ben said to his wife. “It has to be done.”
She tucked her face into her husband’s neck, rubbed her nose into his flannel collar, then kissed his unshaven cheek before leaving a coffee filled thermos and ham sandwich with him. The coffee would get drank. She had her doubts about the latter, noticing Ben’s flannel hanging loosely from his body. Everything had changed so quickly for them.
But she knew Ben was right. It was his job as the caretaker of Cedar Grove Cemetery to do the work that had to be done. She took a moment to gaze at the purple streaked sky before firing up the family’s 2001 Plymouth Neon, the one that fought to remain forest green against the orange colored rust, and thought about how proud she was to have Ben Taylor as her husband.
Ben picked up the plastic grocery bag his wife had left him and took a squat next to the pile of dirt where he left his spade. He unscrewed the thermos cap, poured, and sipped black coffee during the chilly October twilight.
Across the street, he heard children laughing, screaming, yelling “trick or treat!” at the top of their little lungs. Visions of toddlers dressed as dinosaurs, spacemen, princesses flashed through his mind. Huddled together in small groups, holding the hands of their Mom and Dad, only to let go once they were close to a walkway that led to the porch. Then, a full on joyous sprint, high-pitched screeching, heavy breathing, wide smiles. Plastic bags decorated with witches and castles and bats and cartoonish looking boogiemen being whipped open. More smiles as handfuls of sugary goodness fell into those bags. Bags that Mom and Dad would surely have to go through once darkness fell.
His stomach turned sour.
He picked up the sandwich his wife had left him and unwrapped it. He put it to his nose and smelled it. When was the last time he ate? Ben couldn’t remember. He hadn’t eaten in so long that Ben wasn’t sure if he even liked ham anymore, let alone sandwiches.
He took a greedy bite anyway. He chomped around for a few seconds before spitting it out. He wasn’t ready to eat. Not yet. Maybe later.
The sun fell faster and soon it would be dark. If Ben didn’t get a move on, he’d be working by the light of the lantern. This was okay by him. He wanted to hear the children a little longer.
The moon was almost visible now, a large white china plate hanging in the darkest sky imaginable. Gray, elongated clouds hovered in front of it. They were so close to each other they almost touched. Crickets began chattering to one another in the copse of trees close to where Ben was. Every now and then their chirps drowned out from the call of an owl. The children’s voices from across the street became nothing more than an echo. Ben picked up his spade and began to work.
He had done this so many times before. He tried to convince himself this was just like all the others. But he couldn’t fool what the heart knew. Trying to move on, to push through, was something he and his wife would have to learn as they lived. But Ben needed something to hang on to, something he could feel.
He took a moment to give his hands a break. They began to bleed in the cracks of his palms. He removed his flannel and wiped sweat from his face. When he exhaled he saw his breath and the cool air felt good. He straightened his back and glanced down and regarded the missing pooch from his beltline.
“Heck of a way to lose weight, Ben,” he said. “Didn’t even have to exercise.”
Then it came to him.
“Exercise.” He took a deep breath. “Running.”
Running was the word he needed to find the memory that he would…
“Hold on to forever. Bobby, you’re…”
…“Running! Look Daddies! I’m running!” Bobby is running all right. He’s running in the backyard. His arms are outstretched along with his chubby hands. He is smiling and his head is tilted back so his eyes are squinting into the sunlight. White light enhances the child’s blonde hair, mainly at the flared ends where the wind has caught them, forcing them to flap like little wings…
“Daddies, I spin.” Bobby holds his arms up. Daddy grabs a hold of Bobby’s hands and asks him if he’s ready. “Readies,” Bobby says with a nod and a grin. Daddy plants his feet into the tall, soft green grass and begins to spin. Bobby’s feet lift from the grass and into the air. Their eyes lock onto each other. In the corners of their eyes, the world is spinning in a kaleidoscope of color: green, blue, white, brown. Daddy’s worries vanish in that moment. The envelopes stamped with PAST DUE in red letters, asking the cashier to return the snack cakes and bubble bath at the register to prevent an overdraft (just the necessities on this shopping trip, Bobby. Sorry), the anxiety from watching the price screen on the fuel pump go higher and higher are all forgotten in the whirlwind…
“Daddies, look! I fall.” Bobby falls down. “Daddies! You fall…too!” Daddy also falls, right on his back. He looks over at Bobby who has his arms once again stretched out to his side. Daddy does the same. They face each other, make eye contact and smile. Together they raise their feet to the clouds then watch the sky as the dizziness slows…
Ben finds that memory in the darkest of moments, one that he will hold on to for the rest of his life, as he spills the last of the dirt onto the gravesite with the tombstone marked:
February 5, 2015-October 24, 2017
#2: The Master of Cemeteries
by Justin Bienvenue
I roam the land from the opening gates down to the last stone and rotting tree. I’ve been doing this for so long that I’ve lost count of exactly how long it’s been. You’d think this would be the same old routine and boring ass job but not for me. I own my craft, I appreciate every day and I love my job. Some take on this job and they get scared shitless because they think it’ll be “cool” but they don’t know, they don’t have a goddamn clue how to truly take this job seriously. I love this job because I don’t always work at the same place, no I travel and go where I’m needed. Sometimes I do return to places I’ve worked before, sure the land is the same but the work is different. Ghastly and inhuman some would say but righteous and spectacular for me.
I marvel at the opportunity to dig a hole six feet deep and bury a body into the fresh Earth. Sure there’s maggots, worms and other creatures and insects you’ve never even heard of in the ground below but after a while you don’t even notice em there. Sometimes I go lower than six feet I know it’s a bit unorthodox but I feel it’s a sign of appreciation and honor. Some I bury above six feet because I don’t think they were good in life so why should they have it good in death? What’s the big deal about not digging a body six feet and only digging it 2-4? Well let’s just say man’s best friend and mother nature usually show up to make sure they don’t enjoy their eternal slumber.
My first gig was over in Tucson. They had me bury a ruthless outlaw for gunning down eight people simply for looking at him wrong. Talk about talk being cheap. Well I don’t rightfully condone pointless killing but I felt if I didn’t bury this guy six feet that he was gonna rise up and bury my ass so I made sure he was given a proper burial. I’ve buried every sort of person, you name it. Outlaw, clown, lawyer, garbage man, mafioso, zoo keeper, heck even celebrities. Personally I could give two shits as to what their job was when they were alive but I know some people like to know so I throw it in. I used to be a bounty hunter part time but I didn’t see the point really. Bounty hunting became extinct and it got in the way of this job which has many, many parts to it.
I remember the first day I ever worked in New Orleans. They had me over at the St. Louis Cemetery. They told me it would be a bit different than what I may be used to but they had no idea who they were talking to. IF you don’t know, St. Louis is below sea level like most of the city so when there’s a massive storm or flood, the bodies go a washin’. I did my best fisherman and Charon impression and took them bodies out of the water and back into their crypts. Now for as long as I’d been on the job at that point I thought nothing could upset me but the cleanup I did that day would have given a slaughterhouse janitor the nightmares. There were bodies, limps, morbid looking faces and some of the grimiest, slimiest and slippery stench skin you’ve ever seen. Imagine putting Play-Doh under water and then rubbing it with olive oil and dead meat.
My job isn’t always that messy as I usually just patrol normal ones and do my usual maintenance. I do landscaping of the area, mow the open grass areas and keep the graves looking fresh and up to code. You always know if you’re at a cemetery that I’ve been to because it’s so clean and peaceful. It’s practically a garden only instead of flowers there’s gravestones so it’s pretty much a garden of the dead if you will. So in some ways I’d like to consider myself a gardener, only I don’t make stuff grow…or do I? In all seriousness I make sure no stone is turned, no grass gets weeds and no grave is unfilled. I don’t just harvest the land of the dead and dig their beds I also chisel their tombstones and layer the bricks and concrete in their crypts. Find me another person who does that and I’ll start digging my own grave. I just did it for fun one day when I got done early once and seeing as my stone was good and the family really enjoyed it I decided to add it to my repertoire.
Once I had to bury a famous pianist so I crafted a giant tombstone that looked like a piano. The family loved it but the people of the cemetery and the townspeople thought it was too much. They learned to appreciate it..after I told them I could make some for them when they died. I haven’t worked there too much since. As I said though I travel a lot going from graveyard to graveyard in hopes to make each one greater than the next one. I should have my own show on HGTV called “Flipping Graveyards” because I mean I’m that good at what I’d do.
I won’t need another job for as long as I live, heck I’ll probably still be doing this when I’m dead if they let me, you know the guy upstairs or the guy down below? I mean I am helping them..at least I think I am. If you need someone to take care of the deceased I’m the one you call. I have a list of titles on my resume; gravedigger, undertaker, mortician, gravestone carver, crypt builder, gardener, landscaper, embalmer, among many others. When you need a person to care for your loved ones I’m your woman, the master of cemeteries.
#3: In That Sleep of Death
by Stephen Kozeniewski
“You want to know the really perverse thing about The White City Devil?” Donnelly asked, the glee in his voice as he discussed his favorite serial killer almost palpable.
Vince shrugged as he shuffled to the other side of his kitchen to grab a mug for the loudmouthed undertaker’s coffee. Vince always kept some beans on hand for Donnelly’s occasional visits, but he never drank anything more powerful than tea himself. High-test upset his stomach, and he had enough trouble sleeping nights with the arthritis and everything else.
“The only thing that got him off was the sound of women screaming. That’s why he kept doing it. Imagine putting all that time and effort and money into making a jack shack for yourself because of a weird kink. Eh, but it was the 1800s, after all.”
Donnelly shrugged. Vince nodded and sat down across from his…well, he hesitated to use the word “friend,” even in his own mind, as he didn’t particularly care for the other man. “Acquaintance” seemed too remote, considering he knew more about Donnelly than almost any man alive. (Certainly, he spilled his guts to Vince often enough.) “Visitor,” perhaps was a fair splitting of the difference.
Donnelly continued describing the exploits of mass murderer H.H. Holmes for more than an hour before finally asking Vince a question about himself. In previous visits he had gone much, much longer.
“But, my God, Catapali, I have to say, I sort of get it. After all, the work I do, the work you do. Well, you’re so much closer to the metal, so to speak, than I am, digging all those damn graves. I can’t even get to sleep without a fifth of Amaretto in me. How do you sleep at night, anyway?”
Vince didn’t rush to answer. Usually if he waited long enough, Donnelly continued on with whatever he had been blathering about. This time, though, he was silent just long enough for it to seem rude if Vince didn’t respond.
Vince pointed at the little box with the speaker in his bedroom. It was visible from where they were sitting. Donnelly nodded.
“Yeah, that makes sense. That’s a good…I’ll have to try that.”
It was almost dark before the chatterbox mortician finally left, but Vince didn’t really mind. He couldn’t do any more work before dark, anyway. Not his real work, anyway. He clambered into his pickup truck and was greeted with a thump from the pine crate in the bed.
“Easy now,” he said, putting his hand through the back window and stroking the crate, as though its inhabitant could feel his soothing touch.
The thumping didn’t stop as he drove out to the gravesite. With the pulley system he had rigged up for his truck it was no trouble at all to dump the pine crate into the open grave. Getting the expensive cherry coffin from Donnelly’s funeral home up into the bed was slightly trickier, but he had done it nightly for years now and was used to it.
When Vince had first started his job, he had done the grueling work of digging a three by eight foot hole six feet deep by hand. 144 cubic feet of soil. 1100 gallons. Every speck hauled out of the ground at the end of a spade. Hours of work. Now, with his backhoe, it took him forty-five minutes, tops. Ten to cover it back up.
It was only half an hour to the abandoned dump. Using the old car compactor, Vince squished what was left of the dearly departed Mr. Squillante into a fine red paste, strewn with splintered wood and bone. Vince had occasionally considered selling Donnelly’s expensive coffins, but he had no idea what the market was for those, and, really, he didn’t need the money. He led a simple life.
Afterward, he swung by all his usual haunts: the docks, a few crack dens, the bus station. It seemed like slim pickings tonight, but he finally tracked down a skinny runaway peeing in the bushes outside of the homeless tent city downtown in Memorial Park. He brought the boy back to his caretaker’s shack before nailing him into a fresh pine box for tomorrow. By three in the morning he had finished digging all the graves for tomorrow.
Vince trudged into his bedroom, feeling every second of his sixty-seven years on this Earth. It seemed like all he ever did anymore was work his fingers to the bone, and yet no matter how tired he was he could never sleep a wink at night without his noise machine. It wasn’t a store-bought device with a pre-recorded track, though, as he had let Donnelly assume. The transmission had to be live. Always live.
He flicked it on. Instantly, his bedroom was filled with the soothing sounds of nails scratching against wood, panicked low-oxygen screams, and profanity-laden threats. Good. The prostitute he’d buried in Squillante’s stead was just reaching that point of pitch-perfect desperation. Vince yawned and felt his eyes grow heavy. Better sleep while he could. Tomorrow he’d have to do it all over again.
By Gabino Iglesias
“You look a little pale, Daniel,” said Frantz in his deep, rumbling voice. “This new task has you scared, man? If you wanna roll with us, you’re gonna see some weird stuff. And you’re gonna see a lot of blood. Either one bothers you, walk away now. I might forget about your face if you’re lucky.”
Daniel shook his head. Becoming a member of Zoe Pound was all he’d thought about since his older brother, Samuel, joined them at the age of fifteen. He wanted the money and the respect that came with being a member of the gang. He craved the brotherhood of other Haitians and Haitian-Americans. He dreamed about the power and women that would come his way if he didn’t mess up and did what he was told like a good soldier.
“I’m good, Frantz,” said Daniel, quickly making his way to the door. “Meeting the guy in a mausoleum is weird, but I’ve been in the streets long enough to see weirder. I’ll get you a new puppet tonight.”
Puppets. That’s what Frantz called the disposable bodies the bokor, the dark voodoo priest, got him for suicide missions. Daniel knew that getting a new one entailed killing a man and getting him into the hands of the bokor within a day. What he didn’t know was why he was getting this special task assigned to him after he’d botched a drug deal the previous week. Fratz had called it a rookie mistake, but the look in his eyes did not match the smile he shot at Daniel when he said id. In any case, Daniel was going to get in done. That would be a good start in terms of getting back on Frantz good side.
The victim had already been picked. The man was as predictable, loved his routine, and lived alone. Those were good things. They were also the things that were going to get him killed. Daniel knew he liked to park his car behind a local pizzeria before hitting the trails at a nearby park for his nightly run. It was a matter of waiting for him to show up. When he did, Daniel stepped out from behind a Dumpster, pressed his gun against the man’s temple, and made him get in the car and drive to Lincoln Memorial Cemetery in Brownsville, a huge, neglected place that also happened to be Florida’s most important primarily African-American graveyard.
There was a lot of shaking and offering on the drive there, but Daniel ignored all of it. This was a mission he would not screw up. The man at the wheel was already dead to him, nothing more than a throwaway sack of meat and bones.
The explanation Frantz had given Daniel was incredibly accurate. The newbie gangbanger kept his gun in his hoodie and made the man walk to mausoleum near the woods that backed up against the cemetery on the far left side without an issue other than the annoying crying and pleading the man was doing, not to mention he kept snorting snot into the back of his skull like a hog with the flu.
Waiting at the threshold of the dilapidated mausoleum was a wiry, light-skinned man wearing a sleeveless white shirt. His hands, arms, chest, and neck were covered in tattoos.
“You must be Daniel,” said the man.
“Yeah, you the bokor?”
“That’d be me, young blood.”
Daniel realized the man looked anywhere between 38 and 78 years old. His face sported lines that spoke of years under the sun, of hard living and strange nights, but his body looked young and powerful, almost like that of a swimmer or lightweight boxer.
“This the puppet?” the bokor asked, jutting his jaw at the sobbing man.
“Yeah,” replied Daniel.
“Get him inside and shoot him.”
The man screamed some unintelligible promises and supplications. Daniel grabbed him by the back of the neck and pushed him into the cool, moist, smelly darkness of the mausoleum.
Two bullets went into the man’s body, both close to where Daniel thought his heart should be. He dropped down and twitched twice.
“Nice work,” said the bokor from somewhere behind Daniel.
The cold, hard blade pressed against Daniel’s neck from the back.
“The ritual works better if you start it as the person is dying. It’s easier to trap their souls in their bodies for a while that way.”
Confusion and fear kept Daniel frozen. The sound the blade made as it sliced across his neck was as unexpected as the whole situation. It was somewhat of a crunch. The taste of his own blood came quickly, the warm liquid flowing down his chest.
Daniel turned around, lifted his gun, and shot the bokor in the chest, right below his right clavicle. A dark hole appeared where the bullet disappeared into his body, but no blood came. Daniel squeezed the trigger again, aiming higher this time. A second hole opened up in the bokor’s left cheek. The wound remained as dry as the one in his chest.
“Be happy Daniel, you accomplished your task tonight. In fact, you brought Frantz two puppets instead of one. I’m sure he will appreciate the gesture.”
The bokor’s laugh echoed inside the dark mausoleum as Daniel dropped to his knees, his muscles starting to lose their strength.
“Don’t despair, Daniel,” said the bokor. “Your brother asked me to make sure you could cross over as soon as your next job is done.”
Daniel couldn’t reply with a severed throat, so he closed his eyes and felt the tears roll down his face as cold darkness embraced him.
Welcome to the second annual flash fiction battle in which four brilliant independent horror authors will battle it out to be crowned the King or Queen of Horror, (well, Horror October at least).
Just a quick reminder that Voting ends on Friday 6th October at midnight (GMT)
What’s going on?
The flash fiction battle will see four of the best independent horror writers produce an original short story (1000 words or under) based on a prompt chosen by you!
Voting ends on Friday 6th October at midnight and I will announce the winning prompt on Saturday 7th. The writers will then have until the 21st Oct to get their stories to me. Once all four stories have been published another vote will open so you can pick your favourite story and I will crown the winner on Halloween.
I’ll be introducing the writers in a later post, but for a sneak peak you can check out their Amazon author pages below:
Welcome to This Week in Books, where we share what we’ve been up to in bookland this week and look ahead to next.
Wow, the first TWIB of Horror October is here already!
Throughout October, I’ll be doing the short version of this post where I will simply share what I’m reading now, then and next. Because quite frankly, there’s enough going on around here.
I’m afraid to say that my answers are the same as last week because I was too busy trying to launch #HO17 (and drinking gin with my mum) to get much reading done. I have caught up now though, so I’m ready to get stuck right in to some horror reads!
If you haven’t already, pleeeeeeeease take just a second to vote for your favourite horror story prompt for my second Flash Fiction Battle, below.
A supernatural superthriller from the author of Let the Right One In
Molly wakes her mother to go to the toilet. The campsite is strangely blank. The toilet block has gone. Everything else has gone too. This is a place with no sun. No god.
Just four families remain. Each has done something to bring them here – each denies they deserve it. Until they see what’s coming over the horizon, moving irrevocably towards them. Their worst mistake. Their darkest fear.
And for just one of them, their homecoming.
Vote Now! Four writers will write a short story based on the winning prompt.
Welcome to the second annual flash fiction battle in which four brilliant independent horror authors will battle it out to be crowned the King or Queen of Horror, (well, Horror October at least).
You guys, yes you guys, can vote for your favourite story prompt and then the authors – who incidentally are all of the male variety this year (it wasn’t intentional before I start getting ‘girls write horror too’ hatemail) – will write their guts out to produce their best horror story in 1000 words or under.
Voting ends on Friday 6th October at midnight (GMT), so what are you waiting for…
I’ll be introducing the writers later in the week, but for a sneak peak you can check out their Amazon author pages below:
Welcome to to Horror October 2016’s main event: The Flash Fiction Battle
At the beginning of the month, you voted in your masses for your favourite horror story prompt, and the winner was‘3 AM. Full Dark. One Sound’. The participating writers rose to the challenge with aplomb and now it’s time for you to vote for your favourite!
Voting closes on the 28th October
Here’s the stories again, all in the same place so you can agonise over your winner. I’m torn between two but I’m not letting on which two! Will it be a blood-curdling basement, a creepy-ass child, spine-tingling survival, or a very unpleasant pregnancy?? YOU DECIDE!
Entry #1: The Secret Of The Basement
By Lily Luchesi
When I was a kid, I hated my house’s basement. No matter how many times my father said I was being ridiculous, my mother said I was getting too old for such childishness, and my older brother called me an assortment of cruel names, I never ever went down there. I always said it would take a life or death situation to get me to go down there of my own accord.
Yes, it was a stupid thing for an adult with a high-class scholarship to one of the best schools in the US to think that the boogeyman was living in their basement, but there you have it. Some childhood fears stick with you forever.
I only returned to the house because my mother left it to me in her will, with very specific instructions that I had to stay there until it sold. With a few expletives in my mind, I did my very best to negotiate with her lawyer. I was pre-law, I knew the drill, and I knew there were always loopholes in every contract, even a will.
Not this time. If I didn’t do as she asked, it would go to the state. When I asked why the house wouldn’t go to my brother, the lawyer replied that he had refused it: he’d claimed a vow of poverty and couldn’t accept the house or the land. Sanctimonious bastard.
I sold it, losing out on a hundred grand. That’s how badly I didn’t want it. However, I still had to stay there and take care of everything inside. I figured I’d hold an estate sale and whatever didn’t sell, I’d toss.
Being back home brought back unpleasant memories of my workaholic dad, my alcoholic mom, and my abusive brother. I hated it.
It took me over a week to price everything–most of which was junk–and then I realized, I couldn’t give the city this house without seeing what was in the basement. What if there was something combustible down there? Or valuable?
My fear of the place was still there, buried deep down but there nonetheless. I felt like an imbecile. I went three times all day today, trying to open the doors and get it over with. Each time shaking limbs and a pained stomach stopped me.
I spent the rest of the day and evening berating myself as I watched the sky darken and the usual autumnal thunderstorm roll in, drinking what was left of my mom’s liquor cabinet. I passed out on the living room sofa, only to be woken by a loud crash of thunder. I flew off the couch, frightened, as the power flickered a few times and then went out just in time for me to see the clock read 3AM. I let my cell illuminate the room, not that it did a great job. Looking out the back doors, I saw that the lightning hit a tree in the neighbor’s yard that had fallen partly into my yard.
Sighing, I threw on my hoodie and went outside to be sure there was no damage to the house. Rounding the side, I was relieved when all I saw was a branch sticking into the doors to the basement. Shielding my eyes from the driving rain, I removed the branch, which came apart with a wet crack, taking with it the old, rusted padlock on the doors.
Despite the fear in my gut and the hangover pounding in my head, I figured the Hell with it and threw open the doors, smelling the wet, moldy stench all places like that have after being closed up for years. And there was something else, something cinnamony.
I began my descent, cell phone before me to cast some kind of light into the inky darkness that seemed to be seeping into my bones just like the cold rain was. The stench got worse, a thick wet smell that made me want to gag.
As I went further down, the doors slammed shut behind me and I jumped. Damn wind. Now it was not only pitch dark except for a foot of smartphone light, it was silent like the grave and I shivered.
Take a look around and get the Hell out, I thought as I finished my descent, breathing through my mouth. I fumbled my cell, trying to get the light to stay steady in my trembling hand. Shouldn’t I at least be able to hear the storm?
The silence and darkness combined was too much. I just wanted out. Finally I got my hand to steady and waved my phone from side to side to get a panorama. What I saw made me collapse on the steps behind me.
Corpses. At least a dozen. Men, women, and children, all in various stages of decay, many so old they were mummified, creating that cinnamon stench. Gaping, rotted mouths seemed to smile at me, and empty, rotted eye sockets stared at me, the intruder in the domain of the dead. Flesh was sloughing off the bones of the most recent ones, and I saw a family of maggots in one man’s eyehole.
I wondered how they all got here, many of them were so old they had to have died in the twenties at least. Fear holding me prisoner, I finally had the sense to turn around and scramble up the steps, only to slip on the rainwater.
I felt backwards and barely felt my leg break. Too much adrenaline in my veins. Grabbing my phone, I checked for a signal to dial 911. Nothing. The storm had hit the cell towers.
I tried calling 911 twenty minutes ago, and I’ve been writing this ever since in my Notes app. I’m never getting out of here, but maybe one day they’ll find my body with the others. Why do I say I’m never getting out? Because the heavy silence was broken by one thing just now: the subtle, papery sound of a body shifting
Entry #2: Come in Here
By Stevie Kopas
“Sorry I’m late,” Jill whispered as she crept through the front door, locking it behind her.
It was just past Midnight and she hoped the baby was already sleeping and that her sister wasn’t angry with her for not arriving home on time, but Maddie was curled up on the couch with a book as usual and smiled when Jill entered the living room.
“How was work?” Maddie asked, marking her page with a bookmark and hopping to her feet, stretching.
“Awful,” Jill sighed. “If I could actually leave when I was scheduled for once I might come home with a better answer. How’s my little bear?”
“Oh he’s great, been sleeping like a baby.” Maddie made a face and laughed. “Well, I mean, he is a baby, but you get what I mean.”
Jill chuckled and walked her sister to the door, giving her a big hug before sending her on her way. She was halfway up the stairs to check on baby Louis when her phone blared from her purse in the living room.
“Shit,” she cursed under her breath, praying that the noise didn’t wake the baby.
She fished the iPhone from her bag and quickly silenced it, looking at the screen.
She frowned, but answered anyway, curious as to who could be calling at this hour.
She was greeted by loud static on the other end and repeated her greeting only to receive child-like laughter in response.
“Maddie? Is that you?” She asked, but the call immediately disconnected.
Shrugging, Jill put the phone on vibrate and slipped it into her pocket. She started back for the stairs when it began to buzz.
“Seriously?” She pulled it from her pocket and rolled her eyes when she saw that it was an unknown caller again. She swiped and answered, trekking up the stairs. “Maddie, this isn’t funny.” The same static greeted her followed by a child giggling; she rolled her eyes. “I hope your parents find out what you’re doing and ground you!”
She hung up and stuffed the phone into her pocket once more before heading for baby Louis’ room. Her little bundle of joy was snuggled up and sound asleep. She smiled and leaned into the crib, gently touching his tiny hand.
“Good night, my angel. Mommy loves you.” Jill whispered.
She checked that the baby monitor was on and working before heading for her bedroom.
She changed into some sweatpants and before she could even get her oversized t-shirt over her head, her iPhone buzzed in her jeans on the floor. She let out an exasperated sigh and answered without even looking at who was calling.
“Listen up, you little shit—“ Jill started.
“Come back in here and play with me.” The little girl on the other end said.
“What?” A slight chill ran down Jill’s spine.
The little girl giggled. “I want to play. Come back.”
She rolled her eyes and scolded herself for letting it freak her out. “Go to bed, brat. I’m done playing for the night.”
She hung up and shut the phone completely off, she’d have to set the alarm on the clock for once.
Jill rolled over and squinted at the clock: 2:57. She groaned and sat up, she could have sworn she shut the phone off before she went to bed. As her eyes adjusted, she could see the screen read Unknown Caller. Jill tried to decline the call but her screen wouldn’t swipe. She hit the power button on the side, but again, the phone wouldn’t respond. In a huff, she threw the covers off and went with her only option: answering it.
“What!” She yelled into the phone.
“Come in here,” the little girl whispered through heavy static. “Come in here and play with me.”
“For the last time… Go. To. Bed.”
Furious, Jill made sure the phone was off. She got up and put the iPhone in a pile of clothes in the closet just in case there was something wrong with it and the little brat kept prank calling her. Just as she was getting back into bed, Jill froze; there was static coming from the baby monitor.
She stared at it for a moment, straining her ears for more sound, but there was nothing. She thought about checking on Louis, but he wasn’t crying and she desperately needed the sleep. Settling back into bed, she had just closed her eyes when the static came through the monitor again, this time, child’s laughter followed. Her eyes shot open and her skin broke out in goose bumps. She glanced at the clock before jumping out of bed: 3:00.
With the baby monitor in hand, she crept toward her bedroom door and again she heard the laughter. There was no denying it this time, it was the same laugh she’d heard on the phone.
“Come in here and play with me,” the little girl said.
Jill panicked and the baby monitor fell from her hands, the static screeching from it, louder now. She sprinted from her bedroom and made a beeline for Louis’ door. She charged through and turned on the light, expecting to find someone trying to hurt her baby, but the room was empty, and Louis remained fast asleep in his crib. She checked on her son, making sure he was okay, her heartrate slowly returning to normal. She cursed herself for being so paranoid, she figured whoever had been calling her had somehow hacked into the baby monitor. She would go to the police tomorrow.
As Jill turned to leave the room, the door suddenly slammed shut and her hands flew up to her mouth. She stifled a scream as she read what was written in blood on the opposite wall just before the lights in the room went out:
I knew I could get you back in here.
Entry #3: The Quiet Life
By Stephen Kozeniewski
My tongue sits in a Mason jar on my nightstand, suspended in denatured alcohol.
Do you think that makes me morbid? Grotesque?
Perhaps. I prefer to think it makes me sentimental. After all, he was an unwilling victim of circumstance.
I couldn’t keep him. The human voice is irresistible to them. Like a pheromone. It draws them. The creatures are strangely reliant on the sense of hearing, even to the detriment of all other senses. I’ve often seen them prowling the grounds at night. But they never try to come in the house. To them, the door may as well be an impassable mountain.
When they hear human speech, though, my God, it’s like they’re miniature tornadoes, destroying everything in their paths. It happened to the Martins across the street. This was after we’d all learned to stay silent. But the stillness must have been driving Ted Martin out of his wits. He made the mistake of playing a song.
It was Elvis singing, not Ted, but that didn’t matter to the invaders. As soon as the King’s voice was on the wind the creatures couldn’t flood the Martin household fast enough. They burrowed through brick, wood, and glass with equal vigor, a chitinous tide rolling in.
So we must do without music or television. Even a single errant noise, crying out after hitting your hand with a hammer and they’ll come.
Watching what happened to the Martins was what finally made me walk downstairs, take the scissors from the sewing nook, and hack out my own tongue. It seemed to take hours, longer because I had to suppress my cries of pain. Just scissoring and scissoring away, choking back the blood as it filled my mouth.
After a while I saw Grace had been watching me. She was sitting in the corner, her head hung like a schoolgirl’s. She’s a large girl. Obese, I guess you might say. I don’t find her especially attractive, but we’ve been sleeping together quite a bit. Mostly just to stave off the boredom.
I’d never even seen her before when this all began nine months ago. That was back when there was still panic in the streets and no one understood what drove the creatures. She turned up on my doorstep seeking refuge. Not really knowing what else to do I’d let her in. She’d been the one to suggest that we try not talking.
She has a terrible stutter and rarely opens her mouth out of fear of embarrassment. She had taken note that her habitual silence had made her all but invisible to the creatures. She’d shared the secret with me full days before the news had suggested it. But by then, of course, most everyone was already gone and of those who remained few of us had the discipline to sit silently in our homes for the rest of our lives.
Then the Martins died, and I cut my tongue out. I was standing there with the bloody scissors and Grace just stuck her out her own tongue and closed her eyes, waiting for me to do it for her. Even with her stutter she didn’t trust herself never to utter another sound.
So now we sit. Day after day. Occasionally reading. Often fucking. We’ve taken to exercising a bit, too, not unlike prison lifting to pass the time. We have conversations on the whiteboard, but neither of us have very much to say. Christ said the meek would inherit the earth. I doubt this is what He meant.
It’s late now. Nearly three o’clock in the morning. With nothing to occupy my mind during the day I’ve become a habitual insomniac. The power went out ages ago and there’s no moon or stars out tonight. I can hear them, chittering away at each other in their own strange language.
In the darkness I’m haunted by memories.
Grace is thumping around in the next room. I wonder if she’s exercising. Perhaps she’s just masturbating. Either way I consider joining her. At least it would take my mind off those damned things.
They start out like black insects, about the size of a fist. I wouldn’t be surprised if they are extraterrestrial, but sometimes I think it’s more likely they originated right here on Earth. How could space bugs have evolved to love the human voice so much?
When they hear you they swarm into your mouth. You can crush one, maybe five. But you can’t escape all of them. The “winner” devours your tongue. I suppose when they finally get me they’ll be denied that little treat, at least. Then it latches onto the stem, turning itself into a nasty little prosthetic tongue.
They must tug on your nerves or else secrete some kind of venom, because once one’s gotten in your mouth you stop acting normal. You just walk around, arms and legs wildly flailing, as though the little bugs are student drivers attempting to drive your body.
I’ve looked into the eyes of people possessed like that. You can see them suffering, unable to control their own bodies or even close their mouths over the invader. A fully conscious meat puppet. If I had more guts I would try to kill them when I see them wandering around the streets below. But I don’t want to draw any attention.
A noise pierces the darkness. How is that possible? Grace is fat enough to hide it, but didn’t she know? Damn. I should have used protection. My newborn baby is crying in the next room.
Wake Up Mommy
By A. Giacomi
The sensation strikes me at nearly the same time every night. Midnight, the witching hour, where pregnant women around the world rise to take a piss. Begrudgingly, I slowly glide out of bed and drag my sore feet into the bathroom. Sleep would become impossible once the baby arrived, but sleep was already escaping me in my eighth month of pregnancy, a taste of things to come I suppose.
Returning to bed, I close my eyes and try to summon any god that would hear my prayer for a restful, comfortable sleep for the remainder of the night, as I couldn’t remember what great sleep felt like.
A moment goes by, or at least it feels that way.
A tapping sound wakes me from my sleep. The sound is muffled, but difficult to ignore, it grows a little louder when I sit up in bed, but not nearly loud enough to wake my husband, who is blissfully sleeping beneath the bed sheets, unaffected and quite still.
Glancing towards the only light in the darkness, our alarm clock, I see that it reads 3 am, an ungodly hour that I hadn’t seen since my party years in my early twenties. The sound grows louder, a thumping, drumming sound that I can’t quite describe.
It wasn’t coming from the walls, but it was close…very close.
Still groggy, with eyes half open, I try to shake my husband awake so that he may investigate the sound further, but when I pull back the bed sheets I find his side empty but still warm.
Shouting out to him, I await his reply…
The house remains silent.
Beginning to panic I try to get out of bed, but a sharp pain in my back prevents me from moving any further. Stuck, I call out again, but there is still no answer. My mind races as the thumping sound returns, this time louder and in tempo with my rapid pulse.
As the thumping grows louder and louder still, my pain begins to accelerate with the sound. It was too soon to be in labour, but I was beginning to think the baby might have other plans for its arrival. Gritting my teeth and bracing for pain, I sit up and pull the bed sheets away to expose my belly.
To my horror, when I look down at the round mound attached to me, I find tiny fists are pounding against it from the inside. The thumping was coming from inside of me. This is why it had been muffled, this is why I couldn’t detect its source.
Who would imagine such a sound coming from within?
The pounding of tiny fists is drowned out by my screams, which now fill the house and possibly the neighbourhood.
With fear coursing through my veins, my heart nearly bursting, I forget about the pain in my spine and bolt out of bed and down the stairs in my nightgown. My plan was to seek help from the neighbours next door, they were my best bet until I could locate my missing husband.
Reaching the front door, nearly out of breath, I find a dark figure standing in the doorway. It takes a moment to realize who it is.
“Baby?” I say in a whisper.
As he turns around slowly, I see that it is my husband, but something in his eyes is off. He seemed hollow, like his mind held no memory of me. Waving my hands in front of him, he barely flinches, but when I try to move him out of the way and exit the house, he springs to life and holds me back.
“Stay here.” He says in an eerie whisper.
“I’m having the baby, I think, I have to go to the hospital.” I shout with all composure leaving my body.
He refuses to budge and let me pass.
I scream for help, but the thumping returns and pain surges through my entire body, silencing me. My legs get weak and I’m forced to lay on the cold ceramic floor of the hallway. It feels as though I’m about to tear in half. My husband stares down at me without expression as I writhe in pain.
Looking at my belly once more as my vision begins to blur, I see the tiny fists pounding with so much force that it didn’t seem human, there was something other living inside me, and it clearly didn’t need me anymore, it was about to make its exit.
Choose wisely, friends 😉 The winner will be announced on Saturday 29th October!