Wrestling with Horror! Turning Face debuts June 12th!

turningface copyTurning Face, a new novella by Terry M. West, is the story of Tojo Smith, an undercover hate demon whose job involves creating hatred in the fans of a local wrestling promotion near Fort Worth, Texas. Portraying the masked heel known as the Crimson Demon, Tojo’s job is suddenly endangered when the fans begin to cheer his devilish antics. Soon after, Hell intercedes and Tojo finds himself on a mission to restore this imbalance before he faces the wrath of Satan himself!

“This is a story that has been knocking around in my head for a long time,” Terry revealed. “Wrestling was a fixture in my youth. I grew up in Texas and I watched a ton of World Class Championship Wrestling in the Fort Worth area. My heroes were the Von Erichs but I always had a soft spot for the heels (bad guys). The Freebirds, Macho Man Randy Savage, Ravishing Rick Rude… these guys entertained the hell out of me. They were the most interesting characters I had ever encountered. They did all of the hard work and had excellent mic skills. I think it is hard to make people despise you on that kind of level.”

And though Tojo Smith is a demon, West insists that he may be the most sympathetic character he has ever given life to. “Tojo is referred to as Eden-born. What this means is that he was born on earth. His parents are two pit demons, disguised as humans, who conceived Tojo topside. As a result, Tojo feels very alienated. He is just a lonely spectator, trying to figure humans out. But he also has no connection to Hell. He is an orphan, caught between two worlds and it is very difficult for him.”

Turning Face has its moments of humanity, but it is definitely a horror tale with a gory finale that defies description. “There is a lot going on with this novella,” West explains. “There’s humor, but not the slapstick kind. There is a lot of wrestling. The tale builds to a pretty gruesome third act. But I will say that Turning Face is the most original thing I have ever created. It is a love letter to old school wrestling and horror/comedies of the 80s.”

Turning Face: A Tale of Horror, Comedy and Wrestling! will be available Friday June 12th as a Kindle e-Book with a paperback edition to follow shortly after.

Turning Face is being offered for the launch price of $0.99 until July 4th!

US readers can order it here and the rest of the world can copy and paste this universal book link in their browser to reserve a copy: myBook.to/babyface

 

CAR NEX: THE SERIES Unleashed on May 8th!

car_nex_book_cover_by_terrymwest-d7mydl9Car Nex (short for Carnivore from the Nexus) might be author Terry M. West’s best known tale. Since re-releasing the short story in 2013 (it was originally published in 1997) it has been read by thousands of horror fiction fans.

Car Nex concerns Adam Campbell, a Southern family man who, in a small town called Pleasant Storm on a hot September night in 1965, calls forth a demon from an ancient tome that he has found among his family heirlooms. At first, the words of the dark book make no sense to Adam. But as he studies it, he begins to understand the symbols and he is compelled to invoke an incantation that releases something on the small quiet town that can be described as an unstoppable whirlwind of talons and fangs.

The Car Nex has crossed over into several of Terry’s tales, and he decided to create a short story series based on Car Nex.

“It is a shared world series with looser reins than most,” Terry confides. “The authors own their stories and I give them permission to use my monster. It is a creative marriage, but the stories belong to the contributors.”

evilonedover copyCar Nex: The Evil One by E.R. Robin Dover will be the first non-West Car Nex story published. It debuts on May 8th on Amazon. The synopsis: Aldo Capello, the mayor of New York city, is threatened by an underground terrorist group that he has been secretly financing in an effort to keep New York safe. With a wide scale terrorist attack looming, Capello summons a creature of hell to destroy his enemies. The Car Nex has been unleashed, and it is ready to take Manhattan!

It is the first of many to come.
“I have reached out to some fantastic authors, and the story pitches have been terrific,” West explains. “Basically, I am encouraging the contributors to tell a story with my monster in their voice and/or fiction universe. The stories don’t necessarily tie together, but they are all inspired by my story. I hope to eventually publish an omnibus of stories.  I will be announcing further tales soon and believe me, creature feature horror fans are going to love these!”

CAR NEX: THE SERIES has a Facebook page you can follow to keep up with all of the details:
https://www.facebook.com/carnexseries

Preview: Night as a Catalyst by Chad Lutzke

Night as a CatalystHFM contributor and horror author Chad Lutzke has just released a new horror fiction collection. Night as a Catalyst is now available for a special launch price of $0.99 until Monday.

Synopsis:  As beautiful as the night can be, it often plays a role in something more foreboding, supplying the catalyst for things both terrifying and imaginative. Utilizing this hallowed time of the day, author Chad Lutzke has written and compiled 18 stories, with creature features, sleep deprivation, hiding the undead, revenge, cannibalism, morbid habits, and executions of karma being just a handful of the themes covered in this book. Read on and discover what the mind produces when using the night as a catalyst.

Check out this excerpt from the story, Birthday Suit:

As the evening matured, the moon guarded the neighborhood in a blanket of blue; while in the tree house, gossip was slung, pages were flipped, and appetites were gained.  Mrs. Tessal headed out back with the quart of milk and a Tupperware container full of cookies.  She pulled a rope below the fort, and the other end tipped a small, rusty bell that struggled to make an audible ring.

“Send down the bucket, boys.  I’ve got goodies for you.  Chocolate-free, Shawn.”

“Okay, thanks Mrs. Tessal.”

Both boys hurried to the bucket.  Kyler got to it first and slowly lowered it down to his mother.  She placed the goods in the bucket and tugged on the bell again.  Humoring the boys.

“Thanks Mom!”

Kyler pulled the care package up through the hole in the floor of the tree house and pulled out the contents.  The milk was freezing cold.  It would feel good going down on such a warm night.

“Oh, and Kyler.  No whizzing out the windows up there.  If you guys need to use the restroom then you come inside.  I’m leaving the slider unlocked for you.”

“Yes Ma’am.”  They both chuckled, knowing full well they’d be watering the lawn at some point.

The cookies were still warm and chewy.  While the boys carelessly ate, the open pages of Fangoria collected the small crumbs that dropped, while the bigger chunks acted as edible bookmarks.  By the end of the feast, only drops of milk remained at the bottom of the quart, bellies were full, and veins rushed with sugar.

“I’ll be right back,” said Kyler.

 

“Where you going?”

 

“I’ll be right back.”  Kyler insisted.

 

Shawn watched as Kyler hurried down the ladder and sprinted for the garage—the glow of the moon lighting the way.  Moments later, Kyler returned holding something in his hands.  He climbed the ladder and fed a pair of binoculars through the hole in the floor and pulled himself up.

“Yes!”  Shawn shouted.

“No.  We’re not watching Suzie.  This is for spying on every other house but hers.”

Shawn gave a disappointed look.  He grabbed the binoculars and brought them to his eyes.  At first everything was a blur.  He lowered them and looked for a line of perspective, then brought them to his eyes once more.  One street over he could see someone’s living room illuminated by nothing but the glow of 100 yards of green football field being cast from a large flat screen.  A man sat reclined in his chair, intermittently sipping on a beverage.  A quick sweep around with the binoculars led to an open, well-lit garage on the other side of the street.

“Woah!  Who’s that?  She’s so hot!”  said Shawn.

“Nuh uh.  Let me see.  Where?”  Kyler snatched the binoculars from Shawn and searched intently for the hot female.

“Over a little.  In the garage.  No shirt.”

Kyler searched frantically until he spotted the garage.  A shirtless, overweight man sat at the end of his weight bench covered in sweat from lifting.

“Awww..you jerk!”  Kyler punched Shawn in the leg, who was too busy laughing to feel it.

“Good night, boys!”

They hadn’t even heard Mrs. Tessal open the slider.  Kyler dropped his dad’s binoculars out of his mother’s view.

“Good night!”  The boys said in unison.

The house went dark, save for a dim kitchen light showing the way for any midnight trip to the bathroom.  After recovering from the startle, they both wiped their brow symbolizing a close call.

“Ya know, Kyler.  Does Suzie even like you back?”  Shawn asked.

“Sure she does.  Just the other day in school she asked me to stand by her in the lunch line.”

“She made you stand there to keep her place in line while she went and talked to Bill Weston.”

“You make it sound so…”

“Platonic?”

“No!  You make it sound like I’ve got no chance at all.  You don’t see the way she looks at me.”

“Why don’t you ask her out to a movie?  Make it a scary one.  She’ll be all over you.”

Kyler lit up.  “Good idea!  They have that special showing of The Shining next week.  She’ll be all kinds of freaked out.”

“There ya go!  Hey, maybe we could double date.”

Kyler laughed at the thought.  “Who are you going to take?  Your little sister?”

Shawn’s fist made contact with Kyler’s shoulder.  “Lame.  I’ll get somebody to go.  Maybe that new girl.”

Kyler rubbed his arm.  “Samantha?”

“Yeah.  Samantha.  I’ll ask her and we’ll make it a double.”

“Good luck with that.  She’ll get freaked out by your horror fanboy self.”

“Nah.  I’ll tone it down.”

“No you won’t.  You’ll be chanting ‘red rum’ an hour before we even get to the theater.”

“You challenging me, bro?”

Kyler puffed his chest out.  “I challenge thee.  If you get her to say yes, you can’t say ‘red rum’ one time all night.

“Here’s Johnny!”  Shawn gave his best Nicholson.

“That either.  You can’t do any line from the movie.”

“All work and no play makes Shawn a dull boy.”

Kyler laughed.  “You’ll never make it.”

“Hey, technically that’s not even a line in the movie.”

A light flicked on in the house next door, catching their attention.  Kyler quickly raised the binoculars and watched his neighbor, Mrs. Wilson, open her fridge and search it.

“What do old people do all day?  Kyler asked.  “I mean, Mrs. Wilson just shuffles around, feeds her cat, waters her flowers, and fills the birdfeeder.  That can only take up so much of your time. What do they do the rest of the time?”

Shawn lied down and got comfortable in his sleeping bag.  “They nap.  Nap and watch game shows, I think.”

Kyler turned around to see Shawn tucking himself in.  “You going to sleep?”

“Yeah.  Sugar rush is gone, and I’m coming down.”

“Same.  Those were some good cookies though.”  Kyler followed Shawn’s lead and situated himself for sleep.

“Yeah they were.  Your mom is like the Stephen King of baked goods.”

“What does that even mean?”

“I don’t know.”  Shawn chuckled at himself.  “I’m tired.  G’night, Kyler.”

“G’night.”

The boys lay silent for a full minute before Shawn threw in the last joke of the evening.  “Red rum!”  An explosion of laughter traveled halfway down the block.

As the crickets sang their lullaby, the boys drifted off into a satisfying sleep; safe within the four walls of their favorite place on earth.

 

***

Initially their slumber was not disturbed by the beam of light that shot down from the sky and into the backyard.  The beam of light that left behind a perfectly black, round scar in the grass and two slender humanoids with skin that resembled that of a dolphin.  The figures stood silent in the dark while a gelatinous layer of liquid formed around their feet and eventually up over their heads, as though sinking into an invisible pool of mucus.

It was the smell of the burnt grass that stirred Kyler.  Still half asleep and dreaming, his imagination got the best of him as he envisioned flames from below, threatening to lick his precious fort to death with him in it.

Kyler pushed himself up and peeked out the makeshift window facing the back of the house.  Both figures stood on the burnt ground; a blue ghostly aura around each one.  Kyler rubbed the sleep out of his eyes and squinted, fighting through the blur.  He squinted harder.  The sight of two figures glowing blue in the backyard made little sense, even for one who was still half asleep.  Once the blur had gone and he was fully alert, fear dried Kyler’s mouth and gripped his throat.  He reached down behind himself without looking and struggled to make contact with some part of Shawn.

 

 

Book Review: Servant of the Red Quill by Terry M. West

 

Servant of the Red Quill
Servant of the Red Quill

Servant of the Red Quill by Terry M. West. Published by Pleasant Storm Entertainment, Inc. 

Available 01-02-15, but can be ordered now.

Overall Score: 5/5

“It’s funny, don’t you think? The way you ignored your family in life and they now ignore you in death? Some are aware of how your uncle gave his cursed baubles of the black room away. But none know of how you followed suit, in your own grief and anger.”

A broken and haunted man, Baker Johnson is a second generation parapsychologist and trustee of plagued and cursed items during New York’s “Roaring 20’s”. He turns to the drink to fill the void of his lost family and quiet the regret of unleashing his cursed items back into the world.

He is coerced away from his downward spiral in order to help an old acquaintance to his deceased uncle, another collector of plagued objects, who is being plagued by a recent acquisition. The item in question, a cursed tome written in an undecipherable language. But is Baker in any kind of shape to resist the shadows and help an inflicted soul?

“‘Go back to your whores and brandy,’… ‘You are hollow, sir. You are a faithless, immoral drunkard. The world deserves a better champion- one who is not at such odds with the people he defends.'”

The brand of Terry M. West has become synonymous, to me at least, with quality, easy to engage and tough to let go, frights. Populated with damaged heroes, imaginative creatures and real world, believable predicaments. With “Red Quill” Mr. West serves up another tightly knitted yarn. It is a period piece, taking place in 1927 with dialogue and social definitions & interactions feeling true to the era. The narrative cruises along at a brisk pace and before you know it, the last page is turned and you are left aching for more.

And with Baker Johnson, Mr. West has delivered his most gripping character yet, from a long line of memorable dramatis personae. A man working more on science and fact, less on faith, although he uses faith based items in his repertoire of tools, to abolish dark entities. He is damaged goods, but not by his own hand, at least not initially. It’s easy to empathize with Baker, feel his pain, all the while rooting for him to rise from the murk.

There is a touching moment when Baker interprets his own suffering, a  defining moment when we, the readers, feel his shift away from the his self-imprisoned black spiral. And we know, if Baker Survives he’s going to make it.

Servant of the Red Quill is a great, quick read. It’ll stick with you for a bit, the shadows rattling around in your brain pan. The character Baker Johnson has legs, hopefully strong legs, as I am quite curious and excited to see where his adventures will take him after “Red Quill”. Whatever is next, I’m in.

“Something was rotting her from the inside. ‘Use me and be very cruel about it.'”

Z-Dubbz is a big dumb animal!

Goodreads Book Giveaway

Servant of the Red Quill by Terry M. West

Servant of the Red Quill

by Terry M. West

Giveaway ends February 04, 2015.

See the giveaway details
at Goodreads.

Enter to win

Book Review: The Last Night of October by Greg Chapman

 

The Last Night of October
The Last Night of October

The Last Night of October written and illustrated by Greg Chapman, 102 pages published by Bad Moon Books.

Overall Score: 5/5
“His existence was one of silent dread; a slow, steady tick of days until that last night of October. It was his every thought, every beat of his tired, old heart.”
Then, two boys disobeying their parents and braving the worst storm in ages to honor a night made for children, to honor an annual tradition.
Now, one wheelchair bound old man, ravaged by emphysema, starring down and dreading the shadows of past tragic choices, on the anniversary of their making. Haunted by the promise of a promised visitor, the only child who will knock on his door this night, and every Halloween night passed, facing his memories cold and alone.
But tonight is different. This night Gerald is not alone and truths need to be revealed.
“‘Oh, God – was that the boy?’
‘Yes – he’s crying’ Gerald said.
‘Crying – why would he be crying?’
Gerald looked right into Kelli’s eyes.  ‘Because he knows how the story ends.'”
“The Last Night of October” is a quick and hypnotizing Halloween yarn. Greg Chapman (author of Torment & The Noctuary) is a talented scribe and he does a fantastic job here. Providing rich imagery, thick tension and heartache throughout. He had me hanging on every word of this tale, illustrating and craftily weaving both the dark sense and youthful spirit of my favorite season. I could see the snow covered ground, I could hear the heavy knocks on the door.
I was invigorated by young Gerald’s youthful sense of invulnerability and I was empathetic to elderly Gerald’s living a lifetime of regret. But then, the shuffle…
Betrayed.
This novella solidifies the fact that I need to delve further into Mr. Chapman’s catalogue as I truly enjoyed every moment of “The Last Night of October”. It’s great anytime read and a perfect addition to my list of annual seasonal reads. Fit snugly between Norman Partridge’s “Dark Harvest” & Ray Bradbury’s “The Halloween Tree”. I will definitely be revisiting this. When the nights are murky, the wind is bellowing and the candle’s flame is flickering, I will answer the knock at the door. Check it out.
Zakk is a big dumb animal.

 

All or Nothing by Stuart Keane now available!

All or Nothing
All or Nothing

Stuart Keane’s horror novel, All or Nothing,  is now available on Amazon! Stuart is an extremely talented new author and he has racked up some very impressive credits. He is also a contributor to Halloween Forevermore and his controversial piece, Vermilion: A Traveler’s Account, appeared in the Journals of Horror: Found Fiction anthology (tales written in epistolary form) which was created by Terry M. West.

Here is the synopsis to All or NothingThe Game. A lucrative pay-per-view that caters to only the richest and most extravagant of clients, those selected based on their wealth, social status and Government position. Organised and run by a secret conglomerate called The Company, and only viewable by the extremely rich and wealthy, it’s the epitome of reality television.  The Chronicles. Four twisted, egotistical, wealthy men with no remorse for the public or people below their social status. With complete control over The Choices, they can do what they want, when they want, however they want. Egos and pride clash in order to produce the best entertainment their unlimited funds can buy. The Choices. Four strangers chosen at random and ripped from their everyday lives, they are selected by The Chronicles to participate in The Game. Rules do not apply. There’s no law, no justice, no escape and no hope. The Company does not accept failure. With a client base exclusively consisting of the most influential people on the planet, their acceptance for anything but perfection is zero. When The Game begins, things start to go wrong. The Chronicles become obsessed with power, The Choices become caught in the cross-fire and The Company is overseeing everything. Tempers fray, confidence cracks and people ultimately start paying the price. The strangers begin to realise that anything is possible. Agenda’s seem random but as the night progresses, it becomes apparent that things are more personal than first thought. With The Company watching, The Chronicles pulling the violent, bloody strings and events spiraling out of hand, it becomes obvious that the outcome, and their fate, is beyond their control…

All or Nothing features a cover by legendary horror artist, Steve Crisp (read our interview with Steve here).

My Top 5 Vicious Vampire Books

There is a blood sucker born every minute on the page. Well, that may not be an actual statistic, but if you are familiar with the ever-swelling ranks of vampire books (of all styles and sub-genres within sub-genres), it sounds accurate, right? While an argument can be made that the zombie is currently the most used supernatural creature in horror fiction, the vampire has appeared in the peaks of commercially successful horror fiction more often than any other monster.

And while there are a great many commercially successful books that have hurt the mystical essence of vampire horror fiction, there are still many books to dive into where the vampires are vicious predators without a romantic bone in their cold corpses.

So I have compiled a quick list of vampire reads that will wash the nasty taste of magical realism and romantic fantasy right out of your mouths! Some of my picks are here because they are lasting classics and some are here because they take the vampire concept in a unique direction. You won’t find Bram Stoker’s Dracula, because quite honestly it is the backbone of the modern vampire tale and in a class all it’s own. So, here are my picks:

 

Interview with a Vampire
Interview with a Vampire

Interview with the Vampire by Anne Rice

I can’t say that I have read everything Anne Rice has written, but this is one book that has stuck with me since its release. What Rice did here was present the vampire as the cold predator who uses seduction merely as a colorful plumage to trap prey. And I also love that the vampire grows more distant from its humanity as it ages. Sure, some might have a spot of remorse here or there, but eventually the monster reconciles with its nature and violence becomes a reflex. Vampires don’t necessarily love; they hunger. And though they may wish for companionship (usually among their own ranks), they are asexual beings of pure impulse. Rice may have had added some sexual synergy to the mythos, but she never let you forget what Lestat and Louis truly were.

 

I Am Legend
I Am Legend

I Am Legend by Richard Matheson

Trying to describe the importance of this novel to the vampire and horror genre is like trying to explain the importance of the cordless phone to the phone industry. Besides being a ferociously different take on the vampire novel, I Am Legend was also a huge inspiration to filmmaker George Romero while crafting Night of the Living Dead. George substituted the vampire menace with the zombie, and NOTLD would go on to shape the modern zombie genre. So, in a weird way, without I Am Legend, we might not have The Walking Dead today! Masterson’s tale, written in 1954 and set in 1976, deals with the lone survivor of a plague that has turned the population into blood thirsty vampires. During the night, Robert Neville hides, boarded up in his home turned fortress. During the day, Robert destroys any slumbering bloodsucker he can get his hands on. The twist at the end of this story is monumental and all three film adaptations have failed to properly convey the role-reversal element where the last man on earth has now become the fearsome creature of legend. If you consider yourself a fan of horror and you have not read this book, you should have your membership card taken away and torn up!

 

 

Under the Fang
Under the Fang

Under the Fang by various

I just recently got my hands on a replacement copy of this great anthology from the (then) Horror Writers of America (now the Horror Writers Association). This 1991 shared world collection was edited by the great Robert McCammon and you can definitely find the seeds from which modern vampire fair like True Blood sprouted. The premise of Under the Fang is the terrifying concept of vampires taking over the world. Imagine this as a Gothic take on Planet of the Apes. With an impressive lineup that includes McCammon, Ed Gorman, Richard Laymon, Chet Williamson, Nancy Collins, Chelsea Quinn Yarbo and more, you can bet your ass that the only sparkling that vampires do in this collection is caused by the moonlight on their blood-soaked faces. This has been long out of print, but you can buy used copies which are reasonably priced (I scored mine for a penny and shipping costs) on Amazon. The Horror Writer’s Association recently reissued Freak Show, an anthology that followed this one in 1992, and I am sure a reissue of Under the Fang is forthcoming as well!

 

 

Some of Your Blood
Some of Your Blood

Some of Your Blood by Theodore Sturgeon

Though advertised as a crime novel upon its release in 1956, this book, written in epistolary form (as military files, doctor notes and transcriptions), centered upon a young soldier named George Smith. Some of your Blood takes the notion of the bloodsucker and points a starling light of realism upon vampirism (much like Romero’s obscure vampire classic, Martin). George Smith is a creature who does not morph or hypnotize or prowls only at night. He is as real as you or me; he just happens to enjoy the act of drinking blood. Though not explicitly a horror novel, this book should still be required reading for lovers of vampire tales of all styles.

 

 

'Salem's Lot
‘Salem’s Lot

‘Salem‘s Lot by Stephen King

Okay, now this is straight up my stranded on a desert isle with one vampire book choice. What is great about King’s novel is that he takes superstitions from ages ago to weave horror so thoroughly and deeply researched that those less astute with vampire lore would take it for King’s own set of rules. King took all of the actual myths that the vampire legend was built upon and he created a soulless, hungry creature with no conscience which taps on the foggy windows of friends or family members; looking for easy prey (like most predators). King didn’t create the concept of vampires appearing to their loved ones (neither did Stoker, for that matter). It was common folklore that vampires hunted their own family and they stayed in areas that they were familiar with in life. Among the rich characters that breath in King’s fiction, the vampires spread quietly and in shadows and the horror is dismissed as bad dreams or a flu bug until ‘Salem’s Lot is nearly sucked dry. It is King’s refusal to reinvent the wheel in this book that makes it special. It doesn’t read like a vampire novel; it reads like a King novel that vampires have been randomly dropped in to.

Cecil & Bubba meet Santa by Terry M. West

Cecil & Bubba meet Santa
Cecil & Bubba meet Santa

Cecil McGee and Turner “Bubba” Teague are the lovable cursed redneck duo of Terry M. West’s popular Southern-Fried Hex Series. Cecil & Bubba were introduced in their first tale, Cecil & Bubba meet a Succubus. In this story, the two slackers accidentally ran over the dog of Rosalita, a local gypsy, while they were leaving the parking lot of a local bar in Lake Worth, Texas. Rosalita cursed them on the spot: “You shall be plagued by the strange and evil until the end of your days!”

Shortly after that, Cecil & Bubba accepted a job on Halloween Eve assisting a paranormal  researcher who was investigating a local haunted house. And during that investigation, the boys discovered that Rosalita’s curse was very real!

In their second tale, Cecil & Bubba meet the Thang, the duo have survived their first encounter and now it is Halloween night. But before long, Cecil & Bubba run afoul of an even greater supernatural threat.

The Cecil and Bubba series is a fun mix of horror, comedy and science fiction and any fan knows that there is actually a third Cecil & Bubba tale: Cecil & Bubba meet Santa! Written last year around Christmas, West continues his tradition of sharing this twisted Christmas poem for the holidays. So, without further ado, here we go, y’all:

Cecil & Bubba were hunting while drunk.

Both were trying to shake that old holiday funk.

It was a dark, cold and windy night.

It was Christmas Eve, if I remember it right.

With their rifles, Cecil & Bubba made haste.

The venison meat they could already taste.

But both were wasted and out of shape.

The feisty buck made a great, quick escape.

Cecil screamed and pitched a fit,

and he quickly blamed Bubba for all of it.

“You’re stupid and you’re slow and you’re big as a house!

Your knuckles drag and you breathe through your mouth!

I should have done this without you here!

I am out of chew and we got no more beer!”

Cecil turned and angrily stumbled away.

But Bubba wasn’t gonna let him have the last say.

With a devious grin, Bubba shot in the air.

And it gave Cecil a huge drunken scare.

It started a fight and they intended to brawl.

But then something above them gave a panicked call.

They looked up into the cold night sky.

And such a strange sight caught their eye.

Fighting the reins of a plummeting sleigh

Santa was shot, dying and slipping away.

The magical sleigh and its frightened deer crashed.

Into the trees and the earth and the lake they splashed.

Cecil & Bubba looked though the smoke and strewn toys.

Creeping slowly and sadly through the debris were the boys.

There were pieces everywhere.

Bloody limbs of all the reindeer.

Pieces of Dasher, Dancer, Prancer, Vixen,

Comet, Cupid, Donder and Blitzen.

Only Rudolph’s head was left,

his nose was still glowing in all of this mess.

Santa was dead, the steering stabbed through his heart.

Bubba wanted to cry, realizing his part.

“It’s the curse,” Bubba said.

Cecil filled up with dread.

It was the curse for accidentally killing the pet

of an angry old gypsy they’d drunkenly met.

Cecil toughened and gruffly spoke,

and tried not to cough with all of the smoke:

“Well, we could cry and crawl away.

But tomorrow is another damned day.

I say we just leave this like we weren’t here.

And I bet these magic beasts taste better than deer.”

Bubba took his cooler and collected the meat.

He took plenty enough for both men to eat.

Bubba frowned as he worked and said, “What a tragedy, man.”

But he was getting hungry and he agreed with Cecil’s plan.

Cecil spotted a few collectibles and tucked them away.

He knew he could make a killing that night on eBay.

So they took what they could, and left in their truck.

And they chalked it all up to the curse and their luck.

But deep in the woods, Santa’s corpse gave a moan.

And he issued a curse to the boys of his own.

He was immortal and would heal and he had a herd of reindeer.

And he would pay a special visit to Cecil and Bubba next year!

There was the bad list and the good list, and the judgment that came.

But Santa’s shit list was not a place where you wanted your name…

 

This Twilight Garden by John Boden

This Twilight Garden by John Boden
This Twilight Garden by John Boden

The lot was hedged with thick shrubs and squat bushes. Where there were gaps, there was fence. Nice, tall ,plank fence.  Miller stared up at the moon with wet eyes and spoke quietly to no one. He picked up the spade and knelt beside the garden. A small rectangle of tilled earth adjacent to the unused garage.  He gouged and turned the soil and watched the dislodged worms as they squirmed and wriggled back into hiding. He swiveled and took one handle of the black cargo bag that sat on the grass.  He unzipped it and took out his newest trophy.

The pale green silk of the handkerchief had darkened from the blood that soaked it. He looked at the heart in the moonlight; a fist of glistening black muscle. It had held all of her love. He gently placed it in the furrow and covered it with dirt.  He picked up the small marker he had made, a ruler-sized sliver of wood with a name written upon it in flowing cursive. This one was Emily. She had actually kissed him. Her lips dry and trembling, tasting of fruit flavored wax. He picked up the watering can and sprinkled its contents over the tiny mound, as well as the six other marked mounds and their name stakes…

Mary, the one who had held his hand.

Thelma, the tall girl with the birthmark over her ear. She talked to him for hours, but never listened.

Carrie, plain and sweet but so full of self loathing. Sara, the dark haired dirty girl, her eager hands were her downfall.

Alice, she wanted money and fame and was gone as soon as it was made clear Miller could supply neither.

Patricia, the quiet girl. She smiled and listened and did all the right things, but in the end, she  was not the one.

His knees popped as he stood and looked at the garden and the  markers. It was like a miniature cemetery. He went back into the house to get something to eat and to prepare for his evening.

Loneliness is a lot like a too big room or ill fitting clothes. These girls. These girls all been loved by him but at some point sought to leave him.  They all broke his heart. He knew it was not their fault. The heart is a seed. It can only grow as much as the hull will allow and if the seed is damaged or sick, then it will grow monstrous and wrong.  If you love something set it free…

He decided to free the seeds and plant anew.  He stood at the kitchen window and watched the moonlight soak his garden. And as he chewed, he saw the ripples in the soil. Small rolling waves. He saw the fingers as they sprouted from the earth and reached towards the sky. He saw the arms extend. They were growing.  He saw the arms and heads break through the earth, the moonlight  painted dusty breasts silver. It was working. My God, it was working!

He sat at the table and straightened his tie. Seven heart-shaped boxes of candy and seven single roses waited on the wooden surface. He heard muffled groans and the sound of bare feet on  patio tile. The cloying smell of earth and something deeper was coming through the window screen. He licked his fingers, smoothed down his hair, and wished he had a mint.

The Pumpkin Tree Giveth, The Pumpkin Tree Taketh by Tim Meyer

THE PUMPKIN TREE GIVETH, THE PUMPKIN TREE TAKETH by Tim Meyer
THE PUMPKIN TREE GIVETH, THE PUMPKIN TREE TAKETH by Tim Meyer

“One more piece please, Mrs. Greene?” Jeffie Danks said with a smile she couldn’t say “no” to.

“You know, Jeffie, it’s only one per trick-or-treater.”

Jeffie’s shoulders slumped. “But it’s not for me.”

Mrs. Greene kept the bowl filled with Snickers bars and Milky Ways between them.

“It’s for Robbie.”

Hearing Jeffie’s brother’s name sent an invisible knife into her pancreas. “Robbie?” she asked, concerned.

“Yes. I can’t talk about it,” the ten year old replied. “It’s a secret. But everything is okay.”

“Okay…” Mrs. Greene said, uncertainty creeping into her voice.

“So can I?”

“Can you what?”

“Have one more piece?” he asked.

She watched a childish grin halve his face.

“Sure, sweetheart.” Holding the bucket of candy out, Mrs. Greene looked beyond Jeffie, into the dark street where no cars passed and no other masked wanderers traveled in search of delicious treats. The night seemed to change in that instant, growing darker and more dangerous. “You be careful out there tonight. Tell your mother to call me when you’re home. Okay?”

Jeffie agreed, then took off, swinging his pillow sack full of collected goodies over his shoulder. He sprinted down the sidewalk, toward the path behind the Woodard’s yard that led to the mouth of the forest. The moon, full and bright, provided the luminance he needed to get where he was going. Jeffie ran faster than he ever thought he could, and stopped when the path finished twisting and turning and deposited him within the clearing where the giant pumpkin tree awaited.

The tree, somewhat of a roadside attraction amongst city folk, stood twenty feet tall. Pumpkins hung from the branches like dead suns within a dark, cancerous universe, void of positive energy. Jeffie ran to the base of the tree and looked down into the dark cavity filled with bags of candy. The tree had absorbed a few of them, accepting earlier offerings, but Jeffie’s most recent gifts remained; still, this was good news. The kids from the neighborhood told Jeffie it couldn’t be done, that the tree was nothing but an abnormality, holding no secret abilities other than standing the test of time. But here he was witnessing the magical moment firsthand. The pumpkin tree had accepted his gift and Jeffie waited with eager anticipation to see if the phenomenon would grant his request.

The hole glowed, wisps of tangerine smoke rising above the surface. The earth shivered as the tree’s infinite chasm gobbled the sacks of candy Jeffie had collected.

“Please…” Jeffie said. “Please let this work.”

The Pumpkin Tree Giveth…

In the distance, Jeffie heard the bell on his brother’s bike’s handlebars, the one Detective Stern had found in the woods next to Robbie’s mangled corpse.

The Pumpkin Tree Taketh…

Deformed vines several inches thick corkscrewed Jeffie’s neck, fragmenting his vertebrae before he could scream.