Tuesday, 2 September 2014

Tuesday Tease - Clown Friday by Edward Parker

Edward Parker provides this week's Tuesday Tease with the prologue of his novel 'Clown Friday'. I read it recently and it's a fantatstic horror read. I rated it five stars and it's definitely one to read if you're afraid of clowns!

Clown Friday
by Edward Parker

Last Year…

She fled through the mirror maze and the beast pursued her. The beast was huge and vicious and hungry. Its face was a painted death mask; its lips curved in a crimson grin, and on its scalp bounced spiked and crazy hair. It was dressed in an enormous clown suit.

And in its white gloved hands it held an axe that was gnarled through years of butchery and stained with ancient blood.

So, the beast close behind her, the girl ran between the mirrors, ran through the darkness, desperate for a salvation that she knew could never come.

Terror sharpened her senses. Smells assailed her: the old canvas of the pavilion in which she was imprisoned, damp grass, hot dogs, sawdust, the smell of the circus, the smell of the carnival…and the stench of the beast of course: low, feral, hideously eager, full of blood and murder.

At one point she stumbled, the damp grass betraying her, and she fell to the harsh ground. She remained that way for a moment, her head bowed, stray locks of her sweaty hair hanging into her face, expecting the beast to hover above her, expecting the killing blow, expecting the butchery to come.

But there was nothing.

No deadly blow, no searing pain. Her pursuer must have paused. She could imagine it there between the mirrors, in the darkness, grinning, enjoying her terror, drinking it up like the finest wine.

Slowly, she raised her head. She gazed at herself in a nearby mirror. Her face was pale, and her eyes were glassy and dazed. A single red runner of blood leaked from the corner of her mouth. And her hair – her raven dark hair – tied into those hateful bunches…

She stared at her own face, saw it reversed and distorted within the mirror’s world. She smelled her terror. She harkened to the silence. And then…

…Laughter, issuing from a thousand throats, whispering from beyond the pavilion’s canvas walls. They were assembled in the field beyond, the revellers, waiting for her screams, hungry for her agony. Their laughter continued, echoing between the polished surfaces of the mirrors.

That was enough to goad her into action.

Up, running, between the mirrors, through the darkness, not knowing where she was going, but knowing only that she had to flee, to be away from this terror.

And then…


She paused, disbelieving, filled with traitorous hope. Was she to be spared? The first ever to be spared? The flap of the canvass tent had been drawn back and daylight spilled through it. She paused. A trick, it had to be. But in the extremity of her desperation she did not care. She raced toward the opened flap, toward a world beyond that would be filled with daylight and rejoicing, and they would applaud her, and honour her, and crown her the Carnival Queen, and soon she would be back at home helping her mother to bake apple pie, or sitting at her grandfather’s knee listening to his old stories just as she had done since she was a little girl…

…and the axe that smashed into her face was as silver and as swift as a bolt of lightning.

She fell to the grass, bloodied, twitching. She had fallen to her side, and so could see herself in agonised, terrified death in a nearby mirror. Her pale face, cleaved in two, a bloodied gash rent between her eyes, and her eyes themselves, wide and shocked and disbelieving.

The beast appeared. It squatted behind her, and grinned skull-like into the mirror. The folds of the clown suit fell about it. She saw the red stained axe, and she saw the hands that held it, the white gloves now splattered with her blood. A beast - oh yes - an ogre out of some terrible fairy tale…but at the same time not a beast at all. Just a man. A living, sweating, grinning man, although…did not beasts and men often inhabit the self same skin?

He grinned at her in the glass.

“…oh, Jessica…” he crooned, “…sweet Jessica…Such a delicious Carnival Queen.”

He reached down and stroked her, his fingers playing along her dying skin.

“Time,” said the beast, “to bring these revelries to a close.”

Then all went dim and dark and quiet, and there was no more for her. No more, save for the final vision that she saw within the glass. The beast taking a knife from the folds of his clown suit, reaching down, and cutting a long strip of flesh from her naked arm. She didn’t even feel it. And then he held the strip of flesh to his lips and jammed it into his mouth, and his long teeth plunged into its crimson texture, his throat gulping as he swallowed.

And then there was nothing for Jessica. There was nothing ever again.

Click here to buy Clown Friday from Amazon US / Amazon UK

About the Author

Edward Parker was born in 1975, and raised in Stourport-on-Severn, Worcestershire. He graduated from Keele University in 1999, and has been employed as a farm hand, shop assistant, library assistant and fairground ride attendant. He currently works as a training administrator.

Initially publishing short fiction in small press magazines, Edward has so far published four novels Blood Tide, Clown Friday, No Devil Worse, and Viscoid.

Edward Parker lives and writes in Worcestershire.

Monday, 1 September 2014

Guest Author Interview - HL Carpenter

Mother and daughter writing team HL Carpenter join me for today's guest author interview to tell us about their latest book project 'In Between'. Discover more below:

Please introduce yourselves. Who are you and what do you do?
Hi, Michael! We’re happy to be here, and thank you for inviting us! We’re Helen and Lorri Carpenter, a mother/daughter writing team. We publish our fiction under the pen name HL Carpenter.

You write as a team. How did that start?
HL Carpenter, author, sprang into life in a galaxy far, far away, when the once-warring worlds of Mother and Daughter signed a peace treaty. Under the terms of the treaty, the two former foes joined forces to create fine works of fiction—and soon discovered great cooperation begets great storytelling strength. Of course, like any fictional superhero, HL has a weakness...and, like any fictional superhero, she’s not going to reveal it.

How does the process of writing work between the two of you?
Something catches our attention: a newspaper article, a poem, a picture, sometimes just a single word. From there, we imagine what would happen if... When the idea has legs—that is, when we keep seeing more things that seem related that we wouldn’t have noticed otherwise—we work up a character sheet and create a story summary.

Then we get to work, taking turns writing each section. We pass the story back and forth until we get to THE END. It’s great to reach a stopping point, pass the work on, and get it back with the next scene written—sometimes with an unexpected twist, but always following the general direction of the story based on the outline.

Once a story is done in rough draft form, we set it aside for a cooling-off period, then we revise, revise, revise.

Where do your best ideas come from?
History, combined with today’s business news. Despite how far civilization has supposedly advanced, many twenty-first century problems and worries bear a striking resemblance to what’s happened before. The old cliché about history repeating like bad chili is certainly apt. History is great fodder for writers. Put a modern spin on an old classic, and readers will relate.

Which author do you most admire and why?
We like Dean Koontz, for several reasons. First, he loves dogs. :) Then there’s his humor, both on the page and off. And, of course, the talent...oh, yes...we aspire to that level of talent.

Every author loves a good review. What has been your favourite so far?
One on Amazon for our debut young adult novel, The SkyHorse, where the reviewer says “Tovi, the main character, was a well developed and likable teenage character dealing with normal teenage problems in a realistic way. I enjoyed how the author brought the winged horse, a creature of fantasy and Tovi together to make it feel as if anything is possible.”

That’s what we were aiming for, and we were really happy the story resonated with this reader. After all, anything IS possible, right?

Where is your happy place?
That would be Carpenter Country, where we live and work. It’s a magical place that, like our stories, is unreal but not untrue.

What are you working on at the moment?
We’re in the middle of writing the first draft of a themed collection of short stories. We have another young adult novel in the rough-draft stage, one more cooling off and waiting for revision, and a middle grade novel that’s in the final stage of revision.

We also have a couple of completed cozies for adult readers that we’re thinking of publishing as a series, along with some novellas featuring the same character.

And then there are the notebooks full of ideas that are at the moment only a gleam in our eyes...

Tell us about your latest work and how we can find out more.
Our latest young adult novel was released in May. Walled In is the story of Vandy Spencer, who discovers her entire life has been built on a heart-shattering deception when her father is accused of fraud. Walled In is available on the website of our publisher, Musa Publishing.

Click here to purchase Walled In from Amazon US / Amazon UK

We also have a speculative fiction/sci-fi novella with a June release date. Taxing Pecksniffery is the story of Ichann Count, an expert at accounting warfare. She spends her days crunching numbers at the Etherworld Tax Bureau and crushing on her really cute co-worker. When the Water Tax Rebellion of 2176 geysers to the surface, Ike finds herself—and her really cute co-worker—drowning in trouble. Taxing Pecksniffery is available at the Musa Publishing website and on Amazon.

To learn about all our books, visit HLCarpenter.com. We release excerpts of our work, along with regular installments of our NewAdult novella, Jack and the Fountain of Youth, on our website.

Guest Post - Where is the President? by Roderick Vincent

This guest post is re-blog from the author's blog.

Author note: Promiscuous is an Anonymous hacker in my debut novel The Cause that will be published by Roundfire books on November 28th, 2014

February 1st, 2023

In August of 2014 when I still worked for the NSA, I attended an artificial intelligence conference in St. Louis when riots erupted in Ferguson, Missouri. Details were sketchy through the dubious media, but what I do remember was an unarmed black kid was shot and killed, and his body unceremoniously left on the pavement for four hours afterwards. I remember feeling infuriated with the ordeal, and I felt obliged to go there and join the protests. I left the University of Missouri after the day’s numerous seminars and giving my own lecture on neurosynaptic chips. A few days earlier, I had read a NY Times article on the militarization of the police, and I wondered how much of it was true. Perhaps this was in the back of my mind driving into Ferguson.

I arrived on West Florrisant Avenue as the sun finished reddening the sky. I parked the beige, mid-sized Buick rental car a few blocks away and put my phone in the glove box, leaving it behind even though I had taken out the battery before leaving. Then I walked up the street to where the rally was already underway. As the night crept over the indigo atmosphere, voices blaring from a loudspeaker grew stronger, commanding people to go back to their homes.

They had brought out the heavy machinery—SWAT buses and armored vehicles, MRAPs and paddy wagons. I stood alone watching a good twenty yards from the throng’s circumference as people yelled in the street. I stood there for an hour or so, more content to watch and observe before joining the crowd. After a while, a man split off from the crowd in jeans and a gasmask and approached me. He had a backpack slung over his shoulder and wore a flak jacket underneath his baggy Rams T-shirt, the aqua-blue ram’s horns roping around his chest like a coiled serpent as the humid breeze made his shirt flutter. He lifted his gasmask off his face and asked me my name.

“I’d rather not say,” I said. “Let’s start with yours.”


“Des what?”


He stood a good head above me, thick forearms roped with veiny muscle. He was undercover, I thought, fishing through the crowd to mark down instigators. “Nice to meet you Des Des.”

“No, just Des.”

I nodded, giving him a little lopsided grin as if to declare how obvious he was.

“What are you here for?” he asked.

“I’d rather not say.”

“The AI conference probably.”

“Why do you think that?” I asked, taken aback.

He gazed up at the sky as a helicopter flew over. Its spotlights beamed over us as it hovered for a few seconds before dashing off. “You’re not a townie. You’re missing the accent. And you don’t see people holding their hands behind their back in such a pedantic manner around here.”

“You got all of that from the way I hold my hands?”

“That and you still have a nametag pinned to your shirt.”

He laughed as I peered down and saw my name scrawled in felt tip marker on a card within the plastic folds of my badge. I hurried to unpin it.

“So really, what are you doing here?”

“I was curious,” I said.

“You look like someone checking out lions in a zoo. There aren’t any cages out here if you haven’t noticed. Are you sure you should be hanging around this neighborhood?”

Still thinking him a cop, I said, “It looks to me like these people are just exercising their First Amendment rights. What’s wrong with that?”

He moved beside me on the sidewalk. We were side-to-side as he glared at the police line a hundred yards away. The crowd chorused the word Justice as a man yelled out,what do we want?

We stood there silent for a while listening:

“What do we want?”


“What do we want?”


“What do we want?”
“Hands up, y’all.”

Hands up, don’t shoot.

“Hands up, y’all.”

Hands up, don’t shoot.

“What do we want?”


“What do we want?”


Des pulled out a pack of Lucky Strikes and offered me one. A courteous gesture. It would have surprised him if I had taken one, but I didn’t. He lit up the cigarette and blew the smoke high up into the air. “So here we are. Both observing.”

“If I might be so bold to ask, what are you here for?”

He smiled, motioning with his cigarette. “I’m looking at their formation, how they move. The people here don’t stand a chance. They’re not expecting anything to happen, see. But wait. Something will go down.”

“What makes you so sure?”

He blew a smoke ring into the balmy, humid air. Somehow by the expression on his face, I knew he would ignore my question. He took another drag on his cigarette, gazed out into the crowd massed with their hands up in the air—men bare chested with bandanas, women with cutoff jeans and rolled-up short-sleeved shirts. “They could have a fighting chance with the right equipment and a few tactics.”

“What would you suggest?”

“Flank ‘em. They’re all facing north. They’ve got a naked ass. They’re mooning the south side.”

“Who exactly did you say you work for?”

“I didn’t.”

“Would you care to share that information?”

He smiled at me with the predictable look of an emoticon, as if the whole question were a joke to him. “Prepper and Shooter. It’s one of those survivalist magazines. We’re going to put together a riot police survivor package. Sell it as a lot. We’re going to publish articles on how to beat this kind of shit.”

The sound canons started a high pitched whine, sporadic at first, the loud chirping of a pterodactyl. We watched the police line inch forward. Des reached in his backpack and pulled out a pair of shooting earmuffs. Inside the bag, I caught a glimpse of what looked like an Uzi and several machine gun clips. He shrugged his shoulders putting on the earmuffs, as if to say, sorry I’ve only got one. The sound intensified, the people in front of us now silenced, arms winged out holding their ears. I cupped my ears as well, but the sound seeped through. Des yelled, but his drowned-out voice was overpowered by the whelping of high-pitched, blaring car alarm sounds coming from the LRADs. He motioned with his finger, drawing a slow arc in the sky, then put on his gasmask.

He grabbed my arm, and I almost yanked it away, my heart pounding wildly as I thought I was being arrested. I wanted to flee, and he seemed to anticipate this, tightening his grip as a smoke bomb landed a few feet away. My exposed ears absorbed the full brunt from the sound canons, but over it I could hear shots and shouts of pain. Des had my arm, leading me away in a brisk walk, calm and sanguine, as if this were an every-day occurrence. The sound canons stopped. We walked, and I tripped, but Des stepped underneath my arm to support me. My legs shook and my throat went dry. As I struggled to find my feet, I couldn’t help but look back into the fray to see what was behind me. A canister of tear gas flew overhead. The memory I have now was feeling like Lot’s wife, staring into the dusty cloud of Sodom, people darting out of the plume of smoke, shots cracking in the thick night air, me with a body about to turn to salt. Fire ran up my throat and my eyes watered. More people fled past. More rifle shots. More people screaming in pain. “They’re fucking shooting at us,” one panic-stricken man yelled running past. “Motherfuckers are shooting into the fucking neighborhoods.”

We stopped down a side street, angled so we could still see all of the action. Des had clearly picked the spot, methodical in his every action. I wouldn’t understand his role in the Minutemen until several years later, but I was glad he was with me then.

“So what do you think?” he asked, replacing his gasmask for a pair of night goggles out of his backpack and crouching over on a knee to look through them.

A tank had run over me. I gasped for air, dizzy and disorientated. My soaked shirt glistened with sweat. My nose was running and my head throbbed. Perhaps my eardrums had burst. I fingered my temples and imagined a spliced cerebral cortex inside my head split like an egg. Des observed the police pushing forward with the heavy machinery, the forward line now attacking just as Des had predicted. Riot squads had shot 38 MM riot smoke projectiles, tear gas, and rubber bullets into a retreating crowd. Now they were hunting them in side streets and neighborhoods.

I continued to labor for breath. “How did you know it was going to go down like that?”

“How do you know a computer will do what you tell it to do? Are the ones and zeroes so easily predictable? Look out there.” He cupped my forehead between his hands and directed my gaze to the SWAT guys emerging from the cloud. Gas-masked riot police with polycarbonate shields moved through the billowing smoke. “It’s black versus white, but is that all it is? Look closely. Do you see randomness in police action, or a well thought out plan? You don’t write code without a design, do you? Look at their equipment, how they’re armed. They didn’t raid the Army surplus store yesterday.”

He let go, and I looked at him with a blank expression. My head ached, and my eardrums rung as I attempted to orientate myself. My heart beat spastically in my chest. People were running in all directions, like a nest of disturbed ants after a foot stomps the nest.

“Which bit are you—” and then he said my real name, not the name I had pinned to my shirt. “A zero or a one? Are you on or off? What are you doing out here if you don’t care? For someone who built Stuxnet, you’re smart enough to see what’s going on here. It’s much more than just race. So what is it?”

He backed away in a little lope as I tried to absorb the shock of how much he knew about me. “I’m a friend, Promiscuous. We want to let you know we respect your work. Ask yourself if you’re where you want to be. Certainly it can’t be with the NSA. You can’t play both sides of the spectrum and you know it.”

The next day, locals rallied, incensed by the over reactive police response. Over the next days—more protests, more violence, until the National Guard would move in. The President was on holiday in Martha’s Vineyard at the time, yelling fore and three-putting on a crew-cut green. Where was the President? I thought. Where is the leadership?

Rule of law had devolved, the police reacting militaristically to a peaceful protest. Noise was trapped inside the channels of communication, the public voice snuffed out by an authoritarian force. But the incident was the beginning of a much larger problem only a few were discussing at the time. The false economy was being felt, the blacks the most disenfranchised. George Gilder’s WSJ interview where he predicted America becoming both police state and social state was eerily prophetic. America’s heart palpitated in the darkness, the President asleep while the NSA boosted data collection activities to maximum, eyeing instigators, building profiles by sniffing Twitter accounts, digging into Facebook profiles, worming into mobile phones and listening in directly on West Florrisant Avenue. They sucked in each heartbeat into a mosaic of what was to come. Government growth a vine, its tendrils spreading into the cracks deep within the heartland.

Read Chapter 1 of “The Cause” here where a riot takes place in L.A. in 2022. Has anything been learned eight years into the future? Thanks for reading, and let’s hope a lesson is being learned in Ferguson. It’s time to take the country back.

You can visit Roderick Vincent's blog here: http://roderickvincent.wordpress.com/

Sunday, 31 August 2014

August Short Fiction Contest Winners

It's that fun time of the month where I read all of the entries for the latest short fiction contest and pick the winners. I'm always impressed by the standard of entries that I receive and this month proved no exception. Considering the image there was also a wider range of stories than I expected. So I've had a fun day reading through them. Picking the winners wasn't easy, but I've picked three that I think you'll appreciate.

Before announcing the winning stories I'd like to thank Tom Long for allowing me use his incredible picture. I'm sure you'll agree that it provided excellent inspiration!

And now for the winners:
  • First prize of a £50 Amazon or PayPal prize goes to John Boden for 'The Going Rate'
  • Second prize of a £20 Amazon or PayPal prize goes to Kath Middleton for 'Dead End'
  • Third Prize of a £10 Amazon or PayPal prize goes to Matt Porter for 'Friend or Foe'
Congratulations to the winners and thanks to everyone who entered and thanks to everyone who supports this contest by sharing the links. Please continue to do so your help is much appreciated.

The Going Rate by John Boden

Cloth over  mouth, her breathing slowed. She looked so much like her mother. If it weren’t for that bitch, he wouldn’t be doing this now. She left him with their daughter so she could “Find herself,” left him with a replica of herself, one that called him Daddy and a mountain of debt.

It was a tax month and  Denny had to pay in. He rubbed his eyes and watched the clock. The Collector would be by soon.  Looking at the bill and the amount owed, he picked up the shears. 

He knelt beside the sofa and stared into his sleeping daughter’s face. He took her hand in his,  folded the fingers, allowing only the pinky to remain extended. Holding it between his thumb and finger, he slid it between the blades. The bones snapped with a small crack. The girl winced but did not wake.  He grabbed the ice pack beside him and held it against the spurting stump, then took the shoelace and tied off the base of the finger as tightly as he could. 

He picked up the finger and wrapped it in the proper form, stuffed it into the red envelope and went to the porch. The porch lights winked on one at a time. There were three lights crying red.
He slid the clear pane from the light box and swapped it for a red panel of glass. 

At the end of the street, a shadow broke free, a long shape that took on more detail as it stretched to the center of the street.  Denny stepped back into the house ,closing the door. He peered through curtains as the Taxman approached.

Tall as time and as long as hours, it strode down main street,  boots clicking on asphalt. Its fish-belly skin glistened like fungi. A black suit, stitched with black hole and strychnine. Taxman's arms ended in hands like squid. Impossible fingers, like lengths of living rope.  He stopped at Ordini’s house, stepped on the porch, knelt and picked up the red envelope from the mat.  The thing swiveled in the direction of Denny’s house. It smiled at him. The smile was stitches and railroad ties. The eyes that nested above it, were beetles in cataract flesh. 

The Taxman tore open the parcel and extracted something red and dripping.  He ate it, reached into the mailer and with a bloody finger, drew a large circle on the door.  The light went out on the  porch and the Taxman was back in the street. 

Denny had watched it collect its wages. A tongue from the Melvoins; Old man Mellick must have owed more than anyone, for his envelope bulged ,a hand dangling from the unsealed end.  

Denny sighed and sat on the floor, he could not bear to watch this thing eat his little girl’s finger,  to see its face up close. His wife had always done the taxes, knew the ins and outs, not him.  Had he still had a tongue, he'd have screamed.

Dead End by Kath Middleton

It has been reported in some of the more dubious press outlets that 3.7 million Americans believe that they have been subjected to alien abduction. Ridiculous. Why would aliens choose one nationality above others? I know that they don't. They took me.

I lost a week from my life last year. I went to bed as usual and when I woke I assumed it was the following morning. I felt a bit sore but otherwise I had no reason to think anything was amiss. People asked where I'd been when I went into work 'next day' and I didn't know what they were talking about. Reality came back slowly, like the snatched morning memories of nightmare.

I went to bed one night and woke, sedated and partially anaesthetised, in a gleaming laboratory staffed with metal ‘workers’. I never knew where it was situated: on a ship: on another planet? An ovum was removed from my body and returned fertilised. I was left alone then, but for the metal beings which brought me food and drink and removed my waste products with mechanical efficiency. My belly swelled at a frightening rate and three days later the true nightmare began.

The hot, tight mound of my abdomen began to lurch and writhe. It appeared that the gestation period was mercifully short. I lay upon the couch, groaning as my body tried to wrench itself apart. I was mortally afraid. I did not see any of my abductors so, thank god, I didn’t know what the father of the hybrid child looked like. I struggled to expel it, screaming both in pain and in rage at the violation of my body.

With one final lurching contraction I expelled the monster in a slurry of stinking mucous and it lay, writhing and tormented, between my trembling thighs. It was unnaturally thin and long and had been curled, folded, within me. It stretched and opened a ghastly mouth ringed with needle-like teeth and I could immediately see that there was no throat, no oesophagus. This thing could not feed! I felt elated and hoped they would discard this as a failed hybridisation experiment.

They returned me to my bed at home but the horror is not yet over. Unwilling to admit defeat, the alien beings seem bent upon keeping this creature alive, perhaps to backcross it and introduce some element of its genetic make-up into their moribund species. I am not expected to feed it as I would a human child. Thank god! But they return it to me every night to clutch at my body, lie along the length of me in a travesty of a human hug, and leech the life-force from my body as it grasps me with its cold, sticky limbs.

This cannot go on. I am losing weight and will not live much longer. When I die, it will die too, this hybrid disaster; this evolutionary dead end. I am happy, on both counts.

Friend of Foe by Matt Porter

Children are born without prejudices. They won’t make assumptions based on skin colour, or gender. They’re pure, a piece of clay to be moulded. Of course, some things have to be taught. Don’t touch the flame, it’s hot. Don’t touch the knife, it’s sharp. Other things we take for granted though. Little Tori’s parents didn’t think to tell her to stay away from the infected. Because why would they? It was obvious. 

So the first time Tori encountered one, she didn’t know what to do. To her, it was scary looking, sure. Its face was barely human anymore. Colourless, unblinking eyes constantly surveyed its surroundings. Faint, wiry strands of hair were all that remained on top of its head. Its mouth was the most terrifying of all, sharp fangs interlocked each other across the front of its face. She wasn’t actually afraid though.

In fact, she thought this man looked quite sad, but she didn’t know why. She had stumbled into this room accidentally, and found him huddled in the corner, shying away from the light. His breathing was heavy, perhaps he was sick? His beady eyes watched her as she skipped towards him. With the man bent over, she was just about as tall as him.

“Hello, I’m Tori. Are you okay?”

The man in front of her didn’t reply, he averted his gaze, scanning the rest of the room. Tori frowned. 

“We have some medicine if you want it, my daddy keeps it in a box.”

Still no reply. The man was panting harder and harder, almost trembling. She put her tiny hand against his forehead. 

“You feel warm.”

The man suddenly stopped heaving and simply looked into Tori’s eyes. 

“Do you need a friend?” She asked.

A commotion erupted outside.

“Victoria?! Where are you?”

Suddenly, Tori’s parents burst in through the door. 

“Oh my God, Tori, get away from it!”

Her mother rushed towards her, grabbed her up into her arms and dived onto the floor. The creature huddled in the corner quickly straightened out, and seemed to seethe with rage at the incursion. It snarled, but before it could act, Tori’s father aimed his shotgun and fired. The headless creature twitched once, and crumpled to the floor. As the noise from the shot died down, Tori’s screams still echoed around the room. Her father moved over to where her mother was cradling her child on the floor.

“What were you doing? Those things kill people!”

“I thought he was lonely, I was going to be his friend.” 

Tears were pouring from her eyes. Her parents explained to her what the infected were, and how dangerous they could be. Despite that, for the rest of her life, Tori never forgot her friend in that small room, and the frightened look he gave her just moments before he died.

Sunday Story - The Thrift Store Tome by Randy D Rubin

Image credit: Wikimedia Commons Author - Shubi
Randy contacted me after he'd written a story for September's short fiction contest. The story was too long to be considered for the contest but after reading and enjoying it I said that it had to be featured in this week's Sunday Story - so here it is!

The Thrift Store Tome by Randy D Rubin

If I’d stayed another minute at the house I’d have killed her. The rage was building in me, percolating like an old coffee pot with the hollow glass ball on top. I jumped in the car and took off. Fuck that crazy bitch I married! I’m so sick of her smart-assed mouth I could slap it to the back of her head.

First thought: Let’s go get rip-roaring, shit-faced drunk down at the pub on Thirteenth Avenue and King Street. Then I could drive home and beat the shit out of my wife and claim it was a blackout. Nah, it’s not worth the domestic charge. Then I saw the Thrift Shop sign and decided to cool off and look around; might just find a hidden treasure and salvage a perfectly shitty day. I pulled in and parked without incident.

After a bit of browsing I meandered to the back of the store where they keep all the bookshelves of mostly worn out paperbacks and old cookbooks, a few hardback books had caught my eye and I wanted to check them out. I only buy hardback bound books and have found some really good ones at this particular ‘Thrift’. There were a few large boxes of books off to one side of the wooden shelves and out of the corner of my eye I saw what looked to be a very old binding, possibly leather, with one corner of the book jutting up out of a stack. There was a blue bookmark tassel hanging out of the bottom I and knew we might be onto some little treasure hidden amongst the trash boxes.

I yanked the book out of the box and when I saw what I had, I wanted to hide it from the view of my fellow Thrift Shop shoppers. The excitement was building in me and I could almost feel the adrenaline injection coursing through my body. This book was old and leathery and it smelled of age. It had that delicious ‘old book scent’ that only bibliophiles can truly understand. It was beautifully bound in what looked like calf’s skin, (hell, it could have been human baby skin for all I know) and it had the most ornately carved leather strap closure with a tarnished silver buckle that by itself had to be worth the price of the book. “I may try and cut that silver buckle from the tome when I get this beauty home.” I thought to myself.

I turned it over twice in my hands, standing now away from the shelves and boxes of books so as to have a bit of privacy while I examined my find. There were no words on the cover of the book. There was no Title or Author’s name anywhere to be found. I scrutinized it very carefully, looking for any clue as to what the book might be about. My curiosity got the better of me and I unbuckled the leather strap. For the first time since I left my house, I thought about my wife and kids, and some ominous feeling of foreboding swept over me. I thought of my kids growing up and my wife moving on with her new life and them going on without me. I pulled the buckle loose and lifted the strap out of it. The tome felt heavier in my hands. I felt a mild tingling going up my arms. I couldn’t stop now. I had to see what this book was all about. I had to know. I had to know what was written within these dusty pages and I opened the cover and I read the large letters on the title page that appeared to be written in ancient blood. A blood so dark with age it was at long last black and that’s when the blood raced from my own arms.

I ran to pay for my purchase. I had to have this book, had to peruse all its promised secrets. I had this fierce desire to know its every word and study its text in great depth. I tugged at the buckle, still intent on ripping it from the binding and selling it at the nearest “WE BUY GOLD” place to recoup my money. My head swam with a dizzying euphoria as I trotted out to my pick-up. I held tightly to the tome, not wanting to let it go. I jumped in the driver’s seat and opened it to the title page again. The excitement was causing me to hyperventilate. I had found a priceless antique treasure here. I was sure of it. This book, without that stupidly expensive binding buckle, had to be worth a small fortune! It had to be, for Christ’s sake! I fumbled for my truck keys, only to drop them in the floor. My chest hurt from all the excitement, my arms, my hands down to my fingertips were completely numb. I dropped the book in the seat next to me, unable to hold onto it any longer. If what I just read were true, this book could very well hold the secrets to… good God. The pain in my chest, my arms… I can’t catch my breath! The Book did this! That damned, Ahhh! I can’t see my… the secrets… in the book. I shouldn’t have opened it… Somebody help me. Somebody please help…

About the Author:

Randy D. Rubin is a retired US Navy veteran and writer of dark fiction and even darker poetry. His is the featured poet at The Horror Zine.com's September issue. His 2 horror novellas, "The Witch of Dreadmere Forest" and "The Legend of My Nana, Miss Viola" can be found at Amazon, Barnes and Noble and Goodreads. He is a proud grandfather of three grand-creatures and lives with his faithful dog, Eva LaRue, in a hundred-and-thirteen-year-old haunted house in Portsmouth, Virginia.

Check out Randy D. Rubin's books at: Amazon US / Amazon UK

My Books on Goodreads