Day 15 – Trick or Treat by P.J. Blakey-Novis

Trick or Treat (from Tunnels & Other Stories)

P.J. Blakey-Novis

“You’re all too old to go trick or treating,” Mum had told us. “Leave it this year; let the little kids get the sweets. It’s not as if Tommy needs to eat any more junk!” She was right about everything, of course. We were too old and Tommy was already heading for a heart attack at the age of fifteen, his diet consisting largely of sausage rolls and fizzy drinks.

“We’re still children,” I replied, with a smile. “One last time, I promise. Anyway, it’s all arranged and I’m meeting some people.”  I gave mum the innocent look that she could rarely refuse.

“What people?” she asked, studying my face to see if I was about to lie to her.

“Just Chloe and Phoebe. Tommy is walking over with them.”

“Like a double-date?” she asked, not looking as though she approved. She was strict, and was convinced that any time I would spend time with a girl would end up with her becoming a grandmother.

“Just friends,” I told her, and that was the truth, much to my disappointment. I liked both the girls, and so did Tommy. The difference between us was that Tommy didn’t stand a chance with either of them, which made things a bit awkward. After muttering something about being safe and not getting up to any mischief, she finally relented and gave her reluctant blessing. Before she could finish laying down the rules, I was already on my way upstairs to get into my costume; a Grim Reaper outfit, complete with a mask and plastic scythe. As a test run I decided to creep up behind my eight-year-old sister, who cried, so I guess it was sufficiently scary for the evening. I picked up my pumpkin-shaped plastic bucket which we had used for years to collect the treats in and told Mum that I was about to leave.

“Have you got your phone?” she asked.

“Nowhere to put it,” I explained, running my hands down the sides of the costume to confirm the lack of pockets. “They are meeting me at the end of the road in a few minutes.”

“And what if you need to call me?”

“I’m sure they will have phones with them, but we’ll be fine.” Mum looked worried. She always looked worried.

“OK, back at eight-thirty. That’s late enough to be knocking on stranger’s doors.”

“Nine?” I asked, cheekily.

“Eight forty-five, and not a minute after.” I lifted my mask to give her a peck on the cheek and ran out of the house, my black costume flapping behind me.

Tommy and the girls all lived on the same road, about a ten-minute walk from me. Without wanting to sound snobbish, it is a fact that my house is on the nicer side of town.  This is why we planned to knock on doors near mine; apparently, some of the houses over their way weren’t very friendly. This also made things easier with my Mum, knowing that I would be close by. I stood at the corner of the road feeling a little foolish in my costume, waiting for the others who were late as always. The thinness of the material provided little barrier against the cold wind, and I shivered, beginning to get impatient. I tried to construct a logical route in my head that would reap the most reward, but my thoughts were quickly interrupted by the sound of giggling coming from behind me. Tommy was wearing his usual clothes; blue jeans and a football shirt which did not completely cover his belly. The extent of his Halloween efforts consisted of some white face paint with a couple of red lines, which I presumed to represent blood.

The girls, on the other hand, had put in a lot of effort, and I was thankful that mum had not seen them. They wore matching, white nurses’ uniforms. Their faces were painted green and looked zombie-like; I guess girls are good at the face paint and make-up side of things. Far better than Tommy, anyway. The uniforms were short, almost up to their buttocks, and red, fishnet stockings did little to cover the exposed flesh. I tried not to stare, but it wasn’t easy.

“Where do you want to start?” I asked. “I thought we’d do my road and then the houses up towards the church; they’re usually pretty good.” The others laughed, looking at each other as if they had a secret. “What?” I asked, not understanding what was funny.

“The girls want to check out the Monroe house,” Tommy stated, a mischievous grin on his face. He knew how I’d respond.

“Are you serious?” I asked, looking at the girls.

“Don’t be a baby,” Phoebe replied, taking my hand. As much as it felt like a terrible idea, peer-pressure and a pretty girl made my mind up for me. The Monroe house was isolated, being situated on the edge of a large, green, public space, out of sight of any other houses. Dog walkers were pretty much the only people to ever pass the house, and rarely after dark. At this time of the year, the Monroe house went all-out for Halloween, with elaborate decorations adorning the front garden and exterior of the house. None of us had met anyone who had actually seen someone living at the house, and this had sparked a range of playground rumours. Of course, the house was haunted, no-one dared to refute that out loud (although I doubted that it was the case). Only Max, a boy from school who was in the year above us, claims to have been there last Halloween.

“You don’t actually believe Max’s nonsense about knocking there before, do you?” I said, as we made our way past rows of terraced houses with pumpkins in the windows.

“It’s probably bullshit,” Tommy said, starting to feel a little nervous as we approached the darkness of the dirt track.

“Yeah, maybe. In which case there’s no harm having a look,” Phoebe said, squeezing my hand. “And what if he was telling the truth?” Max’s version, which is highly debatable, was that he had knocked on the door of the Monroe house, bravely by himself, calling out trick or treat. Although he didn’t see anyone, Max told everyone around the school that some wrinkly fingers with long nails had pushed a fifty-pound note out of the letter box. He had stood staring at it in disbelief when the three full-sized skeletons that were decorating the garden turned to face him. He insists that they chased him away, and as much as everyone laughed at him, no-one dared to go there and find out for themselves. Hence, the legend began.

Part of me hoped the house would not have been decorated, that the lights would be off, that we would decide not to knock. I’m sure we all gasped a little as we turned the corner from the track and gazed upon the Monroe house. Three plastic skeletons were erected in the garden, positioned with shovels around a hole in the ground. A hole which looked to be the right size to bury a body. There were tacky decorations in all the front-facing windows; strings of lights with ghosts and pumpkins, decals of witches on the glass, and a light-up sign attached to the front door which read ‘enter if you dare!’.

“It looks pretty cool,” Chloe said.

“Guess so,” I muttered, my eyes fixed on the skeletons, just in case they moved. Which they didn’t, of course.

“Give the door a knock then,” Tommy ordered, from his position about six feet behind the rest of us. “Let’s get this fifty quid, and we’ll go somewhere else.” I looked at him as if he were an idiot. We were gathered by the small gate which opened on to the property, no-one wanting the take the lead. After a series of awkward glances had been exchanged, Chloe huffed and walked through the gate.

“If no-one else comes to the door, then the money is all mine,” she stated, turning to face us. Again, Phoebe gripped my hand tighter and followed her friend toward the door, dragging me with her. Chloe banged on the door, three loud knocks echoed throughout the house. We were greeted by silence.

“No-one home,” I declared with relief, turning to leave. Chloe knocked again. This time we heard footsteps, accompanied by a kind of dragging sound; the first image to come to mind was a heavy-set person dragging a body. We all took a step back and waited, suddenly hopeful that some money would be pushed through the letterbox after all. However, it wasn’t; the only sound was that of numerous locks being undone. I wanted to leave at this point, but I was also frightened to run away after we had disturbed whoever lived there.

When the last locked clicked, there was a pause. I wondered if the resident was elderly and had changed their mind about opening the door. Then, with a creak, it began to swing open.

“Trick or treat,” Chloe announced, trying to sound friendly. There was no-one there, just a dark hallway barely illuminated by a string of fairy lights of either side. “Hello?” she called into the house.

“Probably a good time to leave,” I said, no longer caring if my friends thought I was a wimp. There was no-one there and walking in would be trespassing.

“Hello?” Chloe called again, this time placing one foot across the threshold.

“You can come in!” came a voice, startling us all. It sounded as though it belonged to an old woman.

“Sorry if we disturbed you,” I called in response, whispering to the others once again that we should leave.

“It’s no bother,” the voice replied. “I’ve got some Halloween treats here, if that is what you were after? Just in the hallway, help yourself. Sorry I can’t bring them out; I’m a bit frail these days.”

“See! It’s fine,” Chloe said, not sounding entirely convinced.

“Seriously?” Tommy said, a little more loudly than he had intended. “She could make it to the door to open it, so why didn’t she bring the treats then?” He had a point. The temptation of money, or even some other decent reward got the better of us and each holding on to one another, we crept into the hallway.

“Leave the door open,” I told Tommy, who looked at me as if to say that was the most obvious thing in the world.

“I’ve set up a Halloween game in the hallway if you want to play?” asked the voice. “Do a trick, get a treat. I hope you enjoy it.” It was creepy, and I was beyond having second thoughts. I decided that we should see the Monroe woman, at least show our faces, so I walked into the dark room that the voice came from.

“Hello?” No reply. I fumbled for a light switch. It didn’t work.

“The power must be off,” Tommy suggested.

“The fairy lights are working,” I said, pointing to the plug sockets that they were attached to.

“Bulb must have gone, then,” he said.

“Hello?” I called again, moving further into the room. Nothing. My eyes adjusted to the dark a little and there was no doubt that the room was empty. I felt colder. Something was wrong. “I’m going,” I told them, turning back towards the door. Before anyone could answer me, the door slammed shut, the bolts’ locking of their own accord. Chloe screamed. Phoebe began to cry.

“What the fuck?” Tommy declared. He ran to the door, attempting to pull back the bolts but found them to be red hot; the tips of two fingers and his thumb now blistered. “Fucking hell!”

“I don’t like this,” Phoebe said, between sobs.

“Call someone,” I suggested. “I left my phone at home.” The three of them all pulled their phones out of bags and pockets. No signal on any of them; not phone signal or Internet coverage. The only option for us was to look for another way out. From the outside, we saw two large windows on the ground floor, with the hallway being central to the house. The living room that we had investigated was on our left; there should have been a door to the right but the wall was solid. There were three, front-facing windows on the first floor, but we could not see any stairs as we approached the end of the hallway. It was dark, but I could sense the dread that the others were feeling, hear the sobs that Phoebe tried to stifle.

“We’ll have to smash the living room window and climb out,” Tommy suggested, his voice rising in panic. Unable to think of anything else, we walked back along the corridor only to discover that there was now no door on either side. We returned to the entrance, to find the locks still white-hot. We were trapped, completely walled in. Chloe flicked on the flashlight app on her phone. The only items in the hallway were two boxes, each about two feet cubed. One was labelled tricks’; the other was labelled treats’. Tommy opened the treats’ box as Chloe shone her light into it. It was empty. Cautiously, the pair opened the tricks’ box. There were five black envelopes in the box, each numbered, beginning at one. Tommy picked up the first and opened it, pulling the card from inside. As he read it, he couldn’t help smiling and, for a brief moment, I thought everything was going to be OK.

“What’s it say?” I asked.

“It says,” Tommy began, “that when we complete the trick card, we will get a treat card.”

“But the box was empty.”

“Yeah, well the bloody living room was there a moment ago.”

“And what is the trick?”

“It says we have to kiss each other.” Tommy was smirking.

“Oh, piss off!” Phoebe said. “You’re making that up. It’s hardly the time for joking about.” Tommy showed us the card, and he was right; ‘Kiss the other members of your group’. It sounded simple enough. We all looked at each other, a little uneasily. Then Phoebe kissed me, full on the mouth. My teenage brain kicked in, and I kissed her back, not wanting to waste the opportunity. When she eventually pulled away, we looked at Tommy and Chloe. He wore a huge grin, but she looked as though she would vomit.

“It’ll be fine,” Phoebe told her, as if trying to prepare her for an unpleasant ordeal. They kissed, awkwardly and quickly, before opening the treats’ box once again. Empty.

“I read the card, so maybe I have to kiss both of you,” Tommy said, winking at Phoebe in the dark. She didn’t hesitate, and having nothing better to suggest, kissed him on the mouth. Still no treat, unless you count the pleasure Tommy was getting from it all.

“Or maybe you have to kiss everyone,” Chloe suggested, looking a little pleased with herself. It took me a moment to realize what she meant.

“Nope!” I said, without hesitation.

“It’s no more gross than us having to kiss him,” Chloe told me.

“Thanks!” Tommy replied. “Come here, big boy!” he said to me, trying to make light of the situation.

“OK, but no tongues,” I warned him. He didn’t listen, finding the whole thing funny as he slipped his tongue into my mouth. I leapt back in disgust. Chloe was right. He had needed to kiss us all, and there was now a treat envelope to open.

“Ten pounds,” Tommy announced as he pulled it from the envelope and stuffed it into his pocket.

“To split,” Chloe said.

“It was my card!” he retorted.

“You were the only one enjoying it; we should be paid for having to kiss you!”

“Like a prostitute?” Tommy replied, smugly. Chloe stopped talking after that.

“We can worry about that if we get out of here. Who is going to open the second trick?”

“I’ll do another,” Tommy offered. “Maybe I’ll get a hand-job this time.”

“I’d rather die,” Chloe said. “I’ll do it.” Handing the phone to Tommy to hold, she read the second card aloud. “Slap the other members of your group.” With an idea of the rules, and no restraint, Chloe smacked Tommy across the face, hard. He yelped and looked angry but kept his mouth shut. She proceeded to slap me, not with much force, and then Phoebe, muttering an apology as she did it. Quickly, she turned to the treats’ box and pulled out the new envelope, stuffing the twenty-pound note into the top of her stockings.

“Now you really look like a whore,” Tommy told her. She ignored him. “Who’s next?” He looked at Phoebe and I. I let her choose and, with the assumption that the tricks would become more severe, she asked to go next. After I had nodded, she opened the box, taking out the third envelope and reading it in her head. Her eyes widened a little, and she looked at us nervously.

“I’m not doing that,” she said, holding the card to her chest. “Let’s check the door again, maybe we can touch the locks with something over our hands?”

“Like what?” Tommy asked. “You two are pretty much naked and that Grim Reaper outfit looks like it’d burst into flames.” Phoebe headed to the door regardless, and we heard a clink as she slid one of the bolts aside. I ran over to her in excitement.

“Have they cooled down?”

“Only the bottom two. You can feel the heat from the other four.”

“Two cards, two locks,” I muttered as our eyes met. “We’re going to have to do all of them.”

“But there are five cards and six locks,” she pointed out.

“Maybe the last treat is the final bolt?” I said, hopefully. “What did your card say?” She passed it to me and looked at the floor. ‘Take blood from the other members of your group’. Attached to the card with some tape was a razor blade.

“It’s fine,” I told her, putting my hands on her shoulders. “I’m sure just a drop will be enough; it won’t hurt.” I unstuck the blade and handed it to her, extending my fingers in front of her. “Just prick the end.” It stung like a paper cut, quickly turning crimson as a few drops fell from the end of my forefinger. Tommy and Chloe were still bickering and hadn’t heard what we needed to do. Perhaps the strangeness of the situation had gotten to them, but they did not try to refuse. After all, what else could we have done. Phoebe went to the door to check our theory out and found three bolts were now cool enough to handle. In the treat box was an envelope containing a fifty-pound note.

“I guess I’m up next,” I said, moving towards the box.

“Shit, sorry,” Tommy mumbled, holding card number four in his hands. “I’ve just read it.” He didn’t look happy. I snatched it from him; ‘Choose one member of the group to leave behind’.

“Well I don’t see what you’re meant to do, it’s not as if we can get out yet,” I told him.

“And we aren’t leaving anyone behind!” Chloe said, panicking that Tommy would choose her. I opened the treat box but found nothing. We were puzzled, not understanding what was required of us.

“Just pick someone and say the words,” Phoebe suggested. “As long as we all understand that we don’t really leave anyone here.” We all nodded.

“I choose Chloe to leave behind,” Tommy announced, loudly. Chloe slapped him for a second time, muttering ‘prick’ under her breath. “Easy money,” Tommy said, tearing at the fourth envelope. “This is becoming quite profitable,” he said, holding up eighty pounds with a greedy grin. He added the money to his earlier ‘prize’, and then it happened. Perhaps it was a delay from him saying the words, maybe it needed him to actually pocket the cash, but that was confirmation enough. A swirling pattern began to appear on the wall behind Chloe. Before we could warn her, six arms reached out as far as the elbow, wrapping around our friend. She let out a muffled scream, but it was too late; they pulled her into the wall, and she was gone. Too quickly for us to react, too suddenly for us to even process what was happening. Phoebe launched herself at Tommy, pounding his huge gut with punches. He felt responsible, that much was obvious, but she was gone and there was no obvious way to get her back.

“One more card,” I said. “Let’s get this done and get out. We can find help once we escape this house.” I picked up the final card, ignoring my apprehension. I just wanted this to be over with. Inside the envelope was a small rubber stamp and ink; the sort of thing you find in gift shops at tourist attractions. I opened it to see a skull design. ‘Choose one member of the group to play with the skeletons.’

“That doesn’t sound like something any of us want to do,” Phoebe said. “Remember Max said those things in the garden chased him.”

“If that’s the case, then I should choose myself; I’m most likely to be able to outrun them.”

“What if you can’t? Or if that isn’t what it means?” We both looked at Tommy.

“Do whatever,” he said, not seeming to care. “If those bony fuckers try anything then I’ll sit on them.” He was trying to sound brave, but his voice quivered as he spoke. It was selfish of me, but he had done that to Chloe so it felt fair. If I had to choose between Tommy and Phoebe then there was no choice at all. I walked over and stamped a red skull on Tommy’s forehead.

“That was the last card,” I pointed out, opening the treats’ box. There was a larger envelope; thick and padded. From inside I pulled out a card with a grinning clown, and a thick glove. I stared at it for a moment. Heatproof, I told myself, slipping it on. We ran to the door, pulling across the last of the bolts and yanking it open. Outside was dark, but nothing like what we had been enclosed within. As we stepped into the fresh air, our path was blocked by the grave-digging skeletons, heads cocked to one side as they surveyed us.  We froze, just for a moment. Then something registered with them as they seemed to notice the stamp on Tommy’s head. It happened in the briefest of moments; he was surrounded and all three, simultaneously, extended their bony hands. They jabbed at Tommy’s belly with such speed that they became a blur, the white bones turning red in the spray. Tommy’s eyes were wide, his mouth gurgling blood as he dropped to the ground. We didn’t try to help him, it was too late, so we ran. Phoebe and I, together, leaving our friend to be dragged into the freshly dug earth.

The house was deserted when we came back with help. There were no decorations, no old lady, just dust and empty rooms. The doors were where they should have been, as were the stairs. It was as if nothing had happened, and it was just us playing a Halloween prank. Of course, Chloe and Tommy were never found, and we were under scrutiny regarding their disappearances but no-one could prove anything. The only person that believed us was Max, who had actually had company when he visited the Monroe house last year, but had been too afraid to mention the disappearance of his older brother. A year later and Max’s parents still think their oldest child is travelling the world.

Tunnels & Other Stories is available for Kindle, in paperback, and on Audible here.

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Day 14 – Dirges in the Dark by Antoinette Corvo

A sample from horror novella Dirges in the Dark

Prologue

“Tell me who you are.”

It laughed. Micah looked directly into its pale, white, cloudy eyes and, in a stern voice, commanded, “Tell me your name.”

“The cunt won’t be freed. Not now. Not ever. You failed like your pathetic King.” It spat on the floor.

“Tell me your name!” Micah shouted, veins popping, eyes wide, fury unleashed. It recoiled a little, having never heard such anger from one like Micah. It smirked a wicked crescent of a smile. Was it winning? Curled up in the dark corner, it hissed, trying to speak, but unable to say anything except these words: “Prince Vassago”. Dumbstruck, the Prince covered his mouth like a child who had just said a naughty word. Micah was winning.  

“Who are you?” Vassago panted. Furious.

“In the name of my King I command you, Prince Vassago, to leave this vessel … now.” Micah stood up over it, leaning into its face, unafraid. Its voice trembled.

“You see? We already got you, Micah. It took anger to get my filthy name out of your pure mouth and anger is a sin after all.” It tried to hide its fear. Vassago was a prince and not a king. What would his superiors do to him?

“In the name of….”

“Your King wept!”

“…all that is pure and good….”

“Sorrowing, sighing, bleeding, dying…” it sang.

“Prince Vassago, be gone!”

“Your King wept. Your King will weep. Your King is weeping,” it hissed out in a whisper, then the voice of spite and wickedness ebbed away. The vessel collapsed onto the bed.

“Still alive.” Micah checked the vessel’s pulse. He’d won this battle, but the war was far, far from over. He knew he would meet up with Prince Vassago again but not yet – not just yet, anyway. There will be more of him and his kind to challenge.

The vessel slept peacefully. A doctor stepped into the hospital room and checked her vitals. “She seems okay.” Doctor Ruben spoke his thoughts aloud. “I just can’t believe it worked.”

“How did this happen?” Micah, having only more to contend with, knew this war was everlasting.

“She was from that theater.”

“Theater?” This was news to Micah.

The theater. That theater. Don’t you hear the news?”

Micah didn’t know how to answer. He wasn’t from these parts. He only recently discovered where he was from and by whom.

“Tell me more.” He sat on a chair and looked directly into Ruben’s eyes – lie detecting. Doctor Ruben shook his head wildly and quickly replied, “No, no, no, no. I will not mention her name. I will not speak of it. It is forbidden to speak of it. All the patients I’ve seen with these symptoms have got a picture of her, or a story of her, or a fucking blog about her on the Internet. Her name is never to be said. She is never to be spoken about. It’s the only way to keep them, those things, from making us their toys.”

“You mean her?” Micah pointed to the little lady resting on the bed recovering and in a deep sleep.

“No. Not her. I don’t know how she even managed to make it out of that fucking theater.” Ruben shook his head with his hand cupping his chin.

The little room where the vessel of Vassago rested was cold, machine-ridden, heartless, but a heavy weight had been lifted. The feeling of dread left with Vassago. All in shambles, unshaven, and a complete mess, Micah was tired – tired of it all. He rested his head on his palm, kept his eyes closed, and tiredly asked, “How am I supposed to deal with these things if I don’t even know what the fuck I’m going up against? Who is the one behind it all? What is this theater you speak of? Seriously, just tell me.”

“I’m too scared.” Seasoned old Doctor Ruben’s voice quivered.

“I am here. I will protect you. Just tell me…” Micah said patiently. “I have never failed, and I’ve never been wrong before. I’ve faced far worse than Vassago. The way you understand the mind and medicine is the way I understand these things. Tell me.”  

Dirges in the Dark is now available for Kindle, in paperback, and on Audible here.

Day 13 – Flash Fiction from Mark Anthony Smith

From Keep It Inside & Other Weird Tales

Crown of Slugs

My brother often took things too far, like jokes or binge drinking, and conquering his fears was no exception. I keep him in a jar now with breathing holes punched in the metallic screw-top lid. I don’t know how much longer Seth will live. He can’t talk anymore. He just writes in a rudimentary scrawl.

We talked about our fears. Seth said that his vertigo doesn’t impact on his life. So, he could live with his fear of heights. He doesn’t believe in evolution. But he does think that life adapts to its changing environment in small ways. I now know this to be true. I just think ‘small ways’ is an understatement given what’s happened. He said, “Petra. You can’t go on fearing mice and spiders. You should immerse yourself, through therapy, to overcome your emotions.” I did.

I talked about spiders and I described the small rodents. Then, I watched videos as I bit my nails. I listed the good points. They play a part in food chains. Then finally, after breaking the therapist’s nose, I petted a mouse and let a tarantula edge its way up my arm. I felt so empowered. I booked a family holiday to Spain. I thought Seth would wobble at the thought of flying. But he said the clouds cushioned his fears as he couldn’t really look down. He’ll never fly again. He’s changed since that flight that he said ‘wasn’t a problem’.

Seth took some elective modules in Cryptozoology, at East Yorkshire University, towards his Degree in Anthropology. I know that Coelacanths have since been discovered after they were long thought extinct. I really didn’t believe in devils or The Loch Ness Monster though. Not then. Now, I think that anything is possible. I wouldn’t be surprised if ‘Area 51’ housed aliens.

Seth was finally due to leave Hellen Salads after eight years. He managed to get a job at the Holiday camp near Goadley. But it got closed down. The Press said that there’d been a lot of murders there. Some of our neighbours talked about unnatural things. I’m sure they’re just old wives’ tales. People have nothing better to do than gossip. So, Seth had to reapply for his old job.

From a young age, my brother poured salt or boiling water in the garden. Mam used to go mad at the slug carcasses scattered everywhere. “Are you scared of them?”

He laughed. “No! I’m just repulsed. I hate the way they rear up and slowly explore.” He told me about an incident where one of the factory lads had chucked one at him. The dirty big black slug clung from his fringe as Seth bent forward. He screamed and shook his head to shake it off. Then he gave the lad a good hiding.

I can imagine how the lad had found out though. I often caught Seth in a trance as he watched a slug on the patio. It was so bad that he couldn’t touch Shaun Hutson’s debut book cover or the sequel: Breeding Ground. We talked about immersion. I reminded him how I learned to remove house spiders by gradations. Seth was resolute. He could never go down that path. Then he talked about Stanislavsky.

I don’t know much about Method Acting but Seth became infatuated. He read about its psychological effects and how it helped the practitioner to ‘get into character’. It wasn’t long before I found Seth on his stomach. He wanted a slug’s perspective on the world. I said, “I think that you’re taking this a bit too far.”

Seth laughed with the clichéd, “There’s method in the madness.” He was on his belly again, propelling himself, like some bizarre gym exercise. Not long after, a lump became a growth on his belly. His arms and legs were losing muscle mass too. Entropy kicked in.

I remember us giggling at Cronenberg’s The Fly and I’ve read Kafka’s The Metamorphosis. I can’t think about Samsa’s fate now. I had asked Seth to give his ideas up. But he was determined. He used his arms and legs so little that he eventually lost them. The belly foot took over. His skin became more mottled and darker too. Eventually, his world became smaller as his single-minded attention focused on overcoming his revulsion. In short, he became that which he hated. Seth is a slug.

I suppose the irony is that I now stand transfixed as Seth did. His only means of communication was a slow scrawl of slimy broken English. After the tears and the horror, I brought myself to let him out in the rain-drenched garden. I watched for blackbirds and hedgehogs as my brother felt his way about. I realised that he’d really changed, one day, as he ascended a tree. He’d quite forgotten his fear of heights. I soon forgot the time. I had to forget that this leopard slug was my brother as a mate found him.

The second slug had picked up Seth’s trail. It nibbled and nipped his detritus covered tail. They pulsated forward to the nearest branch. I had to forget this was my brother having sex. But it was quite a wonder as the two slugs wrapped around each other, like a snail’s helix, on their silvery thread. They danced mid-air for hours. Then, I watched a penis emerge from behind their heads. They each looked flowered like an exotic orchid. These too seemed to dance, as each slug penetrated the other. It was difficult and fascinating at the same time. I had mixed emotions as both penises tried to untangle. The mate then bit my brother’s cock off and he became a girl. This act of apophallation happens a lot, I later discovered. It was quite a gruesome shock watching it. The slugs then dropped free-fall into the leaves below them. The amputation writhed like a chopped worm. It was very much still alive.

My brother became a lot more withdrawn after the castration. He wanted to be called Shoala. The name was traced repeatedly before she laid her eggs outside. Soon, I had more nieces and nephews than I could count; the hatchlings were too numerous. Shoala spent more time at the rim of her jar when it was too dry outside. I couldn’t understand her anxieties. Then she took me to the same tree where her member was dismembered. It still writhed. I let Shoala write ‘territorial’ in her snake-like slime writing. I followed, my sister, the slug.

She oozed over to a discarded house brick at the foot of the tree. As she disappeared, I lifted the brick and almost dropped it in disgust. About the size of a toad, the small abomination was slightly more human than gastropod. It was a man-slug king. Around its sticky temple were my sister’s children. They formed a dancing crown on the thing’s head. It was trying to usurp my sister. She has her own patch.

The slug-thing reared its head. Shoala hung back. Then the abomination struggled. It writhed as something tightened around its neck. I wanted to look away. I was torn. I watched the grip tighten and the thing keeled over.

Shoala died soon afterwards. In death, she became my brother again. I took Seth’s body to the Cryptozoology office and left the carcass to be examined. Professor Grimshaw assured me that he’d treat Seth’s body with the upmost respect. I didn’t tell him the whole story. Indeed, sometimes, I awake sweat sodden to feel the sensation of a penis constricting my neck.

Charity Bins

I don’t know much about the virus. I just need some milk. It’s late and I’m not keen on popping to the shop at this hour. At least the nights aren’t so dark. It’s still warm at 10.30pm. I close the door behind me. There’s the neighbour’s rubbish strewn across my lawn. They never get their bins out on time. I cross the road and realise I’ve forgotten something. The bathroom window is still open. I shouldn’t be gone long.

The back of the shops is awful at night. There’s usually someone going through the industrial waste bins looking for anything the charity shop has slung out. Sometimes, people drink there or inject where it’s quiet. There’s always crap everywhere once people have rooted through the cast offs. I usually cross over. Even though I don’t have to. I manage to avoid any encounters doing this. It smells of rot.

I cross onto the other path. It’s poorly lit in those shadows behind the shops. I see shapes. The hairs on my nape stand up as a shiver makes me shudder. They’re just strange. I can’t work them out. I pass, quickening my step. Then, I cross back and get some milk from the convenience store. Heading back, I can hear them rummaging through the bins. Those strange shapes, behind the shops, on the other side of the road. I hurry home to make a brew. As I unlock my front door, I feel really uneasy. But I can’t say why. It’s just a hunch. The stench of fish hits me as I lock the door behind me.

The rancid stink reminds me of a virus that’s been in the news. It’s world-wide. The virus has been altering people’s appearance and behaviours. I try not to feel negative. But I can’t locate the smell. It’s like that around the charity shop bins. I don’t know. I put the milk on the kitchen side. I flick the kettle on. A noise. A bang from the bathroom. I freeze. Someone is shuffling in my bathroom. There are people in my bedroom too. What the hell? I listen. Then I pick the biggest knife up. My palms are sweaty. The kettle is too loud.

Whoever the noisy bastards are, they’re quite light on their feet. It sounds more like the scratching of large rats. I take a deep breath. I charge through to the bathroom. There’s no point holding back. There’s a strange shape over the bath. I stab. I stab and I stab and I stab like someone who has had their personal space violated. There are shrieks of death throes from the strange shape. My hands are sticky. I’m about to flick the light on when I’m clawed.

I try to struggle. There’s the stench of rot. The light through the open window picks their pinched features out. They’ve got narrow eyes and whiskers. I’m seeing things. But the rat people pin me down as I drop the bloodied knife. They’re upon me. More man than rodent, the virus is turning them into vermin. They scurry about. They have strength in numbers. I’m bundled up to the loft space in the roof. The rat people bind me with electrical cables. I’m gagged. No-one will know I am here. My mother hasn’t phoned in months.

I try to break free. It’s the first time I’ve sat still in ages. The rat people are everywhere. They’ve taken over my flat. As my mind works overtime to think about escape, I notice something strange about myself. The electric cable cuts into my wrist as I gasp in horror. I am one of them.

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Keep It Inside & Other Weird Tales is now available for Kindle, in paperback, and on Audible here.

Day 12 – Origin of Evil Chapter One, by Caroline Angel

Chapter One

The First Day

Five AM

The shrill, old-fashioned ringtone woke him from the troubled slumber he’d finally slipped into. Nick had tossed and turned for several hours, sleep proving to be as elusive as the suspect in his latest case. It had been a long ass day, part of a long ass week of tiring detective footwork on a half-baked tip that had ended up leading nowhere. Being a cop wasn’t all sunshine and roses. Still, it was what he wanted to do, despite the less than productive times. He was glad there were not too many of those particularly frustrating weeks.

Nick stretched, yawned, and rubbed his eyes, for a moment not sure why he had awakened. His cell rang again, and he grabbed it from the nightstand. He tried to read the caller I.D. but his eyes wouldn’t focus. In fact, he thought maybe one eye wasn’t quite open at all.

“Cotter,” he croaked as he answered the phone.

Turn on the TV, dude. You’ve got to see this.”

“The fuck?” Nick fumbled for the remote, knocking it to the floor as his large hands swept the nightstand. “Why are you watching TV and not sleeping? It’s got to be two in the morning.”

It’s five, and D’Angelo called,” his partner, Sam Longstaff, replied. “This is big.”

Nick grunted as he bent and retrieved the wayward remote, flicking on the television. “What channel?”

All,” Sam answered. “I told you, it’s big.”

Nick flicked through a couple of channels, infomercials, and music before finding the news report.

The newscast showed a plane crash … or at least something that resembled a plane crash. He raised the volume up.

“…so far there has been no official word about what the 747 hit, but it is clear, at this stage, that it wasn’t another plane…” the unseen newscaster said over the vision of devastation: burning, twisted parts of a clearly destroyed airplane at the edge of a wooded field. “…there appear to be no survivors, although emergency crews haven’t given up hope…”

“What am I seeing here?” Nick asked.

He heard Sam draw in an excited breath. “You won’t believe this one, man.” Sam paused for dramatic effect. “The plane hit a UFO.”

“You’re shitting me.”

Sam laughed with unmitigated glee. “No shit dude, a UFO. Pilot called it in just before they collided.”

“You know it’s going to turn out to be a helicopter or a weather balloon.”

This time, man, you’re wrong. Turns out the news guys were already filming in the area; they caught most of it on film. This can’t be a weather balloon. Get dressed. D’Angelo wants us at the station.”

Nick swung his long legs over the side of the bed. “Where can I see the shots of the UFO?” he asked, but the line was dead. He showered quickly and dressed.

A real UFO? The thought creased his brow and made his heart beat a touch faster.

Surely they were wrong. Had to be some experimental craft, or one of those spy planes that looked like a bat plane. Or something. But what if it really was a space craft? He shook his head. No, couldn’t be. I mean, this is every geek’s dream, every science fiction movie plot.

He sat on the sofa and pulled on his shoes, tying each lace methodically.

Still, it would be cool. Really cool. It’d be like being on X-files or something. Then again, it could be like ‘war of the worlds’ and everybody dies…

Nick slammed his front door and climbed into the squad car. He wasn’t a car enthusiast like Sam; he just took home whichever car was free or waited for his partner to pick him up. He had more important things to do on the weekend than spend every spare minute polishing chrome and buffing the detail. Well, he liked to tell himself he had more important things to do, but in reality, all he did was work on his never-ending renovation of his old two-bedder three streets over that he’d bought a few years ago as an investment. If he ever finished the renovations, he would finally be able to sell the damn place, and his investment might pay off. If he was honest with himself, he’d admit that he liked to renovate, and if he did ever finish and sell the place, he would probably just buy another and start renovating all over again. Though if this thing turned out to be a real UFO maybe he would take up more interests closer to align to his partner, and best friend. Sam was the one who watched all the science fiction movies and TV shows.

Nick flicked off the radio as he pulled out of the drive and took the backstreets to the station. He was glad he didn’t come in the front when he arrived, the station was a hive of activity, media staff and vehicles were blocking the street, public crowding around, and barriers set up to control the whole thing. Nick had to turn the siren on more than once to clear the milling crowd and gain access to the underground parking lot.

Sam greeted him at the elevator doors, a large takeaway coffee in one hand, and a bagel in the other. Nick accepted them without a word, just a raised brow of curiosity.

Right on queue the floor sergeant, Conrad D’Angelo, a middle aged, stocky man poked his head out of his office.

“Boss is looking for us,” Sam quietly told Nick.

“Best we get our asses in there, then,” Nick grinned.

“He’s been like a premenstrual housewife since I got here,” said Sam, and smiled back.

They started to walk to the office, shoulder to shoulder. Nick was about three inches shorter than Sam, his close-cropped blonde hair framed a very handsome face, his broad shoulders and athletic body making him look more like a male model than a cop. Sam’s hair was darker, though he was just as handsome, his six-foot two frame and longish hair giving him a roguish appearance. Both men were single, in their thirties, and were known in the precinct as the ‘the pin-up boys,’ a title which they begrudgingly accepted with embarrassed good humor.

They had been detectives for nearly five years now, partners for much longer. They both met on their first assignment at a small suburban police station and had immediately taken to each other. Though their interests were chalk and cheese, they at least shared the same sense of humor, if not the same taste in food, movies and music. They did not look alike, however were often asked if they were brothers, such was their easy camaraderie. After so long together they talked the same, they thought the same, they even finished each other’s sentences.

Sam was younger by about four years; the police force was his first job out of college. He was from good, working class folk, his parents had all been honest, salt of the earth people, his father a carpenter and his mother a dressmaker, happily married and very proud of their children. Their older son just started working with his father and their tall, handsome, youngest boy was set to follow in his footsteps. The two girls were following their mother in her trade. All in all, they led a happy, no frills life, yearly camping vacation, public schools, smallish house and a single car.

The night Sam’s family was mugged on the street, his father killed, his mother attacked, and his older brother beaten senseless, Sam changed his mind on his future career. He saw the way the police helped, how they rescued his family and how they brought the offenders to justice. In his heart he knew that was something he wanted to do. He wanted to help people in the same way he had been helped. He enrolled in the police academy the day after he graduated college and he never looked back.

Cotter was different. He was the only son of a wealthy lawyer, his father a partner in a successful law firm, his mother a debutante and a finishing school graduate. He was raised in private schools, holidayed overseas or in the Hamptons, and never wanted for anything. He may have been blessed with blue blood, but he was hardly cut from the same cloth. After four years of watching the wheeling and dealings of his father’s practice he started to question his career path.

The final straw for Nick Cotter was watching his father win the case of a man who had been accused of murdering his wife and one of his children. Acquitted, the man had gone on to kill his wife’s family and his remaining child the day after he walked free from court. His parents were bitterly disappointed when Nick walked out of his father’s law practice to join the police force.

Nick’s first glance of the gangly, mop-haired young Sam standing in the lunchroom, filling his mouth with powdered doughnuts, made him laugh out loud. He was pleasantly surprised when the young man laughed along with him, and a friendship was made. They were paired up to walk the beat together and the friendship was cemented for all time.

No one looked twice as the tall men walked together now, side by side, in step, coffees in hand as they marched towards their desks. They were dressed nearly identically in jeans and button downs, black casual boots and their IDs clipped to their pockets.

“So why were you up watching TV at this ungodly hour?” Nick asked in between bites of his bagel.

Sam ran a hand through his long dark hair, sweeping it away from his face. “I wasn’t up at four. Was up at two, just finished…um…entertaining.” He grinned lasciviously. “Anyway, the TV was on when the news report broke through the program and, well, all shit broke loose. I watched it for ages. Then, the boss called.”

D’Angelo spotted the two detectives and beckoned them into his office. “Did Sam fill you in?” he asked Nick.

Nick shrugged. “I’m not getting much of this. He’s telling me a UFO crashed into a plane. Seriously, I’m thinking someone is taking the mickey.”

D’Angelo shook his head. “This is as serious as a heart attack. The plane was a passenger plane carrying one hundred and seventy-five souls. Here, look at the news report.”

Sam sat on the edge of the desk, Nick beside him as he took a large mouthful of the bagel.

D’Angelo turned the TV that was balancing precariously on his filing cabinet around so they could all see it. The report started with the news crew who were filming a large recreational area at night to highlight the growing homeless situation, when bright lights in the sky caught the lens of the camera. The cameraman’s arm flashed in front of the image, directing everyone’s attention to the spectacle in the sky. He focused up onto the lights and followed their erratic behavior, moving in a way that did not seem physically possible for anything other than a video game. D’Angelo stopped the report and pressed play on a large camera hooked up to the television monitor.

“This is the same camera from the same news crew,” he explained. “This is where things get interesting.”

The second cameraman started to film the dancing lights in the sky. They were bright, almost resembling two fireflies darting around each other. Until it became obvious that these were not, in fact, insects, but two aircraft, as they descended closer to the ground and started firing on each other. They maneuvered like no aircraft that Nick had ever seen, and as they got closer to the cameraman it was clear that they were something very unfamiliar. They were like something straight from a science fiction movie: two ships, sleek, dark, similar, but not the same, the only lights were the jets and the weapons ports as they fired, sparks flying and arcing as the beams of power hit the opponent’s ship, though little damage could be seen.

The cameraman was highly skilled; he kept the ships in focus as they darted about, battling for who knew what. One ship seemed to gain the advantage as it fired on the other; a flare of fire appeared, and flames broke out across the rear of the second ship as it started to climb in a haphazard way. The first ship broke off and sped away and the damaged one tried to follow. A gasp from the cameraman signaled the terrifying sight of a before unnoticed low flying commercial airliner about to cross the path of the damaged second ship. The airliner was coming in very low; it was preparing to land at the airport close by. The strange craft seemed to try to avoid it, but the damage must have limited it from turning as sharply as before and it listed to one side.

The airplane and the damaged craft collided.

The collision was loud, fiery, and horrific. The commercial plane exploded as the strange craft sheared into it, cutting it in half just in front of the engines. The explosion rained fire and debris across the park, people watching the display ran screaming from the path of destruction as the nose of the plane, separated now, hit the ground.

The camera caught it all.

Nick watched, mesmerized, unable to look away as the chunks of wreckage hit the ground, killing anyone unlucky enough to be in their path. A homeless man previously seen sheltering in a cardboard box now ran screaming, as his clothes burnt into bubbling skin peeled from him. A woman who had been pushing a shopping trolley ran as fast as she could as a large hunk of metal sheared her in half, her lower torso falling and her upper body slamming to the ground in a bloody heap at the camera man’s feet.

“What happened to the other ship?” Nick breathed.

“Keep watching.” D’Angelo didn’t take his eyes off the screen.

There, the camera tilted back, the other craft spun drunkenly as it fell, you could almost feel the effort it was making to stay airborne; but it sustained too much damage and finally hit the ground with a white explosion. The camera went dark for a moment while it adjusted to the sudden flash, then the picture came back. People were screaming, some on fire, the rest of the film crew were trying to help the injured while the unseen cameraman continued to film. He started walking forward, towards the place the smaller craft crashed, filming the whole time. Surrounding him were bodies, pieces of the plane, seats, baggage, fuselage, most burning or burnt. The cameraman continued, the further he got into the park the more devastating the scene became. Trees and shrubs were blasted out, there were pieces of bodies here rather than intact victims, and the wreckage was in chunks of smoldering, unrecognizable pieces.

He stepped over a man sliced perfectly in half, his severed intestines dangling between the halves. A woman turned to grab at his foot before she lay still, one eye hanging from its socket, her lower jaw ripped away, most of her throat gone, and where her chest had been, a gaping opening filled with blood. The camera took it all in as the unseen operator stepped forward, holding his camera on the devastation, walking forward, pausing to stop and check the pulse of a man who, once the camera man’s hand touched him, tilted to one side revealing a faceless skull separated from his body, his brain spilled out onto the scorched ground.

The camera tipped back up as the man continued forward. It was incredibly dark, only the flickering of flames from burning foliage lit the cameraman’s path, and it became almost silent, the distant screams and horror far behind him, only his breath and footsteps could be clearly heard. This picture froze as D’Angelo leaned forward and hit the pause button.

“Was that weird enough for you? Just wait, it gets even weirder.” He pressed play and leaned back.

The cameraman stumbled, briefly, and then righted himself. He gasped. The camera swung for a moment, and then pointed at the downed mysterious aircraft. It was damaged, but still surprisingly almost in one piece. It was about thirty feet long and about sixteen feet high, matt black and almost featureless. No windows were obvious, no doors or portals, either. The damage to the craft was easily seen. The top was peeled back, torn like a discarded can, and fire burned in and around it. On the ground around the UFO were two bodies, mangled, but still recognizable as human.

They were clothed in dark uniforms, but too damaged to tell if they were male or female. They were torn open like gutted fish, intestines and internal organs spilling forth, faces smashed beyond recognition. The camera panned around and found pieces of what were most likely two or three more similarly clad bodies.

Sirens could now be heard in the background as the cameraman moved closer; the heat of the flames prevented him from getting much nearer the ship than he was. Sparks arced and leapt from the hole in the top and electric wires spun wildly, blue flames tinged the red and orange fire that billowed from the craft. He circled the ship, filming as he went.

On the far side were more bodies. There was a young male, jeans, t-shirt, half of his chest and right arm were gone. A young woman was beside him, she was on her stomach, the skin on her back was torn away to reveal her spine and ribs, the top of her pelvis could be seen poking bloodily through her skin.

Another body in a dark uniform, missing a head, was otherwise intact. The camera panned up and down, it was a male, and the dark uniform, made of a fabric like vinyl, was more clearly revealed. It looked like something from a science fiction show. There was metal insignia on the shoulders and chest, knee high boots and a large belt with a silver buckle.

The camera panned over and picked up another ruined body. This one was also clad in a dark uniform but slightly different from the others’ attire. There was blood everywhere and the body was ripped from groin to sternum, ribs and muscle exposed. Blood covered the lower pelvis and several large loops of intestines spilled out onto the ground beside them.

Legs clearly were broken as they twisted off into weird angles, on one the bone sheared through the skin and it pointed up towards the sky, sinew and muscle stretched and pulled through the tear in the membrane. The devastation was much the same with both arms, and one hand was torn almost completely away.

The throat was deeply slashed, and it oozed dark blood onto the scorched ground. The camera zoomed in showing a helmet partially torn off the body; now seen more clearly it looked to be a woman. Her hair was white; most of her face was still covered in pieces of the helmet.

The arm of the cameramen could be seen coming into frame as he pulled at the remaining helmet, removing it to reveal a face that was covered in blood and soot, it was cut, ripped and burned, lit only by the reflected light of the burning craft. Small metal pieces caught the reflected firelight, they looked to be piercings.

The camera continued to film her body, showing again her injuries, and panning back to her face. A chunk of fuselage sliced into one side of her face and protruded through one eye. It had torn through her cheek and stopped at the corner of her mouth. Her lips were stretched into a rictus grin, some teeth exposed, others crushed in half. The cameraman cried out in shock as the good eye snapped open, the bright green iris moved and then stopped when it hit the camera. The lips parted; a gasp of pain released as blood flowed freely from her mouth. She took a shuddering breath, the ripped chest catching the cameraman’s attention as he zoomed out. Her lungs, exposed to the night through the massive chest wound, could clearly be seen inflating as she struggled to draw breath.

He set the camera on the ground, still filming, and for the first time the cameraman entered the shot as he leant over the woman to try to render her aide. A young man, slightly built with a trucker’s cap worn backward over a tousle of red hair, he kneeled beside the woman as he pushed up the sleeves of his sweatshirt. Her gaze didn’t follow him, and as he waved his hand past her eye, she did not track his hand. He lifted her helmet off and blood splashed from it, a large chunk of skull staying in the helmet as he pulled it off. Her brain could be clearly seen, the cameraman hesitated, not sure what to do as his hand hovered over the exposed organ, then he tried to place the helmet back on, covering the bloody wound.

The woman lifted one arm, the hand hanging by a strip of sinew as she waved the broken, clearly visible bone in the air. She seemed to be trying to speak, blood splashed from her mouth as well as her throat. The cameraman was at a loss as to what to do so he touched her face, then her shoulder, making soothing sounds that could not be understood by the viewers. The woman stopped moving and laid her arm back down. Each ragged breath she drew raised and lowered her ribs as they pointed to the sky like bloody fingers.

The fire from the broken craft was growing in intensity and the cameraman grabbed the back of the woman’s collar and dragged her away, picking up his camera as he passed it. His grunts and steps could be heard but were being drowned out now by a loud buzzing noise. The sound grew louder as the cameraman once again placed the camera on the ground before he straddled the body of the woman, trying to pull her uniform across her exposed ribs.

“How are we seeing this?” asked Nick, his face a mask of shock. “I mean, how did you get this footage?”

“Cameraman just left the camera on the ground,” D’Angelo told him. “One of our uniforms picked it up, brought it into me not fifteen minutes before you got here. We don’t know what exactly happened next, but look, you can see him collapse.”

The cameraman started using a handkerchief to wipe the blood from the side of the woman’s cheek when he stopped, his hands paused in mid-air. His eyes rolled upwards in their sockets and he fell backwards, and although he was mostly obscured by the injured woman you could see he was having a seizure. After a few moments he stopped and lay still. The woman’s ravaged chest just continued to rise and fall as she struggled to pull in breaths. She didn’t move away, and the camera just kept filming. In the background the buzzing sound grew so loud that the camera started to shake, and the craft exploded in a violent rush of white light.

It took several seconds before the camera adjusted after the flash and it revealed the scorched ground where the ship had been, though now the wreckage was mostly destroyed in the bright explosion, taking the surrounding bodies with it. In the foreground the woman continued her slow labored breaths, her chest rising and falling, but no other movement could be seen.

“What happens next?” Sam asked his sergeant.

“Not much really. You see EMT guys all over the place, and a uniform guy picks up the camera and turns it off.”

Nick drained the last of his coffee, cold now, and stood, confused and concerned. “What did we just see here?” he asked, his voice not quite steady. A rational man, this was something his sanity was fighting to believe, something that he was finding difficult to understand.

Sam folded his arms across his chest. His mind was a little more open than his partner’s, though the idea that this was all real had not fully filled his reality yet. “She was ripped up, that girl. Head to toe. How could she be alive?”

Nick scratched his head. “I’ve seen it before, people go on for half an hour or more till their brain finally realizes they’re dead.”

Sam stood again. “And what killed the camera guy, some E.T. virus? And what the hell was that ship?”

Nick shook his head. “I must ask, how did we get assigned to this event? Isn’t this something the feds would take over, or the military; surely not the Police Department?”

D’Angelo leaned back against the closed door; his hands tucked into the front loops of his pants. “No one knows we got the camera. The men filming with the cameraman just know he died, they probably think he got killed in the explosion. I have found out that the woman is still alive, in the E.R.”

Sam’s eyes widened in surprise. “You’re shittin’ me. She’d clocked out, she just didn’t know it.” He pulled himself up onto the desk and sat cross legged. “You reckon she was from the plane, or E.T.’s station wagon?”

D’Angelo and Nick turned to him. “That’s the sixty-four-thousand-dollar question, my boy,” D’Angelo told him. “I’m thinking you two get your asses down to the hospital and see what the fuck you can find out. Before Uncle Sam gets hold of her.”

Sam slid off the desk. “This is epic. I can’t believe this! UFOs, people keeling over with E.T. disease, others staying alive when they’re minced, it’s like we’re in a movie!”

Nick shook his head. “Dude, it’s serious, not a Disney adventure.”

D’Angelo moved away from the door. “Just be careful. We don’t have jurisdiction here, really, and we don’t know what killed that cameraman. Just, don’t touch anything, okay?”

Nick nodded. “This is all very surreal.”

D’Angelo gave him a half grin. “Just pretend you’re in the movie that’s playing in Longstaff’s head.” He unplugged the camera. “Don’t mention this camera to anyone. Understand?” he placed the camera in a drawer of the cabinet and locked it. “As far as you know, it doesn’t exist.”

The two tall men made their way to the underground car park. Both were silent as they mulled over the strange occurrences. Neither could believe what they just witnessed. Sam hit the door to the parking lot with his elbow, smacking it against the wall as they marched through.

“I’m driving,” Sam stated.

Nick shrugged. “Of course you’re driving, you dick. I hate driving.”

“Well, we’re taking a squad car. Easier access in and out.”

“Makes sense.” He turned and gave his partner a grin. “Be a nice break from those Japanese plastic cars you like to drive.”

Sam punched him in the arm. “At least I drive. I swear one day I’m forcing you to get a license.”

Nick climbed into the squad car. “I have a license. I just like to be chauffeured around.”

“Funny.”

“Yeah, I’m laughing.”

Find out more about Caroline on her website.

Origin of Evil is now available for Kindle and in paperback here. Coming soon to Audible.

Day 11 – Time and Tide Waits by Andrew Bell

Time and Tide Waits (from Elements of Horror Book Four: Water)

Andrew Bell

It was now or never, he thought, wiping his forehead with his sleeve, feeling the cold sweat trickle down his back.

 They sat upon the dune, a late summer sun struggling to break through the low, gun metal grey clouds that dragged themselves across the north-east coast of England to the ancient shore of Seaton Carew. The sound of coin-operated gambling machines and the scent of beef burgers and fried onions rode the stiffening breeze that had increased over the past hour. All they needed now was the delicate ripple of children’s laughter and John and Emma could quite possibly be enjoying an evening, the likes of which they had grown accustomed to over the past ten summers together. John grinned from ear to ear and gave her the wink of an eye.

 “Here?” said Emma, the look of shock in her face, the sudden paleness of her usually rosy cheeks. “Now?” By the time she had uttered her second word, John had graduated from gut-stiffening nervousness to eagerness. To get the deed done and over with, to shut her the hell up so he could move on with his life.

 “Well,” John replied, shaking his head, “why in the hell not? Remember when we used to do crazy stuff like this?”

 “Only if you think it’s safe…” Emma began, but it was all the affirmation he needed. Her blouse was already being unbuttoned by the time she took another bite of her corned beef and onion sandwich. “I’m not finished.”

 It had been easy. His stomach churned and he wanted to regurgitate his half of the bloody picnic, beer sloshing around in his gut as he turned his hulking figure of a wife over. He knew that now he didn’t have to make eye contact with her the evening would run a lot smoother. That was indeed the plan.

“Jonathan, you’re hurting me,” Emma said, trying to turn her head, but her long blonde hair was a tangle of sand and silver, wrapped about her husband’s fist. “Stop it, it’s not fun anymore… Jonathan, STOP IT!”

 CRACK!

John froze, his heartbeat hammering against his ribs now as Emma fell limp in the sand.

 “Honey?” he whispered, gently slapping her large, bare hips. She didn’t move or say a word.

  He rolled off the body and sat in the sand, still half naked. A seagull wheeled in the heavens, gliding around and around. He shook violently, trying to throw up, but it wouldn’t happen. He was in total control; the master of this moment and it was down to him to finish what he had started.

 “I can do this,” he said with conviction in his voice. “I can do this. It’s what you wanted.” He stared down at Emma’s head, how she faced away from him in the sand, neck broken and already turning a faint black. “Come on, Jonathan, move your arse.”

 Tears poured from his eyes, but he failed to distinguish those from panic, grief and loss, from freedom, accomplishment and joy, as he looked down at the large patch of sand where he had made love to his wife not minutes earlier. Now there was nothing but dark, disturbed sand.

 “About as dark and disturbed as you,” he whispered, quickly surveying the rest of the beach. But despite the blood pounding in his ears and the rumbling in his stomach, only the sound of coins rattling in collection trays in the penny arcade nearby, and the gentle hiss of the sea as it made its way up the beach, converged upon him.

 That’s when he noticed the tall figure standing knee deep in the silver sea, staring right at him. He looked about, just in case he was seeing things, but unlike in the movies, the figure was still there; staring, pulling at its wide brimmed hat as if in salute. The long, pale yellow raincoat looked almost held together by mould as the figure slowly turned his back on the beach.

John wanted to run down to the shore, grab whoever the bastard thought he was – spying on him like that! But that was pretty much the extent of his thoughts. For the ocean had slowly washed over the stranger, head, shoulders, and all.

He couldn’t sleep. It was unseasonably warm, not for the August weather, but for this part of England! The solstice had passed and now the dark nights were quickly drawing in. Yet the heat moved about the house like a trapped bird.

 “Screw this,” he mumbled. He left the bedroom, unable to look at Emma’s side of the bed, and made his way down the stairs to the kitchen. The linoleum felt icy beneath his bare feet, an equally cool breeze enveloped his clammy body as he crossed to the… that’s when he noticed the back door was ajar, swinging slowly on its hinges. He reached the keys from the hook near the sink and slammed the door shut, jammed the lock fast and drew the deadbolts.

  John wanted to laugh, shook his head, and raked his hands through his thinning hair. He squeezed his eyes closed, watching the stars dance there for a moment, the keys jangling softly from the lock the only sound; except for the hammering of his heart.

 “Sleep…get some sleep.” He’d figure everything out when the sun came up, he decided. He’d killed his wife and now nothing was behaving the way it should, especially his nerves. He nodded and let out a deep breath.

 It wasn’t until he reached the foot of the staircase that he noticed the small pools of water, leading from the kitchen, along the pine-floored hallway, to the living room. In the darkness his pulse kicked a bass drum, he could barely see the light switch on the wall opposite, could hardly reach it. His stomach turned, assaulted by the sudden reek.

He flicked the switch.

Emma was in the living room, sitting in her favourite chair, the one closest to the television set. Her pale face was encrusted with dark spots, grains of sand that reached across the deep purple bruise on her throat and along her mouth, spilled over her double chin like vomit. Her clothing was soaked through, her blouse open, revealing her lifeless body, which now seemed the most revolting thing John had ever seen.

Then he saw the look in her eyes.

They were black with the hint of a cataract in her right eye. But they were staring at him. Something was moving on her lips…

“Fuck!” John hollered as the small crab crawled from Emma’s swollen lips, seeming to fix him with its cold, unforgiving eyes, before disappearing between the folds of its host’s dead skin.

“Emma?”

“She can’t hear you.”

John almost lost his balance as he swung round to meet the figure sitting in the chair at the far side of the room.

The leather squealed beneath its weight as it reached a bony hand up to the wide brimmed hat, which balanced precariously on its scrawny head. The worn and fleshless skull twisted slowly to the right, filling the silence with a sickening crackle and popping sound.

“That feels better,” the figure mumbled, placing the hat back on its head.

John managed to catch a glimpse of the deep crevice that separated the left temple from its jaw; a shiver running down his spine.

“What are you doing in my house?” said the skull. “Isn’t that what you were going to say?”

“That…that was you,” stammered John. “That was you in the water.”

Whatever it was slowly nodded. Water, or some other fluid, poured from its broken skull like thick black tar.

“Bob Carpenter,” it said.

“And that’s supposed to mean…something to me?” John stammered.

“She was pretty tough to dig up…I like your style. Good and deep. Just like your last goodbye, eh?” Bob chuckled. The sound of his laughter was like fingers raking through gravel.

“What have you done?” John’s voice was little more than a whisper.

“Me?” Bob placed a hand on his chest. “What have I done?”

“Look…I had to do what I did,” replied John, unable to take his eyes off his wife’s rotten, sunken face. “Just…just take her back…Go back, whatever you want …I can’t help you.”

Bob shook his head. “I can’t do that, erm, mister… Jonathan Stainsby,” he said, looking at a credit card he’d taken from a wallet from the coffee table by his knees. He flung it across the room. “Not the greatest of names, but I guess it would have to do.”

“This is insane!”

“I can help you,” said Bob steadily, clearing what throat he still possessed. “I can ensure nobody knows about your dearly beloved over there. The police would never know…and she’d never be found…”

“But I had her covered. Nobody would’ve found her anyway.”

“Well, I can’t let that happen.”

“What the fuck do you want?”

Silence hung in the air for a moment except for the all too familiar tap tap tap of water that fell from Bob’s elbow. It collected by his feet.

“Swim with me.”

“What?” John laughed. “Swim with you? Why the hell for? Get out of my house! This isn’t happening. I’m going back to bed.”

“As you wish,” replied Bob, slowly getting up out of the chair.

“And…you can take that…thing with you,” said John, pointing in Emma’s direction, unable to look upon the abominable husk that now sat in its favourite chair.

“Come on, sugar,” said Bob, picking Emma up into a fireman’s lift, groaning under the weight. “We’ve outstayed our welcome.”

John watched him walk through the kitchen, accidentally hitting Emma’s head on the door frame in the process. This was real, thought John, his gorge rising. This was really happening.

“See you later,” said Bob, kicking the back gate. The latch slammed loudly in the oppressive silence as he left the yard.

John woke up, screaming. The bed was a crumpled mess of damp sheets and pillows, and his shorts and tee shirt were soaked through with perspiration.

“You’re losing it, John-boy,” he said, rubbing the sleep from his eyes. He looked over at the bedside clock and gave a sigh. It was almost two in the afternoon.

He heard a grumbling noise, which resembled a hungry stomach. But there was nothing in the room – then he heard it again. John jumped out of bed and crossed to the window. He gave a chuckle as he saw the weekly yard bin collection truck reverse slowly along the back alley.

“I couldn’t give a shit this week, fellas,” he chuckled.

He was about to turn away from the window when his skin sunk like melted wax on his muscles. In the yard below, where he kept the bins, something familiar was hanging over the edge of the one closest to the gate.

It was a human arm.

Emma’s arm!

And the rubbish collectors were climbing out of their truck and making their rounds!

He almost lost his balance descending the stairs, jumping from the last few, hitting the floor with a heavy, loud thud. Pain lanced through his bare feet, but he ignored it in his haste to reach the yard before the collectors could.

“It’s okay, lads,” he said, steadily pulling the bins closer to the house. The ground was wet from the previous evening’s rainfall, but he knew he could survive a pair of soggy feet. “They’re bloody empty anyway.”

The two council workers gave a shrug before moving on to the next yard.

The grin upon his face was starting to hurt. But when he was confident that nobody could see, John pulled the bin inside the kitchen, despite the stench arising from it.

The arm dangled lifelessly from the bin; thin blue veins criss-crossed the pallid flesh like creeping ivy. He wanted to throw up, but there was no time.

He knew he had broken the speed limit, but that didn’t matter. If he had been caught by camera then so be it, he thought, shrugging his boots from his feet, ignoring the thick, wet clods of earth he had trailed through the hallway. He needed sleep. The sun was setting, and the birds sang softly in the tree outside. But he just craved his bed.

The body was now buried in a shallow grave over fifty miles away.

 The next morning, as he lifted his head from the pillow, Emma was there beside him, just like the devoted wife she had been in life.

Her flesh was almost a green hue, mottled and loose. Her eyes had vanished, leaving two black and fathomless orbits. But they looked upon him as though the darkness was pure hatred. She was covered in the earth that he had buried her in the previous evening, and now John wanted to claw at her ghastly face, tear her fucking head clean from her shoulders!

That’s when he heard the strained sound of laughter. He surveyed the room, but it was coming from without. John closed his eyes and inhaled deeply, knowing what was coming next.

He gave Emma a wide berth as he made his way to the window and looked down. Bob Carpenter was looking up at him, a hand at his wide brimmed hat in salutation. He could do nothing but watch the figure walk away, disappearing behind a bush.

“This is what you wanted!” John called out, feeling the rough hands of the evening breeze pull at his hair. The arcades of Seaton Carew were closed for the day, yet he could still detect a hint of toffee apple and hotdog floating on the breeze. “Come on then, Mr. Carpenter. I’m waiting!”

“I knew you’d see sense,” a voice replied. It was from afar, but it could easily have been an echo from inside his own head, it was so clear and crisp. “Get it? Sea sense?”

“I get your joke…What do you want?”

“Let’s go for a walk, shall we?”

John hesitated a moment, peering over his shoulder at the car parked further up the beach.

“She’ll be fine,” said Bob, shaking his head. “You worry too much.”

He had left small, deep delves in the wet sand; they dotted the beach from the frothy shoreline up to where the dunes began.

“Where everything began?”

“What did you say?”

“Isn’t that what you were thinking?” replied Bob. “Don’t you regret the whole mess?”

“No, I don’t. It was meant to be. It had to be done.”

Bob reached out a skeletal arm around the other man’s shoulder, nodding slowly, turning him to face the gun metal grey shore as it crept further up the beach. “I like your style, sunshine,” he said, turning him to face the ocean.

They made it to the shore, and John turned towards Bob.

“Who are you?”

“You don’t recognise me?” replied Bob, shaking his head. “Of course, you wouldn’t recognise me.”

“Hold on a minute,” said John, squinting his eyes in the gloom. “I don’t recognise you, but I remember the story now,” he said. “You were all over the Hartlepool Post a few years ago. Fell off the pier and smashed your skull against the rocks…deserved it if you ask me. The police hunted you down after weeks of you being on the run.”

“Well how do you think I got this little love bite? And it was more than a “few” years as you so eloquently put it,” Bob replied heavily as though he was becoming increasingly impatient by the second. He removed his hat and pointed a bony finger at the crack in his head. In the setting sunlight the mould, which spilled over the jagged crevice, appeared almost luminescent. And for the first time, John had the misfortune of seeing the monster’s face in all its hellish glory. The tide and its myriad creatures had taken the lions’ share of his meat, leaving the scraps to time. And now, as leathery flesh which appeared as dry as parchment hung from his face, it did resemble a human being. Through the narrow crack in his skull, fading sunlight shimmered like quicksilver. He turned to face John, but the other man quickly averted the cold empty eye sockets as if staring might awaken a plague of locusts from the living corpse’s rancid soul. “It must have been…” said Bob, letting the icy water rush over his black, tattered trouser legs. “Let me see now… ah, yes, almost thirty years ago now.”

“That was before I was born,” said John, as though that little pearl of information was of any consequence whatsoever. “But it had been in the news, I remember seeing it in some old newspaper cut-outs mum and dad used to keep in an old china teacup. Come to think of it now, my friend’s mum had the same cut-out. Everybody knew about it…You murdered your wife…”

The ocean crept further up their legs as they walked along the shore. There was a lull in the air as though the world and everything in it had suddenly taken a deep breath, as if in anticipation.

“Don’t even think it.”

“What?”

“Don’t you be getting all righteous on me,” said Bob, staring out into the thin, amber line on the horizon. “You and I were cut from the same cloth.”

“You killed your wife…”

“Correction!” snapped Bob, holding a finger in the air. He stood still now, looking squarely at John, a living scarecrow of a figure, the brim of his dirty hat bending slightly to the marshalling breeze. “The bitch was my brother’s wife. And who are you? Or should I say, what are you?”

The other man nodded slowly, looking down at the water as it swirled about his thighs.

“We had an affair,” Bob continued, shrugging his almost non-existent shoulders. “But what had started out as a bit of slap and tickle in the afternoon soon turned into something a lot more serious. Dumb blonde wanted to come clean, but I loved my kid brother. I couldn’t let that happen…so she had to go. Besides, the conniving little slut was going to rat on me anyway. I liked sex…what can I say? I didn’t belong to her.”

“But…”

“What does all this have to do with you? That’s what you were thinking, right? See, I know you…I know about everyone in this fucking God forsaken town!” The anger arose from deep within the labyrinth of rot and putrescence. The water seemed to respond to his frustration and darkening mood, slapping against their bodies, splashing against their legs; the tide holding them firmly in place as though they were trying to wade through setting cement. “I used to work on the docks just half a mile behind us. There were some adventures going on there, believe me. I didn’t just operate cranes, my friend. Fishermen would pull in and off load their catch of the day, but also smuggle in a couple of tarts now and again. You know how it is; a young lad with money in his pocket and pussy on his mind, gets down and dirty after work. So…Lizzie, that was the hole I was filling behind my kid’s back, decided to come meet me after the whistle blew. It was ten o’clock and I was already well-oiled by the time Lizzie found me, head down between another girl’s legs…”

“So, you got rid of her?”

“The girl was called Sharyn,” Bob ruminated, ignoring John’s words as if he shared the water with no other soul. “She had the sexiest, darkest, brown eyes I had ever seen. What she knew about sex made me look like a clumsy schoolboy pushing to cop a feel of tit on a first date! Her skin was as smooth as marble, and her hair was as black as jet. I can’t remember ever running my hands through something which felt like freshly spun silk before…”

“She sounds amazing,” replied John, even though he knew his remark would fall on deaf ears, or rather, non- existent ears. “Where is she now?”

Bob nodded inland, towards the dunes.

“But…I can’t see her,” said John, shading his eyes from the darkening horizon. “There’s nobody up there.”

Bob chuckled, shaking his head. It was a harsh, hollow sound, a rumble not of his body but from Hell itself.

“You hit the nail on the head, my friend.”

“What?”

“Oh, there’s a body up there, all right,” Bob replied, sighing. “It’s under the dunes.”

John froze, silence taking him by the throat, its grip tightening.

“I’m surprised you didn’t find her when you were poking around with your wife’s corpse.”

“I want this to end…please, tell me what to do,” John said, his voice crackling, throat as dry as sandpaper. “You won’t let me be until this is fucking over, will you?”

Bob slowly shook his head; his permanent skull smiles gleaming in the dusky sunlight.

“Sharyn told me about the wonders of the deep,” said Bob, sitting on the dune whilst watching John, cold and shaking, rake at the sand with his bare hands. “Yes, she knew a thing or two…she believed in the afterlife too. You see, we kept on seeing each other, even after I dumped Lizzie. I can’t remember ever having such a great and meaningful time with another person before. Love? I don’t know about that. Fascination is probably a little closer to the truth, I suppose.”

“Please don’t make me do this. I’m begging you,” said Jonathan, almost waist deep in the sand.

“But you’re almost there, my friend,” Bob replied, shaking his head. “I had to bury her good and deep, you know? I’m not as strong as I used to be. When she came here to kill herself, I didn’t like it. I mean, who would want to witness the one you love… But when I had the strength I crawled from the sea, took her lifeless body, dug the grave and…well, there you have it.”

“Sacrifice? Is that what…”

Bob nodded.

“When my body got washed out to sea, she knew I was never coming back. Even when she knew I had killed Lizzie, she harboured me for a short while, kept the police away when the heat got unbearable.

“At night, we’d make love…and she was an animal. Everything about her was magical. I was a dullard at school; never stuck in. I was just one of the lad’s eager to kick a football around. So, one night she showed me her collection of books. I joked around for a time but then started to take an interest in the thick, leather bound tomes that took pride of place on the shelf in her grubby little bedsit. They looked as though they had survived a few wars. One of them was covered in what I later found out was human fat. Not candle wax, but actual human fat. It contained passages that she insisted had been written by mermaids…I know, I know, I thought it was a load of crap too, my friend.”

John felt the first needles of ice-cold rain prick his cheek. The rumble of thunder came up from behind him like a prankster, but he was grateful for its icy breeze. His fingers were numbing from pulling at the sand, the fear of stroking the rotten flesh of Bob’s dearly beloved made his blood run cold.

“So…what did this book tell you?”

“It was more of a guidebook than anything else,” replied Bob, turning to face the sea, the red line was visible through the crack in his skull. “When the coppers finally caught up with me, I wasn’t afraid anymore. I knew that nothing and nobody could touch me. That’s what the book taught me. For the first time in my whole life…I was awaking. Sharyn took her pills and fell asleep. I’d laid her to rest, but it wasn’t over by a long chalk.”

“Why me?” John cried, wanting to fall back in the dune and sleep, in the hope this nightmare would end.

“You’re a murderer,” said Bob. “Oh, don’t look at me in that tone of voice, my friend. We are one and the same. Waiting thirty years for someone like you to come along had taken its toll. In fact, I was thinking you’d never arrive.”

That’s when John screamed.

He quickly climbed out of the hole as though a bucket of scorpions had been poured in there with him. Backing away from his find now, both hands covering his mouth, he looked over at the skeletal abomination standing over the grave.

“Good lad,” it said, nodding slowly. “You found her.”

He couldn’t stop the tears from falling as he carried the corpse to the sea.

“I…I can’t do this…I can’t…”

“But you’re doing so well,” said Bob, walking alongside him, barely leaving an imprint in the softening sand. “I’m…weak. Getting weaker by the minute it seems. Even in death nothing lives forever…That was clever, wasn’t it? Your wife will never come back…if…you do this. I mean…you wouldn’t want her turning up at the most awkward of…times…carrying your ex has…taken the…best of me.”

Bob was indeed getting weaker, thought John as they stepped into the water.

Then something happened.

He felt movement in his arms, a stirring, as though…

“It’s working! Ha! It’s bloody working!” Bob’s laughter was like a skewer through the other man’s ear. “It’s really working!”

The stench of her remains was turning John’s stomach, but it was the sudden jolt of movement in her that threatened to push him over the edge. The sea was almost touching the rancid bones and clothing.

“NO!”

“There she is,” Bob laughed. “Wakey, wakey, my darling.”

John wanted to scream as Sharyn turned her head and looked up into his eyes. One of her eye sockets was compacted with sand. What had once been a luscious mane of hair now spread across her gleaming face like seaweed. And as her mouth, an array of rotten, decaying teeth, opened on its hinge, she / it spoke.

“B…s’at …s’at you?”

“See…see, it’s working, my love!” Bob clapped his bony hands together. “You were right.”

“What…what’s happening to me?” said John, looking over at the creature now jumping for joy beside him. He could see the life shining in his eyes.

“No…God, no!”

Bob, well, he wasn’t the same at all. Flesh had covered his once rotten skull, a mop of dark hair was swept back from his face, slightly grey at the temples. He had eyes that were more like beacons of glee. And his voice seemed somewhat familiar.

John felt his clothing sag on his frame as though they were many sizes too big. That’s when he saw the clump of grey hair fall on Sharyn’s chest. He was ageing!

“What’s…” But his’ words caught in his throat like a chicken bone as he looked into the eye of the creature beside him.

“I told you we were one and the same,” said Bob, or rather, a mirror image of John himself.

“You can put me down now, darling,” said the beautiful girl in his arms, her full lips drawn back into an award-winning smile. She winked and blew a kiss.

John let go of her, a hand accidentally brushing against her breast.

His fingers!

In abject terror, John looked at his hands. They were crumbling into dust. Flesh, muscle, bone – it was all falling away. He heard tiny patters of something falling into the water… His teeth!

Sharyn jumped into Bob’s embrace, forgetting the walking dead that had carried her thus far. Their mouths touched for the first time in thirty years, and they were hungry for each other. “I told you we would be together again someday.”

“Yes, you did, sweetie,” said Bob, smiling from ear to ear.

They gave John a cursory glance before heading back to shore.

“Been nice knowing you,” Bob hollered over his shoulder.

John didn’t hear the words; his body had broken in two…then three. And before the lovers reached dry land, he was no more.

“Will you marry me?”

Bob laughed, shaking his head.

“Hey, I’m trying to be romantic here, young man,” Sharyn giggled, playfully delivering a punch to Bob’s stomach as they approached the car. Darts of rain flew through the blinding glare of the arc sodium lights high up in the blackened sky.

“Mrs. Jonathan Stainsby?” replied Bob, turning the words over in his mouth like fine wine. “Think you could get used to that?”

Sharyn screwed up the perfect little nose that God had blessed her with. “Nah, the name’s got to go.”

Bob ran his hands along the boot of the car, drumming his fingers on the cold metal. Sharyn stood close beside him now, feeling the coldness of the night for the first time in what seemed like forever.

“What do we do with her?”

Bob turned to her and grinned.

“Oh, no!” she backed away, laughing loudly. “You can do that yourself. I’ll wait in the car.” Before Bob could protest, Sharyn had grabbed the keys from his sodden pockets, his wallet, or rather, Jonathan’s wallet fell onto the tarmac. She picked it up and then got into the car.

“Unbelievable,” said Bob, watching his love turn on the radio.

“And be quick about it,” Sharyn shouted through the glass. She was holding up a credit card. “I’m fucking starving!”

Bob carried Emma over to the sand dune and dropped her in the ground. As he pushed the sand over her, he could hear the beat of dance music ride the shoulders of the strengthening wind.

“Great…Now I have to learn how to dance,” he sighed.

Elements of Horror Book Four: Water is now available for Kindle, in paperback, and on Audible here.