Red Envelope

I don’t remember much about this story, but once I began reading it, remembered having written it. I think I may have actually gotten a red envelope in the mail one day. This feels very familiar. But other than that, that’s all I remember.

I’m not using publicly available images in my posts anymore, but as I searched for images of red envelopes, I was surprised that they weren’t more prevalent on the web page I used to use (Wikimedia Commons). But I did notice a lot of Chinese associations. So, I searched and found that giving red envelopes as gifts at social and family gatherings was a “thing.” That the red color symbolizes good luck and is supposed to ward off evil spirits.

Yeah, well, you haven’t read this story, yet.

This story has never been published.


The Red Envelope


© F. P. Dorchak, 2003


Naked and sweaty, Harry Black stumbled through the overturned bourbon and vodka bottles littering his scant, alcohol-reeking, bedroom, on the way to the closet. Images pummeling his exhausted and bruised psyche: his wife and their three kids. Being fired from his stock analyst position. His anything-but-gradual descent into hell, at the hands of his own personal weapon of choice: bourbon. And bourbon’s distant, Russian cousin, vodka. And throw in a little hanky-panky for good measure.

Disoriented and disillusioned, Harry switched on the closet light, and reached up onto the top shelf, pulling down the cloth-wrapped parcel he’d stashed there just days ago. Or was it last month? All time blurred, when you were at one with the bottle. Didn’t frigging matter. Tears running down his face, he hugged his little package tightly into his chest and collapsed against the wall and floor. He sat there, legs sprawled out before him, and stared blankly at the bed and its rumpled sheets. At the spent bottles. The “lady” with whom he’d shared those sheets, earlier, was long gone, but his guilt was not. Harry unwrapped his little parcel, and openly began to weep. A .38 Special. For those special jobs you just couldn’t trust to any other method. It was loaded; he’d seen to that during one of his lately infrequent, in-between episodes, when he hadn’t yet made it back to the booze. Figured he’d have to have it all primed and ready to go, so as not to make any mistakes. Fumbling around for ammo, you know, when he was, well, as wasted as he currently was. Without any further ado, he cocked the hammer, and stuck the barrel into his mouth.

Then he spied the partially drained bourbon bottle at his feet.

Well, now, can’t have that, now, can we? One more for the road, old boy? One more certainly wasn’t gonna hurt anything, now was it?

Harry removed the barrel from his lips and reached for the bottle. Damn, what a waste that would have been! Smacking his lips at the taste of raw gunmetal, he drained the last of the rust-colored fluid in one fell, practiced, swoop, then tossed the bottle away. It skimmed maddeningly across the floor and under the bed, until it came to a clunking stop, somewhere outside his field of view. Squeezing his hot, swollen eyes shut, and wincing from the pure goodness of the devil’s own burn down his throat and into his belly, Harry again licked his lips and returned the barrel to where it should be—when a loud, pounding commotion at his apartment door interrupted him. It startled him almost as much as pulling the trigger would have. He jumped, jerking the gun from his mouth.


Never one to be deterred from his chosen path, Harry reinserted the barrel.

The knocking returned, however, and louder, and Harry swore the person was in the room with him. Again, jerking the gun from his mouth, and feeling a different pain in his belly this time, Harry shouted out in a half-whine, half plea for mercy, to go the hell away. Didn’t his visitor understand his need to rid himself from life? Of putting himself out of his—and everyone else’s—misery?

The knocking ceased.

Sobbing now, hand and revolver limp on the floor beside him, Harry slurred a whispered “thank you,” and brought the gun back to his mouth…but no sooner had he re-inserted the barrel through his tear-stained lips, when he heard—felt—another knock he swore was inside his head. This time, Harry shot stupidly to his feet, dropped the weapon, and threw his hands to his ears. The knocking continued, loud, powerful, and unabated…inside his head.

“Go away!” he yelled, wavering stupidly on his feet.

When it didn’t, he stumbled, bouncing off walls and doorjambs, as he angrily, and somewhat difficultly, navigated his way into a living room he never expected to set foot in again. The hammering at the door (and inside his oh-so-throbbing head) continued in a steady stream of pound-pound-POUND. He reached for the door, hastily fumbling with the lock, then threw it open.

“What the f—”

He stood naked and wobbling before a deserted hallway, angrily glaring at the apartment across the hall, the scent of cooked cabbage thick in the air (or whatever it was that aggravated his already sickened stomach). Blinking, and scratching matted hair, he poked his head out and around the apartment door, squinting down the length of the hallway. No one. Not a soul. He waddled out into the hallway, continuing to squint down its length. Admittedly, his vision wasn’t at its best, in his present state, but he could still make out that he was the only one out here. Alone, naked, and drunk. He turned to reenter his apartment…and stopped. There, on the floor before him, just inside the door, lay a red envelope. Addressed to him.

Harry stumbled back into his apartment, teetering to a stop just before the envelope. He blinked. No illusion. There it was…brilliant, almost radiant, and very, very, red. He’d never seen anything so deeply, so thoroughly, red before. It almost hurt to look at it for any length of time. And it had his name on it, in splendid, flowing gold calligraphy, which seemed to float over the somewhat translucent paper of the envelope.

Harry stooped over to pick it up, grew momentarily faint, and took a tumble. He ended up collapsing to his hands and knees, hands thrown out to either side of the letter, in support.

Harry Black, it read, simply. No address, no apartment number, just his name. Regaining his balance, such as it was, he picked up the letter, and got back to his feet. He stumbled back around, and made one last check out into the hallway, red envelope in hand. Nothing. He closed the door.

Harry couldn’t take his eyes off the envelope as he carried it into the bedroom, like a fish chasing a shiny lure, and when he looked up, the first thing his gaze fell upon was the gun. There, on the floor by the closet. Ready and waiting, its purpose yet unfulfilled. He picked it up.

Don’t desert me now, he thought. But another thought also entered his mind, as insistent as the knocks had been, drowning out all other thoughts:

Open me!

Harry ran an unsteady finger underneath the envelope’s flap, lifting it open. It was almost as if it opened itself.

Inside the gold-lined parcel lay nestled a sheet of high-quality stationary, also red. Very red. He removed it. The paper was heavy and thick, with perfect, sharp creases, as if ironed. He unfolded it and read the singular line.

What is your passion?

That was it. That was all it said, in beautiful, gold, calligraphy, set into the center of the sheet.

What is your passion?

Harry flicked the letter away, tears heavy in his eyes, his face a grimace of pain. With a lump in his throat, he grumbled, “Here’s my goddamned passion,” placed the barrel of the gun against his right temple, and pulled the trigger.

Nothing happened.

He pulled it again.

Still nothing.

“Goddammit!” Looking to the revolver, then shaking it, Harry saw it was, indeed, fully loaded, and crazily began to click off the trigger several more times, aiming the revolver at his head, and various other parts of his anatomy, but still…nothing.


In a fit of disgust, he pitched the revolver across the room, where it slammed into the wall…and discharged. Mewling pathetically, and never one to give up, Harry went after the revolver for yet another try, but stepped on one of the many empty bottles littering his apartment and slipped. The last thing he saw, just before his head smashed into the floor, was the red, red letter and its red, red envelope….


Harry’s eyes fluttered open, and he swore he had to be lying on the C&EI tracks, back home in Illinois, because of the rampaging locomotive thundering through his two-sizes-too-small skull. But the first thing he saw was that damned red envelope, propped up on the floor by its extended flap, so he could clearly read his name on the front. He couldn’t move, at first, but just stared at it, wincing in waves of pain. His name glistened in the rising morning sun, some three feet away from his face.

Harry Black!

What is your passion?

Read me!

But Harry wasn’t stupid, or naïve, just hung over. He knew everyone had their own inner dialog, their own inner voice, running rampant inside their heads…some were just a little more active, like Harry’s had always been, that’s all. Letters didn’t talk to anyone. They conveyed messages, scribbled there by their writers.

Do you feel better? his little voice inquired. A bit hung over, perhaps? Goodnow, read me.

Slowly, Harry pushed himself upright, sitting against the wall, and the world spun in direct proportion to the square of his movement. His head protested from the knot he’d received from his tumble. Still naked (and now chilled) he saw the gun, the spent bottles—his spent life—all before him. He shivered uncontrollably. Good, God, had he really? Had he really tried to take his own life? What’d happened, for chrissakes? Lifting a trembling hand to his head, he felt as if he was about to…and did. Into his lap.

Well, his voice chided, isn’t this just how you imagined it, all those years ago, as a kid growing up in Waukegan? Successful and well-to-do? Well, whoop-de-do, congratulations, my boy!

Dehydrated and weak, and stinking of sickly sweet alcohol and fresh vomit, Harry stiffly picked himself up off the floor and stumbled toward his bathroom, where he caught a good, hard, look at himself in the mirror. Yeah, this is it, sport. It don’t get any better than this, do it?

Harry turned away in disgust. Leaning against a wall, and wiping away vomit from his chin, he used an upraised arm against which to rest his forehead, closed his eyes, and tried to blank out all thoughts. Tried to wish it all away. When he’d next open them, he told himself, confidently, it would all be gone, and he’d be back with his wife and children, the way it used to be, in his dreams.


He opened his eyes, looking down to his pelvis. The vomit was still there. His nakedness was still there. His dismal failure of a life…still there.

Harry backed away from the wall and turned on the shower, as if recovering from suicide attempts were what he’d done every day, and slowly, carefully crawled into the bottom of the tub, rolling onto his back. He pushed on the shower lever with a foot, increased the water temperature, and let the warm, soothing water wash over him. The closest thing he had to a confessional. Showers always seemed to make things better. Must be a water-womb thing. Who cared. He just wished he could sleep here, warm water splashing over him, forever and ever….

You’re a long way from Waukegan, Illinois, mister. Remember Waukegan?

He lifted his head (yeah, it spun, but what the hell, he’d just tried to take himself out, so, what was a little pain and vertigo?), and looked out the stall. If he leaned forward a bit, he could just see into the bedroom and make out (big surprise!) that damned envelope. The red one that seemed to glow in the golden morning sunrise, like Monica from that stupid Touched By An Angel series his grandmother loved to watch. Hi, I’m Mohnica, and I’m an angel sent by Goyd, to tell you how much he loves hewww….


(what is your passion?)


“…so, son, have you decided what you want to be when you grow up?” an eleven-year-old Harry Black’s father had asked him one, beautiful, summer’s day, while he helped out at his father’s law firm—when he should have been outside, swimming, playing explorer, or chasing dragonflies.

Harry blurted out his answer before he realized it, an answer he’d been thinking about for a long time, by boy’s standards, anyway, an answer that had been burning inside him forever. “I wanna be a saint!

Not only had Harry’s father stopped dead in his tracks, but so had everyone else within earshot, in the office of Black, Hegelsson, and Millot. After all, when one’s father, a respected and successful lawyer, asked what it was you wanted to be upon growing up, the expected response was lawyer, stockbroker, or financier extraordinaire. President, even.

Not some fucking saint.

Hell, they didn’t even know how to spell the word.

But the Harry senior response had been what was expected, had Harry junior been a little older and knew about awkward moments in public places with respected community leaders: laughter, quickly followed by one of the usual, tension-easing expressions parents use, such as Well, don’t those darned kids say the darnedest things? Or That’s no kid of mine, heh, heh! Or Agnes! Did you lose our son in the supermarket, again and again take home the neighbor’s kid? As soon as possible thereafter, however, when everyone returned their attention to work, had come the not-so-well-known trademark Black fatherly stare young Harry was more than familiar with—in private. His father’s real stare, which unmistakably said How dare you embarrass me like that, you little shitwe are going to talk about this later, little man, don’t you mistake that, then I’m gonna kick your ass from here to Lake Superior….

Ah, the wonder years.


Passion. What had been his passion? Where had it gone? And what the hell kind of question was that, anyway, and from where? Some stupid-ass piece of junk mail slid underneath his door? A joke? Well, bad timing, pal.

Harry lay back down in the tub and allowed the warm water to spray over him. He pressed the shower lever to the left, with his toe, upping the heat a little more.

Now all he wanted to do was die. Gruesome or quiet, it didn’t matter, but he couldn’t even pull off that simplest of tasks without screwing things up. Like his entire life…all screwed up.

After an untold amount of time trying to drown his sorrows in the shower, Harry toweled off, and reentered the bedroom. It was no hallucination, after all, it was still there among the bottles and the gun. That damned letter. Scooping it up off the floor, Harry sat on the edge of his bed and looked at it with a somewhat bruised—if sober—mind.

What an odd little piece of paper.

It didn’t look like a chain letter…it was crisp and fresh, Hallmark quality…but who’d delivered it to him? His name was clearly written on the front of it, but that was it—no address, just his name—and that brought up another matter: who’d been wailing on his door last night, interrupting his planned departure from this world?

Harry winced. Don’t try to think too hard, yet, my friend, you’re still in hangover mode.

Last night. He looked around the room. Spent bourbon and vodka bottles, everywhere (not to mention, he thought, rubbing his head, that little bruised reminder, on his scalp), and his revolver. It was all real, none of it made up. There it was, the gun, lying on the floor, as innocent as ever.

And he was thirsty. Very, very, thirsty.

His glanced down to the red sheet of paper in his hands.

What is your passion?

I’ll tell you what my goddammed passion is. Booze. And lots of it. Firewater, my friend. Al Ke Hol.

But it hadn’t always been that way, had it? that stupid, nagging, voice inside insisted. It hadn’t always been the bottle. You’d had other passions before. Cynthia. The kids. Before thatyou’d actually wanted to be a saint, hadn’t you? What’d happened, Harry, where had you taken such a wrong turn? Where had you sinned?

I don’t know what’d happened. All I know is that daddy beat me down, over the years, told me I’d not amount to anything if I didn’t Get In Gear, and that no son of his was ever gonna be any kind of a deified bullshit saint. Saints were dead people, for crying out loud, people who did great things with their lives, died or were murdered, then became canonized. You couldn’t be a saint while living, and you certainly couldn’t make a living while living as a saint—not to mention marry and have kids, and by, God, that’s exactly what you’ll be doing, so you better find yourself a more practical way of living, my boy!

Yeah, that’s what’d happened. Life got in the way, like it always does. What the hell good was it to grow up, anyway? It was far better to die while you still had dreams, than to grow up and lose them all. Life just sucks. Sucks out loud, and there ain’t no way around it.

Harry again looked to the paper. What is your passion?

But he’d had that passion, once, so very long ago, in another life, and that passion had been to help others. Pure and simple. To be the best possible person he could be. To be, in a word, a living, breathing, not-dead saint. Adult rules meant nothing to kids. He’d seen that show, The Saint. If Simon Templar could do it, then, by God, so could Harry Black!

It was then that Harry felt something he hadn’t felt in a long, long time.


Not anger and hatred, but a sadness and empathy for that little boy he used to be, and how sad it was that he’d killed him…him and his dreams. He missed that boy, that young and naïve Harry Black, junior. God, had he so messed up his life that he was forever damned? It didn’t have to be the official, religious sense of the word, but it suddenly hit home how he still wanted to do nothing but help people. And maybe that was why he’d married Cynthia. She—neither of them, actually—had been perfect, in any sense of the word, but he’d seen something in her…something that’d touched him, once, something in her that had made him fall in love with her….

Yes, deep down, Harry’d always wanted to be someone who went around the world, helping people out. If they didn’t have enough money, he’d give it to them. If they didn’t have work, he’d find it for them. If they were lonely and destitute, he’d help them out, become their friend. A shoulder to cry on? He was there. But what had happened along the way? Daddy had had other plans for him, and he’d been sent off to college. Got his degree, and had then been put to work in daddy’s law firm. So, in an effort to get out from under daddy’s thumb, Harry’d found an investment firm to work for. If he couldn’t be a saint, so the logic went, at least he could make lots of money and someday create a foundation of some kind, and still get part of his dream….

But more life got in the way, hadn’t it?

You see, there had been this Christmas party, and there had been this girl, see?, and they had gotten rather looped, Harry and this girl, and ended up in this broom closet, and, well, one thing’d lead to the other, and before he knew it, Harry Black had found himself engaged to Miss Cynthia Barlow, daughter to Troy Barlow, CEO and president to the firm that provided him with his rather lucrative remuneration. Three kids, several bank accounts and Christmas parties later, Harry found loving wife Cynthia in the broom closet, yet again, but this time with another. It wasn’t long afterward that Harry found his new best friend—the bottle.

Better a bottle in front of me, than a frontal lobotomy.

That had been his bottle—battle—cry. That had been his life. And when he’d finally confronted Father-in-law with this information on his wunnerful daughter, what had been the reply? Have his own goddammed affair. No one divorced in this family, he decreed, be a man, and take control of the situation! Suck it up. This is the Big Time, my boy, and you obviously hadn’t been satisfying her up to now, so you better shape up, bring her back around, and get with the program—or I will make your life extremely uncomfortable.

Oh, he got with the program all right. Program Bourbon. Program Vodka. You name it, you drink it. But it, eventually, all came back to that one little, nagging, question, didn’t it?

What is your passion?

He knew it; was surprised it was still there. Thought it’d been killed long ago, with that little boy. Saints were supposed to go through trying times, weren’t they? A life full of despair and torment, only to, somehow, rise above it all, in death, and become…anointed?

And it was still his passion, after all those years. He no-shit wanted that dream. Harry looked to his letter, again, and just about had a heart attack. He shot to his feet, tossing it away. Where it had previously only had that one line on its crisp, stiff paper, now it read:

Do it.

In gold calligraphy.

Harry stared at it.

Do it.

He blinked. Rubbed his eyes. The words remained.

What the hell?

Cautiously, he walked over to the letter and its envelope. The letter, face up and twisted at an angle to him, its envelope beside it. Harry angled his head to read it without touching it. Repositioning himself…he kept his focus on the golden calligraphied words. Again rubbed his eyes.

Okay, what was going on, here?

He picked up the letter and held it out before him. Crisp, heavy paper. Picked up the envelope. Gold lined. Also heavy and crisp. Brand new stationary in a brilliant, vivid, almost translucent, red.

This couldn’t be happening. Letters didn’t change from one set of wording to another, without someone doing it.

But he held the evidence in his hands, and where had been the words “What is your passion?” now were the words “Do it.” And what had he been thinking about when this happened? Being a saint. Helping people.

Do it, the words accused.

Harry folded the letter up into its tri-fold, and hastily stuffed it back into the envelope, then put it on the nightstand, backing away. He stared at the bottles littering the floor of his bedroom. The gun…still there. Looked to the rumpled bed. Thought about last night and how he wasn’t supposed to be alive this morning. He wasn’t supposed to be here, today, plain and simple. The neighbor’s cat was supposed to have found him, scratching at his apartment door, because of his putrid stench. Or someone was supposed to have called 911, because of the gunshot….

But none of that had happened, had it?

Now, what the hell was he supposed to do?


Harry Black pulled the lapel of his jacket up around his neck. It was pleasantly brisk, were such words as “pleasantly” to enter his mind. Late October, and he was supposed to be dead. It was almost as if he felt that other him was dead, up there in that apartment of his, right now, lying on the floor, his brains blown out across the room in one of those funnel-shaped spatter patterns. It made him shiver. He’d come so close to actually doing it—and was that something he’d normally do? Was that something that was a part of the normal Harry Black psyche?

Was cheating on his wife?

Was looking the other way when his boss shaved off some numbers in the books?

Was living in an apartment his wife knew nothing about (or did, but didn’t care)?

Where had Honest H gone? What had happened to him that he had to accept a life so less-virtuous?

Right here, fired back the answer. Right here, right now.

Where had things taken such a wrong turn? Did it even matter? No matter how you may have been raised, there eventually came a point in your life when you were considered an adult, which meant there came a time when you, and no one but you were held responsible for your actions. All of them. Sure, it’d been easy to blame his life on his parents. Or, once free of them, on his wife and her father. Bad business practices. But when it came right down to it, no one twisted his arm to marry her, and no one twisted his arm to go down the path he now found himself trekkin.

A fine saint he’d make, indeed.

What is your passion?

Do it.

Well, if he was supposed to have killed himself, was there, now, anything to his life more daunting? If he (or the letter) changed that part of his life, do you think he could change other aspects? If the worst had already been averted, what did that make everything else? Why not just walk away from it all? Start anew?

Do it.

And, just where to start? He pulled out the envelope from his jacket pocket. The idea came to him in a flash. Mrs. Barbara Crown. That’s where he’d start.


Harry stood before the post office mail box, thinking, little did anyone know he wasn’t supposed to be here. That he was supposed to be lying in a pool of his own gore, back at his apartment, stinking up the place. But one little red letter turned his entire life around. Now, he’s standing in the post office, awaiting to do good by someone.

Harry looked to the envelopes he held, ready to be mailed. And in all of them were hefty sums of money to help each of those he chose to mail. He had more money than he knew what to do with (well, not exactly, but it sounded good), why not spread it around, like to Mrs. Barbara Crown and company? An old neighbor of his, back in Waukegan. Make a day or two a little brighter. Harry deposited the envelopes, and turned to leave the post office, when he spotted an elderly gentleman, having problems opening a mailbox. Smiling, Harry walked over.

“Excuse me, sir, but is there something I could help you with?”

“I’m having trouble opening this box. I can’t seem to get the combination to work,” the man said.

“Let me find someone to help you.”

Harry went off to one of the windows, talked to one of the employees, there, and in no time a helpful postal employee assisted the gentleman in gaining access to his mail box.


Harry Black had spent the better part of the week reevaluating his life, and cleaning up the mess he’d made of things the past ten years—though he kept the apartment. He cleaned out the bottles, and got rid of the gun. He’d also begun the paperwork for that non-profit foundation he’d always wanted to start, listing his children as silent partners. Of course, he wasn’t telling Cynthia any of this. Once he named his board, he quickly asked them to select the as-yet-unnamed head of his foundation. He would remain in the background.

But as Harry now sat in his apartment, sipping tea, and looking out over three a.m. New York, listening to the sirens off in the distance, he looked to his red letter, on the table before him. Something about it felt different; felt…restless.

What is your passion?

Do it.

Where the hell had it come from? Who’d sent it to him? Was he being watched? Tracked? And there had been the unnerving business about who’d been knocking at his door. He knew he’d been drunk, but he remembered something distinctly disturbing about that intrusion. Not only persistent, but also like it had been, not only at his apartment door, but in his head. How could that be? And the knocking didn’t go away until he answered it. Then, there had been no one in the hallway! Had he imagined it all? Got it all messed up in his drunken haze and suicidal tendencies, and that letter had, in fact, been there all day?

Of course he had. It had all been in his mind, the weirdness of it, anyway. The letter was obviously real, because he had it, and it was anything but to be ignored. A vivid red envelope, with his name embossed on the front—in bright gold. This was clearly deliberate. Inside, a red letter, also written in gold, the line “What is your passion?” written in the center of its sheet, which later changed to “Do it.”

Or did it?

He opened it up. “What is your passion?” was still there. Where had the “Do it,” gone? Had it really ever been there, or was he just pleasantly losing his mind? He ran his fingers over the words. They were real. How could words change themselves? They can’t, that’s how. He set the pair back on the table.

Okay, he had to have imagined the “Do it” part. But, it almost didn’t matter, because the end result had been that it had saved him from personal annihilation and turned his life around. Given him the passion to start over, to say no to his current path, and forge ahead on a new one. He wished he could repay whoever’d sent it—

Harry’s blood ran cold. There, again on the letter, were the words: “Do it.”

He shot to his feet, hands thrown into the air in exasperation. “How? How do I do this, when I don’t know who sent it?”

Do it.

Was all it said.

Go for a walk.

Those words entered his head, and he swore this thought was different. It didn’t quite feel like it came from him, it felt…alien. Maybe it was just his heightened sensitivity to what was going on, his current, estranged, state of mind, but this voice felt separate from who he was.

Go for a walk, the thought insisted.

A walk—in this neighborhood, at this time of night? He’d be asking for it, he thought back, this wasn’t exactly rural, upstate New York, this was New York City. People didn’t just go walking certain streets at night unless they were looking for trouble—

Go for the walk.

What is your passion?

Do it.

Hey, you were going to kill yourself just the other day, his voice countered, what difference does it make, if something happens now? Where was that backbone you had a failed suicide ago? One day you’re all gung-ho to leave this world, the next you’re afraid to go outside your apartment?

Life is funny that way, ain’t it?

Harry chuckled. He had a point. Him. If he’d been so ready to end it all, this should…this should just be a walk in the park, shouldn’t it? Live and let live! Die and let die! We all have to die sometime of something, and all his time was borrowed, now, wasn’t it? A life he wouldn’t have had, had he never received that letter. A regular red letter day, if there ever was one! There ain’t ever gonna be any more overt acts of Divine Intervention the rest of your life, baby, so grab it while you can!

Yeah, a lot of strange things had happened, as a result of that letter. Go with it. Do it. Take that walk.

That letter. The red, red one. With the shiny, gold calligraphy.

Harry threw on his jacket, stuffed the letter into a pocket and locked the door behind him. He felt curiously liberated…and sad. As he walked away, he turned, looking back to his apartment one last time. It really was interesting how life turned out, wasn’t it? He would not be where he presently stood, had a certain outcome occurred over another. Would not be standing there in the hallway looking back at that door, right now, had things turned out just a wee bit differently.

Booze and bullets. There was never anything good that came from mixing those two together. Ever.

Harry left the building.


Harry’d had this happen before, but, somehow, it had a little more impact, now, than it ever had previously. He found himself walking up steps inside some other building, in an area of town he wasn’t familiar. And it wasn’t a friendly, Hi Ya, Doin, Neighbor! area, either. It’d happened before, this zombie-like state. He remembered how once, while in high school, he’d been driving home, but had been so tired, he’d never actually remembered, consciously, driving home. He’d done the whole twelve-mile trip on autopilot—and at night. And another time, while in college, same thing. He’d been so preoccupied with an upcoming test, he’d actually walked smack into a light pole on a public street. So this was not without precedent, but this was the first time he’d found himself entering what looked like a crack house, at two-twenty-two in the a.m., the smell of death and decay everywhere. He actually stopped partway up the stairs, and thought about heading back, hell, running back. He did not feel at all good about being here. There were far too many shadows in this dark, foreboding den of inequity, for it to be any kind of safe. The people he passed? Well, the polite description would be that they all appeared to be “societally challenged”….

But…they left him alone.

Never…never in a million years…had he ever thought he’d be caught dead inside one of these places, and here he was. That’s when he realized he held that envelope in his hand. The one that he’d had in a jacket pocket when he left his apartment. He was holding it, and it still had his name on it. Harry found himself again moving upward. Up, ever up, along the creaking, dark, steps, until he came to the landing he was meant to step off on. His legs and body

(the letter)

had a mind of their own.

Do it.

Yes, he knew the difference between this experience and what had happened before. There was no hiding it, now…it had to be the letter. Had to be. As much as he tried to ignore the weirdness of all that had happened, there was no ignoring it, now. Whatever this letter was, it was definitely on overdrive, on a mission, and he was its merry messenger boy. Harry felt its sudden and intense sense of urgency. Hey, it saved his life, maybe it was about to save another! Harry backed off the skepticism, and allowed himself to just go with the little red package. It wasn’t easy, but it was doable.

At the landing, Harry turned right, and went down into a darker part of the building. Wonderful. He could see shadows moving about down there, too, but, like a roller coaster ride, he just told himself to go with it. The letter knew what it was doing, and had saved his life—and who knew how many countless others, before him. He had to trust it. As they made their way through the shadows, Harry watched—felt—those in the dark watching him. He couldn’t get out of there fast enough.

But they all allowed him (them?) to pass.

Harry now stood before a door at the far end of the hallway. Boy, had he gone through with his earlier intentions, he would never have known this hallway, either, at this time of night. How lucky for him. There were definitely some experiences one could stand to do without.

He stared at the door. Looked to the letter in his hand, still with his name on it, which still seemed to…not so much as glow, in the streetlight-illuminated darkness of this narrow, rancid-smelling hallway, but…but seemed more like that he could really see the depth of redness to it.

Okay, magic or not, this was très weird. But, still, there was that sense of urgency—hurry!—and he wasted no time in sliding it under the door, giving it that little extra push to make sure it went all the way in. He could feel it riding on a cushion of air, as he slid it under the door.

But that wasn’t enough.

For some strange reason, he felt—was absolutely consumed with—the notion that he had to wail on that door to beat all Hell.

(And hurry it up, mister—Do it!)


So he did. But it wasn’t no ordinary, familiar, knock he’d felt exit his body, no, this one left goosebumps all over him as he did it. The first time he knocked took him by surprise, because his hand just reached out and slammed against the door with a mind of its own, but as he tried to take control of it, the knock began to consume him, and he began to severely pound on the door…he was actually… reaching out…into the room, trying to make (oh, give me a break!, he cried, mentally)…some kind of…extrasensory contact…with whoever was in there.

He paused. Oh my God—this was for real!, his little voice again cried. He listened, holding his breath. He still couldn’t hear much, but felt someone was in there… someones…and he’d heard faint movement….

Now, entirely certain he was possessed, he found himself pounding against that door as if his life depended on it. With all his heart and soul he laid into the door, and saw as it shook before him from a power he’d never knew he’d had. And he didn’t stop, either. He rapped and rapped and rapped, and in his mind’s eye he saw them, the two of them, in the midst of a life-and-death struggle, a man and a woman. He knew not what brought them to this brink of self-destruction, only that he now saw, in his mind’s eye, the man pinning the woman to the floor, his hands closed tightly around her slender neck. He also saw that the woman was scrambling behind her for something, anything, and saw her hand grab a pair of scissors, as she was ready to—

He poured his heart and soul into his plea, forced himself into the knocking, and found himself as if in the room with the couple, knocking not on the apartment door, but right behind them, beside them, knocking with an intensity of the gods inside their very heads.

And with that, his sense of urgency faded, and he withdrew from the door, emotionally drained. As his consciousness withdrew from the scene, backing out of the apartment, he saw the red envelope, there, on the floor in front of the door, a new name now written in gold calligraphy on the front of it. He smiled.

His job was done.

Exhausted, Harry left the apartment, and walked uncaring past the dark shadows in the hallway. He made his way all the way back down to the dark streets below.

He’d done it, by God!

Saved the life of just not one person, but three, for as his consciousness withdrew from the apartment, he’d also seen the child. Had seen that, somehow, those scissors had turned into a wooden play ball, and that the woman had clubbed the man in the head, with it, instead, knocking him out. But the thing that had really turned his stomach was that he’d also seen and felt rage…all this uncontrollable anger within the man, and a history of violence. The lives that had been taken and controlled by a wickedness he couldn’t bear to continue sampling. The fact that the wife had bravely decided to take a stand and fight back was commendable, however things hadn’t exactly gone in her favor, and their eight-month-old had been in the same room with them during their muted struggle—until he showed up, they’d showed up, him and that red envelope—and he’d begun pounding at their door with an intensity that was more than just Harry Black….


Outside, Harry found New York was still there, as cold and dark as ever, and he actually found that vaguely comforting. He felt high, as if walking on air. He’d saved lives, this past week, when he’d originally meant to take one. Had he actually went through with it, he wouldn’t have seen this building, this night, never would have heard the noises that were presently going on all around the city, smell that distinctly New York City smell. Wouldn’t have helped that man in the post office, or set up that foundation he’d always wanted. Yes, life was funny! It didn’t always go the way we thought it should, but did manage go the way it needed to.

Harry turned a corner, and came upon a Mercedes, stopped in the middle of the street. All feeling of elatedness instantly evaporated. Harry looked to both sides of the street, behind him, saw no one, yet felt something wasn’t right. He cautiously approached the car, and found a lady sitting in it, nervous and wide-eyed, clutching a cell phone. Armed with a smile, he cautiously approached, calling out to her.

“Ma’am! Do you need any help?”

Without rolling down her window, the lady projected her voice through the window, and said, “It just stopped! I was trying to take a short cut home, but the engine just quit on me!” Harry observed her hands nervously gripping the phone, he again checked out the streets. Still clear, yet his senses remained alert.

“Okay…and you let it sit for a little while, before trying to start it up, again?”

The woman nodded vigorously. “Yes…and I’ve called for help and a tow. They’re on the way.”

“Okay. Could you pop the hood? I could take a look.”

The lady gritted her teeth in a hesitant grimace. “I’m sorry…I, well…look, I-I don’t know that I should. I….”

Harry sadly nodded in acknowledgment, looking down to the asphalt, and sighed. “You don’t trust me, I understand,” he said. “Well…are you going to be okay?”

The lady again nodded. “I-I think so.”

“Do you have 911 dialed into your cell?”

The lady checked, then nodded vigorously.

“Well, okay, then.”

Harry was torn. Should he leave, or should he stay?

What would a saint do?

And who was safer here—her, in the locked car with a working cell phone—or him, outside, unarmed? He doubted she was going to let him in with her, but what could he do, by himself, should someone decide to check her out, so to speak? Maybe he could walk up a little way, and duck into a dark corner, and keep an eye on her, maybe that would be the mitigating action. But would telling her that help her feel any safer? She didn’t know him from a hole in a wall, and for all practical purposes, he could be a rapist or ax-murderer. For that matter, how did he know who she was? She could be a decoy, for all he knew. There just wasn’t any way to win any more. The world was growing far too paranoid. Far too angry. Far too fearful.

Harry grimaced. “Well, then…I’m just going to go—okay?”

At this, the woman’s eyes grew wide. As Harry made a move to leave, the lady nervously rolled down her window an inch.

“Do you…do you have to?” Her tone took on a softer, gentler tone. “I-I’m sorry…I’d let you in, but—”

Harry suddenly smiled that everything’ll-be-all right smile, and, indeed, he actually felt that way. “Ma’am,” he chuckled, “it’s all right, I understand. Neither of us knows each other. If it makes you feel any better, I can just walk on over there,” he said, pointing, “and duck in the shadows. I’ll keep an eye on you, til your tow arrives, then leave. How’s that?”

The woman studied him, then nodded. He could see the conflict on her face, and it pained him to see her in such philosophical torment. “Well…okay, I guess.”

Harry again turned to leave, when the lady said, “I’m so sorry.” Her eyes were beseeching, sorrowful.

Harry smiled, and continued on his way. He wondered what he would really do if the need arose, and scanned the street before him for something to use in defense. There was still unfinished business, here, he felt it, and no sooner had the thought crossed his mind, when he heard a loud, glassy, concussion behind him. Spinning around, his heart sank. Two guys stood to either side of the Mercedes, one with a baseball bat, the other crouched with a gun, held out before him, anxiously. They both looked to Harry. The lady was frantic inside the car, but he could see her on the phone. To the police, no doubt.

Harry didn’t need to think about anything. Hell, he’d been ready to take his own life less than a week ago, this was nothing—except that a fellow human was now in danger. Someone beside him. Goddammed people! Why was it we felt the need to kill each other? Harry rushed to the lady’s aid.

The thing about life, a distant part of Harry thought back to on his hurried return, was that it was funny. A lot of the time we never know what will happen and why, only that there are times where we must do certain things….


Harry Black defended that woman who gave him the pleading look, but at the price of his own life. And the irony of it was that he did end up taking a bullet to the head after all—the right temple, as a matter of fact. Unfortunately for Harry, he also met Mr. Baseball Bat, but in so doing, had diverted the attack from the woman long enough to give her precious time to make her 911 call and for the police to arrive. It just so happened that a patrolling cruiser one street over had responded to that call. Saints have been known to produce a miracle or two.

This lady, it also happened to turn out, was the newly appointed person designated by the foundation’s board, the one Harry had created, who was to run his foundation. Her grandfather had had the difficulties in the post office that one day, and recognized Harry’s face on the news, on the next. The two assailants had been apprehended, but the light at the end of the tunnel for Harry Black was that he’d attained his passion…with the naming of the Harry Black Benevolence Foundation. He also managed to get a change-in-name of the avenue upon which the foundation was headquartered. Harry Black Avenue had a good ring to it.

Be careful for what you wish for.

What’s your passion?


Short Story Links

Links to all my posted short stories are here.

A Sermon Unleashed

You just never know who some people are when you meet them. Especially at night in a KOA campground. I remember one or two times our family stayed at some KOAs. It was fun…the six of us and our family dog. The smell and crackle of campfires and pine trees and grilled food. The conversations from faceless people who seemed friendly enough….

I’m so glad we never ran into any of the sort in this next story.  At the rate they were going, I don’t think they had many converts. Always keep your vehicles parked facing your getaway. Just sayin’.

This story has never seen the light of day…or been published.


A Sermon Unleashed

© F. P. Dorchak, 1989


A large part of his oxygen escaped, his knees rubbery.

“How do you know this?” Phil asked. It was dark, the smell and crackle of campfires in the air, and he and a guy named Darrell stood in an open area of a KOA.

Darrell chuckled again, and this one was much worse than before. There was no doubt as to the vileness in his tone. And the darkness just exaggerated everything.

“Because I made it all up!” Darrell said, his voice now rising above their personal conversation and carrying over to some of the closer people around them, including a group at a van. His laugh was unabashed and wicked and Phil’s eyes froze on Darrell’s shadowy face. He wasn’t sure…but it seemed like Darrell’s face was…changing? In the process of change? It had to be a trick of what little light there was. Why and how would Darrell’s face be changing, it didn’t make any sense, but that was how it registered to Phil’s mind.

“In a way, buddy, I feel sorry for you,” Darrell said. “You are not gullible and stupid like they are,” Darrell said, forcing thick words out of a now extending mouth. It sounded like his tongue was impeding coherent speech. And there were weird, abrading sounds seeming to come from Darrell. Like muscle and bone were moving around…pushing each other out of the way….

In the next instant Phil felt a powerful force strike him. Not that he knew it, but it came from a hairy but muscular hand and clobbered Phil like a flying slab of concrete. Bowling over, he smacked his head hard on a good-sized rock. That was the last he recalled before blackness….


Out from the shadows charged a figure.

He was tall…and he drooled as his face contorted and his cruelly clawed limbs completed their restructure. From under a quickly thickening mane hissed one word:


“What’s going on here?” someone asked from the darkness. Flashlights clicked on everywhere at once. A girl named Brenda, from that group, whipped her head around and saw shadows running toward her group. She quickly made for her boyfriend’s truck. She’d just managed to dodge out of the path of some rushing thing that went past her for the group she’d just left.

“Phil? Phil?” Brenda called out. No answer.

The crowd behind her was hit by a rude flurry of fangs and claws. Their shrieks cut into the air as the group split up, people trying to outrun the faceless fury that ripped apart their bodies. No matter where they ran they all blundered into more of the same…it was like hitting a wall of rotating knives.

The attacks came from everywhere.

Sounds of screaming, tearing, and growling.

Brenda continued calling for her boyfriend. She never saw him…on the ground only ten feet away…unconscious.

The shrieks from the growing feeding frenzy increased. Other groups further up the campground’s road were going through the same agonies. Brenda saw several of the van group try to rush back into their van. One, a rather large lady, fell hard to the ground. She never got back up, as a closely following beast quickly fell upon her. Another growling shadow continued on to the van. It lunged inside it with the handful of people doing the same.

The van rocked

(don’t come knockin!)


Brenda’s voice was frozen in her throat.

She watched as silhouettes from the friends she’d just been with were being ripped apart into smaller silhouettes.

Something bump against her foot.

Whatever the thing was, it had hit her foot like a heavy, wet rag doll and she was afraid to look down. Rag dolls usually had more than just hair.

Gradually the sounds of struggle died…and all that remained were the sounds of quiet tearing. Squinting, Brenda saw several silhouettes run off into the night, but still saw no Phil.

The rocking van stopped.

Somehow spared, Brenda slowly backed up to the driver’s side of her boyfriend’s truck, and inched her way into it, ducking low. Silently she cried Phil’s name, tears running down her face. She fumbled several times with her keys before starting the truck. Dirt spat out from the tires and she dug two deep channels on her exit from the massacre. Several spitting stones hit Phil, who remained unconscious behind the van. A hairy head popped up from within the van, then went back to its business. Several of the other werewolves looked up at her as she sped away, one beginning to give chase…when Darrell called her off. She could go…they had enough for tonight. There would be plenty of time for her later.

There was always time.

Phil lay in the dirt. Blood pooled against his back as it sluiced out from the van. All around him lay the spoils of slaughter. The breeze was still warm, but it now carried a sickly sweet aroma with it. Amid the quiet sounds of eating, echoes of screams and agony still hung thickly in the air.

There were no more revelers, stargazers, or lovers.

Only mutilated bodies.

Phil slowly came to…his eyes painfully straining around in their sockets. His face was pressed into the dirt.

He was afraid to move.

But his consciousness was short-lived, and he again fell back into blackness.

A tall, naked, and muscular man emerged from around the van. A man with gray hair, his body covered in blood and gore. He came up to Phil’s position, his watery eyes looking down upon him. With one mighty, still-clawed hand, he lifted Phil’s unconscious form effortlessly into the air; examined it. A diseased grin formed beneath rabid eyes. What formed on its tortured face could have been called a smile.

“Phil,” the creature said, chuckling, “you always doubted me; doubted your girl. You never had the faith…but your girlfriend does…and to get her, I need you.” He chuckled. “Come along, my friend, we have much work to do!”

Dust whisked along the roadside. The blood that had been pooling up against Phil until now broke through the built up meniscus and branched out into chaotic little patterns in the sand.

Faith, dear people…a little faith can get you through the worst of times!”

Darrell laughed into the morning dusk, returning back into the hills from which he and his kind had come, Phil’s unconscious form draped across his powerful and scarred shoulders. His followers grabbed their spoils, and quickly followed….



Short Story Links

Links to all my posted short stories are here.

Shelf Life

If I remember right, the sign mentioned in this story was my inspiration for the story. Or at least a version of it that you see in everyday life. And who among us hasn’t visited a store not unlike the one mentioned here…a tiny, packed antique shop…with a forgotten corner inside it…crowded with all kinds of neat, old stuff…from the ends of the world…each with their own lives…their own stories to tell….

This story I do kinda remember writing. Not the specifics, not the ending (which I modified for this release)…but the overall effort.

This story has never been published.


Shelf Life

© F. P. Dorchak, 1991


“CJ, come over here and take a look at this!” Allison Bundle shouted.

CJ looked up from the pile of ancient Turkish rugs he’d been examining, annoyed at the mere sound of his wife’s voice.

“Come here, look at what I found. Look at this.”

He came over and found her holding up an old oil lamp into the light.

“It’s just an oil lamp—”

“No, not the lamp—the shelves. Look.” Allison directed CJ’s attention to the corner in front of them. It was an altogether normal enough looking setup of plain boards covered with odd knickknacks, and attached to the setup was a scribbled message, barely legible. The sign hung from one of the upper shelves and had a ragged bottom edge.

“What do you think it means?” she asked.

“Well, Allison,” CJ said, barely able to mask his annoyance, “I think it’s rather simple enough, don’t you? I mean it says ‘Don’t Buy.'”

She could be so dense sometimes.

He began to wander off, wondering why he even let her take him into these places. Why he even stayed married to her. One day, just one day, he’d love to lose her in one of these places and walk out the door…and just keep walking. Forever, How their marriage had gone sour, he couldn’t recall, didn’t care, it just had. He guessed he’d always seen the ‘bitch-streak’ in her from the beginning and had just chosen to ignore it. Because of the sex. Yup. That had been his first mistake. The second was in staying with her. Yes, he’d been nothing more than an ape when he’d married her, an ape wanting sex…but he’d since evolved…she hadn’t.

“Yeah, but why have all these things here, then put up a sign that tells you not to buy them? And you can barely read the damn thing,” she said tapping the sign.

“Well maybe they belong to the owner and are just there for display,” he said, finding himself drawn back to the shelves. “There aren’t even prices on most of these things up—”

“I don’t think so,” she said. CJ had found that her disagreeing with him was usually more of a reflex action than of legitimate discussion. She always loved to (immediately) counter anything he had to say.

CJ examined the shelves. The sign and its accompanying display case were clearly showing its age, and the objects themselves, like the rest of the curio-slash-antique-slash-rip-off shop were all eclectic and queer-looking. Unable to discern anything more about the shelves or their construction, CJ turned away…when he was overcome by an acute feeling of dread. He didn’t know where the feeling was coming form, but it suddenly changed his entire perspective on the subject.

“I don’t know, Alli, but all of a sudden I’m getting a very funny feeling about all this. Let’s just put it back and find something else, okay?”

“Oh, give me a break, dearest, it’s probably just a joke. I’m going to take this,” she said, and again hefted and examined the oil lamp.

No,” CJ insisted, perhaps just a bit more sharply than was his norm, but he did notice it stopped Allison in mid-action. She looked at him, surprised, and he discovered he liked that look. It was the first time he could remember where she actually looked frightened.

“Look, Alli, I really don’t think we should. Okay?”

“Why are you acting so weird? I like it, so I’m going to buy it. That’s that.”

“I don’t like it. There’s something off about it…and this whole place as a matter of fact…that just gives me the creeps—and it’s giving it to me good. How about this instead—we put this back,” he said, and took the lamp away from her, setting it back up on the shelves, “and we look around a little more. If you still want it, fine, you can come back and get it, but let’s at least ask the owner about it before we buy it. Deal?”

Allison looked strained. More than annoyed. Mega-pissed.

“Okay, but I think you’re being very stupid about this. It’s only a dumb old genie lamp and I want it.”

CJ remained silent, almost embarrassed. He couldn’t believe his behavior. He could believe his wife’s…just not his. He really needed to leave her. And one day, one daaay—

“I am coming back after we have a look at the rest of this stuff,” Allison said, defiantly, and strut off down the aisle. She bumped into something in the narrow aisle, which fell, but she never looked back.

CJ watched her as she stormed off. He knew how much Allison hated being told what to do. He also knew how she usually ended up finagling her own way later on, anyway, but nonetheless he felt uncharacteristically relieved.

This is stupid—what’s the matter with me?

He followed her on down the cluttered row…picking up what she’d knocked off the display and replaced it back to where it had been.

The corner shelves

(Don’t Buy…)


Browsing through the antique shop took longer than anticipated, and CJ quietly hoped that Allison had forgotten all about that stupid genie thing. But his mind, however, was still very much on the matter. All through his browsing he had stolen glances back at that corner. It was more than mere apprehension that now gripped him…it was more like some irresistible force was carefully…subtly…funneling him in deeper, pulling him back….

He didn’t know what it was he saw…or thought he saw just now…but something had suddenly flashed in his peripheral vision…something he had only been barely able to catch. He rubbed his eyes and blinked. He was probably kidding himself, but he thought he had seen a person within that flash. A flash of…red?

CJ looked back to Allison and saw she was busily dickering with a lady about something, as she was usually want to do, and he turned back to the bookcase. He decided to have another look. He was sure he had seen someone standing there by that case only moments ago…then…nothing.

Something wasn’t right.

He wove with intent up the aisles toward the bookcase. One more shot, then he’d washed his hands of this entire matter and Allison could buy whatever the hell she wanted.

There was dust on the floor before the shelves (and it had been recently disturbed)—but he already knew that. Somebody had been here. His eyes immediately went to where he had earlier placed the lamp and he saw that it was still there all right. But he also saw something else he hadn’t seen there before…a watch…a woman’s watch. Then, upon closer examination, he noticed an interesting, if somewhat hallucinatory effect about the wood. He couldn’t be sure if it was a trick of the light, or a trick of his own mind, but he could swear he saw tiny fibers, cilia, moving along the wood. Like seaweed tossing about in an ocean current.

CJ leaned closer and carefully brought a hand up to it, finger extended. He felt sweaty and warm.

This is stupid, they’re only shelves—

CJ was suddenly thrown off his balance. He’d been hit from behind and his entire body had been thrown into the wooden bookcase.

“Oh, I’m sorry!

CJ regained his balance and lifted a hand to his forehead. Sore. Tender. Stars. He shook his head and looked up.

“Goddammit,” he said without looking up.

When he did look up, his eyes focused in from their confused, star-studded grayness…and he found himself looking into the eyes of an attractive woman in her twenties or early thirties. She stood before him…mouth open…her arms still wrapped around one end of a large, rolled up Turkish rug, which stretched out behind her. She stared back at him, startled. CJ thought he was looking into the large, warm eyes of an angel.

“I’m so sorry—I was trying to move this thing and I guess I…I kinda slipped!” The woman said. She noticed him rubbing his forehead. “Oh, you’re hurt! I’m so, so sorry!” She dropped her end of the rug and rushed to him.

“It’s nothing, I-I’ll be all right, really. Do you need some help with that or something?” he asked, almost angrily.

“I guess I’m not as strong as I thought I was. I’m so sorry. Yes, I could use a hand.”

CJ forgot about his injury and grabbed the rolled up end, pulling it free from the rest of the pile.

“Couldn’t you have picked something just a little less difficult?” he asked. He turned back to the woman, who was now quite embarrassed. He saw the affect his words and attitude had had on her.

“Look, I’m sorry, I didn’t mean it that way, I was just … oh, never mind. Here you go, I didn’t mean to jump on you.” CJ set the rug down on what little floor space there was, and brushed himself off. “My name’s CJ.” He extended a hand.

“I’m Cheryl. Pleased—and embarrassed—to meet you. And thanks for helping me with this. There doesn’t seem to be much room here, does there—”

“—it depends on what you have a mind to use it for,” came the sharp, distinctly enunciated words from behind them.


“Allison, meet Cheryl—she just knocked me up against the bookcase with this rug.”

“I’ll bet. Nice to meet you, Cheryl,” Allison said, and over graciously shook her hand—with her left hand, exposing the wedding ring.

“You’re married,” Cheryl made a point of saying.

“Yes,” Allison said, and gave CJ a strained look. “Well, honey, I think I’m through here, and I do want that little ol’ oil lamp we talked about earlier.”

CJ suddenly remembered what had brought him back here.

“Alli, I wish you’d reconsider. I really don’t feel good about this. I came over here because…well, because I thought I saw something.”

“Yeah, and I think I know what it was you saw, too, my darling.”

“Well, it certainly was a pleasure meeting you both,” Cheryl said, “and thank you, again, CJ, for helping me with the rug,” Cheryl said.

“Sure, no problem,” CJ said.

“I think I’m going to take this lamp. Now let’s go, shall we?” Allison said.

CJ went to say something when his throat constricted and his breathing suddenly became labored. He grasped at his collar and cast a troubled glance to Cheryl, who made a most splendid sight as she bent over to once more attack the rug. But she, too, had stopped, and he noticed how uncomfortable she also appeared. She felt it, too. She stood back up without the rug and also began to loosen her blouse about her. CJ watched as she turned around to look straight at him.

Something isn’t right, he thought, something’s going to happen….

Before he knew what he was doing, CJ began backing away from his wife and the display case. He held Cheryl’s gaze and saw her rub her arms. No doubt feeling the same prickly sensation I’m feeling.

Allison felt nothing.

In some distant corner of his mind CJ vaguely recognized Allison’s voice as she continued to ramble on about the lamp and her right to buy it. CJ was now completely behind Allison, standing next to Cheryl.

The two watched Allison as she turned slightly away from the bookcase, remained totally focused on her little trinket, and continued on her right-to-buy tirade.

Watched as the display case began to shimmer and…

Come to life.

Watched as the entire store seemed to darken and take a back seat to the wooden shelves and become all but nonexistent.

Out from the middle of the case, like a nightmare, extended out what looked like a stretched-out leg-hold trap…jaws wide and deadly. There were sharp, jagged objects projecting outward from the ring, or whatever it was…teeth. The image extended forward as Allison continued to talk. She finally took a breath and looked up.

The thing from the shelves morphed into definite shape…huge jagged teeth.

Allison brought her hands up before her…

But it was too late.

The circular orifice had already come down and encompassed her head, shoulders, and arms…and clamped down around her waist. The powerful jaws neatly separated her at her narrow waist. There was a spray of red that was immediately sucked up by the creature. The remains of Allison’s beautiful body fell to the floor.

As the teeth came together Cheryl and CJ saw the face that was behind it, stretched out from the wooden bookcase that was its body. It was indeed made of wood—and there was an unimaginable rancor that emanated from it, as mold spores flaked off everywhere around them like dust. CJ and Cheryl covered their mouths and noses. The remainder of their attention was then diverted to the crunching and grinding sounds of the creature’s jaws. Allison’s skirt hung loosely from the creature’s mouth as it consumed its first mouthful. It then shot forward and consumed the rest of Allison’s body.

Then it grinned…an open, hideous smirk that creaked and snapped…and withdrew back into the shelves.

Wooden claws then shot out from underneath the case and retrieved what was left of Allison, withdrawing her spoils into the base of the bookcase.

All that remained at their feet was one slightly battered and orphaned oil lamp. They both looked to it. Both backed away from the corner.

Don’t Buy

Again that small, ominous sign.

CJ had a hard time breathing at first, and Cheryl had to hit him on his back a couple times. When he finally caught his breath, he crouched down to look at the base of the book shelves. A little ways off to the left of that damned oil lamp he spotted what looked like the bottom half to that torn

Don’t Buy….

sign on the shelves. He leaned quickly snatched it. Wiped off the dust from it. He held it up before him and Cheryl, toward the one on the shelves. This was the bottom half to that sign. The words on the torn-off part of the sign caused CJ to visibly shiver, and he threw it away from him.

Cheryl began shivering. CJ threw his arms around her and brought her in to himself, as he looked around the store.

Really? Had no one but them seen what had just happened?

Cheryl stared blankly down to the floor before her, eyes unblinking. Trembling.

“Cheryl. Look at me,” CJ said, and took hold of her shoulders. He turned her around to face him. He looked at her. Himself. Neither of them had any blood or gore on them. “Look at me,” he commanded.

She looked up.

“I—I don’t know what happened here. I can’t even attempt to explain it…but look around. Look.”

Cheryl did.

“What do you see?” he asked.

Nothing. She saw nothing.

She saw people looking at rugs and clocks. People looking at paintings. Even saw one look up to her and smile. But nobody fainted. Nobody screamed. No one called the cops. Nothing appeared to have changed.

Except that there was no longer an Allison Bundle.

“Cheryl, I can’t even begin to understand what happened, or why no one could see what we saw—but it’s over. Do you hear me?



“Yes. Now I think it would be in our best interests…if we got the hell out of here—”


Forget about her. She was not a good person. I was going to leave her, anyway.”

CJ pulled off his wedding ring. Held it up for Cheryl to see…then tossed it over his shoulder. It landed at the base of the very same bookcase.

“Come on,” he said, “we’d better go—I don’t know if this thing is going to, you know—activate again.” Cheryl didn’t move.

Are you with me?” he asked Cheryl, taking hold of her shoulders and looking her firmly in the eyes.

Cheryl again looked around. No one seemed to have noticed a thing, not a goddamned thing. It was like nothing had ever happened. CJ nervously followed her gaze around the interior, edgy to be gone…out of this place.

Nobody’ll miss her, he thought. I just hope that damned thing doesn’t get heartburn and spit her back out.

Cheryl couldn’t believe what it was she was seeing, reached a hand up and out to CJ.


“Come on, then,” CJ said, and took her hand and pulled her away from the shelves. Took her to the front doors…then out beyond them and forever away from the building.

Together they disappeared into the sunlit and sane world outside….

CJ’s wedding band lay up against the base of the display case, resting in a leaning, vertical position.

The baseboard of the bookcase bulged and squeaked…formed itself into another, smaller, wooden claw, and wrapped itself around the ring. Another claw also formed and grabbed the oil lamp. The claws then placed the ring and lamp up on the shelves…then quickly withdrew…only to again shoot out and grab and withdraw with the fragment of the sign CJ had dropped.

“Don’t Buy. Not responsible for shelf life,” the torn-off sign fragment had read.


Short Story Links

Links to all my posted short stories are here.

The Interview

Interviews are interesting. We see them all the time, hear the questions, hear the responses. But what goes on in the background? What ties exist between interviewer and interviewee?

I’ve been on a couple of radio shows and been interviewed and I find it fun. I really like radio. I’d had my first visual interview this past January, and as of this posting (which I’m posting in April and scheduling for September), I haven’t yet heard back on that interview, which was supposed to be posted to YouTube as part of the Colorado Author Interview Circle.

I am continually amazed at the stuff I find in my old writing files! I found this and again don’t remember writing it. But I like the brevity of it and how it was structured…how it ended—though I added the last three paragraphs to it.

This story has never been published.

The Interview

© F. P. Dorchak, 1990

What scares you.

What really scares you?

God, where to begin? It seemed to have all started so long ago, or maybe it was just yesterday, I don’t know anymore. What I do know is that it is following me. It will follow me forever. It has always followed me. Has forever become a part of my…life. Sometimes I think it was all my fault, I mean I was the one who decided on an acting career, a life forever in the public eye. Well, I got it, all right, got it pretty damned good, let me tell you.

Just let me tell you….


I had been in the film industry for ten or so years when it all started. It all happened rather innocently enough, too, with the interview. The interview.

Belinda Waters, the reporter, and I had met often enough over the years, but this time she seemed to have taken on a different, almost foul, air. Laughter and lightheartedness quickly evaporated.

“…that’s very good, Dick,” she said, quickly burying a laugh from one of my many anecdotes, “very good indeed. But let’s get just a bit serious for a moment, shall we?”

“Sure, as long as you don’t ask about ‘alternate lifestyles,’ or something,'” I said, joking.

She didn’t laugh. Instead, she regarded her note pad intently, then aimed the next question directly for my heart.

“What about Amy?”

I could have killed her.

How could she have asked that, of all questions?

Her brashness threw me, never had I come to expect such a low blow as this from her. What happened? We knew each other. Had she gone sour and decided to go for the more pay/juicier story bit? I mean, I know why she would have asked such a thing…it had all been in the news. People want to know…but I thought…thought she’d had a bit more decorum than the rest of her kind. And I’m sure her Food Chain had put her up to it. Let’s dig up the dirt and bones, shall we? I don’t know, but I sat in stunned silence for what felt like years. The audience waited patiently. She waited patiently…continuing to stare…as did the camera. That bloody, fucking camera.

Yes, questions needed to be answered….

“Well, what of it, Mr. Hayburn?”

It was like Belinda had suddenly changed from the personable business acquaintance of many years into the miserable Byline Bitch we all dread. She’d probably been told ask the question or find another job….

“I don’t want to talk about it, Belinda,” was my simple answer.

“Oh, come on, Dick, how long have we known each other? Nine, ten years?”

Too many years, now, if you ask me.

“If you can’t tell me, who can you tell? Don’t you think the public has a right to know what happened?”

Her eyes—beautiful as they were—bore into me.

“No, Belinda, I don’t.”

I didn’t stop there, no longer minded the camera.

There are certain lines we’ve all drawn for ourselves, and if anybody steps over them…if anybody shoves us, no matter how close that person may have been—especially when forewarned—then we have a right to exert forcefulness. Even us public figures.

“And I can’t believe that you are sacrificing all that we have built up over the years for a quick, sensationalistic jab.”

“Mr. Hayburn—Dick—” she said, keeping that sick, painted smile on her face. That burning gaze of the reporter asking the hard-hitting questions….

“—no, don’t ‘Dick’ me. What happened to Amy is none of yours—or anyone else’s—business. It’s hers…and it’s mine. I have told the press often enough I will refuse to speak on the matter, and I thought that was made abundantly clear. Especially to you. You have also known me for better than ten years, and know damned well where I stand on it.”

I got to my feet.

“Now, if you will excuse me, Belinda, I don’t think I want to talk with you any longer.”

And I left. Right in front of the camera. Belinda sat speechless. I was speechless. My wife’s death was nobody’s business—hell, I didn’t even want to think about it anymore, and maybe that was real the reason—I didn’t want to think about it. Of course I didn’t.

Would you?

The circumstances, though gruesome and abnormal enough, had little do with the rest of my tale, except to start the chain of events that ensued, but I will explain.

Amy and I were married three years when she’d been murdered. It had been a Hillside, Bayside, Barnside murder of some sort, and my Amy had been working late at the studios (she was a sound engineer). After leaving the studio she’d proceeded to her car. To make the story short, she was abducted, shortly beaten, lengthily raped, then brutally murdered. ‘Dismembered’ was the official term. ‘Violated’ was mine. I had received one of her hands in the mail. I think you can see why I refuse to talk about it.

Well, I made it my business to find her killer. And I did.

What no one knows—or will ever know—is that I’d died in the process of finding her killer.

It’s a sore subject with me.


Short Story Links

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IPAL Membership

Come Into The Foreground (© F. P. Dorchak and Jan C. J. Jones, 2016)

Come Into The Foreground (© F. P. Dorchak and Jan C. J. Jones, 2016)

As of last night, I achieved membership in the Independent Published Authors Liaison (IPAL), which is part of the Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers (RMFW) writers group I’ve belonged to for nigh 30 years. IPAL “…exists for the purpose of providing networking and promotional opportunities for independently published authors in RMFW and for promoting RMFW.

I’m not normally a “joiner,” but I love these people! They’re fun, outgoing, and enjoy each other’s writerly company, and they truly care about helping all writers out, and I sorely need that—help!

Cause, you see, if there’s one thing I’ve learned about me, it’s that I suck at selling stuff.

I mean, sure, I can hand sell, one-on-one, if I have the right audience. The most books I’ve ever hand sold was 12, at The Bookman, in Colorado Springs, last year. For me that’s phenomenal. But, I mean selling stuff when I’m not around. On Amazon. Nook. Smashwords. Generating the reach and interest for those who don’t know me to want to look into what I have to say. So, I like that I’ve become part of a group that has some extremely successful folk doing just that. And this year has been the year I’ve put out the most. I did four writer events (Colorado Springs and Longmont libraries, Denver Comic Con, and RMFW Colorado Gold), and I hope to do MileHiCon48 next month. I’m getting my website looked at for a redesign. I did a photo shoot to get some new images of my fach that sorely needed updating. So, I’m putting myself out there. And with the folks at IPAL, I hope to learn and get better at this selling-my-stuff business. I need to learn how to better bring my work into the foreground with all these other successful people.

But that’s not all.

It’s not just about me. I do want to also help my fellow writers. Help them streamline their own efforts into this crazy business, but I also realize that since I have near-zero name recognition, no apparent track record to lean on, it’s hard to get into positions where I can help in any way I can help. Show what I’ve learned. I’m far from an expert in marketing and promotion, still have a day job (which makes my time harder to split to create workshops and such—but again, I’m not a “Famous Guy” selling oodles of books…), but am willing to lose some sleep over this and do some “forced reps,” as we say in the exercise world…with the right team and the right support.

So, I’m quite happy to now be included with these terrific people and their cause! Thanks to Karen Albright Lin for getting me to re-examine my position with regard to IPAL, and thanks to Lisa Manifold and IPAL…for bringing me into the fold!

Seeing Things

I do like to make things subtle, if at all possible. Today’s story might be a little too subtle? I don’t know…you’ll be the judge, as is usually the case with this kind of thing.

I vaguely remember writing this back in ’91. Changed a few things in it…added the very last line. I love leaving things to the imagination. Sometimes it’s far creepier that way. I love this line that I added in my rework:

Sometimes they looked like people.

Isn’t that just creepy?

This story also reminds me of Ray Bradbury Theater…and hold on—no, I’m not comparing myself to Mr. Bradbury in the way you’re thinking! I found that, at least in the TV series, some of his stories were so “thinly written,” I’ll call them that they left a lot to the imagination. And I kinda liked that. That he’d given just “enough information” to get you to thinking…then he’d leave you high-and-dry to work out the depth of the story on your own. Almost like vignettes…short story vignettes, if that makes any kind of sense: like he’d written a short story, then cut out the real beginning and ending and just presented a portion in the middle of the story.

Anyway, here is subtle creepy story for you to also read just before going to bed. Gah! Maybe it’ll also give you the “chicken skin” I’m feeling crawling all over me now as I write this….

This story has never been published.


Seeing Things

© F. P. Dorchak, 1991


Clarence McPeak had visions.

Not the kind of visions that foretold the future or anything, but the kind that occurred out the corner of his eyes. The kind that gradually caused one to backtrack and see if what one saw was indeed true. Indistinct, weird images…sometimes amorphous…sometimes they looked like people.

That last one was important.


Clarence had just locked his condo door and was on his way to his three-year-old Corvette coupe. He tossed his briefcase into the back, and jumped in. The throaty roar of the engine as he started the machine (it was far more than just “a car”) made him feel good…he loved the feeling of power. Maybe that was why he loved selling burial plots to people. There was such a feeling of power as he talked to families and couples into buying his plots. He was good, the best in the region, and he controlled his clients like mice in a maze. No one was allowed to deviate from the path Clarence McPeak blazed. He didn’t care if you needed the plot or not. If you came to him…you bought one. It was that simple. He was very tactful, if not forceful on that point. And if someone tried to deviate…well, they simply weren’t interested in what this Very Important Person had to say and he would spend no further time with them—thank you, good-bye.

As Clarence pulled the ‘vette out into the road and past his condo building, he glanced up to the door. As he turned away, a chill ran down his spine.

A smiling a man standing at his door.

And it was a smile that seemed too big for his face.

His entire body went “chicken skin,” and he slammed hard on the ABS, bringing his red beast to a halt. He shifted into reverse and brought his condo back into view.

No one. He saw no one—smiling or unsmiling—standing before his condo.

Clarence shivered and made an unintelligible sound.

“Goddamned it, not enough coffee in the veins….”

As he put it back into gear (in which he could easily hit fifty, he chuckled) and lurched forward, he thought it was probably just his neighbor.

But she was female.


Clarence opened his briefcase on the nearly unstable card table. This morning would be off to a slow, if somewhat boring start with a meeting from their regional head. Yeah, he was a “head,” alright…a pecker head (okay, he really wasn’t, but he just liked to think this when he thought of the term “head”)…he knew of no one who actually enjoyed these meetings, including those who gave them…but some things you just gotta do.

Leaving his card table niche, Clarence headed off for the bathroom and, later, coffee. Yeah, he needed more caffeine. Who didn’t?

People were starting to transition in for the honcho meeting (and, curiously, he did see more of his “shadow people” out of the corners of his eyes…but when he’d look back…they’d be gone…or a real person would be standing there, instead), so he was decidedly glad he got a relatively good seat before the best-seat rush.

“Clarence—how ya’ doin’, old buddy?”

It was Neil Furst. Gold chains, watch, and all. There was even something shiny in his teeth.

“How ya’ doin’, Neil,” Clarence said, dryly.

“Hey—why didn’t you wave to me the other day?”

Great, now he wanted conversation.

“Wave to you when?”

“Thursday. Up at Chapel Hills, around four-four-fifteen.”

Clarence stopped to think. He was surprised at himself that he was actually pausing to give Neil the time of day. Neil knew why people didn’t wave to him, knew damned well. They chose ignore him. It was always one’s best option. If you gave him the time of day…you couldn’t get rid of the man. Neil stopped and badgered people because nobody else would talk to him if he didn’t.

“Neil, sorry, I don’t know what you’re talking about—I wasn’t anywhere near Chapel Hills Thursday. I was out of town. Utah, actually.”

Clarence wasn’t lying this time.

“Huh—no way, dude—”

“Dude” and gold chains. Bad combo.

“Look, Neil, baby, I gotta bad case of a loose lizard and I’m not about to argue with you, but I wasn’t in town this past Thursday. Really.”

“Huh. Well, okay. But someone was wearing your power suit and talking to that blonde. And what a looker you had there—”

“—it wasn’t me—”

“Yeah, but you woulda’ wished it was!”

Fuck you.

Had he said that out loud?

No. Good. For now. Don’t push it “buddy”….

“Well, thanks for your vote of confidence. Gotta go meet some porcelain. See you.”

My suit? Blonde? Guess I ought to have been there, damn it….

The meeting went off without a hitch and Clarence was out on the streets within an hour and a half, selling plots to people who both did and didn’t need them. The rest of the day was rather slow and uneventful, but no one deviated from the Clarence McPeak Path of Fame and Power….


Clarence approached his condo door, and for the first time that entire day thought about what he thought he’d seen that morning. Grunting, he turned the key and entered. Nothing was out of place, and all the lights were off—

Except one. Putting his keys away he entered his apartment and closed the door. It was the bathroom light. Slowly walking to the doorway, he peaked around the corner.


What had he expected?

Clarence looked at his own reflection. Smiled.

Such a handsome devil.

“Well, what the hell. Left the damned light on again.” Turning it off, he returned to the living-room and removed his coat.

Clarence dreamed about the blonde he was supposed to have met. Dreamed about confronting the smiling man at his condo door. Clarence dreamed about himself doing things that he normally didn’t do…dreamed he was Clarence-but-not-Clarence…then dreamed about an accident in some other time that involved him. There were knives and monsters. Maybe a toy clown or two. Smiling.

He awoke.

The room was dark and there was a little moonlight poking through his mini-blinds. His mouth felt like he had sucked on bark all night, and he reached over to the nightstand for the red plastic cup he kept there, room temperature water waiting for him. He took one sip, then gripped the bed in terror.

Something moved in the hallway.

The cup spilled from his hands and onto the rug.

There it was again—a shadow!

Clarence bolt upright.

What should he do?

He wasn’t a Navy SEAL, like every hero in today’s world seems to be or have been…but he worked out and was in his early thirties.

What if it was nothing more than tree branches passing between the window and the moon?

He grabbed his Beretta from his nightstand and leapt out of bed. Grabbed his flashlight. Held it like they always did in the movies. Those Navy SEAL movies.

Yeah, that’s it, just a branch by the window. Sure, nothing else. This is silly. It’s only a branch.

But just in case, he undid the safety.

Only branches.

In the moonlight.

He had about ten feet before he even got near to a light switch. A lot could happen in ten feet if


someone was really out there. Clarence stopped and peered into the dark depths of his condo. There was no movement. Flipping on the flashlight, he ventured forward. Still no movement. Not a sound.

His feet hit something.

Directing the light down to his feet, he saw nothing, then swishing it back and forth found the small plastic cup his toes had hit.

Clarence got to the wall switch and flipped it on.


“Well what the hell’s going on with me? Nightmares?”

Switching off the flashlight, he picked up the cup and placed it on the sink. He walked through the rest of his place and found nothing. He was just about to hit the switch and return to bed, when he suddenly stared at the blue plastic cup that sat on the edge of the sink, where he’d just put it two minutes ago.

How did that get on the floor?

Clarence never made it back to bed.


Short Story Links

Links to all my posted short stories are here.

Kirschner Cover Art: A Long Cold Fall, by Sam Reaves

A Long Cold Fall, by Sam Reaves © 2016 (reissue).

A Long Cold Fall, by Sam Reaves © 2016 (reissue).

Lon contacted me about a guy named Sam Reaves. From his website, Sam was raised in small Midwestern towns but has lived in or around Chicago for most of his life. He’s also lived or made extended journeys in Europe, Latin America, and the Middle East…and fluently speaks five languages. This is something I wished I could do (I barely remember my French and German!). He’s worked as a translator and a teacher, been president of the Midwest Chapter of the Mystery Writers of America, and has published ten novels, seven as Sam Reaves and three as Dominic Martell. He currently resides in Evanston, Illinois. His work has been traditionally published, but he’s re-releasing some of it through Amazon.

Lon sent me some cover art he did for Sam, and one of them really grabbed me: A Long Cold Fall. I love “dark” and “weird” and I love that body position of the girl! And to be placed in that particular position…well, something isn’t right. In fact…something is far from right…there is weirdness afoot…and I am a fan of  weirdness! And it’s placed high into the air. Add to that the title. The word “fall” is in there, and while the body is falling…its position is so…peculiar…so high above the ground. Is she falling? Is she suspended?

I contacted Lon about this cover, and this is what he had to say:

“Sam was referred to me through the mystery writer Chris Knopf. We decided to do one book first to see how it goes. He was taking an older print series and translating them to e-books. A Long Cold Fall was the first. The title is a play on a suicide and the time of season the action happens. After we completed it, he decided he wanted to release all the books in the series at the same time.

“A Long Cold Fall is the most ethereal cover. The book opens with a suicide jump. I did several versions and Sam liked the version we now have.

“There were some comments from friends about the body position, so we went back and forth with the angle. I tilted it back slightly, it gave it an odd feeling of falling but also floating, which upped the creep factor. Using the Chicago skyline in the background but not really indicating a place from where the fall begins creates visual confusion. Is she falling or flying? I always thought about it as the classic line ‘I saw my whole life flash in front of me.’ It is a sense of stop action, the moment in the descent when everything slows down right before the final crash. There is a certain beauty in that moment. We know what will happen, but everything seems so calm.

“It is interesting to note that since all of these books (four total) focus around the same character who, while not a professional detective, always seems to find himself in the middle of these mysteries, made me feel I needed to create some type of identifier that ties them together as a series. I developed a circular monogram that is in the same position on each book and picks up the color theme of the cover. A simple device that instantly lets a potential reader know that this is a Cooper MacLeish Thriller.

“Sam was great to work with. He had definite ideas, but basically let me go my own way.

“I think on all levels, the results were very positive. Another positive was I read all the books and enjoyed every one which made my job that much easier.”

Thanks, Lon, for your insight!

Well, then Lon put me in contact with Sam, so I asked him some questions, and here is what Sam had to say:

Sam…your thoughts on cover art?

“Get a professional. That’s what everyone told me. Don’t try and do it yourself. You need a good professionally done cover to sell an e-book.

“I had actually done it myself (with some help from my graphically gifted wife) for a previous novel I’d published through Smashwords, and I thought it hadn’t come out too badly. But by the time I had gotten back the rights to my first four novels, a series originally published by Putnam in the early nineties, and was ready to put them up as e-books, I had decided that professional covers were probably a pretty good investment. You gotta spend money to make money, they say. So I went looking for covers I liked.”


“I looked at a lot of covers. Some were brilliant and attention-grabbing; some were hideous. And yeah, the amateur ones didn’t make me want to click on Buy. The majority were just, well, ordinary. I wanted something that held my eye for more than a second or two.

“And here they were: a series of covers done for my friend Chris Knopf the crime writer. Slick, original images, colorful and dramatic. I e-mailed Chris: Who does your covers? Chris got back to me right away with Lon Kirschner’s name, adding that Lon was terrific to work with; he would actually read the books and custom-tailor an approach. It sounded like I couldn’t do any better than that.”

Have you ever worked with a cover artist before?

“I had never worked with an artist before; in my experience publishers just sent the author a proof as a fait accompli. I never felt I had enough clout to question it. I contacted Lon and sent him the first book in the series, my debut novel from 1991, A Long Cold Fall. The title is a pun on the season of the year and the method chosen in the apparent suicide of a woman who opens the book.”

Had you any specifics you did or didn’t want to see in your cover?

“The only definite idea I remember expressing to Lon was that I didn’t want a cover with another generic shot of the Chicago skyline. The first image he sent back was striking, the body of a woman in midair, silhouetted against a twilit sky. I loved it; my only reservation was that as depicted, more or less upright with arms spread, she looked more as if she were being borne up to heaven than as if she were falling. I asked Lon if he could make it unmistakable that she was falling. He said sure.

“The result was the dramatic image that now grabs prospective readers of A Long Cold Fall. I think it’s a great cover that captures the key image of the book.”

What did you like the most in working with Lon on this—or any other cover?

“Working with a professional who clearly took an interest in the book and made a real effort to come up with an image that fit the story made the experience a pleasure. Lon has now done covers for all four of my Cooper MacLeish novels, and they will be out there grabbing readers, I hope, for years to come.”

Thank you both for your time and effort, Lon and Sam! It’s been a pleasure!



Sam Reeves


Contact Sam

Lon Kirschner may be contacted at:

Phone: 518/392-3823


Book Cover Site:

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The Werewolf of Ponkert, by H. Warner Munn, © 1976 (My book photo, © Sept 15, 2016)

The Werewolf of Ponkert, by H. Warner Munn, © 1976 (My book photo, © Sept 15, 2016)

When I found this story—which I don’t even remember writing!—there was no copyright date on it, but it must be in the 1987 or 1988 timeframe; had basic writing errors in it, and the “look” of all my other works from that time period. It was one of the five files I have in which there were no dates in any of the file’s metadata.

Werewolves—the traditional kind, not today’s pretty, glittery kind—are, along with mummies,  my favorite monsters. As a kid, The Werewolf of Ponkert was one of my favorite novels. Here’s a little more information on that novel.

I’d written about mummies and vampyres, so here’s one of two werewolf tales I’ve found I’d written.

This story has never been published.



©F. P. Dorchak, 1988


I just kept running.

I didn’t know if I could ever get away from what I’d seen. I knew that physically I could probably—eventually—get away, but the horror I’d witnessed would remain with me forever….

It all started innocently enough. I was walking home late one moonlit night after a movie, taking the proverbial short-cut. I was thinking about how great my life had been going…of my new girlfriend, Shelly, especially. We’d met about a month ago, and it had been love at first sight for the both of us.

I was thinking about her hair…of how it shined in the light—any light. Of her soft beautiful features…the way she walked….the way we held each other. It was a feeling I wished on everybody! Everybody should have a mate, someone to hold and love. I was walking on air! It seemed as if nothing could bother me—nothing!

Well, it was then that I heard a commotion up ahead of me.

My head was still muddled with sweet thoughts of Shelly, but not enough to cloud my mind. I knew what the sounds of a fight sounded like. There was a scuffle going on up ahead, and though I hadn’t been in a fight since grade school, I still somehow wasn’t all that comforted by my physical size and capabilities.

As I got closer, I was able to distinguish the sounds better. I heard a high-pitched screaming which no doubt came from a woman…and some deeper grunts that sounded like a man exerting himself. But I also heard something else…sounds much deeper than the rest of what I heard, sounds that sounded like…an animal.

An angry, ravenous animal.

Instinctively, I reached for my side, my hand coming to rest on my encased buck knife. Still there, at least I wouldn’t be totally unaided if necessity reared its ugly head….

The female voice raised in pitch, crying out for help from anybody…but nobody seemed to answer her call. The male voice was wavering. I stopped in my tracks. There was no mistaking it now, people were fighting for their lives. I felt something twist in my stomach, sweat seep out of my pores.

I withdrew my blade, extending its four-inch, shiny blade. On the blade itself was an engraving commemorating the men of the sea. The engraving had been done over in pure silver; the knife was never intended for use, but for display only. I got it from an old buddy who sails, and liked it so much I came to carrying it around.

I approached the fray, blade glistening in the moonlight. The woman saw me and stepped back to allow my entrance, pleading for help. I’m not sure what she was wearing, but her attire was in tatters and she was bleeding. She held a broken tree branch. I approached hesitantly, steel pointed forward, and looked at the scene. Two figures struggling, one appreciably larger than the other—and naked. And there was a growling coming from the naked, larger one that stung my soul; it was that animal sound I’d heard.

I got closer, unsure of what to do, though at the same time knowing perfectly well what needed to be done. The man was being ripped to pieces by his naked attacker. I thought back to Shelly—what if this same thing happened to her? The woman continued to plead for my assistance, calling to any others who might be listening. She again approached the thing atop her man and pounded mightily with the branch that had finally shattered apart in her hands on a back-that-wasn’t-a-normal back…a back that was…changing….

I was frozen!

I watched helplessly as the boyfriend was mutilated.

How could I just stand there and watch?

I grew angry with myself!

This man was already beyond any help that might arrive…his woman not much better—but I couldn’t let what was happening to this man happen to the woman…I had to try something!

I grasped my knife tighter, allowing my anger to fill me…it was the only way I could get myself to leap forward…which I did.

My steel buried itself into the thing’s side.

I felt my whole body trembling as the act was completed.

I had done it!

The beast uttered a pained howl, throwing the now dead body of the man away—then turned on me. It didn’t have to hit me to physically knock me over, just seeing it’s face was enough.

The face I looked at was not like my own, or any other man’s.

And it was still transforming.

A transformation between a man and—and a monster.

The face contorted with thick animal hair and leathery skin sprouting all over it…long, razor-sharp teeth completing extension from within an angry lupine maw. A far-too muscular and brutish lithe form taking hold over the soft, sallow flesh of a man.

I was knocked to the ground as the beast ran past, clutching it’s side. As it got past me it stood for but a moment in the pale moonlight and shook its hairy, narrow, and wholly wolf head back and forth as the contortions continued to torture it. His hands—which were now actually claws—went up to his “face.”

The whole of this thing’s body was ripping itself to pieces!

As it fell to all fours, rippling muscles and fur now covered it. This was clearly no longer any kind of a human being I’d ever before known.

The woman stared, unseeing, at the wolf—the werewolf. She’d stopped screaming a long time ago.

The wolf licked its teeth. Looked back to me.

I saw some stickiness along its side—the side I had knifed. The blade still gleamed in my hand, some of the beast’s blood on my hand. The wolf looked toward the girl. Before I could react let alone think, the beast had leapt towards her and knocked her over—intentionally avoiding my blade.

The silver. The silver in the engraving, that’s what kept it from me.

The wolf gave one well-placed bite on the woman before continuing onward into the cover of night.

Her throat was gone.

As was the wolf.

I stood there…I stood with my bloodied and gleaming knife still outstretched, my senses traumatized. I couldn’t do anything for her boyfriend…and now I’d been similarly cheated out of her life, too! I didn’t know what to do.


So I ran!

At first I ran after it, but then thought what would I do when I caught up with it? What would it do to me? Surely it wouldn’t stay afraid of me and my puny weapon for long. It was larger than me…quicker than me. Far more lethal.

So I hid.

But I can’t stay here forever…alone and terrified. It’ll find me. The wolf has my scent.

It’s only a matter of time.

Short Story Links

Links to all my posted short stories are here.


The “You Belong” Anthology 2016

You Belong 2016 Anthology, Edited by Steve Kenworthy, ©2016 (ISBN 978-0-692-77438-0) Used with permission of Steve Kenworthy.

You Belong 2016 Anthology, Edited by Steve Kenworthy, ©2016 (ISBN 978-0-692-77438-0) Used with permission of Steve Kenworthy.

I was first included in the Longmont Public Library’s first anthology back in 2012. It was an honor to have been selected by an organization I’d never before heard of, especially since I don’t live by them! I’ve forgotten just how they found me, but they did, and it was an honor to have my short story, “Tail Gunner,” included in their collection.

This year, I was again included in their fifth anthology, You Belong 2016, Words and Images from Longmont Area Residents!

As Steve Kenworthy, anthology editor, explained to me they had gone more “in-house” with their last four anthologies, and rightly so. They wanted to keep it more local. But with the fifth collection, they decided to again extend their reach outward to those who had been in the first one. The release of the fifth anthology was in conjunction with their library festival, and a handful of us read from sections of our stories on September 8th. All proceeds from the book go to supporting the Longmont Public Library, and I am proud to have helped them and even bought 15 of their books. I gave out a bunch of them at the RMFW Colorado Gold Conference that following weekend.

My entry into this year’s anthology is my story, “Broken Windows.” It’s an emotional and tragic tale of a woman’s reconciliation with her dead father. Of course, since I wrote it, it’s paranormal. I don’t write “normal.” After the reading, as I was on my way out to make the hour-and-a-half return trip home, a lady came up to me and complimented me on being brave enough to face my emotions like that. I thanked her…but carefully told her this story was not about my family. Eeeee…I always hate to point out when someone has made an error when I’m being complimented, but it goes to show you how powerfully I’d done my job in writing that story. Wow. I’m so glad it hit at least one reader like I’d wanted it to! Sure, I used elements from other people’s lives, but it’s a story. I did, however, tell the lady that up until the present (I started this story—the first four pages—in 1997, but finished it a few months back), every time I finished reading the story, I cried.



Outwardly. And not on the inside, like I joked about at the closing keynote at the RMFW conference! Actual tears.

See, ladies, I really can weep….

This story is that emotional for me. So, thank you, ma’am, for your compliment.

Of note, my story, set in Kansas, fits in beautifully with the cover image! How serendipitous!

I love the Longmont area and its library, have now been there twice. Terrific people! And the stories that I’d heard at the reading were wonderful and heartfelt. It was fun! It also hit me as I sat there that except for Steve Kenworthy I didn’t know another soul in that room! That just hit me kinda funny.

So…thank you…Steve and the staff at the Longmont Public Library…for inviting me to your 2016 anthology and including some of my work! It is an honor to have been thought of and included! I truly feel that I belong!

To get a copy of this or the other anthologies, contact:

Steve Kenworthy
Head of Technical Services/Systems Administrator
Longmont Public Library
409 4th Street
Longmont, CO 80501

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RMFW Colorado Gold Writers Conference

Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers Wall "Light Display" (Photo © F. P. Dorchak, September 10, 2016)

Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers Wall “Light Display” (Photo © F. P. Dorchak, September 10, 2016)

The very first writers conference I ever attended was somewhere around 1987 or so. I no longer remember. But what I do remember is the people and the energy of that weekend! About being a young dude of 26 or so, officially declaring myself as “a writer,” and putting myself out there. I had just moved to Colorado Springs, Colorado in 1985 and had been bouncing around between critique groups. Through various referrals, I’d found out about this group of writers out of Denver, so I checked them out and ended up staying with them for a few years! “The Capitol Hill Group,” was my new critique group and I commuted every week to them. And they mentioned this animal called “a writers conference.”

So I went.

It was an entire world of writing! I was hooked!

But life got in the way, and, well, I ended the commute when I got married and with busy work schedules, et cetera—but I stayed in the writer’s group. Some time later their name changed to their present set of words (Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers), and I’ve always remained with them. But…I also found a local writer’s group that also formed their own conference and had gone to that one for some 20 years, volunteering, et cetera.

But one always remembers their first love with great and misty-eyed fondness!

I’d always wanted to attend another RMFW conference, but it was hard to afford paying for two conferences a year, or I’d be away on vacation or a business trip, or some other event was interfering with my plans to attend the RMFW Gold. But in rolls 2016…and I found I’d had an open calendar!

So…some 30 years later…I’d finally made my way to the RMFW writers conference!

It was…epic.

Not only were the sessions incredible and informative, but the people…oh, yes, it’s the people who make anything good or bad or indifferent, and these people were beautiful.

Yes, “beautiful”!

It was well-organized and oiled!

And I’d met new writers I hope to be able to now call new friends, and met some old friends from my Capitol Hill Critique group days! One in particular (Christine Jorgensen!) I hadn’t seen her in some 30 years!

There is so much to relate from this conference, but it would be a much looonger post, and I’m trying to be better about that, so I’m only going to relate a couple of “situations” that really stood out:

  • Being recognized “in the wild”
  • Relating “weird tales” that really happened
  • Reading porno

Being Recognized

As I checked in to the conference and stated my name…the next thing I knew, this woman was leaning across the table, pointing at me, saying: “I know you: All writing helps all writing!

Oh, my God—my first stalker.

Clearing my throat and backing away from the table juuust a touch, I squeaked, “Excuse me?

“You’re the one who posts on the loop with the signature tag ‘All writing helps all writing!'” this rather energetic and enthusiastic woman said, still reaching across the table with her pointy finger.

I was, um, well, kinda speechless.


Yes, I do have that as my tag line, and yes, I do post on the RMFW loop. She was right. Her pointy finger was also still right in my face (okay, I exaggerate).

She was all smiles as she introduced herself to me as Sheri Duff (no relation to Sue Duff—they call themselves “Sisters by different mothers. And fathers.”).

So…while still keeping the table between her and me, we discoursed and I discovered that she was keenly aware of my e-mail signature block.


To say I was stunned puts it mildly. I was also..humbled.

Here was someone “out in the wild” who had recognized not only my name…but part of my brand. Little old me. My branding had actually worked!

Turns out, Sheri and I kept running into (?!) each other throughout the conference, and she is actually a very sweet person.

But, I’m still dumbfounded, humbled, shaking my head…and checking over my shoulder….

Weird Tales

All I can say about this section, is that I am finding—without a doubt—that many people experience aspects of the supernatural than is currently realized. They just don’t talk about it much or openly.

I am not going to get into what others told me—that is not my place—but, man, it raised the Chicken Skin! It’s easy to hear this stuff around noise, commotion, and friends…and quite another to remember those conversations when you return alone to your dark room at night.


I have to say, I did spook one of my friends, Susie Lindau, who write a great series of blogs! I told her about many of my “weird things that happen to me,” and then told her about the “Silver Man” who had visited me as a kid. In this relation, there’s a part where my brother, Greg, told about how the Silver Man, who had been looking at me, turned to look briefly at him—then away. I demonstrated that to Susie, and she cringed and contorted and weird mewling noises emerged from her. I don’t even know if there are vowels in the English language to convey those, um, “intonations.”

Reading Porno

Okay. Porno.

I released my fifth novel, Voice, last year (2105) about a guy’s disintegrating familial and romantic relationships. It has emotional content. It has supernatural content.

It also has erotic content.

Some might call it “pornographic,” but they would be wrong. Porno is written to excite and titillate. I did not write it to that end. It was written as part of the story of this character’s issues, within the confines of working in the fashion and modeling industry and in his dealing with a voice in his head. Yeah.

Next: back in the late 80s, when I was with The Capitol Hill critique group, one of my critique group, Kay Bergstrom, aka Cassie Miles, had signed one of her Harlequin Temptation novels, It’s Only Natural, to me. In it, she signed it as—well, read it for yourself:

Cassie Miles aka Kay Bergstrom Autograph of It's Only Natural, ©1986 (Photo © F. P. Dorchak, September 12, 2016)

Cassie Miles aka Kay Bergstrom Autograph of It’s Only Natural, ©1986 (Photo © F. P. Dorchak, September 12, 2016)

NOTE ADDED LATER: In all fairness to Kay, as I thought about this, I remembered that I’d told her to make the autographing as raunchy as she could!

Well, that has been a long running joke between Kay and me. And I’d found at this conference she and Linda Joffe Hull were presenting a session about “Writing Sex: The Ins and Outs.” Since I had written some pretty steamy sex scenes in Voice, I wanted to see if there was something I could learn from Kay and Linda…see if I’d done something wrong (turns out better writers [Stephen King, Jonathan Franzen] than me wrote far worse scenes that I remember writing…)…better learn for any future sex scenes I might write (Voice is my last and only book of “this nature”; you’ll see what I mean if you read it: be warned, it ain’t for the easily offended—or my family).

And during this session Linda and Kay made it known that they wanted someone from the audience to read a passage from this porno novel that Kay had contributed to.

Say what?

Though I sat at the very front table, I felt the awkwardness of those behind me. I doubt any eye contact was made with Kay or Linda then.

So I shot my hand into the air.

What in hell was I doing?

I don’t know. Didn’t care. Linda and Kay were unabashed, joyful, good-natured, and easygoing about the topic, and I was at the conference to have fun. Even at my own expense. Embarrassment.

I was taking a chance…putting myself out there…and trying to grow as a writer.

That‘s what-in-hell-I-was-doing.

So I found a steamy passage and told the room that I may get red-faced while reading this…but we were gonna work through it!

So…I read.

And I liked it!

I mean, well, yeah, it was fun!

That was the first time I’d done anything like that…in public.

We were all writers trying to learn about how to write legitimate sex scenes in our work. Our work is about people…and one of the things people do…is have sex…and it’s up to us to portray that in as real a fashion as possible, per the genre within which we all write. There are definite dos-and-don’ts.

Put yourselves out there.

In Summation

There is so much more to say about this past weekend, but it’s all writerly-geekness. But I’ve come away with a [re]new[ed] appreciation for newsletters (I’m going to try to restart my previously feeble efforts), “event table psychology,” writing (blogging!) legalities, and new methods of promotion. Found a new and legit need for a smartphone.

I got to meet new people (finally—faces to names!) and renewed current friendships (Karen, Aaron, Bonnie, Janet, Laura, Angie, Warren, Nathan, and so many more)! Cried on the inside at Ann Hood’s Sunday luncheon speech.

And I gained a stalker.


What more could an up-an-coming writer ask for?

Write on.

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