The Chain Letter

Pass it Foreword! It Work! (Image by F. P. Dorchak, © 2015)

Pass it Foreword! It Work! (Image by F. P. Dorchak, © 2015)

Back before e-mail and the Internet, there were these things called “chain letters.” Actual letters that randomly circulated to the “unlucky” for immediate global dissemination and unheralded good luck upon the recipient. I received the exact chain letter in this story, and—except for the rest of this story—did exactly what Tyler Stevens did in the beginning of the story: dissected it for shits-and-grins. I had time on my hands back then.

Had these things started out as gags or bullying tactics?

Who knows.

I don’t believe in them. Chucked it or shredded it all those many years ago.

But then again…I am still waiting for my publishing career to take off….

I’m also changing up my short story links to my Short Story page. It’s much easier to manage all the links than putting them all down at the bottom of each post, which I have to constantly update and approve—individually—each time I post a story.

This story has never been published. Or copied. Or propagated. Or….

 

The Chain Letter

© F. P. Dorchak, 1994

 

“This paper has been sent to you for good luck. The original copy is in New England: It has been around the world nine times. The luck has now been sent to you, providing you act on it. You will receive good luck within four days of recieving this letter provided you sent it back out. THIS IS NO JOKE. You will receive it in the mail.

“Send copies to people you know. Don’t send money, as Fatehas no price. Do not keep this letter. It must leave your hands within 96 hours. An R.A.F. officer received $70,000.00. Jim Teller recieved $40,000.00 and lost it because he broke the chain. While in the Phillipines, George Weh lost his wife six days after recieving the letter. He failed to circulate the letter, however, before her death she won $50,000.00 in a lottery. The money was transferred to him four days after he decided to mail out this letter.

“Send 20 copies of htis letter and see what happens in four days. The chain comes from Venezuela and was written by Samir de Tressoint, a missionary from South America. Since the copy must have a tour of hte world, you must maske 20 copies and send them out or suffer possibly dire consequences. This is true, even if you are not superstitious.

“Beware: Cervantes Diego received the chain in 1943. He asked his secretary to make 20 copies and send them out. A few days later he won a lottery of two million dollars. Arian Dardamaix, an office employee, received the letter and forgot it had to leave his hands within 96 hours. He lost his job. Later, after finding the letter again, he mailed out 20 copies. A few days later he got a better job. Darian Fairfax received the letter and not believing threw it away. Nine days later he died. Be fair warned!

“Don’t ignore this!

“IT WORK!”

 

“What the hell is this?” Tyler Stevens asked himself, turning over the letter. The quality of the lettering was poor, no doubt because of repeated copying, and there were stains on its tri-folded and crinkled paper.

“Shit, this guy can’t even spell ‘receive.’ And what’s with this have-good-luck-or-die business?”

Tyler had just returned home from a game of tennis with his girlfriend, Dyanne Foster, and he was tired, sweaty, and hungry. He was in no mood for stupid human tricks. On his way to the hot, comforting, spray of a shower, he cast aside the letter.

The chain letter quietly smoldered under the table.

 

Tyler sat in front of his television, spaced out to some documentary that droned on about middle America and the construction industry. Getting up, he went over to where he last remembered tossing the letter, found it, and picked it up. It seemed somewhat more wrinkled than he recalled.

Fucking chain letters.

He wondered how much time he had before death or dismemberment.

Four days. 96 hours.

He took the letter back with him to the couch and Reread it. Several things immediately stood out.

First, beyond the obvious imperfections in English and punctuation (and he was no expert), why would somebody who claimed to be a missionary send out a threatening letter? Good luck!—but disregard this and you die! Just what kind of missionary would this person be? And wouldn’t de Tressoint himself (or whoever possessed the original letter) himself die? The letter did say not to retain it, so who could be in possession of an original?

And next, how does this person know that the letter made one let alone nine trips around the world? If its sole purpose was to make that trip—which it had apparently already had—then why was it necessary to continue?

And just what did the original look like? Assuming that the letter actually brought about money and employment, it had to exist prior to the deeds themselves. So, this being the case, the incidents cited had to be added after the fact—which meant that the letter had to have been tampered with.

Provided, of course, all of this was for real. Which it wasn’t.

So who did the tampering?

And who the hell were Jim Elliot, George Weh, Arian Dardamaix, and Darren Fairfax, anyway? Made-up names, no doubt. And how do we know that their specific “luck” was directly attributable to this particular piece of paper and not something else? How do we also know that some prim and proper English Royal Air Force Officer would even remotely admit to such a humiliating act as this? Officers, let alone British officers were bastions of strength and logic—not prone to silly superstitions and patronizing threats.

Tyler set the letter aside and went into the kitchen. He grabbed a wine cooler from the refrigerator, returned to the couch, and continued to pick apart the letter.

It was really no big deal that a husband inherited money from a deceased wife. Sure, it was a bummer his wife kicked after winning all that money, but wasn’t something like that a legal given? And how do we know that the woman who kicked wasn’t already well on her way to begin with?

Same with the others who’d died.

And the man who asked his secretary to make copies for him—how many businessmen (like those British officers) do you know who’d admit to being superstitious even if they were? Citing names didn’t lend any more credibility to a piece of fraud then the paper it was written on.

But back to the “original.”

What might it look like?

Tyler fumbled through a coffee-table drawer and came up with a number-three pencil. He hated being threatened, which was exactly what this letter was doing. He began lining out everything that couldn’t possibly have been in an original, and corrected any misspellings. The end result turned out something like this:

 

“This paper has been sent to you for good luck! The original copy is in New England. The luck has now been sent to you, providing you act on it. You will receive good luck within four days of receiving this letter provided you send it back out. THIS IS NO JOKE. You will receive it in the mail.

“Send copies to people you know. Don’t send money, as Fate has no price. Do not keep this letter. It must leave your hands within 96 hours.

“Send out 20 copies of this letter and see what happens in four days. The chain comes from Venezuela. Since the copy must have a tour of the world, you must make 20 copies and send them out. This is true, even if you are not superstitious. Be fair warned!

“Don’t ignore this!

IT WORKS!

 

Aside from the suffering “…possibly dire consequences,” and “Be fair warned,” which didn’t fit the overall tone of the letter, there was no mention of death or destruction—just that it had to leave the hands of the recipient and make a tour of the world if good luck was to be had.

Now that sounded more like something a missionary might send.

Next question: who would add to the letter (okay, so this one wasn’t all that difficult—any Tom, Dick, or Harriet who felt so inclined over the years)? But who could possibly even know what had happened to these people, and (more importantly) what had happened as a direct result of this letter?

Not possible. It was all fiction.

Tyler looked for the envelope, a torn and crumpled ball in the brown Albertson’s shopping bag he used as a trash receptacle. Who would have sent this to him? Of course there was no return address…and his address (which was a qualified correct with its missing apartment number and typoed street address) wasn’t even centered on the envelope. Instead, it sat skewed high and to the envelope’s left of center. His last name was typed first. The zip code was correct only after a wrong digit had been over-typed. This couldn’t have been anyone who knew him. On a hunch he went to the phone book. Sure enough, the address used was the one listed in the white pages, which had no mention of his apartment number, or zip code.

Clearly a class act.

There was just no way that certain things could possibly have been known in this letter. It was either that the letter—the original—was real and subsequently altered, thereby making the one he had no longer valid, or that it was written up as-is and sent out—definitely a hoax. Or—

There were other means involved.

Supernatural means.

“Bullshit.”

Tyler again trashed it.

 

The remainder of the week continued uneventfully and Tyler all but forgot about his chain letter—except for the rare moment or two when he found himself inexplicably making twenty copies of a magazine article…or the phone bill. Or buying that box of Mead 100 (twenty-times-five), white, 4 1/8 by 9 1/2-inch envelopes.

After finishing a later than usual work-out session at the gym, Tyler came home and showered. Afterward he soon fell into a deep sleep and slept soundly until three in the morning, when an uneasiness invaded his dreams. It was as if he dreamed of nothing but blackness…a deep, evil blackness that never ended. He tossed about in bed, unable to awaken…unable to break the dream’s hold.

The dream-darkness expanded within him like icicles of terror were actually invading his body. He dreamed of a beautiful woman who came to him from afar…a woman who seductively pressed herself against him…taunted and seduced him. They entwined…consummated. The scent of their lovemaking cloying, rich. The woman lay beside him, face down. He couldn’t look to her without becoming again instantly, painfully aroused. Slowly, he reached out to her. She rolled over to his touch…

Come fuck me again,” she hissed.

The woman’s once-beautiful face was now misshapen and hideous. Punctuated with open sores and something running just beneath the surface of her odious, discolored skin. Her eyes were black and pupil-less and ran freely with a discolored puss. She cackled at Tyler, and he vomited. A wicked tongue shot out of the hag’s black, distorted mouth-that-looked-more-like-a-gash and licked up the vomit. Tyler tried to run…to break the hag’s dominance, but the hag’s tongue split apart and wrapped around his face, his torso, and down around his

 

Tyler shot up in bed and screamed, frantically running his hands all over his body.

A river of sweat ran off him.

He fell over in bed—then uttered another shriek as he fell onto the side of the bed where the hag was and whipped his body over to the other side of the bed.

His screams slowly died in his throat as he buried his face into the bedsheets and clawed them from their tucks and folds….

Opening his eyes he stared into the red glow of his alarm clock.

Three-ten, no, -eleven.

Stop. Regroup.

Closed his eyes, still clawing at the bedsheets

The room smelled differently….

A nightmare.

Sweating, he slowed his breathing to a more normal rate and rolled back over. Cast a quick look to where the hag had ben—in his dream.

Empty. That side of the bed was empty…no vomit, no pus, no….

He reached down to himself. He uttered a sound of disgust. Wet dream, alright.

His stomach revolted.

He rolled over onto his side…and came face to face with the puss-leaking, diseased face from his nightmare. She lay in bed beside him, tongue flicking in and out of her knotted gash-of-a-mouth.

Come fuck with me,” she croaked.

Her noxious and grating words blasted through Tyler like a pair of cranked, thousand-watt speakers.

Tyler squealed like a stuck pig and exploded out of bed, blankets and sheets still wrapped around him. He tripped over himself and the attached sheets and smashed over one of his dressers’ lamps as he vacated the room in one gigantic bound. In the darkness he ran into a wall and

come fuck with me I love a good fuck

laid himself out—

come fuck with me I love a good fuck

—but just as he was blacking out, Tyler saw the hag descend upon and straddle his….

come fuck with me I love a good fuck….

 

Tyler awoke groggily and leaned up against the bedroom doorjamb. Felt the painful bump and dried blood on his forehead. The bathroom lights were still on, but were now paled against the early morning sunlight. His mouth felt like an empty tree trunk with moss growing inside it and his neck was as stiff as a two-by-four. He slowly picked himself up and twisted the kinks out of his body. Looked to the blankets tangled in his legs.

How had he gotten here?

Tyler looked back to his bedroom. One of his lamps missing.

He shuffled out from the tangled sheets and returned to the bedroom. Found the lamp scattered about the carpet like a murder victim, its bulb smashed and lampshade torn.

His bed was deserted.

All his sheets were in a pile that lead into the hallway, where he had awoken. He threw himself down on the bed.

What the hell’d happened?

Clammy and shaking, Tyler didn’t feel at all well. Pushing himself up off the bed, his hand narrowly missed a dried, discolored stain on the sheets.

And there was just a hint of pungency to the air….

Nothing a good shower couldn’t fix.

 

After buying new, 60-watt light bulbs and a lampshade, Tyler hurriedly rushed home to clean up and meet Dyanne for their one p.m. tennis date. Showers were great, but when the hot water ran out it was time to get moving. It wasn’t that Tyler had a shower fetish, but there did seem to be nothing a warm shower couldn’t remedy and that’s what he loved about them.

Changing quickly, he made it out to the courts. Dyanne stood by the fence, waiting impatiently.

“What took you so long?” she asked, her words laced more than a little with annoyed attitude. Her racket swung casually from her two-fingered, I’m-not-at-all-happy-with-you-right-now grip. “These courts are severely booked—”

“I’m sorry, honey, but I had a rough night—”

“Oh?” she said, crossing her arms and raising an eyebrow.

Oh, that accusatory eyebrow.

“No-no-no, that’s not what I meant—I mean, I did have a rough night—but not from—look, I had a nightmare and ended up sleeping on the hallway floor, okay? Had to replace a broken lamp.”

Dyanne’s I’m-pissed look took on a softer look. “Excuse me?

“The funny thing is, I can’t remember a damned thing about it, just that it scared the crap out of me.”

Embarrassed, Dyanne lowered her voice and uncrossed her arms.

“I’m sorry. Are you all right?”

“Yeah. I just had to pick up some new light bulbs and a new shade. I broke a lamp.”

“God, what happened? Can’t you remember any of it?” She moved in closer, brushing away some of Tyler’s bangs.

“Nope. Just that something literally scared the piss out of me. But, it was just a dream—now, let’s play some tennis!”

 

Dyanne and Tyler were deep into their second match, the score 30-40. Dyanne served the ball. Fault. Her next serve made it, but drew Tyler to the far end of the court. He barely snagged the shot before his own return forced Dyanne up to the net. Her return forced Tyler back to the rear and caused him to miss. Deuce.

Dyanne retrieved the ball and again served, spiking this one just inside the white rectangle. It whizzed past Tyler, who missed the most perfect serve he’d ever see.

“Ha, lover, my game! Oww….”

Dyanne was so cute in her pink shorts as she pirouetted about the court.

“Nother game, hon-ey?”

“Sure, but this time I win!”

Tyler set up and served. Dyanne picked it up easily enough and her return sent Tyler scurrying back across court. She was giving him a good workout, but his quick backhand sliced it to a sharp left. Dyanne rushed to meet it…and missed it by a hair.

The next scene suddenly slowed down.

Like a person unsure of what it was he was witnessing, Tyler watched as Dyanne performed a neatly executed forward spin from the momentum of her missed swing…her racket slowing left her hands and flew into the chain-link fence. She spun around for a second turn, moving backwards and towards the chain-link fence that enclosed the courts…her hands going up before her face.

She smiled just as she clenched the galvanized, crisscrossed wires of the fence.

Something’s wrong here, Tyler sensed, terrible wrong….

He couldn’t have known that a section of the fence’s wire had raised itself into tiny little barbs just where Dyanne’s hands were now planting themselves…but that’s exactly what happened.

As Dyanne made contact, she screamed…

And life returned to normal play.

Tyler sprinted across the court to Dyanne, who was now cupping her hands into her chest. Tyler leapt over the net and quickly came to her, her a tight grimace of pain.

“What’s the matter—what’s the matter—are you all right? Dyanne?

Tyler crouched down on the court. She was in a heap, leaning back against the fence. “Dyanne—let me see!

Tyler pulled her hands away from her chest and saw the blood that remained on her shirt and exposed skin of her upper chest. Lots of it.

Taking her bloody hand into his, Tyler felt his stomach

(come fuck with me I love a good fuck)

knot.

Her hand was torn to pieces.

Most of the flesh on the underside of her palm and fingers had been brutally torn away.

“Oh my…God. We’ve got to get you to a doctor!”

The other players on the court had now all stopped their games and looked on. Some turned away in disgust.

“Someone, please,” Tyler pleaded, “call an ambulance—please!” One man broke free from his daze and ran off in search of the payphone.

Tyler looked up to the fence where Dyanne’s hand had landed only seconds before and found it stood as nonchalant as ever—and there were indeed raised barbs on it. There were also droplets of blood…and what looked exactly like bits of Dyanne’s skin clinging to those barbs.

Come fuck with meI love a good fuck….

 

Tyler took Dyanne home to her apartment and stayed with her. She looked so vulnerable…so helpless…and reminded him of a puppy, named Sheena, he’d once had as a kid. Sheena had been running loose one day, as did most dogs out in the country, when she finally met the front-end bumper of a ’67 Ford truck. She’d managed to limp off to the roadside, but could go no further and collapsed in the tall grasses, her left rear leg broken. The driver, a farmer from down the road, felt terrible and took her to the local vet, footing her bill. Sheena was back on her feet in no time, her rear leg bandaged in white and her tail wagging, but whenever it rained the family had to wrap her leg in plastic bags until she healed. Needless to say, she never ran free again.

So there rested Dyanne, her right hand bandaged white and lying on her chest, which rose and fell to her (finally) relaxed breathing. They had watched television all night and it was quite clear that Dyanne had plans that evening that totally involved a quiet night’s rest. As she fell asleep on her couch, Tyler picked her up and carried her into her bedroom. He gently lay her down in bed, took off her bathrobe, and eased her beneath the crisp bedsheets. Once she was properly situated, Tyler also disrobed and slid in beside her. He loved the feel of her warm skin against his and wrapped his arms around her. He fell asleep thinking about how much he loved her and hoped she’d be okay.

 

The alarm clock had gone off several minutes before either had noticed it, but Dyanne was the first to stir. She slammed it off with her bandaged hand and winced from the impact. She turned to Tyler, who still lay with his arms around her. Very mindful of her injury, Dyanne repositioned herself and kissed Tyler on the forehead.

“Time to get up, sleepyhead.”

Tyler stirred, eyes still closed. Dyanne gave him another kiss, then nudged him slightly.

“C’mon, honey, time to get up. I’ve got to get to work.”

This time Tyler responded with a soft smile.

“Hi.”

“Hello, morning breath.” She smiled back. “What do you want to eat?”

Tyler said nothing, but instead rolled in closer to her.

“Fine, be that way, I’m taking a shower.”

Dyanne climbed out of bed and went into the bathroom, starting the shower.

“Don’t let that bandage get wet,” Tyler shouted from the other room. “Wrap it in a

(Sheena)

bag or something—”

“Don’t worry, I heard the doctor too!” Dyanne said. Poking her head back into the bedroom, she added, “But thanks for caring.”

“Any…time.”

Dyanne felt silly doing it, but she got out a used Oroweat bread bag from the kitchen and wrapped it around her bandage. Using a large rubber band saved from many paper deliveries she secured it and returned to the shower. She tested the water before entering by inserting her good hand. By this time Tyler was ready for movement and slowly crawled out of bed. He took in the sounds of running water and Dyanne’s periodic splashing sounds from the shower.

Smiled. Got out of bed.

“May I join you?” Tyler asked, entering the shower stall.

“Anytime, stranger.”

“May I soap that gorgeous body of yours?”

“It depends on what else you have in mind.”

“Watch the hand—”

Riiight,” she said, and came in closer.

 

Come fuck with me, I love a good fuck.

 

As the next few days progressed, Tyler found himself accumulating scars and bruises of all kinds…just little ones here and there, and in themselves they wouldn’t have been any big deal—except that Tyler collected them for no apparent reason. He’d wake up with a new one (or two) each morning. Dyanne, of course, also detected them and Tyler explained them away as one of those periods in life when you seemed to be the world’s klutziest person and there was nothing you could do about it.

But everywhere he turned things went wrong.

Checks bounced…a twenty-hour bug found a home…and yesterday he scraped the side of a car as he parallel parked—and he prided himself on how good a parallel-parker he was.

Tyler and Dyanne went for a walk after a late lunch at la Petite Conchon. Early evening rapidly approached and traffic was a bit on the heavy side as people headed home for an early weekend.

“Thanks for lunch, hon,” Tyler said.

“It was the least I could do after all you seemed to be going through this week. I wanted to do something special. Maybe it’ll break the

(twenty copies)

(raised barbs)

“spell, or whatever.”

“Yeah, well, we’ll see. Let’s cross here,” Tyler said, checking traffic. “I’ve got to get going. There’s something I need to do.”

“Okay,” Dyanne said, smiling, “but first, this—” She pulled Tyler into her arms and planted him with a deep, lengthy kiss. “I love you!”

Tyler held her with a penetrating look.

“And I love you—more than anything else in the world—now, come on!”

Grabbing her good hand, Tyler led her out into the street, a section of the traffic now clear, but as Dyanne followed, her pocketbook bumped against her side and out fell her checkbook. Halfway across the road.

“Wait!”

“Wait what? We’re in the middle of traffic!” Tyler came to a halt three-quarters of the way across the street.

“I dropped something!” Dyanne broke his grip and went back for her checkbook.

Tyler searched the road for what Dyanne had dropped.

Everything slowed down….and came the whispers…

come fuck with me, I love a good fuck…

come fuck with me, I love a good fuck…

comefuckwithmeIloveagoodfuckcomefuckwithmecomefuck

Tyler turned to see a large, black car moving towards them. He opened his mouth to scream—but nothing came out.

Dyanne bent down to pick up the book

(come fuck with me I love a good fuck)

and looked up to him, a smile across her face as she triumphantly waved the errant checkbook at him.

Come fuck with me I love a good fuck!

He saw her look around for traffic.

comefuckwithmeagoodfuckIlove

Saw her spot the car.

a good fuck a really good fuck

Saw her arms go up.

I love it I love it

Her hips connected first.

The sound of her bones breaking against the metal reverberated hollowly in a universe gone lag.

A good fuck I love

Tyler saw her head and face unite with the windshield in a spurt of gore and glass…her teeth and gums gnashed horribly together.

One of Dyanne’s hands flopped off to one side of the car as she molded to the hood.

And that was not all Tyler had seen.

He saw the face of the driver…the face of the hag from his nightmare.

The lightbulb.

The stained bedsheets.

The nightmare.

Dyanne’s body rolled off the vehicle and landed with a thump. Bumped about once or twice more before coming to a rest.

For what seemed an eternity, her head lolled limply from side to side.

The car continued on in its course.

Tyler was unable to move. Forced to watch. He realized what kind of car had hit her.

A hearse.

 

Tyler was still shaking when he got home. He’d spent the rest of the day and half the night at the police station and related matters and could barely hold himself up. He was sick to his stomach.

But he had found the paper.

Did what had to be done.

Was spent…had no more will. Collapsed to the living-room floor, tears streaking his face. He lay still. Thought about George Weh’s wife and Darian Fairfax. About twenty-times-five and four-and-one-eighth-by-nine-and-one-half-inch envelopes.

Felt an unexpected urge for a shower.

(wash the sins)

Needed to.

Sobbing, he looked to the bathroom.

The light was on.

He didn’t remember turning it on…but that didn’t matter.

Nothing mattered. He’d lost Dyanne. Lost everything.

He dragged himself to his feet and made his way to the bathroom. Kicked off his shoes and removed his clothes.

Found the shower running.

Nice and

(it didn’t matter)

hot.

Steam filled the bathroom.

It just didn’t

(nothing did)

matter.

Naked and trembling, Tyler stepped into the shower and felt the warmth penetrate his skin. He collapsed into the bottom of the tub.

Whispers came from the spray.

(nothing mattered)

Did you have a good fuck?

“Fuck you!” Tyler yelled.

Did you have a good fuck? I did.

“Fuck you,” he sobbed and closed his eyes. The whispers chuckled.

The hag’s face formed in the mist above.

I had a great fuck, Tyler, now it’s your turn.

On ran the whispers. The face disappeared.

Tyler lay in the bottom of the tub, adrift in his misery. He ignored the fact that the shower had grown hotter (it didn’t matter); spikier (nothing mattered)….

It just didn’t matter one goddamned bit.

Tyler tried to right himself when he noticed that the water had become downright painful. Not hot painful, but spiked painful. He looked down to his body and saw the red.

Was it something in the water?

Felt disjointed. Resigned. He collapsed back inside the tub and let the warmth flow over him.

Through him.

Around him.

His last thoughts were of Dyanne.

Tiny daggers…no larger than short pins…screamed down from the thundering shower head and tore and ripped and penetrated into his body.

Ripped through his nerves and burst open his organs.

Razored blades that clattered down along the plastic surface towards the drain like iron filings to a magnet.

It wasn’t long before his heart had ruptured into an explosion of red that filled the tub and spattered the walls.

Tyler floated….

The water rained down upon him…washing away the filth….

The sins.

Tyler’s body lay empty.

It just didn’t matter anymore.

It never did.

 

At a rickety and battered table sat an ancient, diseased woman. Her hair was greasy and gray and her veins filled with bile and hate. Her life reeked of a different kind of cancer not of cigarettes or cells.

But she liked writing letters. Got real good at it, in fact.

Having no friends, she wrote them to no one in particular. She just wrote—not that many would willingly read what it was she had to say. She didn’t much like people, and that was okay, because people, it turned out, didn’t much care for her. She didn’t have a name, didn’t need one. People used names for identity. To be proud. She had no need of either.

She just wrote.

But this time she received a letter.

One that found its way to her doorstep.

She had no mailbox.

She found the letter while on the way to the woods with an eviscerated cat. She liked gutting cats, they were fun. Dogs were too big. She liked cats.

Collecting the letter in her rickety hands, which had no return address, she sat down at her table and inspected it.

Who would write her?

How did it get here? No matter, maybe she could return the favor.

She opened the splotched and unevenly sealed envelope and removed the contents. Unfolded the paper. She read the few, hastily scrawled words beneath the poorly typewritten paragraphs first. It was then that her yellowed orbs screamed wide. She heaved the letter away, which smoldered and disintegrated before it hit the floor.

Tried to outdistance what was to come.

The old lady tumbled furniture as she fled.

Heard noises in pursuit.

Ran into the living room. A wide, spacious living room. She used to be rich once. Had a big house.

The whispers grew, filled the building.

Words that became audible and loud.

You know what they whispered.

 

Pass it on. IT WORKS!

 

Short Story Links

Links to all my posted short stories are here.

 

Pikes Peak Library’s Mountain Of Authors 2016

Anne Hillerman at MOA 2016

Anne Hillerman at MOA 2016

If something is holding you back…something is also pulling you forward.” Mario Acevedo.

This past Saturday I attended the Pikes Peak Library District’s (PPLD’s) annual Mountain of Authors (MOAs) event, in Colorado Springs, Colorado. This was my second year in attendance, and I continued to have a blast meeting and talking with others interested in books! It was held at the north end’s Library 21C.

There were two panels and one Keynote Speaker—who was Anne Hillerman, Tony Hillerman’s daughter and an author in her own right. People were allowed to mingle with the authors throughout the day’s events. We had full tables to ourselves, as authors, and I got to share the neighborhood with Kevin Ikenberry, who I’d met and been on panels with at last year’s MileHiCon. Good to see you again, Kevin!

It’s A Mystery!

This was the first panel, moderated by K. D. Huxman, and its panelists were Nancy Atherton, Robert Greer, and Manuel Ramos. All manner of questions were asked of our panelists, about writing, being a writer, being a mystery writer. A couple of responses from the panelists grabbed me, so I wrote them down:

I’m surprised at the sheer volume of writing out there.” Robert Greer. Mr. Greer also went on to say how he misses the old days, when editors really edited material and there was better quality being published. I have to agree with him!

I still think being a writer is a big deal.” Manuel Ramos.

“Good writers steal from other good writers.” Manuel Ramos. The context was that all good writers learn from other good writers…so we’re not talking about plagiarism, here!

Read as broadly as you can.” Nancy Atherton. I do agree!

It’s more important to read than to write.” Robert Greer. I don’t know that I agree with him, here, but the point is well-made!

You never become really good at anything unless you do it over and over and over.” Robert Greer. I’d been in conversation at my table with a person who was having difficulty finishing a book he’d been working on, and that was one of the things I’d told him: persistence.

Write the book you need to write…don’t set out to ‘write a genre.'” Nancy Atherton. She was talking about don’t worry what genre your book is, just write it…don’t worry about it…and let the book be what it will be. I liked that.

Be an observer of life.” Robert Greer. Definitely. I always find myself observing life, nature, people, situations….

10th Anniversary!

The next panel was in celebration of the 10th anniversary of MOA. This panel was moderated by Shannon Miller and consisted of Mario Acevedo, Sandra Bond, and Kristen Heitzmann. I thought it was also cool that it also marked Mario Acevedo’s 10th year of being published, with his Felix Gomez vampire series. Congratulations, Mario!

While there was a lot said during this panel, I didn’t seem to write down much, perhaps because I was too drawn into the conversations and humor (Mario used to be an Army pilot and had sign in his chopper’s cockpit with an arrow pointing up)! I kept trying to write quotes down—when another one was ripped off, and I’d lose the thread of the previous one! With a couple of exceptions, I just stopped taking notes and listened. Guess I wouldn’t make a very good journalist.

Here is what I did manage to snag:

Paperback books are making it too easy to read!” Mario Acevedo paraphrasing old tyme publishing. Mario was talking about how at the turn of the previous century, publishing was whining about the advent of paperback books! That—much like ebooks today—publishers were crying the sky was falling with the advent of paperbacks! I’d also read some early descriptions of publishing and the issues-of-the-times, and found that there was always something being touted as the “End of the World” for publishing…absolutely no different than today. People are people…and we love to whine and cry about how bad things are gonna be…then we buck up and move forward.

Be in love with the story…the characters…don’t be thinking about selling.” I believe Kristen Heitzmann said this. I love this advice! You need to be in love with the world, the characters, the story you’re writing! If you’re not, it will show in your work, and no one will be moved/driven to tears/fascinated by your work.

There was talk about the resurgence of short stories. Apparently between 2004 – 2010 nothing was being bought in terms of short stories…but now…since around 2012…some short stories are being bought. This might have come from Sandra Bond. I find this kind of thinking so damned parochial. That “no one is buying anything” mindset in publishing. No matter how stellar an editor, a publishing executive, they are all prone to prejudices and bad decisions. Readers will read anything that’s good! And to “just discover” that today’s readers “have a half-hour there, and hour there” as they go about their lives utterly astounds me….

If something is holding you back…something is also pulling you forward.” Mario Acevedo. I found this to be perhaps the most profound statement all day! Not only does it fit in perfectly Newton’s Third Law of Motion, “For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction,“…but it’s a terrific way to look at and deal with one’s publishing angst! Beautiful, Mario, simply beautiful!

Anne Hillerman

Anne’s Keynote speech detailed anecdotes about her father and her time with him, as well as the benefits of reading fiction. Reading fiction improves brain connectivity and function. One of the benefits-of-fiction discoveries was that reading fiction makes one more sympathetic with others. That people who read fiction were better able to look at pictures of people’s eyes and better determine how the person behind those eyes was feeling. Fascinating. It does kinda disturb me that there are people out there who just will not read fiction. For more information about this research, click here. Anne also took questions from the audience.

In Conclusion

While at MOA, I also met back up with several writer-friends I haven’t seen since the last MOA outing, Denver’s MileHiCon…or longer (one—Chris Goff—my God, it has to have been almost 30 years since we last saw each other). It was so great to see and talk to you all! And, yes, I am looking into this year’s RMFW Colorado Gold…which happened to have been the first-ever writer’s conference I’d ever attended some 30 years ago. I also have not attended it since that first time.

And a special thanks goes out to Darlene B., who is my wife’s client. It was so neat to finally meet her! She stopped by and began by saying that she’d known of my work for some 19 years. Thanks, Darlene, for stopping by! It was a pleasure to finally meet and talk with you!

And a tremendous Thank You! to all of the Pikes Peak Library District and all those who took part in putting this together! And thank you, Bryan Matthews, for again having me! I hope to be back for next year’s!

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Red Hands

Reaching Out Can Be A Scary Thing. (Image by mjchael [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons)

Reaching Out Can Be A Scary Thing. (Image by mjchael [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons)

October 28, 2004 I was interviewed on a local radio station about things-paranormal. I’d met the station’s News Director and had noticed that she seemed, well…leery…of me (it was a “weird” handshake—she didn’t want to shake my hand!). Her name was Kina. After my interview I asked the DJs to show me to Kina’s office. They did and Kina and I had talked and had a great time joking around. She said that I didn’t seem so “scary” in and of myself! She told me part of “something” that is detailed in the excerpt, below.

As I left, I told her and the DJs I was going to write up a short story in honor of them about what Kina had told me. Below is an excerpt from my December 1, 2004 query letter to George Seithers, of Weird Tales (no, it didn’t get picked up) that details what Kina had told me:

Enclosed is “Red Hands,” a ghost story inspired by real events. I was interviewed on a local radio station, 95.1 The Peak, and the News Director had told a ghost story about seeing huge red hands come out of her bedroom walls (now I know why she gave me such a hard time about shaking my hand!) above her bed when she was a child in South Central Los Angeles. It apparently happened nearly every night, she says, so she used to sleep with her mother. Her grandmother felt that there was “something else” living there with them, but her mother never thought anything of it.

I wrote this fictional adult story using the real names of all involved (they’re all public figures, in radio, and I set it around my real interview with them). I didn’t know the whole story until after I’d written this.

The on-air staff said I could use their names, so, I’ve left their names in the story. But, while most of the names are real, some are not. I’ve tried to make contact with them “today,” but so far no luck.

This story has never been published.

Red Hands

© F. P. Dorchak, 2004

1

Kina Foster awoke screaming out her lungs as she leapt out of bed, blundered through her bed sheets and blankets, bounced off her bedroom wall, clipped her left elbow along the edge of her upright dresser, and flung herself out into the hallway, where she broke a nail madly scrambling for the light switch. She spun around as she began her collapse to the floor, several feet farther down the hallway at the top of the stairs. The only thing that kept her from tumbling headlong down those stairs was having whacked her head a good one on the edge of the stair’s handrail.

Dazed, she sat on the floor. Opened her eyes wide…and shook her head.

Kina sat back against the wall, inhaling huge gulps of air and groaning. She cradled her hurt elbow into her body and examined the broken and bleeding nail. She then winced as she closed her eyes and leaned her head all the way back to the wall. Reaching for the head wound, she grimaced. A tear trickled down her cheek and she began to sob.

But her throat was sore…

As if she’d been screaming.

Sniffling loudly, she opened her eyes and stared at the entrance into her bedroom.

Whathad just…happened?

What had just caused her to leap out of bed in a blind rage and end up a puddle of mush in her hallway?

She grabbed the handrail. Using it like an anchor, she tried—desperately—to recall…

Dreams. Blinding, horrific imagery she found hard to decipher. Screams, oh, God, the screams! Kina let go of the rail and slammed both hands to her ears.

She could still hear the screams!

And something had come to her…for her…followed her….

If something had followed her…would it stood to reason that it might still be in there?

Kina cautiously pushed herself up off the floor. She scanned the hallway for a weapon. She was across from the bathroom and looked in to the shower. The shower curtain hung part way open on its shower rod. One of those removable wooden poles that pressed against the walls with spring-loaded friction.

Kina shot to her feet and grabbed the shower-curtain pole, tearing it from the walls. Frantically, she knocked off the rubber cup on one end, and hastily pushed off the shower curtain. The pole was strong and solid. Stuck for years in its position, it didn’t compress or come apart. The longer the better.

Did she really believe something had followed her back from a dream? No. But she had to go back in there sometime…and to be forearmed was forewarned. Composing herself…and her new lance held forcibly out before her…Kina left the bathroom for the bedroom.

She flicked on the light switch as she entered it.

Images continued to fly through her mind, but she still couldn’t make out anything. The only thing she could grab and hold onto was an intense and acute sense of fear, pain, and dread that still had a hold over her. She coughed—her throat indeed sore—and glanced at her clock, which read just a little after two in the morning. And the late October winds were howling it up outside her windows. Pole tentatively held out before her, she slowly advanced toward her bed. She whipped to the right as she passed the door.

Nothing there.

Turning back to her bed, she examined the rumpled and pulled-back blankets and bed sheet. Poked at them with her lance.

More nothing.

Crouched and looked under the bed.

Additional nothings…but, just to make sure, she swiped the pole back and forth under the bed. Just dust bunnies, loose change, and a lost black sock she’d been looking for for almost six months. Back to her feet, Kina went to her closet and pushed open its folding accordion doors with the stick. Jabbed in and about her clothes.

Sweet nothings.

Kina stepped back and lowered her pole. Let out a strained chuckle.

“Good, Lord, it was only a dream.”

She went back out into the hallway and turned off the hallway light, still uttering the occasional nervous chuckle. When she reentered her bedroom, she stood in the middle of it listening to the high winds outside.

Late October…high winds…two-thirteen in the morning…and Hallowe’en in a couple days.

Yeah, no issues there.

Kina went to turn off the bedroom lights, when—quick as lightening—two hands thrust out at her from the wall…two red hands attached to red forearms.

Kina jerked backward, tripping over her feet, and slammed into the upright dresser, knocking it back against the wall with a load crack!

The red hands again thrust out after her, this time up from the floor at her feet.

Screaming and scrambling her feet under her in that pathetically cartoon-like manner, she finally gripped the hardwood floors and swung her pole wildly about her, smashing an antique picture up on the wall behind the upright dresser (that her mother had given her), her jewelry armoire to her left, and totaling her hanging bedroom light fixture above. This, unfortunately, popped her lance apart, shortening it by half, and sending the years-compressed spring ricocheting off a wall and onto the hardwood floor out of view.

Kina backed up against another wall—but the hands again found her, shooting out of the wall around her.

Once again crazy with fear, Kina swung what remained of the bathroom lance-now-baton directly at the spot on the wall from which the red hands had emerged. They were now gone, but that didn’t stop her from gouging out a good-sized chunk of wallpaper and wallboard.

She backed up to her doorway, when the hands again jut out for her. Kina swung her weapon and this time connected with her other dresser’s mirror, obliterating.

“Come on, you son-of-a-bitch! Show yourself, whatever you are! Come on!

She got back to her feet and angrily swung at walls and the bedroom, which was one of those cheap, hollow things. Her stick stuck in the door , and unable to pull free, she viciously kicked—slipped—and knocked herself out as she connected with the floor….

 

Kina entered her office at KRDO’s 95.1 (“The Peak”) radio station. She dropped her purse and bags on the floor, then dropped herself into her chair. Sucking on a throat lozenge, she coughed. Her throat was still raw. Shawnee, one of the D.J.s, poked her head into her office.

“You okay, hon?”

Kina barely looked up. Her back was to the door, but she glanced into the review mirror to the left of her computer.

“No…,” she said, her voice squeaking.

“What happened to your voice?” Shawnee asked, entering her office. “We heard you’d had some kind of accident.”

Kina again coughed.

“I had a really, really, really bad dream last night and screamed my head off. Ended up banging my elbow, breaking a nail,” she said in a half-whisper, displaying her wounds, “then smacked my head up real good.”

Kina lightly touched the bump on her noggin.

“Damn, girl, must’ve been some dream,” Shawnee said, trying not to laugh, but smiling broadly.

“Doctor said I’ll live…but I wondered if she’d been the right one for me….”

Shawnee let out a good laugh. She came in farther and leaned against the edge of Kina’s L-shaped desk, right up alongside her as she intently eyed her. She placed a concerned hand to Kina’s back, and said, “Anything you wanna talk about?”

Kina shook her head. “No…just wanna forget about it all. Get back into my every day routine, you know? I don’t really remember anything about it, anyway,” Kina said, lying.

Nothing? With all those war wounds?” Shawnee said, casually picking away at a stray piece of Kina’s hair.

Kina shook her head.

“Okay. Well…if you need anything, just let me know.” Shawnee again placed a concerned hand to Kina, then left.

Kina stared out her window.

What the hell had happened?

It had to have been a dream, right? Things like this just didn’t happen in real life. That’s Freddy Kruger talk and Freddy’s only a dream—a nightmare—a movie, damn it, a movie. She got herself so worked up and spooked she didn’t know which way was up.

Kina logged in on her computer and began to immerse herself into her work day. Jan Carter had already stood in for her while she’d been to the Emergency Room. Time to get back into her everyday routine….

 

“…seven-fifty-seven, Steve Ryan, Dave Moore—and Kina, we’re sorry to say that we have some scary news for ya. We have author F. P. Dorchak, here in the studio with us,” Steve Ryan, of the Peak Morning Show said on-air to Kina.

“My door is closed,” Kina roughly replied back into her mike from her office, “and it’s barricaded!

Steve and Dave chuckled.

“We’re going to talk about the paranormal and ghosts,” Steve Ryan continued, “and, ah, how they interrupt our daily life and the whole deal, so, ah, I don’t know—you better just, ah, keep that door shut—”

“You know, I work with you two, so I just don’t know how much stranger normal life can get…,” Kina said, laughing.

Oh, but she did.

She hadn’t been able to not think about the events of the early morning. And now add to it that the station was doing a whole week of “weird stuff” …ghost stories…astrologers…psychics.

Now, who was this new guy? An author who wrote paranormal fiction? What was the attraction to this stuff?

She’d never been big on it…well, perhaps more to the point was that she had never been big on it, because she’d always been afraid of it. Ever since she’d been a little girl and her parents had told her about The Legend of Sleepy Hollow and that darned headless horseman, she’d never been able to get into anything spooky. Now, she had no choice…she’d awoken this morning to her own personal Freddy Kruger reaching out to her—her—and this wasn’t a movie and it hadn’t been a dream—but it had to of been, right?

Crap like this just didn’t happen outside the movies and books! It just didn’t…it’s like what that guy in there right now does, it’s all made up—fiction.

What had happened to her had to have been a delayed hypnagogic reaction or something…a delayed dream thing…still groggy with one foot in dreamland.

She needed to use the ladies room.

Kina got up, then realized she had to walk past Mr. Paranormal in there talking with Steve and Dave. Maybe she’d just take a quick peek in at the guy….

Kina quietly came up to the studio doorway, and looked in at him. He looked normal enough…short cut, brown hair, even sported an Hawai’ian shirt. A black Hawai’ian shirt, but still. He didn’t look like she’d imagined him to be at all.

He turned to her.

Crap!

Smiling, Mr. Paranormal got up and made his way toward her, hand held out…and that was when she lost it.

All Kina could see was a red hand.

Those red hands.

Kina barely made it into the bathroom stalls before she lost her Danish and tea….

 

Kina did about all she could to stay as late at work as possible, but when Jan Carter left it was time to go. Jan showed up at Kina’s doorway, with her ever-present cheery tone.

“Hey-ah, girl, how ya doin?”

“I don’t want to go home.”

“Well, let’s talk about it, huh?”

“I don’t want to. I’ve decided I’m never going to sleep again.”

Jan laughed. “Oh, come on, be a big girl. It can’t have been that bad. Everyone’s been talking about it, but no one seems to know—what happened?”

Kina sighed and cleared her throat. Her voice was feeling decidedly better, but was still rough.

“I had a really bad dream is all—and it’s embarrassing. I kinda…um…messed up my bedroom, I was so scared.”

“How do you mean ‘messed up your bedroom’—you didn’t —”

“Nooo…I, cmm, kinda, um…beat up the walls.”

“No way!” Jan said, laughing.

Kina shrugged her shoulders, giving Jan an “oops” look.

“What brought that on?”

“I had some kind of a nightmare I can’t remember any more. But I do remember how I felt…I was extremely terrified. More terrified than I could have ever imagined. I was so scared it hurt. I felt sure I was going to have an aneurism. I’m not exaggerating.”

Jan went serious. “Anything else?”

“You’re gonna laugh.”

“Am not.”

“I saw…in my bedroom, I saw…cmmm…red hands.”

Red hands? Just hands?”

Kina nodded. “They shot out of the wall at me like this—” she said, and thrust her arms toward Jan—who took a step back.

“Oh, my gosh—that’d scared the bejesus out of me!”

“Well, I woke up screaming—I mean I was screaming my lungs out. My throat’s still sore, as you can tell. I didn’t—and still don’t—remember the dream…just that I was terrified. Once I calmed down I went and got a pole—you know, that bathroom rod that holds up shower curtains?”

Jan nodded.

“I got that, went back in…checked under and around everything, but didn’t find anything.”

“Of course. That’s how it always works in horror movies—”

“Jan—you’re not helping!”

“Sorry.”

“I checked everything out and found nothing. So, I go to turn off the light switch and go to bed—when…when they jump out at me. The hands—glowing red hands—from the walls. Shoot right out of the wall in front of me! Scared the you-know-what out of me!”

“Kina, darling are you sure—”

“Was it a figment of my imagination? I’m not sure of anything, anymore. When that guy, that-that author—Mr. Paranormal, or whatever his name was—was in earlier, I took a look at him. He looked normal enough, but when he got up to shake my hand…I saw them, again. Those red hands coming at me—”

“Oh, now, honey, you know that all that is is all this Hallowe’en hooey going on this month. That’s all it is. It’s that time of the year when we all get just a little more spooked than normal—”

“This was different, Jan, I tell you. Whether or not that guy’s hands really were red, what I saw in my bedroom last night was real—in some way. In some way, I can’t yet figure out. There’s just something about it. A feeling I got.”

“What do you mean?”

“Well, toward the end, I got angry. I mean, really pissed. I don’t know why, but I wasn’t scared any more, and I wasn’t…wasn’t angry at the hands, I realized later, once I thought about it…I was mad at something else…something about the hands.”

“Any idea what?”

Kina vigorously shook her head. “No idea. I just know I don’t want to go back in there. Alone, anyway.”

“I’ll go with ya, girlfren.”

Kina looked up. “Would you?”

“Yeah-ah. And I tell ya what, we’ll just go back there to face whatever it was that happened, then you can stay at my place tonight—or for as long as you need—how’s that?”

Kina smiled, choking back tears.

 

Kina entered her home first, Jan right behind her.

“Well, things certainly look normal enough,” Jan said, unzipping her jacket.

“But isn’t what you really want to say is that that’s how it always is on Elm Street?” Kina said, removing her jacket.

“Well….”

“My bedroom’s up that landing, then to the rear of the hallway, on the right.”

Jan walked ahead of Kina, then stopped. “Well, time’s awastin’. No time like the present,” she said, turning back to Kina and removing her jacket. “You ready to do this?”

Kina nodded.

“Then, let’s do it.”

The two walked up the handful of stairs onto the upper landing.

“Nice hardwood floors,” Jan said.

“Thanks.”

Jan stopped before the bathroom, peeking in. “And that must be where you found your lance-a-lot,” she said, smiling.

“Yeah…was kinda in a hurry, you know.”

“Sounded like a good choice, if you ask me!” she said, smiling.

They approached the bedroom.

“Holy cripes!” Jan exclaimed, entering it. “I guess you weren’t kidding when you said you messed up the place!”

It was worse than Kina remembered.

There was s stick impaling the bedroom door and the now-exposed light switch by the door was reduced to one tiny plastic shard that held on to the screw holding it onto the wall, the rest of it scattered on the floor. Large portions of wallboard and wallpaper hung off the wall and were also all over the floor. Her bedroom mirror was also gone, shards of glass everywhere, mixed in with the hanging light fixture she had also ripped from the ceiling.

“Must’ve been what I slipped on when I knocked myself cold,” Kina said, pointing to the glass all over the floor and rubbing her head. “Glad I didn’t cut myself up.”

“Yea-ah!” Jan said. “Man! Will ya look at this place!”

Two other walls were also torn up and had wallpaper hanging out like gaping war wounds. The broken antique picture frame and picture were also on the floor behind the upright dresser, which had gouged the hardwood floor and was tipped toward the wall, its two rear pine-wood legs neatly snapped off. As for the bathroom shower curtain rod, now popped apart into two pieces, one lay on the floor partially under the bed, the internal spring nearby, while the other part was still wedged into the hollow bedroom door.

Jan chuckled as she fingered but didn’t remove the stick in the door. “Well, I see you’re going to need some serious redecoration action, my friend.”

Kina shrugged embarrassed, coughing a couple rounds.

“And remind me never to wake you from a sound sleep!” Jan added. “Okay, so what happened here? Be specific.”

Kina went over to her bedside nightstand. As she began to relate the events, she found the dream images coming back.

“Well, I awoke, stark raving mad—as in crazy—and was screaming my lungs out. I jumped out of bed, here,” she said pointing, “and rammed my elbow into the edge of the dresser, here.” She suddenly remembered the wound and rubbed it. “Then I went out into the hallway, broke a nail, and collapsed. Grabbed the shower curtain rod and reentered.”

Kina walked past Jan, who turned to follow her narration.

“I came back in, searched the place, and found nothing —that’s always how it happens on The Nightmare on Elm Street. Then—also just like on Elm Street—the red hands thrust out at me—here—from the wall, just under the light switch,” Kina said, showing her.

She was initially reluctant to touch the wall, but she found new confidence coursing through her (confidence always strongest with others around). Though the memories and images no longer scared her, she did feel something strange about them. Like they were still out there. Still…needing?…her.

Needing her?

“That’s when I opened fire. Took out my room. The rest is history.”

“You’d said earlier that they followed you? Is that right?”

“Yeah,” Kina said, hedging, again walking past Jan for the broken upright dresser. “Over here, they came up out of the floor at me.” Renewed confidence or not, she avoided the spot on the floor where the hands had materialized up out of the floor. “Then, over there, out of the wall. Then back out over there,” she said, pointing back to the wall near the light switch. “Then the mirror.”

“Well, do you feel anything now? Any, I don’t know—tingling sensations, or whatever it is you’re supposed to feel in real-life horror movie situations like this?”

“No…well, I do kinda feel like they’re still…‘out there,’ in some way, but perhaps the strangest thing is that I no longer feel scared. Can’t explain it.”

“Did you catch much of that paranormal author’s show today?”

Kina chuckled. “I know what you’re gonna say. That he feels that many ghosts out there aren’t really out to get us; that they’re actually just caught in-between worlds or something…what did he call them?”

“‘Lingering anxiety ghosts,’ or something,” Jan said.

“Right. Or could be—”

Kina stopped dead in her tracks.

“Oh, my God.”

Jan came to her. “What? What is it?”

“It just hit me.”

Kina pulled away from Jan but turned back to her, a look of surprise on her face.

“Jan….”

“Yes?”

Then Kina changed her mind and said nothing, and turned back to the wall, lifting her arms before her, palms up, as if mesmerized. She stared at the light switch wall by the door then slowly turned back to Jan, her arms and palms still upraised, a look of horror on her face and approached her. Jan backed up as Kina approached.

“Kina, honey, are you okay?”

Kina stopped just before her.

“Jan…it was something Steve and Paranormal Guy said…about how in the movies they always make the ghosts out to be bad or evil, always out to get everyone.”

“Yeah…honey, now you’re scaring me….”

“Well, they felt—Paranormal Guy felt—that they—ghosts—weren’t so much out to get us, as they were just trapped maybe, or confused. Maybe even dreaming back about their just-departed lives…”

“Dreaming? Do the dead dream?”

Kina just looked at her.

Jan continued, “Okay…and?

“Jan, look at me. Look at me! What do I look like? What do I look like I need?”

Jan looked to Kina…really looked to her…how her arms—her hands—were held out before her.

“Oh, my G—”

Help. I look like I need help, Jan, that’s what they look like.”

“Well, now, then, that would put a different spin on things, wouldn’t it? Good Lord, I have chicken skin all over me….”

“And I’d turned it away! I turned it away, Jan! Don’t you get it? I may have turned someone away who needed my help—reached out to me….”

“Yeah, but reached out to you from where, honey?” Jan said.

“Does it matter?”

“Uh, yeah!

Jan came to Kina and grabbed her by the arms. “Oh, honey, don’t worry about it—”

“But I have to! What have I done—because I was afraid? Had I hurt someone—ghost or not?”

“But you don’t know that? And it was just a dream.”

“But I feel this…something…right now. Right this minute. It’s still out there, he/she/it is…is still out there….”

The images did continue to fly around in her head…still screaming through her mind at light speed. Still, she was unable to make anything out. But she felt the red hands were still out there…still needing….

“Oh, my God, Jan…I think I might have done something very, very wrong…I’ve never felt this way before…I suddenly feel a little sick…”
“But what if…what if, I don’t know, you bring something evil here, into our world? Paranormal Guy didn’t talk about that—”

“No, not on-air, but I snuck up beside the door when they were talking off-air, him and Steve and Dave, and he said that he feels a lot of the evil stuff is actually confused energy coming from us…that there really isn’t any such thing as…how did he put it, ‘an inherent Devil’—”

“Well, that may be, but what kind of an expert is he? He writes fiction, for God’s sake…he’s no expert. And, really, who among us knows? What human has the be-all, end-all knowledge about the afterlife and is a hundred percent correct? What if—I don’t know—what if these confused spirits really can get nasty, like The Exorcist nasty, or something, and kick our asses? What then?”

Kina dropped her arms, a look of exhaustion falling over her face.

“Thanks for doing this, Jan,” Kina said, reaching for one of Jan’s hand. “I’m fine, now. Really.”

Jan cocked her head, skeptical. “Don’t you want to come with me, stay the night?”

Kina shook her head, confident in her decision. “No…I’m going to stay here, in my own bed. I’ll be fine.”

“You’re not planning on pulling in those hands, are you?”

“Another thing Paranormal Guy said was that ghosts are not physical…so I can’t very well do that, now can I? He said he didn’t believe what we saw were so much physical images as mental images we translate into a physical-like image. No—you go home, now, Jan, I really appreciate all you’ve done, you’re a good friend. I’m just mentally and spiritually exhausted. Thanks.”

“If I was a really good friend I wouldn’t leave you here and would protect you from your own bad self—”

“Fine. Then I’ll make us some dinner and you can sleep in my guest room….”

 

Kina was absolutely exhausted by the time they’d both cleaned up the bedroom’s mess. She made dinner, Jan made her calls, Kina put Jan up in the guest room and then made her way to her own bed. She looked forward to sleep….

 

Kina again awoke just a little after two a.m. to use the bathroom. The full moon shown in through her bathroom window and the wind still howled for a second night in a row. She stared at the moon and smiled as she sat on the toilet; closed her eyes.

If you’re out there and you need help, Kina thought, reaching out to the red hands, come back. I’m ready for you, now.

This time I’ll help you….

 

Kina washed her hands, then dried them…but as she turned to return to bed, she again had that weird feeling. She paused; felt a little bit of fear rising within, but just told herself to get over it—that there was no need to be afraid.

She knew—in her bones—there was nothing to be afraid of.

At least not in this instance. She told herself.

Yeah, Nightmare on Elm Street….

She knew what she would find before fully turning around.

She didn’t bother flicking on a light.

She saw them. Dark, glowing red hands, reaching down and out from above her bed…hands spaced about two feet apart, just short of the union of the wall and ceiling crease.

They just silently hung there. Not motionless, per se, but still…as if a person really were on the other side of them, reaching out to her.

And she wasn’t scared. Not in the least.

Cautiously, Kina approached them and came to stand beside her bed and the nightstand.

She looked up to them…then placed one foot onto her bed, and, grabbing the frame of the bed in support, pulled herself up. She faced the wall and looked up to the red hands. Spreading apart her feet on the bed…she lifted her hands…but stopped short of actually grabbing them.

They really were hands—and they really were red.

And it was really two-fifteen in the morning.

Kina looked toward her closed bedroom door, thinking about Jan Carter, snoring soundly away in the guest room. She smiled.

Then looked back to the hands. She closed her eyes then reopened them.

Still there.

Bracing herself, Kina went for it and reached out to them.

She didn’t grab them—at least not physically, anyway—but did grab onto…something…because she was suddenly flooded with emotion that was like drinking though a raging fire hose. She tried to slow it down, but couldn’t. It wasn’t intentional, she didn’t think, by way of the emotion of the link she was now attached to overloaded her, but felt it was more like this ghost had so needed her…so needed her help—and yesterday—that it was like the opening of emotional flood gates and there was no turning it off. This…creature, this ghost…had a lot to download, and needed to do it as soon as possible. Needed her to be there…to help open those flood gates and let the emotion flow.

And there was something else….

Kina felt as if she was going to explode…her entire body felt as if it was spiritually and physically expanding…out to the ends of the universe—yet was simultaneously face-to-face with some invisible entity right before her face.

It was a feeling of expansive contraction…of swirling and spinning…of being there…standing on her bed yet also simultaneously being flung to the farthest reaches of the universe. And through all this, she was crying…unabashedly sobbing. Her entire being quaked with sorrow…pain!…there was intense pain in this spirit…anguish. Anguish she had never experienced before. Every synonym for pain and hurt filled her soul…and there was no shutting it off. Now, she was starting to get scared, but told herself to shut the hell up…there was so much more at stake here than her being a fraidy cat of the unknown….

Kina cried out…screamed in loving rage at where all this pain in this ghost was coming from. She reached out to it with intense, powerful thoughts of hope and peace and that this ghost needed to release itself from whatever horror it was experiencing.

It needed to move on!

That it was dead and there was nothing that need hold it to wherever it was. Whatever pain it was experiencing. It had to leave.

As if the emotion couldn’t get any stronger, it did…but this time Kina felt a difference to it…felt a change in conviction…a focusing. Kina poured more of herself into her link with the ghost…leave, she commanded, you can do it! I’m here to help…focus on me… explode away from wherever you are! Whatever is holding you back! Do it NOW!

There was a mentally bruising explosion of light in her mind and Kina experienced a singular burst of energy that felt like a supernova—

And it was over.

Done.

She collapsed to the bed, emotionally and spiritually spent. She looked up to where the red hands had been…but they were gone.

Kina closed her eyes and swallowed hard. Her mouth was really dry.

Thank you….”

Kina shot upright. Looked around.

She leapt off the bed and turned on the bedside lamp.

No one. There was no one in the room with her—yet she’d distinctly heard the words “Thank you” spoken out loud.

To her.

She rushed to Jan’s room, but she was still sound asleep, snoring loudly though peacefully.

Who’d said that?

Kina chuckled, then returned to her bedroom.

She knew there was no one else in the house with them. Knew it hadn’t been Jan talking in her sleep, nor had it just been all in her head. She’d heard those two words clear as day, as loud as if someone had been standing shoulder to shoulder with her.

She had heard someone thank her, and she knew who that was, even if she didn’t know who it was.

She’d helped save a life. Ghost or otherwise.

Kina brushed off the bed sheets from where she’d been standing and got back into bed. The wind had even died down. She smiled and turned off the light.

“Good night,” she said, aloud, and rolled over and fell asleep.

She could have sworn she felt a light kiss brush her cheek….

2

December 13, 1967

A Siberian Gulag

A nameless, faceless prisoner lay strapped onto a rough-hewn board, various tubes and wires attached to numerous places on his scared, broken, tortured, and burned body. Both his legs had recently been broken, but he didn’t know what “recently” meant anymore. On all his limbs were open, infinitely painful, raw wounds from having been methodically and carefully burned. To his head were attached electrodes, and in his arms more tubes. His tongue had been removed. He hadn’t been allowed to sleep, hadn’t been allowed to dream, and had been kept as barely alive as possible through science and chemicals and ever-present torture.

But as totally controlled as his captors thought they were over him, there was one thing they couldn’t get under control with all their methods…

His will.

His ability to think what he wanted to think.

He was fine with losing his body—and if he could get free he had no qualms with slitting his own throat, or putting a couple well-placed bullets to his brain. But that was never going to be. He was their experiment and would die of old age, if they had their way.

So he had decided to reach out…reach out to whatever might be “out there”…whatever might have mercy on him and help him free himself from this hellish nightmare. What else had he? What had he to lose?

So he had.

And he had found someone.

A ghost? A figment of his imagination? He didn’t know and didn’t care. All he knew…was that he had—finally—put an end to his suffering and had willed his own freedom. Willed his own death. Freed himself with the help of someone or something, he didn’t know. All he knew, was that he was free…free to move on….

And he did.

But not before he thanked the woman who had braved her own fears and had helped set him free.

Thank you….”

 

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Mountain of Authors 2016!

Mountain of Authors 2016! Pikes Peak Library 21C, Colorado Springs, Colorado

Mountain of Authors 2016! Pikes Peak Library 21C, Colorado Springs, Colorado

I am, once again, attending the Pikes Peak Library District’s Mountain of Authors (MOA), at Library 21C (a just-a-couple-of-years-old beautiful new library) in Colorado Springs, Colorado! It will be held this Saturday, April 23, 11 a.m. MT – 5 p.m. MT. The keynote speaker is Anne Hillerman, the writer/journalist daughter of author Tony Hillerman.

I attended last year and had a blast, so I’m really looking forward to this year! Here is the schedule for this year:

  • 11 – 11:30 a.m. – Doors open!
  • 11:30 a.m. – 12:30 p.m. – Panel 1: It’s a Mystery!
  • 12:30 – 1 p.m. – Showcase Spotlight
  • 1 – 1:30 p.m. – Break
  • 1:30 – 2:30 p.m. – Panel 2: Tenth Anniversary Retrospective
  • 2:30 – 3 p.m. – Break
  • 3 – 4 p.m. – Keynote Speaker: Anne Hillerman
  • 4 – 5 p.m. – Reception and Book Signing

I will have copies of all my novels there, so, please drop on by and say “Hello!”

Related Article

 

Nightborders

There Are No Monsters. (Image by Internet Archive Book Images [No restrictions], via Wikimedia Commons)

There Are No Monsters. (Image by Internet Archive Book Images [No restrictions], via Wikimedia Commons)

There is truth to the saying that those who piss off a writer may well end up in said writer’s story…and not in a good way (like, “Ewww, hurt me!”).

I knew a girl once…back in ’89…who said a spiteful thing to me one night. Fine. Be that way, I thought. And that was the end of our on-again-off-again relationship. Then I’d had a story idea…a really nasty horror-story idea…and I put it together with the aforementioned Miss Nasty’s comment in mind. It’s funny how things materialize into stories when you write them. Yeah, this is not my best work (a bit over the top in several ways)…but it is amusing-in-concept. The idea behind the story, the whole “night borders” thing. Ever had the same crazy idea in the middle of the night? No? Nothing you’ll admit to? Well, I bet you can’t say “Candyman” five times while looking at yourself in the mirror, either….

I’m not at all a spiteful, tit-for-tat kinda guy in any way…but the irony in the putting of the two events together was not lost on me and had in itself a certain…well, psychic…poetic justice to it. I didn’t—nor do I to this day—wish her ill. I hope she lived and lives a fine life, wherever she is.

But in this story….

This story has never been published…and probably for good reason. It will probably give you night terrors and insomnia…and that’s good thing, in—

 

Nightborders

© F. P. Dorchak, 1989

 

Quentin Strangefellow was possessed. Not by demons, but by a strange and unreasoning fear. Perhaps consumed was a better word.

This fear had followed him since his childhood, and now as an adult it had grown completely out of proportion. When you’re young it’s easy to take things at face value, but once face value has been passed on, things start taking on different weight.

This fear had no basis—no real basis, anyway—for coming into being, and definitely no basis for any furthered continuation. What’s more, Quentin had no past experience with which to draw upon for this fatuous phobia. It all began (as far as he could remember) one lonely night in a childhood bedroom. No rhyme, no reason. Like so many other childhood afflictions it just came into being on its own. A spontaneous conception.

His fear was of borders.

Nightborders. Borders of the nighttime bed (of course it was at night, things like this didn’t happen during the light of day). That imaginary perimeter between protection and annihilation, physically manned by the edges of the mattress that extended up to the ceiling.

It was an anxiety that no one ever put much stock in…yet some continued to live with in quiet-to-utter terror of their entire lives…quietly and unobtrusively following their hidden and unorthodoxed rules…their wives and girlfriends, husbands and boyfriends never coming into The Knowing.

So Quentin lay there, alone, eyes open and staring.

Once again, he hadn’t been able to get back to sleep and it was now three-twenty in the morning. His body had become rigid—it had never been this bad before—and lately he had found himself dwelling more and more on the borders. It wasn’t so much the borders themselves as it was what lay beyond…

Of what was to happen to those who trespassed.

Still quite awake, Quentin really didn’t feel like getting up and doing anything (like going through the piles of correspondence that kept collecting on the table, or watching TV), but he couldn’t get back to sleep, either. Restless and uneasy, he twisted in his sheets. Even if he had wanted to leave the confines of the bed the sheets would not have allowed it. Sheets were meant to keep you in bed, all of you, safe from the perils of the Nightborders.

Yet the heat was too much and he had thrown off the top blanket. But he was too afraid to turn on the bed-side radio for fear of attracting the attention of whatever there was just beyond the mattress’s edges…any motions he did make outside of these imaginary lines were quick and jerky—as if he were trying to beat the grip of some waiting demon….

Looking down the length of his bed into the darkened interior of his apartment, Quentin half expected to see a shadow rush past. He tried projecting his mind into the other rooms, to see where every piece of his furniture was…every little odd scrap of paper…to feel the familiarity he needed right now.

He saw the dirty dish with the half consumed pizza slice, which was probably quite hard by now…tipped over some dirty silverware and a washcloth covered glass. Saw the bundle of newspapers lying about his floor and couch…his plants quietly sleeping….

Lying there, his arms and legs neatly confined to the interior of his bed, he gave his fear more detailed consideration.

How had all this come about, anyway? And why?

Well the why wasn’t too difficult, he decided, childish imaginations were always quite active, active and somewhat unchecked. Quentin felt—and felt quite strongly—that his imagination was still every bit as active now as it ever had been as a kid. It was just more firmly under control now.

For instance, he no longer believed in monsters under his bed, or in his closet (quickly flashing an embarrassed glance to his closet), or in Tooth Fairies. His closet door was open, and there were clearly no monsters in there. And he wasn’t about to check beneath the bed just now.

He didn’t feel like getting out of bed, that’s all.

In fact all of this morbid indulgence brought back to him a poem he had once read, and for some strange reason remembered. It went something like this:

“It was the Devil’s own pitch

A darkness utterly corrupt and vile.

 

“I couldn’t see a thing, couldn’t hear a thing

The silence absolute—except of that internal ringing sound.

 

“I turned, slowly.

The only way I could know this

Was by the steps my feet made over each other.

 

“That’s when I came face to face with it—

Teeth ripping my face apart…. ”

The poem’s title was “Fear.” He’d always remembered that because it totally described how he felt being in the dark, and it pretty much described how he felt about his damned Nightborders.

Something was going to rip his face off, and his arms, and his legs

But, he wondered, what would happen should he decide to tempt Fate?

To put to the test his old unreasoning horrors. Looking up to the ceiling, Quentin traced the image of his bed onto its stuccoed facing.

See, nothing there!

Hand reaching for the wall at the head of the bed, he quickly felt that out too.

Nothing. Nothing at all.

But to…to…

No, he still couldn’t quite bring himself to dangle an arm over the side.

What was the cause for all this sudden preoccupation? Shit, what a sissy!

What of reason?

How could dangling your limbs off the side of the bed bring about anything other than sleep? What is there in here that was going to harm you? You’re alone in the room (you checked that before the lights were all turned off), and there’s no such things as monsters.

Quentin had slowly become quietly neurotic.

It had gotten into his head way back that…for some strange reason…if you slept with any of your legs or arms outside the borders of your bed you would wake up more or less dead…

That your limbs would get sliced off by invisible guillotines from hell.

Or that some beast from the netherworld would come and rip them off if the guillotines missed them. It was all childish…totally unreasonable.

It was all just plain stupid and he bloody well knew it.

Now all he had to do was prove it.

Right.

Another night.

The next night was much the same as the previous, insomnia and neurosis reigning as King and Queen…but it was getting worse. And this time he was not alone. He’d met an old girlfriend in the supermarket, and, well, one thing led to another and before he knew it she’d come home with him. Quentin was not too fond of this girl, hence the reason for the “ex” before “girlfriend,” but he had been rather lonely lately and was growing tired of sleeping alone. Besides being rather bitchy most of the time, Tammy was attractive and her good points at night sometimes outranked her bad points.

Today her bad points seemed non-existent.

But he still couldn’t get the satisfying sleep he wanted, even after romping in the sack with Tammy, who was now contently snoring away at his side. He stroked her arm.

Why do you have to be such a bitch?” he quietly whispered to himself. She just snuggled in closer. She’d gotten what she wanted and so had he.

Quentin lay on his back, feeling her warm body next to him. It had been so long, feeling the warmth of another beside him in bed….

Sleep, goddamn it!

Frustrated and cranky, he flipped on the bed-side radio at low volume, an AM station merrily chattering to itself. Quentin lie there, a leg dangling off the edge of the bed, Tammy’s body still positioned beside him. The queen-sized mattress was perfect for two, heaven for one (more room in which to avoid the borders…).

Unconsciously he drew his leg back in. Recalled how he had told Tammy about his fear of the borders and how she had just laughed at him.

One night he had awoken in the middle of the night to muffled giggling, only to find Tammy crouched beside the bed, holding out one of his legs over the edge of the bed. She’d looked like an evil troll there in the darkness. Lightening wasn’t fast enough to catch his actions as he pushed her off him and snatched his leg back in. That had been the start of their problems. The beginning of the end for their relationship. She continued to nag him (sometimes in public) that he was becoming a whimpering wimp.

Putting his hands behind his head, he brought that same leg that had been out up in a bend, knee pointing ceilingward. Thinking about nothing in particular, he started swaying the knee back and forth to the music. Tammy moved away from him slightly, murmuring something in her sleep, something that involved someone by the name of “Jack.”

“Hope it was good,” he whispered back to her.

Suddenly changing position, she arranged herself nearly diagonal to the bed’s length, feet over one edge, head against his body again. It was a decidedly uncomfortable position, he soon found, so he moved his body to allow her her room.

He finally began to drift off….

Quentin’s dreams were troubled and he tossed and turned, groaning.

Our hero was being chased by monsters and demons…was just able to outrun them….

Sweat poured off him in tidal waves. He’d all but forgotten he was in bed with Tammy, who now had a different leg hanging over the bed-side.

In his dream, he was on his back—when his leg was grabbed.

He looked down to find an iron shackle cinched around an ankle.

Frantically getting up, he tried undoing the binding.

His demons had finally caught up with him!

Time to wake up now…time to wake up—now.

He did.

He felt the bed jerk.

Tammy!

He noticed she too must have been having troubled dreams, her mumblings no longer light and airy, but troubled and near sobbing. There was periodic moaning, which got him excited, but at the same time horrified.

Where was that movement coming from?

He felt around her naked body…the tugging intensified, and to his horror he realized it wasn’t originating from her

Tammy’s eyes flashed open and a scream came from her mouth.

AM music continued to play from the radio.

Tammy twisted and thrashed about violently in bed, and shot a hand to her ankle. She’d tossed Quentin away from her and slammed his head into the wall at the head of the bed. He saw all manner of stars and white light as he tried to regain mental stability and looked back to Tammy. She was bolt upright, shouting and screaming and there was something about something about her leg….

Quentin squinted, wincing at the pain in his head. Directed his gaze down the length of the beautiful naked from of his ex-girlfriend to…to what?

There was…there was—

A rusty iron shackle was attached to Tammy’s ankle.

Was that right?

Was he still dreaming?

No this was too real…this was no dream.

Tammy had reached down to her ankle and he’d seen something sticky had came off in her hand.

Quentin immediately curled his legs up about him.

His throat had frozen up. Was unable to move.

He watched as Tammy had now reached out for him, her face a grimace of horror. He looked back to the shackle. The shackle held her tight. She grabbed at him.

He lent no help.

Help me! Goddamn it, Quentin, help me!

Quentin tried to say something, but nothing came out. He just stared at her…wide eyed and opened-mouthed. He balled himself up into a tighter ball, pushed himself farther away from her and her pleading, from her outstretched hands.

Finally he found his voice.

Found his anger.

“You laughed at me, Tammy…laughed and ridiculed me! I told you about the Nightborders and you laughed! Made fun of me to our friends! You’ve always laughed at me and taken advantage of me! No more! This time you pay!

“What are you talking about? Goddamn it, Quent, this is real—I’m dying here! Help me—I’ll never laugh at you again! Please!

“I know you won’t.”

The words came out thick as ice.

Tammy froze in mid-plea.

Quentin watched as she was jerked several times—hard and rough—the fear in her eyes…her mouth an open, silent “O.” He couldn’t see her eyes, but knew how they must look.

He actually felt sorry for her.

Tammy reached back over to the other side of the bed. Quentin heard the sounds of chains and things rattling…saw several things suddenly whipping through the air, but carefully remained within their border…outside the mattress edge.

Tammy was jerked about again, her screams renewed when she saw that her wrists had now been grappled with harsh, rusty shackles like those on her ankles.

“Quentin! Please, please help me!

Quentin closed his eyes and covered his ears. Shouted back at her.

“I tried to tell you but you wouldn’t listen! I…I can’t help you now! You trespassed! You broke the rules!

Tammy clawed at the mattress. From her shackles blood flowed out and onto the bed.

Her body was yanked perpendicular to the bed…then yanked and drawn up a foot from the bed…her arms and legs outstretched by the chains that held her. Her painful screams to Quentin were now so mixed with her tears, it brought Quentin to tears as well.

He couldn’t let her die this way.

He broke from his huddle and went to her. Bitch or no bitch, she was still a person…a human…not a piece of raw meat to be so drawn and quartered.

He grabbed her writhing body at the waist, trying to pull her down.

“I’m sorry, Tammy, so sorry, but I tried to warn you! Forgive me!”

She looked to him, her stringy hair swinging in the air as the chains that held her rattled and pulled. Chains that came from above and below.

Quentin!” The pain in her voice sounded unhuman.

Then a shadow emerged from the floor in front of them.

It followed the contours of the furniture and walls as it rose. It was manlike, arms to its sides.

Straining her head up to see it at its full height of seven or so feet, the shadow stood before them for a second before taking quick powerful strides to the other side of the bed. It checked the shackles. In a flash the figure was back in front of Tammy, who writhed in pain.

The night creature chuckled, filling the room with a contemptuous laughter.

You shouldn’t have tempted the Fates, Miss Fowler. You should have listened to your boyfriend. Now you have to listen to me and my words are fatal.

Numbed by her blood loss, Tammy was frozen by the demon’s voice.

It had spoken her name—her name—and that can mean only one thing: there was a spot in hell just for her.

“Let her go!” Quentin shouted, still pulling at her waist.

I cannot. I am compelled to perform my duty. She has crossed borders that were not meant to be crossed. Illegally trespassed. For that she must pay.

Good-bye, Tammy.”

In stereo Quentin heard sheathing sounds—just like a guillotine—that came in unison from both ends of the bed. One set had come from the ceiling, down…and the other came from the floor up. It deafened his senses, not from the sounds they made but from the effect he now held within his arms.

Tammy no longer screamed and no longer twisted.

No longer did she call out his name.

No longer would she ever sleep with him…or belittle him.

Quentin sank to his knees.

Nooo! Why couldn’t you have listened to me—why!” he sobbed. “Damn you, Tammy!”

Quentin sobbed over the draining torso of Tammy Fowler in his arms.

The chains and shackles retreated back to wherever they had come from. Something wet and warm…smelling sickeningly pungent…unloaded onto his bed sheets and pooled about his knees.

The night creature picked up the separated remains of Tammy on the bedroom floor, holding them by their still-attached chains as he went to the quarters of the bed she’d over hung. He collected his due.

It again spoke.

Obey the rules, my friend, and we can have a long and profitable relationship. But trespass and meet your reaper.

It held up the limbs and head of Tammy Fowler and chuckled darkly…slowly disappearing the way it had come.

Quentin heaved the body over the borders…and cried….

 

Related Posts

Crypt of Vampyres

Never, Ever Enter Alone. At Night. (Image by Richard apple [CC BY-SA 3.0 http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0], via Wikimedia Commons)

Never, Ever Enter Alone. At Night. (Image by Richard apple [CC BY-SA 3.0 http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0%5D, via Wikimedia Commons)

This (I believe) is the first vampyre (yes, this is my preferred spelling) story I’d ever written. I’d written it for my fifth period 11th grade High School English class. Mr. Jeff Spence was my teacher. A tall (as I remember him) curly haired, affable guy! Always quick with a smile and a laugh.

And he gushed over this story! I can still see and hear him doing so!

He read this up in front of the entire class…emphasizing phrases and words here and there—pointing out cool imagery—and I was positively stunned.

Wow, he’d really liked this story that much?!

Man, here was a professional English teacher absolutely taken by something I’d written. He was beside himself even questioning the class’s non-responsiveness to things he found amazing. The atmosphere I’d created. I’d never seen that kind of enthusiasm for anything I’d written before or since in the professional world and often think back to that fine April day (April 6th, as a matter of fact! Note today’s date!). Yes…that was 38 years ago. Well, plus-or-minus. That paper was due April 6, 1978, but I’m not sure he read it the same day—I doubt it—but I couldn’t resist posting this blog on the same date, 38 years later! This was not planned!I had originally planned on posting this last week, but moved it for the “Snow Paper” post…then had this set for Friday, the 8th…but as I reread it, readying it for posting, the date just hit me. So, instead of posting this this Friday, I moved it up to today’s date. Weird energy…I think it all moves in “mysterious ways”….

Anyway, all I can imagine is that Mr. Spence was impressed with the potential he saw in me. Sure, even through all the incredibly poor and purple prose he saw promise…and some cool imagery…how I had an eye for creating atmosphere…my early employment of irony and even messing around with time and perspectives and points-of-view. It was very cool of him.

So, how are you these days, Mr. Spence? What are you up to? I can’t thank you enough for your unbridled enthusiasm…it’s still out there and I’m still tuning into it. I hope life has been good to you….

I have not done any editing to it (and believe me, it severely needs it…)…no comma clean up…no word choice re-selection…no nothing, absolutely nothing. I even found my severely marked-up copy that my mom edited (I’m amazed I still have it!), and she had hacked it up pretty good. Had I taken any of her advice?! Dunno. Haven’t compared the two. Maybe someday I will.

So, here is the story in all its adolescent glory and error! My Adult Me is, however, kinda embarrassed at the incredibly poor copy I’d turned in for an English assignment. Wow. Geeze.

But Mr. Spence loved it!

Read it to the entire class!

This story has never been published, never seen the light of day (pardon the pun), or been seen anywhere outside of Saranac Lake Central High School’s 1978 5th period, 11th Grade English class, taught by one legendary Mr. Spence. It has been transcribed word for word—no changes.

Try to get through it! I dare ya! :-]

 

Crypt of Vampyres

© F. P. Dorchak, April 6, 1978

 

The night was cool, the pallid moonlight bathed the area in an eerie, ghastly fog. The country road was deserted except for a lone nocturnal figure stalking down the illuminated roadway. There was s light breeze that blew what clouds there were to and fro.

An ordinary person would call the white stuff fog, but this individual saw figures…ghosts, demons, ghouls…all under his control.

This individual Alan Slovik, was an American-slovak holding on to the old fireside tales his ancient grandmother related to him. He fancied himself a “gothic-romanticist.” To others it seemed he was always dreaming, yet to himself, Alan, it was all very real.

Alan was about fifty feet from the only street lamp on the road when the clouds hid the moon. His shadow arrived at the post first and leaned up against it.

Alan, walking with no shadow, soon reached the post and he too, leaned up against it. As he rested there, peering through the eerie mist, he became suddenly aware that he was observing himself. As he watched, he became fascinated rather than frightened.

Slovik noticed a little later that his shadow walked off by itself. He then saw himself look down at his feet then walk off.

After that he stood there. Then looked down and saw no shadow. He too walked off.

 

In the cemetery, the wind whipped through with the eternal sound of lost souls as though it were being chased by something unspeakable. The skeleton -like trees were constantly striking at the foul air with their long boney extremities. The lost souls kept rising in pitch as the fierce wind roared on. In this most unholy of places, evil prevailed.

At the far end of the slumbering corpses lay a vault of unknown age. Few people ever venture near it because legend has it that an unspeakable horror is buried in the crypt below.

Inside lie bodies of an ancient family long decayed by Times’ cold hand. The family was reputed to possess special powers. The story goes that they emmigrated from Rumania for unknown reasons and died out just as mysteriously generations later, yet some people still believe there lurks, in the nights fiendish pall, a horror of the undead.

Inside the crumbling vault of horror a blanket of fetid stench envelopes all present. So thick is it that one can it and must slice a way through it–providing they are able to penetrate it. Dust is everywhere, leaving nothing untouched. Bones of hapless victims lie about.

In the back of the cold, dead chamber there lies a heavy granite door embedded in the lifeless floor. A large iron ring is attached to the door midway from the top and bottom, near the edge. The last person pulling that ring had found what she had been looking for without wanting it to find her.

Below there lay a large cryupt, smelling even more rancid than the floor above. There were old forgotten coffin-boxes strewn about, with clumps of earth cast around. The crypt also had an earthen floor. In the center of this crypt there rested a jet black coffin of some exotic wood. The top was closed.

Down in this crypt there was a mist of death, decayed flesh, and other rancidity. All was still, and utterly devoid of life.

The upper part of the coffin slowly opened with no appearent aid. Inside lie the ancient decaying body of a once-woman. Before the top part opened completely, the lower part slowly opened in the same manner. When the upper part completely opened, the lower part was half-opened.

The decrepit body inside was more pale than virgin white. The lips looked as if they were slightly darker due to some sort of tint.

Then the eyes opened, making the face more sinister still. The eyes were an evil black, blaker than the blackest void ever imagined by any mortal. The dead body slowly lifted up from the waist to a sitting position. It sat there staring straight ahead.

Then, in the next instant, it was standing in front of its coffin. The form of the once-woman stood there loosely clad in an ancient white robe that seemed to float in the muck called an atmosphere. The white hair was just sitting ther on her boney skull-head. Its figure scarely resembled the figure of a woman so dearly kept in every mans mind.

As she stood there, a white fog stood there and she was no more. The eerie mistmoved at a pace of death, slowly creeping toward the old granite door leading to the upper chamber of the ancient sepulcher.

The dead fog covered the cemetery outside. In the cold air, a large bat flapped away from this House of the Dead.

 

Alan Slovik stalked down the eerie road into the thickening fog. He stopped, and his shadow continued. Alan slowly his head,and peered into the wall of whiteness ahead.

He saw himself walking around ina fetid chamber full of empty boxes, upturned and stacked, with one prominant black box in the center, seemingly commanding all present. This box was the blackest he could imagine. In one of Sloviks hands he carried a rather large ax, and in another, a long wooden stake, tempered at he point to charcoal, and a wooden mallet.

The figure approached the box and peered inside at a beautiful body of a woman in her early or mid thirties. He leaned the ax up against the commanding coffin. He then carefully placed the sharp stake between the two full breasts of the ceature before him, and slowly raised the wooden mallet. It stopped. He peered at the seductive body in the sheer white robe lying there. Its eyes suddenly opened and stared directly at him. They burned into his brain. They seemed to implore him. He stared back, arm still poised above the lethal stake. He looked back at the body, then back to the coal black piercing eyes. He lowered his arm, dropped the stake and lowered his lips to the vampyres open, but deadly succulent lips. He and the hell-spawn embraced.

The man’s mind was swirling in confusion, fighting something it didn’t want to fight. The vampyre’s full lips parted even more now, revealing two sharp, lethal fangs. The man went down, as the vampyre’s sharp teeth punctured two neat holes into the side of the victim’s neck.

It sucked in deeply for the hot, crimson blood.

Alan slowly turned himsel around to find another thick wall of fog revealing still another image.

Slovik held his ax in one hand and the charcoal tipped stake and wooden mallet in the other. He walked over to the black coffin slowly but surely, and peered inside. The beautiful woman-thing lay there, its soft seductive body neatly revealed through its shear white robe. Slovik leaned his ax against the coffin, placed the sharp stake between her full breasts and raised the mallet…. The vampyre’s eyes suddenly opened, revealing coal black jewels, but rthis time he did not pay attention to the piercing, hypnotic temptation before him.

Slovik lifted the hand with the mallet slightly higher. The vampyre opened its succulent lips, revealing the teeth of death, and hissed. Then, with one powerful blow, he plunged the sharp stake deep into the creature’s breast, releasing a gushing flow of dark crimson spurting into the air, and onto his face. The figure writhed violently in its bed. Blood ran down the corners of the vampyre’s mouth, nose and eyes. The face twisted into hideous contortions.

Slovik pounded again until he hit the coffins bottom. He then reached for the ax, and raising it above his head, brought it down in one powerful stroke, severing the hideous head from it’s bloody body.

Alan looked at the other image in front of him, and back to the one behind him. He then looked at another form of himself between the two. The figure looked at the latter image.

Alan then turned to come face to face with a beautiful woman’s face in front of him.

He stared at her and she stared back. Her eyes were the deepest jet black he had ever known. She stared, piercing steadily into his very heart. Her jet black hair floated about her head.

As he began to come to focus, it was as if he were viewing the figure through a fine gauze help up before her. Her white robe drifted upon her lithe body which was the colour of deep autumn.

“Who are you?” Alan asked ina trance-lilke state, “What is your name?”

“I don’t have a name,” she answered in a steady, soft voice.

“Please tell me, you must have a name.”

“Vulna,” she replied forceably.

“Vulna? That’s an odd name. Where did you get that name? For that matter, where did you come from?”

“What is your name?” asked the soft voice, avoiding the last question but continuing to stare into his eyes.

“Alan,” he replied obediently.

“Do you come out at night often?” she pressed.

“I walk at night often; yes.”

“Do you live near-by?” Vulna inquired.

“Yes Alan replied, still in a trance-like state.

“Are there other people near by?”

“Yes, down the road.”. Vulna nodded and proceded to drift past him. Alan continued to stare foreward. As she passed him, she seemed to merge as one with the ghastly fog.

Alan slowly turned and came face to face with himself again. This time, he was holding a large crucifix in his right hand at waist level. As Alan completed the turn, Slovik raised the silver crucifix to shoulder height, simultaneoisly moving it out towards Alan.

He turned back around, and saw the same woman again, this time baring her sharp fangs, with fresh blood dripping from the corners of her bloated, crimson lips. He turned back to his other self witht he crucifix. Both images melted into the fog, and Ala,’s shadow returned to him.

He walked on.

 

That morning, Alan got up and had his breakfast while reading the paper. As he began flipping through it, his eyes caught on an article about a strange murder:

“George Burnholser died sometime this morning between the hours

of 1 and 3 A.M. His lifeless body was found at 6 AM. in an

alleyway. The odd thing about his death is that there were

puncture wounds on the left side of his neck, and he was found

to be drained of all his blood. Some are already speculating

that this was the work of a vampire.”

Alan sat there staring at the article. He wanted to see the body…to actually see this corpse. The idea fascinated him.

Alan was good friends witht he undertaker, and told him that he was investigating this bizarre murder. The undertaker took him down into the morgue and pulled out the appropriate slab.

He sttod there staring at the body, then began examining it. The two holes were jagged, and about 1/4 inch in diameter. The body was a pale white.

As Alan stood there, he began staring again. Then, as if seeing through a gauze, he saw himself in a dark coffin, with eyes open and a strange expression on his face. The undertaker was still speaking while he was in the daze. He later broke out of it when his friend nudged him.

The undertaker asked, “What do you think it was, Al? Most others say a vampire did it.”

“I couldn’t tell you,” Alan said, walking off.

 

Later that day, Alan went to a library and got all the information on vampyres he could. Once he got what he wanted, he went home and studied the rest of the day.

When he was done, it was about the end of the afternoon and he thought that he’d go over to the nearest cemetery and take a peek at what was there.

As Alan was walking along, his eyes caught sight of a large, odd-looking vault, undated, at the rear of the cemetery. He started towards it. As he approached, he noticed a large, ancient lock on the door. He remembered seeing a lock similar to that one around his home. His train of thought was broken–

“Hey! Who goes there–you’re not supposed to be there! Besides–we’re closing up now!” The voice was that of a worker.

“Sorry,” replied Alan, and he left promptly.

On his way back he didn’t encounter anyone, including the mysterious woman, and it was getting darker.

Once home, Alan made a mantal note to find that lock and key. He was fatigued from reading all that material and went to sleep early.

 

Next morning while reading the paper, his eye caught on another item. This time two people were attacked. A couple was strolling home when, according to this reporter, the male was attacked by a vampire and drained of his blood, and the female savagely killed. The scene was about a mile from his home, so he finished breakfast and proceded to the dreadful site.

Since he was in a hurry, he didn’t notice a subarticle below it which stated that the previous drained body had since disappeared.

Alan got there in no time at all, and immediately felt the presence of the damned souls.

As he stood there, he saw two people walking down the empty sidewalk at night. A distant, slow flapping can be heard. As the couple nears a grove of trees, a dark figure approaches them. There is a full moon waning. The three figures stop and look at each other.

Then the vampyre puts the man in a trance and approaches him. She wraps her arms around his neck and lowers her hungry mouth. The cold, dead breath cringes his flesh as she opens her thin lips revealing her two sharp eye teeth.

She clamps them snuggly on his warm flesh, making a slight sound, and then sucks lustfully at the warm crimson fluid that will fill her cold, frigid body. A nauseating gargling sound is heard, and the blood runs down his neck. The vampyre, now bloated, lets the lilmp body drop and procedes to walk off.

The tranced girl comes out of it. Realising what happened, she pick ups a hefty rock, and hurls it at the she-devil, catching her in her lower back. The vampyre stops, turns, and approaches her once more. the gril goes into shocj and cannot move. The vampyre picks up her body and throws her a a “V”-shaped tree. Her writhing body hits the tree but as she falls, her neck gets wedged, at the base of the “V”.

She dangles there, just above the saving ground.

Then it’s not there.

 

Alan winks and realizes the extensive similarities of the vampyre and the mysterious woman he had encountered on the street.

Alan quickly returned home and began searching for the lock. He foundit just as the sun was setting. He didn’t have much time but wanted to search the vault. He knew that if she did inhabit the vault, she wouldn’t be htere tonight.

He got his large silver crucifix, an old lamp and the lock and key. He left in a hurry.

When Alan got there, he busted the lock and entered the fetid smelling chamber which ranked at his nostrils. He couldn’t stand it, but would get used to it. As he lifted the lantern up high, he noticed the skeletons lying around. He began to examine one and noticed that they were, indeed, human. There were more strewn about.

“What could they being doing here?” he asked himself, “What would human skeletons be doing out here?”

As he ventured on, he noticed a large granite door in the floor beyond.

Alan endeavored to pull up on the ancient iron ring. The door was heavy, yet he managed to get it open. When he did, he wished he had left it shut. The even more putrid stink ranked harder than ever athis tortured nostrils.

He entered cautiously, with cross up front. Alan coughed at the cloud of decayedness that enveloped him. Once under, in the crypt, he noticed the several man-sized boxes strewn about with earth inside of them. Then he remembered that when Vampyres leave their native country, they must take some of the native soil with them. He walked furthur, and then it hit him why there were skeletons above. They were the movers of the vampyres body from Rumania, handsomely paid, but killed off by the vampyre, one by one, as it needed them in the end.

Their final payment.

As he lifted the lantern higher and stood there in the cloud of decay, he noticed the commanding coffin ahead…coal black and opened. Alan observed it carefully, then drew a cross in the dirt a third of the way down. There was nothing else he could do.

He examined the crypt once more, then decided to leave.

 

The passed quickly for Alan Slovik as he waited for the sun to set. There had been another similar murder this morning and he was fairly sure who was the attacker.

As the sun died, Alan entered the darkening street. While walking, he hoped to meet the mysterious, beautiful lady once more.

A few minutes later he saw the dark silhoutte ahead and knew it was her. Crucifix ready, he approached. She seemed to be in a hurry and he was wondering why she didn’t turn into a bat–if indeed she was a vampyre.

As she got within recognizing distance, she spoke.

“I’m in a bit of a hurry tonight to get to a friends house, so I can’t talk now.” Then she said ina strange tone, “Maybe tomorrow night? Nice seeing you again.” It sounded slightly European.

When she passed, he quickly glanced to see if the mark of a cross was on her back. Through the thick fog, he made out the faint lines.

When he first met her, her had often wondered why she wore such a flimsy garment. His questions had just been answered.

 

He spent the next day readying items to take with him to the crypt. He didn’t have much kerosene left, so he had to go to town to buy it.

It was late afternoon as he proceeded to the cemetery–hoping not to be seen. It was getting dark, so he made it in with not much trouble.

Now he would need extra strength. Waiting untill it was slightly darker and everyone had gone from the cemetery, he carefully, slowly and with a fear of what he was going to find, opened the door and proceeded in.

He closed the door behind him and placed garlic and onions in all the cracks in the vault. Carrying his tools–a silver cross, an extremely sharp ax of some size, a bucket of kerosene and his mallet and charcoal-tipped stake, he entered the crypt with the light from the oil lamp.

As he got into the crypt, he closed the heavy door, placing garlic and onions around that too.

In the still silence of the putrid stench, he suddenly realized that he was all alone.

He proceeded forward, slowly.

He was afraid of what lay ahead, and what may be lurking in the shadows.

The coffin was closed.

Alan set up his lantern on the lower half of the coffin and rested his large ax beside it.

He then slowly opened the eerie coffin, revealing the horrible gruesome sight inside.

The vampyre looked as if she had already had her drink, but her eyes were closed.

Alan steadily placed the sharp stake between the voluptuous breasts, and raised his mallet. As he did so, he took one last look at he woman-demon that lay before him. Suddenly the eyes opened, and burned into his brain. He stared back, observing her imploring lips…

The sun had not yet completely set.

She continued to entice.

His defenses started falling. The stake became loose, the sun became redder. He wanted to kiss her, to emvrace her.

The sun set; the vampyre snarled, revealing her sharp lethal teeth, and proceeded to rise. Alan quickly composed himself, steadied the stake, and plunged it deeply into her chest with one powerful stroke. The vampyre shrieked a blood-curdling scream as the determined stake plunged in like a grave-diggers shovel.

The ill-gotten blood squirted about, flowing freely on her “body”, Alan gave it one more strike to force it to the bottom of the coffin.

It shrieked more. Its face contorted grotesquely, blood spurting out irs nose, ears and mouth. Her reddening eyes bulged out with the strain of screaming.

Quickly, Alan took the ax and severed the vampyre’s gruesome head.

After decapitating it, he lifted itout, threw it on the floor, then poured kerosene on it. He lighted a rag and threw that on it too. The head went up in flames. He then turned to the coffin. When he looked back, he saaw four dark figures standing around him.

His heart stopped.

They were the un-dead.

Hissing, and bearing their fangs, they approached him. He tipped the coffin over, and was backed into a corner.

The four hissing vampyres approached him from all sides.

 

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Kirschner Cover Art: “Clowns,” by F. P. Dorchak

"Clowns," © F. P. Dorchak and Lon Kirschner, 2016.

“Clowns,” © F. P. Dorchak and Lon Kirschner, 2016.

Okay. Yes. I know…shameless, shameless self-promotion!

But I’ve wanted to talk about this cover since I first laid eyes on it…or it had laid eyes on me….

As I’d previously mentioned, I’d been (and still am) messing around with short stories, and had come across this one and decided to published it as its own stand-alone story. So, I turned to Lon Kirschner, who’d done a couple of my other covers. As always, Lon turned out a fantastic cover! It even reminded me of The Grievers, the cover he’d done for Marc Schuster, back in 2012 (and also involving clowns, by the way).

So, of course I want to talk about it!

When I first opened the file and looked at it, the very first thing I saw was the clown’s face…and I thought, ewwww…how frigging creepy! But…why is it starting at me through a slit?…a narrow opening…a…waaait a minuuute—

BOOM!

It hit me, just like that—the clown was staring at me from the blade of a knife!

I bust out laughing.

How frigging perfect!

I was walking around the house with my tablet looking at this thing and laughing my ass off. I just couldn’t take my eyes off it! What a perfect cover for my short-short story! The creepy clown face, the purple from its little clown-doll outfit, the kitchen knife, the script of the title—including the red “S”—all on a black background, which to me symbolizes the night/unknown! It was such a clean, subtle, no-nonsense creepy (have I mentioned this?!) cover!

I mean, our clown…the silly little dresser-top doll…the subtle way it’s peering out at us from the shiny knife blade is just like how I believe these little bastards are peering out at us from our dresser tops! Oh-so slyly…are they…or are they just staring ahead with their lifeless, beady little eyes?

Of course they’re staring at us!

This is what Lon had to say about creating my “Clowns” cover—which, by the way, was the first time he’d ever created a cover for a short story—I think you’ll really get a kick out of this:

“It did creep me out. I don’t really mind real clowns (although they are a little odd) but clown dolls are what I really find creepy. I also find some other types of dolls creepy but that might be just me. When we were kids we had a set of Raggedy Ann and Andy dolls that my Aunt sent from her travels in Europe. They sat on the old radiator that was in the bedroom I shared with my sister when we were very young. I would wake up some times in the middle of the night and I would see them staring at me. Like your story. I still think they moved.

“The other issue with this cover was I knew you had high expectations for this and I felt a little under pressure to produce something that hinted at the story but didn’t give it all away.

“I wanted it very, very simple but have that disturbing feeling. I went back and forth with the alternate “S” in ‘Clowns.’ At first I thought it was a bit cliché, but then I thought it was a good way to bring in that murderous element without being overly gruesome and it did offset that typical circus lettering.

My own clown issues and creating a successful piece all combined to create something a little difficult to work on, but in reality, once I got going it all fell into place rather quickly.

“I always start with some sort of rough idea. I knew I didn’t want to see the whole clown face and I knew I needed a knife, I just wasn’t exactly sure how they would all meld together.

“This is how I have always worked. Some people sketch it all out exactly but that never worked for me. I do make little sketches on Post-it notes to sort some things out, but that is usually as far as I go. I find the fun in moving things around and making my adjustments on the fly. I think I moved the image of the knife over at one point about a sixteenth of an inch. Then I was satisfied!”

I love this line: “I still think they moved“!

I also like how Lon didn’t want to “give it all away,” which I could see might be a little difficult to do in a quick short short story of less than 800 (713) words! But, he did it, I’m proud of him and his result, and I am still beside myself over the cover!

So…I hope you’ll excuse me for analyzing one of my own, but I’ve been wanting to talk about it since I got it. With my next Kirschner Cover Art post, I’ll go back to talking about other author covers….

But…for now…sleep with one eye open!

Do you know where your knives are?

*******************************************

Lon Kirschner may be contacted at:

Phone: 518/392-3823

E-mail: info@kirschnercaroff.com

Book Cover Site: http://www.lonkirschner.com/

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Snow Paper

The Woods Hold Secrets. (Image by By Estormiz, own work [CC0], via Wikimedia Commons)

The Woods Hold Secrets. (Image by By Estormiz, own work [CC0], via Wikimedia Commons)

Family tragedies, knives, deserted, wintry forests, wolves, and, well, the stuff of fantasy.

This is yet another story I don’t  remember writing, and was written in the early years (1989), but as I stumbled upon it, it just captured my fancy as such an odd little story. A cool one, so I moved it up in the line-up…especially since we just had a blizzard dumped on us (March 23rd), two days later, another eight inches. And this week? A couple more days of fast moving snow squalls. It’s still snowing outside my window….

This story has never been published.

 

Snow Paper

© F. P. Dorchak, 1989

“No! Don’t do it! Please, don’t—”

The shrill screams pierced through the frigid, moonlit night, originating behind the closed doors of a mountain cabin. Behind tattered, backlit curtains forms moved…jerked…flickering images engaged in a heated argument. Yelling. Pleading. Crying.

Outside, smoke from the chimney mixed with blowing snow.

“Daddy no!

A gunshot.

Another.

Out from the door dove a dark form.

The shadow was far from maturity…short in height and small in frame…and it plunged directly into the several-foot-deep accumulation of snow. Behind the small-framed shadow—her—the door was left open.

“No! No-no-no-no-no!

Shelain collapsed face-first into the snow.

Mommy! Why? Daddy—why?

But her cries only fell upon the hushed ears of a snow-packed forest.

Blood on her clothes.

Shelain lie face down in the snow, arms covering her head, and sobbed….

She looked up. Into the woods before her.

She didn’t need moonlight to see. She knew what was out there. Snow. And trees. Lots of both and little respite from either.

Shelain had grown up in this forest. She had always been a fast learner. In better times her parents had remarked at how good she’d been in finding her way back home while out hunting. That she could survive in the snow if she had to (she’d built her first igloo at the age of five), and that making fires and snaring food was now quite commonplace to her. Her parents knew she could survive, and so did Shelain. She was a tough little girl, and now she would be put through her right of passage.

Shelain didn’t understood what had happened between her father and mother, only that it had happened…and that was all that mattered just now. But she also knew she couldn’t live here anymore. This had been a home, now it was a tomb—and the living didn’t live in tombs.

She did not want to go back in there.

The woods were her only option. Yes, she would go there. She would go to the woods and find a new place. But before that was to happen, she needed things. And that meant…

Going back inside.

And she did not want to do that.

As soon as she got back up to her feet, she felt her head pound, like the outsides had moved too fast for the insides, and her insides were ready to explode…her heart….

Shelain stood. Wiped snow off herself, and turned.

Entered the cabin.

On the floor were—

She moved around them.

She was unable to take her eyes off what now lay on the floor.

But her father’s woods training and her mother’s practicality took over and she immediately set upon collecting what she needed. She grabbed food and clothes. Water wouldn’t be too much of a problem this time of the year, but she took a flask or two anyway. Putting on as many pieces of outer wear as she deemed practical and useful, she slung the pack over her back and

The floor still mocked her. She couldn’t ignore them.

Stooping, Shelain went to her father…unable to look directly at him. She searched around him before she found what she was looking for. Removing it, she put it into her jacket.

His hunting knife. Now it was hers.

Shelain went to her mother.

She was also unable to look directly at her. She went to her hand. Shelain removed the wedding band. Like gutting a trout or cleaning a rabbit, her emotions suddenly seemed turned off.

That was enough.

Pocketing the band she strode out the door, not bothering to close it.

She felt the crunch of the snow beneath her feet, and headed around to the side of the cabin, adjusting her pack. She pulled her snowshoes out from their snowy groves alongside the building and put them on. She’d gotten these two birthdays ago. She was very adept in them, even able to run in them, dodging in and around trees….

“It’s going to be a cold winter,” she said to no one. She stood back up and looked off into the moonlit night.

Off she trekked, into the dark tree line of the forest.

 

Shelain felt as if she was living one of those fairy tales her parents had so often read to her as a child.

But she was a child no longer.

As prepared as she was, she had forgotten two very important things. One was that she might not be as energetic about things after the shock and the jolt had worn off. Two, she had completely forgotten that she had not yet eaten that night.

She figured she’d been walking for several hours (this she did by the movement of the stars), and though she was young and strong, she needed food and rest, and now was as good a time as any to stop. Unloading her pack, she collapsed against a giant snow-covered fir, careful as to not knock any of the snow capping off. She might end up needing the tree as shelter and would need the snow for insulation.

Fishing through her pack’s contents, she removed a small salted slab of venison, immediately digging into it.

She watched the stars.

Then heard the noise.

Noises.

Only moving her eyes, she surveyed the dark…through the trees and back from the direction she’d come.

She’d been followed.

How stupid of her! She knew better!

The moon lit her trail, but that wasn’t all it had lit up. It also lit up a second trail which had veered off on its own into the woods mere paces away. It didn’t take an expert to know that she was being followed.

Wolves.

Shelain slowly placed the remainder of her venison on the snow.

She sat. Listened.

There came the low, throaty rumblings again….it was all around her.

She positioned her pack firmly in front of her; held it with both hands.

All her training had not prepared her for this. She was alone now, no father to get her out of this one. No mother.

Solo.

The rustling came closer, the growls no longer muted.

Shelain saw the wolves emerge from the darkness. She could actually see their eyes.

Four of them.

Slowly coming to a stand, Shelain kicked the chunk of venison toward the advancing pack. That tiny morsel wasn’t going to satisfy anything. She stayed close to the tree. Shelain felt her mind beginning to go limp…lose its focus.

Fear was taking over. She’d felt this once before.

The wolves closed in…formed a semi-circle….

They pounced!

Three went for the venison…but the fourth charged her.

Pack forced firmly out before her, Shelain managed to deflect the wolf off to the side, but it quickly got back up and resumed its attack. Shelain was only vaguely aware that the other wolves were fighting over the venison—but, how long would that last?

The attacking wolf again leapt at her.

For several minutes they faced off with each other. There was no stopping this beast…and soon the other three would also be upon her.

She was alone, snowshoes strapped to her feet, and mentally and physically exhausted.

There was nowhere to go. No one to turn to for help.

This was it.

What would her father do?

Her hand fell to her side.

Yes. The knife.

She unsheathed the gleaming blade.

The wolf lunged.

She missed the first time, but connected on the immediate back swing.

She was soon lost in the frenzy of teeth, claws, and blade when she felt the knife plunge deeply, she felt something hot spray her face, and her attacker suddenly fell on top of her.

She was bleeding.

Three more! There are three more!

No!” she screamed. “Oh, Father, why did you do it? Mother, I miss you!

She so desperately wanted things to go back to the way they had been…to the way they’d been before….

Why couldn’t we turn back time when bad things happened to us?

She’d been mauled pretty good by the dead wolf and her grip on her knife was no longer sure, but her survival instincts again kicked in. Shelain was again on her feet. As she saw the three wolves approaching her, she grabbed her pack and dumped it out in an arc before her. More venison and fruit and bread sprayed out before her…and she ran.

She’d never had to run on snowshoes to save her life before.

All she could do was what she was doing.

Run.

 

She dropped heavily to her knees in knees deep snow, heart beating up and into her throat. She was tired, wet, had lost much blood, and was about to lose much more if she didn’t change her situation…

But she no longer cared.

She’d been foolish to believe she could make it on her own, no matter how smart she thought she was. There was nothing to make it to. Nowhere to go. She’d lost her family, lost everything. And the wolves

(where were they?)

would be on her in—

Her hand hit something.

Dragging her knife through the snow to the object, she poked it through to the surface. It unraveled just enough for her to see it.

It was cylindrical and

Made of paper?

A…calendar?

A paper calendar…and there were days marked off.

Well, great, at least she would know what day she died.

The calendar was dated last year…but not all the days were marked off. What a stupid thing to find in the snow…out in the middle of nowhere…a pack of hungry wolves chasing after you—

And why hadn’t the wolves caught up with her?

But…a calendar….

Her curiosity got the better of her, and with bloodied and freezing hands, she began unrolling it.

The year on the calendar shifted before her eyes.

One moment it read 1830…the next 1700…but always it showed past years, nothing current. And the marked-off dates remained the same. The calendar unrolled, she tried to turn the pages, to see other months, but she couldn’t…none of the pages would yield. She couldn’t unstick the pages. As she looked at the crossed-out dates (what day was it?) she noticed how some of the crossed-out dates looked more messed up than the others. Smeared. In fact the very last crossed-out date was really smeared and blurry and anything but neatly crossed out.

She heard the rustling.

They would nearly be upon her!

Good, let them come…put an end to her misery….

Shelain traced her bloody knife tip along the weeks and stopped at the next open day after the really smeared and soiled and blurry crossed-out

(yesterday…)

date. Wouldn’t it be nice, she thought, if she could go back and change things…make what daddy did never happen. Turn back time? Wouldn’t it be—

 

The wolves broke through the snow-covered trees and leaped upon their prey…but only ended up landing upon one and other, instead. Confused, they shook the snow from their lean bodies, sniffing around the indentations in the snow before them.

There were blood stains…her scent…but no meat.

All that was before them was a snow crater of someone who used to be there.

The wolves dug, but never found Shelain. They did find, however, a useless pile of paper in the snow. They sniffed at it—it was not a good smell—and hurriedly left the area, one less member to their number….

Deep in the woods of the north rested a small log cabin. The smell of hardwoods permeated the air as the smoke mixed with falling snow. Inside the soft glow of the fire’s light filled windows, and there resided a small family of three. It was a meager birthday, but it would turn out to be the best birthday Shelain would ever have….

 

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Am I Having Too Much Fun?

Since November 2015, I’ve been going over all the short stories I’ve written (and have an accounting of). I’ve been posting them on my blog site, and currently have auto-posts every Friday out until August 19, 2016. And I still have a handful left that I think are “blog worthy.” Some are definitely blog worthy, but are too long (so I won’t post those, since I already have enough on my site that are already pushing the limits for “comfortable” blog reading; they’ll be in the short story collection I’m putting together, however). But I’ve been having so much fun doing this that I no longer have (or make) the time to post other non-short story-related posts!

So, I thought, I’d make some time!

My stories run the gamut…from my current “paranormal/metaphysical fiction” M.O., to fantasy, to back into the deep dark past of straight-on, unflinching horror-fiction writing. And one or two of them are downright vile. And one of these non-horror stories is so damned powerful to me that I can’t help but get emotional every time (and I mean every time…) I read it…but it’s too close to real life, and people and situations in it are too identifiable, so I can’t release it…but also have to admit that of the 21 pages, only four of them had been written in 1997 (and those four pages still got me emotional!); I’d written the other 17 a couple weeks ago…the story still that fresh in my mind of what I’d wanted to do. I feel it’s arguably the best short story I’ve ever written. I’ve written other shorts that are never going to see the light (or dark) of day for various reasons. In any event, they all show where my head was at and what I’d done. They all helped shaped me into the writer that I am today. And I think that’s cool.

I’m also glad that not everything I’ve ever written has been published!

And the “forgetting more than I ever knew” part? Yeah, I don’t remember having written a lot of these…but there it is, my header info with my contact information at the time, and dates. Yup, that’s me

But a different me.

I can comfortably say that I am no longer the person who wrote those stories…yet that person is definitely still a part of me. And we’re both enjoying this! I think we’re both amused with the other. Fascinated. Well, I know I am!

So, if some of these stories piss you off, get you excited, make you think…than I have truly done my job. My big goal now…is to try to get you to cry….

In doing this I’ve really seen how much my writing has changed. It’s like when Steven Spielberg said that had he written Close Encounters of the Third Kind “now” he would not have written the Roy Neary character to go off with the aliens, because he did not have children when he wrote it. I’m finding that my huge interest in things like UFOs and aliens and monsters and the like is waning for more stories about the Human Condition. As gnarly and explicit as Voice is, that is one of my favorite stories because it speaks so much to aspects of the Human Condition. I mean, I’ve tried to do this with all my work to one degree or the other, but in Voice it’s so visceral. I think The Uninvited is also another “visceral” read. I’ve thought about this a lot over the years, but my migration away from straight horror (which can also be said to “speaking to the Human Condition”) was also largely motivated by this same feeling. I didn’t always admit it, but I have and always wanted to make people emote…to cry, rage, or just plan feel something other than the horror-related emotions of fear and, well, horror (not that there’s anything wrong with that…). I’ve always wanted to be that “literary writer” where I could dig a little deeper with words and emotional and conditional explorations while still telling a compelling story.

In short (pardon the pun), I’m finding I’ve grown more concerned with people rather than machinery, monstrous attacks, and conspiracies.

But, that doesn’t mean I won’t still write the occasional horror story…if the story grabs me enough! And nearly all of my work will have elements of the paranormal, the metaphysical, the supernatural. I just like writing about that kind of stuff.

And on this site, yes, I am cleaning them up some, but I am intentionally trying to keep them in as close a “form” as when I wrote them. When I compile the better ones into my book-form collection, I will be going over them with as fine-toothed a comb as possible…yet will keep them in the era in which they were created, i.e., I won’t update for cell phones and other currencies and the like. If written in the 1980s, the story itself will not be updated to 2017.

So.

I hope you don’t mind that I’m putting all this stuff out there! I know they’re not for everybody, but I think there’s something for everyone. These stories show the various shades of my ability (or lack thereof to any critics out there who feel Indies just aren’t good enough for traditional platforms…)…and the expansiveness of what I chose to write about. If this is what I am…there are certainly others out there just like me…or I’m just like them

Because as different as we all are…we’re also very much the same.

And, damn it, I’m just having fun!

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The Girl Who Chased Gargoyles

That Was Just The Way She Was. (Image by Loadmaster, David R. Tribble, CC BY-SA 3.0 [http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0] or GFDL [http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html], via Wikimedia Commons)

That Was Just The Way She Was. (Image by Loadmaster. David R. Tribble, CC BY-SA 3.0 [http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0] or GFDL [http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html], via Wikimedia Commons)

The inspiration for this story came from a piece of artwork I’d bought in my single days and no longer have. It wasn’t in oils or acrylic or anything…just a framed poster that’d really grabbed me. It depicted a young girl on the top of a building blowing bubbles and a gargoyle that had broken free from its perch, reaching after the bubbles, bits of that perch crumbling away.

I loved the imagery!

So I penned (keyboarded) a story. It is one of my more disturbing stories…at least to me. Reminds me of the Twilight Zone episode “It’s a Good Life.” I suppose this story could be considered allegorical to elements of the Human Condition (“absolute power corrupts….”), and to be honest, I don’t recall my motive in penning this one…except that the artwork I had was quite imaginative and I’d just wanted to write a story about it….

And then I find this perfect graphic of a little girl and a gargoyle! It really is perfect.

This story had never been published.

 

The Girl Who Chased Gargoyles

© F. P. Dorchak, 1992

 

I knew her long ago…a bright, wispy sprite of a girl. And she loved to climb things. She also loved her bubbles. Blew them everywhere. It was those bubbles that had set me free.

But that was so long ago. And I miss her.

And now I will tell you of her story.

 

Angela was her name. She was so bright and cheerful that I didn’t think there was a thing in the world that could ever bother her. She had long, silken hair and a smile as bright as the sun.

The sun. A sun that had grown dark with the death of her parents.

But that’s for later.

For now, she skipped and sang everywhere she went. And (as I have said before) she loved to climb. Trees. Rocks. Buildings. Anything. There wasn’t an obstacle she would not tackle and this so frightened her parents, for there was nothing they could do. She was a most determined child, and a very sure-footed one—the most sure-footed I have ever seen—there was no fear in her, only wonder and amazement. To her, everything was beautiful. Everything was fun. There was no such thing as evil.

She was indeed the purest of souls.

 

One day, while walking through town with her parents, Angela had spotted a building that had immediately captured her fancy. It was an old, abandoned remain and her father, a construction worker, had told her that it was a building scheduled for destruction. This brought a momentary frown to Angela’s face.

“Why?” she asked.

“Because, Angela, to all things there must come an end.”

Angela thought about this.

“Why must all things die?”

“Well, I think it’s God’s way of telling us that we must live life to its fullest.”

“Well,” said Angela, “that’s what I’m going to do.”

That’s the way she was. Nonplused. Practical (in an idealistic kind of way) and direct-to-the-point. Death didn’t seem to bother her like it did other kids her age. In fact nothing seemed to bother her quite like it did the other kids. She was always the one to explain things to her friends, always the one to comfort them when they lost their favorite marble to an opponent in a game. She was always there when she was really needed and had such a love of life and all that it encompassed.

One day, she came back to the doomed building, and, as do all kids (for she was, after all, but a child) and found her way into it. Blowing her little bubbles, she made her way up the curved banisters, through the hazy interior and up to the very top.

Where she found the monsters.

But to her they weren’t monsters…they were their own form of life no matter how ugly, and, eventually, her companions, her…friends. She would come to talk with them. Have fun, for though she was so bright and sweet she still had no real friends her age, at least any that could understand her. Some people are just born more aware. Her own parents barely (if they ever really did) understood her. Angela was always off dreaming somewhere—and we all know how dreamers are treated.

So, as often as she could Angela would journey into this building and climb the dusty stairs to the top. There she would come out on its ledges and sit among the stone creatures of the sky, the leader of which called itself “Pandor.” She hadn’t known the word “gargoyle” until the monsters themselves told her. Or so she told people…and that made her situation in life very difficult.

Gargoyles, you say? On top of what building? Do your parents know about this, young lady?”

And all she would do was vigorously nod her head up and down, her smile so bright and innocent, and say, “Yes, they do!” Then she would skip off in some random fashion and leave behind a stunned and indignant lady, poised on the sidewalk, her eyes the size of silver platters. She did not yet know how to keep things to herself, but I suppose that was just a product of her love of life and her desire to share it with others.

It did get her into trouble. Her and her parents.

It had been a day like any other as she skipped homeward, singing to herself, but once she walked through the front door of her home, she felt the change. Slowly she followed the sounds of voices and stalked toward the kitchen. Peeked around a corner. There she saw her mother and father talking with a strange lady she had never seen before. A lady who seemed to ask her parents an awful lot of questions. She was so very official looking, like her teachers at school, only more so.

Do you give her enough food, clothes, and other care?

Is she bathed regularly?

These are her grades, but do you ever discuss them with her?

Do you get involved with her life, play, and fantasies?

Why is it that you let her climb around condemned buildings

Who was this lady, and why was she asking all these questions?

So Angela left her house and went to seek out her friends, the monsters. It was the monsters that had told her…as she blew her bubbles for them…that this lady was going to try to take her away. That this lady was not to be trusted.

Maybe you should not tell people about everything you do, Angela. Like when you climb up here to play with us.

“Why?” she asked, “why would anyone want to do such a thing? What have I done? I haven’t hurt anybody.”

Because she is an evil person, Angela, prone to sticking her nose into the affairs of others. But do not worry about it, we will not let her take you away from us. We love you.

And we will take care of this lady.

So Angela shrugged her shoulders and continued to blow her bubbles, and the monsters continued to talk with her.

And that was just the way Angela was.

 

When she had arrived home later that day, Angela found her parents waiting for her. They looked very distraught.

“Angela, honey, we have to talk with you,” they had said. They were such model parents. “There was this lady over to see us earlier, a very important lady, who was very concerned that we were not being good enough parents to you. Do you feel we are not being good parents?”

Angela looked from father to mother, then back again. “No, Daddy, I don’t think so. Why—do you?

That question, even given their daughter’s already sagacious level of development, came as a cold slap in the face to the both of them. However, having grown somewhat accustomed to her often poignant points of view, they replied back to her.

“No—no, honey, your father and I love you very, very much and we work very hard so that you can have the best of all possible things in life.”

“We try to always be there for you,” her father cut in, “but this lady,” he paused to look to his wife (who squeezed his hand very tightly, Angela noticed), “well, she can be very persuasive to the wrong kinds of people. She can take you away from us without much say on our parts. She tells us,” he paused again, “she tells us that there are those out there who are concerned that we are not providing you with proper care. That we let you climb around condemned buildings and—”

“And talk to monsters,” her mother cut in.

“Is this true—are you really climbing around condemned buildings? Tell us this isn’t true, Angela, it’s very dangerous to do things like that. You could get hurt. You could fall and die.”

Both parents looked at Angela very hard.

Angela remained undaunted. She knew what her parents wanted to hear. I would never get hurt, she thought, they would save me, my children, they love me and would never let anything or anyone, harm meand you too. But she knew what they wanted to hear, and what she had to say.

“No.”

And that was just the way she was.

And we will take care of this lady.

 

It was the next day; an article in the paper. Social worker murdered in apartment parking lot. As gruesome as the details were (parts of her body have not yet been found), her parents breathed a sigh of relief. Granted their file would surely remain in the records even though the case worker was dead, but hopefully no one would ever come back a calling.

That day Angela made her way back to her children and asked them about it.

Yes, we did it. We told you we’d take care of you. Your parents. If something happened to your parents, something happens to you, and we won’t have that. We love you, Angela.

“And I love you. But is that right, what you did, to make someone die?

Is it right to take away from someone that which is loved by them?

“Hmm. I guess not.”

Wouldn’t that instead make such a person who would do such, evil and dangerous?

“Why, yes, I guess it would.”

Then we have done good, ridding you and your family of such evil, have we not?

“You have. Thank you.”

Then blow more bubbles for us, Angela, we love your bubbles.

And Angela blew more bubbles.

Because that’s just the way….

 

The next day Angela was at the library and looked up what gargoyles were. First she found they were waterspouts, but she knew that couldn’t be right, for water spouts couldn’t talk. Then she found the other description.

 

“Pandor, do you know God?”

Pandor remained quiet for a moment, then spoke.

“Why do you ask, child?”

Well, the other day our class went to the library looking up mythological creatures n stuff—I know what that means—and I saw a picture of you, I mean what looked like you. I asked Mrs. Gartle if I could do extra credit and look up gargoyles, and she said yes. It said you were…talismans…used to terrify the devil and forced to serve God.”

Pandor stared back unblinkingly.

“But the worse part was that it showed a picture of you eating people. Like me.”

Pandor stared.

“Is it true? Do you eat people? Do you know God?”

Pandor shifted its dense stone frame, sending dull shudder throughout the stone battlements and up through Angela’s tiny frame.

“We are…what we are. Manifestations. Surrogates. We are the horror that men fear. Gods. We are evil incarnate. Inchoate—”

“—I do not understand—”

“—no one does, child—”

“—teach me—”

“—but it is you who are teaching us.”

“Do you eat—”

“Yes. We eat that which is your kind.”

“Why.”

“Because it is necessary. Nothing more.”

“Will you eat me?”

“It is not necessary.”

“Will it ever be?”

“No.”

“How do you know?”

“We know.”

“Do you know God.”

“God knows us.”

“Is that good?”

“It is nothing. It simply is.”

Do you know God?

Pandor turned away.

“Okay, so you don’t want to answer that. Fine, be childish. Then answer this—do you know your true purpose? The book said your exact function is unknown.”

Pandor smiled, the first time Angela had ever seen him do so. The crack that inched itself across its face sent a shiver down Angela’s back. It looked painful.

“We are…what we are. Child. Do not look too deeply—you may never come back.”

Angela retreated backward and lost her balance, tripping over a loose piece of rubble. As her arms flailed out behind her she closed her eyes in preparation of meeting concrete when stone hands reached out and gently grasped her. Angela looked up to see the carved face of another gargoyle.

“And we do not want that, either. You must watch your step, child,” Pandor said, thickly.

“Thank you. But there is so much I do not know, and I don’t know if I like that.”

“There are many things even those such as ourselves do not know. Yet we still are. We exist. The same applies to you, my child. You still are. You exist. We are here for you. We do not want evil to befall you.”

Angela gave Pandor a sharp look.

“Does that make me God?” she whispered delicately.

“I only smile but once a lifetime, child.”

 

But Angela would not let it die. She became fascinated with the topic of God. Fascinated that her companions seemed to treat her as one. It was a topic that she had never really considered before.

God.

All powerful.

All knowing.

What is God?

Angela thought about how she seemed to know so much, so much more than anyone else her age, let alone the adults.

Am I God?

Have I enslaved the gargoyles to be my talismans?

Could it be true?

They do protect me

Answer my questions—respond only to me

But how can this be?

I am but a little girl.

 

A little girl who knows too much….

 

Angela slept and dreamt of her monsters, but it was a dream filled with dread. It threatened her. She saw herself atop the building, like she had been when she had first found them. All silent and still they were, poised on the precipices of their battlements; lurched…but going nowhere. Then she came out to the edges and began to blow her bubbles. Stood next to the one that she had come to call Pandor. It looked so scary, she remembered. So real.

She let loose her bubbles and a particularly large one drifted past the Pandor-gargoyle face. Angela looked back down into her bubble bottle, ready to blow another one when she heard a loud thundering sound and felt a burst of wind pummel her.

She looked up to find she was standing alone on the battlement.

Where once had stood a statue, now there stood nothing but still crumbling mortar. She gasped, turned to run, but instead came face to face with the very monster that had only moments before been motionless beside her.

Angela dropped her bubbles and went rigid.

Tried to scream but nothing came out.

Her eyes traveled down the length of the monster’s form and to its massively taloned claws. Noticed how the creature actually hovered, however heavily, inches above the battlement, its wings beating the air.

As Angela took steps backwards, away from the gargoyle and towards the building’s edge, she felt claws wrap around her. To her horror, she saw other gargoyles were also breaking free. She looked back to the first one and saw it bring out its hand from behind its back. In a cruelly twisted claw, rested a bubble.

I offer this back to you, child.

The dream-Angela reached out and took it.

But that was where any similarities from her past ended. No sooner had dream-Angela grasped for the bubble, when it suddenly burst open and spewed blood all over her. Angela looked around to see the faces of other gargoyles. They all leered. Hissed. The first gargoyle stepped aside, and behind him sat a box. It was a dark, subtly vibrating box, Angela thought, but didn’t vibrate physically.

No matter how much she didn’t want to go, she came closer. She had to see. The box was blacker than black, and slowly it opened. Angela heard whispers…multitudes of dim voices. Something tugged at her mind. Voices that rose in a crescendo as the top of the box opened farther.

Something called her name. Reached into her soul.

It was then that the dead light began to pour out from the opening—

Angela awoke.

And found herself standing alongside her bed, bent over and soaked in sweat.

 

The next day found Angela dreamier than usual, aloof even.

While at school people would find her sitting in class, or out in the play yard, just staring off into space. Several times classmates had come running up to her to see if she was okay and she would just ask them Are you God? Do you know God?

When one of the children mentioned this to Mrs. Gartle, Mrs. Gartle simply had to investigate.

“Angela, honey, are you all right?”

Angela continued to stare off into the clouds.

“Angela, it’s me, Mrs. Gartle, can you hear me?”

“I hear.”

“What’s the matter?”

“Why nothing, Mrs. Gartle. I am contemplating.”

“Really, child, you simply must get more to the point. And where do you get all these big words, anyway? Come with me.”

“But I don’t have to.”

Mrs. Gartle froze and choked out a half-choked, “W-what?

“But I don’t have to go with you, Mrs. Gartle, it is not immutable—”

“You will do as you’re told this instant, young lady! Just because you think you’re smarter than the rest of your peers doesn’t mean you’re smarter than me. You will listen to your elders!

Mrs. Gartle grabbed Angela by her arm and dragged her back into the school building. That night Angela’s parent’s received a phone call from Mrs. Gartle. About the disrespect she had displayed toward her and the students. Mrs. Gartle was curious if Angela had been behaving this way at home, and why, and when Angela’s surprised parents replied that she hadn’t, but that they’d certainly deal with it, Mrs. Gartle took them at their word and hung up. It wasn’t so easy for Angela, however, who found herself answering before her parents and then performing an extra regiment of chores before going to an early bed.

But in bed, one can dream, and in the dream, Angela met a white light. A light that asked her

Do you question God?

I question everything.

Why?

It seems to be my being. It is what I am.

It is?

Is it so wrong to question?

It is not.

Why do I question?

It is as you have said.

What I am?

You learn quickly.

What is my purpose? Am I God?

You are intensified. You are…more than you are.

I don’t understand.

The white light laughed. Be careful. Do not ungrace yourself, little one.

I don’t understand.

 

Angela awoke. Felt different.

Empowered.

For Angela had decided she was God.

 

Angela sat in front of Border Elementary School when Mrs. Gartle, the principal, and another student, came out the front doors. Heavy storm clouds and gusty winds were rolling in, but there was as yet no rain.

“There she is,” the little girl had said, pointing matter of factly. “She’s right over there.”

“Okay, thank you, Susan. You may return to your class, now.” Susan turned and left. The principal and Mrs. Gartle looked to each other. It was the principal who spoke first.

“Angela—Angela would you come over here please?”

Angela looked up from the thing that occupied her attention and stared detachedly at the two.

“Would you come here, please?”

“Okay.” Angela got up and walked over, still clutching her object. “What would you like?” she asked.

“We would like to know what you’re telling the other children,” the principal said.

“That’s easy.”

“Well, what is it, then?”

“That I’m God.”

Mrs. Gartle brought a trembling hand to her mouth and squealed, but principal Phillips remained quiet, somewhat annoyed at Mrs. Gartle’s inadequate reaction. Angela looked up to the two, proud of her newly realized discovery.

“Is that all?”

“No. No, that’s not all—Angela, why do you believe such a thing?”

“This-this is blasphemy!” Gartle exclaimed, but the principal motioned for her to remain quiet.

“Why do you think this, Angela? We’re very curious.”

“Because…well, because of the way things are.”

“We don’t understand. Can you be more specific?”

“Well, I can’t really tell anyone, you understand, I did once and that person died.”

At this point Mrs. Gartle, brought her other hand to her mouth and rushed away from the two of them, back into the building. The two could still hear her as she cried out about blasphemy and damned souls. Mr. Phillips turned away and suddenly found himself sweating.

“Angela, now you know this isn’t true. Did you think you had this person killed?”

“Well, not me. Others. But I told you—I can’t tell you. You might die.”

“Angela, would you show me what you’re playing with?”

Angela brought her hand up to Mr. Phillips. “Here.”

Mr. Phillips grabbed her wrists and felt his legs go weak. “What do you think you’re doing with that frog?

The frog’s eviscerated entrails hung down and over one side of Angela’s tiny, pink hand.

“I killed it. I was just trying to make it come back to life.”

“Angela, I think you’d better come with me—would you do that, please?”

“I don’t really want to.”

“Would you do it as a favor to us mortals?”

Angela thought for a second. “Okay. But only for a minute.”

“Thank you.”

 

Angela sat in the office. She had lost track of just how long. Her feet didn’t quite reach to the floor, so she contented herself by dangling them against the frame of the chair. She wasn’t happy with Mr. Phillips. He had made her give him her frog and had thrown it away. It was only in the trash a few feet away from her, but Angela was still mad. Because she had been made to sit in the principal’s office and not move, she couldn’t bring the frog back to life. It was such a waste.

But she was God.

Nobody made God do anything.

Angela looked to the principal and Mrs. Gartle, both of which stood outside the office and talked rather loudly. Angela knew they had called her parents.

She was God.

But what she really wanted right now was to bring that little frog back to life, otherwise, she wouldn’t have killed it.

Angela hopped off the chair and went to the plastic waste basket. She saw how the dead frog lay belly up on wads of crumpled paper and she looked back out into the outer office. Then she reached down into the trash and grabbed it.

Possession.

She cradled it against her chest and began to hum.

Live!

Live!

Come back to me, little frog—come back!

“Angela! Put that frog back into the trash!”

Startled, Angela dropped the frog back in the garbage.

Principal Phillips.

They wouldn’t do this to me if they knew….

Disheartened, Angela quietly went back to her seat and sat down.

Phillips closed the door behind him and thoughtfully went to his chair, leaving Mrs. Gartle somewhere outside. He leaned forward in his seat and clasped his hands together on the desk before him.

Oh, great, now he’s going to act real grown-up on me, Angela thought. I hate it when they act this way.

“Angela, I’ve called your parents. They’re on their way. What do you think of that?”

“I don’t like what you’re doing and neither do my friends,” she said, her forehead scrunched up angrily.

“Let’s talk about these friends of yours, shall we? Just who are they?”

“I’m not supposed to tell.”

“Because I could be killed, is that right?”

“Yes.”

“And they’ve killed before.”

“Yes.”

“I don’t supposed you could tell me who they killed, could you? I mean, it’s done, isn’t it, so no harm could come of your telling me, now, could there?”

Angela paused. This is a trap, I know it. I feel it.

“Why should I tell you? I don’t trust you.”

“Because I want to know more about you—”

Just then the door opened and in came another woman. “Hello,” she said. She was about the age of Angela’s mother, and pretty. She carried a little black notebook.

“Now, Angela, this is Mrs. Beale, she’s a friend of mine and is also interested in helping us.”

“Hello, Angela. I hear you have a dead frog you’re trying to bring back.”

“Yes.”

“Now, Angela,” Mr. Phillips continued, “Would this person who was killed be Mrs. VanWygyn?”

“I don’t know a Missus VanWeegin.”

“Okay. How about the lady the city had sent over to see your parents. Could she have been the one killed?”

Angela froze.

How did he know? He’s not God.

The frog. Live, little frog, live!

I’m God.

“How did you know?”

Mr. Phillips looked to Mrs. Beale. “We know a lot.”

“But I know more. You’re in trouble and I don’t like you. You took my frog away from me—I wouldn’t have killed it without bringing it back to life! You’re also keeping me in here! You probably also sent that mean woman to my family, too! I don’t like you at all! I hate all of you!”

Angela was now standing on her feet and shouting. Her face ballooned into a puffy red and she felt different.

We will let no one harm you, Angela.

We love you, Angela.

We are your friends.

“Live, frog—live!” Angela cried aloud, rushing to the garbage, but Mr. Phillips got to the trash before she could. Even though she was faster, Mr. Phillips was closer. He snatched away the trash can and placed it on the floor behind him.

Angela fumed.

“You’re all alike! You all want to rule us kids! You never let us do what we want! You think you know it all, but you don’t! I do! My friends do, and we’ll kill all of you!”

(we will take care of them, Angela)

(go)

“I no longer want to stay here! Let me go!

“Angela, please sit down,” principal Phillips said. Nurse Beale got up and nervously came towards Angela.

“Angela, we can help you, if only you’ll let us—”

“I won’t let you do anything to me! I’m God! I have made life.”

Nurse Beale looked back to the principal. “What do you mean—”

A sound came from the trash can.

Come forth!” Angela commanded.

Mr. Phillips and Nurse Beale looked to each other.

The trash can moved.

Outside thunder and rain suddenly and furiously unleashed from the skies.

“You…are doomed! Both of you! I warned you but you wouldn’t listen! I tried to tell you, but now it’s too late. Too late!

The trash can jiggled.

Mr. Phillips shot back in his chair. Lightening flashed outside the window behind him. Angela began to laugh.

“It’s too late,” Angela said.

The frog leaped out of the trash can and onto principal Phillip’s desk, portions of its intestines trailing behind.

We’ve come for you, Angela

A powerful concussion catapulted Principal Phillips forward and over his desk while Nurse Beale was knocked up against the wall. Rain and storm now blew in through the destroyed window behind Phillip’s desk. When next he looked up, principal Phillips found Angela laughing, her face rain-swept and still swollen. Nurse Beale was shaking her head back and forth, a nasty cut across her forehead bleeding all over her. On the window sill, and occupying the entire opening, sat a stone nightmare, its massive wings unfolded behind it. Water fell from its features like a newborn hellspawn and its mouth was a grotesque caricature of pain. Phillips looked to its fangs and claws. Looked into its cold stone eyes.

We have come, Angela,” the monster said.

“I warned you about this—I warned you! Now you must die!” Angela cried. “I am God and you have transgressed!”

The gargoyle looked to Angela.

“You must pay!” she said.

The gargoyle continued to stare at her.

“Take me away, Pandor, and do what must be done.”

The gargoyle continued to stare at Angela, then to the principal. Lightening flashed close by and the smell of ozone filled the room.

Kill them!” Angela shrieked.

Principal Phillips stood up, his clothing torn and his body bruised. He knew there were broken bones somewhere. “Angela, what are you doing? You are not God—but you have the devil at your command! Stop while you still can! We can help!”

The gargoyle looked to the man. Lightning and thunder again struck, this time shattering the remaining office window.

Kill,” Angela commanded.

The gargoyle hopped inside the room and snatched Angela off the floor. Principal Phillips made a move towards the two but the gargoyle backhanded him with such force that before the rest of his body had collapsed, Principal Phillip’s head had flown off and hit the wall next to Nurse Beale—who promptly collapsed into unconsciousness.

Angela and Pandor flew out into the angry purple sky.

 

Why do you act this way, Angela?

Because it is what I am.

Is it?

Yes.

You have changed. You compromise what is.

I am God. I am what is.

You have become evil.

No. It is you that is evil. God is

Dead.

No.

No.

Nooo.

 

Angela, you have corrupted yourself.

I do not understand. I made the frog come back to life.

No. That was not you.

Was it you?

It was what I am.

Answer me directly! I tire of these games!

I am only a product of the force which drives me. I am not what controls me. You said so yourself—I am a tool.

I see. So it was God.

So you say.

Enough!

Angela, we cannot serve you any longer. You no longer suit the purpose which suits us.

Angela held back a rising choke. She looked back at the stolid stone face which she had come to call a friend. But Pandor had become more than just a friend.

Rain still pounded out of the skies and assaulted the two of them, and thunder and lightning continued to crack open the heavens. She watched as the rain ran down the gargoyle’s features. In Angela’s mind it made Pandor look like he wept.

“How can you choose your own purpose—I control you! You said so!”

I did not. You merely used the magic which you are and set us free. I never said you were our purpose, I merely said we loved you and would have nothing harm you

The conversation was broken off by the sound of sirens in the streets.

They have come for you, Angela. We cannot save you from yourself.

“I don’t…I don’t need you. I am—”

A bolt of lightning hit the battlement nearby and sent a huge section of the building toppling to the streets below. One of the gargoyles tumbled over with it. Angela watched in disbelief as the monster made no attempt to recover itself and return to the battlements.

You have done this, Pandor continued. You have reopened the box

Box. What box?

The box

Listen to my name, young Angela, what is its true ring?

Angela searched her mind. All this time she knew it had sounded eerily familiar. Now it finally dawned on her.

Pandor.

Pan-dor-a.

Box.

“That was nothing more than a myth,” Angela angrily replied.

No, it is much more than that, young one. I am what some myths referred to as the First Woman. The releaser of all that is evil to humanity through my insistence of opening the box. I have been made to pay for that transgression by becoming an instrument of humanity. The form does not matter. Only the idea. The substance of what is.

“I do not believe. You are here to serve me.”

Pandora remained silent.

Another bolt of lightning struck another precipice, but on the other side of the battlement. Though she couldn’t actually see it, in her mind Angela saw another gargoyle tumble over.

You have destroyed what was. Now you must reap what is to come. Form does not matter, little one.

Angela. Angela Pedernasy. Can you hear us?

It was the police. Angela looked over the side but choose to ignore them.

“Pandora, have I done wrong?”

Pandora held her gaze. What is done, is done. There is no guilt assigned. There is only the present.

“But—b-but I don’t think I understand! I’m…I’m losing something here. I…I feel funny. What is happening to me? To all of this?”

Pandora looked to the sounds that came from below.

Angela Pedernasy, your parents are here. They have something they want to say.” There was momentary silence as the blow horn was passed from one set of hands to another.

Angela, honey, this is your mother.”

Angela stiffened.

Angela, please talk to us, we want so much to understand. We want to help!”

“They cannot help, can they,” Angela said flatly.

Pandora shook its head side to side.

They cannot.

Angelawe know we have probably not been the best of parents, but we tried. We’re here for you and want to help. Please, honey, talk to us!

Then another bolt from the sky hit the building, with yet another section of it tumbling streetward. As it fell, Angela felt clammy. Something felt awfully wrong.

Then there were screams. Explosions.

Her parents.

Mommmmmyy

Daaadddyy!

Angela rushed to the building’s edge. Saw the rubble below. The smoke. Emergency personnel were clambering around the broken bodies and destroyed vehicles in the destruction below.

“Mommmy—Daaaddy! What have I done! I’ve killed you! I’ve killed my parents!

Pandora came to Angela. Lightning strikes were now continuous, chipping away at the building and sending both rubble and gargoyle alike to the ground. Those in the streets below fled.

“I am not worthy to live! I have killed the very parents who have given me life!

“Pandor, I wish to remember you the way things were. I have made a big mistake. I may have been wise for my years, but not for my humanity. I have destroyed my parents and I have destroyed you. There is no cause for me to live anymore.”

Then another bolt of lightning struck and this one took Pandora with it. Angela watched as the gargoyle seemed to topple in an exaggeratedly slow fashion over the side.

The form is not all, my child. The idea is.

Pandora’s eyes seemed to grow and fill her mind.

Pandor!

Gone.

Angela stood alone. The building quaked all around her.

Oh, my God, what have I done?” Angela said…

And threw herself over the side.

Because that was just the way she was.

 

The form is not all

my child.

The idea

Is.

 

And thus is the story of a brilliant moment of humanity. Of a silken-haired girl, called Angela. She was a special one to me and still is, for she still lives, but on a different level now. And I, Pandora, also live.

For it is not the form that matters.

But the idea.

And she was the girl who chased gargoyles.

 

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