Sharing the Love

I have a couple friends who are prolific writers and awesome people and wanted to help them get the word out about their newest efforts.

 

Paul Counelis has written a LOT of stuff, has written for RUE MORGUE, and is as passionate about writing as you can get.

His newest book –

We Dare The Night To Condescend

 

My friend Lucifer Fulci is also a prolific author, mainly of dark fiction but he also has a book for kids out. His newest is definitely not for the kids.

Blasphemy

That Novel Affair

Sometimes I still have to stop and blink my eyes a few times to realize that I have put novels out. When I first started writing I didn’t have an interest in writing novels. My ideas were to write short stories that were like punches to the face or stomach. Something that made an impact and HOPEFULLY left you breathless in one way or another. I am not sure if that ever happens or not but I just never thought I’d write a novel.

The first, A SHADOW OVER EVER didn’t start as a novel, something I got into when I released it, but it ended up that way. Like the Meep books, I just couldn’t leave a story hanging on a cliff. That’s a crummy thing to do. Sure, you can write a story in a way that leaves things with more to say, with unanswered questions, but there should be an ending. A proper ending. Even if there is more after a story ends, like life, you should answer your questions and leave the reader satisfied.

SHADOW wasn’t going to be more than one story but I kept leaving him in spots where there was something unfinished and then POW, a novel.

CEMETERY EARTH always had the potential to be something larger and darker. It’s a novel of short stories but there’s a throughpoint, a connector, and that’s Hunter, the lead character, who is joined by a second lead. Writing it story by story it was easy to look at it that way and not as one larger piece. It didn’t become that larger, interconnected piece until I started editing it and filling in holes in the narrative and the timeline.

That book, my zombie novel, sat abandoned for a good many years as I waited for the zombie craze to pass. I knew I wasn’t going to get the book done before the fad was over so I sat on it. The last thing you want to do is be the last one at the party and I didn’t want to be putting out a zombie book when people had moved on to the next thing. Imagine my surprise when THE WALKING DEAD changed that and pushed the craze further than I had imagined. I finally reached a time when I had to finish the book.

I had to get it out.

With SHADOW I had the novel done but couldn’t figure out how to pitch it correctly when I had the opportunity and after that I couldn’t find anyone that’d put it out. I loved the book but if no one else did, what was I going to do.

Self pub.

That was what.

It’s a fun, and weird story. It’s the story of an angry hillbilly who ends up embroiled in a war for Heaven and Mankind. A story that starts small but becomes something larger than any one character in it. It is about everything and nothing as seen through the eyes of the man whose hate wouldn’t let him die. It’s silly, it’s mean, and it’s strange.

 

With CEMETERY it was a matter of waiting out a fad that never quite ended.

That book began in 2000. SHADOW began in 1994 with a short story. Both books took over a decade to reach the end of their journeys and completion. It was never so much doubt in the story as it was doubt in me.

But I love Hunter. I love the world of the undead. I love that I twisted things and made my own lore, my own reason they came back and my own reason they remain. I had fun with the book and wrote ghost stories, and stories about fanaticism, and I tried to make this world different than any people had read about before. There is hope in that book but it’s bloody hope and it’s a damnable thing because hope can be jagged, like broken glass, and it can hurt you to have it.

Neither book has gone on to do much.

Neither has sold very strongly, but they have sold.

People have read them.

I love those books dearly.

I love all of my books dearly but those two took a long time to put together. A long time living with them and bringing them to life. I can’t say that either will do much of anything. They are awfully big and they are not inexpensive. They are an investment.

They are investments that I think are worth the time and money an effort though.

There is light in that darkness.

Pete, while a monster, is one with a heart. Even if he hates that he has it.

With my zombies I tried to do things that were at least a little different.

As I endeavor to put together another novel, another old story that sat abandoned long enough, I remember my novels. My lost babies that found their way home.

…c…

(Both books are available through links in my bookstore or through Amazon.com).

Bunni – a story

Bunni didn’t like her name, though that seemed fair because her family didn’t like that she told everyone that listened she was a girl. 

Bunni wasn’t born a girl but she was fourteen now and she figured she knew better than them, didn’t she? Yes, she did. 

Mom and dad had been living with Bunni, who her parents had named Tomas, for eight months now and while they didn’t like the way things were they also knew well enough that if they fought her on it they’d just entrench her deeper. That was how they saw it, not seeing that maybe instead of a weed, Bunni was a flower that had just now blossomed. Mom had been in a band when she met dad, who had been managing a store in the local mall. They wouldn’t tell anyone that it was love that brought them together but it was, well, something, and it was enough, and when Tomas came it was just barely enough. It was when Tomas’s sister Carly was born that they realized that love may not have brought them together but it was what kept them together. 

Carly was different. 

Bad different. 

Different in the way that she was never going to be in a public school. 

Different in that she’d never have a first date, or dance, or kiss. 

Different in that the doctor said she wasn’t going to make it to ten. 

When Carly came the fractured family became whole as they rallied together. 

That was why they learned to live with Bunni. Not because their punk rock pasts has opened their minds more than other people, because as they aged they realized how false that flag was, no, it was that they knew there’d be a day when Carly was gone and they didn’t want to lose Bunni too. 

The rest of the family hated Bunni though. 

Freak, that was the big word they used, though there was another one she had heard as well that started with the same letter but was directed at her interest in who she wanted to kiss. 

What they didn’t know is she didn’t want to kiss anyone. 

Boy or girl. 

All she wanted was to just be herself.  

To wear dresses and makeup and cute shoes and pants and tennis shoes and whatever else struck her. She didn’t want to be girly all the time but she wanted the option to be girly when she felt it. Sometimes she was just happy wearing jeans and a baggy t-shirt but sometimes she wanted to look cute.  

That was what she wanted.  

What she really wanted.  

But how did you tell your family that when they didn’t want to hear it? 

Let alone the teachers at school.  

The funny thing was how much mom and dad would tell her to be careful, and to not be too showy at school when the kids gave her the least trouble. Sure there were some that would bother her but most of them knew she was a girl before she did.  

It was the adults that gave her the trouble and her family that gave her the most.  

Grammy and Gramps were the worst.  

They had been hippies once upon a time, and supported everyone’s right to be who they were – be you, baby, was a popular phrase they would say to one another when asking for suggestions on where to eat or whether to buy some new slacks. The thing was, their little Tomas wasn’t a girl and they weren’t going to stand by and let him follow the herd of sheeple and ruin his life by denying who god had made him.  

Bunni disagreed but Grammy and Gramps were joined in chorus by auntie and uncle and her other auntie. And they were joined by cousins. It felt like she was surrounded by all sides.  

Holidays were worst of all.  

It was always – What would God think of how you are denying and desecrating His gift.  

She got that a lot.  

What would God say? 

What would God say.  

Only…she liked to think that the God she prayed to would still hold her in His hand and that His Son would still embrace her for who she was.  

Her family didn’t feel that way.  

Which is really how she got the idea.  

Grammy liked to talk about His message and portents and how He spoke through deeds and signs.  

Bunni smiled thinking about that.  

Deeds and signs.  

 

Bunni had met Nathan when they were in tee-ball together and while they weren’t close anymore they still said hello to one another in the halls at school. Nathan’s family had a farm where they raised chickens. Bunni hadn’t been out to the farm in years but she still remembered when Nathan’s older brother had shown them both how you checked the eggs to make sure they were safe to sell.  

 

“Nobody wants a scrambled egg with a beak in it, ya know?” He had said, and Bunni and Nathan had laughed until Chuck-o had grabbed an egg he had put aside and cracked it open and showed them a half-formed chick inside. That image had stuck with her for years and when she was lying in bed a week before Easter she thought of it, out of the blue, and shivered. She had been glad she’d never found one of those eggs, though Nathan told her that Chuck-o would slip him one of those almost every time the family sat down to have eggs. It was a cruel prank that had lost its humor and even its edge and was now just something he did, their parents not even bothering to cluck their tongues or correct him and Nathan not even bothering to acknowledge it outside of throwing it out. Casual cruelty was something Bunni was very familiar with. The kind that was deeper than habit but was more of a truth that refused to be hidden, like a weed that could never be pulled completely free. She had lived with the casual cruelty of her family for her entire life so she had always felt close to Nathan in that way, the two of them survivors on a liferaft that was leaking. She didn’t think he’d survive. He was too soft, too weak, and a day would come when he would want to turn the joke back on them. She saw it in his eyes and his shoulders, which had slumped more and more over the years. Not her though. They would never break her. And as she lay thinking about those eggs and about Nathan a nasty smile formed and she went to bed with a purpose and woke the next morning seeking to fulfill it.  

 

Nathan had been surprised to see her in the morning but he didn’t seem upset at the surprise. He was a lonely kid who liked having a visitor. Bunni asked to see the chickens and he shrugged and they headed out to them. As they stood looking at them she looked around and then leaned in to him.  

“What if I had a way to get back at your brother? What if I had a way and all it’d cost you were some of those eggs…” She pointed towards a box where they kept the bad eggs, Chuck-o using them for pranks and target practice with his hunting rifle. Nathan turned his head to the side and she smiled.  

“What if I told you that we have the power to exorcise our demons?” She said this with a laugh and told him her plan.  

 

The plan Bunni had for Nathan was what she called the ‘long con’. It would take time and patience but she assured him it’d pay off. When they were still kids Chuck-o had had a period where he had wet the bed for about a month straight. No one knew why, he just did it and for a seventeen-year-old to do that, well, it mortified him. Nathan was beaten up once as a warning to never mention it to anyone but he did, to Bunni. Now was the time to revisit that past ghost. Chuck-o had become a fan of malt liquor and every night he’d drink three forty-ounce beers and pass out about midnight. Nathan was going to go into his brother’s room and start slowly pouring a cup of water on his brother’s crotch and the bed beneath him. If he did it slowly Chuck-o shouldn’t notice. Once or twice he’d shrug off but when it happened for longer he’d get worried. As that worry spread he could up the ante and start pouring his own pee on his brother to convince him that he wasn’t just spilling water onto himself. And then, then he would tip off mom and dad to it. Nathan wouldn’t say anything, no, he’d let his parents do the heavy lifting, and when it was all over, Chuck-o wouldn’t be the same person as he had started. He’d be humbled. He’d be shrunken. And Nathan, Nathan wouldn’t be the whipping boy any longer.  

Nathan liked the sound of that.  

As for Bunni’s side of things, well, that was a shorter con.  

A nastier con.  

A better con.  

 

Easter came for the family and she was up early to dress for Easter service. She was warned not to make a show of things, meaning to dress like Tomas, not like Bunni, so she did as she was told, though she wore a hat she’d bought herself for Easter. A pretty blue thing that had a small mesh veil. Her parents grumbled and the rest of her family refused to sit in the same pew as she was in but that was fine. She sat in the back with a smile and a held tongue. After Easter was the family Easter party and egg hunt, culminating in a ham dinner. Grammy left the church early to set out the eggs but Bunni had made sure to help her with it. She had used her mom’s spare keys to go out to Grammy and Grampy’s car and swapped the eggs out with ones she had brought, then slipped back into the church and into her pew and bowed her head and gave thanks for the Resurrection and the Glory.  

“You shame our Lord, Tomas. You shame your family.” Aunt Petra hissed, after the congregation was released.  

“But what if I don’t? What if it’s intolerance that shames God?” Bunni asked.  

“If that’s the case then why does he not show us a new way, eh?” 

“Like a portent? Like an omen?” Bunni had to hide her smile as she said this.  

“That is how the Lord works – in Mysterious ways!” 

 

With the extended family there were fifteen kids lined up and ready to go. The hunt was an old family tradition and the kid with the most eggs would get a prize, this year it being a large chocolate bunny so the kids wanted it. Badly. Grampy raised his arm, Grammy gave a whistle and the kids were released. The children became a blur of colors, a broken rainbow running to and fro through the grass of the property Bunni’s family owned. The laughter that filled the cool afternoon air made Bunni reconsider what she had done but then she remembered how her little cousins would tease her and spit at her when their parents were looking, these apples not having fallen far from their trees. Bunni smiled again.  

The first egg was found, then the second, and third, and the eggs were found in a flurry. Screams cutting through the laughter as each one was found. The eggs mirroring the bright dresses the girls were wearing or the equally bright ties the boys wore. The first egg was broken just as the kids were heading back in, their arms loaded up and balancing their findings to turn them in for counting. Cousin Patrick stepped on the long legs of his passed-down pants and fell forward and landed with an eruption of exploding eggs. The kids all laughed and the adults joined them, despite Patrick’s tears. His tears turned to screams as he realized what were in the eggs and his screams were echoed by first one, then another, then finally all of the other kids. The eggs the children were holding all dropped in piles to the grass and broke apart revealing the dead bodies of half-formed chicks, an army of the dead sliding forth into piles of colored egg shells. Grampy ran forward and when he saw the mess of dead bodies and the grandchildren that were covered in their mess he crossed himself once, then twice. Grammy ran forward and did the same. The rest of the adults ran forward and crowded around and Bunni ran with them, marvelling at the horror she had wrought as her little cousins rose, and fell, rose and fell, as they slipped in the slop of the dead chicks. After the kids were able to get free of the mess they latched onto their parents and began to sob quietly as the adults considered things.  

 

“A portent.” One voice whispered.  

“A sign. ” Said another.  

“A reckoning.” Came a third. 

“A punishment for closed minds.” Whispered Bunni.  

After that there was a hush that fell over everyone. This could go one of two ways. Bunni knew it and accepted the risk. Better to risk it all than settle for nothing. She clenched her hands into fists and waited.  

It was her mother that spoke first.  

“This is our warning. This sign. This portent. This is His Mysterious Way. Remember His words well, we should – Judge not, lest ye be judged. We have been judged and we – are – guilty.” Bunni’s mom fell to her knees and turned towards Bunni.  

“Please forgive me Tom…Bunni. Please forgive all of us. And with your forgiveness shall God learn to forgive us as well.” 

Bunni’s mouth dropped open as her father fell to his knees and bowed his head, then some of the kids, and the aunts and uncles, and finally, last of all, Grampy and Granny slowly went to their knees and lowered their heads and raised their hands in supplication.  

Bunni raised her hands to the sky and closed her eyes.  

“Please, oh Lord, on this day of Resurrection, please resurrect the forgiveness that lives in your heart and forgive us our trespasses and forgive us our petty sleights. Forgive us!” 

 

Bunni felt her hands grabbed up and heard her family say ‘Amen’ after she had finished speaking and she allowed a small smile to spread across her mouth and gave thanks to small minds and large Gods.  

Amen.   

The Lies We Tell Tomorrow

When I said I would publish no more books I meant it. I still wrote, I still write, and that won’t change. I am a writer. I write. Kinda goes together. But the notion of being one those people that has a library of their own books that don’t sell doesn’t appeal to me. I don’t want to become a joke. A clown. A parody. I don’t want to be another example of why self publishing is bad.

But…

There’s a thing also where I still have stories to tell, to those that want to hear/read them. And I don’t like the notion of doing what I am supposed to do. I don’t want to behave. I want to do what the heck I want to do. A big part of the fun for publishing these books for me is the experimentation. The playfulness of it. I control everything, essentially, so I get to make the rules.

I like that.

So I wrote a kid’s book.

I love that book.

I don’t know that anyone else does. It certainly isn’t selling.

But I love it

It deserves to be in the world.

As a book.

And this year I was thinking about how fun it would be to have something I would only sell at shows. Sort of that DIY ethic that informed life as a zine maker, art show creator, and, well, me. I like that. It doesn’t mean people care. It doesn’t mean that people will buy it.

But I care.

It’s a quick, mean little thing that is like a grabbing the wrong end of a razor.

It will hurt.

You will bleed.

 

So I introduce you to The Lies We Tell Tomorrow. My new book. It’s only going to be available as a physical book at events I am doing. That’s it.

In the darkest parts of our hearts hide our every secret, our every fear, and our every horror just waiting to be unleashed. We are but doors to Hell waiting for the right key to open us. We can lie to ourselves, we can lie to our friends, but you can never fool tomorrow. You can never fool Hell.
I welcome you to a house of mirrors that will show you the worst in all of us, the monsters that live in each of us, but even in Hell there is the dimmest glimmer of hope, an undying light that even the abyss cannot snuff out.
Witness, traveler, the lies we tell tomorrow.

THUMBNAIL_IMAGE

My other work is available on Amazon.com – just look up Chris Ringler.

Or – http://www.meepsheep.com

 

Grieve – A Story

This is a rough story I just wrote. It feels awkward in parts and needs a lot more polish I’d wager but I wanted to share it. Heck, if it ever IS evened out then maybe I can do something else with it. For now, here’s a rough version of a dark little tale. 

Grieve

A mother shouldn’t have to bury her baby.

It’s unthinkable.

It’s unbearable.

It’s against God and all His angels.

Yet…

This is God’s will.
This is God’s plan.

Who am I to deny it?

I have lost two beautiful stars to the heavens, two perfect sunbeams to the darkness, and have had two of my own sent where I cannot follow. It is soul crushing. Every day I can feel the weight of them in my arms still, can feel them in my belly, even hearing their cries in the night as I am asleep. They speak to me and through my veil of tears I can still see them lying there in bed beside me, holding hands with oen another as they smile at me. At least they are together in Heaven. At least there is that small solace. At least there is that small mercy. Even if it does mean I am all alone.

After Daniel died the women at work and in church fawned over me, bringing me dinner, offering to come sit with me at lunch or at night, and actually caring, genuinely caring about me and my well-being – the first time I had had that since I was a little girl. As a child I was invisible. The third child of five. The middle child of parents who worked multiple jobs and who were too busy with the others to notice me. I wasn’t the first, I wasn’t the last, I was just stuck in the middle. Oh, they asked how my day was, they asked how I was, and they made the efforts like good parents but they weren’t. They weren’t. They didn’t care about me. It was an act. It was their job. They did it because they had to and I hated them for that. I saw how they laughed with my brothers and sisters, how they joked, how they played while I sat alone, refusing to be pitied and pandered to. All I wanted in the world was all of their attention and I would never have it. Never. It wasn’t until Robbie, the youngest of us, drowned in the pond behind the house that they started to care. I had been with him at the end and they knew how terrible it had been for me to watch as he struggled before the waters took and they told me they loved me and that Robbie had loved me. I had been helpless when he drowned. I had never learned to swim and so there was nothing I could do to save him. Nothing. All I could do was watch over the course of those twenty minutes as he ran out of energy and finally lost the fight and sunk below the surface. There was nothing I could do. Afterwards I ran and got Anne, the oldest of us, and she swam out to get Robbie but it was too late. He was gone. He was gone and all of a sudden my parents saw me. My family saw me. They all saw me and they all loved me. They all loved me until Anne started asking questions. They loved me until something else took their attention away.

It was the same thing at work. When I was pregnant everyone cared, everyone loved me, and everyone wanted to know how I was. I was just an abandoned woman, left by the father of the child, all alone in the world. When Daniel was born though the focus moved to him and I was forgotten again.

‘How is Danny?’

‘How is the baby?’

‘How is that pretty boy of yours?’

That was all I heard. I wasn’t asked how I was. I wasn’t asked how I found time to sleep. I wasn’t asked about who watched Daniel when I was at work. No one cared about me anymore. Everything was about Daniel. The world only gave a damn for him. Within months I came to hate him. I would stand over him and watch him sleep and think about how I wish he’d just roll over and suffocate himself or maybe he could just fall out of the crib and…and I would cry myself to sleep thinking about these things. What sort of mother was I to think all of these black thoughts? I loved my baby. I loved my Daniel. He was my world. I would never hurt him. Then one night he was taken away from me. Somehow he had gotten one of his baby spoons in the crib with him and he must have been playing with it and he choked to death on it while I was asleep. I found him the next morning and he was cold and blue. The world spun, the floor fell away, and I was all alone again with no one to love me.

Like saints my congregation descended to care for me and look after me and my co-workers too suddenly remembered my name and helped me through that difficult time. For two months I was the center of attention and it felt wonderful. It was like laying in warm Spring sunshine. People looked out for me, cooked for me, asked me to go out with them for lunch and dinner. I was never alone. I had friends. It lasted until a girl caught pregnant at work and a teenager at the church succumbed to cancer and then my loss wasn’t so great any longer. My pain wasn’t as important any longer. I wasn’t alone though, no, I had Daniel with me, singing to me, speaking to me, cooing to me when I would cry myself to sleep. He knew it wasn’t my fault he had died and he forgave me. He forgave me. But Daniel didn’t want me to be alone. God didn’t want me to be alone. He wanted me to have someone that would love me. Someone that had to love me. Daniel told me God had another angel put aside for me, another angel to love me and only me and I just had to do the work to make that miracle come true.

I don’t remember Daniel’s father’s name. I don’t remember Angela’s father’s name either. It doesn’t matter though because they were merely vessels that carried the seeds that I was to bear. It took several tries with brutish, drunken man but it was worth it because in the end I was given my Angela and with Angela came the attention and love once more but with her birth that attention shifted again. It was the same cycle I had been in since Robbie’s death, only with Robbie there were questions, so many questions, so many that I ran away to escape them and never went back. They wanted to know what had happened, why I had waited so long, why his pockets had been full of rocks, questions and questions and questions and so I ran away, far enough away that they’d never find me. They didn’t know what it had been like. They didn’t understand and they never would. I thought things would be different with Angela, different than it had been with Daniel but I was wrong. With Angela it was just her, her, her, that’s all the people cared about. It was even worse than it had been with Daniel.

She was an angel.

I was just shit.

My anger came sooner with Angela, and was fiercer and while she slept I would put things over her face, over her mouth just to see what it felt like, not meaning to do anything but wanting to see what it felt like. I didn’t get the sick feeling I did when I did the same things to Daniel, no, I didn’t feel guilt, I just felt cold. I couldn’t stand the guilt, even if Daniel had forgiven me, but I could stand the cold. I was used to the cold.

Angela died nine months after she was born, almost to the day. She drowned, like my brother Robbie. I had stepped away from the wash basin to check on our dinner and when I got back she was face down under the water. I tried but couldn’t save her. It was too late. The police came again, as they had with Daniel, and this time they clucked their tongues at me and asked me so many questions that my brain started to hurt and my skin got hot but they finally left and that was that. I was negligent but it was an accident. Of course it was an accident. How could I kill my child? Only a monster would murder a child.

Work and the church were not as sympathetic this time and some people actually acted as if I had been at fault in her death. Some said I shouldn’t have left her side, and that I should have known better, and that I should have had her taken away. What did they know about me? What did they know about my life? I cared for Angela, I loved her, I took care of her. I was her MOTHER. No one could take her away. Oh how the hens clucked though and what gentle talk there was was centered on her, on poor Angela and how she had died too young. How sad it was that this innocent had been taken by death. No one cared about me or my loss. No one cared about what I was going through. No one bothered to check on my condition.

I hate them all.

I could not hate Angela any longer though, no, my hate was gone and in its place was cold emptiness. A desperate chasm of loneliness. Where was my love? But they were still with me, my children. My babies came and spoke to me at night, and they sang to me, and they told me they forgave me and loved me, and that they wanted me to be happy. They told me that God was good. God was love. God had a plan. My tears stopped and I listened intently to my children as they whispered to me from the darkness that God had set aside another angel for me and that this time, this time the love I felt wouldn’t fade, the attention I wanted wouldn’t disappear, and that this time, this time things would be ok.

God was good.

Love’s seed was waiting for me.

All I needed to do was the work.

I got out of bed and dressed, wanting to get to work as quickly was possible. Love may be patient but I was not. I am just not a patient woman. It’s my one flaw. Besides, this was God’s plan for me so who was I to deny it?

Who am I?

The Lady In The Past

This is a new story that was inspired by the desire to do a short, nasty little thing that turned into this, a longer, creepy thing. I REALLY like it. I hope you do to. Fair warning – this is one pass with no edit – so if there are issues they’ll be fixed some day. Probably. I guess. 

I have a big family, not a traditional one but a big family just the same, it’s just for me that the family is mostly friends and friends of the family but it works. It worked. I never knew any of my grandparents. Mom’s mom and dad died when she was in college and dad’s father died around the same time, which left my gramma. I never knew my gramma. That was by design. She lived far enough north in Michigan that the people considered themselves more Canadian than American. Dad had left his family to go to college and had never gone back. Dad mentioned having an older brother but I never met him. Dad said he died when he was a baby. No, I never met gramma and only heard enough about her from mom and dad’s late night whispers to know that there was something strange about her. Every month an envelope came to the house from an address in northern Michigan with no name above the address. The envelope smelled strange and felt greasy and every month dad was snatch the envelope off the kitchen counter and take it to the fireplace and burn it. I asked once about it and got the nastiest look he ever gave me, a look that set my ten year old lip to quiver, but he came over and knelt down and gave me a hug and told me it was just some junk mail he wanted to get rid of and that was all. In all the years my parents were alive I never learned a thing about my gramma. It was like she didn’t exist or rather was edited out of existence.

She was a ghost.

Mom and dad died three days before I turned 20. They had left for Bermuda on August first to celebrate their 30th wedding anniversary and the last time I heard from them was August third. I got a call on the fifth telling me that my mother and father had contracted a strange disease and were in the hospital getting treatment. They were sedated so I wasn’t able to speak to them but I immediately started looking up plane tickets, figuring I’d use my college fund and figure it out later. Before I had been able to book anything though I got another call from the hospital, this time from the Chief of Staff, telling me that my parents’ conditions had turned grave and they had fallen into comas. I told the woman I would be there within a day, willing to pay whatever it cost to get there, to be with them, but after a very long pause she let out a long breath and told me I wouldn’t be in time.

My parents left on August first to celebrate their anniversary. They returned August 15, after a stint in quarantine, in two sealed bags, their bodies burned and the sum total of their lives reduced to so much ash. I never got an answer as to what happened but there was a lot of speculation in the papers and one reporter claimed it was said to have been the ‘most horrific viral invasion the hospital staff had ever seen’.

I was the sole benefactor of the estate and after the funeral I started trying to piece together some sort of life. I won’t go on and on about it but even at the worst of times they were always there for me. I decided to take a couple semesters off of school and start going through everything in the house. I wasn’t one to cry and I didn’t cry at the joint funeral but it didn’t mean I wasn’t hurting and the only thing that kept that at bay was cleaning. Cleaning also gave me the chance to go through my parents things and donate what I could, keep what I needed, and to let go of the things that were little more than stuff. During the cleaning some friends came to help and my mom’s sisters came into town to help and take some things with them that my mom would have wanted them to have but most of the work I did alone, which was how I wanted it. We had a big house with two floors and a large basement and my parents were pack-rats and I needed the time and the work so I could grieve in my own way.

I rented a dumpster which everyone assured me was way too big but box by box it began to fill up as the small moments in their lives, moments that meant something to them but nothing to me, were donated or thrown away. I hated myself for throwing things away, hated doing it but knew that if I didn’t I’d bury myself beneath the shadow of their memory, never living my own life but wallowing in theirs. I threw so much out but donated as much as I could, even mom’s wedding dress and all of her collectibles. I didn’t want to sell their stuff, that felt dirty, so I found charities to donate things to and that made me feel better about everything and by the time I finally made it to the back part of the basement I felt better and had a better appreciation of who my mom and dad were before they were my parents.

The basement wasn’t as bad as it once had been since my folks lost a lot of things when we had a particularly nasty Spring the year prior and anything of sentimental value that wasn’t on a shelf was flooded into the trash. There were still a few things but most of it was mine so I spent a lot of my time going through my junk and moving things out of the back corners. It took weeks but I was finally done and though I was still sad I felt better about things but that was before I saw the box.

The box was on the bottom shelf of a metal shelving rack that had been in the basement as long as I could remember. There was a shoebox beside the larger box and I pulled that out first and as soon as I touched it the boxed collapsed on itself and I dropped it like it was a living thing. The box must have been down there when the flooding had happened because it was more liquid than solid now. I pulled the remains of the box out with my index finger and saw it was covered in cobwebs but beneath those it looked like photos. I grimaced and pulled the cobwebs out and saw that most of the pictures were very old and ruined, the images blurred and lost and the paper rotten. My curiosity was stronger than my revulsion so I picked the box up carefully and dumped it onto the basement floor in a heap. Everything was lost, they must have been in the water for days and just rotted away. I pushed some of the pictures aside in the vain hope of finding something, anything that might tell me whose photos they were. In the middle of the pile I found one image that was mostly lost, blurred by the water, but it told me what I needed to know. The image was black and white and showed five people standing in front of what looked like a large building, presumably a house. There were two people on either side of a very tall and thin woman whose face was blurred though the rest of her was the only clear thing in the picture, and in her hands was a plain looking box. To the left was someone shorter than the woman at center but I couldn’t make out if it was a man or a woman, their features were blurry except for their hands, which were missing both thumbs and all of the fingers. Next to that person was a little boy. His features were blurred but you could see it was a boy and he was frowning. On the other side of the woman were two children, both very little and holding hands and both identical. One was a boy and one was a girl. The girl was smiling while the boy was frowning like his brother. The male twin was my father. He had never mentioned a sister in all of his years and had made it sound as if his brother had died as a baby but his brother was older than his siblings. I started to sweat and felt my stomach turn. It was dark in this part of the basement and hard to see so I lowered my head to look at the picture more closely. I was desperate to make out the faces of the adults in the image and had lost track of the world around me when suddenly I hear my doorbell and the faint shout from the mail lady that she had dropped the mail off. I had been kneeling there and fell backwards onto my butt as soon as I heard her and could feel my heart racing. I gave one more glance to the picture then stuck it into the pocket of my flannel shirt. The rest of the photos were ruined and the only thing I could make out in any of them was one where someone was holding a box and that was the only thing that could be made out – the box. I felt a shiver run down me and turned my attention to the other item that lay in the darkness of the bottom shelf.

I won’t tell you that the box on the shelf was the same one in either of the pictures, and I won’t tell you that when I went back through all of the photos again and looked at them under the light that you could make out the same box in every photo. Always front and center. I won’t tell you those things because what I believe doesn’t matter, it’s what I can PROVE that matters and I am not sure how much I can prove anymore.

I pulled the box out and while it was damp it was intact and didn’t fall apart and it was very heavy. I lifted the box and it smelled like flowers. I heard something shift inside it and put it on the floor and lifted the lid. My brain didn’t process what was inside for a moment so I tipped my head to the side and reached in and touched what was there and let out a startled shout. I am not sure what I expected to find in the box but I can assure you I didn’t expect dolls. It wasn’t the dolls that sent the spiders down my spine but the feel of them, as if they were real babies with real skin. I dropped the box and the sound echoed through the basement and I was embarrassed immediately. The box had been down here during the flooding so the dolls were just damp, maybe even had some sort of fungus on them, that was all. I let out my breath and bent over the box and smiled at how ridiculous I was- they were dolls. Nothing great, nothing special, just dolls. There were five dolls crammed into the box but crammed as they were they all looked clean, neat, and, as weird as it sounds, loved. I couldn’t be sure but they looked very old. I bent down and the dolls didn’t smell like flowers but like dirt but they were all clean. I ran my hand against the face of the one that lay atop the others and was repulsed but didn’t pull my hand away this time. The doll’s face did feel like skin, uncannily so but it wasn’t from dampness or fungus it was just that the face felt like it was made of skin. I picked the doll up and turned it this way and that in the dim light to examine it. There was a strange light to the doll’s eyes and its body had a weight to it that I didn’t expect. I shook it and it let out a cry like one of those crying babies they make for kids now. I dropped the doll and it let out another sound like a growl. I picked the doll back up, again ashamed at how jumpy I was being, and it felt different – it’s right arm felt weird, like it was loose. I lifted the arm then dropped it, lifted it then dropped it, lifted it and dropped it and it felt like something was broken inside of it. I ran a hand along it and cold sweat broke out all over me because it felt like there was bone beneath the skin. I pushed the sleeve of the little boy doll up and its arm, like the hand and face, felt like real skin. I held the doll aloft and pushed my face in close to its face and saw a crack that ran from the mouth up towards its temple that had not been there before. I took the doll into my left hand and with my right I ran my finger along the crack and felt that it wasn’t a crack but was a tear and I started to pick at it, trying to peel it back and as I picked and picked and picked at it the crack grew in size and width and finally, lost in what I was doing, I pushed two fingers beneath the surface of the crack and tore the hole up along the cheek up to the eye. I peel the doll’s skin back and saw white beneath and I pushed a finger in and ran it against the hard, cool surface beneath. I peeled more of the skin back and saw only white, white, white and with sudden dawning horror everything fell into place and I realized how true skin had been when I thought of the surface of the face that way and that beneath skin there was always…bone.

I dropped the doll back into the box and quickly stood and kicked at the box absently before turning and running for the stairs that lead back upstairs and into the light. I tripped on the last step at the top and went sprawling forward, hitting both shins on the edge and sending waves of pain up my entire body. My heart was racing but I managed to crawl forward enough so that none of me was in the basement any longer and when I looked forward I saw a large envelope laying in front of my on the linoleum floor of the kitchen, nowhere near the front door or the mailbox. And the pain was miles and miles away as I reached forward and felt greasy brown envelope and saw the familiar address at the top and saw that it was addressed to me. I tore the envelope open and was greeted with that mix of flowers and dirt that I had smelled in the basement and I pulled a small piece of paper from inside and quickly read it then read it again.

You found them for me.

Now send them back.

Don’t make us come down there for them.

Gramma wants her babies back.

Don’t make us come.

The paper felt strange so I turned it over and saw that it was part of an itinerary for someone’s flight. I saw the date and destination and then looked over my shoulder into that basement and what lay in that box down there in the dim light.

I mailed the box the next day, though I needed to lie to three friends to get them to come over, thinking I was depressed, to get the courage up to go down in that basement to retrieve it. After it was mailed I burned the photos and the note and its envelope and had a burglar alarm installed. After a month I started to feel at ease. After three months I started to push things out of my mind. After six months I re-enrolled in school and met someone special. It was the seventh month when it came.

There was a knock at the door late at night and I came downstairs and left my ‘guest’ up in bed. I figured I had just heard a phantom knock because the security lights hadn’t come on but I wanted to at least make sure that the doors were locked. I looked around downstairs and saw nothing by the door and was about to head back upstairs when I heard the knock again from the back of the house where the kitchen was. I felt sweat break out all over and I grabbed my high school hockey stick from off the wall and slowly made my way into the kitchen. The kitchen light was off and so was the security light outside and I flailed for the light and when I saw what was on the kitchen floor I let out a scream. There was a familiar box sitting on the floor and on top of it was a note written on familiarly torn paper that I knew would have flight information for a flight in August to Bermuda. I walked over to the box and looked down at the note.

This one is broken.

You broke it, now it’s yours.

It’s yours.

We’ll be coming for a replacement.

Love, gramma

That happened five months ago.

I don’t sleep anymore. My friends, my ‘guest’, and my inheritance are all gone. I have food delivered from a local market. I wash myself and go to the bathroom in the kitchen sink. I don’t do anything but sit and wait with two guns in my lap and a can of gasoline between my feet, waiting to see when she’ll come and praying I can get the match lit and send that witch to Hell before she gets her replacement.

– c

July 2014

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There Were Three – a story

This is a story I kinda fever-wrote. There may be mistakes, you need to figure out that there are two speakers, and it’s weird. Have fun.

THERE WERE THREE

There were three, you know.

Three what?

Siblings. Children. Three.

Oh, um, OK, so uh, you have kids?

No, not me. No. In the darkness there were three. The three came from the death of a universe and these were the remnants of those worlds. Three.

Um, OK, cool. Whatever.

Do you believe in God?

What the…why…

I see a cross around your neck so I trust it’s safe to assume you are a Christian.

Yeah, so what?

What nothing. Nothing. That was one of the three, your God. That was one.

Look lady, this is getting to be a bit much, if you’ll excuse me.

…The Adversary was another of the three. The Adversary was nothing more nor less than the black to the other’s white, the opposite. Some might call what was between the Adversary and your God sibling rivalry but it was more, so much more, and so much deeper. It wasn’t hate but it was close. It was close. And it had nothing to do with you. You were pawns in a game. Puppets in a play. It was about power and dominance and your God was much cleverer in how to use humans, how to influence them, and how to seduce them. The Adversary has gotten more clever over time but alas, it was already cast as an adversary, as a devil, and that’s a very hard stone to move off one’s chest.

Ma’am, ma’am, madam I have heard enough of this. I, why, why did you grab me. Let me go. Ow, ow that hurts, let me go, dammit!

Oh, but you see, while your God and the Adversary were fighting over us the third was making much broader plans. Much larger plans. Much darker plans.

Listen you bitch, I have had enough of you fuckin’ fairy tale – let-me-GO!

Oh, but you haven’t heard the best part. The best part is the third has finally turned its attention on you and your kind. It is finally ready to deal with humanity. Since the first life in the universe felt Life’s first breath the third has been involved. It left the humans to be fought over by your God and the Adversary but now, now it is time to deal with you. God has left the Tabernacle. The Devil has abandoned damnation. There is no one left to save you. They fled, fled when they saw what the third had made itself in all these many, many mega-annums. I cannot even tell you where the others fled, though there is no hiding, no for the third is the universe now. It IS creation and destruction. It is EVERYTHING. You might think of it as an infection because it has already seeped into your dreams. Do you dream of the ocean? A dream of being alone in the middle of an ocean, just barely treading water, and your arms growing weary. And the sky is black, so black, but from that blackness form strange stars and planets, worlds you have never seen but somehow now. And on each world there is life, and all of that life radiates one thing – hatred. Hatred of Mankind. Their hate is a weight on you and you sick under the water. You scream and your lungs fill with water but the water is not salty no, but is thick and full of things that feel like worms that force themselves down your throat. When you wake there is a shadow over your heart and it feels as if all joy has left the world. And you know…it has. Oh, it has. Something you cannot imagine has turned its attentions on your kind, something that has tired of its siblings toying with you. Things you cannot fathom know your names and they are coming. They are coming here and there is nothing you can do to stop them.

Uh…how did you know…ow, ow, ow, stop it, please, stop it that hurts, let me go…

Shhh, still your tongue, boy. Save your breath. It’ll be easier if you don’t fight. Now then, I wonder what I shall eat first, your tongue…or your eyes.

 c

www.meepsheep.com