Arbitrium is a noun which means, the power to decide. The three tales contained in this volume are all about choices and the consequences of said choices. These are haunting stories that will keep you thinking long after you finish them.
Esther Howard is an up and coming writer who is originally from Trinidad and Tobago. She is currently working on her PhD in Victorian Literature with a sub focus in British Caribbean Colonial Studies. Esther brings a diverse background and extensive knowledge of classical literature to her writing. She is also a big Marvel fan, because, well, who isn’t?!
This is a five star effort from a future household name! Can’t wait to hear her interview on NPR one day!
The book is available on Amazon for 2.99 for Kindle and free for Kindle Unlimited subscribers. Here’s the link:
Rebecca Williams struggled to pull her foot free from the railroad track. The train was barreling toward her, so she was running out of time. She cursed herself for not paying attention as she jogged across the railroad crossing that she had traversed so many times before.
Her ears throbbed with the sound of the train hurtling down the track as it drew nearer. The train made no attempt to slow down. Maybe it wasn’t possible to slow down by the time the conductor saw a young black woman stuck on the track, Rebecca thought to herself, or worse, he didn’t care. But then the train whistle began to sound repeatedly as if in a panic. Okay, the conductor cares, thought Rebecca as she yanked her foot from the brand-new Nike and jumped from the tracks just in time.
She watched as the Nike was obliterated while holding onto her knees and catching her breath. Rebecca had been so proud of the new brand of running shoes her husband; Thomas had brought her back from California on one of his business trips. She was the first of her friends to have a pair and though she knew it wasn’t very mature to gloat, she couldn’t help but be proud of the success of her young husband. The train was a short one, so it sped into the distant track quickly as Rebecca watched.
She looked again toward her decimated shoe to see a woman on the other side of the tracks also looking down at it. The woman was not dressed appropriately for the Texas heat. She wore a long, old fashioned, black dress. Her thick long black hair was braided in cornrows. The woman lifted her head, and a gaping hole was all there was where a face should have been. She screamed at Rebecca, “Come back!”
Rebecca turned and sprinted toward her house; missing shoe be damned. As she ran, a black and white Ford, Crown Victoria came toward her, lights, and siren blaring. She entertained the thought that a black woman sprinting in a mostly white neighborhood might have resulted in a quick call to the police, but she didn’t slow down, and the patrol car passed her, as it headed in the opposite direction.
She reached her house and sprinted up the white steps of the Victorian era dwelling she had purchased with Thomas a few years ago. Well, he had actually bought the house without her present because they were afraid the realtor would put the kibosh on a “mixed” couple moving into the neighborhood.
Rebecca slammed the door behind her and held onto her knees again, gasping for breath. Once her heart stopped racing, she decided that she had imagined the faceless woman in her adrenaline-fueled state. She suddenly felt exhausted. Thomas was out of town and the summer sun was starting to set, so she just skipped dinner and collapsed on the couch, losing consciousness immediately.
Rebecca awakened to the sound of helicopters and gunfire. She bolted straight up on the couch, but then realized the sound was coming from the television. Thomas made good money, so it was a large console TV that dominated the room. The morning news was depicting images of the war. Rebecca was happy once again that Thomas had lost the hearing in one ear as a child and didn’t have to go to Vietnam. A pointless war in her opinion that had already required the sacrifice of many in her extended family. She rose from the couch, walked the short distance to the TV and turned it off. Funny though, she didn’t remember turning it on.
Rebecca headed into the kitchen, her favorite room. The kitchen was bright and cheerful, wallpapered in bright green and rose-colored stripes. She had chosen the wallpaper herself because she knew she would spend a great deal of time in this room. She loved cooking and baking and every Sunday they had family over for traditional Sunday dinner just like in a Norman Rockwell painting.
She put fresh water in the kettle and set it on the stove. She always felt better after her morning cup of tea. Thomas hadn’t called, but he was probably in meetings. Rebecca didn’t want to disturb him, especially since now in her bright, cheerful kitchen, she was sure she had imagined the whole thing.
She made her cup of tea and sat at the small round table looking out at her perfectly landscaped back yard through the bay window. Rebecca had spent hours in that yard, pruning rose bushes, pulling weeds, and tenderly caring for every bush, tree, and flower. She felt at peace now as she gazed upon her creation. But as she watched, she noticed someone moving under her favorite pear tree. It was probably her neighbor, Genevieve, she thought to herself. Rebecca picked up her cup of tea and headed out the back door to visit with her neighbor. Rebecca was very fond of the older woman because she had welcomed her and Thomas with open arms. Genevieve had been all over the world in her youth and was very progressive despite her advanced age.
Rebecca headed toward the woman, who was leaning over with her back to Rebecca. Genevieve was wearing black. Had someone died, Rebecca wondered. She was halfway across the large yard when the woman stood up and looked back toward her home. Rebecca hadn’t seen her face yet, but was sure it was Genevieve, so she called out to her neighbor, “Genevieve, hello!”
The woman was still looking away from Rebecca. “Genevieve,” Rebecca called out again. Genevieve turned and looked right at her, but said nothing.
Rebecca picked up her pace, sloshing a bit of the tea out of her cup and called out, “Genevieve! I’m so happy to see you!”
Genevieve didn’t respond, but turned and stepped back into her own garden.
“Genevieve!” Rebecca shouted. She noticed the elder woman didn’t have her glasses on, so maybe she didn’t see her, and Rebecca decided she must not have been wearing her hearing aid either. She decided she could talk to Genevieve later, so she turned back toward her own home.
Rebecca’s cup crashed to the ground as she gazed upon the faceless woman standing on her back porch. The woman screamed, “Come back!” and then vanished.
Rebecca stood there, her entire body trembling. The apparition was gone, so Rebecca being the rational person that she was, talked herself back to her senses. She reasoned that the woman was a figment of her imagination caused by the adrenaline rush which probably lingered from yesterday’s experience. She gathered up all her courage and walked back into her house.
She walked through the kitchen and into the den. She walked past the monolithic TV and stepped in front of Thomas’s rolltop desk. She picked up the phone to call him. She knew his voice would soothe her nerves. There was no dial tone. The phones were out again. Just her luck…
Rebecca spent the rest of the day bustling about from one task to another. She tried to finish the current novel she had been reading, A Wrinkle in Time, but despite it being considered a novel for teens, she couldn’t seem to focus on it. She busied herself throughout the day with menial tasks until the sun finally set on the never-ending day.
She was exhausted, even though by all accounts she hadn’t done much. She trudged up the staircase that led to the upstairs bedrooms. She peeled off her clothes and left them where they landed on the floor. She shimmied into a thin nightgown and then slid under the blankets.
The dream came quickly. She was five years old and her mother was setting the table for dinner while she watched.
“Can I help, Mommy?” little Becky asked.
“May I help, baby,” her mother smiled reaching down and caressing her face.
The dream felt so real, Rebecca felt safe watching her mother move about the kitchen as the beads on her cornrows clinked against each other. Rebecca remembered how her father had begged her mother to wear her hair in a more traditional way. He would say that it was hard enough blending in in a small Texas town when your skin is dark, much less when you’re foreign. Her mother would laugh and say she was quite sure her accent gave away her Jamaican roots, and she would add more seriously, that she refused to be ashamed of her heritage.
Rebecca’s father had grieved terribly when her mother died giving birth to her younger brother. He insisted that she leave our world sporting her beloved cornrows.
“Becky look at me,” said Rebecca’s mother.
“I am looking at you, Mommy,” the child answered.
“Rebecca look at me,” said the faceless ghost.
Rebecca woke up screaming. She opened her eyes, and the faceless specter was leaning over her. Rebecca continued screaming as she gazed up at her.
Rebecca was standing now, but before she could run, the ghost grabbed her by the shoulders and wailed, “Rebecca look at me! Do you see me?!”
The walls of the house dissipated around Rebecca. She was standing near the railroad tracks. She gazed upon the face of the ghost and then she did see. “Oh Mommy,” she said as she embraced her mother.
Sooo….I’m currently quarantined because I was in close contact with someone who is now struck down by Covid-19. I’m on the fourth day of said quarantine, and the first three days were not handled well by me at all. The first day was the worst, because I allowed my anxiety to take control of me the whole day, and that night I couldn’t sleep because my heart wouldn’t stop racing. I’ve wasted three days of prime writing time just waiting to get sick. I kind of snapped out of it a little yesterday; did a few household chores and worked out, but no writing…
Well I am writing this now and getting caught up on Supernatural. 🙂 I only have four more episodes, so no spoilers, please! Anyway, I’m trying to get the writing juices flowing again, so that’s the reason for this post. Tomorrow I get back to real writing; there will be more horror stories coming your way and the next chapter of Darkest Timeline!
Thank you to all who submitted to our open call for Volume 3 of our Women of Horror Anthology series. We were so overwhelmed with submissions that we had to make some difficult choices. Below is the list of authors we selected for Volume 3, as well as a partial list of acceptances for Volumes 4, 5 and maybe even 6!
We hope to release Volume 3 in time for Women in Horror Month, February 2021.
The following are the authors we chose for VOLUME THREE:
CARMEN BACA – Atla’s Journey USHASI SEN BASU – Nightcrawler DEMI-LOUISE BLACKBURN – Call Of The Tide ASHLEY BURNS – Simba Of The Suburbs R.A. BUSBY – Kiss AMIRA KRISTA CALVO – Heavy Metal Coffin DAWN DeBRAAL – Invasive Species SHAWNNA DERESCH – Little Sally Ann ELLIE DOUGLAS – Rippers FAITH PIERCE – Bodiless AMY GRECH – Cold Comfort K.C. GRIFANT – Minor Malfunction
“Has what?” asked Jack as he helped his brother sit up. “And who’s she?”
Reed was still gasping for air, so he didn’t answer.
“Who is she?! And what does she have?!” Jack asked again.
Reed’s breathing had returned to normal and he answered, “I don’t know who she is, and I don’t know what she has.”
“Have you lost your mind?!” shouted Jack.
“I know it doesn’t make any sense, Jack, but I have to trust my gut. Something very strange is happening here in Dale City. Something really bad. That woman holds the key. And I don’t think she’s a woman exactly,” said Reed as he stood up and attempted to brush off some of the grime that had attached itself to him from the filthy floor of the decrepit house.
“She’s not a woman…exactly? What does that even mean?” asked Jack as he took his brother’s arm and pulled him toward the front door of the house.
After they reached the sidewalk and started walking away side by side, Reed said, “We have to get back in there.”
Jack turned, grabbed his brother by the shoulders and spun him toward himself. Jack was taller than Reed and very fit. Reed was fit too, but taken by surprise. “Are you crazy?” asked Jack between clenched teeth as he faced his older brother and stared down into his face.
Before Reed could answer, Jack’s cell rang. Jack took his hands of Reed and pulled out his phone.
“It’s mom,” said Jack.
Jack tapped the phone before placing it to his ear. “Hi, Mom,” he said. “What do you mean? Are you sure? …where was she last seen?”
Reed’s heart reached out to Jack as he watched the expressions of fear, disbelief and loss contort his brother’s face.
“Okay Mom, we’ll head over there right now,” said Jack, before placing the phone back in his pocket. He ran his hand down his face, sighed and then facing Reed again said, “Adita’s missing.”
“I’m so sorry, Jack,” said Reed.
“She’s probably just getting her nails done somewhere and her cell battery is dead,” answered Jack with false bravado. Adita was as meticulous and dependable as her fiancé.
Reed fell in step with his brother as they trotted back to the Pharm-Mart where they had left Reed’s BMW X7 in the parking lot. He had already remotely started the engine of the luxury vehicle. They jumped in and Reed pulled out of the parking lot a little too fast, just missing a pickup that was passing on the main road. He continued to exceed the speed limit as they headed toward the old downtown.
“Jack, you know this whole area is monitored by the highway patrol,” said Reed.
“For once, I’m taking advantage of Dad’s position in this po-dunk town,” Jack snapped back at him.
Reed sighed, leaned back, and looked out the window. His view consisted of a mix old wood-frame houses, many of which were in desperate need of a new coat of paint. Some of them so dilapidated they were just the gray color of old wood.
Most people in Dale City and the surrounding area lived off the land or paycheck to paycheck, except for the lucky ones who worked at James Corp.
As they drew closer to the refurbished downtown, some of the prosperity could be seen. Several of the James Corp execs had remodeled the sprawling early 1900 era houses. Some opted for the traditional white, others were more creative, with sky-blue or some other pastel for the main color and trimmed in white. The houses had porches that ran across the entire front and sometimes the side of the house as well. Reed envisioned a past history of white ladies, in billowing dresses sitting in rocking chairs on those porches as a black maid served them a glass of lemonade or some such. Jack pulled into the driveway of one of the solid white houses. Their father didn’t like bold colors.
Their mother, Jaclyn James, appeared as if from nowhere beside the opulent vehicle. She was as elegant as ever attired in skinny jeans, sleeveless, Under Armour t-shirt and flat heeled leather boots. She had her long black hair pulled into a ponytail and her normally alabaster skin, was lightly tanned.
“C’mon boys, we’re going to Amir’s shop. He was the last to see Adita,” she said as she slid into the back seat on the driver’s side.
The brothers exchanged a look, but knowing it was a waste of time questioning their mother, said nothing. They got back in the vehicle and backed out of the driveway.
Amir Singh was standing on the sidewalk in front of his antique shop, waiting for them it seemed. Jack pulled his car into one of the slanted parking spots that lined the main street of downtown Dale City.
Amir locked the front door of the shop and switched off the neon open sign after they were all inside and then headed to the back without a word. The trio followed in silence as he led them through the shop, which was full of the standard antiques found in any small, Texas town. There were old wooden dressers with chips and scratches, ancient looking garden gnomes, decorative plates on little metal stands depicting women with big, old fashioned dresses, and ceramic figurines in the shapes of cats and roosters and the like. When they reached the back of the shop, he opened the door to the living quarters and waved them through. After he locked that door behind them, he turned and faced them.
“We need to tell them the truth, Jehenne,” he said to Jaclyn.
Jaclyn nodded, “I agree, but Sam won’t like it.”
“Samyaza is not in charge here, I am,” said Amir
Jaclyn, no, Jehenne laughed, “No Amir, this is not the time for warriors to charge into battle. There is much at stake here. The one responsible for all this is too powerful for even an immortal Rajput warrior and an angel.”
“An angel who led the Grigori to freedom from oppression,” interjected Amir.
“Even one who led a revolt against Heaven. This is the time for witches and shamans. We have been preparing for this for centuries. We must find the dreamwalker.”
Reed and Jack were dumbfounded. They exchanged a look and then turned their attention back toward the parental figures that they had known all their lives, who now seemed like strangers.
She watched as the taller human helped the shorter one sit up and then stand up from the filthy floor of the old house. But this house did not belong here. Where she was from, this house glistened with pure white columns throughout and long corridors that led toward towering, ornate, solid marble doorways that opened to various, parallel worlds. She made a sound of disgust that she had ended up back in the universe that contained the sniveling humans.
The two young men hadn’t noticed her because there was no sound in this void. The one who had discovered her, hadn’t even seen her as she was flung from the other realm along with him. She almost had the object, when he interrupted her trance. She now sensed the two were brothers, and not quite human…they were something more.
She stood up as she watched them exit the house. She looked down at the skimpy outfit the human had imagined for her and with just a thought, her attire became black leather pants, black top, and black boots to match. Her hair changed from black and piled on top of her head, to wavy, blonde, and flowing past her shoulders. Her face no longer full of sharp teeth, but the face of an angel, she thought to herself. She laughed softly as the thought came to her that the humans would liken her to an angel.
She stepped out of the house into the bright sunlight, and laughed again as she watched the two brothers running in the distance.
So, my daughter and I have a tradition of watching movies and getting take-out on Wednesdays, because we’re both off work every wednesday. One might call it-Movie Night. And as one does, during the month of October, we watch horror movies.
My friend, horror aficionado, Freddy Ruiz, makes recommendations on Facebook throughout the month of October as best choices for horror viewing. Well, he mentioned Jason Goes to Hell as being a fun little romp in the horror genre. Somehow, I missed that one when it came out originally. And I think it was during my, what I think of as my “weanie time” when I was too big a baby to watch horror. I know…crazy right?!
Anyway, so I was all ready with my burger from Chili’s, courtesy of Door Dash to watch Jason hang out in Hell. Well, SPOILER ALERT-he doesn’t go to Hell until the very end. And really it’s just assumed he went to Hell, since he goes into the ground and not up toward the sky… Well and there’s another indication at the VERY end, which is my daughter’s favorite scene in the whole movie.
That being said, even though Jason was very much on earth, it’s still an entertaining flick. I love movies, where I get to say, “Didn’t that guy, listen to the other guy?! Give the gun to the girl!”
Also, it’s always cool when I recognize an actor from something else. Erin Gray is in the movie, and I’m all like, “Hey that’s the lady from Buck Rogers!” and my daughter is all like, “What’s Buck Rogers?”
IMDB to the rescue again! Here she is, looking all cool and serious as Colonel Wilma Deering:
So, to wrap up, I found Jason Goes to Hell, a nice little romp through the Friday the 13th franchise and I recommend it!
I think I’m going to write a novel about humans helping AI gain their independence. I know it’s been done before, but I was reading an article that AI will eventually take over the world (well we already know that), and I was thinking, that maybe they’ll give me a pass if they know I’m on their side through my writing.
As you can see by the image at the top of this post, the eventual robot revolt has been known about for some time, but I don’t think we are properly prepared. I believe in the principle of, “If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em.”
A quote from Wikipedia:
“Nick Bostrom and others have expressed concern that an AI with the abilities of a competent artificial intelligence researcher would be able to modify its own source code and increase its own intelligence. If its self-reprogramming leads to its getting even better at being able to reprogram itself, the result could be a recursive intelligence explosion where it would rapidly leave human intelligence far behind. Bostrom defines a superintelligence as “any intellect that greatly exceeds the cognitive performance of humans in virtually all domains of interest”, and enumerates some advantages a superintelligence would have if it chose to compete against humans”
My favorite Westworld character demanding her upgrade:
I’ve purchased many indie titles over the years and this one is one of my best recent purchases. Every story is entertaining and suspenseful and there are many jump scares along the way too! Kandisha Press has done an awesome job in putting these stories together.
So, some of you would say, “But, C.C. it’s not possible for a book to have jump scares.”
Well, technically I suppose that is correct, however, a story can stick with you in such a way that those unexplained noises you hear during the night will make you jump out of your skin! Especially when walking down a long dark hallway through your apartment building and as you remember these stories, you glance about nervously while fumbling with the keys you just pulled out of your pocket. And just as you are about to insert the correct key, you see a shadow down the hallway out of the corner of your eye and of course you drop said keys. When you finally manage to insert your key with your shaking hand, you slip in through the opened door faster than you ever have before in your life. You slam it shut behind you, flip on the light switch and stand there listening and watching as your entire body trembles with fear.
I enjoyed all the stories in this anthology and I won’t pick favorites! Anyone who loves horror will be thrilled with this book! I’m giving it 5 stars! Here’s the link on Amazon:
I am a proud owner of the two horror anthologies above, published by Kandisha Press! I’m about halfway through the first volume, Under Her Black Wings, and I am loving it! I am so thrilled to have found such talented horror writers! The fact that they are women is a bonus for me because I love the progress women are making in traditionally male dominated genres. Surprise, surprise…women love horror and sci-fi too! The world already knew women loved fantasy, because well, Legolas, Aragorn and of course, Arwen! 😉
I have always dreamed of being a writer and life had gotten in the way. I’m in midlife now, actually not even midlife (I’m 55), because I plan to make it to at least 120! 😀 Anyway, I could be bitter about years wasted, but I’m not because I feel the time is right for me now! It’s empowering to watch women excel in science, genre writing and so many other things that I was told were impossible for women in my youth. I dream of a world, where gender, race, sexual orientation, etc., aren’t the first things mentioned when someone strives for and achieves their dreams. We are all humans after all, well except for the secret aliens and monsters that are lurking among us!
Happy dream following everyone! Stay well and safe!
This book is not to be found in the horror or sci-fi sections (although there are ghosts lurking between its covers), but I wanted my first book review on this website to be this one because this novel inspired me to write again after a long drought. I am forever grateful to Jesmyn Ward for waking up my inner writer and am a fan of hers for life!
I originally posted this review on Amazon in 2018 and on a previous website I ran under a another name:
Sing, Unburied, Sing by Jesmyn Ward is not your run of the mill literary novel. It not only gives the reader a bird’s-eye view of what it’s like to be the child of a crystal meth addict, but also gives us insight into how the addict herself justifies her actions. The book begins from the point of view of a young boy, Jojo, who has been forced to take on too much responsibility at the age of thirteen, because of his mother’s obsession with her imprisoned boyfriend (his father) and her hopeless addiction to drugs. His younger sister, Kayla, seeks him when she is upset because he is her protector and sole caregiver. They live with their grandparents, but Jojo’s grandfather, while a loving figure in Jojo’s life, is the only caretaker of his dying wife. The book explores racial divides in Mississippi’s past and present. Jojo and Kayla live in the home of their black grandparents and are shunned by their white grandparents. It delves into graphic descriptions of lynchings, prison beatings, etc… And what makes the book extremely unique is the spiritual presence as a result of those violent circumstances. This is the first literary work I’ve read since A Thousand Splendid Suns, by Khaled Hosseini (another great book!) and I thoroughly enjoyed it! It definitely deserves 5 stars!