Monster

            When I was ten years old, I had watched, helpless, as the monster killed my mother. Now, ten years later, I almost pitied him in his weakened state. But I had no time for pity, forgiveness. I don’t know why the vile, smelly creature let me live that day ten years ago. But I had promised him that one day, I would be the one to kill him and I was here to make good on that promise.

            The room I found him lying in reeked of beer and cigarettes. I guess that’s what his kind subsisted on between their bloodthirsty hunts. He was lying on a small mattress in the corner of the room…mouth open and in mid snore. It was one of those nasty sounding, phlegm producing types of snores belonging to a creature who is succumbing to some illness, or very old age. But the monster wasn’t that old for his kind, so maybe he did suffer from some affliction.

            He opened his eyes, but in his delirium thought I was someone else.

            “Bring me some water,” he croaked and closed his eyes again.

            I didn’t move. I stood there watching him and listening, but no one else was in the crappy, little, run down house. He resumed his death rattle snore. I decided I needed a little fresh air. I left the room and exited the house through the front door. I stood on the front porch of the old house and spread out before me was the most beautiful sunset I had ever seen. A mixture of different shades of pinks, oranges and reds streamed across the western sky above the grove of Cedar and Fir trees that blocked the view of the house from the long, winding, country road. The house was secluded, which made sense since his kind preferred to remain isolated from society.

            As I watched the sunset, the old John Denver song came back to the forefront of my mind…sung so many years ago in elementary school. Country road, take me home…to the place, I belong… I didn’t belong here, but I guess he did…his kind.

            I turned back toward the house. It was small, and the wood was grayed out from years of exposure to the elements because there wasn’t a drop of paint to protect it. There were a couple of Texas live oaks on either side of it and the skeletons of dead bushes in front, under the windows on either side of the porch. This had been someone’s family home long ago, but now the monster desecrated its memory.

            The light was fading fast, so I walked back into the house to finally exact my revenge and feel the closure I desired so much…after all these years.

            I walked back into the dank, musty, bedroom. He was sitting up…a gun in one hand and a beer in the other.

            “Who are you?” he asked.

            “You don’t recognize me?”

            “Um, no. Should I?” he asked as he took a swig of the stale beer and pointed his gun at me.

            “So, you’re going to murder me too? And you’re using a gun? You were a little more hands on with my mother, but I guess you’re weaker now,” I said, taking a step toward him.

            “I don’t murder…” he began as he was overcome with a violent coughing fit and dropped the gun, while managing to hold onto the beer.

            I stepped closer and snatched the gun from the floor. The monster laughed and downed the rest of the beer before smashing the bottle against the wall beside the mattress and then pointing the broken, jagged, end that remained toward me.

            “I won’t go down without a fight,” he said.

            “No, your kind never does,” I answered.

            “My kind? I’m no monster. I save lives.”

            “Not a monster?!” I shouted, “You save lives?! You murdered my mother! She was innocent!”

            “I don’t kill innocents. Only evil scum. Those that deserve to die. I’ve always been careful not to kill those that do no harm.”

            “My mother never hurt anyone!”

            “Look boy, if I did kill your mother, she deserved it. You just weren’t aware of your mother’s crimes.”

            I wanted to kill him right then, the self-righteous bastard. But I needed him to remember. I wanted him to know who I was.

            “Think back old man, to ten years ago. Do you remember murdering a young woman in her own home in front of her ten-year-old son?”

            The monster just looked at me with dead eyes.

            “You can’t remember a ten-year-old boy who made a promise to you?”

            It finally sinks in. I see it in his eyes. But there is no fear in them, just realization.

            “Well go ahead and kill me. It’s better than the Big C anyway, as Stephen King likes to call it.”

            I just stare at him, while he stares back. This is not how I envisioned it. I raise the gun and point it at his face. He just sits there. I shoot him and it’s over in an instant. I look at his lifeless body slumped over on the aging mattress and I feel nothing. Ten years of hating and hunting, but I feel numb. Closure is not a thing.

            I walk up to his lifeless body, letting the gun drop from my hand and summon the six-inch claws to extend from my fingertips. I then drive them into his chest and pull out his heart. It’s still beating as I rip into it with my fangs and devour it.

Graveyard Smash-Multiple Authors

My very own copy of this awesome anthology!

This is the second horror anthology I’ve read from Kandisha Press and I’m about to start the third. This publisher with Jill Girardi at the helm are experts in finding the best horror stories I’ve ever laid eyes on and they are all written by women! Jill Girardi noticed that most stories in horror anthologies are written by men, so she found her niche in publishing, supporting and promoting women horror writers. I just love a good horror story and I don’t care who writes it, so I have been thrilled with the talent that is compiled in these anthologies put forth by Kandisha Press!

The reader is immediately sucked in by the first story, Holes, by R.A. Busby. It’s a page turner and draws you helplessly into the entire anthology. The stories that follow provide tales of ghosts, djinn (one of my favorite mythical creatures), zombies, a mummy, ancient gods, etc… supplying something for all horror tastes! There’s even one with monster hunters, and I can’t list the title because it gives away the big twist in the story. I was particularly drawn to that one because, yes, that’s right, (say it together, my small bevy of blog followers) I love Supernatural! (Or I guess you guys would say, she loves Supernatural!)

I give 5 stars to this anthology and to every author! As with the first Kandisha Press anthology, Under Her Black Wings, I almost lost my day job because it was so difficult to stop reading the exciting, suspenseful and entertaining stories between its covers and get a little shut eye! Not to mention the lingering, haunted feeling one feels when reading great horror!

Here’s the link for Graveyard Smash:

And for Under Her Black Wings:

And for the new anthology, The One That Got Away, that came out just in time for Women in Horror Month:

“Is it Really You, Granny?”

            Tears streamed down Bella’s face as she gulped down more cheap wine and watched an episode of Supernatural on Netflix that she had seen a thousand times before. It was the one where dead loved ones “phoned home” to their grieving relatives. One of them even used AOL Instant Messenger because the episode originally aired in the mid 2,000s.

            Bella hadn’t showered in two days and she wore the same pjs for said two days. Needless to say, she wreaked, and her TV watching domain wreaked too. She had been drinking for almost the entire time too. There were two empty wine bottles on the TV tray next to her recliner and a third one already half empty. Empty chip bags were strewn about the floor around her and the current bag of Ruffles that she was working on was in her lap; a lap that was covered in chip crumbs and spilled wine.

            This season of Supernatural was the one that featured the beautiful, but troubled character also named Bela, except with one l. But the name was more fitting for that character because she was truly beautiful. The real-life Bella who lounged in her own filth was not so beautiful. She was middle-aged, fifty pounds overweight and alone. She regularly had her gray hair touched up with blonde highlights, but she put no effort into anything else on her aging, sagging body. She had given up on wearing makeup long ago.

            Bella, the real one, shoved more chips in her mouth as crumbs showered over her lap and then washed that down with more crappy, red wine. As she watched the dead contact the characters on the episode, she entertained a crazy thought. She found herself in this current state of despair because her grandmother had just died the day before. Even though their meetups often ended in arguments, she had truly loved the old woman.

            Bella’s iPhone was on the TV tray amongst the army of dead soldiers that had done their duty and given their lives in contributing to her current state of sloppy drunkenness. She set down her wine glass and carefully removed her cell from amongst the sentinels. The back of it was sticky with wine residue, but Bella was too drunk to care. She typed in her passcode and after two failed attempts managed to type it in correctly the third time. She looked at her recent calls and the third one down said, Granny, because she had just talked to her grandmother a few days prior.

            She looked at it for a moment and then pressed it and placed the phone to her ear. It rang a couple of times and Bella was about to put the phone back down because even in her current mental state, she knew she was being stupid and crazy…

            “Hello, honey,” the familiar crackling, Texas accent of her Granny said through the phone.

            Bella jumped from her chair, chip bag flying from her lap and phone launched from her hand as if it were on fire.

            Bella stood, trembling all over as Netflix continued to the next episode of Supernatural as if nothing had happened. As Bella watched, her phone lit up and vibrated as apparently her Granny called her back. She watched the phone move about the carpet, while she remained frozen in place. Her heart raced as she stared at it. The phone went dark and just as Bella had convinced herself that she had imagined the whole thing, the phone resumed its antics.

            Bella said out loud, “Fuck it!” and swooped up the phone and answered it.

            “Hello,” said Bella.

            “Why did you hang up on me honey?”

            Bella was sobbing now as she listened to the familiar voice.

            “Bella? Why are you crying?”

            Bella got herself under control and asked, “Is it really you, Granny?”

            “Of course it’s me, honey,”

            “But, but, you died…”

            “Well yes, but there is an afterlife, honey. You know that” said Granny.

            “There are phones in the afterlife?” asked Bella.

            “Not exactly, you’re actually imagining all this, honey.”

            “Imagining this? I’m not really talking to you?”

            “Oh, you are talking to me honey, but not on a cell phone.”

            “What?!”

            “The caoineag has you,” said Granny, “She’s bringing you to me.”

            “Bringing me to you? What’s a caoineag, Granny?”

            “Have you heard of a banshee, honey?”        

            “Yes, but banshees just announce upcoming deaths in a family. They don’t take the living anywhere.”

            “Well, think of this caoineag, as a souped-up banshee. She’s been with our family for centuries. She came over to America with our Scottish ancestors. She harkens all the way back to our Norse origins. She was once the human granddaughter of Godred Croven, King of the Isles. Her name is Ragnailt ingen Amlaíb. She was a great queen who was relegated to the history books as simply the wife of the ruler of southern Hebrides when he had her murdered and took control of their kingdom. Being a descendent of Odin, death could not stop her. She has stayed with the women in our family, growing stronger with each passing century…”

            “Why have I never heard of her before?” asked Bella.

            “It just never came up,” said Granny.

            “Never came up?! A creature haunts our family, and it never came up?!”

            “Well, the conversation never took that direction.”

            “What?! Oh god, I am so drunk! I’m joining AA tomorrow, I swear!”

            Bella opened her eyes. She had passed out in her recliner. She smiled because for a glorious second, it seemed to have all been a dream. But then she saw the creature, a hag wearing a shredded, sooty gown. Her thick white hair hung in voluminous waves around her ghoulish face. She hovered in the room between the TV and the recliner. She looked down at Bella, opened her gaping, toothless mouth and wailed.

            Bella screamed, then with a waive of her hand, the caoineag snapped Bella’s neck. The hag opened her mouth further and sucked Bella’s troubled soul from her body.

            The last thing Bella heard was the theme music as the Supernatural episode ended and the creature whisked away carrying her soul to join that of her Granny’s in eternity.

            Bella’s last thought was, ‘why can’t Sam and Dean be real’, as she was carried to her impending doom. Well, she was pretty sure she was doomed anyway. She and her Granny hadn’t been the nicest people in the world…

The Other Side of the Tracks-A Ghost Story

            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.

            “It’s okay, baby. You’re with me now,”

Bizarro World-Darkest Timeline-Episode 2

            “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.

Under Her Black Wings-Multiple Authors

My copy of this awesome anthology!

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:

The Maid

            “Adita’s worried,” said Jack.

            “Everyone’s worried,” answered Reed.

            The two brothers fell silent and continued walking through their old neighborhood.  An elderly woman sitting on her front porch smiled and waved at the two men.  They waved back.  She stood up and called out to them, but they pretended not to hear and kept walking.

            Their father was respected in the community and in a small town like Dale City that meant they were automatically respected because they were born into the right family.  Their father, Samuel James, owned James Corp, the largest employer in town.  Racism still existed in the mostly white, small Texas town, but even the racists had to show respect to the black man that employed them and paid above average wages even.  There was no denying that the town had prospered with the arrival of James Corp in 1979.

            But something had gone wrong with one of the projects.  Their Dad’s company had always worked with the US government on various contracts, but this new top-secret project had changed the town.  People were disappearing…

            Reed stopped in his tracks.  Jack almost ran into him because he had been texting his fiancé, Adita.

            “I’ve never seen this house before,” said Reed.

            “Maybe they built it while we were away at college,” said Jack.

            “Look at it, Jack.  It’s old.” The house looked like something from an old movie.  It was gothic and in disrepair.

            “Maybe they didn’t take good care of it,” said Jack.

            “I’m going in,” said Reed.

            “Are you crazy?”

            “Oh, so the house does look spooky to you?” laughed Reed.  But it was a nervous laugh.  He felt uneasy.

            “I’m not going in there,” said Jack.

            “Well, suit yourself, but I am.  This town is in the middle of a Twilight Zone episode and then this house appears out of nowhere? I’m going in,” said Reed as he started toward the house.

            “Goddammit,” said Jack as he caught up to Reed.

            When they stepped through the front door and it closed behind them their senses were overwhelmed.  The fresh air from the Spring weather outside was replaced with a dank, musty odor that was so strong it felt as if it touched them and went down their throats.  They couldn’t help coughing in a wasted attempt to get it out of their mouths.  Their vision was bombarded with shades of gray and green and the silence squeezed them from all sides.

            They managed to stop coughing, but they didn’t want to open their mouths.  Reed pointed down a hall that was directly in front of them and Jack nodded.  They started down it with Reed leading the way.  When they reached the end of the hall it opened up to a large room with three doors that towered above them as they stepped into the room. The air was a little less stagnant in the circular room, so Reed was the first to speak.

            “We have to see what’s behind those doors,” said Reed.

            “Are you fucking crazy, Reed?! I’m done. I’m out of here!”

            Reed grabbed Jack by the shoulders, facing him and said, “Don’t you see, Jack?! Can’t you feel it?!”

            “See what? Feel what? All I see and feel is an old, ratty house that we should just burn down or some shit,” said Jack.

            “I don’t know why, but I get a strong sense that what we need to save the town is behind one of those doors. Please help me, Jack…for Adita,” said Reed.

            Jack stared at his brother for what seemed like fifteen minutes, but in reality, was more like fifteen seconds.  Reed had always been a little different and his instincts had always been good, so Jack nodded his head and said, “Okay, Reed. I trust you.”

            Reed smiled then turned around and faced the doors.   There were three of them, all dark and gray and covered in mold and what seemed like centuries of dust and grime.

            “Which one should we try?” asked Jack.

            “Always go left to right,” laughed Reed.

            They slowly approached the door on the left, Reed in front with Jack right behind him.  Reed opened the door.  There was nothing. A vast, dark void of what they could only describe as nothingness spread in all directions before them.  Reed shut the door.  He moved to the next door.  They stood in silence before it for a few seconds.  Reed opened it and was immediately yanked inside by a vast whirling vortex. 

            Jack cried out to Reed, but his words were lost in the void.  Jack dropped to the floor, remembering his Summer camp counselor training.  But before he could reach out his arms into the swirling darkness to pull his brother back in, he felt something pin down his legs, as if holding him down.  Jack looked back to see who it was, but saw no one.  He didn’t have time to question it, so he reached out, grabbed Reed’s arms and yanked him back in.  The door slammed shut behind them and the force that had been holding Jack’s legs was gone.  They had both tumbled back a bit into the middle of the room and sat there gasping for air.

            Once Jack caught his breath he said, “That’s it, I’m done!”

            “Jack please!” We have to try the last door! Humanity is counting on us!” implored Reed.

            “Humanity?! Have you lost your mind?! Nobody cares about what’s happening in this crappy, little town!” shouted Jack.

            “I know it sounds crazy, but while I was in the vortex, someone or something communicated with me.  Don’t you feel a presence here, Jack?” asked Reed.

            “No!” Jack lied.  He wasn’t about to admit the presence he felt saving him from being sucked into the vortex along with Reed. “This place is nuts, and you’re letting your imagination run away with you!” said Jack.

            “Okay, then humor me.  We’ve come this far.  Let’s try the last door.  Please, Jack,” said Reed. 

…a few seconds of silence as Reed waited for Jack’s answer.  Then…”Okay, dammit,” Jack said, barely above a whisper.

The brothers faced the last door.  They approached it together, shoulder to shoulder.  They stopped directly in front of the door, exchanged a look, and then Reed reached out and turned the knob.  The door opened to a breathtaking view; rolling green hills covered with wildflowers, trees and streams greeted their eyes.  They could smell honeysuckle or lavender, or both maybe and they could even hear the distant sounds of the streams rushing down the hills.  They looked at each other again and smiled.

Reed stepped through first, but when Jack stepped through too, they were forced back out the door because the pressure of the air or something closed in on them and they couldn’t breathe.  They both fell back into the house gasping for air.  After they caught their breath, Reed said, “I think we have to go in one at a time.”

“I’m not going back in there,” said Jack.

“I’m sure what we need is in there.  I can feel it,” said Reed.

“Fine, then you go in and I’ll stand watch out here,” said Jack.

“Okay,” said Reed.  He took one last look at his brother and then stepped back through the door as it shut behind him.

Jack frantically tried to open the door, but it wouldn’t budge. “Reed! Reed!” he yelled as he pounded on it.  There was no response, so he waited.  He pulled his cell phone from his pocket and was about to dial, 911, but there was no signal.   Jack froze.  He didn’t know what to do.  He couldn’t abandon his brother, but they needed help.  Before he could decide, Reed burst through the door, landing in his arms and gasping for breath.

Once his breathing returned to normal, Reed said, “Even going one at a time, we can only stay in there for a short time before the pressure becomes too intense.  We have to take turns and keep track as we go.  We need to make a map.”

“A map? How?” asked Jack.

Reed stood up, walked across the room and ripped off a piece of the rotting windowsill. “We can use this to scratch a map into the layers of dirt on the door itself. I’ll start.  I went off to the right of the first hill and it was a dead end,” said Reed as he drew the route he described.    “You have to go next.”

“No,” said Jack.

“You have to.  The pressure is too great.  It’s too exhausting for just one of us to do it,” said Reed.

“Fine,” said Jack.  Then he stepped through the door.  He burst back through only seconds later , gasping for breath.  He caught his breath and added his contribution to the map.  They continued this way a few more times and this time when Jack came back, after adding to the map, he said, “I’m sorry Reed, I can’t go in again.   I’m exhausted.” And he slumped to the floor.

“Okay, I’m going in one more time.  I know I’m going to find it this time,” said Reed.

Reed stepped through the door and like all the times before, he felt a sense of peace in this world before the pressure set in.  He thought of this as another world now because he could feel it in all his being that he was no longer on Earth.  He continued on a new path with a sense of urgency.  There was no time for existential thoughts.  He was on a mission.

And then he saw her.  Her back was turned toward him.  She was wearing a French maid’s uniform and she had the figure for it.  Her skin was porcelain and her wavy, black hair was piled high on top of her head.  She was bent over something, but he couldn’t see what it was.  He walked closer even as the pressure once again closed in on his chest.

She heard him and straightened up and Reed saw what the thing was below her, just as she turned her face toward him.  There were empty holes where eyes should have been, and her mouth was filled with long, sharp teeth.  Her mouth opened and a deafening sound escaped.  Reed was thrown through the door back into his world.

Reed was on his back in the room again with his brother leaning over him.  Reed looked at his brother and said, “She has it.”