Thursday, July 30, 2015

12 Hours of Halloween (novel serialization) Part 3

Below is Part 3 of the online serialization of 12 Hours of Halloween. To access previous installments, please see the Serials page (or get the entire book from Amazon now. It's dirt cheap!)



“You wanna die, Schaeffer? You wanna die right now? Because I can kill you, you know. And there’s nothing that anyone can do about it. Would you like that?”

Although Stefano had no doubt intended the question to be purely rhetorical, I shook my head, even as Stefano tightened his grip around my shirt collar, making it more difficult for me to breathe. Nor did I really believe that Matt Stefano would kill me—though there were times that I wondered. But it would not be beyond him to hurt me very, very badly. Matt Stefano, I believed, was either seriously crazy or pathologically evil—and possibly both.

Behind me, I could feel the brick wall of the rear side of St. Patrick’s Elementary School. Why had I been stupid enough to wander back here after eating lunch? When you’re a twelve-year-old boy who is trying to dodge a bully, there is always safety in numbers. You want to be out in the open, where everyone can see everything and everyone.

The rest of the seventh and eighth graders—not to mention two or three teachers—were on the other side of the building. But they might as well have been a mile or two away. Back here, beneath the late autumn shade of the pin oak trees that dominated the rear of the school building, it was only Matt Stefano and I.

“Do you wanna die?” he repeated. “Do you?”

What did he expect me to say? I might have pointed out, for instance, that this was far from a fair fight. Matt Stefano was not only an eighth grader—but an eighth grader who had been held back at least once. (And there were persistent rumors that he had been held back twice along the way.) So I was twelve years old, and he was fourteen or fifteen. At that age among boys, two or three years of growth confers a big advantage.







Add to that the fact that Stefano was a naturally big boy. He was by far the tallest of the eighth graders, coming in at just over six feet and perhaps a hundred and eighty pounds or so. He could easily have been an athlete, but it was clear that Matt Stefano much preferred to be a hoodlum. He wore his hair long, even as long hair was now starting to pass out of style, a remnant of the recent sixties and seventies.

In those adolescent years in which the concepts of sex appeal and popularity are nascent, Matt wasn't quite a heartthrob. Not quite. That honor was reserved for the more clean-cut, mainstream boys who excelled at basketball and baseball. But Stefano definitely had a following among both the seventh and eighth grade girls.

While I waited for Matt Stefano to do his worst, I had a random thought: Why had my parents sent me to St. Patrick’s Elementary School in the first place—instead of the nearby public school, Youngman Elementary?

Certainly they had wanted me to get a Catholic education. At St. Patrick’s we wore the typical Catholic school uniforms: white shirts and dark slacks for the boys, plaid skirts and white blouses for the girls. We attended mass once a week, and one of our regular courses was indeed called Religion—a mixture of church history, Bible study, and current events from a Catholic perspective. My parents were both devoted Roman Catholics, so that was important to them.

But maybe, I thought, they also wanted to spare me the indignity of being held against a wall by a school bully like Matt Stefano. What was he even doing at St. Patrick’s, I wondered? Who had signed the papers that had allowed him in here?

This town, Withamsville, was not even a town, properly speaking, but a “census-designated place” not far from the Cincinnati city limits. Withamsville was a mixed income community where the old money neighborhoods of the city bled into a semirural zone of body shops, trailer parks, and pony kegs. Withamsville was neither city nor farmland, but a no-man’s land where newly built suburbs mingled with postwar tract homes, and still older, decaying neighborhoods inhabited by the sons of Appalachian migrants, and white-flight refugees who had fled the poorer sections of the city following the race riots of the 1960s. It was a world that was alternately refined and rough, where upper middle class kids like me often fell prey to working class bullies like Matt Stefano. 

That was about the time when we both heard the rock crash against the wall, not so very far from Matt’s left ear. The sound immediately captured both our attention, and Matt temporarily relaxed his grip on me. But he didn't let go.






Serial be continued....

To read more, visit the Serials page, or get the complete book at Amazon.com.



*       *      *

Want even more horror fiction? Check out my highly rated novel, Eleven Miles of Night.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Termination Man (novel serialization) Part 2

Below is Part 2 of the Serialization of Termination Man. To access previous installments, please see the Serials page (or consider the option of obtaining the entire book from Amazon.)



View Termination Man on Amazon.com




Carla reached across the little barroom table and placed her hand gently atop Jill's wrist. For some reason that she could not completely identify, it seemed necessary to play it cool, to conceal her alarm from the man at the bar. Carla was suddenly certain that if she revealed her fear, the young man would exploit it to his advantage.

“Don't make a big deal of it,” Carla said. “But take a casual look at that guy seated at the bar.” For once Carla was grateful for the excessive noise in the Buckeye Lounge. The blare of the jukebox and the incessant clamor of voices gave her more freedom to talk. The constant din assured that the man at the bar would not overhear her—even if he was able to maintain his surveillance.

Jill turned around—less discreetly than Carla would have preferred—and then turned back.

“Oh, I’ve seen him around campus,” Jill said, nonchalant. Apparently the weirdo didn’t disturb her as much as he disturbed Carla.

“You know him?”

“No, not exactly. I think I had a class with him last semester.” Jill paused for a moment to think, with the deliberate effort that intoxicated people often require. “Yeah—that’s it. Someone mentioned that his father is rich. A big executive at some company. I never got his name, though. But, oh—now I remember—he was in my abnormal psychology class.”

“How apropos,” Carla said.

“He really isn’t a bad-looking guy,” Jill said. “Just a little weird. Very intense.”

And now that she got a better look at him, Carla noticed once again that he wasn't all that bad-looking. No, not at all. He was seated; but she imagined that he would be more than six feet tall when standing. She had always had a weakness for tall men.

But not this one.

“He might not be bad-looking,” Carla said in a low voice. “But that staring routine of his is kind of a deal killer. And something about him looks, well—mean, too.”

Mean? Carla thought, wondering if that was the right word. Lots of her girlfriends were mean. She was mean sometimes herself. But the weirdo looked capable of physically hurting someone. That represented a different level of mean.

She felt a chill begin to creep up her spine and stopped herself: Don’t let your imagination get the best of you, girl. This guy is definitely an oddball; but that doesn’t make him dangerous.

Jill merely shrugged at the suggestion that the stranger might have a truly dark side. Carla sighed: her friend had always had a soft spot for the bad boy types.

Their conversation was suddenly interrupted by a burst of feminine laughter. Then their drinks nearly slid onto the floor as someone practically fell upon their table.

“Tina!” Carla said—half in amusement, half in annoyance. Only a quick reaction on her part kept the table from tipping over. Carla was gripping both sides of the table now, feeling like an Atlas trying to hold the world aloft. The young woman leaning on the wooden surface weighed perhaps ninety pounds soaking wet; but it was difficult to keep the table righted with all of her weight on it. “Tina, stand up! I can’t hold you and the table both.”

Tina responded by moving to a crouching position. Carla was now supporting perhaps a third of her weight.

Tina Shields was a young woman with whom she had shared a number of classes. The two of them had gotten to be casual friends. Not close friends, though. Tina moved in wilder circles than either Carla or Jill. There were persistent rumors about her sleeping around a lot—and she had a reputation as a bit of a drunk. Well, more than a bit of a drunk. Carla didn’t know about the sleeping around; but Tina Shields most definitely had a drinking problem.

“Tina! You’ve got to watch where you’re going!” Carla said, helping the other young woman lift her head from the table. 

The baby-faced coed didn’t look old enough to be legally drinking in the state of Ohio. In fact, she barely looked old enough to have a high school diploma.

Carla didn’t want to play the prude; but it seemed incumbent on her to impart a word of caution. As Jill’s mother had long recognized, she was the responsible one, after all.

“My God, Tina. You look so sweet and innocent,” Carla said. “You keep stumbling around like that, and one of these guys in here is going to take advantage of you.”

“Maybe so,” Tina said, smiling vacantly. She righted herself onto wobbly legs. She gave Carla and Jill a little mock salute, and then moved on, becoming lost in the crowd.

“Who was that?” Jill asked.

“Tina Shields.” Carla shook her head and smiled. “Tina likes to party.”

“You think?

They laughed, because there was nothing else to do about Tina Shields but shake your head and laugh. But the situation really wasn’t funny, Carla reflected. A girl like Tina Shields could come to a bad end in all sorts of ways. She needed help.


“Am I interrupting something?” a male voice said.




*       *       *
Serial to be continued. Visit the Serials page for links to more of Termination Man, or purchase the entire book from Amazon.com.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

12 Hours of Halloween (novel serialization) Part 2

Below is Part 2 of the Serialization of 12 Hours of Halloween. To access previous installments, please see the Serials page (or consider the option of obtaining the entire book from Amazon.)





Halloween is often a difficult time for me, though the flashbacks are only this vivid every third or fourth year.

The atmosphere inside the Walmart isn’t helping matters. There are only a few days remaining before October 31st, and the store is filled with every conceivable trapping of Halloween: There are cardboard black cats with arched backs and erect tails. Near a display of trick-or-treat candy, a mechanical life-size plastic witch with green skin and a jutting chin and nose twists back and forth. And everywhere there are jack-o’-lanterns: plastic hollow jack-o’-lanterns for collecting candy, inflatable jack-o’-lanterns to be used as lawn decorations—even some jack-o’-lantern-shaped candles.

My individual traumas aside, I note that Halloween doesn't change much. Well over thirty Halloweens have passed since what I consider to be my “last Halloween” in 1980 (the Halloween that I’m going to tell you about shortly); but the basics of that dark holiday don’t change much, do they? Halloween is impervious to the Internet, to the vagaries of politics and pop culture. Halloween is dark, eternal, and yes, strangely inviting. (That was why Leah and Bobby and I decided to indulge in that “last Halloween”, even though we were really too old for it by then. We didn't want to let Halloween go—not quite yet.)

I finally reach the electronics section. It has been my observation that Walmart’s “everyday low prices” are at least partly achieved by minimizing the number of sales clerks on the floor at any given time. But I’m in luck: there is a salesperson behind the electronics counter. She’s a young woman about Lisa’s age, maybe a few years older.

“I’m looking for a TI-89 graphing calculator,” I tell her from memory. (Again, I am absolutely clueless about such things.)

“Well, sir, we have that model in stock.”

It doesn't take long for me to select Lisa’s calculator and pay for it. The total comes to $146.78 with tax. Throughout our brief interaction, the sales clerk calls me “mister” and “sir” any number of times, pointedly reminding me of my age. Not that I mind. There is only one woman for me: my wife; so I don’t care if the young sales clerk thinks I’m an old guy. And if being called sir is the price of having two wonderful daughters, then may the whole world call me sir.

That done, I collect my purchase inside its white plastic Walmart bag, and head for the main exit. On the way out I pass another sales clerk. She’s a bit older and rather on the chubby side.

As I’m about to push one of the glass doors open I hear her say, “Hey, you’re going to lose your head!”

I whirl around, my heart suddenly beating rapidly. The head collector, I think.

But she looks at me innocently.

“You dropped your receipt,” she says, pointing to a small strip of paper on the floor. Now I understand: What the clerk had really said was, “You lost your receipt”—or something very similar.

I stoop and pick up the receipt.

“Thank you,” I say.

I’m out in the parking lot, glad to be done with Walmart and all those Halloween decorations. I think again about the head collector, and how I caught that brief sight of him in the back of the store. Would he follow me out here?

The skies above me are overcast and grey; but it’s a little after 10:00 a.m.—broad daylight. (Another perk of self-employment: You can do your shopping at 10 o’clock on a Tuesday morning, when the rest of the world is otherwise engaged.) The head collector wouldn't follow me out here. That is not his way.

I start my car, a pearl white Toyota Avalon. Yes, it’s a middle-aged man’s car. Hannah jokingly refers to it as my “Avillac”. You get it? A combination of Avalon and Cadillac.

I drive home, thinking mostly good thoughts: My two nearly grown daughters, my wife. Maybe I’ll make love to my wife tonight, I think. (I may be a middle-aged man, but I’m a long, long way from being too old for that.)

But inevitably, I find myself thinking of the past, too. I think about Bobby and Leah. I think about the head collector, of course.


And I think about Matt Stefano. Yes, I really hate to think about him.




Serial be continued....

To read more, visit the Serials page, or get the complete book at Amazon.com.



*       *      *

Also, consider my suburban fantasy novel, The Maze


This is the only fantasy novel you'll ever read that begins in an office park! The Maze features three everyday characters--the sort of people with whom you probably work everyday.

But the storyline of The Maze is far from ordinary. The creatures found in The Maze include human-eating, half-man, half-wolf beasts, killer robots, and much, much more. 




Monday, July 27, 2015

Tomorrow: July 28th: serials and sneak peeks

I'll have another serialized installment of 12 Hours of Halloween.

Plus: I might have a sneak peek at the cover of my upcoming novel, Lilith.

Goodnight, everyone. I'll end the day with this trailer for my novel Eleven Miles of Night:





View Eleven Miles of Night on Amazon.com

Termination Man (novel serialization) Part 1







Prologue: 1996

Columbus, Ohio, November 1996

The man seated at the bar was making Carla Marsh more than a little nervous, even as she studiously tried to ignore him. Go away, she thought. Just leave me alone. The last thing I need tonight is to attract the attention of a weirdo.

It had been a rough week at school. Carla’s GPA was hovering perilously close to the lower threshold of the 3.0 mark. She had promised her parents that she would maintain a GPA of at least 3.1. Maybe I’ve been going out a bit too much this semester, she thought. She wasn’t a heavy drinker—not compared to some people, at least—but it was hard not to get swept up in the hubbub of campus social life. More than 50,000 students attended the Ohio State University. There were so many people to meet. So much going on.

Of course, there were some bad apples in that cast of fifty thousand. Carla looked up from the glass of beer that she had purchased with a fake ID, the one that gave her age as twenty-one—rather than her true age of twenty.

The weirdo was still giving her the eye.

She considered glaring at him or even giving him the finger, and then thought better of it. Sooner or later he would find another target to obsess upon. She wasn’t the only unescorted woman in the room, after all. Far from it. The Buckeye Lounge was an off-campus drinking establishment, and by definition, therefore, a meet market. Young men and women in their late teens and early twenties milled about everywhere. Lots of mingling going on. Dozens of young men hoping to get lucky tonight. Carla reflected—not for the first time since men had starting noticing her—that the entire bar and entertainment industry would probably collapse if not for horny young men.

That was really what it was all about, wasn’t it? Practically all of the young men here were on the prowl in one way or another.



To view all of my available fiction:




And that explained the noise—the sheer excess of it: When college-aged men wanted to impress women, Carla had noticed, they seldom did it quietly. A few tables away, a guy wearing an Ohio State sweatshirt was responding to one of his companion’s jokes with exaggerated laughter. As if playing the role of a loud drunk were the best way to make yourself attractive to the opposite sex. You aren’t going to get laid that way, buddy, Carla thought.

She returned her gaze to the bar: The young man—the weirdo—was still looking at her.

Since he was looking at her, she took a moment to look back at him, to assess him: He had the generally tall and broad-shouldered build of an athlete. But something told Carla that this one was no member of the football or basketball team. He didn’t look like the type to associate himself with teams or groups, and he was definitely alone tonight. Jocks usually traveled in packs; and come to think of it—so did most everyone else. On the campus bar scene, loners were rare. And the weirdo was obviously a loner.

This wasn't the first time that Carla had been ogled by an anonymous male in such a venue, and probably not the hundredth time, either. That much went with the territory––especially when you were twenty years old, female, and more than a little attractive.

But something about the lone man seated at the bar was different. Unlike other would-be campus lotharios, he was making no effort to be either furtive or flirtatious. He simply stared at her over the rim of his beer mug, fixing her with half-lidded eyes, and a smile that was somehow knowing. He seemed to be claiming his possession of her, even though they had never even met. He definitely wasn’t her type. Not that he was a bad-looking guy—not really. But he was creepy. Way too creepy.

“Carla, what the hell's up with you?” Jill Johnson asked her, having noticed her distraction. “Have you had too much to drink?” Jill was seated across from her at the small table that the two of them shared. But Jill was seated with her back to the weirdo. She couldn’t see him.

“Are you drunk?” Jill persisted.

Jill was half-drunk herself, but she knew that something was up. Jill always seemed to know when something was up with her. Jill was Carla's best friend in the world, and a fellow native of Cleveland. Less than two years ago, the two of them had headed off for OSU together. They were roommates and shared many of the same classes. Watch out for Jill at college, the other girl’s mother had told Carla. Make sure that she doesn’t get into trouble at OSU. Both sets of parents acknowledged that Carla was the more responsible member of the pair.

But now Carla was the one with a problem, and he was seated at the bar only a few yards from their table. Since Carla had known Jill forever, her friend was able to discern that she was seriously spooked. They seemed to share a wordless sense of mutual understanding.

In her Japanese 101 class, Carla had learned that the Japanese referred to this as inshin-denshin—“an unconscious sharing of the minds between two individuals”—or something like that. She had taught Jill the term and it had become a running joke between them.

“I’m getting those inshin-denshin vibes from you,” Jill said. “So what’s up? Is something wrong?”


*      *     *



Serial to be continued....To read more, get Termination Man at Amazon.com, or visit the Serials page.



"Meth, mafia, and mayhem"
"A fast-paced thriller with a heart"




Sunday, July 26, 2015

12 Hours of Halloween (novel serialization) Part 1






“The youths were consumed by the fire, so that no one was to hear their wedding songs.”

Psalms 78:63



Prologue

A funny thing about flashbacks: they come unbidden, and at the most unexpected times.

One moment I was standing in Walmart, and the next moment I was not: I was a twelve-year-old boy again, crouching beside the outer wall of a darkened house in a long-ago suburb, hoping that the shrubbery to my right and my left had adequately concealed my presence. A malevolent creature was intent on taking my head. He—or it—had an entire sack full of them.

That particular flashback is always especially vivid. When it overtakes me, I can feel not only the pervasive, all-consuming fear of those eternal minutes, but also the little details of my surroundings: the cold, damp ground beneath me, the scratchy feel of the barren shrubbery of late October.

This is one reason why I still believe that it really did happen—even after all these years. A delusion wouldn't include so many little details.


And then, in the next second, the flashback is gone: I’m no longer that crouching, quivering twelve-year-old boy. I’m a grown man in my mid-forties—solidly into middle age by any yardstick. I’m no longer crouching in the dark: I’m standing yet again in the fluorescent glare of the Walmart near my home in Cincinnati, shopping for a calculator.

Although I knew that I would come back (I always do!), it’s good to be back, nonetheless.

The calculator that I’m looking for is not just any calculator; it’s a TI-89 graphing calculator, one of the models that Texas Instruments designed especially for engineers. Don’t ask me how to use the thing, or about its features. I would have no idea. The calculator is for my daughter, Lisa. Lisa turns twenty on the third of November, during the week after Halloween.

Lisa is a student at the University of Cincinnati, and an engineering major. She’s a lot smarter than her dad, I don’t mind saying—even though her dad hasn't done badly for himself, all things considered. But Lisa gets her smarts from her mother, who has always been good at math.

Lisa has a younger sister, Hannah. Hannah graduates from high school next year. Hannah takes after her father more, which is to say she’s not so good at math. But she’s creative and more of a “people person” than her older sister. I look for Hannah to major in business administration or political science. Something like that. We’ll see. She has a year to decide.

Last week Hannah and I were talking about the future, and she shared her anxieties with me. It’s so competitive out there nowadays—nothing like the days of my youth, when any college degree would enable you to blunder your way into some sort of a professional career. And Hannah has always felt that she lives in Lisa’s shadow. Her older sister was always the one with the straight A’s—the one with the academic awards. Throughout grade school and high school, hardly a one of Hannah’s teachers failed to remember and mention her “gifted” older sibling.

“Maybe I’ll end up selling insurance with you, Dad,” Hannah said. She said this in jest, but it’s not a half-bad idea: My State Farm agency has brought in a good living over the past seventeen years. (I drifted into insurance sales after several false starts in other fields.) “Maybe you will,” I said. “Your old man would be glad to have you.”

Who knows? Hannah’s still in high school, and her preferences might end up channeled in one of any number of directions. But it’s something for us both to keep in mind.

I’m walking toward the Walmart’s electronics section when I catch a brief glimpse of the head collector in the rear area of the store—through the double doorway marked “Employees Only”. He’s standing there by a bare cinderblock wall, near one of the warehouse area’s fire extinguishers. The fire extinguisher enables me to gage his height: seven or eight feet, just like he’s always been.

I pause to rub my eyes, and look again: The head collector is gone, just as I knew would be the case.

It’s not uncommon for me to see the head collector at this time of year. I only see him briefly—and never up close. If I saw him up close, well, that might be enough to drive me over the edge. Far away, he’s an anxiety that I can live with.


Keep calm, I tell myself: I focus on Hannah and Lisa, and my wife of twenty-two years. I focus on purchasing the calculator for Lisa’s birthday.




Serial be continued....

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Upcoming serializations: Termination Man, 12 Hours of Halloween

I was trying to decide which novel to serialize here next, and I was torn between Termination Man and 12 Hours of Halloween.

So I finally decided...why not serialize them both?

Therefore, over the coming weeks I will be serializing both of these books, alternating from one to the other. 

Termination Man is a corporate thriller set in recent times. 12 Hours of Halloween, on the other hand, is a coming-of-age horror novel set in 1980. Alternating between the two books will therefore provide a nice change of mood from post to post.

I plan to post an installment for at least one of these books each day, with two installments (one from each) on other days.

These are both long books, so I suspect that they will be with us for a while. If you want to read either one immediately, please follow the Amazon links. 









Two powerful men, two bitter rivals, each one hiding his own secrets. One driven by lust and rage, the other driven by a conflicted sense of right and wrong.


***TERMINATION MAN***

“The novel that takes an unflinching look at the dark underside of the 21st century workplace.”


CRAIG WALKER is a hotshot young MBA with his own consulting firm. He’s handsome, rich, and in demand. His Fortune 500 clients—the most powerful men and women in industry—call him “The Termination Man.”

Craig Walker is no ordinary management consultant. He’s a spook, a workplace spy. Assuming false identities, Craig works undercover, building the evidence that will allow his corporate clients to terminate unwanted employees without legal repercussions. His targets are the troublemakers, the agitators, the employees whom management believes are no longer “good fits” for their hyper-competitive organizations.

Craig Walker believes that he serves the cause of economic efficiency, and in a way, the greater good. Most of his targets don’t like their jobs anyway. In a free market, “a firing isn’t the worst thing that can happen to a person. Sometimes an employee needs to leave a bad a situation.”

SHAWN MYERS is a manager at TP Automotive, a global giant in the automotive industry. Shawn struggles to control his lust and rage, and to escape a hideous past that might catch up with him at any moment. His forbidden desire for a girl young enough to be his daughter threatens to drive him over the edge.



When TP Automotive hires the Termination Man to remove two innocent employees from its payroll, Craig Walker is forced to reexamine his notions of justice and morality. But these questions are soon overwhelmed by the dangers that he faces from the TP Automotive management team. After Shawn Myers commits a heinous act in Craig’s presence, the Termination Man discovers that his new clients will resort to any means in order to protect one of their own.








The year is 1980. Jeff Schaeffer, Leah Carter, and Bobby Nagel decide to go out for "one last Halloween" before adolescence takes away their childhood forever.

But this Halloween is different, they soon discover; and an outing that was supposed to be light-hearted and fun becomes a battle for sanity--and perhaps even survival.

From the author of the reader-acclaimed “Eleven Miles of Night”, “12 Hours of Halloween” is a coming-of-age tale unlike any you have ever read.

A sinister teenager known as “the ghost boy” declares that Jeff Schaeffer and his friends will endure “twelve hours of trial” on Halloween. The three young people subsequently find their once familiar suburban surroundings transformed into a bizarre and terrifying landscape.

They discover that just beneath the surface of their middle-American neighborhood lies a secret realm of haunted houses, demonically possessed trees, and spirits with unfinished business. One entity, called the “head collector”, lurks the darkened streets in search of grisly trophies.

At the same time, Jeff is forced to confront new feelings for both of his old friends.

He believes that he is in love with Leah, but does Leah feel the same way?

Meanwhile, his friend Bobby, who had always protected him from local bullies, now seems to harbor a dark agenda that threatens to divide and possibly destroy them all.

Friday, July 24, 2015

Hay Moon (serial short fiction) Part 13

Note: Below is the 13th and final installment of the serialization of the short story "Hay Moon". To read Part 12, click here.

Or visit the index on the Serial Fiction page.


I went on with my life, of course. I raised two children. I had a moderately successful career and retired. I did not allow the evil events of long ago to dominate my life. I buried them. And for the most part, they stayed buried.

Nevertheless, they never went away completely. Sometimes—like tonight—the old memories come back.

It won’t be long before the doorbell starts ringing. I like children, but I won’t be passing out any candy tonight. Not this Halloween. This year I’m going to sit at my kitchen table; and I won’t open the door when it rings.

I am too old to be frightened by the thought of death. But I was raised by my mother to be a Christian, and I do fear for my immortal soul.

Because somehow I know, as sure as I know that my knees ache when I stand up—if my father and brother wouldn’t have come into the barn, those two creatures would have done more than taken my life. They would have made me as they were.

As they were? Or as they are? So much time has passed since that night in the barn; but I suspect that the undead can last forever in their unholy state of existence. I can’t forget the final words those creatures said to me that night in the barn: they promised that they would come back for me. I can’t have many years left on this earth; so perhaps tonight is the night.

As I look out of my kitchen window, I can see my entire backyard. This house is in the suburbs. It has a postage-stamp-sized lot—nothing like the open land that we had on the farm. Instead of a barn, now I have a tool shed, a little structure that I had built some years ago to store my lawnmower and other items that I use to maintain the house. It has just enough room for a workbench. Like my father before me, I’m something of a tinkerer.

The door of the shed is partially ajar, though I know that I shut and latched it this afternoon.

Seventy years ago I was willing to walk through doors like that into dark and unknown spaces. Not today. I am an old man now, and my father and brother are no longer here to save me. And if Tom and Marjorie are out there, I believe that their hunger will have grown stronger over the years.

After all, they have been waiting for me for a long time.    

THE END

Complete story (and fifteen others) available in: Hay Moon and Other Stories: Sixteen Modern Tales of Horror and Suspense 

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Hay Moon (serial short fiction) Part 12

Note: Below is Part 12 of the serialization of the short story "Hay Moon". To read Part 11, click here.

Or visit the index on the Serial Fiction page.






Yes, I know you’ve got questions. First of all, what was a Baptist doing with a copy of a Latin prayer of exorcism folded away between the pages of his King James Bible? I later found out that my grandfather—my father’s father—had acquired the prayer during the previous time of troubles, long before my own father was born. 

When I shut the back door, it had indeed made enough noise to wake the rest of the family. My father and brother took a few minutes to get dressed and come after me; but my own clumsiness set my rescue in motion. When my dad looked out the window and saw the open barn door, he knew that there was trouble. And his experiences of a few weeks prior told him that he would need weapons—both worldly and sacred.

And what about the predictions the creatures made about my father and brother before they departed? I would like to tell you that these were nothing but empty threats. The truth is otherwise.

My brother David died in September 1942. He was in one of the first U.S. Marine divisions that landed on Guadalcanal. I didn’t find out about his death until a month after he died. I was in Europe myself then, fighting on the other great front of that horrific war. After I read the telegram, I was numb for the rest of the day and I could barely speak to anyone. That night I dreamt about David. I relived that night in the barn. Then the dream moved to the scorched and cratered beach of an island in the Pacific. David was there. I could see him twisting around in the sand with a belly wound—just like the evil thing in the barn had said ten years earlier.

I woke up and the realization fully hit me. David was gone.

He was sometimes a bully of an older brother, but there was good in him, too. At that moment, thousands of miles away from home and facing possible death myself, oh, how I loved him.

I feared that my father would be dead shortly after that. By April 1945 I had enough service points to transfer stateside. V-E Day was less than a month away and we were getting ready for the big assault on Japan. But for me, the war was already over. The army had assigned me to a training camp in the middle of the country. I was teaching other men how to kill and face death.

As soon as I heard the news about FDR on April 12 I called my parents’ home in Ohio. My mother assumed that I wanted to talk about the president’s death. But I only wanted to talk to my father.

“Your father’s fine,” my mother said. “He’s working out in the barn.”

“Let me talk to him,” I insisted. “Go get him. Please.”

She did as I asked. My father might have been slowing down a bit; he was in his early fifties by now, after all. But there were no timbres of imminent death that I could detect in his voice. I called them again on the next day. To my relief, my father was still fine.

Almost twenty years would pass before that part of the evil creatures’ prophecy came true. This time it was not the peaceful death of a leader who had grown sick and elderly. This time it was a young president, taken way before his time with violence. An evil act.

The phone rang one evening in November of 1963. I had been watching the reports from Dallas. My mother’s voice was hysterical, choked with tears. My father was dead. He had collapsed from a sudden heart attack.



Serial to be continued...

(One more to go.)

Complete story (and fifteen others) available in: Hay Moon and Other Stories: Sixteen Modern Tales of Horror and Suspense