Damien Boath’s Festival of Horrors (short story and opportunity)

Damien Boath signed up to be laid out. He is victim #5. You can review the previous entries here. The body count is rising and there doesn’t appear to be an end in sight. Which is OK with me, I’m fine with selling out, if it means the death of a few people.

You can learn more about the gig and sign up yourself at this link.

Download the Files

Click here to download the files from Dropbox (epub, mobi, PDF and DRM free)

Damien Boath

Damien is a co-host on the podcast Newbie Writers. He is also a writer of fantasy fiction and poetry. He lives down under and is 6’4″, but I have confirmed he is not full of muscle. Most unfortunate. You can find Damien Boath on Google+ and Twitter, should you want to connect with him.

When you sign up for the gig on Fiverr, I make you answer a few questions. And when Damien signed up, there were a few items in his answers that just told me what the story needed to become. Note the screen capture of his answers below:

screen capture of Fiverr answers

Click to enlarge.

In the image, you can see I have emphasized 4 points by underlining them in red ink.

  1. Damien is tall (6’4″)
  2. Medieval fantasy
  3. B-grade horror film
  4. Damien will be the antagonist

Well, I knew that’s what the story needed to be right then and there. And so, the work came alive on its own.

But, enough is enough. On with the story, I say, on with the story. Huzzah!


Damien Boath’s Festival of Horrors

Misty Klovus stepped out of the diner where she worked and said goodbye to her manager, who was always trying to get her to let him walk her home. He was old enough to be her grandfather, but that didn’t stop him from making passes at her every chance he got. He was locking up the door when she took off into a hurried walk. This was usually the moment she took to get away from him during closing shifts.

“Wait,” he shouted to her, “I’ll walk you home.”

“I’ll be fine!” She hollered back, not even bothering to turn and face him when she spoke.

He tried to plead with her one last time, but she shot him down and turned the corner at the end of the block. She had thought of looking for another job to escape his harassment, but the diner was only three blocks from her home and he was pretty much harmless. He just couldn’t take a hint.

She continued at her hurried pace, even though her feet disagreed with her. She had been waiting tables all night, and the soles of her shoes were worn thin. She needed to buy a new pair of work shoes, but couldn’t really afford to do so. Perhaps she could set aside some tip money and save up for it in another month. But this time she’d focus on getting something with a little more padding underneath.

She turned another corner and walked down the middle of the street. When it was late at night, you could do that on her street and stay in the glow of the street lights. She liked it better that way, because on the sidewalks the trees blocked out any light and you were left in the darkness. Her street lights had orange bulbs that illuminated an orange haze on her street. It was a familiar glow to her, and up ahead, at the very end of the cul-de-sac she could see her modest house.

That’s when she first saw it.

Something shinning, glistening in the street between her and her house. She couldn’t make it out, because with each little movement the street lights reflected rays off of it. She kept walking, but steadied her pace. The noticed the more she walked, the larger it got. She couldn’t quite discern all of the features, but she began to make out limbs and a head. It was a figure of some kind, but it didn’t look human.

Her heart was pounding in her chest. She could feel sweat building up on her back and goosebumps broke out on her arms. She slowly started to swerve herself over to the sidewalk, but it followed her movements.

Maybe it was in her head. Maybe it was just some reflection that looked weird no matter which way she looked at it, but it would come to light when she got closer. And she would feel completely ridiculous when it did. She needed to feel completely ridiculous.

As she reached the edge of the curb, and stepped into the shadows, she stopped under a tree. She rested her hand against the tree and watched the figure walk up into the shade of the trees. She got a good look at it for the first time.

It was a knight in medieval armor. She could hear the clanking of his metal on the pavement as he walked. He wore chainmail and a breastplate across his torso. Sheathed at his side was his broadsword. He kept one hand on the hilt while he walked, so it wouldn’t bustle to and fro. Across his breastplate he had a cloth banner, an emblem of a cross. She recognized it as the Knights Templar emblem. Atop his head was a helmet that concealed his entire face with small slits for his eyes to see out.

She wondered if she should still be terrified, or if perhaps this man was on his way to a festival or costume party somewhere. It seemed unlikely, but she was trying hard to turn a weird situation positive. Innocent. She pulled closer to the tree, as if it would protect her from his advances.

He stopped.

He stood just short of the curb. Slowly he turned and deliberately faced himself at her. She couldn’t see his eyes, but she knew he was looking at her. He stood there, staring. She could only hear the sound of her heart and her frantic breathing.

“What are you looking at?” She shouted to him. She couldn’t take the silence any longer, and needed to know if he was a threat or not. She needed to know if she should be running and calling for help on her mobile phone, or apologizing to him for being so easily frightened. He kept staring and said nothing. “I am this close to calling the police.” She yelled.

He reached around his back and pulled out a crossbow with one hand. With the other he pulled an arrow from over the back of his shoulder. She had her answer.

She spun around and took off up the street at a full sprint. She reached into her pocket and pulled out her mobile phone. She looked back and he was loading the crossbow and walking at the same time in her direction. She turned and darted up onto the sidewalk, weaving between the trees to do so. She kept running, but her feet were really angry with her now. She could feel the blisters bleeding in her left shoe, but she didn’t slow down.

She looked back and couldn’t see but a few steps behind her, the light was being completely shielded by the trees. She wasn’t safe here, either. She needed to make up her mind on where to go.

Her fingers finished dialing emergency services, and she held the phone to her ear. But before she could say anything to the operator on the other line, she heard the firing of the crossbow and realized the glowing of the phone had given him a direct line of sight to her. She went to turn out into the street, but it was too late. The arrow entered into her right shoulder and knocked her to the ground. Her phone fell from her hands, while her hands naturally tried to save her from the fall. After scratching up her palms, and feeling the pain of the arrow. She looked around and saw her phone glowing a few steps from her. She got up and lunged at it, but a second arrow entered her left calf and crumbled to the ground. She wanted to help ease the pain, but she needed to get to her phone. She dragged her leg and inched towards the phone. She could hear the metal feet behind her. He was right on top of her by the sound of it. She reached out with her hand and gripped the phone in her hand.

He stepped on her hand, crushing it and the phone under the weight of the armor and metal. She screamed in pain. The glow of the phone went out.

She looked up and he stood there, towering above her. A dim lamp from a nearby house was casting just enough light to cause his armor and chainmail too shine in the blackness. He was staring at her, not speaking. Keeping silent. “Why are you doing this to me?” She asked. That’s when she noticed the audio recorder. He held it out over her, capturing the sounds of the pain and agony of a person at the end of their life. In the valley of death, facing evil in the face, and he was recording the sounds. “You’re recording this? Why? Who are you? What did I ever do to you? Please, just let me go. I won’t tell anyone.”

She heard him moan in discontent underneath his helmet. “No more begging.” He said in a warm, yet emotionless voice. “Just. Scream.”

He slowly pulled the sword from its sheath and she did as commanded.

Officer Ricky Sands had been going door-to-door for an hour, trying to find one witness who could give some insights on what had happened to Misty Klovus. She had only been dead three hours, and the crime scene guys were still scrapping her up off the sidewalk and street. So far they had gotten very little out of witnesses in her neighborhood, except that there was some screaming heard. But no one saw anything. The poor girl had been shot twice with arrows, and then hacked up by a sword—according to the coroner’s initial look at the wounds. Her limbs were tossed around on the sidewalk and street, her left foot was found in a front yard. Her head was left in the middle of the street, and was the first item found when the police responded to her call that operators had only heard brief moments of before the call was cut out.

Sands came to the end of the cul-de-sac, where Misty lived. Only one house left before he entered her home and took a look around there for any helpful evidence. Any indication to who could have committed the terrible attack. Someone who might own a sword and arrows. He felt like he was in a nightmare, that he would wake up soon and share with his wife about how he dreamed he was in a B-grade horror film. They’d be laughing about it over breakfast.

He knocked on the door.

It opened and a small, wrinkly woman was standing there. “What do you want? Do you know how late it is?”

“Sorry to bother you ma’am,” he said politely.

“Miss. T’aint been married for years,” she said, “Don’t assume because I’m old, I’m a ma’am.”

“Yes, my apologies, miss,” he said, “I’m Officer Sands, and we’ve had a murder take place out here on the street where you live. I wonder if you might have heard or noticed anything unusual tonight?”

“No more unusual than normal,” she said.

“How do you mean?” He asked.

“My son, Damien, thinks he’s an artist.” She explained and pulled a cigar out of her bathrobe, which opened up and revealed her skimpy negligee that was scarcely clinging onto her old body. He cringed, and she continued, “He likes making his stories.”

“Sure,” Sands said, “But anything out of the ordinary?”

“No sir,” she said, taking a big puff of the cigar. “T’aint noticed nuttin’ all night.”

“Thank you,” he said, “May I speak with your son briefly? How old is he?”

She looked him up and down, and raised an eyebrow in interest. Sands cringed again. “Sure, officer, come on in.”

She let him inside the little, yellow house with the green shutters. He looked around and it was an utter mess. Stacks of magazines, newspapers, and boxes were all over the place. Columns and columns of magazines and papers, differing in size. You had to follow certain paths to get around. Atop one small column of magazines was a bowl of cat food. He didn’t notice any cats. But it smelled like something rotten. She took him down a path into the living room. There was one spot left open on the couch, between two columns of National Geographic magazines. He recalled a time he and his friends thumbed through them looking for the native breasts of Africa.

“Sit here,” she said and pushed him into the open spot on the couch. The magazines almost fell on him, and he propped them back up. “Let me go get Damien. You just sit there.”

She wobbled out of the room, and he noticed for the first time that one leg was longer than the other. It had to be a dream, he was sure of it. He looked around the room, taking in the chaos of things. She had a book shelf stocked with a collection of lava lamps. They were all plugged into a series of power cables, which were plugged into one outlet. A fire waiting to happen. They were all turned on, and creating a strange and colorful effect in the room. He looked around some more, and saw a series of old lanterns on the dining table behind another couch across from him. That couch had two spots, sunken in, which he assumed meant that one was used more than his couch. The lanterns on the table were of various age and sizes.

“DAMIEN!” He heard the old lady yelling down the hall. He heard a door open, and more yelling, but it was less distinct. He couldn’t hear if Damien responded or not, but eventually he heard the door close again. He then heard the heavy footfalls of someone much taller than the little lady who had answered the door coming closer.

Damien ducked under the entrance to the living room, and stepped inside. Sands sized him up to be about six foot and four inches, roughly two-hundred pounds. He was wearing a long-sleeve shirt, with sweat stains underneath the armpits. Sands noted this as strange, as it was warm and no one was wearing long-sleeves at the moment. He came over to the couch and sat down, spreading his legs across the two open spots on the couch. His mother returned to the room, and started lighting up the lanterns on the dining table.

“Don’t mind me,” she said.

Sands continued to study and look over Damien. He was certainly man enough to have perpetrated the crime, but that didn’t make him guilty. He had no evidence linking him to the crime. But there was something about him that just made his gut churn, which usually meant he had just met the murderer.

“I just have a few questions,” Sands started, “If you don’t mind, Damien.”

“I don’t mind,” he said in a cold, calm voice.

“There was a murder out here on your street tonight,” Sands said, “Were you aware of this?”

“Yes.” He said coldly.

“Did your mother tell you?” Sands asked.

“No.”

“Did you notice anything unusual tonight?” Sands asked.

“No.”

“Hear anything unusual?” Sands asked, and then looked through his notebook to feign looking for his next question, implying his line of questioning was just something he was asking everybody.

“No.” Damien said, his tone always the same.

“Where were you three hours ago?” Sands asked.

“Home.” Damien said.

“Have you been here all night?” Sands prodded.

“Yes,” Damien said, “And all day, too.”

“You didn’t leave the house at all today?” Sands asked. “Not once? Not even to go for a walk? Get some fresh air? I mean, come on, this house isn’t exactly a good source of oxygen.” Damien didn’t laugh or even crack a smile. He just sat there and stared at Sands with cold eyes. Unblinking. Sands tried to understand what might be going through his head, but couldn’t get a read on him at all. He seemed tone deaf to emotion. Sands looked past Damien for a moment, he focused on his mother in that old negligee. He wondered how many times, days, weeks and months Damien had seen his mother in that or similar negligees. He thought of the National Geographic magazines around him, and wondered if Damien too had used them for youthful exploration into the human body. He wondered what other stacks of magazines he might find hiding in Damien’s bedroom. He also wondered about what his mother called his stories. He decided to play nasty by running with his hunch. “You a virgin, Damien?” Damien didn’t respond or blink. “Just curious. It seems to me like it would be really hard to get any action around here, what with your mom and this mess. What girl wants to come in here and push this stuff out of the way? And that smell, what is it even?” He paused for a moment, and Damien was still not phased. “How do you do it? I’d go crazy. You can’t keep these sperm trapped forever, you know what I mean? Of course you do, you’re a guy, like me. So how do you do it? How do you keep sane? Do you go over to the girl’s house? Is that it? Do you hit the stripclubs? That’s expensive though, and you don’t seem like you have a lot of money. What about the internet? Is that it, porn? Porn’s cheap. That’s gotta be it. Wait, I know, don’t tell me,” he stopped and leaned in to Damien, “You and your mom?”

It wasn’t much, but Sands saw a tiny spark or flinch in Damien’s eye. He was getting somewhere with that. There was something between him and his mother that made him break for a moment. He finally reached through his stone cold exterior and found some emotion buried within.

“She seems overbearing to me,” Sands said, “I don’t think I could live with her. And all this stuff of hers, I would have thrown it out years ago.” He could tell it was getting to him, the distain he was casting at his mother. “And, tell me, be honest… has she always dressed like this?” Sands shivered mockingly.

“You do not know my mother.” Damien blurted out in irritation.

“Do you know Misty Klovus?” Sands asked.

Damien almost retaliated, but then paused for a moment to catch his breath. He then said, “No, I did not know her.”

“She’s your neighbor,” Sands said, “Lives next door. How can you not know her? Especially with that body.” He made a sound of approval and rolled his eyes. “Ridiculous.”

“I didn’t talk to her.” Damien said, noticeably getting uncomfortable. His palms were sweaty and itchy, and he scratched them across his knees.

“I don’t know, I’m just saying,” Sands started, “I’d like a piece of that, wouldn’t you?”

“No, I never did.” Damien spouted off.

Sands frowned at him, “Why do you keep talking about Misty in the past tense?”

The name of the victim had not been released to the public yet, they always held that information back until the victim’s family was notified and identified the body.

Damien looked legitimately shocked. He had come into the living room in complete control of his emotions and demeanor, but was breaking down. “Well, because she’s dead. She was murdered. That’s why we’re talking.” He stopped for Sands to reply, but now Sands was the one remaining silent. “Isn’t it?”

“My mom tells me you make stories?” Sands said after a brief moment of silence. “So, what, you write?”

“No.” Damien said.

“You make movies?” Sands said. “I think my son is gonna be a filmmaker someday, he’s always making videos with his little mobile phone.”

“No. I don’t make movies.” Damien said, irritated and scared. His eyes were darting around while he tried desperately to gather his wits.

“Go get one of your tapes, Damien!” His mother rejoined the conversation, overhearing them talking about the stories Damien makes.

“No, mother!” Damien yelled at her. “They’re not ready.” His legs, which had once been spread apart, were now pulled tightly together against his clasped hands. He was slowly but surely becoming emasculated before Sands’ eyes. And his anger was boiling up.

“Oh, shut up!” She spouted back at him. “They sound fine. And like I keep telling you, you just have to take a chance.” She stepped over a small stack of papers and knocked them over, they spilled across the floor and she nearly slipped on them when her slippers skidded across them. “Wait, I think I still have your last one in the stereo.” She stepped up to an old stereo with a tape cassette player on the front. She turned it on, and popped open the tape cassette player. “Yep, here it is.” She closed it, rewound it and pressed play.

Damien stood up from the couch, pointing his finger at her. “Mother, I forbid you to play that tape!”

“You forbid me?” She said in a disgusted tone. “You forbid me? How dare you.” She walked over to him slowly, chewing him out the whole way. Sands tried to focus on the audio of the tape, drowning out her scolding and chastising. All he could hear was some rustling noises of metal that slowly was gaining volume. “How dare you talk to me like that. After all I’ve done for you. After all I did for the two of us. You think it was easy being a single mom in the 80s? You think it was easy raising a no good, deadbeat, godless, thankless son like you?” She slapped him hard across the face.

Amid the silence in the room, Sands continued to listen to the audio on the tape. It was still just strange metal rustling. It wasn’t making any sense, and he slowly began to wonder if it wasn’t going to be some idiot’s metal band music. If he had been barking up the wrong tree this whole time, he was going to feel like utter garbage.

Damien stormed out of the room.

“Yeah, you run!” His mother yelled at him. “When are you gonna hit puberty and let those suckers drop? I could use a man around the house.”

Sands rolled his eyes. He was so sick of the domestic drama. In the least, he could break up their fight and offer Damien the chance to press charges for physical assault against his mother. Which, he obviously wouldn’t do. He stood from the couch, and walked over to the speakers of the stereo. He got up close to hear better. He heard what sounded like a female voice, though it was faint. He got down on his knee and leaned his ear right up to the speaker. He could hear the clanking and rustling of metal. Some of it sounded like the rhythm of footsteps. He heard the female voice again, more distinctly this time, though he couldn’t make out what was said. He reached up with his hand and grabbed the volume knob of the stereo, turning the it up louder. There was a brief silence on the tape, but it was shattered with a long and screeching of metal. It was so loud that Sands pulled back from the speaker. The woman screamed, and then after some rustling and clanking of metal, he heard what sounded to be the first blow against the woman’s body. He heard the sound of blade meeting flesh and bone. It was a sound he’d heard before, when he had been stabbed while working as a beat cop in his early days on the force.

He heard another blow. More screaming. Another blow. More screaming. More screaming. Another blow and another. Silence. Cutting, hacking, chopping. Silence. The tape stopped.

Sands stood up and turned around. Damien’s mother was standing there looking at him with a smirk. “That’s it. That’s what he does, every day. Making those stories. Been doing it for years. It’s a bit macabre for my tastes. But you get the idea.” She seemed oddly proud of her son, if not oblivious.

Before Sands could even muster a word, he watched in a frozen state as Damien came walking back into the living room fully clad in medieval armor. He stuck a sword right into his mother’s back, it pierced straight through and came out just underneath the heart. She didn’t scream, she just gasped and her eyes rolled upwards into her head. Sands could hear Damien screaming in despair under his helmet. He forced her off of his blade and she fell to the floor. Damien stood over her, staring at her, moaning through the metal.

“FREEZE.” Sands pulled his handgun and took aim at Damien. “Drop the weapon!” Damien didn’t comply, still staring at his dead mother. “I said drop your weapon!”

Damien charged at Sands, who fired two shots. One bounced off Damien’s chest, the other of his shoulder. The bullets only slowed the inevitable. Damien stuck Sands through the chest with the sword, clasping the hilt with both hands, he shoved him into the stereo. He raised him up with the sword off the floor, Sands feeling the pain of the sword in his chest. Damien turned him quickly and pinned him against the wall with the sword.

Sands was just inches off the floor, just high enough he couldn’t reach with his toes and give himself relief. His heartbeat was becoming irregular and he knew he didn’t have much time. But there was no way he was letting Damien live to kill another soul.

Damien was face-to-face with him, yelling unintelligible things through his helmet at Sands.

Sands looked past Damien and saw the lava lamps and lanterns. This was his chance. He took a deep breath, and then lifted his legs up and wrapped them around Damien, pulling him in close. He wrapped his left arm around his helmet and held it tight. He pressed the barrel of his gun against the slit for Damien’s left eye. “This is not your night, Damien.” Sands said, and then pulled the trigger.

Damien screamed in pain and thrashed, trying to break free of Sands’ grasp, but he would not let him go. He held him with his left arm and legs, and then took aim at the shelf and fired two more shots. Three lava lamps shattered and spilled onto the dangerous collection of cables below. Sparks began to fly, and eventually flames. He took aim at the lanterns on the table, which was a further distance, and he knew it was going to take more effort for accuracy. He was losing strength between the sword and Damien’s thrashing in pain. He knew he only had two more shots left. They had to count. He took several deep breaths, and then fired two shots. The first missed and hit the wall. The second took out two lanterns, and the fire spread quickly across the table. The old table cloth beneath them was also helpful to the cause. Within a matter of minutes the flames were eating up the walls of the dining room, and a few minutes after that the magazines and papers were spreading the fire further through the house. But what Sands didn’t realize was that the nasty smell was of kerosene, and it was caked all over the walls of the house from an improper use of kerosene heaters through the years. The house would be a mere pile of ashes within twenty minutes.

Within that time, Sands tossed his gun with the emptied clip, and held tightly onto Damien. Refusing to let him go, he held him there, making sure he would not escape the flames. Together they enjoyed the embrace of the tongues of fire, Sands taking pleasure in knowing Damien died before him.

Misty Klovus’ case would be turned over to Cold Case a few months later.

THE END

Musical Writing Prompt #5

I should be releasing a new short story tomorrow, another victim in the I Will Kill You for $5 gig. It’s an interesting turn, and this was a song I listened to while writing it. So now I’m sharing this creepy song for inspiration on this week’s Musical Writing Prompt.

Freddy’s Coming for You

Probably gonna upset some folks, but I’m not a Nightmare on Elm Street fan at all. But, I will admit I do kinda like the remake they did in 2010, from which soundtrack this ditty comes. I like the soundtrack by Steve Jablonsky a lot, actually. He did a great job with it. The movie isn’t great, I know, but I like it better than the old ones. But that being said… you have to keep in mind that I didn’t see the old ones until way later. I can understand why people who saw them when they originally came out like them, but it’s hard to get into them late in the game.

Bootsy Hambone’s Grease Monkey and Encore (short story and opportunity)

People just can’t wait to be killed, I guess. My next contestant is someone I actually know in real life. In REAL life, people!

If you’re seeing this post, and aren’t sure what in the world I’m talking about, go to the first post where I explain it a bit. And check out the Fiverr gig here.

You can read the previous 3 entries here.

Download the Files

Click here to download the files from Dropbox (epub, mobi, PDF and DRM free)

Bootsy Hambone

So her real name isn’t Bootsy Hambone. And normally, I wouldn’t except that for this gig, but because I know her in real life and know she uses the name quite a bit as a stage and radio name, I made an exception.

Yes, stage and radio name, you heard (read?) me right. Bootsy is a bassist and also does a radio show for independent artists every Sunday evening with her husband, who is a guitarist and vocalist. They both adore rock ‘n’ roll and blues, and have been making such music for quite a while. I won’t bother to guess how many years. I’ve known them for far less than they’ve played, and they are great. So, killing her was pretty fun. I got to incorporate her love of music, her sense of style when she performs, and so on. It meant I got to write a pretty cool character. Especially, when you consider the character’s name in the story is Bootsy Hambone.

image of Bootsy Hambone

The real Bootsy Hambone.

The above image is of the real Bootsy Hambone playing her left-handed bass. Stylistically this image also gives you a glimpse of the character you’re about to read.

And now, without further ado, I give you the story. Enjoy.


Bootsy Hambone’s Grease Monkey and Encore

Bootsy Hambone stepped outside the backdoor of the Grease Monkey, a blues jive she’d inherited from her mother ten years before. She stood under the rusty awning, letting it catch the rain and deposit it on the broken alley around her. She slid her black jacket over her white T-shirt and black jeans. Her ash blonde hair was cut off just under the ears and stood a harsh contrast to her dark attire. She adjusted the square, black sunglasses on her nose. The shades rarely came off. She went by the name Bootsy Hambone, which was a stage name her mother had given her at an early age. She put an electric bass in her hand as soon as she could hold it, which turned out to be age three, and said, “Play rock ‘n’ roll or the blues. Nothing else will do.”

Over time there were few people who knew her real name, and those that did eventually died off, like her mother. The name had stuck. Only those who were close to her could call her by her off stage nickname, Black Coffee. She liked her coffee like her clothes, black.

She ruffled her collar up, blocking the wind and stuck a cigarette between them. She lit it and shoved the lighter back in her jacket. She stuck her left foot in the door, so she could hear Rainy Day by Sandy Nelson play on the jukebox inside. She leaned against the rail of the stairs and tapped her right foot on the step below.

She was killing time. Biding time.

She always needed to let it roll off before a killing.

The door opened and out stepped Johnny, he nodded, “Black Coffee. He’s here.”

She saw that his knuckles were busted and bloodied. “Did he give you any trouble?” She took one final inhale of the drag before flicking it across the alley into the rain.

“No more than usual,” Johnny said, “It’s his kid you gotta worry about.”

“Fair enough,” she said and stepped into the back of the Grease Monkey.

They walked through the dirty, run down kitchen that smelled of cheap beer and dirty dishes. Her dishwasher, newly hired, was flirting with a cocktail waitress. She stopped and lowered her shades to glare at him. He spun around and started cleaning the dishes that had piled up in the sink from the night before. The cocktail scurried off.

“Remind me to fire him,” she said to Johnny. “And kill the music.”

“Right,” he said.

“And one more thing,” she stopped at the door to the lounge, “Get me the usual.”

“It’s done, on the front of the stage,” he said, and pointed through the round window of the kitchen doors. Sitting on the edge of the small stage was a glass of red wine, her usual.

“Am I that predictable?” She asked. He didn’t respond, just smiled.

She stepped through the doors and walked across the empty lounge. It was dark, except for a few lights installed above the booths along the walls. Each table in the middle of the floor had a simple candle, but those candles weren’t lit until just before opening time. They didn’t open for another hour, so the candles were cold. On the floor, just below the stage, were two men. One was Alexes Gartner, a small business owner who had been fronting her drug sales in the neighborhood for several years. Suddenly, he’d had a change of heart, and now he was quitting the business. He refused to accept deliveries of goods or sell them, either. An example had to be made.

She walked in front of him and looked down at him. He was looking at the floor, and blood dripped from his lips. He was panting. He had a horseshoe style haircut on the top of his head, and what little hair he had left was greying. She looked over at the younger gentleman, who she assumed was his son. He was looking up at her defiantly, and while he looked rather mangled in the face, he still tried to be brave and strong. She smirked at him.

She sat down on the front of the stage, her legs hanging over the side and swung her boots back and forth like a child might, and then crossed them. She picked up her wine and took a sip. She looked to the son, “You his son?” She pointed to Alexes.

“I am his son,” he said proudly, “And you have no…”

“Yeah, sure,” she interrupted, “Look, your father made a contract with me, and he’s honored that contract for many years. And I respect that. I respected him. Until,” she stopped to take a sip of the wine. “Until one day he decides to stop fulfilling that contract. I’m a business person and a musician. I’m simple, I’m easily pleased. Things run smoothly? I’m a happy business person. Things sound great? I’m a happy musician. It’s that simple. But your father,” she sighed and took another sip, “Your father interrupted something beautiful. It would be like pushing Ray Charles out of the way in a concert to pound on his keys with untrained hands. You just don’t do that.” She nodded with a look of understanding and disappointment. “That’s what your father did… to me. And I don’t let people pound on my keys. Actually, I’m a bassist, and I don’t mind letting someone play my instrument. I’m pretty laid back, but if you don’t know what you’re doing and you mess with my instrument? My instrument?” She took a gulp of the wine and finished it off. “You just don’t do that to a player’s instrument.”

“It was my idea, Ms. Hambone,” the son said, “I told him to quit, that he was going to get into trouble with the law. My dad is old, he can’t be doing this. He’s not a criminal. He’s just a store clerk. Always has been. He can’t survive in prison, and let’s face it, if things go belly up you’re not gonna care for my father.”

Bootsy looked at Johnny, as if to ask him something, but without a word he knew the question. She wanted to know what he thought of the boy’s admonition. “It’s the same as he said when we first arrived to pick up Alexes.” He said. “Seems legit. At least he’s sticking to it, Black Coffee.”

Bootsy looked at the son, who still looked confident he could talk his way out of the situation. This only aggravated her more. She wasn’t going to let both of them walk out of the Grease Monkey, and Johnny knew that as well. Only Alexes and his son were unaware that someone had to die. Someone had to pay the price. It was only a matter of who she felt deserved the greater punishment, or perhaps who was the better servant.

“So, if I understand you correctly,” she started, “You are telling me that you talked, or coerced, your father into abandoning his contract?”

“No, wait…” Alexes tried to speak up and interfere, afraid of where it was headed for his son.

“Dad, don’t speak, I got this,” the son chastised. “Yes. It was my idea, but he stands with me, too. We will not sell your drugs anymore, Black Coffee.”

Bootsy jumped from the stage and punched him across the face. “Don’t you ever, ever call me that.” She backed up and tossed her hair back with a twitch of the neck. “Alright, you’re free to go.”

Both Alexes and his son started thanking her over and over. Johnny stepped up behind Alexes and cut him loose. He helped him up to his feet, doing most of the work for him, and setting him on his feet. The son looked around, worried, no one was moving to untie him or help him up. Johnny reached into his leather jacket and pulled out a 9 millimeter handgun and tossed it to Bootsy. She caught it one handed, and quickly cocked it. She placed the barrel against the son’s forehead.

“You would make a lousy business partner,” she told him.

“But you said…” he tried to defend himself.

“I can’t have some hotshot changing the contract at will, you’re out.” She told him, and then pulled the trigger.

It had all happened so fast, Alexes hadn’t even had time to react and defend his son’s life. After the trigger had been pulled, the gun roared, and the son crashed to the floor in a pool of blood. Alexes put out his hand and shouted, “Take me!”

“Oops,” she tilted her head and shrugged in mock sincerity, “Too slow.” She walked over to Alexes and held the gun to his head and met face to face with him for the first time. “I don’t ever want something like this to happen again. Do you?” Alexes stood, frozen. “Do you, Alexes?”

He looked at her and made eye contact. “No.”

“I didn’t think so,” she said, “Now get out of here. Deliveries will return to normal on Tuesdays.”

“What about my son’s body?” He asked her.

“No,” was all she said.

A few moments later, he was gone and she was sitting alone on the edge of the stage once more. She had another glass of wine, and sipped on it to calm the nerves. There was only one other thing that calmed her nerves more than a glass of wine, and that was playing the bass. She looked at the glass in her hand, and it shook. Murder didn’t bother her emotionally anymore, that had passed a long time ago with the nightmares. But the adrenaline was always there, and it always took a certain calm to kill without going gun crazy and another calm to come down from that. She stood up and walked over to her bass. She picked it up by the neck and stepped around to the front of the stage. She leaned on a barstool and pulled another stool over with her foot. She sat the glass of wine on it. She had a wowing factor when she was seen playing for the first time. She was a female bassist and left handed.

She thought for a moment about what to play. She closed her eyes and a familiar tune resonated in the back of her mind. She could hear the bassline. She started to pluck the Peter Gunn theme by Henry Mancini. It didn’t take long for Johnny to come in from the kitchen, he had a Rueben on rye in one hand, and a cigarette in the other. He sat the sandwich down on a nearby table and stuck the cigarette in his mouth, which was still chewing a mouthful. He hurried to the stage and hopped up onto it. He found a guitar and a stereo cable, plugged into an amp and joined in. He picked up on the melody. Johnny was a well-versed and accomplished guitarist, and Bootsy often worried that all the fist work might eventually pay a toll on his ability to play.

They kept playing and trading solos, building the two-minute long song into a much longer and larger than life piece. They were so busy rocking and rolling that they didn’t notice Alexes come running back into the lounge, breaking a tackle from one of her henchmen and tossing a homemade grenade at them. It wasn’t until landed in the pile of stereo cables between them, that they looked up and realized what was happening.

One of the henchmen shot Alexes in the back just as he released the grenade, and he hit the floor. Dead instantly as the bullet cut through his back and carved around his already weak heart.

Bootsy and Johnny tried to untangle themselves quickly from their instruments, and Johnny leapt off the stage and looked back to his boss. She dropped the bass and went to take into a run, but her boot heel caught in a tangle of stereo cables and it pulled her down. She rolled over and tried to unloosen the knot. Johnny grabbed her under her arms.

“Tell me when, and I’ll pull!” He yelled.

“NOW.” She shouted back.

He gave a hard tug, but the grenade exploded before she could even reach the edge of the stage. The entire stage of instruments and cables went shattering and soaring into shrapnel. She saw a microphone stand fly over her and rip across Johnny, whose grip let go at that point. She felt her legs fly over her head and she crashed into table sixteen. She was lying face down, and felt a tremendous pain in her stomach. She propped herself up with her elbows to look underneath her, slipping on the flow of blood. Shrapnel from microphone stands, guitars and even her own bass were cut into her torso. She looked up and saw a large cloud of smoke where the stage once had been. She saw Johnny lying on the floor not far from where he had fallen, and she called out to him, but then realized it was useless. The microphone stand was piercing out of his head. There was no way he had survived it.

Some of the men gathered in front of her, she looked up and they were just staring at her. “What?” She asked. “I’ll make it. Just a little shrapnel.” She looked down, the pain of lifting was too much. The smoke had cleared some and she could see a pair of legs hanging off the edge of the stage. The legs were dressed in a pair of black jeans. They slowly slid and fell off onto Johnny’s body. “Oh,” she said, “That’s not good.” Her elbows gave out and she dropped her head, face first.

THE END

Musical Writing Prompt #4

I’ve gotten horribly behind on my writing prompts. Sorry about that. What am I like 3 weeks behind now? Shameful. In an attempt to get ahead, I’m going to actually use the WordPress scheduling feature. So silly of me not to be using it in the first place.

Gnossienne 1

Erik Satie is one of those classical composers that was in a league all his own. He was truly eccentric and did not consider himself a musician, but a maker of sounds. I’m often saddened when a pianist tries to soften the sound of Erik Satie, because if you look at his sheet music it becomes clear it’s supposed to be punchy or bouncy at times.

This particular pianist, Alessio Nanni, nails it.

You can see as her fingers do not stay on the keys for long, flying back or sliding off. I believe this is how Satie wanted his music to be played. As a series of sounds, not as a graceful, rich and warm score. All that being said, it is incredibly beautiful. Thanks Erik Satie for the amazing tunes.

Now go forth and write!

Shawna Bergen’s Withdrawal at Free Citizens United (short story and opportunity)

Another one bites the dust in my morbid scheme to kill people for money. Fictionally speaking, of course. I wouldn’t actually kill these people in real life for $5, that’s ridiculous. Maybe for $1,000, but not for $5.

My first two contestants in the wheel of death:

This week we welcome to the cold slab, Shawna Bergen.

Download the Files

Click here to download the files from Dropbox (epub, mobi, PDF and DRM free)

Shawna Bergen

Shawna describes herself as being a computer nut, and indeed one of the three images she sent me for the project had her wearing a T-shirt that read, “Nerd is the New Cool.”

image of Shawna Bergen

The real Shawna Bergen.

The image above of Shawna helped set a mood for the look I wanted to pursue for her in the story, and her description of herself as being a computer nut also helped set a tone for my direction with the character and plot. She had heard of the opportunity through Google+ and I was able to look over some of her public posts there, and this post of hers featuring the song Everyday People by Sly and the Family Stone hit a soft spot for me in the creative juices as well. I love this song a lot, and the idea of working it into the story as sort of a theme or backdrop to the story gave me a lot of momentum. I also worked in a thing or two from her About tab on Google+, see if you notice them. You can find her on Google+ and Twitter.

And now, let’s stop talking about it, and post the story. Enjoy!


Shawna Bergen had been tweaking the code of her virus for months. The virus was designed to infiltrate the virtual vaults at Free Citizens United Bank and Trust, and perform a series of transactions that would flood the system with unintelligible data in the moment. During this it would also transfer twenty billion in digital credits to a Swiss bank account of hers through micro transactions. These micro funds would eventually filter into the account over a period of 72 hours. After all of that was finished, the virus would launch a DDOS attack on Free Citizens United and she’d be walking out of the bank one, very rich woman.

That was the plan.

She stood up from her desk in the living room of her small apartment. She looked around the room as she stretched her back, and twisted her torso left and right. The apartment was old, rundown and not her own. The last was the most important. She stepped into her bathroom, and pulled back the shower curtains. She had installed her own microbrewery in the bathtub, and had been hiding it from her landlord. She looked forward to finishing her job at Free Citizens United, so she could take a pile of the cash and purchase a little place to call home. Something outside of the cities. She heard there was still such a place, where the countryside was untouched by the progression of man’s ambitions.

She grabbed a cup from the sink and poured herself a fresh beer of her own making. She smelled it and took a sip. It hit the spot, as her nerves were starting to cramp up in her stomach. Tomorrow was the day she walked into Free Citizens United and stole a lot of money.

She stepped into the living room once more, and laid her cup on the coffee table. She grabbed a black hoodie off the back of the couch and put it on, zipped it up and threw the hood over her head. She shouted a command to her computer and it started playing Everyday People by Sly and the Family Stone. She picked up her cup, took another sip and laid her head back. She closed her eyes, and then focused on breathing and listening.

Michael Markus was Chief Security Officer at Free Citizens United, and he performed a routine check of the systems at 3:30pm every day, just before heading into the afternoon meetings before heading home. He often wondered why meetings were held in the afternoon, and so close to closing time for many of the higher management, it was just asking for lazy and boring meetings.

He was in a particularly good mood on Tuesday, February 9, 2076. It was his wedding anniversary, he and his wife Audrey had been together for almost ten years. They had three beautiful children, and for the first time in seven years they would be celebrating their anniversary without the kids to interfere. His day was flying by so fast, and nothing could ruin his mood.

He burst into the security office and looked around at everyone with a smile. They all looked a little concerned. “I’m in such a good mood, folks, that we’re starting this test early and finishing early.” He said. “How fast can you check the systems? Make me proud.”

Everyone cheered and spun around in their chairs. The systems check was usually a long, drawn out occurrence, as Michael was very meticulous about every detail that passed through their system. In his mind, running the security for a bank was like running a casino. It was a game, his game, and anything that was out of place was cheating the system in place. His system.

Shawna walked into the enormous skyscraper of glass, which was the main headquarters of Free Citizens United Bank and Trust. She had timed her withdrawal to come at a time when the bank was at its busiest. This also came just before the Chief Security Officer, Michael Markus, performed his daily systems check. She knew she’d have to be quick to blend in with the crowd of transactions, but miss the systems check as well.

Even though currency had gone completely digital in 2049, due to security concerns, most transactions with such currency had to be made via banks. Give a little, take a whole lot more is how it felt. She would have preferred setting the world on fire from home, but it just wasn’t an option. The only way onto the bank’s network was to be inside their building. And in her case, with the amount of accounts she wanted to affect, she would need to be on the twenty-third floor. The higher up you went in the building, the higher risk and more secure you were. Everyday people and their everyday accounts were accessed on the first levels.

She hesitated for a moment at the elevators, second guessing herself. She was squeezing on a memory stick in the pocket of her hoodie with her sweaty palm. The memory stick contained her virus, and all she would have to do is insert it into a bank ATM terminal to get it started.

“Going up, Miss?” A gentleman on the elevator in a suit asked her, holding the doors.

“Oh, yes,” she stepped onto the elevator and was at the front of a group of suits and skirts. “Thanks.” She whispered to the gentleman.

“No problem,” he said, “Which floor?”

“Twenty-three,” she said.

“Really?” He asked, hardly believing what he was hearing and seeing. A woman in a black hoodie and blue jeans, with untamed blonde hair, who did not look like she had much money to her name.

“Trust fund brat,” she said and rolled her eyes. She threw the hood up over her head and took a deep breath.

Michael Markus was standing in the middle of everything, as was his custom, eyeing all of the data coming and going across the screens in his security center. The test had been running smoothly, and he was feeling pretty good. Only a few more minutes were left before they’d have all the data they needed, and he’d be telling his team how amazing they were. But then something caught his eye.

“Wait,” he said, “Something just happened. What just happened?” He spun around on his heels, and looked at another screen over a man’s shoulder. “What is all this?”

“We’re busy, it appears,” the man said.

“Not that busy,” he said and walked over to another monitor. “Are these all incoming or outgoing?” He asked the girl at the monitor.

“Both, sir.” She replied.

Michael walked back to his place in the middle of the room, his eyes darting to and fro. Someone tried to speak up, but he raised his hands and shushed them. He stayed like that for a moment. His eyes watching, moving. And silence. “We’ve been hacked.”

Shawna was sitting in an ATM room, the door locked behind her. The memory stick with the virus on it was plugged in and working its magic. She glanced at her phone, she had thirty more seconds before it was complete. She was hoping when she opened the door to leave, there wouldn’t be a group of security officers waiting for her.

She licked her lips, and tried to swallow but her mouth was dry. She was rattled. She had calculated the whole process taking sixty seconds, but nothing prepared her for how long it would feel in the heat of the moment.

Michael was pacing about his command center, barking orders like a commander in the battlefield. “Tell me what floor it’s happening on, people!”

A girl jumped up from her desk with her hands in the air, “It’s level 23! They just pulled out, but it’s level 23.”

Michael pointed at two of his men, “You and you are with me.” He spun around and barked a command to show all cameras on level 23. He shushed everyone again and stood still, his eyes darting between the different monitors and screens of various security camera angles. There were seas of people everywhere, all in black, and everyone seemingly the same. “There. The hood. I want the hood. Why is there a hoodie on level 23? Bring me the hood.” He took off with the two men, grabbing walkie-talkies on their way out of the door. He spit orders back into the walkie-talkie, “Shut down elevators and stairs on 23. I’ll message you when to let us in. Keep an eye on the hood.”

“Yes, sir.” A voice garbled back.

The three men in suits picked up pace, running as fast as their dress shoes would allow.

Shawna turned a corner and saw a large crowd of people building up at the elevators. The thought of blending into the sea of people sounded promising, but then she noticed the red light above the doors indicating the elevators were locked. The people in suits frantically pulled out their cell phones and texted or made phone calls.

She turned and looked out the window at the overcast sky, it was beginning to rain. Rain was slowly trickling down the glass in front of her, teasing her at how close to freedom she was and only trapped by something as fragile as glass.

She headed off down another hallway, the stairs would have to do. Perhaps it had nothing to do with her, perhaps it was a fire drill or some nonsense. Before she was even near the staircase, she could see another large crowd of people, and the door was closed. They had been caged in like rats.

She stepped into a nearby bathroom, and closed herself off in a stall.

There was no physical evidence to trace her back to the hack. She had done a thorough job of making sure there was nothing on the memory stick to link her back to it, or link it back to her apartment. When they searched her apartment, they would find nothing of any consequence. She had even cleaned out and decommissioned her microbrewery the night before. She just wasn’t sure she could handle the stress of being caged in and rattled around, poked at with a stick.

She took a deep breath and stepped out of the stall. She washed her hands and face in the sink, and the cold water was refreshing against her nervous skin.

She stepped out of the bathroom and there were three men in suits, she recognized one as Michael Markus. She had seen a picture of him and studied him for some time in preparation for the heist. Even admired him. And to prove her admiration wasn’t misplaced, she hacked his personal computer and was pleased to discover she still liked him.

“Hello, Miss,” Michael said to her, “My name is Michael Markus, I’m Chief Security Officer here at Free Citizens United. Can I have a few words with you?”

“Sure,” she said.

“Were you just in room 2318?” He asked.

“A few minutes ago, yes,” she said, trying hard not to feel or look nervous.

“Did you notice anything unusual?” He asked her.

“Other than myself?” She said, laughing a little. It eased her nerves a bit. “I’m not exactly the suit type.”

“I’ll repeat the question,” Michael said, neither laughing nor smiling, “Did you notice anything unusual?”

“No,” she said, “It was pretty much in and out in a few seconds, like most guys.” She saw the two men with him smirk a little, he gave them a look. “Look nothing was out of the ordinary. But I don’t know how I can help you, if that’s the only question you’re gonna ask.”

“I’m gonna need to see your memory stick,” he said.

“OK,” she said and reached into her pocket.

“And you’ll need to be placed under house arrest for the time being,” he added.

“Now wait a minute,” a voice spoke up and she turned and saw the gentleman from the elevator. “What’s going on here?” He looked at her with a disapproving look, “What have you done now?”

Michael looked confused, “You know this woman, sir?”

“Yes, I should say so,” the gentleman responded, “She’s my daughter… well, stepdaughter, and she’s in a lot of trouble.”

“I’m not sure I’m buying this,” Michael said.

The gentleman shook his head, “She’s a trust fund brat, the worst kind.” He looked back at her, “You up here taking out more money, no doubt? Your mother is going to be so upset. I don’t know how she’s going to get through this.”

Michael shook his head, he really didn’t like the way things had turned. “Now, just give me a minute.”

“What?” The gentleman said.

“I said shut up,” Michael snarled, “I need a minute to think.” He stood there for a moment, motionless, staring at Shawna. He bit his lip, “Alright, I still need to borrow your memory stick for a moment. We’ve had a breach, it might have a virus.”

“Oh,” she said, acting surprised, “Why didn’t you say so?” She pulled out a memory stick and handed it to him. The memory stick with the virus she had left in the trash can in the room.

He handed it to one of the men with him, who stuck it into his phone, and it spat up information about her. But it was all misinformation. As they looked over the information, a voice came through on the walkie-talkies.

“We found the memory stick with the virus,” the voice said, “Discarded in the trash can.”

“Thanks,” Michael said. He turned back to Shawna and gave her the memory stick. “Sorry for any inconvenience, Miss.”

“It’s no problem,” she said and pocketed the memory stick.

“Now, if you’ll excuse me,” the gentleman said, “I’ve got some scolding to do.”

Michael rolled his eyes, “Right. You do that.”

Shawna and the gentleman walked around the corner, and Michael and his men headed off in the other direction. To her left was a large glass window displaying the rain which had broken out in full force. She wanted outside so bad. To lose herself in the rain, and get as far away from the city as possible.

“That was exciting,” the gentleman said.

“You’re kinda stupid, you know that?” She said, “You don’t know me. You don’t know what you may or may not have just got yourself mixed up in.”

“It doesn’t matter,” he said, “I had fun.”

Michael kept moving at a hurried pace, he was going to investigate the room for himself. Something wasn’t right, he didn’t buy that the woman with the hoodie wasn’t their perpetrator. There had to be a connection somehow, and he’d find it. He always found the connection.

“Sir,” the walkie-talkie sparked up, “We’ve got a bit of a problem.”

“What is it?” Michael said.

“Chief Information Officer Linton got wind of the breach, he thinks you’re not doing your job,” the voice said, “He’s sent the muscle.”

“Do they know about the hood?” Michael asked.

“That’s where they’re headed now, sir,” the voice said.

“Try to talk him down!” Michael shouted into the walkie-talkie. He spun around and started into a full sprint after Shawna. The two men with him were right on his heels.

Shawna stopped, and grabbed the gentleman by the arm when the door to the stairs up ahead came open from the inside. A group of men in tactical gear stepped out with assault rifles, pushing the crowd of business suits back and yelling at them. Threatening to use force, if they wouldn’t back up. A member of the squad spotted her.

“There’s the hood!” The officer shouted and raised his gun at her. Within seconds all of the squad had guns aimed at her.

“FREEZE!”
She and the gentleman threw their hands straight up without hesitation. “Step aside from me, old man,” she whispered to him, “They’re gonna kill me.”

He turned and looked at her, “What did you do exactly?”

“I made a withdrawal.” She said.

There was silence as the tension slowly built. A few of the officers broke away from the squad and made their way towards them. “We’re going to approach you, and cuff you,” an officer said, “Do not move. We will use lethal force, if necessary.”

Shawna looked over at the business suits, and they had backed away from the officers. Some were watching, others were holding up their phones recording the event.

“She’s got a gun!” Someone shouted. Shawna couldn’t tell if it was an officer or one of the business suits.

The officers closest started shooting first. They opened fire and the bullets sprayed her body and all around her. The old man was also getting hit with a spray of bullets. They fell, wrapped into each other. And the shooting kept coming, even when they landed on the floor and tried to shield themselves with their arms and legs.

Michael and his men turned the corner just as the shooting broke out, and one of his men was hit in the leg. The other man was hit in the arm. Michael fell from the momentum and shock off the shooting. He slid across the floor and into the glass wall. He threw his hand up and started shouting for them to stop shooting. He held his badge in his hand.

“STOP FIRING. I am the Chief Security Officer,” he yelled, but it seemed to have little effect. He kept yelling it over and over. He rose to his feet and came towards them with his arms raised, his badge visible in his left hand. “I am the Chief Security Officer, stop firing!” Finally, he took the badge in his right hand and pitched it as hard as he could at the point man in the squad, “I’m the Chief Security Officer! Why am I here? Why am I even here?”

The point man raised his gun and almost shot Michael, after getting hit with the badge, but after they made eye contact he called off the shooting.

The business suits were laying on the ground for cover, some had even ran for cover down the hallway and around the corner. There were a few in front who still had their phones out recording the event, though they too had retreated to the floor for cover.

Shawna crawled up and looked into the old man’s eyes. He was staring off into nothingness. Death had taken him quick. He was riddled with bullets, completely wasted and for no good reason. She looked over at the squad members, who looked a little stunned at what they had done. They had lowered their weapons. She looked up at Michael, who looked completely frustrated as he looked into her eyes. Behind him a portion of the glass had been completely shattered, and the rain was now pouring into the hallway and inching towards the old man’s body.

“I’m sorry,” Michael said.

“It’s not your fault, Michael,” she said, and his eyes perked up when he heard his name. “I am the virus.” She rolled across the old man’s body with just enough energy to push herself up to her feet and take two, long steps and then jump out the broken window.

She freefell with the rain.

THE END

Nathan Weaver:

SUBMISSION CALL for dark writers.

Originally posted on Massacre Publishing:

KeyholeWe want you to take us through the keyhole…

Just what is it about that place at the end of the road? Is everything as it seems? What lurks within…or beneath?

We are looking for stories that trespass into new territory. From the dream house than becomes a nightmare, the ‘project’ that hides secrets within its walls, to high-rises with a view to die for and urban explorations that descend into danger – send us your undesirable residence.

scary house 1The deadline for ‘keyhole’ themed fiction and dark verse is March 15th, 2015 (midnight, GMT).

Word count for fiction: 500 – 10,000.

We suggest you read an issue of Massacre to see just what grabs us around the throat.

In the subject line of your email please put: KEYHOLE/YOUR NAME/TITLE OF YOUR WORK. For complete terms and guidelines click HERE.

Publication

We aim to release Massacre 6 in April…

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Julia Robertson’s Last Call (a short story and opportunity)

In case you missed the memo, I started something new last week. That something new is taking $5 from folks to write a short story or flash fiction piece in which they get killed. Some people may call that selling out, I like to call it blood money myself.

Our first contestant on the wheel of death was Kat Folland in Kat Folland’s Early Retirement.

Number two is Julia Robertson (no, not Julia Roberts).

Download the Files

Click here to download the files from Dropbox (epub, mobi, PDF and DRM free)

Julia Robertson

With Kat Folland’s piece, I had (with permission) stalked her social media profile on Google+. It seemed to help me some, but I had also been in a circular relationship on Google+ with Kat for sometime as well. But with Julia, I chose to rely solely on the one image she provided me. We’ll see if this was a mistake or not. I have a feeling I probably could have written a more intriguing story for her had I done so. But that’s my initial feelings on the topic.

image of Julia Robertson

The real Julia Robertson.

When I first saw this image (above) of Julia Robertson, my mind immediately drifted into some familiar territory for me. I’ve got a collection of ideas for various steampunk/western/scifi style stories that I tell myself I’ll write someday, along with ALL THE STORIES in my head. With only this image to guide me, I set off into the future of an icy Wild West frontier in Washington, D.C.

Julia is a Brain Tumor survivor, you can find her here on Twitter. She actively does what she can to try and help research a cure for Brain Tumors. So, similarly to Kat Folland in our first installment, she is tough as nails as well.

And now, without any further ado, the story.


Julia Robertson’s Last Call

In 2134, the Earth entered a second ice age. The entire globe was covered in snow and ice, and all of the technology of the 21st century and beyond was rendered useless. Satellites were lost in space, communication devices became paperweights. The entire world’s infrastructure shutdown and mankind had to adapt, or die.

Heat, shelter and light became the most valuable resources.

Solar power had dominated most of the latter 2000s, but as the new ice age spat down it became clear to some that solar was not going to last forever. Scientists around the globe visited large cities, pleading for politicians to invest in wind energy in advance of the oncoming ice age. Many ignored these warnings, which seemed like cries of a sinking Titanic before any icebergs had been spotted. When the ice age hit, those who had invested in wind energy were able to harness that energy from the intense gusts of wind that blew to and fro all day and night. The world had become a snow-globe of howling winds.

In the United States, the White House had been devastated by the first wave of blizzards, and future presidents were housed in a bunker style compound known as the White Brick by common folks. The destruction of modern communication and technology meant that politics of Washington were cut off from the rest of the country. The law of the Wild West seemed to rise once more. Local politics were where the law really existed, if it existed at all. But most towns and cities weren’t prepared, and didn’t survive.

Many lives were lost.

President Winslow sat in the Thomas Jefferson Bar of the White Brick, and savored a glass of tonic and gin. He looked up at Julia Robertson who ran the bar, which served as a reception area for politicians and foreign diplomats. That night they had entertained diplomats from a struggling Chinese economy. It had taken the Chinese diplomats three months to make the journey, and they had lost two comrades in the process. When stakes were that high, it made for some intriguing meetings to watch. And Julia had watched her share of meetings. Her family had been serving drinks in the White Brick for three generations, and she was the last of her bloodline. The meetings would continue for at least another month, as neither party was interested in parting ways until an agreement could be made. She would be seeing the same long faces day in and day out, pouring their drinks, hearing their pleas for compromise and refusals to budge. But, eventually, an agreement would be reached. An agreement would have to be reached, it was always the way. Going back empty handed after such a journey was never an option. And then, there was always the potential that the foreign diplomats could be shipwrecked before returning home with the news and the process would start over anew.

Julia dried off a shot glass with a towel, one which Vice President Milton had been using for his scotch on the rocks. She sat it down, and Winslow looked up at her. He looked tired with bags under his eyes. He had been arguing with his own men before the diplomats had even arrived. “How do you put up with us?” He asked her.

“Excuse me, sir?” She said.

“You have to hear all of this,” he gestured about the oval-shaped lounge, “And yet, you keep a cool head and never complain. How do you put up with it?”

“That’s easy,” she said, “I ignore it.”

“I wish I could do that.” He said.

“But you can’t,” she said, and picked up a bottle of beer and popped the cap off. “You’re invested in it. I’m not.” She took a long swig and leaned against the bar with him.

“I am invested in it,” he started and his eyes glazed over. He stared off somewhere into the distance, something catching his eye or perhaps a memory of days gone by, or a vision of the future. “I’m invested in knowing things turn out. Knowing that what we do here actually matters. And you should be invested, too, because what we do can impact you.”

“I doubt that, sir,” she said and took another swig, “I just pour the drinks. And when I’m dead, someone else will pour the drinks.”

“I’m trying to change that way of thinking,” he shook his head. “I guess I’m not prevailing.” He sipped on his tonic.

“We live in a snow globe, Mr. President,” she said, “Every time the flurries start to settle somebody comes along and shakes it up again. And besides, you’re better than most. I couldn’t stand the last three presidents.”

“That’s true,” he said and smiled. He turned and looked at the paintings on the wall of former presidents. “And I’m way better looking.” They both laughed warmly, and he finished off his tonic. “Thanks. I needed a sanity refresher. But,” he stood up, “I should reacquaint myself with my wife, as tomorrow is another long, long day. Good night.”

“Good night, Mr. President,” Julia said and picked up his glass. She dropped it into the soapy sink and quickly cleaned it. She rinsed it and dried it off, returning it to the shelf. She unplugged the sink and let the water drain.

Luther Crenshaw, a bodyguard to the president, came in and clocked in just outside the lounge. Julia watched him as he turned and stammered into her corner of the world. He barely looked alive much less awake, he stepped up to the bar and fell onto it. The barstool cried under the weight of his sloppy demeanor.

“Why, Luther Crenshaw, I believe you are skunk drunk,” she told him.

“I don’t need a drink.” He said gruffly, and then thought for a moment about what she had said. He looked confused. He shook his head and decided to start over. “Do you have anything for…” he gestured to his whole body with his open hand, “this?”

“What you need is coffee, Mr. Crenshaw.” She said.

“I have no idea what that is, but I’ll take it.”

“Unfortunately, it doesn’t exist anymore,” she said and picked up a pitcher of water. She poured him a long glass. “This is as good as it gets anymore.”

“How old is it?” He asked.

“I thawed it myself tonight.” She said.

He sighed and took the glass. “Fine.”

Crenshaw got up and walked over to a lounge chair and plopped into it. The water spilled a little on his hand. He cursed under his breath, and then took a sip. He frowned at the lack of taste and cursed some more. He put the glass on the table next to him. Within seconds she could tell he was starting to fall asleep. His head would slowly nod, and then jerk back up and repeat. She never understood why Winslow kept the drunk around. She was certain he would never prove his worth when the occasion called for it, and worried that one day she would be proven right.

It was about that time that the first of the gunshots rang out.

Her head darted up and she looked towards the hallway. She waited to confirm another sound, hoping it was just her imagination. But when the next burst of gunshots rang out she knew it was a siege. She looked back at Crenshaw who was already on his feet, pistol in hand.

“Those were gunshots, right?” He asked, still dazed from his drunken and drowsy state.

She nodded without a word, and reached under her bar without looking. She felt the cold of steel and wood. She pulled out her grandfather’s shotgun, and pulled the pump to cock it for the ready.

“Not your first siege?” He asked her.

“I’ve seen my share. You?”

“My first,” he said.

A series of gunshots rang out, closer and louder than before. The voices of men were yelling, some sounded like bodyguards trying to give out orders but no one ever listened to orders. Law of the west, everyone was a gunslinger and everyone was his own man or woman. There were other voices yelling, these were distinctively happy and psychotic in nature. Julia could tell when another bodyguard fell, because a voice would shout in acclamation at the victory.

“They’ve broken the parameter,” she said. “Looks like we’re gonna get some action.”

“I didn’t bring any protection.” Crenshaw said and chuckled. She rolled her eyes. “I read it in a book,” he explained.

“I know what it means,” she said.

“You do? What’s it mean?” He asked.

“Really?”

An explosion erupted and the door in the hallway went flying off, splitting into thousands of pieces as it traveled down the hallway. The sound of the explosion was piercing and Julia’s ears were ringing. She dropped down behind the bar for cover. Screaming and laughing voices came screeching through the smoke, and she peaked around the corner of the bar to get a look. A seemingly never ending group of men came running through, yelling and shouting with guns of all shapes and sizes. They were dressed in long trench coats, large brimmed hats and masquerade ball masks. She recognized the masks from a worn out book her father had borrowed from the Presidential Library when she was a child.

“Hey Julia!” A masked intruder stepped out of the smoke and into her lounge, calling her by name, “Hey Julia, I’m home! Now pour me a beer!” He lowered his shotgun from his shoulder to waist level and began shooting up the bottles of liquor on her shelves. The liquor and glass rained down on her behind the bar. All of it, every last bit, she or her family had brewed in the microbrewery underneath the lounge. She was enraged. Her family’s life work had been destroyed by a few gunshots.

She didn’t know who the masked intruder was, but as far as she was concerned he was a dead man.

She took a deep breath and rolled over, bracing her elbow on the floor. She peaked around the corner and he stood in defiance laughing at the carnage he’d just committed. She could hear more shooting off down the hallway, the intruders were making progress. She took aim and fired at his legs. The buckshot sprayed across his legs, tearing up his legs below the knee. He fell violently onto his face, his legs flying behind him from the force of the gunshot. He instantly started screaming in pain, and she waited to see if anyone came to his aid, but clearly the others had their own set of goals. She wondered how the intruder knew her name. She didn’t recognize his voice. She figured it might have been an inside job, that they had been given the layout of the compound, and told where everyone would be at what time. This was often the case during a political siege on the compound. Some politician who disagreed with the way the president and vice president were getting things done, so they’d send in guns for hire and overthrow the government in a matter of minutes. Typically, though, staff employees were not harassed during such raids. To have someone coming in, calling her out by name, and then taking aim at her bar was something different from the usual takeover.

She wanted to know why she was a target.

When she felt confident no one was coming back to aid their fallen comrade, she got off the floor and came out of cover. He had rolled over onto his back and was looking at his legs, screaming in pain and horror. She walked around in front of him and stepped on his right leg. He screamed and jerked his head back. She aimed the barrel of the gun at his face for intimidation.

“Who are you?” She asked. “How do you know my name?”

He jerked his mask off. “I can’t breathe, I can’t breathe.” She didn’t recognize him. “Please don’t stand on my leg, it hurts so bad.”

“How do you know my name?” She asked again.

“He told us names, gave us blueprints.” He said, still gasping for air.

“Who?” She demanded.

“I can’t say.” He said. She pushed her boot down harder into his leg, and he screamed so loud his voice broke. “PLEASE!”

Julian heard a lot of gunfire in the distance, and she could hear the voice of the First Lady screaming in horror. She knew it was about over. “I guess I’ll try my luck with someone else,” she said and cocked the shotgun. He stuck his hand out to block the shot, but it didn’t help and she destroyed his unfamiliar face along with it. She turned and saw Crenshaw leaning against a chair.

“I think I’m gonna be sick,” he said, “I’ve been moving around too much, too fast… too drunk.” He gave a burp in the back of his throat, and then he swallowed it.

She sighed and walked up to him. “I’m gonna do you a favor, Luther.”

“Yeah?” He asked, unsuspecting.

She hit him across the face with the butt of her shotgun, and he fell to the floor. He was out cold, and she figured it was best that way. He was no good to her or anyone in the state he was in. It was better for him, if the intruders thought he was counted amongst the dead. They’d be finished soon anyway, and after that they’d leave. They were just the hired muscle. Somebody else would be moving into the compound.

She wondered if should just hide and wait it out. But she thought about the man yelling her name. She was supposed to be dead. She reloaded her gun and stepped up to the hallway. She was too curious. She wanted to know who had ordered the siege and why she was a target. She didn’t like being roped into the politics of things. Her family had always remained neutral, why all of the sudden were they under attack?

She turned the corner and entered the hall. It was empty except for the carnage. The walls were sprayed with bullet holes and blood. There was a gray haze from the gunfire, looming in the hallway like fog. She slowly crept through the massacre, stepping and inching over bodies of the fallen bodyguards and intruders. The bottom of her flowing dress slid across the bodies as she moved along, collecting blood on its tip and weighing it down.

She stopped at the side of a bodyguard she recognized, he was the captain of the guard. She knelt down next to him and pried his handgun from his grip. She checked the clip, and it was only missing three of eight bullets. She searched the inner pocket of his jacket and found two more clips. She stood back up, and then slipped the handgun and clips into her leather belt she had wrapped around her dress. She took ahold of her shotgun with both hands once more, holding it at waist level and continued down the long hallway. She couldn’t hear any more gunfire. Either they were doing a final sweep or it was finished. Either way, they’d be coming back her way soon. She didn’t much feel like taking them all on by herself. She reached the first set of doors.

On the right side of the hallway was an open door, which led into the Presidential Library. Very few people ever set foot in the library at night, so she imagined it was empty. She approached the door on the left side, which was also left open. This door led into the dining room. It was typically empty at night, except for a few staff members finally getting to take in a late dinner. Since she had been targeted, she didn’t figure the kitchen staff had been spared either. She lowered her barrel some, and peaked inside and saw a stack of cooks and waitresses. They had been lined against a wall and gunned down.

Who assassinates waitresses and cooks? She asked herself, not sure if she’d ever know the truth.

She turned around just as a masked intruder stepped out of the library with a red book in one hand, and a pistol in the other. He looked up from the book and they made eye contact for a moment. Both startled, they froze for a second, and then each raised their weapons.

There was one, loud crashing sound of thunder.

She was tossed back into the wall, and he went flying backwards into the library. The book flew across the hallway and landed in her lap after she had crashed on the floor. She sat for a moment in shock with her back against the wall. Then, she felt the pain and it came on fast and piercing. Her neck was writhing in pain, and she reached up to it. He had managed to shoot her at the base of her neck. She felt a hole and it was pouring out warm blood. That was when she noticed she wasn’t breathing, but gasping for air and choking on blood. She heard voices yelling and coming closer.

She looked down and saw the book.

It was red and very old, but it had been kept in decent condition. The title, written in gold letters on the binding, was Wuthering Heights and had been written by an Emily Brontë. She hadn’t heard of either the title or the name. She wondered what it could be about.

The voices were getting louder.

She reached out and picked up the book, her hands smeared blood across the cover. She opened it and turned a few pages, making bloody fingerprints as she did so. It was a second edition print, printed in 1943. It had survived many years, including the time when The Order tried to burn all books. This book, like all of the books in the Presidential Library, was a door to another time. A time almost completely forgotten and trodden under foot with the progression of time and hate.

The voices had become much clearer, but suddenly they stopped. She couldn’t turn her head to look, but she heard footfalls coming towards her. She knew she didn’t have long. She needed to make these precious moments count.

She turned the pages and found chapter one of the book. She started to read.

THE END