Monday, October 24, 2011

The Mandrake Ruse

We're already only 7 days away from the night of fright, Halloween! What a better way to celebrate it with a story guaranteed to give you shivers all over! Scott has graciously contributed a short story for the blog in hopes that you'll all enjoy. You can also follow him at (@ScottTheWriter) via Twitter. Let him know what you thought of his story in the comments below or shoot him a message!

The Mandrake Ruse

Chapter 1: Dark Clouds
A Hallowe’en story by Scott Bury
Matt always knew when his mother arrived in town: the wind would swirl from every direction at once, sending the neighbour’s weather-vane spinning clackety-clack and the yellow and brown leaves whirling along the road like a child’s top.
“Let’s get out of here,” Matt said to his wife, Teri. They packed a few things into a single suitcase and drove out of town, over the bridge to Wakefield. “We might as well stay somewhere nice,” he said.
“It’s too bad it’s so expensive,” Teri replied. She looked worried, but not about the money; she was weary of her mother-in-law’s antics.
They arrived at the hotel; Teri loved the way its rustic pretence did not mask its luxury. She lay on the bed and squirmed on the thick duvet. “This is so nice.”
Matt flopped down beside her and tried to undo a button. “There’s lots of time for that,” she said, gently pushing his hand away from her blouse. “I want to take a walk and see the fall colours.” She smiled and kissed him lightly, then sprang off the bed and opened the door. Matt sighed and shoved his feet into his runners again, then followed his pretty wife out.
They found a path that climbed a hill through a yellow and bronze forest. At the top, rock like a shield held the trees back enough to give them a view of the river where it bent to flow south toward Ottawa. They looked for the city’s skyline, holding hands. “Let’s make love under the trees,” Matt said.
Teri pushed his shoulder. “Silly,” she said, but then she frowned as she looked at the sky.
Matt followed her gaze. Overhead, the sky was blue, but black clouds were drawing together to the south, blotting out the sun. A gust ruffled Teri’s hair. She cried out, blinking and rubbing dust from her eye.
A small black cloud detached itself from the host over Ottawa and headed toward them, fast. Matt put his arm around his wife’s shoulder and pulled her back to the path. “We have to get off this hill, now.”
Somehow, the clearing had become wider, and the opening under the trees to the path, where they would be safe from the sky, was farther away. Matt recognized the phenomenon: his most common nightmare involved an expanding landscape that pushed his destination farther and farther away when he was racing against time to reach it. He held Teri tighter and started running.
Too slow. The black cloud got closer, was right on them and turned into a hail of dust, rocks and sticks whirling around them. Matt choked on dust. The wind knocked Teri to the rocky ground and she cried out again.
Then, it was gone. Dark wisps drew together over their heads, moved vaguely south again and disappeared. The air was still and quiet again, and they realized they were right at the edge of the trees, not hundreds of metres away. Somewhere, a squirrel laughed at them.
“It’s not laughing,” said Teri as she brushed dust off her pants and tried to straighten her long, brown hair.
“It sounds like it’s laughing,” Matt muttered, but he was still looking south. “She wasn’t after me this time. I’m not the main target. That was just a side blow.”
Teri looked at her husband, the way his whole attention was on the city under the black cloud to the south. “You have to go, don’t you?”
Matt sighed. His shoulders slumped. “I wish I didn’t have to.”
“She never gives you a choice. She’s not a mother, not one that you deserve.” Teri took her husband’s hand and led him down the path to the hotel. “Don’t worry. I’ll stay in the hotel. I’ll take a soak in the hot tub and drink some wine and read my book. I’ll help you when you need to get back.”
“I may be late.”
Teri stood on her tiptoes to kiss her husband. “Take the time that you need. But be careful.”
At the door, she looked into her husband’s eyes. “Matt, this time, don’t hold back. Make this the last time you have to do this.” Matt knew what she meant. He didn’t know if he could do what she asked.
The drive to Ottawa was nightmarish, his mother’s work, he knew. It took two hours to drive 35 kilometres on a smooth highway. There were curves and sweeping highway interchanges where there had been none two hours earlier. Trucks squeezed together and blocked Matt’s way, belching sulfurous fumes.
By the time he could see the bridge over the Ottawa River, Matt knew where he mother’s target was. He groaned. He was going to have to save the prime minister he hated most.
He parked his car on a side street in Hull and walked across the jammed bridge. No traffic moved. On the northern side, drivers honked their horns and craned their head out of their windows, wondering what the problem was.
Matt walked on the left, northbound side of the road. Nothing was coming from Ottawa. Once over the bridge, he saw three cars jammed like logs across the pavement, preventing anything from moving across. Their drivers slumped, eyes open but unseeing, jaws slack. Drool wet their chins. Matt touched one’s neck; she was still alive. He patted her hair, dyed purple, and continued to Ottawa.
Idle cars crammed the approaches on and off the bridge, their motors quiet and their drivers asleep. Matt could see that humans and machines had not crashed, just stopped where they were. He paid no more attention. He had seen it before.
He looked at his watch: midafternoon, but the light was a dim as evening. The clouds overhead were almost completely black. He did not look up at the swirling patterns, because he knew how his consciousness could become lost in them.
He knew where his mother and her followers would be. Say it, he thought. Use the right word. You’re always telling other people to do that. Use the right word.
Coven. My mother and her coven are at the Prime Minister’s residence.
He wove along Sussex Drive, between limousines and armoured SUVs. Drivers and guards slumped on the seats or lay on the pavement, where they had suddenly collapsed. Matt paused and straightened one man’s leg. “He’s going to have a terrible cramp when he wakes up if I don’t,” he muttered.
The gate at the driveway to 24 Sussex squealed open as fat raindrops started to fall. Both effects were two of his mother’s favourite touches, Matt knew. A man and a woman in RCMP uniforms lay on the floor in the little guardhouse just inside the gate; the woman’s eyes were open and she seemed to be looking in awe toward the swirling black clouds.
Matt stepped past. There were unconscious bodies strewn on the lawn, on the steps; one man had been obviously dragged away from the door and left with his head hanging off the top step, out of the way.
A dull reddish light spilled from the gaping front doors. Matt could hear women’s laughter and pretentious jazz music inside. He shook his head. “Oh, mother.” He took a deep breath and stepped over the threshold.
Inside, the air was hot, dry and smoky. He could barely see in front of him, but he followed the sound of laughter. Yes, that was definitely his mother’s cartoonish cackle, but there was a new sound, too, a shrill, gleeful and evil laugh. Matt shuddered: there was something familiar about that sound.
He came to double doors into a large meeting room. The only illumination came from a dull red glow that seemed to hang from the centre of the ceiling. Men and women sat, unmoving, around a long board table. Their eyes were unfocused and their mouths hung open. In the dim light, Matt thought he recognized some of them: politicians and diplomats from other countries. He had read something about the Prime Minister holding a conference to prepare for some big diplomatic initiative he had cooked up. Matt could just make out dozens of other bodies lying still on the floor or crumpled on top of each other against the walls.
And at the head of the table, in the biggest chair, Matt’s mother, Helen sat on the Prime Minister’s lap. She was stroking his chin, and he was looking toward her, but his eyes were unfocused and his jaw was slack.
Behind Helen was a group of women of different ages, sizes, races. They laughed and pointed at the people at the table, and at Matt as well, shrieking with their own amusement. Matt could not understand  anything they said.
Helen spoke without looking at Matt. “You took your sweet time getting here. I hope that I wasn’t too rough on little Teri, was I?”
“Teri’s fine. You know you can’t hurt her.”
Helen looked at him and messed up the Prime Minister’s hair. It was strange—it was the first time that Matt had ever seen a hair out of place on the PM.
“No, and I know I cannot hurt you, either. Not that I would ever want to, dear!” Helen stood. “How are you? It’s been such a long time since we’ve seen each other. Why don’t you ever visit?”
“What are you doing here, mother? This is extreme, even for you. You’ve never gotten tried one of your stunts with a government before.”
“Sure I have. You remember the 80s, don’t you? Bob Rae?”
“Okay, never the national government. I’ll give you one chance to undo what you’ve done and get out of here. Five minutes is enough.”
“I don’t think so, dear. I’ve worked very hard on this project. We all have, haven’t we, girls?” The coven behind her cheered and laughed.
A man sitting in the chair beside Matt suddenly fell face-forward onto the table.
“And it will be so rewarding. You know, I’m just sick about what this government of ours is doing these days. Aren’t you? I know your politics don’t agree with this man’s.”
“Politics have nothing to do with this stunt, mother. You think you can control him now, but it’s going to backfire on you.”
“Oh, son, it wounds me that you have no confidence in your mother!” Helen looked angry now. Her red hair stood up around her head and her eyes started to glow yellow. “I can change the direction of history, now!”
“You can do nothing but cause disasters. I’m shutting this down, starting now.” Without taking his eyes off his mother, Matt concentrated. His brows came together, his shoulders tensed. He ignored the shaking in his knees and pushed with his mind.
The red glow flickered; outside the windows, the sky became noticeably lighter.
“Matt, stop it! You will love my plans!” Sweat started running down Matt’s face. The red glow died away and natural light came in through the windows.
One of Helen’s coven, a short, young woman with long hair like a squirrel’s tail, shrieked and sprang toward Matt. She spat on her hands, rubbed them togther and flung the spittle toward him, screaming a curse. The spit mixed with the sweat on Matt’s face.
“I’ve told you, you can’t hurt him, Lauren,” Helen said. “The devil himself knows I’ve tried.”
Lauren cursed and slapped Matt across the face. He flinched, but did not move nor take his eyes from his mother. Behind him, someone groaned and stirred. Outside, wind blew apart the black clouds. Lauren raised her hand again, but Matt caught it without looking at her, then pushed her away gently. Lauren’s eyes widened in shock and fear; she stepped backward, twice, tripped on an aide and fell on her backside.
“Matthew, I can make you rich!” Helen cried.
Matt concentrated harder. He had to lean on the table. “Rich! You are rich, you hag.” He laughed and the wind blew open one of the boardroom windows. Clean, fresh air swept the room. More of the entranced people stirred and groaned. “You’ve done nothing to me but impoverish me for years! How many times did you destroy my businesses or jobs?” Another window crashed open. Helen could see blue sky.
“You have just enough time to get out of here for good before all these people wake up,” said Matt. “I’ll let you go if you give me the talisman.” He pointed at the object on a leather strap around his mother’s neck. It bound the magic that powered his mother’s spells today. From a distance, it was a shapeless lump; up close, he could see some kind of vegetable, in the shape of a shrivelled, twisted inverted y, almost like a man’s shape. “Mandrake. Mom, you’re such a caricature.”
“No! It’s mine!” Behind Helen, the rest of the coven moaned and cried. “Shut up!” she screamed at them. “Please, Matt, it’s taken years of planning and effort! We can make the world the way we know it should be!”
Matt snapped the thong, put the root in his mouth and swallowed it whole, grimacing from the pain as it made its way down. Lauren barked a laugh. “That’s death, in that quantity.”
“You know there is a price for taking that,” Helen said, her usual smugness back.
Matt nodded. Suddenly, he heaved and retched. He doubled over, coughing and choking. Lauren looked at him with glee on her face. “Is he dying?”
“Not yet,” said Helen.
Matt retched again, but straightened. He heaved one last time, then reached into his mouth and pulled out what looked like a thin string. It seemed to still be secured inside him, somewhere. He pulled out a strand as long as his hand. “Is that enough?” His words were slurred around the string.
Helen shook her head, so Matt pulled another two inches of string out. It was painful, but it had to be. “Knife,” he said hoarsely.
Helen took out a small, wooden blade. She held the edge close to Matt’s lips and snipped the string, but Matt pulled the strand away from her. “You cannot have it. You’ve taken enough, already.” He pulled out a lighter that he always kept in his pocket just for this situation and lit the string. It vanished into smoke. “You’re finished, mother,” he said. His voice was weak and it was all he could do to keep from collapsing in front of her. “I’ve absorbed your magic. You have about two minutes left to get away. I’ve been very generous.”
“Yes. That really won’t make Teri happy, will it?” Helen said in her smug voice.
“Don’t say her name again.”
Helen came close and touched his face. He could see, now, the deep lines in her skin, the frayed greyness in her hair. “Oh, Matt. I know you better than anyone else. I knew you would take the talisman. You always thought you were smarter than me. It never occurred to you that I would anticipate your every move.”
“You didn’t know I would come,” said Matt. His voice was hoarse. “You attacked me to draw me out.”
Helen smiled even more smugly. “I knew you would come when you saw the clouds over the city.
“And I knew you would take the talisman. That’s why I chose mandrake root. It’s poisonous, even to you. But it’s not the source of my power. And now, you’ve cut your life-string even shorter, sacrificed years—for nothing.”
Matt slumped and looked up at his mother from under his eyebrows. “Not for nothing. For your knife.” In one movement, he pushed her hands away, pushed her to her knees and grabbed a fistful of her hair in one hand and the wooden blade with the other. He began to hack at her hair until it piled on her shoulders and the floor and writhed like dying worms.
Helen screamed so loudly that the French windows shattered. The coven shrieked along with her until the air vibrated against his ears. They gathered around him. Some tried to pull Helen away, but he held onto a handful of hair as he hacked the rest off. Helen’s blood hissed when it hit the ground, but Matt did not care.
Other members of the coven cast spells at him, or tried to push him off their queen. But if Matt did not want a witch to touch him, she did not touch him.
They did manage to distract him, however. Even Matt could not simultaneously concentrate on repelling the coven, hacking off his mother’s store of magical power and dispelling her earlier spells. As he roughly shaved her head and endured Lauren’s weak pounding on his back, the air became still and thick and the clouds darkened. Matt snarled and dug the edge of the blade into his mother’s scalp, peeling it away to the bone, ignoring her writhing and screaming beneath him. He only stopped when a six-inch strip of hair and bloody skin ripped off her skull and Helen collapsed, flat, onto the hardwood floor.
Lauren tried to pick her up. Matt ignited the hank of hair in his hands, then smeared it onto the carpet, drawing a bloody, sooty circle around himself to keep the witches away. Then he lit the rest of the dying hair and watched it disappear into smoke.
Helen looked at him, her face bloody and horrible, her head naked without its mane. “Matt, how could you?” Matt ignored her until all her hair had burned and blown away in the breeze. The light was steadily getting better as the clouds dissipated.
Helen was actually crying. Those were real tears running down her cheeks, Matt realized. Lauren was crying, too. “You have stopped my plans, but you are paying the price now, aren’t you?” Helen said. Her voice was a horrifying croak. “Oh, Matt, you miscalculated. No one survives mandrake.”
Matt fell to his knees. “You’re finished. You have about a minute to get out of here before these people wake up. You don’t have to worry—you know as well as I do that they won’t remember any of this.”
The coven helped Helen get up. Two witches held her between them, and her dark blood smeared their naked shoulders. “You’re finished, too. The rest of us can look forward to seeing what Lauren, here, can do.” She laughed, and the coven laughed with her, even though blood bubbled out of her mouth.
The witches holding Helen straddled brooms, brushes pointing forward, and lifted their queen. The other witches, including Lauren, mounted up as well, and one by one flew out the open window.
“Brooms, mother? Really? Do you always have to be such a caricature?”
The Prime Minister blinked and moved his head. Even though he was dizzy and weak, Matt knew he had to get out of there immediately.  He staggered to the open window and looked north, then closed his eyes. His head hurt. He opened his eyes again. Yes, there was an oak tree, just beyond the balcony. He staggered toward it until he was under one of its branches, and then his vision blurred.The pain in his head and in his stomach was all he could think of for several seconds until he regained control of his body enough to say one word: “Teri.” His voice was a rasp in the wind.
“Teri.” He could see her now, her long brown hair, her big green eyes. She was looking at him, but she could not reach him, not yet, not until he said her name a third time. He was weakening, though. His mother had demanded more of his life-string than he had anticipated. He forced the air out of his lungs, through his raw throat and managed to pronounce her name one more time: “Teri.”
He could see her clearly now, standing, nude, in the hotel room. She reached forward and took his hand. Matt stumbled off the balcony on Sussex Drive and into the hotel room 35 kilometres away, falling into his wife’s arms. She held him and kissed his mouth. He could feel warmth and strength flowing back into his body. He let it come in for a full second, then broke the contact.
“You swallowed mandrake?”
“There was no other way,” he said.
She kissed him again, her naked skin spreading against his. He never knew what happened to his clothes at times like this.
The mandrake was affecting Teri, too. Matt pushed her away. “I can’t take more from you.”
Terri went to the hotel desk, where she had arranged her vials and cups. She picked up a small wooden cup, swirled its contents and spat in it. Then she held it to Matt’s lips. When he had drunk it all, she put the cup back on the table and collapsed onto the bed.  “We can’t keep doing this, Matt.”
“We don’t have to. She’s done. Finished.”
“Then why do I have this feeling?” She snuggled up against him.
Matt felt weak, but not sick anymore. He pulled his wife close against him, enjoying the feeling of her naked skin against his own, even if it could only be for a short time.

Friday, October 21, 2011


It's time for the second story for the blog! This time I have a treat even better than the first story, and one with a little more bite! A great friend of mine whom I actually met through our RP shenanigans, Alex, was so excited when I asked if she had a piece to submit for the blog it was freaking palpable through my iPad screen. The lovely Miss Alex doesn't write formally, but has a huge knack for changing hair colors depending on her mood and adding new Harry Potter related tattoos to her body. Which I highly approve of. Nonetheless! I present to you her short story, appropriately titled Games.


​“Blue? Or green?”
​“Neither. Red.”
​“I don’t own red.”
​“Well, get red. That way the blood won’t stain too bad. You know, when he murders you.”
​I rolled my eyes at Molly, still holding up the blue top, “That is not an encouraging option. The only murdering that will be done tonight is by me. To you. Because you aren’t helping.”
​“He’s been here for over 2 months already, hasn’t expressed any interest in anybody, and then all of a sudden, its, ‘Hey, A.J., let me take you on a date. On Halloween. And I won’t tell you where we’re going. Because I’m completely normal,’” Molly said, throwing me a black dress.
​I shot a quick smile at her, “Black?”
​“It matches your hat.”
​“What hat?”
​Molly pointed to the pointed witch’s hat on the top shelf of my closet, “It’s Halloween.”
​In a town as small as Dover, when a new kid shows up to school that wasn’t there last year, people notice. And when that new kid is also very good-looking, people notice even more. And when that new kid doesn’t notice back, well…
​He’s on top of the world.
​Conrad was desirable. He was a loner. He had been in school for over 3 months already and no one ever saw him with friends, girls, or anyone. He would go to class, do his work, and then drive off on his motorbike at the end of the day, never looking back.
​He was perfect. Two days ago, he had come up to me in front of my locker, and asked me if I wanted to go out with him Halloween night. Considering my original plans didn't involve anything nearly as good-looking as he (and considering he was Conrad), I said yes, upon which he promised to pick me up at midnight.
​So, maybe he was a little creepy. And weird. But aren't we all?
​Which was why I was standing outside my house at the stroke of 12 O’ Clock, wearing my black dress and a witches hat. Molly had a point. It was Halloween.
​“Where are we going?”
​“You’ll see,” Conrad replied with a nervous grin, not taking his eyes off the road. He had shown up in a low-key black car, dressed head to toe in black- including his black cape. He had complimented me on my hat, and ushered me in the car…
​Where I had been for the last hour.
​“A hint?” I asked politely.
​“Shh,” was his response.
​He hadn’t talked about himself since we got in the car, instead firing question after question about me. Did I always live in Dover? What did I do for fun? What kind of music did I like? What was my family like? Where did I want to go to college?
​But whenever I asked him a question, he would just look at me with flashing eyes and smile that wicked smile, and then completely ignore my question.
​I didn’t stop zoning out until I felt the car slow. We were pulling into a dimly lit parking lot. I recognized where we were.
​“Conrad, Funville has been closed for years. It’s completely deserted,” I warned him.
​He flashed me another smile and pulled a key out of his pocket, unlocking the gates and leading me through.
​“It is Halloween,” he said.
​Funville Amusement Park had been a small amusement park a few towns over from Dover. It brought tourists from all over the country and boosted the economy for all the surrounding area. In 1965, a freak accident caused the park to close its doors forever. A wire had slipped from a ride, and somehow ended up decapitating a young girl. Her parents sued Funville for everything they had, and Funville had been closed ever since. There were rumors that the little girl still haunted the fairgrounds, but I didn’t believe any of it. I wasn’t into ghost stories.
​“How do you have a key?” I asked Conrad, trying to lengthen my strides to keep up with him. He was making his way towards the decrepit looking carousel. This was the strangest date I had ever been on.
​He didn’t answer me, not like I expected him to. The question was merely a formality, rhetorical, something to fill the silence as he maneuvered through the grounds deftly, leaving me to trip and stumble in my heels. The outfit looked cute, but it wasn't meant to be worn while trekking through a creepy fairground in the middle of the night.
​The carousel was still mostly intact, with only a few horses missing. The paint was peeling, and the wood was splintering, but you could still imagine what it looked like it all it's glory.
​Conrad had lit a few candles and poured two glasses of what looked like champagne.
​“Sparkling cider,” he answered my questioning gaze.
​I clinked his glass with mine and took a tentative sip.
​One sip was all it took- things started getting fuzzy and I felt as if the carousel was moving, faster and faster. My lips tried to form words but could only part.
​“Come find me,” I thought I heard Conrad say, but by that time I had fallen back on to the spinning machine.
​Fuck, my mind screamed at me before I lost conscienceness.
​When I opened my eyes, the carousel had stopped moving. I took a shaking breath and sat up slowly, rubbing my head. A light throb was making its presence known at the back of my skull, and my mouth was really dry, but other than that I felt normal.
​“Are you here to play with me?”
​I glanced up, straight into the eyes of a carousel horse. It snorted at me and tossed its head before shifting its position to reveal it's rider- a little girl of about 7, with large dark eyes and black hair.
​I was still trying to grasp the concept that she was on a moving pastel pink horse.
​“What?” I managed to croak out.
​She pursed her lips impatiently, “I said, are you here to play with me?”
​“What? Where is Conrad? I came here with...” I tried to formulate a complete sentence.
​“Conrad?” the girl asked, her eyes lighting up, “Conrad has been so good to me. If he brought you here, you must be mine to play with!”
​“Who are you?”
​She jumped down from her carousel horse, but her feet didn't make a noise when they touched the ground. As she stepped closer to me, I could see she was vaguely transparent.
​“I'm sorry, how rude of me. My name is Cassandra and this is where I live. Now, what would you like to play first? Hide-and-Seek is really fun here, but I also like the games on the other side of the park. Oh, and then we could always race the horses, but I've been doing that all morning,” the little girl said to me, holding her hand out to help me stand.
​I tried to let her grab my hand, but mine went right through hers, in a cold rush.
​“Darn it,” Cassandra muttered, putting her hands on her hips and looking at me. Suddenly, her eyes were as cold as her hand.
​“I guess we don't have a lot of time to play,” Cassandra said sadly, “So we'll just have to play Hide-and-Seek.”
​“I don't want to play, I want-” I started, but Cassandra cut me off.
​“You have until the sun rises,” the little girl told me, but she didn't sound like a little girl any more, “to hide from me. If the sun rises and I haven't found you, well...”
​She giggled.
​“...that's never happened. When I find you, I eat you. I'll count to 100.”
​“Wait!” I shouted. What the hell was going on?
​“Conrad is Home Free!” Cassandra called back at me, before fading into the darkness surrounding the carousel.
​Great. Because I knew where Conrad was. Right. I was completely alone in a creepy abandoned park with a creepy ghost who just threatened to eat me. Perfect first date.
​I had been “playing” for a little over an hour, if that's what you could call it. Cassandra had been toying with me all night. The gates Conrad had taken me into were locked, with no chance of me climbing out. Every time I thought I had found a good hiding place, I'd hear faint laughter, too close for comfort, and I'd have to move, quick, before she caught up. She knew exactly where I was at all times, and was letting me run around like a cat would a mouse before the cat devoured it.
​I was the mouse.
​It was half an hour 'til sunrise. I knew Cassandra was getting impatient- I could feel it in the air, in the way that static seemed to jump from my skin to my surroundings. She would pounce sometime soon, and then that was it. I would be just another one of the girls who disappeared on Halloween night.
​I felt a warm breeze on the back of my neck and bolted for the Fun House. She was making her move now. Her laughter followed me through the maze of mirrors; one wrong turn and I was a goner. I sprinted down a hallway that seemed to get smaller the longer I traveled through it. Suddenly, I heard a snarl from behind me, and I ran into something solid and warm.
​A scream finally found its way out of me and I shrieked like I had never before.
​“Shh,” warm words found their way to my ears, “Home Free.”
​Conrad let me back to the front gates, gripping my shivering body.
​“She's been keeping my family hostage for the past 3 months. She told me that if I didn't bring her someone on Halloween, she would kill them all. I...I'm so sorry. But she wasn't expecting me to be listening to her as she talked to you. All she had told me was that I had to make myself hidden while you two were playing, but I heard her tell you I was Home Free. I just waited for the right time to reveal myself. Right when she was close, because she can't go back on her word. I read that about vengeful spirits,” Conrad was doing more talking now than when he had all night.
​When safely out of the gates, he spun me towards him and stared straight into my eyes. I stared at his full lips.
​“No one is getting eaten tonight,” he whispered, and closed the space between us, kissing me softly.
​“Oh?” I asked, and sank my fangs into his flesh and devoured him.
​From behind the gates, Cassandra pouted.
​I dropped Conrad's lifeless body on the ground in front of me, wiping the mess from my mouth.
​“Better luck next year.”
​I said I didn't believe in ghost stories. Monsters in the closet, however...

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Black Wings

It's time to start the story shenanigans today! The first story of the blog is one from yours truly, and we'll just call it a light warm-up compared to the rest of the awesome stories that'll be coming your way over the next 12 days! Enjoy!

Black Wings

“Alice! I thought I told you to make tea,” Miranda Annalese stood at the frame of the door, hands on the hips of her frumpy, slightly moth-eaten dress. “I swear, you get to be like your mother with each passing day. Skittish, forgetful wretch…”

Alice glanced up, the small leather-bound novel held gingerly in her hands. In her truthfulness, Alice hadn’t heard anything her aunt had said since she’d touched the book in her hands. She’d gotten lost in the tale of fairies, blackened forests, and forbidden kisses that rose goose bumps on her arms. Glancing up to her aunt’s expectant glare, Alice smoothed her face out, placing the expressionless mask she knew so well in place to please her aunt.

“Apologies, Aunt Miranda,” Alice whispered as she stood, bowing her head slightly as she dipped down with her skirts held at her sides. It always had to be prim and proper, nothing less.

Miranda waved a hand dismissively, adjusting her glasses. “It’s quite alright, darling. Let’s go,” her gloved hand hung out toward Alice.

Alice hesitated, eyes scanning the room for a bookmark to keep the story where she left off.

“Could I have a moment, Aunt Miranda? I’d like to organize my mess.” Her hand swept the room, showing the random strewing of books she’d left in her wake.

“Humph, yes, yes, but hurry. The ladies will be here any moment, and I do not wish to stall them on their tea simply because my niece is lost in her fantasies. Women should not read; it gives them ideas that cannot be reached,” Miranda made a disgusted face at the book nearest her, flicking it with her hand. Turning, she left, the door quietly snapping shut behind her.

Alice counted to five before she sighed, setting the little book back on the shelf where she’d first discovered it. As she turned, she paused at the frostbitten window, soft petals of snow drifting onto the ground. She pressed a palm against the chilled glass, gazing out the window without truly seeing.

“Maybe if you thought for yourself once in your life, Aunt Miranda, you’d see how much we can reach,” she whispered, nibbling on her lower lip as she struggled not to cry. It wasn’t fair to be confined to tea parties and corsets, bearing children and housekeeping. Just once in her life she wished she could do something wild, something that didn’t stay within the limits of what was expected of women. Her eyes turned to the trees, watching as their limbs became coated in the translucent ice.

Her eyes narrowed between the trees as something moved. It was soft, almost too subtle to be noticed. Alice pressed closer to the glass, tempted to open the window and peer further.

He looked nothing short of a god, standing in the snow with nothing but a pair of trousers chopped off at the knees. His skin looked unimaginably pale, a milky ivory that reminded Alice of honeysuckle. His hair was short, wind-ridden, and dark, like his eyes. Yet something about him made her think of the porcelain dolls she owned, something gave her the impression that he was fragile.

He turned his eyes up towards the heavens, two black figures spreading from his back. Alice gasped, staggering back from the window. She grasped onto the chair, her eyes as wide as saucers.

“Wings!” She half-screamed, her voice echoing off the walls and into the distance as the door opened behind her.

“Alice!” Miranda had returned, perhaps angrier than before. “What have you been up to? Everyone is waiting on you, and you play these ridiculous games by hiding up here-“

“He had wings!” Alice turned to her aunt, grabbing onto her arm. “I swear it, Aunt Miranda, he had black wings as dark as the devil himself!”

Miranda stepped back, shaking Alice off her arm. She regarded her for a good, long moment. “Are you feeling alright, child? You have been reading far, far too much. Come now, a good round of needlework will fix your head right.”

But Alice had already turned back to the window, pressing against it as she searched for the dark angel. Her eyes narrowed on a figure on the ground in the snow, the small heap quiet, lifeless.

“Aunt Miranda, there’s a man down there in the snow,” Alice breathed, not daring to tear her eyes away from the window. What if the body vanished, too?

She heard footsteps approach her side, a firm grip taking hold of her wrist. “Now see here, child, I will not stand for this behavior. You will come down this instant and-“

“Will you look out the damned window?” Alice yelled, taking both by surprise. She’d never cursed, not once in her entire life. To curse in front of a guardian was stepping into the first ring of hell barefoot. Miranda, still too shocked to administer punishment, turned to the window, squinting at first, then letting her eyes widen like Alice’s had moments ago.

“Heaven almighty, there’s a body out there. Alice, call the police, quickly,” Miranda turned to face Alice, watching her niece shake her head.

“No, he needs help now. You call,” Alice turned and swiped her coat off the coat rack by the door, draping her shoulders as she pushed past the maid and ran through the open promenade door. Her boots trudged through the deepening snow, the hem of her skirts dampening with each passing second she spent in the bitter cold. Her heart was pounding viciously in her chest, threatening to drown out every other thought as she approached the motionless body lying facedown in the snow.

“Hello?” Alice called to the man lying in the snow, slowing her run to a trot, stopping as she stood with her toes touching the body. “Hello?” She reached out, her gloved hands shaking terribly. With all the force her light form could muster, she pressed into the body, turning it over and screaming in shock as a pair of lifeless, clouded eyes met hers.

Monday, October 17, 2011

the secret's out! we're live!

Phew! Well, hello there everyone! Yes, the title does not lie; the Halloween Short Story blog is finally up and ready to run! 

I do have to say first that I am sorry for the delay. I blame a terrible combination of caffeine and  technical difficulties. Don't worry, though, I promise I got 95% of the kinks out today. 

What is this blog, you ask? It's a short and fun little thing I chose to put together for my personal favorite holiday- Halloween! Come on, who doesn't like to dress up, get free candy, and go all out in weird make-up and extra decor around the house. During October you can totally neglect to clean and just say you're 'creating an atmosphere' for Halloween! Okay, maybe I'm the only one who uses that excuse, but still. 

For the next 13 lovely days leading up to the big night, I will be posting short story segments from a collection of authors and writers, all of whom were more than happy to pitch in and submit a little story for the sake of getting into the 'spirit' of things! 

We hope you're ready- tomorrow's first post will be from me. And here's a hint on what to expect; feathers from your back is most certainly not a normal thing.