Monday, March 17, 2014

Care For a Free Story?

Here's one I wrote a while back.  It was for a bonus chapbook that a publishing company was giving away to customers who ordered a certain book or something.  It's an extremely hard-to-find chap these days; only like 100 copies were printed, if memory serves.

     As for the story itself:  I'm not a big fan of zombies these days.  I think the genre is over-saturated with this particular monster, and I usually avoid books and movies about zombies if I can help it.  That said, while I'll never say never, there is very little chance that you'll ever see a zombie story from yours truly . . .

     . . . after this one, anyway.

     I wrote this one after asking myself, "Where is the worst possible place you could be when the zombie apocalypse starts?  What's the last situation you'd wanna be in, at that exact moment?"

     I wouldn't want to be in this kid's shoes, that's for sure.

   


THE WAKE



    “You can go up there, baby,” Mama tells me, “if you want to.”
     She sniffles, wipes her nose with a crumpled tissue.  Poor Mama barely looks like herself.  The dark make-up she normally keeps so perfect around her eyes is smeared down her cheeks.  Her pretty blond hair is all out of place.
     This has been so hard for her.  So hard for every one of us.
     “Honey?”  she says again.  Another loud sniffle.  “Would you like to go up and see Grampappy?  It’s okay . . . . ”
     She urges me forward with a soft hand on my shoulder.  I can feel her trembling. 
     “Rachel,” Daddy whispers.  He wraps one arm around Mama’s skinny waist.  “He’s eight years old.  I’m not sure if . . . I mean . . . do you really think we should –”
     Daddy has a pale, worried look on his face that’s not unlike the look he gets the times I’ve seen him and Mama argue (which isn’t often).  Like he’s searching for the right words to say, but they just won’t come to him.  As if he knows anything he says is only gonna make things worse. 
     Mama nods, pulls away from him a little but not in a mean way.   She wipes at her leaking nose again.  “We can’t shelter him from the truth forever, Marcus.  We had this discussion already.  He’s got to learn about death sooner or later.  Besides . . . I think . . . I th-think it’s what Papa would have wanted –”
     Mama breaks down.  Her knees buckle.  At first I think she’s going to fall, but she catches herself.  New tears stream down her cheeks.
     Daddy reaches for her.  “Oh, sweetheart . . . . ”
     “I’m sorry,” she says, first to Daddy then to the rest of the family gathered around her.  “I’m s-sorry . . . I can’t do this –”
     She runs from the room, her heels clicking loudly on the funeral-home floor where lush carpet turns to polished hardwood outside the Viewing Room.  Mama’s brother, big red-faced Uncle Tommy, goes after her.  Papa glances around at the rest of the family, mumbles “excuse me” under his breath before following Uncle Tommy.
     I watch him go.  Everyone watches him go.
     I want to leave with Daddy.  But I don’t.  I stay behind.  Because I know this will be my last chance . . . .
     My last chance to tell Grampappy good-bye.
     Slowly, I approach his coffin.  My tie – the one Daddy picked out for me last night at Wal-Mart, a silvery-blue clip-on with little black crosses all over it just like the one he’s wearing – suddenly feels as if it’s choking me.  I pull at it, wish I could yank it off and throw it across the room, even though Mama and Daddy have been telling me all morning to stop fidgeting with it.
     I take a deep breath.
     I step forward.
     The smell of the flowers all around Grampappy – more flowers than I’ve ever seen in one place in my life -- tickles my nostrils.  For a second or two I’m afraid I might sneeze on him.
     I imagine how someone would flinch, if you did that.  They’d wake up, probably get mad.
     He won’t.
     I stand on my tippy-toes, chew at my bottom lip as I peer over the side of his coffin.
     I expect to smell something awful.  The smell of death, and dead things.  Something like that cat me and my best friend Danny Monohan found in a ditch behind his house last summer, and we spent the next few weeks poking it with a stick till there wasn’t anything left to poke.
     At the very least, I expect to recognize Grampappy’s own smell.  That faint, familiar – but not at all unpleasant, ‘cause it was his, ya know? -- odor of sweat, hay, motor oil, and aftershave.  A mixture of all the things that made up his day.  The things that made my grandfather.
     But Grampappy has no smell.
     There’s . . . nothing.  As if he isn’t even real.  As if he’s just a manikin lying there.  Or a figure made out of wax.
     That thought makes me shiver.
     The only smell is the jungle of flowers around Grampappy’s coffin.  That, and my Aunt Ophelia’s cologne somewhere behind me.  She always wears too much, and ever since she kissed me earlier I’ve tasted it on one side of my mouth.
     I stroke Grampappy’s wrinkled hand with one finger.  It’s so cold.  As if he’s holding a handful of ice-cubes.
     Tears blur my vision.  There’s a heaviness in my chest, like I swallowed something big and it got stuck around my heart.
     I hear murmurs behind me.  Whispers that I can’t quite make out.  Quiet sobs.  Prayers.  The sound of my Great Uncle Arthur loudly blowing his nose again into his bright yellow handkerchief.  Sad organ music plays from a small speaker over my head, to the right of Grampappy’s coffin. 
     Now more than ever, I feel every adult in the room watching me.  I wait for one of them to pull me away from Grampappy, to tell me “it’s okay, honey, why don’t you go find your Mama and Daddy and wait outside,” as if I’m doing something wrong here.  But that doesn’t happen.  Not yet.  Their gazes burn into the back of my head, and I don’t like it at all.  I ignore them.  I wish I could be alone with Grampappy, to say my last good-bye.
     I stand there, staring at my grandfather.  At what he has become.
     I’ve been told many times in the past that I look a lot like him. 
     I always liked it when people said that.  Made me proud.  And I could definitely see it:  I have Grampappy’s nose, his big ears. 
     As I stare down at him, I understand what the grown-ups meant when they said “he looks so peaceful, like he’s just lying there sleeping.”
     He does look peaceful.  He does look like he’s just taking an afternoon nap after a hard day out on the farm.
     He’s so handsome . . .
     But that’s not my Grampappy lying there.
     They’ve dressed him in a dark gray suit.  Big, wide baby-blue tie with a clip that looks like two praying hands.  Shiny gold wedding band on his left ring finger. 
     I have never seen my grandfather in a suit.  He always wore wrinkled, faded flannel shirts, old brown workpants with grease stains on them or farmer’s overalls.  He hasn’t worn his wedding band since Grandmama died, years before I was born.  He always said he loved her dearly, but he didn’t wear it ‘cause it was too dangerous to have it on around all that farming equipment.  Plus, he didn’t ever want to lose it. 
     Grampappy’s wavy white hair is perfectly combed.  It looks slightly wet, as if he just stepped out of the shower a few minutes ago.  His nails have been perfectly trimmed, and there isn’t a speck of dirt beneath them.
     I remember Grampappy’s nails were always dirty, from working in the barn.  At least one of them was usually chipped and bruised where he’d hit it with a hammer.
     Everything feels wrong.  So wrong.
     That’s not my Grampappy lying there.
     I can’t believe he’s gone.  I can’t believe I’ll never see my Grampappy . . . my real Grampappy . . . ever again.
     He’ll never hold me on his lap, tell me stories about what Mama was like when she was my age.  He’ll never take me fishing out on the lake, never bait my hook for me because he knew of course I wasn’t scared of some stupid earthworm but just that big, scary barb stabbing through it.  We’ll never ride around the farm on his beloved old John Deere tractor; he’ll never again pretend that he’s letting me drive it, as his liver-spotted hands cover mine on the tractor’s rusty steering wheel.  Never again will his laughter fill the house as he watches those old Red Skelton videos or reruns of The Andy Griffith Show he used to love so much.
     My grandfather is gone.
     Gone . . . .
     Mama says he’s in Heaven now, spending time with Jesus, but what does that really mean?  I don’t get it.  Grampappy’s not in Heaven.  He’s here.  Right here, this still, lifeless, fake-looking thing in front of me.
     I don’t understand.  I don’t want to understand.
     All I know is:  I want my Grampappy back.
     More tears blur my vision.  I grip the side of the coffin so tightly my knuckles turn bone-white.
     It shakes a little.  Almost looked like Grampappy just moved.
     I swallow another lump in my throat.
     Suddenly, I hear the adults gasp behind me.
     I turn to face them, to see what’s going on, just as that tall man who runs the funeral home -- Mr. Mortensen, I think I heard Daddy call him – bursts into the room.
     Normally his voice is quiet.  Gentle.
     Now he sounds scared.  His voice cracks more than once as he speaks to my family, almost turning into a high-pitched squeal a couple of times as if his tie is choking him too. 
     “Uh . . . ladies and gentlemen?  Can I have your attention, please?  D-Don’t be alarmed.  Try to stay calm, please.  I . . . I need you all to follow me into the chapel.  I . . . um . . . I have to tell you . . . s-something has happened.  It’s all over the news.  The government has declared a State of Emergency.  They th-think it might be some sort of terrorist attack.  Biological warfare.  Some kind of . . . gas, maybe.  They don’t know what’s causing this yet.  But . . . they’re saying that dead people are --  no, no, of course that can’t be true.  Ridiculous.  It’s n-not . . . nevermind.  Forgive my rambling.  P-please, j-just . . . everyone, follow me.  Quickly now!  Into the chapel . . . p-please, people . . . we have to go . . . .  ”
     From somewhere outside the Viewing Room, there are screams.  One of them sounds like Mama.
     Mr. Mortensen’s head quickly turns toward the doorway.  He looks back to my family.  The doorway.  My family.
     “Oh, my God.”  Mr. Mortensen’s face goes pale.  He runs from the room as quickly as he appeared.
     “To the chapel, everyone,” he begs us as he goes.  “Please!”
     Next I hear Daddy’s hoarse cry, from down the hallway:  “Rachel!  Rachel . . . oh, Jesus!”
     Mama screams again.
     A loud thump . . . .
     And then a horrible growl, a sound that makes goosebumps pop up all over my armsIt sounds like something out of that old black-and-white horror movie Grampappy let me stay up late and watch with him one time:  Night of the Living Dead.
     Next, there are the sounds of wailing sirens outside, rising and fading in the distance.
     A violent crash, from elsewhere in the funeral home.  Breaking glass.
     A man curses.
     And now I am sure I hear that same man screaming:  “No!  G-God . . . D-Daddy, no . . . it’s me . . . what are you . . . no, d-don’t --!
     A gurgling sound, and then silence from the screaming man.
     More breaking glass.
     Then . . .
     Was that . . . a gunshot I just heard outside of the funeral home?
     “Get back!  Stay away from me!”  another male voice yells (Mr. Mortensen?).
     The adults in the room start shrieking.  My cousin Beverly passes out.  Aunt Ophelia does too.  Uncle Charlie tries to catch Aunt Ophelia, but he’s not quick enough.  Her head hits the corner of the Guest Register stand – thunk! -- on her way down.
     All around me now:  chaos. 
     I barely hear any of it, though.
     Because, suddenly, Grampappy’s ice-cold hand engulfs my own.  It squeezes.  Hard.
     I turn back to him . . . .
     His dead gray eyes are open.  He’s staring at me.
     His lips part with a soft ripping noise.  The cotton balls Mr. Mortensen stuffed inside of there tumble out, onto my arm, onto the floor, as . . .
     . . . Grampappy slowly sits up.
     And now I’m screaming too.
    
    

Sunday, March 16, 2014

ANIMOSITY: Audiobook, E-Book, and Trade Paperback Editions Now Available!

Permuted Press just released the audiobook, e-book, and trade paperback editions of my novel Animosity . .  order your copy today!


WHAT IF YOUR LOVE OF HORROR MOVIES/BOOKS/ETC. PUT YOUR LIFE IN DANGER?











ANIMOSITY is the story of Andrew Holland, a bestselling horror writer whose life begins to mirror the fictional nightmares of his novels after he finds himself in the wrong place at the wrong time.
 Andy’s wife recently left him for another man. To keep from getting too depressed about that, Andy has thrown himself into his writing more vigorously than ever, when he’s not spending as much time with his daughter, Samantha, as joint custody allows. His neighbors seem proud to know him (although none of them would admit to reading “that kind of stuff”). The author is the closest thing to a celebrity most of Poinsettia Lane’s residents will ever meet.
 Everything changes, however, the day Andy discovers the body of a murdered child just several hundred yards from his front door.

Almost instantly, his neighbors start to turn on him. Though the authorities clear him of any wrongdoing, as weeks pass with no arrest the local media insinuates connections between the gruesome subject matter of Andy's novels and his tragic discovery. His neighbors’ derision is subtle at first – a nasty look, a friendly wave that is not reciprocated. Ben Souther, with whom Andy once enjoyed cold beers and baseball banter on warm summer nights, offers the writer advice which now hints of something more unsettling than the sly wisdom normally found in his quotes-for-every-occasion: “Let us not make imaginary evils when we have so many real ones to encounter”.

His neighbors soon take their disdain to a frightening new level. His phone rings, and when he answers muffled voices curse him, spitting vile accusations. They vandalize his home, trash his vehicle.

And just when he thinks things can’t possibly get any worse, another child’s body is found.

Andy is no longer sure if he will survive this ordeal with his sanity intact…assuming he does survive.

ANIMOSITY is a disturbing look into how otherwise good people can allow themselves to be misled by gossip, rumors, and a mob mentality. It is a retelling of the “The Monsters Are Due On Maple Street” for the modern age, a morality-play-meets-horror-story in which the monsters wear all-too-familiar faces. Rather than bloodthirsty vampires or brain-eating zombies beating at the door, they are our own friends, our families, our peers…and what in any horror writer’s twisted imagination could be more terrifying?





Saturday, March 8, 2014

150 Words About . . . BAD MILO!


       Never thought I’d give the time of day to a movie about a demon coming outta someone’s butt!  Bad Milo! is a 2013 horror-comedy about a fellow (Ken Marino of Role Models and We’re the Millers in a rare likeable role) whose stress level is so high his IBS becomes something else entirely.  What his doctor initially diagnoses as an intestinal polyp turns out to be something much more dangerous . . . for those around him.  It starts with the murder of a co-worker – perhaps the most annoying character in a horror(ish) film since Franklin in the original Texas Chainsaw – and the body count rises from there.  Turn off your brain for eighty-five minutes, you’ll have fun with this one.  The joke wears thin around midway, as there’s only so much you can do with this idea, but Bad Milo! is worth a rental.  Just keep the Pepto-Bismol handy.



Monday, January 20, 2014

150 Words About . . . "HERE COMES THE DEVIL".

    

       Don’t you love it when all the hype turns out to be well-deserved?
       This is one creeeeeeeeepy film, folks.  When a young mother and father allow their son and daughter to wander off into the desert hills so they can be alone for a while (shades of The Hills Have Eyes, but only slightly, as we’re dealing with demonic forces here instead of radioactive mutants), something touches the children.  Think you know what that means?  You’re half-right.  The kids return a little later, to Mom and Dad’s elation, but they’ve changed.  And the children they bring home with them might not be their children anymore.
       With a style that reminded me of the great horror films of the 1970s, Here Comes the Devil gave me goosebumps several times.  I’d almost bet my soul that it’ll have the same effect on you.
       Creepiest line:  “The Devil was standing on my chest.


Saturday, January 18, 2014

FREE STORY!

. . . it's not from me, but it's a good one.  A favorite of mine, in fact!

    If you like it, please consider ordering a copy of Mark's collection, Tales From the Midnight Shift, Vol. 1.  I promise you won't be disappointed.  I read this one in a single sitting, and that's not something that happens with me too often these days, the crazier life gets.  This guy's the real deal.  If I didn't think so, I wouldn't currently be collaborating with him on a really kick-ass novella (details to come soon, and I promise you guys are gonna love it!)

     Get your copy of Tales From the Midnight Shift right here.

     Enjoy!  Like I said, I dig the hell outta this one.  It reminds me of some of the best of Bentley Little's work . . . but don't take my word for it . . .





JAM
 by Mark Allan Gunnells



8:10
Elliot was running late for work.  Which wasn’t unusual, was actually quite the norm.  He knew on some level that he was probably acting out his dissatisfaction with his job through chronic tardiness, but he wasn’t one for self-analyzing.
           
He checked his watch as he sped down the interstate at eighty miles per hour, twenty over the posted speed limit.  He was already ten minutes late, and he was about twenty minutes away from his exit, add another fifteen to get to the office from there.  That put him at his desk at around 8:45.  Even for someone who was perpetually late, that was pushing it.  But as long as he made it to the office in time for the weekly department meeting at 9:00, he should be fine.
           
On cue, as if the gods had heard Elliot’s thoughts and decided to teach him a lesson, he rounded a curve in the road and saw nothing but cars up ahead.  Stationary cars.  As in not moving, still, going nowhere.  Across all four lanes cars just idled, stretching away to the horizon.  It was like a fucking parking lot.
           
“Son of a BITCH!” Elliot shouted, banging his hands on the steering wheel.  A traffic jam, just what he needed.  Whenever he was in a hurry he could always count on a train blocking his path, or an endless succession of red lights, road construction, heavy rain having washed out a chunk of the street, or a goddam traffic jam.  He just couldn’t catch a break.
           
Elliot braked to a complete stop behind a gray SUV.  He was in the second lane from the right, and he was soon boxed in as other cars rounded the curve and got in line.  The jerk on his left, some teenaged dick with a backwards cap, actually honked his horn, as if it were just a matter of people not realizing they should be going forward.  Jackass.


FIFTEEN MINUTES LATER…
Traffic had not moved, not an inch, not a smidge, not a bit.  Elliot assumed there must be one hell of a car accident somewhere up ahead.  He could only see about a mile and a half away, then the interstate crested a small rise and dipped down out of his field of vision.  Whatever it was had blocked all four south-bound lanes and had traffic at a standstill.
           
But was it only the south-bound lanes?  Elliot noticed that the traffic in the north-bound lanes of the interstate had petered out until it stopped altogether.  The north-bound lanes were as empty as the south-bound lanes were packed with immobile vehicles.  Could the hypothetical accident have been so bad that it effectively sealed off the south-bound and north-bound lanes of a major highway? 
           
Elliot turned on his car radio and tuned it into the local station, WJAM 106.6.  If there was some disaster up ahead, WJAM was sure to be covering it.  The hours of 7:00 to 11:00 were devoted to Dillard and Kimbo—or Dullard and Bimbo, as Elliot thought of them—the station’s morning disc jockeys.  Elliot rarely listen to them because their inane and monumentally boring chatter was enough to tempt him into plowing straight into a guardrail.
           
“—and that’s why I always use tinfoil instead of plastic wrap,” Dullard was saying as Elliot found the station.
           
“Well folks, you heard it here first,” Bimbo said with a laugh.  “How to avoid that unfortunate freezer burn.  Maybe tomorrow I’ll tell you why I prefer whipped cream over chocolate sauce.”
           
“Hey, hey, keep it G-rated there, Kimbo,” Dullard said with mock seriousness.  “There may be kiddies listening.”
           
“Oh come on, Dillard, you think anyone is listening?”
           
“Yeah, my mom for sure.”
           
“Please, everyone knows your mom prefers the Chuck and Kelly show on WBKY.”
           
“Mom, no, you swore—“
           
Elliot punched the button to silence those humorless pricks.  Whatever was happening apparently wasn’t dire enough to warrant a break in the standard routine of easing people into their work day by making the commute so excruciating that they were practically begging to get into the office by the time they finally got there.


TEN MINUTES LATER…
Elliot dug through his satchel looking for his cell phone.  He obviously wasn’t going anywhere anytime soon.  He had the car in park and was considering turning off the engine altogether.  The gas gauge was hovering just above the E, and he needed to conserve every drop. 
           
He finally found his cell phone, but pushing the small button on the side did not turn the damn thing on.  Apparently the battery had no charge.  Leaning over, he popped open the glove compartment and rummaged around for the battery charger that plugged directly into the car’s otherwise unused lighter.
           
“Gotcha,” Elliot said, snagging the charger and plugging in the phone.  The small screen lit up and played a little tune, letting him know it was operational and happy to be so.  He keyed in his boss’s number and put the phone to his ear.  Nothing.  He looked down at the small screen and saw that the phone was not getting a signal.
           
“Goddam piece of SHIT!” Elliot yelled then tossed the phone into the passenger’s seat.  It pulled loose of the charger and lay there, dead, as useless to him as a block of cheese in a crisis.
           
He would definitely not be there for the 9:00 meeting, and he had no way to get in touch with his boss.  And it wasn’t even his fault this time, for Christ’s sake.  Act of God, force of nature, my dog ate my homework, whatever, but for once it wasn’t his fault and he had no way to let his boss know that.


HALF AN HOUR LATER…
Most of the people around Elliot had turned off their cars, several of them stepping out to stretch, walk around, grab a smoke.  Conversations were struck up, laughs were shared, complaints were swapped, speculations arose.  The prevailing theory seemed to be that two tractor-trailers had collided, one laid out across the south-bound lanes, the other across the north-bound lanes.  There was nothing to support this particular hypothesis—Dullard and Bimbo, heard through the rolled-down windows of several cars, had still made no reference to the colossal traffic jam on the interstate—but it seemed as plausible as any other.
           
Elliot sat on the hood of his Celica, playing a handheld Tetris game he’d found in the glove compartment when searching for the phone charger.  Maybe his boss had heard about the traffic jam and concluded that Elliot was stuck somewhere on the interstate, or maybe she thought he was an irredeemable slacker and was planning to fire him as soon as he got in.  Either way, he didn’t give much of a fuck at this point.  It would almost be a blessing to get fired, to be able to wake up in the morning without a sense of dread weighing down on him like a coffin lid.
           
Elliot stretched his neck until it popped, then leaned his head back and gazed up at the sky.  Easter-egg blue, with a few cotton-candy clouds floating by like barges in the sea.  Damn, nothing like a traffic jam to get a person’s poetic juices flowing.
           
He looked around at everyone milling about the interstate, visiting other cars, walking dogs, a ragtag game of football had even broken out in the median between the north and south-bound lanes.  It was like an old-fashioned block party, Elliot thought.  Not that he’d ever been to a block party, but he’d seen them on television.  The whole situation had a surreal quality to it, like something experienced in a dream.
           
The teenaged dick from the Ford pickup to Elliot’s left was flirting with the teenaged daughter of the driver of the SUV directly in front of Elliot.  Papa was keeping a disapproving eye on the whole affair.  To his right was an elderly woman who seemed made up entirely of wrinkles, chewing on beef jerky while leaning against the door of her gas-guzzling boat of a Chevrolet.  Behind Elliot was a minivan filled with screaming children and a frazzled woman who looked like she might be contemplating suicide as an escape from the hell that raged inside her van.
           
A light breeze sprang up, cooling the sweat on Elliot’s forehead, and he closed his eyes and smiled.  There were lots of grumblings around him, people ready to get on their way to wherever they were going, but Elliot found that in an odd way he was enjoying himself.  Sure beat the hell out of going to work.  Where were you all day, Elliot?  Why, I was attending a block party out on the interstate.
           
Where else?


TWO HOURS LATER…
People were starting to get hostile.  The whole situation was wearing on people’s nerves, and there was bound to be some spillover.  Small disagreements sprouted, blossoming into full-fledged arguments.  Somewhere several cars ahead there was a fistfight.  Some helpful truckers broke it up before anyone got hurt.
           
Elliot cranked his car for a moment, plugged his phone back into the lighter, and tried again to make a call.  Still no signal.  He’d heard several people complain of the same problem.
           
A man who looked to be in his mid-thirties, dressed in a suit and silk tie, knocked on Elliot’s window.  “Hey, some of us are gonna go get something to eat?  You want anything?”
           
“Something to eat?” Elliot said.  “From where?”
           
“Well, there were a couple of fast-food places off the exit about two miles back.  A few of us are gonna hike back that way and get some grub.”
           
“What if traffic starts back up while you’re gone?” Elliot asked, not really believing it would.  It had been so long, the very idea of traffic starting back up just seemed unthinkable.  Had there ever been a time when these cars moved?
           
“My wife is staying with the car,” Silk Tie said, pointing toward a very pregnant woman standing by a white Subaru.  “If traffic starts up again, she’ll just pull the car over on the shoulder and wait ‘til I get back.  Same with the other fellas going with me.”
           
“Sounds like a plan,” Elliot said, fishing a five out of his wallet and handing it to Silk Tie.  “I’ll take a cheeseburger and any kind of soda.  I appreciate it.”
           
“Not a problem,” Silk Tie said, then he and three others headed off down the interstate, weaving through the cars like survivors of some cataclysmic holocaust.


FIVE HOURS LATER…
Silk Tie and his three buddies never came back.  Silk Tie’s pregnant wife couldn’t seem to stop crying, interspersed from time to time with some hysterical screaming just for the sake of variety.  People were scared; there was a lot of praying, more fights, and more than a little fucking.  The driver of the SUV had been one of the three to go for food with Silk Tie, and his daughter’s method of grieving her father’s disappearance was to climb into the back of the SUV with the teenaged dick for about twenty minutes.
           
Elliot had discovered a half-empty bag of M&Ms under the front seat of his car, buried treasure.  He huddled in the backseat and ate them slowly, savoring each one, trying to be as discreet as possible.  It wasn’t that he didn’t want to share, it was just that he wasn’t going to share.
           
Through the windshield, Elliot saw SUV’s daughter and the teenaged dick emerge from the SUV, tears on her face and a grin on his.  He swaggered back to his truck, leaving her alone.


THE NEXT DAY…
Elliot sat on the pavement, in the meager shade thrown by the teenaged dick’s pickup, gnawing on a piece of beef jerky that Ms. Wrinkles had been kind enough to share with him.  It was a lot like trying to eat shit-flavored leather, but it was better than nothing.  Elliot had finished off the M&Ms last night.
           
Nearby a group of people were having a theological discussion of sorts.  A fat woman in a floral dress was saying she believed there had indeed been a horrible accident on the interstate.  Her theory was that they had all been killed in the accident and were now in some kind of purgatory.  Elliot almost chimed in that he didn’t believe in hell, or heaven for that matter, but then thought better of it.  Tensions were high, if he were to espouse the wrong opinion, these people were liable to attack and tear him to pieces.  He’d read Lord of the Flies.  Well, he’d seen the movie.


ONE HOUR LATER…
Dullard and Bimbo were discussing the latest Keanu Reeves film as if it had the power to change lives and enrich the world.
           
Maybe there was a hell, after all.


SEVEN HOURS LATER…
Elliot noticed that he kept seeing Minivan Mom, but he no longer saw any of her children.  And he didn’t hear them in the van.  The fat lady in the floral dress asked about them, but Minivan Mom just smiled strangely and said, “They’re sleeping.”


THE NEXT DAY…
Silk Tie’s wife went into labor early in the morning.  People started spreading the word up and down the line, trying to find a doctor.  It reminded Elliot of that children’s game where everyone sits in a row, and the first person whispers something to the next person, that person whispers it to the next, that one to the next, until you get to the last person in the row, the fun of the game being how different the end statement is from what the first person originally whispered.
           
Is there a doctor in the house?
           
Is there a doorway for the house?
           
Where’s the doorway for the mouse?
           
Is he a boring mouse?
           
He’s a bore and a louse.
           
We’re never getting out.


TWO HOURS LATER…
No doctor was found, but two nurses got the message and came to lend their services.  Silk Tie’s wife screamed loud enough to wake the dead, but not loud enough to summon back those in search of cheeseburgers.  It was her first child, and the nurses informed her that her labor could take hours.
           
A burly trucker organized a scouting party.  They decided to head out on foot south down the interstate, to try to find the beginning of the traffic jam and see what was causing it.  The plan was to walk for two hours, and if they hadn’t found the cause by then, they would turn and head back.  The idea that they still believed something tangible and logical was causing the traffic jam struck Elliot as funny.  He did not volunteer for the party.


SIX HOURS LATER…
The scouting party did not return.  No one really expected them to.


THE NEXT DAY…
It was a day of death and violence.
           
Silk Tie’s wife gave birth, the child stillborn.  She began to hemorrhage, and the nurses were unable to stop the bleeding.  She and her infant were buried together in the median.
           
The fat woman in the floral dress went to check on Minivan Mom and discovered what everyone already suspected.  She had slit all their little throats with a pair of scissors.  Minivan Mom would just smile and say, “Shhh, they’re sleeping.”
           
SUV’s daughter, who had been ignored by the teenaged dick since their tryst in her vanished Papa’s vehicle, took a switchblade she found in the back of the SUV and removed the offending part of him.  He was now just the teenaged.


8:10…?
Elliot began to wonder if perhaps they were all stuck in a single moment in time.  Maybe it was still 8:10, and he could still make it to the 9:00 department meeting if he could just somehow get himself unstuck.
           
Elliot recognized this as an insane notion, but this was an insane situation.  Two wrongs may not make a right, but can two insanes make a sane?


SOMETIME LATER…
The batteries in Elliot’s Tetris game had died.  His car would no longer crank, so he couldn’t even plug up his phone and play the games on it.  He had borrowed a book from Ms. Wrinkles, but it was a romance novel with a plot as predictable as life never is.
           
Elliot was bored.  It was time to go, time to get unstuck.
           
Going back didn’t help, going forward didn’t help.  What about off to the side?  A lovely green field ran along the side of the highway to the left.  What if he just walked straight across it?  Would he eventually run into civilization?  Would he find people again, life, the world?  Or would he end up with Silk Tie and the scouting party, in whatever dark place they had found along the interstate?
           
Fuck it, he’d have to risk it.  He’d run out of things to do here.  Besides, people had dug up Silk Tie’s wife and child and were roasting them, along with Minivan Mom’s brood, for dinner.  Elliot had a feeling they might taste worse than the beef jerky.
           
He walked over to the shoulder of the highway and hesitated just on the edge of the pavement.  He wasn’t going to tell anyone what he was doing, wasn’t going to invite anyone to join him.  If this plan failed, he would doom no one but himself.
           
And if it succeeded, he’d send help.
           
Or maybe he’d just get a cheeseburger.









Saturday, January 4, 2014

Gonna Be a Great Year . . . .

Lots of cool things on the way in 2014, friends . . . .

     JANUARY:  666 Hair-Raising Horror Movie Trivia Questions (trade paperback/e-book, Post Mortem Press)
    MARCH:  Animosity (trade paperback/audiobook/e-book, from Post Mortem Press)
    TBD:  Death Songs From the Naked Man, w/Donn Gash (e-book, from Cemetery Dance Publications)
    TBD:  People Are Strange (e-book, Cemetery Dance Publications)
    TBD:  The Wicked (German-language trade paperback/e-book, Mkrug Verlag)
    TBD:  Dog Days o' Summer, w/Mark Allan Gunnells (W.I.P.)



    Sweet.