Dead Friends: Tagline

I’ve been playing around with tagline’s lately with work, using some advice I have heard to come up with some catchy descriptions. Here is what I am thinking for Dead Friends, my current work in progress…

Her friends were dead…

Lizzie was still alive…

They wanted to correct that…

Killed by a curse-

Lizzies dead friends surround her…

She is still alive…

They died only because they knew her…

Now they want their revenge…

What are your houghts?

You’ll notice the break in the above. It is because it is written to look a certain way on Amazon upon publication. You can see how it would look by clicking here.

Dead Friends: Chapter 45

“Is there more?” Lizzie asked. She’d been watching Lizzie as she read the pages of journal entry they had found, while making glances towards the kitchen in the direction of the barn. She wasn’t sure how, but she was sure she felt the darkness throbbing out there, aching to get to them.

“Yeah, I just need to get a drink. Reading this. It’s disturbing and really worries me. What is out there? Have you been in the barn?” Jessica said, setting down the pages and moving into the Kitchen. Lizzie followed her as she got herself a glass of tap water.

“Well, yeah, it was where the clock had been. Didn’t I tell you about the creepy guy who came out here? The old Englishman-” Lizzie shuddered at the memory of him. “He just gave off this really uncomfortable vibe. I can’t even say why, but he also wanted inside the barn, but I think feared it as well. He wouldn’t come in there, not once the lights were turned on, and he wouldn’t step foot inside the house.”

“Things of evil can’t enter here.” Jessica said, taking a sip of her water while looking out the kitchen window towards the old barn. “I wonder why he couldn’t enter the barn though. It sounds like that’s where the evil is contained.”

“It doesn’t really feel contained.”

Jessica nodded her head in agreement.

“Jes, what am I going to do?”

Jessica turned to look at her. Lizzie could see that Jessica was wanting to say something, as she kept opening her mouth, but then closing it. Finally she stopped trying and looked back to the barn.

“We need to get a priest involved.”

“Really? God is the answer? When has he ever done anything for me?” Lizzie scoffed as she reached to pull down her own glass and ran the water.

“You just heard what he’s done for you. This house was blessed by a priest. God is what keeps you safe.”

“Yeah, just as safe as the voodoo woman’s charm. I’m still trapped in here with my dead friends outside wanting to kill me, and some kind of shadow thing who wants to do only God knows what.”

“But he is here, his presence is in this house.” Jessica waved at the room around them.

“So God is holding me prisoner here?”

“That’s not what I said.”

“Yes it is. Your telling me that there is some great almighty and that because of him, there is this evil thing out there. Why because of him? Because the big man upstairs wont smite it down, or cast it away, whatever he does with this stuff, I have to hide here in some remote cabin, not really even away that I can leave because if I do, people will either die or I will be attacked. Oh, and guess what. Your trapped here too, because in case you haven’t noticed, your the only friend of mine that hasn’t died, and the only reason why I can think that is, is because you are trapped in here with me. So there you go. There’s your God, and you know what, fuck him.”

Jessica looked stricken at Lizzie. Lizzie could see the color that had risen to her friend’s face and knew that she was angry. Surprisingly enough and to Lizzie’s amazement, she was mad enough to not immediately yell back at Lizzie. Which in a way, it was worse, because she calmly set down her glass of water and walked out of the room not even looking at Lizzie.

Lizzie stood there for a minute, looking at the door her friend had just walked through. She could hear Jessica moving around in the other room, but expected her to come back. After she didn’t, Lizzie grew nervous.


“Yeah?” Something was wrong. Lizzie could hear it in her tone.

“Hey.” Lizzie followed Jessica into the other room, getting ready to apologize to Jessica, not really sure what she had said to upset her, but obviously something was going on. Lizzie stopped when she saw that Lizzie was going through the diaries, looking at a few pages in each on then moving on to the next.

“I’m going to find that crazy voodoo woman and show you that she is not the answer.”

“What do you mean?”

Jessica stands up. She’s glares are Lizzie.

“You have this in your head that God can’t help you. You have all this evil around you and your only thought is this voodoo woman has some kind of answer for you. She doesn’t. The sooner you accept that, the sooner you will be able to pull yourself out of this mess.”

“Jess, I’m cursed. My family is cursed. You read the pages. That guy, some distant relative, who the hell knows, he had a priest out there and guess what, the priest was also killed. Everyone who tries to help is killed.”

“There is a way out, and God will be the answer.”

“You can’t honestly believe that.”

“I do.”

“Then your an idiot. When did you get all Jesus freak on me.”

“What did you just say?”

“I said, when did you go all religious? Is this Denny? Did he get you into all this?”

“I met him through my church, which I’ve gone to since I was a little girl. You would have known that, but you and Sarah were always so involved in yourselves, that you really never got to know me did you. Don’t get me wrong, you’ve always been good friends, but you never asked what I was doing Sunday mornings, or why I would never meet up with you guys on Wednesday nights.”

“Well no, you said you were busy. It was your thang.”

“Yeah, well God is more than just a ‘thang’.”

“I get it. Your ultra religious. I’m not. Jesus isn’t just going to come swooping in here to save me.”

“No, but he might help you save yourself.”

“Its not going to work that way. God doesn’t work here.”

“Then why can’t they get in this house.”

“One of them did, and Sarah is dead because of it.”

“What do you mean?”

“This all started here, when Sarah and I came here. Remember? That guy attacked her. He killed her. He was naked when he did so, which is something I will never get out of my head, that penis over me, the maggot swiveling out of its head. God, I don’t think I’ll ever be able to have sex again. But that happened there, in that kitchen, and you now what, God didn’t come save me, and that thing was able to get in despite your ‘God’s protection.” Lizzie said as she air quoted about God’s protection.

“Yeah, but he was just a man. Men can be corrupted. That won’t stop them from coming onto blessed earth.”

“No Jessica, he was dead. That’s what the sheriff said. He had been a freshly buried corpse, and had somehow dug himself out of his grave to be in here when we got here, and he killed her.”

Lizzie was trying to hold it together, but the tears were streaming down her cheek as much as she tried to fight it. The more she did, the stronger the sobs became, the memories coming back to her as she had watched the life fade out of Sarah’s eyes. She had watched her friend take her last breath just yards away from where she was standing now, and over the last week had been able to block those images out. Whatever mental barrier she had put up to protect her from those had withered away, and now all those emotions she had been bottled up were rushing at her.

She couldn’t handle them. She collapsed into the closest chair, letting the waves of emotion slam into her.

Before Lizzie could see through the tears, she could feel Jessica’s arms wrap around her, but they weren’t just enveloping her. Jessica pulled Lizzie up into a long hug. It was long and soothing and Lizzie could feel some of the tension trapped in her shoulders release, but with it, a new torrent of tears.

“Come here.” Jessica stepper away, but had slipped her hand into Lizzie’s so she could pull her. Jessica was leading her into the other room, but Lizzie could t stop herself from asking.


She saw where. Jessica was taking her into the bedroom.

“Come on. You need to lie down.”

Lizzie followed her, and once in what was now ‘her’ bedroom, she rested onto the mattress. She hadn’t noticed how it had smelled before, but she thought she could now almost taste the generations that had slept there, all tortured by this affliction. It was trapping her, and she felt herself balling up, pulling herself inwards. She was never going to be able to leave this place ever again. This was her prison now, but her only crime was one someone in her blood line had done a long time ago.

New tears wet the brown stained pillow, she could feel them streaming down her cheeks. Behind her she felt the bed shift and then warmth. Jessica was behind her and wrapped her arms around her.

“Your not going to try and make out with me, are you?” Lizzie said. She knew she was trying to be funny, but could hear how bad the off the cuff joke came out even to herself. “Because I never took you as swinging both ways.”

“Shh. Just relax. We’ll figure this out okay.”

“How can you say that?”

“Because I have faith, and for the record, I’ve always thought of you and Sarah as my sisters, and sisters can lie with one another when one needs it. There is nothing sexual about this.”

“If you say so, and thanks.” Lizzie said. She could feel that fear and worry that we plagued her, fade. She also felt herself slipping off to sleep and hadn’t realized how tired she’d been. “I’m going to die here.”

“Liz- Do you know where this voodoo woman even lives?”


“Where does she live?”

“How do you know about her?” Lizzie asked. Her voice was just above the whisper and she knew she was saying the words but wasn’t connected to them. Part of her had already slipped away, losing herself to sleep, and what was still awake seemed like it was talking out from a dream.

“You told me about her. Remember, the talisman. I’m going to go see her. You think she has some kind of answer for you. I’m going to go see her.”

“Please don’t. I can’t lose you too.”

“You are not going to lose me. Your not going to lose anyone else. We’re going to stop this.”

“She’s at-“ And that was the last Lizzie could remember as she drifted off into sleep. As she did, she thought she could hear the old voodoo woman laughing at, her, but then the sound faded, and the darkness enveloped her into unconsciousness.


Lizzie wasn’t sure, but didn’t think she had slept too long. It was still the light outside, though the clouds made it hard to know for sure where the sun was. It didn’t matter, the little bit of sleep that she had did reset her, calm her nerves. After all, maybe Jessica was right. Maybe they could find a way out of this.

Lizzie released the blind and let it slip back into place, trying to ease it closed without making too much noise. Jessica must have called asleep behind her as she could feel her still pressed up against her back. It was more comforting that she’d like to admit having her there. Lizzie wasn’t sure if she could handle being alone anymore. She needed someone to help her through this. She didn’t know what she had done to deserve a friend as good as her.

Lizzie worked on continuing to move silently as she slid from the bed and out of the small bedroom. The house seemed so quiet, quieter than it had since she first arrived at the house.

It made sense. Since she’d been there, whenever it had been silent like this, she had found it oppressing and creepy. The stillness drove her to the point that she thought her own mind was buzzing inside her head. So since she’d lived there, her laptop had been playing some form of music, always playing quietly in the background.

The music had stopped at some point during her nap, and for the first time, Lizzie actually found the lack of noise comforting. She quickly made her way through the room to the kitchen. Her mind kept wondering as she walked.

How were they going to break the curse? Jessica was so confident that they would, but how? She believed her god would. Did Lizzie?

There was something that happened with the birds. She could t quite remember what, but there had been something out there. Just there was no way Lizzie was ready to call it Devine intervention. If it was, God had waited his sweat time before he had stepped in. There were quite a number of very good people whose essence was outside that could still be alive if God was going to step into things. They could all still be alive.

Lizzie wasn’t sure she could put her faith in a God who let that happen.

She stepped into the small room, listening as the squeal from the door hinges broke through the silence. It was much like the first time she had entered into this room, and for a heartbeat of a second, Lizzie was the naked man standing there. He was again standing over her dead friend, Sarah on the ground with her eyes bulging, nearly exploding from their sockets.

Lizzie closed her eyes and count back from five. He wasn’t there. There was no way he could be. He was dead.

He’d been dead the first time. That hadn’t stopped him then and it might not have stopped him now. Though I can’t smell him…

Before he had that terrible odor to him. She remembered it as that sweat and rotting meat. It had been gut wrenching had he not already disgusted her with his naked appearance.

She opened her eyes and he was gone, not that he had ever really been there. Well, she’d had a few moments of peace. The tension was already starting to tighten her back and she could really use another back massage. Her chest was burning, the stress slamming back into her.

Her water was near the sink and she was thankful that it was still mostly full. It was even slightly chilled, and she enjoyed it as she let the clear fluid rush down her throat into her empty stomach.

“That’s the stuff.” She said to the empty kitchen and was already starting to look around for something to eat. The cabinets weren’t bare of food, but there wasn’t a plethora of it either. Most the snack food was gone because come on, she was still of college age, of course she at that first. There was so frozen vegetables in the freezer, and some sandwich meat in the fridge.

Lizzie continued to think through, taking a virtual inventory of her food situation, but there was movement outside. There was someone arguing. She turned and she could see two men out there fighting. They were in the shadow of the barn, so she couldn’t really see them and just barely hear there voices. They weren’t yelling at one another, but Lizzie felt it was only a matter of time. First the shouting would come, and then the hitting. Wasn’t that how men always chose to solve things. A bunch of men, always trying to fix problems with their fists and not their head.

She moved to the door, getting ready to go outside when she remembered earlier. This… this was all probably just another trap, trying to lure her out there. She still hurt from the last time they did that, and the time before that. She kept falling for it, when was she ever going to learn not to rush out there?

It was in her nature. If she heard someone in trouble, she… no, that wasn’t right. Jessica was the one who would run out there and fight. What is wrong with her? Lizzie was the mouse, she always hung back. Why did she keep running out in the midst of these things.

Could it be because it was your friends out there, and you don’t want to see them hurt? She supposed that could be a part of it. That didn’t stop it from being stupid.

She let her hand fall away from the back door knob and retreated back to near the kitchen sing. Just because she wasn’t rushing out there, it didn’t mean she still wasn’t concerned for her friends. Most of them were her friends. They were dead, but that didn’t mean she didn’t worry about them.

Lizzie wanted to see what was happening out there, she wanted to know who it was that was fighting, but instead, even going against how much it nagged at her to know, she focused purely on getting herself another glass of water. Maybe the cool water would wash away from of that pulling sensation that was trying to force her to look outside. If it felt just as refreshing as before, maybe then she wouldn’t look out the window, or worse, actually go back to opening the door and taking that step outside.

The water was bitter, almost sour in her mouth and she set it aside, frowning at it for disappointing her. She couldn’t ignore it anymore. There was more noise out there, now voices were shouting. She could hear someone yelling her name. Then to her surprise, someone was yelling Jessica’s name and it was a voice she recognized but knew it shouldn’t be here.

“Dennis?” Lizzie said to herself quietly as she rushed to the back door, this time pulling hard on it, flinging it open so that it slammed against the counter and shaking the glass above. She didn’t pay it any attention, but she did keep a careful eye on the threshold of the door as she reached it, making sure not to cross it.

She didn’t have to go any farther to see him. He was right there. He had been near the barn and was rushing away from it, hurrying to get to the cabin. Roland and Josh were close behind it. They all stopped when they saw her at the door. Roland, those sad eyes of his, looked at her. He already knew the truth of how Dennis was here, but Dennis was oblivious and obviously confused as his wide eyes tried to look at her and everything around him at the same time. They were always moving, looking all over, trying to take everything in at once without missing anything.

“Lizzie, I’m not sure how I got here, but I need to see Jess. She said she was coming to check on you, but then I never heard anything, and- is she hear? I need to see her.”

Lizzie opened out mouth to say something, but just closed it right away, not able to form the words. Already the moisture was forming at the edge of her eyes, though she promised herself she was not going to cry this time. She was not going to let the emotions get the better of her. Why should she. Wasn’t this becoming an every day thing? Of course another one of her best friends was dead. Of course they were there to be with her.

She looked at the large wound at his neck. As he had been speaking the words had whistled out of him, some of the air escaping from where someone had cut his throat. It was jut another one of the many ways that her friends were dying.

Nope. She couldn’t deal with it. She shook her head and closed the door.

“Lizzie!” Dennis yelled, the anger obvious as his voice grew harsh. Well, he can be mad at her. He was going to be out there for awhile, he would eventually get over it. She just wasn’t ready to deal with him yet, and he would have to wait until she was.

For now she had another issue. Jessica. Lizzie had to tell her, but how? This was going to shatter so much of her beliefs. Lizzie knew that her friend felt safe by all of this just due to her own reliance on her god, but Dennis shared those beliefs. His loyalty hadn’t done anything to protect him?

It was going to ruin Jessica.

You could always not tell her?

That was true, but how long would that last? Eventually it would slip out and then what, tell her he had just gotten there? That might work, but Lizzie didn’t trust herself to lie that well. Not only that, but Jessica was risking a lot to be there with her. Jessica deserved to know.

Lizzie just wasn’t sure how she was going to tell her.

She’s going to blame you, you know that right?

“Yeah, well she should. It is my fault. Neither of them should have died. None of them should have. They should all be alive. I should have just killed myself when this whole thing started.”

She thought about that for a moment as she entered into the living room. She wasn’t really looking for anything as she looked around the quiet house. If anything, she was looking but not seeing. She didn’t pay attention to any of the mess that was cluttered around her. She had cleaned up much of it, but there was still so much stuff. Now they took their time as they cleaned, hoping that her uncle had found some clues as to this existence.

I should have killed my brother and then myself. Then this damn curse would have just ended.

Lizzie shuttered at the thought, but couldn’t stop herself. What would have happened if the curse didn’t have anyone in the blood line to continue on? What happened then? Was that the solution? For all this to end, she had to become a murderer like the first cursed? What if she was wrong? Look at where his murder got him? Look at what it done to the rest of his descendants. Killing her brother was not any kind of a solution.

She needed to tell Jessica and the longer she put it off, the more she would think about it. In truth, Lizzie was starting to feel like she had had enough of thinking. Her thoughts were starting to have their own thoughts. She wanted to be be done with it.

Jessica still hadn’t left the bedroom, and Lizzie went to wake her.

“Jess-” Lizzie started as she stepped into the small, dark room. She stopped, her mouth hanging open as she entered, the rest of her friends name caught on her tongue as she stood there. Then something must of snapped and Lizzie found herself on the floor. The tears were already flooding from her and she shook her head, not accepting the truth.

“Jessica. How could you.” Lizzie said to herself as she pulled her knees to her chest and crept into the corner. For now, she wasn’t ready to accept anymore. First Dennis was dead and now… now Jessica…

Free Summer Reading: Saying Goodbye

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Saying Goodbye
Truck driving is a lonely profession. It is hard on both the driver, and the families that love them. One of the hardest moments in the drivers life if after being on the road for weeks, they return home for a couple days before leaving again. They leave, and it is then that they must say their goodbyes. For this driver, he must say his final goodbye.

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Space Truckin’: Free Fall

“Hey, Dad. When are you coming home? It’s been forever since we’ve had a chance to hang out, and I know I was away at camp last time. Mom sent me there, and when I got home, you were already gone. We miss… I miss you. Come home, Dad.”

Will reached a hand out to the computer screen, slightly touching it, as he watched his daughter do the same. He was trying to keep the torrent of tears at bay. He had told himself he wasn’t going to cry and, damn it, he was going to keep that promise.

Her tears came first. From the glow of her lamp behind her computer, he could see the little glint. He couldn’t see the lamp, but watched it twinkle off the little tear creeping down her cheek. Then another one came down the other side of her sweet, innocent face, and he heard her sniffle. He knew it would just be a second before she would pull her hand away from the screen to wipe her nose, then she did.

That was all it took, although his tears didn’t flow down his face. In just half a G of constant acceleration, the tears hung at the edges until more formed, then the little drops of saltwater floated around the cabin. Eventually, they would hit something, or he would drift into them and the wetness might actually reach his cheeks. Right then, he longed to feel their touch. It would allow him to share in what his daughter was feeling…that moisture, those tears, that hurt as she looked at the screen. Her tears were coming faster, and he watched as her chest heaved in sobs.

“I love you, Dad,” she said, quickly reaching forward, grabbing her laptop. Then his screen went dark.

He didn’t reach as quickly for his own. There was no reason for him to hurry. It wasn’t a live communication as he was out of range and anything that would be fast enough for them to talk without any kind of unbearable delay, so it was just easier to send the video messages. This one was her latest as she had just gotten home from camp, realized he was already gone again, and knew it would be at least another six months before she would see him.

It had already been two months since he left. He was ready to get back and stay home the full time this time. As it was, he could have stayed home and been there when Angie got back from camp. Had he known she would have been home, he probably would have. If her mom hadn’t been such a pain in his…

            Don’t let yourself get worked up thinking of her. It won’t do you any good. Don’t go down that road. Just calm yourself, take deep breaths. Deep breaths.

            Her mother, that selfish woman he had been married to for nine years, had lied to him, allowing him to believe Angie had been sent away to school. That cocksucker of a new boyfriend of hers had money, and Wendy got most of his, so he had little way to verify what they told him. It wasn’t like he was home all that often. He had no way to research or look into it. How would he have known Angie was only away at camp? She was supposed to be overseas doing some kind of school internship.

He could have spent some time with his daughter before coming back out here. He didn’t have to hurry. He had plenty of time to use. He could have stayed home, seen her, spent time with her. Instead, he had taken that woman at her word, allowed her to tell him his daughter was gone.

            And if you continue to just sit here and allow yourself to get pulled further into thinking about it, you are only going to make it worse. Your daughter’s home, she is safe with the beast, and you are now almost a million miles away from Earth, driving your rig to Mars. If you start thinking about it too much now, you’re just going to continue thinking about it, then you’ll be falling back into depression again. Space is the last place you want to be suffering from that. It isn’t like you can just pull into a truck stop, like the old days, and start talking to someone.

And it wasn’t like he could just pull into a truck stop to “find” someone for a little “me” time, even though he’d never done that before. He hadn’t been one of those drivers who found comfort in another woman’s arms when he was out on the road. He knew many other drivers who did, but he stayed faithful, even though she never believed he did.

He reached forward and clicked “Save” on the message. He knew he would probably never watch it again. It would get stored in the internal storage of the on-board computer system and just sit in his personal folder. It would get lost in the depths of family photos, music he had made sure to download for the journey, some TV shows he had been behind on from his last trip out, and whatever movies he could sneak off the net before he had launched back out.  Yes, it was illegal and, sure, it wasn’t right, but when you were gone from Earth for eight months at a time, there was a lot to catch up on. There was just no way to pay for it all before he left.

William was one of the few in the fleet of “truckers” who were now on the space highway hauling ice and whatever else was needed for the terraforming efforts taking place on Mars. Few meaning there were only about a hundred or so, but it wasn’t a job in high demand right now. Not too many people wanted to take on the risk or could deal with the isolation. After all, this whole project was not like what sci-fi books or movies portrayed. This was a corporate run, which meant everyone was in it for a profit, and profits meant being on the cheap.

N.P.T.H. Tech, the subsidiary of the larger search company that started it all, tried to run things as cheaply as possible. They cared more about their computers and its self-driving capabilities than the human component. He was more of a hindrance in their machine than actually a help. Sure, he was knowledgeable about fixing things on his rig here and there, but he wasn’t a true pilot or “driver”. He was just a passenger, only there to allow them to get government approval…not that they really needed it.

It was well-known that N.P.T.H. could have easily launched the whole project from any country, and the laws were kind of lax with it being a space-borne project. He launched up to an orbiting station, the Alpha, at which his rig would dock. His load looked more like a train. The lead car housed his living quarters, followed by a row of ice blocks or shipping containers linked together, and ending in the “caboose”.

On Earth, the whole system would be a mess with cars trying to slip in and out, nothing able to keep them from going all over once the thrust was applied, but this system was developed for lower gravity. The propulsion came from the caboose, the propellant converted from excess ice in the rear car, and the links kept straight by cables along the corners of each car. The cables could pull in or extend a little, depending on how everything needed to adjust while the rig was in motion

N.P.T.H., or even their parent company, was a business. Astronauts cost money, and since their self-driving system, which would be nearly legal on the highways across the United States, was such a good system on roads, why not use it in space? And if the system could drive itself, why pay for an astronaut or scientist? They weren’t used to the isolation, have a higher education, and might cause ripples. Worse yet, they might look at the technology under the hood and steal it for a competitor. Why bring on those people when there are cheaper alternatives?

Will was not sure when or how someone started to look at truck drivers to become these “space truckers”. Maybe it was when one of the high-priced execs was stuck in traffic one day, sitting behind an eighteen-wheeler, and started thinking about that driver sitting behind that wheel all day. Maybe he looked into it and found that these people drove fourteen-hour days, stayed out on the road for months at a time, and were locked up in their own self-imposed isolation away from wives and kids.

They realized they wouldn’t need scientists. They just needed gear jammers, someone to sit in the seat and be a passenger as this behemoth drove itself.

It was an interesting system. He would haul the loads to the station on Mars, drop off his load, hook up to the empty containers, and bring them back to Earth. In a way, it wasn’t any different than his trucking job had been. He would be out for the eight months it would take for a round trip, then he’d get four months off before he would go back out.

This last time, however, he had only been home a month. In that time, he had nearly gotten himself locked up, fought his ex many times, and had a couple of bar fights and an all-night drinking binge. The whole mess had him on such a downward spiral, he felt as if he needed to go back out again. Being home wasn’t doing him any good if he couldn’t see his little girl. Burn and turn, make some extra money, and when he got back the next time, they would be able to do something really nice with his four months.

But he could have stayed. He could have been home longer.

A light flashed on his console. He had another incoming message, but unlike the message from his little girl, this one had the standard tag on it. It was from his dispatcher, Audrey. She was a nice girl, but she needed to learn it wasn’t necessary to check in with him every day.

He touched the screen, sniffling in the last of the tears as he did. They kind of clung in the back of his throat, not having the force to really pour out of him like they should. In a second, a young woman, blond hair cut short in a bob that he was surprised to find out was coming back in style, appeared on the screen.

“Hey, Will. Just checking in. You’re halfway there. Yeah!” He watched as she did a little happy dance in her seat, and he couldn’t stop the side his mouth from curving into a small smile. It was funny how these young pups seemed to be the ones behind the screens now. The computer world was for the young. He would always be the gear jammer, just going where this younger generation sent him. Although it made him happy to think that his daughter would soon be one of these young people running things. “Everything is right on track. You don’t need to send me a reply or anything, unless you need to talk. I’m always here. You know that. You guys out there… You are all amazing, and I’m just amazed at how you keep those rigs running so safely. We’ve been two hundred and ten days without an accident. Safety is all over how astonishing that is. We have now set a record, and so now everyone’s worried about when the shoe will drop and something will happen. Don’t let it be you. I’d hate for it to be one of my drivers to break the record. You be safe out there.”

The communication cut off as she gave a little wave, then stopped the recording. He continued to look at the blank screen for a moment before his little smile wavered and the silence of the room around him closed in.

He knew she would be sending that message out to the others, as well. She had about eighteen people she coordinated. Each one was a few days behind the one in front of them, all on their own trajectory to meet Mars orbiting around the sun, and running in a continuous loop. With how Mars had an elliptical orbit, it was somewhat funny how one of them would leave after another driver, but be able to get home first just by how their launch window was.

Well, it was time for him to start his day. He’d been sitting there long enough listening to messages. It was time to get something done.

He spent the next five minutes checking, seeing all the systems were running fine. There were no anomalies. He was on course. Everything was the same as usual. All the automated systems were running as they should. Everything was normal.

The propulsion system was converting ice to fuel, just like it should. The flow was optimal. There was nothing he needed to do but sit there.

Damn, this is going to be another long day.

He unfastened his seat belt, feeling that artificial sensation of gravity give way as nothing held him. He was left to just hover, his body floating above the grav chair. It was always so disconcerting to no longer feel his weight against the chair, even though he had never truly felt it. It had only been the pressure of the strap that had kept him there, not his actual weight.

He had to find something to do. There was the aft propulsion he should check on. It would only be another day before the caboose ended its long burn and the cab would fire its engines.

He was never at a constant speed, but at a state of constant acceleration.  It gave him the little gravity he did have, but meant he was either accelerating or decelerating.  There was never a time when the rockets weren’t burning, so tomorrow, when the accelerating rockets cut out, the decelerating rockets would fire, starting the two months of constant deceleration. There would be a sudden jolt and a wicked twist, then his stomach would feel like it was upside down.

There were still plenty of system checks he should perform. They were mandatory, just like doing the logs every day. Check this and that, make sure this system was a go, that this valve was regulating properly. He made sure to check them every week. It wasn’t a big deal if they didn’t get checked daily. However, now that the big burn was going to shift, he really should look more into it, make sure it was all good to go.

It always was, just like everything else on this damn automated rattrap. He didn’t know why he even bothered.

He reached out the on-board tablet mounted on the console and unfastened it from its dock. The screen immediately lit up, requesting his passcode. Why the hell he needed to enter a passcode on a rig where he was the only person made just as much sense as why there were EVA suits for five people stored in the maintenance lockers. Just another of the many mysteries of wasting money.

He typed in the eight digits that made up his daughter’s birthday, then cursed under his breath when the screen flashed “invalid”. It was never easy typing in the damn thing when gravity was loose around him. He took a deep breath and slowly retyped it, making sure each number registered correctly.

Before he could finish, a light flashed on the console, indicating a message. This time, it wasn’t a delayed video message, but a live audio message. He pressed the box on the screen, letting the table float near his head as he reached out to pull himself back into the grav chair.

“Hey, Space Cowboy. This is the Young Duck. Comeback.” A very young and excited voice filled the small room. He quickly reached to turn down the volume. There was always something odd with how the live audio feeds came in at such a higher volume than the recorded messages. Someone once said it had something to do with compressing something else, but it didn’t matter to him. All of that was all over his head.

It was always good when he was able to hear another voice. It often occurred when a return driver just happened to be within a relatively close range. It didn’t always happen, and when it did, they typically had maybe an hour or two before they’d lose the ability to talk in near real time. After that, they would drift far enough apart where the delay would make communication harder and harder until it would grow unbearable.

Truthfully, it wasn’t usually the delay that stopped the conversations. Will didn’t know how it was with other drivers, but he wasn’t the most talkative. He liked the chance to talk for a little bit, but two hours was a stretch. Any longer than that, he just didn’t think he had in him.

“This is the Space Cowboy. You on your deadhead?” He knew the other driver must be, but it was just as good of an icebreaker as any.

“Sure ‘nough. Already kicking in the reverse burn and we’re almost home. It is going to feel good. Damn, I can’t wait to get that paycheck and those four months off.”

So much energy, so much fire. Young Duck was probably just that. Some young pup who was probably doing his first solo run.


“Yeah. I got a passenger heading back. One of the locals from the station who needed to get home and couldn’t wait for the next rotation.”


“Yeah. She’s got it bad. They have me keeping her in restraints.”

Coffer was what some of them got when they had been out there too long. It was a form of cabin fever. That confined feeling when someone couldn’t get out, just staring at the same walls all day. It drove some of them to a form of mental breakdown.

One of the first cases had been pretty bad. The man had been locked in his room on the station, lying in the dark. He was convinced he was dead and in a coffin. Somehow, that coffin feeling, being trapped in the darkness of space, that claustrophobia of being in a small box, had come to be known as Coffer Syndrome.

Sadly, it wasn’t all that uncommon. Many times, it set in quickly, usually with the new shuttle jockeys. Young Duck would be a perfect candidate as it often happened to those who were the most energetic and new to driving.

“Yeah, well, keep those restraints on her. They can get dangerous if she gets free.”

“I am. Keeping the meds in her, too.”


“How long you been out?”

“I start my reverse burn tomorrow.”

“Ahh, damn. Sucks man. Still got another six months. How ya doing with it?”

“Just another day.”

“Really? How long you been doing this?”

“Six years now.” Six long years, and getting longer. This job wasn’t getting any easier.

“Damn. I don’t know if I could do this for six years. Though it’s gotta be nice. Hell, the mad pay… You gotta be rolling in the dough.”

Will didn’t want to be the one to break it to the kid. When drivers headed out, nobody told them they had to pay for all the prepackaged food and stuff they sent off with them. When they got back after eight months, they deducted all those expenses, as well as anything he may have damaged in flight, and took that off the paycheck. It was another one of the ways they got a person out there, making it so he had to stay. Sure, he got four months off when he got home, but his cell phone would be turned off and he’d lose his apartment while he was out. It was hard to find places that supported renting to someone for just four months.

He might make a decent paycheck, but it never seemed to add enough to get him out of the hole he always seemed to dig himself into.

“Yeah, just keep raking it in. So, any word from the station? Any news?”

“There’s talk. The Martians are all up in arms about the robots. They need new parts, but aren’t getting them from Earth. Plus, they’re all bitchin’ about their rotation being so damn long. Man, there is this one hot MILF there. Next time I get back, we’re going to-”

When the radio started to hiss and break up, Will wasn’t too worried about it. The kid was probably on a trajectory farther out than Will had originally thought. It wasn’t the worst thing, though. The kid was somewhat annoying.

Young pups… Why was the energy and excitement for things always wasted on the youth? Was he ever truly that young?

He let his head fall back to the headrest, feeling a little moisture touching the edge of his eye. His chest had that little ache, and each breath was pulled in with effort.

He already knew what was going to happen to the kid. He would get back to Earth, expecting to get some huge paycheck that would turn out to be a third of what he thought. He would say it was still more than he would have made if he continued to be a gear jammer back on Earth, and he could still have a lot of fun with four months off.

Then the kid would get home and his parents would be older. If he had a girlfriend, she would have run off with someone else. Of course, he had been sending her messages. When she didn’t respond, he just thought she was really busy with work. If she did respond, her responses would be short and sporadic. He would go home, if he still had a home, and find all her stuff gone from the apartment. Or he would go to her place and the door would be locked, and when he knocked, a man would answer, asking who the hell he was.

The kid was in for one hell of a shock when he got home. Will almost felt sorry for him, but it was the nature of the beast. If the kid was going to make it, he would have to learn that they were gone for eight months at a time and things didn’t wait around for them. Life moved on, and they were now just tourists to Earth.

“Fly safe,” he said into the silence, knowing the kid would never hear it. With any luck, the kid would be okay.

He made sure the timer was set to wake him an hour before the burn, then he keyed the lights and undid the safety harness before floating back to the sleeping compartment. As the timer on the light counted down, he made his way to the bed, then secured the safety net around him. When the timer hit “0”, everything other than a few emergency lights turned off.

Tomorrow would be a new day, another day closer to getting home.


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Writing Advice: What it is to be a writer…

In my last post of 2017 I mentioned one of my resolutions as being to help authors find their voice. For the first writing tip of 2018 I want to start doing just that. So… what does that mean?

It’s a broad question and a hefty challenge and the obvious answer to finding a writers voice is to do just that… write. Write your heart out and put it into every word you write wether it be horror, comedy, sci-fi, or romance.

Let’s start by analyzing what it is to be a writer. I recently shared a meme that a writer is someone “capable of transforming caffeine into books.” Google’s definition of a writer is “a person who writes books, stories, or articles as a job or regular occupation.”

So what is your definition? Think about what does being a writer mean to you? Are your writing because your under the illusion that you’ll be rich and famous? You should know that the modern writers average gross income is less than what it would cost to by a used car.

Writer’s write. That should always come second. To be a great writer, you must first start by reading. Read and read a lot. Don’t steal, but writers write with various voices and even the same writers’s voice will change depending on what you are writing or reading.

I reference Stephen King a lot in my advice, but that largely is because I write mainly horror and he writes a lot of it. His voice influences a lot of my work. King has said, “stylistic copying recurs, always when the writer encounters some new and wonderful mode of expression that shows him a new way of seeing and saying.” He refers to how often it can happen especially in a new writers development and helps as they find their own.

I refer to this so that as you write and develop your own voice, you also take time and experiment, experience and play with your stories…

Getting back to the point, and to bring in this new year, I want you to think about writing as a writer. Write and enjoy. Let the words flow and get the story out. Give birth to those ideas spinning around in your head and send them out into the world.

Writing Advice: Dealing with Technology

Last week, I write a blog on the intricacies of being a writing while dealing with a busy, chaotic life. As promised, I am following up that blog with this one where I go into some detail with the technology that I use. Since the cornerstone of last weeks piece was on using your phone as it is the one device you always have with you, this week we will go into some of the apps that helps to facilitate this practice.

The three that I know of immediately and are designed to write in as word processors are Microsoft Word (IOS/Mac and Android/PC compatible), Apple’s Pages (IOS/Mac compatible but offers a web interface), and Google Docs (IOS/Mac and Android/PC compatible). As I am not as familiar with the latest version of Google Docs, I am using the IOS Docs app to write this blog.

There was are apps to try, some specifically meant for writing and some are just feature rich note apps. I tend to stay away from these for a few reasons, the first of which is that with any app developed and uses a cloud platform you must always be aware of security. Be mindful of who can see your data. If a smaller company is offering a free app that allows for cloud sync, How is that company making money to support that app? If the app isn’t the product that makes the company money, then you and your data become the product. Secondly, if the app isn’t making any money, then what happens when the app gets shut down or turned off? All your data could be lost. Third, before you start using any app, look into how you are going to export your data? What I mean is, after writing your novel, How are you going to get it out of the app and into a print ready format? It would really suck to get done writing your thousand word masterpiece and have to copy and paste it into another program. Especially since by doing so you would probably have lost all your formatting and will have to go back through re-paragraphing the whole thing.

So that being said, I will now focus on the big 3, and l’ll be honest, Pages is my favorite by far. It is the reason that when I had switched away from an IPhone for a year, that I came back when my contract was up. Android has some great qualities, but I am first and foremost a writer and Pages works better than anything else I’ve used.

Since I mentioned my favorite, I will delve into my least favorite first. Google Docs…

My first issue with Google Docs came shortly after creating this document. You will probably not notice that there are no tabbed paragraphs as WordPress does not typically allow for them, but there are none in the original document as well. That is because Google does not allow for you to tab on your phone. I don’t know if the Android version is any different, but in the IOS version, all the ways that you are allowed to tab in Word and Pages are not available. I tried going deeper into the settings and what still not able to find any. That is a huge drawback, as it would mean that unless you are writing for an exclusive Kindle only release, you would have to re-paragraph everything in another program in preparation for print.

I will admit, that the cloud feature is nice. It instantly syncs from PC to App and back with very little delay, however, if there is no data connection, the App can get weird and sometimes not save work that has been done even once a connection is reestablished.

I do feel that Docs is a decent note taking application, but would not trust it for much more.

Then there is Microsoft Word…

This would be my first pick and favorite had I not had some issues with it in both past and present. It is a multi platform tool that is excellent to write in, has all the features a writer needs and saves into an industry recognized file format used by everyone. Even if you write in another application, at some point you will probably need to bring it into word to put the final touches onto it. (Microsoft Word is not available on any Amazon Kindle devices)

So why not use it all the time? I don’t trust the ‘save.’ How Word handles saving documents is awkward sometimes and due to its handling I have lost whole chapters expecting something to be saved to the cloud but wasn’t there later. It does have ‘versioning’ which allows you to go back to different versions of a document later, but there are also glitches that have required me to save as a new document because Word was having some issue reconciling saved copies. This has also taken me down paths when I had to reopen a book I was writing and was not sure which copy was the latest and correct one.

Word with Onedrive tries to help with this. The autosave should keep your one document saved to the cloud and always up to date, however I have had the same issues still present themselves as previously mentioned.

Which brings me to Apple’s Pages and why I will use this as my first choice.

Pages is a simplified writing platform that hides most the features that make it comparable to Word until you need them (though they can be hard to find sometimes). It saves to the cloud and I have never had an issue with it auto saving. Documents are updated on all devices with very little delay. I can finish a sentence on my phone, walk over to my laptop and sit down and there is the file updated without me needing to reopen the file. To tab to start a new paragraph, I do have to hold down on the screen until the ‘right click’ menu pops up and I choose Insert>Tab, but that is only a minor inconvenience that is easy to get used to.

The downsides of Pages is that it is IOS and Mac only. If you are on Android and PC you have to use the web versions of these programs. The web version is okay, but can have a delay if the connection is bad. Plus you would have to have an ICloud account to use the service, though I do believe anyone can set one up so that you can still use the service.

For any questions, or suggestions, please comment.

If you have your own particular favorite, I would love to know about it as I love playing around and trying new apps. The only one I am against is Scrivener due in part to it being overpriced when their are comparable programs.


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Writing Advice: Dealing with Life

There are many problems that come with being a writer and the largest obstacle that I find is life. Unless your work is in high demand, being a writer usually means working a day job and then finding time to sneak in writing while also balancing a social life. If you have kids, then this is an additional obstacle to overcome. Okay, I will never consider my kid(s) to be an obstacle to overcome, but you understand when I say that they do require much of your time.

So how do we get past these barriers? Well, the hardest part of giving any advice is that there will never be a one size that fits all. Meaning, any advice that I give will be different than what works for you. That still doesn’t stop it from being an alternative for you to consider and possibly even adapt into your own writing life. In fact, the current tip I am going to off comes from a variation off of one given by the master himself, Stephen King.

“Books are the perfect entertainment: no commercials, no batteries, hours of enjoyment for each dollar spent. What I wonder is why everybody doesn’t carry a book around for those inevitable dead spots in life.” – Stephen King

King has often mentioned on how he keeps books with him so that whenever he has downtime or is left waiting somewhere, he pulls out the book and reads. King is an avid reader, as am I, but I read mostly through audiobooks while I’m driving. I love to read, and it’s why I do the day job that I do as it affords me a lot of time to listen to audiobooks. It also gives me a lot of time to write, even if I’m writing outside the box.

See, I write on my phone. This right now is currently being typed on my phone. My current novel that I have completed 71,000 words has nearly all been written on my phone.

If you ask Chase Jarvis, world renowned photographer, he would tell you the best camera you have is the one you have on you. That was even the title to his book which features many photos taken from his IPhone.

So, I am saying the best device you have to write on is the one you always have with you. I use Apple Pages only because I’ve had issues with Microsoft Word and they’re save synchronization, but it is still a great writing program. No matter what writing you do, I would recommend something with an automated cloud back up. All of this, so that when you want to write, you can on the device you have at the ready.

Learning to write on your phone is not the only trick to being a writer with a very busy life. Not only that, it does take practice and a lot of patience. Autocorrect can be your best friend but it can also be your worst enemy. You have to watch what you right, not only the current word, but sometimes the whole sentence because with ‘new’ and ‘better’ features, autocorrect will now also fix other words than the one you just typed.

It is partially because of autocorrect issues, but also because the inherent issue of writing with limited time restrains that teaches use to write in smaller segments. When your life is busy and chaotic, it is hard to find a long enough time period to just sit down and write out 1,500 to 5,000 words a day. That baby needs to be fed, or someone at work needs you to do a task, but whatever the distraction is, it always seems to be constant.

So my next suggestion for writing with a busy life is to not get caught up in writing all at once. It may be hard, especially when your not used to it and it can be very frustrating, but getting used to writing small segments allows for writing on the go. There are times when I get to write one to two paragraphs here and then later return to write another two paragraphs. This paragraph you are reading right now, I started it this morning. Then I had to run and get medicine for my sick boy and go to work. I’m not returning to it after being at work for a few hours and getting a chance to take a break. By not just worrying about getting one stretch to do all my writing, I’m able to continue to work on my latest story/novel/blog whenever I am able to find the time to add a sentence or two.

So to summarize…

If you are writer dealing with a chaotic life, write when you can. Don’t get caught up in trying to reach your goals all at once as often the time to do so just isn’t there. Also, write on what you can, when you can. Use what is available. If you just have a pad of paper with you or even a tape recorder, use what you are comfortable with to write what you can. Focus on the minutes of the days, not the hours to get in that sentence or two.

Next week, I plan to cover in more detail some of the apps and tech that I use. If you have any suggestions or would like me to approach a particular topic, please leave a comment.

Until next time, write on!

Black Friday Massacre

The cool air bristled across the wide open space of the dimly lit parking lot.  The sun was still a long way away.  It was just a very faded light blue haze on the distant horizon.  Most nights, it would be the dead time of night, with the world still asleep, but that night, that morning, it was far from still and asleep.  Not the early pre-dawn morning after Thanksgiving.

Cars and trucks filled with holiday travelled shoppers roamed in the early morning streets.  Coffee shops were already opened to the morning participants and filled with many people getting their refills.  Family members would be switching out from the long lines as many would be tucked away in their vehicles while one member would brave the cold.  Solitary shoppers would be heavily bundled with hunter hand warmers placed strategically throughout their body to attempt to keep them warm.

Winter was coming, and so was Christmas.

Tim stood there.  He was one of the many shoppers getting ready to storm the doors into the closed department store.  The store itself still had an hour before they would open to the onslaught of customers and the line outside was already stretched around to the side of the building, it’s end lost out of sight.  He was glad that he was one of the few people closest to the door, but then he had also been camping there since before the store had even closed the night before.

“I’m going back to the car.”

Tim looked over his shoulder.  Michelle was shivering behind him.  Her face, the little he could see exposed as most of it was hidden behind her pink scarf, was pale white from the cold.  Even her normally bright blue eyes seemed to be iced over with a sheen of frost.   He had warned her beforehand about coming with him that it wasn’t easy to stand in the lines for hours on end.  She had thought it would be fun.  She could play on her phone and text people, she had told him.  That had lasted fifteen minutes.  By midnight, she had already been complaining about wanting to go home and come back later.

She didn’t understand.

“Okay hun.  You go get yourself warmed up.”  He said to her.  She hadn’t even waited for him.  She had already turned and was bouncing back to their little Ford Escort.  The heat wouldn’t kick on for a couple minutes if it did at all, but she had blankets in there and it would get her out of the wind.

The couple next to him really came prepared.  They were seated in lawn chairs, large, thick blankets pulled up to their faces, and full head gear to keep them warm.  They had long since fallen asleep, and were statues to the God of greed.

Others nearby had set up tents.  Those were the fanatics.  They had been camped out there for two days.  When Tim first showed up, he couldn’t help but find out more, like what they were there for.  One of them was just there for the event of it.  He just planned on picking up a couple of new DVD’s.

Michelle was shocked by the madness of it all.  She was furious as first.  “Didn’t any of these people have families they should be with?  It’s Thanksgiving!?”

Tim just smiled.  She was cute.

That she was, in her tight blue jeans that sometimes looked like they were just painted on.  A wiggle fit, he called them, as he knew she had to shake her booty viciously to fit them into the small space of the pants.  Then there was her slim fitting sweater that was thick enough to be warm, but still tight to her shape.

Damn he felt lucky having her there with him, even if she did spend most the time in the car.

Tim looked back behind him.  People were still pulling into the parking lot and crossing over towards the distant end of the line.  The stream was becoming larger, more cars were driving on the roads, and the morning was waking up in greater force.

He loved being out there for it.  Just the feeling of being a part of the morning as it was waking up.  The air smelled different.  The cool breeze felt different.  Like it was electric, pulsating intensely in preparation to what was to come.

Tim scanned the parking lot, at how the morning was coming alive, and stopped when his gaze fell upon his car.  He watched as the exhaust created a small poisonous fog spitting out from the rusted tailpipe.

Maybe he should think about getting a new car instead of waiting in line for a television.

That exhaust had to be filtering into the heat.  He didn’t know how she could stand to just sit in there.  Then again, it was either that or out here in the cold.  Just like her good looks, she would nearly die if it meant to keep herself comfortable or looking good.

Tim shifted as he noticed that she wasn’t alone in the car.  She was sitting behind the wheel, but Tim could just make out another shape sitting there with her.  He couldn’t see it too well, but there was definitely a dark shape moving around in the front seat of the car.  It was making the whole car shake rocking back and forth.  If Tim hadn’t known better, he would have thought that there was sexual feeling going on, but Michelle would never, and it was too soon after she had left.

Tim didn’t stop to think about his place in line when the driver’s side door opened and he could hear her screaming.  Michelle’s scream could be heard loudly throughout the parking lot and it chilled him even deeper.  He tried to run as fast as he could, but his legs had long since gone numb from standing and being out there in the cold.  They burned and pulled against him.

He neared the car, as Michelle was trying to pull herself out.  Her hands just reaching over the top of the door were covered in blood, and she struggled against the dark shape, trying to pull herself away.  He could hear her, struggling, sounding like she was trying to kick herself away, but with the windows fogged, and the angle he had ran towards her, he still couldn’t see much more than the streaks of blood coming down the driver’s side door.

“Michelle!” Tim yelled.  He could see in greater detail how the passenger side window had been broken in, and the dark shape was reaching through from the other side, chasing after his girlfriend.

She was staring at him through the window as some of the fog had started to fade, making her face just a haze.  Her expression was of desperation, and he knew that tears were streaming down her face.  He tried to push himself even faster, to get around the door to get to her.


He rounded around the open door, quickly reaching in to grab for her hand.

“Take my hand!” Tim said.  He reached for hers, but she wouldn’t grab it.  Her grip remained tight on the door, fingers locked into their grasp.  Her skin was covered in blood and he grabbed at her hands to pull them away.  Her fingers stayed locked.  She refused to look at him, and a lump was beginning to form in the pit of his stomach.  There was a lot of blood.  He hoped like hell that it wasn’t hers.  He silently prayed to himself that it wasn’t.

He finally was able to break away her fingers from the frame, and took her hands into his.  The blood was wet and sticky, and he had to fight to keep hold of her as he started pulling her out of the front seat of the car.  She wrenched back, pulled away from him when her hand broke free from the door frame.

He had to pull harder.  A tug of war occurred with Michelle being used as rope.  He pulled with all of his strength coursing through his legs to dig into the blacktop of the parking lot.  The shape, hidden in the darkness of the car, Tim couldn’t see who, or what had her, he just knew he wanted to get Michelle away from it.  He pulled, harder, feeling as she was starting to come farther from the front seat of the car.  Then with a sudden snap, she was broken free and lunged forward towards him.

He fell back, and Michelle came crashing down on top of him.  Blood was dripping from her, and he could see the large chunk of flesh taken out of her neck.  He could also see her collar bone right where skin and muscle should have been through a large rip in her sweater.  Around the tear, a massive amount of red crimson already drenched her sweater around the gaping hole and it was quickly getting worse.

Tim looked to her eyes, turning her face so that she was looking at him.  Her face turned, but her eyes were barely open, and looked at him with a blank gaze.  Her mouth was open, but inside, her tongue flopped with the motion as Tim was jerking her around, trying to get her to snap out of it.  She was gone.

He let her go, and started to pull himself out from under her.  His eyes stayed locked into her lifeless orbs as the black dots continued to look back at him.  She had just been there with him.  Just minutes ago, she had been in line with him, talking to him.

He could already start to hear the commotion from the crowd, and some that had family members holding their place were already running over.  Tim didn’t turn to look.  He just wanted his Michelle, to have her eyes snap out of their daze and to stare back at him, not through him.

He didn’t even notice as the dark shape started to crawl over Michelle and continue towards him.


* * * *


Brett yawned, his eyes moist in the corner as they fought to stay open.  His mouth pulled tight, and he could feel the muscles in his neck tense.  His whole body was feeling like it wasn’t awake, and there wasn’t a single part of him that wanted to be there.

He couldn’t remember the last time he had woken up that early.  Had he ever?

He didn’t want to be up that early now.  It wasn’t even five in the morning yet.  It was unnatural, uncalled for to be there, and to make it worse, he had to listen to that man just drone on and on.  He was babbling something about lines and flow of traffic.         Brett really didn’t care.  Like he really wanted to spend his day after thanksgiving listening to some windbag who thought he could just shout out orders and that they were like sheep that would follow.

“Ha,” Brett had to fight from laughing out loud.  Sheep.  That was like the pack forming outside, sheep being lead to the slaughter.

Just yesterday, he had been dragged with his parents to his grandparents.  Over the river and through the woods to their cramped little house somewhere lost in the corn fields of Illinois to endure a long day of his uncles screaming children.  His parents didn’t want to leave until it was well past eight, which meant they hadn’t crossed back into Wisconsin until it neared midnight.

Then he had to be there to listening to this man, who on a normal day, he would consider to be a pretty cool boss.  However, any man inflicting the early morning torture was no longer considered to be a nice man.

“So Brett, where are you going to be?”

Brett blinked and looked through the blue clad men and women around him to the man standing at the middle; the man who now called him out for not paying attention.

“Um, walking the line?” Brett said, thankful that Sullivan had told him the plans before Thanksgiving.

“Okay, so, grab your jacket and the item tickets and get out there.  Remember one ticket per customer and make sure to pitch our services.  I don’t want any computers going out without any setups.  If they get to register and you haven’t sold them, you failed.”

“Failed!  What the hell did he know?” Brett thought to himself.  He couldn’t remember the last time he had seen the old man on the sales floor.

Brett grabbed his large heavy winter coat that he had sitting on one of the front displays, made a check for the hand warmers he had kept in the left front pocket and started to walk towards the front door.  Behind him, he could hear Jim ramble on to the rest of his troops.

“Troops preparing for war, and this were the battlefield,” he thought as he reached the large front metal gate.  It clattered loudly in the busy morning, and he wanted to cover his ears against the screeching metal sound.  Instead he just clinched his teeth until the metal was pulled far enough to the side, and rested there in its guided path.

He stepped over the metal rail that was the guide for the gate and stood just before the large glass double door and looked out into the darkness of the morning.  He could have sworn that the street lights had been on when he had pulled in to the parking lot, but now, as he looked out there, it was dark.  Almost completely dark, where usually, he could see the cars parked in the lot.

The employees’ cars were always parked towards the back, and a stab of concern spawned that he couldn’t see his own car.

He reached for the lock and heard the click as it unlatched with a dead thud.  Something was growing in stomach, something wasn’t right, and he had a feeling starting to twist in his insides.  The hairs along his arms started to rise, and a sudden shock of what felt like electricity started to dance in the air.

Maybe it was just his fear?

“What the hell was there to be afraid of?  Come on, man, wake yourself up and get out there.  What the hell is there to be afraid of?”  He knew he was saying it in his mind more to himself to calm his nerves, but there was still that unnerving feeling that there was something there.

There was something out there that there was to be afraid of.  Why else wouldn’t he just go out there, and starting working up the line of customers.  He was one hell of a salesman.  He could walk that line and sell warranties to the most cranky of them and that was all commission money coming straight to his pocket.  Who said it didn’t pay to be sleazy?

He started to pull on the doors, working to pull them apart.  They caught at first, and then started to pull apart with ease, and Brett was met with the cold November chill that was feasting its way through the morning.  It was hungry, that cold and it wanted to make him apart of it.

A shiver ran through him.

He took a step out into the darkness and was met with cold stiff plastic assaulting his face, and he instantly remembered why he hadn’t been able to see the parking lot from inside.

Jim and in infinite genius to protect the bargains, had covered the front door with that damn black plastic so no one could see into the store.  Heaven forbid that anyone could see in and see that we only carried maybe two of some ultra-low priced deal.  No, let’s keep the customers not knowing so they stand in line for three hours and still were not be able to get what they were waiting for.

It was no wonder why all his managers hated the damn holidays.  Brett had only been working there for seven months, and he was already starting to hate them.  They ruined his Fourth of July, his Labor Day, and every other single holiday since he had made the mistake of starting there.

Brett closed the door behind him and started to beat against the plastic, working his way to find its end.

“Fuck this.” He muttered under his breath.

The cold wet plastic seemed to fight against him, the darkness a small maze he was trying to push his way through.  He could almost imagine how fish felt when they were trapped in the net.  The damn plastic just wouldn’t seem to let him go.  The wind just seemed to catch it whenever he would try to push it away from himself, and whip it back into him.  It was like there were hands reaching through the plastic trying to grab him.

A sudden strong draft finally pushed the plastic away, allowing him to break free.  The wind, a slice of cold air that burned his skin rushed at him and the light from the parking lot revealed itself.  He felt a brief relieving sensation of being free and inhaled deeply the clean cool air.

Brett had just a second to enjoy being released from the plastic before he realized that it hadn’t been the wind that had been pushing it in against him.


* * * *


Cynthia was rushing, nearly running to reach the break room where she could already hear Jim talking about how they were all going to survive the morning.  It was his same speech that he gave every year.  The one about what everyone was expected to do, and how certain people were sharks walking the line, while others were given directions on how to do the quick pitch on selling at the register.

Jim could sell, she definitely felt that way about him.  He had no soul and would sell a warranty to his dying grandmother even if it cost her last dollar she had.  He would still make the sale.

Listen to him and a person could make some money in commissions, and that she did.

But she didn’t like being late.  She was never late.  Her damn alarmed clock, why hadn’t it gone off.  She was never late.

She knew they were already upset with her, she could tell it from the tone of Aaron’s voice when he had called wondering where she was.  Thank goodness he had called.  She never would have made it otherwise.

She eased her way in to the already crowded room, sneaking her way into the back of the crowd.  Jim didn’t seem to notice, but Aaron did.  It was probably for the best though, so that way he knew that she was there, and wouldn’t be trying to call her again.  She wondered if anyone else had been late.

“Okay, everyone ready?  Everyone know what they are supposed to do?” Jim called out to the crowd.

Cynthia looked over to the new guy.  His name was Rick, or Randy, something with an “R”.  Damn she felt sorry for him.  This was never what you wanted to do for your first day.  Only a sadistic SOB would put a man on his first day against the morning rush.

She looked back to Jim who was walking over with Randy or Rick or whatever his name was, and was starting to lead him out of the room.  Cynthia had to step to the side to let them past, and she caught the evil stare that Jim gave her, then he turned his attention back to “R” and they were heading toward the door.

The rest of the half-awake zombies of the morning employees moved to follow, but Cynthia, her pulse racing from having to hurry, had a quicker step to her walk and was able to follow Jim out the door before anyone else started to really move.

They were all making their way from the back break area, Jim in his long quick manager’s stride, “R” eager to please on his first day and Cynthia, with her just being her normal chipper self.  However, Cynthia slowed as they were making their way to the front door.  She slowed, as the hairs on the back of her neck stood and she realized that something just didn’t feel right.

The front of the store was dark.  Darker than normal, but that was to be expected with the plastic over the front door.  Still that wasn’t it.  There was something else, something that hung in the air.  It was like there was a bad smell of meat gone rank, but it was so faint that she could feel it more than smell it.  Then there was also that tickle of a sound.  There was a thumping, like something dull being repeatedly knocked against glass.

“Holy shit, is that them beating against the glass?” “R” said as him and Jim headed toward the front door.

Jim stopped just before they both reached it.

Cynthia thought she knew why, too.  It was the same reason why she slowed.  He felt it too, or he heard it.  After all, “R” was right.  It did sound like the customers outside were hitting against the glass doors.  That is, if they were hitting it in slow motion and no energy.

The repetitive pumps did make it sound like there were many of them, and they wanted in.

“It’s time,” Jim said as he checked his watch.

“Yeah, but time for what?”  Cynthia thought as she watch Jim move to unlock and power on the inner doors.  It was time for what?

Cynthia could hear as the other employees started to stop and stand at various spots around her.  She took a glimpse at them, and she could so see them all as the walking dead as they all looked so tired and half alive.

She turned back from the crowd of employees behind her in time to watch as the inner doors glided loudly open and Jim strutted his way to the outer doors.  The inner doors started to squeak back close, the loud high pitch squeal cutting through the mysterious thumping with its own horror movie soundtrack.

Jim an “R” were cut off from the rest of them as they stood enclosed in the vestibule.  Each one taking sides as Jim guided “R” in how the front iron gates folded back away into the sides of the door.

Cynthia stopped watching them and looked to the black tarp still hanging outside the doors.  She could see different shapes at different points of the black tarp, pushing through and then hitting into the front glass door.

She could hear the loud “clank” as Jim secured the gate on the left side of the door.  The pounding on the door intensified.

Jim, without waiting for “R” to finish with his side, came rushing back into the front part of the store.

“Where are all my tech guys!” Jim said as he scanned through his sleeping audience.  No one responded.

Jim turned back around.

“Where were they?” Cynthia had the fleeting thought as she watched Jim unlock the door and “R” flipped the power switch.

As the door slowly squealed open, even louder than the inner door, no one expected what was about to happen.  The door didn’t make it halfway and Jim was just about to give his morning “get in line” speech to the customers while reaching to pull down the black tarp when all hell broke loose.

A hand reached through the tarp, grabbing Jim’s hand just after he grabbed the tarp.  He barely had time to call out, “What th-” when the weight shift on the other side from pulling Jim’s arm, to pushing it forward.  In a rush of flying black darker than the moonless sky, the tarp rushed forward.  The first shapes, falling forward caught in it like it was a fishing tarp.

“R,” who had just kept himself a little off to the right, just missed being caught by the falling tarp.  Not that it helped him much.  The mass crowd, still not seen too well in the darkened vestibule from where Cynthia stood, was quickly stumbling over the first wave of the fallen and their hands quickly were grabbing “R”.  Their grasp ripped and pulled at his clothes as he started to stumble back.  He might have made it away from them as well, had he not backed up against the glass stationary part of the gliding front door.

It was then, as “R” was trying to push against glass that would not move that Cynthia saw what was there.  At first she could only see all the pairs of hands, and disembodied arms.  The hands themselves were mostly all covered in crimson and dripping, but what they belonged to?  It was something like out of a horror flick, the ones that her ex-boyfriend, Kenny, used to always try to get her to watch.

Zombies?  Zombies!?  She could see the disfigured faces, the blank stare, and the stumbling lurches as they made their way forward.  She could tell, though she had tried to never watch those films as there was too much of people getting torn apart, their intestines strewn around like bloody Christmas lights.

She had a passing reminder of having to help her mom put up Christmas lights tomorrow as she started to back up.  The zombies had already reached “R” and were starting to pull him apart.  They were tearing off limbs, but they were eating into him, pulling his flesh away in large strips.  He was screaming in ways that Cynthia didn’t know a man could.  The loud sound, not sounding like it came from human vocal cords.  Then the scream seemed to fill with liquid, gurgling before it was cut off.

Cynthia hadn’t stayed around long enough to find out what caused the scream to quit.  She had turned tail and run, and she hadn’t even waited to see if anyone was following.  She cared about them, many of them were her friends, but right now it was survival.  She was a four foot petite eighteen year old girl, nothing but a snack to those things.  She didn’t plan to have herself become an easy snack.

She made it to the back of the center row when she stopped running.  She was panting a little, but nowhere near yet worked up.  No.  Those weekly workouts she had with that hot instructor that she had been continuing to flirt with had kept her in shape.

Behind her she could hear others coming her way, running.  The breath caught in her throat as she turned to see who was coming.  She kept her body turned, ready to run.   All her senses were alive and she felt like she was a deer who had just heard the snap of a twig.

With her head turned back, she saw shapes running towards her.  Shadows dancing in the dark, nothing more than outlines running away from the lights surrounding the front.

Cynthia felt her breath catch and her chest seized.  The shapes were running and images of running zombies flashed through her head.  She tried to think of where to go and where to hide.  Where could she go?

“Go!  Go go go go GO!” the larger shape yelled.  Cynthia recognized his voice.  Ryan was yelling at her, and she turned back to run as they neared reaching her.

“Come on!  Receiving!” Ryan yelled at her, waving his arm for her to follow.  She did quickly.  She wasn’t sure how many or if anyone else was following.  Sure, she hoped there was, but she could only afford to think about herself and get herself safe.

Cynthia heard a loud scream behind her.  It wasn’t all the way to the front so the Zombies must have been getting closer.  She wanted to turn and look to see how far away they were, but no, it wasn’t safe.

Ahead, Cynthia could see the light disappear where the sales floor ended and the receiving department began.  Her pace faltered as she could imagine once crossing that threshold, it was going to be harder to see what was around the corner.  It was too dark in there; they shouldn’t be going in.  Just what the hell was Ryan thinking?

“Ryan!  Wait”

Ryan didn’t wait.  He kept running and when he reached the corner to turn into receiving, he disappeared into the darkness.

Cynthia didn’t linger any longer.  She pushed herself harder to catch back up with them, still not sure who the second running figure was.  She assumed it was Tommy.  The figure was about his size and she couldn’t imagine Ryan being there without his twin.

The shadows kept bouncing around her, and she felt like she had entered into one of those fun houses that tried to scare her.  She entered into the darkness and all sight was lost.  The world around her felt like it was gone and the night was taking over.  Like it was its own essence, it was enveloping around her and she was losing herself into some bad horror film.  It was the one where everything was coming after her, everything from her nightmares.

Ryan yelled back to her, telling her to hurry.  As her eyes adjusted to the little light, she could see him starting to climb his way up the roof access stairs.  His boots echoing off the metal stairs as he climbed, she worried that they would be heard if any of those things were nearby.

Tommy was right behind Ryan, and she hurried over to follow them.

“Come on!” he yelled to her, urging her on.

She started to climb, looking up to Ryan as she did so.  He was getting near to roof access door.  She was afraid they might freeze to death once they got out there, but for the time being, she just wanted to get somewhere safe.  Being on a roof where none of those things could get to her was at least one step in the right direction.

Ryan reached the top of the ladder and started to push on the door.  She could hear him grunting and then a frustrated cry out.

“Shit!  It’s locked!”

She kept climbing, though she already feared that they were going to be stuck there.

She heard another kind of grunt.  It was one that she had already learned and dreaded recognizing.

The lights of the store turned on.  The automatic timer must have finally recognized that it was time to open the store.

Cynthia could see as the first wave of zombies made their way around the corner.  They moved slowly.  Some of them limping, those it looked like because part of their legs had been eaten through.  Most of them just stumbled, walking slowly like they didn’t remember how.  It was like they were mindless to the point of not knowing who or what they used to be, but that they were moving with a purpose and a desire to do something.  Like they wanted something, but didn’t know what it was that they wanted?

A sick part of Cynthia that she never knew existed until that very moment said to her, “What separated these shoppers from any of their other customers?” She suppressed the small insane laughter that had been building.  The answer wasn’t all that funny after all.  These shoppers wanted her flesh.

“What are we going to do?” Ryan asked.  Cynthia looked back up to him.  She was glad to see that she was right, and that it was Tommy there with him.  She always liked it when she was right.  She just smiled at herself and to them.

She was beginning to realize that she was about to die.  It was strange, knowing that it was about to happen, but she was done fighting it.  She looked around her.  There was no place to go.  The large receiving bay doors already had pounding from the other side and the familiar grunts from more zombies.  So they were trapped.  The only way out was up, and with the freezing cold, even that would have been a death sentence.

She watched as the zombies started to gather below her feet.  They were far enough below her, that as they reached up to try and pull her back down, she was still safe.

Above her, Ryan and Tommy were working together to try and break the door open.  She just watched them for a brief time.  The fear that had her previously gripped her, seemed to have left her as now a strange calm seemed to have washed over her.

She felt her hand release on the cool metal, and she could feel herself falling back.  Then the hands, there were many of them, and they all started to tear into her.  They grabbed and they clawed, and while she could hear herself screaming she knew that her body was filled with the pain of being ripped apart.  She also didn’t feel it.  Like her mind was already away from it all.

And then everything she had known before was gone.  She was gone, and just becoming another one of the many.  One of the many cravers, mindlessly craving what they don’t even know what they are craving for.  She was lost to become a part of the mass.


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When the Demons Know Your Name

**Formerly Late Night Creature Feature

We all have monsters, creatures buried deep within our souls. The deeply religious call them demons, but I’ve always preferred to think of them as something beyond deities. You see, you don’t need to believe in God to encounter a monster. You just need to live. Eventually, you’ll find them. Walk down a dark alley anywhere and see how long you last.

There are many kinds of monsters. Some are inside us. Some are in the shadows. The world is plagued by them. My dad once told me there are many monsters to fight, but the human ones were the worst.

I wish that were true. See, I’ve seen the other kind. They are not as common. They hide in darker shadows and don’t attack you on a dark street or in an empty parking lot. They’ll wait until you’re home alone, then slip out from the darkness. Some will take your life, others your soul. These reapers are the ones we truly need to fear, but many don’t believe in them.

I do. I’ve seen them…

* * * *

“Mommy! Daddy!” Jason sat up in bed, throwing anything he could grab—his pillow, a few toy cars, and a rock—across the room. The rock hit the far wall with a solid crash, bouncing off it just a few inches from the gap into the darkness.

His closet door was open just an inch, but the thing hiding beyond it lay in wait for him. He heard its breathing, the harsh rasps punctuated by a long growl.

When a door opened, Jason jumped, thinking this was it. The creature would rush across the room and tear him apart like he had seen happen to those other kids. It was there for him, and it was going to get him.

Light ripped through the room, chasing away the darkness. His dad stood in the doorway only a few feet from the closet, but he didn’t even look toward it. He was oblivious to the danger as he shuffled across the room. His eyes were only open to slits, his hair a mess, and he wore a t-shirt and gym shorts.

“Heyya buddy. Bad dream?” his dad asked as he sat on the edge of the bed. Jason already had his legs pulled up to his chest, leaving plenty of room for his dad to sit without the risk of squashing him.

“No, it’s real! It’s in the closet. It was coming out and it wanted to get me!” Jason said in a rush, pointing to the closet.

“Yeah?” His dad stood, the bedsprings creaking.

As he walked to the door, Jason fought the desire to scream out, telling him, No! Don’t do it! Get away from the door and get them out of here. None of them were safe. The creature wanted to kill them all and it wouldn’t stop until it had.

His dad pulled open the door, making an exaggerated action of looking through the contents and studying the clothes hanging there. “Nothing scary in here.”

“It comes out when the lights are off and no one else is here.”

This wasn’t the first time the creature had come. He had been hearing it for the last week, making different noises in the closet. He had called out many times, and each time, his mother came in to check on him. This was the first time his dad had been home since the monster started terrorizing them. It was also the first time the creature actually appeared from the closet, and Jason knew it was their last night. It would get them all.

“How does it get in?” His dad quietly closed the door to the closet so as not to wake anyone else. His mom must still be asleep in the other room, Jason’s screams not loud enough to reach her tonight.

“I don’t know. He just comes to get me.” Jason had meant to say “us”.



“I think you need to stop watching horror films before bed.”

Jason blew out a breath. “I know they’re not real, Dad.”

“Yeah? Then we’re good, right? You know it’s all fake, so you shouldn’t be having these nightmares.”


“Yeah, bud?”

“It’s not a nightmare. I know the difference. I’ve seen it.”


“I saw it earlier. It was the monster from your film. It has those glowing red eyes and long nails. It’s like an evil porcupineman-shaped thing. I saw its long nose come out of the closet, those glowing eyes looking at me.”

Jason wanted to say he had seen more, but didn’t think his dad would believe it had crept back into the closet when he had started throwing things. He knew he would just point out that a big, scary monster, especially like the ones in his films, wouldn’t have hidden away from things thrown at it by an eight-year-old.

“You said it’s from my film? How did you see it? The movie, I mean.”

“It was on cable tonight,” Jason mumbled, playing with the blanket and avoiding his father’s gaze. He knew he wasn’t supposed to watch the creature features, but they were fun. Not only that, but the host was funny and had this thing called the “kill counter”, which showed how many people had been killed during the movie. His dad’s movies never rang too high on the kill counter, but Jason liked them. How cool was it that his dad directed them? “Though they cut out all the good stuff.”

His dad smirked. “The good stuff, eh?”


“You remember John Winters? He comes to the parties your mom throws every year.”

“Yeah. The really tall guy.”

“Yeah. Well, he’s the one wearing that costume. He plays the porcupineman, as you call it.”

“I know it’s just a man in a costume, Dad. But the one in my closet is real. I saw him. He was coming out to get me. He wants to eat me. He wants to get all of us.”

“Jason, come on. You just told me it wasn’t real.”

“The one on TV isn’t.”

“Okay, how about this. Tomorrow morning, I take you to the set with me and you can see the costume. It’s not real.”

His dad reached out and ruffled his hair, giving him that bright smile. Most times, it reassured Jason to see it. His dad always exuded confidence with that smile, but now it just let Jason know he was being ignored. He had to get his dad to listen.

“Yes, it is!”

“Just wait until morning, okay?”

Jason looked at the closet. The door was closed. It was quiet now that his dad had come into the room. Maybe it would be okay. The monster had left before, letting them live another night.

Maybe his dad had some superpower that scared away monsters. Maybe his movies weren’t as fake as he liked to say. Maybe it was because his dad truly was some monster slayer, and now that he was in the room, the beast had gotten scared and ran away.


His dad stood. He bent down to give Jason a kiss on the forehead and a hug before pulling back and looking into his eyes. “Remember, Jason. I’ll show you it’s only a movie. Just remember, it’s only a movie.”

Jason watched him walk to the door and stop for one last look back, his hand lingering over the light switch. “Get some sleep. I’m sure Tammy would love to see you on set tomorrow. We’ll have a fun day of it.”

Jason smiled briefly, thinking of the lead actress in his dad’s film, Tammy Sheep. She was really nice and always had a huge smile for Jason when she saw him.

His dad flipped off the light and closed the door, plunging his room into partial darkness. His Batman nightlight, which his dad had gotten him after they saw the Lego version, lit the room in a faint yellowish glow.

Jason looked at it, then back at the closet. The door was still closed. Should he put something in front of it just in case? He had his toy chest. It was heavy and wouldn’t be easy to move, but he thought he could push it across his room.

No, that wouldn’t work. He remembered he had tried to move it once when his mom was vacuuming, but had to wait for her to help him.

What else did he have that could block the door?

He had himself… He could sit against it, but then how would he sleep? Well, he supposed he could sleep on the floor in front of it.

He pulled himself out of bed and crept across the floor, walking on his tiptoes. For each step he took, he held his breath. He heard his dad in the bathroom, then walking down the hall to their bedroom.

Finally, Jason made it to the door. He planned on sitting down immediately, but thought since he had made it this far, maybe he should listen first.

He slowly leaned forward…

The door clicked open. He hadn’t even touched it yet, but had been close enough to see it open a crack, then a little bit more, hearing the unmistakable growl on the other side.

Jason didn’t hesitate. Remembering how the monster had torn through the walls in his dad’s movie, he knew holding the door closed would never work. He shouldn’t have wasted his time. He should have just snuck out of the room and slept on the couch or on the floor in his parents’ room. Although, with his dad home, he probably wouldn’t have been allowed to sleep in there tonight. Even if he had, the monster would still get them all anyway. It was coming after them. It was going to get him.

At least he could warn his parents. His dad, the monster slayer, probably wouldn’t be able to save him, but he could save his mom. He had to warn them!

“Dad!” he screamed as he dove into his bed, quickly pulling the covers over his head.

* * * *

Jason followed behind his dad as he walked down the hallway. The security guard, a larger, older man, led them through the maze of offices until they reached a door. Jason’s dad unlocked it, then nodded to the guard.

“Thanks for letting us in, Chuck. He just won’t go to sleep until I show him.”

His dad stepped into the room, flicking on the lights to flood the room with the glow of fluorescents. Jason’s breath caught. He had been on his dad’s set a few times, but it was usually with an assistant watching him and they always stayed to the set. Now he saw where the magic was created.

Wardrobe carts, packed with costumes, filled the room. Most were normal clothes, but as the carts went deeper into the room, Jason saw various creatures hanging there. At the end of the room was a full porcupineman costume staring right at them, it’s large size towering over the rest of the wardrobe.

Jason followed his dad into the room, his mouth hanging open. Most of the clothes were just regular stuff, like jeans and jackets, but occasionally there was something really strange. He was sure he saw a costume from the cheesy old movie Flash Gordon. Although, after he walked past it, he guessed it could have just looked like it. It might have just been some knockoff that his dad used in the background of his own movie. Like something a character in the movie was watching on TV.

Anything was possible. After all, it was the movies.

“So, this is where we keep all the monsters,” his dad said, running his fingers along some of the costumes hanging from the rack. He pointed to the porcupineman at the end.

“Wow. Is this where you work?”

His dad chuckled as he bent down, picking his son up. “Yep, this is where daddy works.” His dad looked at the security guard as he approached.

“Jason, your dad here…” Chuck nodded toward Jason’s dad as he joined them, “runs the whole shebang. He makes all those scary horror films that I hear is keeping you up at night.”

Jason’s dad laughed as he lowered him back to the floor. They were near the end of the row now, stepping closer to the darkness of the room. The light just caught the hard surface of the hideous monstrosity before them.

“I’m not afraid of the movies. What I saw was real.” He was certain of it. Jason hadn’t seen all of it, but he’d heard it, and he had seen the claws. They were just like the ones a few feet away from him, and now that he could see them, they were longer than his hand, each one looking sharp enough to tear through flesh and bone.

His dad turned to the guard. “He saw Stickler coming out of his closet.”

Chuck grinned and bent down, looking past his dad to talk directly to Jason.

“So you saw the Stickler, huh? Yeah, he’s a creepy one. I hate to come in here at night on my rounds because he scares the hell outta me.” He looked back at his dad as Chuck straightened, holding his back, which made audible pop. “That’s the current sequel you’re doin’, isn’t it?”

“Yeah, that’s what we’re filming. Hey, did you hear why Celeste has Frankie here…” He nodded to the large monster positioned at the end, “out like this? She’s usually much better about closing up shop.”

“I thought I saw her leaving with that new P.A. just as I was coming onto the lot. Not really sure.”

Jason inched toward the large creature. The light from above cast a shadow over him, but he wanted to see. He needed to see the eyes. In his room, the eyes had been red, but they were always black pits in the movies.

Throughout the room, the lights started to flicker. Jason jumped back to grab his dad’s leg, making Chuck laugh.

“Jason. Come on.” His dad reached out and lifted the large claw of the costume so Jason could look at it. “It’s fake. A piece of silicone and latex.”

Jason reached out and slowly touched the outstretched claw. It was cool and smooth, like plastic. It almost felt like his toys. He recalled playing with a toy knife. It had those same hard edges that looked like they would be sharp, but when he’d stab his friends, it wouldn’t hurt them.

He brought it up to his nose and sniffed it. It stank, the acrid stench smelling almost like one of his dad’s farts. The ones his dad always blamed on random toads hiding in their house.

“It stinks.”

“It’s latex and foam. You would have to talk to the FX guys. They could give you the details. But it’s not alive and it’s not real. Okay?”

Jason looked over the glove, turning it over in his hand and studying its long nails and the fake porcupine quills. They bent as he pushed on them. He couldn’t control the laugh, realizing he was playing with this horrific monster and that it was harmless. Man, what he would give to wear it. Sure, it was much too large for him, but if he had one his own size, he could wear it to school. How would Jimmy like that? He wouldn’t tease Jason anymore. Not after he chased him down wearing this bad boy.

His dad reached over him and tugged on the hanger the costume hung on. Jason watched him, realizing his dad wasn’t trying to get the costume off. With a tug, he pulled the monster’s head away from the body.

The lights flickered around them, then winked off, leaving them in darkness. Only a red glow from the far end of the room illuminated the still shapes of the costumes around them. Jason tightened his grip on his dad’s leg, holding his breath as he tried to look everywhere at once. The glow…

It was the eyes. It had to be. The beast was there and it was going to get them.

“Shoot it!” Jason cried out, pointing at the red glow.

The lights flickered back on, but continued to flash intermittently.

“Jason, cool it.” But Jason kept hold of his leg and wouldn’t look away from the door. Above it was the large EXIT light. “Hey, Chuck, in the morning, give maintenance a call. Get someone in here to get this damn light fixed.”

“I’ll have them get right on it.”

Jason’s dad turned back around to face him, the mask still in his hand. It was black with a long nose and quills sleeked back on the top and around the sides. The eyes were deep pits of darkness, left open for special lenses to be inserted.

Jason couldn’t stop the shiver that ran through him as he took a step back. Even in his father’s hand, the beast looked hungry and ready to tear into him.

“See, it’s fake. The monster is only a creature in the movie. Okay?”

Jason stood there, afraid to move, just staring into where the eyes should be.

“Jason, come on. Touch it. Feel it. It’s silicone and plastic.”

Jason slowly reached out, his heart pounding in his chest. He felt every painful breath as he touched the mask. He ran his finger over it and pushed down on the point of one of the quills, bending it.

“It’s like rubber.”

“That’s kinda what it is. It’s foam rubber.”

Jason moved closer to the mask. “That’s cool.”

“Yeah, it is.”

“Your dad’s pretty cool. He came up with all this,” Chuck said, smiling warmly at Jason.

His dad put the mask back with the costume.

“Thanks, man.” His dad nodded to Chuck before turning back to Jason.

He knew his dad was trying to calm him down, but he just didn’t get it. Jason already knew movie monsters weren’t real. When would his dad listen and believe there was a real one in his closet?

“Hey, buddy, you know what? Tomorrow’s Saturday. Why don’t you come to the set with me and watch us shoot a couple scenes?” He smirked. “I think Tina’s getting killed tomorrow. It should be a lot of fun. You can meet Mike. I’m sure he’ll let you play with some of her intestines.”


Sure, Jason had been on set a few times, but never during a killing scene. Most times, he got stuck hanging out with actors and actresses so he stayed out of the way. He wasn’t sure, but guessed it had more to do with no one to watch him at home, so he had his own version of babysitters…aka actors.

“Yeah. You’re getting old enough now. Just remember. You will have to be quiet and stay out the way. Okay?”

His dad and Chuck stepped away, walking down the aisle. Jason could just barely hear them as he turned, checking out the monster costume. He was finally going to see it tear someone apart. How cool was that?!

“Thanks for letting us in tonight, Chuck,” Jason heard his dad say just as a low growl emanated from the costume.

He quickly stepped back, looking at it. What was that? This wasn’t the real monster. There was no way it could be making noise. It must have some kind of sound effects built into it that he had just triggered. Or maybe his dad had. Maybe he had some remote and was just messing with him.

Jason turned to look at his dad, who was still turned away, talking to Chuck.

“No problem. You pay the bills, right…”

His dad wasn’t paying any attention to him. If he were messing with him, wouldn’t his dad be watching, seeing if he’d react? Was this some kind of elaborate joke on him? Had Chuck rigged everything before he had gotten there?

“After all, it’s your studio. You can come by any time.”

Jason backed away from the costume, watching as the eyes started to glow red. Its shape filled out as it hung there, getting taller. Jason’s jaw dropped. He couldn’t look away, but he also couldn’t say anything. His mouth wasn’t working. He wanted to scream and warn his dad as there was no way this was a joke, this thing was real, but no words escaped him.

“Yeah, but I just don’t like to interrupt in the middle of the night like this.”

When Jason backed into his dad, he looked over his shoulder at him. “Jason!”

“Dad!” His mouth finally formed the words just as the lights went out again. The last thing Jason saw before everything fell away to the red glow of the EXIT light was a lingering claw as the monster slipped behind the wardrobe.

Jason stumbled in the darkness, not able to control himself from jerking back. He tripped on his dad’s leg and felt himself fall. It was an odd sensation of having no control, seeming to be in slow motion. Then he was in the costumes and felt something digging into him.

“Jason, don’t be making a mess. People have to clean that up in the morning. Get out of there.”

He tried to yell, but he couldn’t. The thoughts screamed though him.

Don’t scream at me about the mess. Your monster, the one you told me wasn’t real, yeah, that one! Well he just came to life and is now stalking us! And when you designed it, you made it black with a thousand needles on its back, then gave it large fangs and claws so it could rip you apart! Yes, that thing is alive and we are now all its food, but don’t worry. I’ll try not to make too much of a mess getting away from it!

Jason wanted to scream at his father, but his mouth still struggled to form coherent sounds into words. He got out the occasional “dad”, but his mind still fumbled with the rest. It didn’t help that he had fallen into a heap of clothes that kept tangling around him. The more he tried to unwrap himself, the more it seemed they reached out to grab him. It was like the clothes had found a life of their own and were trying to subdue him.

“It’s just the lights. Come on, bud. You’re not afraid of the dark.”

Jason wanted to cry. Sure, he wasn’t afraid of the dark, but what was in the dark. His dad never realized all the creepy and evil things hiding there. How would he ever get him to understand? He had to keep fighting. He had to get free. The monster was on the loose, and Jason must warn them. They hadn’t seen it. They didn’t know it was coming for them.

And where was the monster? Jason tried to look toward the costumes on the other side, but it was hard in the dim light. From what he could see, it looked like all the clothes around them kept shifting, dancing in the shadows.

There had to be more of the monsters. There were more costumes, right? What if they had all come alive? He had to get free and warn his dad.

He wiggled his way down, feeling his shirt slip up as he did, finally able to free himself from the mess of clothes. He looked up at the shape highlighted in the gloom of the red emergency light, hoping it was his dad.

“The costume came to life, Dad! It’s alive!”

“Jason!” The shape scowled.

That was when Jason saw the Stickler’s glowing red eyes. It was next to them on the other side of the aisle, just beyond the next row of costumes.

“Dad, look!”

Jason pushed on his dad, urging him to turn around. He didn’t turn to where Jason pointed. Instead, his gaze lingered on where the costume should be, but the space was now empty. When the creature’s eyes moved, it must have caught his dad’s attention because he turned, seeing the red orbs slipping into the darkness beyond the other costumes.

“It’s just a trick of the light, Jason. Hey, Chuck, there isn’t anyone in maintenance that would be here this time of night?”

Another low growl emanated from the dark. This time, it was loud enough that they all heard it. Jason watched as his dad stiffened, his eyes focused on where he had seen the red eyes.

“What was that?”

His dad looked at where the costume had been and started taking a step back, keeping his arm protectively in front of Jason.

That’s right. He is the daddy monster in his own right, and anything coming after his little guy is going to have to go through him first.

Jason looked up at him in admiration, remembering when he was younger, before his dad was gone all the time to make movies. His dad would come home from work, throw open the front door, and roar, loudly proclaiming that the daddy monster had arrived and he smelled a little one.

That same man would then be the one to take him to bed later that night and kneel to say their prayers. Then Jason would climb into bed and his dad would lean down to kiss him on the forehead, whispering the daddy promise to him that he would always protect him.

His dad took another step back, this one making Jason move with him. He just barely heard his dad as he whispered, “Where’s the costume?”

A loud roar shook the rack next to them, Jason barely seeing the clothes shifting. That was when he saw the large claw rise above them, the red glow making it look like blood dripped down its long talons. Then the claw came down. Jason felt the warm spray as his dad cried out.

His dad tried to back away quickly, but he had forgotten Jason was behind him. He stumbled and fell back, blood gushing from his chest. Jason felt it soaking him. They landed on the cold cement, his dad holding his arm tightly to his chest. He rolled back and forth on the floor, cursing as the pain coursed through him.

“Wes! Wes! Come in, Wes!” Chuck screamed into his walkie-talkie. Jason looked over at him and saw him backing toward the far door.

“Roger, Chuck. How’s the tour going?” the voice hissed from the radio.

The costumes rustled again. Jason turned back toward them, then started pulling himself away. His dad still lay on the floor, losing a lot of blood. They needed to do something, get him to a doctor.

The red eyes appeared again, staring at him through the clothes. Jason stopped, transfixed by those large red orbs.

“Jason! Run to the door!” his dad screamed. He fought to get back to his knees, blocking Jason’s view of the approaching creature.

“Call 9-1-1, Wes. Now. We need an ambulance here ASAP. Mr. Loomis is hurt.”

“Damn. What the hell is going on down there?!”

Jason’s dad pushed himself the rest of the way up, swaying back and forth. Still, he moved, taking little steps backward. Jason watched him as he rushed to the door, but he couldn’t just leave his dad. He tried to think of anything they could do. What did they do in the movies…

Well, the girl the creature chased usually went into some random cabin and found a flamethrower. Yeah, like they were going to find one of those around…

Wait, this is a film studio.

If it was in the movies, would it be with the wardrobe? Probably not. It would probably be with the special effects equipment.

“I don’t know. You best get the police here, as well.” Chuck yelled into his walkie-talkie with one hand, fumbling to remove his gun with the other. Jason knew Chuck was not some rookie security guard, but didn’t think he had ever seen anything like this before. “Holy shit.”

Jason made it past him and turned to look back for his dad. The Stickler loomed over him. That large snout emitted deep growls each time Jason’s dad took another step back.


Finally, Chuck got the gun free and pointed it at the creature. “I don’t know who the hell you are or what you think you are doing, but get away from Mr. Loomis…now. Then come out from there and put the costume on the floor.”

Jason backed up until he was in the safety of the hallway, crying, when he heard the scream. It wasn’t even recognizable as his father, but knew it was. Then the sound quieted, turning into a gurgle before stopping. The silence stretched on before he heard something fall to the floor. Jason turned away. He couldn’t watch anymore. He knew what had just happened. His father was dead.

Still in the room, Chuck turned to Jason. “Get to the security office! Police are on the way.”

Jason turned and ran like he had never run before. What was he going to do? He had to find the prop room. Where was it? It wasn’t like the rooms were labeled. Most people working on the set knew where everything was, but what about somebody new? How would they ever find anything in the maze of hallways?

He had hoped he’d be far enough away when the gunshots started, but he wasn’t. He heard them. First, it was one, then another. Then a series of them came in rapid succession that ended in a scream, followed by a thud. Jason knew Chuck had just crashed into the wall. He didn’t turn to look. He just kept running.

It was no use looking for the prop room. He was just a kid. What was he going to do anyway? He’d only seen flamethrowers in the movies where it seemed like everyone had them lying around and anyone could figure how to use them. While that may be true of adults, Jason had no clue.

It had just killed his dad. He had tried to warn him, but his dad hadn’t believed him. He was dead.

Jason had to push away the memories of him because he knew going down that rabbit hole was just going to drop him there in the hallway and leave him a crying mess, waiting to be eaten.

I ain’t no crybaby.

Somewhere down the long hallway behind him, he heard an earsplitting howl that shook the walls and brought him to his knees, but he couldn’t stop and didn’t let it slow his momentum. Keep going, keep going, keep going. He knew he had to, but the thing must be getting closer, the hallway allowing it to move more freely.

Damn, just how big is this place.

He wasn’t sure of the answer. The few times he’d been in the building, he’d never gotten the full tour, but he knew his dad had gotten the space really cheap. It was some kind of abandoned warehouse. They had converted it and used a lot of the unfinished areas as sets. The offices, including the security office, were toward the front of the building.

But what if he were going the wrong way? He could end up on one of the sets, which would be perfect. What better area to be chased to by a horror movie monster than a horror movie film set. If the creature didn’t kill him, he felt like his young heart was going to explode. He already felt the wetness down his leg, knowing that he’d wet himself. When had that happened? Must have been when he fell as he ran away.

He saw the door up ahead marked EXIT, but that didn’t seem right. When they got there, he knew they hadn’t come from that way. Near it was a turn in the hallway. He could have sworn that was the direction they had come. So which way should he go?

Exit… Go for the exit. Get out of here.

Jason wasn’t sure why he didn’t listen to himself as he turned down the hallway, running into something tall and hard. Grunting, he bounced back, landing on the floor with a thump, his tailbone screaming in pain.

“What’s going on?” a deep voice asked.

He looked up to see a tall, dark-skinned man standing over him. Jason could barely stammer a response. He had no idea how he looked, vaguely remembering his father’s blood on him.

“Creature… Alive… Killed them,” he gasped.

“Get in there,” the man ordered, nodding to a room.

Jason saw the security uniform and guessed this must be Wes, the man Chuck had contacted on the radio. Jason looked past him, seeing a brightly lit room, a bank of security monitors sitting there. The monster was on one of them. No wonder Wes had already been coming down the hallway. When it neared the camera, it’s massive shape reared up to look at it. No, it was looking at him. Jason didn’t know how, but he knew it was. It wanted him. Then, with a swipe of its large claw, the camera signal went dead.

Jason ran into the room and looked back, waiting for the security guard to join him. He didn’t. He just stood there, looking scared in the dim light from the room. With a hard swallow, the man looked back at him. “Shut the door.”

Jason did, then locked it.

He waited, his heart pounding in his ears. Then he heard the gunshots and more screaming. Jason didn’t know what was worse—the sounds of those screams, or the silence when they stopped.

* * * *

When they found me the next morning, I was sitting in a ball by the door. They had to coax me away from the door just to get it open. I was the only one left. The creature had spared me…for reasons I only discovered later.

My father and the two security guards were both found, their bodies badly mutilated. Of course, I didn’t find that out until years later, but I had a decent idea of what had happened to them. I’d seen parts of it, which would haunt my nightmares for the rest of my days.

See, monsters are real. They don’t need to be something we create on the movie screens because they are in the world all around us. I just recently saw a new horror film that featured a terrifying clown who eats children. It didn’t take long before clowns were seen everywhere. Then the neighbor kid came up missing. I’m not blaming the movie. The movie didn’t take the kid.

Yes, I still watch horror films, although I often laugh at much of their ridiculousness. After all, those monsters aren’t real.

I just keep telling myself that it’s only a movie. Right now, you’re telling yourself it’s only a story…

But is it?