A Fistful of Horrors

A Fistful of Horrors from Cruentus Libri Press is offering their horror anthology for FREE!

It is available from May 25th, 2013 until May 29th, 2013. One of my stories, Cracklin’, can be found inside. It is an excellent collection of western themed horror. Give it a shot. It’s free. 

Follow the links below to get your copy.

www.amazon.com/dp/B008L8CU6K
www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B008L8CU6K

Out of the Basement Part 9

His chest heaved, sweat pouring from him as steady as rain pattering on a roof. Hands resting on his knees, he leaned over the last hole. A worm, cut by the shovel, wiggled into the dirt. Tenacious for a tenuous grip on life. In the end, we all feed the worms. Although his back was to the rifle, he visualized it leaning against the tree. It waited for him. He reached for it. A shadow darkened his arm. He put his own arm back on his knee. 

“Looks like you dug one too many holes, Tim,” Jason said. 

Tim’s eyes stayed on the worm as it fought to hide in the soil. 

“Or did you dig just the right amount? One more than the bodies we have to fill them. Are you thinking of something Tim? I do believe you are.”

Tim’s mouth was a desert. His tongue stuck to the roof of his mouth. Jason’s questions and statements didn’t anger him. He wasn’t embarrassed or ashamed the way he thought he should be, like getting caught jerking off. It didn’t feel dirty. He wanted to be with his family. The way he figured it, they left him and he was just trying to catch up. Now, if Jason would only leave him to it, he could be on his way from here before the sun kissed the horizon. A drink of water would be perfect right now. A whole jugful, drained in a gulp was what Tim was thinking about. Feeling the water slosh around and the tightness of his bloated belly before he ate a rifle round would be nice. Jason, for the most part was ambient noise, the hum of electricity you never notice that’s always in the background. Ignoring Jason, hoping he’d go away, Tim spat into the hole. A pitiful spit, his mouth was too dry and it hung from his lip and hovered over the little worm. 

“I know what you’re going through. I know what it’s like to want to die. I know you want me to shut up and walk away, leave you to your business and maybe I will. Not before I try to talk you out of it. I hope you’ll please listen. You’re a good kid.”

Tim snorted. A good kid. Jesus. 

“When I was a kid, my dad used to put his cigarettes out on my belly. It’s weird, to think about it now. I hated that man, but I loved him too. I think he may have only smiled at me once or twice. Really. When he did smile at me, I thought my heart would burst from the happiness of it. My dad had two faces. He was an accountant and made some good coin in his time. He was funny too. He’d have these dinner parties, for his clients. I hated those parties. He made me wear a tie and slick back my hair and say ‘yes sir’ and ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ all night long. He could work a crowd though. People loved him. The women blushed at his attention and the men all clustered around him while he told a joke or leaned in to whisper to them, making them feel like the most important men around. He was an alcoholic but not like those people you see on Intervention. He had it under control, to some extent. No one cold really have it completely under control. He never missed a day of work and always looked like he came straight from a photo shoot even if he’d been up the night before, blasted, drinking late into the night. He was mean. He liked being mean. I heard him rape my mom one night. In the next room. She screamed, begged. I could hear the slaps, the punches. Sounded like dropping a bag of meat. My mother didn’t leave the bedroom for two days after that night. When she did come out, her eye was swollen and there was a big gash on her lip. She could barely talk. That was the only time he lost control. He didn’t want people to know what he was doing to us. He was very careful. 

When I was twelve, I ran away from home. I got on my bike, rode off and pedaled into the night and into another town. I loved that night. I felt free, like anything was possible. The night tasted of the coming summer and the insects chattered off the roadway. It was so peaceful. I was caught, returned home. I got three burn marks that night. I’d never gotten three in one night before. Hell, I’d never gotten three in a whole year. It was my mom who stopped me from running off ever again. Her big eyes trembled at me, because I left her behind. 

I didn’t know it then, but I was fucked up. I got into cocaine when I was fifteen, shot up heroine once, stole a car or two and never got caught. I did flunk out of school. I was so afraid of what my dad would say. I remember wanting to run again but I couldn’t leave my mom behind. My stomach hurt so much and no matter how many times I tried to take a dump, nothing would come out. 

After school, I went home, sat on the couch with the TV on. I had no idea what I was watching. That note in my pocket, asking for a parent meeting because I was failing five classes dug a hole into my brain and wouldn’t be dislodged. My dad would be home in two hours. In two hours I’d have to give him the letter. It never occurred to me to give it to my mom. He had us completely in his control you know? 

My dad had a straight razor. He never used it, he just liked the way it looked. He’d had it sharpened and put away, in a velvet box. It was in the upstairs bathroom. I could feel it, calling to me. It fucking glowed up there, as though I could see it through the ceiling, through the walls and into the bathroom. One minute, I was on the couch, TV images a blur and the next minute I was in the bathroom. The box was open, the razor gleamed. 

I sat on the side of the tub and flicked open the razor. My eyes reflected back to me in the blade, seeming so calm, so normal. I held the blade to my wrist, pressed, a drop of red collected against the blade. I thought of heroin and the sweat that gathered along my dad’s forehead whenever he was tying one on. Then my mom walked into the bathroom. She saw me, saw the razor blade. She shivered, a full body one, her hand jiggling the knob. Our eyes met, and then she closed the door and left me there without saying a word. She didn’t tell me to go ahead and she didn’t try to stop me either. In her eyes, before she closed the door, I saw envy.”

***

Out of the Basement Part 8

“No one wants to be alone, kid. This is something I have to do. It doesn’t matter if it doesn’t make sense. Wouldn’t you go? If you didn’t know?”

Tim nodded knowing Jason was right. He would have to go. While Jason extracted slivers of wood from Tim’s body, he couldn’t help but feel envious of Jason. Even if a large part of Jason believed his mother was dead, still, he wasn’t one hundred percent sure. In that small percentage lay hope. Fragile, tethered to an unlikely belief, it nestled and it was all anyone really needed. A little hope. 

The room swam in his eyes from the shots of rum. His family was dead. Most of them rotting in the family car in the garage, bodies swelling with gas and skin rippling with bugs. He had no hope left for him and soon he would have no on to be with in this world of death. He swallowed a sob. Jason noticed, the tweezers hovering over a wound, watching Tim. Once Tim steadied himself, Jason plucked in silence. After Tim was cleaned up, body free from slivers, they retired for the night, Tim only speaking to tell Jason where he could sleep. The basement still stunk of smoke, so for the first time since all of this happened, Tim slept in his room. Zipped up in a sleeping bag, his father’s rifle close by and a chair jammed under the knob, Tim slept. 

***

In the morning, they spoke to each other in monosyllables, strained smiles as delicate as glass on their faces. Today was the funeral for Tim’s family. Tim’s stomach roiled at the thought of what he might find when opening the car door. Would their skin fall off of them, almost liquified, when they tried to move them? Would bugs explode from their stomachs, pushing the skin open like a blooming flower to spill the multitude into the car? A light sheen of sweat coated Tim’s body. 

Jason, drinking instant coffee, grimacing after each biting sip, said to Tim, “We’re going to do a division of labor here. How about I’ll get them prepared, wrapped up and you dig the graves? We don’t need them to be very deep. I’d suggest digging up the garden back there. The ground would be softer.”

Tim, chin on his chest, wanted to protest. Who knew what state his family would be in? What images would chase Tim around for the rest of his life if he did help remove them? Jason was offering a great kindness. Torn between fear and duty to his family, Tim didn’t answer or even acknowledge he’d heard Jason. 

Jason said, “I’ll take good care of them, Tim.” He put a hand on Tim’s knee, “I didn’t know your family at all. I can tell they meant a great deal to you. I know your mother and your brother wouldn’t want you to see them like that. They just wouldn’t. You know it’s true, cause I know you wouldn’t want them to see you if that was you in there instead of them.”

Shivering, Tim nodded, knowing Jason was right. He stood, not looking at Jason and said, “I’m gonna get started then. It might take me awhile. Uh, can you get me some gloves and the shovel? They’re in the garage. I don’t feel like going in there today.”

“Sure. Absolutely.”

Jason went to the garage, sweat already dotting the shirt on his back. Tim back swiped his hand across his forehead. It was going to be a hot day. 

***

Outside, Tim stood watching the skies with a shovel in one hand and a rifle in the other. The work gloves were his father’s and his hands swam in them, fingers sliding out of the holes his father’s fingers had stretched. The sun, almost white, dotted the sky. Swirling torrents of bugs danced on the air in the distance. So many of them. Who knew there were that many insects around? Tim noticed they hung suspended over certain houses, darting down en masse and then breaking away. Trying to get in, find an entry point to the people inside. Tim coughed, his throat dry and tight. The bugs didn’t approach him or his house. He couldn’t understand why that was. His family had never been the religious sort. They rarely mentioned, let alone discussed, God and Jesus. Tim’s parents wanted their children to make up their own minds about such things because they believed spirituality to be extremely personal. In this apocalypse or whatever the hell it was, seemed orchestrated. The hand of God at work. The idea of it terrified him. 

He propped the rifle against a tree, loaded, but with the safety on, and trudged through the soft grass to the garden. Dandelions sprouted yellow heads and Tim thought how mad his Dad would be when he saw them. He was gut punched with the remembrance that his Dad lay dead at work. His dad didn’t care about dandelions anymore.The dead don’t care about anything. 

Tim attacked the soil. Rage driving him on, cutting through the tulips his mother had planted, hating how pretty they were, how much his mother had loved them, how pointless it was to love anything because, in the end, everything dies. The soil flew, brown particles peppering the air. Arms flailing, Tim’s rage inspired energy diminished, leaving him weak and winded, down on his knees in the dirt, the bandages on his body sliding off him from the sweat. The sting of the sweat entering his wounds sent pings of pain intermittently all over his body. He took pleasure in the pain, feeling he deserved it and earned it for having the nerve to survive when his family did not. His chest heaved and spit bubbles collected at the sides of his mouth. Tim looked a the hole he started. It wasn’t near big enough. The long day stretched out before him and he looked forward to it. He beleived he should be punished. When he was done, he dug a hole for himself. The rifle called to him.