Once Upon an Apocalypse (or, the Continuing Pursuit of Publication)

I’ve found I can’t ONLY write a novel. I mean, to write-write-write and not finish anything for months will kill me.

So, I’m peppering my novel writing efforts with some short stories, and making an all-out effort to get myself published. Officially.

Right now, I’m focused on completing a submission for the upcoming anthology, Once Upon an Apocalypse. Check it out here.

The challenge is to cross-pollinate the ‘story’ of classic fairy tales or fables with the zombie apocalypse. Great fun! I have mine well –started and no one has claimed this fairy tale yet, so I’m pushing to get it polished and submitted (and hopefully accepted).

Then back to the novel.

You all rock, for taking the time to stop by and read my scribbling. If you are also blogging and telling stories (especially edgy, creepy ones) you can count on the fact that I am visiting your sites and enjoying your writing also.

Random:  I dreamed last night (no – not that I went to Manderly!) about the Vincent Price treatment of I Am Legend, the early sixties Italian flick, “The Last Man on Earth”. Great fucking movie, the best of the attempts at telling I Am Legend in film. My wife and I sleep in 3-season porch that we’ve converted to a 4-season porch. It’s all windows, which are thrown wide open during the spring, summer, and fall. In my dream, I could smell the grass I’d mown earlier; the owl who-ing across the field made it all that much more quiet and peaceful outside the porch; the cool breeze forced me deep under the comforter.

Then the silence was shattered by a raspy voice.


It blasted in from the dark wood, and I sat bolt upright in the bed.

 Read the book, see that movie. Matheson and Price at the very top of their respective crafts. They were legend.

I’ll keep you posted on the anthology submission as well as the novel progress.

Day job tomorrow – must sleep.


Apocalyptic Sleeping Beauty Awakes image by Kelly Bailey


Sitting in Darkness…The Novel

Stage 2 of Sitting in Darkness has begun.

There are stages, you ask?

Perhaps I should explain.

I started this blog to do two specific things:

1. Entertain readers with short, snappy, sometimes creepy, (and hopefully engaging) stories.


2. To see if some of these tiny germs of stories want to grow up to be…bigger.

Well, it has finally happened. One of the stories on this blog has announced itself as wanting to be told more fully, with all the bells and whistles of noveldom.

So, I am fully engaged in the planning and execution of this story, this novel.

Why do I bring this up, you may be wondering?

Just to explain the spotty posting schedule over the next few months. I will continue to put up stories, and hopefully more of them will want to be novels.

Now, I’m tempted to ask all 12 of you who subscribe if you can guess which of the 50 some-odd stories on the blog I am currently novelizing.

I’ll just say this: Margo will probably get done as a novel someday, because I want to know more about her and I just love the way she looks at the world. One of my relatives thinks I am doomed to be the victim of an Annie Wilkes copycat if I write the Margo novel(s).

If you don’t know who Annie Wilkes is, Google will be more than happy to oblige you.

There are several stories herein that have hinted at their aspirations to become more than I have made of them so far. But right now, only one story has flooded my fevered brain with imagery, additional characters, colorful backstory, stakes to die for, and a lead that looked me in the face, in a dream, and convinced me to write the story.

I have to admit, that was kind of weird. But hell, we only go around once, right?

By the way: these characters are completely of my creation, but I don’t tell them what to do all the time. Sure, I have a general idea of where I want the story to go, but sometimes my subconscious, in the guise of one of my characters, has other, usually better, ideas.  It’s super fun, and sometimes a little disconcerting.

I believe it was Jerry B. Jenkins, author of the 14-volume, bazillion-copies-sold Left Behind series, who, when asked why he killed off one of his major characters, answered, “I didn’t kill him off. I found him dead.”

So, I hope you’ll continue to stop by and read my little stories (and see if you can guess which one on the blog is soon to be a novel).

As always, I’m writing this alone in my room and hopeful the stories connect with a reader out there.

I’ll occasionally post updates to let you know where I am in the novel writing process.

The publishing world continues to evolve so quickly, I have no earthly idea what it will look like when I’m done writing this story.

But I’ll deal with that when I actually have a completed manuscript.

Right now, I just want to tell a rollicking, balls to the wall story.  A story the reader simply cannot put down.

There, I’ve said it.

There’s no turning back, even if I wanted to.

Behind me an avalanche has sealed the mine entrance.

I can only stumble forward.

Into darkness.


image by kevingessner

The Fire of the Gods

Fletcher at the Dig

His tent snapping in a hot, dusty wind, Fletcher found it nearly impossible to concentrate on his journal entry, an entry on which so much depended.

The porter, Daran, waited just outside with wide eyes, looking up at the group of riders carefully picking their way down the narrow trail snaking along the inner wall of the crater.

“Even now, Bryce approaches with a party of loyalists to steal the figurine,” Fletcher scratched quickly. “My initial academic excitement in the historicity of the piece has been supplanted by more fundamental concerns. No, that is inaccurate; it is an existential dread that now pervades my soul.”

Daran tentatively stuck his head between the canvas flaps. “Sir, only three kilometers more and Doctor Holcombe is upon us.” He looked back over his shoulder, panting.

Fletcher wrote on. “I am giving the figurine to Daran to get it out of the country. His wife’s cousin runs some sort of illegal smuggling operation along the passage to Peshawar. I can only hope that the figurine and this journal will make their way to you from this godforsaken pit. As long as the carving stays out of Bryce’s hands, all may yet be well. Nevertheless, his fumbling interference has awakened something ancient and, what is worse, it has taken nearly complete possession of him.”

Fletcher wrapped the journal, along with the figurine, into a leather sack. He bound it all together with a length of catgut, and rushed to the tent’s entrance. He pushed it into Daran’s hands.

“Take it, for fuck’s sake!” he said, “And do as I have instructed. Get it to Susan!”

He watched Daran’s eastward ascent out of the pit, intermittently hidden by the scorched, black trees and the great billows of steam.

“Godspeed,” Fletcher said, rasping, as he watched the porter climb up through the blasted heath. “Get it to Susan, Daran. My journal will guide her actions. She will know what to do.”

Fletcher  sat in his canvas chair, facing the flapping maw of the tent. The smell of all these burning things made him nauseous. He drew his machete from its scabbard.

And waited.

Fletcher at the Trial

“And your expedition ended in the deaths of several members of your research contingent. Is that not true?” The prosecutor pushed her glasses down to the tip of her nose, her dead, grey eyes fixed on Fletcher.

“That is correct. Several members of the group were horribly mutilated, including my research assistant, Bryce Holcombe, as you know.”

The prosecutor looked at the jury before continuing. “Yes, Doctor Fletcher. Those of us here in the so-called developed world can only imagine the sense of horror to which you were subjected in this circumstance.”

Blinding light crashed through the wall-length windows in the courtroom. Fletcher looked down at his shoes.

“Dr. Fletcher, would you care to comment on how your extended absence may have contributed to your wife’s state of mind?  I mean, raising three children alone, for twenty-two months, while her husband  was off in far-flung places, digging up old civilizations and whatnot. Do you not think that could be stressful?”

Fletcher looked up at Susan. Her eyes were seemingly vacant, but inwardly focused, he knew, on an undying hatred for humankind.

Several minutes of silence ensued, punctuated by stifled coughs and aborted sneezes.

“Doctor Fletcher?” The prosecutor was now standing beside her table.

“Yes?” Fletcher asked.

“Your wife was found surrounded by your mutilated children. This jury would like your insight as to how that might have come about.”

Now Fletcher’s grief flowed out in great, heaving sobs. “It was a mistake!”

The prosecutor strode to the witness stand. “Doctor Fletcher. Do you have any idea what  the words Cthuga kraal boglarthop mean? Your honor, the prosecution introduces exhibit one-forty-three-A.” The photograph showed three humps under a white and red sheet. On the wall above them, the unintelligible words were scrawled in what looked like blood.

Fletcher looked out the window. Heat rose off the pavement of the courthouse parking lot in radiated waves.

“It means ‘Cthuga forever burns’.”

“What did you send home to your wife, Doctor, along with your journal?”

Fletcher loosened his tie and said, “An artifact.”

Susan at Home

She fed them.

She bathed them.

After stories, she kissed them and hurried downstairs to the package.

A large glass of merlot rested on the table as she eyed the leather sack and twirled the catgut binding round her index finger.

She ignored the journal. More of Fletcher’s tedious ramblings.

But the carving was exquisite. She felt its heat and breathed deeply.

The Fire of the Gods

It was much later that night when the children were startled awake by growls that shook the walls.

Together, frightened, they stepped lightly down the stairs.



Then more growling.



Well, I haven’t participated in one of Chuck Wendig’s FF challenges for a while, so…  The challenge this week was to write a story under 1,000 words entitled “The Fire of the Gods”. Well, I dreamed of Lovecraft and August Derleth and this is what came out. The elder gods, the ancient ones, just love to mess with lower life forms… or perhaps they’re just misunderstood. Anyway – hope you enjoy it!

Image by Beesnest McCLain

All the Colors of This World…

The teacher’s day started like thousands of winter weekdays before it. She made up the twin bed, drank half a cup of instant coffee, fed the cats, put on her wool coat, and walked across the street to the school. She seated herself primly at her desk. The empty rows of desks reminded her of a barren, November garden. She awaited the imminent clamor of arriving children, children whom she would ignore today while she contemplated the dull grayness of the tenements outside her window and considered what must be done.

Today is the day, she thought. Let the nightmare end.

The teacher had left no note of her plan, but she had filled many notebooks describing her despair and her musings on the different methods one might employ to end one’s life. She would exit the world unheralded and unloved, just as she had entered it thirty-four years earlier. Why had kindness and warmth never bent in her direction? Her body had known no pleasure save for what little she, on those rare mornings, was able to provide herself.

A wasted life, best ended.

And then the new girl was presented to her, all large, sad slate eyes and dirty, coppery hair, and of course she had to be introduced to the class and found text books, and writing implements, and wasn’t this just the worst day to have this type of distraction?

But the teacher was one to fulfill her duty, no matter the inconvenience. She escorted the new girl to a desk where she immediately drew the stares and taunts of the class. The teacher, distracted, vaguely admonished the children to leave poor Agnes alone and get along with their lessons, please.

The tik-tik-tik of the freezing rain against the window mesmerized the teacher. The bells rang for recess but she merely sat, thinking of oblivion, until the children bolted of their own accord, casting worried glances in her direction. All except the new girl, who stood motionless in front of the teacher’s desk staring, holding a pink rose between her right thumb and forefinger.

And the teacher accepted the flower. She pushed its soft pink petals against her nostrils and inhaled deeply, so deeply her ribs ached. But the teacher did not release that breath. She closed her eyes, sat back in her chair, and held her breath, refusing to release the scent from her head. As if in a dream, she noticed that the sun had broken through a crack in the clouds and bore down on the large east windows. Shimmering light bathed her face, and from a place deep within welled up images of love directed at her, the teacher, the woman who never knew love, and then the teacher was startled awake when the new girl said, “Pink can heal.”

The teacher opened her eyes and wept and did not stop until well after the other children wandered back in from recess with fearful looks on their faces.

And so the teacher did not end her life that day. The teacher’s feelings blossomed as each day the new girl brought her another flower. And the new girl always seemed to know which flower was the right flower to present, as if the new girl could read her mind or her heart and apply the just right remedy. And the teacher learned.

She learned blue hydrangeas soothed. And orange nasturtiums thrilled. And white poppies intoxicated. And there was no end to her pleasure while she smelled the flowers, but in the evenings, she still could be counted upon to burn or cut her forearms until the kitchen table was slick with blood and tears.

One day the teacher asked the new girl why the feelings the flowers brought her were only temporary, and the new girl said, “Because you want to die, they will not take root. You are barren. I’m doing my best.”

And the teacher became angry at being called barren for the third time in her life, and she  shouted, “I don’t understand! Where do you get these flowers? I want to see where they come from, do you hear?” And she shook the girl back and forth and tried to reach into her pocket and pull out a flower to sniff, but the little girl threw the teacher off with unexpected strength.

Then it suddenly seemed to the teacher that it was sunset, although the children were at recess weren’t they?. The sky was dark, and a fiery red sun looked in on her and the new girl from just above the horizon, like some malevolent one-eyed god.

And the new girl was changing too. She grew taller, her head elongated and horns thrust themselves out of her forehead while her eyes migrated off to the sides.  She produced an enormous red rose from the pocket of her jacket and with a low, growl said, “Red means wrath.” And then the teacher was no more.

The teacher was never found, but everyone assumed the worst for in her desk were discovered several personal notebooks, written in her own hand, describing her black depression as well as her thoughts on ending her life. She also described a person she referred to as ‘the new girl’.

The bottom drawer of her desk was filled with dead flowers: azaleas, poppies, lilies, roses.

No one could make sense of the flowers.

And there had been no new girl in the teacher’s class this year.


This is one of those stories that was completely unplanned. I had not the faintest idea of what the ending of this story was going to be when I sat down to write it. Many times, one knows the ending and the writing is just a blazing of a trail to get there.

I hope people will continue to find the blog and read the stories. I’d like to think the stories provide some invitation to ponder or just a little entertainment on the train, the bus – some stories that don’t require a huge time commitment from the reader.  If you’re so inclined, please leave a comment thanks for stopping by. Hope you come back.

Image by studiobeerhost

Sitting in Darkness is Back!

I miss Sitting in Darkness.  I miss putting these little stories up here.

So, I’m going to start up again.

Tomorrow I’ll be posting a story sparked by this picture.

Feels good to be back.

Image by studiobeerhorst

The Dead Always Return…

The demands of economic survival have settled a pall of dust over this once-vibrant story blog.

I could make an eloquent appeal for society to support those of us committed to scribbling little stories – yes, even horror stories. But those  grapes are just sour, and I need to get clacking on the keyboard.

Now that I’ve established some sense of balance and equanimity in my new job, you can expect to see some fresh stories posted.

Halloween is almost here.

Each year, we return to Salem, MA for trick or treating and then we take up the costume watch at Haunted Happenings. We take the kids around to collect candy and fun along the same neighborhood route I took as a kid in Salem. The kids’ll then hang out at my parents’ house while the wife and I head downtown to see the show with friends.

By the by, I hope to have a collection of short stories completed for next Halloween. If you’re a regular visitor to the blog, you’ll get a free copy (I know who you are!).

In the meantime, enjoy this Halloween. Soon, the wind will turn seriously cold, the trees will click, and the moon will ride high and turn the buildings on Derby Street in Salem a silvery gray. I grew up down near Forest River Park and each October I think of ghosts in Pioneer Village as well as darker things blowing through those beautiful, barren trees.

If you haven’t been, Haunted Happenings in Salem is not to be missed. Perhaps we’ll see each other up on the Common, or pushing down Essex Street.

There is no better place in the world to sit in darkness than Salem, MA in October.

Sit under Hawthorne’s statue and try not to hear the darkness happening.

I dare you.

The Lost Love of Little Bianca (a tiny tale of big revenge)…

One of the great aspects of writing flash fiction is seeing how much story you can pack into a tiny bit of text. This is 100 words to tell a story of revenge. Love, Sex, Betrayal, and Revenge….all in a tiny package.


Image by Steve Snodgrass

The Lost Love of Little Bianca (a tiny tale of big revenge)


The things you hear living in a carnival camp.

Little Bianca, the dwarf whore who could swallow razor blades, and Antoine The Cuke, so named due to his enormous member, were inseparable. Each night, we’d cover our ears as Little Bianca moaned in pleasure. Bianca beamed, even during performances as she ate razor blades.

Then The Cuke broke her heart when she caught him with The Yak Woman.

So one night Little Bianca dragged him behind the Tilt-A-Whirl, got on her knees and gave him the blowjob of his life – fresh from her razor-swallowing performance.

Oh, the screams we heard!

Mama, You’ve Been On My Mind…

Well, it’s just been too damned long since I posted a story. The crazy summer of travel is over, so it’s time to start spinning tales. This is my entry for this week’s flash fiction challenge at terribleminds. Famous people doing fictional things.   As a musician as well as a fiction writer, I’ve always been a huge Dylan fan.  Read on to see what kind of trouble he gets into with Mother Teresa. I had enormous fun seeing how many Dylan lyrics or song titles I could cram into a story with a 1,000-word limit.  All you Dylan fans, see if you can identify them all! Welcome back everyone!

Nice Dylan painting by greencolander.

Mama, You’ve Been On My Mind

“Like Dylan Thomas?” Mother Teresa asked.

Bob Dylan lay down his weary guitar.

And rolling thunder rumbled in the west.

“Yeah. Meant it to be like Marshall Dillon, ya know, on ‘Gunsmoke’? But I got confused, somethin’ happened, and I didn’t know what it was.”

The heat sent plumes of garbage-scented steam up off the streets of Calcutta. Bob Dylan looked down the road and saw children fighting with dogs for scraps.

“Do you have a speech impediment, young man? As you can see, I’m very busy. So please tell me again, what is it specifically you want me to do?”

“Mama, you been on my mind. See, a hard rain’s gonna fall. Ya know when there’s a crash on the levee, water gonna overflow and we’re gonna go down in the flood.”

Mother Teresa squinted at the unkempt man, noticed the long, dirty fingernails, the unruly mop of greasy hair, the smoldering cigarette in his nicotine-yellowed right hand. A pack of Kools rested on the table between them.

“I’m not sure I understand you, Mr. Dylan.”

“I saw this all in a dream, my one-hundred-and-fifteenth dream, dig? A dream of Johanna, who had the ghost of electricity howling in the bones of her face. And that dream blew to me on the wind. I saw guns and sharp swords in the hands of young children, blood on the tracks.” His eyes, as blue as robin’s eggs, turned white hot, as he stared at this woman who seemed to him the embodiment of the stained world’s salvation..

“Why have you come to me? I’m just an ugly, old woman with bunions and too many mouths to feed. I’m sorry to disappoint, but I have no power, despite what you may’ve heard on the news. Perhaps you could sing your songs at the UN?”

“Songs! They laugh at the songs! I’ve got so much mixed up confusion, it’s a-killin’ me, mama. They give me awards and I’m so frightened for the world, all I can do is mumble into the microphone. The masters of war are all talking World War III blues and some folks want me to be the voice, you know, but it ain’t me, babe, it’s you. You’re the real deal. I’m a jokerman.”

Mother Teresa reached out and laid a hand on his. His dirtiness and obvious mental illness failed to repulse her: it was just another day in Calcutta.

“But, Bob – may I call you Bob? – these troubles you note, they are nothing but the beautiful workings of the living Christ here, immanent on this very Earth. Ever has it been in this world. It remains only for us to find Christ in ourselves and spread compassion in the face of misery and suffering.”

Dylan looked off into the darkening distance, sighed smoke out into a dying world. “You see, I’m not so sure ‘bout that Christ thing. Tried it. Didn’t work out. Not for long, anyhow.”

Mother Teresa leaned forward and slapped him across the face.

“Perhaps your experience with that Christ thing was limited by your lack of faith. I’m sorry, are you OK? I didn’t mean to hit you so hard.”

Dylan ran a hand over his stubbly jaw. “Don’t think twice, it’s alright.”

The tiny nun rose from her seat – just a wooden box – and said, “Come with me. I want to show you something.”

Outside it had begun to rain, a soft mist falling on the just and the unjust alike. They walked side by side, Mother Teresa gripping Dylan’s leather-clad forearm.

They walked down by the old canal, redolent with the commingled scents of jasmine and shit. The western sky threatened the approach of the monsoon. Rumbling clouds of black and blue billowed then swirled around one another, spitting pebble-sized raindrops.

“Do you see the storm, Bob?”

Dylan mumbled,“Don’t need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows…”

“That is correct, you don’t. The monsoon will come whether we like it or not. It will flood the Ganges, push human shit and dead bodies all over town. But it washes at the same time, picking up waste that has been allowed to sit and fester since the last storm. Do you understand?”

Dylan rolled a joint, fired it up, offered it to the nun with raised eyebrows.

She took it and swallowed a long, slow hit.

She said, “Before we get too far down that joint, I want you to try to look at the world with a longer view. One that has room for redemption. By the way, you’ve got blood on your tongue.”

“It’s alright, ma, I’m only bleeding. So, like, you’re whole approach is to get past the anger and have faith that God’s gonna make it all better?”

“No! Are all musicians this thick? WE are going to make it all better. You can sing your songs, but don’t forget to love someone. Show some kindness to a child.”

They arrived at the banks of the Ganges. People of all ages bathed in the river, surrounded by a kind of orange glow that Dylan could only assume was the Matanuska Thunderfuck they were smoking working its magic.

“The world will end, but not tomorrow, Mr. Dylan.”

“Well,” Dylan said, “tomorrow is a long time, as they say.” He walked to the very edge of the water. He looked at the old men and women bathing, smiling. Children chased one another and giggled along the shimmering water’s edge.

He continued out to a small outcropping of sand. There he sat down, put the pinched roach in his pocket, and gazed intently at the approaching storm.

“Will you come inside out of the weather?” she asked.

“Nah. Maybe the times are a-changin’ and I should too.”

The old woman embraced him before she left. “The storm can be frightening. Sure you don’t want shelter?”

“Nah. Just gonna sit on this bank of sand, you know?” he said. “Watch the river flow.”

Rumors of my death are wildly exaggerated…


No, I haven’t exited this vale of tears, shed my mortal coil, bought the farm, kicked the bucket, or eaten every bite of a big shit sandwich. No, I am in that living death called a day job, a carnivorous one that has been snapping up enormous chunks of my life like that huge black German shepherd in the old ALPO commercials.

Seriously, I am working on stories and my summer of airports is nearly over. I look forward to the coming of fall: cool nights, Bard owls, coyotes, that crisp autumn wind that howls through New England. It all just puts me in the mind to tell stories. Grab a blanket, pull down the shades, ignore the scratching of the branches on the study window, and fire up some stories on Sitting In Darkness.

Stay with me. Posts will be more regular…

Avenging Angel…

Avenging Angel

Linda reached for her vibrating cell phone on the nightstand. She didn’t need the ringer; she wasn’t sleeping well these days.

“What?” she mumbled.

“Linda, we’ve got another one.”

Linda sat bolt upright. “Like the others? You’re sure?”

“Propped up on all fours. Tail, mane – the works. This one’s extra special, though.”

Linda waited, her eyes wide. She looked at the photo of a young girl on the nightstand.

“For Chrissakes, Marty, spit it out. This isn’t a game show.”

“This one has…more accessories. Just get down here and see it.”

“It? These were people once, Marty. Have some fucking respect.”

“Says you.”

Lieutenant Linda Einhorn took down the address.

The details of the report she’d been writing earlier that evening played like a movie across her mind: three murders so far, all known perps. Pedophiles. Overpowered, restrained, throats slit, dressed up to resemble what appeared to be horses and left propped on hands and knees. They’d been found in abandoned warehouses around the outskirts of Boston.

No prints.

No witnesses.

No leads.

But something, a faint echo of insight, tugged at the edge of Linda’s mind, depriving her of sleep.

Linda arrived at a warehouse in Revere. The parking lot was loaded with official vehicles, the blue strobes flicking off the stained brick façade of the building. The Revere cops stood around looking resentful while the Staties conducted their investigation. As a State Police detective, Linda was allowed to enter immediately.

Marty – State Police Lieutenant Martin Sutherland – approached her from the shadows.

“Upstairs in the back office. Just follow your nose.” Marty accompanied her to the base of the stairs and yelled up, “Alright, clear the fuck out of there and let Einhorn have at it.”

Linda ascended the stairs, steeling herself. The sweet odor of rotted flesh and blood forced a hand to her face.

As the last of the crime scene techs walked past her, Linda entered the office. It was small, cramped, but with a large window through which, she assumed, a manager could supervise the floor. Linda looked up. Brown stains spread like old maps on the suspended ceiling tiles.

A spotlight stood in the corner to her right, illuminating the star of the show.

White male, approximately forty-five years old. He was naked and draped over a low-slung bench. At first glance, one would think he was up on all fours.

As expected, a broken mop handle protruded from the victim’s anus, the mop giving the appearance of a bushy tail. He’d been spray-painted white and stood out in stark contrast to the bloodied, dirty office décor.

There was a transverse slit across his throat. On his head was a silver-pink wig, like a horse’s mane. Under his chin, a section of rusted pipe held his head up. His milky, lifeless eyes were frozen in a rictus of surprise and horror.

Then Linda noticed it: an ice pick with a spiral white handle planted firmly in the victims’ forehead.

“A unicorn,” she whispered to herself.

Her mind raced through the prior crime scenes.

A pink painted victim with blue mane and tail.

A black ‘horse’ with his forearms broken to make it appear he was prancing.

“Oh my God,” Linda said to no one. And it all fell into place.

She rushed back down the stairs.

Marty was waiting at the bottom with a cup of coffee.

“That was quick. How’d you like the ice pick? Nice touch, eh? We’ll be here all nigh-“

“A  carousel. He’s making a carousel, Marty. Look where the bodies were found. Revere, the North End, Braintree. He’s making a carousel around Boston.”

Marty grabbed her arm and pulled her into a corner.

“It’s not him, Linda. Stop torturing yourself.”

Linda stared through the ceiling up into the office and thought of the Unicorn up there.

Her daughter, Sammie, had loved unicorns. Each time she and her ex-husband Peter had brought their little girl to the Salem Willows, Sammie had only one desire: to ride the unicorn on the ancient carousel.

The day Sammie was taken, Peter was playing Skee-Ball in the arcade next door. Later that night, the Salem cops had found Sammie – or what was left of her – in a dumpster at Pickering Wharf.

Linda had of course focused all her grief and anger on Peter. The marriage was over. How could they make life whole again with Sammie’s violent absence living in the house with them?

“Where were you?” How many times had Linda thrown that in his face?

Peter had left before the divorce was final. Almost two years now.

Then, about four months ago, the bodies started showing up.

No one could know about the carousel. But Linda’s suspicions were now confirmed. She knew it in her bones that Peter was the one.

“Hey, kid. Why don’t you go home? I’ll clean this fucking mess up and we’ll regroup tomorrow at the barracks.” Marty could be tender on those occasions when he remembered he still had a heart.

“Thanks.” Linda was stunned. Not sure what to do next.

At home in bed, Linda wept as she hadn’t allowed herself to weep for the past two years.

In the fetal position, she finally dropped off to a tortured sleep.

In her dream she heard the carousel’s crazy carnival music. The lights blinked and the sun glinted off the many mirrors on the ride.

Sammie, as usual, rode the tall, white unicorn with its flaring nostrils and gleaming brilliance. Peter stood next to her, making sure she didn’t slide off the oscillating beast.

With each revolution, Sammie’s faced grew paler and started to putrefy. Finally, Linda saw Sammie come around, dead, mutilated, gripping the pole that rose up out of the unicorn’s back.

Linda was sobbing in her sleep. In her dream, she was screaming.

On the final revolution, Peter came into view laughing, holding an ice pick aloft.

And he descended from the carousel toward Linda, like an avenging angel.


Image by Dominic’s Pics

This is the latest Flash Challenge for Chuck Wendig at terribleminds.

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