Saving Leila – Shannon Giglio

Shannon“Mom, there’s a man coming up our driveway,” Daniel said, peeking through the slit in the living room curtains. He held an old Daisy air rifle in his hands, and he had learned how to use it. When he’d been in school, before it had shut down, he hadn’t been much of a tough guy. In fact, there had been one boy—Zane—who had ragged on him mercilessly every day since the beginning of second grade. But, the sickness came and his upscale neighborhood was overrun with those seeking food and supplies kept in the garage refrigerators and basement storage rooms of the big houses.

“Does he look familiar?” Daniel’s mother asked in a raspy voice. She’d been looking a little gray lately, and Daniel and his little sister, Leila, worried about her. They worried about who would take care of them when she no longer could.

“Is she going to die?” Leila would ask her brother, as they sat in the dark dining room, eating sugar on crackers by candlelight as their mother’s muffled retching seeped from beneath the powder room door. Daniel didn’t want to think about that.

“No. I’ve never seen him before,” Daniel said, watching the man approach. “He’s got a bag with him. An old plastic Target bag.”

Daniel’s mother crossed the room and took Leila in her arms. Leila, her baby, her innocent one. Since Daniel’s father had disappeared, having gone out in search of gasoline for their generator, three weeks ago, Daniel had taken over as the man of the house. It was his duty to protect his dying mother and his baby sister. Serious work for a boy of eleven, but he did his best.

A knock on the door made them all jump. Daniel looked at his mother through the gloom. Her shoulder-length brown hair was a tangled mess and mascara trailed from the corners of her eyes in charcoal streaks, making her look like some kind of deranged mime. She put a hand over her mouth, stifling a cough.

“Who is it?” Daniel shouted through the heavy oak front door. Leila hissed at him. “I have to see what he wants,” he told her. “What if he has news?” Leila hugged her mom tight.

“Trick or treat,” came the stranger’s answer.

Daniel watched his mom break from Leila’s embrace and cross to the door. She looked at Daniel, putting her index finger to her lips.

“We haven’t got anything,” she shouted through the door, grabbing a fireplace tool from its rack.

“Oh, no, please,” the man said. “I’ve got something for you.”

Their supplies dwindling, they were desperate for news from the city. Television was no longer broadcast, the Internet was down, there was no electricity. The neighbors had left a week ago.

Daniel’s mother motioned for Daniel to step away from the door. He did, but he raised his air rifle, covering his mom as she opened it a crack.

The man’s large green eye filled the gap.

“Hello,” he said to Daniel’s mom. “I know you’ve got young ones in there. I live down the road, you see, and I’m so sorry for them to have to miss out on the seasonal festivities. I’ve brought them some candy.” He shook the Target bag, making it rustle.

“That’s very nice of you, but unnecessary.” Daniel’s mother kept her foot wedged tightly against the bottom of the door in case the man tried to push it open. Though he said he lived down the street, he did not look familiar. “Do you have any news? From the city?”

“News?” he said. “No, I’m sorry, no news. But if you’ll just take these treats for the little ones…” His lingering “s” sounds were like those issued by a snake.

“No, that’s okay,” Daniel’s mother said.

There was a long pause as the two sized each other up.

“Well, you know,” the man said, “it is trick or treat.” His great green eye fell on Daniel and his gun hovering in the middle of the living room. “If you don’t accept the treat, there may well be a trick.”

Daniel’s mother slammed the door.

They heard the man laughing on the front porch. After examining the house, walking around it, inspecting windows and doors, he made his way back down the driveway. “I will be back,” he shouted with a smile.

***

It was full dark, and Daniel’s mother had fallen asleep on the sofa. Leila, clutching the handle of a ceramic chef’s knife, slipped out the front door on her brother’s heels.

“Are you ready? He’s kind of a big one,” Daniel said, pumping his rifle.

Leila nodded and wiped her nose on the back of her hand. Daniel thought maybe she was getting sick, too. He needed to find her some nourishment.

The pair crept up the cracked concrete driveway and settled behind the boxwoods beneath a large bay window, squeezing in between a big boy with a hatchet (“Zane,” Daniel said, giving the boy a nod) and a girl armed with a grilling fork.

“Look,” Leila whispered, pointing at the driveway, stifling a giggle.

The man appeared at the end of the driveway and slowly approached his house. The moonlight glinted off of the top of his bald head and made his eyes sparkle.

Then, the children descended upon him.

They each took home a few pounds of meat, and Leila never got sick.

“Trick or treat,” they said, popping Skittles into their mouths as they walked home, laughing in the dark.

~~~~~

Shannon Giglio is a writer of dark fiction and a former acquisitions editor for Evil Jester Press. She lives on the Georgia coast with her husband, author Peter Giglio. She has worked for CBS, Ridley Scott’s Scott Free Productions, dick clark productions, inc., and a couple of accounting firms. Her books, REVIVAL HOUSE and IDOLS & CONS, both written under the name S. S. Michaels, can be found on Amazon.com. Her third title, SHORT BUS HERO, will be available December 16, 2014 (Nightscape Press).

The Undead Have No Dignity – Jessica Nettles

JessicaLily stood at the weathered wooden door, smoothing her black dress, and adjusting her hat and veil. She closed her eyes, took a breath, and knocked. The door opened.

“Ah, Mrs. Smith, come in, please,” said The Coroner. He was wearing an immaculate suit, as was the custom.

She moved slowly. Her arthritis was acting up today. The Coroner took her arm and led her to an office. She sat down in a floral wing chair while he moved behind his shiny black desk.

“Would you care some coffee or tea?” he asked quietly after he was seated.

“Tea? Oh that would be lovely,” she answered.

The Coroner rang a tiny silver bell. A girl in a clean apron and a black dress brought in a tray with a delicate teapot and matching blue cup. She smelled of gardenia and walked with a small shuffle. Mrs. Smith looked at her face. Was she familiar? She might possibly know the girl, but perhaps not.

The lid of the teapot tinkled as The Coroner took the tray from the girl and nodded for her to leave. A soft hiss exited her lips and she stood, hands still extended. The Coroner frowned, and then snapped his fingers right at her nose. The hiss stopped short and the girl turned to leave, but almost ran into the doorframe before exiting.

“Rose is still…in training,” he said, setting the tray on a small table next to Lily’s seat. “Shall I pour?”

“Oh, yes. Please,” Lily replied, charmed that she could hear music in the background.

He poured the tea. First her cup. Then his. Once he sat the teapot on the desk, he sat down, folding his hands in front of him and ignoring the tea altogether.

“Mr. Smith…he’s passed,” she said as she dabbed her eyes with a lace handkerchief she pulled from her purse.

“Has he gone off yet?”

Lily looked at him for a moment.

“What?”

The Coroner frowned. “We can’t take him if—“

She hung her head and said in a whisper, “if he hasn’t gone off…I know.”

“Mrs. Smith, you do you understand how our system works?”

She nodded, and said, “I just thought—this one time…”

He moved from behind the large, shiny desk and pulled a chair up next to her. Then he took her hand in his.

“We can’t make exceptions. There are considerations…for The Community,” he said.

She turned away from him and pulled her hand from his chilly grasp.

“Please…we’re old…” she whispered.

The Coroner did not respond.

“Can I keep him?” she asked.

“He is needed,” he said.

She wept into her handkerchief as her tea cooled.

“I just want him to have some dignity,” she whispered.

“And he will be treated with the utmost in dignity. He’ll be of service. Wouldn’t that be what…”

“Edwin,” said Mrs. Smith said.

“Edwin, wanted?”

Lily nodded.

“But he can’t be of service until he’s gone off, so you need to go home and relax,” said The Coroner. He glanced at the tablet on his desk. “I can see that Edwin is locked down. Very good work, Mrs. Smith. Now, you must go home. You wouldn’t want to miss the grand event.”

Lily looked at him, and frowned. Then asked, “Edwin will be better?”

“I promise.”

Lily almost said thank you, but that did not seem appropriate, and so she exited silently.

She arrived to a quiet house. Thankfully she’d had time to scrub the kitchen and bathroom with Pine Sol before she visited The Coroner. As she entered through the back patio, she touched a page posted at the kitchen door and thanked the Great Whosit (her name for God) that she’d done her best to follow the law posted there concerning the dead and gone off. She also gave thanks that Edwin had not tried to take a hunk out of her arm as she ritually bathed his body before she put him in Lock-Down.

She hated doing it. She wanted to remember all of Edwin’s kindness, but instead she would forever remember how cold his hands were as she pulled his body past the heavy steel door.

In earlier times, families would bring food, tell stories, and celebrate the loved one. Now, that wasn’t exactly practical. Death was no longer a sentimental moment. In spite of the struggle to maintain lifestyle, there were those who went off. The Council put up the fence and that helped people stay calm.

She poured a glass of tea, and then sat on the porch. In the gloaming, she saw a figure walking toward the house. It was Mary.

“I brought y’all a pie,” she called to Lily.

“Mary, he’s passed,” Lily said.

Mary paused halfway up the walk. “Oh my Lord, Lily! Did he cross over?”

“Not yet,” Lily said.

Mary stood momentarily, pie in hand. She set the pie down on the porch rail, and then sat next to Lily on the swing. There was nothing to be said, and so they sat side by side for a long time. A white truck marked with a large blue C rolled by. The back of the truck was filled with hoes and baskets of ripe tomatoes. Fred Whitmore, one of the Community farmers, waved from the driver’s seat. There was groaning coming from the trailer it pulled behind it. Both women waved at Fred, as was expected.

“Edwin’s going to a better place, Lil’,” Mary said.

“I want to believe that,” Lily said, trying not to cry.

“It’s better than turning him loose,” Mary said.

Lily patted Mary’s hand, “You mean turning him out.”
“They could have just shot him,” said Mary.

“Yes. They could have done just that,” said Lily.

When The Coroner offered to recycle the gone over instead of shooting them, The Council immediately approved The Law. The Law was interpreted as more dignified. Lily had been part of The Council then.
Now she questioned decision they’d made.

The green light next to the kitchen door began to flash. Lily looked over at Mary.

“Well, I guess it’s time.”
“Well, I guess it is.”

After just a few minutes, a white panel van bearing the familiar blue C arrived. Two men got out. One had a noose stick, and the other wore a shoulder holster.

Both said, “Evenin’, Mrs. Smith.”

“Mighty fine evening, Phillip,” she said.

“Mighty fine, Mrs. Smith,” the brawny man replied.

“You okay, Mrs. Smith?” asked his partner, who was younger and blond.

She nodded. Mary put her arm around Lily’s shoulders. The men entered the house. Lily could hear one of them unlock the metal door. All Pallbearers had master keys for Lock Downs. She heard loud snarling and she heard someone say, “Woah there!” Then there was a scuffle. Soon the young man led the gone over Edwin out onto the porch. Gone-Over-Edwin turned his head and snarled at Lily, reaching toward her. His face was gray.

“Oh God…”

Mary snatched her away quickly.

The second man came out of the house, and quickly put a snub-nosed shooter at Edwin’s back. There was a thwip followed by a groan.

“Dammit, Darrell! You weren’t supposed to bring him out here without the hood!” he yelled.

“Sorry, Phillip,” said Darrell.

Lily couldn’t stop staring. That…thing…wasn’t…couldn’t be…no…not Edwin…not…

“Mrs. Smith…” said Phillip.

“I’m…I’m fine. What—” said Lily.

“He’s going to a better place, Lil’,” said Mary.

“There is no better place than the farm,” said Phillip.

Edwin had become placid, his snarl replaced with a blank stare that went right through Lily.

Philip looked at Lily, tipped his hat, and stepped off the porch. Young Darrell led the slow-moving Edwin to the van, where he was loaded in the back. Phillip drove the van into the gloaming as Lily stood and watched silently. Mary stood with her.

“Mary, I think I’d like some pie about now,” said Lily.

~~~~~

Jessica Nettles is a native Georgian who grew up in Powder Springs and was raised by blue collar, Southern Baptist parents in a 1960s ranch home. She blames this raising for her continued fascination with all things supernatural and post-apocalyptic.

By day, she teaches English at Chattahoochee Technical College, and by night she writes, reads, plays tabletop and role playing games, and knits. Currently, she resides in Kennesaw, Georgia with her two black cats. Her children are grown and having their own adventures, and she is in the process of starting the next chapter of her life, whatever that may be.

Hurry Home – Heather Moore Niver

Heather

Clocks tock

past

twelve. Scant rattle

of orange

Heartbeat

through bare branches.

Footsteps

Wind wheedles,

curls cold

Heartbeat

down your collar. Breaths catch

and rasp at the back

Footsteps

of your throat. Thud and quick.

Empty road echoes.

FootstepsHeartbeatFootsteps

Hot breath.

Icy grip.

Footsteps

~~~~

When she’s not wielding wild words or swilling hot black coffee, Heather Moore Niver is trying to herd her wily sheep and chickens, persnickety cats, and beardy husband at her cabin in New York State.

Number 1609 – Shay Leigh

ShayThe families living on Wicker Road had an ongoing tradition every Halloween which included best yard decorations, best themed costumes, as well as the best tricks or treats served up to their ghosts and ghouls.

And every year Mrs. Samson at number 1609 won the best yard decorations.

Jealous neighbors whispered that she only won votes because people felt bad for her ever since her husband disappeared five years before, leaving her with two boys to raise on her own.

But in all honesty, she won votes because people were awed by the gory splendor she served up every year, which was followed by a huge bonfire the next evening in which she and her sons burned all of that years decorations.

Each year her yard was filled with a story. Be it a witch trial, Egyptian mummies discovered by an unsuspecting archaeology team, a zombie horde devouring survivors, a vampire ball with a huge human “feast”, or even a cloaked Death raising the dead in a foggy cemetery.

Everyone was curious as to not only what she and her boys would build this year, but also as to how her sons could create such realistic characters and creatures in their dad’s old workshop in the backyard. Her sons worked tirelessly in that shop, all through the year, and their efforts always paid off.

A few days before the voting would begin, huge black sheets were set up around the yard of 1609, sufficiently blocking the view of the curious neighbor’s eyes. They could hear the banging of construction in the daytime hours and catch brief glimpses of lighting checks in the darkness of the night. Having learned the process of the family living at 1609, the neighbors knew that the sheets would remain until the day of voting. But they were always curious as to what horrible delight was being brought to life behind the midnight screen.

The neighbors gathered in the chilly morning light on the day of the voting, impatiently waiting for the family living at 1609 Wicker Road to emerge from behind the sheets. Within a few minutes a diminutive blonde and two tall blond teenage boys stepped into the crowds view. Without flourish the boys pulled the cords that held the sheets aloft, and with barely a whisper, the black sheets puddled on the ground into pools of inky fabric.

A few gasps were heard in the icy air, but all eyes were enthralled with the scene before them. Mrs. Samson had a truly gruesome story taking place on her lawn! Body parts littered the ground, a chopped up arm here, a pile of glistening torsos there. In the center stood a mostly naked woman in a crimson cloak, holding a blood-soaked sword. In front of her was a glittering blood-coated table, which held a chained but writhing victim in obvious terror. The white cotton of her dress dripped over the edges of the table, showing streaks of dirt and blood at its edges. Kneeling in a semi-circle behind the sacrificial table were more cloaked members.

The victim turned and looked at the crowd that watched on from behind the pools of the black sheets. Immediately she began begging for help, beseeching the crowd to unchain her, to call the police, while screaming that they were going to kill her. The crowd stood and watched, and then a clap could be heard, which was followed by more. The victim grew still and silent as the voyeuristic crowd applauded her.

Mrs. Samson and her growing boys had truly outdone themselves this year. Not only was her yard a sacrificial story, replete with blood and gory remains, but they had even gone so far as to hire an actress to help bring the gruesome story to life!

There was no doubt, in any of their minds, that number 1609 would win yet again.

The crowd began dispersing, going home to finish their preparations for the evenings fun. Throughout the day they would hear the actress scream for help, or beg a passerby to untie her. But she would quiet down eventually. Even actresses would need a break here and there.

The sun set, the moon rose, and the street filled with princesses, animals, scary creatures looking for brains or blood, and all manner of ghouls and ghosts. Bags were filled with treats, tricks were played, and haunting music littered the air with screams, growls and any number of menacing sounds. As the revelers passed by number 1609, the victim would beg, plead, cry, or scream for help.

Everyone loved it. And were excited for what this family would cook up for the next year. Voting slips filled the box in front of 1609, leaving no doubt as to what the various viewers loved the most.

Eventually the street quieted down, and lights extinguished here and there. The family at 1609 began collecting their decorations to pile in their backyard for the bonfire they’d hold the following night.

The next evening the neighbors of Wicker Road gathered in front of the soon-to-be-lit bonfire. Snacks and drinks cluttered a banquet table, and everyone milled about, sharing stories of their favorite moments from the previous night. Mrs. Samson stood before the pile of decorations, a lit torch held aloft in her small hand. She thanked the neighbors for their votes, and promised an even better show for the next year. Leaning down, she lit the edge of a bloodied and dirty white dress, and with a smile, watched as the flames devoured the evidence of her family’s many murder victims.

Next year, they would have to “hire” more “actors”.

~~~~~

Shay Leigh is the author of Sins Within and Sinless Within, which can be found on Amazon.com. She writes Poetry, Paranormal, Sci-Fi, Fantasy, Mystery and Thriller.

Shay’s stalker pages:
Website: www.goddesslivingoutloud.com

Twitter: @gothhicgoddess

Goodreads Page: http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/6477220.Shay_Leigh