The Sleeper Awakens – S.D. Gill

The Sleeper Awakens

Have you ever thought about what it would be like to be a cat? I mean really thought about it? I can tell you from personal experience that it is not all it is cracked up to be. Sleep, clean, eat, poop…sleep, clean, eat, poop. Chase something, sleep, clean, eat and, poop. Oh and the food is less than stellar to a palette like mine, though Azazel prefers the taste of fish every day. I would kill for a steak and a glass of wine…or an apple…anything besides fish.

Sadly though, at the moment, this is where we are. We’re in the body of a cat, stuck at a road side motel waiting for a new host. The owner seems like a nice sort of fellow to most. Innocuously polite. He blends into the scenery like a painting on the wall or the flies that lazily buzz against the screens. He is not all he seems, nor is this little stop-over for the weary. While he doesn’t get many passing through that are useful to my kind the ones that do stop are unusually powerful…they just don’t know it. But still we wait and have been waiting.

Waiting a very long time.

Day in and day out.

People come…and then they go.

But we’re still waiting.

Waiting for that special person. Waiting for the one that we can use to set me free.

We were lounging on the counter when you walked in. Tired and dirty. You looked liked something we dragged in to torture out of shear boredom. Oh, but the power in you! It rolled off in waves that nearly choked us. You didn’t know we were there, waiting. You were just looking for a place to crash and dream of drifting off never to return. You should have been more careful about what you wished for.

As you signed your name on the page with a wish in your heart the ink rippled and shimmered like the lights of the aura borealis. As the clerk looked you in the eye and handed you the key I saw the sparks in the otherworld and the invisible chains shackle your wrists as you calmly accepted your fate without a word of refute.

“You seem like you could use a bit of companionship,” he whispered and gestured to us as you patted our head. “And Azazel seems to like you. Feel free to take him to your room if you like. Just open the door if he starts to annoy you and he’ll come back up here to the desk.”

As you started to pull away with a no hesitating on your lips, we rose up on all fours and languidly stretched with fluid grace as you unconsciously patted our head–ultimately linking those chains that would bind you to us. Jumping down, we wound around your legs, purring and binding them even tighter. We knew you would not refuse as we bumped against you, pushing you towards the door out to the walkway to head to your room.

Like a parasite looking for a host to devour from the inside out, the anticipation of finally being free was nearly overwhelming. In this case though, patience is a virtue as we knew it would be several long hours before the transference would be complete and we were eager to begin. As the clouds slowly rolled in blocking out the sun, exhaustion began to slowly settle over you like a warm blanket. The sound of door lock tumblers falling into place as you turned the key ricocheted throughout the abyss as thunder. There are many rooms here, but this one is special. This one is where magic happens, where entities like myself can cross over and when we do the world is never the same.

Room #113 lures her in like a lover’s caress— a warm room, a soft bed. Her body grows heavy with sleep as she looks around the room. Crossing the threshold tightens the bindings and invisible hooks latch upon her soul while the wards fall into place as we cross over. There is no turning back now. She has looked upon the outside world for the last time.

Now she is in mine.

The voices whisper as the wind begins to howl but she is lost. Oblivious to what really surrounds her, an empty circle surrounded by the markers of the dead under a blood red sky with multiple moons. As she enters the circle of salt the wind speaks to the graves as pale blue smoke ignites the black pillars with pale blue flames. The air that surrounds us reeks of the scents of fermented juice, spoiled bread, and the clothes of the diseased. It is night and like a rat in a graveyard her mind jolts at the scents and wants to scurry off to the safety of a small burrow to be dry and warm. She sees flashes of her surroundings as her soul fights to remain bound to her corpse…the voices soothe her and reassure her that she is only dreaming and that soon she will be safe at rest.

The spell we have woven is almost complete as she kneels down. The razor she holds draws deaths attention like flies to a carcass. Slowly she cuts and as the blood wells up from her hand my spirit rises out and begins to fill the empty space she made by forcing her own soul to break free. As the drops fall from our hand, a scream from the abyss startles us, breaking the circle of salt. While a moon bleeds a candle falls. Black wax spills like blood as the shadows fill their clothes. I fight to repeat the incantation from the book of the dead, among the damned as the air grows thick making it hard to speak. In her mind I writhe in terror; silently reminding myself there is nothing to fear — though she is strong, I am stronger. As her soul struggles, it finally dawns in her there is something wrong, as with each straggled breath, her soul begins to burn. Unable to speak or move, she becomes the silent scream in my mind and then just as suddenly I am alive again, standing in an empty room in the middle of the day gasping for air. Azazel winds around my legs purring and chirps happily at my return. My mind is cluttered with molding decay of grotesque ghosts whose ashes have made their wings to heavy to fly. I inhale deeply reviling in the fresh clean air that no longer reeks of the scents of mold, graveyard dust and fish. My name is Tamsin Blythe and as I walk out the door with my familiar at my side the lighting cracks and the earth quivers as soon there will be hell for every living creature to pay for my time spent on earth.

*****

S. D. Gill is a student of forensic anthropology who decide to dip her quill into the proverbial ink well and see what might slither out onto the page. She enjoys tea, reading and posting ridiculous amounts of lolcats online. Zomsquinjas (zombie squirrel ninjas) are also her furry minions of doom. YES, DOOM! She is in the process of relocating to Georgia and attending graduate school.

Harvest Moon – Alia Gonzales

Harvest Moon2

“What in the hell!” Arynn screamed as she realized her footing was gone. Of course it had to be now. The first time she and George were on vacation in the last 20 years and now she’s going to get hurt. The fall to the cold tile seemed to take minutes and she could hear the sickening thunk as her head hit the tile.

With blurred vision Arynn opened her eyes to see she was lying in the bathroom, a small puddle of blood leaked beneath her and her head was throbbing. The only saving grace in all of this was that George would be here soon. In just a few minutes he would be back from getting the ice for their romantic bottle of wine and she’d be able to curl up in bed with him.

And what if he doesn’t come, Arynn?

Arynn held back a scream as she realized she didn’t know where that thought was coming from, as it couldn’t be her own. She never thought that way. All her life, she’d been such a positive spirit, ready to accept that only good things and clear things happened in life. The only clear thing in her life other than the glaring florescent lighting was the bright moon staring at her. Even through the frosted bathroom mirrors the moon shone as brightly as ever, taunting her with its beauty. Almost as if it were human… She took another glance at the moon shining through the window. It couldn’t be…

How do you like it down there Arynn? You’re stuck, you know. Stuck here with me.

“No. I’m fine. Just you watch. Everything is going to be just fine,” Arynn didn’t have to be a genius to know that it was going to be hell to try to get up from here. She couldn’t even move her legs. She felt like such a crazy person talking out into the darkness, but in her gut she knew it would be just a few seconds until George came back. He had to be. She paused to look for her phone. She spotted it sitting across the room blasting music for her to sing and dance to as she took a nice warm shower. Arynn started to think. Maybe it would be worth it to drag herself across the floor to it. At least then she could call George, and see what was taking him so damn long to come back. The ice dispenser was just down the hall wasn’t it? He had to have gotten distracted somewhere. This whole vacation was about getting close again after the kids finally left for college. The house was theirs and that meant it was time to celebrate.

Searing pain blasted through Arynn as she tried to life herself enough to crawl to the phone. It didn’t feel like anything was broken yet there was no way she’d make it across that tile floor. Not only did she feel sore and bruised from the fall, the cold of the tile was finally starting to kick in. This vacation was anything but relaxing; all she wanted to see was her loving husband come through that door.

He’s still not here Arynn. You’re mine now.

“NO!” Arynn screamed into the bathroom. The voice in her head was driving her crazy.

Don’t worry Arynn. We’re going to have a lot of fun together. You and I until you draw you last breath. Arynn…

“Arynn… Arynn!”

Finally Arynn opened her eyes to see a blurry image of George standing over her. “Go figure. You dumb bitch. Take you on vacation and you ruin it. Always has to be all about you doesn’t it. Spend twenty years by your side, and just once it can’t be a relaxing weekend. Of course not. Go to sleep, I’ve got shit to do.”

Arynn’s eyes grew wide as she looked up into the huge black boot headed straight for her face. This couldn’t be George. Not her George.

Well, well, well, Arynn. Aren’t you glad your beloved George came back to you? You should be much more careful what you wish for.

“Arynn…Arynn…Can you hear me?”

Arynn shrieked as she rolled into something cold and hard. “Arynn, are you with us?” It was George’s voice. What could he possibly want now, after what he’d done? It was amazing the sensation she could feel in her legs. It hadn’t been there all night and the room was warmer.

She opened her eyes for the first time since George had knocked her unconscious. She was in a hospital room, and there, next to her was her loving George. The adoring look of concern on his face was nothing like the man who hurt her just moments before. Just behind George Arynn could see the hospital window perfectly framing the harvest moon. “You scared us all Arynn. You’ve been out for hours. How are you feeling?”

“Get away from me you freak! I can’t believe you hurt me!” Arynn yelled at a dumbfounded George. She could feel the moon beaming down on her, watching her every moment.

I told you you’re mine. You might be awake, but you’re mine. You belong to the moon now Arynn and we’re going to have some fun.

 *****

Alia is a new writer just getting her feet wet. When she’s not writing she likes to spend time with her small family in Denver and working on crafts and learning to cook. She also spends far too much time with her nose stuck in a book. Also, feel free to visit her facebook stalker page! http://www.facebook.com/aliagonzalesauthor

Crash And Burn – Austin Malone

crash and burn

Kristoff awoke in darkness. He was upright, bound tightly across chest and waist, with his head engulfed in some sort of rough fabric. With a violent start, he flailed at his restraints, and the oppressive material fell away from his face. His first gasp of air ended with a retching cough as the overpowering stench of gasoline filled his mouth. His eyes adjusted, and as his vision returned, so did his memory.

He was in the car. Martin had been driving. A quick glance at Martin’s limp form, then down at the man’s blood-streaked pants leg confirmed Kristoff’s earlier suspicion that Martin had been hit. What should’ve been a textbook holdup had gone epically FUBAR and now here he was, up shit creek, with his paddle smashed into twisted scrap against the trunk of a massive tree.

An orange flicker from between the creases of the crumpled hood caught his attention. He jabbed his thumb with enough force to dislocate it against the belt’s release button. It didn’t disengage. Kristoff swore and pressed harder, sublimating the shooting pain in his thumb with thoughts of being roasted alive. It gave way under his renewed assault with a click. The straps slithered away, hissing like snakes as they went, and Kristoff felt suddenly weightless. He bent to scoop up the satchel from the floorboards, and barreled shoulder first through the partially opened passenger door into the night.

He was about fifty yards away when the car went up in flames. Kristoff broke into a trot down the highway. He had to get out of there. If the cops weren’t already on the way from the liquor store fiasco, they’d definitely get called in to investigate a burning car with a charred corpse behind the wheel. He glanced at the marsh to his right. Out of the question. He wouldn’t make two miles over that terrain before the cops and their bloodhounds were on his heels. His only chance was to hitch a ride and get the hell out of there.

Slinging the satchel across his back, he started to jog. He’d gone a little over a mile when he saw the light ahead. A single headlamp crested the invisible horizon, growing brighter as it bore down on Kristoff. A moment later he heard the buzz of its engine. The pitch was too high for a car. For that matter, it didn’t sound like a cop’s bike either. He formed a mental image of a bored hillbilly teenager tearing around on a Kawasaki crotchrocket.

“Let’s go, Bubba-Joe,” he said as he stepped into the motorcycle’s path. “Gimme my ticket to ride.”

It was upon him sooner than he expected. Panicked, he waved his arms and yelled. The driver pulled the bike into a sharp turn, and between one heartbeat and the next, the bike had deftly cut around Kristoff to disappear behind him.

Kristoff ground his teeth and cursed. Unclenching his fists, he willed himself to relax. After a slow count of ten, he was jogging down the breakdown lane again. Within a couple of minutes, he heard the drone of the motorcycle behind him, returning. He stopped and turned to face the biker.

The motorcycle pulled up alongside him, and Kristoff noted with surprise that the driver was female. Clad in black leather that hugged her curves with an intimacy he envied, she peered at him with wide eyes through the sable curtain of her hair.

“Is that your car back there?” she asked.

He nodded. “Yup. Don’t suppose you’d mind giving me a lift to the next town over, huh?”

She shook her head. “The next town over is eighty miles away,” she said. “You’d be better off going back the way you came.”

“Can’t do that,” he said. “I just got back from overseas. Got an uncle offering me a job and a place to stay. I was just passing through that last place. Stopped to get a beer, and some of the locals started giving me a hard time.” He waved a hand at his fatigues.

She arched an eyebrow. “And?”

“And I took them outside and gave ‘em a hard time right back.” He grinned.

“So, you’re thinking they might be holding a grudge, and keeping an eye out for you,” she said.

“Definitely.”

After a minute’s consideration, she patted the seat behind her. “Come on,” she said. “I can’t take you all the way, but I know a place a few miles down the road where you can rest up for the night. I’m Morgan, by the way.”

“Pleased to meet you,” he said as he took her hand and climbed onto the bike behind her.

“Hang on tight,” she said, and with that, they were off.

With his arms around her midsection and his face buried between her shoulder blades, Kristoff had no way of knowing how far or fast they were traveling. At some point, the exhilaration of the ride gave way to something more primal. He became aware of the soft heat of her body as he pressed against it. The scent of her hair in his face was musky, like incense, and his heartbeat quickened. Slowly, he inched his hands up from her waist, feeling the smooth leather slide under his palms as they caressed her flat stomach, and moved higher still. He was pleasantly surprised when he encountered the soft swell of her breasts unhindered by underwire. His fingers traced circles around her nipples. He could feel them, hard even through the leather.

Morgan downshifted then, and the bike slowed.

“Shit,” he muttered. “I’m sorry, miss. It’s just been a while, and…”

She laughed. “Don’t apologize. I’m not kicking you off. We’re almost there.”

He raised his head to look over her shoulder as she piloted the motorcycle off of the highway. He didn’t see a marker for the road, and from what little he could see of the hard-packed dirt trail, calling it a road may have been generous. Before long, their destination came into view. A neon vacancy sign flickered below a larger sign that simply read: “Hotel.” The building itself was a shapeless mass of darkness that lurked behind the sign.

Morgan parked the bike in the hotel’s empty lot, and they dismounted.

“Is this place even open?” Kristoff asked.

Morgan grabbed his hand and hauled him toward the entrance. “Come on, lover,” she said with a laugh. “Let’s get you tucked in for the night.”

Kristoff didn’t get much of a chance to inspect his surroundings as they entered the lobby. Morgan hustled him past the desk where a bored-looking young man glanced up from a ragged novel just long enough to toss a plastic-fobbed key onto the countertop. She scooped it up as they passed, and led Kristoff down a dimly-lit hallway. Morgan paused at the door to unlock it before sweeping it open with a flourish.

“Ta-daa,” she sang.

Kristoff entered the room and barked a laugh. The chamber was dominated by a sagging heart-shaped bed the color of dried blood. His eyes tracked upward and saw a soot-stained mirror on the ceiling above. Curious.

Morgan eased the door shut and snaked around in front of Kristoff. With a coy glance over her shoulder, she gave his belt a tug, loosening it, before slinking away to perch on the edge of the bed.

“Well, loverboy,” she purred. “Let’s see if we can pick up where we left off. Show me what those busy little hands of yours can do.”

Kristoff crossed the room in two paces, hands outstretched. He stopped just short of touching her, though. Something was wrong. He peered at his hands. They looked different. As he watched, his flesh darkened, and his skin rippled as though his blood was bubbling beneath its surface. With that came an intense itching, followed immediately by a bone-deep ache, as his flesh blistered and began to peel.

Morgan giggled.

“What?” he gasped, and that was all he could manage before searing pain exploded across his entire body. He tried to scream, but was unable to produce more than a quavering whimper. He sank to the floor, curling in on himself as his skin ruptured and sloughed off in tarry chunks.

“There are two things I should have told you, lover,” Morgan’s voice lilted. “First thing: you didn’t escape the fire.”

Kristoff writhed and mewled like an injured animal. There was no escape from the pain, no portion of his body that wasn’t a nexus point for currents of agony. He could hear her laughing at his pain. Worse were the voices of the others, tittering and giggling, muttering and whispering. They crashed against his frayed nerve endings like a jagged wave.

“Tell him,” they cackled. “Make him understand.”

“The second thing, darling,” she said, her voice dropping to a violent hiss. “You didn’t. Escape. The Fire.”

*****

Austin Malone is a writer of short fiction who resides in Texas with his wife, daughter, and an indeterminate number of cats. His work has previously appeared in Bloody Parchment (Vol. 2), A Fancy Dinner Party, and Penny Dreadfuls: Halloween Special. He neither blogs nor tweets, but invites readers to check out his goodreads page to find out more about his work.

Blood Martini – Jennifer Walkup

Blood Martini

I wonder often if the hotel will stop breathing. I wait for it, most days, like you wait for all unfortunate, yet inevitable things. Like death.

It’s in the walls, it is, and days like this last Friday of autumn, I swear it’ll drive me absolutely crazy. I walk down to the lobby bar, letting my fingers trail the beige wainscoting in the hall. Even though my senses have dulled in my old age, the dust that permeates the place tickles my nose and throat.

“Martini,” I say to J.D., the young bartender who is nice enough but reminds me too much of the person I’ve spent a lifetime trying to forget.

He smiles his gap toothed and knowing smile. “Rough day, eh?”

I shake my head slowly. Not rough exactly. Just don’t care for my room on days when the place feels this way. I can’t stand the thought of my gold brocade curtains and the huge and empty king sized bed and oversized room. It’s filled with shadows, like the ones that have crouched close by nearly my whole life.

I rarely let myself think about Kurt, but I can’t help it now, remembering the whisper of his fingers on my shoulders, his gentle nature. I swallow the heap of a lump in my throat.

J.D’s eyes narrow. “You okay?”

“I am. I think.”

His gaze stays on my lips as the words slowly leave them. Wetness dribbles on my mouth and I grab a napkin as J.D. turns.

“Olive?” he asks as he grabs a glass to make my drink.

“Please,” I say, wiping at my lips. Blood? Blood! I soak through the napkin and then another, feeling something rolling on my tongue.

I spit into the napkin and two teeth tumble out.

Not now. This can’t be.

It’s been ages. Too long for this.

“I think I’ll take that drink in my room,” I say, trying to keep my voice balanced while I turn away. My breath is ragged in my chest, my lungs battling between full collapse and bursting. “Can you send it up?”

“Sure, of course. You’re in room…

“201.”

“Right. Will be right up.”

In the elevator, I ball the napkins against my mouth as my lungs keep doing that should-we-keep-going battle. I close my eyes with my back to the mirrored wall as the elevator begins its ascent, the dusty old car clanking its way slowly upward, as always. I feel the blood seeping into the napkins and my all too familiar panic begins to swell.

The elevator finally stops at my floor and I tap my foot relentlessly as I wait for it to squeal open. I walk double-time down the hall. My lungs rattle as I search for my key in my bag.

I’ve spent my whole life scared. Reliving the worst of it. But why tonight? I squeeze the napkin in my hand, the teeth inside hard and real inside it. This is not a hallucination.

I’m surprised by the tray next to my door with the double martini sitting there. How in the world did J.D. get up here faster than me? I stop digging for my key and bend to pick up the glass. I take two large gulps with my eyes closed, loving how the warmth slides down my throat and into my belly. My pulse slows to a trot. I try to ignore the ring of blood I’ve left on the edge of my glass and the tooth floating next to my olive in my martini. I finally dig my key from the bottom of my purse and with fumbling fingers and slide it into the lock. I have to jiggle the knob in that special way I’ve learned before the door finally swings open. I take another swig before stepping into my dark room. Weird, because I swore I left the side lamp on. My brain certainly isn’t as sharp as it used to be. I drain the rest of the martini, wondering if I could possibly get another. I never, ever have more than one, but today is… different.

“It sure is,” a voice says from somewhere in the dark.

My back scrapes against the dresser when I jump back. I turn toward the door too late. It’s already closed, the little bit of light from the hallway gone.

“Don’t be scared.”

The voice. It’s familiar, maybe?

But no. It can’t be. The hair on the back of my neck rises. It’s just because he’s been on my mind.

“Kurt?” I barely let the name out of my mouth, because it can’t be. Can it? It’s been…

“Decades, darling, decades.”

The only sound in the room is the sharp intake of breath. How is he doing that? He did it before, when I first walked in. Is he reading my…

“Stop.” He says softly. “Stop overanalyzing.”

“But I didn’t say anything. I was just thinking-”

“Listen,” he moves closer. “We don’t have much time.”

“What do you mean?” My whisper sounds different than my normal voice. Younger. It’s as if I’m suddenly the age I was when I met Kurt. God, high school. I brush my hair back from my face, surprised to find it wispy and long. “What’s going on?” I ask in a ten-on-the-richter-scale voice.

My mind flashes as I hear him cross the room. I feel suddenly young and without the cynicism that’s leaked into me over time. Without all the fear knowing him all those years ago clamped over the rest of life, like a suffocating blanket that never let the light in. That horrible fear.

I grip the dresser behind me, my chin falling to my chest. Breathing isn’t easy as I remember. All that blood.

His footfalls falter. “Shhhh,” he says. “Just clear your mind. This will be easier that way.”

I wrap my arms around my middle, feeling for the bruises on my ribs and arms, as if it happened yesterday.

“That night.” The words sail out of me, on a barely-there breath. “That fight.” I whimper, remembering the way I was beaten, broken ribs, teeth knocked out. The way Kurt was… well…

Oh God…

“Shhhh,” he says against my lips. I touch his hair. It’s long, like it always was. He smells the same too, that soap his mother always had, and cigarette smoke.

“You’ve been dead,” I say. “For a long time. I tried to forget that night. Always tried. But I never did because I always waited and now…”

His lips find mine and I’m transported. Across decades and state lines to a time and place where nothing bad had happened yet.

“What did you wait for?” He asks in a husky voice, his hands tangling in my suddenly long hair. Tears course down my cheeks.

“This!” I say, because it’s true. Many mourn first love lost, but when your first love is killed and the blood has stained deep into your skin, you don’t very well get over it. No, you spend a lifetime mourning, looking over your shoulder for violence that you hope will not return. Holding Kurt now is something. Like a drink of cool water after a desert lifetime.

“I love you,” he says with his forehead pressed to mine. I reach up and touch his face like a blind woman reaching in the dark. Every feature as I remember. Every contour. “Always have and always will.”

My breath falls out through my feet, through the floor and down down down, away from me. My tears are close behind.

Why and how is this happening? My hands shake against his chest with my impossible fantasy come true.

“That man,” I say, remembering the way I had stumbled over Kurt’s body when I left to find help. “The one who robbed us that night.”

“That man?” Kurt’s voice sounds strange. “That man?”

“He was the devil himself.”

Sudden lights from the alley brighten my room in blues and reds. Police?

The face in front of me isn’t Kurt. It’s him. It’s the devil himself. Sneering at me all these years later. My blood turns ice and I stumble backward, tripping over the bed’s corner and onto the floor.

“The devil himself?” He says. “That the best you can do?”

Rubbing my temples, I run my fingers through my short and spiky hair. The room tilts, the whole earth seeming to spin on its axis. Where is Kurt?

The truth punches me. He’s gone. Of course he’s gone. After I waited my whole damn life.

I must be going crazy.

“Not crazy,” the man says. My heart thunders as I bite on my already bloody lip, my eyes darting all over the dark room. There’s no way I can look into the face of my nightmare. I crawl backwards, but he leans and grabs me roughly by the elbow. “But you’re going somewhere.” The room lights up then – red then white then black again. He pushes me toward the window.

“Jump,” he hisses in my ear.

“Are you crazy?” I’m frantic now. This can’t be it. Can’t be! “I’ll die!” I remember the way he hit me that night, the way he twisted his hands at Kurt’s throat before taking that knife out.

Yet he hasn’t aged a bit. Or changed, it seems. I remember this pumping fear and hanging onto the excruciating edge of life that I didn’t want to leave.

He laughs in my ear, a wet and gargling sound. “The time is here. This time.”

So many things are different and so many the same.

I still don’t want to leave.

*****

When Jennifer Walkup isn’t writing or reading, she’s spending time with her husband and young sons, listening to Red Hot Chili Peppers, and coming up with costume ideas for Halloween. She’s obsessed with good coffee and new recipes and likes broccoli on her pizza, flowers in her hair, flip-flops on her feet, and the number 13. A member of SCBWI and RWA, Jennifer also serves as fiction editor for The Meadowland Review and teaches creative writing at The Writers Circle. Her first novel, SECOND VERSE, was released in 2013. Check out her website at http://www.jenniferwalkup.com/