NIGHT TERROR

by Amy Skelton ©2014

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Just in time for Halloween, a tale of night terrors, black magic, bondage and horror.

 

"O, I have passed a miserable night,
So full of fearful dreams, of ugly sights."
-William Shakespeare

 

Lindsay woke to find herself tied to a chair. Her wrists and ankles were bound with rope that was tied so tightly she couldn’t move. She struggled to free herself but knew it was futile. She looked about her. It seemed to her that she was in an unfinished basement. The walls were bare brick and the floor was cement. It was lit by a single bulb hanging directly above her that gave such a dim light that she could see very little. She could hear no movement, not even a breath stirred in the darkness.

Lindsay called out but there was no answer. She tried struggling again and suddenly a voice boomed out from behind her: “I wouldn’t bother with that if I were you.”

Lindsay started and tried to turn. The chair seemed bolted to the floor. She heard the faint sound of footsteps moving closer. She was still trying to turn, to see who it was, when suddenly the floor fell from around her chair. It fell down into an abyss of blackness and fire soared up from the depths to surround her. Lindsay tried bending her wrists and ankles, frantically trying to free herself, screaming for help.

She was sweating and exhausted when she woke up. Another nightmare shuddered through her body as she dragged herself out of bed. Lindsay didn’t know how much more of this she could take. She had been having these vivid dreams all week and her work was beginning to suffer. She took a long hot shower and sat down at her kitchen table with a cup of coffee. She tried to think of a reason for the nightmares. There must be something going on in her life that would trigger some of the most awful dreams she’d had since childhood.

When Lindsay arrived at work, Diane looked up and said, “Still no sleep? Girl you need to have a stiff drink before bed. That’s what I do. It puts me right to sleep.”

Lindsay replied, “Getting to sleep is not the problem, it’s staying asleep that I’m having trouble with.” She didn’t want to tell Diane about the dreams she’d been having. It seemed ridiculous and childish to be so incapacitated by a few nightmares. She didn’t want anyone to know what she’d been going through so she simply told everyone she was having a bout of insomnia.

It took most of the morning for Lindsay to wake up. Several cups of coffee and a few sugary snacks were required to get her going. Like she had told Diane, she didn’t have a problem going to sleep. She was only dreaming too vividly and struggling too violently. The effort was more tiring than a full day at the office.

After work, Lindsay stopped by the gym. She needed to keep herself grounded somehow and perhaps a vigorous workout would distract her and straighten things out. She signed up for a kick-boxing class that was soon to begin and hurried to her locker to change. The instructor was an enthusiastic, well-built man around Lindsay’s age. She admired his muscular frame and was completely taken in by his soft, sympathetic brown eyes.

He announced that his name was Greg and introduced her and another new person to the group. After a few warm-up exercises, he let the others pair off and approached Lindsay and Tom, the other newcomer.

Tom was a spindly young man with brown hair and a nervous stammer. Greg showed them some moves and watched Lindsay and Tom practice on each other. Lindsay was nervous about hurting Tom. He was smaller than her and looked so young and helpless. She felt she really needed to hold back and that the class would be useless to her if she had to spar with such a partner. She finished the class, though, and when she was about to leave, Greg stopped her. “I could tell you were nervous about hurting that poor kid and I’m sorry for having to pair you up with him. If you would like, I can do some sparring with you in between classes.”

Lindsay declined with thanks. “I’m really too tired for a hard workout anyway. I thought it would help me but I have changed my mind.”

Greg replied, “I can tell you aren’t up to it today, but I hope you’ll join my class again sometime.”

Lindsay smiled to herself as she walked away. Greg certainly was nice to look at.

When she got home, Lindsay put a TV dinner in the oven and collapsed on the couch. She was so tired her eyes felt like sand. She turned on her laptop, checked her emails and downloaded a movie to watch. She didn’t have satellite or cable, feeling that paying for hundreds of channels she didn’t want would be insane, but there was plenty of entertainment available online. After dinner she laid on the couch and watched the movie. Gradually she fell asleep.

Lindsay walked through corridor after corridor of what seemed to be a hospital. It was completely deserted, not a single voice nor the hum of a machine broke the silence. She was wearing nothing but a hospital gown and was becoming scared and cold. Her bare feet made a soft noise on the tiled floor and she could hear the beat of her own heart. It beat faster as she went on.

She began opening doors and calling out, wondering where everyone could be. Lindsay turned down another hallway and saw a strange blue light coming from under one of the doors. She ran to the room and looked in the window. What she saw terrified her. There was a huge room with hundreds of bodies hanging from hooks attached to long rails running the length of the ceiling. The bodies were motionless and the faces were blue with cold. She tried the door and found she couldn’t open it. There was a noise coming from inside the room. It was like the screech of nails on a chalk board but continuous and growing louder. She saw the faces of the bodies change. They were still alive and crying out. “Help, help us!” they screamed.

She pulled and pounded the door with her fist and she heard a booming voice from behind her say: “I wouldn’t bother with that if I were you.”

She whirled around and saw that the corridor behind her was dark. The darkness was palpable. It seemed to reach out to her with wispy tentacles. One of the smoky strands touched her arm.

The living room was dark and the movie was over when Lindsay woke up.

She shivered in the darkness and headed up to bed. She hoped that would be the only dream she had that night. The images bothered her and she was beginning to be terrified to go to sleep. She decided to call her doctor next morning. Perhaps he could refer her to a specialist or something.

Lindsay got into bed. turned on the light and picked up a book. She was reading a light romance novel that would not induce nightmares. She lay on her side and read forseveral hours, not wanting to fall asleep. Lindsay began to yawn. The words were dancing around on the page, so she gave it up and turned out the light.

She stared into the darkness, thinking about the dream she had. She tried hard to reason why. She could think of no situation in her life that could explain why she was experiencing such terrible night terrors.

She soon fell asleep.

Late at night, Lindsay got on a subway, not sure where she was going. She was dressed in her nightgown and it was incredibly hot on the train. She rolled up the sleeves and unfastened the top two buttons. She was completely alone. Lindsay sat in the car as the subway rolled on. It came to a sudden, jolting stop. There was no platform or lights that she could see from the window. It seemed like the subway stopped in the middle of the line for no reason. Suddenly, metallic clasps closed over Lindsay’s wrists and feet. She struggled to free herself to no avail. She pulled as hard as she could and heard a voice in the darkness boom, “I wouldn’t bother with that if I were you.”

Lindsay stopped struggling. She began to have a sense of familiarity with the voice. She took the advice given her and became calm and sat still. The clasps released and the train began to move again.

In some confusion, Lindsay woke. It was ten minutes before her alarm was to go off. She felt great for the first time in a week. She went to work happy and full of energy and her co-workers noticed the change. Diane said, “Finally got a good night’s sleep eh? Glad to see you’re feeling better.”

Lindsay smiled and went to her office. It was a productive day and she was glad to finally get some work done.

*   *   *

Lindsay went to the gym again after work. The kick-boxing instructor, Greg, was not there. She had a nice work-out then went home tired and happy.

She vowed that if she had that dream again she would listen to the voice and everything would be okay. Perhaps she would visit her doctor and show him her records of the dreams she had been having.If she were to see a psychologist. It would be useful to have these things recorded. At least they would know what the dreams were about and they could try to pinpoint their cause. She sat down at her computer and stared at the blank screen. She was surprised that she had remembered her dreams so clearly. She opened up her computer and typed them out what she remembered of the night terrors.

As she went to bed that night, Lindsay was confident she could overcome the nightmares she had been having. She thought that she had figured out what to do and she was, finally, not afraid to go to sleep. She turned out her light and snuggled into the covers and quickly fell asleep.

When Lindsay woke she couldn’t move. She was lying on a bed, her wrists and ankles bound with something soft yet tightly tied. She could smell a slight aroma of incense, probably cinnamon. She could feel a cold draft brushing her skin and suddenly knew that this was no dream.

She started yelling as loud as she could and heard footsteps running toward her. The room where she lay was dimly lit by a candle in a distant corner. She heard a booming voice from the darkness say, “I wouldn’t bother with that if I were you.”

Lindsay stiffened and went silent. How could it be that the same voice from her dream was now here, in reality? She remembered the last nightmare she had. She heeded the advice of the voice and tried to calm herself. Even knowing that this was an entirely different situation, she thought that she might have a chance if she did as she was told. “Who are you?” she asked.

The voice replied, “I am the voice of your nightmares. I am the fear in the darkness. I am your worst dream come true.”

The voice had been silent for some time. Lindsay heard a grinding noise and could smell something metallic.

“What are you going to do to me?” she asked, crying.

There was no reply.

She lay there for some time trying to remember how she had gotten there. She had no idea what to do but she was still trying to think of a means of escape when the voice came back. He said, “There is no use trying to think of a means of escape. There are none. You are mine now.”

She asked again, “What are you going to do to me?”

“I am going to show you what fear really is.” He slashed the bonds from her wrists with a long knife.

Lindsay was still confused, but she remained silent. She was angry with the man for thinking she would be so easily scared by vague, egotistical statements like the ones he was making. She remained lax and unresponsive when he tried to pull her up. She pretended she had fainted and waited for her opportunity to act.

The man carried her to another room and put her on the floor in the middle of a large pentacle drawn on the cement. She was in a basement, like in her first dream. He thought she was unconscious so he didn’t try to restrain her. Lindsay thought, “how stupid can he be?” and lay still.

He began some kind of chant in a strange language she had never before heard.

She opened her eyes and tried to look around without moving her head. There were some things on the floor by her side that she recognized: a piece of clothing, a lock of hair and a bottle containing a tissue with blood.

Now  she knew who the man was. All these things could only have been obtained at the gym.

She remembered having a nose bleed there a week earlier. Greg, her instructor, must have used those parts of her as a kind of black magic spell to infiltrate her dreams, she thought.

Greg was still chanting but he was no longer facing her. There was an altar set up against one wall and his back was to her as he spoke. Lindsay raised herself to her elbows and looked around.

There was a shovel in the area under the stairs. She jumped up and grabbed it, ran over to Greg and hit him over the head as hard as she could. He went down with a crash, jerked twice and was still. Lindsay gathered up all her things, including the clothing, hair and tissues and ran up to the main floor of the house. She bolted out the door and ran down the street.

Greg was not far behind her. He was a fast runner and caught up to her as she was rounding a corner. He grabbed her and pushed her down on the sidewalk and laid on top of her so she couldn’t move. Lindsay was panting hard and her heart was racing but she managed to gasp, “What the hell do you think you’re doing, Greg?”

He smiled down at her and replied, “I wanted you to know fear. I wanted you to be afraid of me.”

She lowered her eyebrows and said, “I don’t need you to show me fear and I am not afraid of you.”

She poked his eye with her finger and when he closed his eyes and let go of her to cover his eye with his hands, she rolled out from under him and got up.

Greg was on his back and she stomped on his crotch as hard as she could. He let out a scream that could been heard from afar. Another man came running from his house, a phone in his hand.

*   *   *

Greg was charged with kidnapping and aggravated assault and was sent to prison for twenty years.

Lindsay knew her nightmares were over. She never had another.


Amy Skelton was born in a small town in Ontario where she lived and grew up until she was old enough to move out on her own.  She had no trouble making good grades in school.  She wrote poems and stories when she was a child, but no one recognized or encouraged her talent until the 12th year of high school when she found an English teacher that was very supportive.

Amy has worked at many different jobs. She found all of them unsatisfying and dull.  She went to a university for a year and did not learn any useful information, so she dropped out. Like many young seekers,  she could not stand the thought of going thousands of dollars into debt for not learning anything that she could not learn on her own.

Amy lives in Ontario with not far from the St. Clair River and Lake Huron. She is a writer of novels, short stories and poetry, specializing in women’s issues and disturbing images.  She is the owner of the website AmysTalesAndPoetry.Weebly.com and the administrator of the Facebook page Amy’s Tales and Poetrythat can be found at www.facebook.com/publishamy.
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GEOLOGIC TIME

 

 

 

 

by Erica Sternin ©2014

 

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Of little consequence to the speckled stone,
The gardener’s middle aged, possibly late stage, life.
Like a fly, like a gnat, her hummingbird mind
Cannot encompass geologic time.
She tosses the stone from her seedbed.

As volcanic ejecta, the speckled stone was Earth’s first daughter;
bouldered into a streambed
Where a slow moving lover caressed her ceaselessly,
Their intercourse pulverized her, carved a canyon.

Palmed briefly by the gardener, tossed to the verge,
The brief joy of flight recalls her pyroclastic beginnings,
The giddiness of being bladed by a glacier
From her riverlover’s bed to this hillside.

The gardener crouches in the dirt, squinting at errant seedlings.
She tweezes threadlike roots, fine as the hairs sprouting on her own damp chin.
A sudden vertigo, a fatigue, drags her to the ground,
Resting on her loamy pillow, noting the coital tang of water and minerals at the root zone,
The gardener’s weakened breath stirs nearby leaves.
Twining, they reach for her gently,
While the speckled stone looks on from the verge.

 


 

 

 

Erica Sternin is a librarian in Seattle. She has been writing poetry and creative non-fiction since she finished breast cancer treatment in 2012.  Some of her work has been published in Poetry on the Buses, a project of King County Metro, and in One Sentence Poems.

“Unbeing dead isn’t being alive.”
― e.e. Cummings

 

More at: https://scriggler.com/Profile/erica_sternin

WHISPERING DESIRES

by Julia Proud ©2014

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“Come in,” Tamara uttered a bit startled.

The knock had shattered her brief reverie on the passing of time and she found herself grateful for the distraction, even if a little fearful that the company of the one stepping inside her room was not the one she desired.

And her fear became reality as her husband opened the door and entered with his lit ciggy between his thick dry lips and a glint in his eye telling of the few drinks he had probably already had that evening.

He closed the door behind him, smothering the music coming from the gramophone downstairs. It was one of her favorites, Paul Whiteman’s Whispering, a melody she had first heard, in 1920, only two years ago, before she had been married and stuck in Dallas, living with a man she knew nothing about.

Tamara turned around to look at herself in the mirror, trying to hide the disappointed look on her face.

Why couldn’t it have been her maid walking in, asking about dinner, offering little tidbits of gossip from town?

“You look wonderful, dear!” he exclaimed and blew the smoke toward the clear, untainted surface of the mirror, where her reflexion tensed at his approach.

She was seated at a large vanity table, her earrings in hand. She was about to undress and skip dinner that night, as she had been for the past week.

“Why not come downstairs?” he asked and put on a mocking expression of concern as he leaned to brush his cheek against her short golden locks; he then added lowly “Or are you feeling ill again, my dear?”

His gaze was fixed upon Tamara’s reflexion as he pressed his cheek against hers in a tender gesture that made her stomach hurt and her blood rush. So, she avoided his warm brown eyes and kept her head lowered, and her cold blue gaze upon the glittering jewel between her fingers.

“I’m not well. Yes. So, would you mind-”

“Matter of fact I would mind,” he uttered bluntly and took the earrings from her hand, rendering her speechless for the moment.

Couldn’t he just leave her be?

He put her earrings on, slowly and carefully, taking his time, and every touch of his fingertips on her ear lobes made her skin crawl.

Of course, he couldn’t just leave her be – he was her husband and had been so for over two months now. How long could she go on avoiding his company?

The first few weeks had been filled with wonder and a strange feeling of freedom, but only because he had been away on business. Tamara had had the large eight bedroom house to herself and spent most of her days in the large gardens, reading and listening to music – she had the maid bring out the gramophone whenever the weather allowed, and it allowed almost every day.

But once he returned, her reign ended. Even if he spent his days at his Dallas office and came home in the evenings, there was no sense of freedom anymore, not even in listening to her albums, not even in reading her books.

She had refused him her company long enough, it seemed, and Jeremy would have her sit across the table from him and go through all the motions of gentle society conversation, about the weather, about the house, about his work, about whatever he, the man would choose to talk about.

Tamara had been brought up properly, to be a lady, even if she had gone to college, it had been only so she’d be educated enough for her to marry someone with class, of good breeding. Her father clearly had no idea that his little girl hadn’t been so little or a girl for some time.

Her college experience had been very enlightening, in the ways of men and women.

And so her father’s plans to marry her off to a good family, fell flat when she came back from Mount Holyoke College wearing the latest inappropriate fashions and with her hair cut short, like a boy’s.

Tamara had refused every offer for marriage: lawyers, judges a congressman even. But what she never refused was sex. It was all the more exciting if she didn’t know anything about the man.

And so, her reputation started to wither as the years past lowering her chances to marry well, or even marry at all.

But she believed she didn’t care. The man she had loved was lost to her forever and no other would compare to him. So why should she submit and suffer the company of anyone else, someone who she didn’t and wouldn’t ever care for?

Tamara sat at the table and sought to drown her resentment in wine.

She hated wine and she hated being a wife.

The only reason she accepted marrying this man was… Well, it was lost to her – she’d rather not admit to it, not even to a hint of it.

Tamara was just like any other woman, after all. Under the threat of ending up a sad old spinster, she yielded. She was now twenty-five – old enough to know not to trust a man’s words and old enough to understand her own limits. She was not the sort to grow old in the same house as her father, in that small, irrelevant little town. She wasn’t going to waste her youth trapped there, but she was too afraid to take flight, so, she decided she might as well spend the rest of her days in a cage fit for a canary like her, with a wealthy, snazzy man.

They ate and drank, and, as she had expected, the conversation floated from proper subject to proper subject, weaving a sense of civility into an otherwise barbaric situation.

Jeremy Tusk knew full well he had married a stranger for her pedigree and pleasant appearance. He took a nuisance off her father’s hands and, to sweeten the deal, he also opened a few doors in the southern trade for him. She had been sold by one man and bought by another.

The threat of silence set upon the table as they were almost done with the final course and so, she wandered over to the gramophone and revived Paul Whiteman’s Whispering.

Tamara wasn’t a prude, though Jeremy might have believed that. And, even if she would have never admitted to it, she wasn’t avoiding being alone with him out of a reluctance to give herself to him. On the contrary, she knew she wouldn’t be able to resist him – how else was one to vanquish loneliness?

But, she dreaded the idea of intercourse with her husband. It felt as if she would be sealing the deal, approving the trade, agreeing to the contract that had brought him and her together. She knew that, oddly enough, she’d feel cheaper after being with her husband than she had ever felt after being with men whose names she couldn’t even remember.

A giggle escaped her wine tainted red lips and she shrugged in response to Jeremy’s inquisitive gaze.

“Let’s dance,” she heard herself suggest and he obliged with a smirk.

The man knew how to move, and she found she was lost admiring his face.

He kept a thin mustache, like the actors in those moving pictures, and his eyes were beautiful, even if a little tired. With a long face and a straight, well-defined nose, he reminded her of the Portrait of a Poet by Amedeo Modigliani – she loved his works.

The tune came to an end and so did their evening together. She didn’t protest when his hand took hers and when his lips kissed her fingers.

But, despite her expectations, there was no attempt to kiss her, to enter her room or to persuade her to remain in his company longer.

She stood in front of her vanity table staring at her reflexion, puzzled by her husband’s gallantry.

The fact that he didn’t even allude to wanting to spend the night with her bothered Tamara more than she would have liked to admit. Was he actually being coy about sex?

But what irked her, even more, was that she wanted it now, so much so, that she had spent the better part of an hour staring up at the ceiling, in darkness, stuck in a cold large bed, trying to sleep.

So, she dared slip out of her room, wearing nothing but her silk white night gown. Her bare feet took her along the corridor toward his room, only to freeze at the sound of Jeremy’s voice coming from downstairs.

Tamara couldn’t make out what he was saying or even guess who he was speaking to but she assumed it was the maid, or the butler.

She approached the stairs quietly and took a peek in the entrance hall, just over the railing.

Tamara could see Jeremy’s shadow and the one he was now whispering to – a man. Someone she had never seen before, probably an employee from his cotton trading company; he was well dressed and young, maybe not even twenty – perhaps the son of one of his employees, come, in secret, at that late hour, to ask for a job, a favor, a…

They kissed.

She was sure of it. Jeremy had leaned in and kissed the boy on his lips.

No, no, surely this wasn’t what she had seen.

But, as the boy walked backwards toward the front door, seeking to leave, Jeremy kissed him again, this time, for a while longer, deeper and with an embrace.

She didn’t want to believe it, and for a few seconds she just stood there, staring at them. But once the shock faded, Tamara fled in silence, hiding inside her room.

There was outrage, then pure wonder, confusion and then revelation.

Tamara burst into laughter, covering her mouth, and trying to keep her chuckles in check for fear she might be heard.

All her avoiding, worrying and thoughts of self-importance had been for nothing.

Nothing was what it seemed, was it? You’d think that she would have learned that by now.

She continued to laugh under the covers of her cold bed and soon, her low snickers became quiet sobs.

There was nothing left for Tamara but loneliness and, for the first time in years, she had no choice but to feel it and let it swallow her whole.


Julia Proud is an animation artist and a storyteller. She has experience writing movie scripts, which most likely shows in her books by the manner in which she structures her stories and the way she chooses to walk the reader through a scene.

Actions, dialogue, and the characters’ interpretation of the world are important to her.

She is a firm believer that a story’s first job is to entertain, no matter the medium in which it presents itself. But don’t label her writing mindless fun – Julia knows that real entertainment is achieved by engaging the mind and tricking it, even for a moment, into believing that the story and its characters are real.

 
Julia is currently working on expanding the Jazz Noir Collection that she’s recently started with A Dead Man novella. The Jazz Noir universe is comprised of stories set during and around the Prohibition era, in the U.S. and Whispering Desires is part of that universe.

http://juliaproud.com

FROM WHENCE COMETH THE SONG

Kenneth Harper Finton

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 A NOVEL IN PROGRESS

©2014 Kenneth Harper Finton

CHAPTER ONE: THE MARE’S NEST

“When I’m good, I’m very good, but when I’m bad, I’m better.” – Mae West

The child and the boy that Adam used to be was so foreign to him now. Looking over pages that he wrote more, Adam barely recognized his former self as the person who wrote them.

Adam came from a conservative and opinionated small town in rural Ohio. Those who lived in his little town often claimed it was God’s country. Adam supposed that it might good for the spirit to be content and proud of your community. God’s country seemed to be a stretch, though. So many wonderful spots in the world better fit that description.

Life seemed to be so much more idyllic and simple then. Yet, it seems to Adam that this is never the case. Faded memories – the…

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STORIES FOR GRANDKIDS #1

Kenneth Harper Finton

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Grandpa chewed on the butt end of his cigar as I read him my poem. His eyes rolled a bit beneath the thick wire rimmed glasses and the smoke from the cigar chaffed my nose.

“It’s a good one, son,” he told me, “but it ain’t much to my liking.”

“What do you mean?” I asked.

“Poems were good in my day,” he replied. “You heared a lot of poems back then, The folks who wrote them did not indulge in themselves the way they do now. They didn’t cry over their spilt feelings so much. Your little story is about what you lost out on. Everybody loses out on something or someone. You can’t get through your term on earth less’n you do.”

He placed his cigar on the ashtray that stood on a pedestal near his chair. It raised waves of smoke, then went out.

“They told stories…

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A CONVERSATION WITH CARLOS

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A Conversation with Carlos

by Artemis J, Jones

Present Day, Miami Beach, Florida

 

Lummus park, always a relaxing place, at the heart of this jewel in the south. You can sit here and enjoy the morning sun, unstressed, while the sounds of a day in the making are created for your ears. Those sounds, la turistas, chatting and the blend of delivery trucks making there rounds to all the restaurants along Ocean Drive. Rollerbladers, most, barely dressed females, streaking by and weaving through the dog walkers and a few homeless lugs on the sidewalk. Later some musicians will appear on the street, playing some rhythms and melodies from transcendent cultures deep in Latin America. The sounds of a Latin Guitar riding on the light breeze from the ocean, perfect!

Far off in the park, there is a mirage and a distant image of a man walking towards me. No one else notices him, disguised in his fedora, and dark glasses. He is holding a rolled up newspaper, probably El Tiempo, or maybe the Herald. He sees me on the bench and points right at me while shaking his newspaper. It is Carlos and he is upset with me. Carlos starts talking, I mean yelling, first.

“Gringo, it was your dumb luck we met in the hospital last year. You’re all alike. Stupid!  Always putting the cart before the horse”

“What are you ranting about now, you old Mexican.”  

“Your blog, I was looking at it yesterday. I think it is stupid. Who cares about story development? In my day I sat down, with a pen & paper, writing from eight a.m. to one p.m. After I finished I gave my work to a publisher and they did they rest.”

“So you think my blog is stupid, because I am posting stories before they are completed. Carlos, you were a unique pre-modern writer. But times are different and I am showing readers, especially young readers, the process of writing. For me it starts with a story outline, then I write a first draft, maybe a second draft. Then I ask for opinions from a critique group. I make changes and send the story to a line editor.”

“So that’s it? You’re a Gringo for sure. Cart before the horse mentality. You’re a writer, you write, the publisher makes sure the story is edited, proof read, and begins to sell and market your book. I know how it works, I have done it many times, very successfully! Have you forgotten, Where the air is clear & The Old Gringo?”

“Carlos, the horse is the story. It is always first. Publishers are, the cart, which all Indie Authors must be on their own. My Blog is the first step in marketing my stories. I explain to the readers the status of each story, as it goes through development. I also write some notes on why I am writing the story.

“So now you’re an Indie writer? Bullshit! Breaking into writing with a new model for Indie writers. Pila de mierda.”

Tranquilo, me amigo! I have a lot of work to do. I have an outline for Story Development.

After I publish my current works in progress, I will post the first paragraphs and pages of each story and a link to the web site to purchase the story or the collection.”

“Gringo, entonces que. Everyone is doing that … I should care!”

“Yes, great philandering Author God! When my next series of stories start. I will post the outlines with the corresponding first draft, later adding critique notes from esteemed Author Gods like you. Next I will post edited versions with more critique notes. Before those stories get published, I will post beta versions for a short time, then publish and start the process all over again.”

“Who gave you this strategy, was it one of my Cuban Author friends?”

“You do not have any Cuban friends, remember? … No great Carlos, it was you. I read about your early writing, always challenging everyone, always trying to be different and irreverent at the same time. You’re last book, is inspiring me to write a novel. My work in progress, will be about the biggest challenge faced in my life, a challenge that many are facing, and suffering through every day. I loved the way you used, sarcasm and knowledge, blending both elements so well together. Pure Artistry!”

“So, my American friend, you’re going to show other aspiring writers the need to have patience and work through the process, not publishing until the process is complete.”

Tu eres correcto! Spoke the old man with both feet in the grave. Now you are catching on, it is a different world out there for writers.

Carlos, do you remember when we met last year? I had just finished reading your book in the hospital, I fell asleep and you came into my room. The book about the starlet you met, while she was filming in Mexico.”

“I was a real dumbass for going with her. Mucho machismo!”

Carlos got up, shaking his head a little, and waved goodbye. He walked south towards Fifth Street and slowly disappeared into the mirage that he walked out of earlier.

END


 

Dedicated to the work of Carlos Fuentes, 1928-2012,

  1. Carlos Fuentes
    Novelist
  2. Carlos Fuentes Macías was a Mexican novelist and essayist. Among his works are The Death of Artemio Cruz, Aura, Terra Nostra, The Old Gringo and Christopher Unborn. Wikipedia
  3. BornNovember 11, 1928, Panama City, Panama
  4. DiedMay 15, 2012, Mexico City, Mexico
  5. SpouseSilvia Lemus (m. 1976–2012), Rita Macedo (m. 1959–1973)

© Copyright Artemis J Jones 2014


Artemis J, Jones is a young writer. He described himself as a thought provocateur, writer, and traveler. He lives in Miami Beach, Florida with his wife, Helena, an artist from Medellin Colombia. Artemis writes fiction, urban poetry, short stories. He is a cancer survivor.


 

RUMORS

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Rumors

by Kenneth Harper Finton ©2014

 

Who started that rumor

a man shouldn’t cry?

When he’s done all he can,

tried all he can try?

Who started that rumor

a man shouldn’t cry?

Tears grease the passage

while endings pass by.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

DEATH AND THE MAIDEN

by Chloe Thurlow ©2014

The erotic bond between sex and death is deeply-rooted in the human psyche and has been played out in the allegory Death and the Maiden since the beginning of time. The story always follows the same theme: a pretty young girl is seduced by death.

The erotic bond between sex and death is deeply-rooted in the human psyche and has been played out in the allegory Death and the Maiden since the beginning of time. The story always follows the same theme: a pretty young girl is seduced by death. The girl represents purity and fertility. Death is depicted as a horny old man with his last carnal desires.

The first known version of Death and the Maiden appears in The Myth of Hades and Persephone. Persephone, the daughter of Zeus, performs a dance while gathering flowers in a lush garden. She reveals her white breasts as she bends to pick a narcissus. At that moment, the ground opens beneath her feet and she falls into the arms of Hades, who carries her down to the underworld.

Before the Christian era, man and his morals were less tightly bound. Gory death in gladiatorial combat and, for the rich, wine-soaked orgies were the staff of life. Campfire stories of virgins and crucifixions travelled the silk routes from India and Mesopotamia. When the gospel writers came to tell parables of Jesus, Mary and the Holy Ghost, they would have drawn on classical legends to create an account that was both fresh and familiar, the formula designed to woo the pagans into the new church.

During the Middle Ages, the maiden transforms into a virgin and the union between sex and death grows stronger. The iconography changes from the girl dancing with death to the girl having sex with death, the images ever more erotic, the basic premise the same: that young girls should be plucked when ripe like an apple from a tree. The earliest painting of Death and the Maiden is a 1517 work by Niklaus Manuel Deutsch. It shows death as a rotting corpse, its hand brushing the maiden’s sex. As death presses against the girl, she does not resist, but yields to its kiss.

When Schubert in 1824 wrote his String Quartet No.14, I am not sure if he was reminiscing over all the young women he had bedded, or would like to have bedded, but the work became known as Death and the Maiden and has become one of the most popular pieces of music of all time. The Chilean playwright Ariel Dorfman used Schubert’s composition for his production of Death and the Maiden in 1990, the play turned into a movie by Roman Polanski.

The story is set during a violent dictatorship. Political prisoner Paulina Salas is raped by a sadistic doctor whose face she never sees. Years pass and the regime falls. Paulina now lives in a country house with her husband, who returns home one night with a stranger named Dr Miranda. Paulina recognizes the voice of her warder. She takes him prisoner, reversing their roles, and makes audiences feel uncomfortable as they witness her own sexual desires stirred by this messenger of death.

Gabriel García Márquez in his last novel, Memories of My Melancholy Whores, 2005, relates the tale of a man who decides to pay for a final night of love with a virgin on his ninetieth birthday – a new slant in the new world, but still we can picture the white breasts of Persephone as Hades reaches out from the underworld.

Death and the Maiden reminds us in each revival that the sand is racing through the hourglass, youth is fleeting, and death comes for us all. Eat, drink and make love now, this instant, before it is too late. Not bad advice, but the retelling of the story has always been taken up by men who pay scant regard to beauty as a product of character, or love as a mysterious fusion. Their pens are stiffened by visions of the virgin falling for their own mirror image, a foul-smelling old bloke sliding towards the grave.

New times warrant a twist on the theme, Death and the Maiden as Death and the Adonis, perhaps, the slim young deity (played by Justine Bieber?) falling for the Gorgon Medusa with her fearful features and snakes for hair. Now, who shall we cast in that role?

Visit me at chloethurlow.com

 


 

 

Chloe Thurlow is an exciting writer and blogger with many erotic books to her credit. They are all available at amazon.com in print or e-book.

 

 

THE SNOW FIELD

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   The Snow Field

by Mark Scheel  ©2007

 

                         A man said to the universe:
                         “Sir, I exist!”
                         “However,” replied the universe,
                         “The fact has not created in me
                         A sense of obligation.”
                                              — Stephen Crane

 

First one jungle boot, then the other. Slowly, in the blackness. Deliberately. His hands tap the rubber heel against the landing mat, then invert the canvas top. Empty. Both empty, of slitherings and crawlings. From beneath the poncho, turning, he inserts one naked foot, then the other, into the cool, damp leather. Stands. The olive-drab boxer shorts loose about his taut bladder. Then steps. Steps against the wet, resisting tropical air. Out from the dark, sandbagged metal walls into faint morning pinkness. Step. Step. The only sound a distant clanking of an armored tread along the berm. Then a sudden whine. And the white flash. And the ringing in his ears. All at once his shoulder is cold. And again the ringing. The icy cold spreading down his back. And the ringing! And he knows now he’s been hit.

He bolted upright out of the dream. Soft light from the window suffused the bedroom walls, early morning sun reflecting off snow. The comforter had slid partially off the bed and he felt cold. His shoulder ached. Then once again the ringing blasted in his ears—the phone on the letter desk in the adjacent room.

He pushed the sheet back and swung his feet onto the chilly hard-wood. The alarm clock showed 6:45. Rising, he sensed immediately the pressure to urinate. Goosebumps formed on his arms as he walked across the throw rug and out into the dining room. With an urgent persistence the phone rang once more before he could lift the receiver.

“Yeah,” he mumbled, still clearing the fog of sleep from his head.

“Did I wake ya?” his father’s voice asked through the earpiece. There was a worried edge in the old man’s tone.

“That’s okay,” he replied, after a pause.

“Well . . . I got some trouble out here.”

“Trouble? What’s wrong?”

“You know that spotted heifer? Started calving last night. I checked’er this morning and something’s hung up. The calf’s not coming.”

“No?”

“There’s a foot showing. That’s all. An’ I called awhile ago and Doc Grimsley’s outta town.”

“Who? Oh, the vet.”

“And I was wondering . . . when do you teach that class up to the college?”

“What time? Three-thirty.”

“Maybe you oughta come out. I think we’re gonna have to pull that calf.”

“Yeah . . . sounds like it.” He paused, trying to focus everything in his mind. Trying to assess the situation. Then, “How much snow did we get last night?” he asked.

“Well, now. There’s another problem. It ain’t the snow, it’s the ice. It started with freezing rain and we got power lines going down. The electric’s been off here for an hour.”

“Yeah? Well. Okay. Give me a few minutes to eat and shave. I’ll be there.”

“Take it easy on the roads. Don’t know what you’ll run into.”

“Right.”

He replaced the receiver in the cradle and paced back through the bedroom straight into the bathroom. Standing in front of the toilet bowl, he could feel a cold draft drifting up against his naked calves. He washed his hands and threw some water on his face, then stepped back into the bedroom. The dull ache in his shoulder was growing stronger, and he reached up and rubbed the puckered shrapnel scars. Damn, he hated cold air!

* * *

Stepping down off the back porch, his overshoes crunching the icy crust, he was surprised but undeterred by the world that met him. The chill, bright, white silence. The layer of snow like granulated salt topping the ice-glazed landscape. Spirea bushes bowing to the ground. Limbs drooping leadenly from all the trees, some broken and dangling, some lying below. The rays of sunlight keen off the crystals like a laser.

He took a few steps toward the garage. The cold air stung his nostrils. The snow was no more than an inch deep, but the walk beneath was solid ice. Luckily he’d pulled the car in last night.

The old Chevy Bel Air started with no trouble, and he cautiously backed it out into the alley and pulled ahead toward the street, the rear wheels spinning at the slightest overacceleration. As he swung onto Twelfth Street, the car spun out and slid across the lanes, the tires nudging the opposite curb. He muttered to himself, righted the vehicle and edged on ahead. All along the way, the scene was the same—limbs lying broken, overhead lines drooping precariously. At least, he mused, the traffic was sparse.

When he reached the highway heading north, he was relieved to see that it had been plowed. But the glassy ice patches on the blacktop still looked treacherous. He held his speed down to 20 miles per hour. When he came to the steel bridge across the river, he slowed a little and nearly coasted across. It looked as though it had been dipped in clear, shining syrup and dried hard.

He remembered driving this highway every day last summer when the heat had baked the foliage brown and dust-coated the weeds in the ditches. Driving on the way to the nursing home where, standing in the small room by the air conditioner, the cold air freezing the metal in his shoulder, he would look into his mother’s face, hoping to see some remnant there of recognition. Some momentary retrieval of the linkage to “son.” But the quiet process of the malignancy had kept doing its work, honey-combing her memory, appropriating every last familial connection. Until, near the end, in one last mocking gesture, it would leave her a babbling infant, holding out her arms to the white-uniformed aide and crying, “Mama!”

He looked in the rear-view mirror and saw a red pickup truck coming up rapidly. It caught up to him as he reached the first of the rolling hills, then began to tailgate him impatiently.

He slowed further as he approached the next crossroad and signaled right, edging over to allow the truck to pass. It sped by with a roar, fishtailing as it steered back into the right lane, and vanished over the next hill. On these roads he wouldn’t chance that speed on a bet—and in a pickup yet! As he passed the crossroad, he looked both ways and saw the telephone line running beside it had snapped. The snow on the roadway was still unbroken.

He held his speed steady and topped the next rise and there down below was the red pickup, slid rear end first down into the steep ditch. The driver’s door was open and a man in a jean jacket and Levi’s was climbing out. It didn’t appear anyone was hurt. He contemplated the mishap as he drew even with the truck. A heifer in distress, he told himself, should take priority over a damn fool any day. He continued on up the next rise.

* * *

Turning into the barnyard, he spotted his father standing by the corner of the cow shed. He pulled the car up beside the corral, shut off the engine and got out. The black and white heifer stood in the middle of the lot, equidistant from the shed and the perimeter fence, watching the two men suspiciously. Clouds of condensation rose from her nostrils; a single small hoof protruded from beneath her tail.

“Looks like nothing’s changed,” he commented to his father as he walked in and shut the gate.

“We’re gonna have to try an’ rope her, then see what we can do.”

His father lifted the lariat off the fence post and opened out the noose. They began ambling toward the heifer, the frozen crust on the mud cracking and breaking with every step. The heifer tossed her head back and bolted for the opposite fence.

The two men followed, spreading apart, moving methodically. Trying as best they could not to spook her further. The old man held the rope, loop at the ready. “Here bossy. Here bossy,” he coaxed gently. The heifer started and ran down the fence line past them, back toward the shed. They hurried across the snow after her, angling for the far corner.

She ran into the corner by the gate, then spun around to face them. Eyes wide with panic. They caught up and stopped a few yards away. The heifer lowered her head.

“Move up on her slow,” the old man said. “I’ll try to rope’er when she comes out.”

“I think she’s gonna charge.”

“Naw. Move up slow.”

He began moving ahead in a semi-crouch, arms out. The heifer charged. He turned sideways to avoid the blow. Her shoulder caught his chest as she passed. His feet slipped out from under him, and he went down hard in the snow. Lifting himself on one elbow, he saw that his father had dropped the loop over her head, but the force of her motion had jerked the rope from his hands. Now the heifer was running away toward the other end of the corral trailing the lariat in the snow.

He got to his feet. His father was starting to chase after the rope. “Dad! Wait a minute,” he shouted. “The last damn thing you need is a busted hip or a heart attack. Let me.”

The heifer spun around when she reached the far corner, then darted down the fence line past the water tank. As his father tried to follow behind her, he struck out running at an angle he hoped might head her off into the shed.

She followed the fence line out from the corner and broke across in front of the shed. Then turned, just beyond the middle support pole, and retraced her path. He plunged forward and grabbed the trailing rope and got it half-wrapped around the pole before it jerked tight. He dug in his heels against the pull and held it until his father drove her back. She ran into the shed, and he quickly took up the slack and wound it onto the pole. When she ran out on the other side of the support, they had her fast.

More pulling and shoving and maneuvering got her head near the pole, and they tied her there securely. His father brought a second lariat from inside the shed, and, standing one on each side, they began lacing it around the heifer’s midsection and back to her hips. That done, together they pulled on the end, drawing it tighter and tighter against her flanks until the paralyzing squeeze collapsed her legs. And she went down on her side.

“Now, let’s see what we got,” his father said, moving around and squatting by her rear. “Well, judging from the foot, at least it ain’t breech.”

They tied the loose end of the second rope to the small foot, hunkered down in the snow with their feet against the heifer’s rump and began to pull. A sharp pain stabbed down his arm and he caught his breath.

“That shoulder?” his father asked.

“It’s okay.”

After several minutes of effort had yielded few results, his father stood up and dropped the rope. “What we need is a come-along,” he said. “Maybe that old wire-stretcher with the pulleys will work. Get that and the tractor an’ bring’em over.”

He walked over to the shop, fit the drawbar on the tractor, hung the wire-stretcher on the lift lever, and drove the tractor over to the corral. He backed it up behind the heifer, and they rigged the wire-stretcher to the drawbar and the calf. Then his father began to crank the tension. Gradually the calf’s leg extended further. Then a second foot appeared.

“Now we’re gettin’ somewhere,” his father declared.

They transferred the wire-stretcher to the other foot and pulled that leg out. A nose appeared. Next they tied the wire-stretcher to both legs and applied more tension. The heifer had relaxed and was intermittently straining on her own. “If we can just get the head out, we’re halfway home,” his father said. They cranked once more and suddenly the line on the pulleys snapped and the wire-stretcher collapsed in the snow.

“Damn that rotted line,” he said. “And we were getting close.”

“Yeah,” his father replied. “But you smell that stench? That calf’s dead. And been that way awhile.”

“Probably swelling up. Maybe that’s the problem.”

“Well, we’re down to savin’ the heifer now. Gotta make room for that head.”

“How we gonna do that?”

“I saw a vet do this once. I’m gonna try cuttin’ one leg off the calf to give clearance.”

His father took out his pocketknife and opened up a blade. Then he knelt down and worked his fingers into the birth canal, feeling for the shoulder. And with his other hand he inserted the blade and began slicing.

Squatting beside his father, the odor of death in his nose, he studied the old man’s motions. “Don’t cut her,” he cautioned. “And watch your fingers.”

After a few minutes, the leg pulled away, and he took it from his father and placed it to the side.

“Now,” his father said. “I think she’s dilated good enough. We’re gonna have to try an’ use the tractor. You start it up. Go real easy on the clutch. I’ll work down here. We don’t want to tear her rear end out.”

They looped the rope over the drawbar and tied the end to the foot. Then he started the tractor, shifted into low gear and gently eased ahead. The rope went taut. The heifer moaned. “Easy on that clutch!” his father warned. She slid a little in the snow, and his father checked the rope around her neck. “Easy,” his father called out. He edged further ahead. Suddenly the calf’s head emerged, and the shoulders followed and the body, wet and mucus-slippery, slid smoothly from the canal out onto the snow. And there the small, black, lifeless form lay steaming against the white earth.

He shut off the tractor and got down and walked back to where his father stood. “Well, we saved the heifer at least,” he said.

His father took out his red bandanna and wiped his hands. Then he stepped around and loosened the rope from the pole. All at once the heifer shuddered and strained again and began to expel a watery, bloody, fleshy, membranous mass. As they watched, it kept coming, spewing out, almost as large as the calf had been.

“Oh, no!” his father exclaimed.

“What the . . . ? That’s more than afterbirth!”

“The stress was too much. She’s expelled her uterus!”

“Her uterus! Son-of-a-bitch! Now what?”

“We’ll have to put her down.”

“We can’t shove it back in?”

“Naw. She’d get infected. There’s nothin’ more to do.”

He looked at his father and then down at the pool of flesh and at the heifer gasping for air. So, she must have known all along, before they had, what the outcome would be. That she carried the seed of death wrapped in her belly, and no matter how fast and far she ran, there’d be no escape. Still, she fought it to the end.

His father walked to the shop and got the sledge hammer and walked back. He stood, feet apart, by the heifer’s head. “Sorry, bossy,” he said, “we done what we could.” And he raised the sledge hammer high in the air and brought it down hard between her eyes. She jerked and trembled and her tongue flopped out the side of her mouth. A tricklet of blood traced down the white hair of her nose and dropped onto the snow. And she lay still.

* * *

“The dead wagon ain’t gonna come out in this weather,” his father said. “An’ we sure can’t bury her. Guess we might as well drag’er up on the pasture hill and leave’er to the coyotes.”

“That’s the best we can do,” he agreed.

They unwound the ropes and wrapped a log chain around her hind legs and fastened that to the clevis on the drawbar. His father spread a burlap sack across the tractor hood, and they heaved the stillborn calf up onto that and headed out.

Standing on the drawbar behind his father, holding onto the fender, he looked back at the thin trail of blood in the snow. They drove past the feedlot, where the other cows peered out curiously, down the slope and over the creek crossing and back up by the edge of the ice-coated woods. Birthing a calf, he thought to himself, should be a simple thing. Like a new moon or the opening of a flower. But there were times when in a godless universe nature got crosswise with itself. When the intentions of the process all became tangled, and the only way for it to right itself again, to get going straight, was for something to die.

He’d known that was so since that morning years before when he’d parted the vines with the barrel of his M-16 and discovered the dead Viet Cong. Ants were crawling all over the tattered black cloth; the exposed bone was bleached white as polished rice. The back of his head had been blown away, the empty eye sockets staring skyward. And a sprig of green vegetation had taken root, sprouting up out of the gaping mouth toward the sun. Growing as if from a planter.

Nature didn’t entertain pleas. Nature didn’t bargain or compromise. Nature simply took what it needed for the process and moved on. For a long time, he’d known that was so. Yet he still felt a stab of resentment deep in his gut each time he saw it happen again.

When they’d abandoned the carcasses at the crown of the hill and started back down, his father turned half-around and called over his shoulder: “Ya know, it may be awhile before we get the electric back. Maybe you could help me move the old stove in from the woodshed. I can cook off of that if I have to.”

“Yeah. No problem.”

It wasn’t quite noon yet. He had only four student papers left to grade before class. There was still time.

The sun was intense and directly overhead now. They parked the tractor in the shop and walked up the lane toward the house. The ice on the trees had begun to melt and break loose. Crystalline shards were falling beneath the trees like hail, and the snow in the lane was beginning to turn to slush.


 

THE SNOW FIELD  was initially published in a different version in Swill magazine. 

 


 

Mark Scheel was born and raised on a farm in rural, east-central Kansas. After graduating from the University of Kansas in 1967, and spending a period "on the road," he served overseas with the American National Red Cross in Vietnam, Thailand, Germany and England. He later took graduate studies and taught at Emporia State University. More recently he was an information specialist with the Johnson County Library in Shawnee Mission, Kansas. He now writes full time and has served as a volunteer on the editorial staff of Kansas City Voices magazine. His stories, articles and poems have appeared in numerous magazines such as Kansas Quarterly, The Midwest Quarterly, Cincinnati Poetry Review and The Kansas City Star, and he is coauthor of the book OF YOUTH AND THE RIVER: THE MISSISSIPPI ADVENTURE OF RAYMOND KURTZ, SR. His most recent book, A BACKWARD VIEW: STORIES AND POEMS, won the J. Donald Coffin Memorial Book Award from the Kansas Authors Club. He is presently a member of the Kansas Authors Club, National Writers Union and The Writers Place as well as a charter member and officer in 5th Street Irregulars writers group and a former member of the Board of Directors of Whispering Prairie Press, 2005-2006 as well as Library Liaison and member Board of Directors of Potpourri Publications Co., 1991-1995. His bio appears in the Directory of American Poets & Fiction Writers; International Authors and Writers Who’s Who; Two Thousand Notable American Men; Who’s Who in America; Who’s Who in the World and Who’s Who in U.S. Writers, Editors & Poets. He has conducted numerous readings, media appearances and book signings, 1988-present. Selections from his writings appear on gather.comspeakwithoutinterruption.com and skyways.lib.ks.us as well as other Internet sites. 
Web page: http://www.writers.net/writers/7032 - See more at: https://scriggler.com/Profile/mark_scheel#sthash.3WD3W1aN.dpuf