The Box Under the Bed #flashfiction

 The Box Under the Bed 
An experimental outtake from a collection of short stories I’m working on.

The Box Under the Bed

There is a box under mummy’s bed, it’s been there a really long time. Since before I was born, and I’m nearly nine now. It’s wooden and ugly, but mummy says there’s something real special in it, a doll her gran’ma gave her just before she died, just like great- gran’ma’s mummy gave it to her. It should have been given to my gran first, but she died when mummy was just a little girl, even littler than me, so now mummy has it instead. She says I can see it when I’m lots older, when I’m too old to break it.

I always knew it was special though, even before mummy told me, because it talks to me, ever since I was really little. Sometimes when I’m laying on mummy’s bed I can hear it scratching at the inside of the box. I told mummy that one day and she laughed, ruffling my hair and saying I was still too little to see it, and making up stories wouldn’t change that.

Sometimes when I used to sleep in mummy’s bed after I had a nightmare it would tell me stories, about great-gran’ma, and gran, and mummy when she was a little girl. About how they were allowed to play with her when they were little, but I’m not. It made my angry because it’s not fair, but mummy would be really angry if I opened the box, so I never did. It would get mad sometimes then, scratching on the box and saying mean things. I would wake mummy up with my crying, but she said I just had another nightmare and to go back to sleep.

#

Mummy’s not home right now, said she had to run down to the store real quick for milk, and told me to stay in my room and do my homework. But I can hear it, even from my room today, scratching and whispering. It wants to come out and play with me.

I go into mummy’s room and lay down on the floor next to her bed and look at the box. The scratching is getting louder and louder, and the voice is telling me to open the box. It’s sick of the dark. It wants to play.

I reach under the bed carefully, and just grabbing the box by a corner with my fingertips, I slowly slide it out into the light. It’s all dusty and gross, so I blow on it and wipe at it with my sleeve before I start picking at the latch, keeping an ear open in case mummy comes back. It’s quiet now, waiting, and as the latch finally slides free, I hold my breath as I open the lid.

The doll doesn’t look so special to me. I have plenty that are much prettier. This one is dirty and a bit smelly, and has a crack across one cheek. The painted eyes and mouth are faded and flaking, and it has all different colours and lengths of hair sticking out all over it’s head.

It’s quiet now, but I’m so busy looking at it I don’t hear mummy until she gasps behind me. I turn around and she’s standing in the doorway, looking all pale with her hand over her mouth. I thought I’d be in real big trouble, but she doesn’t look angry.

“What did you do?” She asks.

“Nothing,” I say, jumping away from the box guiltily.

She hurries over and closes the box quickly, then just stands there looking at it.

“You didn’t touch it?” 

“No, mummy, I swear.” I really didn’t want to, with how dirty and ugly and smelly it was.

She nods, and slides the box back under the bed.

“That’s good.” She nods again and finally looks at me. “That’s really good.”

“Why’s that doll so special? It’s really ugly. And why is all of it’s hair different all over?”

Mummy sighs, before sitting on her bed and patting the blankets next to her. I sit down and she puts her arm around me.

“It’s special because it’s very, very old, and also because that hair is from real people in our family. Every time a little girl dies in our family, it’s our tradition to have a lock of the girl’s hair added to the doll’s head.” She sighs. “Some of my aunty’s hair is there, and some of your sister’s.”

I frown. “I don’t have a sister.”

“You did sweetie. A twin. I guess you’re old enough to know now.” Her voice and face gets really sad. “She died when you were both four. Your great gran’ma had her hair added to the doll too. It’s the short blond bit right at the front.”

“Oh.”

“Are you okay sweetie? Does that explain everything for you?”

“I guess mummy. I always just thought it was special because it could talk and move and stuff.”

I’m already sliding off the bed as I’m saying this, but I hear mummy make a real funny noise so I turn around again. She looks scared.

“What’s wrong mummy?”

“What makes you say that it can talk and move?”

“Cause it talks to me all the time. And scratches on the box. It doesn’t like it in there. That’s why I opened it.” I frown. “I’ve told you all this before mummy, when I was little.”

She looks at me, all wide eyed and pale, hand over her mouth again.

“I thought you made that up because you were just traumatised from losing your twin. You pretended the doll was alive because she was gone. I didn’t know it was still happening.”

I shrug.

“It’s okay, it says it can get out by itself now ‘cause you didn’t latch the box, so it probably won’t bother me any more.”

End

The Horror Fiction and Satire of Ambrose Bierce, With a Selection of Quotes

Ambrose Bierce (1842 – 1914) was a prolific writer of both fiction and non-fiction, however, for the purposes of this post I will be focusing on his work as a horror short story writer, and as a satirist.

In his fiction, Bierce played freely with concepts such as perspective and reality. Several stories leave the reader questioning not only which parts of the story were delusions of the characters, and which actually occurred, but also the nature of their own reality.

Bierce employed techniques such as unreliable narrators and other deceptive/untrustworthy characters, time skips, the blending of realism and surrealism, and smooth segues from story events into character delusions or hallucinations. For an example, consider The Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge. This story is an excellent example of some of the narrative techniques employed by Bierce, and is considered a classic for good reason.

In other stories, such as The Damned Thing, Bierce focused on extraordinary or supernatural events happening within mundane, everyday settings. In emphasising the mundane setting and also providing a quasi-scientific explanation for the supernatural phenomena occurring in the story, Bierce leaves the reader with the unsettling feeling that maybe the impossible is not so impossible after all.

In both his fiction and satire, Bierce played with conventions, both literary and societal. Particularly in terms of satire, Bierce did not shy away from making potentially unpopular observations, with his wicked sense of humour most evident in The Devil’s Dictionary (if you can excuse the bad pun).


Bierce’s writing, both in terms of fiction and satire, most certainly had the potential to make others think something else.

For free access to the complete works of Ambrose Bierce, go to The Ambrose Bierce Project website, at: http://www.ambrosebierce.org/works.html

Bierce’s works are also available for free download from most eBook sites such as iBooks, etc.

 

Quotes from the Fiction and Other Writings of Ambrose Bierce:

“There’s nothing new under the sun, but there are lots of old things we don’t know.”
― Ambrose Bierce

“Patriotism is as fierce as a fever, pitiless as the grave, blind as a stone, and irrational as a headless hen.”  ― Ambrose Bierce

“As a means of dispensing formulated ignorance our boasted public school system is not without merit; it spreads out education sufficiently thin to give everyone enough to make him a more competent fool than he would have been without it…”
― Ambrose Bierce

“Fear has no brains; it is an idiot. The dismal witness that it bears and the cowardly counsel that it whispers are unrelated.”
― Ambrose Bierce, The Moonlit Road and Other Ghost and Horror Stories 

“They were obviously headstones of graves, though the graves themselves no longer existed as either mounds or depressions; the years had leveled all. Scattered here and there, more massive blocks showed where some pompous or ambitious monument had once flung its feeble defiance at oblivion.”
― Ambrose Bierce, An Inhabitant of Carcosa 

“Death is a dignitary who when he comes announced is to be received with formal manifestations of respect, even by those most familiar with him. In the code of military etiquette silence and fixity are forms of deference.”
― Ambrose Bierce, An Occurrence At Owl Creek Bridge  

“His act was rather that of a harmless lunatic than an enemy. We were not so new to the country as not to know that the solitary life of many a plainsman had a tendency to develop eccentricities of conduct and character not always easily distinguishable from mental aberration. A man is like a tree: in a forest of his fellows he will grow as straight as his generic and individual nature permits; alone, in the open, he yields to the deforming stresses and tortions that environ him.”
― Ambrose Bierce, Ghost Stories 

“This is only a record of broken and apparently unrelated memories, some of them as distinct and sequent as brilliant beads upon a thread, others remote and strange, having the character of crimson dreams with interspaces blank and black — witch-fires glowing still and red in a great desolation.”
― Ambrose Bierce, The Moonlit Road and Other Ghost and Horror Stories 

“O God! what a thing it is to be a ghost, cowering and shivering in an altered world, a prey to apprehension and despair!”
― Ambrose Bierce, The Moonlit Road and Other Ghost and Horror Stories 

“He thought he was walking along a dusty road that showed white in the gathering darkness of a summer night. Whence and whither it led, and why he traveled it, he did not know, though all seemed simple and natural, as is the way in dreams; for in the Land Beyond the Bed surprises cease from troubling and the judgment is at rest.”
― Ambrose Bierce, The Death of Halpin Frayser 

 

Quotes from The Devil’s Dictionary:

“Birth, n.: The first and direst of all disasters.”
― Ambrose Bierce, The Devil’s Dictionary 

“Dawn, n. The time when men of reason go to bed.”
― Ambrose Bierce, The Devil’s Dictionary 

“Future, n. That period of time in which our affairs prosper, our friends are true and our happiness is assured.”
― Ambrose Bierce, The Devil’s Dictionary 

“Idiot – A member of a large and powerful tribe whose influence in human affairs has always been dominant and controlling. The Idiot’s activity is not confined to any special field of thought or action, but “pervades and regulates the whole.” He has the last word in everything; his decision is unappealable. He sets the fashions and opinion of taste, dictates the limitations of speech and circumscribes conduct with a dead-line.”
― Ambrose Bierce, The Devil’s Dictionary 

“Inhumanity, n. One of the signal and characteristic qualities of humanity.”
― Ambrose Bierce, The Devil’s Dictionary 

“Man, n. An animal so lost in rapturous contemplation of what he thinks he is as to overlook what he indubitably ought to be. His chief occupation is extermination of other animals and his own species, which, however, multiplies with such insistent rapidity as to infest the whole habitable earth and Canada.”
― Ambrose Bierce, The Devil’s Dictionary 

“Mind, n. A mysterious form of matter secreted by the brain. Its chief activity consists in the endeavour to ascertain its own nature, the futility of the attempt being due to the fact that it has nothing but itself to know itself with.”
― Ambrose Bierce, The Devil’s Dictionary 

“Novel, n. A short story padded. A species of composition bearing the same relation to literature that the panorama bears to art. As it is too long to be read at a sitting the impressions made by its successive parts are successively effaced, as in the panorama. Unity, totality of effect, is impossible; for besides the few pages last read all that is carried in mind is the mere plot of what has gone before. To the romance the novel is what photography is to painting. Its distinguishing principle, probability, corresponds to the literal actuality of the photograph and puts it distinctly into the category of reporting; whereas the free wing of the romancer enables him to mount to such altitudes of imagination as he may be fitted to attain; and the first three essentials of the literary art are imagination, imagination and imagination. The art of writing novels, such as it was, is long dead everywhere except in Russia, where it is new. Peace to its ashes — some of which have a large sale.”
― Ambrose Bierce, The Devil’s Dictionary  

“Ocean, n. A body of water occupying about two-thirds of a world made for man — who has no gills.”
― Ambrose Bierce, The Devil’s Dictionary 

“Politics, n. A strife of interests masquerading as a contest of principles. The conduct of public affairs for private advantage.”  ― Ambrose Bierce, The Devil’s Dictionary 

“Reality, n. The dream of a mad philosopher.”
― Ambrose Bierce, The Devil’s Dictionary 

“Revolution – In politics, an abrupt change in the form of misgovernment.”
― Ambrose Bierce, The Devil’s Dictionary 

One Week Until Release – Wax & Wane: A Gathering of Witch Tales

 

Wax & Wane: A Gathering of Witch Tales

Only one week left until the March 2 release date – have you picked up your copy yet?

Wax & Wane: A Gathering of Witch Tales – 30 Spellbinding Stories.

Available for pre-order from Amazon at this link: http://www.tinyurl.com/jnwsrmu

Wax & Wane: A Gathering of Witch Tales
“Whether wicked or whimsical, few folkloric figures are as iconic as the witch. Wax & Wane: A Gathering of Witch Tales serves up 30 spellbinding stories of witches that are enchanting and terrifying, amusing and enticing. Classic or eclectic, fantastical or historical, these witch tales are a literary incantation to delight any fans of witches and witchcraft.” – via Nosetouch Press.

Visit http://www.nosetouchpress.com for more information and contributor profiles for all of the authors featured in the anthology.

Wax & Wane: A Gathering of Witch Tales
Currently available for pre-order in paperback and Kindle eBook formats.

Wax & Wane: A Gathering of Witch Tales
Hardcover format will also be available to order soon.

Wax & Wane: A Gathering of Witch Tales

Writing Advice – Articles to Help You Hone Your Craft

Here are some of the best writing articles that have crossed my WordPress and social media feeds this week, gathered in one place for your convenience. Enjoy and happy writing 🙂

How to Deepen Your Worldbuilding by Cecilia Lewis

“Setting and worldbuilding are critical aspects of your novel. Having a vivid setting can pull readers into your story and bring it to life, and unique worldbuilding is often what sets a book apart.”

Read Here: http://ryanlanz.com/2016/02/04/how-to-deepen-your-worldbuilding/

Being God 101 – The Basics of Worldbuilding by Alex Limberg

“Admit it, you want to be a god.

You despotic, power-hungry person, you need your own little space where everybody (and everything) bends to your rules, and you need to get your way.

Why else would you write fiction?

Ok, maybe you have other, more noble motives as well. Nevermind, sorry for prematurely accusing you (maybe).”

Read the Full Article: https://warriorwriters.wordpress.com/2016/02/01/being-god-101-the-basics-of-world-building/

20 Tips for Writing a Captivating Short Story Part 1 by Mindy Halleck

“Today, as I edit, trim, cut, and otherwise obliterate a short story I wrote that ended up to be 8,000 words, but needs to be 5,000 words, I am reminded of this quote:

“Not that the story need be long, but it will take a long while to make it short.” -Henry David Thoreau”

Read More Here: http://ryanlanz.com/2016/01/29/20-tips-for-writing-a-captivating-short-story-part-1/

20 Tips for Writing a Captivating Short Story Part 2 by Mindy Halleck

“Continued from Part 1”

Read Here: http://ryanlanz.com/2016/02/01/20-tips-for-writing-a-captivating-short-story-part-2/

 
Via K M Weiland http://www.helpingwritersbecomeauthors.com/resources/infographics/

Building an Unforgettable Character by Kris Noel

“Character building is one of my favorite parts of writing a novel. I love seeing where they’re going to take me and where their journey is going to end up. Even though I plot extensively before starting a new novel, I always leave room for the characters to lead me somewhere new.”

Read Here: http://krisnoel.com/post/138754008929/building-an-unforgettable-character

Character Development and Plot Structure Guest Post by Michael Dellert

“Compelling fiction is about what your character wants, how your character goes about getting that thing, and what your character does when she/he realizes that what they want is entirely different from what they need.”

Read More: http://danalatorre.com/2016/02/05/character-development-and-plot-structure-guest-post-by-author-michael-dellert/

Anatomy of an Action Scene – The Advantages of Present Tense by Bart Bishop

“Action is hard to write. What works so well on the screen, with the full visceral impact of celluloid, can appear rote and stagnant on the page. Imagine a sword fight in prose. Do you describe every parry and thrust? And if so, at what point does it devolve into the equivalent of a VCR user manual?”

Read Here: https://litreactor.com/columns/anatomy-of-an-action-scene-the-advantages-of-present-tense

 

Via K M Weiland http://www.helpingwritersbecomeauthors.com/resources/infographics/


How to take the Guesswork out of what Scenes to put in Your First Act by K M Weiland

“Writing the First Act in a story used to terrify me. It felt like walking a tightrope. Blindfolded. In the dark.”

Read the Full Article: https://www.helpingwritersbecomeauthors.com/how-to-take-the-guesswork-out-of-what-scenes-to-put-in-your-first-act/

Writing Tip: What’s The Rush by David Farland

“I see a lot of trends in today’s literature. Perhaps the biggest one is that every writer seems to be in a rush. Many new writers try to keep the pacing blazing hot. They’ve heard that in today’s world, kids are trained to think in “sound bites,” and anything longer than a television commercial bores them.

As a result, writers try to keep their description stark, the narration nonexistent, and the action heavy. They write rapid-fire dialog.

Unfortunately, their stories become a blur. They never really come alive.”

Read More: http://davidfarland.tumblr.com/post/138555499640/writing-tip-whats-the-rush

7 Choices That Affect A Writer’s Style by Amanda Patterson

“Style, in its broadest sense, is a specific way in which we create, perform, or do something. Style in literature is the way an author uses words to tell a story.”

Read Here: http://writerswrite.co.za/what-is-your-literary-style

 

I hope you find these articles helpful. Wishing you all the best on your writing adventures. ~ Flynn

Wax & Wane Contributor Spotlight: Flynn Gray #WaxAndWane

Nosetouch Press is presenting a Contributor Spotlight for each author with a story in the upcoming anthology Wax & Wane: A Gathering of Witch Tales. Each Spotlight features a bio and brief interview with the author. You can find my Contributor Spotlight at the link below:

http://www.nosetouchpress.com/waxwanecontributor-spotlight-flynn-gray/

  

Wax & Wane
features 30 stories and is currently available for pre-order in paperback and Kindle ebook formats from Amazon. Hardcover format will be available for pre-order soon. Release date is 02 March 2016.

  

For more information, go to http://www.nosetouchpress.com or click on the banner below to go to the Amazon pre-order page.

 Wax & Wane: A Gathering of Witch Tales 

H P Lovecraft and the Foundations of a Mythos

H P Lovecraft is famed for his creation of what is widely known as the “Cthulhu Mythos”, a term used to describe the intricate fictional universe constructed by Lovecraft that was gradually expanded upon through successive stories. This fictional universe became so influential that it continued to be widely referenced, utilised and expanded by other authors even after Lovecraft’s death, and still is today.

Even outside of the direct use of the Cthulhu mythos, Lovecraft’s influence can be found across modern horror literature, films, and music, such as the Evil Dead franchise (1981-2015), songs such as Metallica’s “The Thing That Should Not Be” (Master of Puppets, 1986), games such as Bloodborne (2015), and Terry Pratchett’s Discworld series.

During his lifetime, Lovecraft’s contemporary authors also referenced his fictional universe, just as Lovecraft referenced the creations of his contemporaries. For example, Lovecraft wrote in a letter to William Anger, in 1934, of the “ fun of building up a convincing cycle of synthetic folklore, all of our gang frequently allude to the pet daemons of the others–thus Smith uses my Yog-Sothoth, while I use his Tsathoggua.” In another letter to Robert E. Howard, written in 1930, Lovecraft notes that “I think it is rather good fun to have this artificial mythology given an air of verisimilitude by wide citation.”

In his creation of this mythic world, Lovecraft utilised several symbols and plot devices which are utilised throughout his stories to create a coherent mythology that has inspired generations. These distinctive aspects of Lovecraft’s writing can be observed even in his very early works which pre-date the stories that contributed to the Cthulhu mythos. Most of the following examples focus on The Tomb (1917), The Horror at Red Hook (1925), The Call of Cthulhu (1926), and The Dunwich Horror (1928), as those are the stories I have re-read most recently.

Recurring Characteristics of Lovecraft’s Writing:

1.

A common feature of Lovecraft’s writing was the presence of narrators or protagonists that can see beyond the mundane or material reality. This begins in one of Lovecraft’s earliest works, The Tomb (1917), in which the first person narrator notes that:

It is an unfortunate fact that the bulk of humanity is too limited in its mental vision to weigh with patience and intelligence those isolated phenomena, seen and felt only by a psychologically sensitive few, which lie outside its common experience. Men of broader intellect know that there is no sharp distinction betwixt the real and the unreal; that all things appear as they do only by virtue of the delicate individual physical and mental media through which we are made conscious of them; but the prosaic materialism of the majority condemns as madness the flashes of super-sight which penetrate the common veil of obvious empiricism.”

Excerpt From: H.P. Lovecraft & Digital Papyrus. “H.P. Lovecraft: The Ultimate Collection”.

2.

Another common feature was a focus on ancient books and writings, feared and loathsome volumes, sometimes in obscure languages. Particularly in the case of the Cthulhu Mythos, the Necronomicon is the most feared of all. The antagonists in Lovecraft’s writing often have an obsession with occult books, either having large libraries of their own, or going to great lengths to acquire particular volumes (sometimes both). In The Horror of Red Hook, “Suydam had read and brooded for some six decades”, and maintained “a vast, high-ceiled library whose walls were solidly packed with tattered books of ponderous, archaic, and vaguely repellent aspect.” This “repellent aspect” is a common feature of the occult tomes used for various nefarious purposes in Lovecraft’s stories. The Necronomicon is described in The Dunwich Horror as “hideous”, and “the dreaded volume kept under lock and key at the college library”.

3.

Another characteristic is ancient cults and sects, or individuals, that worship beings or powers beyond human comprehension. The Dunwich Horror and The Horror at Red Hook both feature individuals that set horrifying events in motion through their obsession with arcane knowledge contained in ancient books. Though The Horror at Red Hook also features an ancient cult and their rituals, it is a single man, Robert Suydam, that possesses a library and obsession with the occult which allows him to unlock the full potential of these rituals. In The Dunwich Horror, it is Old Whateley, whose obsession with sorcery and ancient lore and the mysterious tomes of his centuries-old library (which includes a copy of the Necronomicon) leads to the unleashing of a terrible force with the potential to destroy mankind.

In The Call of Cthulhu, it is an ancient cult almost brings devastation on humankind by awakening and releasing the Great Old Ones:

They worshipped, so they said, the Great Old Ones who lived ages before there were any men, and who came to the young world out of the sky. Those Old Ones were gone now, inside the earth and under the sea; but their dead bodies had told their secrets in dreams to the first men, who formed a cult which had never died. This was that cult, and the prisoners said it had always existed and always would exist, hidden in distant wastes and dark places all over the world until the time when the great priest Cthulhu, from his dark house in the mighty city of R’lyeh under the waters, should rise and bring the earth again beneath his sway. Some day he would call, when the stars were ready, and the secret cult would always be waiting to liberate him.”

Excerpt From: H.P. Lovecraft & Digital Papyrus. “H.P. Lovecraft: The Ultimate Collection”.

H P LoveCraft  Quote

4.

Finally, Lovecraft’s stories focused, perhaps above all else, on immense cosmic horrors that exist in the universe, which cannot be fully comprehended by mankind. In the Cthulhu Mythos, these cosmic horrors became personified as The Great Old Ones. Prior to this, in earlier works such as The Horror at Red Hook, these cosmic horrors were more loosely based on a variety of ancient mythologies and imagery. This story, which features another protagonist who is described as having “a far vision of weird and hidden things, but the logician’s quick eye for the outwardly unconvincing”, refers to “age-old horror” that is “a hydra with a thousand heads, “cults of darkness” that are “rooted in blasphemies deeper than the well of Democritus”, and “poisons older than history and mankind”.

image

A List of Lovecraft’s Works that belong to the Cthulhu Mythos

Although many of his other works reference certain aspects and themes of the Cthulhu universe, these are the works considered by Lin Carter (see further reading/references below) to comprise the Cthulhu Mythos:

1. “The Nameless City” (1921)

2. “The Hound” (1922)

3. “The Festival” (1923)

4. “The Call of Cthulhu” (1926)

5. “The Dunwich Horror” (1928)

6. “The Whisperer in Darkness” (1930)

7. “The Dreams in the Witch House” (1932)

8. “At the Mountains of Madness” (1931)

9. “The Shadow Over Innsmouth” (1931)

10. “The Shadow out of Time” (1934-35)

11. “The Haunter of the Dark” (1935)

12. “The Thing on the Doorstep” (1933)

13. History of the Necronomicon (short essay)

14. Fungi from Yuggoth (poem) (1929-30)


Further Reading/References: 

H.P. Lovecraft & Digital Papyrus. “H.P. Lovecraft: The Ultimate Collection (160 Works including Early Writings, Fiction, Collaborations, Poetry, Essays & Bonus Audiobook Links).” Digital Papyrus. iBooks.

Lin Carter, Lovecraft: Look Behind the Cthulhu Mythos – The Background of a Myth that has Captured a Generation, Ballantine Books, 1972.

http://www.straightdope.com/columns/read/1934/was-h-p-lovecrafts-necronomicon-for-real

Wax & Wane: A Gathering of Witch Tales + Call for Submissions #WaxAndWane

 Wax & Wane: A Gathering of Witch Tales Banner 

Wax & Wane: A Gathering of Witch Tales is now available for pre-order from Amazon (Release date 02 March 2016). 

For more information, visit http://www.nosetouchpress.com

Wax & Wane is an anthology of 30 short stories by a variety of authors, including myself 🙂 All contributing authors are listed in the image below. 
 Wax & Wane: A Gathering of Witch Tales Authors 

Call for Submissions:

Nosetouch Press is also still accepting submissions for the horror anthology Blood, Sweat & Fears: Horror Inspired by the 1970s.

Find more information here:

http://www.nosetouchpress.com/call-for-submissions/

Christmas Morning: A Short Horror Story

Note – This is what happens when you mix far too much (very alcoholic) eggnog with back to back viewings of Child’s Play and Jingle All The Way 🙂

IMG_2600

Liam carefully wrapped the final and most important present to be placed under the Christmas tree, a Baby Bianca doll, the holy grail of presents for little girls this year, and the highest selling toy of the past decade. This would be his first Christmas with custody of Sarah, and nothing short of perfection would be acceptable. He swallowed down the last sip of his whiskey and placed the present with the others, taking a step back to survey the scene with some pride.

The huge pine tree dwarfed his modest living room, lovingly decorated with shiny baubles and tinsel that reflected the twinkling lights dancing merrily along the tree’s branches. A stocking bearing Sarah’s name hung from a hook on the wall next to the tree, and a small mountain of colourfully wrapped presents also addressed to the four-year-old were stacked under its lowest branches.

Liam nodded with satisfaction. This Christmas would be a memory to treasure forever with his little girl.

#

He awoke the next morning to sunlight filtering through his curtains and a tiny blonde figure with a cherubic face perched on his chest. A two inch razor sharp blade was clutched in both of its hands and aimed directly at his throat. Groggily flopping an arm out from under the blankets, he swiped the small figure across the room, a stinging gash appearing along his forearm where the blade slashed through his flesh.

Cursing and flinging the blankets off, he staggered out of bed, but the thing had already vanished out of his bedroom with a scuttle of little footsteps on the hardwood floor.

He ran out into the hall, his right hand wrapped around the deep slice in his left arm that was steadily dripping blood between his fingers. There was no sign of his miniature assailant.

“Sarah,” he called, glancing into her empty bedroom before rushing down the stairs. To his relief he found her seated on the floor beneath the Christmas tree, surrounded by shredded wrapping paper and torn packaging.

“Daddy.” She pouted when she saw him. “Where’s my Baby Bianca dolly? I asked Santa for one ‘specially and she’s not here.”

Liam flashed back to the angelic plastic face that had greeted him as he woke, the face of the very same Baby Bianca doll that he had painstakingly preordered along with thousands of other parents, and shuddered.

He smiled weakly, picking his way through the debris on the floor, eyeing the room warily. “I’m not sure sweetie, did you check your stocking?”

“Yep.” She picked up the empty stocking and shook it upside down for emphasis. “No Bianca.” The pout began to quiver now, tantrum imminent.

Liam thought fast. “Hey, maybe it’s at Grandma’s house, let’s go and have a look.” And get the hell out of here, he thought.

He scooped Sarah up quickly and made a beeline for the garage, pretending that he never heard the quiet, high pitched giggle that wafted through the house after them.

#

He turned the SUV onto their normally quiet suburban street, Sarah safely secured in her booster seat, only to find chaos had broken out on the carefully manicured lawns.

“Look Daddy, there’s a Baby Bianca dolly on the roof of that house! Santa must’ve dropped her there. Maybe that’s mine. Can we stop? Daddy?”

Liam barely heard her, too distracted by the horrifying scene unfolding in his neighbour’s yard. Mr Foley was clawing his way across the grass towards the pavement, his face contorted in pain as blood flowed from his heels where both of his Achilles tendons had been slashed. One of the dolls was steadily climbing his pyjama pants leg, blade clutched between its grinning teeth. Another of the Baby Biancas was running across the lawn towards his face, its little pink gown and plastic skin already splattered with blood.

Liam turned away and accelerated, unable to bear the pleading expression on the man’s face but unwilling to stop and risk his daughter’s safety.

Across the road and a few houses down, old Mrs Cranston, who often brought homemade meals and baked treats for them when Sarah was visiting, was lying facedown on the pavement in a spreading pool of crimson.

“Daddy, why is Mrs Cranston sleeping there? Look Daddy, there’s a Bianca running behind us! Stop the car so she can get in. Daddy!”

Liam had seen the little figure on the road behind them, sprinting for all its worth in an attempt to catch the car, tiny arms and legs pumping. He lost it after turning a few more corners, driving as fast as he dared, trying to ignore the wail of his daughter as she lost sight of the doll.

“Daadddddyyyyyyyy.”

“It’s okay sweetie, I’m sure yours is waiting at Grandma’s.”

He felt a little guilty for lying, but in this case he figured it was justified. None of the ‘How to be a Great Single Father for Your Little Girl’ advice books had exactly covered this scenario. He briefly considered checking on his ex, before realising he had left his phone and wallet back at home, along with his clothes. He was still dressed in his pyjama pants and singlet, Sarah in her pink daisy pyjamas, which were now adorned with several bloody handprints where he had picked her up. His own pyjamas were smeared with blood, as was the car’s interior, the wound on his arm now crusted over with dried blood, painful and itching at the same time. Both of them were barefoot, hair sticking out at all angles. He sighed. This was going to be fun to explain to his parents. They’d probably be on the phone to Donna to come and pick up Sarah before he could get two words out.

His hands clenched on the steering wheel. None of that mattered right now, except getting Sarah to the relative safety of his parents’ farm. There was just one more turn to go and they would be on the open highway.

As they approached the corner a familiar little blonde shape raced into the centre of the road, bracing as though to leap onto the car as it passed. Without a second thought he swerved and ran it over directly, crushing it under the car’s tyres. Checking in his rear view mirror he saw that its head had popped off and was rolling across the road, still grinning maniacally, the crushed body a mangled heap.

Ignoring Sarah’s horrified screams, he swung the car around the corner and accelerated down the highway.

#

Later that evening, after Sarah was finally asleep, somewhat pacified by the inferior doll that had been provided by Grandma (“NOT my Baby Bianca, Daddy,” she had whined, glaring daggers at him) he flopped in front of his parents’ TV and turned on the news. Several of the channels were blank, with many of the major stations not reaching this far into the countryside, but he finally found one channel which was still operating. The reception was poor, but snatches of sound and images were painting a clear enough picture.

Mysterious deaths…thousands of families found slaughtered…throats slashed…multiple stabbings…authorities overwhelmed as panic spreads…

No mention of the dolls, noted Liam. They must know it’s the dolls, right? He couldn’t really be losing his mind, though it was obvious his parents thought so. He winced, remembering the earlier conversation as he had tried to explain what happened while his mother consoled a still-sobbing Sarah. Donna would no doubt be on the way to the farm to pick up their daughter right now if his mother had been able to reach her on the phone.

He flipped the TV off and got up to check the windows and doors, more grateful than ever before that his parents lived in a remote farmhouse. He turned out the lights as he made his way up the stairs to the bedrooms, stopping at the first door to check on Sarah before he went to sleep.

Her bed was empty. In the dim illumination provided by her nightlight, Liam hurriedly checked under the bed and in the closet as well before running back out into the hall, his breath coming fast. No, this can’t be happening. Where was she?

He was drawing in a breath to yell her name when he heard it. The sound of a soft giggle and Sarah’s voice coming from behind the closed door of his parents bedroom. He released the breath in a huff of relief and opened the door, expecting to find Sarah playing with her grandparents.

He is surprised to find the room in darkness, and fumbles for the light switch. The sudden brightness blinds him for a moment, and when his vision clears all he can see is red. The bright red of fresh blood has soaked through his parents’ comforter and pillows and is dripping slowly onto the floor. His parents’ faces are a stark white contrast, mouths agape in shock and eyes staring into nothing, their throats a gaping red mess of mangled flesh and blood.

In one of the expanding puddles of blood on the floor by the bed, Sarah is sitting with her legs crossed, playing patty cake with a Baby Bianca doll.

“You were right after all Daddy, she was waiting right outside for me to let her in.” Sarah beamed at him, her face covered in tiny splatters of her grandparents’ blood.

The doll’s head swivelled slowly to face him, the crazed grin on its blood-stained face seeming to widen impossibly. Too late, Liam heard a high pitched giggle and scuttling footsteps behind him.

End.

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Happy Holidays everyone 🙂

Articles: Advice on Writing and Publishing


The Holy Grail for Authors: 5 Reasons to Self Publish

“The subject is one I find particularly interesting for many reasons. I for one, would think as many others do, a book deal is the “holy grail” for authors. You know the whole “stack of rejection letters” thing. The urban legend that Stephen King had to get a bigger nail to hold all of his to the wall. If you have been around five minutes, you know what I am talking about.

Sheri McInnis is one author who has been there, done that and her take and perspective has been enlightening for me.”

Read here: http://www.firetok.com/2015/08/the-holy-grail-for-authors-5-reasons-to.html

 

7 Things I Have Learned About Publishing

“I recently attended a writing conference and had the chance to meet and mingle with people involved in and knowledgeable about the industry of writing, and publishing books. I wrote a more inspirational piece about it here: http://www.sassinboots.com/?p=78 but for a less fluffy and more boiled down version of the information here is a summary of the information I took away from the conference.”

Read Here: http://www.firetok.com/2015/10/7-things-i-have-learned-about-publishing.html

 

Using Grammar to Strengthen Our Voice — Guest: Julie Glover

“Yet have you ever thought how grammar—the system and structure of a language—can deepen your voice?

Grammar isn’t merely parts of speech, where the commas go, or which words get capitalized. It’s a whole system of language to convey the meaning you want to give. We have societally agreed-upon rules to facilitate communication, but you can use those rules in different ways—or even break the rules—to leave the desired impression on your readers.”

Read Here: http://jamigold.com/2015/11/using-grammar-to-strengthen-our-voice-guest-julie-glover/

 

13 Things I Learned About Writing Faster

“The speed of publication is one of the biggest advantages of self-publishing. No longer do you have to wait one year (or more) between release dates. You can publish whenever you’re ready. And when you publish often, especially if you put out books in the same series in rapid succession, you get increased visibility & greater reader engagement.

But to publish faster, you also need to write faster.”

Read More: http://www.veronicasicoe.com/blog/2015/11/13-things-i-learned-about-writing-faster/

 

A. L . Kennedy on Writing 

“It would hardly be fair if a reader was asked to expend mental energy and invest their interest in a fiction inhabited by characters who seemed unfeasible and frankly less interesting than the genuine, human people they could be meeting and interacting with, if they weren’t suffering through this or that dreadful book. Hopefully, the effect of a finished character will be convincing, involving, idiosyncratic, natural – in short, real.”

Read Here: http://penguinblog.co.uk/2015/09/24/a-l-kennedy-on-writing/

How to Write a Short Story According to Edgar Allan Poe

“Paying Homage to the Pioneer of the Short Story on his Birthday.

“Literature is the most noble of professions. In fact, it is about the only one fit for a man. For my own part, there is no seducing me from the path.” [From a letter to F.W. Thomas, 1849.]”

Read More: http://www.darkmediaonline.com/happybirthdayedgarallanpoe/