Halloween Extravaganza: R.C. Rumple: STORY: Halloween Lottery

Last year, R.C. Rumple wrote a fantastic story – one that really had me giggling – so when this year’s guest post opportunity came around and he said he was writing me a story, I was seriously giddy in anticipation of what he would send me. And he did not disappoint. One of the best ones yet. I love the way this man’s brain works.


Halloween Lottery
(You Gotta Play to Eat)

When ghosts and goblins hit the streets
With empty bags awaiting treats
And witches fly high overhead
Cackling their laughter to wake the dead

For Halloween brings smiles to most
Costumes covering each little host
Children believe it’s all in fun
Saying, “Boo” to scare everyone

They have no idea it’s all so real
So precious their bodies that we steal
In Hell we know whom to choose
Which kids will win and which shall lose

We wait in shadows on sides of streets
Watching them taste their candy eats
Knowing our hunger will soon be sated
With flesh from those for whom we waited

“So, how did you do in the lottery?”

All day long, that seemed to be the standard question asked around Hell. It was almost nice to hear something besides, “How many more friggin’ new arrivals are coming in today?” Oh, true, bitching about the way things were in Hell was normal. But recently, all of us demons were stressed out.

See, Heaven was getting extremely picky about who they let into their so-called Golden Gates. St. Peter had finally let go of his precious book and moved into the computer age, about twenty years behind everyone else. When he had once been slow to find reasons to keep out Heaven’s new applicants for entry before, now, all their bad deed files were so easy to find the bastard had basically locked the gates and thrown away the key. (Damn thing probably fell through the clouds and into a missing CIA file labeled, “The Truth About Weapons of Mass Destruction in the White House, 2001-Present.”) We demons were overworked with the torturing Satan required for new arrivals. Day and night, we whipped and beat them until it wasn’t the fun it had been. It’s pretty bad when torturing becomes torture. Kind of like the networks having to produce another Steve Harvey television show.

Anyway, with Hell becoming Hell for even the employees, Satan figured we demons needed something to look forward to. He had already tried broadcasting comedy returns on our IDGAF Network… shows like “Modern Healer Family” and “Christian Science: Aliens from Space,” but those were too predictable. Even the shows, “Hell’s Got Talent” and “Dancing with the Demons” drew poor ratings. So, a few year’s back, he’d started a lottery figuring it would give us something to look forward to each other year. You know, to keep us from going on strike and picketing… kind of like raising hell in Hell. Anyway, ten tickets would be up for grabs, each having a different value, but all giving their owners a chance to feed on the fresh blood of a human child. And, not just any child, but one whose spirit was deserving of early entrance to Hell!

Hot and spicy food… who could resist?

Anyway, the drawing date was set for noon on Halloween. For weeks, every demon in Hell fasted. We wanted to be ready to enjoy the grand prize… three “fresh meat” children to savor in one night… without being too full to enjoy them. Nothing could interfere with the weeks of joyous heartburn to follow the feasting.

So, a few minutes before noon, all of us gathered with our tickets, paid for by the compilation of screams of pain and “Help me, Jesus” profanities we’d been able to collect from our torture victims. (Two-hundred screams and one “Help me, Jesus” equaled one ticket earned.) Satan took the microphone and drew the numbers from an open torso of a new arrival, just for kicks. As the final ticket was read, the misery of the moans and groans from the losers put a big smile on the red guy’s face. “There’s always next year,” he announced, watching the demons trudge back to a fresh load of new arrivals being delivered. As his laughter roared through Hell, most gave him the honorary salute he deserved, a raised middle finger.

Ten of us walking away hid our smiles. We were the winners, the holders of the lucky tickets! But, to let the losers know would invite a mass attack. With the rule of Hell being, “Survival of the fittest,” we needed to keep our luck a secret. Otherwise, our tickets would end up in the claws of those who’d been there much longer. (See, in Hell, you continue to enlarge in size as a demon each year, so those there the longest would be larger and the strongest. I know it’s common sense, but since that’s in short supply anymore, I thought I’d fill you in.) I continued at my work, torturing some kid who’d committed suicide after being disappointed about living with his parents for years after graduating college with a degree in Political Science and thinking he was entitled to more. Try as I did, it was hard to keep my mind on my job. Deep inside, the joy at knowing I’d soon be biting into hot & spicy youngsters kept me going.

Returning to my pit after my shift, I filed down the scales of my wings to a nice point and sharpened the claws on my feet and hands. Checking out my image in the mirror, I was amazed at the great looking demon who stood there. I was one hot son-of-a-bitch, if I do say so myself. My eyes, with their red glow set on Medium, were ominous enough to bring fear, but not bright enough to be mistaken for a Harley Davidson set of taillights. My ears, long and pointed, cast a very nice shadow on the wall behind me, as did my dragon style wings. I had almost been ashamed of my appearance before I’d cleaned up. Flying home, my shadow had looked like a friggin’ flying elephant in a Disney cartoon. I flossed one more time, peeling away a month of plaque I’d accumulated from fasting, to ensure it didn’t mix with and taint my later meals. Popping in a breath mint, I was ready. I hated to lose the gangly odor of rotten breath, but the last thing I needed to do was have some kid smell my rot and alert them to my presence. It would ruin the surprise for them I’d planned.

Flying out of my pit, I joined the other lottery winners at the gate. Some had won the chance at one kid, others two. The lowest ticket combination had the least chance of success, while the Grand Prize winner was assured of at least some feasting.

I was that winner.

Yes, as Grand Prize Winner I had won the opportunity to feast three times… three! The temptation for my taste buds was totally tantalizingly tremendous. (I know, a play of words within an info dump. How callous of me. You were expecting friggin’ Stephen King?) I could hardly keep my tongue in my mouth. Yet, as with anything Satan cooked up, the quest for food wouldn’t be easy. I, and the others, would have to hunt for our food and follow a few rules.

Rule Number One stated we had to have our asses back in Hell at Midnight. After all, that was when Halloween ended. It made sense. But, I hoped to have an ace in the hole on that one. The time of Midnight was based on the local time of our victims. By being the Grand Prize Winner, I might just have the advantage of each being in different time zones. Rule Number Two stated we couldn’t harm any human besides our target. This took some of the fun out of the havoc and carnage I had hoped to indulge in, but rules were rules. Friggin’ Michael Myers had already put a hurt on the number of Trick or Treaters out and about, so I guess it was for the best. None of us wanted new year’s lottery to be called off for lack of victim participation. Rule Number Three is the toughest of them all. No one can see us but our prey… no one. That one’s a bitch! With all the scumbag meth-heads on the streets these days, parents are getting harder to avoid. All these damn millennials think it’s cool to go Trick or Treating with their kids and if a parent doesn’t, they’re reported to Social Services. I miss the good old days of conservative evangelism with Jimmy Swaggart and Jim Bakker’s PTL Club. Parents in those days were so naive about giving other’s their trust. Now, ANTIFA has everyone scared to trust anyone. Friggin’ liberals!

As the seconds before the first gate opened ticked away, I couldn’t help thinking about what lay ahead. Three kids… human veal… tender, sweet, and oh, so good to eat. I needed to control myself. My eyes were already beginning to glow brighter with anticipation, as were those of the others around me. (If we stayed this way, we’d make someone think they were following a friggin’ motorcycle gang.) Oh, don’t feel sorry for the little bastards. Like I said, most of the ones on the lists we were to be given were on their way to join us in Hell, anyway. In fact, rumor had it, Satan had gotten this whole idea from Santa Claus.

What? You roll your eyes at that? Shows what you know. Santa has elves, right? Elves are lazy bastards. Santa would do better to go to the Mexican border and hire his help there. At least it wouldn’t take two hundred of them to put together a friggin’ Transformer toy. Anyway, Santa uses elves to go through mail and decide who’s naughty and nice. One day, this elf says to the fat man, “Hey, why don’t we get Satan to eliminate some of those requests? He could send his demons out to feed on the naughty ones and cut our workload down a little. Every little bit helps!” So, Santa decides to use as his clean-up crew to help out his poor, overworked elves, and to save him from having to pay out for overtime hours.

Now, I hate to give the lazy bastards credit for anything. (It’s like, “How many elves does it take to screw in a lightbulb? Ten… all telling Mrs. Claus to get up off her big ass and do it!”) This, however, was a good idea. The first year of the lottery, Satan only allowed one demon to feast. Santa really bitched about that. So, the big red guy has annually increased the number we take.

A loud screeching overhead indicated the first level gate was open. This was to our prep and planning area. One by one, we showed our tickets to the guards and were given our individual victim/target lists and exit passes. Oh, my Devil, you wouldn’t believe the moans and groans, especially from the three millennial demons in our group. They always felt they were entitled to more than what they got. You know, crap like, “I want a big pit not a small one. It’s not fair they get one and I don’t. I went to college and they said we should have more than anyone else.”

There are times I wonder what’s happened on the surface world. It’s sure gone to Hell since I left it a couple of centuries ago. Our population explosion down here is proof of that.

I overheard some talking about their low chance of scoring a meal tonight. One had been given targets who were in juvenile detention and others in gang ridden neighborhoods. Both were unfavorable toward success. I envisioned Satan laughing his ass off when he had come up with those. It was his way of putting the Trick in the supposed Treat. Still, others had to pick theirs out of crowded city streets and apartment complexes… all again with huge chances of being seen. I was afraid a few would return to Hell as hungry as they’d left it. Taking the chance of breaking the rules and being seen would carry the penalty of losing their “Demon” status and returning to human form to be tortured. No meal was worth that.

My list showed promise. Being spread from East Coast to West, my hopes were granted with the advantage of having a three-hour difference in time zones. True, there was travel time involved, but with good weather, I could easily cover the ground necessary for a three-course meal. First, I had one in Providence, Rhode Island, then one in Oklahoma City, and then one in California in Huntington Beach. If I could snatch the first one quickly, I’d have no problem reaching the other two with time to spare.

“Demons, Start Your Wings!”

Lights were flashing and electric guitars were twanging… it was almost time. All of us, even the moaners, began flapping wings like crazy, hovering just in front of the starting line. (I hadn’t had such anticipation since watching the British light the first torch to burn down the Presidential Mansion in 1814.) When the lighting flashes in front of us, the race was on. You never saw a group head so fast up to the surface in your death… err… life. It was a mad rush, each pushing and shoving the others, like there was only one commode in the bathroom and we all had a bad case of diarrhea.

I immediately headed to the East coast. I had little time to waste, so I engaged myself to lead the pack. One by one, they faded away into the lights of the cities below, the last of them being two of my friends from work. Neither had much chance of feasting. New York was a nightmare. Few dressed up for Halloween there. With all the Drag Queens and Kings, half the population dressed like it was Halloween daily.

Within minutes, I was over Milford, Connecticut with the lights of Providence looming just ahead. I did a quick review of the directions on my phone and headed onward. (How demons ever got around before MapQuest is beyond me.) My first challenge to this target would be to locate him outside of his apartment. This would be my only complex dweller, the other two residing in their own houses. Plus, Providence was larger than I had remembered it.

Oh, my devil, I neglected to tell you how we were to know which kid was our target. (Yeah, time for another info dump. I’m practicing my skills, can’t you see?) Hunger does that to a person… makes them forget things. As children perform bad deeds, they earn an aura which can only be seen by selected demons, like myself. The more evil they do, the brighter the aura. First, it’s white, then yellow, then orange, and for the really bad ones… our targets… it’s bright red. This aura can be seen through every type of vehicle or structure. So, if we’re flying overheard and the target is inside the building, we can see exactly where they’re at. Bad thing for us is the aura only illuminates the evil one, no one else. (See, you were afraid we’d fly overhead and see you screwing around on your spouse with your battery powered lover, weren’t you?)

Locating my prey, he appeared to be going down an inside stairway and headed out onto the street. The best I could hope for was that he was alone.

He wasn’t.

Out from the building comes this eleven-year-old, with another youngster tagging along beside him. I’m guessing it was his sister, much smaller and younger… and without my aura. First thing this boy does is yank her so hard he damn near disconnects her arm from her shoulder socket. Of course, she starts crying, so he slaps her and yells, “Shut your fucking mouth!” He then drags her to the alley and sits her ass down in a puddle of dumpster rot, before taking off his vampire costume. It’s easy to see he could care less about Trick or Treating. This kid plans on scarfing up by stealing the candy gathered by others. (I almost hate to eat him. Such a nice lad.)

It’s early in the evening yet, so foot traffic on the street is light. Gradually, tired of being smacked around, his sister rests her head upon her knees and cries herself to sleep. No longer having her to pester, this kid takes his position at the alley entrance and keeps a lookout for any Trick or Treaters with full bags of treats. He has it all planned out. Well, almost. He never factored me in the equation.

I wait until just before the streetlamps are switched on and then silently swoop down into the alley behind him. I do a double check to make sure his sister is asleep (reminding myself to thank the kid for doing what he had to help me not be seen by her) and slip up behind him. I reached around, cover his mouth with my hand, and snap his neck, all in a split second. (Yeah, I have a bad memory. So much for thanking the little bastard.) As the boy fell back into my arms, I dug my claws into his shoulders and took flight. Just outside the city, I find a wooded area to land in and partake of my first meal.

I enjoyed stripping away his flesh and carefully chewing each mouthful, but hoped his taste wasn’t an indication of things to come. At eleven, he was borderline human veal. Kids seem to lose some of their sweetness as they get older. (Just look at Miley Cyrus.) Still, I couldn’t complain… fresh meat is fresh meat. Still, a little barbecue sauce would have helped nicely.

Feeling a little better with something in my stomach, I took to the friendly skies and made my way to Oklahoma City. Of all things, I ran into one hell of a rainstorm… more like a fuckin’ monsoon. The wind blew me halfway to Dallas and came close to putting me behind schedule with my luggage on another flight. Avoiding being dumped by overbooking, I finally made it to OKC. Checking my Smart Watch, I saw Trick or Treat time was nearly over. Plus, the storm I had been thrown had a sister here… and she was bringing a tornado along as a companion. I would have to hurry to make this one my second course.

My target was a young lady. While most little girls play with dolls, this one loved playing with animals… puppies and kittens to be exact. This seven-year-old got her jollies by dropping them off bridges, throwing them out of haylofts, and even pulling their legs from their bodies… one by one. She had taken her baby brother from his crib and bounced him down a flight of stairs while her mother had been playing a video game, and claimed he had managed it all by himself. She had the beginning of a future serial killer, for sure. This “Mommy’s Little Angel” had an extremely bright aura for a girl, even surpassing that of Lizzie Borden in her younger years.

Anyway, there she was being driven from house to house by her father, trying to hit as many homes as possible and get as much candy as she could before the weather shut her down. I knew I’d have to hurry. I’d already had a problem flying in the wind of the storm and a tornado would spoil my evening without a doubt. (I’d probably end up in Kansas with a damn little dog humping my leg while I clicked my heels together saying, “I wanna go home, I wanna go home.”) My only chance would be if I could get her father to shift his gauze away from her for a second or two. Thinking fast, as the girl walked up to the next house, I nose-dived at full speed, snapped a small limb off a tree, slammed it into the glass of his driver’s side window, and, while his attention was drawn the other way, plucked up his daughter, all in a split second. (Yeah, fuck Superman and the Flash, I’m faster than both of those suckers.)

Doing my best to get away before the storm caught up with me, I shook my head knowing I had almost messed it up. I had been traveling at such a rate of speed that I came close to snapping the girl’s head from off her neck. I’d have been pissed if that would have happened. Not only would it have left evidence as to what had taken place, but I would have missed out on sucking down her little brain. (Brains are a delicacy. All I do is fix my lips to her left ear and suck really hard. It’s my version of a Slurpee, minus the straw.)

With two decent meals under my scales, I pushed on to the West Coast singing,

“California here I come, gonna eat me another one.
So tender, so helpless, oh they taste good.
So sweet now, so young now, just like they should.
California here I come, have me waiting another one.
California here I come,
I’ll wipe my mouth when I am done!”

I know, but I’m a demon. You expected Taylor Swift? (Maybe, next Halloween.)

The last stop on my list was Huntington Beach. Ocean beaches, vacant shopping malls, and miles and miles of Chinese restaurants offering special combo platter pricing. (A city where the loneliest man in town is the dog catcher.) Passing over a car dealership, I realized I had a few extra minutes and headed out over the ocean, hoping to see a shark grabbing a bite from a night surfer or swimmer. Once again, California proved itself to be all talk and no show as none were feeding. Disappointed, I turned back and went to seek out my third course, or dessert, if you will.

This target was indeed a special child. Barely six years old, she had already been showing powers far beyond those of many residing in the management offices of Hell. It was rumored that Satan himself had been her father on a visit to the human realm. Her mother, a topless dancer, had loved the size of his wallet and taken him home for a night. Yeah, you and I both know it only takes once.

Unknown to him, she’d set up her phone camera to record the event. Under threat of blackmail, Satan gave in to her demands of support, seeing how he knew how a trial would come out. (OJ had lucked out, but he had a glove. If Satan had worn a glove, he wouldn’t be in such a mess.) So, he had managed to indirectly provide the woman with cash whenever she ran short. Once, there had been a suitcase full of cash tossed in her yard by drug smugglers being chased by the police. Next, an armored car had smashed into a tree and caught fire next door. By some quirk of fate, one of the main deposit bags had flown through her bedroom window and never sought by the authorities. He had even set up her finding a mouse in a bowl of fast food chili. That had brought in a huge payoff. But, no matter how much she got, it was gone before you could ask, “Harvey Weinstein did what?” No, the mother was no angel, now or in the future. Satan couldn’t wait for her day in Hell. He was paying now, but she would pay later.

The daughter was following her mother’s example, but with powers most humans never had. The first incident took place two years before, during a kindergarten class. After stealing another girl’s doll, and ripping the appendages and head from its torso, she had gotten mad and turned the doll owner’s hair into the color and smell of vomit. It had stayed that way… even after being shaved and new hair had grown in. (To this day, the girl’s parents accept donations from those who think the youngster is going through chemotherapy.) Another time, she had been mad at being teased by a neighbor’s boy while visiting at their pool. When their parents had gone inside to prepare drinks, she had levitated the boy high above the pool and then dropped him. Sad thing was he missed the water, and instead, landed on the concrete side, instantly killing him. (Gotta admit, she had perfect aim.) Those two instances were just the beginning of things to come. Over the last couple of years, the young girl had gotten progressively worse.

Satan wasn’t the type of guy to handle fatherhood well. He was sick and tired of the girl’s mother blaming all the girl did on him never being around and providing his daughter with the proper guidance. (Yeah, she was a millennial as well… a real blame shifter.) The big guy just wanted done with the whole mess. Being ever so coy, he had listed her as my third victim of the night. There was one catch. I had to restrain my appetite to the point of saving him one of her legs and thighs to munch on. Something to do with the expression, “A family that eats together…” or something like that. I forget.

So, I soon found myself flying over the section of Huntington Beach once known as “Little Saigon” by the locals. Having been home to Vietnamese refugees at one time, several generations still made the area their home. Locating my target, her aura nearly blinded me. In fact, it temporarily destroyed my night vision. I was flying blind as a bat and looked like one, too. After a few minutes, I regained my sight and could see the girl’s mother taking her door to door, doing the Trick or Treat thing. I had to chuckle a at an elderly woman who had originally come into the states from Asia and rejected the candy giving custom. As the youngster walked away empty handed, the trees in the old woman’s yard became magically covered with rolls and rolls of toilet paper. As if that wasn’t bad enough, it had been used and stunk to high Heaven!

Now, where the carload of young hoods came from, I have no idea. I have my suspicions the big red guy might have had a hand in it, but have no proof to that. I have to say their entrance couldn’t have been timed any better. As the girl and her mother walked along the section of sidewalk where the streetlamps had mysteriously burned out, the car slowed and those inside began shooting at the house behind the two. The loving mother dropped to the ground instantly and covered her head, forgetting about her meal ticket… err, daughter. Panicked, the young girl went running off across the street and tried hiding in the bushes. No, didn’t make a lot of sense to me either, but who’s complaining? With all attention being on the car and the house being shot at, I swooped down and snagged the girl.

Boom-wacka-boom-wacka-boom… just that easy!

I sat on the beach, watching the waves rush into the shore, eating my ever so sweet third course, and enjoying my Slurpee. About halfway finished, I found myself getting a headache, probably from too much MSG, and decided to not only save the requested parts, but to add in the heart and an arm as well for my boss. It never hurt to brown nose a little, even with a red guy.

The peaceful calm of the ocean began to grate on my nerves. Yes, I missed the screams of those being tortured back home in Hell. Having had my fill of the fishy smelling ocean breezes, I took flight, returned home an hour early, and made my way to give Satan his snack. I think I made some brownie points with him. He especially enjoyed the girl’s heart.

Retiring to my pit, I folded up my wings, lay back against the rocks, and patted my bloated stomach. It had been a wonderful Halloween. I’d eaten well, traveled and seen places I hadn’t visited in a while. Plus, I’d made my boss happy.

Lying here, I wonder, since I have been such a good demon, what Santa is going to bring me in a couple of months. I hope it will be the winning numbers to next year’s Halloween lottery.

“Yummy, yummy, yummy … more kids for the tummy!”

* P.S. Dear Santa, take that damn eggnog and shove it up Rudolph’s ass. That shit sucks!

What happens when a Yankee transplants to the South? What happens when Rhode Island meets New York City meets Bloomington, Indiana meets Mobile, Alabama meets Lexington, Kentucky … with Europe in between? What happens when a 70’s radio DJ becomes a stand-up comedian, and then a corporate training director and manager of sales? Richard Rumple!

“The advantage of living in many places is that you get to experience the best and worst each has to offer. From that, you get to know the people and what makes them tick. You’re able to look at life from the outside and see various points of view instead of living life wearing blinders.”

People and their stories are the essences of his writing. Relationships are the basis of his tales and the rest, be it the horror of reality, or horror of the paranormal are added to spice things up. His stories don’t end with the dismissal of the foes. They end with life moving on and your interest in where they may go from there.

It’s a different style of writing. Don’t pass by without experiencing it.

Horror Across the Alley

A book that will have you wondering every time a door slams in your home! Horror Across The Alley isn’t the typical book you’ll find on Amazon. It contains a cast of characters you’ll either love or hate, as well as those oddities you’d never want to meet. 

Renters move in but quickly move out … either on their own or by ambulance. Now, a recent military veteran moves in and finds another enemy to confront. Will he and his group of acquaintances survive, or will the spirits of the house claim more victims? You’ll need to “Add To Cart” to find out!

They Lurk in Summer

Summer vacation 1966… time for fun and excitement… NOT! “Stand By Me” meets “Cujo” when four pre-teens have to deal with a pack of man-eating dogs, venomous reptiles, a local thief and kidnapper, and much, much more. Action packed horror thriller that will have you wondering if you’ll ever go in the woods again!

Gabriela: Tales from a Demon Cat

Thirteen tales of horror from Gabriela’s past lives and those she’s heard in Hell while waiting to be reborn into her next. Demented human monsters as well as beasts of folklore, legend, and technology await you in these twisted stories. Advance readers have said, “I couldn’t sleep for days”, “You’ve got it down, now”, and “God, what a visceral read.” Don’t gamble with fate. Tame the demon cat before she seeks you out!

Deranged Minds: A Short Story Collection (with Charles Lynne)

From deranged minds come twenty-two horrific tales of misery, torture, and savage acts. Stories to give you nightmares… stories to make you wary of what lurks in the dark. How will the shadows you see out of the corner of your eye haunt your very soul? How will those you trust plot your demise? Are your demons real, or only in your mind? The pages within provide answers to your questions. Are you brave enough to take the demented journey? Do you dare? 

Train of Blood

One of the last wagon trains heads west facing numerous dangers. The wagon master has dealt with most on previous trips… disgruntled travel companions, terrible weather, deadly reptiles, vicious wild animals… all common to him. Yet, there is a new beast stalking in the darkness. A creature created by the magic of the medicine men of numerous tribes, more savage and dangerous than he’s ever faced. Will any survive?

Halloween Extravaganza: INTERVIEW: Joanna Koch

Meghan: Hi, Joanna! Welcome back to my annual Halloween Extravaganza! It’s been awhile since we sat down together. What’s been going on since we last spoke?

Joanna Koch: Hi Meghan! Thank you for having me back. Since we talked about Doorbells At Dusk last Halloween, I’ve had about a dozen stories published in journals and anthologies. A project I’m especially thrilled to be part of is Not All Monsters, edited by Brahm Stoker award winner Sara Tantlinger! It’s a privilege to work with her. My story “The Revenge of Madeline Usher” will be included along with so many amazing female authors. I’m still a bit speechless. There will be a deluxe hardcover version with gorgeous illustrations by Don Noble (Twitter), and the images I’ve seen released on social media are fierce.

Meghan: Who are you outside of writing?

Joanna Koch: Addicted to privacy, a lover of silence. I work a day job dealing with financial and quality control matters in a hectic environment; lawful evil surrounded by chaotic good. I’m a former counselor. I’m an artist, too, although most of my energy goes into writing now.

Meghan: How do you feel about friends and close relatives reading your work?

Joanna Koch: I try not to think about it. My inner critic is loud enough.

Meghan: Is being a writer a gift or a curse?

Joanna Koch: You know, it’s a drive to create or make a mark, the same as any other drive. I don’t like perpetuating the myth of talent and gifts and all that. You follow your drive and make something, or you don’t. Instead of a gift or a curse, let’s call it a choice, a way to direct energy.

Meghan: How has your environment and upbringing colored your writing?

Joanna Koch: I’ve moved around the US and experimented with a variety of lifestyles. I feel like I’ve lived enough different lives to give me a good pool of material to draw upon, and heard a plethora of stories and secrets as a counselor.

Meghan: What’s the strangest thing you have ever had to research for your books?

Joanna Koch: How to make compost out of dead bodies in outer space.

Meghan: Which do you find the hardest to write: the beginning, the middle, or the end?

Joanna Koch: The middle. Until recently I exclusively wrote short stories without bulk in the middle. Moving on to pieces where I want more character change, I find I need more time to get through the arc while staying true to the character. But it’s challenging to linger. My natural tendency is to get in, stir some shit, and get out quick.

Meghan: Do you outline? Do you start with characters or plot? Do you just sit down and start writing? What works best for you?

Joanna Koch: I go with something that hooks me. It might be a character, an event, a feeling, an abstract idea, a memory or impression from my life. Or someone else’s. I trust there’s a pattern to what captures my interest, start running with it, and apply logic and orderliness along the way.

Meghan: What do you do when characters don’t follow the outline/plan?

Joanna Koch: I try to get to know them better.

Meghan: What do you do to motivate yourself to sit down and write?

Joanna Koch: I sit down and write. I’m too impatient for writer’s block. Besides, I’m getting old. I’ll be dead soon. I don’t have time to waste.

Meghan: Are you an avid reader?

Joanna Koch: There are so many books I want to read! I can’t keep up. Yes, I love reading and always have, even long before I tried to write.

Meghan: What kind of books do you absolutely love to read?

Joanna Koch: I like writing that is both intellectual and shocking, realistic and poetic. beautiful and ugly, that takes me to an unexpected place. I want it all!

Meghan: How do you feel about movies based on books?

Joanna Koch: They are separate mediums. One cannot replace the other.

Meghan: Have you ever killed a main character?

Joanna Koch: This is difficult to answer. I’ve been playing with boundaries and ambiguities surrounding identity, existence, and physical integrity lately with my main characters. I have definitely killed villains and libidinal objects. My work is not always wholesome.

Meghan: Do you enjoy making your characters suffer?

Joanna Koch: Not exactly. I’m interested in testing characters and exploring how they fail, because I think we all do that. I’m interested in what we do with suffering and how it changes us. I want to get more into that in the future.

Meghan: What’s the weirdest character concept that you’ve ever come up with?

Joanna Koch: My current main character is three characters that will be a single entity by the end of the story. One of their current forms is that of a hemimetabolous insect.

Meghan: What’s the best piece of feedback you’ve ever received?

Joanna Koch: “Readers are smart; you don’t have to tell them everything.” This sounds obvious, but it’s what I needed to hear at the time to move forward.

Meghan: What’s the worst?

Joanna Koch: The critique that a female character who’s my own age is “out of character” or “not believable” if she swears or makes racy remarks. Apparently I’m a badly written human.

Meghan: What do your fans mean to you?

Joanna Koch: Do I have fans? That’s a lovely idea. When someone takes the time to let me know they appreciate a story, it means the world to me. It’s not only the ego-gratification; it’s about the way I get attached to a story or the characters in them and want them to have a life of their own outside of my head. Readers give them that life!

Meghan: If you could steal one character from another author and make them yours, who would it be and why?

Joanna Koch: Uh-oh, I didn’t know I wasn’t allowed to steal! I stole Madeline Usher from Poe because I wanted to give her a voice.

Meghan: What can we expect from you in the future?

Joanna Koch: My first stand alone work – a novella called “The Couvade” – is in the editing phase and will be published soon. I’ve been invited to create a longer serialized piece that I’m working on now with an editor I trust. It’s the biggest challenge I’ve ever taken on, and I’m filled with fear that I won’t be able to pull it off. I’ll keep faking confidence and let you know next year if it works out!

Meghan: Where can we find you?

Joanna Koch:

Website ** Twitter ** Amazon

Meghan: Do you have any closing words for your fans or anything you’d like to say that we didn’t get to cover in this interview or the last?

Joanna Koch: Thank you, Meghan, for inviting me back; thank you to readers who indulge me while going through this process of becoming a writer. I’ve delved into variations in style and content over the past year that range from fairy tale to splatter. I think I will always be a work in progress and I hope you enjoy the ride!

Author Joanna Koch writes literary horror and surrealist trash. Her short fiction has been published in journals and anthologies such as Synth, Honey & Sulphur, and In Darkness Delight: Masters of Midnight. Look for her novella, The Couvade, coming soon. Consumer her monstrous musings at Horrorsong.

In Darkness Delight: Masters of Midnight

Midnight strikes like an invocation, clock hands joining in prayer to the darkness. After the twelfth chime, there’s no escaping the nightmare.

Fear reigns supreme.

In Darkness, Delight is an original anthology series revealing the many facets of modern horror—shocking and quiet, pulp and literary, cold-hearted and heart-felt, weird tales of spiraling madness alongside full-throttle thrillers. Open these pages and unleash all-new terrors that consume from without and within.

Midnight is here. It’s now time to find . . . In Darkness, Delight.

Featuring stories by:
Josh MalermanOne Thousand Words on a Tombstone – Delores Ray
William MeikleRefuge
Jason ParentViolet
Ryan C. ThomasWho Are You?
Mark MatthewsTattooed All in Black
Evans LightOne Million Hits
Lisa LepovetskyKruze Nite
Israel FinnThe Pipe
Patrick LaceyIn the Ground John McNee: Dogsh*t Gauntlet
Michael BrayLetters
Monique YouzwaRules of Leap Year
Billy ChizmarMirrors
Espi KvltPulsate
Paul MichaelsAngel Wings
Andrew LennonRun Rabbit Run
Joanna KochEvery Lucky Penny is Another Drop of Blood

Halloween Extravaganza: Russell James: My Review of Corporate Wolf

The werewolf myth is two millennia old. That’s a lot of furry fireside stories, a lot of novels, a lot of movies. The familiarity of the genre means anyone wanting to play in that sandbox needs to bring his A-game.

In CORPORATE WOLF, Stuart West does.

Our hero is Shaun, a worker bee in the huge Lerner Solutions Corporation living a cubicle slave life. He’s a bit adrift in his job, wondering if he’s promotable, wondering if he wants to be. After a corporate retreat goes south, he doesn’t feel like the man he used to be, and that’s where lycanthropy takes the stage.

Shaun is a well-defined everyman, struggling with the ennui and the politics of work life. His “best work buddy” Redmond is the gregarious slacker everyone has worked with at some point in their life. Damon Brogan leads the pack (pun intended) of Lerner managers and is the rah-rah boss people hate to work for. West does a good job painting all his main characters through dialogue and action.

What sets this apart from other werewolf tales is the clear parallels highlighted between the canine Alpha lead/pack mentality and common attributes of the corporate world. By the end you are wondering if there are any leaders in corporate America who AREN’T werewolves.

There are many twists and turns in the plot, so I won’t kill the story by listing any here. There’s a lot of murderous action, but none of the descriptions rise to the splatterpunk level. West also leavens in a bit of humor to break the tension, but not enough to push it into Abbott and Costello Meet the Wolfman territory.

If you are a fan of fur and fangs, this will be howling good horror for you.

Corporate Wolf

The Writing Game

Stuart West might be an unfamiliar name to you. Check on Stuart West’s Amazon Author Page and you’ll be surprised to see over twenty works under his name, none being self-published. How does someone do that and be unknown?

Small presses.

Different from vanity presses you pay to put things in print, small presses still pay you. Usually not with an advance, but definitely with royalties. They are generally selective, unwilling to spend precious time and effort on a work that won’t pay back. They are also usually run by mega fans of the genre, and those folks know what’s good and what isn’t.

The small press problem is raising consumer awareness in an advertising-cluttered world. And that’s how a writer like West keeps leaping the hurdle to make the cut for publication and still you might still not have heard of him.

So I recommend you avert your eyes from the big publishers and the big names every now and then, and look at some titles from established smaller presses and from authors with a track record. Invest a few minutes in those preview pages Amazon makes available. There are diamonds out there like CORPORATE WOLF waiting to be discovered.

Russell James grew up on Long Island, New York and spent too much time watching late night horror. After flying helicopters with the U.S. Army, he now spins twisted tales, including horror thrillers Dark Inspiration, Q Island, and The Playing Card Killer. His Grant Coleman adventure series covers Cavern of the Damned, Monsters in the Clouds, and Curse of the Viper King. He resides in sunny Florida. His wife reads his work, rolls her eyes, and says “There is something seriously wrong with you.”

Website ** Twitter ** Email (say hello)

CLAWS

National Park Service Rangers Kathy West and Nathan Toland are the only ones stationed at Fort Jefferson, a restored Civil War fort sixty miles off Key West, Florida. Two overnight campers go missing, but before the rangers can investigate, shady Homeland Security agent Glen Larsson arrives to close the park due to a purportedly imminent red tide. 

Things quickly escalate out of control when mercenaries arrive to back up Larsson and imprison the rangers. Larsson’s plan is to free a cast of giant crabs to overrun the park, and then Florida beyond.

It’s up to Kathy and Nathan to escape the fort, and then, with the help of an old Coast Guard vet and a scientist with inside knowledge of the plot, to save millions of innocents from rampaging giant crabs. But Larsson’s evil plan has been decades in the making, and the crabs seem indestructible. It will take courage, teamwork, and perhaps the ultimate sacrifice, to avert disaster.

Halloween Extravaganza: INTERVIEW: Jon M. Jefferson

Meghan: So, you’ve made it back for round three, Jon, where the questions get more and more difficult.

What are your go-to horror films?

Jon M. Jefferson: This is where things get a little weird. I am not strictly a horror writer. I don’t have a list of horror films that I could consider a go-to. Now there are some tropes in movies that really get me though. Monsters in their various forms or super cheesy over the top gore. Stuff like that hits me in my giggle places.

Meghan: What makes the horror genre so special?

Jon M. Jefferson: And this is still a tough one to define. My forte is within the realm of speculative fiction. Horror has a place in there but it isn’t the only thing for me. Now with that said, we can step into a deeper thought of horror. It’s one of those things that can hit us on a primal level. I’m talking about more than just jump scares or slasher stuff. It’s the truly horrific that digs deep into our psyche.

We’ve been watching the show Goliath on Amazon. In the first season there is this scene. Billy Bob Thornton is walking next to his current love interest when she is run down by a van. It’s a fast moment where the realization of what just happened takes a moment to settle into your brain. But you feel it on this deeper level and the reality of it stays with you.

Meghan: Have any new authors grasped your interest recently?

Jon M. Jefferson: I’m horrible at this. I’ve actually been catching up on some older stuff, especially in comics. The more recent books I’ve read have been from series that I have been reading for years. I dare say I am probably about two years behind the times right now.

Meghan: How big of a part does music play in creating your “zone”? What do you listen to while writing?

Jon M. Jefferson: Music is life. I listen to probably more than most sane people should. And it falls into quite a few categories.

Right now I am listening to mindless self indulgence. You just get these moments where you need to sing the words mother fucker with abandon.

I have this thing though… I’m big into specific female vocalists. And it’s something you wouldn’t expect of me. I’m talking, Diana Krall, Vanessa Carlton, even Sade. Their voices and music brings to mind smoke filled beer halls. Maybe a rocks glass with whiskey and a single cube of ice. It’s a mood, a place outside of time where ideas congregate.

Meghan: How active are you on social media? How do you think it affects the way you write?

Jon M. Jefferson: Depends on how you mean active. I mean, I’m a troll and take pleasure with shit posting memes that offend. I’m not sure this has anything to do with writing.

Meghan: What is your writing Kryptonite?

Jon M. Jefferson: I’m not sure I understand the question. My writing is nothing like green rocks from an alien planet.

Meghan: If you were making a movie of your latest story/book, who would you cast?

Jon M. Jefferson: Is this a trick question? I would cast me as the lead, duh… I’m pretty and have personality coming out my hinie.

Meghan: If you had the choice to rewrite any of your books, which one would it be and why?

Jon M. Jefferson: Not a one. I’m a different person than I was when I wrote them. I don’t reject who I was. That person helped me get to the person I am now.

Meghan: What would the main character in your latest story/book have to say about you?

Jon M. Jefferson: “That fucker? What the fuck do you want to talk about him for”

Meghan: Did you hide any secrets in your books that only a few people will find?

Jon M. Jefferson: Hell, I hide shit in there that even I can’t find. You make it sound like I might know what I’m doing.

Meghan: How much of yourself do you put in your books?

Jon M. Jefferson: Depends on the story and the characters.

Meghan: Have you ever incorporated something that happened to you in real life into your novels?

Jon M. Jefferson: I have stolen the lives of others to put into stories. That stuff just does what it wants to do.

Meghan: Are your characters based off real people, or did they all come entirely from your imagination?

Jon M. Jefferson: I am haunted by dumbasses.

Meghan: How do you think you’ve evolved creatively?

Jon M. Jefferson: The older I get the more I identify with red foreman.

Meghan: What is the most difficult part of your artistic process?

Jon M. Jefferson: Currently, finding a moment when I can keep my eyes open long enough to do something.

Meghan: Does writing energize or exhaust you?

Jon M. Jefferson: Life exhausts me. Telling stories is one of those things you can do for fun. It’s less draining on paper than in real life.

Meghan: Do you read your book reviews? How do you deal with the bad ones? Have you ever learned something from a negative review and incorporated it into your writing?

Jon M. Jefferson: What other people think about me is none of my business.

Meghan: What are your ambitions for your writing career? What does “literary success” look like to you?

Jon M. Jefferson: The ultimate goal is always going to be making enough money from this bit of professional lying to go full time pro. Sadly, it isn’t always as easy as it looks. There are things you have to do as a professional liar that seems so counter revolutionary to the process. I mean, sometimes you actually have to do stuff. And no one wants to be a part of that.

Jon Jefferson writes Speculative fiction with forays into Noir and Bizarro. His stories have appeared in the 2013 Indies Unlimited Flash Fiction Anthology, and the Weird Tales Magazine web site. His work can also be found on Amazon and Smashwords. Flash fiction stories can be found at his site Misadventures in Strange Places or his anthologies, short stories, and Novellas can be found at his Amazon Author page. 

A longtime fan of Science Fiction and Fantasy stories in all their forms, he has spent most of his life looking for magic in the everyday moments of life.  He hails from the tundra of Southwest Michigan. The monsters in his life include his wife, two daughters and grand babies.

Website ** Books2Read

The Nothing’s Child

Zack, Zack Goldman, pleased to meet you. I’m a runner. I know you don’t know what that is. It’s better if I just show you. 

See this wire? Yeah, this one here coming out of my arm. This is my connection to the net. You probably don’t know that one either. I’ll get to that. 

There was a time when wireless was the way to go. Everything connected in what they used to call clouds. The world was easier then. 

Then we found true virtual reality. Jammed that shit straight into our brains. Wireless wasn’t fast enough. We’re talking full on change in perception of worlds here. The MMOs that people used to play were immersive, you were part of their world. Kid’s play. 

The net changed all that. World Dynamics created the first neural net. A virtual world built in the user’s mind. Sure, it was electronic, and computers were a key component. Hell, you have to have a deck as part of your interface. But when you are logged into the net, the physical world is the world your programming creates. 

Sure, it’s all still data, nothing but 1s and 0s. It’s your user interface that sets the stage and builds the world you see. Like I said, I’m a runner. In the old world they might have called me a hacker. I specialize in data retrieval.

And I’m late. So, if you will excuse me, I have work to do.

Halloween Extravaganza: Steven Wynne: STORY: God’s Graffiti

Steven Wynne is a very talented guy, and to have the honor of sharing another one of his shorts during my Halloween Extravaganza frivolities makes me happy. I hope you enjoy it as much as I do. And make sure you check out the interview with him.


Man, you must have really fucked up to get yourself down here. Like, really fucked up, as in ‘I’ve been down here a long, long time, and I’ve never seen ’em bring anyone else down here’ kinda fucked up. You start a riot out in general, or something? Kill a couple guards? I mean, there are protocols and procedures for things like that, but those guys usually just go to solitary. I would love to hear what the hell you did to get yourself next to me.

Don’t worry, the guards are gone. Once they drop you off, they wait around about 15 minutes before they head back off to wherever. I like to think they stick around because they like my singing. I got this great little number for when they drop off my food. You wanna hear it? No? Ah, don’t worry. Chances are you’ll be here for a while. You’ll get to hear it soon enough. I’m a great singer. You gotta keep yourself occupied in here, you know that. You can lose your mind if you don’t have something to fill the time and keep you thinking. I’ve seen it happen. It ain’t pretty. Believe me, I’ve been here a long goddamn time, and I’ve seen my share of psychotic and schizophrenic breaks among you younger guys. You’d better start singing, or get a rock or paperclip and start etching the walls or something. Get your mind working, son, or it will unravel.

I know I don’t look old at all, fella. Shit, they ain’t talking about me up there anymore? Jesus, did all the lifers I knew back in the day die already? What year is it? 2015? God damn, that means I’m how old? Shit. . .

Well, sorry for whatever brought you down here. If you’re anything like me, it wasn’t entirely your fault. Sure, you might have fucked up, and fucked up pretty badly, but circumstances just happened to let the absolute worst people to see it saw it. Lo and behold, you find yourself in the Chokey.

No, that ain’t what this place is really called. Just a nickname, can’t remember where it came from. Actually, now that I think about it, I don’t think this place has a real name. Maybe it did, at one point, when confinement like this didn’t fit the definition of ‘cruel and unusual punishment’. I guess it is really called the Chokey now, seeing as we’re the only people here who call it anything.

So, tell me. What’d you do? How’d you wind up down here with little old me? Hmm. Quiet type, I see. Well, no worries. I can do the talking until you’re ready. You’ll talk. Everyone talks. You may have lost your mind by that point, but you’ll start spilling some kinda beans. For both our sake, please try to find it in yourself to talk before then. You’ll be glad you did.

Shit man, you ain’t that old at all. Young, snotty, arrogant, all full of yourself, thinking you can throw yourself at the world and make it flinch. I got that right? Well, bang-up job so far, kid. And, if what brought me down here is any indicator, you’re down here because you’re never getting out of this fucking place, either. Lifer, right? At your age, too. Bad luck, man.

I can already tell, looking at you now, you’re gonna be an ugly one. You’re gonna keep them walls up, keep them emotions and feelings locked in. Hell, you might even be able to keep ’em up until the end, but they’ll crumble with you like a failed state. And man, it’s gonna hurt, knowing you could have just avoided some goddamn pain and opened up, told someone about who you were. You’ll die, and the last thing you’ll hear is me, sitting here, counting down your last breaths, and I’ll just tell you, ‘We could have had something, you and I’.

Oh, shit, where are my manners? This is no way to make an introduction. Please accept my humble apology, my dear young murdering neighbor. I hope I’m wrong about you, and you come to treasure my company as I’m already enjoying yours. My bed’s actually a lot nicer than the ones were out in general, when I was still out there. By the looks of it, yours is the same make. If it weren’t for this fucking light they’ve got on 24/7, you could actually get some decent sleep. C’est la vie.

You a praying man, newbie? Religious at all? I used to be. Don’t do a whole lot of good in here, I don’t mind saying. I don’t mind that my folks took me to church when I was kid, though I hated it. Every fucking Sunday, waking up to go to some goddamn stuffy building with shitty organ music and some dick in a robe telling me how I’d be going to hell for not giving him my money, and then Satan would buttfuck me for jerking off.

Oh, that reminds me: you can jerk off if you want. Just let me know when the urge hits. I can look away, if that makes it easier. No judgment. We all got our needs, and ain’t one of us higher than the other.

Don’t look at me like that. Just being honest, man. Look, all I’m saying is I wanna be as respectful as possible, but you’re gonna see me jerking off. I ain’t gonna stop that on account of you being here, but I just want you to know that it’s completely normal, and we’re both adults who can take care of ourselves. You ain’t gonna go to hell for it.

Where was I? Oh, the preacher, right. Well, he talked a good game. Getting people over to his side, scaring em all with that hell talk. Satan wants to torture you, God’s all love, and he loves you and wants your love too, he made you just the way you are and set everything in motion, yadda yadda, hell, thou, sin, torture, love, heaven, paradise, all that jazz. You’ve heard that all before, right?

Well, lemme learn you something, kid. It ain’t all bullshit. There is a God, don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. He’s the whole reason I’m in this place. Well, I guess he’s the reason everyone’s in here, that whole ‘plan’ of his. Well, whatever good that whole ‘plan’ is worth, anymore.

See, they say God is omniscient, omnipotent, and omnipresent. Shit, God himself says that, but I can tell you something right now; one of those is a lie, another is impossible, and I can’t figure on the last. I don’t know about him being in all places, but I think there’s something else going on with that one. However, I can tell you that God doesn’t know everything about everything and everyone all the time. He might have some ways of finding that shit out, but at best, he’s just good at sniffing out lies and looking around.

Now, as for being all-powerful, that’s a wrench in the spokes of an already shitty argument. See, you can’t be ‘all-powerful’; it ain’t possible. I heard some apologists and bible bangers stopped saying ‘all-powerful’, and started saying ‘maximally powerful’, because I guess someone called ’em on their shit, and they realized they had to move the goal posts. That ain’t right, though; God ain’t maximally powerful. They had it right the first time, when it was a contradiction.

Get this: If God is all-powerful, can he make a rock so big he can’t move it? If the answer is yes, he ain’t all powerful because, well, he can’t move it. If the answer is no, well, shit. You get the idea.

Now, get this: the answer to that question? Can God make a rock so big, even he can’t move it?

Yes.

You go on, pacing like that, acting like you don’t hear me. As long as I keep talking, it’ll give your mind something to work on, and you’ll stay sane. If I stop talking, and if we just sit in silence like kids at a Pentecostal dinner, then you’ll lose your shit. So, keep listening.

See, the whole reason I’m here is I fucked up God’s plan. He’d been building that big-ass rock up for so long, and he was just so in love with the fucking thing, he didn’t even notice what he was building it on top of was totally unstable. So, when the ground got ripped out from under it, and he couldn’t do anything about it. And all because of little old. Just some eighteen year old kid taking his Dad’s Tucker out for a drive.

Oh, that get your attention, did it? And no, don’t look at me like that, I ain’t a spoiled little brat. This was years ago. You weren’t even born yet, I guarantee. Shit, your parents might not have been born. Tuckers were still rare then, but not entirely out of place with the time.

All this took place on May 16th, 1956. Eisenhower and Nixon were in office, and I destroyed a plan set in motion at the dawn of time by just being a stupid fucking kid.

Yeah, I told you I was older than I looked. No, I ain’t crazy.

I was out with some friends at a party. Just about to graduate high school, and we were letting loose and kicking back some drinks, having a good old time, thinking about where we’d go to college and plans for the future. We were good kids, for the most part. Wish I knew what happened to any of those guys, Brian and Mike, but they kinda steered clear of me after everything went down.

So, it’s well after midnight, and I’m trying to keep this bastard on the road. Tied one on pretty good with the guys, and the road’s crawling everywhere under the tires. I start drifting in and out, the coffee I had before I left isn’t helping one bit. Maybe I take a couple turns too sharp, maybe I run a stop sign or two. I don’t remember what happened or what I did, but suddenly everything explodes. The steering wheel tries to pull my spine through my chest, the windows turn into snow and fall all over me, and the world stops spinning so fast, vertigo rips everything from my stomach and throws it onto the dash.

For a few seconds, I’m frozen. Somewhere, metal is crumbling and crashing, then stops. Blood, bile, gasoline, steam, and smoke kick me in the nose and jerk me back into consciousness. In the blink of an eye, I’m sober as a judge. There’s a full moon, and it’s giving enough light to see the Tucker’s fucked like it spent the night with Fatty Arbuckle. I can’t open the door, so I knock out the rest of the glass that’s still hanging on and climb out the window. My chest and ribs hurt, my head’s bleeding, but that’s about all that’s wrong with me. I’m looking around, trying to see what the fuck I hit when all of a sudden, the Sun comes out.

It comes from behind the moon, some impostor satellite that gives no daylight, and it starts speeding down to Earth, and I swear, I can tell this thing is heading right for me. Lights start dancing ahead of me, a little off to the left. There’s a bridge just ahead, and as the lights intensify, they reveal skid marks that shoot off the road and become torn earth.

A sound, a wailing, screaming din I’ve never felt before rumbles through my entire body as the missile keeps falling from above. I’m walking, following the skid marks into the grass, even though I don’t want to see what’s there. The tracks stop at a harsh drop, about twenty feet down into a rocky creek bed where a car is upside down and torn completely to shreds. Something’s sizzling and hissing from the exposed undercarriage.

This voice comes from above, and it’s screaming at me, ‘What have you done? What have you done?’ I’m already asking myself, What the fuck did I do? So, me and the big man are in agreement on this one.

And then, I find myself in the presence of God, hisownself. He’s staring me down, and lemme tell you, he is fucking pissed. Funny thing, though, he looks like a regular person, apart from all the glowing and floating bullshit. Anthropomorphic. Guess we were made in his image, after all. He looks at me, and then he looks down at the car I just smashed up, and for a while, he doesn’t move or speak or anything, just leaves me to piss myself in silence and confusion. I mean, picture it. You just wrecked your dad’s car and killed some other fella in the process, and all of a sudden, you learn God is real and you’ve pissed him off enough to reveal himself to you.

. . . I think I pissed myself before he finally spoke to me, but I’m not sure, I can’t remember exactly when that happened. But, he’s looking down at the wreck when he finally says, ‘You killed them all. They’re all dead.’

He turns his head and snarls, ‘You have ruined everything! Two thousand years of planning, of waiting for the right moment! Everything you know, everything you’ve seen, all of it wasted! You have doomed the entire human race!’

So, after I add a considerable helping of shit to my already soggy pants, I say to God, ‘What?’

So then, God screams at me and, holy shit, you have no clue how painful it is to hear God scream, but he screams, ‘The Antichrist was in that car!’

So, you know much about the Antichrist, end times, all that bullshit? Yeah, I didn’t either around then, just that the Antichrist was supposed to be some bad guy who brings about Armageddon and the Rapture and all that. So, I keep staring at God, because I’m completely following everything that’s happening and am not standing mute in awestruck terrified confused in twice soiled britches.

God goes on. ‘The Antichrist is dead! Now, there is no one to bring about the end times! No one to unite the world for seven years, no one to lead following the Rapture! His coming was foretold, the world was ripe for his leadership, and you cut him down before he was old enough to walk!’

Hell of a way to learn you killed a baby, man. I mean, the baby was gonna grow up to be a pretty bad dude, but still. Now, I don’t know what it was that got my head and tongue free enough to start talking, but talk back, I did. I think maybe, it was just trauma after trauma, shock after shock until some verbal bat hit me upside the brain stem and got me back in the moment. So, I say to God, ‘Can’t you just make another one?’

God turns red, all burning bright and angry, and screams again. ‘It has been foretold! Prophesied! You dare question, you dare challenge the Lord, Your God?!’

Me, I look back at God, and I say, ‘You’re God! Can’t you do anything? You can’t bring them back to life?’ They say he did that, you know.

He grows to double the size, right in front of me, and screams again, ‘It was a divine plan! A perfect plan! It cannot be altered in any way! It must be fulfilled exactly as it was foretold when Man first fell!’

And suddenly, he gets right in my face, and man, God sure can be a scary motherfucker. He says to me, ‘And you have doomed mankind, until the prophecy can be fulfilled once more!’

I say to God, ‘What?’ I’m pistol quick, bud. Believe me.

God tells me that the end times were gonna come about in my lifetime. Some shit with the Cold War, Russians and Communists and what all, and he would finally be able to wage war on Satan and reclaim his kingdom, bring all his children home, all the shit in the Bible. He tells me it has to happen this one specific way, exactly as it was laid out, and now, he’s gotta do it all over again. I mean, everything from the New Testament on, can’t do any of that old time Leviticus shit, nobody could get away with that now, man. .

Anyway, he tells me that everything’s going to happen again, and it’s going to take time. It’s gonna be a couple thousand years before another Antichrist can be born, and maybe this time, the divine plan won’t get fucked up by some stupid kid who apparently has the power to fuck up the pillars of Western Monotheism.

And, get this: the kicker is, he says, I’m gonna be around to see it. God says to me, ‘In my creation you shall remain until the divine plan is seen through, and my children return to me. Not a day shall you age; you shall languish in the lowest places. I shall mark you as Cain; no man shall harm you as you serve my sentence. As I have said, so it shall come to pass.’

Then, poof: God disappears. And that’s how the cop out on patrol found me; alone in the road, reeking of booze right next to two wrecked cars and three dead people. I get booked. It’s an open and shut case, and boom. Granted immortality just in time to get life in prison. How do ya like that?

I’m 87 years old, and I still have zits. They threw me down here, what, in the nineties? Guess the state didn’t want to waste time figuring out my shit. Budget cuts, can’t afford scientists to come and do tests on me. Can’t erase the graffiti on the rock God made so goddamn big he couldn’t fucking move.

So, pal, that’s my story. Out of curiosity, on the outside, has the messiah come back yet? He should have been here by now. Is he American? Something else? Come on, man, you heard anything?

Oh, shit, where the hell did you go? God damn, did you. . . huh. Guards must have dragged him off while I was monologuing. How the hell did I miss that? Jesus. Ain’t right to have a man locked away with nobody to talk to, or introduce a guy and yank him away just 10 minutes later. Up and vanished, just like that. Hey, guard! Bring back my neighbor! Guard!

I need someone to talk to. You could lose your mind, not having anyone to talk to.

Steven Wynne writes dark fiction. His short fiction has appeared here and there, online and elsewhere. His metabolism is slowing down, and he looks bad. Like, have you seen him recently? Someone should call someone. He resides in Central Pennsylvania with his pain in the ass cat.

Reaper Black Book 1: Death’s Garden

The Lycan Valley Reaper has a new hobby — Gardening. He tends to each plant’s every need from seed to harvest. The black seeds bloom in the shadows, petals unfolding as the twisted vines take root in your mind. These 13 stories and 12 poems are planted, germinated and ready for the harvest. Souls collected from Edward Ahern * Shaun Avery * Ross Baxter * R Bratten Weiss * Jonah Buck * O.R. Dalby * JG Faherty * Dale W Glaser * Jill Hand * Michael H Hanson * Liam Hogan * Mathias Jansson * Jordan King-Lacroix * Chad Lutzke * A.M. Nestler * Kurt Newton * Gregory L Norris * Allan Rozinski * Susan A Sheppard * David F Shultz * Claire Smith * Max D Stanton * John McCallum Swain * Sara Tantlinger * Steven Wynne

I also have a short story, Escape Velocity, in the December 2016 edition of Sirens Call Ezine. (The link will redirect you to the .pdf that you can download.)

You can also find my short story, Fireflies, as part of a previous Halloween Extravaganza here, as well as my short Hallowen story, The Yellow Line, last year’s contribution, here.