Christmas Takeover 40: Edmund Stone: The Gift

The Gift

A Short Story by Edmund Stone
1,497 words

The stockings hung by the chimney with care. Tinsel glistened, glowing in the white lights on a small tree in the corner. Bobby worked on it for hours while his mommy slept. The nice lady at the Salvation Army gave him the supplies, along with warm cookies. He only hoped it would make mommy happy. She lay on the couch, an empty liquor bottle beside her. Her pipe still smoldering on the nightstand. If she’d known he went out today, she would yell at him, like she always did.

Bobby popped up when he heard the noise of mail falling through the shoot by the door. He’d sent a letter to Santa a month ago and was waiting for a reply. He shuffled through the envelopes until he found it, a gold one, addressed to him personally, from the North Pole! He ran down the hall to the living room.

“It came! It came!” he shouted. His mommy rolled off the couch.

“What the fuck is all this racket?!” she hissed. She raised her head and blinked her blood shot eyes at the shining lights on the little plastic tree. “Where the hell did that come from?”

“Do you like it, mommy? The lady down at the Army gave it to me. I put it up for you. It’s Christmas Eve!”

“What?! You ain’t supposed to go out when I’m sleeping! And you ain’t supposed to talk to strangers, especially those self-righteous assholes! Now, throw that shit away!”

“But, mommy.”

“Don’t but me, mister. Go to fucking bed!” she said, kicking the box the tree came in across the room. She stumbled into the kitchen, returned with a fresh bottle of vodka, took a swig, and plopped back on the couch. She reached for her pipe and took a drag. She blew the smoke in the air. Smiling with a mouth full of black teeth, she said, “You know, Santa’s not real. Now, go to your room!”

He turned, sulking away. “Is too,” he said under his breath.

He opened the bedroom door, hesitated, looked at his mommy, and sighed. Bobby jumped onto his bed, laying on his stomach. He opened the letter. It was gold and embossed with black letters; the print large and fancy. His fingers touched the lettering as he looked it over. There was one line printed in bold type:

Hi, Bobby. Have you been a good boy this year?

Bobby raised up, blinking his eyes. He considered the question. There was the time he hid his mom’s liquor from her. Bobby still felt the sting of the slap. He only tried to help. After she found it, she drank the whole bottle, and slept for a day. So, in a way he did make things better. She didn’t scream at him next morning. “Yes,” he said. Then, words began to appear on the letter.

Good to hear. I’ll be visiting soon. Think of something very special you want this year and write it here.

He thought about it. What would he like best? The possibilities are endless. But as he opened the bedroom door and saw mommy on the couch, her outstretched arm clutching the vodka bottle, he knew what he wanted more than anything.

Bobby’s mommy woke from her drunken stupor. Her head pounding, she reached for her pipe. Not there. He did it again.

“Bobby?! Give me my fucking pipe, or I’ll slap you into next week!” she said, her back cracking as she rose. She stumbled through the kitchen, pulled open a cabinet and grabbed a fresh bottle. Turning for the couch, she stopped, noticing a plate of cookies on the table. One or two had bites from them.

“The fuck?” she said. Did she buy cookies at the liquor store? As fucked up as she was yesterday, she wouldn’t have known. She shrugged, then saw a piece of gold paper near the cookie plate. She snatched it and started reading. It looked like a letter to Santa. What the hell was the little shit up to? The words, written at the bottom in Bobby’s handwriting, gave her pause.

I want a new mommy, it said. She snarled, crumpling the paper.

“Bobby?! Get out here now!” she bellowed. She’d had enough. He’d pay for this shit.

She started towards his room when she heard a knock on the door.

“Who is it?!”

“I’m here for the boy. You said come over Christmas morning,” a muffled voice came from outside the door.

She flung it open. A man stood there with a wad of cash in his hand. He considered her for a moment, then handed her the money.

“This is the right apartment? You told me to come for the boy. The deal is still on?”

She looked him up and down. His greasy hair was slicked back so tight, you would need a spatula to flip it to the side. His face was full of pock marks, and he had a gold tooth which gleamed from the light above the hall.

“Yeah, come in,” she said, stuffing the money into her dirty bra.

“Where is the boy?” he said.

“I don’t know, couldn’t find him, probably in his room.”

“Nice tree,” he said looking at the tinsel covered twig in the corner.

“Yeah, I’m trying to get into the Christmas spirit,” she said, plopping on the couch. “Go get your business done. If he screams, duct tape his fucking mouth shut. I don’t want the neighbors calling the cops.”

The man gave her a tepid smile and started for the bedroom. He returned a moment later.

“That was fast. You get your rocks off already?”

“No. There’s nobody in the room,” he said, his shoulders turned in.

“What? Bobby?! Where the fuck you hiding?!” she screamed, making the man wince.

Suddenly, they heard a noise coming from the chimney. Bobby’s mother smiled. She crept toward the fireplace opening, the man close behind. Pieces of soot fell onto the fireless hearth. She reached into the chimney, her arm buried to the shoulder. Feeling nothing, she sat on her bottom to extend her reach. She fished her arm around inside, trying to grasp Bobby’s feet.

“Bobby, you little shit! You’re gonna be sorry when I get a hold of you!”

She pulled her soot covered arm out and shook it. Her back turned to the fireplace, she couldn’t help but notice the expression on the greasy man’s face. His mouth open and eyes wide, looking just above her head. She gave him an indignant expression.

“What?” she said, then turned to the fireplace. What she saw made her want to scream, but in her shock, she was unable to breath. A creature stood there, slime dripping from its large fangs onto a forked tongue. Its face resembled a hideous elf with an elongated chin and pointed ears. The thing had disjointed arms. They were long and nearly touched the floor. Its fingers snaked down with jagged nails at the tip. It wore an old ragged Santa suit with a red toboggin hat. The tongue protruded from its mouth like an appendage and wrapped around her throat. In the split of the tongue, small needle-like protrusions dug into her flesh. It squeezed, and she began to make gurgling sounds as her hands went immediately to her throat

The greasy man found the voice she couldn’t. A low sound, between a grunt and a squeal, came from him, as he began to back pedal for the door. He turned but before he could move, an arm shot out from the creature, grasping him on his collar and jerking him backward. He screamed, as he landed on his back, the air released from his lungs. The jagged fingernails of the creature’s hand found purchase and dug into his nostrils. He tried to yell but couldn’t find the breath. The elfin-thing raked the man’s nose from his face. He made gurgling sounds, as blood filled his throat.

Bobby’s mother coughed blood from her mouth. The veins protruded from her neck, as the forked tongue continued to squeeze. Her eyes bulged, the ocular vessels burst, and blood mixed with clear fluids ran down her cheeks. She lost her grip on the piece of gold paper in her hand. The creature considered the letter and smiled. The tongue pulled her closer. Its mouth widened, and the fangs chomped into her face.

Bobby opened the door humming the hymns sung by the carolers at the Army. The aroma of eggs and bacon met his nose, wafting from the kitchen.


“Yes, dear?” a female voice answered from the other room.

Bobby stepped into the kitchen. A lady stood there, young and beautiful, smiling ear to ear.

“Good Christmas morning, Bobby! I made your favorite.”

Bobby shook his head, trying to take this in. He noticed the gold Santa letter lying on the table. He picked it up and read.

Merry Christmas, Bobby.

He smiled.

Edmund Stone is a writer and poet of horror and fantasy living in a quaint river town in the Ohio Valley. He writes at night, spinning tales of strange worlds and horrifying encounters with the unknown. He lives with his wife, a son, four dogs and a group of mischievous cats. He also has two wonderful daughters, and three granddaughters, who he likes to tell scary stories, then send them home to their parents.

Edmund is an active member of The Write Practice, a member only writer’s forum, where he served as a judge for their Summer contest 2018. Edmund’s poetry is featured in the Horror Zine, Summer 2017 issue and in issue #6 of Jitter by Jitter Press. He has two poems in issue 39, one poem in issue 41, and a story in issue 42, of Siren’s Call ezine. He also has three short stories in separate anthologies, See Through My Eyes by Fantasia Divinity, Year’s Best Body Horror anthology 2017 by Gehenna & Hinnom, and Hell’s Talisman anthology by Schreyer Ink Publishing. Most of these stories can also be read in Hush my Little Baby: A Collection by Edmund Stone.

Website ** Email ** Facebook ** Twitter ** Instagram

Halloween Extravaganza: Edmund Stone: STORY: Blackjacks Revenge

Blackjack’s Revenge

I’ve always thought Halloween droll. A holiday for children and way beneath a man like me, a college professor with a master’s degree. But here I am, picking out a pumpkin to carve from the local farmer’s market. I came with my trusted friend, Bojangles. All twenty pounds of the best little Jack Russell Terrier a man could own.

This small New England town is full of charm and since I’m new to this block, I thought it a good idea to blend in. Some of the displays people put on their front porches would be better suited for Better Homes and Gardens magazine. They really get into Halloween here. Even though I despise the holiday, I don’t want a good egging or toilet paper draped around my house. So, why not?

I peruse through the selection, while the smell of hot apple cider and fresh baked donuts prick my nose. Bojangles pulls at his leash, trying to veer me in the direction of the heavenly aroma. But I persist with my hunt. I can’t find the one I like. I want it to be right. A pumpkin to say, “Hello, I’ve arrived people!” The bigger and gaudier, the better. I’ll decorate smaller pumpkins and gourds around it. It’ll look like Halloween meets harvest moon. I should get some good nods around the neighborhood.

A farmer spots me and jumps out of his lawn chair, nearly tipping it backwards. He’s the typical bumpkin with bib overalls, chewing on a toothpick or piece of straw. I notice his hat has a logo; McCormick’s farm. He puts a grubby hand out but I only smile. He looks down at his hand, seeming a bit confused, then tucks it away in his pocket.

“Mawnin’, young fella! Can I help you find somethin’?” he says in a Yankee accent.

“Yes. I think I’ll take about twenty gourds. I need lots of them for the porch I have.”

“I got all yaw need. What about punkins? Can’t have a good porch decoration without a nice punkin.”

I look around his display but find nothing large enough to suit my needs. Then, just beyond his cart, I see it! The one I’m looking for. It’s large, with nodules adorning it. They look like warts. It’s a witch pumpkin. Perfect!

“I’ll take that one!” I say, pointing behind the man.

“Which one?” the man says, turning to look over his shoulder. His eyes widen. “Why, I’m not sure where that come from. Maude? You know anything about the warty punkin over there?” he says to an old woman in a rocking chair close by.

“Billy left it this mawnin’, brought a whole wagon of ‘em. That’s the last one, fer now. Said he’d bring more tommaw mawnin’” she said, never lifting her head.

“Hmm, musta come from the patch over next to the cemetery,” he says, taking off his hat and scratching his head. “Well then, fella. Looks like you got yerself a nice punkin!”

I bid the farmer farewell, as he finishes loading my car, then stop for a few of those donuts and some cider. Two for me and one for Bojangles, who yips in appreciation. When I get home, I consider the porch layout before putting the pumpkins and gourds there. I notice my neighbor’s porch and see a fodder shock. Why didn’t I think of that? Oh well, I have more gourds to go around my large pumpkin than they do.

I set everything down and go in the house for a carving knife. As I’m looking through drawers something hits the window. I stop. Then hear it again. Are the kids starting early? I walk over and peek out the front window. Nothing. All I see is the porch with my large pumpkin in the middle. I do notice some of the gourds are out of place, scattered about the porch.

“Hmm, odd. I was sure I put them in tight around the pumpkin,” I say aloud. “Better check.

I put on my shoes and jacket, then walk onto the porch with Bojangles on my heels. I start to pick up the gourds. While I’m stooped over one hits me on the backside. I turn to see who the culprit is. No one is there. Bojangles is barking furiously at the bottom step.

Damn kids, but, where are they? I pick up one of the gourds and ease down the porch steps. If they want to play, I’ll play. They can’t outsmart me. One of those little pricks is going to eat a gourd.

I ease around the end of the porch, holding the small projectile over my head. I lunge forward, letting the squash fly from my hand.

“Take that, you asshole!” I say. I see no one, except Bojangles running into the yard, after the gourd, barking the whole way. Then, I hear a noise from the front porch. Ah-ha, they doubled back. I run toward it and I’m faced with a bombardment of gourds. Three of them come flying over my head, as I duck for cover. My dog jumps up and grabs one out of the air, as if it were a tennis ball.

“Hey! Get off my porch! I’m going to call your parents!”

I hear no response, only laughter. A strange kind of laughter. It doesn’t sound like a kid. Bojangles barks, as he runs up the steps to the porch. I run close behind him. When I get to the top step, I’m confronted with a sight I can’t believe. The large pumpkin is staring at me. It has dark eyes and a mouth full of yellow teeth. It grins, then produces a gourd from its mouth, spitting it at me. The thing nearly takes my head off!

“The Hell!?” I say, as I jump back, stumbling down the steps, scraping my knee. I land in the grass on my side. Bojangles steps in front of me, his chest swelled, yapping hoarse barks. I look at the pumpkin. Its moving now, rolling toward the steps! It plops down each one and stops at the bottom. The thing considers me with empty black eyes and dripping teeth.

“Blackjack is back!” the large pumpkin calls out.

Then it rolls toward me, chomping. I get to my feet, stumbling backward, falling then getting up again. What the hell is happening? What is this creature? Bojangles makes a surprised yelp as I pick him up. I make a dash for the car, aware its right behind me. I reach into my pocket. The keys! They’re in the house! Along with my cell phone. Damn!

I turn to see the pumpkin opening its large mouth. Damn if the thing isn’t growing! It’s as tall as a man now, at least six feet, and just as wide! It chomps down, as I move behind the car. Its teeth take off the side mirror. The sound of screeching metal and cracking plastic pierces my ears. The big squash rolls around the front of the car. It’s not as fast now but picking up speed, adjusting to its rapid growth. Bojangles is pulling at my arms, frantically barking, trying to break free. I hold on, I won’t let that thing have my dog!

I scan the area, looking for help. No one is on the street. It’s Halloween for God’s sake, you think someone would be out! I must get out of here! I see a bike leaning next to a light pole. It’s a BMX style, only twenty inches tall, much too small for me, but better than trying to outrun this thing. Thankfully, the bike has a basket. I jump on. Putting Bojangles on the front and start to pedal. Out of the corner of my eye, I see a kid running toward me.

“Hey, mister! You stole my bike!”

“Run, kid!” I say. The kid looks to the street and seeing the chomping jack-o-lantern rolling toward him, decides to make a run for the bushes. Too late! The thing swallows the kid up to his midsection. He didn’t even have time to scream. Legs dangle from the pumpkin’s mouth. Another chomp, and the kid is gone!

“Blackjack!” it screams.

My, God! What am I going to do! I must get away, but I have no idea where I’m going. I don’t know this town. My only hope is, Blackjack doesn’t either. I look over my shoulder and pedal faster, as the monster is bearing down on me. What is this thing, and why is it chasing me? Is this revenge for hating Halloween?

I furiously rotate my legs, until my feet can no longer stay up with the pedals, so I start to coast. I see cars, coming fast at me. I can’t get to the brake. I’m surely going to die! A car screeches to a halt right in front of me. I swerve into an alleyway, Bojangles is standing in the basket, protesting the insurrection. Blackjack rolls onto the car’s hood, smashing the windshield and getting to the people inside. I keep pedaling, hearing the screams behind me. I want to stop but know I can do nothing to help them. I must keep pedaling!

I emerge from the alley and see a cemetery. The gate looks too small for the creature to enter. I may be safe there. I ride the bike through the entrance. Throwing it down, I quickly close the gate and latch it. In the distance, I hear the creature bellow out, an inhuman cry! Cars are crashing, and people are screaming! I cover my ears. I’m shaking and sweating, trying to catch my breath after the ride. I hold my little dog close for comfort. He’s stopped barking but utters a light growl.

I feel safer now. Looking around the cemetery, I notice the strangest thing, there are vines growing everywhere; pumpkin vines. They snake throughout the ground and into the graves. Then I see where they are coming from. There’s a fenced in field next to the cemetery with a sign hanging from the metal lattice. It reads:


I raise my hands, letting out an exasperated sigh. I should have known those country bumpkins had something to do with this. Monsanto probably paid them to grow this stupid stuff!

I notice the pumpkins growing on the vines have lumpy protrusions all over them. Just like my pumpkin! Many of the vines growing into the graves have been picked clean. One I notice especially. Its growing into a grave, the earth looking recently disturbed. It has an ominous grave marker that says:

Here Lies the Body of Jack Burton
Better known as Blackjack Burton
The deadliest pirate and outlaw in
New England

Blackjack? No, that’s not possible. How could a GMO pumpkin take on the personality of a dead pirate? This is insane! Then I see something to help verify my suspicions. A bunching of vines growing over a post. This doesn’t seem out of place, but on closer inspection, I see it’s no post at all. It’s a man in a uniform. He’s covered with vines up to his neck and his expression is one of pure terror. His mouth is open, and vines are growing into it and down his throat. I turn away, starting to wretch, but then gather myself. Part of his outfit is showing through the vines. It’s his name tag. It says, Bill.

“Well, Billy, I guess you’re not bringing the next shipment in the morning after all,” I say to him.

A thought strikes me, what about the other pumpkins? Who will be the unwitting sap to get one, and will they be targeted also? I must do something! But what? Fumbling through my pocket, I find a box of matches. The one I was going to light the jack-o-lantern with. I’ll burn the whole patch, then no one will get an evil squash!

I sit Bojangles on the ground and go to the edge of the fence. I strike one of the matches. A whisper of smoke begins to rise. Its then I feel it, the hot wind, a smell of sulfur behind me. I turn to see Blackjack. He’s larger than before, at least ten feet tall, and just as wide; warts surround his eyes and all along his side. They’re seeping yellow goo! He doesn’t look happy. He blows the flame out before the fire has a chance to spread. His frown turns into a large smile with blood-stained yellow teeth.

“Ha ha ha. Blackjack is back!” he says to me. I jump into the pumpkin patch to take refuge. Bojangles runs ahead of me, disappearing into the brush.

“Brother’s arise!”

I gasp as I see who he’s talking too. The pumpkins in the patch start to move, vines wriggle toward me, taking my arms and holding them. I pull an arm loose, breaking a few. But they quickly regroup and pull me back. In my struggle, I drop the matches onto the grass. All the while Blackjack is getting closer. His mouth in a snarled grin. A large tongue snakes out from between his teeth and licks my face. The irony is not lost on me. I’m about to be eaten by a pie ingredient!

I look to my feet and see the matches. If only I can get free. Blackjack is almost on me. He opens his mouth and I can smell the horrid odor of rotted meat and decaying vegetables. Blood and pieces of flesh are stuck in his teeth. I close my eyes and wait for the worst. Then the brush begins to move, something is coming up quick. Blackjack and the rest of the pumpkin hoard look to the commotion. Like a cannonball emerging from a barrel, Bojangles flies from the undergrowth and attacks Blackjack.

“Good boy, Bojangles!” I say. The pumpkins release me and go for the pup, who is now chewing and burrowing his way into the side of Blackjack. The large pumpkin begins to scream, and the other pumpkins try to lend aid. But Bojangles is too fast. He’s inside Blackjack before they get to him.

Blackjack screams, bouncing erratically from side to side. The pumpkins hesitate, not sure if they should help their leader or stop me. I see my chance and grab the matches. I light one and then the whole box, sending it hurling into the dry underbrush. The wind picks up and the flames begin to fan out through the patch.

The pumpkins scream, as the flames lick at their heads. They begin to explode from the expanding heat, and whatever chemicals they are saturated in, starting a chain reaction. Screams of anguish rise from the patch, as vines wither. I look for Bojangles but don’t see him. Blackjack is tittering back and forth. He opens his mouth as if to say something and out pops an orange covered Jack Russel Terrier. He jumps into my arms. I clean the strings from his eyes and he licks my face in appreciation. The flames rise around us and I feel the heat on my skin.

“C’mon, boy! We have to go!” I say to my pup.

My shoes crunch the dry grass with flames traveling close behind. I hold my breath, shielding Bojangles from the intense heat. We step into the cemetery and I exhale the breath in my lungs. Bojangles is voicing his anger in the form of raspy protest barks. I turn toward the patch to see a large pumpkin bursting from the field, flames surrounding it; mouth open and ready to bite.

“Blackjack is back!”

I turn to run, as Bojangles jumps from my arms, leaping toward Blackjack.

“Bojangles! No!” I scream.

He jumps into the open mouth of the great pumpkin. Blackjack snaps his teeth together and grins.

“Mmm, tasty,” He says, as he laughs.

An October wind picks up, blowing the flames out on Blackjack, but giving fuel to the fire in the field behind him. It chills me to the bone, as he rolls toward me, I’m sure to deal the death blow, just as he did to my pup. Then he stops, looking at me with a pained expression. In the distance, I hear the faint yapping of a small dog.


The little terrier comes bursting out of Blackjack’s eye. The pumpkin screams, rolling and undulating to the side; his eye spewing orange and black liquid. The gargantuan squash lands in the fire and begins to spin, protesting the barrage of heat. But to no avail, he succumbs to the torrid blaze, as pieces of pumpkin burst in every direction.

“I think we can say the pumpkin pie is burnt. Hunh, Bojangles?” I say relieved, as he licks my face. The flames rise high into the dusky Autumn sky. Small sparks fly above them and go out, raining ash below. I sigh and turn to the road. Bojangles is at my feet, yipping and dancing in approval. We walk down the main street through town. My dog begins to bark and growl.

“What is it boy? That old pumpkin won’t bother us anymore.”

Then I see it. People running. A car screeches onto the road and swerves into a pole, knocking it down. An electric line sparks, as it falls across the street. It looks like a large black snake wriggling on the ground. It moves along until it hits the car. I see something rolls out that makes my blood go cold. It’s a warty pumpkin. It’s grinning with blood stained teeth. It hits the electric line and explodes along with the car. Bojangles is barking incessantly. I step back and look around at the houses. There are no pumpkins for decoration anywhere to be seen. I call for Bojangles to jump into my arms. I stroke his fur.

“Oh my, boy. This is going to be a long night.”

Edmund Stone is a writer and poet of horror and fantasy living in a quaint river town in the Ohio Valley. He writes at night, spinning tales of strange worlds and horrifying encounters with the unknown. He lives with his wife, a son, four dogs and a group of mischievous cats. He also has two wonderful daughters, and three granddaughters, who he likes to tell scary stories, then send them home to their parents.

Edmund is an active member of The Write Practice, a member only writer’s forum, where he served as a judge for their Summer contest 2018. Edmund’s poetry is featured in the Horror Zine, Summer 2017 issue and in issue #6 of Jitter by Jitter Press. He has two poems in issue 39, one poem in issue 41, and a story in issue 42, of Siren’s Call ezine. He also has three short stories in separate anthologies, See Through My Eyes by Fantasia Divinity, Year’s Best Body Horror anthology 2017 by Gehenna & Hinnom, and Hell’s Talisman anthology by Schreyer Ink Publishing. Most of these stories can also be read in Hush my Little Baby: A Collection by Edmund Stone.

Website ** Email ** Facebook ** Twitter ** Instagram

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?


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.

Halloween Extravaganza: INTERVIEW: Steven Wynne

Meghan: Hi, Steven! Welcome back to my annual Halloween Extravaganza. I hope you’re liking the new blog. It’s been awhile since we sat down together. What’s been going on since we last spoke?

Steven Wynne: It has indeed been a while! Unfortunately, my entire life twisted into complete shit right around the beginning of last year. I got divorced, and two weeks after that cluster bomb detonated, my dad entered hospice after a three year fight with stage four brain cancer, which led to six months of awfulness and heartbreak until he finally passed in late October 2018. On top of that carnival of giggles and mirth, my job turned into an absolute nightmare that persisted until I finally left and found a better job earlier this year.

In the midst of all that, I stopped being able to write. After the initial one-two punch of the divorce and hospice, there was a two week period where I couldn’t even read. As the year wore on, I slowly regained my focus and made a few tentative stabs at writing. There were a few other things that have happened (see answers below), but what I’m really excited for is that I’ve just finished writing a new story for the first time in over a year. It’s made the rounds of beta readers, had its due edits, and is ready to be subbed out to soak up the rejections.

Meghan: Who are you outside of writing?

Steven Wynne: I’m quiet as hell and pretty reclusive, more often than not. When I’m not working absurd hours, I’m usually the type to relax and read, and slowly make my way through my massive TBR pile. I’ve been playing a lot more guitar in the last year and doing some recording here and there, but by and large, I’m a solitary kinda guy.

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

Steven Wynne: I’m cool with it? The few friends/acquaintances of mine who have showed up in my stories are the kind of folk who can roll with it. Except the one guy. Fuck that one guy.

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

Steven Wynne: I don’t know that it’s so much a gift as it is a skill that needs to be honed. I mean, I don’t think I’m all that dazzling a writer, but I can recognize I’m way better now than when I started submitting years ago. It takes commitment, years of nothing but rejections, and seeking out input from others about what you’re doing wrong and what you could be doing better. No different from any other creative hobby one might pursue, I suppose?

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

Steven Wynne: Everything is sad, there’s not much hope for anything, the world has an all-encompassing incomprehensible terror to it, you’re all alone, and Dad’s drunk.

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

Steven Wynne: I’m currently working on a story with a lot of crime and murder elements to it, so there have been things like, ‘How long does it take for the eyes to cloud over postmortem’ and all the processes that go into that, and things of that nature. But then again, I’m a true crime hound and was already interested and fascinated by that kinda stuff, anyway. Not exactly ‘strange’ compared to some of my friends and other writers I know, but it’s what comes to mind.

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

Steven Wynne: Starting is always rocky terrain for me. It’s where I’m most likely to get distracted and abandon ship. If I’m in something and I’m cooking on it, things seem to click. That test is usually passed if I wake up on time and am able to devote forty five to ninety minutes to the thing before work, and I’m able to do that for, say, three days, that’s a good sign. The middle and end are more fun for me. Seeing how it all plays out is usually a big surprise for me as well. That opening, though, that’s fucking treacherous.

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

Steven Wynne: I’m a pantser, through and through. Outlines aren’t fun at all for me. Usually, I need two ideas handcuffed to each other to work. They can be a character and a situation, a setting and situation, a character and another character, whatever they are, I usually can’t run with just one. I kinda view my process as one idea is the driver, the other is the vehicle. Sometimes, the goodies floating around in the ideaspace coalesce into one weird hybrid that (I think) makes for a good story. When I write, I pretty much just sit down and go. There can sometimes be a long time between ideas merging, but the more I write, the quicker pieces tend to fall together.

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

Steven Wynne: Listen to them, usually. A lot of times, the story greatly benefits from a little tangent here or there. If that doesn’t work, kill ‘em.

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

Steven Wynne: Remember how good it feels to accomplish something. Also remember how much it sucks to have my days consist of coffee, food, work, one good/meh shit, more food, and sleep. Remind myself that Scares is coming up next year, and how great would it be to have something to bring to share with my friends.

Meghan: Are you an avid reader?

Steven Wynne: I do my best.

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

Steven Wynne: Sad, dark yarns that back up my preconceived notions of the world without making me do any intellectual heavy lifting and realizing I might be wrong about stuff.

I keed. Kinda.

I absolutely love short story collections, and I’m very much loving everything weird and melancholy I can get my hands on. Currently, I’m reading Cry Your Way Home by Damien Angelica Walters, and it’s fantastic in every goddamn way.

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

Steven Wynne: I don’t have a problem with ‘em?

Meghan: Have you ever killed a main character?

Steven Wynne: Every time, it seems.

Meghan: Do you enjoy making your characters suffer?

Steven Wynne: Not really. I hate seeing people suffer in any capacity, even if I’m the person creating the whole scenario, people included. If the characters are suffering, it’s to serve a purpose and to serve the forward momentum of the story. I don’t enjoy it at all, but sometimes the stories I spit out can’t help but be born in those environments.

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

Steven Wynne: A time/dimension traveling woman who *could have been* a main character’s aunt, who carries around a tiny living puppet of the main character’s father in a glass bottle.

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

Steven Wynne: I will always defer to Russell Coy’s wisdom when it comes to editing and pointing out what works and doesn’t in stories. I think I still have the first things he beta read for me saved in my google drive with their miles of red strikethrough and explanations of why things don’t work, and when I’m being overly wordy, how *this* whole paragraph is redundant because everything substantive in it is hinted at subtly in one sentence three paragraphs before. John Boden has also been fantastic about pointing out things that are hacky.

Worst feedback was from a friend who clearly misinterpreted everything about a story I sent him. Character motivations, denouement, attribution, just. . . everything. Don’t want to go too into specifics with that, but it was the first time I heard someone being critical of something I wrote and made a fart sound and jerk-off motion. Haven’t sent that dude anything else I’ve done since. 

Meghan: What do your fans mean to you?

Steven Wynne: My mom means the world to me.

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

Steven Wynne: That is a damn good question. I might have to say Tiny, from John Boden’s Spungunion. He’s turned up in a few of the Knucklebucket Thang books that Boden has cranked out. I absolutely love his character and how he remains a compassionate and empathetic figure despite the solitary, moribund, morose nature of his work.

Meghan: If you could write the next book in a series, which one would it be, and what would you make the book about?

Steven Wynne: Gotta double down on the aforementioned Knucklebucket Thang series, by John Boden/Bob Ford. As much as I’d love to take a crack at a story exclusively about Tiny, I doubt sincerely I could do him anywhere near the justice he would deserve for his own standalone story. I’d want him in there, though.

Meghan: If you could write a collaboration with another author, who would it be and what would you write about?

Steven Wynne: Haha! I’m currently collaborating with my friend and fellow author Justin Lutz. actually, and I’m so goddamn happy to be doing so. Without going into too terribly much detail, it’s about a serial killer operating in Central Pennsylvania and using the Opioid epidemic as a means of trapping victims and covering up his crimes, while a reclusive clairvoyant coroner is slowly gaining clues as to not only who the killer is, but the identities of the Jane Does in her morgue who can talk to her but can’t remember who they are.

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

Steven Wynne: Hopefully? I’ll get some more short fiction published, get one of the few novellas I have sitting around published as well, and this still unnamed collaborative novel between Justin Lutz and I. I have a feeling that when that’s done, folks might really enjoy it.

Apart from that? Expect to see me at Scares that Care 2020, probably drunk and trying to give Wile E. Young my phone number again for the third year in a row.

Meghan: Where can we find you?

Steven Wynne: Oh, I’m on the usual haunts. Track me down on Facebook, and I’m on Twitter.

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?

Steven Wynne: Read Gwendolyn Kiste. Come to Scares that Care. Buy me a shot.

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.