The following is a spooky excerpt from my short story The Pigeon King.
Chapter 1: A Little Too Quiet
It was move in day and my new condo was far from furnished, save for a coffee table and a floor full of boxes. Still I couldn’t wait to test the acoustics. I had tried to record a podcast in my previous basement apartment, but every passing car, barking mutt, and hooting frat boy had me pressing PAUSE. Recordings that should’ve taken minutes took days.
That’s why I persuaded my parents to invest in a top floor unit, high above the street corner brawlers, bus stop freestylers, and dissonant dive bars.
My new building was made for peace and quiet. It had glass fiber insulation, triple pane windows, and concrete walls. It had two security officers, cameras in every corridor, and a lease specifically stating: no parties whatsoever.
No longer would I wake up to a gaggle of giggling gals, flooding out of the stairwell in stiletto heels. No longer would I be a captive audience to a domestic dispute and no longer would I have to hear the makeup sex that came after.
I could sleep comfortably knowing the only thing waking me up in the middle of the night would be my own bladder.
The condo was like something out of a dream. When I stood in the center of the living room all I heard was the ringing of my own eardrums. I couldn’t believe this was mine, Daniel J. Cameron’s Casa de Heaven.
I shut off all of my electronics, except for the computer, turned down the furnace, and flicked off the lights. I dumped my journalism texts out and taped the box over the window. I even draped a blanket across the balcony doors just to be safe.
With the exterior of the space taken care of I pinned a roll of duct tape to a desk lamp, stretched a sock around it, and positioned it in front of my microphone. Voilà: I had a homemade pop filter to catch those stray P and B sounds before they could taint my audio with artifacts.
It was finally time to open the decibel meter on my phone. A whisper quiet library sits at 35 decibels. A bedroom at night rests at 30. I’d managed to get this place down to 25. Continue reading An excerpt from The Pigeon King
A horror story about a dark passenger too many of us are forced to chauffeur: depression. Continue reading Backseat Driver: A Short Story Video Reading
DON’T THINK OF A CRIMSON ELEPHANT
By Flavius Octavius Davis
BLACK HOUSE PRESS READERS GROUP GUIDE
This reading group guide contains questions for discussion, suggestions to deepen your appreciation of the book, and instructions for dealing with the knowledge that this text has made you vulnerable to psychic incursions from the blood red trunk reaching out from the nethermost regions of the astral plane. The questions are intended to enhance your experience, empower group members to share personal insights, and help you cope with the fatal error in judgment you’ve made by selecting such a reading.
The nameless narrator of Don’t Think of a Crimson Elephant warns against empathizing with his plight. He pleads with you not to follow his nightmares through the skyscraper bone yards, shifting mountains on the horizon, or game trails in the storm clouds. He spoils the dramatic tension, telling you outright that his journey ends in damnation. He warns you of the consequences of letting the seeds of forbidden truths take root in your mind. He tells you that daydreams are like farmland and that fear is their fertilizer. He goes so far as to give you cause to cower from an herbivore.
Breaking the fourth wall the narrator states his fate and yours are intertwined. He tells you that you have the power to save him, and therefore yourself, by simply putting the book down, but did you listen? Nope. You interpreted the narrator’s earnest disclaimer as some kind of dare.
After all, forbidden texts are usually bound in human flesh, hidden away in the moldy old libraries of eastern European counts. Who has ever heard of one coming with its own international standard book number on the back?
You weren’t going to fall for the narrator’s fear tactics. What a tired gimmick, right?
Your hubris made you a speed-reader. Each chapter was a stride toward your allegorical gallows, each sentence a thread in the rope around your neck, each period a nail in your coffin. Still you pressed on to the ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS. Now here you are.
These questions should give your book club food for thought, before that which reaches out from beyond the veil of perception consumes their minds.
Most fast-acting poisons show up in toxicology screenings. It’s the all-natural ones, the ones you sow from your own garden that take a little more time to get the job done. No worries. If the rest of your book club is just now reading this far then they haven’t got long.
Sure they can try to gag themselves, to search the cupboards for Ipecac, but by now the poison is already in their bloodstream, blocking their airways, slowing their breathing. Now would be the time to say your goodbyes, to inform your guests that the great belly must be filled, that its better for it to take a few big bites than for it to nibble on the entire world. Tell them that their minds will behold such red wonders, that the finest poets lack the words, that they should follow the light into the gullet. Tell them to think of the Great Crimson Elephant, or not to, it doesn’t matter, both commands will get the job done.
Don’t be alarmed when the ground quakes beneath your feet, when the frames tip over, and the bookshelves explode.
Try not to think about the cracks spreading across the ceiling, the bricks spewing from the chimney, or the tiles bursting into sand. Don’t dwell on the bright red light shinning through the blinds. Don’t dwell on the trumpeting, how it’s louder than any foghorn, or how it makes your eardrums bleed into your palms. Don’t dwell on the trunk breaching your front door, clogging the hall, slithering around corners, and fixing itself to the craniums of your best friends.
Lets not talk about the elephant in the room.
Just remember that you are the one who gets to live on (if you can call what follows living) forever walking in those giant footprints, through cities made of bone, beneath stampedes in the sky, toward the shifting horizon.
I coasted down the mountainside with dew beneath my feet and air kissing my cheeks. All the wolves howled, all the crickets chirped, and the all owls hooted as I passed. All the night creatures offered their greetings for I was their guardian.
I was Syrinx, the nymph charged with protecting the wilderness from the axes of man.
This was Arcadia a hidden place untouched by seasons, where flowers were always in bloom and rocks were evergreen.
My sisters’ laughter carried down the mountainside. They were frolicking on the highest peak, perfecting their dance routines. Most Nymphs used dance to sway the hearts of men from committing violence on the woodlands. I wanted to influence men’s hearts with my mind, with my writing.
I rode down the slope until I was certain I was alone. I reached into my tunic and produced the instruments of my craft: a sheet of papyrus, a quill, and a bottle of vegetable juice. Continue reading How Pan Got His Flute
My chauffeur has trouble concentrating on the road ahead. He checks the gas gauge more than anything beyond the hood. He’s more concerned with keeping his vehicle in working order than getting anywhere. He drives down an empty highway well below the speed limit.
His eyes wonder to the mirror, not to check for cars, but to examine his irises. They’re swimming in so much red they look like they’re glowing blue. He’s so entranced by the effect he doesn’t notice me, guzzling motor oil from a paper bag, in the back seat.
We’ve logged so many miles together he’s forgotten that I’m even here. He flicks the high beams on, thinking it’s fog he’s seeing, and not the secondhand puffs from a smoker who refuses to crack a window open. He adjusts his seat, blaming the sharp stabbing pain on his posture, and not the boot heel I’m pushing into his rear.
I slip a plug into the cigarette lighter and rest an exposed wire on my tongue. My saliva sizzles. Each static jolt is sugary sweet. I want to see how much energy I can syphon before he turns around. When my chauffeur notices the dimming of the headlights, he pulls over certain that it’s a problem with his eyesight. Continue reading Backseat Driver
What if the Trump administration was just the beginning of a Young Adult Fantasy story?
Naomi felt like a baby in a blanket. She was swaddled, covered in drool, warm and safe. It took her a moment to realize she was wearing a straight jacket and that stiff surface beneath her wasn’t a crib, but the floor of a padded cell.
Naomi’s eyes took time adjusting to the light. The fluorescent fixtures had rainbow auras, they shined so bright they cast sunspots on the walls. The shadows swayed back and forth as her pupils shifted in and out of alignment. Finally the chamber revealed itself.
The cell was lined with a canvas with two tones: white on the top and stained at the bottom. Its cushions were lopsided from years of use. At this point the padding looked like it would do a better job protecting the walls than the patients.
Naomi’s head throbbed. It felt like a rat had burrowed beneath her brow, curled up, and started kicking the skin. It took all her strength to wrench herself up off the floor. Continue reading We Are Living in a Dystopian Fantasy
Here is a sampling of my finest short horror stories and Halloween posts to get you in the mood for the season.
A story about pleasantry pushing pod people in the spirit of the Twilight Zone.
What if there were evil spirits that targeted artists?
Why you should never call a teenage witch a basic bitch.
What happens when a clerk follows a shoplifter to find they were leaving mysterious items behind?
Pro tips on how to get the most out of being a ghost.
Read a cursed man’s final 40 tweets.
When the internet gave birth to Slender Man it gave birth to something else as well.
A short story about when haunted house builders go too far.
You’ve heard of the War on Christmas, but have you heard of the War on Halloween? This is a letter from a concerned demon.
Can I turn four classic monsters into the butt of the same dirty joke? You bet I can.
What happens when you take modern monsters out of their element? Something totally wrong. Enjoy.
Become the Supervisor of Your Own Fiction Factory
Anyone can be an author. It doesn’t matter your age, academic background, or nationality, you have what it takes to write the great American novel.
Forget what you’ve heard. You don’t need to be born to successful writers with roots in New York or Los Angeles, you don’t need a knack for grammar, talent, or luck. You just need to learn the tricks of trade from a master of the craft.
Barkley Carver, pilot, and credited author of 15 books to debut on the New York Times bestsellers list, reveals his winning formula for franchise fiction (for the first time under his current pen name). In this online class, he guides you through every aspect of writing a serviceable novel, from finding cold cases to base your mysteries on to getting New York’s Department of Health to grant you access to the divorce records so you can see which publishers are on the rebound. Continue reading Barkley Carver, World’s Most Prolific Hack Writer, Teaches the Craft
The first incident happened at the liquor store.
I had a bottle of pinot noir in one hand and tub of Peppermint Bon Bon in the other. I had taken my time settling on the wine. The ice cream had melted down my palm and puddled on the floor. It seeped through my slipper and pooled between my toes. By the time I felt it I’d already slipped.
The bottle rolled down my hand and up my fingers in an arch. I dove to catch it. It clinked on the linoleum, but it didn’t crack. It would’ve been a great save had it not been for the shelf I’d knocked over in the process. Cans popped out of six packs, rolled down the aisle, and spouted leaks.
I crawled around in my pajama pants collecting craft beers into my hooded sweatshirt. I wobbled up to the front counter with arms overloaded with aluminum and pockets oozing with ice cream and beer foam. Continue reading The Smilers: A Horror Story About Happy People