Tag Archives: Flash Fiction

The Serial Archer

Born when Mars crashed into Venus, he’s left a path of destruction across the Earth. He’s an agent of conquest concealed beneath a baby face.

He’s antisocial, known to fly solo, too far removed from his victims to regard their suffering. He targets isolated individuals, striking from above because he knows even sitting ducks can be flighty. He cheats, doses his arrowheads with neurotoxins so that his quarry always make bad decisions.

You’ll never catch him. His attack pattern is random. He chooses his victims with a blindfold on.

He compartmentalizes, careful to hide his secret life from his wife. The one time he tasted his own medicine his Psyche went to hell and back again.

Some say they knew his work at first sight, but no one ever sees him coming. He will change you fundamentally. You will think of your life in terms of who you were before he stung you and who he allowed you to be.

Surviving Valentine’s Day

Another Valentine’s Day is upon us, which means it’s time to lower the storm shudders, draw up the staircase, and make sure the panic room is stocked with non-perishables. You know better than to get caught in the foyer when St. Valentine gets here.

Resist the temptation to try to spot him lumbering beneath the street lamps. Don’t go peeking through the keyhole looking for tattered robes. Don’t press your ear to the door to listen for howling on the wind, the clicking of his inverted kneecaps, or bones dragging along the picket fence. He’s out there, raising his own severed head to scan the buildings for life signs, a mangled manifestation just as Emperor Claudius had left him.

Do not attempt to pilot a drone from your roof in an attempt to capture a glimpse of the specter. Do not affix a GoPro to your mailbox or an infrared system to your lawn gnome. Just let the man serve out his punishment in peace, sacrifice your goat, and leave it out on the boulevard like you do every year.

You don’t want to end up like my friend Zeke.

The Cautionary Tale of Ezekiel Lawson

Ezekiel, or Zeke as we called him, was a trophy hunter. The man kept the town’s taxidermist in business until he took to doing it himself. He didn’t have a piece of furniture that hadn’t once been something living. His rumpus room had more fur than wallpaper, with so many antlers they practically an earthquake hazard.

Zeke was day trader, which afforded him the luxury of going on safari. He knew everything about hunting dangerous game. He told stories at the bar, gave us unsolicited lectures on concealment, wind flows, and paw prints. He claimed he took out an entire pack of wolves without reloading his rifle.

“And I did it on a level playing field. No deer stand, no bait, none of that bullshit.”

We never challenged him. After all he had the heads to prove it and he relished in the opportunity to count all six of them out. Still when Zeke said he was going after Valentine’s dire wolves we were all skeptical.

“Valentine is bound by the code of Lupercalia festival to walk those wolves. His punishment for trying to convert one of lord Februus’s followers. Those wolves are trained to sniff out evil spirits, which stands to reason they’re spirits themselves. Are you sure a bullet would do the trick?”

“They leave tracks don’t they?”

“Big as catcher’s mitts.”

“They shit on your lawn don’t they?

“Every damn time.”

“Then beneath them long mangy hides they’re still squishy on the  inside.”

“What about Februus?”

“Please. The underworld is teaming with enchanted beings. You think he’s really going to miss one?”

We conceded that notion into our beers. Every one of us had an encounter with one of Februus’s creature at one time or another.

Still, I wish I’d reminded Zeke where those wolf droppings usually came from.

Zeke raised his mug. “Come on boys. My rumpus room needs a new rug.”

We clinked glasses.

On the morning of February 15thI awoke to my wife’s screams. Melissa had gone out front with the old pooper-scooper, hoping to get a start on those dire wolf droppings, when she spotted a blood trail in the snow. She found poor Zeke’s head in the birdbath, mouth wide open, one eye milky white, the other torn out of the socket with a few out stretched ribbons of muscle trying to cling for it. Half of Zeke’s face was rust colored with dried blood. The other half had been gnawed down to the bone.

That wasn’t what I found most disturbing. Zeke had seen something that night that had turned his raven hair white.

A Word of Caution This Valentine’s Day

You probably already know this, but some of you dumbass thrill seekers need a reminder. February is Februus’s month and Februus is the God of purification. In ancient Etruscan the word februare literally means “a purging.” I know you millennials like to play fast and loose with the old ways, but this is not a date night, not a time for young lovers to go skipping around downtown. Lest you want be ground down to dire wolf droppings.

Lupercalia or “Valentine’s Day,” is a time for Februus to drive dark spirits back to underworld where they belong. It’s not our place to spectate. Our role is to cower in quiet solitude of our fortified vaults, thankful that we’ve been spared for another year.

Now y’all stay safe and have a happy Valentine’s Day.

Continue reading Surviving Valentine’s Day

Meet Nólatha, a Monster Mingle Video Reading

Illustrator Bryan Politte gave life to a monster. I dared to write a dating profile for it. This video reveals Bryan’s process over a reading of that fabled Monster Mingle profile by yours truly.
Read the original profile here.

Continue reading Meet Nólatha, a Monster Mingle Video Reading

Monster Mingle: The Vegan Zombie Video Reading

Welcome to Monster Mingle, a place for urban legends to find romance, where full moons lead to fuller hearts, and all the thirsty singles have fangs. This is how it works: illustrator Bryan Politte comes up with the creatures and I (Drew Chial horror author) give them a backstory.

Meet the third. He’s a punk, a vegan, and one other thing. Just wait until you get to the end before you decide if you’re smitten.

Continue reading Monster Mingle: The Vegan Zombie Video Reading

Monster Mingle: Meet Nólatha Torhorn

Welcome to Monster Mingle, a place for urban legends to find romance, where full moons lead to fuller hearts, and all the thirsty singles have fangs. This is how it works: illustrator Bryan Politte comes up with the creatures and I (Drew Chial horror author) give them a backstory.

Meet the second. She’s an Elven Queen. She’s smart, seasoned, and seductive, but just wait until you get to the end before you decide if you’re smitten.

About us

We were once Nólatha Torhorn, an elven maiden, preoccupied with poetry, mead, and the language of trees. Our greatest aspiration was to leave home, hike the northern highlands, and hear the song of the forest. Our quest was cut short when the Order of Winter snatched us off the path and sacrificed us upon an altar of frost.

The gods of winter cast a shadow over the forest, seeping from the trees with the sap and the leaves. Twigs formed into skeletons, branches bent into limbs, and stumps rose up into midsections. Burls twisted into heads and took their places atop towering silhouettes.

The Order scattered.

The Gods of winter shook the forest floor. Their birch bark garments fluttered in long tattered ribbons. Their splintered crowns blotted out the moon and their hardwood hands dwarfed our dead frame.

They scrutinized our limp little limbs with ice-cold talons, tore into our chest, pried our ribcage apart, and squeezed our heart. We felt our girlhood dreams shatter in their grip. Then we felt nothing. That’s when the gods of winter raised their heads to the canopy and roared loud enough to shake the trees.

These kings of corrosion, these rulers of rot, these men of mulch, they turned their backs on us and seeped back into the night. Dissatisfied, the gods of winter brought about three more months of summer and our body was left for the wolves and the crows.

Our spirit wandered the Winterlands, but no matter how long we traveled the frost alter was never far. We were weeping upon our remains when Obliticus, the forgotten God of the mists, happened upon us. Obliticus offered to restore us to our body for a favor. His priestesses had been buried with his sacred artifacts. He needed the spirit of a mortal to brave the planes of limbo to get them back.

We spent several lifetimes trekking through that eternal sandstorm, searching every ruin until we came upon an entrance. We followed a labyrinth of winding corridors into a dome-shaped chamber with a platform in the center.

Three priestesses sat with the artifacts in their laps. Their eyes were rolled back. Their mouths hung open, filled with the drippings from the ceiling. A faint whisper beckoned us in. We crawled into the center of the chamber. The priestesses did not flinch. Careful, we pealed each artifact free: first the Crown of Candor, then the Solaris Spark, and finally the All Seeing Orb. With the relics in our arms we knew we were supposed to run, but something was telling us to combine them, to bear them, and harness their power. We did.

In that moment we saw each eventuality in every thread of reality and none of them concluded with us bringing the artifacts back to Obliticus. Our mortal spirit had achieved enlightenment. We’d ascended from the planes of limbo and into the cosmic. That’s when we ceased to be an individual and became a “We.”

Physical features

The moment we laid our fingers on the All Seeing Orb they turned as pale as birch. The moment the Crown of Candor grazed our brow our raven hair turned white from the revelation. The moment we placed the Solaris Spark into its aperture our pupils faded for we would have no further use for them.

We had become the Crown Crystalmancer, a being whose gaze extended from the highest peaks to the deepest trenches, a being whose natural radiance commanded the attention of the entire Seldarine pantheon, a being utterly removed from that lost elven maiden who’d been cast off all those autumns ago.

Our perfect match

The Crown of Candor has shown us the type of suitor we require: a tall, broad chested figure, with hard focused eyes, a chiseled jawline, and a noticeable thigh-gap between their riding trousers. The suitor’s gender, personal proclivities, sense of humor, values, and life aspirations are irrelevant.

Approximately 2,465 individuals who read this within the allotted timeframe will have the basest traits necessary to help us achieve our goal. Approximately 239 will respond. We will select the 37thapplicant.

You will be the one who despite the forthcoming paragraphs will still accept our proposal.

Our Intimate Details

Ever since we peered into the All Seeing Orb we’ve found ourselves distracted by a piece of information, so inconsequential, so incidental as to be a butterfly upon the surface of the moon. We fixate on it, in fleeting moments, when the river of wisdom thins. We find our mind wandering back to that altar, back when we were but a maiden, awestruck by like comets and polar lights. We dwell on the gods of winter, with our heart betwixt their fingers, and we can’t help but consider their reasoning for rejecting it. They preferred maidens with greater ambitions. By their estimation our death was no tragedy. We were not the caliber of maiden worth changing the seasons over. Little did they know what we would become.

Our ideal date

On the eve of the Autumn Equinox you will join us in that forest clearing in the northern highlands. You will lie upon the frost altar and wait for the sun to set. You will ask too many questions and receive the same answer every time.

“It’s best not to know.”

When dusk comes you will notice the dagger in our cincture. Your eyes will dart toward the horizon and wonder how far you could run. You’ll see us cock our head in that direction and turn back winking. You’ll recall having read that line and resolve yourself to your fate.

When the moon is at its zenith we will run a blade across your throat, separating your body from your spirit. Then we will leave you in the cold arms of death.

Shadows will descend from the stars, bleed down the redwoods, and spring forth from the trunks. Great silhouettes of pine needles, foliage, and straw will surround you on the slab. Their frames will dwarf the branches and their crowns will blot out the moon.

Do not fear these so-called gods. Your heart will never feel the sting of their touch, for the moment they reach out to you we will set their arms ablaze.

The Solaris Spark will enlighten the gods of winter, teaching them the ways of fire. They will scream like swine and die like straw men. Their panic will throw cinders through the air. Their heads will billow into the clouds, and their bodies will be but ashes on the wind.

Snow will never fall upon the highlands again.

Your blood will seep back into your veins, your wound will seal shut, and your spirit will return to your body.

Your loyalty will be rewarded. For the first time in over a millennium we will assume our maiden form and indulge you in the act of courtship. Our liaison will last approximately three weeks, seven days, eighteen hours, nine minutes, and eleven seconds. It will be the most intense love affair you’ve ever had and it will leave you wanting for the rest of your life

•••

Meet Noelle, a Hollywood transplant that’s been subsisting on instant ramen and false hope. She’s on the verge of moving back into her mother’s trailer when her agent convinces her to take a meeting at the Oralia Hotel. Enchanted by the art deco atmosphere Noelle signs a contract without reading the fine print.

Now she has one month to pen a novel sequestered in a fantasy suite where a hack writer claims he had an unholy encounter. With whom you ask? Well, he has many names: Louis Cypher, Bill Z. Bub, Kel Diablo. The Devil.

Noelle is skeptical, until she’s awoken by a shadow figure with a taste for souls.

Desperate to make it Noelle stays on, shifting the focus of her story to these encounters. Her investigations take her through the forth wall and back again until she’s blurred the line between reality and what’s written. Is there a Satanic conspiracy, is it a desperate author’s insanity, or something else entirely?

Pick up HE HAS MANY NAMES today!

The Ghosts that Visit Me on Christmas Eve

This year my Christmas Eve itinerary is bursting with appointments.

The Ghost of Retail Past will walk me through the hollowed out beams of Blockbuster Video, Barnes and Noble, and Record Town. All places I’d worked that collapsed shortly after I’d given notice.

The Ghost will tuck his dust-strewn polo into his cobweb-riddled khakis, unknot his lanyard, and say, “If only you had pushed the credit card harder than these fine establishments might still be here.”

We’ll be joined by The Ghost of Non-politicized Holiday Farewells.

“Behold a young you behind the checkout counter.”

Pimple riddled me will wave goodbye to a customer. “Merry Kwanzaa-Hanu-Solistice.”

The customer will turn back. “And a happy Boxing Day to you too.”

Modern me will whisper, “I could never get away with that joke today.”

The spirits will lead me to a box office marque, filled with combinations of words I’d never seen before and The Ghost of Fresh Intellectual Properties will explain how movies used to be. We’ll sneak away when he gets into a debate with The Ghost of Problematic Christmas Films You Grew Up Loving.

We’ll regroup in the sunken crater of an abandon B.Dalton and get lectured by The Ghost of Long Form Literature. We’lltake comfort in knowing the works of Charles Dickens are in the public domain.

We’ll summon an uberXL and chart a course to my childhood home. On the way we’ll get a lecture from The Ghost of Licensed Cab Drivers and spend the trip looking out the windows at all the Christmas lights.

We’ll wait on my parents’ stoop, like a pack of carolers, until I think to knock on the door. It will creak open, as a flash of lightning reveals a thoroughly haunted home.

The Ghost of Tech Support-Free Visits to My Parents will accost me with appliances.

“The smart TV forgot the password for the Wi-Fi network, the cursor on the iMac turned into a beach ball, and this phone keeps saying iCloud storage is full. Whatever that means.”

The ghosts and I will hurry through the den past The Ghost of Wearing an Ugly Sweater Ironically, The Ghost of Real Christmas Trees,andThe Ghost of Mistletoe Meaning Consent.

We’ll sit around the kitchen table passing a cheese log between The Ghost of Apolitical Christmas Dinners, The Ghost of Harmless Headlines, and The Ghost of Literate Presidents.

The Ghost of Entertaining the Notion of Midnight Mass will make a sheepish attempt at conversation and we’ll pretend we don’t hear him.

Instead we’ll summon a DeLoreanXL and venture into the future.

The Ghost of Glaciers, Polar Ice Caps, and the Mere Concept of Snow will tell us what we have to look forward to from an abandoned oilrig.

“Hope you all like drinking your own pee because that’s how it’s going to be.”

“What if we go back and settle on a carbon tax?”

“If you can convince your cattle to pay for all the methane they’re pumping into the atmosphere you might have a chance.”

The ghosts and I will ride our DeLoreanXL into the sky even further into a future where towering logarithmic spirals have risen from the ocean. We’ll park on a dim lit platform, far from the throngs of bioluminescent aliens. TheGhost of Christmaswill explain how earth was terraformed by extra terrestrial colonists who superimposed their celebrations over our own. He’ll explain how they commemorate the new solar year by exchanging limbs. The Ghost of Christmas will kick the platform with his hands in his red fur trimmed pockets and shrug. “Now I know how my Pagan predecessors felt.”

The ghosts and I will pile back into the DeLoreanXL and go back to the present with our heads in our hands.

On Christmas morning I’ll put on my Sunday best and venture into town. I’ll let Tiny Tim know that I’d love to float him some paper for a lavish Christmas spread, but the economy is in a tailspin and all my assets are liquid.

“Maybe you could start a GoFundMe campaign for a Turkey dinner. Get those crutches in the picture and social media will eat that up for sure.”

God bless us everyone. Continue reading The Ghosts that Visit Me on Christmas Eve

Monster Mingle: Meet Scryzon Wixelvox Gleep

Welcome to Monster Mingle, a place for urban legends to find romance, where full moons lead to fuller hearts, and all the thirsty singles have fangs. This is how it works: illustrator Bryan Politte comes up with the creatures and I (Drew Chial horror author) give them a backstory.

Meet the first. He’s an alien. He’s well traveled, loyal, and charming, but just wait until you get to the end before you decide if you’re smitten.

About me

Greetings, lovelorn earthlings,

My designation is Scryzon Wixelvox Gleep, the last of the Monogoans: a race known for our vast subterranean cities, towering silver spires, and big hearts.

After the destruction of Monogome Prime my people were scattered throughout the galaxy. While our vessels were bioengineered to convert cosmic radiation into endless provisions, mine was the only one that functioned as designed. Helpless, I could do nothing but watch as my peoples’ vitals went flat. Then I was alone in the universe.

I’m ashamed to admit I spent a prolonged period in hyper stasis after that.

Eons later I now avoid the hibernation chamber. I focus on living an active lifestyle, walking the exterior perimeter of my vessel, and meditating beneath the stars. I spend my working hours restoring the Monogoan archives, piecing together our cultural legacy so that my lineage might know where they came from. (Yes, I wish to sire offspring, I hope that’s not a deal breaker.)

Physical features

I’m told my eyes are my most striking characteristic. My trinocular vision makes me an observant lover. I see ultraviolet light, infrared, and subtle emotional cues. My pheromone pores enable me to sense arousal from several kilometers away. I’m also a good listener, capable of hearing hypersonic frequencies, infra sound, and the sweetest of nothings.

My perfect match

For centuries I spent my evenings at the helm of my vessel monitoring the long-range scanners for signs of life. It was Earth that first gave me the green light. 100 hundred of your years ago I received your first radio signal. I mistook the bowing of the violin strings for your vocal incantations, thinking that transcendent music was how you spoke. Imagine my surprise when I found your speech patterns were similar to my own.

I charted a course for your solar system, devoting my days to learning your language, listening to your sports operas, talent plays, and quizcasts.

I’m embarrassed to admit I mistook the War of the Worldsfor a genuine newscast. The Martian Invasion was reminiscent of the attack that decimated Monogome Prime. From the heat rays to the black smoke to the heartless indifference of our attackers, it was all very triggering. I stole away to the roof of my vessel and sobbed into my helmet, certain I was alone again. When I crawled back through the airlock I found you were still broadcasting like nothing had happened. How could you toy with my emotions like that? I’m not going to lie. It felt like a breach of trust.

It was the Voyager 1 satellite reignited my feelings for you. The golden record, with all the warm greetings, was the mix tape I needed to know you were still into me.

As I near your solar system I’m watching your television broadcasts as I receive them, learning a lot about the intricacies of human courtship from shows like The Honeymooners and I can’t wait to give you all “one right in the kisser.”

IMG_2635
Monogome Prime By Bryan Politte

My Intimate Details

I’m omnisexual. Having evolved over eons my species is compatible with all carbon-based life forms. I know omnisexually carries a certain stigma. You might wonder how you could hold my attention when I’m sexually attracted to any carbon-based organism, but I assure youI am loyal. Monogoans are serial monogamists.

My ideal date

I would cherish nothing more than to fly around the earth taking in the sights with the right guide. Show me how to use the Eifel tower, what the pyramids are for, and what the great wall holds up. Together we’ll sample earth’s finest cuisine, art, and theater. I want to hear everything about you too, your dreams and aspirations, your five-century plan.

We’ll chat until morning as we fly toward the horizon, chasing the sunset. And when we’re exhausted from our revels we’ll exchange genetic material.

Now I know your species doesn’t traditionally interbreed, but don’t worry. There’s no need to get flummoxed over silly things like which genomes are compatible. My race reproduces parasitically. Our larva evolved to make hosts of any organism with a pulse. They’ll give you a healthy bioluminescent glow. The golden puss filled sacks that will droop from your earlobes and pearl-like cysts around your neckline will make you the envy of all your friends.

After all our revels paralysis will set in and you’ll have me all to yourself, waiting on you hand and foot. For all five decades of the gestation period you’ll be pampered and lavished with attention. We’ll grow old together as your bones and muscles liquefy into mush. I’ll squeeze you tight as your flesh withers into a hollowed out husk, and when the time comes I’ll wring you out, letting our children spill forth from your every orifice.

Please send me an electronic communication if this conforms to your idea of romance.

Soon to be yours,

Scryzon Wixelvox Gleep Continue reading Monster Mingle: Meet Scryzon Wixelvox Gleep

Help Us Name a Dating Site for Monsters

I’m teaming up with professional creature illustrator Bryan Politte to make dating profiles for monsters and we need your help naming the project.

Our Pitch

Horror writers take universal fears and intensify them. They add dumpsters full of oil slick tentacles to long dark allies. They perch gremlins on airplane wings and send great white worms into enclosed caves. While those fears prey on our animal instincts the fears that plague our modern world are social, romantic rejection being chief among them.

With all the new apps and etiquette modern romance is scary to navigate. We write bios to express what makes us unique, while burying our private peculiarities. We put carefully curated images out there hoping somebody likes what they see. We scream into the void and shudder when it whispers back.

I want to take that fear and add monsters to it.

With the help of my friend Bryan Politte, a professional creature illustrator,I’ll be creating a series of dating profiles for freaks, demons, and urban legends. Bryan will illustrate each sinister selfie while I write the dating profiles, which will read like flash fiction horror stories.

Our goal is to make something spooky that goes beyond parody. Each piece will be chilling and heart rending at the same time. This won’t be a mockery of the dating scene, but rather a love letter to the misfits caught up in it.

“Handsome Harold likes cuddly creatures and parties” Illustration by Bryan Politte

These monsters won’t be exaggerations of the worst people you might meet online. They will be mirrors of all of us. These monsters will lead with their red flags in the hopes of finding someone who doesn’t spook easily. They will overshare their sins in the hopes of being understood. They’ll flaunt the things we hide. They will be every bit as monstrous as we secretly believe ourselves to be.

We think this concept is pretty cool. If you do too then help us out by voting on a name, and if you have a better idea for one then we’d love to hear that too.

•••

Meet Noelle, a Hollywood transplant that’s been subsisting on instant ramen and false hope. She’s on the verge of moving back into her mother’s trailer when her agent convinces her to take a meeting at the Oralia Hotel. Enchanted by the art deco atmosphere Noelle signs a contract without reading the fine print.

Now she has one month to pen a novel sequestered in a fantasy suite where a hack writer claims he had an unholy encounter. With whom you ask? Well, he has many names: Louis Cypher, Bill Z. Bub, Kel Diablo. The Devil.

Noelle is skeptical, until she’s awoken by a shadow figure with a taste for souls.

Desperate to make it Noelle stays on, shifting the focus of her story to these encounters. Her investigations take her through the forth wall and back again until she’s blurred the line between reality and what’s written. Is there a Satanic conspiracy, is it a desperate author’s insanity, or something else entirely?

Pick up HE HAS MANY NAMES today!

The Red Devil Halloween Pail

I was sitting up in bed flipping through an issue of Nintendo Power when Dad knocked on the doorframe.

“Hey buddy, I got something for you.”

Dad reached into a shopping bag, took great care to unwrap the paper around the item, which he set on the mattress. It was a Halloween pail in the shape of a red devil. The devil stared at me from the edge of my bed. He was odd, unsettling, unlike anything I’d seen at Target. He had paint strokes and tiny imperfections signifying he hadn’t come off of any assembly line. A bubble in the shellac had created a wart on the end of his long sharp nose. His horns were tiny nubs with photorealistic ridges. His toothy grin was framed in the classic Satanic goatee. His angry eyebrows were raised so high they nearly touched his hairline. As for his glowing yellow cat eyes they felt like they were watching me.

Without thinking I scurried up my headboard. “He’s creepy.”

Dad wore a Cheshire Cat smile. “I know right?” He held the pail in his hand like he was preparing to recite Shakespeare. “I was told this handcrafted papier-mâché devil is one of a kind. I saw him in a shop window and immediately thought of you.”

“A red devil reminded you of me?”

“Definitely. It’s something in the eyes, that twinkle of unrepentant malevolence.”

I crossed my arms. “Gee thanks, Dad.”

“You’re welcome. You see I do notice these things.”

I rolled my eyes. I wasn’t in footy pajamas anymore. I was past going out in a plastic smock with a picture of who I was supposed to be on it. I was way beyond Halloween pails. I was seven, old enough to know the true meaning of the season was to maximize sugar intake before winter hibernation.

“You realize I’ll be using a pillowcase like everyone else.”

Dad shielded the devil’s long bat-like ears from such slander. “No way José!

“This impulse item didn’t come cheap.”

I shrugged. “You can use him.”

Dad pointed a finger to the idea bulb blinking above his head. “What if you put the best candy, the king sized bars, in the pail, and put the run off in the pillow?”

I tilted my head back and forth. “How about the other way around?”

Dad feigned confusion. He held the devil pail so as to whisper in its pointy ear then held its mouth up to his ear as if it was whispering back. “He agrees to your terms, but there’s a caveat.”

“A what?”

“A provision entitling your father to 10% of your take.”

I shook my head. “We haven’t learned percentages yet.”

“5?”

“Fine.”

We shook on it, Dad kissed me on the forehead, and I went to sleep. The next night we had a very profitable Halloween indeed.

The Halloween Haul

I dumped my pillow out across my bed. I was type A even back in the day. I had a system for organizing my sweets.

The candy bars were split into subcategories those with nuts, those without, those with a cookie crunch, and those with nougat (the cornerstone of a notorious breakfast).

This was when neighbors didn’t care if children had fatal food allergies. “Here, have a Salted Nut Roll you’ll be fine.”

It was only after I’d sorted through my best bars that I decided to sift through the fun-sized pile of shame.

I flipped the devil pail over and dumped the cast offs on my pillow. I shivered as a chill moved up the back of my neck.

That’s when I notice the strange oddities among the Jolly Ranchers, candy buttons, and Sixlets. It seemed as though some of the items I’d put into the pail that weren’t candy, toothpaste, dental floss, and the like, had come out different.

Where there were raisins were now sponge capsules that grew into dinosaurs when you added water. Bookmarks had become Garbage Pall Kids trading cards. A religious booklet titled Trick or Truthhad become an official Ghostbusters Ghostblaster noisemaker.

“Great Cesar’s ghost!”

The Ghostblaster was no small find. It was a limited edition promotion item exclusive to Hardee’s. Dad and I had driven around the city trying to track one down not knowing they’d already recalled them because they contained choking hazards. My little heart was broken, yet somehow someone in the neighborhood was giving them away like they were nothing. How could I have possibly mistaken this Ghostblaster for a religious text?

Had I mistaken each of these items before I’d cast them into the pail of shame? No. No way my neighbors were that cool. Something sinister was happening and it had everything to do with that creepy hand crafted pail.

I held the devil pail so that we saw eye to eye.

“Where did all this cool stuff from?”

I noticed something I’d missed the first time I looked at this devil. His eyes were uneven. A stoke of red paint made one eye smaller than the other. If I didn’t known any better I’d say he was winking.

“Was it you who turned the toothpaste into a tube of fake blood?”

The pail felt heavier all of sudden, like something inside it was shifting. There was a terrible cramp in my hand and a strange sensation like that of an icepack wrapped around my wrist. Before I knew it I was bobbing the devil pail up and down as if to make it nod.

Dad knocked on my doorframe. “Knock knock.”

I dropped the pail and swept the changed items into my pillowcase. “Why say, ‘Knock knock’ when you’re already knocking and why knock when you’re already in the room?”

Dad scanned the X-Men posters for an answer. “Because I can.” His attention turned back to the bed. “Alright, you remember our little deal? Dad skims 5%.”

I half nodded. “I remember saying we haven’t learned percentages yet. Does five percent mean you want five items?”

I offered one strawberry granny candy, a box of Good and Plenty, lemonheads, Bazooka bubble gum, and a roll of Smarties. All candies I could comfortably part with.

“That’s it?”

I glared. “I have altered the deal. Pray that I don’t alter it any further.” I said in my best Darth Vader voice.

Dad cocked his head. “Daddy’s going to need some chocolate.”

I scrapped my haul together and lay on top, knowing full well what was coming.

Dad chuckled. “Oh I’ve got the key to this particular fortress.”

Electric tickle signals surged through my sides and before I knew it I’d rolled onto the floor cackling. Dad kept the tickle torcher going long after I’d left my mountain of candy unguarded. “This is the only way you’ll ever learn.”

“What’s going on here?” Mom spoke over dad’s shoulder.

“I’m teaching a very important lesson on why you shouldn’t weasel out of deals.”

Mom made a serious face. “You do realize that contract law is Mommy’s forte so if anything…” Mom moved into position. “I should be teaching this lesson.”

That’s when I felt her fingers beneath my armpits. I kicked like a frog on it’s back. With both of my parents tickling I went into convulsions.

That’s when a pew-pew-pew emitted from my pillow.

“What was that?” Mom perked up.

The Ghostblaster went off again.

I tried direct their attention toward the hall. “The smoke detector?”

Dad stood up. “Sounds like it needs new battery. I better change it or it’ll be doing that all night.”

Twilight Treasures

That night I stayed up putting objects into the devil pail. I tapped the brim like a magician, flipped it, and retrieved something awesome.

I dug through my desk doing an inventory of things I could part with: rubber bands, paperclips, foreign currency my grandparents had left me. I dropped each item into the pail and felt the weight shift, like an invisible hand plucked something out and slid something else in its place.

Birthday cards came out as Playboy bunny stickers just like the ones in the vending machine at the roller rink. Loose yarn came out as friendship bracelets. Erasers came out as finger monsters. A fist full of pencil shavings came out as a bag of bang snaps: little explosives wrapped in cigarette paper that popped when you pelted at the ground.

It became clear that the larger the item I put into the pail was the cooler the item that came out would be. The devil pail took a yo-yo and upgraded it into a military grade slingshot. It took a pair of dull edged scissors and upgraded them into a bonafide switchblade. It took a stack of Chuck E. Cheese tickets and upgraded them into a wad of cold hard cash.

When I was done rummaging through my closet for sacrificial objects I gathered up my bounty of silly string, throwing stars, and firecrackers and stuffed it all into my backpack. I lay awake thinking about all the showing and telling I’d be doing on the playground.

Impromptu Parent Teacher Conference

Principle Simonson withdrew the contents of my backpack an item at a time for dramatic effect. He was trying to impress upon my parents the sheer volume of contraband their son had gotten his hands on.

“One set of brass knuckles.”

I couldn’t help but marvel at how the knuckles had retained the red coloring of the Swingline stapler they were born from.

“One, is it, a pairof Nunchucks?”

There were two candles mom wasn’t getting back.

Principle Simonson shot my mother a nasty look as he set the next item on the desk.

“One deck of pornographic playing cards.”

In hindsight, what little I can recall of the deck was not pornographic, not as I’D define the word today. They were tasteful hand painted pin-ups. The kind of bathing suit beauties one might see painted on the nose of jet. There was no nudity, but the nevertheless I was really going to miss them.

I was going to miss everything Principle Simonson was confiscating: the whoopee cushion, the fart spray, the candy cigarettes, and prop fingers. These were gifts I’d given to myself.

This felt like one of those Christmas dreams when my parents got me the thing they’d sworn Santa couldn’t fit into his slay. One minute I was driving around the lawn in a miniature motorized DeLorean and the next I was waking up with nothing.

Mom crouched down to my level. “Honey you have to tell us where you got all of these things?”

In the second grade I didn’t know anything about my Fourth Amendment right prohibiting unreasonable search and seizure, but I knew enough about my Fifth Amendment right not to implicate myself.

Mom put her hand on my wrist. “Honey, I need you to tell me if someone gave them to you?”

I hadn’t meant to nod, but my chin had betrayed me.

“Who honey?”

I assumed these enchanted items had come from a “what.” It hadn’t occurred to me that there might actually be a “who.”

I didn’t know how to put the reality of the situation into words so I sat there with my mouth open while mom rattled off her questions.

“Did they tell you not to say? Were they a stranger? Did you meet them on your way home? Did they say they’d hurt you if you told? Did they ask you to go anywhere with them?”

I shook my head, but there was no derailing mom’s train of reasoning. Someone had tried to enchant her son in the ten minutes it took him to walk home. Dad’s default cocksure grin flattened as mom detailed a worst-case scenario. It was clear to her that stranger-danger had made its way to our little town. They agreed that I’d be spending a few extra hours in the extended day program after school until dad could pick me up on his way home.

•••

That evening dad put the devil pail on the top shelf of the laundry room closet between the turtle wax and Christmas ornaments.

Worse still I was grounded. I wanted nothing more than to serve out my penance gathering items and tossing them into the pail. I’d stare at my mother’s ceramic figurines and wonder what they’d become once they’d touched the devil’s tongue. I wondered how many fountain pens dad really needed or if mom would notice if one little piece of China went missing.

I’d always wanted a pair of X-Ray specs, fake vomit, and trick dice.

No matter. The pail was out of reach and there was no way I was drudging the stepladder from the garage without drawing attention. I’d have to bide my time until a growth spurt kicked in.

•••

That night I dreamt my parents were bound and gag, heading down a conveyor belt into a fiery furnace shaped like the devil’s mouth. Their eyes plead for help, but I just stood at the levers waving goodbye to care. To my parents’ credit, they were teetering back and forth, trying their best to roll off the belt, but they just could coordinate very well. They heat was already making them sweat. Mom was sobbing, trying desperately to chew through her gag to get out one final plea, but it was too late.

There was the faintest of shrieks as the furnace belched a giant fireball. A tire cut path through the smoke. A blood red mountain coasted through the haze, dipped off the conveyor belt, and rolled right between my legs.

When I awoke the devil pail was sitting upon my chest staring at me with those glowing yellow eyes. I had no clue how it got there, but I knew it was hungry.

•••

Meet Noelle, a Hollywood transplant that’s been subsisting on instant ramen and false hope. She’s on the verge of moving back into her mother’s trailer when her agent convinces her to take a meeting at the Oralia Hotel. Enchanted by the art deco atmosphere Noelle signs a contract without reading the fine print.

Now she has one month to pen a novel sequestered in a fantasy suite where a hack writer claims he had an unholy encounter. With whom you ask? Well, he has many names: Louis Cypher, Bill Z. Bub, Kel Diablo. The Devil.

Noelle is skeptical, until she’s awoken by a shadow figure with a taste for souls.

Desperate to make it Noelle stays on, shifting the focus of her story to these encounters. Her investigations take her through the forth wall and back again until she’s blurred the line between reality and what’s written. Is there a Satanic conspiracy, is it a desperate author’s insanity, or something else entirely?

Pre-order my novel HE HAS MANY NAMES today!

The Apple Watch Ritual

The following is inspired by the surge in instructional rituals circulating the net. Each ritual is a complex variation on the old Bloody Mary game. They take Creepy Pastas and urban legends and invite readers to participate in them. They’re good for a shiver, but they feel like they’re missing some modern flare. My ritual fixes that.

The Apple Watch Ritual

Is your Instagram feed filled with before and after photos of friends in loose fitting clothes? Are you tired of looking for reasons to stay in during swimsuit season? Or do you just want the kind of definition that attracts attention?

Well I know a way that’s guaranteed to give you results overnight. I’m talking washboard abs, bulging biceps, and a beefed up badonkadonk. It’s the ultimate workout ritual. All you’ll need is a pair Apple Watches, the drive to succeed, and a fresh corpse.

Warning:this ritual could exhaust, severely injure, and perhaps even kill you. It will most definitely void your Apple Watches’ warranties.

The Ritual

Park outside of a funeral home right before it opens. Have an Apple Watch on a charger mounted to the dashboard. You’ll also need a layer of Under Armor beneath your funeral attire, a pair of running shoes on the passenger seat, and a Teddy Bear.

Set up an Apple ID for the watch on the dashboard. Open the activity app on your phone, tap Sharingand make sure the watch on your wrist is following the one on the dashboard.

Wait for the funeral director to open the doors and for the grief stricken to start pilling in. Smear a scoop of Vapor Rub beneath your eyelids (not in your eyes, that will cause severe irritation). Check the whites of your eyes in the mirror as the menthol does its thing. Once your eyes are as red as the devil’s dick you’re ready to make your entrance.

Yes, you’re going to be crashing a wake.

Enter the funeral parlor cradling the Teddy Bear. Find the next of kin and insist the deceased made you promise they’d be buried with it. Now pay your respects. The bear is there to give you the opportunity to tie the Apple Watch around the body’s cold pulseless wrist.

Important! You’ll need to make sure the body is buried with a Series 3 (or higher) Apple Watch. The Series 3 introduced built in cellular allowing it to function without a phone.

You will also have to begin the ritual immediately after the body is buried, because the watch will only have an 18-hour charge.

Find a place to submerge your wrist: a sink, a toilet bowl, or a font of holy water. Dip your watch under and press the power button until you see the Apple symbol come on. When the watch face shows up say, “Hey Siri, message (say the Apple ID of the deceased).” Then recite the following incantation:

To the cadaver in the casket
Sinking into a grit
Of roots, worms, and maggots
Hear my unholy writ
I challenge thee to a Satanic circuit
Of upside down cross-fit
So that I may feel the burn
Of the bottomless pit

When you feel the watch’s haptic engine vibrate you’ll know that the ritual has begun.

The Rules of the Ritual

The Apple Watch has an activity monitor. Tap it and you’ll see three rings: one red, one green, and one blue. The red ring represents the percentage of your movement goals for the day. This is based on how many calories you intend to burn. Usually you set this by entering your height, weight, age, and gender, but not today. Today you’re making a necromancer’s wager. Your goals will be determined by the thing you’ve awakened.

The green ring represents your exercise time. Apple has prescribed 30 minutes for everyone, but just remember this is a competition, just because you’ve hit thirty doesn’t mean you’re anywhere near done.

The blue ring represents the time you spend standing. Apple recommends you get up and move around for a couple minutes at least twelve times a day. This should be the easiest goal to hit seeing as how you’ll have no time to sit.

Warning: If you fail to close your rings before your crypt bound competition bad things will happen.

Keep this in Mind

You will find that your watch’s sensors are a lot less forgiving than on days you’re not conjuring dead things. The watch will know when you’re standing and when you’re just lifting your wrist. It will know when you’re running and when you’re just swinging your arms. If you open the Workout app and scroll all the way down to Otheroption your watch will no longer give you credit for simply running the timer down.

Run Like Hell

You will have to run like the world is caving in behind you. Run until you’re raw and sore, until your toes are open blisters, and your shoes are pooling with puss. Once it feels like the soles of your sneakers have eroded, your skin has shed, and your exposed musculature is touching down on molten magma, then you’ll know it’s time to check your watch… And run some more.

Consider the fact that your competition is clawing at the lid of a coffin with 300 pounds of resistance. Consider the fact that the dead’s will to return to the surface is greater than your will to get fit. Consider the fact that if you stop moving something with a swollen tongue will quiet literally be licking at your heels.

Take a breather for a little too long and you’ll see what beast mode really looks like.

Commit to Infinite Reps

Once your lungs feel like they’re going to overdose on oxygen, your heart feels like it’s stuck on vibrate, and you stink like a skunk on meth, stagger into a gym and park your ass at the weight rack.

You will have to lift until you can see your veins, until you grind the lifelines from your palms, until your arms pull a mutiny and refuse commands from your body. Then you’ll have to find another muscle group and push it past the point of exhaustion.

If it feels like you’re struggling beneath the weight of the world then you’re doing it right.

Another thing to Keep in Mind

The Apple Watch doesn’t wait until you’re asleep to reset the activity monitor. It does it at midnight.

Remember when enchanted the Apple Watch will function better than it was programmed. You won’t be able to buy yourself a few extra hours by screwing with the Timesettings.

Don’t Lose

If you haven’t closed your rings and crushed your crypt bound competition you will face consequences, literally, face to milky-eyed face.

If you lose your muscles will atrophy instantly and your bones will turn to jelly. You’ll collapse into a heap. If you’re lucky your lungs will weaken and you’ll pass out from exhaustion. If you’re unlucky you’ll be awake when teeth begin gnawing on your skin, pealing the flesh from the muscle like fried chicken.

Sure, this is a worst-case scenario, but what are you willing to risk to get as jacked as a super hero? Continue reading The Apple Watch Ritual