Tag Archives: horror

The Boogeyman in My Basement

Bloody Door

There was a peck on the door. Not a knock, but a gentle rapping that wasn’t sure of itself. This was not the beak of a raven, but that of a hummingbird. Yawning in the hallway, I thought I’m not putting my pants on for that.

The tapping stopped, whoever it was. The Jehovah’s witness had second thoughts about sharing their beliefs with someone with such an unkempt hallway. The vacuum cleaner salesmen doubted his product would do me much good. The petitioner doubted someone with that many bottles on their porch cared about wildlife preserves.

The stairs creaked as the mysterious solicitor slunk back to the sidewalk from wince they came. I shuffled over to the kitchen to attend to the pressing matter of eating ice cream straight from the tub.

My roommate had asked if I’d borrowed any of the cash on his desk. I’d helped myself to some of his razors, deodorant, and clean socks, but I wasn’t aware that he’d left any money out.

I caught movement out of the corner of my eye; a shadow beneath the back entrance. A key clicked into the lock. There came a rapping, so faintly came a tapping, and my ice cream hit the floor. I squeezed my knuckles into fists and positioned myself in front of the door.

It screeched open to reveal an intruder. His face was slick with sweat. His skin was sun dried, red enough to hide the cysts along his hairline. He was shirtless, an emaciated golem. His skin left none of his rib cage to the imagination. His shorts were a patchwork of grass and blood stains.

His hand shook, wielding the key like a prison shank.

I stepped forward. “How’s it going?”

The intruder leapt back. “Is, um, Mike home?”

Shaking my head, “Nope.” I put my hand out, “Can I see that key?”

Feigning to set the key in my palm, the intruder dropped it on the floor. Lowering my eyes, I missed his getaway. The intruder slid down the railing, tapped one foot on the mezzanine, and leapt down the stairs. He was ghost.

So it turned out this was the tenant I’d been brought on to replace six months ago. He’d been stealing DVD box sets and pawning them for drug money. Here he was to make another rental from my roommate’s library.

Running down the stairs, I saw no clear sign that the intruder had left the building. My hunch was that he hid in the basement. Flashlight in hand, I made my way through the cobwebs and the mouse traps. Shattered glass cracked under foot, announcing my position to the darkness. I scanned the abandoned storage closets. There were deflated bike tires, doors stacked against the walls, and circular saws in the laundry room sink.

There was a color crayon picture on the work bench, a crudely drawn man with a handlebar mustache. A series of violent lines sliced through his gut, a gash of black across his middle. A caption down the side read:

I DIDN’T DO IT, BUT I KNOW WHO DID.

He’d been living down there. Who knows for how long? In the coming months, I would jump whenever the wind rattled the doors, put my ear to the walls, listen for bumps in the night, look for silhouettes through the blinds, and drudge into the basement to check for boogeymen.

Though the intruder never returned, the intrusion haunted me. Continue reading The Boogeyman in My Basement

Build Your Own Monsters

Photo by Keane Amdahl follow him on Twitter @FoodStoned
Photo by Keane Amdahl follow him on Twitter @FoodStoned

There’s a reason why vampires still rise out of crypts. It’s the same reason why packs of werewolves roam the countrysides, ghosts linger in abandon lighthouses, and demons wait in attics beside Ouija boards and Twister mats. There’s a reason why every flash of bright blue light hides an alien vessel, why squadrons of witches streak across the moon, and why zombies clog the interstate. It’s the same reason why Bloody Marry is on call behind every reflective surface, why trolls make living rooms of covered overpasses, and why every tomb, no matter how far from Egypt, is stacked full of mummies.

These monsters have stood the test of time. They’ve been vetted by generations of storytellers. Each creature has deep cultural roots and instant brand recognition. We see elongated canines, dripping with blood, and we know what to expect. We hear doors slam, see furniture stack, and we anticipate a chill in the air. We see a sickly girl chained to a bed, shouting obscenities, and we expect her head to spin like a sprinkler firing pea soup across the walls.

These creatures have the staying power to crawl up from the pits of the public domain. Their mythos are classics. New works based on them are never dismissed as fan-fiction. Good writers borrow, great writers steal, and if you’re going to be a thief you might as well steal from the best.

Writing a story about vampires or werewolves is like filling out a mad-lib in reverse. The character attributes are already there, all you have to do is come up with the situation. Writers who take on these monsters are like DJs remixing mythologies. The tune never changes, all they have to do is drop a fresh beat. Like grade school students passing a story around, writers using these monsters contribute to an ongoing plot. They expand a vast universe that’s populated with characters with strikingly similar names.

What do you do when you want to tell your own story? Continue reading Build Your Own Monsters

Eviction Notice

What happens when you pit a landlord against a tenant that’s possessed by a demon? Find out who is the greater of two evils.

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Eviction Notice

Dean eased the door open. A funk washed over him, ran down his throat, and turned his stomach. The room stunk like a raccoon carcass cooking in the bowels of an outhouse. There was a silhouette on the bed, a lump beneath the covers. He flipped the light switch. Nothing happened.

Patience waited at the door, double-fisting rosary beads, praying into her knuckles.

Reaching into the Velcro pouch between his keys and his tape measurer, Dean produced a flashlight. He clicked it against his thigh, while his free arm cradled a stack of documents.

Ignoring the bed, Dean surveyed the rest of the room. There were splinters, wood chips, and glass shards in the entryway. Fragments of light bulb led to the scattered remains of four wooden blades. There was a twinkle at the foot of the bed; the gold housing of the ceiling fan, several steps from the motor, and the chrome mounting device.

Dean shook his head. “The floor’s going to need to be refinished, and that fan was vintage.”

Patience mouthed the words. “She did that.” Her breath whistled through her teeth in ever increasing intervals.

Dean shrugged. He shined his light on the gap where the fan had been. A pair of wires dangled from it, waiting for a gust of wind to make them whole again.

“That’s a fire hazard.” He thought aloud.

A stain streaked across the ceiling tiles. It was as black as tar at its thickest point and as yellow as piss at its faintest. There was a clear splatter pattern; an arc of bile from the bed to the closet on the other side of the room.

Dean pinched his nose. “That biological hazard is gonna have to be bleached out.”

Patience motioned to the lump on the mattress. Continue reading Eviction Notice

Contrast is Cool

Photo by Keane Amdahl follow him on Twitter @FoodStoned
Photo by Keane Amdahl follow him on Twitter @FoodStoned

Why Choose a Genre?

Into every life an avalanche of books fall. Readers have more choices now than they’ve ever had. Endcaps filled with hardcovers, have been replaced by screens filled with thumbnails. What once took up valuable bookshelf real estate, now takes a few measly megabytes. Readers are overwhelmed with options.

Its up to authors to whittle the selection down, to label our own work, to categorize our magnum opuses for the sake of brand recognition. We have to take our ninety-thousand word story and sum it up in one word; the genre.

This isn’t that easy.

Your story traverses the vast expanse of emotional landscape. It’s equal parts horrifying and touching, bitter and sweet. It’s painted in the full spectrum of human experience. Your characters suffer, they lust, and they laugh.

Your story is escapist fantasy, but doesn’t require the mind to travel too far. It explores the heights of the imagination, but its rooted in reality. It takes place on its own world, yet it’s an allegory for the one we live in. It’s universal, but it’s intensely personal. It’s a product of its era, but timeless in its simplicity. It’s not just your story; it’s your legacy.

Now how do you sum all that up in just one word? Can you brand it, pigeon hole it, lump it in with all the others? Can you catalogue it for easy browsing? Can you give us examples of ones just like it? Is it this meets this? Is it pink or blue, a skirt or a cape, a heart or an explosion? Is it a retelling of a reimagined reinvention of a remake, or is it a fresh take on an old-fashioned formula? Is it a beloved cult classic, revived for the twerking generation? Which great myth have you added cellphones too? Continue reading Contrast is Cool

Playing with Fire

Photo by Keane Amdahl follow him on Twitter @FoodStoned
Photo by Keane Amdahl follow him on Twitter @FoodStoned

Have you ever had the nightmare where you’re being chased through an endless subterranean maze? You can never put enough distance between yourself and your pursuer. They’re breathing down your neck. They’re hot on your heels. One false move and they’ll bite down on your jugular. How would you like to be on the other side of that chase scene?

Here’s your chance to sneak into someone else’s nightmare, to be the monster on the prowl, to see through its red luminescent eyes. This is your chance to be the urban legend that terrorizes urban explorers, to be the name they’re too afraid to whisper.

“Mr. Soot.”

This was going to be the introduction for an article on mixing genres called Contrast is Cool. My favorite stories defy expectations by merging two elements and making them clash. This was going to be the example that illustrated my point; R rated horror versus a young adult fairy tale. Turns out, it was clever enough to carry itself.

This story owes a debt to @Raishimi who edited it and offered many useful suggestions along the way. Her contributions make this one of my best pieces. For solid writing advice and the stories to back it up, check out her site here.

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Playing with Fire

The caves echoed with laughter, the free spirited cackles of youth. They were too far away for their words to retain any meaning, but their tone bobbed up and down with flirty inflections. One voice was giving, the others were receiving.

This was the wake up call Mr. Soot needed. It was time to go to work. He yawned from his perch among the bats; cracked his neck, and let go of the stalactites. Belly-flopping onto the stones below, the impact was enough to loosen the tinder in his lungs, but not enough to get the fires started. Interlocking his fingers, he stretched his arms out, cracked his knuckles, and brought them down on his solar plexus.

His shoulders quaked as the fires revved up, only to sputter to a stop. The spark had flared, but there was no ignition.

Hitting his chest again, he felt a surge of adrenaline, followed by a surge of gasoline. His fingers blurred as his engine came roaring to life. Continue reading Playing with Fire

The Moderator PART 3: Bridge Trolls

Photo by Keane Amdahl, follow him on Twitter @FoodStoned
Photo by Keane Amdahl, follow him on Twitter @FoodStoned

Read the other parts here:

1. Epic Burn
2. The Straw Man

This is the dark conclusion to my cyber-bully storyline. It’s the reason the entire piece is called, “The Moderator.” I write flexible outlines to allow my stories to swerve into the kind of dark territory this one lands in. The ending had me questioning if this was one of the worst, or best things I’ve ever written. The jury is still out on that, but the story had an impact on me.

I owe a debt of gratitude to @Raishimi for scanning through the story for grammatical mistakes. If you like intensely clever dark short fiction, check her blog out here.

In part 3, Jeremiah Jenkins has tracked down the cyber bully that outed him online. A man named River. Armed with his target’s whereabouts, Jeremiah has come to San Diego with a plan of his own.

The Moderator PART 3: Bridge Trolls

River walked down the sidewalk with his eyes buried in his phone. It was as big as any touchscreen tablet, except this one made calls. He was using an application that took advantage of the camera. It allowed him to type and see the ground at the same time. With an e-cigarette screwed into his lips, River was a master multitasker. He took a puff. Static crackled inside the pipe. He exhaled. The vapor trailed behind him. Continue reading The Moderator PART 3: Bridge Trolls

The Moderator PART 2: The Straw Man

Photo by Keane Amdahl, follow him on Twitter @FoodStoned
Photo by Keane Amdahl, follow him on Twitter @FoodStoned

In the previous installment of The Moderator, Jeremiah Jenkins found himself outed by a fellow cyber bully. He’d made a death threat and his rival The Straw Man called him on his bluff. That night a cyber mob hacked his accounts and warped his online identity. They posted pregnancy news on FaceBook, turned him into a rogue NSA agent on Twitter, and added terrorism to his LinkedIn resumé. They killed his career opportunities, his relationship prospects, and his reputation. The trolls put his head up on a pike for all the world to see.

In part 2 of this 3 part tale, we catch up with Jeremiah in the middle of a psychotic break.

I owe another debt of gratitude to @Raishimi for catching many of my grammatical mistakes (I love it when people point those little buggers out to me).

The Moderator PART 2: The Straw Man

That night, Jeremiah dreamt he was sprinting down cobblestone streets. Oil lanterns passed by in a blur. He swerved as a horse drawn carriage barreled down on him. He dove to avoid being trampled. When the horses past, he heard his pursuers’ feet stomping behind him. Their numbers had grown. Minute men had answered the call. Pedestrians had been enveloped into the horde. Street workers dropped the tools of their trade, and picked up other ones.

The boots came marching out of every entryway. There was a fugitive on the loose. In this police state, every citizen was on call to catch him. Continue reading The Moderator PART 2: The Straw Man

The Night the Moon Came Down to Earth

Holding the MoonThe forest is alive with nodding treetops. They’ve come to a consensus. Each of them agree to throw their branches up into the air, to cast their pinecones into the night. Each of them creak as they bow to one another. Their trunks bend, their leafs curtsy. They dance. We have a good view from our place on the prairie. We watch the current cascade through them. It looks like an evergreen chorus line, especially when the trees kick up their skirts, and something comes rushing out. Continue reading The Night the Moon Came Down to Earth

The Men Behind the Curtain: Part 2

Teddy’s pod hurdled down the conveyer belt. The momentum pushed him into the chrome. His nub tail receded into his body. The stuffing churned in his belly. He hooked his paws around the bars. Orbs whizzed by in his peripheral. These were the other pods, micro prison cells just like his own. There were peeps all around. Teddy wondered if the sound was grease on the track until he realized the peeps were coming from inside those pods. He caught glimpses of silhouettes recoiling with hands over their faces. Teddy made the connection. The sound had been screams all along. Continue reading The Men Behind the Curtain: Part 2