In the Psyche of Sarlea
[Night to Dawn, Issue #35]
In the soft unfocused light of an emerging dawn, a ghost-pale and scrawny figure slithered in under the door, a serpentine wisp of nefarious intent. It—she, actually—grabbed hold of the carved bedpost by the sleeper’s feet, and pulled herself up and onto the queen-sized bed. Slowly, gently, crawling over grandmother’s hand-made quilt, she at last arrived at her destination: the sleeper’s chest, which rose and fell in accordance with the rhythm of his dreams.
The Gift of the Whirl-Wind
[Night to Dawn, Issue #36]
The insistent knocking pounded its way through DeShawn’s dead-to-the-world sleep until it finally woke him. He sat up slowly and rubbed his eyes, not completely sure the knocking wasn’t part of his dream—a bad dream that featured the new honey who waited tables at the joint where he tended bar, her jealous, muscle-bound parolee boyfriend, and a log cabin in the woods. Of all of the components of his dream, the cabin in the woods struck him as the most bizarre, as he was a dedicated life-long city boy. Why would he go to the woods—or anywhere—when he had everything he wanted in this city?
The Demon’s Perk
[Ashes horror anthology, 13 o’Clock Press]
This is my favorite place for relaxing. Some co-workers complain that it’s too small a space, they can’t stretch out, the tile walls wreck the acoustics, it’s too dark until it isn’t, then it’s too bright. I counter that I don’t need much space; I like tiny, snug spaces. Think of the tiny houses so popular with the young people today. Something like that. As for the tile walls—that serves to make it so easy to clean. Hose it down and you’re done. Complaints about the acoustics? I don’t care; I’d rather my place be kept tidy. What am I going to do on my time off—sing hymns and gospel songs? I think not. And this business about the lights? Again, don’t care. Darkness has always been my ally; the sudden bright light is my doorbell ringing: it means something amusing has arrived at my home. Special delivery!
[Cranial Leakage: Tales from the Grinning Skull Vol. III]
From the highway, the building was a squat pink box surrounded by scrawny mesquite, sagebrush and dirt. The only other clue to its existence was a weathered billboard some ten miles back. That sign read, “Pinky’s World, Your Highway Getaway for Adult Indulgences!” in curly black letters against a neon-pink background. Well, years ago the sign was an eye-grabbing black on hot pink; now, it was a sickly gray against a watery, almost-coral color. The Arizona sun was none too kind to roadside adverts.
The Last Train
(Reprint; previously titled “The End of the Line”)
[Lonesome Train anthology, 13 O’Clock Press, 2017]
He slipped the subway token into the smooth-worn slot and, pressing his thighs against the turnstile, pushed his way through. He paced himself, mixing with the 5 o’clock commuter crowd. No one noticed how much he was sweating, it’s always sticky-hot down in the station, but he had to shove his hands into his pockets to stop them trembling. There were no trains on either side of the platform, no distant subterranean rumble. To him, it seemed like he waited for hours, for days. He could feel his fingernails growing, digging into his palms.
Strange Music Follows Her Everywhere
[Black Petals, Spring 2018, Issue #83]
She was number 1,435 off the assembly line. Before the finishing stage, she looked like every model before her: Bald, smooth, bland, with eyes of no discernible color. Bereft of programming and battery pack. Giacomo would take care of all that when she arrived at his station.
[Yellow Mama, Issue 67, April 2018]
For twenty five years—more than half my life—I bowed to Duncan’s whims, gave in to his arguments, and gave up on trying to compromise on anything. He was stubborn—as his mother gleefully told me when we were newly engaged. No, I should’ve told her, he was a bully. Subtle in his methods; if he’d been a woman, folks would have called him manipulative. He was a master in the art of gas-lighting. I suspect he learned it at his mother’s knee.
When Bucky Comes Home
[The Siren’s Call, Issue 36 (zombies), December 2017]
Deep in the piney woods of East Texas, the thunder of an approaching storm boomed loudly enough to rattle the window panes of the Thompson’s old homestead. The storm was moving closer, Ma Thompson noted, to no one in particular. Pa was too preoccupied sharpening his old woodcutter’s ax to listen to her. Sis was sleeping fitfully on the floor before the dying fire in the sooty fireplace, dreaming of more a peaceful past, where the weather was always warm. Brother may have been there in spirit, but in body he was long gone.
Greetings From The Ruins Of The Castle Stubtoe!
[Postcard Shorts, posted 11/19/17]
I’m contacting you so you know we’re fine, no matter what you might’ve heard. Yes, Nicolette did break her leg. She slipped as she danced in the mid-winter midnight rain, while attempting to contact the spirits, or conjure daemons, or whatever she’s into these days.
An Alto for the Choir
[Yellow Mamma, October 2017 (Halloween Issue), #64]
Somebody forgot to top off the oil in the car. So on that long trek back to the family homestead, on that long lonely stretch of highway on a cloudless August afternoon, the engine of a beautiful and otherwise perfectly preserved 1978 sapphire-blue Camero seized and died.
[365tomorrows.com, July 25, 2017]
The old woman leaned over the tombstone, and wiped the flat screen embedded in the front. It was grimy from exposure to the elements, but with a few gentle, conscientious strokes with her handkerchief, came clean. She sighed wearily, stepped back, and digging through her over-sized purse, located the small remote needed to operate the screen. Two clicks of the green button, and it flickered on. A middle-aged man, handsome in an everyday kind of way, smiled at her from the ether. He waited for her to speak first, like the gentleman he was.
[Trembling with Fear / HorrorTree.com, February 12, 2017]
“Granny Gwen, who is the man in this picture?”
“Let me see, child. There’s your brother Montgomery, and Mommy,” Gwen said, tracing her finger along the old photo.
Xeno’s House of Fashion
[Theme of Absence online, February 10, 2017]
“Mmmm, we’ll need to tuck that in, stretch out this odd little bit, squeeze this thing as tight as we can, and trim a bit off there, for sure.” So sayeth Marty, the head stylist for Xeno’s House of Fashion.
The object of his critique was Monique, a trim young little thing with flawless skin and bouncy silken hair. She wasn’t clear about what, exactly, Marty was referring to. She turned to him, and with her cutest pouty lips, asked him what he meant. “My hair? You’re not about to cut these golden locks! It’s taken me years to get this look!
The Lucky Break
[Black Petals online, Winter Issue, #78, Jan 15, 2017]
Her mother couldn’t stand an empty room, so she filled every available space with furniture. Got to the point where you couldn’t turn around without cracking an elbow or knocking a knee against some solid piece of something. Dana promised herself, when she got a place of her own, she’d have one room with absolutely nothing in it.
The Birthday Present
[365tomorrows.com posted 10/16/16]
“Just think of all the work you will complete, Connie, now that you have an extra month here.”
Conrad ignored Tandie, the on-board computer that ran everything. Including scheduling. He was in the middle of a job, and didn’t care for distracting small-talk.
“Did you hear me, Connie?”
Yard Sale of the Fates
[Eternal Haunted Summer, Summer Solstice Issue, 2016]
The old woman cuddled the ball of sunflower-yellow yarn, smoothing the fly-away fibers before setting it down. On her table, she’d constructed a pyramid of multicolored balls of yarn. She stroked the yellow ball after she set it atop her little pyramid, whispering, “Such a pretty color for some sweet little girl.” The old woman continued mumbling to herself, “If her momma picks this one, the child will have a long and happy life.”
[365tomorrows.com, April 24, 2016]
Casey waited in line for more than two hours when the rain started. A soft, misty rain that chilled him to the bone; he tightly crossed his arms and shivered. Even if he caught a cold, attending this event would still be worth it. Maybe, he wondered, he’d get an autograph, or even better, a photo with Candidate Sterling. Or better yet, shake his hand. Now that would be awesome!
Just Like Old Times
[365tomorrows.com, September 2, 2015]
Sheila opened the door to her grandmother’s house, flooding the dusty entryway with sunlight. She walked through the little house opening shutters and raising blinds. She put the fresh flowers she’d brought in a vase.
Medusa of the Midway Diner
[Eternal Haunted Summer, Summer Solstice, 2015]
The neon sign came to life twitching and buzzing, birthing the image of the giant jellyfish. Its pink and white tentacles rose and fell in a stiffly staccato motion. The head of the jellyfish wore an improbable smile, and an even more improbable baseball cap. The sign had been an attraction for tourist photographers for more than twenty years. Other than being located within driving distance to the beach, the Midway Diner had nothing to do with jellyfish, or any fish, for that matter; except, perhaps, serving fried fish for Friday’s blue-plate special. So the diner’s mascot, the giant neon jellyfish the locals called Olly (after the owner and fry-cook), became an attraction in itself, and travelers often ended up eating at the Midway. Needing no other form of advertising, the diner did alright. Of course, having statue garden roadside-attraction on the other side of the parking lot didn’t hurt, either.
The Little Entrepreneur [Hogglepot, posted 2/27/2011]
Patricia was such a serious little girl—you would never call her Trisha, Trish, Pat or Patty. She rose at six each morning, brushed her hair exactly sixty strokes (thirty left, thirty right), brushed her teeth for exactly one minute (thirty seconds up, thirty seconds down), dressed in clothes she’d laid out the night before, all before marching herself downstairs for breakfast. A breakfast, it must be added, that she prepared for herself, as usually her parents slept in.
Lately in Print:
Bright light through the bindings blindfolding my eyes. My entire body is bound in bindings so tight, in fact, that I can’t move my arms, legs, anything. But I’m so tired, I’m not that interested in moving, anyway. The lights go out. Now back to sleep.
The Path Through the Words
[Surreal Nightmares II, James Ward Kirk Publishing, 2018]
Reese rubbed his eyes and leaned back in his creaky desk chair. He loved his field of study, he really did, but it was brutal on his eyes. He turned a page in the old book open before him. He was two paragraphs in when it struck him that the physical placement of the text on the page left streaks of blank space meandering through the words, like a well-worn path through dense woods.
The People Upstairs (revised reprint)
[White Noise & Ouija Boards, Three Drops Press, 2017]
Once again, the upstairs tenant is dragging the child’s coffin from one end of the apartment to the other. What else could make such a dull scraping sound across these scuffed hardwood floors? Every night at nine, every morning at seven. Back and forth, back and forth. Set your clock by it.
Boys’ Night Out
[My American Nightmare, Twisted Wings Productions, 2017]
“C’mon, check it out for yourself,” Joel urged. “I’m not making this up. My folks have locked me out.” He tugged at the window; it wouldn’t budge. “They told last time, if they caught me sneaking out again at night they wouldn’t just sell my gaming console, they’d lock me out, for real. Looks like they weren’t kidding.” From his vantage point, he could see his school books scattered across his bed and his backpack open on the floor. His desk lamp was on still, softly illuminating the Dallas Cowboys posters plastered across his walls. He rubbed his shoulder; it still ached from his being shoved against his bedroom wall, when he talked smart to his mom. That seemed like weeks ago.
[Empty Rooms / Missing, 13 O’Clock Press, 2017]
Michelle knew if she stepped over the edge of the yawning hole before her she would slide, inexorably, down its slick sides—sides with no visible holds to break her descent, holds like exposed roots or stones or even ancient bones. Down she would go, picking up speed, into the unavoidable, impenetrable darkness at its bottom.
I am Manfred Manticore
[Night to Dawn, Issue 32, 2017]
Edwin flung open the door to the doctor’s office with a burst of theatrical violence. Doc Marshall looked up from his notes, and with a slight smile, took off his glasses.
“Well, Edwin, what brings you here?” Doc Marshall asked, not really wanting to hear the answer.
Edwin raised up his hand to shield his eyes. “Doctor, please, close your curtains—the sunlight—it blinds me!”
In the Time of the Honeysuckle Moon
[Night in New Orleans: Bizarre Beats from the Big Easy, FunDead Publications, 2017]
In 1987, the newly-weds gently bickered on their walking tour of old New Orleans. She was enthralled with history, art, and supernatural experiences; he was enthralled with booze, French cigarettes, jazz, and more booze.
“Oh, come on, Richard, it’s his house!”
“Ugh, getting your picture in front of his house is such a touristy thing to do—it’s so déclassé.”
The Genie in Room 156
[Night to Dawn, Issue 31, April 2017]
As there was no “Do Not Disturb” sign hanging on the doorknob to room 156, Sue used her master pass to open the door. The room inside was cool, almost cold, and dark like midnight—the guest had not only closed the black-out curtains, but had draped the bedspread across the window as well. She’d heard from co-workers that junkies sometimes did this—totally black-out their rooms—when they were going cold-turkey. She’d also heard they left filthy messes behind; she didn’t want to imagine what unclean situation was waiting for her here.
The Edification of Miss Mindy
Schlock! Webzine (Vol.10, Issue 21, November 27, 2016)
(also slated for reprint in Schlock! Quarterly best-of digest, 2017)
The present appeared on Mindy’s doorstep. Soft, furry, and with a ragged neck ending in a bloody mess where its head should have been. She gently wrapped the carcass in a plastic grocery bag and disposed of it. Mindy suspected her love left it for her, as a sort of not-really-our-anniversary-but-almost gift. At that point, they’d been living together for five months.
Getting Out to Vote (reprint)
[Dread State Anthology, Thunder Dome Press, 2017]
Roland volunteered because he loves our country, our way of life, our electoral process. He had no problem arriving at the polling station at four a.m. in order to to set up booths and what-not. The doors opened at six; everything had to be in place. So he was surprised when he heard tapping at the auditorium’s locked door. More of a scratching, actually. Who would be so out of touch that he, or she, would show up to vote at the wrong time? And it wasn’t Roland’s assistant, Joshua—he’d overslept and had already called to let Roland know he’d be late.
The Eureka Key
[The Deep Web / The Cards Foretell (anthology, 13 O’Clock Press, 2017)]
Susie’s family and friends conferred, and agreed to keep her MyFace social media page up after the “incident”—it was comforting, they all said, to have it up so that they might visit her whenever they liked. It would be almost like she was still around, her husband declared.
[Alternate Hilarities 5: One Star Reviews of the Afterlife (anthology), Strange Musings Press, 2016]
I do not recall booking this hotel, but I do travel A LOT (for business), and sometimes when I wake up I forget where I am (LOL!). So I was not freaked out when I woke up in the Hôtel Purgatoire (what a goth-y, French-y name. Am I in New Orleans? Now that would be cool!).
[The following 5 stories appear in In a Flash… anthology of YA-themed flash fiction, Sinister Saints Press, 2016]
The Waketcha County Crime Blotter
Published every Sunday as a service to the public by the Waketcha County Sheriff’s Office. These reports are for the previous week only. For older entries, please see our online archives.
*The choir director for Maundy Methodist Church called to report his mustache was gone when he awoke Sunday morning. Suspects the succubus from his dream took it.
The Linda Alarm
Throughout human history, one of our greatest, most basic fears has been: What if you are mistakenly BURIED ALIVE!?! Is there a horror more harrowing? Is there a terror more terrible? NO! Even the Victorians created all manner of devices to alert cemetery custodians that one of their charges was indeed STILL ALIVE! Simple bells, buzzers, and knockers were employed in this service; a primitive solution to a fantastically frightening situation. Regrettably for the Victorians, there was no guarantee the custodian would hear the alarm and exhume the unfortunate person in time!
One Mississippi. Eyes closed, Belinda hears whispers and giggles nearby. The players are forming alliances and plotting. Some impatient whispers come out as hisses. She smiles.
Our Suburban Shaman
Everybody in the neighborhood went to see him. Actually, you couldn’t miss him: Six foot four, dyed black hair, sapphire blue eyes set in a long pale face. Teeth white and even like a picket fence. He favored pin-striped three-piece suits worn tie-less. Several gold watch chains dangled from his vest pocket.
When She Opened Her Mouth
We will call her Catherine, this girl child with the gift of butterflies. When she was very little, the butterflies were amusing. Tiny, brightly colored bits of whimsy that flitted about the her head whenever she spoke. She opened her mouth, and they danced forth, vivid confetti. Adults adored it; they thought it was a supremely clever trick. The other children, though, didn’t; to her peers, it was an unfair advantage in the war for attention from teachers, parents, and baby-sitters.
[Ugly Babies 3, James Ward Kirk Press, 2016]
In her dreams, the baby was a shadow seen through the fogged glass of her belly. He–she knew, instinctively, the child was a boy, just as she knew night followed day–twisted, stretched, and turned in the warm currents flowing through her body. In her dreams, she placed her hand on this navel glass, and always, the baby lifted his hand, and placed it directly beneath hers. Though there was a barrier between mother and son, a jolt of electricity never failed to shoot through her, abruptly waking her from her dream.
When Does a Weed Become a Flower?
[Troll (anthology, 13 O’Clock Press, 2016)]
Rounding the curve, just at sunset, revealed a breath-taking view of the valley below. The gentle downward slope of the road was bathed in golden light, giving the world the dreamy appearance of a fairy-tale landscape. Katie grimaced and flipped the driver’s side visor down. Beautiful but blinding, the light was at this hour. She punched a red button on her console, and bouncy, hyper techno blared from her car’s stereo speakers. Fully engaged with the music, she pressed harder on the accelerator. What’s the harm in a little bit of speeding, especially since there’s no one else on the road, coming or going, she smiled to herself. She rolled her driver’s side window down; the cool air was exhilarating. She was thoroughly enjoying this short-cut between her new home and work.
[The following 5 stories appear in More Tales from the Blue Gonk Cafe (anthology of flash fiction) 13 O’Clock Press, 2016]
The Early Morning Call
At 4 o’clock in the morning the bedside telephone exploded, flinging Mr. and Mrs. out of bed. They looked at each other, groggy, confused, and panicked.
Three Men in a Boat
If the boat had any oars, it would have been a row-boat. If it had a sail, it would’ve been a sailboat. Or if it had a motor, well, you get the idea.
When the Wolf Came Dressed as a Man
High up on the mountain, above the tree line, above the cloud line, there lived a lonesome creature. So lonesome, that one day he decided to descend from his lofty abode and seek company in the populated land down below. But first he must disguise his true nature.
Abandoned House, Broken Window
The old librarian took it upon herself to repair the broken window in the empty house down the street from her sister’s. Every Sunday as she walked home from lunch with her sister, she spied that front window with its glass busted out. It reminded her of a child with a missing tooth. So unattractive! Since no one else cared, she determined to fix it herself. After all, she subscribed to the theory that a broken window would lead to graffiti, which leads to all manner of nasty social ills. It was bad enough people no longer flocked to libraries, but this! Urban decay was more than she could stomach.
No Ice for the Next 300 Miles
The small square magnet looked like a foreboding signpost to no-man’s land: a crudely drawn red skull with the words “no water, gas, or ice for the next 300 miles.” It was a popular souvenir with tourists who stopped at this desert diner. Most customers were passing though on vacation, a few on business, but one made this diner his destination.
Green Sweater, Pink Roses
[Tales from the Graveyard (anthology), Thirteen O’Clock Press, 2016]
“It’s not what you think,” Janine said as she picked at the dirt and grass clinging to the front of Tessie’s jade green sweater. “If you step back and look at the big picture, you’ll see that it’s actually—”
Bouquets of Baby’s Breath
[Hidden in Plain Sight Anthology, James Ward Kirk Publishing, 2015]
Daisy Mahoney walked down the refrigerated aisle of her shop, wiping smudged fingerprints off the glass doors. She opened each glass door, reorganized the floral arrangements inside. She took a small writing pad from her smock pocket, counted carnations, roses and lilies, and made notes. This was Spring: There was always an uptick in births. Plus, high school proms were coming. The summer wedding deluge would begin soon, too. Funerals didn’t seem to have a season.
The Goblin Box
[Fright Mare Anthology, DM Publishing, 2015]
Red stripes, yellow polka dots, and green diamonds painted against a bright blue background. The corners were a bit worn, likely scuffed from years of careless handling. There was a hexagonal-shaped hole on one side, for what Linda assumed was a crank handle. She turned the box over to look for a manufacturer’s mark; there was none. There wasn’t a price tag, either. Rather than put the odd box back on the shelf, she dropped it into her shopping basket. She’d ask the clerk how much when she reached the register.
[Night to Dawn, Issue 28, October 2015]
The sign of the convenience store flickered over the empty parking lot like an improperly adjusted strobe light. In the gathering darkness, a baby-faced young man leaned against the wall, smoking one cigarette after another, the orange ember of his little vice rising and falling in an impatient arc.
Down the Drain
[Night to Dawn, Issue 26, October 2014]
The problem started Friday morning as Gina dressed for work. The water slowly swirled in the bathroom sink before her, and refused to drain. The minty foam congealed into thin scum clinging to the beige porcelain. She watched the clockwise movement of the dirty water, and sighed. Really don’t have time for this, she groused to herself. Have to deal with it when she came home tonight.
The Siren of Shady Grove
[Night to Dawn, Issue 23, April 2013]
I am not kidding; I saw it with my own eyes, on the poster my nephew found online. That’s how she spells it now. I wonder, when she signs her name, does she still dot her “i” with a little flower, or a smiley face?
Little Miss Jukebox Karaoke [Night to Dawn, April 2012, Issue 21]
The road between Flagstaff and Cyclone is a lonely stretch of two-lane monotony. An old east-west bound highway slanting south as it parallels I-40, with nothing but scrub brush, parasitic mesquite and sundry cacti as far as the regional flora go. A driver might spot the occasional lanky coyote slinking across the road, a frightened rabbit disappearing into the underbrush. Sometimes a wheel of vultures circling overhead, in the distance. If you’re lucky, maybe a roadrunner will cross your path, coldly eying you as you pass, sizing you up. Clouds are few and far between, unless you’re traveling during monsoon season — then you’d better find a high spot to wait out the passing storm. More than one driver’s been foolish enough to attempt crossing a dip in the road during one of those storms — and been swept away along with the other rootless debris in the rushing water. Not uncommon to find an overturned car miles down the wash. Usually there’s no one in the wreckage. If there is — well, let’s just say the remains are incomplete and leave it at that.
Kindlers [Mass Dissidence: Anthology of Dystopia, Joe Jablonski, editor. Static Movement Press, 2012]
It breaks easily across bended knee. Gets the hands more dusty than dirty. It’s light weight, so you can carry in armfuls all at once — no need to make multiple trips to gather more for an evening’s fire. Only downside is the smell when you first toss more kindling onto the fire. Some say it smells like incense, like those great perfumed clouds billowing out of polished brass burners swinging to and fro during Christmas mass — but to my nose, really, it fairly reeks of desiccated dead things.
Like a Feathered Seed on the Wind [Night to Dawn, Issue 20, Fall 2011]
Dawn took the glossy brochure off the rack, turned it over in her hands. Pretty pictures of red rock canyons, vividly colored wildflowers, petroglyphs. Florid prose describing the luxurious attributes of Hogan’s Lodge Resort and its many comfy cabins. What caught her eye, though, was what she found inside the brochure: the promise (for a price) of an “authentic Navajo sweat lodge experience.”
Cemetery Tag [Obsession, Dorothy Davies, editor. Static Movement Press]
Mike got up that day at 4:30 a.m., just like every other morning; plenty of time to go for run and then a quick shower before work. He slipped on a favorite faded marathon t-shirt, tied the draw-strings on his athletic shorts, pulled on his socks and laced up his shoes. He made a quick stop in the bathroom to splash cold water on his face, then hustled into the kitchen for a quick energy drink. He’d eat something more substantial later, at the office. He poured a cupful of organic dry food into Mortimer’s bowl, scratched the cat on the sweet-spot under his furry chin, and sprinted out the door.
The Night Has Teeth, and I Have Found Them [Night to Dawn, Issue #15, April 2009]
I stood in the driveway watching the garnet tail-lights diminish with distance. The streetlight was out, but the moon was bright. Every house around me was dark. I had no idea what time it was; I only knew that I was unforgivably late in coming home. So late that my husband had gone to bed in a probable huff, leaving no light on for me. I had not had that much to drink, but the house looked different; unkempt, askew. Surely, this was only a trick of the light; after all, everything looks otherworldly under a full moon. My own hands appeared phosphorescent, appeared to float rather than hang from my coat sleeves. I ran the fingers of those hands through my dry hair, brushing wayward strands out of my face.
This work is licensed under a CC BY-NC-ND 3.0. Hillary Lyon 2018