horror short stories

Short Story Preview: Night Drive

Enjoy this sneak peek at my latest short story, Night Drive, the entirety of which is going out in this weekend’s newsletter. Not signed up? Click here or use the form below to make sure you don’t miss it!

horror short stories

Mae had always loved driving at night. Ever since she was a little girl, drowsy in the back seat, the dashboard giving off a soothing green glow, lulled into peace by the soft tones of the radio and her parents’ conversation. Even now, something about the dashboard lights and the radio voices in the darkness soothed her, calming her nerves and helping her think.

The cool night air and the summer night sounds added to the effect. With the window down and the radio playing softly, she could hear the music of frogs and insects as she wound her way through country roads, slowing for curves, accelerating up hills, picking up speed and letting Ryan’s king cab four-by-four coast on the downward slopes, so fast it almost felt like a roller coaster.

But it wasn’t the dips that were making her queasy. As the road leveled out, she breathed deep of the fresh night air and willed her stomach to settle. She wanted to close her eyes and savor it, just for a second, but the eye shine she spotted every few yards made it too dangerous, unless she wanted to be responsible for ending some poor dumb skunk or ‘possum, or worse, somebody’s cat who’d been let out to prowl.

“Not sure how making road pizza’s going to make much difference to your conscience.” Her husband’s voice drifted up from the back seat. She glanced in the rear-view mirror and saw Ryan smirking at her. Tensing up, she turned her gaze back to the road and made a point of ignoring him. “I mean, all things considered,” he went on. “Still, maybe you should slow down.”

Her knuckles turned white as she gripped the steering wheel. “Maybe you should be quiet. Nobody likes a backseat driver.”

“Nobody likes being married to a whiney, fat loser, either, but we all play the hand we’re dealt.”

Mae turned up the radio. Bon Jovi blared from the speakers, drowning out the frogs and crickets and, more importantly, drowning out Ryan’s voice. The fact that it was playing on the classic rock station made her hate life almost as much as she hated Ryan. Of course it was “Livin’ on a Prayer.” That had been their song back in high school, back when he’d thought her the prettiest girl in school and she’d thought he hung the moon. They’d been the perfect cliche, him the football team captain and her the head cheerleader, but despite their popularity and Ryan being a shoe-in for a football scholarship, he’d had this idea of himself as some kind of downtrodden working class hero because he had to spend summers working for his father’s trash collection company. He’d talked often about them running away together after high school, and despite Mae’s high grade point average she had been dumb enough to think that was the most romantic thing ever. She’d held out until the end of their senior year, but this song had been playing when he’d finally convinced her. It was prom night, and they had snuck away to go for a drive. They’d parked on a hilltop on the back of her daddy’s forty acres. After drinking most of a stolen six-pack and finally giving up her virginity in the back seat, this song had come on, and he proposed and just then life felt too good not to say yes.

Mae hated that song. She shut off the radio.

“Aw, why’d you do that?” asked Ryan. “That song brings back so many memories.”

“Bad ones.” Mae glanced at him in the mirror, only fleetingly. “‘You Give Love a Bad Name’ would’ve been more appropriate.”

“Don’t say that, baby. Those were good days, weren’t they? You still had your figure and we had our whole future to look forward to. Nothing like how things are now.”

Since they’d married that summer right after high school, she had gained twenty pounds. Twenty pounds over twenty-five years. To hear him talk you’d think it had been two hundred.

Mae took a breath and closed her eyes, despite the risk. She kept them closed longer than she’d intended. It wouldn’t be so bad, would it? To keep them shut and let the truck drift where it wanted? And if that happened to be wrapped around a tree or a telephone pole, that would sure solve a lot of problems.

***

Get the entire story delivered straight to your inbox this Sunday afternoon. Sign up below!

Blood – A Flash Fic Narrated by Yours Truly

I hope you enjoyed my awkward narration of my flash fiction “Scarcity” last week (you can catch that here if you missed it). In that same vein, I present “Blood,” another flash entry from Midnight Snacks. Have a listen below. I hope you like it. And if you do, please like, comment and share if you’ve got an extra minute.

On a more personal note, I was hoping to do a whole series of these leading up to Halloween, but sadly, our Chihuahua, Pete, was just diagnosed with potentially fatal heart and lung conditions. He’s been hospitalized and on oxygen since Friday, and we’re waiting/hoping to be able to bring him home this afternoon and start down the hard road of caring for him and making the most of the time we have left. We’re just going to take it one day at a time. Obviously, he’s going to be our main priority for the time being. As far as creative projects go, my main focus needs to be on finishing Bound Spirits. I’m hoping to still be able to blog here regularly and bring you guys bonus goodies like this, but I’ll just have to play it by ear. Thanks for understanding. And if you’re reading this and you’re the praying type, we’d appreciate prayers for our little family during this time. This little guy is our baby, and this whole situation is beyond heartbreaking.

 

 

Happy October! Celebrate With This Horror Flash Fic: Scarcity

‘Tis the season of spooks and ghouls and everything cool, as well as pumpkin spice and everything nice. Despite getting off to a horrific and depressing start this year, October is still my favorite month, culminating as it does with my favorite holiday.

To celebrate this all-too-short season, here is what I hope will be the first of a series of short story narration done by yours truly. I have neither a fancy microphone nor a voice made for radio, but I hope you’ll enjoy these regardless. First up is “Scarcity,” a flash fic set in the universe of Dominion of the Damned, which is included in my short story collection, Midnight Snacks. Watch the video below or listen to it on Soundcloud.

Story Inspiration: Eucha Falls

Eucha Falls coverI used to have a recurring dream about visiting an amusement park. The park in my dream was a bit of a drive to get to but still close enough to be considered local. It wasn’t recognizable as any park I’d ever been to in real life, yet these dreams were so vivid that whenever I woke up from them I had to struggle to figure out whether this was a real place I was remembering. For the most part the dreams were pleasant enough, but I remember one instance where in the dream I discovered a room at the park full of glass showcases filled with oddities of a disturbing nature, and I recall a distinct and very creepy feeling of being watched by something malicious as I made my way from case to case.

Around the time I had that particular version of the amusement park dream, I had fairly recently discovered creepypasta and had been reading a lot of them. One of my favorites was “Candle Cove” (you should click here and go read it — I’ll wait), and I was intrigued by the concept of a bunch of people who met on the Internet having shared memories of something that didn’t exist. Was it a shared hallucination, or was something supernatural going on?

I remember this little story reminding me of my dreams, for some reason, and this story of a young woman searching for her brother after he’d gone missing while searching for a theme park he remembered visiting as a child (but which nobody else remembered) began to take shape. And perhaps inevitably, another prominent Internet legend which had also grabbed hold of my psyche and refused to let go also helped to shape it–this story owes as much to Marble Hornets and Slender Man as it does to creepypasta and my own subconscious.

All in all, it’s a mashup that works, and it resulted in a short story that I’m actually quite proud of.

Eucha Falls (pronounced Oocha Falls) is perma-free at most places where ebooks are sold online, including Amazon. You can also download a copy in the format of your choice from Noisetrade.

Heads Up: A New Story and a Kickstarter Coming At You in August

So I am writing a new story bit by bit. It’s a novelette-length short story (i.e., over 10K words) that fills the gap between Restless Spirits and the sort-of-in-progress sequel, Ghost of a Chance. It’s about halfway done and I’m hoping to have it finished and ready to go within the next couple of weeks (you can keep up with my daily word counts on Twitter, if you like that sort of thing).

Why am I writing this story? Because I’m planning to release it as a freebie to publicize the Kickstarter campaign I’m getting ready to have to pre-sell Ghost of a Chance in the hopes of raising enough money to write and produce that dang book already.

A week or two before I launch the novelette I will be giving away Advance Reader Copies exclusively to my mailing list, and those who are signed up will also be the first to know when the Kickstarter goes live and have the first crack at early-bird savings for the first (mumblemumblehaven’tdecidedthenumberyet) backers.

So if you want in on that action, you should click here to join my mailing list if you haven’t already. I promise you won’t hear from me that often; only when there’s important stuff like free stories and new releases and book sales (and that’s also usually the first place I look for beta readers).

The plan is to kick off the Kickstarter sometime in August and let it run through October (finishing just in time for NaNoWriMo). If I pre-sell enough copies to successfully fund the campaign, then I’ll be able to devote November (and probably December too) to writing Ghost of a Chance. If I don’t pre-sell enough copies but I get enough backers to encourage me that enough people want this sequel to make it worth the time and effort, I’ll still write it, albeit at a much slower pace, and then probably do another campaign when it’s closer to done to cover the production costs.

If the response to this initial campaign is paltry and sad, I’ll cry into my non-dairy frozen dessert, accept that a Restless Spirits series isn’t happening, and move on to something else. So those of you who really really want this sequel to happen should get ready to evangelize the heck out of this Kickstarter. I may even see about putting together a street team, once I figure out exactly what one of those is and what it would do. Again, if you want in on that action, you should join my mailing list.

And now I will leave you with a sneak peek at the new story:

***

To my surprise, when I appeared in Chris’s bedroom I found her bed empty. I found my sister in her living room instead, curled up on the sofa with a big mug of steaming coffee and her laptop. She was just taking a drink when I said, “You’re an early bird today.”

She spewed coffee all over her laptop and sloshed a good deal of what was in the mug on her robe and the sofa. “Ron!” she shouted, carefully setting the half-empty mug on the coffee table. “What the hell?”

“Sorry!” I said sheepishly before popping into the kitchen to grab a wad of paper towels. I popped back and held them out to her, and she swiped them out of my hand.

“What are you doing here?” she asked as she mopped up the mess.

“We have a situation.”

She paused in dabbing at the upholstery and looked up at me. “Is Joe okay?”

“That’s kind of relative,” I said. “I should get back to him pretty quick.”

“What’s wrong?”

“You have a new customer waiting for you back at the house.”

“Can this customer not read my office hours? They’re posted right on the front door.”

“This customer sort of bypassed the front door.”

Chris sighed as she picked up her mug and headed to the kitchen. “What are you talking about?”

“You know that desk that was delivered yesterday?”

She chucked the wet paper towels in the sink and went to top off her coffee. “Yeah. Why? Is there a problem with it?”

“It’s haunted. Does that count?”

“What? No it’s not. I would’ve picked up on that when I bought it.”

“Well, I guess not, because there’s a tweedy English ‘lit’rary author,’” I made air-quotes along with a poor mockery of Brandon’s accent, “who came as a gift with purchase. He’s back at the house treating Joe to a lecture on the superiority of lit fic over all other genres.”

“Oy,” she said, and took a big gulp of her coffee. I tried not to stare longingly. I never felt so jealous of the living as when I watched my sister consume food and drinks. “Wait. Tweedy English guy, you say? Is he about yea tall—” she held her hand about a foot above her head “—with glasses? Handsome in a Giles-y kind of way?”

“That’s the guy.”

“Huh. I thought he was an antique dealer.”

Free Story: Snack Machine

It’s the first day of fall! Hooray! To celebrate, here’s a free story to help get you in the mood for the Halloween season.

 

Snack Machine

 

You think strange thoughts sometimes when you work the night shift. Coming home in the dark late at night, it’s easy to imagine that something in the darkness is out to get you.

If your imagination is like Tina’s, you might think how creepy it would be if the thin, dark gap between the wall and the vending machine at the end of the hall was really a doorway to some otherworldly dimension.

And then you might laugh the thought away as you grab your chips and resist the urge to run back to your apartment.

She was tired when the thought occurred to her, after a long night on her feet at the diner, and it was a nice distraction from worrying about getting mugged on the way home. Or worse.

Tina liked having the machine there. It was her one consolation when her budget had forced her to settle on the tiny basement efficiency. She almost hadn’t been able to afford even that, what with the landlady wanting two month’s rent up front. Thankfully, she’d relented. “Had a lot of trouble with drifters sneaking out without paying their rent,” she’d said, “but I guess you don’t strike me as a drifter.”

Anyway, takeout places were usually closed when her shift ended, and a bag of chips was better than nothing when she felt too tired to cook. She kicked off her shoes and turned on The Late Late Show and munched on her bag of Sun Chips. At least she could pretend those were kind of healthy. When they were all gone, she brushed off the crumbs, crumpled up the bag and headed to bed.

Continue reading “Free Story: Snack Machine”

Sneak Peek – Untitled Steampunk Cyborg Pixie Story

steampunk-fairy--large-msg-129989045703Happy prelude to a long weekend! Here’s a brief (and rough) excerpt of the short story I’m currently working on for submission to yet another anthology.

***

He was shiny.

That’s what first drew her notice. Other men were bland and monochrome and hardly worthy of attention. But this one, he gleamed. He tried to hide it under a hat and dark glasses and gloves and other human trappings, keeping his head down and avoiding other human eyes, but she saw. That first glimmer of light drew her to him as the sunlight glinted off his cheek, and as she watched him, his sleeve rode up and exposed shiny brass skin. He was a curiosity, and the elders had always said that she was a dangerously curious thing. So of course she followed him.

He lived in a small cottage at the edge of the wood, well outside of town. The house had a lovely garden, but it was the things inside that held her interest. Through the window she spied even more curiosities and wonders: birds and butterflies and mice and other small, delicate creatures made of the same shiny stuff that the man was made of — at least partly.

For once inside, he stopped hiding, and she could see him truly. He removed his hat and glasses and revealed a head and half a face covered in plates of polished brass. Where his left eye should have been, there was a socket filled with cogs and gears and other parts she had seen on the machines of men. He removed his coat and gloves and rolled up his sleeves, revealing an arm made of polished wood and brass, and a hand with coppery joints that could flex and grasp as well as his pale, fleshy hand.

He went to the table where his brass menagerie lay dormant, picked up something that looked like a spy glass and affixed it to the empty eye socket. Then he took a key from his vest pocket and began winding each small creature, one by one, bringing them to life.

She hovered at the window and watched, delighted and mesmerized by this clever man and his creations, as copper butterfly wings fluttered and brass birds sang and flew and mock mice raced around the surface of the table. The butterfly came near the window, and the wings were a sight to behold, covered with intricate scroll work, gleaming and delicate. A pang of envy shot through her as she glanced back at her own wings, wishing they were even half as splendid.

The butterfly shot away from the window and she found herself pressed up against the glass, gazing after it with longing, wanting only to go inside and have a closer look.

She never saw the cat.

***