Bugs and Hisses Free Fiction: Reported Lost by Anne Barwell

October 31, 2015

To celebrate Halloween this month, some of our paranormal authors will be sharing with us some free fiction.

 

“Got you!” Rupert Milne muttered under his breath.

Ghosts could be pesky things and next to impossible to spot, unless they wanted to draw attention to themselves.

This one appeared to be a man in his thirties, his dark hair cut in a style popular several decades ago. While age could be deceptive—Rupert appeared to be in his fifties but was closer to four thousand and fifty—the ghost’s clothing confirmed it.

Rupert slid into the seat next to the spirit.  He’d always admired the way they could appear to be sitting on furniture although they were incorporeal. But Halloween was fast approaching; a night that often changed the rules.

“Good evening,” he said pleasantly. “Nice trick you have there, turning pages without touching them.”

The ghost looked up in surprise. “You can see me?” His eyes narrowed. “You’re not human,” he said flatly. “Who sent you?”

Rupert sighed. Better to get the formalities out the way first. He lowered his voice to make it harder for a human to overhear his side of the conversation.  “Would you mind telling me why you’re haunting this library? It’s creating attention that is better avoided. My name is Rupert Milne, and I have some experience in this kind of thing.  I’d like to help if I can.”

“How can you see me?” The ghost wasn’t going to let go of that one. “You’re not human. You feel…different. You’re not one of those with powers either. They can see me, but most of the time they don’t say anything.”

That’s because they don’t realise they’re talking to a ghost.

“Yes, yes, of course they can see you.” Rupert didn’t have time to go into Paranormal 101, and doubted the ghost would appreciate it. “I’m not going to hurt you. I just want to help you work through whatever or whoever is keeping you here.”

“You haven’t answered my question.”

One of the librarians walked past pushing a book trolley. She frowned in Rupert’s direction, probably wondering who the crazy guy was talking to himself. He waved cheerily and turned his attention back to the ghost.

“I’m a vampire. That’s why I can see you.  I overheard one of my students talking about you, which is why I’m here.”

“Someone noticed me!” The ghost glanced around, panicked.  At least he was more worried about that than the fact Rupert had just outed himself as a vampire.

“You pulled books off shelves.  People talk.”

“It was an accident!” The ghost sighed. “I’ve been here so long and I’m tired. I just want to move on.”

“I know how you feel.” Rupert had been teaching at Victoria University for over twenty years. It was almost time for him to move on too, before someone realised he wasn’t getting any older. “Why don’t you introduce yourself and tell me your story, hmm? Then I’ll see what I can do to help.”

The ghost smiled, a glimmer of hope in his eyes. “My name is Bernard Pollard and I was on the Wahine when it went down in Wellington Harbour in 1968.”

 

***

 

“I shouldn’t be here.”

Joseph Tomley gripped the top of his walking stick. His breath came in gasps. Rupert hoped it was nerves, and not a sign that Joseph was about to expire on the spot.  While breaking into the library after hours hadn’t been that difficult, Rupert didn’t want to have to explain a dead body to whoever was in charge of security.

“Yes, you should.” Rupert guided him to the corner, and sat him down under the large windows. Although the building was dark there was enough light coming through them so Joseph could see.

Rupert had figured with it being Halloween, it was easier for the two men to meet close to midnight.  At least this way they’d be able to talk to each other directly. Rupert had acted as a go between for this kind of thing before and it wasn’t something he enjoyed.

Joseph paled when Bernard stepped out of the shadows.  “Bernard. Oh my God. It is you.”

“Joseph?” Bernard said, his voice cracking. “You… I waited but you never came.”  He bit his lip, brushed one finger across Joseph’s wrinkled cheek, and sat down next to him. “I… can touch you…”

“Halloween,” Rupert told him. “You only have a short time. Make the most of it. I’ll be close by if you need me.”   He headed toward the fiction collection, his attention taken by a familiar name on one of the books in the romance section.

He’d read at least one chapter of a book he wished he’d never opened before he caught a glimpse of someone behind him.

“Thank you.”  Joseph and Bernard stood together, in appearance a young man with his arms around the waist of someone old enough to be his grandfather. Both had tears running down their cheeks.

“It’s almost time,” he reminded them.  “I’m sorry.”

Bernard smiled. “Don’t be. I know now he didn’t forget me, that he never stopped loving me. I’ll wait for him.”

“I feel so foolish.” Joseph kissed Bernard softly. “This library was always our place, so I avoided it because I couldn’t bear the memories. I’d lost you, and I couldn’t tell anyone about our relationship. Then it was too late.”

“And I waited for you here because it was our special place. We were both idiots.” Bernard took a step back. “Good bye, my love. I’ll see you again soon.”  He turned and walked toward the back wall, before disappearing from sight.

“I love you too.”  Joseph watched that section of wall for a few moments but Bernard was gone, at least for tonight.  “Thank you,” he said again. “From both of us.”

Rupert nodded.  It was never easy losing the person you loved, and these men had done it twice.  “I’ll take you home now.”

Joseph smiled, although his eyes were sad. “You already have.”

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Bugs and Hisses Free Fiction: Finding You by Santino Hassell

October 31, 2015

To celebrate Halloween this month, some of our paranormal authors will be sharing with us some free fiction.

Finding you image

Note: This is a follow-up to STYGIAN and contains spoilers.

 

The world had changed a lot in forty years.

There were fewer trees and more people, and most had developed addictions to mobile telephones.

In the time it had taken Hunter to stagger through the department store, his unkempt appearance had barely garnered any stares. Everyone was too busy staring at the slim piece of technology that ran lives.

He’d never noticed this in the young men he’d lured into the woods over the past few decades. But those boys had all been dreamers. Fragile people with creative impulses and gentle souls, who were easily enraptured by something like Hunter. They’d mistook his oddness and isolation as a reflection of themselves only to realize too late that you could not be kindred with a monster.

Your drama won’t help you find the little drummer boy.

Laurel’s voice was so vivid that he nearly turned to see if she’d risen from her shallow grave by the river to follow him from Logansport. But it wasn’t so. It couldn’t be. Her skull had been crushed to bits by—

—his beast of a boyfriend.

Hunter’s canines throbbed. His nostrils flared.

The need to inflict violence on Kennedy tripled even though Jeremy was the real prey.

Drummer boy is just as guilty if not more so, you damn fool. There’s nothing romantic about revenge. Stop thinking with your barely beating heart, and go have a drink before withdrawal kicks in.

It was the best advice Hunter had ever received from an auditory hallucination. Blood withdrawal would just take him to the gray place in his mind, and then he’d never find Jeremy. The blood connection was a necessity to keep him reasonably functional around people.

Lashing out at strangers in a big city was out of the question. What he needed was a willing victim.

But first he needed clothes.

Look to the left, and you’ll find your way to both.

“Hi.” He spoke so softly the sales clerk didn’t even turn. “Hello?”

This time, the clerk spun on his heel. He was the same height as Hunter but with an aggressively curly halo of light brown hair, reddish-gold eyes, and a wide mouth that, again, brought back memories of Jeremy. The vague resemblance shattered once the clerk cocked his head, raised a brow, and looked Hunter up and down with brazen intrigue.

“Yeah?”

Hunter closed his hands into fists. Speaking was harder than he’d expected, but he hadn’t been in society since the 70s.

Speak, fool. Ask for help. You’ll never pick anything on your own, and you know it. Decisions aren’t your strong suit.

“I’m slightly overwhelmed and wondered if you could help.”

“Overwhelmed?” The guy looked around the clothing section of the store. “I guess it is a little messy.”

“No, I—“ Hunter swallowed with difficulty. His throat was dry. “This may sound strange, but I need clothing and I don’t know what to buy. There’s so much.”

“I’m not a personal shopper or anything but you’re hot, so I guess?”

There was a certain amount of insolence in the hip-swaying youth that both appalled Hunter and turned him on. The boy was gum smacking, bubble popping, and had a little jaunt to his step as if a secret song played in his head. He was also shamelessly and blatantly queer.

How must it feel to live in a small town and be so oblivious, or uncaring, about the judgment of your peers? That question had plagued Hunter through his youth—before Laurel and the turning of his humanity—and it had returned constantly during his slow journey from Logansport to Center. The vampirism had melted away his serotonin, his impulse control and humanity, but it had also turned him into a more androgynous version of the person he’d once been. And he’d worried… that someone would identify his queerness. Lean out a window and lodge a rock or swerve in his direction for a laugh, and then he’d become an animal and leap onto the roof to tear them through the windshield.

A police pursuit would severely hinder his ability to find Jeremy.

“Formal or casual?”

“I’m sorry?”

The clerk—Jaret according to his nametag—glanced over his shoulder. “You wanna be fancy or you just need something that doesn’t look like you’ve spent the day rolling around in the grass?”

“The second. Please.”

“Kay.” Jaret whistled to himself and led Hunter through packed aisles full of denim, plaid, T-shirts with large colorful graphics. “I’m thinking black. Black and silver. Or black and red.”

“Why?”

“Because you look like the guy every Goth kids wants to grow up to become.”

Hunter didn’t know how to take that comment, so he said nothing. He trailed behind the clerk with his hands in his pockets and his shoulder slightly hunched, and wished it were possible to not stand out so much. He had a plan, and that plan would be impossible if he drew unnecessary attention. The tricky part was that he’d been isolated so long, he had no idea how to blend into this world. It was familiar and foreign. Things had been much simpler in the woods stretching gently along the Sabine.

And more boring. We should have been out of the hellhole of that town all along. We could have found others.

He silently shushed Laurel’s voice. Being around others like them, like him, was frankly terrifying. The creature that had turned her had been a monster.

Jaret held up a pair of jeans, scowled, and tossed it back to the rack. He repeated this three more times before heaving a tragic sigh.

“Everything here sucks.”

Laurel’s voice murmured an encouragement so vague all he got was a hint of the suggestion. His heart sped. Anticipation caused his canines to extent slightly.

“Maybe you can take me somewhere else.”

Jaret didn’t need to be drawn into a mind-controlled daze to nod in agreement. His sassy smirk made it clear he was more than willing. And when their hands clasped, and their fingers squeezed together, Hunter allowed Jeremy to drift from his mind.

There was time to find him later.

***

Find out more about Santino Hassell here!

Bugs and Hisses Free Fiction: Shadows by F.E. Feeley Jr.

October 31, 2015

To celebrate Halloween this month, some of our paranormal authors will be sharing with us some free fiction.

 

Hurrying off to a destination that I did not want to be at in the first place, did not help the apprehension that I had been feeling lately.  I just knew I was being followed.  As my feet carried me along winding streets littered with the leaves off of fallen trees, the only sound I could hear was the thump in my chest and the breath from my lungs. All around me, night had descended and with it, a cool damp wind shuttled down between rows of houses to stir the barren branches up overhead.  Occasionally, the snap of a twig underfoot caused me to jump, and twist on my heels to peer into the empty street behind me.  I would stand there for a few moments, peering into the darkness with my heart in my throat before the cold wind encourage me onward.  I just knew someone was out there, staring at me. Measuring my footsteps, following close behind.

“It’ll be fun, he says. There will be lots of people there.” I muttered to myself on the third spin around.  It was the night before Halloween.  And my boyfriend’s best friend was throwing a costume party.  I tried to beg off, to feign sick, and even threw off the offer of a ride when he called earlier that day to insist that a make it. I wished he’d come with his goofy grin and his pickup truck.  Now, walking alone down a darkened street decorated for tomorrow  nights trick or treaters, I am scared out of my mind.

My boyfriend of two months was always patient with me. Even as of late when I stared into the corners of a dark room, swearing under my breath about something moving. About something watching me. He’d laugh and turn on the light. Check the closet and even look under the bed.  And there was nothing, of course.

“There isn’t anything there, Ichabod.” His pet name for me since I told him that I was afraid of the dark.  We’d been dating two months, when I started having this problem.  Three months, when I blurted it out and six months later, he was still patient with me.

“You are the strangest man I’ve ever met.” He’d say lovingly and give me his impish smile. That smile warmed by heart and steeled my spine a little, now.

“There is no one there.” I say, my words coming out of gritted teeth.  When he reminded me of my little fear after my refusal to accept his offer for a ride, I’d laughed it off.  Of course, that had been when the sun was out.

I clench my hands, angry at myself before moving on.  However, my body was no as easily reassured.  In fact, despite the cool wind, I had broken out into a sheen of sweat that was starting to make my shirt stick to my back.  I shivered as wind came rushing down the lane toward me.

The moon all the while, had been playing peekaboo behind steadily moving clouds. The effect, was elongated shadows that curled and twisted from previously illuminated spots that I could not ignore.  I wanted to turn around, to just walk the few blocks back home, lock the doors, and wait for the angry phone call from my boyfriend.  I wanted to weather that storm instead of the internal one that was raging between my ears.  However, the idea of seeing the disappointed look on his face when he eventually showed up, steeled me against it.

“It’s just a couple more streets.”

I buried my head, bit down on the inside of my mouth, and picked up the pace.  Somewhere in the distance, a dog barked and a cat wailed its disapproval. Somewhere else, a car door slammed and the ambient sounds of voices greeting each other drifted upon the wind.  I rolled my eyes at my silliness as the sound was coming from just up the road a bit.  I quickened my pace, one that would make a mallwalker proud, and joyfully headed toward the sound.

I came around the corner and just then the moon decided to dive back behind a cloud. And Just then, I saw it.  Right out in front of me in the shadows cast darker by a huge tree.  It wasn’t a person. It wasn’t an animal. It was nothing. Long and tall and nothing. Just blackness. A void.  I froze mid-stride, my body going into high alert and screaming at me to run.  But I can’t feel my feet.  The dark isn’t just just a what. It’s a who.  It sees me. It knows me. It elongated, stretched, pushed itself up and out, blocking my view.  I stood, transfixed by it like a rabbit caught in the glare of a snake.  And like a snake, it made no sound as it uncoiled like smoke upward, outward, stretching and fanning wide.

And then it begins to move forward.

“Oh, God.” I whisper.

It wanted me.

I step back. One foot. And then the other.  But I didn’t have time to turn. I didn’t even have time to scream.

As the darkness descended on me and the cold swept my soul from my body I had one last glimmer of triumph. I had been right all along.

Dammit.

Read more of F.E. Feeley Jr.’s works here!

 

Here, kitty, kitty, kitty… with M.A. Church – Post + Giveaway

October 30, 2015

Here kitty kitty kitty

Hey! My name is M.A. Church, and I’m stopping by to talk about my newest release called Behind the Eight Ball. One of the most asked questions about this series is what inspired me to write it? Well, several things lol. That’s clear, isn’t it?

*Grin*

Actually, this series started as a flash last New Year’s Eve. That’s where Trouble Comes in Threes sprang from. What I wanted for this story was a crotchety man with a sharp tongue and bad attitude sitting at home for the holiday. What I got was Kirk, a clowder full of cats that aren’t overly fond of humans, and the beginning of a series.

The first book dealt with Kirk and all the trouble life had thrown at him. In that book, you meet the betas: Aidric, Heller, Brier, and Remi. I had originally planned for the second book to be about Remi and his mate, but I figured out right quick that wasn’t going to work. Heller was the one demanding my attention. And believe me, Heller can be quite demanding. I call him a diva for a reason, lol.

It turned out going with Heller as the second in the series was the right choice. While writing Behind the Eight Ball, a very interesting set of secondary characters made their presence known. Now I knew why I couldn’t do Remi’s book yet. Heller’s book had to come first because Remi’s mate makes his appearance in Behind the Eight Ball.

Now, I write a lot of paranormal and scifi, and read just as much. While I have absolutely nothing against wolves and other big, cool shifters I’d noticed there wasn’t much out there about smaller, regular shifters. Don’t they deserve love too? This is where I mention I love cats. *Grin* I know, shocking right? If you know me, or follow me on social media, you’ve seen pictures of my writing buddy, Kitty-Kitty.

I’ve loved cats since I was a very little girl, but I was unable to have pets due to my allergies. Needless to say, as soon as I left home the first thing I did was get a cat! The second thing I did was get married, have children, and had a child who was asthmatic. We had to say bye-bye to the cat.

So twenty years later what was the first thing I did when my son moved out? You got it. I got a cat. Okay, that’s not exactly right. The cat got us, lol. On Halloween night about four years ago, this cute little gray kitten showed up in the garage. He was very used to humans, and so playful.

But taking on a pet is a big responsibility, a responsibility I wasn’t entirely sure I wanted. The Eldest Kiddo had moved out, and the Youngest Kiddo was heading off to college. The hubby and I would finally have the house all to ourselves. I refused to call the kitten anything more than Kitty-Kitty because I didn’t want to get attached.

For all the good it did.

Next thing I knew, the hubby was sneaking the kitten in. And that was the end of that. We bought all the things a cat needs and then came the trips to the vet for shots and stuff. (Wanna guess who had to deal with the crying cat? Right, lol. Me.) And that’s how we ended up with Kitty-Kitty, who the hubby calls Skeeter. *Cringe* Don’t ask me why, I couldn’t tell you. The strange thing is, the cat answers to both names.

Each title relates to the characters in its book. The first book revolves around how bad things come in threes. It’s a superstitious old saying. In the book Kirk has had a string of bad luck, and he’s waiting for the next crappy thing to happen.

In book two Heller finds himself in the position of chasing after the very mate he first rejected. He’s behind the eight ball. It means he’s in a bad situation, in a losing position. The phrase comes from pool (or billiards). When the cue (white) ball is behind the eight (black) ball, a player usually has no shot.

In book three Remi and his man mate pretty quickly, but then end up dancing around one another as they struggle with the power dynamics in their relationship. I have a title in mind for that one too, along with rough outlines and titles for Aidric and Brier’s books. *Sigh* I just need to get them written.

And that’s what inspired the Fur, Fangs, and Felines series! I’m doing a giveaway for the release of Behind the Eight Ball so comment for a chance to win an e-book from my backlist. Do you have a pet? If so, what kind? If you can’t or don’t have a pet, what kind would you have if you could?

 

Author Bio:

M.A. Church is a true Southern belle who spent many years in the elementary education sector. Now she spends her days lost in fantasy worlds, arguing with hardheaded aliens on far-off planets, herding her numerous shifters, or trying to tempt her country boys away from their fishing poles. It’s a full time job, but hey, someone’s gotta do it!

When not writing, she’s exploring the latest M/M novel to hit the market, watching her beloved Steelers, or sitting glued to HGTV. That’s if she’s not on the back porch tending to the demanding wildlife around the pond in the backyard. The ducks are very outspoken. She’s married to her high school sweetheart, and they have two children.

She was a finalist in the Rainbow awards for 2013 and is a member of Romance Writers of America, Rainbow Romance Writers, and Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America.

 

Author Links:

Blog * Twitter * Facebook * The Harvest FB fan page * Goodreads * Amazon

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Bugs and Hisses Free Fiction: Reconnect by West Thornhill

October 30, 2015

To celebrate Halloween this month, some of our paranormal authors will be sharing with us some free fiction.

 

Reconnect, a Fillmore Agency short

Halloween

“I cannot believe I let Fox talk me into this ridiculous costume.” Kyle grumbled as he stared at himself in the mirror. It wasn’t that he looked bad dressed as Yuki from Vampire Knight. It was the fact that he’d agreed to be her.

He tugged on the short black skirt wishing there was a little less space between the hem and the tops of his over-the-knee socks. Sighing, he flopped down on the bed and covered his face with his arm. This wasn’t the first time he’d crossed genders for cosplay. But it was the first time he’d dressed this way in front of Bast and Keller.

A soft groan pushed past his lips. It had been months since he’d seen them. Months spent with Fox keeping him from walking off a cliff. Kyle knew everyone thought he and Fox were sleeping together. Yeah, no. As attractive as Kyle found Fox, the hyena shifter was taken. It didn’t matter that Fox’s own mate denied the bond between them and refused to commit. Fox belonged to Dion.

Kyle snorted. Just the other day he’d argued with Fox about the whole non-commitment issue. If he would tell Dion everything, then maybe they could actually be together. Secrets weren’t always a good thing.
A sharp rap on his door jerked Kyle up.

“Come on, princess, we’re going to be late. And I know you don’t want to deal with an angry Gael.” Fox’s amused voice called out.

“Asshole,” Kyle muttered under his breath. “I’m coming,” he shouted. “I just need to find my boots.” Yes, they were on his feet, but Fox didn’t know that.

A bark of laughter filtered through the door. “They’re on your feet.”

Kyle rolled his eyes. How did the bastard know everything?

“It’s my house. I am aware of all that happens within these walls.”

Storming over and wrenching the door open, Kyle glared at Fox. “Sometimes I really hate you.” He pushed past the irritating shifter and hurried down the stairs.

He knew Fox was right behind him. They might not be mates or lovers, but they had become as close as brothers during the time Kyle had been living with him. And he knew Fox only wanted what was best for him.

Kyle stopped at the bottom of the stairs and looked up at his friend. “You only told Bast and Keller about the costume, right?” At Fox’s nod, Kyle huffed out a breath. “Good. Thanks.” He tilted his head and felt his brow furrow when he really looked at Fox. “What the hell are you wearing?”

Fox brushed imaginary lint off the white vest he was wearing. He straightened his tie and winked at Kyle. “You watched the anime obsessively for weeks and you don’t recognize Tiger.” He held his arms out, raised an eyebrow, and smirked.

Kyle shook his head and laughed. “Please tell me Dion will be dressed as Bunny.”

Fox’s smile grew bigger and he draped his arm around Kyle’s shoulders. “Princess, tonight is going to be a riot.”

****

Keller watched Bast pace the small seating area. He knew it was all nerves, but Fox had promised Kyle would be there. Not like Keller completely trusted the wily hyena shifter, but Jason and Dion did and that was good enough for him.

Settling into the deep cushions of the couch, Keller let his gaze travel Bast’s lean figure. He had to admit Bast did look good dressed all in white with his dark hair brushing along the collar of his jacket. Keller’s hope for the night was that Kyle would finally accept them. Being without both of his mates was the most painful experience of his life.

“Bast, you’re going to wear a hole in the floor.”

The only response he got was a single finger salute. Keller laughed. He couldn’t stop it. He pushed to his feet and strode the short distance to where Bast was standing. Keller tapped Bast on the shoulder and waited until he turned to face him. He slid his hands across Bast’s shoulders and smoothed down the lapels of the pristine jacket.

Bast took a shuddering breath. “What if he doesn’t show? What do we do then?”

“He’ll be here. Fox promised. And Gael said Kyle would be here.” Keller cupped Bast’s cheek. “If, for no other reason, Kyle will be here so as not to have a bitchy twin.”

A half-grin tugged at Bast’s mouth. “True.”

“Wow. You guys look amazing as Zero and Kaname.”

Both heads turned slowly towards the familiar voice. Keller’s mouth went dry when he saw Kyle. Yes, he was dressed as a girl, but Keller would have known it was Kyle even if Fox hadn’t told him. Watching Kyle’s bottom lip disappear between his teeth, sent zings of electricity along Keller’s nerves and he felt Bast shiver beside him.

“You are the amazing one.” Keller held out his hand, hoping Kyle would take it. The second he felt Kyle’s cool fingers slide across his palm Keller released the breath he didn’t know he’d been holding. He gently tugged Kyle closer until he was standing between himself and Bast.

Bast’s hand shook as he reached out to touch Kyle’s face. “Beautiful.”

Kyle looked up and smiled. “I missed you.”

Those three words released something in Bast and he wrapped his arms around Kyle, lifting him off the floor in a bear hug. Keller pressed in close, joining in the embrace. A flash of light broke them apart.

Fox chuckled. “Perfect. I’ll send you each a copy tomorrow.” He turned to leave, but glanced back over his shoulder and nodded towards the dance floor. “Oh, Kyle, I’ll also make sure you have a picture of that.”

Keller started laughing and wasn’t surprised when Kyle and Bast joined him. Gael was dressed in a leather version of a belly dance outfit and he was leading Jason, in mid-shift, around by leash. But that wasn’t the funniest thing and Keller was waiting for lightning to strike.

“Oh my goddess. Is Tink dressed as a nun?”

Draping an arm across Bast’s shoulders and having Kyle standing between them, Keller felt complete. He knew they had a long way to go, but for the first time in months, he actually had hope.

West Thornhill:

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Bugs and Hisses Free Fiction: Stealing Candy From the Monster by Eli Easton

October 30, 2015

To celebrate Halloween this month, some of our paranormal authors will be sharing with us some free fiction.

 

I stared at the gargoyled and gabled monstrosity before me. This was my last chance to back out. But I’d promised myself. This was Halloween night. By dawn I would either be dead—or I would have gotten what I wanted.

I looked around, but no one besides me was crazy enough to be here. The haunted house on Cemetery Road was a mile out of town, and it was inhabited by a real life monster. Not even precocious teens messed with this place. Well, except for this precocious teen.

I swung open the rusty gate and walked up the leaf-strewn walkway. The house loomed above me. The placement of its windows and general disrepair made it appear ready to eat me. Someone had better, I muttered to myself, piling on spunkiness to calm my nerves.

I rang the doorbell. On the third try, the door opened and there he stood. The monster.

“Whaddya want?” he growled at me.

“Happy Halloween!” I swished my long red cape with one hand and held out my wicker basket. I wouldn’t have dressed as Red Riding Hood for school, of course, but it seemed like the right message for tonight. Besides, the red went nicely with my dark hair and pale skin.

“I don’t have any damn—”

I looked over his shoulder and pointed. “Who’s that?”

He looked behind himself. I used the distraction to push past him into the foyer. Curious. The front of the house looked abandoned, but the inside was clean and neat. Curved stairs went up and several doors led off to comfortably furnished rooms.

“What the hell are you doing? Get out!” The monster was still holding open the door.

I sat on one of the stairs and wrapped an arm around the railing. “No.”

 

Mr. Thornton huffed and puffed and stared at me, like he really couldn’t believe my nerve. Honestly, I was having a hard time believing it myself.

I’d seen Thornton mostly from afar. He was a large man, well over two hundred pounds, and all muscle. He had black hair that he cropped close to his head and black stubble too. I guessed him to be in his thirties. When he had to go into town for groceries, he dressed in black, all scary. But at home he wore blue jeans and T-shirts.

I knew because I’d watched him. The back of his house was fenced and he liked to spend time out there, puttering around the yard or chopping wood. It just so happens my parent’s house was in last building in the last development in town. I could see the back of his mansion from our roof. I’d also seen that he’d lived there for five years and not a single person had ever visited.

I’d never seen his eyes up close though. They were a light gray surrounded by black lashes.

“What do you want?” He repeated, voice hard.

“Kind of a big question. World peace. A million dollars. A career in Hollywood. But tonight? Tonight… I want you to kiss me.” My voice hardly shook at all. “Trick or treat, Mr. Thornton.”

 

Thornton stormed out of the foyer and I followed him. In the kitchen, he poured himself a shot glass of whiskey and drank it in one gulp. “Look, Kid, apparently you didn’t get the memo, but I’m a—”

“Registered werewolf? Yeah, I know. In fact, I know a lot about you.”

“Oh really?” His words were ironic, his face shuttered.

“Yes. The gossip is that you were a teacher and hurt a boy. Uncontrolled shifter, they say. Dangerous. Your wife left you and you were fired, so you moved here. This used to be your Aunt’s place.”

He said nothing, just stared out the window, his hands knuckle-white on the edge of the sink.

“But I did some digging online. True, you were fired after a student was accidentally hurt and your husband left you. But you didn’t know you were a shifter until that incident, did you? How did it happen?”

His lips pressed tight. “I was bitten on a trip to New Orleans. Thought it was just a dog.” His looked at me. His dark brows were furrowed and his gray eyes practically glowed. “Who the hell are you?”

“My name’s Brandon. I live right over there.” I pointed into the darkness outside the window. “And I’m nobody. Just a guy who likes Google.”

He let out a sharp bark of a laugh. “If you know I really am a wolf shifter, why would you—”

“Because I don’t care. I don’t believe you’ll hurt me. And because… you’re the only man I’ve ever known who was gay.” I swallowed. “I’m lonely. You and I, we’re both pariahs in this town. So why shouldn’t we help each other?”

My voice did tremble this time. I’d spent the past few years building dreams in my head about Thornton. I’d only ever had a few friends in school. Even my parents didn’t like me. I was getting out of this shitty little burg in January, but not before I’d confronted the man of my dreams.

He stared at me for a long moment, then he chuckled. It was almost a real laugh too. “I have to hand it to you, kid. You’ve got cojones. But I’m not going to add pedophilia to my list of sins.”

“I turned eighteen yesterday.” I dug out my driver’s license and held it out to him.

He looked at it warily and passed it back. “Still too young. Find someone your own age.”

I wanted to scream. I’d imagined this a million times. But him rejecting me—like everyone else—had never been the way it’d gone. “Mr. Thornton. William. Please. I’ve lived in this town my whole life. You know what it’s like. There is no one else.”

My guts spilled out with my words and hung out there for him to see. So much for being cool. My fists clenched at my side and I was rigid as a board. Don’t reject me. Please.

He shook his head and poured another shot of whiskey. Downed it. He sighed. “Goddamn it. One kiss?” His voice quivered. I’d been right; he was lonely too.

“One kiss.” For now.

He sighed again there at the counter, his hands still clutched on the sink, like he didn’t trust himself to move. So I walked over to him slowly. My heart was pounding—fear and excitement all wound together. I tugged on one of his wrists and he let me move it so that I could slip right up to him.

I looked up at him and he stared down at me.

He huffed again, like this was ridiculous, but that wasn’t what his eyes said. He leaned down those few inches and kissed me. He tried to make it quick, but I was ready for that. I had my hand on his neck, pulling him down and I opened my mouth a little.

His tongue, hot as blazes and spicy with whiskey skated over mine. His whole body shook. For a moment, it was bliss.

Then he pulled away from my hold as easy as swatting a flea. Without a word, he marched out of the kitchen. I followed him to the front door, which he held open pointedly.

“Good-night, Brandon.” His voice was rough. “You’re a brave kid. Good luck.”

My head was still dazed from the kiss, but I grinned at him. “See you tomorrow, Mr. Thornton!”

I skipped out the door.

“Wait! You can’t—”

“Happy Halloween!”

THE END

 

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Bugs and Hisses Free Fiction: Costumes, Creatures, and Candy by M.A. Church

October 30, 2015

To celebrate Halloween this month, some of our paranormal authors will be sharing with us some free fiction.

 “You can’t be serious.”

“Why not? It’ll be fun!” I threw the empty Coke can Marshell left on the counter into the trash. “I’m going as a doctor, but I’ll be in scrubs.”

“You’re going as a doctor, Lawson? You? The person who can’t stand the sight of blood?” Marshell smirked as he sipped his drink.

“Shut up. And you’re going as yourself.”

The glass froze halfway to his mouth. “Come again?”

“You’re going as a Vetala.”

Marshell slowly placed his drink back on the counter, then picked up my glass and sniffed it. “How much you had to drink already?”

“Ha-ha. It’s just soda. Look, you’ve told me you smelled other paranormals there. And it’s a gay bar, so we don’t have to worry about offending some Bible-thumping redneck. Plus, since it’s Halloween night, they’re having a costume contest.”

“Jeez. Costumes? What are you? Seven?”

“It’s a costume contest at a gay bar.” I handed Marshell the advertisement.

“It says there will be ‘costumes, creatures, and candy—eye candy, that is’,” he read. “Okay, it does sound interesting.”

“I promise you, there’s going to be more skin than costumes. The contest winner gets two hundred dollars.”

“Well hell, man. Why didn’t you say so? I’m in.”

“What part persuaded you?”

“The possibilities.” Marshell waggled his eyebrows.

“It’s bad enough Janelle does that. Don’t you start too.” I’d invited Marshell’s twin sister, Janelle, to go tonight, but she had other plans. “You’re such a horn dog.”

“You say that like it’s something new.” Marshell closed his eyes and took a deep breath.

I stayed silent as Marshell concentrated on bringing forth the Vetala side of his nature. I didn’t fear him and his sister, but it always made my heart beat faster when they changed. They were horrifyingly beautiful.

Marshell opened his eyes. The whites of his eyes were a bright sky blue and the pupil, now elliptical, was black. The top two central incisors were long and pointy, and so were his canines. He grinned at me. “Help me pick out what to wear?”

“I swear to God, those are some the scariest fangs I’ve ever seen. And what do you mean help you pick something to wear? What are you? Thirteen?”

“No, not thirteen. But a solid nine—inches, that is.”

“Oh my God, seriously?”

“That’s what he said.” Marshell winked.

“I’m going to need a shovel to dig my way out of all the crap piling up in here.” I punched Marshell in the arm, even though I knew he wouldn’t feel it. “Come on, let’s go look in your closet. Do you still have those black leather pants?”

Marshell followed me down the hallway and into his bedroom. “Yeah, why?”

“I figure the goal for the night is getting you laid and win the prize money. So, let’s go with the black leather pants, a black muscle shirt, and black motorcycle boots. Don’t tie your hair back either.”

Marshall normally kept his long hair tied back in cornrows during the way. “No prob. But I’ll probably ditch the shirt. You know that, right?”

“I figured as much.”

I hunted around Marshall’s closet until I found the black leather pants. Honestly, it didn’t really matter what he wore. Once that shirt came off and the twinks saw Marshell’s broad, muscular chest and smooth, black skin… they’d lose their minds.

I laid the clothes on his bed. “There you go. I’m going to go get dressed now. Think can handle it on your own?”

“I got it, brah.” Marshell whipped off his shirt and flexed his pecs.

“Good grief. Show-off. Give me about forty-five minutes, and I’ll be ready.” I shut the door behind me and hurried to my bedroom.

I shouldn’t have waited until the last minute to talk Marshell into going out with me, but this had literally been a last-minute decision on my part. The only reason I had a costume was because I’d stopped by Walmart on my way home.

Fortunately they had scrubs. Otherwise I’d have been scrounging around in my closet too. Trouble was, Marshell had much cooler clothes than me. He hung out in the bars every weekend. Me? Not so much. I wasn’t into one-night stands. I wanted a relationship, but so far, no one had flipped my switch.

Once we were both dressed, we left in Marshell’s SUV. By the time we got to the bar, it was jumping. It didn’t take long for the crowd to swallow Marshell up, but I was having a good time too. I swayed to the music, the bass pounding as hands caressed my body.

* * * *

Smells surrounded him as he danced, and he breathed deeply. Oh, such lovely scents. Everywhere he turned, he was bathed by the humans’ various desires. Thick in the air was his favorite scent: lust. But the clean aroma of sweaty male called to him too.

He sniffed the air, and his head snapped up. What was that scent? So dark. So dangerous. It wrapped around him, and the smell of his own bitter need rose. It wasn’t a mate scent, but he didn’t care.

A wicked grin crossed his face as he scanned the crowd. He would find the owner of that scent. Oh, there. He saw a tall black man dressed all in black. Vetala, his mind said. Shoving people out of his path, he made his way to where his dark god danced.

Oh yes, this was the one. Mine! With a smile his Vetala pulled him close. Yes! This was where he belonged. As they moved together he caught another smell. His Vetala carried the scent of another male. A human.

His eyes flashed red and he growled, his wolf pressing to get out. The acrid odor of jealousy surrounded him, but was quickly lost in all the other scents. This was not allowable. His dark god should only smell like him.

The threat to his claiming his Vetala would have to die.

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Bugs and Hisses Free Fiction: Ghost in the Garden by A. Morell

October 29, 2015

To celebrate Halloween this month, some of our paranormal authors will be sharing with us some free fiction.

GhostGarden1

 

The passage of time meant nothing to the dead. Even when they remained on earth.

How many years Elias had passed, never awake and never asleep, invisibly bound to the gardener’s shed in which he had too soon met his fate, he had no way of knowing. To him it appeared as it always had—neatly kept, if a bit ill-lit, and smelling of fresh, rich soil.

Sometimes people would join him for a while. At first, people he knew, like the servants about their business, and his mother in her mourning clothes. But then there were new faces, ones he did not recognize. Sometimes they would bring glimpses of rust and dilapidation with them. He didn’t care for those people.

Then Asher had come.

A loud crashing sound had alerted Elias to their presence. Two men, stumbling and panting and displaying the same wanton prurience that had brought about his demise. It was the closest to feeling alive again that he could recall, and it made him remember—the touch of callused palms, the scent of sun and sweat, the burgeoning passion that had been worth risking everything. He couldn’t help but watch.

But like the night his life had ended, something went wrong. The taller man kissed his amour’s neck, and then bit down.

Pain mixed with the pleasure on the other man’s face, then fear. And as his eyes had glazed over, they suddenly locked with Elias’s. For a brief moment, they sat on the same plane of existence, in that tiny antechamber to eternity.

Elias didn’t understand what occurred afterward. The man had died, and then just as quickly had somehow been reborn—sharper, faster, angrier. There had been a great fight and a lot of noise, and he had retreated to safety.

Some time later the bitten man returned. He called to Elias. Not by name, of course, but nonetheless Elias answered. But the man, like every other that entered these four walls, no longer saw him.

Yet he remained, perhaps having had nowhere else to go. He was handsome in a roguish, carefree sort of way, and he cut a pleasing figure. Elias wondered what had drawn him back.

“I hope you’re still here,” the man said to the room, “because I’d prefer not to add insanity to the list of shite I’m forced to deal with now.”

Elias stared and then laughed softly. The rusty wind chimes hanging inside the door clanged together quietly.

Asher, he called himself. He came and went. Sometimes he talked, sometimes he didn’t. Sometimes Elias would respond, and the shed would breathe life for fleeting half-seconds. It wasn’t unpleasant.

One night, Asher returned early, grumbling of crowded streets and being unable to hunt. He flung himself down on his makeshift bed and sulked.

Elias drifted to the tiny window above the workbench and peered out at the dark, though his eyes saw little of present day. He could hear the distant commotion of excited children.

“What on earth are they doing out at such an hour?” he murmured.

There was a loud thud, and Elias turned toward the bed. Asher was on the floor, staring right at him, mouth agape. Elias could see his fangs.

“It’s—it’s you!”

Elias turned again in search of another occupant, but Asher scrambled toward him and stopped only a few feet away. His hand hovered in the air, fingers twitching faintly as though they wanted to reach out. Elias could see himself in Asher’s eyes.

“You… can see me…”

“You’re really real!” Asher broke into a smile, and his hand finally found purpose in running through his hair as he began to pace. “My god, what a relief. I really did think I might’ve hallucinated you.”

He stopped suddenly and looked pensive. “I guess there is something to that ghosts-walking-on-Halloween stuff.”

“Halloween… All Hallows Eve?” Dim recognition slowly pulled from the fog of Elias’s memories. He moved back to the windowpane. “The children… they must be out souling.”

“Souling, sure,” Asher grinned. “They call it trick-or-treating now.”

Elias was stunned. Once more they shared that same plane, only now for much longer than a final breath. He didn’t understand why on this night he was allowed true company, but it was only after talking the night away, when the first shades of dawn began to color the tiny garden shed window, that he understood what a true gift it was. It ended all too soon.

“You’re fading,” Asher observed quietly. He looked exhausted.

“And you shall be sleeping soon,” Elias replied. He hesitated, but he had to know if he was to lose this tenuous connection to the living come morning. “Will… will you be staying much longer?”

A slow, muted smile that would have set Elias’s heart to racing when he was alive warmed Asher’s face. “I’ll be here a while.”

So ended the first of countless Halloween nights with Asher. True to his word, he still called the shed home. He still came and went, sometimes for days at a time, always returning with his stories of the world outside. But Halloweens were special—the one day of the year they could truly meet.

Over time Elias found that the more he learned of the world that had gone on without him, the more connected to it he became, and the stronger his presence grew. Eventually he could venture out into the gardens surrounding his shed, and feel the waxing and waning of the veil between the worlds.

One year, Asher began to leave for longer and longer periods of time. As Halloween approached, Elias wasn’t worried, but his restlessness rustled through the overgrown branches of the trees, hurrying the footsteps of passersby.

Hours after the veil lifted, with the moon risen and the children safely in their beds, Asher came through the rusting door.

“You’re late.”

“I know. I’m sorry.” Asher moved to the window, where Elias remained watching the outside. “Elias…”

“You must leave?”

Asher’s silence was answer enough, and it stretched mournfully. Elias felt him move closer—another new development in his strength, one he was loath to forfeit.

“I don’t want to. But I have to. I’ve been here too long, Eli. People see things… times change, but I don’t. I can’t hide it anymore. If I’m found out, they’ll kill me.”

Elias had no argument when Asher had already stayed far longer than he should have. He hated it all the same.

“Maybe… can’t you move on, now?” Asher spoke softly. “To the other side?”

“If I did, you would feel better about leaving.”

“That’s not—”

“I know,” Elias interrupted, already regretting his words.

Regret. That was the danger. What would send him back to the unknowing darkness, and trap him here forever in his desolate, narrow world.

He wanted the other side. But only with Asher.

He turned at last to look at the man he should never have been able to meet, that he had to cross lifetimes to love.

There would be no regret.

“I think… I would rather wait for you here.” However long it took. Time meant nothing to the dead.

Asher’s eyes widened with surprise before they softened in understanding.“I think that’d be nice.” He stared at Elias for a long moment before his boots carried him to the door. He paused, and waited until he held Elias’s gaze one last time. “I’ll come back to you… Halloween or otherwise.”

Elias’s smile was faint, but genuine. “I’ll be waiting.”

And then, he would be ready.

~*~*~

 

Find more of A. Morell’s vampires in Puncture Wounds, available from Dreamspinner Press.

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Bugs and Hisses Free Fiction: Coulrophobia by Jana Denardo

October 29, 2015

To celebrate Halloween this month, some of our paranormal authors will be sharing with us some free fiction.

 

As the clerk checked them in, Aaron stared at the bajillion clowns surrounding the hotel desk. He tugged on Rhys’s shirt with his prosthetic hand. “Explain this to me again.”

“We’re road tripping between Vegas and Reno for Halloween. It’s simple.” Rhys grinned. “Is someone afraid of clowns?”

Aaron narrowed his eyes. “We’ll talk in the room.”

Rhys chuckled as he helped Aaron with the luggage to their second floor room. Aaron stopped at the door, unable to process the large clown on the door, on every door.

“Rhys….”

“Come on, everyone loves a clown.”

Aaron knew there was a joke he wasn’t privy to happening here and by the end of the night he might be kicking ass. “Not everyone.”

Rhys opened the door and Aaron screwed his eyes shut. He took a deep breath and followed Rhys inside, shutting the door behind them. There were freaking clowns on the night stand and pictures of them on the walls.

“Why the hell are we here?” Aaron struggled with the zipper on his luggage. “And don’t tell me Halloween road trip. I know that. But why didn’t you just magically hop us from Vegas to Reno like you did between Pittsburgh and Vegas?”

Rhys slipped his arms around Aaron, kissing him. “Because sometimes the slow road is much more fun. This was on the way. Who knew you were afraid of clowns? I guess I should have suspected.”

“I’m not afraid of clowns.” Aaron squirmed free of Rhys’s embrace. “And why should you have suspected?”

“Corrine made me promise to stop at the haunted clown hotel. She wants tons of pictures.” Rhys beamed. Opening his luggage he started to hang up clothes for tomorrow.

“I’ll give her pictures of my ass,” Aaron grumbled, crossing the room to open the curtain.

“She’ll put it online and you know it.”

Aaron snorted then choked. “Son of a….Rhys! That creepy-assed cemetery we saw across the street? It’s our damned view. Who puts a hotel across from an old cemetery?”

“Corrine insisted on that view.”

“I might have to rethink your twins’ offer to go out on a date. I might be better off with them.” Aaron sniffed.

“Corrine is your friend. You wanted me to bond.”

“Changed my mind.” Aaron sauntered back to the bed and tapped Rhys’s cheek. “And if you think you’re getting any love with clowns watching us, you’re sadly mistaken.”

Rhys grabbed Aaron and pushed him down onto the bed. He rolled on top of Aaron, straddling his hips. Rhys leaned in and stole a kiss. “You might rethink that.”

“And you might think on the phrase ‘pushing a rope’.”  Aaron slapped Rhys’s thigh.

Rhys took both Aaron’s hands, locking fingers with him. Aaron closed his responsive prosthetic fingers around Rhys’s hand. “We have one more thing to do before we worry about your clown-induced impotence.”

“Let me guess. Corrine wants us to get a ton of graveyard pictures.” Aaron sighed.

“You know her well.” Rhys kissed the inside of Aaron’s wrist. “We can skip that.”

“Hmmm, hot man on my lap kissing me, Bozo watching me from the walls. Nope, not working for me.”

Rhys gave him another kiss before swinging off Aaron to crash on the mattress next to him. “I can remember when people loved clowns. I blame Stephen King and Poltergeist.”

“You’re old enough to remember a time before clowns.” Aaron rolled his eyes.

“I’m not that old. Okay, I’m older than the modern idea of a clown.” Rhys wrinkled his nose. “I might be about the same age as the idea of clowning.”

“You old elf.”

“Twylyth Teg! I keep telling you elves are something different.”

Aaron snuggled up close, still bemused by the idea his lover was a centuries old fae. “A thousand pardons.”

Rhys chuckled. “Dig out the camera and let’s get those pictures. Wouldn’t want the ghost to get you once night falls in the cemetery.”

“Not afraid of ghosts.”

“Just clowns.”

Aaron sighed again. It was going to be a long strange night.

 

XXX

 

Aaron woke, feeling eyes on him. Rhys’s arm draped over him and no small amount of his long blond hair cascaded over Aaron’s shoulder as Rhys spooned him. Raising his arm to rub the sleep from his eyes, Aaron failed. How many times would he forget most of that arm was gone?

More awake now, Aaron scanned the room, his breath caught. A shadowy figure hovered at the foot of the bed. Aaron’s bladder almost went into business for itself. The shadow glided closer. Aaron elbowed Rhys a couple times. Rhys groaned, letting go of Aaron as he flopped onto his back.

“What the hell?”

“Tell me that’s not a demonic clown at the end of the bed!”

Rhys propped himself up on his elbows and the clown’s head swiveled to look at him. “I’m going to say not demon. Ghost clown?”

“How the hell are you so calm?” Aaron’s pulse thundered so hard he was sure Corrine could hear it back in Pittsburgh.

“I’m used to weird things but this is freaking creepy.” Rhys poked Aaron in the ribs. “See what it wants.”

“You do it, Mr. Magic.” Aaron inched toward the headboard. “Rhys, seriously, what do we do?”

“Ghosts really can’t hurt you.” Rhys reached for his cellphone on the night stand.

“You’ve never seen a possession movie, have you?” Aaron huffed. “Fine. What do you want? We were trying to sleep and I don’t think there’s anything we could do to help you.”

The dark shape rippled, becoming more old man and less clown. Aaron felt more than heard the words, “I’m ready to go.”

In that instant he was less threatening and sadder.

“I think you’re already on your way. You just need to keep going.” Aaron pointed toward the window.

The ghost faded away.

“You’re good at this.”

Aaron twisted on the bed. “Is that all you have to say after bringing me to a haunted hotel?”

Rhys smiled, brushing his hair out of his eyes. “But you did great and it’s gone. It’s not like we were in any danger.”

Aaron pinched his lips. “I cannot believe you just said that. Any other horror clichés you want to utter before the ghost comes back to kill us?”

Rhys took his hand. “Just try to go back to sleep.”

“After you just jinxed it? Am I pretending I didn’t just see a ghost?”

Rhys rolled over and grabbed his phone. “Look. Think Corrine will be impressed?”

Aaron looked at the blurry ghost picture. “Glad your go to for ghost fighting is to take its picture. You’ll be great when he comes back to eat our souls. I should go sleep in the car.”

“You’ll be closer to the haunted cemetery.” Rhys put his phone away.

Aaron huffed. “Rhys, if I find out that ghost was one of your illusions I’ll hang you by your braid and use you like a piñata.”

Rhys widened his eyes. “Now I’m the one afraid to go to sleep.”

Aaron grunted, squirming down on the mattress. “You better be ready to treat me like the prince you are when we get to Reno.”

Rhys kissed him. “I will.” He skimmed his hand down Aaron’s belly.

Aaron caught it. “Are you out of your mind? You know the number one rule of surviving in a horror movie? Don’t have sex. At this rate you might never have it again.”

Rhys’s second kiss was deeper. “Empty threat.”

“Probably,” Aaron muttered as Rhys twined his arms around him.

“Should I mention that I plan to take us to the Stanley Hotel after Reno?”

Aaron sighed. “I so need a new boyfriend.”

 

***

 

Read more of Jana Denardo’s books here! 

Bugs and Hisses Free Fiction: Home by Andrea Speed

October 28, 2015

To celebrate Halloween this month, some of our paranormal authors will be sharing with us some free fiction.

 

He only crawled out from under the bed when the screaming stopped.

It felt like it had lasted hours, but Tommy was pretty sure it had only been minutes. When it started, all he heard was thumps, but then some glass broke, and the screaming began. He didn’t know what was going on, but something bad. The terror was nearly paralyzing.

The silence after so much chaos seemed deafening and alien somehow. Every noise, from the scuff of his clothes against the carpet to the creak of the floorboards as he neared his door seemed shockingly loud. He thought it would bring the horror to him.

But despite the breathless minute he waited to be confronted by whatever evil was in the house, nothing came. Dare he hope he was safe? Could the guy have left?

It seemed like way too much to hope for, but Tommy decided to believe in it, if only to make the watery feeling in his stomach and legs go away. Still, he eased the door open, wincing when the hinge let out the slightest creak, but again, nothing manifested from the shadows. Tommy tiptoed out into the hall.

The house was quiet. Not even wind sighed in the eaves. It should have been comforting, but it was far from that. Right now he wanted noise, his mother or dad asking if everyone was okay, anything, but when you wanted something it never happened.

He found his sister first. She was face down on the floor of her room, in a pool of blood that the moonlight through the window turned black. But as he watched, something happened to her. Her body seemed to change shape, become smaller, become someone else. A child.

Tommy’s heart was trip hammering in his chest as he stumbled away from her room, not sure what he’d just seen. He came to his parent’s room, and his father was dead on the bed, his chest split wide open, blood turning the white sheets red. Mom was on the floor, a hole the size of a baseball blasted in her chest, her blood splattered over the mirrored closet doors. Tommy clapped a hand over his mouth to stop from sobbing, as his mother changed, becoming a woman with long, dark hair he’d never seen before. His dad was now gone from the bed, the sheets as crisp as freshly fallen snow.

He decided he was losing his mind when he recognized the woman on the floor. His wife.

What?

Tommy looked at his hands. He was what, seven? He wasn’t married …

Except he was. He had very clear memories of getting married to Becky, of being an adult. The child in his sister’s room, that was a boy, wasn’t it? His son, Jamie. What was going on?

Tommy looked in the mirror, and saw two different things. Himself as a child, in his cowboy pajamas, and him as an adult, blood splattered on his shirt and face, a gun in his hand. The adult him seemed to stare at him through the mirror. “You killed them all. And now you live here.”

He didn’t understand. How did this make sense? He didn’t do any of this.

Except he did, didn’t he? He now had a very clear memory of Becky threatening to leave him, and he got so mad. He wasn’t thinking straight. He just saw red. And his gun was right there …

No! He wouldn’t do that. He couldn’t …

He saw his adult self in the mirror, pressing the hot muzzle of his gun to his temple. He could feel the skin burning on his face. “You will always live here.” For a single moment, he thought he could see through himself, to another room. A different room, one free of corpses and blood, but one where he was barely an afterthought. And yet, he was still there.

Tommy understood then that he was always here. He was always stuck in this moment, in this place, in this act. No matter how he tried to escape, how he tried to will himself into another time, another memory, he was always trapped here. He did the worst thing anyone could ever do, and now he would live with it forever.

Tommy pulled the trigger, and his consciousness was obliterated in a loud blast of darkness.

When the screams woke Tommy once more, he screamed right along with them.

 
 
 

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