Another Tale of Unremarkable Horror

Jacob stomped along, crushing every leaf he could underfoot.  The night, admittedly, had not gone as he had hoped.  After Marcus had left the movie without them, Jacob offered to walk Julie home.

“Don’t want any monsters getting you,” he had said to her with a wink.  Only once he got to her front door did he find out the eye-roll that had accompanied her thanks was more sincere than he’d wanted to believe.  After a fair bit of insisting on hanging out a little, Julie had responded with equal persistence that Jacob spend some quality time away from her instead.  With nothing to hold over Marcus’ head next time he saw the little dweeb, Jacob had what few beers were left in the fridge and a multi-pack of what he referred to as the Z-List of zombie movies; they were so bad they were almost good, but only with enough booze.

That’s when he first noticed it.  That creeping sensation he was being watched, like someone was right behind him.  He had seen zillions of scary movies, and knew there’s always something spooky lurking right behind the good guy at the least convenient moment.

“Try scaring this, bitch,” Jacob said.  He spun around, and delivered a punch to the air that had just been behind him.  Across the road, a group of small children gasped and some parents gave him disapproving looks.

“Whatever,” Jacob said to no one in particular.  He turned around, kicked over a decorative bag of leaves that looked like a giant vampire head, and continued home.  As he walked down the narrow, dimly lit alleyway leading up to the back entrance of his apartment building, the hair on the back of his neck started to stand on end.  He felt the unmistakable warmth of someone’s breath.  It must be Marcus, Jacob thought, trying to get back at him.  Jacob kept pace, not breaking stride as he removed the keys to the apartment building from his pocket, opened the door, and made his way up the stairs.  He spun around, hands balled into fists, outside his apartment door.

“You really think you could scare me, Wimpus?” Jacob said.  The creature stood a good foot taller than Jacob, three mouths full of sharp, jagged teeth dripping saliva on the dirty carpet.

“What about eating you?” it said.  “That’s certainly not a possibility we’d want to rule out.”

Tales of Unremarkable Horror

Thin streams of moonlight trickled down from beneath thick, murky clouds, and the shadows danced around the sidewalk playfully at Marcus’ feet as he walked home from another yearly viewing of the Hell-O-Scream Movie Marathon.  He hadn’t wanted to go.  Like every other year, he protested; asked why he and his friends couldn’t just get drunk and pig out on junk food, like everyone else their age.

“Don’t be such a goddamn pansy,” Jacob had said to Marcus.  Marcus remembered how Jacob puffed out his chest, and how he looked like a great, stupid pigeon in a varsity jacket about three sizes too big.  “If Julie’s going, maybe you can show her how brave you are by making it through all five movies.  You might get some treats of your own.”

After five years of the same commentary, Marcus had learned to suppress the urge to groan.  Hell-O-Scream always managed to scrape together four of the scariest, hands-over-your-eyes sort of movies.  He went, against his better judgment, and left the evening, and his friends, feeling like he’d wasted another perfectly good evening that could have been spent working on a new painting.

As Marcus rounded the corner, the streetlight overhead flickered off and on, intermittently illuminating a shape just behind the bushes up ahead.  Just like in Night of the Blood-Drinking Mangler, he thought.  The leaves rustled, as something shifted and crept among them.  Marcus’ heart pounded as he picked up his pace significantly.  The bushes shook alongside him; whatever they concealed was following him now, and he knew his life would be over soon.  Just then, out from the foliage, darted a startlingly obese black cat.  It flopped across the sidewalk, and then the street, before disappearing from Marcus’ view.

“Shit,” Marcus said to himself, having stopped to compose himself.  He took a moment to be grateful his friends hadn’t been there;  he’d have never lived that momentary panic down.  He resumed his walk home, now with a little more speed and purpose to his step.  The sooner he was inside, with the door locked behind him, the better.

Two blocks later, the front porch of his house came into view.  The trash cans still stood, neatly arranged, at the edge of the sidewalk.  Marcus made sure he’d put the garbage out earlier, recalling previous years when he’d been so preoccupied with the monsters from that night’s movies he’d forgotten, leaving his house to stink of week-old pizza boxes.

It started with a slight shudder of the garbage cans, their metal exteriors lightly clunking against each other.  Marcus slowed his pace.  He eyed the trash cans, suspicious.  Probably just some raccoons, he thought, getting their own Halloween feast.  The slight tremors of the trash can became more pronounced; their exteriors clanged and crashed together as Marcus got closer.  The one closest to him toppled over abruptly, vomiting its contents onto the sidewalk.  Another cat sauntered off into the distance.

“This is ridiculous,” Marcus said with a sigh.  He reached into his pocket, produced a key, and let himself into his house.  The living room light had been left on, but the rest of the house was dark.  A small note on the coffee table reminded him his parents had gone to a costume party, that there was pizza in the fridge, and to have a Spooktacular Halloween.  Marcus set the note down, then made his way to the kitchen.  He flicked the light switch into the on position.  The lights came on, dimmed, flickered, and returned to a moderate level of brightness.

Marcus opened the fridge, found the pizza the note had promised, and shut the fridge door.  As he walked past the kitchen window on his way to the microwave, he caught sight of a peculiar reflection.  A masked figure, dressed in all black, was only a few paces behind Marcus, and it was holding a knife in a way suggesting it hadn’t arrived to help him prepare his leftover dinner.

“I don’t suppose you’re a cat, too,” Marcus said, as the color drained from his face and the cold pizza dropped to the floor.

Short Story a Week #1: Grandpa Pembroke’s Greatest Treasure

A little pre-story reading, first.  Yes, I’m totally almost two days behind.  Yes, I’m still also two weeks behind, more or less.  No, I did not account for how stressful these past two weeks would be; what, do you think I have a crystal ball or something?  I’d have won the lottery if that were the case (and totally made it so the people who matter to me are debt-free and living comfortably, as well as making my life a little less crazy).  However, because of that I have two stories (the second one will be arriving tomorrow, during the day), and a bonus something-or-other because I still feel guilty for some reason.  Maybe because I’m already well on my way as a writer to ignoring deadlines as they fly past, glaring at me for my lack of good work ethic.

This first short story, titled Grandpa Pembroke’s Greatest Treasure, started off as an idea about a chess set.  It gradually evolved into what it is, and it has become rather dear to me.  I’m fairly certain the inspiration is my stepmother’s father, Tibor Zalavary (whose name I hope I’ve not butchered, since I only really knew him as Mr. Zalavary).  He was one of the first people I ever played chess with, and I still remember how he schooled me every single time.  He also introduced me to The Pink Panther, as portrayed by Peter Sellers, and I will always treasure the memory of sitting in his living room, the smell of cigarette ash in the air, laughing to the point of tears with someone I wish I could have gotten to know better.  As such, I hope this story does his memory justice. Continue reading

All the King’s Nitwits and all the King’s Clods: Prologue, or It All Had to Start Somehow

Some quick notes before the real, hopefully good, stuff: this is a project I’ve managed to keep under wraps.  The following will be the first part in a multi-part series, hopefully with some reader involvement when the chances arise (think “choose your own adventure”, but with no entirely wrong choices).  Without further delay, I present the beginning installment of All the King’s Nitwits and All the King’s Clods.

As far as kingdoms went, Edawean was certainly a respectable one.  King Aster Kalarmey was a king of the people, just and honorable in even the most dire of times.  Edawean held the distinction, out of all the fourteen Great Kingdoms of the Third Enlightened Age (the first two ages had not been so Enlightened, with the First being most noteworthy for actually being a complete descent into uncivilized chaos), being the least riddled with crime, the most free of corrupt nobility, and having streets more devoid of chamber pot spillage than any knight or filthy peasant could have imagined.  The signs on each gateway of the castle-town proudly read “Plagues need not enter here,” which seemed to have been working well enough as subjects of King Aster had stopped making such a regular hobby of dropping over dead in the streets.

And yet, when it could be argued a kingdom is only as good and just as its king, and a king is only as good and just as his most loyal knights.   Sir Hector Aldyr, the Exceptionally Bold.  Sir Raphael Temmins, the Dispenser of Justice.  Sir Gareth Marquis, the Fantastic.  Sir Valamir Ysthar, the Frequently Nicknamed for the Sake of Brevity.  Sir Bartemas Blainewright, the Chivalrous.  There has originally been three additional knights, each one as exceptional in quality as the other five, but they had gone off to greater callings.  Sir Jonah the Wise had gone on to become a great scholar of The Holy Church of Mostly Peaceful Gods.  Sir Walter the Healing found his true calling as a great medicine man of the times by pioneering a new means of drilling holes in a man’s skull to remove demons from thoughts.  Sir Horatio the Snide went on to stand sentry in The Great Castle Beyond when he accidentally shot himself in the back several times with several other people’s crossbows.  In honor of their departed members, and because they had emblazoned the name on every piece of armor left in the kingdom, they were to forever be known as The Knights of the Octagon.  Their motto, contrary to humorous jabs from roguish figures to the effect of “They’re the great and mighty stop signs of the law”, was to stop villainy at any cost.  This was, in hindsight, not particularly inspiring either.  However, it stuck as the King decreed it to be good and so it was.

The most vicious dragons found themselves laid to waste by the Knights of the Octagon.  The most fiendish necromancers and warlocks found their magic ineffective (largely, in the case of the former, due to the lack of corpses laying about the streets).  Witches proved equally ineffective, with the exception of a few embarrassing instances that somehow went without being recorded.  Mischief and mayhem were at an all-time low, and as such the Kingdom of Edawean knew an unparalleled time of peace and tranquility.

This is an excellent thing for the huddled, filth-encrusted masses, but it made for knights with little knightly activity to partake in.

King Aster sighed, sitting down at the OcTable.  He had endured day after day of chivalrous tales and feasts of honor, and his patience was running low.

“And then,” Sir Valamir said, “I raised my mighty blade Ryskrdlrkadir.”  The King Aster rolled his eyes, unnoticed by the others who were in a haze of shared heroic bonding.

“And thusly smote the lesser dragon Krawg,” Sir Valamir and King Aster said together.

“Right good show, that,” Sir Bartemas said, clapping a gauntlet-clad hand against Sir Valamir’s back.  “Val deserves a feast for such an exceptional tale of bravery!  A feast, I say.”

“No.  No more feasts,” King Aster said in protest, standing up from his seat.  “Surely there must be something other than boasting and feasting for you lot to be doing.”   The knights laughed.

“Such humor,” Sir Hector said, “is only right of a proper king.”  King Aster opened his mouth to protest, but a quick assessment of the knights and an even quicker burst of calculated thinking forced him to come to terms with the impending feast–the fifth such feast, as it turned out–in honor of Sir Valamir’s not-so-recent victory.

“Three cheers for Sir ‘Myr!” said Sir Raphael.

“Huzzah!” the knights chorused, masking a quiet knock at the chamber door.

“Huzzah!”  Princess Teresia entered the room, her footfalls almost completely silent.

“My apologies,” Teresia said.  “I do hope I’m not interrupting anything too terribly important.”  There was an almost-audible click as the wheels in King Aster’s head began turning.

“Not at all, my darling daughter,” King Aster said.  “In fact, I was about to announce something very important to the future of the kingdom.  Very important indeed.”  The knights all perked up, leaning in though the king was speaking loudly enough so as to be heard in the neighboring chambers of the castle.

“Whosoever among you goes forth,” King Aster said, gesturing dramatically toward a window across the room from him, “and commits the most heroic deed of you all will win the greatest gift I have to offer.  My daughter’s hand in marriage, and, with it, the throne as future king!”

And so, much against many unprincesslike, highly vulgar, protests from Princess Teresia, the knights each embarked on their individual journeys in hopes to achieve the greatest glory.

 

Which begs the question…whose (mis)adventure should be first?

First proper rejection, and more

I took a short, unexpected vacation from a lot of the Internet, and an actual, scheduled vacation to Edinboro this past week, and both of those things proved tremendously helpful.  The latter more so than the former, of course, but that’s because it involved good times with friends (and, of course, shitty fast food and some alcohol consumption).

The week also involved a good deal of editing on “Death at Teatime” because it received its first proper letter of rejection.  I sent it to a magazine titled Bartleby Snopes (absolutely, definitely check out their page and read some of the stories they’ve published, because it’s really enjoyable), and within twenty-four hours I received a detailed, polite, and very nice rejection.  Despite my anxiety over the whole affair, this ended up really giving me a boost to get this story fixed up more and sent out again.  The only major issue I could fix without a total rewrite involved a few odd point of view shifts.  A couple other little tweaks were made, thanks to the very helpful editorial eyes of a handful of people, and I looked around on Duotrope again on Thursday night.  Sent it out for its second go at getting published, and I’m hopeful so far.

Regardless, I’m going to keep at this until I get published, or die of old age; whichever one happens first.

Speaking of Thursday, or Thor’s Day perhaps, I did get accosted by a drunk man who I only know as Thor.  That’s a story I won’t be sharing, mind you, but it’s worth mentioning because it’s one of a few things that helped make this past weekend a memorable one.

Writing and whatnot will resume tomorrow, once I feel less dead from staying up far too late.

Tonight’s goals…not met. And I’m kind of okay with that.

Didn’t meet the five pages goal for today, which is something I have mixed feelings about.  A good friend of mine pointed out the obvious problem of having to put my mind to it and be in the right mood to get things done, which helped a little.  I did, however, get distracted by Supernatural returning tonight.  As a quick aside: isn’t Mark Sheppard just the most lovably loathsome king of Hell?  Makes me want to reread Good Omens.

On the other hand, not making as much progress as I’d wanted makes Phil a frustrated writer.  I did get a start on “The Watchmaker’s Apprentice” (it’s a tentative title) and that’s off to a good start.  I’ll be working on that until I go to bed tonight, I think.

I’ve also decided on the first piece I’m posting here first.  It’s only a title idea and bits and pieces to go with it right now, but the idea happened at work today.  I bought a pack of iD gum (I’m a bit of a gum addict, and I generally am not without a pack while at work) before my shift started, and the artwork on the pack really caught my eye.  I’d kept a few of the previous packs, and had taken a real liking to one depicting a large tentacle with a small, yellow bird sitting on its end.

Some point in the near future, hopefully for the enjoyment of my followers and any lurkers out there (or people who just happen upon this blog), I’ll be posting “Admiral Canary and The Colossus”.