Short Story Sunday: Friends Forever

“My son is living a nightmare no child, nobody should ever have to deal with.”

Dr. Michael Trent spoke with the police for God knows how many times in the past three months. This time it had been about Christopher’s death. He ran his hand through his hair and sent the detectives out the front door of his home. Upstairs Hunter lay in bed in a state between life and death, sanity and insanity, between the real work and a nightmare.

It had been just another camping trip. The five boys had been camping in the woods on the edge of town for years – since they were in 6th grade. They were good kids. The parents never had to worry about them getting into trouble.

On a warm summer night, when they were all sixteen and seventeen, they camped together for the last time.

After they’d all climbed into their sleeping bags, after a night of hotdogs, smores, a few swiped beers, and a lot of talk about school, girls, and their plans after graduation, it happened.

Hunter, Christopher, Dylan, Kyle and Sam. Best friends forever. They’d always be with each other. Always.

While asleep under the stars something grabbed Hunter’s sleeping bag and dragged him into the woods. The other boys could hear the trashing, the crunching, the tearing, and the screams.

Something huge, like a shadow, like a bear, or as one of the boys put it “The Hulk”, stood over Hunter and looked from the darkness with glowing dark eyes. It could have been anything.

Hunter’s once handsome face was an unrecognizable bloody pulp. His left arm was mangled and almost fleshless. It was a miracle that the was alive.

That was in July.

On the night of August 1st Dylan was walking home through the park they’d all played in as kids. He stopped to sit on a swing, thinking about what had happened three weeks before. He never thought of himself as vain, but his friends joked he looked like an Italian Model. Poor Hunter. Tears flowed down his face.

Then mid thought Dylan was slammed to the ground by an unknown force. His head was held as if in a vice. Pain like no other exploded his entire being as someone, something  ripped off his entire lower jaw. In the morning his mutilated body was found by a woman walking her dog. She never slept easy again.

A few weeks later Kyle was at the grocery store picking up flour for his mom. She was making him a birthday cake. She knew he was in mourning for his best friend but she wanted him to have the cake. Sam and Christopher would be there.

Kyle never made it home. He was slammed against his car and an unknown thing, a creature, something too violent to be a man, took his arm. It tried to get at his face but was scared off with the yelling of other grocery store patrons.

By then nobody in town let their teenagers out at night. On a Wednesday night Sam took the garbage out to the street. The creature jumped him and took his scalp. Then it took his heart. The scalp was never found. His heart was found in the garbage can, still warm.

As for Christopher, poor Christopher, was home alone while his parents were out at a party. It drained his blood. His face, like Hunter’s was mangled. The only things left were his brown eyes and his right ear. The neighbors called the police when the two family dogs would stop howling.

After the death of Christopher the attacks stopped. The creature or whatever it was had left. Still the threat of violence and unknown horrors lingered over the town.

Two years later Kyle started his first year of college. He’d decided to go to the local Community College for two years and then transfer to UC Irvine to study medicine, or maybe political science. He liked the beach and sunshine. It would be a good school for him. Getting along with one arm wasn’t that bad. It was the nightmares that paralyzed him.

Hunter was accepted to Princeton. It was on the other side of the country and away from his memories. He’d always be in touch with Kyle. They’d always be friends.

As he walked across campus girls smiled at him and approached him. Other young men shook his hand and gave him bro hugs. He’d smile and was thankful to be alive. The scars were fading, thanks to his dad’s skills as a plastic surgeon. Actually, he looked good. He looked different but kind of handsome he thought.

He missed his friends but they’d always be with him. Christopher’s ear and nose, Kyle’s left arm, Dylan’s jaw, and Sam’s thick brown hair.

Winter came and the memories of the horror was starting to fade. Dr. Trent was hanging Christmas lights, humming Jungle Bells. He heard something in the bushes. Darn it, the cat must have gotten out. He glanced over and called the cat’s name. It was the last thing he ever did.

~ end

Tangled Tales

Looking for more Horror to get you into the Halloween spirit? Check out the three WPaD (Writers, Poets, and Deviants) horror anthologies. All are available on Amazon, B&N, Kobe and other fine online book sellers. Proceeds go to help support our fellow writers with MS (multiple sclerosis) through research and support organizations. I am in awe of my fellow writers included in these books (seriously in awe.)

Halloween is almost here so keep checking back for more scary stories, and fun Halloween posts.

~ Juliette aka Vampire Maman

Juliette’s Monday Book Club: Halloween Countdown

 

Get out your flashlight and hide under your blanket!

What do you read to give yourself the scary creeps?

There are a lot of great horror authors out there. Below is my own personal suggested horror reading list. I’ve read all of these and would read any of them again. Most are available online or at your local bookstore.

You might have seen movie versions of some of these books. Please READ THE BOOK. For example, Silence of the Lambs by Thomas Harris will terrify you and you’ll find so much more in the book that was left out of the film.

Tales to Chill Your Bones To by Michael Haberfelner

A Feast Not So Fancy by Mandy White

Dysfictinal 3: Down the Psyco Path (Disfunctional Fiction) by Mandy White

The Feeder by Mandy White

THE by Nathan Tackett

Swan Song by Robert McCammon

Gone South by Robert McCammon

Perfume: A Story of a Murder by Patrick Susland

Interview With The Vampire by Anne Rice

Dracula by Bram Stoker

Frankenstein by Marry Shelley

Tell Tale Heart by Edgar Allan Poe

The Black Cat by Edgar Allan Poe

The Shining by Stephen King

Needful Things by Stephen King

The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson

Red Dragon by Thomas Harris

The Silence of the Lambs by Thomas Harris

Turn of the Screw by Henry James

World War Z by Max Brooks

The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson

Creepies: Twisted Tales from Beneath the Bed By WPaD (Writers, Poets, and Deviants)

Creepies 2: Things That Go Bump In The Closet By WPaD (Writers, Poets, and Deviants)

Creepies 3: Nightmares on Deviant Street By WPaD (Writers, Poets, and Deviants)

Weirder Tales By WPaD (Writers, Poets, and Deviants)

Feel free to leave your own scary/creepy/uncomfortable horror reading suggestions in the comments below.

The countdown to Halloween is ON. Happy Reading.

~ Juliette aka Vampire Maman

 

Short Story Sunday: Hollow Heads

Hollow Heads

A Science Fiction Story by Marla Todd

Sure we all volunteered with a capitol V but we didn’t know we’d be stuck a billion miles from home with a bunch of assholes.

Our plan was to stop at Planet 2387 before we made communication with our target planet. 2387 is an uninhabited wasteland. There might have been the rudiments of life there at one time but that ship had come and gone.

So we land at what was left of the Emile Hanson Memorial Outpost, otherwise known as Hanson’s Hole. I looked up Hanson’s name before we left home. He’d been the captain of the third Mars mission. You know, the one whose head exploded when he ran into a couple of guys from Europa, but that was a long time ago. That was almost three hundred years ago, long before I was born.

On the wall of the main building of Hanson’s Hole the words, “Welcome to Hell” were scrawled in what looked like blood.

Junior Potemkin, the communications officer, if you could call him that, started to hyperventilate. I slapped him in the back and told him to stop it. Captain John Finch our leader, rolled his eyes, and told us start testing for signs of life. I called my lead science officer and went exploring.

We’d only heard of this place. Nobody was sure even who’d been here in the past, or exactly what their mission was. We were looking at a ghost. And while the rest of the crew stood shaking in their gravity boots I started to explore. I didn’t travel twenty light years away from home to pee my pants over some extraterrestrial graffiti.

I’ll tell you, when I signed up for this gig, last minute of course, I found myself with the lamest group of space travelers ever assembled. Sure they were all smart and looked good on paper. Everyone had advanced degrees and shit loads of experience. But the experience was in the lab and on paper. Nobody had field experience or people experience aside from the Captain or me.

Potemkin was an expert in written communications but couldn’t carry on a conversation if his life depended on it. Our lead engineer Thomas K. Morgan was one of those insidious geeks who corrected everyone on every single word they said. Morgan’s favorite line in any conversation was, “actually” fill in the blank with his expert opinion, which was usually bullshit or worthless trivia. After we were out of the solar system Captain Finch told Morgan that he’d throw him out into space without a suit if he didn’t cut it out.

The rest of the group included a guy called Boof who thought he was channeling Flash Gordon, an antisocial hermit of a physicist who asked to be called X, and a pair of identical twins I called Satan’s Daughters. The twins, Vera and Meera, were sneaky little shits who talked at the same time and were never seen away from each other. They were brought on as some sort of geology experts, you know, dirt and rocks as they liked to remind everyone as they cackled like witches as if that was funny. They were dirt and rocks as far as I was concerned. The rest of the crew was bland, mean spirited, and aside from the Captain had no imagination what so ever.

So I’m looking at the writing on the wall and wondering what in the world, and who in the world had written it. I felt someone rub my shoulder and looked over to see Boof standing there expecting me to be Dale Arden to his Flash Gordon. Give me a break. He looks good but no. Absolutely no.

“Boof,” I said looking up at the leafy blue green canopy of plants (I assume they were maybe once plants) around the building. “Let’s take a look inside.”

He gave me a great big blinding white smile and knocked the door open with his foot. Boof wasn’t carrying a ray gun, but it wasn’t because we’re a couple of scientists with seven degrees between the two of us. Don’t get me wrong, it isn’t like scientists or people with degrees can’t be badass. We just didn’t have any weapons with us.

The interior was dark. Not like no lights, because there was a skylight, but because obviously the interior decorator of this forgotten outpost either had a stack of 1980’s Architectural Digest Magazines handy for inspiration, or he was into all things Gothic.

“Looks like vampires live here,” said Boof.

I gave an uncomfortable laugh and tried to be serious, that is until the music started to play. I couldn’t figure out where the music was coming from. The sound was sort of like it was coming out of a metal tunnel. A man was singing in sort of a strange high voice, but it sounded kind of nice.

 

You’re just a little bit of sunshine when it’s raining,

You’re just a little bit of gladness when I’m blue,

You’re just a little bit of love light that keeps shining,

And when it’s cloudy, you’re a silver lining.

 

“Radio Franks.You’re Just A Little Bit of Everything I Love,” said Boof.

I looked straight ahead at a slowly moving shadow. “How do you know that Boof?”

“I like early 20thCentury music,” he answered, his eyes also on the shadow.

“Sing me something from the late 21stCentury. You know the one, about the alien romance, ruby skin.”

Boof started to sing quietly in a surprisingly beautiful tenor.

 

Your DNA plays around,

Like a silken ghost,

Worlds apart are we.

 

Flying higher

Flying higher

Flying higher

Reach the stars

 

Ruby skin, emerald eyes,

Heaven between

Hot alien thighs.

 

Flying higher

Flying higher

Flying higher

Reach the stars

 

“I hate that song,” I said taking a slow step forward. “You changed the lyrics.”

“Yes, I did change the lyrics, and yes I hate it too. Do you sing?”

“Only in the shower.”

“Can I join you?”

“Only in your dreams.”

“Let’s sleep then, shall we,” Boof said in almost a whisper as we slowly walked towards the shadow.

 

The shadow moved, in what looked like the shape of a human hand, then stupidity happened. A tremendous scraping sound, sent us turning backwards to see Garland Holbright, one the Earth’s most famous journalists, come along to document our journey for the ages. Every living Earthling knew who the man was, and Garland never let us forget.

Garland had opened the door in the wrong direction, throwing it off of it’s tracks.

“Find anything yet?” Garland called out loudly as he propped the door up against a wall.

The shadow vanished.

“God Damn you Holbright. You’re such an asshole,” said Boof, as I grabbed him by his jacket and held him back.

Garland Holbright was what we (not me, everyone else) called a Frank, short for Frankenstein. He was one of those kids who’s parents had custom ordered him from a cocktail of perfect DNA so he’d be brilliant and exceptionally good looking. Sure his IQ was off the charts and he was good at taking tests. Sure on a scale of one to ten in looks Garland was a seventeen, but where he excelled in trivia and Prince Charming handsomeness he lacked in creativity and personality. The guy was an insufferable bore with an ego the size of Jupiter.

Sure we’d all had genetic modifications for long term space travel. Our respiratory systems, muscular growth, and bone density had all been tweaked. A few of us, including me, had a few personal tweaks as well. My eyes are now a little brighter shade of hazel, and my hair is finally grows model perfect. That said, I’d like to think that you always get better babies with natural random DNA selection.

Boof and Garland had gotten into it the night before. Garland had convinced a friend to hack into the personnel logs and found out that Boof was created by a couple of teenagers one hot summer night in the back seat of a self driving solar convertible.

“Silence,” I said in one of those loud mom-like whispers. “Both of you. Garland, we are not alone.”

Garland formed an O with his mouth in surprise. I knew the guy was deathly afraid of aliens. Go figure. He goes on a space mission but he is afraid of anything that isn’t human, or maybe a dog.

While I was getting ready to rip Garland a new one Boof grabbed my arm.

“Timothy Leary is not dead,” he said right in my ear, so close I could feel his hot breath. I shook my head to get him away from me.

I wondered why Boof was making a reference to the 20thCentury Philosopher. Thank goodness he didn’t start singing that song. What was that group? Moody Crew? No, I think it was Moody Blues. I’d been spending way too much time with Boof. I swore between Boof and Garland I felt like my head was going to explode.

Then I turned around and there before us stood Pilot Tim Leary from the Space Explorer 23 Dog Star Mission. According to records, and Wikipedia, he’d died years ago, before I was even born. When I was a kid he was one of my idols.

Leary held out his arms in a welcoming gesture and with a wide grin said, “Welcome to Hanson’s Hole!”

“Captain Leary?” I asked, stepping forward to introduce my team and myself. “Chief Officer Gwendolyn Ward of the Research Ship the DeGrasse Tyson. These gentlemen are Science Specialist First Class Boof Errikson, and Garland Holbright, a journalist for International Geographic.

“An award winning journalist,” said Garland holding out his hand to Leary.

I kicked Boof in the ankle to prevent him from doing anything stupid. I let Garland have his bit of ego masturbation before I found out what was going on with Leary.

Leary took me by the arm as he walked and talked me into a much larger room that resembled an intergalactic art museum with comfortable seating. “I see your ship was named after the 48thPresident of the United States. A good omen there. My ship was called “The Dog Star.” I like dogs and all, I have a couple around here somewhere, but, I’ll tell you, it was a dog of a ship. Holy space shit, that thing was as bad as 2213 GM Sasquatch. Remember those? Do you like to be called Gwendolyn or Gwen?”

“Gwendolyn please. You’re alive.”

“Yes, very much so,” he said with a dashing smile as he patted my arm.

“But your body was found. DNA matched yours. There was no mistake. There is a huge memorial in Washington D.C.”

“And I’m honored at the thought, but obviously I’m still alive. I am indeed Commander Timothy Leary of the Dog Star.”

“But…” I started

“Do you know much about clones Gwen, Gentlemen?”

“Holbrook is a clone,” said Boof.

“I am not a clone,” said Garland.

“Gentlemen…” I hissed at them.

“You’re a freak Holbrook,” said Boof.

Garland threw his shoulders back. “You’re nothing but degenerate pod shelter trash.”

I’d had enough. “Boof, Garland, NOW.” I turned back to our host, “Captain Leary, the time line wouldn’t make sense. All of your bodies were found and brought back to earth. How do you explain that?”

Leary smiled again. “None of us wanted to go back so we cloned ourselves.”

“If you cloned yourselves, wait, your bodies were found a month after you landed here. It would have taken at least twelve years to have a fully grown human body.”

Leary motioned to the plush red chairs in the room. “Sit and make yourselves comfortable. I’ll tell you all about it.” We sat, and Leary told us an extraordinary story. “Once we had the Time Machine it seemed like we could steal anything we needed. Where do you think all of this art came from? Anyway, we stole an advanced cloning lab from the Dingus V Planet Chain. Nobody there has had fertile sex in centuries. They can’t, so they clone. Sad story, but shit happens.

Listen, none of us wanted to go back to our mission or Earth. We also didn’t want anyone looking for us. With the technology from Dingus V we were able to clone fully formed human bodies in thirty-six Earth hours. Thirty-six fucking hours. Unheard of. We programmed our clones to be without working brains. We called them the hollow heads. Once our clones were grown we smashed their empty heads in and called it a day. No brains, no souls, just lab grown flesh.”

“Wait,” said Garland. “You had a time machine?”

Leary smiled and shook his head in a definite yes. “I knew you’d ask. It is an amazing machine that jumps both time and space.”

“Space portal travel I can believe, but Time Travel is illegal universally, said Garland.

“That doesn’t mean it I can’t do it. I went forward because I don’t like the people I was with. I’m only here at Hanson’s Hole because I needed an additional respite from, well, everything. What are you doing here? Space Jumping I assume, but what is your mission. Nobody stops at Hanson’s Hole.”

I explained our mission as Leary listened intently.

Holbrook held up a finger and gave an artificially inquisitive look. “Why does it say Welcome to Hell in blood on the door of the compound?”

Leary shrugged. “I have no idea. It was there when I got here a few weeks ago. I just haven’t had the time or the paint to fix it.”

After more discussions about Leary’s adventures we returned to our own ship. I knew exactly what Leary was talking about when he said he was tired of annoying people.

Vera and Meera, the evil twins, came giggling and snorting into my office.

I motioned for them to sit. They both sat down and crossed their bony legs in unison. “Do you have the updated geology reports?”

Vera was the first to respond. “The soil acidity has doubled from the last time measurements were taken fifty years ago.”

“Fifty years ago,” said Meera.

Vera continued. “We also detected new volcanic activity. Are you having sex with Boof?”

Meera then spoke again, right on the tail of her sister. “Are you having sex with Boof? Was it good? Positively volcanic?”

“Volcanic. We know you are,” said Vera.

Meera started to laugh, a high pitched crow like cackle, then she started to snort. Then Vera joined in.

“Insubordination is not to be tolerated on this ship. If you ladies continue your immature behavior I will make sure you’re dropped off at the next supply station. You will receive no letters of recommendation, and I guarantee you will have to find your own way home, at your own expense. Capiche?”

“Yes, of course,” they said in unison. It almost sounded like they had an echo to their words.

“Thank you for the report. I’ll review it thoroughly.” I said motioning with my hand for them to leave.

After they’d Holbrook put his head in the door. “Do you want to have dinner later? This isn’t romantic, of course…”

I cut him off. “No.”

“Is there something going on between you and Boof?”

“No. Jesus, Garland, I’m having dinner with Caption Finch. A working dinner.”

As soon as he left a message came on the screen from Boof.

Hey Baby, do you want to see stars tonight?

I deleted the message.

The entire trip had been like the set-up from a bad bodice ripper romance, but without any sex or bodice ripping. You know the story. The heroine is caught between two potential lovers. One is dark haired, gorgeous, with impeccable breeding, and insanely rich. The other is blond, gorgeous, insanely smart, and grew up more or less a street urchin in a block of government run shelter pods. Who should our heroine choose? One will eventually betray her as the other one rescues her, but she won’t know until it happens. Screw that. I didn’t have time for it.

I took the clip out of my hair and shook out letting it fall to my shoulders. Thank goodness for planets with normal gravity. I remember reading about the days when the idea of women being in space seemed ridiculous. The excuse was always something about hair, periods, sex, temptations, strength and peeing. Seriously, one does not need a penis, or a hairy chest to travel in space. Thank goodness for Nichelle Nichols. I was so glad to see her on the one-dollar coin last year. I remember reading the emails of my great-great-grandmother telling my father about when she met Sally Ride. I can’t even imagine.

Over the next few days Captain Finch and I tasked our crew with collecting data, and ship maintenance. Our engineer Morgan questioned everything we asked him to do. He claimed inspections were not necessary. He went on about how his qualifications were better than anyone on the ship, and bragged about his superior intelligence whenever I requested a progress report.

Our physics team, headed up by a guy named Dex Harland, who insisted on being called just “X” decided that we were all going to be eaten by mutant aliens and refused to leave the ship. They spread the word through the crew that Timothy Leary was going to drug them and feed them to giant spiders or some sort of shit along those lines. It was as if the entire crew had gone insane.

I asked one of our two our medical officers about it and he told me that he was writing a screenplay about a murder on a space barge couldn’t give a rat’s ass about our mission. His name was Dr. Charles Young. He only took the job to get out of paying child support for four different women and six kids on three planets. Our sane medical crew member, Dr. Sashie Vern, took my arm and asked if I wanted to get coffee. In the empty crew lounge she begged me to keep Dr. Jay away from her due to his incompetence and creepiness.

On our last supply stop, Hawk Donaldson, a popular member of our Engineering group had a one night stand with a Trasidain female. Trasidian’s are beautiful human like creatures with iridescent pink skin, and several more pleasure seeking orifices than Earthlings. Unfortunately Trasidains also have horrible parasites, which there is no cure for except the death of the host.

Hawk contracted a large number of the parasites and was in excruciating pain as the bugs ate him from the inside out. On his request Dr. Sashie put him into a medically induced coma until his death thirty four hours later. His body, along with the bugs, was cremated and blasted into space.

After Hawk’s death Dr. Sashie wondered why most of the crew members refused to see her for regular check ups or even acknowledge her existence. I should have guessed what Dr. Sashie told me. Dr. Jay had told everyone that Dr. Sashie was incompetent and had caused Hawk’s death.

I went back to confront Dr. Jay and he just smirked.

“I’m entitled to my opinion,” he said with a shit eating grin. I wrote him up for spreading false information and confined him to his room when he was not on duty. The following day rumors spread that I was sleeping with Captain Finch, which was odd considering Finch is gay. I knew it was Dr. Jay.

As I made my rounds that day I realized that our crew, due to the nasty mix of passive aggressive cockroaches and over inflated egos was completely shutting down as a functional team.

The Engineering Group all shaved their heads and wore goggles because they decided that they did not want Garland Holbrook writing about them. Their reasoning was that if they all looked alike then Holbrook would get confused and leave them alone.

Poor Junior Potemkin, our painfully shy communications officer was being bullied by a Data Wrangler named Bambi Von Grob. She would sit next to Potemkin and make snorting noises, suck up snot in her nose, cough, loudly chew crunchy food hours on end, pound on her work station. In retaliation to his complaints she innocently told everyone on board that she was a victim of Junior Potemkin’s bullying.

I could go on for hours about the adolescent behavior of the crew. It seemed that most of my day was spent listening to complaints, breaking up fights, and telling crew members to act like adults.

With six months into our mission, and five years to go, I didn’t know how Captain Finch and I were going to handle this. I loved my job. I loved exploration. I loved the science, but I hated almost everyone on board of our ship.

Boof and I continued to visit Tim Leary. He told us a lot of tall tales but was stingy with any technical information. He said he’d always been more of a manager rather than a scientist. He’d joke that he should have been a stand-up-comic, even thought he didn’t really say anything funny.

One night at dinner, with a nice view of the three aligned moons of the planet, the Captain vented for about an hour about the crew. Boof, Garland, and Dr. Sashie Vern had joined us as the highest ranking crewmembers.

Captain Finch had an announcement for us. “I’ve done some research and come to a realization that we were given a crew of rejects of the highest order.”

“You think?” Boof said with a disgusted look.

“Our mission is longer than usual with extensive isolated periods and difficult Space Jumps. I asked for an experienced crew of individuals with solid science experience, and technical expertise. What I ended up with was a crew of people that nobody else wanted,” said Finch.

I added to his thoughts, “I asked around and was given memos stating that the reason was have the crew we have is because somebody wanted to get rid of them. We asked for the best of the best, and in turn, present company aside, we got the worst of the worst.”

“Exactly,” said Finch.

“Now what? Behavior modification or bull shit team building at the next supply spot isn’t going to fix anything,” said Sashie.

Garland Holbrook poured another glass of wine and smiled. “Clone the crew and leave them there. Then we can have a perfect crew. They have the facilities right here for high speed clone creation.”

“How would that work?” Asked Dr. Sashie.

“Leary and his crew stole the technology from the Glanidians who use semi-brainless clones for off planet mining and prostitution. It’s cheaper than robots, and biological clones are more reliable,” said Garland.

“But you have to feed them,” said Boof. “How can that be more reliable?”

Garland smiled. “No, they eat themselves. They don’t even know it. You know, Clone Nuggets.”

“That is horrible,” said Sashie.

“Yes it is but it isn’t what Leary and his crew did,” said Garland.

“Eventually we’d have to land somewhere and we’d be found out,” said Captain Finch.

“You don’t get it. We will clone the crew, but tweak the genetic codes so that they’ll have more pleasant personalities. We’ll make them brilliant but downright sweet, and completely bland. I know Gwendolyn and Boof could do it,” said Garland. “You both have studied genetics and personality modifications for violent and anti social prisoners on off planet penal colonies.”

I had to speak up. “It will take an extra week depending on how many clones we’re going to make. I spoke with the Evil Twins today and they estimated a major volcanic explosion within the next month. If it blows it will take out all life within five hundred miles of Leary’s clubhouse.”

Then we all sat, nobody asking the questions we all wanted the answer for.

There was a knock on the door. Tim Leary stood there in a black tuxedo, holding three bottles of wine in his arms.  “Your mission reminds me of a story my Great Great Grammy used to tell me. A long time ago when she was a little girl there used to be a huge store called Ickyah. People would flock to it to be unassembled furniture because it felt good if you built stuff yourself. The buyer would get home with instructions that said it would take two hours to build your bed frame and nightstand. Fifty hours later maybe the bed would be done and the nightstand drawer assembled. Another twenty hours everything would be complete with the help of additional duck tape and a lot of swearing.”

“Leary,” I said. “What does that have to do with your mission?”

“That’s what it is like living here. Everything was supposed to be easy. Self contained they said.  But it wasn’t. Fortunately I have a lot of duck tape. I still have that fast acting cloning machine. I’ll let you use it.”

“That is out of the question. We all took ethics oaths to protect our crew,” said Captain Finch.

“I didn’t,” said Holbrook.

 

We spend the rest of the night bitching about the rest of the crew. After everyone realized that we had more shit-for-brains stories than we could tell in one night. My brain was so agitated that there was no way I could get any sleep so I took a stroll under the three moons of Planet 2387.

“You need a real name,” I said aloud as I scanned the horizon.

“It has a name. Atropos.” I turned to see Garland Holbrook standing next to me. I didn’t even hear him coming. “She was one of the three Fates. Atropos was the one who would decide how long one’s life line was. She’d also choose how one died,”

“Why’d you come on this mission? You could have any job you wanted,” I said.

“Captain Finch is the best. None of us could have predicted the bait and switch with the crew. Think about it. If we had the original crew this would be a perfect science mission.”

This was new to me. “Original crew? Garland, what are you talking about?”

“You don’t know do you? They were finishing up in Florida on their last mission. You and Boof were later additions.”

I was almost in shock. My entire body went numb. Over a thousand souls were lost in a terrorist attack at the National Space Science Research compound. Religious fundamentalists fire bombed the place. No wonder Captain Finch took what crew was assigned him. The man must have been in deep mourning. Why didn’t anyone tell me? Why didn’t I figure it out?”

“Garland, could we get Tim Leary to go back in time and…”

“You know it doesn’t work that way. When you go back in time you can change whatever you want but it won’t change the future. Your changes spin off into an alternate thread of time that eventually fades away.”

“Sure, I forgot. I knew some of the people who died. I had no idea they were signed up with Finch’s next mission. No idea.”

I turned and headed off towards the Welcome to Hell door. I wanted to talk to Leary.

As I took my first step Garland grabbed my hand, twirled me around and kissed me. If I thought my head was spinning before, it was spinning even more now.

“I know you’re attracted to me. I know you’re attracted to Boof. May the best man win, and you know I’m the best man,” said Garland as he kissed me again.

“Let’s go talk to Leary,” I said as I tried to catch my breath.

 

Three weeks later we left Planet 2387. Leary took off in his time machine a week before we blasted off. From our ship we watched (at a great distance) the massive volcano blow up a good portion of the planet’s crust.

Junior Potemkin came into my office and thanked me for helping him out. I wasn’t sure what he was talking about.

“Everyone is so nice now,” he said slowly choosing the words. “It is as if they were all replaced with clones, or something.” Then he laughed uncomfortably. “That would have been weird.”

I smiled and told him that I was glad he was happy now. I truly was.

~ End

vampire space

This story is featured in Strange Adventures in a Deviant Universe, W.P.A.D. Science Fiction Anthology. Available with most fine online book dealers (including Amazon and B&N) in electronic and paperback versions. Part of proceeds from all WPaD books go to support or fellow authors who have MS. 

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If you like this book, or any book, leave a review. Thanks.

~ Juliette aka Vampire Maman

 

Words: Fair Oaks

 

Curing olives with my dad

The glug of the garden hose

In the tub of green fruit

Golden fall leaves surround us

And the smell of

New roses and

Fresh mowed grass

We’ll crank the ice cream

Then take one

Last swim

Before the time fades

Away with nothing

Left but love.

 

~ Marla Todd

 

It’s ALIVE!

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CREEPIES 3: NIGHTMARES ON DEVIANT STREET

Writers, Poets, and Deviants (WPaD) have come out with their 11th Short Story Anthology and I AM DOING THE HAPPY DANCE.

A bloodthirsty refrigerator…
A murderous pothole…
Legends of mysterious monsters…
Ghosts and magic…
And much more!

A chilling collection of stories from the twisted minds of Writers, Poets and Deviants:
Volume 3 of WPaD’s popular Creepies series.

by WPaD (Author), Mandy White (Author), Diana Garcia (Author), Marla Todd (Author), Michael Haberfelner (Author), David Hunter (Author), Mike Cooley (Author), Soleil Daniels(Author), Lea Anne Guettler (Author), Debra Lamb (Author), and more!

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This anthology includes stories that will scare you silly, make you think, maybe even make you laugh.

And as with all WPaD anthologies, proceeds go to MS charities.

~ Juliette aka Vampire Maman

 

 

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2019 Summer Reading: Something Unexpected

After years of drought we’ve gone from unreasonable unseasonable amounts of rain and cool weather right into the scorching heat of summer. Yes, but it is a dry heat, usually.

With summer comes the need to read. Be it a book, a blog, paper, or some sort of e-reader, or computer, some of us just HAVE to read.

Sooooooo, each Monday I’ll attempt to give you, my readers, some suggestions for interesting things I’ve read, I’m reading, or book in my “to read” proverbial pile of books. I will also (at the end of this post) provide links to past Summer Reading and other book related posts.

First a disclaimer: I suck at writing book reviews. Maybe I’ll get better as the summer goes on. Just get trough it. I won’t bore you with long descriptions. Just read the books. 

Right now I’m reading “The Big Kahuna” by Janet Evanovich and her son Peter Evanovich. It is light silly totally mindless summer reading. I picked up “The Big Kahuna” at Costco last week while picking up dog food and laundry stuff. It isn’t the author’s best (definitely not) but hey, if you want some light mindless fun it is ok.  I stopped reading Evanovich books a while back after the last Lizzy and Diesel book came out. I love those and recommend them. OMG you will fall in love with Lizzy and Diesel if you haven’t already. The Stephanie Plum books are laugh out loud funny and always good for what ails you, but fell off of my radar. I might eventually get back to them again.

Anyway… Here are books I  recommend for this summer, including books I’ve read and the next book on my list.

Red Darkling

The next book I’ll be reading (maybe even starting today) is “Red Darkling”, this summer’s runaway Science Fiction, Fantasy, Smart Thriller, Comedy, HIT.

I swear I’m the only one who hasn’t read it yet.

 

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I haven’t read this book yet but I’m a BIG FAN of Red and her cat and of course her Granny. For several years now I’ve been following Red’s adventures through L.A. Guettler’s short stories about Red. OMG you’ll fall in love with her. I am so excited about this book.

Here is the official description:

Red Darkling’s ship is a weevil-infested piece of junk. Her smuggling business barely brings in enough credits to buy cheap beer. Alien creeps think a blaster can get them favors when their charm fails. Her only company is a glitchy cat and the occasional hook-up. Her life is dirty, dangerous, and lonely: just how she likes it.It all takes a turn for the worse when things start going well. A little too well. Partying with movie stars, weekends in paradise, troublesome people turning up dead-it’s maddening. Who is this anonymous benefactor, and why does he think she needs protecting?

I’ll get back to you after I read it. I know I’ll love it so before I even start I’ll give it five stars…maybe six.

Also check out the great cover by artist Jason Kemp. Nice.

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Author L.A. Guettler

The Blinds

The Blinds is so unique, and different, and mysterious, and it will surprise you in such quiet ways you won’t be expecting.

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This one was a surprise to me. I picked it up because it was on a “staff” recommended list from a place I buy books.

As a rule I can’t stand books written entirely in present tense. I find them difficult and annoying. This book is one of the rare exceptions.

Adam Sternberg is a master storyteller. That is all I can say. He totally ROCKS at storytelling, and creating believable characters in such a twisted and unexpected way.

At first you won’t know what to expect but then you’ll get sucked in. This is one of those books I thought about a lot. It is so different, and so well written, and so unexpected. Wow. Just read it. I know in the future I will add more Adam Sternberg books to my reading lists.

Here is the official description:

Welcome to the Blinds, a dusty town in rural Texas populated by criminals and misfits who’ve been plucked from their lives, had their memories altered, and been granted new identities and a second chance. For eight years, Sheriff Calvin Cooper has kept an uneasy peace—but after a suicide and a murder in quick succession, the town’s residents revolt. Cooper must navigate an investigation amid questions from his ambitious deputy, the terrified citizens, and the mysterious outsiders who threaten to tear the whole place down—all while protecting his own dangerous secrets. The more he learns, the more the hard truth is revealed: The Blinds is no sleepy hideaway. It’s simmering with violence and deception, aching heartbreak, and dark betrayals.

 

Weirder Tales

I love this book so much. It isn’t because some of my stories are featured in it. I love this book because of the other well written, unexpected, and weird stories in it. As short story anthologies go this one is PERFECT for summer reading.

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I’ve given away so many copies of this book, and I’ve had so many people tell me that they’ve read it and loved it. I’ll be reading it again, and again, and again.

The official description:

The warped minds of WPaD are proud to present this tribute to the bizarre:

– People who eat Tide Pods turn into detergent-craving zombies
– A gift of a fishing bobber turns deadly
– A woman lost in the desert befriends an ancient creature
– A hole inside a closet holds unknown mysteries
– A grieving father consults a psychic to solve his daughter’s murder
– Two friends embark on a fantastic adventure during a game of Dungeons and Dragons
– A call for help from an abandoned house leads a man to his doom
– Strange explosions cause terror and speculation about the end of the world
– A meteor falls from the sky, leading a woman on a surreal journey

Enjoy these stories and many more in Weirder Tales: An Omnibus of Odd Ditties.

Featuring weird tales from: Benedict, Cooley, Daniels, Fletcher, Garcia, Guettler, Haberfelner, Hunter, Kemp, Kings, Lamb, Merline, Nocera, Roland, Todd, Turley, and White.

WPaD is the acronym for Writers, Poets and Deviants. We are a diverse group of writers who came together on the Internet to support and encourage each other.

Our collaborative works are charity fundraisers, with a percentage of royalties being donated to Multiple Sclerosis in support of members of our group who live with MS. WPaD books are available worldwide in paperback and ebook. For more information, please visit our website: http//wpad.weebly.com

The cover of “Weirder Tales” is by Jason Kemp. Love this one too.

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So what are some of my favorite books from the past? CLICK here to find out.

Happy Reading,

~ Juliette aka Vampire Maman