Breaking the Silence by Jesse C. Rice-Jones

Today’s excerpts are from Breaking the Silence by Jesse C. Rice-Jones

 

For the curious this book is an in-your-face expose’ of actual events and activities not generally discussed in a public forum. For those prepared to embrace the mysterious it offers glimpses into the unknowable. As regards inspiration, the text implies that the search for inspiration is an individual journey that can not be universalized.

Too soon circumstances taught me that an imaginary father, no matter how idealized the image, can never be enough. Yet, that same positive image I had cherished made it possible for me to finally accept and even to love my father in all his frailty, body and soul. I thank my mother for not tarnishing my conception of my absent father. And by some harsh perhaps twisted logic, I must also thank my father. His absence allowed me to walk on the wild side. Brutal as that path has been, I like where it has taken me. And yes, I am still walking. So come now, walk with me awhile…

My mother, my sister Naomi, and I attended my father’s memorial service. There were many others–friends, patrons, gallery owners, and fellow artists. They had brought paintings and sculptures of his they’d collected over the years, as well as many words of love, admiration, and amusing anecdotes. Finally, my father’s best friend at the end of his moving eulogy pointed to my sister and me saying, “Peter, to his great loss, neglected to acknowledge his best work.”  All eyes turned to us. For a moment we became part of the exhibition of collectables. Most people in that room hadn’t seen or heard from Peter for years; most had no idea that he had children and that two of them were in their midst. My sister wept. I took her hand and we went out into the freshness of the surrounding May gardens. A crow was waiting for us.

You can get Breaking the Silence from Smashwords: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/421475

 

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hugggggJesse C. Rice-Jones is a native of Vancouver, Canada. He grew up without a television. Instead he mastered tree climbing and read The Lord of the Rings, Sherlock Holmes, The Little Prince, The Hardy Boys, Robin Hood, and Eric the Viking, among others, by the age of twelve. He has worked in the film industry and coached basketball to youths. He is currently working as a personal trainer. He is passionate about Martial Arts, music, coaching, and writing.

find out more at https://www.facebook.com/#!/BreakingTheSilence.JesseRiceJones


To Finish a Quilt by Grant Staley

Today’s excerpt is from the  novel To Finish a Quilt by Grant Staley 

 

To Finish a Quilt

‘Why did I deserve that abuse? What indecency did I have that made you turn away from me when I called?’

She [Eunice] had asked that very question tens of times almost every day for over two decades. She waited for God to speak to her, but she heard no reply so she searched within her memories for a cause. The same minor trespasses came to mind: a trivial curse when she bumped her knee on a pew, an unkind word to her grandmother, lying to her brother Tommy. Those were not real answers to her question so it was probably as her father had said in his last words to her. Somehow, she had failed God with the deep stains she wore.

That night when she was sixteen, she had been curled up on the bed wearing her long white nightgown with flowers embroidered around the neck, praying with all her might that her father might just go on to bed without another sloppy conversation. The periods of icy silence and cutting jabs between her mother and him had been bad enough, but by that point, talking with a drunk had become intolerable without disgust-soaked words filling her voice. Those prayers had been in vain.

The twenty-one year old echoes of her father bumping his way up the staircase filled her with a medley of hate, shame, and guilt. The sobbing and pain, the stench of alcohol, and the taste of blood inside her lip were still as real as that night when her pale eyes had felt about to burst from their orbits as if the pressure of her imprisoned screams were pushing them out. As always, she decided that desire was not on her bastard father’s mind that night. It was punishment.

More than punishment, her father was a first taste of what men really were. Her brother, who had deserted the family, and her husband, who like all men could not help himself around loose women, confirmed the message of that awful lesson even if they had never assaulted her physically. Her brother’s emotional abandonment had concluded with irreparable and devastating consequences. There was nothing that would rectify what he had done. Her husband’s throwing her over for an infant; however, was a grievance she would not permit. Something must change the course of his infatuation. She needed to prevail this time.

That damn baby was making more noise. Without more of a true-ringing answer to the question of why she had suffered so at the hands of men, she walked away from the bedroom, her head throbbing with every step and every cry of the baby.

Halfway down the hallway, she paused to take in the commanding panorama from high above the San Gabriel Valley. She loved this house, the prestigious address, and the outlook of the city that always gave her a sense of accomplishment. But, the baby’s cry broke the spell an instant later, causing her to sigh before she stole into her daughter’s room.

She walked through the full moon’s blue light that filled the nursery and looked down into the crib. The child kicked her chubby legs in gleeful anticipation, and her mouth arced into a pudgy heart that cooed her welcome. The child had begun to recognize her over a month ago, and she took that as a sign of intelligence. This child would be clever, probably not as smart as the son but crafty and, as a girl, able to manipulate her father.

Watching the child wriggle in its crib, she felt the night’s anger and disgust rise again. She hated this baby. She could right that wrong. It was all in her power. Jules would be sad for a while, but he would get over the loss. She would be there to help him through the pain. Babies die in their sleep all the time; she knew that to be true.

Julie started to fuss again and seemed about to let out a cry. Eunice bent over to caress the tiny, buttery face with the back of her hand. Solemnly she took the pillow from under the child’s head.

“Shhh, there there,” she whispered as she placed the pillow over the baby’s face and pressed it down along her ears.

There were sounds, painful ones that brought back her own vain pleas from long ago, but she could learn to live with those too. The infant’s legs started to dart frantically in every direction. Seconds dragged by as Eunice looked out the window.

How much longer could this take, she asked herself as the convulsions continued. She heard a click and decided it was the crib uttering a final creak.

“Mom?” she heard a second later and flinched.

Glancing out of the corner of her eye, she saw her son Gary slumped on the doorframe behind her. His red plaid pajamas hung from his lean five-year-old body.

Without hesitation, Eunice slid the pillow away, and the baby started to bawl. She spun in Gary’s direction and stomped her way close to him.

“Damn it Gary. See what you’ve done?  I almost had her down, but you’ve ruined that.”

The boy, recoiling away from her, said, “I was having a bad dream.”

“And what can I do about that?”

Gary brought a hand to his mouth and started to gnaw on his thumbnail. He turned back to his room.

“Nothing, I guess.”


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Grant, originally from California, lives in the Auckland suburb of St. Heliers with his wife and their two dogs. He is an avid sailor, musician, cyclist, and writer.

 His first novel To Finish A Quilt is a story of a young woman’s unfathomable hurt, the way it influences others around her, and how two men central to her life reach resolution and peace. A second novel is in progress for release in late 2013. Learn more and how to purchase at www.grantstaley.com


Who Will Hear Them Cry by Phyllis Campbell

Kate’s world is secure, a loving husband, a baby on the way, and a partnership in a small town detective agency, until she returns home to a scene of horror. Her husband lies dead in a room covered with his blood. This is the last thing she will ever see with her physical eyes, as the killer emerges from the shadows to hurl a jar of acid at her face, killing her unborn child, and leaving her totally blind.

He had warned her not to testify against his son, the psychopath who called himself the messenger of the lord. If she had only listened! Her adjustment to her new world is excellent, they tell her, but no one knows the paralysis that holds her spirit in bondage as her guilt forces her into a world of computer games where she can control life and death on the screen, a world where she can’t hurt nor be hurt.

Before you begin to read close your eyes, listen, smell, touch. Is that a stealthy footfall? Is that fragrance coming from someone waiting in the dark? Does that hand suddenly touching you belong to a friend or an enemy?

Now you’re ready to walk with Kate through her world of darkness as she follows the trail of a series of fatal accidents in a private school for disabled children. She resists the journey that Brett, her former partner has asked her to take, but something, call it determination, call it love, call it what you will, pushes her from her world of computers into the real world where danger waits.

Walk with her through the dusty attics of the school, to the state mental hospital, to a country funeral, and along a narrow ledge with a sheer drop on one side and a raging fire on the other. Feel her bitter sweet joy as she is enveloped in a man’s arms again. Her world will never be the same, but it is her world, and it is good.

 

Available now at

Smashwords: http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/149753

Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Who-Will-Hear-Them-ebook/dp/B007WMRRRS

 

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Phyllis Staton Campbell was born in Amherst County Virginia, and moved to Staunton when she was seven, where she graduated from the Virginia School for the Blind, where she later taught, and where she still goes three afternoons a week to give private piano lessons. She serves as organist at Faith Lutheran Church in historic down town Staunton.

She has been writing professionally since the 60’s, and in addition to short fiction and nonfiction for numerous magazines, she has written two books, one of which was published in China and the United Kingdom as well as in the US. She writes two bi-monthly columns for “Our Special Magazine” published in Braille by National Braille Press. Who Will Hear Them Cry is her first digital book.

Genesis by Mark Mackey

Today’s excerpt is from the novel Genesis by Mark Mackey

A young girl of ten, Elizabeth Axelmore, is forced to leave her planet, Tarnex-4, and family and go to earth following a space criminal invading it, hired by Danse Windman, who Elizabeth’s oldest sister Juliara, jilted time and again, and he’s looking for revenge, and wants the space criminal to bring Juliara to him.

There she is taken in by a family, the Duncan’s, Alison,  Deborah, Herbert, where she witnesses her the girl who becomes her best friend, Jordan Ellison, the daughter of US soldier Kimberly disappear without a trace, and befriends a boy, Matthew Briarson, who becomes her future boyfriend whose ghostly older sister, Tess Briarson, has one heck of an evil streak within her. Matthew later traps her in a box magically created to contained souls.

Elizabeth grows up to be seventeen.

Another one of her friends, Nicole Bakersfield get abducted.  She and a girl, Kristen Flemings, 17, roaring into town, fresh from Blue Winter Connecticut, and almost becoming the main coarse of her older sister turned zombie, Jennifer Flemings are forced to go rescue her from a secret underground military base.

There they discover that the mastermind behind the abductions is an extraterrestrial hating general, Mark Taylor, married to Kimberly, bent on destroying her due to his first wife being killed by an extraterrestrial, despite nearly dying at the hands of the general, she manages to survive, finds out that her family and her faithful witch nanny Wendeline Snowdiamond, survived the space criminal invading her planet and decides to return home, with the promise that she’ll soon make another visit to earth.

     The thoughts still fresh in ten year old Elizabeth Axelmore’s mind, the events of the past hour. Her seated in her quarters, painted a dark shade of pink, furnished with an immaculate white bed, a dark gray desk, both just right for Elizabeth’s size and shape. Her nanny, tall, regal Wendeline Snowdiamond, dressed from the neck down in a stunning, velvet dark blue gown, face framed by a thick mane of jet black hair, standing towering over her. Informing her in her familiar warm voice “you’re becoming one heck of a writer Elizabeth,” as she sat gathered behind the dark gray desk, putting words into a spiral bound notebook.

“It’s what I wanna do when I grow up Wendeline!” Elizabeth squealed in a high voice. “It’s my dream!”

“And it’s a good one to have Elizabeth,” Wendeline enthusiastically commented, offering up a warm smile.

The arrival of a unique auburn winged butterfly into the quarters brought Elizabeth to cease with her writing and stare at her with excited eyes.

“A butterfly!” Elizabeth blurted out, her eyes glistening with pure excitement.

Landing on top of her desk, it was only a second before it collapsed and died.

“Oh no, it died Wendeline!” Elizabeth yelled out. “I don’t want it to be dead!”

“Then don’t let it be Elizabeth,” Wendeline quietly commented.

“Wake up little butterfly!” Elizabeth brought forth with enthusiastic glee, restoring the insect back to life with a simple touch of her right index finger.

“I did it Wendeline!”

“Indeed you did, and you should be very proud of yourself,” Wendeline said in a congratulatory voice.

“Good-bye butterfly!” Elizabeth called out. Waving her right hand frantically up and down as it zoomed back out the octagon shaped window.

Elizabeth’s excitement was abruptly interrupted by her oldest sister Juliara come barging in. Wrapped in a sparkling blue overcoat, she immediately yelled out “space criminals had invaded the royal castle, along with her informing Wendeline to find some place to hide, and rushing Elizabeth out.

Where Elizabeth and Juliara ended up, hiding in a closet.

“Elizabeth,” Juliara said, squatting down before her youngest sister, “just in case something bad happens, I want to give you something important.”

And with that, Juliara removed a perfectly square purple object from the pocket of her sparkling blue overcoat, placing it in the palm of Elizabeth’s right hand, wrapping her fingers around it. “This is a history cube, it contains our recorded family history, as well as a few messages I’ve recorded for you,” Juliara informed her youngest sibling. “Now I want you to be brave for me Elizabeth.”

“I will be Juliara!” Elizabeth burst out in a shrill voice, not wasting a moment stuffing the history cube into her trusty backpack she always carried around with her. Unfortunately for the two of them, this fully emotional, tearjerker moment was cut short as the result of the room’s door being whipped open by one Victor Dracmore, a handful of his space criminal underlings standing behind him with her identical twin sister and brother Dawstone and Dawster as hostage. Victor yanking Juliara’s ruby red necklace off her and she kicking it out of his hand, where Elizabeth was able to catch it, point it at the space criminals, who had stupidly released Dawster and Dawstone, eager to join Victor in his fight against Juliara, allowing Elizabeth to point the ruby red diamond necklace and obliterate them. Juliara screaming out for her to run, the last thing Elizabeth seeing before tearing around a corner, filling her with one hundred degrees of horror, Victor murdering Juliara, Dawstone, and Dawster, and then giving chase after her.

“Leave me alone!” Elizabeth screamed out, her white Tarnexian gown, an inch too long, causing her to almost trip over her feet as she ran for her life.

Attempting to escape down a hallway with spotless white walls adorned with large purple velvet tapestries with authentic likenesses of Axelmore’s going back centuries sewn into them. A space criminal who less than five minutes ago, she saw her two older sisters, Juliara and Dawster, and older brother Dawstone lying dead at his black boot feet hot on her trail.

“Get the back here you little brat,” he roared out after her.

“No, leave me alone,” she shrieked.

“You don’t give me that necklace, you’re going to end up like your sisters and brothers, dead,” she heard him holler out.

Managing to arrive back into her quarters, Elizabeth darted under the bed, the same place countless times she mischievously hid from both Juliara and Wendeline, much to their sheer aggravation.

Elizabeth was quick to realize this wasn’t the best place to hide, as the space criminal dashed in, eager to get his hands on her and the ruby red diamond necklace in her possession.

“I know you’re in here you little brat and I’m not going to let you leave this room until you give me that necklace!”

Quick Elizabeth think there has to be something you can do to prevent him from getting his hands on Juliara’s necklace. And then it came to here, and just in time, for the space criminals black, scruffy booths were soon stationed before her bed.

“Gotcha,” he cried out. His shadowed face framed with long, stringy, dingy black hair as he peered in at her. Sliding a right hand underneath the bed, no doubt to try and get a grip on her, causing Elizabeth to move further under the bed to escape his reach.

The next thing Elizabeth knew, the lead space criminal was jumping back to his feet, yanking the bed up with a strength filling her with utter amazement. Just as she feared he would win out, get his undeserving hands on Juliara’s necklace, her natural ability of flight, inherit in all those with Tarnexian blood flowing in them, came into play and allowing Elizabeth safe passage high over his head and out of her quarters all together.

And into the throne room, where Elizabeth expected to find her parents King Kilex and Queen Randa, finding no sign of them. Indication they might be prisoners of the space criminals invading her home, soon to meet the fate as her siblings. Figuring it would only be a matter of moments before the lead space criminal would once again find her, Elizabeth fled.

Arriving at the royal castle’s outdoor docking bay and her silvery white Averson model spacecraft, Elizabeth realized with her family and probably soon Wendeline were all dead, and the space criminal hot on her trail, she had to depart with haste, racing up the landing platform.

“Where should I go? Elizabeth asked the sentient artificial intelligence installed within it.

“The best place for you to get lost on so he won’t find you Elizabeth is a planet called Earth,” the mature sounding male voice responded, sounding like it was suffering from one tremendous heck of a bad case of stuffed up nose.

“Thanks spaceship,” Elizabeth said, heading up a silvery white metallic landing platform and boarding.

You can buy Genesis on Amazon:

http://www.amazon.com/Genesis-ebook/dp/B00596V4PK/

Maureen: A Vampire Tale by Mark Mackey

Today’s excerpt is from the Paranormal novel Maureen: A Vampire Tale by Mark Mackey

All eighteen year old Maureen Rogers wanted in her young life, to lead a happy, carefree existence with faithful boyfriend Peter Garrison, college. And then one night, she has it all taken away, delivered by an act of violence, one leaving Peter dead, and Maureen heading down this road. Little does she know, a predator on two legs, dead since before she was born has been watching this whole thing go down, gifting Maureen with the ability to obtain a measure of revenge for Peter and herself. Thus begins a fantastic adventure stretching from Maureen and Peter’s hometown or Black River, to the streets of New York, and back.

Biking. That’s how Sylvia Downford opted to spend mornings before hustling herself over to local public state Northstone College. With her morning’s plan already laid out before her, Sylvia wasted no time throwing on a light blue biking jacket and black biking pants conforming nicely against the thin, slenderness of her body frame. In addition, she connected a red and silver hard plastic helmet onto her head, a sandy brown ponytail snaking out from behind it, granting allowance for Sylvia to make an escape from the small studio apartment she called home.

Prompt arrival down in the basement with hurried steps, the pleasant smell of dried laundry strongly filling her nostrils, allowed Sylvia to unchain her blue ten-speed bike from the green rusting bike rack down in the basement with incredible haste. It, considered her blue pride and joy, inserted between a large row of the other tenants bikes.

Sylvia’s emergence into the outside world minutes later brought her out onto a still starry, comfortable night, not a hint of sun or blue morning sky peeking out anywhere. Of course this was how she liked it each and every morning with doing it.

Except for today of course, not with just last Saturday, Joyce Zelders, age 20, brutally murdered as she stumbled towards home from a college party in a drunken stupor. Not good old, could do no wrong Northstone of course, but the other college Black River Illinois offered, Dyerson women’s college.

Initially Sylvia felt uncomfortable travelling out at this hour, what with Joyce getting her life cut short not even a week ago, and possibly end up suffering the same fate. But then she realized, Joyce had been killed in the late evening, not in the morning. Of course there was still a strong chance she could get killed by whoever did in Joyce, but, perhaps due to bravery setting in, Sylvia decided to go forth biking any old way.

What was so strange about Joyce’s murder, the attacker had not left a single drop of blood in her body. Like whoever, whatever decided to commit this horrendous act, was after it and nothing more. All her personal belongings intact, the only mark on her body, or rather her right shoulder, the Black River Times reporting her murderer had left a pair of teeth bites as his or her calling card. This gave Sylvia the idea that, well, a vampire might have been the one to do Joyce in. But then she realized, just like the majority of the whole world, vampires preferred big city life filled with bustling life as opposed to dinky small towns such as Black River. Climbing on her bike, she began her early morning routine.

Tiredness grew within Sylvia after a long while of her racing at an alarming fast rate of speed down a long stretch of road. This caused her to bring herself screeching to a stop just outside old abandoned Forest Cemetery.

Leaning her bike up against a section of stone wall rising up five feet from the ground, Sylvia hurriedly opened her red and white thermos and started pouring water, still holding some degree of coldness down her throat.

And that was when her ears became filled with footsteps in the cemetery.

“Is someone there?” Sylvia called out in a concerned voice, bringing herself to stare out onto the ancient cemetery, first signs of blue finally starting to creep into the sky, but yet, all she got was a heavy dose of big, empty nothingness. It was as if whoever was there had come down with a sudden case of incredible disinterest answering her.

Curiosity gripping her, Sylvia moved forward a few feet, now feeling desire to discover the source of the noise. But arrival at the entrance, wheeling her bike right along with her, setting it off to the side, given it was shaped into a perfect semi-circle, the fate of Joyce once again infiltrated her mind. What if the person behind the footsteps was in fact the same sick, twisted individual who did her in? No that just couldn’t be possible, whoever killed her had drained Joyce of blood. Only someone utterly demented and deranged would take delight in committing that sort of hideousness. And there hadn’t been any news reports of any inmates locked up tight in the Fordman nut house located downstate managing an escape. With that in mind, Sylvia ventured forth, heading further into the cemetery.

“Hey, hello?” Sylvia called out in a nervous voice, hazel eyes darting about furiously, trying frantically to spot the perpetrator behind the footsteps she had just heard not even five minutes ago, but nothing. And then like a shot in the arm, once again they commenced. From the sound of them, coming from far off. Sylvia’s curiosity snagged so much so, possibly receiving the same treatment as Joyce had, was pushed to the back of her mind for the time being.

“Anyone, here?” Sylvia stammered out, moving at a steady pace past antiquarian tombstones, not hearing anymore of the footsteps. Moving even further into the cemetery, a couple possums scurrying around, taking the liberty of stopping and revealing their displeasure at her being there and hissing, a new idea projected itself into her mind. What if the culprit behind the footsteps was some infantile juvenile prankster, or idiot brained retard? Or worse, a gang of sex starved high school guys out of their minds with desperate eagerness to force a pretty twenty year old woman such as herself down onto the ground, where they would proceed to rape the living daylights out of her.

With Black River being a hairs breath away from hell town USA, AKA Burveton, the thought was once again pushed to the forefront of her mind, Joyce’s untimely demise. The decision hitting Sylvia the heck with it, discovering the source behind the footsteps wasn’t so important after all.

As she began closing back in on the entrance to the cemetery, the rampant sound of the footsteps once again started up. This time they sounded much closer, causing Sylvia to put fire in her steps. This didn’t put a cease to the footsteps, filling her full blast with the idea she needed to get the heck out of there and fast, less she wanted to become the second Joyce that week.

Just as Sylvia was filled with tremendous relief she was going to be cut a break and escape whatever force was behind them, jump on her bike and speed off to safety, the source behind the footsteps was finally revealed to her. Whatever the heck it was grabbed her powerfully from behind, forcing her to the ground, smashing her face into the grass, still a bit wet with early morning dew. A sharp sensation like a pair of needles were forced into her right shoulder blade, and then unconsciousness overtook Sylvia.

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A lifelong resident of Chicago, Mark currently attends Columbia College Chicago as a senior, and has thus far, taken third place in the Indie Gathering short screenplay contest 2009, and fourth place in the Indie Gathering Feature screenplay contest. Maureen is his seventh book written, and first to be published.

You can buy Maureen: A Vampire Tale on Amazon:

http://www.amazon.com/Maureen-A-Vampire-Tale-ebook/dp/B0054JI1RG/r

Vampire Morsels: Ashton

*warning – violence, bad language*

As I prepped my notes for work on Ties of Blood, I noticed that I have a lot of side characters who, for one reason or another, don’t get any “me” time.  so, I’ve decided to remedy that in a collection of short stories called…

Ashton

(You can’t actually find Ashton anywhere, except as a mention in Legacy of Ghosts, but I wanted to see what he and Loren were like before, so he got a story. This takes place in the mid 1990’s.)

“Hey, dickhead, get up!”

Ashton jerked awake to find his younger brother Loren glaring at him from the doorway. “Huh?”

“I said get up, dude. It’s after six. We need to get some shit from the store-”

Loren went on, but Ashton ignored him and swung into a sitting position on the edge of the bed, his head in his hands. God, I’m tired. I’m so fuckin’ tired! I thought I was supposed to feel like fucking superman now?

“Are you listening?”

He wanted to Loren to go to hell, but he held back and muttered, “Yeah, sure. Look, go to the store and get whatever we need, a’ight? I got some shit to do.” With too much effort he climbed to his feet and rifled through the rubble of his bedroom for something to wear, his back carefully placed to his brother.

“You’ve always got shit to do!” Loren snapped. “How about look for a fucking job? We’re almost out of money and-”

“And you’re still in school, blah, blah, blah.”  Guilt washed over him the moment the words left his mouth, and he forced his voice calm. “Look, I’m sorry, a’right? I know this shit’s hard on you, it’s hard on me, too. If we run out before I get a job we’ll just pawn some of Mom and Dad’s stuff.” He turned and met his brother’s dark eyes for a moment, then turned away again. “A’ight?”

Loren seemed to shrink from the idea. “I don’t wanna pawn their stuff.”

“I know, but they don’t need it anymore, and you need to eat.” He shrugged and went back to dressing. “I’m gonna go up and see Jessie and the guys for awhile.”

There was a moment of silence and then Loren said quietly, “You’ve been off with them every night for like a month. You’re different since they showed up. I never see you anymore. It’s like you’re avoiding me.”

“You’re seein’ me now.” Ashton tried to sound casual. “Don’t turn all girly on me.”

“I’m not turning all girly! I was just saying, you know…” he trailed off.  When Ashton didn’t fill in the silence he sighed with resignation. “All right. I’ll go get the stuff. But, I’m taking your bike.”

Ashton cringed, but didn’t argue.  When Loren sensed his victory, he disappeared, but Ashton didn’t relax until he heard the door shut, and the motorcycle roar to life.

“Fuck,” he muttered to thin air, as if he thought it might answer him. “What am I gonna do?”

It was a good question, and one he’d been working on for three weeks. Loren was right, he was avoiding him, but how could he face him – really face him – now? How was he supposed to explain that he really was different?  Fuck, how did he tell his kid brother that he was a vampire?

Vampire. Yeah, that’s a word that makes a lot of sense.

“Fuck.”

The moon hung heavy in the sky, and a chilly wind blew across the beach. Ashton took notice of neither as he tugged open the torn screen door and slumped inside the dilapidated house. The rooms were cluttered with broken furniture and old junk. The floors crunched under foot with a mixture of garbage, bits of plaster, mouse droppings and the occasional hardy roach.

He paused in the doorway of what had once been the living room. A single hurricane lamp splashed wavery light over a stained mattress and two ratty chairs, and threw twisted shadows across the walls. Despite the gloom, Jessie sprawled in one of the chairs, as though he were the king of a grand castle, and warbled a terrible attempt at a song.

“Well if you feel the wanderlust, just grab a car or hop a bus. In every town there’s excitement to be found, so much is happening-”

Ashton flopped into the other chair sand snickered. “What the fuck are you singing?”

Jessie’s head snapped around instantly. “Spring Fever.” When Ashton only blinked, he nearly exploded, “Elvis Presley, man! The King! What’s wrong  wi’ you, huh? You never heard a’ it?”

Ashton’s hands went up and he drew back involuntarily. “Sorry, dude. Sorry.”

“Yeah, sorry. You always sorry. You come in here, interruptin’ my vibe, man, wit’ your dumb ass questions. Don’t you know nothin’? And call me Master, fucktard. Remember your place, huh?”

Ashton rolled his eyes, but let it go. Jessie was in one of moods again. Great.

Jessie went back to his song, and the other guys started to trickle in. They were all smarter than to comment on the music, even as Spring fever gave way to Teddy Bear. But Wesley, Jessie’s “right hand man”, didn’t have a problem kicking Ashton’s chair and snapping, “Hey, get outta my chair, loser.”

“Fuck you.” The words were brave, but all it took was one fanged snarl from Wesley and he stood up. “It’s fuckin’ uncomfortable, anyway. And it smells like cat piss.”

“That’s you, man.” Wesley laughed and smacked him in the back of the head, then dropped in his newly claimed chair.  “Yo, Jess, cut the concert and let’s do something, huh?”

Ashton moved away to slouch in a shadowy corner and glare. This was why he didn’t want to tell Loren about what he was. The first time Wesley smacked his little brother in the back of the head like that, he’d have to break his wrist, and then he’d be in the shit.

The singing stopped and Jessie slowly rolled his head over to face the newcomer. “And what we gonna do, huh? You got any ideas?”

Wesley smirked as if he’d been waiting for this. “Yeah, I do.” He raised his voice and shouted to unseen vampires, “Yo, bring her in!”

The screen door banged open and closed, and feet shuffled through the house.  Ashton peered around the others curiously as someone whimpered; a soft, high sound, and then two of the guys appeared through the doorway, lugging a fourteen year old girl between them. Her hair was strawberry red and hung around her face like it had just fallen out of a ponytail. Her clothes were rumpled and dirt stained, and she had only one shoe. Tears and dirt streaked her face, and traces of blood were smeared under her nose. It would have been bad enough if Ashton hadn’t known who she was, but knowing made it worse.

The guys dumped her on the floor in a heap in front of Jessie. He gave Wesley a look of surprised approval, and caught the girl’s head under her chin, forcing her to look at him. “Well, look at this.”

The girl’s eyes darted fearfully around the room and Ashton hid in the shadows. Don’t see me, Jenny. Don’t see me.

It seemed to work.

“Please,” she whispered, her voice tiny, even as she begged the whole room. “Please, just let me go home. I won’t tell. I promise. I won’t. Please.”

“You won’t tell, huh?” Jessie mused. “I tell you what, honey. You be a good girl and maybe you can go home in a little bit. How’s that sound, huh?” His lips curved into a smile and his fangs glittered in the light.  At the sight, Jenny’s eyes grew wide, and then she screamed and tried to get away. Wesley grabbed her and hauled her up into the air, her legs kicking furiously as she shrieked.

Ashton shuddered and tried to disappear into the wall. If he just closed his eyes this would all go away. Go away. Go away. Oh God, make it go away!

But, when he opened his eyes, he was still there. Wesley had Jenny pinned to the floor and Jessie and a couple of other guys were hovering over her, their lips drawn back from their fangs as she flailed and pleaded.  Goddammit  He had to do something.

“What the fuck?”

At his words the room went silent, and everyone turned in unison to look at him. He suddenly wished he’d stayed quiet, but it was too late, so he pressed on. “What the fuck are you guys doing?”

Jessie straightened up and eyed him with semi-amusement. “What’s it look like to you?”

Ashton forced back the fear and took a step forward. “Christ, man, she’s like fourteen. That’s just sick.”

“You think so?” Jessie asked in what seemed like a reasonable tone, though something in his eyes was off kilter. “Anyone else think that’s sick? Huh?”

No one moved.

“Looks like it’s just you, loser.” Wesley snickered, but Jessie silenced him with a gesture.

“Maybe he’s right.”

No one knew what to say, Ashton included.

“Maybe he’s right,” Jessie repeated. “Let her go.”

Wesley started to argue, but then he held up his hands and backed away, smirking. Jenny jerked to her feet quickly, swaying in place as she stared uncertainly from one face to another. Her gaze brushed over Ashton and he saw recognition in her eyes; recognition and fear.

Jessie laid a hand on her head, ignoring her whimper. “I say you’re right, man. She’s just a kid. A fucking little kid!” He snapped her around and put her in head lock. Her eyes went wide with terror as he shouted. “Just some fucking little kid you’re soft on. You too soft to watch, huh? You too soft to join in and have some fun? You know what? You piss me off. You always comin’ around here, ruinin’ the vibe, man! The vibe! You’re such a buzz kill, and I’m fuckin’ sick of it. We’re all fuckin’ sick of it, man!”

He paused for them to agree, but everyone was speechless, so he bellowed, “You don’t want us to have some fun wi’ her, then we gonna have some fun wi’ you, you get that, shit face? You get that?”  There was a loud crack as he snapped the girl’s neck, then he flung her aside. “You got a five minute head start, then we comin’ after you. We gonna hunt you down like a dog, and if we don’t find you, then we gonna hunt down your brother instead. You read me, man? You better get runnin’. Run, bitch! Run!”

It took Ashton a moment to digest the words, but once the meaning slammed home, he did just what Jessie said: he ran.  He pounded out of the house, and across the beach as fast as his legs could carry him. But, no matter how fast he ran, he couldn’t get the picture out of his head of Jenny standing there, her eyes wide with accusing terror.

He got to the house just as Loren was pulling in. He climbed off the motorcycle and unstrapped the bag from the back. “Hey, I thought you-” but Ashton grabbed him.

“We gotta go. We gotta go now.”

Like the ever annoying sidekick in an action movie, Loren blinked stupidly and asked, “What?”  But, unlike the movie, Ashton didn’t have time to explain.

“Just get on the fucking bike!”  And before Loren could argue he was in the saddle and pulling his brother on behind him.  He turned the key, flipped the kill switch, and kicked the bike into gear while Loren grabbed onto him.

They pealed out of the driveway, Loren clinging to him and screaming, “What’s going on!” but Ashton still didn’t have time to answer – or was it that he didn’t have the words?

The road sped away beneath them, and the dark trees were a blur in their peripheral vision. Loren soon traded questions for screaming at him to slow down, but he ignored that, too. As he drove, one thing became apparent to him: he was going to have to tell Loren. No, not only tell him, he was going to have to change him, too. It was his only chance. There was no way he could fight them like he was. The change would take a full twenty-four hours to finish, but after that he’d be better. He’d be stronger. Faster.  They just had to get through those twenty-four hours.

Ashton pulled off the road into an abandoned lot and parked the bike behind a dilapidated shed. The skeleton of a burned house squatted nearby, but it offered no protection.

He swung off the bike and Loren did the same.  His brother stared at him, eyes wild and his curly mop of hair a windblown mess. “Can you tell me now what the hell’s going on?”

Ashton glanced over his shoulder, paranoid, but there was no one there. “Look, I gotta do this the fast way. Jessie and the others… they’re not what you think.”

“You mean they’re not a bunch of asshole tweakers?” Loren asked sarcastically.

“Okay, they’re a bunch of assholes, but they’re not tweakers. They’re not… they’re not even human.” Loren started to interrupt, but Ashton went on quickly. “Look, Loren, I’m sorry about this, a’ight?  I never meant to get you involved. You know I’ve done my best since Mom and Dad got killed, but I fucked up. I fucked up bad.” He shifted from one foot to the other, and sought for words. “Jessie and the others, they’re-”

“Holy shit! What’s with your teeth?”

Ashton froze, his eyes wide. His first reaction was to hide it, but he knew he couldn’t. Not this time. “It’s part of what I’m trying to tell you. Jessie and the others – and me – we’re vampires.” The word sounded much sillier than it felt. It failed to pack the punch of cold terror that was twisting in Ashton’s gut when he thought about them.

“Vampires?” Loren echoed cautiously. “Dude, what are you on?”

“I’m not on anything!” Ashton insisted. “You have to listen. You know Jenny Willinger from down the road? They got her, dude. They got her tonight and they fucking killed her. I told them not to. Jessie was already pissed at me, and now he wants to kill me, and he wants to kill you, too.”

Loren didn’t believe him. “Seriously? Look, let’s just go home and you can sleep this off.”  He reached for his brother, but Ashton didn’t have time to convince him. No time, No time. No time!

With a roar that was half anger and half impatience, he grabbed Loren and spun him around, so his back was against him, then he forced his head to one side, exposing his neck. His brother shouted something, but he didn’t listen. He couldn’t. He had to act.

Loren screamed when he bit him. He struggled, at first, but slowly he grew still and his body sagged back against Ashton. His blood was hot and coppery, and Ashton gulped it as though his life depended on it. He was doing it fast, maybe too fast, but he didn’t know, and he didn’t have the time to find out.

No time. No time. No time.

He lowered Loren’s slack body to the ground and quickly searched his pocket for a knife. Fuck! He didn’t have one! And then he thought of his teeth. It took him a moment to work up the courage, but then he tore into his own arm.

“Fuck!”

It hurt more than he thought it would, but there was nothing else to do. He tried to duplicate what Jessie had done to him; what he’d seen Jessie do some of the other guys, but Loren was too out of it to take his arm willingly, so he crammed it in his mouth.

“Fuck,” he muttered. “Come on Loren, drink. Fuck, drink! Drink!”

Like he’d done before to the family cat when he’d given it pills, he pressed down on Loren’s adam’s apple, forcing him to swallow. Forcing the blood down his throat.

Loren’s eyes popped open, like someone on the cusp of a seizure. He gasped around the arm in his mouth and choked on the mouthful of blood. Something shifted in his eyes, something that made Ashton think of Jessie, and suddenly he clutched his brother’s arm and sealed his lips around the wound.

Like the bite, it hurt more than he thought it would, but he endured, until he started to feel light headed. He had to wrestle his arm away from his brother, but it had been the same with everyone else when they were turned. After that first taste you never wanted to stop.

Loren fell back to the grass and lay, gasping. His eyes slowly cleared and then he murmured, “Oh shit.”

Ashton dropped into a sitting position next to him. “You alright?”

Loren wiped his face, and stared at the blood on his hand. “I don’t know. What – what just happened?” he swung his gaze to his brother.  “What was that?”

“You’re one of us now,” Ashton said with a sick sort of finality. He pulled off his flannel shirt and used it as a makeshift bandage for his wounded arm and stood. “Just rest for awhile. They’re a lot slower than the bike, so they’re probably not even halfway here. We’ll wait awhile, then we’ll head back the long way, grab our stuff, and then we get the hell outta Dodge.”

Loren nodded and rolled over onto his side, too tired to argue. Time was short, but they couldn’t move now. He had to wait.

Fuck.

They pulled into the driveway two hours later.  The house was dark and the bag of groceries still lay on the pavement, the contents scattered. Ashton shut off the bike and motioned to Loren to stay put. He approached the house cautiously, but didn’t hear anything.  It’s okay, he told himself. They’re not here.

The front door was locked and he’d left the keys in the bike, so he went for the attached garage. He threw up the door and took two steps inside.

He never saw what hit him.

Ashton opened his eyes slowly. The light was bright and made his head hurt. He tried to raise a hand to block it, but he couldn’t. His hands were tied uncomfortably behind his back. Tied?

“Hey, shit face is waking up.”

The voice belonged to Wesley, and so did the face that leered over him. The rest of the room came into focus, and Ashton realized he was in his own garage. Jessie was there, as were some of the other guys and Loren, who was covered in blood. Ashton didn’t know if it was fresh, or if it was left over from the turning. Regardless, his brother stood on shaky legs, held upright by two others.

Shit.

Jessie stood over him, something large and bulky in his hands. “Good evenin’ sunshine. Nice job wit’ your brother.”

Ashton spit blood out of his mouth, and tried to sound brave. “Just leave him out of this.”

“Maybe, maybe not.” Jessie nodded to someone and the thing in his hands sprung to life, whirling and roaring.  It was an electric drill. “Now it’s your turn to entertain us.”

Ashton screamed and bucked as the drill chewed into his leg. Shreds of his jeans wrapped around the bit and burned. He thought he heard Loren screaming, but he couldn’t be sure. There was too much noise in his head. Too much noise. Too much pain.

Then it stopped.

Jessie stood back, a frown between his eyebrows. “Nah.” He threw the drill aside and it landed on the floor with a clatter. “What else you got?”

Wesley answered him from further back in the garage, probably at the work bench. Dad’s work bench. “We got a sander?”

Jessie snorted. “Nah. Fuck that. Fuck this pussy shit. We want something heavy duty, man.”

“Chainsaw?” Before Jessie could answer Wesley suggested, “Lawn mower?”

Jessie’s face lit up. “Oh yeah, man. That’s the fucking ticket. That’s just what we want. But not in here.” He motioned to the others. “Bring ‘em outside. We gots to do this right. Time to mow the yard!”

Someone grabbed Ashton under the shoulders and dragged him outside, leaving behind a trail of blood from his damaged leg. He struggled, but he was too weak to really fight them. If he hadn’t changed Loren he might have been strong enough but, if he hadn’t changed him, Loren would be dead already.

They threw him to the ground, and he caught a glimpse of his brother. They’d dropped him in a heap on the ground. Too weak to stand, he wasn’t a threat to them, or they didn’t think he was. Maybe he could get away and get help.

The others were busy trying to get the old lawn mower to start, so he took the opportunity to catch his brother’s attention. Loren started to crawl towards him, but he shook his head no. Run, he mouthed. Run. Loren shook his head, but Ashton just repeated it and added, find help. Though where he could find it was the million dollar question.

Reluctantly, Loren started to crawl backwards towards the beach.  Yes. Yes. Go. Get the fuck outta here! Go! If he could just save his brother then it wouldn’t all be a waste, would it? If only he’d been more like Loren after their parents died and put himself into something productive instead of running away and hiding out in drugs and alcohol.  Jessie and his crowd seemed so extreme. They were the ultimate high: blood, danger, death.  Like the death that was waiting for him. Fuck. If something didn’t happen soon he was gonna get the biggest high ever. That one that ended in a bright light.

The mower choked and he felt hopeful, but then it roared to life, amid cries of surprise and rough laughter. Wesley ran it over the grass a couple of times and then he and Jessie exchanged a meaningful look.  It only took one of them to lift it up. Ashton squinted up at the undercarriage, but there was no high. He was just numb. Odd bits of grass stuck to the inside and the blades spun so fast that they were a blur. They whipped up a miniature hurricane that blew his hair and threw old clippings in his face. No high, just grass in his mouth and in his eyes. Just the taste of dirt and fear. Just the sight of Loren slowly backing away on his hands, his eyes wide and terrified.

And then they lowered the mower.

No! God, No!

Ashton screamed.

Help! God, help! Help!

And then everything went black.

There was no light.


  • Tales of the Executioners

    Short stories from the world of Amaranthine; a universe of blood and darkness where vampires don't sparkle and night is eternal. Each is about a member of the Executioners squad; the special vampire "police" force. Members both past and present share stories of assignments, origins, and more.

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  • Joleene Naylor

    Joleene Naylor

    An independent author, freelance artist, and photographer for fun who loves anime, music, and writing. Check out my vampire series Amaranthine at http://JoleeneNaylor.com or drop me a line at Joleene@JoleeneNaylor.com

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