Guest Post: Simon Critchell, “The Picture”

Hey guys! Please help me welcome a guest post by Simon Critchell. Simon has a book coming out in the Fall from Stitched Smile Publications and we thought it would be cool to start the month of June off with a little sample of his work. Please check out his bio at the end and give him your thoughts, a like, and a share of his story, “The Picture”. 

 

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The Picture

 

It was quiet, too quiet. The girls liked to party and even on a school night 10pm was far too early for their fun to have ended. Brendon checked his watch. 10pm on the dot. The lights were all out. He felt conflicted. By rights they all should be in bed, he’d never understood in all his time doing security at the campus how these girls learnt anything. Their sorority had the worst reputation for partying in the whole place. It seemed they almost had an endless party going. Except now, tonight. It was far too quiet.

Any other sorority house he would have made a safe assumption everyone was tucked up in bed. Not this lot. And yet, what if they were? He would cop their wrath. He could imagine the bellyaching that would go on.

What if they were not? What if a modern day Ted Bundy had slipped into the house and was busy raping and murdering? Imagine waking up the next day to find out they had all been killed while he stood outside pondering. It was too quiet.

Brendon walked up to the front door. He second guessed for a few moments and then wrapped the door knocker hard. Bang! Bang! Bang! He stepped back and listened, his eyes scanning the windows for signs of life. Nothing. More quietness.

He’d already taken the action to wake everyone. His second knock didn’t come with any debate. Bang! Bang! Bang! Again, he stepped back, a little further this time. There was nothing.

He could see that there were a few lights on inside. A hall light, another hall light upstairs. Also, the dining room light appeared to be on, but more than that he could not tell. The dining room had block out curtains making it impossible for him to see into the room.

He stood looking at the front door, his hand resting on a large bunch of keys he had clipped to his belt.

He wasn’t in the habit of letting himself into female sorority houses, nor the male ones for that matter. His fingers fidgeted with the keys. He was waiting for a reason not to go in. It wasn’t coming. All that came was silence and questions.

Brendon decided to do another walk around the outside of the building. If he saw or heard nothing by the time he got back to the front, he would let himself in. He unclipped his Maglite and began working his way around, making sure to bathe all the windows in the torch’s bright light. Scenarios kept going through his head, reasonable ones. Had they all gone out to a party? It was conceivable, but completely out of character for these girls. They partied a lot, but always in their own house.

It didn’t take Brendon long to make it all the way around the house. Nothing stirred. He wondered for a moment if he was being punked, but overwhelmingly he had a sense of unease. He stood under the porch and fumbled with the keys, hunting for the right ones. All the Sorority houses had two locks on their front doors, both deadbolts. Brendon found the right set and slid a key into the lower lock. He unlocked it. Then the second. He gave the knocker three last knocks. Bang! Bang! Bang! Then he walked into the building. He switched off the torch.

“Security! Anyone home?” He shouted into the silence.

The silence answered him with more silence.

It was cold.

He stood for a moment, in the quiet, listening to it.

“Security! Anyone home?” He bellowed for a second time.

He looked at the stairs and decided against checking the bedrooms first. He’d work the downstairs to start with. He started on the left, going into the kitchen. After a couple of fumbles he found the light switch and instantly the colonial kitchen was bathed in light. It was a mess. He hadn’t expected anything different. It was a party house and they were never tidy, whether occupied by males or females.

There was a pot with over cooked noodles in it. The gas was not on, but he touched the side of the pot and it was a little bit warm. Brendon guessed the heat had been turned off fifteen minutes earlier.

There were several open bottles of wine standing on the cluttered bench tops. Quite a few of them were empty. There was an ashtray with several stubbed cigarettes and five dead joints in it. There was no doubt in his mind that the kitchen looked like this all the time. But, it made the silence all the more bizarre.

Brendon was keen to get to the next room along, the dining room, the room with the lights on. He opened the door from the kitchen into it and was immediately struck by the temperature drop. He knew the windows were not open, so it confused him. The room was also untidy. There were plates on the table, some with half eaten food, others with traces of the meals they had hosted. It seemed the noodles in the kitchen had been a second batch. There were wine glasses, wine bottles and a few beer bottles. Also one expensive looking crystal cognac glass with a little puddle of liquid at the bottom of it. Next to that was an ashtray with the butt of a fat cigar. Another ashtray across the table had cigarette butts and some more dead joints.

The table itself had been pulled across the room, giving the seats closest to the wall no space to accommodate people.

At one end of the large floor was a mobile phone, mounted on a tripod. It appeared it was there to film, photograph or record something. Brendon wondered if he should touch it.

Is this a crime scene?

He felt like he should leave it. He also felt like he was being dramatic. There was nothing anywhere he’d looked to suggest foul play. He sensed something was wrong. He sensed something had happened in the room. It had a troubling vibe about it. But there was no actual evidence.

Brendon stood in the middle of the space and collected his thoughts. There was a lot more of the house to search and none of the girls were in this room, but he knew they had been very recently.

He went back to the phone. It was an iPhone. He pressed the button at the bottom of the screen and suddenly an attractive brunette was smiling at him. He pressed the button again to get into the phone  and a passcode screen opened up. Brendon cursed. He tried 1234 and 6969 and then gave up.

He wanted to leave the room, but something was holding him back.

His eyes fell upon a pair of shoes poking out from under one of the long black out curtains. He froze.

“You! Come out! This is campus security, come out now!” He bellowed far louder than he needed to.

The shoes did not move. Brendon stared at them. Brown, pointed, possibly boots. They were in line with a bulge in the curtain. This further convinced Brendon that one of the girls was standing there.

“I will tase you if you don’t move, now!”

He pulled out his taser and switched it on.

“Last warning!”

He crept as stealthily as he could up to the edge of the curtain, his taser trained on the feet and legs of where he imagined the girl to be.

Suddenly he grabbed the curtain and yanked it open, expecting to see a girl fighting to contain her laughter. He very nearly tased the window. There was nothing but a pair of ankle boots.

Brendon strode to the main entry door of the room. As creepy and troubling as the dining room was, he wasn’t getting anywhere. All he had was vibes and hunches. He opened the door, took one more look back at the shoes and then walked out into the relative warmth of the hall. He walked two paces towards the lounge and stopped. He turned back to the dining room, walked through the doorway and straight to the window where the shoes were. On one pane of glass, just discernible, were four parallel lines. They had been made by a finger.

| | | |

Brendon went back to the phone, briefly enjoying the happy smiling girl, before trying 1111 as a passcode. The screen went blank, then opened a photograph. It was taken in the room and was black and white. It appeared to show six of the girls climbing or hanging on to the wall. They all seemed to be a foot or two off the floor and they were all dressed very strangely. As he looked closer there also looked to be someone laying on the floor. They were all barefoot. Brendon tried to scroll left or right, to see if there were any other photographs, but there seemed to be none. That didn’t seem very likely. He tried to close the photo to see if there was anything else interesting on it, but it wasn’t letting him do anything. He looked at the photograph for a minute or two and then pulled out his own phone and called the police.

*****

“I’m just saying they are lame as fuck. Come on. Who knows about this stuff? I know about this stuff ! Right?” Tuesday stared at the eight other girls.

They were all sitting around the dining table, ready to play with the Ouija board Kelly had picked up off Craigslist a week earlier. Kelly had been working on the rest of them to give it a try and most of the girls were wary. Tuesday wasn’t, she wasn’t interested. As far as she was concerned, Ouija was to the dark arts what Hirst is to actual art.

“Look, I’m not saying we shouldn’t have some occulty fun, but if we are going to, lets do it properly.”

“Fuck Tuesday! Why do you have to be such a bitch!” Kelly snapped, furious that her fun was being spoilt.

“Hey! Come on guys. Do we even have to do any of this stuff? Let’s get the studs round and party like usual.” Danielle attempted to get them all back to their usual revelry.

“Look, of all of us I know a few things about the occult. You want some witchy fun, let me give you some witchy fun.” Tuesday looked at them one at a time. They all knew she was into the dark stuff.

“Tues, Kell has been going on about this thing for days, can’t you let her have her fun?” Nikki chipped in.

“I tell you what. Let me show you the real stuff and if that does not blow your minds, then I’ll happily play Ouija the rest of the night.”

Kelly glared at her, rolled her eyes and signalled her capitulation by pulling the board away from the centre of the table.

“Okay cool!” Tuesday beamed.

“So, what now?” Sarah asked between glugs of her wine.

“Okay. Let me get a drink and then I will tell about what we are going to do.”

Tuesday popped into the kitchen and grabbed a bottle of red from the wine rack and glass, and returned to the dining room. She stood at the head of the table, opened the bottle and poured herself a generous glass.

“Here’s to tonight’s dark adventure!” She toasted and took a big gulp of the wine.

Around the table the girls all raised glasses or bottles and took a drink.

“So, we are going to invite somebody to visit us. This being is dark, sexy and I am quite sure he will love meeting us.”

“This ‘being’, this is somebody you have met before, is it?” Kelly challenged.

“No. I have experience in summoning beings like him, but no, not specifically.”

“By being, what sort of being are you talking about.” Kelly continued her quizzing.

“A supernatural being.” Tuesday chose her words carefully.

“And this supernatural being is good in his nature, is he?”

“I have not met this one. Some are good, some not so good.”

“And a not so good supernatural being is a what?” Kelly directed a thin smile at her.

“I’m not sure what you are getting at Kelly.”

“I’m sure a not so good supernatural being is called a demon, Tuesday.” Kelly looked around the table, soaking in the concern.

“Are you trying to get us to summon a demon?” Coco demanded.

“Look, this being is a fun one. I wouldn’t call him a demon.”

“So what is his name?” Kelly kept up her challenge.

“His name is Asmodeus.” Tuesday knew exactly what was coming.

“Asmodeus,” Kelly read from her phone, “is one of the kings of demons.” She stared at Tuesday.

“What the fuck Tuesday!” Sarah, chimed in.

“Okay, okay. Yes, he is a demon, but he is a demon of fun! He is our kind of demon. He will love us!”

“You are a bit fucked up, Tuesday. You know that, right?” Kelly grabbed her chance with both hands and launched into a spirited attempt to win back the evening. “Instead of having a nice peaceful, harmless chat with a few old relatives, you want to summon a fucking king of demons. Does nobody else have a problem with this?”

“You can make anything sound bad if you put inflections like that on it. I know people who have summoned this guy, personally. They said he was a lot of fun and very helpful. I’d far rather play with a guy like that than talk through a board with some old relatives. This guy is all about sex and debauchery, isn’t that us?”

“She’s right.” Danielle lifted her glass.

“She is.” Coco chinked Danielle’s glass with her own.

“Look, this is just fun, right? I’m not trying to win anything Kelly. We can do both, right? Meet Asmodeus and then chat to the rellies. We could even tell them about Asmodeus.”

Kelly shook her head and looked at Tuesday with a blank look.

There was a pregnant pause.

“Alright then.” Kelly capitulated again.

“Okay. Right, we need the floor. We need to pull the table over. Across to there.”

The girls all groaned. They’d moved the table before and it was horribly heavy.

“Jesus Tuesday, you are a pain.”

They all got up, slowly and reluctantly.

“Should we clear up dinner?” Sarah asked the room.

“Nah, fuck that!” Danielle giggled.

Then together they all pushed the large hardwood table up against the wall, clearing a big floor space in the room.

Tuesday surveyed the area then left the room, shouting “Won’t be a sec.” as she bounded up the stairs.

In her room, she gathered up a handful of long black candles, a packet of jasmine incense and some printed sheets from her desk. Ever since Kelly had started banging on about her Ouija board she had been hatching a plan to meet Asmodeus. She ran back down the stairs and went via the kitchen, gathering seven saucers for the candles.

She walked back into the dining room and placed her treasures onto the table, between the dirty plates.

Kelly picked up one of the printed sheets. “What is this?”

“It is called a sigil. Like think of it as a logo. So, you could say this is Asmodeus’ logo.”

“Wait, I know you didn’t just print these.”

“No, I didn’t. I’ve been thinking about doing this for a while. I’ve had these in my desk for a few months at least.”

“So how is this going to go, exactly?”

“Well, It’s not too complicated. We light the candles, incense. I’ll put these printed symbols on the floor for us all to look at. We don’t need to be in a circle, but seeing as there are eight of us, we may as well make one. I will speak some words, which you can all repeat. And then we wait for our guest.”

“That’s it? No cavorting around naked or anything like that?” Danielle sounded disappointed.

“I’m sure Asmodeus would love it if we were all naked, but we don’t need to do that. We could though.” Tuesday smirked.

“I vote naked!” Offered Danielle.

“Okay, who wants to do this naked?” Tuesday looked around at the girls.

“Is this demon going to fuck us or something?” Kelly was clearly concerned.

“I don’t know. We haven’t even met him yet.” Tuesday laughed, “Naked was D’s idea, not mine.”

“Hands up for naked!” Danielle enthused.

Coco put her hand up while the rest looked a little bemused.

“You lame asses.” Danielle pouted.

“It’s a bit different all being naked when there are a bunch of guys here, D.” Sarah argued.

“Okay, so, we all stand around not naked, and wait for our guest. When he appears we all stay polite and respectful. We can ask him for help with things, but most likely each favour will need some kind of payment.”

“What kind of payment?” Kelly flashed.

“Fuck, I don’t know Kelly! I’m winging this, can’t you tell?” Tuesday groaned with exasperation.

“Perhaps he’ll want to fuck us!” Danielle beamed.

“Christ D, can’t you be a bit less of a bitch on heat?” Kelly rolled her eyes.

“So anyway, then, after we’ve met him and talked to him, we can all sit around the table and play Ouija.” Tuesday smiled thinly at Kelly.

Tuesday moved around the room, placing the candles and incense where she wanted them, then the printed sigils in a ring in the middle of the space. She lit the candles and the incense and started to direct the girls into their places.

“Oh wait! I want to film this.” Coco said, before darting from the room.

Coco had filmed several of their events, generally more orgy in nature. She had perfected a rig that enabled her to set her phone filming while she joined in the fun.

A few minutes later she returned with her tripod. The rest of the girls, apart from Tuesday were all seated in a rough circle on the floor. Tuesday watched her as she set the phone up, presumably pressed the go button and then sat herself down between Danielle and Emma.

“Right, so, we all need to take a moment and imagine Asmodeus. He is depicted in some places as a three-headed creature, a man with a head of a man, a bull and a sheep. But we will not picture him so. We will think of a dreamy, sexy, seductive. Jim Morrison, Johnny D, Jason Momoa.”

“Oh fuck, swoon!” Murmured Sarah.

“So stare at the sigils and imagine that, then repeat after me. Lord Satan.”

“Satan?” Kelly gasped.

“Just trust me Kelly!” Tuesday snapped.

Nobody else seemed concerned, so Kelly didn’t bother saying whatever her gaping mouth was about to say.

“Repeat after me, Lord Satan.”

The girls all repeated, “Lord Satan.”

“By your grace, grant me,”

“By your grace, grant me,”

“I pray thee power to conceive in my mind and to execute that which I desire to do,”

“I pray thee power to conceive in my mind and to execute that which I desire to do,”

“the end which I would attain thy help, O Mighty Satan,”

“the end which I would attain thy help, O Mighty Satan,”

“the one True God who livest and reignest forever and ever.”

“the one True God who livest and reignest forever and ever.”

“I entreat thee to inspire Asmodeus to manifest before me”

“I entreat thee to inspire Asmodeus to manifest before me”

“that he may give me true and faithful answer, so that I may accomplish my desired end,”

“that he may give me true and faithful answer, so that I may accomplish my desired end,”

“provided that it is proper to his office.”

“provided that it is proper to his office.”

“This I respectfully and humbly ask in Your Name,”

“This I respectfully and humbly ask in Your Name,”

“Lord Satan, may you deem me worthy, Father.”

“Lord Satan, may you deem me worthy, Father.”

The girls, who had generally all been looking at their sigils, all lifted their gazes to Tuesday, who was standing with her eyes closed.

“Is that it?” Danielle frowned at Tuesday.

Tuesday opened her eyes and stared blankly at the floor in the middle of the circle. The floor which was totally unoccupied by any demons.

“Yes,” she finally said. “We’ll just wait a bit.”

“Can I wait with a fresh beer?” Coco winked at Tuesday.

“Yes, no need to stay sitting in a circle. I don’t think we did anything wrong.”

“Bit lamo Tuesday.” Kelly said with far too much joy.

“Who else wants a fresh one?” Coco asked as she headed towards the kitchen.

“Sol please!” said Emma.

“Bottle of red.” Added Danielle.

“I really thought something was going to happen.” Sarah gave Tuesday an apologetic look.

Tuesday bent down and started collecting up the sheets of paper.

Coco came back into the room with three beers and a bottle of red. She put the spare beer on the table and handed Emma and Danielle their requests. Tuesday put the sheets on the table and picked up the spare beer. She felt a little confused, a little disappointed and a little embarrassed.

“So what are we going to chase that adrenalin rush with?” Kelly sniped.

“Jesus Christ Kelly! Do you have to be quite so cuntish?” Coco sneered.

They all felt the temperature change.

“Coco, did you open a window in the kitchen or something?” Tuesday felt goose-bumps.

“Excuse me ladies?”

In unison, all eight of them swung their heads towards the door to the hallway. A man was poking his head into the room. He was dashing, certainly more dashing than the men they were used to seeing in the house.

“I wonder if any of you might have a phone I could use? I am lost, late and mine is completely out of battery.”

He stepped into the room.

Danielle looked at Tuesday and mouthed “Fuck!” to her.

“Who …. Who are you?” Tuesday asked.

“My apologies, my name is Eno. I saw the lights and I did knock. I have a church appointment and just need to let them know I am still on my way. I can pay for the call.”

Eight pairs of spooked and perplexed eyes watched. The beautiful looking man fished a money clip out of his very expensive looking suit and peeled off a $10 note.

“Eno?” Tuesday frowned.

“Yes, I have a little Spanish in me, my mother.”

“So you just want a phone? You have not come here to help us?”

“No, just the phone. Why? Do you ladies need help?” Eno frowned a look of concern.

“People always need help with something.” Tuesday mused.

“Yes indeed. It is the human condition.”

“And you need help from us.” Tuesday stated.

“So you’re not Asmodeus?” a slightly pickled Emma blurted.

“Emma! Seriously.” Kelly hissed.

“Asmodeus? That is quite a name. May I come in?” Eno didn’t wait for a reply. He walked into the room and turned one of the dining chairs around, sitting on it to face the girls.

All the girls, including Tuesday, were a little mesmerized by the man.

“Coco, would you be a dear and get me a glass of cognac?” Eno smiled most charmingly and winked at her.

“We don’t have cognac, just three kinds of beer and some wines. Would you like some wine?” Coco could feel herself falling under his spell. He was disgustingly good looking.

“Yes, I’m pretty sure if you look up in the corner cupboard you will find cognac and some glasses.”

Coco walked out into the kitchen, half in a trance.

“So who is this Asmodeus you confused me for?” Eno asked the room.

“Oh, just some silly fun we were having.” Kelly offered.

“I like fun. Can I play too?”

“We’ve stopped that game.” Tuesday looked over to Kelly.

“You know, Tuesday, even when we think the game is over, it usually isn’t.” Eno looked over to Danielle who was trying to get a spark out of her crappy lighter, to put some fire into a joint she had in her mouth.

“Life is filled with choices. You may not have all the choices you want, but you can choose life or death every single day.” He watched as in that instance Danielle’s lighter spat a blue flame at the tip of her smoke, igniting the dope.

Coco came back into the room shaking her head and holding a very full crystal balloon cognac glass.

“How?” She asked as she passed the glass to Eno.

“Thank you, you know usually when you serve a good cognac you put a good shot of the drink into the glass, rather than fill it. And this cognac is a very good one. The right amount enables you to warm the liquid with your hand, enabling it to breathe. Too much and it is less likely to get to the desired temperature.”

“How did you know it was there? And how do you know it is good?” Coco quizzed.

“Remy Martin Louis XIII cognac is a very good cognac. $30,000 a bottle.” Eno sniffed at the vapours.

“Get fucked!” Danielle scoffed.

“Would you like a taste, Danielle?” Eno offered, holding out the glass.

“How do you know our names?” Tuesday asked, more as a muse than a demand.

“I know many things, Tuesday.”

“You are Asmodeus, aren’t you?” Tuesday challenged.

“No.” Eno stated, taking a good slug of the cognac.

“Okay. You know him then.”

“Yes I do. He is a very powerful king. He is a very busy king.” Eno pulled a fat cigar out of his suit pocket, clipped the end with a cigar cutter he pulled out of another pocket. He put the clipped end of the cigar in his mouth and the other end spontaneously ignited.

“So tell me, ladies, what did you want from Asmodeus? What were you going to ask him for?”

Kelly went to answer, but Eno put his hand up to silence her.

“Wait, let me answer that. Sarah, you were going to ask for more money. Boring. Coco, you want inspiration for a marketing strategy. Also boring. Danielle, a really big dick to fuck. A little less boring, but still yawn. Kelly, you want to be rid of someone. Interesting. Emma, you have the hots for someone and want to catch their eye. Boring again. Cathy, you want someone to die. Interesting. Nikki, you want to be less fat. That is sad. And Tuesday, you want the kind of power you could never attain conventionally. Also, interesting.”

All the girls were stunned, and Kelly looked decidedly sheepish.

“So let me ask you this. What were you going to give, to pay for these favors?”

Danielle was about to answer when she too was stopped by Eno.

“Yes, Danielle. I think we all know what you were going to give. Okay. Apart from Danielle and her go to, none of you had or have a clue. Tuesday. You organised this “fun” and you should know, you need to have something to trade if you are going to trade with a demon. Nothing is for nothing. If Asmodeus had turned up he would have been very disappointed by your lack of preparation and commitment.”

“I don’t understand, Eno, if that is your name. Who are you? Why are you here?” Tuesday made a small attempt at regaining control.

“I am here because Asmodeus could not come. I came because I like to have fun. I came because I like to go shopping.”

“Shopping for what?” Coco clawed her way out of her trance.

“Would you please all stand up?”

Before any of the girls had a chance to think about their choices, they all stood.

“You know, I have a certain standard. I like people to present a certain way.”

The girls all looked around at each other. They were all dressed in casual clothes, yoga pants, t-shirts, jeans. Nothing offensive, but nothing particularly nice. Tuesday felt Eno’s stare.

Suddenly, in an instant, all eight of them were completely naked. Kelly, Sarah, Nikki and Coco all screamed. All of them covered their crotches.

“I apologise, ladies. I did not mean to shock you.”

In another instant they were all dressed again. Their clothes were not theirs. They all had simple, plain, cotton dresses on. Kelly, Sarah, Nikki and Coco all screamed again.

“That’s better.” Eno nodded to himself and took another slug of cocgnac.

Kelly started to cry and soon she was joined by Sarah.

“Who are you? Really?” Tuesday demanded.

“I am even better than what you were seeking. I am quite capable of answering all your wishes, and so much more. I am your desires, and your fears. We are all very busy. The time of Asmodeus is not beholding to mankind. It isn’t his lot to pander to the petty whims of you. Do have any idea how many people are attempting to invoke Asmodeus at this very moment?”

The stunned girls all looked dumfounded, like deer in headlights.

“2, 346. And that is what we’d call a quiet moment. I don’t want to bore you with the numbers trying to invoke me. I never have quiet moments.”

The girls all suddenly found themselves dumb. Tuesday went to ask Eno who he was again and was unable to make a sound. Without warning they all rose up off the ground. All of them panicked and tried to scream and shout. They could not say a word.

“You wanted to know who I am, Tuesday. Eno Levi. That is what I would have told you, had you pressed me. In truth I have many names. I was ‘round when Jesus Christ had his moment of doubt and pain.”

Tuesday and a couple of the other girl’s all widened their eyes as they pieced together the clues.

“Except I wasn’t. That story is something you have to pick through to find echoes of truth. What is true is that I need you ladies. Fortunately for me, now I have met you and, let’s say inspected you. I know you are going to fulfil my needs. I will explain. I come from a very dark, very difficult place. It is all about punishment and retribution. And you see, if you punish people continually the punishment becomes the new norm. It is no longer punishment. It does not matter how nasty it is, eventually it becomes impotent. Light and shade, light and shade. You see what I am getting at. Of course, you can’t be the light for everyone, that wouldn’t even be possible. No, you are going to join legions of lights.”

The girls were all beginning to see the horror of what they had invited into their lives. They all were at various stages of crying and Nikki involuntarily began urinating.

“Why you? Because of course you are all going into your own personal hells. I could tell you that by attempting to invoke a demon you were all guilty of witchcraft, and thus deserving of a trip to hell. But that is bullshit. In short, you stuck your hands up. You called. It is a bit like inviting someone you know to be a serial killer around for afternoon tea and expecting them not to murder. So now you know. You know your fate. You are to give brief moments of pleasure to countless evil bastards, forever.”

The girls all stopped crying. Not because of any serenity, but because Eno had tired of the spectacle. They all went long and stiff, and each of them floated to the walls, hanging in mid-air against them, their backs to Eno.

“What of your wishes? You wonder. You don’t seriously believe we adhere to made up mumbo jumbo your wiccan leaders concoct, do you? Rules? There are no rules. Apart from the ones I make up. However I will grant one of your wishes.”

Eno sat back in his chair and enjoyed his cigar and cognac in silence. Suddenly Kelly slumped and dropped to the floor, dead.

“No need to thank me, Cathy. Okay ladies, let’s go.”


BIOGRAPHY

The temptation when you sit down to write one of these bio things is to delve into the past, treat it like a CV. How old am I? Where was I born? What else have I written?

I like to think I am an interesting person, I’ve lived, loved, had my heart broken. I’ve held interesting jobs, cheated death on more than one occasion. But that is probably not what you want to know, you are wondering why I write the kind of books I write.

Empathy.

It can be summed up with that one single word.

You see, when I read about monstrous people wreaking unimaginable suffering on human beings, I live through that ordeal, I feel the terror and agony, I am right there seeing the face of the beast, soaking up the unfathomable evil. I suffer the terror.

I’ve been through phases where I’ve feasted on information about these creatures who hide amongst us. Not just a morbid curiosity, its more than that.

For a long time I was very perplexed by the ability of one human to be so malevolent. It is the same with cruelty to animals. What makes another person capable of relishing the violent suffering that is so abhorrent to me? It made no sense. It disturbs me when things do that. I need to understand.

I’ve spent some periods of my life in West and Central Africa, and know that animals are treated there with a completely different regard to the way I would treat them. It isn’t so much that pain and suffering is enjoyed, it just does not matter. I was only 23 when I drove past a cow just starting to be butchered by the side of the road, and found the whole thing very disturbing. You don’t want to be beef cattle in the Congo, trust me!

How can a person, or a race, have such a different level of empathy to me? How can a man like Gary Ridgeway snuff the life out of so many teenage and twenty-year old girls with his bare hands? It is an alien ability to me. At least it is not something I could possibly do myself.

But, I have been exposed to enough differently wired people that I am able to understand the functionality of these disconnected minds. I can’t put myself in their shoes and want what they want, but I can project myself into their minds and live and think through that dysfunction. Once I know, for example, what Gary Ridgeway’s mind is like, I can experience his actions through his eyes. Of course, the experience of the victim is an easier, albeit more uncomfortable, connection to make.

The ability to mentally live through these horrific crimes hammers home how diabolical they are, and how wrong the people who can commit them are.

So, yes, I could have told you about my dog, or my kids. I could have regaled you with details about how long I have been writing, or how my farts don’t stink. Instead I thought I would let you peek through the window into a mind capable of creating the disturbing and challenging darkness that is 21:24 (soon to be released by Stitched Smile Publications) and other disturbing stories!

 

 

REVIEW: Exorcist Falls by Jonathan Janz

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Chicago is gripped by terror. The Sweet Sixteen Killer is brutally murdering young women, and the authorities are baffled.
When the police are called to an affluent home in the middle of the night, they learn that a seemingly normal fourteen-year-old boy has attacked his family. The boy exhibits signs of demonic possession, and even more troublingly, he knows too much about the Sweet Sixteen killings. Father Jason Crowder, a young priest assigned to the case, must marshal his courage in order to save the boy and the entire city from the forces of evil.

But this is a darkness mankind has never encountered before. It craves more than blood. And it won’t rest until it possesses Father Crowder’s soul.

Jonathan Janz’s brand new release brings the original novella that started it all—Exorcist Road—and a brand-new full-length novel (Exorcist Falls) together for a shattering experience in supernatural terror.


I started EXORCIST FALLS because Jonathan and I have an interloping circle, and when I saw he’d written a book about Exorcisms-one of my favorite genres to read-and was also from my hometown of Chicago … I knew I had to give it a go.

I was not disappointed in any way. In fact, I was proud of my fellow Chi-town author for a well told and frightening story. Small details of Chicago filled every part of the tale, and brought a sense of nostalgia and history only someone who grew up, or at least lived for a quite some time, in the city would know. Mentions of the “Killer Clown”, John Wayne Gacy, Wrigley Field, the Blackhawks, and Rosemary Road, gave this story the ironclad validation of being a true Chicago-based horror.

Every single character was so well developed, I felt like I knew them from the old ‘hood and stomping grounds. Vivid details allowed me to feel, hear, smell, and recreate everything in my mind. I’m not ashamed to say it gave me some wild dreams. The scene where Father Crowder is cornered by the spirit in Casey’s room is my favorite part, and the suspense was in perfect pace with the creep factor. Well done. I went back and read it again, just to savor it.

The story leads you into several different directions while you play Sherlock Holmes, deducing from the suspects presented, who the real killer is. At the same time, there is a moral reflection to be had in this book. Is evil really evil? Are people who do evil able to be saved? Can someone who is evil do good?

Jonathan is a talented writer who weaves a world of horror around your neck like a rosary, leaving you with nothing but faith to get you through dark, twisted tunnels. I’ll definitely be reading more of his work. I’m not really one who likes to compare authors to others, even though I understand it helps establish style when recommending them. Some have compared him to Steven King, but I have to disagree without devaluing Janz’s writing skill. He’s closer to William P. Blatty, in my opinion, not only for subject matter, but for his classic writing style.

To find out more about the author, please visit his site: http://www.jonathanjanz.com

REVIEW: BirdBox, Josh Malerman

Bird Box: A Novel by [Malerman, Josh]
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Written with the narrative tension of The Road and the exquisite terror of classic Stephen King, Bird Boxis a propulsive, edge-of-your-seat horror thriller, set in an apocalyptic near-future world—a masterpiece of suspense from the brilliantly imaginative Josh Malerman.
Something is out there . . .

Something terrifying that must not be seen. One glimpse and a person is driven to deadly violence. No one knows what it is or where it came from.

Five years after it began, a handful of scattered survivors remain, including Malorie and her two young children. Living in an abandoned house near the river, she has dreamed of fleeing to a place where they might be safe. Now, that the boy and girl are four, it is time to go. But the journey ahead will be terrifying: twenty miles downriver in a rowboat—blindfolded—with nothing to rely on but her wits and the children’s trained ears. One wrong choice and they will die. And something is following them. But is it man, animal, or monster?
Engulfed in darkness, surrounded by sounds both familiar and frightening, Malorie embarks on a harrowing odyssey—a trip that takes her into an unseen world and back into the past, to the companions who once saved her. Under the guidance of the stalwart Tom, a motely group of strangers banded together against the unseen terror, creating order from the chaos. But when supplies ran low, they were forced to venture outside—and confront the ultimate question: in a world gone mad, who can really be trusted?
Interweaving past and present, Josh Malerman’s breathtaking debut is a horrific and gripping snapshot of a world unraveled that will have you racing to the final page.
 

BIRD BOX by Josh Malerman proves how important having a good cover is. I choose to read his book by the look of his grungy, but simple, cover.

I’ll be honest, I didn’t know the author was before this book came out but when I began reading it, I couldn’t put it down and added him to one of my favorite authors.

This is the kind of horror I love.

The story unfolds in a slow, peeling of details-none of which give away too much-until you find yourself sliding blindly into dread inducing scenes. Reading this story I was brought back to my childhood around the age of five or six. The moment of heart-racing fear as I stood, peering into the darkness of my room. I knew my room back and forth in the light. In the dark, it became strange and unusual with shadows forming creatures the moonlight would animate until I was convinced … there were creatures all around me of supernatural origin.

“The children were asleep under chicken wire draped in black cloth down the hall. Maybe they heard her moments ago on her knees in the yard. Whatever noise she made must have traveled through the microphones, then the amplifiers that sat beside their beds.”

This scene from the first page, is creepy and curious on its own but then …

“The walls are dirty. Dirt from the feet and hands of the children. But older stains, too. The bottom of the walls in the hall is discolored, profound purples have dulled to browns over time. These are blood.”

Malerman knows how to tease your curiosity and lead it down a rabbit hole. I had no idea what to expect next until I turned the page. Was it supernatural? Was it a person? Why were the kids in cages?

The level of story telling from cover to cover reminded me of Hitchcock with his blend of every day normal, mixed with a profound “strange”. When it was all said and done, I sat in silent reflection before I could put together my thoughts. I saw everything in my mind, and yet, there was enough left to imagination for it to plant a seed and grow.

In this world, everyone is blindfolded in some way. According to a “Russian Report” people have turned on one another in unexplained acts of violence. A very reminiscent plot to THE HAPPENING, except now we’re adding the variable of being in a world with these crazy events without one of your most used senses … your eyesight. Navigating a home or a small enclosed backyard is difficult enough. Being completely blindfolded as you try to navigate yourself and two small children past the familiarity of your home into a boat … is terrifying. Marry the thought of protecting your children with the thought of being unable to see what direction danger will come from, and you have the perfect scary story.

What I loved the most about the book is feeling the suffocating anxiety each of the characters experienced as if I was there with them … I felt as if I was blindfolded, too, even though I was reading the words with my own eyes. As a mother, I empathized with Malorie whose love for her children forced her to make choices she never might have made in a “normal” world. Raising children is hard. Danger lurks everywhere. They could be kidnapped, hurt, or worse. Removing the ability to see danger, perhaps avoiding it, would probably be my worst fear.

This being my first review on my blog, it was a no-brainer. I know and work with a lot of authors. It was no easy choice for me. Each voice has its own talent. I narrowed it down by choosing to begin my book reviews with an author I don’t work with on a daily basis.

As my luck turned out, I got to work with Josh Malerman on the anthology, PRIMOGEN: ORIGIN OF MONSTERS where you can find his short story, BASIC SHADE, along with original artwork by Greg Chapman.  I strongly urge you to read his work. His mind is a long, dark tunnel into strange and wonderful things.

ABOUT JOSH MALERMAN
Josh Malerman is an American author and also one of two singer/songwriters for the rock band The High Strung, whose song “The Luck You Got” can be heard as the theme song to the Showtime show “Shameless.” His book Bird Box is also currently being filmed as a feature film starring Sandra Bullock, John Malkovich, and Sarah Paulson. Bird Box was also nominated for the Stoker Award, the Shirley Jackson Award, and the James Herbert Award. His books Black Mad Wheel and Goblin have also been nominated for Stoker Awards.

 

To have your book reviewed please visit:
http://www.unsaintlybook.wordpress.com/reviews

 

NEW RELEASE from Author Sylvia Stein!

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Sylvia Stein is a published author with several anthologies with her Writer’s group 750 on LinkedIn. Stein obtained a Master’s Degree in Creative Writing and English from Southern New Hampshire University this past July 2015.   She is a mother of three beautiful children Paul 10, Michael 9 and Consuelo 6.   She resides in the city of Fuquay Varina with her amazing husband Jeremy.  Stein has also published two solo books one was her first novella Closure which she worked on while attending SNHU and published in July of 2014 and the other her first YA Chasing Clarity was published this past October 2015 and it was created during National Novel Month (Nano) in 2013.    Her latest book is entitled, The Diary of a Broken Father which came Out in February 2017.     Her new thriller which she has been working on since 2014 will be out Late 2018 and is entitled, Battered Mind.

Synopsis:

Sadie Martin Carlyle is on trial for the murder of her husband Dante Caryle. She claims she killed him in self defense and that he was a monster. She was a battered woman and if she had not defended herself he would of killed both their young daughter and her.  In short, She feared for their lives.

However, there is more to this case than meets the eye. Sadie Martin is not your typical woman. Her family consists of her Criminal lawyer father Jackson Martin from Atlanta and her mother Barbara Reece Martin is one of the main leaders of the Southern Belles of Atlanta.

From the very start, there are secrets that are hidden that no one will see coming. Sadie’s story will take the reader through a very emotional journey throughout. Once the case begins, everything you think you know about what happened between Sadie and Dante Carlyle will have you asking many questions and is everything being said the truth?

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From the Author

Hello my name is Sylvia Stein and I am an Indie Author.   I have exciting news.  This week I am doing the cover reveal of my book which I hope will be released in late 2018.    I have been working with this book for awhile.  It is a story I have been doing extensive research one and because of the topic I am covering I want to be sure I do it justice.  It is a work of fiction and for today I will be revealing the book cover which was designed by the very talented and amazing Michael Dangremond  and his title of his art work the cost of love.   When I saw this portrait I immediately saw what I was looking for for my main character of Sadie Martin Carlyle.   The title of this my first thriller is Battered Mind and I hope you all enjoy the cover reveal.   I absolutely was blown away by it.  I hope you are too!  Thank you for your help in the cover reveal.   I do appreciate it so much.    

 

 

Thank you so much,

Sylvia Stein

GUEST BLOG! Stuart R. Brogan!

thumbnail_Stuart R Brogan - Author PicHorror authors aren’t real authors. Are they?
By Stuart R Brogan

Having spent the last few years concentrating on my non-fiction, Heathen and Pagan works, it was time to take the tentative, yet exciting steps towards writing my debut horror / thriller. Something I had been eager to do for a very long time.

As I sat in front of my computer, staring blankly at the screen, my head full of sinister plots and monstrous acts, it suddenly occurred to me that not everyone would understand the burning need to write something that contained violence, murder and gore. The fact that I hadn’t read any horror since the early nineties had made me somewhat insular, so in effect, I was weaving my words in a vacuum.

As I began the first chapter I was acutely aware that not everyone would enjoy or endorse such a book. But why? Was it down to personal taste, or something deeper, such as social dogma and genre misconceptions? As the doubt began to merge with my own insecurities, I found myself thinking if the anti-horror squad had a valid point. Is writing horror a sub-standard form of literary prowess or is there an art to creating life and death scenarios with heart stopping protagonists, that make some people scared to read the book alone and others to shy away completely?

I have to admit that my curiosity was running wild, so in a blink of an eye, I found myself surfing the net and absorbing forum after forum, searching for the answers.
The first thing that struck me was the number of experts declaring that writing horror was inferior and that any author who partook in such pursuits was nothing more than an amateur, a second-rate pretender who failed to make the grade at writing more intellectual works. Of course, these paragons of literary excellence conveniently negated to mention the likes of Stephen King or Dean R Koontz, and the swathe of other big name authors plying their, very successful, trade within the genre. As I followed the threads, I couldn’t help but be somewhat dismayed by the lack of respect levied at such authors, in fact I started to get a little wound up.

To attempt to answer such questions, we must first rewind the clock.

Regardless of genre, the publishing world has gone through a seismic and radical change since the 90’s. I can vividly recall reading about big advances, multi book deals and reasonably high sales figures, as well as publishing houses willing to take more risks regarding the books they released. Fast forward to modern times and it doesn’t take a genius to see that the big boys are now playing it safe and that it is now even harder to secure a traditional publishing deal, let alone hit the big time with a best seller.

Could this be due to the rise and ease of self-publishing. or is it cyclic in nature? With this in mind, and faced with a sudden influx of availability, it is obvious that the big boys would want to streamline their assets and only back the books that will guarantee big returns. Obviously, movie tie ins are a sure-fire way to get the cash registers ringing, but was there any specific genre that could deliver when others were found floundering and was there some sort of magic formula?

As with everything, the answer was, timing. As we all know, the publishing world goes through phases or crazes, one week it could be adult erotica (such as Fifty Shades) and next month Young Adult (Twilight). As frustrating and soul destroying as it is, the cold stark truth to having a hugely successful novel is all about having the right product, at the right time, regardless of the quality of such material.

So how does this affect those of us that dwell on the fringes of modern literature? The ones creating nightmares and shining the spotlight on mankind’s darkest fears? The answer may very well be subjective but in my humble opinion, the time of the horror novel will once again rear its ugly and demented head, thus becoming a viable and lucrative product for the masses.

Just take the monumental explosion of horror based fictional programs flooding our television screens; they are without a doubt fuelling the public’s appetite for darker material. One only has to look at the popularity of The Walking Dead or American Horror Story to see what I mean. I wonder if those same doom Sayers berating the genre are eating humble pie now, for someone had to write the episodes and get paid big for doing it!

Between the surge in self-publishing and the publics new found craving for terror, not to mention the readily available technology to promote and sell our wares, is it any wonder that there are more and more authors’ not only releasing their material but releasing horror?

Granted, most could be considered subpar and below the level required by the most ardent fan, but the fact that the genre is growing at an exponential rate is both exciting, and encouraging for authors and fans alike. With the scene once again flourishing it is only a matter of time before the big boys once again see the merit in snapping up the hottest new horror authors and show the world that it cannot only be a money maker, but a genre worthy of praise, not ridicule.

When all is said, and done, there will always be authors who specialise in horror, and fans who demand it. Regardless if they are self-published or backed by some corporate monster. From a personal perspective, my journey writing horror has only just begun and to say I am nervous is an understatement.

As I look around at today’s scene, I am blown away by the talent on offer. Back in the 90’s, if you weren’t signed to a big publishing house, no-one would ever have heard about you. Now, everyone can get their name out there, myself included.

I tried the big boys, in the hopes of scoring that elusive multi book deal but was unsuccessful for the most part. I did get one offer but turned it down due to terms. Some may call me foolish but I dance to no-ones tune but my own. Will that be to my detriment? Only time will tell, but for now I am happy to write and to get my work out there to people who enjoy a good story. Extreme, supernatural, contemporary the list of sub-genre choices is endless, as is the quality of the genre as a whole and those who create it.

So then, are horror writer’s real authors?
Damn right we are, and our time is coming.

thumbnail_Jackals - CoverFrom the aftermath of a brutal massacre at a rural police station, two survivors leave behind a swathe of bodies and a cryptic sigil painted on the wall, in blood.

A disgraced Detective Inspector begrudgingly starts to investigate the crime scene but as the facts begin to emerge the trail appears to lead into the highest echelons of power, making the policeman himself the next target.

As the conspiracy spirals ever deeper and with no-one to trust, both prime suspect and policeman are forced into an unlikely alliance to prove, not only their innocence, but the existence of a force so ingrained into our society, it could rewrite the very fabric of human nature.