Friday, November 8, 2019

How to get away with murder in your sleep

I murder a lot of people in my sleep.
Click on through to the other side for murderrrrrr...
Wait, wait, wait... Before you call the police, let me explain. No, I don't sleepwalk and stab snoozily away, nothing like that. Rather, I have a recurring nightmare where I've killed someone (that and the horrifying nightmare where I walk into the world's grossest public restroom barefoot, but that's a dream better left untold).

The odd thing is I never dream the actual killing, nor do I have any idea who my victims are. You'd kinda think those two issues might be important, but no my Id chooses to cut to the Dostoevsky-like chase: waiting for the noose to tighten around my throat as Johnny Law moves in.

What does this say about me as a person? According to the intronets, I have a guilt-ridden mind. Of what? No idea.

I searched my back history for various explanations... Maybe that kid in Kindergarten who I helped to harass because everyone else was? Maybe how I rudely ghosted a woman I dated in college? How about when I used to smoke, I'd toss the butts out on the highway? Or perhaps Karma's getting back at me for cutting in line for a roller-coaster at Worlds of Fun. I don't know...

But these dreams are long, stressful and convoluted. The other night I had my victim all ready to go, trundled up in a plastic trash bag (I assume they were extra, EXTRA strength), and ready to put out on the curb for trash pick-up day. Once the body was picked up and put in the back of the trash truck, I'd be in the clear. However...dogs kept sniffing around the bag. I had to continue shooing them away. Then neighborhood kids kept circling on their bikes, moving in closer, wanting to know what was in the bag ("You kids get outta my yard!"). Then, cop cars started slowly crawling by my house...looking...

How'd it all turn out? Beats me. I ended up at some ridiculous bus station with a miles-long line of people waiting to board the bus, on the lam with my mug plastered on newscasts throughout the terminal.

Much scarier than any horror flick or current political administration.

Apparently, my "guilt-ridden mind" doesn't stop at nightmares, either. Whenever I see a cop, I break out into a cold sweat, start humming some nonsensical tune, hoping the cop will ignore me, view me as an inconsequential, law-abiding citizen. It doesn't matter that I am a law-abiding citizen. It's just one of those things. "Capiophobia" is what my research assistant, Ms. Google, calls this bewildering fear of cops.
Clicky for...um...murder most massagey.
So. I figured that's why I gravitate toward murder mysteries, both writing and reading them. Unlike my nightmares, I can control the destiny and fate of my characters (mwah, hah, hahhhh!), ensuring that justice is served, and that the good guy and/or gal (generally falsely accused) are cleared of any bogus murder raps. It helps to set my day world right, even if there's nothing to be done about my nightmarish night-life.

And like my nightmares, the murders are never gruesomely delineated. It's the aftermath that's important.

Huh. As a kid, I always thought episodes of "Columbo" were boring. Why? Because they always showed from the on-set who the killer was. It became ninety long minutes of watching the killer sweat it out while Columbo ("Just one more thing...") circled the drain. 

I suppose I might like Columbo better now as I can definitely relate with the killers' increasing paranoia.

Sorta like my character, Zach, in the Zach and Zora comical mystery series. Only he's innocent. You see, Zach (a vapid, but big-hearted male entertainment dancer--don't call him a "stripper!"), has an uncanny knack for stumbling across dead bodies, generally becoming blamed as the killer. It's up to his sister sleuth, Zora, to investigate and clear his name, usually with her entourage of four kids in tow. Together they traverse a warped path to the truth, complete with characters straight outta my nightmares: The hippy parents! The singing and dancing detective! Menacing nannies! The paranoid computer geek! Corrupt politicians! Frenzied furries! Rival strippers! Murderous televangelists! The list goes on...

So, take that, guilt-ridden mind! (Freud would be proud.)
Click it like it's hot!

Friday, November 1, 2019

Anthromoporphism Rulz!

It's probably unhealthy to attribute feelings to a discarded sofa.

When I threw out my well-used, crappy sofa at college, I felt sorry for it. It looked so forlorn sitting on top of a dumpster, kind of like an unloved red-headed stepchild. (Yes, I know that's an unfortunate, awful stereotype, but growing up red-headed and oddly different from the rest of my family, it applies). 

I bid my old friend, Sofa, farewell, hoped it'd find a second life elsewhere.

Inanimate objects always get to me. Empathetic to a point, I fall in love with coffee-makers, conduct yelling bouts with toilets, demand that fire alarms quit chirping. My gang. 

Don't even get me started on my best friend, Roomba. She actually talks. Sure, her dialogue is limited to warnings about being recharged or her desire to be moved and restarted, but it's nice to hear her voice. Bonus points in that she cleans the house while I sit and write. Ah, Roomba...  I apologize for stepping on you that one time.

Sigh...

I work at home. Loneliness is next to insanity.

My wife pretty much thinks my preoccupation with anthropomorphism is ludicrous. That may be. But she's never debated a hot dog before either, so she clearly doesn't know what she's missing.

Hey, while we're on the topic of insanity, check out my short story collection, Twisted Tales from Tornado Alley. There are quite a few people lurking within the pages who have more than a few screws loose. 

Friday, October 25, 2019

The Orange Kingdom: A True Fairy Tale

Once upon a time in a kingdom where a very orange ruler, whose skin was the color of oranges, ruled over his subjects through terror, anger, derision, bigotry, and arrogance, a royal court meeting was held.


"Fleeting cabinet member no. #27, why aren't all of my subjects orange," he asked Royal Loyal Acolyte #27. 

"Because, your royal Orangeness, that would require either doling out lots of orange skin lotion or giving every subject free entry to tanning booths. Either--"

The King waved his very orange hands. "Stop right there. Would it cost a lotta money?"

"Um, I'm afraid it would, your Orangeness." Acolyte #27 shuffled his pointy lil' elven shoes.

"Never mind then." The King pouted and puffed out a huge Dorito-like lip. "I've noticed more and more brown subjects coming into our kingdom. What can we do to stop them?"

"I'm afraid that goes against our ruling with other pigmented kingdoms, sir, it would void--"

"You're fired! And you're to blame if the High Council of Grand Wizards should try to swing the blame my way." A thick finger jabbed out. "Next!"

Acolyte #28 stepped in front of the Orange throne. Sweat dropped from his immaculately coifed poof of an orange hair-do. "How may I serve you, your awesome Orangeness?"

"These brownies. They're bad hombres. Muy bad. Really bad marron. What can we do to stop them from entering my kingdom and tainting it with their off-color?"

"Well...we can file a complaint with the Grand Wizard who will--"

"That's enough. I don't like rules." The King's hand went up, the palm whiter than the orange other side. "Let's fire the cannons on the brownies."

Clearly uncomfortable, Acolyte #28 clenched his knees together and stared onto the floor. Through gritted teeth, he said, "I'm sorry, King Orange, but that violates the Grand Wizard's treaty of--"

The King mocked his subject, tossing up wiggling hands. "Bla, blad, duh, duh, doh, whatever. Just make it work. What if we just shoot cannonballs at their legs?"

Stammering like a stuck record, Acolyte #28 prayed silently to his gods before speaking. "We just can't do that, your Orangeness, it defeats the purpose of our--"

"You're fired! Next!"

As they dragged Acoylte #28 off to be beheaded, the next loyal and very, very orange acolyte took his place. "How may I be of service, your Orangeness?"

Lip jutted out, deep in kingly concentration, the King finally responded. "Let's build a huuuuuge moat around my kingdom and fill it full of giant fire-breathing dragons and Medusas and poisonous unicorns and brownie gobbling goblins and retarded people. It's gonna be great. It's gonna be fan...tastic."

Acolyte #29 knew it to be a foolish suicidal mission if he told his Orange king that not only was this a highly illegal and ludicrous idea, but the words he called them were highly offensive . To save his head, the smart orange acolyte said, "Yes, your awesome Orangeness. I'll see to it. Is there anything else I can do?"

The King sat upon his porcelain throne and pondered. Finally, he said, "Yes, I want chocolate milk in all water fountains. In every province, area, and kingdom. Except for the Brownies', of course."

The End.

You're welcome. 

 Horrific, sometime humorous, fairy tales of a different sort, written with lotsa post-Trump anger. Doesn't that sound fun? Click here to show your support!

Friday, October 18, 2019

Dangerous Games People Play by Catherine Cavendish


Okay, gather round ghouls and boils! I've got a tasty treat this week for Halloween from one of my favorite horror authors, Catherine Cavendish! 

Something smells...GAMEY in here. Better roll the DIE! You think the Crypt-Keeper has a MONOPOLY on bad puns? A-hee-hee-hee-hee-heeeeeeeeee...

Here's Cat!
 
In my new story, The Darkest Veil, a group of roommates in 1973, get together to play with a primitive form of Ouija board – with devastating effects. I have had my own experiences with one and, suffice it to say, I now steer well clear.

Whether or not you believe in the supernatural or demonic forces able to cross over into or world, there is little doubt that messing about with these things can lead to psychiatric problems at the very least. The power of suggestion is strong, our upbringing, culture and beliefs can exert an overpowering influence and the results of an apparently innocent bit of fun can have life-changing consequences.

Ouija boards have enjoyed surges in popularity, particularly in times of adversity. The belief that you could communicate with dead loved ones ensured a steep rise in their use during World War I when bereaved parents and families would attend séances where a Ouija board would be used to summon the spirit of their dead loved ones.

But belief in the power of these seemingly innocent pieces of wood, covered by letters, numbers and symbols, isn’t restricted to times of conflict. In November 2014, 35 students from a school on Bolivia ended up hospitalised following a ‘cup game’ – the local term for Ouija. Whether through mass hysteria or some other cause, they exhibited similar symptoms of intense sweating, mental confusion, trance and raised pulse rates. Reports began to come in from a number of South American countries of possession by demonic spirits, mass fainting, headaches and mobility problems.
A girls’ only Catholic boarding school near Mexico City became the scene of an incident involving over five hundred pupils out of a total school population on around 4,000. Psychiatrist, Nashyiela Loa Zavala investigated the cases where symptoms included severe headaches and difficulty in walking. She found it had all started with a student called Maria who had used a Ouija board in order to determine the outcome of a school basketball match. On discovery, the girl was expelled and she was so angry at this, she reportedly cursed the school. It was then that the symptoms began to appear. Dr. Zavala’s investigation turned up strong beliefs in spirits and demons among the girls, along with a conviction that the Ouija board was a powerful means of communicating with demonic spirits. It was also widely believed that Maria’s mother was a witch. 
 
There are a number of different forms of Ouija, in addition to the board and planchette. In The Darkest Veil, the girls use a pack of Lexicon cards to spell out the letters and they handwrite words such as ‘Yes’ and ‘No’.

In 2015, social media was responsible for spreading a variation called ‘Charlie Charlie’. The only equipment needed for this game includes two pieces of paper on which the words ‘yes’ and ‘no’ are written, plus two pencils. One is placed on top of the other. The pieces of paper with the words, ‘yes’ and ‘no’ are placed one to the right and one to the left of the pencils. ‘Closed’ questions (ones to which only the answer ‘yes’ or ‘no’ is required) are posed. When/if the top pencil pivots right or left, this is interpreted as having established contact with the spirit, in the same way as a moving glass or planchette on a traditional Ouija board.
The game proved particularly popular in South America and May 2015 saw four students from Columbia admitted to hospital, screaming and babbling incoherently after playing ‘Charlie Charlie’. In the same month, knowledge of the game had spread across the Caribbean where a wave of symptoms such as fainting, trance and confusion were reported among students in St Lucia, Jamaica, Antigua and Barbuda. The following month, the Dominican Republic saw children at a primary school seemingly possessed ‘by the devil’.
 
Whatever the truth behind the claims and whatever the cause of the symptoms, sheer belief in demonic spirits undoubtedly has a profound effect.

Want to chance your luck? Don’t forget that we all have suppressed memories and influences from childhood – ones our conscious minds would dismiss as fanciful. But the minute you engage with something so steeped in ancient beliefs as a Ouija, is the moment that can trigger your unconscious self and unlock doors of your mind you didn’t even know existed.

Read about it, watch movies about it but take my advice.
Never mess with a Ouija.
We are the Thirteen and we are one

4 Yarborough Drive looked like any other late 19th century English townhouse. Alice Lorrimer feels safe and welcomed there, but soon discovers all is not as it appears to be. One of her housemates flees the house in terror. Another disappears and never returns. Then there are the sounds of a woman wailing, strange shadows and mists, and the appearance of the long-dead Josiah Underwood who founded a coven there many years earlier. The house is infested with his evil, and Alice and her friends are about to discover who the Thirteen really are.

When death's darkest veil draws over you, then shall shadows weep

The Darkest Veil is available from:
About The Author
Following a varied career in sales, advertising and career guidance, Catherine Cavendish is now the full-time author of a number of paranormal, ghostly and Gothic horror novels, novellas and short stories. In addition to The Darkest Veil, Cat’s novels include The Haunting of Henderson Close, the Nemesis of the Gods trilogy - Wrath of the Ancients, Waking the Ancients and Damned by the Ancients, plus The Devil’s Serenade, The Pendle Curse and Saving Grace Devine.

Her novellas include Linden Manor, Cold Revenge, Miss Abigail’s Room, The Demons of Cambian Street, Dark Avenging Angel, The Devil Inside Her, and The Second Wife

She lives by the sea in Southport, England with her long-suffering husband, and a black cat called Serafina who has never forgotten that her species used to be worshipped in ancient Egypt. She sees no reason why that practice should not continue.

You can connect with Cat here:

Friday, October 11, 2019

Energy-Devouring, Soul-Sucking Convenience Store Employee

Demons are everywhere, it's a known fact.


During a recent weekend, my daughter and I desperately needed caffeine.

"Let's go to Casey's," I said. "It's closest."

"No! We can't go there, Dad! We can't! Don't make me!" My daughter looked horrified, wringing her hands in ghastly anticipation.

"Why not?"

"Because, Chelsea will be working there! Ugh! She's the worst!"

I started thinking about it. Just how bad can a convenience store employee be? What, pray tell, could she have possibly done to my daughter to make her react in such a violent manner? Did they get in a tussle over by the mocha machine?

"Whatever, Sarah," I said. "She can't be that bad."

"Noooo! She is! UGH! She's...she's a soul-sucking demon who'll try and start a long and boring conversation with you and keep you there forever! Every time I go in there, she just feeds off my energy and drains me! Chelsea's the worst! UGH!"
Laughing my arse off, I really, really had to go see what a convenience store, soul-sucking, energy-devouring demon looked like. Sadly, Chelsea wasn't working. But my demon-hunting days aren't over until I finally track down the satanic Chelsea. And my daughter still refuses to set foot into the shop even though it could save her a five minute drive to the next caffeine depot.

Demons are everywhere, it seems, even in comedy clubs. Don't believe me? Check out Demon with a Comb-Over (and no, I'm not talking about Donald Trump, although, actually I do kinda wonder if he's a demon, too).


Friday, October 4, 2019

The Sixty Second Rule

What is the "Sixty Second Rule,"  I hear you all collectively asking? As usual with my weekly in-depth reporting where I tear the band-aid off the wound and rip open the truth, I'm going to tell you.

Now, first of all let's not get it confused with the life-essential and scientifically-proven "Five Second Rule," where it's absolutely okay to eat food off the floor as long as it hasn't been there for over five seconds. Everyone knows it takes at least five seconds for germs to crawl onto dropped food, duh. That's why you can find me standing behind patrons at fast food restaurants, waiting to retrieve their discarded treasures.

We're also not talking about the Sixty Second Rule about skin care that suggests...

I digress!

Recently, my twelve-year-old nephew asked me, "Do you know what the Sixty Second Rule is?"

I shook my head.

"Well, in school," he explained, "there's a no fighting policy. So, you know, people still wanna do it. And there's a rule that if someone's got a problem with you and call you out, you gotta meet them under the Sixty Second Rule."

"I still don't get it," I said.

"A place and time is set up to fight for sixty seconds, so no one gets hurt. And you have to do it. Otherwise, everyone's gonna think you're a..." He hesitated, looked at me warily. Finally, said, "...a sissy."

I knew twelve-year-old boys don't use the word "sissy." I helped him out, "funcle" that I am, and let him off the hook. "Ahhh...you mean, a pussy," I said with great wisdom and authority.

He smiled, nodded. "Yeah. But..." Shrug.  "...I didn't wanna say it."
The rules were further elaborated upon. Someone uses their phone as a timer, calls the time, then a winner is unanimously declared, victory by mob-rule. After the minute long battle, everyone goes back to class, no one ratting.

I asked him if anyone ever gets hurt.

"Not really." Another shrug. "Well, a black eye sometimes, but that's about it. They just say they fell."

I was alternately amazed and appalled.

I mean, here's a mini-society of children taking the incivility of fighting, and somehow turning it into something nearly civil! Their own rules, their own bylaws, and everyone must abide by them. Twelve year old justice! Lord of the Flies rulz!

The future is here! Soylent Green is people!
On the other hand, a lotta damage can happen in a minute. Unlike those liars in Hollywood, most fights that I've witnessed (or been the unfortunate participant in) last only seconds with someone usually getting laid out mercifully fast (that was always my part to play). Also, unlike Hollywood, when you hit someone? It never, ever, ever sounds like: "SPAK!"

My wise beyond his years nephew said he'd not been called out yet, but wouldn't that be awful, waiting for that inevitable day to come? If you looked at somebody wrong? Or smiled at a someone's girlfriend or something? To always have that Sixty Second Rule hanging over your head?

And, don't you just know that the kid who keeps winning is gonna start abusing that power and calling out kids because he doesn't like their shirt or something?

Then again, I look back at my school days, and kinda wish we'd had that civilized incivility. That way, I could be assured of a less than a minute beating and then, poof, I'm done.

Speaking of beatings, my protagonist in my new lycanthrope thriller, Corporate Wolf, takes quite a few, both literally and metaphorically. He's a werewolf. Maybe a killer. He's bullied by coworkers. Hounded by his boss and the (in)human resource department. Women confuse him. And he doesn't understand what exactly is going on at his hell-on-earth mega-corporation. The answers await you just one clickety-click away!

Friday, September 27, 2019

Funeral for a Caterpillar...

Scraping the paint off my daughter's house in the blistering heat is an unfortunate ring of Hell that I've been consigned to. But I accept my penance for my sins and make the best of it. I guess.
A couple weeks ago, we're toiling on the back-side of the house and my daughter starts freaking out.

"Dad! Dad, c'mere! You gotta see this!"

Sweating my arse off ten feet off the ground, I really didn't think it merited a dangerous trip down the ladder.

But she was insistent. "Seriously, c'mere!"

"What is it?"

"It's the biggest caterpillar I've ever seen!" I could see it from the ladder; neon green, beautiful, and huge indeed.

"Wow," I said.

"Hang on, I'm gonna get my phone and take a picture!" She runs in the house, comes back out, and her bratty beagle rolled over on the caterpillar. "Nooooo," shouted my daughter. Yep. "Fuzzy Lumpkins (as he became known)" had joined me in the afterlife.

My daughter was distraught. "Stupid, beer-stealing, murderous dog," she groused. "These dogs have no concept of space or their surroundings, just destroy everything. Poor caterpillar."

"Should we bury it?" I asked, not really wanting to.

"We have to do something with it. We can't leave Fuzzy to be eaten by my dumb dogs."

Baron, the murderous beagle, licked his chops in anticipation.

So, during the inglorious funeral (Fuzzy was buried in a plastic bag and put in the trash in which I had to take care of because my daughter played this card: "You do it. You're the guy." Every other time, of course, she believes women to be superior to men.), I shared my own childhood caterpillar trauma.

"You know, when I was a kid, I saw a caterpillar in my family's living room. Squicked out--but not wanting to harm it--I got a napkin and tried to pick him up to put him outside. But I accidentally squished him. I had a good cry over the unfairness of it all."

Which reminded me of what a Methodist preacher said in my parents church one time. He made fun of Richard Gere for putting a bug outside and mocked his Buddhist beliefs. Furthermore, he went on to preach, "Everyone knows bugs don't have souls."

Well. No, everyone doesn't know that bugs don't have souls. I'm not saying bugs do or don't have souls...just no one truly knows. Now, I hear the devout among you saying, "But, Stuart, that's what faith is all about." And that's fine. I think believing in something is good for people. Yet, the definition of "faith" is "a strong belief in God based on spiritual apprehension rather than proof." So, there it is. No...one...knows...if...bugs...have...souls.

So, take that, Mr. High and Mighty Methodist Preacher man who looked like Boris Karloff and scared the crap outta me with all his hell and brimstone talk. Kinda the reason I fell out of love with organized religion. That and the hypocrisy of one religion talking smack about another one. C'mon, do you think Jesus would approve of hating on Buddhists? Or any religion for that matter?

So, yes, we'd like to think Fuzzy Lumpkins is now in a better place, with his little soul freed from the shackles of my daughter's hideously hot back yard. Keep this in mind this the next time you stomp out a bug (flies are exempt, though, because when my time comes up, I could be in trouble for being a fly serial killer).

Speaking of strange and creepy bugs, there's more than a few of them lurking with the pages of my horror collection, Twisted Tales from Tornado Alley, available just one lil click away! You've been warned.