Years of hard work preceded her entry to the Oval Office. She attended the right prep schools and right colleges. She made sure to make all the right contacts, ingratiating herself into the right circles. But all those rights hadn’t been enough.
In the end, she’d needed her mother.
And now it was time to repay that debt.
There are no roads, tunnels, or bridges linking Earth to Beyond. Ships, airplanes, or rockets can’t transport us there. The only passage is through the Emerald Portal, the gateway between our two worlds. And the only one who can grant access to the portal is the queen of Beyond—my boyfriend’s mom.
My name is Cordelia Hammer and I’m a demon. Not the human, teen variety, but an actual supernatural. My father is the demon sovereign of Paris. Each city has its own council made up of royal representatives who oversee the supernatural activity of their kind within their jurisdiction. Currently, I’m apprenticing for King Sebastian, the demon sovereign of London.
As I wondered what Jagger was talking about, digesting his words — Mother insists that the new fae princess must be born at the palace — a green mist appeared in the corner of the bedroom of the Seattle hotel suite where Jagger and I were staying.
“I suggest we both throw on some clothes,” Jagger muttered, picking up his black jeans from the floor. “It would be unfortunate to appear in front of my mother in our birthday suits.”
“Hurry up, Cordelia. We only have a few minutes before we get sucked into that portal.”
“Is that the Emerald Portal?” I looked at it in awe as the mist morphed into a tunnel. I took a step toward it to peek inside.
“No!” Jagger pulled me back. “Get dressed, please.”
“Into what?” I had no idea what the weather was like in Beyond or whether an audience with the queen of Beyond required formal attire. Jagger had thrown on his favorite black jeans and white T-shirt, his black motorcycle jacket in hand.
“Anything,” he said. “Something comfortable. And make sure it’s very warm as it’s always cold in Beyond—freezing, in fact. I’ll call GRIP in the meantime to let them know that I won’t be in today.”
GRIP—the Global Retrieval and Intelligence Program—that’s where Jagger worked. GRIP had been founded following the attacks on the international supernatural communities during Code Uprising to monitor and curtail any subversive activity. It had become the authoritative supernatural agency regulating the global communities. Well, except for the subterranean troll population who seemed to be completely unregulated. Jagger was part of the GRIP Tactical Combat Force. I was pretty sure that they wouldn’t be happy with him taking a day off right in the middle of the most critical time in modern supernatural history, with a noncompliant supernatural moving into the White House. Plus, just days ago, we’d captured Katerina Miller—the monster responsible for the last spate of global massacres—and were waiting to question her.
About the Author:
Imogen Rose is the author of the bestselling series, the Portal Chronicles, which has attained cult status within indie literature and become a favorite among teens and adults alike.
An immunologist by profession, Dr. Rose published her first work of fiction in 2010. She now writes full time and is currently working on her second teen series, the Bonfire Chronicles.
Imogen was born in Sweden and has lived in several places, counting London among her favorites. She moved to New Jersey in 2001. A self-confessed Hermès addict, Imogen enjoys shopping, traveling, watching movies, and hanging out with her family, friends, and Chihuahua.
A remote summer camp becomes a lurid crime scene when the bodies of two teenagers are found in a bloody, real-life rendering of a classic Grimm’s fairy tale. Trapped in the wilderness, the remaining counsellors must follow a trail of dark children’s fables in order to outwit a psychopath and save the dwindling survivors before falling prey to their own gruesome endings.
Drawing on the grisly, uncensored details of history’s most famous fairy tales, Grimm Woods is a heart-pounding thriller about a deranged killer who uses traditional children’s stories as tropes in elaborate murders. Set against the backdrop of modern-day Michigan, it’s a journey through the mind of a dangerous zealot and a shocking glimpse into the bedtime stories you thought you knew.
July 7th, 5:44 a.m.
One hacksaw. One hammer, six boxes of nails. Twelve Mason jars, four hunting knives, two pairs of handcuffs. Fifteen gallons of gasoline divided evenly among three dented jerry cans.
A work glove hovered over the table where the objects were laid out side by side and began ticking the air as though marking off an invisible checklist. The chamber reeked of mildew, and the walls had no windows or electrical sockets—no lamps, no wires, no switch covers. A single red candle provided the only light, its crimson wax dripping down its shaft like blood.
The hand picked up a piece of paper from the table and slipped it into a blank envelope. Below, a beetle scuttled across the floorboards. The insect—its gangly antennaetuned to some foul frequency in the gloom—raced past the sole of a giant boot just as a drop of liquid fell through the air and struck it dead center, engulfing its body in a hot, gelatinous blob that filled its orifices and burned it from the inside out. Another droplet tumbled from the candle, plopping onto the envelope this time, and then a brass stamp came down and pressed the wax into a hardened seal.
Drawing in heavier, raspier breaths, the figure held the envelope up to a corkboard that was bolted to the wall. More than a dozen pictures of young men and women were tacked to the panel by their throats and foreheads, smiling in the shadows.
The figure pinned the envelope to the board and stepped back to take in the room again.
The table and the switchblade.
The book of matches.
The iron rods, the hatchet, the .22 Smith & Wesson.
The smiling faces.
Now, the figure mused, watching the photographs flicker in the bloodred light. Who’s the nicest, who’s the worst, who wants to hear a story first?
D. Melhoff was born in a prairie ghost town that few people have heard of and even fewer have visited. While most of his stories are for adults, he also enjoys terrifying younger audiences from time to time, as seen in his series of twisted picture books for children. He credits King, Poe, Hitchcock, Harris, Stoker, and his second grade school teacher, Mrs. Lake, for turning him to horror. For more information, visit grimmwoods.com.
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As cute as those little buggers are when they are soft, fuzzy Mogwai, they are delightfully evil as Gremlins. They wreak havoc during Christmas when a boy inadvertently breaks three important rules about getting his new pet wet. This is a family favorite and if you’ve never seen it, now it is the season.
A slasher flick that brings us all back to the 80s, this film is perfect for fans of serial killer movies. It’s the story of an escaped maniac who returns to his childhood home on Christmas Eve, which is now a sorority house, and begins to murder the sorority sisters one by one. There is lots of blood and gore, watch this one with the lights low after the kids are in bed.
When Blood Reigns
Publication date: December 5th 2016
Genres: Adult, Horror, Science Fiction
Marked for death, Alexis accompanies her lover, Yeron, and four survivors of a zombie invasion on a search for the renegades who created a chemical that induces a zombie-like state. On the way, ravenous flesh-eaters attack Alexis’s team; one survivor turns on her. She realizes too late that the renegades have been tracking her every move. When officials capture her, she becomes deathly ill. Can DNA splicing save her? Will Yeron’s attempts at rescue jeopardize all their lives?
Teodon pointed toward Laurel and held a finger to his lip.
“Do not speak out loud. I will understand the answers you think.”
Okay, Yeron’s badly hurt and so am I. I can’t move him without making his injuries worse.
“All right, then I will levitate him. I know how and I will not see him die. Go ahead of us and lead me to Quyeba’s laboratory. You must forget your injuries and pain. It may seem impossible, but Yeron needs your help. I cannot carry two injured people safely, and if you stay, Laurel will come after you again.”
I understand. Alexis struggled onto her hands and knees.
Harsh chewing and slurping sounds issued from Laurel. Despite the pain wracking her body, Alexis crawled toward the door.
She had to find her way back to the lab. Yeron was moaning, and his cries were growing weaker. Teodon lifted him. He depended on her to lead the way. Any second, Laurel would tire of Woehar and come after her.
Never mind the pain. Find help.
Gritting her teeth, Alexis began her Bataan Death Crawl. Her incisions telegraphed bolts of stabbing pain with each movement. It doesn’t matter; Yeron’s life is on the line. She mind-opened the panel and led Yeron and Teodon through the exit.
Once in the hallway, Teodon hesitated.
“Left or right?”
Woehar had made a sharp right to enter the killing field, Alexis remembered. Left.
She edged along the long stretch of hall. The throbbing from her incision and back brought to mind the pain she’d felt from the rheumatoid arthritis during her job as a respiratory therapist. Her chest tightened at the prospect of navigating that long corridor the way it used to when she faced a heavy shift. No painkillers were forthcoming. She kept going.
It was simple. Woehar had guided right from the laboratory, and then a long stretch of hallway, past two sets of doors, before making her right into the death camp. So Alexis retraced Woehar’s steps and looked for steel doors on her left leading to the lab. Adrenaline would carry her. She’d once read a tale about a mother whose adrenaline rush allowed her to lift a car off her child’s injured body.
Agony bled into her incision with every shift of her knees. The pain was worse in her lower back, where Laurel had kicked her. Sweat rolled down her forehead, dripping on the grid floor. She was leaving bloody handprints and a ribbon of blood. None of that mattered. She strained her ears, listening for familiar voices.
Seconds later, she did hear Quyeba and Zoltar. A few paces further, ungodly spasms tore through her back. The black dots returned. She called for help. She last saw Teodon kneel over Yeron, placing something on his wounded shoulder. Behind them, Laurel emerged from the corridor, growling, her mouth opened wide. The dots swelled and the screams died in Alexis’s throat as the darkness took her.
Barbara lives near Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, where she works full time as a respiratory therapist. When she’s not working with her patients, she’s enjoying a fright flick or working on horror and science fiction tales. She’s published Night to Dawn magazine since 2004.
Other books by Barbara include Twilight Healer, City of Brotherly Death, Infinite Sight, and Steel Rose; also novellas Close Liaisons and Life Raft: Earth. She enjoys bringing her medical background to the printed page, and then blending it with supernatural horror. She maintains a presence on Facebook, Linkedin, Twitter, and The Writers Coffeehouse forum. Look for the photos with the Mylar balloons, and you’ll find her.
Faith Savage Demon Huntress Book Eight
Genre: Erotic Paranormal, Erotic Horror
Publisher: Mojocastle Press
Number of pages: 76
The world is in chaos. School shootings, war, terrorism, the list goes on. But what if you could do something about it?
When angelic intervention meets demonic rage, Faith Savage finds herself caught in the middle. Talk about tough decisions.
The Message is a Matter of Interpretation — Belief is in the Hands of Faith
There are those who say that mankind’s demise has long been written. That the wind knew our story long before the fire kindled the passing of time’s stark flame. Some even say that in Heaven’s dark days, God and the devil had a multitude of conversations. In God’s omnipotence, they struck a deal, prearranged the blame.
Others will attest that free will brought about mankind’s damnation. Impurity begot the rule of darkness.
Greed and pride wrought the bloodshed. Wars and famine fueled mankind’s annihilation. Sloth and gluttony procured the plagues. They assert, mankind had transcended, manifested into sin-filled sheep – that they’d become demon vessels – blackened souls corrupt and stained.
But, every culture bears a history. Generations spread the story: Only the chosen will find redemption. For the unrepentant – the message plain.
My name is Faith Savage. I am a child of God and a hunter of demons. I am a sinner and a warrior doing God’s bidding. With each night’s passing, I stand against the darkness and the devil’s minions, searching for my own message, my own light within this plague; praying that even I don’t lose my way.
“And when the third seal is broken,’ Jason continued, preaching to a choir whose interest was now somewhat piqued, “the balancer rides in the night. He is the black horseman – the darkness; the bringer of the ends of time.”
“In for a penny,” I added.
“The end of a pound,” he replied. “I speak of drought, Faith. And you and I both know that drought is everywhere. Its destructive force spreading and its oppressive hands are burrowing a dry, dark stain across the land, hungering for just one believer. But the fields are empty and the livestock barren. This is a world in crisis, Faith. Drought and hunger and famine are everywhere. California, Nevada – barren.”
“Do not delude yourself. The Four Horseman ride, Faith. Death is all around us. Open your eyes and see, Faith Savage. But more importantly, open your heart. The time is at hand. The proof is everywhere; on every media channel, every cyber outlet you can link into. War is on every continent. Famine. Plagues. I ask you, what more proof do you need?”
“Yes, Faith Savage,” came the thick, rumble of my name, uttered as if God had dropped a ball of thunder off a cliff and waited for the shards of lightning to follow its decent into the sea. “What more proof do you need?”
I turned at the sound, dumbstruck once again by the cool, aloof demeanor of this lethal giant in eighties rocker casual. My heart stuttered while I took in the hands stuffed in the front pockets of jeans so faded out there were holes worn in them. Glancing down, I noted the shoes; white leather Capezios. Today’s T-shirt of choice was once again black, a white stallion blazing across a fiery roadway. Its rider was armored, the cross of God on his breast plate, a demon impaled upon a pike, pike raised to the heavens. The script across the bottom of it read, I’ll Take You to Hell. Gabriel, in all his ironies, stood before me and I was struck with the urge to laugh, to cower and to tremble, simultaneously.
His scent engulfed me in the warm, rich rush of cinnamon, wind, earth and haloed man. The sight of all that caged power in six feet six inches of man-angel standing before me with the breeze that ruffled his auburn hair, twisted my gut with dread. Worry, fear and then uncertainty followed quickly as the frenzied course of my thoughts slammed into me all at same time. I blinked and then blinked again. I took a shaky breath and considered the moment. Considered his question. What more proof did I need? The answer? Plenty.
K. A. M’Lady lives in the ‘burbs of Chicago with her husband and three children. She’s been lost in the world of fiction since she was a small child, and frankly, never wants to be found—at least not any time soon. “Myth and magic builds dreams and inspirations – and in an insane world, it is our dreams that spark the revolution of change. No matter which world is being conquered. Within our dreams – all things are possible.”
Desperate, costumed homeless kids or the blood drinking undead that have survived in legend for thousands of years? At the End of Church Street takes you to the forgotten that huddle in an abandoned theatre in the shadows of a tourist wonderland.
The Vampires of Orlando. Discarded and starving, Rebecca joins her new family and is reborn. As a Goth, she soon revels in the lifestyle of ‘no rules’. Love whoever you want. Seek whatever high you wish. Live forever young. Every night is an adventure-hunting down tourists, challenging the local police, screaming to the world vampires really exist. They finally get the television coverage they crave to ensure the respect they’ve been denied. It’s Neverland.
…Until the first murder.
There’s someone else hiding in the darkness. Goth kids are found beheaded with wooden stakes pounded through their chests. The hunters have become the hunted. As the bodies pile up, Rebecca and the Family are forced to ask ‘Who do you turn to, who can you trust, when the only person who believes you’re an actual vampire is a vampire killer?’ This is not your father’s Nosferatu. This is not teen romance disguised as horror with prom date vampires. Welcome to a world you already know. Welcome to the world at the end of Church Street.
About the Author:
Gregory L Hall has a long history in comedy, theatre and improv. He is a national Telly Award winner and creator of the Baltimore Comedy Fest, which supported Autism Awareness. Many fans know Greg best as the host/producer of the popular live radio show The Funky Werepig.
As a writer his work has appeared over the decade in various publications, anthologies and a short story collection. His novels rarely stick to one genre, ranging from comedy and romance to intense thrillers and horror. His biggest claim to fame is he was once hugged by Pat Morita, Mr. Miyagi of The Karate Kid. We should pause an extra moment to realize how awesome that is.
Andrew Buckley, Brynn Chapman, Caroline Patti, Hair in All the Wrong Places, Into the Dark, London Midnight Ghost Show, Lucas Mackenzie, McGrave's Hotel, Middle Grade, Minotaur, Month9Books, Phillip Simpson, Steve Bryant, The Requiem Red, Two and Twenty Dark Tales, Ty Drago, Undertakers Series, Very Superstitious, Young Adult
3 Winners will receive an eBook pack of all the books featured, International.
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Shirley Anne Edwards
Publication date: October 23rd 2016
Genres: Horror, Young Adult
The quaint village where Adela Jane lives is surrounded by fear. At night, a centuries old green mist covers the land and controls the animals within the forest. Lately, Adela feels someone or something is following her every move. Unbeknownst to her, the mist waits for the perfect moment to make her his. Adela feels trapped by her small town life and burdened by her love she keeps hidden for her best friend’s older brother, Nathan Alexander. But all that changes on her eighteenth birthday when Nathan admits his love and desire to marry her. Adela’s joy is cut short when the mist kidnaps her and takes her to his secret underground lair. Her nightmare has only just begun when the mist makes Adela his bride.
What of the Jabberwocky fell in love with Alice from Lewis Caroll’s Through the Looking Glass? That’s the question tackled in The Reaping. A Young Adult with an atmospheric Gothic feel, and elements from such classic novels, as Gaston Leroux’s Phantom of the Opera and John Fowles’ The Collector.
I lay curled in a ball on the side of the pool as I woke from an apparent slumber. After taking some deep breaths and pushing my hair away from my face, I stood, cringing when my right calf cramped along with my stiff neck and arms. Limping over to a chair, I sat, doubled over, wishing the pain to stop. The clock on the wall pointed to the number six. Three hours had passed?
The urge to use the privy became very important. I prowled the large room, searching for such a place. But I couldn’t locate one and limped back up the stairs to the bedroom, hoping to find one there.
I found an empty room in a corner next to the crate full of beautiful clothes. Inside, a porcelain bucket lay in the corner. After I finished, I then sat on the bed. More questions ran through my head.
Who would empty the bowl of waste and why was the table set with all that food? Where did all these things come from?
I laid my head on my knees while despair and anguish coursed through my entire body. Tears fell from my eyes and landed on my lips and chin.
If only Nathan Alexander was here to hold me and tell me everything would be all right.
But he wasn’t here, and it was my fault. Why didn’t I let him come with me to close my house?
My eyes closed as I remember our kisses near the lake and how wonderful it felt to be in his arms, where his whispered words of love and promises made me feel safe and protected….
The wind let out a muffled howl, and the slight dank smell rising from the stone floor met my nose. Goose bumps rose on my arms as I stood and paced the room. The place near the bed where I had been sick had dried, but it still smelled awful. Considering my current mood, it would remain a soiled stain.
Stomping down the stairs, I crumpled in a chair. Loneliness and fright crept up until I wanted to hide in a corner and rock and cry. My nose dripped, and tears trickled down my cheeks. Then something very strange happened. The owl clock let out a ding, and the howling wind stopped.
From one of the other tunnels leading to the unknown, a green haze poured out and made its way down the cavern stairs. Panicked, I jumped out of the chair and rushed back up the stairs to the bedroom. This stream of murk followed behind as I dashed to the crate to hide behind it.
The mist slinked across the room and stopped in the center, drifting back and forth, not coming any closer to where I stood. It had transformed into a strange, whirling circle. But it didn’t flood the entire room, remaining in that shaky sphere that turned toward the unmade bed and then back to me.
Trembling, I held back a whimper when the mist floated over the bed and toward me. Backing up toward the crate, I closed my eyes and prayed as a cold burst of air met my skin.
A voice spoke in my head.
“Why do you hide?”
My eyes opened, and I hit the wall. The mist floated right near my face as if to study me. The voice spoke again. This time it sounded deeper and hushed.
“Do not be afraid. Why are you frightened?”
It finally dawned on me—the strange and hollow-sounding voice came from the mist itself.
The mist turned away and hovered near the corner where the privy bowl sat. While its attention was diverted, I ran out and down the stairs to hide in one of the dark caverns. Nearing the two stone dog statues, the mist blocked my path. With a startled yelp, I backed away toward the long table. It followed, and I darted around until the table separated us. Again, it molded itself into a ghostlier form and watched me.
One of its phantom limbs reached out and picked up the pitcher from the table. It floated in the air as the mist poured red liquid in a clear wine glass. It then grabbed a few slices of bread and fruit and placed them on a plate. I watched, captivated, uncertain what it would do next. There was no other place to run except back up the stairs or through the waterfall.
“Sit,” it said in a gentle whisper in my mind.
I shook my head.
It stared at me with those nonexistent eyes and pulled out a chair, letting the wood scrape on the rock floor.
“Sit here.” Its deadly tone frightened me, and I backed away.
The mist rocked back and forth for several seconds.
“You will sit. If not….” The unspoken words tore through me as the mist glided over. Repulsed by the thought of it touching any part of my body, I scurried to a chair and sat down.
It backed away, but not before it drifted next to my head and lifted a piece of my tangled hair. I clenched my fists in my lap and waited for it to release it. A moan echoed in my head, and my hair fell down my back. It then pulled out a chair and floated over it.
The cramp in my leg came back, and I winced, trying to rub the ache away. But I feared making any quick movements.
“Are you in pain?” it asked in a concerned voice.
I stared ahead, refusing to respond.
It waited a few beats for an answer and let out a sigh when I didn’t. The mist settled in the chair, which should have been funny, but, under the present circumstances, I found no humor in it. It pushed the plate full of food toward me, including the glass. “Eat.”
I viewed the plate and then back at the mist.
“Um. I….” I had no idea what to say.
The mist wavered, unable to stay still. Even though it didn’t have eyes, it stared at me. I shifted in my seat, clasping my hands tightly on my lap.
It exhaled, picking up a piece of dark-brown bread and holding it up in the air. It moved the bread in a circle.
“You will eat, or I will make you,” it said in a blunt, do-not-even-think-of-disobeying-me type of voice.
I had run out of options. Instead of taking the piece of bread it offered, I picked up a few grapes, some cubes of cheese, and chewed small morsels slowly, blinking away tears.
The mist remained silent. My mouth trembled as I continued chewing. After I swallowed, my confidence grew, but before I could say a word, it moved behind my chair and off to the side. A squeal left my mouth when music filled the room. I dropped whatever was in my hands and placed them over my mouth and closed my eyes, sitting motionless until my heartbeat returned to normal.
Its presence hovered near. Hearing the clatter of a dish, I opened my eyes to see my plate gone. My untouched glass remained.
Sick of being ordered around, I slapped the arm of the chair.
“Eat, drink. What does it matter to you, or whatever you are, whether I eat or drink? What right do you have to bring me here? I want to go home!” I fumed, not caring if the mist became enraged.
“Can’t,” it said in a harsh whisper.
“Why?” I longed to pour my glass full of liquid over this wretched thing causing me such anguish.
The mist turned toward me. “Because I love you.”
Shirley Anne Edwards is a Northeast girl who first found her love for books when she read Nancy Drew’s The Secret of the Old Clock Tower at thirteen. Shirley found her love for writing at a very young age, and since then has let her imagination run wild by creating quirky characters and vast worlds in her head.
Shirley lives in New Jersey and works in the entertainment industry in New York City.
In the immortal words of Mark Twain: “Life is short, Break the Rules. Forgive quickly, Kiss SLOWLY. Love truly. Laugh uncontrollably and never regret ANYTHING That makes you smile.”
Coolant by Kenneth Brown
Genre: Horror/Lovecraftian Horror
Publisher: Gorillas With Scissors Press
Reeling from the recent struggles in his professional and family life, Ian Marshall attempts to bring things around. He has a new job, new home, and an outlook for a better future.
But after discovering a box filled with the belongings of a stranger, Ian’s world begins to spiral out of control. Nightmares and reality collide into a twisted amalgam that threatens to encompass Ian.
Before long all that’s left for him is the strange project he is determined to complete, no matter the cost.
“Eli? Was that the guy who quit?” Ian asked being led further back into the workshop. The two entered a hallway and turned into a locker room.
Barry turned to Ian. “What did you just say?”
“Eli. That’s the guy who quit, right?”
The eyes on Ian’s coworker grew wide and his jaw dropped. “No one told you?”
Inside the locker room the noise of the machines and yelling of the workers were drowned out. Ian turned to the older man, the question still fresh in his mind. “Told me what?”
Releasing a groan, Barry leaned against one of the old green lockers that had occupied the workshop locker room longer than most of the employees.
“Steve didn’t tell you?”
Ian shook his head.
“God dammit. No, Eli didn’t just quit—the cops had to drag him out of here.”
“Did he get into a fight with someone?” Ian imagined a blank-faced man in a uniform slinging punches with another foul-mouthed machinist. A smile appeared as he thought about Tony taking a hard right hook.
“Nah,” Barry answered shaking his head. “Damn fool lost it. After eight years here he finally lost his mind.”
“What do you mean? Was he on drugs? Drinking?”
Barry shrugged his shoulders. “Beats the hell out of me. He came in, started ranting, and gave me two to the gut and one to the face. Then he took a swing with a torque wrench at Lutz. Broke the fucker’s jaw and kept him out for weeks. Eli just kept on ranting and screaming. They had to empty out the workshop and call the cops in to come and drag him out.”
“I guess his loss is my gain,” Ian answered with a labored chuckle. He hoped he had not offended the man about the termination of a longtime peer.
“Ah, screw it. Never liked the guy to begin with. He never drank or smoked. I think there was one time we got him to go to the titty bar with us. The son of a bitch acted like we were wasting his time.” Barry moved away from the lockers, eager to hightail it out of the shop and away from Ian.
“You’ll be working ‘til four in the morning. Boss-man wants you on overtime, taking in special orders and touching up parts. Around midnight, the last second-shifter’s will be out of here and it’ll be just you late-night boys—you, Reggie, Mark, and Tony.”
“No, same jackass who’s out there now.” Barry laughed. “Like I said, give it some time and you guys will be fine. He’s just pissed he had to come in and take care of some project he’s working on.”
“I hope so.”
“Anyway, you’re allowed to work on side projects. Langer wants us to pay for the steel but that’s one perk you guys on graveyard shift have. You can just use it. Don’t go crazy and the boss won’t get pissed. Tony and Reggie have the keys to close up shop, so you don’t have to worry about that.”
Barry moved over to the locker adorned with a fist-sized dent. From his pocket, the machinist pulled out a key. “This one’s yours,” he said, handing the key over to Ian. “Nobody’s had the chance to clean out Eli’s crap out of there yet, so that’s your first job. All right?”
“You want me to throw his stuff out?” The idea of taking the man’s possessions and trashing them after such a breakdown didn’t sit well with him. “Could I just have it sent to him or his family?”
“Jesus, you boy scout,” Barry said, rolling his eyes. “Throw it out, keep it, build a memorial to the crazy asshole for all I care. Anyways, I don’t think he had anyone. Never talked about having a bang-piece. Just get it done and then look at your blueprints. And oh yeah, your equipment is the closest to the locker room.”
With a pat on the shoulder Barry moved away from Ian and towards the exit. “All right guy, that’s me. I’m done for the night. Take ‘er easy.”
Ian gave a farewell wave to Barry. The other man did not notice as Barry was focused intently on leaving the job for the day. Now alone, Ian ran his fingers across the dent smashed in to the metal. So much force had been applied in the punch that each knuckle had individually dented the locker. Using the key given to him, Ian unlatched the lock and opened the storage locker that was now his.
A pungent odor wafted into Ian’s nostrils. No doubt the stench came from the dripping, brown paper bag.
“Well, that’s the first thing to go.” Ian gagged, tossing the rotted food into the nearest waste bin. With the trash gone, Ian felt free to explore the rest of this unknown man’s life.
Inside the locker door were several photos of a pudgy, tanned man. The Latino man’s face stretched as he smiled back at Ian from the picture. Next to who must have been Eli was the shape of another person. Marker scribbles and scratches marred the image of the other person, leaving Ian unable to make out any facial characteristics. Though obstructed, the second figure held a lithe and curvy outline. The way in which the man held the other person had Ian assuming it must have been his significant other.
“With a group like this, its no wonder you didn’t talk about your ex-girlfriend,” Ian muttered, taking the photos down.
Aside from the sentimental trinkets, many of the items were standard and worth keeping for Ian. A couple of pairs of calipers and a digital micrometer set were neatly stored in their cases. Blank notepads were placed on the upper shelf. Ian even found a pair of wearable work boots, like new and fitting, if maybe a little big. Putting the items he could use off to the side, Ian disposed of the rest in the trash. Finally, at the back of the locker, buried under a pile of work shirts that were too large for him and reeked from weeks of being unwashed, Ian felt the top of a metal container.
Throwing away the old shirts, he discovered an old-style toolbox underneath. Packed away behind the boots and discarded clothing, the pail must have been forgotten by the former occupant. With a labored grunt at the full weight of the box, Ian prayed to not find any more rotting garbage. With the toolbox pulled out into the light, Ian flipped the top open.
“What the hell?” Ian muttered, picking up a steel cube out from the large, tin box.
The steel felt heavy in Ian’s hand. He guessed it possibly weighed close to eight pounds. It was nearly symmetrical in length and width, with each side close to eight inches. Ian’s fingers ran along the edges of the metal, feeling each sharp angle. Instead of the shine a project gets after being finished on a surface grinder, the cube was rough and incomplete.
About the Author:
Kenneth Brown was born in the Philippines and somehow arrived to the backwoods of Kentucky riding atop of a three-legged burro. From there Kenneth was in and out of chicken coops and barn houses until being snatched up by local pest control workers who had mistaken him for the Pope Lick Goat Monster.
Kenneth learned to read and write, and not to bite the other children, before making a grand escape from the local psychiatric ward, even though he checked himself in. His writing wavers between the macabre and disturbing, when it is legible and not written in crayon.
At this time, Kenneth’s biggest achievement is remaining in the neighboring farm house for three weeks without being noticed. He dreams of bringing steam powered monstrosities to life and wearing ridiculously long top hats and brass goggles.
In his spare time, Kenneth enjoys writing, Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, cock fighting, and staring at the summer camp across the lake while wearing a hockey mask. The burro is still hanging in there.