Category Archives: book excerpt

The Journey: Chapter 3

Excerpt from my book, ‘Fragments of Fear, Collection’.

 

“Poor Harold”
Harold was not having a good day. What little hot water he usually had for a shower was already used up by another tenant in the undersized, overpriced, rodent infested, apartment building he lived in. So, yet again, he took an ice cold shower. The shower must have felt sorry for him, and somehow told the toaster to make it up to him.
The toaster obliged by giving him a little extra heat and burning his last piece of toast. Harold choked down the burnt toast, and washed it down with a half cup of cold coffee, as he stumbled out the door, trying to dress himself. He barely made it to the bus stop in time.
He sat down, hoping that his luck would change when a spring from the seat broke and shot up into his leg. It didn’t hurt him, the real problem was when he stood up, the spring caught hold of his pants and ripped a large hole in them. The rest of the way to the office, he had to cover the back of his pants with his tattered briefcase. In the elevator on the way up to his office, he heard snickers from behind him that stopped when he turned around.
He got off at his floor and quickly made his way to his cubicle that was barely big enough to fit his tiny desk. He collapsed into his chair and let out a long sigh.
Harold was not having a good day. In fact, Harold was not having a good life.
He just couldn’t seem to catch a break. He was never popular in school, but he always made decent grades, usually just missing the honor roll.
When he was in ninth grade, his father passed away, leaving him to take care of his mother. She had Alzheimer’s disease that got progressively worse. Some days Harold would come home just to be chased off by his mother, who thought he was a burglar.
On good days, she chased him with a stick, on bad days, a shotgun. His mother passed away just before he graduated high school. The house was left to Harold, but the mortgage still had ten years left to pay it off, and Harold couldn’t afford the payments. He sold the house and had just enough left for a down payment on his pitifully small apartment.
He wanted to go to law school but couldn’t afford it. So he got a job as a clerk for a low-grade law firm, which was essentially a bunch of ambulance chasers. He hoped that he could get some practical experience, study for the BAR, and maybe move up to middle management in the meantime.
Six years later, Harold still sat in his same tiny cubicle. His computer was so out of date he couldn’t even run the internet. His chair and desk were falling apart, and the ‘one’ button on his phone hadn’t worked in nearly two weeks. He tried to call maintenance, but their extension number was ‘221’. Every time he went past their door, a sign was hanging on it saying, ‘On break. Leave a voice mail for any repairs.’
The other clerks were very possessive, and wouldn’t let anyone else use their phone. The display on Harold’s phone said, ‘341 messages, press ‘one’ to retrieve.’ While trying to decide what to do, his phone rang.
“Harold Funston, how can I help you?” he said.
“Funston!” his boss shouted.
Harold jumped, nearly dropping the phone.
“Yes, sir?”
“Where’s my report?” he growled.
Harold floundered.
“What report, sir?”
“The one I needed done two days ago, on last month’s profit/loss margin.”
“Sir, you never asked me to do any report.”
“I left you three voice mails in the last week.”
“But, sir, my phone, it’s … ”
“I don’t want to hear your excuses! Have that report on my desk in one hour or you’re
fired!”
Harold was so upset, he dropped the receiver, comically juggling it all the way to the floor. He hung the phone up and frantically began gathering information to start his report. As much as he hated his job, losing it would be catastrophic. He was already living paycheck to paycheck and falling behind on bills. Soon he would have to get another crappy job on top of this crappy job, just to afford living in a crummy apartment. His only glimmer of hope was a faded postcard he kept by his computer, showing a beautiful tropical beach. The phone rang again. He picked it up while continuing to type.
“Harold Funston, how can I help you?”
“You have just won five million dollars!” proclaimed an automated voice.
Harold’s jaw hit the desk. It was the miracle he had been waiting for. He looked at his picture and started to dream of diving into the clear blue ocean. He was brought back to reality by the voice on the phone.
“The ACME prize corporation has selected YOU as its grand prize winner! You need
only confirm your name and address to claim your prize. If you do not confirm, we will pick another lucky winner.”
Harold was drooling. He knew that from now on, everything was going to be okay.
“To confirm your prize, simply press ‘one’, and an operator will assist you.”
Harold stared at the phone in disbelief.
He started hammering on the ‘one’ button, like he was playing a video game, in the
desperate hope that the button might register just one time.
“Please press ‘one’ to confirm,” the voice repeated.
“One! One!! ONE!!!” he screamed into the phone, as a last, desperate act.
“I’m sorry, we did not recognize your response, better luck next time.”
The line disconnected.

***

“An equally entertaining story, sir.” The conductor said. “May I collect it?”
“Sure,” the man said, eyeing the conductor cautiously, “as long as you don’t go getting’ rich off it behind my back.”
“No need to worry Mr. Darden,” the conductor said. “I collect these stories only for myself.”
“All right, let’s shake on it,” the man said, grasping the conductor’s hand.
Instantly, shock spread across the man’s face as he quickly released his grip.
“My apologies sir,” the conductor said. “I have poor circulation.”
The conductor moved on to the next passengers, leaving the man to stare at his hand.
“What’s wrong?” his friend asked.
“It felt as if his hand was made of solid ice.”
“How did he know your name?” the other passenger asked slowly.
The woman who sat beside him smiled and shook her head.
“It’s on the ticket he just punched.”

The conductor ambled up to the next passenger. She was an elderly woman, tall and thin who wore a black dress and functional shoes. She sat alone, straight as an arrow in her seat. She seemed to sense that someone was approaching, even though the conductor moved as silent as the grave.
“Excuse me, sir,” she said to the conductor. “Has anyone turned in a large, King James Bible to lost and found?”
“No ma’am,” the conductor said. “Did you lose one?”
“Well, yes,” she said. “I always take it with me on long trips. And now that I think about it, my purse is missing too.”
“Nothing has shown up, ma’am. Are you sure you brought it with you?”
“I’m positive!” she said. “At least, I think I’m positive… I’m pretty sure…”
She trailed off.
The conductor smiled a knowing smile.
“I will look for them with all diligence,” he said. “In the meantime, may I have your ticket?”
“Oh, of course,” she said, handing the ticket to him. “I’m sorry, sir, you must get so tired of the silly ramblings of an old woman.”
“Not at all,” he said, sincerely. “In fact, I enjoy hearing a good story. Do you have any?”
“None of my stories are good enough to tell,” she said.
“You’re just being modest,” the conductor said with a sly grin.
“Well,” she said, starting to blush. “I do have one.”
“As they say…’I am all ears’.”

***

 

 

The Journey: Chapter 1

The Journey: Chapter 2

The Journey: Chapter 2

Excerpt from my book, ‘Fragments of Fear: Collection’.

Warning: graphic violence

 

“She”

She staggered awkwardly down the empty street, not really knowing where she was going.
With one arm, she clutched the wound in her side, the other arm was outstretched in front of her, as though searching for something. Never looking back, always moving slowly forward. On and on she trudged, tireless, relentlessly looking for something but not knowing what. She only knew it was out there. It had been there before, but when? Where?

The empty streets were slowly disappearing through darkness and late evening mist. Nothing moved except for her, even the air seemed still. Deserted cars, half-destroyed buildings, and rubble were her only companions, and still she kept on going.

‘Reason’ and ‘blame’ were the furthest things from her mind. The beginning didn’t matter, ‘now’ was all that mattered. The few street lights that still worked flickered to life. They gave her a dim, somewhat eerie view of her surroundings, but there was nothing she wanted to see. ‘It’ wasn’t there. So on she went with her endless search.

All around was evidence of chaos and destruction, yet she wasn’t afraid.
How many days, or weeks, had she been silently walking, yet she didn’t feel tired? All that mattered was the search. Whatever it was, she knew, somehow, that she had to have it.

Had something caught her eye, or had her fevered brain begun to hallucinate? She scanned the ruined landscape. There it was again, movement. Her pace quickened. The silhouette of a moving human form stirred a feeling she hadn’t felt in a long time. But what was this feeling?

Joy, at finding another living person?

Fear of what they might do to her?

No, those weren’t it. The feeling grew stronger with every step she took. Finally she recognized it…

Hunger.

She steadily approached, mere steps away, when the man turned toward her with a look of shock etched into his face. She realized that her search was over. Not remembering the last time she had spoken, the sound coming from her throat was more like a feral growl. Struggling, as though the line from her mind to her mouth had been damaged, the word she had waited so long to say attempted to escape her lips.

She looked him in the eyes and said, with a raspy voice,

“Brains!”

She lunged at him before his shock wore off. He reached for the gun on his side, but her inhuman strength was too much. She ripped his arm off and cast it aside like a candy wrapper, then pulled his skull apart, and started eating while he was still screaming.

The body laid lifeless on the ground, she rose from gorging herself, and started walking. Never once did she look back at the shell of a man she had just torn to shreds.

She staggered awkwardly down the street, not really knowing where she was going.

***
After the man had finished his story, the conductor softly cleared his throat. The storyteller whipped his head around quickly. For just an instant, he thought he saw a skeletal hand outstretched towards him, with bones as white as ivory. Blinking hard to clear his head, he looked again and saw merely the milky white hand of the conductor, beckoning for their tickets.

“Pardon me, sir,” the conductor said, “I didn’t mean to startle you.”

“I wasn’t startled,” the man said, “I just thought I saw…”

“Yes?…” the conductor said, expectantly.

“Nothing,” the man said, mentally shaking himself.

The conductor punched the tickets of the four passengers and began to move on, then paused.

“I hope you don’t think it’s too forward of me, but I collect stories, and I was intrigued by yours.”

“Umm … thanks.”

“Would you mind if I wrote it down in one of my journals?”

“Well, the thing is, it’s not actually my story. I just told it.”

“And why did you choose to tell that particular story?”

“I don’t know,” he said thoughtfully. “it just seemed appropriate somehow.”

“They say the eyes are the windows to the soul but I have found that to be false. I believe that the stories one tells hold much more insight into their true feelings,” the conductor said, with a knowing smile. “So, may I collect it?”

“I‘ll make you a deal. I‘ll tell you a riddle, if you guess it you can collect my story, if you don‘t, I get to ride for free.”

The conductor rubbed his pale chin thoughtfully.

“It’s a deal.”

“Okay,” the man said, rubbing his hands together. “A cowboy rides into town on Friday, stays three days and leaves on Friday, how did he do it?”

The conductor smiled. “My dear sir, you take me for a fool. I thought that you were going to offer me a challenge.”

“All right, smart guy, what’s the answer?”

“The horse’s name is Friday.”

The man’s face fell. “You’re the only person who ever got that riddle.”

The conductor merely smiled.

“Just one question, what is your profession?”

“Biochemical engineer, why?” he said.

“No reason,” the conductor said moving on to the other passengers. “I was just thinking about your story.”

“Hey, hold on there fella,” said the man seated across from the storyteller. “Ain’t you gonna write his story down?”

“Yes, when I’ve finished my duties.”

“Won’t you forget it by then?”

“No,” the conductor smiled. “I have an eidetic memory. It helps in my line of work.”

“A what? An electric memory?”

“Eidetic, you would know it as a photographic memory.”

“Well what good is an electric memory on a train?”

“You’d be amazed,” the conductor said.

“Well then, if you think his story was good, you’ll love this one.”

The conductor turned and faced the man with rapt attention.

“It goes like this … ” he began.

***
 

The Journey: Chapter 1

The Journey: Chapter 1

9-23-13 506copyExcerpt from my book, ‘Fragments of Fear, Collection

 

Billows of steam rose from the iron giant like breath from the nostrils of a war horse, chomping at the bit on a cold battlefield. The steam encompassed the great beast in a surreal mist, as though protecting it from the ravages of time. The station was deserted as if no one wanted to approach the beast for fear it would rouse in wrath. Slowly a shadow formed. At first, they seem bonded, mist and shadow. Then the darkness drifted closer and coalesced into the shape of a man. A trick of the light, I never knew, but he seemed to be wearing a hooded cloak, dark as midnight. As he drew near, I saw it was merely a hat and uniform.

He walked slowly, gazing at this great mechanized monster as lovingly as a rider checks his faithful steed before a long journey. His gaze seemed to pierce even metal, looking for any blemish, any imperfection. This slow, methodical inspection continued over the length of the train’s passenger, dining, and sleeper cars, ending where it began, at the engine. He mounted the steps, heading for the control room. The dials and instruments were subjected to his scrutiny. Finally, his gaze settled on the fire box. His eyes seem to glow as the intense heat turned his sunken cheeks from white to orange. His normally impassive face gave way to the slightest of grins.

The conductor greeted the passengers as they arrived, helped them aboard until all were accounted for … save one.
The whistle sounded its final warning.
The iron behemoth belched smoke as it muscled its load away from the station.
The journey had begun …

The train moved steadily down the tracks. Its swaying and clickety-clack sound had lulled many a passenger to sleep, but not the conductor. He sat in a comfortable chair, eyes closed, but not asleep. To look at him, you would not know how he did his job at all. To call him ancient would be an understatement. His steel gray hair, thin white face, and emaciated body made him look as though he belonged in a pine box rather than collecting tolls on a train that was nearly a quarter mile long. Suddenly, his eyes snapped open and stared at the antique wall clock, just as it struck midnight. He rose quickly, put on his conductor’s cap, and left the room.

The conductor stepped through the door into the passenger car. It was richly decorated with beautiful dark red carpet, which perfectly offset the golden fringes and accents of the room. The seats were designed in classic style, two seats faced each other, with a small table in between. Outside, darkness had fallen like a blanket, covering the countryside in its embrace. Most of the passengers quickly grew tired of staring out into the inky black abyss. Conversations had been consummated between strangers and had given birth to stories, lovingly shared. The conductor silently glided up behind the first passenger and paused as the man began to weave a tale …

 

This story continues in The Journey: Chapter 2

Field of Screams

Excerpt from my book, ‘Fragments of Fear, Collection‘.

 

I love living in the country, away from all the lights. Over a dozen meteor pictures and I should still have time for more.

I trudge through waist high grass, climb into my car, and listen to the radio as the camera automatically takes another picture. Metallica’s ‘Enter Sandman’ plays softly, causing me to smile and close my eyes.

When I wake the full moon is up, bathing the field in an eerie glow.

The grass undulates as if waving in the breeze.

That’s odd, the wind isn’t moving the trees.

The wave of grass continues steadily towards me, enveloping the car. I stick my head out through the window and watch one of the waves pass right by me. It stops moving and out of the grass I see glowing red eyes.

I throw myself back inside the car and roll up the window, ignoring the sound of something scraping on the door.

OhmyGodohmyGodohmyGod!

I focus on my breathing to avoid a panic attack.

In my mirror I see the mounds of grass moving away.

I roll my window back down, lean out, look down and see no red eyes.

I think it’s time to go home.

My camera sits a mere four feet away.  I won’t step out of my car, or leave it in the field.

I pull over closer to the camera, reach out through the window, grab the ‘Oh shit’ handle inside the car, all the while shooting furtive glances down at the grass.

Got it!

I sling myself back inside the car, roll up my window, and try to calm down. The longer I sit here the more silly the whole thing seems.

It had to be a dream. I fell asleep and dreamt the whole thing.

I chuckle at my own stupidity, then turn the car around and drive back over the same tracks I used to get here.

I drive out of the field, through my own backyard, and park beside the house.

I head for the backdoor, exhausted.

Two a.m. is late, even for me.

Against my better judgment, I lean down to look at the side of the car door and was surprised to see scrapes in the metal.

Must’ve been a stick or something I brushed against in the field.

I head inside, lock the door, and start looking through the night’s pictures.

Several of the meteor pictures are nicely framed with the field and trees. As the moon comes up, the stars disappear.

This must be where I fell asleep.

As I scroll through, I notice the waves in the field.

So I didn’t dream that?

I enlarge the picture.

My breath catches in my throat.

Red eyes.

I push to the right and see another set of eyes. I zoom back out and count dozens of them. Every hump of grass has glowing red eyes looking out.

Oh my God!

My spine turns to ice when I hear scraping at the back door.

 

 

 

 

 

If you enjoyed this story, try one of my others.

Eyes, Avian, The Exam, Open, Haunted, Crash, Stained, Puzzled

Puzzled

Excerpt from my book, ‘Fragments of Fear Collection’

 

He finally placed the last piece.

For years he had worked on this puzzle. He had bought it at a yard sale, that had some of the most strange antiques. Henry had always been a fan of puzzles. He couldn’t resist when the woman told him it would take a lifetime to put together.

He was surprised and amused when she handed him a large paper bag full of puzzle pieces. He had to dedicate a table only to this puzzle, it was so big.

For the longest time, he barely touched it, having no idea what the picture was, without the box it was nearly impossible to get started.

As time wore on and Henry became less active, the puzzle held more interest for him. He began to make progress on it and soon had it more than half done.

The strange thing was sometimes it seemed like the picture on the puzzle was different from one day to the next. Still, he kept at it. It had become an obsession now. He had to know what was in the picture.

When his wrinkled, arthritic hand put the last piece in, he leaned back to take a look and a chill ran through him. It was a picture of him as a younger man. He was sitting at that very same table and putting together that very same puzzle.

As if that wasn’t unnerving enough, over his shoulder, in the window behind him was a shadowy figure. He leaned closer to the puzzle to get a better look.

The figure was robed entirely in black with a hood covering its face. A skeletal hand held a scythe beside it.

Henry’s eyes grew wide with fear. For what seemed like eternity, he sat as still as a tombstone.

This can’t be real. There’s some logical explanation, but for the life of me, I can’t think of it.

Finally, Henry’s curiosity devoured him like a starving predator. He slowly turned and looked at the window.

***

Three days later the paramedics found his decaying body hunched over, with his head laying on the table. Bodily fluids had pooled on the puzzle, ruining it.

They never saw the picture of the man or the now empty window.

End

 

If you liked this short story, you may like one of these.

Avian, Crash, Haunted, Eyes, Open, The Exam, Stained

Crash

An excerpt from my book, ‘Fragments of Fear Collection’.

 

“Is anyone here a doctor?” I cried, squeezing her neck as hard as I could, as blood still squirted out from between my fingers. “Please, anybody!”

A dozen people stood around on their cell phones, casting furtive glances in my direction as she bled to death. Three minutes later, two paramedics spent one minute working on my wife before telling me the words no one wants to hear, ‘I’m sorry.’

My world faded to black. The last thing I heard was, “Time of death, ten fifty-two.”

 

10:47

“Talk to me baby,” I pleaded in desperation. “Come on, you wanted to talk so bad, now’s the time.”

She gagged, trying to say something, but it only came out as a gurgle.

“Come on, stay with me.” I tried to hold my handkerchief on the wound, but it quickly filled with blood. Her eyes met mine for the last time, then closed forever.

“No! You open those eyes!” I screamed as other people got out of their cars and rushed over to see what had happened.

 

10:44

I opened my eyes, or at least I thought they were open. Everything was so blurry. I felt in front of me.

What is that? It feels like a flattened pillow.

Then it starts to come back to me.

The airbag.

Then the other thought hits me.

Sally.

I look over and can see her outline.

“Can you find my glasses?”

She doesn’t answer.

“Sally, can you find my glasses?”

I see her moving. Suddenly my glasses are shoved onto my hand.

“You don’t have to be so rough,” I said, putting them on. “All I wanted … ”

The words died in my mouth. She was covered in blood.

“Oh my God! Can you move?”

She shook her head.

“Where’s your phone, I’ll call an ambulance.”

She pointed to her neck. The phone must’ve shattered on impact. I saw a large shard of glass sticking out of her neck. I had no idea how long I had been unconscious or how long she had been bleeding.

 

10:40

The little red sports car smashed into my front fender like he was in a demolition derby. I tried to keep control of the car, but at seventy miles an hour it just wasn’t happening.

You know how they say time slows down in an accident, well I think it sped up. The car hit me, my car skidded into the barrier, the airbags went off all within what felt like a second.

We never had a chance.

Was my final thought before my unscheduled nap.

 

10:37

“Are you even listening to me?” Sally said, as I checked my mirror.

“Yes, but this idiot in the red sports car keeps pushing me.”

“Then let him pass.”

“I’m trying, he just won’t.”

“I’m trying to tell you something important.”

“Thank God.”

“So you’re ready to listen?” Sally said.

“No, thank God this guy is passing me.”

She folded her arms across her chest.

“Why do I even bother? What’s it gonna take for you to … ”

The little red sports car’s front tire blew.

 

10:35

“That idiot’s gonna kill somebody,” I said, but she didn’t hear me.

“What?”

“I said that idiot’s gonna kill somebody.”

“What idiot?”

“The guy behind us in the little red sports car. He keeps weaving in and out of traffic.”

“And that was important enough to interrupt my phone call?” she said in a huff.

“Okay, so now, as usual, I’m the bad guy and you have to go running to your sister or your friends and be on the phone for hours complaining about me.”

“Sorry, Ceilia, there’s an annoying gnat buzzing around, making it hard for me to hear,” she said into the phone.

“You were the one who started this. You wanted to talk. So turn that damn phone off and talk.”

She did turn … her head away from me and continue her phone conversation.

“I swear, one of these days you’re going to have that thing permanently attached.”

 

10:32

“Uh-huh,” I said in my road daze.

“Are you even listening?” she asked.

“What?”

“That’s my point exactly. We’ve got all this time to talk and you clam up.”

“What do you want me to say? I’m driving.”

“That’s always your excuse. That’s been your excuse for the last twelve years. ‘I’m driving’, ‘I have to go to work’, ‘I’m tired’ there’s never any time for us to just talk.”

“I’m tired.” I grinned.

“Not funny. You know one of these days I might not be here for you to torment.”

But I was distracted and didn’t hear her.

 

End

 

 

If you liked this story, you may like one of these.

Open

Avian

Haunted

Stained

The Exam

Eyes

 

Stained

An excerpt from my book, ‘Fragments of Fear Collection’.

 

‘Sincerely, Douglas T. Forbes, Esquire.’

Edna’s wrinkled hands laid the letter on top of the envelope that had ‘Final notice’ stamped in red ink.

“I think I’ll invite Mr. Forbes over for tea.”

She phoned Mr. Forbes several times only to be told he was busy.

Finally, thirty days were up. Two large men in suits knocked on Edna’s door.

“May I help you?” Edna asked sweetly.

” We’re from the bank.”

“Oh yes, come right in.”

***

Two days later there was another knock on Edna’s door.

“May I help you?” she said sweetly.

“I’m Mr. Forbes from the bank.”

“Please come in.”

He stepped into the foyer and was mesmerized by the myriad of colored glass.

“I see you like my work.” Edna smiled.

“It’s quite lovely,” he said, “Mrs. Kelley I’m here on business. It’s about your mortgage.”

“What about it?”

“It’s past due.”

“That’s because you raised my payments last year.”

“There was a change in the law, we’re allowed to do that now.”

“So you’re here to take my house that I’ve been paying on for thirty-nine years.”

“That’s correct.”

“And how much do I need to come up with to keep my house?”

“With late fees, taxes, fees for house calls, compounded daily for twelve months, that brings it to, forty-two thousand dollars.”

“Wow. That’s a lot. But happily I came across an old box of antique coins.”

“Really?” he said.

“Follow me, I’ll show you.”

She led him down the hallway that was lined with stained glass artwork.

“Did you do all of these yourself? I’ve never seen stained glass this detailed before. How do you work with all those tiny pieces?”

“It’s a labor of … love.”

“Who are these people?”

“Oh, my ex-husband, children, neighbors, mailman…”

“You did one of your mailman?”

“Oh yes, he deserved it.”

“Deserved it?”

“I meant he earned it,” she said chuckling.

As they walked, Edna started murmuring.

“I’m sorry?”

“Oh, I was just humming.”

She opened a door at the end of the hallway.

“Here we are.”

They walked into an empty room. The only thing visible was an easel.

“I don’t understand,” he said.

“Have a look.”

On the easel sat a mirror set in a golden frame. He looked into the mirror and no reflection stared back at him.

“What is this?”

He was drawn toward it as if being pulled inside.

He started to see a faint image in the mirror. The louder Edna murmured the more he could see of himself. He looked down at his hands and they had become transparent.

The mirror cracked, sending a jolt of pain through him. It cracked again and again, each a new experience in agony.

The cracks came faster.

His scream echoed.

Her murmuring reached a fever pitch.

The cacophony reached a crescendo then ceased.

She opened her eyes and smiled at her brand new stained glass portrait.

She hung it in the hallway next to portraits of the other men in suits.

 

 

Thank you for reading. If you liked this, try some of my other short horror stories.

Open

Haunted

The Exam

Eyes

Avian