Tag Archives: book

The Journey: Chapter 10

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

 

One by one, the passengers filed back to their seats. They eagerly gazed through their windows, hoping for a glimpse of their destination. But the only thing they saw was their own reflections. Outside was black as pitch. You wouldn’t even be able to tell if the train was moving by looking out the window.

Everyone felt the train was slowing down. The normal excitement and anticipation of arriving at their destination was instead replaced by a subtle dread. No one understood why. They all dealt with it in the same way though, denial.

At last they lurched to a stop.

The iron beast that had pulled them all this way let out a hiss of steam that sounded like a sigh of relief after a long journey.

The conductor appeared in the doorway and announced, “End of the line, please take all your belongings with you.”

They looked in their seats and in the overhead compartments, but none of them had belongings, just the clothes on their backs. This struck a few people as odd, but the rest just shrugged it off. The conductor helped them off the train.

“Watch your step.”

He directed them down the only visible path. It was made of intricate stone-work and lit with antique gas lamps, but the light didn’t extend beyond the path. It was as if they were floating in a sea of darkness.

Suddenly, out of nowhere, they came upon a large set of beautiful brass doors. Both of the doors were marked ’Enter’, but neither was marked ’Exit’. The conductor heaved the massive door open and beckoned the passengers inside. Hesitantly, they followed and were met with a remarkable sight.

The inside of the building was massive. It was Grand Central Station times ten. The ceiling seemed impossibly high and painted to look like the night sky. As Emily stared up, she noticed a painting of the moon. Nothing about that seemed unsettling at first, except the painting was slowly moving across the painted sky. She rubbed her eyes and looked again, just to be sure. Not only was the moon moving, but the stars seemed to be twinkling too.

The passengers moved forward, awestruck by the sheer size of the place. As they struggled to take it all in, one of the passengers said,

“Something’s not right here.”

“What is it?” Emily asked.

“How many people do you think are in this room?”

Emily panned across the gigantic room full of people.

“I don’t know. Thousands, maybe more.”

“A lot more. I would say we’re talking a hundred thousand people here.”

“What’s your point?”

“My point is, you could hear a pin drop in this room. How many times have you seen a crowd this big, being this quiet.”

“Never,” she said softly.

“It’s like the worlds largest funeral home.”

“There’s something else,” she said. “Look around, what is it that’s missing?”

He scanned the room. “I don’t know.”

“Everything,” she said. “There’s no ticket counter, no concession stands, I don’t even see a restroom.”

The man looked around and saw that she was right.

“In fact, all I do see is a line. Where does it even lead?”

The man called over one of the other passengers that he had spoken with on the train and convinced him to climb up on his shoulders and look around.

“What do you see?” the lower man asked.

“I see people,” the upper man said. “So many people it’s impossible to count.”

“What else?”

The upper man strained his eyes to see to the other end of the building.

“There’s two escalators, one going up and the other going down. There’s also a man sitting at a desk, reading from a huge book.”

“What is the man wearing?” the lower man quietly asked.

“A white robe.”

The upper man suddenly held on for dear life as the lower man’s knees buckled.

“What’s wrong? What is this place?” the upper man asked, but the lower man seemed to be in shock.

“Why this is your destination,” the conductor said, nonchalantly. “Didn’t you read your ticket?”

He directed them to a sign that said, ‘The end begins here.’

“I wish to thank you all for your stories,” he said, tipping his cap. Then he turned toward the doors.

“Wait!” Emily said. “Where do I know you from?”

“My dear,” he said, with an air of astonishment. “Haven’t you figured that out yet?”

She paused uncomfortably.

“Please tell me.”

He turned back and drew close so only she could hear.

“About four months ago, you were a passenger in a very bad automobile accident. I took the driver right from the scene, but you held on to life. You lay in a coma for a month.”

“Several times I came to take you, but you refused to go. You even boarded my train once. Imagine my embarrassment as you disappeared, having been revived by the doctor. I had quite a bit of explaining to do to that load of passengers. The endless questions I dealt with for the remainder of that trip were something I’d rather forget. Eventually, you recovered, and I had to wait, but not for long.”

“After I took care of the doctor that snatched you from me, I pursued you covertly and allowed you to see me. As you ran down the path, I extinguished the lights, hoping for the result that I eventually got.  So once again, I had the pleasure of having you as a passenger, only this time there was no one to rescue you.”

He smiled broadly, but she felt no warmth, no comfort from it. All the color drained from Emily’s face. She shook all over.

“So that would mean that you’re … ”

“Yes,” he said.

“And I’m … ”

“Yes.”

She recoiled in horror, slowly backing away.

“Well, I must be off,” the conductor said, turning to leave.

“What will happen to us?” a passenger asked.

“I just transport. That keeps me quite busy nowadays, I don’t do the sorting,” he said, pausing. “But judging by your stories, I would say two of you will be going up.”

They looked at the escalators, then each other.

“Which two?” one of them said, but the conductor was gone. They looked all around, but he had vanished.

Off in the distance, they heard a train whistle sound its mournful note.

Emily looked down at her ticket, it said, ‘Afterlife express.’

 

 

The End.

 

Thank you for reading my story. Even though this is the end, I do have one more chapter that I will share next week as a bonus.

The Journey; Chapter 1

The Journey: Chapter 2

The Journey: Chapter 3

The journey: Chapter 4

The Journey: Chapter 5

The Journey: Chapter 6

The Journey: Chapter 7

The Journey: Chapter 8

The Journey: Chapter 9

 

The Journey: Chapter 9

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

 

Some of the passengers took the conductor up on his offer of a drink and departed for the dining car. The rest settled back to sleep. The dining car was decorated as ornately as the other cars. Six tables were set, each prepared for four people, and in the corner was a bar made of mahogany that ran half the length of the car. Seven drinks were already set out, one at each barstool. The passengers appeared amazed to find their favorite drinks waiting for them. The eighth passenger sat down at an empty space. She had no desire to drink but had come along for the walk. Indeed, each of the passengers were glad for an excuse to get up and move around a little.  The conductor sat quietly in the corner as the passengers enjoyed their drinks and light conversation.

“Come on, man, ask him,” one passenger whispered to the other.

“No way, he gives me the creeps. Whatever secrets he wants to keep he can have as far as I’m concerned.”

The conductor, for his part, seemed content to read from an old, leather-bound book that had no title.

Emily kept a wary eye on him while sipping her ginger ale. Something about him didn’t feel right. The answer was buried in her memory, she knew it, all she had to do was wait. Eventually, she would remember.

The conductor was watching her in the same way. This silent standoff went totally unnoticed by the other passengers.

In the meantime, tongues loosened as the passengers sipped their liquid courage. Pointed questions better kept to themselves were asked.

“So, what’s your story?” a passenger said to the conductor.

“Me?” the conductor asked. “You wouldn’t find my life very interesting.”

“Why not?”  he retorted. “Everyone else has told you stories, why don’t you tell us yours?”

The conductor seemed to consider this for a moment.

“Very well,” he said. “But don‘t blame me if you‘re soon bored to death.”

“I think anything is better than sleeping on a train.”

“So be it. I was born long ago, much longer than any of you. My childhood was quite unspectacular, with the exception of a knack for preserving things. Unlike other children who seemed bent on the destruction of everything they see, I wanted to keep things. I suppose that’s when I first started collecting stories. It was the twelfth year of my life when the defining event happened for me,” he said, his gaze drifting off.

“What was that?” the straight-laced woman who couldn’t find her Bible asked, pulling the conductor out his reverie.

“Oh, my pet cat died.”

“That must’ve been horrible,” Emily said.

“You would think so, yes. However, that was not the end of the event,” he said. “I read a book on taxidermy, and used the knowledge to keep my childhood friend with me forever.”

“You stuffed your pet cat?” she asked, repulsed.

“Quite right,” he said. “I continued to develop my skills, practicing on some of the lesser wanted animals around the neighborhood and became quite adept. My efforts were noticed by someone other than law enforcement, and I was offered an apprenticeship in my true calling.”

“Conductor?”

“No, mortician,” he said with a smile that made everyone in the room feel like calling nine one one. “It turned out that the human form is infinitely easier to work with than animals.”

“Really?”

“Oh yes, I had so much more room to maneuver. Didn’t have to worry about ruining the fur, it was much easier. I was considered to be something of an artist for my profession. I was as happy as I had ever been at that point in my life.”

“If you were so happy, then why did you quit and become a conductor?” the straight-laced woman said.

“Patience, I shall get to that part of the story,” he flashed a mirthless grin. “It turned out that there was another mortician in that town who had been quite prosperous until I began my career. It seemed that his work simply could not match up with mine, and he began to lose business. So, he did the only thing he could do.”

“Find another job?”

“No, sanction my murder,” he said. “You see, this man also had a jealous streak along with a very bad temperament. A dangerous combination you will agree.”

“So, what did you do?”

“Nothing.”

“Nothing?”

“That’s correct,” he said. “I had no idea the sanction was active until a certain gentleman arrived on my doorstep.”

“So, a hit man just walked up and rang the doorbell?”

“Essentially, yes.”

“What did you do?”

“The only thing I could.”

“Run?”

“No, invite him in for tea,” he said. “I must say, you people just don’t have much of a knack for guessing.”

They nervously chuckled, each one probably regretting that they had asked for this story, but now felt so involved that they didn’t want it to end either.

“Like any proper host, I invited him in and we sat down to discuss our dilemma.”

“Unbelievable.”

“What is even more unbelievable was the solution,“ he said. “It seems my guest was getting ready to retire and needed to provide a replacement. Seeing the great care I took of the recently departed, he offered the job to me.”

“What about the contract on you?”

“Ah, yes, that was a difficulty. He was sworn to fulfill the contract. This created quite a conundrum for him, but in the end, I provided a solution for him that would suit his needs.”

“So, then you became the assassin?”

“Not quite that dramatic, I prefer to call myself a deliveryman. Whatever is needed, I deliver.”

“Did the mortician ever find out?”

“Oh yes, he was one of my first customers,” he gave a wicked grin.

“So what was the solution you provided?”

The whistle blew its long, mournful note, as the train began to slow.

“Ahh, it appears we have arrived,” the conductor said. “You should all return to your seats. We will be disembarking soon.”
 

 

The Journey: Chapter 1

The Journey: Chapter 2

The Journey: Chapter 3

The Journey: Chapter 4

The Journey: Chapter 5

The Journey: Chapter 6

The Journey: Chapter 7

The Journey: Chapter 8

 

Former Corrections Officer releases novel in Jail

Photo courtesy of Hilary Hauck. www.hilaryhauck.com 

 

September 13th was a historic day, at least for me. After nine years, my first novel, ‘One on One‘, had finally been published. I’d been working on this book so long that it seemed surreal to see it and hold a copy in my hands. A month ago, when my publisher first told me when the release date was going to be, I posted an event on my facebook page because I was so excited. I intended it to be a ‘remember this date’ type of announcement. Little did I know what was about to come from a simple post.

One of my facebook friends messaged me shortly after the posting and asked where the party was. Not wanting to say there was no party and he had misread the post, I told him that I would have to see how many people were interested in coming before I made plans.

So now, I was semi-committed to having a party that I never intended to have.

I wracked my brain for a suitable, yet economical place that would be interesting and have amenities. A few places drifted through my mind, the restaurant where I attend monthly writer’s meetings topped the very short list. I was floundering, unable to come up with an interesting location and then it hit me.

I am a former Corrections Officer and my novel is about a Corrections Officer, set in a prison, so naturally, I went to jail.

Not the current jail, I didn’t get arrested. There is a personal residence/business in the building that housed the former jail in my county. I approached the owner, asking if the old cells were still in working order. She said that yes, she would allow curious visitors to see them when they asked.

I proposed to do a book signing from inside one of the cells. Naturally, she was hesitant, having just met me I’m sure there was a bit of doubt. But the more information she received, the more she seemed to warm up to the idea. Once she agreed, my wife and I started into a whirlwind of preparations. With less than a month to go, the book was still in its last legs of the editing process. Once done, I ordered the books I would need for the party and sweated it out as they arrived mere days before.

The party was a success. Our host was amazing and helped out tremendously. My wife was spectacular taking care of food and setup along with her helpers. I had a great time, several friends showed up that I hadn’t seen in a while, Hilary took some fantastic pictures, and it was a most memorable experience signing books inside a jail cell.

It was a night I’ll never forget. A wonderful start for my book launch.

 

For more information, please visit my website.

Thank you for reading.

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

Review of Jonathan Maberry’s ‘The Dragon Factory’

Joe Ledger is back and the fate of the world hangs in the balance. The story barely starts before he’s being pursued by government agents for an unknown purpose. This book jumps us straight into the intrigue of the story of wondering why Joe is yet again being chased two months after joining the DMS.

Jumping straight into pursuit mode, this book is very much about action and intrigue which kept it moving along at a good pace.

A very strong, smart, group of evil characters who seem to have out thought the DMS gives Joe a formidable, seemingly unbeatable, enemy.

The thing that really struck me about this book was the stronger sense of relationship. Being that Joe Ledger is already established as a character, there’s a lot more of showing his relationship between the other characters. The trust that is forming between him an Church, the physical and emotional relationship that’s building between him and Grace, even caring about what happens to his men and being a better leader through knowing what his men can do.

There’s even minor relationships like between Joe and Dr. Hu, that are not critical to the story but amusing nonetheless.

Once again we’re given a countdown throughout the book that keeps the tension very high. We also have a sense of intrigue on the antagonist’s side of the story, giving us a very two sided story with a great deal of depth. That, plus the fact that the world is in very real danger of total extinction, keeps the tension high throughout.

One thing that I missed in this book was Joe’s smartass sense of humor. It seemed to have dissipated a little bit as he grows into his role in the DMS.

I listened to this book on Audible and the voice acting was excellent. Ray Porter did a wonderful job. All of the characters were very convincing and really drew me into the story. It also made the conversations much easier to follow when the characters had different accents.

The story itself was very well done. In the end, the plot could’ve been a very eye roll subject, however, Jonathan Maberry very expertly wove it together with the sinister intelligence of the villains and threw in a surprise or two at the end.

Unfortunately, I guessed a major plot point early on. So I spent most of the book confirming my suspicions. However, it was well done and the ending was both satisfying and disheartening.

 

A worthy read for the action/adventure/military crowd.

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

 

Avian

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

 

“Time of death 8:46 AM.”

“Everyone in this room is under quarantine,” Dr. Fyne says. “If this is what I think it is, we’re all dead.”

***

8:44 AM

“Clear!” the machine sends electricity pulsing through my body.

“No pulse.”

“Shock him again!”

“Nothing. Flat line.”

The doctor pulls down his mask slowly.

“Then we’ll never know for sure.”

“Won’t an autopsy show it?”

“Let’s find out. I’m calling it…”

***

8:40 AM

Blood sprays from my mouth as I cough uncontrollably.

“Vitals dropping,” the nurse yells, “we’re losing him.”

“Charge the defibrillator. Did you draw the blood sample I wanted?”

“Not enough time.”

“I need that sample!”

“Defibrillator charged.”

***

8:36 AM

“So, I hear you have the flu,” the doctor says.

I start to cough.

“Sorry about that,” I tell the doctor.

“That’s okay, when did you notice…?”

Coughs wrack me to the floor.

“Nurse!”

“Yes, doctor?”

“Get me vitals and a blood sample on this guy.”

“He’s seizing!”

“Crash cart to room five, stat!”

***

8:34 AM

Finally. I think I have writer’s cramp.

“The doctor will see you now, follow me to room five.”

I still feel a little silly. It was just some freak occurrence.

“Good morning,” the doctor says, “How are we feeling today?”

“Fine, I guess.”

***

8:01 AM

“Fill out these forms and have a seat,” the receptionist says without looking up.

***

7:50 AM

I drive down the road still in shock.

Did that really just happen?

Dents in the hood of my car and feathers clinging to my clothes confirm it.

I look at the bloody scrapes on my arm.

Maybe I should go to the hospital.

***

7:45 AM

I breathe in the crisp morning air. There’s an odd tinge to the smell.

Halfway to the car, I hear a ‘thunk’.

A small bird lays motionless on the ground in front of me.

Another ‘thunk’ and another.

What the hell?

I look up to see a hailstorm of birds falling toward me.

Eyeing the distance the car is closer than the house, so I sprint for the car.

The rain of death intensifies. Bodies hit me left and right.

The ground is now covered with avian corpses. Their bones crunch under my feet as I struggle to open the car door, and dive inside.

As I drive down the road, the strange phenomenon stops.

***

7:00 AM

The alarm clock crushes my dream of lounging on a beach.

Shower

Dress

Coffee

Toast

I watch the news during my morning routine.

“… the CDC reports that a new strain of bird flu may have made it to our shores. Officials aren’t yet sure if it’s contagious to humans, but to be on the safe side, they recommend caution. If you see a dead bird, don’t go near it. Call the number on your screen immediately.”
I turn off the TV and walk out the door.

Who would be dumb enough to mess with a dead bird?
***