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Why Readers Love Final Contact

Star Trek Discovery attempts to emulate that classic with a heavy blend of new, and fans seem conflicted. Is it too little too late? Or is it better late than never? Star Trek fans may hate it when I say, I’m glad they’re not just recycling the old. I don’t know about you, but I’m getting tired on these reboots and “soft” reboots. Name a sci-fi film from the 80’s and it probably had a reboot, and the chances are great that the reboot offered little to nothing to the franchise. The time for straying from the tried and true is long overdue, in my opinion. What do you think?

That’s one reason why I think people are enjoying Deadman’s Tome Final Contact. The blend of horror and sci-fi offers stories that delve into the psychological, into the unknown, and examine unique ways to tell the experience of that first and fatal contact with otherworldly beings. Common sci-fi tropes of death in space, intergalactic space combat, parallel universes, and aliens are abound, true, but each author offers a unique and interesting way of using them.

Don’t take my word for it. Readers are giving this issue a lot of love.

Donna Weiss gave a 5 star review stating:

So this is an anthology of short Sci-Fi stories that are pretty dang creepy. As the book summary says the stories warn of the consequences of bold exploration, exploitative mining, venturing too far, and contact with foreign entities. And first contact is NOTHING like E.T. in these stories. I really had fun reading them, of course some I enjoyed more than others, but overall this book was a lot of creepy, sci-fi fun!

I’ll mention a few of my favorites, I guess. Here’s my very favorites:

A Slow Death by James ‘Grim’ Desborough

Dancers in the Darkness by Eric S Brown

A Layer Hidden by Candace Robinson – This was my very favorite of all, loved it!!!

The Octopus In The Corner of the Room by Madeleine Swann

These are my very favorites, but I enjoyed reading them all. They were some freaky fun!!!

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Deadman’s Tome has offered horror with different flavors with Krampus Christmas, No Safe Word, and The Ancient Ones, but Final Contact was our first sci-fi venture, and honestly, I was worried about that. While I enjoy sci-fi, I am far from engrossed in the genre than horror. But perhaps that worked in my favor here. I screened the selection looking for stories of dread, despair, and a foreboding sense of unease. I didn’t question the technical jargon in some of the stories or get hung up on the physics in another. I simply wanted stories that were entertaining.

 

 

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Deadman’s Tome October BLITZ

Just about everyone would agree that Mr. Deadman is bit crazy, but now he seems to have gone completely insane. The full-time working and devoted family man wants to celebrate October with a constant nightly stream of the Deadman’s Tome podcast! Is this even possible? Will he manage to put in for a full week’s worth of content? He thinks so and with the help of Marchese and guest it can happen.

The Deadman’s Tome podcast covers everything from horror, writing, and even current happenings. While the show doesn’t like to get political, sometimes things happen around us that just can’t go ignored. New episodes of the podcast will be released daily with as much adherence as possible, but expect a break or two. C’mon, even a Deadman needs some rest.

Want to be on the podcast? Filmmakers, actors, writers, film lovers, and shit posters welcomed. Email me at jessecdedman@gmail.com

 

 

 

 

 

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New Special! Name Your Price!

Just about every weekend I run a special or giveaway on select titles. I really don’t care about the money. I’m not in this business to make bank. What I want is to create a platform where authors can reach readers like you, and that means I’m willing to make some very persuasive offers from time to time. I present Name Your Price.

I have a small inventory of paperback for Book of Horrors I, Book of Horrors II, Monsters Exist, and The Ancient Ones. You name your price, anywhere from a dollar to a million dollars, and that’ll be the price for the selected book. You could technically ask for zero and get a free book + shipping ($3). It’s stupid simple. Use the form below to make a request.

Shipping: While I don’t care about the money, shipping gets expensive fast. Any offer of $5 or more gets FREE SHIPPING as long as US domestic. International shipping gets really expensive, especially to certain regions. I will offer free shipping to the UK for orders $10  or more.

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Red Roses, White Flags – Pete Clark

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Featured in March to the Grave

‘Now,’ the voice said. ‘The time is now.’

It was heavily disguised, he knew that, and as such, there was not a trace of accent. His heart sank a little at the words, but he knew it was coming, this call. He had been paid, and paid well, and God knew he deserved the money.

The desert blew in sandy twists around his feet, and when he opened the seventh and last packet, the wind threatened to dislodge the dark powder nestling there. He cupped a gloved hand around it, and breathed deeply of the desert air.

‘Christ, man! What the fuck?!’

Armitage pushed back on his bunk, his right hand clamped across his brow. He felt absurdly like a film-noir heroine about to faint, but couldn’t stop himself. His right hand held a bottle of beer, and he felt the slow pulsing of its contents escaping over his lap. The TV high on the wall in the corner blared banality. It served to add a level of normality to the surroundings. The humid clench of the air, the muted pops and stuttering chatter of distant gunfire dispelled it.

Donnie sat across from him on a ratty chair. Threads of stitching had popped free all across the upholstery on both arms. It would scratch your own arms unrelentingly if you sat there, which was why Armitage always opted for his bunk. This was Donnie’s lucky chair, or so he claimed. It didn’t seem so now. Donnie’s arms, for the most part, lay in his lap. The hand holding the chef’s cleaver drooped between his opened legs. His other hand, the one he had just severed, rocked gently to stillness at his feet, tendrils of blood threading the hardwood floor and the big toe of his left foot.

‘What the fuck have you done? Ah, fuck!’ Armitage almost screamed. Donnie was silent except for the tight inhalations of hot sour air through his clamped lips.

The beer finished its pulsing escape and Armitage let the bottle fall to the floor. He stared at the hand. He thought it was the very one that not five minutes ago has passed him the beer that was currently soaking through his jeans. He tried to speak but could not.

‘It’s ok, man,’ Donnie whispered. ‘I’ll be ok in a minute.’

He raised his head and looked straight at Armitage. His eyes were wild and white, red-rimmed and brimming with wetness. Armitage thought that they looked like they were brimming with insanity, and why not? What else could it be?

He had not seen the cleaver pushed down between the chair and the seat cushion. He had only vaguely seen Donnie pull it out, but had thought nothing of the gesture because his head was tipped back, swigging deeply from his beer. He had heard the whistling smack as the cleaver came down through the air and buried itself into the arm of the chair. He had heard a soft thump that only now did he sickeningly associate with the fall of a severed hand. Donnie’s hand.

Donnie’s jesus-fucking-christ-almighty left hand!

‘Why, Donnie?’ he whimpered. He could barely take the breath for these words and they left him panting, his chest tight.

‘I don’t think it was mine, man. The hand, I mean. I don’t know.’ He looked confusedly at Armitage.

‘What?’ Armitage asked, stunned and feeling foolishly like laughing.

Donnie shifted so that he could look down to his feet and prodded at the hand with his big toe. It rocked, looking like a dead spider, still leaking redness at its wrist. He looked at his abridged arm, leaking more copiously. A smile began to tweak the corners of Donnie’s mouth. Armitage felt cold wash through him.

‘Better,’ said Donnie quietly, and nodded.

‘Donnie, man, we gotta get you to the doc, something, you’re gonna bleed to death.’

Armitage stood in panicked jerks, his knees feeling like someone had taken a sledgehammer to them. He fought the urge to vomit, but lost as Donnie absently kicked his hand across the hardwood in a series of strangely balletic tumbles. Wiping strings of drool from the corners of his mouth, he fell back onto the bunk. He clutched his head in both hands so that the bends of his elbows formed a tunnel through which he stared at his friend, and implored him.

‘Come on, man. We gotta do something! You just cut off your fucking hand, for Christ’s sake!’

Donnie put down the cleaver, a circular smear of red bisecting the blade, and reached into his shirt pocket. He pulled out a plastic tie-wrap, and threaded one end through the other, clumsily, holding it in his teeth. He looped the resultant noose around his ruined wrist and ratcheted the tie closed, forming an absurd collar of puckered flesh at the arm’s end. The bleeding slowed and stopped. Donnie raised the stump and gestured to Armitage. It looked as though he was proffering a wet red rose to his friend.

‘Ok?’ he asked, petulantly. Then, more to himself, ‘It’ll be ok, man.’

Armitage moved his hands from his head and squeezed them tightly over his eyes. He could hear Donnie’s ragged breathing, hear his own.

‘What are you gonna do, Donnie?’ he asked without looking. ‘I mean, you gotta do something. You are a fuckin’ soldier, what are you gonna do?’

‘First I’m gonna cut off my foot. It’s this whole side,’ he said, waving the dripping cleaver up and down the whole left side of his body. The honed blade chimed on the leg of his jeans. ‘It’s not mine. I don’t know how or why it was changed for….this….fucking thing…but it’s not mine. I have to be rid of it. I have to, man.’

‘Donnie, no,’ Armitage moaned through his hands. ‘Come on, man, let’s talk about it. What’s got you like this? You sick? You worrying? It’s getting to us all you know, this fuckin’ war.’

Donnie looked up momentarily, just long enough to speak two words. ‘Less, now.’

He hefted his left leg up onto the arm of the chair. Armitage began to rise, but the look shot him from Donnie’s crazed eyes stopped him cold. He sat roughly back down onto the sofa, amid cooling vomit and beer stains.

‘Please, Donnie,’ he said. ‘Don’t.’

* * *

‘How long?’ he murmured into the mouthpiece on his cheek. ‘Till this is over?’

The voice chuckled. ‘You will be home by Christmas, Fallon. Your part in this war has begun, and for a few nights work, you will have saved countless lives.’

‘But please, is there no other way? I don’t want…..’

‘Just do as I have instructed you. The powder is untraceable, and is perfectly formulated. You have used six sachets so far. One per night? It will do as I have told you, and your men can go home. You…can go home. There need be no further death, my friend.’

The cleaver whined through the air and a meaty thump marked its progress through the tough meat and bone of Donnie’s ankle. Donnie whimpered softly as he wrenched the blade free, a little jet of blood following the blade’s edge, as if desperate to cling there. Armitage fixed on the arcing droplets. He shut his eyes and did not see the second swing of the cleaver. It met less resistance this time, and in a soft crunch of bone and tendon, the foot fell free and came to rest, sole down in perfect companionship to his still attached right.

Armitage screamed. He launched himself to his feet and rushed to Donnie, who was convulsing slowly on his chair, blood jetting from the end of his leg, still raised onto the arm of the chair.

‘Tie it,’ Donnie said, weakly. Without thinking, Armitage reached into Donnie’s shirt pocket and found a second tie wrap. He noosed this around Donnie’s leg and pulled it tight. His hands were slick with his friend’s blood.

‘Why are you doing this, Donnie? Why, man? Please, talk to me.’ He was crying now, and as he wiped the tears a thick smear of blood painted across his cheek. The tears cut through it slowly.

Donnie appeared to think. The convulsions had stopped, and his ashen face was turned up to the ceiling in beatific smiling blankness.

‘Those…things…’ he said, ‘weren’t mine. They just weren’t, ok?’ He said this last defiantly. ‘I don’t know. When I woke up today I saw the truth. That hand wasn’t my hand. The foot wouldn’t fit in my boot any more. You getting that, man? My fucking boot wouldn’t fit anymore!’

‘But Donnie, that can’t be right! You can’t cut off your own fucking hands!’

Donnie nodded. ‘Not both, of course,’ he chuckled, sounding weak. ‘But this one is ok. This one’s still mine. I can see it is. Can’t you see that?’

Armitage looked at the remaining hand, blood speckled and living, then looked across to the severed hand. Already greying, it rested against the leg of another bunk. It was curled into a half fist, as if it had tried to grab the leg. Armitage shivered and reached into his jeans pocket. He brought out his mobile phone. In a flash, Donnie swung the cleaver and sent the phone across the room. It broke into pieces against the floor. Armitage just stared at the fragments.

‘I’m ok, man!’ Donnie said again. ‘No doctor. I’m ok.’

‘Look, Donnie. You’re gonna have to explain this. You can’t hide what you’ve done, and if we don’t get this stitched up or something, you’re gonna fucking die.’ Armitage shook. He felt dangerously close to hysteria. He could hear a hitching in his breathing, a tight clipped tone to his words. ‘Talk to me, man. Explain why you’ve done this.’

Donnie dropped his head and appeared to sleep. Armitage started towards him, and was reaching for his shoulders when Donnie raised his head. His eyes showed none of their previous madness. Armitage made an involuntary noise deep in his throat all the same, and sat back.

‘I have no idea,’ said Donnie.

Armitage willed himself to calm. He rose quietly, backed away from his friend, and continued backing until he almost fell onto his bunk. The soft scrape of the iron legs against the floor caught Donnie’s attention for a second, but only that. He turned for a brief moment, and then returned to his inspection of his shortened limbs. He appeared to feel nothing at the sight of the stumps, but Armitage could see a waxy yellow sheen starting to show on his cheeks, and runners of sweat were beginning to paste his hair in dark feathery fronds across his forehead.

Armitage thought Donnie would be heading firmly into shock right about now. He made as if to move for the door and Donnie spoke, almost too quietly for him hear.

‘I feel…better, somehow,’ he said. ‘That’s the funny thing about all this. After our food last night, I slept better than I ever have. The sound of the guns didn’t disturb me like it usually does. I had no nightmares. And yet I woke thinking that something was terribly wrong with me. Something that only this could fix.’ He motioned to his mutilation with a nod of his pale face. ‘So I fixed it. And now I feel better, like this is how I need to be.’

Armitage chilled, and slowed his movement. He stared at the severed hand, curling like a starfish brought suddenly into dry desert air.

‘What am I going to do, man?’ said Donnie, and Armitage thought,

At last, he sees what he has done. I can help him,

but Donnie said, ‘This is how I need to be, but this is not how I trained to be. I am a soldier, man, and now I can’t fight. What am I gonna do?’

‘I’ll go and see the doc, Donnie. He can fix you up and we can get through this. That sound ok?’

Donnie waved with his remaining hand. Armitage left.

* * *

‘But…..?’ he said. ‘Must it be this?’

‘It must, and please be realistic now. It is too late to turn back. You know cannot possibly win this war. Do this, or you will all die, and will continue to die until there are no more of you.’

There was a soft click as the call ended, and he knew that was the last time he would hear the voice. His part was done now. It was over, or would be in scant seconds time.

Armitage pushed into the medical tent. The hot smell of blood and the chemical tang of disinfectant washed round him like mist. There was time enough to see the beds, all of them occupied, and the nurses that tended there, and then all was blocked from view as a uniformed officer stepped into his line of sight and laid a hand firmly onto his chest.

‘Sir,’ began Armitage, and then stopped, convinced his words would eject from him in a flood of teary babble. ‘I…’

‘You can’t be in here,’ said the officer.

‘But Private Donald Richards, sir. He’s…ah…excuse me sir, but he’s cut off his own fucking hand.’ He blurted this last and stepped back, head lowered.

The officer was silent for fully half a minute. ‘Christ,’ he murmured, then louder. ‘Christ, WE GOT ANOTHER ONE!’

The tent erupted into action around him, nurses flocking around Armitage, their hands fluttering feather-like across his arms, and feeling his hands.

He shook them off. ‘Not me!’ he shouted and ran back towards the bunkhouse he shared with Donnie.

They removed Donnie, strapped to a gurney that looked rusted with blood. His hand and foot went with him, although whether there would be a reattachment attempt, Armitage could not guess. All he knew was that the body parts were gone, and as he sat cradling the shattered remains of his mobile phone, he was thankful for that.

The officer that had stopped him in the medical tent came to see him as the darkness fell around their tents. Armitage sat in his desert combats, as if they would afford him protection from madness as they had from enemy eyes. The situation was explained. In the hours since Donnie had begun his nightmare mutilation, in the hours since he was stitched and sedated and guarded, 16 more soldiers had suffered the same dysmorphic reactions. The medical tent was now bursting with amputees, Donnie by no means the worst of them. One soldier had systematically shot the fingers from his left hand, one by one, and had put a bullet into each knee. One had attempted to remove his own head but had passed out from shock before he could complete the deed. There was no loss of life, not yet, but fully half a hundred bleeding stumps, burst knee joints, ruptured organs. Donnie had not been the first, and listening now to the officer’s words, words of sabotage, of mass hallucinations, of hypnotic suggestions, Armitage knew he would not be the last.

The officer asked Armitage if he had felt any similar desires to mutilate himself. Armitage almost laughed at this last. Desire to mutilate? When did he ever think he would have heard those words spoken in this or any other situation? The officer had finally left him alone, content with his assurances that, no, he didn’t feel the need to cut off a limb, or thrust a pen into his eye, or into his ear drum. The officer had looked at him for a long time before exiting the room. There were orders in that gaze, Armitage knew. When we are on the other side of this, that gaze inferred, there is to be no mention of anything that has happened here. Armitage didn’t think he would have trouble keeping this to himself. Already he felt his brain slowing, bogged down with the enormity of seeing his friend knowingly cut his hand from his body and sit watching the jet of blood like a fountain in a park. Time would tell if his mind would ever work the same as it had.

He almost entertained the notion that come morning, come the cleaning of weapons and the donning of uniform, all this would be nothing but a nightmare. He expressed as much to the officer, not noticing the look of suspicion in his eyes. His own eyes felt hot with grief, and his hands shook. He thrust them deep into his pockets and followed the officer, kicking the door closed behind him. He wandered, in and amongst the dusty habitation quarters, the dry desert biting his ankles, and sending hot air deep into his lungs.

The order to surrender was given two hours later. He heard rushing footsteps along the tented corridor that flanked the dining area. Armitage followed them in. He heard raised voices, and asked Fallon, the cook, what he could see from his vantage point behind the cooker. There was no answer.

Presently, officers and the remaining unharmed soldiers trailed into the canteen. They sat, and the order was relayed. Several voices were raised in protest.

‘Let us at least wait till everyone is here!’ one such said.

There was a beat’s hesitation from the commanding officer, and then,

‘We are here. All of us left. We are here.’

Shocked silence filled the room. The scuffing of boots became deafening as soldiers moved, restless to fight, but now unable. With the officer’s last words, Armitage again thought of Donnie, bandaged and screaming insanities in the medical tent, along with two thirds of the soldiers stationed here.

* * *

He straightened, but his head dropped low into his chest. A ragged breath scorched into his lungs, and he exhaled it. He hurriedly removed the ear- and mouth-piece, and with a deft flick of his wrist, sent the sandy powder drifting down into the huge pot of bubbling chilli con carne that was tonight’s meal. He stirred it in, and raised his smiling face to the first soldier that stood in line.

‘What war is there to fight when the army you rely upon to fight it has destroyed itself in the most fundamental way? We do not understand this,’ he continued, ‘but we know that we no longer have an army here. There are not enough of us and there are too many of them. We truly have no choice but to surrender ourselves. I suspect…? God help us, I have no idea. Is it magic, or poison, or hypnosis?’ he said, looking bewildered and shocked by his own words, as if they could not have come from him. He sat heavily. ‘We have undone ourselves.’

Armitage chilled. There were murmurs and soft words but no more cries of disagreement. The remaining soldiers had seen too much, and were numb with it. To see such wounds on the battlefield was one thing, but to see them here, and inflicted as they had been? It was too much. Armitage stood with the others and queued for food. None of the remaining soldiers spoke now, and none wanted to eat, but there seemed little else to do while they waited for their captors to remove them, as they surely would.

He sat alone at an empty table. There were many. His plate was heaped high. Armitage ate greedily but without hunger, mopping the wetness with hunks of dry bread and washing it down with water. He tasted none of it.

There was time enough for one last night.

Armitage noticed the first tingle in his fingers as he sat on his bunk, restless after the night’s bad sleep. In the second it took his brain to register the feeling, and perhaps begin to formulate some hypothesis as to its cause, he thought how much better it would be if he removed that itch. He looked at his hand and saw nothing that he recognised. A wedding ring gleamed from his ring finger and it was not the one he knew. A scar, jagged and deep pink, wormed across the back of the hand, and Armitage could not place it, nor the wound that caused it. He reached nervously to the hand and touched it. The hand felt not his own. He frowned and began his examinations afresh. There was no corresponding feeling from his left hand as his right fingers pulled gently at the skin there, just a deep itch in the tendons of that wrist, and in his mind’s eye, he could see the tendons fighting the connection of wrist to hand. He turned the hand over, and was unable to make a fist. The palm was too soft, he thought, to be his, the lines too deep.

‘Oh God, Donnie,’ he said softly to no one. ‘God, man. You were right.’

The screams intensified from the medical tent, and the sound of gunfire waned in the distance. Armitage stood and walked to the ratty chair, and to the cleaver that lay blood-rusted on the floor beside it.

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Fan Questions

The Deadman’s Tome podcast is growing and it’s important to reach out to our audience and open the door for fan questions. Listeners of the show might be aware of a certain Kentucky Bob, a dedicated redneck that tries and tries again to psychologically break Mr. Deadman with absurd questions. Now is your chance to join in on that.

Send us questions about the magazine, podcast, writing, horror, movies, current events, and whatever is on your mind.  Use the form below!

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Read for Free Week!

No matter who you are, no matter where you were, 9/11 was a devastating and soul shocking moment. The fact that the destruction was allowed to take place revealed just how vulnerable the West really is. The twin towers shattered and collapsed like our confidence and sense of security. Battered, bruised and with angered hearts, just about everyone demanded revenge. We sent our brave men and women into a warzone that was created through broken promises, failed deals, and resentment.

Honestly reflecting on 9/11 is a sobering experience. In recognition to the dreadful terror attack that reshaped the world into what it is today, Deadman’s Tome is giving away free ebooks of March to the Grave – the horrors of war themed issue all week (from 9/11 – to 9/17).

Download your free copy of March to the Grave!

 

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Real American Horror

America, a land of prosperity, wealth, and hope, but that’s a fresh coat of paint on a system riddled with corruption, exploitation, and the disillusioned. Real American Horror exposes what lies under the facade: crib-side murder suicide, fear of zika virus, torture in the name of Jesus, Islamic terror, cannibalism, racism, and so much more.

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Real American Horror is much more than a collection of chilling, terrifying horror. It’s a compilation of brutal truth wrapped in layers of fiction.

Real American Horror is available in Ebook format on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Kobo, and iBooks. You can also find it in Google Play.

Paperback will soon be available across multiple online retailers such as Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and Ingram. If you want a paperback, you can order one direct from Deadman’s Tome. Supplies limited. Order Paperback

Become a patron at www.patreon.com/deadmanstome for $2 and enjoy access to a digital copy.

 

 

 

 

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Crosshairs – Amy Grech

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(Enjoy a preview of Deadman’s Tome Campfire Tales)

Standing with one eye shut in front of the shooting gallery at the county fair, Billy Hogan felt the crotch of his jeans tighten and raised his air rifle slowly. He didn’t budge. All the while his father’s words echoed in the confines of his mind: “You’ve got to get ’em when they don’t expect it, son! Ask yourself what Jesus would do and your aim will be true!” His father stood directly behind the boy with his brawny arms folded. Billy felt his hard stare driving him to succeed.

He stared at the yellow ducks passing by, watching them with deadpan eyes but seeing nothing, and knocked them down without missing a beat.

#

On one of their frequent trips into the dense woods behind their house, Billy’s father, a big bearish man with a grizzly beard, usually bagged a deer, or sometimes a bunch of squirrels, with four bullets, one for each of his victims. He never wasted a shot, no matter what.

Mr. Hogan taught his son how to focus on his target, at all costs. He stressed the importance of waiting until the prey appeared in the center of the telescopic site before taking the shot. “Like a martyr on the Cross” was the phrase he used to make the concept easier for young Billy to grasp. In Sunday school, he learned that a martyr was someone who endured great suffering for a cause they believed in, just like Jesus did.

Billy watched in awe as his father raised his Remington Pump Action shotgun swiftly and silently. He froze, shut one eye, squinted with the other, took a deep breath, switched off the safety, and waited until his prey, a deer this time, entered the crosshairs in the telescopic site before he exhaled, squeezed the trigger and the young buck fell down, dead.

Sometimes he would let Billy hold the rifle on his own when the magazine was empty, the muzzle still smoking from a recent kill. The boy loved the feel of it, sleek and heavy. It was a man’s gun, not a child’s toy, cheap and light, like the BB gun he’d had his eye on at the fair.

His father stood behind him, guiding his movements while Billy struggled to hold the gun level. Billy felt his breath hot, whiskey sour in his ear. “Don’t worry, Billy, you’ll grow into it before you know it.”

Billy nodded. “I can hardly wait.”

“Be patient, son. I know it’s hard, but you can’t rush perfection. You’ve got to take it as it comes.” He shook his head. “Always remember, practice makes perfect.”

The boy grinned. “I know, Dad.”

His father placed his callused index finger on top of Billy’s tender one and together they caressed the trigger before squeezing off a shot.

#

The old man behind the counter at the fair, dressed in a red and white pin-striped shirt and black pants, was aghast as he watched the tall, lanky kid standing in front of him knock everything down there was to hit, including the mechanical mother goose that flapped her wings right between the eyes. A crowd gathered ’round to witness the freakish occurrence, this being the first time someone ever hit everything the first time around.

Before he knew it, the man was shouting, “We have a winner!” He unlocked the glass case the housed the Grand Prize: a BB gun complete with telescopic site. Billy had had his eye on it since last year’s fair but at that time he had not been skilled enough to win it.

But a lot had happened since he turned ten this past summer: His penis got hard for no apparent reason when he least expected it, and he was frequently roused from exciting dreams about guns or girls by a warm dampness in his underwear.

The man behind the counter bent down to whisper in his ear: “Be careful how you handle this gun, boy. It can be extremely dangerous if it’s not used properly. Someone could get hurt.”

Billy nodded with a shit-eating grin plastered across his face. “Look what I won, Dad!” He grasped the gun tightly in his wiry arms and pointed it at a slight angle before bringing it over to his father.

“You’ve earned it, Billy. That was some fancy shooting back there. I’m impressed. You’ve got talent, son, that’s half the battle. Now you’ve got to whet your appetite for the hunt.” His father patted him on the heads.

“I aim to please.” He tucked the BB gun under his arm.

#

On their walk back through the woods, Billy’s father nodded his approval. “I see you’ve finally learned how to shoot your load.”

“Yeah…right, Dad.” Billy blushed and kept his eyes on the ground, embarrassed by his choice of words.

“I’m talking about the prize you just won!” He pointed to the BB gun. “I think it’s time we had a talk about the birds and the bees.” His father winked.

Billy rolled his eyes. “No one calls it that anymore. Stop trying to disguise sex. I already know the basics. I’m a real fast learner.”

Mr. Hogan snickered. “I’ll bet you are!”

The boy climbed the cracked cement stairs the lead to the back door, dug his house keys out of the front pocket of his jeans, being careful not to aggravate his raging hard-on, and unlocked the door. His father closed it gently behind him without saying a word, walked over to the fridge, pulled out a can of root beer and handed it to Billy. Then he grabbed some ice from the freezer, dropped it into a rocks glass and topped it off with a generous serving of single-malt whiskey, a clear sign his little talk would be long, involved and probably boring. Billy decided to get comfortable; setting his new BB gun across his lap, he felt self-conscious about his hard-on, though he doubted his father would notice it from the other side of the table.

Billy opened his root beer and took a long sip.

His father took a swig of whiskey, set his glass down on the table, and pushed it aside, more intent on the task at hand.

“Let us pray for forgiveness and strength.” He made the sign of the Cross, closed his eyes, and bowed his head.

The boy mimicked his movements.

Together, they recited their favorite prayer: “Our Father, who art in Heaven, hallowed be thy name; thy Kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in Heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us; and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. Amen.”

Billy’s father opened his eyes and cleared his throat. “Good sex with a woman is even better than that adrenaline rush you’re probably still feeling after your impressive performance at the fair.”

Billy smirked, guilty as charged. “The thrill of the kill really gets me going.”

The older man grunted and continued his lecture. “When you handle a gun or a woman, if you’ve enjoyed yourself, you’ll shoot your load without thinking about it. Of course the gun requires your undivided attention. You’ve got to zero in on your target at the exact moment it’s in your sights, or else you’ll miss your chance at the kill.”

His father paused to down the rest of his whiskey and wipe his mouth with the back of his hand. “When you’re with a woman, you’ve got total control, you’ve got your bullet in her chamber, pumping her full of lead, so to speak. Do you follow me?”

Billy finished off his soda. “Uh, I think so…Handling a gun is more of a challenge because you have limited control over what you’re after. But when you’re with a woman, and you’ve got more experience than I do, the challenge isn’t always there, but the excitement is.”

Billy’s father reached slowly across the table and patted one of his son’s bony shoulders. “Well, son, I couldn’t have said it better myself.”

#

Armed with his father’s words of wisdom and his brand new BB gun, Billy ran out back to the woods where he could pursue livelier game before it got too dark.

“Ask yourself what Jesus would do and your aim will be true.”

He paused when he heard something rustling to his left. A tiny chipmunk wiggled its nose and looked around, sensing danger, but not knowing who the enemy was.

Instinctively, Billy aimed in that direction, setting his sights on the disturbance, and pulled the trigger. The furry creature, concealed by dead leaves until the shot blew its cover, yelped and tried to flee, but he launched a BB directly into its hindquarters paralyzing it instantly. Billy clutched the gun in one hand and grabbed his prize, still squealing, by the scruff of its neck in the other. He rushed home, dropped the dying thing down on the back stoop, and ran inside to get his father, who was busy in the kitchen making venison stew for supper.

“Dad, come see what I got!” Billy grinned, finding it nearly impossible to contain his excitement.

His father stepped outside, looked down at Billy’s catch, gritted his teeth and said: “Wounded game is nothing more than a wasted shot! Bring me back something that’s dead tomorrow, or I’ll take that BB gun away and give it to a boy who knows how to use it properly!” He kicked the writhing chipmunk off the stoop into a pile of dead leaves, ignoring the pool of blood left in its wake, and went back inside, slamming the door behind him.

#

The next afternoon, not wanting to disappoint his father again, Billy snatched his BB gun from its usual spot against the wall next to his bed and crept out to the woods in search of an easy target. He felt his dick get hard in anticipation of the hunt. Perched high in a tree directly in front of him, Billy spied the perfect target a squirrel nibbling on an acorn.

He took a deep breath and set his sights on the tiny creature, waiting anxiously for the exact moment his target became a martyr on the Cross. His trigger finger twitched; he struggled to hold it still until the time was right.

Billy fired.

Still clutching the acorn, the squirrel hit the ground with a soft thud. Billy scooped up his catch and rushed back to the house, eager to make his father proud.

“Dad, look what I got!” He held the dead rodent up for his father to see.

“Nice shot, son. Right in the eye. Kills ’em every time! Remember that and you’ll never go wrong!” Billy’s father grabbed the carcass and admired the BB shining dully in the socket where the squirrel’s left eye had been. “This little fella’s a keeper!”

Billy licked his lips. “Can you stuff and mount him for me, so I can keep him on the dresser, next to my bed? A trophy is sure to inspire me.”

“You betcha!” His father winked.

#

The sun resembled a bloody orb sinking slowly in the western sky when Billy went out to the garage to swipe his father’s Remington Pump Action shotgun for a little experimental adventure in search of the ultimate fare game. The gun was much heavier than the BB gun he was used to, because it was a man’s gun. Billy hardly noticed the extra weight. Tremendous excitement filled him with deeper purpose.

While he set out on his mission, Billy tried to think of a place with targets that moved faster and were tougher to hit than the ones at the shooting gallery. He camped out in the tall grass a few miles away from the woods and waited for a commuter train to pass by; he decided that would do quite nicely. Billy set up his father’s camcorder on the tripod he’d brought and adjusted the focus, so he could record himself in action for posterity.

A few minutes later Billy heard a familiar whistle not too far off in the distance. He walked a few feet in front of the camera and stood off to the right, ready to open fire as soon as the train appeared. When it sped by in one big silver blur, he locked on to a random window, thumbed off the safety and fired in rapid succession. It was much harder to hit something moving so fast, but Billy managed to rise to the occasion.

That done Billy shut off the camera grabbed his gear and headed for home. He reloaded his father’s rifle carefully, so he wouldn’t suspect a thing, and put it back in the rifle rack out in the garage before heading into the house.

As usual, his father was in the living room watching the news and drinking single-malt whiskey. He turned around when he heard the back door slam and glared quickly at his son, not noticing the camcorder case in Billy’s hand. “Where you been, boy? You had me worried.”

Billy shrugged. “I had a train to catch.”

Mr. Hogan nodded vaguely and turned back to the television with a sense of wonder. “Get a load of this, son: an unidentified sniper just shot six passengers on a rush-hour commuter train. Turns out he only fired six bullets–one for each victim. He must’ve been quite a shot.”

Billy glanced at the raw footage and grinned. His father had a keen eye.

“Let me show you where I’ve been.” He took out the videotape he had just made and popped it in the VCR, so his father could see how much progress he made in the week that passed since he won the BB gun at the fair. Billy pressed PLAY and sat down on the couch next to his father to admire his handiwork up close.

Billy’s father was speechless as he watched his son stand off to the right, hidden by the tall grass, poised, ready to open fire as soon as the train was in view. When it sped by, he saw his son lock on to a window and start firing in rapid succession. His father winced when he heard gunfire and saw glass shatter. The passengers’ shrieks were drowned by the noise of the rumbling train, but the camera angle managed to catch one bloody face locked in a scream, providing a silent soundtrack to the carnage.

Slowly, still in shock, his father turned off the television, finished his whiskey, and shook his head. “How could you do something like this with my good rifle?”

“It was easy, I waited for the right moment when my target became a martyr on the Cross, just like you taught me. Then I shot my load without thinking about it. I sure caught those folks off guard, didn’t I? I was so excited I didn’t know I hit the train until I played back the tape, just now…” He started to laugh. “I really wanted to impress you; it looks like I’ve exceeded your expectations.”

“This is no joke, son. Shooting animals is a sport. But shooting people is different; it’s murder plain and simple. You’ve committed a serious crime.” His father’s scrunched-up face tried to drive the message home, but from Billy’s blank stare, Mr. Hogan could see that the boy didn’t understand what he had done at all. “You know, son, you could go to jail if anyone finds out you did this. What drove you to go out and shoot up a train?”

Billy stopped laughing. “You did.”

“I never told you to shoot anyone! You always twist my words around into something else! You don’t listen, you’re too busy hearing what you want to!” Billy’s father shook his head in amazement.

“You told me to ask myself what Jesus would do and my aim would be true. That’s exactly what I did; it works wonders every time.” He grinned. “I wanted to make you proud, Dad.”

“Well, you went about it all wrong. If you’d only asked me I would’ve taken you out to the woods and let you shoot some deer, instead of watching me do it. This time you’ve gone too far!” He shook his head. “You’ve got to think about the consequences of your actions, boy. I thought you knew that by now, but I guess I was dead wrong!”

Billy buried his hands deep in the pockets of his jeans. “I, uh… don’t know what came over me. I got caught up in the moment.”

“Come on, show me exactly where you found that rifle!” He grabbed his son by the arm and dragged him out of the house, to the garage where he kept his guns.

With his trigger finger, Billy pointed to the rifle rack hidden in a dark corner of the garage. “It was empty when you showed me how to shoot.” He bit his lip.

“You still don’t want to be pointing an empty gun at people, boy!” Without giving it much thought, Billy’s father grabbed the gun his son had taken without permission, switched off the safety, and pointed it right at the boy.

Billy felt the crotch of his jeans tighten. He stared at his father with vacant brown eyes; knelt down on the cold, dirty floor, spread his arms wide and waited.

His father’s hand shook uncontrollably, accidentally discharging the loaded gun. A single bullet lodged itself in the boy’s left eye.

Billy hit the ground with a soft thud, a pool of blood surrounding his head like a halo. A similar wetness spread across the crotch of Billy’s jeans as the final jolts of the boy’s body stretched a wan smile over his proud face.

About the author:

Amy Grech has sold over 100 stories to various anthologies and magazines including: Apex Magazine, Beat to a Pulp: Hardboiled, Dead Harvest, Detectives of the Fantastic, Volume II, Expiration Date, Fear on Demand, Fright Mare, Funeral Party 2, Inhuman Magazine, Needle Magazine, Reel Dark, Shrieks and Shivers from the Horror Zine, Space & Time, Tales from The Lake Vol. 3, The Horror Within, Under the Bed, and many others. New Pulp Press published her book of noir stories, Rage and Redemption in Alphabet City.

She is an Active Member of the Horror Writers Association and the International Thriller Writers who lives in Brooklyn. Visit her website: http://www.crimsonscreams.com. Follow Amy on Twitter: @Amy_Grech

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What is Good Writing?

http://www.spreaker.com/user/8056632/ep-88-pronoun-police-and-writer-snobs

 

Mr. Deadman and Marchese will explore good writing vs bad writing. What’s lazy writing? What’s the problem with pronouns? What does it mean when readers don’t seem to care, on average? Traditional publishers are described as gatekeepers of quality, yet publish Dan Brown, E.L. James and Stephenie Meyer.
These authors are criticized for their poor prose and lazy writing, but are loved by fans, and are living very comfortably off their work. So, what’s the difference between good writing vs bad writing? Appealing to academics, grammar police, and writing elitists or appealing to readers?