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Pixelated Nightmare – Goriest NES Game ever?

Is Abadox a pixelated nightmare or a hidden gem of the NES era?

Abadox is a video game for the NES, subtitled The Deadly Inner War. It is a side-scrolling shoot ’em up in the vein of Gradius and R-Type. The game is notable for its unique visual design, as the game takes place inside the intestinal tract of a giant alien organism. Abadox is also known to be difficult, since it takes one hit from an enemy projectile to be killed.

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Enjoy a Good Scare? Read Book of Horrors!

 

Book of Horrors, available on Amazon Kindle, consists of ten solid terrifying horror stories and is absolutely perfect for those that enjoy a good scare.

 

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Enhance your coffee

Horror newbies and avid horror fans should take caution, though. Book of Horrors features chilling tales of cold-blooded murder, demonic possessions, zombie apocalypse, invasive body parasites, and much more. Each story tells a self-contained narrative with its own unique theme and influences.

Whether your taste for horror is H. P. Lovecraft, Stephen King, or Tales from the Crypt, Book of Horrors is an essential horror anthology that’ll leave you haunted.

There are two ways for horror fiends to get their hands on Book of Horrors. Book of Horrors can be purchased from Amazon for $2.99 and read on Kindle, e-reader, or even modern phones.

Or, horror readers can have access to Book of Horrors, along with other horror anthologies, by pledging a dollar ($1) on Patreon at https://www.patreon.com/deadmanstome

 

 

 

 

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Hold Me Tight – S. J. Budd

 

 

“We’re so thrilled you’ve agreed to take on Jake, he’s been placed with four different carers in the last three months, but no one seems to want to have him.” Mandy, Jake’s social worker, looked down at her notes, “Such a shame. It’s usually the most challenging children that are the most rewarding.”

Kirsty cleared her throat and took a sip of tea from the chipped mug in her hands, “You said his mother is ill, what’s wrong with her?”

“I can’t say,” Mandy responded very quickly, she gathered her things and seemed eager to leave, “Good bye Jake,” She finished without looking back.

“Thanks again,” Kirsty called out after her.

Kirsty got up from her sofa and asked Jake if he was hungry he shook his head but Kirsty gave him a bar of chocolate which raised a smile. He took it and shyly sat down beside her. She got the remote and put on a kids TV programme, it had been Jessica’s favourite.

“I think we’re going to get on just fine,” Kirsty said. He was a very shy boy with dark hair and dark eyes, hopefully he liked football. It was Gary’s burning passion and Kirsty had brought this little boy into her home not because she wanted to care for him but because she needed glue to keep her fragmented family together, and Jake was just the thing.

Kirsty received a text halfway through cooking dinner, it was Gary saying he would be home late, he was going for a drink with the lads, again. Kirsty sighed and gritted her teeth, these days he was never at home, never around when she needed him the most. No doubt he blamed himself but she forgave him as she did every time he did something wrong. No one’s perfect she lamented, not even Gary.

Jake accepted his meal in silence and ate everything without protest, even the peas. Kirsty smiled he was a doddle to look after, this was going to be easy. Even when he was sent to bed there was none of the usual dramatics she had with Jessica.

“Jessie?” Kirsty whispered in the dark hallway as she waited outside an empty room that had been untouched since that day. She went back downstairs after seeing Jake to bed. There was nothing on the telly but there was a bottle of cheap wine in the cupboard so she took that out instead and sat alone at the kitchen table with one glass.

Kirsty must have been really tired because she woke up the next day still sat at the table, Jake was also sat next to her waiting with angry eyes.

“Jake, oh I didn’t hear you come down,” she quickly hid the empty bottle and glass before he saw and tried to act as if she was feeling on top of the world. He said nothing but glowered at her. “Do you usually have cereal for breakfast?” Kirsty inquired, she received no answer and turned round to see he had gone.

That was how it had started, Jake would not speak to her, would not go near her. Something in him had changed overnight. Kirsty rubbed her neck, it had been playing up again, a painful reminder of the day she had lost everything.

Gary was upstairs in bed snoring off last night’s excesses, she knew better now than to wake him, he had a terrible temper that had become much worse. It was mid- morning, there was nothing good on telly but she did find a half drunk bottle of whisky by the side of the bed. It was Gary’s but if she put the empty bottle back after she was done he’d just think it was him that drank it.

“You two are disgusting, you’re so embarrassing. Why can’t you be like normal parents?” Jake spat, he had been sat behind the sofa unknown to Kirsty.

Those words were all too familiar to her, “Jake, what are you doing behind the sofa?” Her words were beginning to slur and it was hard for her to act right.

Jake looked upstairs but made no move to come out, “Is he coming down too?”

“Gary? No he’s asleep. I didn’t realise that you had met each other. He’s really nice, do you like playing football. Gary loves football, he used to play professionally until he had his accident.” Kirsty stopped suddenly, “But don’t mention that to him, better to pretend you don’t know.”

“I hope you drink yourself to death, both of you.” Jake hissed as he ran outside to the bottom of the garden.

Kirsty hid her face in her hands, there was only one thing she could do to numb the pain and that was to drink a bit more until it went away. It seemed like he knew her already, he hated her already. Was this what he did when he was placed with new foster carers? Was he deliberately trying to push her away? She wasn’t going to give up, not like last time.

“We’re all hurting in this house Jake, but we can help each other. You can help me and I can help you. Does that sound fair?” Kirsty asked as she found him kicking about an old ball.

“You don’t deserve help,” was all he said.

As the day progressed Kirsty’s mind became clearer, this had been a big mistake. Jake was not going to bring the things back that she had so desperately wanted. They were not going to be a family, he was just another broken creature in a house of suffering. She made that call to Mandy who did not hide her disappointment in Kirsty’s decision to stop caring for the boy.

“I’ll come round tomorrow, give you a chance to sleep on it,” She spoke coldly.

“Can’t you come and get him now?” Kirsty pleaded looking out the living room window to the stranger in her garden. The line went dead, Mandy had hung up.

“What have I done?”

Kirsty couldn’t sleep at all that night, Jake had really unnerved her but at least he had put up no fuss when she sent him to bed early. In fact he had welcomed it, he must have been glad to be away from her. Kirsty sighed and rubbed her temples. Was she really so terrible a person?

Gary was down the pub again, he didn’t care for Jake. This had been one very big mistake. She got out of bed but she wasn’t going to drink this time. Her life needed changes she needed to stop it for good.

“I have a problem,” she whispered as she traipsed down the hallway. When she got to Jake’s room she heard a sound and paused. There was another muffled giggle, it sounded like a girls chuckle.

“I told her, I hope you drink yourself to death,” Jake giggled followed by more laughing. Kirsty was shocked that Jake was capable of laughter, he seemed such a sombre child during the day. Now, in the darkness he was unrestrained and free.

“She didn’t say anything back,” there was another pause. “No I didn’t get a smack either.” Kirsty leaned in trying to decide whether she could hear another voice, “I’ll make sure to stay out of his way.” Kirsty thought about going in and turning on the light but there was something that stopped her from doing so. She wanted to know who he was talking to, there was definitely somebody else in there with him.

“Jess, if you’re still feeling sore you can sleep on the bed and I’ll take the floor. I don’t mind.” There was a rustling of bed sheets followed by several soft creaks on the floorboards. “Of course you can sleep in with me, I’ll hold you tight.”

Kirsty took a step back and nearly fell down the stairs in shock. Quickly she went downstairs, luckily there was a can of opened beer that Gary had left on the kitchen table. He’d be mad when he would get in later and see it was gone, but right now, she needed it more than him.

How could he have known her name? Was it possible Mandy had told him? Surely it was a strange thing to tell a child? Was Jake really talking to Jessica? An overwhelming surge of emotion took over her like a rip tide pounding a beaten shore.. She had not allowed herself to feel anything for the last six months and now it, the very thing she’d been trying to drown, had burst through the dams. Was he really talking to Jessica, her Jessica? Her only child who tragically died six months ago. She saw it now, Jake was not the glue needed to hold this family together, but the bridge in which to speak to her daughter. She wanted to go up there now and speak to her, but she didn’t want to blow her chance.

Eventually Jake came down shortly after nine AM, Kirsty had refused any more alcohol after that beer and was completely sober, it hurt like hell but she was ready for it, ready for the suffering of the darkest dawn. Now Jake was here, she’d find a new day to begin again. With Jessica’s help also, she knew she could turn her life around.

“Jake what have I done to upset you? I only want to be your friend.” Kirsty had made him a special fried breakfast, she’d nipped out whilst he had been asleep to buy the ingredients needed.

“You’re mean,” Was all he said as he pushed the plate away.

“Look Jake,” Kirsty said taking hold of his shoulders in her grip, “I need to know. Were you talking to Jessica last night? Is she here? Please I need to talk to her. She’s my daughter.” Jake wriggled away from her with a surprising strength.

“Don’t touch me. I know what you did.”

“What do you mean? Look, can you speak to her or not?” Kirsty asked growing impatient, all she wanted was her little girl back.

“Yes I can, but she doesn’t want to speak to you and neither do I” Jake said retreating further back.

“But why?” Kirsty cried, the struggle to stay sober was getting too much.

“Because you killed her! She hates you.” Jake roared he added in a quieter tone, “She’s told me everything, that you two drove home after a BBQ. You let Gary drive even though you knew he’d had too much to drink. He crashed the car and she died, but instead of giving her justice, you lied and said it was you driving.” Jake threw up his hands in disbelief, “And you still love him, you still let him sleep here, in her home.”

“I don’t have anyone else now,” Kirsty whispered, she tried to get closer to Jake but he retreated further backwards, “Please ask her to speak to me. I’ll do anything.”

Jake shook his head unmoved, “She lives in the darkness now, where you put her. She only whispers in the dark.”

“How can I find a way to speak with her? Please Jake, she’s my daughter. I need her back, I can’t take this anymore.” Finally her resolve gave way and she collapsed in a pitiful heap upon the dirty cracked linoleum floor.

There was a knock on the door and Jake froze. There was a grim look on his face and mournfully he glanced upstairs. “I knew you’d do this,” He said knowing who was on the other side before he’d opened it. He smiled as if remembering a happy memory. “Gary won’t be waking up today.”

“Wait. Jake what are you talking about?” Kirsty fought down the urge to be sick as she raced upstairs.

“Hi Mandy,” Jake said cheerily, “I’ll just get my things.”

About the Author: Originally born in Cornwall, south west England, her childhood was surrounded by myths and legends and she has always been fascinated by anything out of the ordinary. It was in this strange and ancient land where she developed a passion for writing.

She loves writing short stories exploring dark fictional worlds and its mysterious inhabitants, and is currently working on her first novel. Her day job involves working as journalist for www.findahood.com and she also blogs on her sitehttp://www.sjbudd.co.uk

Her work has appeared in Sanitarium Magazine, Siren’s Call Publications, Deadman’s Tome, Innersins , Aphelion, Bewildering Stories, Blood Moon Rising Magazine, Shadows at the Door and Danse Macabre Magazine, The Wild Hunt and Morpheus Tales

Twitter @sjbuddj

 

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Not Every Thing is Racist

With the growing hysteria off people claiming racism in various media and the rise of the PC culture, let’s take a moment to point out that it is way too easy to “find” racism in just about everything. But that does not mean that perceived racism is real, has merit, or is of purpose. In short, not everything is racist.

Take Go Dog Go, for example, the children’s book has a page that teaches the distinction between black and white. A dishonest SJW would squeeze a “that’s racist” comment for attention. Even worse, the page shows only three black dog. A social studies major would interpret that as a statement of our society, when they have no fucking clue why there is only three dogs. Worse than that, the page shows the black dogs working for a white dog, doing tricks for a white dog, and running away from a cop dog.

Super racist, right? No. Somethings are just what they are and have no meaning or interpretive value whatsoever. Go Dog Go could have a cryptic message about Satanism and the worshiping of the great dark lord, but racism just isn’t there.

Not everything is racist.

 

 

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Nicetopia – Dene Bebbington

 

 

Dylan Hardcastle frowned as he passed the stumpy church and drove down the small high street, again. The signposts in the area had contradicted his map which didn’t show this village, and somehow he’d driven in a circle for the third time. This was one aggravation he could do without, it topped off an already wearisome day spent with his most awkward client. It was early evening. He decided that the quaint looking pub was as good a place as any to stop for dinner and a beer before continuing on his journey. He could ask for directions and where he’d gone wrong in returning to the village.

Usually he would stick to the main roads when travelling to a hotel ready for the next day’s meetings with another client, but today he was heading to a hotel which was difficult to find – off the main routes and somewhere he’d not been to before. Carol, his wife, had told him to buy a new SatNav when the last one had stopped working; he almost wished he’d taken her advice.

The banks and the recession they’d caused had reduced his commission to a third of what it had been a few years ago. Until the commission improved he preferred to print off maps from the Internet rather than shell out on a replacement gadget, no matter how useful it might be.

An orange glow from Victorian style streetlights took over from the weakening twilight. A few couples strolled hand-in-hand along the high street, sometimes stopping to look into a window of one of the few shops. Dylan’s was the only car on the cobbled road. He thought it odd that no cars were parked in the handful of spaces on either side of the street – it wasn’t late and there should at least be some shopkeepers yet to leave for home.

He slowed and indicated to turn into a parking space, even though there was no need to stick to driving rules with no other traffic about. His irritation at being lost hadn’t faded; he stabbed the brake, jerking the car to a halt. On getting out of the car a middle-aged couple who were walking by waved to him.

“Good evening. It’s a wonderful evening isn’t it?” the man said. Incredibly, the man doffed his hat at Dylan.

“Yes, it is,” Dylan said, not elaborating in case he got dragged into conversation. He muttered, “It will be when I find my way out of this backwater.”

Thankfully, the couple carried on without making an attempt at real conversation. He stood watching them for a few seconds, surprised at the classic long overcoats they both wore, and the homburg worn by the man. Dylan opened the back door of the car and took his suit jacket off the hook. He slipped on the jacket and felt a bit out of place, as he always did when not in an office or hotel frequented by people on business. When not at work, or travelling for work, he felt more comfortable in jeans and a causal shirt.

The car’s indicators flashed at the same time as a brief chirping sound confirmed the car had locked and the alarm was set. Habit made him do this, but he suspected that in this place you could leave a car unlocked and it’d still be there later. Already he sensed something about the village, as if it had somehow avoided changes in society and held on to an older, kindlier, way of life.

In the pub a few people sat quietly chatting and drinking. He silently gave thanks that it wasn’t one of those weird, out of the way places where the locals stop talking and look with suspicion at any outsider. As he approached the bar a smiling landlord with ruddy cheeks greeted him.

“Nice to have a stranger here, it’s been a while since the last one. What can I get for you, sir?”

Dylan surveyed the pumps. There were several bitters and ales with odd names, but no lagers. Like most men he’d probably choose a cold one.

“Give me a pint of the strongest beer you have.”

“Had a hard day, sir?” the landlord asked as he drew out a dark ale with little froth on top. “You look like someone who has to travel a lot.”

Before entering the pub Dylan had planned to buy a drink and then sit in a discreet spot, and maybe call his wife. For the last few months his mood had been like a thin wine glass – delicate and fine if handled properly, yet always in danger of splintering into shards if too much pressure was applied. Getting lost and unable to find the way out of the village had tested the brittleness, yet the friendly and soothing atmosphere of this place had started to loosen the stress. He looked around at the other patrons, and for the first time he noticed that they were all middle-aged like the couple who’d greeted him outside. And the clothes they wore, he couldn’t decide if they were old fashioned or just classically stylish.

Those who saw him looking their way smiled, except one couple who furtively glanced at him then back to each other. Was that a look of sadness or pity that came and went before they reverted to conversing with each other? He couldn’t be sure and paid them no more attention.

“Would you like to order a meal with us, sir? Our dining room is open,” the landlord said.

“Yes, think I will. Might as well eat before getting on my way.”

A brief look of disappointment crossed the landlord’s face on hearing the last few words. Dylan pretended not to have noticed as he was ushered into the small dining room, with his drink carried for him on a tray. The oak tables were all neatly set, but the room had no other diners in it. Once he was seated the landlord went over to a nearby shelf to fetch a menu for him. The menu consisted of typical pub fare. Dylan shifted in his chair as the landlord stood leaning next to him explaining the dishes. He didn’t need a bloody menu explained to him as it was all there written down, and he wasn’t illiterate. After hearing about the first three things Dylan took the menu from the man’s hand, trying not to snatch it.

“Don’t worry, I’ll have a read through this and order something in a couple of minutes,” he said.

“Thank you. I’ll be at the bar if you decide earlier than that, sir,” the landlord said.

Earlier than a couple of minutes which would be barely enough time for the man to serve someone a couple of drinks and take payment. Dylan couldn’t remember ever receiving such unctuous and attentive service. Not in Britain anyhow, as he hadn’t been to any top class hotels or restaurants. He scanned the menu and stopped at the reasonably priced steak. No point in going further down the list, a steak was always hard to resist. Cooked medium with a dollop of mustard on the side, he decided.

He ordered when the landlord returned.

“My wife is the chef here. Does a marvellous job with the steaks, and she’ll bring it out to you soon. Just call over if you need anything in the meantime, sir.”

“Thanks. I’m sure I’ll be fine.”

Dylan, discreetly shaking his head, watched the man return to the bar. This place is odd, he mused. At least he’d be out of here in maybe an hour if he stayed for dessert. Then he’d ask for directions and get on his way, get to the hotel he’d booked when it’d be safe to sink more beers once there was no more driving to do for the day. He gazed around the room and noticed the pictures. Some pubs had pictures on a wall showing people in various states of inebriation having a good time together, but the ones here were sedate. They showed people sat at the tables in the bar smiling  at the camera. None had people hugging, or mugging their drunken faces close to the camera.

A faint aroma caught his attention but he couldn’t quite make out what it was. Possibly lavender or rose water, something barely discernible yet cloying at a subconscious level. The lines on his forehead compressed a little as he struggled to understand what it was about this place, not just the pub but the whole village and its peculiar atmosphere. That was it – peculiar because everything and everyone he’d encountered so far was nice. Too nice.

Pleasant and peaceful, an atmosphere that was increasingly hard to find. It’s not as if he longed for it; a break from the grind of modern working life would be welcome for a while, but he knew it would turn insipid and stifling if he had to stay here a long time. Balance in all things, that’s what he needed and never seemed to find. His day was turning out to be too much like sitting on a lopsided seesaw – up and down, never a manageable place in the middle.

The pub had no TV on the wall to occupy him while waiting for the food, so he reached into a  pocket to take out his phone, intending to check any messages and maybe have a quick read of the news. No reception bars showed, and none appeared when he waved the phone around trying to find a signal. He sighed.

“We don’t get a signal here, sir,” a woman said. “There’s no call for them things in this village.”

He looked up. The landlady stepped over to him and placed a variety of condiments on the table.

“Surely somebody must want to use a mobile phone?” he said. Like most people he’d consider someone who didn’t have a mobile phone to be unusual. Oldies he could understand not having one, but not everyone in the village.

“We don’t need them, too distracting is what I says. Well, I’d better return to the kitchen and attend to your steak, sir. It will be ready in a few minutes,” she said, smiling.

The food arrived as promised after a few minutes. To Dylan it seemed like longer as he was not used to sitting in silence with nothing to do. There were games he could have played on his phone while waiting if that had not seemed inappropriate here.

Great steak and chips. He was savouring the meal, one of the best he’d had in ages, but wished the landlady would return to the kitchen. Instead she remained in the dining room and stood a table away; occasionally she’d ask if there was anything he needed and if the food was to his satisfaction. The overly attentive and polite service was beginning to grate his nerves and bring back the stress that had temporarily eased.

When he’d finished the landlady took taken his plate away and promised to bring the dessert menu, ignoring his claims that he was full. He left the dining room to use the gents toilet. Soon after someone else came in, the man who’d glanced at him differently to the others when he’d entered the pub.

“Did you find the village and was then unable to leave it?” the man said.

Dylan hated talking to people in toilets, he just wanted to finish and wash his hands. Without looking at the man he responded, “Funny you should ask because that’s exactly what happened.”

“And you ate the food?”

The conversation was taking a worrying turn.

“Yeah, cracking steak and chips.”

He finished his business at the urinal and shuffled over to the sink. There it was again on the man’s face, through the mirror Dylan could see an expression of pity.

“What’s going on?” Dylan said.

The man gazed down as if inspecting his shoes. “They are always nice because they know it’s torture to us after a while. And they won’t tolerate us being anything other than polite and respectful back. If you do that they’ll…”

Another man entered the toilets, stopping their conversation.

Having finished drying his hands Dylan returned to the bar area, walking behind the man who’d accosted him. Dylan was annoyed at how the man now skulked back to his table and now ignored him after seeking him out to utter a strange warning. Nobody can be nice all the time, not even as some kind of elaborate practical joke. It’s not in human nature to be consistently like that, he mused.

Back in the dining room he picked up his coat and went to the bar to settle the bill.

“Something the matter, sir? You haven’t ordered dessert,” the landlord said.

“I’ve changed my mind. Tell me how much I owe for the steak.”

“Sorry, sir, but I cannot do that. We don’t accept payment here, your company is satisfaction enough for us. No doubt we’ll be seeing you again tomorrow.”

Why bother having prices on the menu then, Dylan wondered. No point in asking. He rummaged in his jacket pockets to find his keys and eyed the landlord. There was no menace or threat in the man’s face, only a pleasant and docile expression. But what he’d said was a threat, at least the certainty in the statement could only be considered to be a threat. Dylan had no intention of staying in this place. It wasn’t even a throwback; no period in history, no matter how genteel, was all smiles and perfect behaviour. No, he was going to be on his way and get to the hotel he’d booked.

“I’m not staying. Goodbye and thanks for your hospitality,” he said.

“We’ll see you again, sir,” the man, ignoring what Dylan had said about not staying.

I’ve strayed upon a village of nutcases. Dylan hurried out of the pub without asking for directions. He was so focused on getting to the door and leaving that he didn’t notice any of the other customers. Only two of them reacted in a normal way, albeit briefly to not draw attention to themselves. The rest had expressions of bovine mentality, they might as well have been cows stood in a field chewing the cud.

He almost expected the car not to start as he finally slotted the key after fumbling it around the keyhole. But the car revved into life as it had always done. He switched the headlights on, pulled the gear stick into reverse and swung the car back into the road. There had been no point in checking for other traffic as the village was still devoid of other vehicles.

 

***

 

Dylan’s sanity was being steadily stamped on by the maddening and futile attempts to escape the village. It didn’t make any sense. He’d given up trusting the road signs, instead he took different routes each time, but five times he’d driven away and whichever route he chose the road always brought him back to the village.

He screeched the car to a halt outside the pub, misjudging the stopping distance. The front wheels banged against the kerb so hard that the air bag spat out of the steering wheel to meet his head flipping forwards. If it hadn’t then his face would have crashed into the windscreen because in the panic to leave the village he hadn’t fastened his seatbelt. He considered this while sat shaking at the shock of being brought to an explosive halt. In all the years of driving this was the nearest he’d come to a real accident.

Remembering something he’d seen on TV he took a few deep breaths which settled the shock, which was soon replaced by anger. Why hadn’t he been able to leave, what was going on here? Somehow the answer lay with the people in the pub. The landlord and his wife had been too keen for him to stay, suffocating in their pleasant manner and continually calling him sir.

Only two people appeared startled as Dylan entered the pub by shoving the door with such force that it cracked against the wall when it could swing no further. Most of the patrons gazed at him as though worried for his wellbeing rather than perturbed by his aggressive entrance.

“Welcome back, sir,” the landlord crooned from behind the bar. “We’ve been expecting you to return. Did you have a pleasing drive?”

Again Dylan took some deep breaths, using the pause to try and calm himself so he could think.

“Have you got a phone,” Dylan said, walking up to the bar.

“We don’t get a signal here, sir. And we don’t need them, we prefer to talk to each other in person,” the landlord replied.

“Not a mobile! A landline?” he said, exasperation creeping into his tone of voice.

“Oh, no, sir. In the village we don’t hold with them things either.”

Dylan’s anger returned. He clenched his fists.

“If I can’t call anyone then tell me why I can’t get away from here. It doesn’t matter which direction I take, the road keeps bringing me back here,” he said, thumping the bar with the edge of his fist.

He wondered if the man behind the bar was feigning ignorance. The frustration was like that from talking to a kid playing the annoying and vaguely unsettling game of repeating everything you say.

The landlord swept a hand in the direction of the pub’s patrons. “We’re happy here, sir. We don’t need to leave. It’s only you newcomers who don’t understand and try to leave, and what good does it do you? Please sit down and make yourself comfortable. I’ll bring you another drink.”

Darkness began to fill the edge of Dylan’s vision. He could feel rage building up; this situation of being a prisoner was pushing him beyond self-control. It wasn’t as if he’d done anything wrong, and besides, prisons weren’t like this except in anxiety dreams. But it couldn’t be a dream. The unreality of it was real, too real. If he didn’t get out and back to his normal life then he would crack –  insanity would burst out also like an inmate who’d been suppressed too long.

He swivelled round and pointed to the man who had spoken to him in the toilets. With his hand shaking he shouted, “Why did you ask me if I’d eaten the food?”

Before the man could respond the landlord proffered the answer.

“It will help to calm you, sir. We add something for all our new residents to help them get used to it here. Unfortunately, it’s stressful getting used to us at first, but you’ll come to terms with it eventually. You have no choice.”

The landlord smiled. To Dylan it seemed more like a smirk.

Dylan’s tunnel vision worsened. If he was going to be sedated then he’d fight first. He’d never felt anger like this; it was frightening yet liberating. There was nothing to hold him back, surely any court would understand that he’d been forced into this action after being held against his will and apparently drugged. He ran to the dining room and grabbed a steak knife from one of the tables that had been set.

As he strode back to the bar wielding the knife he didn’t notice that the landlord’s demeanour remained placid. Too placid given what he’d just admitted to Dylan. Well, he was going to pay for pushing him this far. Dylan hurried round the back of the bar and lunged, stabbing the man in the neck.

The blade went in right up to the handle. To Dylan’s insensate fury the sensation of sticking the blade in felt good as yielding flesh gave way to the metal – it felt like stabbing plasticine.

His victory and sense of power were short lived. The landlord casually pulled the knife from his neck and carefully put it on the bar top. There was no blood on the knife, or the wound which leaked nothing at all. Dylan felt more faint at witnessing this than if the man’s neck had spurted blood, which it should have done. He swayed and put a hand out to the bar to steady himself.

“That wasn’t very nice of you, sir. Please go back to your seat in the dining room and my wife will bring you the dessert menu. You might as well finish your dinner because you have a long stay ahead of you.”

“But… but what are you and where am I?” Dylan pleaded now he knew for certain that he was trapped.

“Such questions don’t have an answer I can give you, sir. There is no where, what and when to our lovely village. We leave it to yourselves to decide what this place means to you.”

“Here, let me help you to your table, sir,” the landlord said as he took Dylan’s arm and led him back to the dining room.

 

About the Author: Dene Bebbington works is an IT professional who feels more at home writing horror fiction. He’s had short stories published in various anthologies (Dark Corners #2, Dark Light III, Behind Closed Doors, and Disrupted Worlds to name a few), three stories as podcasts at The Wicked Library, and is the author of the ebooks Zombie Revelations and Stonefall.
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Deadman’s Tome is an online horror zine with a strong focus on delivering dark, gritty, and terrifying horror. Deadman’s Tome strongly encourages community engagement and fosters an environment where readers can react and share the stories they read. In addition, Deadman’s Tome offers writers a unique way to earn revenue from their stories. Instead of offering a fixed rate or a rate based on the number of words, Deadman’s Tome pays authors based on the number of views, likes, and comments received.

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Currently, I put about $30 of my own money towards Deadman’s Tome, but that amount does not offer much for advertising and marketing. And let’s face it, advertising and marketing is not only essential but expensive. I have a number of sites and organizations I plan on working with to place ads to spread awareness of the growing horror zine. However, I need your help in raising the money to make it happen.

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Texas Man Sells Zombie Burgers

A man in Texas was caught selling zombie burgers in a small town community and apparently some people might’ve actually bought one or two. Local authorities dismissed the selling of zombie patties as a prank and did not respond to the claim. However, a native Texan professional zombie hunter arrived to the scene to shut it down.

 

 

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Downward God – S. E. Casey

Douglas woke in the middle of the night to find his wife missing again.  Dinah had taken to doing yoga alone, long sessions at odd times of the day and, most recently, night. 

Sure enough, the door to the in-home studio was closed.  Douglas tried the handle—locked.  He resented the fact that after thirty-five years of marriage she refused to let him join her, the excuse always the same:

These are complex positions.  They take many years to master.   

He should have understood.  Dinah had taught him a few basic moves over the years, but he lacked the patience and discipline for anything advanced.

He took out the duplicate key he secretly had made.  He felt guilty, but nonetheless, he unlocked the door and entered. 

Lit by moonlight, the room was infernally hot.  Dinah taught Bikram yoga classes and had installed a radiant heater.  The soundproofed walls shook with whale calls—low moans with that distinct underwater echo.  However, neither distracted him from the tangle of humanity in the room’s center.

He barely recognized his wife; her contorted frame supported by one foot, an elbow, and three fingers.  Her left knee somehow bent the other way.  Her right arm was obviously popped out of its socket, an alien limb pinned underneath her torso at an odd angle.  However, it looked healthier than her other arm that hinged in two places, another joint added to the forearm.  While she laid chest-down, her neck rotated an impossible full-turn to face the ceiling.  She was tranquil despite the grotesque pose, eyes rolled back to the whites.   

Suffocated by the noise and heat, Douglas swooned on the verge of blacking out.  He realized he hadn’t taken a breath since he entered as if underwater.  Instinctually, he assumed Downward Dog.  Dinah always started him there—the key to all positions.  Head ducked under the arch of the body, he found an air pocket and greedily filled his lungs.

Vision restored, Douglas opened his eyes to a massive stone tower rising from an unknown shore.  Covering the spire in slippery green, seaweed snaked up the ancient edifice like ivy.  Through the nighttime doom, he spied himself in one of the lofty windows.  Douglas’s mind swam, but he realized the window was a mirror.  However, his reflection turned as if someone inside the fortress called to him.  With a lingering look off to the horizon, his image retreated from sight.

Douglas pivoted to follow his double’s pointed gaze.  However, he slipped on the rocks that surrounded him, the slimy seaweed spreading over everything here.  Unable to even shuffle his feet, he twisted hard at the waist to look behind.  In the mirror glass of another tower’s window, he again found his reflection.  His likeness stared to his left before stepping out of sight.

Despite his lack of flexibility, he violently swung an arm to torque himself in the new direction.  His dislocated shoulder burning, he spied another of his reflections.  Again, it pointed to a different site.

Knotting himself over the slimy rocks in a series of excruciating maneuvers, he assumed the same pose as his wife.  Less flexible and practiced, he endured the pain of his torn ligaments and broken bones.

These are complex positions…

Suddenly, he appeared in every window, hundreds of eyes gazing upwards to the moonless heavens.  Positioned facedown, he rotated his neck a full turn to the night sky.  His novice tendons snapped, muscles tore, and a splinter from his shattered spine punctured his jugular.

Bleeding out, he stared into the endless void of the night, that unblinking eye of a Dreaming God.  He despaired that it didn’t look back, smothering him with the lonely madness of indifference.

Author Bio:  Vacated scarecrow poles.  Smoking factories without doors. An hourglass filled with ants.  Clinging to the coast of New England, S.E. Casey writes of the darkly wondrous, strange, and grotesque.  His short stories and poetry have appeared in many magazines and anthologies which can be found at secaseyauthor.wordpress.com.

 

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Deadman’s Tome LIVE with Martin Richmond

 

Horror writer Martin Richmond, author of Zombie-con, meets with Mr. Deadman to talk about his zombie horror short, the relation to The Walking Dead (if any), all things zombies, and more.

This week’s Deadman’s Tome podcast will be hosted live on YouTube at the usual day and time, Friday at 10PM CST. Streaming on YouTube will allow for Mr. Deadman to really dig into Martin Richmond’s inspiration as writer, his experience, his knowledge and opinions on zombie culture, and much more.

If you watch LIVE and chat you will have a chance to win a FREE digital copy of the Book of Horrors II!

 

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Deadly Admiration – Jovan Jones

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Enhance your coffee

 

 

Caleb Thomas’ drab routine had grown tiresome. The dishes clanged as the dishwasher plucked them from the steaming carts. The vociferous mixture of Spanish and broken English hailed from the grills. The staff bellyached about their jobs, and how it was unfair that they were paid lousy wages. The manager’s constant threats to fire employees simply to scare them into working faster irritated him. But it was a job, and at least he didn’t have to wait by the back door like Mack; the homeless man who engaged in conversations with himself while he waited for a hand out. So, he donned his well practiced shit grin and went to work.

“My name is Caleb. I will be your waiter for the evening,” he greeted two pretty blonde women and their garish dates. He wrote his name on a napkin and took their order. One of the women caught his eye. Caleb tried not stare, but found it difficult to look away. He gathered his bearings and walked off.

Brook Abernathy gathered with a few friends at Lidia’s Italian Home Kitchen on South Boulevard just outside of Downtown Charlotte, North Carolina. They celebrated her divorce from her husband, Richard over Veal Marsala, bruschetta, prosciutto, and a bottle of Ecco Domani Merlot. A friend and co-worker, Derrick Ruben flirted unabashedly with the newly single woman. He rubbed her bare thigh under the table.

“How does it feel to be back on the market?” Derrick asked.

“Oh, I don’t know. Maybe if I were a piece of meat I could tell you, but for now I’m enjoying the company of my friends,” Brook said; slapping his hand off her leg. “Slow down, lover boy. I haven’t even finished my first glass of wine.” She winked.

Brook’s friend Marcy wore a white see –through blouse that revealed her red lace bra. It squeezed together her well endowed breast. She said, “Well, I guess Rich is up for grabs now, huh?” Marcy gulped down her glass of wine. “I’m just kidding, honey. That jerk is not my type.”

Yeah, you would fuck him if given the opportunity. You might have already; slut.

Brook smiled. “You can have him if you want, and everything that comes along with a sadistic psychopath.”

“I’m not sharing,” another one of Brook’s male friends, Walter stated. “This one is mine.”

“You’re sure of yourself aren’t you?” Marcy fronted a look of surprise at his remark.

“I go for what I like.” Walter moved closer and rubbed her back. She moved in rhythm to his touch.

“Can I get anyone dessert?” Caleb asked the table.

“No, thank you. We’re ready for the check,” Brook smiled. She subtly sized Caleb up. She liked what she saw. He was average height with an athletic build. He had a clean shave, clean cut hair, and soft brown eyes. She unconsciously adorned a wanton smile. Caleb reciprocated. He extracted a handful of mints from his apron and placed them in the pay dish. As he started away from the table he caught a menacing glare from Derrick. He met his glare with an intense gaze of his own. Derrick averted his eyes. Caleb smirked at Derrick’s attempt to intimidate.

“Thank you. Have a wonderful rest of the night,” Caleb said, but not before placing his palm on Brook’s shoulder. Derrick stared with enmity as the waiter ambled away.

“He’s kind of cute Brook,” Marcy said. Her voice was slurred from the alcohol.

“Yes, he is,” Brook responded.

“Too bad he’s a waiter,” Marcy said. “He can’t afford me.”

Please, you’re as cheap as they come.  Brooke thought.

They all pitched in on the tip and got up from the table. As they were leaving Caleb bumped into Derrick and caused him to fall into a nearby booth.

“I’m terribly sorry, sir. Here let me help you up.” Caleb gripped Derrick’s hand so forcefully Derrick’s knuckles popped. “There you go. Again, everyone have a splendid evening.” Caleb waltzed into the kitchen feeling good about his small victory. His focus turned to the voluptuous blonde with the Caribbean Sea blue eyes and puckered full lips. He visualized her chiseled calves strutting out the door. She smelled of cucumber and watermelon body wash, light scented sweet perfume, and a subtle hint of citrus; her shampoo perhaps. In that brief encounter he had become enamored with the woman.    

***

Derrick stood in the parking lot pissing behind his black Audi S7. He shook his meat, zipped up his pants, and turned.

“Jesus Christ!” He was startled by Caleb standing by the driver’s side door of his car. “Don’t you have some tables to bus?”

Caleb stayed silent; his breathing expanding his muscular physique through a white T-shirt.

“Look, buddy. I apologize for my manners. I didn’t mean to rub you the wrong way,” Derrick said. His voice cracked.

“You ever go to her house?” Caleb asked.

“Whose house?”

“The woman you kept unsuccessfully coming onto.”

“Brook, yeah she’s my friend,” he stated nervously. “Look, if you want I could . . .”

“I bet you were a bully in school. One of those jerks who got their kicks by picking on poor kids, or did you terrorize the retards?”

“Get out of my way.” Derrick tried to push past Caleb.

Caleb delivered a vicious uppercut to Derrick’s abdomen. He slumped over and heaved out his Chicken Parmesan dinner. “What do you want?”

Caleb got behind the man and wrapped cooking twine around his neck. It smelled of pork roast, and raspberry glaze. He tightened his grip. Blood seeped into the twine as it cut into Caleb’s fingers. Derrick kicked wildly. His arms flared desperately as he tried to get loose from his attacker. The lights in the parking lot dimmed. Derrick could hear nothing, except the panicked palpitations of his heart beating voraciously in his chest. His arms went lame. He couldn’t feel his legs. The taillights of his car looked like demonic eyes watching him being murdered. He had a bile movement, just as everything went black.

Caleb retrieved the keys to Derrick’s car and popped the trunk. He threw the lifeless body in and shut it. He got in the driver’s seat and typed in Brook. 4815 Ashley Park Lane appeared on the screen. He got out of the car, wiped his hands on his apron, and went back inside the restaurant to finish his shift.

***

“So tell me. How was it?” Marcy asked Brook.

“How was what?”

“Did he give it to you right?”

“Marcy. What are you talking about?”

“I’m talking about Derrick, of course. How was the sex?”

“I didn’t sleep with Derrick,” Brook said with disgust.

“Well, hell what did you guys do, make s’mores?”

Brook grew impatient. She didn’t know what Marcy was talking about, or why she assumed her and Derrick had been intimate. It was 6:30 in the morning and the coffee maker hadn’t even beeped yet. She looked at Marcy through a squint of confusion.

“Don’t look at me like that. I saw his car pull out the parking lot just as I was pulling in. I know it was him. His is the only Audi with a CUMSH2R license plate,” Marcy said.

“You sure you saw him leave, just now?”

“Yep.”

“I thought Derrick was cool, but he’s a creep. I can’t believe he was stalking me!” she said angrily.  

Brook and Marcy left out of the parking lot. Derrick’s Audi pulled in Brook’s parking spot. Caleb got out and headed to the office. It was closed. There was an emergency number on the door. He called the number and a heavy lethargic voice answered.

“Ashley Square at South Park, maintenance department.”

“Yes, sir this is Derrick. I’ve locked my keys in my apartment and my girlfriend has the spare. Can you unlock it for me please? I’m at 4815 apartment B. It’s kind of urgent. I forgot my insulin inside.”

“Give me a minute,” the maintenance man said.

Thirty minutes later the man showed up with the remains of his breakfast trapped in his scruffy beard.

“You have to be careful with that, man,” the maintenance man stated. “My mother went into a diabetic coma once. She wasn’t good with taking her medicine either.”

Than why the fuck did it take you thirty minutes to get here you fat slob? “I know. I have to be more careful.” Caleb said. He had contrived several rebuttals for why the guy should let him in, but the dingy maintenance man never questioned him. He didn’t even ask to see I.D. He unlocked the door and told Caleb to have a good day. “Thanks.”

Caleb entered the apartment and began searching. He surveyed the medicine cabinet first; relishing in the sweet perfumes that reminded him of Brook’s presence the night before. He imagined her doing her make-up in the nude; her supple cream flesh calling for his touch. Caleb ventured to her bedroom closet. It wasn’t what he expected. There were a few party dresses, but mostly professional attire and flats instead of high heels; a woman who could care less about impressing the corporate world, or she had a bad case of corns. Either way it made her seem more down to Earth. In her nightstand there was a black leather bound diary. He took it into the kitchen and placed it on the breakfast table. He found some pastrami in the fridge and made a sandwich. He sat down, lit a cigarette, and read her diary.

***

Brook and Marcy sat at a table outside of Mert’s restaurant on Church Street in downtown. They ate lunch and sipped on ice teas. Brook focused on her plate. She tried to filter Marcy’s never ending monologue of drama spewing from her mouth. The streets were lined with city maintenance laborers, vagrants, and office slaves released from their cubicle prisons for an hour to gorge themselves with greasy food. Through the sea of the heteronomy she glimpsed a handsome man strutting toward her. His gaze was fixed on hers. He stopped at her table.

“Hello,” he said.

“Hi . . . hello, how are you?” she greeted.

“I’m fine. Do you remember me?”

“Yes, I remember you. Lidia’s on South Boulevard, right?” He nodded. “I’m sorry, but I forgot your name.”

“Caleb Thomas,” he said proffering his hand. “What’s your name?”

“Brook. Brook Abernathy.” She gave him a toothy grin. Marcy cleared her throat. Brook pointed to Marcy. “This is my friend, Marcy.”

“Hi, nice to see you again,” Marcy said.

“I’m sorry. Where have we met before?” he asked.

Brook said, “She was with me that night at the restaurant.”

“Yes, yes of course.” Caleb nodded and reestablished eye contact with Brook. Marcy slid a finger through her hair, and pushed her breast up. It was an unconscious habit of hers when she didn’t get the attention from a man she thought attractive.

“Listen, Brook I’d really like to take you out sometime. How about we exchange numbers and set something up?”

“I’d like that. Have a seat. Have some lunch,” Brook invited.

“I don’t want to interrupt you two’s lunch, besides I’m on my way to the library.”

Marcy snorted a snide chortle, “You read?”

Caleb ignored her. It embarrassed her to be disregarded by a man.

Brooke kicked her friend under the table. She gave her a quick wide eyed reproach and smiled up at Caleb. He gave her his number and she called him to put her number in his phone. They exchanged niceties and he strolled off. It was Marcy’s annoying negativity that broke Brooke of her entrancement.

“You don’t even know him. He’s a waiter for Christ sake,” Marcy said.

Brooke shot her a playful grin. She leaned in and said, “Your jealous heifer.”

Pffft. Like I said before, he cannot afford me.”

“Maybe he’s scared of those big ole tits of yours.” Marcy’s jaw dropped. “You could smother a man to death with those things.”

“You’re a mess,” Marcy laughed.

“Let me tell you. Richard had a lot of money, but he was an asshole. I rather be treated with respect then slapped around with a money clip. Besides, Caleb seems like a nice guy.”

That night Caleb sat in his dark room at the edge of his mattress set on the floor. His naked body was lathered with sweat from his daily regimen of five hundred push-ups, and five hundred sit-ups. He held a piece of blank printing paper he took from Brooke’s printer in her apartment. He sprayed it with her perfume before he left. He basked in her scent; ruminating on the possibilities of them together.

Caleb stood and went to his dresser. He grabbed a pencil and began to draw her face. Caleb captured the details like a forensic sketch artist. From the wavy hair, to the full lips he was able to quicken her image onto the page. She smiled seductively at him through pursed grey and white lips. He smiled back at her. A malodorous stench seeping into his window broke his fugue. The funk of Derrick’s carcass was too pungent. He had to dump the Audi.

***

Brooke stepped out of the apartment on her way to work. She was greeted by the maintenance man. “How’s your boyfriend doing?”

Brooke turned her lips down and stared.

“How’s your boyfriend; you know with taking his insulin?”

“I don’t have a boyfriend, Mr. Russell,” Brooke said. “Insulin?”

Ole Mr. Russell went over the scenario in his head. He’d realized that he let a stranger into Brooke’s apartment. How could he be so careless? He couldn’t reveal that he did. He would lose his job. Mr. Russell needed his job. Ashley Square Apartments was the only place who hadn’t done a background check, because if they did they would’ve know he was a repeat sex offender, and sex offenders aren’t the type welcomed around women and children.  

“Oh goodness, I’ve got you mixed up with Mrs. Johnson,” he said with a straight face. “It’s early, and the blonde hair, you know?” He searched her eyes for accusations. “Never mind. Have a good one.” Mr. Russell scurried past her. Sweat dripped from his double chin. Brooke shrugged and got in her car. Her cell rang.

“Hello,” she answered.

“It’s Caleb. I hope I’m not calling you too early, but I’m on my way to work and I wanted to catch you before I got tied up all day and couldn’t call.”

Brooke beamed. “I’m on my way to work too. It isn’t too early. I’m glad you caught me.”

“I wanted to invite you to a get together tomorrow night. Some of my friends from work are pitching in and having a bar-be-cue. There’ll be drinks, and some card playing, things like that.”

“I’d love to,” Brooke said.

“Okay, see you tomorrow.”

Brooke hung up feeling a healthy and sprightly energy flowing through her body. It had been a long time since she felt that way about a man.

Caleb set out to court a beautiful woman, and her response toward him was positive. He felt triumphant, as he gazed upon the gorgeous watch that Derrick once wore. He unburdened the dead man’s wrist of it before he dumped his body in an abandoned house in Grier Town; a seedy part of the city on the east side of Charlotte.  

***

Caleb clothed himself as a regular Joe at work. He hid the maniac inside him well. He cogitated on Brooke, and the well of emotion she induced in an otherwise cruel and merciless mind. Staring out from the plateau of lunacy he saw a man filled with joy marching through the valley of depravity, bringing with him a torch of hope to illuminate his black quiddity. He turned from the bathroom’s mirror, and readied himself to do his job.

Marcy occupied the only table in his station. She was alone. Her mascara seemed heavier every time he saw her. She looked dejected.

“Hello, what are you having today?” he spoke with an exasperated tone.  

“I came to talk to you,” she said.

“I’m at work right now, what is it?”

“Why don’t you like me?” she asked. The insecurity of a school girl resonated in her voice.

“How do you figure I don’t like you?”

“You want Brooke,” she said.

“That’s right. I’m fond of her and would like to get to know her. She’s your friend, isn’t she?”

“She is,” Marcy’s eyes flickered with lust, “but I want you to be my friend too.”

“Look, Marcy I . . .” She placed her hand on his stomach. He felt blood rush to his member.

“Brooke gets all of the good guys. For a change I want one—just one good guy.”

“Which car is yours?” Caleb shoved a thumb toward the parking lot.

“The silver Buick Enclave in the front.”  

“Pull around to the back of the restaurant. We’ll talk, okay?” Caleb’s tone softened. He sighed as he shuffled through the traffic doors. Marcy stomped through the lobby. Her platform shoes sounded like props for an old western themed radio program. The host eye fucked her tits as they bounced around in her shirt like a waterbed mattress.

“Right there,” Caleb whispered. “That’s a good girl.” He held Marcy’s hair back as she bobbed on his cock. Spittle dangled from her lips. Red lipstick smeared her mouth. He pushed her head back down. His thick, heavily veined dick slid in her throat. She gagged, and came up for air.  

“Your cock taste so good,” she panted her words. “Cum in my mouth Daddy.” She jerked him into her mouth as her lips and tongue glided, sucked, and tickled the tip of his dick.

“Oh shit,” he said.

She sucked, and bobbed until she drank it all. He shivered. His body went limp. Her lips made a loud pop sound when she released him from her mouth.  

Marcy’s mascara ran from the tears produced when she gagged on his member. “See, Daddy. I can be your friend.”

Caleb’s shift ended. The time had come to enjoy Brooke’s company. Her image occupied his mind like a portrait set on the wall of his psyche. He’d removed Derrick from the picture. Caleb knew that he would have to eventually do something about Marcy’s insistent covetousness, but for the time being her lewd thirst was satiated. The day couldn’t have gone by quick enough.

Brooke met Derrick at the bar-b-cue. Her hair was curled, and hung just past her shoulders. She sported a flowery sundress that accentuated her curvaceous frame. Caleb met Brooke at the front of the house. Before greeting her properly he stood back; watching her strut and taking her all in. She was captivating. He was experiencing an unfamiliar feeling. He’d loved women, before, but this was different. He loved his mother. Caleb loved Mrs. Lojowski, his high school guidance counselor who took his virginity. Brooke had intelligent eyes. Her disposition was humble, yet authoritative. The woman’s presence incited amorous emotion. He admired Brooke.

Caleb introduced her to his friends. His friends were different from hers, and it was a welcome change. They were inviting. It wasn’t a competition of who had the best material item, or who knew the most successful people. They simply enjoyed each other’s company.

“Thank you for inviting me,” Brook said.

“No, problem,” Caleb responded. “They like you.”

She felt herself blush. Caleb cupped her hands in his. She looked at him with a felicitous beam.

I knew you’d like that. I’m so glad I read your diary before I pursued you. I want to be your dream man.

“Can you get me another drink?” Brooke asked.

“Sure, sure,” he said. Caleb went into the house and mixed her a rum and Coke.

“Oh my God Caleb, these are my absolute favorite flowers,” Brooke stated. Along with the drink he brought her a bouquet of violet and white carnations.

Your ex-husband wouldn’t bring you your beloved carnations other than on special occasions. I know, because you told me in your April seventh entry. Thank you for sharing your secrets.  

They sat silently, dreamily gazing into each other’s eyes; allowing their chemistry to work rather than screw it up with words. Caleb grabbed her hand and led her to his car. They went back to her place.

Brooke lay on Caleb’s chiseled chest. The moonlight leaked through the blinds illuminated his square jaw, and distinctive Mediterranean features. Something powerful emanated from his presence. She couldn’t pinpoint the source, but for some reason she had no explanation for, she visualized him turning into a werewolf at any moment. She tittered at the ridiculous idea, and got up to use the bathroom.

The day before she’d placed The Charlotte Observer on the tank of her toilet without reading it. She caught a glimpse of the black and white photo on the front page. A tow truck was lifting a car out of the marsh in Wilmington, NC. The license plate read CUMSH2R. She gasped, before reading a part of the article. It read:

Swansboro authorities say a Charlotte man’s car was recovered from the marshes of Bogue Sound. DMV records show the vehicle is owned by Derrick Ruben, an investment banker for First Union located in downtown Charlotte. No missing person report has been filed and police haven’t speculated on whether or not there was any foul play. They are attempting to locate Derrick Ruben at this time.

Brooke got back in the bed. She roused Caleb awake.

“What’s up? What’s going on?” he asked.

She told him about Derrick’s car being found. Brooke told him how he hadn’t been to work in a while, and nobody had heard from him.

“No one filed a missing person report?” he asked.

“No,” she said. “Honestly, there weren’t too many people that liked him.”

“I wouldn’t worry about it. If they didn’t find a body he’s probably on vacation. Some juvenile delinquent probably stole his car, took it for a joyride and ditched it in the sticks.” He wrapped his arms around her waist, and rested his head on her shoulder. She snuggled into his midsection and lifted his arm to her breast. His watch was cold on her nipple. She looked at it. The band had D.R. inscribed on it.

“Where did you get this watch?” Brooke tried to sound natural, but failed miserably. Her tone sounded worrisome.

“My mother gave it to me years ago as a birthday gift.”

“What’s D.R. stand for?”

“Okay, I know you’re not stupid. I confess. This is Derrick’s watch.”

Brooke jumped out of bed. She frantically tried to put her clothes on.

Caleb was calm. He said, “What’s the matter?”

“You know what. You killed him!”

“What?” Caleb looked shock. “Honey, calm down let me explain.” He held his palms up in a surrendering pose. “That night you came into the restaurant your pal kept giving me the evil eye. I never said anything to him. When you guys left I was taking the trash to the dump, and he approached me.

“I said, ‘What do you want.’ He said, ‘She doesn’t want you. Next time we come in here you stay the fuck away!’ I guess he noticed our vibe, so he continues on with his bullshit spitting his insults toward me. Brooke, I’m sorry, but yes I beat his ass. I didn’t kill him. I don’t have those kinds of balls. I’m not that type of guy. I let him get under my skin”

Brooke contemplated. She dropped her clothes, and laughed. “I’m a nut sometime. My imagination can get the best of me.”

Caleb sat back pondering on the situation. This is bad. I don’t want to kill her, but I might have to. Damn. Why does this always happen?