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More Plastic Wrap by Florence Ann Marlowe

The gloom descended on him the moment his sneaker touched the broken walk leading to his mother’s house.  It was as if a cloud had taken up permanent residence over the green tiled house.  Michael looked up at the grimy windows and they stared back with baleful black eyes. “The beast” as Michael liked to call it, waited for his return, laughing at him.  It knew he was a prisoner, unable to escape.
The rusty mailbox, clinging to the side of the house by one screw, hung heavy with the day’s mail.  Michael shifted the plastic bags to one hand and dug out the fistful of envelopes.  Bills, advertisements and his mother’s social security check.  He gritted his teeth.  Another reminder that he was not his own man. 
Hoping not to wake her, Michael crept through the door – but the house betrayed him.  The door creaked, squealing on him.  Under his breath he cursed the miserable old beast. 
“Izzat you, Mikey?”
Her voice was like a buzz saw gnawing at the nerves in his ears.  Michael felt his lips curl back into a snarl.
“Yeah, it’s me.”
“Did you get me my smokes?”
He tossed the bags on the kitchen table.  They contained three packs of Marlboros, six sticks of Slim Jims and a thirty-two ounce bottle of blue Gatorade.
“Did you get my smokes, sweetie?”  Her scratchy, witchy voice clawed its way from her bedroom upstairs.  
Michael shouted back. “Yeah, I got everything.  Here’s your mail.”  Under his breath he muttered, “Ya crazy, old bitch.”
His mother gingerly climbed down the stairs in a dingy pink housedress and terry cloth scuffs.  She was a tiny woman peering out beneath heavy black framed eyeglasses.  A nearly spent cigarette hung from her lips as she approached her only son.
“Didja have enough money for everything?”
Michael grunted and nodded.
The old woman patted his arm and eased herself into a chair to look through the mail; Michael flinched at her touch.
Thirty-two and living at home with his elderly mother, Michael acknowledged his failure. He had moved in with her when he dropped out of community college and swore it would only be until “he got on his feet.”  The years rolled by and there was always a reason he was unable to move out.  His mother pretended he was there to take care of her, but Michael felt trapped – trapped by the monstrous old house and his clingy hag of a mother.
She rifled through the bags.
“What the hell is all this?  I didn’t tell you to get this.”  The tone of her voice turned sour.
Michael grabbed at the bottle of Gatorade.  “I bought them for myself.”
“Not with my money!”
“No!”  Michael lied.  “I’ve got my own money.” Michael had already cashed his measly check from the video store and the piddling remains sat in his wallet.
The old woman patted his arm and nodded.  “All right, honey.  You can have your candy.” 
Michael furiously ripped open a Slim Jim and tore off a piece with his teeth.  The salty dried meat tasted bitter in his mouth. 
“Sweetie,” his mother said.  “You wanna take my check to the bank and cash it now?”
“Not now, Ma.” Michael said.
“But Mikey, I just signed it.” 
Michael gritted his teeth and headed for his room.
“It’s got my name on it now.  What if I lose it or what if someone breaks in?”
“I’ll do it tomorrow.”  Michael growled. 
The old woman sighed.  ‘All right, honey.  I know you’re tired.  You rest up.”
Michael rolled his eyes and bit off another huge chunk of Slim Jim.
“I don’t feel so good.” She struggled to stand. “I’m gonna go lay down.”
He watched his mother’s tiny form shuffle back up the stairs, the saggy flesh of her upper arms waggling with each step. Her door clicked shut and he could hear her coughing. 
Alone later in his room Michael pulled a stack of dog-eared magazines from under his bed.  He rifled through the pile, knowing well the contents of each one by the cover.  The pubescent blue-eyed nymph sucking her forefinger while staring innocently at the camera promised many pages of girl on girl action beyond the cover.  Michael chose the cover with a dark haired vamp pulling bright red chewing gum from her lips in a long slippery trail.  He knew he’d find several pages of beaver shots glistening within. 
Michael slid his hand into his pajama pants and began to fondle his balls.  His vision blurred slightly as he got caught up in the images of young women on their backs, their legs open, forming a perfect V and the smooth, slick pinkness lying between their thighs.  He sighed and closed his eyes as he began to caress his erect cock when he heard his mother coughing in the next room.
Michael’s hand froze. He waited for the coughing fit to die out and then resumed playing with himself.
In his mind the nubile blonde from the magazine’s pages crawled onto his bed and laid her soft lips on his cock.  Her eyes were locked onto his as she dragged her tongue up the shaft and traced the tip of her tongue along the ridge of his big mushroom head.  He slid his hand up and down faster along his penis when his mother started a new bought of throat wrenching coughs.
Michael shouted to her.  “You all right, Ma?”  He couldn’t very well tell her to “shut the fuck up, I’m trying to concentrate here!”  
In between coughing fits she called back, “I’m all right!  I just need some water!”
He leaned back in bed and gripped his cock with one hand until it hurt.  She was still hacking.  Michael tossed the magazines onto the floor and stared at the dark ceiling.  Friggin’ crazy bitch was going to cough all night. 
It sounded like she was in the room with him.  He rolled onto his stomach, his cheated penis aching. Why wouldn’t she leave him in peace?  Her coughs echoed through the old house.  It was as if the walls were mimicking her, coughing back in sympathy.
The coughing fit continued.  He could hear her straining to bring up whatever was blocking her throat and he felt his stomach roil in protest.  Each jagged hack was like a blow to the back of his head. The last thing he thought before falling asleep was “disgusting old bitch.”
Just past four in the morning, Michael stirred in his sleep.  Foggy, he sat up and listened.  His mother was calling his name.
“Mikey, I need you!”  She was struggling to speak.  Michael could hear her gasping and wheezing.   Her voice was strangled.  “Mikey!”
Michael felt no urgency to get up.  A great lethargy seemed to wash over him as he listened to his mother’s rasping calls.  He lay staring into the dark, only glancing once at his alarm clock to check the time.
Michael was well aware what had happened, it had happened before.  She fell asleep on her back and the mix of phlegm and tobacco in her throat had formed a plug.  She was choking.  But all she had to do was go into the bathroom and get a drink of water.
She gagged as she tried to dislodge the obstruction.  The sound turned his stomach.  Her voice, normally high pitched and whining sounded like a frog as it struggled to escape her clotted throat.
“Mickey, help! Water!”
He could hear her gasps and moans drifting down the hallway.  Instead of feeling alarmed, Michael felt nothing but excitement. Her labored breathing created a rhythmic pattern.  It reminded Michael of something he’d read as a kid in the school library.  “I think I can, I think I can, I think I can.”   He began to chant the words under his blanket, along with the phlegmatic sound of his mother’s wheezing.
He stopped chanting and listened.  He could hear a weak, barely audible whistle from the next room; a rattling whistle like steam being expelled through a narrow pipe. 
It tittered several times before petering out into a wet rattle. 
“Mom?” he whispered and pulled the blanket down.  A cool breeze wafted against his cheek.  There was no answer.  For once, the house was silent.   He tried again in the softest voice possible.
“Mom?”
When he received no answer, he pulled his covers up and lay staring into the dark for nearly an hour before finally drifting off to sleep.
The next morning Michael waited until sunlight pierced the muddied windows in his room. The alarm clock near his bed said it was twenty past ten. The house was unnaturally still.
In nothing but his pajama pants, he crept down the hallway towards his mother’s room.  The door was still closed.  There was an unseasonal chill in the house.  The air felt frosty – like a wet, cool breeze snaked its way through the hallway.
Michael leaned an ear against the door to listen and the wood itself seemed to sear his flesh.  He pulled way.  A film of sweat lay on his upper lip as he caught the metal door knob in his hand. The knob felt icy cold as it turned.  He allowed the door to ease open just a few inches before peeking inside. 
She was lying on the bed in a tangle of bedclothes.  One skinny leg stuck out, a slipper dangling from her foot.  She was wearing the clunky eyeglasses; her head thrown back against the headboard.  Michael pulled the door shut with a jerk.
The texture of the wood, the bubbles in the yellowed paint seemed to grow before him.  A tattered spider web hung in the corner above the stair case and Michael watched it sway gently.
His heart thumped in his chest. He rapped at the door with his knuckle and it sounded brutal.  He pushed the door open and whispered, “Ma?”  The door swung open and the picture was still the same.  His mother was frozen in an absurd ballet pose, half in and half out of the bed.  Michael padded into the room. Standing at the foot of his mother’s bed the room seemed impossibly neat save for the box of tissues and three packs of Marlboros on her nightstand, one already open and missing several cigarettes.  The white and pink quilt, lumpy and misshapen from too many rolls in the dryer, still lay neatly folded across the foot of her bed.  A litter of used tissues was scattered all over the floor beneath her one slippered foot.  
In the time it took Michael to move from the door to his mother’s bedside, he took in the white flecks of dry spittle around her mouth, the yellow discharge on the front of her pink nightgown and the glaze of her open eyes beneath the thick lenses.   He leaned forward as if to touch her and then bolted from the room.  He dashed into the bathroom; pitching forward over the sink; dry heaving.  The ghostly taste of Slim Jims filled his mouth. 
His mother was dead.  His mother was dead and she was lying in her bed like a stumpy manikin.   Michael dropped his ass onto the toilet and gathered up the legs of his pajamas.  She was dead – which was all right, Michael thought.  It was gross, but it was all right.  She was old, she was sixty-eight.  That was pretty old, wasn’t it?  She died of old age. 
He glanced into the hallway and realized he’d left the bedroom door open.  He imagined his mother’s still poised as if she were climbing out of her bed, staring at the ceiling.  He’d have to close the door before they came.  Who the hell was coming?  He’d have to call the police or the paramedics.  Who do you call when someone is already dead?  He’d have to figure out who to call.  Then what?  What happens after they come?
Michael skidded past his mother’s door and sprinted down the stairs to the kitchen. He pulled the fridge open and grabbed the container of orange juice.  He gulped big mouthfuls directly from the spout.  Finally he slumped down at the table and stared at the Formica top. The sugar dispenser and the salt and pepper shakers were arranged in a neat little triangle in the center of the table.  His mother had used them as paperweights to keep her precious Social Security check in place.  Michael put one finger on the pale yellow piece of paper and dragged it over to his side of the table.
Michael picked up the check and turned it over.  His mother’s neat, almost artistic looking signature was scrawled at the edge of the back of the check.  Funerals were expensive.  He looked up at the horrid yellow wallpaper and the garish light fixture dangling above.  He could sell “the beast.”  There had to be a will somewhere – although his Mom had always had a superstitious fear of talking about her own death.  What if there was no will?  And even if there was the rickety monstrosity could take years to sell.
His mother’s check felt hot in his hands.  “The beast” was paid off.  Who had to know if the old woman was dead?  Who would tell?  If she never left the house, it would be his secret – his and “the beast’s.”
His mother had been a small woman. Barely five feet tall, she claimed to have “shrunk” over the years. Michael considered storing her body in a plastic garbage bag, but he needed something more permanent.  In the closet between their rooms, a green Rubbermaid container had been stashed to hold the few Christmas decorations his mother bothered with each year. 
He brought a fresh garbage bag into the bedroom and regarded his mother’s still form. Michael had wanted to use her pink quilt as a type of shroud and just wrap her body up and dump it into the container.  Her body wouldn’t bend the way he needed in order to fit her into the container.  The garbage bag proved useless too.  It slipped and slid as he tried to cover her up. Her arms kept popping out. 
Michael had to abandon the quilt and roll her body off the bed and into the container. He shuddered each time his fingers gripped his mother’s cold lifeless limbs. He forced the arms to lie flat next to his mother’s sides and pushed her head down until it touched her boney knees.  When he stepped back, sweat pouring down his cheeks into his collar, her grizzled little head popped up slightly.
Michael forced the lid onto the container, pushing his mother’s body down.  There was some resistance, but he pressed the corners of the lid until he heard that satisfying snap of the sides locking into place.  A wild thought fluttered into his head:  that should keep her nice and fresh.  Michael allowed a high pitched giggle to escape his lips before he dragged the box into the hall. The box traveled in a series of short shoves and grunts.  There was only one place to store the box:  the hallway closet where he got the container from to begin with.
His mother’s winter coats and heavy suits hung above her final resting place.  Michael slid the box in as far as it would go until it hit the back wall of the closet.  The house was mercifully silent but he could feel it judging him as he closed the door.
The bank had no problem cashing his mother’s pension check.  He’d done it many times over the past few years and had even signed it for her himself.  He took the cash home in his wallet, reminding himself to take a look at her checkbook when he got home.  He treated everyone to Chinese food for lunch at the Video store and bought himself a new video game.  For dinner later that night, he treated himself to a dozen White Castles and a case of beer.
At home he tiptoed passed the closed door of his mother’s bedroom.  Pushing his sneakers off without untying the laces, he dropped onto his bed, face down. Soon he was drifting through a foggy world where he was at Donegal’s pub, tossing back beers and laughing his ass off with the buxom brunette from his magazine. The dark haired beauty wrapped one leg around his and pushed her tongue into his mouth when his mother started coughing.  Michael snorted and shook himself awake
“You okay, Ma?” he mumbled, rubbing at his scruffy face.  The wet coughing continued for a few seconds before Michael was shocked awake and sober.  He sat up, swinging his legs to the side of the bed and listened.  There was silence.  He dropped his feet to the floor and stumbled into the hallway.  His mother’s bedroom door was ajar. 
He scuffed down the hall as if he were walking through gelatin.  His brain tingled like mad when he stopped in the doorway and scanned the empty room.  The bed was naked, stripped of its linens. He was sure he’d shut the door after storing the body laden container in the closet.  He glanced down the hall at the closet door.   
He closed the bedroom door and shuffled back down the hall to his room.  As he passed the closet he caught a whiff of an unpleasant, sour odor.  He snuffled, running a finger under his nose.  Yeah, he thought, she’s in there. 
The next morning, Michael stood in front of the bathroom sink, splashing cold water over his face.  He looked dreadful.  His face was pasty and bloated looking.  His eyes were rimmed with red.  His stomach was unhappy and there was a horrid sour smell in the air. 
Michael wiped his face with a dirty towel and looked in the mirror.  He could see the hallway closet lurking in the corner behind him. The sour odor drifted down the hall.. 
Michael’s mom always kept several rolls of clear plastic wrap in the kitchen.  He used his fingernails to claw at the end of the roll and pulled a long sheet of the transparent material.  His plan had been to wrap it around his mother’s body, but he couldn’t bear to open the container and face what was inside.  Instead he decided to wrap the entire container in as many sheets of plastic wrap as he could.
The tenacity of the wrap amazed him.  It refused to leave home base and fought off all attempts Michael made to rip a piece from the main body of wrap.  When he finally did get a strip free, it clung to his fingers and sucked at his bare arms.  He found himself flapping his arms around, trying to free himself of the parasitic clutches of the plastic.  He finally got one layer of wrap around the girth of the container.  He began to pull off a second sheet when the wrap came to a sudden end. No worries, he thought.  There’s always more plastic wrap.
He found the second roll of plastic wrap and wound several layers around the box before it gave out. He left the plastic attached to the roll and wrapped the container until all that was left was the very end of the roll.  He tried to rip it free with his fingers and then attacked the sheet with his teeth.  His face came close to the container and the odor seemed to bounce back at him, attacking his nostrils.  Finally the container was muffled under five layers of clear plastic wrap. 
Satisfied the smell was contained for good, Michael slid the box back into the closet.  The plastic wrap had built up beneath the box, keeping it from sliding freely over the linoleum floor.  Michael felt something jostle inside the box as he pushed it into the recesses of the closet.  He jumped and pulled away.  The box sat silently in its make shift tomb and Michael shut the door.
*******
Days later the smell was invasive forcing him to go out and buy more plastic wrap.  He could feel it curling around the edges of the front door as he turned the key.  When he pushed the door open, it rushed to meet his nose and rubbed against his face like an affectionate cat.  When he closed the door behind him it seemed to envelop him, making him gag.  He swore he could see green tendrils of the toxic fumes hanging in the air.
Michael opened the closet door and the smell pumped into the hallway.  His eyes teared.  With ginger hands, he pulled the mummified Rubbermaid container out.  Michael studied the neatly wrapped package.  The layers looked rippled in spots, as if someone had tried to tamper with it.  Michael shook his head.  It was just more of a mess than he had remembered. 
He opened the first box of wrap and wound it in one direction around the box until the roll of plastic was spent.  He opened a second box and wound it around in the opposite direction. He finally used another whole roll over the entire thing, winding it tightly until it resembled a transparent bee hive.  The dark green container could barely be seen beneath its cellophane cocoon.  He had a hard time shoving the box back into the closet; its lumpy overcoat skidded against the floor.  Before he closed the door, he thought he heard something bounce and settle within the container. 
The highboy dresser in his mother’s room was just narrow enough to fit in the hallway.  Michael pushed it into the hall and slid it in front of the closet door.  He wasn’t sure it would do anything about the smell, but he felt better not seeing the closet door.   On top of the dresser he began to place sticks of solid air freshener.  He’d grabbed the colorful columns of solid deodorants off of the supermarket shelf, not paying attention to what fragrances they held.  He opened each one and twisted the covers off, displaying the stick of fragrance.  The combined aroma was unpleasant, but tolerable and he thought he could sleep.
He woke with a start hours later.  His mother was coughing.  He lay frozen in bed, his eyes wide in the darkness.  He could clearly hear the staccato of her smoker’s hack.  It was muffled as if it came from behind a closed door; muffled as if it came from layers of plastic cling wrap. 
“Mikey?”
As if he’d been shocked by high voltage, Michael sat up in bed.  He stared at his bedroom door as if he could will it to lock out anything that might wander in from the hallway.  The coughing had stopped, but his ears strained for any sound.  And then it came.
He could hear a crisp, dry crinkling sound. 
It was a crinkly, crackling sound like layers and layers of plastic being peeled away.  His heart battered against his rib cage.  A tearing sound, a clean ripping and a thud.  And then a wet splat, something like the slap of raw meat on the floor. 
Michael swallowed and listened again.  There was silence.  His head seemed to clear and he ran his hand over the front of his underwear.  They were damp.  He shook his head as if to rattle his brain.   It had been a nightmare.  The house, in its gloomy brooding, was still. It was toying with his brain. He slipped under the covers and glanced at the alarm clock.  It was just past four.
The next morning the smell still lingered in the hall.  Michael had bought ten rolls of cellophane, but pulling the dresser from the closet and opening the door was out of the question.  If he opened the door and the plastic wrap he had labored to seal the Rubbermaid container was tattered, rendered from the strain of the lid being pried open from within he would lose his mind. What if the lid had been dislodged and his mother’s decaying, blackened hand was sticking out, the nails clawing through the plastic wrap?  What if he opened the closet door and his mother’s putrefied corpse was sitting on top of the box, shreds of cling wrap lying at her feet, her accusing eyes bulging from behind her clunky glasses?
Michael scrubbed at his face.  The dark corners of the musty old house were drawing him in.  He refused to go mad.  It was just a bad smell and these things could be dealt with.
He carried an armful of air fresheners into the hallway and began to open them and place them around the dresser on the floor.  Michael fought not to see the wisps of cigarette smoke that he was sure was escaping the seams around the  closet door.
He dreaded nightfall.  Everything was different once the sun went down.  The dreary house became ominous, like a cranky old man.  Shadows seemed to dart out just beyond Michael’s peripheral vision.  He could hear thumping sounds from the hallway.  At one point, right after sunset, Michael thought he heard his mother’s bedroom door open.  Too frightened to look, he muted the television and stared straight ahead, listening.  The back of his skull tingled when he thought he heard the shuffling of her slippered feet.  He whirled around, a thin scream clawing at his throat, but nothing was there. 
That night Michael locked himself in his room.  He kept telling himself it was all in his head, the noises, the shadows, even the smell.  There was definitely a smell, a terrible smell; but it was not a visible vapor that dogged him from room to room.
He dozed off into a cloud of unrest where he could hear the crackling of plastic and fleshy footsteps in the hallway.  He jerked awake a few times when he thought he smelled cigarettes burning, but exhaustion forced him back to slumber.  Sometime in the middle of the night he dreamed that his mother was in his room, hovering over his bed.  He opened sleepy eyes and saw her face, blackened like an overripe banana, floating behind her thick glasses.  She leaned close enough that he could feel her whistling, wheezing breath on his face and the heat of her own flesh decaying. 
Michael bounded from his bed, his hands outstretched, fully expecting his fingers perforate her pulpy flesh.  He was alone in his room.  Clutching his chest, he looked at himself in the mirror over his dresser.  His chin was scruffy with bristles.  He hadn’t shaven in days.  His eyes looked like wet holes in his head.  He needed escape.
When he opened his bedroom door the odor of the apartment scrabbled at his throat.  It was thick and powerful.  He sprinted past the dresser in the hallway.  The stench followed him like an eager puppy. Michael gagged and somewhere upstairs something echoed his cough.
At the Quik-mart, he bought an egg and sausage sandwich and an orange Gatorade.  As he left the store, he unwrapped the sandwich and took a huge bite.  It tasted greasy. Behind him an older man wearing a blue windbreaker and baseball cap stood drinking a cup of steaming coffee.  He nodded to Michael and took a long drag from his cigarette which started a coughing fit. 
The sandwich suddenly tasted of ashes.
The older gentleman shrugged and motioned to the lit cigarette with his coffee cup.
“These things are gonna kill me one day, but whattaya gonna do?”
Michael tossed his sandwich into the dumpster and took a swig from his Gatorade before heading home.
The odor greeted him as he stepped into the apartment.  It was happy he was home.  He pushed past it, covering his mouth with his hand.   It seemed to grapple down his throat, searching for his intestines.  He could feel it winding through his guts like a snake. 
The air in the old house was toxic.  Mingling with the flowery and fruity smells of the deodorizing sticks, the resulting aroma was nauseatingly sweet. The odor came from a box wrapped in miles of plastic wrap. He needed to keep the odor in the closet or his mother wouldn’t stay put.  What would keep them both in?  More plastic wrap.
Michael dropped the boxes of expensive, brand name wrap on the floor in front of the closet.  He pushed the dresser away and stared at the closed door.  No power in the world could compel him to open that door.  He pulled one container of cling wrap open and then another.  He carefully placed a sheet of wrap over the closed door, sealing off the edges of the door frame, blocking the escape route for the bad smell.  The cling wouldn’t stay clung.  When he applied a second layer of wrap it fell forward.  He watched it drift down in slow motion. 
Michael searched the drawers in the living room until he found the stapler.  He attached each layer of wrap to the wall with the stapler, flattening out little pillows of putrid air trapped beneath the plastic.
He pushed the dresser back in place and inhaled deeply.  The foul smell was still there, but faint.  He was confident he had weakened it.  Looking up at the cracked ceiling he chuckled.   This house won’t beat me. You won’t be my tomb!
A blanket of perspiration lay on his skin.  A job well done, he thought as he kicked aside the empty cling boxes.  He picked up the last remaining box and took it into his bedroom.  His bedroom was safe.  The smell couldn’t get to him there.
The sun was setting as Michael lay, fully clothed, on his bed.  He was listening to the creaking house.  A bird warbled outside and the wind tree branches against the window.  Michael could hear the heartbeat of “the beast.”  It seemed content.  Beneath it all he could hear the soft purring sound of brittle fingers cutting through layers and layers of cellophane. 
Across his chest, Michael held the last unopened box of plastic wrap.  He picked at the cardboard lid until he freed the roll within and pinched the end of the cellophane sheet.  He peeled a good sized piece of wrap from the box and sliced it across the metal edge.  He let the blurry gossamer sheet flutter in his hand like a translucent sail.
From the hallway he could hear the sound of plastic being shred.  He could hear a muffled thump and then another like the frustrated pounding of someone locked out – or in.  Michael let the cling wrap float down over his face.  He smiled as it folded itself over his cheeks.  He was a big boy, he thought.  He could handle anything.  All he needed was more plastic wrap.
As his bedroom door slowly swung open, he grabbed the edges of the plastic cling wrap and drew them down tightly over his face and took a deep breath.
END

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Open For Submissions!

Deadman’s Tome is open for submissions.

Writers of horror, send to the Tome stories of so terrifying, so horrific, that the very text haunts the reader!

Please send short story submissions of no more than 5000 words to

Jessecdedman@gmail.com

Deadman’s Tome will offer payment for certain submissions based on quality. Minimum of $5 with additional payout based on performance and reception calculated at a rate held at the discretion of the Editor-in-chief.

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Uncertainty

As the title reveals, I’m not too sure about the longevity of Deadman’s Tome. The truth is that submissions have not been coming in, and it might have something to do with the lack of site promotion. The drive I had for the site, the passion, has been derailed simply due to distraction and priorities.

To reveal even more, I work at a psychiatric facility as a mental health tech and deal with a mountain of absurd, unfathomable stuff on a daily basis. When I get off of work, I don’t feel like plugging the site or even plugging one of my own productions. I feel like having a beer, lifting weights, and perhaps attending to the grad work I’ve been meaning to complete.

While it is saddens me that Deadman’s Tome may not exist a few months from now, it served its purpose. The site gave exposure to writers of various skill and style. But in this day and age, anyone with wifi access can create their own means of exposure. A simple blog could achieve what Deadman’s Tome did for some. The difference is that I put money in advertising and struggled to get it “out there” but that’s the price.

My overall point is that I don’t have the drive I once did for Deadman’s Tome. I have other priorities now. To those that have assisted Deadman’s Tome throughout the years, thank you. I will stay in contact and will help promote your future titles anytime. I will create a more personalized blog in the future, one that allows me to focus on giving back to the authors that assisted me.

 

 

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Yankee Rose by Alanna Roethle

 The screen door banged in the hot desert wind.

Slap, slap. As despondent as the rest of the world, the world of this hot tin house, the quiet moaning wind that sifted dust into the cracks of her face, into the bed sheets, under the window in dust fingers to the gold-flecked white Formica kitchen counter. The sighs and slices of the old ten-piece- well, nine-piece now

– knife set marked the counter. The missing knife still lay under the bed where she’d laid it, so quietly, remembering with a pause in her mind where it lay- how coldly and patiently it waited. She could see it now, closing her eyes, its cheap serration glinting among the dust and atop the shag green carpet, a deeper green where it hid below the bed from the scorching rays of the Mojave sun. The sun bore through the windows and the blinds to strain the color from everything, until it all matched the bone and dirt colors of the desiccated landscape.

Anton was out now. He’d torn off in the bleached old yellow Corsica , clouds of the fated dust following him, ghosts of thought waving at him as they hovered in his trail, watching to see if he would skid into the creosote, spread his brain matter among the spines of the cholla cactus.

Rose blankly stared at the rounded dirty-white walls of the trailer, picking like an addict at a frayed spot in the short jean cut-offs that bit into thick pale thighs. She tried to stay out of the sun. Mom said even Navajo get the

skin cancer. Old Dezba had a large dark mole like a face that grew out of the side of her chin, with white hairs feeling the air like tentacles. Rose supposed that was skin cancer. Skin cancer might not be a terrible way to go. She could imagine it crawling from her face to her throat, inside and stealthy so you couldn’t see it from the outside, from the round smoothness of her skin and face. It would start as a tiny brown spot, but it would go deep and by the time that little line of rot reached her heart it would be time to die. No one would know what was happening to her, no one would know until it was too late. She knew she would probably feel the pain, feel the deep angry ache as it burrowed to her heart, the cancer. She would hold her face still as stone, still as the masks

shima sani

had hung on the adobe walls of her house on the res, when she was still alive.

Rose was good at that. She was good at holding her thoughts deep behind her face, so that the twitch of errant nerves and cold blackness of her eyes were the only things that moved. Most people couldn’t read anything when her stone face was on. Except for Anton. Sometimes he could tell, from across the room even, and if she was thinking about him a small cruel smile would tighten the bottom of his face, never reaching his odd brown eyes. She would feel a chill then, inside her, as if he was touching her heart with ice. It was stronger than that- his eyes could hold you, choke you, deep and oppressive as black thunderclouds that could build in minutes over the purple mountains. It was the feeling of dying, when you looked at him. Those last fluttering beats of the heart, the sigh of air as it left lungs for the last time. She shuddered deep within

her still self at the thought of him, behind the soft fuzz of the weed she’d been smoking since she awoke. He never left her alone anymore, never. Here she was wasting precious time being stoned, when she could be…what? She deserved it. She deserved him.

Tick, tick, tick

. That fucking clock. The supreme quiet had descended, the quiet of the afternoon when the sun was baking the land. The whitewashed sky fell in heat waves to the sun stroked earth. Rose let the weed spread her out over the house, let other tiny sounds enter her head and calm her. The sigh of the trailer as it settled, heated, and expanded. The slap of the screen door in the stiff gusts of air. The clock.

That fucking piece of shit clock!!

The noise bothered her, snapped her out of the reverie. Paranoia tinged her high. He’d be back soon, he had to be. He wasn’t working today. The fear of him was growing day by day. She was mad at herself, so mad that she’d thought he was ever her friend. That she could have been so naïve, such a stupid little girl. She hadn’t known any better. There had been no one to tell her. She tried to believe that.

Rose, Rose. You gotta get out of here.

She couldn’t move herself, couldn’t think anymore. She was hiding under this new face, hiding bound and gagged in a dark place where nothing made sense.

Shima sani had told me. She knew.

The words knocked against the fragile onion layers of her consciousness. She pictured her grandmother dying, her small shaky hands clasping and opening, clasping and opening as she gripped the last few seconds she had to live. Rose hadn’t been there, off partying, who knows where. Getting fucked up again so she didn’t have to think about anything. The old woman’s last words had been for her, for Rose. She said them in Navajo, quiet and raspy, in her daughter’s ear. Because it was in Navajo, Rose knew she meant it.

“Tell her, tell my Rose. Tell her no

Nakai

! Not ever.” It was a strange last thing to say, a strange use of the only air left that your lungs will ever hold. “Tell her to promise me.”

When Rose had gotten home the night her grandma had left the world, she’d stumbled as she entered and knocked the keys crashing from their hooks to the floor. The light came on in the living room, and she watched bleary-eyed as her mother came out of the dark from where she had been sitting, hands folded around her sanity. Small, cold hands, like her heart. “Your grandmother is dead. She died tonight.”

Rose felt a twinge under the vodka. It was a black twinge, like the lowering of clouds before a storm. Like the darkness of a mineshaft. She headed back to her room, wavering and feeling the wall. Her mother went back to sit on the couch. Over coffee the next morning, her mother told her what

shima sani

had said. She hadn’t made any breakfast, and Rose was happy because the bile rose vodka-flavored to rub seductively against the back of her throat.

“No Mexicans?” Rose said softly. “That was it?”

“And to promise her, Rose. She said it because of Brenda, and because she said some spirit told her.” Her mother watched her out of the corners of almond-shaped eyes, solemn but still condescending, always condescending.

Brenda was dead too. She had died a few years earlier, at the uncertain age of 20. Her boyfriend had strangled her and hung her from a closet rod. Right now the boyfriend still lived in Arizona somewhere, safe and happy with his new wife and the baby he had started right before he let Brenda’s children see how blue Mommy could turn. The social workers found out how she died when the 2-and- 4-year-olds acted it out with Barbie dolls. That didn’t turn out to be enough evidence, and they never found her body anyway. That boyfriend had been Mexican, and now Rose’s family thought the whole race was just bad juju. Rose hadn’t thought much about it, besides that it sucked and was sad.

Now she knew. She knew

shima sani

had seen Anton, and seen what he would do to her granddaughter.

*

He had hunched over her last night, his little dick half-flaccid as he tried to put it in while she lay there, an unfeeling lump. Inside her rage grew; a hatred for him and his pathetic attempts at sex. He could only screw little girls, girls he found online like he’d done her. She was 19, she was lonely, and she wanted to get out of the house. Anton talked to her for months before he’d suggested they meet, and always she laughed him off.

“Whatever, perv,” she said, full of confidence that he couldn’t touch her. Finally out of boredom one day, and because he said he’d take her to see Ice Age and buy a bottle, she’d met him at Circle K. He never looked at her the entire time, eyes shifting away when she faced him, strange shuffling movements and nervous tics. He was ugly, she thought. His head was strange-shaped, and his eyes were too light for his skin. After that he’d started buying booze when she wanted, bringing over coke when she wanted to be high, and always never touching her. One night when he dropped her off after another movie, she ran back out to the car in only panties and her t-shirt to grab her purse that she’d drunkenly left on the holey pleather seat. That’s how much she trusted that he’d never touch her.

Rose felt the rage begin to break loose inside of her, where it danced in faster and faster circles like molecules in boiling water. She moved suddenly, shoving Anton backward, his penis flopping ludicrously. He looked up, shock flashing in his pale weak eyes. Anger quickly replaced shock, replaced by something else, that suffocating thing.

“Get off of me you piece of shit! You aren’t even a man! You can’t even get it up!” Rose shrieked at him, turning away from his eyes, wiping her hands across her stomach where his sweat polluted her skin. Her naked body stared at her in the cracked half mirror hanging from the back of the bedroom door. It was all pale, corpulent, except for the redness where he had kneeled and sweat on her. All of her was dead, except where he leeched on her. She turned to look at him again, to scream something. He hunched at the end of the bed, his stringy body shaking, mumbling to himself, growling. He had his penknife in his hand, drawing it slowly across his arm where the myriad scars already there looked like the lines on the moon, the aftermath of a cataclysmic meeting of masses with no control over trajectory. The dark blood followed his knife, a trail of thought. Rose had turned and hurried to the bathroom to lock herself in there. She spent hours painting her nails, listening to Anton’s death metal rage tonelessly as she layered red polish over itself until her toes glittered like rubies. She hummed to herself, comforted by the thrum in the back of her throat, trying to dispel the darkness that blackened every corner of her thoughts like burning paper, the way the black would creep in from each side in little tongues and the crumbling ash follow.

Rose had started drawing the same blood lines with that serrated knife over the inside of her arms and thighs, where nobody could see. She had never seen anyone do it until Anton. Now she knew his crazed spirit, the crazy in him was rubbing off on her.

Fa la la, fa la la, she sang under her breath. Fa la la la la, la la la la. Anton said her humming drove him crazy, that she needed to keep her mouth shut. You’re already crazy, ma’ii,

she thought.

*

She heard the car, far down the dusty road, spinning past tall watching saguaros and the dry, sad palo verdes. Her heartbeat quickened in the dullness of her body. It was the only sign that she was afraid. She lay back against the cool tub, feeling the trickle of sweat down her spine as it ran away from her. She looked numbly down at her arm, then at the knife in her other hand. She didn’t remember pulling it from the carpet under the bed. She didn’t remember drawing its biting teeth across her arm, or maybe she remembered but it blurred together with the other times- his and hers. Spots of bright red blood dotted the white of the tub, of her thighs. It matched her nails, and she smiled a little to see it. The Corsica stopped in front of the door and jerked a few times before silence descended again. She heard the door slam, and his quiet shuffling steps come up the two rickety wooden steps to the door, the steps she always tripped on when she was drunk. She closed her hand tightly around the knife, and shrunk against the tub.

You crazy bastard. Don’t come in here, don’t talk to me.

She heard him come down the hall, heard him muttering to the spirits in his head, to the demons that possessed every waking moment. He just got worse and worse,

after she moved in, telling her that loving her made him that way. With him, emptiness was the only thing she knew. A great, cavernous emptiness like a carved pumpkin, its seeds and guts spread in the dirt and its new face one with only one expression. Then it starts to rot. The inside of her mind was full of holes, rotten parts that had fallen in on themselves, that smelled like vomit. He had taken away her friends, deleted her phone, ostracized her family. Rose crept from the bathroom, avoiding the creaks in the floor. His back was to her, as he typed away, looking for other little girls to take advantage of. He told her he was doing black magic on them, the same black magic he’d done for some of the Oklahoma tribes. The same magic that had caused his girlfriend before her to kill herself while on the phone with him. He told her these things, and she believed him.

Her mind snapped, the elastic of a rubber band eaten by the sun- a crack! Red flashed as she leapt with the little knife gleaming in her hand, raising it high and slim and deadly. In her strained mind’s eye she saw herself, poised like a warrior, strength and purpose in her arm- and his face. The stark fear as the steel entered his body, the jerk- and then nothing.

*

Everything was white, and she couldn’t get away. The sweat beaded on her forehead, down between her breasts, and panicked struggle only made her bonds tighter, the heat greater, stifling. Her eyes opened, and the padded walls around her shocked her with their anger, their forbidding presence.

NO!!

she

screamed, flailing her arms, bucking against the bonds, panting.

No, I’m not crazy!! Somebody help me!

Even through her fear she realized she needed to calm down. Hyperventilating, she stopped thrashing, craning her neck up to look out the tiny square window. His small cruel smile was there, framed in the reinforced glass, his watered coffee eyes gleaming in at her. His black magic worked. He was right.

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Calling for submissions

We are calling for submissions for a vampire themed horror writing contest in which the readers get to decide the winner. The rules are simple: Original story (no reprints), no multiple submissions (it was allowed before, but this isn’t a lottery), story must be both horror and vampire-themed (no teen drama stories. I will burn them.), within 9,000 words or less, and lastly tailored for a mature audience.

The winner of the contest will receive a $100 gift card to Amazon. The runner-ups will be featured in the Deadman’s Tome podcast.

The stories will be presented on the blog as soon as they’re screened, and winners will be determined by a mixture of comments and likes.

Contest will be running from now to the end of August 2013.

Send submissions to Legato10@ Swbell.net with Contest as the subject.

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The Fire Baby by Michael Albani

(Featured in the August 2011 edition) DT082011  DTcover082011

THE FIRE BABY
Michael Albani

Birth

The forlorn mother put the twelfth candle in place. The basement was dark. The fetid smell of decomposing flesh hung heavy in the air. ―This has to work,‖ she whispered. ―This just has to work.‖
The mother‘s name was Bethany, and she was preparing to perform a ritual she discovered on a necromancy website. She followed the website‘s directions perfectly. Failure was not an option.
On her basement floor she drew a chalk circle inscribed with the image of a soaring raven. Along the circumference of this magick mandala she placed twelve candles. Eleven candles were white. The twelfth candle was red, made of wax crimsonly colored with her blood. Baby Bridget, her beloved daughter, rested in the circle‘s center. She was silent. She was lifeless.
Bethany was not usually the type to believe in magick. But this was her daughter. She had to try something. The website claimed the spell was genuine, translated from ancient hieroglyphs written by fallen angels. She was just desperate enough to believe that.
Bethany lit the candles one by one around the divination circle. The red candle was the last to be lit. She clasped her hands over it, closed her eyes, and spoke the website‘s incantation.
―Azrael, almighty Angel of Death,‖ she cried. ―Release this innocent child from your grasp. I give to you an offering of fire. Now rekindle the fire in this child‘s heart. Come, Azrael! Accept my tribute and let this child live again!‖
Bethany opened her eyes. The basement was silent. Nothing happened. She was ready to collapse in anguish, when suddenly she felt something. An eerie wind entered the sealed basement and began to blow the candles‘ flames toward Baby Bridget.
―This is it,‖ Bethany said tearfully. ―It‘s working!‖ The flames entered Baby Bridget‘s mouth, leaving the basement in total darkness. Baby Bridget opened her eyes and started to cry.
Bethany joyously arose and rushed to the circle‘s center to embrace her reanimated daughter. As she moved forward, though, she began to sweat. The basement grew hotter and hotter. Suddenly, Baby Bridget erupted into flames. She screamed and screamed and the flames grew higher and higher. Bethany stumbled backward and was caught in the blaze. The fire grew stronger with each of the baby‘s tortured wails.
The fire consumed the basement and eventually the whole house. It was only after everything was reduced to ash that the cries ceased and the fire died down. Bethany had hoped to bring her only daughter back to the world of the living, but she brought forth a demon instead.

Death

The aged priest put the twelfth bowl in place. The basement was bright, but shadows surrounded him like dark sentinels. The smell of smoldering flesh hung heavy in the air.
The priest‘s name was Father Robert, and he was preparing to exorcise a fire demon from the basement of the Morris family‘s five-year-old home. He was meticulous. Given what this demon was capable of, failure was not an option.
On the basement floor he drew a chalk circle inscribed with a dodecagram. Along the circumference of this purification circle he placed twelve bowls. Eleven bowls were white. The twelfth bowl was red.
He filled the bowls one by one with holy water from a silver decanter. The red bowl was the last to be filled. He clasped his hands over it, closed his eyes, and prayed.
As Father Robert recited his prayer, he began to sweat. The temperature in the basement began to drastically increase. Then, fire spewed forth from the center of the purification circle. The light and heat were tremendous, but Father Robert stayed strong and remained in place.
From within the incredible inferno the fire demon appeared. It looked like a skinless human infant, a pulsating mass of charred muscle and tissue. With its daemonic red eyes it scanned the basement. It stared down at the purification circle, then directly at Father Robert. ―Who are you and what do you think you‘re doing?‖ it asked in a shrill, otherworldly voice.
Father Robert was astonished by the creature‘s ability to speak, but he kept his composure and responded. ―My name is Father Robert. I am here to bring an end to the suffering you have caused and free the soul of the girl you devoured.‖
―Girl?‖ said the demon, feigning innocence. ―What girl?‖
―You know full well! The little Morris girl! The innocent child that lived in this house who you burned alive!‖
The fiery creature chortled. ―Oh, I remember now! But you can‘t blame me for what happened to her. She‘s the one who sought me out. After her family moved into this house, she heard me crying and came to ‗comfort‘ me. She threw me scraps of wood to eat and squirted lighter fluid on me to drink. She made my flames grow bigger and stronger.
―Do you know how much that hurt? Can you imagine how much pain she put me in? I roasted her body and ate her soul! She tasted just like my dear, sweet mother.‖
―Devilish creature,‖ Father Robert said calmly in reply, ―I can see you are in a great deal of pain. However, that gives you no right to make others suffer. I am a servant of God, so I will send you back to the fires from which you were spawned.‖
Father Robert continued reciting his prayer. At first, nothing happened. The demon chortled, mocking the holy man. Then, the holy water in the bowls rose into the air.
The holy water rushed into the demon‘s mouth. It gurgled. It gasped for air. Finally, its flames were extinguished and it crumbled into a pile of ash. The fire demon was destroyed. Father Robert hoped that this would mean the little Morris girl could rest in peace.
The

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Deadman’s Tome Podcast Ep. 4

Deadman’s Tome Podcast four is now available, and Mr. Deadman talks about everything from the new writing contest to the Evil Dead remake. Also, because of the erotic theme of the previous issue, please enjoy the provocative images.

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Best of the Demonic

The Best of the DemonicDTcoverbestofdemonic compiles an assortment of editor picks as a way to celebrate our two years of publication. Loaded with ten gruesome, horrific tales that will pull you to the edge of your seat, this greatest hits anthology will deliver back-to-back a complimentary sample of what Deadman’s Tome is all about.
Fans of our thriving ezine, you already know that this purchase will be totally worth it. Those passing by, you don’t need to hold on to your doubt. As a growing monthly electronic magazine, the quality of our releases has increased phenomenally, and this anthology is a sort of snapshot of what we become.

If you crave horror, if you enjoy a good chill running down your spine, then look no further. Deadman’s Tome delivers.

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Warm Bodies Review

Warm_Bodies_6It’s a rare occurrence that a zombie comedy manages to stagger into theaters. It’s even rarer for the zombie comedy to be of the romantic type, and even much more of an oddity for the film to take the perspective of a zombie.

Warm Bodies is a romantic zom-com from the perspective of a zombie. With that said, there are several liberties that occur to make the perspective possible and entertaining. If you are a stickler on zombie mythology and like it only when zombies walk at a slow pace and remain essentially brain-dead, then this is not for you. Secondly, if you are the type that actively defends modern zombie mythology then you should also take note on all the liberties George Ramiro took even in his first film. Afterall, zombie mythology is no more factual than vampires, and vampire mythology is saturated with fictitious hyperbole stemmed from non-sense folktales.

Warm Bodies follows a very typical romantic comedy story arch. Woman is saved, and brought into the man’s home where she is essentially a stranger in a new land. The man fails to keep her hidden, and his friends and family do not like her, but his perseverance eventually wins them over. Then the reversal occurs to where the man is now taken into the woman’s world… A very typical pattern observed in over dozens of romantic stories from Greek myths to Modern film. The story is so predictable that anyone familiar with romantic comedies will know how the next scene will play out. Is this bad? Yes, and no.

While Warm Bodies suffers from its predictable narration, it offers something different to the mix that still remains on the fringe. Zombies seem to only have one place in film, and that’s to die, even though their already dead. Because zombie traditional have very little screen time, and are rather brainless and one-dimensional, the film has to take several liberties to render a zombie from a reanimated corpse that just simply lumbers and rots, to a reanimated corpse that lumbers, sort of thinks, and tries to interact with the environment. I really do detest that fact that some people take zombie mythology all too seriously. To the very core, Warm Bodies is a comedy, a romantic comedy, and the zombie element is used in a way to make it possible for story telling. It would be impossible for a one-dimensional rotter to do anything other than die. Besides, we’re talking about fictitious creatures that are dead bodies that can lumber and mumble without a brain, heart, lungs, and blood flow.

The strengths for Warm Bodies are R’s quirky and funny narration, the interaction between R and his zombie friends, and the interaction between R and Julie. R’s narration provides witty commentary on how life could be as a zombie on an anecdotal basis, while the interaction bears the question if and how zombies would interact with one another over time. Then, of course, most of the film revolves around the interaction of R and Julie which is very similar to any romantic tale involving lovers from different and conflicting worlds. Julie, being a live and a survivor, was raised and trained to hate and kill zombies, and ironically, zombies apparently have just as much disdain for the living.

Like in any traditional romance involving mortal enemies, once Julie is introduced to R’s family and friends, a feud between the zombies and the even older zombies (bonies) begins, which serve as common enemy that forces the two conflicting sides (zombies and living) to unite. While a common goal is often a necessary component to have rival factions unite, the unification and alliance felt forced by the director and writers.

In summation, Warm Bodies is a light-hearted at life as a zombie spun for a romantic comedy that offers a little of both, but the clichéd and easily predictable narration hinders the experience, while making the absurd perspective easy to swallow for others. The movie is fun, as it is meant to be. Is it an oscar winner? No, of course not. Is it the best zom-com? No, but how many take the perspective of a reanimated corpse? Not a lot of competition there.

Final recommendation: Theaters if you like zom-com. Rent it if you don’t. It’s a fun and enjoyable flick, as it intended.

*For those zombie nerds that actively plan for a zombie apocalypse, if you can’t find empathy for zombies and aren’t flexible on how zombies are depicted (the make-up is really good), then don’t watch it. You’ll end up hating it as it deviates from typical zombie “mythology”.

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2013 Vampire Themed Writing Contest

Walls of cold, hardened flesh bound to bone, a core without the faintest glow of radiance for warmth, and a vast, ever-expansive darkness that permeates the internal decay. Yet, the corpse somehow manages to move. But it doesn’t move like that of a man, however. As if blessed by some unfathomable hellish fiend, it moves with more life than it ever had as a mortal. As if a secret dark oath was taken in exchange for a demonic reanimation, but with any oath their comes a price.

Deadman’s Tome announces a vampire themed writing contest that starts NOW and ends in August. Feel free to submit your dark, morbid, horrific vampire-themed tales for chance to win and be published in the yearly electronic magazine. We don’t want any mushy, teen-drama tales. Any and all submissions of those type will be burned. I’m serious.

What’s the prize? I don’t like this part because I feel that one shouldn’t write because of a prize, but because the craft is enjoyable. However, this is a contest, and every contest has a prize. First place will receive a $100 Amazon gift card, along with a signed copy of The Cradle of Ruin. Second place will receive $25 Amazon gift card and a signed copy of the Cradle of Ruin. Third place will receive a signed copy of the Cradle of Ruin.

Read the SUBMISSIONS page for more details.

Winners and select runner-ups will be featured in the yearly Deadman’s Tome publication.

Send all submissions to Legato10@swbell.net