Thanks to fellow blogger Lashaan, I became aware of this book trilogy written by one of the writers/directors I follow – Guillermo del Toro. With the first book published in 2009, The Strain, followed by The Fall, and ending with The Night Eternal, the series echoes what’s happening today in the context of a life-changing pandemic. However, other than the mention of mask wearing and growing absenteeism in the workplace, that’s where the similarity ends between the present reality and the story. The trilogy takes us through progressively deteriorating apocalyptic conditions with little hope for a cure to a virus that stems from biblical times. As the storyline unfolds throughout the series, we learn more about how vampirism has become mythologized. It’s a horror story full of gore, action, and imagination worthy of a triple read during these Covid times.
Eyes darting from the restaurant’s kitchen to the exit, Hobart is poised to leave before the server comes back. Timing is essential. So is nickel and diming and penny pinching. He earned the nickname, El Cheapo, for suckering his friends to pay for him until they wised up and dwindled to zero. No loss for him, as he saved time and energy by not having to scour for birthday and holiday gifts through lost and found bins in various places. Right now his goal is to dash out unnoticed. He considers changing his nickname to Dodger. It sounds more adventurous.
“The new phone book’s here… I’m a somebody now.” This hilarious quote is from Steve Martin’s character in the movie called “The Jerk.” Unlike that film, however, the new book that’s got me excited is an anthology — America’s Emerging Literary Fiction Writers: Northeast Region.
Once again, the publisher invited me to submit a short story from any of their given genres, and I chose “Lliterary.” I submitted a piece about finding true love . . . and they decided to publish it!
I encourage you to read more about my story if you’re so inclined in the matters of heart, relationships, and “homemade” meatloaf. Before I commit any more spoilers, the links below will take you to either Amazon or the publishing house’s website to purchase the book in paperback or e-book format.
May you be uplifted and inspired!
We live to love,
Love to give,
Give to live,
And the cycle goes on . . .
(Click here to read more about my last short story, published in the Massachusetts’s Emerging Writers: An Anthology of Fiction).
Links to purchase the first book:
Spring fling is in swing. What’s better than having a thing with the King? Yesterday she attended a local amusement park show to hear the singer’s baritone and dance to the beat of his gyrating hips. After the show, their eyes met and held steady. A photo op with the entertainer came next and she ran to his side with arms akimbo. Her chest grazed his and sparks flew. Who knew? One thing led to another after drinks. Alyssa smooches the Polaroid photo of her posing with the Elvis Presley lookalike. His lips are at their sweetest the morning after.
Grady got grinded for grifting Godfather. Through guileful gimmicks, he burgled Godfather’s genuine gems gifted from His Graciousness. Granulated with ginger and grapes, Grady is now ground burger grade, ready for grilling to be served to Geppetto, Godfather’s German Shepherd. Gents and gals, gasp and grasp; learn this lesson well.
Greywood ponders when it’ll become driftwood.
“Ho, ho, ho!” Santa’s laugh greets those who enter the toy store. Glenn Murdoch, the shop owner’s son, has cleverly hooked up the recorded cheery greeting so it will play each time someone opens the door. Glenn is also responsible for the Christmas music that flows outdoors, as he has installed a horn to work as a speaker to funnel music from inside the adjoining hardware store to the outside. Much merriment is in the air in Olde Towne, a little place the locals sometimes refer to as “Seattle” due to it being in a different worldly dimension yet parallel to the Seattle that exists in the Pacific northwest of the good ole U.S. of A.
During the Christmas holiday season, the atmosphere in Olde Towne is akin to that in the North Pole, where elves busily build toys to get ready for distribution. Everyone in Olde Towne is baking and decorating for the holiday. With all the goodwill and high spirits, no one would ever believe the decapitation of Will’s head. Though one may argue, as did Will’s disheartened wife, that it had been due to Elmer Hadley being drunk from spirits that caused Will to lose his head.
The fateful day occurs one afternoon, when the locals are gathered outside in the town center to decorate the evergreen fir tree. Tables are spread around, replete with Christmas cookies and pitchers of eggnog, both spiked and unspiked. Elmer Hadley, the consummate tree and shrub clipper, unknowingly drinks the spiked eggnog, gulping more cups than he usually does, as his secret crush, Mary Weathers, makes him nervous. So much so that he picks up his prized sharp shears to impress her and proceeds to demonstrate his prowess. By sheer inches, he misses trimming the tall shrub next to Will and instead, cleanly, clips off Will’s head. Thinking fast as a nearby witness, Glenn immediately retrieves Will’s head and places it in the nearest icebox.
Despite Elmer’s faulty judgment, his talent as a superb clipper did result in a smooth cut. (This will later allow the town surgeon to easily stitch Will’s head back on, although the re-attachment will happen after Christmas since the surgeon is currently away for the holidays.) Meanwhile, Will works headless, though heedless, in Seattle, confident in the eventual reunion with his head. Though Olde Towne is in parallel dimension to Seattle, it operates under different rules of physics and physiques.
As for Elmer, he has sworn off eggnog for the rest of the holiday season. His polished work on Will, though most unintentional, had strangely impressed Mary, who is now sleeping well for her secret crush on Elmer is reciprocated. Who knew Elmer would make the cut?
[Based on actual figurines displayed in a winery north of Seattle]
Deep through the gnarled trees sits a shack with a broken door and half a roof that only a select few know even exists, and they never get a chance to talk about their experience. Every Halloween, a path appears to young trick-or-treaters, who follow the carved pumpkins lining the walkway up to the small porch decorated with homemade ghosts. The rundown shack is transformed into a cozy, brightly lit cottage. A smiling woman promptly greets them and invites them in. No one has ever solved the mysterious disappearances, although from years past there used to be a story behind them.
The story begins with an ailing woman believed to be practicing the black arts. A large cauldron hangs on a hook in the fireplace that dominates her small house. Whispers about her started when she would bring strangers into her home, but no one sees them leaving, or being out and about. But then again, no one has really befriended her to know the intimate details of her life.
Though what happens inside her private shelter is unknown, many have heard groans of agony that go on and on. Because the village comprises of people barely getting by on their own, they lack the energy to investigate the disturbing sounds. If they can see their kinsfolk, then all is well in their own world. The witch at the other side of town can do what she wants as long as she stays away from their business. In their thinking, better them (the strangers) than us.
One night, 10-year-old Caleb decides to sneak out to explore the cause of the whisperings about town and the whining that can’t be explained as the wind. Any warnings made to him by his parents and friends are not enough to keep him away from learning more about the woman they describe as a conjurer.
Creeping up to a murky looking window on the side of the so-called witch’s cottage, Caleb rubs the sleeve of his jacket on a lower corner of the window. His eyes widen when he sees the woman bent over someone down on the floor. From his vantage, he only sees a pair of legs encased in torn pants. An unholy wail penetrates through the thin walls. The woman seems to overpower the struggling person, whose helpless kicking eventually ceases, along with the lament. Suddenly, his surrounding is too quiet. Caleb feels the hair behind his neck prickle, as if someone is watching him. He turns around. Seeing nothing, he returns his gaze to the window. He yelps in surprise when his peering eye directly meets a dilated pupil. Fear overcomes him, as he tries to shake himself loose.
“I see you, boy.” The cackling is too close to his ear. Unable to move, he feels hands grab him.
“I seize you . . .” More cackling follows as he is carried inside the house.
“Help!” Caleb finds his voice, as the woman shuts the door and places him on a cot.
“So you want to know what goes on here, do you?” The woman’s face is a blur as Caleb’s eyes tear up from realizing his folly. Rotting smell around him makes his eyes water even more. He still cannot comprehend how he was detected.
“Eye saw you,” she says, as if reading his mind. “But Eye is getting old, so you came at the right time.” She laughs some more, as the boy’s last thoughts wonder what she means.
The next morning, Caleb’s house turns chaotic when his family notices his absence. Their efforts prove fruitless even when their friends and neighbors help search the neighborhood. The only place left to look is in the vicinity of “that woman’s house.” Feeling assured that their large number will protect them, they march to the witch’s little dwelling. As they approach the humble looking house, they hear someone chanting inside. Those facing the door start pounding on it, but the chanting continues, while the angry crowd is ignored.
The lack of response from inside makes someone in the group speak up, “Let’s just tear it down.” The crowd pounds harder until the door finally cracks open. When they barge in, Caleb’s mother weaves herself in and gasps, “Those are Caleb’s night clothes!” A child-sized shirt and matching pants are strewn on the floor, but the only person in sight is the homeowner, who continues to chant and smile at the crowd without any concerns.
“What have you done to my son?” Caleb’s mother shouts at the woman, but is hesitant to touch her as the woman doesn’t look right in the head.
Between Caleb’s clothes as evidence of his possibly being been there and the woman’s lack of communication, the frustrated crowd decides to be the judge and jury. They pull the woman outside and threaten to hang her if she doesn’t reveal Caleb’s whereabouts.
The woman only laughs and says cryptically, “He has a good eye. He makes a good watch.” She continues to laugh as they place a noose around her and give her a final warning to talk or die. Her laugh turns to a gurgle as the rope tightens and someone kicks the chair from under her feet.
A stillness settles on the crowd as they realize what they’ve done. Amid the crying of Caleb’s family and friends, the crowd disperses to go back to their homes. Since that day, no one has ever spoken of the event and nobody has dared return to the woman’s place.
As years have passed, an eyeball wedged on a tree across from the old shack continues to behold the transformation that happens every Halloween. A single tear drop falls for every trick-or-treater trapped inside the hovel.
Meghan sighs as she sees the night slipping away too soon. Almost ten in the evening and she still has no date. She swipes the photo to the left, but soon changes her mind and swipes it to the right. She reads the brief profile of the guy she decides to pursue: “Enjoys anything that rocks — rock candy, rock climbing, and hard rock. Rock me hard!” She snickers at the last sentence.
“Oh yeah, baby,” she thinks to herself.
She texts him: “What flavor rock candy you like?”
Seconds later a response comes back: “Cherry”
She texts back: “I’ve got on cherry lip gloss.”
“Yum,” flashes on Meghan’s iPhone screen.
“I wish I was somewhere listening to hard rock now,” she types in, hoping to get something going soon.
“You’re playing my tune. Want to hang out?”
Meghan likes that and keys in, “Sure . . . when?”
“Let’s face time,” he messages back and adds his number for her to call.
“Cool,” Meghan thinks as she punches in his number.
A toothy grin dominates Meghan’s phone screen. She catches her breath as her eyes rake over the green cast of the face with bulging eyeballs and stained teeth that seems to take on a countenance that doesn’t look human at all. As soon as her brain registers the freaky visage, a scream escapes through her lips, now quivering from repulsion. Laughter from the screen erupts just as instantaneously.
She throws the phone across the room, screaming and hearing the laughter. She realizes she’s just been goblined*.
*Goblined – when a person gets startled, surprised, or freaked out by a goblin; usually occurs when a person least expects it. These are Halloween times . . . the countdown begins . . .
Leticia loves looking at Lenny while they lunch in the library lounge over little bowls of lettuce. She thinks starting with the Iceberg lettuce will help break the ice. Her friend, Rose, recommends she follow up with a robust salad laden with Romaine lettuce to get the romance rolling. Alternatively, she could offer a plate of spicy arugula as Lenny is anything but a “regulah” guy. To match Lenny’s Boston accent, Leticia finds she has to offer a bolder fare. Let us hope that endive makes the perfect ending to their growing love for each other.