Category: For Readers (Page 1 of 17)

Timelines are Like a Box of Chocolates: Interview with Stefon Mears

People like us, who believe in physics, know that the distinction between past, present and future is only a stubbornly persistent illusion.–Albert Einstein

Welcome to the Big Time StoryBundle, where you can find ten books on time travel and all things weird and timey wimey. Pay $5 for four ebooks, or a minimum of $15 to unlock all 10 ebooks. Once you purchase, you will be sent download links for your ebooks. More info about this StoryBundle is here.

This StoryBundle helps send money toward the Oregon Food Bank, which has been hit particularly hard due to the Oregon wildfires in the area, as well as the increased need from COVID-19.

But unless you’re a time traveler, don’t wait! Because you’ll have…the time of your life!

Time is Like a Box of Chocolates: Interview with Stefon Mears

Stefon Mears writes magical tales that operate at 45 degrees off reality–and never quite the same way twice. He may or may not be a time-traveling, musically-inclined pool shark.

1. Tell us about your book. What’s it about, and how does time travel or other timey wimey weirdness fit into your book?

Twisted Timelines is a short story collection. Every story tweaks or messes with time in some way, and no two of them are quite the same in their approach, or their use of time.

2. What is one of your favorite time-related works? (Fiction, non-fiction, games, etc. all count!)

I have so many that it’s hard to call one out. For example, one of my current favorite roleplaying games, Blades in the Dark, has a flashback mechanic that allows characters to solve a current problem retroactively, if the players can narrate it well. I have to say, though, that time travel plays a small but crucial role in one of my favorite television shows of all time, Babylon 5.

3. What is one of your favorite songs featuring time? Or, if you used a theme song/playlist for your work, what was it?

I don’t really use theme songs or playlists for most of my writing, but my favorite time-related song is “Caught Somewhere in Time” by Iron Maiden.

ABOUT STEFON:

Stefon Mears earned his M.F.A. in Creative Writing from N.I.L.A., and his B.A. in Religious Studies (double emphasis in Ritual and Mythology) from U.C. Berkeley. Stefon’s short pieces have sold to magazines such as Fireside and Strange Horizons and anthologies edited by Kristine Kathryn Rusch, Kevin J. Anderson, Denise Little, Kerrie L. Hughes, and John Helfers. He has published more than thirty books to date, including the Rise of Magic series. Look for him online at http://www.stefonmears.com, on Facebook, or @stefonmears on Twitter. Sign up for his newsletter at  stefonmears.com/join

YOU CAN FIND HIM AT:

stefonmears.com

Nibble your way through Stefon’s short story collection Twisted Timelines and other tales at StoryBundle!

The Woman with the Time Travel Tattoo: Interview with Kim Antieau

Time is the longest distance between two places.–Tennesee Williams

Welcome to the Big Time StoryBundle, where you can find ten books on time travel and all things weird and timey wimey. Pay $5 for four ebooks, or a minimum of $15 to unlock all 10 ebooks. Once you purchase, you will be sent download links for your ebooks. More info about this StoryBundle is here.

This StoryBundle helps send money toward the Oregon Food Bank, which has been hit particularly hard due to the Oregon wildfires in the area, as well as the increased need from COVID-19.

But unless you’re a time traveler, don’t wait! Because time…waits for no reader!

The Woman with the Time Travel Tattoo: Kim Antieau's Her Frozen Wild

Kim Antieau always wanted to be a writer when she grew up, and here she is. She’s the author of The Jigsaw Woman, Coyote Cowgirl, and more.

1. Tell us about your book. What’s it about, and how does time travel or other timey wimey weirdness fit into your book?

When an American archaeologist discovers she shares DNA with an ancient tattooed mummy recently found in a grave in Siberia, she goes on a quest to Russia and through time to figure out what it all means. 

2. What is one of your favorite time-related works? (Fiction, non-fiction, games, etc. all count!)

Terminator 2: Judgment Day.

3. What is one of your favorite songs featuring time? Or, if you used a theme song/playlist for your work, what was it?

Bob Seger’s “Old Time Rock & Roll.” 🙂

ABOUT KIM:

Kim Antieau currently lives in the Southwest of the United States with her husband, writer Mario Milosevic.

YOU CAN FIND HER AT:

www.kimantieau.com

Time travel to the past with Kim Antieau’s Her Frozen Wild and other tales at StoryBundle!

Time Travel to the Past: Interview with Dean Wesley Smith

Time is an illusion. Lunchtime doubly so.–Douglas Adams

Welcome to the Big Time StoryBundle, where you can find ten books on time travel and all things weird and timey wimey. Pay $5 for four ebooks, or a minimum of $15 to unlock all 10 ebooks. Once you purchase, you will be sent download links for your ebooks. More info about this StoryBundle is here.

This StoryBundle helps send money toward the Oregon Food Bank, which has been hit particularly hard due to the Oregon wildfires in the area, as well as the increased need from COVID-19.

But unless you’re a time traveler, don’t wait! Because time…is running out!

Time travel to the past with Warm Springs: A Thunder Mountain Novel

Dean Wesley Smith is the author of seventy bajillion novels, even more short stories, teaches excellent classes at WMG Workshops, edits a magazine (Pulphouse), co-edits an anthology series (Fiction River), and a lot more.

I asked him a few questions about time. I would have asked him more, but I think he’s busy 🙂

1. Tell us about your book. What’s it about, and how does time travel or other timey wimey weirdness fit into your book?

My book is in my Thunder Mountain series, where time travel back to around 1900 is the core of every book. In this book they use the idea of alternate universes in time travel to change an event. It is by far my most ambitious time travel novel to date.

2. What is one of your favorite time-related works? (Fiction, non-fiction, games, etc. all count!)

The Somewhere in Time movie is one of my favorites. Christopher Reeve was wonderful and I like the time period as well. 

ABOUT DEAN:

Considered one of the most prolific writers working in modern fiction, New York Times and USA Today bestselling writer Dean Wesley Smith published far over two hundred novels in forty years, and hundreds and hundreds of short stories and non-fiction books. He has over twenty-three million copies of his books in print.

YOU CAN FIND HIM AT:

www.deanwesleysmith.com

Time travel to the past with Dean Wesley Smith’s Warm Springs and other tales at StoryBundle!

Time Travel Stories, No Spaceship Required

Covers from the Big Time Bundle

Welcome to the Big Time Storybundle, home of time travel stories and other wibbly wobbly timey wimey weirdness.

Throw down a minimum of $5 US (or your local equivalent) and take home four books, including mine (The House Without a Summer). Increase your pledge to $15 in order to abscond with all ten books.

These future sci fi and fantasy classics were written by as fine a collection of huge nerds as I have had the pleasure to encounter (in this timeline at least).

We may not be able to make it possible to travel through time (forward, backward, or sideways). We maaaay not be able to shift you into an alternate dimension where current events are a little easier on your blood pressure. And we certainly never promised you a time machine.

But any of these books can definitely help you escape from the present moment!

Click here to take off 🙂

P.S. My story is The Year Without a Summer, a gothic horror novel that isn’t quite part of the Cthulhu mythos, but was written in part to play with Lovecraftian tropes taken to some logical conclusions. Goodbye, ordinary space-time.

New Release: Good Neighbors

New short story release, a horror/suspense tale in the vein of Twilight Zone

Universal Buy Link | Goodreads

What makes the fae so terrifying is how subtle they are…

One foggy night, Lee Warnick waits for her dad to come home from the factory. Lately, more and more people have been disappearing from her small town, and she feels that her family might be next.

No one else will talk about it, but Lee knows the truth: the fae have been abducting people, on the nights when the fog rises up.

Haunted by nightmares and terrified for her family, Lee must find a way to keep the faeries from striking again…

A night full of primal dread…and horrifying illusions.

Good Neighbors

Lee Warnick leaned her head on her arms and watched out the window. Her mom said, “Come away from the window, Lee, why don’t you call your friend Jenny? Or watch some TV?” but Lee ignored her. Her dad was working late at Smithfield Parts Fabrication—the factory—that night, and she wanted to see him come home.

Her mom wasn’t fooling anybody. They were both nervous.

That day had been one of those fall days that are too beautiful, too perfect. The sky was a clear and artificial blue-green, and the leaves rattled as they tumbled along the streets and through the parks, picking up strays. Everything had come easy at school. For example, almost everyone had gotten an A on the math test from last week, and nobody had gotten lower than a C. The worst thing that had happened was that a couple of senior boys were smoking behind the building and had made rude comments to her, but their hearts weren’t in it. It was the kind of day where no elementary school kids were beaten up for their lunch money, no stray dogs were kicked, and no soufflés went flat.

Those days, those days. Those terrifying days.

About four o’clock the air turned damp and cool and wet. “It’ll be foggy tonight.” About a dozen people called her mom to tell her that, as if she didn’t know. With her husband working late at the factory tonight. Driving home in that fog.

“You never knew when something might happen.”

But that was it, wasn’t it? Nobody knew. Nobody knew why some people, on foggy nights in the town of East Smithville, just flat-out disappeared.

Or rather, everyone knew why. The fairies took people.

They would take one or two or three or six people a year. The records went back to 1875, and there were no years where no people were taken; the most was six, although one of them had looked more like a crib death than a taking, at least to Lee.

But it could have started before 1875. That’s just when the records started.

The question was: how did the fairies decide who to take?

Read more here!

(https://books2read.com/tenebrosities-good-neighbors)

New Release: Evil Twin

New short story release, a horror/suspense tale in the vein of Twilight Zone

Universal Buy Link | Goodreads

A haunting tale of a monster who lived inside mirrors, and the ghost he left behind when he died…

What would you do to get rid of an abusive ghost?

When Michael’s father died, he left behind a grown-up family shattered by years of his broken, abusive, alcoholic behavior—and a legion of adoring fans who hung on every word of his stories.

They called him creative. But the truth was that Michael’s father had the ability to violate the boundary between one side of the mirror and the other, traveling between reflections and watching, and interfering, with other people’s private lives until there was little of the man left—only a monster.

Now the man is dead. But part of the monster has been left behind…

Evil Twin

One last time of cleaning up after you, Dad.

I’d slept downstairs on the couch, expecting him to get up and stumble downstairs, looking for beer or bourbon or something to piss in, but his body was still in the shower stall. His hip, covered with old blue jeans, lay against the glass door, pressed flat against the soap scum. His head lay against the fiberglass wall, curly white-gold hair surrounding his head like a halo. His pants bulged, filled but fortunately not overrunning with shit. I was tempted to turn the shower on and hose him down, one last time. You’re a drunk, you’ve always been a drunk, you died a drunk, you even haunted me drunk. He still wore his professorial corduroy jacket with leather patches at the elbows, real as the number on the scale after Thanksgiving. At least he hadn’t haunted me in the leisure suit Mom had him buried in.

I shoved the double-paned shower doors open so I could get at his legs. His right boot caught against the glass, then suddenly unstuck itself and lumped onto the rug. I grabbed him by the ankle and pulled until his head thumped onto the shower floor, then lifted his other leg and turned his hips around until he was an L-shape with his legs out on the tiles.

If he’d been alive, I would have worried about tearing the skin under his shirt, or on his face. A fact learned from my long history of cleaning up after my father: cheekbones get caught on the damnedest things. Ridges between rooms, uneven tiles, rubber floor mats. I used to always put a pillow under his head when I had to drag him out of places by myself, one of those u-shaped corduroy travel pillows. Kept it in a Ziploc bag under the passenger seat in the car, so the car wouldn’t smell like puke.

I pulled him out of the shower stall onto the rug, being careful not to look toward the medicine cabinet, and checked that he wasn’t leaving a trail. He was; the cup had runneth over. I rolled both Dad and the rug onto a fitted sheet from the closet that I couldn’t remember seeing lately on our bed. I closed my eyes as I passed the hall mirror, then covered it with a sheet on the way back.

Then I called Joanna and got serious about dragging him out of the house…

Read more here!

Wonderland Press Policy Statement re: 2020 Politics

Anyone who’s met me or interacted with me online knows that I am a very political person. I try not to be annoying about it. Instead of ranting, I try to infuse my opinions into my fiction. In my personal online spaces, I am much more openly political, but try to keep it positive, either bringing news articles to the forefront or reposting positive messages of support, rather than wallowing in sarcasm and negativity (although yes, sometimes I give in to the temptation).

I have tried to keep my politics off the blog, because it’s a publishing blog–not a political one. However, it has become clear that, as a matter of business, it is important to establish certain policies:

  • Wonderland Press does not support Trump and/or other actual or aspirant dictators, or their policies.
  • Wonderland Press does not support people or institutions that try to preserve or establish White supremacy, cisgender and heteronormative privilege, suppression of human rights, or other forms of bullying.
  • Wonderland Press will not be responding to, but will be preserving and/or reporting harassment, threats, manipulative, and other negative emails, and will develop additional asshole mitigation policies as necessary.

In the past, I’ve been less than perfect in carrying out the actions implied by those policies. Thank you for your patience, and feel free to let me know if I’ve face-planted in not carrying them out well. The policies themselves are not up for discussion. –DeAnna

Online Boundaries

I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about boundaries; one of the things I realized was that I’m much better at online boundaries than I am in person. In person, I’ve only been enforcing (some) boundaries for the last few years. Online, I’ve been enforcing boundaries since 1992, and doubling down on them since 2016.

It turns out that I know many, many people online who are good at in-person boundaries but are struggling to enforce online boundaries right now. Here are some of my rules of thumb:

  • You are not required to tolerate bad behavior on a social media post that you control, even from old friends, business connections, and close relatives. If you can delete it, it is your “house,” and people must abide by your rules if they wish to remain.
  • You are allowed to compartmentalize your relationships. It may not be appropriate for you to connect with coworkers on social media, particularly if they try to take advantage of that connection.
  • “Keeping the peace” means telling others that it is okay to hurt or take advantage of you, and of anyone else in your presence.
  • You are not required to make contact with someone else in a way that makes you uncomfortable. For example, if you hate using Facebook and someone insists that you must be on Facebook in order to talk to them, then what they’re doing is making sure they only speak to you when you’re in a mood to compromise.
  • You don’t owe anyone an explanation for not responding, not responding soon enough, or not responding in a way they want to hear. “I saw your message but didn’t feel able to answer at the time” should suffice, if you’d like to respond.
  • You are not required to tolerate the presence of anyone who sexualizes a nonsexual interaction without your consent. They are trying to determine the extent to which they can control you.
  • There are no awards for being the person who never blocks, unfriends, or mutes people who make you uncomfortable. The people who want to make sure “you don’t live in an echo chamber” are mostly concerned that you don’t live in their echo chamber.
  • You lose nothing by distancing or cutting off a relationship that makes you uncomfortable. The person in question was never going to support you, either personally or professionally, except as it benefitted themselves. Make room for people who truly support you.
  • The bare minimum for an online connection is that the person is pleased and supportive of your successes, and disappointed for your sake for your setbacks.
  • Even the most heated discussion can be held politely, with respect for each other’s autonomy. If one party insists on a level of polite behavior that they do not hold themselves to, they are attempting to control you.
  • If someone is attempting to control you, you are allowed to withdraw your politeness. You don’t need to be positively rude, although you certainly may. The worst thing you can do to an asshole online is to refuse to play—but please do take screenshots, and if you must respond in order to defend your reputation, do it in a place that you can control, and can delete responses from assholes.
  • Politeness without the ability to snub another person for their bad behavior is not politeness, but submission and compliance.
  • Decide what your boundaries for interaction in your spaces are ahead of time, such as “no politics, sex, or religion” or “no personal insults or manipulative or harassing behavior” or “doubling down on bad behavior automatically gets the perpetrator a block.” Decide what you will do to enforce those boundaries—and stick to it. In my opinion, multiple warnings should turn into a block. (Be careful about unfriending people; they will often return to continue harassing you, if your posts are at all public.)
  • Decide how you will respond to rude behavior ahead of time, so you’re less likely to be pressured into making a fool of yourself in a heated moment.
  • Decode how you will be wrong ahead of time. I suggest first acknowledging the situation, then stating what action you will take, which may or may not include an apology. “I didn’t know that. I’ll think about it” is a good phrase to use in order to give yourself some breathing room.
  • Apologies are a way to influence a bad situation. You don’t need to grovel or explain. “I’m sorry. I didn’t understand how important this was to you” is a good apology. Combining it with your plan for what you will do about the situation—whether or not that plan makes other people happy—makes it a great apology.
  • A bad faith apology is worse than no apology, especially on social media, where it can be recorded, shared, and brought forth for decades. “I’m sorry that you’re angry about this” is a manipulation tool, not an apology.
  • Assholes don’t have relationships; they have degrees of control. If they cannot control you, they will often take a sour grapes tactic: your lack of cooperation means that you’re worthless and/or incompetent. This is often called “the devaluation phase” in psychological literature.
  • Assholes want to win. They do not care about fairness, duty, sanity, good health, safety, legality, or nuanced points of view. They do not believe in your autonomy or personhood on a very basic level, and often can hardly imagine their own existence beyond the present moment. Their actions toward you are not truly personal. You need not take to heart anything they say.
  • Fallacies exist to train you to recognize bad faith arguments, including your own. Everyone has some point upon which they become an asshole: the thing is not to make a habit of it.
  • If you’re not sure whether someone is being an asshole or not, ask them to clarify their statement. “I’m not sure what you mean here; it sounds like you’re saying ____” will often do the trick. Be open to people with poor communication skills who are supportive and mean well.

To sum up:

  • People who support you are happy for the good things in your life, and disappointed for your sake for the things that didn’t turn out well.
  • If you want to be surrounded by people who support you, you have to make room for them by cutting out the people who do not.
  • You can’t “win” against an asshole, but you can plan ahead how best to allow them to defeat themselves.

Good luck!

Like what you read here? More of the same at the Wonderland Press newsletter!

(Fallacies: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_fallacies)

 

Crime du Jour, Day 31: White-Collar Crime

Crime du Jour: 31 Days of Malfeasance, Misconduct, and Immorality

One crime story per day, all the way through October. Ebook to be published Nov 1. This will be under my mystery/crime pen name, Diane R. Thompson!

 

Crime du Jour #31: White-Collar Crime

TONIGHT IS FOR THE SIX OF US

 

Once a year—Halloween—the six of them gather at a tasteful mansion in Castle Pines, Colorado. It’s a $2.7-million house, at last guesstimate. The walls are stucco and the walk-out basement is big panes of glass.  There’s a glass walkway indoors, running from one side of the mezzanine to the other, and glass tile walls between rooms.  The dining-room table is made of glass, the fronts of the cabinets are made of glass.  Hearing the description of the house, you might be tempted to make a joke about how people in glass houses should not throw stones.  But the house feels warm and luminous, the kind of house where you can view the worst weather out of the windows with equanimity, because you cannot avoid feeling warm and safe within them. There’s a screening room with theater-style seating in the basement, if that tells you anything.

Within the house are a number of skylights. There are skylights on the roof, of course, but there are also skylights built into the floor inside the house, not extremely large ones, but extremely difficult to walk on. Your every instinct is to avoid them, even though they are perfectly safe. During a party, you might look upward through one of these skylights, and look up a woman’s dress.  Or look downward and see into a room you haven’t glimpsed before, and spend the rest of the night attempting to find it.

At the bottom of the stairs in the basement is a sort of shrine, two half-columns on either side of a glass sculpture, almost like a Chihuly or underwater coral. Visitors have called it a “sort of jellyfish” or “a monster.” Variously, the sculpture is said to symbolize greed, lust, the beauty of the underwater realms, or “an elder thing, something like Lovecraft’s Cthulhu,” according to one of the most spectacularly brilliant financial analysts ever to consult for a member of the six.

She was an odd one, that Nora de Zaldo.

She looked continuously on the edge of tears, or anger. She had dark circles under her eyes, and hollows under her cheeks. She had thin lips, downturned, and curly black hair that she kept pulled back in a severe bun.

Even stranger, she noticed things. She looked downward into the skylight—the one in at the bottom of the back stairs to the second floor; the basement couldn’t be reached from there—and turned to one of the other guests, a promising movie director who hadn’t quite made Hollywood, and said, “I don’t think I belong here.”

The director, also a woman, tried to reassure her.  “If you’ve been invited to one of the six’s summer parties, then you must belong here!” said the woman, still optimistic despite being in her thirties. De Zaldo shuddered, and looked upwards. Above the triangle-shaped skylight set in the floor were two large wood supports, crossed over each other in an X.  (The light on the landing came not from above, but from floor-to-ceiling windows set in a semi-circle along the outer wall.)

So when de Zaldo found herself, at the end of October, in a small room with cement walls, and the only light coming from a skylight above her, she saw the X on the ceiling of the room above her, and understood where she was, if not why. A steel door, hinge-less and without a handle on the inside, blocked her egress. There was a bed, a sink, a toilet, a drain in the floor, a heavy hook on the ceiling, and a small, muffled air vent that did not echo when she banged on its steel mesh. There was no food.

She was wearing a jogging suit, warm but moisture-wicking, clean cotton underwear and an undershirt, but no bra. Her hair was loose, but an elastic hair tie had been left on the back of the sink for her. She pulled her hair up, noting her irrational gratitude for the thoughtfulness it signified.

Why me? she asked herself. Why here?

De Zaldo ran through possibilities, reaching a tentative conclusion that she was being withheld. Not being held prisoner, but being kept out of reach. She waited.

Hours later, the owner of the house appeared, bringing a garlicky pumpkin-tomato soup and a panini, which she set down on the bed. “I hope you don’t mind, dear,” she said, “but Carlos—” One of the other guests at the party, de Zaldo recalled, and a friend of the owner’s— “was getting decidedly fussy about having you killed.”

“Why?” de Zaldo asked.

The woman laughed and named a certain company.  “Because your predictions about their stocks went contrary to his insider information, darling. How dare your math be more accurate than his informants, I think the thinking went. I made millions off your advice.”

“And?” de Zaldo asked.

“Poor Carlos,” the owner said, shaking her head.

A few days later, on Halloween, the owner held an intimate dinner party, entirely unlike the party de Zaldo had attended in July, and much more to her taste. By then, matters had sorted themselves out, and de Zaldo had been released from her bolt-hole, or oubliette, or whatever it was, and was wearing a low-cut velvet top with a lace choker, and a translucent, embroidered pink skirt over black tights. They were coming downstairs from de Zaldo’s guest room, where she had changed.

“And Molly?” de Zaldo asked.

The owner of the house said, “Of course your lady friend is welcome on Thanksgiving, ma chère, but not tonight. Tonight is for the six of us.”

At the landing, de Zaldo hesitated.

Below the glass of the skylight was a pale face, looking up at her. It raised one hand in supplication.

De Zaldo looked up at the owner, who had come to a stop, and wore a half-smile on an already crooked face.

“I thought—”

The owner winked. “Just before midnight,” she said. “And then we hang him for six weeks. A good sacrificial feast never happens on Halloween.”

Crime du Jour, Day 30: Vandalism

Crime du Jour: 31 Days of Malfeasance, Misconduct, and Immorality

One crime story per day, all the way through October. Ebook to be published Nov 1. This will be under my mystery/crime pen name, Diane R. Thompson!

 

Crime du Jour #30: Vandalism

ONE ORDINARY DAY, WITH SUITCASE

Greenwood Cemetery in New Orleans is a necropolis, a city of the dead.  Although the homes of the dead are smaller, they are better built than the homes of the living, and less likely to succumb to flooding.  The Pontchartrain Expressway runs through the necropolis, dividing it into Greenwood Cemetery to the east, and Metairie Cemetery to the west.  In front of Greenwood along City Park Avenue, there are a few monuments, with the Confederate Tomb visible just as you get off the nearest bus stop. During Katrina, many of the gravestones had toppled, and you could still see the high-water marks stained onto the stone. But there was less damage there than in many of the neighborhoods.

I carried with me one black, hard-sided, 29-inch rolling suitcase, the kind that’s taller than it is wide.  It was dingy and had a scannable airport tag around the handle, as if I’d been flying. I was wearing a business suit and carried a briefcase-slash-laptop bag. I reeked of Wild Turkey, which I sneaked sips from as I rode.

At the corner stop, the bus driver offered to help me with the suitcase. I laughed off the offer, saying that I might be drunk but I wasn’t that drunk. An old woman with a squat oxygen tank got off the bus alongside me, totally ignored by the driver. The driver was white, as was I. The old woman was black.

It had just rained and smelled fresh and invigorating, but with an underlying smell of rot and damp. The bus had left behind the perfume of diesel fuel. All that was missing from the nostalgic, nightmarish scents of Katrina was the smell of rotten flesh, bloated and floating, to take me back to 2005.

I left the old woman behind, passed the front gates, and kept rolling, the wheels thumping heavily and wetly on the ridges of the sidewalk. I turned at Canal Boulevard and kept rolling. The city had not gone to sleep, not quite yet. I soon reached the Greenwood Funeral Home, where the fence was only thigh-high. I boosted the suitcase over it, then worked my way into the cemetery. The wet, rolling wheels echoed on the old cement road, loud to my ears but undoubtedly lost in the echo of cars running along the expressway.  I had long since marked out the particular tomb I wanted, which had been erected in 1890 and featured a fully mortised lock plate behind the antique marble door. Weeks ago, I had tested the lock with a discreet little skeleton key and some WD-40, and was able to turn the lock silently, in full daylight.  That night, the lock opened smoothly. I unzipped the suitcase, disgorged it of my victim, and locked the tomb up again, nice and tight. Then I returned the way I had come, wheels rolling more lightly through the puddles this time. The security cameras would not be checked unless there was a disturbance reported later, which there wouldn’t be. The security guard at the funeral home was higher than a kite.

I turned onto City Park Avenue and walked back to the bus stop. As I walked, I heard a low hissing sound.  A light glowed at the front of the Confederate Monument on the corner. In the distance a police siren made a soft “whoop-whoop,” almost of surprise, and my ears pricked up.

I kept walking with an unhurried pace, letting myself stumble from time to time: making noise.

The light snapped off, the hissing stopped, and someone grunted out a curse, then, “Almost!”

Almost what? I wondered.

The streetlight caught several dark shapes moving at the base of the tomb.

The soldier atop the monument had been defaced, or rather beheaded.  The rest of him had been painted neon green, with an additional application of what appeared to be pink feathers. Paint fumes bit at my nose. On the base of the statue were letters, which I could not read then but later proved to be “HEADLESS MOTHERFU.”

The old woman waited there at the head-high, wrought-iron fence opposite the bus stop, sans oxygen tank.

A shadowed form scampered away from the tomb, hissing, “They’re coming!” then boosted itself halfway up the fence, improbably hefting the heavy oxygen tank, along with enough tubes and attachments to turn it into something else entirely, at the woman, who caught it but struggled to lower it to the sidewalk.

“The bag too!” she hissed, but the dark shape had disappeared across the lawn, into the rows of tombs.

I jogged over to help the old woman untangle herself. The oxygen tank appeared to be rigged up as a sandblaster, all the better to etch marble and granite with. It was dusted with dark grit.

I bent over, unscrewed the various tubes, shoved them into my suitcase, and wiped the tank down with a clean towel just as the bright lights of the bus pulled up alongside us: the last bus of the night. Wordlessly, the old woman attached a clear tube from tank to nostrils. I helped ther onto the bus, then struggled after her with my bags in tow, again refusing help. It was the same driver.

He ignored the old woman, asking me, “She kick you out of the house?”

“She called me a–a motherfucker,” I said, with the dignified tones of a longtime drunk. The bus driver laughed, waited until I’d sat down, then pulled away from the curb.

The old woman was still on her feet, and I heard the oxygen tank clank against one of the seats as we sped up under the streetlights. He must have had selective vision.

He hadn’t even noticed a green-and-pink feathered statue.

I got off along Metairie Road, stole a Honda sedan out of someone’s driveway, and went home to Colorado, keeping the key and the sandblaster gun as souvenirs.

THE END

 

Geeky gothics and other strange & wonderful fiction: sign up for the Wonderland Press newsletter here. Includes two tales of Doctor Rudolpho, a teenaged fortune-teller who has the Sight.  If you enjoyed today’s story, please consider signing up!

You can find 2018’s story-a-day project, Tales of the Normal, here, and 2017’s story-a-day project, October Nights, here.

Page 1 of 17

Powered by WordPress & Theme by Anders Norén