The Arrogance Will Be Costly

old swing

 

“Is this it? Is this…all that’s left?”  Jakob asked. The villagers stood among the remnants, stricken with fear, dumbfounded.

They gathered in the center of what was left the playground. The jungle gym—once only a few crossties with heavy, knotted ropes for climbing—was mostly gone; only the support beams protruded from the grass, the edges jagged and sharp, like broken toothpicks.

“And that—what is that over there?” said Josiah, his voice trembling.

“Is that…my god, is that a shoe?” someone deeper in the crowd exclaimed.

A blonde-haired woman broke from the throng to grab the shoe. “No, no, no! Not Kamyra! Not my baby…!” she screeched, clutching the shoe to her chest.  A man tore himself from the group and went to the woman, wrapping his arms around her and stroking her hair.  For a moment, there was only the sound of the wind cutting through the trees and the wails of the woman with the shoe.

Abruptly, a question cut through her grief.  “Where’s the sandbox?” The loud whisper came from Kaitlin.  She stood with her jaw set and her shoulders square, a pillar in the midst of chaos, but the shudder in her voice reverberated throughout the crowd, and the villagers pulled closer together.  “The sandbox?” she asked again, extending her hands beseechingly.

Heads turned left and right, but no one responded.

Another villager pointed to the clearing near the tree line.  “Is that…the swing?

Jakob pulled away from the others to an object that was half-rammed into the ground.  It was the old swing.  He pulled it up with a yank.  All that was left was a bit of chain attached to the fractured wooden seat.  Teeth marks had made an ugly, ragged curve in the wood, and it was splattered with fresh blood and bits of flesh.

Kaitlin whipped around to the village elder.

“Do you see now?  Do you believe now?” she shrieked, her fear turned to fury.

The elder remained motionless, unable to move or speak.

“Perhaps you will give the offering next season, Elder?” Jakob spat, his eyes ablaze in rage.  “And maybe you will not be so wise?  So callous?” He waved the broken, bloodied swingseat wildly. “Shall we appease them, next season, Elder?” he repeated, his voice rising.  “Or will you  imagine still that they do not exist?”

The elder threw himself on the ground and at the feet of his wayward flock, he screamed for forgiveness.

ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.  © ELIZABETH MICHAUD JOHN

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Light for the Damned

Light for the damned

 

“Will you be good?”

She nodded, whimpering.

He squinted his eyes, unconvinced.

He leaned closer.  “Will…you…be…good?”  He spat each word, his rank breathe filling her tiny space with dread.

“Yes, yes, a million times, yes!”  She trembled, sending tremors through the chains.

He straightened himself and nodded.  He turned the key in the lock, releasing the cuffs. “Alright then.  Go.”

She scrambled up the stairs, and then pushed up the cellar door.  As she curled her fingers around the edges of the opening, light touched them, and she sucked in her breath.  She boosted herself up through the door and rushed to the window.  Her shoulder scraped the teeth of the rake, drawing blood, but she didn’t notice.  Instead, she hurried to the window frame, and pushed her face against the glass. The brightness on the other side made her eyes water and burn, but she soaked it in.

She basked in it.

She pressed her palms onto the pane.  Oh, the light, she thought, the wonderful light

“It’s time.”

What?!” His voice cut through her reverie like a jagged, serrated knife.

He walked to her with a slow but deliberate steps.  “There’s blood on my window.”

“What?  No, I didn’t, I was good—“  she protested, but then she saw it.  Blood had dripped down from her shoulder and stained the glass.  Her eyes widened in horror.  “No, please, no!  I was good!  I was being  goo—“

His lips curled upward, revealing yellow, jagged teeth.  He moved in, bringing his face inches from hers.  “You know I don’t like mess, little girl,” he snarled.

Her skin puckered in goose-flesh at his dark declaration, and tears welled in her eyes. “But I just got here!” she shrieked.  “I just got some light!  Please—“

“It’s time.”

“Oh, god, please! Not yet, not again—“

He yanked her by the hair and the chains, and dragged her screaming back into the darkness.

 

ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.  © ELIZABETH MICHAUD JOHN

Coven

girl with red hair

 

“Go and get the girl.”

At the sight of her, the women shouted their cries and catcalls.

“She makes men fall to their feet!” cried one.

“She sings the songs of the wicked!” shrieked another.

“She does the black magic!” still another persisted.

“It’s true because she has the red hair of the devil’s wife!”  This from someone on the girl’s left.

“Yes, the devil’s wife!”  This echoed from someone on the girl’s right.

“His filthy bride—a red-haired demon she is!”

They dragged her to the chair and then flocked around.  The flames from the torches lurched and pitched, their crackling lights lengthening the shadows of the gathered into grotesque shapes. The oldest among them, Prudence, separated herself from the group.  “We are all in agreement then?”

The women nodded, and then kneeled.

“Our red-haired sister, we are at your service.”

Behind the drape of her long red hair, the girl looked up and smiled.

ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.  © ELIZABETH MICHAUD JOHN

A Faerie Tale

“Are you sure?”

She nodded.  “This is where I belong.”

“So let it be.”  He sprinkled the golden dust into the air; it fell on her softly, shimmering upon her skin.  Her ears lengthened to a fine point; delicate wings sprouted behind her back.  Her eyes sparkled with delight.

“Welcome.  Now you’re one of us.”

ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. © ELIZABETH MICHAUD JOHN.

 

 

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The Monster and the Ghost

 

“So, what do you think’s waiting on the other side of the door?” Tommy asked.

“I’m sure it’s scary, whatever it is!”  Jason’s voice quivered with fear and excitement.

The older boy looked down at the younger one.  “Think so?  Monsters, maybe?”

“No, no monsters.  Ghosts.”

Tommy squinted.  “Ghosts?”

“Yea, of those boys that went missing a few months ago.  No one ever found them.”

“Could be.” Tommy cocked an eyebrow at Jason.  “You sure you want to open it?  See what’s on the other side? You brave enough?”

Jason hopped from foot to foot.  Hesitating only for a moment, he nodded.

Tommy curled his fingers around the handle. He pulled it up, then down, but it didn’t yield.

Jason sagged his shoulders, and kicked at the door. “Damn it! We’re locked out!”

Tommy shook his head and shrugged.  Releasing the handle, he turned slowly to Jason.  “Doesn’t really matter, though.”

“Why not?”

“Because the monster isn’t on the other side of the door.” From his jacket, he pulled out a long, serrated knife.  “He’s right here.”  Even in the semi-darkness, the blade gleamed.  “And you’re gonna be the ghost.”

 

ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.  © ELIZABETH MICHAUD JOHN.

Not Even Death

photo credit: photo retrieved from Haunted America Tours

The hand he placed on her shoulder shimmered with an ethereal light, faint and pale.

She turned, startled.  Her eyes widened when she saw him.

“You’re…you’re here?

“You thought those pills would keep us apart?”  He exposed his wrists, revealed the ugly wounds. “Oh, lover, don’t you see? Now we’ve got eternity.”

She screamed.

ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.  © ELIZABETH MICHAUD JOHN.

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Thanks for reading!

 

Saying “Boo!”

As a writer, I love to write.  At any moment, at any time, whenever the inspiration hits me.  In the springtime, if it’s raining and the rain splatters on the rooftop in just the right way, I may write a poem.  When it’s hot and muggy outside and the mosquitos and the flies are buzzing around, I might grab my pencil and turn out a lazy bit of prose to match my summer day.  I’ve been known to tweak out a verse or two based on lyrics of a song that intrigued me.  And bearing witness to an act of kindness or malice has often demanded that I make my way to my computer and adapt my testimony into words of warmth or tales of woe.  On my phone I have a note pad app that allows me to tap out a line or two when I’m in my car and a bright idea hits me (when I’m stopped somewhere, of course!), and in my purse, I have a small, spiral-bound writing journal that I always keep handy so I can write when I take the kids to soccer or to Barnes & Noble (I mean, it’s Barnes & Noble, for Pete’s sake!  How can you not find inspiration there???)

Yea, I’m always ready to write, and lots of things move me to do it.

But nothing so much like the month of October.

October signals the time for witches and goblins, ghosts and ghouls.  It’s time for scary movies, horror specials, and dark novels.  It’s when the monsters in the closet seem a little more real, the creatures under the bed are more determined to get you, and that obscure shadow in the corner is not really a shadow at all…but something far and significantly more sinister.  Friday, October 13 is the ominous date on the calendar, and crossing the path of a black cat is a little creepier.  When the window is open but a crack, you hear the wolf howl at the moon and in the light of a fire—campfire or other—flames dance and prance the steps of the wicked.

October marks the time for fear.

As any horror writer will tell you, October is the month for our craft.  This is the season when people are not as afraid to take on the dark; in fact, they challenge it, consequences be damned.  We allow ourselves to fear with both amusement and trepidation, with both giggles and shudders.  We squeal with dark delight at the terrors that flicker across our TV screens in the safety of our own homes, but at night, we shake with anguish when the floorboards creak and the windows rattle.  And it’s this curious mixed acceptance of fear that horror writers thrive on and makes it easier to write than any other time of year.

Ah, October.

It’s the beginning of the celebration of the macabre.

In the mind of the horror writer—at least mine, anyway—this month is almost sacred.  There is a heightened sense of terror during these four weeks, and I am keenly aware of the darkness and treachery that is lurking.  Things speak to me during this month and I find inspiration everywhere:  from the little old lady hanging giant spiders on her porch to the dime-store monsters on sale at the local drugstore to the pint-sized ghouls that roam the streets forever in search of Halloween treats.  Michael Jackson’s Thriller plays on a loop on the radio and its spooky beats help set the mood for thirty-one nights of chills and thrills.

October.

Terror abounds in this corner of the calendar, and for those of us who like to pen dark, twisted tales, it’s ripe for the picking.  Sometimes the ink in our pens spills a classic story of evil witches looking to dine on naughty children.  Other times our pens will speak for the dead, recount their haunting, and deliver their revenge.  At still other moments, our pens scribble the random, incoherent thoughts of the insane, only to leave the sane wondering, bewildered and terrified.

More than any other month in the year, I am inspired by the whispers that float on the air, the undertones of death that waft on the breeze, the stark, bleak silhouettes of bare trees backlit by the ghostly light of moon and the owl’s haunted hoot.  They are stage and prelude to a symphony for the damned, where the screams of innocents and the slippery slide of blood upon the walls are the grand overture.

And I am inspired to write.

But more importantly, I am also even more inspired to share.  Because let’s face it, who doesn’t like to share the fear?  Who doesn’t like to go into the haunted house with friends so we can all scream together, laugh together, be scared together?  Who doesn’t like to sneak up on their best buddy and say “Boo!”?

Because really, that’s what horror writers do—certainly that’s what I like to do.  Writing horror is about sneaking up on someone and saying boo!—in the grandest way possible—and the month of October makes it both legitimate to do and lots of fun.

Yep, yep, I love October.  It motivates me like no other time of year, and despite all that I have going on and the troubles that plague me, October is calling me, winking at me, telling me it’s time to write.

There is inspiration everywhere and it’s time to say…

BOO!

EMJ