Sunday, October 27, 2013

Trick or Treat! Halloween Blog Hop

As my contribution to the Halloween Blog Hop, I'd like to share a short story I wrote several years ago, when I first started writing.  I took the idea from Stephen King in his book "On Writing".  While this is not a supernatural scary thriller, its creepy all the same.


Dave opened the door with relief and anticipation.  It had been a long day. It had been lasting, in some ways, for about 10 years.  All he really wanted right then was to escape to his self-made sanctuary, shutting out the signs of the mundane world and relax, popping down a beer or two…or ten.
Josh was gone for the night.  Though he loved his son, Dave was often (he felt somewhat ashamedly) glad for the respite that solitude gave him.  Teenage boys can be a handful, after all.  Yes, he knew that while Josh did have a lot of common sense, he also knew that often, as a parent, what he didn’t know wouldn’t hurt him.  Maybe it was Pollyanna optimism; maybe it was simply trust.  In any case, this night he was glad to just be alone.
Closing the door behind him, he entered the foyer and dropped his keys on the table in the hallway.  It felt good to be home.  Sanctuary?  Yes, but that feeling was slipping away over the last two years since… his escape.  Now, more and more, it seemed like his place… his domain.
God, had it been two years already?  Yes, he told himself, it had, but it seemed like so much less than that.  Maybe that’s because time, a wonderfully fickle thing, loved to play with your mind.  How can hours, or days, pass, seeming like only an instant, while the same period of time can plod along so slow, laborious?  Yes, time was weird.  It could rob you… if you let it.
The 18 years with his ex, Martha, were a blur, punctuated with blazing images.  Some good.  Most bad.  There’s that weird tapestry of time again.  Smears the memory.  They say time heals.  Did it?  He supposed so.
Dave fumbled in his shirt for a cigarette, walking into the living room. ”Gonna have to quit this someday” the little voice in his head chided, for the umpteen- thousandth time.
He grinned, despite himself.  “I did quit once,” he thought, “for ten years.”  But when life became intolerable, he had started again, and he just didn’t give a damn.  Not one single damn.
As he approached the couch, he stopped suddenly.  A cold ripple of ice slithered down the back of his neck.  Little voice is speaking again, but this warning was much more eerie.
“What”?  He thought.
He stood there, frozen, trying to make out the words, but they weren’t there.  He hadn’t really heard in words.  No, not really. It was more of a feeling.  He listened, straining against the silence of the house that at times was deafening.  How could dead silence be so very loud?
Have you heard something?  What was the alarm at that went off in his semi consciousness? The cold ripple had moved to cover his whole body.  Wet with sweat…a cold, unholy sweat that made his clothes cling to him.
He looked around the room, eyes and ears searching. Same old secondhand furniture.  TV in the same place, a week’s worth of newspapers stuffed behind the easy chair. Keys sitting on the table in the hallway where he’d dropped them.  The stinking, overflowing ashtray was still there, scolding him. The afternoon shadows stealing across the carpet, same as ever.  Outside, he can hear the muffled drone of a lawn mower from the Sibley’s next door.  Nope… nothing wrong here.
‘Jesus’, he said to himself, plopping into the couch.  “I thought you were over that”.  He should be, shouldn’t he?  It’s been two years for Chrissake. Yeah… right… but maybe it takes longer than that to erase what you’ve been through. Come to think of it, can it all ever be really erased?  You’ve been through some major shit, man.
“Damn”, he thought, as the smoke exhaled through his nostrils.  “Get a hold of yourself”.
Dave had reason to be nervous though.  His journey through the kaleidoscope with the Queenofallwitches had certainly taken its toll. Yeah, that’s what he’d come to think of her as.  It seemed appropriate somehow. It wasn’t just the alcoholism.  Nor was it her lying, or her damn near ruining him financially.  It wasn’t even the countless episodes of screaming, fighting, (under the guise of “let’s talk”). Year after year he told himself, he would get through this… make it better.  Get through somehow.  Not even his suspicions of abuse toward their only son were enough to make him give up.  Of course, he told himself, good ol’ Dave, ever the optimist, had turned a blind eye.
Was it optimism, or was it fear?  Did he know, deep down, what he was up against, but was too afraid to face it?  Had he lied to himself so convincingly that he stayed, living in in total denial?
The last three years were the worst.  Paranoia and delusion had taken her over.  He mused, once again, as he had so often back then, that if it were simply a matter of marital conflict… misunderstanding, or atoning for words or actions born of inconsideration, there might have been a chance.  But how in God’s name can you respond… much less defend yourself… much less succeed… when there is no reality?  When the demon sitting in front of you isn’t the real problem at all, but the demons that drove her mind?
No.  You couldn’t.  Dave had long since lost his self-respect.  Sacrificing his family, his goals, his dreams, “for the good of the marriage”, he felt ashamed.  But there was one thing he just could not, would not, sacrifice.  And that she insisted on having… and devouring.
They say that the basic animal instinct for self-survival is the strongest there is.  Well, that certainly must be true.  For in the end, it was that which enabled him to say, “No more”, and escape the clutches of the hell his life had become.
Not that it was easy.  Dave knew that he was dealing with a brittle, unpredictable mind the first time she spit in his face.  This was reconfirmed when this graduated to her hitting him. Man, it was so hard not to retaliate.  The fact that he held on to enough self-control to not hit her back gave him a trace of pride.  At least he hadn’t sunk to her level. But as bad as that physical abuse was, he never felt truly afraid until the night he’d had to wrestle the gun from her.
“The only way this marriage will end is in death”!  She’d screamed.
Dave was overcome with fear then.  Oh, yes, indeed. A fear a bit akin to what he was feeling now.  So much fear, he didn’t dare ask whose death… hers, or his, she meant. From that moment on, he’d taken her very seriously.  And for the first time, his life of depression and despair had become one of fear and terror.
When he told his friend the State Trooper what had happened, he made him file an official report, but it was practically worthless. “Dave,” he’d said, “We can’t really do anything with this now.  All it means is that if she turns up dead, we won’t suspect you.  But if you turn up dead, we’ll suspect her.”
To say the least, that wasn’t very reassuring.
But that had been two years ago.  The Queenofallwitches was safely locked away in the Looney Bin, wasn’t she?  She wasn’t going anywhere; all comfy behind steel doors and drugged with God knows what. Right?
“Geez, cool it, man”, he thought to himself.  “You’re just tired, and on edge from a long week”. Still, something “pinged” in his mind.  Something he could not quite put his finger on.
He snubbed the cigarette out in the overflowing ashtray and kicked off his shoes.  Yes, everything is all right.  You’ve got your life back. Things are coming together pretty damn good.  He was laughing more, drinking less, had started to carve out a good life.  Maybe even the buxom schoolteacher he saw at Wal-Mart would eventually give him a chance. They had known each other from years past, in what seemed like a whole different lifetime.  She did seem glad to run into him.  And she was available, after all.
He smiled at that.  Yeah, she was a head-turner all right.  Something told him that they could have a lot of good times.  Images of perky breasts with pink nipples flashed across his mind.  These were followed by scenes of holding hands, walks in the park, candlelight dinners, raucous laughter and dancing. His mind played the sound of moaning sexual ecstasy and orgasmic release.  His smile grew wider.
“Yes, maybe I could have a regular life again”, he sighed.
Just then his reverie was snapped shut with a cold metallic clang.  The icy feel in the back of his neck returned.  What the hell was going on?
Fumbling for the remote, he brought the TV to life, surfing the channels as he always did.  The Mets lost to the Braves (again). The Palestinians broke off Peace talks (again). Roger on “General Hospital” was boinking Laura Lou (again). “not sold in stores.  Order ‘smooth ‘70s, $18.95 for cassette, $29.95 for CD’” (again). Then he stopped, with the local news.  The bleach blond anchorwoman was giving the late breaking story.
… “has escaped.  Authorities are not giving details, but at least one person is dead and a massive manhunt is in progress”.
But it wasn’t those words which froze him where he sat.  It wasn’t even the superimposed picture behind Ms. TV Anchor lady. It was that damned smell.  The smell he had known only too well.
The TV sound faded away in his mind, but the smell lingered, making the superimposed picture on the TV cruelly more vivid.  The picture of Martha, in one of her more hideous moments, when she’d been arrested. It was the smell.  How many days/nights/years has that horrible aroma entered his nostrils? The smell of cheap gardenia perfume, which was the only stuff that woman would wear. If it had sickened him then, it positively revolted him now. Yes, it had been that smell, unnoticed, which had sent the silent alarm.
“Oh my God!  It can’t be…!”
With great effort, he found his legs enough to stand.  Slowly, agonizingly, afraid, yet afraid not too, he turned toward the kitchen. Life, like time, can be funny.  Sometimes, when something is so impossible… so unlikely… that when actually confronted with it there’s no surprise.  This was one of those times.
There she was.  Standing in the doorway to the kitchen.  Her dark eyes ablaze with a vacant, mad determination.
All the fear, the revulsion Dave had tried to the first live with, then suppress, engulfed him like a wave of hot dirty water from a ruptured sewer line.
“What… How”?  He could only mumble a soft unbelieving whisper.
She made no response.  She just stood there, framed in the doorway.  She was like a snake, with cold unseeing eyes that knows it will soon dispense with its prey.
Slowly, deliberately, she raised her right hand, which held the gun.  Dave was only dimly aware of it.  His mind was reeling with a myriad of sights and sounds.
The Sibley’s lawnmower droning outside. The TV had moved on to Oprah. That god awful gardenia smell that would forever be associated with Martha.
And then he noticed, unwilling to see, the curl of her lip as she began a half-smile.  Yellow teeth glared in the late afternoon shadows, and for a moment, he thought he could actually see blood dripping from her lips.  God!  Surely not!
He didn’t really hear the shots, either of them.  His mind racing, feverishly, trying to comprehend.  Nor did he feel it when his body was ruthlessly thrown back, knocking him to the floor, overturning the coffee table.
The sound around him faded.  He looked down to his hands clutching his chest.  They were filled with blood.  His blood.  It was the last thing he saw as his vision began to blur.
Folks,  If you click the image above, you will be taken to Francine's Blog hub where you will find not only her contribution to the Halloween Blogs, but also links to other fine writers who are participating in the Halloween Blog Hop.

I sincerely hope you enjoyed my little thriller, and I invite you to drop me a line to ask for a "treat". Be sure to leave me your email address. I will randomly draw a name on or shortly after Halloween, and the winner will win a copy of Pirates Revenge, my latest action adventure story.

Furthermnore, I invite you to subscribe to my bi-monthly E-zine where I feature not only my books, but those of other fine authors as well.  Sign up for the "Alexander Chronicle".  Its free, and has  special extra scenes from my books that have never been seen before, as well as photos and videos pertaining to the stories in the books.  Guest columnists will share their insights, and contests will give you a chance to win valuable prizes!  And each month there is a random drawing where the winner will get a free copy of one of my books.
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