EXCERPT FROM “VICIOUS TRADITIONS: TALES OF TERROR & THE GROTESQUE”

FEBRUARY 1, 2022 YOU CAN PREORDER HERE

The excerpt below is from the short story, “Red Snow.”

Something had awakened Chloe. But what? The home was silent, except for the fireplace crackling downstairs. She sat up and quickly noticed what was wrong. Sitting on her bed was a Pierrot the Clown doll. But it wasn’t just any doll, it had belonged to Madison. A little whimper escaped her lips, as her vision blurred. The doll slowly turned its head, as though someone had cranked its wind in the back, and began to hum the song, Carol of the Bells.

Hark how the bells, sweet silver bells.

Chloe pushed the doll off of the bed and got out, rummaging through her weekend bag, searching for the anxiety meds her therapist had prescribed for her. She took two pills out and shoved them into her mouth and hurried down the hall.

This had all been a mistake. She should’ve known better than to come back here. She was a fool. A damn fool. She rushed downstairs, making a mad dash for the kitchen.

“What are you doing up?” Jared said, looking up from his glass of whiskey.

“I…I woke up…” She tried to keep her voice calm.

“Don’t you think you’re a bit too old for pink hair?”

Chloe touched her strands self-consciously, she had always hated how judgmental he could be.

“I wanted a change,” she whispered. She put on the kettle, she was in dire need of a hot drink, possibly one that could soothe her nerves.

“She always adored you,” Jared said, staring absently into his drink.

He didn’t have to say her name for Chloe to know that he was referring to Madison.

“I know. I loved her very much too.”

Chloe looked out of the kitchen window, the snow was coming down harder now, and in the distance was the forest. From the window the forest looked picturesque, worthy of a Christmas card, but Chloe knew better. What happened that night two years ago was impossible to forget. She couldn’t bring herself to conjure back the memories lest she would find herself out in the cold night, shouting into the void as the pristine snow was stained crimson. Her heart raced and she jumped when the kettle whistled jolting her back to the present, out of the cold night of her past and back into the cozy present.

Jared was still at the table, leafing through a picture book when Chloe sat down with a cup of chamomile tea.

“What’s that?”

“It’s was Madison’s,” he said, pushing the makeshift book towards her.

Chloe recognized the drawings, it wasn’t the first time she had seen them. The crayon sketches made her blood turn cold. The jagged lines and the red. She flipped the pages to the beginning and read its title, The Blood Witch. She turned the page and glanced down at the familiar handwriting, a look of anguish crossed her face.

Once upon a time, there lived an old witch in the forest.

Chloe skipped a few pages and stopped at the drawing of a witch with a pointy hat and sharp teeth dance around a cauldron filled with children, as the flames rose above them all.

The witch liked to eat little boys and girls. Itty bitty morsels. Sometimes she’d cook them in a big pot.

She knew what the following page would depict and yet, it still disturbed her when she saw it. The witch, this time was taking a bite out of a little boy, as the little boy tried to run away. This page was heavily consumed in red crayon, Madison’s strokes were harsh as though someone else had possessed her hand.

Sometimes, the witch would simply take a big bite!

The little boy in the drawing was crying as the Blood witch’s jaw came down on his arm. Chloe could feel her own scars on her arm glower in pain.

As though he could read her mind, Jared said, “What really happened that night?”

With shaky hands, Chloe turned over to the next page.

Don’t go into the forest. Don’t say her name.

“You two always had your secrets. Your secret language. Your stories….”

Chloe closed her eyes, bracing herself. She was in the woods with Madison. Her red coat a stark contrast against the snow. She and Madison loved creating their own stories, her niece preferred Chloe’s stories over the conventional fairytales. But their stories rarely ended in a happily ever after. Both aunt and niece favored the macabre and when they noticed a little house stuck in the woods, they wrote about the Blood Witch.

That night though, the unthinkable became reality. Madison stood close to the little house in the woods and called out into the darkness, “Blood Witch! Blood Witch! Come out and play!”

Chloe hadn’t noticed that Madison was missing until she heard the screams in the forest. She ran as fast as she could, with heart galloping in her chest, so afraid of what she might find once she got there. The first thing she noticed was the blood. Madison’s red coat discarded and torn, without her in it. Her therapist insisted that this part was untrue. That what she saw that night in the forest wasn’t real. That shock made her believe that their story unfolded.

“What happened!” Jared slammed his fist on the table, jerking Chloe back to the present.

“You know what happened. I tried to save her, you know that.”

“But I just can’t wrap my head around how a coyote could do that to my child!”

Chloe’s eyes filled with tears. Coyote. It’s what the coroner had settled on. But Chloe had seen the Blood Witch and her awfully sharp teeth. She had done everything she could to pull Madison back and out of her grip, but the witch had bit into her own arm, the same arm that now bore the ugly scars of that night.

“I did everything I could,” she murmured, closing the booklet with a loud clap. Then she stood up and headed back to bed. She took two pills and hugged the Pierrot the Clown that still held Madison’s scent, and fell into a restless sleep.

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