The excerpt below is from the short story, “Comets Tear the Skies.”
When I open my eyes, I have legs.
“The operation was successful,” the doctor beams.
I lift the white sheet with tentative fingers, and peek at my new set of legs. I had seen them in photos and in movies, prior, but on me they look foreign, almost hideous. I try to raise one but am unable to.
“Don’t,” the doctor says. “You’ll have time to learn how to use them before your mission begins.”
“I leave in two months. Is that enough time?”
“Yes, we’ve had some patients running within a month!”
I’m impressed. Maybe it won’t be so difficult after all. If I can manage the pain. I take another look beneath the sheet. They’re there, two perfectly toned pair of legs with a little drawing of a daisy chain circling around my right ankle.
“You couldn’t get rid of that?”
“Unfortunately, no, we were unable to remove that. But it won’t interfere with anything. It’s just a feeble embellishment.”
And also a constant reminder of the former owner of these legs.
But I don’t say that to the doctor. He seems so pleased with himself and the result of my operation. I don’t want to burst his bubble.
“Don’t worry about it, besides you can cover it up with clothes afterwards,” he says to me as though he’s read my mind. “Have you decided what name you’ll use during your mission?”
I manage a tiny smile and nod.
“Brenda,” I say. “My name is Brenda.” The name sounds foreign to me, much like my legs, but it reminds me of a character from the TV series I’ve been watching with the other missionaries to learn the new language. A name that will help me fit in.
“Your new life starts now, Brenda,” the doctor says. “We’re all aware of the great sacrifice you had to make in order to be chosen for this mission. Don’t think that our community isn’t humbled by your courage. You’re strong. You should be honored that you passed the selection process. Not many do.”
I sigh, thinking about the abomination below the sheet. What may seem like an honor to some, feels more like a curse to me.
But I can’t think like that.
I’m a new person now.
And in a couple of months I’ll be bound for Earth.
If you listen carefully, sometimes at half past midnight, you can hear her voice. Florence Wakefield. The ghost of Gold Petal Fields. Her blood is in these fields. It’s why the trees are sick, their roots gnarled. Some say if you cut through the wood, you can see it—her blood in the lumber. They never should’ve used this land for anything, but the modern man rejects folklore, says that it’s mere superstitions, that there’s nothing to be found in these fields but your own shallow breath.
I know you may think that I’m crazy, but if you’re going to heed any lesson from my testimony, it’s this: Don’t tread on Florence’s land, or you’ll be sorry. I saw her ten years ago, it’s why I look like this, so I beg you, don’t go. Don’t go to Gold Petal Fields. That land is cursed.
“What do you make of that mumbo jumbo?” I say to Dave as I dip another chip into the bowl of salsa sitting between us.
“I don’t know. We can’t discredit her story as false, something happened to her in those fields to look the way she does.”
I nod, although I’m skeptical of the paranormal. Just because I’ve ventured on this podcast adventure with Dave doesn’t mean that I necessarily believe all the crazy stories we get sent to investigate. Especially since we’ve been able to debunk all of the ghost sightings we’ve investigated so far. Dave and I began our podcast “Agents of Spook” together three years ago, and ever since, our weekly listeners have increased exponentially. Our winning card is having video footage of our ghost hunting to go along with our podcast on our YouTube channel.
“I believe that she had a freak accident,” I concede. “But do I think that a two-hundred-sixty-five year-old ghost is to blame for her blindness? No, I don’t.”
Dave moves the cursor back on the video, rewinding it to the last few minutes and replays it.
“It’s why I look like this, so I beg you don’t go.”
He freezes the frame.
“You see that, Blythe?” He’s pointing to the computer screen, where Amanda Manthis stares blankly, or at least just sits there—I’m not sure how you can describe someone whose eyes are missing.
“What does that prove? Besides, she sent us this video, but then warns us not to go. It’s almost like she’s begging for us to go.” I dunk another chip in the salsa, scooping up a hefty amount before putting it in my mouth
“Maybe she only wants to know if what she thinks she saw was real or if something else happened to her entirely.”
I grab the packets of paper Dave printed earlier. Anything he was able to find about Florence Wakefield are in these papers. Legend has it that Florence Wakefield, the only child of the widowed oil tycoon Beau Wakefield, was brutally murdered by a group of villagers when rumors of witchcraft surfaced. Florence allegedly gave a poisoned concoction to a young teenage girl, Lydia Carson who had sought her herbal services. Modern medicine notes that perhaps the girl, unbeknownst to her, was deathly allergic to “eye of newt” or nowadays known in less Gothic terms as mustard seeds. These seeds were found to be part of the herbal tea that the young Lydia ingested. But Lydia’s father was distraught by his favored daughter’s death and vowed to seek revenge. When Beau Wakefield left town for a business venture to San Francisco, Mr. Carson, along with eleven other men, marched to the Wakefield estate. If Florence were a typical girl of her upbringing, they wouldn’t have been able to do what they did to her. But Florence wasn’t safe at home when they came looking for her. No. She was out in the fields. According to the historical documents and newspaper clippings, the men beat her and then tied her up to a stake where the crows pecked at her eyes. By the time the servants found her, it was too late. Florence was dead.
I set the papers back down on the desk, shaking my head.
“This is so disturbing.”
“Oh, but you haven’t heard it all . Exactly one month after her death, people began to see her ghost in the fields at night. Or as they said, a young woman wearing a pale pink dress. According to legend, it’s believed that if you try to communicate with the ghost, she lets you taste a dose of what she went through.”
“And that brings us back to why Amanda Manthis’ eyes look the way they do.”
“Yes,” Dave says. “That’s exactly it.”
“All of this is very fascinating, but you know that I don’t believe in ghosts.”
“I know you don’t. But that’s why we need to investigate and capture any weird phenomena with our trusty Canons.”
I look back up at Amanda’s freeze-framed face. She doesn’t look much older than thirty. Her brown hair is tied back as freckles adorn her button nose. But her eyes, or at least where her eyes used to be, are hollowed out. Heavy scar tissue now covers what used to be bleeding wounds. A chill runs down my spine, but I ignore it.
June is Pride Month and this year one of my short stories, “Some Kind of Monster” will appear in the Queer Anthology, Unburied. Proceeds from book sales will be going to a LGBTQ charity, so what better way to read some cool stories AND help out for a good cause!
I could never see the monster, I just knew that it was large because anytime I found myself in his viscid stomach, I was swallowed whole. Never chomped up in little pieces.
Last night, once again I had the same nightmare. I was in the monster’s belly, the acrid scent of his stomach acid made me gag as I floundered in it, blind. I can’t ever see the inside of it because of how cavernous it is. All I can feel is the stifling sense of being wrapped in an unwanted hug.
The nightmare usually laves me feeling unsettled. No amount of hot tea and buttered biscuits can comfort me back to normalcy. After one those nightmares, I tend to spend the rest of the day jumpy and tense, my shoulders sore from my inability to relax. Another side-effect of this reoccurring nightmare was that whenever I woke up, drenched to the bone and shaking, it would leave me so wound up that attempting to fall back to sleep was futile, even if I had three hours to spare before my alarm would sound off.
There I was, sitting my cubicle both in dire need of sleep and also very afraid of being met with the same feeling of dread and anguish that the nightmare always delivered. My eyelids felt heavy, like keeping them open was a task in itself, and one that I was certain I’d fall victim to if I didn’t get my ass out of the chair and mainline some caffeine into me stat.
I hurried to the break room not caring that I had already taken a break twenty minutes ago. My sanity depended on staying awake. I felt like those scream queens on A Nightmare on Elm Street where they conjured up inventive ways to keep themselves awake, lest they become savory kebabs for Freddy’s expert razor claws.
“Another coffee? Tough morning, huh?” My co-worker Jack asked with an easy shiteating grin that made the other girls in the office swoon but that I despised. His dockers were perfectly pressed and the button down shirt impeccably ironed. He ran a hand through his sandy blond hair.
I knew I looked as much as disaster as I felt. My curls still tangled and pinned to the top of my head in a messy bun, yesterday’s eyeliner smeared under my eyes, and a gel manicure outgrown its natural stay that my half-moons where visible. I just shrugged not wanting to commit to an answer. Hoping that maybe this would dissuade him from small talk.
“You look like you could use some sleep, Sharon.”
No shit, Sherlock.
I plastered a fake smile and replied, “You’re so very astute, Jack.” I silently begged for him to leave the break room so that I could have a few moments to myself. But Jack lingered with his dopey grin.
“What’s this?” He pointed to something on the side of my neck.
I hope it’s not a hickey, although I haven’t made out with anyone in weeks. I went towards the mirror placed above the sink, to inspect and oddly enough there on the side of my neck were three punctures holes. I carefully touched the wounds, not understanding where or how I could’ve gotten them.
I’m very proud to announce that another Women in Horror Anthology will be coming out next month! This is the third Women in Horror Anthology that I’ve edited, but the first one that I’ve edited with fellow Inkblotter Erica Ruhe, so it may have a different feel than the others (since we both selected stories and agreed which ones would make the cut).
I’ve always been a fan of stories where love goes wrong, because a part of me is a huge romantic and the other part of me is hugely attracted to the sinister so this embraces both things very well.
An artist soon discovers how dangerous it is to paint her muse.
A young boy finds out how deadly a birthday wish can be.
A young woman plagued by nightmares will find out what they really mean with deadly consequences.
A woman visits her sister only to discover of her new macabre hobby.
These and many other stories make up the twisted world of TAINTED LOVE, a collection that exalts and explores the many ways love can go wrong, may it be romantic relationships, friendships, or familial bonds, sometimes, love can become deadly or scary. Here you have fourteen chilling tales of love and the wounds it leaves, sometimes metaphorical sometimes literal. Love kills, and these authors expertly wield the knife in this anthology that you don’t want to miss!
These are the short stories you will find in the anthology:
2020 has been both the best of times and the worst of times for me. Oddly enough, it’s been a most fortuitous year in regards to my writing. I signed two new contracts for short stories, have a short story coming out in June, and Strange Girls: Women in Horror Anthology had the best sales ever. The worst of times, of course, refers to all of us having to deal with a global pandemic and all the stress and worry that comes along with that.
Not to dismiss a serious topic aside, I do wish to focus on the positives. And one of the best thing that has happened this year so far is having my short story, Baby Teeth selected for the anthology Midnight in the Pentagram published by Silver Shamrock Publishing. These guys are total badasses when it comes to horror publications so I was over the moon at being selected.
Baby Teeth is the story of a young mother, Melissa, who begins to feel that there’s something seriously amiss with her new baby. I was slightly inspired by Rosemary’s Baby, but I was also fascinated with the notion of, what part is real and what part is merely Melissa suffering from post-partum depression?
It’s one hell of a twisted, scary treat and I’m looking forward to all of you getting a chance to read it soon. As of right now, I don’t have any official release dates, but I’m hoping for a Fall 2020 release as it seems the most appropriate.
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It: Chapter 2 – 27 years later, the Loser’s Club have grown up and moved away, until a devastating phone call brings them back. The biggest question that I have for the sequel is, I hope they give the movie a better ending than the novel actually did.
Pet Sematary – Another Stephen King novel adaptation, I truly loved the original and was iffy about them doing a remake, however, after viewing the trailer, I’m quite excited now. Louis Creed, his wife Rachel and their two children Gage and Ellie move to a rural home where they are welcomed and enlightened about the eerie ‘Pet Sematary’ located near their home. After the tragedy of their cat, Church, being killed by a truck, Louis resorts to burying it in the mysterious pet cemetery, which is definitely not as it seems, as it proves to the Creeds that sometimes, dead if better. I just need three things for this remake to work for me, Gage needs to be incredibly adorable as the original, Zelda has to be crazily terrifying as the original, and Stephen King needs to make an appearance in the film as he did in the original.
The Curse of La Llorona – Ignoring the eerie warning of a troubled mother suspected of child endangerment, a social worker and her own small kids soon drawn into the frightening supernatural realm. Their only hope to survive La Llorona’s deadly wrath may be a disillusioned priest and the mysticism he practices to keep evil at bay, on the fringes where fear and faith collide. I’ve been looking forward to seeing this because the original legend of La Llorona is quite creepy and I’m curious to see how the director will pull this off.
The Turning – A young governess is hired by a man who has become responsible for his young nephew and niece after the deaths of their parents. This is a modern take on Henry James’ creepy novella “The Turn of the Screw.” This movie stars It’s and Stranger Things young talent, Finn Wolfhard and is Floria Sigismondi’s second feature film (her first being The Runaways). If you think that name sounds familiar, it’s because in the early 90’s Floria directed the majority of Marilyn Manson’s music videos, so if her gothic, creepy videos were any indication of her style, I’m certain that this movie will be just as chilling and haunting.
US – This is Jordan Peele’s second horror movie, and although the plot to this movie is yet unknown, simply being described as a “social horror-thriller,” on IMDb, I’m intrigued since I really enjoyed Peele’s Get Out. Besides, with Elisabeth Moss and Lupita Nyong’o in the cast, I know that the movie promises some top-notch performances.
What movies are you looking forward to seeing in 2019?
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I’m thrilled to announce that my short story, GOOD SISTER, BAD SISTER is going to be included in the upcoming anthology Betty Bites Back – Horror Stories for Young Feminists (coming out October 2019). This anthology is put together by award-winning badass authors, Demitria Lunetta, Mindy McGinnis, and Kate Karyus Quinn.
Here’s a little teaser of what my story is about:
GOOD SISTER, BAD SISTER by Azzurra Nox
Puberty comes with many changes, but after being bitten by a mysterious animal in the forest, Dilay finds out that some changes may just give her a certain edge she didn’t have before.
Until then, support me and the amazing authors that are going to be included in this awesome anthology by stopping by the Kickstarter Page for it (even if you can’t contribute monetarily, forward the link on your social media so we can spread the word!).
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As a reader, I’ve always been an avid fan of horror anthologies and short story collections, because it has always allowed me to discover new authors without committing to a full-length novel. As a writer, I’ve always wanted to put together an anthology and seeing that I prefer the darker side of life I thought that going with horror short stories would be my best option.
Female representation in the horror genre is still very scarce. The horror literary market is filled with male authors. So with my anthology I decided to showcase the talent of female authors. This is how the concept for MY AMERICAN NIGHTMARE: Women in Horror Anthology was conceived.
The anthology will be available TUESDAY, OCTOBER 31, 2017.
Fans of Joe Hill, American Horror Story, and Stephen King will love these dark and twisted stories!
Excerpt from “The Girl & The Yellow Wallpaper”
The faces in the flowers were more pronounced than usual that night. Big eyes, gaping and expectant, seemed to blink back at her. Lizzie dismissed the idea immediately. Paper did not blink. Nothing could move in the room, except her. But the yellow faces had a more human quality the more she looked. They were women’s faces. Lizzie found something feminine in the shape, warped as it may be. The heads in the wallpaper appeared to tilt to the side, violently, like their necks had been snapped.
Excerpt from “Perle”
A muscle flickered in that clean-shaven jaw. “Step out of the vehicle.”
I hesitated. Another bang.
“I said step out of the vehicle.” Singer popped the snap on his holster. “I’m not gonna ask you again.” Dog whimpers urged me to comply.
My shoulders slumped. I released the latch and fought open the stiff door. It protested with a loud, long squeal.
“Now what is in the back of this truck?”
Still I hesitated, puckering my lips in a coy attempt at innocence.
Excerpt from “Whatever Happened to Peyton Rose?”
“Jesus,” she whispered, not sure if anyone could hear her. The dolls made her feel unsettled as they stared back at her with vacant eyes. Peering down, a scream escaped her throat when she realized that their plucked eyes were scattered on the bed. She pushed the comforter off of her. The eyes fell down, making a sound similar to marbles crashing to the floor as she ran for the door.
Frantic, she opened the door and stood upon the landing. She looked to and fro, not knowing what direction to run to next.
Don’t panic! She told herself. And yet, her hands were shaking.
The author lineup is the following:
Angela Sylvaine – “Ballad of Sorrow and Lily”
Amelia Kibbie – “We Kill The Skull Man”
Roberta Goli – “Mr. Buttons’ Tea Party”
Jamie Kahn – “The Poison & The Ivy”
Rachel Bolton – “The Girl & The Yellow Wallpaper”
Hillary Lyon – “Boys’ Night Out”
Nicky Peacock – “She Looked Like Krystal Sparkle”
Spinster Eskie- “Angie’s Change”
Sheri Kreitner – “The Pickman Sisters of Salem”
Sierra Ryan – “Volunteer”
Kara Nelson – “The Eye”
E.F. Schraeder – “Night Moves”
Andrea Teare – “39 Days”
Heather Miller – “The Stars”
Marnie Azzarelli – “When Evacuating Pennsylvania”
Erica Ruhe – “Perle”
Phoebe Jane Johnson – “Ruby”
Azzurra Nox – “Whatever Happened to Peyton Rose?”
Kara Dennison – “Billson”
If anyone would be interested in receiving an ARC of the anthology for review purposes, please get in touch with me at: azzurranox[@]yahoo.com or leave a comment below!