Flash Fiction: Driver, Surprise Me

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I could still feel Rex’s hands wrapped around my neck when I met Damon. I shuddered at the thought. Maybe it was because he was wearing a suit, or maybe because I needed a getaway car, but when Damon stopped the car to ask me if I needed a lift I nodded – still dazed from the lack of oxygen. It was only after I got in that I noticed them. The whole back seat was lined up with porcelain dolls. Their glassy eyes and red lips painted in a perpetual smirk kind of creeped me out.

“Where to?” he asked, dazzling me with his smile.

I gulped – unsure of where I was headed. I hadn’t planned that far ahead when I ran out of the apartment.

“The bus station,” I hesitated.

“Getting out of the city?”

I nodded.

“Where to?”

“Florida,” I lied.

He nodded, as he tried to make small talk but I wasn’t listening.

I kept staring at the rearview mirror so I could steal glances at the dolls. I was transfixed by their disarming beauty and impeccable detail. Each doll dressed in a particular style, goth, hippy, posh, 17th century baroque, to mention a few. Once he caught me staring at them, our gaze met in the mirror for a fraction of a second before I quickly diverted my focus.

I looked down at my hands. Thought about how they had been covered in blood an hour ago. My mind raced, replaying the scene. The blade coming down and his hands around my neck. He didn’t think I had it in me. He thought I was weak. But boy, had he been wrong. Dead wrong. I stifled a chuckle.

“They used to be broken you know…” Damon interrupted my thoughts.

“What?”

“The dolls. I fixed them.” There was something about the way his eyes moved over my body that made me feel as though he were prying into my very core.

“Oh,” I replied. I suddenly felt uncomfortable. The space between us seemed too little at that moment, and I willed him to drive faster. But that wasn’t the case. Instead, he suddenly brought the car to an abrupt stop. I would’ve flung forwards and probably through the windshield if I hadn’t worn my seat belt. Before I had a chance to react, a rag covered my mouth and I blacked out.

I’ve gotten used to it by now. Sitting here and waiting for the night to go by as he drives throughout the city. He fills our nights with music as we ride. The Doors, Nirvana, at times even Queen. We’re in a loop, hapless passengers of a demonic ride. We pass through Soho, Park Avenue, across the Brooklyn Bridge. My glassy eyes take in the city lights while my red lips are frozen in a perpetual smirk.

But I’m no longer broken.

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What Does It Mean To Edit an Anthology? – The 10 Steps You Need to Take!

My American Nightmare 2

Two years ago I put together my first anthology, My American Nightmare – Women in Horror Anthology. I had always wanted to put together an anthology, and finally, after much thought and trepidation, I decided to bite the bullet and launch myself headfirst into this project.

The experience was both overwhelming and fulfilling. I got to read a lot of awesome horror short stories and in turn, meet new authors and become acquainted with their works.

Many people may not understand what exactly an anthology editor does, or may think that we simply select the stories, check for typos, and then slap our names on the cover. However, there’s a lot of work involved in the whole process and it’s a process that takes up several months, if not almost a year before the book is ready to be released to the world.

Now, for the second time, I’ll be putting on my anthology editor hat on and selecting stories for my upcoming anthology collection: Strange Girls – Women in Horror Anthology.

Below are the Ten Steps I do while putting together an anthology.

Step One. Select the Theme

For both anthologies, I knew that I wanted to help promote the writing of women in horror. Why am I closing the doors to the other half of the writing population? Simple. The horror genre has always been noted to be male-dominated, but women too have written some notable horror novels and short stories (from Mary Shelley, Shirley Jackson, Anne Rice, and Poppy Z. Brite just to name a few). For my first anthology, I knew that I wanted all the stories to have the U.S. as the setting, hence the title, My American Nightmare. For my current anthology, I knew that I wanted to explore the theme of Strange Girls, and what exactly it is about these girls that makes them strange.

Step Two. Advertise the Call for Submissions

After I select the theme, I write up an open submission call on my official author website and share the link on all my social media venues. Also, Stuart Conover from Horror Tree has been invaluable in his support by posting my submission call on his website, which has helped word of mouth travel extensively fast because of this. In the submission call, I not only state the guidelines and theme but also set a deadline and state the author’s compensation.

Step Three. Read the Short Stories

Once the stories start pouring in I begin reading right away (so that I’m not overwhelmed by reading a ton of short stories all at once) and also have found that this way it gives the stories time to marinate in my head and allow me to see which ones have remained memorable and which have become forgettable. By the deadline date, I usually have an idea of which stories will make the cut and which will not.

Step Four. Select and Reject Stories

This is where I make two lists, Accept vs. Decline, and start compiling which stories go where. Sometimes, I’ll put some stories in the Maybe file and read them over another two or three times before I decide if they’ll be a good fit for my theme. Once that’s complete, then I send out rejection and acceptance emails.

Step Five. Contracts & Issue Payment

Whenever you’re putting together an anthology it’s important to have each author sign a contract so that they are aware of their compensation and what to expect. This helps things become official and allows both you and the author to hold each other accountable to keep up both ends of the contract.

For payment, since it is an anthology and trying to figure out how to divide royalties evenly amongst a large group of people, I have found that a FLAT FEE is the best way to go. This is not to skimp out on the authors, it’s actually more in the authors best interest as if I were to divide the royalties, depending on sales they’d only be making a few cents. Besides, all money I made from My American Nightmare was used to cover expenses for the cover art, formatting, and promos, and to fund new future anthologies.

Step Six. Editing

Now the editing begins. Usually, there are three rounds and they go like this:

Developmental Editing: This is where you look for plot holes and what doesn’t make sense.

Line Editing: Checking if all sentences make sense.

Copy Editing: This is where you check grammar, spelling errors, and typos.

And then once the editing is over, that’s when you have to decide what order the stories go in. Again, this is kind of an art form that needs mastering. For my first anthology, I decided to start and end the anthology with what I thought were the strongest stories. Then I arranged others where I alternated between a long and short one and also if one was too similar in theme to another, I would space it out.

Step Seven. Choose The Cover

For my previous books, I’ve relied on James’ (goonwrite.com) graphics expertise. I can’t state how crucial it is to have an attractive book cover, cause people DO judge a book by its cover (at least on the first impact). The majority of the times, the cover alone will sell the book (not everyone reads the blurb or looks inside the book!). So, if you’re not competent or don’t have the means to design a book cover yourself, delegate this job to someone else who’s a professional. I REALLY RECOMMEND THIS.

Step Eight. Formatting the Book

Both ebooks and print require formatting the original file. I can’t stress how important this part of the process is, because if the book isn’t correctly formatted, then readers will have trouble reading your work, and if readers are having trouble reading, then you can bet they’re going to give up and leave a poor rating to boot! So, again, if you’re not competent with formatting digital or print files, then pay someone for this service. I’ve always done this and it’s one last thing I need to worry about.

Step Nine. Book Promos Ahead of Time & Send ARCS

Even before the book is released I begin contacting book bloggers for interviews or reviews, I book a book blog tour in advance (especially if you want them to coincide with your release date), sent out ARCS to reviewers, send out promo kits to the authors to help promote the book in their area. With My American Nightmare, I had both business cards and postcards made and also bought merch for an author in the anthology since she had gotten a table at a Halloween con in her area to help promote the book.

Ten. Upload & Publish the Book

Upload the book to retail sites (in my case I prefer to use Amazon) and contact any indie bookstores who may be interested in carrying a couple of copies of your book in their stores.

PHEW! So that’s the TEN STEPS required to do to publish an anthology! So if you’re interested in putting your own anthology together, this is pretty much a rough estimate of what you need to consider before you take the plunge!

Oh! And just as an FYI, I have funded these anthologies on my own (I know some like to have crowdfunding to help with expenses and that’s fine), but I don’t like having to worry about trying to raise money while also doing all those other steps in between!

Let me know if you’ve put an anthology together or are planning to put one together!

strangegirls

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I’ve Applied to be a Mentee in Author Mentor Match!

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What is Author Mentor Match?

In short, Author Mentor Match is a mentorship program that pairs aspiring authors (or self-published authors) with seasoned published and agented authors. The awesome thing about this program is that it’s supposed to help authors who have a completed manuscript and are in the process of querying agents, improve both their manuscript and query letters. The reason why this program is so sought after because the authors you’re paired up with have already gone through the query and publishing process so whatever advice they may have for you is truly valuable and sound.

Why have I decided to Enter this program?

I came across this program by chance (through a Twitter hashtag no less!), but it reminds me a lot of Pitch Wars, which I submitted to last summer but sadly didn’t receive a mentorship through that. However, since I participated in Nanowrimo this past November, I have a new manuscript that I think is ten times better than my Pitch Wars submission, so I wish to try my luck with this.

What I hope to get out of this program is:

  • Write a powerful query letter.
  • Feedback from a professional of both my letter and manuscript.
  • Forging a friendship/professional relationship with a fellow writer, as only writers can understand certain things about what you go through!

My Project

GIRL THAT YOU FEAR, a YA Horror that’s Speak meets The Exorcist.

Spencer Torres seemingly has it all, she’s beautiful, popular, smart, and on her way to becoming the school’s valedictorian. However, after a visit on the Queen Mary ship, something goes amiss. It all begins with the ominous taps she hers on the walls and the nightmares of an enigmatic, yet creepy young man called Dever. Her therapist believes she’s simply under stress. But Spencer secretly believes another truth. One far more sinister. She thinks she may be possessed by the demon Dever, and a part of her doesn’t mind. A part of her relishes in her new power. Especially when triggered by a song she remembers a sexual assault that she had repressed in her mind. Now, with vengeance as her sole companion, she seeks out to destroy all of those that were to blame for her rape. She doesn’t care if it even means that she will lose her soul in the process.

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Who else is participating in Author Mentor Match? Let me know!

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Coming Soon! Bleed Like Me: Poems for the Broken

This is how you draw a broken heart:
Dip your fingers in blood and don’t
Hesitate to botch the final project.

Synopsis: 

This is a book about love and the wounds that it can bring. It explores the exhilaration of first love, the damage of unrequited love, and the distress of abandonment. The poems are little memories that come alive, a journey between reality and fantasy, often mingling as one. Fragments of life depicted in words. This is a collection of poems both cruel and sweet. The poems depict the difference between how we perceive ourselves and how others perceive us. But most of all, this is a kaleidoscope of emotions that are multiplied and amplified as the reader looks into the window of a young woman’s heart.

Bleed - High Resolution

 

This poetry collection is probably the closest anyone will ever get to reading my diary. Many of the poems were written between the ages of 14-24, although there are about two or three that were written more recently.

Some of these poems have been featured elsewhere. Such as:

The Enchanted Forest (honorable mention from Amherst Society in 1997) & featured in a European anthology in 1998

The Love Song (the Illiad Press 1997)

Betrayed With a Kiss for Wildsound Festival

Paper Monsters for Booksie

The book is up for pre-order on Amazon but will be available on FEBRUARY 12, 2019.

This collection is perfect for those who are fans of dark poetry, gothic lit, and love poems. Some of the topics explored in this book are: relationships, first love, body image, unrequited love, eating disorders, toxic relationships, death, abandonment, addiction, obsessive-compulsive disorder, depression, and suicide.

If any book bloggers are interested in an ARC just hit me up at: azzurranox[@]yahoo.com

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Poetry: Mourning Glorie

bed

Photo courtesy of parisapartment.wordpress.com

These frigid sheets mourn your soul.

This barren bed cries your name.

There’s nothing left of you in me.

You tore every particle that belonged

To you away.

This pale white pillow misses the weight of your head.

These useless rose petals wait to fall upon you.

Loneliness wraps its icy claws around me.

Devouring me without mercy.

You’re no longer here to cling to.

You’re no longer here to move closer to.

This bed never seemed so vast—so endless—

Without you—it’s infinite.

I hide beneath the covers but still no warmth I feel.

This room is in eternal winter

Ever since you left.

These fragile sheets yearn for your body.

This immense bed bleeds your essence.

I’m waiting here for you.

I shall always remain here—

Waiting for your return.

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7 Ways To Overcome Writer’s Block

beautiful journalist looks typewriter

Photo courtesy of http://araugustyn.com

It happens to the best of us. If you’re a writer, you’ve at some point dealt with the dreaded Writer’s Block. Every writer has struggled with this at some time in their lives, but there are methods of overcoming this dreaded obstacle rather than wallowing in self-pity and allowing months turn into years and finding yourself even more in the tunnel of no return than before. So don’t be that writer. Below are some suggestions on how to push through the block and be one with the muses once again.

  1. Read poetry. – This can put you in a certain mood and allows the creative juices to flow.
  2. Go for a walk. – Even if you’re just going around the block with your dog, sometimes the movement and being out in the open air allows our brain to refocus.
  3. Play a game. – Not a video game that can suck up eight hours of your life without noticing, but a true hands on game, whether it’s a round of cards with friends, a board game, or chess, sometimes doing a different activity other than writing will help your thoughts regenerate.
  4. Paint or draw. – I personally love to draw using charcoals. Sometimes when your brain is doing something creative in a fun setting (you’re not agonizing to be the next Picasso) you find that it opens up the doors of your writing brain too.
  5. Listen to music. – If you wish to be in a certain mood to help create the setting and atmosphere of a story, then I listen to music and many times just listening gives me ideas for prose. Jot those ideas down.
  6. Keep a dream journal. – I know this seems so cliché, but it works! When I first started writing my YA novel CUT HERE, I began with Lena’s backstory of how she had lost her mum. That backstory was inspired by a nightmare I had in the summer of 2008 when I dreamt of seeing a fur coat splattered with blood and later seeing a book entitled CUT HERE. I wrote that odd dream down and didn’t use that idea till the winter of 2011 when I began writing the novel, so what may seem like an irrelevant dream or idea now, could be useful later on! You never know!
  7. Write pitch ideas down. – You may end up not using them at all, but thinking up plot pitches for a book may just get you out of the writing funk and excited about a new project!
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Photo courtesy of www.bang2write.com

Whatever you do, just remember that NOT WRITING isn’t a solution to overcoming Writer’s Block! You need to be proactive and willing to put the effort to get out of the tunnel rather than wait for the muses to come and rescue you from writer’s hell. So after doing any of the suggestions above, just write. Whether it’s about the activity, your day, or writing ideas, just write. Because the only way to truly overcome Writer’s Block is to start writing. You can do it!

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Poetry: Broken Doll

broken doll

Love has treated me
Like a toddler treats
Its toy.
That’s why my hair is tangled
and my limbs are broken.

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Poetry: A Haiku for all the Boys I’ve Kissed

kissing3

1.
You taste of ashen
smoke. I swallowed bright colored
pills. You were danger.

2.
The snow kissed my hair
You kissed my lips, magically
winter melted, now.

3.
You deserve more
than seventeen syllables
my beautiful love.

4.
In a dressing room
You stole a kiss, tore my
dress, and forgot her.

5.
Before you kissed my
lips, you kissed my nose, and I
fell for you so hard.

6.
Drowning in your lust,
The rain clung to my hair like
your skin clung to mine.

7.
He murmured, “Your bloke
is wrong. All you ever needed
is a man like me.”

8.
Your kiss was deadly,
oxygen escaped like a
thief, in the cold night.

9.
Fire, you burned me through
until there was nothing left
But naked white bones.

10.
Dressed as a doting
nurse, I pushed you against the
wall and claimed you as mine.

11.
Berlin is icy
on my bare limbs, please don’t let
go. I just want you.

12.
A cozy hotel
is where I dropped my dress, and
my bestfriend title.

13.
Give back my records,
Your calloused fingers tugged my
hair, the night sparked flames.

14.
You used to hate me.
But your tongue worshiped every
part of me, for days.

15.
We passed each other,
Pulled me in a soft embrace.
It cut me in two.

16.
Music, two a.m.
You so young, and I so wise.
I stole your CDs.

17.
Your music captured
me. I stumbled into you
and inhaled the stars.

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Poetry: Ashtray Heart

cig

I took a shortcut through blood to get back to you.

I knew that your gaping wounds were still fairly new

For you to be able to finally let it all go.

You need this injection to get through this night.

I really hope now that you adore me as much as your dragon

Because after three years of battling against it

I have nothing to show but pure frigid waters that hang like

Lonely icicles from my eyes.

But when you’ve been smoking for too long

And Memnoch is walking in your shoes,

The only thing that surrounds you is a musky-drugged fog.

While the stage that we’re on becomes a broken ashtray

And, I the protagonist, a butted Marlboro.

It’s only a matter of trust,” you say.

But when your favorite lover is White Eve instead of me

I do not have much trust left in me.

You carve my name into your arm

Thinking that I should be impressed.

But your gesture does not scream your love,

It merely whispers your derangement.

I wish I could drag you across filed nails,

So you would become pristine.

But I can only kiss you with these bruised lips,

Hoping that you will come around (for more).

Although you don’t seem to care

As you take another line from my breasts.

Your ocean eyes wander over space and time

Snatching the stoned affection you can find.

Please don’t die,” I beg you.

I know of your secret lovers

That you keep hidden beneath black satin covers.

They’re going to blow your mind one of these days

Just as they did with all the others.

If only I could bring it all back to you

But there’s nothing I can do

Because you’re Poe without a muse,

Who merely craves for silver rockets

And playing Russian roulette with five bullets.

The smoke rises up and around your solar plexus

All I am for you is a Plastic Venus,

Ideal for viewing but not for loving.

You bestow your worship to the Green Goddess instead

Because she can let you see Heaven and Hell in your bed.

But remember that I now hold the power

Because I’ve raped all your lovers.

You’ll need to beg me before I’ll shoot you up.

I know how to fight back with an empty gun loaded with placebos.

By: Azzurra Nox

Short Story: Animortis Part III

zombie2Charlie turned his head and spotted the shotgun, rattling unattended in the farthest corner of the carriage floor. He still had one more shot. Gathering his strength, he twisted his shoulders, released his right hand on the girl’s throat and reached for the gun. It wobbled inches from his extended fingertips. He stretched further. The rear of the carriage lurched downward, the broken axel moments from failing. Feeling his left hold falter, Charlie abandoned his efforts and pushed back on her throat again. Desperation mounting, his eyes cut to Baumgart. The Earl remained incapacitated.

The girl wrapped her cold, palms around the back of Charlie’s neck, pulling him closer to her salivating mouth. Glassy, green eyes roved in their sockets. She screeched like a wild animal and snapped her broken, jagged teeth inches from his face. There was nothing human left in this shell of a girl. With a strike of dread in his heart, Charlie realized they were an even match of strength.

“Charles?”

Charlie looked down to his feet as Baumgart blinked back to life.
“My lord!” he strained against the girl.
Distracted, the girl whipped her head back to the Earl.

Charlie bent a leg between him and the girl and kicked her away. She fell back onto her minced knees. With all his force, Charlie brought up his right leg and delivered a smart boot to her face. Blood squirted out in all directions from under the sole of his shoe, accompanied by a chilling crack. The girl’s head recoiled and she grunted from the impact, arms spinning into wild wind-mills as she teetered backward. She fell, her spine bowed backward over carriage side, hands scratching for a hold. Charlie scooped up the shotgun just as the girl’s fingers caught the door latch release. The door flung open behind Baumgart and he tilted, wild-eyed, out of the landau.

“Charles!” Baumgart shouted. His arms sprang wide to either side of the opening, saving himself from a fatal tumble out the doorway.
“Hold fast!” Charlie doubled over and snagged Baumgart’s wrist. Bracing a foot on the side of the carriage, Charlie hauled him up and onto his feet.
“Are you hurt?” he breathed, steadying the Earl’s footing.
“I…” Baumgart’s pallid lips quivered. “I am alive.”

Beside him the maiden regained her balance. She blinked a moment in confusion, dark black blood gushing from her broken nose. Charlie maneuvered in front of the Earl and took aim a final time. The rear of the carriage shifted downward again and the bullet missed and ricocheted with a loud ‘ping’ on the iron carriage frame.

“Damn! C’mon!” he shouted, grabbing Baumgart by his vest lapels and forcing him up toward the coachman’s bench. “We haven’t much time.”

Baumgart scrambled up to the platform and swung over the guardrail. As Charlie pulled his torso up onto the railing, a final fierce shudder up the chassis signaled that the cracked axel had split completely. The back end lurched down with a heavy crash upon the road causing the rear wheels to tilt and spin free of the wood frame. Charlie’s footing slid off the railing and his body whiplashed against the front bench, cracking one of his ribs. He cried out at the sharp pain and hung from the guardrail by his underarms. Behind him, wood paneling scraped and splintered under the friction like a wooden sword put to a stone grinder.

“Take my hand, Charles!” Baumgart extended his arm. Charlie winced and clenched his teeth against the pain.

“Please,” he found a firm foothold, “Rein in the horses, if you can.”
Baumgart turned to the whip socket as Charlie struggled atop the coachman’s bench and planted his seat on the back of the guardrails.

“Oh no.” Baumgart’s mouth fell open and the last bit of color bled from his cheeks. His voice barely broke over the rumble of the pounding hooves. Charlie followed his line of sight up the road as the team cleared a bend in the forest path. His stomach dropped.

“Oh bloody hell.”

At the railway crossing in the distance ahead, a small horse-cart and its driver waited patiently behind the lowered level bar for an approaching train to pass. Charlie glanced to the whip socket. The leather straps were gone. Below, they lashed and slapped under the terrified horse hooves.

A horn blared off in the distance.

Baumgart shook his head and grabbed Charlie by the arm. “The team is lost, Charles,” he shouted over the roar. “We must jump carriage!”
The horses were inconsolable and the flesh-hungry girl was…Charlie felt a hand lock around his ankle. He looked down to see the maiden grinning back. With one hand on the guardrail and the other holding tight at his riding boot, she swayed like a drunk dancer in the disintegrating coach.

“Go, sir!” Charles unhanded himself from Baumgart.

“But—.”

Another loud crack split the air and the rear bench seat dislodged from the carriage, rolling away with a smash that left the maiden’s feet dangling above the speeding road. Charlie braced against the bench at the added weight of the girl. The horses would be dragging their tack in a few minutes more.
“Please, sir!” Charles begged. “Go now!”

His face tight with terror, Baumgart turned and steadied himself at the edge of the platform. He glanced back, “God bless you, Charles,” and threw himself out into the forest, disappearing behind the dark curtain of night before Charlie even saw him strike the ground. Charlie swiveled his head in search of another weapon but there was nothing left to defend himself. The whip was gone, the gun was lost. He had nothing.

Much louder now, the locomotive hailed its coming again. With the fire of pain searing his left rib, Charlie twisted and jerked his leg until he felt his muscles cramp but she would not let go. He never thought his life would end like this, killed on a mundane carriage ride to Coburg by a mad-girl cannibal. No one would believe the tale if he survived to tell it.

Beside him, hot oil from the swinging lanterns splashed onto the bench, setting the wood alight. Charlie’s eyes widened. His brain surged, jolting one last bit of hope into his heart.

Charlie fumbled for the oil lamp behind him.
“Burn in Hell, wretched devil!”

Charlie smashed the hot lamp down upon the girl. Glass shattered and burning oil splashed down over the maiden’s head, anointing her with bright orange fire. An unearthly shriek burst from her throat and her grip loosened. Charlie wormed free, swung his legs over the side of the platform and, with a quick prayer to the Almighty, jumped free of the carriage.

The ground hit him with a breath-stealing impact. Charlie rolled his shoulders with the bruising momentum until he slowed and flopped to a halt under a large tree, dizzy and gasping like a netted fish. He lay there a moment in disbelief until panic struck his gut. He jerked upright to see if he had truly escaped and watched, incredulous, as the disaster unfolded.

The train rounded a wide curve and barreled toward the crossing. Setting dry branches and brush alight as she passed, the maiden thrashed and screamed on the carriage, oblivious to her own fate. Hearing the commotion behind him, the old peddler scrambled down off his cart to rescue his pony. Realizing his goods could not be saved, he unhitched his mare and gave her a hearty slap on the hind quarter. The animal bolted to safety across the tracks and the poor man limped away as fast as he skinny legs would take him. The Greys were just meters from the intersection.

Up the tracks, a shout pierced through the cacophony. Sounds of metal on metal screeched through the forest as the train slammed down on its emergency brakes. The train blared the horn at its inevitable arrival.

Charlie’s beloved Greys, having seen the cart too late, squealed and skittered, their hooves gouging deep into the cold, soft earth as they struggled to veer left, away from the cart. Rigging clanged and wood creaked in protest but the impact was imminent. The wooden draft poles finally snapped under the strain, sending the carriage skidding sideways into the cart. The impact of the royal coach smashing into the back of the peddler’s cart sent it airborne, careening into a wild roll. Three of the horses broke free, galloping madly on toward Coburg. With a horrible crunching sound, the wheeler screamed and stumbled into the back of the cart creating a mass of broken slats. His neck whipped across a jagged board silencing him into instant death.

Forward momentum flung the blazing girl and landau side over side, directly into the path of the oncoming train. The locomotive engine wailed a final warning before crashing through the carriage, exploding it in mid-air with the speed and force of a giant bullet. Fiery splinters flew high into the tree canopies like a firework, the last oil lamp scattering flames up and over the sides of the railcars. The glissando of the train horn suddenly died. Metal squealed and scraped together under the protesting brakes accompanied by the solid, earthy rumble of heavy, iron wheels upon the tracks.

It was only when a small bit of wood struck Charlie’s leg that he remembered to breathe. He shook his head clear and clutched his chest, taking in large draws of air. Debris tumbled and bounced across the ground hundreds of meters in every direction. Bits of the carriage and carnage rained down all around him. Nearby, a delicate, dismembered hand flopped motionless onto the grass. Streams of dark blood oozed from the ends of the curled, claw-like fingers. From the depths of the forest, his name echoed down the road.

“Charles! Charles!”

The train continued to slow, chugging to a stop with labored effort. Surprised shouts from the crew could be heard in the distance. The peddler hobbled to meet him. Charlie tried to stand but his knees wavered like sheets in the wind. A throbbing pain swallowed his torso and seeped up his chest. Bewildered and numb, his mind faded into the cold, grey fog of shock. It was only when his knees gave out and Charlie plopped back down against the oak tree that he realized one of his legs was broken. He wheezed in disbelief at the fiery wreckage waiting for the flood of pain from his fractured femur to reach his brain. There was no movement near the horrific aftermath that lay scattered over the crossroad. Charlie was struck by the absurdity that the girl might have survived the crash. After all, she had survived everything else.

“Mein Gott, Charles!” Earl Baumgart reached his side, giving his cheek a few hearty slaps. “Keep awake now. We’ll have the doctors here, straightaway!” Charlie felt the familiar tide of nausea ebb up his stomach. It was an odd and uncomfortable reassurance that he was indeed still alive.

“God have mercy!” Earl Baumgart’s cry evaporated into the hollow shell of Charlie’s head. “God have mercy!”

THE END

READ PART I HERE

READ PART II HERE

By: Erica Ruhe