""Beneath the pressure of torments such as these, the feeble remnant of the good within me succumbed. Evil thoughts became my sole intimates-the darkest and most evil of thoughts.""
-Edgar Allan Poe, The Black Cat

Friday, September 30, 2011

Dying to Win

By T.K. Millin

The wheels of the plane sat down on the tarmac with the screeching announcement that Vincent Peele’s lifelong dream had finally come true. He made it to his Mecca; Las Vegas, Nevada, and the land of promised riches.
The Captain thanked everyone for choosing Lucky Air and the rowdy passengers broke out in applause and high pitched whistling. Not Vincent. He sat watching the plane pull up to the terminal, knowing deep down inside that this time there would be no more broken dreams. 

He switched on the lamp, which obviously wasn’t used to brighten the room, and threw his duffle bag on top of the bed and turned to what was supposed to be a closet, but instead was made into a bathroom, and took a piss.

Not bothering to waste time unpacking or checking to see if the room was up to par; because to Vincent having a bed, with any sheets, and a toilet and a sink where high enough standards, he switched off the lamp and ventured out into the vast territory of promised riches.
Feeling lucky, Vincent bellied up to the twinkling machine and before he knew it the thirty dollars he allotted for the quarter slots had dwindled down to fifty cents.
“Are you sure you’re not wanting anything to drink?” The scarcely clad waitress asked a third time.

“I told you I don’t drink when I’m working. Now go away.” He ran his palm across his balding forehead and dried it on his pants.

Taking a deep breath and holding it in, he slipped the quarter into the machine and pulled the lever down. Apples, cherries, sevens and cartoon looking stars whirled before his eyes and one by one they came to a sudden stop.

“Damn it!”

Being a superstitious man, Vincent shoved the last quarter into his shirt pocket, along with the two dollars he always kept for emergencies, and headed toward the poker table knowing his last five hundred would make him a lucky man. He sat down at the table and neatly stacked his chips in front of him and waited for the game to start.

The dealer looked around the casino and shrugged, “Guess it’s just you and me pal.” He flung the cards between the two of them. “Where you from?” 

“Nowhere, now hit me.” Vincent grumbled.

Vincent threw the last of his chips at the dealer and grumbled, “Hit me again!” He sat watching him turn his cards over as if in slow motion and then flew across the table. “You cheated!” 

The Pit Boss grabbed Vincent by the back of the shirt and tossed him out onto the sidewalk where ripples of heat greeted him. He held his right arm up to block the scorching sun and pretended not to notice the passersby’s’ glances.

He stood and brushed the day’s events off his clothes and made his way down the strip. All he needed was one more chance to prove himself and all the Pit Bosses around would be begging for him to come inside. He knew it with all his heart.

“You look as though you could use a break.” The deep voice echoed.

Vincent looked up at the sign and read aloud, “The Pit Boss.”  He looked around and realized he had ventured off the main strip.

“Come inside, I believe I have what you need.” The mysterious man turned and disappeared into the shadows.

Hesitating, Vincent decided to follow the man through the darkened entryway and down the long unlit corridor. He paused to take a breath before entering the main casino floor. And when he did, a sudden exhilaration overcame him, because everywhere he looked the neon signs repeatedly flashed; everyone is a guaranteed winner.

Vincent reached into his shirt pocket and pulled out his emergency fund and walked up to the dealer decked out in a pinstriped suit and derby hat.

“This is all I have left. Is it enough to place a bet?”  He slapped it on the green felt.
“You’re money is no good here.” The pale faced man said.

Vincent looked around the barren room and gulped. “Look I came all the way here from nowhere that matters. This is all I have left. Please, for once in my life I just want to win it big.”

The dealer flung the cards between the two of them. “Here at The Pit Boss we do not measure a man by how much money he has to lose, but more by how much of himself he is willing to give in order to win.”

Vincent smiled, because he knew all his dreams were about to come true.


““Hit me again.”  Vincent shouted. “Yes!” He reached out with both hands and pulled his winnings to his chest.

The mysterious man who led Vincent inside walked up behind him and tapped on his shoulder. “It is time to ante up.”

Vincent turned, “No problem man, I’m on a winning streak!” He slid a stack of chips toward the dealer.

The dealer looked at the chips and then Vincent. “I told you your money is no good here.” 

“Come on I’ve never won this big before. I can’t stop now.  Everything has a price, name it.” Vincent pleaded.

“Are you willing to bet everything you have?” The dealer asked.

“Yes. I want to win it all!” 

The walls began to tremble and the room shook with the violence of an earthquake. Suddenly, the floor opened up and Vincent felt himself falling backwards deeper and deeper, surrounded by flames of fire.

He watched the two men standing over the pit, smiling, and reached into his shirt pocket and pulled out his last two dollars and twenty-five cents.

“I’ll bet you I can climb my way out of here!”   

Word count: 967

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Dear Diary - Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Angelic Knight Press released this week the final version of the cover to their upcoming anthology, Satan's Toybox, in which my short story, Mr. Jingle, will be published.

The e-book version is scheduled to be released, October 15, 2011; with the paperback version to follow soon after. So stay tuned!   

Want to see why my tail hasn’t stopped wagging all week long? 

Image courtesy of Angelic Knight Press

Isn’t it pawsome? The cover artwork was done by Rebecca Treadway. In addition to designing book covers for Angelic Knight Press, Rebecca also offers her services to others in need of a book cover designer. You can find samples of Rebecca’s work, here, and more about her, here.

This week’s theme for Vamplit Publishing’s Friday Flash is, Death Wildcard, meaning the authors get to choose. I hope you’ll check back on Friday to see what, all things scary, I come up with!

Fangfully yours,  

Efi Loo
The Cat Vamp

Friday, September 23, 2011

Spying on the Dead

                             By T.K. Millin

It wasn't easy growing up in a small town where everybody associated your name with the dead.

My father owned the only funeral home in town and sooner or later, people knew they would eventually pass through on their way to the grave. I knew that’s why no one ever came to visit my parents or why I never had any friends come to play; with the exception of Eddie and Sue.  

The fondest memories I have from childhood is the three of us playing hide and seek and red light, green light. Our summers were never spent apart, not even the summer Sue died.

Ever since the second grade when I asked Sue if I could sit next to her at lunch, her beauty captivated me. I can still recall her long silken hair, the color of night. She used to fling it across her shoulders as if she were Queen of the Nile and smile just like Mona Lisa. And even though Eddie ended up winning her affection, I never stopped loving her.
As the years went by, playing hide and seek and red light, green light became passé and so during the summer between eighth and ninth grade the three of us looked for new ways to fill the long hot days. That’s when Eddie came up with the idea to play a game he called, “spying on the dead.” 

My father’s mortuary was behind our house in what used to be used as a guest house by the previous owners. He said it was the main reason he purchased the house when we moved into town; because he wanted a separate place to work from where we lived. But I knew it had more to do with my mother’s fear of death.

The first time we played our new game, there had been a collision between a car and a freight train. Our plan was to wait until my father got the call to pick the body up from the morgue and then the three of us would sneak inside the mortuary and hide. At first Sue was hesitant. She was worried my mother would catch us, but I assured her the only way my mother would be seen anywhere near there was if she were dead.

I knew my father used a closet inside the embalming room to store the dirty magazines and movies he didn’t want my mother to know he had. Eddie stepped in first and started flipping through pages of one of the magazines and said, "Wow! Would you look at them pair." Sue grabbed it out of his hands and slapped it across his back. 

Suddenly, the front door banged opened and the hallway filled with the echoes of squeaking wheels. I shoved my way into the closet and quietly closed the door. 

The three of us huddled together peering through the slats of the door. Not being a stranger to what was to come next I waited in anticipation to see the horror on Eddie and Sue’s faces as they watched my father hook the body up to the pulley and lift it out of the body bag to begin cleaning, shaving and hopefully if this one was already rigor, watch him twist and turn the limbs and head.

As usual, my father pushed the play button on his cassette player and slowly waved his hands in the air as if he were conducting Mozart himself. He unzipped the bag and much to my horror pulled the head out first and then hooked the pulley up to the headless torso. Sue gripped Eddie’s shirt at the tip of his shoulder while he stood in amazement as if watching some daredevil perform a death defying feat.

We spent the rest of the day inside the closet watching my father patiently put the body back together, stitch by stitch, and when he was done the three of us were shocked to finally recognize the body of Mr. Zimmer, the town librarian.  

After the second time we played spying on the dead, Eddie wanted to place a bet on who in town was going to be the next corpse. At first, Sue didn’t want to play along, but Eddie coaxed her with the promise of a kiss. For the fun of it I bet on Eddie and in return Eddie bet on me. That’s when Sue came up with the idea of playing a joke on my father by making her the corpse.

She went on to explain she would hide under a sheet and I would leave a note for my father in his office that the morgue delivered the body while he was in town doing his usual Friday afternoon run for supplies. Then Eddie and I would hide inside the closet and watch as Sue would sit up like the corpse of Mrs. Daniels had done. Knowing my father had a funny sense of humor I agreed to go along with the hoax.

Everything was going according to plan. My father pressed the play button and began flapping his hands in the air. He pulled back the sheet and both Eddie and I gasped. Sue lay stiff as a board on top of the table, her firm young breast reacting to the room’s temperature. My father simply said, “Oh Sue, not you.  You’re too young. I will be sure to take tender care of you my child.”

My father turned to put on his gloves and Sue looked at the closet door and gave us her Mona Lisa smile. My heart raced with adrenaline. My father turned back around and without pausing drove the scalpel straight into Sue’s jugular. And just like Mrs. Daniels, Sue sat straight up, only she was able to scream.

Even in death, her long silken hair, the color of night, and her Mona Lisa smile captivated me. 

Total word count: 985

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Dear Diary – Wednesday, September 21, 2011

I’ve been busy finishing the edits to Mr. Jingle and I am pawsitively proud to announce they have been completed!

Stacey Turner , editor for Angelic Knight Press, has been the best to work with. She has a good eye for detail, doesn’t dictate on “how” to write your story and her ability to “think outside the box” helped me to view my story from a different perspective. I highly recommend her editing services.  

Now that all the edits are completed I’m looking forward to getting to announce the release date of Satan’s Toybox: Demonic Dolls.

But that doesn't mean there's time for sun naps . . .  

I’m moving on to help T.K. finish one of her middle-grade novels that have been pressing on her heart, and my whiskers, for awhile. The only clue I’ll give is it involves history, pawsome battles and time travel.

This week’s flash fiction theme is, The Corpse, and I’m spinning a tale even cat nip couldn’t improve. So I hope you stop back by on Friday to read, all things scary.

Fangfully yours,

Efi Loo
The Cat Vamp     

Friday, September 16, 2011

Tales from the Mine

What Lurks Below

What appeared to be room enough for twenty more researchers quickly became a suffocating entombment to Professor Neudahl when their hired guide closed the steel door of the hundred year old elevator shaft and the only light of day disappeared as they descended. 

She turned and gripped the only loose material she could gather from the form fitting shirt of her assistant, Daniel, and closed her eyes as tight as shutters. 

She held back the urge to scream as the infinite darkness became filled with the screeching sound of metal meeting rock, because if there was one thing Professor Neudahl hated more than descending over two thousand feet into the earth it was admitting to her student’s her fear of the dark.

The guide unlatched the safety bar and slid the door to the left. “Watch ya step folks.” He stepped out first into the damp and odorless void, letting the three researchers exit one at a time.

“It doesn’t look so bad down here.” Professor Neudahl said, relieved to see the mine brightly lit.

The guide pointed to the right and then the left. “When the excavations started about a year ago they started installing lights, but they never got to finish." 

“Why’s that?”  Daniel asked.

The guide stepped back into the elevator, smiled and said, “Don't really know. Maybe the dark got to them.”  He pulled down the safety bar.

“You’re leaving!” Professor Neudahl said.

“For now. Don't worry, I'll be coming back." He slammed the door and the elevator started its screeching ascend.

The research team decided to separate to gather samples of the rare rocks, minerals and crystals the mine was famous for keeping buried.  

“Quickly, over here, I’ve found something!” One of the interns shouted.

Professor Neudahl shouted back, “Patricia, where are you?” Their echoes becoming one.

The intern’s screams suddenly filled every opened crevice, drowning out the Professor’s pleads to find her. Professor Neudahl waited for her echoes to silence before shouting out again. “Daniel! Greg!”

What the hell is going on?

She turned on the light to her helmet, grabbed two glow sticks and slowly made her way to where the end of the spot lights met the beginning of utter darkness. 

Far in the distance, she could hear footsteps approaching, but her helmet's light only bounced off the blackened emptiness. She tossed both glow sticks into the dark, casting a shadow against the dimly lit figure. 

“Daniel . . . Greg . . . is that you?”

The only response was shallow breathing from the figure and echoing screams from Daniel and Greg from somewhere in the darkness.

“Oh my God, we’re not alone down here!”  
The faster Professor Neudahl ran the faster each spot light went out one by one. Before the last one turned off she spotted a small opening and darted inside to hide. Afraid to look, she stood listening to her frantic breathing. 

I need to calm down.

She took her helmet off and shined the dim light around. There were three chairs, two wooden crates and a withered table with a framed picture in the middle. She picked up the faded black and white photo and screamed in horror when she saw the handwritten date of a hundred years ago and their hired guide, looking just like he did today.

The Coal Miner's Ghost

Hank hated having to deal with the drifters who wandered through town looking for work. They never stayed long enough to see the job done and then he had to start all over again.

But he felt differently about the new guy he hired named William. Even though the rest of the men thought he was strange and gave him the nickname, Willie the loner, Hank thought him to be someone who seemed they were going to stick around for a while.   

Today began the same as every other day for William. He arose at four in the morning, graciously accepted a cold cup of coffee and a stale cheese sandwich from his boarder before heading out to the coal mines to begin his fourteen hour shift. The only hope he had was the promise of tomorrow being the same.

The rail car descended its way deeper and deeper into the mine, the air becoming denser and colder as the men found other things to think about besides the harshness of their reality. 

“Hey Willie, why you’s still hanging around here?” Delbert, one of the miners, shouted over the screeching echoes.

Willie shrugged, keeping his distance from the men.

Each man stepped out of the rail car and headed in opposite directions to spend the next fourteen hours pounding and grinding and digging their way to their next meal, and if they were lucky, a cold beer and a smoke.

Needing a break, Delbert reached into his pocket and pulled out the small remnants of a smoke and a match. He flicked his nail across the match and nothing happened. He flicked it again and this time he heard and felt someone’s breath blow across his face.

“Who’s there? Are you’s too afraid to show yourself?”  

“You are the one who should be afraid.” Willie stepped out of the darkness, "For forty years I’ve been protecting coal miners from a fool like you who killed me and thirty other men. But today, only one will have to die.”

Today began the same as every other day for William. The only hope he had was the promise of tomorrow being the same.

Total word count: 912  
What Lurks Below - 551
The Coal Miner's Ghost - 361

Friday, September 9, 2011

The Knight of Logan Hollow

                           by T.K.Millin
Death is but a patient slumber . . . 
Summer of 1012 . . . Scotland

Through the cast of the full moon he saw the ripples of her gold spun tresses flowing delicately across her blood stained tunic and her glazed emerald eyes which used to stop his beating heart. He knelt down and kissed the blood from her lips, for even in death, her beauty astounded him. 

He stood and watched the last of his people of Logan Hollow take their final breath, clinching his fists he raised them to the heavens and shouted, “Thou shall never forgive.” 

Placing the final stone on top of the freshly dug mound, he dropped to the ground and wept. The approach of pounding hoofs gave him the strength to rise, “Who enters?” He said drawing his sword.
A thousand years later . . .

The Senior Class from Texas, more interested in finding a pub than sightseeing, gathers around their History Professor in front of the marble pillared structure protected only by a small weather-beaten chain. “Gather round ya’ all, gather round.” The Professor says.

“It was exactly a thousand years ago tonight somewhere close to this spot Sir William returned from battle to find his beloved wife and all his people of Logan Hollow slaughtered by the invading Vikings that King Sweyn Haraldsson of Denmark had sent to defeat the Scots. In the end, the Scots prevailed, but unfortunately for Sir William he never saw the victory. Because-” 
“That’s all cool Profess, but can we go now, I’m really thirsty.” Bob interrupted.

“Shhh, be quiet I want to know what happened next!” Dorothy says.

The professor glares at Bob, “Because, that same night Sir William was visited by a strange horseman who offered him a choice between living in agony over the death of his beloved and giving his life in exchange for the promise of one day rising as a victorious Knight. He chose death. Today he is called, Knight of Logan Hollow, and it's told he will one day come back riding a black stallion with eyes the color of blood and breath as powerful as a steam engine, bringing to life his beloved and all those who perished that fateful day.” 

“Come on Professor, it’s been a thousand years, people around here can’t still believe in that crap.” Andy says.

The professor looks around at the undeveloped land, “What do ya’ all think?”  
After downing enough Guinness to drown a fish, Bob and Andy sneak out of the hotel and stumble their way down a side street.  Through the dimness of the street lamp they see bellowing smoke from the idling taxi.

The car pulls to the side of the darkened road with the squealing of railway wheels, “I’ve gone far enough.”  The driver says.

“Hey man, there must be a mile or more left.”  Bob slurs.

“Aye, but I never enter Logan Hollow at night for when the Knight of Logan Hollow comes I assure you he will not go away empty handed.”  He says, eyeing the full moon through the windshield.

“You said you’d take us, well you’re not getting your fair!”  Bob says, stumbling out of the car.

“Thanks dude, we’ll be fine.”  Andy says, handing him the fair and then some.

Bob and Andy weave their way along the moonlit road toward Logan Hollow, the singing frogs filling the night and their crunching footsteps announcing their approach.

Ahead in the distance, the pounding of hoofs echo below the ground, bringing sweet music to their hollowed ears. Their waiting had cost them muscle, skin, hair and beauty, but they never lost hope; for one day they knew their Knight would come, for death is but a patient slumber.

“Wait till the Professor hears what we did tonight.” Andy says.

“Yeah, hey man stop a minute.” Bob pauses, “did you hear that?”
“Dude, not you too, you can’t honestly believe in that crap.”

“Nah man, I was just joking.” Bob says throwing his arm around Andy’s neck and giving him a knuckle rub on the head.

Through the cast of the full moon they saw the ripples of spine through the tattered strands of the once flowing tunic and the sunken sockets that once held eyes of emerald, stopping their beating hearts.

Pulling on the reigns, the Knight of Logan Hollow leans back and raises his sword, “Come, tonight we take back what is ours!”          

Word count: 735

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Dear Diary - Tuesday, September 6, 2011

I'm back with pawsome news!

Now that August is behind me and my short story completed, I’m excited to be back blogging, writing Friday Flash Fiction and as you can see, decorating for fall. This week’s theme for Vamplit Publishing’s Friday Flash is Death Personified, and I think I’m off to a good start!
Now for the really paw licking, paw kicking and tail twitching news: The short story I wrote for submission to Angelic Knight Press’s upcoming Anthology, Satan’s Toy box: Demonic Dolls was accepted for publication!  Check out a sneak peek of the cover-
Cover art property of Angelic Knight Press
Is it not pawsomly spooky!  My story is titled, Mr. Jingle, and he is truly an evil doll. I am so honored to be given the opportunity to work with the great team at Angelic Knight Press and I can’t wait to read all the other spooky doll stories! I’ll keep you posted on its debut!
One thing I learned during my leave of absence from the blogging world is how much I miss being connected to my writing friends. Ghostwriting can be such a lonely world, so I guess it’s a good thing I have friends to bounce ideas off of and take out my frustrations on. Meet Dandy, T.K. calls him Dandy Wandy, but I call him fat boy. 

He’s super sweet and he knows to stay away when I’m working, but, the only problem is I think he stays away eating my portion of morsels! Do you think he can see his paws?
I'm glad to be back and I hope you stop by this Friday to read my Flash Fiction!
Fangfully yours,
Efi Loo
The Cat Vamp