Blood : the Updated short story by L.V. Gaudet

BLOOD

A short story

by L V Gaudet

A man sits on a stool before a blank canvas stretched taught on a wooden frame and propped on a well-used easel.  He faces the canvas in the shadowy room, frowning, his face hidden beneath the hood of his black robe.  The dancing light of the candles casts deeper shadows and makes the tattered strips of the dark shrouded figure’s ancient robes seem almost to move of their own, though they stay motionless. 

He might have been mistaken for a monk if not for the rotting nature of his robe.  The room itself is a stone walled chamber within an old castle.

He dips a finger into the liquid pooled in a small wooden bowl.  It is a casual gesture, dabbing at it like paint in a paint cup.  Careful not to drip the crimson wetness from his fingertip, he brings it to the canvas.  Gently and with great care, he spreads it across the canvas, rubbing to blend it into a thousand shades like an artist working with charcoal. He dips his finger again and again, each time carefully smearing it across the canvas, creating a brightly splashed roughed in picture.  The blood turns to shades of sepia and dull red as it dries into the canvas.

The odor of the liquid fills his nostrils.  It is a little sharp.   If he tasted it, he knows it would taste salty, red, and a little bit like smelted iron.   It smells good, fresh.  It has to be fresh or the magic would have faded away.

The bowl sits on a small carved wooden table before him, close to the easel.  It looks like it had been carved by a deliberate hand, the inside sanded smooth until it has a warm sheen.  The outside is carved with an intricate pattern that covers the entire surface.  The blood in the bowl was taken from a vein, the de-oxygenation giving it a staler red-brown look.

It shares the table with two similar bowls, one holding brighter red blood taken from an artery, the oxygenation making the blood look fresher.   The third has a darker ashier look, mixed with other mediums, and has an odor that resembles brimstone and ashes.  Next to the bowls are an assortment of artists’ tools; soft and stiff bristled brushes of various sizes and hair types, as well as pallet knives and other items.

Wiping his finger on an age-yellowed cloth, he picks up a paintbrush, dips it in the ashy bowl, and starts painting in more details.

As he works, the picture is drawn forth from the canvas, the image growing more defined.  He changes between blood paints and brushes as he works, adding shading and bringing the scene to surreal life.

He does not know who’s blood it is, nor even if it is human, animal, or something else.  Where it comes from does not matter.  It is the magic, the life that once throbbed through the veins of something living, that trace which remains of the soul that filled the body; that is what matters.  He is certain the donor had to be alive when it was taken.

The canvas he paints always changes.  The picture could be anyone, anywhere, anytime.  People, plants, and animals are all the subjects of his portraits, everything that lives. 

Sometimes he paints a large canvas, an entire field of battle.  Perhaps it is smaller, a group of marauders falling upon a caravan, or an attack in the dark dirty recesses of a city’s worst neighborhood.  Or it is tiny, the sweet breath of an infant drifting through tiny pouty lips.

The canvas he works today with such care is the rocky crags of a mountain.  Beneath his brushes, the peak rises to a snow covered cap that seems impossibly distant.  The rough crags of the mountain appear impassible.  A well used trail that feels more treacherous than it looks winds across the lower rounded bottom of the nearest mountain.  Rocks jut out from the like grotesque growths and twisted trees cling where they can, their roots embedded in the rocky soil.  Wildflowers flutter in the breeze, seeming as if you could actually see the movement if you looked hard enough.  Rough dry mountain grass and thorny weeds claim a partial victory to the rough ground among the boulders.

He works methodically, adding the little details, deepening shadows, and building on the intensity of the scene.

As he paints, the scene changes beneath his fluid brush strokes and the canvas vibrates with a dull rumble as of a thousand distant hooves stampeding.  This is no stampede, however; at least not one of living creatures rushing across the ground in a frenzy of fear.

A few pebbles clatter across the rocky terrain, kicking up tiny puffs of dust as they go.

The group travelling low on the side of the mountain pauses.   They look around with startled eyes.   Their clothes speak of an age when most people live in scattered villages and farms, a mix of woven cloth and animal hides. 

It is a time where homes are made of rough wood planks hacked out of trees with axes and mud, with mud and grass roofs.  Tools are carved from wood and metal crudely hammered by hand into shape with an iron smith’s hammer.

They feel the faint vibration of the ground, their ears barely picking up the distant rumble.  A child stares curiously at a small rock that rolls and clatters past.

With a deliberate and practiced hand, he paints the mountainside, coloring bright red trails down the rock face.

The rumbling grows louder, the ground shaking with increasing fury.  Pebbles and rocks already lightly clattering down the mountainside are chased by larger ones, followed by boulders and clouds of billowing un-breathable dust.

The group is made of related families forced to relocate from their village by the corrupt lord of the land. 

They begin to scramble in a frightened panic as the very ground they stand on seems intent on throwing them off.  They clutch at children, dropping their meager belongings, only those which are essential for survival.  It was all they could carry.

They begin to run, growing confused with fear, running for their lives as the rumbling intensifies and the mountain throws more large rocks at them.

One woman trips and falls, her infant clutched protectively to her chest, scraping her arm and leg on the sharp rocks when she lands.  A little stunned, she lays there breathing hard, staring at her husband who had stopped and is hurriedly picking through their paltry belongings, discarding anything they cannot eat.  He needs to lighten his heavy load so that he can move faster off the mountain.

With a delicate gesture, the man at the easel gently dabs a spot of red upon the head of the man.

Looking almost bewildered, the man stares at his fallen wife, pleading with his eyes for her to hurry to her feet and run.

A boulder flies by them as if hurled from the mountain by a giant invisible hand, flying past between the two with unstoppable momentum.   After it passes by, the man’s headless body stands there, wavering slightly, his head now a small red smear being painted down the mountain by the rolling boulder which had taken it, his heart still beating with the echo of the signal from the brain a few heartbeats ago.

So intent are the terrified people on fleeing the rockslide, that most of them do not notice the dark and terrible winged creature that swoops down silently from the sky, its tattered cloak flapping like the rotting sheet wrapped about a corpse.   The creature is somehow indistinct, as though only a shadow of it touches this world.

The man’s wife watches in horror, a scream tearing from her throat as the monster swoops down and grabs her husband’s headless shoulder with the long fingers of one taloned hand.

She can see through it like looking through a deep shadow.  Tattered robes hang from it, forever rotting from its long thin frame.  Wings as decayed as the shredded remains of its cloak hang in the air behind it.

Her eyes move to the long fingered bony hand clutching her husband’s shoulder.  A sick feeling fills her.  She is trapped staring at the long talons meant to render flesh from bone in a single slash.

It turns its faceless head toward her as it reaches down with the other hand into the new orifice that used to be his neck.  She feels blood red eyes that are not there searing into her, staring into her very soul.  A chill washes through her.    It tears away the shadowy shade of her husband writhing and fighting to remain sheltered inside the dying body.  The creature’s invisible blood red eyes remain motionless and locked on her as it steals her husband’s soul.

With incredible speed it lifts off, swooping away into the sky with its still struggling cargo.   The shade of her husband tries to scream as he fights the powerful monster spiriting him away, but cannot.  He is but a shadow, without form or body.

On the ground below, his body still stands there, wavering slightly, then slumps slowly to the ground, its heartbeat stuttering to a stop.   Seconds have passed.

The man at the easel continues to paint his canvas of rock and lives.  Very few will survive this landslide.

The mountain shakes violently.  Those who missed being crushed by the falling rocks find themselves gasping and choking on air that has been replaced by thick cloying dust that blocks out the weakening sun, unable to breathe, suffocating.

More of the shadowy creatures swoop down from the sky again and again, stealing souls from the broken bodies as their life ebbs away.  Always, they move swiftly and silently, with deadly precision.

When the violent shaking of the ground stops at last, the rumbling fading away into the past and the dust beginning to clear on the soft breath of the breeze, the aftermath becomes apparent.

An ugly gash scrapes down the mountainside, a trail of broken debris showing the path the rockslide had taken.  Among the violently broken trees and raw wound of the mountainside, red smears of blood mar the scene, a gruesome testimony to the death and destruction, matching exactly the red smears of blood he lovingly painted on his canvas.

A child wails.

A woman’s hand pokes feebly from the ground, waving weakly, smeared with blood and dust.  Then it stills.

The man at the easel lets his hand fall away from the canvas to rest at his side, the brush held weakly in his fingers.

He had a name once.  It has been so long since he has heard the name uttered that he can no longer remember it.  Most call him by another name.  Death.

His dark cloaked shoulders shake, the rotting fabric shreds moving as though its tattered remains are made of delicate gauze.  He weeps for the newly collected souls.

The original short story

Blood : the Original short story by L.V. Gaudet

Blood cover.jpg

BLOOD

A short story

by L V Gaudet

A man sits on a stool before a blank canvas stretched taught on a wooden frame and propped on a well-used easel.  He faces the canvas in the shadowy room, frowning, his face hidden beneath the hood of his black robe.  The dancing light of the candles casts deeper shadows and makes the tattered strips of the dark shrouded figure’s ancient robes seem almost to move of their own, though they stay motionless.  He might have been mistaken for a monk if not for the rotting nature of his robe.  The room itself is a stone walled chamber within an old castle.

He dips a finger into the blood pooled in a small wooden bowl.  It is a casual gesture, dabbing at it like paint in a paint cup.  Careful not to drip the crimson wetness from his fingertip, he brings it to the canvas.  Gently and with great care, he spreads the blood across the canvas, rubbing it to blend it into a thousand shades like an artist working with charcoal. He dips his finger again and again, each time carefully smearing the blood across the canvas, creating a brightly splashed roughed in picture.  The blood turns to shades of sepia and dull red as it dries into the canvas.

The odor of the blood fills his nostrils.  It is a little sharp, kind of salty.   If he tasted it, he knows it would taste salty, red, and a little bit like smelted iron.   It smells good, fresh.  It has to be fresh or the magic would have faded away.

The bowl sits on a small carved wooden table before him and close to the easel.  It is the kind of bowl that looks like it had been carved by a deliberate hand, the inside sanded smooth until it has a warm sheen.  The outside is carved with an intricate pattern that covers the entire surface.  The blood in the bowl was taken from a vein, the de-oxygenation giving it a staler red-brown look.

It shares the table with two similar bowls, one holding brighter red blood taken from an artery, the oxygenation making the blood look fresher.   The third bowl holds blood with a darker ashier look, mixed with other mediums, and has an odor that resembles brimstone and ashes.  Next to the bowls lays an assortment of artists’ tools; soft and stiff bristled brushes of various sizes and hair types, as well as pallet knives and other items.

Wiping his finger on an age-yellowed cloth, he picks up a paintbrush, dips it in the ashy bowl, and starts painting in more details.

As he works, the picture is drawn forth from the canvas, the image growing more defined.  He changes blood paints and brushes as he works, bringing the scene to surreal life.

He does not know who’s blood it is, nor even if it is human, animal, or something else.  Where the blood comes from does not matter.  It is the magic, the life that once throbbed through the veins of something living, that trace which remains of the soul that filled the body; that is what matters.  He is certain the donor had to be alive when it was taken.

The canvas he paints always changes.  The picture could be anyone, anywhere, anytime.  People, plants, and animals are all the subjects of his portraits, everything that lives.  Sometimes he paints a large canvas, an entire field of battle.  Sometimes it is smaller, a group of marauders falling upon a caravan, or an attack in the dark dirty recesses of a city’s worst neighborhood.  Or it is tiny, the sweet breath of an infant drifting through tiny pouty lips.

The canvas he works today with such care is the rocky crags of a mountain.  Beneath his brushes, the peak rises up to a snow covered cap that seems impossibly distant.  The rough crags of the mountain appear impassible.  A well used trail that feels more treacherous than it looks winds across the lower rounded bottom of the nearest mountain.  Rocks jut out like grotesque growths and twisted trees cling where they can, their roots embedded in the rock and soil.  Wildflowers flutter in the breeze, seeming as if you could actually see the movement if you look hard enough.  Rough dry mountain grass and thorny weeds claim a partial victory to the rough ground among the boulders.

He works methodically, adding the little details, deepening shadows, and building on the intensity of the scene.

As he paints, the scene changes beneath his fluid brush strokes and the canvas vibrates with a dull rumble as of a thousand distant hooves stampeding.  This is no stampede, however; at least not one of living creatures rushing across the ground in a frenzy of fear.

A few pebbles clatter across the rocky terrain, kicking up tiny puffs of dust as they go.

The group travelling low on the side of the mountain pauses.   They look around with startled eyes.   Their clothes speak of an age when most people live in scattered villages and farms, their clothes a mix of woven cloth and animal hides. 

It is a time before modern conveniences, where homes are made of rough wood planks hacked out of trees with axes and mud, with mud and grass roofs.  Tools are often carved from wood and metal crudely hammered by hand into shape with an iron smith’s hammer.

They feel the faint vibration of the ground, their ears barely picking up the distant rumble.  A child stares curiously at a small rock that rolls and clatters past.

With a deliberate and practiced hand, he paints the mountainside, coloring bright red trails down the rock face.

The rumbling grows louder, the ground shaking with increasing fury.  The pebbles and rocks already lightly clattering down the mountainside are chased by larger rocks, and then followed by boulders and clouds of billowing un-breathable dust.

The group is made of related families forced to relocate from their village by the corrupt lord of the land. 

They begin to scramble in a frightened panic as the very ground they stand on seems intent on throwing them off.  They clutch at children, dropping their meager belongings, things they kept which were only those that are essential for survival.  It was all they could carry.

They begin to run, growing confused with fear, running for their lives as the rumbling intensifies and the mountain throws more large rocks at them.

One woman trips and falls, her infant clutched protectively in her arms, scraping her arm and leg on the sharp rocks when she lands.  A little stunned, she lays there breathing hard, staring at her husband who had stopped and is hurriedly picking through their paltry belongings, discarding anything they cannot eat.  He needs to lighten his heavy load so that he can move faster off the mountain.

With a delicate gesture, the man at the easel gently dabs a spot of red upon the head of the man.

Looking almost bewildered, the man stares at his fallen wife, pleading with his eyes for her to hurry to her feet and run.

A boulder flies by them as if hurled from the mountain by a giant invisible hand, flying past between the two with unstoppable momentum.   After it passes by, the man’s headless body stands there, wavering slightly, his head now a small red smear being painted down the mountain by the rolling boulder which had taken it, his heart still beating with the echo of the signal that came from the brain just a few heartbeats ago.

So intent are the terrified people on fleeing the rockslide, that most of them do not even notice the dark and terrible winged creature that swoops down silently from the sky, its tattered cloak flapping like the rotting sheet wrapped about a corpse.   The creature seems somehow indistinct, as though only a shadow of it touches this world.

The man’s wife watches in horror, a scream tearing from her throat as the monster swoops down and grabs her husband’s headless shoulder with the long fingers of one taloned hand.

She can see through it like looking through a deep shadow.  Tattered robes hang from it as if they are forever rotting from its long thin frame.  Wings as rotten as the shredded remains of its cloak hang in the air behind it.

Her eyes move to the long fingered bony hand clutching her husband’s shoulder.  A sick feeling fills her.  She is trapped staring at the long talons meant to render flesh from bone in a single slash.

It turns its faceless head towards her as it reaches down with the other hand into the new orifice that used to be his neck.  She feels blood red eyes that are not there searing into her as if staring into her very soul.  A chill washes through her.    It tears away the shadowy shade of her husband writhing and fighting to remain sheltered inside the dying body.  The creature’s invisible blood red eyes remain motionless and locked on her as it steals her husband’s soul.

With incredible speed it lifts off, swooping away into the sky with its still struggling cargo.   The shade of her husband tries to scream as he fights the powerful monster spiriting him away, but cannot.  He is but a shadow, without form or body.

On the ground below, his body still stands there, wavering slightly, then slumps slowly to the ground, its heartbeat stuttering to a stop.   Seconds have passed.

The man at the easel continues to paint his canvas of rock and lives.  Very few will survive this landslide.

The mountain shakes violently.  Those who missed being crushed by the falling rocks find themselves gasping and choking on air that has been replaced by thick cloying dust that blocks out the weakening sun, unable to breathe, suffocating.

More of the shadowy creatures swoop down from the sky again and again, stealing souls from the broken bodies as their life ebbs away.  Always, they move swiftly and silently, with deadly precision.

When the violent shaking of the ground stops at last, the rumbling fading away into the past and the dust beginning to clear on the soft breath of the breeze, the aftermath becomes apparent.

An ugly gash scrapes down the mountainside, a trail of broken debris showing the path the rockslide had taken.  Among the violently broken trees and raw wound of the mountainside, red smears of blood mar the scene, a gruesome testimony to the death and destruction, matching exactly the red smears of blood he lovingly painted on his canvas.

A child wails.

A woman’s hand pokes feebly from the ground, waving weakly, smeared with blood and dust.  Then it stills.

The man at the easel lets his hand fall away from the canvas to rest at his side, the brush held weakly in his fingers.

He had a name once.  It has been so long since he has heard the name uttered that he can no longer remember it.  Most call him by another name.  Death.

His dark cloaked shoulders shake, the rotting fabric shreds moving as though its tattered remains are made of delicate gauze.  He weeps for the newly collected souls.

Ghost Ship (The Illopogas) by L. V. Gaudet

Ghost Ship

(The Illopogas)

By L V Gaudet

Listen on Spotify

A pall hung over the moon, misty clouds stringing across the sky like the tattered remnants of a ghostly sail.  The endless sound of the ocean forever in motion whispered ceaselessly like the incomprehensible roar of a far away stadium crowd.  Pale light from the moon reflected weakly off the constant gently rolling water, illuminating the upward motion while casting faint shadows on the downward movements of the water’s ceaselessly flowing surface.

              A sound moaned softly somewhere in the darkness.  It was the creak and groan of ancient lumber flexing and bending with the pressure of the waves pressing upon it, trying to bend the wood to its will.  With it came the soft lapping of the waves licking against the slowly rotting timber, carrying it on an endless voyage across the sea.

              Within the dark confines of the ancient ship’s hull, the air hung heavy and stale.  Dead.  Throughout the empty cargo hold was the rotten wood remnants of long ago stalls and pens for the transporting of livestock.  The spaces between these broken lumber remnants had the remains of shelves and anchors to strap crates and barrels in place.  Moldering relics of broken pallets, barrels, and crates lay with scattered rotting straw and rat dung. Littered among the detritus were a pair of shackles, red-brown with the rust of ages, lying discarded on the floor like dead metal vipers.  Two more hung down from the low ceiling, swinging casually with the gentle rolling of the ship on the sea, swinging silently except for the occasional dull ching when they touched briefly in their never-ending dance.  A thick gritty and greasy dust clung to everything.

              “Is the cargo secured?” a voice called out.  The captain felt nervous about the dark clouds looming on the horizon.

              “All secure,” called back the first mate.

              “Secure the masts,” the captain called out, “bring in the sails.”

              The sounds of men scurrying about the deck, voices indefinable and vague, echoed down to the hull below.

              The clouds drew back from the moon and on the vacant deck above its pale light caressed across the ship from bow to stern.  The sails hung limply, tattered and shredded, stained and rotting.  The planks of the deck lay clean and dry, repeatedly washed by the waves as though by invisible deck hands.  Endless days under the sun had left the timber bleached.

              The moans and groans of ill and discontented souls oozed up from the bowels of the ship with the creaking and groaning of the timber, the only sound other than the waves and shifting of what remained of the rotting tack that touched the deserted deck.  Sometimes a terrible scream would be carried on the wind, fleeing the terrors locked within the weeping timber of the ship’s hull.

              This is the Illopogas, a cargo ship that transported many different types of cargos over the years.  Stories of the Illopogas migrate like some of the denizens of the waves, travelling from port to port, whispered in the darkened corners of inns and pubs by sailors who have drunk too much.  Even in the telling of these tales, these drunken louts eye the room suspiciously through narrow slitted eyes, making protective gestures behind their backs, wary of jinxing themselves and bringing the Illopogas across their path when next they sail.

              Few sailors have crossed paths with the legendary ghost ship, The Illopogas, and lived to tell the tale.  None has been able to hold on to their shredded sanity.  Some say that the ship is haunted by vengeful ghosts, others that the ship itself seeks revenge.

              There is something about ghost ships, forever sailing the seas manned by an invisible crew, which strikes fear into the hearts of men.  None as much as the Illopogas.

              Beware the ghost ship.

              Beware the Illopogas.

Happy New Year!

The long dark has finally settled on the dreaded year of 2020. We still have a long road to travel before we see the end of Covid-19, but there is light ahead. And hope.

The story continues into 2021.
Photo by Spenser Sembrat on Unsplash

With vaccines and being smart, we have every reason to look ahead with optimism. This virus may think it is a supervillain bent on the ruination of or total domination of the world, but it is still just a virus. Just like so many other viruses, only it’s new so we have no long-acquired immunity to it.

But we will win. Mankind has beaten pandemics before and come out stronger. Our local businesses will open again and pick up the pieces. People laid off and furloughed will go back to work. Our lives will be able to return to something resembling normal. In time.

I don’t do New Year Resolutions. I randomly decide I need to work harder, smarter, or simply more. You don’t need to flip the year for that. Of course, we all know the saying about best laid plans.

I have many writing projects on the go and hope to share more of them with you soon.

As socially distanced (aka physically apart) as we are, we are all in this trying time together. Let’s be together (apart), help each other, and most importantly be kind and forgiving towards each other.

Simplify your life by rehoming things of valuable use to others that you have no need of. Those suffering the hardship of reduced incomes are struggling and have no means to buy these things.

Share a smile and a wave with a neighbor or a stranger from a distance.

Pay forward or commit an act of kindness to a stranger.

Be extra kind to those serving us daily in the stores, delivering our parcels and groceries, looking after our loved ones in hospitals and care homes, and all our first responders. They are going through an unbelievable amount of stress right now.

Give a little something of yourself, safely, to help others.

I do promise myself, again, to blog more, write, edit, and read more. And to share that to help others.

You can sign up for my infrequent Author of Darkness newsletter or follow my fan blog for my other pen name: Vivian Munnoch (youth and YA fiction) or visit my blog about writing for writers.

I will see you again in the dark recesses of the virtual world over the course of the new year.

Behind A White Curtain (short fiction) by L. V. Gaudet

Photo by Zac Durant on Unsplash

 

It was bright and tranquil the day it begun, snow lazily falling and covering the world in a soft downy blanket of fluff, drawing a white curtain over the ugliness of the ruined dirty and trampled snow.

To everyone else it was a day as any other, Saturday, and only days before Christmas.  The muffled scrape of shovels clearing driveways and sidewalks did not so much echo in the air as it seemed to be carried on the wings of the very snowflakes themselves as they slowly drifted down.  Other sounds hung in the air too, gently muffled by the snow; the engines of distant sleds whining as they bound across a field, the sudden grinding of a snow blower rattling like a lumbering abominable chain saw, and the shlish and screams of children tobogganing down a hill.  Somewhere, a dog barked.

To one man it was a very different day.  An unseen dark storm brewed deep within his breast, burrowed into his soul. He paced restlessly, pulling at his hair, rearranging his safe little nest in agitation.  He straightened knick-knacks, adjusted pillows, and realigned books. It was coming, the memories, and the urge, unstoppable.  Today he would leave his quaint little house.

It came only with the falling snow, his catalyst, harbinger of unpleasant memories and dark urges.  Otherwise, he hid away here contented behind his walls, safe, a victim of agoraphobia, living life unseen. That closed in claustrophobic feeling of the thick heavy snow gave him the courage to venture forth, to indulge.

He stopped pacing, pulled back the heavy curtain, and stared out the window at the calmly falling flakes and the world they partially obscured. A world that was usually too frightening to look out at even from behind his glass and wood-frame cage. The expected surge of sick dread washed through him, weakening his knees and making his eyes water in painful fear-filled remorse. He closed his eyes and swooned a little.

He released the curtain, turned away from the window, and staggered blindly, not daring to open his eyes yet.

The urge deep inside pulled him back toward the window, stronger than the sickly fear that pushed him away.

#

A boy played alone, trying to build a fort in the white downy fluff.  He kicked at the soft snow in exasperation, unable to make it stick together to form walls.  When next his mother looked out the window, he was gone.

She stepped out the door, looked up and down the street, and called out his name.

The man who took the boy was not a large man.  He was skinny and balding and had an air of impotence cum invisibility.  This was the sort of man most people did not notice, forever overlooked and ignored.  Even his name was nondescript, ‘Ted’. Then again, psychoses do not care about size, looks, or names.

A scream bounced from snowflake to snowflake.  It did not sound right.  It was not the fun-filled happy shriek of a tobogganing child.  It was shrill and desperate, torn violently from the throat, frantic and terrible.  No one noticed the scream, so lost were they all in their own activities, in their own private little lives of their own little worlds within this winter wonderland.

The dogs heard it.  All around the little town, dogs barked and howled.

Ted’s slash of a mouth was frozen in a wide grin, eyes sparkling maniacally.  A giggle bubbled up like the bright red blood of the boy.  Red oozed warmly down, creating a gentle uprising mist as it soaked into the pristine white snow.

It would snow again.  Soon.  And so, too, would Ted come again out to play.

#

     The air tasted crisp on his tongue, so intense was the cold.  It bit at his fingers and toes within their protected confines.  His nose stung and his lungs burned with each inhalation of chilled air.  Wincing, he rubbed his hands together, blowing into his cupped fingers, trying to warm them.

The cool light of the moon seemed colder, more distant, shining with an ethereal pale light wrapped in ghostly light circles as its light refracted off the invisible frozen air crystals hanging suspended in the atmosphere enveloping the earth.  The stars, their light much dimmer, tried feebly to point their little beacon lights to the ground below, like a distant warning.

Ted looked up at the sky, the clouds rolling in drawing a shroud across the sky, shutting off the moon’s pale light.  The snow had started to fall again.  Barely at first, scattered tiny flakes drifted down, growing bigger and thicker, multiplying in number, and turning into a dreamy soft down gently filling every surface.  With the heavy snow came the memories.  He winced as they crashed through his head like a multi car pileup, unstoppable, uncontrollable, a shrieking dance of mental chaos.  Next came the urge, insistent, insatiable, and unstoppable.  He had to fix it.

This time there was no scream bouncing off the gently falling snow, just a wet sort of gurgle, low and quiet, and the pristine white virgin snow slowly turning bright red beneath the pale night light of the moon.  This time even the dogs did not notice and the people mostly slept, safe in their own little lives and oblivious to the other little lives all around.  All except one man who did not sleep, but now slumbered forever.

#

     The dog came first.  It stopped, snuffling deeper, nose digging down, snorting into the snow.  Ted’s heart raced, eyes dilating and nostrils flaring as he watched the dog.  The dog had found ‘the spot’.  He was about to act when the dog startled with a yip, turned tail and ran away, its trail following like a shadow, slowly fading behind it with the fresh falling flakes covering the tracks.  The snow in the hole dug by the dog’s questing nose was stained crimson.  Like a soft sigh, snow continued to fall, covering it.  He followed the dog. He had to fix it.

#

     People moved about, safely cocooned in their private little lives, each doing their own thing and oblivious to the lives around.

The woman walked with some difficulty through the snow along the edge of the trees where it was less deep.  Every now and then she cupped her hands to each side of her mouth and called.  She was looking for the family dog that had escaped off the rope tethering the animal safely in the yard.  She came across the vanishing tracks in the snow, thought for a moment, and decided to follow the trail into the woods.

He watched the woman find what was left of the dog.  He could almost hear her heart pounding faster, feel the constriction of her chest, and see through her eyes widened in horror.  It was all written in the tortured shock on her plain slackened face. The snow continued to fall in a lazy downy rain.

He pounced on the woman, knocked her to the ground.  She fell and rolled and he rolled with her. A crimson stain slowly began to spread across the pristine snow.

It was not about killing. He just had to fix it.

Paradise

Photo by Daniel Lincoln on Unsplash

 

The sun sparkling on the sea behind him in a dancing promise of hope fed into the lie that is the beach paradise. The breeze barely breathed on the softly swaying palm fronds. It was perfect. Each second we faced off it felt increasingly too perfect. Off.

This man, who refused to give his name, stood resolute in his defection from the normal. His eyes were narrowed in determination, or perhaps against the sun. His face held no real emotion. Not anger or determination. He just was.

“It’s all a lie,” he said. “Your world. The sea, trees, even this.”

He knelt and scooped up a fistful of sand. He stood again and held the fist out towards me as though I should take it. I could only stare at that closed fist. He waved it towards people in the distance, roaming slowly up the beach.

“They are a lie. Toxic.”

“They’re just people,” I said.

He shook his head slowly at my foolishness. He seemed saddened by my failure to see. This man, this stranger in a weakened paradise, thrust his fist toward me again.

“You would take strength from this… this false promise of a better tomorrow. It never gets better. It’s just another today. This earth,” he started letting the sand fall in a slow stream from his hand, “is weak. It’s is poisoned, pale.”

“It’s pale because it’s sand.”

He stared at me, pale sand trickling in a soft sieving from his fist.

My focus on his face and that falling sand, I did not see the twitch of his shoulder muscle preceding his body moving until it was too late. He had me by the shirt, fabric twisted in his fist as he yanked me off balance towards him, holding me up with seemingly impossible strength.

“I will show you then.”

My mouth gaped open in silent shocked protest; he rammed his fist at it. I was certain he meant to punch me in the teeth, but instead he was shoving sand into my mouth. I choked and gagged on the surprise of it, on its crunchy grittiness and the though in my head of its uncleanliness.

The sudden lurching of my heaving stomach felt like a gut punch. My eyes watered and my limbs felt weakened.

He released me then, letting me fall limply to the ground where I mewled and pawed weakly at the sand. The same sand that was inside my mouth, my throat. I coughed and it was sucked into my lungs, choking me with its grainy dust.

The burning foulness set in then, my tongue and mouth on fire, the sand eating through taste buds like dull acid.

Pawing at my mouth only made it worse. Mewling and simpering weakly in the sand, the granules clung to my hands and I only managed to shove more inside my mouth. My throat screamed with it and I moaned, gasped, inhaling it deeper into my tortured lungs. I couldn’t cry out. Could only gasp weaker as the strength and all of my feeble fight left me.

I lay in the sand softly moaning, stomach dissolving and lungs struggling. My nose was pressed against the sand, breathing in its subtle saltiness.

“If you are still here tomorrow you will be dead,” he said simply. “This place will poison you.”

He walked away and did not look back.

I would have swore I was already dead.

The Woods Chapter 1: The Dare (1985) by L.V. Gaudet

The Woods – Coming Soon!

The Woods

Chapter 1: The Dare

1985

 

It is an ordinary forest, as far as spooky looking woods go, filled mostly with craggy twisted oak trees, their gnarled branches reaching like skeletal fingers and deeply wrinkled cracked-bark covered trunks. The trees cluster together, their branches twisted and tangled together, daring any to enter their midst.

The land here lies low and wet in the spring, leaving the stand of trees a small island of stick-like saplings and sparse tall yellow grass invaded by wild roses with their sharp thorns standing in a shallow bath of melt water throughout the springtime months.

They are far from a silent woods. A small stretch of thick growth surrounded by fields of crops interspersed with some areas abandoned to grass, weeds, and stray crop seeds. Against one side of this stretch of trees, amidst the farm fields, is also nestled a small happy community. The woods team with life, red and grey squirrels, rabbits, mice and voles, and a range of birds. With the damp ground, the woods are a haven for frogs and toads, and of course, the ever present blood-sucking mosquitoes.

It is a typical small town community lying nestled against the miniature forest. It grew from centuries old land of grasslands mixed with forests. The old forests and grasslands were slowly chopped down, turned over, and settled as the world slowly populated with mankind; the landscape of humanity changing from hunter-gatherers to farms, towns, and villages.

Eventually towns and communities grew together to become cities, family homesteads populated into small farming communities, and untouched land became rare pockets of unsullied old growth forests scattered about in tiny fragments bordering farm fields and stretches of small community homes.

Some of these tiny pockets of untouched woods still hold secrets. Some of these secrets are perhaps best left that way.

 

The woods sit silent and brooding, an ugly tangle of dead looking leafless skeletal branches that look like they belong in a darker and more sinister world, the world of the dead. The clouds hang heavy, dark, and grey on this day; a suffocating thick blanket hanging low in the sky to cast a pall over this small piece of the world.

The snow lies heavy and wet, crystalline flakes shrinking and melding into a dirty slush as the temperatures slowly warm. In time, the snow will vanish and be replaced once again by the murky stagnant melt waters that will take a few months to dry up.

Most of the rodents, birds, and other small woodland creatures are conspicuously absent on this day, having chosen to hunker down and wait out this gloomy day. Nevertheless, a few squirrels and birds still flit about the skeletal trees, a small rabbit nervously twitching its nose as it sits motionlessly waiting.

Two children playing in their back yard off the woods dare each other to go exploring into the spooky trees.

“I bet you can’t go to the fallen tree,” said the older and taller of the two boys.

The younger boy blanched, his stomach turning sickly, but stared stone faced at the fallen rotting tree laying nestled within the narrow strip of woods beyond their yard. You can see the tree only because there are no leaves on any of the branches.

“I am not going to let you know how scared I am,” he thinks. He can already smell the mossy rot of the long dead tree, although he has never been near enough to it to catch its odor. It smells in his vivid young imagination like death and decay and something even darker. He watches a small red squirrel flit around the trees, untouched by the dark brooding sullenness and the spooks, ghosts, and monsters his mind screams must surely lurk hidden inside these scary woods. He swallowed.

“Can too,” he said, his voice cracking with fear. “I bet you can’t go stand on that ole’ stump,” he countered.

The old stump is a rotting remnant of an even older fallen tree that has long ago vanished into the mud and scraggly growth of the woods. The stump remains, standing defiant and threatening beyond the fallen tree now laying discarded and tangled in the woods, sharp splinters and points of shattered wood sticking up as though waiting to impale any foolish boy who tries to climb it and falls. Its wood is soft and crumbly now with rot, the sharp jagged edges unlikely to be capable of impaling anything for years.

Kevin humphed at his younger brother. He is just as scared, but certainly is not going to let his little brother know that. He nervously hiked up his pants, which did not need it, and stepped forward on a mission. He marched purposely into the woods, careful to keep his back to the younger boy so he will not see the paleness of his waxy fear-filled face.

With a scuff and a shrug, Jesse reluctantly followed his older brother.

A little red squirrel scampered up to the high branches as they passed, pausing to chitter down angrily at the boys.

They reach the first point, the fallen tree Kevin had dared his younger brother to venture to. It is no victory for either boy.

On a forced march of pride, determined not to reveal his fear of some silly trees, Kevin continues on. He crawls over the fallen tree, its rotting length sagging with a soggy cracking beneath his weight. His forward march slows more the closer he comes to the wicked looking ancient broken stump.

He stops; staring at the stump like it is some otherworldly thing. He dares not touch it, yet also dares not, lest Jesse think him weak or afraid.

Unable to let his older brother face the woods alone, Jesse follows. As he draws near the old stump where his brother has stopped to stare motionlessly at it, he notices something unusual looking at the base of the stump.

“What’s that?” Jesse asked nervously.

Kevin pries his eyes from the stump to look lower.  He kneels down, reaching for what lies there.

“Don’t touch it.”

“It’s nothing.”  Kevin picks it up, turning it over in his hand.

Jesse turns at the sound of a cracking branch.

The boys are never seen again.

 


McAllister Series:

Do you know #WhereTheBodiesAre?
Disturbing psychological thriller

Learn the secret behind the bodies.
Take a step back in time to meet the boy who will create the killer.

Everyone is looking for Michael Underwood.

Sometimes the only way to stop a monster is to kill it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Other Books:

The Garden Grove project is a hotbed for trouble. Who wants to stop the development?

They should have let her sleep. 1952: the end of the paddlewheel riverboat era. Two men decided to rebuild The Gypsy Queen.

12 years ago four kids found something in the woods up the old Mill Road. Now someone found it again.

Coming Soon!

Snow (short fiction) by L. V. Gaudet

Photo by Nathan Wolfe on Unsplash

It was a dark and stormy night.

No, actually it wasn’t.  That is just so cliché.

It was neither dark, nor stormy.  In fact, it was quite bright and tranquil with the snow lazily falling and blanketing the world in a soft downy blanket.

However, there was a dark storm brewing somewhere, deep within the breast of one fateful soul who will have a rather fate-less effect on those around.  Not so much in a way of lacking chance and destiny, but rather in a way of that destiny being one that is lacking in fortune and future.  It would be a fate resulting in no fate, no future, and ending in a finality of fatality.

To everyone else it was a day as any other day.  It was the weekend, Saturday to be precise; and only days before Christmas.  The muffled scrape of shovels clearing driveways and sidewalks didn’t so much echo in the air as it seemed to be carried on the wings of the very snowflakes themselves as they drifted down, billions of flakes carrying the sound on the faint draught of air that could not even be called a breeze.

The distant soprano rumble of sleds bounding across the fields could be felt more than it could be heard.  The sudden grinding of a snow blower starting rattled off the snowflakes like a lumbering abominable chain saw.  The shlish and scream of children tobogganing down a hill somewhere cut through the downy muffled hush brought on the world by the gentle snowflakes.  Somewhere a dog barked.

A scream bounced from snowflake to snowflake.  It didn’t sound right.  It wasn’t the fun filled happy shriek of a tobogganing child.  It was shrill and desperate, torn violently from the throat, frantic and terrible.

The scream didn’t register though, so lost was everyone in their own activities, in their own private little bubbles of their own little worlds within this winter wonderland, separate from all the other little bubbles, bouncing about each other without really touching.

At least, it didn’t register on the consciousness of any people living within their own little private bubble lives.

The dogs heard it.  All around the little town dogs barked and howled.

It could be some time before one of these little private bubble worlds bounced and touched the little bubble world the scream was torn from, before someone learns the terrible truth behind the scream that everyone heard, yet no one noticed.

Perhaps the next snow fall.

#

            The air tasted crisp, so intense was the cold, biting at fingers and toes within their protected confines, making noses sting and lungs burn with each inhalation of chill air.  It was too cold even for Jack Frost to be out performing his public service of decorating window panes with his intricate artwork.

The cool light of the moon seemed colder, more distant, shining with an ethereal pale light wrapped in ghostly light circles as its light refracted off the invisible frozen air crystals hanging suspended in the atmosphere enveloping the earth.  The stars, their light much dimmer, tried feebly to point their little beacon lights to the ground below, like a distant warning.

The clouds rolled in, shrouding the ground below, hiding it from the moon’s view, shutting off its pale light.  The snow started to fall.  Barely at first, scattered tiny flakes drifted down, growing bigger and thicker, multiplying in number, and turning into a dreamy soft down gently touching every surface.

This time there was no scream bouncing off the gently falling snow, just a wet sort of gurgle, low and quiet, and the pristine white virgin snow slowly turning bright red.  This time even the dogs didn’t notice and the people mostly slept, safe in their own little lives and oblivious to the other little lives all around.

#

            A dog snuffled about in the snow, having  escaped the rope tethering it in its yard.  The dog walked as if on a mission, purposeful, intent, tail and body tense, sniffing and snuffling at the snow as it went.  Deep tracks followed the dog through the thick blanket of snow.  The dog stopped, snuffling deeper, nose digging down, snorting.  The dog startled with a yip, turned tail and ran away, its trail following like a shadow.  The snow in the hole dug by the dog’s questing nose was stained crimson.  Like a soft sigh, snow began to fall.

People moved about, safely cocooned in their private little bubble lives, each doing their own thing and oblivious to the lives around.

Without a sound one of these little bubbles popped.  The woman walked with some difficulty through the snow along the edge of the trees where the snow was less deep.  She looked about her keenly, every now and then cupping her hands to each side of her mouth and calling.  She was looking for the family dog that had escaped off the rope tethering the animal safely in the yard.  At last she came across a track leading away from the trees and through the field.  Just beyond it lay another track, less defined as though made by less careful movements.  This trail led into the trees.  She thought for a moment and decided to follow it into the woods.

She didn’t get far before she found the dog.  What was left of the dog.  Her heart thudded hard and fast in her chest, her breath caught as her chest constricted, eyes widening in horror.

Something slammed into the woman, knocking her sideways a few feet and down into the white downy snow.  A crimson stain slowly began to spread across the pristine whiteness.

 

Knock on Ginger (short fiction)

Photo by Anton Darius | @theSollers on Unsplash

The doorbell chimes, its ring bouncing merrily off the walls.

The old woman pushes herself from her chair with difficulty, dragging her walker to her to use for support.  In the slow shuffle-walk of the infirm, she carefully places the walker ahead then shuffles three little steps.  Thump shuffle shuffle shuffle, pause.  Thump shuffle shuffle shuffle, pause.

When the old woman at last pulls the door open with shaky arthritis knobbed fingers and looks outside, no one is there.  She looks up and down the street in confusion, rheumy eyes squinting to see.

From behind a bush around the corner of the old woman’s little house comes the sound of giggles and snickers of children.

Her eyes blaze with anger and her face turns red.  Feebly, the old woman raises one gnarled hand, trying unsuccessfully to make it into a fist to shake.  She shakes it anyway, the loose skin of her arm flapping below the bicep.

“You kids leave me alone,” the old woman yells in her croaky old crone’s voice, spittle flying with the anger of her words.  “Leave off my bell!”

She shambles backwards with some difficulty and slams the door closed, muttering and shaking her head angrily as she does so.

Great guffaws of laughter burst from the bush and kids roll out from behind it, holding their stomachs as they roll, so hard are they laughing.  One, two, three, four kids; three boys and one girl.

One boy gets to his feet, wiping tears of laughter from his eyes.

“That was great,” he exclaims.

“Did you see her face Billy?” another boy grins eagerly as he joins the first boy.  Billy just nods enthusiastically.

The girl, Samantha, Sam for short, joins the boys with a sheepish grin on her face.  She doesn’t feel right about doing this to the old woman, but that old woman always yells at the kids when they play in front of her house.  Besides, it was fun!

The third boy, Justin, finally stops rolling on the ground and joins the other kids.

“Billy, Evan, Sam… that was great!” he exclaims.  “Did you see?  I swear she was gonna have a stroke, the old lady looked so mad!”  He looks at the other kids, eyes blazing with excitement.

They all stand around grinning at each other.

“So, who’re we going to knock-on-ginger next?”  Justin asks.

Just then, Sam’s mom comes walking down the sidewalk towards them.  The kids all freeze, staring at each other nervously.  Did she hear?  Did she see what game they were playing?  They are all in trouble now, they think.

“Hi, kids,” Sam’s mom says as she pauses on her way past.  She looks at them, then at the old lady’s house, then back to the kids with a strange knowing smile hovering on her lips.

“Kind of weird, isn’t it,” she says, looking at each child in turn.

The four kids just blink at her, fidgeting with nervousness.

“Yes,” Sam’s mom says, answering their unasked question, “old Mrs. Wierdar has been part of this neighborhood forever.”

She looks at the house with a strange look, almost as though a vague sense of unease fills her.  “The house seems so… empty… since they took her away.”

“Um, took her away,” the kids ask in unison, staring at Sam’s mom with very strange looks on their faces.

“Yes,” Sam’s mom says, “didn’t you know?  She was taken away yesterday.  Her home care worker found her…”  She swallows, a little uncertain now if she should be telling the kids this story.

“They think she might have been dead for two days before her worker found her … possibly a stroke.”  She reddens, embarrassed by the looks on the kids’ faces.  “Um, I have to go now,” and she hurries off down the street.

The four kids stare at each other, their faces white and eyes filled with fear.

The McCallister Series – Review

Casia Schreyer - Author

Full disclosure time! I signed up to review the four books in the McCallister Series through Silver Dagger Book Tours. They provided me with Kindle copies of each of the books in exchange for my honest review on my blog, on Goodreads, and on Amazon.

Author photo_270x400

The McCallister Series is a 4-book mystery series by Canadian author, L.V. Gaudet.  She also writes under the pen name Vivian Munnoch. She has 7 books published as L.V. Gaudet and 2 as Vivian Munnoch.

The McCallister Series focuses on a serial killer in a small, semi-rural city. She writes in a way that allows you to see inside the killer’s head without revealing his identity until the end of book 1.

McAllister 1 - Where the Bodies Are_372x600Where the Bodies Are – The McAllister Series Book 1

This book begins with a body in an alley but the girl isn’t dead. Jane Doe is kept in a medical coma in…

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In the darkness monsters lie.

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