let the devil wear black: FREE!

if you have a kindle, my first novel is FREE ON KINDLE RIGHT NOW, for a limited time! although, it’s always on kindle unlimited for free, right now anyone can get their paws on it.

it’s not the sort of story that i ordinarily tell (as is known, i’m usually all about the horror or fantasy, & this one is more psychological), but it’s a story that i told. & it’s free until (unintentionally) midnight, on valentines day. 🧛‍♀️

cover design by Mitch Green at radpress publishing.

CLICK ME. I’M WHERE FREE STUFF IS.

Screen Shot 2018-12-27 at 11.57.47 AM

PART 15 (finale)

HALLOWEEN 3 YEARS AGO

 

Don’t worry, dad said, you worry too much.

But what about—?

Don’t worry!

They said no going outside, no exposing yourself to—

To what, air? Don’t expose myself to air and breathe like a human being just because I’m dying?

You’re not dying wasn’t the right thing to say, because it was a lie, and so instead she said, don’t worry, dad, you’ll live forever.

Nah, I won’t. None of us do. And when you’re my age you realize that’s a blessing. You stop being afraid; you start being ready.

She’s never recalled the finer details of the crash, but she does the red memory of the vivid blood pressure in her whirling head and how it had built some behind her eyes until the burden made them haul open fanlike and woozy and all she desired inwardly was to sleep. She could’ve persisted there suspended upside down by the faithful seatbelt with her unwieldy arms, slackly splayed out curve of the wrists first and make this her grave. The chapped texture of the roof of the inside of the trickling car could’ve been the last thing she ever felt. She’d even run her knuckles on it some as if it might lull her, wondering if she’d ever done this very same thing while drifting safely in the rhythmic amnion of the womb.

Instead, stringed along by an otherworldly puppeteer and with the pathetic soundtrack of her own chopped and labored breathing, she’d released herself from the seat belt first and fell hard onto her shoulder, then turned to the empty passenger seat and no longer felt anything but the desire to find her father.

The rubble of him was a hurled scarecrow on its back surrounded by a swelling, dark pool not far ejected from the vehicle when it flipped in the collision. The white-dusted fragments of glass outlined him like illuminated chalk, like an angel dissolved having fallen to earth and becoming human. When she trudged to him with a half-busted knee and a warm fluid flowing down her cupids bow, she flickered over him silently for a moment thinking he was gone already, but he’d said, go, go help them, they got a baby. Only then could she hear the primeval vocalizations of one too young and too trapped to help themselves.

Time didn’t go by too fast, or too slow, time simply wasn’t. There wasn’t any time at all. She’d saved the mother and the baby and they lied together weeping and calling the police. She’d come back just in time to see her father smile and leave the world.

The eyes are what she saw first, before the height of the thing. They were pale yellow underneath the murky light of the round moon, which darkened its grey fur into a blue, dismal pelt as it prowled quietly to her from the dense trees like a fence on the side of the highway. The shoulders were broad and half-clothed with a red plaid shirt ripped apart and glistening, the opened maw was wet and dripped onto the concrete as it walked to her on its hind legs, the teeth long and yellowed. It was taller than any dog she’d ever seen, well over six feet, and it was so slow, unblinking.

The full moon obscured by a passing cloud was blotted out when it pounced on her. She can remember how it smelt; seeped fur, clotted canine musk herbed with dried blood, congealed foamy congregations of saliva at the corners of its mouth. She can remember the piercing of its claws burrowing into her shoulder blades, but she remembers nothing else. Not screaming. Not pain. Not anything until she woke up in the hospital.

The morning had rose in that strange way that morning seems to lift up, at least that’s how she’s always seen it. It comes up from the grass as if it crawled out of outer space in a vapor.

I’m sorry about your father. I’m your new partner, he’d said, poking his narrow chin and inspecting the room for ears he might’ve not seen listening, tell me what you know about werewolves.

THE END (for now)

PART 14

AWAKE

 

In the downslope of evening dusk, which leaves a cut of blood on the horizon like a knife wound, she starts awake from the nauseous scene in her mind and the clangor of the nightmare weapon. The floor that her contused cheekbone lies on is scented with kitchen rag mildew and dried piss. Her heart still limps to right itself, but she’s awake now lying on a warm floor in a pool of her saliva and coagulated blood. Fully awake and here, where ever here is, with it’s sheer, colorless curtains stained from being used as napkins swaying with a tender, curious breeze slithering in from outside, shapeless dark and grainy figures as furniture that her eyes aren’t ready to discern in their widespread shock of regaining sight so suddenly.

I have a sickness, a man’s voice says with sediment in the throat and whining in the tone, the fortune teller said that I’d marry somebody named Lisa or Elizabeth, but she was wrong, she was fucking wrong and it was supposed to be Miranda, and Miranda got married.

The detective remains unmoved, quiet; breathes in as silently as she can, deep as she can without being overt in an attempt to steady the pulse that’s hammering in her left ear.

There’s no light on, but she can see the broad-shouldered figure in a trucker hat leaning over his knees, face buried in his hands as he bitterly weeps. There’s another figure sitting on the couch and when the moon, full and white, becomes the only light inside the small trailer, she recognizes him. I’m a good Christian man, the words repeat, and repeat, and repeat, ricocheting inside of her mind. It’s that old man, but who’s the one sobbing?

Boy, the daddy says, you better know where to put her body. She’s a cop. None of that fruity ritual shit from the bible like that other whore.

I know, I know daddy, the other one says, I know just where…

Can’t be stupid like Miranda, boy! The old man speaks rigidly, strictly yet underneath that, fearfully, spitting the muddy pool of his grizzly wintergreen dip into the carapace of an empty coca-cola can with a loathsome squirting sound.

It doesn’t have to be like this. You can let me go, the detective says, you can untie me, you still have time.

She’s lyin’, don’t listen to ‘er, daddy says to his son. He slaps his kneecap hard as he can to let out his frustrations, stamps his foot to let it out, too, as if it had traveled down the shin and got stuck in the tendons. She’s a DAMN liar! You let her go and she’ll run ‘n tell all her little piggy friends who you is and what you done! She’ll throw that ass of yours in a cage and they’ll strap you straight into an electric chair!

There was a distant howling outside and the detective shifted from the bruised bone of her hip onto her back and stared outside at the impending dark. She suddenly felt calm.

You still have a chance, I’m not lying, the detective says.

The man sitting down ejects himself so quickly out of the creaky folding chair he’d been pathetically nesting in and sobbing that it flies back, teeters and scrapes its heels before it collapses stiffly onto its side like a bloated deer on the shoulder of a highway. He throws the obstacles between he and the detective out of the way with a growl as he rushes to her, repeating the phrase, shut up shut up shut up through gnashed teeth, stomping toward her theatrically like a child.

You’re a damn liar! He shouts a mere inch from her tight-lipped face when he harshly genuflects beside her. She can smell his filthy hair and coors light, conceals a gag and scoffs, shuts her eyes. The drizzle of his rage-spit from shouting freckles her eyelids.

You’re right, I am. You’re all outta chances, the detective says, opening her eyes. And the man stares down with his mouth dumbly agape searching for the human quality of her formerly big brown eyes in the dark, but he finds nothing gawking back but a preternatural yellow and though the trailer was the stuffiest, most humid nook shoved into the back of the mouth of these woods he felt a chill like fingers hiking up his spine when he gazed into them, when the wolf fur began to sprout and the unexpected strength ripped through the plastic ties they’d bound her with.

It all happened very fast.

 

To be concluded tomorrow…

PART 13

She asks in that rehearsed tranquility; that silver voice, that comely voice in control of the drumming song of the hummingbird heart, because she’s the immovable rock. She can still be the hero.

What’re they gunna do to him?

And with the wet-blanket heat and the soft strangle of anxiety that makes the swollen edge of her nose trickle with an oval of sweat and imperceptibly tame tears tumbling down one-by-one from her smoke-burnt eyes that she can blame on the crushing stench that’s becoming insistently more putrid; she is that immovable rock. She is that silver voice in the simmering, nervous night.

They already hurt him, so now they eat him so no one can find him, the little girl says, But no hands and feet, that’s bad luck, you don’t eat that.

Can you untie me?

Mmmm, no, the little girl says in that childish way kids do with moony, large eyes, and she moves back to sit on her haunches and rocks back and forth for an absent comfort; she’s jumpy, but she’d untie her with the right coercing, or at least try to. The night is starless and peerless to all other dark nights and the little ones sunken-eyed stare bleeds out into the rest of it, making her look like a tiny, swaying skull.

The chanting and crying of the other child is loud, but there’s another shimmer of a noise quivering faintly close by. It rustles in cold-blood fully alive on nights like this and it curls, watches from somewhere. The detective says, stay still, there’s a rattler.

A snake? It won’t bite, it’s a toy, wanna see it?

No, don’t touch it. It’s not a toy.

Trust me, I play with it. It was my toy. I think it just came to life now, i’ll find it.

The little skeleton stands with difficulty, must’ve stood too swiftly, because she crashes into a brief lean onto a tree and breathes before darting out, and vanishes into a curvy palisade of shadows and thick-thighed oaks.

You just had to be the hero, the broken corpse of her father says, shaking his head, tsk tsk, from the ground where he lies.

No! Stop! The girl shouts, the detective can can hear dull thudding against thin skin, stop biting me!

The chanting dies for a moment, long enough for howling to raise itself up between the distance of it, and of her, and she looks back again even if it hurts her head where the shock had once shunned the reality of the wound, which began painfully to throb along with the gallop of her pulse.

A nude man walks down an aisle strewn with miniature bones, could be avian, limping familiarly from the right hip, wearing a paper mask similar to Baby Mikey’s, but his is a bigger dog–a wolf, with a scarlet streamer for a tongue that affords it either more primitive an appearance or sinister–yet it has antlers reaching up. The worshippers swoon to the ground and bury their faces and fingers into the hot earth, smearing their loose hair with it, bowing to him. He raises his hands up to the sky, says something that sounds more like a gurgle, but she can hear the words, lord, hear our prayers.

That’s when the gunshot strikes him in the chest.

TO BE CONTINUED…

PART 12

RIGHT NOW

Don’t worry, dad said, you worry too much.

But what about—?

Don’t worry!

They said no going outside, no exposing yourself to—

To what, air? Don’t expose myself to air and breathe like a human being just because I’m dying?

You’re not dying wasn’t the right thing to say, because it was a lie, and so instead she said, don’t worry, dad, you’ll live forever.

Nah, I won’t. None of us do. And when you’re my age you realize that’s a blessing. You stop being afraid; you start being ready. You know what’s funny, though? I thought you’d save me first. I didn’t think you’d just let me die… my only daughter left her daddy to die to go save someone else’s kid.

But you told me to.

It doesn’t matter what I told you; it matters what you did. You came back too late, remember? Had to watch your own father die, just to let someone live, you had to be the hero. You didn’t even know them, they didn’t even say, thank you. And then what happened to you? Huh? What’d you become?

She’s been in the dream too long; dad’s face is just as realistic as the day he died in her arms, and she’s there again holding him while he smiles and asks again, what’d you become? The way she can tell she’s been in the dream too long is that it’s taken a turn for the worse. He never said those things. He was just dead when she came back. Everything starts out as a dream and ends up as a nightmare. The troubled mind can’t dream with itself for too long without an unwanted injection of horror.

The eyes are what she saw first, before the height of the thing. They were pale yellow underneath the murky light of the round moon, which darkened its grey fur into a blue, dismal pelt as it prowled quietly to her. The shoulders were broad and half-clothed with a red plaid shirt ripped apart and glistening, the opened maw was wet and dripped onto the concrete as it walked to her on its hind legs, the teeth long and yellowed. It was taller than any dog she’d ever seen, well over six feet, and it was so slow, unblinking.

I don’t have a good feeling about this, she says to her partner, who’s in the backseat of her empty, rotten car. She’s safe here in the decrepit car that’s covered in moss, with puddles on the floor and cottonmouths slithering inside the fluid pooling up around her ankles. She’s watching herself. Watching that thing coming up to her and her dead daddy.

Then why are you going? He asks.

Because I don’t have a good feeling about it.

She wakes up bound behind a tree and breathes as if it’s her first breath; and somewhere deep within her the desire to weep is rattling, but she cages the urge with trying to move, trying to break free. She can’t remember how she got here, because she never left the woods and only remembers the old man’s face, just a nip of it, after he’d hit her with something. She remembers him limping away on that cane of his, him muttering, and her thinking out loud to herself before she lost consciousness, I’m supposed to come back later, when I’m ready.

You’re going to die, but I die first, the little girl says to her with a tiny, shaky voice. She’s not tied up because fear keeps her tethered to this place. There’s a fire burning from behind them and an eerie chanting in a strange language she’s never heard, and a smoky, meaty scent drifting over to them both. She hears the girls stomach growl. The little ones always die first, the girl says, then the older ones. I’m not the littlest one yet, so I’m in the middle.

The detective can almost recognize her as a missing kid from not too long ago, but with the malnourished face, dirty, knobby knees and protruding ribs of the slight body, the shadows of constellations of bruising, the pieces of her scalp missing, it’s difficult to get a positive I.D.

You won’t die, the detective says, you’ll live forever, and the detective cranes her neck as much as she can manage to see what’s happening behind her.

Baby Mikey is being lead up to an altar decorated in a folk piece acting out the Last Judgement. The eyes of Jesus are black beads that flash anytime the flames palpitate, with crayon-blue tears dolloped thickly down a pale paper face. The robes are a collage of greasy newspaper and old painted sheets, the arms are wooden, the fingers broken tree limbs. The angels encircling him from thrifted tree toppers. His halo is tinsel wrapped around rope, and Baby Mikey is naked and crying, trying to take a crudely painted, paper mache mask of a dog off of his face, but he’s struggling, he can’t do it.

Miranda’s mother is leading him toward the altar, nude except for mud and a swamp-crown, her pubic hair decorated with leaves. She’s shushing him, smiling, as the others chant in rows so that she can walk up to the fire and the flimsy image of Christ.

TO BE CONTINUED …

PART 11

Before she died

You’re trickin me, it’s a joke, right? Miranda asked, and she’d laughed briefly and sheepishly like a live stage actor pretending to comprehend a scene she’s never been in before. Her mascara and dark eyeliner had crumbled because of the showers outside and had given her light eyes a flaked and hollow look, making her seem lit from within like a jack-o-lantern when she grinned.

No, I ain’t kiddin’, you’re stayin’ here, they’re out there and they’ll get you, Gabe’s mother had told her, igniting another cigarette with the bitter end of the one she’d just finished. You can’t go home tonight, not through there, she’d added, And Gabe and all the boys is too drunk to drive you home.

I can’t stay here, Miranda had said pathetically in a voice with faint tremor, Mikey’s alone, I have to go back. He can’t be alone anymore! What if he wakes up and I’m not there? I timed it this way. He’ll feel so alone if he wakes up without me. He’ll cry. He’ll look for me and I won’t be there.

For an older, stouter woman, Gabe’s mother was as fast as a high school sprinter. She was never wont to shoving young girls she liked into bedrooms and locking the doors behind them, but she had to protect her. She’d pushed Miranda into the mouth of Gabe’s room, watched her get swallowed up into the dark throat of it, and heard her fall back onto the rickety dresser. She’d heard a few neglected bottles that had once lived there on top vaguely teeter, plummet, and bounce off of the thinly carpeted floor and thankfully not bust open. Then she’d heard Miranda rise up and go for the door before she locked it from the outside and started sticking a stained foldable chair underneath the knob just to make sure she couldn’t get out. Miranda was hysterical, begging, sobbing… and then everything went quiet on the other side of the door.

Trust me, Gabe’s mother said in the seam with a sigh of relief, you can’t leave. We’ll do the wedding ritual another time. Mikey will be fine. Please, just stay here. Wait till the suns up.

The sound of it was a wire in the blood; a noise that sent an electric, chemical signal to the leftover reptilian part of the mammal brain.  The howling was a call and the call sounded through the thick bodies of the trees; the sound reached in, and somewhere in the gut it dazzled, mesmerizing, wailing, tumbling through branches, digging up dirt, rustling the leaves.

Miranda? Gabe’s mother had asked.

But when she’d opened the door the window had been opened. And Miranda was gone.

 

to be continued … 

PART 10

DETECTIVE

The light left when daddy died. The world started to get a grain over it; dimmer and dimmer went her waking life, until the doctor said it was all in her mind. Migraine auras, they’d said, without the migraine part sometimes, blind in this eye one day, blind in the other tomorrow. Get some sleep. Get some help.

Sometimes she’d think she saw something out of the corner of her eye, a loitering figure, a hunched posture, or she’d catch the heavy scent of an unbearable perfume, the kind that festers in the throat, the kind you can taste.

Everything was too loud, everything had a strong smell that made her head hurt, and sometimes she never wanted to leave the dark loam of her room. With all the lights out, she could imagine what it would be like to die.

She understood what it meant now: light of my life. Ever since the accident, she was never the same. She can still see his gasping face from when he was dying in her slender arms, and the hot flashes of the bloodied grin and the trembling sound of the death-gurgling up from deep inside of him; they wake her up at night when she’s alone.

The detective carries herself as if this burden is nothing to her. She is tall and rigid as a classical statue, saving the opportunity to pretend to be lax only for when she’s questioning suspects, with her dusky skin blemished by nothing but worry. The mother was standing outside already as she approached the weathered, molded trailer, that like a wilting flower stooped lopsided as if somebody had kicked the back of its knees and it never fully stood back up again.

Can I help you? The mother asks, she can spot a cop a mile away.

Yes, I’m looking for Gabriel, is he home? I just need to ask him a few questions about the disappearance of Miranda Delano, the detective asks. Her hands in her pockets, relaxed as she advances in her weighty boots that crack the spines of fallen sticks from the scrawly angel oak. She ignores the amorphous shimmering that’s begun in her peripheral; it’s just a migraine, like the doctors said, hormones.

He doesn’t live here anymore, ran off last night, mother says, and she stubbornly crosses her arms in the universal posture of a shut door, clearing her throat with a rattling noise as she loosens sediment there, spitting into the dog-piss grass. She’s stout and tubby and bejeweled, her eyes lined dark with black eyeshadow.

It ain’t that boy! A voice exclaims, and from what she instantly measures it’s come from behind her. The detective turns around to face the limping approach of a feeble-looking, toothless white-haired man. His cane has the image of an open-mouthed wolf on it, and he continues.

It’s them satanists, he says, age making his tone tremulous.

Satanists? So you’re saying you saw what happened? The detective asks.

No, but I heard it. And I’m a good christian man and know a satanist when I seen one, he says, stopping in front of her and leaning on his cane. It sinks in faintly and he glares at her with one bulbous eye, the pores of his nose covered in blackheads. She can smell his sweat.

What did you hear? When?

I heard a buncha howling dogs the same night that girl went missing, and I heard her screamin’ too.

Is it possible you were asleep?

He laughs, no ma’am, he says, I never sleep. You should know. By the look of you, you ain’t ever sleepin either.

What makes you think satanist just by howling?

It’s the loup garou, he says, and behind her the mother clicks her tongue in irritation. They all satanists because they been cursed by god.

What’s a loup garou? The detective asks, where do they live?

A man or a woman who takes the form of a wolf when the moons right, ya’ll call it werewolf, I call it fairytale bullshit, mother says. Ain’t no truth to it.

And where are these fairytale creatures living?

Both of them pointed her into the right direction, told her to go about a mile in, and told her to never come back at night. She wouldn’t listen; she’d be back once the sun sank down, but for now she went to see what she could find in the day.

All there was deeper in: a deer bloated stiff, shredded apart, it’s intestines alive with ants, patches of its fur strewn across the woodland floor and far away behind a thick valley of oaks, a dog staring back at her.

to be continued … 

part 9

night

 

Everything was a different color than it should be when the world began to exist without Miranda. In the filthy mouth of his blighted room, which he had torn apart with rage, he was like a chewed piece of gum. He’d wadded himself in rancid blankets despite the heat to torment himself into comprehending what she had gone through; a pathetic fantasy of her last moments.

He’d gazed without blinking for so long at the water stains spreading in the sepia pits of his room from the leaking A/C, inexpertly self-installed, that he was convinced he’d seen the powdery green fingers of the spotty mildew unfurl in slow millimeters.

And then, all of a sudden he knew what had happened. The realization made the sweat covering his body freeze.

He’d flung his door open with a snarl and the wood whimpered. MOTHER, he’d bellowed, what’d you do to her?

Mother was making potato salad and chain-smoking, sending ashes into an old disney world tray, where Mickey mouse’s eyes had cateracted with age. She’d gasped and dropped the mixing spoon, mayonnaise on the blemished kitchen floor.

I didn’t do anything to her, she’d shouted back.

Then where’d she go? Why’d she end up dead?

It was them, she’d said with her head low, her voice grave.

Them? He’d asked.

Them.

The night was alive with howling outside. The moon full and white.

 

 

to be continued …

part 7

TRAILER PARK

 

We heard she had a wedding last night, the female detective drawled bluntly in her fine, dark suit, with her scrawny shoulder sloped against the dingy threshold of the skunky trailer. Her dusky skin glistened with a film of perspiration. The cockeyed trailers’ open-mouthed door couldn’t afford a breath of cool air from the small A/C unit it stowed in a cracked window. It only conferred a single hot breath with decomposing party streamers tied to its teeth, fluttering in a humid gale.

News to me, mother said with sun-baked forearms crossed tight like the beginning of a braid, a tarnished gold bracelet, eyes that haven’t slept in 20 years, withered, bleached blonde hair. She hated cops. Didn’t matter if she did anything wrong or not. Does it matter what she done or who she been with to find my girl? Or all ya’ll care about is gossip, she’d said, baby Mikey was asleep on the soiled plaid couch dreaming of brown rabbits eating carrots, grinning innocently.

Did she have a boyfriend? the detective asked.

Ain’t every girl gotta boyfriend these days, she scoffed, even if she don’t want one? Check the carnival.

For who?

Name’s Gabriel. Come back when you got somethin’, the door shambled shut.

 

to be continued …

PART 6

AFTERNOON

 

A gilded choir of wind chimes continually blaze here at the rear of the carnival, and the stomach warming scent of meat-smoke breathes out from underneath an old tight lipped outdoor cooker.

White-hot sunlight bawled through a cloudless sky, aiming itself down, elbowing through a jagged volley of shards made of broken mirrors. The fragments clung onto the sunlight greedily and dazzled any straying eye with a tiara of sparks that stuck behind the eyelids until blinking blotted them out. The broken pieces protrude up out of weedy soil as a superstitious decor, castled by a motley family of other strange ornaments meant to ward off bad spirits or amuse onlookers. The shut-eyed grin of a potbellied gnome crossing its arms sagely stationed with an array of varicolored plastic butterflies with goofy painted eyes wired onto sun-bleached spokes. A poised, rusty stone cat with no pupils sat quietly, uncannily.

They line the blueglass gemstone path to the moldy 1952 Royal Spartanette with its missile shape and toon windows, as if this sector of the show were a rotting aquarium exhibit, drained of its murky, amniotic waters.

He’d rubbed his nervous hands together sitting straight and leaning in. He was inside of the heavily incensed trailer trying not to sneeze on dragons blood and patchouli, and when he’d sparsely roved his calloused palms over his thighs to give his hands something else to do the roughness of his fingers made a catching sound on the fabric of his soiled jeans.

There were three tarot cards on the kitchen table, which was covered by a resurrected halloween material painted with character cats grinning with their fangs, flying on broomsticks in witch hats, sewn with silver tinkling bells that made a cacophony anytime one of them dared to move.

Who’s Lisa? The fortune teller asked, her eyes moony like those twitchy felines, twinkling in the palpitations of the red votives on the dirty sink.

Lisa? I don’t know any Lisa, he’d said.

Are you sure? Her eyes narrowed, shining like those broken mirrors outside.

Yeah, pretty sure, he’d confirmed with a wry laugh through his nose.

What about Elizabeth? It’s a variant of Lisa, she’d asked.

Uhh, from like third grade, he’d said. He was an easy mark.

That’s her. Did you like her? She asked, passing her hand over the trio of cards as if they spoke suddenly and must be shushed.

I guess so, he’d said.

When you find Lisa and marry her, come back, she’d said, I do henna tattoos for weddings, brings good luck to the bride. That’ll be sixty-five dollars.

She’d outstretched her weathered hand.

 

 

to be continued …