Happy All Hallow’s Eve, spooksters.
I’ve finished up “Desperate,” a short horror story, and am releasing it on Gumroad for Halloween! You can read the start of it here and, if you like it, hop on over to my Gumroad store to download the full thing for free/pay-what-you’d-like.
It’s got monsters, and fire, and edge. It’s got gore. It’s a little bit haunted. And that makes its characters a little bit desperate.
Actually, that’s the title.
They’d been a desperate threesome. Nikki had made it out first, kissing the world goodbye for the military (an escape to violence that would at least get her pride along with the bruises). Calvin had settled where he was, dropping into the familiar Midwestern monotony of a comfortable desk job with spreadsheets and quarterly reports and a girlfriend who’d fuck him enough that he could forget for thirty sweet minutes about the slipping mind of his ailing mother.
Em had been the first to leave but the last to make it out. If she were really honest with herself, she was still running.
She wondered if the other two were just lying to themselves too. She wondered if they’d really escaped the nights of writhing, trying desperately to claw their way out of their own body while dragging along a splitting mind behind them. Sweating into pillows, tears staining the sheets, howling to the dark from behind a dead smile. Always prepared to jump back into place. Waiting.
She hated spending nights alone. Screaming.
She wondered if they’d really managed to exorcise their demons or if they, like she, had merely managed to become better friends with the devil.
They’d all learned how to hide their scars, eventually. She’d just never learned how to stop making them.
She could imagine what Nikki looked like, underneath. Calvin she wasn’t so sure about. Numbness made it hard to get the truth. She was supposed it was better than his old pain, though. Cold and sharp. Howling.
Some days, she ached for his warmth.
It was very hard not to tell him that.
There was mold growing on the counter. Em frowned and tried to ignore it as she splashed the gasoline over her arm, careful to hold it steady above the sink. Old bloodstains soured their stench up at her. She sighed at the taste.
Em sat down on the leaves, moist and decaying on the kitchen floor. The house was old when she’d gotten there, and the cobwebs in the corner had only begged her all the more to stay. She loved it. Nikki would have, even more so. Calvin would probably hate it.
Em picked a match out of its box and struck it to life. She held it to her skin, setting her left arm aflame. Her dark eyes glittered in the light.
The heat roiled over her curling skin, seductive and swaying. The warmth slowly tingled up to her shoulder, then down to her bones. Em breathed out slowly. Shut her eyes. Whispered his name.
Her arm crackled softly in the silent night. Em hoped he wouldn’t be slow about showing up tonight. Gasoline only burned for so long, and she wasn’t going to set her arm on fire twice in one week for the fucker.
The leaves around her crunched lightly, then harder as a body shuffled its way closer. The visitor sat down, and there was silence again.
Save for one deep, tired sigh.
“Em, that’s gross. Cut it out.”
She grinned at the exasperation in it. Em opened her eyes, both of them turned to wells of pupiless black. She looked fondly at her burning arm, pink and blistering now. “It’s beautiful,” Em breathed.
Calvin made a face. “It’s gross.”
“It’s effective. You’re here, aren’t you?” Calvin was silent. Em shrugged. “But fine, have it your way.” There was a snuffing noise, and the flames disappeared, plunging them both into darkness. Em brushed a small clump of ash off her arm, now back to its normal flawless white.
Calvin ran one hand down its alabaster smoothness. Em shivered under the rough touch of his callouses.
“You okay?” Calvin murmured, his voice low.
Em only glared.
Calvin leaned back and sighed again. “Fine. Well, I’m here. What did you want?”
Em swallowed down the pain surging up her throat. She ran her fingers through the gossamer strands of her hair, absent-mindedly twisting and untwisting her curls.
“I… just… wanted to see you.”
Em tugged too hard at her hair and pulled a strand loose. “Ow.”
She held the strand up in front of her eyes and stared at it.
She tossed the strand. Looked up. Glanced at Calvin, now standing and ready to leave.
Just like she didn’t want him to.
“She’s getting restless.”
Calvin’s brow furrowed. “Who? Nikki?”
Calvin crouched down beside Em and pulled her into his arms. “What do you need?” he murmured, pressing his face into her hair.
Em hugged him closer. “You.”
Calvin let out a breath, long and slow. “You know I can’t do that. Shelley…”
“Fine, I won’t say her name. But you know the rules.”
Em dug the nails of her right hand into her left arm. Calvin flickered a little. Em snarled. “Since when do you care about rules?”
Calvin gently pulled her fingers off her arm. Solid again, he kissed her on the forehead and backed away. “You know when,” he whispered.
But Em could hear the sting still in his voice. She knew he was lying.
Even when he was gone, and not even his shadow was left to show he had been there, Em knew he didn’t really care.
Not enough. Not yet.
She could hear it in the dark spaces of his voice. The poison that still pooled in the corners.
Em dug her nails back into her arm and breathed in the smell of his memory.
He couldn’t lie to her.
Not when he was still hungry.
She needed Nikki. Badly.
Finding her was not going to be easy. Nikki had always been the hunter out of the three of them. Lithe and dangerous and predatory. Stealthy and graceful and very, very good at covering her tracks.
But when it came to Em, she’d always been a little bit obvious, too.
The moon was high that night, spilling milky sheen onto the wet floors of the old house through the holes in its roof.
Somewhere, a drip of black water fell from a windowsill. The clink of gravity rippled through Em’s ear, expanding into her consciousness. She shivered as the waves hit her.
Full moons had always made the night an ocean. At least this time she was choosing the drowning.
“Nikki,” Em thought, her voice small and helpless and floating. “Nikki, where are you?”
The world was silent as deep water. But one part of it was more silent than the others. Em smiled.
“Nikki!” she shrieked gleefully, stepping through the black space and into reality. A tall girl with short hair glared at her from beside a campfire.
“What are you doing here?” Nikki spat. She glanced around. “And what the fuck did you do with my platoon?”
Read the full text of “Desperate” on Gumroad for free/pay-what-you-want.