Netflix and CHILLS, Part 3

 

 

For this third installment in the Netflix and CHILLS series, I explore one of my favorite kinds of horror films – the anthology!

HOLIDAYS is comprised of eight short horror films, with each tale themed around – you guessed it – a particular holiday. The short films themselves range from the humorous to straight up twisted, and the result is an uneven film overall.

The fact that HOLIDAYS is uneven is not unusual for an anthology film, and hardly disqualifies it as a good viewing experience. Most anthologies, whether in film or in print, are oftentimes uneven, with consumers picking and choosing favorite stories depending on their personal tastes.

For me, HOLIDAYS had its weak moments, but overall I found it to a fun little movie. The stories are short enough that, even if you don’t care for one, it’s over and on to the next before you decide to bail. And chances are, you’ll find the next story worthy of watching, leaving you curious to see what happens in the tale that follows.

My favorites include “Valentine’s Day,” about a bullied girl with a deadly crush on her gym teacher. “Easter,” a bizarre story that, despite it not-great makeup effects, puts an enjoyable, twisted spin on the holiday’s traditions. “Father’s Day” is a well-directed short film that would’ve made an effective cold open for an X-Files episode. “Christmas,” starring Robot Chicken creator and Family Guy alum Seth Greene, is a very “Black Mirror”-ish tale of a desperate father trying to score the hottest gamer tech of the season at the last minute on Christmas Eve. Finally, “New Year’s” is a fun, splatter-filled romp about the creepy perils of online dating.

HOLIDAYS is a horror holiday you won’t want to skip. Pop some corn and grab your favorite beverage. You’ll have to endure a few “relatives,” but you’ll be drunk enough not to care.

When searching Netflix, look for this film by title instead of genre. For some reason, it isn’t listed under “horror movies.”

Thanks for reading, Deadies!

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Netflix and CHILLS, Part Two

 

In this continuing series, I scroll through the horror menu on Netflix and post reviews on the gory goodies that catch my eye!

In today’s installment, I give you the low-down on the recently added… A CHRISTMAS HORROR STORY.

Christmas comes early for horror fans with this fun little anthology film!

Comprised of four interconnected tales set in the small town of Bailey Downs one Christmas Eve, A Christmas Horror Story has all the goodies horror fans crave: zombies, demons, ghosts, killers… and Krampus!

The film, both in tone and style, feels so much like 2009’s anthology gem Trick ‘R Treat, that I was certain the same creative minds were at work on A Christmas Horror Story. This is not the case, but the trio of directors and handful of writers of ACHS do a superb job of delivering their four colorfully-wrapped presents – all tied with shiny, blood-red ribbons.

The film opens at The North Pole, with Santa getting ready for his big night. Something is awry however, as one elf suddenly goes off on a bizarre, expletive-filled rant that culminates in a grisly accident leading to the little one’s death – but not for long. Soon Santa finds himself battling a horde of zombie elves… and something darker.

Another story concerns strange murders at the local high school, with a trio of ghost-hunting students investigating after hours. Let’s just say those meddling kids discover something other than a villainous adult wearing a scary mask.

In another tale, a family trespasses onto private property for an afternoon of Christmas tree hunting and wind up with much more than they bargained for.

A dysfunctional family of four pay a surprise visit to rich old Aunt Edda in the hope of scoring some bail-out money to leverage the poor business decisions of her nephew. Instead of getting money, the exceedingly naughty behavior of mom, dad, and the bratty kids lead to a grisly encounter with Krampus in the woods later that night.

The threads of the four tales are loosely connected to William Shatner, who turns in a hilarious cameo performance as Dangerous Dan, a local DJ with an affinity for egg-nog – and ranting, Glenn Beck-style monologues.

ACHS packs an intoxicating mix of horror and humor into its stocking. In that respect, it very much reminded me of Creepshow. The fact that it doesn’t take itself too seriously is exactly what makes this film work. Sure, the stories are mostly colorful icing, but the sugar cookies underneath ain’t half bad.

Kick back, dunk those cookies in the boozy egg-nog of your choosing and enjoy this riot of a Christmas party! You’ll be glad you did.

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays, Deadies!

Netflix and CHILLS, Part One

 

 

DARK SKIES

Season’s Greetings, Deadies!

In this series of blog posts, I review and discuss horror films currently streaming on Netflix.

First up is DARK SKIES, a sci-fi horror thriller from Blumhouse Studios and starring Keri Russell, with a cameo from J.K. Simmons, which I mention because his performance is the best part of the film.

DARK SKIES follows the story of the Barrett family, who lead a typical middle-class suburban existence on the outskirts of a nameless American city. Lacy Barrett (Keri Russell) is a fledgling real-estate agent trying to hold her marriage together while unemployed bread-winner Daniel struggles to find work while failing as a good stay-at-home dad to his sons – the rebellious 13 year-old Jesse and younger (6-ish) Brandon, a troubled, socially-awkward boy who is suffering from nightmares about The Sandman, a menacing evil presence that is eventually revealed to be something more.

DARK SKIES struggles to be two films: a dark mash-up of Poltergeist and Close Encounters of the Third Kind. There are tributes to both films, more so on the Close Encounters side, but sadly, DARK SKIES offers nothing you haven’t seen before – and better.

The set-up goes on far too long, and most of the film winds up feeling more like one of the lesser, tepid episodes of The X-Files. One scene demonstrating that The Sandman can take possession of his victims has Keri Russell’s Lacy bashing her forehead against a sliding glass door during a real-estate showing in a scene that was supposed to be terrifying but had me LOL-ing instead.

Only in the last thirty minutes does the film take a turn for the better, thanks largely to the performance of veteran character actor J.K. Simmons, who plays Edwin Pollard, a former victim of The Sandman who explains the true identity of this supernatural menace, as well as his otherworldly intent. Even with this formulaic, lackluster script, Simmons elevates the film and allows DARK SKIES to have a respectable conclusion.

DARK SKIES would’ve worked better as a short film – say thirty minutes, max. It just might have kept the viewer off balance enough to be enjoyable, as well as better conveying the nifty nostalgia. At over double that length, it’s a flying saucer that crashed to Earth with very little of interest to be discovered in the wreckage.

Thanks for reading!

 

Before Jurassic Park: The Works of Michael Crichton

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I’ve been watching Westworld, the TV series on HBO, and I’ve been loving it. My wife came in at episode three and couldn’t take her eyes off the screen. Looking back, original 1973 film was pretty damned good, especially with Yul Brynner as the unstoppable Man in Black, sort of Terminator 1.0. When I heard they were making a series about it, I was a bit doubtful since people were messing with a classic. Screwing around with classics rarely bodes well for the material.

westworld2 You can catch the full movie on YouTube.

https://youtu.be/DTGsKtCnkIk

However, after watching the first episode, I was hooked. The original film was only 88 minutes long, so we never get into the deep science edge like we do with the new TV series. Don’t worry, I won’t be giving away any spoilers here, since it’s more fun when you see it for yourself. Rather I’m interested in talking about the man who was a major force in science fiction films and novels. I mean the guy who wrote good stuff before Jurassic Park.

strain Here is the trailer for the film:

When I was still in school, The Andromeda Strain novel came out. Subsequently it was made into a film directed by the great Robert Wise in 1971. I read the novel before seeing the movie, and was unfortunately disappointed by the changes in the ending. In the film, one of the heroes is getting shot at by lasers, while in the book, well, it was curare darts used to kill and make sure no animals escaped a secure level of the facility. I kind of preferred the darts, though I understood why the changes in the film were deemed needed. It’s still good, though the film sort of suffers since it haven’t aged terribly well. However, I still recommend it.

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If you look at Crichton’s novels and films, you’ll see that he craved to tell stories that were on the edge of technology, showing how scientific advances may affect our lives. His works include Terminal Man, the screenplay for Coma, a neat little TV movie about a possible nerve gas attack on a city called Pursuit (if you can find it), and the terrific Great Train Robbery.

He also wrote a couple less well-known films that I liked that also rode the cusp of technology. 1981’s Looker was about computer-generated models.

1984’s Runaway was about police who must deal with robots programmed to kill. Both are okay, albeit age-worn, science fiction films.

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If you can, check out these films and, better yet, Crichton’s novels. Once Jurassic Park was released, that’s when Crichton seemed to hit his stride with a whole lot of interesting and controversial ideas. Perhaps in a future post I’ll delve a bit further into Crichton’s later work.

Meanwhile, let me know which of Crichton’s works you liked the most, and which didn’t work for you.

Read and watch everything you can, Deadies! Immerse yourself in the good, bad, and awful. And above all, keep your sense of humor.

Film Review: It Follows

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I’m a little late to the show (yes, again! I know that this one is from 2014!) with a film review, but here is one worth mentioning. It Follows is a creepy, disturbing tale about teen sex and its consequences.

The plot goes like this: An evil entity attaches itself to someone after they had sex with the previous person they had attached itself to. The entity follows that person until they are touched by the entity and they die, all sexed up by the entity. And therein lies the big logical weakness of the plot. How the hell did this process start? If the entity hunts down and kills someone, then why hasn’t the evil thing finished its business by finally getting to the person it originally attached to? Even considering that once the last person you had sex with is followed and killed, it turns its attention back to you. I mean, how the hell did this thing start, and how the hell is it not finished? Then again, looking beyond this little hitch helped me enjoy the film. For the most part, horror is not based upon logic.

Okay, hmm, that part is out of the way. Let’s get down to the director and actors. The direction by David Robert Mitchell is crisp and compelling. He doesn’t use a lot of jump scares, which is good, and he concentrates mainly upon the theme of death by sex. He’s got a good eye for disturbing images, slow building suspense, and creepy scenery, all while maintaining a firm grasp of his actors and their actions. He is a director that you will be hearing much more about in the future, given the promise shown in this film.

The actors are all fairly unknown, but all good. Maika Monroe plays her role as Jay with the sense of fear and trepidation needed, given that anytime she has sex, she is sentencing them to a horrible death. Keir Gilchrist plays Paul, the sad sack love interest, who has a kind of pathetic pining for Jay. The entire cast commits to the material, even though it all feels pretty thin.

Now let’s get back to what the film really seems to be about: sex. Jay has a weird sexual encounter with someone she half-heartedly dated, and he warns her afterward that an entity will follow her until it touches her and kills her. So after this she begins having sex to protect herself from the entity, putting off the inevitable. Hold on, this is not a titillating ride for the sex-crazed.

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Even the initial sexual encounter seems joyless and unfulfilling. It seems as though she has sex with the first guy out of obligation, like it was expected since they had a date. The sex was as unsexy as you could ever imagine. In fact, all of the sex in the film is tainted with the same nagging lack of enthusiasm and sense of foreboding. I know, I realize that when she is performing a sex act, she is literally fucking killing them. Even a biological response of pleasure would have been a welcome addition, but then again, maybe that is the point.

These characters are all school age, but you don’t get to see the parents much at all. By design, I know, because those authority figures would mess up the framework of the film and add a dimension that would be difficult to explain.

So ultimately the film is wrapped in the guise of an evil entity out to kill you, it also hints about fear of diseases, sexual repression, guilt, shame, and societal expectations, all wrapped up in a neat and tidy, and extremely uncomfortable, horror story.

So Deadies, if you haven’t seen this one yet, give it a try if only to see how the director and actors pull together to put out a decent little film about the horrors of sex. 7 out of 10 headstones.

I got to see it through Netflix. Yeah, it’s a couple years old. So shoot me. I’m working on catching up on my movies.

Banquet of Souls, 12th Course, Dessert, “Who’s a Good Boy?”

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What follows is an excerpt from the twelfth story from my new anthology, Banquet of Souls.

Who’s a Good Boy?

 

A gunshot shattered the quiet. Sharon jerked her head toward the sound, almost dropping the two large food bags she was carrying to the dog pens. Three more shots fired off in quick succession. A hunter trying to hit the broadside of a barn, she thought. I just hope it’s not MY barn.

Another single gunshot rang out, louder than the others.

“That was too close,” she muttered. Two boarding dogs were yapping loudly, a beagle and a cocker spaniel, agitated by the sudden noise. They were her only boarders now that the summer season was winding down; they would be gone in a couple days.

Autumn would soon be upon her, with only her jewelry sales to get her through until spring. She had worked every evening during the hot summer months fashioning the homemade silver pieces, and she would have to travel every weekend to the different shows throughout the northeast to make her profit. Long hours. At certain shows, she could strike it big and sell most of her pieces. Other events were simply a waste of time. It was always a crapshoot.

Another gunshot, this time even closer. Sharon hurried to the barn for cover, just in case the person holding the gun ended up stupidly firing in the direction of her farm. She unbarred the big door and ducked inside. The pens were through the door on the left. Both dogs swung their heads to look at her when she joined them, dropping the bags of dog food. She kept these two in the pens closest to the door for convenience sake. The chain link pens had simple flip-up latches. She closed the door behind her and went to the first pen.

“Hiya, Roscoe! You hungry today?” The beagle grinned at her happily, yapping quickly and bouncing into the air. Sharon poured some food into the metal bowl and grabbed the water hose. Once she filled the water dish, she repeated the process with Binks, the cocker spaniel. Binks was not so active or joyful, moving slowly and silently to her dish to eat. She clearly missed her people.

Sharon spent a few minutes playing tug with Roscoe, and sat down beside Binks, stroking her fur and talking to her low and sweetly, assuring her that her people would be back tomorrow.

When both dogs seemed to settle down, she shut the pen doors. Roscoe had fallen silent, looking at her with soulful eyes. Binks had already curled up on her blanket and lay her head on her haunches. From the barn doorway, she spotted someone crossing the dirt driveway.

“You seen a dog run by here?” the man called out. He wore camo head to toe, right down to his camo cap and camo-colored boots. He held some sort of rifle.

Sharon shook her head. “Nope. You realize you’re on my property, don’t you?”

The man ignored her question, scanning the yard carefully. His dark eyes darted around. Absently, he scratched his chin with his shoulder. Sharon heard his beard brush against the stiff fabric.

“I said, you realize you’re on my property, right?”

“You the chick that sells jewelry, eh? I heard about you in town.”

Sharon ground her teeth. “Yes. I’m the chick who sells jewelry. And I would appreciate it if you’d get off my property and take that fucking gun with you. You are trespassing.”

The man glared at Sharon. “You got some mouth on you.”

“I also got a phone. To call the Sheriff if need be. Now leave.”

The man ignored her. “I was tracking a coyote or something. Killed a goat and a couple of my sheep. Over the hill at my place. I saw the fucker slink into the woods. I grabbed my gun and followed. Think I winged ‘em.”

Sharon stared steadily at the man. Finally, he lowered his rifle, pointing it to the ground.

“Look,” she said, approaching the man slowly. “I appreciate that something was killing your animals, but I’ve seen nothing, and you’ve been trespassing and shooting up my land. Please leave.”

The man tucked the rifle under his arm and stuck out his hand. “Ben. Withers.”

Sharon felt her face clench tight from reining in her anger. The last thing she needed was to get into a shouting match with a local redneck. Reluctantly, she took his hand, shook it once, let it drop.

“And you are…” he started.

“Sharon. Foti.”

“Shit, you don’t look Eye-talian. You look Swedish or something.”

“Weirdly enough I took my husband’s name when I married him.”

“Ah. I guess that explains it. Is your husband…” he looked around.

“Dead.” Sharon said it with a finality that she hoped would end the conversation.

“Oh. Sorry.”

“Listen, I’ve got chores to do, so I’ve got to get at them.”

“Okay, okay. I’m going. But like I said, I think I wounded the coyote. Just be careful when you are outside for a while. Pain can make an animal dangerous. Carry a handgun if you have one.”

“I don’t. Please leave.”

“All right. Have a nice day,” he said with more than a touch of sarcasm in his voice. The man turned and crossed back across the yard and went into the woods, scanning the trees all the way. He finally disappeared into the shadows.

As she watched Withers leave, she relaxed and exhaled. This was the reason she lived this far outside of Rock Creek. She hated to mingle with assholes.

***

12 courses of fear and horror! Banquet of Souls is available now at Amazon Books https://goo.gl/Cs427c

Kindle Unlimited…FREE

Kindle edition $2.99

Paperback $10.00

Banquet of Souls, 11th Course, “Dead Run”

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What follows is an excerpt from the eleventh story from my new anthology, Banquet of Souls.

Dead Run

 

“Get in.”

The voice was familiar, but John couldn’t place it, nor did he recognize the car. He stepped closer. The face behind the wheel was shadowed in the darkness. A hard rain had begun hitting both the sidewalk and his back, chilling his skin though his wet shirt.

“No, that’s okay. I’m parked right up here.”

“I know. I said get in.”

That’s when John saw the gun. Snub-nose .38, pointing directly at his face. Then he looked up and recognized the holder of the gun.

“Hello, asshole,” the gun-holder said. Lisa’s ex-husband, Carl.

John wanted to bolt, but doubted he could move fast enough to dodge a bullet, even a bullet from the small-ish .38.

“What are you doing, Carl?” He asked, trying to keep his voice strong and steady, but not really feeling either.

“Get the fuck in the car, John. Now.”

“When did you get out?”

“Two days ago. Took me that long to track down where you and the bitch live. You gonna get in or do I have to shoot you in the kneecaps and drag your ass in?”

John looked around, quickly trying to assess the situation. A tropical depression was swirling up the coast, on the verge of dumping an ocean of rain and the streets were nearly deserted. He would not have been out, either, if he hadn’t worked late. A lone Toyota passed them, creating waves like the parting of the Red Sea. No one else was around.

What the hell? Weren’t the authorities supposed to notify you when an attacker was finally getting out of prison? Carl Bell. Ex-coworker. Full time lunatic.

Lisa divorced Carl when, after they first got married and all was fine, his personality changed. He started out by screaming at her for every little infraction. Then he began the slapping when something annoyed him. Then came the punches. And the vicious rapes. The final straw came when she dialed 911 just before he began beating her with an ax handle, pinning her down by sitting on her. The cops busted down the door and took him away. Her arms were broken and she had serious internal injuries, so much so that she spent four days in intensive care. The moment she left the hospital, she went to a divorce lawyer. She never went back to her home, and the last time she had seen Carl was at his trial. He was convicted of first degree assault and sentenced to fifteen years.

John flipped up the door handle and got in. The car smelled like stale cigarettes and old burger wrappers. A woman’s handbag lay on its side at John’s feet, its contents spilled out on the floor. Compact, feminine napkin, a stick pen for cleaning spots off clothes, a nearly empty pack of Salem cigarettes. A wallet lay open and in disarray, several credit cards out and loose on the dirty floor mat. It did not look good. John arranged his feet around the mess, then pulled the door closed.

“What do you want? Weren’t you instructed by the parole board never to come near us again?”

“Of course they told me that! And I promised on a stack of Bibles I wouldn’t. But here I am, huh?”

“Where did you get the car?”

“A female acquaintance loaned it to me.”

“Where is this female acquaintance?”

“Close by.”

John’s brain whirled in fear. “Where?”

Carl barked out a short laugh. “Close.”

“The trunk?”

“Bingo!”

“She alive or dead?”

Carl’s smile slid from his lips. He pulled the hammer back. “Let’s just say I had my fun and she doesn’t have much to say about it anymore. Now shut the fuck up while I tell you what’s going to happen next.”

***

 

12 courses of fear and horror! Banquet of Souls is available now at Amazon Books https://goo.gl/Cs427c

Kindle Unlimited…FREE

Kindle edition $2.99

Paperback $10.00

Banquet of Souls, 10th Course, Palate Cleanser, “What Actually Happened on August 14, 2003”

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What follows is an excerpt from the tenth story from my new anthology, Banquet of Souls.

What Actually Happened on August 14, 2003

 

“I need to confess something.”

Officer Greg looked at the slight, middle-aged man who had stepped up to the barred window. He wore a faded plaid shirt, jeans, and an International Tractor baseball cap.

“OK,” the officer sighed. “Confess to what?”

“It happened a long time ago, sir. Back in 2003.”

“Okay, give me a clue, will ya? Confess something.”

“I was the cause of the great blackout.”

The police officer closed his eyes slowly, wishing he was anywhere but standing at the window. Every once in a while a nut would come in. Today was, apparently, one of those days.

“The world forgives you. Go home.”

“No, no. This thing has been eating me up for years. It’s getting so I can’t sleep. I’ve got no appetite. It’s really weighing on me more and more. Please, listen to me.”

The officer stared plaintively at the distressed man. He finally let out a sigh of resignation.

“You packing a gun? Any weapons on you?”

“No. I said I was coming in to confess. I wouldn’t bring a gun into a police station. I’m not stupid.”

That remains to be seen, the officer thought.

“Okay, empty your pockets, step through the metal detector.” He motioned for Officer Jane to take his place at the window.

Officer Greg looked over the few items passing through on the belt. Nothing but the usual things—keyring, nail clipper, a couple of wadded up store receipts. He instructed the man to gather his belongings on the other side.

“Buzz us in, Jane.”

“Not your day, eh Greg?” She pressed the button and shot her colleague a smirk.

Officer Greg replied with an irritated grunt.

“Have a seat, sir. I’ll get the paperwork started.” He switched on the notebook computer atop the scratched gray metal desk. He pulled a small voice recorder from the drawer and pushed a pen and yellow steno pad at the man. “Print your name and address and any phone numbers you have.”

The man scratched his personal information down, his hand shaking a bit.

“Am I going to jail?” The man slid the pad back to the officer.

“Not until I hear your story…” The officer read the name scrawled on the pad. “Mr. Colby.”

Colby shifted uncomfortably in his seat, then began:

***

12 courses of fear and horror! Banquet of Souls is available now at Amazon Books https://goo.gl/Cs427c

Kindle Unlimited…FREE

Kindle edition $2.99

Paperback $10.00

Banquet of Souls, 9th Course, “The Glass in the Window”

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What follows is an excerpt from the ninth story from my new anthology, Banquet of Souls.

The Glass in the Window

 

Sleep, as usual, escaped me. It was long after midnight, and the latest biography of C. N. Hastings did nothing to cure my insomnia. Impatiently, I rifled through the pages searching for some small fact or incident from the notorious man’s life that I did not already know, finding nothing but standard phrasing and trite commentary.

I stopped to rub my eyes. The light was far too bright, so I switched the three-way bulb off, then back on to a lower wattage.

Hastings, an early 20th century man of science, lured into the occult and ultimately plunging into madness, was dead long before I was born. Discovering his history at the young age of fourteen, I became fascinated and absorbed every tidbit of information I could find about his life and his journey into darkness.

Charles Nash Hastings was born and raised in Albany, New York, a sullen, inquisitive child who found refuge in the sciences. As a theoretical physicist, he worked hard researching quantum physics, the building blocks of the universe and, eventually, the possibilities of inter-dimensional travel. He toiled obsessively on calculations for years then, for reasons still unclear, he became disillusioned with his work. He took a one-year leave from his Assistant Professor position at the University to travel.

In 1918, he met Aleister Crowley. Crowley was widely considered the most unholy man in the world because of his writings and practice of magick; spells and incantations and magical studies. That’s magick, the wicked dark arts, not pull-a-rabbit-out-of-a-hat magic. Crowley was on a retreat of sorts along the Hudson River in the Catskills. It was known that Hastings spent several days speaking with Crowley, but there was no record—none that I could find at least—of what they spoke about. However, after the visit, Hastings immediately changed the focus of his work. What he saw, or thought he saw, had shaken his scientific mind to its core.

Hastings began exploring the possible existence of multiple dimensions, just beyond our own dimension, of length, width, depth, and time. He sought to open our dimensional reality to others, creating a doorway of sorts. He left the University to study the perception of personal reality, and whether personal reality was common within all humanity. His Theory of Personal Reality speculates that the only way for personal realities to become common was through the interplay of multiple dimensions.

I have no real idea what any of that means. Unfortunately, I do not have the brilliant mind of a theoretical physicist, nor any substantial knowledge in quantum mechanics. I am simply an undergraduate studying English Literature. While I have had some success in academia, I remain vastly ignorant of the majority of the science that is the foundation of our universe.

All I knew was that I was alone in my studio apartment, sitting at my desk, reading with increasing impatience; alone with my thoughts and blocking out anything except the occasional blast of frigid January wind rattling the windows.

***

 

12 courses of fear and horror! Banquet of Souls is available now at Amazon Books https://goo.gl/Cs427c

Kindle Unlimited…FREE

Kindle edition $2.99

Paperback $10.00

Banquet of Souls, 8th Course, “The Crumbs of My Soul”

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What follows is an excerpt from the eighth story from my new anthology, Banquet of Souls.

 

The Crumbs of My Soul

 

You need to understand that she stole chunks of me. Bit by bit, visit by visit. And now here she was again, in my room. She was on me. Riding me. Grinding hard. Groaning with pleasure until I surrendered. Then she left.

As she always did.

She first came to me about six months ago. She moved into the apartment across the hall. I was getting home from my job at the store, and saw her door was open. Boxes, both open and closed, strewn about the room, each written with marker with the appropriate room destination. I could see a blonde woman was in the kitchen, putting dishes into the cupboard. Her back was to me.

As she reached up with a stack of plates, I could see her long, lanky form, her midriff bared as the pastel green tee-shirt rode up. I decided to not say anything. I found my keys and busied myself with unlocking my door.

The jangling of metal must have alerted her. As I pushed the key into the lock I heard her voice.

“You must be my neighbor!”

I turned. There she was, her slim form poured into tight jeans. She wiped her dusty hands on her thighs and held out an open hand. I took it, shook it. Her grip was tight and strong.

“Hi. I’m glad that Mr. Foster finally found someone to rent to.”

“I’m Ava.”

“Mark. Bennington.” I said.

“Mr. Foster is such an old sweetheart, isn’t he?” Her smile sparkled.

I nodded. “Yeah, well, welcome to the building,” I said, attempting to retreat into my apartment.

“Mark,” she interrupted. “Could I get you to do something for me? The movers really weren’t very particular where they put my sofa and chair. Could you find a moment to help me move them?”

“Uh, sure.”

The apartment was bright from the lack of curtains on the windows. The place had the bittersweet smell of disinfectant and fresh paint. She led me to the upholstered chair.

“This should go over there, next to the lamp.”

I grabbed one arm, she grabbed the other, and we lifted. I walked backwards, taking care to not trip over any boxes or debris. We set it down, then she shunted it into position in the corner. The sofa wasn’t as heavy as it looked, and before long we had it placed flat against the wall.

“There! Thanks.”

“No problem.”

“Interest you in a beer or a glass of wine?”

“No thank you. I don’t drink.”

“Water? Soda?”

“No thank you, I’m fine.”

“Lived here long?”

“About three years.”

“What do you do?”

“Oh, I’m an assistant manager down at Frankie’s Discount.”

“You must work a lot.”

“Yeah.”

She sat on the couch and made a motion for me to sit. I felt a little weird, but acquiesced.

“I just started working at the Chesbrough bank.”

“Oh?”

“Yeah. I’m a loan consultant.”

“Oh.”

“I don’t know anyone in the area. I suppose I’ll make new friends, but right now…” she trailed off.

“Well, I’ve got to be going,” I said, standing.

“You don’t have to leave.” She still sat, looking up at me with her face level with my belt buckle. A small smile touched the corners of her mouth.

I felt an unaccustomed wave of lust wash through me. I instantly wanted her. I had never had been with anyone before.

“I-I should leave.”

“Please stay.”

“Uh, I…”

That’s when she touched me.

***

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