Our posting schedule is fluid these days, as we're both gearing up for our debuts! We will still post ... it will just be a surprise as to when ...

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Rachel Hawkins - Witches

The Ties That Bind 


Ruth Scott had killed lots of things- countless bugs, several chickens, and the autumn her father died, a pig. But she’d never killed a witch before, and Ruth had a feeling that was going to be more difficult than slaughtering a hog.

                  Ruth sits by the fire, but she is still shivering when Oma hands her the strange knife, its blade made from some kind of dark glass. “You aim for heart,” Oma says.  “Blade pierce witch’s heart, witch dies. Blade miss? You die. So you do not miss.”

                  “Why a knife?” Ruth asks, turning the weapon over in her hands, watching the firelight play in that strange, black glass.  “I’m a witch, too. I’ll fight her with my powers.”

                  Oma wrinkles her nose. “No, she is dark witch. You white witch. Magic not as strong, and then what happens? You end up like brother, big hole smashed in back of head.”  Ruth’s throat moves convulsively at that, but she does not cry, and she does not ask why Oma did not give this knife to David when she sent him to kill the witch. Oma wraps her fingers around Ruth’s, and they hold the hilt of the knife together between them. For a moment, Oma looks at Ruth with something like tenderness. “This weapon very special. Only women in my family can wield it, not men.”

                  “But we’re not family,” Ruth says, and Oma smiles.

      “Now that I give you knife, liebchen,” she whispers, “we are.”

                  The knife was strapped to Ruth’s thigh, accessible through the special pocket Oma had sewn into her dress. Ruth could feel it there, pulsing like a second heartbeat as she dipped a piece of biscuit into her greasy bowl of jackrabbit stew. She made herself chew, even though the food sat in her stomach like lead. And she made herself smile at the witch who had murdered her brother, even though magic and rage pounded inside her.

                  Kate Bender smiled back as she slid into the seat across from Ruth. If ever there had been a woman who looked like a dark witch, Ruth reflected, it was this one. Kate’s eyes were nearly as black and shiny as the blade Ruth planned on shoving through her heart. She wore her brown hair loose, and it flowed over her shoulders, brushing the rough wooden tabletop as she leaned forward and said, “How is it that you are traveling alone, Miss Scott?” There was the barest hint of an accent to her voice.  She was the only one of the Benders who spoke any English. The other three members of the family- an old, hulking man Kate called “Pa,”, a rotund woman, and a younger man with the same black eyes as Kate- had cleared out soon after Ruth arrived, but she’d heard them muttering to each other in German.

                  Ruth looked down and for the first time, noticed a dark, unpleasant stain under her chair. She pushed at a lump of stringy meet with her spoon, and said, “I was traveling with my brother to St. Paul. I got sick in Cherry Vale, and told him to go on without me. We were supposed to meet up near here.” Ruth had rehearsed this speech with Oma many times, right down to how she’d lower her eyes, how her voice would break on the words “without me.”

                  Kate made a tsk-ing sound, and covered one of Ruth’s hands with her own. Her skin was hot and soft, and it took everything Ruth had not to shudder at Kate’s touch. “Arme kleine,” she murmured.

                  Underneath the table, Ruth’s other hand strayed to her pocket, and she calculated how quickly she could lunge across the table. But it was too wide, the distance too far, the risk too great. Her fingers moved away from the knife. Hot, angry tears welled in her eyes, but Ruth made no effort to blink them back. Let the witch think they were from sorrow, not fury. “Thank you, Miss Bender,” she simpered, scrubbing at her cheeks with the back of her hand. “It’s just… he was the only family I had.”                 

That was the truth. The woman Ruth and David had called Oma was not their grandmother. She was no blood relation at all. Just a woman who had saved them after their mother died, a woman who had taught them what they were, had trained them how to use the powers Ruth and David had always seen as a curse.  A woman who had prepared both of them to fight the creature Ruth sat across from now.

Oma has been tracking the Benders for a very long time. Ruth never knows just how long, only that Oma followed them from the Old Country several years ago. They first hear reports of travelers missing in Kansas when Oma, Ruth, and David are living in St. Louis. In the beginning, Oma is not sure it’s the work of the things they’re searching. The prairie is a dangerous place, with killing heat in the summer, bitter cold in the winter. That people should vanish there is no surprise, she tells Ruth and David. But then she begins to hear tales of an inn, located at a rise in the Osage trail. Of an old man who speaks no English, but sits on the porch of this inn, watching the road. And of the girl, Kate Bender, who is dark and beautiful and can supposedly speak with the dead, heal wounds, cure sickness.

One night, Oma sits with Ruth and David at the kitchen table, a book with a cracked leather covering opened in front of them, and traces her fingers over horrible illustrations of beautiful woman with fire in her eyes, standing over the body of a man with his throat cut, his skull smashed. “She is old, this witch,” Oma tells them. “Far older than me, no matter how young and lovely she look. People with her not really family, but followers. Minions. She use blood magic. Powerful. Evil.” Oma looks at David. “When snow stops, you go to Kansas. You find this witch, and you kill her.”

                  Ruth hugs her brother for the last time on a cold morning in March. She will never forget the small patch of golden hair on his chin that he’d missed shaving, or the way he smells like hay and horses. He rides off toward death and Kate Bender with the sun glowing on his blond head.

                  “Family is important,” Kate said, her fingers still stroking Ruth’s hand. “I would do anything for mine.”

                  Ruth met Kate’s eyes, shifting so that the knife pressed closer to her leg. “So would I.”

                  Kate smiled and let Ruth’s hand drop to the table before standing up and going to the stove. “Is that why you’ve come, little witch?” Kate asked, her tone as light as though she were asking about the weather. “To avenge your brother’s murder?”

                  Surprise made Ruth hesitate for only a few seconds. But even that was too much time. She shoved her chair back from the table and shot to her feet, reaching for the knife. As soon as her fingers touched the hilt, it flared white hot, searing her skin.

                   “I could feel you coming,” she said. “All that magic. All that anger. And that blade, hidden under your dress.” She shook her head. “Pity your brother did not have it. Not that it would have saved him, of course, but it might’ve given him a fighting chance. As it was, he didn’t get off one spell before I slit his throat. Right there,” she said, nodding at the chair where Ruth had been sitting. Ruth’s gaze fell to the floor, and to the stain where her feet had been.  

                  “But then he could not have used it anyway,” Kate said with a little shrug. “That weapon, so full of dark magic, can only be used by one full of dark feelings, dark thoughts. That boy had no darkness in him.” Suddenly, Kate’s eyes- full of swirling flames, Ruth noticed- widened. “Oh, but of course!” she said, clasping her hands together. “That’s why she sent him first! To make you ready to use the blade.” Kate laughed, a beautiful but eerie sound, like a piano slightly out of tune.  “She is getting cleverer, I give her that.”

                  Ruth trembled as she inched closer to that horrible black mark by the table. She never took her eyes of Kate. “What do you mean?”

                  Kate almost looked sympathetic. “You are not a warrior in this battle, little witch. Merely another weapon.”

The day after their mother dies, Oma comes to Ruth and David’s house. They have never seen her before, but she tells them she has come to help them, that she has traveled very far to find them. That they are special and important, and she will teach them how to be even better.  Only once does Ruth lie in her bed and think how strange it is that their mother, who had been healthy and strong, should suddenly lay down and die with no warning, and what a coincidence that Oma had found them so soon afterwards.  A dark thought follows that one, but Ruth pushes it away.

The air in the room felt thick, and static electricity crackled through Ruth’s hair. Her powers settled over her, spreading from the top her head, through her fingers. Once again, she tried to reach for the knife, and once again, it singed her fingertips. Kate shook her head. “Even with your hatred, you are not strong enough to use it. It requires too much power.” The flames in her eyes swirled faster. “Now stop this. Come to me, and let me end all your pain.” Kate opened her arms wide, and for the first time, Ruth saw the long knife clutched in her hand. “Your blood will make me stronger, as your brother’s did, and I will kill the witch who took your family from you.”

Ruth fell to her hands and knees, and Kate made a pleased, crooning sound that was not remotely human. “Good girl,” she murmured, walking closer.

Spreading her fingers wide over the stain of David’s blood, Ruth closed her eyes and focused all her powers on that spot.

Blood magic was powerful, Oma had said. Evil.

But Ruth would take her chances.

Kate was right over her when Ruth shot to her feet, and grabbed the knife from her pocket. Her hands, tingling with power, didn’t burn this time. Kate only had a moment to look surprised before Ruth slammed the blade into her heart.

Ruth had expected her to go up in a puff of smoke, or maybe dissolve. Instead, Kate Bender’s body hit the wooden floor with a thump. Breathing hard, magic still coursing through her veins, darker and more powerful than anything she’d ever felt, Ruth stood over the witch. She could hear footsteps running toward the house, and she knew that the other members of the Bender “family” were coming for her.

She stood on the spot where her brother had died, holding the knife- the knife that Oma said marked her as family, the weapon Oma had primed with the David’s death- and waited.

The next morning, men will come looking for the Benders. They will find the house deserted, and furniture overturned, as though a great struggle has taken place. There will be strange scorch marks on the floor and walls. And then they will find the bodies of the missing travelers. Some in the cellar, some buried outside in the orchard. It is there they will find the most recent grave, and the body of a boy, his hair matted with blood. And sunk into the dirt over his final resting place, they will find a knife, made of black glass.

Rachel Hawkins is the author of HEX HALL and the upcoming DEMONGLASS. Read the background on this story (based on a TRUE story) at Rachel's blog: http://readingwritingrachel.blogspot.com/2010/10/i-made-something-with-my-brain.html

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Myra McEntire - Witches

Whatever happened to me was my brother's fault.

“I can’t do the job, Jake,” he’d said after way too many beers at Quincy’s Bar and Grille. They added the e on the end because they thought it was fancy. Like chicken wings and fried cheese could ever be fancy. “Stacey said she’d kick me clean to the Alabama state line if I didn’t take her to Homecoming, so you have to do it for me. The money’s good, real good. We both know you need it.”

It was the God’s honest truth. My piece of junk Taurus had crapped the bed halfway between Mount Juliet and Hohenwald. As far I as I knew it was still pushed off the side of the road into a bunch of briar bushes, the sexy primer paint job keeping it camouflaged. I couldn’t afford to pay for a new engine or the tow, or the ticket I’d get if I didn’t claim it before the highway patrol did.

“Okay.” I always gave into Joe. That’s the part of me being the younger brother that no one in my family ever talks about, my need to please him, like some kind of ugly ass mongrel puppy.

That was how I ended up at the Civic Auditorium, one hour before midnight, on All Hallow's Eve.

A girl sat on a stool by the backstage door. Her hair was as red as a ripe strawberry. On the bottom half. The top half was pitch black. I couldn’t stop staring at it, wondering how the line between the two colors stayed so straight and even. Maybe it was a wig. I took a step closer. She smelled like caramel apples.

“Can I help you, sugar?” She didn’t look up from the pile of tickets she was ripping from a big roll. Just kept dropping them into a bucket in her lap.

“I’m here for the job? My brother Joe was supposed to … but he had to … he had some stuff come up.”

Still ripping tickets, she raised her eyes, appraising my boots, jeans and flannel shirt, top to bottom. Or maybe she was appraising what was underneath. Her irises didn’t look human, more like that of a cat. I backed up a little. The caramel apple smell followed. “You twenty-one?”

I took another step back, putting a few feet between us. "Yes."

Lie. The whisper sounded inside my brain.

Her lips were the same color as her hair. The black part. “Are you sure?”


“I assume you have identification to prove that?” For her demented appearance she sure managed to sound businesslike.

“I didn’t bring my wallet … I didn’t drive. I got dropped off.” I’d talked my grandpa out of his Dodge Ram for the night, but I’d parked a block away because the engine made more noise than a woodchipper.

She stopped tearing the tickets and stood up from her stool, leaning over to put the bucket on the ground. I tried not to swallow my tongue. She was very … girl.

“Why are you lyin’ to me, Jake?”

I blinked. When I opened my eyes she was standing in front of me, all curves and red heat. “H - how did you get over here so fast?” I stuttered.

“Why are you lyin’ to save your sorry brother’s behind?”

I said the first thing that came to mind. “Low self-esteem?”

“That won’t be a problem after tonight, Jake.” The black lips, shiny instead of matte, parted in a smile. “Not after tonight.”

I tried to remember if I’d told her my name, but only for a second. Right there in the alley, she undid the first three buttons of my shirt and pressed her mouth against my bare skin, just above my heart.

Then she took me by the hand and led me through the backstage door.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Victoria Schwab - Witches

The wolf stood on the road that ran through the woods, and watched the slice of red between the trees.

The red thing was small and pretty as a flower before it’s plucked, petals all tucked close.

The wolf watched and wondered if he should eat it. A sound like a falling stone fell some ways behind him, and the wolf glanced back with yellow eyes narrowed, and teeth bared. But the path was empty. He turned back toward his dinner, and jumped. Eyes the color of dusk hovered inches from his snout, just above a very wide smile, and just below a very red hood.

“Hello,” she said. “Do you want to play a game?”

The wolf wrinkled his nose and his whiskered tickled her cheek. She laughed, and the sound was like sunshine and rain and something sweet. The sweetness made him dizzy. And before he could open his mouth to speak or to eat her, the red thing, which appeared to be a little girl, kissed the wolf on the muzzle.

“Run,” she whispered, and before the word was out, the wind lifted, rustling the canopies and making the forest light dance, and the girl was gone.

All that was left on the path was a small red flower. The wolf lifted it—the petals had the same sweet smell—and he smiled with a mouth full of very sharp teeth.

Silly girl, thought the wolf. He would run, of course, but not away. The wolf cast away the blossom and off he went, following the far-off laugh and the scent of sugar and rain and light.

The path ended at a house. Smoked drifted up from the chimney, and though the door was closed, the windows were all thrown open. The wolf climbed through, and knew that this house belonged to the little red thing. A small pot simmered on the stove, a basket sat on the table beside an ax. There in the corner was a small bed, and in the bed was a body, its back turned to the room. The blankets seemed to rise and fall with quiet breathing, the shape no bigger than a child. The wolf’s smile spread.

Silly, silly girl, he growled to himself even as he flexed, and lunged. The moment he hit the bed, the body sprang up, but he pinned it down and flashed his teeth into a wide smile. The smile twisted in confusion, and then panic. The body had no face. It was less a body than a tangle of sheets, and those sheets now snaked around the wolf. In the yard the wolf heard humming. By the time the little red thing came in, the sheets had pinned the wolf to the bed, good and tight. He muttered curses at the girl through a muzzle of linen and wool.

“Silly wolf,” she giggled. “I told you to run.” Then the girl slid back the hood, and the wolf’s eyes widened as he saw the crown of shadow that marked her for what she was.

“A witch,” he growled, writhing on the bed. The sheets only tightened, enchanted.

“All the better…” she said to herself. Her arm drifted up and the whole house seemed to heave the ax from the table into her hand.

“Let’s play again.”

Her dark eyes glistened and she flashed a smile, one that seemed to eat up her entire face.

And then she brought the axe down on the bed.

* * *

Did you know...

-That some of the original versions of the story now known as Little Red Riding Hood involved witchcraft? Specifically the grandmother as a witch. So in case you're thinking, "Gawwwd, Victoria, why would you twist this fairy tale to Witches week? How lazy are you?" I just want to say that it DOES have ties to witchcraft.
-That yes, I write books about witches, or A book about witches, and those witches are not at all like this witch, though both kinds of witches have fairy-tale-esque origins.
-That I LOVE fairy tales, and simply couldn't get through this series without playing with ONE.
-That I wrote this story between 12:13am and 12:41am. Just saying. Be gentle.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Carrie Harris - Zombies

ZOMBIE SOUP by Carrie Harris
On my seventeenth birthday, I prayed.

“God?” I looked up at an old tin ad for digestive biscuits. We were gathered in the old Cracker Barrel, since it was the only building inside the walls large enough for us all. Mostly we had farmland because we wanted to, you know, eat. “I know I’ve never too big on the whole prayer thing, but I get assigned to my job today, and I really want to be a hunter. If you could make that happen, I’d…be thankful, I guess. Amen.”

And that was it. I didn’t have much experience talking with God. Dad had stopped taking me to church after Mom died. Cancer. I was ten when it happened, and now I couldn’t quite remember what her voice sounded like. That was sad, but not the kind of sad that makes you cry all the time. More like an old wound that breaks open on occasion. Usually the most inconvenient ones.

I didn’t have a whole lot of time to sit around wailing, though. Ever since the virus hit three-and-a-half years ago, everyone’s had to work hard to survive and stay sane.

Dad took the podium. “Everyone take a seat,” he said, and they did. Our conclave was the most regimented, but we also hadn’t lost any residents to the infected so people didn’t complain. I sure didn’t. My dad was in charge, after all, and I knew how much he worried about the balance between free will and collective safety. He was an ulcer waiting to happen; too bad most of the pharmaceuticals were expired because he could have used a carton of Pepto.

“Welcome, everyone,” he said. “I know you’ve all worked hard today and are itching to go home and put your feet up, so I promise not to ramble on like I usually do.” Low chuckles from the crowd. 

“Today, we’re here to celebrate the seventeenth birthday of my daughter, Sadie. Happy birthday, honey.”

I couldn’t keep from smiling as everyone cheered and hooted, even though I was so nervous I might barf.

“As you know, seventeen is the age of graduation, and I’d like you all to join me in welcoming Sadie to her new profession. The Council has determined that we are in gravest need of assistance in the kitchens.”

My stomach fell. It wasn’t that I hated the kitchens. I just wanted a little…excitement, I guess. I was tired of being responsible Sadie, but I didn’t know how to be anything else.

Dad looked down at me, and his lips thinned with strain. He could tell I was disappointed, even though I didn’t even twitch. He just knew me too well. “Since Mrs. Windeman’s stroke last month, the kitchen staff has been highly overworked. I know they’ll welcome you with open arms, Sadie.”

A handful of cheers scattered around the room corroborated the point. I forced a smile as Liney Taylor, the kitchen supervisor, brought out a cake.


I got over the disappointment pretty quick, because there was no sense in dwelling on it. Besides, I told myself, the kitchen had its share of excitement. Protein was scarce; the virus had killed off most animals and didn’t preserve or animate them the way it did with people. I didn’t understand that. Neither did the scientists.

But one of them had determined that you could eat the infected as long as you cooked them long enough. And by “long enough,” I mean burnt them to a crisp. So the hunters captured the infected, and the kitchen staff butchered and cooked them. All meat preparation was centralized to avoid accidentally infecting somebody with a medium rare burger.

Actually, the more I learned about it, the more excited I got. Kitchen work was probably even more exciting than hunting. All the hunters got to do was taze and tag them. Once I finished my apprenticeship, I’d even get my own cleaver.

That was pretty exciting. I wasn’t sadistic; just that weapons were a huge commodity and being trusted with them was a big deal. Maybe someday I’d run a conclave just like my dad. That was one of my favorite dreams of all. And one day, I was in the kitchen daydreaming about my election day—my speech, what I’d wear, the look on Dad’s face—when Liney tapped me on the shoulder.

“Sadie, are you woolgathering again?” she asked.

I flushed. “I was just finishing up the soup.”

“The quality test done?”

We had to pull out three sections of meat and test them with a meat thermometer to make sure they were hot enough to kill off the virus. I looked down. I couldn’t remember doing it, but I had the thermometer in my hand, and it was dripping with broth.

“Of course,” I said.

I took the pot out to the line, where some of the younger teens waited to serve it up. Clay Bower looked at my cook’s whites and nearly fell over, he got so jealous. I didn’t much care for him because he tended to talk to my boobs instead of my face, but it still made me feel good.

Then I sat down next to my dad and waited for my food. It tasted pretty good once you got over what you were eating. And we’d run out of vitamins a while ago, so vegetarianism wasn’t an option if you wanted to stay healthy.

I tuned out the conversation. Dad was talking with some of the council members about infrastructure improvements. Not exactly stirring dinner conversation, but there weren’t any other teens my age in the conclave. When it was time for me to marry, they’d have to import somebody.

“Oh my god,” yelled Clay. “My soup just twitched!”

Immediate shrieks. If the meat wasn’t cooked enough, it reanimated. It was still infective. My father looked at me with wide, fearful eyes and spat a mouthful back into his bowl.

“It’s not my fault,” I gasped, but I wasn’t so sure. Something told me I wasn’t earning that cleaver after all.

I couldn’t think of anything else to do. I picked up my spoon and took the slurp of death.

Visit Carrie at her (super cool and amazing) website HERE. 

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Myra McEntire - Zombies


“I wasn’t interested when it was attached, you low class mother effer, and I’m sure as hell not interested in it now!”

I screamed the words at the bloody, gooey mass of undead frat boy who was holding what had once been his … business package … in front of the peephole of my dorm room.

Covering my face with my hands, I slammed my back against the door, hoping and praying the lock would hold. I’d learned over the past few hours that the undead may not be smart, but they sure are persistent.

I’d also learned that you could take the life out of the body, but frat boy tendencies lived forever.

“What’s the verdict?” I asked Sally. She was trying to fashion a rope out of three sets of extra long twin sheets and a couple of beach towels.

“We’d be better off if we dropped it all into a pile in the parking lot and used it to cushion our landing.”

There was a loud thud, and then a thick squelching sound as something slid down the outside of the door. I ground my teeth together and hoped nothing leaked through the threshold.

“I think they’re throwing whole people now.” Another thud, then a squelch. “Or at least whole torsos.”

Sally let out a laugh that was two octaves beyond sane. “In or out? What do we do, Mattie?”

I squeezed my eyes shut to think but I opened them just as fast, unable to process the images that flickered behind my lids. We’d been in the room for the past three hours. Since the sun had gone down. Since we stood around the bonfire at the pep rally and watched the flesh begin to peel back from the exposed faces of our sorority sisters. Watched their jaws go slack, their eyes glaze over. Watched them fall on Casey and take her apart, ripping her flesh and shoving it into their mouths through groans of ecstasy.

The fire saved us. I’d grabbed the end of one of the longest pieces of burning wood and Sally and I had swung our way to freedom.

Didn’t feel so free now.

“I’m so sorry I never went to see Zombieland with you.” Sally’s breath hitched. “If I had I might have had some clue about how we could take these a-holes down.”

“No,” I said through my fingers. "You just would have had a girl crush on Emma Stone that much earlier.”

“I would have known something. Anything.” Thud, squelch. “Anything is better than nothing!” I waited for the pitch of her voice to shatter the glass in the window.

“All you need to know is to run. And don’t let anyone chew on you.” I pushed myself to stand and looked out to the parking lot. No zombies in sight. Which meant they were all in the building.

We’d hoped the zombie apocalypse was only occurring in our little corner of the world. Maybe because of something in the campus water or the Saturday morning special order waffles they served in the cafeteria.

But the fact that we had no cell phone service or Internet connection wiped that hope out two hours ago.

“Stay or go, Mattie. Stay or go?”

The door creaked, the hinges buckling. No squelching sounds now, just thud after thud, forming a dent the size of a skull.


It took both of us to push the mattresses out the window. They were followed by every article of clothing we could grab, including the contents of my underwear drawer.

The door smashed open.

We jumped.

Sally hit the cushy pile dead center and clothing went everywhere. I bounced off a corner of the mattress onto an arm. A lone arm, with bright red fingernails. And still moving fingers.

“Gross, gross, gross!” I scrambled to my feet and pulled Sally to hers, then removed a pair of lime green thongs from inside her hood. “One thing. You’re a good friend, but if the zombies chase us I’m tripping you.

Now RUN.”

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Zombie Tuesday

Unfortunately, Victoria's life turned into a zombie this week and is currently chasing her and trying to eat her brains. Because she would like to keep said brains, she can't stop running long enough to write a story. 


I am working on my zombie story today, and we have a spectacular guest post from Carrie Harris for Thursday. But for entertainment (because we're ALL about the entertainment) we give you the following:

  • And finally, from one of the most genius movies I've ever seen, the trailer for SHAUN OF THE DEAD:


Thursday, October 14, 2010

Saundra Mitchell - Ghosts

REVENEZ by Saundra Mitchell

1. May 1, 2010

Alex Mallory's parents used to flip houses.

"For fun and profit," his dad would crow, while they packed another U-Haul truck, one of a string of hundreds. Theoretically, the fun lived on. In practice, the death of profit had put a pall over the whole family.

In fact, that's why they were stuck living not in, but near, Ondine, Louisiana. They couldn't sell the run-down French Creole maison, so they had to live in it. It was approximately freaking nowhere- an hour to New Orleans, but probably two or three on foot. And everything between was swamp and bullshit as far as Alex was concerned.

Spending his junior year in Louisiana hadn't been in Alex's plans. And definitely not spending it in a two hundred-year-old house that only had water downstairs, and air conditioning provided by the wind off the river.

He lay in bed, slick with sweat, watching shadows cross his ceiling. The trees stretched their fingers, dancing and curling in the wind. Lulled toward sleep, Alex turned toward the window, to better hear the wind chime. Its silvery song cooled the air; the pleasant chaos of its notes filled the dark.

It was just as it was too late to keep from falling asleep that Alex realized they didn't have a wind chime.

2. May 1, 1861

Someone had been sleeping in Ryder Walker's bed.

To be fair, Ryder himself should have been sleeping in it- his mother's cure for scarlet fever was absolute. Lying in, no open windows, no solid food- she seemed to believe that excitement of any kind would annoy the disease and only make it worse. She'd even taken the newspaper, as if news of the war between the states might somehow shock his system.

How could it? They had already packed their finest things- mother's china dolls, father's law books- and purchased train tickets back home to Maine. The Walkers knew very well the war was coming to Louisiana, and they wanted nothing to do with it. All that delayed them was Ryder's sudden illness.

The summer was a miserable one. The days were still and humid. The nights likewise. That's what was going to kill him, Ryder decided- sweating to death in silence. So he sat in the open window, trailing his fingers through the wind chime to make it sing. And when he heard his mother's footsteps approach, he hurried back to bed.

But someone else had been lying in it. A body's perfect shape marred the right side- taller than him. Broader than him. And when Ryder put his hand in the impression, he shivered. For it was the sole expanse in all of Louisiana that was, at the height of the day, cold to the touch.

The doorknob turned. Throwing himself into the impression, Ryder shivered- his teeth chattered. And when he drew a thin breath, he didn't draw it alone. With what, with whom, he shared it- he didn't know. But he was certain, as his mother pulled the covers to his chin that he was not alone.

3. May 1, 2010

Alex twisted in his sheets, the river's wind chilling his skin.  

Fitful sleep led to fitful dreams. At first, they were nothing but watercolor impressions- smears of color and motion. But Alex turned, and realized first he had hands, and a body- and then that he stood in the middle of his bedroom, which wasn't quite his bedroom anymore. That's when everything went a little odd.

If his father had seen the wallpaper, he would have called it Early French Whorehouse. Gone were the creamy blues and whites Alex had been forced to paint himself. Beneath the chair rail, scarlet and gold and green stripes. Above it- more scarlet, with gold bees scattered across the field. A heavy, four-poster bed filled the room- the wood stained dark, the mattress sitting up high.

And on the edge of it sat a boy his age, seventeen probably, put together at strange angles. Alex knew him, but didn't know him- and he shivered, because watched him with eyes the color of winter. Dark hair, crooked smile, the boy finally said, "I've been waiting for you."

Alex's lips parted, and he said something vague, that made sense in dreams, but not in waking. And then Alex kissed him, because he'd ached to since he walked in, not that he'd really walked in. His skin was feverish, his lips dry and rasping. Alex murmured against them, "I know, I'm sorry."

"I can forgive you this time," the boy said. He threaded his fingers in Alex's hair and sighed. "I always do."

4. May 1, 1861

Waking with a start, Ryder stared at a hand that curled in nothing, and touched lips that insisted by sensation that they had just been kissed. He only meant to sit up, but the fever caught on his skin and stole the strength from his knees. Instead of sitting up, he slid out of bed. The floor, even the floor, felt hot under his cheek.

Head unsettled and distant from his body, he managed to pick himself up. Any number of things made sense that shouldn't have. His sweetheart, the one he didn't have, had leaned over him in the dark. And now the wind called- whispers in the trees, through the chimes. It seemed very clear that it would be cooler by the river.

So Ryder let himself into the hall, which was still. So still, and lit only by the low gold moon. Down the stairs, he told himself. Out the door. Down the allé.

5. May 1, 2010

Staggering out of his room, Alex jumped when his mother screamed. She stood outside the bathroom door, illuminated by faintly blue vanity lights. They cast shadows under her eyes and hollowed her cheeks- she was a ghost in the hallway, and Alex leaned against the wall to catch his breath.

"What's the matter?" she asked. Unaware that she was a phantom, she strode over and plastered both of her hands on his face. Her touch burned away the impressions the boy had left on his skin, and he fought the urge to push her away.

New shadows dug into her brow. "You're burning up."

Alex slid past her. "It's about a million degrees in here, I wonder why."

"Take some aspirin and go back to bed," she said.

She didn't need to know, but Alex told her anyway, "I'm going for a walk." And then he hit the stairs hard, bare feet rumbling like thunder that wouldn't come- because she'd tell him to stay away from the river.

And that's exactly where he was going.

6. May 1, 1861

The oak trees whispered overhead, prayers or warnings, hard to tell which. The crushed shell walk glowed in the dark, one of the reasons Ryder's mother had chosen Beau Temps. The trees, they were romantic- the walk, it was mystical, the river, it was a dream.

But he thought it sounded like old bones, that walk. Ryder smeared his hair off his brow, shivering when the shell cut into his bare feet. He didn't like his mother's dreams at all- he wished for his own back. For the black-eyed boy who kissed him without hesitation; as if he knew them. As if it were destiny.

The wind swept off the river, running fingers into his collar and teasing up the hem of his nightshirt. Ryder hurried, or he thought he did, because there was a silhouette there, broad shoulders outlined by in silver. The gentle waves of the river shone through him, throwing moonlight back at the stars.

7. May 1, 2010

Alex turned, just as the haze in the air turned opaque. The boy was a black and white picture, painted on glass. Alex could see the house not just behind him, but through him. But he was the right one- he knew him, and he didn't; they fit together perfectly in a fevered dream. In lives they'd lived before, and likely would again.

"Took you long enough," Alex said, and held out his hand.

Ryder took it, and kissed it, offering yet another crooked smile. "You're always so impatient."

8. May

People in Ondine talked about it, of course. How that Yankee boy down the road walked into the river and disappeared. Nobody thought much of the family- a bunch of opportunists who got stuck living on the old gold coast- but they sent condolences and cassoulets all the same.

And after church, just among themselves, they agreed that Beau Temps had a taste for firstborn, northern-born sons. That house, they declared, was southern, through and through.

First, the Walker boy during the Civil War, now this Mallory boy- both of them up and disappearing into the Mississippi at night. If the Yankees knew better- but when did they ever?

Selma down at the paper managed to dig up pictures of both of them, and ran them with the story. Wasn't it funny, she mused, the way they seemed to lean to each other, like they could get out of their photos and somehow meet in the middle?


Saundra Mitchell has been a phone psychic, a car salesperson, a denture-deliverer and a layout waxer. She's dodged trains, endured basic training, and hitchhiked from Montana to California. She teaches herself languages, raises children, and makes paper for fun. She's also a screenwriter for Fresh Films and the author of Shadowed Summer, The Vespertine and The Springsweet. She always picks truth; dares are too easy.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Myra McEntire - Ghosts


The fire-blackened bricks and flapping sheets of plastic make most folks hurry past.

Shattered glass lines the boundaries of the remaining foundation. No curious feet dare tread here. Fresh blood could be spilled. That would be a mistake, they think.

But spilled blood isn’t what the ground wants. It isn’t what I want.

The birds know. They peck at seeds from sunflowers that grow back, even the though the earth is ruined. The gentle bobbing heads and yellow petals are at odds with the truth of how the house came not to be.

There was a girl. There was a boy. There was a lie.

There always is.

“Good evening.”

The voice comes from the path, the one I planted with thyme between the stones.

“I brought teacakes. Lemon, your favorite. I’ll just set them here.” He clears his throat, his most marked anxious habit. I picture his hat in his hand, crumpled as always. “I won’t be coming back.”

The air stills and the birds stop pecking. I can hear him breathing.

The birds know the ground wants restoration, to be turned over, dug up, replenished. Remove rotten earth and return new life. Spilled blood is hopeless. Living blood flows through veins, carries oxygen to lungs, leaves rosy lips by way of laughter and whispered secrets.

But somehow, secrets always lead to lies, so the ground remains ruined.

“I can’t stay in this town any longer, with all the questions. The guilt. We’re leaving. I just wanted to say … you made the choice to end things the way you did. I never lied to you – I never lied.”

He didn’t lie. But she did.

“The house. They’re tearing the rest down, tomorrow. Maybe when it’s gone you can find peace. Goodbye, Charlotte.”

My rage ripples across the tangled grass and weeds, and back, bringing the smells of lemon and thyme.

The scents of burning flesh and smoke choke them out when I strike the match in my mind.


Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Victoria Schwab - Ghosts


Emma dug her nails into her arm, the pain enough to bring her back to the room and the whirling fan and the low music seeping from the clock radio. But moments later her head bobbed again. She gripped hard enough to carve red crescents in her skin.

“Stay awake,” she whispered, turning the music up. But soon enough she started to slip, slowly, slowly, into the solid dark of sleep.

It started again.

“He’s on the steps,” said a small boy, blond hair curling into his eyes. In the distance, a door opened and closed.

“Stop,” said Emma, still sitting on the bed. But it wasn’t her bed now. The yellow pattern of the Batman comforter spread out beneath her legs.

The boy stood in the doorway. He looked back over his shoulder into the hall.

“He’s in the house.”

“Not again,” Emma whispered. She pressed her hands against her ears, waiting to wake up. But it didn’t matter. She heard the boy close the bedroom door just the same. It didn’t lock. It had been her biggest complaint about the house.

She looked up and found him standing on his toes, ear pressed to the door.

“He’s on the stairs,” the boy whispered. Emma thought she could hear footsteps, but it could have been the Batman clock on the side table, tapping, tapping.

“He won’t hurt you,” she said. Her voice was shaking. The little boy turned to look at her.

“He already has.”

The color began to bleed out of him. His eyes were sliding from blue to gray, his skin sallowed, began to hang heavily on his bones.

“He’s in the hall,” the boy whispered, stepping away from the door until he reached the bed. He climbed onto it beside Emma and sat, hugging his knees. His lips grayed. The skin around his neck began to bruise.

The doorknob turned.

Emma sat up, heart thudding in her chest.

The fan whirled and the radio played while the clock blinked: 1:20. She took a deep breath. Her bed was her bed, the blue striped comforter. Her clock was her clock, digital so it didn’t tick or tock or tap.

Emma frowned. Why then, did she hear the soft, insistent sound of tapping? A stair creaked. She reached for the volume on the radio, just as the doorknob turned.

Monday, October 11, 2010

First Winner!

Hi lovelies,

As promised, we'll be giving away books to random followers.

The winner of a SIGNED copy of INFINITE DAYS is...

Sara McClung!

Congratulations, Sara! Please email either Myra or myself (emails found on our bio pages) with your mailing address!

Rock on.


Thursday, October 7, 2010

Rebecca Maizel - Vampires

A very warm welcome our first guest poster, Rebecca Maizel, author of INFINITE DAYS. Visit her at her website here: http://www.rebeccamaizel.com/

He’s wearing a team jersey. I’ve been watching him for a while now - this party
smells like beer and cheap perfume. My friends are all lips and legs with their boyfriends in
the corner. He wears a varsity jacket of the rival high school. The jacket’s busted - ripped
fabric, but he’s smirking and I think he likes it that way. The jacket, I mean.

He puts down his red cup.

He’s coming toward me.

“You’re the best looking thing here,” he says. He’s got a strange accent, he’s not from

“You go to Union?” I ask, nodding to the jacket. His shoulders are wider than Elliott’s,
my last boyfriend, the one guy whose not at this party. The one guy who’s six feet under, the
one who rammed his truck into a telephone pole seven months ago.

“I go a lot of places,” he says looking me in the eyes, not moving his stare. It kind of
freaks me out, who stares like that? But something in me tells me this is exactly what I need.
I need to forget about Elliott, forget about that night, forget about the scars on my hands
from where I braced the dash.

“Where did you get those?” he asks, grasping my wrist with his long fingers. He has
dirt under his nails.

“What? My scars?” I ask. They’re still red, in years they’ll be white, my parents have
mentioned plastic surgery.

He brings my wrist to his mouth and runs his tongue along the scars, I shiver, and
take a step back.

“You taste good,” he says.

Broken glass. Elliott’s nose broken in six places. Gasping for air, last breaths.

“Thanks,” I smile hesitantly and look into this boy’s eyes, which are grey like storm
clouds, like granite.

“Let’s go for a walk,” he says and laces my fingers between his.

We’re walking toward the front door, past my best friend Annie. Her mouth is
attached to her boyfriend Jake’s. Jake was there that night Elliott slammed into the
telephone pole. He was behind us, tailing us, egging Elliott to drive faster. Now Jake has a
tattoo on his shoulder that reads:

Elliott Long, RIP.

All I want to do is forget about that night, forget I exist, take myself out of the ebb
and flow that has ripped my boyfriend out of this world.

The boy in the varsity jacket gives my hand a small squeeze and leads me outside. He
shuts the door behind me with an unneeded slam. When I look up, his eyes dagger into

“I’ll make you forget about that accident,” he says, with a strong grip on my fingers.

He might break them.

Maybe he should. Maybe I deserve it. After all, I was supposed to be the designated

Then it hits me.

“I-I didn’t mention an accident.”

“I know,” he says with a smile and I gasp, unable to help it because this boy... has fangs.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Myra McEntire - Vampires


Ninety years of dust, dirt, cobwebs, and memories just as fragile. Ninety years of muffled footsteps and falling tears and keening. Ninety years of not feeling. The ache of loss has left me, flown away like a raven to the abyss.

The ground will reside under my feet again, rather than above my head. After ninety years, the time has come to walk.


Three days to dig my way free.

Three days to find they no longer fear me.

They seek me out.

Follow me into dark corners, chase me down alleyways, and race me up dim stairwells. Solely to beg for eternity.

Once the hunter, now the prey.

I never thought I’d long for the ground.


Two days pass. Out of necessity, I feed.

I miss the taste of the fear in the blood. I will not create another beast, nor will I enslave a blood heir. I leave half-empty bodies, veins flowing freely, the unanswered question a gurgling whisper from their mangled throats.

“Please, please make me like you?”

My denials bring me satisfaction, and though not as crisp as the terror, they nurture me in a way that fearless blood cannot.


Four more days. Finally, I find fear.

The woman is young, her skin porcelain. I choose her because I see the light blue veins in her neck. Her pulse jumps when she realizes I have taken her arm, that I am steering her into the unlit entryway of an abandoned building.

I rip away the first two buttons of her blouse. I expose my fangs, and her pulse slows. She pushes me away. Because I am still weak from the grave, and hungry, I stumble.

Her fear dissipates. The absence of what I’ve craved, now crave more than blood, angers me. I growl in fury.

She laughs.


One hour.

All it takes to bury her body.

Still alive.

With every drop of her own blood still flowing through her veins.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Victoria Schwab - Vampires


When you die, the life you lost becomes a drug. You think if you can only have a taste – a brief glance – you’ll be satisfied, you’ll stop craving it. Maybe you’ll even be able to let them go. It’s a lie. It’s all a lie.

Dying was nothing. Losing them was everything.

I’d been keeping tabs. Asher warned me four, maybe five times, to step away, to leave it alone. But I was a Watcher. I’d given up my life to protect the town of Arden. Surely this was part of my duty, to watch over my family. That’s what I told my self that night, when the city man followed my sister into the dark.

I sat on a rooftop, invisible against the moonless sky. A small shadow against a much larger one. Church bells started ringing, and the wind caught them up in this way that made me feel like I was still alive, still there inside the small stone building, kneeling between my little sister and my father. The doors groaned open and the townsmen poured out, and I strained forward on my ledge.

I’d been good.

I hadn’t gone home – couldn’t have handled going home, so I stole my glances on church nights, when my family bled in with the masses. That’s how I justified it. I wasn’t just watching my father, or Emma. I was watching all of Arden. I was doing my job.

What’s funny now, in a sick way, is that I’d seen the city man before mass. I’d smelled him, all strong liquor and smoke.

And I’d resisted.

Now the crowds petered out, and my father broke away for a moment to speak to a friend, leaving Emma to go ahead home.

I wouldn’t have followed her, but I saw the city man and I swear that even from the roof I could smell the bad on him now, and took the same path as Emma even though that road led out of town and toward our home. I slipped across the rooftops, watching as he made two long steps to each of her one. Silly Emma always staring at stars instead of watching the ground, instead of listening for the sounds of extra feet. I pulled my hood down lower and sped up.

Never let the living see the lost.

A rule drilled in again and again by the Watchers but when the city man reached her, when he found the clasp of my sister’s dress, I forgot. I forgot everything. I dropped from the roof to the alley, ripping the city man away from Emma like a rag doll from a child.

The wind was up and swallowing the sounds. The sound of her surprise, the sound of his stumbling backward, of his cursing, of my teeth sinking into his throat. The only sound I heard was the pulse. Not mine, but his. Slowing. Slowing. And I pretended, for just a moment, that it was my heartbeat. Calming, falling, stopping. The city man fell to path but I didn’t hear the sound of that either.

Until I heard my name. “Connor?”

I turned, and found her eyes -- so blue I used to tease her that it came from always looking up -- and for one moment, I was home.

And then I smiled, and Emma screamed.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Coming in October on "These Dark Things" ...

In October, we'll be posting short stories on...

1. Things that bite.
2. Things that haunt.
3. Things that shamble.
4. Things that curse.
5. Things that go bump.

As a bonus, several amazing authors - Rebecca Maizel, Saundra Mitchell, Carrie Harris, Rachel Hawkins and Bree Despain - will be guest posting. We'll also be giving away books to followers, and some will be signed by the authors!

Week One is all about VAMPIRES. Enjoy ...