Monday, June 30, 2014

Welcome to Promo-topia!

    For the month of July, I am going to do something a little different. I am shining the spotlight on fellow authors in my Zombie/Horror Author's Group. Each of these authors has put their own, personalized, stamp on the horror genre. If you are already a fan of their work, you know exactly what I mean and, if not, you'll get to find out more about them and their writing.
    Because I couldn't bring myself to withhold my original stories for an entire month, there will be a very special short story slipped in amongst the promotions so keep your eyes open. Don't miss out on this unique summer event!

Friday, June 27, 2014

Mandy- Part 16 (The Conclusion)

    The icy fingers of fear crawled up my spine before constricting around my lungs. In true gossip form, the ladies gave me the latest scoop.
            “From what I hear, Mandy was supposed to go to dinner with his grandmother Sunday night. When he didn’t show up, his mom called him. She didn’t get an answer so she thought maybe he’d forgotten but she kept leaving messages and he didn’t call back. She called his cell phone and his number here and she still didn’t get an answer. Apparently, she got so worried she went to his house last night. His car was there and his TV was left on but he was nowhere to be found. She called the cops and they started an investigation.”
My stomach froze into a block of dread…cops interviewing the staff was bad news. I sat in my cubicle waiting for them to come get me but they never did. Cory and Sherry, as I learned on the ride home, spent a long time talking with the officers. While they were being questioned, a detective called them and said Mandy appeared to have left willingly. A bag and much of his clothing was gone so the interviews ended.
    Knowing I had dodged a bullet impressed upon me the need to end my foolishness and just get rid of Mandy. Playtime was officially over! Besides, I was ready to get back to a normal life again. The trick was figuring out how to kill Mandy and get rid of his body.
            “Hello?!? Anybody home?”
Startled, I looked up and we were sitting in Cory’s driveway. The car was off and both Cory and Sherry were standing outside looking at me.
            “Wow, you were a million miles away, there.”
I could feel a blush burning my cheeks but I knew they didn’t mind. Cory playfully punched my shoulder and Sherry placed a kiss on my scarlet cheek.
            “He’s so adorable when he blushes.”
Cory groaned and went inside. Sherry and I spent some time together before she went home for dinner. I knew I needed to get my butt in gear, quit goofing around, and just kill Mandy already.
    I stormed into the house, locked my doors, and went directly to the basement. Usually when I flung open the door, Mandy would pretend he was sleeping but the involuntary twitch his body made, proved he was aware that I’d entered. This time there was no reaction. I tapped him on the shoulder and he did not move. In no mood to play games, I took my knife and stabbed his arm. Still, there was no movement. It was then that I realized he wasn’t breathing. His chest didn’t move up and down in respiration. When I pulled his head back, Mandy’s eyes were open and didn’t even flinch when I touched his eyeball. I felt for a pulse but he was dead. Relief washed over me. In truth, I didn’t know if I could really look him in the eyes and kill him, face to face.   
    What I learned later was that Mandy had been a diabetic and I hadn’t given him any insulin. Between the stress, multiple infections, shock to his system, dehydration, lack of food and then a sudden influx of sugar, Ketoacidosis shut down his system for good. I just needed to dispose of the body and I would be home free.
    I stuffed Mandy in the trunk of my car and started to pull out of the garage when Sherry came running across the lawn.  I rolled down the window and, of course, she asked where I was going. Dumbfounded, I didn’t have an answer so I said I was going to hit a drive-thru for dinner. Big mistake! She forced me to come with her to her house and eat dinner there. By the time I ate, chatted with the family, and had dessert, it was late. I was too tired to do much of anything so I chucked Mandy back into the root cellar and decided to wait until the next night.
    At work, I sucked down coffee all afternoon so I’d be able to stay up long after Sherry had gone to bed. I plotted out the logistics and knew I had a solid plan for getting rid of the body. It was just a matter of waiting out the day. Just like any other day, I rode home with Cory and Sherry. Cory went home while Sherry and I walked hand-in-hand to my house. I can remember it like it was yesterday…. She was in mid-story about something Ruby-the-cat had done as we walked in through the front door. One second I was facing her, the next I was jacked up against the wall. Sherry’s screams echoed in my ear as a gruff voice snarled at me.
            “You’re under arrest for the murder of Darren Mann. You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say or do can be used against you in a court of law.”
Once the cuffs were snapped around my wrists, the cop spun me around. My mother was sitting in a chair sobbing as officers fluttered about bringing her a glass of water and tissues.
            “I-I-I c-came t-t-to visit m-m-my son and,” for effect, Mom paused to make sure all eyes were on her as she dabbed at the tears. “I decided to do some laundry and I smelled something awful down there. I’d assumed an animal had gotten trapped in the root cellar and died. When I opened the door….Oh, God! It wasn’t an animal. It was a man and he’d been mutilated.”
            “No, Mom, you’re wrong. He was an animal.”
Of all the dumb luck….My mom decided to visit. I hadn't heard from her in months but she just happened to pop in, out of the blue. No doubt she hoped to bum some money or try to steal more of Grandma’s silver. If she’d just waited one more day or if she’d bothered to call me to say she was coming none of this would have happened. It wasn’t until I heard Sherry whimper that I realized they’d cuffed her too. I cleared her immediately and, when the shock passed, they could tell she was truly innocent.
    In the days and months that followed, I’ve thought long and hard about what I’d done. I know I can never make any of you understand why I did what I did but I did it because I love my family. I did it to protect them because they’d been bullied their whole lives. I did it because Cory was the closest I’d ever come to having a brother and Sherry was, and is, the love of my life.
    I was just writing the words, “The End” when I heard the cell door clang open. The guards and the warden were standing there, waiting for me
            “You ready to go?”
            “Would it matter if I said no?”
The guards half-heartedly chucked but I guess they’d heard that line before. The shackles were clamped to my hands and feet. With one guard on each side of me, they linked their arm around mine as if we were “off to see the wizard”. I supposed that was so they could drag me in if I refused to walk. I didn’t though….not even when “The Chair” was in my line of sight. I listened as they read the decree while the guards at my side strapped me in and put the electrodes on me. Most of it sounded like Charlie Brown’s teacher, “Wah wah wah wha”, until the warden said:
            “Electricity shall be passed through your body until you are dead. Do you have any last words?”
I looked out at the people there to watch me fry. Cory and Sherry were permitted to come but Cory was not there. Sherry sat alone, sobbing. Mandy’s family was there. I remembered them from the trial. Mom didn’t bother. I’m sure she was busy hocking all of Grandma’s stuff.
            “Do you have any last words?”
            “Yes. The papers got it wrong. They usually do. This wasn’t a hate crime…at least not in the traditional sense of the word. I didn’t care that he was a cross-dresser or that his sexual preference was “anything goes”. Those things don’t matter to me. What people do in the privacy of their own bedroom is their business, not mine. No, my motive had nothing to do with his slinky dresses and wigs; it was all about the person under the mask. Sometimes, no matter how much makeup a person spackles onto their face, they can’t hide the ugliness inside…”

***Mandy made have concluded but there is something new brewing for July. Be sure to return on Monday, June 30th to get a sneak peek!***

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Mandy- Part 15

    As I waited upstairs for my stomach to settle, I considered that my recent folly was not going to be pleasant for me either since I would have to clean up the mess. Again, my clever brain saved me from disaster. I gathered the garden hose and carried it to the basement. Next to the washing machine, there was an old-fashioned basin sink with the type of spigot that had a fitting for a hose attachment. I cranked the cold water to full blast and hit Mandy with a high-pressure spray. The filth dribbled off him and flowed to the sump pump. I continued to hose him down until all of the nastiness was flushed away and pumped out.
    Mandy shivered, dripping wet and bloody. The scabs had opened again and blood flowed freely. Since I couldn’t risk all of his open wounds festering with vomit and fecal matter, I had no other choice but to douse him in alcohol and iodine. I knew that would put him out for the night and sure enough; Mandy fainted from the pain.
    The next morning, I woke early because I needed to tend to the animal in my basement. As a “reward” for eating his meal, I gave Mandy a bowl of cereal and some coffee for breakfast. I had slipped an ample dose of nighttime cold medicine and Benadryl into his coffee so that he would sleep while I was at work. I’d seen enough prison break movies to know that conscious prisoners are dangerous. He ate and drank with relish, thanking me for my kindness.
            “I see the error of my ways now. If you let me go, I’ll be different. I’m a changed man; I swear it!”
            “We’ll see.”
I knew it was cruel to give Mandy false hope. He would never leave my root cellar alive but cruelty was the name of the game.
    I caught Cory and Sherry as they were getting ready to leave and announced that I was sick of hiding my friendship. We were going back to our normal routine; we would carpool to work and share our breaks.
            “Let Mandy come after me. I can take it. Besides, I’d rather him pick on me than Sherry.”
Of course, I knew Mandy wouldn’t be there so it wouldn’t matter but I was also anxious to see how the rest of the office would feel about our missing friend. 
    It came as no surprise to me that the entire atmosphere was relaxed, even cheerful, at the office. It was Monday but it felt like a Friday. People were happy, pleasant, and kind to each other. Though no one would admit why, we all chipped in and ordered a department lunch. We ate together for the first time without fear of ridicule or harassment. Yes, I decided, removing Mandy was a great thing for the entire company. In fact, he was only mentioned in hushed whispers by the gossip gals.
            “I heard Mandy didn’t call out today. No call/no show. Two more days and they have just cause to fire him. God, I hope he doesn’t come back.”
It broke my heart that I couldn’t ease their troubled minds. I had to hang my head and wring my hand with the rest of them but the glimmer of hope that sparked through the office was enough to prove to me that I’d done the right thing. In fact, I was looking forward to putting the whole Mandy mess behind me and embracing the happiness that would follow once he was a distant memory.
    After work, I made sure to lock my doors before heading to the basement. Mandy was huddled in the corner sleeping. It seemed my little cocktail worked; in fact, it had worked so well that he didn’t wake when I entered or when I set up my little surprise. His eyes did snap open when the blade of my cleaver severed his thumb from his hand. I hoped my little kitchen torch would cauterize the skin and seal off the rampant blood geyser. While it didn’t exactly work the way it’s portrayed in movies and on television, there was a certain degree of searing to the skin that ebbed blood flow. I didn’t really want to stop it completely since it would speed up the inevitable. 
    I have to admit, there was a part of me that wished Mandy would just hurry up and die. In fact, now that the novelty had worn off, I was getting sick of trying to come up with new ways to mutilate Mandy and inflict pain. I wanted to take my relationship with Sherry to the next level but I wouldn’t be able to do that until Mandy was gone. Much to Mandy’s relief, the torture session was cut short so that I could spend more time with Sherry.
    In truth, I put a crazy mixture of medications into Mandy’s coffee the next morning in the hopes that he would just croak while I was at work. I noticed the same cheerful atmosphere in the office and it made me feel good.  I smiled at my co-workers and they smiled back; they waved and I waved in return.
            “So, looks like we’ve got another day of peace. I really hope Mandy never comes back.”
            “Shh, are you crazy? They’ll hear you.”  
I was baffled. Just yesterday, everyone was sharing the same sentiment; no one wanted Mandy to come back…ever. 
            “Didn’t they meet with you yet? The police are here and they’ve been interviewing everyone.”

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Mandy- Part 14

    I went upstairs and had a little snack while waiting for Mandy to regain consciousness. It occurred to me that perhaps he needed some food. He hadn’t eaten for a couple of days but I had no interest in feeding him well. I still had nearly a dozen cans of Grandma’s sardines in my cabinet. The master sushi-eater and foodie-extraordinaire was about chow down on one of the nastiest foods in history. I couldn’t wait.
    I snatched the smelling salts and nearly had to shove it up Mandy’s nostrils before he came around, thrashing his head and groaning.
            “Ugh, what is that hideous smell?”
            “You pissed yourself, loser.”
            “No, something smells like low tide on the Jersey shore.”
            “Ah, that’s your lunch.  Sardines.”
 Mandy’s face turned the color of old oatmeal and I thought he was going to vomit. He regained his faculties and flatly refused to eat the food I’d provided. When I was a child I was raised that you ate whatever food was placed before you and if not, it would sit there until you ate it. I was forced to eat peas for breakfast once because I’d refused to eat them at dinner. It doesn’t matter how many bowlfuls of Lucky Charms you eat after that…breakfast is ruined.
    I decided to embrace the same concept for my bratty houseguest. I left the opened can sitting out on the shelf, far from Mandy’s reach. He’d have to smell it every minute until he finally ate it. There would be nothing else. But since he had been so rude I decided to complete my experiment. Between the two, alcohol seemed to sting more initially but iodine offered a long lasting burn.
    While the stench inside the root cellar festered, I went about my business. I finally did a load of laundry and ironed my work clothes. Work, for the first time since I’d met Mandy I was actually looking forward to going to work. I knew my coworkers would feel the same way. Even those sycophantic suck-ups who cackled like hens whenever Mandy cut up on Cory or Sherry; I knew they secretly hated their ringleader. They only did it to keep themselves out of the crosshairs.  That only fueled my hatred and there was only one way to diffuse my rage.
            “Did you miss me, you miserable sack of shit?”
To stir up Mandy’s hunger, I carried my dinner plate down to the root cellar with me. Take out from one of his favorite restaurants and it was succulent. I set the tin of sardines away from me so I could only smell the heavenly aroma of my gourmet food.
            “No wonder you always order from these guys. Their food is so…”
I took a huge bite and ended my sentence with the nearly orgasmic sigh we are all prone to make when enraptured by truly exquisite food. Mandy was literally drooling as we watched me savor each morsel.
            “I’m guessing you were probably one of those spoiled little brats whose mommy made him a special meal if he didn’t like what was being served for dinner but in my house, you ate what was put in front of you. If you didn’t, it was there waiting for you for the next meal and the one after that…and so on. Understand that no matter how disgusting you think these sardines are now, they will only get worse as time passes. Got it?”
Mandy’s lower lip quivered as nodded acceptance. I slid the tin toward him and he accepted it. Already past the expiration date, the slimy little fishes weren’t faring well in the open air but Mandy picked one up, trying to remain dignified. The first bite made his body heave but he recovered. Overtaken by hunger, he no longer cared how vile the food tasted. It was sustenance. To a man who had never known true hunger, it consumed his every thought. In the past, “starving” meant he didn’t have a snack to eat on a break. He’d never gone more than a few hours without a meal, or at least something to nibble. The tragedy is that, even now, he didn’t really know what starving meant. He hadn’t even gone a full forty-eight hours without food and he was scarfing down rotted fish like it had been weeks since he’d eaten.
   I’m not sure if it was the dodgy fish or the realization that he was licking the tin clean with his tongue but Mandy’s stomach started to revolt. Without thinking things through, he ran to his toilet bucket and heaved. The violence of the projectile was such that Mandy’s face was covered with every sort of vile sludge imaginable. I had to leave before my food made a return appearance too. 

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Public Service Announcement:

As I've mentioned before, I am a contributing author for the Zombie Response Team's blog. The fine folks at ZRT care about the safety and education of their fellow man. Emergency Preparedness and education is important for all so I will share the links to my articles here. Not all of them are about prepping so be sure to check them out and, while you're there, check out all that the Zombie Response Team has to offer!

Monday, June 23, 2014

Mandy- Part 13

I noticed that the bottles of water that I’d left to keep Mandy hydrated remained untouched.
            “If you do not drink a bottle of water right now; I will be forced to resort to crueler measures. My aunt was the sickly type, always in the hospital. She said having IVs in the foot was incredibly painful.  I’ve never inserted an IV but I’d be happy to learn. I’m sure I could find a YouTube video or something.”
    Mandy picked up the bottle of vitamin water and drank- staring daggers at me as he did. It occurred to me that forcing him to keep himself alive to endure more torture was the cruelest of my tricks. Water dribbled out through the scabs at his cheeks, reminding me of a faulty sprinkler, a rusty one at that. I could see infection festering in the finger where I’d ripped off Mandy’s nail. I hadn’t had the chance to properly disinfect it since Sherry had arrived unexpectedly.  Knowing my endeavor to remove the infection would be excruciating; I implemented additional restraints of his arms and legs.
    My little first aid kit sat on the shelf far from my captive’s reach. I had no doubt he’d eagerly ingest everything inside on the off-chance it might end his pathetic existence. It was chock-full of all those dreaded, tried and true, first aid remedies of my grandmother’s generation. Iodine, yes, that would serve my purpose for the moment. I grabbed one of those firm bristle scrub brushes (typically used for manicures and pedicures) drenched it in iodine, and starting scrubbing away the pus and infected tissue. The stench was revolting and the blubbering from my patient was worse. 
    Try as I might, the scrubbing didn’t seem to remove all of the embedded infection so I sterilized an X-acto knife and cut away the damaged tissue. It was the closest I could come to a scalpel without drawing unwanted suspicion. It has a finer blade than a standard utility knife and, personally, I feel it has finer precision. It was then that a truly dark idea presented in my mind. Out of curiosity, I slipped the blade underneath the first few layers of skin beyond the nail bed of Mandy’s finger. Once there was enough of a flap to hold onto, I used the blade to keep peeling back the folds of skin.
    Amazingly, Mandy didn’t feel it at first. It wasn’t until the air really had a chance to hit the exposed skin that the stinging, burning, pain set a chain reaction through his nerve endings. 
“I wonder which stings worse, Iodine or Isopropyl Alcohol. Perhaps we should conduct a scientific experiment.”
Mandy’s eyes widened to roughly the size of a softball. He whimpered and begged but that meant nothing to me. I peeled the skin off his pinky-finger exactly the same way I’d done on his index finger. It wasn’t until I took the lids off both bottles that Mandy went into self-preservation mode. He thrashed violently, trying to break free from his restraints. His reaction amused me. I was pleased to see he still had a bit of fight left. I forced his hand down and poured Iodine over the pinky finger. Mandy’s bladder emptied all over himself before he lost consciousness. I’d have to wait until later for the second half of my experiment.