The Girl on the Glider is the first book I’ve read by Keene, and I am so glad it was. After reading this book, I honestly feel connected to Keene. That may sound creepy however the reader is literally looking into Keene’s diary and into his life.
The Girl on the Glider is a 99 page short and written in diary form with chapter titles named “Entry 1, Entry 2, etc.” So what’s the story about? Keene is a horror writer and this story is about his very personal, and very real experience about being haunted by a girl who died in a car accident at the top of his driveway in Pennsylvania. This actually happened.
Keene also name drops actual people within the horror community who are his friends, business partners, and confidants. He explains who each of these people are by using footnotes, opening up opportunities for the reader to discover other horror writers and publishing houses. I really appreciated this.
Keene describes the strange events that followed the death of this girl and how it affected his family: his wife, his baby, his dog and cat. He writes about it in the moment and moved on to publish it as a short book. It falls in line with classic accounts of haunting experiences that you might hear from a friend, a coworker, or a family member. Naturally, the reader learns about his writing process and his life as a writer. It’s so raw.
Was it scary? Yes. It wasn’t the type of fear you experience from reading about demons or vampires. It’s that fear we have all felt when we are purely alone, maybe alone in the dark, and you just feel something around you and you know something is there that you can’t quite see. The real fear that exists in real life.
Keene’s writing is authentic, sincere, and genuine, so much so that I teared up at the end. I teared up because although it’s creepy, the death of this girl at the top of his driveway forces Keene to turn inward and he discovers some truths about himself and his life. But it’s not just a discovery for him. It’s a discovery for the reader, one that keeps you thinking about your own life too. It’s an emotionally deep storytelling about someone haunting his house and haunting him.
This book is not merely entertainment. Imagine finding a writer’s diary, opening it up, and reading an entry called The Girl on the Glider.
(Oh yeah, and I found a signed copy at a bookstore near my house.)
Here are some of my favorite quotes from The Girl on the Glider:
The only part of my body I couldn’t write without is my brain, and apparently, my brain has decided to declare war on me.
They make fun of Whitley Strieber for saying he was abducted by gray aliens possessed with a disturbing fascination for his bunghole.
My name is Brian Keene and I am either losing my mind or I am being haunted. Or both.
Writing books like that - pouring your personal shit into a novel or short story - that’s like confession and an exorcism and six months of therapy all rolled into one.
“Chugga chugga, choo choo, spin around. Every letter has a sound.”
You might just be an echo of time.
...it was over before it had ever even really started.
Check out Brian Keene’s website.
Check out Keene’s podcast: The Horror Show with Brian Keene.
Check out my last book review: The Deal Maker by Lou Yardley.
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Would you ever make a deal with a demon? What if that demon could give you anything, help you to find out anything, and provide you with the answers you wanted to know, needed to know, would you then?
In Lou Yardley’s book, The Deal Maker, the premise is just that, all while achieving a balance between the dark and malformed workings of a demon and many opportunities for comedic dialogue. More and more I am digging horror comedy, especially when done right.
Let’s talk about structure of this story. I found the pacing to be just right and Yardley knows how to always keep the reader wanting more. Each chapter ending is truly only a beginning to what the hell is going to happen next.
This is no ordinary demon. I loved Yardley’s idea of creating a demon whose main purpose is to make deals with humans which revolve around the demon taking their body parts. He is described as being ugly and deformed because he mixes and matches different body parts from different humans - a hodgepodge of human parts if you will. Yardley is not afraid to dive deep into details about how he takes the body parts. It's gnarly, and that is awesome.
Let’s talk characters. The character development was good, however, there were a few times that I was confused as a reader on character backgrounds, current roles, etc. Now, as a writer myself, I would want other writers and readers to provide constructive feedback. This could’ve been worked through a little more. As a reader, getting confused can definitely be a distraction to the overall beauty of a story. I am not saying it’s easy because I know it isn’t.
Overall, The Deal Maker was a good read. Yardley had my own imagination working through the scenes as if it was happening right in front of me. My favorite scene in this book is the spider scene. It’s visual nature was so sickening, but in a good way. Do you want to know the details? Then check out the book!
Here are some of my favorite quotes from The Deal Maker:
He had no time to shit himself, he needed to search the house.
Making way for decay and the kind of sweetness and rot that can only come with dead things that should have been buried long ago.
Call me Jack. I’m a Jack of all trades, made of bits of all people.
The words tasted good on his tongue.
He needed to smell her panic and taste her horror. At the moment she was far too calm. Far too accepting. He needed to do something about that.
Now, ‘normal’ was hanging out with a demon who wanted bits of your body in return for small favours.
Hope was a cruel mistress.
Pain danced through his bones, twisting his muscles and squeezing on his internal organs.
Check out Lou Yardley’s website.
Here's my other horror book reviews:
Tribesmen by Adam Cesare
Spicy Constellation & Other Recipes by Chad Lutzke
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I had to go watch Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark in the theater. Why? Because I grew up reading the Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark book series, books of short horror fiction for kids, read by kids, and written to terrorize kids. They did just that.
Those of you who got your hands on these when you were young know exactly the type of grotesque and sickening narratives that played out. The creatures in these stories just stayed in your brain on repeat while you lay in bed at night head deep under the bed covers trying to hold on to any sound of mommy and daddy’s voice out in the living room for comfort.
Well, I diverge. Let’s get into the review.
I loved it! Was it a film epic? No. I went to watch it because it was nostalgic for me. Those infamous illustrations in the books came to life in the movie and they came to life well (and took lives well too.)
The scenes had the touch of classic horror which I really love: the haunted house, fog rolling over the corn field, scarecrows, voices, ghosts, just the whole shabang. The creatures, originally rooted in folklore and urban legend in the book, kept their historical roots and came through as just that, urban legends that we all heard around a campfire that scared the shit out of us as kids.
I am about to make some comparisons but let me be clear, these comparisons only apply to certain areas of the movie. When I watched this, it gave me the same feeling as when I watch Goosebumps, Are You Afraid of the Dark, and Stranger Things. The quality of filming surpassed that of Goosebumps and Are You Afraid of the Dark, but not Stranger Things. In this film, the protagonists are a group of teenage kids fighting against some dark supernatural shit and was set in 1968. The dynamic between the group of friends is very much like Stranger Things and when Coming of Age and Horror converge, it's gold. There were plenty of comedic moments. Just enough to get you comfortable to then punch you in the gut with a good jump scare. There are tons of jump scares in this and I am a big fan of jump scares (because they make me jump.)
Although the books were a collection of short stories, the movie is not separated into different unrelated stories. The movie showcases some of the famous stories from the books but weaves them into one film by using the characters. Each character becomes a catalyst for the a particular story. There's also a great backstory to tie it all together, but I don't want to give that away.
On a scale from 1 to 10, I give it a 7. If you grew up reading these, I say go watch it in the theaters. You won't be disappointed. And if you are, well, then you're just a cinema snob :)
My two favorite quotes from the movie:
I got the goods so let's banana split.
Stories hurt. Stories heal.
Check out the official Scary Stories website.
Here’s one of the most famous covers.
Some photos from the movie:
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I was a light sleeper. I always had been. My anxiety made it worse. The story goes, every night, I would try to lie down for some sleep, battling my insomniac brain. When you suffer from insomnia it just means you were born to live in darkness. You were born to roam the desolate streets when everyone else is asleep. It’s great in theory but not so wonderful when living in a mediocre world where the majority of the population find their productivity during the daytime. Who even came up with those rules?
I would awake from anything. The slight creaking sound from a foot meeting the kitchen floor downstairs. The sound of leaves crunching under a shoe down the block. A cabinet shutting close in the bathroom or my parents starting the shower downstairs and water rustling through pipes inside the house.
I hadn’t got a good night’s sleep in a long time. I woke up about four times a night and sometimes I couldn’t fall back asleep for 45 minutes. I looked up some remedies for being born to live in darkness, remedies that could help with pretending mediocrity but I only found the Deep Sleep Earplugs. That would have to do plus they had a five star rating on Amazon so there’s always that.
The earplugs came in on a Friday and I couldn’t wait to test them out that evening. It was a normal Friday night for me. I curled up in bed and watched Nightmare on Elm Street, the first one. I took a sleep aid, a fitting thing to do given my current movie of choice. Deep down inside, I hoped that maybe I would meet this infamous Freddy. When I started to doze off, I grabbed my Deep Sleep Earplugs and shoved them as deep as they could go. All sounds muffled out. I don’t know when I fell asleep because I drifted away into such a deep sleep that I slept through the entire night without ever waking up.
I woke up and looked at the time. I slept in until 11, something I also hadn’t done in a long time. Usually my parents would have called me down for breakfast. That was strange. I stood up, took out my earplugs, and stretched. I held the earplugs in my hand and headed downstairs to show my parents my awesome new find on Amazon. I opened my bedroom door and stood at the top of the staircase. I stopped to listen. The house was silent. Had my parents left?
I walked down the stairs, still waking up from my long night’s rest. As I got to the bottom of the stairs, I couldn’t believe what I saw. The couch had been gutted and white cotton covered the floor. The flat screen had been pushed off the entertainment center and thrown onto the floor.
Was I dreaming?
I walked into the kitchen and it was worse than the living room. The white kitchen tiles were smeared with streaks of blood. Every tile was covered. Someone had gone out of their way to smother each square. Footprints ran across the blood. They were small, dainty, and bare of shoes. Our kitchen knives were laid out on the center island, lined up neatly like a buffet. In the line up, there was one spot, the fourth from the right, that had a knife but it was missing. Through the kitchen, my parents’ bedroom door was open and I could see the bright sun rays that shone through their window shooting across their doorway. Someone had opened the curtains to their room. I walked toward the doorway and could still only see the brightly lit entrance from the natural sunlight from that Saturday morning.
I peered inside and just like the couches, my parents had been gutted. Blood was everywhere. The bed sheets were so soaked it looked like someone dipped them in a swimming pool of blood and put them back in the room. My dad was laid out on the floor at the end of the bed and my mother was on the bed.
I stared down at my hand and opened my fist, my Deep Sleep Earplugs lay in my palm. I had slept through the brutal murder of my parents and all I could think was, damn these earplugs are great and at least I finally got a good night’s sleep.
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Adam Cesare’s Tribesmen, a novella, is one I devoured in less than a day. The story revolves around six characters and each chapter switches between each character's perspective. Cesare’s story mechanics of alternating perspectives is beautifully written and he makes it simple for the reader to keep pace of the plot, leaving more time to enjoy the gore and terror that erupt at an increasingly fast rate page after page.
It’s not easy to develop and write six characters into a story where each one brings some type of value but Cesare pulls it off. Each character is unique in their appearance and disposition while offering just the right amount of ingredients to the story. The reader hates the right ones and loves the characters that need to be loved.
It starts out as a semi-normal situation for a film crew and all goes terribly wrong at an alarming pace. Chapter 5 begins the bone chilling visuals that will stay with you while you fall asleep at night. Chapter 12 is when shit gets real, and real fast.
As I read this book, I was reminded that there is a dark and conspiring voice in all of us. The one that urges us to think about the worst we can do. The voice that diverges us off a sane path. Most of us allow this voice to run through us and then we decide to do the right thing. But, what if we didn’t? What if we listened instead?
There was a point while reading, when I thought to myself: This is literally crazy.
Here are some of my favorite quotes from Tribesmen:
“It was now a couple of years later and the girl from the theater was long gone, but the smack habit had stuck around.”
“Sweat dripped between his shoulder blades and his hands shook as he bounded through the jungle, ducking under branches and stopping in his tracks every so often to listen for voices in the distance.”
“Jacque took her by the filthy hand.”
“The wind brought with it the fresh smell of the sea, and a gentle howl.”
“His semi-flaccid bloodstained manhood flapped against his thigh as he marched around the base of the tree in circles.”
“As wrong as the feeling was - and it was wrong - he agreed with the voice.”
“There was no going back from dead.”
Check out other works by Adam Cesare by visiting his website.
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It all started one normal and dull day. It was hot outside, the kind of heat that makes you hate yourself and hate your life. The only thing you can do to feel better is sleep. I eventually did but before doing so I went downstairs to make my morning cup of Joe. My bare feet hit the kitchen floor tiles and the sticky residue of weeks gone unclean pressed into my skin. I grabbed a coffee mug, the type that is supposed to make you feel better about your shit life. Cursive typography to make you feel fuzzy inside. This one read: Dare to Dream.
I filled my cup with water and opened up the back of my Keurig. I was about to pour the water into the machine but stopped and noticed a tiny, almost microscopic, black object move along the surface of where the water enters. I leaned over to get a better look. It was an ant. I got a paper towel and wet it in the sink and then wiped up the ant, squishing it inside the paper towel, being sure to crush its dreams. I picked up the Keurig and about six ants scurried out from under it. There were no food crumbs nearby, nothing I could imagine they wanted. I wiped them up too.
If you’re a coffee addict than you know any amount of seconds or minutes that get in the way of making your coffee add to your increased irritation from not having fresh coffee magically at your bedside every morning upon waking up. I poured the water into the Keurig and as I poured I saw one of those little marching assholes get swooped up by my water wave and pulled down into the ocean of water that would become my fresh coffee.
Dare to Dream. Fucking A. I put a Keurig cup into the machine and pressed brew. I hoped that maybe, just maybe, the little marching crapper would be sizzled by the heat inside and maybe it would vanish into a crisp. I was wrong. My coffee came out in a single straight stream. Steam danced around the top of my cup and the smell entered through all openings, my eyes, my nostrils, and my mouth, hitting that nerve that waited every morning for that coffee goodness.
I looked at my coffee and there it was. The dead little shit was spinning around in the center of my fresh brew. I used my index finger and thumb to quickly pinch it out. I missed the first two times then got it. My coffee definitely tasted different but as a coffee addict I didn’t care. My mind kept thinking about those ants scurrying out from under the coffee machine, all in different directions as fast as their tiny legs could carry them.
I went upstairs and it was already too hot. You might be thinking, why not iced coffee? There is a difference between coffee addicts and those who drink iced coffee, similar to die hard Tool fans and those who listen to A Perfect Circle, if you get my drift. Coffee addicts are also notorious for being able to sleep, any time of day, even after drinking coffee.
I laid down on my bed and looked at my black nightstand. I saw a movement. I lifted my upper body with my hands. There was a single line of ants. I looked across the nightstand, no food, no crumbs, nothing but my coffee cup. Why? What could they want? There’s nothing here.
I grabbed my coffee and stood up, moving it onto my desk across the room. I marched downstairs to get the Raid. I didn’t care if I sprayed it right next to my bed. I didn’t care if I sprayed those chemicals onto my pillow. I just wanted the ants to go away. I pointed and sprayed the nightstand. The sweet, candy like smell of the Raid hit my nose. Strong but sweet. I laid back down. I was sweating from the movement and frustration of dealing with these turds all morning. I laid back down and before I knew it I was out.
I awoke to a strange sensation. It felt like someone tickling my entire body with their long silky hair. My eyes stayed closed while I itched my left arm then my right thigh. The feather like sensation on my face wasn’t going away. I opened my eyes but could not see clearly. There was something crawling into the bottom part of my eye lid. I could feel it moving quickly inside my lid and against my eyeball, tickling it and causing my vision to blur. Was I dreaming? Daring to dream?
My eyes widened. In my peripheral I could see black dots covering my arms and moving around aimlessly. Ants. Ants were all over my body and crawling into my eyes, ears, and mouth. I sat up and spit from my mouth over and over again. I tried to use my hands to wipe the ants off my arms but they were everywhere. They roamed in every crevice of my bed sheets and resided in every crease in my body. There were too many. I looked over at my bedside and could see the black and blue bottle of Raid. I reached over to try and grab it. Ants rushed over the surface of my skin. They crawled into my ears and brushed against the thin hair inside. I stuck my finger inside my ear and wiggled it, piles of ants crushed against my earwax.
I reached for the Raid again. Without thinking, I stood up and sprayed myself all over. The Raid hit my face, soaking it and dripped down my cheeks, the smell burned my eyes. It tasted sour. The black spots instantly stopped moving and just hung onto my skin. Ants covered my bed. I pointed the Raid and held the nozzle down, not letting it up. I stopped and saw a movement on the nightstand. A trail was coming from behind the nightstand and I was hesitant to move it and look behind it.
I pulled the nightstand away from the wall and peered down. More ants hit my feet. I jumped up and stomped around. I peered back at the wall and it wasn’t just one trail. There was a pile of ants stacked on top of each other. A large black hill of tiny, massive nonstop movement. I grabbed the Raid and sprayed my feet and the ant hill. There were so many that only the top layer lay dead from the spray and the ants on the bottom moved underneath the ant corpses on top. I looked around and spotted a lighter on my desk. I grabbed it and went back to the ant hill. I lit that bitch on fire. I stood and watched with bright eyes as we all went up in flames and took one last drink of my coffee.
Do you like stories about cult leaders? Check out the beta chapters of my novel, Freedom House.
As always, thank you for tuning in,
Last weekend, my family and I went camping. It was one of those perfect evenings for horror fanatics, an evening in the woods with only the stars providing light. Sounds of coyote, crickets, and the mysterious rustling of leaves nearby of what we could only imagine was roaming around us. So, what did we do? I busted out Chad Lutzke's book of short horror stories, Spicy Constellation & Other Recipes.
Twelve short stories to be exact. I first heard about this book on Twitter and read a description that dubbed it horror with some comedy. I am usually very apprehensive about anything horror comedy only because I revel in being terrified and when comedy is involved sometimes it overpowers the beauty of stomach turning disgust. Chad Lutzke proved me wrong indeed. He pulls the reader into each scene, scenes of grotesque, hard to read moments while sprinkling his comedic fairy dust at just the right moments only to stick you with more gut wrenching nastiness that will make you wince.
Each story is woven with the realistic experiences and personalities that all of us can relate to and they are all eerily on point. If you want to laugh out loud and then immediately feel like you may vomit, well then this is just for you.
Some of my favorites out of the twelve stories are:
1. The One Who Took: You might think twice about inviting a stranger over for a quiet evening of cards and drinks with friends.
2. What I Wouldn't Give: Demons, Metallica, and stinky chicken...
3. Spicy Constellation: I can fully relate to this college story, well almost fully.
4. A Weekend Tradition: A coming of age story, kind of.
Some of my favorite quotes:
"That's when shit went south." - The One Who Took
"And I wondered if a shower couldn't fix that, or if it was just a demon thing, stinking like old chicken." - What I Wouldn't Give
"Virgin digits on a prom-night bra clasp." - What I Wouldn't Give
"Gang of Three Seek Revenge on Titty Mag Tattletale..." - A Weekend Tradition
I'll be checking out another of his books called, Of Foster Homes and Flies.
Learn more about Chad Lutzke by visiting his website.
What are some of your favorite horror novels or short stories?
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You meet a new person at work and have many things in common. It could be the beginning of a valuable, healthy friendship. You start to get to know this person, text each other, and even hang out with them outside of work. That’s when the darkness shows up, knocking with full force so loud that you cannot sleep and you have to answer. Your mind spirals into the multitude of terrible scenarios that you “know” will happen if you open your heart to this friendship. You obsess over this each day until you give up and shy away. This is just one example of a normal situation experienced through the eyes and heart of someone with anxiety.
If these same spiraling of thoughts occur with very normal life situations, imagine what happens when a serious life event is presented to someone with anxiety. Anxiety disorder is very real and extremely complex. It’s difficult for some to understand, especially those who have been blessed to live their life without it. It’s also a taboo subject, one that has a reputation associated with: weak, negative, get over it, embarrassment, and emotional.
This article is not a scientific deep dive into anxiety disorder. It’s a personal letter to you, my reader. It’s a letter to both the people who have anxiety and the people who do not but love someone who does.
What does a person look like who has anxiety?
There is not a cookie cutter personality type that defines people with anxiety. Most people who know me, will tell you that I am energetic, passionate, happy, positive, confident, and on and on. Am I really these things? The answer is yes but the truth is more complex.
I have anxiety. There are many types and forms of anxiety disorder and I’m not going to run through a definition of all of them. I am here to say, dear reader, roughly 40 million Americans suffer from anxiety each year and only one third get treatment. It’s a complicated internal battle that never ceases even if the person is good at hiding it, believing themselves to be a mastermind of their own mind. There is always a breaking point.
I am here to say, I am not embarrassed that I suffer from anxiety and even some depression. Why should I be? Why should I be afraid to talk about a chemical imbalance? There are so many people who suffer from this and never tell anyone. We cannot go through it alone and we should not.
I only recently went to get help. My pride always got in the way and my ignorance about it stopped me from looking into treatment. I grew up thinking that medications for anxiety and depression were bad, weak minded, and thought it would turn me into a different person. Do medications have side effects? Of course. Do medications change a person’s overall personality? In some cases, most definitely. But - it’s such a detrimental disorder that it’s worth trying it out until a solution is found.
You want to hear something else? My anxiety caused me excruciating upper back pain and fatigue. I do yoga almost every day, I meditate, I have hobbies, and I am physically healthy. I also had over thirty blood tests done, x-rays, and a CT scan just to be sure. And all my tests came back 100% fine. So After trying medication, my back pain and fatigue is gone.
If you love someone who suffers from anxiety and depression, your continued support goes beyond what you’ll ever know, even though it doesn’t seem that way. Encourage your loved ones to seek help and be there every step of the way.
And, to my dear readers who suffer with those internal monsters, those demons that try to tear you down: the most troubled souls in the world are those who have the most beautiful things to offer. You are worth it and the world needs those who have been through battles. I finally took the leap and the only regret I have now is wishing I had done it sooner.
I lit the candles in the living space. We had increased pain practices to five times a day. Freedom House was almost ready to join The Light. The Darius was allowing new members but only if it was an extreme situation, and in two days there was to be no more recruiting. A few days ago, Miles brought a ten-year old girl back to the house. She was prostituting on Pacific Ave. We named her Grace.
All the candles were lit. Penelope came into the living space wearing her usual white apron and panties. Her apron had pink fingerprinted stains from wiping her hands on it as she cooked.
"The Darius asked me to set plates out on the floor with pork on each plate," said Penelope.
"Wonderful. I can help." I said.
"I'm glad you've come to enjoy it here Ivy. You've become a big part of Freedom House."
"It's the home I've never had."
"Me too." said Penelope.
The Darius sat in the middle of the living space, everyone else sat around him.
"The Darkness is coming sooner than expected. It's coming to stop us, to stop our Journey to the Light. We must stop it. Today marks everyone's entrance into The Free stage. In eight days, we will enter The Light. We must strengthen our minds and bodies. Pick up the plate in front of you."
Miles lifted his plate and I could feel his stare in my direction.
"Penelope made this for all of us. We will eat this pork today to enter The Free."
I looked down at the cooked meat, the smell entered my nostrils and shot down into my stomach, making my stomach turn. I hadn't eaten meat for months now.
"Take a bite, all as one." The Darius said.
I used my fingers to pick up the pork and bit into it. It was tougher than I remembered. The repetitive chewing motions exhausted my jaw and the meat stayed one moist blob in my mouth, never getting smaller. I almost vomited but forced myself to keep it down. I heard a gargling sound and looked over to see Sylvie vomiting onto her lap. The Darius walked over to her and placed a hand on her shoulder.
"That's quite alright Sylvie. This is normal. We cannot waste though. Penelope, get a spoon."
"Yes The Darius." said Penelope.
I chewed and chewed while looking over at The Darius and Sylvie. Was my mind playing tricks on me? There was no way he was going to ask her to scoop it up and eat it, was there? I believed in The Darius, but how did this fit into our Journey?
Penelope skipped through the kitchen smiling and handed The Darius a spoon. The Darius held the spoon pointed straight up, in front of Sylvie's face. Sylvie, pale with saliva down the corner of her mouth, took the spoon. The Darius smiled, "Smile Sylvie, this is what we all need. Don't waste, eat it."
Sylvie looked down at the chunky liquid on her lap. She took a scoop and brought it to her mouth. I looked away but the sour smell lingered in the air as a reminder.
"I'll have some. You're not alone Sylvie. We're in this together." Penelope said.
Penelope got onto her knees in front of Sylvie and opened her mouth, a signal to Sylvie to feed it to her. Sylvie lifted the spoon, the liquid swayed to the edges almost spilling over from Sylvie's shaking hand. She placed the spoon on Penelope's lips and tilted it into her mouth. Penelope slurped it down and before finishing it, a small chunk was on the corner of her mouth. She used her pink stained index finger to push it into her mouth and sucked her finger dry.
"Here's the flip phone. It'll be your one and only source of communication with us. You'll need to hide it. What we usually suggest is for you to tape it to your body then when you are in the location find a spot to keep it hidden, one where nobody will find it. Maybe underneath a floorboard. Or behind the toilet. It's up to you, just don't let it get discovered. You aren't required to call, you can just text. You need to begin all your texts with our code so that we know it's you. The code is: OpCLT. We have an emergency code as well. This is to be sent only if you believe you or another person is in immediate danger. That code is 666. You need to erase all messages whenever possible. Is this all clear Detective Arc?"
"Yes sir, all cl--."
Detective Salvino's cellphone barely started to ring and he'd already answered it.
"This is Salvino. Are you sure? The Whole Foods off Soquel Ave. Got it. See you soon."
Detective Arc finished taping the cellphone to her upper thigh. She wore loose pants, flip flops, and a red tank top. Her left eye was swollen, and her upper cheek was split.
"Let's roll Detective." Sophia Arc said.
Detective Salvino dropped Sophia off one block away, on a residential street. She walked to Whole Foods and stood in the front. She looked around and spotted Detective Bailey parked and sitting in a black Honda Civic. He signaled to her to look to her left. She glanced over and saw a man returning his cart. She looked back at Detective Bailey to get confirmation. She slid down the wall of the Whole Foods and sat on the concrete.
"Can you spare any change sir?" said Sophia.
It was Cyrus. He looked down at Sophia and squatted down to her eye level.
"What the hell happened to you?" Cyrus said.
"You know, some call it true love." said Sophia.
"Where I come from, true love doesn't leave black eyes."
"Well I guess we don't all have your luck." She said.
Cyrus reached into his pocket and handed Sophia ten dollars. He walked toward the parking lot and then stopped. He turned around and went back to her.
"I didn't always have this luck, someone took a chance on me and showed me true love. You want to come with me? I promise you it'll be worth it."
I sat in Freedom Park next to the coy pond. It was the first time in a while that I felt confused. Orange, black, and white strokes glided under the surface of the water. The colors blended together, and my mind transported me back to my mom's apartment, the orange and white floral print couch. It was a Sunday and the sunlight from the open window was the only brightness that came in. A glimpse out into the world. The sound of children laughing outside echoed through the apartment.
My mother and Steve had started early that Sunday, around 10 in the morning. An empty bottle of vodka was on the living room floor and the cap was missing. I pictured a small ship with sails inside the bottle and I was the captain, sailing far away, never looking back. Mother was passed out on the floor and her arm flung over, sending the empty bottle into motion, rolling away and coming to a stop against the wall.
I heard him come out of the bedroom. He swayed back and forth with no shirt on and sloppy, ripped up jeans, the top button popped open from his bulging stomach.
"Darrrleen, git up." Mother didn't move. Her hair covered her face and she was laid out on her back.
Steve grabbed a half-smoked cigarette out of the ashtray on the coffee table. He searched his pant pockets for a lighter and lit the cigarette. It hung from his mouth, hands free as he stood over my mother.
"Darrrleen, get your ass up." He kicked her but no response.
Steve kneeled down and with his thumb and index finger took the cigarette out of his mouth. He moved the lit side down towards mother's arm and pressed it into her forearm.
"What the fuck." My mother yelled.
She pulled herself up, holding onto her forearm. I sat on the couch, hugging my knees to my chest and pretending not to look.
"What the fuck was that?" She asked.
"I need some food." Steve said.
"I'm not feeling to well baby, can't we --"
Steve grabbed my mother by her neck and squeezed.
"I said I need some fuckin' food. That's what I need and that's what I'll fuckin' get."
She held his hands at her neck, her veins bulging out of her head and her face bright red. He let go of her and threw her toward the floor. She immediately vomited onto the carpet.
"You disgusting pig." Steve said.
She held herself up with her hands, facing the floor and her hair stuck to her cheek, wet with vomit.
Steve grabbed the back of her hair, holding her hair in his fist. He pushed her face down into the puddle of throw up, "Go ahead slurp it up."
"Ivy, can we talk?" It was Miles.
I looked into the pond and saw the coy again, swirling around each other.
"What do you want Miles?"
"I care about you Ivy. I'm sorry if I upset you. Please, we need to stick together."
"I care about you too. I just don't want to ever go back to the outside. I can't. You don't understand"
"I do understand. A lot of us here had it hard on the outside but..." Miles looked down at his hands.
"What?" I asked.
"There's stuff that happens here too. Ivy, I want to show you something tonight when everyone is asleep. Will you come with me tonight?"
"Where?" I said.
"I have to show you what's in the Red Room."
I turned and looked at Miles.
Ivy and Sylvie sat on the floor in front of The Darius.
"I answered the door and told the Detective I had never heard of a Samantha Watson. He gave me this card."
She handed it to The Darius. He calmly took it and read it, the slightest smile across his lips.
"When he asked your name, what did you say?"
"I told him Claire."
"Sylvie, you did the right thing, so smart. Did he seem convinced?"
"Oh yes, he has no idea about anything."
"Perfect. We wouldn't want anything to get in the way of our Journey to Freedom. The people on the outside do not understand. They just care about the insignificant, the irrelevant. Ivy, you may be fourteen, but you are a wise soul, a soul that needs to be part of The Light."
"Thank you The Darius." I smiled at my protector.
"I will keep this. You did the right thing Sylvie but when Detective Salvino comes back, we will need a better plan. Ivy, get me Miles. We will work out a strategy with him."
I broke eye contact with The Darius and stared down at the floor. "Okay, I will."
"Great. We cannot waste any time. Ivy, do not let this stop your work. We have to continue to get everyone to The Free. I want Freedom House ready in two weeks."
"That's perfect." I said.
Sylvie leaned over and kissed The Darius on his lips. She stood up. I leaned over and kissed him. When my lips moved off of his, I stayed close to his face and said, "I will not disappoint you."
He raised his eyebrow and smiled.
"Detective Salvino, she's never gone undercover. I think it's premature. We can't have another Boulder Creek scene," said Captain Malone.
"Captain, I do understand your concern. These communes feed off men and women but their sweet spot are women. Boulder Creek was unfortunate but we both know they were more than a commune. Their leader lived off of weak souls. By the time we got there, it was too late. We can't be too late with this one. Detective Arc is our only female detective. She's more than competent and I know she has what it takes. We only need a week or two but we need to get her there now."
"Salvino, you do whatever it takes to find those missing girls, but you better find them alive. It's you that will have to live with it."
"Thank you Captain."
Detective Salvino called another strategy meeting. He stood in front of a large whiteboard. Next to the whiteboard was a large cork board. Hanging on the cork board were eight pictures, all young girls smiling for their school pictures.
"Let's talk Boulder Creek. We will need to rehash the facts and this time we can't make the same mistakes."
Detective Salvino pointed to the whiteboard where he had written some bullet points in black pen. "It started out the same. We were dealing with young under aged girls who were disappearing every month. When we found the Boulder Creek commune, we spoke to two women. They said there were no under aged girls and boys there and that they believed in a more unified, shared kind of living. They were not suspicious in any way. All our leads kept pointing us to that cabin out in Boulder Creek but we had nothing on them, until it was too late. I will never forget that call I received on August 5th. There had been a brutal home invasion resulting in bloodshed near the college campus. Five beaten and stabbed to death. The person they went easy on was stabbed 36 times. By the time we got back to Boulder Creek, the entire commune had ingested rat poison. When we arrived, all you could see were bodies laid out everywhere, not one sound. We found nine under aged missing girls and six boys."
Detective Bailey spoke, "So how do we get Detective Arc inside?"
"That is exactly why we're here. We need some ideas and we need them fast."
Detective Arc thought about Charlotte. She saw the purple bike on the curb of the "U-ie," the front wheel spinning solo, the sun setting behind it.
"Detective Arc? You okay?"
"Yes sir." Sophia said.
"Any thoughts on how we get you in there?"
"You said Samantha Watson was last seen at the market on Broadway and 7th. That means some of these commune members are coming into town for water, maybe food. Let's assign someone to go out there to track the house and follow whoever leaves. I can show up at whatever location they end up at and that's where I can work my way in."
"I'll track it." Detective Bailey said.
"That's sounds like a plan. Detective Arc, while Bailey is out there you and I can go over undercover protocol, but we won't have a lot of time. We must work quickly and that means a higher danger risk."
"That's not a problem." said Detective Arc.
"Detective Bailey, get ready please. You will need a bullet proof vest. Use one of our civilian cars. Directions are in my office, on my desk."
Detective Bailey stood up. He looked at Detective Arc, "You got this Detective. Let's bring this one down."
He walked out, head high, and his fists clenched.
"Bailey?" said Detective Salvino.
Detective Bailey turned around with a stern look.
"Don't get caught out there."
Detective Bailey didn't say a word. He nodded his head down once, turned around and walked out.
"Sophia, are you sure you're ready for this?"
"I have been ready for years Detective."
"You need to understand these places always have a leader. You will need to identify that person quickly before they harm anybody."
"How will I communicate with you while I'm there?"
"You'll take a small cell phone and you may need to hide it. Detective Arc, in most undercover cases, it's required for the undercover to be armed unless there is absolute reason that person cannot be. In this case, you will not be armed."
Sophia moved only her eyes up to look at Detective Salvino.
"I can manage that."
"Now, when Bailey calls with their location outside the commune, you'll go to their location, most likely a store, but what's your plan then?"
"I have an idea. Get me a female officer." Detective Arc said.
Sophia's plan was crazy but not as crazy as going undercover into Freedom House. No weapons and little communication. The undercover procedures to be followed made it even more of a challenge to not get caught. If substances were offered, they were to be refused. Audio recording devices were highly recommended. Under no circumstances is the undercover to engage in sexual activity of any kind or to expose any private part. Clear communications were a must and had to be planned out ahead of time. It was Sophia Arc's time to save these young girls, something she couldn’t do for her sister fourteen years ago.
Officer Deanna Morris entered the room, hands on her waist. "Detective Salvino, Detective Arc. The Captain said you needed me."
"Hello Officer Morris, thank you. We have a serious undercover case that Detective Arc will be working on. It's so serious that she won't be armed. That's as much as I can disclose. We have a plan on how to get her into the location." Detective Salvino said.
"What can I do to help?" asked Officer Morris.
"I need you to punch me. Give me a black eye." said Detective Arc.
Officer Morris chuckled, looked at Detective Salvino then at Detective Arc. Her chuckle was interrupted by her own realization, they were serious.
-Written by Sterp
All Rights Reserved
I am Sterp. I write horror fiction and have a very unhealthy obsession with disturbing narratives. As long as they make me lose sleep then I'm happy. Fun fact: I am also a Buddhist.