The Cabin at the End of the World has been the best book I’ve read this year. Why? It’s anxiety in written form and was one of the fastest paced books next to Lord of the Flies. I couldn’t put it down and when I had to I was bummed. I took breaks to feed my toddler and kind of shower. The suspense was that good.
Here’s all the things I loved about this book:
Here’s the one thing I was not a fan of:
I wasn’t a fan of the ending, but ultimately it doesn’t matter. The ending did not ruin the journey for me or the experience. Tremblay took me for quite a ride and I cannot complain. As a writer myself, I can’t help but think about where I would’ve taken the story. I think all writers do that. It doesn’t mean I don’t respect how Tremblay ended it. I do. I am just very dark and would’ve loved for everything to come to a tragic demise.
That’s it. As always, I like to end my reviews with some favorite quotes.
Here are some of my favorite quotes from The Cabin at the End of the World:
“Right. Hell yeah, we’re gonna hit’em with logs.”
“Tears ring Andrew’s eyes as fear and the numbness of this irreality momentarily give way to absurdity.”
“Time is running out on the world, on us.”
“The most important gifts are often the ones we wish with all our hearts to refuse.”
“Do you have any idea how delicious it is to give yourself over to something else so completely?”
“Trust the process.”
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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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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.
"The next update is on case number 59316, fourteen-year old Samantha Watson. Mother last saw her the night of March 4th. She sent her to the store on Broadway and 7th to pick up some eggs and Samantha never returned. We've received some leads that have pointed us to what seems to be a commune out in Felton. It took us about 2 weeks to locate the house. I spoke with a girl named Claire but of course she says she's never seen or heard of Samantha. As you all know, every month, about four girls in the Santa Cruz County region go missing. Some underage and most from broken homes but not all. Any questions?" Detective Salvino scanned the room.
"Yes, Detective Trenton?"
"How sure are you that these girls might be living at this commune? Is the commune dangerous? I mean, let's face it, we might just be dealing with runaways."
"Those are some good points however when we have under-aged girls missing, it doesn't matter if they chose to leave their families. It's our job to find them. It's also our job to locate the adults in charge of allowing these girls to stay with them as runaways. Yes, Detective Bailey?"
"Have these different leads led you to this same commune? If that's the case, then it seems likely that most of these girls could be there but why? What is pulling them to that house?"
"That's exactly what we're here to find out. I will continue to lead this case but those of you who are assigned to some of our other missing girls, you may be brought in to investigate this house further. To answer your question on what may be attracting them to this location, we don't know but if it's in fact true, it's concerning. Any other questions?"
A female detective raised her hand. She had dark brown hair pulled back into a tight bun. Her eyebrows scrunched downward, pointing towards the top of her nose, deep with concentration. She wore little makeup and had small lips. Her thin face accentuated her sharp features. She was young but was already forming small wrinkles in between her eyebrows.
"Yes, Detective Arc?"
"Detective Salvino, forgive me but don't you think we need to move a little faster on this? I was assigned to Faye Miller's case four years ago. She was fifteen when she went missing and now she's nineteen. The case went cold but if we're onto something here then we need to move fast."
"I agree Detective Arc. We are working strategically and as fast as we can. As you all know, we need to come up with a careful plan, one that won't jeopardize anyone's life. If there aren't any more questions, let's begin brainstorming."
Officer Trenton shouted out, "Let's raid the house. That always works." He laughed, his mouth wide and open.
"We have to proceed with official protocol, or it will bite us in the ass later in a court situation. Any other winners?"
"We can continue to chase those leads. They probably have more information than they're telling you." Officer Bailey suggested.
"We're definitely going to continue to investigate current leads and track down any others."
Detective Bernal spoke, "Why don't we send an undercover. Eight years ago, we sent someone undercover to work on the commune case up in Boulder Creek. Blew it wide open. We all know how it ended but at least it ended."
"That might not be a bad idea. But we don't want another Boulder Creek situation. We need to be preventive. If we did go that route, who could we send to this Felton house in the redwoods?"
Detective Arc stood up. "I can do it."
Sophia Elizabeth Arc was the youngest detective in Santa Cruz County. She made it at twenty-eight years old. Sophia was fourteen when her younger sister, Charlotte age eight, went missing and that's when she took her vow. They were playing in the cul-de-sac, what they referred to as the "U-ie." The "U-ie" was about five houses away from the Arcs and was the usual hang out spot for the neighborhood kids. One summer day, Sophia and Charlotte had been riding their bikes for hours, checking in occasionally at home and using the opportunity to grab a snack or pick at the food their mom was cooking.
The sun was starting to set, and this was always their signal to start back home. As they began to ride down, passing the McKinsey's, the enchanting music of an ice cream truck was heard, every kid's hope and dream before calling it a day. The neighborhood ice cream man was Mr. Keats. If Sophia or Charlotte were short a dime, he'd say, "I'll just add it to your tab," and hand them their ice cream.
Charlotte looked back at her sister while riding, "Sophia, I want one."
Sophia rode up next to her sister, they both put the brakes on and stood, holding the handlebars of their bikes.
"How much do you have?" Sophia asked.
Charlotte reached into the pocket of her jean shorts and pulled out some change, a red jolly rancher, and a small piece of paper crumpled up.
Sophia searched her pockets and handed her sister fifty cents. "I'll wait here. Hurry up, mom will have a fit if it gets dark."
The ice cream man was now at the "U-ie" and parked right at the curve. One boy bought an ice cream but was already running back home. There were no other kids outside, the entire neighborhood followed the home by sunset rule. Sophia watched as her sister rode back, about 3 houses away, and disappeared behind the truck, only pictures of ninja turtle pops, WWF vanilla bars, and popsicles could be seen.
As Sophia stared, she noticed something different about Mr. Keats' truck. He had a large sticker on the driver side of the truck that read, Keep Santa Cruz Crazy. It wasn't there. It was taking Charlotte longer than usual to get her Lemon Lime Ice Tickle. The truck began to move fully around the "U-ie" and picked up speed down the street. Sophia's eyes followed the truck as it approached, about to pass her. She looked into the truck and locked eyes for a second with the driver and it wasn't Mr. Keats. She just saw dark, soulless eyes. The truck was gone.
She looked down at the cul-de-sac. Lying on its side was Charlotte's purple bike and no Charlotte. Sophia raced over to it. She hopped off her bike and dropped it onto the curb. A foot away from Charlotte's bike were the coins Charlotte was holding. All Sophia could think was, what had I done? Why did I wait behind? Why didn't I just go with my sister?
When Sophia went back home and led her parents to the "U-ie," her mother shrieked, falling to her knees and throwing herself over Charlotte's purple bike. The police taped off the neighborhood and the McKinsey's came out, standing on their lawn, Mrs. McKinsey held her hand over her mouth. The Jacksons also came out. So did the Hensens and the Smiths. Sophia sat on the curb in front of her house with bloodshot eyes and in a daze amongst the flashing police lights, the red and blue tinting the street, parked cars, and light poles. She told the police what happened. She wouldn't speak another word for a month.
-Written by Sterp
All Rights Reserved
I was awakened by sun rays bursting through the sunroof window. I turned my head over to my right, Miles was still asleep, his muscular chest rising and falling slowly from each breath. It was the first time he had looked content. I turned my head back to look up. I stared at the blue morning sky and the white cotton clouds. Sylvie was right. The Love stage had changed my life. I lifted myself up with my arms, my body was sore, and moved the white canopy curtains away from my face. I stood up and walked to the bathroom, small steps and stiff knees. I sat on the toilet, dropping my bottom down first in slow motion. I wiped and there was still a little blood but nothing unbearable.
I still didn't understand what Miles was so worried about. Last night was just another form of love, compassion, and pain practice. Everything we needed to get us ready for The Light. This was why Freedom House was so special and so beyond everything on the outside. We understood the way to enlightenment, and we were going to change the world and change the mindset of everyone out there. I couldn't wait to join The Darius in The Love room. I couldn't wait to help others experience the same thing I had last night.
My daydreaming was interrupted. I heard a loud pounding sound but it wasn't coming from The Love room's door. It was faint, a little farther away. A muffled voice. I walked to the bedroom door, slow and steady as to not make a sound. My hand reached for the doorknob and I concentrated while I turned the knob and then moved the door open just a crack. I listened. Someone was knocking aggressively on the front door.
"This is the police. Anyone home?"
The police? Why were they here? What did they want? I had a lot of experience with police officers on the outside. Each month, the neighbors would call the cops on my mom and whatever boyfriend she chose to bring home to teach her a lesson. I remember one particular Friday night. I was watching TV in the living room. There was no ceiling light just an old dirty lamp that flickered in the corner of the room. We had one couch with a faded orange and white floral print, and it reeked of cigarettes. There was a small coffee table but no room to put down any coffee. The table was always a mess with ashtrays, cigarette butts that missed the ashtray, beer cans, and old food. The carpet was stained, and the hairs were worn all the way down. Hardly a carpet. I sat on the floor watching my show.
There was a small doorway that led into the kitchen but was never used for cooking. In the sink, dishes stacked high. A four-story luxury food condo for bugs. I never witnessed my mother clean the counters. There was grime build up in the crevices of each tile. Sometimes you could catch a glimpse of a cockroach running by. On this Friday night, it started out with a small argument. I could hear their voices getting louder. "I can go now." My mother slurred.
"You're always waiting till the last fuckin' minute. You're lazy." This was boyfriend number three, the mechanic alcoholic named Steve.
"I'm sorry baby, I'll go right now and buy some food." She walked out of the kitchen doorway, I looked over at her. Her eyes caught mine as she held a short glass half empty of vodka. She forced an innocent smile and looked like a child that just got into trouble.
"No you fuckin' won't." Steve grabbed her hair as she walked out of the kitchen and pulled her with all the strength he had. Her body flew back onto the kitchen floor like a rag doll. The glass shattered. "Steve, please, please not again."
"I told you so many times already." He yelled.
The neighbors pounded on the wall. I began to stand up slowly, my knees were weak and my heart pounded out of my chest. "You sit down." He yelled at me. I sat back down on the floor, not sure what would happen next. My normal Friday night thoughts began to pay a visit. Was he going to kill her? Was I going to get hurt? Would the police finally save me?
"Leave her alone Steve." my mother said with no conviction.
"Shut up." Steve stood over her and she lay there, her tang top strap hanging down her arm. He punched her into the floor. There was a loud pounding on the front door. I knew who it was.
"Police, open up now."
Steve got one last punch in before stopping. He grabbed a dishtowel that was on the counter and wiped his knuckles. He walked into the living room and threw the towel onto my lap. "Get rid of that."
My mom grabbed onto the edge of the kitchen counter to lift herself up. I walked over to her. "It's not a big deal Samantha."
I was beginning to hate her. I didn't understand what she was doing to us. She turned the water on in the kitchen sink and washed her face. Her left eye was swollen and the skin at her cheekbone was split open. I could hear Steve talking to the police officer through the living room but couldn't see them.
"We received a call about a disturbance."
"Nothing exciting happening hear officer." Steve said.
"Have you been drinking sir?"
"It's not a crime to drink in the privacy of your own home, is it?"
"Can we take a look around?"
My mother looked at me and raised her pointer finger to her lips, signaling me to not make a peep.
"If you don't have a warrant then I can't let you in."
"Then keep it down. I don't want to be called out here again."
"Yes sir, thank you."
Steve closed the door. He walked over to the couch and plopped down onto it. He leaned back and scratched his pot belly.
"Darleen, get me a beer."
"Samantha, just go to your room." My mom whispered to me.
As I walked through the living room toward the hallway on the left, Steve stopped me. "Sam, come here."
I stopped in front of the TV and stared at him. He gestured with his hand to go over to him. I walked over and stood next to him as he sat on the couch. He patted his knee. I sat on his lap. He smelled of cigarettes and beer. He put his rough hands around my waist. "You know I love you and your mother, right?"
"Yeah, I know."
"Then give me some love." He pointed to his cheek.
I leaned over and kissed it, rough with stubs of hair. I got up and walked to the hallway. When I turned the hallway corner, I stopped and leaned my body against the wall. I placed my palms against it, my fingers gripping for anything. A tear ran down my left cheek.
"I'm sorry Darleen. I just want you to be the best you. You know I love you."
I could hear their lips smacking together and I could feel the vomit rise up, burning the back of my throat but I forced myself to swallow it back down. I went into my bedroom and closed the door. I lied down on my mattress on the floor, staring at the dark, stained ceiling, wondering if I would ever get out.
"Ivy?" Miles was awake.
I placed my index finger to my lips, signaling him to stay quiet.
"Police, is anyone home?"
Someone was making their way to the front door. I heard the door open.
"Good morning Sir, how can I help you?" They had sent Sylvie, her voice friendly and welcoming.
"Good morning to you as well Miss. I'm Detective Salvino. You may be able to help me. A young girl, fourteen years of age, went missing about 5 months ago and we've been looking for her. Her name is Samantha Watson. She was last seen downtown on Broadway and 7th Street, about 15 miles from here. Here's a picture of her, have you seen her?"
"What a lovely name, Salvino. Well that is just devastating. I can't image how her parents are feeling. I've never seen her before. I wish I could be of more help Detective." Sylvie spoke slowly with a hint of flirtation.
"Thank you much Miss. If you happen to hear anything at all, please give me a call. Here's my card."
"Of course. I really hope you find her. There are so many bad people out there."
"What was your name again?"
"Oh, how rude of me. My name is Claire."
"You have a nice day Claire. Please reach out if you hear anything."
"Have a wonderful day as well Detective Salvino."
Claire? How did they find Freedom House and why did my mother even care if I was gone? My breath stopped for a moment. I didn't want them to find me here and take me back to the outside. Miles was standing next to me.
"Ivy, this is your way out, your ticket home."
"This is my home. I'm not leaving Miles so you can stop trying to convince me."
"What if that Detective comes back?"
"I will talk to The Darius. He'll know what to do."
Miles grabbed his clothes quickly, putting them on without saying a word. He opened the door, walked out of the room, closing the door behind him. He could be angry, I didn't care. I was more worried about this Detective. I walked over to my clothes and heard a knock on the door.
"Miles leave me alone please."
"Oh, come in."
Sylvie opened the door and carefully shut it behind her. She came over to me and handed me a small card. "Someone's looking for you."
I looked down and it read:
Santa Cruz Police Department.
155 Center St.
Santa Cruz, CA 95060
"I heard. We have to go to The Darius right now." I said.
"That is the perfect plan. He has all the answers." Sylvie smiled.
"Let's get you dressed."
-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.