horror

All posts in the horror category

The Dread is in the Details

Published October 12, 2017 by admin

There are a lot of things that make horror horror: certain tropes and cliches, different archetype/stock characters, playing up emotional reactions, gore, playing up the action and danger, writing what some people might call at least dangerous or sometimes taboo…

Those are all part of it. But let’s not forget the role of environment and description, hrm?

Admittedly, I love immersive fiction. I want to lose myself in a story, whether it’s something more or less happy like Little House on the Prarie (depending on which book you read), or something more along the lines of Clive Barker. A good book is a good book, and will put you right in the world.

And if it’s horror, it will make you want to run away from that world and hope you can escape before you can remember to just close the stinkin’ book.

Not that I have any experience with that. Ahem.

I’m not sure if it puts me back into a childlike mindset where everything is big and huge and intense, or if it’s just the mark of good writing preying on my human weaknesses, but either way, I dig it. I love that Neil Gaiman really goes into overdrive describing his Midwest settings and people in American Gods. Part of what makes Hellbound Heart and other Clive Barker titles sing is that he really digs in and describes the grotesque in almost loving detail. Part of Stephen King’s genius is really making sure you know all about the town of Derry in It – it’s history, geography, mythology. Plus, he makes sure every character is a full person – to an almost painful degree. That’s the only way we can really feel terrified for them, because if he wrote something to the extent of ‘So then the clown turned into a werewolf and chased after the kids on the bike..” Yeah, no. Granted, that summarizes a good few pages, but it really doesn’t convey the intensity of that scene, or the personal stakes.

When I have the wordcount, I really try to play certain sequences in my head. If I can see them, then translate that into words, I have a much better chance of getting my readers to feel the tension I’m feeling. Mooner more or less takes place in one room, but I made myself really go through that story bit by bit. Everything effects the mood: character description, dialogue and word choice, the phyiscal description of the title character, the emotions conveyed in the motivations for the final reveal…I want my readers to feel the freezing, barren winter, to really get a sense of how dangerous that time period was. Little things really mattered and sometimes made the difference between life and death back then, and it was important to bring as much attention to that as possible, so that when things do go down, the reader gets just what all is at stake.

Although Olde School is technically a mix of genres, I really wanted the scene where Paddlelump discovers dangerous things happening in his woods to be extremely vivid. The reveals just keep coming, so I mentally walked that path with him over and over and over, paying attention to what would be around him, under him, above him, and the thoughts that were going on inside him. You have to be somewhat hyper aware of setting and character and marry those together into something cohesive that also isn’t too bogged down by detail. Every leaf, every crunching footstep, every odd, dripping substance plays into winding up for the rest of the scene, and I picked and chose what to include through how they made me feel when I married to the action of the sequence.

It’s like how the cab of a roller coaster is slowly, slowly pulled up to the top of the first hill – that’s, essentially, what really good description does in horror – it gets you ready to have the bottom dropped out from underneath you and launches you onward through all the crazy stuff. You need the slow tug and pull to prepare you for what comes next. You need that description so you’re submersed enough that the horror elements do what they’re supposed to.

***

Wanna see for yourself? Check out my 1800’s-era vampire story, Mooner, to see how details build a bigger picture.

If you’re more fantasy minded (or like some dark elements with your fantasy), then definitely check out Olde School.

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SJ Reads Bonus: Afterlife with Archie

Published October 7, 2017 by admin

afterlife

 

Like I said, I can’t not talk about horror in October…

I touched on The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina a little while ago, so I can’t exactly ignore Afterlife With Archie. I picked the thing up because it looked so weird, I couldn’t really not read it. Even so, I left it sit around for a while, figuring that I’d be putting myself through a gag title, and did I really have time for that.

And then I opened it up.

Askfdajlfaj;dajlfdajldfs is a safe approximation of my reaction.

Seriously, it’s one of the best horror titles I’ve read in a long time, and I still don’t understand how the really good horror titles are coming out of the Archie properties. Not only are these things holding their own with other, more recognizable titles, but in a lot of cases their overall sense of story and character development is better. 

The basic premise is that Reggie hits and kills Hot Dog with his car. Despondant, Jughead has Sabrina help bring his dog back to life. Thus starts the zombie outbreak. I mean, this could easily go so many ways of stupid…but it doesn’t. There are moments of humor, but it’s definitely got its horrific side. I love how there are little moments with all the characters grasping at what’s going on and how it’s affecting their relationships, whether it’s Archie’s feelings about his dad, or Veronica’s thoughts on Betty and on and on. I’ve only read through volume one, but the thought that these kids are hiding out as the whole town falls victim to the contagion…it’s intense. And it’s never really played like ‘oh ha ha, look at these cartoon characters be victimized, pretty gross, amirite?’ There’s care taken with the different story lines. Granted, it had been forever since I’ve really delved into the world of Riverdale (the eighties cartoon series is about the extent of my knowledge), but it does a really good job of conveying the basics very quickly. I didn’t really feel like I was missing anything, and I felt like I picked up on all the subtext and things I was supposed to know about to get the full range of the title.

The art isn’t as malevolent as Sabrina, but in some ways that lends itself to a really surreal feeling. You kind of forget that you’re reading about freakin’ Archie, or you forget that this is a storyline that really shouldn’t be happening in this universe, until you sit back and it all comes together and hits you.

It’s a suprisingly good blend, and I can’t wait to see where it all goes.

Get vol 1 here

On What Ifs and Horror Writing

Published October 4, 2017 by admin

Oh, October. I love you. Somehow, even when I was a scaredy cat growing up, I still wanted to live in a haunted house and played pretend that I was some sort of ghoul/ghost princess in a graveyard or ran around wanting to be a ghostbuster getting sucked into an alternate dimension…you know, normal kids stuff.

It probably had to do with the sheer amount of different things I was around to as a kid, so I can actually totally, completely, mostly blame my parents, family, friends, and the 1980s on me turning out this way. It’s a relief, let me tell you.

I think I’ve always been in awe of the what if in horror. Obviously, this is a thing in other genres, but it’s especially powerful when coupled with the fear, pessimism, anxiety, or whatever outlook you’re shaping it with in horror. What if there’s someone calling from inside the house? What if vampires are real? What if one typical day turns into your worst nightmare?

There’s something empowering about exploring it, as well as something chilling about reading it. In some ways I think I like writing horror for a sense of control, in others I think I like it because there’s still this weird viewpoint that as a gal I’m somehow not supposed to think like this or whatever (obviously those with that pov haven’t hung out with a ton of women, just sayin’).

A lot of my short horror has started from the what if concept: What if all your inanimate objects were conscious and secretly hated you? What if vampires existed in the untamed woods in the 1800s? What if on one of the happiest nights of the year, the world was ending? What if this little incident that you think is so mundane is far from innocent?

I kind of blame this on the ’80s, too. Growing up in the time of stranger danger, just say no, razorbladed halloween candy, people trying to get you in a van, combined with just how bizarre Saturday morning television was, well, I mean we really didn’t have a chance. Something was always on our minds, even on the playground. Seriously, don’t kid yourself. Kids are way savvier than you think, they pick up on stuff, but they also misstranslate it and get it all turned around. To this day I still remember odd convos in the cafeteria about like what a friend of mine thought communism was and how we’d all die at any minute, along with urban-legend type stuff, like a spot on the ceiling of a dining room that grew as a family ate and took them straight to hell.

I think I was seven or eight for those, by the way, so yeah, talk to your children, because they’re probably walking around with some amazing irrational fears.

Combine THAT with things on the news like the Challenger, the economy fluctuating, and THAT with episodes of Punky Brewster showing the kids getting eaten by a demon and Care Bears going borderline possession in a Dark Heart storyline, Ponyland getting eaten by ooze, and characters getting their souls sucked out every other week, Freddy Krueger might come get you, spiders could take over a whole town, and who knows what else – and put all of that in a blender…in a world full of what if’s, Halloween felt like a relief, a constant: you always cut jack-o-lanterns, you always dress up, you always go out and come home with candy. Heck, you alwsays come home, as long as you’re careful and wear reflectors and obey the rules. These days, I realize how naive that sounds, but back then it was comforting. Witches and monsters and vampires can’t really hurt you, the masks in the store are always going to smell weird, the same houses are always going to give big candy bars. Those constants gave way to fun what ifs – what if a house could really be haunted, what you actually went to one of those haunted houses no one has ever gone all the way through, what if…whatever.

It was almost a balance as a kid – accepting some things with belief while still being rational enough to be wary. I suppose writing horror as an adult is a little like that, too. It takes some suspension of belief to write some of the concepts I do and have them be effective. It takes a balance of fear and technique, of keeping one foot out and one foot in.

It was fun to just drop everything and embrace what I considered scary. It’s fun these days to drop everything and embrace things that lurk at the edges of my thoughts and freak me out. And if those what if’s freak out other people, hey, so much the better.

So what’s a what if that gets under your skin…what are the things that get to you?

***

If you want to explore some creepy what ifs (and some that aren’t so creepy), feel free to check out my books!

Or, if you just want a taste, there are a lot of quick flash horror fics in the free read section!

Free Flash Fic, Reviews, & More

Published September 26, 2017 by admin

New stuff for your Tuesday! Note – I’m still catching up on personal correspondence from the last week. I’m working on a few possible future things lately, so I’m balancing that with trying to get media organized again, and some other things, as well. So I am getting there.

Congrats to the winner of the birthday caption contest – Rie Sheridan Rose! Thanks for participating, and I’ll be in contact about ze prize.

 

littlefishcover

New YA graphic novel review up for Books by Violet – this week I’m looking at the illustrated memoir of a small-town girl going off to art school: Little Fish. 

 

 

Fruits_Basket_manga

I accidentally missed the second of my manga reviews for I Smell Sheep, so here it is. I’m starting everyone off nice and easy with a feel-good shojo story with some interesting twists and turns: the classic title, Fruits Basket!

saturn

This is the most recent manga review for I Smell Sheep – a shorter series at only seven volumes, but still really interesting. Think Snow Piercer mixed with sci-fi mixed with a more kid friendly rating. It’s excellent, I swear. To read my full review on Saturn Apartments, go here!

 

hornguy

I participated in this month’s Ladies of Horror flash picture project – and was given the above image. To see what I did with it (and to read it and other free flash horror stories), go here!

 

 

 

SJ Reads: The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina

Published September 25, 2017 by admin

I was going to wait until October, but since the news broke last week that it’s getting a TV option and I LOVE this series, I decided what the hey.

sabrina

The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina is another offering from Archie Horror, who brought us the magnificent Afterlife with Archie. A few things to keep in mind:

This is based off the 60’s comic book Sabrina, so it takes place in 1966. It has absolutely nothing to do with the 90s television series – the character went through a lot of incarnations before this point. Honestly, for me it makes it a little easier to take, because there’s less of an association with the outright familiar.

This series has much more of an existential dread vibe than Afterlife. There’s not really any humor, and between the time period and the art, there’s a nice tension throughout the story. In the intro to vol 1 the comparison is that if Afterlife is Evil Dead, Chilling Adventures is Rosemary’s Baby or Exorcist.

If you are offended/bothered by anything of an occult nature, you will not like this series. That’s just the way it goes sometimes. You can dislike that they did this, dislike that it was with this character, but there are a lot of Archie stories, so luckily you don’t have to wander into this if you don’t want to. There is no denying that the witches are malevolent in this series. The occult/satanism vibe is extremely overt, so it’s not something you can really read around if it bothers you.

This story has nothing to do with Afterlife – Sabrina, Betty, and Veronica are characters in both, but the stories don’t cross over at all, so just pretend they’re not even in the same world.

There are some similarities to the show, mostly that Sabrina is half witch/half mortal. Also, like in the show, witches aren’t really supposed to fall in love with mortals. That’s about where things end.

The day that Sabrina is supposed to be claimed by the coven as an infant, her mother rebels, which leads her being lobotomized by spell and put in a mental institution. For other reasons, her father is sent to Hell, so she’s raised by her aunts in another town. As she hits her sixteenth birthday she has to make a decision as to which way she’s going to live her life. Meanwhile, her father’s old ex, Madam Satan, has been summoned from Hell and is after revenge, and Sabrina.

So, yeah, little different.

There are a lot of interesting things going on here. The time period lends itself not only to the horror vibe, but to the subtexts of racism and gender roles, as well. You always get a sense that Sabrina is fighting to be who she is around different groups of people, which makes for an interesting read. It’s also picked up with the Betty and Veronica practicing witchcraft in secret storyline, and some other places, as well. A lot of the characters we’ve come to expect as being benign become super-interesting in this version. Hilda and Zelda, as well as Sabrina’s father, project a definite malevolence, though her aunts sort of swing back and forth. They want the best for their niece, but they also definitely want her to commit to the coven.

And by commit I mean sign her name in Satan’s book. Let’s just put that out there now so I don’t get yelled at when someone tries to read this thing. I told you, this ain’t yer 90s Sabrina. There’s also some very sixties stuff with school shenanigans and trying out for a play, and other things that are foiled when Madam Satan shows up in disguise and takes Sabrina under her wing.

Sabrina, herself, is facinating. She’s the protagonist, but she also isn’t the goody goody we’re used to seeing. She’s somewhat victim to manipulations, but she also is ready to stand firm in what she wants and believes. She’s hardly innocent and uses her powers however she wants. I think there’s even a moment where she says something like ‘I’m a teenage witch, this is what I’m supposed to do!’

Honestly, after so many seasons of seeing her as a kind-hearted goofball (and I love Melissa Joan Hart’s portrayal of her), it’s kind of awesome to see her like this. She’s still kind of at the mercy of some things, but more of her decisions (even if she’s being misguided) come more from her.

You’ll still see familiar faces – there are some from the comics that we don’t see a lot of in the show. For you 90s fans, Harvey makes an appearance (heh), and Salem is there, though in a much less comedic capacity. Ambrose, her British cousin, also shows up and ends up joining Salem as more of a sympathetic sidekick.

It’s very important to note that this isn’t Sabrina as Buffy, Sabrina as Practical Magic, Sabrina fighting evil. And honestly, I don’t want those. This is what I want. This is horror. This is dark. This is something distinctly of and for this character. This reads like a showrunner snapped after being criticized over the 90s show one too many times and decided: FINE, SEE HOW YOU LIKE THIS. (note: this is my headcanon and not the actual origin of this series. The writer and artist are amazing in their own bodies of work and deserve a ton of praise for this). This is something that absolutely should not work because it is definitely against type and uncomfortable.

And it is magnificent.

Honestly, I was shocked when I read it. I did not expect it to be good, let alone this good. Does it unnerve me? Sure. Does it make me uncomfortable? Yep. But that’s what good horror does. Seriously, if you can step back from your expectations and how you feel about the television show, if you can embrace this for what it is, it’s truly amazing how strong of a title this has turned out to be. My only gripe is that it’s super slow to release (something that I hope changes now that it’s under the public eye).

The art is also some of the most beautiful stuff I’ve seen in a horror comic in a while. It has a distinct retro/vintage feel (some of it has a straight up EC or Creepy/Eerie vibe), and with the majority of muted colors, you just feel everything knot up inside you while reading. Characters you want to like and agree with become horrifying then revert back, and the familiar never feels altogether safe. It’s easy to fall into this series based on the art alone.

As for my thoughts on the television show…I’m not sure. I think it could be amazing. I really want it to be all that’s in my head. However, I also expect that because it’s going to CW that there will be changes (there’s at least one aspect that I kind of wonder if they’re going to have to change), or be dialed down, or whatever. I hope I’m wrong, because I think there is a market for this as is, if it can overcome people’s nostalgia over the 90s show.

For what it’s worth, I loved the 90s show. I thought it went on too long and became somewhat stale and a caricature of itself, but I loved the first few seasons. It’s cute, it teaches lessons, it’s feel-good. Salem is one of my favorite characters. However, it’s been done. I don’t need the further adventures of, I don’t need soap opera Sabrina or teen angst Sabrina or whatever.

Something based straight from Chilling Adventures would give them a lot of room to build (it’s only 2 collected volumes so far, I think), plus it provides a lot of subtle social commentary. I don’t know that marketing it is going to be the easiest thing between instant knee jerking and people wanting something close to what they remember, but with Riverdale’s success, hopefully I’m wrong.

If you’re brave enough to check out the comic, you can find the first volume here. It’s absolutely not for everyone, but if you like horror and different takes on the familiar, definitely give this a try.

 

Flash fic: The Moments Before

Published September 8, 2017 by admin

I felt like I needed to do something for today because I’m so excited for It. So, here’s a little flash piece I threw together, copyright mine, like everything else on this thing. Heh, enjoy.

 

The Moments Before

They waited in the toy box, neglected and hidden under other, more comforting toys. They waited in the circus, that razor-edge place of dream and nightmare. They waited in cars, crammed shoe-tip to shoe-tip, nose to nose, stale breath that reeked of peanuts and spun sugar. They sometimes escaped to the real world and showed up at parties, though somehow children always knew better than to look them in the eye. Sometimes, sometimes they’d get lucky and escape from the Other Places, the In Between places, and show up in the Real World to lurk in the woods, or backyards, or under street lamps. Always, always under shadow, under ‘did I really just see that?’ film of disbelief. Even then, they waited.

Soon the ring master would cue their act, soon the hand crank would play the tune that sent them rocketing out of their boxes, soon the cords would be cut free and they could drop pretenses of entertainment, of magic and face paint, to show what truly lurked underneath. Soon laughter and unease would dissolve to screams and tears, the jokes wouldn’t stop until the screams and pleas finally died down. The car doors would all pop open and their streams of shrieking numbers would come pouring out, soon the thin band of decorum that kept things from getting too out of control would snap. No vigilante mob or well meaning officials could save anyone. Soon, soon the music would play, the end of the world would come, and the circus would truly begin. Soon, thousands of gleaming, hungry eyes would snap open from Elsewhere, and find that they were finally, finally here.

Soon, the clowns would hunt and everything else would begin.

 

New #Horror: Gods & Monsters by SH Roddey

Published August 17, 2017 by admin

GodsWeb.png

 

What can I say, it’s just a promote-y kind of week. Today I’m not talking about myself, though (for once). When one of my co-conspirators has something awesome out, it makes me want to cheer and smash it in everyone’s face. What can I say. So yeah, S.H. Roddey is writing again, which makes me incredibly happy. And her

new one looks awesome.

 

Gods&Monsters.png

 

Title:         Gods & Monsters
Subtitle:   A Shadow Council Case Files Novella
Author:    S.H. Roddey
Genre:      Dark Fantasy, Historical Horror
Buy Link: https://www.amazon.com/Gods-Monsters-Council-Archives-Novella-ebook/dp/B0745XLWSN

Series Info

They have worked behind the scenes of society for centuries, protecting humans from threats beyond their understanding. They are The Shadow Council, and these Archives are the stories of their members and adventures throughout recorded history. From folk heroes to monsters out of darkest nightmare, the Shadow Council Archives explore the world beyond mundane understanding.

He is the original horror novel. He is the first science fiction hero. He is Adam, creation of Victor Frankenstein, and he is more than dead, but less than alive. And he is being hunted.

From the pages of the Quincy Harker novellas comes this original tale of Adam, Frankenstein’s monster, in his earliest days. Wandering Europe shortly after the death of his “father,” Victor, Adam encounters a secret society determined to unlock the mysteries of life and death. He’s seen this obsession before. It never ends well.

Blood, lust, life, death, and friendship are all explored in this incredible look into the mind of the original monster.

This Shadow Council urban fantasy novella comes from the world of Quincy Harker, Demon Hunter. Similar in length to Bookshots, these novellas provide a glimpse behind the curtain at an urban fantasy world where demons walk the earth, and the monster may well be the hero.

Cover Blurb

“My scars, my disfigurement…those were things I could not change. But who I was? That was entirely up to me. I, Adam, Son of Frankenstein, could, at long last, be a man.

Decades after the death of Victor Frankenstein, Adam returns to Ingolstadt in search of answers and acceptance.  What he finds is not what he expects: a beautiful woman spiraling into insanity, a murderous cult determined to harness the power of creation, and his worst fears coming to fruition. An offer of assistance from a mysterious stranger turns his world on end and sets him on a path toward both salvation and destruction.

 

First Chapter

 

Victor Frankenstein is dead.

This startling revelation settled in my mind on a clear day in February as I sat atop a snow-capped mountain and watched the lights of Selfoss wink on in the evening gloom below. Iceland as a whole slept under cover of darkness, soft and secure in the thoughts that monsters did not exist. If only they knew… Though to me it seemed the true monster was gone at last. It had been some time since I looked over my shoulder in search of his maddened visage, and longer still since word of his pursuit reached my ears.

With the revelation came a near-crippling release of emotion. Relief flooded my senses, and had my tear ducts been operational, I might have shed tears of joy. My long-suffering countenance could finally clear, and I might, for the first time in my miserable existence, have the opportunity to experience life without the specter of my past. Time was no longer my enemy. My father could no longer hurt me. I could accept my beginnings and move on from them. In that instant, I made a series of choices.

I chose, to the best of my ability, to integrate myself more with the creatures from whose stock I was built. I chose morality. I chose humanity. I chose to let my demons lie and embrace the things I could be. My scars, my disfigurement…those were things I could not change. But who I was…that was entirely up to me.

I, Adam, Son of Frankenstein, could at long last be a man.

I stood and crept down the mountain. The tiny hamlet contained roughly a dozen buildings, all in varying stages of disrepair. Many had roofs made of straw and thatch; others bore wood plank walls with large pockmarks packed hard with ice. In very few windows did lanterns burn. The only building that could, in fact, be considered habitable by European society’s standards was the inn. A puff of white smoke billowed from the chimney, and inside sat the majority of Selfoss’ inhabitants.

I’d watched them for weeks now from a cave above them. They were an industrious people who rarely saw outsiders. These men and women were isolated from the world by the ice, the mountains, and the waterfalls. It seemed as good a place as any to begin my attempt at humanity.

I took a deep breath and entered the inn. My hood was pulled tight around my face to hide from the occupants. As I crossed the room, I pulled a purse from the pocket of my coat. The innkeeper smiled as I approached, but when I stepped up to the counter, I pulled back my hood. All movement in the building halted as three dozen pairs of eyes turned curiously toward me. A woman’s frightened gasp filled the air as she leaned into her husband’s side.

“A room for a weary traveler, please,” I said in their brusque language. Eyebrows rose in surprise.

The innkeeper—though disturbed by my excessive height, the sharp angle of my jaw, and the angry scars bisecting my face—nodded, accepted my money as if I were an average man, and handed me a key.

“Upstairs,” he replied, then hesitated. He glanced around at his patrons, then back up at me. “There’s stew in the kettle if you’re hungry.” He pointed to the heavy cauldron hanging in the fireplace.

“Thank you,” I said with a nod. “Perhaps soon. I am still frozen from my travels.”

He nodded and gave me a tentative smile. “Of course. Enjoy your stay.”

The ice in my chest thawed a bit at this man’s show of kindness. I would not tell him I did not require sustenance, but to know that it was possible to be treated as any of his other guests was enough. And because of his unexpected kindness, I allowed myself to feel at ease. And because of my ease in this place, I slept. For the first time in my miserable existence, I found myself able to slip into unconsciousness with absolutely no fear of attack.

I should have expected the worst.

 

*****

 

I woke with a start well after midnight to a series of bindings crossing my body. Cold hands scrabbled at my wrists and ankles, tying ropes and anchoring chains. Hushed voices whispered around me, frantic, frightened, and deadly. Undoubtedly, I’d slept harder than I thought, as I found myself completely immobilized.

My back hit the floor, knocking the wind from my lungs, and I was dragged from the room. They pulled me down the stairs, my head banging against each step as I coughed and gasped, no doubt carving out divots with the impact. Tables and chairs flew aside, bouncing against my legs and arms as my captors struggled to move me through the deserted tavern by the ropes around my ankles. I didn’t fight. I’d promised myself I wouldn’t hurt anyone else unnecessarily. I wanted to know their plans before I retaliated.

So, I allowed these terrified men to drag me into the cold, through the uneven and sleeping streets to the edge of town where a copse of snow-capped trees stood. The crunch of dirt and gravel muted as they pulled me off the path, their boots sinking deep into the drifts of snow collected at their feet. Even from this distance, I could hear the water rushing over the falls. The air around us was calm and quiet, devoid of any sound except that of the water and their labored breaths. I did not struggle as they dropped me into the muddy snow and kicked at me—I would not risk breaking my promise to myself and injuring another man. I accepted that they were frightened of me, of my face and my size, of the scars and waxiness of my skin. A booted foot crashed down on my nose, breaking the cartilage and sending warm, thick streams of blood across my face. My sinus cavity filled with blood, and I coughed it away involuntarily, holding in a cry of pain as another landed a blow in the soft meat between my ribs and my hip. Perhaps they meant only to drive me from their sleepy, little hamlet. I was an interloper, a thing to be feared. I would allow them to run me away.

Then the rope came around my neck. Boots continued to connect with my chest and ribs. Blood poured from my ruined nose. My bones ached. My skin burned. Then they pulled—six men it took to drag me from the ground—and I realized their true intent: they wanted to kill me. They feared me so greatly that they could not suffer me to exist a moment longer.

My airway constricted under the pull of the rope as my feet left the ground, inch by torturous inch. It was not the first time I’d been hanged, and though I knew it would not kill me, it hurt nonetheless. I had done nothing to these people!

My anger boiled. I wanted to destroy them all, yet I remained motionless and allowed the noose to tighten. I would hold onto my convictions, anger be damned. I would not become the monster they saw.

“Why won’t it die?” one of my attackers asked.

“Because it’s a demon,” another said.

“It’s not a demon,” the first replied.

“It is! Why else won’t its neck break?”

“How do we kill it?” another asked, this voice young—no more than a teenager by my estimation.

“Do we burn it?”

“Stab it!”

“Cut its head off!” came another voice, and the cries of assent rallied around this call to action.

Then the branch snapped, and I collapsed to the ground. Pain flared through my feet and ankles from the impact, and all six men fell backward with a series shouts and grunts. The others moved backward as a single unit, afraid of being within my reach…as they should. The noose loosened, and I flexed my arms, breaking the bindings around them. Even the chains they’d used to drag me fell away. I jerked my legs free and planted my bare feet on the snowy ground. Metal and rope pooled at my feet as I stood, towering over the cowering, crying men. They backed up farther, those with torches holding them toward me as if to ward off an attack. I laughed.

“Shoot it, Agnar!” one screamed, and I heard the cock of a revolver’s hammer.

“Yes,” I replied in their own language, turning toward the gunman. Those who had not been present for my arrival gasped in surprise. I imagined they did not think me capable of intelligent speech. I took the barrel of the gun in my hand and stepped forward, pressing it into my chest to mark my heart. Should it work, I would be out of this eternal misery…and if not, I would continue as I always had: alone.

“Shoot me. End my existence. Prove me human, Agnar.”

The man’s hand shook so violently he could not keep the weapon trained on me. I stared down at him, still as stone as tears poured down his face. His lip trembled. Mucus ran from his nose in slimy strings, and saliva dripped from his bottom lip. He wiped a gloved hand across his face, smearing the mess to his cheek. He blinked away tears, and the trembling intensified. Finally, unable to hold my gaze, the terrified man threw down the gun and turned to run.

I caught him mid-stride, my hand closing around his throat. His windpipe collapsed as I squeezed. His eyes bulged, and when I released him, he fell to the icy ground, dead. Sightless eyes stared up at the canopy of trees. Blood leaked into the soft white snow from his nose and the corner of his open mouth. The rest of the mob remained motionless, stunned into silence as they stared at their dead comrade. The gun lay between them and me, and had any of them thought to grab it, the battle may have ended differently.

Then again, perhaps not.

A new combatant appeared from the mass of trembling men, brandishing a knife. A second followed him. One after another they attacked, driven out of fear—knives and guns, sticks and rocks. Each man charged, fueled entirely by the instinct to destroy, and each died with a look of shock upon his face. I crushed one man’s skull in my hand, broke another’s neck. A third I slammed face first into the very tree from which they’d attempted to hang me. One fired a round at me and missed, hitting his comrade in the chest and knocking him backward into a snow drift. I tore those men apart, leaving their bloody carcasses scattered beneath the trees. Still, the rush of water over the falls in the distance sang out, uncaring of the carnage.

At last I stood in the grove, the powdery, white ground stained muddy red beneath my feet. Blood soaked into my clothing. I needed to return to the inn and retrieve my boots and coat. I needed to leave this place before I was found.

It wasn’t until I started to walk away that I recognized the face of the innkeeper among the dead.

Author Bio

South Carolina native S.H. Roddey has been writing for fun since she was a child and still enjoys building worlds across the speculative fiction spectrum filled with mystery and intrigue.  She brings to the literary world a unique blend of humor, emotion, and wild ideas filled with dark themes and strong characters. In her spare time, she offers professional book formatting services and writes romance as her imaginary friend, Siobhan Kinkade.

In addition to writing she is also a voracious reader, wannabe chef, and video game addict with two full-time jobs: administrative social media professional, and mom to a cat, a young twenty-something, and a pair of precocious youngsters with an affinity for computer keyboards. She also works as the formatter and cover artist for www.ClickingKeys.com and enjoys the perks of being married to her best friend and full-time muse.

Author Contact Info

Website: http://www.shroddey.com
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As Siobhan Kinkade:
Blog: http://siobhankinkade.wordpress.com
Facebook Author Page: https://www.facebook.com/AuthorSiobhanKinkade
Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/siobhankinkade
Amazon Author Page: http://www.amazon.com/author/siobhankinkade