Serial Story: When She Cries, Part 55 (Final)

This serial story is posted weekly on Fridays in draft (unedited) format. Each installment is available for one week. If you’ve missed an installment, email me and I’ll send you what you’ve missed.


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When She Cries
Part 55

* * * * *
When Nicole opened her eyes the next morning, she blinked against the bright light coming in the windows. She moved carefully, sitting up and taking stock of what hurt, what burned, and noted which cuts looked like they were getting infected. She would need antibiotics, soon – she couldn’t end up in a hospital. Not now. Not like this.

Dressing in Patrick’s clothes again, she downed a couple of painkillers and went rummaging through the pantry.

Finding a few heads of garlic in the cupboard, she peeled a clove and ate it, wincing at the sharp, bitter taste, but knowing it was a natural antibiotic, though not as strong as a pill. She chopped several more cloves up into biscuit dough for breakfast, smothered in a can of beans she found for protein. Not much for taste, but she didn’t care. It was the energy she needed.

Today she’d leave this place for good.

Not bothering to clean up after herself, she took the tablet and flashlight with her back to the hidden cave entrance. The flashlight revealed two contractor lights on tripods, and she turned those on, illuminating a small, rough space that housed two large black computer towers, a monitor and keyboard, and a rough shelf with what looked like several wireless routers with black tape covering the front – to block the lights, she presumed.

Wishing she were more tech-savvy, she turned the monitor on and swore as a password prompt greeted her. Turning to Patrick’s tablet, she searched the icons for anything that might give her a clue, finally tapping on one that had an image of a lock on it.

Disappointed when there was no list of usernames and passwords, she saw only a button that simply read Send Password. It couldn’t be that easy though, could it?

She tapped the button, and watched in relief as the username and password fields were populated on the monitor. Pressing Enter, she smiled. This was it. She was in.

There was a folder labeled “banking”, and not having any paper, she copied the account numbers and bank names to the tablet. She was about to click on the folder marked “video”, when another one labeled “users” caught her eye.

Opening that folder, she found links to spreadsheets, and when she opened the top one, she couldn’t believe her eyes.

It was the motherlode. Names, addresses, and payment information for everyone who had ever logged into the site, stored separately by year, month and day. The spreadsheet appeared to update automatically, and the most recent entries were from just a few moments ago – the spreadsheet she had open was the one for the current day.

These people probably had no idea that their information was being saved. Probably thought they were anonymous, free to indulge in their sick habit without fear of discovery.

That wasn’t the case anymore.

In that moment, she knew what she would do with Patrick’s money. It was too big of a job for her to do by herself, but she didn’t mind splitting up the work. She really only wanted those people who had specifically signed on to watch her. The law could deal with the rest.

There was a USB drive sitting next to the computer, and she copied the user files from the days she’d been on the Mountain to it. Disconnecting it and putting it in her pocket, she pulled up a browser, and then the FBI’s web site. Using a general contact link, she attached a few of the older files and sent them off, saving the rest in cloud storage under an account she set up under the same bogus name she’d given the authorities. It wouldn’t take them long to put the pieces together – just long enough for her to get and stay gone.

Finally, she opened the video file. A grid of small squares filled the screen, and all the different views made her head spin. She knew that wasn’t all, either – this was only part of the huge network Patrick had built.

She had no idea how it would even be possible, and she didn’t have time to figure it out. It all seemed to run off the same program though, and she clicked through links and menus until she found one labeled “Settings”. Inside, she found check boxes to turn each feed on or off, and started to click the box for each camera.

Then she noticed two things. A box to the side that would turn all feeds off, and a “Global Message” button with a text entry field next to it.

She grinned as her fingers flew briefly across the keyboard. Then she checked the box to turn all feeds off, and clicked the button to send a global message all at once.

She left the system just like that and walked out, stopping at the cabin long enough to grab the last few bottles of water and another full bag of jerky. Making her way down the trail, she got in Joe’s car and drove away, putting the mountain behind her as fast as possible.

The FBI would find Patrick’s lair eventually, and when they did, they’d shut the system down. Until then, her simple message would serve as a warning to the viewers:

YOU’RE NEXT

###

I hope you’ve enjoyed the story – thanks for reading! The next serial story will start sometime in January – hope you’ll come back to play again….

When She Cries is now available at all major retailers for just $2.99! Links below…


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Instinctual Killers

read an article last week about a 26 year old man in Brazil who has admitted to killing 39 women. When asked if he regretted his actions, he said no, and that he would kill again if released. Apparently killing “calms” him – it scratches an itch, so to speak. These are not crimes of impulse or passion though. From the sounds of it, he’s methodical, and stalks his prey before taking their lives. A sociopath, I’d think, as he doesn’t seem to derive either enjoyment or guilt from his actions. It’s simply what he does in response to a restless feeling, and then the feeling goes away for awhile. Very much like an animal acting on instinct rather than any kind of intellect.

Not that that in any way excuses his actions, of course. And obviously, I’m not a psychologist or psychiatrist, so my opinions are exactly that, and nothing more.

I’m quite sure he’s not the only person in the world with that specific “mental anomaly” (for lack of a better term), and I can’t help but wonder – what if there were a way to harness that instinctual killer and somehow put it to use. Perhaps not “good” use, as I’m not sure there is such a thing when you’re talking about the urge to kill, but something productive, and useful for society as a whole.

Jeff Lindsay explores this notion in the Dexter series, which follows an instinctual killer who’s been taught by his cop step-father to put his skills to use for “good”, insomuch as he hunts and kills only bad guys. I haven’t read the books, but I’ve watched a few seasons of the TV series, and it’s an interesting take on turning an urge most of us would consider morally/socially wrong into something…well, useful, if not passably acceptable. Of course a majority of people would have to buy off on the idea of either vigilante justice, or a sanctioned death-penalty-by-torture in order to make that a reality.

Of course there’s always the option to turn them into soldiers, though I’m not sure that would work either, unless a fairly foolproof way to identify them young and control/redirect them early on was found. But that would have to be done no matter what, if scientists are correct and the brain is pretty well “set” by age 30 or so.

What’s your take? Do you think there’s a place in society for people like this, or do you feel they should either be kept locked up or euthanized for the safety of all? I’m pretty sure there’s no cure (yet) for sociopaths, so working within their natural instincts seems to be the only other option…


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Skin Art

Alex_Tat

An incredibly bad pic of my shoulder tattoo…

Have you ever just looked at skin? Your skin, your partner’s skin, that gorgeous person on the bus or the homeless person you pass on the way to work everyday…everyone’s skin is different, and whether we like to admit it or not, it often affects the way we view and treat people. I’m not just talking about color either, but also textures, lines, markings, scars. Those things that are completely and totally unique only to us, displayed on the largest organ of our body.

Skin is really pretty amazing when you think about it. It takes a lot of abuse, just by virtue of being the “crust” in the pot pie that makes up our body. And much of that abuse is inflicted by us, of course. We tend to take it for granted, much like our other organs, and we don’t always treat it as well as we should. Still, it’s very resilient stuff, regenerating cells year after year, sloughing off the old to make room for the new. It can even be taken from one part of the body and grafted onto another, and stretched to grow more for medical procedures that require it.

Seriously. That is amazing, don’t you think?

Since the beginning of time, skin has been used as a canvas for art. Parchment and vellum were/are dried animal skins, of course, and even now we make all sorts of artwork out of leather, the tanned skins of animals. We tend to decoration our own skin while it’s still attached and alive with tattoos, piercings, and even stretching sections into long loops. We consider body art both a form of self-expression and something that makes us unique.

Have you ever wondered about what human skin would be like as a bona fide canvas? As in, not actually attached to a human any longer, but dried and stretched over a frame, ready to paint or tool or carve just like any other leather product? I’d imagine it would be pretty similar to cow hide, but I really have no idea, since I’m not sure what the difference is in the composition of cow and human skin.

Last year I wrote a story about a woman – an artist – who used human skin exclusively for her canvas. She…ah…harvested and preserved the skin herself, creating beautiful artwork that she then either kept or donated or gave away as rare gifts. In doing the research for that story, I came across a creepy little site that no longer exists called Human Leather. People could donate their bodies to the company, who would in turn create all sorts of different things with your skin once you…ah…no longer needed it.

If you can get past the whole “desecrating-the-body” thing, it actually kind of makes sense in a recycling sort of way. Moreso if the human who previously wore the skin donated it specifically for that purpose. Leather is tough and durable, and I suppose a keepsake parchment made of a portion of a loved one’s tattooed skin might make for a nice conversation starter to hang on your wall:

Guest: That is a striking piece…it looks old. Is that parchment?

You: It is, actually. Poor Uncle Evan. He had a heart attack, you know.

Guest, looking puzzled: Is he the one who made this for you?

You: In a manner of speaking…

Yes, I know. My sense of humor is a bit…off sometimes. Keeps ‘em guessing. ;-)


Canvas_300This post was inspired by the aforementioned story, titled Canvas. Interested? You can get the ebook as a single story for just 99 cents at your favorite online retailers, or you can get it in a three-pack of stories (the other two are by my alter-egos) called The Holiday Pact for $2.99, if you’re so inclined…

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Magical, Mystical Things

While I read (and even enjoy) a good fantasy novel now and again, they aren’t my favorite, and the same goes for horror novels where the “big bad” is something mystical, magical or other-worldly in nature. I tend to prefer things that are at least grounded in reality, or it’s hard for me to suspend disbelief enough to get that “thrill” the author’s trying to give.

 

For example, magic ala Once Upon a Time or Harry Potter is fun, but I never completely lose myself in those stories, because on a deep level, I don’t *really* believe that sort of thing exists. However, in a movie like Star Wars, where the “magic” is explained as a “life force” of sorts that is ever-present and can be used to mystical effect, I have an easier time suspending disbelief because even though it still “just exists”, there’s an origin story, something that fuels the mystical happenings explained enough so as to be…less mystical.  Sleepy Hollow is the same way – everything that has power has been imbued with it, it seems, the power doesn’t just exist unless something happens to make it so, in most cases. That tends to be easier for me to swallow (so to speak).

 

I know. It’s convoluted. That’s how my brain works (you should know that by now).

 

This is the main reason that my books focus on horrors that are real, instigated by people (often, the “horror” is a person…someone to fear). I have an easier time writing it, because I have an easier time believing it myself. It’s difficult to write something you can’t fully invest yourself in (not that it stops me from trying occasionally).

 

So you can imagine my surprise when last night, as I was trying to come up with a blog topic for today, I jotted down a little poem that brought vampires to mind. Vampires & werewolves are so omnipresent that I don’t have so much trouble with those particular fantasies, whether romanticized or raw, but naturally my idea tends more to the raw version of the toothy critters, rather than the romantic. I thought about it for awhile, melded it with a fantasy of mine, and came up with a somewhat mediocre story plot I was kind of “meh” about.

 

After chewing on that for awhile in the shower this morning, I asked myself a question that sort of gelled the whole idea into a conglomeration of reality based horror fantasy, where nothing is quite as it seems, but some things are worse than one might imagine.

 

And that’s how the plot of next year’s horror novel came to be: from a poem, a fantasy, a shower, and a twist.

 

I think I’ll call it… The Wine Maker. Fancy a nice glass of something…red?


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Darkness Becomes Me

I’ve always loved the night. The dark isn’t silent, not by any means, but the noise is a different kind entirely from the hustle and bustle that happens during daylight hours. It’s a soothing sort of sound, the noises of night – much like being out in the wilderness far away from any sort of civilization.

Yes, it can be spooky. And even dangerous at times too, depending on the degree of darkness in any particular place. I’ve been scared in the dark, of course, but it’s very rare for me to be scared *of* the dark. Darkness is my friend, toning down all the visual and mental stimulation that threatens to overwhelm during the day.

Darkness, of course, is rarely complete, especially outside with the stars and moon and whatever other lights happen to be shining in one’s particular environment. Sometimes when there’s a thick blanket of snow on the ground and a thicker layer of clouds overhead, it’s just as bright out after midnight as it was earlier than afternoon. And often I can see the stars and constellations right from my backyard, even living in the city as I do. Our neighborhood is lucky in that respect.

My eyes rebel against too much contrast, but even so, there’s not much prettier than the lights of carnival rides on a warm summer night, brightly twinkling against a sky that looks that much more inky for the bling held up against it.

When I was young and more reckless than I am now, I used to hang out in parks with friends into the wee hours of the morning, talking, philosophizing, swinging on swings. I’d lean against my latest crush’s classic white VW bug and trying to stay downwind of the weed he and another friend were smoking (I was always too scared to try it myself, control freak that I am, but I’ll admit to a contact buzz every now and again…). Or I’d climb with other friends through the sandstone caves on what we fondly refer to as The Rims, tall cliffs above our city that practically beg for parties and exploration expeditions well into the night, when running into rattlesnakes is less of a concern and falling several stories down through a boulder laden-landscape is more of a possibility than any teen will admit to.

Bonfires, confessionals, serious conversations and wild rides of the adults-only kind all need the night like humans need air – the darkness offers both protection for conversations that can’t be held any other way, and security for those who need the courage to broach difficult subjects. The night keeps many secrets, but it convinces us to part with them just as easily.

Are you afraid of the dark? Why or why not?

If there are monsters under your bed or in your closet…have you tried talking to them?


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Things That Go Bump in Your Head

If you’ve read my stories, you know I tend to focus more on the mental side of horror than the physical. Yes, I can get gory at times, but you won’t find slasher-style bloodbaths in most of my work. Mainly because I, personally, am more concerned with/fascinated by horrors of the mind than physical.

 

I find the mind a far more scary place to poke around in than any physical environment could ever be – partly because it’s the mind that makes an environment scary or mundane, but mostly because what happens in the mind determines how we act, react and move through life in general. That is a crazy powerful thing, if you think about it (pun sort of stumbled over).

 

I have all sorts of my own fears, many of them involving those I love getting hurt or killed, and not being able to do anything about it. As a control freak, one of my biggest fears is not being able to maintain control, and protect those I love. And of course just being out of control in general – general anesthesia is another of my biggest fears.

 

Despite those issues, I’m really not much of a worry-wart. You’d think I would be, but if I know for certain I can’t control something, then I can generally push it aside and focus on something else. Weird, isn’t it?

 

One fear that I explore in my books though is crossed lines. What it would take to turn a normal, generally happy human into a killer of some sort? What kind of mental shift do you have to make in order to leave the customs and mores that society has generally agreed on and become a killer?

 

I explore that pretty heavily in my books, though I’m not really any closer to solving the mystery. Still, that’s one of the reasons I write what I do – to explore my own mind, and how it works in great detail. I suspect it’ll take awhile to come to any conclusions. A long while, perhaps.

 

Tell me, if you dare – what goes bump in your head? What’s the thing you’re most afraid of – something that’s all “in your head”, so to speak?


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Of Dogs & Prey & Humane Violence

It’s cold here today. Single digits fahrenheit-type cold. But I my dogs are of the larger variety – a German shepherd mix (Lucy) and an Anatolian shepherd mix (Mica), which means they still have to occasionally venture out into the yard for personal matters.

But that’s not all they go out for. Mica has very natural guarding instincts, and he’s compulsive about keeping an eye out for interlopers at all times, while needing to know exactly where his pack members are as well. He’s always listening, watching, and looking for signs of trouble, even when he seems to be relaxed.

Lucy, is a predator, through and through. Her prey drive is equal to none, and if it’s small, has fur and runs, she’ll chase it. And catch it, and kill it if possible. She doesn’t normally eat her kills (thank goodness, what with the risk of poisoning, etc), but one afternoon, I did watch her snatch a bird right out of the air and swallow all but one wing.

I’ve seen her catch a cat, and while it did make it out of the fence, I have my doubts that it lasted long after, unfortunately. She’s killed several young rabbits, the last of which she was disappointed about when I wouldn’t let her bring her new “toy” into the house, and she’s a better mouser than a lot of cats I’ve known.

I’m home from work today, and the last time I let the dogs out, I actually had to save one mouse from Mica (I’m not sure if he’d eat one yet or not – I’m actually surprised he was playing with it, as he normally doesn’t), and dispose of a mouse carcass after Lucy had gotten it. I’m pretty sure the mouse I “saved” isn’t long for this world either though – it was moving very slow, and either Lucy had already gotten to it and just hadn’t finished it off, or it was freezing to death.

I actually have a hard time with physical violence (which is a little odd, considering what I write), so with no non-violent way to finish off the second mouse, I let him wander off to die on his own. I’m actually not really sure how to kill a mouse in a non-violent, yet quick way. Seems like the most humane thing would be to break it’s little neck, I suppose, but how?! There has to be a “best, most efficient” method, right?

I always hope that when Lucy catches a rabbit, she kills it before I get there. Because I’m not really sure how to kill a rabbit either, aside from breaking it’s neck. And it’s not so much the actual killing that I shy away from, because I’d honestly rather put an animal out of it’s misery than let it suffer a slower, painful death. What I’m most afraid of is botching the job, and causing more pain to something already scared and suffering. I want to help, not hurt, though that seems counterintuitive when you’re talking about taking a life.

Those sorts of moments are the ones where you sort of wish you’d taken your dad and grandparents up on their offer to teach you to hunt, just so you’d know what to do in situations like that. Or that you’d grown up more rural, where making sure animals were taken care of, including put down quickly when needed, was just a part of life that you learned young. It’s not fun to think about, and it’s not something one would need often, but I do think it would be a helpful “skill” to have, in those rare cases it’s warranted.

Which leaves us with another difficult question to ponder this week: if you happen upon a small animal who’s been hurt beyond repair, would you leave it to die on it’s own, or euthanize it, assuming you have a way to do so?


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The Human Hunt

*Warning – this post contains spoilers for The Blacklist episode 6, air date October 27, 2014. If you haven’t caught up yet, you’ll probably want to skip this.

There are a ton of great shows on this season (in my opinion), and since hubby and I can’t watch three shows at once (or even two – I know, it’s so unfair…), we generally end the week with a list of six shows to catch up on over the weekend before the next week’s line-up starts. The Blacklist is one of those shows, and we watched last week’s episode this past Saturday.

*Spoilers start here for both The Blacklist & When She Cries, so don’t whine at me that you weren’t warned…twice!*

I found the taxidermy element in last week’s show to be both gruesome and fascinating (yes, we know I tend toward the macabre – have you read my books?), but naturally I was very interested in their take on the human hunt – that is, hunting humans for sport, like animals. The ear-tag idea was an intriguing twist I hadn’t seen before, and I couldn’t help wondering whether that actually worked, or whether some of those “taken down” previously had been accidental. Given that the “hunter” was a pretty odd duck – apparently quite capable of fairly high-level reasoning, but still not quite right in the head, I’m betting it might have taken awhile for that lesson to sink in.

I also found it interesting that they did, indeed handicap the hunter, mentally speaking. And while his family, trending more toward the “normal” end of the mental spectrum loved him enough to enable his nasty hobby, capturing “live prey” to release for him in a pseudo-secure hunting environment, they never actually participated in the hunts themselves. It left me to wonder whether the writers were implying that while mentally stable (?) people might *think* about hunting other humans, only the mentally unstable would actually do it?

Or perhaps it’s a case of the lesser of two evils. You know your loved one is going to kill – it’s in his/her nature. So giving them a “controlled” outlet for that particular propensity seems like the best way to keep your loved one out of jail/the insane asylum. Which makes a certain amount of sense, if you can get past the whole “killing other people is more wrong than a lot of other potentially damaging hobbies” thing.

Wanna watch? Catch The Blacklist on the NBC site.

In When She Cries, Patrick hunts humans not because he’s mentally ill, but rather because he’s extremely intelligent and enjoys the particular challenge of hunting his own kind. It’s a mental game for him more than a physical one, and he’s figured out how to make a living doing it, which is pretty ingenious, if distasteful. Certainly it could be argued that this is a mental defect – a problem in his DNA or the way he was raised, maybe both, that causes a lack of respect for human life. I think though, that if you bring together evolution and atheism, it’s not unreasonable to view all humans – yourself included – as just another species of animal. And animals routinely kill others of their kind. Most often it happens in power struggles, but some kill apparently just for the fun of it, and some even for no apparent reason at all. Deviant behavior, certainly, but not as uncommon as we’d probably prefer.

I certainly don’t expect you to answer on this blog, but a question to ponder for the week: If you had no choice but to be thrust into a human hunt scenario, what would it take to turn you into the hunter, rather than the hunted?


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New Release: When She Cries

Happy Halloween!

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When She Cries is officially available for sale!
$2.99 at your favorite online retailers:

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Kobo | iTunes | Smashwords

Of course you can also download it for free right here until midnight tonight…and feel free to leave a review somewhere online if you do. ;-)

Nicole Strickly is excited to get out of the city and spend a weekend in the mountains, even if her date is a little sketchy. They aren’t far down the road before she realizes her mistake, but there’s no turning back, and what awaits her when they arrive at camp is far worse than she could ever have imagined.

Forced to run or die, Nicole finds herself embroiled in a gruesome game where the only reward for winning is three more rounds with the huntmaster himself, and an experience that will change the fiber of her very being…for as long as she can survive.

Wanna taste before you buy? Come back in a couple of hours (around 2pm MST), and the next serial installment will be up!

Freaky reading to you, and enjoy the holiday!

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New & Free for Halloween!

Are you in the mood yet? Anything I can do to help? Free books, perhaps?

I’m pleased to announce that Angel Eyes and all the Death by Veggies stories are available free exclusively at Amazon from now until Saturday, November 1st. Download your dose of creepy here:

AngelEyes_Update_webAngel Eyes

Jack_300Jack

LP_Ebook_300Lettuce Prey

Sprouted_300Sprouted

What’s that? You want the new one too? Well, the official release date is Halloween, and it’s already popping up on most of the popular online retail sites for $2.99…

WSC_400But for blog readers, you can download the PDF copy right here for free through Halloween just by clicking here! My gift to you. Enjoy!

Have a spectacularly creepy Halloween…

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