Bugs Plus Robots Equal World Domination

First off, in reply to last week’s comment from Ardee-ann…I totally agree. If any insects are going to take over the world, it will definitely be cockroaches. *shudder* Hardy little critters, they are….zombienanopackage

In continuing with the theme, I was looking at Hexbugs this week (okay, I was looking at the zombie hexbug in a coffin shown above, which I may yet order), and thinking to myself, “Dude. If cockroaches don’t take over the world, it’s gonna be these things.”

If you haven’t seen them before, Hexbugs are little bug-like robots that scurry around and…well…that’s all they do, really. Unless it’s an aquabug, in which case it swims around. They’re robots. And bugs. And the only reason I don’t have any yet is because if I get one, I’m going to want more, and just when I get ready to take over the world with my hex bug army, they’ll turn on me, eat their way under my skin, take over my brain and use my body to infiltrate the human race one little piece at a time.

Or…my husband might kill me for starting yet another toy collection. Though I do have a mostly empty table at work that could do with a little faux “bug life”…

**Note: I did in fact order a Zombie Hexbug. And I ordered a couple of extras too…whatever will I do with those? Stay tuned…**


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Excerpt Day: Sprouted

Sprouted_300Excerpt: Sprouted

A terracotta head sporting a thick mane of tiny plants caught her eye, and she stopped to watch the commercial. Dull orange pottery shapes of all sorts were soaked in water, and then parts of them smeared with what looked like a gelatinous substance that sprouted into a full head or body of a fluffy, living mat.

Amelia glanced down the hall. She could just barely see Stan’s bald head as he sat on the floor, one of the pipes from her sink in hand. Imagining what he’d look like with a thick, lush chia bed on his shiny dome made her smile.

Wouldn’t it be fun if humans could grow plants on their heads?” she murmured, turning her attention back to the TV. It would be a wonderfully symbiotic relationship, like the bone meal she harvested for her roses, though that was more of a sacrificial relationship.

Stan came out of the kitchen, toolbox in hand. “There you go, Amelia. All fixed. Do I need to lecture you about washing off your gardening tools in the sink again?” He raised an eyebrow, looking stern though they both knew it was all an act.

She shook her head and coyly flipped her wrist down. “You know better than that, dear boy. But I’ll try to do better this time. What do I owe you?” She got up and went to the table by the door and got her wallet out of her purse.

For you, twenty-five. And I want you to know that’s a special rate, so don’t go telling your friends.”

She laughed and pulled out the cash, handing him two bills. “It’ll be our secret. You’re too good to me, Stan. Now skedaddle so I can go make dinner. I still have some things to attend out in the shed tonight.”

He took the money and waved as he walked out the door, and she waited until he pulled out of the driveway to lock the door behind him. Checking the clock, she went to the kitchen and took the brown pitcher out of the fridge, then let herself out the back door.

When she reached the shed, Amelia set the pitcher on a table next to the door while she got the key out of her pocket. Glancing around to make sure no one had come into the yard, she opened the padlock and hooked it through the metal clasp before grabbing the pitcher and going inside. Pulling the door shut behind her, she used a slide lock to ensure no one could enter, and then turned to what she liked to call her “garden brigade”.

Hello boys,” she said with a smile. “It’s time for dinner!”

There was no response, but that was a good thing. Moving toward the first stall, she poured the thick concoction her husband had perfected into the feeding container and watched it run down the feeding tube and into Number One. The man twitched a little against his bindings – they all did at first, but the flow was regulated to go slowly so it wouldn’t gag the poor things.

She checked the bandage at the bottom of his left leg, where she’d harvested his foot two days ago. It hadn’t bled through, which was a relief, but she’d need to change the wrapping and make sure it wasn’t getting infected. The IV was still dripping steadily into his arm, delivering the herbal recipe she’d gotten from an eastern gentleman one year when they were traveling. It kept the brigade in a semi-comatose state, unaware of their surroundings for the most part and free of pain. She’d added extra garlic to Number One’s mixture, to inhibit infection, and so far it seemed to be working.

Moving on, she fed the remaining three brigade members and then set the pitcher by the door. Picking up a small rake and shovel, she raked the small piles of excrement from each stall and put them into a bucket. Spreading fresh straw underneath the specially-made pallet beds, she tidied up each space and then helped each brigade member to lie down.

Early on in their studies, she and her husband had determined that changing positions during the day improved circulation and bodily functions, enabling the brigade members to live longer and be more productive. So every morning and evening they were repositioned, though she wouldn’t be able to do it for much longer. Her strength seemed to be waning and it made her want to cry. Her husband had left his work to her, but who would take over when she was gone?

Shaking off the depressing thought, she went to a desk at the far end of the shed and sat down, opening the log book and marking down her notes for the day. She thought for a minute, bringing the end of the pen to her lips. Scanning the entries again, she finally made a new notation for Numbers Two and Three before closing the book. Her last experiment would begin tomorrow. And after it was over, she’d write up her findings and lay the brigade to rest, once and for all.


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If Insects Took Over the World…

Not too long ago I finished reading a novel by Joseph Wallace titled Invasive Species. As you might guess from the title, it’s the story of people trying to keep insects from taking over real estate. It hit home quite handily with me because the bugs in question were the very same that scarred me (literally, not mentally) last summer right outside the back door. Needless to say, they’re not my favorite critters right now, even though I know they do their part in the ecosystem.

I think the thing that’s so scary for me about insects taking over is how fast the food supply could go. Large enough communities of them could completely decimate acres and acres of fields in a matter of hours, not days. and when the grain and grasses are gone, that would be the start of the end for cows and other livestock.

Naturally, this would mean we’d have to learn how to harvest and eat the bugs – something which, aside from crabs/lobsters – is rather unpalatable to me.

I wonder if bugs would become the new currency? Or if they’d be more like drugs, traded on the black market for goods and services? Of course they’d all die eventually, running on instinct and having already decimated the food supply…or would they? Maybe they’d adapt and survive, learning how to get what they need on instinct and holding man back from living any semblance of a normal life again.

Wallace explores many of those themes in his book, and I’m doing so as well in my next short story, The Dry Rain (though a bit differently, of course). It’s kind of fun, honestly. And also, kind of freaky…

What do you think would happen if insects took over the world? And which insect do you think is most likely to do so?


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Excerpt Day: Lettuce Prey

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Excerpt: Lettuce Prey

He was feeding the bitch cake. Off his own fork.

Bastard.

Abby Mars peered through the small portal window in the swinging door that separated the kitchen from the dining room. Her ears burned with anger as she watched her boyfriend with another woman. Not just any woman, but a fat cow three sizes bigger than the unfortunate top she’d managed to stuff herself into. What she’d done to make Dominic fall for her was anyone’s guess, but he could have at least had the decency to tell Abby.

Who did he think he was, anyway – bringing his new fling to her restaurant? Did he think she wouldn’t notice just because she was a sous chef, and rarely made it out of the kitchen?

She looked down at the flat stomach she worked so hard for, draped in a stark white jacket. She loved food – there wasn’t a dish out there she wouldn’t try at least once. But she watched her portions, she was on her feet all day, and three times a week she went to the gym. Dominic appreciated it, or so she thought. Watching him feed the fat girl another bite of chocolate cake made her want to grab the nearest knife and slash his cheating throat.

But she wouldn’t. Not here, anyway, where anyone could see and hear. She’d bide her time, plan her revenge, and then they’d die together.

She turned away from the window and strode back to her station. Salads were her assignment today – chopping, dicing, mixing, dressing. The knife flew under her fingers, making a satisfying clunk every time it hit the cutting board. Over the next hour, she forced herself to focus on her job rather than her crumbling love life. She told herself there was no point in worrying about it just yet. Plenty of time for that when she was safely back at the apartment, flinging Dominic’s things out onto the front lawn. Her lips curved up slightly at the thought. She’d call a locksmith after work and have him meet her at the house. Then she could just relax and lick her wounds in peace.

When her shift was finished and her station cleaned, she made the call and went home, fitting her key into the lock one last time.

It wouldn’t turn.

She frowned and checked her watch. The locksmith wasn’t due for twenty minutes yet. She tried the key again, rattling the door knob until it swung open, and Dominic stood on the other side, blocking her entrance.

“Abby, we gotta talk,” he said, stepping over the threshold and pulling the door closed behind him. “It’s over, babe. I know I shoulda told you before, but it was all kinda fast. Lucinda and me, we want to keep this apartment, but it’s okay. I talked to the super, and there was one open just down the hall, so we moved all your stuff for ya. He said you can sign the papers whenever. Here’s the key. It’s 215.”

He pulled a key out of his pocket and reached for her hand, pressing it into her palm. Then he turned and went back into their place, shutting the door in her face with a firm click.

Abby stared at the door for a long moment, letting it all sink in. She could hear them moving around inside, talking, laughing, cozy. Silverware clinked against dishes – her dishes, considering Dominic didn’t have any of his own. Apparently he’d forgotten most of the stuff they had was actually hers.

Technically.

Finally turning away, she moved slowly down the hall, stopping in front of 215. Slid the key in the lock. Opened the door.

The apartment was empty.

Abby stared at the expanse as pictures began to form in her mind.

She smiled.


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Mood Music for Meadowlark Mayhem

I mentioned this briefly awhile ago, but the first newsletter of the year went out yesterday, and it contains the first installment to this year’s serial story, Mine (Book 1 of the Meadowlark Mayhem series). If you didn’t get signed up in time, don’t freak! Head over to The Pit of Despair, put your email address in (and a name of some sort, if you want personalized emails), click the button, and you’ll get an email with a link to the installment you missed so you can get caught up.

And here’s a little music from a couple of my favorite artists to get you in the mood (if not for the new serial story, then at least for the week):


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Excerpt Day: Jack

Today’s excerpt is from a Halloween story…which I thought was somewhat appropriate given that some people on Facebook are calling for an end to Valentine’s Day with a second Halloween instead…

The next serial story starts Monday and will be exclusive to newsletter subscribers. If you’re not already signed up, do it now!


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Excerpt: Jack

Two hours later, Brad was frustrated.

May hadn’t exactly been in a cooperative mood once she figured out what he had in mind. He’d already tied her down, which kept her from going too crazy, but there was no way he could let her go now. Not until after Halloween. And by then, well, he doubted she’d been in a forgiving mood, given her current state.

He regarded her from his work stool as she sat tied to a folding chair across the room. The orange paint had stained her skin nicely – just a light wash was all it took. And the green he’d found had clumped nicely in large chunks of her hair to create a cascade of real-enough looking leaves. A bit of white for the triangles around her eyes and nose was cracking, but it was old paint, and before he’d found enough metal wire to create a stretcher frame for her lips, she’d moved around too much before the paint dried.

He’d touch that up later.

Now he just had to decide whether it was easier to store a live body or a corpse. The corpse would be safer, obviously, since it couldn’t really run off (and if it did, well, that would be fitting for the season). A live body would need water and probably some sort of sustenance for the remaining three days…but no refrigeration, which was a plus, since he didn’t own a large enough freezer.

Having no experience with corpses, he wasn’t sure what kind of changes the body would go through either. And he was quite fond of how his little “Jill” had turned out so far. Those plump pumpkin-breasts were sure going to be a hit with the older teens and dads. The thought made him smile.

So it’s settled then,” he said, enjoying the way her eyes darted nervously to him, and then around the room. They looked almost animalistic, wild when she did that. “I need you alive for the big show.”

Perfectly freaky.

He’d have to make her somewhat comfortable though – she couldn’t stay like that for four days. And he certainly wasn’t going to clean up after her. Considering his options, he decided on the basement guest room and bathroom suite. No windows, thick concrete walls, a sturdy lock, and she’d be safe there until Halloween. His very own pumpkin-girl.

I’m really glad you’re staying, May. You’ll be the star of the show, I promise. And when I win the Jack competition, we’ll celebrate. How’s that sound?”

Tears leaked from her eyes as she shook her head, trying to speak, but the wire holding her mouth in the standard toothy jack-o-lantern grimace wouldn’t allow more than a strangled sound from her throat.

He walked over and untied her feet first, then cut the rope holding her arms to the chair while leaving her wrists bound. Slinging her over his shoulder, he took her to the house through the connecting door and deposited her on the bed in the basement guest room. Carefully removing the wire lip frame, he severed the rest of the ropes and left her sobbing on the old comforter his mother had made, locking the door behind him.


Want to keep reading (with the lights on)? The audiobook is especially chilling, I think. Get your copy here:
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Children & Death

I debated whether to write this post, because it’s pretty rough stuff, but just be warned – it could be hard for some to read as it centers on children being killed by their parents. I wouldn’t blame you if you wanted to skip…I just need to get it out of my head, and it seemed like as good a topic as any for a horror/suspense blog post.

 

Recently in our local news there was a story about a younger couple who had abused their ten-week old twins to the point where one of the babies died. The other was seriously injured, and is now in the care of others while the parents are in jail. Both parents were complicit in the abuse, and admitted as much.

 

Shortly after, I saw another news story about a mother who smothered her baby to death, and left said baby in a closet (somewhere not local). And then just in the past week, a mother whose small kids were found left in a car and dressed for summer on a very cold day. When pressed, she admitted she left them there to die.

 

I have a pretty sick mind. I can generally look at things a serial killer does or says, and see the twisted logic in it. I can see how someone would arrive at the conclusions they do even when it’s just a one-off killing, given their own circumstances and environment or whatever. I’m almost too good at putting myself in other people’s shoes (it’s draining, as I also have a pretty high personal moral code, so my understanding their thoughts & actions doesn’t at all signify agreement with their decisions on any level).

 

I could even understand wanting to euthanize if a child has some horrific disease or problem that will plague them throughout their lives. Not a decision I’d probably make, but I can understand the logic behind it and how one would come to that conclusion.

 

These killings of one’s offspring though, probably due to stretched tempers/lack of sleep/messed up hormones (though in the first case, the father was abusive as well…) – that I just don’t get. There are so many people who want kids that there is just absolutely no excuse for keeping them if you don’t want or can’t handle them. So many ways to get help with parenting – and those programs are very easily accessed too. Yet so many adults choose to keep or kill the kids they can’t cope with. Which signifies something far worse going on in those psyches, in my opinion.

 

I have let a child die in fiction before (under my own name)…but it was an accident, and something that just sort of happened while I was writing, and it seemed organic and plausible enough that I left it in. I don’t know if I could even write a character who would deliberately kill a child though. Because to write that, I’d have to get inside their head…and that might be too much for even me to face.

 

I’m not a parent, so obviously my perspective is skewed a bit, but by all means, if you’d like to discuss, feel free to share in the comments…


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Excerpt Day: Angel Eyes

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Excerpt: Angel Eyes

 

She stirred, shivering as her skin puckered against the cool porcelain. Sitting on the edge of the tub, he tied a length of rubber tubing around her arm and waited for the veins to rise before slipping a needle into the largest. When the syringe was empty, he removed the tubing and placed it with the needle back in his case. He’d have to work fast now.

Quickly he changed his gloves and then opened one eyelid, and inserted a speculum to hold it away from the eyeball. He used a small set of forceps to pull the eye away from the socket, careful not to squeeze hard. Megan shuddered beneath him, and he frowned, hoping he’d given her enough to keep her still. Too late now, in any case. With his favorite scalpel, he quickly severed the optic nerve and placed the eyeball in a small jar of solution, then repeated the procedure on the other eye. He screwed the lid on the jar and wrapped his tools in plastic before returning them to the case. He’d clean them later, when he could do a good job. Megan whimpered, and he wasn’t sure what to do. Normally they were dead by now – why was she still alive? For a moment he considered using the scalpel, but he hated to make more of a mess than necessary. Checking his watch again, he gathered up his things. He had morphine in the car. If he hurried, he could make it back with another dose before she became fully conscious.

He let himself out the back door and walked down the alley to the side street where he’d left his old Buick. Placing his kit in the spare tire compartment of the trunk, he filled the syringe and replaced the cap, then locked the car and jogged back down the alley with a grin. After he took care of Megan, he could spend the rest of the evening with Angel.


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Not Quite Butterflies

© Glinn | Dreamstime Stock Photos

© Glinn | Dreamstime Stock Photos

I’m on the cusp of starting to write the first story in this year’s Insecticide collection, and moths are the central theme I’ll be exploring. I find it quite fascinating that you rarely (if ever) meet anyone who’s afraid of butterflies, but the mere thought of a moth will make some people shudder in fear. Why is that, I wonder? They’re really very similar in nature, when you get right down to it…

Perhaps because most moths are nocturnal, and most people are more skittish at night/in the darkness. Or maybe because they tend to rest with their wings displayed wide, rather than modestly folded together like the butterfly. Maybe it’s their generally fuzzy little heads, or slightly chunkier bodies…

Moths are not actually dangerous at all – they can’t bite or sting. And yet people tend to treat them like wasps…something to be feared and stay far away from. Interesting, don’t you think?

Are you afraid of moths? If so, do you know why? Or is it one of those fears that you just sort of “have”, and can’t explain it at all?


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Excerpt Day: Working Late

I like writing short stories – it’s always a challenge trying to fit as much detail into as little space as possible. Today’s excerpt is one of the four flash pieces in No Hazard Pay, a little sampler I put together a few years ago. Enjoy!


NoHazardPay_300Working Late

Working Late

Janice stared at the spreadsheet on the screen in front of her. Black numbers blurred together on a white background, and she blinked, coaxing her tired eyes to cooperate. She just had to finish this last budget sheet, and then she could go home and curl up with a glass of wine and a movie.

She scrolled down the columns, trying to find the line that was throwing off her calculations. Not seeing anything, she sighed, and went to the top again, scrolling through one more time, slowly.

Thump.

Janice jumped. She frowned, looking up at the window in the door. The hallway was dark, and her heart beat faster. Everyone else had gone home several hours ago. Had someone forgotten something? She waited, expecting someone to appear at her door any second. But no one came.

Maybe it had been her imagination. She sat still for several moments, listening. Hearing nothing, she shook her arms and hands briefly, trying to rid herself of the tension that had frozen her muscles. It was nothing. She turned back to her screen, and stared at the numbers again.

Thump.

Janice froze. It sounded closer now, just to the left of her door. Adrenaline raced through her veins, and she couldn’t seem to breathe. There was definitely something out there.

She thought about all those women in horror flicks, and how they always did the wrong thing. And sometimes they died. Horribly. She reached for the phone, carefully picking it up and dialing 9-1-1 before sliding off her chair to the floor. She heard the ring tones in her ear, and felt marginally better. Phones never worked in a horror film.

Thump. Thump thump.

Janice crawled under her desk, pulling her knees up to her chest as she whispered her fears to the operator. It was at the door now, rattling the glass. A deep moan came from the other side, and then a click as the knob turned.

Frantic breathing filled the room, with groans and little high-pitched noises as someone stumbled into the office. Trembling, Janice peeked under the modesty panel of her desk. Two pairs of feet, one in black dress shoes and the other in beige high heels stepped into view, and she closed her eyes, the breath she’d been holding rushing out of her lungs in relief.

She couldn’t help it. She laughed.

The noises stopped abruptly, and she crawled out from under the desk, hoisting herself back into her chair. Samantha and Mr. Harlun stood just inside the door, just staring at her as she laughed until the tears came.

Janice?” Samantha was holding the two sides of her shirt together, a blush creeping over her face. “I-we thought-what are you still doing here?”

Janice wiped the tears off her face, taking deep breaths to steady her nerves. “I was just finishing up a few spreadsheets,” she said. “You guys scared me – I thought there was something in the hall!”

Mr. Harlun ran a hand through his hair, clearly upset. Obviously he and Samantha had been working on another one of her promotions. “I’ll, uh…expect your discretion in this matter, Janice.”

Of course Sir.” She opened a bottom drawer, and got her purse. “I’ll just…” Sirens drew closer, and she glanced over at the phone, the receiver still hanging off the edge of her desk. “Uh, I’m afraid I called the police, Sir. I was scared, and –”

Just go. I’ll deal with it.”

His voice was calm, and Janice nodded, hurrying past them out into the still dark hall. Her heels clicked on the tiled floors as she rounded one corner, then the next. The front door was just 10 yards or so away when she thought she heard footsteps behind her.

She shook her head, trying to shake off the excess adrenaline that seemed to be making her paranoid. Just a few more steps, and she’d be out in the brightly lit parking lot, where emergency vehicles were pulling up to the building.

Something grabbed her hair, pulling her head back violently. She felt a sharp sting across her neck, then a deep, burning pain soothed by liquid warmth as she fell to the ground, unable to move or draw breath. Someone screamed, and Janice heard the front doors open as her mind grew foggy.

The last thing she saw was Mr. Harlun standing over her. He winked.


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