Deadly Ever After

Archive for the tag “Nightmares Before Christmas”

Plan B: The Best Christmas Ever by Kristen and Julie

TODAY’S BREW:  Mimosas! Merry Christmas everyone!


Here is the next segment of the short story, apparently series, that we started way back, called The Plan.  Thought we would use our good ol’ fashioned technique of passing a notebook back and forth and writing another one together.  Kristen did the opening, I did the end.  See if you can figure out who did what for the rest! Have fun! There is no prize.


Plan B:  The Best Christmas Ever

by Julie Hutchings and Kristen Strassel

I snapped off the TV.  I had enough of the over made up bitch on the news pretending to care about a string of victims, senseless violence, blah, blah, blah before switching back to her regularly scheduled goodwill to men.  I rolled on my side facing Jeff, who laid half awake on the scratchy hotel bedspread.  This place was disgusting.  He kissed me roughly, cupping my ass against his side.  The old fashioned Christmas lights flashed red and green onto his face.

He curled his finger into my hair the way he always did now, making me groan and lean into him.  He murmured into my ear while he sucked on my earlobe. “You know, we’re gonna get caught sooner or later if we don’t mix things up a little.”

“What makes you say that?  Because Muffy Newsreader is hot on our trail?”  I ran my finger down the middle of Jeff’s chest, my fingernail leaving a mark on its way down to his jeans.  “We’ve covered our tracks.  We’ve been creative.  They’ll never catch us.”  I kissed him again before he had time to protest.

“Baby, we are still amateurs.  We can still get caught.”

I pulled away from him, confused.  “Amateurs?”  I smiled, but my teeth were gritted.  “We have mutilated, maimed and killed six people, and always find new ways to make it fun.”  I was getting really hot now, but angry too.

“I didn’t say it wasn’t fun.  But it’s not like we’re CSI or anything.”

“We can kill them too, if they come too close.”  I pulled myself up on to Jeff, straddling him.  I leaned close to his face.  “They can’t catch us if they’re dead.”

He was getting hard, but looked a little scared.  “That’s an awful lot of people to kill, armed people, Kendall.”

I jumped off of him, running my fingers through my hair and pacing with the excitement of it.  “It is!  But we can’t get ahead of ourselves, not yet, we need to think about the present, not what could happen, not about the what ifs!  If we keep doing it new ways, keep offing these fuckers different, nobody will ever think it was the same murderer!  So we need new ideas, we gotta get creative!”  My toes dug into the nasty carpet to hold me still.

Jeff sighed.  “What do you have in mind, babe?”

“Lots of things!  I mean, we can strangle them, we can beat them with baseball bats.”  I pranced back over to the bed, leaning over to Jeff so he got an eyeful of cleavage hanging out of my party dress. “We can skin them alive.”

“You really took to this, didn’t you?”

“I learned from the best.  Amateur my ass.”

He jumped up and started pacing on his own, but he was nervous, scared like those girls, and it made me angry.  “We have been together on this every step of the way.”  He moved toward me, ready to plead with me.  I knew that look.  “Since we were kids, I have been with you every step of the way.  But you are getting out of control here.”  He held my arms.  I pulled away.

“You just can’t come up with any good ideas, and now you’re scared.  But I have more.”

Jeff started to breathe heavy, anger sending flames to his eyes, making him shake.  “Don’t tell me what I can’t do!  I can do this as well as you can!  We should burn the next one.  Burn her alive.”

“See, now you’re thinking!  We haven’t even scratched the surface.  There’s so much we can do with this, Jeff.  This is the best Christmas ever.  By the time we get to the next city, we will have those idiots so far off the trail, they’ll never be able to keep up with us.  Our biggest problem will be which one we should do first.”

He had a faraway look, his wheels were spinning.  “I want to kill the next one myself.  Lots of people kill themselves at Christmas, make it look like a suicide.  Maybe not burn this one, but something a little more subtle.”

“Subtle?! Why the fuck subtle?!”

“Because I want more time, and we can’t go big with every one, or it will bring the cops on us quicker, and it will take the punch away from the really good kills!”  He was pissed now, and happy about it.

“I want to make them all really good kills!  Flaying! The next one gets flayed!”

“Fuck, Kendall!  This one is mine, and I say we go subtle!”

“Subtle is for pussies.”

Jeff’s lips tightened like they always did when he was ready to explode.  He let out an aggravated growl as he spun to the girl on the floor.  I had forgotten she was there, crucified to the filthy maroon carpet with two railroad spikes through her hands, one through her left foot.  We through a little garland around her, just for Christmas spirit. My dagger pinned the other foot down, improv work when the bitch had tried to get away.   He knew she couldn’t talk through her smashed in teeth, but Jeff asked her anyway.

“Well, what do you think?”


Teeth by Chynna Blue Scott

TODAY’S BREW:  Still boozy cider.
On a theme today of forcing people to show us their writing and letting the world take a look.  Chynna Blue Scott is a brand new friend of ours that keeps right up, and she has a great voice.  I am so very pleased to let you have a look at her handiwork here, then go have fun on her blog to see an excerpt of her first novel!   Follow her on Twitter and check out her blog!
by Chynna Blue Scott
We aren’t the only ones who have Christmas trees.

Others have Christmas trees, too. And they don’t decorate them the way we do, oh no. They decorate them bad. Real bad.
Bad for us, anyway.
See, when we go a-running a-round, a-searching out our Christmas tinsel and baubles and lights and all that other insignificant bullhocky, they do a different kind of shopping.
A same kind. But a different kind. It’s all relative, yah know?
You don’t know. But I know.
I heard them, talking. The pale one with the teeth and the pretty eyes, she’d spotted the one she wanted. He was tall, athletic type, typical college footballer. She wanted him, she hissed. They were going to get him, just like they got the others. Just like her brother got the pretty little girl.
I assume he was her brother. You never know with them. But he had the same pale face, the same sparkly eyes. The same teeth.
My finger slipped on the railing I gripped, watching them. It was cold, the ice glittering under the floodlights. Skate-blades glistened like silver razor-slashes. I knew how this would play out.
I hadn’t been able to stop them getting the pretty little girl, at the waxworks. I could still see the bubbles when I closed my eyes.
I’d stop them from getting him.
They wouldn’t come out until he went to leave. The twins liked to make their move in the shadows, to hear their victim’s heart speed up as they walked through the dark patch… Not tonight.
I sauntered up to the athletic guy, flipping my hair back, my smile all teeth. It was easy to get him to come with me. Satisfying to hear the girl’s frustrated hiss split the night air, snaking toward me like a spark along a dynamite fuse. I’d lit the dynamite, alright.
I was ready for the bang.
The athletic guy’s face said he couldn’t believe his luck. Oh, he was lucky. God damn lucky. Luckier than he knew.
I wouldn’t hang him on my tree. I wouldn’t drive spikes into his hands and display him like an ornament, dress him like a nutcracker and force him to walk all day and all night… Not like they would. I’d seen it. Seen it a million times. Not this time.
He never saw it coming. Three sharp slashes, and hot blood spurted, steaming in the frozen air. He gurgled, sighed, and fell. He wouldn’t get back up again. No, I wouldn’t display him. My teeth snagged my lip as I dragged him back into an alleyway, slithering red trail a glaring red-arrow pointing to his location. I wanted him to be found. He deserved a burial.
Once they had chosen him, he was already D-E-A-D dead. I just made sure it was painless as possible. Quick job, over and done. His head lolled back as I slumped him against the brick wall, his mouth open comically.
The twins watched me, alternately hissing and spitting. They followed me out of the alleyway and back to the ice rink, their footsteps soundless. No one paid any attention to them as they passed. My black coat hid the blood well.
I needed a drink. I thought about strapping on a pair of skates, gliding over the ice in my long black coat.
I saw the boy’s eyes light up as he caught sight of a young girl, her long hair a shimmering blonde swathe. I sighed, and made my way over to her. My smile was all teeth.
“Hey, there’s a party going on round the corner. Interested?”

My Brother In Law Wrote This!

TODAY’S BREW: Boozy cider. Dreamtastic.
Allow me to gush.  My brother in law is an avid reader, very bright guy, horror aficionado, and in my mind, a natural writer.  Some of you know I sorta have an eye for talent.  And boom, I was right again.  So proud to have forced Chris to write this very first short story of his, and to post it all in the same month.  Help me convince him to write a book.
A Short Story by Chris Hutchings

Exactly the kind of thing Holly would come up with when she drank too much. They had all drunk too much tonight.

C’mon you guys…It’ll be fun, pulling her sister behind her. Ben and Trevor following obediently. Holly’s hips like the Pied Piper when it came to those two, down the walk way and up the front steps of the house.
Holly ventures up onto the porch alone and knocked a couple times on the door. When she hears movement behind it she races back to join the others.

A grubby little girl holding a naked doll in her arms opens the door. Her eyes widen, little face begins to glow with excitement as they drunkenly tear into Jingle Bells. Two older boys peek out from the doorway. As the song reaches it’s boozy climax the doll this the porch, the little girl jumping up and down, clapping furiously.

Meemaw! she cheers. Meemaw wants a song! The boys vanish from the doorway. She scoops up the doll and dashes down the stairs, grabbing Holly by the hand.

A song for Meemaw! pulling Holly up the stairs, through the open door. Holly looks over her shoulders at the others first shrugging I dunno then waving for them to follow.

The girl leads them to a doorway at the end of a long bare hall. Meemaw’s room.

Trevor is the last one into the room. Drawing a deep breath, ready to beat the old lady over the head with Silent Night, when the screaming starts. Holly and her sister at first, then Ben and Trevor.

Meemaw. The corpse in the rocking chair had been crudely  taxidermied and draped with blankets. Huge bugged out glass eyes and lips drawn back to reveal teeth filed to points. Where the hands and feet should have been; a mass of dried tentacles.

Meemaw wants a song. The little girl behind them, the excitement gone from her voice. Meemaw was going to get her song. The naked doll now exchanged for a cattle prod, decorated to look a magic wand. The older boys appear behind her. One holding a net in his hands, the other a hammer.

Meemaw isn’t interested in drunken carolers. This is the children’s concert. Holly and her friends, they’re the instruments.

The Elf by Catherine Scully

TODAY’S BREW:  Tea. I am catching a *#*!! cold.

We are very pleased to offer up the inner workings of Cat Scully, the horror editor for The Horror Writer’s Association Young Adult Blog.  She is also a high falutin’ illustrator, and just plain fun writer working to get published like us all.  Follow her on Twitter @CatMScully and appreciate her awesomeness on


The Elf

The morning is pallid and the sun is wrapped with grey, wool patchwork clouds. Though it isn’t Christmas morning, one child wakes, then two, and all three race down the hall together searching for their present. Each corner they turn down the hall, into each bedroom, down the stairs and into the living room yields no clues as to where the present has gone. Then they reach the downstairs closet. With a small creak, the door opens, and the coats packed together provide an excellent canopy to shield the present’s tiny face from the sudden burst of light.

The children stare down at his tiny white face, rosy cheeks, and pointed ears.

“The elf came!” the youngest child exclaims, wiping his snotty nose against his sleeve.

“Yes,” says the second. “The elf left us a message.”

“I want to open it!” says the first, stamping her tiny foot.

“But it’s my turn,” the second child protests.

The third and oldest child says nothing, but stares down the elf’s solemn face. He pushes his glasses up his nose and finds that when he looks at the displayed scene of the elf with it’s letter sitting on top a small pile of fake snow in a red basket, that he can’t look into the elf’s eyes. They stare back like the two coals he worries he’ll get for Christmas if he doesn’t brush his teeth, turn in his homework, and play nice with his two sisters.  The elf’s smile is turned up in a placid expression that was common to all older dolls and looked more painted than real. There was something about the elf that made the child feel like that smile held a secret it wasn’t willing to tell. The elf’s lips would forever be sealed that way. Smiling. Dead. It unsettled him.

The youngest snatched the letter in the elf’s lap first. “It’s mine Sarah!”

“No, Jenny, give it here!” Sarah said. “It’s my turn. You got it yesterday.”

“No,” Jenny whined. The two wrestled and tumbled until the letter ripped open and a great tear went through the envelope and broke the pages within.

“Now look what you’ve done!” Sarah snatched the card away from Jenny, who started to cry.

“Guys,” the third child said, not taking his eyes from the elf.

Sarah opened the envelope and tried to pull out the piece of paper inside. She shushed Jenny with an angry hiss, who only cried harder.

“Hey guys,” he tried again.

“What Mike?” Sarah said, trying to yell over Jenny’s sobbing shrieks.  “What is it?”

“What is that on the elf’s face?”

He pointed to a small spot of liquid that had pooled on the elf’s cheek below its left eye. It sat red, like a small ruby meant for a fairy’s necklace or a doll’s jewelry box. Another drop dripped down and splatted on the elf, this time hitting its little red and white shirt.

Sarah and Mike were so fixated on the dripping red dots that they hadn’t noticed that Jenny had stopped shrieking. She stood behind them, eyes brimming with tears and quietly heaving sobs.

“Where is that coming from?” Mike asked and got down on his hands and knees to look up in the coats.

Sarah slowly opened the letter, which Jenny peaked over on tiptoes to read over her sister’s shoulder. Mike began to part the coats, trying to see what might be causing the dripping. He shoved his hand up between the thick furs and thin, flannel jackets until he hit something wet.

Sarah gasped. “Mike…”

He grabbed the wet thing and yanked. It flopped out into the light.

“Mike,” Sarah yelled. “This… this is blood.”

When he saw what it was he yanked out, Mike screamed. He leapt backwards until he fell into Sarah. The letter fluttered out of her hands and onto the floor. In the center, the open paper read in red-brown letters: “Tonight, you.”

“Oh, God…” Mike said.

“Get off me Mike! What are you…” Sarah started to say, but then saw the thing hanging out of the closet. Her face turned whiter than the snow gently falling outside the window. Flapping skin hung out of the closet like a dirty sleeve. The skin was intact, whole, and a perfect resemblance of a human left arm.

Sarah, Mike, and Jenny sat in horror as they heard a small ping of sound hit the floor. A little silver ring with a modest diamond fell off the small, flat fingertips at the end of the peachy skin sleeve.

A rustle came from beneath the coats as the elf got to his feet with careful determination. Though its face was frozen in permanent smile, a small voice came out like the twinkling of bells and said:

“Tonight. You.”





Heart Full of Unwashed Socks by Christopher Shawbell

TODAY’S BREW: Mediocre Mint. Because when I drink Carlsberg I post up the wrong story.

So, read THIS story by our kind friend Chris Shawbell who isn’t at all upset that I put up the wrong story today.  Visit Chris @CopiousCorpses on Twitter to tell him how kick ass it is.  Mention that I’m not the Brains of this operation, but I am lots of fun!


Heart Full of Unwashed Socks

by Christopher Shawbell

They still have the calendar up.


Every December I ask, and every December I’m ignored.  They leave it hanging and just give me more meds.  I really wish they’d take it down.  It’s not my fault I’m scared of Christmas.

I had a big family.  Most lived in Springfield, which I thought was a nice name for a hometown.  We’d have reunions at this huge park and all the family would come. I can’t remember what the place was called, and that’s okay; it’s always been Happy Park to me.

Then one day, Mommy and Daddy told me that Daddy got a new job.  He was an engineer.  Not the choo-choo train kind; he built stuff.  This job he’d be making a coal mine safer.  We’d be back in Springfield in about a year, he said.

We moved to a little town called Hooville.  It was hidden in a valley beneath this jagged mountain.  We were still in Massachusetts, but way west.

Mommy called it quaint.  Daddy called it boring.  I called it weird.  I didn’t like the kids, Mommy didn’t like our neighbors, and Daddy didn’t like his boss.

“They’re just not friendly people,” Daddy would say.

“Spying!”  That’s what Mommy said they did; spy and gossip.

There was one really neat-o thing about the place though.

Me and Mommy were at the “Five-and-Dime.”  An Old Man sitting near the counter asked me, “You know who Dr. Seuss is, boy?”

“Yes, sir, I do.  He’s from my hometown, Springfield.”

“Yuppers, but didja know he lived here once when he was a boy?”

“No, sir.  Did he really?”

“Yuppers, he sure did.  Wrote a book here too.  It was…”

The Mean Lady behind the counter yelled at the Old Man to shut up, and me not to listen.  They argued, and Mommy and I left.

Mommy didn’t believe the story.  I asked Daddy.  He said the Old Man was just “..polishing a turd.”  I pretended I knew what he meant.

I believed the Old Man, and thought it was really neat-o that Dr. Seuss had lived where I was living now.  It made it a little bit better.

We didn’t have family there, but Mommy and Daddy made holidays extra special anyway, and that Christmas we hung more lights on the house than ever.

One of the neighbors, Dale, came by and told Daddy he shouldn’t put lights up.  “It don’t agree with the town.”  He said.

Daddy ignored him.

Later, we went to get a tree, but there wasn’t one anywhere.  There was no Christmas stuff of any kind in the whole town!

“To Hell with them.”  Daddy cursed.  Mommy made him put a dollar in the Swearing Words Jar, even though Daddy said it didn’t count because it was in the Bible.  He still paid.  Mommy always made him pay.

We drove two hours the next day to find a Christmas Tree, and it was the biggest you’ve ever seen.  Daddy said “…just to spite.”  I didn’t know what he meant, but we sure had a fun time decorating it.  Then we did the rest of the house.

Next morning the Sheriff made Daddy take all the Christmas lights down outside; the town had an ordinance against it.  He said Daddy should take down all the stuff inside too.

Daddy said, “Make me.”  I’d never seen Daddy mad before, not real kind of mad like he was then.

A few weeks later, on Christmas Eve morning, Dale came by again.  Mommy wouldn’t talk to him, so Daddy did.

“You have to lock the chimney hatch today, Robert.”

Our house had a heavy metal hatch on the top of the chimney, like all the houses around.  Daddy showed us when we moved in.  He’d never seen one before.

“You people around here have a bad habit of telling others what they should or shouldn’t be doing.”

“We’re not bad folks, Robert, it just … well, you’re not from here; you don’t know…”  The crazy old coot (that’s what Daddy called him) looked over both shoulders like he thought someone was sneaking up to kick his bee-hind.  “I shouldn’t even be here, but I saw your hatch is open.  You’ve got to close it … today!”

“Or you’ll send the Sheriff again?”

“It’s for your own good, Robert!  Please, just lock the damned hatch!”  Then he ran away.

Daddy watched him go.  “Crazy old coot.”

Mommy seemed worried.  “What do you think that was about?”

“Who knows, Kristen?  We really don’t know anything about these neighbors of ours.”

Mommy looked out the window.  “He sure seemed upset…”

“Yeah?  Well not as upset as Santa’s going to be if he gets here and there’re no cookies for him!”  Daddy was good at changing the subject.  Usually Mommy didn’t like it, but this time she did.  So did I.

“Santa’s cookies, Mommy!”

She gave Daddy her You changed the subject again! look, then smiled at me.  I loved my Mommy’s smile.  “Santa’s cookies it is, Sweetie.  Let’s get to it.”

“Yay!”  You had to wait a whole year to bake Santa’s cookies, so it was a big deal.  Best part was that Santa only ate three with his milk.  So the rest of the batch we ate on Christmas Eve.

It was so magical being a little kid with the Christmas Tree all lit up, and no other lights on, listening to holiday music, and eating Santa’s cookies.  Nobody said anything for a long while, we just enjoyed it.

Mommy all of a sudden asked Daddy if he was going to close the chimney hatch.

“Hell no,” he answered, and that was that.  The hatch stayed open, and another dollar went in the Swearing Words Jar.

I could tell something was bothering Mommy.  Daddy could too, so he changed the subject again.  “Besides, someone I know has to get up super-duper early because I heard a rumor…” Daddy hinted to me.

“What, Daddy, what?”

“I have information from a very reliable source that told me exactly when Santa would be here tonight, and that if you got up, and were very, very quiet, you could watch him put the presents under the tree with his favorite elf, Goofy.”  Mommy playfully punched him in the arm for some reason.  “Would you like that, kiddo?”

“I sure would!”

He and Mommy couldn’t because Santa knows when grown-ups are watching.

So we left Santa’s milk and cookies out and went to bed.  Daddy set the alarm.  I promised I would be a big boy and get up so I could tell them all about it.  Mommy tucked me in, and kissed my cheek.  I still feel it, like she’s still kissing me.

They stood in the doorway, arms around each other, and smiled at me—that’s how I remember them, just like that.

I never saw them again.

The alarm woke me, and I got up just like a big boy.  Then I heard something.

Oh gosh!  It’s Santa and Goofy!  They’re really here!

I tipped-toed down the stairs, barefoot in my Ninja Turtle PJs.  I couldn’t believe it … I was about to see Santa!  I peeked around the corner.

Only one string of tree lights glowed.  The carpet looked wet … stained somehow.  I could see that someone, or something, was sitting in Daddy’s reading chair in the dark.


Whatever it was, it grinned at me.  I could see it had a really wide mouth and big teeth.

“Why, no, I’m afraid.  I am most certainly not Santa; I’m very real, you see, whereas, St. Nick is not.  Sorry to disappoint.”

It’s voice didn’t fit the big shadowy figure with that mouth.  I was really scared, but for some reason I got angry.

“He is too real!  Mommy and Daddy said…”

“Yes, yes, Mommy and Daddy said he was real so surely he must be.  Mommy and Daddy wouldn’t lie to a sweet little incy wincy boy like you, now would they?”


“Of course not.  Why in the wonderfully wicked world would they do that?”

It took a bite from something that looked in the dark like a giant turkey leg, then put it behind the chair, and slowly stood.  It was really tall … way taller than Daddy.

“Let me guess … you have risen early on this fine—but otherwise no different from any other—morning in hopes of spying on the Fat Man hard at work.  Is that it?”

It took a half-step towards me.

I took a half-step back.  “Yes … Santa and Goofy.”

“Goofy?  Pray tell..?”

It took a step forward.

“Santa’s helper.”

I took a step back.

“Oh yes, of course … the delicious one in green.”

It took a step forward.

“Where’s Santa?  Where’s Goofy?”

I took a step back.

“You poor, poor child … the things they fill your little heads with.  You must be terribly, ter-ri-bly disappointed.”

Another step closer…

It was near the tree lights now.

Its red eyes were shiny and huge.  It had thick green hair all over.  A hairy hand with three long fingers popped a Santa cookie into it enormous mouth.  It was wearing Santa’s hat and suit, but Santa’s clothes were torn and bloody, and too small; green hairy shins and feet stuck out the pant legs.

“Please, tell me where Santa is.”  The stairs were on my left.  I wondered how fast it could run.

“Down the hatch, I’m afraid.”

“The chimney?”

It stopped, straightened, and made a face.  It looked at the fireplace, then threw its head back and laughed.  Oh what a horrible sound!  It left me utterly frozen with terror.

It finally stopped.

“How very funny … you thought I meant the conspicuously open chimney hatch I slithered down.  No.  I meant, ‘down the hatch.’”  It pointed a taloned finger down its throat then rubbed its belly.  “Come, have a look for yourself…”

It leaned forward, its purplish lips pulled back, and it opened its mouth wider than I thought possible—it could get my whole head in there!  A awful smell came out, like road kill.  There was fresh blood in the fur around its mouth and down its neck.  Its arms reached out…

I screamed.

Then there was a deafening BOOM Behind me, and the Thing fell back.

My ears were ringing.  I turned.  It was Dale holding a smoking shotgun.

“Run, boy, run!”

I did.  I heard two more shots, a roar, then Dale screaming.

I got away.  Dale didn’t.

The whole town denied it, but they all knew what had come on Christmas—what always came down on Christmas!  They never found Mommy and Daddy … just Santa and Goofy; they’d been eaten; Dale too.

Everyone back in Springfield thought I was totally bonkers, and they put me in here; the Cuckoo House … been twenty-something years now, I guess.  Was about the tenth I finally realized what that Thing actually was.

I’ve told anyone who will listen but they don’t.  Everybody loves Christmas, and they don’t want it ruined.

They wouldn’t love it though—no sir-ree, not one incy wincy bit!—if they knew what me and Dr. Seuss know; that lurking on a crooked mountain overlooking Hooville, there really is a terrifying Grinch who  stole Christmas.



Christmas With(out) Grandpa by Bobby Salomons

TODAY’S BREW:  Water. Even I stop drinking coffee sometimes.

We have a soft spot for Bobby, and so here you have the opportunity to enjoy another of his amazing works.  We also encourage you to follow his maniacal ramblings on Twitter @D2Dbooks and visit  Seriously.

Christmas with(out) grandpa.

By: Bobby Salomons (Severed Limb Movement)
Partially based on a true story.

It’s been decades, since he passed, my grandfather. A highly decorated World War II Navy-veteran he had spend most of his time submerged under the waves of the Pacific, part of a submarine crew, telegraphing vital messages to and from the Allied Forces.

One unfortunate day the men had even come under friendly fire, taking heavy hits from strafes by British aircraft who saw them for an enemy sub. A group of five, including my grandfather had braved through all odds and stormed onto the deck and waved the Union Jack – that proud British flag – to signal the pilots they were attacking one of their own. Thankfully the pilots saw their error and aborted their attack.
At the risk of death and injury the sub crew did what they felt they had to, they stood for something. He stood for something. And I’d find out, he would always keep doing so – even after life was over.

I never quite had the opportunity to know him, he succumbed to a brain tumor when my mother was just fifteen. They told me many stories, many of which I believed and many of which I did not.
One such story was that on the day of her final exams, the dark hours of the night before, she was sleeping in her mother’s bed – inconsolable over his passing. And suddenly they saw, on the walls of the room, his fine silhouette – in uniform and all. The smell of his Old Spice perfume filled the room with his presence. He was there, letting them know that he was around, to make a point.

Ever since I was little I played with his officer’s hat, his medals bestowed upon him by the Queen herself and perhaps most importantly: His telegraph key. I would sit and play, endless hours, tapping and studying this mind capturing device – imagining myself to be sending Morse codes to commence attack or announce the war was over.
Of course the telegraph key was old, but sturdy made, with screws to adjust the pressure needed to tap the key and being a child I screwed around with them many times. Occasionally the key would fall apart, but with the screws and the adrenaline rush of “being caught” I had always successfully restored it to how it was to be.

Until one unfortunate day, one of the trunnion screws fell from the table, rolled across the floor and disappeared into a hole right before my eyes. The clunk of metal taunting me. Nerves grabbed me by the throat, followed by unforgiving guilt of losing something so precious.
I managed to provisionally restore the telegraph key, but it would only take the lightest tap to find out that it was broken and incomplete. And luck would have it that tomorrow was Christmas, tomorrow all my mom’s family would be here. My aunts, my uncles, my cousins and nephews and undoubtedly they would ask for the telegraph key. And touch it. Play with it.

They would all know it was me. I did it. I broke it, I lost it. It was my fault.

I kept quiet, but not too quiet to avoid suspicion from my mom that day. All I could do was hope, furiously, that none of my family would find out tomorrow. On Christmas, for crying out loud.
I was young and the tension kept sleep away from me, staring at the walls, listening to the traffic outside, feeling remorse. Quietly I mourned the loss of my grandfather, though I had never met him, the telegraph key was my grandfather to me. And now I had ruined that. This was my Christmas without grandpa.
I fell asleep in the early hours of the morning, when things are most quiet and tense. The world no longer belongs to people, it belongs to the dark and the unknown and whatever ventures inside of it.

Suddenly I woke up, my heart racing for no particular reason, cold sweat on my back. There was something in the air, sparkling like fireworks yet invisible to the eyes, I could feel it under my skin.

I gasped and could smell it, Old Spice, even though I had never smelled it before – I knew this had to be it.

Shivering and shaking I pulled the blankets up over my head, yet curiosity forced me to peak around the room from underneath the safety of the covers. Slowly my eyes adjusted to the dark, checking one corner to the next. Soon, I had covered three corners of my room, if there was anything to be seen it had to be the corner with the door.
I quietly rolled underneath my covers and looked at the door. Every nerve, every hair, every muscle fired electric currents through my body – there he stood. Quietly.

His exceedingly tall stature casting upon the cafe doors that were part of my room, not moving an inch yet so overwhelmingly present I felt he could reach out and touch me. I feared he was angry, there to punish me. I dove underneath the covers and as dawn approached his silhouette slowly faded away.

I fell asleep again, exhausted and woke up when my dad checked on me.
Reluctantly I stepped from my bed as my father fluffed my pillow and straightened my blankets. Suddenly I heard a soft metal clunk, my father picked it up,

“…Is that the screw from your grandfather’s telegraph key?” He said. I shivered, I turned around and looked at him – I could tell he was slightly annoyed and not joking.

“Maybe…?” I stuttered, shaking at the knees.

“You should know better than to play with it, you could lose it you know. It’s important to your mom… And put something on, you’re shivering.”

 As I brushed my teeth I realized, my grandfather wasn’t there because he was angry or to scare me, he was returning the screw of his telegraph key and to make a point. And so he did.

Ever since, every single year again, on the night before Christmas I can see him standing in the corner of my room. I can smell his perfume. On Christmas morning I fluff my pillow, followed by the sound of a metal clunk, the trunnion screw of his telegraph key.
I have a running gag with a ghost, I respect him very much.

Their Hands by John F.D. Taff

TODAY’S BREW: Hazelnut. Not that exciting. I can’t always be exciting!

John’s fantastic, so are his more than 65 short stories in print.  Follow him on Twitter @johnfdtaff to see pics of him in superhero masks.  Visit him at  Seriously, do it.

Their Hands

By John F.D. Taff

It was just their hands.  In the end.

Their hands.

No matter what was said after, on the news, on the internet, by the pundits and bloggers, psychics and psychologists, police.  Always trying to make everything more complicated than it actually was.

It was simple.

He’d seen them at the campground, at the pool.

He’d seen them in their Old Navy bikinis and their Dollar Store flip flops.  With their jeweled cell phones and sparkling purses and tubes of lip gloss.

He’d seen them and then, almost, unseen them, as he’d unseen everyone else.


They were trailer park thin, with angular, boyish hips, long boyish legs.  They were country pale with high cheekbones and dark, sunken eyes with too much blue eye shadow.  They were cousins, maybe, sisters; too similar looking to be just friends.  Maybe they were step sisters; perhaps the same father, perhaps the same mother.  Stuff like that happened out here beyond the suburbs.

He’d stretched on his perch at the pool, a spot he’d scoped early that morning.  A clean towel (he always brought a clean towel; his momma had warned him against germs) lay over the lounge chair, soaking up his sweat.

The towel smelled like bleach, acrid in his nostrils.

His sweat smelled like coconut suntan lotion and the sour dread of its anticipation.

Its demands.

When the girls came, he’d already dismissed everyone else.  They were all talking too loud and pointing here and there and laughing.  They throbbed in his head, like a hive of agitated bees.  They made his head hurt, his eyes throb.  He dismissed them all immediately.

So he sat in the sun, smelling his sweat and the towel, his eyes shaded by his sunglasses.

And waited.

Then the girls came in.  They entered the pool area quietly, glided across the hot concrete in a tight, cool envelope of silence.


He sat up in his chair, the towel momentarily sticking to his slick, bare shoulders, then peeling away like a layer of discarded skin, drifting back to the lounge.

His breathing quickened, and he fumbled with his sunglasses.  They were the big, dark aviator kind that made him look cool in the little mirror of his little bathroom in the little, ramshackle RV he lived in, rode in from nameless place to nameless place.

They were slippery in his oiled hands, and they dropped to the lounge chair, clattered to the ground.

Their hands. 

Silent as they were, their hands fluttered in the air before them like tethered birds, captured in their orbits.  They soared and dipped, fingers circumscribing arcane shapes and symbols in the air.

He stared, not at them anymore, but at their darting hands, at the air in which they swooped.  They left silver streaks, like the contrails of jets against a blue, blue sky.  These incandescent arcs and spirals floated before them, between them, and faded, faded slowly into silver spangles that shone in the air, shone in his brain like faery dust before disappearing.

For a moment, it subsided within him, the demands, hypnotized into its own silence by their hands and the occult letters they spelled out onto the very slate of the air.

And then it was back, thrumming through him with a power that rippled the taut muscles of his stomach; that vibrated every cell in every blood vessel in his body.

For a moment, he sat there, his body trembling, his mouth agape, staring at them, at the air around them.

And then he was back, noticing them notice him.

Smiles, small and flirtatious, clung to their immobile lips.

Their hands danced subtly before them, sharing thoughts and feelings that he saw in silver flourishes.

Because of their silence, because of their hands, they were beautiful to him, shining, different.


Suddenly, his head felt better, the pressure decreased, and he felt washed in cool air, as if enveloped in the shell of the rarer atmosphere they seemed to inhabit.

He smiled back at them, smiled with the full force of his demand, and they hesitated, smiled back.

His smile broadened, then, broadened because, in looking at their hands, their right hands in particular, he saw his answer.

Each wore, on her wrist, a black silicone bracelet, popular these days and usually imprinted with a slogan, like “Live Free” or “Hope.”  He didn’t care what the bracelets said, not really.  He cared more for what they showed him.

For what they showed him was how they demarked those hands from the rest of their bodies, like a boundary drawn by a surgeon.

A surgeon.

That thought made his smile grow even larger, and then the girls did start giggling, but silently, silently, with their eyes sparkling and their mouths drawn wide and their lungs hitching in air.

He thought, then, to remember that look on their faces.

But he knew he’d see it again, under much different circumstances.

“Hey, girls,” he said, careful to pronounce the words succinctly, moving his mouth in a large, open way.  “Are you as hot as you look?”

Their smiles grew larger, but they remained motionless, smiling at him, appraising him.

“I’ve got AC and cold soda in the RV.  I was heading there now.  Wanna come?”

They giggled again, silently, and their hands, their beautiful, airy hands, leapt out before them and made incantations, more for each other than for him since they nodded in response to his question.

So, they walked back to his RV, arm in arm.  The one’s right arm wrapped around the other; the other’s right arm wrapped around him.  But his arm, thrown over both, never touched them.

* * * * * * * *

Later and far away, a trucker saw him haul two large, suspiciously shaped plastic trash bags off the side of the interstate and dump them in the weeds along the shoulder.

What was left…after.

There were police when he stopped, questions, searching…finding what he’d kept.

Their hands.

It was just their hands.  In the end.

Headhunter by Steve Bridger

TODAY’S BREW: So much. So very very much. Damn Christmas beer.

Steve has another story up, Happy Horrordays, which is so much fun, you should read that too. Go.


“Damn” Rosie Sheppard screamed to the leaden sky venting her totally stressed rage bringing her blood pressure down below the level of: “Danger! Veins about to burst!!”

She cursed the rain, the freezing spray hurled from passing wheels.  Her normally calm demeanour snapped at the same instant as her left shoe heel splintered, a tragic millisecond before Rosie reached the pavement.   She’d survived the early morning dice with death when her momentum was instantly frozen as in a game of statues.  Her balance went completely, toppling backwards falling helplessly into the insane racetrack of early morning traffic.   The squeal of tortured rubber, the slient shouts from onlookers their stunned faces mouthing slow-motion cries seemed comical to Rosie.  Unseen hands pulled her up and through the door of West One Recruitment.   “Monday bloody Monday,” thought Rosie as he finally made it to the safety of her desk.  Strange, she couldn’t work out why her workmates were running headlong to the front window.  Some starting to scream.

At 22, she’d left university and went on to pass her Human Resources exams.  Rosie regularly surpassed her monthly targets and was seen as a great prospect by West One.  She kept in touch with her mates from Norwich and looked forward to inflicting regular liver damage on their Friday night bingefests.  Work hard, play harder.  She loved it, not so keen on the Sunday detox though, and even less pleased with Monday mornings, especially when she’d booked an interview for 9.30am on 16th November, which gave her precisely one minute to prepare.  Actually, no time, as he was already there, sitting quietly across from her waiting for her to acknowledge his presence. His intelligent eyes flickering left and right taking in every movement, his lips holding an amused smile as he watched Rosie wrestle with the top drawer to grab a pen.

“Sorry, about this.  A pig of a journey this morning”.  Rosie speaking the words automatically, a robot recording, not yet making any human connection with her first appointment of the day.

“Hey, no matter, take the time you need, I made it without any hold-ups at all, luck or what?”  The stranger spoke, his East London accent distinct but yet not rough or hard, but helpful and understanding, taking the pressure from Rosie making her feel at ease.  She smiled, taking in his dark blue suit, cream shirt, his blue and white polka-dot tie. Nice, clean appearance cropped dark hair, handsome yet rugged face, wide, dark-brown eyes which shone like polished glass.  Hmmm, good start.

“Right, let’s get going”.  I believe you’re looking for a move up west.  I need to take some details.”  Rosie was suddenly all business, straight into the same groove of a thousand past interviews.

“Name and Date of Birth”.  Her fingers hovered over the keyboard, tensing, ready to start the process, and as he didn’t respond immediately to her instruction with the rapid speed she expected, she paused and looked sideways.  He was holding a piece of stained yellowed and badly creased parchment, rolled and tied with a red ribbon.  Rosie, a master of ‘upside-down reading’ saw the title written in a fine hand ‘Sheppard Family Tree’.   He smiled as her forehead creased, her eyes a question mark.

“You could call it my CV”.  He answered, white teeth flashing in amusement.  He unlaced the ribbon and spread the parchment flat on her desk.  “Let me introduce myself.  Jack Sheppard, apprentice carpenter and petty thief.  Also known as Harlequin Sheppard, escaped from Newgate Prison four times.  Prostitutes, highwaymen, scoundrels and vagabonds were my best mates.  Born 1702 hung at Tyburn 16th November 1724, not thirty paces from where we are now, aged twenty-two.  200,000 people witnessed the journey from Newgate and my execution by the hangman’s noose.  I was famous, super-famous, and bigger even than Posh & Becks!”

Her curled fingers froze above the keyboard.  Jokes were not on Rosie’s agenda.

“Very funny, very funny, very not funny”.  Rosie sneered, could this morning get any worse?

Jack continued, “We’re related; yeah really, I am your great-great- great- great- great grandfather.

“See!” Jacks index finger expertly navigating the journey down the chart, fording swirls of ink and a long list of names.

“I’m here, way back in 1724 and here you are in 2007.  You’re thinking I’m looking for a job but I’m not – I’m here to offer you a job.” Jack said, speaking slowly and deliberately, looking without blinking.

“You were interviewing me, but I’ve got a position open which could suit you down to the ground it’s with my outfit.   Spiritlevel is the name of our organisation.  It’s made up of ex-plumbers, builders, brickies, carpenters like me, DIY deaths, you get the idea – we thought the name had a bit of humour about it.  We are a kind of spiritual rescue service.   I don’t expect you to believe me – just yet – but if we slip out of the side door I’ll prove it to you.  It looks as though your fellow workers are otherwise engaged all looking the other way for some reason.  It’ll only take a second; you’ll be back before they notice you’ve gone.”

“You must think I’ve just fallen off the Christmas tree”.  Rosie was the most cynical person she knew, and had that arrogance of a streetwise London sophisticate.

“Do you think I’m totally stupid?”  For a start, if anything you said was true and you were hung at Tyburn, how do you know about Posh & Becks?  How do you know we’re related and why did you choose today of all days to come into my chaotic life?” Rosie was performing as her dismissive best.

“Good call” Jack was encouraged by her disbelief, it showed a strong questioning attitude, all the better for what was to come. “Tell you what, first I need to explain a few basic facts about the meaning of life”.  Rosie suspected that Jack has given this particular speech many times before.

“And I’m not talking about the Monty Python version!” Jack started to laugh at this own joke – a bad trait in a comedy performer.  “You see we lead two lives.  One where you wear a body, like a suit of clothes.  Your inner-self peers out the holes in your eye sockets to take a look around at the world.  You feel the rain on your face, the wind in your hair; smell the smokey garden leaves burning in autumn, the crisp clean taste of Pinot Grigio on your lips.   “The other life” Jack was perfecting his timing for this second part. “Is where you shed your skin and join us other flies-on-the-wall, outside looking in.  We see and understand the real world, but we don’t have to take aspirin for a hangover or come down with flu, or in my case, cholera, typhus, dysentery and the Black Death!”

Jack had this chuckle which spread warm feelings like a convector heater all around him.

“We see all the changes, the way people dress, the digiboxes, the different styles of music, can’t understand all that Rap music stuff. We see it all but at a different pace from a different perspective.  We can focus on say, World War I or watch the latest entrants to the 2006 UK Music Hall-of-Fame in splendid isolation without paying to get in!  Sometimes, we can even take a daytrip back to the material world to see and be seen by people we know.  I did this with those corrupt bastards at the Old Bailey who sentenced me.  Drove them mad.  But what a laugh, what larks!  It was like Charles Dickens’ ‘Christmas Carol’ but for real – with deadly consequences for those bastards their weak hearts, I really scared them to death.”

Jack’s body laugh had him nearly doubled-up crying with laughter. He stopped as quickly as he started, composing himself; he left the 18th Century and snapped back to the 21st.

“Anyway”, Jack said taking a fresh lungful of air. “I left my mischievous, naughty self in the past, made up for my mistakes, and got this new assignment and that’s why I’m here.”

Rosie slowly became aware of a total stillness around her.  No ringing phones, no loud voices, no road noise, just the sound of Jack’s calm, reassuring voice filling her consciousness.  She was intrigued.  Well, she’d been thinking about her next career move.  Okay, this was not quite what she had in mind, but hey, a break from the Monday morning office routine would do her good.  She reached for her coat and accepted the invitation.

“C’mon then, show me – but I must be back for my next appointment at eleven.”

Jack paused by the door.  “This won’t take long, a mere fragment of time.  You’ll get a glimpse of my work then you can decide whether the time is right to make a move.”

Jack held out his hand.  They slipped over the threshold, and back in time. Jack’s blue suit switching to a torn stained leather jacket, brown breeches, calf length boots and a three-pointed hat.   Rosie’s chic office suit became a faded cotton dress, a pair of thin leather shoes squelching in the stinking putrid mud, a brown woollen wrap pulled tight around her shoulders.  They were walking amid a huge crowd, around them, people jostled to reach the front, elbows striking ribs, shoulders shrugging the weak aside to get the best view of the prison cart lumbering up the last slope toward Tyburn on the final stretch of its two and a half hour journey from Newgate.  The hopeless, hapless, convicts, wide-eyed with fear grateful for the anaesthetic of strong ale from Inns along the way.   Condemned men easing the pain of their last moments.

Jack Sheppard waved to the adoring crowd.  He stood at the front of the cart accepting the cheers and well wishes from the rabble.  Women pressed forward throwing flowers and blowing kisses.  As the cart drew alongside Rosie, the cart stopped.  Two sets of identical dark brown eyes locked together in silent understanding, one in the cart the other holding Rosie’s hand.

Rosie saw the hangman’s noose of filthy worn matted hemp, the hooded executioner preparing for yet another day’s work.  She wanted to vomit, her stomach about to erupt but just as that moment of involuntary release something sailed over her head.  Her arm shot out in a lightning reflex action catching the yellow rose, flung from the man about to die.

“Enough for now.” Jack broke the gaze with his Tyburn bound self and took her arm leading her away from the seething crowd.

“That was a little taste of things past, but now you’ve work to do.  Look at it as a trial period to see how you fit in.  No stress, no bother.  I need the help of a living, breathing human being to do a little convincing, a little persuasion.”

They walked past a makeshift kitchen.  It’s amazing how a good hanging makes folk hungry.  Bad for those on the gallows tree, great for business.  Acrid smoke stung their eyes and engulfed them as another portal opened.

The smoke thinned to reveal a wide expanse of short grass, edged by massive camouflaged hangers bordering on an endless cement runway.  “Right this is it, RAF Bradwell Bay in Essex.” Jack was looking around trying to pinpoint the position of the crew he’d come to meet.  “Ah! There they are.”  The Mosquito pilot and navigator were sitting on 40 gallon oil drums chatting away, happily lost in conversation, trying to decide how long it would take to land, have a bath, a hot meal and get down the Dog & Duck in time for a pint and a game of darts.  Their voices carried over the airfield to Jack and Rosie as they drew closer.

“Now, this is a tricky one.” Jack began his preparation.  “This is Flight Lieutenant John Latimer and Sergeant Wilson; they’ve been together for six months and flew on countless sorties over occupied France. What they don’t know, is that a Messershimdt 109 was circling above the aerodrome, lying in wait for planes returning to base.  It was a highly effective Luftwaffe strategy.  After the rush of adrenalin in combat, crews relaxed as they got close to the airfield and saw the distant lights of the airfield winking a welcome home.

Naturally, their attention wandered from the heat of battle to the promise of the night ahead.  It only took an instant for the armour piecing shells to pierce and rip through their fuel tanks.  Only a second for the plane to erupt in a ball of fire, their uniforms and skins melded to bone.  They didn’t know what hit them.

And that is the problem.  The attack was so sudden, so unexpected, so complete, that Latimer and Wilson had no warning, no time to die.  They’re convinced that they are still on the Darts Team; they can buy five fags and a pint of beer and still get change from a shilling.  On top of it all, Sergeant Wilson is certain he’s going to get lucky with Lucy behind the bar tonight.  It’s our job, or rather your job to put them straight, make them realise that times have changed and they are no longer in the land of the living but have now joined of a totally different squadron in the sky”.

They were so caught up in conversation that Jack and Rosie were standing by them before they realised they were there. The shock on their faces was priceless; the sight of Rosie was a picture.  She was now in her office outfit, white blouse, dark suit, wavy chestnut hair, stunning dove grey eyes, looking like a young Liz Taylor.  They were speechless.

“Good evening gentlemen”.  Rosie spoke softly, keeping her voice deliberately slow to make an even greater impact.  They were all attention.  She held the moment in a heartbeat pause before speaking.

“Guys, I really fancy a lager, then a couple of Tequila slammers followed by a tasty Chicken Tikka, and unless I’m mistaken you two look as though you could murder a pint down the Dog and Duck”.   By the look on their faces Rosie was speaking in tongues – they couldn’t understand one word, but they finally got the gist, after the gesture of a hand holding a glass and a twist of the wrist.  All four began the short walk from the airfield to the pub.

Apart from the Public Bar being knocked into the Saloon, the layout was pretty much as it was in 1943.  But there were subtle changes and non-too subtle changes.   A picture of Lucy on her wedding day arm in arm with that smarmy creep from the Ops Room was pinned behind the bar.  Their first-born child, now in his forties, was pulling pints, his bloated belly and almost perfectly circular face ruddy from drinking the profits.  He was shouting at someone playing the ‘Who wants to be a Millionaire’ game machine, all Tarrant and flickering lights.  It was just as Rosie had hoped.

They hovered behind the clever clogs trying not to put him off.  They read the questions and heard the know-it-all answer.

‘What’s the name of the First Person to walk on the moon?’ – Yep, Neil Armstrong.  ‘

Where does the Channel Tunnel come ashore in England?’ –  Easy Folkstone.

‘What was the top flying speed of the Word War II Mosquito fighter-bomber?

Latimer and Wilson yelled in unison – “380 mph!!!!”

They were jumping up and down, really getting into it, but not realising exactly what was going on, unaware of Rosie’s plan, the significance of the last question not striking home.

The thin white-haired man, his cigarette burning unattended in a nearby ashtray, pressed 380 mph and moved on to the next question. Up it came on the machine

‘What type of aircraft shot down Flight Lieutenant John Latimer and his navigator Sergeant Willie Wilson over RAF Bradwell Bay airfield on 17th May 1943?

Now, there’s always a millisecond delay from the brain registering information and the message reaching the rest of the body and startling the eyes.  There’s a brief pulsing expansion of the eyeballs as understanding dawns.   The knowledge hit the airmen simultaneously.

They reeled as if they’d received a crushing punch from a heavyweight boxer.  They crumpled. The air sucked from their lungs.  They reached for each other, arms shooting out, grabbing shoulders pulling them together in one last embrace.

The white haired man looked at the options on the screen, Focke Wolf, Messershimdt 190 or Heinkel.  John and Willie guided the white haired man’s index finger for their final answer; they whispered “Messershimdt 190”.

Rosie hugged them close.  Jack whispered. “Look, this is not bad news.  You can now leave that cold, godforsaken airfield for good. Leave the past behind.  And anyway, who wants to live in a world where fags are a fiver and beer nearly three pounds a pint!” The airmen pondered then nodded. They were all in agreement.  “Let’s get out of here for good.”

Her workmates had rushed to the window when they heard the squeal of tyres and crash of metal.   They screamed as they saw Rosie lifted high into the air and flung onto the pavement, her Starbucks cup spraying hot Latte.  The car swerved to avoid her; the second the heel snapped and she had started to fall backwards into the oncoming traffic.  It was just a glancing blow.

She laid, eyes closed and unconscious for only a second, then groggy and dazed she started repeating over and over, “damn, damn, damn”.

Fellow commuters helped to her to her feet.  Rosie chucked away the broken shoe, smoothed down her coat and checked her nails to make sure they were all in one piece.  She was feeling better already.  Rosie finally made it to the safety of her desk and flicked open her desk diary to check the time of her first appointment for Monday 16th November.

As the page turned, a crushed yellow rose fell from the page, spun absurdly slowly through the air and settled perfectly on the floor.

The Real Jack Sheppard

Jack Sheppard (4 March 1702 – 16 November 1724) was a notorious English robber, burglar and thief of early 18th-century London. Born into a poor family, he was apprenticed as a carpenter but took to theft and burglary in 1723, with little more than a year of his training to complete. He was arrested and imprisoned five times in 1724 but escaped four times, making him a notorious public figure, and wildly popular with the poorer classes. Ultimately, he was caught, convicted, and hanged at Tyburn, ending his brief criminal career after less than two years. The inability of the notorious “Thief-Taker General” Jonathan Wild to control Sheppard, and injuries suffered by Wild at the hands of Sheppard’s colleague, Joseph “Blueskin” Blake, led to Wild’s downfall.

Sheppard was as renowned for his attempts to escape justice as for his crimes. An autobiographical “Narrative”, thought to have been ghost-written by Daniel Defoe, was sold at his execution,was quickly followed by popular plays. The character of Macheath in John Gay‘s The Beggar’s Opera (1728) was based on Sheppard, keeping him in the limelight for over 100 years. He returned to the public consciousness in around 1840, when William Harrison Ainsworth wrote a novel entitled Jack Sheppard, with illustrations by George Cruikshank. The popularity of his tale, and the fear that others would be drawn to emulate his behaviour, led the authorities to refuse to license any plays in London with “Jack Sheppard” in the title for forty years.

An Ornamental Christmess by Christopher Shawbell

TODAY’S BREW:  Not enough. Is that a good answer?

I feel like Chris Shawbell is my own personal new discover, but he’s really not.  Read this and wonder about your own writing abilities.

An Ornamental Christmess


Christopher Shawbell

The following transcription was recorded at 1147, AZ; 12/25/12 by Det. Mack and Det. Bradley of the Chandler Police Dept. and has been entered in to the record.

DET. MACK:    Suspect has been very detached, almost catatonic.  He’s come around a bit.  Doc Taylor interviewed the suspect and gave the thumbs up on his condition, so we’re going in and getting a statement.

(door opening and closing – chairs adjusted)

DET. MACK:    Howya doin’?  You okay?

MR. PETERS:   Yes, thank you.

DET. MACK:    Doc says you’re all good, so we’re gonna get your statement, okay?

MR. PETERS:   That’s good news.  I’m glad I’m okay.  Very relieved.

DET. MACK:    Okay.  (clears throat) The time is 11:47 am.  It’s the 25th of December, 2012.  I am Detective-Sergeant Rudy Mack.  With me is Detective Matt Bradley.  Statement is being made by Mr. Brian Peters who has waived his right to an attorney, and is willing to speak to us regarding the events earlier…

MR. PETERS:   Events?

DET. MACK:    I’m not making light.  It’s protocol; no embellishments, etcetera.

MR. PETERS:   Oh, of course, yes.

DET. MACK:    Mr. Peters is going to make a statement regarding the events earlier today at his residence, 53142 North Agatha, Chandler.  Begin by stating your name, please.

MR. PETERS:   My name is Brian Peters.  Is that good?

DET. MACK:    That’s fine.

MR. PETERS:   Alright.  It was the 15th … I think, Saturday, I was watching the Sun Devils lose again.  I had money on the game.  Julie came in…

DET. BRADLEY: Your wife?

MR. PETERS:   Yes, Julie was my wife.  She came in with a large Christmas package.  It had been left on the doorstep wrapped like a present.  The wrapping was this amazing, shiny, textured material, and it had these colorful patterns and shapes; kind of like a hologram.  Really amazing…  The bow was beautiful; golden lace ribbon.  The card said; “Merry Christmas, Neighbors.”  We had no idea who had sent it.

The kids came in; Jimmy and Maggie.  They were excited about the mystery present, as only a 7 and 5 year old can be.  I sent them out of the den; it was the second quarter and AU had just got another TD.  10 minutes later Julie’s calling me to the living room.  I got a commercial break on the third summons, and so tore myself away.

The box was a deep red color—almost black—and there was this gold symbol on the lid.  Inside were ornaments—Christmas tree ornaments; the most beautiful I’ve ever seen.

DET. MACK:    Mr. Peters, what does this have to do with this morning’s events?


MR. PETERS:   Everything.


DET. MACK:    Okay.

MR. PETERS:   Beautiful doesn’t sum it up, though; they were absolutely amazing, the ornaments.  We’d never seen anything like them.  They were like colored glass, but not.  I don’t know how to explain it.  I mean, it looked like glass, but didn’t sound like it or feel like it.  The colors were surreal—so vivid—and they were all these crazy geometric shapes.  Each one had a golden symbol like the box.  There were 13 of them.

I heard the game come back on so I left my grumbling family to the ornament hanging.  I returned during halftime to admire their handiwork.  The ornaments were gorgeous, so incredible … totally dominated the tree.

Then I noticed something; each and every one of them—all 13—were hung symbols facing out.  I mentioned it must’ve been a pain to do.  Julie said they hadn’t tried, or noticed.  I congratulated them, and returned to my game.  ASU lost 37-28.  I lost 300 dollars.

We had dinner, then we admired the new ornaments with just the tree lights.  I still love that as much as I did the first Christmas I saw it as a boy; seems magical somehow, doesn’t it?

Those ornaments took it to another level.  It was so beautiful … mesmerizing.  About 20 seconds into it Harvey called—that’s who I lost the bet to—so I left the room.

Toby came in while I was on the phone—Toby’s our Golden Retriever—and that’s when the first of many strange things happened.  I heard barking—really vicious barking—so I ran in the living room.  I couldn’t believe what I saw.

Toby was snarling, and snapping at Julie and the kids; he had cornered them against the tree.  The kids were screaming, and Julie was shaking with terror.  Toby was completely savage; his teeth bared and the hair along his back standing up … I’d never seen anything like it—he was barking and lunging at them.  I really thought he was going to attack my wife and children.

I didn’t see it then—I should have—it’s so obvious now.  Toby would never hurt us.  He was protecting us—he was barking at the tree.

I rushed out in front of Toby, and Julie got the kids out.  I yelled at him to stop—he’s very well trained—but he didn’t listen.  I was scared to death, but I got him by the collar and drug him outside.

We got the kids calmed down and in bed.  Julie and I went to bed, too, still very shook up.  We finished two bottles of wine before we got to sleep.

Did I mention we have a cat?

DET. MACK:    No.

MR. PETERS:   We do.  Did, I mean—did have a cat … Scooter.  Can I have a water now?

DET. BRADLEY: Anything else?

(transcriber assumes subject indicated negative)

DET. BRADLEY: You, Mack?

DET. MACK:    No, I’m good, Socks.  Thanks.

(door opens and closes)

MR. PETERS:   Socks?

DET. MACK:    Been his nickname since the academy.

MR. PETERS:   How does one get a nickname like Socks?

DET. MACK:    He’d never wear matching socks.  He’d have on one white gym sock and one black dress sock or whatever.

MR. PETERS:   That’s funny.

(door open and closes)

DET. BRADLEY: Here you go, Mr. Peters.

MR. PETERS:   You can call me, Brian … if I can call you Socks.


DET. BRADLEY: Let’s stick to formalities, Mr. Peters.

MR. PETERS:   Okay, Detective Bradley.  (suspect drinking beverage) Julie woke me up early.  I had a whopper of a hangover.  There was blood on the living room floor; some had splattered on the presents too.  I found Scooter’s collar.  Toby didn’t do it; he can’t fit through the cat door.  A coyote could though.  That’s why Toby was barking, we thought; some animal in the house.  The same animal had eaten our cat.  Seemed logical, bizarre, but logical.  I checked the house and locked the kitty door.

The next few weeks were so strange.

I was working 14 hour days—we planned to take a vacation after Christmas—I had to get everything lined up at the office.  I should’ve seen it though…

DET. MACK:    Seen what?

MR. PETERS:   The changes.

DET. BRADLEY: What changes?

MR. PETERS:   In my family, Detective Bradley.  They were changing.  I thought the kids were still traumatized, and that Julie was secretly pissed I was at work so much before Christmas.  I was wrong.

They had been getting more weary.  Julie said she hadn’t been sleeping well, neither had the kids.  They actually woke several times screaming from bad dreams.  One night Jimmy had insisted he’d seen little creatures in the living room when he’d got up to pee; gremlins, he called them.

Then it ended; no more nightmares, no more complaints about sleepless nights … nothing.  They were looking worse, though, every day.  Julie blew it off; she got really irritable.  By Christmas Eve they were withered looking and withdrawn.  I was worried.

My last day of work was supposed to be the 23rd but I didn’t quite get it all done, so I got up at 3 am, and was surprised to find Julie wasn’t in bed.  In the hall I heard talking from the living room.  The tree light, as I saw from the hall, had an odd glow.  It changed just as walked in.

There was an enormous pool of blood on the carpet, still wet and reflecting the lights.  Toby’s collar was in it

Then I saw Julie, Jimmy, and Maggie all sitting on the couch—not lounging, but upright—just staring ahead.  No one looked at me.

“Julie…” I said.  Nothing.  I couldn’t see their eyes, but I’d swear they didn’t blink.  Hackles rose on me—hackles like I never imagined—all over my body.  Dread, Detective, deep and menacing, seeped through me.  I shouted at Julie, and as if out of a trance, they all looked at me.

She said, “Yes, Darling?”

Toby’s blood all over and that’s it?  Just, “Yes, Darling?”  It was all wrong.  It was all so damn bizarre, but bizarre is just what we’d been dealing with.  I wasn’t surprised they were all in shock.  Toby and Scooter had apparently been butchered in our living room; their remains unaccounted for, so I just thought they were all traumatized.  Hell, they should be traumatized.

It made me miss a lot of signs that I couldn’t see then like I do now.

She told the kids to go to bed and they went.  Then she cleaned up the mess.  I tried to help but she wouldn’t let me.  She said she didn’t want to talk about it.  I prodded her until it got ugly then I left for work.

I turned around halfway there as I came to my senses.

Julie was in bed sleeping soundly when I returned.  They all slept the entire day and evening through.  I couldn’t get them to be coherent

DET. BRADLEY: Why didn’t you call emergency services?

MR. PETERS:   They hadn’t been sleeping well for weeks, and there was Toby and Scooter … I just thought it was how their psyches, or whatever, were dealing with it, and if so, I sure didn’t want to interrupt the process.  Who thinks this kind of thing could happen?

Anyway, like I said, they slept through the day and evening.  I fell asleep about 10; I was emotionally worn out.

I woke cold.  I didn’t have covers.  Julie was gone, and the covers were strewn on the floor as if dragged off the bed and just dropped.

It was 12:13.

I checked the kids’ room.  I wasn’t surprised they were absent, and the feeling disturbed me.  Thoughts of them on the couch staring at the bloodstain or at the tree froze my blood.

I realized then—it hit me like a thunderbolt—they hadn’t been staring at the pool of Toby’s gore.  They had been staring at the tree; at those evil goddamned ornaments.  I remembered the strange light, and realized it had been golden, like the symbols.  They had really been in some kind of trance.

I screamed their names.  The horrendous images and fears; my imagination was going crazy!  But what I saw when I got in there, Detectives … what I saw, my imagination could never conjure.

Julie and the children were lying face down naked on the floor.  From their bottoms to the base of their heads the skin had been sliced and splayed open by these little demonic monsters—Jimmy’s evil gremlins.  They were the ornaments!

They’d changed somehow into these creatures; these little indescribable fiends from Hell with glowing gold symbols and murderous shining eyes.  They were cutting them up—oh, God!—they were hacking out the spines of my wife and children—dissecting my babies!  All thirteen of them cutting, and chopping, and sawing away.

They had multiple arms; some like serrated knives, others like cleavers, or scissors—all hacking and stabbing things.  Blood was everywhere … so much blood.  I knew they were dead.  My babies were dead!

(suspect demonstrates)

I screamed, “NOOOOOOO!!!!!!!  YOU MOTHERFUCKERS!!!!!!!”

DET. MACK:    Mr. Peters, calm down, please.  Calm down.  Can you do that for me?  Just breathe … there you go.  Will you sit back down?  We’ll take a break, okay?

MR. PETERS:   No.  I want to finish this.

DET. MACK:    Okay.

DET. BRADLEY: Mack, you want me to..?

DET. MACK:    No.  He wants to continue.  Go ahead, Mr. Peters.

MR. PETERS:   (suspect laughs)  This is so insane, I know, and it just gets…  Anyway … I charged them and kicked at them—that’s how my feet and shins got all cut up—but they just bounced back.  They leapt up at me, slashing my hands and forearms as I tried to fight them off.  I retreated into the hall, swatted two of them off me, and managed to close the door before they got through.  They started hacking and sawing at the door.  I could hear them; a sharp croak-hiss, but not mindless gibberish … it was intelligent, sinister, and terrifying beyond any telling—to lean against that door as they banged and hacked at it—knife points and sharp things stabbing through, and hearing them hiss-croak their murderous plans to get me … how they would hack me up like Toby and Scooter because I knew.

But how would they get me?  How would I get me?  It only took a second.  Oh my God!  I looked over my shoulder and down the long dark hallway.  Just after I thought it, they did it; the children’s bedroom window smashed.  They were coming in behind me while the others still hacked at the door.

The bathroom was across from the kids’ door and it had a lock.  How I ran!  I could hear them behind me.  I dashed in and slammed and locked the door.  Blades punched right through, wriggled side-to-side then withdrew and did it again.

I threw open the window and punched out the screen.  I climbed out as they breached the door.  I ran across the backyard.  We have a large piece of property—16 acres.  I knew I wasn’t going to outrun them all the way to my neighbor’s, I’d witnessed how fast they were.  It was just too far.  I looked over my shoulder.  They weren’t following at all.  They were just watching me flee.  I ran on.  I couldn’t stop picturing them hacking up my family though, hacking them, devouring them, violating them!

Fear left me, and I got angry.  Angry like I never thought I could … a murderous hatred.  I stopped running.  I stood stock-still until all fear faded.  Then I ran back.

I entered from the back door with a our big axe gripped in both hands.  I peeked into the living room.

Maggie was standing and looking down at her brother.  Her flesh, like her brother and mother, was sallow, cadaverous; she was a corpse standing there in my living room … the corpse of my little girl.  Jimmy’s body was just getting to its knees.  Julie remained on the floor.  The last of the little hell-spawned creatures crawled into the gaping hole in Julie’s neck where her vertebrae had been—others were already crammed in from there down.  When the creature was settled, little wiry things came out, like thin spidery legs, all along the length of her back, and hooked the skin, then pulled the wound closed.  Sutures weaved across the seams from the inside, sealing the wound.  Jimmy had stood up all the way now, and Julie did as well, clumsily at first but she righted herself.

This hellish mockery of the love of my life saw me and it said—just as Julie would’ve said it, “Hello, Darling.”

I had returned armed, angry, and ready to fight, but I was so terrified I hesitated.  Then came her coup de grâce … she grinned and said, “Merry Christmas.”

I fled.  My mind broke and I ran.  You know how it went from there, Detectives, more than I.  I was broken.  Running is all I knew when the Shaw’s found me.

That’s what happened this morning.

DET. MACK:    Where’s your family, Mr. Peters?

MR. PETERS:   I don’t know, Mack.  May I call you Mack?

DET. MACK:    Sure.  And the ornaments?  Where did they go?

MR. PETERS:   I don’t know that either.

DET. MACK:    Okay.  Anything to add, anything at all before we close this interview?

MR. PETERS:   No, Detectives, I have nothing to add.

DET. MACK:    Okay, Mr. Peters … we’ll be right back.

(door opening and closing – Dets. Mack and Bradley exit)

DET. MACK:    So, what do you think?

DET. BRADLEY: What do ya mean, what do I think?  He’s a fucking nutcase, is what I think!  He didn’t even cry—not a single tear.  He murdered his wife and those kids—hacked them up prob’ly.  Your call, but I’d be booking his ass right now for Aggravated Murder One.

DET. MACK:    Yeah, I agree, Socks.  Today of all days!

DET. BRADLEY: Yeah, Merry fuckin’ Christmas.

About me…  There is no “Me.”  I am only my perception of myself.  Yet, I am not a “me,” and therefore cannot be an “I” or a “Myself” or have a “My” anything either.  So nothing?  Yes, “I” am actually Nothing, and suffering for trying to be a Me.  The Holy Trinity of My Will—Me, Myself & I—bring their combined strength to bear in vain hope of changing this simple truth.  They struggle and strain; a constant, desperate resistance.  They must, or one day—or in one star-dusted moment in the cosmos—they will cease to be.  Not death, not transition, only the sublime simplicity of no longer existing.
So, about Me?  Truly, I have Nothing to say about Me.
I don’t want to write a freaking bio.  The above is my bio.  I’m nobody.  I don’t need a bio.

Devilish Desire by Zoey Derrick


TODAY’S BREW: Abysmal homemade blend I call French Mintnog Nut. Don’t try it.

The Undead Duo forced Miss Zoey Derrick to write outside of her comfort zone to appease us.   Success! Enjoy this wonderful little read!


Today was such a beautiful day, spending Christmas Day with my family and my boyfriend was something that had scared the hell out of me when the idea was brought up. My boyfriend, Link, is someone that generally gets along with everyone. At least I had no problems getting to know him. Now I am beginning to understand why.

I am panting, out of breath. My heart is pounding out a rhythm beneath my ribs that has my whole body trembling. I’m running. One foot in front of the other, but it feels like I am on a street long treadmill. I can’t get to the end of the block that I see up ahead. He’s behind me, chasing me.

The man I thought I loved turned out to be something more, something unexpected. Something that I had only ever read about in books or seen on tv. I never, not in my wildest of nightmares expected him to be something of fantasy.

He is stalking me, forcing me to run from him. Why? Why am I running from him? If everything I have read in books is true, just like this is coming to be, then I should be dead. Right?

I’m still running and finally I am coming towards the end of the empty block, I turn back and he’s gone. I skid to a halt. “What the hell?”

“Looking for me?” His voice is sweet and sensual. Desire courses through my body. My body’s reaction throws me off guard. I shouldn’t be attracted to this man, a man that is trying to kill me.

I feel a magnetic pull course over my body. Pulling me backwards, back into his arms. “NO!” I scream and I start to fight the feeling and try to run back the way that I came. The pull I feel releases and a shoot forward like a slingshot and I am running again. Once I have managed to gain my balance I look up to look where I am going and there he is.

Standing about twenty feet in front of me, I skid to a halt again. “What do you want from me?” I shout at him.

“I want you, with me, forever.” A slow seductive smile crosses his lips and I can’t help the sharp intake of breath that wracks my entire body.

“You…” I take another deep breath, “You want to kill me?”

He doesn’t respond, just shakes his head in a silent “No”.

The pull has returned, it is harder to fight in my forward position. This pull cannot be real, he cannot have this kind of physical effect on me, can he?

I look to my left and there he is. I look to my right, and he is there. I start to turn and he is there, right behind me, reaching his arms out to embrace me into his arms. I take advantage and take off in the opposite direction.

Before I can make it ten feet, I become aware of his presence in front of me and my running has me catapulting into the air. I see him getting closer, the snow strewn streets, the sparsely lit windows and buildings covered in Christmas lights as I slam into him. He catches me. Picks me up and takes off. I quickly realize that he is running faster than humanly possible. I scream.

“What are you? Why were you chasing me?” I shout at him. He continues to race down the street. It is empty; not that anyone could see us anyway. I could see the streams of Christmas lights blurring past us as we made our way to God knows where. The motion was starting to make me dizzy and I closed my eyes. I could feel Link’s hands on me, rubbing, caressing. “What do you want from me?” I whispered.

“Who and what I am are none of your concern. What I want from you, you will give me freely, without hesitation. I can feel your want and desire for me. It is washing over me in waves. You will do this and you will be mine, Forever.” His voice was menacing and seductive all at the same time.

For a moment, I had images running through my head. A dark shadow stalking me, enveloping  my body completely. The room is dark and I can see flames flickering in the distance. The image changes, the shadow is gone and Link appears before me. Naked! Wearing nothing but a set of horns.

My eyes flew open. “You’re the devil?” My eyes closed again and everything went….


Enjoy Zoey at, follow her for sure on Twitter @ZoeyDerrick.  Email the heck out of her at .

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