Tuesday, November 15, 2016

"MY INFECTION" Flash Fiction

*MILK-BLOOD and ALL SMOKE RISES all started with this cute little piece of Flash Fiction*


 MY INFECTION

 10 am, Day After Christmas 

Puddles of mud.

After she confessed her eyes became puddles of mud, like tears had fallen upon dirty eye sockets and left a muddy mess.

“Okay, yes, it was Puckett. We had sex,” she squeaked. “Three times only. I didn’t mean to. Will you still take care of us?”

Latrice only confessed because she was caught. The paternity test showed a 99 percent chance that Zach wasn’t the father. She held the child of Puckett in her womb.

“Will you take care of us?” she asked again. It wasn’t a question. She was giving him a challenge. He took care of what he loved. His mother had been his to tend to for years, and they both got by with the help of some pills. He would take care of her until one of them died, because that’s what he did. But Latrice with another man’s child inside of her?

“I will take care of things,” he answered, but he didn’t say the rest that he wanted to, which was, “Because the day I fucked you I caught an infection and now I have it for life.”

“What about Puckett? Will you do him like you usually do?”

“Yes, I will.”

He had to. Because now Puckett has the infection too, and he was sure to come around running his mouth about being the father of Latrice’s child.

Puckett spent three more days alive before Zach found him. Suffocation by choking had always been his choice when he wanted others to think for a moment about whose hands were killing them. His hands came alive with power when wrapped around someone’s throat. Like squeezing a loaf of soft bread he could squeeze necks, but when his hands were around Puckett’s bulging windpipe, he eased up. He wanted to hear him talk. He wanted a confession. When one didn’t come and Puckett played stupid, he squeezed until he saw a shade of blue in Puckett’s face and his body danced on the edge of death. Then he relaxed his fingers and let him gasp for air and come back to life. Dipping him in, and pulling him out. He could have done it all day, and nearly did, until the shade of blue seemed to burst and no more air was needed.

Later, Puckett would swim deep. The Detroit River doesn’t give up its dead easy, and it was a better option than his burn and bury method. Last time he burned something was when he fire-bombed the house across the street with a Molotov cocktail made of vodka (100 proof). The whole block around Brentwood was rained on with ashes and soot of the boy who died that night. Latrice loved it when she could get into his head and make him kill, except for this time when a boy had died. But now she was giving birth to a new child, a baby girl, to replace him on this street. Spirit in, spirit out.

Labor pains doubled her over in pain a month before her due date, and Zach drove her to the hospital at 4:30 am on a Tuesday. The delivery room was lit like a spaceship and reminded Zach of his trip to Vegas. No windows, no escape, and you won’t leave without being changed. He couldn’t tell if it was day or night as the hours passed. He slipped out more than once to chew on his own supply of Percocets or Vicodins or Xanax, and came back feeling cleansed each time.

What he saw was a foreign liquid flowing from between Latrice’s propped up legs. It smelled of something spoiled being cooked, something ominous—bigger than her, bigger than this hospital could handle. Latrice went inward into silent agony at times, at other times yelled not with words but noises. She dripped sweat, spasmed, and when the head crowned, Zach felt both nauseous bile and warm shivers of hope.

There was a one percent chance that the baby girl would have his ebony flesh. The miracle waited in his chest, thumping, wanting to explode. But on first sight the thump died. She did not. In fact, the baby’s flesh was a veiny blue color and so pale it was nearly see-through.

A heart condition kept the child in intensive care for days, in an incubator, looking like a blue frog ready to be dissected. Zach peeked in at her and tried to make eye contact, did make eye contact. This infant seemed to be his very own heart beating in front of him, shriveled and alien, with doctors prodding it to keep it alive.

“She’s going to die,” Latrice repeated again and again. “I can’t take this, I can’t see her. You do it, you stay here.”

He did, and he slept in the hospital on plastic pillows while Latrice went home to watch over his mother who lived with them on 618 Brentwood Drive.

His lone finger in the sterile glove touched the infant girl’s forehead. Where’s my mother? She asked him with tiny motions of her incubated arms.

Soon. Soon you will see her. I am here. This is how it is.

Days later, talking hospital heads gave him instructions and medicine and appointment reminders, and he brought the child home to Latrice. Life had grown stronger in the nameless infant, but she was still barely bigger than the palm of his hand. At home the child shrieked and wailed as if it hurt just to be alive.

“This is not how it’s supposed to be,” Latrice said, watching Zach holding the wailing child at 3:36 am in the rocker on a Tuesday.

“This is how it’s going to be.”

He slept with the 10 day old baby flesh on his own. The skin was so thin you could see her insides, like it wasn’t fully done growing and she was thrown into the world before her time. Their bodies warmed each other and he rocked her on his chest until 4:25 am. She fell asleep against the beat of his heart.

On her mother’s chest, she refused to take the breast and would not sup at the nipple introduced to her mouth. Latrice seemed as scared of the child as the child was of it.

Medications the baby did take. Zach injected them into an IV port in her neck. Warnings from doctors rang in his ears. Too large of an injection could lead to asphyxiation. Failure to administer would do the same. She was already like so many who lived on this street and needed a daily drug to face each day.

Latrice curled up into a ball much of the time. Her hair, unwashed for days, became stringy as a broom. Pill bottles with the prescription labels rubbed off sat on the counter. Oxys or Xanax or both.

The infant tears came at night—sometimes for hours, non-stop. When they got too much and it seemed the child herself might shatter, the parents would wrap themselves in jackets against the cold and take dark trips to the hospital, only to be sent back home again. Sleeplessness weighed them down like soaking wet clothes.
“This isn’t how it’s supposed to be,” she said.

“This is how it is,” he answered.

“No. No. You can take care of this. Take care of her like you do. Make it like it was before. She’s not meant to be alive.” Her eyes filled with tears once again. They pleaded to him. The infection bubbled in his veins.

Killing again would be easy.

He walked around the house, pacing, gaining energy with each stride, summoning up the courage to do the deed. This one needed to be fast and clean, unlike Puckett.

When he held the pillow over her face, he smothered her with his whole body weight to make it quick, but it may not have been needed. Things were fragile already, and they were just tiny breaths to take away this time.

The body fit easily into his trunk, the night air cold around him. The car seats were frigid leather. Soon the car would heat up, and things would be better. He whispered middle of the night words to his passenger in the back seat.

“We’re taking mommy to her grave. Then we’ll be home, and I will give you a name, and I will take care of you as long as I live.”

My infection is gone, he thought, as he drove with the body ready to burn and bury.


*He names her "LILLY"
MILK-BLOOD on Amazon

*Read about the Life and Times of LILLY in

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

GARDEN OF FIENDS OPEN SUBMISSIONS: THE HALFTIME REPORT

The submission period for GARDEN OF FIENDS: TALES OF ADDICTION HORROR is two months old, with two months to go.

Here's an update and primer.

GARDEN OF FIENDS will be an anthology of addiction-themed horror. The focus will be longer, novella length works, four to five pieces (one being my own), with four or five short stories sandwiched in between. Nothing is off limits, as long as it includes a portrayal of the darkness of addiction, with some compassion for the plight of the addict. Payment is $500 via paypal for 16k to 25k (or more) word length stories, and contributor copies. Want an example: Think Stephen King's Grey Matter.

The open call for submissions is for the longer pieces only, as the short stories have already been chosen. To date, authors Glen Kirsch, Jack Ketchum, and Jóhann Thorsson will be featured. A couple other incredible writers to be announced soon after they sign their names in blood.

I realize the word count is more than usual, and that this means more investment in time and energy. Novella length works are the focus for a few reasons. They allow for deeper exploration of plot and character, whereas twenty short stories are so would lend to repitition of content considering the theme. Novellas allow the reader to get sucked in a bit deeper, but not stuck so long that they can't soon get to their huge pile of "to be read" books all of us have.

There has been huge interest in the project, which to me speaks to what potential this topic has. Horror fiction and addiction are a perfect fit.  The blog post announcing the anthology has had 7,000 hits, and I have received many submissions. No selection decisions will be made until the end of the submission period, which is January 1st, 2017. (so take your time and write something kick-ass, since I know folks are working on something now)

Also, despite the high number of inquiries and submissions to date, most of them won't even be considered. Why? Well, what I have learned is, most writers don't bother to read or follow the guidelines, so most of these submission were not even close to what I'm looking for.  For example: I have received novels about the sex slave trade. I have also received essays and inquiries trying to win the 'contest.' I have received countless random short stories with nothing to do with addiction  (it seems authors machine gun fire old stories, bamn bamn bamn, at any open call.).

There has also been a huge outpouring from recovering addicts hoping to write memoirs, which has certainly been touching. I have written many back, encouraging them to 'write from the wound' but that it is fiction I am looking for, not memory, and that the horror part is important.  Part of the reason for the multitude of misguided submissions, I believe,  is due to the many writer websites who love to broadcast opportunities for writers but mislead or bury the submission guidelines.

So incredibly excited for this project! I am hoping the thrill of reading it will provide a high like none other. 

*Here the link to the original call for a submission, and  a summary of the guidelines*


Pay Rates and Structure:
$500 will be paid via paypal for your story. Contributor copies will be shipped to your doorstep. Options to buy further paperbacks will be provided at a discount. Movie rights will be retained by the author, but the publisher will obtain audio rights. The contract term is 4 years at which point all rights revert back to the author.

Submission guidelines:
16k to 25k words.
Multiple submissions okay, simultaneous admissions okay but make it clear you’ve submitted elsewhere.  Submissions should be polished and not need major editing. Standard 12 point, single space, Times New Roman. Nothing fancy. Prefer Word format. 

Please put Garden of Fiends Submission, Name of story, authors last name, and word count in the subject line.  Include a short description or teaser in the body of the email, as well as author bio, publishing history, and any links of interest.

Confirmation of receipt of your submission within 72 hours of submission. 

Time frames:
Announcement: August 1st.
Submissions accepted: September 1st to January 1st, 2017 
Notice of acceptance and contracts sent: by February 1st, 2017 

Inquiries, questions; contact: WickedRunPress@gmail.com

**based on submissions, the structure of the anthology is subject to change, but final terms provided in the contract**

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