Free Read Friday: Billy Part 2

Image of gloomy forest

The journey continues. I'm beginning to get an inkling of an idea of where we're headed here. I believe I know how it will end, but we all know how that usually turns out. Billy is one very special little boy, he just doesn't know it yet. 

Here's a link to part one if you'd like to get caught up. Part One


Part 2

Did he? He wondered as he watched her door anxiously. At any moment he expected the door to swing open and for Sarah to appear, wearing an oversized tee shirt, her hair a wild tangle as she rubbed the sleep from her eyes.

“Go back to bed squirt,” she would mumble as she passed his room on the way to the bathroom.

Tonight, as it had since the day of  her death, her door remained closed, locking away a secret that might explain what had motivated her.

Did he believe?

He didn’t believe in much of anything anymore, Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, and the Tooth Fairy were nothing more than fairy tales designed to keep little children in line. If you didn’t listen to your parents you wouldn’t get that special gift you wanted. You would get something else, something functional you could use throughout the year. Socks, underwear, new pants or shoes. The lumps of coal that had once been doled out to those who refused to listen had been replaced by the necessities.

With these thoughts in his mind he slowly closed his door on that shadowy hallway filled with secrets and crossed back to his bed where he slipped under the covers and fell asleep. A part of him wanted to recapture the wonder he had felt in that small cabin, yet another part was afraid he might fall into that dreamlike place and never escape.

As it was the remainder of the night passed uneventfully and his dreamless sleep was only disturbed in the early hours of the morning by the soft sound of crying coming from beyond his bedroom door. Carefully he crossed to his door and gently eased it open enough for him to peer through the slender crack.

Across the hall his mother stood with her back to him, the door to Sara’s room wide open as she filled the doorway. Her shoulders shook as she wiped at her eyes as that sound of her crying softly came to his ears. His heart broke for her.

He wanted to tell her everything was going to be all right, that Sarah was not really gone, in fact he had tried just that shortly after her death, and his dreams of that secret forest began. His revelation had earned him a trip to Doctor Morgan’s office, where the older women who once cared for Sarah tried to trick him into telling her how he knew everything was okay, and Sarah was safe.

Sarah had warned him they would try to do that and that he had to be real careful about what he revealed. If he told them about the cabin in the forest it would be all over, they would win, and Sarah would have to go away forever. He had done pretty good until he let it slip about the small stream running through the forest and how if one listened real close they could learn all the secrets of life  and death.

That little mistake had caused his dreams about his sister to devolve into the nightmare of fleeing through the forest depths as the others, those shadowy shapes that flowed over and around one another with sinister intent, pursued him. The cabin was still there, but they hadn’t found it yet, and every time he dreamed of them, he made sure to run away from the cabin, to lead them away from his sister.

“Are you all right, Mom?” Billy said as he stepped out of his room and pulled the door shut behind him. His mother spun around, startled by his sudden appearance, and knelt down to wrap him in a desperate embrace.

“Don’t you leave me,” she whispered fiercely in his ear, her breath hot as it tickled his earlobe. With his head resting on her shoulder he had an unrestricted view of Sarah’s bedroom, his gaze drawn to the poster tacked to the wall above the head of her messy bed.

“I promise, I won’t,” he replied dutifully as his gaze took in the sinister intent of the poster. It was of a massive tree at night, awash in the light of a full moon, its spindly branches reaching for the dark sky like devoted worshipers reaching for the heavens above. Around its massive trunk the shadows were dense, filled with slender appendages that whispered over and around one another as glowing red eyes gazed unblinking from the other side.

“Do you believe?” his sister’s urgent whisper filtered through his thoughts and he nodded his head.

He did believe.

But what did it mean?

To be continued!

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Alone Revisited

I wasn't too crazy about the opening for Alone so that was the first thing I worked on. I want to show the immediacy of the situation.

Old Opening:

It felt as if the weight of the world was resting on his shoulders, and in a sense, it was. A thousand feet of the earth stood between him and the sunlight above. Even with his kerchief pressed against his nose and mouth the dust that filled the air around him managed to find a way in, coating his teeth and tongue with a gritty film. He’d made the mistake of opening his eyes as he tried to assess his situation, and a piece of grit had gotten into his right eye. Though it was tiny, it felt like a pebble had become lodged beneath the lid.

Given the circumstances, he did the only thing he could do, withdraw within himself, and wait for the dust to settle. He turned off the light on his hardhat, after all, he didn’t know how long he was going to be down here, sat down and waited with his head resting on his knees.

New Opening

It happened so fast there was no time to react. One moment Pete was moving through the darkness of the mine, the small lantern affixed to his helmet lighting his path with a narrow beam of light. The next he was overwhelmed by a dense cloud of dust as the roof of the mine behind him collapsed without warning. The tons of dropping stone displaced the air so fast he was driven forward by a brief gust of wind, nearly falling to the rocky ground as he struggled to maintain his balance.

Boulders and stones tumbled to the ground behind him as he covered his nose and mouth with a handkerchief in an attempt to keep the dust out. It was too late, his teeth and tongue were coated with a coarse film that turned to mud in his mouth. A piece of grit had gotten into one eye, and though it was tiny, it felt like a pebble had become lodged beneath the lid.

Given the circumstances, he did the only thing he could, withdraw within himself, and wait for the dust to settle. He turned off the light on his hardhat, after all, he didn’t know how long he was going to be down here, and sat down with his head resting on his upraised knees. As he was not the superstitious type he felt comfortable in the dark and as he waited his thoughts turned to what had happened.

They’d been getting warnings about a potential cave in for the past two weeks, if the older miners were to be believed. Gustaf was growing restless, they’d say.

Hiram Gustaf had been one of the first miners killed in Tredwell number seven affectionately dubbed The Pit. They believed it was his ghost that had been knocking on the stones as he tried to warn them of the coming danger. 

As this is a story about superstition I need to touch on that issue briefly near the beginning. It's a point  that I will expand on as I explore the conflicts in Pete's upbringing. A college educated man who spent his formative years listening to stories of tommyknockers and ghostly miners on his grandfather's knee. 

What do you think?

Did you like the old opening better?

Monday Motivation

You know, it's Monday.

Spent the biggest part of the day working on a stand up desk. Nothing elaborate, but it's functional. Need to get off my butt now that sciatica has become a part of my life.

Free Read Friday: Billy

Welcome to the start of a new short story I call Billy. He's a special little boy, how? I'm not sure yet, as the journey has just begun, but I get the feeling he's going to be very important. Wrote this last night in an hour, and just went through to correct typos this morning. Tuesday I'll be posting the updated opening of Alone, along with notes on what editing was done to bring the story to that point.

photo of gloomy forest


He heard it crashing through the dark woods around him, the sound filled with deadly intent as he turned to flee into the gloomy depths. He didn’t know which way to run as the sound of the beast hunting him came from every direction. He was trapped between the emptiness of nowhere and gloomy depths of a featureless void. He could smell its rancid breath as the slender trucks of the trees on his right slowly parted, razor sharp claws glowing in the faint light of a sliver of moon that was playing hide and seek behind the low clouds skirting along the treetops above him.

He opened his eyes, relief and disappointment battling for dominance as the featureless void of his bedroom ceiling came into view. The moonlight painted the shadows of the branches of the tree beyond his bedroom window on the wall above his bed. His gaze tracked across his room as he struggled to shake off the paralysis that held him in its grip.

It would ease up shortly and he’d be able to get up, until then he was trapped, only able to move his eyes. Like the dream the paralysis had been happening every night since his big sister, Sarah, was laid to rest several weeks earlier. He hadn’t told anyone yet what was happening to him. Not that they would listen. His parents were still wrapped up in the sorrow of his sister’s passing, going through the motions of their daily lives on auto pilot. Getting up, going to work, coming home and going to bed.

They rarely spoke anymore and several times he’d found his mother standing at Sarah’s door just staring at the unmade bed, and the piles of clothes still littered across the floor. Everything had been left just like it was the day she had been rushed to the hospital. As if at any moment she would crash through the front door, slamming it behind her, before charging up the steps, taking them two at a time.

His father used to yell at her all the time about slamming the door, threatening to take it off its hinges, not that that ever made any sense. Why would you leave your front door open like that.

But what did he know, he was only six, and as the paralysis eased he threw back his covers and crossed to the door of his room where he opened it and peered across the hall to his sister’s closed door.

Was she waiting for him in there?

The night continued around him, so full of possibilities, and he was tempted to sneak across to hall a take a quick peek. But he didn’t, just as he hadn’t the night before, or the night before that, or even  before that. Every night he looked across the hall at his sister’s door, wanting to step across and find out, but fear kept him rooted in place.

Just as every night it had been the same dream, repeated over and over again. Always beginning in that small house sitting next to a babbling brook whose soft voice whispered about secret places and unknown things. The forest around the house was filled with shadowy things that slithered over and around on another in an endless dance to gods whose names had been forgotten long before man set foot upon the world. Held at bay by forces they had little understanding of.

Inside a roaring fire filled the small house with the scent of fresh pine and an embracing warmth that wrapped you in a loving manner, that made any worries seem insignificant by comparison. They sat together on a handmade rug before the leaping flames of the fire, side by side as they gazed into the dancing flames.

Every time she turned to regard him for a moment with weary eyes, to ask him a simple question for which there was no simple answer.

“Do you believe?”

To be continued!

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Postapoc Wednesday

Coming this Month in Post-Apocalyptic Fiction

Click on cover for more info or to order!

Surviving in a tough situation is not always the best option; sometimes dying is much better than staying alive. The Academy showed Paladin Yaropolk what makes the world go round: pragmatism and personal gain. Restart was set in motion, but it only makes players more frantic. Now everyone plays only for himself. Yaropolk faces the same dilemma: be like all of them, or keep his humanity and be known as an odd duck. Because there is only one rule in this world: kill or be killed…

Click on cover for more info or to order!

Set in the UK in the immediate aftermath of a mysterious illness which swept the country and left millions dead, the series follows the trials facing a reluctant hero, Dan, and the group he forms around him. They must battle the elements, find sufficient supplies and equipment to survive, and protect themselves against the most destructive force on the planet: other people.

Click on cover for more info or to order!

It's been days since the terrorist attack and the nation has torn itself apart. Food and medicine are scarce and daily life has become a struggle for survival. Two survivors, thrust together in the most unlikely of circumstances, travel from Maine to Tennessee in search of family, but as they travel the scarred land they are about to discover that this attack has a far more insidious purpose than they first realized.

Monday Motivation

It's the start of another week, yay. Here's a little thought for all the procrastinators out there, you know who you are.

Alone: The End

After a bit of a delay I'm now able to finish this little tale. I hope you've enjoyed it so far and again my apologies for last week's delay. So without further interruption let's get into it. Here's the link for the full story if you'd like to start from the beginning. 


 The dead miner stirring from his ageless sleep?

He felt the presence on a purely instinctive level,  something massive yet insubstantial. A yawning emptiness that slowly opened to consume everything in its path.  He moved away, scrabbling across that rocky surface, coming up hard against the wall as the emptiness opened behind him.

As it came closer he reached out with one hand, feeling for the floor that was no longer there. The mine had vanished, replaced by that all consuming void as a single thought whispered through his mind.

Am I dead?

It elicited a sense of sadness, a deepening sorrow as he came to understand that he would never see his daughter again. She would grow up without him to watch over her, maybe she would fall in love, and have children of her own. His wife  Renee might move on, find another not as foolish as himself to stand by her side until death parted them.

But most of all he would miss the warm feeling of the sun on his face. The gentle touch of an errant breeze carrying the scent of the pine trees covering the hillside behind his house. The hard bite of winter’s chill as the snow crunched beneath his feet.

The emptiness grew behind him, expanding to encompass everything his world had become, replacing the mine with its frozen caress. The sweat on his brow chilled his flesh as the cold slowly wrapped him in its embrace.  He was thankful he’d kept his heavy coat as it now served to protect him from the encroaching cold.

It made no sense, yet at the same time it was perfectly logical. This deep, on the devil’s doorstep, the temperature should be over a hundred degrees. But it had changed as that emptiness opened behind him, and the cold loneliness of the grave wrapped him in its mournful embrace.

He felt its touch on a purely instinctive level, coming as a  faint tickle at the base of his neck. Slowly it climbed the back of his skull, numbing his flesh at its chilled touch, and he became aware of another presence.

Something as old as time itself that regarded him with a frigid indifference. As the numbness of its touch spread across his body his memories stirred as this essence rifled through the files of his past with calloused indifference. He saw his life flashing before his eyes, and knew then that death had come to take its due.

He saw himself as a child sitting upon his grandfather’s knee as he wove the tales of miners of old, who viewed the world around them as one filled with the creatures of legend, and the magic of unlimited possibilities. Then he was a young man, focused on his studies, having shed the wonder of childhood and all the beliefs it entailed, as cold hard facts replaced the myths and folklore of his early days.

He saw his bride to be once again as she walked down the aisle towards him, surrounded by family and friends as two loves were joined into one. He saw the birth of his daughter and his heart filled with sadness when he realized he would never see her again.

Light filled the chamber behind him as his memories cascaded through his thoughts. His shadow was long against the loose stone and blasted walls of his grave. He saw his tool bag lying next to the boot protruding from the ground and crawled towards it.

With every step more details came into focus. He recognized the pattern on the bottom of the boot, it was a red wing just like he wore and that spark of recognition set off a chain reaction that washed through him like the rushing waters of a dam suddenly released from its prison.

He recognized the coveralls as well, they were similar to what every other miner wore, but with one small difference. The tiny plastic butterfly attached to the zipper tang that opened the bottom of the pants leg.

“They’ll protect you daddy,” his daughter whispered in his mind as a chilly tear traced a wet path down his cheek. She had attached one to every zipper tang on his coveralls, a talisman of her own making to protect the one she loved.

The guys had ribbed him about them when they first saw them, but the kidding died down shortly after, when he explained what they meant. The atmosphere becoming somber as they waited for the cage to take them down into the bowels of the earth.

Into an eternal darkness where no one’s future was assured.

As the light grew he came to understand what love truly meant when more of those tiny plastic butterflies came to light. Behind him death waited as it waited for everyone, it had all the time in the world, but his had run short and when he felt that chilled touch on his shoulder he knew it had run out.

Upon your birth a voucher was issued, a chit, a token much like the ones the miners of old used to mark their loads. It was something we all carried our entire lives, slowly counting down the seconds, the moments, until death lay claim to our soul. For some that timer was short, while for others it was long.

His had wound down to the end and the sorrow that overwhelmed him at the sight of those sparkling butterflies filled him with a bitter remorse. He’d always promised to come home to her, now he was going to break that promise.

The hand on his shoulder tightened as it pulled him back towards the light that now filled the mine around him and painted his long shadow upon the shattered wall. Other shadows appeared around him as a babble of voices intruded upon his consciousness. Other hands grabbed him and he expected to find his grandfather and two of his uncles who had passed away when he turned towards the light.

Instead the bright light of a work lantern blinded him, and he held his hand up to cover his eyes.

“Are you okay, Pete?”

“Yeah,” he answered, startled to find his crew around him, “yeah. I’m okay.”

“Can you walk?”

Pete nodded silently as his eyes adjusted to the light and he looked around for his tool bag. It sat on the ground to his right, the boot that had been next to it now gone.

“Let’s get you out of here,” Arnold said as he pulled him towards the opened shaft, “make way people,” he shouted to the others who stepped back to clear a path.

As he was led from the mine he looked down at his coveralls, noticing that the small plastic butterflies were gone. A child’s talisman used in exchange for his life and for the first time in his life he came to understand that sometimes magic did exist, and the power of love, and belief could be enough to defeat even death. 


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My apoloigies

Just want to take a moment to apologize for not posting Alone part 6 last Friday. The story has presented me with two possible endings and I haven't settled yet on which one to follow. Stay tuned this Friday, I'll have the ending posted by then.

Oh and while you're here, did you know?


Seventy three years ago today allied troops launched their assault on fortress Europe.

Alone: Pt5

It has been a busy week for me. I've been on vacation taking care of some things around the house and I'm, looking forward to going back to work so I can get a break.  Here's the latest part of my serial story, a little later than normal, but I've got a good excuse.

I can see where some foreshadowing will be needed when I rewrite this little tale.

I hope you're enjoying the story so far. Don't hesitate to let me know what you think.


Stopping he gazed into the emptiness as the steady sound of a pick striking stone came from the darkness. It had to be his imagination, there was no room for ghosts,  and the legends of ghosts in his ordered world. Dead was dead, and there was no coming back.

As he stared into the darkness he began to make out small details that he knew he should not be able to see. The silhouette of a slender man stood against a faint illumination that he knew was not there. Yet it was something his emotional side grasped for with a desperation born of the need to see anything but the featureless void.

The man moved, picking up his pick, raising it above his head before bringing it down in an arc that was accompanied by the sound of a pick striking solid stone. Pete shook his head, wiping at his eyes, as the silhouette of the man bent down and retrieved something from the ground. He looked at the object in his hand for a moment, then seemed to turn and regard Pete, before tossing it in his direction.

A small stone hit Pete on the shoulder as a soft chuckle came from that presence. It was a  low, guttural, sound without mirth. A predatory sound that sent a chill washing across his back as the odor of decay tickled his nose . A pair of red eyes emerged, glowing softly with a malevolent light. They blinked and Pete jerked back with a startled cry.

Knocking came from his right, hard and fast, the ringing sound of cold steel against unyielding stone. It wasn’t a distant sound, as if heard through the earth, but right next to him. In the small chamber with him.

More knocking answered from the left, a fast tempo that raced the first. Even more joined in, coming from behind and before him as those glowing red eyes watched him with a preternatural stillness. More knocking came from the ceiling and floor as Pete curled into a fetal position with his hand clamped over his ears.

He withdrew within himself, retreating from the disharmony that filled the chamber around him. He’d always laughed at his grandfather’s belief that knockers lived beneath the earth. Chalking it up to a miner’s superstition coupled with long days spent beneath the ground. But now that he was experiencing it first hand he understood that these old beliefs had been born in truth. 

Something snatched at his shoulder and he cried out in terror. Another hand grabbed at his ankle, the fingers ice cold through the protective layer of his clothes. A cold hand caressed his cheek and he screamed as a shriek of agony sliced across the symphony of sound, silencing it instantly.

He opened his eyes and looked up into the hushed emptiness. The silhouette was gone, as was the faint illumination that had set it off. He was once again, alone in the dark, with the sound of the earth settling around him.

How long had it been?

From behind him came the sound of movement, stones stirred as something emerged from the rocky depths, pebbles cascaded across the hard ground, and he sensed a deeper blackness rising up from the floor of the cave behind him

Was it death coming to take him at last?

To be continued!

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