Free Read Friday: F is for Funghi Pt VIII




(c) Can Stock Photo / knorre


F is for Funghi

Part VIII


Follow this link to read the story from the beginning: HERE

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After recording five minutes of the treadmill he worked his way back to his equipment and finished setting it up. After establishing a five minute loop he flipped the switch to start the replay. Static hissed from the speakers and he adjusted the gain to blanket it. Faintly he heard the recording of the treadmill coming from the speakers and he twisted the volume dial all the way up, filling the basement with sound. They were out of sequence, the two separate sounds coming a split second apart, agitating the creatures around Nadine. Large thorns and assorted other piercing and cutting objects sprouted from their slender bodies and he hurriedly adjusted the speed of the replay to synchronize the two different, yet similar, sounds.

The creature closest to the speakers drifted towards the recorded sound, gathering around the twin speakers to dance in time with the steady thrumming. Slowly he turned the volume up, blanketing the sound of Nadine’s treadmill, drawing even more of the creatures to the speakers.

With a path cleared to the treadmill he raced over and got Nadine’s attention. Her eyes were bloodshot, her breathing came in ragged gasps, her hands grasping the bars so tight her knuckles looked like they were about to break through her skin.

“You can stop,” he said, motioning to the creatures that were now gathered around the speakers.

She shook her head silently, determined to see this to the bitter end, and he pointed at the speakers, turning her head against her will until she could see what was happening. She stopped then, that brief pause causing a flurry of activity to wash through the creatures who quickly settled down to continue dancing.

“We gotta get out of here, can you walk?”

Nadine nodded, took two steps off the treadmill, and collapsed into his arms. Holding her close he raced to the door and slipped through, closing it behind him, muting the recorded sound of the treadmill.

On this side of the door the basement was clear of that invading creature. The concrete block walls still white, but as he watched a faint pattern of darker lines appeared, growing thicker and darker with every passing second. All around them the pattern spread out across every available surface, those searching fingers of night reaching out from the other side of the wall where Nadine’s workout room was.

“We’ve gotta get out of the house,” he said as he lowered her to her feet.

“No! We can’t,” she replied, panic flashing in her eyes, “I can’t go outide.”

“We can’t stay here.” He pointed at the growing lattice work of searching vines that were racing across the walls around them, trying it seemed to block their escape.

He grabbed her hand and dragged her towards the narrow stairs, the walls to either side were already covered, small tendrils of night growing from the surface, reaching across the space to create a barrier. He plowed through the narrow vines, ripping and tearing his way up the steps as panic rushed through his body and his heart thundered in his chest.

They had almost made it, the faint glimmer of the door only inches away from his fingertips, when Nadine’s hand was ripped from his.

“No!” he screamed as he turned back to see her vanishing into a vine packed maw that slowly retreated down the steps. He tried to follow, intent on saving her, her screams muted by a dense layer of tentacles that lashed out at him with razor sharp thorns, laying open his cheek, slicing through the flesh of his arm as he raised it to protect himself.

He retreated, falling back into the kitchen, the image of Nadine vanishing into that squirming morass burned into his mind. Sure, she was a pain in the ass at times, but she surely didn’t deserve what happened to her. For the first time in a long time he was overcome by sadness. It was a sensation he hadn’t felt since his mother died when he was a child.

On its heels followed another, more familiar sensation, that sense of finally being free. It reminded him of when he was released from prison the first time, finishing a 2 year stint for burglary. It was a lightening of the spirit that put a spring in his step.

Nadine was no more, and as he thought this he heard the steady thump of the treadmill in the basement. They had gotten what they wanted and as he looked around the spotless kitchen he realized he was truly free for the first time in his life. She had money in the bank, more than he would ever need, and as her husband he had access to it.

He didn’t need to stay here any longer, he could move on with his life, never work another and life a live of leisure. Pushing himself to his feet he worked out what he would have to do to get access to her cash. Her bank card was in her pocketbook still sitting on the counter, and he knew her pin number.

It would be a piece of cake to drain her account over the next few months and set himself up wherever he wanted to go. The world was his and as he crossed to the counter he realized the steady thrumming in the basement had stopped.

Had she worn herself out?

It started again and he smiled, let her run herself to death if that’s what she wanted, he was getting out of this place. As he searched through her pocketbook he didn’t hear the sound of footsteps on the stairs beyond the basement door. Nor did he notice the vines emerging from the walls around each door and window. He was focused on more important things as the door behind him swung open with a faint squeal he’d always promised her he would fix.

He did feel the icy hand on his shoulder, the sensation of something spreading across his chest and back, and when he spun around Nadine was waiting for him. But it wasn’t really Nadine anymore. It had her face, and her body, but what lived in the depths of her eyes was anything but the soul of the woman he’d married.  It was an alien thing that lived in her gaze, watching him with a cold indifference.

He felt the tentacles spreading across his chest and back. Climbing his neck and spreading out around his head, probing his lips, his nose, and his ears as a sweetly sinister voice whispered in his mind.

“Relax, this will only take a moment.”


THE END

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Revisiting Covenant

Covenant

The rewrite.

Authors Note: Covenant was born one Sunday morning as I was reading the paper, while mentally searching for the next story idea in my 26 story challenge. I came across a report about a murder and attempted suicide of an older couple in their eighties, that happened on the east side of my small town. Details revealed the wife was suffering from end stage Alzheimer Disease, and her husband was trying to end her suffering. That of course set the gears into motion and the first thought to emerge centered around that certain stubbornest to being married to the same person for more than fifty years. 

A union like this transcended love. 

When you toss in a healthy dose of Alzheimer disease, dementia, and the assorted other demons that tend to rear their ugly little heads, you've got a tragedy in the making. Suddenly the woman, or man, you've spent your entire life with, is no longer there. A stranger has taken their place as you struggle to come to grips with this new reality. If you've witnessed this first hand, and discover later in your own life that you are likely to come down with the disease, what would you do?

What if the woman, or man, you love turns to you as their last resort in such a situation? Would you be able to do as they ask?

Archie faces that very situation, he made a promise to his wife after they buried her mother, a pact, a covenant, to not let her suffer the same fate.

Most of the rewrite consisted, as it usually does, in cleaning up my sentence structure to excise as much of the passive voice as I could. To tighten things up while discarding much of the needless stuff.

Upon completion of the first draft I realized what the story was trying to say and knew I had to set the scene. In the first rewrite I added the following passage.


She watched him from the pillows under her head, her once vibrant red hair now the color of the sheets she lay on, her faced lined with age, eyes that once sparkled with a mischievous light now watched him with guarded mistrust as he moved around the foot of her bed, and crossed to the window.
“You promised,” she said, her eyes darting back and forth as she searched for her words.
He was taken back by the comment, it was so out of place when compared to the way she had been acting lately. “I promised what, Sweetheart?” he said, choosing to ignore for the moment this turn of events. He didn’t want to get his hopes up that her condition was improving. The disappointment would be too much to bear.
Her eyes continued to dart back and forth, in search of words that were not forthcoming, her brow creased with concentration as she tried to capture the elusive tail of her comment. 
As the story is titled Covenant I felt it necessary to make an early reference to the promise Archie made to her the day her mother was buried. 

For me, the restored phone booth in the basement as well as the assorted advertisements, represent a link that connects Archie with the past. It is this link that will provide the conduit into Pat's mind where he will be reminded of his promise. I used the bar as a refuge from the storm that was her disease constantly churning beyond the walls.

In the end he comes to realize what he must do.


On the churning clouds around them flickered the scenes from their past together. Fading in and out of focus as the clouds beneath the images churned. He saw the day they met, he just a clumsy kid too big for his own good. She, as she had always been, quite and demur. Self assured where he was still coming into his own. He saw it all laid out before him, the billowing depths of the clouds serving as a living screen as those moments replayed themselves in brief flashes of light. He saw her walking down the aisle in the little church where they were wed a week before he shipped out to Vietnam. He saw the birth of their boys. Birthdays, anniversaries, and summer vacations stretching out into eternity. As he watched the scenes playing out he came to understand something that at first glance was beyond belief.
 
He looked from the clouds to his wife, and back again as the realization filtered through his thoughts. He was in her mind, experiencing first hand the loss of self she’d so far endured. His heart was broken when he realized the truth of what he had to do. 
And so the story ends with a replay of the opening sequence with one exception. The addition of a pistol on her tray.
Next to the napkins lay his nine millimeter pistol. Dark and sinister, it’s muted color in sharp contrast to the white napkin. The difference between the two was like that between night and day, or life and death.  

You can read the edited story in its entirety at this link: Covenant

Keep in mind that when the story is released I will be truncating the story on my blog, and providing a link to where it can be purchased. I'd really appreciate it if you did buy one or two of my stories, they're only a buck a piece, less than a cup of coffee, and the sale will keep me motivated and turning out more stories. Thanks,

Two new titles, along with an idea for two of my upcoming stories has come to me. 

For the letter G we will visit the boys from my Dreadland Chronicles series, Meat, Window, Einstein, and Billie-Bob will come upon a strange compound in the short story G is for GOD IS DEAD. Don't know everything that's gonna happen yet, but I can see the opening scene is in my mind, so look for the first installment that should be coming Friday April 27, 2018. 

Don't forget the final installment of F is for Funghi, will be posted Friday April 20, 2018.

For the letter H I've come up with the idea of an opening to hell appearing in the Appalachian mountains where I currently live, keep your eyes open for H is for HILLBILLY HELLMOUTH coming soon.

As always if you've been enjoying what you've read why don't you stop by my one of my Author Pages listed below to check out my other work. 







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Free Read Friday: F is for Funghi Pt VII

image of fungi
(c) Can Stock Photo / knorre

F is for Funghi

Part VII


Follow this link to read the story from the beginning: HERE

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He tried to work out what manner of creature this was, only to come up empty. There was nothing within the grasp of his understanding to explain what this thing was. Only that it was huge, and had obviously been spreading for some time through the Morison’s house.

When was the last time he’d seen them? He wondered, aware that it had at least been several months. Had this thing been growing inside all that time?

What he could see of the basement was a dense forest of interlaced vines. Nothing looked as it should, and every available surface had been covered by these invading objects. The bar that once stood along the wall was wrapped in a layer of intertwined vines that pulsed in time with the steady thrumming sound so reminiscent of a heartbeat.

With a voice like the rice crispies cereal of his childhood, that impenetrable wall of vines grew behind him, pushing him down a narrow artery toward the sound pulsing through everything around him. He came to a wider room, the thrumming pulse so loud it wrapped itself about him, invading his body, his thoughts, matching the steady beat of his own heart stride for stride.

In the center of the room he saw her. Surrounded by a forest of these primitive things that seemed to be dancing in time with the steady rhythm coming from the treadmill she was running on. Sweat glistened against the flesh of her face, her eyes fixed on an object he could not see, her face set in a mask of disturbed concentration.

Onward she ran, her slender legs scissoring in a steady rhythm as she kept her pace on the treadmill. She was clinging to the handle with white knuckled hands and as he got closer he saw that she was far from enjoying herself. He had the impression she was no longer exercising, but was running for her life, the slender appendages surrounding her were weaving back and forth in time with the steady rhythm of her feet on the treadmill. 

Were they feeding on her misery? The thought stopped him cold as he took in the slender objects gathered around her in a dense crowd. They stood no more than two feet high, like supple tree branches with little to no distinguishing features to tell one from the next. At their base they were each connected to the other by an interlaced network of smaller vines that formed a latticework pattern on the painted concrete.

As he approached she turned her head and spotted him, her eyes growing wide in surprise as he gingerly made his way through the dense crowd that parted to permit him access.

“Can you stop?” He asked, and she shook her head silently. She was winded, struggling to maintain her pace, her face a mask of fatigued terror.

What could he do to save her? He wondered as he looked around the basement at the discarded electronic equipment scattered along the walls. How could he get her out of there? What would happen if she stopped running? The questions chased one another though his mind as he struggled to come up with a solution. His gaze fell on his old recording equipment, he’d put together tracks for a couple of local bands when he was much younger, driven by the hope of discovering something big. A hope that never panned out.

He looked back at the treadmill, at Nadine’s faltering step, the steady sound of her running missing several beats. She was winding down. The creatures became agitated at the interruptions, their smooth surfaces sprouting wicked barbed thorns that quickly smoothed over as the beat picked up again.

She was literally running for her life.

If he recorded her running, maybe he could get her out of here, get both of them out of here before those things turned nasty. The thorns had looked like they were quite capable of tearing a person to shreds. Was that what happened to the Morison’s? He turned away from that line of reasoning, focusing instead on getting his old equipment back together.

Confidence eluded him as he struggled to put his system back together. It had been too many years since he’d fooled with it, and he worked clumsily at first, then more confidently as muscle memory resurfaced to guide him. Soon he was ready and he cautiously approached the treadmill, taking care to avoid those dancing things gathered around her, the memory of those wicked thorns not far from his thoughts.

 

To be continued!

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Free Read Friday: F is for Funghi Part VI

fungi picture
(c) Can Stock Photo / knorre

F is for Funghi

Part VI


Follow this link to read the story from the beginning: HERE

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A slender object emerged from the weeds, slithering across the deck towards him as other movement came from the weeds around him. He twisted the door knob in his hand, his palm slick with sweat against the cool metal surface, leaning into the door with enough force to cause the glass of bow as the door creaked in its frame.

He twisted the knob savagely back and forth as that slender object reached his booted foot, and he lifted it from the deck.

“Get away from me,” he screamed as he stomped on the object, causing it to retreat hastily, dragging its broken tip across the boards of the deck. It was then he saw other slender appendages reaching up through the narrow openings between each board. Hundreds of them it seemed. One tapped the top of his boot, probing the leather surface, and he danced away with a strangled cry of terror.

The door popped open, swinging out, and he quickly darted into the shadowy interior of the house. From behind the safety of the closed door he watched those slender tentacles as they grew from between the boards, weaving back and forth in time to the beat of a silent song. Shaken, covered in a layer of sweat that lay cold against his skin, he turned to the interior of the house, trying to put the image of those tentacles out of his mind.

It appeared he had just jumped from the frying pan into the fire. The walls of the house were covered in a lattice work of slender tentacles that moved in time with the same unheard song. They covered every available object around him save the floor that lay barren in the shadows.

From the depths of the house came that steady sound, the thrumming he’d grown quite familiar with over the time he’d been married. Like the steady beat of some massive heart it marked the passing seconds as he carefully ventured into the deeper shadows.

Coming to the foyer at the front of the house his eyes were drawn to two shadowy objects hanging in the space a crystal chandelier once occupied. Covered in a dense lattice work of small vines, it was readily obvious that beneath them he would probably find the bodies of Jack and Estelle. He felt no sorrow at their passing, only fear that he might join them unless he found a way out.

The front door was covered by a dense layer of interwoven vines that prevented him from opening the door. Among the tangled masses he spotted movement as several of the smaller vines slithered across the larger ones, securing the exit. The front windows offered no escape either as he went from one to the next, the wooden frames invisible beneath a dense layer of gray colored vines that were very much alive, though they appeared dead.

As he moved through the house he remained unaware of the steady movement behind him, vines rose from the walls stretching across to their brethren  to create an impenetrable barrier. After checking the last window on the front of the house, he turned to retrace his steps, only to find his path blocked. He had no other choice, he had to continue in the direction he had been going as it was the only way open to him.

He was being corralled, directed to a destination he had yet to understand. Passing through the dining room that steady beat grew louder all around him, it was the only sound in the house, and as he passed through the room he came to the opening that led down into the bowels of the house.

That steady thrumming sound was coming from those shadowy depths and he stopped at the top of a slanted corridor fully encased by intertwined vines, some as thick as his thigh, and he knew he had reached the heart of this strange beast. From below came that familiar sound, that of the treadmill, accompanied by the running footsteps of someone, most likely Nadine, running full tilt.

The interlaced vines behind him pushed him towards that narrow opening and he tried to keep from falling into that shadowy maw. But it was no use, he was powerless against the combined strength of this alien thing, and before he knew it he was tumbling headlong down that dim corridor.


To be continued!

If you've been enjoying what you've read why don't you stop by my one of my Author Pages listed below to check out my other work. 







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