Thursday, March 8, 2018

Three Thieves of Night Part 8: Blood and Blades

It was just a brief moment in time, but it felt like forever.

There we stood. Tristan on point. Mary behind me. I moved slightly to their left when she backed up to fill in the right side to cover Tristan’s back.

Tristan held his sword up and exhaled slowly. I could feel the electric charge of his fighting magic as he called it up from his blood. He raised his sword high, ready to strike, a gold glow engulfed his hands and ran up the blade, making it shine. It lit up the entire back alley where the vampire gang had lured us.

I felt the falling snow tickle my face, sweat ran down my spine, my heart beating in my ears.

A motion to my left, a vampire oozed out of the shadows, attempting to get behind Tristan and deal a killing blow to his back with its vicious claws. Wisps of fog dragged off behind its arms and legs and I inhaled and aimed my six-shooters.

I shot it in the chest. Once. Twice. The bullet from my numb right hand missed its heart, something I rarely ever do, and the vampire whirled on me with bared fangs.

Cursing I adjusted my aim and shot it between the eyes, black corrosion surrounded the bullet wound and it fell back as it burned from the silver.

That wouldn’t happen again. I never miss a target. Ever. That was just a fluke.

Tristan moved forward instinctively as he entered a battle trance, his gray eyes clouded over and blank as he saw with his mind’s eye only, the mystical properties of his power taking hold of his body as he relinquished control over to them.

He had entered a fighting trance, one of the psychic skills he honed through natural grit and talent alone. No training. None whatsoever. If he had some, he’d be unstoppable on the battlefield, no two ways about it.

I had already decided how I was going to take out the four vampire ghouls that were leering at me. I figured Mary could take the six by her while Tristan took on the master of the vampire pack, who looked like a little girl, but whose black eyes betrayed a cunning far beyond her physical age.

Her eyes turned silver as she drew on the blood she just drank from her victim, the corpse of which still lay warm and steaming on the cold cobblestone pavement.

The master vamp was using it to fuel her preternatural powers. It made me pause. I wasn’t sure what she was capable of, but the feeling I got from her magic was that she was of a noble bloodline. Noble vampires had different magical powers, depending on whether they were born or turned, and how old and powerful their sires were.

My original plan was to shoot before they got too close, then run in and plant knives into their hearts, followed by Tristan cutting off their heads while they remained paralyzed. At least, that was how we usually did things, but this was a master vamp we were dealing with, not another low powered ghoul.

No doubt Mary would go for the hearts, chest shots would drop them fast. They were pack hunters and used their numbers to their advantage like wolves did. Except these wolves were bloodthirsty parasites in the shape of men.

Vampires became paralyzed by objects piercing their dark hearts. So it was always the best idea to drop them fast, especially before they reached you. The problem was, they were faster, agiler and a hell of a lot more stronger than humans. So no matter how much you train, there was always that chance that in a split moment in a fight, you would be a tad too slow, and they’d sink their fangs into you and inject their venom. Stung like hell and acted like laudanum. Numbed and slowed you down, made you easier to kill and devour.

I always thought that fighting vamps was like leaping headfirst into a viper’s den. Snakes strike in the blink of an eye. So do vamps.

I heard the scrape of claws on the walls and cautiously looked behind me. Crawling down the sides of the buildings of the alleyway, were more vampires. At least ten of them. Maybe more. There was some motion on the rooftops but the deep fog hid their true number from me. We were more than surrounded. We were severely outnumbered.

“Tristan. They have friends,” I said.

“I know. I’ll take the girl. You two cover my flanks,” he said and sounded like he was half asleep.

Yup. Full battle trance incoming. This was going to be one hell of a fight.

“Oh, don’t be so glum Rourke. You have a saint on your side,” Mary said and laughed. Before I could retort she started firing on the vamps that were crawling down the walls towards us, dropping them onto their brothers as they crept closer. Buying us some time.

The vamps had to throw off the dead weight of their paralyzed brethren.

I shot at the three vamps closest to me and sent them sprawling backward, the silver bullets burning holes into their flesh, leaving smoking black wounds in their wake.

Mary was smiling. The smile actually met her eyes this time. She was grinning ear to ear as she shot them and reloaded so fast, her fingers were a blur.

She laughed. Sheer glee in her bloodlust. It was terrifying.

“Look out!” she shouted and shoved me aside as a red shining whip flew at my face. It was blood. A whip made out of blood.

The master vamp, she had two of them trailing out of her wrists.

Tristan had easily side stepped out of the way of them, twisting in time to a song that only he could hear, parrying her attacks effortlessly as the master vamp threw the whips at him. She was fighting rough and dirty.

She laughed, grabbed one of her ghouls with a whip, tossed him up in the air and reached out her hand, all the blood inside of him seeped out of his orifices and swirled around her, forming a crimson flowing cape. In the air around her, shards of crystallized blood floated in an arc.

I had never seen anything like it in my life.

“She’s the child of a nobleman!” I shouted.

“Really? I hadn’t noticed. What gave it away? Her cute frilly dress?” Mary said and moved fast, put her arm in front of me, shoving me back and firing on three vamps that had gotten close while I was distracted.

She let off a rapid succession of shots. How she cocked the hammers back so fast with her thumbs was beyond me. Then again she did have over a thousand years of fighting under her belt, and one hell of a death grip of a handshake, so I tried not to let the fact that a woman had stronger hands than me get me down. She was a saint, after all. She was allowed to be manlier than me. I guess.

No sooner than the bullets zipped into their chests and pierced their hearts, the four vampires behind me dropped dead.

“Don’t take your eyes off them!” she shouted and shot one that had snuck up on my side.

I spotted several sneaking up behind her and threw three knives in quick succession past her head, almost grazing her face--if it had been anyone else they would’ve hit her for sure-- and hit the vamp that had leaped towards her before he landed on her back. She kicked him back and he landed, stiff, arms crooked up, and black eyes tilted towards the forever darkened sky.

I had lost track of how many we killed. They just seemed to keep coming.

Tristan’s blade rang out as he leaped up and sliced through the air, hitting several of the blood crystals and smashing them onto the ground.

The little master vamp hissed at him, and threw her whips towards him, trying to grab his legs before he landed.

Tristan knocked one out of the way, and grabbed the other, letting it wrap around his wrist while he held his sword in one hand. He yanked her forward as he landed and punched her in the face, tried to grab her neck and she slithered out of his grasp, her skin stretching like so much putty, as she turned into a puddle of blood. The other blood crystals flew towards Mary and I, and I threw as many knives as I could to knock them away.

Mary had put an arm up to brace for impact and looked up, surprised when they all cracked and shattered on the ground instead.

“Not bad.”

“Shut. Your. Mouth. Woman,” I said through gritted teeth and ran forward, ducked down to sweep up my knives and turned around on my heels and threw my knives at several more vampires that had snuck up behind me. They dropped with satisfying thuds and I took out my guns and shot them between the eyes, and retrieved my knives.

Mary cursed, I saw that one had managed to grab her as she was reloading her six-shooters, and I ran to assist, but before I could get there, she slammed the revolver bullet door shut and shoved the gun into the vamp's mouth and fired, shooting its brains out. It screamed. Foul-smelling smoke filled the air and she shoved it off her hand and shook the clotted blood off the sleeve of her long coat.

“Damned leeches,” she muttered.

There was motion coming from my left and I turned just in time to parry a hardened tendril of blood with two knives. The force of it drew sparks from the metal.

I saw Tristan appear behind the little vamp, spinning from dispatching the heads from several vampire ghouls that had come to assist her,  he went to cut off her pretty little head.

Tristan’s sword swept cleanly through her flesh, a little too easily, and her neck tissue reattached.
He swore as she motioned with her hand and her cloak wrapped around his midsection and squeezed. He screamed in pain, and I knocked away the hardened blood tendril and pulled my six shooters and shot her point blank in the chest.

The bullets ripped through her and sunk into the blood cloak.

For a split second, I feared that I had hit Tristan, but the bullets fell to the cobblestone, flattened. The cloak had turned into a hard shell of some kind. Similar to the crystals she had made.

“We have to get him out of there,” Mary said.

“I know! Any ideas?”

Tristan was hitting it with the hilt of his blade, grimacing in pain. I could see his cloudy eyes start to clear up. She was trying to break him out of his battle trance, so he’d be easier to kill.

“I have one,” Mary said. “Stand back. Out of the light.”

“The light? What light?”

She grabbed me with her steely hands and tossed me back. “Get back!”

I ran to the corner and ducked down, I could feel her drawing in magical power from the air. At least, that is what it felt like. But, I could see her, glowing, and I knew that she was about to unleash her saintly powers like she had back in Bethel when the demon in my back took over and tried to kill them.

Mary started praying in that ancient language again, loudly, and goosebumps raised on my skin as a hot wind from some desert place in the old world swirled past me and around her, kicking up snow in the alleyway, and mixing it with sand.

“Good sweet lady, what is she doing?” I muttered, and in the shadows from the glow of the fire that emanated from her, I could see a silhouette. It was so familiar to me, it made my heart leap.


The man looked my way and bolted.

“John! Wait! We came here to find you!”

I tried to run but suddenly, a burst of flame gouted out of the alleyway, blinding me for a few short seconds as it burned all the vampires to dust.

The wound on my back twitched and I raised my arm up to protect my face.

I heard what sounded like glass breaking, and looked to see a cross made out of fire had formed on the master vampire. The girl was squealing and screaming but it had her pinned to the ground and was piercing her chest, burned a hole clean through it right to her heart and burning it, but no sooner did it burn, did it start to grow back.

This was the real deal. A true noble vampire.

“By the old laws, and the old ways,” Mary said, her voice loud, so loud that it hurt my ears. It was a side effect of her magic. Her saintly powers. “I command thee to die, vampire. Your wandering higher soul now belongs to Sophia. I bless thee and send thee back to hell. May your next life be merciful and kind.”

The master vamp screamed in pain and rage and terror. Her silver eyes wide with fear, as her heart completely burned through, turning to a lump of coal. Her body burned up and the flames licked at Tristan, who had knelt down, put his sword up in front of him, tip to the ground, and hands on the hilt had raised a shield of golden light to protect him from it.

Mary looked at the lumpy coal heart and crushed it under her heel in contempt. Then, she staggered forward and leaned against the wall, and the flames and hot desert wind faded to nothingness. Piles of sand rested up against the walls and in places on the cobblestone where the stones were raised up. It was surreal to see it.

The smell from the ashed vampires was awful. Like burning rotten meat.

Tears of blood ran down her face. Her eyes were completely bloodshot and bright red.

“Are you all right?” I asked.

She shook her head and then threw up.

Tristan got to his feet, breathing hard and sheathed his sword.


“I’m good. You?” he asked and offered Mary a handkerchief. She nodded in thanks and wiped off her face, blood staining the white linen.

“Fine. Listen…I think I just saw John.”

They both looked at me.

“What?” Tristan asked. “Where?”

“He was right here. I swear it. I was about to run to him when the fire shot through the alleyway. I blinked and he was gone.”

“Are you certain it was him, and not a trick of this place?” he asked.

“Oh, now you’re cautious? You couldn’t have been like this prior to running to save someone and dragging us right into a trap?”

“Point taken. Please, let us argue about this later. We shouldn’t stay here for much longer.”

“Yeah. No kidding,” I said and gathered up the rest of my throwing knives and sheathed them.

Mary was pale. She looked like she was about to get sick again.

“Mary?” Tristan asked and went to put a concerned hand on her shoulder and she swatted it away.

“I am fine. Just nauseous.”

“Is that normal?”

“No. But, like someone said…I’m pregnant. So, it’s bound to happen sooner or later.”

“Look, I’m real sorry that you had to find out that way,” I said.

“It’s not your fault. I blame the demon you're hosting.”

“That…really doesn’t make me feel any better about it. But…thanks?”

“You’re welcome.” Mary offered the handkerchief back to Tristan and he put a hand up to stop her.

"You can keep it."

"Thank you," she said and shoved it in a pants pocket.

“You know, it was strange. My sword sliced right through that thing’s neck and did nothing. I was not anticipating that. I didn't see it coming," he sounded concerned, and a little surprised.

“She was an old one. Not your fault. They get…tricky as they get older. Can do things you wouldn't believe to their bodies. The older a noble vampire gets, the less human they are,” Mary said and reloaded her weapons. "I've seen one turn into a mobile puddle of blood once. It's insane."

“Duly noted. Thank you for the assist,” he said.

“Always. You know that.”

“I do.”

We gave each other a comradric hand clasp and half-hug and Mary rolled her eyes.

“You fellas are rather slow,” she said.

“Beg pardon? I think we fared just fine.”

“She was going to crush you to death, if I hadn’t stopped her.”

“We would’ve found a way to stop her if we were on our own. We’ve fought a hell of a lot worse and survived.”

“He’s right you know. We would’ve been fine if it was just the two of us.”

“I doubt that. I killed more than twice than what you shot.”

“You engulfed them in holy fire! Of course, you killed more than me.”

She smirked. “Just admit that you’re happy I’m here with you.”

“Fine. I am so glad that Sophia blessed us with your presence. Satisfied?”

“No,” she said and I was about to give her a piece of my mind when an alarm bell clanged in the distance.

I looked out of the alleyway to see a figure startle and run off.

My heart skipped a beat.

There was no mistaking it. That had to be John. 

But why was he running away?

I sprinted after him, gritting my teeth as my bad leg griped at me for pushing it too hard.

“John! Wait!”

Tristan and Mary followed, swift on my heels.

The minute I got out onto the main road, he was nowhere to be seen. Not even on the rooftops.

“Damn this smoke and fog. He was right there. I swear it.”

“You sure it was him?” Tristan asked, panting from the sprint.

“Yes! I’d know John’s silhouette anywhere.”

“You sure that you’re not just seeing things? I heard no footsteps save ours,” he said.

“Yes! I swear. It was him.”

“Or…his ghost,” Mary said.

I glared at her, anger welling in my chest. I fought the urge to punch her in the face.

“Shut. Up. Not another word, or so help me.”

“What will you do? Huh? If he’s dead, he’s dead. The odds of a lone hunter surviving capture here for as long as he’s been missing are slim to none. He was out of his mind when he attacked and bit me. You need your wits about you to live here. No telling what kind of torture they submitted him to,” Mary said and Tristan stepped up behind her and put a hand firmly on her shoulder.

“Now would be a very good time for you to stop talking,” he said darkly. He sounded pissed. I could see the rage building in his eyes. This was not good.

“Look, we’re about to be run over by a squad of vampire guardsmen. How about we make our exit and argue about this later?”

“Don’t have to tell me twice,” Tristan muttered and let go of Mary. She glanced over to him and said nothing. She didn’t look angry. Sad, maybe?

Shit. She really was soft on him, wasn’t she? If I had done that she would’ve knocked me on my ass and given me a pounding and left me with a black eye.

“Mary, need I remind you that we’re oath-bound? If John were dead, we’d know it. We’d feel the break in our bond.”

“You sure about that cowboy?”

“Yes. I’d stake my life on it.”

Footsteps. Lots of them. Armed guard from the sound of it, headed our way.

“We better go, before they catch us.”

“Aw, don’t want to kill armored vampire guardsmen?”

“No. That would cause more trouble than us killing a street gang of vamps.”

“Smart man. Which way?”

Tristan closed his eyes and stood still a moment, then pointed southeast.

"That way. There’s a cathedral, with a bell tower. We can use it as higher ground and catch our bearings and look at the map.”

“Great,” I said and we ran, fast. It hurt, but there was no stopping. We couldn't let them catch us. Not before we found John.

It didn’t take long to get out of hearing range of the approaching guard. I was thankful that the streets here were mostly empty and laid out in a straight uniform grids in this section of the city. The outer rim was a maze of curved and hilled roads, the further south we went the steeper the incline in the road.

Between the freezing air and the smog, it was terribly difficult to breathe, even with our scarves and kerchiefs tied around our mouths and noses. My lungs burned. Tristan was limping and pushing through the pain, occasionally hissing in a breath.

Globes of lamplight dotted the street in eerie auras. It was such a gloomy place, I couldn’t see why anyone would want to live here. But, maybe those people didn’t know how much nicer the rest of the world was. If you were born in this, you’d think it natural.

We passed by a giant dead oak tree that had pushed up through the cobblestones and dared to try to live here. That had to have been back when the city still got sunlight before it was engulfed by the ever-growing boundary of the cursed Night Lands.

“There,” Tristan pointed.

An old boarded up church of Sophia, surrounded by a gate and a cemetery yard, complete with creepy tombstones and weeping angel statues.

“Lovely. That looks like such a safe place to hide.”

“Just like home,” Mary said and tried to push open the wrought iron fence gate. It wouldn’t budge. It was rusted shut. With a shrug, she hopped over it and strode up the walk to the front door of the church, leaving us behind in the street. A lone streetlamp lit up the area with an eerie glow. It was as quiet as death.

I glanced to Tristan, who was watching her with a raised eyebrow.


“It is safe. It is still sanctified land. Somehow…”

“Gosh, it’s like a miracle! Who would’ve guessed we would witness a miracle while traveling with a living saint, huh?”

“Not. Funny.”

“I thought it was hilarious.”

“You would.” He winced as he vaulted over the fence and I followed, trying not to land on my bad leg.

Running on sprained muscles was a bitch. Jumping and landing on pulled muscles? No thank you.

“You’re a ridiculous man, Rourke.”

“And you’re a mess.”

“Don’t remind me.”

“I do worry about you, you know.”

“I know. I shall be fine. We just need to find John and get out of Golgotha, and then we both can rest and heal up.”

I nodded. It was as though he read my mind. Which, considering that he was psychic, I wouldn't put it past him to be able to do that, if he really wanted to.

Mary had pulled off the boards and kicked off the bottom one by the time we had gotten up there. She pulled open the door and held it for us.


“Thank you, I said and Tristan gave her a nod in acknowledgment as we stepped inside. She gently shut the door behind us.

“Welcome to sanctuary. This cathedral is a house of Sophia and a safe haven. Rest your weary bones and give thanks,” Mary said.

"Will do. After I get to the bell tower and figure out where we are on the map and compare it to John’s cryptic scribbles.”

Tristan walked up to the front pew, wiped off the dust and sat down stiffly, with a sigh.

“Rest your feet man. I got this.”

He nodded. “I’ll stay here and keep an eye on the door. Just in case.”


It was dark, with faint light from the street lamps shining in through the stained glass windows. An avenging angel stood atop a great hill and men and women bowed to it in reverence.

“Hey, you know him?” I asked Mary jokingly.

“Yeah. He’s long gone now though. He did his deeds and then wandered off into Creation.”

“Huh…Remember his name?”

“Nope. Just that he had a beautiful smile that would comfort even the most miserable souls in the world. Great presence. Good storyteller. Kick ass fighter. Like most of Sophia’s messengers.”

“Faltiel,” a voice from her right shoulder whispered and I shivered.

Both Tristan and I stared at her.


“I heard that,” I hissed.

“As did I.”

“And? I hear them all the damn time. Welcome to my life.”

“That has to be annoying.”

“Why can we hear your angel all of a sudden?” Tristan asked.

She shrugged. “Probably because you were both bathed in the light of holy fire. It’ll fade in time. Just a minor blessing, that’s all.”

“Interesting,” Tristan said.

“Never a dull moment with you around, huh Mary?”

“Nope. Come on, the bell tower is back this way. We’ll need light though.”

I dug out my lantern and lit it, then May and I wandered deeper into the cathedral while Tristan rested his sore feet.

There were tapestries on the walls, most of scenes depicting great battles between angels and demons.

We kicked up dust as we walked, a runner of thin carpet lined the hall and muffled our steps.

Mary put her hand on my shoulder, gently, and I stopped and faced her.

She leaned in and whispered, “Is Tristan going to hold up? He’s starting to slow us down.”

“He’ll be fine. He’s pulled through a lot worse.”

Her lips twitched. Her breath smelled like vomit. I pulled my face back before the smell turned my stomach.

“Are you sure?”

“Yes. Look, lady, I’ve hunted with him for years. He’ll have our backs when it really matters. He did fine in that fight with the master vamp, didn’t he?”

“Yes,” she said and sighed. “I wish I had my guns. That would’ve been over in a minute. Hasn’t taken me that long to send the undead packing in centuries.”

“We’ll get them back soon enough, and then you can kill vamps to your heart’s content, all right? Cleanse the whole damn city of them, If you want.”

“If only I could. I’d have to access the heart of the city to do that though.”

“Realy…guess that will be our back up plan, huh?”

She rolled her eyes. “Let’s focus on saving John. I have a feeling whoever took him is running the show here. We’re being toyed with. That’s why we got lost so easily after entering the city. It has to be it.”

“Oh? Is that a saint power? Or experience talking?”

“Neither. It’s woman’s intuition. Something you two gentlemen lack.”

“Ha ha ha.”

“I know when I’m being spied on by a royal bitch. How about you?”

“You can feel it? Like a sixth sense?”

“Something like that.”

“Sounds useful.”

We made our way to the bell tower and climbed the ladder to the top, making sure to keep the lamp low so that it would not shine out and give our position away.

I took out John’s map, and the map of the city and we both peered over it.

“There,” Mary jabbed at the paper. “We’re here.”

We weren’t that far into the second ring of the city. Golgotha was constructed in rings that grew smaller inward like up the hill it was built on.

I took a piece of charcoal and drew a circle on the spot.

“All right. So we came in here, then this road out in front of the cathedral ahead of us leads to the center of the city. The man I bought the map off of warned me not to go there, said it was too dangerous.”

“No doubt that is exactly where we are going to end up,” Mary muttered. She looked very pale in the muted lamplight.

“Are you sure that you are going to be all right?”

“I’m fine,” she said through gritted teeth. “Why must you bother me so?”

“You really don’t like me caring about you, do you?”

“No. I don't. I’m not your friend. I am an ally, nothing more. Don't get too attached to me. As soon as I get my guns back, I'm gone.”

“You’re so amiable and kind and giving. A real saint of a woman.”

“Shut up or I will punch you so hard, you’ll see your grandchildren looking down over your grave.”

“Ouch. Fine…” I moved John’s crudely drawn map over. “I can’t make heads or tails of this.

“Hold on,” she said and held the city map over the lamp. “Bring that over here.”

I placed John’s map on top of the city map, and with the light shining through so that we could see the drawings, she lined up the pile of skulls and the dotted lines with buildings. The pile of skulls was over the center of the city.

“Here. Bet you anything we have to go down into the catacombs to get to him.”

“You mean we have to go through the catacombs of a vampire city? What possible evil monstrosities could be lurking down there? Is it even possible to traverse them as a human and not be eaten alive?”

“No idea. But we’ll find out soon enough. Won’t that be fun?”

“Not funny.”

“I wasn’t joking.”

“You’re really enjoying this, aren’t you?”

"Do you honestly wish for me to answer that question?"


“Then yes, I am enjoying this. It's been a while since I’ve had a decent challenge.”

“Maybe you should just ditch your magic guns then, and fight like a real man.”

“Shut your foul mouth before I shut it for you.”

“You actually like hunting with us, don’t you? That’s it, isn’t it?”



Her lips twitched into a smirk and she looked away out at the city.

“Come true night time, this place will be crawling with vampires. We should get a move on The faster we get off the streets, the better.”

"That much, I can agree with you. You know, it's possible the dotted lines don't refer to streets but, maybe catacomb passages below the city. This map was hastily drawn, he might not have had time to put any more detail on it before he sent it out to us."

"It's possible. Be sure to keep it handy once we get down there."

I nodded and gathered up the maps.

“Hey,” I said while I folded them back up. “You really think John is dead?”

She shook her head. “Wherever he is, Sophia cannot reach him.”

My stomach sank and my chest went cold. “That is not good.”

“No. It’s not. But it doesn’t mean that he is a lost cause. Just…lost…at the moment.”

“Do you believe that I saw him?”

“I don’t know what you saw. It’s possible. Then again, this city is playing with our heads, messing up our perceptions with its damnable fog. So, you could’ve just seen what you wanted to see.”


“You wanna keep that map out?” she asked as I put them in the inner pocket of my long coat.

“Naw, I got it memorized now.”

“Already? You just glanced at it.”

“Could draw it from memory if I had to. Just need a glance at something and I remember it. Perfectly.”

She whistled softly. “You got me, Mr. Whelan. I am impressed by that.”

“Ha! I win.”

“For once.”


“Let’s go, see if Tristan is rested enough, and hunt down John and get my guns back.”

“Sounds like a plan.”

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Motivation Monday: Finding Courage To Do What You Terrifies You the Most

Courage is not doing things when you are confident, or when you feel secure and you know that you will win. Courage is doing things when you are terrified. 

In order to grow as a person, you MUST do the things that scare you. Without moving out of your comfort zone, into territory where you feel that you lack the skill sets, or lack the talent to do the things that you've never tried before, or because you're afraid of failure, and the pain that comes with it.

But you have to take that risk.

Because in experiencing failure, we learn. We grow.

Life lessons only occur when we go out and do the things that scare us. That is how we become stronger, more resilient people. That is how we succeed.

So, how do we find the courage do to the things that terrify us?

We draw on inspiration from others. Watch motivational videos. Talk to supportive friends. Talk to supportive colleges. Talk to supportive family members. Doesn't matter who (or even where) they are, as long as they are there, in your life, being a cheerleader for you.

But what happens when you don't have anyone to push you forward?

Then you have no choice. You have to start with yourself. You have to cheer yourself on. And once you start, others will jump on the bandwagon and start cheering for you too. Because you will inspire them.

But how do you do this? How can you possibly start with yourself, when you don't feel courageous? When you don't feel strong or confident or sure of your skills?

It's simple, really, when it comes down to it.

You must tell yourself THAT YOU ALREADY ARE brave. That you already are the things that you wish most in your life to be.

You say these words, and soon enough, even if you don't believe it now, you will. And it will change your life. I know that it changed mine.

Especially if you don't feel it in your heart and soul right now. This is what you need to say to yourself, to gain courage and confidence and any other thing that you feel is lacking in your life. 

Repeat after me:

  • I am strong.
  • I am capable.
  • I am wise.
  • I am successful. 
  • I am determined.
  • I am courageous. 
  • I am focused.
  • I am an amazing person.

Say it every day, and soon enough, you'll start to believe it. Because it's true. You are all of these things, and more!

But, Cassie, does this really work? 

Yes. Yes, it does.

Let me tell you something.

I went through a very tough time last year. And saying those things to myself is what got me out of that cycle of suffering. Of repeating negative thoughts. Of dwelling on everything that went wrong, instead of focusing on what went right.

Stopping that internal cycle of saying negative things to myself by saying positive I AM statements instead, really works.

Silly? Can be to some. But it worked for me.

Sometimes, you have to say it to yourself before anyone else will. Once you start believing it, the support will come from others.

I know this because I went through it. I experienced it. Painfully. Acutely. I was arguing all the time with my family. They wanted me to go "get a real job" and to give up trying to sell my books.

I felt like a complete and total failure. My sales weren't where they needed to be, the money wasn't there for me to help support my family.

It was awful.

I had hit rock bottom.

With constantly being told that I was never going to get anywhere with this and that I should go get a safer career in a soul-sucking job, it wore me down.

I honestly felt like quitting. I was about to give it all up. Stop writing. Stop publishing. Stop pursuing my dreams.

And then, I watched a couple motivational videos. I was looking for ways to learn how to uplift others in my life, to help raise them up because I always feel best when I am helping someone else.
That is how I am wired. It's what makes me tick. And I figured if I can help others, I'll feel better, and maybe I won't be so down about things.

Honestly, it felt like the Universe guided me to them because I needed to hear what those people had to say. 

This month I watched a TON of motivational videos, and I learned a lot about myself, and how I work, and I found that I still had that inner strength I thought I had lost. This was all because I was inspired by other people that I had never even met in my life.

I was so inspired to grow as a person that I decided to challenge myself. And I mean really challenge myself for the first time in a very long time.

A few days ago, I announced that I was going to do something that utterly terrified me. 

I am going to finish and publish three books next month. One of which I have been sitting on for over 7 years because I was AFRAID of what people would think of it.

All three books are in various draft states. All three of them can easily be polished up, added to, and completed in 4 weeks. No problem.

And the very idea of challenging myself and putting those things out into the world scared me.

(It still does. But I'm not letting it stop me. I have to prove to myself that I CAN DO IT!)

Making that announcement was like taking a knife and cutting out my own heart and holding it up and out to the world and saying, "Hey! Here it is! This is all the strength I have left, but damn it, I'm gonna use it to keep moving forward and do the thing that scares me the most. Because I have to. I have to follow my heart. I have to reach my goals. I can make it happen. Even though I am scared to do it. I know I can do it. And I will."

And you know what happened?

The minute I told other people that I was going to do something that scared me, support popped out of the woodwork. 

Some of it came from places that I never expected it to come from. From people, I didn't even personally know! (Thank you Twitter Followers!)


Because following my goals, and struggling and moving forward in spite of the odds, inspired other people. And in turn, those people gave me the support and the strength I needed to dig deep inside and find the courage to do it.

Even though that courage and inner strength have always been there, I could not find it. I was looking for it in the wrong places.

But now I know.

Courage starts within me. Taking a leap of faith, digging up and drawing upon that brave soul inside of me caused a chain reaction of inspiration. It radiated out and inspired others and then it came right back to me, in an ever-growing wave of support.

It's an amazing experience. One that anyone can have. 

But, it is up to you. You have to make the decision. Today.

Make the decision to commit to doing the one thing that scares you the most. Because that is THE ONE THING that will make your life better. That is the thing that will move you closer to your destiny. That will push you towards being a stronger, more successful person.

Keep pushing your limits. Keep doing the things that scare you, and you will thrive in the challenge. I guarantee it.

And remember, if you fail, it's not a bad thing. It is a lesson to learn from. To grow from. To become stronger, and wiser, and richer from. It is a life lesson, and life lessons are priceless.

You can do it! I believe in you!

Monday, February 19, 2018

Monday Motivation: To Sell Your Book, You Must Be Excited About it!

I removed the account name because who this is from really isn't that important.
It's the poor message that he was trying to use to sell his product. 

Today I received the most low energy, passive-aggressive request in a DM on Twitter to go watch and support someone's movie and I was like...if you're not excited about your movie, why should I be? Why should I care at all?

He basically said that his people forced him to "spam" me with information and to feel free to delete it if I didn't want to be bothered like that.


The same applies to books: 

If you are not excited about YOUR BOOK (that YOU MADE and that YOU are trying to sell), no one else will be. SOLID SALES start with energy. Positive energy. That MUST COME FROM YOU.

To get people excited about your book, you must be excited to share it with the world.

Would you buy something from someone who was bored? Someone who was just there, but not really present in the moment? Who was like, "Yeah, I just have this thing I have to sell, I'm not really going to do anything to pique your interest, I just have to give this stupid pitch because my boss is breathing down my neck."?


I can tell you from personal experience, anytime I had that attitude in a sales job, I failed. I barely met daily expectations.

But when I was pumped up, when I was selling something that I was TRULY PASSIONATE about, you betcha I met my sales goes. I met them and then some.

Back in my late 20s when I worked for Godiva Chocolatier (mmmm chocolate!). I was picked to take several huge heavy totes worth of products and sell it at businesses. It was a one day set up of a mini-shop in an office building, essentially, with coffee and samples and a ton of boxes of chocolates to sell.

I sold over $1,000 worth of chocolates in 4 hours. By Myself. 


Well, that's easy. I was super passionate and excited about it.

I talked to every single person that came into the room where I had set up shop and helped them find something for Valentine's Day for their sweetheart.


BECAUSE I FUCKING LOVE CHOCOLATE! (Who doesn't? I mean, aside from those poor unfortunate souls who are allergic to it. You have my sympathies. You really do.)

All you have to do is talk to people, and be passionate about your book. It's really that simple.

You have to be open to meeting new people. You have to be open to finding out what they are looking for and help them get it. That's what sales are all about. And if you find out that the person isn't interested in the genre/type of book that you wrote, you can direct them to one that is. And they'll remember that! And when they run into someone that is looking for something in the same vein that you wrote, they'll recommend it to them. That's one of the key parts of Word of Mouth Sales!

How cool is that?

Look, I know way too many authors that can't bring themselves to promote their product. They feel self-conscious about it. It makes them uncomfortable to give sales pitches of the very thing they spent hours and hours and hours on perfecting before putting it out into the world. They feel like people won't like it, so why bother?They worry that if they do try to sell their work, that all they are doing is  bugging people, like that person who sent me the DM on Twitter.

But here's the thing:
You won't sell a single copy if you are not talking to people!


If I go to a convention and sit at a table, and I'm really not in the mood to talk to strangers, I will hardly sell anything. I know this, because I've had several days like that. My energy was closed off. I didn't want to open up and interact and exchange ideas and thoughts and feelings. The end result? I barely sold 2 copies of a book. It was sad, and I felt awful about it.

But when I show up at a convention and I'm feeling great and open and receptive to speaking to people, and it's very clear I'm happy to be there? You betcha that I move copies off that table and put money in the coffers.

It's all about your energy levels.

Being an excited salesman is a skill that authors need to have! We spend all of our time writing, so we know how to craft sentences that convey a feeling of excitement that is full of passion. (If you don't, that's OK! I can show you how! Just keep an eye on this site. More Motivation Monday posts are to follow.)

Even the most extroverted of souls have days where they just don't feel like interacting with others, and that is when they dig deep, find those talents and sales skills that they have honed, and kick back up that energy level and SELL!

Being a good salesman, and writing books that fly off the shelves and convention tables, or selling tons of copies of eBooks online, is not an innate trait that people are born with. Sorry. But it's not.
THE MOST SUCCESSFUL PEOPLE IN THE WORLD become successful after failing and failing and failing, and learning lessons each time they fail. And they study. They study the people in their fields that became successful and learned how they did it, and take something away from those life lessons and then apply it to their own careers. And they keep working on becoming successful. And then, one day, they wake up to see the very results that they have been working so hard to achieve.


They don't stop learning about sales. They don't stop learning about how to better interact with people. They don't stop learning about their trade. They don't stop learning NEW SKILLS that will push them forward and improve their work and move them closer to achieving their goals and making their ambitions come to fruition.

And that is something that we all must do if we are to be successful. 

Keep learning. Keep being inspired. Keep moving forward. And you shall succeed. It's as simple as that.

Watch this video. Seriously. I just got finished with it, and it's amazing. You'll never look at selling your book the same way again. Guaranteed. 

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Here's A NEW FREE CHAPTER from my Vampire Book Addicted to the Abyss!

Author's Note: This is an exclusive excerpt of a brand new chapter from my upcoming vampire book which is an expanded version of my Addicted to the Abyss serial. It takes all the great content from the series, fills in blanks in time, and lets the reader see everything that Jonah was up to prior to finding Mallory. 

Blackness enveloped me.

Nothingness surrounded me.

No thoughts, no feelings, nothing.

Peaceful darkness, pierced by glimpses of faces, of blood running down walls and sink drains, of people screaming or pulling away in repulsion. Of things that Should Not Be staring right through me, right at my very soul.

Everything a jumble of sights and sounds and smells and tastes and fuck it tasted so good.

Food. That’s all I thought about.

Go hunt, eat, sleep during the day. Go back out. Eat some more.

Keep moving. Always keep moving. Don’t stay in one place or they’ll catch you. That bad man, the one that hurt you, and that woman, the one that turned you into a monster. They’ll both find you if you don’t run.

Her brood, the others that she turned like me, but not like me because they didn’t think for themselves, they obeyed her every command. She wanted me to be like them, and I refused. That made her angry. So very, very angry.

I knew this because they kept whispering that to me in my head. They told me things; horrible things, things she was going to do to me when she found me. Things she’d do to HIM if I didn’t behave.

But…I don’t remember who HE is. I know I should, but I can’t. No face, no name, no memories of the sound of his voice. Just his scent.

Every once in a while, there was a familiar scent on the wind, coming from the north. A smell of home, of someone important. Someone who made my heart ache and sent me screaming in rage.

HE hurt me.

I’m going to find him. I’m going to make him suffer for what he did. I’ll torture him, eviscerate and devour him body and soul, I’ll keep eating until there’s nothing left.

But, why do I remember what he smells like, and nothing else? It makes no sense.

Then again, the other day, I didn’t even remember what I sounded like until I spoke. It startled me.

It was funny and pathetic.

But that wasn’t the worst part. 

No. Not even close.

The worst part is what I dreamed of...when I had dreams.

Most nights I just collapsed at daybreak and everything was black until I stirred at sunset. But other nights, when the moon was nowhere to be seen in the sky; those nights, it came to me.

It visited me in my dreams. The Abyss; a dark black heart, beating in the basement of a large structure. Slowly beating, a single eye on its side, threatening to open and stare at me and swallow me whole and make it all. Go. Away. Forever.

Human flesh tendrils shot out of it, wrapped around the walls, devoured everything it touched, everything. People, walls, time. Everything. Nothing was spared its unending hunger. Nothing.

Its black blood oozed out of the bottom, collected in a pan or tank or something I no longer have a word for.

It knew where I was. It knew what I was.

And it whispered to me. Hateful things. Horrible things.

It wanted me to help it. Help it destroy. Help it decay and devour everything single thing living in this world. All of it.

That voice, that horrible whispering voice, it comes from my dreams into my waking hours, from that giant heart of death. It whispers to me all the time.


Rip their hearts out, devour them whole. 

Make them suffer. 

Make them all suffer and cry and then eat them. 

They taste better when they’re scared. 

Don’t they, Jonah?

The Abyss; its writhing human flesh tendrils, black beating heart, and its eye. That terrible eye. Red and black. Glowing in the darkness. Destroying everything it looked at. Making it just, not exist. As if it never was there, to begin with. All it took was one blink and it could make anything disappear, forever. Erasing it from reality.

It terrified me.

It didn’t care about Mullo.

It never mentioned HER.

It just wanted me to kill.

And so, I did.

I killed and ate my fill, but it was never enough. Never enough. Always hungry, always wanted more. And all the while, I kept thinking that I wanted to go home. But I couldn’t remember why, let alone where that was.

Then, after a while, I lost his scent on the wind. And I forgot about home. About HIM.

I started enjoying myself. Stalking people, getting them alone, scaring them shitless, and eating them whole.

A small part of me, in the very back of my fucked up mind, knew it was wrong, but it tasted so good, and the high I got from eating my fill was wonderful. Energizing. Warmth flooded my body, eased the pain from the hunger, made everything all right. Felt so good. Better than sex. Better than anything I had ever done before. I kept wanting more and more and more of it until there was nothing left to look forward to then the next fix. My next meal.

Who would make a good snack?

Who would be good to devour whole?

It was a fun game; the selection; the chase; the kill. The feeding frenzy. I was nothing more than a piranha. A killing and eating machine. Cold-blooded like a shark, with a mouthful of sharp, daggered teeth.

My teeth…took a while to get used to that. When I got hungry they grew longer and razor sharp. After I fed they shrank back to normal. It wasn’t just the incisors, but all of them. All my teeth did that.

Thankfully, I learned how not to bite my cheeks, but I occasionally got too excited and bit my tongue. Still learning to deal with that.

Nights turned into weeks. Weeks turned into months. Seasons came and went. None of it bothered me much. Followed. Always followed. Broodlings about to catch up. Nowhere to run, they always find me. Always a few steps behind me. SHE was with them., like a black mass of living shadow; bitter cold, deadly, waiting to catch me and swallow me whole.

Didn’t want to leave the state.

Not sure why.

Felt like I was forgetting something.

Something very important.

Made my heart ache if I thought about it too much. Hated that feeling, that empty sadness of loss and regret. Made me want to rip my own heart out and bury it so that I could leave that hellish feeling behind. But, I couldn’t.

What was that?




Don’t know. Not sure.

Hated it, wanted that part of me dead. Wished that I could forget everything sometimes. Would be easier than this waking hell of half-forgotten words, empty promises, false lies, the feeling of a memory just out of grasp.

Pretty sure there were times now when I just blacked out. No words, only feelings and scents and sounds and sights, like a filthy animal. Like her broodlings.

The blackouts happened frequently, more and more now. I wasn’t even aware of it happening until I snapped out of it. I hated that part.

I don’t know what kind of man I used to be before IT happened, but I’m pretty sure that he’d be mortified to learn that he ended up like this.

I tried not eating every day, but the urge became too strong. I grew agitated, pain settled back into my body like it was devouring my insides.

Maybe it was.

Shaking, weak, I was like a junkie going through withdrawal. I needed my fix, and I needed it now, or I was going to die.

I woke up, covered in cold sweat. It was tinged black…my tar blood was in everything now. Saliva, tears, sweat. It smelled like death. Like I was decaying from the inside out. But I wasn’t. At least, I didn’t think that I was.

Where was I again?

I popped open the trunk of my car, started walking.

It was mid-January. Cold. Snow everywhere.

The neon sign glared out into the crisp night. I walked towards it, salivating, wondering what type of person I would eat tonight.

It was a truck stop, off the freeway. Men, drivers of those big rig semi-trucks where hanging outside by their trucks, I could smell the desire for sex coming from them when I stood downwind. They wanted a fuck. And they wanted it bad.

Easy prey.

Wouldn’t be difficult to get them to come to me and go somewhere alone. Not at all.  They were starving for a rut like I was starving for their blood.

They were looking for quickies in their cabs or out back in the snowbanks.

I took off my shirt, tossed it onto the snow as I walked towards them.

I prowled past them, gave them a knowing smirk, let them watch me go and lean against the side of the building, unzipped my leather jacket, let them see I had no shirt on, just bare pale skin under it. Ran a hand down my stomach, lingered on my belt, stared at them as I unbuckled it. They ribbed each other and walked over, and I went and stood behind the building and waited for them to strut up to me.

The truck stop’s lights glinted in the snow banks. It sparkled. Pretty. So cold and pretty. Like stars.

Fuck. I was so hungry.

I hadn’t eaten in days.

I was shaking. They thought I was freezing cold and shivering. But I wasn't. No. I was shaking because I was starving. I couldn't wait to sink my teeth into their delicious flesh.

“Hey there honey, I can warm you up,” one said. He was big and burly, strong, muscular, taller than the others. I decided to eat him first.

“Sure. Sounds good. You look delicious.”

The others looked annoyed. I could take them all on, easy. Was hungry enough to eat them all, or so I felt.

“Come on, there’s enough of me for all of you, let’s head inside to the showers,” I said.

They grinned at each other. I could hear their hearts beat faster, excited. The musky scent of their sex grew stronger as they got hard at the thought of fucking me.

This was going to be fun. 

We walked into the building, sauntered over to the shower area. It smelled of mildew and urinal cakes. I didn’t care.

I was having a hard time keeping it together. Sweating, shaking, pain wracked my body, seared through the muscles in my back, burned in my stomach. Felt like I had swallowed broken glass.

I wanted to eat them all. I had to be patient, and it was killing me. The waiting. I felt like a junky trying to hold out before the next fix hit his veins.

No. I had to wait.

Waiting for them to get vulnerable before I attacked was part of the process. It was important.
The predator in me, that darkness, told me to wait. Be patient. Don’t strike yet.

I forced myself to relax.

No need to worry the sheep just yet. Don’t show your fangs. Take it easy.

“Close that door and lock it,” the big one said and the smallest of the men grabbed a chair and lodged it under the door handle. Guess there wasn’t an actual lock on it.

They just trapped themselves in here with me. Suckers.

They turned on several of the showers to drown out the anticipated noise they thought they would be making as they had their way with me. I smiled, a small upturned corner of my mouth. Sly. They mistook it for me being excited about sex. But that’s not what I was excited about. Not at all.

So hungry. So thirsty. Mouth dry, stomach on fire. Pain everywhere. Needed to eat. Needed to feed.

My stomach growled, they laughed.

“Hungry huh?” one asked. He was cuter than the others. Clean cut, just a little stubble, black hair shaved short, nice clothes. Probably made more money than his peers. I tried to remember to take their wallets after I was done, but I wasn’t sure if I would or not, to be honest. Once I started feeding, all bets were off. Sanity went out the window.

I was starting to see red and black dots in my vision. My breath was shallow. Saliva pooled in my mouth.

“Come on, I can’t wait much longer, I want to eat you, all of you,” I said and took off my jacket and pants and got on my knees. They chuckled and stood around me, all four men unzipping their pants and whipping out their hard-ons. Gay boy’s paradise, right?

There was a strange sensation, a pull at the back of my mind, a wisp of memory, of doing something like this before. I wasn’t as happy back then as I was right now. Not sure why. I got money for it. But hated myself for doing it. Curious that.

I shook it off.

Time to get ready to feed. Had to move fast before they reacted. One had a gun, another had a knife, one had a taser. The other carried pepper spray. I could smell the metal and chemicals on them. It was a new ability, along with seeing in the dark. I kind of liked it. It was useful.

I was greedy. They thought I was just excited, a little piggy fag out for a good hard fuck.

I let them take off my underwear, they saw I wasn’t hard.

“Hey, I can help you with that, if you’re too cold to get it up.”

 I smiled. “It’s not necessary. I’m doing this for you after all. You are paying me right?”

They exchanged glances that told me that no, they wouldn’t be paying anyone they did this to, but the big burly one said, “Sure, of course, sweetie. We’ll pay you when we’re done. Stan, help the man up,” he said and the shortest one got undressed and started licking me down there.

His warm wet tongue tickled me and I laughed. No amount of work on his part would get that thing up. It was useless now. Just a remnant of my past life, an atavism of being human. I didn't need it anymore, rarely ever thought about it. I certainly didn't have the urge to fuck like I used to, back when I was alive. Only when I ate too much, did it do anything at all. But usually, I forgot about that, just as soon as it happened.

I chuckled. How could I forget about sex? How stupid was that? Sex is a fantastic lure for food. 

“What’s so funny?” the man sucking on me asked, a confused smile on his face.

“Nothing. Ignore me,” I said and grabbed the biggest guy and yanked his pants down the rest of the way.

Had to act fast, before they could think. Got to get them naked and away from their weapons. Get them to get their guard down. Then strike. And bite. Hard. Make their hot blood gush out into my mouth and rush down my throat and sooth the sharp pain in my belly.

“Come on, I always wanted to do this under running water. It’s hot,” I said and pulled him towards the shower as it turned on.

He took off his shirt and threw it on the bench near the exit. The others followed suit and took off everything and left their belongings on the bench.

Perfect. Time to go for the kill.

As soon as they got close to me, I jumped on the biggest one and bit down hard on his neck and ripped the flesh back, pulling the skin and muscle off in one motion. He gasped, grabbed at me and I hopped off, chewing and swallowing fast as his blood poured out of him. The others cried out and ran for the door as he staggered towards them, eyes wide in shock, hand up to his neck.

I leaped on the back of the nearest one, twisted his neck. Broke it easy, and he fell. I ran to the one at the door, who was panicking and trying to open it, the fact that it was blocked by a chair on this side lost to him, and I grabbed his head and slammed it into the tiled wall. He collapsed in a jumble of limp arms.

The last on grabbed the gun and held it up, arms shaking. It wasn’t his gun. He didn’t take off the safety. He couldn’t get it to fire and kept pulling the trigger. Panicked. Out of control.

“Don’t come near me you freak!” he screamed.

“Shhh…it will all be over soon,” I said and walked up to him and yanked the gun out of his hands.

He whimpered and pissed himself and backed up against the wall, hands searching for something, anything to use as a weapon. He threw an empty shampoo bottle at me and I swatted it away. I stepped up to him, grabbed his still hard cock and squeezed. He grimaced.

“Don’t worry, I’m not going to rip it off. I just want to eat you. All of you,” I said and licked his neck. He tasted of cheap cologne, cigarettes, and sweat. The fear radiated off of him, it made him smell wonderful. “You smell so good. I bet you taste even better,” I said and grabbed him by the throat and pressed in, willing my nails to grow longer and sharper until they cut through his flesh and blood ran in rivulets down his skin.

I licked them off and shuddered, and I just lost it. I leaped on him, he screamed and I ripped out his throat, windpipe and all, with my teeth. He dropped to the floor, bleeding out, making a strange gurgling noise as he tried to keep screaming, but couldn’t.

I smiled wide. My teeth sharp, ready to rip into hot flesh, eat their muscle, drink their blood. All of it was mine. MINE!

It took me all night to eat them. I stripped off their skin and tossed it aside, lapped up the blood off the floor, and peeled off their muscles in segments, relishing the feel of the hot, slimy meat as I bit down into it and chewed. It settled smoothly in my stomach, made me feel like I was glowing. All the pain left. I stopped shaking and took my time eating my fill.

I finished off the big one and was a little bit through eating the second when the truck stop attendant got nosy and started pounding on the door.

“OK fellas! Time’s up. The morning crowd will be in soon. Can’t have them walking into a sex orgy now.”

I dropped the meat. Looked around. There was a window, a little high up, but I could make that jump now, easy.

I rinsed off the blood, fast and sloppy, not thorough but just enough, got dressed, took their wallets and the boot knife and then jumped up, grabbed the window sill with one arm, the window clasp with the other and opened it and climbed up out of it as the truck stop attendant threatened to call the cops if we didn’t open that damn door.

I laughed and hopped down. No one would be answering him now.

I dropped their wallets out back, after taking their money and credit cards. I could sell the cards to people on the street. No way I’d be using them. They could track me if I paid for things with them. That much I remembered.

Walked back the long way to where I left the car near a ditch a few miles back, retrieved my shirt from the snow bank, and got in. My clothes were stiff, the shower water froze.

I had gotten them wet. Forgot to dry off first before I put them on. Didn’t have time.

Not that it mattered. I couldn’t really feel cold anymore.

I had 800 bucks and a pack of cigarettes and a lighter. I tossed the knife in the seat, lit up a smoke and sat back and sighed.

I forgot.

I loved the taste of these.

It was familiar. Comforting.

I took the map out of the glove compartment, and drew a circle around the truck stop. Wrote the number four on it, with a smiley face and chuckled. Damn did they taste good. Wished I could’ve stuck around to finish them all off.

Oh well.

I put the map away, put the sheathed knife in the top of my boot and had another cigarette.

The sun would be rising in a few hours. I had time, so I waited for the cop cars to speed past before I turned the car on and drove away, passing by the truck stop and grinning.

That was a good night.

I was beginning to enjoy it. I was good at that, the hunt. Seducing prey in for the kill. It was fun. And satisfying.

But the fun was short lived.

My memories faded fast.

Forgot my name.

Forgot a lot of things. Everything, except how to hunt, how to kill, how to keep running.

And, I was being tracked, by several things. Not just HER. Not just Mullo. No. Others. Humans with guns. They wanted me dead. I was dangerous. A threat. I needed to be put down like a rabid dog. Part of me wished that they would just catch up with me so that I could kill them already. The feeling of being hunted was annoying.

Patience. They will find you in time, and then you can eat your fill.

I smiled at the thought and kept driving.

You can find the expanded version of Addicted to the Abyss in the novel of the same title, coming soon to Amazon Print and Kindle. 

Friday, January 5, 2018

Sweetmeats, Dark Appetites: A Christmas Horror Story

I received a letter in the mail.

A bright crimson envelope with sparkles, that when held a certain way, looked like it was covered with wet blood. A red Santa hat sticker held it closed. No return address. My name was written on it in fancy scrawling cursive letters.

Inside, a letter on crude textured hand-made paper with crushed flowers, linen, and plant fibers.

Dear Miss Anna Gormleigh,
In light of current events that have been brought to my attention in regards to your recent unemployment, I should like to cordially invite you, and a guest of your choice, to join me for a grand Christmas feast at my esteemed estate in the hills. 
As you may well know, I am a widower of great import, with a habit of being charitable once a year, at the time of our Lord’s birth. By attending my exclusive soiree, you shall be given the chance to put your name in the lottery pot, the winner of which shall be endowed with great riches beyond imagination. This is a chance at a new life, with all your old worries gone and to be thought of no more. 
Please be there at 5 p.m. sharp, as it is a first come, first to be served basis. Be prompt. The doors and the front gate will be locked at 8:05 pm. Formal attire is mandatory. 
I do so look forward to meeting you in person. 
Respectfully yours, 
Hamlet Penderghast

Joining the letter was a fancy invitation on scarlet paper written in gold lettering with the address, date and time. My name was on it.

I stared at it. “Holy shit.”

I couldn’t believe it. It felt like a dream. No way this could be true. And yet, here it was. In my very hands.

Me. Receiving a letter to earn a life grant from THE Hamlet Penderghast? Owner of the multi-trillion dollar Rouge Hat Foundation?

My hands shook. My mind raced.

I held the letter to my face and smelled it. A faint hint of cloves and cinnamon under French vanilla, and a pleasant musky smell that I could not quite put my finger on.

This was it. The real deal.

It was true.

I heard about people receiving letters from him before, it was a life-changing event.

All my life, I had prayed for something like this to happen. Now, suddenly, all of my dreams were finally within my reach. All I had to do, was show up and charm the old man and convince him to make his riches, mine.

It was like trying to rig the lottery…I had to figure out a way to skew it in my favor.

Did that mean arriving early, or late?

What color dress to wear? How slutty should it be? Low back and plunging neckline, or both? Was he a perverted old man? Or celibate in his old age?

I trembled, nervous and excited. With sweaty palms, I called my closest (OK, not that close, but she was the hottest and most well-cultured woman I knew) friend Lisa, and told her the news.

“No. Freaking. Way.”

“Yup!” I texted her a picture of the letter.

“Holy shit! Anna! You’re in! You’re so in!”

“I know! I can’t believe it. Anyways, it says that I can bring a plus one, so…want to come with me?”

“Oh. Wow. Are you sure? Wouldn’t you rather bring Steve?”

Steve, loser boyfriend, worst manners in the world.  

“No…he’s got family and is going to be out of town. I’d rather not bug him, just in case things don’t work out. He takes things hard if he gets his hopes up too much.”

“Oh…I see. OK. Sure. I’ll go with you. It’ll be a night to remember!”

“Great! I’ll pick you up at 4 p.m.”

I hung up and hummed the annoying new Christmas pop song on the radio. “Santa is Hungry for Your Love” as I dug through my closet.

I had two weeks until the big night, but I wanted to be 100% ready beforehand.

I got my nails and hair done, blew through a good chunk of my savings dolling myself up. But, like Lisa said, this was the biggest night of my life. It was worth it.

The stress and sleepless nights and debt collectors calling me at all hours, it would all be over soon.

Soon, I was going to have my day and never have want for anything ever again.

The weeks rushed by in a whirlwind. I was giddy, so excited that I barely ate--telling myself that I’d eat a ton at the dinner, imagining all the fancy rich people foods on such elegant spread in a dining hall; complete with dogs by the fireplace, fire crackling happily as we sipped on spiced wine and nibbled on sugared fruits, sweetmeats, and pies, and a rack of lamb, and Oh my God I was so hungry.

Not just for food.

I was hungry for a new life. A new start. A life free from poverty and Ramen noodles and eggs and powdered milk every day.

So. Very. Hungry.

I was curling my hair, imagining a feast for a kind and accidentally touched the hot iron.

“Shit!” I dropped it and it fell to the floor. I spread my bare feet in panic before they touched it. I picked up the iron, my finger throbbing from the pain and grit my teeth.

I was just touching up the job the hairdresser did earlier. I had a stray stubborn lock that refused to stay curled.

I sprayed it aggressively and stepped out of the bathroom to my bedroom, sucking gingerly on my burnt index finger. A red spot bloomed where my skin came into contact with the hot iron. It hurt, but I wasn't going to let it ruin my night.

I didn’t have time to get burn cream, so I just covered it with a clear band-aid and hoped for the best. Maybe he wouldn’t notice it. It hurt like a bitch, and I couldn't ignore it. It was distracting

I slipped on my burgundy red dress (sparkling with plunging neckline and bareback) and matching stiletto heels. I put on the wishbone necklace that Steve gave me for good luck a year ago when I got my last job- the one that recently fired me with no notice, the bastards. The charm was gold with a pearl inlay. I had hoped that it would bring me luck this time, but maybe I had decided to wear it to have a part of Steve with me, if only in spirit.

I double-checked myself in the mirror and then grabbed my things and rushed out the door.

I picked up Lisa and we drove to the estate, both of us chatting up a storm, that is until we saw the looming mansion on the hill.

My mouth went dry. I was so nervous that suddenly I really had to pee.

“You OK?”

I laughed nervously. “Oh, I’m fine. It’s just…in the winter night, with the snow falling around it, it should be peaceful, like a storybook castle. But it looks more like an evil step-mother’s house from a fairy tale.”

“Yeah. It does. Probably just a trick of the light, right?”


The gates were open, stone gargoyles on the concrete wall grinned viciously down at us. They looked like they would come alive and eat us at any moment.

Lisa shifted in her seat. “I thought it’d be more festive. But, there are no Christmas lights on the trees out front. Don’t rich people love that sort of thing?”

“I bet he just likes a more natural look in his yard. I bet you anything the interior is full of decorations like Santa threw up all over.”

She laughed and her face lit up, putting me at ease.

I found a place to park, thinking it odd that there was no valet, and we trudged up the path, the snow freshly paved, crunching under our dress shoes.

“I swear to God, I feel like I’m going to fall and twist my ankle.”

“If you do, you can sue his pants off for damages.”

“Anna!” she admonished, and we laughed and walked up the concrete steps. I rang the doorbell and checked the time on my watch. 4:50 p.m.

We were on time.

I glanced back and noticed car tire tracks leading around the back of the property.

Were we the first guests to arrive? Or not? What did the invitation say? First come, first served?


We were late, after all.

A sour-faced butler opened the door and he inhaled through his nose loudly. “Yes?”

“Um… Hi. Hello, I’m Anna Gormleigh. Here’s my invitation. Lisa is my plus one.”

He too the invite slowly and looked at me. “Does Lisa have a surname?”

I blushed, embarrassed. Lisa stood closer to me and put a calming hand on my own.

“Lisa Hancock,” she said firmly. Thank God she came with me. I was so stressed, I couldn’t even think straight.

I looked away, hiding the tears welling up in my eyes. I rubbed my thumb against the bandaid I used to hide my burn and focused on the pain.

If my mascara ran now…fuck.

Calm down Anna. Calm down. It’s fine. It’s all going to be fine. Right?

“Courage,” Lisa whispered as the butler led us indoors.

We were hit with a wave of delicious scents, nutmeg, cloves, ginger, vanilla. They seemed to cover up a sickly sweet scent that I couldn’t quite place. The entrance way was white marble. A big brass fireplace with a fire happily snapping away greeted us as we stepped forward on the mirrored stone floor. It was breathtakingly beautiful.

A huge Christmas tree stood in the center of the foyer. It was sprayed with white flocking and covered in ornaments. Shreds of red tinsel hung were strung along it, that made it look like the tree limbs were weeping blood. The crimson bulbs stood out in a striking pattern of droplets of scarlet in white snow.

It was beautiful, and it made me hungry to see more.

The butler took our jackets and told us to wait a moment by the fire.

As soon as he left, Lisa turned to me, beaming.

“This place is gorgeous! Thank you so much for bringing me.”

I smiled. She was cute when she was excited. She was like a little girl at times, but in a good way.

“You’re welcome. God, I’m so nervous.”

“Don’t be. Just act like you belong here. Because if anyone deserves it, it’s you.”

“Oh stop, you’ll make me blush again.”

“So what if you do, with all this red around us, you’ll blend right in, right?”

I laughed and the huge double doors to our left opened. A woman in a French maid outfit stepped out and curtsied.

“Right this way, misses.”

“Misses?” Lisa whispered and we grinned at each other. It was like I was sixteen all over again and going to prom with the hottest senior boy at school.

Inside, there were a number of brown leather chairs in a half circle, all facing each other, and a smaller, less elegant fireplace roaring away, filling the room with warm yellow light.

It had gotten dark outside. The large windows had their long drapes pulled open, and all I could see was my reflection in them as I walked past I looked so…hungry.

A middle-aged hipster man in pressed jeans, trendy sweater, beard and man bun sat next to a plump woman in a rumpled dress that was one size too small for her. It showed off the fat rolls on her sides and I tried not to outwardly grimace at how tacky she looked. If this were a different scenario, I'd feel bad for her, but right now? I just saw her as someone to easily beat in the lottery.

On the opposite side of the half circle, an androgynous goth college kid, of which I couldn’t tell if it was a girl or a guy, sat sideways with feet dangling off the side of the chair. The kid wore paint-spattered torn jeans, a faded metal band t-shirt, and a red knit winter hat. They were playing a game on their smart-phone and not paying attention to any of us. Perhaps he or she was the grandchild?

The hipster man adjusted his over-sized black-rimmed glasses and stood up to greet us with an outstretched hand.

“Hi! I’m Mike, this is my sister Lorraine.”



We shook his hand. Lorraine didn’t stand to greet us. She just looked down her piggy nose at me and I could practically see the jealousy roll off of her in waves of heat.

She hated me already. Which was fine by me. I didn’t care for her either. In fact, the more she stared at me, the more my loathing for her grew, until I could barely contain my rage.

“Quite incredible to be here, isn't it?” he asked.

“Yeah, sure is,” I said through a forced smile.

My heart raced. I was furious. I dug my finger into the burn spot, making it hurt worse. If there wasn't a band-aid covering it, I would've cut open the skin with my thumbnail.

Bastards. How long have they been here? 

I wanted to kill them.

An image of my hand grabbing the fire poker and bashing their faces in flashed in my mind. I tried to shake it off, but I kept thinking about wanting to make them bleed.

How dare they? This was MY turn. My chance to change my life. Forever.

Not. Theirs.

They needed to die. And fast.

“Did you have trouble with driving up here in the snow?” he asked me.

“Oh, no. I’m used to it.”

Lisa sat down next to the goth kid and I saw a slight frown on her face.

“Where did you park?” Lisa asked.

“Out front. Why?”

“We didn’t see your car.”

“The valet moved it,” the college kid said, not looking up from their game. I saw limp hair under that red cap, it was greasy, almost wet looking, and for a brief second, I thought I saw blood. I blinked and looked at them again. No. Their scalp was not covered in blood.

I was just seeing things.

“I’m sorry,” Lisa said. “I didn’t catch your name.”

“Cinnamon,” the kid replied. Their voice, like their appearance, made it hard to determine what sex they were. So was their name, apparently.

“Oh, what a nice name.”

“Whatever.” Cinnamon stood up. “I’ll go tell Uncle Hamlet that you’re here. I don’t want to wait much longer. I’m starving.”

“Oh, OK,” I said.

When Cinnamon walked past I noticed that their teeth didn’t quite fit their mouth. Maybe too young for braces? I kept looking at their cranberry colored lips as they shuffled out of the room.

Mike cleared his throat. “Uh…I didn’t give my car keys to anyone. Cinnamon said that the valet moved my car, but that can't be possible.”

“Seriously?” I asked.

He dug them out of his pants pockets and held them up. “See? I still have my keys."

"That's weird." Please leave now. Just go. Don't come back. 

 "I’m going to go look, just in case. Maybe you just didn’t see it out there? It’s a white car. It could’ve blended in with the snow bank in the dark.”

“I guess. I mean, I was so nervous driving up, it's possible that I could’ve missed it.” Yes. That's it. Go outside, and freeze to death. Get out of my way. 

His fat sister made an annoyed face.

“Oh, don’t be like that. I’ll be right back,” he said and left her there, with us.

“Anna, there were tire tracks in the snow leading behind the mansion,” Lisa said and went to look out the window. She cupped her hands around her eyes to block out some of the glare and peered outside.  “They’re gone now.”

“What? Really?” I peeked beside her. The snowfall had increased, a blanket of white filled the air and completely covered our footprints. It was as if we had never been there.

“Wow. I didn’t think it was snowing that hard. Guess it picked up after we got inside.”


A manservant walked in, looking bored, holding a tray of appetizers. Red pomegranate seeds on stark white beds of cheese and red apple slices. Simple, yet elegant.

When offered, I graciously picked one up and took a bite.

The pomegranate meat spurted satisfyingly in my mouth.

I wanted it to be Lorraine’s head. My mouth crunching down on her skull, making the blood and eye goop everywhere.

I swallowed the seed pit and coughed.

“Oh my God are you OK?” Lisa asked.

I nodded and spit out the seed. “Sorry,” I said, eyes watering. The seed had scraped the back of my throat. I felt…weird. My lips tingled, so did my fingers.

Am I allergic to pomegranate? 

I became light-headed. My lips and tongue itched and I could feel my gums like they were swelling up. My teeth ached. Maybe I chipped one on the pomegranate seed?

I took water that another waiter offered and chugged it down. It was very unladylike, but I really didn’t care at that point.

“You’re not supposed to eat the pit,” Lisa whispered.

“I know. Shut up.”

Lorraine pointed to my face. I fought back the urge to bite her pudgy piggy finger off. “You got some juice on your face.”

“Thanks.” I dabbed my lips with a napkin.

Lisa took my arm and whispered in my ear, “Stop glaring at her. She’s trying to be nice.”

“What? I’m not glaring at her.”

“You are. Cut it out. It looks bad.”

Part of me wanted to rip my arm away or break Lisa’s fingers. I wondered what it would feel like, sinking my teeth into the flesh of her tender digits.

The thought should’ve startled me, but it didn’t.

My hands grew sweaty and the band-aid on my finger came loose, so I took it off, and stared when I saw that the burn was suddenly gone.

Had I imagined it? Or did it just heal, somehow?

What was going on here?

Suddenly I was acutely aware of how quiet the house was. Aside from the sound of snow plinking against the windows, and Lorraine breathing loudly through her nose, there was no other sound to be heard.

I looked for one of the wait staff, to ask for some more water, and I couldn't find them. The wait staff had just…disappeared. I saw them standing in the doorway one minute and the next, it was as though they had never existed, to begin with.

Odd that.

I rubbed my top gums with a finger. Why did they hurt so much? They definitely were swollen.

“Are you all right?” Lisa whispered.

“I think I might be allergic to pomegranate.”

“Oh no. I think I might have some antihistamine in my purse. Let me go check.”


Lorraine waddled to the window and stared out, squinted her piggy eyes. “What do you think happened to our car? We’re kind of in the middle of nowhere. Who would steal it?”

“I don’t know. Maybe you should go find Michael and see if he figured out what happened.”

“Good idea,” she said and snatched up her purse and heavily stomped out of the room.

I sighed in relief. Maybe she’d get lost and find herself locked in a closet or something. Anything to get her out of the run for the money.

Her footsteps faded as she tromped down the winding hallway, looking for her brother.

"They have to be in here somewhere," Lisa muttered as she dug in her purse.

I looked pleadingly at her, feeling my gums swell so much that I thought they’d bulge my teeth out of my mouth.

She gave me an apologetic look. “I thought I brought some with me, but I didn’t. I’m sorry.”

“Maybe the host has some. Old people often have huge medicine cabinets, right?”

“I hope so. If not, I can always run out and get some for you. I mean, it’d be better for your guest to leave, than for you to go. This is such an important night for you.”

“Are you sure?”

“Hun, your lips are swelling up. I think it would be for the best. I’d rather go and risk the snow, than end up sitting with you in the emergency room.”

“You’re right. Here, take my car keys. I’m insured so don’t worry if something happens.”

“OK.” She took them, hung her purse on her slim shoulder and left to go find her jacket.

I sat down by the fire and tried to calm myself down. I had an icy pit growing in my stomach. I was nervous, my chest felt tight.

Then. I noticed it.

An aroma.

Something smelled good. I hadn’t noticed it before.

What was it?

Apples. Cloves. Nutmeg. Raisins. Currants. Candied Citrus…Mincemeat pie? Maybe?

My stomach growled.

Maybe I needed to eat more? It would calm my nerves.

I just needed to stay away from the pomegranate. I went to go look for where the delicious food was displayed and there was a bang of a door, followed by a thump, and a long heavy dragging sound.

“What the hell was that?”

I poked my head out the door and froze. A streak of wet red paint ran across the foyer to a door on the opposite side of the hall.

No wait...that couldn't be paint. It smelled like spiced wine and gingerbread cookies.

As I stepped closer to investigate the wet paint, the wind picked up and began to howl outside, throwing snow up against the front of the house. It was turning into a blizzard.

We might be stuck here until morning when the snow plows cleared the road.

“Hey!” Lorraine called out and I looked down the hallway at her. She looked very worried, on the verge of tears. “Do you know where the help went off to? I can’t find anyone.”

“No, I--”

“What’s that on the floor? Is that blood? It is! That's blood! Oh my God! Mikey? Mike? Where are you?” she shouted and ran towards the door that the paint streak led to.

Just then, Cinnamon slammed the door open and smacked Lorraine square in the face. She slipped in the paint and fell, cracking her head hard on the marble floor.

“Oh. Shit,” Cinnamon said and kneeled by her. I saw him or her (I still wasn't sure) tuck something metallic and sharp looking in their pants pocket. “Help me, will you?” they asked and looked at me.

“Is she dead?”

“Not yet. Why? You want her dead?”

I smiled. “Yes.”

“Well, then. Help me drag her in here and we’ll make that happen.”

"All right."

I was giddy, like a kid in a candy shop. Here was the competition, dropping like flies.

I helped the androgynous Cinnamon, who, upon closer inspection had no Adam’s Apple, and I realized that she was a young woman. She was a Goth girl who could very easily pass for a boy.

I helped her pick up Lorraine and carry her into the room we were staying in.

“Let's put her down on the couch. We’ll take care of her body in a little bit.”


Someone stepped into the room and I turned, expecting to see Lisa, but instead, standing in the doorway was a tall, sophisticated elderly gentleman in a burgundy red suit and tie, with a jaunty fur-lined Santa hat covering white hair that had yellowed with age.

He had an air of elegance about him. He didn’t appear fragile or weak, as one would expect of someone his age. He stood straight up, as though he had a backbone made of steel.

“Ah. Uncle Ham. Sorry, I was just trying to clean things up, as you asked, but I appear to have made more of a mess of things.”

“Not to worry, young Cinnamon. These things happen.”

“Lorraine slipped in the hallway and hit her head,” I said and Cinnamon’s eyes flicked my way. A sly smile curved up a corner of her mouth and she nodded in approval.

“I can see that,” Penderghast said, a glint of malice in his black licorice eyes. He smelled of candied apples. My mouth watered at the taste in the air.

So hungry. I really should’ve eaten something before we left.

Penderghast stepped over to where Lorraine lay like a beached whale, her eyes glazed over in a daze. She had to have a concussion.

“Michael, I have to find Michael,” she blubbered.

“Oh? Would you like to join him? He’s in the other room. I…ran into him as he stepped out to inquire about your vehicle. Rest assured, your car is fine,” he said and smiled.

I stared at him. Hamlet’s mouth had thick bright red gums. His lips barely closed down over his huge pointed shark's teeth. They were cracked in places like they had chipped from being filed into triangles.

I ran my tongue over my own teeth.

What would it feel like, for mine to be that sharp? Would I bite off my own tongue by accident? What could they bite through?

“Oh, good,” Lorraine said, “Take me to my brother. I want to go home now.”

“Of course,” he said and put out a hand, helping her to her feet. She wobbled and barely walked in a straight line as he escorted her out. His tall form easily held up her tubby body. I was impressed by his strength.

I wanted to be like that. Strong, lean, all muscle and jaws and teeth. The ultimate predator of humanity.

Penderghast glanced back at me and winked as the door swung shut. It made my heart leap in my chest.

Cinnamon sighed. “I’ll be right back. Gonna clean up the floor before the blood sets.”

“Sure,” I said taken aback.

Blood? I thought that was paint. It certainly didn't smell like blood to me.

After a few moments, Lisa slipped into the room, startling me.

“Anna,” she hissed, handing me my jacket and hurriedly put on her own. “Come on. We have to get out of here.”

I stood there for a moment, and then tossed my jacket over the couch arm. “I’m not going anywhere. I belong here.”

“Are you serious? This place is fucked up! Didn't you see the blood?"

"Blood? No. That was paint."

Lisa gave me a look like she wanted to smack me. "You're crazy. That was blood. Mike's blood. Cinnamon hit him with something. I saw her drag him into the side room. These people, they aren’t who you think they are.”

“What the hell would you know? I didn’t have to invite you, you know. I could’ve asked someone else.”

“I know, and as your friend, I am telling you, we need to get out of here before they kill us too.”

“Stop over-reacting. It’s fine. I’m not going to throw away this opportunity. It is going to change my life. Forever.”

“What are you talking about? I thought you were having an allergic reaction. I thought you wanted to go get medical attention. What the hell is wrong with you?”

“Nothing. I’m fine now. Never felt better.”

“OK, fine. But, we need to leave. Now. Before they get rid of our car too.”

“You mean my car.”

“Yes. So come on!” She tried to pull me by the arm and I dug my heels in and didn’t budge. “Anna. Please! Let’s go!”


“Did you see their teeth?”

“Yes and?”

“What uber rich person doesn’t have perfect teeth? Their dentists all know them on a first name basis.”

“Maybe it’s a genetic condition. Maybe they aren’t shallow and don’t worry about how their mouths look. Ever think of that?”

“Anna, I’m trying to save your life! Now come on!” she grabbed my jacket and yanked me towards the front entrance.


“No. We’re leaving. Before they kill us too.”

I grabbed the door frame and stopped walking. She stumbled forward and glared at me.

“What is your problem?”

Anger flared in me.

How dare she ruin this for me. I waited my whole life for an opportunity like this and here she wanted to run home like a little girl.

I was grinding my teeth. I didn’t notice until I bit down and my teeth sliced through it, the tip of my tongue came clean off. I winced and blood quickly filled my mouth. It tasted like sweet plum wine. My stomach growled and I swallowed. It was delicious.

Lisa stared at me in horror. “Oh. My. God. Did you just…did you just bite off the tip of your tongue and eat it?”

“Yes. It tasted really good,” I said, my blood dribbling down my chin.

“Oh fuck this shit,” she said and ran off towards the front door. It wouldn’t open. She made a growl of frustration and ran the other way, past me, towards the back of the building. “I’m leaving. Get a cab to drive you home,” she shouted back at me.

“Oh…you’re not going anywhere,” I whispered and chuckled. This was going to be fun.

I saw that Cinnamon left the door open to the room where the "blood" streak trailed into.

I walked over and inside, I saw a huge life-sized canvas standing. A ghastly painting of innards and intestine strung upon a Christmas tree. It was oddly pretty and grotesque at the same time.

Next to it was a metal table, with a now naked Michael lay. He was pale. Not breathing. Dead.
His arms hung off the sides, long cuts ran down the undersides, his hands in buckets where his blood was draining. I was hit with an overwhelming scent of mint and fresh squeezed orange juice, mixed with cloves and nutmeg.

My tongue stopped bleeding, it tingled and itched horribly and in an instant, I felt it grow back. I loved it. Wondered how many times I could bite off the end and eat it before it stopped growing back.

Cinnamon stood on the far side of the table and was cutting off patches of skin from his thigh.

“Hairy bastard, isn't’ he?” she asked and grinned. Her teeth, serrated, chunky, like a jumble of shark’s teeth, over-filled her mouth.

“He is.”

“Want some?” she asked and motioned to the glistening bundle of muscle that she had uncovered on his leg. “It’s like well-seasoned pork tenderloin. He tastes really good.”

I took a deep breath in. Heat filled my belly and crawled down to my crotch, where it left me tingling and wet. It surprised me. This feeling of intense arousal. I was so hungry. For food. For sex. For life. I wanted to eat him. I wanted to eat all of him, and keep eating until I was so stuffed that I couldn't even move.

“Yes. Yes,. I do,” I said, my heart pounding, as my greedy hunger took over all of my senses.

"Oh? Looks like you want to do more than that, sweet cheeks."

"I want to rub his minty citrus blood all over me and bath in it while I eat him," I said and ran my hands over my tits and squeezed them hard.

“Hot damn! He was right! You ARE one of us!”

“One of what?” I asked and slowly stepped up to the table.

“A redcap. Uncle finds us and adopts us into the family. We’re cousins, of a sort, you and I.”

“Does this mean that I get the money?”

“Honey, you get that, and more. Much, much more,” she handed me a thick quivering cord of dark red meat from Mike’s thigh. I took it and licked my lips. It smelled so sweet, like Christmas cookies. Not savory at all. Definitely not like pork loin, like she had said.

“Why does it smell like that?” I asked.

“Like what, my dear?”

I jumped. Penderghast was in the room. Somehow, he had snuck up on us.

“Like spiced wine and apples and oranges. Like Christmas cookies and spiked eggnog,” I said. "Cinnamon said he tasted like pork loin, but I don't smell that at all on his flesh."

He grinned and stepped over. I saw that his long-fingered hands were slicked with blood.

“Because, my dear Anna, you aren’t human. Not anymore. Not since you stepped foot in here and ate the pomegranate.”

I frowned. “What?”

I knew that I should be scared, but I wasn’t. I was thrilled. Excited, sexually aroused. Everything was warm and pulsing in me. I never felt more alive in my life.

“Once you eat fairy food, you can never leave. Those who remain human, become our meals. Those who change, who transform into their true gluttonous natures, like you, and become family.

“You inherited the fairy magic. Congratulations."

"Fairy? Magic? I don't quite understand."

"You felt it, the minute you bit down on the pomegranate, didn't you? That hot, tingling that made your gums bulge and teeth grow?"


"Well, once a year, on Christmas Eve, I can grant riches and immortality to one lucky person. If their true natures matches my own dark appetites, they become like me. And my dear, the lucky winner of the lottery this year, was you,” he said and lifted my chin with a bloody hand. It smelled like strawberry shortcake. My stomach growled. “You want to lick the blood off, don’t you?”


“You may if you like.”

“Thank you, Uncle,” I said and slowly licked and sucked the blood off. Sighing and closing my eyes as I swallowed. “Yummy.”

“Does Lisa taste delicious?”

“Yes. Oh God, yes.”

“Want to eat her. All of her?”

“I do.”

He grinned. “Very well. Eat your appetizer, first."


"Finish up what you hold in your eager hands, and we’ll move to the dining room for the main course.”

I glanced down at the slab of muscle in my hands. Meat. Sweet, sweet meat. I hungrily tore into it, blood dripping down my chin and plopping on my shoes and the floor as I chewed. It had the pleasant texture of rare steak but tasted like mincemeat pie. It settled warmly in my stomach, like a hot wine.

Penderghast nodded approvingly and then gently escorted me to the dining area. Lorraine and Lisa were cut open on the long table. Heads cut off and placed on the fireplace mantle with apples in their mouths.

It made my heart leap with joy. We were going to eat my friend. Finally, she’d be useful for something.

Cinnamon came in and started pulling out their intestines, dragging them along the floor and hanging them about the room like garland.

“Your cousin Cinnamon has great taste in interior decor, don’t you think?”

I smiled. “She does.”

“Heart, or liver first?”

“Liver. Please,” I said and sat down in front of Lisa’s butchered body.

Penderghast placed her large, slippery, wet liver on my plate and motioned for me to eat.

I dug right in. She tasted so good. Like caramel apple cheesecake. I couldn’t get enough of it.

The more I ate, the more I wanted. Even after gorging myself on her flesh, my stomach felt empty.

Sighing I sat back and licked the gore off my hands.

“Still hungry?”


He nodded. “Everything has a price. My gifts you to, their price is eternal hunger. It will never cease. But, you shall grow accustomed to it, in time.”

“Oh. Really?”

“Yes. It’s a fair trade-off though, don’t you think?”

“How is that?”

“You get to inherit my riches, you never have need or want for anything ever again. All you have to do is eat and eat and eat to your heart’s content and never grow fat. And next year, you shall go out and invite four more humans to the feast. How does that sound?”

“It sounds delicious.”

He stood behind me and reached down and hugged me like a favored child. “Merry Christmas, Anise Seed.”

“Merry Christmas Uncle Ham.”

He laughed and I laughed and we ate the rest of my friend. She was the best thing I ever had for the holidays.

There’s only 365 more days until the next Christmas Feast. And I’m so very, very hungry.