Daniel I. Russell is the author of Entertaining Demons, Samhane, Retard, Come Into Darkness, Critique, The Collector Book 1: Mana Leak, Mother's Boys and the huge collection Tricks, Mischief and Mayhem. Daniel is a HWA active member and represented by the Tobias Literary Agency, NYC. Daniel has also been the vice-president of the Australian Horror Writers' Association, special guest editor of Midnight Echo, associate and technical editor for Necrotic Tissue, and Shadow Awards judge.
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Tuesday, September 08, 2009Marketing experiment, or a test of my story telling skills.
After a good week of a new clown t shirt (thank you my better half), budgie called Tibby and those lovely teaching dollars now coming in, I'm a happy writer bloke once more. And following a conversation on Facebook with the editor of Tales from the Cauldron, Rhiannon, thought I'd run this (free) marketing experiment.
The premise is simple. Here, for the first time, is the full opening to my novel Samhane. I've thrown a few juicy snippets around before, but never so much meat.
I would be honoured if you took a few minutes out of your day to indulge in a little violence...a little dark secrecy. Take my hand while I take you to Samhane. Don't look so worried! We aren't going all the way, just down the path a ways.
My question is...do you want to go all the way after this?
With new books on the way, any feedback as to my half-arsed marketing attempts are greatly appreciated! If you buy a copy of Samhane (only $5.95 from www.wildchildpublishing.com or www.fictionwise.com for you gadget users), please let me know! If you're even considering purchasing a copy, please, let me know! If you think this sucks and believe I should quit writing altogether, please let me know you cold hearted bastard!
Oh and before I forget, quotes this week (so far):
"And I said to her, your hair is the jizz." A teacher relaying a story of her attempt at 'street talk'.
Student 1: Sir, I don't have a pen.
Me: Then ask one of your colleagues for one.
Student 1: Colleagues? What does that mean?
Student 2: It means the people you work with.
Student 1: Where did you learn all these fancy words, Sir?
The phone appeared tiny in his hand, like a smooth black pebble nestled in his palm. It vibrated and released a quiet, music-box jingle. He flicked open the cover. The screen glowed emerald, and the word BOSS flashed in luminescent blue. He pressed the answer button and held the phone to his ear.
“Speak up,” he hollered. “Things are a little loud here.”
One finger plugged in his other ear did little to block out the music booming from the speakers of the DJ booth, or the hustle and chat of drinkers gathered around the tables and bar. He strained to hear his employer. A girl sitting nearby laughed and drowned out the soft-spoken voice from the phone.
“I’m sorry. Can you say that again?”
“Really, Demon. You expect me to shout?”
He swallowed. “No, Mr. Belvedere. Not at all. My apologies.”
“Sir? Why are you calling me Demon?”
“Because we’re talking on the phone. If we were in the office, things would be different. For now, we must be careful. You especially.”
Demon sighed. “Yes, sir.”
“Down to business. The subscribers grow restless. They need another one, if you catch my drift.”
Demon grinned. “I’m one step ahead, sir. That’s why I’m in a dive like this.”
A young man edged past; his hands clamped a cluster of drinks. Tongue poking out of his mouth, he stared at the full glasses in concentration.
Demon thought how fun it would be to stick out a leg or even knock the glasses from his hands. He stepped back and allowed the guy to pass. The less attention he drew, the better. The man walked on with the care of a tightrope walker.
The bar ran the length of the room. Every inch bustled with customers. The tavern staff darted between customer and pump, chiller and cash register, sweat shiny on their faces.
Imagine doing that for a living. One should enjoy their job. I do.
“What was that?”
“Nothing, sir. The cattle market is full tonight. It won’t be a problem to find a participant.”
“Very good. I knew you wouldn’t disappoint.”
His boss’s voice travelled from the phone warbled and distorted, like he called from the bottom of the sea or another world. Probably electric interference to blame, but with his employer….
“Demon! Are you there?”
“Stop dallying and proceed. I’ll be online later, waiting. Don’t let the Order down. You were promoted for a reason.”
Demon rolled his eyes. “Yes, sir, I know. Mr. Belvedere?”
He pulled the phone away from his ear. The screen indicated his boss had hung up. About to curse, Demon thought better of it and closed his mouth. He replaced the phone in his trouser pocket and picked up his drink. With the lack of a chair, he leaned back against his high table. The wood tilted with the weight.
The DJ’s voice bellowed out of the speakers, volume loud enough to muffle the words.
Demon thought of Belvedere at home in his mansion and wished for the same kind of evening, instead of waiting here in this over-priced, over-filled bar. His boss might be sat listening to some Mozart, a fine glass of wine in his hand. In the bar, most of the inhabitants looked half Demon’s age, and he hadn’t recognised one song.
“The sooner I start, the sooner I finish,” he said under his breath. He finished the remnants of his cheap wine and grimaced. “This had better not be a waste of time.”
He laughed at himself. It had never been a waste of time.
Demon walked around the corner of the bar. Other patrons, even a few guys with swollen muscles and tattoos, moved to the side.
Sometimes he forgot about his size and that he needed a little extra room. The slim days of his youth had well and truly finished. Indulgence takes a hard toll, and he had indulged more than most. His hanging belly swayed beneath his shirt.
At the back wall, he spied a man in a black shirt. Across from him sat a girl drinking through a straw. The man cast crafty peeks at her chest. She watched him over the rim of her glass, glancing at his body every so often. Her tight pink blouse and black miniskirt accentuated her curves, and her dark hair curled to her shoulders. She placed the drink on the table and stirred the ice cubes with the straw.
Slim, good looking, young. She looks about eighteen. They’ll enjoy that.
She leaned towards the man and whispered something in his ear. The guy threw back his head in laughter. She smiled, her pixie features magnificent.
She’s the one. They’ll get a treat tonight!
Demon straightened his tie and held his head up. He walked between the other customers, who again moved out of his path, and approached the table.
“Excuse me,” he said and rested his hand on the only vacant chair. “Is anyone sitting here?”
Demon relished the way the girl’s eyes widened at his huge form. His weight tended to put women off, but on occasion he had met girls, some as young as this little beauty, who liked a more robust man. More to ride, he supposed.
“I don’t think so, mate,” the guy replied and gestured at the chair. “You can take it.”
Demon nodded. “I sure will. Thank you.”
He pulled out the chair and sat at the table. The guy’s mouth skewed, and he cast the girl a side-glance.
Game on, my friend.
“Oh, I’m sorry,” Demon said, his tone sincere. He wanted to laugh at this man’s crippling disappointment. “I’m not interrupting, am I?”
Demon raised his hand. “I’m sorry, friend. Shouldn’t the lady answer?” He flashed the girl a warm smile and winked. “That’s what a gentleman would do. Don’t you agree?”
The man rapped his fingers on the table in either boredom or frustration. Demon guessed the latter.
“Well,” the girl said. “We have just met….” She stopped playing with her drink and studied the tabletop.
Did I rush in too quick? Nonsense. Let’s turn this baby around.
He glanced between the pair. “I am genuinely sorry, guys. Let me buy you both a drink to make up for my rudeness and then I’ll leave you alone. I’m new to town and just trying to meet people, you see.”
He reached into his trousers for his wallet.
“I’m sorry,” the girl said. “I hope you understand.”
Demon waved the concern away. “Perfectly fine.”
He slipped out a fifty-pound note and laid it on the table. “Anything you want, doll-face, and something for your friend too.” He licked his lips. “Would you mind going to the bar, though? A man of my size has…difficulty getting through the crowds. I’m sure a slim thing like you can slip through with ease.”
Her companion’s eyes narrowed, and his mouth squeezed into a straight line.
“Would a gentleman ask a lady to fetch drinks?” the guy asked and raised an eyebrow.
Demon smirked. “If you’d prefer to go, be my guest. You won’t mind if I keep the lovely…the lovely…?”
“Oh,” the girl said and blushed. “I’m Lucy. This is
Demon nodded. “I’m….”
Think, think, think.
“Bob. You won’t mind if I keep the lovely Lucy company, will you,
Demon stared at him—hard.
“Fellas, let’s not get weird.” Lucy reached for the money. “Another pint?”
“You don’t need him to buy you a drink,”
“No.” Demon kept his gaze locked on the punk. “I insist. Nothing for me though, thanks. I’ll be leaving soon.”
Lucy scooped up the money and headed towards the bar with a slight wiggle of her hips.
“Quite a girl,” Demon said. “Quite a girl, indeed.”
“You two an item?”
“You two…going out?”
“Like she said, we just met,”
Demon sensed the reluctance in his voice.
Tough shit, pal. She’s mine.
He shook his head and whistled through his teeth. “What a lot of trouble she’s in. Dear little Lucy Lewis.”
Demon waited for
“What’s she done?” asked
Just as I thought. He doesn’t know anything about her.
“What is it every time?” Demon shrugged. “Drugs. She owes a lot of money,
“Jesus! Her? Drugs?”
Demon nodded. “Obviously, if you choose to stay with her, I’ll have to bring you along too. You have a think about that.”
The world loves a coward.
Lucy placed the drinks—some kind of dark cocktail and a pint of lager—on the table.
“Erm…something about an emergency. He was on his phone. Says he’s sorry.”
Lucy settled into her chair and handed him the change. “Typical. At least he did it early. Better than getting my hopes up before ditching me.” She sipped her drink. “By the way, thanks for the cocktail.”
“You’re welcome. I don’t know why he left, but he was a fool.”
Lucy sighed and sagged in her chair.
“Cheer up. He seemed an arsehole anyway. He was awfully protective. You don’t need that on the first night.”
“Yeah,” Lucy said. “I thought the same thing.”
“You want to have fun. You’re a fun girl, aren’t you?”
Lucy glanced up and laughed. Ice cubes bobbed in her drink. She poked them with her straw.
That look. Just like she did with
“The thing is, Lucy, young men don’t know what they want. They think with their cocks.” He loved the way her mouth opened in shock before rising to a naughty smile. “All that’s on their mind is sex, sex, sex. Maybe
He paused to let his words sink in.
“Now, if you looked for a more mature gentleman, someone with more experience, I’m sure things would turn out different.”
“A more mature man, eh?” She ran a fingertip around the edge of her glass. “Someone like you, I suppose?”
“You could do a lot worse,” he said and raised his eyebrows. “How about we stay here, drink all night and see what happens. You might enjoy it.”
Lucy cocked her head to the side. “Yeah? Why not. You can’t be any more of an arsehole than
Demon chuckled and raised his glass. “To arseholes and a great night to come!”
“To arseholes and a great night!” she said.
And what a night it will be, Lucy. What a night it will be.
* * * *
In the taxi, Demon slid his arm along the backseat and around Lucy’s shoulders. He paused to gauge her reaction at the first touch. From experience, he knew things were never guaranteed and patience was a virtue. Once inside—if he could get her inside—his plans would work out.
Slowly, slowly, catchy monkey.
He almost laughed at the old saying. After all, he had caught a lot of monkeys in his time….
Lucy laid her head back against his arm and leaned in for a kiss.
Demon’s confidence surged. He closed his eyes and found her mouth by her breath on his face. Her perfume blossomed in his nose. He inhaled deeply.
The hand behind his head pulled him in tighter.
He slipped his tongue against her lips. She welcomed it inside her mouth. After a few minutes exploring the contours beneath her pink top, Demon broke away.
Lucy sat back, her hunger for him raging in her eyes. She panted.
Her apparent desperation drove Demon crazy, and his trousers grew tight.
Not yet. There’s still work to be done.
He leaned towards the driver of the cab.
“Change of plan, mate,” he said. He gave his own address, and the driver nodded.
Demon leaned back. Lucy’s gaze locked on him. She slowly dragged her tongue across her lips.
She’s holding back. She knows and she’s up for it. Dirty girl.
They spent the rest of the journey in silence. Demon traced circles on her bare leg just below the hem of her skirt.
The cab parked in front of his house. Demon swung the door open before the car stopped. He walked around and opened Lucy’s side. She slid out like an actress arriving at an Oscar’s ceremony.
“Mister,” the driver said through his open window. “I have another call. You pay.”
“Indeed,” said Demon, his tone low.
Lucy gazed at the house. “This it?”
Demon nodded and removed his wallet. Adding a little extra to the fare, he paid the driver.
“Thank you. You folk have a nice night,” said the driver.
“I assure you, we will.”
The cab eased away.
Lucy had made it half way along the garden path. She staggered, the alcohol she’d consumed defeating her for a second. With a finger, she beckoned him.
His cock twitched and pressed against the fabric of his trousers again.
Soon. Just get her inside and then you can get inside her.
Demon caught up with her and spun her around, kissing her on the lips before removing his keys from his pocket. He unlocked the door and nudged it wide to reveal a dark hallway.
Lucy stepped past him.
This will be a classic.
He entered the house.
Lucy snaked her arms around his waist and tugged him backwards, moving around his body until she pressed against his front and kissed him. He moaned. She pulled away from his mouth, leaving a trail of warm saliva across his cheek.
“Bob,” she groaned. “Bob, mmmm…. Let’s go upstairs.”
He smiled in the darkness.
“No. The lounge. It’s closer. We can use the sofa.”
“Okay,” she whispered and stepped away from him.
Demon slid his hand against the wall and found the door to the lounge. He turned the handle and vanished into the darkness.
“Hang on,” he said. “I’m just finding the light switch.”
He waited in the shadows, attention locked on the curtains at the front of the room. Light from the street gave the curtains a slight golden glow.
“Come on in,” he purred. “I’ll find it in a second.”
He listened to her soft footsteps on the carpet and imagined her paused in the doorway.
“I can’t find you. I don’t want to bump into anything.”
Demon grinned. The almost sexual arrogance in her voice had slipped away and revealed a nervous teenager lost the dark.
“I’m over here.”
She staggered further into the room, her outline perfectly defined against the curtain.
Demon stepped forwards and slammed his fist into the side of her face. Lucy’s head snapped back, and she dropped to the floor.
Demon leapt over her and flicked on a switch.
Clutching her cheek, Lucy blinked in the sudden light. Her eyes widened at the sight of him, and she kicked backwards across the carpet. He jumped on her, and she cowered.
“What…what are you doing?”
He grabbed a fistful of her pink top and, with one strong pull, tore it free. Her back rose and fell as the fabric ripped. With the garment thrown to one side, Demon wrestled her skirt down her kicking legs and knocked her shoes off.
He stared at her, teeth clenched. His chest swelled and fell with the effort of the struggle.
With a lacy black bra and thong remaining, Lucy attempted to cover herself with her hands.
“Nice underwear. I thought you looked like a whore the first time I set eyes on your cute little body.” He bent closer, bringing his face inches away from hers. “They’ll love you, oh, yes.”
She screamed again, but a swift kick in the ribs reduced her cries to a choked splutter.
Demon peeled off his tie and let it flutter to the carpet. He gazed from her chest to her groin.
“Welcome to the Order,” he growled.
The toe of his shoe caught her under the chin.
Footsteps sounded on the wooden floor of the decking outside, each step bringing the creature closer to her kitchen. Her heart beat frantically, and her breath came in quick, shallow gasps. Sitting in the lounge, she gripped a pillow to her heaving chest. The footsteps stopped. She rose from the sofa, letting the pillow fall beside her bare feet. Her white nightgown flowed behind her. She slowly approached the door. The doorknob turned.
Donald switched on the table lamp next to his keyboard. The sun had set a long time ago, and the glare of his monitor induced a headache. Despite his fiancée’s constant warnings about his eyes going square, he’d been writing since morning. Already a third of the way through his first novel, he needed to get the thing finished.
He leaned back in his office chair and spun around.
Fresh out of the shower,
Donald faced his desk and looked at the screen.
He hated writer’s block. Many magazines and anthologies had been interested in his short stories, but he wanted to write novels. Novels made you rich and famous, not the occasional pulp magazine article.
Novels were a lot harder to write than short stories. Short stories seemed to Donald like five minutes of sex in the backseat of a car. No pressure, just hammer it out. Novels? A different ball game: the equivalent of a ten-hour sex session. It needed twists and turns and the positions of the characters changing on a regular basis. Most important, a novel needed to last.
Thinking about cricket would not get him through his book. In fact, it rarely got him past twenty minutes between the sheets.
“Don?” Bev called.
“How’s it coming? You seem a little…distracted.”
Donald sighed. “I just feel I’m writing a big pile of complete shit. It reads too fast. It might be because I wrote it and know what’s going to happen, but I just don’t know.”
“Want me to take a look?”
He shook his head. “You’ll say it’s good even if it’s not. The whole ‘you being in love with me’ thing will cloud your artistic judgement.”
On the television, a teenage actress squeezed out a baby on screen, overacting and making the noise of a cat in pain.
Babies. Maybe the creature can have a baby….
“I know you’re trying to write, but shouldn’t you check your bid? It’s been a while,” said Bev, her gaze stuck on the TV screen.
His bid! He returned to the computer and grabbed his mouse to minimise the faltering story. The colourful website for eBay lay behind it.
In a vain attempt to improve his writing skills, Donald had toyed with the idea of buying a laptop computer. He could write wherever he needed: his lunch hour at work, on holiday, even in bed, although Bev had shown resentment to that idea. The online auction site seemed the best way to buy a laptop without paying too much.
He clicked on the RECENT BIDS tab. A message on a light blue screen greeted him.
Congratulations, don4860! You were the highest bidder! Your details have been passed on, and the seller will contact you in due course with payment details. Thank you for using eBay!
With another click, Donald’s story reappeared on screen.
“Hey, Bev, I won!” Donald called over his shoulder.
He pulled a sheet of paper from the feed tray of the printer. He had little faith in his computer. Even the slightest power surge made the aging system go haywire. It worried Donald, storing hundreds of pages of manuscript on the temperamental thing. He had a back-up disk, of course, and a back-up for the back-up.
And Bev says I worry too much….
His hand drifted over the various items scattered by his computer for inspiration: a fake severed finger, a candle, a rat’s brain in a jar (preserved in eighty-three, and one of the strangest gifts ever) and a small model bomb with a big grin and wobbling eyes. Bev also had a talent in finding odd presents.
For the thousandth time, he read the caption underneath: You light my fuse. He grinned, removed a pen from a desk tidy and copied the details of his eBay win.
“Great. How much did you bid in the end?” Bev asked.
“£124, but I need £20 for the postage and packing.”
Bev’s arms slid around his neck. She smelt of vanilla.
“Does this mean I’m going to lose more time with my boyfriend because of another silly computer?” She kissed the top of his head. Her damp hair hung on the sides of his face in red curtains.
“Well, if you want your boyfriend to be rich and famous and buy you lots of expensive gifts and fancy holidays, you have to give him time to create.”
“I suppose with a best-selling author’s royalty cheques coming in, I could plan a really fancy wedding. You know any single, successful writers?”
“So the wedding we’ve planned isn’t fancy enough?” asked Donald.
“It’s in October. How can you have a fancy wedding in October? It’ll rain, I just know it.”
“I told you to wait until next summer, but you wanted it sooner. You know what your problem is?”
“What does that mean?”
“It means rash, dear.”
She grinned. “Smart arse. You should save your fancy vocab for your book. It’s wasted on me.”
Bev fell quiet. She read his story.
“Not exactly Shakespeare is it?” she said a few moments later. “Another young damsel in peril from the forces of evil?”
“The story’s not supposed to make you think, sweetheart. I don’t plan on having school kids forced to study this.” He gazed at his story. “I would like them to think it’s cool, though. Maybe if the girl gets decapitated….”
He tipped his head back. Bev kissed him.
“You coming to bed?” she asked. Her mouth curled into a mischievous grin.
“Not yet, dear, I’m sorry. The guy will be contacting me soon with the payment details, and I don’t want to miss it.”
“Laptop one, girlfriend nil, and you haven’t even bought it yet,” she muttered. She straightened and playfully tapped him on the head. She walked into the kitchen, bare feet slapping on the black and white linoleum. Her bum swayed under the flimsy fabric of her dressing gown.
Their relationship never ceased to surprise Donald. After meeting in their final years of university, where Bev had done her training to become a primary school teacher and he had studied chemistry, the two of them had gone out for years before becoming engaged and moving in together. She still turned him on, regardless of their familiarity, and he knew she felt the same way about him.
He wanted to switch off the computer, stride into the kitchen, wrap his arms around her and hold her close against his body.
There’s time for that later. I need to get more written.
Donald brought his story back up on screen. He didn’t like the idea of spending money on a new computer and not using it. The prose needed to flow again. Now what could happen to his vulnerable heroine after the perverted creature entered her back door?
* * * *
Twenty minutes later, the phone rang. Startled, Donald jumped in his chair and laughed at himself.
Half an hour ago, Bev had turned off the television and gone to bed, leaving him to work alone in the dark. Most likely she’d be watching yet another dull soap in bed, and Don hoped the programme would be over when he retired upstairs.
He walked to the lounge and picked up the phone.
“Hi, is this Mr…D. Patterson?” a loud male voice asked.
“I’m Roger Newby. You recently won a laptop from me on eBay?”
“Yeah! I was expecting an email.”
“I’m rather pressed for time, so I thought this would be quicker. You don’t mind, do you?”
“No,” Donald said. “Not at all.”
“I just need to give you my address to send the cheque.”
“That’s fine. I’ll just grab a pen and paper.” Donald hurried over to his desk and pulled a piece of paper from the printer. “Right then. Fire away.”
“Again, the name is Roger Newby. That’s N-E-W-B-Y,
“That’s where I live!”
“Really?” replied Roger. “Where abouts?”
Roger chuckled. “I know the house. Near the newsagents, isn’t it? Small world. I knew you would be close because of the area code on your phone number, but the same town? Incredible.”
“I don’t suppose I could pick the laptop up myself? It would save you the bother of packing and sending it.” And save me twenty quid.
“That’d be fine,” Roger agreed. “Are you free tomorrow?”
“I’m at work, but I could call during my dinner hour.”
“Great. I’ll see you tomorrow.”
* * * *
“Did you get your computer thing sorted?” Bev asked.
Donald crawled into bed beside her and tugged the duvet over his body. “The laptop? Yeah, the guy phoned and said I can pick it up tomorrow.”
“He lives here in Langston on
Bev grabbed the remote control and flicked off the television.
“You should get some sleep, honey. It’s late, and you have work in the morning.”
“Yeah, unlike these lazy teachers with the whole summer off. They can stay up all night if they want to.”
Smacking his naked leg under the duvet, Bev rolled over and looked into his eyes.
He entwined his fingers with hers. “Thanks for putting up with me.”
Bev laughed. “What the hell is that supposed to mean?”
“You know, letting me follow my dream and everything. I know it can’t be easy spending so little time together. I mean, when I’m home I’m typing and….”
Her mouth upon his silenced him, and he groaned in pleasure. Her tongue flicked over his lips, entered his mouth and duelled with his own.
Using his free hand, he raked his fingers through her long hair. Bev tilted her head back at his touch, allowing access to her neck. Delicate kisses fell from his lips to caress her ear lobe, her skin—a soft, delicate playground for him alone.
Releasing her hand, Donald pulled his t-shirt over his head and helped Bev hitch her nightgown up her body and over her arms. He tossed their garments at the foot of the bed. She spread her legs, and Donald ran a finger upwards across her labium. The flesh parted, already wet and inviting, juicy and swollen.
He leaned over and kissed the silky flesh of her stomach, the warm softness of her skin tasting a little of the vanilla bath gel she’d showered with. She giggled and arched her back, eager for him. Circling her navel with his tongue, he paused and gently sucked it. A startled gasp escaped Bev, and she wiggled, impatient. He closed his eyes and moved lower to her mound. The deep, musky smell of her sex blossomed, and she stroked his head, her sighs of contentment reaching him.
“Don’t worry,” she whispered. “I love you. It’s all that matters.”
He ventured further downwards, and Bev moaned.
Sam opened his eyes and scanned the dim bedroom. The dark shapes of boxes left over from unpacking lay about; shadows stretched across the carpet and seemed to reach for his bed. Sam spent a few seconds searching for any sign of motion.
A cool breeze entered through an open window. At the other window on the opposite side of the room, the curtain hung limp. The glow of the streetlight shone through. Raindrops hit the glass and pattered on the road.
Sam inhaled the freshness of the summer night. He lay in bed and pulled his Spiderman sheets closer to his body. In the dark, the hypnotic music of the falling water lulled him back to sleep.
Sam’s eyes popped open, and he glanced towards the open window.
It sounded like footsteps in puddles. Heavy boots hitting the water. Sam imagined the rain running down the street in a river.
Who would be out in the middle of the night? And in a storm too?
He abandoned the warm comfort of his bed to investigate.
Sam approached the open window and slid back the curtain. He gasped.
Through the hazy blur, a tall, naked figure walked along the street. It lurched to a stop at the front of the house. The glow from the lights reflected off the creature’s glistening hide, the creamy white of a mushroom. Its body stood whip thin. Sam thought of a skeleton wrapped in a tight skin.
Rain dripped from the tips of its lank, white hair. Large, clawed feet slapped the wet ground with each step.
The creature swung its head in Sam’s direction.
He dove away from the window and pressed his back against the cool wall. His heart hammered. After a deep breath, he ran from the wall to the sanctuary of his bed. He dragged the sheets over his head and waited.
The seconds became minutes, and Sam’s breathing slowed to normal.
Did it see me?
He knew he couldn’t return to sleep if that…that thing stayed out there. With all his courage, he threw back the sheet and walked to the window again.
His legs shook and threatened to give way at any moment. He peeled back the curtain.
In the front yard, the thing gazed at his bedroom window.
Afraid to scream, Sam bolted back to his bed, the sheets once again a monster shield. A cold sweat soaked his skin and chilled him. His pyjamas clung to his back and legs.
If I stay in bed, maybe it won’t come after me. It can’t get into the house without waking Dad. If it can’t see me, it might go away.
Sam’s breath caught in his throat.
At the closed window, a thin hand with long, extended fingers hung there, shadowed on the curtain. The thick nail of the forefinger struck the glass.
The hand slid away, fingernails scratching the brick.
Sam leapt from his bed, intent on reaching the open window before it did. Sweeping back the curtain, he swung the window shut and hammered closed the lock with his fist.
Its face filled the window, inches from Sam’s. Large eyes blinked out heavy drops of water and studied Sam. The mouth pulled back in the smile of a skull. Teeth, so thin they resembled needles, clicked against each other. The creature hissed with frustration.
Sam backed away from the window.
The creature scurried upwards.
Sam strained to detect any sign of the creature’s whereabouts. His heart climbed a gear at the sound of footsteps above him. The floorboards creaked, followed by a muffled crash.
It’s inside the attic.
Panicked, Sam ran out of his bedroom and across the landing towards his father’s room.
His feet skidded to a halt on the landing. The attic hatch, halfway along the ceiling, shook in its frame. His father’s room lay further along the hall.
Sam stopped and listened. The voice of his father drifted through his head.
Don’t ever go into an attic alone. No matter what the situation, never, ever go in without someone.
The creature hissed on the other side of the hatch.
Sam ran. His outstretched hands hit his father’s door and swung it open. Faint snores issued from the bulk beneath the bed sheets.
“Dad!” he cried, shaking him by the shoulder. His father didn’t respond, and, for a moment, Sam feared the creature had already done its worst. “Dad! Wake up. It’s here!”
His dad rolled over and barely opened his eyes.
“What’s up, Sam? Can’t a guy get his beauty sleep?” He rubbed the thick stubble on his chin and yawned.
“The creature! It’s in the house,” Sam whispered. He struggled to tug his father out of bed by his arm.
His dad sat up and held Sam’s arms.
“Whoa! Hold on a second. We’ve been through this before. Remember?”
Sam looked into his father’s deep brown eyes and nodded. The left eye, marred by a scar running from the forehead to the bottom of the cheek, had something dark brown in the corner. His father rubbed it away and yawned again.
“I know you’re scared, but there’s only one way to get over this fear. I want you to go back to bed and be brave. Creatures can’t harm a big, brave boy, can they?”
Sam offered a nervous smile and nodded again.
“Come here, son. Give your old man a hug.”
Large arms surrounded Sam. He loved the musky smell of his father. It always made him feel safe.
Too soon, the hug ended. His dad held him by the arms.
“Come on then, son. Back to bed with you. And remember, if you’re brave, everything will turn out fine.”
Sam climbed off the bed and approached the doorway. He glanced at the attic hatch.
“I love you, Dad.”
“I love you too, son.”
Sam made a dash for his room. Passing underneath, he swept a cursory eye over the attic hatch. It seemed knocked out of place, but closed. Certain the creature had not escaped, he carried on into his bedroom.
Back in his bed, Sam clutched the sheets to his chin. His gaze lingered on the open bedroom door. He wept in the dark and hoped neither the creature nor his dad would hear. The fear of letting his father down seemed almost as bad as being eaten.
No further scratches or hissing added weight to his hopes the creature had gone. Lack of sleep eventually crept up on Sam, and his eyelids grew heavy.
Sam rolled over and sucked in a sharp breath, wide awake in an instant. The closet slowly creaked open. Long white fingers curled around the wood, the nails leaving white scratches on the paintwork. The door eased wider. Yellow eyes peered out and, a second later, the creature crept from the closet. It tiptoed across the carpet towards him.
Sam’s body snapped rigid, tight with terror.
It loomed over him, stick-thin arms outstretched. Teeth clicked in a frenzy, and a string of saliva dangled from its thin lips.
The creature screamed too, and its hands shot to the back of its head. It fell to the floor, revealing Sam’s dad behind it, baseball bat in the air for another swing. His dad caught the haggard torso in the ribs. Fragile bones shattered. The thing wailed in agony, body convulsing.
“Hit it again, Dad!”
His dad raised the bat over his head and swung it onto the front of the creature’s skull. After a good few hits, its twitching stopped.
Sam’s dad rolled the beast over with his foot. It flopped onto its back, spread-eagled. A dark puddle on the carpet expanded behind its head.
“Now then, son,” his dad said, calmly wiping blood off the bat with the edge of his dressing gown, “what is that?”
Sam climbed off the bed and crouched next to the creature. He studied its contorted face in greater detail.
“Well done.” He ruffled his son’s hair and beamed with fatherly pride. He kicked off his slippers and threw them to the other side of the room, away from the pool of blood.
“Ignore the carpet stains,” he said and scratched his head while he studied the dark mess. “I know it’s been an exciting night for you, but I want you to try and get some sleep. We leave for home tomorrow. You know how your grandmother overreacts when we’re away for too long. We’ll get our money for this little job on the way.”
Sam jumped into bed, pulling the sheets—thankfully still clean—from the floor.
“I’d better go and get some bin liners.”
“Goodnight, son. We’ll make a monster hunter of you yet.” He grabbed the ankle of the ghoul corpse and headed for the door. The body left a long red trail across the bedroom.