S. B. Sebrick’s Official Webpage has moved.
Check out his latest projects at www.sbsebrick.com!
Hope to see you there.
S. B. Sebrick’s Official Webpage has moved.
Check out his latest projects at www.sbsebrick.com!
Hope to see you there.
Hello everyone, thank you for your patience. ‘Dire’, the final ‘Assassin’s Rising’ Novel, has finally hit the shelves of Amazon.com!
In the epic conclusion to the ‘Assassin’s Rising’ Series, a new Varadour Remnant emerges. Atacherous demands a contest of arms before the entire realm. Kaltor must prove his worth again, lest his followers be butchered for supporting him against the devious King.
He must also face the Venom Queen, Meriska, who specializes in untraceable poisons. Earning such a woman’s respect challenges even the bravest of men, but she’s also his fiancé’s mother
But tearing aside one web of lies only reveals another tangle of deception. There’s more to the meeting then a possible false Remnant. A great secret lies in the Citadel’s depths, something even the Venom Queen herself could not keep hidden. Now demons and King alike turn their sole attentions to Keevan, the Sight Seeker Remnant, Kaltor’s hidden brother.
His secret is out.
The earth itself will scream of war.
For those of you waiting on Nook or Kobo versions, hang in there, you are only days away!
Hey everyone, as an early Christmas present of sorts, I’ve decided to post the first chapter of Kaltor’s final novel, ‘DIRE’. The finished product will be up for sale very soon, but in light of the holiday season I wanted to make a special post for you all until then. Enjoy!
DIRE – Chapter 1
“Go back to Levarion, he said,” Honmour grumbled, a terse imitation of Kaltor. Granted, Honmour was currently standing alone in the coffin sized crate, so no one else could appreciate the quality of his performance. “Here’s some gold, treat yourself, you’ve earned it. Oh and, by the way, there’s a psychotic murderer on the loose we accidentally released from prison, handle it, won’t you?”
Once again, the powerful temptation to punch a hole in the crate assaulted him. Thankfully, despite the squelching’s effects on his powers, his self-discipline still functioned well. It was bad enough standing around in full armor all the time, but immersed in a shipment of feathers, his skin felt slick with sweat against his leathers.
Taking a deep breath to reign in his temper, Honmour focused on centering himself on the moment. The convict hunted women, not men, so Delena was the obvious choice for bait. That left him in charge of the ambush. A nervous shiver skittered through his insides. His altered armor would grant him the most protection possible, but he was still powerless, and about to take on a raving lunatic.
A flicker of movement through his knothole caught his attention, little more than a shadow among the other crates of the docks. Honmour knew the look of a hunter though, the tense but patient stance, waiting for the perfect chance for the next kill.
With any luck, Delena would offer him that chance. It was her powers that allowed Honmour to track this madman in the first place. Granted, she wasn’t recovered enough from Pelorum’s treatment to actually take a life with her powers. That task was left to Honmour.
A minute later, Delena walked into view. A thin shawl covered her face and the candle held out before her left the madman with a perfect opening from behind. Honmour tensed, waiting patiently. Of all the prisoners who had escaped due to Kaltor’s antics, this one was likely the most violent.
Men like Honmour and Kaltor couldn’t go on with their lives knowing such animals were on the loose as a result of their actions. Therefore, the charge fell to them to deal with the threats they’d just unleashed on the population. Delena paused, the shadow stepped up behind her, dagger at the ready. The convict had taken three women in as many nights, it had to end now.
Honmour dove through the crate wall with a roar, chicken feathers flying in all directions. The madman whirled in surprise, raising his dagger instinctively. Honmour’s armor covered his entire body, with only thin slits of thin cloth to cover his eyes. He parried the murderer’s dagger with his short sword, going in for a quick thrust at the man’s belly.
The madman twisted aside in a flash of Varadour speed. He barked out a laugh when he saw Honmour’s lack of such power. He didn’t recognize the feint though, as the Honmour’s leather-armored fist rushed towards his head. It was a skillful blow, for a squelched man.
In a burst of enhanced speed, the convict caught Honmour’s wrist and twisted hard. The blow threw the Battleborn to the side, keeping him off balance.
“Fool, squelch,” the convict muttered, lunging in before Honmour’s relatively slow reflexes could compensate. He rammed his dagger into the Honmour’s gut. “You’re already dead.”
The madman’s dagger snapped in two.
Honmour took the man’s brief second of shock to smash his elbow into the convict’s face, blinding him with an instant of pain. Warm blood burst from his broken nose. Delena’s reinforcements in the armor worked well, sage-crafted stone over leather.
Taking a step back, the convict dropped to the ground and kicked out as hard as he could with his Varadour strength. The low blow caught Honmour’s ankle, jerking his weight out from under him. The man crashed to the ground with a grunt of pain, his short sword clattering away.
Suddenly, the madman lunged atop Honmour, drawing on his sight seeker power. Blue energy surged from his eyes, through his hands and into Honmour’s mind. The feeling in Honmour’s limbs vanished in an instant, leaving him limp as a corpse.
“Try fighting me now,” the madman whispered, holding Honmour’s senses in check through his left hand, while raising the broken dagger in his right. He trembled with rage. The earth beneath them trembled. Protective slits of gray stone slid over Honmour’s eyes, concealed them beneath his armored mask.
“My turn then,” a cool, feminine voice said. Something grabbed the convict from behind, jerking him into the air by the neck of his cloak.
Twisting against her grip, he spun and kicked. The blow smashed against a solid stone arm reaching out from the ground. The resounding snap of his breaking ankle echoed through the docks. Despite the pain, he still managed to maintain the constant deluge of sight seeker energy keeping Honmour immobile.
Delena was shorter now, sunk into the earth up to her knees. It was an odd scene, for she stared at the cobblestones beneath her like a rat would a ravenous eagle. A sage terrified of the earth? Like seeing a fish desperately wishing to avoid the sea.
Terrified or not, she knew her business with stone. The conjured arm reaching from the earth acted like an extension of her own body, holding the convict fast. The madman laughed openly at it all.
“A fine night for breaking my record. A sage and a woman to boot? Perfect!” he cackled maniacally. “You’ll be mine as well.”
Extending his right hand, he tossed the dagger aside and sent a wave of sight seeker energy into her mind.
The assault hit—and poured around Delena’s head like a flood rushing around a boulder too large to immerse. She smiled, her lips illuminated by the candle before her, raising her hand. The stone arm’s hand wrapped around his neck like impossibly strong fingers. He flailed against her strength, managing a whimper of pain before she closed his throat entirely.
“Convict, the only one of us breaking anything tonight, is me,” Delena hissed.
In a panic, the madman sent all his Sight Seeker energy at her through both his hands. The cobblestone flickered blue and purple from the sparkling energy. The assault didn’t penetrate her skin. But it did extinguish her candle.
Delena screamed in the darkness. The stone arm holding the convict in place sagged lifelessly. Like a wounded animal blinded by fear, she scrambled on all fours to the nearest torch post. She babbled incessantly, scrambling into the light. “Not again, not again. Pel, oh Pel, what have I done?”
The madman laughed, as he watched her, twisting against the stone arm’s firm grip. He didn’t see Honmour stand up behind him. “A sage scared of the dark, who would have thought such a thing existed,” the convict said.
“True,” Honmour whispered in his ear. “but she did her part.”
Sight seeker energy leapt from the convict’s eyes, slicing behind him in panicked blast. Honmour expected such a counter however, ducking and spinning around the madman’s side. Honmour’s words were a feint in themselves to send his defensive attack up high.
Honmour rammed all three feet of his short sword into the murderer’s belly with deadly finality, twisted and retracted with a slurping sound. Gasping, writhing in pain, the convict reached out with his Sight Seeker powers for revenge. Honmour knew a killing blow when he dealt one though, already sprinting off to Delena’s side further down the dock.
“No. No!” the madman squealed, coughing up blood. But his screams were already fading as death settled in to claim its next victim.
“Not exactly the attack I was expecting,” Honmour muttered, kneeling down next to Delena. His head ached from the sight seeker energy and his ankle and ribs burned from the man’s enhanced blows. He felt the stone slabs sown into his armor shift under Delena’s command, retracting from beneath his eye cloths. “The other escapees couldn’t do something like that. Varadour and Sight Seeker in one, I mean.”
Delena didn’t respond at first, clutching the base of the torch post with her stone fingers. She trembled in terror, eyes unfocused, muttering too softly for him to understand. Others thought her insane, beyond help. But Honmour also knew the dark catacombs where Pelorum tortured her, if there was anyone who could save her, it was him and perhaps Selene.
“It makes sense, when you think about it,” Honmour said quietly, gently stroking her shoulders and speaking aloud. It was how he comforted Stunts during a test, to keep them focused on the matter at hand. “Other escaped prisoners were arrested for smuggling and thievery. Aerlinth was much closer to the Abyss, living to pleasure himself off the pains of others, so Gereth’s tampering had unexpected side effects.”
He clutched his side and hissed in pain. His armor had three layers, leather, stone and more leather. It still wasn’t enough to cushion the blow. “His Varadour strength was definitely enhanced too. Did he crack the armor?”
Delena glanced at his chest, eyes narrowing in concentration. The stone sewn into his armor at various parts of his body was connected with a thin latticework, allowing her to access and adjust the armor at will. His skin itched as she pulled and pushed on it, making minor adjustments.
For some reason he could always pull her from those dark tirades. She glanced up at him, eyes focused on the real world again. “No. But you might want to see a healer about those ribs, just in case.” She spoke shakily. The torch post sank into the earth until she could reach the flames at the top, retrieve a fresh candle from the pocket of her cloak. With the steady light source before her, she calmed and closed her eyes, taking deep breaths.
“I’ll be alright.” Honmour replied grumpily. They walked back to the executed murderer hanging there in the middle of the docks, a puddle of his own gore dripping against the cobblestones. The large, human-looking arm of stone held his neck fast, making the scene look particularly—inhuman. “I’m sorry I wasted your time.”
“What are you talking about?” Delena asked, hoisting the corpse into the air as if it were a doll made of straw. She tossed it into the river disdainfully. An impressive feat since the body had to clear a ten foot tall schooner to reach the cold current. A distant splash soon followed, as if the river were applauding her.
“I couldn’t take him on my own,” Honmour admitted with a deep breath, looking down at his reinforced armor. “I’d hoped with these kind of defenses I could make up for the squelching, but I can’t.”
“I wasn’t exactly at my best either,” Delena said with a shaky sigh. “I try to move on. But, there are things that—” She stopped talking suddenly, waging some kind of internal battle.
“A part of your mind never leaves that place. You hear a noise, see a flicker of something familiar or a lack of something, and it’s like you never left,” Honmour finished, wiping his blade clean before sheathing it. Delena sighed in relief, nodding to him wordlessly.
Honmour patted her shoulder warmly. Well, he tried. It was difficult to feel genuinely supportive when slapping a block of rock so hard his hand ached. Otherwise, she wouldn’t feel the gesture at all. “I couldn’t have done it without you. He would have taken my eyes if you hadn’t stepped in. We managed.”
Delena didn’t say anything for a moment, staring up at him. He felt her will stretching through his armor, or the effect of it at least. The stone grew malleable for a brief moment, making minor changes to grant him maximum protection and flexibility.
“Honmour,” she said intently, eyes alert.
It was the most responsive he’d ever seen her, since their escape from Pelorum’s lair.
“You squelched yourself to get Selene and I out of Pelorum’s clutches,” she said. “That was the most selfless thing I’ve seen since joining the sages. I will not leave you defenseless.”
She cocked her head to one side, staring into his eyes. Well, at his eye patches. He felt his armor shift as extra metal ran up his leg, chest and neck pieces. A thousand tiny strands stretched out over his eyes like interlocking fingers, admitting enough light to see by through tiny holes, while covering them completely.
Running his fingers over them, he hesitated a moment and then rapped his fist against them. Once, twice, then he took off his helmet and pushed on them from the outside. They didn’t budge.
“Could a regular Varadour break these?” he asked, staring at the mesh in astonishment. “They look like they’re made of metal.”
“It’s the closest I can get,” Delena said offhandedly. “Granite is a mixture of many elements. I pulled iron out of the granite and hardened it into something like steel. I wouldn’t stand under a blacksmith’s hammer, but it will stop fingers and blades at least.”
“Amazing,” Honmour murmured, staring at the eye guards.
“The least I could do,” Delena echoed with a soft smile.
Honmour gulped, suddenly aware he stood in the torchlight, his face clearly visible. Pelorum’s cage left deep ugly scars across every inch of his body, making his Zulak’s scars look like a minor cut. The healing used to save his life, also solidified the wounds. No healer could ‘heal’ scar tissue. He quickly slipped the helmet back on.
“Why do you insist on hiding your wounds?” Delena asked. Not a shred of remorse in her eyes about making Honmour uncomfortable, just unabashed curiosity. It was odd how she flipped from one state-of-mind to the other, a five hundred year old sage to a scared little girl. “The men respect you just the same, and you didn’t hide your previous scars.”
“The Zulak scars made me stronger,” Honmour admitted, turning the helmet until its sage-made metal clasps clicked into place. “They taught me to be ever vigilant. I saved many men from Zulak ambushes with what I learned. They made me a better Battleborn.”
He glanced down at his leather hands, clenching them into fists. Sheets of tempered metal creaked against leather. The madman’s blood still glistened on one hand. His hands stank of urine, excrement and vomit, the madman’s scents. He wiped the blood onto his leather armored leggings, though the gesture did little about the smell. “These scars cost me my power,” he admitted bitterly. “They took my strength, my speed, my skin vision… everything I lived by.”
Delena laughed. It sounded like bells clattering in the distance. Amazing what the more experienced sages could do. “Correct me if I’m wrong. But you are no longer blood broken, so in the literal sense, you’ll live a long life to old age. This sacrifice of power actually gave you countless years back.”
“Years spent doing what?” Honmour asked with a hollow shrug, sheathing his sword. A chilled wind cut through a small tear in his armor, sending a shudder through his torso. “If I can’t do something meaningful with my life, then-”
“Meaningful to who?” Delena asked, glancing back at the road. The stones shifted and bubbled as if boiling. Scared rats bolted from cover, fleeing the scene. Aerlinth’s blood and bodily fluids sank into the ground. The arm of cobblestone returned to earth as well. She was very thorough. Not a sign remained of the gory struggle, except the madman’s faint scent of excrement.
“I… People I guess?” Honmour offered weakly.
She considered him carefully from head to toe. “I suppose that’s the real question then.” She said. “Let’s head back to Layohne. Kaltor needs to know about Aerlinth’s—gifts. There may be more like him coming after us.”
“Yes, you’re right,” Honmour agreed, heading down the road towards his inn. He paused, glancing back at her, half-way immersed in the cobblestones. “Remind me again why we aren’t destroying Gereth’s lab right here and now? We’re in Levarion after all. The prison is right over—”
He regretted his words immediately. Delena fell silent with a puppy-like whimper, hugging her candle. She hurried down the street with a muffled cry, forcing Honmour to run after her. “Delena, I’m sorry!” he shouted. Then, in a muffled whisper. “I shouldn’t have said anything.”
Deep, painful regret settled in his stomach as they hurried down the street. She ducked into their inn, pushed her way passed a few confused patrons and, in a flash of muffled tears, disappeared into her room. Through the door, he heard tearing floor boards and screeching nails. She’d sleep atop the stone, without wrapping herself around it. How terrible an existence like hers must be, to feel terror from the one thing you need in order to survive. Honmour leaned against the door, groaning in self-recrimination.
“Let her sleep it off, young man,” a wizened old voice said. The cook passed him, offering a pint of warm tea. “Whatever you did to her, I’m sure you can make up for it tomorrow.”
With a cold chuckle, Honmour took a small swig. “What makes you so sure of that, old man?”
“I seen the way she looks at you,” the cook observed with a smile, straightening out his stained apron. He looked more like a butcher, large shoulder and thick hands taking the place of the expected pot belly of an inner city chef. The kitchen behind him bubbled and hissed with tempting aromas. “Just be patient, she’ll come around. You can keep me company in the back if you’d like.”
Honmour smiled and shook his head, half tempted to tell this old man the complete story. That would likely endanger him and his family. At the least, Taleveer’s eyes and ears would be watching for anyone matching his or Kaltor’s description. At the worst, the King’s spies would hunt down everyone they spoke to for interrogation.
The serene scene of bubbling cauldrons and the scents of dried spices sent his mind back to his father’s inn and the night long cooking ventures the day before a large gathering. Judging by the lateness of the hour, this man was in well over his head against tomorrow’s quota. He couldn’t fight demons anymore, but he could serve in some small way. “I’d be happy to lend a hand.”
They went back to the kitchen, each taking a knife and starting at the opposite end of a large pile of potatoes stacked atop the center table. After a few quiet moments, Honmour asked. “You can’t see my face when I look at her.” Pointing at his masked face. “How can you be sure she’s in good hands?”
The cook smiled. “I’ve heard how you talk to her. That kind of sincerity can’t be feigned. If she’s any sense, she’ll realize that by morning and come running back.”
The old man shrugged. “Everyone grows up at their own pace. Just give her time.”
Honmour laughed at that one, drawing weird looks from the chef. “Time is definitely on her side,” the Battleborn said bitterly. “Much as I want to help, I’ve a feeling she could outlast me easily.”
“Best make each moment count then,” the cook replied.
“Yes,” Honmour agreed. “I must indeed.”
This next section of notes I’ve dug through are from the ‘End of All Things’ panel. Here are the main points and a couple questions to consider…
Some of the best Climaxes involve some kind of sacrifice or cost on the part of the character. Ideally, dealing with that emotional cost directly ties into the climax of the book. This got a bit confusing for me to understand, so here’s an example.
Let’s say your main character’s best friend just fell out of a cargo plane, unconscious, at 18,000 feet in the air. The hero/heroine must skydive after their friend to rescue them, that’s a decent challenge. However, If you throw in that the protagonist is also terrified of heights because his/her dad died in a skydiving accident ten years ago… You just tripled the tension and the main character can’t save the day without resolving it.
Now, building on that. If this were a series, you want the ending of the first book to be satisfying, but leave enough questions and problems to pull the reader to the next book. For example: If the cargo plane is occupied by bad guys with a bio weapon and the protagonist was supposed to sabotage it (leaving it active when he dove after his friend), you have an effective lead into the next book and an added cost on the protagonist’s part (letting the bad guys get away).
Stuck at a scene you’re writing? Try these three questions. What does your main character want? What can go wrong? How will he/she cope with it? The nature of pushing a story along and making sure your character (and vicariously, the reader) is growing along the way.
Think back to your favorite or most hated stories. What are the worst endings you’ve ever seen? What are the best? Did the final obstacle carry a cost of some kind on the character’s part? In truth, you could even consider the hardest things you’ve had to overcome in your own life. How did you grow from those experiences? Tie those pearls of wisdom into your characters and you’ll be surprised how real and personal they can feel.
I found this panel particularly useful, since myself and many writers often worry about our online ‘presence’ and how to improve it. Authors on this panel included a couple marketing professionals as well as established authors. I decided to share this panel’s notes because the advice I gathered applies to promoting just about anything via social media.
Social Media is defined as a Platform for user-generated content (Whatever you put out there is PERMANENTLY out there, so keep it professional).
As a general rule, if you learn something – share it. If what you’re writing is useful, people will share it and follow you.
Do what you love. If you hate twitter, don’t use it. It’s better to stick to your strengths, something your readers will sense through your posts. If you insist on doing stuff you don’t enjoy, for the sake of maintaining a platform, your readers will noticed the lack of genuine enthusiasm and loose interest.
Share what excites you.
Don’t use Social Media for pure advertising. Focus on providing stuff people can emotionally engage with. A couple authors on the panel gave examples of their pets or hobbies like cooking.
Share your loves and enthusiasms.
There are A LOT of authors on social media, but posting your unique loves, you set yourself apart from them all. You then will attract like-minded people by posting to their interests.
Engagement is defined as when you get a response (like/comment) from a reader. Build engagement by asking questions about a specific picture or subject. It triggers a data-log when someone replies.
Facebook is for an ‘older’ market. Twitter is for the teen/college crowd and Tumbler is all the rage with the YA kids these days. Select your topics shared, accordingly.
If you use Facebook ads, you can target the fans of similar authors to yourself. (Facebook sometimes offers 50$ in free advertising to get you started). Can upgrade tracking abilities with more advanced Facebook analytics.
Twitter: Tweet in the moment only (one my way to ___ panel at OryCon) etc. You can also gets a lot of activity on Facebook and Google plus with posts like: ‘I wrote ____ pages today, here’s a spoiler/pic.’
Keep in mind that responding to your fans’ comments/opinions will drive readers to you because your caring about them and their likes/interests.
When you’re stuck with writer’s block, you can throw out a question to your readers like, ‘How would you escape an attack drone?’ and enjoys the reader’s input as they bounce ideas off the wall.
BUFFER AP: auto shares your data on a set schedule (so you can market in advance and post on a schedule). Can catch twitter feeds during their ‘busy’ hours.
You can also link readers to what you’re listening to, and talk about what it inspires in a given scene. You can also tie current events into your writing.
Be relaxed/casual, not desperate.
A writer’s Facebook profile should never end with the word ‘author,’ it screams ‘noob.’
Engagement: Don’t spam questions with every post. Pick and choose how you involve your readers. Think of it like you’re at a dinner party making new friends. You wouldn’t walk up and throw constant questions at them or drown them with writing updates.
When selling anything: Focus on providing the right content to maintain the reader’s attention, then make the ‘sale pitch.’
Take the time to learn social norms.
William Hertling mentioned a great book ‘Indie and small press book marketing.’ Other writers at the panel said it was well worth the investment.
Make sure your blog/website has its OWN domain name. This is your professional hub, don’t waste it on a ‘free’ domain address that screams ‘cheap.’
Choose what elements of your life are public and which are private. All the public stuff is fair game to share and emotionally connect you with readers.
Tumbler focuses on readers ages 13 – 21 (Young Adult).
Review books in your genre, but only post the positive ones (karma will find you).
Online: Always be pleasant and punctual. After all, it’s not what you know, it’s who you know.
Google Alerts will ping you when something happens on ur page/target topic.
Only have time for one marketing avenue? Stick to your blog, where your content sticks around. The other social media sites are like throwing sticks in a river, there and gone.
Monitor Comments: Sometimes you have to mind your readers and keep things ‘civil.’
Linked in is becoming more social now.
This weekend I attended Oregon’s Premier Science Fiction Convention (Thankfully, they expand their panel topics enough to include Fantasy, or I’d feel very out-of-place). I attended over a dozen panels with a variety of authors, both traditionally and self-published, all extremely talented. Some of the notes I picked up will likely drift onto this site in the coming weeks, but what really impacted me first (as with most Conventions) was the art gallery.
No matter how great my skill at the writing craft, a part of me will always be jealous of illustrators and graphic designers. The ability to create a captivating image from a white page and a set of colors strikes me as an amazing gift, because it’s so easy for their viewers to enjoy and admire them. If only people could read through one of my novels in thirty seconds! Perhaps in the very distant future I’ll dabble along those lines, but for now, I’m content to hone one set of skills at a time. On to the next writing project (Once I finally chose between the four currently begging me for attention). Decisions, decisions…
I was reading through some old journal entries of mine, from earlier this year and re-discovered a thought that’s stuck with me lately. Being ordinary or extraordinary, are both choices. Oftentimes, as we go about our daily lives and routines, we look at others who are more successful and think they’re cut from a different cloth than us. As if the virtue of who they are, or how they were raised granted them some great gift of success that ‘normal’ people couldn’t hope to attain.
Becoming extraordinary at something, anything really, is a daily choice we make to put time into it. Of course, at the time I was thinking about my writing career. But this advice applies to just about any hobby or skill you can develop over time. The trick is putting a daily effort into it, even a small one. We sometimes overlook how quickly the ‘little’ efforts add up. If I write 250 words per day, that’s still over 90,000 words (or 350 pages) per year.
So, pick a passion you enjoy. Put fifteen or twenty daily minutes into it for a month and see where you end up. Who knows, you just might find a lucrative hobby you can monetize or a new skill to set you apart from your peers. You can always be excellent at something. Make it something you enjoy, something extraordinary.
Just to keep you all ‘in the loop,’ so to speak, I’m two-thirds the way done with the next and final Kaltor novel. I’ve got about eight chapters left to write, then it goes to my editor and then the shelves. Oddly enough, I don’t have a title for it yet, I want to see how it ends first before setting anything in stone.
It’s been a challenging two years working on this series and learning everything else that comes with sharing my fiction, both with eBooks and paperbacks. I’m excited to move on to the many other stories and ideas I’ve accumulated over the past dozen months or so. If you have any requests to see a short novel in a different genre, or a story centered around a character from the ‘Assassin’s Rising’ universe, feel free to contact me at email@example.com. Have a great week, everyone
While I was working on the next Kaltor novel, I realized I needed to better understand Delena’s origin story. One thing lead to another and, despite my plans for only a ten page work, forty-seven pages blew by and birthed the following story.
Halloween approaches, and while its not quite my genre of choice, it seemed appropriate to write something a bit chillier than normal. This short story is titled ‘Purr’ and depending on your taste for scary situations, you might want to avoid reading this in the dark of your bedroom, when you’re all alone.
Susan’s phone vibrated for the umpteenth time that night, its flowery wallpaper casting a hazy hue across her dimly lit bedroom. She stared down at the screen, sick dread settling in her stomach. Jason calling again and again. He didn’t know how to deal with the word ‘no.’
Outside, a tentative breeze pushed tree limbs against her window like so many dark fingers stroking the glass. Fluffy sat in her lap, purring contently, accompanying her while she waited for her kettle to boil downstairs. Susan glanced down at her cat and shuddered. Jason liked to purr too, when he was feeling content or flirtatious. It used to be cute, then protective, then possessive.
Then he got worse.
Downstairs, a shrill whistle startled her into a gasp of surprise. Fluffy glanced up at her, irritated at the interruption.
She forced herself to take a few calming breaths. Nothing settled her frazzled nerves like a cup of hot, peppermint tea. Pocketing her phone in her sweat pants, she set disgruntled Fluffy aside and headed downstairs.
Again her phone buzzed, she pulled it out, saw his name in the dim glow and shuddered, hitting ‘ignore’ once again. When would he get the message and leave her alone?
She reached the bottom of the stairs when a cool wind brushed her face. She paused, glancing around the living room and back up the stairs. Did dad leave a window open before leaving on their road trip? Or was the air conditioner acting up again?
The insistent tea pot hissed all the louder, so she shrugged away the mystery and hurried into the kitchen. The steamy air set her skin at ease, pushing the odd breeze she’d just felt into distant memory. She put the pouch of herbs into the steaming hot mug and swirled it with a spoon, staring lazily out the dark window with a content sigh. How nice to finally have a night off work.
Again her pocket vibrated. Taking courage from the light and warmth of the kitchen, she answered it. “That’s enough, Jason. I don’t want to talk to you.”
“You don’t need to say a word, Suzzie. Can I just see you? We’re so purrrfect together.” His words slurred drunkenly, but he rolled his r’s well. She’d thought it so cute when she taught him how to do that. “Don’t tell me you just bought a cat to replace me with.”
The alarm on the oven beeped at her, a reminder to retrieve her mother’s casserole from the oven. The repeated beeps hissed at her twice, once from the wall and once again, through her phone. She stared at Jason’s name on the screen. Her breaths turned to short gasps, her hands clammy. No, she’d locked the doors and windows long ago. She was safe here.
“Come on, babe.” Jason whispered. “It’s warm up here. Come on over and play.”
“Stay in your loft.” She hissed back, sounding braver than she felt. Her hands trembled so badly she feared he could somehow hear it through the phone. “Leave me alone or I’ll call the cops.”
“Don’t be like that.” Jason said, as if she’s slapped him. “I was just talking to that waitress last night. It wasn’t purrrsonal.”
“Shut up.” She spat, hanging up the call. Pocketing her phone, she retrieved her tea. The kitchen didn’t feel warm now, all cold linoleum floors and hard marble counter tops. They must have made the small echo when the alarm went off, which she’d mistakenly heard from Jason’s phone. She put the casserole in the fridge and headed back upstairs, careful not to spill her hot drink.
The light in her bedroom was off. She paused, hands trembling, thoughts racing. Somehow she still managed to pull her phone free. Call the cops? Her blood thumped in her ears like dual bass drums. She’d fell like a fool if they arrived, only to change out a dead bulb for her.
Another chilly breeze slid across her skin like a corpse’s fingers. She shuttered. “Just a dead light bulb.” She muttered aloud. “No reason to freak out. Stupid air conditioner’s on the fritz again too.”
It took her three tries to turn on the flashlight app, on her phone. She swallowed her fears and marched into her room. Her phone threw a stark, white light over the thick carpet and the bottom half of her princess jasmine bedspread. Something moved in the darkness, scratching against the far wall. She took one step closer, turned and let loose a wordless scream.
Fluffy lay pinned against the wall, soaked in blood. A bone-handled knife held her cat in place, just below the jaw. Nausea washed over her, her head swam. Her muddled thoughts tried to grasp some meaning behind it. How could this have happened? It all seemed to unfold in slow motion. It didn’t seem quite real, like a nightmare when she was on the cusp of waking up.
Then Susie saw the jimmied lock hanging uselessly from the torn window frame. A puddle of water and blood just below it thinned out into individual foot prints leading— to the closet just behind her. Glancing up at her reflection in the window, she saw another long, bone-handled knife flickering back at her like a thin quarter moon. Then she noticed the row of white teeth, lips peeled back in a smile, and dropped her phone.
“It’s okay Suzie.” Jason purred from the shadows, all feigned drunkenness gone. His voice serious, businesslike, as if collecting his due from a debtor. “You won’t have to say a word.”