Call for Podcast Guest Spot Horror Stories (Through October)

We are looking for 5 amazing stories to highlight on the A Creative Mind Fiction Podcast during the month of October, 2016.

Theme: Horror

Requirements: must be an actual story, not just a scene. Other than that anything that falls within the horror genre is acceptable.

The point of this friendly contest is to hone our craft and create successful stories within a predefined set of limitations. There is no monetary compensation.

The benefit to showcasing your story on A Creative Mind Fiction Podcast is you reach a new demographic interested in short stories.

Please Note: comments may be considered “published” in regards to other contest requirements.

All stories are fall under general copyright laws. No part may be reproduced without the express consent of the respective author.

Story Submission Rules:
  • One story per author.
  • Stories must be in English, may be previously published but must be your own work.
  • Stories must be under 1500 words.
  • Story must be posted in the comments in this thread.
  • Feedback/Critiques/Comments should be posted in the LinkedIn thread only. Comments other than actual stories below will be deleted.
  • If your story includes extreme violence/language/nudity please indicated PG13, R, or NC17 at the beginning of the post.
  • The top 5 stories (chosen by Alice & Carrie) will be highlighted on Saturdays in October during “ACM’s Horror Month”, remaining stories will be be given a chance to air their episode at a later date.
Podcast Options:

* note: since a podcast is a 100% listening experience,  high quality audio is  a requirement.

  • You are welcome to read your own story. A pre & post script will be provided. Tips for getting the best audio sound at home can be found here.
  • If you do not have recording capabilities we can schedule a call in which you will read it over the phone, and we will record it via Skype. Step by step instructions can be provided. Clear service or a LAN line is a must.
  • Carrie/Alice are both happy to read your story for you.

Questions? Email LIFlashfiction (at) gmail.com

You can hear examples of the podcast here:


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4 thoughts on “Call for Podcast Guest Spot Horror Stories (Through October)

  • September 24, 2016 at 11:48 pm
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    Witch Hunt

    My name is Jordon Wilks and I’m completely screwed. I am all alone. My friends are gone, dead I suppose, and if the last few days are anything to go by, I’ll be next. I’m not telling you this for your sympathy, I’m hoping that one day some will piece all of this shit together. For the record, this was all Luke’s idea. Some stupid impulse to find the grave of the last person to be executed for witchcraft.

    “C’mon, a grave from the 1700’s … it will be fun,” he said, “Plus you guys can help me write my Journalism paper.” It didn’t take much convincing. It didn’t make any difference Luke didn’t study Journalism, nor attend any college. For us, any excuse was a good excuse. We’d done plenty of stupid shit before, so why not hitchhike to the middle of nowhere and search for graves.

    Given it was also Luke’s idea to take a short cut through Burkham forest, it was fitting he was first to disappear. Given that Luke’s disappearance also took the map, it was damn fortunate that Jody was there.

    Jody was the daughter of an SAS officer, and she too would be a member of the armed forces if it wasn’t for her three assault charges. She took stock of the situation and provided a cool head while I was losing my shit.

    “Shut the fuck up,” She spat in my face. “He’s not fucking here, and he ain’t coming back.”

    “How the hell do you know that? Maybe he wandered off for a piss in the middle of the night and got lost!”

    Jody grabbed me by my collar and hauled me over to Luke’s tent. “Because there are no tracks, genius. Nothing.” She stared off into the woods. “It’s like he disappeared.”

    “Yeah, well we need to get the fuck out of here and call the police.” I looked at my phone on the off chance some company built a tower nearby while we slept. No one had.

    Jody thrust a knife into my face, and when I say knife, I don’t mean a Swiss Army knife. I mean a big Rambo fuck-off kind of knife.

    “Take this,” she said evenly.

    I awkwardly took hold of the handle and felt the weight of the blade. As I admired the steel, a loud schlack broke my concentration.

    “Where the hell did you get that?”

    Jody quickly placed the gun in her waistband. “Best you don’t know. Now let’s pack this shit up and head out. We’re going to make a beeline for the highway.”

    Thank God she knew where she was going and had the forethought to pack something more useful than a mobile phone and change of underpants. Which makes it a damn catastrophe that she disappeared on night two.

    The highway lay undiscovered; Jody’s tough exterior crumbling as the light disappeared and we opted for cover over stumbling around in the dark. We sat in the tent staring at each other, the weapons between us and the vow to stay awake lingering around us. My blinks became longer and Jody grabbed my shoulder.

    “Stay with me,” she whispered, and then she cocked her head sideways. “Do you hear that?”

    The last thing I remember as darkness suffocated me was a flapping sound.

    When morning broke, Jody was nowhere to be found. Just like two mornings ago, there were no tracks besides mine and no trace of where she went. I spent a good twenty minutes pivoting in the mud, looking through the mass of trees, trying to figure out which way to go, waiting for my friends to return.

    A snapping twig in the distance stole my attention and I held my breath as I tried to trace its source. The seconds seemed like an hour as finally, my flight reflex kicked in. I hurriedly stuffed my tent into my backpack and took to a brisk march, travelling in the same direction Jody had led us the day before.
    Surely, the edge of the forest was in scope. Surely, my world had not collapsed to a continuous landscape of trees, streams and moss covered rocks. I felt like a hamster in a wheel, exerting maximum energy and travelling nowhere.

    Every noise, every movement, increased my pace until the surroundings were a blur, my blinkered view on the next hundred metres, where the end of this horror would be over the next rise. However, it wasn’t, it never was. I eventually reached a small clearing and I clung to a tree to catch my breath. Trees sprang out in every direction, and whatever sky I could see was a deep blue, the day becoming dusk, and dusk signalling the end.

    Emotionally overrun, I cried. I’m not afraid to admit that. I thought about everything – my family, my siblings. I wished I had never agreed to go with Luke. Fuck them all. I drew the knife from my belt. I wanted to end it, to take my own life before it was taken from me. But I couldn’t. I don’t give a shit what you call it, weakness or resolve. The fact was I was going to find out what was happening and if given the opportunity, to sink my knife deep into them. For Jody. For Luke. For myself.

    I waited, under a cover of leaves and behind two fallen pines, the gap between them giving me a high-definition viewing experience. I waited for the taker, whatever it was.

    As light receded, silence consumed the space. The small fire I had started next to the tent had petered out into a thin column of smoke that reached the foliage. A cool breeze engulfed over me sending a shiver running the length of my spine, as dark shapes descended on the campsite. The faceless figures seemed to float effortlessly over the ground, focussed on one thing.

    I took silent, shallow breaths as I tried to reconcile what I was seeing. My heart pounded wildly out of control as I watched them congregate, five silhouettes in total.

    Then they stopped and came together as if to consult and formulate a plan. They knew something wasn’t right. Suddenly, they turned as one, inky blackness focused on me. I held my breath, hoping something else had grabbed their attention.

    My breath caught in my throat. I realised the knife I was holding would have little effect against some sort of reaper. I jumped up out of the leaf cocoon and ran as the shadowy figures gave chase. If death came to me, I’d rather not be looking at it.

    Guided purely by whatever moonlight penetrated the canopy, I sprinted, stumbled and pulled my way through the wooden barriers. My lungs burnt, my breath heavy. In the distance, I saw two lights. I adjusted my run towards them and realised what I had found. The highway! I pumped my legs and busted out through the clearing, from soft underbrush to hard asphalt.

    The vehicle skidded to a halt, stopping inches away from my outstretched arm. Without question, I climbed into the cab.

    “Go, go, go!” I gasped to the driver. I peered through the window as the utility took off, the dark figures had stopped at the edge of the wooded area, their heads turned as they followed my departure.

    I felt tired in the silence as the vehicle rumbled along, I could feel sleep pulling me under. As I sank beneath the surface, hands gripped me. I was powerless against their pull and I could once again feel the cool air over my unresponsive body. Something hard was placed against my back. I was carried, lurched sideways and then heaved up.

    The flame woke me from my unconsciousness. I blinked at the yellow light and took in my surroundings. People. A sea of a hundred people stood before me, silent, unwavering. Around the outside of the gathering were a series of torches and dark-cloaked people. The torch flames that licked the darkness provided the only light.

    A scream rang out. I turned to see Luke, and beside him, Jody, both struggling furiously against their bounds.

    “What the fuck are you fuckers doing?” Luke cried out. I screamed for help as Jody taunted the crowd for a fight, our voices a cacophony amongst the silent masses.

    Our cries were left unanswered as a figure stepped forward, their face shrouded by a black cloak. They slowly pulled back their hood.

    “Under God’s laws, you have been found guilty of witchcraft. You are hereby sentenced to burn at the stake until you are dead, your ashes to be sealed within the woods. God have mercy on your soul.”
    We screamed, we begged, we pleaded. All ignored as torches descended to set light to the sticks at the base of our poles, the crowd’s clamour increasing.

    I squeezed my eyes shut and blocked out the cries. I have succumbed. I am alone.

    THE END

    Reply
  • September 30, 2016 at 7:35 am
    Permalink

    The Game

    Patrick Coburn hurriedly pressed the button for the fourth time. He smoothed down his tie and ran a hand through his sweat-slicked hair. He gently patted his suit breast pocket and checked his watch. Late. On his first day. Of his dream job. The exclusive company was involved in everything from space exploration to pharmaceuticals and was described as a place where one could make a lucrative career.

    He sighed and danced like he needed to go to the toilet, in an effort to coax the lift doors open. He swore, just as the lift doors opened. He stepped inside, shifting his new briefcase between his hands, and turned to the button panel to realise there were no buttons. Before he could make a move to the opening, the doors shut sharply, trapping Patrick in the metal coffin. The small room descended quickly. Patrick could feel the contents of his stomach rise in his chest and he grabbed the wall for support.

    His momentum slowed and the doors silently slid open to reveal a dark space. It took Patrick a while to adjust his eyes, the dark blacks slowly receding to shades of grey. He cautiously stepped off the lift and into an open concrete space, the lift doors shutting behind him, sealing off any retreat.
    Off in the distance the murmurs of hushed conversation filled the silence, an odd clapping or cheer overtaking the audible space. He noted the array of cars that filled spaces between large concrete pillars. Some were wrecks while others were marked with holes.

    Patrick guardedly walked into the openness, investigating the caged fluorescent tubes that hung overhead, casting a dull yellow glow over everything. Around the corner, a group of four people dressed in black, stood in a circle, chatting. Patrick paused for a moment.

    He turned, feeling like an intruder. He took a step back towards the lift when a voice rang out.

    “Oi! You!”

    Patrick turned to see the group’s circle had parted into a semicircle, one of the men standing at the centre requesting his attention.

    “Yeah, you. Where are you going? Come over here with the rest of us. You must be Five.”

    Patrick slid over to the group.

    “Christ,” one of them said, “He’s wearing a suit!”

    “What about the briefcase?” Another pointed out. “Was that in the rules?”

    “There are no rules,” the other retorted with a chuckle.

    Patrick, ignoring the jeers about his attire, pushed out his palm. “Hi, I’m Patrick,” he said nervously.

    The man recoiled and thrust his hands up in mock defence. “Woah, this is a brave one! No names, man. Didn’t you read the invite?”

    “Invite? This is my first day; I’m here for the job.”

    A man to Patrick’s left spoke. “This ain’t no job, man, this is the interview.”

    “I don’t understand,” Patrick said, “I’ve done the interview.”

    A female to his right leaned in close to his ear. “This is the final interview.” She turned to the group. “Why the hell is this chump here amongst people like us?”

    “Right,” Patrick said thoughtfully. “So, what do we call each other then?”

    “We go by numbers,” the main man said. “I’m Three. The guy on your left is One, the lady on your right is Four. Miss Quiet here,” he pointed over his shoulder, “is Two.” He stepped forward. “Which means you are Five. Seriously, where’s your invitation?”

    Patrick held his arms out and shrugged.

    Three looked Patrick from top to bottom as the realisation flashed across his face. “Shit,” he said. “You’re not supposed to be here.” He stepped forward, grabbed Patrick by the collar and yelled into the space. “Hey, this guy isn’t supposed to be here, he’s not one of us!”

    The lights blinked off, plummeting the group into darkness.

    Patrick felt his body in motion, not down but sideways like he was being carried through the abyss. The wind escaped his lungs as he was shoved against a cement wall.

    “Don’t move,” a hushed voice spilled into his ear. “And don’t make a sound.”

    “But-,” Patrick whispered, but was cut off by an invisible hand over his mouth.

    “Be quiet, and maybe we can both live through this.”

    Patrick’s heartbeat reverbed through is eardrums as sweat streamed from his palms, his legs getting heavier with each passing moment. Suddenly the hand was pulled from his mouth and he fought the temptation to yell out. In the inky blackness, he edged along a wall and sank to the floor silently.
    The shot the echoed through space made him gasp, and was followed by two more successive shots. Without warning, the overhead lights flickered again, the gunshot still ringing in Patrick’s ears. He covered his eyes for a moment, trying to retrain his vision to cope with the luminance.

    Through squinted eyes, he viewed a hand in front of him. He reached for it and was instantly hauled to his feet and looking into the eyes of Three.

    “You alright?”

    Patrick nodded slowly, still coming to terms with his situation.

    “Look, what the fuck is going on here?” He looked down to the gun Three was carrying.

    Three ignored the attention. “Come on, we haven’t got much time,” he said as he marched off. Patrick followed quickly behind, hugging his briefcase.

    From the enclosed space they were in between a vehicle and a wall, Patrick ventured into the openness of the carpark. He froze when he saw the first body. He couldn’t tell who it was but they were male and headless, a corpse lying in a pool of fresh blood, a large blood splatter on the surrounding wall.

    “Come on,” the agitated voice of Three called out.

    A loud beep reverberated around the area.

    Patrick looked up to see Three sprinting to a door on the other side of the carpark. He broke into a run. Another echoing beep.

    Three looked up from his safe position. “Run!” He yelled and instinctively reached out.

    Patrick picked up pace as another shrill beep was emitted, the sound clanging in his ears. Another came in quick succession. He reached Three’s hand and was wretched inside.

    “Come on,” Three yelled out again.

    Patrick looked through the doorway to find a lady, Four, dragging herself over the concrete, leaving a trail of blood behind her. Another beep, then another. They were coming in quick succession now, and each one sent a shiver down Patrick’s spine.

    Four held out a hand. “Help me!” She groaned through bloodstained teeth.

    Three and Patrick were thrust back by the closing door, as light once again extinguished in the space. The two looked at each other, a piercing scream breaking the silence until it was silenced with a wet thud. Three dropped his head.

    “Look,” Patrick said. “I don’t know what’s going on, I’m a nobody. I don’t belong here. Shit, I’ve got a wife and a kid.”

    “I know you don’t belong here.” Three looked up into Patrick’s eyes. “I just don’t know what the hell you’re going to do about it.”

    Patrick tried to think of a solution, his usually analytical mind drawing blanks, the image of a headless cadaver haunting his vision. “Why didn’t you help her?” He asked.

    “Because it’s not in the rules,” Three replied bluntly.

    Patrick sighed. “What the fuck is this all about?”

    The steel door flung open into bright light. Three spoke before exiting. “Well if you had the invitation you would know.”

    Patrick ran to keep up. “So what now?”

    They found themselves standing at a table in the middle of the space, several bottles of water sat on top. A small card with: ‘Drink me’, sat in the middle of the table.

    Patrick looked around and realised the bodies were gone. “So what, just the two of us then?”

    Three spoke without turning around. “Except for Miss Quite behind you.”

    Two stealthily rounded them both and stood at the table. Both combatants grabbed a bottle of water.

    Three turned to Patrick. “I can’t help you with this one.”

    Patrick slowly reached out and selected a bottle from the table. They eyed each other as they uncapped the bottle and drank simultaneously. The tense silence flowed between them as they stared at each other.

    “What’s supposed to happen?” Patrick asked.

    Suddenly, Two doubled over in pain, a terrifying gurgle erupted from her mouth. As if by an unseen force, her body was thrown back against the polished surface, blood spurting from her mouth like a fountain.

    Patrick held his breath as he looked at Three. Three smirked. “Hey,” he shouted into the abyss. “I win! This other guy shouldn’t be here so I win.” He spun, his arms out wide.

    A crack rang out and Three fell face forward, a hole opened up in his forehead. Patrick sneered as he lowered the weapon and pulled the invitation from his jacket pocket.

    A voice boomed out over the loud speaker. “Well played, Mister Coburn. Welcome aboard.”

    THE END

    Reply
  • October 3, 2016 at 12:01 pm
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    Black Ink Veins – Rated R
    By Emmanuel Malho, 2016

    Casual Thursday. Regular customers, regular ruckus. An unknown band would come in a couple of minutes for a live concert in the small, outskirt of town P bar. Lisa, the short, green-eyed and mesmerizing barmaid in her almost thirties was pouring the thousandth beer that day. “Band’s coming in a couple minutes, two hours’ show and we’re done for today”, she thought. Her hands reached for the tap and she looked up. Someone she’d never seen around was staring right at her. A mid-height, short brown haired guy with hazel, empty eyes. He was wearing a green, heavy coat above a white hoodie. She closed the tap when she noticed she was spilling beer all over the counter.

    – Good evening! How can I help you? – She genially and clumsily asked with a smile on her face. The same smile she makes for every customer.

    – It’ll be a large coffee. Black, no sugar. I’ll be on that table – He pointed to a nearby table.

    – OK, black coffee, no sugar, coming right out!

    The strange man turned back and sat by the table. Something sounded off with him. She prepared his drink and called her coworker. Sonia, the red-headed hottie, promptly came.

    – Please take this large, black coffee to that weirdo over there. – She briefly looked at him and he was looking back. The same empty, penetrating look. Lisa quickly looked away. – That guy gives me the creeps. – She gave the drink to Sonia.

    – Just relax. It’s not like he’s going to eat you or something! – They both laughed at it.

    The Snake Eaters came in. All dressed in green and yellow comfy clothing, they brought more ruckus to the P Bar. They set up their stage for the night and went for a drink at the counter. Lisa gladly served them, they had a little chat with her and Sonia, and they quickly were on their way back to the stage. When they started the show, the table was empty and the strange man was nowhere to be seen. Lisa was angry and relieved at the same time. “OK, I don’t mind paying his drink as long as he’s – “the snap of a lighter cut off her thought. There he was, near the dartboards, lighting a smoke. He inhaled and a deep, long breath of smoke came out of his nostrils. All the time, looking deep at her eyes. “Come on. He’s quite the charmer and you’re still afraid of him. What the hell is wrong with you?”, she asked herself.

    – Looks like the hottie as a crunch on you, Liz – Sonia said, speaking softly to Lisa’s ear.

    – Oh, don’t sweat it. He’s all yours. I think he’s onto redheads. And you’re the “redhead hottie”, remember?

    – You’re serious??? – Sonia’s face blushed in a fiery red more intense than her hair. She fixed her hair in a flash – What’s he been drinking? Maybe I’ll ask him to buy me a drink.

    – That large. Black. Coffee.

    – Give me a couple minutes, I’ll be right back – Sonia grinned cheerfully like a high school teenager.

    Lisa felt good for her friend but couldn’t stop feeling worried. There was really something wrong with that guy, she could feel it. She felt it every time his eyes seemed to pierce through her like a thousand knives.

    The night went on smoothly, the customers enjoyed the Snake Eaters and they enjoyed the customers enough to sing a few extra songs. It was already late night of a long day for Lisa. Customers were leaving, the band was tearing up the stage. She barely saw Sonia getting out of the bar with the strange man through the employees’ entrance. Sonia was still with that little girl’s smile. Him, with that inscrutable attitude. “At least someone’s getting more fun she’d hoped for”, she abided.

    Minutes later, Lisa had cleaned the counter and she was almost ready to leave, and still no sign of Sonia. As she approached the employee’s door, Sonia’s moans became clearer with each step. “Better leave them at it”, she thought and turned back. She took the garbage out through the customers’ entrance, the bar was empty. Nights were starting to get colder. Curiosity hit her, and she went the employees’ door way. Sonia’s moans were getting louder and louder. “They’re really hitting it. Might as well call them out before the cops do…”, she proceeded.

    Sonia was having her brains fucked out. She seemed completely unaware of her entourage, her body hitting the wall so hard with each thrust. The strange man was grabbing her thighs, pants down, his body between her legs, lifting and pressing her body to the wall. If it wasn’t for how Sonia was pulling him harder against her and her screams of pleasure, Lisa would say she was being raped. Lisa came just in time to watch the strange man pin Sonia’s arms to the wall, making her nothing but a helpless object. The final, stronger and faster thrusts made her scream. Pleasure or pain, it didn’t matter for any of them. A single, almost silent moan came out of his mouth and he withdrew his arms. Sonia fell to the ground. Still numbed by the pleasure, she slowly got up.

    As soon as she got up, the strange man took a jackknife out of his back pocket and stabbed Sonia’s throat in a fell sweep. Lisa fell on her knees. Unaware of her, he lifted Sonia up the wall and started eating the flesh out of her neck. Panic struck Lisa. She couldn’t make a sound. Her friend was still screaming, her voice fading out. He looked physically well-built enough to strike Lisa next if he’d saw her. Sonia’s head finally fell, down to Lisa’s side. Lisa was deadly sure she was the last person her dying friend saw. Sonia’s eyes turned her way. His eyes noticed the movement and looked right at Lisa. Lisa felt colder than the night, colder than the ground. He reacted faster than her as he pulled his knife out of Sonia’s throat before she could move.

    “Get up! Get up and run for your life!”, her brain screamed. But her body wouldn’t move. He dropped Sonia’s body like a trash bag and, his face and clothes painted, dripping with her blood, he pulled his pants up and he took a step towards Lisa. That’s when her brain connected with her body and she was able to get up and start running. She ran inside the bar and quickly blocked the employees’ door with a chair. The strange man banged and bashed the door, but he didn’t manage to open it. Lisa hid herself behind the counter. She had no other way out. She could wait for him to be gone and run to her car, it was near. But if he’d be near, it would mean certain death. “Come on! Think! Think!” What she saw minutes ago was already out of her mind. Her own life was threatened. She cried. Lost in the place she knew like a second home, she cried.

    The lights went down. Lisa instantly stopped crying. She knew that meant the front door was open. He would come in any minute. Completely in panic, she remembered to use her cell phone. “Shit! No battery!” She felt powerless now. She’d stand no chance in a physical confrontation. She wasn’t able to call for help. Her dead friend could do nothing about it. Despair stroke her heart. She heard the restroom’s water tap turn on. He was there. The tap turned off. She had to move. Quickly. She snapped out of panic in a jump and ran towards the door the creep used to get in. A second of hope filled her trembling heart, until she saw his reflection in the door’s window. He instantly threw his right hand to close the door immediately in front of her. With his left hand, he bumped her against the door. Lisa fell and he kneeled right above her, jackknife in his left hand pointing at Lisa’s face while he was caressing her with his right one.

    He stood quiescent above her. She could see the veins of his forehead grow and carry something dark. They were pulsing black beneath Sonia’s poorly washed out blood. As he drew his jackknife towards Lisa’s pants, his eyes were being filled with that black fluid. Lisa couldn’t move, even if she wanted to. His eyes completely turned black and she felt the burning lust shown by Sonia earlier. She was feeling warmer and warmer inside. She closed her eyes and surrendered to the feeling. Until he broke her heart.

    Knife in, life out.

    Reply
  • October 22, 2016 at 10:19 pm
    Permalink

    The Good Neighbor.
    A Halloween Treat, by Ken Cartisano.
    © 2016

    My first name is Joan, but they insisted on being formal. “Am I going to need a lawyer?” I said.

    The detective shook his head, “These questions are just a formality Mrs. Burke. You’re not under suspicion.”

    “Suspicion? What am I not under suspicion for?”

    “Please Mrs. Burke. We just need to ask a few routine questions.”

    To be fair, the detective looked more nervous than I felt. “So why did you bring me all the way down to the station then? You could’ve asked me questions at home, in my kitchen.”

    There! He did it again. He wiped the sweat off his brow, even though cool air was blasting from the overhead vent. I was about to mention it when his partner entered the room. He looked like all the other detectives. They have a look you know. Of course, never having met one before I never knew that, but all of these guys with suits and ties had the same look. As if every day was Halloween. You know what I mean? Like, they’ve seen too much gore, too much horror, too many murder victims lying face up in a pool of their own blood: Sightless eyes staring at the ceiling. You could tell these guys had seen it all. But around me—they all seemed nervous.

    Now look, before you go jumping to conclusions, I’m just an ordinary housewife. I’ve got one adorable three-year old, my husband is an average guy who sells kitchen appliances. We live in an ordinary neighborhood, and in fact we’re so average that I’m pretty sure we’re boring.

    So the second detective says, “Would you like some coffee, Mrs. Burke? A soda? A glass of water?”

    I give him my most menacing look, which prompts him to say, “If there’s anything you need or want, you just let me know.” Then he loosens his tie and settles into a chair.

    “It’s freezing in here,” I say. “Could you turn the air conditioning off for awhile?” He looks genuinely disappointed. “I’m sorry Mrs. Burke.” Then he brightens. “Would you like my jacket?”

    I can’t accept it. I’m not that cold, so I shake my head.

    The first detective clears his throat. “So.”

    “Yes?”

    “What can you tell us about your neighbor Mrs. Burke?”

    I live on a corner, he can only mean Elizabeth. “You mean Beth?”

    “Yes,” he says. “Your next door neighbor, Elizabeth Martin.”

    ‘What’s to tell?’ I think. She’s as boring as me. “I don’t know,” I say, “what would you like to know?”

    “Did you ever notice anything—odd, or unusual about her behavior?”

    I thought about it. “No, not at all. She’s friendly, thoughtful and a charming host.”

    “Is that so?”

    “Well, for starters, when she first moved in, I was thinking about bringing over a plate of cookies to welcome her and her husband to the neighborhood, but she brought me cookies instead.”

    Neither detective seemed to greet this endorsement with appreciation.

    “She’s a wonderful cook,” I said, “considering everything she’s been through.” One detective winced as the other got up suddenly and left the room.

    “Where’s my daughter?” I asked, just as suddenly.

    “She’s in the next room, Mrs. Burke, charming the beejesus out of half the department.” That made me smile. “And your husband is on his way.” He looked at his watch. “He should be here any minute.”

    “Are you sure I don’t need a lawyer?”

    The detective shrugged. “It’s your call, Mrs. Burke. You don’t need one. We’re just trying to save you the expense.”

    I nodded, but deep down, I was still skeptical. The second detective returned and, I must say, he looked a little green around the gills.

    “So what else can you tell us about your neighbor, this—Mrs. Martin. What do you mean everything she’d been through?”

    “Well,” I said, “that husband of hers.” I leaned forward. “He’s a philanderer.”

    “You think he’s been cheating on her, then.”

    “Oh I know he has. Besides, he’s run off with his latest little twit. Surely you men must know that.”

    “Well, we know that that’s what Mrs. Martin has been saying.”

    “Yeah, well. He told Beth he wanted to make a fresh start,” I said. “And despite that, despite the grief she’s been going through, she continues to entertain.”

    “She does, huh?” He made a note in his book. “How do you mean?”

    “Well, a couple of weeks ago she held a barbecue and invited most of the neighbors. I met people at her party who’d lived just a few houses down that have lived here for six years.”

    “Is that so?”

    I didn’t want to state the obvious, but I was pretty sure her excessive cooking and entertaining was her way of coping with her sense of loss. What I said instead was, “And what a cook! A little secretive though.”

    “What do you mean, Mrs. Burke?”

    “Well, her dishes often have a unique and intriguing flavor that drives me nuts trying to figure out what spices she uses. But she never shares her cooking secrets. At least, not with me.”

    The two detectives look at one another. Then the younger one, Mr. Green Gills got up and left the room again.

    The remaining detective said, “So, as far as you know, everything was fine with Mrs. Martin.”

    “Fine?” I said, “More than fine. She’s a good neighbor, an excellent cook, and someone I’m happy to call a friend.”

    The other detective stuck his head in the door. “Her husband’s here, Joe.”

    “Okay, good.” He got up, snapped his little notebook shut and seemed at a loss for words. Finally he came up with, “If you should need anything Mrs. Burke, all you need to do is ask. All right?”

    “Sure,” I said, “Sure. I’m fine.”

    He paused awkwardly before leaving the room. His partner, after holding the door open, gave me one long, peculiar look before he backed out of the room too.

    A moment later, my husband came tentatively through the door. “Hi honey.” He bit his lip, then came over and hugged me tightly. By now, I suspected he was going to inform me of some bad news.

    “It’s Beth, isn’t it?” I suggested. “What happened? Did that bastard husband try to kill her, or what?”

    He hesitated.

    “Don’t keep me in suspense Kyle. What’s this all about? The detectives have told me nothing.”

    He advised me to sit down, and he did too. He cleared his throat and I could tell from his behavior that whatever it was, it was pretty awful. It had to have been about the neighbor Beth though. “Come on Kyle, just tell me.”

    “Beth’s husband is dead, Joan.”

    “Well, it serves him right. That conniving low-life bastard.”

    “You don’t understand. He never left town Joan, he didn’t run off with some young woman.”

    I didn’t fully comprehend.

    “She killed him, Joan. She murdered her husband—weeks ago.”

    Naturally, my first reaction was disbelief. But my husband assured me it was true.

    “Well how do they know? What proof do they have?”

    He looked pained. “They found parts of his body in her freezer.” He looked away.

    “Parts of him? Well what happened to the rest of him?”

    There was a long, alarming silence. “Kyle! What happened to the rest of him? What did she do?”

    “She sliced him up, Joan. Butchered him.”

    “Oh my God.” I felt light-headed. She was my best friend. “She butchered him? My God, that’s gruesome.” No wonder the cops seemed so… “So what did she do with the rest of him? Is he buried in the back yard?”

    Kyle was looking at me with a sympathetic expression. He knew how close we were; knew how difficult this would be. He said, “This is going to be hard to accept, Joan, but you’re going to find out sooner or later.”

    I couldn’t speak. It was like my throat refused to work.

    “She cooked him Joan. And served him to the rest of the neighborhood.”

    I think the room started to spin, and my vision started to go dark. But I was still conscious enough to hear his next words. “We ate him.”

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