Fee-Fee Cree (or, A Short Memoir on the Creature Feature Effect)

Standard

When I was a kid, growing up in Chicago, WGN (Channel 9) had a horror anthology show called Creature Features. I was already afraid of my shadow, so when the show would come on, playing the weird, electric-guitar-driven theme from Experiment in Terror, I would go into hysterics. The vision of all those monsters (Dracula, Frankenstein’s monster, the Phantom, and, more riveting, Lon Chaney from London After Midnight) sent me over the top.

I have a theory that men show affection to children through over-the-top threats (“I’m gonna hang you by your thumbs!”) and crazy actions (holding a kid upside-down). I can remember being roughed up and tickled to the point of passing out on many occasions. I’ve done similar things like that to my own brood.

My Uncle Kenny was a tiny dude who, because I was a small kid looking up, appeared to be a giant to me. He often picked me up over his head, threatening to drop me. Of course, he never did (though there is a going theory that I may have been dropped on my head more than a few times! LOL!). What was one of his favorite things to do, along with my Uncles Lewis and Sherman, was to lock me in a room with “Fee-Fee Cree” (I couldn’t pronounce “Creature Features”) coming on TV. For a 3-year-old already possessed of an overactive imagination, this was enough to make walk through a wall somewhere. Quite often, my mother (who was older sister to that set of uncles) or my grandmother, would come to my rescue. But I had been initiated and scarred for life.

As a teen, I was extremely sensitive to the supernatural. I could sense spirits nearby and was dreadfully afraid of seeing one manifest itself to me. I’d been a tale-spinner as a young child, but my writing picked up when I hit those double digit years. And I wrote about everything that influenced me, from my undying fascination with girls, to my fear of things going bump in the night.

I guess it was in the cards for me to finally pick up the pen and make my first novel a horror anthology. Though zombies weren’t part of my list of haunts as a kid, the subject of the dead getting up to walk was at least as old as the beliefs of the West African Voodun religion. My initial offering would detail the effects of the undead eating the living. More than that, it would point out that people are the real monsters…

eBookCover_DeadAssets

I like writing horror stories. Why? Not because I’ve made some sort of infernal pact or don’t believe in God. Nothing could be further from the truth. Watching a good monster movie or spinning a great yarn of the sort makes me feel alive. That and, like my Uncle Kenny, I love stirring people up to make them want to walk through walls.

Advertisements

Cuddly

Standard

Like clockwork, each month, my uterus went through a ritual of trying to turn itself inside-out. This made for some rather sleepless nights when the cramps were at their worst. I stumbled back from the bathroom, initially happy to get back to sleep until I saw him. Gerald had wrapped himself up on his side of the bed, stealing all the covers. As if to balance out his inconsiderate move, he’d left me a hot water bottle.

“I brought you a little something,” he said.

I wanted to comment that he’d also taken a little something by rolling himself up in the comforter, hogging it to the left side. Instead, I took notice of the bottle’s silhouette and replied, “How’d you know?”

“C’mon, babe,” he said, shifting a bit on his old pillow. “After all these years, you think I wouldn’t be aware of such a thing?”

“I guess you’re right.”

Oddly, I didn’t hear him head to the kitchen as I made my way to the restroom. I didn’t hear him stumbling about clumsily as he typically did, nor did I pick up the sound of running water. I wasn’t going to question how he’d done it. He wanted to impress me with the fact that he’d done it at all. I just wish he could’ve been as considerate when he was still…

“Come to bed,” he said, patting the right side of the mattress. “We can cuddle.”

With the blinds partially open, the pale moonlight formed stripes that contoured over the sheets, pillows…and my husband’s body, wrapped up in the blanket. This was a problem, because Gerald had been dead for over thirteen months and I’d paid good money to ensure he was. Yet, he always came back, more like cockroaches after an exterminator’s visit than undying love. I saw his presence as the former, his being there making the hairs levitate from the back of my neck; he saw never leaving me alone as an act of the latter: love everlasting.

I just wanted him gone.

“Come to bed,” he repeated, more demanding than asking this time. That’d been more like the tone I was used to, thinly veiled by feigned sweetness. The hand flipping back the covers and inviting me into his cocoon was gray and skeletal. Earthworms slithered through and beetles gnawed away at the dermis and tendons of his forearm. Graveyard dirt soiled the sheets and matched the dank, stolid smell hanging in the air. “We can cuddle.”

But I didn’t want to be near him, let alone make spoons so that his bony, dead fingertips could make my skin crawl. “I’m not feeling well, hon.”

“I know,” he said, his empty eye sockets ogling me. “But that’s why I’m here. The vow I took said ‘in sickness and in health.’ Remember that?”

“Yes. But I also recall something about ‘till death do us part.’”

He flashed a snaggletooth grin, his lips long devoured by insects, yet smiling, nonetheless. “That’s a minor hiccup, since I died before my time. I’m never going to leave you, Marjorie!”

I wished that he could’ve relented on that statement like his empty promises to stop drinking and to never hit me again. In death, there was no need to consume alcohol, he’d once told me, and with his muscles rotted away, he exerted no physical strength to worry me. It’s just that my husband’s constant nighttime visits ate away at my sanity like the spiders and maggots and stink bugs had done to his body.

The moonlight shifted and more of him was visible now. There was a garter snake inching along his pelvis where his penis should’ve been. He’d raped me the night he died, so anything phallic near him made me relive that horror.

Tears streamed down my cheeks and I forgot about the cramps and the hot water bottle which had been his gesture of kindness. And, though I wanted to run, my feet were cast in magnetized lead. I could move no way but toward him.

“That’s it,” he sang, his deteriorated vocal cords making his voice sound like fingernails across a chalkboard. “Come cuddle with your man, girl!”

With my sobs came the irrigation of snot and I didn’t care to wipe it away. All I could do was submit to his beckoning and climb back into the bondage of our marital bed.

© 2014, Don Miskel.

Whippersnapper

Standard

“I hate when it rains. Reduces visibility.” That was my uninformed, upstart of a partner running his mouth again, not knowing a damn thing about anything that mattered.

“You talk too fuckin’ much,” I said gruffly. Stakeout tête-à-tête made the time go by, but it was only when that conversation wasn’t for the sake of creating carbon dioxide. “What’d I tell you about that?”

He sighed like a frustrated little brat that’d been relegated to the nearest corner when all he wanted to do was play.

“Rain is a good thing,” I informed him. “Reduced visibility makes it harder for witnesses to make out detail…and it washes away evidence, too. Lemme see your piece.”

I didn’t particularly like breaking in the new guys, tagging along so they didn’t make the stupid mistakes not covered in class. However, it was us older cats—me being one of the most ancient still able to work in the field—that pulled the coattails of the irreverent ranks.

He unholstered his firearm—a huge, gaudy monstrosity that would make a movie action hero soil himself with delight. He was trying to overcompensate and impress me. The organization already knew he had the basic skills to do the job; it was left to me to get the tyke fine-tuned.

“.50 cal, huh?”

He nodded proudly, big stupid grin extending upward to his rosy cheeks.

“We ain’t huntin’ buffalo, kid.”

His smile faded a shade and his brow creased ever-so-slightly. To him, I was a crotchety old relic that should’ve retired around the time his daddy refused to pull out the kid’s whore of a mother. I could’ve said something to the beat of the best part of him went running down Mama’s thighs and gummed up the sheets, but I didn’t. This was a learning opportunity for the youngster. I reached into my belt and pulled out my primary: an easily concealable, smaller caliber wheel gun.

“Whatcha gonna do with that, Pops,” the kid demanded to know. He was determined to let me know he had the cajones, smarts, and speed to get the job done. It was yet another teaching moment, of which the night seemed to have no shortage. “Rob stagecoaches?”

To that, he guffawed, still gripping the butt of his hand cannon. I smirked, since I could appreciate a good sense of humor. Besides, it would take more than remarks about my age or tools of the trade to get me seeing red.

“You’re funny, son. I like that.” A silence settled between us and I didn’t blink. “How many rounds does that thing carry?”

“Twelve,” he said with a defiant nod. “Twice as many as your old peacemaker.”

“Twice as likely to get your hopes up and twice as likely to get you killed, too. I have exactly six chances to get the job done right. That means I take my time and aim, remembering my fundamentals. I breathe, apply even pressure on the trigger, and pull it smoothly to the rear. Each round counts.”

“Takes too long,” he exclaimed dismissively. “By the time you fire your second shot, I’d already have emptied the clip and begun my reload.”

“You’re right. And there would be empty shell casings all over for the cops to find and accidentally wounded bystanders for them to question.” I leaned back a bit, squaring him up. “I’ll bet you even shoot sideways, like you’re in some in-the-‘hood gangster flick.”

His smartass expression said, Yeah and so what, old man?! It was his blatantly disrespectful attitude that made me decide just how to capitalize on the moment. After all, lion cubs had to be groomed to one day lead the pride.

“Let me tell you a story,” I began, much to his chagrin. He stifled the breath he wanted to huff, thinking better of it. “I was probably about your age…”

“Back in the days when they invented the wheel and Moses rode the ark, right?”

I shot him a glare, not bothering to correct him on the fact that it was Noah. But Sunday School was a class I hadn’t been paid to teach.

“Mind if I finish?”

He nodded. “Please…by all means, carry on.”

“I was arrogant like you when I was your age. I was fresh out of Force Recon when I was recruited by the organization. Had done a good share of wet-works by then, too.”

The kid exhaled, his eyes bugging as if to say, Is this gonna be a long story? I got shit to do, man!”

However, the only shit he had to do was whatever I told him. And, regardless of his insolence, I had to issue the story as a preamble. It was only right to give him a chance.

I continued: “My field training officer seemed more ancient then than I am now. Had a buzz cut of white needles framing his leathery face. Never smiled. Growled a lot, though…”

Yeah, yeah, yeah! And, as he lay dying in your arms, he passed on some sort of profound knowledge concerning this job. That’s it, right?! You don’t hafta go describing the type of aftershave he wore or the repressed homosexual urges you all shared. Just get to the fuckin’ point, man!”

I chuckled, looking through the windshield at the rain coming down in sheets. “Why don’t you step outta the car, youngster?”

To that, he exploded. “Ya know what, Gramps? I ain’t yer son, I ain’t a kid, and I ain’t here to listen to some tired old windbag relive his friggin’ glory days!”

I calmed myself, slowing my heart rate, taking time to breathe. This is what I did before engaging a target with a weapon or in hand-to-hand. Though I could easily leave the kid with a knife through his windpipe or a smoking hole in his temple, I still wanted to give the kid a chance. I liked him. “Step out,” I repeated, unbuttoning my jacket and opening the door.

Five minutes later, he was huffing and puffing, the fingers of his right hand broken to resemble a windmill. I’d hung that miniaturized missile launcher off his trigger finger, which he couldn’t bend. I’d told him not to reach for it, as I just wanted to knock him around a bit to prove a point. He didn’t believe fat meat was greasy and had to find out the hard way.

“M-may I please have a cigarette,” he begged. He was dripping wet from the rain, cradling his useless arm with his left. I didn’t break his elbow as much as I’d given it a nice hyperextension to reinforce some respect for his elders.

“No smoking when you’re with me. Cigarette butts leave a trail like breadcrumbs.”

“I-I-I’m sorry,” he said through bruised gums and clenched teeth. Though tempted to knock them out and leave them on the pavement like candy-coated tablets of chewing gum, I didn’t. The organization had an excellent dental plan, but he’d already be exercising the medical benefits that night.

“I know,” I said coolly, looking at his humbled countenance from the driver’s seat. “Now, may I please continue on with my story?”

His swollen lips drooled blood and saliva onto his dark shirt. The white of one eye was discolored from a nice blow to the temple. A little harder and I could’ve made his eye pop out altogether. Hell, I’d done it before.

He nodded. “Please do, sir. Please do.”

I cleared my throat, watching the rain, which had muffled his screams, washing any remnants of blood into the gutter. “As I was saying, I was also arrogant at your age, until I ran afoul of my mentor.”

The kid’s eyes blinked and he sat up straight, giving me his rapt attention.

I displayed my right hand, opening and closing the fist. “In fact, my arthritis flares up whenever it rains.”

The whippersnapper frowned at his own hand, the tips of each finger snapped to point leftward. His thumb, which I’d broken inward on itself, remained balled up against the palm. It was the same type of learning moment that’d enlightened me over 20 years before. It was a lesson that, if he was lucky, the kid would one day pass on to another aspiring assassin that’d been left in his care.

© Don Miskel, 2014.

Image courtesy of kellieelmore.com

Cuckold’s Comeuppance

Standard

“The day was non-descript and far from special when I found out you’d been cheating on me. The depth of sorrow I felt—a grief deeper than a well that led to the bowels of the earth—erased the bright sun and wispy puffs of clouds against a beautiful blue sky. My thought process was replaced with pain and all that beauty melted away to a dark reality.

“You thought you’d break me, didn’t you? I mean, the fact that you cheated on me with her—a woman who was nowhere near as pretty as I was before I’d begun pushing out your pups. Though you’d dug an emotional grave for me, that’s not how this is going to play out.

“No, don’t snivel! It’s unbecoming of the man you once were; the one I trusted in and with whom I’d exchanged vows. Now you sit here, gagged, hyperventilating, and utterly helpless, wondering what will happen next.

“I want to keep you guessing.

“Did you know that a woman comes closest to death when she’s bringing life into the world? Did you realize that I was your legitimate shot at immortality? That’s right. Your DNA strand will live on in the children you fathered with me, long before your lies.

“You hurt me in a way I never thought I could hurt. And, though through therapy I’m just about over it, there’s still some bitterness left that has to be dealt with.

“That’s why I’m holding this in my hand. Scary, isn’t it? I was always the one afraid of guns. But this is the only time I intend to ever shoot one. I picked a revolver because it won’t jam. Semiautomatics tend to do that if you use cheap ammunition or hold them wrong. Yeah, I did my research.

“I purchased the .357 Magnum because of its option to use smaller .38 Special rounds. However, for this occasion, I chose to use the larger load to make this as quick and painless as possible. Plus, I wanted to spare no expense in giving you nothing but the best.

“You’re shuddering and sniveling again, tossing your head to and fro. As if I’d miss at this close range. You look ridiculous with snot curving over that nasty mustache and over your top lip. I’ll bet I could take a sample of that hair and find some of her dried essence still in there, couldn’t I?

“And to think, you’d probably kissed me with those tainted lips after making a meal of her. Had me practicing in lesbianism without my knowing. Shit, I may have experimented that way in a threesome, if you’d asked me.

“But you never did.

“You just took matters into your own hands… And used those same hands to spread another woman’s legs.

“You thought your indiscretion and repeated unfaithfulness would be the end of me. But oh, how the tables have turned.

“Remember, in the old comic books, how the good guy would often hold the villain’s life in his hands, then relent at the last moment? He’d typically say something corny like, ‘You’re not even worth it,’ and heroically save his archenemy in the end.

“Well, I’m no superhero. I’m just a woman. And you, my dear, the love of my life, are very much worth it. Now stop all that crying and hold still. This will be over before you know it.”

© Don Miskel, 2014.