Race

My lungs burn as I round the corner, the damnable soles of my expensive shoes skidding on the concrete, driving me to my knees. The raking breaths burning in my lungs matches the burn on my palms when I stop my fall with my hands, a hot white bolt shooting up my arms.

I shoot a backward glance, down the dark stairs, suck in my breath and hold it against my pounding heart. Silence and night.

My vision smears the lights in their neat, white globes as I fight back to my feet. No time. No time!

I shoot back to my feet and pound forward, coattails flapping in my slipstream. The station isn’t bright enough, but it’s not dark either. I’ve been in Podunk towns where a single bare bulb swung from an exposed wire wearing a flattened stainless steel funnel hat. The fluorescent bars here offered some illumination at least.

It just doesn’t feel bright enough.

I glance back again, confronted now by the turnstiles and pay booths. They’re unmanned. I check the rest of the area.

No guard. My heart sinks.

I spring over the turnstiles and yank my straining body up the concrete stairs by the cold iron handrail beside me. It stings my scraped hands as I launch myself faster up the flight to a landing, a break in the climb before another set of steps taunts me.

I freeze for a split second.

Did I hear something? Something coming, from behind me?

My adrenalin jumps another notch and scorches my veins. My heart flutters and I dart up the second flight, trying to keep up the pace, but slowing. The platform is at the top, but the loading area is far from where passengers vomit out of the stairwell. Dimly, something far in the recesses of my mind realizes this isn’t ADA compliant as I push with my arms while racing with my leaden legs up the stairs.

Then I do hear it. Clear, definitive, something banging and grinding behind me.

No!

My feet skid on the corner of the stair riser and bark my shins. I scream out, no longer caring what hears me, and I push through the pain. I feel the warm trickle of blood down my shin, and know I’ll leave a trail behind me.

I can’t care.

The sound grows to a din now, and then there’s a scream, a wailing howl like metal dragging over metal, and I can smell the thing now. I can’t look back, I have to press on, move, move, dammit, move!

It’s on me, I can see it as I round the corner of the platform, my damn shoes betraying me again, and I hit one knee on the ground while my feet still scrabble for purchase. I launch myself up, but my equilibrium’s gone and I fall into the brick wall just under the schedule.

Too late! Too, too late!

The shriek sounds again, and the klaxon bangs a tattoo of hopelessness against my ears. In huff it’s moving, foul air rushing into my face and blowing back my hair. It gains speed in an instant, and I fall, helpless, to the cold floor of the platform as it rushes to me, and then past me.

I watch the train’s lights vanish into the night, down the dark tracks, and groan when I see the schedule above me.

Next one’s not due for an hour.


I misread the prompt, too. It said, “plane,” not “train.” *Sigh* Oh well.

Revelations

Dane Tyler:

Now, THIS is how you do a horror short.

Originally posted on Roger Kilbourne:

Sometimes the night seems to know things.

Richard heard it in sound of the crashing surf, muffled but still audible from out of sight just over the dunes. He saw it in the way the tall grass trembled in the breeze. The way the ghost crabs crept out of their holes in the sand at the edge of the campfire’s light, ready to dart back in at the first sign of danger.

He finished off his Heineken with a long guzzle, fished another out of the cooler beside him and cracked it open. The urn’s brass weight rested solemnly in his lap.

On their last trip together, when Cheryl made him promise to spread her ashes here, he’d grown angry and said she shouldn’t talk like that. Like the cancer had already won. He regretted that bitter exchange now, of course, and the night knew this. But it knew something…

View original 731 more words

The Value of Reviews

I received a 3-star review on my novel Scales of Justice on August 15, 2012. And you know what? It was really eye-opening and valuable to me.

I wanted to pop in and say thank you to the reviewer, but I’ve heard that’s a no-no from the author’s standpoint. I don’t know if I agree. I thought the reviewer’s insights directly hit upon some of the weaknesses of the book and brought up some great ways to improve it. I’m more than half interested in actually implementing those changes. They’d be great.

So, to the person who gave that review, thank you. Thank you for telling me how I could do better and what you did and didn’t like about the story. I’m sorry it wasn’t as much fun for you as you wanted it to be, but I can tell you the gift you gave me, of an honest review, is one I will honor and respect in my next book. I’ll be a better writer for it.

Thank you again, and God bless.

-J. Dane Tyler

You can see the review here. It’s the only 3-star review I’ve gotten to date.

FREE Today Only!

What could be more fitting for Friday the 13th than a story that scares the heck out of you and is free, too?

Today is your lucky day!

Seriously, it gave me nightmares and I watched it being written.

Lucky Caller 7

Kelly won a radio contest for the first time in her life, and it’s a dream vacation — a fishing trip on a charter off the coast. Lots of fishing, fun, and sun.

But the crew of the little charter boat is borderline incompetent. The other passengers range from an icy blond bombshell to bald and overweight businessmen. Kelly’s not catching many fish, she’s not having much fun, and she just wants to go home.

When a mysterious storm appears on the horizon taking away even the sun, Kelly gets the feeling she’s headed for more than she bargained for. Maybe, just maybe, it doesn’t pay to be Lucky Caller 7.

Originally included in the collection "A Fine Cast of Characters."

Hurry!  Go run and grab your copy!  Click the link above and get it while it’s free, today only!

Pest Control, Part 2

Think of me as the Orkin man for bloodsuckers. We don’t call ‘em bloodsuckers, though. They ain’t that dignified, not when you see ‘em like I do. We call ‘em fleas, or skeeters. They’re like that, kinda. Like fleas or mosquitoes. Or maybe spiders. Yeah, you can think of ‘em as spiders.

I’m in a pipe now. It took a long time to get the damned grate off, ‘course. That’s why the friggin’ things do this in the first place. It’s hard to spot ‘em down here. They get dark all the time, they can hear ya comin’, and with the grates and stuff it’s hard to find ‘em. Miles of tunnel, too, so it’s easy to get lost.

‘Course, they can get lost too, and sometimes do. They die if they don’t eat a little every night, so if they get lost it’s either come up or starve. They ain’t too bright though, so mostly they die.

I can’t remember who figured out the sewers. Might’ve been an accident. You know, some poor bastard stumbled on ‘em, maybe. I don’t know, it’s been a while.

The goo in the bottom of the tube ain’t nice. I had to start puttin’ menthol crap under my nose to keep from gaggin’ over the smells. You get used to it, I guess, but I sure can’t figure how the fleas live in it all the time.

My hip waders almost always keep the stuff in the bottom of the tube off me. I don’t know what to call it. But I’m in a sewer, so you can guess what it is.

Municipalities and such hire us when they get hit. I don’t know why they always wait until they get hit, but hey, a paycheck’s a paycheck, right? I don’t ask questions. But they always wait. Nobody hires us to go in and check before somebody gets killed, or it’s a damned infestation like roaches. Then it’s an emergency. Too bad for the victims, but bonus for us. We get paid emergency rates, and that’s why I keep doin’ this shit.

It’s stinky, shitty work and someone’s gotta do it. I ain’t squeamish and like I said, I don’t mind the tunnels, so I put on my waders and mask, my gloves and slicker, and hi-ho, hi-ho, shit diving I do go.

Lucky frickin’ me, right?

Pest Control, Part 1

Everybody thinks vampires sleep in lavish mansions, wear fine silk clothes and live the life of a frickin’ beer commercial or TV show.

Lemme tell you something, that ain’t nothing like the truth.

Vampires ain’t people. That’s the first thing you gotta know. They ain’t human, so they ain’t people at all. They’re not even animals, really. Not if you think about it. They don’t have babies, and don’t really breed at all. So, not really animals. You know?

Think of vampires more like…like germs, sorta. Parasites or viruses. They take a living body and just kinda…take over. Once they have it — the body, I mean — there’s none that person left. Only the vampire. Just like when a virus kills someone, it’s the only thing left. The virus, I mean. That’s how vampires are. They kill the someone and only the vampire’s left.

If they were zombies from a George Romero movie, no one would be confused by it. The only question would be what to do about killing ‘em. You know, head shots or some voodoo ritual or whatnot.

But TV and movies and books and shit made vampires sexy and attractive and oh-so-stylish, so most folks ain’t ready for the real thing. It’s a shock to ‘em.
That’s why I’m down here. I’m an exterminator, sort of.

This is what I do.

I’m AT THE BIJOU Today!

The gracious and lovely Absolutely*Kate from the wonderfully diverse AT THE BIJOU has honored me by featuring my fiction in her amazing little theater today!

She’s done it up right with great pictures and fancy formatting, and included the bio my loving wife wrote for me.

Please, amble over to AT THE BIJOU and give a shout-out to Absolutely*Kate and let me know what you thought of my story (if you haven’t already read it — I had to send her one I published here for my #fridayflash entry back in November of ’09).

All of my gratitude go to A*K and THE BIJOU for selecting me to take a moment in the spotlight. I’m humbled.

-JDT-

#FridayFlash: The Crisp Man

He shifted on the soft, padded seat. It was very comfortable but he still felt … uncomfortable. He didn’t know why though.

“S-see, it’s j-j-just that m-my w-wife is the w-w-one who usually–”

“We understand, Joe.”

The tall man looked like a magazine ad. One for clothes maybe; those fine, fancy clothes from one of those shops where soft violin or piano music drips from the ceiling and walls. He wore crisp, dark, neat clothes. His tie had no flawed edges, no stray wrinkles. His hair was gray around the ears and jet black on top, and every strand, every piece, sat in its place, perfect, a plastic statue, movie star hair. The rugged lines in his face drew Joe’s eyes.

Joe swallowed hard. It was just spit but it went down like he’d swallowed a tire. He almost gagged. “Y-you … You do?”

The Crisp Man nodded. “Of course we do. We know all about you, Joe.”

Joe listened whenever the Crisp Man talked. He couldn’t help it. His smooth, rich voice was hot maple syrup on a cold winter morning. Joe felt better when he heard that voice. He wanted a voice like that.

Joe shifted again. He didn’t like the idea of someone he’d never seen before knowing all about him. He didn’t care for the thought of someone who knew all about him. It felt like someone went through his underwear drawer, or found his dad’s dirty magazines under his mattress.

“B-but I d-don’t know who y-you–”

“It’s all right, Joe. Really. We understand you can’t read the agreement.”

Joe’s blood chilled. They knew him all right. Knew that much, at least. He never told anyone, but they knew. He couldn’t go anyplace where he’d have to write his name, or his address. He couldn’t visit libraries and no one ever saw him with a newspaper in his hand. It’s a small town. People talk. Everyone probably knew. Still, an icy hand gripped his heart when the Crisp Man spoke his secret shame.

Joe shuddered and stared at the paper. The jumble of letters and words seemed alien and threatening. He glanced at the Crisp Man with narrowed eyes, and tried to muster all the fight he had into his words.

“And all I have t-to d-do is m-make my m-mark on this paper? And y-you’ll g-g-give m-me m-money?”

The Crisp Man smiled again and his perfect, TV-star teeth shined at Joe. “That’s all. And take the medicine, of course.”

“Right. The m-medicine. W-what’s it f-for again?”

“It’s for many things, Joe. It will make you everything you want to be. Strong. Smart. And it will take away your stutter.”

“All that?”

“And more.”

“J-just for t-taking the m-medicine?”

“And making a mark in your own hand on the paper, yes.”

Joe looked down again. The letters seemed to shift and crawl over the paper. He stared at the gold pen gleaming on the table, reflecting from the glossy varnish, and the paper next to it. Then he focused on his own reflection in the table. His wild hair, his ragged clothes, his scruffy beard, his hollow eyes, all stared back and urged him to pick up the pen, make the mark.

“We know you don’t have a wife, Joe. You lost her years ago in the fire.”

Joe shuddered again when a chill twisted up his spine. He wiped the sweat from his palms onto his dirty overall legs and put them back on the table. How could the Crisp Man know he was about to lie again, say his wife usually does all the reading and signing for him? But he knew. Somehow, the Crisp Man knew. He could read Joe’s mind, maybe. Like some folks read books and magazines, the Crisp Man saw into Joe’s skull and picked his thoughts out. He couldn’t hide anything from the Crisp Man.

Joe licked his lips. His heart pounded. The Crisp Man reached out and nudged the pen toward him with trimmed, clean nails which glinted under the recessed lights above. The room felt hidden to Joe, dark and mysterious beyond the circles of light from above. The warm carpet and rich table didn’t make the room cozy or friendly. Joe felt very alone, very defenseless, and very watched.

“N-nothin’ bad’ll happen to me from the m-medicine you said, right?”

“That’s right, Joe. Nothing bad.”

“And this p-paper s-says y-you gotta p-pay me t-t-to t-take the m-medicine, right?”

“That’s right. More money than you’ve ever made before. Just for making your mark on the agreement and taking the medicine.”

Joe drew a deep breath and seized the pen, found the line at the bottom of the paper and made a large, clear X on it. He dropped the pen and sat back in the embrace of the soft chair and folded his arms over his chest.

“Very good, Joe. You won’t regret this. Now I’ll have someone drive you home and your first pills will arrive later. We’ll call you and let you know when you need to come back for tests. We’ll send a car when it’s time. Do you understand, Joe?”

Joe nodded. He couldn’t speak. He felt bad, like he’d done something wrong.

“Don’t worry, Joe,” the Crisp Man soothed. “We know all about you, and we’re going to take care of you.”

He watched the Crisp Man get up from his seat and vanish through a door he couldn’t see somewhere beyond the ring of lights. Joe thought, no matter what the Crisp Man said, he might’ve made a big mistake.

A big one.

~fin~

All original content © J. Dane Tyler 2010
All rights reserved