Doctor Craig Bo has everything: a perfect wife and children, a thriving dermatology practice, and a house in a lovely coastal town. Nobody is surprised when he is chosen to be the Sea King of Beachside in his hometown’s annual festival.
But after the festival Craig’s world turns upside down. Something starts growing on his skin. His son tells him a story about a sinister mermaid who lives in the attic of the local history museum. And his beautiful wife, Penelope, can no longer hide her dark connection to the sea.
As Craig grapples with his own secrets and misdeeds, he finally understands the woman he married and the plans she has for him.
(review request submitted by the author for an honest critique)
When you think of mermaids, your mind probably first goes to The Little Mermaid; sweet, singing, happy go lucky, under the sea people.
Jan (the author) DID NOT write a Disney tale. Instead, she wrote a story that would make the Grimm Brothers proud.
As a reader, Penelope was throwing up red flags all over the place. Certain phrases in conversations would lead any smart man to run for the hills. Example: Penelope wants him to “worship” only her.
Craig didn’t see or didn’t want to see the warning signs that something was off about his wife. Heck, if he looked hard enough, I bet he could see she had crazy eyes. That’s the problem, he didn’t stop to look. Craig thought with his little head, and Little Craig got him into a particularly sticky situation.
I didn’t feel compassion for Craig. I didn’t care about the outcome of anyone besides Dash.
While I did like the progression of Craig’s inevitable transformation, I wanted more horror, much like we glimpsed in the opening credits.
No doubt, this was an intriguing short story and one worth reading.
Jan Stinchcomb is the author of The Kelping (Unnerving), The Blood Trail (Red Bird Chapbooks) and Find the Girl (Main Street Rag). Her stories have recently appeared in Wigleaf, Hobart and Pithead Chapel. A Pushcart nominee, she is featured in Best Microfiction 2020 and The Best SmallFictions 2018. She lives in Southern California with her family. Visit her at janstinchcomb.com or on Twitter @janstinchcomb.
After a sudden death, Will, a misguided angel, is tasked with protecting a baby girl. Watching over her as she grows up and navigates the world appears a harsh punishment for his past failings. Can he redeem himself, or will he fall further from grace?
(review request submitted by the author for an honest critique)
While alive, Will was a horny devil. He thought with his dick, treated women like shit, and was an asshole. Even his ex-guardian angel proclaimed him an asshole. You’d think he’d end up in hell, but nope, he got angelic wings instead.
Sometimes the best punishment is to watch your sins unfold, see the pain it causes, and keep reliving them until you feel empathy, pain and/or regret.
BTW: If you haven’t listened to “Asshole” by Denis Leary, check it out. It’s the first thing that popped into my mind as I watched Will navigate through his assignment.
Theresa Braun was born in St. Paul, Minnesota and has carried some of that hardiness with her to South Florida where she currently resides with her two fur babies, who are her creative sidekicks. She enjoys delving into creative writing, painting, photography and even bouts of ghost hunting. Traveling is one of her passions—in fact, her latest adventure took her to Romania for a horror writers’ workshop where she followed in the steps of Vlad the Impaler. She writes horror fiction and the occasional romance. Oh, and she likes to guest blog about writing, television shows, movies, and books, mostly in the horror genre.
Lucy is a young girl who loves her Pa, their cow, and the little farmhouse she calls home. She also loves the red bicycle that Harvey gave her as a present. But not all is idyllic, and she struggles to steer clear of the local transient, Joe-Michael.
Gannon and Farrah move to Lucy’s family farm many years after Joe-Michael became Lucy’s father’s farmhand. Together, Gannon and Farrah hear Lucy’s voice for the first time on an audio recorder hidden in the woods near the old family homestead. Even though their lives are separated by decades, they intersect at the pond where the secrets have been submerged by Joe-Michael.
Blurring the lines between time and space, Lucy shares her tale with Gannon and Farrah in an unconventional turn of events.
“Wait, play that again,” said Farah, still wearing the headphones.
Gannon used the touchpad mouse on his laptop to slide the tracker on the editing software to play the recording again. This time he pressed the loop button and then the triangle play button. The two-second recording played repeatedly in a loop cycle. He watched the reaction on his fiancées face.
Farah cupped both hands over the headphones to block out any extraneous noise. Eyes closed, she listened to the recording repeat itself. “Taa daaa! Taa daaa! Taa daaa! Taa daaa! Taa daaa!” She pulled off the headphones and handed them back to Gannon. “She’s saying ‘Taa daaa!’ in a singy song voice. It’s a little girl. Almost like when Payton does a cartwheel and finishes with a ‘Taa daaa!’”
Gannon smiled at her. “This was recorded at 2 a.m. in the middle of the forest away from any of the walking trails.”
Farah shrugged her shoulders and moved off toward the kitchen. “She is saying ‘Taa daaa!’”
Gannon closed his laptop. He moved into the kitchen to help Farah with dinner. Shuffling the chicken around in the frying pan Farah asked, “Wasn’t the recorder near that old farmhouse?”
Gannon nodded his head. “Yeah, it was up the hill from the old Griffith house.”
Farah thought for a moment. “Maybe a little girl used to live there? Maybe she was a slave?”
Gannon pulled the plates out of the cupboard for dinner. He wouldn’t say that Farah was a psychic or medium. However, she did have a sixth sense about things. She just seemed to know things. Since moving into their house a year ago, she had several dreams – if you want to call them dreams, more like visitations from the old woman, Julie, who used to own the house. At first, they weren’t sure if it was Julie, but at the community potluck dinners a couple of the neighbors described Julie. They talked about her mannerisms, the way she dressed, her routine, and Farah and Gannon were able to deduct that who visited Farah at night was Julie. Farah never got the sense that Julie was malicious. But seeing a ghost can be unnerving in its own right.
Gannon had his own experiences; however, they were different. He usually heard movement. Or sensed a presence. Many times, while working from home, he caught himself checking the closets because he swore a physical person was secretly hiding in their house. Never finding anyone, his next logical conclusion was that he was hearing Julie move around the house. Gannon was a trained scientist. Therefore, he errored on the side of skepticism. Gannon would be the first to admit that he had to control himself from automatically jumping to a paranormal explanation. He forced himself to eliminate all other logical possibilities before believing or accepting that a ghost was living in their house.
The one exception was Farah. Gannon wasn’t sure if Farah knew or not; he suspected she knew, but she was his barometer. If Farah suspected paranormal activity, Gannon was one-hundred-percent onboard. He still tried to eliminate all logical possibilities. But in the back of his mind he was doing a happy dance when Farah believed something originated from the paranormal.
“So, you’re saying I picked up the voice of a ghost?” asked Gannon.
“A spirit,” corrected Farah.
Gannon chuckled. “I go out there trying to capture the howl of a Bigfoot and come away with the voice of a spirit.”
Short stories are a challenge to write because brevity is necessary. Mr. Solar weaves an intriguing tale of murder that will keep the reader turning the pages.
While using listening equipment in the woods, Gannon picks up voices which lead him to a dark discovery of a past hidden by time and almost lost to living memory. As he delves further into the events, he sees the source of the sounds. The pleasant vision of a laughing little girl and the scowl of the hired hand leave him chilled and confused.
This tale makes the reader wonder if the horror of some events rend the veil of time, forcing the living to relive and acknowledge the past. Some voices refuse to be silenced.
Ernest Solar has been a writer, storyteller, and explorer of some kind for his entire life. He grew up devouring comic books, novels, any other type of books along with movies, which allowed him to explore a multitude of universes packed with mystery and adventure. A professor at Mount St. Mary’s University in Maryland, he lives with his family in Virginia.
All’s quiet at 318 White Ash Lane—which is good. Billy could use some quiet. He’s got enough trouble paying off his bills, keeping his cat fed and healing the ribs he bruised in a wreck with a Honda.
But maybe this is just a bump in the road. Maybe all he needs is a few weeks to heal up before he gets his life back on track. Fate, though, has another plan for Billy. That plan’s name is Jenny, and she hits a lot harder than a Honda.
“You know,” Jenny remarked, pausing in front of one the pictures hanging on the wall, “even as a kid you didn’t show your teeth when you smiled.”
“I’ve never liked my smile or my teeth,” Billy answered, not bothering to look back at Jenny. “Besides, it distorts your face.”
“Who says that?”
“I can’t remember. Maybe it was the FBI or DMV. Whoever it was, they encouraged people not to smile,” Billy said entering the kitchen. “It was in the paper.”
He hit the light switch next to the door and the bulb hanging from the ceiling crackled as it exploded in a fiery light. A final tinge of red glowed through the clear glass for a second, then blinked out of existence.
“Is there anything in this house that works or isn’t dead?” Jenny asked as she pulled out a chair from underneath the brown card table that sat in the corner.
She flipped it around and straddled it.
“Hey,” Billy snapped, snatching a chair from the other side of the table, “I’ve done the best I can.” He placed the chair beneath the burnt-out bulb and turned to the pantry. He flung the door open and peered inside.
“You know,” Jenny said, leaning the chair forward on its back legs, “when you’re angry, there’s this vein on your forehead that sorta bulges and pulses. It makes you look like a villain from a comic book, but of course not nearly as menacing.”
Billy turned his head slowly, mechanically, like an animatronic dummy, and glared. In the faint light, his eyes were completely dilated and the edges of his blue irises seemed nonexistent.
“You’re such a smart-ass,” Billy muttered.
“I know,” she replied with a smile, “that’s what your dad always told me.”
The legs of her chair wavered above the tan linoleum floor as she rocked back and forth. Her arms were propped up on the metal backing and her hands rested beneath her chin. She was framed in a moment of innocence, like all those kids you see posing for some excessively happy, underpaid mall associate—except there was no holiday propaganda strategically hung behind her. Instead, there was just a dirty window and a stream of stale sunlight.
“My dad was right,” Billy said. His gaze dropped to the floor, but he quickly regained eye contact. “He was right about a lot of things. Especially about you.”
Gabrielle Olexa was born and raised in the land of the Atlanta Braves but now lives in Charlotte, NC with her perfect husband, Phil, and their son, Ash. Meili, the most expensive and primitive Shiba Inu in the known universe, that they adopted while they lived in Shanghai, China, lives with them, too.
A normal day in the Deep South turns into a nightmare, as Chantal discovers that beauty and terror trace the fault lines between life and death. She fights to understand why a good woman, her friend Aida is stricken with a debilitating illness that steals her mind and reason. When Aida’s terrifying visions are revealed, what price does it have when it’s shared with Chantal?
Take a walk on the dark side, where existence is fragile and knowledge of the after-life can cross over and become frighteningly real and physically dangerous to anyone who knows the truth. Make it a summer to remember with a fantastic new story from Black Calyx Books!
(review request submitted by the author for an honest critique)
Dementia is a scary illness. It weakens the mind and body. People with the affliction are aware their time is limited, and there’s no cure. Loss of motor function, loss of memory, and hallucinations are just a few symptoms a person faces with this terrible illness. Again, it’s a sad and frightening illness.
Bibiana wrote about the fears and heartache of having Dementia from a sufferer’s point of view and a friend’s as well.
She focused a lot of time on hallucinations. Were the three people Aida saw real or the result of her disease? To avoid spoilers, I won’t say either way.
I will say this…
When you sense evil or death breathing down your neck, real or imaginary, it’s a real mind F—K. You can’t help but live in constant fear. And fear, as we discover, is like food for vile creatures.
After I finished this short story, I read the “Afterword.” In my opinion, I think Bibiana Krall should’ve put the “Author’s Note” before the actual story. Knowing this story was loosely based on real-life events increased my score. Before the “Afterword,” Troika was a solid three stars. After I read the “Author’s Note,” my score jumped a point.
Also, before the story began, Bibiana had an “Epilogue.” An epilogue goes at the end of a story.
Other than those two things, I wouldn’t have changed anything else. It was a quick, to the point, read and had just the right amount of spookiness to keep me engaged. No gore, only a story that embraced the word FEAR.
Bibiana Krall is the author of seventeen titles on Amazon, a former international travel expert and luxury insider, she has lived the adventurous life she writes about. Her novels and short stories highlight kickass, female protagonists in character driven stories that utilize social narratives.
Winner of a ‘Pay It Forward Scholarship’ from Wilkes University CW, Bibiana Krall has been called a, “Lyrical maven and literary wordsmith.” @Goodreads Learn more about Bibiana’s books, watch cinematic book trailers.