Available from Amazon in paperback or kindle
Black Mustard. Another horror of World War I, victims of the gas didn't die but instead became walking, rotting corpses. Years after the end of the war and Jake and other reanimates still struggle with this terrible curse. Every day is a trial. And then, someone goes and steals his eye when he's napping...
Available from Amazon in paperback or kindle
Somehow this one snuck past me. Doctor Brown and the Cult of Death!!! appeared in Dark Moon Digest #17 in April. This time, our calm collected Doctor has to deal with a group of wannabe Cthulhu worshipers with an eye on his teenage daughter. The magazine is available from Amazon.
This is the second time Doctor Brown has appeared in Dark Moon Digest and he's also made a guest appearance on this blog, so check him out.
The Dragon's Hoard has come out and my story, Life with Smokey is in the anthology. You can get it for Kindle off Amazon. I have to admit, I have always wanted to have a book with a cover that looked like this. It's pretty awesome.
I wrote the first draft of this story on a plane. I've been informed that I'm no fun to travel with.
"I'm just saying, it doesn't make any sense," I say. "I mean, I know the whole concept about lift keeping the airplane aloft but, I mean, really? A 450 ton airplane is held up by air?"
The middle aged woman to my right studiously looks out the plane window and refuses to acknowledge my point. The man on the aisle appears to be in a deep sleep, although I swear I saw him peek out at me from beneath his eyelids.
I hate the middle seat. If the plane crashes it's the worst seat to be in. The passenger in the aisle seat can easily reach the exit and the person next to the window can smash the glass and escape. But the middle seat? You're buzzard food.
"Look, tell me I'm wrong and I'll be quiet the rest of the trip. I promise."
This catches the woman's attention and the man suddenly stirs from his slumber.
"I mean, do you both really, really believe that the plane doesn't crash because of the air under its wings?" I ask, half hoping that they will indeed offer a rationale argument.
The man opens his mouth, then closes it. The woman's forehead wrinkles.
There is a bump and a shake, and the plane drops like a stone. It's like we're on a roller coaster. The woman and the man both scream. I would too except I'm biting my lip too hard to utter a peep.
The plane catches itself and the captain's voice comes over the intercom. "Sorry about that folks. Hit a bit of chop but we're okay now. We're going to see if we can't find some smoother air, but in the meantime, we're turning on the fasten seat belts sign." There is a soft ding and the picture of the two hands bringing together a seat belt's hook and clasp is illuminated.
"Looks like the law of gravity is catching up with us. Did he sound worried to anyone else?" I ask. There is another round of bouncing.
I feel a tap on my shoulder.
A large, burly man with a crooked nose and a scar on his chin leans forward and says, "Sir, would you come with me?"
I have no intention of going anywhere with this Luca Brasi clone. "Sorry, seat belts. Gotta stay put." I tap the sign to emphasize my point.
The man flips open a leather badge. "Sir, I'm an Air Marshall. Please don't make a fuss."
I climb over the aisle seat man, who seems a little too relieved at my departure.
Another round of turbulence has the whole cabin screaming. No one notices the Air Marshall marching me to the rear of the plane.
The marshall opens a door behind the kitchenette and pushes me into a room barely large enough for the two of us.
"What is this?" I ask.
"A holding pen for disruptive passengers," he shoves me into a chair. " Are you trying to get us killed?
"What do you mean?"
"What do you think keeps this airplane flying?"
"Funny, I was just having this conversation. It's lift right? The air under the wings exerts an upward force greater than the air passing over the top of the wing, because, ummm, I forget actually."
"Don't be ridiculous. The only thing that keeps us aloft is suspension of disbelief. The minute people stop believing that the plane can stay up, we plummet 30,000 feet to die in a fiery crater. Oh, we can survive the occasional doubter like yourself, but when you start yammering on about logic and gravity, well, people around you start asking questions. That's when the turbulence begins. And the more turbulence, the more questions, until the next thing you know..."
"Splattered in a crater."
"Now you're catching on."
"But people must know the truth. The pilots..."
"Are the strongest believers of them all. You stay away from the pilots," the marshall replies.
"What happens now?" I ask.
"You're going to spend the duration of this flight with me. When we land, I can either add you to the No Fly list or you can start making yourself believe."
"No it's not. I myself realize it is completely ludicrous that a steel tube remains suspended above the earth, yet I choose to believe it's possible."
"Look, do you believe the sun sets because the Earth rotates on its axis?"
"Same thing," said the Marshall.
It takes a moment for his words to sink in. "Are you saying..."
"Shhhh," the Marshall places a finger over his lips. "One existential crisis at a time."
I lean back against the wall of the plane, close my eyes, and will myself to believe. After all, there are plenty of things I believe in that I have never seen. Like, Antarctica. Or Bigfoot. Or aliens. So, if those are real, doesn't it make perfect sense for a plane to fly, regardless of the reason?
Slowly the turbulence calms.
"Good, that's good," says the Marshall.
The Captain's voice comes over the loudspeaker. "Looks like we're evening out folks. You can all sit back and enjoy the rest of the trip."
"See, that wasn't so hard, was it?" asks the Marshall.
I have to admit, it wasn't. I'm in a huge vehicle that weighs the equivalent of 450 elephants, so what? Every minute of every day one of these is traveling somewhere in the world. And the vast majority stay in the sky. Why shouldn't mine?
Still, the whole sun set thing is a bit troublesome...
THE END copyright 2015 John Lance
You never know who's in earshot.
"Oh no," groaned Marvin, "This is the same muzak they play on the conference calls." He looked accusingly up at the speaker in the ceiling of the elevator.
"Oh my goodness, you're right," his coworker Carol said as she flipped her black bangs out of her eyes. "Did you know it actually has a title? Durango's Waltz or something like that."
"More like Durango's Revenge," Marvin replied.
"And I thought this was supposed to be an upscale hotel," Carol rolled her eyes.
"It's not too late to check out and find a hotel with better choice in music," Marvin joked, nodding at the carry on luggage they each had beside them.
"We only have three more floors to go. Be strong, we can make it," Carol pretended to grit her teeth and clench her fists.
Marvin laughed. "I don't know, this kind of makes me want to slit my wrist."
"Really? This is my favorite part. The corny climax," Carol began humming.
After a moment, Marvin joined in.
"Da da duuuuuuum!!!!" They sang at the top of their lungs as the doors opened.
Suddenly, they both became aware of the other two passengers on the elevator, a gray haired hotel maid and an elderly gentleman in a white suit with a bushy white beard.
"Long flight," Marvin said by way of explanation as he and Carol exited.
The doors closed. After a quiet moment, the maid said in an embarrassed tone, "I'm sorry about that Mister Durango."
"Oh, never you mind Hazel. They greatest compliment a composer can be paid is for the public to know his work by heart. Besides, that little ditty payed for my penthouse. Could you hit the top floor button for me?"
THE END copyright 2015 John Lance
Passwords are the bane of my existance.
"I tell you, I can't remember it," Gregory Hopteck wailed as he looked around the gray cement bunker. He was sitting at a steel, cold war table, his laptop open in front of him. A single, dim bulb dangled overhead, casting just enough light to generate forbidding shadows around the edge of the room.
"Don't lie. Type," the man in the black ski mask growled, the barrel of his pistol pointed at Gregory's sweat soaked forehead.
Gregory stared at computer screen. A single field on a page of blue demanding "Enter Password."
Below the field was a message. 3 of 5 tries attempted.
Gregory licked his lips. He had been on many international business trips. He had plenty of coworkers travel on international business trips. No one had ever been kidnapped. And certainly not in Ottowa.
"I don't understand. There's nothing on this computer other than a sales pitch for our latest chip. I don't have technical specifications or anything. I'm a salesman," Gregory pleaded.
The kidnapper's cold blue eyes glared at him.
Taking a deep breath, Gregory cautiously tapped on the keyboard.
Ding! The computer politely informed him he had failed again, though to Gregory it sounded more like the big red X they use on Family Feud.
4 of 5 tries attempted
Gregory licked his lips. "I just had to change it last Friday. Then there was the long weekend and the flight, and then you hit me with that pipe. I can't remember..."
"Stop whining or it'll be the pipe again."
Beads of sweat dripped from Gregory's forehead and splashed on the keyboard. He had tried his wife's name, his dog's name, his mother's maiden name, his favorite sports team. What could it be? What had he been thinking?
Suddenly, like a sunbeam breaking through an cloudy winter sky, the answer came to him. His favorite band from junior high.
He carefully typed M-e-t-a-l-l-i-c-a.
"But, that was it! I know that was it!" cried Gregory. That was when he spotted the incriminating light. "What the, caplocks was on! Oh no!"
5 of 5 tries attempted. Per corporate policy, your drive will be disabled.
He heard a high pitched whine as the hard drive began to spin faster and faster. In seconds it was screaming. Smoke billowed out of the ports and then there was a terrible crunch.
The masked man placed the barrel of his gun against Gregory's forehead.
"But it's not my fault. Caplocks..." Gregory whispered.
The last thing he saw was that damning light winking out.
THE END copyright 2015 John Lance
My short story Leave the Dead Lie will appear in First Contact Cafe available on Feb 1st. This is a first for me in that the anthology is a "shared world," which means that all the stories take place in the same location and there are certain key characters that carry over from one story to another. In this case, it's a space station where races come to meet other races/experience first contact/hobnob. Personally, I enjoyed this because it was an opportunity to invent two alien races. Oh, and use zombies as well (I mean, after all, what is a space station without zombies?)
You can pick up a copy for your Kindle from Amazon.
We had huge flocks of turkeys around our neighborhood all through October. Interestingly enough, they made themselves scarce come November. Must be something in the air.
Turkeys continue to terrorize Rosewood residences. This morning an elderly couple reported a flock descending on their yard and pecking the husband, Mr. Jack Long, into unconsciousness. Mrs. Sarah Long called the police, but by the time they arrived the gang of birds had moved on. Police continue to scour neighborhoods near Long Pond, but heavy woods hamper the, so far unsuccessful, search. More news as it breaks.
Phineas McGirk felt sick to his stomach as he swiped the browser on his phone shut. He had been checking the Rosewood Independent's website religiously since Saturday. At first, there had been nothing out of the ordinary. A couple of articles about the High School's Thanksgiving football game, some recipes, the usual preholiday fluff.
Then on, Monday, everything changed. A man was assaulted by turkeys in his backyard while raking leaves. A woman was trapped in her minivan in her driveway for twenty terrifying minutes as the turkeys battered at the windows, trying to get in. On and on the reports went, each more terrifying than the last.
The authorities were helpless. Bernie Sinclair, Rosewood's Animal Control Officer and big-game hunting enthusiast, had gone missing on Tuesday after entering the woods alone with his shotgun.
Bernie's final words were, "It's them or me."
Everyone assumed the worst.
Phineas couldn't help feeling guilty even thought the real culprit was sitting behind the counter of his store Pets, Pets, Pets wearing a bored expression as she typed on her phone.
"Did you see that there was another attack?" Phineas asked.
Geraldine looked up at him, her black lipstick and pink hair flying the flag of teen apathy. "Why are you so fixated on turkeys?"
"Why? Why? Because we..." Phineas realized he was shouting and dropped his voice. Not that it mattered. As usual, Pets, Pets, Pets was empty except for him, Geraldine, and the animals.
"Because they're our turkeys," he whispered. "Actually, they're your turkeys."
Geraldine didn't even blink. "You were the one who said to be creative."
It was true. Geraldine was Phineas's only employee, and he had wanted to get her more engaged. So he had given her a budget and told her to "do something creative."
Phineas never regretted three words so much in his whole life.
"What I don't understand is, why turkeys?"
Geraldine shrugged. "People buy chickens for Easter."
"They buy chicks, because they're cute. Who wants to buy a full grown wild turkey at Thanksgiving?"
"Everyone buys a turkey."
"Not ones they have to slaughter themselves. And not from a pet store. Pet stores are where you come to buy something furry that loves you. Like a Guinea Pig or cat or a ferret. And I emphasize ferret there, not weasels, which is what we seem to have in stock. Twelve, I might add."
Geraldine's face remained expressionless.
Phineas sighed. "I just wish I knew how those turkeys got out of their pen on Saturday. I swear I locked the gate."
The bell on the door tinkled and an old man with a huge bandage on his forehead tottered in.
"Pardon me, do you sell weasels?"
Phineas stared at the man so long that the old man repeated his question.
"You said weasels, not ferret, right?" Phineas said.
"And you know there is a difference between them?" Sometimes people said weasels when they meant ferret.
"Yes, I want weasels. Do you sell them?"
"Umm, yes, as it so happens we do," Phineas replied, a little confused.
"Great, I'll take two. The biggest, meanest ones you have." The old man took out his cell phone and placed a call. "Hey Joe, yea it's me, I found a place that sells them downtown. I don't know, some little hole-in-the-wall called Pets, Pets, something. What? Sure, I'll bring 'em by on my way home." He hung up.
"Make that four."
"Four? You want four weasels?" Phineas was flabbergasted.
"Son, I don't have a lot of time. Do you mind closing your mouth and getting me the animals?"
"Oh, sure, and, you said you want them large and, er, mean?"
"The nastiest sumbitches you've got."
"Oh, okay. I also have cages and food,. Those are for ferrets but they should work fine for weasels. We also have toys..."
"No food, no cages. These boys are going to be free range and eat just fine."
Phineas frowned. "I don't understand."
"Weasels are the natural predators of turkeys. My daughter spotted it on the Facebook. And, in case you haven't heard, we've got a hell of a turkey problem and those bastards deserve what they're going to get," the man pointed at his bandaged head. "Now, you going to sell me the weasels or not?"
Phineas boxed up the weasels, getting bitten five times in the process, and charged the man's credit card. Each weasel cost twice the price of a turkey.
As he was leaving, the old man said, "I'm going to tell everyone I know that you have these guys. You're a life saver."
As the door closed behind the old man, Phineas turned to Geraldine. She was typing away on her phone.
"You posting on Facebook?"
After a moment of silence, Phineas said, "I wonder what eats weasels?"
Without looking up, Geraldine said, "Foxes. We're getting a shipment of eight on Friday."
"Huh." Phineas thought for a moment, then said, "I suppose a raise is in order."
Geraldine finally smiled. But only for a second.
THE END copryright 2014 John Lance
My short story, Back From the Dead appears on the webzine Stupefying Stories here. You can check it out for free and also read a bunch of stories from other authors.
Here's the opening paragraph:
The hunchback reminded Cassius of his first servant, Grimly. The gorilla-like-arms, heavy brow, and dull eyes; it was as if Grimly had returned from the Abyss.
Read the rest
A Halloween story.
When I open my eyes it's pitch black. Not nighttime "pitch black," where there is the hint of moonlight or a far off firefly or faint headlights on a lonely road. No, this is two-hundred-feet-below-the-surface-in-a-coal-mine/did-I-really-open-my-eyes black.
I feel like I've slept for a long time, yet I don't feel the least bit rested. As if I've had a fever that finally broke.
Still, it's dark and I feel tired, so it must be the middle of the night.
Why then is it so quiet?
I don't hear Kate's breathing, or the dreamy murmuring of my daughters from their room down the hall. Even the thunderous, congested snores of Moose, our German Shepherd who sleeps at the foot of our bed, are strangely absent.
No air conditioner hum.
I sit up in alarm and smash my face against something hard.
"Jesus!" I reach up instinctively to clasp my crushed nose but my hands strike something, bruising my knuckles. "Damn it!" Those will ache for a while.
My face is wet, and I taste blood on my lips.
I run my hands up along my torso to my face and gingerly touch my already swelling lips and aching nose. I've never had a broken nose, or any broken bones for that matter, so I have no point of comparison, but based on the new crook in the bridge of my nose I'm pretty certain that streak is over.
"Kate? Honey?" The barrier in front of me throws the word back in my face with a harsh, echoing note of desperation I don't recognize.
"Jenny? Margaret?" I yell my daughters' names, though what eight and ten year old girls can do to help me I have no idea.
I run my palms across the barrier in front of me. It is cool and hard and feels like wood. Or stone. Maybe cement. But definitely not metal. I don't know if that is good or bad.
I press against the barrier, like I'm trying to perform a bench press at the gym I pretended to attend last year before letting the membership lapse. There isn't even the slightest movement.
I cannot bend my knees without striking the barrier and kicking my feet just sends a resounding thud reverberating around the container. Or box, really. Moving my legs to the side I discern that the base is narrower than where my shoulders rest.
It seems to be getting hotter, and though I am wearing shorts and a t-shirt, clothes I do not remember putting on, I find myself sweating and gulping air.
Because there is only one type of box I can think of that is made out of wood and is narrower at the foot than the shoulder.
But that doesn't explain the running shorts. Hell, I don't run anywhere.
"Is this a joke?" I ask out loud, so that whoever is observing knows I've caught on.
"Very funny, Kate," I say, even though such a prank would be so far out of character I can't imagine the circumstances under which she would conceive it.
"Is this a reality show?" I ask. "If it is, you have ten seconds to open this thing before I sue your asses!"
I dredge up old friends and college buddies. "Bobby?" I don't even know if Bob is still alive. I can't remember his last name.
"Jack?" My brother. The only person less likely than Kate to pull a stunt like this.
"This isn't funny anymore. Let me out!"
I slam my fists halfheartedly against the lid. Then again, harder. And again. And again.
Someone is screaming so loud it hurts my ears and of course it is me and somewhere in the reptile part of my brain I know this and I will be quiet as soon as I can but first I have to stop my fists because I felt something crack but worse, the real reason I need everything to stop is the smell.
I smell, dirt.
Wet, muddy, dirt. The odor that greets me when I dig up night crawlers in the backyard to take fishing.
I stop pounding my fists. And I stop screaming.
There are tears on my cheeks. I haven't cried since watching Dumbo on Netflix with my girls. That scene with the momma elephant in the jail car means I have to excuse myself because I "have something in my eye."
The last thing I remember is going to bed. I had an early call with China.
This doesn't make any sense. People do not get trapped in boxes and (dare I think it) buried alive.
Not in the real world. A freaky slasher film yes. A crime drama with an alcoholic detective pursuing a deranged, chameleon like psychopath, sure.
And even then there would be a note. An explanation. A rationale.
Because no one dies alone in a box without knowing why.
What sort of world would that be?
THE END copyright 2014 John Lance
I like to write. Sometimes what I write gets published.