It came with a ping that set my heart to giddy bouncing – a text message. From him. My fingers fumbled to push ‘read,’ but I hesitated. For an eternity of minutes, I pondered what he might have written, simultaneously imagining in this new beginning a lifetime – and an abrupt end.
With a shake of my head, I pushed aside foolishness. “A coward dies a thousand deaths.” I would be brave. Brazen even, perhaps?
Create a fresco homage to a beauty I no longer felt from the wet plaster of my being.
Hide and Seek (99 crazy words that may grow into a much longer story)
June crab-walked under the manicured forsythia bushes surrounding the wrap-around porch, holding her white party dress in an unwieldy bunch before her belly. Sweat straightened her curls and trickled saline into her eyes. Somewhere along here, a tiny door led to a slide she could take into the basement if need be. Of course, then her dress would definitely be ruined, since it used to be the coal cellar, and much of the soot lingered even all these years later – sort of how the “crazy” stuck around her bloodline no matter how hard her relatives tried to dilute it.
Review: The Dark Sire Magazine edited by Bre Stephens
The Dark Sire is a quarterly online and print magazine for short fiction, poetry, and art in the darker fantasy, horror, Gothic, psychological, and magical realism genres. As the title indicates, it is not opposed to vampire stories, which many publications shy away from these days.
The first issue debuted on Halloween, 2019 and featured 4 short stories, 6 poems, 2 works of art, and 2 novel serializations. My favorite of the short stories was “Grave” by W. C. Mallery, which was a Gothic tale inspired by the actor Christopher Lee. It provided a nice introduction to The Dark Sire’s aesthetic. I must say Gina Easton’s grisly “Tainted Love” stays with me, though, in a shudder-filled way. My favorite part of this issue, though, is Sarah Brown Wetzman’s introspective and beautiful poem, “Vampyre.” She uses lyrical insight to plumb the depths of the vampiric condition.
Of course, after reading such an intriguing first issue, I was compelled to read the second edition released in January, 2020. At 91 pages, The Dark Sire’s Winter issue featured 5 short stories, 4 poems, 3 pieces of art, and 2 book serializations from authors and artists in the US, UK, and Finland.
Kettering Hall by John Kiste is a humorous Gothic short story with hints at a rich back story and invites further installments. Carl Hughes’ The Mask features graphic justice. My favorite story was Amanda Crum’s allusive “A Metamorphosis.” Also included are author David Crerand and artist Paula Korkiamiki.
Poets published in this issue include Bartholomew Barker, Ethan McGuire, and Clay Hunt, with my favorite of this issue, C. Christine Fair with “A Brother’s Revenge.”
Brenda Stephens and S.M. Cook’s serialized novels conclude The Dark Sire for the quarter, leaving readers hungry for Spring and the newest edition.
To subscribe to the online publication or submit stories, poetry, or artwork that follows the darker vein, go to DarkSireMag.com or darksire.weebly.com or if you prefer physical copies to collect, they are for sale at the website or on Amazon.
Charli Mills and the Rough Writers are at it again, issuing the challenge to write a concise piece of writing using 99 words and a prompt. This week’s prompt: Clarice. Any Clarice. Real or fictional. I forewent Hannibal’s friend and instead went with an American Vaudeville and silver screen actress. I hope you’ll enjoy the story, and I do hope you’ll try your hand at a 99 word piece of writing. If you do, please let me know so I can cheer you on!
Clarice Vance in Court
written by Kerry E.B. Black in 99 words in answer to the weekly challenge put forth by friends at https://carrotranch.com
Miss Kingston represented Mendel Kingston during the court case.
At over six feet, Clarice Vance commanded the courtroom. Her rich voice reverberated. “Your Honor, Mendel Kingston’s cloak material is a blatant copy of my famed dress’s material.” Clarice spun slowly. Mirrored material accented her waspish waist and full, jeweled bodice.
Miss Kingston objected. “My father invented that material over forty years ago. Back then, ‘flirtation numbers’ used hand mirrors to reflect the spotlight, so Papa designed the material to imitate that.”
Clarice smiled. “In 1870?”
Miss Kingston smirked. “Yes.”
“Well, the first spotlights were Jablachkoff Candles. Used in Paris. In the early 1880’s.”
Book Review: Pretty Marys All in a Row by Gwendolyn Kiste
This charming novella, Pretty Marys All in a Row by Gwendolyn Kiste, leaves me with a warm smile. This clever, creepy story has a lot of heart.
The Marys of urban legends and nursery tales form a sort of family that stands together against an approaching darkness that threatens to consume them.
The main character, Rhea or “Resurrection Mary,” haunts a stretch of highway. She collects the “fear energy” expelled by those she frightens when they offer her a ride and she disappears or transforms into something frightening. This “fear energy” is combined with what her sisters have collected, and the Marys feast in their dawn to dusk spirit home.
Five Marys in one house, each with her own personality, require their own nick names. Five Marys who collect fear energy from the living in her own way. There’s Mistress Mary who’s Quite Contrary whose flowers are deadly. There’s Bloody Mary who appears in a mirror when called upon. There’s sweet “Miss Mary Mack” who apparently is dressed in black with silver buttons down the back because she’s preparing for her eventual funeral. And not to be forgotten is the liquor-loving, horse-skull carrying Mari Lwyd (In Welsh folklore, this hobby horse is brought out to celebrate at Christmas).
Although time works differently in the land of the dead, several of the Marys form friendships with the living. These folks can be counted on to call upon their Marys, because who doesn’t want a little scare now and then? However, when the darkness takes substance, the Marys must unravel the mystery of their origins to save themselves from perpetual, tear-filled sleep.
This story harkens to the Gothic joy of “The Addams Family.” It channels Tim Burton’s darkly nostalgic sweetness. And yet it is all and beautifully Gwendolyn Kiste.
The stories below are the result of their weekly prompts. They’re not great stories, but they force me to think in creative ways due to the restrictions set by the rules. It’s really fun. So if you enjoy playing with words, give it a go! (They’re nice people, honestly!)
Written by Kerry E.B. Black
Carol and Ben had been best friends since the third grade, and as they graduated from college, they decided to take a cross country trip. “It’s our last chance to be kids,” she explained. “We’ll drive all the way across America and see all the little, overlooked places.”
He packed before she’d finished the sentence, and their epic adventure began. They spent a year and a day exploring, but in the end, to their great surprise, they realized an unspoken truth. “I love you, Carol,” Ben whispered, and she replied with a squeal, “I love you, too!”
Hutch of Treasures
Written by Kerry E.B. Black
Grandma asked my cousins and me, “What inside this hutch is my dearest possession?” She creaked as she settled into an armchair to watch our debate.
My eldest cousin took the lead. “The goblets. They’re gold, aren’t they?”
Grandma inclined her head. “Indeed, but they aren’t my treasure.”
Each chose something. Crystal, silver, china, linens. I noticed a stack of ribbon-bound letters in the top right drawer. When my turn came, I pointed to them. “Are these from Grandpa?”
In autumn, https://carrotranch.com/ hosted a writing rodeo, and I’m overjoyed that one of my 99 word stories WON a category! The participants produced some fabulous works, and as always, I’ve enjoyed reading them and am honored to display my work with theirs.
Below is my winning entry.
Written by Kerry E.B. Black
Benny stroked his wife’s brow. She hugged a teddy bear he’d given her when they were children. Benny knew even as a kindergartener he’d love her always.
They’d been married five years before the sickness.
“I’m dying.” She nestled closer.
He kissed her sunken cheek. “Not really.”
When she passed, his emotions bled into words. Benny wrote a stirring obituary and composed poetry in her honor. He poured adoration into books in which she was the hero, a beloved literary legend.
As Benny faced his mortality, a biographer asked his inspiration. Benny hugged a teddy bear to his chest.