• Genre: Psychological thriller, suspense
  • Content Warning: Themes of violence and torture, foul language, and ambiguous ending ahead
  • Disclaimer: This is a complete work of fiction and in no way represents how hypnosis actually works.

I grabbed my keys and waved goodbye to my best friend.  “Don’t wait up,” I winked.

“The Grim Reaper again?  You’ve been seeing a lot of him lately.”

My bestie and roommate, Lexie, had resorted to calling the guy I’ve been seeing of late “The Grim Reaper” based on his love for all things dark and twisted.  If Halloween were a person, my boyfriend would be an accurate representation of it.  He’s actually famous for running the nation’s most extreme haunted house.

“His name is Dane.”

“Yeah whatever,” she replied.  He’s rich and hot.  Like, ‘gentlemanly hot’ if you know what I mean.  Those guys are the ones you have to watch out for.  They got a lot of kink on lockdown, but once that tie comes off it usually ends up around your throat.”

“One could hope.” I closed the front door behind me and drove to where I was meeting Dane. 

Tonight’s date was a nighttime hike through the local woods, allegedly haunted by the ghost of a woman named Diana.  The sun had set, and the sky was growing increasingly dark as I passed the empty guard shack at the entrance to the park.  It appeared I was the only one there as I navigated the winding road that ended in the parking lot. Dense trees lined the way, a thick canopy of leaves closing out whatever trace of light still hung on from the day.  Finally, my headlights illuminated Dane’s Corvette parked in the corner of the lot, just off the trail.

Dane was casually leaning against his car.  Gentlemanly indeed, I thought to myself.  He was usually dressed in a suit and tie but appeared to have “dressed down” for our hike. He stood tall and solid in a pressed, black button-down shirt untucked from black jeans.  His sleeves were rolled up exposing muscular forearms.  Every strand of his dark hair seemed to be in place, and his perfectly straight, white teeth flashed behind perfectly shaped lips. Dane may have been the crispest, cleanest, sexiest person I’ve ever known.  He exuded power, authority, and control at all times.

“Sara, you look amazing,” he said, taking me into his arms. His subtle, masculine scent intoxicated me. His fingers tangled into my long, deep-purple hair, and his lips found mine.  We stood there kissing at the edge of a haunted forest, under the moon, for what felt like forever.  I was lost in bliss. 

I reluctantly pulled away, slipping my arms into a long, dark grey sweater, closing it over my black tank top.  With my form-fitting black pants, we were almost matching.  Like all-black was some sort of unofficial uniform for ghost hunting or something.

Dane switched on his flashlight.  The tiny strip of light illuminated our dirt path while the shadows closed in around us.  I followed Dane into the tree line, feeling completely safe and at ease with him near me.  Mostly because we had already agreed that if a ghost or demon did happen to appear, I would hand him over as a sacrifice and run like hell.  Honestly though, in all of my macabre adventures, I’ve never actually seen a ghost or a demon.  I was more afraid of running into a rabid raccoon than Diana of the Dunes.

Leaves crunched beneath our feet as we went deeper into the woods.  I expected to hear crickets or racoons moving around, but the world was deathly still.  I thought I saw something move out of the corner of my eyes.  My adrenaline was pumping, and I wasn’t sure if there was truly danger laying ahead, or if I was just working myself up.  Probably the latter, I was known for being a little dramatic at times.  Either way, I couldn’t shake the feeling that something was about to go down.

Dane grabbed me unexpectedly, throwing me up against the tree.  His lips found mine in the darkness. My senses reeled at the excitement of the moment, and my hands tangled into his hair.  His muscular fingers slid up my neck and tightened around my throat, squeezing ever so slightly.

“Is this okay?” his gruff, low voice whispered next to my ear.

I figured it was since I had goosebumps over every inch of my skin and my insides were tingling with anticipation. 

He pressed his hard body into mine and grabbed a handful of my hair, roughly pulling my head back exposing my neck, alternating between licks and bites.  I tried to slide my hands around his waist, but he grabbed both my wrists and pinned them against the tree over my head.

That night we didn’t find any ghosts.  But right there, in the middle of the woods, I had the wildest, most animalistic sex I’ve ever known in my life.


            “I can’t believe you’re still seeing that psychopath,” Lexie had said, looking up from the book she was reading.

“He’s not psycho.”  I didn’t understand her aversion to him, she hadn’t even met him.  Lexie actually thought that was odd, but Dane was just a busy guy, and at this time of year his haunted house kept him busy.  He was in high demand, doing at least two shows a week.  That’s what he called them.

People from all over the world would apply for a shot to make it through his extreme haunted house.  No one ever had ever succeeded, though.  It was just too intense.

“He just seems a little off,” Lexie pushed. “I don’t know how you can’t see it.  I mean, who runs a torture chamber for fun?”

“It’s not a torture chamber, it’s an extreme haunted house, and it’s wildly popular.  Dane told me I could give it a try if I wanted to,” I had told my friend.

“You’re insane,” she had replied.

Which I figure must be pretty accurate.  How else could I explain that I was out in the middle of nowhere, sipping wine in Dane’s living room, preparing to try my hand at a haunted house so extreme I had to sign a fifty-page waver?

The things I had just signed over permission for this man to do to me was unlike anything I’d ever given permission for in my life.  Shaving my head, pulling out my teeth, ripping out my nails, and injecting me with a needle?  Dane assured me it was all just bluster, adding to the psychological aspect of the show.  Everything was recorded and livestreamed, with people all over the world betting on when each contestant would tap out.  It had to be on the up-and-up or this man would be in jail, right?  Plus, he was my boyfriend.  Of course I trusted him.

Dane returned to the living room, rolling up his sleeves.  The muscles in his forearms flexed, and I had a vivid flashback of him pinning me down by the throat as he had me in ways I’d never been had before.

My life had been so boring these last few years.  So vanilla.  And Dane was the pop of wild flavor I needed.

“All finished signing?” he asked, taking the wavers from me.

“Yep.  I’m all yours.  Do with me what you will,” I teased.

“Oh, I plan to,” he said with a slightly devilish tone in his voice.  He gently grabbed my throat and devoured my lips slowly and sensuously.

“So when do we start?” I asked as soon as he let me have my mouth back.


I finished my drink and attempted to find the bathroom.  I’d been here once before, but the glass of wine hit me hard for some reason.  I was a little disoriented and stumbled into Dane’s office instead.

I struggled to focus through the haze.  This couldn’t be right.  There were several large monitors hanging around the room.  On each screen was a person in various forms of torture.  There was no sound that I could hear, but a girl on one screen had her bloody mouth open in a silent scream as a masked man pulled her teeth out one by one.

My eyes slid to the next screen where a woman was being dragged by the hair and repeatedly kicked in the ribs as she cried out for help.

On the next screen was an empty room.  It appeared dark and moldy.  The camera focused on a rusty tub filled with brown, murky water. I could only imagine what went on in that room.

“Sara, this isn’t the bathroom,” Dane chided in a calm tone.  He was leaning against the door frame with his arms crossed casually, as though the disturbing images weren’t playing out right there in the room.

“What is this?” I asked.  But I already knew.  This was the livestream of his show.  The show I just signed up to be on. “I want out.”

“Already?”  He sounded disappointed.



“What do you mean ‘No’?” I asked, my words slurring way too much for someone who only had one glass of wine.

“Sara,” Dane advanced closer, sounding ominous, “I thought you trusted me.  I already have bets on when you’ll tap out.  I can’t disappoint my customers; they’ll take their money elsewhere and I have bills to pay.”

I glanced to the monitor with the girl getting her teeth ripped out.  She seemingly passed out, as she hung limply from the chains that bound her wrists, blood slowly stringing out of her mouth and onto the ground.

The other girl was getting roughed up by some masked men.  They were smacking her around and ripping her mouth open with violent fishhooks.

“Well I’m tapping out now,” I tried to say, but my words weren’t coming out right. “I’m out.” I tried again.

“Remember, Sara, everything you see here is just an illusion I’ve created to test the limits of your mind.  You can do this.”

I could barely focus but was vaguely aware of Dane speaking to me.  He touched my forehead, and then slid his hand down my shoulder.  My body went limp, and everything went dark.  I felt my hands being tied behind my back and a sense of being dragged out of the monitor room.

I must’ve blacked out because my surroundings came into focus, and I most certainly was not in the room I thought I was in.  It smelled musty and stagnant, as though real, clean oxygen hadn’t found this room in decades.  I was on the cold, damp floor, propped up against the tub I had seen on the monitor.  A masked man emerged from the shadows.

“Dane?” I asked, my stomach turning.  I was done with this game already.

The masked man approached me and grabbed me roughly by the hair, forcing me to look up into his eyes.  They weren’t Dane’s eyes.  These eyes were blank, dark, and sadistic.  It was like looking into the eyes of a demon.

“Dane said you’re mine now.”  His voice was harsh and full of malice.  “I’ve got free reign, and by the time I’m done with you, you’ll wish you’d never heard of this place.”

He lifted me up without any effort at all and tossed me into the tub headfirst.  With my hands still tied tightly behind my back, it was difficult to right myself.  I gulped water, choking violently as I tried to spin around and sit up out of the filthy water.  It smelled like death.

Inhaling stagnant air and coughing water out from the back of my throat I yelled at the masked man.  “Stop!  I’m done, I’m tapping out.”

He grabbed me by the throat and squeezed, but not in a hot way.  In a completely sadistic way.  Slowly, he pushed my head down closer to the dirty water.  I fought to stay upright, but the water was slimy, and I had no leverage.  I had no free hands to grab onto anything.

The water tickled the back of my head, closing in over my forehead and chin.  My cheeks felt the ice-cold water and the masked man went blurry as the murky liquid closed in over my eyes.  I took a breath just before my mouth and nose went under.

The masked man held me down far longer than I could hold my breath, and I began thrashing around as the need for oxygen consumed me.  But he held me firmly under the water.  I couldn’t hold my breath any longer and I choked and gasped as the death-water filled my lungs.  A fire burned in my chest and panic consumed me.  I was going to die.  This man was going to kill me.

He jerked me up out of the water, and I coughed and sputtered in his face.  I wanted out and I tried to tell him that, but he shoved me back under the water.

I hadn’t had a chance to take a good breath, so I was already choking.  He brought me back out and then down again, his sadistic face coming into and out of focus as he ruthlessly half drowned me, half choked me.  I wondered who hurt him.  Who made him a monster that got off on doing this to me?  He was smiling, enjoying this little game as I tried desperately to hold onto life.

“Dane!” I screamed out.

The masked man laughed.  “Dane! Dane!” he mocked.  He grabbed me by the mouth and squeezed tightly, hurting my jaw.  “Dane can’t help you.  Don’t you get it?  You asked for this.”

He pried my mouth open with his dirty, salty fingers and shoved a substance that smelled like actual feces down my throat, gagging me before shoving my face back under water.  It was at that point that I blacked out.


I’m not sure how much time passed between when everything went dark, and when I came to, but I was back in Dane’s living room.  He was smiling at me.  “How are you liking my mansion so far?”

I stood; brows furrowed.  “It sucks you asshole!  I want out.”

“But you’re doing so well, Love.”

“I almost died in there!  That man tried to drown me.”

He laughed. “Nobody was drowning you, Sara.  You were under hypnosis.  We just made you think you were drowning.”

“But it was so real!”

“How could your hair and clothes be completely dry if you were just moments away from drowning?  I’ll tell you why.  It’s because you were never actually in any water.  We just tricked you into thinking you were.”

Valid point, both my hair and my clothes were dry.

“Please, stay,” he motioned for me to sit back down.  “My money is on you lasting much longer than the first round.”

“This isn’t fun.”

“It’s not supposed to be fun; it’s supposed to be terrifying.  That’s the challenge.”

I considered my options as he stood and closed the distance between us.  His lips turned up into a sensual half-smile.  “Don’t you know I’d never hurt you?”

I mean, yeah, but I also didn’t enjoy feeling like death was coming for me.  He kissed me.  “I believe in you, you’ve got this.”

Dane touched my forehead and slid his hand down my shoulder, and once again a hazy calm came over me, my body went limp, and darkness closed in.  “You can do this, Sara.”

When I came back around, Dane was gone and a masked man towered over me.  Grabbing me roughly by the hair, he dragged me out of the room.  We went down the hall and around the corner where the light on the ceiling was flickering on and off.  He opened another door and threw me into a room filled with other people in various forms of consciousness.  All of them looked like hell.

The ceiling fan spun over the dim lightbulbs, creating a strobe light effect in the small room.  What appeared to be blood smears covered the dirty walls.  Some of the more conscious people were crying, some were moaning, while others writhed in pain.  I stepped over the bodies and made my way over to the closest wall.  I sat on the floor wondering how long I’d be in there.  A girl about my age crawled over an unconscious body that probably should’ve been checked for a pulse.  Her eye was dark and swollen shut.  Dried blood clung to her chin.

“This is intense,” she said, settling in next to me.

“This is bullshit, is what it is,” I replied.

She shook her head in agreement. “Yeah, maybe, but I’m going to be the first to make it to the end.  I’m going to earn that money.”

“Nobody makes it to the end,” I told her.

“Well, I’m gonna.”  She leaned against the wall, not seeming to mind the blood she was touching.  “It’s all just a game.  It’s mostly an illusion.”

I didn’t want to break it to her, but her face didn’t look illusory to me.  I’m pretty sure she was legitimately banged up.  How could Dane allow something like this to happen to her?  I don’t care if she signed a waver, this was extreme.  Unless…maybe she was an actress in costume and make-up.  Maybe she was part of the illusion?  That would make so much more sense than Dane being a psychopath.

I examined her face as best I could in the dim flashing lights.  It could be make-up.  Yeah, I was pretty sure it was make-up.  She was good, really had me going!  All of the people in there probably worked for Dane!  I relaxed a little.

The door opened and two masked men filled the frame.  One came in and grabbed the girl next to me.  She winced in pain but quickly regained her composure.  “Here we go again,” she said, winking at me with her good eye.  The masked man punched her in the back of the head as he shoved her violently out the door.  The second masked man walked to me, his heavy footsteps warning of impending doom.

He lifted me up on my feet with barely any effort at all.  I found myself staring into zombie eyes a shade of blue so light and icy they were almost white.  He dragged me out into the flickering hallway and slammed my head into the wall before shoving me to the floor.  I’d never been hypnotized before, but this sure felt real to me.  Pain seared through my head, and my shoulders burned as he pulled my arms behind my back, duct taping my wrists together.  It was painfully tight, but I wouldn’t give him the satisfaction of calling out in agony.  I reminded myself it was all an elaborate illusion as he taped my ankles together, then brought them up to the middle of my back, taping them to my wrists.  I had zero leverage to move or stabilize myself and was now completely at his mercy.

He stuck the loose end of the duct tape to my temple, then wound the roll around and around my head to cover my eyes.  I had no mobility, and now my vision was taken from me.  I heard the familiar sound of duct tape ripping from the spool right before my mouth was taped in the same fashion as my eyes had been.

I felt the ground fall out from under me as he lifted me and dropped me on a cold, hard surface.  I could only guess I was being moved to another location as wheels bumped and squealed beneath me.  Multiple screams could be heard from around the house.  Maniacal laughter echoed from somewhere nearby before the sounds all disappeared in the distance.

I tried to control my breathing as panic began to tug at my lungs.  Dane wouldn’t let anything bad happen to me.  I’d spent enough time with him to know he was a good guy.  This was all just part of the illusion.  It had to be.

The surface I was on stopped rolling, and a solid click echoed around me, followed by a creak of possibly a door opening.  Freezing cold air flowed over my body and I was pushed inside, an icy chill consuming every inch of me.  A door slammed loudly, and I sensed I was all alone.  At least I hoped I was.

Time seemed to stand still as my body violently shivered.  Eventually, my breathing seemed to slow as I felt more exhausted by the second.  This cold was sucking the life out of me.  Was this how I was going to die?  Where was Dane?

After what seemed like forever, the door opened, and I felt myself being wheeled out.  I was too tired and confused to try moving.  Someone grabbed me roughly by a chunk of my hair, ripping my head up into an unnatural position.  My skin stung as the duct tape was torn from my face, pulling out my eyelashes in the process.  My eyelids stretched beyond normal capacity, and clumps of my hair remained on the duct tape as it was discarded in a brightly lit hallway.  My eyes revolted against the harsh intrusion of light and tears blurred my vision.

A twisted, sadistic clown stood in front of me, its razor-sharp teeth pulled back in a grotesque, permanent smile.  He unbound me and ripped the last of the duct tape from my lips, leaving it tangled in a clump of my hair at the back of my head.  He pulled his fist back and punched me right in the mouth.  The hit didn’t hurt immediately.  Instead, a numbness settled in as the taste of blood touched my tongue.  My heart pounded in my chest, my frozen body too weak to fight.  He landed a second violent hit to my nose and more blood began to trickle down my face.

He lifted me gently, a confusing move under the current circumstances.  I dared to hope he had found some compassion for me.  But that hope was destroyed as he placed me into a small, metal chest.  I’d never been claustrophobic, but this chest was so small and restrictive I began to panic.  It was already so difficult to breathe through what I can only assume was a broken nose, but now it felt like an elephant was standing on my chest.  My body was so drained, and my mind was so numb I didn’t think I could take anymore.

“Please, make it stop,” I whispered.

He slowly lifted a finger to his frozen smile in an ominous gesture of silence.  He lifted the lid off a bucket and hovered the bucket over me.  He began tilting it and I prayed it wasn’t water again.  I couldn’t handle any more water torture.

But it wasn’t water.  Instead, hundreds of spiders cascaded out of the bucket, dropping down into the chest with me.  I could feel them sliding down my skin and crawling over my face.  I wanted to thrash around and stand up, but my movements were so slow and I lacked coordination.  It’s just an illusion, it’s just an illusion, I repeated to myself trying my best to remain calm. The demented clown sealed the glass lid on the chest.  I opened my mouth, and a scream from the very depths of my soul poured out.  In a pure panic, I slipped blissfully into darkness.


I opened my eyes and looked around the room.  I was in a huge luxurious bed, tucked under a cozy down comforter.  Sunlight poured in through the open window, a crisp fall breeze rustled the sheer drapes.

“Good morning, sleepyhead!” Dane’s husky voice called out from the doorway.

I sat up clutching the covers to my chest.  “I want to go home!” I practically screamed trying not to cry.

“Okay,” Dane replied.  “You’re free to leave.”

I jumped out of bed and realized I was only wearing an oversized t-shirt.  “Where the hell are my clothes?”

Dane motioned to a chair in the corner of his room.  “Don’t worry, I didn’t take advantage.  I just didn’t want you in my bed with dirty clothes.”

“What the hell is going on here?  I feel like I’m losing my mind!”  I stomped across the room to my clothes.

“I’ll tell you what’s going on,” Dane smiled.  “You are fucking killing it out there.  I’m banking here.  You’ve exceeded expectations!”

“I got my ass kicked by one of your criminal employees!  He busted up my face, poured spiders over me, and locked me in a freezer.  Do you think I give a damn about your profits?  You’re sick.”

“Sara,” Dane’s voice was gentle, “I told you, it’s all an illusion.  I’m a hypnotist and a Psychological Operations Specialist.  I’m an expert in the field of mind control.  I would never put you in any actual danger.”

“I saw the spiders, Dane!  I felt them.  I can still feel them.”

“They were plastic spiders.  I just made you think they were real.”

“My busted up, bloody face was real,” I snarked, just as I caught a glimpse of myself in the mirror.  My face was perfectly fine, and come to think of it, I didn’t have any pain.  If I had really been roughed up the way I remembered there’s no chance I wouldn’t see or feel some kind of evidence of it.

Dane smiled as I ran my fingers over my perfectly fine mouth and nose.  “I told you, Love.  It’s all pretend.”

I snapped out of my reflection.  “I don’t care.  I’m out.  And also, I think we should see other people.”  I grabbed my clothes off the chair.  Noticing all the blood stains on my shirt, I lifted it to show him while I glared.

“It’s fake blood.  I buy buckets of it.  I need the props to help convince your mind the illusion I’m creating is real.”

“Why do my clothes smell like old urine and shit?”

“More props, Sara.”

Wow, he really took this stuff seriously.  “Whatever, get out, I need to get dressed.”

Dane left the room closing the door softly behind him.  Once I was dressed, I opened the door and saw the long dark hallway to my left, and the living room to my right.  Oddly enough, the constant screams weren’t present.  Everything was quiet and seemingly normal.  I walked to the living room and retrieved my purse.  It was right where I’d left it.

“It’s a shame you can’t stay,” Dane said from his leather chair.  “You’ve done so well, people are betting you’ll make it all the way.  I’m one of them.”

“I don’t know how to put this nicely, but I don’t give a fuck.”

“I understand you’re upset.  Our minds can’t distinguish between fantasy and reality.  It’s a fact I manipulate expertly.  Even though you were never in any real danger, your mind has been through a lot.”

“That’s an understatement.”  I walked to the door.

“If you stay until the end, I’ll give you one million dollars.”

I stopped to process what he just said.  While I couldn’t care less about his profits, I was certainly interested in mine.  Who couldn’t use a million dollars?  “I’m sorry, what?”

“If you leave I’ll lose, but if you stay, I’ll make enough money to share with you.  And you’re never actually going to be in any real danger.  I just need your mind to stay strong for a while longer.  You’re almost to the end.”

“This is twisted.”  I couldn’t believe I was actually considering staying.

“Yeah, the dark web is a fucked-up place.”

I ran my hands over my face to loosen up my tense muscles.  My lips weren’t swollen, my nose wasn’t broken. It had clearly all been in my head.  Was I strong enough to finish this?  The stakes were high.  I’m not sure what you would do, but I put my purse down.

“I told you this was intense,” he said.

“Just make it quick, Dane.”

“I promise I will.  You stay strong, and I’ll keep you safe.  You know, you’ll be the first to ever make it through the mansion.”

I glared at him and then excused myself to use the restroom.

As I reached for the soap, I discovered a small, tender bruise on the back of my hand, just over my vein.  I caught the vague reflection of a digital clock in the mirror and turned around to face it.

This couldn’t be right.  The digital date was three weeks ahead of the date I believed it to be.  How could this be?  Did I lose time?  How long had I been out?  I assumed it had been overnight, but according to this clock…

I examined the bruise over my vein.  Something was wrong.  If this much time had really passed, Lexie would’ve come looking for me, so it must be an illusion.  I looked at the clock again.  What if she had come looking for me and now she was trapped in here too?  “What is happening to me?” I asked out loud.  There was a knock on the door followed by Dane’s voice.  “Are you okay, Sara?”

“No!”  The door opened and Dane stood there with the masked, zombie-eyed guy to his right, and the creepy clown to his left. 

“How long was I unconscious, Dane?”

“Just overnight.”

“Then why does the clock say…”

Dane gently touched my forehead.  “What clock?”

I glanced over where the clock had been, but it was just a blank wall.

Dane slid his hand down my shoulder.  My body went limp, and everything went black.


When the blur finally cleared from my eyes, I looked around the dark, damp room.  Rusty pipes of various sizes littered the ground.  A single, dim lightbulb swung from the ceiling.  My wrists were shackled above my head, my heels lifted off the ground, with only the balls of my feet to support my weight.

The masked, zombie-eyed man sauntered over to me, his figure blending with the shadows, and something metal glinting in his dirty hands. “I brought out the new pliers for you,” he said, as though I should be grateful.

He moved closer to me, and I was suddenly aware of how small I really was.  He reached out and squeezed my face.  I was still a little groggy as I tried to shake my head free, but he was relentless.

The creepy clown emerged from the darkness and they pried my mouth open, inserting a device that forced my jaws wider than was comfortable.  Zombie-eyes brought the pliers to my mouth as I protested, my body shaking, and tears streaming down my face.

I heard the tooth cracking in my head as the searing pain exploded through my gums and into my whole face. The taste of blood overwhelmed my tongue before spilling from my lips, and my stomach revolted, as the sadistic monsters removed the next tooth.  I screamed until my throat burned and my lungs were completely used and empty.  My long, matted purple hair stuck to the wetness on my face.

“Her damn hair is everywhere,” the clown complained.

“Get rid of it then,” the masked man answered.

Clown disappeared into the shadows, and the unmistakable sound of the clippers filled the musty air.  My head was snapped backward with a rough pull of my hair, and Clown was behind me, half pulling, half shaving random clumps of my hair off.

The masked man brought the pliers back up to my mouth. “No,” I cried, blood-soaked spit spraying onto his face.

His wild eyes widened, and his lips turned down in disgust.  He wiped my blood off his face then examined it on his fingers.  “You bitch!”  He brought his fist back and landed a punch to my face.  Everything went black before the pain even registered.


I once heard that people under extreme stress sometimes exhibit superhuman strength.  As they undid my chains and lowered my battered body down to the ground, this unexplainable strength was brewing inside me.  Deep in the pit of my stomach, growing in intensity like a spark that was destined to turn into a wildfire, destroying everything in its path.  I wasn’t going to die like this.  No fucking way.

The two bastards were a few feet away with their backs to me, discussing something that I couldn’t hear.  Pure adrenaline surged through my veins as I discreetly wrapped my hand around a spare pipe laying just within my reach.  I slowly moved it closer to myself, doing my best not to draw their attention.

I stood unnoticed and positioned the pipe over my shoulder like a bat.  I didn’t know where my strength and courage were coming from, but by the time the two men noticed I was right behind them it was too late.  I swung with a fierceness I didn’t even know I had, and the clown, caught off-guard, went down instantly.

The zombie-eyed guy was better prepared and able to block my second swing.  He ripped the pipe from my hand and threw it behind him.  The deranged man came toward me, and with the same sadistic determination I went toward him.  He reached for me and I gripped him in a bear-hug, clinging tightly as I tore his mask off and bit into his face, tearing shreds of skin and muscle off.  He howled in pain.

“Guess you shouldn’t have left me with so many teeth,” I said, reaching up and digging into his eyes.  He squeezed them shut instinctively and grabbed at my wrists, but I was already knuckle deep into his eyes.  Blood poured out, blurring his vision, and it was at that point that I made a run for it, leaving the screams behind me.

My head was throbbing, my mouth and face numb as I made my way out of the heavy door and into a dark corridor. There was only one way out.  I peeked through the exit, and then flung the door wide open.  Fresh air filled my lungs and hope ignited as I ran into the darkness, only the soft glow of the full moon lighting my path. 

“Sara!” Dane’s voice echoed into the vast night.  “You’re too deep into hypnosis!  Come back Sara!  I can help you!”  There was an urgency I hadn’t heard from him before.

I ran into the shadows behind a shed and crouched low, trying to calculate my next move.  I was surrounded by vast, empty land.

“Sara,” Dane tried again, “please, I need to bring you out of hypnosis.”

I reached up to my hair and felt the large patches of scalp.  I tasted the blood in my mouth and traced over the swelling on my face.  I was certain this was real.  Right?

The only chance I had was to make a run for it and hope I was faster than Dane.  I bolted out of the shadows hoping I had enough of a lead to outrun him.  Dane spotted me and called out my name. 

I pushed my legs harder and faster, propelling me to speeds I’d never reached before.  My lungs burned and my heart hammered in my chest as I ran blindly through the open land in the opposite direction of Dane’s house.  I didn’t look back, fearing any delay in forward movement would cost me my life.   I didn’t know where I was going, only that I had to keep going.  There was nothing in sight, nobody around.  Just a dark, endless void.

I heard heavy steps just as I felt him grab me from behind.  I tumbled to the ground and Dane straddled me, pinning me on my back with my wrists above my head.  I had no strength, and no leverage.  The night was silent as we struggled to catch our breath.

Dane’s face was mere inches from mine.  He smiled his familiar, sexy smile, but everything about him looked different to me now.  He touched my forehead and then gently slid his hand down my shoulder. “I’ve got you Sara,” he said.  “You’re safe now.”

Paranatural Circus (Black Widow)

Wednesday Writing Prompt: Begin a story with an upbeat sentence. End the story with the same sentence, only now it’s terrifying.

black widow

She walked down the corridor, excitement and anticipation pulsed through her veins.

It had been days since Widow was onstage, so she was itching to play.  The slow, deliberate clicking of her high-heeled boots against the floor echoed like an ominous warning.  She exited the darkened hallway and stood just offstage.  Widow ran her slender fingers through long, jet-black hair, while she waited for her introduction.

The ringmaster stood under the spotlight wearing a black top hat over long, dark hair, and a black cloak that hung to the floor.  His sharp, handsome features captivated the crowd almost as much as his truly hypnotic voice.  A natural gift that was of great benefit in their particular line of work. His smile grew wide enough to reveal fangs as he introduced Widow’s act.

“Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, here at the Paranatural Circus we have an act so daringly unique, you can only witness it here!  A balancing act that combines graceful acrobatics with gravity defying stunts! The most risqué, engaging, compelling tightrope act in the entire world!  Or as some would claim, in any of the worlds.”  His piercing green eyes scanned the crowd.  These insignificant, oblivious mortals had no idea.  “Without further ado, I present to you…The Black Widow!”

The crowd erupted into applause as Widow stepped into the spotlight.  The music roared to life as she moved across the stage.  Widow lifted her blood-red lips in a tantalizing smile while she slithered into the crowd.  The beat of the music was vibrating everyone into the next level of anticipation.  Widow lived for this part of her act.  The hunt.  Eager spectators held their breath either wishing to be invisible or hoping for a chance to be part of the show.  There was no method to Widow’s choices.  Her tastes varied based on the day and her current mood.  Sometimes she chose men, sometimes women, but never…ever…children.  Not for any moral reason.  After all, Widow didn’t have any morals.  Just raw, unapologetic instinct.

She twirled around the crowd searching for her volunteer the same way a person might search for a perfectly ripened peach, briefly touching and feeling her options, waiting for one to stand out above the rest.  Then she sensed him.  His heart was beating harder than the others, so hard in fact, she could hear it even above the music.  Widow opened her mind, searching him out across the crowd until her eyes connected with his.  Poor guy didn’t stand a chance.

Widow licked her lips and appeared to teleport over to him.  The crowd applauded her magic and she reveled in her devious secret. Clueless mortals. She straddled him in his seat and lowered her mouth to his ear just as the spotlight found them.

“Well don’t you smell delicious?” she purred, inhaling his scent.  “What’s your name?”

“Bryan,” he answered.  He was unsure of where to put his hands as his date looked on from the seat next to him.

Running a blood-red, long nail gently down his cheek and under his chin, Widow guided him to stand and follow her. Bryan’s pretty little date reached out to grab him, but it was already too late.  He belonged to Widow now.

He followed her onstage, and she shoved him down into a seat facing the audience.  Twenty-five feet above them, Widow’s elaborate spiderweb-themed tightrope course hung securely. Glancing out at the audience, Widow lifted her long, slender leg, placing her high-heeled boot in Bryan’s lap.  With her inner thigh just a foot away from his face, she made a show of unzipping it, all the way from the middle of her thigh down to her ankles.  She removed her boot and threw it off to the side of the stage.

Widow twirled and shifted around Bryan to the rhythm of the music, before seductively settling her other boot intimately into his lap.  This time, she instructed him to remove it.  Bryan hesitated briefly, then his face contorted in confusion as his hands began working Widow’s zipper.  The harder he tried to resist the stronger Widow compelled him to obey.  His fingers slid slowly down the inside of her leg, gently guiding her out of the boot. Widow found his date in the audience.  She had just gathered her coat and was currently headed for the exit.  Pity she couldn’t stay for the show.

Widow smiled, flashing perfectly white teeth.  The crew helped Bryan to his feet and removed the chair from the stage while Widow discreetly put on her leather slippers.  Widow approached Bryan, sliding around to stand next to him.  She opened her hands, palms facing and fingers spread wide apart.  A subtle, red glow began to form between her hands as the music rose to a crescendo.  The audience cheered her magic on as silky webs that seemed to come from her hands began to cocoon the volunteer, starting at his feet.  Widow shivered in anticipation.  Let the show begin.

black widow

This was supposed to be a fun night.  A first date at the circus seemed like a romantic idea, but now his date was gone, and he was getting wrapped up in a prop that felt far too constricting.  Who was supposed to be regulating this?  He wasn’t even sure what he did to get up on the damned stage, or what the hell he was thinking practically undressing this stranger.  How embarrassing.  Bryan was never one to volunteer, crowds made him self-conscious.  But still, she had picked him.  Had sought him out among the crowd.  What rotten luck.  He tried to reassure himself that it would all be over with shortly, and then he could go try to salvage what was left of his date night.  If he could even find his date.

The silken web crawled up his thighs and seemed to be coming directly from Widow’s hands. Being this close, he would think he’d see some sort of contraption or device assisting this performer with her magic, but he only saw the red glow and silk thread.

The web was around his midsection when he started to worry.  He wasn’t sure how this magic trick worked, or where it was headed, but Bryan didn’t feel like being a guinea pig.  How would it look if he left the stage?  Would he ruin the show?

He was in up to his chest, with his arms pinned tightly to his sides, as the silk spun higher and higher squeezing the air out of his lungs.  Bryan was on the brink of panic.  He decided he had enough and tried to leave, but he couldn’t move.  It was like his body wasn’t his anymore, and he realized it might be more than stage fright that gripped him.  Inside his head he was screaming wildly, but in reality, no sound came forth.  In his mind’s eye, he was violently thrashing around trying to fight his way out of this cocoon, but on stage, he was paralyzed.  The silk strangled his throat before covering his useless mouth, then his nose, and then everything went dark.

Bryan could still hear and breathe, but just barely.  He’d never been claustrophobic, but damn if he didn’t feel like the world was closing in on him.  His skin crawled and his muscles itched to move.  His lungs burned for oxygen but only got the crushing weight of terror and defeat.  His heart hammered in his throat as he felt hands on his entombed body, laying him flat on the stage.  Bryan was aware of being hoisted into the air by whatever was tied around his ankles.  Probably more of that god-awful silk.  How high up was he dangling?  Did anyone sense he didn’t want to be there, or did they all continue to think this was an entertaining show?

The horrifying thought suddenly occurred to Bryan that he might not make it out of there alive.  His silent scream was only heard in the confines of his own mind.

black widow

From up on her web of ropes, the audience looked so small to Widow.  She was untouchable as she placed her feet comfortably on the lines.  The song switched to a slower, haunting tune.  The music filled her with power as she twisted and contorted in a graceful display of choreographed movement.  Her body danced seductively over the ropes, her long legs and sculpted arms flowing with the rhythm of the sensual music.

This.  This is what Widow lived for.  Sex, death, and feeding.  It was her instinct, hardwired into the very core of her being.  She couldn’t be blamed for who she was any more than the lion could be blamed for eating the gazelle.

Sex, death, and feeding.  She continued to dance, gliding over the ropes, making use of the entire web.  Her body, the music, and the lights were all in perfect harmony, captivating the audience below.

Sex, death, and feeding.  Her next thrill hung cocooned just below her, helplessly dangling and at her mercy.  She wet her lips.

Widow slid headfirst down the line of silk that connected Bryan to her ropes.  The audience gasped and sat on the edge of their seats as she slid further down the silk and closer to the human-shaped cocoon.  When she reached him, she ignited a powerful flash of smoke, concealing the two of them from the audience.

She wrapped herself around Bryan, gripping him tightly between her thighs, and teleported offstage, cocoon and all.  The smoke cleared revealing their absence.  The last thing Widow heard was the thunderous roar of an entertained crowd.

Backstage, it was time to retreat to her dressing room.  Widow said “goodnight” to the crew and began dragging her cocooned volunteer by his ankles.

Sex, death, and feeding.  Widow was starving.

She walked down the corridor, excitement and anticipation pulsed through her veins.

Invisible Anna


After the blinding light cleared, Anna tried to refocus.  Her head felt fuzzy, but despite being disoriented, she was able to regain her vision.  Directly in front of Anna was an ornate mirror hanging on the wall, with a wooden table and an arrangement of pink roses below it.

“This can’t be right,” she said, squinting to get a better look.

The reflection in the mirror was definitely Anna, only she looked as though she was in her thirties again.  She stepped closer to the mirror and touched her warm, soft cheek.  Stretching her hands out in front of her, she noted the smooth, slender fingers and glowing skin where age spots had been moments earlier.

Pulling at the neckline of her favorite t-shirt, she took a peek inside.  “Well hello girls, you’re looking perky,” she said, pleased that her body was back in place and not hurting anymore.

Anna’s daughter came into the foyer just then, her dark brows were pinched, lips set in a thin line, and her eyes had dark circles underneath.

“Allison, what’s happening?  How did I get here?” Anna asked.

Allison ignored her mother and disappeared through the double doors.  Anna followed behind pushing the door open, and the hinges protested with a creaky moan.  Anna’s three children and their families stood at the front of the room, turning to see what the sound was.

“There must be a draft,” Allison said.

“No, it’s just me,” Anna replied, but her family had already shifted their attention away from her.

Anna moved forward to get a better look at what everyone was gawking at.  Some of her family was crying, and everyone stood defeated, as though the weight of the world rested on each of their shoulders.  They were gathered around a casket.

“What am I missing?  Who died?” Anna asked, moving in for a closer look.

She clamped her hand to her mouth, stumbling back a few steps, swallowing the bile that was rising in her throat.  Tears filled her eyes as panic settled into every crack of her being.  It couldn’t be.

“Goodbye Mom,” Allison whispered into the coffin.

“I’m right here!”  Anna’s voice cracked, she shook her head trying to clear out the confusion.  “What the hell is going on?”

Anna backed up to put some distance between herself and the coffin.  She bumped into someone and, out of habit, turned to apologize.

“Man, I’ve missed you,” Jack’s familiar voice soothed her.


Tears fell from Anna’s eyes as her late husband wrapped her up in a tight embrace.

“I knew I’d see you again, I knew it!”   She pulled back, stroked his middle-aged face, and squeezed his arms to be sure he was real.

“Is this a dream?” Anna asked him.

“I think you know it isn’t.”

“But I don’t feel dead.  I’m so confused.”

The funeral director began setting up a large picture on a stand next to the coffin.  Anna crept over to have a peek at her old, wrinkly body.  It was covered only by a clean, white sheet pulled up to her neck to conceal her nakedness.

“Just like I requested,” she noted.

The director gently closed the coffin as Anna examined the oversized picture of herself.  She looked at Jack with a sparkle in her eye, and the two of them burst into laughter.

“This is the one?  This is the best picture they could find of me?”

“At least they blurred out your middle finger,” Jack smiled.

“My gosh, I remember this!  I was drinking tequila.  Would you look at the hot pink lipstick on that shriveled up smile of mine?”

Jack winked at Anna.

“You’re eighty-five years old, get it together,” she yelled at the picture, smiling.

Her family slugged around the room, as guests began pouring in to say their goodbyes.

“This is depressing,” Anna said.

“Well what did you expect?  The world is a darker place without you in it, my love.”

Jack reached for Anna’s hand and held tight.

“Oh look!  There are Jenny and Mel.  I’m going to miss those girls.  Maybe I’ll haunt them sometime.”

More familiar faces piled in and a smile spread over Anna’s face.  “It’s good to know they cared,” she told Jack.

Anna’s youngest great-grandchild was Jill, a blonde hair, blue-eyed sweetie pie who just celebrated her first birthday.  She came toddling toward Anna on unsteady feet.

“Nana!” Jill babbled, pointing as drool hung from her lips.

“Nana’s in heaven with the angels now,” her mother soothed.  She swooped Jill up into her arms.

Jill’s chubby-cheeked smile flashed over her mother’s shoulder, as the toddler reached out to Anna.

Anna placed her thumbs against her temples and wiggled her fingers while blowing raspberries to Jill.  The sweet girl squealed and clapped.

Anna placed her hands over her heart.  “She can see me?”

“Sometimes they can,” Jack said.  “Especially when they’re little.”

Anna arched her brow as a new guest entered the room.

“And what is Ethel doing here?  She doesn’t even like me.”

Jack shrugged his shoulders.

“Look at her pretending to care.  Oh, I’m haunting this one for sure.  Books will be flying off shelves, and dishware will be levitating.  You can count on it,” Anna promised playfully.

Ethel made her way up to the casket, collapsing into tears and causing a scene.  Anna followed close.

“What a drama queen.  Would you look at this, Jack?  I don’t even think those tears are real!”

“Anna,” he said.

“What a fake…”

“Anna!” Jack interrupted.  He nodded in Allison’s direction.

She was huddled with her two brothers and clearly struggling with this event.  Anna floated over to her children, who were already wrinkled with age themselves.  She put her arms around them as best she could.

“Oh God, it’s like she’s still here, I can feel her,” Allison sobbed.

“Mom probably is still here,” Alan soothed.  “She’d never let anything keep her away from us.  Not even the Grim Reaper himself.”

“I can feel her too,” her oldest brother agreed. “Of course, it could just be gas.”

“Andrew!” Allison snorted at her brother’s weird humor.

Anna floated back to Jack’s side.  “I feel so helpless.  Is there anything I can do to comfort them?”

“Not that I know of.  This is their time to hurt and to heal.  It’s what life is all about.  They’ll be fine.”

Bob Marley’s “Three Little Birds” played softly over the speakers.

“They remembered!”  Anna clapped her hands together as a smile spread across her face.

“Don’t worry…about a thing…cause every little thing’s, gonna be alright…” Anna swayed to the music, memories flooding her soul.

Her family also smiled now, sharing their own memories of Anna.  Some memories were such a gift, and the most important ones never seemed to fade.

“I’m really going to miss the kids,” Anna sighed.

“We’ll stay close by.  They’ll be here with us all too soon.”


Anna and Jack stood side by side on the familiar grounds of their property.  In human terms, a week had passed, but time was different in this new reality.  For Anna, it had only felt like minutes.

Her children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren were gathered at the back of the property, just outside the tree line.  Allison and her husband had moved in to help take care of Anna during the final stages of her life, so Anna left the house to them.

It was a beautiful fall day.  The sun was shining, and the leaves were vibrant shades of orange, yellow, and red.  The smell of burning firewood blew in on the crisp breeze.  A small hole was freshly dug a short distance from the ten-year-old oak tree with Jack’s memorial plaque tacked to it.  Allison placed the bio urn, containing Anna’s ashes and an oak seed, into the hole.

“Rest in peace, Momma.  Hug Dad for us.”

Anna wrapped her arms around Jack.  “This is from the kids.”

He smiled and hugged her tight.

Allison furrowed her brows.  “Do you think that, somewhere out there, Mom and Dad still exist?”

“I don’t know.”  Alan put his arm around his sister.

The grandkids buried the urn, excited for the day they would have a picnic under their Nana’s living memorial.

That evening while Allison was in the shower, tears slid down her cheeks and she sobbed.  Thoughts of her own mortality, her mother, and the fresh empty void in her life consumed her.

“She’ll be okay, Anna.”

“There has to be some way I can comfort her.”

“Let her live, I promise she can handle this.  We’ll check on her in a little while, but right now, I have so much to show you.”

Anna started to follow Jack.  But then her eyes lit up and a smile played at the corners of her mouth.

“Wait, I’ve got an idea!”  She disappeared into the bathroom.

Seconds later she emerged, her features much more relaxed than before, and she took Jack’s hand.

Somewhere in the Universe, in a place so beautiful human language can’t describe it, Jack and Anna laughed and twirled in each other’s arms to a heavenly melody no human ear could comprehend.  Peace and love permeated every part of her soul.  She was home.


Allison stepped out of the shower and reached for her robe.  Her eyes widened, goosebumps tickled her skin, and her breath caught in her throat.  Then peace filled her heart, and she smiled.  She hadn’t heard anyone enter the bathroom, but in the fog on the mirror, in her mother’s familiar handwriting, were the words: WE STILL EXIST.





Five Things I’ve Learned Since Becoming a Writer

photo (10)


Actually, there’s a lot more than just five, but in the interest of keeping this short I’ve narrowed it down.

First, I learned that everybody and their aunt thinks it’s the coolest thing that you wrote a book.  Friends and acquaintances treat you like a local celebrity.  I almost started to believe it!  I was like “Do you know who I am?”  And the mail lady was like, “Yeah, I’ve been delivering your mail for about ten years.” You’re inundated with emails from strangers who loved your book and can’t wait for you to write your next novel.  When you write the second one, people are still fascinated by it.  Mostly people who don’t know you very well.  Your friends are getting sick of hearing how cool people think you are when they know you for the nerd you actually are.  By the third one, everyone calms down and they realize you’re not really a celebrity and resume treating you like the everyday, normal person that you are.  In the end, you’re left with a small base of loyal fans who you will love forever.

Second, I learned that marketing is not easy and people who choose to go into that profession must be a glutton for punishment.  The big wigs don’t pay trillions of dollars in marketing research for nothing!  There’s a science to it that I’m struggling to understand.  I thought, “Great, I wrote a book, got great reviews, and now people are talking about it.  I’ll just sit back and let my novel be read by thousands!”  It turns out that’s not how it works!  Who knew?  There’s nothing that makes you feel so small and insignificant as tooting your own horn to the sound of silence.  It’s very awkward, and I think I’m doing it wrong.  I’ve read marketing books, I’ve joined support groups for indie authors, and I’ve had some success.  But it’s two steps forward, and one step back.

Third, I learned this is an emotional roller coaster ride unlike any I’ve ever taken!  And I have three children!  One day, things are in a slump and I’m telling my family that I’m going to take a year off and re-evaluate my choices.  I’m going to try to improve my writing and give it a go another time.  Then someone tags their friend on Facebook in the comments of one of my promotional posts saying “Jane Doe, this is that incredible book I was telling you about!” After I read that, I’m in my kitchen like “KIDS!  Momma’s back on!”  Then sales slow down and post interaction on Facebook comes to a halt, and I’m back to “I don’t know guys, maybe I’m going down the wrong path.”  Then a friend does me a solid and promotes my book on her page, and someone I’ve never met comments “Oh!  I’ve heard of her book.  They were talking about it in a Facebook book group. They said good things.”  I got that wide, toothy, creepy-clown grin on my face, turned to my kids and I’m like “People are talking about me!”  Can you believe it?  People were talking about my book!  Then I wondered if she maybe mixed me up with somebody else.  Then I was back to doubting myself.  Today I’m good though.  For now.

Fourth, I learned that you absolutely must have a Facebook account.  Zuckerberg basically owns me.  He’s got what I need, and I can’t shake that soul-less eyed, twerpy kid.  I’m pretty sure his cocky-ass knows it, too.  After a long love/hate relationship with Facebook, I spontaneously and quietly deleted my account.  I felt free of my chains.  I wanted to make a shirt that said: “Suck it Zuck.”  I walked away and never looked back, for six months.  I had no regrets over the deletion.  I spent my newfound free time with my kids, enjoyed my summer, and continued writing novels and other short stories.  Then it came time to tell everyone about my upcoming book.  Do you know where everyone is?  Freaking Facebook.  Yeah.  I tried to release the book without being on the social platform, but sales were pretty much non-existent.  After rejoining the social media monster again, sales rapidly picked up.  It was bittersweet.  But what is the point of putting all of myself into writing a novel if nobody knows it exists?

Fifth, I’ve learned what it means to truly find your passion.  Books have made such a difference in my life.  The temporary escape and emotional distraction they offer literally saved my life once.  It is a blessing to be able to provide this beneficial opportunity to others through the creation of my novels.  I enjoy helping people relax and unwind.  I love knowing that for a moment in time, I was able to entertain someone by taking them into their imagination. It’s all I’ve ever wanted to do!

The Demon’s Doll

The Demon's Doll M


I remember exactly when this started, my spiral into insanity.  Has it only been a week?  The days have dragged on for so long while simultaneously hurtling by at impossible speeds.  A trip to the local farmers market seemed harmless enough at the time.

“Sure, I’ll go,” I had said to my friend.

There was nothing much to see there.  It was the end of the season, so most vendors were running low on stock and produce.  As I made my way through the maze of people, careful not to bump into anyone, the cold, crisp autumn wind blew my hair in all directions.  At the edge of the crowd, conspicuously set off on its own, was a small, brown tent.  It looked medieval and tattered, its sides flapping open in the wind, as I glimpsed the darkness inside.  It was the darkness that drew me toward it.  I had to know what was in there.

I left my friend at the floral booth, and quietly slipped away.  The thick blue-grey clouds hung low and heavy.  They raced through the sky with the wind.  Fallen leaves crunched beneath my feet and almost-bare trees swayed, their exposed, jagged branches reaching for the sky the way a zombie might reach out of its grave.

There was a warning, deep inside of my soul, that I shouldn’t go down this path.  Nothing good would come of this, but already I knew…there was no turning back.  I glanced over my shoulder looking at the market behind me.  Everyone was so absorbed in their own lives, nobody even noticed this peculiar tent.  Was I the only one who could see it?

Reaching out my hand, I slowly pulled back the curtain, just an inch…just to peek.  An unexpected gust of wind ripped the fabric from my fingers, pulling the tent open wide, exposing my presence.

“There you are,” a small voice hissed.  “Come in!”

I thought about running.  Wanted to run, even.  But an invisible leash kept me tethered to this place.  I licked my lips, they were so dry.

“It’s rude to just stand there.  I said come in.”  The voice was less friendly this time.  I stepped into the darkness, giving my eyes a moment to adjust.

A frail old lady with brittle, long, grey hair sat behind a table.  Shelves lined the sides of the tent, filled with unmatching, rusty antiques.  The air outside was cold, but it was even colder inside the tent.  As cold as I imagine death would be.

“I have something for you.”  She smiled, revealing a mostly empty mouth.  The few rotten teeth that remained were crooked and visibly decayed.  Seemingly out of thin air, she retrieved a doll.

It was about four inches tall and in a permanent sitting position.  It wore a black satin dress with long, black lace sleeves.  Pale grey, porcelain hands with tiny fingers stuck out of the sleeves, hanging limply at her sides.  Her porcelain legs stretched out in front of her, black painted shoes were on her feet.  Her hair was short and black, with bangs that poured over her grey forehead and down to her eyes.  Those soul-less doll eyes.  Bright, crystal blue, with black circles around them.  The black circles dripped down in streaks underneath her eyes, like tears of blood.  Her tiny little nose and pale grey lips showed no expression.  It felt like she was looking directly into my soul.  Goosebumps crawled over my skin.

“I don’t have any money with me,” I lied.

“Oh no, darling.  It is my gift to you!”

I took the doll and said a polite ‘thank you.’  I really just wanted to get out of there.  I’d ditch the doll in the next trash can and pretend this never happened.

She gave me a look, through narrowed eyes, that chilled me to my bones.  A wicked smile spread across her lips.  I left the tent.

Heading back to the market, I threw the doll in the nearest trash can and set off to find my friend.

“Where were you?” She had asked me.  “I looked everywhere for you.  It’s like you disappeared!”

“I was over in that tent.”  I would’ve pointed it out to her if the tent had bothered to stay put.  But it was gone.

She looked at the vast empty space to which I pointed.  “Are you okay?”

I shook my head.  “Can we go?”

We walked in silence to my car.  The heavy door squealed on its rusty hinges when I pulled it open.  My friend got into the passenger seat.  Terror gripped my heart, and I couldn’t move.

“What the hell is that?” she asked, her voice an octave higher than usual.

I could only stare at the gift…the doll…that sat on my seat as though I had left it there.

“It’s just a creepy doll,” I said, taking it off my seat and leaving it on a nearby picnic table.  The doll and I locked eyes as I drove away without her.

Nothing else was said about it.  I dropped my friend off at her house, then went home.  It was an uneventful evening.  Little did I know that would be the last peaceful evening of my life.

That night, the horrific nightmares started.  They were so real I was convinced demons were visiting me.  Sleep paralysis, they had said.  In the morning, when I awoke, the doll was sitting next to my bed on the nightstand.  Her soul-less eyes fixated on mine.

No matter how many times I threw her away, she kept returning.  I crushed her, I burned her.  I locked her in a metal box with a brick in it and threw her into Lake Michigan.  She always came back unscathed.  I hid her in the closet, I took her out into the cornfield and strapped a quarter-stick of dynamite to her.  I watched as she was blown to shreds, but there she was, sitting on the dashboard of my car before I could even leave the scene.  She was mine, and there was nothing I could do about it.

The night terrors became more intense.  I did unspeakable things inside of these dreams, and the demons that tormented me were darker than anything Hollywood can ever make up.  I began to fear sleep.  Each dream pulled me deeper and deeper into the pit of my imaginary hell.  And every time I woke up the dreams stayed with me longer and longer, until even during my waking hours I could not escape the vivid images of this demonic hell I was forced to envision.

On day four, I woke up with blood on my hands.  It wasn’t mine.  I didn’t know what to do about that.  So I washed my hands and hoped it was just another insane delusion I was suffering.  What would you have done?

By the fifth day of this torment, I could no longer find my friend.  I wanted to confide in her.  To tell her where I got this hideous doll.  To let her know that this wasn’t a case of sleep paralysis as the nurse told me over the 24-hour hotline.  This was something more and I really needed to talk to my friend about it.  But, she stopped answering my calls, so I took a ride over to her house.  Her car was in the driveway and her door was locked.  She refused to answer my knock.  Was she avoiding me?  Was she afraid of me?  Was she even in there?

I went back home, alone and isolated from the rest of the world.  As though I wasn’t even a real part of the world anymore.  I sat in the deafening silence of my house, on the living room floor.  My legs were crossed under me.  The doll sat on the coffee table, directly in front of me at eye level.  My eyes locked with the doll’s and I couldn’t look away. I couldn’t blink.  And that’s when I knew it.  I knew it just as clearly as I knew the sun rises in the East.  This doll was possessed.  There was a demon attached to it.

My eyes grew dry and my vision blurred and shifted until all I could see were chaotic distortions of the doll’s face.  I could feel my soul spiraling down, further and further into an abyss of nothingness.  I didn’t feel sad.  I didn’t feel scared.  Really, I didn’t feel anything at all.  Then my vision went completely black.  That’s when I saw him clearly for the first time.

He had been only a shadow in my dreams.  But now I could see him with distinction.  He was shaped like a human.  One head, two arms, and all that.  But he didn’t have any skin.  As though he had at one time been a human, but now he was a stripped-down version of that.  He didn’t have any hair.  He was a raw, meaty color.  He stood alone in the darkness.  Was I still in my house?  Was I even in my own universe anymore?

The deeply cratered, uneven texture of his body was repulsive.  Everything about this creature was vile.  Except for his eyes.  His bright, crystal-blue eyes.  They were just like the doll’s eyes.  Almost exactly like the doll’s eyes, only his were full of soul.  His dark, twisted soul.

They held me captive, those tortured, haunted eyes.  And I felt his pain.  His utter, desperate aloneness.  The darkness that enveloped him…it weighed so heavy on my heart, that I couldn’t separate where his pain and loneliness ended and where mine began.  I clutched my stomach, doubled over trying to ease the discomfort of this horrific shared emptiness that radiated between us.

Tears stung the backs of my eyes.  Not tears for me but tears for him.  Tears for this tortured soul in front of me, his eyes staring deeply into my own.  His sadness was so thick and hard to swallow that I swear I could’ve choked on it.

I reached out, my fingers caressing his rough face.  He stood, unmoving, allowing me to explore.  I slid my palm down the side of his neck and over his chest, letting my hand linger there.  Our eyes remained intensely connected as I stilled, feeling his heart beating under my hand.  After a moment I stepped back.

He reached out to me, with his gruesome, half-decayed hand.  It trembled.  His eyes pleaded silently for me to take it, to take his hand.  I could relate to the desperation in his attempt to connect, to be accepted.

I felt almost compelled to reach out for him.  To share fully in his pain and let him know he was not as alone as he felt.  The broken in me hurt for the broken in him.  I yearned to ease his torture.  But I hesitated.

His shoulders fell with his chest, as he exhaled the deep breath he had been holding in.  He lowered his chin, ever so slightly, as his blue eyes slowly looked away from mine, the unrelenting sadness in them growing darker.  And I knew that my hesitation hurt this beast, as he withdrew his extended hand.  And then he was gone.

I looked around my living room.  Everything was right where I left it.  Except for the doll.  She was gone.  I looked all evening for that demonic little doll, searching desperately for reasons I couldn’t understand.  I just needed her.  Needed to know I had a connection to him.  To the demon.  I fell into an exhausted heap on my bed after turning up empty-handed in my hours-long search for her.

That night I had beautiful dreams of meadows and sunshine.  When I awoke, the overpowering stench of the flowers stuck with me, nauseating me, and I had a headache from all that sunshine I had to endure.  I felt empty inside, almost hollow, like something was missing.  My chest was heavy, and I couldn’t breathe.

I wanted to apologize to the creature.  I wanted to dream of dark things so he would visit me while I slept, and I could tell him that I was so very sorry for hurting him.  I had officially lost my mind.

I tried to take my thoughts off of him.  I called my friend, but she was still either ignoring me, or unable to get back to me for some reason.  I read a favorite novel, but I couldn’t focus on the plot.  I just kept wondering about him.  The tortured soul.  The intense connection we had at the very core of our insignificant little hearts.  This dark, hideous demon was supremely beautiful in his own rightful way.  How could that be?

The day trudged on, and I had this unsettling feeling I would never see him again.  The connection we felt must’ve been the cultivation of lifetimes of love.  Our souls had to have known each other.  Nothing else could explain the overwhelming intensity of it.  Or the overwhelming devastation at the thought of never seeing him again.

A sadness heavier than depression consumed me.  Something had changed in me over the past week.  I wasn’t who I used to be anymore.  I was something entirely different.  I knew in my veins that I hadn’t just met this creature, but I had reconnected with him.  I was like him.  Maybe not physically, but inside.  Inside I was dark and selfish. And bad.  Just like this demon.

Why did I have to hesitate?  Because darkness is bad?  Because bad is somehow less than good?  According to who?  Bad is so subjective, who gets to decide?  Why is bad so bad?  I understand that it is.  But why?

Feeling dejected, I threw on my coat and ran out into the pouring rain.  The night was settling over the town and every normal person sought shelter in the warmth of their dry homes.  I ran all the way to the market.  As expected, there was nothing but vacant space.

Lightning sizzled across the sky and thunder pounded overhead.  I looked up into the pouring rain.

“Come back!” I yelled at the clouds.  “I’m sorry!  Can you hear me?  I’m sorry.”

Another bolt of lightning cracked across the sky, and I saw her in the distance.  Sitting on the picnic table across the way, in the pouring rain, was my doll.  The ground sloshed beneath my feet as the saturated earth gave under the weight of my determined stride.  I sat down on the bench of the table, facing the doll.  Rain cascaded down my cheeks and off the tip of my nose.

The world was pitch black outside of the random bursts of lightning.  I picked up the doll, my fingers gently gliding across its little, pale-grey face.  A blinding burst of lightning crashed above my head, then everything went black…and he was there.

Relief washed over me.  The anxiety that threatened to suffocate me dissipated.  With him, I didn’t have to pretend.  I didn’t have to conform.  He understood…knew what I needed.  This demon knew who I was…who I really was.  He saw me…like, really saw me.

Whatever kind of demon this was, whatever he had done in the past, it didn’t matter to me.  All that mattered is that he was here now, and this overbearing empty void in my existence was now overflowing with acceptance and belonging.

I ran to him, clinging to him as though my life depended on it.  Like he was somehow my savior.  Or maybe I was his.  He held me tightly for a beat, before stepping back.  His beautiful, blue eyes searched mine, as he cautiously reached his hand out to me.

I smiled, watching the pain in his eyes disappear.  I felt my pain easing too.  Without a second thought, I placed my youthful, pink hand in his.  I watched it change into the raw, meaty texture of the demon’s body.  It spread over my body like blood on a carpet.  I didn’t feel scared or sad.  I felt…free.

I felt complete, truly whole, as we walked together into the darkness.

What is The Facination With Vampires


My latest novel, Vital Spark, is a vampire romance set in New Orleans.  I’ve been a fan of mythical vampires since long before Twilight oversaturated the market.  In all the novels I’ve read, I never really questioned what it was that made the vampires so appealing.

Obviously they are written as gorgeous, so there’s that.  Then there’s the idea of superhuman strength and speed, which creates a situation that would make anyone feel safe and protected, and that’s a nice feeling.  Some people are a sucker for a tortured soul, which could also explain some of the facination.  A lot of us can relate to having that “darker side” of ourselves.  We bury it and struggle to keep it contained, but we all have our inner demons.

Then I got to thinking, what is it that most people fear?  Death.  And also aging, because that seems to lead to death.  But with just a little bite, a vampire can give you the gift of immortality and eternal youth.  The older I get, the more I realize there isn’t much I wouldn’t do for eternal youth.  Maybe not botox though, I’ve seen some pictures. But I have to do something because it’s not going to be pretty you guys…


A vampire can ease your biggest fears.  Can you imagine what you would do if you knew you couldn’t die?  I’d eat two pounds of bacon for breakfast every morning.  And a stick of butter covered in sugar.

I always say it would suck to live forever.  At some point, I’ll want to move on to the next realm so I can start haunting people or whatever.  But I can bet that on my deathbed, I’ll be screaming for Dracula.

What do you think?  Would immortality be a blessing or a curse?

It’s the Most Difficult Part of Being a Writer

No, not coming up with the idea.  That part is fun and easy.  I can come up with a million story ideas, and every now and then, one of them is actually pretty good!

snoopy dark and stormy

The next part is turning that good idea into at least sixty-thousand words.  If you know me, you know that I can talk for days…months, even!  It’s entirely possible that one day I’ll get started, and never actually stop.  So this part is not the most difficult part of being a writer for me.  Sure there are times when scene A doesn’t connect so easily to scene B, but eventually, a bridge is built and everything flows together.

snoopy plot

Then there’s the re-write.  It’s a little boring, in my opinion, because the novelty of getting your story written has passed, and now you’re left cleaning up your mess.  And I can leave one, big, hot mess.  It’s a lot of work, but not the hardest part, for me.

snoopy paris

Editing is a nightmare, I’ve made no attempt at hiding the fact that I detest editing.  Even saying the word “edit” makes me throw up in my mouth.  But I can push through and do my best.

snoopy edit.jpg

Then there’s the part where I have to come up with a title for my novel.  This part is only slightly worse than a root canal, but still not the most difficult part of being a writer.

snoopy title 2.jpg

After all that and a little more, it turns out the hardest part of being a writer, at least for me, is the marketing!  Nobody warned me how hard it would be.

First of all, I’m just a drop in the ocean over here!  I’m barely noticeable in a room of ten, much less a sea of millions.  It’s hard to stand out against a backdrop of so many fantastic writers.

Second, I’ve been conditioned to be humble and not brag.  A popular saying when I was growing up was “nobody likes a show-off” and that lesson really stuck.  So I’m supposed to be over here saying things like “Check out my awesome new book, I guarantee you’ll love it!” or “I really outdid myself this time, you have to read this!” or “Get your copy of the best book ever written!”  But inside my head it’s more like “Check this out if you want!” or “This one might be pretty good and if you think you might like to give it a chance that would be super!” or “I feel really bad asking you to buy this, I wish I could give it to you for free just in case you think it sucks.”  But according to my husband, that’s just bad marketing, and he’s a Virgo so he thinks he knows everything and, frustratingly enough, he’s usually right.

And lastly, I grew up in the Catholic school system, where (back then) from a very young age we were conditioned to believe that everything we did was a sin, and all of our choices are wrong and shameful.  I hear it’s a lot different these days, however, I did not escape without my fair share of guilt issues.  So anytime I ask someone to “like” and “share” anything promoting my book, I get heart palpitations over the fact that I’m asking them for something.  Like, no one owes me anything, what right do I have to bother them with my personal business?  And Lord forbid they don’t “like” or “share” because then I just know I’ve crossed a line and must hang my selfish head in shame.

Who knew promoting yourself was such a hard thing to do?  It feels uncomfortable and unnatural, and I wish it wasn’t a part of being a writer.  Maybe after my fifty-seventh novel, it’ll be less painful.

Thank you for letting me be honest!

Vital Spark: A FREE Peek Just For You!

Vital Spark Banner

Happy book release day!!!  Vital Spark is now available for purchase on Amazon!

In honor of book release day, I’m sharing the first two chapters of the novel for free.  So, check out your free sample of Vital Spark and if you like what you read, you can buy my latest novel, Vital Spark right here!  It’s available in both the Kindle and paperback editions.

Thank you for your consideration!  Happy reading!


Blurbing it Up


Elaura Maitland is searching for her missing sister in the deepest, darkest shadows of New Orleans when she unwittingly gets pulled into an underground war between the vampires of the French Quarter.

Max has been the most powerful vampire in New Orleans for decades, ensuring a peaceful coexistence with humans.  Now people are disappearing, which can only mean one thing: a vampire uprising.  If Max can help Elaura find out what happened to her sister, maybe he can discover who’s trying to wage a war against him.

As if he didn’t have enough on his plate, Max’s longtime enemy, a vampire hunter named Trevor, is back in town.  The mysterious hunter and the beautiful Elaura have developed a close relationship, which complicates things even further, as Max tries to fight his own growing affection for her.

Lost in a world she never could have dreamed existed, Elaura must find out what happened to her sister, before the entire city goes down in the flames of a war waged to destroy humanity.


Vital Spark.  Coming to you October 1st!

Thoughts?  Questions?  Comments?  Let me know!

Cover Reveal

We finished the cover…so there’s that!

My husband has the patience of a saint, but if you never hear from me again, it’s safe to assume he smothered me in my sleep.

I think this is the millionth try. He had to keep tweaking and moving things to make the cover exactly how I wanted it. That would have been easier if I hadn’t kept changing my mind about exactly how I wanted it.

So from the bottom of my heart, thank you to my husband, Phil! I LOVE it!

Vital Spark, coming October 1st!