Free Fiction Thursday – Jessie

Happy Thursday, everyone!

I don’t know about you, but I spent some quality time with the zombies and survivors of The Walking Dead this last weekend during AMC’s Walking Dead marathon. The marathon was a promo for season 4 which doesn’t start until October, so a marathon in July only makes me realize how long a wait it’s going to be for the next new episode.

All those Walking Dead episodes put me in the mood for some zombie fiction.  I wrote “Jessie” while I was on the Oregon coast, and a favorite restaurant of mine makes a cameo appearance.  Since I’m getting ready to leave for the coast again this weekend, what better story to share for Free Fiction Thursday?  I hope you enjoy the story of Tommy and Jessie on the beach, and that your time along the coast is far more pleasant.

jessie2 cover interior
Jesse

Annie Reed

Tommy met Jessie on the beach.

He’d been wandering along the shore line, walking on the wet sand because it was easier, and playing keep away with the waves so his shoes wouldn’t get wet.  The day was cold and cloudy.  He was looking for driftwood to make a fire, but he wasn’t looking all that hard.  This part of the beach was sheltered from the big part of the ocean by a sand bar, and for some reason there was a lot of driftwood here.  Everything from dry twigs and bark to huge old tree trunks covered with big black splotches that looked like they’d come from a burned out forest about a million years ago.  Tommy wanted to climb on top of the biggest ones and see what he could see, but Leon always told him to stay off the logs, it wasn’t safe, just like Leon had told him to walk along the water because the sick wouldn’t go in the water and it was one way to get away from them.

That hadn’t turned out to be true, but Tommy still walked along the water’s edge like Leon told him to even though Leon wasn’t there anymore.

Tommy had just picked up a piece of wood about the size of his forearm when he saw her sitting on top of a huge log near the water’s edge, watching him.

“You’re not supposed to be up there,” he said.

She stuck her tongue out at him.  “Says who?”

(read the rest of the story here)

Free Fiction Thursday – Iris & Ivy

Good morning, everyone! How’s your Thursday going so far?

In honor of Halloween next week, how about a ghost story? That’s tradition, right? To sit around a campfire (or a dark room) and tell stories designed to scare your socks off and make it impossible to get a good night’s sleep. Fun!

I hope everyone has a suitably spooky Halloween. In the meantime, enjoy “Iris & Ivy.”

 

Iris and Ivy

Annie Reed

Published by Thunder Valley Press

Copyright 2011 by Annie Reed

Cover art copyright 2009 by Ivan Bliznetsov at iStockphoto.com

Iris leaned her weary back against the inside of the front door to her apartment.  She felt as well as heard the latch snap shut.

Home again, home again, whoop de doo.

She closed her eyes and concentrated.  In her mind’s eye, she saw a faint green glow surround the lock.  She kept concentrating until the glow spread to fill the crack between the door and the jamb, like a bit of glow-in-the-dark weather stripping.

Satisfied the bit of threshold magic would hold, she opened her eyes and pulled off the  wig with its long, brassy red curls.  Her scalp itched.  She scoured her fingers through her own blonde hair until the skin on her head tingled.

Her face itched, too.  She’d caked the makeup on pretty heavy tonight.  Foundation and blush.  False eyelashes so thick they looked like furry caterpillars crouching on her eyelids.  Enough steel grey and dark brown eye shadow to make her look like the sexiest nearly-dead person trolling the dockside bars. She couldn’t wait to wash all the crap off her face so she could get back to being herself.

Changelings shifted their appearance with hardly a second thought.  All they had to do was see you, or better yet touch you, and presto chango, say hello to a brand new version of yourself, original model no longer required.  Non-changelings like Iris had to work a little harder to become someone else.

“Well?” she said to the not-quite-empty apartment.  “What did you think of that one?”

The wig she still held jerked out of her hand and floated in the empty air in front of her.  The elastic netting that anchored all those red curls filled out.

(read the rest of the story here)

Free Fiction Thursday – Patient Z

Happy Thursday, everyone!

I don’t know about you guys, but I’m seriously jazzed about the season premiere of The Walking Dead on Sunday. The survivors were in pretty rough shape at the end of last season. It’s been a long summer waiting to find out what happens next.

For those who need a refresher, AMC will be marathoning the first two seasons starting Saturday morning and running through to the season 3 premiere on Sunday night. I’m going to have to avoid my television until Sunday night, or I’ll get sucked into watching the marathon and I have projects to work on, I tell you. Projects. *g*

In honor of The Walking Dead, this week’s story is the first story in my own zombie series. “Patient Z” is my take on how the end of the world started with a homeless woman who went dumpster diving in the wrong recycle bin. Enjoy!

PATIENT Z

Annie Ree

 Copyright © 2011 Annie Reed

Published by Thunder Valley Press

 Cover art copyright 2009 by Ivan Bliznetsov at iStockphoto.com

The Mayans got it wrong.  So did George Romero.

The world didn’t end in 2012.  It didn’t end in 2013 either.  The beginning of the end started on a quiet summer night in September of 2014 in an unremarkable corner of suburbia miles away from the nearest shopping mall.  If Madge had known what she was about to set in motion, she would have gone dumpster diving in someone else’s trash, but when you’re homeless, a glass bottle looks like nothing more than recyclable cash, not a plague waiting to happen.

The little stoppered bottle was stuck in the corner of a trash bag in the tenth recycle bin Madge raided that night.  Every other week, city workers picked up recycles along with regular garbage.  Most people put their garbage and recycles out the night before, either too lazy or too busy to do it in the morning.  Madge used to be too busy, too.  Not anymore.  These days, Madge had all the time in the world to rummage through recycle bins like she was making a late night trip to the bank, only instead of withdrawing cash, Madge lifted aluminum cans and glass other people threw away.

Madge had her neighborhoods memorized.  She knew which houses recycled and which ones didn’t.  She knew the every-other-week collection schedule better than most of the residents.  Raiding the bins was her full-time nocturnal occupation.  While turning in her finds didn’t net her a lot of money, she made  enough to keep herself in beer and the occasional bottle of cheap wine, neither of which the soup kitchens provided along with their free meals and the obligatory heaping helping of save your soul for dessert.

She found the stoppered bottle in front of a two-story house surrounded by a six-foot chain link fence.  The dirty yellow recycle bin sat next to the garbage can at the base of the gated driveway.  A padlock made sure nobody messed with the gate, and the yard was guarded by a thick-necked Rottweiler.  Most things except garbage were locked up these days, but not too many people had dogs anymore.  At least not dogs they let outside at night.

The dog growled when Madge rolled her shopping cart close to the driveway.  After she got close enough for the dog to catch her scent over the pungent odor of her cartful of recycles, the dog’s growl turned into a needy whine.

Madge had made friends with the dog weeks ago by feeding it scraps through the fence.  Turns out the dog just wanted a friend.

“Some guard dog you are,” Madge muttered.  “I’d have fired you, that’s what I would have done.”

Fired him, like Madge’s last boss fired her for not doing her job.  She didn’t blame him.  She’d been drinking a lot back then, back when Eli had left her and taken the kid and told her to get her damn act together as he’d walked out the door.  What a joke.  Nobody’s act was together anymore.  All everybody did was keep their heads down and survive the best way they could.

The dog was just like she’d been.  Stuck in an unsuitable job and an unsuitable life.  On the nights when Madge’s brain wasn’t too pickled to string more than a couple of thoughts together, she wondered why the people who hid behind a locked gate and the security system the little blue sign in their flowerbeds warned about never realized that their guard dog was lonely.

“Give me a minute,” she said to the dog.  “I got something real tasty in my pocket just for you.”

(read the rest of the story here)

Free Fiction Thursday – Hunters

Happy Thursday, everyone!  And happy first week of October.

Somehow it doesn’t quite feel like October yet.  The weather’s been too warm, the trees haven’t really started losing their leaves yet, and hubby’s still mowing the lawn.  The days are getting shorter, though; this morning it was still dark when I got up.  Pretty soon we’ll be putting up Halloween decorations — at least those that don’t stay out all year — and watching scary movies now that I’ve finally been able to satisfy my Avengers craving. *g*

So to get us all in the mood for the scary season, how about a little supernatural horror story?  I hope you enjoy “Hunters.”

Hunters

Annie Reed

 Published by Thunder Valley Press

Copyright 2010 by Annie Reed

Cover art Konradbak | Dreamstime.com

The first time Shelly knew she dreamed in technicolor was when she saw her own blood splatter across a rough brick wall.  The blood was deep maroon, each drop as big as her thumb, glistening and wet and oh so much of it.

Too much to lose and survive, even for her.

Maroon blood.  Grey brick. The stone cold certainty that she was about to die.  Over the years the nightmare had become familiar, if not welcome.  At least she no longer woke up screaming.

When Collin touched her shoulder to wake her, Shelly sat bolt upright with her hands to her chest, heart pounding.  Tonight the dream had been so real.  More than any other night?  She didn’t know, but she thought so.  She half-expected her fingers to smear her tee-shirt with that dark maroon red.

“You had the dream again,” Collin said.  It wasn’t a question.  He had been with her too long.  He knew her too well.

Collin brushed Shelly’s hair away from her forehead, leaned in and pressed his lips lightly against her pale skin.  Collin was good to her, watched out for her, but he couldn’t understand.  He didn’t dream.

“We’ve got a gig tonight,” Collin said.  “You gonna be okay with that?”

Thigh-high boots, leather skirt and a baby-doll, all in black.  Her stage costume.  So different from the faded, oversized, Reality Bites tee-shirt she wore when she slept.  Shelly tried to remember if she had been wearing the costume in her dream, but the details were elusive.  Rough grey walls, dank, musty dirt under her feet, the heavy pounding tread of something chasing her — that’s all she remembered.

That, and the taste of dying.  The dying part had been very clear.

(read the rest of the story here)

Free Fiction Thursday – They Lie

Good morning, everyone! How’s Thursday treating you this week?

Can you believe August is almost over? This weekend is Labor Day here in the States, a three-day weekend that marks the traditional end of summer, then it’s September and the new TV season. Yay! I’m seriously looking forward to Castle and The Big Bang Theory and The Walking Dead; I’m already enjoying the new season of Grimm. Before I know it, October will be here, which leads me up to one of my favorite holidays — Halloween.

This week’s story fits right in with that scary season. Imagine you’re driving down a lonely country road at night, the window in your car rolled down to catch the last warmth of the summer evening. You stop at a traffic light, fiddle with the volume on the radio, then you’re pulled out the window by something out of a nightmare. That’s only the beginning of “They Lie.” Enjoy!

 

They Lie

Annie Reed

Published by Thunder Valley Press

Copyright 2011 by Annie Reed

Cover Art Copyright Tomislav Pinter | Dreamstime.com

They lie.

The writers of books like Twilight, of television shows like Buffy and Angel and Forever Knight.

There’s no romance.  No love.  No quests for redemption or pining for companionship or longing to become human again, and no damn sparkling in the sun.  There’s only darkness and fear and an all-consuming hunger that obliterates whatever’s left of your poor, screaming soul.

If you let it.

My maker pulled me out the open window of my car when I stopped for a light on a lonely country road late one night.  I’d spent most of that night watching chick flicks with my best friend, Chelsea.  I haven’t seen her since.  It’s a struggle.  I don’t need to be invited in, and I know the way back to her house.  Even if I didn’t, I could still find her.  I know her scent.

I’m not sure why I stopped at that light.  Chelsea lives out in the sticks.  Nothing but flat farmland for miles.  I could see enough of the road to know that no cars were coming in the other direction.  No cars at all, but I’ve always been a good girl.  A rule follower.  So I stopped and checked for headlights.  Unbuckled my seatbelt for a moment to straighten out a twist while I listened to some inane pop song on my radio.

Then I died.

It wasn’t a quick death.  Imagine being ripped apart by a wild animal, but staying awake for the whole thing.  My maker was ancient and rotted, and he smelled like an open sewer pit.  He chewed at my neck and my arms, and when I tried to run away, he pounced on my back and bit into my spine.

No one came to save me when I shrieked.  No one at all.

(read the rest of the story here)

Free Fiction Thursday – Ella and Mo

Good morning, everyone!

It’s no secret that I’m a big fan of The Walking Dead. Yesterday I got a peek at Entertainment Weekly’s four covers for The Walking Dead’s third season. Wow! I can’t wait.

Since I’m in a walking dead frame of mind, here’s one of my own zombie apocalypse stories about one tough little girl. I hope you enjoy “Ella and Mo.”

 

ELLA AND MO

Annie Reed

Copyright © 2011 Annie Reed

Published by Thunder Valley Press

Cover art Copyright Igor Shmatov | Dreamstime.com

Cover and layout Copyright © 2011 Thunder Valley Press

I met Ella when me and Jimbo come outta one of them flat-top houses a couple of miles off The Strip.  Jimbo had his arms full of stupid shit he thought he could sell.  Me?  I had a couple of cans of tuna somebody left behind because they was dented.  These days, tuna’s worth more in Vegas than blurays and TVs and jewelry, but there was no telling Jimbo that.

Ella got the drop on us ’cause we wasn’t paying close enough attention.  See, those sick fuckers that want to eat everybody don’t come out much during the day.  Too damn hot in Vegas for ’em.  Too damn hot in Vegas for everybody now that the power don’t work right half the time and the AC ain’t on, but I’d rather be hot than hungry, and Jimbo, he’d rather be rich than anything.  So we always did our business during the day when we didn’t have to worry so much about something that used to be alive wanting to eat us.

I don’t know what Ella was doing that day.  She never said and I never asked.  All I know is that one minute me and Jimbo was walking past some old lady’s garden gnome sitting as pretty as you please in the middle of a stand of  cactus in her front yard, feeling pretty proud of ourselves even though the sweat was pouring off us, and the next minute I see this kid with a gun standing next to my car.

She never said a word before she pointed her gun at Jimbo and blew a hole clean through his left shoulder.  Jimbo screamed, and her next shot hit him in that open maw of his mouth.  He quit screaming then and fell to the sidewalk like a sack of raw meat, smack on top of all that worthless shit he’d been carrying.  That was it for Jimbo.

Then that little kid pointed her gun at me.

“I want your car,” she said.

Anybody else might have yelled or run or laughed at her.  ‘Cept for that gun, she wasn’t much to look at.  Even before the creepers—that’s what Jimbo called those sick, dead fuckers—turned the world upside down, nobody took a little kid wearing a Red Riding hood cape and carrying a gun half as big as she was seriously.  Me?  I’m a survivor.  My old Mustang and me might have logged a lot of miles together, but a car’s just a car, so I said, “Yes, ma’am,” and held out the keys.

(read the rest of the story here)

Free Fiction Thursday – Lady of the Deep

Happy Thursday, everyone! One more day closer to Friday. Yay!

The last couple of weeks I’ve mentioned that my short-story collections are on sale this month for 50% off the cover price over at Smashwords. This week’s story is from my collection EIGHT FROM THE SILVER STATE, featuring eight stories of various genres all set in my home state of Nevada. I hope you enjoy “Lady of the Deep,” a nifty little horror story about the dark that lurks beneath the surface of a sunny, hot July day.

LADY OF THE DEEP

 Annie Reed

Published by Thunder Valley Press

Copyright 2011 by Annie Reed

Cover illustration Copyright Sly5800|Dreamstime.com

Cover layout by Thunder Valley Press

A sandcastle competition.  At a man-made lake where the sand had to be carted in on dump trucks because the lake used to be a rock quarry, and the last thing those beaches had was any natural sand.  Greg had never heard of anything sillier, except maybe the fact that Sylvia wanted to watch the competition.

“It’s a hundred degrees out there,” Greg said.  “And you want to stand around and watch grown men play in the dirt.”

The two of them were sitting in Sylvia’s battered old Honda.  The parking lot at the public entrance to the lake was only half-full even though it was the second Saturday in July and the swimming was free, which meant the place should have been swarming with kids.  Even little kids had sense enough to stay inside out of the sun.

“Aw, c’mon,” Sylvia said.  “It’ll be fun.  We have sunscreen and an umbrella and a blanket in the back, and I bet they’re selling beer and hotdogs.  It’ll be just like a picnic.  Didn’t you ever go on a picnic?”

“No.”

Well, that wasn’t quite true, but Sylvia wouldn’t know that.  They’d only been dating a few weeks.  Sylvia was great in bed and easy to look at, even if she wasn’t exactly what Greg would call pretty, but she had this thing about being outdoors.  She liked to just sit outside and watch the world go by.  Sometimes she liked to go on walks.  Like on the concrete path around the outside of this particular lake.

“You need the fresh air,” she said.

Okay, sure, he worked in a cubicle farm all day, and left on his own, he’d play video games all night, but was that any reason to make him bake in the sun on the hottest day of the year?

“And if you’ve never been on a picnic…”  Sylvia let the thought hang in the air, like she wanted him to finish it.  When he didn’t, she said, “Well, we really need to go on a little picnic of our own, then.”  She leaned over the center console and kissed him.  “You can rub sunscreen all over me.”  She arched one eyebrow and kissed him again.  “And I can rub sunscreen all over you.”

Greg had a vision of Sylvia naked.  She did look pretty good with her clothes off.  And rubbing on sunscreen was a legitimate way of touching her in public without anyone raising a fuss.

“Then you can rub me more, later,” she said, her mouth up by his ear.

(read the rest of the story here)

Free Fiction Thursday – Jessie

Good morning!  Happy Thursday, Internets!

I don’t know about you, but I spent way too much time this last weekend watching AMC’s The Walking Dead third-season preview marathon.  I can’t wait for the up-coming season.  Maybe I should dive into the novel to get the background on The Governor, who will be showing up in season three.  Anybody here read The Walking Dead: Rise of the Governor?  How did you like it?

In the meantime, since I’ve been in a zombie apocalypse survivor mood, this week’s Free Fiction Thursday story is one of five zombie survivor stories in my collection THE PATIENT Z FILES, which is on sale for 50% off the cover price at Smashwords through the month of July.  I hope you enjoy “Jessie.”

JESSIE

Annie Reed

Copyright © 2011 Annie Reed

Published by Thunder Valley Press

Cover illustration Copyright Andreas Gradin | Dreamstime.com

Cover layout by Thunder Valley Press

Tommy met Jessie on the beach.

He’d been wandering along the shore line, walking on the wet sand because it was easier, and playing keep away with the waves so his shoes wouldn’t get wet.  The day was cold and cloudy.  He was looking for driftwood to make a fire, but he wasn’t looking all that hard.  This part of the beach was sheltered from the big part of the ocean by a sand bar, and for some reason there was a lot of driftwood here.  Everything from dry twigs and bark to huge old tree trunks covered with big black splotches that looked like they’d come from a burned out forest about a million years ago.  Tommy wanted to climb on top of the biggest ones and see what he could see, but Leon always told him to stay off the logs, it wasn’t safe, just like Leon had told him to walk along the water because the sick wouldn’t go in the water and it was one way to get away from them.

That hadn’t turned out to be true, but Tommy still walked along the water’s edge like Leon told him to even though Leon wasn’t there anymore.

Tommy had just picked up a piece of wood about the size of his forearm when he saw her sitting on top of a huge log near the water’s edge, watching him.

“You’re not supposed to be up there,” he said.

She stuck her tongue out at him.  “Says who?”

(read the rest of the story here)

Free Fiction Thursday – Dead Things

Good morning, everyone! Hope your Thursday and your week are going well so far. Ready for a little free fiction?

A tension-filled drive down a rain-slicked coastal highway provides the setting for “Dead Things,” a story about a man who fantasized for years about killing his wife. He never quite had the courage to do the deed, but the lines between fantasy and reality blur when they reach an ugly stretch of dead marshland. What’s the old adage? Be careful what you wish for?

Enjoy!

DEAD THINGS

Copyright © 2012 Annie Reed

Published by Thunder Valley Press

Cover and layout Copyright © 2012 Thunder Valley Press

Cover art © 2012 Annie Reed

The damn trees gave Jerry the creeps.

Mired in mud along the ugliest stretch of Highway 101 known to man, the dead forest looked like the aftermath of a nuclear blast.  Stripped of needles and bark, the massive trunks lay strewn like ancient skeletons across marshy wetlands on the ocean side of the highway.  Gnarled branches reached like arthritic fingers toward the sodden Oregon sky.  Jerry had a sudden vision of dead things hauling themselves out of all that muck.  He gripped the wheel tighter and edged the accelerator down, pushing the car over seventy.

He could have predicted his wife’s reaction.

“Slow down,” she said, like he was some stupid little kid who needed scolding.  “You want to get us both killed?”

Well, maybe not the both of them.

The wipers beat double time against sheeting rain blown sideways from out over the sullen, gray ocean.  It had been raining since Coos Bay.  Even running the wipers on high, Jerry could barely see the damn road.  His shoulders ached from mile after mile, hour after long hour, of driving when he couldn’t really see.  It was a wonder he even noticed the damn trees through all the rain.

“Jerry!”  His wife’s voice was shrill, like it always got when he ignored her.

He eased up on the accelerator.  Doing seventy on wet pavement was just asking for trouble anyway.

The thought had no more than crossed his mind when he felt the rear tires begin to slide.

(read the rest of the story here)

Free Fiction Thursday – Uncle Charlie’s Toy Store

Good morning, everyone!

Here in the States, we’re coming up on a three-day weekend. I love three-day weekends. They usually go by too fast and I always feel like I didn’t get enough done, but that’s just the nature of the beast. I still look forward to that extra day when I can sleep in a little, not have to dress for the day job, and basically do what I’d like to do around the house. This weekend I have a cool new project I’m working on, plus there will be sushi on Saturday with my daughter and maybe going to see Snow White and the Huntsman. Good weekend plans, I do believe.

The little boy in this week’s story has something he looks forward to as well: a once-a-month trip to pick out a favorite toy. Only this month’s trip doesn’t turn out exactly as planned. I hope you enjoy “Uncle Charlie’s Toy Store.”

Uncle Charlie’s Toy Store

Annie Reed

Published by Thunder Valley Press

Copyright 2011 by Annie Reed

Uncle Charlie’s Toy Store was Daniel Preston’s favorite place in the whole wide world.  Once a month, if he had been a good boy, Daniel’s mom took him on the bus downtown to Uncle Charlie’s and let him pick out one new toy.  He had been a very good boy this month, and Daniel knew exactly what he wanted: a G.I. Joe.

Daniel’s best friend Ned had his own G.I. Joe.  Daniel tried not to be jealous every time Ned played soldier with Joe, but it was hard when he really, really wanted one of his own.

From the outside Uncle Charlie’s looked like any other store. It had a red brick store front with big display windows, and a door with a sign hung in the glass that could be turned to read either “Open” or “Sorry, We’re Closed.”  When his mom opened the door to Uncle Charlie’s, a little brass bell that hung over the door jangled to welcome Daniel inside.  Daniel loved the sound of that bell because every time he heard it, he knew he’d be walking into a store made just for kids.

Uncle Charlie’s had just about every toy a kid could hope to have.  Rows and rows of wooden shelves with model ships and planes; model railroad cars and little trees and fences and plastic people for when you played railroad; plastic horses of every shape and size; stuffed bears and a stuffed monkey that played cymbals when you wound him up; packages of little green army men; marbles and jacks and jump ropes and kites and roller skates.

And most important, Uncle Charlie’s had G.I. Joe.

(read the rest of the story here)