BOSTON COMIC CON – FROM THE OUTSIDE LOOKING IN

0

Boston Comic ConBOSTON COMIC CON – FROM THE OUTSIDE LOOKING IN

A Hellish Day Stuck Outside the Con

By

Michael Arruda

 

This is not the write-up I had planned.

I had planned to attend Boston Comic Con on Saturday August 9, 2014 and join my fellow New England Horror Authors at the New England Horror Author table selling and signing our books.  The majority of the group had signed on for the entire weekend, and as such had pre-paid for the entire event.  I could only be there one day, Saturday, and while I could have pre-bought tickets, I did check and was advised that tickets would be sold at the door.

So, my sons and I trekked to Boston for our first Comic Con, even meeting my brother and his wife there.  What we found was immediately disheartening.

A gargantuan line, one that seemed to stretch from Boston to New York awaited us.  Okay that’s an exaggeration.  It only stretched to Rhode Island.  But seriously, it went on for several blocks, a line full of eager, energetic and very excited fans, many of them dressed to the hilt in their favorite comic book costumes.

I checked in at the front door and identified myself as one of the New England Horror Authors there to sell and sign books.

“Did I have a pre-paid wristband?”  I was asked.

“No,” I said.

“Then you’ll have to wait in line.”

I looked at the ominous line with designs to reach Mars.

“That one?”

“Yeah.  That one.”

“But I’m an author here to sell books.  I’m paying for a table inside.”

“You need a paid wrist band to get in.”

And so we trekked to the back of the line.  Welcome to the life of a small press author.  Hey, is that Rodney Dangerfield I see?

At the back of the line, we were all in very good moods, and why shouldn’t we have been?  It was an absolutely gorgeous day, a perfect day to be outside in Boston, and we were among a group of very enthusiastic fans.  There were also plenty of neat costumes to see.  Batman seemed to be the most prevalent costume around, with Spider Man a close second.

We were all psyched and pumped, but then someone said, “You do realize we could stand in this line all day and not get in.  The show could sell out.”

Why did you have to say that?

 The words proved prophetic.

And it happened just as things were looking up.  The line started to move at a brisk pace, and we all thought, this isn’t so bad.  In fact, we got to within several yards of the front entrance before it all came crashing down.

Suddenly, the line was diverted to the side of the building, the Seaport Trade Center, and as we walked, I saw that this line was heading towards the back of the building, an immense structure.

I stopped to ask one of the staff members standing outside.  “Why were we sent into this line when we were just getting to the door?”

“Do you have tickets?”  I was asked.

“No.”

“You’re in the right line.  That’s the line to buy tickets.”

I didn’t like it, but at least my fears had been eased, at least we were in the right line.  This particular line was moving quickly.  People were all walking at a rapid pace, and there was lots of chatter, as everyone was wondering the same thing I had been wondering:  where was this line going?  Would it wrap around the entire building?

And then it suddenly stopped.  Suddenly we were all at a standstill, and we were still on the same side of the building.  As we waited in this second line, and people started talking to each other, it became clear that this line was a mixture of people with tickets and without tickets.  This did not bode well.  People began to grow restless.

Meanwhile another line of Comic Con folks heading in the opposite direction from our line and moving rapidly, continued to file past us with alarming speed.  We started asking these folks where they were going and if they had tickets or not.  The answers were consistent:  we’re in line for Comic Con.  We have tickets.  We don’t have tickets.

 Well, that’s this line.

What the hell line are we in, anyway?

People began to grow very restless, and the chatter going around was not good.

Suddenly a group of very frustrated Comic Con Staff appeared and started shouting out instructions.  We were told that the line we were in was for people with tickets only.  If you had tickets you were in the right line. If you didn’t have tickets, you had to turn around and get into another line, which set off a storm of incredibly angry people.  I thought I was going to be part of a torch wielding angry mob a la the old Universal Frankenstein movies.

The folks with tickets who were told to stay in line wanted to know where the hell the line went.

It goes all around the building, they were told.

“So, even if we pre-bought tickets, we might not get in?” People asked.

“Oh, you’ll get in.  You just have to wait in line.”

“How long will that be?”

“We don’t know.  Probably several hours.”

“So I pre-bought tickets and I still have to wait in line for several hours?  I’ve been here since 10:00!  What’s the point of pre-buying tickets?”

Good question!

And then there were those folks, like us, who were in a worst predicament- we hadn’t even purchased tickets yet.  We were told that we were going back to the original line outside the building, the one we had already waited over an hour in.

What is going on?  People wanted to know.

We were then told that we had been given wrong information by people who didn’t know what they were talking about, which is how we ended up in the wrong line which led around the building.  Well, that made me feel good.

As our line slowly returned to the front of the building, it suddenly stopped.  And it remained stopped.  We waited, waited, waited.  We decided to investigate the front of the line.  We discovered that the front of the line was roped off from the entrance, and the folks at the head of our line waited behind the rope for the line of pre-paid customers—- the one that wrapped around the building— to enter.

We surmised that nobody in our line was going to be sold a ticket until the other monstrosity of a line had filed in and all the pre-paid customers had entered.  That was our fear, although we were still hopeful.

We stood in this still line for yet another hour before Comic Con staff finally arrived with the dreaded news we’d been fearing:  we are now selling tickets for Sunday.  We are not selling tickets for today.

We were told, “We oversold the show.  We sold 12,000 tickets today.  This building has only a 10,000 capacity.

“So there’s no way we can get in today?”  People asked.

“Not really.  There’s a slim chance that once we let all the prepaid customers inside, we would sell tickets.”

“How long will that be?” “We don’t know. Maybe four hours, but if you buy a ticket for tomorrow now, we can guarantee your entrance tomorrow morning.”

For some reason, that guarantee didn’t instill me with much confidence.

The line went ballistic.  Many fans were vocally outraged and told the staff so.  “This is the worst organized con I’ve ever been to!”  “If you can’t run a con this large, don’t do it!”  “I’ve wasted my entire day in line!”

As for me, while I enjoyed the time with my sons and my brother and his wife, it’s not how I would have chosen to spend my day, waiting in a line for hours only to be told eventually by Comic Con staff to go home.  The entire fiasco could have been avoided by four simple words said to me when I first arrived at the front entrance:  We are sold out.

It was such a beautiful day in Boston, too beautiful to spend standing in a line to nowhere.

“Holy ticket line calamity, Batman!”

—Michael

 

Advertisements

“He Came Upon A Midnight Clear” By Michael Arruda

0

Cover art for my short story collection FOR THE LOVE OF HORROR, which contains the short story "He Came Upon A Midnight Clear."

Cover art for my short story collection FOR THE LOVE OF HORROR, which contains the short story “He Came Upon A Midnight Clear.”

Here’s a look at my Christmas-themed ghost story, “He Came Upon A Midnight Clear.”  This story was originally published in 2001 in THE ETERNAL NIGHT CHRONICLE. 

It’s also one of the 15 stories contained in my 2013 short story collection, FOR THE LOVE OF HORROR, available as an EBook from NECON EBooks at www.neconebooks.com and as a print edition at https://www.createspace.com/4294076.

 

Enjoy!

 

Thanks for reading!

 

—Michael

HE CAME UPON A MIDNIGHT CLEAR

 By

MICHAEL ARRUDA

My great-aunt Georgie passed away last night.  She was 81.  I’ve never really been close to any of my relatives, especially the older ones, but Georgie I loved.  There was an incident— back in 1978— Christmas Eve.  Circumstances beyond my sister’s and my control had taken us out of our home that holiday and placed us in the enormous ancient house of our crazy aunt Georgie.  Crazy we called her.  At least we used to call her that.  Before.

***

            “Would you kids like some eggnog?”  the gray haired woman with the beaming cheeks and glowing red nose asked, snug as she was in her brightly colored red and green Christmas sweater.

            “Yes, please,” the children said, nearly in unison, their voices low and hardly enthusiastic.

            The woman crossed in front of the crackling fire, leaving the children alone in the toasty living room.

            Outside the snow fell.  Giant white globs accelerating to the ground like a raid of miniature paratroopers. The sky from which they fell glowed orange.

            With his nose pressed against the window, the boy watched the invasion with indifference.

            The woman returned to the room with two glasses filled with thick eggnog.  “Here you go, Teri.  And here you go, Todd.”

            “Thank you, auntie,” said 11 year-old Teri.

            Her younger brother said nothing.  He turned from the window, took the glass, and sulked in the corner.

            He sipped the sweet beverage and looked around the room, which was full of all things Christmas. An elaborate Nativity scene to the left of the fireplace, an illuminated Christmas tree to the right, Christmas cards on the mantelpiece, a three foot plastic Santa which in years past was outside and lit but had since stopped working stood in the far left-hand corner of the room, all kinds of holiday knickknacks in every spot possible.

            His mother always said that great-aunt Georgie’s decorations were tacky, but he didn’t think so.  He loved them.

            Usually.

            But not this year.

            “I hate it here!  I want to go home!” the eight year-old exclaimed.

            “Todd!”  Teri said, stomping her foot.

            “What?”  he shot back.

            “It’s okay,” great-aunt Georgie said calmly.  “I understand.  It’s Christmas Eve.  Boys and girls belong with their mommies and daddies, not with a crazy old lady.”

            “Well, my mommy and daddy hate each other!”  Todd said.

            “Todd, mommy said—.” .

            “I don’t care what mommy said!  They hate each other!  Now they’re not even living together!”

            “Well, maybe that’ll change tonight. Your mom’s gone to see your dad, right?”  Georgie asked.

            “Yes,” Teri answered.

            “It’s always the same!”  Todd exclaimed.  “He leaves, she begs him to come back, he comes back, they fight, and he leaves again.  This time he said he’s never coming back!”

            “Do you believe him?”  Georgie asked.

            “Would you come back?”  Todd said.  “You’re only home a few hours a night and on Sundays, and all you do is fight with your wife and shout at your kids who can’t seem to do anything right!  Would you come back?”

            “It’s not like that!”  Teri said.  “Dad’s tired.  He works all week.  He’d like to have some time to himself, and you know how mom is, always wanting to do things together!  He doesn’t get that time!”

            “He gets time.  He just wants all of it for himself!  What about me?”  Todd asked.  “When do I get what I want?  When do I get to go to a movie with dad or something?  Or to the zoo?  Dad doesn’t take me anywhere!”

            “Yes, a marriage is anything but simple,” Georgie said, plopping herself into her favorite rocking chair by the fire and sipping eggnog from her mug.  “When it works, there is nothing more precious in the world, and when it doesn’t, there’s nothing uglier.  Throw children into the mix, and it’s tough.  You have to be willing to sacrifice to have a successful family.”

            The elderly woman smiled at her great niece, who was seated across from her in another wooden rocking chair.  An empty soft chair was situated even closer to the fireplace.

             “Todd, why don’t you come sit with us?”  Georgie asked.  “The fire will make you feel better, honey.”

            “I like it here by the window.”

            “Suit yourself. Yes, the fine art of marriage.  I’ve had experience with both ends of the spectrum.  Your uncle Trevor— you remember your uncle Trevor, don’t you, Teri?”

            “Yes.  I remember playing games with him when I was like three or something.  He was really nice.”

            “He’s the devil!”  Georgie said.  “He left me after 23 years of marriage!  Twenty-three years!  Selfish bastard!  Excuse me,” Georgie smiled again.  “But your uncle Sal.   Now he was the genuine article.”

            “Uncle Sal?”  Teri asked.

            “Yes, you didn’t know your great auntie Georgie was married twice.  First to your uncle Sal, and then to the devil!  Selfish bastard!  Yes, Sal and I were high school sweethearts.  We were married right after we graduated, in 1938.  Four years later, he was in Europe, fighting in the war.”

            Her voice tapered into silence.

            A silence that turned Todd from the window.

            “What happened to him?”  Teri asked.  “Was he— did he come home from the war?”

            The elderly woman looked with sadness upon her niece.

            “I don’t tell this story often.  It’s rather unsettling.  Perhaps I should stop.”

            “No,” came Todd’s voice from the window, turning the women’s heads.  “Tell us.  I want to know what happened.”

            “Well,” Georgie began, placing her mug of eggnog upon the table next to her rocker.  “If you insist.  Believe it or not, it was Christmas Eve.  I had gone to my parents’ house.  They had a gathering there every Christmas Eve.  The whole family was there, except for the young men, of course.  They were all in the military.  When it got close to midnight, I decided to go home.  I wanted to sleep in my own bed.  I wanted to dream of Sal.  My parents only lived a few blocks away from my house, so it wasn’t a long walk.

            “About a block from the house, I noticed a man on the sidewalk up ahead walking towards me.  I thought nothing of it because in those days lots of people were out walking on Christmas Eve.  When people visited friends and relatives, they walked back then.  They didn’t drive.  Anyway, as he got closer, I could tell he was wearing a military uniform.  I was excited because I thought maybe a ship had come in.  Maybe my Sal would be amongst the group that had returned home for the holidays.

            “I was all set to ask him where he had come from when— I nearly fainted.  It was Sal.  My Sal!  I ran to him, and he was all smiles.  We hugged and kissed, and he felt so warm.  I actually felt his body.  I’ve never forgotten that.  We talked, and we walked towards our house. I finally asked him, ‘Sal, what are you doing here?  You didn’t tell me.’  And he smiled and said he didn’t know ahead of time that he was coming.  I was so excited I couldn’t believe it.  Sal was home!  On Christmas Eve, no less!

            “We reached the bottom steps of the front porch, and he stopped.  ‘Aren’t you coming in?’ I asked.  ‘No,’ he said.  ‘What?’ I asked him.  And then he told me he couldn’t stay.  That he had only come to see me and kiss me one last time.  I had no idea what he was talking about.  He might have said I’m back from the moon, and I wouldn’t have noticed, I was just so happy to see him.  I missed him so much.  He kissed me again on the forehead and told me to go inside and that he would see me again later.  I thought he meant he had to stay on the base. Everything was so secretive back then.  I turned and climbed the steps but before going inside I turned again to watch Sal go, and I thought about running after him to kiss him yet again.

            “There was a bright streetlight about a block from the house.  I saw Sal approach the streetlight, and then— and this is the God’s honest truth— I saw him disappear into a fine mist, a mist that rose like smoke into the bright light above the street, and then there was nothing.

            “December 24, 1943.  The same day my Sal was killed halfway across the world.”

            Teri gasped.

            Todd stepped towards the empty soft chair by the fire.  “Was he a ghost?  Did you see a ghost?”

            Georgie looked carefully at both children.  She bit her upper lip.  “I don’t know what I saw, but I do know it was Sal.  Since Sal couldn’t have been there, then, yes, I believe I saw a ghost.”

            Todd sat in the seat.  “Awesome!”

            “Please understand that this is a story I don’t like to tell often.  People will think I’m— well, people don’t generally believe in ghosts.”

            “I do,” Todd said.  “Did you ever see him again?  Did the ghost of uncle Sal ever come back?”

            “I’m afraid, that’ll have to be a story for another night,” Georgie said, looking up at the antique clock on the wall.  “It’s getting late.  You children ought to think about getting ready for bed.”

            “Oh, auntie!  I’m not tired!”  Todd said.  “I want to know!  Did Uncle Sal’s ghost ever come back?”

            The woman sighed. “Children are so hard to say no to!  There are times, especially on Christmas Eve, when I feel his presence, and in my dreams I see him often, looking just the way he did all those years ago, in his uniform, as handsome and strong as ever, but as far as his spirit coming back to me the way it did that night— you’ll have to wait until morning to find out!”

            “Oh, auntie!”  Todd groaned.

            “Off to bed!”  Georgie smiled.  “It’s Christmas.  You know who’s coming tonight!”

            “Like we still believe in Santa!”  Todd scoffed.  “But I believe in ghosts, and I can’t wait to hear the rest of the story in the morning!”

            The boy bounded down the hall towards the bathroom to brush his teeth.

            His sister rose from her rocker and looked her great aunt in the eye.  “You made up that story just to take his mind off my mom and dad, didn’t you?”

            “I never make up stories,” Georgie winked.

            “Yeah, right!  Thank you, auntie,” Teri smiled, leaning over and kissing her aunt on the forehead.  “Good night!”

            “Good night, and sleep well.”

***

            Voices.

            His aunt was talking to someone.

            Uncle Sal’s ghost!

            Todd looked to the bed next to him.

            In the darkness, he couldn’t see his sister, but he could hear her rhythmic breathing.  She was fast asleep.

            Todd threw off the blankets and walked softly towards the door.  He did not want to wake Teri, for she’d yell at him for being awake, and the awful sound of her loud voice would certainly frighten the ghost away, and this was the last thing Todd wanted to do.

            The bedroom was on the first floor adjacent to the living room.  Auntie Georgie kept this particular room for guests rather than the extra bedroom upstairs because it was warmest.  The door was closed, but it had a nice wide keyhole, the perfect size for Todd’s little eye to peer through.

            Todd placed his eye against the hole and looked through.  Bingo!  There was Auntie Georgie still sitting in the rocker by the fireplace, her back to Todd.

            He looked to the left, to the wooden rocker his sister had been sitting in earlier in the evening.

            Sitting in the rocker now was a man.

            Todd’s mouth fell agape, and he almost blew the whole thing by crying out, but his hand shot to his face and covered his mouth.

            “So you’re Mary’s nephew?”  Georgie asked.  “I haven’t seen you since you were wee high!”

            Todd frowned.  That wasn’t the ghost of his Uncle Sal!  It was some other guy, some ugly dude with dark hair, bushy sideburns, and an Adam’s apple the size of a Ping-Pong ball!

            “What’s he got in there?  A toad?”  Todd wondered.

            “I haven’t been here since I was wee high,” the man smiled.  “I’ve been away for a while.  Working in the Midwest, and before that— overseas.  I was overseas.”

            The man’s voice didn’t match his body.  It was soft and high, like a tenor’s, while he was coarse and rough and big.  His legs were long, extended in front of him, nearly touching Georgie’s feet.  His face was angular and hard, with a nose that could have been used as a weapon.

            “My aunt and uncle were on their way over with me, but they got a phone call from their daughter in California, so I decided to go on ahead.  I went for a nice walk around your neighborhood.  I thought they would have been here by now.”

            Georgie shook her head.  “No, they haven’t been by.  You’re my first visitor tonight other than my niece and her two children.  I’m sure they’ll be here soon.  Can I get you something to drink?”

            “No, thank you.  I had quite a bit already at my Aunt Mary’s house.”

            Todd didn’t like the way the man was looking at his aunt.  It was the way his dad looked whenever he was about to blow up at his mom.  That moody look that said, “I’m pissed off, and you’re only pissing me off more by being here!”

            This man was upset about something.  He was going to blow up.  Todd could feel it.

            “Have you ever noticed that— ,” the man leaned forward.  “—evil— is most prevalent during the holiest of times?  Like Christmas?”

            Todd’s little heart started doing jumping jacks.

            “I’ve always thought it strange that evil doesn’t rest on holy days,” the man went on.  “On the contrary, the opposite is true.  Evil is strongest during holy times.  It’s almost as if the devil wants to steal all the attention for himself, as if he wants to ruin the happiness of those who are in their moments of highest expectation, expecting nothing but good times and good cheer.  Little do they know that they are about to enter hell.”

            Todd looked at his aunt.  To his astonishment, she was still rocking, seeming as relaxed as if the stranger had been talking about the weather!

            “You are sad about something, aren’t you?”  Georgie asked.

            The man leaned back and cracked a smile.  He looked surprised by the elder woman’s perceptivity.  “Yes, I am.”

            “What?”

            “I’ve— lost—.”

            “What have you lost?”  Georgie asked, her voice sounding as sincere and caring as if she had known this man all her life.

            “My children,” the man said, his voice breaking with emotion.  “On Christmas Eve, not so long ago, my wife walked out on me, and she took my children.”

            “Why?”

            “Why?  Because she— she’s a— I admit, I had some problems, but I still loved them!  She had no right to do what she did!”

            “I’m so sorry for you.  Have you been able to see your children since that time?”

            The stranger swallowed.  “I saw them.”  His voice trailed off.  “You have children here in the house with you, don’t you?”

            Georgie did not answer.  Todd’s stomach rumbled.

            “I would like to see the children,” the man said.  “I want to look at them.”

            “I think not,” Georgie answered politely.

            “Show me the children!”  the man exclaimed, somehow keeping his voice in a whisper.

            Todd jumped.

            “I think the time has come for you to leave, sir,” Georgie said, instilling her voice with strength.  “My niece and her husband are due back here any moment, so I wouldn’t make any trouble if I were you.”

            The man shook his head.  “Your niece is not due back any time soon.  Nor is she with her husband.”

            Georgie stopped rocking.

            “What do you know about my niece?”  she asked.

            “I know that she’s out there somewhere trying desperately to save her marriage, and that it’s not going to do her any good.  Once the other half makes up its mind, it’s all over.”

            “How do you know this?  That my niece is trying to reconcile with her husband?”

            “I have good ears, madam.”

            “You mean you’ve been eavesdropping?  Trespassing on these grounds?”

            “I’ve been out walking.  Taking in the aura of the evening.  Of this special holy evening, and as I said, I’ve got good ears.”

            “And this house has solid walls and windows.  Your hearing’s not that good.”

            “You had a lengthy conversation with your niece earlier in the evening in the open doorway, did you not?”

            “Yes, I did, but I didn’t see you,” Georgie said.

            “You have a wonderful light display in the side window of your house, just around the corner from your front door.  I was there, looking at it.”

            “You can see it from the street!”  Georgie barked.

            “I did, but it warranted a closer look.  As do sleeping children.  I only want to look at them.  Just show me them sleeping snugly in their beds, let me see their innocent little faces, hear their soft breathing.  That’s all I ask.  Then I’ll be on my way.”

            “You’re not going to take no for an answer, are you?”  Georgie asked.

            The man shook his head.

            “And you only want to look at them?”

            “Yes.”

            “I suppose— there’s no harm in your looking,” Georgie said.  She turned and pointed towards the closed bedroom door.  “They’re in there.”

            The man grinned.

            Todd jumped backwards, his mind swearing every obscenity it knew at his aunt.  He bolted towards his sister’s bed and tugged at her bare foot which was hanging out from underneath the bedclothes.

            Teri kicked and moaned.

            Clang!

            “Ohh!”

            Thud!

            Teri bolted upright.

            “What is it!” she screamed.

            “There’s a man out there with auntie!” Todd screeched.

            “What?”

            “There’s a strange man out there with auntie!”  Todd repeated, on the verge of tears.

            The door to their bedroom flung open.

            The children screamed.

            “Shh!  It’s okay!  It’s me!” said their great-aunt, who was standing in the doorway with a large iron frying pan in her right hand.

            “Did you hit that guy with that?”  Todd asked.

            “Yes.”

            “Hit what guy?  What’s going on?” Teri asked.

            “There’s no time to explain.  Get your coats on.  We’re going next door to Mrs. Martin’s house.  Your coats are out here hanging by the door.  Come on,” the elderly woman urged, stepping to the side, to allow the children to pass in front of her.

            Todd went first.  He stepped through the doorway and screamed.

            The man was standing in the center of the living room, a streak of blood flowing down the right side of his face.

            Georgie thrust herself in front of the children, the frying pan held prominently in her right hand.

            “You come at me again with that frying pan, old woman, and I’ll use it to reshape your face into an omelet!”  the man warned.  For the first time, he laid eyes on Todd and Teri.

            “Ah, the children!  Such sweetness!  Like candy!  Come here, little ones, and give a poor man a hug!”

            “Stay behind me!”  Georgie said to the children.

            “Get out of the way, old woman!”

            “No,” Georgie answered firmly.  “Leave the children be!”

            “I only want to hug them.  To touch them.”

            “The front door is over there!”  Georgie pointed.  “Use it.  Leave my house, now!”

            “My dear woman,” the man said calmly, “you don’t seem to understand.”  He shouted, “I want to see the children!  Do you hear me?  Don’t keep them from me!”

            He spoke calmly again.  “Do you know what we do to mothers who don’t let fathers see their children?  We teach them a lesson.  That’s right.  I can’t have the children, neither can you- or anyone else!”

            Georgie turned and pushed the children into the bedroom.

            “Get out of the house, now!” she screamed to them.  “Through the window!”

            The man screamed and charged.

            Georgie lifted the frying pan, but the man grabbed her fingers and ripped the pan from her hands, flinging it across the room where it smashed with a twang into the bricks around the fireplace.  He wrapped his bony hands around her elderly throat and squeezed mightily, lifting her off her feet, carrying her towards the old rocker.

            Todd and Teri got as far as the window, made eye contact with each other, and did an about-face immediately.  They raced into the living room screaming.

            Teri latched onto the man’s right arm and tried to pull his hand off her aunt’s throat.  The man released Georgie’s throat with his right hand and with the back of the same hand smacked Teri across the face.  She crashed into the wall with a loud yelp.

            Todd punched the stranger in the back and kicked at his heels.  With his left hand still strangling Georgie, the man pivoted his upper body, grabbed Todd by the head and shoved him across the room.  The boy landed on the floor by the front door.

            Todd groaned and rolled onto his side.  When he looked up, his jaw dropped, and he gasped.

            A pair of huge boots were inches from his nose.  The man was standing directly above him.

            Whimpering, Todd looked higher.

            It wasn’t the stranger, but another man.

            A man with a face as friendly as Mister Rogers.  He even smiled.

            He was wearing a uniform.  A military uniform.

            The man’s friendly eyes darted across the room towards the attack, and his face grew grim.

            He looked at Todd once more, and his eyes roved to a spot on the floor by Todd’s left hand.  Todd followed the gaze to the heating vent on the floor by his hand.  Inside the vent, something glistened.

            Todd looked back at the figure, who smiled warmly at him while nodding his head.

            Todd ripped open the grate to the vent and reached inside.  He pulled out a handgun.  He had never used a gun before and wasn’t sure if he could use one now, but the sound of his aunt’s choking told him he had no choice.

            He rose to his feet, took three steps towards the brutal stranger, and aimed the gun.

            “Sir!  Excuse me,” Todd cleared his voice.  “Would you turn around, sir?”

            The man turned his head.  His eyes fell upon the gun.

            “Jesus Christ,” he said.  He looked into Todd’s eyes and saw in the trembling boy a look he had seen so often in the mirror.

            “Bless the beasts and the children!” the man muttered.

            Todd pulled the trigger.

***

            The gun belonged to my uncle Sal.  He had stashed it there long before he had gone to war, the result of an argument with my Aunt Georgie.  She didn’t believe in guns, and didn’t want one in the house.  She had told him to get rid of it.  Apparently, he couldn’t let go and hid it.

            I swear to this day I saw my uncle Sal standing in that living room.  Nobody else did.  But how else would I have known to look inside that heating vent?

            Georgie, you’ve gone on to a better life, I’m sure, a life I’m confident you are sharing right now with a very special man.

            My dad never did reconcile with my mom.  He never came back.  It’s been years, and I still hate him.

            But Sal.  Uncle Sal.  He came back.  Even after he was dead, he came back.

—END—


ROCK AND SHOCK Weekend – A Shocking Good Time in Worcester, MA

0

Rock and Shock

Rock & Shock Preview

By Michael Arruda

 

This weekend, Friday October 18, 2013 through Sunday, October, 20, 2013 is the Rock & Shock convention in Worcester, Massachusetts.

 

Rock & Shock is a neat convention held every year at the DCU Center in Worcester, Massachusetts.  They feature a nice line- up of horror movie and television celebrities, and there’s usually a huge selection of horror merchandise, including T-shirts, collectibles, toys, costumes, posters, movie stills, what have you. 

 

This year’s guests, to name a few,  include Freddy Krueger himself, Robert Englund, THE WALKING DEAD cast members Scott Wilson, Michael Rooker, and Irone Singleton, Robert Patrick from TERMINATOR 2: JUDGMENT DAY (1991), and many others, including horror author Jack Ketchum.

 

And across the way at the Worcester Palladium which is just down the road from the DCU Center, the con features performances by various rock bands from across the country.

 

While Rock and Shock tends to attract more film enthusiasts than readers, the New England Horror Writers still has a table there every year.  We’ve been going to Rock and Shock for quite a while now, since I first set up communications with Rock and Shock when I co-chaired the New England Chapter of the Horror Writers Association, the precursor to the New England Horror Writers, back in the early 2000s.

 

I will be at Rock and Shock this year on Saturday October 19, and I’ll have copies of my books, In The Spooklight, my collection of 115 “In the Spooklight” horror movie columns, and For The Love of Horror, my horror short story collection.  I’ll be at the New England Horror table sharing space with my fellow NE Horror Writers.

 

If you’re looking for something to do this weekend, you might consider heading out to Worcester for a little rock and shock.

 

For more information visit their website at rockandshock.com.

 

Hope to see you there!

 

—Michael

Online Book Reviews: Great Way To Promote Books

0

IN THE SPOOKLIGHT cover by Matt Bechtel.

IN THE SPOOKLIGHT cover by Matt Bechtel.

FOR THE LOVE OF HORROR cover by Kelli Jones.

FOR THE LOVE OF HORROR cover by Kelli Jones.

Extra!  Extra!  Call To Review IN THE SPOOKLIGHT & FOR THE LOVE OF HORROR!

 

These days, one of the ways to generate some buzz about your books is to have people review them online.  Online reviews are a great way to get more people to read your books.

 

The question, though, is how does one get people to review your books? 

 

For starters, you have to read them.  So, on that note, I have two books available at present.  The first, IN THE SPOOKLIGHT, is my collection of horror movie columns, now available as an EBook from NECON EBooks at www.neconebooks.comand also as a print edition at https://www.createspace.com/4293038.

 

The second is my short story collection, FOR THE LOVE OF HORROR, now available as an EBook from NECON EBooks at www.neconebooks.com and as a print edition at

https://www.createspace.com/4294076.

 

But why read them?  Even at just $5.00 a pop for an EBook, why read one of my books instead of the hundreds of other books available?  My immediate answer is that you should read both.  Read a lot and read often, and then you can get through all those books you want to enjoy.

 

But a more detailed thoughtful answer gives me pause.  It’s easier with IN THE SPOOKLIGHT.  That collection of 115 horror movie reviews, of both classic horror movies and present-day ones, makes for both excellent resource material and also fun reading for film buffs.  If you love horror movies, there’s a good chance you’ll enjoy IN THE SPOOKLIGHT.

 

FOR THE LOVE OF HORROR is a more difficult sell.  While I stand by my short stories and believe they are at the very least dark and entertaining, why read a short story collection by Michael Arruda when there is so much other fine horror fiction available?  Again, I say read both.  If you enjoy horror fiction, especially short stories, chances are you’ll enjoy FOR THE LOVE OF HORROR, a collection of horror short stories with a wraparound story that ties them all together. 

 

So, you‘ve bought the book, read it, and you liked it.  Why post a review?  I’m glad you asked.  By posting a brief online review, you’ll let other readers know what you thought about the book.  That way, when someone is looking for things to read, they’ll have a positive reason to check the book out for themselves.  Of course, there’s always the chance a negative review will steer them away.  But in this business, that’s the chance you take.

 

So, what are you waiting for? 

 

Check out IN THE SPOOKLIGHT and/or FOR THE LOVE OF HORROR and post your review online today!

 

And remember, I’m always available to the return the favor, and I’m more than happy to read and review your work and promote it here on this blog.

 

Thanks!

 

—Michael

 

 

 

 

 

Sneak Peak from FOR THE LOVE OF HORROR by Michael Arruda

0

For The Love Of Horror cover8/21/13

 

It’s time for another sneak preview from my short story collection FOR THE LOVE OF HORROR.

 

This collection of short stories is available as an EBook from NECON EBooks at www.neconebooks.com and as a print edition at https://www.createspace.com/4294076.

FOR THE LOVE OF HORROR contains 15 short stories, 7 reprints and 8 original stories, plus a wraparound story that ties everything together.  I wrote this with the old Amicus anthology horror movies in mind, films like DR. TERRORS HOUSE OF HORRORS (1965) and THE HOUSE THAT DRIPPED BLOOD (1971).

 

Today’s excerpt comes from the story “Reconciliation,” a tale of a vampire seeking religious redemption, or is he?  Incidentally, “Reconciliation” happens to be my very first published short story, published back in 1998 in the vampire anthology THE DARKEST THIRST by The Design Image Group.

For your reading pleasure, here is an excerpt from “Reconciliation”—-

RECONCILIATION

By

Michael Arruda

“Bless me Father, for I have sinned.  It has been 200 years since my confession.”

The priest, 62, thought his ears had betrayed him.  Leaning over, he pressed his left ear and the left corner of his mouth against the screened window which separated him from his visitor in the darkened confessional.

“How long has it been?”

“Two hundred years,” the dry male voice repeated.

“I’m afraid I don’t under—.”

“I am a vampire.”

“A vampire?  You mean one of those things from the movies?”

“Would that I were just a Hollywood creation,” the man said, “then I wouldn’t need to be here.”

“Why are you here?”

“To confess my sins.”

“Then perhaps I should hear your confession.”

“Thank you, Father.”

The vampire took a deep breath and began.

“I am disillusioned with the world, Father.  It used to be, way back when, that the worst crime, the worst sin, was murder.  Then we had Nazi Germany, and the world went crazy.  They paved the way for the madness we have today with their attempts at obliterating an entire race, an innocent race, and nearly succeeding.  The Nazi legacy is all around us.  Look at `ethnic cleansing.’  The Middle East.  Terrorism.  The tribal wars in Africa, where families are slaughtered daily, where babies are beheaded in front of their mothers.   If I were a horror fiction writer I’d be told by my editors that the things I just described were too sick for print, but these are true atrocities, having happened not in the dark ages, but here and now in the 21st century!

“And things are no better in this gun-happy country we call home,” the vampire continued,  “where we lose 16 children a day and 40,000 adults a year to people wielding guns, from disgruntled men who take out their frustrations on the world by shooting into crowds of innocent bystanders, to playing children who accidentally blow their best friends’ brains out!  Children.  I feel for them most of all.  Abused, sexually assaulted, forced to— I won’t even go there!  Damn pornographers!  Sex and violence, Father.  We’re a nation addicted to both. How else can you explain the fact that women here are raped every day?  Every day!  What kind of a world allows these sort of things?  The kind that makes the types of sins I have committed in my lifetime fodder for a Disney movie!”

The priest shifted in his seat.  The vampire noticed.

“But I digress.  You must think me crazy.”

The priest did not comment.

“I did not come here today to ramble about generalized atrocities, but I cannot help myself, I am so sickened by it all.  I ask you, how can I not be horrified by the world in which we live, a world gone mad?”

“Yes,” the priest said.  “The world is a difficult place to live in these days.  But, the world is not in this confessional with me.  You are.  Is there anything that you have done that you would like to be absolved for?”

The vampire hesitated before responding.

“Yes.  There is something.  Some things.  That I need to ask forgiveness for.”

He did not elaborate.

“Go on,” the priest said, “and rest assured, that whatever these things are, if you are truly repentant, the Lord will forgive you your sins.”

“Yes, the Lord will forgive— it makes sinning so much easier, doesn’t it?  When you can say you’re sorry and have your sin washed away as if it never happened.  Very convenient.”

The priest opened his mouth to disagree with this cynical comment, to make the point that reconciliation is not about condoning sin, but getting past it, when the vampire beat him to the punch and spoke first.

“I have never harmed a child, and I’m certainly not a rapist.  But I am a vampire, and as such, I have done things that I am sorry for.  Terrible things.”

The priest rubbed his chin.  He was disturbed.

Disturbed by his visitor’s repeated assertion that he was a vampire.

It was an assertion he did not believe.  However, it was quite possible that this man believed it, and in all sincerity thought himself to be a vampire.  If this were the case, then this man may have committed acts which he might be sorry for, which would explain his need to seek God’s forgiveness.  For this reason, the priest listened.

And waited.

Waited for any indication that this was merely a joke.  And if and when he received such a sign, the confession would be terminated.

The vampire continued, “I have lied to women.  Promised them anything they wanted. From money to marriage to simple companionship.  I even promised one young lady a book contract.”

“Why did you make these promises?”  the priest questioned.

“Why?  So that I could become intimate with them.  So that I could hold them, kiss them, sleep with them.”

“Are you married?”  the priest asked.

“No.  I’m not confessing to adultery, Father.  I’m confessing to the reason I wanted to sleep with them.”

“What was the reason?”

“I needed their blood.”

For a moment, neither the priest nor the vampire said a word.

“Father?  Are you still there?”

The priest answered with a question.  “Are you confessing to having murdered these women?”

The vampire paused.

“I do not like the term, `murder.’  It makes what I have done seem less from necessity and more from passion, and this, Father, is certainly not the case.”

The priest ignored the comment.

“Have you committed murder?”

“I have taken lives, yes,” the vampire admitted.

“How many?”

The vampire hesitated but then responded, his voice deep, dark, and threatening.  “More lives than you have touched with your sermons, Father.  Many more lives!”

The vampire’s voice suddenly choked with emotion, “I have been drinking the blood of innocents for 200 years!”

The priest was unimpressed.

“Let’s call it quits, hmm?”

“Excuse me, Father?”

“With this performance.  I’ll give you two thumbs up, and then we’ll call it a day, hmm?”

What?

“Come on!  I know why you’re here!”

“What do you mean?”  the vampire asked, sounding very uncomfortable.

“I mean, I know Halloween is just two nights away!”  the priest answered, sounding angry for the first time.  “The joke’s over!  Go home!”

“You disappoint me, Father.  I thought you a wiser man.  You do not believe me then when I say that I am a vampire?  That I need to drink human blood to survive?  That I have drunk the blood of women the world over for 200 years?”

“Let me tell you what I believe.  I believe that if you don’t leave this confessional in the next 10 seconds, I’ll sound the silent alarm by my side, and the police’ll be here before you can say Bela Lugosi!”

“A silent alarm?”  the vampire said.  “I had no idea.”

“Obviously,” the priest said.  “Some people may consider the sacrament of penance a matter for the dark ages, but our security advisor isn’t one of them!  Now, will you please leave?  While you still can.”

“I assure you, I am being completely sincere,” the vampire said, his voice indeed resonating with a clear and honest authenticity.  “I was born in the 18th century, and I am a vampire.  Do you have a light in there with you, Father?”

“A what?”

“A light.  I would like you to look at my face.  Please, indulge me, and do not yet sound your alarm.  I need the forgiveness of God.  Please.”

The priest remained silent.

The vampire squirmed, shifting his position for the first time since the conversation had begun.

“I beg of you, Father.  Look at my face before you pass judgment.  Keep your finger on the button if you so desire, but wait until your eyes have seen the likes of which few men have seen and lived before you press it.  If only for a moment, if you dare.”

The vampire heard the rustling of the priest’s frock in the darkness- he was moving his arm, reaching for something.  The silent alarm, the light switch, or both.

Click.

Both rooms of the confessional were suddenly bathed in light.

The priest, seated in a comfortable chair, turned to his left and gazed into the screened window.  He gasped.

The face staring at him was chalky white, and the pale flesh of the man on the opposite side of the partition contrasted drastically with his combed forward dark hair, hair as black as ink.  His eyes were wide and red, as if the whites had been cracked open like egg shells, spilling bloody yolks into the empty sockets.  His nose was long and straight, like a nail, and his lips were coal black.

“Please extinguish the light now,” the vampire said.   “It pains me.  My eyes.  Please.”

The priest’s habit rustled again, and once more the confessional was draped in darkness.

“Do you believe me now, Father, after having seen my face?”

“Nice make-up,” the priest said, “although, frankly, I’ve seen better.  Must have bought your stuff at Wal Mart, huh?”

“Do not joke!” the vampire raised his voice, for the first time losing his composure.  “Please, Father, you must believe me!”

“Why?  Why do I have to believe you?  Is that part of the prank, huh?  Get the old priest to admit he believes in vampires?  So you can broadcast it to all your friends?”

“No.  It’s not that way at all.”

“Well, what way is it, then?”  the priest asked.

I — have sinned!  I— need— true forgiveness from God!

The confessional nearly shook.  The vampire’s body was vibrating with anxiety.

“True forgiveness from God,” the priest repeated.  “That’s a curious statement coming from a vampire.

**********************************************

Indeed.

If you’d like to find out what happens next, feel free to order a copy of FOR THE LOVE OF HORROR, available as an EBook from NECON EBooks at www.neconebooks.com and as a print edition at https://www.createspace.com/4294076.

As always, thanks so much for reading!

—Michael