Happy Holidays, dear readers! I apologize for my lack of updates. As you probably know, the last few months of the year can be a grueling time to accomplish anything that isn't Christmas shopping or menorah lighting (8 days of this? In a row?!). As I promised you back in October, I'd have a snippet of my upcoming story, The Patch (formerly Orange Death) for you by Halloween. Well, obviously that didn't happen, but now is as good a time as any! After all, what better way to get into the Christmas spirit than reading some horror stories?
Like many of you, I'll get asked, "What do you want for Christmas this year?" And while the grown-up response is, "I'll cherish whatever you decide to get me," in reality I want something a little more helpful. Not a Capuchin monkey that will file my taxes, but rather, a written review of one of my ebooks on Amazon. Reviews get more eyes on the titles, and more purchases. And I'm not asking for a 5-Star review, I'm just asking for an honest one. If you think it's 5-Stars, who am I to argue?
So if you have a few extra minutes to write me one, for any of the current three I have up there, I would be eternally grateful. Who knows? Maybe it'll even make an eventual book jacket pull quote! And yo don't even need to purchase Shipwrecked, because you can read it for free here on the site!
I'm glad I've had somewhat of a productive year in getting some of my works online. I have quite a few big plans for 2018, and I can't wait to share them with you all. Thanks for your constant support, and I wish you the best in the year to come. Now, onwards with an excerpt of The Patch:
“Naw, you don’t want farmer Boilman’s pumpkins, they’re cursed!” said Jimmy Jeffries, eyes wide with fear. While Jack didn’t believe in such superstitious hocus pocus, he had to remember that these were simple farming folk who spooked easily. With Halloween right around the corner, Jack wanted to carve a pumpkin to give him a slight comfort of home. Rather, his now old home.
“Alrighty, where’s the best place to get one then? I only asked about Boilman’s because his house is right next to mine. I can’t travel that far on a bike without a basket.” The move from Los Angeles to Wayne, Nebraska wasn’t what Jack had it mind when his mother said that they needed to escape the hectic city life. Of all the places she could have chosen, she picked Wayne because it was right next to Sioux City where her parents lived. Wanting some distance from her parents and an affordable house for just Jack and herself, Wayne was the answer. It didn’t hurt that the homeless population there was nonexistent, and Wayne’s definition of “crime” was someone pouring sugar in a tractor’s gas tank. Jack’s mom still had nightmares from some of the crime scenes she was assigned to in L.A.
The city of Wayne to a 13-year-old boy though was nothing more than crops, cows, and the occasional tumbleweed here and there. Just like he imagined it would be. Jack suspected he was the only kid in town who owned a Nintendo Entertainment System, let alone a television to play it on. He felt like an alien on his first day at Wayne High School when he sat down next to Jimmy, who promptly told him “Those shoes look weird,” referring to his Nike Airs. These shoes probably cost more than your house, Jack thought. All the buildings in town were straight from the 1950s, and hadn’t changed since. Jack felt like a couple of Greasers were destined to come racing down the streets in their supped-up cars, and park at the local diner for a burger or three. Time had moved on, but the town of Wayne had been too comfortable to come and join the present.
“Welp, all the good pumpkin patches are along the main road, easy for the out-of-towners to access them,” said Jimmy. “The next time your mom drives into town for groceries, have her take you there afterward.” It seemed like a decent plan, despite the fact Jack still hadn’t forgiven his mother for the move in the first place, nor would be likely to anytime soon. “Remember, you don’t go to Farmer Boilman’s patch, no matter what! He’s been loopy ever since his wife died last year.”
Because of Jack’s lack of transportation, it seemed that he didn’t have much of a choice. Halloween was a mere few days away, and he still didn’t have his costume ready, let alone a pumpkin to carve. He was determined to go out trick-or-treating one last time before it was truly frowned upon. Next year he would start a new tradition of smashing pumpkins and egging houses, like the rest of the kids back home did. It was sort of like a rite of passage, except Jack would be the only one in Wayne with that mindset. He hadn’t a clue what Halloween in Wayne would entail, but they first things that came to mind were childish games like catching a greased pig or bobbing for apples. Hell, I’d settle for a Halloween Hoedown in someone’s barn, he thought.
Jack’s house was the last stop on the school bus’s route, several miles away from the other neighborhoods. While Jack at first enjoyed the silence of being the only person left on the bus, it also proved to be a little disheartening. The little neighborhood consisted of Jack’s house, three other houses, and Boilman’s farm out back behind the woods. Two of the neighboring homes were for sale, with the tenant in the third house, Mr. Daniels, constantly sitting on the front porch smoking his pipe. I’m surprised it isn’t a corncob pipe, Jack mused when he and his mother introduced themselves while moving in. Jack’s mom had been slightly alarmed that Mr. Daniels so casually kept a shotgun propped against the wall next to him, and warned Jack to never talk to him unsupervised.
“And don’t go creeping around anywhere near his house at night! I don’t want you being confused for some burglar and have your head blown-off!” she warned. The thought of getting anywhere near Mr. Daniels’ house, day or night, wasn’t what Jack had any interest in whatsoever. While Jack wasn’t in any hurry to make new friends, it didn’t help that he was the only person his age in his neighborhood. All the more reason for him to stay inside and play video games.
The house Jack and his mother moved into was a faded white, double-story farmhouse with a blue roof and a classic cherry red door. It had more rooms than it did occupants, which was why Jack started insisting that they get a dog to help fill the void. The front porch was large enough to place twenty pumpkins on, but alas Jack couldn’t even find a measly one, much to his dismay.
The front yard was yellow with patches of brown, and contained flowerbeds that had seen better days, let alone flowers, that ran along the front of the house. All that remained in the beds were shriveled skeletons of shrubs, with their little pointy branches forever frozen grasping up at the sky for a drink of life. The lack of green trees was upsetting to Jack, for back at their old apartment in Los Angeles different species of trees had lined the streets, their large branches casually swaying in the breeze. At least they have seasons here, he thought.
It was 3:46 in the dreary afternoon when Jack reached the front door, unlocking it and heading inside. Casually letting his backpack slide off his arm and hit the floor with a heavy thump, Jack walked towards the kitchen to try and find his mother.
“Mooom, I’m home,” he said loudly and unenthusiastically. His mother was nowhere to be seen. A piece of paper lay on the polished wood table in the middle of the kitchen, addressed to Jack. He immediately knew his mom had been called in for a shift at work, which meant he was on his own again tonight for dinner. Which also meant that he could spend a few hours trying to find pieces of the Triforce and rescue Princess Zelda without the usual time limit.
I got called in for an emergency shift at work. It’s all hands on deck today unfortunately. I’ll try to be home at a decent hour. I went ahead and made you some macaroni and cheese and pulled the hot dogs out of the freezer and put them in the fridge. Put the mac & cheese in the microwave for 2 minutes, and the hot dogs for 1 minute when you’re ready to eat.
P.S. In case of an emergency, call the station and ask for Officer Wilson. He will relay it to me, and I’ll call back as soon as possible. The number is 402-375-2626.
That had been the third time this week his mother had been called away to work. Something big must had been going on, for she was always tight-lipped when it came to talking about cases. Jack knew his mom had seen some truly horrible stuff back in L.A. though, because every once in awhile he would wake up in the middle of the night to her screams and sobs in the other room. He was terrified at first, but she later explained it was an unfortunate side effect of the job, and she would get these realistic nightmares from time to time. She assured him she was fine, and made him promise not to tell his grandparents about it. The department had approved her request to transfer from out of the field and onto desk duty, where she spent the majority of her time filing paperwork and answering the phone. It was a stroke of luck when she filed to be transferred to Wayne, for they had a position in the office open with the possibility of some on duty patrolling every once in awhile. With the crime statistics virtually nonexistent, Jack’s mom felt extremely confident about the move.
The hours melted away as Jack sat transfixed to his television, trying his best to defeat a trio of Octoroks, when he suddenly realized it was past 8 p.m. and his mom still wasn’t home. She should have called by now or something, he thought. Turning-off the console and television, Jack made his way to the kitchen to find the note she had left and dial the phone number of her work. A few rings had passed until someone picked up.
“Wayne Police Department, Officer Jones speaking.”
“Uh, hi. I’m looking for Officer Wilson?”
“One moment, please.”
A new set of rings echoed in Jack’s ear as he meandered around the kitchen in the dark, tethered by the telephone’s curly cord.
“Officer Wilson speaking.”
“Hi, my name is Jack Nichlous and I was wondering if I could talk to my mom, Officer Alice Nichlous?”
“Oh you’re Alice’s boy!” beamed Officer Wilson. “She talks a lot about you. How’re liking Wayne so far? I know it’s probably not as cool as Los Angeles, but I hope you’re finding it nice and peaceful compared to all that city ruckus!”
“Uh, it’s okay,” said Jack, wanting to skip the conversation with Officer Wilson entirely. “Is my mom there?”
“Sorry kiddo! She left a little over an hour ago. If she’s not home by now, maybe she stopped for groceries or something. If she’s still missing by tomorrow morning, be sure to call back and file a missing persons report!” Officer Wilson proceeded to laugh at his own joke, causing Jack to roll his eyes even harder.
“Thanks, sir. I will,” said Jack as he hung-up the phone. Going out for groceries after work was a possibility, but surely she would have asked him this morning if he wanted anything particular from the store. “Anything but hot dogs and macaroni and cheese,” he would have told her.
While different theories of where his mother could be bubbled around in his head, Jack suddenly began to notice a faint orange glow flickering through kitchen window above the sink. Intrigued at what the source of the light could be, he made his way across the room and peered outside. Off in the distance towards Boilman’s farm, Jack spied the massive orange glow emitting from behind the dead forest of trees. The way the glow slowly pulsated didn’t indicate to Jack that it was a fire, but rather something else. Something unnerving. He stood there watching the glow for several minutes before coming to the conclusion that he had to check it out, for his curiosity had gotten the better of him.
Not wanting his mother to come home and panic that he was missing, Jack wrote a note and left it beside the one she had left him on the kitchen table. Quickly making his way back to his room, Jack laced up his Converse, picked his thick green jacket from his dirty laundry hamper and put it on, and made his way to the garage to find the big Maglite. Turning the flashlight on and off a few times to make sure it was working, Jack locked the front door behind him and made his way outside.
His neighborhood was already engulfed in darkness, but Jack could still make out Mr. Daniels smoking his pipe on his front porch across the way, red embers glowing. Does he ever sleep? Jack wondered as he quietly made his way towards the woods. He wanted to make sure he was out of Mr. Daniel’s view before turning on the flashlight and making his way through the dead trees.
The orange light radiated through the trees, beckoning Jack to come closer and closer. He almost didn’t need the flashlight, it was so bright, but still proceeded with caution through the woods, not wanting to trip over a root or fall down a dried-up creek.
Jack finally reached the other side of the woods and shielded himself from the light behind a great big tree. Peering from behind the dead giant, he could clearly see Farmer Boilman’s barn and surrounding cornfields, all glowing orange. Squinting hard to try and make out what the source of the light was, Jack was shocked when he realized what the fields were comprised of.
“Pumpkins,” he whispered to no one. “The pumpkins are glowing.” Erasing all the warnings from Jimmy Jeffries from his mind to stay away from the farm, Jack decided to creep forth and inspect them closer, excited from the anticipation. He wanted a pumpkin for Halloween, and warnings be damned, he was determined to get one of Boilman’s that glowed.
Jack slowly entered the cornfield, making his way through the thick stalks. As the cornfield gave way to the outer edge of the pumpkin patch, an unpleasant smell drifted into Jack’s nostrils. Waving his hand in front of his face to try and clear the air, Jack looked around to try and identify the source of the stench. Shining his flashlight around in front of him, he couldn’t see anything out of the ordinary besides a pole off in the distance close to the barn that seemed to be missing a scarecrow. Unable to find the odor, Jack continued towards the glowing pumpkin nearest to him.
He noticed that these pumpkins looked quite larger than normal pumpkins up close, but then again there was nothing ordinary about these pumpkins. They glowed, and whether it was a natural occurring phenomenon or some sort of bioluminescence occurring, Jack couldn’t tell. Maybe they’re filled with a glowing gas, and that’s why they smell, he thought. Hopefully it’ll continue to glow after I carve it.
Rummaging around in his pockets for his pocketknife, Jack withdrew it and proceeded to flip open the main blade. Crouching down before the giant glowing pumpkin before him, he estimated that the gourd was a good 20 pounds at least. Jack propped up his flashlight nearby, mentally convinced himself that Farmer Boilman wouldn’t notice one missing pumpkin, and started inspecting where exactly to make the cut.
Jack took the pumpkin by the thick prickly vine and began to slice into it, making sure to keep a nice long stem attached. Immediately, both vine and pumpkin began to thrash about violently, spurting hot liquid everywhere from the cut Jack made. Momentarily blinded by the mystery liquid hitting him square in the face, Jack smeared the substance out of his eyes and witnessed just in time the glowing pumpkin lift into the air by its semi-attached vine, and as if it were a marionette puppet attached by invisible strings, dancing about in its final death throes.
The pumpkin continued to gush liquid from the cut, while emitting a horrible gurgling sound that echoed throughout the night. Jack was terrified about the entire scene taking place before him, and scrambled backwards to find his pocket knife and flashlight before getting the hell out of there. Feeling the cold metal blade under his hand, Jack immediately grabbed hold and folded the knife down before slipping it into his shoe. He grabbed his flashlight and took off running towards the cornfield, not even caring that his flashlight was sticky from whatever was spurting out of the pumpkin.
Jack heard a large crash behind him, and spun around aiming the light at the source. The pumpkin had finally fallen, and was now spastically twitching in a pool of red liquid. Oh my god, that was its blood! Jack thought. Red blood was everywhere, and Jack suddenly realized that both he and the ground were covered in the stuff. Trembling frantically from the realization that he had just murdered something, he was about to continue running home before ear-piercing shrieks filled the sky, coming from all around him. Dropping to his knees in fear, loud rustlings from the surrounding cornfield filled Jack’s ears, and he instinctively turned-off his flashlight so he wouldn’t give away his position.
Orange glows proceeded to emit from the cornfield, coming closer and closer to Jack’s position. Jack had just killed one of their kind, and had a horrible feeling that they wanted revenge filled his mind. “It’s all just a dream,” Jack lied to himself out loud. “Pumpkins don’t glow, and they don’t move. You’re just dreaming all this.”
The rustling and glowing was almost upon him now, and Jack was starting to come to grips with the fact that this wasn’t a dream, but was actually happening to him. In what he believed to be his final moments, Jack wanted the one person who could save him from all this: his mother.
To be continued.