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I’m Hosting a Giveaway!

From September 11-15, 2020, I’ll be hosting an Amazon giveaway of You’re Next: A Short Novel Inspired by True Events in celebration of the launch of Revelations: A Horror Anthology.

To read Revelations at half price before its scheduled release date, follow the link below.

Revelations: A Horror Anthology on Smashwords
 *Available until September 15.

I really appreciate everyone’s support and feedback. You all have been invaluable.

Thank You!

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Looking for ARC Reviews

I love to read. I’ll read anything, especially if it’s free. I suppose others are not as discerning.

Before we go any further (just in case you are unaware) – ARC = Advance Reader Copy: As an ARC reviewer, you get a free copy of the book before it’s released in exchange for your honest review on outlets such as Amazon, Smashwords, Apple itunes, blogs, social media, etc.

I have been looking for ARC reviewers willing to read my newest book Revelations: A Horror Anthology. Now, I’ve never bothered with getting ARC reviews for my previous two books. I figured I didn’t need these reviews. And although sales on these books are decent, I’m looking to improve.

So, I got ambitious. I started the “ARC challenge” last week with a goal of getting 150 ARC reviews on my book by September 1. I’m telling you, I’ve posted about this opportunity EVERYWHERE. I’ve posted so much that feel like one of those awful spammers (and if you’ve gotten multiple emails from me about reading the book for free in exchange for your honest review, just click the link already and I’ll stop 🙂 J/K). I really try not to spam anyone… I just get too excited.

Looking for people to review my book is harder than I thought it would be. Sure, I’ve got friends and family on my ARC team, but that’s a total of, like, 10 people (I’m a loner and have a small family, what?). Way short of my 150 goal.

I’m posting this under “unsolicited advice”, but honestly, I don’t have any advice to give, really. I just needed to vent. But, in the spirit of things, I’m going to think of some advice…

Thinking…

Thinking…

Don’t give up!

Yeah, I know, that’s cliched advice, but it’s true. I’m only a week into my ARC Quest and I feel like giving up. But if I did that, I’d be giving up on myself, and how would that look? So, I’m going to keep searching for ARC reviewers. I’m going to be that annoying girl that everyone knows that’s always doing something you don’t like (very generic, I know). Because if I don’t, this book won’t get the eyeballs on it that it deserves. I’m not going to give up on myself, or my book.

That brings me to the “annoying girl” part.

I’m looking for ARC reviewers! If you’re interested, please click the link below for your free copy of Revelations: A Horror Anthology. Thank you in advance – Your support means the world to me!

Thanks for reading!

revelations: a horror anthology elizabeth hartl
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Revelations: A Horror Anthology Pre-Order

The Revelations: A Horror Anthology pre-order is now live! The pre-order is for the Kindle edition. The paperback version will be available for order on September 15. (And… I have to say this… Please don’t judge the book by it’s cover 😜, it’s a temporary cover.)

I’m also looking for ARC reviewers if anyone’s interested in writing a short, honest review on it. It would be greatly appreciated. If you are interested in the ARC thing, please email me at hartl_elizabeth@yahoo.com or contact me at Elizabeth Edits.

I can’t say this enough…

Thank you for your readership. It really does mean everything. 💕💕💕

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Revelations Release

I have exciting news! My new book, Revelations, is due for release September 15, 2020 on Amazon. Revelations is horror-meets-fairy-tale in a crazy mash-up that teaches a lesson. Examples from the book are actually posted in “fiction” on this blog, so check them out!

I will announce updates as they become available.

I am super excited! Thanks everyone for sticking around, it means the world to me!

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The Virus (Chapter 1)

She could hear the clock ticking. Tick, tock. Tick, tock. Each second seemed to pass slowly. Each second, an eternity. She balled her hand into a fist, then relaxed again. She did this over and over again, afraid of what would happen if she stopped. The oxygen mask on her face was only second in discomfort to the needle in her hand, drawing her blood for more tests. Is this ever going to end? She thought.

She envisioned her children, her grandchildren. They weren’t allowed to visit. Not yet. The doctor said maybe in a few days, until they knew what they were dealing with. She didn’t want to wait. She needed them now. Tick, tock. Tick tock. The clock was like an alarm in her brain. Her time was almost up. She could feel it. Just a little more blood, then she could rest. Only a few more drops.

A nurse came into her room and checked the IV tubes. “All done.” She said cheerfully.

“Great.”

“Cheer up.” The nurse responded. “The doctor is considering letting you go home.”

A ray of hope. Maybe she wasn’t going to die at all. “I get to see my family?”

“Yes, but I’ll let the doctor tell you more about that.” The nurse gathered her sample and retreated from the room.

As she began to daydream about seeing her grandchildren again, the doctor came into the room. There was a small bounce in his step that gave her hope. “I’m sending you home, Margorie.”

“Really?”

“Yes, but it won’t be for another couple of days, just to make sure.”

“Okay.”

“I’ve also allowed for a short visit from your family, if you’re up for it.”

“I am.” Margorie could barely contain her excitement.

The doctor smiled. “Okay. How about tomorrow? I’ll give them a call this afternoon to let them know.”

Margorie felt as though she could jump around the room. “I can’t tell you how much this means to me.”

“I know, Margorie. It’s my pleasure.”

The day passed in a blur. Margorie couldn’t think of anything but seeing her family as she thought about the visit they were going to have.

*

The nurse helped Margorie into a clean hospital gown. Margorie smoothed the perpetually wrinkled fabric as best she could as she heard her grandson run down the hall toward her room. As he entered, Margorie extended her arms, ready to scoop him up for all the kisses she could give him. He didn’t disappoint as he ran right into her arms.

Margorie’s son, Daniel, and his wife, Melissa, followed behind with their ten-year-old son, Matthew. Matthew hung behind with his mother as Daniel hugged Margorie. Margorie’s youngest grandson, two-year-old Michael, was still in her lap.

“Margorie, I’m so glad we’re finally able to visit!” Melissa’s voice was loaded with fakery as she crossed the room and gave Margorie a cold peck on the cheek.

“Me too, dear.” Margorie’s words were just as cold as the kiss.

Daniel ignored them both. “Matthew, give your grandmother a hug.”

With a put-out sigh, Matthew obeyed. “Hey, grandma.”

“Hey, you.” Margorie replied, a smile filling her face.

As the family visited, Margorie learned what her grandsons were doing, and what Melissa did all day when Daniel was at work. Margorie thought that Melissa had it pretty easy, while it looked as though her son were about to pull his hair out. It doesn’t matter. Margorie thought. I’ll be able to help them soon.

“Hello, everyone.” The doctor strode in.

“Doctor.” Daniel greeted him.

“Okay. Margorie’s doing well. Her tests have come back negative for the virus. It looks like she took well to the new medication and her body did the rest. You can pick her up tomorrow morning.”

“That’s great news! You can stay with us until you’re well enough to go back to the house.”

That was exactly what Margorie was hoping Daniel would say.

*

The nurse went into Margorie’s room at 8am, expecting Margorie to already be up and dressed, ready to go home to her family. But when the nurse saw Margorie was still sleeping, she shook her head.

“Margorie, your son is here to pick you up.” The nurse called out as she crossed the room to turn on the light over Margorie’s bed in an attempt to rouse the woman.

There was no response.

“Margorie. It’s time to go, you’re late.” The nurse continued to talk loudly as she flipped the light switch.

As light flooded the bed, the nurse sighed as she looked down at Margorie. The nurse lifted the woman’s wrist, waited a few beats, then put it gently back on the bed.

What the nurse thought was particularly sad was that no one had realized that Margorie had died nearly two hours ago.

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Betrayed

She woke up with dried mud on her feet and red liquid splatters on her arms and hands. She took in her surroundings, blinking slowly, her breathing labored and shallow. Where am I? She thought.

Macy recounted what she could remember before the blackness. She thought about her friends and tried to come up with enough evidence to convict one of them of this terrible prank, but she came up empty. She was on the wooden floor of a musty-smelling room. Streams of sunlight shone through the single, mud-caked window. She wondered if it was mid-morning or early afternoon. From the color of the sun rays, she determined that it must be mid-morning. She was free to move around the room, which didn’t surprise her, seeing that her friends were assholes who were probably laughing about this in the school’s courtyard right about now. They didn’t mean her any harm, just a good laugh at her expense. Still, Macy couldn’t help but feel a sense of dread and unease. She knew, deep in her heart, that this was more than a prank.

Macy was a bubbly seventeen-year-old from a small, rural farming community in upstate New York. Her parents owned and managed a farm on the outskirts of that community, along an old dirt road that Macy had played on since she was three years old. The farm at one time belonged to Macy’s paternal grandfather, who in turn left the property to Macy’s father’s older brother, George, when Macy was a newborn. When George proved he could not manage the farm the way their father had intended due to his habitual drinking, Macy’s father took over the daily operations of the property and moved his family into the quaint farmhouse at the edge of the property. George, however reluctantly, moved to a neighboring town. Despite the family farm changing hands, Macy’s father and uncle maintained a cordial, if somewhat strained relationship; a tension from which Macy’s parents had successfully protected her.
Macy’s life was that of the typical small-town girl; Friday night football games at the local high school, Saturday morning farmers’ markets where her family set up a modest booth selling fresh corn and carrots, and Sunday morning church services, after which Macy’s parents would speak to the pastor for an hour or more, leaving Macy to pace by the double doors. Every morning before school Macy would help her mother feed the chickens and milk the cow, and every day after school came homework and helping with dinner. Macy realized that most kids her age went out with friends or watched television after school. Not Macy. Her mother always said: “During the week, you prepare for your future.” Macy was only allowed to see her friends outside of school on the weekends, and her parents didn’t own a television.

Macy tried to recall what day it was. The last event she remembered was having ice cream after dinner at the little stand in the center of town with Tommy Newsome. That was Sunday night. She smiled at the thought of holding Tommy’s hand on the walk to the ice cream stand. The ice cream stand was about a mile and a half away from her family’s farm, and Tommy had picked her up on foot for the date.

“Chocolate, right?” Tommy asked her, signaling to the lit menu board through the screen at the window labeled “order.”

Macy giggled. “Vanilla-chocolate twist, actually.” She corrected him sheepishly.

Macy had first seen Tommy swinging a baseball bat on the practice field behind the high school. He played for the high school’s team, the Bobcats. She thought the team’s name to be lame, and many of the guys in her school wouldn’t dare be caught playing baseball. The coveted sport was football; you only played baseball if you were planning on doing it professionally in the future. Tommy had a real knack for it, and Macy had no doubt that if he stuck with it, Tommy would “go pro.” Tommy looked at ease swinging the bat, like it was a natural extension of his arm. It seemed he was born to play baseball.

He swung at the ball and knocked it out of the field on the first swing. He jogged leisurely to first base, smiling and laughing at the jeers his teammates sent his way. After he arrived at first base, Tommy made eye contact with her, and waved. She remembered feeling her cheeks grow hot, and realized she had been openly admiring him. “Geeze,” Macy remembered saying to herself. “He thinks I’m an idiot.”

Tommy went out of his way to talk to her in the hallway at school after that spring meeting. When the semester ended, he had slipped her a jaggedly torn piece of notebook paper with his phone number on it that read, “Call anytime, but not after nine.” It wasn’t until later that Macy found out that if she called him after nine o’clock at night, she would wake his parents, and they would be angry enough to ground him for weeks. At the time, however, she smiled at the note and put the scrap paper gently between the pages of her own notebook.

Macy and Tommy spent a lot of time together once school let out for the summer. She introduced him to her parents, and he always addressed them as sir and ma’am, which made him a favorite with her mother. Her father was still on the fence about what he deemed their “friendship.” Tommy never failed to lend a helping hand around the farm when he was visiting, and always commented when he was over for dinner with “this is great, ma’am” in response to her mother’s cooking. Most nights after dinner, Macy’s parents would allow her to go over to Tommy’s house, where they would sit on the couch with a bowl of popcorn, watching his parents’ old black-and-white, rabbit-eared television.

When the summer ended and school began once again, Macy went back to her old routine, which meant she would only be able to see Tommy on the weekends. Macy wasn’t happy about it, but she thought Tommy took it a little harder than he should have. As Macy sat in the dark, dank room, a comment Tommy made wouldn’t stop echoing in her mind – “We’ll be seeing each other a lot more than that, I promise.”

That must have been weeks ago now, and there had been no mention of it since. Macy’s mind floated back to the last thing she could remember – eating her vanilla-chocolate twist ice cream cone with Tommy. Tommy had instructed her to grab the last picnic table available before someone else did, and she did as he said, realizing that there were several families milling about. Several families already occupied the remaining tables. Tommy, in turn, has requested and paid for the cones. The two of them talked and laughed as they ate their respective cones; he had ordered bubble-gum flavored ice cream for himself.

“You like bubble-gum flavor?” Macy asked, not only surprised, but a little sickened.

“I love it. You don’t like it?” He obviously noticed the green look on her face.

Macy shook her head vehemently. “Reminds me of that baby medicine my mom used to give me. So gross.”

Tommy laughed. “I remember that stuff; couldn’t wait to get sick.”

They both laughed at that.

Macy smiled as her mind drifted back to the present. Where am I and how did I get here were the only questions on Macy’s mind. She looked at her hands and realized that, aside from a few splatters of the red liquid, they were clean. Her favorite dress – white with yellow flowers – was ripped and caked with mud. She sighed, upset about her dress, and simultaneously realizing that she had not been home since last night, since ice cream with Tommy. Looking at the rays of sunlight streaming through the dirty window, she gathered that it must be Monday. Someone must be looking for me. They can’t just leave me here.

*****

In fact, Macy’s parents were frantically searching for their daughter. They had notified the police, but had to wait until that night to file a missing person’s report, so they were on their own. “She’s not a child anymore, Marge.” Macy’s father, Hugh, said to his wife.

“We must consider the possibility that she has voluntarily left.”

Marge turned on him. “Run away, you mean?”

Hugh nodded slowly, deliberately.

Marge shook her head roughly. “No. I know my daughter. She’s been happy here.”

Hugh shrugged. “Not so happy when we told her she could only see Tommy on the weekends now that school’s started.”

Marge had to admit her husband had a valid point. It was true that Macy had voiced no complaints about life on the farm to either Marge or Hugh, she didn’t even complain about not having access to a television. Although, Macy had always been an easy-going child – carefree, taking the world as it came to her. Marge didn’t see any reason this should suddenly change now that she was involved with some boy.

“But she wouldn’t leave because of that, especially not on her own.” Marge didn’t want to say that Macy didn’t know how to take care of herself, but Macy needed her mother, and both of them knew it.

Hugh wasn’t so sure, especially now that she was involved with Tommy. Hugh could see the two of them running away together, despite Tommy’s well-mannered façade. The only flaw in Hugh’s theory was that Tommy was in school today, Marge and Hugh had checked with the high school. The dean had even allowed them to speak briefly with Tommy, and he had been as dumbfounded as them.

“I walked her to the edge of your property last night after ice cream.” Tommy said. “We even made plans for Friday night, after the football game. She couldn’t have left.”

“You’d better tell us exactly what happened.” Hugh suggested.

“There’s nothing to tell, really. We had our ice cream, and we made the walk back to your house. We didn’t stop anywhere, and we didn’t see anyone that late on a Sunday night. When we got to the fence of the farm, I saw lights on inside the kitchen. I figured you must still be awake, and therefore it would be okay to only walk Macy to the edge of the property rather than all the way to the front door. She all but insisted on that.”
Tommy took a deep breath, waiting for Macy’s parents to respond.

“She never came home, Tommy.” Hugh had said calmly.

“If you know where she is Tommy…” Marge interjected frantically before Hugh shushed her.

“If he knew where she was he would tell us,” Hugh’s gaze moved from his wife to Tommy, piercing him with his steely-gray eyes. “Wouldn’t you, son?”

“Of…of course, sir.” Tommy faltered, obviously stricken that they could think such a thing.

Hugh nodded, encircling his wife’s shoulders as she sobbed silently, but continued to stare at Tommy. “Of course you would.”

*****

Macy tried to remember what happened the previous night after her and Tommy left the ice cream stand, but she couldn’t remember much. She could only assume that after they had finished their ice cream cones, that Tommy had walked her back home. She even seemed to have some memory on the walk back to her house, but couldn’t figure out if her mind had made up the memory because it was the most likely scenario, or if the walk had actually happened. Her head was beginning to throb with the effort it was taking to remember.

What bothered Macy about her fuzzy memory was that she did remember seeing a large shadow in the trees as she and Tommy walked along the dirt road that led to her family’s farm. The shadow was roughly the size of a husky man, about six and a half feet tall. What was strange about the shadow was that it was already well past dusk, and it was simply standing among the trees. As Macy remembered the eerie shadow, she wondered why it was just standing there, and thought that maybe it had been watching them. The shadow was definitely a human, but Macy couldn’t think of any person who would stand perfectly still in the woods in the dark, and she certainly couldn’t think of anyone who would take any interest in watching her and Tommy walk down a dirt road at night. Macy ignored it at the time, but now she shivered as she considered that maybe whoever it was among the trees had followed them.

Mentally exhausted from struggling to remember exactly what happened the previous night, Macy ran her fingers through her thick, golden brown hair and tightened her hands into fists, pulling her hair at the roots. She was frustrated and anxious. Macy turned her focus to her surroundings. The room seemed to be some sort of workshop, from what she could make of it. A workbench filled the entire length of the wall to her right, and what looked like paint cans were strewn across the floor. There was the faint smell of paint thinner in the air.

She once again looked down at her hands, glancing at the red splatters on them. Macy smeared a drop of the liquid on the back of her left hand with her right index finger, but the liquid only smudged a little. She sniffed at her hands, but it was difficult to smell anything beyond the cloying sent of paint thinner. Macy determined that the stuff splattered on her hands was paint and tried to ignore any further implications. She was, after all, surrounded by half-full paint cans.

She turned her body to look behind her, her back creaking from lying on the hard floor all night. Behind her stood three easels, all covered with a dirty canvas drop cloth, the color of which used to be white, but was now a dingy light gray. The summation that someone painted in here didn’t make sense to her. There was only one window, and it was covered with mud. If she recalled her art classes correctly, painters needed a lot of natural light to get the colors right. There was no such light in this room. Still the easels intrigued her, and she felt that she needed to see what was under that drop cloth – maybe there would be answers.
Macy tried to stand. Her legs were wobbly, but she managed. Her head felt fuzzy and the rest of her body felt like it had been run over by a truck. Despite the way she felt, it was time to further explore her surroundings, and she was going to begin with seeing what was under that canvas. She took slow steps toward the far wall, her bare feet slapping on the hard wood. She lifted the drop cloth and revealed three unfinished paintings, all of which seemed to be portraits of women. One portrait was an outline, almost finished, all it needed was color. The second was a partial outline, only half of a head, and the third was an upper torso, but no head.

As she replaced the drop cloth, Macy recalled a long-forgotten childhood memory. Macy always credited her love of art to her uncle George. Her father’s brother was an avid painter. He was the person who taught Macy the basics of painting, and the only one who nurtured her obvious talent for it. Macy’s uncle, as well as her love of art, disappeared when Macy entered high school. A twinge of sadness entered her consciousness as Macy turned her attention to the rest of her surroundings once again.

With her legs becoming steadier the more she stood, she walked over to the workbench, determined to figure out what she was dealing with. There was nothing on the workbench that gave her any answers to where she was or who put her here, just scattered tools and a sheet of sandpaper. Macy sighed. She hoped there was a bathroom down here, she had to go – bad.

*****

Tommy walked the length of the high school’s massive parking lot to his beat-up old Chevy pickup. He was deep in thought when he heard someone call his name.

“Hey Newsome!” The kid called. “What’s eating you?”

Tommy shook his head, realizing that his face had puckered up like he had just eaten a lemon. “Nothing.” He called back quickly, not bothering to slow his pace.

“Well where you goin’? We got baseball practice in ten.” The kid called back.

“Can’t today. Something came up.” Tommy lifted himself into his truck and turned the key in the ignition.

The engine sputtered, then roared to life. Tommy’s baseball teammate was moving closer to the truck, a worried look on his face. Tommy ignored his peer and jammed his foot down on the accelerator, causing the tires to spin and loose dirt to kick up behind him as he sped out of the lot and onto the main road.

*****

Macy never found a bathroom, but she did find an empty coffee can. The red can read Folgers in a mustard-yellow font, and she used this to relieve herself. “Yuck.” She said out loud when she was finished, staring into the puddle now housed inside the can. She shuddered and looked around her once again.

When she first woke up she figured that the door of her entrance and, hopefully, her escape was locked up tighter than the sole liquor store in the ghetto, but something told her to try the knob anyway. She looked at the deep amber rays of light coming through the window and realized that it was nearing sunset. Now was as good a time as any; she didn’t want to spend another night here.

She walked up to the door slowly, pressing her ear against the cool metal. She listened intently for a few moments. When she was content that there was nothing on the other side of the door, she tried the knob, and found that it turned easily in her hand. Shocked, and suddenly uneasy, she pushed the door open slowly.

A wooden staircase was in front of her, leading up to another door. She listened again for any type of sound. Silence. She climbed the staircase, the steps creaking softly under her weight. She tried to be as quiet as possible. When she reached the top step, she tried the knob of the flimsy wooden door. This knob also turned easily. She stared at the door for a long moment, not opening it, suddenly afraid. She expected both doors to be locked, yet they weren’t.

She let the door swing open to reveal a kitchen not unlike her own at home. The white linoleum floor was crested with beige, wooden cabinets. Gleaming white appliances complimented the country décor. All was silent save for the humming of the refrigerator. Perplexed, Macy turned her head to the right and glanced down a hallway littered with framed pictures on the walls. At the end of this hallway were three closed doors, two facing each other on opposite walls, and the last facing the open end of the hallway. All three seemed to stand in judgment of her. She turned her head to the left and saw another door, this time a screen door that allowed a view of a porch and a large back yard beyond, complete with a tree swing.

Macy knew that she should run to that screen door and push through it, into the open. However, something called to her from the hallway. All she knew was that she would find answers in that hallway. She turned her attention to that hallway, and the pictures on the wall.

*****

Tommy raced to the outskirts of town, trying to remember the exact route. The sun was beginning to set, and he instinctively knew he was running out of time. All he could think about was getting to his destination, and his mind blurred on the directions due to the stress. He stopped at a stop sign for a few moments and looked at the street sign accompanying it – 5000 W.

“Fuckin’ country roads.” Tommy muttered as he accelerated, hoping he didn’t just miss a turn.
He tried, but couldn’t remember the names, or numbers rather, of the roads he needed to take. This was only the second time he was going to this house, and he tried desperately to remember the quickest route, or any route for that matter. It was essential for him to get there before anyone else did. So he went straight, hoping he would not get himself lost.

*****

Marge stared blankly into the trees lining the property at the back of their house. She sat on the back porch, in a wooden rocking chair Hugh had made for her seventeen years ago when Macy was born. No more tears would flow, and she knew her daughter was gone.
Inside the house, Hugh was conducting a hushed conversation on the telephone. The police. Marge thought. He doesn’t want me to hear, but I hear. Doesn’t want to upset me, but I’m not upset. Her thoughts were choppy, incomplete.

Marge’s hysteria had given way to numbness. She was aware of this, and decided to enjoy the peace of it. She stared into the trees, blinking only when she had to, and leaving her eyes closed for more than a few seconds when she did. Hugh was suspicious of Tommy, this Marge thought was evident, and had been from the day they met each other. Marge herself liked the boy, always so polite. Now that Macy was missing, Marge knew that Hugh suspected Tommy.

With his phone call finished, Hugh joined his wife on the porch, took a seat on the bench beside her rocking chair. “I’m going to head over to the police station.” He said with no emotion.

“Let me come with you.” Marge looked over at her husband.

“No. You stay here and rest. I’ll take care of everything.”

Marge knew Hugh was right, and she had no inkling that he was lying to her. He was so much stronger than she was. Besides, he would tell her everything he knew when he returned, he always did. Hugh left without so much as a backward glance. Marge wasn’t hurt though, she knew he was on a mission.

*****

Macy slowly made her way into the hallway, the carpeted floor plush under her feet. Something about this house seemed vaguely familiar, and the sight of the three closed doors at the end of the hallway continued to unsettle her. She couldn’t help but think that there was something sinister lurking behind one of those doors, waiting to jump out at her. She attempted to ease her feelings of dread with the thought, “I should have come up here before I peed in a can.” She frowned.
Macy flipped a light switch and the domed light on the ceiling in the middle of the hallway splashed artificial yellow light on the peach-colored walls. The light also illuminated the faces in the framed pictures. The first framed picture was that of herself – her eighth grade school portrait. Macy stared at it a moment, confused. Finally, she moved on to the one beside it. What looked like a family picture, it depicted a group of individuals, four of whom she recognized. Macy recognized herself, her parents, and her grandmother. It took her a few minutes for her to recognize her uncle George, the man who nurtured her love of art before he left her life. She knew the other individuals in the picture must be his wife and children.
Suddenly, a sickeningly eerie thought entered her mind as Macy slowly pieced the puzzle together – she had been abducted by her own family.

*****

As Tommy raced south on the lonely, country highway, he was forced to stop at yet another ill-placed stop sign. He was glad he did though, because seconds later, he saw a brand-new Ford Explorer traveling well over the legal speed limit in these parts. It took Tommy only a moment to realize that the man in the Ford Explorer was Macy’s father.

Tommy jammed the accelerator to the floor and fishtailed around the corner, determined to keep that vehicle in sight. The two vehicles were now traveling west, practically gliding over the dirt road. The Ford Explorer seemed to glide, anyway, while Tommy’s old truck shuddered and bounced all the way down the road, but Tommy managed to keep up at almost ninety miles an hour.

Ten minutes later, Tommy stealthily followed the Ford Explorer onto another dirt road, smaller than the one they had just been traveling. It took Tommy a moment to realize that this wasn’t a road, but a long, winding driveway. He parked his truck close to the trees that surrounded the property and followed up the drive on foot, using the densely wooded area as cover. Tommy hid behind a tree as Macy’s father slid out of the Explorer. He stood gazing up at the house for a moment before slipping something into the waistband of his dusty jeans. Finally, he started toward the back of the house.

*****

Macy froze when she heard a car door slam. She thought about hiding, but was too scared to move. She heard the heavy footsteps on the wooden back porch, realizing those footsteps belonged to a man, but also realizing that the sound was familiar. It was the same sound she heard when her father walked on the back porch outside their own house. A moment later, her prediction was proved correct and Macy saw her father silhouetted in the screen door by the dying sun.

“Dad!” Macy ran to him.

Hugh caught Macy in a tight embrace, but his face remained grim. He didn’t even look at his daughter, but remained staring straight ahead, down the hallway from which Macy had just run, like his wife did on their back porch. He noticed that the door at the end of the hall had opened an inch, and a shadow blacker than night flickered behind the door. Hugh continued to watch that door, hugging his daughter tighter. He knew his brother lurked behind that door, and he had a pretty good idea of what George was about to do. Hugh decided to enjoy this moment with his daughter and hugged her close.

Macy hugged her father tighter than she had since she was seven years old. Her father’s form felt rigid and uncomfortable against her body. She felt him staring over her head at something behind her. These cues made her uneasy, and she suddenly wondered if her father was there to take her home, or but her back in that dank room in the basement. Macy tried to push back to look at him, but he continued to hold her close. She had so many questions to ask him.

“Dad, what’s going on?” Macy tried to keep the fear out of her voice.

“Shhh.” Hugh whispered and put his hand on the back of Macy’s head to keep her close.

“No. What’s going on?” Macy was trying hard not to become frantic. “I want to leave now!”

“We’ll go in a minute, Baby, but for right now, we have to wait and be quiet.” Hugh’s tone was soft, yet firm, as he reached for something in the waistband of his jeans. Macy knew not to argue, so she allowed her father to hold her while he stared at the door at the end of the hallway.

When Macy heard the click of metal on metal behind her, she was only able to move her head two inches before she heard a loud pop that seemed to thrust her head forcefully into her father’s chest. She felt Hugh’s body move to shield her, but with another pop, the two of them hit the wooden planks of the back porch. Macy was aware of her father crawling over her, but why she did not know, and she didn’t have time to care before everything became black again.

*****

Tommy watched the house, growing impatient at the fact that no one was leaving it. He thought about storming in, but didn’t know what he’d be storming into. Tommy watched the entirety of the house closely, looking for any sign of life. He paid special attention to the upper-floor windows, but he couldn’t fathom as to why. Just a hunch, I guess. He thought as he stood stone still.

The property was eerily still. Tommy noticed the lattice work on the side of the three-story country house, and briefly appreciated the beauty of the wooden, wraparound porch, complete with a white porch swing. He imagined that a nice family lived here – two married adults with two-point-five children, and a dog named Spot or Fluffy – but he knew that this was the home of Macy’s uncle George. The man, Tommy knew, wanted to hurt Macy’s father in any way he could for taking the reins of the family farm. Tommy also knew that this is where Macy was, unbeknownst to Macy’s parents or friends. A chill went down Tommy’s spine as he thought not only about all the rumors he had heard around town, but the things Macy herself had told him in confidence. Tommy had called Hugh with his suspicions only an hour ago, and he hoped it wasn’t too late.

Tommy had a vague idea of what was happening, but couldn’t quite piece it together, until he heard a gunshot from within the house. Tommy raced down the path Macy’s father had taken a few minutes earlier, which led him to the back porch. Tommy stopped running abruptly when he arrived at the porch. He was greeted by Hugh, glassy-eyed, staring unseeingly into the trees in the back yard, rocking in an old rocking chair. Macy lay dead beside him, blood from the side of her head seeping into the wooden planks. As Tommy turned to run and call for help, George blocked his path, a gray pistol in line with Tommy’s heart. Before Tommy could utter a word, he heard the same loud pop that Macy and her father had heard. Then everything went black.
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Lunacy


Rebecca knew the moon had stolen her daughter.

Two days before Christmas Eve. Rebecca picked up Molli from her dorm room for the holiday break. The roads were snow-covered and slippery, and oncoming headlights combined with strong winds made the long journey down the highway difficult. Molli sat in the front seat, seemingly oblivious to the road conditions, happily chatting about her classes and friends. Rebecca rolled down her window a crack to see if the windows would defog.

“Oh! You’ve got to see this!” Molli unbuckled her seatbelt and turned her entire body toward the back seat, trying to reach her duffle bag.

“Molli, please, can’t it wait?” Rebecca struggled to keep the car on the road.

A strong gust of wind blew the moonlight into the car. Rebecca swerved to avoid another vehicle that was drifting into her lane. She lost control of the car. The crunch of glass and metal filled the icy air. Rebecca saw the moonlight envelop her daughter.

There was no doubt – the moon had stolen Molli.

*

Molli’s funeral was two days after Christmas. As Rebecca and her husband, John, watched the casket being lowered into the frozen ground, Molli’s life flashed through her mind. The two of them baking cookies on cold winter afternoons when Molli was a toddler, flour covering her face and hands, licking a chocolate-frosted spoon with the biggest grin. Molli running into the house, crying, after her first day of kindergarten because she missed her mommy. John squeezed her hand and the memories vanished.

“I can’t do this.” Rebecca whispered to John as her eyes darted around the cemetery, searching for a way out.

John didn’t reply.

Unable to find an escape route, Rebecca’s eyes focused on Molli’s casket, the top now disappearing below ground. I’m not ready. She’s not ready. Rebecca’s thoughts screamed.

She felt unable to breathe. Her daughter wasn’t dead, and she wouldn’t be able to breathe underground.

“Stop this!” Rebecca hissed to John as the gravedigger began shoveling dirt into the grave.

John remained motionless.

“Didn’t you hear me?” Tears of desperation blurred Rebecca’s vision and she shook John’s hand as if to wake him.

“I heard you.” John finally said.

“Why aren’t you doing anything?” Rebecca’s desperation was quickly giving way to hysteria. “She’s not dead!” She screamed aloud.

The ritual stopped; everyone attending stared.

“I’m so sorry.” John addressed the crowd as he stood, attempting to make Rebecca stand with him.

She did stand and allowed herself to be ushered away from the ceremony, but not before she cried, “The moon has her! She’s not dead!”

*

The looks of concern and pity after her outburst at the funeral were not as painful as being alone in bed, the moon staring at her through the window. Rebecca stared back at it while she listened to John explain to someone that she was okay, just having a hard time accepting that Molli’s gone.

John entered the room and found Rebecca lying on her side, staring through the uncurtained window. “It’s stuffy in here.” He said as he crossed the room and opened the window a crack.

A soft breeze blew the moonlight into the room and Rebecca could feel it wrapping itself around her. She shivered.

“Dinner’s ready.” John offered.

Rebecca didn’t reply.

John sighed and left the room.

Rebecca lay stiffly on the bed, the moonlight making her eyes water. She couldn’t watch it anymore. Rebecca rolled onto her back and stared at the ceiling.

Shadows began to creep along the wood floor and up the wall to the ceiling. Rebecca watched, unmoving, as the shadows entered her field of vision and began to take shape in front of her eyes. The shapes molded themselves into the events of the accident. Shadows, blacker than black, played the scene on the ceiling like a silent film. The object that stood out the most – the moon.

The scene depicted the car crash; not what actually happened, but what Rebecca was sure of in her heart. The shadows the moon cast failed to depict the moon’s role. It was trying to convince her otherwise.

Tears in her eyes, Rebecca angrily flipped onto her side and stared at the moon again. “Give her back.” She repeated over and over like a mantra until her eyes finally closed.

*

“Mom?”

Rebecca opened her eyes.

The room was flooded with blinding silver light. Rebecca felt like a block of ice. She knew it was the moon.

“Mom?”

Rebecca forced her eyes to adjust to the intense light and saw a slim silhouette standing in front of the window. She instinctively knew it was Molli. “Baby? You’re back!”

Molli shook her head. “I have to go. Just wanted to say hi.”

“No.” Rebecca was firm, getting out of bed to move closer to her daughter, but making no progress.

Molli turned toward the window.

“Don’t move!” Desperation crept into Rebecca’s voice.

Molli put her hand on the window sill as if preparing to climb out.

The desperation that had been building in Rebecca took over. “Me!” She screamed, pounding on her chest. “Let me go instead.”

Molli glanced over her shoulder at her mother but didn’t move.

“Please!” Rebecca fell to her knees, clutching her chest.

Wind from the open window whipped into the room. The intense silver light seemed to grow brighter until Rebecca couldn’t see anything at all.

*

The next morning, John woke to find Rebecca wasn’t breathing. The ambulance arrived in minutes. Apparent heart attack. Rebecca died in her sleep.

The first thing John did was pick up the phone and dial Molli’s dorm room to tell her the news.

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