Horror writing has always been part of my speculative toolbox. When I started writing these stories, there were things I vowed NOT to do: werewolves howling at the moon, unearthing a mummy or the same old vampire tale. This pledge came with a disclaimer, that I would give myself the go-ahead if I found a unique way to approach tried-and-true monsters. “The Difference Blood Makes” is such a tale. Now available in ebook or print as part of the third Weird and Whatnot anthology.
With some short stories, persistence pays off. Curveball has been searching for a home for nearly four years. I knew the characters were interesting and plot was good, but the story didn’t fit neatly in a genre; it touched the supernatural and a crime was involved, but it fell somewhere in-between. Submitted 25 times and rewritten twice, this tale finally found an editor who liked it enough to publish it on their website.
Everyone who reads this piece asks if it’s true. Thankfully, no. The story is fictional and was originally submitted to Reflex Fiction in April 2019. It didn’t win the contest, but they were moved by it and decided to publish it anyway.
by DL Shirey
The boy beams when finished. Beams. Like the face of God’s son whose name I no longer invoke. For eleven years he’s smiled whenever he sees me. Smiles when I feed him yoghurt. Smiles as I clean up shit and vomit. Gabe is a happy child. Happiest when he finishes a drawing.
Horror Tree has assembled all stories previous published in their 2018 “Trembling With Fear” column. That’s 204 tales of fright and weirdness (I counted). Stories are listed by the month they were published. Mine is in December.
Despite the title, this story is more horror than sci-fi. (And as horror goes, fairly mild.) As Corner Bar Magazine editor Garry Somers told me, “It’s like a Twilight Zone episode, only without the preface by Serling that warns you that you’re about to be freaked out.” Being a TZ fan myself, that is high praise. First published in July 2019.
Where Pluto Used To Be
by DL Shirey
The nausea hadn’t started yet, but it was just around the corner. Right now the problem was itching, and those awful thoughts that if she scratched too hard, too often in the same spot, her skin would shred like grated cheese.
Elsa tried not to scrape her manicured nails where it itched most, on her ankles. Instead she crossed her legs, placing a foot on her knee, then gently rubbed at the itch beneath her pant leg. But a laying-on of hands wouldn’t sooth it, nor would a lotion to moisturize skin. Oxy or Vikes would do it.
Published in February 2019 by the Oregon-based journal Cascadia Rising Review, this story can be categorized as creative-nonfiction-ish because it’s written about actual events. Truth be told, though, liberties were taken to enhance the drama. Since these characters are based on my relatives, but not 100% pure, their names have been changed.
I must give a shout out to Alle Hall, whose editorial prowess helped shape the story. Even though I withdrew it from consideration for her journal, some of the rewrites she requested definitely made the piece better. Thanks Alle.
Marine Corps Chow
by DL Shirey
If a machine gun expelled staccato laughter instead of bullets, that would be the sound my uncle made after every joke I heard him tell. HA-uh-uh-uh-uh-uh followed the punch line, a clipped rat-a-tat-tat before anyone else could laugh.
He was used to people doubling-up from his stories. Franklin Chandler Penney was a Marine, a commander of Marines, a full-bird colonel once in charge of an airbase in the Pacific theater. I never saw him in his Marine Corps cap, but there was no hair for it to hide. He had thick brows, constantly stuck in the frown position, which gave him a hawkish squint. He was tall and held his backbone at attention, even in the most casual occasions. Whenever he laughed, his jaw would barely unhinge, as if it was a Herculean effort to unclench his teeth.
This story is written in first person, which is weird because it’s from the perspective of an alien creature native to the planet Mercury. It’s also short. But somehow I was able to squeeze in the creature’s entire life cycle in 300 words. Published in June 2019 by Local Train Magazine.
The Thin Rim of Mercury
by DL Shirey
I crawl from the carcass of my motherfather. Me and thousands of sisterbrothers. Weaker ones are eaten to gain the strength needed to push against the baked shell of dirt above us. Most die trying, each arching a feeble spine against unbending crust, all eighteen legs pushing up, straining to crack through.
The ground gives above me, a fissure forms and the heat doubles. I push through vulva-end first and am immediately penetrated. The weight of my writhing suitor keeps me from pulling my phallus-half out of the ground. I brace myself until shehe is finished, then wrench the rest of me into massive sunlight.
Had my anatomy allowed it, I would have smiled.