HOLIDAY WRAPPINGS: A Selection of Witches, Ghosts, and Vampires

Allison M. Dickson, anthology, Patrick C. Greene, Wrapped Anthologies

Sekhmet Press presents

HOLIDAY WRAPPINGS

A LIMITED EDITION (Kindle) Collection featuring thirteen stories from Wrapped in Red, Wrapped in White, and Wrapped in Black

by Allison M. Dickson, Patrick C. Greene, Gordon White, Rose Blackthorn, Bryan W. Alaspa, Shenoa Carroll-Bradd, Michael G. Williams, Cecilia Dockins, Solomon Archer, Nick Kimbro and Michael D. Matula.

PRE-ORDER TODAY

Available Black Friday through New Year’s Eve.

HolidayWrappings FINAL

PRAISE FOR THE WRAPPED SERIES

“More than horror, an array of emotions that leak off the pages into your mind and at times into your very soul.”

“Every single story was a page turner…Don’t miss out on this terrific book!”

“The Curse of Kirby” by Patrick Greene is darkly twisted in a way that left me vacillating between gales of laughter and horrified disgust.”

“Allison M. Dickson presents the reader with the complete picture… beautifully described settings of anguish, populated with characters that have a strange and unique story to tell.”

“Brilliant and artistically woven anthology.”

NEW RELEASE! WRAPPED IN BLACK: Thirteen Tales of Witches and the Occult

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Sekhmet Press LLC

presents

WRAPPED IN BLACK

Thirteen Tales of Witches and the Occult

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That least understood and most variable of supernatural personae, The Witch, remains a source of fascination and fear the world over. They walk among us, plying their skills, stealing our hearts -and perhaps other pieces of us- for purposes known only to them. In this boiling brew, you’ll taste not only eye of newt and wing of bat, but wrathful scorn, summoned spirits, and pierced veils that bleed wonders dark and delicious. Straddle the whisk and travel the worlds of Witchcraft, Voodoo and eleven worlds ‘twixt. But be careful not to fall…in love or into the abyss.


HAIR SHIRT DRAG by Gordon White
Despite their power, the women of the Overhold family have gone to great lengths to be accepted by the rest of the town. As the coming out party for a new generation draws closer, however, it seems that some people might never fit in.

COMES THE RAIN by Gregory L. Norris
In 1961, a family is trapped at a rural farm. As their powerful matriarch lingers close to death, storm clouds gather over the house, and a powerful evil force descends, seeking vengeance.

NUMBER ONE ANGEL by Allison M. Dickson
Louise would do anything for Phelan, the mysterious new man in her life, but one woman stands in the way: her insufferable mama. But with just one dark act, one nasty little favor for Phelan, Mama won’t be anyone’s problem anymore, and Louise will win her place as Phelan’s most special girl.

UNTO THE EARTH by Patrick C. Greene
Landon loves his beautiful Haitian wife, Agnes, even finding her devotion to voodoo charming, with its positive-minded rituals that seem more like play-acting than actual ceremony.

HÄXENHAUS by Nick Kimbro
In 17th century Germany a man and his wife have lost a son. The culprit: witchcraft. When a strange black dog follows them home from where the witches are being interrogated, however, it might be just the fresh start needed to help them cope with their grief.

STORIES I TELL TO GIRLS by Michael G. Williams
Auntie Ann is the revered elder of The Book People, a coven of witches drawing power from the written word. Begging for their help, a dashing and sorrowful figure from the distant past reminds them the wise and unshakable crone was once a maiden.

THE RISING SON by James Glass
Cal had been an easy-going man until the night the woman he loved showed up to his secret society’s party with Crowley. Fueled by jealous rage, Cal did the unthinkable, summoning much more than the demon he had intended.

BEAUTIFUL, BROKEN THINGS by Rose Blackthorn
Trey has made plenty of mistakes in his life, and now he’s paying for them. A random meeting with a strange woman who seems to know more about him than is possible will change everything, and give him the possibility of getting back the most precious thing he has lost—the one person who really meant anything to him.

NOT THIS TIME by Mike Lester
Blood is thicker than water, so the saying goes…and sometimes the bonds of blood even outlast the grave…

INTO THE LIGHT by Solomon Archer
Elliot, a lonely transplant in rural Kansas, finds friendship with a dangerous group enthralled by an ancient power thirsty for sacrifice. With his sanity and the lives of those he loves on the line, Elliot decides the only way out is to take on a force far greater than nature itself.

SHE MAKES MY SKIN CRAWL by Shenoa Carroll-Bradd
Jamie’s wife is beautiful, passionate, and exotic, but sometimes her jealousy gets the better of her. And when it does, she punishes him in ways he never thought possible.

PIGEON by Eric Nash
Maddie followed the path straight to the Goddess; she knew the Goddess took care of her own.

PIG ROAST by Aaron Gudmunson
To boorish, boring Chet, food is everything–especially when it’s slathered in mustard. When he meets a beautiful woman who claims to be a master mustard-maker, he thinks all his dreams have come true… but as everyone knows dreams can swiftly become nightmares.

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NOT THIS TIME by Mike Lester

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excerpt from

WRAPPED IN BLACK

Thirteen Tales of Witches and the Occult

WrappedinBlack NEW COVER


NOT THIS TIME
by Mike Lester

I decided to take a walk.
Melanie would have liked that.
The day was lovely, breezy, bright under a blue sky, bluer than I ever thought possible. Not at all the kind of day I expected it to be. The grass was dry and golden and waist high. Soon it would be taller. Tall enough to hide in. Tall enough to get lost in. Almost. I ran my fingers through the grass, blade tips tickling my palms like blinking eyelashes.
I looked back to the house, back the way I had come, my path a darker shade running through the field. I picked up the bucket and kept on. The bucket was heavy. The wire handle dug into my fingers and I had to keep switching my grip from hand to hand, careful not to spill.
They were all still inside, eating and drinking and telling stories about Melanie, no doubt. As if they knew her.
Up ahead, I could see the lane and the tall trees that lined it, tall and straight, two green, even rows falling all the way back to the highway. I remembered foggy mornings. Walking along the path. The tops of trees shrouded, swaying. Melanie and I would always run ahead of the others, trying to get lost, thinking the fog would take us away, away from the paths and the field and the world. But then Uncle Brad’s voice or footsteps or some other human noise would reach through and bring us back.
I had seen the look in her eyes and recognized it.
Not this time. Soon.
That was a long time ago.
I stepped out of the dry grass and onto the lane. Looked up to the tops of the trees, half-expecting them to be blotted out like before. But no, not today. Today they were golden and green and bright yellow, leaves flickering like shiny coins. I set the bucket down in the gravel and looked back home again. Chimney. The roof, smaller now, far off on the other side of the field. Solitary. A dollhouse.
Mother wouldn’t let me take my tie off, not even after the service. Not even up on top of the hill with the sun beating down on us all. It was hot and still and I couldn’t look when she was lowered. Not because I was sad though. I could hardly keep from smiling. At one point I thought maybe Uncle Brad had noticed, and so I started to feel bad and did my best not to smile.
Now everything is different. Now I could smile if I wanted to and I even whistled a bit. Just a bit.

Read the entire story in

WRAPPED IN BLACK: Thirteen Tales of Witches and the Occult

RELEASE DATE: October 18, 2014


lesterMike Lester is the author of An Occasional Dream, published in 2002 by indie crime publisher UglyTown. His story “The Courtier” will appear in Aaron J. French’s upcoming expanded edition of The Shadow of the Unknown. He currently lives in South Carolina.

THE RISING SON by James Glass

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excerpt from

WRAPPED IN BLACK

Thirteen Tales of Witches and the Occult

WrappedinBlack NEW COVER


THE RISING SON
by James Glass

Crowley was a prick. Virgil Calahan, Jr. came to the conclusion as he watched the man move through the crowd, how everyone smiled and laughed at the poorly told jokes only because no one wanted to seem stupid to a foreigner. Moreover, he seethed at the way Cherry clung to the man’s arm in spite of the insipid, resinous cloud of scented oils permeating the air around him.
He knew he had no claim to the gorgeous redhead, they adhered to the tenets of polyamory, but to see her showering another man with affection – Crowley of all the people! It was too much. He slammed his drink glass on the bar top harder than was necessary and pretended it was Crowley’s face.
The bartender’s smile was tight as he silently refilled the empty glass and disappeared into the shadows once more. Calahan clutched the drink to his chest, his eyes narrowed to slits as he continued to watch the man he now thought of as his own personal arch-nemesis.
“Chin up, old boy, she will be back.”
Calahan turned to see his father, one Virgil Calahan Senior, lounging against the bar. The old man also watched Cherry, the lustful expression not one his son had seen on his father’s usually bland but cheerful visage.
“But once a man has spent a night with the likes of her, one cannot return to any semblance of normal.” At his son’s sharp intake of breath he added, “Oh come now, old man, you can’t mean to tell me you had no idea we’ve all had a taste of Cherry?”
“When?!”
“The night after your birthday. She was very… accommodating.”
Calahan the son glared into his whiskey and said nothing, but he could feel his cheeks becoming red with fury. If it had been anyone but his father who spoke those words, the man would be nursing a black eye and possibly a broken jaw at that very moment. He cleared his throat and downed the rest of the amber liquid, then slammed the glass again on the bar top, this time hard enough to send a shard of glass flying into the space between himself and the gathering of revelers.
His father placed a hand over his. “Son, it was nothing personal, merely a good time.”
At Calahan’s continued silence, the older man studied his son’s face. Sudden realization dawned in his piercing blue eyes.
“Good heavens, boy, you can’t have fallen in love with her!”
Calahan pulled away from his father’s touch. “Well what if I had? What good does it do me now, knowing she’s been with everyone I know?”
“Cal,” his father’s voice was gentle, “She is a whore.”
Calahan rolled his eyes, his voice choked by sarcasm. “No kidding?”
“What I mean to say is she is a prostitute. We bought her for you for your birthday.” His father’s expression was filled with pity, and he patted Calahan’s arm, frowning. “I’m sorry, son. We thought you knew.”
With that, the old man wandered off into the crowd and Calahan stared after his father, disgust mingling with hate and whiskey in his churning gut. As Crowley’s accent carried over the crowd he gritted his teeth and stormed out onto the balcony of the lushly appointed hotel. He caught Cherry’s eye as he passed by her, and a small frown curled the corners of her perfectly drawn red lips.
The combination of being away from the party-goers and the chill of the night air cleared his anger only slightly, and he glared over the railing of the balcony into the glittering few electric lights mingling with gaslight below. He heard the latch of the French doors click behind him and he sighed, expecting Cherry to approach him with excuses. Instead his brother touched his shoulder.
The angry words meant for Cherry died on Calahan’s lips at the sight of his sibling. The younger man seemed upset by something, and the signs of laudanum addiction colored his pale features. This was a new addition to a chaotic repertoire of drug use.
“Billy?” Calahan said in way of greeting.
“Cal.” His brother stared over the railing with fever eyes and pulled at his clothes as if they didn’t fit quite right.
“Are you feeling,” Calahan paused, unable to say the word he had intended ‘anything’, instead substituting, “unwell?”
“You can say that, I suppose.” He spun to face Calahan and his elder brother stepped back as if physically assaulted by the mania creeping into his voice.
“I think you’ve had too much to drink,” Calahan said, voice quiet so as not to upset the delicate balance of his brother’s mood. On a typical day the young man’s behavior was erratic, partly due to his mental state and partly as a result of his self-medication.
Billy laughed and shook his head. “The problem is, Cal, I have not yet had enough to drink!” He stared at the lights below for a moment, his voice dreamy when he at last asked, “Have you spoken with Crowley yet?”

Read the entire story in

WRAPPED IN BLACK: Thirteen Tales of Witches and the Occult

RELEASE DATE: October 18, 2014


james glassJames Glass enjoys his privacy, but frequently finds that he plays an unwilling host to Xircon. When not visiting red light districts of red light cities, he can frequently be found contemplating life in the seediest of libraries.

Find James Glass on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/JamesRGlassII and HERE

 

PIGEON by Eric Nash

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excerpt from

WRAPPED IN BLACK

Thirteen Tales of Witches and the Occult

WrappedinBlack NEW COVER


PIGEON
by Eric Nash

Sitting on the playground, fingering the amulet which adorned her wrist, Maddie thought that the clockwork conspiracy was genius in the way it dictated her fall.

If Jack, her ex-boyfriend and ex-boss, hadn’t made that girl pregnant, he would not have left Maddie. If she hadn’t been forced to quit her job because of his unreasonable behaviour then she wouldn’t be working in the Estate Agents doing weekend shifts, and would not have been taking her lunch-break in the park. She would not have been watching a magpie swagger through the grass as she listened to her sister waffle on about how fantastic her holiday was – second already that year and it still only July – while her nephew walked along a balance bar between the swing and the climbing frame. If her sister, who never liked Jack and still frequently informed Maddie of this fact, hadn’t told her about her new job, the pay increase and the flirty fit bloke that had interviewed her, she would not have walked over to her nephew, who then would not have bet her that she couldn’t walk all the way along the bar like he had done twice. Maddie stepped up. She would have reached the end if a motorcycle hadn’t backfired and the magpie hadn’t leapt into flight, but it did and so did the other, and the frantic fluttering of wings came inches from Maddie’s face making her twist and flail and fall left off the narrow beam.

Even though she hadn’t landed exactly on the left hand path – the path was some distance away on the other side of the park – she felt that the act of falling to her left counted as the same thing. Now that she had fallen she was, of course, duty-bound to explore her desires and maximise her satisfaction.

Or maybe, Maddie just needed to give herself permission to repay Jack for the three years of pills caused by his betrayal.

Whatever the reason, her liberation began with the removal of her amulet. It was a plain silver band, around which she had wrapped a lock of Jack’s hair. Back when he wore it long. Back when he was hers. To secure the hair she had bound it with red silk. It had protected her from harm every day she and Jack had been together. After, it had been very successful in keeping him near.

Abandoning her nephew to the whims of his self-obsessed mother, Maddie unravelled the silk and let it trail behind her in the dirt, discarding it at the park gates when she turned left to take the Number 9 bus. Knowing what she was about to do had her heart skipping over her hollow belly. The act of allowing herself to do it swept away the many inhibitions that contained her, and made her body tremble with excitement. At the bus stop, she couldn’t help but play hide-and-peek with her reflection, each time lingering a little longer to marvel at the upward curve of her lips and the universe revealed in her eyes.

All the while, Maddie crushed the hair in her fist.

Read the entire story in

WRAPPED IN BLACK: Thirteen Tales of Witches and the Occult

RELEASE DATE: October 18, 2014


Photo Credit: boj32

Photo Credit: boj32

Eric Nash writes dark speculative fiction. As yet he has not won, or been nominated for, any awards for his literary works. However, he is working on this and will be sure to let you know when he does. He lives in the south-west of England, possibly with his wife and children but he can’t be sure as demons have lashed him to his writing desk and bolted the door.

He has a website, http://eanash.wordpress.com, and can also be found on social media at http://www.facebook.com/EricNashauthor.

INTO THE LIGHT by Solomon Archer

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excerpt from

WRAPPED IN BLACK

Thirteen Tales of Witches and the Occult

WrappedinBlack NEW COVER


Sekhmet Press is excited to announce that Wrapped In Black contributor

Solomon Archer

has been named the

2014 Masters of Macabre Winner

by horroraddicts.net

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Congratulations, Archer!


INTO THE LIGHT
by Solomon Archer

Elliot thought back to when it all started, before the gatherings became ceremonies. Before the rituals demanded sacrifices. Before his gift became a nightmare. Before his life became Mother’s.

Back then, he thought, as if the world before the coven had been simpler. Sundown meant heading home to set the table for dinner, pedaling his Schwinn as fast as he could. Back then, he responded “treasure hunting pirate astronaut” to any adult who inquired what he wanted to be when he grew up. He wasn’t a sullen eighteen-year-old who lived with his single mother on a dead farm, in a state where the only excitement came in the form of questionably regulated rides at the county fair or an occasional late summer hailstorm. Back then, he had a family and a life. He had a father and friends and all of suburban Newton Highlands as his playground.

But most importantly, he didn’t stay up until dawn, sweat-soaked and panicky with his heart in his throat, listening for the sounds of creatures stirring in the fields outside his window. Or hold his breath when they stopped.

Then, sixteen months ago, he met Deacon.

It had been a Saturday in mid-April, and rather than spend the day turning his dead grandparents’ former dream home into his own Midwest nightmare, unpacking the moving boxes that doubled as cardboard furniture, Elliot opted instead to explore the deserted back roads of Delphos, far from the disappointed stare of his mother. He rarely needed to use more than three or four gears on his bike in the flat expanse of Ottawa County, but that was more than enough to generate a welcome rush of spring wind through his hair. He had just passed the county line ten miles from his house, enjoying the solitude and peace, when he struck the pothole.

He hadn’t been watching the road, so he never saw it coming. The front tire dropped into the depression, pitching him over the handlebars. He stiffened reflexively as the ground rushed up to meet him, and hit the road with both hands. The road tore into his shoulder, elbow, back, and legs as he landed hard. He writhed in pain, moaning and cursing at dozens of scrapes, cuts, and tears that had suddenly erupted all over his body.

He sat up slowly, turning his left hand over in his lap and wincing at what was undoubtedly a sprained wrist. The asphalt had shredded the meat of his palms and the pebbles, dirt, and debris burrowed into his skin like powdered acid. A midline scar on his right hand, the result of a playground accident when he was ten, was lost in a map of angry red cuts.

He gingerly took the cell phone out of his back pocket. The screen was cracked, and dark. His bike lay on its side like mechanical road kill, the disengaged chain dangling from the crankshaft like a metal intestine.

Favoring his left leg, Elliot got to his feet, picked up his bike and steadied himself on it as he walked it back in the direction of town. The front tire wobbled on its warped rim and Elliot had to coax it along like a wounded pack animal. It was over half an hour before he spied a vehicle on the watery horizon. It crossed the center line and slowed to a crawl, stopping only a few feet in front of him. The muffler offered a low chuckle and shook impatiently as if it were attached to a sleek classic muscle car rather than a mid-70s Lincoln Continental. The dark brown finish was faded, its exterior coated in dust. Though the do-it-yourself window tinting was pale and bubbled, Elliot couldn’t make out the driver.

He gave the car a wide berth as he walked past, when the window rolled down and a gaunt man with a shock of fluffy white hair leaned across the passenger seat.

“Looks like you’ve had quite a scrape.” The driver’s voice was deep and raspy, belying a lifetime of cigarette addiction if not throat cancer.

“Yeah,” Elliot replied, an automatic response. “Just a little scrape, no big deal.”

“Would you like a ride?”

Elliot tensed. “No. Thanks, really. I’ll be fine.”

The man’s gaze fell on the ruined tire and dragging chain, glided over Elliot’s legs, wandered past the abrasions on his hips and elbows, and came to rest on the blood-soaked handlebar Elliot clutched in a vise-like grip. He shook his head slowly, deliberately.

“And you’re planning on walking back to town?” The driver’s voice had a pitying, amused quality. “How long do you think that will take? Two hours? Three maybe?”

Read the entire story in

WRAPPED IN BLACK: Thirteen Tales of Witches and the Occult

RELEASE DATE: October 18, 2014


solomon archerSolomon Archer is the 2014 Masters of the Macbre winner for his short story SURFACE TENSION. A criminal psychologist by day and writer by night, Archer is currently the Chief Psychologist of the XXXXXXX State Department of Corrections. He spends much of his time working with serious and dangerously mentally ill offenders, some of whom are not so disorganized that they couldn’t figure out a way to free themselves from their restraints and stab him in the head with an altered food tray. (Incidentally, the going rate for shanking a psychologist is two pounds of coffee and three bags of Top tobacco. You know, just in case you were curious).

Archer’s short stories have appeared in Wrapped In White: Thirteen Tales of Spectres, Ghosts, and Spirits and the new Wrapped In Black: Thirteen Tales of Witches and the Occult.  His book PSYKU: A Work of Forensic Prose will release later this year by Sekhmet Press. Follow the lives of criminal offenders, as distilled into 17-syllable snapshots of dark humor and morose commentary, by a forensic psychologist with a Disciple Complex and a rampant case of cynicism.

You can find Archer here: http://psykubook.wordpress.com/

and here: https://www.facebook.com/psykuofficial

BEAUTIFUL, BROKEN THINGS by Rose Blackthorn

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excerpt from

WRAPPED IN BLACK

Thirteen Tales of Witches and the Occult

WrappedinBlack NEW COVER


BEAUTIFUL, BROKEN THINGS
by Rose Blackthorn

He noticed the store-front within the first week of moving into the neighborhood. The broad window was curtained with sheer black hangings and a coral pink neon sign flickered Open over an array of oddities. There was no business name over the mirrored glass door, just a hand painted plaque with a large black crow holding an eyeball in one clawed foot.
The street was filled with little shops, all of them grimy and worn in the ever-present overcast. There were pawnshops, tattoo parlors, adult book stores, and little food stands with two or three tables or a narrow counter with barstools. This was not the best part of town to work in, let alone live, but Trey didn’t have a lot of options. Unless a person had the money to pay for walls and security, this was the best he could get.
“Have you ever gone in?”
Trey started, glancing at the painted girl who stood near him. She had candy-pink hair and wore a white sequined dress that left little of her browned figure to the imagination. “Huh?”
The girl laughed, a tinkling sound that was decidedly out of place. “To the Morrigan’s. Have you ever gone in?”
He looked back across the street, to the wooden sign displaying the crow and eyeball. “No. What did you call it?”
The girl pulled a case out of the beaded bag dangling from her wrist, opening it to reveal tiny iridescent tablets. She put one under her tongue before returning the case to her bag. “The Morrigan’s.”
“What is it?” Street lights made pools of dingy gold on the dirty pavements up and down the street, and vehicles skimmed past on their silent airfields, sending bits of paper and plastic wrappers scooting along the cracked sidewalks. Trey kept from asking about the tablets. He was clean now. He repeated it as a silent mantra, clean now clean now clean now.
“My name is Nousha,” she said breaking through his inner monologue. “You’re new around here. What’s your name?”
“Trey,” he answered, clean now clean now ran on in the back of his mind.
“The Morrigan is a magic shop.” Her dark skin shimmered, picking up the yellow of the street lights and magnifying it.
“Like card tricks, sawing someone in half?”
She laughed, more tinkling. “No, not that fake stuff. Real magic. Spells and hexes, love potions and such.”
He stared at her, half hypnotized by the glimmering shifting colors on her skin. “No such thing.”
Nousha shrugged, her bright pink hair like the neon signs along the street. “You could see for yourself. Or not.”
Trey looked back at the dark window with the Open sign stuttering against the glass. Past the glass, behind the sheer black curtains, he thought he could see someone standing there looking back at him. But it could have just been a reflection. Or maybe he’d caught a partial high off the painted girl’s glittering skin.
A car pulled up and stopped, window opening to reveal a heavy-set man of middle age. He glanced at Trey, then to Nousha. “Feel like a party?” he asked, voice gravelly and low.
“If you’ve got the creds, I’m up for anything,” she said in a sexy purr. She winked at Trey, then got into the car. Her skin picked up the blue and violet lights from the interior, glimmering hyacinth and wisteria before the window slid shut and the car’s airfield whisked it away.
Across the street, the Open sign buzzed and flickered. If anyone had been standing behind the curtain before, they were gone now. Trey felt as though he buzzed and flickered, clean now repeating again and again in the back of his mind. He turned and went down the street to the barred security door, punched in his access code, and went up two flights of dingy stairs to what was now his home.

Read the entire story in

WRAPPED IN BLACK: Thirteen Tales of Witches and the Occult

RELEASE DATE: October 18, 2014


roseRose Blackthorn writes speculative fiction from the high mountain desert of eastern Utah.

She has published online and in print, including “Stupefying Stories”, “Necon E-books”, “Cast of Wonders” podcast, “The Wicked Library” horror podcast, “Interstellar Fiction”, “BuzzyMag”, “Books of the Dead” and “Jamais Vu”. She is also included in the anthologies “A Quick Bite of Flesh”, “Horrific History” and “Shifters” by Hazardous Press; “New Dawn Fades”, “The Ghost IS the Machine” and “Fear the Abyss” by Post Mortem Press, “Eulogies II: Tales from the Cellar” by HorrorWorld, and “Equilibrium Overturned” by Grey Matter Press. She has stories scheduled for release from Sirens Call Publications, Sekhmet Press and Eldritch Press. She is a member of the Horror Writer’s Association.

Visit Rose at: http://www.facebook.com/RoseBlackthorn.Author
or at: http://roseblackthorn.wordpress.com
or on Twitter at: https://twitter.com/rose_blackthorn

HÄXENHAUS by Nick Kimbro

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excerpt from

WRAPPED IN BLACK

Thirteen Tales of Witches and the Occult

WrappedinBlack NEW COVER


Häxenhaus
by Nick Kimbro

06 Jan
The Häxenhaus resides on the northern edge of the Black Forest. This is the fourth time I’ve been sent away.
“I’m very sorry, Kramer,” Father Schulz says. “But being here will not help your grief. You should be with your wife.”
“My grief has nothing to do with it,” I say. “I’ve come only to serve our Lord and Savior.”
He shakes his head. “I’m sorry, but even if it were so it would not be right for you to have part in this. Go, and God’s peace be with you.” He makes the sign of the cross and I bow my head. Then he closes the door and it is dark again, and cold.
I glance at the road leading back to the village, then circle around to the creek. The water is freezing. I wade waist-deep, slide my fingers through the metal grate, and peer into the bowels of the Häxenhaus. I can’t see much—just some dim light flickering against the stone—although their screams are like crystal. They begin at a high pitch and become low and guttural as their suffering deepens. The sound carries to the far bank where, somewhere, familiars lift their voices in an awful cacophony of howls and mewls and chirps and croaks. Vague outlines of stakes stud the ground like charred headstones.
I listen until the numbness in my legs turns bitter and I can no longer control my breathing, then I go, back through the forest to my home in the village, where my Helga waits for me in bed. The musky scent of old bed clothes greets me as I lift the blanket and climb in. I slip my arm around her stomach and she grunts. When I realize where my palm is, I readjust.
When I cannot sleep I like to imagine the witches’ screams. Although, eventually my thoughts must shift to the familiars and their mourning song. Only then do I grow weary. Then, I sleep like a babe.

Read the entire story in

WRAPPED IN BLACK: Thirteen Tales of Witches and the Occult

RELEASE DATE: October 18, 2014


nick1Nick Kimbro received his MFA in creative writing from the University of Colorado at Boulder. His fiction has appeared or is forthcoming in Hello Horror, Surreal Grotesque, Space Squid, Heavy Feather Review, Spring Gun Journal, The Yoke, Danse Macabre, and numerous anthologies. His novella, SURFACE INTERVAL, was published by Jersey Devil Press. He lives in Denver, Colorado with his beautiful wife and writes supernatural horror because she doesn’t do gore.

COMES THE RAIN by Gregory L. Norris

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excerpt from

WRAPPED IN BLACK

Thirteen Tales of Witches and the Occult

WrappedinBlack NEW COVER


COMES THE RAIN
by Gregory L. Norris

As Grammy Rae slipped closer toward the shroud, the sky over Foster’s Pond grew dark and more threatening, filling with clouds the color of old bruises, jaundiced yellow-green edged in purple. No rain fell and the air thickened with the bitterness of ozone, becoming almost too heavy to breathe.
Jamison recognized that smell. Four years earlier, Grammy Rae and Momma had taken him to an amusement park for his seventh birthday and its acridity had rained down over the bumper cars, stronger than that of the grease, intensifying with every pop and flash of electricity in the network of metal honeycombs over their heads, those tiny balls of lightning that powered the cars into motion. In the past few days, lightning had crackled and thunder had boomed, but no raindrops fell.
“Don’t go outside,” Momma said, her voice barely above a whisper.
“I have to water the pumpkins,” Jamison argued, his not much louder. “They’re gonna dry up and die on their vines.”
Momma’s eyes darted to the window. Jamison followed her gaze and saw a veil of mist sweep past, framed by the threadbare checked curtains. “No, stay inside.”
“But Momma…”
It wasn’t so much the pumpkins, which he had planted and labored over all summer, any more than the drooping tomatoes with their wooden stalks and plump, red fruit, or the carrots he harvested by the handfuls, loving it when they resisted being tugged out of the ground. It was the silence, the stagnancy inside the house. That, and Grammy Rae’s outbursts as the fever consumed her.
Whatever admonishment she readied to make died, cancelled out by another plaintive cry from the top of the staircase. The voice was Grammy’s, sweet to the ears as it normally was, but beneath the near-musical tones lurked another, sharper cord. At its utterance, sparrows darted out of cover from the cool green folds of the two stately willow trees that bookended the farmhouse and, for an instant, the sun broke through the sallow mists, forming prisms through the back windows that faced out across the pond. A ribbon of fresh air stirred through the house; the breeze, Jamison noted, smelled of roses and almonds, like Grammy Rae’s hand lotion.
Kitten raced out of the back room and into the kitchen, panic written across her tiny face and obvious in her wide eyes. She dropped the rag doll Grammy Rae had made her the previous Christmas in her haste to reach the safety of Momma’s arms.
“It’s okay,” Momma soothed.
But Jamison knew it wasn’t. He patted Kitten’s back and dropped the subject. For now.
“I need you to talk to me,” Momma urged.
Kitten shook her head. She possessed quite the vocabulary, far bigger words and meanings than many of the older kids in Jamison’s class. But she had stopped speaking the moment Grammy Rae fell ill. That had been a week ago, and the storm clouds had soon followed.
“Take your sister,” Momma whispered. She handed Kitten down.
Jamison recovered the rag doll and Kitten, who could recite entire poems and whole pages of stories from memory when she wanted to, clutched at it, her eyes sealed as tightly as her lips. The unexpected whistle of the kettle on the stove made Jamison jump.
Momma prepared another cup of tea for Grammy Rae. Mint, he could tell by the sweet fragrance as she passed by, balancing a tray between her shaking hands. The miserable silence that had blanketed the house resumed, its ominous weight not stopping flocks of invisible butterflies from fluttering their wings beside both of Jamison’s ears.

Read the entire story in

WRAPPED IN BLACK: Thirteen Tales of Witches and the Occult

RELEASE DATE: October 18, 2014


gregory norris1Gregory L. Norris is a full-time professional writer, with numerous publication credits, mostly in national magazines and fiction anthologies. A former writer at Sci Fi, the official magazine of the Sci Fi Channel (before all those ridiculous Ys invaded), he once worked as a screenwriter on two episodes of Paramount’s modern classic, Star Trek: Voyager and is the author of the handbook to all-things-Sunnydale, The Q Guide to Buffy the Vampire Slayer (Alyson Books, 2008).

Find Gregory HERE.