Saturday, January 31, 2015

Saturday Shorts: Aiden Elam Part Five - Super Powers

Hello Readers!  Here is the final installment of January's Saturday Shorts and the scenes told from Aiden's Point of View.  I may or may not be moving on to a different character, possibly from a different book series, next month.  Thank you so much for reading and once again, beware of typos :).  Also, you can read the rest of Aiden's tales on my Saturday Shorts Archive page.  Happy Reading!
-J.E. Johnson

P.S. Feel free to comment and let me know if there are any characters you'd like to hear from.  You never know, they might need your help to get my attention! ;)

PART 5: Super Powers

I woke up, screaming at the top of my lungs.  Only, there wasn't a sound escaping my throat.  The screams existed only in my nightmare, and in the real world, I only lie with my eyes wide open, gasping for air.

I kicked at my bed sheets, almost descending into panic when I couldn't break free.  The blankets had become twisted around me like a straight jacket.  Somehow, I managed to free myself and roll over in bed, curling up into a ball.  I was shaking and cold sweat coated my skin.  My eyes darted around the room, seeking out the dark corners made darker by the eerie light cast by Jack and Joey’s fish tank.  I expected ghoulies to come leaping out of the closet or from behind the dresser or from under my bed.  Gradually, my breathing slowed along with my heart rate and the acrid fear of the dream fizzled out with it.  The grey light of dawn was just beginning to peek through the blinds and I could hear Logan and Bradley, speaking in what they thought were whispers, arguing from their room.

Glad of the distraction, I crawled out of bed and snuck down the hallway, pushing their door open without even bothering to knock.

They both stopped their discussion and turned to look at me, Bradley scowling as usual.

"Haven't you ever heard of knocking?" Logan hissed.

Apparently, his brotherly concern from yesterday was all gone.  I shrugged and said, "Loud."

Bradley turned his nasty look onto our other brother.  "I told you you were making too much noise!"

"Me?!" Logan replied in exasperation.

And then they started arguing again.  Figuring I was safe for the moment, I scuttled over to get a closer look at what they had piled up in the middle of their room.  A few small cans of what might have been spray paint, some random Halloween decorations, lots of candy and a large, hand-made card.  That's when it dawned upon me.  Today was Halloween and Meghan's birthday.  They were getting ready to surprise her.  If anything good ever came out of Halloween, it was that Meggy was born on this day.  Smiling and deciding I was going to help, I knelt onto the ground and pulled the card toward me.  My brothers had snatched it away earlier that week before I could finish the picture I was drawing.

"Aiden!" Logan complained.

"Let him finish!  We need to wrap the candy anyway.  Meghan will be up soon."

For the next several minutes, we worked in relative silence, only the occasional disagreement rising up between my brothers every now and again.  At some point in time the door cracked open and Mom poked her head in.

"Oh, there you are!  I've started the breakfast, so be ready to go get your sister in fifteen minutes or so."

We worked for ten more minutes, Bradley and Logan doing a passable job of wrapping up the candy they'd picked out and me cleaning up the crayons and markers.  When we finally spilled out into the hallway, we were greeted with the delightful smell of French toast.  I breathed in deeply and smiled.  The nightmare from before was already a dim memory and I couldn't wait to wish my sister a happy birthday.

Dad was busy getting the twins fastened into their high chairs and Mom had started depositing freshly cooked slices of French toast onto a waiting plate.  Strings of black plastic cut-out bats and orange jack-o-lanterns hung between the cabinets, and Mom had to duck so she wouldn't become entangled in them.  Ghosts made of white tissue paper wrapped around lollipops dangled from the chandelier above the dining room table, one of them missing a googly eye.

"Logan, go yell downstairs for your sister," Mom said as she slid one final piece of toast onto the others.

Logan darted across the living room and Bradley started shaking the can he held in his hand.  Silly string, I realized, not spray paint.  When Logan was done yelling at Meghan, he replaced the trap door that marked the entrance to her basement room and then nodded in Bradley's direction.  Bradley took that as a sign and quickly made his way to the other side of Meghan's door, tossing a can of silly string to Logan on the way.

Before Meggy even reached the top of the stairs, Bradley and Logan pulled the trap door open and she emerged, blinking in surprise at all the decorations.  Two seconds later, she was ambushed by my brothers, silly string flying everywhere.

"Logan!" Meghan complained, "You totally set me up for that!"

She didn't seem too annoyed, however, because she was smiling even as she picked the sticky mess of black and orange from her hair and clothes.  I managed to weave my way through the chaos, walking up to Meggy and throwing my arms around her legs.  She was so tall I could never give her a real hug, not unless she was sitting on the couch with me.  She placed her hand on the back of my head and for a few seconds I let the comforting presence of my sister flood over me.  Tonight we would go trick-or-treating, and I would have given anything to have Meggy go with us, but she was going to a school dance with her friends.  I would just have to be brave.

After breakfast, Dad left for work and Mom got the rest of us ready for school.  She dropped the twins off at the daycare down the street before taking Bradley and Logan to school.  As we pulled into the drop off area of their school, I pressed my face up against the cold glass and gazed out across the parking lot.  Kids dressed as zombies, fairies, witches and superheroes made their way into class.  I was wearing my costume as well, but it wasn't nearly as fancy as some of the ones I was studying at the moment.

"See you after school!" Mom called out to my brothers before pulling out onto the main road.

After that, she brought me to my school, kissing me goodbye and telling me she'd be back later to pick me up.  I entered the classroom to find my schoolmates in the Halloween spirit as well.  Mrs. Warren and Miss Rodriguez were dressed up as a cat and mouse.  Maddie and Bella were wearing princess costumes, and Mira looked like an over-sized teddy bear.  Jake and Russell were dressed as the same superhero, one from a popular cartoon and not featured in the comic books I read.  We didn't do much that day besides play games, watch a movie and have a small party before our moms and dads picked us up.

I was ready to go home, even though going home meant trick-or-treating later.  Everyone was always trying to make Halloween fun for kids, as if the holiday didn't really hide creepy things in the shadows.  I knew better.  There were no friendly ghosts or sad monsters who just wanted to be your friend.  The ghoulies were real and they would hurt you if they got the chance.

Once Mom had made all the stops to pick up my brothers, we headed home.  We had an early dinner and then waited for Dad to get home.  Bradley and Logan couldn't keep still and they started chasing each other around the living room.  They looked a little ridiculous, especially Logan who had a hard time getting away from Bradley in his bulky cheeseburger costume.  Dad showed up ten minutes later, begging us to give him a half an hour of peace before he took us out trick-or-treating.  I felt my stomach tense up.  Thirty short minutes from now, I would be going out into the dark world where the ghoulies waited for me, and maybe even those really big scary ones I'd seen in my dream.

"Zap!" Bradley screeched, jumping out from behind the couch, his over-sized alien eyes looking demonic.  He had a fake laser gun pointed at me, the light on the end flashing red.

When my heartbeat returned to normal, I took a step back, holding up my hands.  Best to play along.

"I'll save you, Aiden!" Logan bellowed, jumping from the back of the couch and crashing into Bradley.

My brothers collapsed in a pile of sesame seed bun and shiny green alien skin.  In the next second Dad was yelling at them to stop rough housing and I took the opportunity to make my escape.  I glanced across the living room only to see Meghan heading toward the door.  She was dressed like a butterfly and wore a black dress for the dance.  Part of me wanted to rush toward her and beg her to change her mind; to convince her to go trick-or-treating with us, but she was already closing the door behind her.  I would have to make it on my own.

"Alright, that's it!" Dad proclaimed.  "I'm going to go change and then we'll get going."

Ten minutes later, Dad came striding down the hallway dressed as the Grim Reaper.

"Ready boys?" he asked in a fake, spooky voice.

"Yeah!" everyone but me exclaimed.

Mom helped Dad with the twins.  They were a pair of sock monkeys and their tails were long enough for Dad to keep wrapped around his hand.  I thought it was pretty funny.  So did Bradley and Logan.  But since Mom insisted on staying home, Dad insisted on these little tricks to keep an eye on all us boys, especially on Halloween night.  If that meant treating my rowdy twin brothers like a pair of hyper puppies on leashes, then so be it.

Finally, everyone was gathered with their bags for collecting treats and Mom was shooing us along.  She didn't like us to be out too late, so the sooner we left the sooner we could come home.  I was happy with that.

By the time we were all outside and making our way down the street, the sun had just set and twilight was staining the sky indigo and ink-blue.  Bradley and Logan ran ahead of us, continuing their mock battle from inside, and although Jack and Joey tried to join them, Dad's tight hold on their tails kept them always within reach.

"I don't think so, you two," he said through the black screen taking up the front of his hood.

I opted to stick as close to Dad as possible, gripping a section of his black cloak in my fist.  As we made our way down the block, I watched the shrubs along the side of the road and the bushes clogging people's yards.  For a while, nothing out of the ordinary stirred in the dark.

Each house on our street had a long driveway and the homeowners had done a good job of creating a spooky atmosphere by stringing fake spider webs everywhere or wedging foam headstones into their lawns.  Spooky music floated from cracked windows and jack-o-lanterns stood guard on front porches, the yellow candle flames in their throats flickering and making them look as if they were laughing silently at us kids as we scuttled past in slight fear.

If I didn't know the truth behind Halloween, that it was the one day of the year the ghoulies came out in hordes, I would have loved it all.  Despite that fact, however, I had yet to see a single ghoulie.  Just as we rounded the corner of our street and headed out onto the wider road toward the next block, I noticed something odd.  In the distance I could see the tops of the trees that clogged the swamp behind our house.  I had to blink several times to clear my vision, thinking maybe I was seeing things.  But I wasn't.  A strange red haze was rising up from the depths of the swamp, like the weird glow I'd seen surrounding the ghoulies.  Immediately my skin began to prickle.

"Bradley, Logan!  Let's go.  We still have three more streets to hit before turning back," Dad called out to my brothers, snapping me back to reality.

Shivering, I moved closer to him and the twins.  Something wasn't right about that strange mist.  Five houses later and we had moved closer to the swamp once again.   Bradley and Logan ran down the pathway of the next  house, Jack and Joey close behind.  I stayed right where I was.  There was a gap between this house and the next one, and I could almost see down into the bog through the space.

"Don't you want anymore candy?" Dad asked me.

I shook my head.  My bag was half full, and that would last me long enough.

"Alright, you can wait with me here then," Dad replied, putting his arm around me and pulling me close.

For a few moments I enjoyed the comfort of being nestled up next to Dad.  But when he released me, I inched closer to the edge of the road so I could see down into the swamp.  What I noticed next made my stomach turn.  The red mist had grown thicker and rose higher, almost as tall as me now, and I could see things churning along the edge of it: ghoulies.

"Dude!  That lady gave us whole candy bars!"

Logan's voice made me jump and I hurried back next to Dad.

Before long we were moving once again, visiting two more houses before finishing up with the cul-de-sac.  We were halfway done with our night.  I could do this.  I could make it through without letting the ghoulies get the better of me.

I spotted the first monster on our way down the next street.  It was as big as a house cat with long, batwing ears that looked half-rotted and long, yellow teeth that did not fit in its mouth.  Its dark skin hung from a bony body and it limped as it walked.  I grabbed Dad's hand and held on tight, reaching for a long eucalyptus branch protruding from a pile of yard clippings on the dirt shoulder of the road.

"Are you okay, Aiden?" Dad asked, turning to look at me.

I nodded and proceeded to use the branch as a walking stick.  After that, the streets practically crawled with the horrible little monsters.  Some resembled squirrels, others small dogs and raccoons.  They darted back and forth between the thicker landscaping of the yards, crossing the street like rats chased out into the open.  They mostly avoided the other kids in costume and their parents, and I felt myself cringing every time one came close to getting stepped on, or moved in to sniff at the hem of someone's costume.  I had never seen so many ghoulies before, even during past Halloweens.

As the night dragged on, more and more of the nasty things came out of the shadows like spiders hatching from an egg sac.  The soft glow of the street lamps cast them in tones of peach and orange and I could hear their low growls as they fought with one another under the cover of darkness.

"Last street boys!" Dad called out, tugging on the tails of my brothers and rounding Bradley and Logan up with his scythe.

"Oh, come on Dad!" Bradley groaned.  "Can't we stay out a little later tonight?"

"Nope.  We've been out long enough, and something's got your little brother spooked."

I blinked up at Dad in surprise.  I couldn't see his expression, but I could tell he was trying to study me through his mesh mask.  He couldn't see the ghoulies.  No one could but me.  Yet, he knew something was bothering me.  Feeling relieved, I scooted closer to him and wrapped my arms around his leg, burying my face in his cloak.

Logan and Bradley groaned again and shot me acidic looks, but I didn't care.  No one could see the ghoulies, and so far they hadn't hurt anyone, but that didn't mean they wouldn't.  The sooner we got home and were safe inside our house, the better.

We were lucky for most of the next street, but as we turned the corner to start making our way back up our own road, the old dog that lived across the street from Tully's house started barking wildly.  I glanced up as Dad moved us across the street and blanched.  The dog was surrounded by a pack of ghoulies, their ugly teeth bared and their skinny tails snapping back and forth.  I remembered the dog's owner calling him Bruno once, and I knew he was blind in one eye.

"Come on, boys.  He'll stop barking once we get past him," Dad reassured us.

I knew better.  He wasn't just barking, but whining as well.  The ghoulies were moving in closer and a few of them darted in to bite him on the heels.  He yelped and flattened his ears to his head.  My heart tightened and I stopped walking, staring across the dark street at the old dog.  Although the front yard wasn't fenced, Bruno always stayed in the yard.  Right now, I wished there was a fence.  A fence might have kept the ghoulies out.

One of the small monsters shrunk down on its haunches and then launched itself at the dog, landing on his back and sinking its teeth into his fur.  Bruno yelped again, his tail tucked between his legs.

Without even thinking, I moved, running across the street as fast as my feet would take me.  I wasn't able to move as quickly or as gracefully as I had in my dream, but before I knew it I was on the lawn.  What I planned to do I had no idea.  All I knew was that a rage had begun boiling inside me.  I still had the eucalyptus branch, so I lifted it up, hoping to use it to hit the ghoulies.  When I had it raised above my head I noticed something strange.  The blue glow covering my skin had grown brighter and was crawling up the stick, bright sparks shooting out like magic from a wand.

A loud snarl snapped my attention away from the stick.  Some of the ghoulies had noticed me and now had their black-pit eyes pointed in my direction.  Swallowing back my fear, I swung the stick, hitting the first one upside the head.  It screamed in pain as that strange blue stuff jumped from the stick and onto the ghoulie, sizzling over its skin and making it collapse to the ground into a fit of spasms before turning it to ash.  Shocked, I blinked at the stick for a few moments, watching the blue sparks dance some more.  Whatever this stuff was, it killed the ghoulies.

Setting my jaw, I went after the others, now backing the poor dog into a corner.  I swung my stick like a sword, smacking one after the other, sending them to the ground, screaming and twitching in agony before disintegrating.  Eventually, I got to all of them and Bruno was free.  He looked terrified and had a few bite marks on him but other than that, he seemed okay.  I dropped the arm holding the stick, my breath coming in sharp gasps.  The dog looked at me with his good eye, his ears still flat in fear but his tail wagging slowly.

"Good dog," I managed in a shaky voice, holding up my other hand.  The blue glow was gone and my hand shook a little.  Suddenly, I was very tired.

Bruno licked my fingers and I smiled.

"Aiden!  Aiden, get over here before that dog bites you!"

I shook my head, Dad's voice cutting through the ringing in my ears.  Funny, I hadn't noticed the buzzing sound until now.  I turned and looked at my dad.  He was standing on the edge of the yard, his hood thrown back and his face looking serious.  He still held onto my twin brothers by their tails, and Logan and Bradley were standing next to him, gawking at me as if I had grown my own tail.  And then I stiffened.  Had they seen what happened?  Did they see the strange blue glow on my skin?
With no other options, I shuffled over to them.

"Let's get home," was all Dad said, turning us all in the right direction.

"Dude, Aiden," Logan murmured as we headed up the street.  "What were you doing?"

"I can't believe you did that.  You know Mom and Dad always tell us not to tease dogs, especially ones that are barking at us!" Bradley put in, taking a hold of my stick and tossing it aside.

"Were you trying to get him to play fetch or something?" Logan asked.

So, they hadn't seen after all.  I shrugged, feeling that was the safest answer for the time being.

Ten minutes later we were all piling into the living room.  Mom greeted us all in her witch costume, asking us if we saw any ghosts or goblins on our nightly adventure.  Bradley and Logan got busy telling her everything, which gave me time to gather my thoughts.  Despite how terrified I was at seeing the strange red mist and then the armies of ghoulies, I was very proud of myself for helping Bruno.

"Okay, okay, you can tell me the rest in the morning.  You guys stayed out later than usual and it's time for bed."

My brothers groaned again but didn't argue with Mom.  Personally, I was more than happy to comply.  Fifteen minutes later my teeth were brushed, my pajamas were on, and I was tucked safe and sound in my bed.  As I lay there, waiting for sleep to come to me, I thought about that strange blue glow to my skin that had traveled along the stick I'd used to hit the ghoulies.  Below the sheets, I lifted my hand and splayed the fingers in front of my face.  The blue glow had returned, and small tendrils of brighter turquoise crackled along my fingertips.  I didn't know what this strange stuff was, but I knew that from now on, I wouldn't be so afraid of the ghoulies anymore.  With a self-satisfied smile, I let out a long sigh and closed my eyes, content in knowing my dreams would not be haunted again for a long while.

Thank you for reading this third installment from Aiden's point of view!  Hopefully I'll have the next installment up soon.  In the meantime, discover the Otherworld with the first book in the series, Faelorehn.  The ebook is free on AmazonBarnes and NobleiTunesKobo and Smashwords!  The audio book edition is also available from AudibleAmazon, and iTunes.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Jahrra's Journal: Master Hroombra's Book

Hello readers!  Here is the second Jahrra's Journal post for the new year.  Last time we learned from Jahrra that she should stay out of the Wreing Florenn, the massive forest that takes up much of her part of Oescienne.  Although her foster father tried to tease her about the forest containing boarlaques, Jahrra isn't going to take any chances.  Now, for February's journal entry ... :).
-J.E. Johnson

Master Hroombra's Book

Dear Journal,

    I asked Master Hroombra today what exactly a boarlaque is.  I had an idea from what Pada had told me, but I wasn't sure.  Master Hroombra just smiled and pulled out a large, old book, trailing dust through the air like a comet.  I think it is funny when dragon's smile, especially Master Hroombra with all his teeth sticking out.  The yellowed pages crackled and stuck as I turned them, but I almost fell over when I noticed what was on them.  Not words like all the other books he gives me, but pictures.  Loads and loads of pictures of animals and maps and flowers, all colored in!  I asked him where he got it and he told me the elves of Felldreim created it.  It was the most wonderful book I've ever seen!  Finally, I got to a fearsome looking beast and he told me to stop.  The boarlaque, he told me.  It made me shiver.  It was bigger than a bear and covered in brown and gray fur that was all tangled.  It had stripes on its face and giant teeth and claws.  I've decided two things: one, this book of creatures is my absolute favorite book ever, and two, I'm never going near the Wreing Florenn again, Pada or no Pada.

* * * * *
Want to read more about Jahrra and her adventures?  Download The Legend of Oescienne - The Finding, the first book in the Oescienne series, for FREE from

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Saturday Shorts: Aiden Elam Part Four - Corpse Hounds

Hello Readers!  I got off to a late start this morning, so this week's Saturday Shorts is going up later than usual.  Sorry about that!  Last week Aiden saw a stranger kill some of the ghoulies in the swamp, this week he encounters something even more terrifying.  Happy Reading!
-J.E. Johnson

PART 4: Corpse Hounds

Bradley and Logan were sitting on the fence when I got back from fetching the basketball.  It wasn't a real fence, just part of one that marked the edge of the yard.  I didn't climb on it too much because it was made out of split rails and it was full of splinters.  Logan was sitting on the top rail facing the swamp, while Bradley was on the side that ran parallel with the horse trail, throwing rocks down into the overgrown canyon below.  I could hear the rocks crashing into the underbrush and when a covey of quail was startled into taking flight, I almost jumped out of my skin.  I had a feeling anything I noticed moving down in the swamp for the next several weeks would spook me.

"There you are!" Logan exclaimed.  "What have you been doing all this time?"

He hopped down from the railing and crossed his arms.  He was the oldest of my brothers and therefore thought he was in charge of the rest of us.  Logan lifted one eyebrow, doing a perfect imitation of Mom when she wanted answers.

"Who cares!" Bradley whined.  "Just give us the basketball already.  Mom will be calling us in for dinner any minute."

My other brother jumped down from the fence and came toward me, swiping the ball out of my hands.  He could have it.  That basketball brought nothing but trouble.

"You coming, Logan?" Bradley asked as he climbed back over the fence.

Logan didn't answer right away.  He was looking at me funny.

"Logan!" Bradley barked, making to throw the ball at him.

"Hang on!" Logan bit back, holding up a hand, his eyes still fixed on me.

Did I have dirt on my face?  Had I torn my pants or shirt?

I tried not to feel self-conscious, but I failed miserably.  Finally, I couldn't take anymore and I dropped my eyes to the dirt below.  I shoved my hands into my pockets, wincing a little as the rough fabric rubbed against the scratches on my skin.

"What happened, Aiden?" Logan finally said, concern overriding the haughty tone of his voice.  "You've got scratches all over you.  And mud.  Did you go down to the swamp."

I looked back up at him, his blue eyes serious.  Okay.  So maybe Logan wasn't all that bad, for a brother.  He might be a jerk to me most of the time, but if anyone outside of our family ever tried to make me feel bad, or if I was hurt, he was the first one, besides Mom and Meggy, to make sure I was okay.  

Apparently, Bradley couldn't take the delay any longer.  Sighing dramatically, he tossed the ball at the hoop and turned back toward us, not even bothering to see if he made the shot.  The ball bounced off the rim and fell back to earth, rolling out into the middle of the lawn before coming to a stop.  He squeezed between the two rails of the fence, half stumbling down the short slope and coming to a skidding halt on the horse path.

"Dude.  Looks like you got dragged through the woods by a pack of coyotes."

I stiffened.  Did I really look that bad?  At least my ankle had stopped hurting.  Both my brothers were staring at me now, so I cast my eyes downward again, pushing around the loose dirt on the ground with my shoe.  The scene from the meadow across the shallow part of the swamp kept coming back to me: the ugly ghoulies, the white dog, the stranger in the green army trench coat with the bow and arrows and glowing skin.

Taking a shallow breath and letting it out quickly, I opened my mouth and said simply, "Fell down."

"I'll say," Bradley commented sarcastically.  "Fell down the hill and rolled all the way to the bottom."

Logan stepped forward, nudging Bradley out of the way.  "Did you fall into a patch of blackberry bushes?"

I nodded.  Technically, I hadn't, but agreeing with their assumptions was easier than trying to tell them the truth.  There were two things wrong with that.  First, they wouldn't believe me even if I could tell them the truth, and secondly, it was physically impossible for me to do that.

"Better get you inside and show Mom," Logan said, taking charge in his big brotherly way.

He draped an arm over my shoulder and started leading me back up to the house, Bradley trailing behind grumbling about missing out on playing basketball.  Despite my nervousness about the ghoulies and the strange green man, a warm feeling welled up from somewhere near my heart and spread out to my fingers and toes.  Suddenly, I didn't feel so scared anymore because I had a big brother to look out for me.  Usually, I only hugged Meggy or Mom or Dad, but as we walked back into the house, I reached out my hand and grabbed onto the hem of Logan's shirt.  Okay, it wasn't really a hug, but when I glanced up at my brother's face, it looked like he was smiling just a little.  I did my best to return the expression.


The look on Mom's face when we stepped back into the kitchen was one of horror.

"Aiden!  What on earth happened to you?"

"The basketball rolled down the horse trail and Aiden went to go get it," Bradley offered, his innocent tone spiced with just a pinch of guilt.

Bradley had mastered the art of appearing angelic when faced with possible punishment.

"By himself?" Mom asked, her voice hardening.

She stood there like an angry hen, her fists pressed against her hips, a dish towel hanging from one of them.

I scowled.  Well, I tried to scowl.  I couldn't tell if it was actually working.  I understood that Mom was extra protective over me because of my autism, but I should be able to go after a stray basketball without someone accompanying me and holding my hand the entire way.  And then the images of the ghoulies flashed into my mind and I bit my lip, dropping my eyes.  Okay, maybe I shouldn't go wandering down into the swamp by myself, even with my brothers a few dozen yards away.

"He didn't go very far and we were watching him from the fence the whole time," Logan insisted.

That wasn't entirely true.  If they had been, they would have seen me fall and would have come after me.

"I don't care," Mom said, straightening back up and reaching out to take my hand.  "Who knows what's down there.  People used to dump their trash in that culvert all the time before the Land Conservancy got involved and cleaned it up.  There might still be some residual toxins in the soil or rusty shards of metal hidden under the bushes."

Mom threw the towel over her shoulder with her free hand and started tugging me down the hallway to the bathroom.  She lifted me up onto the counter and ran warm water in the sink, then pulled out some hydrogen peroxide, bandages and antibiotic ointment.  She cleaned my cuts with warm water, pouring hydrogen peroxide over them just to be safe, then patted them dry and added the ointment and bandages to the bad ones.  There were only a few since most of the scrapes had been shallow ones from the blackberry brambles.

After patching me up and wiping away all the dirt, she took me to my room and helped me change into a clean set of clothes, grumbling the entire time about how I shouldn't wander off by myself or let my older brothers boss me around.  I simply stood there in silence as Mom tugged on a clean T-shirt and a fresh pair of sweatpants.  It was embarrassing having your mom dress you when you were seven, but dinner would be ready soon and unless I had a half an hour to get through the ordeal by myself, someone had to help me.  Pushing buttons into buttonholes and tying shoes were especially hard for me, so most of my pants had elastic bands and my shoes fastened using Velcro.

By the time we returned to the living room, Dad was home and checking on the dinner.  When he turned to Mom to ask about it, he took one look at the expression on her face and clamped his mouth shut.

"Dinner will be ready in ten minutes," she snapped.  "You can wait that long, or better yet, next time you can be the one to make it for all of us."

Dad backed away with his hands raised.  "I was just going to stir the vegetables in the pan.  The boys said Aiden had fallen down outside."  He cast me a quick look, probably checking for more deadly injuries than the scrapes that were now covered in bandages.  "Are you okay, Aiden?"

I nodded my head vigorously.  I was fine.  If anything was wrong with me at all, it had nothing to do with the physical injuries, but everything to do with the mental ones from all the ghoulie sightings in the past few days. 

Once everyone was convinced that I wasn't going to drop dead anytime soon, we started getting the table ready for dinner.  Mom sent Logan to tell Meghan dinner was ready, and Dad was getting the twins latched into their high chairs.  To my great relief, dinner went on like it always did with Bradley telling us all about school.  Apparently, one of the girls in Logan's class had a crush on him and was always following him around the playground.  Upon hearing this, Logan turned bright red and tried to jab Bradley with his fork.

Dad quickly diffused the situation and Logan retaliated by informing Bradley that having a girl like him was better than having all the girls in his class avoid him because he still picked his nose, in which case Mom stepped in with a quick lecture about what was appropriate to talk about at the dinner table.  Jack and Joey didn't have much to say, considering they were still practically babies, but they laughed and seemed to enjoy everyone else's conversation.

While all this was going on, I slid my eyes in my sister's direction.  Meghan was being quiet, more so than usual, only picking at her food and eating very little of it.  I felt my stomach clench in unease.  Her eyes were distant and her skin wasn't glowing as much as it usually did.  Now I would have Meggy to worry about on top of everything else.

After dinner, Dad helped Mom get the twins ready for bed while Bradley and Logan reluctantly started their homework.  Meggy disappeared into her room.  She probably had to study, too.  High school had lots of homework, she had told me once.  I decided to head to my room, too.  I didn't feel like coloring while my brothers worked at the table and we weren't allowed to have the TV on if anyone was studying.  Instead, I curled up in my bed and read one of my chapter books.  After a while, I set it aside and turned off my lamp.

It took me a long time to fall asleep that night, what with my own busy thoughts and the garbled, sleeping sounds floating over from my twin brothers' side of the room.  Eventually, I drifted off, the undulating shadows cast by Jack and Joey's fish tank filling up the room like dancing demons.  When I opened my eyes again, I was lying on my back, the brilliant sunlight filtering through the canopy of bright green leaves above.  I squinted, and  lifted up a hand to rub at my eyes.  To my surprise, I wasn't clumsy or slow about it.

Taking a breath, I rolled over and got up onto my knees, surveying this unfamiliar place I'd found myself in.  Tall eucalyptus trees surrounded a meadow carpeted with brown leaves and small patches of poison ivy.  To my left was what appeared to be a stream bed, choked with long, lanky stems of reeds and cattails.  A cool breeze shifted the silvery green, sickle-shaped leaves above and beyond the snaking river of emerald bog plants was the slope of a hillside covered in oak and more eucalyptus.  I swallowed, my mouth dry and tasting like dust.  I knew this place.  I was in the swamp behind my house.  In the very meadow where I'd seen the green man kill the ghoulies.

Suddenly, my skin prickled with anxiety and the faint blue glow to my skin intensified.  Were there more ghoulies around?  Why was I here?  I should have been asleep in bed, safe inside my house.

Before I could contemplate anything more, a low, rattling growl froze the blood in my veins.  I stayed absolutely still, my heart galloping like a race horse.

The growl was joined by another one and the snapping of twigs and rustling of brush answered my question.  Yes.  There were more ghoulies around.

Slowly, I turned my head.  I shouldn't have.  Three monsters, all close to the size of that white dog I'd seen the other day, emerged from the shadows cast by the brush-clogged edge of the meadow.  They were so much bigger and so much more terrifying than the other ghoulies I'd seen before.  They were bone-thin, like greyhounds that had starved to death and then been buried for a few weeks.  The breeze picked up again, this time blowing in my direction, and their smell hit my nose like a slap: dead animal flesh, mixed with rotting eggs and scorched hair.  The ghoulie closest to me peeled back its mud-black lips and snarled.  Long, wicked yellow teeth lined its jaws and deep within its throat, a fire burned, like the throat of a dragon I'd seen in a movie once.

I gagged in reaction to their stench and forced down a sob, then stood all the way up, intending to run.  But then I realized I couldn't run.  I had a hard enough time keeping my feet in front of me while I walked.

One of the rotting hounds threw back its head and bayed, a long, low call that brought to mind images of battle fields and loved ones wailing over mass graves.  I cried out and turned, not caring that I wouldn't make it very far.  I had to get away from these things, even if the only way to escape meant dying once they tore me to shreds.

To my utter surprise, my feet obeyed my mind and I went tearing across the meadow, intending to head toward the place where I could cross the swamp.  I didn't make it very far before one of the ghoulies leapt forward, coming to land to my right.  It snapped at me and I screamed, changing directions.  Another one was right behind me, and the third somewhere on my left.  I ran in the only direction I had left: straight ahead and deeper into the woods.  I only hoped that I'd find a tree I could climb as I made my escape.

Cold sweat poured down my back and my lungs burned as I pushed myself, faster, farther, as the three ghoulies chased after me.  Their howls sent goose bumps all over my skin and made my heart skip a beat, but I kept running, leaping over fallen logs and sliding down small slopes covered in leaves.  At some point, I stumbled out onto another trail.  If I turned right, I could head out to the road that dead ended before reaching the crossing point over the swamp.  That was my better option.  Taking a few deep breaths, I turned in that direction, only to have one of the ghoulies bound up onto the trail, its black claws skidding against the packed dirt.

I cried out again and pulled up short, nearly tripping this time.  Never in my life had I been able to run so well or so fast.  The monster growled at me, panting.  A half-rotten tongue lolled from its mouth and the fire in its throat flared in time with its breathing.
The other two were on the slope above the road, eyeing me carefully.  They weren't going to let me go out to the road.  Whimpering and trying hard to keep the tears in my eyes from falling, I turned left and started sprinting down the trail.  The ghoulies followed, herding me like a sheep.  The road curved sharply to the left and then I could see the bottom of the culvert.  It was dry this far back, but I could clearly see where the water might run through in the rainy season.  I hit the sand, desperately searching around for a new direction to turn.

On the opposite side, the trail picked up and continued to wind through the eucalyptus trees.  To my left, the wide, sandy canyon floor continued on, only blocked by the occasional fallen tree or patch of willows.  To my right, the walls of the small canyon rose up on either side, the passage blocked by a crisscrossing of dead eucalyptus trees that had fallen into the culvert over the years.  It reminded me of a pathway into a haunted mountain in one of my brothers' video games.  A cold, unnatural gust of air rolled down the canyon, freezing my sweat-slicked skin.  There was no way I was going to go down that way.

Making up my mind to head back toward the place where I started, I turned left.  Before I could so much as take a first step, one of the ghoulies jumped in front of me, snarling and flicking its whip-like tail.  I tried to dart around it.  Maybe I could lose them if I ran off-trail.  My attempt at escape failed again when a second monster blocked my way.  The third one joined in and they had me cornered.  I could either run directly at them, or turn and run up the culvert.

"No!" I rasped, the tears now streaming freely down my face.  "No!"

They paced toward me, snapping at me when I didn't move.  I took a step back, then another.  They sped up.  Swallowing my paralyzing fear, I turned and bolted up the canyon.

It's just your fear, Aiden, I told myself as I wove between the eucalyptus trunks.  Just your fear.  You must overcome it.

The walls of the canyon drew closer together and the angle of the dead trees became more steep.  Ahead of me, the dirt path became an eroded wall.  I had come to the end.  I turned around to face the ghoulies - to face my fate - but something to my right caught my eye.  To my utter surprise, there was some sort of cave in the side of the canyon wall, its black throat yawning wide.  Tendrils of roots and strips of dead eucalyptus bark dangled from the lip of the cave like gruesome beads hanging from a doorway.

Before I could ponder it much further, another icy gust of air poured from the hole, along with the bone-chilling clack of dry bones striking together and the squirming sound of maggots roiling in rotten meat.

The bile in my stomach rose.  Something was coming.  Something so terrifying I could feel it on instinct alone.  Behind me, the rotten hounds grew restless, their growls turning to yips, but before me the black cavern seemed to yawn wider, drawing back as if it was about to spit something awful from its depths.  The hideous sounds grew louder and the air colder.  The wind stirred my hair and all I could do was stand there, frozen in fear, with my fists clenched at my sides.

Before I even got a chance to see the hellish thing that was coming to kill me, everything went blank.

Thank you for reading this third installment from Aiden's point of view!  Hopefully I'll have the next installment up soon.  In the meantime, discover the Otherworld with the first book in the series, Faelorehn.  The ebook is free on AmazonBarnes and NobleiTunesKobo and Smashwords!  The audio book edition is also available from AudibleAmazon, and iTunes.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Guest Author Post: JoAnne Myers

Hello Jenna and thank you for this interview. I will be awarding two people who comment their choice of one of my books.  The choices are, Murder Most Foul, Wicked Intentions, Twisted Love, The Crime of the Century, Flagitious, Loves, Myths, and Monsters, or Poems About Life, Love, and Everything in Between.

Author Note: 4.5*  Review for "Flagitious"  from Manic Readers.

Review: Interesting stories and I have to say I read this book in one hour. I would definitely say Flagitious is filled with suspense, intrigue and violent situations that will keep readers guessing until they turn the last page.

Reviewed by Fran from Manic Readers on January 16, 2015

 When did you first have the thought you'd like to write a book?  I have always been able to write. I prefer to write and read action packed books.

 What was your path to getting this book written and published? What type of research did you do?  I scoured the Internet seeking a publisher. I really did not want to go the self-publishing route. I also gathered my information for the stories from newspaper clippings, and the Internet.

 Where did the idea for your story come from?  These stories are based on true cases.

 Did you face any blocks while writing the book, and if so, how did you handle them? If not, what's your secret?  I researched lycanthrope for the story, The Tarot Card Murders, and artificial insemination for “The Other Couple’s Child.”

 What did you learn from the writing process? How time consuming writing and self-promoting is. Writing is though, very gratifying.

 What are some of your favorite books and why?  I love Black Beauty, and Charlotte’s Web, because they are so enchanting and sad, but have happy endings. I read books by Aphrodite Jones, and Gregg Olsen, because they concern true crime

 Would you like to try your hand at writing a different genre?  Which one and why?  I started a children’s book many years ago, but never finished it. I would like to return to that genre.

 If you were not a writer, what would your dream job be?  I had many dreams while growing up. I wanted to be a stewardess and fly to exotic places. I wanted to be a jockey because of my love of horses. But I think I would have studied art more aggressively, and been a canvas painter.

 What aspect of writing gives you the most trouble?  When to end the story. It

Who is your favorite hero/heroine?  That is easy, James Bond. Who doesn’t love a brave, handsome and daring man.

Blurbs for “Flagitious” a four crime/mystery anthology

“Too Solve His Mother’s Murder”

After his Air Force career was interrupted by his mother’s untimely murder, Steven Moore, returned home. Met with a cold reception of lies, secrets, and threats, he is determined too find Wanda’s killer, even at the cost of his own life.  Was Wanda a victim of the legendary Hatchet Man? Was this loving and devoted mother killed because of her shady past, or for her inheritance?  Between finding the truth and falling in love, Steven stops at nothing, too solve his mother’s murder.

“The Other Couple’s Child”

Charlotte had it all. A loving and devoted husband. Supportive family and friends, and a house full of beautiful children. Everything was perfect for this Super Mom, until a medical procedure turns her life upside down, and spirals into a child abduction case. Time is running out. Will police arrive in time to save Charlotte and the other couple’s child?

“3381 Market Street”

Katherine Sims, a young widow working for a brokerage firm in a small southeastern town, is tired of the excuses concerning Charlie’s absence. She knows something terrible must have happened to her favorite nephew with the sad blue-eyes. After exposing the killer, Katherine’s life is turned upside down and she finds herself fighting for her life. Filled with maniacal suspects, a Satanic Cult, and danger around each corner, this story depicts one woman’s courage too avenge a child’s murder, while finding unexpected love.

“The Tarot Card Murders”

New Detective, and ex-navel man, twenty-six-year-old Nick Difozzio, returns to his small county determined too abolish crime. Not until death knocked on his door, did he know the face of evil. Will the decorated veteran destroy the Lycanthropes, or will he succumb to their murderess desires and become one of them? He took an oath too protect, honor, and uphold the law, but can he defy the lust, riches, and power offered, or are the ‘dark forces’ stronger than his will?

Excerpt from “3381 Market Street”

 Hearing the verdict, prisoner Jessie Ellis went berserk. Whipping out a pistol previously concealed under the defense table by a friend.
The small sand-haired man with dark eyes, jumped to his feet. Firing two warning shots into the ceiling of the century-old building, with his free hand, Ellis seized his defense attorney, Yolanda Stamen, for a human shield.
 "AHHHHH!" a woman screamed from the gallery, and fainted.
"Get back! I ain't goin' to no prison," the thirty-eight-year-old father of eight shouted, pressing his weapon tightly to his attorney's head. "I'll kill her . . . right here and now . . . I mean it."
            Immediately, the courtroom went wild. Jurors and spectators alike ran from the gun-wielding, just-convicted baby killer.       
Ignoring her pleas, Jessie shoved his hostage ahead of him down the hallway. In the lobby, again surrounded by officers, Jessie shouted, "You bastards! I'm not kiddin'." He waved his gun at the mob. "I'll blow this bitch away. I want that cop car and I want it now."
Shaking his head, the tall slender green-eyed prosecutor said, "Jessie, you'll never get away with it. You have no escape. Don't make them kill you. Hand over your gun." Despite Greg Langdon's brave words, his shaking outstretched hand revealed his inner fears.
            Ignoring every warning and still clutching his attorney, Jessie slid his way through to the front door. Once outside, he found more lawmen waiting, guns fixed.

Author Bio:

JoAnne has been a long-time resident of southeastern Ohio, and worked in the blue-collar industry most of her life. Besides having seven novels under her belt, JoAnne canvas paints. When not busy with hobbies or working outside the home, JoAnne spends time with relatives, and volunteers her time within the community.

JoAnne is a member of the International Women’s Writing Guild, Savvy Authors, Coffee Time Romance, Paranormal Romance Guild, True Romance Studios, National Writers Association, the Hocking Hill's Arts and Craftsmen Association, The Hocking County Historical Society and Museum, and the Hocking Hills Regional Welcome Center.
JoAnne believes in family values and following your dreams. Her original canvas paintings, can be found at:

Other books by JoAnne:

"WICKED INTENTIONS" a paranormal/mystery anthology
"LOVES', MYTHS' AND MONSTERS'," a fantasy anthology
"THE CRIME OF THE CENTURY," a biography true-crime
"TWISTED LOVE," a true-crime anthology
“MURDER MOST FOUL,” a detective/mystery

Contact JoAnne:


Website: Books and Paintings by JoAnne

JoAnne’s Blogs:

Jo Anne’s Postings:

Books and Paintings by JoAnne Blog:

JoAnne’s WordPress Blog:

Buy links:

Amazon Kindle:


Thank you, JoAnne, for visiting my blog and sharing your work with us!  I wish you all the best luck for your future endeavors.  Readers: don't forget to comment for your chance to win one of JoAnne's books!
-J.E. Johnson