Halloween Memories

Halloween decoration

Looking outside this afternoon, I was struck by the absence of costumed kids strolling up and down the street. That got me to thinking about the Halloweens of my youth. If this most wonderful holiday fell on a Saturday, kids would be walking around in their costumes all day long, showing their fright rags like top models walking the runway. And it wasn’t just the kids. Adults, too.
I remember the first time I saw my mother get dressed up for Halloween. She didn’t have a party to go to or anything like that. She just wanted to get dressed up. “For the kids,” she said. At the time I had no clue what she was talking about. I learned later that day, when I came home from school, what she meant. Picture this:

A chilly October afternoon in Brooklyn, NY. Kids in store-bought costumes (remember how stifling those plastic masks were, but would we take them off? Hell no!) scurrying down the sidewalk like roaches in a filthy kitchen as they make their way out of one yard and into the next, comparing bag contents as they ask each other what they got. I follow behind them, eager to be home so I can get my homework done and start my horror movie marathon.
As they are about to turn into my yard, I see them hesitate and exchange nervous glances. Not know what’s going on, I walk by and take a peak and I chuckle under my breath. Leaning against the brick wall is a five foot tall witch: flowing black robe with a cowl pulled up over her head; long, stringy, black hair; wart-covered, green, rubbery skin. Without a pause, I cross to the other side of the street to watch this scene unfold.
Their voices have dropped to nervous whispers, as they decide what to do. This is something they’ve never encountered before. Yeah, they walked into yards decorated with cobwebs and jack o’lanterns, but never before have they seen a life-sized decoration such as the one that now blocked their path, keeping them from the next deposit of chocolate-covered goodness into their orange, pumpkin-shaped treasure chests. After a few seconds of hushed discussion, one brave soul ventures forward, opening the gate and inching their way inside. Mind you, there’s still about 8 feet separating this adventurous spirit from the scary hag, but the slow, suspense-filled trek has begun. He makes his way slowly across the concrete, gaze constantly shifting from the doorbell to the witch and back again.
Once he has made it past unmolested, he turns and waves his friends over, and even though he has just shown them there’s nothing to be scared of, they, too, inch their way past. They are now clustered into the stairwell, as as one reaches for the doorbell, the others look nervously over their shoulders at the witch, half-expecting at any moment to become the next ingredient in the witch’s brew. All their nervousness is forgotten the moment they hear the doorbell and all heads turn forward.
Even from across the street, I can hear the nails-on-a-blackboard voice say, “Nibble, nibble, little mouse, who’s that nibbling at my house,” as the folds in the robe start to flutter and glove-encased hands rise up, holding a black plastic cauldron filled near-to-overflowing with candy.
The reaction is instantaneous. They turn as one, and it only takes half second for them to realize where the voice came from, and another half a second before the screams begin and they’re shoving and push each other closer to the witch so they can escape to safety.

And the laughter. Mine and that of the witch mixing with the terrified squeals of the piglets. We didn’t hand out much candy that year, but oh was it worth it.

That was the year I found out Mom loved Halloween almost as much as I did, and every year after that, to my father’s shaking head, we would get dressed up to answer the door and hand out candy.

Seeing how love for this holiday seems to have dwindled over the years, especially among the little ones, it makes me wonder if Halloween is dead. The thought of that makes me sad — but at least I still have my memories.


25 super terrific, terrifying tales for Halloween

Source: 25 super terrific, terrifying tales for Halloween

Writing Your Book – The Thousand Word March

Since some of my posts have been about the my writing process, and since I work 80 hours a week and I’m always struggling to squeeze in some writing time, I thought I’d share this.

Hunter Shea

I’m about to let you in on a secret that will help you write that book that’s been dying to get out. The best part is, you can do it without having an existential crisis.

It’s been too long since I’ve posted anything about writing in the trenches in this genre I love so much. Back when I was locking myself away in my room, tapping out words and getting nothing but rejection or worse, silence, I never dreamed I’d be in the position I’m in today. Sure, I did it with the goal of legitimate publication (whatever your own definition of that may be), but I just never thought I’d have a year like this one with three books coming out and writing four more for three different publishers for next year.

I’m not a full time writer. Writing doesn’t have health benefits, and if you’ve stopped by the…

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This is Exactly Why We Need “Women In Horror Month,” You Jerk.

It seems this issue comes up around the same time every year, and it’s usually because some fool opens his mouth and inserts foot. So after reading this post by the talented Mercedes M. Yardley, comment on who you favorite female horror writers are.

A Broken Laptop

Well. I’m mad.

I’m not trying to be inciting or hysterical. But I am angry.

A “fellow” horror writer lambasted a dear friend and amazing woman for doing book signings while in costume and…I’m not quite sure what else. Being a woman? He said women were especially bad at trying to grab attention (“claiming” we’re horror writers when we aren’t) and most of us are hags anyway.

That’s right. Most of us are hags.


I’m sorry, but how did appearance even manage to worm its way into this conversation? This author has one book out and a second releasing soon. Yet he has the authority to decide who is really a horror writer and who isn’t? And bringing physical appearance into it is exceptionally personal. He doesn’t like the way most of us look? Next time I’ll be careful to wear a helmet while signing so I don’t offend readers…

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Writing Process Blog Tour

I’m always thankful when somebody approaches me with one of these Blog Tours, otherwise I don’t think this page would ever see any action, in part because, as I’ve mentioned before, I’ve never mastered the art of blogging. I mean, what would I say that hasn’t already been said by somebody else? The other part is because I have so many irons in the fire, it’s difficult to make the time. So this time around, my debt of gratitude goes to the talented Rose Blackthorn for this invitation to participate. So let’s get down to it… First question up is:

What am I working on?

Remember what I said about irons in the fire? I am currently editing Cranial Leakage, Volume 1 for Grinning Skull Press and reading manuscripts for Return to Deathlehem, a charity anthology, also for Grinning Skull Press.

Writing? I have a bunch of short stories in various stages of completion. The first draft of my novel manuscript, Ursa Major, which deals with witchcraft and shape-shifting, is completed, and it is currently in the revision stage. Other projects that are in the works include Equinox, Lemmings of the Sea, Garrison’s Bitch, Zombie Fight Night, a piece with the working title of Maggie Creek Road (inspired by the song of the same title), which is a ghost/possession story, and Devil’s Bluff. Yeah, there are a couple of zombie pieces there.

How does my work differ from others in its genre?

I tend to write about your average person who finds him or herself in an impossible situation. There’s no Special Forces, no ex-Navy Seals, no martial arts expert who knows every form of hand-to-hand combat imaginable, just Joe or Jane Schmo who tries to realistically deal with the situation they’ve been given. Because they are normal folk, that means they don’t always survive;  let’s face it — if a car explodes with our hero inside of it, he’s toast. I’ve been criticized over the fact that I seem to kill off characters on a whim, but it’s their story, and if they feel their time is up, who am I to argue? I’m only the vessel. I know people don’t want “reality” when they sit down to read, but it’s what I look for. I know zombies and werewolves aren’t real, but within the confines of that world, I try to make the characters respond as realistically as possible within the world that’s been created,

Why do I write what I do?

It’s really not up to me. As I mentioned before, I’m just a vessel through which the characters tell their story. They dictate what happens and when. I can’t help it if it usually ends up being something creepy.

How does my writing process work?

I dread answering this question because it makes me sound crazy, but here goes.

With the exception of Ursa Major, the idea for which came to me in one fell swoop, it always starts with a scene. I’ll see everything in vivid detail. I have no idea who the characters are or what events are transpiring in the world around them. I know only that moment in time. Usually, I don’t know where that event occurs in the story, but there are times when I know where it falls. (For Zombie Fight Night, the entire last chapter is written; now I just have to get there). Over the course of the next few days, the scene will continue to replay itself in my mind. I’ll sit down at the computer and wait for the characters to speak to me. Unfortunately, they’re not always ready. If I’m greeted with silence, I’ll jot down the idea in a notebook and move on to something else. I’ve learned by now that when they’re ready, they’ll let me know. The bad feature about working this way is that the characters themselves often don’t know what’s going to happen next, and they may fall silent for a period of time. When that happens, I don’t try to force the story; instead, I’ll move on to something else with the hopes that it will spur them into action. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t.

Now that you had a peek into the workings of my mind, let’s check out what makes some of my fellow authors tick. Tune in next week to hear from Alex Laybourne and Mark Parker have to say.


As I mentioned in a previous post, I haven’t quite gotten the hang of blogging yet, and I had said this year that things were going to change and I was going to start posting on a semi-regular basis. As you can see, that hasn’t quite worked out the way I planned… so far. Work has gotten crazy, and add to that my own personal projects, there seems to be little to no time left in the day, so I want to thank Rose Blackthorn for extending to me the invitation to participate in this Blog Hop. So without further ado…

What are you working on right now?

I guess the question should be, “What am I not working on?” I just finished editing an anthology, From Beyond the Grave, for Grinning Skull Press. It’s a collection of ghost stories by some very talented authors. I am currently working on collecting stories for an unthemed horror anthology, Blood on the Moon, which will be published by the same company. I’ve always got several short stories in the works. I’ve also got several novellas in the works, and three novel manuscripts in various stages of development. The project that has been the focus of my time lately is Equinox (you can find an excerpt of it here). It was a short story I wrote in college that I always wanted to  revisit. At the time that I wrote it, I had a target publication in mind, so consequently I had to keep the word count to within their guidelines. I always felt there was more to the story and knew I would go back to it some day.

How does it differ from other works in its genre?

With the exception of Fantasy fiction, I haven’t seen dryads or satyrs play a role in horror fiction, so I would have to say the originality of it makes it differ.

What experiences have influenced you?

I was always a loner, even with three brothers and a sister, and I usually had my nose in a book. If I wasn’t reading, I was spinning my own tales. You know the way kids are, so the stories I was telling at the time centered around talking animals and magical forests. I wasn’t writing at the time, merely amusing myself (and my family) with my own tales. As I got older, I developed an interest in High Fantasy. Around the time I entered college, my taste in reading changed to horror, thanks in large part to my mother, so there was a time I was attempting to combine elements of both. The short story version of Equinox was originally written around that time. It was also around that time that my interest in the supernatural manifested. I started haunting cemeteries and investigating the local haunted houses. One of the novel manuscripts I’m working on has as its foundation one of those investigations. Seeing where my interests were heading, my mother shared with me some “incidents” that happened within our own family—hauntings, ghostly visitations, etc. My novelette The Last Word is based on one of the stories she told me.

Why do you write what you do?

I don’t think I have a choice. When the ideas come to me, the characters have their own lives, their own stories. I’m merely the vessel through which they channel those stories. There was one time when I set out to write a short romance story, and it started out fine, but somewhere along the way, the lead character decided she was going to have this little “kink”. It wasn’t what I had intended, but as her story unfolded, it is what was she revealed to me.

How does your writing process work?

When a story idea comes to me, I rarely sit down to write it right away.  I let it steep for awhile in my head, let the characters and story line. I might not be thinking about it consciously, but its coming together. When its ready, it starts making its presence known again, and that’s when I sit down to work on it. If the perfect opening line doesn’t present itself, I know it isn’t ready. I’m not one who can spit out a first draft in a day or a week or a month. Each word I put down has to have meaning, which is why there are times I might have a 200 word writing session, and other times I might have a 2000 word writing session. I hate the editing and rewriting process, so I try to make it as close to perfect the first time around. Tweaking here and there doesn’t bother me nearly as much as having to sit down and rewrite the entire piece. I don’t work from an outline; they’re too constricting. I have a general idea of where the story is go to go, and I let the characters do the rest. Sometimes they’ll do something or say something that takes the story in a totally different direction. But there are times when the characters become stubborn; it’s as if they don’t know what they want to do next or where they want to go. When that happens, it’s time to move onto a different project until they start clamoring for attention again. That’s why it usually takes awhile for me to complete a project.

What is the hardest part about writing?

You’ve probably heard this from other writers who aren’t lucky enough to be able to write full time, and that’s making the time to write. I work in the publishing industry, so much of my day is reviewing edited manuscripts, proofreading, reviewing author corrections, reviewing revised page proofs, checking files for online publication, and compiling issues. I’m on the computer all day long, and sometimes the last thing I want to do is boot up the laptop to write. You might say try the old-fashioned method, pick up a pen and paper (see previous question about how much I hate editing and rewriting), and I have done that on occasion, but the only time the story seems to flow is if the story is being told in the first person. I was also forced to take a break from writing when my mother got sick back in 2005. I’d been taking care of her ever since, and it wasn’t until she passed away last year that I started writing in earnest again.

What would you like to try as a writer that you haven’t yet?

While a collaboration would be nice, I’m too stubborn for that, so I guess it would have to be a screenplay.

Who are the authors you most admire?

I’m fickle. It changes from year to year because I’m always discovering new authors, but if you want names… Let’s see… There’s the usual—Koontz, King, Barker, and Saul (that’s John Saul)—but then there’s Hal Bodner (I would kill for his comedic skills) and Andrew E. Kaufman (a true rags to riches story there).
Who are new authors to watch out for?

If you check out From Beyond the Grave, you’ll find 20 of them there (Yes, I can count — it’s a collection of 19 tales, but one is a collaboration, so that makes 20), and I already mentioned Andrew E. Kaufman. Let’s see… Who else is there? Oh yes, David Bernstein and Alex Laybourne (both of who are tagged in this post).

What scares you?

There are certain people who would love to know the answer to this question (Are you reading this, Sandy Shelonchik?) so they can torment the hell out of me, so this is one that I refuse to answer.

Oh look… No more questions. This wasn’t nearly as painful as I thought it was going to be. Want more? Well, tune in next week when David Bernstein, Alex Laybourne, and Tracy L. Carbone discuss what they have in store for their readers.

The Next Big Thing Blog Hop

I haven’t quite gotten the hang of blogging, which is why I was hesitant to accept Rebecca Snow‘s invitation to participate in The Next Big Thing Blog Hop, but after thinking it over, I figured, What the hell… I’ve had this page up for awhile now and haven’t done much with it except post excerpts of works in progress; taking part in the tour would give me the chance to test the waters. So without further ado…

What is the working title of your book? The working title is Maggie Creek Road. it will change, but that’s what I’m working with at the moment.

Where did the idea come from for the book? As I mentioned in a previous post, certain story ideas come to me while listening to music. This particular project is no exception. I was listening to Reba’s version of a song by the same name. The lyrics kept repeating themselves in my head, and eventually the music fell away and I had only the narrative. Then I started asking myself questions, the what ifs, and I had the roots of the story.

What genre does your book fall under? Horror. What else?

Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition? This is a tough question, because I’m not up on all the celebrities. You also need to take into account who you want your main audience to be? But on a purely personal level, if I had done this particular story line years ago, I would have said Eliza Dushku, but she’s too old now to play the teenage role, so now I would have to go with Nina Dobrev. She’s a name with the younger crowd. She could carry off the role of an 18 year old, and based in the work she’s done, I believe she’d be able to play the dual nature required for the character.

What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book? Sixteen years after being gang raped and left for dead, a woman seeks revenge on those who attacked her.

Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency? Not sure yet. The more I hear about traditional publishing, especially the Big Six (or is it Five now?), I would be tempted to say self-published, and if not self, then definitely a smaller press.

How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript? I’m still working on it, but 60,000 words, I’m about half way done, and that took me a little over a month. I’m one of those, though, who can’t just spit out a first draft, then go back and revise. If I could do that, it probably would have been completed by now.

What other books would you compare this story to within your genre? This is something I try not to do, and I wish this wasn’t one of the questions, but since it is, I guess I have to answer. Off the top of my head, I would have to say Bryan Smith’s The Killing Kind. There’s quite a bit of sex and murder, but not all the characters are bonkers.

Who or What inspired you to write this book? The characters did. Sometimes they get in your head and they won’t shut up until their story is told.

What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest? Did I mention the sex? There’s quite a bit of sex.

What? No more questions? This was just starting to be fun. Well, tune in next week to the following blogs to read about More Big Things (NO! Not that! Get your mind out of the gutter!) coming your way: Tamara Thorne, Andrew E. Kaufman, and Eli Wilde (link to come).

Where Do You Come Up With This Shit?

A few days ago a friend of mine asked me if he could read some of my short stories. I had no problem with it, but the question was, Which one? After giving it some careful thought, I decided to let him read Hungry for More. It’s a newer piece that hasn’t seen publication yet, and more than likely will turn up in the collection of short pieces I am working on. I gave him that piece because it was a newer piece, and because another friend of mine has expressed interest in turning it into a short film. Anyway, when he was done, he had this disgusted look on his face (I guess he doesn’t read much horror fiction), but asked to read something else. I gave him For the Preservation of the Species, a novelette that I recently posted on Amazon for Kindle readers. When he was done with that, he asked me the question readers have been asking writers for ages: Where do you get you ideas? Actually, his exact words were, “Where do you come up with this shit?” He didn’t mean it was shit; it’s just his way of speaking, the uncivilized barbarian. He says Stephen King has written some “seriously fucked up shit”, so I took it as a compliment. After giving it a little thought, I told him, Anywhere and everywhere, and that’s the truth. You never know where the idea of your next story is going to come from.

My first published short story, Forgive Me, Father, For I Have…Burp!, started out as a snarky response to something Mark Henry said in his Yahoo! group, something about the Father Confessor has arrived, come forward and confess your sins. Since Mark was writing about high-functioning zombies, I came back with something about eating my girlfriend on a Friday, and good little Catholic boy that I am, I asked if I was going to Hell. Well, it wouldn’t go away, so one day I just started writing to get it out of my head, and thus the story was born.

Hungry for More came from something a homeless person said at the Bed and Breakfast I frequent in Vermont, and the same place, with its spider-infested room, provided the inspiration for For the Preservation of the Species. My first novel manuscript, Ursa Major, which is currently in the editing/rewrite stage, had its roots in a dream. My second manuscript, working title Maggie Creek Road, came to me while I was listening to Reba’s recording of a song by the same title. There are a few other ideas that I am working on that were also born from snippets of songs. Another idea came to me after noticing some roadkill while out for a walk this past summer. Yes, roadkill. So you never know where the next idea is going to come from. You just need to keep your eyes, ears, and mind open to what’s going on around you because sometimes you won’t even be consciously aware of it, but something, somewhere, sometime, is going to trigger those creative juices and the idea will be there. It might come to you fully developed, but the seed will be planted; you’ll just need to nurture it until it develops into something bigger.

And then he… TO BE CONTINUED

Okay, it’s time to rant. I originally started this page to showcase projects I am working on with the hopes of getting some feedback, but something has been on my mind the past week or so and I need to vent.


Those three little words drive me fucking crazy. I don’t care where it is. The end of a movie, the end of a television show, at the end of a book, especially at the end of a book. I’m one of those people who, if it’s a favorite author, will buy that book the moment it hits the shelves, and to see those words at the end is enough to make me scream. They mean a whole year–or longer–before I know how the story is resolved. It’s beyond aggravating.

I remember the first time I encountered those three little words. Stephen R. Donaldson, The Mirror of Her Dreams. I had read Donaldson’s The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant and loved them, so when the first of a new series was announced, I grabbed it and dropped everything to read it. I won’t bore you with the details; I’ll just jump to the end (no spoilers, so don’t worry).  The hero has escaped, but our heroine, for whatever reason, is left behind. The Big Bad breaks through the door, grabs our heroine, and says something along the lines of “Now you are mine.” TO BE CONTINUED What the hell? I mean, seriously, that’s where you’re leaving us? A whole year… a whole fucking year…before I was able to find out what happened. It was enough to make me swear off series books until I knew for a fact I had all the books in my possession, or if I knew ahead of time that each book is wrapped up at the end. I don’t care if there’s a larger story arch that encompasses the series, just so long as the story contained within that particular book is wrapped up by the time I read the last sentence.

So what, you might ask, prompted this little tirade if I have made it a general rule not to read series book unless those previously stated requirements have been met? Well, a couple of weeks ago I read David Bernstein’s Machines of the Dead, Book 1 of a series. If I knew it was part of a series, I can hear you asking, why did I break my own rules and read it without having the rest of the books readily at hand? Because I told the author I would. BUT had I known it was going to end in a cliffhanger, I would have told him, “I’ll pass. Let me know when the other two books are published.” What makes this particular instance even more aggravating is that Book 2 hasn’t even been written yet. I only pray this doesn’t turn into another Chris Snow situation, where Dean Koontz has delivered two books of a trilogy, and 13 years later we’re still waiting for the third and final installment. And just last night, as I was browsing through my Kindle looking for what to read next, I came across a title I couldn’t remember downloading. I looked it up on Amazon, saw it was a book dealing with lycanthropes (my favorite), and decided that would be next on my list. However, something told me to check out the reviews, something I rarely do, but I’m glad I did. Nowhere in the description or on the cover does it mention this book is part of a series, but every review indicated that the book ends with a cliffhanger. So off I go to see if the next book has been released. The author has published other books, but nothing indicating the next installment of the werewolf novel. Well, I created a new Collection on my Kindle for Books Awaiting Sequels, and in it went.

What possesses an author to leave the reader hanging like that? In this age when books are so easily accessible, literally with the click of a button, do you think someone is going to want to wait a year or more to find out what happens next? Hell, after all that time you’ll be lucky if they even remember the characters’ names, let alone care what happens to them. And you as an author? Leave me hanging like that once, you won’t ever get the chance to do it again. You are simply deleted off my radar. Just ask Mr. Koontz (like it matters to him). I haven’t read a Dean Koontz book since Seize the Night, and won’t read anything else of his until I get the third Chris Snow book.

And that book that sitting all by its lonesome in that Kindle folder? To tell the truth, it’s a book that will probably never be read–unless, of course, somebody reminds me sometime in the future that Part 2 of that werewolf novel is out. You remember? The one you put on your Kindle in that folder. By that time it’ll probably be gone, deleted to make room for other books by authors who know how to start a story on page one and finish that story on the last page.

What about you? Do cliffhangers grate on your every last nerve they way they grate one mine?

Garrison’s Bitch

Here’s Part 1 of a new project I’m working on. Yes, it will be zombies. It was supposed to be for a themed anthology, but it is probably going to exceed the word count.


“You like that, Nickers?”

Even if he wanted to, “Nickers”—aka Nicolaus Patera—couldn’t answer. He was biting the bullet, so to speak, sinking his teeth into the flesh of his own hand so he wouldn’t cry out against the pain as Garrison took him from behind.  He didn’t know which hurt worse—the self-inflicted pain in his hand, the searing sensation in his scalp from Garrison’s grip on his hair, or the pain of the man’s massive cock ripping up his ass. Tears slipped from the corners of his eyes, rolled down his cheeks, but he refused to give voice to the pain, refused to let the big man know how badly he was hurting. That would only make it worse. He only had to endure a few more minutes, until Garrison busted his nut, then it would be over. He was out of here, and he’d never again have to endure the abuse the son of a bitch dished out.  He closed his eyes and waited, and while he waited he prayed that Garrison would get his, that somebody bigger and tougher would come along and do to him what he so enjoyed doing to others. It would never happen, though. There wasn’t a man alive big enough to bring Garrison to his knees. The man was just over six foot six, and tipped the scale at close to 300 pounds of solid muscle.  Compare that to Nick’s five-foot, one hundred and forty-five pound frame, it was no wonder he had fallen prey to the big man.

Off in the distance a buzzer sounded, immediately followed by a rumble of thunder as the gate to the cell block slid open, then closed. Footsteps, slow and measured, echoed down the long concrete corridor. Nick prayed the approach of the guard would give Garrison pause, that the big man would pull out and stuff himself back into his pants, giving Nick time to pull himself together before the other man showed his face. It wasn’t like the guards didn’t know this type of shit went down—hell, some of them even tried to discourage it—but knowing about it and witnessing it firsthand were two totally different things.  It wasn’t like they could do anything to stop it, not with Garrison anyway. When the man was balls deep in a piece of ass, he was more dangerous than a rabid pit bull. One of the guards, a man named Miller, tried. He was carried out on a stretcher. That was a little over a year ago. The man had yet to return, and rumor had it he wasn’t going to. Garrison had fucked him up bad. Real bad.

Behind him, Garrison paused, buried to the hilt, waiting.

“Hey Carter—“

He didn’t recognize the voice, but with the utterance of that name Nick realized that God had turned a deaf ear to his prayers. Of all the guards, Carter was the worst. Garrison, knowing he had nothing to fear from Carter, pulled all the way out before slamming it home again. “No white knight for you, Nickers,” he grumbled, finding his rhythm again. Nick bit down harder on his hand to keep from crying out, his mouth filling with the metallic tang of blood.

“—you got a smoke?”

The footsteps stopped. “Smoke this, faggot.” Nick envisioned the burly guard turning toward the inmate and grabbing his crotch as he spoke.

“Don’t be like that, man.”

But Carter was like that. You didn’t get nothing from that asshole without him getting something in return.  At least he’s being up front with the guy, Nick thought bitterly, his mind replaying the one and only time he bummed a cigarette from the guard. Carter waited until after Nick had smoked the cigarette and dropped the butt in the john before telling him he didn’t get something for nothing around here and it was now time to pay up. Before Nick could ask how much, the guard had unzipped his pants and pulled out his dick. Stepping up close to the bars, he growled at Nick. “Suck it.”

Nick, thinking he was safe behind the bars of his cell, laughed. “Yeah, right.” He turned away from the guard and went to sit on his bunk. He wasn’t safe, though.

Using one of the keys on the key ring attached to his belt, Carter opened the cell door and stepped inside, grabbed Nick by the shoulder and spun him around. “When I tell you to do something, you do it, boy. Y’hear?”

“I ain’t your ‘boy’.”

He never saw the punch coming. One second he was standing up staring Carter in the eye, the next he was looking down at his shoes and clutching his gut.

“While you’re down there, boy, you ready to do as you’re told.”

Nick couldn’t believe it was happening again. This was the kind of shit you read about in them stroke books, not something that happened in real life, but his first night in here had turned into some sicko’s sexual fantasy. Hell, his jaw still ached from trying to accommodate Garrison’s huge dick, and if he needed any additional proof that his life had devolved into a porno film, all he needed to do was take a dump. He was still shitting blood days later. His cellmate had raped him and he’d be damned if he was going to let it happen again, especially not by this two-bit rent-a-cop.

Taking a deep breath, he rose to his full height and stared Carter in the face. “Fuck you. I ain’t your bitch.”

“That’s right, Carter.”

Nick shifted his gaze past the guard; filling the open doorway to the cell was his bunk mate, and the look on the big man’s face said it all. Garrison was not happy.

“He’s mine.”

“You stay out of this, Garrison,” Carter said, starting to turn before realizing he was in a bad place. Nick saw the fear flicker in the guard’s eyes just before the man reached for his gun, then reconsidered, opting for the taser. He realized he couldn’t pull the gun and risk firing because then he’d have to explain what he was doing in the cell and attempted rape so wouldn’t look good on his record. But it was that moment’s hesitation that gave Garrison the window he needed.

The big man moved across the floor, grabbed Carter by the front of his shirt and slammed the guard up against the wall. Panic made the man clumsy; he’d managed to unholster the taser, but just before he hit the wall, the weapon fell from his grasp.

Nick ducked in and grabbed the taser from the floor, and before he was able to dart back to his bunk, Garrison held his hand out for the stun gun. If there was one thing he had learned real fast in his short time in The Big House, it was never do anything to piss off Garrison. It wasn’t like college where if you didn’t get along with your roommate you could request a new room assignment. Not here. Here, you were stuck with your “roomie” until one of you was killed in a prison riot or one of you finished out your “tour of duty.” With a sigh, knowing he was giving up his only means of self-defense, he slapped the taser into the big man’s palm before retreating to the relative safety of his bunk.

Garrison still had the guard by the throat, pressing him against the wall. Carter’s eyes were wide with panic and his face was an alarming shade of crimson as he struggled to draw a breath. He clawed frantically as the big man’s hand, desperate to free himself before he blacked out, and his feet beat a staccato rhythm against the wall. When Garrison turned to look back at the guard, he wore a grin that made Carter’s eyes open even wider than Nick would have thought possible. “Time for you to learn a lesson—” he growled, “—and lucky for you the teacher is here—”. He lowered Carter so the man’s feet touched the floor, then relaxed his grip on the guard’s neck. He let go, leaving Carter to collapse weakly against the wall gasping for breath and rubbing his throat. Garrison didn’t even give the guard a chance to recover before bringing the taser up into the man’s crotch and pulling the trigger. “—and class is in session.”

A cry ripped from Carter’s damaged throat and his hands flew to his crotch. Urine flowed between his fingers and puddled in the floor before he fell to his knees to kneel in his own piss. On the way down, Garrison snagged the guard’s revolver and pulled it from the holster.  In one fluid movement, he slipped the barrel of the revolver into Carter’s mouth, causing the guard to freeze.

Watching Garrison, Nick tensed. Any minute he expected the big man to pull the trigger, splattering the guard’s brains all over the wall. He wasn’t expecting what happened next.

“Suck it,” Garrison commanded, mimicking the tone Carter had used on Nick.

The guard tried to shake his head, but Garrison pushed the gun deeper into the man’s mouth. “I said, ‘Suck it’.”

Were their roles reversed and Nick found himself in Carter’s position, he’d do what the prisoner wanted. He held his breath, waiting and watching, silently urging the guard to do what Garrison demanded. Sweat beaded the guard’s forehead, and Nick could see the terror in the man’s eyes.

“You wanted Nicky here to suck your dick, didn’t you?”

Carter could only stare into Garrison’s eyes, part in defiance, part in fear for his life. The man was afraid to move his head, afraid that the slightest movement would result in a bullet lodged in his brain.

“Didn’t you?”

A muffled affirmation.

“Well, Nicky here ain’t a cocksucker, are you, Nicky?”

“Uh… No,” Nick replied, surprised to be drawn into this.

“Hear that, Carter? Nicky ain’t a faggot. You want him to suck your cock, you’re gonna have to show him how it’s done.”

Nick saw the change come over the guard like a shadow creeping over the ground. The fear and defiance fled, replaced with a stone-cold hatred, a look that said Garrison was going to regret this, but the big man didn’t so much as flinch. All he did was inch the gun back, allowing the guard a little breathing room, but still Carter refused to give in to Garrison’s demand.

“Time’s a-wastin’, Carter. I’m gonna count to three, and if you don’t start suckin’, I’m gonna paint the wall with your brains. One… Two… Thr…”

Only when Carter’s head began to move before Garrison finished his countdown did Nick release the breath he’d been holding. He watched as Carter’s lips slid slowly along the length of the barrel, then just as slowly back, the guard’s gaze never once wavering away from Garrison’s. The hatred there was frightening, but it didn’t seem to affect the big man none.

“That’s right, Carter. Show Nicky what a good little cocksucker you are.”

Nick didn’t know how long this went on for, but the tension crowding the cell and making the air all but unbreathable made it seem like hours. He wanted to look away to save Carter the embarrassment, but he was fairly certain this “lesson” was as much for him as it was for the guard and he suspected that if he looked away, someone was going to be carried out of the cell in a body bag. Garrison was a lifer, and he wanted both men to know that he had nothing to lose. Garrison’s way was the only way.

When Garrison pulled the gun from Carter’s mouth, Nick thought he was done, that he was going to send the guard on his way, lesson learned. But with the words his cellmate spoke next told him the man was just getting started.

“Lesson’s over, Carter. You done good.” He tossed the taser onto Nick’s bunk but kept the gun aimed at the guard’s head. “Now it’s time for your final exam.” With his free hand, he unzipped his fly, reached in and hauled out his semi-erect dick. Carter’s eyes bulged in disbelief. Nick could sympathize with the guard.  “Let’s see how good you learned your lesson. And don’t go trying anything stupid because I won’t think twice about pulling the trigger.”

At first Nick didn’t think the guard would do it, but as the seconds ticked by, the man’s eyes hardened, the hatred blazing there so intense Nick half-expected Garrison to fall over dead, and he inched forward, opening his mouth to receive the big man’s stiffening member. Carter’s face was empty of all expression; he didn’t need any. It was all in his eyes—Garrison was a dead man walking.

“Hey, Patera!”

Carter’s voice pulled Nick back to the present just in time to hear Garrison’s grunt and bury himself balls deep in his ass. Nick suppressed a shudder as he felt the man’s warmth filling him. So much for dead man walking. Thanks a lot, Carter.

“You ready to get the hell out of here?”

Nick tried to squirm from the big man’s grasp, but Garrison maintained his grip and kept him pinned in place, impaled on his dick like an insect on display. And that’s exactly what he was. The son of a bitch wanted Carter to catch them. He would have preferred one of the other guards, maybe Sullivan, one of the more decent guards in here, but Carter would do. The more Nick thought about it, the more convinced he became that the show was solely for Carter’s benefit. Garrison wanted the guard to sweat.

Despite that day five years ago when Carter swore his silent oath of revenge, Garrison was still very much alive, much to the dismay of Nick’s ass.  That day had forever changed the relationship between guard and inmate. Garrison had ruled the roost among his fellow inmates while Carter was cock of the walk, holding sway over all—even Garrison. On that day, however, Carter had crossed the line, attempted to take something that Garrison had claimed as his own, and in the prisoner’s eyes, he would have lost face with the other inmates. That was something he couldn’t let happen, which is why he had forced the guard to submit. Forcing Carter to suck his dick had only been the beginning. Garrison had dry-fucked Carter, leaving the man with a sore, bloody hole, and then like a dog marking its’ territory, Garrison had pissed and shit on the guard and, in the process, forced him to partake of his bodily waste in some warped rendition of Holy Communion.

The guard had tried to resist once he realized just how far Garrison was going to take his “lesson”, but repeated zaps with the taser quickly took any fight he might have had out of him. When Garrison was done, he dragged Carter, pants and boxers still down around his ankles, out of the cell and down the corridor, leaving him in the middle of the floor, a testament to all on the cell block that he, Garrison, was, unquestionably and without a doubt, God. It was something Garrison never let the guard forget, always taunting him with the memory. Nothing blatantly embarrassing, but said with just enough innuendo to keep the guard in check. Looking at Carter, you could see the hatred simmering near the surface, but below that there was fear, a deep-seated terror that Garrison would force him to relive that day. It was stronger than the hatred, but Nick suspected one day the guard would snap. One could live with that kind of terror for only so long, and the inferno burning within Carter would only be contained for so long before reducing the restraints to cinders and it was free to rage out of control.  It hadn’t happened yet, and Nick, soon to be a free man, wouldn’t be around to bear witness to Garrison’s comeuppance.

Carter’s footsteps drew closer, finally coming to a stop outside the cell. “Christ, Patera! Ya ain’t even fuckin’ dressed yet.” The disgust was evident in his tone, but so was the quaver of fear that crept into his voice before he finished speaking.

As Nick suspected, Garrison chose that moment to pull out, and even though he couldn’t see what was going on behind him, he imagined the big man was making a show of it.  While Garrison taunted the guard, Nick reached down to pull up his pants. It was the last thing he wanted to do, especially since he could feel the slippery warmth oozing between his ass cheeks and running down the inside of his thighs, but to stand there doing nothing was an open invitation to his cell mate to go another round.  What he really wanted to do was hit the showers, but he didn’t think Carter, or any of the other guards for that matter, would be willing to spare the time it would take for him to give himself a quick cleanup, and it would have to be quick; there wasn’t enough hot water in the world to make him feel truly clean, not after his time here.

Grimacing against the feel of Garrison’s spunk running down his legs, Nick snagged the waistband of his jeans, the grimace giving way to a frown as he noticed for the first time the bloody dental impressions in his hand—Never done that before, not even the first time the son of a bitch raped me—which gave some indication just how brutal his fellow prisoner had been this time around. He pulled his jeans into place, buttoned them and zipped the fly before wiping the back of his hand on the crumpled blankets mounded on the top bunk.

With a jangle of the keys and an exasperated sigh, Carter said, “C’mon, Patera. I ain’t got all day.”

Nick didn’t need to be told twice. There was nothing here he needed to take with him, so brushing past Garrison, Nick walked out of the cell that had been his home for the last five years. Falling into step beside Carter, he walked down the corridor to the echo of the slammed cell door and the cheering and well wishes of his fellow inmates. There was no sadness, no overwhelming sense of loss at leaving these men behind. They weren’t his friends. To them he wasn’t Nick or Nicky or Nico. He wasn’t even Patera. No. To them he was only Garrison’s Bitch, the one you stayed away from for fear that your attentions might be misconstrued and you suffered the wrath of a “jealous” God.

For Nick, there was only the future, so as he walked down the corridor he kept his head high and his gaze fixed on the door at the far end. For him, there was no looking back.