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The Ghosts and Ghoulies Scampered All Over the Island
Welcome to another occasional issue of Whistling Past The Graveyard. My Name is Thomas Smith, and here we talk about writing, scary stuff, and writing scary stuff, among other things. So, before we go too far down the road, thank you for stopping by. It’s always nice to see you, and always nice to say Welcome to the new faces.
Recently I had the opportunity to talk with Max Bowen on his Citywide Blackout podcast, and we had a great time. we talked about writing, my “new” re-released novel, Something Stirs, and just generally had a big time. You can hear the episode if you click here the button below.
I’m writing this from my little cubbyhole office here on the island. It’s normally not a cubbyhole, but it is more storage room with a desk, my guitar amp, and a lot of boxes. We’re putting in new kitchen cabinets, top and bottom, and we had to store everything somewhere until the new cabinets are in. So…here we are. But that’s OK. The cookie and crackers are in here somewhere…
A lot of the little ghosts and ghouls were out at the various Trunk or Treat events on the island just before Halloween. But we have a big ol’ bag of assorted candy bars just in case one or two show up. You know, just in case!
Now that Something Stirs is out in the world and doing pretty well, I’ve turned my noggin to other projects. I just signed a contract an hour ago for a ghost story collection to Haunted America and the editor said the acquisitions committee was excited about the prospect of a coastal North Carolina ghost story book.
I have also put together a collection of my short fiction at the request of my editor at Cemetery Dance Publications. I had almost forgotten some of the earlier stories, so it has been a bit of a trip down memory lane. I even rediscovered a story I wrote with my brother that appeared in Horrors! 365 Scary Stories back in the Dark Ages.
And speaking of stories, here’s a little something called Husks that fits right in with this Halloween season.
“You’re chicken if you don’t,” Wayne said.
Kenny McCormick’s eyes never left the old shack. “You can say what you want to Wayne,” he said to the bigger boy, “but I ain’t about to go in the Hughes place, and that’s that.” He rubbed the back of his neck just above his collar and shook his head. “Uh-uh, not me.”
“That’s all right Chicken Little. Just because Louise Adcock did it don’t mean you have to do it.”
“Damn it, Wayne, you know she went during the daytime. And all she did was run up and look in the window. She didn’t hardly even slow down.”
Wayne grinned. “Yeah, but she was still a girl and she still went up there.” He walked over and put a brotherly arm around the skinny redhead. “Besides,” he said as he started walking Wayne toward the shack, “you’ll never live it down if you don’t do it.”
Living it down didn’t concern Wayne. Living through it did. He had heard the stories about the old river shack and the family that lived in it. Especially the boy.
The kids called him Jelly Head because he was supposed to have a tiny thin body, long bony arms, and a head about three sizes too big. His skin was so pale it was almost transparent, and his skull was so thin that it looked like God filled a balloon with jelly and put it on his neck for a head.
“Wayne, I told you—"
“Yeah, yeah,” Wayne cut him off. “I know what you told me. But look, we’re here and it’s gonna be dark soon. Besides,” he said as he put his lips close to Kenny’s ear, “if you go in there and word gets out how brave you are, Penny Fuller might just go out behind the gym with you.”
Kenny blushed at the thought, but it was thought enough to make him reconsider. Wayne smiled. “I’ll tell you what.” The smile widened. “I’ll even go in with you.”
Wayne motioned with one hand and pushed the door with the other. The door opened freely. Kenny knew he was moving, but fear held his heart in a grip of ice. “Wayne, I’m not so sure about this.” His whisper seemed to echo for miles.
Wayne closed the door behind them, flicked a lighter, and the dull yellow circle created by the flame made their shadows jump and twitch like dying souls on the wall. “Wayne,” Kenny whispered, his voice catching in his throat, “we’re in, now let’s get out of here.”
“Not yet,” Wayne said as he edged toward his companion. “We’ve got one more thing to do.” Kenny felt bile rise in his throat as his shadow twitched and leaped. “Wayne, I don’t need a souvenir for proof. You can be my witness that I was here.”
“You’ve got it all wrong,” the bigger shadow said. “This isn’t about taking.” He lit the oil lamp on the nearby bedside table and turned to watch the terrified boy. “This is about giving.”
The sight hit Kenny like a sledgehammer in the gut. The floor was littered with large husks. Dozens of them. A dry crackling sound sent a thousand tiny ice pricks along his spine. He had stepped on one of the husks. He tasted bile again, bitter and hot. But this time it didn’t seem to matter.
The nightmare on the cot in front of him had his full attention.
Partially covered by a filthy sheet, it was no more than three feet away from him. The tiny body was thin to the point of emaciation, and the skin on the huge head was so thin—Kenny’s left leg was suddenly warm and wet—he could see the blood vessels circling the bulging eyes and the sucker-like mouth. The thing seemed to be drooling.
“His name’s Dewey, and he ain’t been fed in a week or so.” Wayne had moved behind Kenny and pushed just hard enough for him to lose his balance. As he teetered forward, long, hard fingers shot out from beneath the sheet and pulled him forward.
The sucker-mouth opened and attached itself to his chest through his shirt with a sound like a fist punching jelly. Kenny screamed and struck out at the air with both fists. But his scream was cut short as his heart was sucked out between two ribs.
“You’re chicken if you don’t,” Wayne said.
Wanda Galloway’s eyes never left the old shack.
© 2001, Thomas Smith
I have a few recommendations of colleagues who have a presence on Substack elsewhere on this site. But another colleague who you might want to check out while you’re here is Tim Waggoner. He writes horror, media tie-ins, fantasy, and young adult novels.
His Writing in the Dark blog is almost required reading if you’re serious about writing horror, suspense, or almost anything else.
Well, that’s it for this time. Keep watching and I’ll pop up again when you least expect it. And as always, thank you for being part of the fun.
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