Halloween Fright – by Helen Krummenacker

*Today’s offering is from our anthology “The Vampyre Blogs – One Day At a Time”.  This is the first time this story has ever appeared on this blog. We have plans for other Halloween tales involving not only Nathan and friends, but other characters from “The Bridge” and “The Ship” in the near future. But for now, please sit back and enjoy a spooky little tale from Lisa and Marisa’s childhood days, which hints at a future story set in modern times down the road. Helen is the sole author of this piece and I think she did a great job capturing the fun and innocence of childhood and trick or treat.*

OCTOBER 31st, 2007

     Two giggling girls, nine years old, were getting to trick or treat on their own for the first time after solemnly swearing to their parents that they would stay together, not go into any houses, and stick to familiar streets. And Marisa and Lisa really meant it, too, when they gave their word.
     But once they’d gotten their sacks more than a quarter full, they were starting to feel like the main part of town was a little bit boring, even with decorations. Marisa’s mummy bandages were meeting with confused remarks by neighbors who were more familiar with hospital dramas than ancient Egypt, nor did Lisa’s top hat and cape read as Mr. Hyde as much as “Abe Lincoln, maybe?”, killing some of the fun of dressing up. Toddlers and their parents, surrounding them on the streets, not only slowed them down with small talk, but stifled any real delightful shiver of uncertainty.
    “I know a place,” said Lisa, “where there’s probably no one home, but it would be fun to explore.”
     “What do you mean?” asked her best friend.
    “Well, I know the owner, but he doesn’t live there. The place has been empty for years,” she told Marisa, savoring the word ‘years’, drawing it out for emphasis. “I don’t mean go in, but there’s woods and a little cemetery–”
     “I am NOT going to a cemetery on Halloween night! The place sounds creepy.”
     “That’s what makes it fun!”
     Marisa grinned quickly, thinking of all the spooky old films she loved. “Yeah.” She thought about it. “How about we get our bikes and go there, but we stay in sight of the road when we’re there and don’t stay too long.”
     Lisa nodded. “Sounds smart. But it’s really not going to be too scary. I mean, sometimes things that seem scary at first turn out not to be.” She couldn’t really explain her Uncle Nathan, but it didn’t seem like anything associated with him could turn out bad. After all, he was a vampire… and the sweetest grown-up she knew.
    Marisa was enjoying the chill of the air on her face. “It’s beautiful out here.” The moon was overhead, the trees rustled mysteriously, and the scent of pine, cedar, and birch tinged the breeze. “I thought there were a bunch of old mines on this side of town, though. It’s pretty hilly out here.”
     “Yeah, I think there were some old ones.” Lisa tried to remember what Nathan had told her. “They used to have a small one on the estate we’re going to, that just took out coal to sell in town in the old days. People used it in their stoves. It closed for a while, but then it was opened during World War II by government order, for industry.”
     “How do you know this stuff?”
    “I told you, I know the owner. He’s a family friend, basically. And he’s the last of his family, so sometimes he gets, what’s the word… nostalgic.”
     They saved their breath to pedal their way up a long uphill stretch. At the top, Lisa stopped to let Marisa catch up. She pointed, “See, you can see the house past the field. I guess they kept this area cleared.”
     “Someone’s got sheep grazing there,” noted Marisa. “Sheep aren’t very scary.”

      “Does that mean you want to see the cemetery?”

    “No! … Maybe.” They nudged each other, shoulder to shoulder, before taking off down the hill towards the big old house that stood under the moonlight, darker patches where the pale paint had flaked off, vines growing onto the expansive porch, trees beyond with branches scant of leaves, many already lost to the aging fall. It began to feel quite spooky again as they drew closer to see more detail. Faded velvet curtains could be seen through dirty windows. The wind in the trees made suggestive rustling sounds. The creak of their own pedaling could be footsteps on an old, loose floorboard from the rooms above. The girls got off their bikes as they reached a grass-overgrown gravel path leading around the house and began to walk the path, pushing their bicycles by the handlebars, trying not to let the gravel crunch too much under their feet.
     It’s not that I’m scared, Lisa told herself. It’s just that it doesn’t seem right to be noisy here. Like being in a library or a museum. It was a matter of respect.
    Something cold and clammy touched the back of her neck and she squealed before she could think.
     “What is it?!” Marisa whispered, worried.
     “A drop of cold water. It fell off the eaves.”
     Indeed, the cool night air was producing condensation and the trees and overhangs slowly, almost silently, loosed accumulated moisture without sparing any thought for the nerves of passers by. “We’re being ridiculous,” Marisa said a little louder. “Thinking drops are a clammy finger or that the gravel is tiny bones crunching under our feet. It’s just an old farm no one lives in anymore. We drive past places like this all the time.”
    “Not just like this,” Lisa said defensively. “There was a terrible tragedy here.” She wondered briefly about Marisa’s mention of the gravel sounding like crunching bones. Someone was getting carried away by their imagination, and that someone was not her. “During the Civil War, you know West Virginia and Virginia were on different sides. And the Virginians were very angry about it. There was this point during the war when a mob crossed the border and they killed a lot of people here.”
     “I did not want to know that.”
     Lisa realized the fun was starting to go out of this for Marisa. “It’s okay. It happened so long ago. And… it’s not like ghosts are real.” There, she’d said it. It might not be a very Halloween thing to say, but she didn’t want her friend to be seriously frightened.
   They stood there beside the empty old house in silence for a moment, looking at each other, wondering what they really believed about any of these things. They were not that far from home, really. There wouldn’t be anything wrong with being here for a picnic on a bright, sunny day. Maybe they were only really afraid because they were breaking the rules. Maybe they only got goosebumps because the night was a little damp and the breeze was making them cold.
    Or maybe they weren’t quite sure that things didn’t go bump in the night. The breeze, which had joined them in stillness, rose up again, and a small, thin voice was carried with it. “Where is everyone?” It was a girl’s voice, sounding a little younger than they were, or perhaps she just sounded even younger because it was high with a plaintive note.
    “Where is everyone?” The voice said again, with a slightly different inflection. Lisa and Marisa opened their mouths and screamed in unison. They climbed back onto their bicycles and got back onto the road. They had pedaled at least a tenth of a mile before they realized they had headed the wrong direction, still traveling away from the town. Now, beyond the house, the trees were the scraggly remains of old orchards, interspersed with volunteer trees grown wild from seeds left by birds or squirrels. Lisa signaled for Marisa to stop.
    “Are you okay?” they asked each other at the same time, then laughed a little, still nervous but feeling reassured by friendship.
    “I’m okay,” Marisa said, “but she sure made a monkey out of you!” They laughed again.
    “We’re both fine,” Lisa said bravely. “I mean, so I was wrong about no ghosts, but she was a kid, like us. Just a kid…” she sounded sad now, because she thought she might know who the girl had been. A girl who had died from illness, months before the massacre. But then, why would she be looking for her family?
    “Hey,” Marisa said as she saw tufts of grass sticking through breaks in the thin asphalt, “I think the main road turned and we missed it. This doesn’t look right.”
    Lisa thought the same thing, noting that the hill rising to their right was just off the shoulder of the single lane, instead of beyond beech trees. “I guess we ended up on the road they used during the war when they were moving out coal.”
    “You like history a lot, don’t you?”
    “I like knowing why things happened. Roads don’t build themselves, and they don’t start falling apart if people want to use them still.” She had her mouth open to continue, but a weird deep rumble came from the ground to the right, ahead of them. “I don’t know what that is,” she said.

    Some muffled booming sounds followed. “It’s real,” Marisa said. “If there’s a mine here, it sounds like it could be ready to collapse.” They craned their heads to look down a shallow curve of road, to where the mine main shaft entrance was. An old metal elevator stood there, dim in the dark, before suddenly being lit from below with an orange glare. A plume of black smoke rose. There was another rumble.

    “Fire!” They agreed. Marisa was the first back on her bike this time. “We need to go back and tell someone!”
    They rode as fast as they could, legs getting sore. It wasn’t like the panic when the ghostly voice had spooked them. Rather, they had a purpose, because the mine should be abandoned, but what if some homeless people were using it for shelter, or some teens had set up a makeshift haunted house. There had to be a reason that the mine had suddenly caught fire, and it could be that someone careless had lit a candle or something down there, forgetting that gasses or coal dust could catch fire easily.
    When they got into town, Lisa’s parents were nearest, which was good because they knew the way. The girls were all for calling out the fire department right away, but the town was very small, so Mr. and Mrs. Weston insisted on going to check on the fire for themselves. “It might have just been something like a will-o-the-wisp near the surface,” Lisa’s dad said as he bundled them into the car. “Or a prank from some teens. There’s likely to be enough trouble-making tonight, so we don’t want to draw in emergency services if it isn’t necessary.”
    Much to the confusion of the girls, when they arrived at the mine, the light had gone out. Mr. Weston killed the car engine and they sat in silence for more than a minute to be sure there were no strange rumbles or percussive noises. “What,” said Mrs. Weston at last, “made you think this would be funny? You did say you’d stick to familiar streets.”
    “Technically,” Lisa ventured, “the main road out of town isn’t unfamiliar. I mean, we’ve been out this way before. And we only came this way by accident, because the ghost scared us so bad I just fled without paying attention to where. It wasn’t Marisa’s fault, either; she was following me because I knew the way and had glowsticks on.”
    “Now it’s ghosts?” said her dad.
   They knew then that further attempts to explain would just dig them deeper into trouble. The Westons took Marisa home in their car, and Mr. Weston had a word with her father while she was told to go get ready for bed.
    The next day was a school day (another reason it had been a bad idea to go off looking for adventure instead of sticking to the plan to trick or treat), and Lisa and Marisa were even more eager to get together and talk than ever. First, they wanted to compare memories of the night before. Had they heard the same thing from the ghostly voice? Did they both see the smoke, a pillar of it, filling the mine entrance and briefly obscuring the fire? Had they both still seen a ruddy glow, even through the smoke?
    They wished they could go back out there by day and check to see if there was fresh soot or something to verify their story. But that was impossible. Marisa’s bike was still on Lisa’s lawn, propped against a tree, and they were both grounded at least until the weekend. Furthermore, there would be no trick or treating for them next year.
    “Dad says,” Marisa told Lisa, “that he’s going to personally supervise me next year, and I’m not going anywhere. He says it’s going to be a black and white horror movie marathon for us.”
    “My folks,” Lisa said grimly, “won’t let me go anywhere unless there’s going to be an adult present at all times. And it has to be one they know.” She wondered if Uncle Nathan would come if she asked him to. But he moved around a lot so she didn’t know how to reach him.
     “Good thing,” said Marisa, with a sly smile, “that they know my dad.”
     “Oh?”
     “Because he was only a little mad, and he says we can have a sleepover.”
     This time, their unison scream was a happy one, even if it made the whole cafeteria stare.

 

HAPPY HALLOWEEN EVERYONE!

Hello from the Silent Partner

Anyone who has been paying attention to the pages for the books may have noticed something odd. My name has been retroactively added as co-author to the earlier books. There’s no attempt at deception going on. It’s just that we were always a little unsure as to what kind of credit I should get for my part in the creative work.

On the first two books, I contributed book planning, world-building, character development, etc., and although Allan wanted to give me coauthor credit, I didn’t feel what I had done merited that much. How does one even classify contributions like refining genre, suggesting that science fiction elements actually make paranormal stories seem more plausible and thus, scarier.

There was some baggage behind my reluctance to take credit, too. I had been the first of us to try to be a professional writer, back before there was much Internet. I wrote short stories, and magazine rates for short stories varied mostly from 1/8th to 1 cent per word. Eventually, I did the math and got angry at the world of publication and wrote from then on purely for the entertainment of myself and a few friends.

I didn’t really recognize how much self-publication had grown up and become a viable option, nor how much Allan had grown as a writer, until he came out with the first finished novel. While making a commercial success was still a long shot, the fact was, he’d managed a book worth reading and he had control of the publication and marketing of it.

I still considered my contributions to be more “co-creator” than “co-author”, but there’s no option for that on book cover designs.

On the third book, I was suggesting some edits on a part he wasn’t satisfied with, and which dealt with a character who I had created. After a few tries at telling him what to do, I asked if he’d mind me taking over the chair and writing the edit myself. He loved the result, and I ended up going through and revising multiple scenes to get them just right. This time, I couldn’t refuse co-author credit, because I had indeed done a significant amount of the writing myself.

Then we started to reconsider the earlier books. I would have preferred being listed as “co-creator” rather than “co-author”, but there were a number of scenes where I’d helped with dialogue, relationships, etc. I had spent a few years listening to Allan describe the development of ideas in a different way than I recalled them happening. And I came to realize that accepting a little too much credit was better than being forgotten.

So here I am, invisible to the audience no more, and in our upcoming anthology, I’ve contributed a few solo pieces. There will be more of those in the future, as well as my continuing to be involved in working together with Allan.

 

Another Glimpse Into Our Upcoming Anthology

     *Update from Allan: Last week, while awaiting the arrival of a replacement laptop for me, our desktop computer gave up the ghost. This left us with just Helen’s laptop which she needs for college accounting courses. So our release date for “The Vampyre Blogs – One Day At A Time” has been pushed back until “Twelfth Night” or January 5th, 2018. We chose this because with the holidays coming we will have a harder time getting things done like beta-reader testing, edits, artwork finished, cover art, and formatting the book. Furthermore, December is notoriously a bad time for independent authors to get much visibility due to the big publishing companies dominating advertising for the Christmas rush. 

     In the meantime, here is another sneak peek into the anthology. This installment is one  that I feel really shows off Helen’s skills in setting, mood, and storytelling. We hope you enjoy what you see and we’ll keep you posted on when pre-orders will be available. Happy reading everyone…

THE EYES UNDER THE SOFA

BY

HELEN KRUMMENACKER

     Tim was bored. It was another long summer day in a summer that was made ever longer by their move to a house in the country. He didn’t know any kids in the area, and even if he did, it wouldn’t make any difference because it was too far to walk anywhere if he didn’t tell his folks where he was going first. That was unfair. It was unfair, too, that they had moved in the first place. He couldn’t believe his folks actually thought he’d like it out here, where there was nothing for miles but rocks and trees, and stupid hick people, and dirt and snakes.

      Nothing happened out here. At least, nothing exciting. Back home (home was still the city, this was just the new house) there were games in the street, and rollerblading on the sidewalks. If you bladed fast and were quiet, you could go right past the old folks carrying home their groceries, and scream at the last minute so they’d get scared and drop them. And sometimes one of the older kids would get in a fight and get cool bandages. And you could hear fire engines and police sirens and ambulances.

      Out here all you ever heard was the wind in the trees. It didn’t even sound the same as wind did back home, gusty and thudding. It was like being at the ocean, all the noise dying into a murmur. He could hear himself breathe. He could probably hear Killer breathe.

      Killer was Tim’s cat. Killer was all black, so when he was in a dark place, all you ever saw were two shining eyes. He usually did hide in dark places, too, under furniture, so that he could reach out from underneath to attack passing ankles. There was a dangerous sort of energy in that cat, the strength, the obsession, the ruthlessness of an army compacted down into a twelve pound package– at least when he wasn’t curled up in a lap or taking a nap.

     If Tim could find Killer, they could play. Killer got bored out here, too. No more cockroaches to kill and carry around in his mouth. Not that he shouldn’t be able to find enough other disgusting little things to play with out here. But he hadn’t been himself since they moved a month ago. He was shying at corners, sniffing and bristling as he looked at empty spaces.

     Tim laughed. “Killer, are you afraid of the bogeyman? Didn’t you know mom and dad moved us out here ‘cause it’s safer?” Sure it was safer. Mom hadn’t liked it when he’d told her about the neat pistol Bobby had brought to school last May. But here the guys probably all had hunting rifles. “Killer, where are you?”

     Scuffling came from the family room. That was where all the comfortable furniture was, the stuff that had come with them from the city. The stuff in the living room was all ‘country’, which his mom liked and he would like to make kindling of. That was an idea, Tim told himself. We got a fireplace now.

     Tim went in search of the scuffling noise. Maybe Killer had found a rat. He could take it and put it where his mom would find it and maybe she’d be so grossed out they could move back home. Not likely.

    He could hear the noise more clearly. It was coming from under the big, fluffy sofa, and it was kind of a growl, repeated once in awhile, and a lot of scuffling and scratching. Yeah, Tim thought, Killer’s found a rat.

     Dropping to his knees, he bent down and twisted his head so he could look under the sofa. It was tricky, because the furniture was so low. He had to almost lie against the hardwood floor to do it. But under the couch were two big yellow eyes.

     “Killer,” Tim called, hesitating a moment. The eyes didn’t look real friendly. Of course, they wouldn’t– not if Killer was really going after something…

ANNOUNCEMENT – COMING THIS NOVEMBER THE FIRST “VAMPYRE BLOGS ANTHOLOGY” AND OTHER NEWS…

With the completion of Nathan and Otto’s rather lengthy adventure with the Unicorns and Terror Raptors, I thought now might be a good time to let you all know that Helen and I have been hard at work on a brand new Vampyre Blogs book. This volume is set to be released just after this coming Thanksgiving, so you only have to wait another four months to get your hands on this latest installment of the Para-Earth Series.

However… unlike the first book, this one will be an anthology instead of a novel. We will be taking select entries from this nearly four year old blog site to be included in the anthology. Now you may be asking yourself, why put a bunch of stories that are available online into a collection? Well, I’d been getting some e-mails and messages on Facebook, that newcomers to the site telling us that they loved Nathan and company, but found scrolling through so many pages to get to the earlier stories was a bit tedious to say the least.

Upon repeatedly hearing this, Helen and I went over the site and found that had created almost fifty different stories. And while some of them were short, others were so long that they could have anywhere from two to six separate entries to tell entire tale.

While going over some of the earlier and more recent entries, I also began to notice some glaring problems that had been overlooked when they were originally published. This was the direct result of the fact that all of the stories in this blog were basically 1st drafts. Meaning of course they were not fully edited so the ‘occasional’ (massive understatement) misspelling or less-then-perfect punctuations appear in a number of them.

However I can tell you now that all the stories going into the anthology will be getting edited and have a few tweeks made to them for better clarity of reading. Also, the stories will be put in a chronological order. This means they will appear in the anthology by according to when the character telling the tale originally wrote/experienced the adventure. Furthermore, some adjustments being made to some of the stories to create a more smooth timeline for who met who when.

The purpose of doing these ‘adjustments’ is so that the readers can have a better idea of how each of these life events shaped the characters’ personalities before they appear in “The Vampyre Blogs – Coming Home”.

And as they say on television…

 

Both Helen and I agreed right off the bat that any anthology we created needed to have new never-before seen tales in it. In this case, out of the 23-24 stories we currently have lined up for the anthology, six to seven (about a third) of the stories are completely NEW and will not be appearing on this site. Several of these new tales involve Nathan’s ‘long-time’ Otto, aka “The Professor”, who made his debut in “The Vampyre Blogs – Coming Home”. Both his introduction in the novel and his comment, “Apparently, I am am made of NOPE…” have caught the imagination of our readers who have been clamoring for more details on this strange man who Nathan looks up to as a mentor, as well as friend.

Also, since Helen and I are both artists, we are going to try and add some original pen and ink artwork to a number of the stories. We will also be placing either an Intro or an Afterthought to each tale explaining either how the story came to be.

We are also planning more anthologies for the future, not only for the Vampyre Blogs, but also the rest of the characters appearing in Para-Earth Series such as: Alex Hill, Veronica Ross (who along with her boss Roy Petersen – appear in two of the tales in this anthology) and their friends…

Our goal is to release “The Vampyre Blogs – One Day at a Time” on Black Friday or Cyber Monday at the latest, so add it to your holiday wish list, or think about someone you know who’d love a good read on those cold winter nights.

Finally, we are also exploring another avenue with the Para-Earths namely… AUDIOBOOKS!  We’ve had a number of people asking us if and when we’d make the books available in that form.  So currently we are looking into that area and will be providing updates soon.  With we might even have a couple of short stories in audio form for free, to be released just in time for the holidays so we can get some feedback from all of you.

With all that said you can see we have a lot of plans for both The Vampyre Blogs and the rest of the Para-Earth Series in the works.  But have no fears, new stories will still be appearing here as well.  So stay with us and please help spread the word about Nathan, his friends, and the rest of the Para-Earth Series.  The fun has just begun…

Amazon US:

https://www.amazon.com/Allan-Krummenacker/e/B00B1W8TEU/ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_1?qid=1501360496&sr=8-1

Amazon.UK:

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Allan-Krummenacker/e/B00B1W8TEU/ref=dp_byline_cont_ebooks_1

Barnes and Noble:

 https://www.barnesandnoble.com/s/allan+krummenacker?_requestid=724422

Smashwords:

https://www.smashwords.com/books/byseries/1383