Friday, August 18, 2017

Free Fiction Friday: Amun's Curse

Happy Free Fiction Friday! Last week, a lot of weirdness happened in the real world and things slipped away from me. This week's humble offering is a mummy story of mine that appeared a few years ago in The Scroll of Anubis which, I believe, is now out of print.

When I was young, one of my brothers was obsessed with ancient Egypt and I learned all about the pyramids and pharaohs through him. I can remember watching Abbot and Costello Meet the Mummy and The Curse of King Tut's Tomb and being frightened of the idea of a pharaoh's curse. I still love a good mummy movie and think Boris Karloff may be my favorite mummy of all. I hope you enjoy Amun's Curse.



Amun’s Curse
Copyright 2009 Carey Burns

            The sun had barely sunk below the horizon as Amun watched the six dark-skinned slaves heave the massive slab of limestone over the tomb entrance.
“Your duty to the Pharaoh is fulfilled.  You are free,” He said, offering a wine jar to sate their thirst.  They took it, drinking greedily, wine spilling down their mouths and smearing the dust on their skin.
            The poison worked quickly and soon they all lay dead at Amun’s feet.  He dumped the tainted wine in the sand and shattered the jar, the lingering heat of the day evaporating the liquid until there was not a trace.  Now he was free to start the last phase of his mission.
            With careful, elegant moves, he hefted a corpse over his shoulder and plodded through the sand fifty paces to the south.  Stopping, he laid the body out with care in a shallow pit the slaves had dug earlier.  He muttered prayers to the gods so that the slave would be at peace in the afterlife.  Amun carefully covered the body with a mound of sand before returning for the rest.
            Through the night he worked, carrying or dragging the bodies fifty paces in random directions away from the tomb.  Once he finished his task, he said a final prayer and plodded through the desert back to the temple.
            The last year had not been kind to Amun.  He was born into nobility, destined to be a priest and not meant to labor like this.  Killing and burying the dozens of slaves that had worked on the pharaoh’s tomb had sapped his strength and now the sand sucking at his feet strained him even further.  He fell to his knees, panting against the clenching pain in his chest.  Eyes squeezed shut in agony, he muttered a prayer to Ra, the creator, to preserve his life and give him strength before he collapsed into the sand.
#
            The full moon lit up the desert while Amun lay unconscious, cheek resting on the sand.  He lay dying when a falcon landed, and began picking at Amun’s side as if seeking out a tidbit of food.  He stopped for a moment, but when Amun still showed no sign of life, the bird shrieked in his ear.  Amun stirred, eyes lolling in their sockets until they focused on the bird staring at him.
            The falcon clicked its beak and bobbed its head as if nodding at Amun then took flight, its large wings fanning his face with cool air just for a moment.  Amun took a deep breath.  The stabbing pain in his chest had gone and he felt better than he had when he was a young boy.  He rose to his feet and praised Ra as he strode the last few steps to the city.
            He entered the temple, tired, but filled with the pride of conquering death.  He saw the new pharaoh approach and beamed a smile.
            “Have you taken care of the workers, Amun?”  He asked.  He was just a young boy, this new king.   Amun did not trust his youth.
            “Yes my King.  No one will know where pharaoh rests.  Amun is powerful.  The gods love him best.”
            The young king’s brow arched.  “That is prideful talk.  The gods love the king best, Amun.”
            “Ah, but they obey my every word, my King!  I told Ra to protect me from certain death and he appeared in the desert and saved my life.”  He continued to boast to the king, both of his death and of how the way Ra saved him.  As he did this, his chest puffed with pride.
            Pharaoh studied Amun, a sour grimace on his face.  “The gods may love you, but remember they love the Pharaoh best.”  He stomped away, leaving the priest to bask in his own self-importance.
#
            Weeks passed and Amun’s story of conquering death spread throughout the land.  The young king grew tired of Amun’s fame and decided to make an example of him.  He called in his most trusted vizier, Baruti.
            “He must be punished for his prideful ways, my King.”
            “If the gods do love him best, they will protect him once more.  Do what you must but be discreet.”  He dismissed the vizier with a wave of his hand and smiled for the first time in weeks.
            Later that night, Baruti stopped Amun’s servant.  “Is that wine for the great priest Amun?”
            The frightened boy nodded.
            “I am to meet with him tonight.  I shall take it so that you will not interrupt us.”  He took the jar from the boy and waited until the servant had left, poured a potion from a small faience bottle into the jar, then entered Amun’s chamber.
            “Is that you boy?”  Amun called from behind a screen.  “You may leave the wine.”
            Baruti set the wine on a small table and strolled out of the room.  It was easier than he had thought.
            Amun strode over to the table and drank, wine dribbling down his chin.  He drained the jar and retired to his bed, a sudden drowsiness taking him.
            He lay staring at the ceiling when a strange tingling sensation worked its way from his toes up to his chest.  He struggled for each breath and felt his heartbeat slow.  He tried to open his mouth to call for help, but his muscles did not respond.  In a few moments his eyelids closed and Amun’s body lay still.
#
            The priest heard footsteps and hushed voices outside his chamber but couldn’t call to them.  The voices drew closer and he knew it was the vizier talking to one of the king’s guards.
            “I came to meet with him and he lay dead on his bed.  See?”  Baruti shook Amun’s shoulder.  “The great priest is dead.  Send for another to take care of his body.”
            The soldier left and the vizier leaned over Amun’s lifeless body.  “I know you can hear me, Amun.  If the gods love you as much as you claim, they will save you again.  If not, you will suffer for your prideful ways.”
            He left the room as two lesser priests entered.  Amun prayed to Ra to preserve him as the priests shifted him onto a bier.  He hoped they might notice the imperceptible rise and fall of his chest, but they saw only a dead man.
            They carried him to a small room and lifted him onto a raised wooden board, then fetched the scribe and the cutter to oversee their task. Amun prayed and prayed to Ra and the gods to save him, but the more he prayed, the more hopeless he felt.  His boasting had angered the gods.  This was his punishment.
            The priests returned with the elderly scribe.  Then, when the cutter arrived, they began their somber task.  Amun knew what to expect.  He had embalmed the pharaoh himself, and he tried like mad to move his eyelids or even a finger, anything to let them know he was not dead.
            The priests stripped him naked, muttering the funeral prayers.  They washed his body with perfumed water and dried him carefully with soft cotton cloth.  All while Amun silently begged for salvation.
            The cutter drew his blade and pierced Amun’s left side, enlarging the incision.   Amun felt everything yet could not move.  He was in such agony, he wanted to scream or cry.
            The cutter reached into the opening and grasped a slippery organ.  With a well-practiced flick of the blade, he freed it from the body and inspected it.  The spleen was slightly larger than his fist.  A deep, dark purple and still warm, he laid it in a small basket and continued his grisly work.
            Amun felt his blood pooling beneath his body.  His wounds throbbed.  He pleaded with the gods to end his suffering, but they turned their backs on him.
            The cutter wriggled his hand into the incision again and seized the stomach.  His fingers traced the organ up as far as he could reach and sliced it free.  He pulled it through the opening and tugged carefully until the pinkish intestines followed.  The cutter sliced the intestines free, letting them slip into the basket and Amun wanted to cringe when he heard the wet, slopping noise.
            With more space, he could squeeze the liver and lungs through the incision, much to Amun’s despair.  He prayed for quick death but knew it would not come quick enough.  He was in such pain that he almost felt numb, almost.
            The cutter wiped his hands on a cloth.  Amun knew what was next.  He could hear a soft clank as the cutter plucked a long metal hook off a stone table and hoped his torment would be over soon.
            He felt the cold hook inside his nostril and heard the crackling pop as the cutter forced it through hard, resistant bone.  First there was a blinding pain as it pierced his brain, but then Amun’s thoughts and emotions became murky as the cutter moved the hook back and forth.  Little by little, he drew out Amun’s brain giving him sweet relief.
            The priests began the task of washing Amun’s body.  He knew that he was dead,  How could he not be?  But his thoughts had cleared and he could still hear the noises that surrounded him.  Ra had exacted yet another punishment, preserving him from death by imprisoning his soul in his body forever.

            Amun listened to the priests pray over his body as they stuffed his torso with natron and filled his skull with dark resin.  They sealed his organs in natron-packed jars and left the room, singing prayers for his eternal soul.
In forty days they would return to finish their work.
Amun would be waiting.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

WIP Wednesday: Seven Deadly Sins

Since I completed my Creepy Charlottes, I'm moving back to some assemblage pieces with one bisque doll representing one of the Seven Deadly Sins. I've been picking up these bisque dolls for a while because when rusted, they become mighty creepy! These dolls have been rusted with Modern Options Sophisticated Finishes and I added a wash of white paint to them. Next up, I'll be figuring out a wash of color for each and putting the dolls in vintage wooden boxes or on some sort of stand. I hope you'll stick around to watch the progress unfold!

Lust

Pride

Sloth

Wrath

Envy

Gluttony

Greed

Monday, August 14, 2017

Maker's Monday: Always Check Your Candy

I've been a bad blogger and missed Free Fiction Friday. Let's just say, life got in the way a lot last week.

For today's Maker's Monday, I had a nice how to for a bunch of neat tags I made, but my photos won't upload so I just put together this sweet little tag that pays homage to one of my all-time favorite Halloween movies...Trick 'r Treat! When I first saw the Sizzix Thinlit "Trick or Treat" die by Tim Holtz, I imagined the victims of the Halloween School Bus Massacre and knew I'd be making something like this tag. I can almost hear Mr. Wilkins tell Charlie to "Always check your candy."

As with life, there were many hiccups along the way of making this tag. I had gotten only a few die cuts made when my machine broke. I'm still in a bit of shock and possibly denial. RIP Vagabond! There were also several elements that I thought would look awesome that ended up not wowing me.

Supplies:
1 craft tag (I used Ranger Inkssentials, size #8, manila tags)
1 sheet of Halloween-themed scrapbook paper the size of your tag or larger (I ended up not using this)
1 Tim Holtz Typed Token Halloween (I ended up not using this)
Tim Holtz Distress Stain in Fossilized Amber, Rusty Hinge, and Walnut
Tim Holtz Distress Crayon in Spiced Marmalade
1 Tim Holtz Trick or Treat die cut on black cardstock
Decorative Twine
Glossy Accents


Some of these elements didn't make the cut


Tools:
Scissors
Water brush 
Small hole punch (1/8 -- ended up not using)


Additional Items:
Letter stamps
Archival Ink in Orange Blossom

Instructions:


1.  My first step was to color the Distress Crayon over the typed toke so the color filled the stamped letters. I used a piece of paper towel to gently rub the excess off the token. 
I like how this looks, but not for this tag


2.  I covered the tag with water from my water brush. You could use a spray bottle/mister or a wet sponge. 

I was skeptical about using a water brush at first but it is really handy


3.  Next I dabbed the Fossilized Amber stain onto the tag. I added Rusted Hinge on the lower quarter of the tag. I let the colors bleed and blend and used a heat tool to try the tag completely. You could let it air dry. 

Good thing the craft mat is there to protect my desk from drips!
Adding the Distress Stains to water makes a neat effect


4.  The die cut was too big for the tag so I snipped off the cat. It will be used for something else, I'm sure. I added squiggles of Glossy Accents to the backside of the die cut and arranged it in place, pressing down firmly. 

Bye bye kitty

Glossy Accents is one of my staples
Sinister and creepy


5.  I edged the tag in Rusty Hinge to give it a more finished look. 

I was going to use the Walnut stain, but thought Rusty Hinge was more subtle
  6. After dry-fitting the typed token on the tag I decided it didn't look right. After a few minutes of staring at the incomplete tag, I smiled. Always check your candy...

7. I inked the letters and added them to the card, not caring if they weren't perfectly lined up or if the rubber block stamped as well. 

I've had these little letter stamps for years and love their grungy vibe
  8.  I didn't like how the striped twine looked with this tag so I ended up using a hemp twine I had on hand. 
A completed tag - Always check your candy!

I really love how this simple tag turned out, even if it wasn't 100% to plan. What is your favorite Halloween movie?












Wednesday, August 9, 2017

WIP Wednesday: Creepy Charlottes Part IV

I finished my Creepy Charlottes and posted them in the shop and one already has been claimed. These necklaces were so fun to make! I'm thinking of doing another batch...

To start, I dry brushed white craft paint onto the high points of the rusted dolls. I always end up using way too much paint on the brush, so I dab my index finger in the paint, rub most of it off, then lightly brush the high points of the dolls. It didn't take very long for the paint to dry.
Rusty girls

Just a smidge of white acrylic craft paint

First doll all dabbed up

Ready for the wash!
Next, I decided a very blackish blue wash would look good on the dolls. I mixed up a wash of paint and brushed it on the dolls, blotting away some of the excess. I added a few layers of wash until I was satisfied. My first doll had too much blue so I added more black to the remaining two.
One layer of wash

Love her light blue hue

Barely there wash

Love that dark grunge!
Once the wash of paint was completely dry, I glued the doll to the pendants using E6000. They should stay on a very long time.

With the dolls firmly in place, I decided to add a bit of clear gesso to the scrapbook paper. I used a small, soft paintbrush and got under the dolls and to the edges of the glitter. I'm really pleased with how they all turned out and I'm thinking the next batch will have a red wash of paint.

Thanks for following the progress of these creepy cuties!



This little girl has found a home!


Monday, August 7, 2017

Maker's Monday: Rustic Halloween Tag

Over the weekend I went full-tilt into making creepy tags! Today's project is a little rustic, a little manly, and a little creepy!

Supplies:
1 craft tag (I used Ranger Inkssentials, size #8, manila tags)
1 sheet of scrapbook paper the same size of the tag or larger (I used Tim Holtz Halloween stack)
1 Tim Holtz Word Band and brads
1 Tim Holtz Trinket Pin
2 Tim Holtz Game Spinners and brads
2 Tim Holtz Salvage Stickers (one with the dates, one with months)
1 Tim Holtz Halloween ephemera photo
Tim Holtz Distress Stain in Walnut
Glossy Accents

Lots of supplies for this project!



Tools:
Scissors
Standard hole punch
Small hole punch (1/8")
Black marker

Instructions:


1.  I knew with this tag I'd be using brads and I didn't want them visible on the backside. I traced the tag onto a rustic wood plank scrapbook paper and then cut it out, making sure I traced out the hole at the top.

Tracing the tag - those bad nails again!


Cut and ready for action!


2. Next, I selected the calendar stickers from my sticker book. I chose to have the date on the outside, but there are a few options to choose from. To make them look more finished, I colored the edges with a black marker. With the stickers in place, I used my small hole punch to punch a hole in the center. I added the smaller spinner to the brad and then the larger before fitting the brad into the newly-punched hole. I flattened out the ends to secure it and pointed the calendar to Oct. 31. 
Stickers galore!


In place and ready for a brad!

Love how the spinner acts as a calendar!

3.  I dry-fitted the Halloween photo onto the tag and saw it was just a smidge too big. I trimmed down the white edge and and colored the edge with a black marker as well. I glued it down with Glossy Accents. 
I love this photo so much!
Perfect imperfect placement


4.  I dry-fitted the word band and drew two dots for the holes where the brads would go. I punched the holes and added the brads to secure the band. 
You can measure, but I like how the holes don't line up exactly


5.  I wanted the back to look more finished so I made swirls of color with the Distress Stain. I added swirls in different directions to give it a worn leather look. I also edged both the manila tag and scrapbook tag with the stain.
I managed to keep most of the stain on the tag and not on my fingers!


6.  I pinned the Trinket pin through the scrapbook paper and lay it flat. This was tough and I'm lucky it didn't rip the paper as I struggled to close the pin!
Easy poking the holes...
Patience was required so I didn't rip the paper!




7.  With everything in place, I put squiggles of Glossy Accents on the non-stained side of the manila tag and then glued down the scrapbook tag. With everything dry, I punched the hole out of the top of the tag and trimmed up the edges. 
Love how this turned out
Different lighting...same tag. Still love it!


I'm really pleased with how this tag turned out and am thinking about string and some other finishing touches but for now, I'm calling it done! 

Who would you give this tag to...or would you keep it?

Friday, August 4, 2017

Free Fiction Friday: Being Neighborly

Free Fiction Friday has rolled around again! This is a fun zombie story I wrote that appeared in the Zombies Gone Wild anthology which is no longer in print and the rights have reverted back to yours truly.


Being Neighborly
Copyright 2012 Carey Burns

Maya stood by the back door, chilled by the night wind as she watched the old pickup truck back out of her driveway and down the gravel road. Ever since her husband passed away, all the old farmers felt it was their duty to check up on her. They told her they were just being neighborly when she’d ask them to please leave her be. This time it was old Mr. Cooper telling her to make sure she kept her doors locked. He gave her his phone number so she could put him on speed dial, just in case.

Once inside, she locked the door and glanced at the clock on the microwave, amazed that the old coot stole two hours from her life she’d never get back. A hot shower would soothe her weary soul, and then she’d go to bed.

She kicked off her flip flops and padded barefoot to the bathroom, pulling her t-shirt over her head and wriggling out of her shorts. Within seconds she was naked and in the shower, water streaming down on her head. She washed her hair and lathered up her skin, the rushing water leaving Maya oblivious to the thunderous crash of a meteorite just outside.

In the backyard, a four foot deep crater formed right next to her cats’ graves. Grass at the edge of the hold burned, and the large space rock at the bottom of the crater radiated a bright yellow as it began to cool off.

Maya finished her shower and toweled off, slipping into a white cotton nightgown before making her usual rounds of checking doors and turning off the lights. She settled down to sleep, unaware of the still-burning chunk of space debris just outside her window.

After five o’clock, Maya woke to the yowling of cats outside her bedroom.

She brushed the grit from her tired eyes and listened closely to the low caterwauling. She knew her neighbor Bill had some barn cats, but they never came to her place. She slid out from under the covers and tiptoed to the window, startled to see an orange light shining from a hole in her yard, which illuminated two mangy felines. Soon Maya realized that the grass around the hole was smoldering, and panic prickled her skin. Heart hammering against her ribs, she ran down the hallway and put on her flip flops, then dashed out the back door to see if anything else was on fire and to check if the cats were injured.

They cried, swaying near the crater until they saw Maya. In unison they growled and approached on stiff, creaky legs toward her. 

Eyes wide, she gasped. It was Pip and Spooky—her cats—but they were alive and moving instead of dead and buried. Maya shook her head, unable to comprehend what she was seeing.

“Kitty kitty…” She coaxed them closer. Pip hissed as he lumbered toward her, Spooky right behind him.

“Is that really you, guys?” she whispered, fear and anticipation making her break out into a cold sweat.

The two cats grew closer until she could make out their familiar collars in the morning gloom. Tears streaked Maya’s pink cheeks as she looked from the cats to the crater in amazement.

“This can’t be real.” She reached out a shaking, tentative hand to stroke Pip’s soft yet dirty fur. He felt cold to the touch, and as she moved to pet his head, he released a beastly growl and bit her hand.

“Ouch!” Maya snatched her hand back and sucked at her skin. Blood flowed from the wound. “Bad kitty, don’t bite Momma like that.”

In moments her hand was throbbing. Maya swooned, dropping to her knees on the dew-covered grass. Pip glared at her with milky white eyes. She struggled to get to her feet, but her limbs were numb, and she flopped down on her side.

Pip and Spooky slinked closer, their movements more fluid, until they stood over her, baring their yellowed teeth and hissing.

“No…” Maya whispered as Spooky bit her forearm, tearing loose a chunk of flesh. She barely felt the pain. Pip scratched her calf with his filthy claws. As they feasted on her, a rattling purr filled her ears until she blacked out.



***



The cats fed, their whiskers stained red and their paws slick with blood and dirt. Their hunger sated, they climbed atop Maya’s dead body and nestled down for a nap.

While they slept, Maya’s dead cells reawakened one by one until she opened her heavy eyelids with a violent flutter. She stared up at the stars with glazed eyes, visions of her last moments churning in her brain along with an undeniable urge to feed. She saw the cats on her torso and smelled their rotten scent. She swiped at them with a gnawed hand, ignoring their angry hisses.

Spooky raised a filthy paw to slash at her face but stopped short when Maya growled menacingly. The two felines cowered together near the crater and watched their former mistress scrabble to her feet and take a few precarious steps, her flip flops slapping loudly against her feet with each step.

Something primal and brutal guided Maya, her heavy limbs following the faint scent of her next meal. Memories of her neighbor Bill spurred her on across the yard and onto the gravel road. He was old and wizened, but he would do.



***



Maya stumbled loudly down the road. More than once her foot twisted in the loose gravel, causing her to fall to the ground only to struggle back onto her feet. Finally, after nearly an hour, she closed the quarter-mile span between her house and Bill’s. She stumbled down the lane to his home, opening her mouth as she took in huge gulps of air. She could taste him already.

She was mere steps from the farmhouse when Bill burst through the front door and sprinted toward the injured woman.

“Maya, what happened? Are you alright?” He stood in front of her as she swayed, unsteady on her feet.

Maya stared at him as he reached out to put his arm around her shoulders.

“Come on, you must be in shock.” He led her toward the house, careful not to touch her wounds.

Bill cringed at each slap of her flip flops, her silence making him uncomfortable.

“Here we are. Let’s get you inside and cleaned up, then when you’re ready you can tell me what happened.”

As he reached to open the door, Maya turned her head and sank her teeth into Bill’s throat. Blood sprayed her face as she ripped a slab of warm flesh free. She gobbled it greedily, the hunger hot in her belly.

Bill screamed, pushing at Maya, but her size betrayed her strength, and soon she had him pinned against the door as she clawed and bit him. In minutes he was cowering on the ground, slipping into unconsciousness. The moment Bill’s life left his body Maya smelled the death and spit out the last bite of muscle she’d torn from his shoulder.

The hunger had yet to abate.

A barn cat stared at Maya as she stumbled away from its master. As she drew closer, it hissed, a low growl rattling its chest. Maya licked her bloody fingers and growled. The cat scurried away with a high-pitched meow.

She maintained her rickety pace down the lane and turned left toward old Mr. Cooper’s place.



***



A slight breeze brought the scent of human flesh to Maya’s nostrils. Drool spilled down her chin in a long, shimmering thread.

Just down the road a cloud of dust billowed behind an approaching pickup truck, but she kept her course, her unsteady legs growing stronger by the minute. Soon the truck was slowing to a stop in front of her.

“Maya, is that you?” A rugged-looking man in jeans and a t-shirt opened his door and stared at the blood-covered woman in front of him.

Maya tilted her head. The man’s tan, leathery face was familiar to her. She smelled his sweat, the saltiness of it making her stomach grumble.

He stepped closer and snapped his fingers to get her attention. “Hey, it’s me, Charlie. Maya? Who did this to you?”

Maya smiled, baring her teeth, bits of gore stuck between them. With a low moan she jumped and wrapped her bloodied arms around Charlie’s neck and her gnawed legs around his waist.

He stumbled back against the truck, surprised by her weight and opened his mouth to speak, but Maya was quick and bit into his bottom lip, sucking in his blood.

“You crazy bitch!” He tried to yell something else, but she bit over and over, gorging on the tough skin of his face. He slid down the side of the truck to the ground, hoping to crawl, but consciousness slipped from him before he could make his first move.

Maya glutted on Charlie’s body, feasting quickly before he spoiled. She left him in the road and walked on to Mr. Cooper’s after he did.



***



Back at his doorstep, Bill’s eyes opened with a flash and settled on the old barn cat that watched him from the bushes. He sat up and got to his feet, stumbling as he tried to catch his balance. He remembered Maya attacking him, and he looked around, afraid she’d come at him again, but she was nowhere to be seen. Hunger ate at his stomach, and he caught the scent of food in the air, leading him down the road toward Mr. Cooper’s house.



***



 Maya reached Cooper’s place quicker than she had Bill’s. She heard the old man out in the machine shed hammering away at some piece of metal. She sniffed the air. He was almost spoiled, but she didn’t care; she was still hungry. She crept closer and closer to her prey.

Mr. Cooper saw her reflection in the window above his workbench and turned toward her.

“Why, hello, Maya. What brings you by?”

He studied her bitten, gore-covered body and scowled.

“Now, I can’t say as I didn’t warn you that something like this might happen, you living out here alone like you are. Let’s get you inside and clean you up.” He motioned for her to go to the house and took small, uncertain steps toward her.

Her lips twitched, forming a partial grin.

He walked straight toward her, making the hunt that much easier. Maya opened her arms.

The old man smiled. “There, there. It’ll be alright.”

He moved to embrace her, and she leaned in and crushed his windpipe in one swift bite. Cooper gurgled, fighting for air while Maya held him firm and ate what meager flesh remained on his arms and chest before the sour taste of death made her grimace.

She dropped him on the ground and closed her eyes, her belly full. Maya walked over to the old metal glider swing next to an elm tree and sat down, relaxing until the hunger would return to guide her to her next meal.



***



Bill made his way down the lane and stopped, staring at Charlie’s lifeless body on the road. He took a deep breath and smelled the rancid stench, surprised when Charlie slowly sat up. The two men stared at each other, some primal knowledge of what they were exchanged between them.

Charlie rose on unsound legs and sniffed at the air. He was so hungry. He moaned, his missing lower lip exposing his jaw. Bill responded with a moan of his own. They plodded down the road together. The stink of death hung in the air at Cooper’s farm, but there was something else mixing with it.

Bill lumbered down the driveway and stopped when he saw Maya.

She sat on the swing, a soft squeak from the chains breaking the silence with every motion. They stared at each other until old man Cooper started to flail on the ground like an upended turtle.

Maya stood and groaned at the old man, confused by what he was doing. He managed to flop onto his side and, after much effort, was on his feet.

Cooper remembered the girl attacking him and shrank back, afraid she’d strike again, but when she made no move toward him, he relaxed. He took small, hesitant steps forward. Air rushed through his severed throat as he tried to groan. He, too, was hungry, and the three people before him wouldn’t do.

They weren’t fresh.

Maya tasted the air and turned toward the road again, the faint smell of another meal not far away. She walked slowly, but with purpose, and the men straggled behind her, moaning. Her belly was still full, so she would let them feed. They would need their strength if they were to survive. As she walked along, she heard the sharp trill of the three Olson children laughing, and fresh drool once again oozed down her chin.

She stopped at the next gravel driveway and waited for her companions to catch up. Somehow she knew that the more they fed, the quicker their pace would become, and she wanted them to eat their fill.

The youngest of the Olsons saw them first as they approached the front porch. Her piercing scream hurt Maya’s ears. She growled, wanting to crush the girl’s throat in her jaws, but held back, reserving the kill for one of the men.

Mrs. Olson rushed from the old farmhouse and gasped when she saw her four neighbors.

“What on Earth happened?” she yelled out. “Has there been an accident?”

She rushed toward Mr. Cooper, and when she was within reach, he yanked her closer and bit into her forearm, ripping loose a large piece of flesh and some muscle. Mrs. Olson screamed as Cooper gulped down his purchase and snapped his jaws at her again.

Mrs. Olson turned to run away, but Charlie pounced on her, knocking her to the ground. The children screamed and bolted for safety. Bill managed to snag one of the boys by the arm. The kid pushed at his torso in vain. Bill ripped into the boy’s neck and forced him to the ground.

Maya watched the slaughter and relished the coppery scent of blood in the air. The hunger burned inside her, and she had to push down the urge to chase down the youngest. The girl outran Mr. Cooper, but he did manage to grab the eldest by the ponytail and collapse onto her struggling body. The old man smashed her head against the gravel, struggling to lap up her blood before it soaked into the dust.

As Maya’s companions fed, she tromped past them and listened for the frantic breathing of the little girl. She sniffed the air, taking slow, cat-like steps as she stalked her prey. The smell of sweat and fresh urine met her nose, and she stopped right next to the Olson’s chicken house. Maya spied the gang plank that led up to the coop and smiled. There was only one way in and one way out.

She took her time, creeping out of sight of the small opening in the door where the chickens would come in and out. Maya stood just on the side of the coop and listened to the girl’s excited breathing and the soft, worried clucks of the hens. She licked her lips as one of the wooden floorboards creaked and pounced as soon as the girl poked her head out to see if she was safe. Maya was so quick the girl didn’t even have time to scream.



***



Mrs. Olson slowly rose to her feet, her milky white eyes taking in the grisly scene. She saw Maya feeding and wanted to hurt her, but the feeling floated away as a terrible hunger arose in her belly. She smelled the air and grimaced at the hint of death that came with it. With a moan, she turned her head and stared down the road. The highway was barely half a mile away, and town was just another five miles to the south. With cautious steps, she ambled across the yard toward the road.

Maya watched the woman leave, and when the last of the children clambered to their feet, she set off at a quick pace to catch up with her. The rest of the group followed behind, their hungry moans mingling with the quick slapping of Maya’s flip flops.

In less than two minutes she overtook the newly turned woman and shifted her course to the north in search of a quick meal for the weak family. The strong reek of pig manure masked the scent of life, but Maya smelled it, her senses strong from her many victims’ flesh.

She led them just up the road to the source of the foul smell: The Bennett’s pig farm. Her undead companions caught the scent of life and quickened their pace toward the farm. Maya knew the farm was perfect for the Olsons to feed; the many farm hands and the family of six meant Mrs. Olson and her brood could eat their fill and there would still be one or two left for old Mr. Cooper to regain his strength too.

Maya crossed the driveway and rounded the corner of the large hog barn and grinned when she caught the eye of Mr. Bennett.

The aging farmer studied her, the dried blood on her nightgown a deep brown stain. He set down the slop bucket and hurried toward her, pulling his thick leather work gloves from his hands and stuffing them into his back pocket. “Excuse me. Maya, isn’t it? Is everything alright?”

She stood still and smiled, waiting for him to get just a little bit closer.

Mr. Bennett’s face paled when he saw the wounds on her arms and legs, and when he spied the youngest Olson child’s injuries, he gasped. “What happened? Did anyone call nine-one-one? Let me help you.”

He reached toward the child, who grabbed his arm and pulled him roughly toward her open mouth. His screams roused the farm hands, and soon the rest of the Olsons and the others were gorging on their flesh. The hogs squealed in terror at the sound of the men’s cries, and when Mrs. Bennett stepped out onto the front porch to see what all the ruckus was, Bill sprinted toward her, knocking her back against the door.

Maya watched the carnage with a serene smile. Mr. Cooper had been right: Everyone benefits when concerned neighbors come together in your time of need.


Wednesday, August 2, 2017

WIP Wednesday: Creepy Charlottes Part III

Work on the Creepy Charlottes continues! I ended up adding more rusting solution to the Salvaged Dolls and really like the colorations now.


I found some nice brass-toned chains for the necklaces and trimmed them down to size and needed to figure out what kind of dangle I wanted from the bottoms of the pendants. I had beads on-hand, but they didn't look right so I went on a shopping trip.

I ended up finding some gorgeous Swarovski teardrops and some cool brass-toned skull and crossbones charms. I bought them both so I could decide which looked best.

After hemming and hawing, I decided the Swarovskis went better with that chunky black glitter. What do you think?





Now that the Charlottes are as rusted as I want, I'm going to add some highlights and a wash of color. With luck, they'll be done by the weekend!