A Hawk & Cleaver title:
Amazon Kindle's #1 short horror story of Halloween 2015! Amazon's #3 paperback short horror story of Halloween 2015!
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When Cooper's brother discovers he's won a second chance with the girl that recently broke his heart, Cooper decides to tag along to the Coyote Inn. Knowing that his gang will likely be up to their old tricks they chase the setting sun with a smile on their faces.
However, the night takes a turn when a darkness that has stalked the town for ages past finds a new vessel. A horror hidden in the depths of children's ghost stories.
At what point in our lives do we forget to believe in monsters?
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- 'Would not be out of place in a Stephen King anthology.'
- 'Excellent short story. This is From Dusk Til Dawn meets the Exorcist. The narrative voice of the protagonist only makes it more real.'
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To keep up-to-date with Daniel's work, visit him at www.willcockseditorial.com, or find him on most social media platforms @willcocksauthor
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To find similar titles, visit: www.hawkandcleaver.com
[Saturday 12th July, 06:13am]
'Dear Father, forgive me for I have sinned.'
I hear the words leave my cracked lips; shaky, uncertain. Almost as though even the air leaving my lungs couldn't abandon me fast enough. I was alone, and I knew it better than anybody. Alone in this heap of shit chapel with no other option than to turn hypocrite and plead to a deity that I had spent my whole life mocking. For that's what people do when they've got nowhere to run, right? I'd seen it a thousand times in the movies. The bad guy runs to his nearest God centre – funny how they always manage to find one. I spent hours driving across this goddamn wasteland – he repents for his sins, then atones only to find karma ready to swing back around and smash his backdoors in (not in the faggot way). Then, boom! A cataclysmic circle of life. If you do bad shit, you'll get your punishment right? That's how it's supposed to be. But what happens when the boundaries blur? If I read between all the lines then I'm innocent in all this. So why the hell is it that I'm sat here now?
'I'm listening my child.' The words float through the... trellis? (Hell I don't know what the correct term is... It's got to be some kind of trellis, right? That same stuff the gardeners use to encourage those creeper vines to find a tidier place to creep) and caressed my face. He has that calm, confident voice, flecked with the obvious tones of age that seems the custom of a preacher figure. I can see his outline. A bald head staring towards the ground. I can almost imagine that outta sight sits a newspaper, maybe his copy of the 'God Loves Me Time', checking for his latest submission to theSt. Agony Auntcolumn. 'Tell us your troubles, dear reader. We'll get you your answers from God.'
'I suppose, in a sense, my confession should start with the fact that this is my first confession. I've never had much cause to seek counsel before. Little happens in my shitty excuse for a town that would ever cause me to need the services of the Almighty. Folks in my end are as backwards as they can get. Even driving here seemed to skip me forwards thirty years, and now that I'm here it all kinda feels like a dream. All one big goddamn dream.'
'Language? Oh, shit. I mean, right! Blasphemy and all that... Sorry, Father.' I hunch over, embarrassed, and twiddle my crimson-specked Stetson between my fingers, examining the accumulated rips and stains from only hours before. Preacher pipes up.
'You are forgiven. Please, continue when you're ready.'
Feels strange to be given permission to speak, especially from a stranger. I've never been one to wait my turn and say my piece, that's just how I was made, ever since I was knee-high and clinging to Ma's skirt. Every time Ma would try to talk me down or tell me off I'd jump two steps ahead and push my own agenda. Pa used to laugh but it would drive Ma nuts. He always used to say to me 'Cooper. That mouth of yours'll get you out of more scrapes in life than any kinda fisticuffs. Sharpen that tongue and keep your hands clean. You'll go far.' Then he'd down his bourbon and leave for work.
The first rays of the morning sun pick their way through the stains on the window shining a full palette of colour in my cubicle. I see the same patterns trailing across the old preacher's face making him look like one of them Picasso paintings they hang in the truck stops off the main road to make the place seem all sophisticated.
'I'll be honest, I don't know how to begin this one. I mean, I know the procedure, but I just ain't sure how to order my words to make this make sense to you.'
'Why don't you just start from the top? After all, it makes the most sense to begin at the beginning' – sarcastic bastard. I like him.
I rub my fingers together feeling the roughness of the callouses, watching the faint dawn light shimmer off the scar that lines my palm, and try to figure my words.
I could try and tell the truth in the order that it happened, but who in their right mind would believe me? People in my backwater town don't pay no heed to supernatural shit and lynch any of those that do. Davy Thrisket learned that the hard way. I was only a kid at the time, but story went that Mr Thrisket was hooting and hollering about some demon that jumped into his kid one rainy day, and the mayor – at the time – caught him trying to smack the devil out the poor bastard. Suffice to say, old Davy was dragged out for the rope to protect the townspeople, and his kid, from harm's way. Medieval justice, eh?
If I take out all the facts then I'm labelled a murderer. Black and white. I sure as shit would call someone the same. But, fuck it, I ain't. I ain't no goddamn murderer. Anyone that saw the whole thing start to finish would agree, but ain't nobody saw it all but me. Shit. Preacher next door is sworn to secrecy, right? That's why all the walls and pretence?
'Anything I say stays between you and me, right?'
'Just about, my child—'
I cut him off real quick. 'No offense, Father. But I ain't really one for formalities. The name's Cooper, though everyone calls me Coop. Which'll make you Father...?'
'Father Harrison. And of course, Cooper. Anything you say stays between us and the Lord above.'
The Lord above. If I was a firm believer then maybe I'd feel some pressure at that. Nothing like airing all your dirty laundry in a verbal three-way, eh? Though I have to admit that despite my atheism I can feel something... ominous. Something under the glow of the dust specks floating in from the thin rays outside. After all, who am I to question what's real and what ain't? Not after last night. That shit turned my whole belief system upside-down. So, why not? Maybe I can open my mind enough to believe there may be something bigger above us, watching (doing a shit job in my eyes, but watching nonetheless). Maybe He can hear me right now. Maybe it's God right now turning up the heat, making me sweat like a roasted pig bathed in Jack Daniels. Or it could just be my conscience. The walls feel cool to the touch, though I feel like the Devil himself is giving me a backrub. That's crazy talk though, I'm sure God would have some rules in place to stop the Devil entering his holy house.
Right. He's waiting on my story. I suppose, in a way, I am too. Though I can't decide which angle to take. If anything I guess now would be the time to let Jesus take the wheel. I'll use my God-given gift and just talk. Whatever comes out my mouth is what I'll roll with, and I'll deal with the consequences later.
I ask Father Harrison if I may begin again. The light bouncing off his bald cap lets me know that that's okay.
'Forgive me, Father, for I have sinned. Last night I killed someone.'
'Yeah. I killed a demon.'
[Friday 11th July, 7:46pm]
Poor mama was sick. Though that's nothing unusual, she was always sick these days. Arthritis got to her a couple years back and that bastard had been clawing away ever since. But last night it seemed as though the air was fighting to leave her faster than she could hold it in.
She was sat in Pa's old rocking chair, for the comfort of it. Before Ma started aching and hollering no one was allowed to sit in Pa's chair, and he made certain everyone knew. A couple of times as kids me and Kenny made a game of trying to steal a seat before he got home from work (until a couple of times we got caught and made it seen to we couldn't sit on his chair for a week – or any other chair for that matter).
I watched Ma, sat on the soft leather cushions, hunched over with her knitting needle like some kind of buzzard trimming its claws. She was silhouetted against the back window as the last dregs of the sun shone against the side of her face. I thought it strange, then, how the light made the one side seem so much younger. Almost as though time had slipped backwards and restored some of her youth. Yet, the shadows on the darkened half sent a chill down my spine, showing her frailty and the effects that age had sprung upon her. She was old now, and somehow came down with some kind of cold or ailment almost every other day. I wasn't ready for Ma to die.
Kenny came running down the stairs like someone had taped fireworks to his shoes and landed with athumpat the bottom. Shook me and Ma up real good as we ain't seen Kenny for a few days now. The layabout spent most of his time moping in his room since losing his missus to the doctor's son, Billy Richton. Not that I blame her at all. In my humble opinion you'd have to be scraping the bottom of the barrel to settle for my brother.
'You're never gonna believe it, Ma!' he cried, breathless from his dash. His shaggy hair clung to his sweaty forehead giving the impression he'd been out for a run. I had to laugh at the state of him. No stamina at all. Of course, he noticed. 'You best stop your mouth from flapping, 'fore I stop it for you.'
Kenny got madder when that made me laugh more. 'How the hell you gonna stop me flapping when you can't even hold your own lady down? You ain't got enough fight in you to get at me, brother. So why don't you take a breath and tell us what's got you so riled up. I ain't seen you this pumped since Dennis laced your toothpaste with coke.'
Dennis was the town prankster, and my best friend. He had the Pied Piper's charm with the ladies and the stealth of an underground rat to sneak up and play his jokes. Granted, the son-of-a-bitch sometimes went a bit too far with his shenanigans, but he somehow always found a way to make folks see the funny side. That was what was so dangerous about Dennis.
'When you gonna let that go, Coop? It was one time, okay? People have forgotten.'
'Just because people ain't say nothing, doesn't mean they don't remember. People don't forget in this town.' I loved to tease Kenny. It was like leading a pig down a shit-slide, and I had years of experience on my side to know how to push his buttons. Or maybe it was just his nature. He'd always had a short temper.
Ma paused herclick-clackingand snapped at us. 'Boys! That's enough,' she squawked. 'I know I ain't got much puff in my billows but I'll use everything I got to come over there and whoop you both. I don't need this kind of racket breaking such a sunset. Now, what is it you want, Kenny?'
'Right! Turns out Sarah and Billy been at each other's throats ever since she found him peeping through Darleen's bushes, and she wants to meet me at the Coyote to talk things over.' I couldn't believe his excitement. The way he was talking like she could do no wrong, forgetting the last time she broke his heart and trampled it into the dust. That would never be me. Ever since Pa left without leaving so much as a note for Ma I promised myself I'd never hand my heart to nobody. What's mine is mine. You'd think Kenny was some kind of cat the way he handed his out like he had some to spare.
Ma croaked something positive about Kenny being a lucky bastard for having a second chance with a lover and I saw the effect those words had on him. Next to Ma it was Kenny who took Pa's leaving the hardest. As the eldest son they'd always been close and it was a tough role to place the master of the house on him when he was so young. And I swear if I hadn't been in the room right there and then those watery eyes of Kenny's would have shed. Not that he ever wanted to show his affectionate side around me.
'If you're heading out, mind if I come along? The gang should be up to their mischief soon and you know how I hate being the last to arrive. I hear Dennis has some surprise lined up for you too,' I shot him a wink that met an icy return. He really doesn't get my humour.
Then Ma coughed. I ain't ever heard a cough like it in my life. It racked her body and curled her up in a ball, looking like an armadillo but sounding like a rattlesnake was trying to escape her gut. I really didn't like to leave after hearing that.
But Ma insisted. I don't care what anybody says, no matter how old you get, you never wanna say no to your mama. After years of losing arguments and being told that mama is always right, it kinda sticks.
So we left. Me and Kenny. We didn't feel all that great leaving Ma alone but we both knew she'd be happier in peace, left to her knitting. Following the old dirt path we used to tread as kids we made our way to the Coyote. In some ways it felt like we were those kids again, and we laughed and teased and talked about Kenny's chances in romance and the possibilities that night could hold.
[Saturday 12th July, 06:32am]
I lose my tongue for a moment and look at the floor. For the first time since I arrived I allow my senses a moment to breathe. Harrison notices the silence yet allows me a few moments of reflection. Classy guy. I wish I'd have a chance to thank him when this is all over, but I don't see that as an option. The musky scent of stale beer seduces my nostrils, rising from the splashes that, even now, feel sticky to the touch on my trouser leg. There's something else in those dark patches that I don't care to remember. The weak man's fluid. But I'll move past that.
My cap hangs loosely in one hand as I wipe the gathering sweat from my brow with the other. The sun is rising in the sky now and I can feel the heat causing further discomfort besides the aches and bruises that dot my body. Seems like every part of this damned booth is made of some kind of wood. I guess they don't expect long-staying visitors in here. I remove my jacket and scrunch it up under my butt in an attempt to both cool down and find some kind of comfort. After all, I've only cracked the surface...