Short Story Free to Read!

2015 Story of the Year Award from



David J. Gibbs

@Copyright 2015

Garret watched her shift in the chair, apparently not liking the way the arms embraced her. Gladys took off her glasses and let them dangle from the chain around her neck. The elderly woman didn’t want to be here.

“Can you tell me what you remember from the other night?”

“Oh. You mean my spell?”

He nodded, hoping she would just naturally start talking. He didn’t want to coax her too much. It would make the interview look unnatural and forced.

“Well, I awoke on the nightstand.”

She paused for apparent effect. He motioned for her to continue. After clearing her throat, she spoke.

“I honestly don’t know how it happened. I’ve been paralyzed from the waist down for over a decade. I’m not a young woman anymore. The only thing still spry in this body of mine is my bladder and my mind. And I’m here to tell you neither could move this bag of bones up on top of the nightstand.”

“Interesting,” he said, tugging his earlobe. “Were you prone?”

“Was I what?” Gladys asked, the gray halo of hair picking up the camera’s light making it appear almost golden.

“Were you lying stretched out across it?” Garret asked, leaning forward to rest his elbows on his knees as he looked at her. It was just the two of them in the small room. In his experience, the fewer people present during the interview the more comfortable and therefore confiding the subjects were.

“No, I wasn’t. I was standing on the small table.”

“But, you just said-,” he began.

“I know what I said and I certainly didn’t stutter young man,” her words were an icy whip cutting through the quick of his resolve.

“I wasn’t suggesting you had, Gladys.”


“How did you manage to get down?”

“I didn’t. I stood on wobbly legs and had to wait for rounds to find me. I was so terrified I’d break something again so I just waited. Besides I was too shocked to try and do anything.”

“Of course,” he agreed.

“It’s when I noticed the boy in the reflection.”

“What can you tell me about him?” Garret asked with arched brows.

“He looks like someone I knew a long, long time ago. Far too long ago.”

That was the opening he was looking for and he took it.

“Who might that be Gladys?”

“You already know this. We’ve been over it already.”

“No, we haven’t.”

“Well, you got the reports from the staff,” she spat sharply, a bit of spittle glistening on her upper lip.

He continued, “Yes. Yes, I did, but I want you to tell me again so we can record it with the cameras.”

“And what good would that do young squire?” Gladys asked, her voice holding an underlying bit of laughter.

“I’m not sure. But, would could it hurt?”

She fixed her eyes on him and never once looked away, not even while she picked up the glass of water beside her and took a long drink. It was a little unsettling the way he looked at her.

“Can you tell me who he was?”

“You know I can, but you’ll call me mad and have me committed.”

“That’s not why I’m recording this and you know that.”

“He was my brother,” she said quickly as if the words were burning her tongue and wanted to get rid of them as quickly as possible.

“You never had a brother Gladys. There are no records of any siblings.”

“Of course not,” she said, her gaze fixed on some unseen point on the wall.

“How do you explain that?”

“Which part?” Gladys asked, this time in a coy tone of voice. He imagined her suddenly as a schoolgirl on the playground talking with the boys.

“How can he be your brother if you never had a brother?”

“When I was young things were different you see. If children were born and were unwanted, they simply were carted off to children’s homes or orphanages or reformatories. Left there with no explanation and cut off from the world to fend for themselves.”

“I see,” Garret said, not sure exactly why.

“Don’t placate me, Garret. It doesn’t fit very well on you.”

Garret couldn’t help but wonder what kind of a ball breaker she would’ve been back in the day. There were men all over the county that probably bore the scars of those days. He didn’t envy them at all.

“I wasn’t trying to. I was just trying to say that I understood where you were coming from.”

“How could you? Did your parents send your brother away before you were two years old? Mine never told me a thing about him until I stumbled upon the shoebox in the back of my mother’s closet when I was ten. I never even saw a picture of him until then. I had no idea.

“It’s when I found that box that he started showing up in places. He’d show up at the end of the aisle in the supermarket or on the opposite of a busy street. I’d see him but could never get to him. That bothered me at first.”

Her face faltered for a moment before tumbling down into a sea of wrinkles. It only lasted for a few seconds before the controlled façade was back in place again. He felt cold, not reaching out to her to comfort the poor woman, but he didn’t want to interfere. It seemed like she was right on track with the material he wanted her to talk about.

“It wasn’t until my twentieth birthday that he started to get closer. Instead of being across the street, he would be on the same side as me. Even so, he kept his distance, staying on the other side of a crowd of people at a crosswalk or in an elevator car. His pale face looked at me, his skin beginning to turn.

“I didn’t start getting scared until somewhere in my thirties. I found him outside my bedroom window standing in the bushes. Waking up to that face pressed against the glass, those fingers gently raking against the frosted glass. Still gives me shivers thinking about it.”

She took another sip of her water and Garret sat upright, using his hands to smooth out his worn jeans. It was hard not to let the excitement of the moment take over and start making his leg pump up and down. He couldn’t believe he was catching this all on video.

“Then by the time I was fifty he would be next to me and I could feel his cold breath against my face. It only took once opening my eyes to catch him staring intently at me that my heart would clench inside my chest. I had to turn away from him keeping my eyes closed before getting out of bed so I wouldn’t see him.

“The accidents started happening in my sixties and everyone thought I’d started to go soft upstairs, but it was him. He started to grab the steering wheel while I was driving or pull the cord to lower the garage door while I was standing there in its path. He lit one of the burners on the stove and even left the gas on all day once. Thankfully, I noticed the smell when I came home and aired out the house before starting dinner.”

Her eyes had that faraway look in them. It seemed as if she were in that time reliving what she was recounting from memory. Garret thought she looked decades younger in those few moments.

“I wasn’t quite seventy when the first serious accident happened.”

Garret folded his arms and started to nibble on his thumbnail, the excitement overtaking his resolve.

“He pushed me down the stairs. I could feel his quick breath just behind my ear and almost make out the words he was trying to whisper to me. I broke my hip and eventually needed surgery to repair it. I didn’t know it then, but that was the beginning I think. It was the beginning of my understanding as to what he wanted. I suppose it was then I realized that he would eventually have his day.”

“What do you mean Gladys?” Garret asked, almost before he realized he spoke aloud. He didn’t want his voice to break the spell. Thankfully, it didn’t.

“It was getting worse, but I knew then what he wanted. He wanted a playmate. All that time. Those seventy-odd years he had no one to play with. He was waiting for his baby sister to come and play with him on the other side. He was lonely. It broke my heart that realization.”

For the second time, he wanted to comfort her and held back his hand. He didn’t want to dare break the spell she was under while telling her tale.

“That sympathy, or empathy I suppose, changed the night Charles died. He didn’t believe me any more than any of you do that something was happening. My sweet Charles shared my bed and my heart for the better part of five decades and even he didn’t believe that I saw my brother. He didn’t believe in any of it, not even when the ladder shifted beneath him while working on the eaves of the second story. I doubt he even believed it when his neck snapped against the driveway, but I’m sure he saw him. I know I did. He stood over my Charles as I sobbed, his hideous likeness a beacon to the other side.”

The stern mask held this time, Gladys’s face a steady bit of stone this time. Only her eyes hinted at the turmoil raging inside her.

“Well, it wasn’t more than a week later that my next accident happened and I tumbled to the bottom of the basement stairs. Along with the pain of a broken pelvis and three broken ribs, I spent a day and a half crumpled, unable to move from where I lay, having to smell the fetid breath and feel the chill of my dead brother. I made myself the promise if madness didn’t take me that night, it would never have me. He came so very close to having his playmate then.

“I was in the hospital for almost three months and though the doctors did their best to repair the damage, I was in my eighth decade on this earth and I was forever hobbled. The canes and the walkers seemed to sense this and began showing up beside my chairs and couch at the ready. I didn’t like them much at first but eventually realized that without them, I wouldn’t be mobile at all. Chilling thought it was, I knew I had to keep moving or my brother would finally take me.”

She grew quiet and Garret stopped gnawing on his thumbnail now a wet red mess. He moved in his seat as quietly as possible.

“It wasn’t until the bus depot that I realized the inevitable. I had just come back from visiting my sister Ida Mae in Copper Toffey, Indiana. I hadn’t been paying that much attention to things, but I know I didn’t walk out in front of that taxi. He pushed me. His little hands at the small of my back. He pushed me and the taxi clipped me. Broke two vertebrae in my back and paralyzed me from the waist down.”
Her breath was coming faster and her eyes were a little wider than before. One hand clutched near her throat. He wondered what she was seeing or reliving.

“He stood there and tried to hold my hand. I honestly think that he thought he had done it this time. He was almost giddy the little bastard.”

Garret realized her breathing was even more labored, but he didn’t want to stop recording because this was the best interview he had ever done. He could see himself giving interviews about Gladys and what she said to him. This was going to be his big break. He could taste it.

“Well, he was wrong. I lived. I lived and he was still alone. And, that brings us to tonight. It’s taken him almost three months to build up his strength, but I know it won’t be long now. If he can move this tired old body and position it the way he did on the nightstand, there won’t be any stopping him. He’ll have what he came for and what he’s waited so long for.”

Gladys seemed dazed for a moment and blinked a few times slowly. Her ragged breathing continued to sound even more labored. Jaw lax momentarily, her hand balled itself up into a fist over and over again.

“I figured out how to beat him at his own game though. He won’t have a playmate after all. He can’t have me. No, he won’t have me. Not this night. Not any night.”

That snapped Garret out of his daydreams about television interviews and his imminent fame. He realized something was wrong.

“Gladys, what do you mean?”

“I took the liberty of taking some meds before you came Mr. Garret.”

“You took some meds.”

“Let me correct that. I took all of the meds. Every last pill. As you notice there are only empty pill bottles on the table,” she said, her words coming with more and more effort, a noticeable slur beginning to creep into the tone.

“What did you do?” Garret shouted.

“I know my Bible Garret. Do you know yours?” she asked, an odd smile crossing her lips. “He does too. He won’t get to play with me since I’ve committed suicide.”

“You haven’t committed anything. Gladys!” shouted Garret standing up and coming to her side as she slumped over the arm of the chair.

“I’ll be in purgatory forever. Not even his reach is that strong. No sir.”

Garret stumbled over the edge of the rug as he shouted for someone to help. The nurses and doctors rushed in but it was too late. She had ended the game.

A few minutes later a gurney was brought in and she was taken away. He reached for the button on the recorder to rewind the tape when something in the viewfinder stopped him. He blinked a few times and looked more closely at it. The blood ran like chilled molasses through him as the image of a small boy sobbing appeared in the corner. His face was covered with his hands, apparently sad that his game had ended, sad that he didn’t have his sister back as a playmate.

Garret felt a pang of guilt work its way through his chest until the boy dropped his hands and looked right into the viewfinder at him offering a chilling smile.

Mad Maggie Dupree Revisited

With books five and six due out in the next year, I thought it might be about time to see where Mad Maggie came from and where she might be going. She is definitely one my favorite characters to write. Headstrong and brimming with confidence on the outside, she’s just like the rest of us on the inside, nervous and unsure. She’s in constant turmoil over doing what’s right when the incredibly vivid world of the Stillwater Psychiatric Hospital comes to life around her. With friends and little brother in tow, Maggie stumbles upon one mystery after another.

Book five which is entitled ‘Mad Maggie Dupree and the Stillwater Rapids’ follows Maggie into the first days of middle school. Coming face to face with Darla Bigsby, she has to combat not only the bullies living next door but the mean queen of the cafeteria.

Let’s see what kind of trouble she’s been getting herself into up to this point.

Book 1 – Mad Maggie Dupree

Book 1 – Angry at having to leave her friends, baseball team, and everything she’d grown to love in her old neighborhood, Mad Maggie Dupree is anything but happy moving to the Stillwater Psychiatric Hospital grounds. Her family’s new home sits in the shadow of the patient dorms and the idea of crazy people living so close is disconcerting no matter what her father says.

Settling into her new home isn’t easy for the headstrong, slingshot-toting twelve year old girl. Her temper and stubbornness not only get her into trouble with the mean brothers living on one side of her but also with the nerdy boy desperate to be her friend living on the other.

She stumbles across something incredible left behind by the patients discharged from the hospital years ago things begin to spiral out of control. Uncovering a decades old secret proves terrifying, taking Maggie and her new friends on an incredible journey.

With the first book in his new series, award winning author, David J. Gibbs, takes the reader into the exciting world of Mad Maggie Dupree. The temperamental young girl leaves an indelible mark with every mistake, success, and struggle to find her place in the strange and wonderful world around her.


Book 2 – Mad Maggie Dupree and the Wood Witch

Book 2 – While exploring the skeletal remains of the ruined greenhouse, Mad Maggie catches a momentary glimpse of one of the enduring legends of Stillwater Psychiatric Hospital. Pale, dressed all in white, the wispy figure of a woman wanders the cemetery.

Delving into the heartbreaking story, Maggie discovers the lost journals of three women detailing terrible secrets and incredible loss. She has no choice but to seek out the truth, coming face to face with another horrifying legend lurking in the surrounding woods just beyond the hospital grounds.

A fast paced story for all ages and compulsively readable, Mad Maggie Dupree and The Wood Witch, the second book in the Mad Maggie Dupree series, is an emotional rollercoaster following the headstrong, slingshot toting, red head and her friends on another harrowing adventure.


Mad Maggie Dupree and the Lost Gifts
Book 3 – Mad Maggie Dupree and the Lost Gifts

Book 3 – Finding a decades-old newspaper article detailing a tragic bus fire, which killed four tuberculosis patients, Maggie is fascinated by the reported sounds of disembodied spirits lurking around the accident site.

Discovering the burned-out shell of the bus, in a forgotten corner of the woods, Maggie discovers something inside which dispels the notion that those killed were patients. They were actually students participating in a gifted-child program sponsored by the hospital. It also suggests, the fire was purposely set. Why were they killed?

Buried on the grounds, their graves are exhumed only to find the fourth coffin empty. Where was the fourth student? What happened to them?

On a dare, Maggie and Jackson race down the infamous body chute. In the darkness, they both witness the wispy remnants of disembodied spirits lingering in the tunnel, fingers pointing to a section of the tunnel wall. Maggie has no choice but to push onward, coming face to face with the dark and twisted past of the hospital and truth behind the fire.

A compelling mystery for all ages, Mad Maggie Dupree and the Lost Gifts, the third book in the Mad Maggie Dupree series, is another engaging adventure.


Book 4 – Mad Maggie Dupree and the Darke County Fair

Book 4 – While setting coins on the train tracks, letting passing trains flatten them, Maggie and her friends are startled when a man, dressed in rags, races from a deserted box car into the woods. Wondering if he was homeless, they decide to follow him and see if he needs help, noticing a fifty-dollar bill on the ground. Why would a homeless man have a fifty-dollar bill?

Moving through the woods, trying to track him, they come to a boarded-up train tunnel wedged into the hillside. Pulling some of the loose boards free, they explore inside, the tunnel damp and dark. While exploring, they stumble upon three empty, half-buried Stillwater Bank bags.

But that’s not all.

They notice a spray-painted mark glowing on the wall and find a silver necklace along the tracks. Maggie remembers one of the Darke County Fair workers wearing the exact same necklace. Was he involved? Where was the homeless man? What did the mark on the wall mean? And more importantly, where was the money?

Compulsively readable, Mad Maggie Dupree and The Darke County Fair is the fourth book in the Mad Maggie Dupree series. Looking into yet another harrowing mystery, the head-strong, slingshot toting redhead leaves an indelible mark with each mistake and every triumph as she and her friends look out for each other while always seeking the truth.



Cover Reveal – Mad Maggie and the Wood Witch

Just over two weeks from now, the second book in my Mad Maggie series will be released. Entitled ‘Mad Maggie and the Wood Witch’, this story follows Mad Maggie Dupree and her friends as they investigate a legendary spirit haunting the grounds of the Stillwater Pyschiatric Hospital.

CleanReads sent the cover this past weekend!












Mad Maggie and the Lost Gifts Contract!

I’m so excited! Received my contract from Clean Reads Publishing for the third book in the Mad Maggie Dupree middle-grade thriller series. It’s entitled ‘Mad Maggie Dupree and the lost Gifts’.

Kenny, one of the bullies on the grounds, challenges Maggie and Jackson to a bike race through the legendary body chute, where the tuberculosis patients were taken after they’d died. While there, Jackson and Maggie see odd smoky looking apparitions. Looking into the hospital’s checkered past, the realized a terrible accident occurred on the grounds involving a bus fire and four students attending the hospital’s gifted program.

The first book, ‘Mad Maggie Dupree’, is available now on Amazon. Click the cover below for print or Kindle versions. The second book ‘Mad Maggie Dupree and the Wood Witch’ will be available on October 30, 2018.


Bats in the Belfry



David J. Gibbs

@Copyright 2014




It wasn’t something she liked to talk about, certainly not at her advanced age. They would send her to the loony bin for sure. And that brat Andrew would smile, as he wheeled her in. No she wouldn’t let that happen. But, there was no denying that something was happening. And it was something that she couldn’t readily explain away or even control.

Ida had been born just south of the 20th century mark and witnessed war swallow the known world twice over. She had witnessed a level of poor she had once thought impossible and had endured hunger leaving her too weak to move. She had witnessed three assassination attempts of presidents, two of which were successful. She remembered being a little girl and the world stopping as the Titanic took a nose dive to the depths. Ida remembered being scared when the astronauts died on the launching pad in that terrible fire and then just a few short years later, being so excited when Neil Armstrong took his giant leap for all mankind.

She could recall all of it, but somehow the more time that passed the less real it seemed. It was as if she became more and more removed from it each time she thought about those things. There were even times when she almost questioned whether it had happened or not. And still other times when she felt the things around her were whisper thin. It was almost as if she could push her hand through the lamp on the end table or her book would fall to the floor, her hands suddenly unable to grasp it. And it was that in part which made her start to begin wondering about how fragile a state of mind could be.

Could there be too much whispering?

When she had been a young girl, she remembered her Aunt Lottie and how her parents had whispered about the aged woman behind her back. They would constantly talk about how they didn’t think she was safe by herself out on the farm being so far away from neighbors and doctors. It was the same small farm Lottie had been born on, and the same one both of her parents were buried on, but that didn’t matter when there were bats in the belfry.

Thankfully, Ida had been quiet about those certain little things and so no one was the wiser. Well no one, save herself. And she wasn’t foolish enough to think that she would be able to outlast the darkness she knew to be coming. But for now, she was in control.

She could still cook a meal and not be too worried she would burn the house down. Honestly though, if it did burn down, as long she was in it, she didn’t care. It was hers, bought and paid for, well before Lyndon had made his appearance in the White House, and it would remain hers, until she was no more. Yes, and then Andrew could gut it or sell it or do whatever he damn well pleased with it.

Ida looked up at the small framed picture of her late husband Edward, or Eddie, as she had fondly called him. In the picture he sat on an old wooden barrel beside a split rail fence, one foot resting on another smaller barrel, both arms crossed on one of his knees. He clutched a worn cowboy hat in his hand and had a wry smile crossing his face. She’d always wished he would’ve waited for her to sit down on the barrel beside him before the photographer had taken the picture, but he was in too much of a hurry.

Smiling, she turned on the gas for the stove and then lit it with a diamond tip kitchen match. Andrew always insisted on having her use one of those butane lighting sticks, but she thought they were unsafe. As the blue ring of flame danced around the burner, she shook the match out and then put the kettle of water on it.

The wind always tended to catch the south corner of the house and whisper through almost constantly. The incessant handfuls of sand that were wrought with the wind’s venom had worn the wooden shingles along that part of the house to an almost impossible smoothness. The whispers were music to her ears and she longed for more of it each and every day.

She knew that Andrew had never liked it on The Point while growing up. He had hated the sand and the wind, but mostly he had hated the isolation. He had hated her and his father for keeping him in such a place. As if they were punishing him for something he had done. It had so little to do with him that he probably wouldn’t understand even if she tried to explain it to him.

It was more than a little frustrating that a place that had always held an allure to her couldn’t be understood by her own son. The thrill she felt each time the sun fell to the sea’s edge and spilled color across the sky. The way she felt when she watched the lightning crash to the sea, the flickering light show making the sea spark and the clouds glow. The ebb and flow of the tides each and every day and the way the sea would take away sand in one storm season only to deposit three times as much sand the following season. It was all something wonderful to her. It was as if each day was a secret slideshow for her and her alone.

Ida breathed with this place.

It was her air.

It was her.

She knew that she was but a fraction of the person she had been thirty, forty, fifty years earlier but she was still more than able to take care of herself. God she hated when one of the snooty visiting nurses would say things like ‘hey you’re really with it’ to her. The typical comments that might seem like compliments by the person saying them were always like quiet daggers in a dark room. ‘No bats in the belfry’. ‘No rust upstairs with this one’. ‘Oh you seem sharp as a tack darlin’. She’d like to show her a tack a time or two as much poking and prodding the nurses did all over her. Ida never understood how if her hands or elbows ached why they needed to check her feet or listen to her heart.

She had always had nervous hands. A smile burrowed across the weathered landscape of her face as she thought of Eddie again. He had always asked her if she had ants in her pants because of the way she would tug at the hems of her dresses or pick at her fingers. She had been so embarrassed when he commented on it, that first night at the mixer. He’d been dead almost thirty years now, but she could feel him with her every step of the way, even more so lately it seemed. It was odd how many voices she heard on that same wind each night. His was one of them.

Her hands kneaded themselves atop each other as if they were somehow separate beings from her body, moving atop her quilted throw which covered her legs. Even they couldn’t keep her from thinking the thoughts that kept her company on days like this. Actually more and more lately, it wasn’t just days like this. It was almost every day.

The days no longer held much difference to them. They were becoming more and more, one long strange voyage, through which she walked. She didn’t go anywhere and had very few visitors. She spent long hours just sitting on her porch and watching the tides as they would come in and then softly shuffle out just as easily and was more than content.

She hated when her son came to visit, because he was only interested in where she had her money and what she planned to do with it and oh yeah by the way did you forget to sign the power of attorney forms and did you finalize the updated last will and testament?  If she had her way, she’d leave it all to the damned seagulls that cried across her small finger of beach.

She knew Andrew was going to sell it all when he had the chance. Developers had been after her eleven acres of The Point, for as long as she could remember, always raising their price to something they felt she couldn’t possible refuse. Ida never failed to surprise them. Oh sure, she’d listen to them. Her mother raised her to be polite. But once they were done with their folding easels and big glossy pictures and gave her the bottom line, she always politely thanked them for their interest and then showed them the door.

She heard a car door shut and knew the nurse was about to make an appearance. It was Thursday, so that would mean it was Mary Jane that would be coming through the door. The woman was one of the more pleasant ones that the service sent out.

A large smiling woman dressed in white stepped through the door and said, “Well good morning Ms. Ida. I brought you the paper from your stoop.”

“Morning,” Ida said, resting her elbows on the arms of her chair, her eyes looking out at the ocean. “Thank you.”

“You’re looking well this morning. Did you eat anything yet?”

“I had something earlier. Was just waiting on the kettle to warm up for some tea.”

Mary Jane nodded her head and said, “I’ll just tidy up a little bit and then we can do your blood pressure and other things while you drink you tea. How about that?”

The question came in a voice that sounded like the woman was talking to a toddler. Ida nodded, hoping that the conversation would end so that Mary Jane could finish up quicker and get out of the house faster.

“My goodness but that wind is sure whipping out there. ‘Bout blew me off the bridge coming across to see you today,” Mary Jane said, as she went into the other room. The sounds of her putting things away could be heard, as Ida continued to stare out the window. The sunlight was making the small ripples sparkle. She loved when that happened. Mary Jane was right the wind was definitely talking plenty outside.

Just then, she heard footsteps coming up to the porch and for a minute and Ida wondered if Mary Jane had brought some help. But that thought quickly went to the wayside, as she suddenly recognized the footfalls. She heard the spring creaking as the storm door opened to the screened in porch. Ida heard him dutifully wiping his feet on the small worn welcome mat. She knew it was Eddie coming up the steps. She knew it for certain in her heart. She had heard him follow the same routine hundreds of times before.

It was him.

Mary Jane’s humming came to her as Ida waited for the doorknob to turn and her Eddie to walk through the door. He hadn’t turned that doorknob in three decades and although part of her knew he couldn’t be there, another part of her that had been listening to the whispering wind all this time, knew he was there none the less.

Her heart shuddered with that sweet ache, as the doorknob turned and she watched Eddie step into the room. He was so handsome, always had been. She’d oftentimes wondered how she managed to hold onto someone with such dashing good looks. Ida knew she was no looker. She was a Plain Jane if there ever was one. Her sister Marie had always had the boys fawning over her, but not Ida. Not until Eddie walked into her life that is.

“Hey there Peaches,” he said, his voice hinting at laughter just below the surface. He tossed his worn hat onto the table beside her. She loved when he called her Peaches. It was his pet name for her.

She could only smile.

“What do you say we take a walk?  Weather’s nice and the water looks beautiful. It always is this time of year. We shouldn’t waste the day now should we?”

She could only nod, as she reached for his outstretched hand. It was so warm, and rough from labor, just as it always had been. They left together side by side and stepped down from the screened in porch. The pair headed for the sparkles in the water.

“I’ve missed you,” she said, her voice almost a whisper.

“Well I’m right here. No reason to miss me now when I’m right here with you Peaches.”

They stumbled down over the rise of the dune and she could feel the water kiss her toes. Her one hand pulled her dress up so it wouldn’t get too wet, while her other held on to Eddie’s hand for dear life. The wind still talked to them as they walked through the shallow water near the shore. They walked through the shimmering water that glittered with the sunlight. The sun warmed water teased her feet as they walked together. Lost upon the pair, the wind continued to lash out across the sandy expanse of beach with even more strength.


“I can’t believe the wind finally died down,” Mary Jane said a little loudly from the other room, so that Ida could hear it.

She grouped the magazines together neatly and tucked them into the side pocket of the Lay-z-Boy chair by the television before trying again, “Miss Ida that wind finally gave up I think.”

She walked into the small sunroom just inside the screened in porch. It was Miss Ida’s favorite spot in the house. Mary Jane saw her sitting in the chair, her cane with four rubber feet stood dutifully at her side.

“Miss Ida?” she asked, with no response.

It was eerily quiet with the wind completely gone. Mary Jane had never known The Point to be this quiet. It was always windy, always.

As she moved closer, she heard a few drops of water tap against the floor. She knew that Miss Ida was prone to fall asleep and reached out to gently rouse her, when she saw the water dripping from her bare feet. The bottom few inches of her nightgown were wet as well.

At first she thought Miss Ida may have had an accident, but she knew that wasn’t the case almost immediately. She could smell the salt water. But that wasn’t what chilled her to the core. First was the weathered hat on the table. She knew it wasn’t there when she had come in just a few minutes earlier. The second was the wet sandy footprints that came in from the screened in porch.

There were two sets of them.

She picked up the phone and dialed Andrew’s number. As she waited for him to answer, Mary Jane looked up at the framed picture on the wall. In it, Ida was leaning against Eddie’s shoulder and they were sitting on two old wooden barrels. Her arm was tucked inside of his, and his large hands held a heavy saw. There was something that struck her about the photograph, but she couldn’t say exactly why. Something about it seemed different.

And then, the wind finally mercifully began to pick up again, whispering around the edges of the house.

Something’s Wrong With Mother




David J. Gibbs

@Copyright 2016




“Then something went wrong with her. Something went wrong with mother. There wasn’t any stopping her. Those hands, those words, it was all too much. The frantic nature of her manners was exacerbated by what happened. And, she could talk in tongues so fast. She never recovered.”

“Dad left her. You remember that. There was no recovering from that,” Lily said, her frail form lost in the flower patterned dress, her mousy hair held at bay by a stained bow.

Carla shook her head, “It was a decision she made. You know that and I know that. She could’ve rejoined society and remarried someone. Mr. Harris was always helping around the house, I’m sure he was interested in her.”

The two elderly women sat in front of the long window looking out over their street and the impressive rail yard, serpent like fingers of track rooted in the riverside earth. The river had steam coming off of it, the frigid temperatures daring the water to freeze.

The wrinkled map of Carla’s forehead deepened for a moment when she asked, “How long do you think we’ll have to do this?”

When her sister didn’t answer, she asked, “Tea not to your liking?”

“It’s always so bitter. Something with the water here.”

“It’s always the water,” Carla said.




Hank hated referral jobs. They always ended up being such a waste. They were basically favors for either friends or family members that were trying to help him. It also meant he had to curb his normal methods and rein in his panache as his mother had called it growing up. He had plenty of panache. Hank had that in spades.

Reluctantly, he had taken the job. It had come from his Uncle Toby. He hadn’t seen or talked to the man in a decade, but he appreciated the work thrown his way. Besides, it was just a home check. Sitting out front in his beater of a pickup truck, ten years past its prime, he sighed heavily. It was a hand me down from his brother, just like most of the stuff he owned. Pulling the handle, the door wouldn’t open. Rolling his eyes, he put all of his weight against it to finally wedge it open. Metal creaked loudly as he pushed the door shut.

Walking across the street, he looked up at the house, the upstairs window a black eye with a stained board filling the space where glass once was. Looking up and down the street, he made sure he was alone as he moved up the steps to the worn, paint flecked front porch.

He knew the power was cut off along with the water, which meant it wasn’t occupied. Hank didn’t need the yellow warning tape and eviction notice to tell him that.

It smelled of rot and animal urine, the porch soft beneath his feet. After checking the windows, he made his way to the back door. Moving up the four steps, he opened the screen door and then picked the lock.




“I think she just gave up,” Lily said quietly, setting her tea cup down on the small table.

“Or gave in,” Carla said, nodding to her sister. “I think when that happened, it made daddy realize he had no hope of saving her. He packed up and left shortly after those terrible sounds started.”

Carla closed her eyes and shivered, finally shaking off the memories, she looked at Lily who said, “Those voices were so odd. And whatever those smells were just chilled me to the core. It wasn’t like anything I’d smelled before.”

“You’re right. I think the voices coming from momma were the worst for me though. But, you’re so right, the incense combined with those other smells made me not go into the basement anymore.”

“I never did like our basement. Daddy had me get a hammer for him, when he was fixing the gutters and I swear there was something down there watching me look through the drawers for his hammer. I thought I heard something scratching behind me. I just couldn’t look. I didn’t go back down, even when he asked me to get a few nails for him. He used his belt, but it didn’t change my mind.”

“Do you think she fed it?” Carla asked.

“Fed what?”

“Whatever those things were.”

Lily blinked a few times rapidly before asking, “You think there was more than one?”




Tucking his tools into his back pocket, he opened the door and walked into the kitchen. Large sections of the linoleum had come unglued from the floor, pieces curled along the edges. The outdated yellow tile had fallen away in sections from the walls too. A stained refrigerator beckoned to him with its door open, shelves missing, mold rampant around its gaping mouth.

Standing still, he listened to the house breathe around him, that dusty wheeze of the old house settling. He waited to hear any telltale sign that someone was there, someone listening, someone waiting, someone watching, but none came. He’d come across a few squatters in his time, but they were never real stealthy and pretty harmless. Not hearing anything, he realized that this might turn out to be the easiest three hundred he ever made.

Dust was thick everywhere he looked, cobwebs having taken the corner of the rooms, light fixtures like dying spider web laced sculptures watched forgotten. He felt the urge to sneeze but managed not to.

It was funny, when he had first applied for his P.I. license, he thought he would have exciting cases, solving crimes and helping people. The longer he did this job, the more he realized that was all Hollywood fluff. This gig was all about wallowing through the seedy waters of broken people’s emotional baggage. He hadn’t solved a single crime and hadn’t helped many people at all, at least not in the way he had hoped.

He hadn’t found a lost child that the police had given up on, or a forgotten will giving a destitute family a fortune, nothing so dramatic as that. No, instead, he managed to end more than two dozen marriages, caught one local politician with his car in the wrong garage so to speak, and managed to chalk up countless injuries along the way.

Walking through the first floor, peeling wall paper and piles of plaster dust were scattered over the floors. He didn’t think any of the damage was new. It all looked so completely covered with dust and grime, that there was no way that someone did any of this recently. Besides, if they were going to damage the house, they would’ve spray painted all over everything and knocked holes in the walls, not pulled up the linoleum from the floor or tiles from the walls.

None of it made any sense.

He noticed animal tracks, either raccoon or a possum he guessed, in the dust choked attic. It was obvious it hadn’t been opened in a long time. The door at the foot of the steps seemed swollen in the frame and it took him a bit to open it. The stairwell was blocked by another door that closed it off from the attic above. It was weighted by rope threaded carefully through a series of pulleys.

It opened easy enough, the stairwell suddenly awash with putrid smells that cascaded down from the sealed second floor. It was a single large open area, but unlike the lower floor it had no belongings in it. Hank had expected to find boxes and old furniture, but there was nothing.

The dusty floor however was something entirely different. Spreading out from where he stood was a dizzying canvas of tracks. Something about it struck him odd. Hank paused again, listening and waiting for some sound to come to him. He listened for the scurrying of rodent feet or the sound of teeth gnawing on something behind the walls, but nothing came.

He wondered where the smell was coming from. He remembered the broken out window when he approached the front of the house, and wondered if animals had managed to get inside. Hank walked around, trying to get his bearings and headed toward the front of the house in search of the window.




“I was surprised when Joey went missing that dad stayed. I thought he would leave when that happened.”

“But, I think that gave him the out he needed. It opened the door anyway.”

Carla refilled her tea cup before answering, “I’d have to agree. I don’t think he ever really found himself after that. How could he? What do you think he made of the smells and the sounds?”
“I’m not sure.”

“Certainly, he had to have heard them, right?”

Lily said quietly, “Carla, honestly, I don’t know.”

“What if he couldn’t hear them?”

“Why wouldn’t he?”

“Lily, why on earth would the man stay, if he could hear the things or smell those things?”

Carla drew the blanket around her legs a little tighter and looked out the window again. The street below was empty of traffic and the rail yard remained relative devoid of activity as well. It seemed the world had less use for trains than they used to. She remembered as a little girl watching the bustle of it all, enjoying the way the rail cars moved like a synchronized symphony of motion.

“Why did we?”




He wasn’t spooked easily, but something about the way the animal tracks merged and parted across the floor made him a little uneasy. The board was fastened securely by the window and he didn’t see any other way they could be getting inside. Hank’s arms broke out in goose bumps for some reason when he turned from the window.

He didn’t like that feeling.

Walking back across the floor, he checked the other windows once again and even inspected the joists above him, trying figure out how the animals might have gotten inside. The tracks definitely seemed relatively fresh. He’d definitely have to make a note of that in his report.

Coming down the steps, he pulled the rope, so the weighted door sealed off the upstairs. As he came down into the first floor, he paused and listened again. This time, he thought he heard something coming from the basement.




“We didn’t have a choice. We were children Carla,” Lily said an edge in her voice.

“Now, now. Don’t get upset with me. I just asked a question.”

“A baited question.”

“Aren’t all questions baited?”


“Well, they are all baited in a way, because they all want a response, right?”

“Oh, Carla.”

The older of the sisters smiled at that comment. It was the same one Lily had used when they were growing up and suddenly they were young again in her mind’s eye, playing in the front yard, innocent of the dark things they now understood.

“After dad was gone, it fell to us. Mother certainly wasn’t going to be able to help. It was lost on her.”

“Her spells started to get worse too. Remember how they seemed to stretch longer and longer, until you couldn’t really tell where one started and another ended?”

“I didn’t like that time much.”

“Me neither.”

“I almost had to repeat the sixth grade,” Carla said, fiddling with the blanket again.

Lil smoothed her thick gray hair a bit at the back and adjusted her glasses before saying, “Are you sure we did the right thing?”

“How is anyone sure they did the right thing? When it comes to hard decisions, one never really knows, do they?”




He stood quietly at the head of the basement stairs, looking down into the darkness. He had tried the light switch now four times, somehow hoping it would work. The longer he stayed in the house, the more certain he was something just wasn’t right. Not a superstitious man, he couldn’t put his finger on exactly what it was that made him feel that way, but in his gut, something told him to finish up quick and get the hell out.

Hank considered not going downstairs and just saying he did. He thought about the way the house looked and wondered how they would even know if he didn’t completely check it out. In the back of his mind though, he knew he couldn’t do that. It wasn’t in him to not do a job right.

As he put his foot down on the first step, he heard the sound again, or at least he thought he did. It sounded like something scratching across concrete. He didn’t think it sounded like an animal scurrying away from him, bumping into things either. It didn’t have the light metallic sound of a soup can or an empty beer can; no, it held some weight to the sound and he didn’t like it. That didn’t stop him from stepping down to the next step, nor the next. It did make him wish he had stopped back at his truck for his flashlight though.

His eyes slowly adjusted to the light with each step and the darkness didn’t seem as complete as it had at the top of the steps. He noticed that there were a few dirt encrusted windows offering a meager bit of light around the walls on either side. Looking around, his eyes tried to pick out shapes in dim light.

“Hello?” he asked, his voice coming back to him off the stacked block walls of the foundation.

He felt stupid for saying anything, his voice felt out of place. Something else struck him odd. He thought that for lack of a better word, the house felt too quiet. Like it was somehow holding its breath, waiting to see what would happen. Another thought followed quickly on the heels of that one and it was that he hoped he was out of the house when it let that breath go.

That’s when he heard the sound and this time he knew what it was immediately. It was the sound of cinder blocks scraping across a concrete floor. Hank thought he might’ve felt the vibrations in his feet from the sound, but couldn’t be sure. But, it wasn’t the sound itself that chilled Hank and made his stomach feel like it was dropping to his knees, no, it was the thought of what was dragging those blocks because it sure as hell wasn’t a raccoon or a possum.

Turning, he reached out for the handrail and launched himself up the steps. Just as his feet were finding the second step, he heard a squeak and looked up. He saw a bit of rope passing rapidly through a pulley and then watched as the rectangle of light making up the doorway shrunk, the basement door slamming shut with a powerful thud.

“Shit!” he yelled to the darkness.

This time, the cinder blocks sounded much closer.




“Well, I think it’s definitely better this way.”

“I guess.”

Carla reached over and tried to reassure Lily by patting her arm, as she stood unsteadily. She looked out the window at the beat up looking pickup truck Hank had parked in front of their childhood home across the street.

“Think mother’s done yet?”

“Oh, I think so. I definitely think so. I’m going to call and get the pickup towed, so no one snoops too much.”

Lily sighed before asking, “How long will we have to do this?”

“As long as it takes.”

“Do you remember what daddy told us the night he left?” Lily asked.

“Yes. He looked right at me and said ‘There’s something wrong with mother’. His shotgun was on his shoulder and he looked more a little scared.

“Yes, he did,” Lily agreed.

“And, he was right,” Carla said, her eyes hardened shards of blue.

“Yes, he was.”

Today is the Day! – Mad Maggie Dupree Available Today!


Finally, after months of waiting, Mad Maggie Dupree has been sent off into the world. I’m so excited to see it come to fruition. What started off as just a short story about a red haired twelve year old regretting having to move has turned into an incredibly rewarding series of middle grade books. I’ve enjoyed writing every one of them. This is the first installment with the second book due out in the fall.

Everyone needs a little madness in their lives, come get yours.

Mad Maggie Dupree blurb:

Angry at having to leave behind her friends, baseball team, and everything she’d grown to love in her old neighborhood, Mad Maggie Dupree is anything but happy having to move to the Stillwater Psychiatric Hospital grounds. Her family’s new home sits in the shadow of the patient dorms and the idea of crazy people living so close is disconcerting no matter what her father says.

Settling into her new home isn’t easy for the headstrong, slingshot-toting twelve year old girl. Her temper and stubbornness not only get her into trouble with the mean brothers living on one side of her but also with the nerdy boy desperate to be her friend living on the other.

Causing trouble and getting noticed only succeeds in getting her into more trouble. But it isn’t until she stumbles across something incredible left behind by discharged patients from years before that things begin to spiral out of control. Uncovering a decades old secret proves terrifying, taking Maggie and her new friends on an incredible journey. But when a powerful storm rips through the grounds and her father goes missing, Maggie realizes just how high the stakes are.

With the first book in his new series, award winning author, David J. Gibbs, takes the reader into the exciting world of Mad Maggie Dupree. The temperamental young girl leaves an indelible mark with every mistake, success, and struggle to find her place in the strange and wonderful world around her.

Click the cover for purchase options


December 2017 Newsletter

‘Tis The Season

First of all, since it’s the season of giving, I’m giving my fans two free stories to read this month. So, even if you’re on the naughty list and Santa doesn’t bring you anything, you have an extra story to read. Better than a lump of coal, right?

My freelance editing gig is keeping me busy. I’ve picked up two more clients. One is a sci-fi dystopian piece while the other is a traditional gothic ghost story. I’m excited to start working with both authors to help them polish their work get it ready for publication.

In publishing news, my piece ‘When I Was A Boy’ was picked up by ALM Magazine. It will be published in January 2018. The piece is about the creepy laundry chute in my grandmother’s house and what may or may not have been lurking inside.


In ‘Mad Maggie Dupree’ news(my middle grade thriller picked up by Astraea Publishing) I’ve gone through the content edits and line edits and am now awaiting the final proof edits. Then it’s on to cover art and marketing plan. I’m getting excited!


‘The After’ which is my new sci-fi YA dystopian future book is up to 36,000 words. I hope to have the rough draft finished in the next two weeks. The characters revolted to my original plan and have changed the story quite a bit by doing things I didn’t see coming. I’m holding on by my fingernails and just trying to keep up with them. Makes for an exciting time opening my laptop waiting to see what they’ll do next.

I’ve also worked on my ‘Quit Touching My Stuff’ short story. It’s just over 2,400 words. I should have it finished by this weekend. It’s about a teenager who realizes someone is moving his stuff around the house. Could it be his recently deceased brother trying to communicate or something darker?


That’s it for this month’s newsletter. Don’t hesitate to let me know your thoughts and, as always, don’t turn out the light, some of us are still writing.

See you next month!

David J. Gibbs


The free read for this month is my flash fiction piece entitled ‘Loss and Found’ which was originally published in ‘Ghosts Redemption’ by James Ward Kirk Publishing in 2016.

You can read it here:

And where is the second story you ask?

It’s actually more than just my free story. If you click on the Haunted Traveler cover, it’ll give you a free pdf of the entire ‘Haunted Traveler’ magazine. There are a ton of great authors to check out. My piece is ‘Something’s Wrong With Mother’.








Happy Holidays!