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.

Do I Need to Read in Order to Write

Well, the obvious answer is no. You can certainly write without reading a single word, but I don’t recommend it. There is something to be said about ‘research’ when you write. And no, I’m not talking about research into a topic you’re writing about. I’m talking about ‘research’ as in reading other authors and recognizing their differences in style, delivery, and voice.

If you’ve been writing for a while, then you probably have found your voice and your style. You’ve learned what works and what doesn’t in your writing. Is dialog a weakness or a strength? Are your characters well-rounded or flat? Does your setting add anything to what is happening? Our writing always gravitates toward our strengths.

Well, believe it or not, so does our reading.

Most writers read what they write. That might sound stupid but think about it. Romance novelists tend to read more romance than anything else. Horror writers read more horror than anything else. Why is that? It’s a level of comfort. We want to see how other people are doing it. How do they write their dialog and how do they describe certain aspects of the story. How do they paint the landscape in a way to draw us in from the first sentence?

It’s research people.

We are doing ‘research’ every time we pick up a book and read it. The beauty of it, at least for me, is I get to enjoy a new book at the same time I’m researching. I’m enjoying a new world and escaping with the author. The other bonus? When I read, it always inspires me to write. I get the itchy fingers, and the need to get some words down on paper is overpowering. So, while you might not need to read to write, it is strongly recommended. You might not even realize you’re doing it, but you are subconsciously taking notes on the author’s work. And when your fingers are flying across the keys, or madly scratching a pen across paper, or even banging it out on a dusty manual typewriter, those notes, those thoughts, those memories of what you’ve read will come to life. You can incorporate the things you liked about what you’ve read and avoid what you didn’t.

So, in short, while it’s not a requirement to read to write, it is highly recommended.

I think it’s time to do a little research, don’t you?

Happy reading, and always remember to Write ON!

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.”

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!


The REAL Story behind Thanksgiving

This piece first appeared in the Dead of Winter anthology from Mighty Quill Books.




David J. Gibbs

@Copyright 2016



Michael loved going to the farm for Thanksgiving. Everything about it excited him, even the long drive. It didn’t matter that the farm was a little rundown since his uncle was no longer able to take care of it. To Michael, it was still magical.

He didn’t care that the barn leaned to one side and struggled to hold up a badly sagging roof. It leaned so badly the doors no longer stayed shut. Surrounded by the smell of must and decay, he always imagined the secrets the barn held in its dusty heart.

Outbuildings gathered around the barn in a broken sort of worship. The silos stood next to old farm equipment left to rot on tires that had burst long ago and were splayed like blackened rubber flower petals catching the sun.

All of those were special, in their own way, but they weren’t the main reason Michael loved visiting the farm. He adored what happened when the sun went down and the shadows swallowed it whole.

The farm changed into a macabre playground. During the day, the barn was full of forgotten farm implements, tools, ladder and dusty rope, but when the sun went down, the open barn doors became the yawning mouth of some slumbering beast. Tree branches with skeletal fingers raked across the metal roof making sounds that slipped beneath his fingernails and poked his soul.

Michael and his cousins played in that playground every year. They were at the back of the house waiting for him so they could begin their game. The late chill nipped at his fingertips making him zip up his jacket.

“Are we doing this or what?” asked Becca, her unruly red curls held hostage by thick barrettes at the back of her head.

“I’m ready,” Michael said.

“Who has the flashlights?” Christopher shoved Becca in the arm which made her lose her balance and stumble.

“Nice, little brother,” Becca kicked him in the shins.

Christopher slapped the back of Becca’s head when she wasn’t looking and she whirled on him, offering a quick punch to his stomach.

“Uncle Lloyd said he had a couple,” Michael said.

“Don’t use his,” Becca said. “They suck. He never puts new batteries in them. We should go ask Gary. Maybe he’ll let us use his police ones.”

Michael said, “That’d be pretty cool.”

“I can go ask.”

“Is Fred playing?” Michael asked, tossing a stick over a nearby fence.

Christopher laughed. “Why do you always call her Fred?”

“Mostly ‘cause it bugs her,” Michael said, smiling before adding, “Besides, I don’t think she knows my name. Why should I use hers?”

Michael was worried if they didn’t get started, the game might end before they had a chance to get it going. He knew his parents wouldn’t want to stay long. Neither one of them liked the long drive back in the dark.

“I’ll go ask her and see about the flashlights,” Christopher said.

“Are you coming back?” Becca asked.


“That’s what you said last year, too,” Michael said and they all laughed.

“It was really, really cold last year,” he protested, shrugging his shoulders. “And I didn’t want to mess up my shoes. It was muddy.”

“It’s not right the way you collect so many shoes,” Becca said.

When Christopher was inside, Michael turned to Becca and asked, “Do you think he’s going to stay inside?”

“I don’t think so. I think he’s bored out here most of the time. The only time he says he’s not is when we play Spotlight.”
“It does get kind of boring inside watching stupid football all day.”

Becca laughed and asked, “What’s wrong with football?”

“Nothing at all. I just can’t stand to watch four hundred straight hours of it.”

The back door opened and Christopher came down the steps with Fred in tow.

“Gary let us borrow his cop flashlights! Look at these things,” Christopher said, blinding both Michael and Becca who held up their hands to shield their eyes. “You’re under arrest!”

“You ass,” Becca said.

“Language,” Fred hissed.

“Ashley, knock it off,” Christopher said, and then corrected himself. “I mean Fred.”

“Why do you guys do that?” Fred asked, crossing her arms.

“Because we know it gets to you, dork,” Becca said. “So, are we playing or what?”

“Duh,” Christopher said.

“Duh,” mocked Becca back at her brother.

“Who’s going to be it first?” Michael asked, already knowing what the answer was going to be.

“You asked, so I say you should be first,” Christopher said tossing the flashlights his way.

“Great,” muttered Michael, picking up the flashlights off the ground.

He counted, making his voice loud and dramatic, and looked up at the stars overhead. The moon hung in the night sky looking as if a giant’s fingernail had pierced delicate fabric. When he got to twenty, he yelled, “Here I come!”

He looked around him, the night coating everything with a thick helping of shadows. Michael had always liked creepy things. Using the flashlight, he carved a path through the darkness, the outbuildings coming into view and then the barn and the fields beyond. He listened for any sign of movement, any hint that would lend itself to finding the others. Something about wandering around the farm with a flashlight in hand with the darkness hugging him made his heart beat a little faster. His cold hands gripped the metal flashlight, so he pulled his sleeves down to cover them as he looked for the others.

Just as he turned back toward the farmhouse, he heard something scraping against the back of the largest outbuilding nearby. It was the one that had Uncle Lloyd’s camper and two other cars hidden in it. Ducking down, Michael turned off the flashlight and moved as quietly as he could. He figured it had to be Fred. She wasn’t very good at finding hiding places since she didn’t team up with Becca anymore. Michael wanted to sneak up and scare her.

The dry grass crinkled under his feet. He heard the scraping again and closed in. Her back was to him, her light-colored coat easy to see in the dark. She was hunched down, looking around the corner of the building. As he closed in, he frowned.  It was too small to be Fred.

Michael flipped on the flashlight, a splash of light bringing out the red of the barn in the darkness. He inhaled a quick breath, ready to yell, when a solid block of ice filled his chest. What whirled around, mouth agape, in a twisted mask of feathery white, wasn’t Fred. It stood about a foot tall with fissures spread outward from the yawning hole that was its mouth. Eyes caught the light with a glittering blue as it raised an arm to ward off the stark white stain of the flashlight. It wheezed and snorted before a fluttering sound burst from its mouth. It lunged toward him with a swipe of its hand.

Michael screamed.

He didn’t care that he sounded like his little sister. He dropped the flashlight and raced along the side of the building heading for the wash of light coming from the back porch.

“Help! Help me!”

The thing slithered along in the brush. He could hear its ragged breath and the dry husks of grass crunching under its feet. Michael kept waiting for it to take a swipe at his legs, to make him tumble.

Stumbling into the backyard, he almost felt like he was going to pass out.

Becca slowly came around the row of parked cars. She crouched, as if she thought he wanted to trick them into revealing their hiding places.

“Is it over?”

“What do you mean?” He hunched over, out of breath.

“Are you calling it off?” Becca rubbed her hands on the front of her jeans.

“There’s something over there. Something chased me.”

“What are you talking about? Are you serious?”

“Yes, I’m serious.”

“You sure it just wasn’t one of the farm cats?”

“It was not a stupid cat,” Michael said, shivering.

“Or Fred?”

“It wasn’t Fred and it wasn’t Christopher. I don’t know what it was. I’ve never seen anything like it before.”

They heard a scream coming from behind one of the silos. Looking at each other, they ran.

“Maybe we should go get Gary,” Michael said, his breath coming fast.

“For what? Would you calm down? I’m sure it’s just the two of them messing around. There’s nothing there. What’s wrong with you?”

He didn’t answer, instead pumping his legs even faster and pulling ahead of Becca. The chilled night air forced tears from his eyes, but he didn’t stop. The pair rounded the nearest silo and almost ran into Christopher and Fred.

“What the heck is wrong with you guys?”

He just looked at Christopher. “What do you mean?”

“You guys running around in the dark, and where is Gary’s flashlight?”

“Dad’s gonna be real pissed if you lost his flashlight.”

“Shut up, Fred.”

“Not cool,” Christopher said.

“Why did you scream?” Michael asked Fred.

“Genius over here scared me,” Fred nodded toward Christopher.

“I didn’t mean to. I heard something by the outbuilding and thought it was you, so I was moving to a new hiding spot.”

“You were over there by the building?” Becca asked Christopher.

“At first I was, why?”

“That’s got to be what you heard, Michael. Christopher moving around over there in the weeds.”

Michael shook his head.

“What?” Becca asked.
“That’s not what I saw. It wasn’t Christopher.”

“Then what did you see?” Christopher asked.

He was in dangerous territory. What if they didn’t believe him or, worse, thought he was losing his mind? “Probably just spooked myself.”

“Oh, come on. Spooked by what?” Fred asked.

He looked at Christopher who shrugged his shoulders.

“Are you kidding me?” Becca asked.

“I’m going inside to get a quick drink,” Michael said, heading toward the steps leading to the back porch.

“What about my dad’s flashlight?”

“It’s over there.” He motioned toward the outbuilding as he went inside. He needed to get out of the dark. His legs were still shaky.

Opening the back door, the warmth from the house hugged him in greeting.

Michael grabbed a cup of punch and, sipping it, he squeezed through the cramped dining room having to slide between the china cabinet and the back of Uncle Butch’s chair. Women surrounded the table trading recipes and talking about who was in the hospital and who had gotten married. Talk like that always made Michael want to go outside.

The family room had far too many people in it, but it was the only room in the house with a television. The football game blared to the room full of men and Julie, the only woman boycotting the dining room chatter. As he stood staring at the game, not really paying attention, Michael wandered behind the couch wedged in the middle of the room. He looked into the tiny bedroom off the back of the family room and noticed Aunt Lottie sitting in a chair, looking out through the back window.

“Michael.” She didn’t turn around.


“Come in here for just a minute, would you? Sit next to an old lady and tell her something good.”

Sipping his punch, he looked around at the people staring at the television. They didn’t even acknowledge he was in the room. It seemed like they only reacted to the television. Michael went in to talk with Aunt Lottie. She was always a hoot.

“Why aren’t you out playing your flashlight game?”


She nodded.

“I just needed a drink.”

Aunt Lottie smiled at him. Was she toying with him?

“Were you watching us?”

He forgot about the punch in his hand and noticed the pane of glass looking out behind the farm house. He shivered. “Aunt Lottie? What’s wrong?”

“Nothing, dear. Not a thing. I just wanted to talk to you for a bit. I saw you drop the flashlight.” He didn’t say anything. “I think I know why you stopped your game.”

He swallowed hard.

“There’s something that most people don’t realize about Thanksgiving. I know everybody thinks it’s giving thanks for the Indians who took care of the first settlers. They brought all of these gifts of food. It helped get the people through that terrible winter. But that was just part of it, a very small part. They had something more in mind. It’s something that came over from the old world.”

What was she talking about?

“Those gifts weren’t for the settlers. The gifts belonged to what they brought with them.”

“Aunt Lottie, what are you talking about?”

“You know I grew up in northern Romania, right?”

“Of course.”

“My village was quite small. Just a few hundred of us wedged in the mountains. It was a hard life by anyone’s standards, but I didn’t know any better. I worked at a local bakery and thought myself happy. I liked the work, though I found myself constantly dumbfounded by how often I miscounted the loaves of bread.”

Michael put the empty cup on the small dresser.

“He explained that these things, these little creatures, lived in the mountains and came down from time to time for a tithing, so they wouldn’t feed on the children. They were small, spindly things, he told me, and they mostly ran around on all fours, almost like ferrets. They could stand upright, if need be, to pluck pies from window sills and bread from baskets. Mr. Steinkov said all of this with an odd smile, so I didn’t know if I should believe him, or if he shined me on.

“Years later, when we were living here, I found out. We baked the pies and breadstuffs from the old country and placed them to cool on the window sills. Time to time, some would go missing.”


“Yes. I realized that no matter what my father thought, we couldn’t escape the old ways. He told me, centuries before, some of his family left Romania to set up a bakery just outside of London. They had the same problems where things would go missing. They didn’t question it, they simply made extra. Well, when the Pilgrims embarked on their journey, the bakery donated goods. They wanted to do their part, of course.

“Unknowingly, the settlers had brought the creatures on that first boat and they were hungry after the long trip. Inside of a month the children started to disappear. In the beginning, people blamed the disappearances on a bear spotted outside of town, but I think even then they had to know. After the fourth child went missing, on All Hallows Eve, they knew the bear had not done it.

“The settlers had also come to realize that something was different about the soil of this new world. The breads did not rise well and the pies weren’t as sweet. More of the villagers got sick, and the crops did not take to the new earth as hoped. Shortage of food for the settlers meant the critters didn’t get enough either.

“The creatures branched out. Thinning the herd, I think they called it. The Indians talked of strange creatures roaming the night snatching children. They hissed and spit as they dragged the children off into the night.

“In their villages, the Indians made sacrifices and danced to make amends for any possible slights, but it wasn’t enough. They wondered if it had something to do with the new settlers.

“The village leaders realized that they needed help to keep the critters at bay. After talking with the Indians, the tribe brought gifts of food, understanding the necessary sacrifices to keep the strange creatures satisfied. The little creatures made sure to leave nothing but crumbs. They were appeased for the time being.

“This day was called Thanksgiving. They were giving thanks the creatures were held at bay.”

“I don’t get it,” Michael said.

“You don’t get what?”

“You’re saying this still happens?”

She nodded. “Think about how much food is on the table in the dining room right now. There isn’t much left, is there? While someone isn’t watching, the last few things will be snatched. There won’t be many leftovers. There never is.”

“How come I’ve never heard of this part of Thanksgiving before?”

“You weren’t old enough to understand it. Not until this year. These things have been around for centuries.”

He thought about what she said. Did they all know?

“Do me a favor, would you? I hid one of the pecan pies behind the basket in the dessert room. Put it on the porch when you go back out.”

“Aunt Lottie, I’m not going back out.”

“Yes, you are.”

He looked at her.

“They’re still hungry. We mustn’t have brought enough food this time. The younger generations don’t relish baking and cooking the way we used to.”

He’d heard his mom saying the same thing on the way up to the farm this year. The younger women didn’t bring the same amount of food the way the generation before had. It felt strange hearing the same words coming out of his aunt’s mouth. Michael knew Aunt Lottie acted a bit crazy, everybody in the family thought so, but he didn’t think she had made any of this up. Her eyes were clear, her voice steady. He didn’t smell liquor on her breath like he had at some family gatherings.

“I need you to put the pie out on the front porch.”

They looked at each other and he wondered if she held something back. He liked her a lot. Aunt Lottie didn’t treat him like a kid.

“Okay,” he said, surprising himself.

“It needs to be done soon.”

Michael nodded and headed into the other room. Squeezing behind Butch again, he grabbed one of the pies.

“Good idea.” He turned around to see his mom walking toward him.


“Take a pie home with us. We’re packing up to head out.”

“Oh, this isn’t for us.”

“Who is it for?”

He couldn’t tell his mom the truth. There was no way she was going to buy it. She looked at him like he had gone crazy as she waited for his answer.

“I’m just kidding, Mom.”

She smiled and ran fingers through is hair. “Better say goodbye to your cousins.”

He nodded.

Everyone was so busy talking and laughing that they didn’t pay attention as he made his way to the front porch. Once outside, the chill caught him off guard. He hadn’t realized it was so cold. Kneeling down, he pulled the foil off the top with a loud crinkling sound.

“About time,” Fred said.

“We were just about ready to come in,” Becca said.

“You suck,” Christopher said. “I can’t believe you made us wait out here that whole time. What the heck were you doing?”

Ignoring them, Michael set the pie up on the railing of the porch and tucked the foil underneath.

“What are you doing?” Fred asked.

“Just something Aunt Lottie needed me to do.”

“Steal a pie?” Becca asked, laughing.

“Not stealing it. She just needed me to set this out.”

“Why?” Becca asked, coming closer.

“Who puts a pie out on the porch?” Christopher asked.

“Wouldn’t birds come and get it or raccoons or something?” Fred asked.

Michael avoided Becca’s eyes.

“Just tell us what’s going on. Why did you put this out here?”

“Aunt Lottie told me about the things that the Pilgrims brought with them.”

Fred burst out laughing.

“What?” he asked.

“You have to be kidding me. You actually bought that crap?”

He frowned.

“Yeah, we all know the stupid story,” Christopher said.

“Really?” He was confused.

All three nodded.

“Why didn’t you tell me? So, you knew the things were out here on the farm?” Michael asked.

“Wait, wait, wait. No, there’s no creatures. They aren’t real, you idiot.” Becca stared at him.

“But, I saw it. I saw one of those things on the other side of the out building. That’s what freaked me out.”

“Oh, come on,” Christopher said. “It was one of the cats.”

“It wasn’t a cat,” Michael said.

They looked at him.

“It wasn’t a cat. And, it wasn’t Fred either.” He looked at Becca.

“Excuse me,” she said, holding up her hands.

“Look, just come on. She said to leave it on the porch. My parents are getting ready to leave, so let’s go hide for another quick round of Spotlight.”

Fred had the flashlight and handed it to him. He frowned and looked at her.

“You never finished your turn.”

He nodded and started to count. When he was done, he yelled, “Watch out. Here I come!”

Michael heard sounds in the barn and made his way without the flashlight to the open doors. He listened quietly and heard whispering. If he had to guess, he would say it was Fred and Becca. He turned on the flashlight and bathed the inside with white light. The truck cap was tilted to one side and then it shifted, letting him see Fred’s foot.

“Spotlight on Fred!”

“Aw, man.”

Fred came out as he lowered the flashlight and ran into the darkness toward the back of the farm. He knew some good hiding places near the fence line. One of the trees had a nice crook in the lower branches that he could hide in. Just as he rounded the tree, he heard his parents calling his name. He climbed up the tree and wedged himself between the branches.

“Michael, let’s go!” It was his dad calling. He didn’t sound happy.


He climbed down from the tree and headed back in. Becca, Fred, and Christopher were coming in from their hiding places, too. Michael sighed. He wasn’t ready for it to be over. Shoulders slumped, head down, he dragged his feet back to the house.

A few minutes later, Michael waved to his cousins as his parents drove away from the farm. He usually liked the drive home because he could look up at the stars, but tonight it was a little too cloudy. The darkness swallowed up all the light.

As he settled in for the long ride, using the pillow he brought to prop up his head, when he heard something behind the back seat.

“Stop it, Michael,” his sister spat, slapping him because his leg brushed hers. “This is my side, that’s your side.”

“Shut up!” he yelled suddenly.

“Both of you knock it off!” His dad glared at them in the rearview mirror.

“You need to settle down,” his mother added. “You’re lucky we didn’t spank your behind right there in front of everyone.”

He heard the sound again and sat up listening carefully.

“Are you listening to your father?”


“Why didn’t you put the pie in the van like I asked?”

He heard the sound again and knew what it was this time. It was crinkling foil.

“You just left it out on the porch. The foil came off and everything. It would’ve been ruined. You were just off in your own world playing Spotlight.”

Michael wasn’t listening. Instead, his mind was filled with the sound of foil crinkling just behind his seat. It was easy to picture the small hands working their way beneath the foil to the pie, stuffing handful after handful into its twisted mouth.

“Are you listening?”

“Michael? Mommy’s talking to you!” his sister yelled.


“If I wouldn’t have picked it up we wouldn’t have any pie to eat.”

“Mom, no.”

“Don’t tell your mother no!” his dad yelled, his voice filling the van.

“You don’t know what you did. No, no, no.”

He heard more crinkling and then other sounds he didn’t know what they were, until his sister squealed, “Something’s pulling my hair! Make it stop!”

“Michael, leave your sister alone!”

“Mom, it’s not me.”

“Make it stop!”

“Scoot over toward me a little bit. Your hair is probably caught in the seatbelt.”

His parents were still fuming, but at least they were doing it in silence. He could still listen for anything moving behind their seat.

“Thank you, Michael,” his mother said quietly.

He realized she just thought he was being nice to his sister not trying to keep the thing behind them from eating her. It was maddening hearing that crinkling sound over the course of the four hour trip with his imagination running wild. Every time Michael thought the thing had finished the pie and had started looking for something else to eat, the sound would come to his ears again and he’d relax just a bit.

They pulled into their driveway sometime around midnight. As he fumbled with his seatbelt and his mom unbuckled his sister who had fallen asleep, Michael heard his dad pop the back hatch.

“What the hell?”

“Language,” his mom said, waking up his sister as she unbuckled the seatbelt.

“Sorry. I just…you need to come here.”

Michael tumbled out of his seat and ran around the back, his mom and sister joining them a moment later. His dad pointed to the pie— or what was left of the pie. The aluminum foil had dozens of holes through it and the edges of the pie pan were crumpled and crimped. Michael looked at the pan, his dad tugging the foil away from it. There was nothing left. It had been licked clean.

“What happened to the pie?” His mom asked.

“I don’t understand. We covered it up before we left. I know it was a full pie,” his dad said, squeezing the back of his neck.

One of the garbage cans fell over in the side yard with a big crash.

“Stupid raccoons,” his dad said, leaving them to stare at the empty pie pan while he stormed off into the darkness while the foil moved in the breeze.

Michael’s eyes widened. That was no raccoon.