(This story is part of the Grey Michael series. For the first part in the series, entitled Grey Michael, click the preceding story's title) Let me set the scene for you. The room is dark, enclosed, underground. The floor is smooth stone, chalked with a dizzying array...

The scarecrow stands around twelve feet tall. A lone, misshapen sentinel in the midst of a dark field, beneath the blood of a clotted red sky. His shadow is long across the crops. Comprised not of two simple poles and a sack of straw, this monstrosity is...

When people told someone like Chad Hoftrand to get a life, they didn’t realize that meant a death sentence for someone, somewhere. He was in the market for a new life sooner than expected.  He could usually hold onto one for at least a few years. But...

Grande Nonno died making a living, like Papa. He was born with his blue denim sleeves rolled up. He and Grande Nonna are buried just a few miles south of the Apuan Mountains on the Alps’ Italian side. They’ve been rotting away in a small village...

“Please let me in.  I’m so cold.” Growing up, my best friend was Matthew Ramsey.  He was a year older than me but still in my grade—not because he was stupid, but his father had died when he was in the fourth grade, and for a...

It started out as a perfectly normal camping trip. It was me, Rosie and Jonas, just like usual. The three of us have been friends since high school, and although there are often other people in our orbits, it’s always the three of us together...

It knows what you hate.  And it hates what you love. I originally heard about “Sack of Knives” in one of my medieval literature texts—the class had sounded interesting out of my options that quarter, but two weeks in I was already wishing I’d taken another...

Once a month, The Boneless arrives on the tide. It’s a force of nature—like quicksand. You can’t reason or argue with it. All you can do is barricade your home and stay indoors. We islanders know when it’s coming. We recognize the signs. Now and again,...

Nathan walked out of the church and into the bright Sunday morning light. The pastor had ended his sermon early, noon still a half-hour away. Nathan fished his keys from his pocket and made his way to his car, one of the last remaining in...

This is the story of how a novelty toaster ruined my life. First of all, I want to clarify that I’m not the kind of guy who buys a novelty toaster. I got it at a white elephant gift exchange a couple of years back. You...

On what would have been our fiftieth anniversary, I bought you a marble headstone.  Stone is the recommended gift for ninety years of marriage, but my being around another forty is a gamble for which the odds are too long.  Gold is the traditional gift...

7:35 pm, November 28. Sheriff Ron Ball and Deputy Ernest Dingle: On-duty. Unit 1, we got a 10-70 at Royalty Deluxe Luxury Mobile Estates. I repeat, a 10-70. Unit One, do you copy? Sheriff Ball looked at Dingle. No more than five minutes after they’d parked for...

The shivering Cro-Magnon man shifted uncomfortably in the dark. His back across the hard rocky surface was certainly an untenable reality for any decent sleep. He grunted and moaned and awoke with a start. Another nightmare. He wiped the sweat from his forehead. His back...

The midday sun stood at its zenith, bathing them in unforgiving heat. Brendan wiped sweat from his brow with the heel of his hand, then dried it on the edge of his shirt. “Christ, it’s hot,” Brendan said. “Remind me never to go to an amusement...

The Chicago suburb of Englewood is no stranger to murder.  In 1893, it was home to Dr. H. H. Holmes, who built a hotel with the sole purpose of murdering his employees and patrons.  A good hundred or so died in his gas-rigged rooms, their...

My father has always been somewhat eccentric, prone to tall tales of his childhood, keeping collections of old knickknacks and assorted antiquities he’d find at auction, and strict adherence to bizarre house rules.  Growing up in his home, the same home he grew up in,...

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