Happy Friday the 13th horror fam!
To celebrate this holiday for horror fans, we’ve got a special bonus episode for you today: two stories of love and revenge to make you feel special.
First up is a story from Monique L. Desir. Monique, lives in Florida with her husband and three sons. Her best story ideas come from dreams and sometimes nightmares. She loves to binge-watch investigative forensic shows and dance so that way she can have seconds on cake.
Here’s her story, Hide Your Love Away.
Don’t you dare tell me you love me when your actions scream you hate even to see me smile.
I warned you what would happen if you ever hit me. Too bad you thought I was playing.
Hmph. You think this is funny? Well, look at who’s on top now. That’s what I call funny.
Did I tell you about how my mother died?
Oh. Wow, you’re just full of jokes tonight. No, she’s not a bitch, my dear. Neither am I.
You’re only saying that because you’re pissed. And I get it. I don’t blame you. It’s hard to move when you’re tied up like that with a coffin for your bed.
I’m good at tying knots. I’m good at everything I do because my mommy told me, passionate and proud in her Jamaican Patois: “Whatevah ya do, gal, do et to dah best of yer ability. Sho’ dem ya bettah. Even if et’s sweepin’ dah kitchen floor.” Or in this case, shoveling dirt. Did I tell you that Mommy used to hide wads of money around the house?
In her pantyhose tucked in neat rows beside her panties.
Socks, too. Even in the DVD cases of rom-coms like There’s Something About Mary and Deliver Us From Eva.
But the best hiding place was within the pages of books.
I love books, so when I found two $20 bills so fresh and crisp I had to lick my fingers to pry them apart, I knew she wasn’t hiding her cash stash from me.
Her latest boyfriend, (let’s call him Billy) had beat her often. During one beating I remember him straddling her, blood splattering from her face as he punched her dark brown face black and blue. Thud. One fist. Thud-thud-thud—doosh. A rapid boxer’s pummel to her chin and blood smearing everywhere, its coppery scent infiltrating my senses with fear and disgust. It drove me from the room and I hid in the closet, praying that she’d live.
Of course she did and he apologized profusely the next day, only to cheat on her a week later.
And she’d spend weeks crying that her blood test would come back negative.
I was too young then to understand that negative results were a positive thing.
Unfortunately, the results came back positive.
She died when I was eighteen, succumbing to a four-letter illness.
Eighteen. I was old enough to be legally called an adult.
Old enough to move on with my own life.
Or even old enough to pursue both her dreams and mine.
But not old enough to understand what it means to carry the burden of forgiving and forgetting.
And then, I started hiding things.
In men’s drinks.
Under the seats of their cars.
Nothing that would kill them, mind you, but just a little somethin’-somethin’ to let them know that I know who they are . . . and what I’m about.
I’ve gotten bolder and now I hide compromising photos and drug paraphernalia …
…in their pockets.
In their wallets.
I learned their passwords, hijacked their computers by storming firewalls, and hid Trojan horses within the motherboards of their personal laptops and desktops.
These kind of men are easily coddled. So ignorant in their arrogance that they freely surrender compromising information to a sweet smile and swaying hips, paying no mind to lying lips.
Whatever doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, right?
Then I met you, my binary star.
You gravitated to me—a black hole—and fell hard inside my event horizon of solitude and secrets.
Or was it I who was drawn to you?
In awe of you. Amazed by you, a sun-god incarnation with the curl of a thousand spiral galaxies, the glory of your tightly coiled hair.
I should’ve known better. You should’ve known better.
I’m a Pisces, straddling the worlds of life and death. And you’re a Scorpio, who broke my heart. So, allow me the pleasure of crushing your universe.
Soon, you’ll be pushing daisies—nah, that sounds so fairy-tale romantic. Let’s say it like it is: the worms crawl in, the worms crawl out.
You want me to stop laughing? Please. It’s funny and my arms are sore. Digging’s hard work. Shit. I’m taking a break.
What’d you say? Watch you die? Shush. Don’t talk like that. I’m not that cruel. Here, see this coffin lid? Once I close it, carbon dioxide will build up so much that you’ll just pass out. Comatose. A painless death. Even in justice, I give you mercy. Just stop struggling.
Hey, you really should stop yelling. The night is quiet and the sky is filled with stars twinkling in Morse code, “You’re not alone.”
Yes. Quiet now. That’s right. Don’t waste your breath. Besides, no one will know where you’ve gone. You’re a drifter, my dear. A wanderer. A lone wolf.
And remember . . . didn’t I tell you?
I’m good at hiding things.
And now, I’m hiding you.
I’m going to guess that Monique’s three sons will grow up to be fine partners and that her husband only has eyes for her. Tell Monique what you thought of her story: Tweet using the hashtag #HiddenLove. One of you will win a print of your choice of the Pretty Deadlies series of illustrations by Katie at Good For Her. A link to her store is in the show notes.
Our second story is one written by yours truly. This story was my first sale, so in a way, it’s one of my first loves. Here’s The Dead Circle, originally published in Creepy Campfire Magazine.
“What are we gonna do? We can’t afford to lose these cattle.”
The man ignored his wife and stared out across his pasture. Smack in the middle was a perfect circle that looked like God had drawn it with a compass and colored it with black earth. Five dead cattle and a couple of lifeless buzzards were scattered inside. No flies buzzed around the carcasses, no crickets chirped from within. Not a single thing moved inside. Even the stench of death shunned the circle.
Vultures flew overhead, but dared not land. They had already seen two of their brothers drop to their deaths when they swooped within ten feet of the corpses. They circled around like the cattle inside were a once-in-a-lifetime chance at the scavenger equivalent of a filet mignon.
Joe looked at his wife. “Why do you always have to panic? Just like a woman.” When she didn’t look up at him, he scoffed. “Go catch me that stray cat that keeps eatin’ up your garden.”
“What? Why?” she asked. She finally looked up, her eyes wide with fear. She looked back down and fidgeted with her dress, unable to bear the transparent hate on his face.
“Stop askin’ questions, Mabel. Just go do it. I ain’t got time for your nonsense.”
“Alright, Joe.” Mabel skulked away. She knew better than to argue. Joe was the type of man who believed that his wife should love, honor and, most of all, obey.
“And bring me a beer,” Joe said, not bothering to turn around.
When Mabel returned with his beer, Joe was sitting in the dirt staring into the circle. She sat the bottle next to him, careful not to call attention to herself, then turned, quiet as a church mouse, to tip-toe away. The dry, parched grass betrayed her, announcing each of her light steps. “Where’s the cat?”
Mabel was meek as ever. “I set a trap for him. I’m ‘bout to go check it.”
“Goddammit, Mabel. Can’t you do anything right? I swear, I got to do every goddamn thing myself ’round here.” Joe stood up and pushed Mabel aside.
Not sure if she should follow him or not, she opted to walk behind him at a distance. As they neared the garden, she saw the cat poking around the snare she’d set up. Not wanting Joe to scare the cat away before it got snagged, she walked quickly on the balls of her feet to catch up to him.
“He’s takin’ the bait. Don’t scare him off, Joe,” she whispered.
Joe spun around with a look of fire and revulsion in his eyes. “Shut up, woman. You’re gonna scare him off with that Edith Bunker voice of yours.”
Mabel flinched more at the look in his eyes than the words he spoke. She’d heard that insult at least three times this week. It barely even registered anymore.
Joe clenched his fists, but turned away before he hit her. The last thing he needed right now was a crying, hysterical woman. She would get it sooner or later. She always did.
Just then, the cat screeched. It was caught in the snare. Joe smiled the devilish smile that Mabel had once found sexy, but now saw it for what it truly was—delight in another living being’s suffering. She often wondered if she had just been blind to his evil in those early days or if he had truly been a good man worn down by a tough life. She chose to believe the latter because she couldn’t reconcile with being that naive and stupid.
Joe’s walk had a bit more purpose now. Mabel stood where she was, knowing that whatever it was he had planned, he probably didn’t want her to take an uninvited part in it. He walked past the cat and into their little shed. A few moments later, he came out shaking a dusty, old potato sack. Puffs of dust floated in the wind toward her. Joe stomped back over to the trap and snatched the cat up by the scruff of its neck—that gleeful smile still on his face. He dropped the cat into the sack and walked back toward the circle with a determined stride.
Mabel, more curious than afraid, followed Joe. She again kept her distance because she knew what was good for her.
Joe stood a few feet from the edge of the circle. “Go get me a rake and that spool of string for the weed-eater.”
Pleased that her decision to follow him was the right one, she smiled and said “Yes, Joe.” Since she had gotten in trouble for being slow before, she ran to the shed like the Devil himself was on her heels to grab the things Joe had asked for. She knew he wanted to send the cat into the circle, but refused to allow the notion to take root in her mind.
When she returned, Joe was once again fixated on that circle, oblivious to the world around him.
“Here’s your stuff, Joe.”
“Thank you,” Joe mumbled. He barely noticed she was there. The circle had captivated him, beckoned him to come closer.
Mabel looked at him like he’d grown another set of arms. Joe never thanked anybody for anything. He felt like he was just getting what belonged to him anyway. No point in thanking people for making things right in the world.
Mabel stepped a bit closer, afraid to draw his attention, but intent to do exactly that. “Joe. Your rake and string.”
He acted as if he hadn’t heard a word she had said.
Mabel took a few more steps until she was just a foot away from him. She sucked in a deep breath as if the air itself would give her courage and tapped him on the shoulder. Feeling a bit more bold, she repeated, “Your rake and string.”
Joe blinked a couple of times like he was trying to awake from a daydream. “Oh, thanks.”
Mabel stared, wondering what had gotten into him. Joe took the rake and string from her, leaving her with her hands in the air.
Joe walked away from the circle and yanked the cat out of the bag. Feral and furious at the inconvenience, it screeched and clawed. “Goddamn cat! You’re lucky I don’t break your fool neck right now! Mabel, cut off enough string to go ’round this cat’s neck.”
Mabel stepped away from the circle, grabbed Joe’s knife and cut off the string he’d asked for.
“Now wrap it ‘round his neck.” Faced with the reality of hurting an innocent animal, she was angry for the first time in years. She thought she had lost her capacity for anger a long time ago––Joe had enough ire for the both of them. She figured adding to it might cause them both to burst into flames. Despite the sick feeling in her stomach, she had to press on. She couldn’t stop now.
“Hurry up! We ain’t got all day, dammit,” Joe said, sick of her being so slow all the time.
That was enough to spur Mabel into action. Although she was still reluctant, she was determined not to show it. She wrapped the string around the cat’s neck.
“Now make it a noose. I’m gonna use that rake and this string to make a leash.”
Mabel did as she was told, anxious to get this done. Joe put the rake through one of the holes in the string and pulled up.
Satisfied that the cat was properly snared, he dragged it toward the circle. The cat fought him and the string the whole way. Joe paused about two feet away from the circle and looked down at the beast. How long should he leave the cat in the circle? How many times could it go in and come back out alive? He decided that he had a lot of testing to do before he would know exactly how this circle operated, but he had to do it if he hoped to salvage anything from his cattle.
He pushed the feral thing out to the very edge of the circle. The cat stopped his fruitless, frenzied attack on Joe to sniff at the circle. Just like Joe, the cat was now hypnotized by the strange circle. Joe pushed the cat partially into the circle—hind legs out and front end inside.
And nothing happened. The cat just continued to sniff around.
Joe pushed the cat all the way into the circle.
And still nothing happened. Was it because he was attached to something outside the circle?
Just when he was about to pull the cat out, it went limp. He stared at it for a few seconds, searched for any signs of life, then pulled the cat to him. He was about to put his hand on the cat to feel for a heartbeat or rise and fall of its body, but the cat started to flop around like a fish out of water. Stunned, he backed away, but not before the cat scratched him across the face.
Furious, he grabbed the cat by the neck and threw it—rake and all—into the circle.
The cat landed on its feet and took off running, dragging the rake behind it. It didn’t make it far before it went limp and fell on its side.
Joe approached the circle with uncharacteristic caution. He slowly bent down, eyes trained on the cat, and grabbed the handle of the rake with the tips of his fingers—careful not to touch any part of the circle.
Mabel watched him with apprehension.
Joe kept working at the rake to pull it out, but it was heavy and he couldn’t get a good grip with just his fingertips.
Mabel crept forward, hopeful that Joe’s concentration was fixed on the retrieval of the rake and that he wouldn’t hear the grass crunch under her feet.
She was just a foot away when he finally got the rake out far enough to grab the handle and haul the cat back out of the circle. He stood up so suddenly that Mabel just knew that he had realized what she was about to do, but he only looked annoyed that she was in his way again.
Joe sat down and watched the cat, anxious for it to spring back up as it did before. Mabel sat quietly a few feet away, mesmerized by the effect the circle had on him. Joe had never cared about anything but beer and football. Science wasn’t even on his radar. He had certainly never been interested in any kind of clumsy scientific experiment, but this circle called to him and begged him to discover its secrets.
Just as Mabel turned her attention to the cat, it sprung up again.
“Ah ha!” Joe hopped to his feet too and clapped his hands together. He was giddy with delight at the cat’s resurrection.
“Do you think it was dead, Joe?”
Joe had forgotten that Mabel was even there. He turned to her and scowled. “It weren’t breathin’. How’s it gonna be alive if it ain’t breathin’, Mabel? I swear, sometimes I wonder ’bout you. Question you should be askin’ is how it died and then came back. This is like some Pet Sematary shit right here.”
He remembered from the movie that when things came back, they didn’t come back right and turned back to the cat like it would eat his face off at any moment. The cat just sat there licking itself, oblivious to Joe and Mabel, and looking, for all the world, like a normal cat.
But Mabel realized that the cat acted more like a normal domesticated cat—not the feral cat it was. Death seemed to have tamed it a bit. She wondered how long that might last. Would it stay like this forever? Would it return to its feral state after a while? What would happen if Joe died in that circle and came out? What would happen if he went in that circle and didn’t come out at all?
Mabel looked up at Joe as though she feared that he had somehow heard her last thought. He was still busy watching the cat, ignorant of her treacherous notions. Feeling vulnerable to be looking so far up at him, Mabel stood up. That got Joe’s attention. “Help me with these cattle. We gotta get ’em outta there and see if they come back too. If they don’t, we gotta butcher ’em before they go bad.”
Mabel looked at him expectantly.
Joe stared at her, exasperated with her lack of intelligence. He needed to make sure she knew that he was the boss around here. “You’re gonna go in there and put a rope around the cattle and I’ll drag ’em out with the tractor.”
Mabel was horrified. “But Joe, that cat wasn’t in there for ten seconds before it went limp. I can’t go in there. If I did, I wouldn’t be able to move fast enough to get the rope around ’em.”
Pointing out a flaw in his plan only made Joe angrier. Saving face, he said, “I swear, woman. You can’t do nothin’.”
Mabel looked down to appease Joe, but the thought of him going into that circle was eclipsing her submissiveness. Blood rushed to her head. Her violent heartbeat drowned out the sound of her breathing. Joe yelled at her, but she couldn’t be bothered to listen. All she could think of was Joe inside that circle. Either dead or docile. Didn’t matter which. Long as he went in that circle.
“I’ve got an idea.” Mabel’s words, and the urgency in her voice, stunned Joe. She knew not to speak unless she was spoken to.
“Well out with it,” Joe said.
“Well you’re stronger and faster. You had a good idea, but I’m too frail and slow to get ’em roped before the paralysis sets in. You can do it. And if you can’t, I’ll just pull you back out with the tractor and we’ll come up with another idea.”
Ego and instinct battled in Joe’s mind. His instinct told him that being paralyzed or dead wasn’t worth it. Nor was he the type to go along with someone else’s idea. Especially a woman’s. Especially Mabel’s. But she was right for once. He was superior. She could never do anything right. If he wanted to get those cattle out of that circle, he was going to have to take care of it himself—no matter what the idea was. And the idea really was his, just with roles swapped to make more sense.
“Well what are you waitin’ for? Go get the rope and the tractor.” Why did he always have to hold her hand through every little thing?
By the time Mabel finally came back with the tractor, Joe had convinced himself that he was the only one capable of rescuing his cattle and Mabel had convinced herself that she was doing the right thing. After Joe tied the middle of the thick rope around himself and one end to tractor’s hitch, he made a noose with the other end to go around the neck of his cow. That done, he announced that he was ready.
“Soon as I get that rope around that cow’s neck, you get movin’, ya hear?”
“Yes, Joe,” Mabel replied.
Joe decided to do a little test before he walked headlong into that circle and put a fingertip just across the border. He felt no different, so he pushed his whole hand in. Now he was downright courageous—that circle wouldn’t have an effect on him. His mama always told him he was special and now he knew he was. But he wasn’t stupid. He was still going to be quick about it.
Before he lost his nerve, he rushed in toward the cow closest to the edge and wrapped the rope around its neck. He turned to whistle at Mabel to signal it was done, but she had her back turned to him. Damn that woman, he thought.
He started to feel heavy—too heavy to stand up. It felt like he had lead in his legs and an anchor tied to his chest. Before he realized what was going on, he was face down in the dead earth. Mabel kept her eyes straight ahead, afraid to look at her husband and what might be happening to him. She just repeated Psalm 23 with special attention to “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I shall fear no evil.”
Finally, she turned around.
He was still. She stared at his back and looked for evidence of breath, but didn’t see any.
She hadn’t really considered her plan carefully. Up until this moment, she focused on action, afraid that if she took time to think, she would talk herself out of it. Now she wondered how long she should leave him in the circle. What if he had to stay in longer than the cat because he was bigger? What about brain damage? That thought was enough for her to decide to pull him out. The last thing she wanted was to be saddled with more responsibility when it came to him.
She inched the tractor forward, making sure the rope was still securely around both Joe and the cow and that nothing was coming loose.
Mabel let out the breath she hadn’t even realized she was holding. Joe and the cow were finally out, but she stayed on the tractor and waited. She didn’t want to be anywhere near him when he woke up. If he woke up. If he did wake up, and he was the same, he would throw her in that circle permanently for what she’d tried to do.
She looked over and saw the cat. It was stock-still. Flies buzzed around it at a pace that mirrored her frantic heartbeat.
Then she heard him groan. Well, he wasn’t dead. Hopefully he wasn’t brain dead.
“Joe? Joe? Are you alright?”
Joe fumbled to put his cap back on. “Hm? Did we get the cow out?”
He had just died and he was worried about the cow. Maybe he didn’t see her ignore him after all.
Mabel inched forward, afraid to look into Joe’s eyes. “Yes, we did Joe. Your plan worked.”
“Is the cow alive?”
“Um…I’m not sure. I checked on you first.”
“Well dammit, check to see if the cow’s alive!” The old Joe was back.
Mabel walked over toward the cow and put her hand on its ribs. No telltale rise and fall. No life.
“It’s not alive, Joe.”
“God. Dammit. All that work and the damn thing is still dead.”
Mabel couldn’t let him give up on this plan. She needed him to go back in that circle. She started to walk back toward him. “It might take a little longer for it to come back. It’s been like that for hours.”
Just as she finished her sentence, Joe slung his hat to the ground. He looked at the cow with more fury than he had ever had for Mabel.
“What is it, Joe?”
“It’s rotting. Like it’s been dead for days. Not hours. Look at it. The goddamn cow is rotting. I can see it rotting.”
Mabel looked over at the cow. It was rotting so fast it looked like it was on a time-lapse camera. The cow’s corpse had ballooned. Vultures picked at its flesh, rewarded for their patience.
She looked back at Joe and gasped.
His skin sagged as fast as the cow decayed. Age spots peppered a quickly forming bald patch and his hair faded from brown to solid gray.
It had worked after all. Not quite the way she wanted, but it worked. The circle was aging him. She realized the cat hadn’t calmed down because the circle made it docile, it was because it made the cat old. The cows had been in the circle long enough to die. Things stayed frozen in the circle, but when they came out, it was like mother nature was on fast forward.
A smug smile spread across Mabel’s face. That old crone in town was right—Mabel did have magick in her blood. The hex bag she buried in the pasture while Joe slept wasn’t perfect, but it did a fine job for a beginner’s spell. Joe didn’t look a day younger than ninety.
Thanks so much for joining us for our bonus episode. We love you.
We have one more gift for you—a NIGHTLIGHT t-shirt. Leave a review on iTunes and forward it to firstname.lastname@example.org. Tonight, we’ll do a drawing to determine which one of you will become one of us.
And don’t forget to follow us on Twitter @nightlightpod. We’re also now on Instagram @nightlightpod and on Facebook at facebook.com/nightlightpod. We’ll be announcing some additional Friday the 13th fun.
Last, I’d like to thank all of our patrons and supporters on IndieGoGo. It’s because of you that this podcast exists. You have our eternal love.
We’ll see you Tuesday for our regular episode.
Remember, tweet with hashtag #HiddenLove to win a Pretty Deadly print from Good For Her: https://www.etsy.com/shop/goodforher?ref=shop_sugg§ion_id=24056240
And to win a NIGHTLIGHT t-shirt, leave us a review on iTunes or Podchaser: https://www.podchaser.com/podcasts/nightlight-691229. Email your review to email@example.com to enter.
For more of Monique’s work, follow her on Twitter @MoniqueDesir or on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/MoniqueDesirsOfficialAuthorPage/ She also blogs at https://adaratrosclair.wordpress.com/.
You can also buy her books:
Forbidden (urban fantasy for adults)
Moonstruck (middle grade dark fantasy)