Today we take a peak inside the sizzling anthology brought to you by the Masters of Horror: Damned If You Don't. Today's featured authors are Ryan Willox, Keith Gouveia, and the Knight Chills readers favorite: Carole Gill. Enjoy and be on the lookout for the book which comes out in e-book form later this month. The paper back version comes out May 1, 2011 and for those hard cover lovers, you'll be able to get your hands on your copy too.
Having lived in Las Vegas for many years, I’d seen the lure of gambling seduce and destroy many normally decent people first-hand. In an effort to appeal to their logic, I’d tell them: “Look at the Strip. There’s a Castle, there’s a Pyramid, there are replicas of New York and Paris. Do you think they built those by GIVING MONEY AWAY?” When you hear the expression “Easy Money”, do yourself a favor and entertain the notion there may be no such thing.
Now, observe as Ryan Willox takes the phenomenon to another level altogether.
A Kiss for the Damned
By Ryan Willox
Martin had been running for the past fifteen minutes and his legs were tiring. If he stopped for a single breath they would be on him. He had evaded them for too long to simply let them overrun him, so he struggled on.
His legs felt heavier by the second and urged him to give up but if he looked back he would succumb because seeing them again, whatever they were, would break his resolve.
As Martin raced down King Street he recalled his last sighting of his hunters only minutes before and how inconspicuous they had looked in their bland, pale colored T-shirts and nerdy shorts.
A casual observer would have thought nothing of them, but then a casual observer wouldn’t have realized they weren’t—right. He hoped that his recent glance back at them would be the last time he would see them - the terror that it wouldn’t be kept him going.
Freewheeling down another steep gradient, distancing himself still further, he then leapt up the steps of the Central Station railway bridge in the heart of the town, taking then two at a time in order to finish this agonizing pursuit.
While running on the bridge, he looked up at the sky and saw one of the most beautiful sunsets he had ever witnessed. The sun was a brilliant blood red and the almost cloudless sky around it was an explosion of purples, deep crimson, and oranges all merging together.
As he ran, with his paisley tie flapping wildly and his white shirt sticking to him through perspiration, he supposed that, if this was to be the last sunset he would ever see, it would be the finest.
Soon the bridge was out of sight and he was running towards home. Despite a deep centered reservation about doing so, Martin glanced over his shoulder and was more relieved than he could ever hope to express when he didn’t see anyone giving chase.
After a chase that seemed endless, he got to the apartment block he called home.
Standing with his back to the door so that he could keep watch, he searched frantically in his pockets for his keys. He discovered them in the front left pocket of his trousers and, within seconds, he fell inside and lay on the cold stone hallway. Despite his aching limbs he forced himself to get up and go to his apartment because he would only be safe when he was inside. Battling exhaustion, Martin crawled up the stairs to his front door.
After kicking the door shut he lay in the cooling dark. His exhaustion was all- consuming and he found he had neither the will, nor the strength to get up; therefore he made only a cursory attempt at resistance as he slipped into unconsciousness on the floor.
Normally, Halfway Houses and Rehabilitation Centers start out rough—’kicking cold’, scrubbing toilets, re-learning ‘people skills’, baring your soul to addicts even scarier than yourself—and then get better.
Not in Carole Gill’s world, though.
By Carole Gill
Addicts ‘r us, messed up losers—you know the kind: cokeheads, overeaters, serious self harmers, suicide groupies, sex addicts—each of them so completely fucked up they finally end up in a kind of terminal rehab center--which is what this place was.
Yes, the Big House gave such places free reign to run themselves as they saw fit. They were, after all, evaluation centers to review the clients’ varying addictions and to best access what the next step was. That was what Executive Management said; what they did, however, was another matter.
Joe knew. He had taken the job happily, ages ago…but now he found his second thoughts had third, fourth and fifth thoughts.
But there was worse, there always is.
Joe sighed. He was Director, Houseman, whatever anyone wanted to call it—that was okay with him. In truth, he ran the place—this waystation, recovery home, haven, care facility.
Actually, he thought of it as ‘losers ‘r us.’ The place where the lost, the hopeless, the monumentally fucked up finally end up—in short it was the repository for addicts. He ran the men’s section.
He saw the new batch arrive in the van nicknamed Pegasus. Someone with a misplaced sense of humor named it that because if that horse flew, these poor bastards were now to be grounded for an indeterminate time (to say the least).
As always, Joe welcomed them: “We are going to sort you out--to evaluate you and send you on your way. It’s not so bad…you’ll see.”
“What do you mean, ‘we’? I just see you, man.”
Ah, trouble right away…and in the shape of a skinny little kid with attitude.
Scott, recent jailbird and dull-eyed wonder at 19, was not impressed. “This place sucks!”
“But you just got here! Give us time!”
Scott let loose a stream of abuse but Joe wasn’t bothered. “Your nose is bleeding, Scott.”
“How do you know my name?”
“We get briefed.”
“Yeah, so what does that make me?”
It was always the same. “It makes you putty in the system’s hands, kid, better get used to it.”
“Look, the judge told me he was sending me here, and that was it.”
“Which judge was that, Scott?”
“I don’t know—Judge Minos or something…the one I just saw. What’s it to you anyway?”
A murmur of laughter from the other losers and Scott looks proud of himself.
No one says anything. The only reaction is from Albert who deliberately lets one monumental fart rip as a kind of comment.
“That’s disgusting!” This they nearly all respond to—waving their hands in front of their faces. “Christ almighty!”
Albert didn’t laugh—he was the most seriously disturbed. He wore bracelets on both his wrists these were the white dressings that covered his most recent suicide attempt: even his scars had scars. Poor Al.
Joe knew. He had the notes. Predestination came into it. In Al’s case he had a crazy mother who tried to drown him when he was ten.
“Why did you do that, Mrs. Fugle?”
“The voices told me, your honor. Blame them!”
Unlike most quasi- illegal substances, steroids have helped people; they’re prescribed for several different medical conditions—in fact they’re one of the only methods of alleviating them, at present—and they do enable athletes and bodybuilders to attain nearly superhuman levels of achievement. I’m personally baffled by the attitudes sports authorities have towards steroid use: “They used STEROIDS to hit those thousand home runs!” I think, “Aren’t you PAYING them these endless millions to HIT a thousand home runs? Hell, GIVE them steroids, let ‘em use them all they want!”
As long as they’re prepared to ‘pay the piper’, of course. And when that piper is my man Keith Gouveia…LOOK OUT.
By Keith Gouveia
Let me start by taking a moment to apologize to the world. I feel as though the cataclysmic events that have unfolded in the last couple of weeks are my fault.
Maybe I’m getting a little ahead of myself. I just watched another news broadcast stating that there is pandemonium in the streets of Hartford, Connecticut. The infestation is spreading and, as their numbers increase, our chances of survival diminish.
I am locked away inside my home in Fall River, Massachusetts. I thought I was safe, until my confines were reduced to my master bedroom. At least I still have the bathroom. A 13-inch television is my only link to the outside world. Fortunately, I had enough time to grab some canned goods and other rations.
But they won’t last.
My dresser secures the door and the windows are boarded, but recently the bangs against the door have increased in frequency and intensity. I know in my heart that it is only a matter of time before our government has the situation under control, but I fear I will not live to see that day. That is why I write this now.
My name is Adam Kelly, and this is my punishment.
My friend Will and I were enjoying a day together. It had been so long since the two of us could just hang out as we did in the old days, what with me getting engaged and all. Our day started at the gym, where I learned the stupid bastard was taking steroids. Of course, I chewed his ass out for it. I worked in the pharmaceutical business and knew of all sorts of horror stories about their effects on the human body. But did he listen? NO! I dropped the subject.
After our workout, the two of us headed to my house to change clothes.
The plan was to try the new sushi bar that opened downtown. Since Will lived in Rhode Island, I reluctantly agreed to let him borrow some of my clothes. Once we were ready, we headed over to the restaurant. It was there this nightmare began. Why couldn’t we have just gone out for steak?
The place was crowded and we should have walked out right then and there, but instead, we waited.
“I have no idea what any of this stuff is,” I said as we looked over the menu.
“Don’t worry about it. We’ll ask the waiter what he recommends,” Will replied and put down his menu. He too had no idea what he was looking at.
“Can I start you off with something to drink?” asked the waiter.
“Yeah, I’ll have whatever is on tap.”
“Me, too,” I added.
“Do you need a few more moments to decide on your meals?”
“What do you recommend? Neither one of us has ever had sushi before,” Will told the waiter.
“Well, we have the popular California rolls, along with a soft shell crab roll. But I would recommend the Maki Sushi.”
“What’s that?” I asked.
“It is a sweet soy bean curd sushi. If you don’t like it, then chances are sushi in general isn’t for you.”
“All right, I’ll try that,” I replied and Will ordered the same. I got the biggest kick when the waiter asked us if we wanted chopsticks or if we preferred forks. We both agreed on the forks. The waiter returned shortly with our beer and it wasn’t long after that when the food came out.
“You first,” I said as I hesitated to try the strange dish that was placed before me.
“We’ll go at the same time,” Will answered hesitantly, and I agreed. We took our first bite simultaneously. I remember the look on Will’s face while he was chewing. It was one of surprise and delight.
“Not bad,” I said upon swallowing the morsel.
“No. Not bad at all.”
“Definitely. So I don’t have to pick up the tab?”
“No. It’ll be my treat,” I said.
“Cool. If I had known that, I would have ordered an imported beer.”
“Don’t push it,” I threatened and we both laughed.
That was the last time we would ever laugh like that again.
© Copyright Triskaideka Books 2011. All rights reserved.
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