Monday, February 28, 2011

The Tragic Deaths of Young Celebrities - 6

There were other risks, too. He didn’t know specifically what particular mood altering substance she was going to be asking for, so there was an issue of discovery there, too. Ultimately, he figured that she’d use whatever she apparently got. If she didn’t, well, that was just how it was going to be.

He took some care in what he was going to give her. His first thought was that he was going to try and give her an overdose, so that it would like an accidental death. Pretty everyone on Hollywood expected her to go that way anyhow, so the odds were good no one would ever know there was a murder, much less track it back to him.

There were two problems with that, though, one practical and the other more…philosophical. The practical aspect was that there’s no particularly good way to guarantee some is going to OD unless you’re there to actually give them way more of their drug of choice than they were intending to take. He wouldn’t be, so that was out.

But even more than with the practical considerations, Johnny found that he didn’t want this to go down as just another tragic drug related death. He wanted people to know what had happened, to know that she was dead not because she did something foolish to herself, but because someone had decided that she needed to die. He wanted people to know and understand. He needed it.

What he ultimately decided on was rat poison. There were, he discovered, a whole range of rat poisons available, with a range of effects. The most common versions, he found, were actually anticoagulants that caused death by internal bleeding.

Rats are, as small vermin go, pretty sharp. They will sample something to see if it tastes bad or makes them sick before going on to eat the rest of it. Because of this, rat poison needed to be tasteless and odorless which, as it happened, was perfect for what Johnny had in mind.

Johnny knew that the Starlet tended towards coke, and she often did it while she was out dancing at the clubs. He was a doctor and had never played one on television, but he suspected that a large dose of rat poison plus a nice heart racing stimulant like cocaine plus physical activity gave him a better than average chance of killing her.

He had to carry the pack of spiked cigarettes around with him for a few days, and he was acutely aware of the weight of it. It felt like he had a brick in his pocket, and he had to try and keep his hands from shaking. He told himself he didn’t have a reason to worry, but he did anyway. He couldn’t tell if it was nerves or excitement. Probably both.

Monday Update

It's Monday, so it's time for the Monday Update

This Week:

The Tragic Death of Young Celebrities completes. More young Hollywood dies horribly.

Messengers continues.


Returning the Puncher universe for a couple of stories.

The Future:

I'm rebooting Until Dawn under it's possibly final name, Red Teeth. This is more than just a name change - I was trying out writing without outlining, and the results were mixed. So I've plotted out the whole story.

What this means is that a good chunk of what is already written will make it in, but there are going to be some fairly substanial changes as well. What this means for you is that if you've been reading along, you're going to see some stuff again.

Amusingly, a lot of the changes are going back to what I really intended to do to begin with and kind of wandered away from. Should make for faster writing.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

The Tragic Deaths of Young Celebrities - 5

While this was an opportunity for Johnny, it created certain problems, too. The Starlet had been on nearly perpetual probation for the last few years, which meant that she was subject to random piss tests. She had somehow managed to pass them so far, which Johnny was pretty sure involved some kind of urine swapping, but he couldn’t count on that forever.

He was able to follow Polly, the assistant, by putting away the camera and taking off the baseball cap and sunglasses. Out of context, with his completely non descript features, she never realized he was behind her. He found that charming, somehow. She was always worried about being followed but incapable of realizing when she actually was.

The actual handover of the drugs was pretty clever as well, at least from Johnny’s point of view. What Polly appeared to be doing was buying a specific kind of very high end cigarette from a specialty shop. Nothing suspicious about that; cigarettes were way, way down on the list, somewhere after trysts with strangely androgynous DJs.

Johnny wasn’t sure what was actually in those cigarettes, but it certainly wasn’t tobacco. Johnny was sporting the baseball cap and sunglasses again when he went to the shop and ordered a pack of the cigarettes for himself.

He was actually surprised when the man at the counter actually sold him a pack, although they were ludicrously, ridiculously expensive, something that actually made his disgust for the Starlet flare a little more.

The cigarettes came in a plain black box, and the cigarettes themselves were a shiny black. He had to admit, they looked cool. Not enough to justify the price he paid for them, but cool nonetheless. They were not, as far as Johnny could tell, filled with tobacco.

They weren’t filled with drugs, either, but some kind of clove mixture. Johnny smoked one with a certain amount of trepidation, hoping like hell that he wasn’t smoking crystal meth or enough coke to kill an elephant on Quaaludes. He coughed a bit, but his heart kept beating and he didn’t feel like he was high or going to die. Which was a relief. He was a fan of tragic death of young celebrities, but he wasn’t a celeb and would prefer to avoid dying a young unknown.

His big problem was that he didn’t know exactly how the drugs were packaged within the cigarette box, and for the life of him, he couldn’t figure out a way to get that information. It was possible that there was just a baggie of whatever stuck in the box, and no cigarettes at all.

His other option was that the drugs were actually contained in the cigarettes, the shiny black shell just a front. What he needed to do was decided which was more likely, and he needed to do it before she got herself thrown in jail again, where she’d be safe from a ell deserved karmic death, or at least a well deserved karmic death at his hands. He held up one of the cigarettes and stared at it. He decided.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

The Tragic Deaths of Young Celebrities - 4

Unfortunately, this was a whole different animal than the so called celebrity of the reality girl. The starlet was legitimately famous, and her every move was watched by the paparazzi, not to mention her own security staff. The chances of him being able to get her on a rooftop and push her over the edge were probably pretty slim.

The upshot was that following her was pretty easy. She was used to being followed by photographers, and the photographers themselves switched and changed from day to day. He didn’t have a lot of time to track her, not as much as he wanted, but all it took was a camera and a baseball cap.

The surveillance actually made him all the more certain about what he was going to do. She was continually rude and abrasive towards the photographers that were the main engine of her fame, and at least half the time, possibly more, she was high on something. He was disgusted by her in the abstract, but he was repulsed by her in the flesh. He had to fight the urge to push her into traffic.

The problem was that he wanted to kill her, he needed to kill her, but he had no intention of going to prison to do it. He had a calling, and he wasn’t going to be able to answer it if he went to jail. This meant that if he was going to kill her, he needed to be able to do it in a way that couldn’t obviously be connected to him.

This was not as easy as a thousand mystery novels and police procedural shows would make you think, but Johnny was patient. He even actually managed to make some money when the Starlet spit water directly into his camera. So it wasn’t all bad.

It took about six months for Johnny to find his opening, and it was the absolutely perfect opening. Hypothetically, the Starlet was clean and sober after her fourth, maybe fifth trip through rehab. The key word there was hypothetically. In reality, she’d started using a whole range of drugs again, at all times of day.

Now, the Starlet being, well, a starlet, she didn’t hit some shmo on the corner to get her stuff. It took Johnny a while to figure it out, but what she did was send some sort of message from iPhone to her dealer, and then her assistant went and met the guy somewhere and actually made the hand off.

Following the assistant, a pretty girl who couldn’t have been out of her teens yet, was a little trickier than following the Starlet. She was always nervous when she went on these runs, and while this made it easy to figure out when she was going on these runs, it made it harder for him to follow her. She was jumpy and constantly on the look out for someone behind her.

You’d think, given how often she had to do it, she’d have gotten used to it, but she never did. Johnny, truth be told, felt sorry for her. He understood why she did it, why she kept the job, but he could see the stress it was putting on her. The Stralet, of course, was completely oblivious. Just another reason.

Friday, February 25, 2011

The Tragic Deaths of Young Celebrities - 3

He expected to be recognized and questioned. He spent the days after the tragic death, as the news was calling it, thinking that every phonecall was going to be the police. Every knock at the door was nearly enough to give him a heart attack.

But nothing happened. He watched the news, read the website and heard about it on Twitter and Facebook, but none of it involved him. There was some talk of the mystery man that was with her right before she died, but the pictures people at the club had taken were vague at best. Johnny’s generically handsome looks were enough to keep him safe.

After a couple of weeks, this worked on his nerves. He didn’t think that there was any chance of him being arrested for it. There was nobody up there except them, no cameras, no witnesses, and it really had been an accident. But nobody knew but him, and that started to work on him.

Part of it was the constant attention on the girl. She had died a terrible stupid death, which was appropriate for a terrible, stupid girl, but from the media coverage of the “tragedy” you would have thought it was the second death of Mother Theresa. There were wall to wall interview with friends and castmates and in death, she was more popular and famous than she had been in life. Probably by a factor of magnitude. Whereas Johnny, who’d been the one who actually killed her was still no one.

Which was why he decided to do it again. He wasn’t sure, exactly, when he decided. There was no sudden moment of malevolent inspiration, no devil on his shoulder. He was simply watching the news, months after the first killing, where they were covering the last fuck up by a starlet who was more famous for her drug use and her constant trips in and out of jail than she was for any of the movies she’d done.

If anything, she actually pissed Johnny off more than the reality television show star. The starlet actually had talent, and she’d probably should and could be famous for something other than being a mess. She’d had every opportunity in the world and she pissed them all down the drain.

Actually, as Johnny thought about it, it was worse than that. She had just squandered her talent. That would probably be bad enough. But this one, she’d had chance after chance to get her shit together. She was still out hitting the clubs, driving around in cars that would cost more than Johnny would make in five years doing shit work. Instead, she got more and more famous for things that would leave most people in the gutters. Every time Johnny thought about it, he got angrier and angrier.

So, clearly, she had to die.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Until Dawn - 20

Em didn’t even bother to pull his blazer off the road. He just stopped and hopped. There was no one coming tonight, anyway. Jim’s squad car was sitting at the bottom of Pritchard’s lane. Em looked at the gate. Locked. No sign of the ambulance either, which wasn’t much of a surprise.

He figured Jim had to hoof it up the Pritchard’s to unlock the gate. He stood there in the snow for a moment, trying to decide. He didn’t see much point in walking up there himself. Jim could handle that stuff on his own.

Em got back in the blazer and drove up the road to the Defibaugh place. They didn’t bother with locking up their driveway, which was some small relief. He just had to hope that the Blazer could get up there without getting stuck. The radio in the truck didn’t work either, which worried Em. Out here, without any way to call for help, that could get a person into a bad situation. Especially when he had no idea what he was going to find at the end of the driveway.

Darkness, mostly. The house looked quiet and still in the light of Em’s headlights.

He left them on as he walked to the house. He looked up at the sky, tried to see the moon. Nothing but grey.

The house was empty. The house was a wreck. The backdoor was smashed, the snow flowing in. Blood was splattered everywhere that Em could see. He shivered, and not from the cold. Something bad happened here.

“Ed?” he called.

The house was spacious enough, a new construction by Ed and Becky to replace the old farmhouse after they inherited the land, but there weren’t a lot of rooms. Emm was able to search in the place in the space of a few minutes. He tried the phone. Dead as the rest of the house.

He looked at the broken door. He could see tracks still, faint depressions in the snow outside, leading out to the Defibaugh’s barn. He knew where Becky had gone, but he needed to figure out where Ed was, and whether he was hurting or if he was the one that had done the hurting.

Emm stood in the doorway. He knew that he probably shouldn’t, that he ought to be trying to preserve the evidence, but he just didn’t see much point. The tracks would be long gone before anyone got here to document them. He looked out to the darkness and didn’t want to go. He wanted to go home, build a fire in the fireplace and listen to Dani complain about being stuck in the house. He wanted to wait out the storm somewhere safe and warm.

But he couldn’t, so he followed the tracks out to the barn. They bugged him. It was hard to say much about them, other than that there were far too many. He stopped halfway and kept the flashlight trained on them. He couldn’t be sure, but it looked like there tracks had been made by lots of somethings. Animals. There were large deep tracks that had to have been from something man sized, but the rest? He didn’t know. It all felt wrong to him.

Stonebury was not a hot bed of criminal activity in the conventional sense. The last two or three violent deaths they’d had were all suicides, and Emm’s most noteworthy case last year was the theft of a bowl of mac and cheese. The criminal there was still at large.

But Emm wasn’t from Stonebury and had spent most of his career in law enforcement in LA, and he had all the instinct you needed to survive twenty years as a cop. Right now, as he approached the barn, every single one of them was screaming at him that this was all wrong.

The barn was open, just like the house. He wasn’t surprised. The barn felt wrong. It felt like a tomb. He knew that Ed kept some cows and goats around in some sort of attempt to keep in touch with his routes. They should have been there, away from the snow. Large animals had a way of taking up all available space. He should have been able to feel them as soon as he stepped into the barn, but everything was still and cold.

He shined the flashlight around and his blood went cold. The walls were black. Blood was frozen to the walls, a black stain in the light. Emm had seen a thing or two, but he’d never seen anything like this.

There was barely anything left of the cows, just red bones and gore. There were smaller skeletons that Emm figured had to be from the goats. He didn’t know what could do this. He trained the flashlight on the floor, looked at the boards beneath the blood soaked straw.

His knee creaked as he knelt. He looked at the tracks that he could see, bloody paw prints left on the floor. Dogs. Lots of dogs. He thought about it for a second. He figured at least half the people in the area had dogs, a lot of them more than one. Sunbury was tiny, and even with the outlying areas included there weren’t a lot of people. Even so, Emm figured that there had to be a couple of hundred dogs in the area. At least a dozen of them had been here.

Em pushed some more of the straw out of the way and looked at something he couldn’t make sense of. It was a footprint. Em put his foot down beside it. Em was big man, and he wore canoe sized shoes, thirteen wide. The footprint dwarfed his.

“What the fuck is going on?” he said.

He stared at it. It was almost a human footprint. Almost. Something about the shape was wrong in someway he couldn’t out his finger on. He looked closer, pulled off one of his gloves. There were faint marks in front of the toes, and he touched it gently with his fingers. The marks were gouged into the floor of the barn. He knew what they were.

They were claw marks. Emm blew out a long breath and just looked at it. He had no idea what he was looking at. He had no idea what was going on here. He had no idea what he was supposed to do with this.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Until Dawn - 19

Jim heaved, twisting, and the man crashed hard into the granite counter top. His fingers slipped loose. Bud slipped, hit the floor hard. He jumped at Jim again so hard and so fast that it seemed like he was on springs.

Jim ducked hard and then heaved up. His shoulders caught Bud in the stomach. Bud did an unplanned back flip, landed hard on the back of his neck. The kitchen tile broke. Jim went to his knees and slid. He got the gun and turned as Bud came scrabbling at him. He pulled the trigger and blood sprayed off of Bud’s shoulder and then he was on him. Jim kept pulling the trigger. Bud tore at his face. He pushed the gun into Bud’s hips, shot him again. He could feel the shock of the impact but Bud wouldn’t stop.

Jim dropped the gun, got both hands on Bud’s neck and squeezed. Bud pushed into it, trying to get to Jim’s face, snapping at his hands. He was stronger than he should have been, than he could have been.

Blood dripped down into Jim’s face, into his mouth. He kept squeezing. He could feel Bud getting weaker. The less Bud struggled, the harder Jim pressed with his hands. He twisted and they rolled.

He kept his grip, slammed Bud’s head into the tile. He did it again. He felt Bud go limp in his hands. He didn’t let go. He wouldn’t let go. He smashed the man’s head again. He thought, for a second, about ripping the fucker’s throat out with his teeth.

He stopped. The world snapped back into focus for Jim Sykes. He looked at Bud’s shattered skull. At his blood soaked hands. All he could hear was the sound of his own breathing.

He threw up before he passed out.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Until Dawn - 18

There was no warning. Becky moved fast, faster than he could move and she slammed into him. She wasn’t a big woman but the force of it drove Jim down to the floor. Her jaws snapped his face and the flashlight went spinning away. He could see her in snarling strobes and he had his arm between them.

She almost bit his nose, teeth coming together hard enough that Jim was sure that some broke. She clawed at him and he pushed hard, throwing her off of him. He scrambled back on his elbows, loosing traction in the blood. He didn’t remember drawing his gun but he lined up the site as Becky came for him again.

He pulled the trigger until the slide locked. Becky’s chest was ruin of red and she dropped onto his legs. He could hear his pulse pounding in his ears. His hands trembled. He dropped the clip from the gun and fumbled for another. He slid it in and listened. Tried to calm his breathing. He grabbed for the flashlight.

He pushed Becky off of him, her body flopping bonelessly on the floor. He shined the light at Cassie but Bud was gone. He whipped the flashlight around, searching. The kitchen was empty except for Jim and the dead.

Jim couldn’t stop his hands from shaking. He felt like he was going to pass out, but he forced himself to move. He stood up and looked for Bud, saw the trail of blood leading into the darkness.

He knelt by Cassie, and looked down at her. He pinched the flashlight between his cheek and shoulder, felt for a pulse. She was already cold and clammy. He thought he felt a flutter of a pulse, but he couldn’t believe that anyone could take that much damage and survive.

He tried the phone. Nothing. Fuck. He wondered if the ambulance was down at the bottom of the lane. He wondered if Em or anyone else was coming and he realized that he wasn’t thinking straight. He needed to find where the fuck Bud Pritchard was and he needed to get the fuck out of here.

The first person resolved itself as Bud came out of the dark, suddenly, leaping. Jim fired two shots but Bud was there and Jim swung the heavy flashlight hard, right into the side of Bud’s pale face. He wasn’t sure if he hit or not. Bud grabbed both of Jim’s wrists, his grip crushing. Jim dropped the gun and Bud kept pushing.

They slammed into the refridgerator. Bud pushed closer, his lips peeling back over teeth that looked too long. His eyes reflected red in the light. He lunged forward and bit.

Jim jerked his hand free and swung the flashlight down hard. There was a sick crunch and Bud’s head jerked to the side and down. Jim brought his knee up hard into Bud’s face, felt the bones in his cheeks collapse.

But Bud wouldn’t let go.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Ticker - 2

He knocked on the door, felt the prickle at the back of his neck as the cameras focused on him. He wondered if it’d be Heckle or Jeckle who answered the door. The door opened and the youngish goon smiled. Heckle.

“Good evening, Mr. Wollenski.”

Jimmy tried to slow down his heart. Tried to maintain. He smiled and hoped it looked real.

“Hiya, Edward.”

“You know I can’t let you in here with that.”

Jimmy smiled, thought about putting a round in the middle of that oily forehead. Ten years ago, maybe. These days, he didn’t have the stamina to run around the house looking for Johnny. He gave Heckle the gun. He tucked into his belt, insincere smile getting even bigger and more insincere.

Johnny and Jeckle were waiting in the office. Jeckle flashed him a brief smile, fell in beside him when he entered. Bookended by Heckle and Jeckle, Jimmy strained to smile. He felt the pain in his arm, felt his ribs going tight. Figured he didn’t have much time.

Johnny was one of those people the years had worked over like sand paper, smoothed down, his seamless skin pulled tight to his skull. He looked better than Jimmy but, considering, that wasn’t any surprise. He smiled a smile from the grave.



“You look like shit,” he said, and grinned. Johnny couldn’t help it. He wiped sweat away from his forehead and laughed.

“Well, fuck, John, don’t sugar coat.”

“Your heart?”

“Yeah, it’s jus about ready to give out. Like my Pop.”

“I’m sorry to hear that.”

Which was bullshit, anyway. Heckle was left handed, and he made the mistake of standing off to Jimmy’s right. Jeckle was standing too damn close, too, a mistake neither one of them would have made if Jimmy were a younger man.

John picked up a cigar and began to light it. It was meant to intimidate, and Jimmy almost smiled at that. As if he could be intimidated. But it was an opportunity, and as Johnny looked at the flame and brought it close to the rope, things began to happen.

Jimmy grabbed at the gun in Heckle’s crotch, squeezing the trigger and blowing off Heckle’s balls, since he’d been dumb enough not check if there was a round chambered and dumber still when he stuck in his waist band.

At the same time, he drove an elbow right into Jeckle’s nose, knocking him backward, blood spouting. He had the gun clear and coming around as Johnny’s gun came clear of the desk, and Jimmy was moving sideways, faster than he’d moved in year, pulling the trigger.

He put a bullet in Jeckle’s forehead, knocking out most of what brains the jerk had, and turned and did the same to Heckle, who was crying and cupping his ruined balls anyway. And then it was over, and there was a sledgehammer in his chest and he leaned back against the wall, slid down.

John’s mouth worked, but no sound. Jimmy had gotten a nice grouping, but he was still hanging on. The Glock he’d been pulling was on the desk, and his fingers spasmed as he tried to grab Jimmy tried to breathe, dropped his own gun, looked at Jimmy.

“Well, here we fucking are, Johnny. Jesus. You never….you never should have asked me to do that. Now fucking look at us.”

John gurgled. Maybe a curse, maybe an apology. Jimmy hoped for the apology. He wished his own heart was still in it. He closed his eyes and wished things weren’t the way they were and that they weren’t who they were and waited for the world to go away.

Monday Update

So, this week we've got:

The Tragic Deaths of Young Celebrities - Exactly what it says on the tin, for a given value of tragic and celebrity.

Ticker - Old goon takes on former boss and best friend. Hey it's not ALL horror here at the house of hyperpulp.

Messengers - Okay, yes, maybe I am juggling too many stories.

Until Dawn - Continues. We're getting towards the end of what is roughly act one.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Ticker - 1

He waited for his hands to stop trembling before he finished cleaning the gun. He wiped his sweaty palms on his shirt, went back to wiping the .45. He’d had it forever, and he’d been meticulous about its care. It was forty years old and might last another hundred.

Unlike him.

He didn’t figure he’d get a chance to use it this time. Johnny, well, he’d been pretty cautious as a young man and old age had left him careful edging into paranoid. Jimmy was counting on it. Still, cleaning the gun, the steady rhythm of something he’d done a hundred hundred times calmed the pounding his chest down.

No use waiting. He stood up and shrugged on a shirt, looked at himself in the mirror. He was an old man, maybe, but his hair was still thick and his shoulder were still door frame wide. He looked pretty good, if you didn’t look at the tremble in his hands or the shadows under his eyes. Don’t look at that, and he still looked pretty good.

He tucked the gun into his waistband. Careless, probably, but he didn’t figure it mattered much at this point, if it mattered at all. The doctors had talked about surgery, about drugs, but he knew. He’d watched his father, oxygen pumped through his nose, lips blue, hands weak. He watched him in that bed and swore it’d never be him.

But time rolls over everyone. The doctors said he could keep going, said that a transplant wasn’t ruled out. But he knew better. He knew if he went that way, he’d go that way. He didn’t have a son, he didn’t have anybody but Johnny.

Him and Johnny had come up together, pulling kid’s shit when they were kids. Jimmy had spent ten years in change in the crotch, shooting people he didn’t know for reasons he didn’t understand in miserable shitholes. He’d loved it.

He got back home, he didn’t have any real prospects. He’d done the steel mill, like his Dad, but he couldn’t take foreman hovering over him, breathing down his neck. Johnny’d been doing okay, so he gave Jimmy a job. Double J, just like when they were kids.

It wasn’t quite a partnership, but that was okay with Jimmy. Johnny’d always been the smart, the one with the plans. He wasn’t afraid to get his hands bloody, but some how he never did. Johnny was theory, Jimmy was the application.

Johnny wasn’t, generally, a violent man, which was maybe why he’d done so well. Johnny wouldn’t send a bunch of thugs to break knees when a single well shot would do. He understood the balance of power like an engineer understood mechanical forces. He knew just where to apply a minimum amount of power to get what he wanted. Forty years on, he lived in a house bigger than the high school they’d graduated from.

Jimmy had been his favorite instrument to create the situation he wanted. Jimmy knew this, and he didn’t mind. That kind of shit was Jimmy’s main talent. The Marines had loved him for it and Johnny loved him for even more. It was a job, and he was good at it.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

The Tragic Deaths of Young Celebrities - 2

It almost worked. They snuck away from the crowd and slid through an exit door. The door should have had an alarm on it, but one of the bartenders at this particular club had told him that the door to the roof had the alarm switched off so that the staff could go up there and smoke whatever smokable substances they happened to have on hand. When the strobe lights went off, they went up the stairs.

Honestly, it was easier than he thought it would be.

“Did you ever fuck a star?” she said. Always classy.

“No,’ he said, and pulled her shirt over her head, “and I’m not about to start now.”

She tried to focus on him, eyes bleary and almost rotating in opposite directions. Johnny wasn’t sure that he had ever seen anyone that drunk and still standing. He hoped there weren’t any sparks, because he was pretty sure the alcohol on her breath would go up easy.

He had a moment then, when he almost stopped. She was standing there, naked on a rooftop, her vagina tattooed with flames, something he didn’t know from seeing her on television. He thought she was just about the saddest thing he’d ever seen, and she looked like a little girl.

“So are you going to fuck me or what, asshole?” she said, which broke the spell. He smiled at her and picked up her clothes.

“Yeah,” he said, “I’m going to fuck you.”

That was where it all went wrong or, as Johnny would come to think of it, where it all went right. She realized, despite her alcoholic haze, what he was doing as he chucked her stuff over the side. Even then, if he hadn’t grabbed her shoes, things would have went a lot differently.

“Not the Jimmy Choo’s!” she screamed, as the high priced shoes went over the edge. She dived for them, grabbing, and went right over the edge. Johnny tried to grab her, but she was over the edge and falling. As she fell, their eyes met and Johnny was pretty sure that she didn’t understand what was happening to her even as it happened to her.

The fall was four stories, and it might have been survivable in other circumstances. She landed on top of one of her Jimmy Choo shoes, the stiletto heel going right through her skull, and that was the end of that and the beginning of Johnny Getz’ true calling in life.

Friday, February 18, 2011

The Tragic Deaths of Young Celebrities

The first time Johnny Getz killed a celebrity, it was a complete accident. She was, as famous people go, not all that famous. She was one of the dubious stars of a reality show devoted to young people being obnoxious drunks, but she wasn’t one that would necessarily get recognized out of that context. Without the cameras following her around she was indistinguishable from any other over tanned, under dressed twentysomething. Even on her own show, she was mostly there as filler.

She wasn’t as pretty in person. This was the first thing that Johnny thought when he recognized her at the bar. On television, she wasn’t his type, he didn’t go in for the fake and bake look, but she was definitely attractive. In person she still was, but close up you could see the bad skin from too much make up and the way that night after night of corporate sponsored binge drinking had given her a kind of bloat, like her flesh wasn’t really attached to her bones.

Of course, the fact that she was throwing up in a potted plant at the back of the bar when he first spotted her wasn’t really doing her any favors either. Johnny had no intention, when he saw her there wiping vomit from her hair, of killing her. What he was after then was a lot simpler than that. Humiliation.

Johnny Getz was twenty three at the time, medium tall, medium build and medium good looking. He was well liked by his friends, had done well at school and had developed a fairly significant hatred for the concept of celebrity. Aside from the hate, he was almost entirely unremarkable, which was, in fact, exactly where the hate had come from.

He was seven months out of college when he saw her, and he hadn’t been able to find a job in his field. He probably shouldn’t have been out at the bar, considering that his jobs at a used bookstore and as a bartender didn’t really pay the bills all that well. But here was this girl, whose only discernable talent was a complete and total lack of shame, making ten times what he would even if he were able to get a damn job, which he couldn’t.

She was rich, she was famous, and she had done exactly nothing to earn it. He decided then, as she stood up and made sure her boobs were almost but not entirely secure in her shirt, that something needed to be done about it.

You would think that her being semifamous would make getting to her more difficult, but Johnny found that, in fact, just the opposite was true. She was too drunk and too dissipated looking for most of the men that didn’t know who she was, and her general level of notoriety made it so that most of the men who did recognize her didn’t make a play. The rest of them, well, they didn’t quite have the motivation that Johnny did.

The plan was simple enough that it would be debatable whether or not you could even call it a plan. Basically, he intended to get her on the roof, get her naked, and chuck her clothes off of the roof. And then leave.

Now, granted, this was a girl who let herself be filmed taking a piss behind a bar because the bathroom was too far away, but he was hoping that doing a buck ass naked walk of fame would be enough to at least trigger whatever vestigial shame instinct she had.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Until Dawn - 17

He knew that no car had gone out. Aside from the cable being across the road, there were no tire tracks. He swung the flashlight to the left. The cars were there, covered in snow. They were here. There should be lights. He felt eyes on him again. He shrugged it off, but he hitched his coat up over his gun and unbuttoned the latch.

Jim knocked on the door. The house was old, at least early nineteen hundreds. This had been a farm once, before the Pritchards had moved in, and the house was large and looming. He pounded on the door with his fist, trying to make as much noise as he could.


No answer. He stopped and listened. He thought he heard movement inside. He walked over to one of the windows and looked in. He thought he saw something move, chased it with the flashlight beam. He couldn’t find it again.

The front door was locked. He walked around back. There was a big deck around back, a new addition to the house. He could see the faint remains of footprints, he tracked them with the flashlight beam across the yard and into the woods. The Defibaugh house was over that hill, but it would be a hell of a hike in the dark woods even without the storm.

He stepped onto the deck and shined the light at the backdoor. There was a bloody handprint on the glass.


He pulled his gun. Nothing about this felt right. He pushed the door inside with the flashlight. There was a black stain on the floor. He knew that it wasn’t really black, that blood in the dark looked that way. There was too much of it.

Jim knew that the amount of spilled liquid could be deceptive. He’d seen some one spill a pint of milk once and had the thought that, if that were blood, he’d have thought the person bleeding was dead. The kitchen smelled like copper, and he suddenly felt hot. He swallowed hard. He could hear his heart pounding in his chest as he stepped inside.

He could hear a wet ripping sound on the other side of the island. He couldn’t see past it. He didn’t want to step around it, but he did anyway. He shined the light and his insides went cold.

Jim had a second where he could process what he was seeing. He saw bloody hands. He saw red stained teeth. He heard the smacking of lips. He saw flesh tearing. He saw blood. More blood than he’d ever seen before. He stopped breathing and took a step backwards. They looked up at him in the beam of the flashlight, and their eyes reflected the light back at him.

Becky and Bud were crouched over Cassie, and Jim hoped like hell that she was dead. Becky looked at him and he saw her jaws working. Bud jerked his head back and tore loose another piece of his wife. Jim felt bile and vomit rise in his throat.

“I’m so hungry,” Becky said.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Until Dawn - 16

Jim locked at the lock. It was huge, sturdy, and probably completely indestructible. Even if he had a bolt cutter, which the piece of shit police car didn’t have, he wouldn’t be able to get it off. He couldn’t shoot it off, even if he felt like getting fired for improper use of his firearm.

“Well, shit,” he said.

He trudged back into the car and got inside, tried to get Nellie on the radio. Nothing. He tried the other channels. Nothing. He smacked the thing a couple of times with the flat or his hand. Percussive maintenance. Still nothing. He stared at the cable across the lane, and gave some brief thought to just ramming it with the car, but there was the matter of getting fired, although he figured that Emm might actually be glad to get rid one of these cheap ass pieces of shit they called police cars.

He shut off the car and stepped out into the snow. He zipped his jacket up the whole way and clicked on his flashlight and began walking up the lane. He wasn’t what you would call especially happy about the whole thing, and halfway up the lane he was starting to puff.

Shit. He was too young to be out of breath walking up the hill, but he’d been a two pack a day smoker since he was sixteen and, these days, was carrying around thirty pounds more than he ought to have been. He stopped for a second, standing under a tree to keep some of the snow off of him.

He realized that he’d automatically started to reach for a cigarette and had the pack half way out of his pocket before he stopped himself. He was taken, very suddenly, by the feeling that he was being watched.

He stood up straight and turned around, swinging the flashlight in a circle around him. He didn’t see anything, but then, there wasn’t much of anything to see. He shrugged it off and started walking up the hill.

Jim shrugged his shoulders against the snow and trudged on. The air around him felt wrong. He couldn’t quite explain it. He was close to forty years old and he swore at himself for getting creeped out by being alone in the dark. He’d spent more than one night alone out in the woods during hunting season.

But he still couldn’t shake the feeling that something was watching him. He felt movement out in the woods, somewhere in the dark and snow. Every so often he swung the flashlight off the road. He wasn’t sure what he expected, but the weight of the gun on his hip was assuring.

Jim could just about see the Pritchard house in the darkness. Without outside lighting, a night like this made the landscape nearly invisible. As he got closer, something was nagging at him about the house.

There were no lights. No the house lights, he knew those were off. But the house was completely dark. There should be some light in there. Candles, flashlights, something. There was no way they were just going to be sitting there in the dark. The house was dark and it shouldn’t have been.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Until Dawn - 15

Crystal Johnson and Travis Frankenberry answered the call. They were actually the only people who made it to the fire hall to answer the 911 call from Cassie Pritchard. Travis was the driver, and Crystal was the EMT on call. They were volunteers, as were virtually all rescue services in the area.

This did not mean that they were especially happy about being called out. Travis crouched over the wheel, face close to the glass, his skinny shoulders making him look like a vulture. He was calm enough, but he was frowning. He drove a dump truck for a living, but that was almost entirely summer work, so he almost always out for any emergency calls in the winter. He had plenty of experience driving in wintery conditions, but this was ridiculous.

He’d been reading the newest Konrath book while Crystal watched Sportscenter when the call came in, and both of them were hoping that there wouldn’t be any calls. That was wishful thinking.

Despite the fact that it was Pennsylvania and it snowed every winter, people seemed to have an amazing ability to forget how to actually drive on snow from one winter to the next. As a result, every time there was a good snow, and a lot of times when there was just a so so snow, people managed to wrap their cars around trees and other assorted pieces of the landscape.

This particular snow was unexpected, which meant that the number of people thinking that it was okay to speed while they were on unplowed roads was probably going to be higher than usual. Which was why Crystal and Travis, who didn’t really have anything else to do, were waiting at the fire hall and hoping that they wouldn’t actually be needed.

They weren’t. At least, not for a car accident, as of yet. Crystal could see why; you would need to completely nuts to be out in this willingly. Travis was white knuckling it and she wasn’t sure how he actually new where the road was.

“Willpower,” was his answer.

“Well, that’s reassuring.”

He shrugged. Crystal shrugged her coat around her. She was wearing about fifteen layers of clothing, and the heat in the ambulance was cranked all the way up, but she was still cold. The clothes made her look even smaller than she really was, and she looked about fifteen in the best of times.

She looked out the windshield, and saw something move.

“Trav –“

“I see them.”

Crystal squinted. Travis braked, and the ambulance fishtailed a little, but Travis kept it together.

“Fucking deer. How many did you hit last year?”

“Those aren’t deer.”

The ambulance was all but stopped now, and the headlights reflected from dozens of eyes. Dogs. Dozens of dogs.

“What the hell?”

They were standing in the road, simply staring at the ambulance. Travis let the vehicle drift forward a bit, but they didn’t move. He laid on the horn. Crystal looked at him.

“What the fuck is wrong with them?”

I don’t kn-“

The dog slammed into the glass beside him, claws scraping against the glass. It hit hard enough to crack the glass, and it left bloody smears. Travis started to open his mouth and one of the dogs jumped onto the truncated hood of the ambulance, scrabbling for purchase.

Travis ripped the transmission back into reverse as one of the dogs scratched at Crystal’s door. The wheels of the ambulance spun, found purchase and the vehicle pushed back. The dogs swarmed around it, jumping and scratching. Travis sped up, faster than he should and slammed the brakes, whipped the wheel. The front end of the ambulance spun around, almost a perfect one eighty.

Another dog, big, huge, slammed into the window beside Travis. The glass shattered and wind and snow blew in.


The dog’s jaws clamped down on Travis’ ear as he jerked his head to the side. It fell out of the window and blood sprayed out, gore stringing from the wound. Another dog was leaping forward as Travis got the ambulance moving forward again. Crystal drug the bag forward from the back.

He pushed on the accelerator and they pulled loose from the pack. Crystal glanced in the side mirror, saw their shadows disappear into the storm. She moved around to the back to tend to Travis.

“What the fuck was that?” he said.

Crystal looked at his would. The ear was gone, and Travis was bleeding badly. Crystal pushed the bandage against his ear and he flinched. It was going to start hurting bad as soon as the adrenalin wore off.

Travis glanced nervously at the mirror. Nothing.

“You need to pull over, Travis.”

“There is no fucking way that is happening,” he said, “We to get away from those things. They’ll be able to move close to as fast as we can in this shit.”

He pulled down the radio receiver.

“Dispatch, this Unit 17? Hello?”

There was nothing but static. He flicked through the channels. He threw the mike down.


Monday, February 14, 2011

Monday Update

This week in the bowles of Hyperpulp, we'll be featuring:

Until Dawn



Probably more of the former than the latter, but it depends on how things go.

Until Dawn - 14

“There’s something going over near Orchard Ridge,” Nellie said.

“What happened?”

“Cassie Pritchard called 911 a couple of minutes ago. Becky Defibaugh showed up at their house covered in blood.”

“Shoot. What happened?”

“Cassie didn’t know. I told Jim to head out that way and check it out. Ambulance is on the way, too.”

“Why didn’t you get me on the radio?”

“Tried. Couldn’t.”

Em swore under his breath and walked over to the radio set. He picked up the mike and tried to get Jim Sykes, one of his officers. Nothing. He flicked through the channels, trying to get him. Or anyone. Nothing but static. He looked at Nellie. She shrugged.

“The snow, maybe?” she said.

“It shouldn’t.”

Em looked at Coyle, sprawled out and placid in the chair. He should take care of that, first. But he never was a big fan of paperwork. He grabbed his coat off of the rack, put his hat back on his head.

“I’m heading over.”

“Jim can handle it.”

“I know that.”

“Uh huh?”

“Damn it Nellie, I’m the chief.”

She crossed her arms over her chest. Em had the distinct feeling that she was resisting the urge to tap her foot. Emmerson Swift was, as bosses went, a pretty good boss. Everyone liked him including, semi miraculously, the town council, and he was as fair as he could be. If he had a flaw as a boss, it was the inability to delegate.


“Jim can handle it.”

Em frowned, and hesitated.

“I’m going. If you want to help me delegate, you can help Mr. Coyle with his paperwork.”

Emmerson Swift stepped out into the storm.

Note: Short update today.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Until Dawn - 13

Nellie Gracie was just hanging up the phone when Emm came in and stomped the snow off his boots in the police station. Nellie was a police officer, and she actually insisted on wearing the uniform, but her job wasn’t to go out and snag criminals, such as they were in Stonebury. Her role was a lot more important than that.

She was a sturdy woman of indeterminate age, the kind of ageless country woman that you got around here. Her hair was jet black, but whether that was nature or nuture was a matter of some debate. She had an easy smile and the ability to wither a man’s soul by staring over the tops of her glasses. Which she frequently did. She was doing it now, because Emmerson Swift was making a hell of a mess.

“Don’t look at me like that, what was a I supposed to do?” he said.

“Is that Johnny Mattingly?”

Mattingly was slung over Em’s shoulder like a sack of grain. If it was any strain to Em, it didn’t show.

“Is he dead?”

Em shrugged a shoulder and Mattingly snorted.


Nellie got up.

“Maybe next time. Be careful, the floor is liable to be slippy. Snow damn fool got snow all over the place.”

Cameron Coyle stepped in the door, snow gusting in behind him, and he got the full weight of the Nellie stare. He returned it without a blink.

“Nellie, this is Mr. Coyle. Mattingly managed to wreck his car, so he’s going to be weathering the storm with us.”

Nellie gave him the once over as she opened the door to the holding cell. Em stepped in and dropped Mattingly on the bed. He kept snoring. Em shook his head. Nellie locked the cell door on him.

The police station was not what you would call a high security operation. It was about ninety percent an office, and it had once been the senior citizen’s center before they got a big grant. It had a holding cell, one that had been installed at fair cost to the town. It didn’t get used much. Most of the real policing was left to the staties, but Em did find it was useful to have some place to keep the drunks for the night. Especially on nights like this.

“Nellie can you –“Em started.

“ I got it.”

“Mr. Coyle, you can have a seat. There is, I’m afraid, going to be paperwork.”

There was, a great stack of it that Nellie slapped down in front of him. Nellie had worked for the Stonebury police, off and on, for forty years. The off and on wasn’t her doing; the town went through periods where it decided that it didn’t need its own police protection.

These periodic gaps were why Nellie was probably the most important person on the police force. She provided continuity. She knew who did what, and where they had put it. She also, quite crucially from Em’s point of view, knew how to operate the ancient coffeemaker. Nellie believed that the entire police department would collapse without her, and Em was pretty sure that she was entirely correct.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Until Dawn - 12

Bud spit the cereal back into the bowl. He wiped at his mouth and picked up the milk container. He spit again, trying to get the taste out of his mouth.

“Oh god. Eggh.”


He looked at the date on the milk.

“It’s sour.”

“What? I just bought it.”

“I know. It’s not set to expire for a week.”

Cassie frowned as she walked in the kitchen. Bud was still trying to spit the sour milk taste out of his mouth. He’d never actually tasted sour milk before. It was aptly named and he thought he might have to gargle to get rid of it. Possibly with bleach.

“Did you check the fridge?” she said.

“Not yet, I’m trying not to vomit.”

“It’s not that bad.”

“You try it.”

She pushed the milk container away, her face scrunching up in an impressively ugly way for a pretty woman.


She stuck her hand in the fridge. The big metal thing was brand new, not even six months old, and Bud had paid less for cars. It had better not be on the blink or he was going to be pissed. He dumped the remainder of the milk down the drain.

“Fridge is fine,” she said.

“Well, that’s something. I’ll talk to Linda down at the store, make sure she knows.”

“Yeah, that – wait, don’t.”

He dumped the cereal in the garbage. He stopped dead, spoon and bowl over the garbage.


“You just dumped sour milk in the garbage.”


She rolled her eyes.

“As soon as it gets warm, it’s going to start to smell.”

“I think I can scoop it out.”

He started to lean forward but he could actually feel her staring at him. He looked at her. She put a hand on her hip and raised an eyebrow.


“Maybe I should take the garbage out.”

“Maybe you should.”

He looked out the window. Pretty much a solid sheet of snow. Terrific. He looked at his wife. Nope, she was definitely not going to let him out of it. You could probably perform surgery or make microchips in the house. Cassie’s primary hobby seemed to be cleaning, and she had an eye for dirt that was, as far as Bud was concerned, completely invisible. There was absolutely no way that sour milk smell was going to fly. He put on his boots.

He had one hand on the doorknob when a bloody hand slammed against the glass.

“Jesus fucking Christ!”

A face leaned in, looking through the glass. Bud stumbled back, the back of his knees hitting the chair behind him. He sat down hard. The garbage bag slipped out of his hand and spilled on the floor. Cassie turned.


The woman outside slammed her hand against the door again, smearing blood. Bud looked at the face outside the glass.

“Oh, Christ, it’s Becky.”

He opened the door and Becky stepped inside. She was dead pale where she wasn’t covered in blood. She was shaking.

“Becky, what happened?”

She just stared at him. Cassie ran over.

“Bud, she’s—“

“Call 911”

“She needs –“

“She needs to go to the hospital. Call 911.”

Cassie nodded and grabbed the phone. Bud grabbed the blanket they kept on the rocking chair in the kitchen. It was mostly decorative, but he didn’t think Cassie would care, given the situation. He wrapped it around Becky. She stared at him.

“Becky, where’s Ed? Is he okay? What happened?”

She shivered. He looked down and realized that she was in her bare feet. She’d walked the mile and a half between their houses without any shoes. Jesus. Cassie came over.

“I called 911, they’re sending someone as soon as they can.”

Bud nodded.

“Becky, can you sit down? Can you hear me?” Bud said.

Becky blinked, looked at Cassie. She said something too faint to hear.

“Becky, I can’t hear you,” Cassie said. She leaned in close to Becky, tilting her head to hear. Becky leaned.

“I’m so hungry,” she said, bared red stained teeth.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Messengers - 2

The US government was the first to have something to say about the issue, and they almost immediately decried it as act of terrorism. It didn’t last long. It became pretty clear that no human agency could be responsible for it.

The messages appeared in every medium that wasn’t direct person to person communication. They didn’t appear all the time, but they appeared on DVD’s, in emails, in newspaper prints, and during phone calls.

There was no discernable pattern to when they appeared. They were apparently personal to the people that received them. In the case of printed matter, this again raised the question of causality. The messages were imprinted at the time of creation, so how did they end up in the hands of people they were relevant to?

The governments of the world, for their part, realized with impressive speed that if they could sort through the deluge of information, there were plenty of tasty morsels of intelligence there. The angels were not concerned with national security.

The US government retrofitted their Echelon system, which monitored communications in the US more or less covertly, to record these messages. Of course, there were also messages encoded in Echelon’s output as well, which made things recursively complicated.

Some governments tried to clamp down on them. China immediately denounced them and hit their version of an internet kill switch. It didn’t help. However the angels did what they did, it didn’t matter whether or you were connected to the outside world. If you plugged in a computer and set it to create random numbers, it would eventually throw a message.

Unsurprisingly, the messages started a war.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Messengers - 1

There was, of course, the matter of causality, to say nothing of the theological implications of the whole thing. The first angel called Dylan Hobble at 8:34 on a Saturday morning, and told him that his dead wife had been planning to divorce him when she died.

It left this message on his voice mail, which it made it the first case that could be authenticated. Whether it was really the first message was a matter of some debate. It would probably remain so unless the angels themselves decided to clarify the issue, which they might, eventually.


Dylan looked at the emails in his inbox and sighed. It wasn’t that he wasn’t interested in what people had to say, because he was, but ever since his name had gotten out he could never actually sort through everything that people had to say. He need a team of people, and he wouldn’t know what to tell them to look for.

What people sent him were messages from the angels. Dylan himself had the dubious and uncertain distinction of being the first person that they sent a message to, at least as far as anybody could tell. He himself knew for a fact that the first message to him wasn’t the first message, but this was knowledge that he shared only with the angels.

HhhhhhhhhhhhhhgggjhlkjhHe couldn’t decide what to do with the emails, so he did nothing with them. He closed the browser and thought about what he was going to do with his day. Well, no, that wasn’t strictly true. He knew what he was going to do with his time, in the general sense. He was trying to assemble the messages from the angels into something coherent, which was an interesting job for an atheist.

It was also an impossible job, but it was his for the duration.


Theology was the big question that the angels presented. Where they angels? If they were angels, did this prove the existence of god? Did this prove that the Judeo Christian god was real? Were all the other religions wrong?

It was several months after the Dylan’s Saturday phone message before they announced who they were.

“Fear not!” they said, “We are angels of the lord.”

That was all they said by way of explanation. No one had ever seen one, and they could have been anything, but the press grabbed a hold of the angel message and that was the name that pretty much everyone had called them ever since. They were certainly miraculous, in any case.


Dylan was a writer by trade, and he wondered if that had anything to do with his early call. He was a science writer, or had been a science writer, and he’d authored several medium popular books on various subjects. He wasn’t a household name by any stretch of the imagination, but he made a living, which was essentially the dream of any writer.

Causality. The angels were not, apparently, constrained to one spot in time. When they delivered their messages, it was impossible to know whether they were talking about now, then, or the future. It appeared that everything they said was true, but there was no good way, most of the time, to know when it was true.

Which raised all kinds of questions. Dylan wanted to know, so he was collecting stories and trying to corroborate the messages with actual events. It was harder than it sounded, and it didn’t really sound easy to begin with.

Once it had gotten out that he was apparently patient zero for the angels, his days of not being a household name were over. It was a dubious kind of fame, and it resulted in quite a lot of religious people that either held that he was some sort of prophet or, possibly, the antichrist. Opinions varied.

But it had allowed him to start the project, which he had sold to a publisher for enough money that he probably wouldn’t have to work again.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Until Dawn - 11

“So what do you want to do?” he said.

“Well, we could –“

She stopped when the lights went out. Tom wasn’t afraid of the dark, and neither was Dani, but he felt a little chill when everything went dark. There’s a difference between the kind of tamed darkness you get at night when the lights are out and what you get when the power goes. The house was pitch black and dead silent and it wasn’t a comfortable feeling.

“Oh for fuck’s sake,” Dani said.

“The snow?”

“It’s got to be. If it were a fuse or something they’re still be some lights.”

He heard pawing around at the table. She knocked over her glass of Diet Dr. Pepper.


And then there was light. Not much, but the sickly blue light from Dani’s cellphone was a relief. The soda was soaking pretty much entire through her math book. Tom could see her face in the glow. She looked pissed. He resisted the urge to say anything.

She got up and went into the kitchen. It lit up and she stuck her head in the doorway.

“Are you going to help or what?”

“Oh. Ah. Sure.”

Dani’s dad was a cop, so it was no surprise he was pretty well stocked in case of an emergency. There were flashlights, which was helpful, and a bunch of those little lamp things. She handed him four of those.

“Go out these in the living room and the dining room,” she said. It was in that tone that said that this was not a request and made him feel like he was in second grade and being told what to do by Mrs. Gresko. Tom figured she probably learned it from her father, or possibly it was some rogue policeman DNA that she’d inherited. Either way, he did what he was told.

Dani picked up the phone. Nothing. No dial tone. She frowned. She didn’t actually mind living out in the boonies, as such, but it was pretty easy to lose contact with the outside world. One downed telephone pole and that was pretty much it. She checked her cell, too, even though she knew there was no service out here. Surprisingly, there was no service out here.

She looked out the window and didn’t see much. It was a full moon tonight, but the clouds and snow were so heavy that instead of being completely black out there was a kind of grayness to the dark. Not enough to see anything. Dani frowned.

The problem was that she didn’t know how long the snow was going to last. Normally, the power outages didn’t last all that long, so the house wouldn’t get too cold. The heat was electric, though, because he father and her weren’t home enough to tend to a coal fire through the winter.

But no power, no heat. They had a fireplace, but she wasn’t sure if it was worth sending Tom out into the snow to get some woods and go through all the effort of starting a fire if the power was going to kick back on in a couple of minutes.

She opened the kitchen door and looked out at the deck. At least a foot of snow already, and it was coming down in a thick white sheet.

“Tom,” she said, “I need you to do me a favor”

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Until Dawn - 10

Dani Swift rubbed her eyes and glanced at the clock. Not late, but she’d been staring at the book for hours and wasn’t sure that she was actually retaining any information at all. She stretched her arms out above her head and flexed her spine. This seemed to rouse Tom from a pizza induced coma.

“You do realize that there is precisely zero chance of us actually going to school tomorrow,” he said.

“Spoken like someone carrying a C average.”

“C is average! It’s fine.”

“Uh huh.”

“I already got accepted to Ship?”

“Ship is just Walnut Hills, the sequel.”

Tomy sighed. This particular conversation was a lost cause. He was supposed to be studying, too, and he was a little frustrated that their study session had, in fact, ended up involving actual studying. He looked over at Dani and the only thing that he was interested in studying was her.

Dani looked out the window, and even with the pole light, she couldn’t see a thing. It was almost like watching static on a television screen. Tom was right, they weren’t going anywhere tomorrow. Actually, she was pretty sure that they weren’t going anywhere tonight. She closed her book and looked at Tom.

“Okay. I’m just about studied out, anyhow.”

“That’s more like it.”

“So what do you want to do?”

He smiled at her at started rubbing the back of her neck. She closed her eyes and he leaned in for a kiss. He got a faceful of palm.

“Yeah, that’s not going to happen. For one thing, my father will probably walk in the door about four seconds after you get your pants off, and he will tear you into small little pieces.”

“Hey, I’m not scared of your Dad.”

“That’s because you’re not very bright.”

She grinned at him and he grinned back, in spite of himself. She wasn’t what you would call beautiful, not like a model or anything, but with her red hair in a ponytail and her freckles and her dimples so was just so damn cute.

He leaned back in his chair. While watching her studying was by no means a bad way to spend an evening, he was getting a little bored. He’d tried studying but that was actually worse.