Thursday, December 25, 2008

Just in time for Christmas!

Seriously, I've never gone from an idea (it hit last night on Christmas Eve) to story so fast. It's the season that does it to me, I guess. Anyway, dear friends, I hope you enjoy this...and to one and all and your loved ones -- especially you, dear Yen -- Merry Chirstmas.

You'd Better Watch Out...

A different kind of Christmas story by Charles Spencer

Little Billy was always a naughty boy.

Naughty, and worse. In fact, for the entire past year, little Billy was an 8-year-old terror to his family and peers. He did a lot of bad things, from smearing his own shit on the mirrors in the girl's restrooms at his grade school to inserting himself into neighborhood snowball fights and the rest of the kids would run because his ammunition was snow-packed rocks to making his little sister trip and fall down half a flight of steps. In the worst cases, like when he nearly killed his own sister, he feigned innocence and said the classic four words, "I didn't do it!" Sometimes, he could point the way to the kid who 'really' did it (thanks to evidence he'd planted in a school locker or wherever was appropriate)...sometimes when he couldn't his parents, who both worked and therefore didn't have enough time for their kids, took too much of the blame for his actions on themselves.

But they couldn't have known about the things he did that were far, far worse. No one could have known little Billy was gradually developing a total lack of empathy for anyone and anything...he had become what psychologists would call a 'borderline sociopath', and it would only take a few years before he crossed that border. Unseen, he satisfied himself with pulling the wings off of flies and moths when they were unlucky enough to be slow in reacting to the boy. He graduated to much bigger prey very quickly. One day, unseen, little Billy took a puppy from the back yard of a neighbor...the furry little animal that couldn't have done the boy any harm was quickly carried to another neighbor's home where the parents had left for work, and he was shoved into a microwave oven in the kitchen. The boy turned it on 'high' and left to watch what would happen from outside through one of the kitchen windows.

That had been in the early fall, and the police were still investigating the incident as December was coming to a close...they didn't have a lot to work with since the cheaply-made microwave and the puppy exploded.

December was coming to a close...indeed, it was the night of December the 24th, Christmas Eve, as little Billy laid in his bed feeling restless and without remorse for any of the things he'd done. Like any little girl and boy across America and most of the world, he knew about Santa Claus. Unlike nearly every little girl and boy, though, little Billy didn't believe in Santa and he definitely didn't care. He did care about the presents that would be waiting for him under the tree tomorrow. (He stealthily found out what he'd get in spite of the rest of the family...his parents didn't hide the gifts before they could wrap them well enough.)

If little Billy had believed in Santa, he still wouldn't have cared less about the jolly old elf and that he discriminated in giving gifts only to those girls and boys who were good. The boy didn't care about anything except what he wanted. If he had believed, he would have laid in wait for Saint Nick to arrive and then he'd try to steal something, anything from his mythical bag of toys.

All the same, little Billy didn't believe.

Whether he did believe or not, however...there were some things he couldn't have known.

Little Billy hadn't been able to sleep...that was why, only a few minutes past 12:00 a.m. on December the 25th, he heard something.

It was a very slight sound, but distinctive, from above him...from the roof? It was a collection of footfalls -- no, that wasn't quite right. Little Billy couldn't help but wonder what it was. A moment later, he did feel was as if something in the air had changed. There was an energy in the air he couldn't understand, and little Billy felt fear press around him like he was in the constricting coils of a python.

Someone was in the house...but as quickly as he realized that, the door to his bedroom opened quickly yet soundlessly.

Little Billy sat up in bed staring with fear at the sight he saw.

It was Saint Nicholas...Kris Kringle...Santa Claus. It was undeniable. He looked exactly like every traditional greeting card and painting and advertisement of one kind or another presented him. Tall and fat, covered in red and white except for his gloved hands and heavy boots, with a red and white cap that barely covered his elf's ears. His face was partly obscured by the snow-white hair that made up his beard...and yet...

...and yet...

...little Billy was surprised by something about Santa's expression. His eyes were hard above his red nose. Not jolly and full of joy, as any girl and boy (even little Billy) expected, but judging.

With a mystical blur of speed, Santa Claus was at his bedside and harshly grabbed the back of little Billy's neck with one huge gloved hand. The boy didn't even have the chance to scream as he suddenly saw himself rocket out of his room, down the stairs and then up the chimney to the flat roof of his home with Santa in the space of a couple of heartbeats. He didn't know anything about magic and the many things it could make possible, but he felt the urge to throw up from being carried up here so fast and his heart almost stopped when he saw the massive, unworldly sleigh and the reindeer reined to it. (Hooves, little Billy realized, he'd heard hooves...) In the sleigh were two more elves in green, one male and one female, and they looked at Santa with expressions of adoration.

But their expressions changed dramatically when they looked at little Billy, being carried to the sleigh literally by the scruff of his neck in Santa's hand. They both looked at him with hard faces, like Santa did. The lady elf said neutrally, "Tis good we have this one, finally." She spoke like she knew the boy...or knew of him.

Santa said in his deep, resonant voice, "Indeed...of all the naughty girls and boys on my list, I have waited too long for this one." His list, little Billy thought with fear...his list he checked find out...

The male elf nodded. "He is fit for nothing but the bag, then." The bag was huge and seemed to be made of thick woven fiber like burlap, and it took up most of the room in the huge sleigh.

"Open it," Saint Nick said without ceremony, and his fellow elves untied its strap that kept it opened, and little Billy couldn't see anything inside but darkness. But the bag looked full, he should have seen something, anything, in there. But there was nothing at all, only darkness that seemed to stare back at him. The great elf in red and white then turned Billy in his grip so they would look at each other. It was then Santa simply said, "I shall not see this world become even worse because of those naughty like you when you grow up. Because you are naughty, Billy, you are deserving of one thing. The Abyss."

Santa threw little Billy into the bag, then...his servants cinched it closed as they heard the boy scream. The scream didn't stop, but grew fainter and fainter. As if he was falling a great distance.
And that was the truth.

The lady elf smiled brightly and said, "Thankfully, there are not many more of the naughty to collect out there."

Her male counterpart offered, "Then we can focus on giving to the good, like always."

"True enough," Santa said as he took his seat in the great sleigh with them. It was unfortunate, but the worsening state of the world demanded that he give one more gift to everyone, besides all that he gave to the good little girls and boys. It was that he rid the world of the worst of the naughtiest of children, so they wouldn't take all things and people past the brink.

Santa managed a smile, then. It wasn't too much of a change in his normal his speed, he would be done within half an hour, so he could get back to giving instead of taking. He took up the reins to his reindeer and commanded, "Up, up and AWAY!" The reindeer brightened as they gathered their own power and then took off pulling the sleigh behind them like a golden comet...but they didn't travel in the sky too far.

The next naughty child wasn't that far away....

This story is the copyright (2008) of Charles Spencer, and is the sole property of the author. No part of this story may be reproduced or transmitted, by electronic means or otherwise, without the express permission of the author.

Monday, December 22, 2008

"Mother's Day", a short story

Don't worry, friends, my calendar isn't off...I know Christmas is only a few days away. (Where the blue blazes does the time go, anyway? I know I'm not the only one to think time is running by too fast.) What I have here in this short story I wrote some time ago is a special tribute to mothers, but it's written in my own blood-soaked way. You'll get a good idea of what kind of horror and fantasy (not so much fantasy in this instance!) I like to write. Strap yourself in and enjoy...


A tribute written by Charles Spencer

The woman stared at the zombie horde without fear.

There were dozens of them shambling toward her on the field of the desolate, abandoned military base as she waited for them in front of a fortified bunker, and they could only be described as zombies. They were in varied states of decomposition, from some that could still be recognizable as human to those that were literally falling apart, bit by bit, with each step they took. Their stench preceded them and steamrolled the woman's senses like a freight train at full throttle. Those zombies that still had eyes, while the others who lost theirs to decomp used their sense of smell to compensate in searching for living prey, looked at her without humanity. Without soul. They were capable only of looking at the woman who stared back at them in turn with the pure, ravenous hunger for healthy flesh and blood that made them zombies. Of course their hunger was directed at those uninfected, like the woman they approached eagerly, for to feed on each other's rotting meat and gangrenous fluids would have provided little sustenance.

For this woman, for all the uninfected, these stupid yet deadly creatures could only be called zombies. It was the only way the uninfected could hold any form of order. Perhaps even hold to their sanity.

But the woman, a soldier who didn't overlook the irony she was about to face battle in this desolate base her superiors decided was to be abandoned in the frantic early days of The Global Plague so its personnel and resources could be directed to more strategic locations, knew no fear as the stupid yet deadly horde approached her, still about eighty yards distant. She was beautiful by the collective standard Humanity used to judge such things, her skin as pale as a DaVinci sculpture under strawberry-red hair shorn short close to her scalp. Her uniform, however, was dirty and worn from days of running since she escaped the uninfected enclave overrun by zombies, and obscured for the most part the rest of her beauty. She had been running for days, holding with her close nearly every waking moment (and especially when she allowed herself to sleep) what she valued the most in this ruined world. Here, finally, what she valued above all other things was in the bunker behind her, sealed behind an electronic lock. She wouldn't let the zombies even get close to what she valued more than her own life as she stood before the bunker.

She would have suffered anything before that happened.

The zombies seventy yards distant, she raised the carbine she held at her side to her shoulder, an M-16A2. On semi-auto, she began firing carefully at the creatures, willing her hands not to shake as she held the rifle. Nearly each bullet she sent was a headshot, one of the only ways known to truly neutralize zombies. (Another method, decapitation, wasn't so guaranteed since the infected rarely hunted independently...sometimes in pairs, but more often in groups that could number as many as hundreds. They held the rudiments of the pack mentality of animals searching for the same thing: food.) Her carbine went dry and she switched clips briskly as the horde attempted to quicken their pace with threatened, collective moans of effort mixed heavily with anger. The woman's ordinarily soft eyes stayed hard and narrow with intent as she continued to fire...every few seconds, the back of a zombie's head exploded violently into the air as a bullet sheared through their animal brain. But she was only whittling them a knife would slowly shave away at a thick piece of wood a bit at a time.

But she already had known it would take time, too much time, to destroy this horde that had been hunting her and what she most treasured for the better part of a day. Their numbers were their greatest advantage. But she was a few hours ahead of the things that wanted to feast on her.

That meant she had at least a little time, before the zombies arrived, to prepare for them. When she found what was at the base, she knew that she could. And she would do anything to protect what she most treasured. She would even die, and gladly.

The horde reached within fifty yards of her. Just as she realized it would happen at any moment, one of the shambling things broke the invisible laser beam that crossed its path. Before The Global Plague, what seemed to her a lifetime ago, she had received many commendations as a soldier...because of her proficiency in the fields of electronics and mechanical engineering.

In the little time she had, the woman put that proficiency to use.

The laser beam came from one side of the field where the zombies were, and the moment it was broken it triggered the .50-caliber Browning belt-fed machine guns resting atop three Humvees, which were left behind in the rush by those who abandoned the base long ago. They still worked, were still able to fulfill the purpose for which they were made, and did so by firing simultaneously on the horde, their barrels weighted down by the woman to guarantee their aim across the field would be stable.

The bullets ripped across the field, and literally tore the lion's share of the remaining zombies apart in the process. Limbs were sheared away from some...others seemed to explode under the withering assault and the air surrounding them turned into a gentle mist of crimson. Those that weren't destroyed immediately by the Brownings were put down by the woman and her rifle.

The woman, in her soul, couldn't afford to look at the creatures before her as once human. Once uninfected. Once alive and full of dignity and freedom and hope. She could only afford to see them as enemies, targets that had to be destroyed by any means. For the sake of what was left in this ruined world for her to protect. For the sake of her protection of what was closest to her heart, she could only see them as zombies.

It was the only way the survivors of The Global Plague could describe such infected, ever since a long-forgotten faction of terrorists who hated and feared a world that wasn't in their image unleashed their viral weapon. The biological agent, untried outside of the controlled conditions in which it was created before it was deployed into the lower atmosphere of the planet, was believed by the terrorists to be completely lethal. If only it had been.

But in this ruined world, as the woman approached the remains of the horde, she still had something she held more sacred than anything, even her duty to the remnants of her nation and those she swore her life to protect. She would do anything for the sake of protecting what was most important to her, as she surveyed the bodies of the zombies and had to use her .45-caliber pistol to execute the few that still twitched and moaned hungrily in spite of their being ravaged by the woman's trap. She would rather have gone to Hell itself if she couldn't protect what she most treasured.

When the woman was done, she returned to the bunker, knowing she would have to modify the trap she created considerably just in case more zombies searching for food came upon the base.

She bypassed the electonic lock for the bunker again, as she did when she first arrived, and she entered.

The woman's beautiful face softened the moment she saw the one she most treasured again.

The child, a little girl only eight years old, asked softly, "Is it over?"

The woman nodded. "Yes, it'll be okay. We're safe...and hopefully, it won't be too long before a rescue team comes for us." She had found a damaged SINGCARS in the bunker, and as she waited she repaired it and managed to get through to a field commander. It would be a few hours before help arrived, but for the first time in days she had reason to hope.

So did the little girl, who like the woman had red hair. Her pale skin was luminous. "Are you okay?"

The woman lowered on one knee in front of the girl and wondered if the child would escape freckles, like she did growing up. Her smile was soft when she answered, "As long as I'm with you, honey."

The little girl knew it was the truth, looking at the one she most cherished in turn. "And I'll be okay when I'm with you. Always." The girl's eyes became solemn and full of adoration. "I love you, mommy."

Again, the woman was so thankful for her treasure it threatened to bring her to tears. She wrapped her arms around her daughter and they held each other tight in the silent half-light of the bunker. "I love you too, baby. I love you so much."

"I know as long as I'm with you, the monsters won't get us," her daughter said, full of confidence.

"Oh, they will never get ahold of you," the mother said, not caring for herself but for the one she brought into this world. "The monsters will never get you as long as I'm here. Never."

They waited barely three hours together before the rescue teams arrived.

This story is the copyright (2007) of Charles Spencer, and is the sole property of the author. No part of this story may be reproduced or transmitted, by electronic means or otherwise, without the express permission of the author.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Getting there, slow but sure

From the Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary:


(The intransitive verb, specifically.)

1 a (1): a royal journey marked by pomp and pageant (2): a state procession
b: a tour or circuit made by an official (as a judge)
c: an expedition, journey, or march through a region
2: a forward or onward movement (as to an objective or to a goal): advance
3: gradual betterment; especially: the progressive development of humankind

I've been thinking about progress in that it means 'gradual betterment', or society in general progresses forward over a period of time.

I've been thinking about it because in this day and age, things should be easier than they were ten years ago. Right? Things can change for the better in a decade.


Well, the answer is yes and no. Take the holiday season, for example. Even with the Internet, miniturization of technology to create widgets like 'smart phones', and going green, things haven't really improved when the holiday season hits. We still can't quite drive safely on snow- and ice-slick streets. Instead of communicating with one another better, we're each more isolated than ever. We still get a little stupid, and in too many ways to count. And of course, it's a game of catch-up just to get one thing or the other done. Many will be fortunate to be done Christmas shopping by the 24th.

Which is my way of explaining why I'm still trying to get my ducks in a row with this blog at this time, and I must offer my apologies.

Things will be up and running on all cylinders here soon, guaranteed, and on a regular basis...happy holidays!

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Bringing the Lightning

A dear friend of mine, Yen, suggested I should start a blog here...therefore, for those who stumble upon this, this will be my attempt at an introduction to you.

For those of you who don't know me, my name is Charles Spencer, and I'm a writer who wants to make his written word known. What I write is what excites me the most...what I write is based in genres of fiction that excite me, too. My greatest inspiration has been Stephen King, but other authors from Laurell K. Hamilton and Mickey Spillane to Andrew Vachss and Tom Clancy have been dramatic influences. The focus of my writing power, in the end, is in both fantasy and horror. It isn't just the case I want to express myself that makes me want to write. Hell, one day what I really want to do is write and direct films for a living. But for now, I'm more than content to write.

I've even written a novel I'm self-publishing...a full-throttle beast of a book called "Hell Knight". I'll tell you where you can find it soon enough. You'll even see short stories I've written here on this blog from time to time in the future. But as I said, I don't simply want to express myself. I want to excite people, and failing that, I'll probably put some noses out of joint and offend some of you out there. I want my written word to be known, but how to do that?

There's only one way not caring if what you want to write and what you want read will offend or not.

The way is by bringing the lightning, and I'll explain what that means.

A little over a decade before the calendar turned to the Twentieth Century, there was another author who didn't care if he put noses out of joint or not. He wrote what he wanted to write. And I have no doubt that like me and other writers Samuel Langhorne Clemens, who became best known as Mark Twain, wanted his voice heard. And I think he encapsulated that in something he wrote in 1888:

"The difference between the right word and the almost right word is really a large matter -- it's the difference between a lightning bug and the lightning."

To be a writer, to earn readers and to be known, to have your written word read, I imagine Mark Twain had to know you couldn't just float through life issuing your light in time with the rest of the lightning bugs around you. You had to be brighter. You had to be lightning, in both brightness and impact. He often put noses out of joint, so to speak, with his writing and his view of the world illustrated by those words. And he often wrote what was almost right...what some could easily (and eagerly, I'd suspect) take offense to. These days, I have no doubt that 'almost right' in his time would be called 'incorrect' in ours.

This is how I see his words, anyway. This is how I want to write. And if I'm not mistaken, Stephen King did his fair share of offending, too. Like King and Twain, though, I'm not here to offend. I want to write what excites me, and what I believe will excite many of you.

But there's another reason why I think of the lightning when I want to earn those of you as readers who might be excited by what I have to offer you. It's because of something else Mark Twain wrote exactly twenty years after that statement about right words and almost right words. You might agree when you put this statement in context with the last...

"Thunder is good, thunder is impressive; but it is lightning that does the work."