Serpentine Willow

Lee Andrew Forman crafts macabre splendors in “Serpentine Willow,” a tale of one mother’s dedication, deep in the heart of terror. Lee’s impresses with slick transitions, ghastly details and horrific monsters. Read this and reread it and tell others to follow suit because this story is everything a horror fan wants in a quick read.

Rebecca’s toes curled in her boots when her feet touched the unholy earth. Ancient trees populated the forest ahead, pale fog twisting between their trunks with serpentine grace. Gnarled limbs formed an impenetrable canopy above, coloring all with a nocturnal hue. Tendrils of mist slithered around her legs, and her knees ached to buckle, but she forced herself on; she knew fear would bring demise.

She thought of Oliver. His shining face cast iron rods into her bones. It kept her from succumbing to the black moss which grabbed at her feet. His smile, the way he always wanted his sandwiches without the crust, his unending questions—memories that powered her will.

Movement in the brush clenched her jaw. But her eyes never averted the path; they stared forward, glazed with determination, intent only on reaching the end. After that it wouldn’t matter.

A clearing opened ahead. Rebecca stopped and…

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The Box

Mark Steinwachs delivers a gripping tale on last weeks Pen of the Damned. This, this story right here, is fantastic. Mark weaves modern horror with his straightforward narrative and quick tension. Delve into the realism of his terror.

The buzzing invades your brain. Why is the alarm clock going off? You begin to open your eyes and realize it’s not the alarm, but the doorbell. Who the hell is at my door at— rolling over, the clock finishes your thought by flashing 3:10 a.m.

You slide out of bed. As your feet touch the floor, the buzzing stops. You get up anyway and walk through the empty house to the front door to see if someone is there. There’s no one on the porch when you look through the peephole. You unlock the door, open it. On the ground in front of you is a small cardboard box. Stepping over it, you look around the front yard and glance up and down the street. Everything is quiet. You scoop the package up and walk into the house, kicking the door shut behind you.

Something solid moves…

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Crying

Jon Olson drops the hammer on this weeks Pen of the Damned! It’s a brutal sort of tale with a suspenseful tempo and a horrific finale. The details are vivid, the ghosts are eerie, and the tone is blunt. This is twisted modern horror, friends, and I hope you enjoy. Well done Jon!

The house was silent.

James’ wife Kate was in bed, no longer nagging him while his son slept quietly in his room. His cries had a way of penetrating deep into James’ head.

Sitting on the shitty brown couch his in-laws had given them as a wedding present, James enjoyed the silence.

Then his father spoke.

“Is that kid of yours going to cry tonight?”

James talked to his father every night, whether he wanted to or not; he always told James how to live his life.

The old man was more overbearing now than when he was alive.

“No, he’s not,” James replied.

“Yes, he will.”

Ignoring his father, he tried to find something decent to watch until Kate called from their bedroom.

“Honey, the air conditioner cut out again! Can you come take a look at it?”

“Tell her to suck it up,” the old man…

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Afterthoughts for Cleaning House

This afterthought is my own. The views, opinions and past stories of my life are in no way a reflection of how the folks at Pen of the Damned feel. If you read this before reading “Cleaning House”, then you’re a silly goose. Go read that first and make sure to give your support to Pen of the Damned and the rest of the writers.

We craft nightmares, we mold modern horror, and we do it, for you.

Now, with that aside….

My mother taught me early in life to manage my negative feelings by writing them down on paper. And she was vague about it, too. So, if I was pissed at a pine cone, I’d jot down a scathing paragraph, or if a friend was being an a-hole, I’d write a nasty bit about them. That coping skill took a break and resurfaced in my high school years, where I transformed most of my ill feelings into stories. Today I rely on it to maintain my sanity sane and to mold stories from an idea to something substantial.

I do vent by expressing verbal displeasure with the day-to-day nonsense; sometimes more often then I’d like to. I have the curse of gab. I would call it a gift, but I tend to get myself into trouble with my words more often than naught. I’m one to speak before I think and that is how I have been for as long as I can remember. I can blame it on this or that—my ADHD, my brain, my current dispositions on whatever—it would all make sense in a way and I would probably stand correct on some levels; at least to myself, if no one else.

But at the end of the day, at the finale of my life, that is just who I am.

“Cleaning House” was a way to combine my uncontrollable mouth with my craft. Those who have worked with me know my ultimate detest of Today’s workforce. I’ve been vocal about it since sobriety entered the fray and those feelings at one point never passed through a filter. I would say what was on my mind and that was that.

I’ve toned down a bit, and I would never dispatch an entire crew of self-centered, self-serving and selfish Millennials, or any living creature for that matter. Especially with a concoction of cleaners guised as “homebrewed solutions”.

I feel that this disclaimer is important.

I wouldn’t say that I’ve lost faith. I work with a few individuals who are of that generation and they impress the hell out of me. Yet I still find the overwhelming mass of Millennials to be ignorant, lazy and self-entitled. It stifles progress. Brent is exhausted and the definite example of burnt-out. The invitation for illogical decisions and knee-jerk reactions are welcomed to him. He is demoralized, defeated, and desperate. And it happens all the time. He feels helpless and that abandonment squeezes his motivation, slowly sapping it away until nothing remains.

Want to fire someone for attendance? Gotta’ go through Human Resources first. Catch someone drinking on the job? Shit, I should probably check to see if there has been a write up before I move forward to termination.

But Brent found his out. Instead of wasting any more time daydreaming a fool’s errand, he acted on the underlying nightmare that echoed in the burrows of his mind. He knew that oblivious minds would fold to the incentive of going home early; the praise he gave his workers fed their suffocating self-worth. Anyone who doesn’t want to be at work will take that dangling carrot and run whilst knowing that they’d come back. Even the shittiest employees still need money. Insubordination is a tool sometimes utilized to gain leverage, and when he told them to take off after they cleaned room twelve, he knew that they would comply and not buck-up against his request. Brent exploited this and lured them into his trap, and along the way, he found confidence and elation to the changes that were down the pike for not only himself, but for the people he cared for.

The workers in this story are all a part of my past. Marco, the stimulant-railing junkie was me when I’d preach while being drunk on the clock. Jimmy Nelson, the goof who was more involved in his cellphone than anything else, was me when I was not being a team player, even though I had the skills to help. Selma, the frowning, miserable soul who reminded others to work while she only judged, was me when I wanted to only spread disgust instead of positivity. Crystal sold herself on a plate of lies to gain a position that paid more while doing less. When Brent caught her stealing, she knew just what to say and what to do to keep her spot. Yup, that too was me. I’d play the system to get another check or two before leaving to whatever job I could find.

I’m not the perfect employee. I have things that I can improve upon. This story isn’t a means to set myself apart from everyone else, but I do have a work ethic that is hard to match, and as a Millennial, I take pride in that. I was Brent in a few ways. I want to make change, quick. I want to shelve formalities and make progress. I sometimes make irrational choices so that change can occur, regardless of the potential fallout. Brent took it and methodically implemented his plan. And at that very moment when he locked his staff in room twelve and the fumes began to eat away at their existence that he made phenomenal strides at making life easier and stressful for not only himself, but for those that he supported.

And he even took Mr. Rimski out for barbecue.

To those who fall in the ranks of being an asshole Millennial:

Put down the cellphone, give a shit about someone else and do the fucking job. It is going to be hard, I know. The rewards will be great, and your boss may not become a Brent. He might be a Kent. Or a Jill—fuck I don’t know. But he won’t be looking at you with thoughts of,

“I’d rather have a corpse doing the job than this useless puke,” or, “Please clock in late one more time so I can start the termination process.”

Writing is harsh. It is meant to extend ideas into a fictional world that will generate emotions. Yeah, this is a harsh story and a brutal afterthought, but that’s life.

Thanks for reading.

John Potts Jr.

Cleaning House

Written by me! Embrace the Unraveling of Your Fears, or in this case, one man’s answer to the incompetency of Today’s workforce! And stop by to check out my Afterthought as to why I wrote something so brutal and twisted. Enjoy!

The blinds were shut, and that meant it was Thursday.

It was the only day of the week when Brent would remove himself from the floor. He’d lock his door, turn off the fluorescent lights, and play seventies rock; usually Zeppelin or Sabbath. This was his office time, the time he dedicated to monotonous managerial duties that ate away at him, bit by bit, and Brent would eventually get to them before he went home. But he’d first lean back in his chair, close his eyes, and spend hours daydreaming. He never cast lustful strings of fantasies nor did he muse over troves of impossible wealth. What Brent wanted was simple, and at the very least, fair.

In his haze was Jimmy Nelson, tall and amiable, complimenting the residents of his sober living home while he passed their medication, and he’d notice Selma Ashton, who finally forced a smile…

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