Wednesday, September 29, 2021

Wednesday Briefs: An Unholy Alliance #18 (5.2)

Good morning and Happy Hump Day ! If it's Wednesday, then it must be time for more flash fiction from the Wednesday Briefers! We're a group of authors who bring you our finest flash fiction every week, 500 to 1000 words, inspired by one of our prompts.  

Leaving Tyrone behind, Char is on his way to talk to a woman who may have answers he's looking for when he comes across some rednecks having fun with guns. Deciding to skirt the situation, Char finds himself outed by a dog! See what's going on in this week's chapter of An Unholy Alliance. Don't forget to visit the other Briefers and see what's up with them. Their links follow my tale! Enjoy!

An Unholy Alliance #18 (5.2)

So much for making a stealthy exit.

If there’d only been one of them, I could have ended the matter quickly and efficiently and been on my way. Four, however, was a bit trickier which I realized as his friends came rushing up, no doubt to see what was going on.  Not that I couldn’t handle them, but I was loathe to make a fuss. And I had things to do that didn’t include going toe-to-toe with a group of drunken rednecks. I eyed them all suspiciously while calculating my next move.

“Who the hell’s this guy?” This came from Caleb, the one with lady issues. He glared at me, his anger no doubt fueled by the needling he’d just received at the hands of his buddies.

“Yeah, who the hell are you?” Donny the target setter repeated, as if I was hard of hearing or something. Or too stupid to realize they were speaking about me.

“I’m asking the questions here.” This came from Frank the dog owner, asserting his right to be top dog among this group of idiots. Not as though that was any sort of honor, but perhaps it was the highest one he could ever aspire to.

Speaking of the dog, he was still barking his furry butt off at me. Not aggressively, but more of an I’m here, pay attention to me manner. I could have flung him from me easily with one sure motion of my foot and thus ended his yapping. But I had no desire to harm the creature. I am not a cruel man I assure you despite the perhaps less-than-perfect first impression gained of me at the start of my tale.  Not to mention this pup seemed so very glad to see me, for reasons I could not fathom. In that regard, he reminded me of Tyrone.

I had to stop thinking about him. That was becoming a bad habit, one I needed to break as soon as possible. There was no way our paths would ever cross again.

The key here was to present myself as non-threatening to these morons so as not to provoke them into doing something stupid and or unwarranted. Like trying to fight with me. That would have been a losing proposition on their part. The only advantage they had over me was that they were armed and I was not. Not in any traditional way, that is. On the other hand, while I could have dealt with being injured, I was not about to allow myself to be shot when I could prevent that from happening. Still, I’d rather not resort to such tactics if I could avoid them.

I just wanted to be on my way, as quickly and as peaceably as possible.

“I’m just passing through,” I replied, although technically that wasn’t an answer to their question. But it was as close to one as they were going to get from me. I held up my hands in what I meant as a placating gesture, at the same time edging away from them. Unfortunately, they weren’t having any of that.

The four of them immediately spread out, encircling me. I spun warily, not sure what their intentions were. Not even sure they knew what those were. They certainly had no idea who they were dealing with.

“That’s a mighty fancy suit you have there.” That was Donny’s contribution. “You a drug dealer or something?”

Lawyers and drug dealers. Figured.

“Why, you looking for a new one?” I shot off. Probably not the best response I could have made under the circumstances, but sometimes I couldn’t seem to help myself. Sarcasm came naturally to me.

“Why, waddya selling?” That from the heretofore silent unnamed member of the group, the one who’d been playing with his weapon. Which he still held cradled in the crook of one arm, no doubt for easy access.

“Shut up, Joey,” Frank snarled. “You stupid or something?”

I snickered. Was that meant to be a rhetorical question?

“Yeah,” Caleb piped up. “For all you know, he’s a narc.”

“Like you’d know?” Frank accompanied his retort with a snort as he turned toward his friend, his dog and I at least momentarily forgotten. “Remember that guy you thought was some kind of undercover DEA or something? But it turned out he was just someone your girlfriend worked with. And he was the one she was cheating on you with.”

This produced a chorus of titters. Damn, I needed to get away from these fools. Just breathing the same air they did might put me in danger of my IQ dropping a few points.

“Come to think of it, wasn’t he black?” Joe added.

I groaned inwardly at the horrendous turn this conversation had just taken as four heads swiveled toward me in predictable unison.

“It wasn’t me,” I added helpfully. “Not my cup of tea.” Probably shouldn’t have said that, in retrospect.

“You mean my girlfriend’s not good enough for you?” Caleb took a threatening step toward me, gun still in hand. He was plainly working himself up over nothing, a clear case of bruised ego. The situation was becoming so ridiculous it was almost funny.

“You mean your ex,” Donny reminded him.

That seemed to be the straw that broke the proverbial dromedary’s back. Caleb let out a strangled cry and raised his weapon into firing position. But rather than venting his anger where it belonged, I found that he was targeting me, at point-blank range, no less.

I was having none of that. Before he had a chance to squeeze the trigger, I knocked the barrel aside and took a swing at him, connecting with his face, a punch that knocked him off his feet, flat on his back.

Three guns cocked simultaneously.

 to be continued

Now go see what's up with the other Briefers!

Cia Nordwell









Tuesday, September 28, 2021

Book review: The Way of the Househusband, Vol 6 by Kousuke Oono


The Way of the Househusband, Vol 6      

Author: Kousuke Oono

Publisher: Viz Media

American release date: September 21, 2021

Format/Genre/Length: Paperback/Manga/Comedy/168 pages

Overall Personal Rating: ★★★★★


One of Miku’s friends confides to her that she and her husband have a problem with budgeting, as they tend to spend everything they make. So Miku, in order to help her friend, brings in an expert on the subject—Tatsu! He shows her the tricks he has learned, but couches them (as usual) in a way that makes her think he is referring to his Yakuza roots! Should she be afraid of what he wants to show her?

A member of a women’s organization approaches Tatsu. She thinks it’s time to open up membership to men. She invites him to attend the meeting of their board members, known as the Eight Dragons, to plead his case. However, when he does, one of the ladies objects. It’s up to Tatsu to win her over!

The creators of Policure, which Miku loves, are running a special promotion. Go to one of the participating toy stores and say this phrase “You’re not getting away. Coming to catch you” and you can received a special DVD. But Miku has to work, so she begs Tatsu to go for her. He agrees, but manages to forget the catch phrase before he can say it. He is saved through the intervention of a friendly guy, who then tells Tatsu another store has a different special promotion, but it requires two people to participate. Would Tatsu like to team up with him? For Miku’s sake? Of course he would!

Tatsu agrees to help out one of his contacts by bringing his Shiba, named Kotetsu, into the family on a temporary basis. When he posts pics of the cute dog, the pics are immediately noticed by someone who becomes jealous. He and his dog meet up with Tatsu and Kotetsu to compare dogs. And then he steals them away…

The owner of Café Jingi Tei wants to expand his menu to draw in women and the younger crowd. So Tatsu takes him to another café he knows of, Creamy Café, to show him how they do it. The two men compete to see who isn ‘t afraid of being less than manly by ordering some of the feminine-sounding dishes. Afterward, Tatsu makes a couple of dishes for the owner, and he is pleasantly surprised by the memories they invoke.

When Tatsu suspects Masa has a toothache, Masa lies, so he won’t have to go to the dentist. How long can he fool Tatsu?

Tatsu and Miku watch Top 100 Ghost Videos before bedtime. Miku is creeped out, but Tatsu says that’s nothing. Until he can’t sleep. Everything he tries to count becomes a violent Yakuza reference. So he decides to get up and make a little snack, which quickly becomes a meal. Will this work?

Faced with a table loaded with bread, Tatsu asks Miku what’s going on? Apparently there is a spring bread festival being sponsored by Yama Bread. You can collect the tickets to enter their sweepstakes in their products. Ten thousand lucky winners get Policure plates! Tatsu enlists Masa’s aid, but how much bread can three people really eat? Or can Tatsu do something to change it up?

Alarmed at reports of a groper in the neighborhood, Miku wants Tatsu to teach her self-defense. But what he tries to teach her isn’t quite what she had in mind. Leaving late from work one day, she finds herself accosted by a man, and begins what she perceives as a fight for her life… not recognizing poor Masa!

Another wonderful volume! I never get tired of Tatsu, or of seeing what he’s up to. Already pre-ordered the next volume, can’t wait for it to come! Please keep writing Tatsu forever! Look for bonus stories at the end. You can see it on Netflix too, both the animated comic and a live version. I prefer the animated comic, to be honest, as the other is too short and is really just Tatsu’s household hints minus the story.


Sunday, September 26, 2021

Book Review: Demon Slayer, Vol 3 by Koyoharu Gotouge


Demon Slayer, Vol 3      

Author: Koyoharu Gotouge

Publisher: Viz Media

American release date: November 6, 2018

Format/Genre/Length: Paperback/Fantasy Manga//192 pages

Overall Personal Rating: ★★★★


After a near encounter with the demon Kibutsuji, Tanjiro and Nezuko end up in the home of a demon doctor, Lady Tamayo, and her besotted assistant Yushiro. There they are attacked by two of Kibutsuji’s demons, Susamaru and Yahaba. Tanjiro has met his match with Yahaba, the arrow demon. The disdainful demon cuts Tanjiro’s opening thread, and refers to him as a dirty child. The two demons decide to take back both Tanjiro’s head and Tamayo’s, as she is a runaway, hoping to please their master. Tanjiro finds himself helpless against the manipulation of Yahaba’s arrows, but he has to succeed, he can’t afford to lose. In the meantime, Nezuko is fending off the temari balls that Susumaru is throwing at her. Tamayo finds Nezuko’s growing strength—without consuming human flesh—to be amazing.

Afterward, as they prepare to leave, Tamayo offers to keep Nezuko with them and out of harm’s way. But Tanjiro can’t bring himself to leave his sister behind, especially after seeing the look in her eyes. Together forever, that’s what they are.

Tanjiro receives another mission immediately, and on the way there, he runs across an odd fellow in the middle of the road who is begging a woman to marry him. The woman looks horrified. Tanjiro helps her out, only to discover that the whiny guy is a fellow Demon Slayer named Zenitsu. Zenitsu is a pitiful excuse for a Demon Slayer, and loudly proclaims just how weak he really is. They travel on together and encounter two trembling children outside of a house. Turns out that it’s a house of monsters and their brother is inside! Zenitsu complains of the noise coming from the house, but Tanjiro can’t hear anything.

Tanjiro leaves the box with Nezuko with the children for their protection, and takes Zenitsu into the house. But the children follow unexpectedly.  Tanjiro and the girl, whose name is Teruko, become separated from Zenitsu and the boy. Tanjiro begins to realize that the rooms change. He sees a large demon, whose smell is the strongest in the house. Meanwhile another player has entered the scene, a bare-chested fellow with a boar’s head over his head, and he’s wielding nichirin swords.

One of Demon Slayer’s strengths is its great characters. It’s hard not to like and root for Tanjiro and Nezuko, even if she is a demon. Not like it’s her fault or anything. And she goes against the grain in that she doesn’t want to hurt humans and wants to protect them instead. Ditto with Lady Tamayo, even if Yushiro is a bit of an ass.  Muzan Kibutsuji, although not seen in this volume, is a fascinating and rather charming demon – my weakness!  Now we have Zenitsu, who I find utterly whiny and spineless, but my kid assures me he has redeeming qualities, which I shall discover. I have to admit the very last scene caused me to tear up, and that involved him. The jury is still out on Mr. Boar’s Head (at this point I don’t know his name but I figured out he’s my kid’s favorite character, so I imagine I will find reason to like him too, in time).

I liked the introduction of Tamayo’s cat, who definitely serves a purpose. The demons in the house were very imaginative, especially with the moving rooms in the house, and I enjoyed that part, although I grieved at the death of one of the demon, who was actually very creative and not wholly evil.

I’m also watching the anime at the same time, and I think I am only slightly ahead of the volumes I am reading. I would recommend that too. You can find it on Crunchyroll, and I believe on Netflix too. Looking forward to the next book!


Saturday, September 25, 2021

Saturday is Horror Day #29 - Mother Krampus: The 12 Deaths of Christmas, The Hitcher (2007), Human Centipede II (Full Sequence)

 Mother Krampus: The 12 Deaths of Christmas, 

In 1921, twelve children went missing near a small town, on the 12 days of Christmas. They were said to victims of Frau Perchta, the Christmas Witch. Just before Christmas of 1992,  five children have already disappeared. Some of the parents take it upon themselves to accuse a woman they believe to be the killer, and they hang her. Before dying, she curses them. Now it's 2017, and children are disappearing once more.

Amy (Faye Goodwin) and her mother Vanessa (Claire-Maria Fox) head to visit Amy's grandfather., Alfie (Tony Manders) for the holidays. Amy's dad Wildon (Tom Bowen) isn't going with them, as he moved out two months previously - for a younger woman. Undeterred, Amy secretly calls her father, who agrees to come for dinner on Christmas. However, when he does show up, he isn't alone.

A woman turns up unexpectedly on Alfie's doorstep, one he isn't particularly happy to see. She tells him that it's happening again, despite the fact they hung the witch years ago, and tells him he has to come to a meeting. He reluctantly goes to the church, where the other parents have gathered, to discuss what to do to save their loved ones.

Well, to begin with, the title is misleading - there is no Krampus, just Frau Perchta, the Christmas

Witch. Secondly, it's a very muddy story, and it's not done particularly well. I had hopes for it at the beginning, but those soon faded. While I don't mind being mislead or misdirected, sometimes I wondered if the writer knew what they were talking about or doing.

Timing and pacing are certainly an issue here, besides the less than stellar writing and so-so acting. There's a scene early on with a babysitter and her charge, and my first thought was why does this girl have a babysitter? She's way too old to need one. Then when she requested... no, demanded... a bedtime story, I was like seriously? She proceeds to tell the babysitter not to tell her Snow White and how she got lost and lived in the woods with seven men... and she knows what was happening there. Again, seriously?

The other distracting issue for me was the casting for Amy's father. The first time I saw him, before I realized who he was, I thought he was some kind of boyfriend or something. In no way does this guy look old enough to be her father, and in contrast he makes the mother look as though she robbed the cradle.

There is a great confusion in this movie, lot of blood and gory bits, including but not limited to the eating of body parts. The witch is not particularly scary (until she attacks, and anyone would be then). The ending is strange, and makes you wonder if you're going to be tortured with more of the same. I admit I did request Mother Krampus 2 because it didn't sound like a direct sequel. I'll get back to you when I found out.

All in all, I'll give this film a shaky 1.5 Stars, and I'm being kind at that.

The Hitcher (2007)

College students Grace (Sophia Bush) and Jim (Zachary Knighton) are headed off for a break from school, going to Lake Havasu to meet up with some of Grace's friends. They haven't met Jim yet and she wants them to get to know him. Driving at night, in the rain, Jim almost runs down a figure standing in the middle of the road. After the narrow collision, they see the man headed toward them and Grace urges Jim to go on, they can send help back to him. Jim agrees and they continue on.

Later they stop at gas station for snacks and to take a bathroom break.  Jim asks about help for the motorist but the clerk tells him none is available. A semi pulls in, and a passenger hops out and heads inside. Jim realizes it must be the same guy and tries to make himself inconspicuous, but the chatty cashier gives him away, and Jim finds himself agreeing to give the man a life, to Grace's chagrin. The guy's name is John Ryder (Sean Bean).

Grace sits in back, while John sits up front, by Jim. What starts out as innocuous conversation quickly crosses a line, as the hitcher reveals himself to be less than the ideal companion. When he becomes too much to handle, Jim and Grace force him out of the car, thinking that will be the end of it and they can continue on their way.

They are sadly mistaken, however.

This movie is surely a cautionary tale of why  you should not pick up hitchhikers. To be honest, I haven't really seen a hitchhiker in years, but there was a time when I was young and foolish, and did pick hitchers up. This hitcher is not your run of the mill hitchhiker, by any means, and he makes these two young people's lives a living hell.

Sean Bean plays his usual superb villainous self, charming one moment, exceedingly creepy the next. Mostly creepy as he tries to kill Jim and Grace, and manages to kill a number of other people along the way. One can only speculate what his actual body count is. Also, why is he doing this? We never really find out, and in the end, it doesn't really matter.

This movie succeeds on many levels, not least of which is that it made me jump... more than once... and that isn't easy to do. I generally brace myself for those kinds of scenes. This film caught me unawares. Look for Neal McDonough as a New Mexico State Trooper who wants to stop Jim and Grace in their flight no matter what, unaware where the real danger lies.

I really enjoyed this film, and I'm glad to give it a solid 4 Stars.

Human Centipede 2 (Full Sequence)

Martin Lomax's life has not been an easy one. His father molested him at an early age, and sexually abused him, for which he was sent to prison. Martin (Lawrence R Harvey) is not only mentally disturbed as a result, he has limited intellectual capacity, and works in a parking garage. He is the classical loner, lives with his mother (Vivien Bridson), who blames him for her husband, whom she misses being in prison. His psychiatrist Dr Sebring (Bill Hutchens) makes house calls in order to treat him, but the good doctor has ulterior motives, and wishes to sexually use Martin himself.

Martin has a fascination with centipedes, and keeps one in a terrarium, feeding it live insects. He is also obsessed with the film The Human Centipede, and watches it constantly, dreaming of having his own human centipede someday. At some point, he decides to make his dream come true. He wants his centipede to be longer than the original, so decides on twelve as the perfect number of people for his project.

He acquires his victims from the garage where he works, couples who are just there to park their cars.

Martin utilizes a crow bar as well as a pistol to beat or shoot them into submission. One couple includes a very pregnant woman, who is carrying a toddler. Martin goes to see about renting a warehouse, a place where he can carry out his plan. And when the rental agent gets a little mouthy, he makes quick work of him. Then he takes his victims and lays them out on the floor, bound and naked, as he acquires them. Some of them he has enticed through bogus offers to audition for a Quentin Tarantino film.

The feather in Martin's cap is getting an actress from the original film to "audition". He picks her up from the airport in his van, and as she excitedly chatters about the opportunity to work with Tarantino, he drives her to the warehouse. There she mistakes the agent's luxury vehicle for Tarantino's. But when she gets inside, a whole other scenario presents itself. Soon she too is subdued, and Martin is ready to bring his plan to fruition.

First, I really suggest having seen the first film before you tackle this one. It's not the same experience without that. Secondly, this movie is not for everyone. I'm not gonna lie. The director himself, Tom Six, admits that the first film is My Little Pony compared to the second one. Lawrence Harvey is amazing as the demented Martin, deliciously creepy and repulsive and crazy. Of course, you can understand why that is, at least up to a point, considering what his father did, and the way his mother treats him, including trying to murder him in his bed. 

The film is shot in black and white, which is explained by Tom Six in an interview in the Bonus section, and I think that was a great choice to make. He makes a brief nod to Schindler's List (which I admittedly didn't catch, having not seen that) in a briefly color sequence at the end. I think everybody did a pretty good job of this, and kept it from being something schlocky or outrageous in a bad way. And, unlike the first film, this one is 100% medically inaccurate. I plan to watch the third film at some point, will review it then. I give this one a pretty solid 4 Stars.

Thursday, September 23, 2021

Book Review: Twentieth Century Boys, Vol 18: Everybody's Song by Naoki Urasawa


Twentieth Century Boys, Vol 18: Everybody’s Song       

Author: Naoki Urasawa

Publisher: Viz Media

American release date: December 27, 2011

Format/Genre/Length: Paperback/manga/paranormal/208 pages

Overall Personal Rating: ★★★★★


Otcho and the others are searching for Sanae, who went to warn the Ice Queen to call off the plans for August 20th, panicking when they can’t find her. But when she does turn up, Otcho is amazed that she did make contact, and that the Ice Queen is none other than Kanna, although that is really no surprise to him. But Sanae was unable to dissuade her from her ill-advised plans. Sanae further reveals that a guy she likes at work was singing a song that Kanna played for her on a cassette tape, but that his version went beyond what was on the tape. There is a refrain at the end: Gutarara, sudarara. Otcho perks up at that, eyes wide with wonder. Could it be…. Dare he hope…

Meanwhile at the border, there is a report of an alien invader attempting to gain entrance… and apparently he was admitted. Although it is his day off, Chono is called to action to help find the alien in their midst. They say he is carrying a guitar-shaped weapon. Huh?

Otcho catches up with Kanna, who reveals why she chose August 20th for her plans, and why she won’t change her mind. Otcho tells her what her friends did for her, and how she has to do the right thing now. And how he thinks maybe Kenji is really alive. A DJ in the middle of nowhere continues to play a particular song, even though he receives no comments, no calls regarding it. But still he plays it, hoping someone is listening. And the so-called alien begins to sing. He tells the guards, “When somebody’s singing a song, you can’t shoot them.” Suddenly they are being attacked… by a group of hippies?

Otcho and Kanna find themselves apprehended by the Confidential Guard and taken to a secure location. There, waiting for them, is none other than Manjome. And what he has to say is shocking on more than one level.

Everything is moving now with lightning swift speed, and threads are weaving together more and more, as details we’ve been missing come to light. For one thing, we see more of what Manjome did to propel Friend to where he’s at, which makes what he told Otcho and Kanna actually not as surprising as it might seem. Kanna is undergoing a crisis of faith. Can the hope and belief that her beloved Uncle Kenji is actually alive spur her to do what is right? There can be no doubt of that now, too much evidence not to believe, and I am beyond excited to have been proven right in this regard.

We are barreling toward the end. To be honest, I really don’t know how this will go. I mean, the good guys have to win, right? Right? But at the same time, what is Friend and how has he done what he did? Or did we just get a clue to that question after all?

Great volume, anxiously waiting for more!

Wednesday, September 22, 2021

Wednesday Briefs: An Unholy Alliance #17 (5.1)

 Good morning and Happy Hump Day ! If it's Wednesday, then it must be time for more flash fiction from the Wednesday Briefers! We're a group of authors who bring you our finest flash fiction every week, 500 to 1000 words, inspired by one of our prompts.  

Having left Tyrone at the library, Charlemagne is headed somewhere in the middle of nowhere to talk to a genealogist when a shot brings him up short. What is going on? See what's happening in this week's chapter of An Unholy Alliance. Don't forget to visit the other Briefers and see what's up with them. Their links follow my tale! Enjoy!

An Unholy Alliance #17 (5.1)

Immediately I assumed a defensive posture, taking refuge behind the nearest tree so I could assess the situation. Annoyed at my own carelessness, I cursed under my breath and listened for any sign that I’d been seen. Only laughter and the sound of breaking glass met my ears as another shot sang out. That was something to be grateful for, at least.

I peered out cautiously, ready to make a hasty exit, if necessary. Just how close had I come to getting into trouble, and how quickly could I get past these people and back to business? Damn. My foolish ruminations had caused me to almost—and I wish to emphasize the word almost—run straight into the midst of a group of armed men.  Not really surprising in the middle of Missouri, but most definitely unwelcome.

Just a few dozen yards ahead of me, in the middle of a small clearing, four men were shooting at beer bottles they took turns placing on top of a tree stump at the far end. Clearly the glassware were the aggressors, judging by the vigor with which they worked to eliminate them, and the primitive joy these idiots took in their demise. I estimated their ages to be anywhere from late teens to late twenties. The men, that is, not the bottles. Again, don’t hold me to that. Dressed in similar attire—T-shirts with inane slogans, faded jeans, leather boots, gap-toothed stupid grins—these good ol’ boys were in no danger of gracing the cover of GQ any time soon.

“C’mon, Donny, you’re too slow,” one of the younger men whined. He gestured with a half empty bottle at another man who was obviously in charge of refilling the stump. A third man lounged in a webbed lawn chair close to the complainer. He loosely held some sort of chain, the purpose of which was not evident to me, while the fourth fellow, situated just behind him, fiddled with his rifle. The man addressed as Donny made no immediate reply, but the reason for that became obvious at a glance. His head was thrown back and he was busily swilling his own beer to a chorus of “Chug, chug, you slug” from the others.

Finishing the contents of the bottle, he swiped one hairy fist across his mouth before wiping it on his shirt, let out a satisfied but disgusting belch, and set the bottle onto the stump. Then he backed away, but only slightly.

“Donny, you trying to get shot?” The man with the chain guffawed. “You know Caleb don’t shoot so good when he’s got lady problems on his mind.” He slapped his thigh, as if he’d made the wittiest bon mot ever.

This remark obviously annoyed his friend Caleb, who was in the process of taking aim at the offending bottle with his rifle. He pivoted, his weapon now pointed at his chortling companion instead. “What’d I tell you ‘bout talkin’ ‘bout that, Frank?”

Frank immediately threw up his hands in self-defense and yowled, “Jeezus Christ, don’t shoot me, Caleb! I can’t help it if she…. ”

 By this time, I was more than tired of this display of stupidity and tuned out the rest of whatever nonsense he was uttering. I decided I would just quietly skirt these fools and be on my way. They were obviously no menace to me, and would be none the wiser for my absence. In that moment, however, I belatedly realized the reason for the chain Frank had been holding when a reddish ball of fur came flying in my direction, dragging the self-same chain behind it.

“Rover, what the hell!” Frank yelled. “Get back here!” But the canine—which I had now ascertained the creature to be—never stopped, never slowed down…and headed straight toward me.

Let me make it perfectly clear from the outset that I am not a dog person. Not that I’m particularly a cat person either, but I have to give felines a somewhat grudging admiration for attaining their own ends with the least possible effort. Plus, for the most part, they have a tendency to leave their owners alone, unlike dogs, who constantly clamor for attention, love-starved little beasts that they are.

That being said, I wished no particular harm to the species, and in general found it expedient not to interact with them. I’ve found in my experience that most dogs give me a rather wide berth anyway, while cats are spectacularly indifferent to my presence.

This Rover, though, was a different matter entirely. He was a fluffy little thing, with a somewhat squashed face. His tail, which curved up and over his back, wagged furiously as he circled me, yapping. His bark was surprisingly deep for such a small animal. Then he drew closer, as if he were scenting me, and suddenly he tried to leap up on me, greeting me as if I were a long lost relative.

What brought that about? What did he smell on me that sent his brain the message that I was someone to be not only trusted, but welcomed with open arms? I’d never received such a reception before from any dog, and was at an utter loss to explain his reaction to me.

But I didn’t have long to ponder the matter, as the man who I assumed to be his owner raced up, gun in hand. “What are you doing? I didn’t tell you to look for any—”  He stopped speaking abruptly at the sight of me and stood there for a moment, staring at me as if he couldn’t decide whether to be more alarmed or amused at my being there. Dumbfounded even.

In his defense, he probably didn’t often see men wearing suits outside of the courtroom.

“What the hell do you want here?” he asked just before he trained his weapon on me.

 to be continued

Now see what the other Briefers are up to!

Cia Nordwell




Saturday, September 18, 2021

Saturday is Horror Day #28 - There's Something Wrong With Aunt Diane

 There's Something Wrong With Aunt Diane

On July 26, 2009, New York wife and mother Diane Schuler left a campground in upstate New York, driving a minivan she'd borrowed from her brother. Inside the van were Diane's two children and her three nieces, her brother's kids. Four hours later, she drove the minivan the wrong way on the highway, at a high rate of speed, for almost two miles before crashing into another vehicles. Eight people died, including the three occupants of the other vehicle, Diane, her daughter and three nieces. The little girls were found in a heap, without seatbelts. The only survivor of the crash was Diane's five-year-old son Brian.

In this HBO documentary, director Liz Garbus interviews witnesses and family members, as well as professional people, in an attempt to make sense of the horrific tragedy. Diane's autopsy revealed a blood alcohol level of .19%, which is over twice the legal limit, as well as the presence of THC (the active ingredient of marijuana).  A bottle of vodka was also found in the car. Her husband Daniel insists that his wife was not an alcoholic and must have had a medical emergency, although nothing showed up in the autopsy.

According to people who knew her, Diane Schuler was a great woman, a super Mom. Strong and

confident. The kind of woman who would never complain if she was in pain. Video footage shows Diane entering a gas station, looking for ibuprofen, but she was told they didn't carry it and she left. Daniel claims that she had a tooth abscess she'd never gotten resolved, it was causing her problems, and maybe caused a stroke. There is no evidence to confirm that diagnosis.

Daniel and his sister Jay hired an investigator (Tom Ruskin) to look into the matter. They said he took their money and didn't get back to them with the results of a second test done on Diane's samples. However, a phone call from Ruskin to Jay revealed that he had told them about it months prior, and that the results of the first autopsy had been confirmed.

Witnesses report seeing the woman driving the van the wrong way and say she seemed determined and very intent, not slowing or swerving in any way. When she hit the other vehicle, her speed was estimated at 85 mph. Diane's brother and his wife declined to participate in the making of the documentary, believing it to be an attempt to clear Diane's name. 

This documentary is not for the faint of heart. It was a very tragic event, and eight people lost their lives. I find it hard to believe that it was a medical emergency, or that she mistook vodka for water (they don't even taste the same). I believe her husband is in denial because he was oblivious to the extent of his wife's problem. Perhaps self-induced stress from the way she lived, the tasks she took upon herself. It was hinted that her mother leaving the family when Diane was 9 was a factor, but that just seems like an excuse. I think the real reason lies between Diane and Daniel, and we will probably never know the truth. If he would admit to her drinking, this could be used as a cautionary tale. But one of the things that really disturbs me is that the little girls weren't wearing seatbelts. Maybe they could have been saved if they were. Did Diane want to commit suicide? We'll probably never know.

Wednesday, September 15, 2021

Wednesday Briefs: An Unholy Alliance #16 (4.4)

Good morning and Happy Hump Day ! If it's Wednesday, then it must be time for more flash fiction from the Wednesday Briefers! We're a group of authors who bring you our finest flash fiction every week, 500 to 1000 words, inspired by one of our prompts.  

Charlemagne doesn't have time for any of Tyrone's nonsense, much less his... hugs. He has things to do, someone to meet. But alas, no car to do it in. Where there's a will, there's a way! See what's happening in this week's chapter of An Unholy Alliance. Don't forget to visit the other Briefers. Their links follow my tale! Enjoy!

An Unholy Alliance #16 (4.4)

Much as I would have liked to fly like the wind straight to my destination, there was a certain caveat to such an undertaking that I could not ignore. Namely, not to do it in broad daylight, and certainly not in full view of potential witnesses. Tyrone I wasn’t so much worried about, as I suspected nothing I could do would shock him, and neither would he report me—I knew too much about him for that to happen—but at this time of day, there were others to take into consideration, too many to chance such a foolish risk.

Even so, I quickly left the library, only pausing just outside of town long enough to pull out my phone and map out a route. Stealing a second vehicle in the same vicinity as the first, while the law was still investigating the first theft, would be extremely ill-considered.

Not that I intended to use the path being recommended to me by the AI with the annoying voice—the direct way was not always the best way. I would keep to the road less traveled. Thank the gods, this uncivilized region was possessed of many wooded areas…and it wasn’t hunting season.

I sorely wanted to stop by my motel room and change clothes, have a shower before I went to see Ms. Buford, but I didn’t want to take the time. For those of you who might be surprised that I even have such a thing as a motel room, I assure you I am no heathen. And I do have money.  My family established credit many years ago—as have all the other Families around the world—and judicious investments have kept us more than adequately solvent for our needs. Despite having been tossed out on my proverbial ear by those who were supposed to be my nearest and dearest, my access to these funds had not been cut. In the event that should happen, though, I’d find a way to get by… I always did.

Being rather resourceful, I did have other options. I kept a small stash of supplies where I could easily access them—spare clothes and toiletries and the like, as well as a few books. Mama Lil raised me with an appreciation for the classics, and I have never lost the taste for them. I owned a dog-eared copy of Paradise Lost that I found particularly fascinating. Or, more specifically, Lucifer. A vastly misunderstood character.

I changed into a medium blue suit that was a little more casual than my previous evening wear, took a quick glance in the hand mirror (yes, I have a reflection), ascertained that I was my usual calm, cool, and collected self, and resumed my journey.

I felt I was making good time, keeping up a good speed as I wound my way between slender dogwood trees and tall oaks, leapt across small burbling creeks and occasional gullies. I was careful not to stumble over half-hidden treacherous tree roots and to keep an eye out for any people who might be lurking along my path. I didn’t mind running as a form of transportation. Sprinting along at vampiric speeds had the capacity to be exhilarating, especially after a recent meal, when I was at my most energetic. However, if I allowed too long a period to lapse between feedings, the enjoyment was lessened, and sometimes exacerbated by the necessity to flee an unpleasant scene. On the whole, I’d rather drive.

So why didn’t I purchase a vehicle of my own, if I had the financial means to do so, as previously stated? I’d had access to cars when I was with my family, but for obvious reasons those privileges no longer extended to me. Despite that, I could have easily purchased one. I guess the main reason was that buying a car felt as though I would be putting down roots, laying a trail that someone could choose to follow, when I would rather be free to go where chance and circumstance took me.

Except for now, of course, when I was on a mission. Plus, and I freely admit it, stealing cars was far more interesting, a test of my abilities, if you will. A slap in the face of authority. I have never been one to blindly follow the rules. My entire existence, and that of the others, went against most of the laws of nature. And, quite frankly, I reveled in that.

Reaching a small cluster of homes, I slowed my pace and circumnavigated around them. Typical country dwellings, clean laundry flapping in the breeze. Small gardens laden with growing vegetables and aromatic herbs. No one noticed me or paid me any attention, and I was able to attain my former speed once I’d passed from their vicinity.

I couldn’t help but wonder what sort of information this woman had for me, and would it be relevant to my search? Speculation was futile, however, and only went so far. Before long, my mind reverted, almost against my will, to an earlier topic. Namely Tyrone Jackson, he of the Jackson Family Meats. I hadn’t met anyone so foolishly unafraid of me since… well, since ever. Although he cultivated the air of a simpleton, I suspected that was far from the truth. I could see intelligence in his eyes, as well as a strange sense of humor.

Not that any of that mattered. Once I’d finished my research and learned what I wanted to know, I’d probably have no reason to pass this way again. And Tyrone would be but a brief memory, an aberrant recollection to be brought to the forefront of my thoughts now and again in some idle moment—probably the next time I overshot my mark and inadvertently claimed another victim. I pushed that thought emphatically away.

The next moment, the whine of a bullet brought me up short.

 to be continued

Now go see what the other Briefers are up to!

Cia Nordwell

J Ray Lamb





Monday, September 13, 2021

Book review: Bleach, Vol 41 by Tite Kubo


Bleach, Vol 41      

Author: Tite Kubo

Publisher: Viz Media

American release date: June 5, 2012

Format/Genre/Length: Paperback/Manga/Supernatural/192 pages

Overall Personal Rating: ★★★★★


Although it appeared as though Ulquiorra defeated Ichigo, that turns out not to be true. But is the creature that rises from the proverbial ashes really Ichigo? If so, what is he now, and how did he arrive there? Neither Orihime nor Ulquiorra can believe their eyes. While Ulquiorra questions him as to who he is, he receives no response. But whoever this is knows how to fire a cero! That is something no mere human can do.

And so the battle continues…

Meanwhile, Rukia’s battle with Rudbornn is interrupted by the unexpected appearance of Yammy, who is really angry with Uryu. Chad marvels at Yammy’s size, having fought with him in the World of the Living. “He was huge back then… but he’s a whole lot bigger now!”

Orihime realizes that this is still Ichigo, there to protect her, as he returns to himself. Ulquiorra is in bad shape. While he can regenerate limbs, that is not true of his organs. He wants to finish this now, but Ichigo tries to attain an even playing field. Ulquiorra tells him, “Hmmph. To the very end, you never do what I want you to do.” He asks Orihime if she is afraid of him and she says, “I’m not.”

Yammy is resolved to avenge Ulquiorra. The others are initially not concerned, as he is Espada 10, and they’ve defeated worse. But then Yammy reveals that they are wrong about the Espada ranks, and he is actually 0… and bigger and badder than they ever imagined!

The other captains’ fights continue. Shunsui receives the grudging admiration of Starrk, while Hitsugaya battles Harribel, and Komamura stands guard while Lieutenant Kira heals the others. Soi Fon and Omaeda face off with the old man, Berrigan, who reveals the true nature of the Espada’s powers – each governs a different form of death. His is senescence, or aging. When he touches Soi Fon’s arm, which begins to rot, she makes an instant decision and demands Omaeda help her immediately! Harribel thinks she has triumphed over Hitsuygaya, because she can also control water. But Hitsugaya lets her know she has far underestimated him.

Decisive battles are being waged here, more enemies defeated. You just know that at some point, Aizen has to be let back into the fray, or what’s the point of him being there? I enjoy the strange relationship between Soi Fon and Omaeda, and I don’t think she really hates or despises him the way she seems to. And he isn’t as weak as he thinks he is. Shunsui is handsome, as always, always glad to see more of him. I loved the battle with Hitsugaya and Harribel. People too often overlook him because he resembles a child, but he is far from that and he is far stronger than people give him credit for.

The most touching part of this volume was the scene between Ulquiorra and Orihime, which made me tear up, and earned Ulquiorra my reluctant admiration. Still loving this series and looking forward to the next book!

Sunday, September 12, 2021

Book Review: Twentieth Century Boys, Vol 17: Cross-counter by Naoki Urasawa


Twentieth Century Boys, Vol 17: Cross-counter  

Author: Naoki Urasawa

Publisher: Viz Media

American release date: October 11, 2011

Format/Genre/Length: Paperback/manga/paranormal/208 pages

Overall Personal Rating: ★★★★★


The unthinkable has happened… the world as they knew it has been destroyed. Three years later, Friend is the President of the World, ruling from inside the walled fortress that is Tokyo. The Global Defense Force ever keeps watch for the alien invaders that are predicted to be coming. But of course they are watching for humans as well, those deemed unworthy to be a part of society. What will they do to them?

Kamisama sits in a deserted bowling alley, waiting for bowling to become a thing again. The same bowling alley he built years ago that ruined the secret hideout of Kenji and his friends. With him are Otcho and the two young people who secretly helped him when he was injured, siblings Sanae and Katsuo. Kamisama recommends Otcho go to the Catholic Church for help with the Friend. He shows them a secret way to get there, but the passage is too small for Otcho, so they send the kids instead, as the passage is well marked, and he will meet them there. However, Katsuo becomes distracted by an old subway car, as he’s never seen one in his lifetime, and this small detour leads them to a member of the Genji faction. They try to help him but he begs them to take a message to the Ice Queen to warn her against going through with her plans, as there is a spy among them. The brother and sister have to split up. Sanae goes to deliver the message to the Ice Queen and Katsuo heads to the church.

Everyone who went to see the Expo was sent a vial of the vaccine. Those who didn’t go died of the virus. So vaccine is at a premium, and people are willing to take desperate measures to obtain it. Sanae finds the Ice Queen in a small ramen shop, and is surprised at how young she is. Turns out, she already had her suspicions concerning a spy in their midst and confronts him about it. Of course, it was all about the vaccine.

During Year 1 of the Friendship Era, Otcho is traveling with a group of men through the countryside, when a rider on a motorbike stops to deliver a package to one of the men. Turns out to be a vial of the vaccine, and what a can of worms that opens! Wounded in the scuffle, Otcho is helped by a man who lives in a nearby village. But things take a turn for the worst, and they aren’t what they seem. He remembers something Kenji told them when they were kids: “Justice never dies!” He also said, “…I’m saving this world from evil, no matter what happens!”

Back to Year 3. Kanna’s former associate, Officer Chono, is assigned to guard duty at a remote outpost where nothing ever happens, watching for aliens that may never come. He sees injustice all around him and he is incensed by it. By accident, he stumbles on a group of people who are illegally assembled in the quiet of the night, listening to a radio that should not exist… and he hears a song from long ago…

Gosh dang, this is so good. Every volume leaves me in great suspense to know what will happen next. I have my suspicions about the music, because it goes along with what I’ve been saying all along. Hopefully I will be able to crow about it in the next review.  The identity of the Ice Queen is no real surprise. I like the new kids, very brave and very strong characters. There is a brief mention of the Holy Mother, but no appearance. Also no Friend sighting in this volume, which works for me. He is beyond creepy, and the more I learn about him, the creepier I find him to be. I can’t help but wonder what’s with the Friend and aliens? A diversionary tactic or something more?

Great volume, can’t wait to read the next one!

Saturday, September 11, 2021

Saturday is Horror Day #27 - Demon House

 Demon House

In 2014, TV host Zak Bagans purchased a house in Gary, Indiana sight unseen. The previous owners, the Ammons family, claimed the house was infested with demons, and that the demons had tortured and possessed them before they moved out. Immediately upon arrival at his new home, Bagans began to film a docudrama.

During the making of this documentary, Bagans claimed to have been so ill that he couldn't leave his room for 8 days. People he spoke with were hurt and some where hospitalized. Members of his crew quit or were fired. Bagans attempted to speak with the former owners, but they refused to speak to him at their new home in Indianapolis. Her brother Kevin did agree to speak with Bagans. When asked, he admitted her reluctance to be involved in the documentary was because they'd received an offer from a film company for the rights to their story. After speaking with Bagans, the Ammons wouldn't allow Kevin back into the house, claiming he might have picked up something from Bagans, who'd been inside the demon house at that point, and were concerned he would bring it back to them.

Bagans interview a social worker and a child psychologist who claimed to see the 9 year old son of the 

family walk backward up a wall and across the ceiling. Five minutes after the alleged incident, the child had no memory of what they said happened. The social worker turned the case over to someone else. A Catholic priest, Father Maginot, requested and received permission to perform an exorcism.

Various people who were involved in making the docudrama showed unusual behavior, up to and including becoming aggressive to one another. In the basement of the house, they discovered a small dirt area beneath the stairs - the only part of the basement like this - and Bagans believed they may have found a Satanic altar. In a final bid to settle the matter once and for all, Bagans had himself sealed into the house to spend the night.

Okay, where to start. A documentary is not meant to take sides, simply to present facts so the viewer can decide for themselves what to believe. Not sure if that was entirely true here. Non-demonic solutions were briefly touched upon, such as carbon monoxide poisoning, but not was investigated very thoroughly. At least they didn't mention it.  And also, in case you don't recognize the name Zak Bagans (which I didn't), he hosts a show called Ghost Adventures, which tells me he is predisposed to believe.

In order to believe in demons, I think one has to believe in Satan, which I don't. But I do believe in the power/energy that resides in all of us, which most of us don't know how to control or draw upon. By the same token, why couldn't there be a negative counterpart of this energy, one that people refer to as demons, for lack of a better word. 

At times, this film seems rather too staged for my liking, and perhaps that is the fault of the editing, or the voiceovers, obviously done after the fact. Besides the Ammons, other former residents as well as neighbors said they had no problems with the house.  Some people in Gary believe the whole thing is a crock, made up by the Ammons in order to cash in on the story. There is no overwhelming evidence to support the demon theory as being the true solution. Trying to paint an image of a twelve foot tall goat-headed being didn't exactly win me over either.

For viewing pleasure alone, and not on believability, I'd give this about 2.5 Stars. The thing to keep in mind is that if you're highly suggestible, be careful. This might make you think you heard something.

Wednesday, September 8, 2021

Wednesday Briefs: An Unholy Alliance #15 (4.3)

Good morning and Happy Hump Day ! If it's Wednesday, then it must be time for more flash fiction from the Wednesday Briefers! We're a group of authors who bring you our finest flash fiction every week, 500 to 1000 words, inspired by one of our prompts.  

Char is trying to figure out what Tyrone is doing when Casey brings him some good news,  the name of someone who might have information for him! Of course, Char just lost use of the ride he stole, but that can be overcome, right? See what's going on in this week's chapter of An Unholy Alliance. Don't forget to visit the other Briefers and see what's up with them. Their links follow my tale! Enjoy!

An Unholy Alliance #15 (4.3)

Tyrone who?

The next moment, my irritation was a thing of the past. I restrained the impatience that demanded I snatch the paper from Casey’s outstretched hand. They weren’t about to tease me on a matter of such vital importance to me, this much I knew.

“Now, I don’t really know how much information this woman has,” Casey warned me, but I was honestly not foolish enough to hang all my hopes on one particular star, so that didn’t faze me. “I met her on a genealogy forum, and we’ve been talking a little. She’s interested in local history too. Her family has lived in the same place since well before it was Greene County. While they didn’t own slaves themselves, they had neighbors that did, back in the day. Her name is Isabella Buford, and she lives out near Cabool. I’m afraid it’s kind of in the middle of nowhere, but she says you’re welcome to pay her a visit any time. She works from home and doesn’t leave the house very often.”

That’s all I needed to hear. No time like the present. I glanced at the scrap of paper and memorized the address before I tucked it into my pants pocket, then secured my phone. I had gleaned all the information from these two books that I could, so I handed them back to Casey, along with my thanks. She clutched them to her securely. I could tell she seemed as excited about my prospects as I was.

“I hope you find what you’re looking for.” Her voice rang with sincerity. I’d never known a nicer person, outside of Mama Lil. “I’m still looking for more documents, of course. And I hope to hear more from other genealogists, but this sounds like a good lead, doesn’t it?”

“It does indeed,” I concurred. “I’m greatly indebted to you, Casey. Your help has been invaluable. I’m sure I’ll be back before too long. I’ll let you know what I found out, one way or another.” I made a mental note to bring her a gift when I returned. I knew she didn’t expect it, but I was raised to have manners, even if I didn’t always choose to exercise them. And if she wouldn’t take anything for herself—which was always a possibility—she couldn’t object if I contributed to the makeshift food pantry she operated for the benefit of the community inside the library. Regardless, I was determined to do something to show my appreciation.

I murmured my good-bye and headed immediately to the parking lot. Only then did I remember I’d just lost my current mode of transportation, as the LeBaron was now off limits, no doubt waiting to be towed away at the behest of the police officer. The man was nowhere in sight, undoubtedly in hot pursuit of his imaginary young car thieves. Stealing the vehicle again would just be asking for trouble.

“I have a car.”

How did he continue to catch me unawares? That was something few people ever achieved, which only added to my growing irritation with him. And why had he followed me out? I’d certainly not invited him to do so. Not bothering to respond, I glanced about the lot, but I didn’t see the vehicle Tyrone had stolen the night before, the one which he’d acquired from my last meal.

“I ditched that and got another one,” he said, although I hadn’t asked.

“In case you’re wondering why I never get caught, I switch the plates with a different vehicle. Most people don’t bother to look at their own license plates. And I make sure the new ones are from a different make and model, so the police don’t think to run them. Not as long as I obey all traffic laws, anyway.” He gave me a most cheerful grin. “I also make sure not to take vanity plates. They stand out too much. Those are a great deal more noticeable.”

Again, he earned my somewhat grudging admiration. I’d have to remember that technique in the future.

“I can give you a lift wherever you’re going,” he offered, pointing to a nondescript sedan that sat just a few feet from where we stood. “I’m headed that way anyway. Toward Cabool, that is. I would enjoy your company.”

Why was this human so desirous of my companionship? Didn’t he realize that my very proximity had the potential to be fatal to him? That if I chose, I could make him into a midnight snack… or more? Or did he imagine I only drank the blood of people I’d never conversed with? I could certainly disillusion him on that point, as I was no stranger to the art of verbal seduction by any means. I knew how to draw my prey in with pretty words and gestures. Few could resist me when I was at my most charming. When I didn’t lose control—which was most of the time… or close to it—I left my victims with a lingering headache and only vague memories of what transpired between us. They would never remember me, of course. I would be but a hazy image in the back of their mind they could never clearly see. A sweet dream of love’s promise that was never to be, and certainly never consummated. That was never going to happen.

Blood drinking? Ah, that was another story.

“No thank you,” I managed to get out between clenched teeth.

I hesitated for just a moment, and apparently that was all he needed to make his move, taking me by complete surprise.

How, you ask, did he do that? He hugged me. Straight out hugged me.

Before he could utter a single other word, I disentangled myself from his embrace and took my hasty departure.

This Tyrone could be the death of me yet.

 to be continued

Now go see what's up with the other Briefers!

Cia Nordwell