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Charlotte Holley has an inborn love of all mysteries and the supernatural, and has been reading and writing about the paranormal for more than forty years. A mass communications major, she has written and published newsletters, magazine and newspaper articles, as well as poems and short stories since receiving her bachelor’s degree in 1980. As a beaded jewelry designer, she has also self-published twenty-two pattern collections on CD and in eBook form and has produced almost 400 individual original patterns.
Having spent several years as a professional psychic, she has had extensive experience with the spirit world and has observed supernatural dramas that defy all rational explanation. Charlotte uses her expertise and story-telling ability to weave a powerful tale of mystery and horror, of love and deceit and of the overpowering desire of the human nature to make things right.
Check out Charlotte's website at: http://charlotteholley.com/
Congratulations to Charlotte for her cover design of Born in Sarajevo by
Snjezana Marinkovic (no longer with GSP), which finished in the top ten of the 2011 Preditors
and Editors Readers Poll for Cover Art. And the 2012 Preditors and Editors top ten
Short Story (All Others) Category for her Christmas story, Wishes
by Charlotte Holley
It's been said if two or more people strongly agree on any one thing, no matter how unlikely, that thing will come to pass. When art lovers and critics alike unanimously acclaim Sam Forbes' monsters in his Dozen Dreadfuls series as real enough to step right off the canvas and into the world, they unwittingly unleash a rash of gory killings and a plague of terror as well.
Word Count: 4137
Pages to Print: 21
Long ago the last scientists of Atlantis engineered and “programmed” a dozen fish-like "babies" and released them to the sea, hoping their progeny would be able to save the world from the same cataclysmic disaster that sank Atlantis. What the scientists didn't know was the many Children of Atlantis would one day emerge from the sea and travel the vastness of space.
Word Count: 3411
Pages to Print: 19
Dave Saren has a past riddled with drugs and booze, one he’s trying hard to overcome. The superstar rock band Pepper Tree Lollipop has a future they are trying to preserve, one that promises a bright hope to the teens of the world. When Lollipop is kidnapped by bigwigs from the drug scene, Dave finds himself in the hands of unscrupulous thugs who will stop at nothing to discredit the band’s anti-drug campaign, including implicating him as one of the drug mongers responsible for Lollipop’s downfall to the same dope they have been publicly waging war against. Can Dave save the day, his career and the esteem of his son Mike by escaping and rescuing the band, or will he succumb to the drugs they are already pumping into his system?
3521 Pages to
Gail is an average teenager with problems and a really big inferiority complex, trying to ignore the world so everyone will just leave her alone. The last thing she wants is to be singled out by the popular, ever-smiling and beautiful Nancy, but some things we don't want are exactly what we need.
Word Count: 3990
Pages to Print: 20
Read the In-House Review
Elizabeth Carr and her friend Kimberly Henson are psychically gifted and have worked together for years to help unfortunate souls find peace and go into the Light, a calling which has brought them much joy and adventure—and trouble and heartache.
Word Count: 154,850 Pages to
ORDER THE McCann's Manor: Portal PRINT BOOK! (ISBN # 978-0-9844521-2-5)
Liz Carr and Kim Henson got more than they bargained for when they agreed to move into McCann's Manor and rid the place of unfriendly spirits.
Nothing they had experienced in their ghostbusting careers could have prepared them for what lay ahead. They solved the mystery of the deaths of Leonard and Missy Tatum, as well as the murder of Benjamin McCann two hundred years before, but they never guessed that was only the beginning, nor could they have dreamed of the strange creatures from another world waiting to invade their lives.
Now death stalks them on all sides as they attempt to unravel the enigmatic questions surrounding Benjamin McCann and the beautiful house he built . . .
Word Count: 155,701 Pages to Print: 528
ORDER THE Bakery Murders: Challenge PRINT BOOK! (ISBN #978-1-61950-026-6)
Whoever said the past is dead and buried never
knew the evil wizard Arvashan or his fiendish plot to avenge himself on
those who caused all the trouble in the very beginning . . . Excerpts
Whoever said the past is dead and buried never
knew the evil wizard Arvashan or his fiendish plot to avenge himself on
those who caused all the trouble in the very beginning . . .
Rounding the next corner, he stopped cold. Two men were arguing in the alley. The heavier of the two grabbed the other by the collar, nearly jerking the man off his feet. "I said, give me the rest of it, punk!"
"Quinn, I already told ya. This is all I got, man," the smaller man squeaked.
Quinn let go and shoved his companion to the pavement. "Sure you did, Amos. Sure you did. Okay . . . fine. So give me the rest of the goods then, and we'll be square."
Amos squirmed at Quinn's feet, looking like he'd puke when Quinn asked for the drugs. "Uh—no can do. See, my mark—well, he done stole the rest of it from me."
"Is that so?" Quinn demanded, kicking Amos in the gut.
The tramp ducked farther into the shadows, fearing the two men would spot him. This whole affair was no concern of his, and to tell the truth, he knew he should go on his way. He should be making tracks as far from here as he could, as fast as he could, but something made him stay glued to the spot, fascinated by the real-life drama unfolding before him.
Amos was doubled over in pain from Quinn's assault.
Quinn grabbed the writhing man by the hair of the head and jerked him to his feet. Amos screamed, but Quinn just laughed. "How many times do I have to tell you? You're supposed to take your mark for all he's worth; not the other way around, stupid. This is—what? The third time your mark has made off with the payload, leaving you with only crumbs? Does that seem right to you?"
"No," Amos managed to say between gritted teeth.
"And does it seem right to you for me to let you live when you are such a screw-up?"
Amos' breaths were coming in short gasps now. He tried to escape from Quinn's steel grip, and the tramp thought he actually heard the sound of the punk's hair ripping from his scalp as Amos staggered free, leaving a handful of his hair in Quinn's hand. "Aw now, come on, man. Surely you don't mean that."
"Of course, I mean it. You didn't lose the goods to your mark, did you? Did you?"
Quinn threw Amos' hair to the pavement in disgust and reached inside his jacket, bringing out a .45 and aiming it at the other man in one fluid movement. He brought the gun to bear on Amos so fast the tramp could hardly believe his eyes.
"No!" Amos wailed. "Please, man. I got a wife and two kids. Don't kill me. Please!"
"I'd be doing them a favor, punk," Quinn spat. "You're a loser. Why don't you admit the truth? You sold a little of it for more than you should have and took the rest of it yourself. I know your kind. You're not just a loser; you're a junkie to boot. Probably beat on your wife and kids, you filthy—"
Amos stared down the barrel of the .45, his hands shaking, his gasps a mixture of hysterical sob and wheeze. The front of his pants turned dark with the stain of urine that traveled down his leg and pooled at his feet. He didn't say another word, unable to pull enough air into his lungs to expel the utterance. He swallowed hard, and then closed his eyes, perhaps hoping if he couldn't see when Quinn pulled the trigger, it wouldn't be true.
Quinn cocked the revolver.
Amos winced and steeled himself for the shot that never came.
At that exact instant, the tramp saw movement in the alley behind Quinn. He was still trying to decide what it was when a ten-foot tall monster took two giant steps from the shadows and knocked the gun from Quinn's hand. Another second was all it took, and pieces of Quinn flew all over the alley before Quinn even had the chance to react. Back to Dreadfuls
Kilesha sat alone in the memory chamber of the small space stinger and watched as the images of Atlantis' last days faded from the screen. Her ancestors had been wise beyond any being she had met in space—yet how could they have foreseen the time when their genetic creations would leave the solace of the sea and travel to the stars to learn ever more?
Rashtor and the other scientists had sought to implant in those dozen embryos the knowledge of the Atlantean race, so they could one day lead the planet in understanding the great price to be paid for using the wrong kinds of technology. Atlanteans had unwittingly brought about the destruction of what had been their island paradise. Their applied science had almost destroyed the entire planet before they understood their mistakes. Realization had come too late to save Atlantis and its twelve million inhabitants, though the cessation of Atlantean technology had returned the rest of the earth to a more stable state—for a time. Now Earth faced new devastation unless something happened to forestall it.
Kilesha fingered the button on the communicator device to call her navigator.
"Yes, Captain?" a voice boomed.
"How goes the battle, Rad?"
"It is the same as with most battles, Captain. We have sustained little damage."
"And our fuel reserves?"
"The stinger hardly uses any fuel, Captain," he replied with pride. He'd had a hand in designing the stingers, and he believed them to be the best spacecraft in the universe. "We have a full supply."
"Plot a new course."
"You heard me. We have much discussed this decision, Rad. Plot the course."
"You know the coordinates. Plot the course. We are returning to Earth. We owe it to them—and to ourselves."
"Captain, I mean no disrespect, but to leave in the middle of battle—we will all be branded as deserters."
Kilesha frowned. "I fail to see how that would be any worse than what they already think of us. This is the chance we have been waiting for, Rad; if we don't go now, there may never be another. Plot the course—and engage the invisibility device. I don't want anyone to follow us."
Kilesha put down the communication device, and then stopped to gaze at her image in the reflective glass in her chamber before retiring for the long journey. How would her kind be viewed on Earth? She wondered . . . She studied the webbing on her hands and feet; the fins on her arms, legs and back; all were genetic improvements which aided her kind in the rapid propulsion through water. Her skin was pale with a slight blue tinge, which made her virtually invisible in the water, but not at all like the colors of humans she had seen in the Atlantean archival memories. She closed her transparent eyelids and studied herself objectively with her violet eyes. Her hair was pale, almost clear, but perhaps the singularly most remarkable feature she possessed which humans did not was a perfectly developed set of gills on the sides of her face. She and the other Children of Atlantis could exist either on land, or in fresh or salt water indefinitely. Rashtor and the other scientists had given her forebears every feature they could think of to help them survive. Too bad the incredible, ever-seeking minds they had been given hadn't warned them of the dangers in quitting their own planet for the greater expanse of space.
Had they remained on the planet, their breed might have thrived and continued to grow, but in space, they were oddities, easily subjugated because of their peaceful ways. Then again, she wasn't certain they would have fared well on the Earth, either. Mankind was exceedingly aggressive and warring, not unlike the beings they had encountered in space, preying on those who were different from themselves. Possibly man would have hunted the Children of Atlantis down and killed them as trophies, the way they did the other life forms on the planet. These humans were difficult to understand. Hadn't scientists of their own breed warned them of the possible consequences of their blatant and barbaric disregard for life? Hadn't they been told what the fossil fuel did to their environment? Why had they chosen to ignore the admonitions? Why the barbaric plunder of the Earth's natural resources in search of ever more fossil fuel, building more houses, bigger skyscrapers?
Kilesha had been monitoring the seismic activity of the planet for some time using equipment so sensitive it could detect the beating of a single human heart halfway across the universe. Clearly, the mistakes of Atlantis had returned to plunge the planet into the same destructive patterns which had plagued it in the times of her ancestors. History was soon to repeat itself—only this time, it would be on a much more widespread scale, claiming the lives of perhaps three-quarters of the population of the planet.
The world would suffer devastating, irreparable damage—all manner of cataclysms would be widespread across the face of Earth. Those who survived would be thrown into a dark age devoid of technology and subjected to the cruelest of elements in a world struggling to reclaim its primal dignity and ecological balance. The increased incidence of progressively severe natural catastrophes suggested the complete restructuring of the planet was alarmingly near. Billions of people would die, and the long, laborious process would begin all over again, a scenario doomed to replay until the people who believed themselves to be the supreme intellects of their world learned how to revere all creation—or until there were none of them left.
The Ancients had held the belief everything in the universe was alive and sacred—and connected to everything else in the macrocosm. Each planet was sentient, as were all the individual parts of it. Every blade of grass, every grain of sand had a purpose, an intelligence; disturbing so much as one tree caused a myriad of actions and reactions which could lead to final and absolute destruction of the whole. Moreover, the entire cosmos of space and countless universes suffered under the same bludgeoning that affected whatever part of itself was afflicted.
What happened on Earth, or any other planet, caused cosmic ripples to be broadcast throughout the entirety of space, sending intergalactic unrest to all. It could be likened to an individual having a severe headache. While the pain could be pinpointed to that one's head, the effects of the headache could be felt all over the body as the ailment made itself manifest to the entire being. Such was the interconnectedness of all that existed. Earth's long, arduous learning process had made itself felt everywhere. Here in space, the Children of Atlantis had been forced to fight as mercenaries in a war which raged because many of the intergalactic citizens wanted to eradicate the problems Earth was causing for the rest of creation.
The planet and its citizens were viewed as a disease which needed to be eliminated so the rest of the worlds could find peace, much as a surgeon would cut a cancerous parasite from the body to preserve the life of its host organism. Kilesha and her crew were the sole survivors of the Children of Atlantis, forced into service as a punishment for having Earth as their origin. Once there had been many Atlanteans in the universe; now there were five. Kilesha knew the only chance they had for survival was to return to Earth and try—somehow—to stop the pollution, the global warming, the senseless warring, the use of fossil fuels and all the rest before it was too late and one of the intergalactic powers blew the planet to dust.
What could five marine amphibians who bore a remarkable resemblance to humans, do to save the world and the entire universe in turn? She didn't know the answer; she only knew she and her crew had to try. It was for this time and purpose they existed; Rashtor and the other Atlantean scientists had been wrong in their assumption the genetic creations they had engineered would steer the planet on the direction it should take. Their purpose was to stop the total annihilation of Earth, to correct the blunders that had been made along the way and, God willing, to prevent the mistakes from happening again. She was clear on her mission.
Ascending the steps to her golden sleep chamber, she pressed the button which stirred the life-giving liquid inside to effervescence. She watched the slow motion inside the pearly yellow liquid, slowly disrobed and immersed herself with a sigh of long-anticipated relief. She was old, though her supple, sinewy physical structure bore no evidence of her true age; her vital organs needed the replenishing energies of the rejuvenating briny nutrient bath to carry her through the ordeal to come. Space travel was not kind to the Children of Atlantis. Without their sleep chambers, they could easily succumb to the pressures and stress of prolonged travel in outer space. Rad and her other comrades would be entering their chambers soon as well. From their collective meditative state inside their separate sustaining chambers, their minds would be free to merge and formulate a plan for their arrival on Earth.
She allowed herself to float freely inside the tank, relaxed, suspending all fear and doubt. She was going home to a world she had never seen with her own eyes. It would have been nice to be greeted by others of her kind, the way she had seen in recordings of Earth's astronauts on returning from their space travels, slight though those explorations had been. The images were recorded inside the memory pods, translated from broadcasts down through the ages—visions so real she was always astounded they were merely two-dimensional pictures. Too bad, she thought, there would be no Atlanteans to welcome their space-weary travelers home. Her heart longed to be cared for, to be regaled as a returning heroine, but that would never be. She allowed her gills to fill her lungs with the luminescent bubbling brine, thrilled to the shock as the fluid quickly began to merge with all parts of her body. It had been a long time since she had allowed herself this luxury; such a very long time. . . . Back to Kilesha: Going Home
Dave Saren pulled his shiny new red Mercedes E350 Sedan into the parking space on the back side of the airport, just as the equally lustrous gold Astra SP private jet was completing its circle of the runway. Plenty of time, he told himself as he watched the sun glinting off the plane a moment before he slid out from behind the wheel. Wondering where the transport van was, he crossed to the man standing by the limousine.
He gave the man a curt nod and his card before he spoke. "Harry inside?" he asked, peering to no avail at the dark tinted windows.
"Harry?" the man asked, seeming for a moment to have just awakened from a stupor. "Oh . . . no," he managed, after a pause Dave thought was just a tad too long, "Harry had a slight emergency with his—er—brother, and was called out of town late last night. Me and Chester over there are filling in for him today."
"Chester . . ." Dave mused, scanning for the other man but not seeing anyone. "Where are the others?"
"Don't need no one else," he answered. "Band has their own bodyguard, travels with 'em. They don't want no others gettin' in the way of their own man."
Dave knit his brow as he considered the other man's words. Pepper Tree Lollipop's bodyguard was out of commission with a crushed shoulder and reconstructive surgery resulting from an accident that had left him maimed and two of his associates dead. At the band's request, Dave had lined up a security team to meet him here, escort the group to their accommodations and join their entourage for the duration of their stay in Austin. Whoever this guy was, Dave didn't think he belonged here, and he started to tell him as much when the lights began to dim. He felt an instant of bursting pain in his head as everything started to go dark, but not before he saw the black Chevy Express extended cargo van pull in beside the limo. Three armed men sprang out the back door of the van before the vehicle stopped moving, just as Dave's vision blurred completely and he staggered, and then slid to his knees.
"And about damn time!" the stranger said to the new arrivals. "Here, get this yokel into the back of the van and cover him up before someone sees him."
"Dave was faintly aware of rough hands grabbing his unresponsive body and tossing him into the unlit back of the van. His head slammed against something cold and unyielding, the inside wall of the van—? And he knew he'd wake with a terrible headache later—if he woke at all. At the moment though, he couldn't quite be bothered to worry about an aching head. These people weren't part of Dave's security crew, and that could mean only one thing. He—and the Lollipop Band—were in a lot of trouble. Two unsuccessful attempts to derail the band had been thwarted in past months. Didn't it just figure the crooks would succeed on his shift though? Were these the same attackers as before? What did they want? Why in Austin, just when he was getting his life back on track? Damn! Not now!
He heard, more than felt, his hands and feet being tightly trussed behind his back with duct tape before they rolled him over, taped his mouth shut and pulled a long, dark cloth sack over his body. How had they drugged him? He tried to replay the scene in his mind, but found he was losing consciousness, and no amount of determination could shake the drugs coursing through his system. Mike and Benjamin's faces, full of shame and hurt, flashed through his mind and then faded, along with all other thoughts as he lost all consciousness. . . . Back to Kilesha: Error in Judgment
Later that afternoon, I slogged home in the rain. I was sopping wet when I got there, only to discover I had left my keys at home that morning. My dad was at work and Mom had gone out. No telling when she'd be home—most likely after midnight when the bars all closed. Dad might not be home for two or three days; that's the way his job was.
I put my books on the porch under the overhang where they wouldn't get any wetter and went around to the back of the house. My mom frequently locked her keys inside, so we always left one of the back windows unlocked so I could crawl in.
It was raining so hard the dog didn't even greet me as I removed the screen and shoved open the window. I wondered if he would have bothered coming out, had I really been a prowler. The kitchen window was too high to climb into without standing on something, so I pulled a wooden crate over, climbed onto it and lifted one foot up into the opening.
Just as I was about to shove off the crate, I heard it creak, then crack, and in another instant I was on the ground, one foot sticking through the splintered crate and the other scraped and bleeding from the knee down. I was muddy, cold, hurt and in tears.
At that moment, I hated everything and everyone—the rain, the kids at school and most of all, my parents. They had no business leaving me out in the rain. Parents are supposed to take care of their kids—even fifteen-year-old ones. I took stock of my body, discovered I could still move and eased myself off the ground to find something else to stand on.
In a few minutes, I was inside the warm, dry house, peeling out of my drenched, muddy clothes. I threw them into the washer and went to stand in a hot shower. After I cleaned and bandaged my wounds, I pulled on a robe and went out to get my books.
I took the stack of textbooks, along with milk and cookies, to my room and crawled under the covers. I hated being alone. The house was so quiet and still—almost like a tomb. Life was miserable for me at school, but at home, it was even worse. I really had no one in the whole world. If I died, I supposed my mother would cry—mothers are supposed to—but I doubted she would really miss me. No one would, I thought.
I sighed, knowing feeling sorry for myself would do no good, except to give me another sleepless night. I reached absently for the library book and opened it to the forgotten, perfectly folded pink paper—Nancy's letter. I turned it in my hands and thought I should throw it away. It was probably a love letter to some boy—maybe to Jack.
The thought stopped me from discarding it. I had never read a love letter before, and I reasoned I might never get another chance. I unfolded the paper, looked at length at the beautifully shaped words before their meaning began to come across to me. I thought about what a wonderful home life Nancy must have to be so beautiful and good at so many things. How I envied her. I sighed again and began to read: Back to Nancy
. . . Kim arrived as a corpse was being hauled outside in a body bag. Two men were maneuvering an ambulance gurney down the beautiful stone walkway. Pulling her car around to the parking area, she saw more police cars. What was going on? She was stricken—could something have happened to Liz? She watched all the people dressed in uniforms and street clothes going about their various jobs while none of them paid any attention to her at all.
What had happened? The weight of what she was seeing replaced her initial shock and she hurried to the entrance, but was denied access by one of the deputies, who stepped in front of her.
“I am sorry, ma’am, but you can’t go in there just now. We are here on official business.”
“The hell I can’t go in!” She spat at the deputy, leaning forward, trying to see who was inside. “I live here. Where is Liz?”
“Over here, Kim!” came a familiar voice from the hallway, right inside the door. “It is okay; she does live here.”
Kim walked to her friend’s side, took one look at her and added more questions to the barrage that were battling to be first from her mouth. “What happened to your head? Who did they take out in that horrible body bag?” Her best friend looked dazed and had a growing bruise on her forehead.
Liz reached up and touched her head, found the knot was quite large. “I am fine. I fell and hit my head. The body bag is Ben McCann—and Timothy.” She turned to go down the hall and into the library. “Come sit and talk to me.”
To Kim’s hearing, Liz sounded much too calm for the information she was conveying. “You are kidding!” she exclaimed. “I am gone for the afternoon and when I come back you have found McCann’s body? Where?” Kim, still shell-shocked, sat in one of the high-backed chairs by the windows, close to Liz and spoke in exasperation. “You scared the you-know-what out of me—I thought it was you in that body bag.”
Liz felt her friend’s dismay, but answered with a smart-ass barb, “How do you think I would have gotten into that kind of shape all by myself?” She squeezed her friend’s hand and sat back again. . . .Back to McCann's Manor Want a bigger sample?→ FREE READ!
"Aren’t you going to ask a lot of questions, or say something smart-ass?" John wanted to know.
"I am sure you must have some kind of explanation; I am just waiting for it," Mark said, giving John a reassuring nod.
"When I was doing the thing with the Jewel and the lights and all, Ben just suddenly reached out and touched the Jewel—that was when the blue lights happened. You saw that, right?" John asked.
"I saw the blue light, yes," Mark said. "I didn’t see Ben touch the Jewel."
"Yeah, that is what I meant; you saw the blue lights," John said. "An interesting thing happened when he did that, Mark. When he touched the Jewel, it opened up a temporary portal. He was here one second and the next heartbeat, he had left. He was going home so he would be there when his body died."
"What? You mean when he suffocated in the passage at the bottom of the fireplace?" Mark wanted to know.
"Yeah, that’s exactly when I mean," John affirmed. "Here’s the thing, though—he sent his body home, but his soul merged with mine somehow."
"Oh," Mark said, "I see. That is interesting."
"You don’t believe me?" John asked.
"No—no! Of course, I believe you," Mark said. "Why shouldn’t I?"
"You don’t think it is a little strange?" John asked.
Mark rolled his eyes and wagged his head side to side, replied, "Strange? We are sitting here on an alien world with Gorshans, Canitaers, Wylvaens and Gaeradons, having undestroyed a burned-out temple and genetically altered about fifty thousand Gorshans to be teddy bear sweethearts instead of mean, ornery gorillas, using magic—and you ask me if I think Ben’s soul merging with yours is strange? All right, maybe it is a little strange, but then, in view of all the things I have been through the past few days, it is almost normal. I don’t think my life is ever going to be the same again. I guess I’d rank it about seven on my weird-o-meter scale. Last week it would have been about a nineteen."
John had to laugh at Mark’s response. It was the first laugh he’d had in days and it felt good. "Thanks," he said. "I needed that!"
"So," Mark said hesitantly, "Ben’s in there with you. Is that a permanent thing?"
"Yeah," John said. "I think it’s one of those ‘til death things."
"Are you all right with it, then?" Mark asked.
"Actually, I am," John admitted. "I know more now than I did, and I don’t feel as helpless about being stuck here while Liz and Kim are home being chased around by a maniac. I think I will adjust okay. I just don’t know how Liz will take the news that she can’t see Ben anymore."
"Yeah, I guess that is a real kicker, but she wasn’t too happy the way things were, either," Mark pointed out. "She’s a pretty strong and smart cookie. I think she will adjust, too, pal."
"I hope so, Mark; I really hope so," John said, "because I can’t undo what has been done, and Ben and I both love her and want her to be happy."Back to Bakery
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