Archive for the ‘Weekly Exercises’ Category

Time once again for my Weekly Exercises, my flash fiction pieces dedicated to a) practicing my craft, b) getting feedback from readers, and c) trying to get people interested in my published work. Remember that the Weekly Exercises depend on reader feedback, so if you have a thought on what you read, please let me know. Also, if you would like to check out any of the other Weekly Exercises, you can find them here. And if you have an idea for a Weekly Exercise, give me your name and idea. You might just see your idea on this blog someday.

With the upcoming aniversary of the Pearl Harbor bombings, I dedicate this Weekly Exercise to those who died during the bombings and those who afterwards fought for our freedom here and abroad. We owe more to you than can be expressed in a single blog post.

Enjoy.

~~~

When I was a kid, my brother and I would read all these science fiction stories. Looking back on it now, they were all basically the same: the noble and indestructible warrior, the beautiful princess with barely any clothes, the quest that always ended with the hero victorious and in sexual bliss with his princess. Stupidly optimistic, but that was the 1920s for you. We were all hopeful for the future and thought nothing could cut us down.

Then there was the Depression, and then war broke out in Europe and in the Pacific. I enlisted to get away from home and do honor for my country. Or maybe what I wanted to do was get away from reality and become the hero of my own science fiction adventure. Perhaps they were the same in my mind. Either way, I joined the Marines expecting that I’d leave training an invincible warrior just waiting for the princess of my dreams and the adventure of a lifetime to come my way.

Neither did. When we got to Peleliu in 1944, it was like I was in a jungle on another planet, but I was fighting the Japanese instead of aliens or whatever, and I certainly wasn’t invincible. The heat of the jungle, the sweat of unbathed men, the rotting corpses and the buzzing flies made all of us miserable. At any second we were liable to get killed by bullet or sword or sneak attack, and that only worsened our misery, and sometimes drove us mad. Once in a foxhole my buddy got out to piss. He was shot as soon as his fly was unzipped. I saw his body later. His entire face was a bloody mess and his fly was still down, but whatever had been there had been mangled by gunfire. I could almost hear him asking me to zip his fly. All I could do was puke.

We did see a girl on the island, one of those girls from a pleasure regiment. She was Asian, but she was a real beauty and she wore a simple dress. She was the first girl I’d seen in months, and I was ready to make her feel like a princess right then and there, if only she’d tell me that things would get better. She saw me and my boys though and threw herself over a cliff. We tried to save her, but all we did was see her join some of her comrades down at the bottom of the cliff. We learned later the Japanese had brainwashed the girls to believe that Americans would do horrible things to them if they were caught by them. So much for an epic romance in an unforgiving wasteland.

As I sit thinking about this now, one of my comrades is peeing on the face of a dead Japanese soldier. He’s laughing like it’s a big joke and when he zips up his fly he walks away with a swagger. Does he think he’s done his duty for his country? How would he feel if a Japanese did that to one of our many dead? He wouldn’t act so noble or treat this like a joke. Truth is, there’s no nobility in war, there’s no adventure or romance or humor. There’s just blood and death and destruction and the knowledge that any moment all of it might come raining down on your head.

My brother tells me in his letters he’s planning to enlist once his birthday comes around. I want to tell him to stay away, but then he’ll accuse me of just trying to keep all the fun for myself. Oh well, let him enlist. He’ll see that the fun isn’t to be had here, or anywhere there’s war. It’s just one pile of shit after another, and if you’re unlucky, you die, sometimes by your own hand but usually by the hand of someone else. And if you’re lucky you ride it out, you go home, and you move onto something else. Maybe write science fiction stories that reflect the truth of life, which is that life’s harsh. That’s what I plan to do, anyway. If I don’t bite the bullet first.

Time again for my Weekly Exercises. These flash fiction pieces are part chance to practice my craft, part chance to hear feedback from readers, and part shameless plug to get you interested in my published fiction. Remember, the Weekly Exercises are dependent on your feedback, so if you like what you’re reading or absolutely hate it, please let me know. Also, if you have an idea for a Weekly Exercise, let me know. You may see your name and idea here on this blog. And finally, if you wish to read any more Weekly Exercises, they can all be found on their own page.

This week’s exercise is in memory of all teens who have been or are currently being cyber-bullied. What you are going through is horrible and you do not deserve it. Be strong. Trust me, it gets better.

~~~

Amber found Edna’s Facebook profile and laughed. There was a picture of the fat bitch with a dog and her younger brother. Well, she wasn’t really fat, she was just a bit rounder than the other girls. But she was still a bitch. A fat, ugly bitch who listened to weird music and sat in front of her computer all day and had flirted with Amber’s boyfriend. Didn’t matter if they were going through a rough patch, the bitch still had to pay for breaking the rules!

On Edna’s status, she’d written the words “Enemies Beware. Be Kind To Others Even If You Don’t Like Them.” What the hell did that mean? Didn’t matter. The bitch was going to get what she deserved. Clicking on the comment space, Amber wrote “Ur a fat, ugly pig. Why don’t u go sterilize urself. Cow.” Amber clicked Enter.

Nothing happened. Confused, Amber clicked Enter again. Still nothing. Now Amber was pissed. How come the damn comment wasn’t showing up? She groaned and tried to refresh. Now she’d have to write the comment all over again.

She clicked the Refresh button and suddenly Edna appeared on the screen. Amber’s eyes widened as Edna waved at her. “Were you planning on doing something?” she asked, glaring at Amber through the screen triumphantly. “Not going to work.”

Amber felt her anger flare. “What the hell are you doing there?” she hissed. “You’re not supposed to be on my computer—”

Suddenly Amber was unable to speak. She felt overwhelming despair come over her, like she’d suddenly been told that everybody hated her. In fact, she was sure that they did. Everybody hated her. She didn’t have a single friend in the world. But just as surely as the feeling had suddenly come, now it was gone. Why had it come? And where had it gone?

Edna only laughed. “Now you know how it feels.” she said. “Don’t do it again if you don’t want to feel it again. That’s the curse I cat: anyone who tries to bully me feels what it’s like to be bullied. Not very fun, is it?”

Edna disappeared. And Amber, for the first time since she was a little girl, cried in shame.

Time again for my Weekly Exercises! These flash-fiction pieces are part chance for me to practice my craft, part chance for the readers of my blog to let me know how I’m doing as a writer, and part shameless plug to get people interested in my published fiction. Remember that the Weekly Exercises are dependent on reader feedback, so if you have any thoughts, let me know.

If you would like to check out other Weekly Exercises, please check out their page. And if you have an idea for a Weekly Exercise, let me know. You might see one based on your idea here with your name on it.

That’s all right now. Enjoy.

~~~

Josef Mengele woke up with a start. He was strapped down to a metal chair in his kitchen and someone had placed a gag in his mouth. He tried to call out, but a voice said in his ear, “Nobody’s coming to save you.” From behind him appeared two men and a woman. Mengele didn’t recognize either of them.

“We’ve been looking a very long time for you, Josef Mengele.” said the woman, speaking German with a Polish accent tinged with some American. “Almost ten years, in fact.”

“Do you know who we are?” asked one of the men, whose voice sounded like the one Mengele had heard only a moment before. He was dark-eyed and he had a long, scraggly beard. Mengele shook his head, which made all three intruders smile humorlessly. “We guess you wouldn’t. After all, you caused so much pain for so many. How can you expect to remember three prisoners?”

Mengele’s eyes widened. His three captors pulled up their shirt-sleeves, revealing strings of numbers appearing on their arms. Survivors of the camps, and they had him tied up and at their mercy! How did this happen?

“We’ve been tracking you for a while, Mengele.” said the second man, young and curly-haired. “We and so many of your former patients. We formed a little group after the war, you know. All to find the killers who had escaped justice. You’re the latest find out of twenty-three former Nazis. Yes, twenty-three. We made sure they suffered before they all died too.”

“Do you have anything to say for yourself?” said the bearded man, removing the gag from Mengele’s mouth.

Mengele coughed and spluttered before speaking. “Look, I don’t know what you’re talking about.” he said. “I was an innocent lamb. I had no idea what I was doing, I was just following orders—!”

The woman slapped him. “No lies!” she hissed, her eyes ablaze with anger. “No more lies! You separated me from my husband and son! They died in the gas chambers and never received a grave. And you put me through hell, making me work and then cutting me open and then sewing me back up. And you had no problem with your lab assistants having fun with me! Don’t claim that you’re a little lamb! My husband and son were lambs! You’re a wolf!”

“The courts will vindicate me.” said Mengele. “You’ll be punished for this ludicrous behavior. But if you untie me now, I’ll forget this ever happened—”

The three captors laughed, shocking Mengele into silence. “You think we’ll give you to the courts?” said the curly-haired youth. “That’ll take too long. You’ll commit suicide before anyone can punish you. No, we’ve got something better planned for you.”

Suddenly a black shape appeared in the kitchen, floating just above the kitchen table. Mengele stared as a monstrous face emerged from the black shape, its eyes fiery red like hot coals. “What is that?” asked Mengele, terrified.

“The Angel of Death.” said the bearded man. “You know, the namesake for your nickname? He decided to help us punish the Nazis we track down. He gets your soul while you’re still alive, and we give him ourselves over to him ten years early.”

“You’d make such a deal?” said Mengele, not taking his eyes off the Angel of Death. “Why would you give up your lives after surviving the camps?”

“Because it’s worth it.” said the woman. “I’ve been only living a half-life since I left the camp anyways. Giving myself over to Death early makes the nightmares quiet, because I know I’m getting the retribution I seek. And whatever’s on the other side, it’s better than what you’ll ever get, even if I never see my husband and son again.

“Have fun in Hell.” said the bearded man. “It’s your turn to feel unending misery and terror.”

Mengele screamed as the Angel of Death wrapped itself around him. Then he was falling through a tunnel, before crashing on the shore of a sea of fire. In the sea of flames, being poked with pitchforks by ghastly monsters were Nazis of all ranks and branches and ages. Some of them Mengele even recognized. There was Goebbels and his wife, and there was his assistant at Auschwitz, and there was a corporal he’d known in Berlin, and—was that the Fuhrer being ripped apart by hooks in his skin as demons tried to reel him in from all sides like a fish?

Before he could even process that the same fate awaited him, something kicked him into the sea of flames.

Time for my Weekly Exercises (and a day earlier than promised). These flash fiction pieces are a chance to practice my craft, as well as get feedback from readers, and to possibly get them interested in my published work. Remember, the Weekly Exercises are for the readers, so if you like what you read, let me know.

This week’s Exercise is a special one, and not just because it’s the thirteenth. I’ve included a little section after the Exercise to explain why this one’s special. I’d suggest for you to wait until after you’ve read the Exercise to read that explanation, but scroll down if you want to. Just recognize it’s a much more impactful story if you read the additional stuff afterwards.

For more Weekly Exercises, please follow the link here. And if you have an idea for a Weekly Exercise, let me know. You may see your name and idea in a future Weekly Exercise.

~~~

Mark pulled the Toyota Sequoia into his usual parking spot and got out, sweaty and close to puking. Still he managed to keep his stomach down and went to inspect the front of the car. When he saw the blood, he actually did throw up.

He couldn’t believe it had happened. He’d been driving home from a party at his friend’s frat house after a few hours of boozing and a comfortable three-quarter hour with a lovely coed. He was slightly buzzed, but not enough that he thought it’d be a problem to drive. Besides, what did he care? He was doing well in his classes, he’d probably ace his exams, and he was graduating a semester early with a 3.7 GPA. What could go wrong with his life?

He’d been a block away from the intersection at Fifteenth and High, and the light turned green. He’d stepped on it, not even bothering to slow his speed or put on his turn signal as he went into the turn. It was then he’d first seen the pedestrian, a guy in a navy-blue coat and a wool hat crossing High Street. Mark saw him, but didn’t react. Neither did the pedestrian, who had just seemed to notice that a big white car was heading for him at nearly forty miles an hour.

There was a sickening crunching noise as the car’s nose hit the pedestrian head-on. He flipped -over onto the hood, rolled up to the windshield, bounced off the glass, and then off the car and onto the street. Mark hit his brakes, skidding to a stop in the left-hand lane. He looked behind him, seeing a crowd of people gathering from the nearest bar and from the street corners to see what had happened. The pedestrian lay on the ground unmoving, while people took photos with their phones and pointed. Still the pedestrian didn’t move.

Mark didn’t know how long he looked out the back of his car, but then he noticed people pointing at his car and he’d snapped back to life. He’d pressed down the gas pedal and bolted before anyone could stop him or call the cops. Mark didn’t stop driving until he was far from Fifteenth and High, and only then did he slow down enough to make it home in the narrow streets in his neighborhood without hitting anyone or anything else.

He’d killed that guy. He was sure of it. The amount of blood his car had brought with them, the poor bastard couldn’t have survived. Perhaps Mark should turn himself in—no, he couldn’t. He was going to graduate in a few weeks, and he had an interview with Safe Auto tomorrow afternoon. If he was even charged with killing someone, he could kiss his chances of graduating and employment away.

He’d have to get rid of the evidence. The window wasn’t cracked and the hood was only a little bent out of shape. If he could get the blood off his white car, nobody would know the difference. Mark turned to get a bucket and a sponge from his apartment, but standing in his way was a person. Except the person was covered in blood, his jaw nearly torn off, and his arm was bent at a weird angle. He couldn’t be a real person, could he?

Mark stepped back as the monstrous man limped towards him. It was then that Mark noticed the guy was wearing a navy-blue coat and a wool hat. It was the pedestrian he’d hit. “Hey dude.” said the pedestrian, looking at him through broken glasses. “You know, that was kind of dickish back there. I mean, you just left me in the street so that people could take photographs of me and post them to Facebook! What was up with that?”

“Stay away from me!” shouted Mark, but the ghostly vision came closer. Then it extended his good arm and pushed Mark into the front of his car. Mark felt the blood against his back, and he screamed.

“You didn’t care, did you?” shouted the spirit. “You just ran off to preserve your perfect life! My life’s gone now, it’s all over the ground and your car and your back.”  Mark stared in horror as the spirit started to fade in front of his eyes. “Well, guess what? Karma’s a bitch.”

The spirit disappeared. For a second, Mark thought he’d imagined the whole thing, but then his car roared to life behind him. He turned around and saw the pedestrian’s ghost in the front seat of his car. “Hey, I never got my license.” shouted the spirit, leaning his head out the window. Do you think I can still drive this and kill you?”

Mark screamed and ran. The car followed, its demonic driver laughing maniacally. He ran, dodging the car every time the engine gunned and it tried to hit him. At some point Mark realized that the ghost in the front seat was pushing him back towards High Street. But why? Did he want him to die like he’d died, on the very same street as he did?

Finally he broke onto the open lane of High Street, not seven blocks from where Mark had hit the pedestrian. The car chased him towards Fifteenth, a chase in the middle of the busy street. People watched as Mark ran, chased by his own car. Finally between Fourteenth and Fifteenth, the car’s engine died and the car rolled to a stop in front of a closed bookstore. Mark stopped running, unable to believe he was still alive.

“Excuse me sir?” said a voice. Mark turned and saw two cops coming his way from a sea of police cars surrounding the crosswalk where Mark had hit the pedestrian. And there, unnoticed by anyone, was the pedestrian’s ghost, sitting on top of one car. He waved as the police inspected him and his car.

Now Mark’s life was over too. The spirit disappeared.

~~~

I don’t know if I’ve ever mentioned this on this blog, but back in February of this year I was hit by a car on the way to class. Luckily I got off with only a few bruised ribs and a scrape or two, but I was pissed, especially when the driver only waited for me to get up and start swearing before she tried to drive off. She didn’t get very far though, because the street we were on was not only full of cars and pedestrian traffic, but a construction site was nearby. She was arrested twenty feet from where she’d hit me!

Ever since that day though, I’ve been weary of getting hit again, and every time I cross a street, I’m watching twice as hard for anything that might hit me. Good thing I’ve been so vigilant, because last night as I was walking back from seeing the new Thor movie, I was crossing the street and a car nearly ran me over. And yes, it was a white Toyota Sequoia. If I’d taken a second longer to react, I might be a pancake in the road. And the way the driver reacted–actually, how he didn’t react at all to nearly hitting a pedestrian while driving too fast in a turn.–let me know that he would’ve just driven away as well if he’d hit me.

So as part therapy, part fun of writing, part warning to anyone who reads this blog and drives, and part imagining what might happen if he’d actually hit me and I could come back as a ghost, I dedicated a whole Weekly Exercise to what’d nearly happened to me. And now that I’ve written this out, I can say I can continue on with my life with just as much enjoyment and energy as usual.

Well, maybe with a bit more confidence and pride that my hyper-vigilance around traffic isn’t out of just paranoia and it’s actual useful. Good night everybody!

It’s time again for one of my Weekly Exercises. These flash fiction pieces are my chance to practice my craft, as well as receive feedback from my readers and possibly get them interested in my published work. Remember, the Weekly Exercises are dependent on reader feedback, so whatever you think, please let me know in a comment if you have the time.

Also, if you’re interested in reading the other Weekly Exercise, just follow the link here.

~~~

Daddy always said that Mommy had disappeared and that they didn’t need her because she was a whore and a bitch and they didn’t need that kind of woman in the house. Sometimes Devin thought otherwise, because surely Mommy was nicer than Daddy no matter what she was. Daddy was always angry about something, and he was angrier when he drank. One time Devin tried to ask Daddy not to drink because it only made him angry. Daddy punished Devin by making him wear a dirty diaper he’d stolen from the neighbor’s trash can and stand in the dark closet with the rats.

But now Devin wasn’t so sure that things were better with Mommy. Because Mommy had come back. At first Devin was glad to see Mommy again, but then Mommy had pulled out a knife. Daddy had been sleeping on the couch, burping and farting in his sleep. Mommy had stabbed Daddy while Devin watched. There was a lot of blood, and some of it got on Devin. She stabbed him again and again. And Devin could only watch and cry.

At some point Mommy stopped stabbing Daddy and looked at Devin. It was like she’d never noticed him standing there till now, judging by the look of surprise on her face. “Devin!” she said. “What’s the matter?”

Devin could only cry harder as he tried to speak to his mother. “Why-why did you stab Daddy?” he hiccupped. “Why?”

Mommy smiled, and her pearly-white teeth scared Devin because they looked like rat teeth. “Because I’ve always wanted to.” she said. “And because I can.”

It’s time for my Weekly Exercises. These flash fiction pieces are part chance to practice my craft, part sounding board to see what works with readers and what doesn’t, and part shameless plug to get people interested in my published work.

If you like or hate this week’s Exercise, please let me know. I appreciate feedback, positive or negative. And if you want to read past Weekly Exercises, please click here.

~~~

Darla led her cousin Will through the fields behind her Daddy’s farm, pulling on his hand as she led him through the tall stalks of corn. She giggled and he laughed, letting himself be pulled along. Overhead, the country moon shown bright above them as they raced for the woods behind Old Man Keller’s house, where they would have some alone time.

Will had come to stay with them this summer because Darla’s Uncle Pete thought that Will’s city friends were bad news, and he wanted Will somewhere away from that sort of environment. Darla didn’t mind at all. She and Will hadn’t seen each other at all since they were both four years old, and in that time Will had gone from a cute little boy to just plain cute. Plus he had that big-city swagger and confidence and that dialect you only heard in the city and in the blockbusters they showed at the theater in town. It made Will that much cooler, and if he didn’t mind, Darla wouldn’t mind herself if they were kissing cousins for the summer.

“So what was your Dad talking about earlier?” asked Will when they reached the woods. “That Owl-Man thing he mentioned?”

Darla groaned; her father had probably figured out that she planned to take Will out to the woods and had tried to make her reconsider by mentioning sightings of the Owl-Man in the woods and in the fields.

“It’s just an old urban legend.” said Darla. “That the guy who owned Keller’s woods before he did was into black magic and one day he cursed himself with an owl’s head, so now he lives in the woods pecking the eyes out of anyone who crosses into his woods and sees him so he can keep his secret. It’s just meant to keep kids from making out in the woods. The real reason why nobody should go in is because Old Man Keller has a gun.”

“Then why are we going in?” asked Will.

“Because it’s the only place nobody goes to make out.” said Darla with a wink. “We’ll have the whole place to ourselves.” Will grinned as they ran into the trees. When they were a ways in, they stopped and Will pulled out two of Daddy’s beer cans from inside his jacket. They were about to take a long deep drink when they heard a branch break. Both froze, looking around in case someone had followed them in. There was no way around.

Shrugging, they toasted each other with the beer cans and took a long gulp. The beer tasted dark and full of teenage rebellion. Darla wiped her mouth and looked at Will. She wondered if this was a good time to see if he wanted to kiss when there was another cracking noise. Will stood up, looking around. “Somebody there?” he shouted.

“Oh, sit down.” said Darla. “It’s probably somebody who had the same idea as us. And if Old Man Keller hears you, he’ll shoot you—Eek!”

A man emerged from the dark, holding a rifle in his hands. Darla couldn’t make out his face very well, but from the smell of tobacco and his girth she was pretty sure that it was Old Man Keller.

“Oh, hi Mr. Keller.” she said. “Um…we were just leaving. So if you don’t mind telling my Daddy about this, that would be great. ‘Kay?”

All Old Man Keller did was fall over onto his belly. Darla jumped away, spilling beer all over her shirt. Why was he so big? And why did he fall down? He had nearly crushed her!

Will turned over Old Man Keller, asking him if he was okay. The next moment he jumped away, his face suddenly green. Darla looked at Old Man Keller and saw that his eyes were missing from their sockets. Darla screamed, dropping her beer can in fright. She must’ve stood there screaming for half a minute before Will pulled her away. They were running away at top speed, heading through the cornfields and back to Darla’s house. When they got there, they stood bent over their knees, breathing hard.

“What was that?” asked Will. “Why were his eyes–?”

“Didn’t I tell you kids not to go out to Old Man Keller’s woods?” said a voice, Darla’s Daddy’s voice. Darla and Will jumped, looking around for Darla’s dad. “Owl Man’s watching for anybody who goes into his woods at night who shouldn’t be there. That includes his own family.”

They looked up and saw a man in a T-shirt and overalls standing on the roof. At first Darla recognized her father and was glad he was there. But then feathers sprouted from his face. And then to her horror he jumped down, his beak clicking loudly for eyeballs to eat.

She screamed until her own throat was torn out.

It’s time once again for my Weekly Exercises. These flash fiction pieces are my chance to practice my craft. They also act as sounding boards for readers to comment on how I’m doing, and they’re my shameless plug to get people interested in my published work.

This one’s a special one, since it’s number 10. Ten weeks in a row, plugging these things out. It’s been quite fun writing them and I’m constantly looking for new ideas for an exercise (and if you have one let me know. I may just write an exercise based on a suggestion, and you’ll get a mention). For this week’s exercise, I decided to do something a little special. I wrote a piece about an obsessed fan, but I changed a few things around for this piece. It’s always nice to try something original.

If you have any thoughts, please let me know. I love getting feedback from readers, which is partly what the Weekly Exercises are for. Also, if you want to take a look at any other exercises, you can check out the Weekly Exercises page.

Enjoy!

~~~

Katie loved the books of Emma Davies, stories of love and swashbuckling adventure on the high seas. She had probably read the Vivian Carpenter books a dozen times, cried each of the five times she’d read The Admiral’s Daughter, and when Davies’ latest book, Shanghai Bride, had come out, Katie had stayed up for two days straight reading it, pouring over the text, imagining the characters in her mind, gushing over each and every word in the book.

And sometimes, when she was alone at her apartment or at work or those rare opportunities when she was the only rider on the bus, she would kiss Emma Davies’ photo on the back of her paperbacks, kiss it like she’d never kissed anyone before. She loved the woman, blue eyes and blonde hair with pink highlights. Emma Davies loved Katie too, she knew it. Every book had been written for her, coded as a fun adventure story as well as a romance-filled love letter to Katie. Oh, when would Katie and Emma Davies be united at last? She couldn’t stand the wait!

So Katie packed up her bags and drove out to New Hampshire, where Emma Davies was supposed to live. It took some time, but Katie tracked Emma down to a lovely Victorian mansion in Concord with a brick wall encircling it. Oh, Katie wanted their wedding here! She climbed over the wall, tiptoed through the lawn to the back and was trying to unlock the back door when she felt a sharp pain on the top of her head and passed out.

When she woke up, her head hurt, she was in a dark room with only a single light bulb and no windows. Emma Davies stood before her, wearing a white silk kimono and frowning angrily. Overjoyed to be finally united with her, Katie tried to get up and hug her, but found she had been tied with chains and had a gag in her mouth. She tried to shout through the gag to Emma, but the beautiful woman only scoffed.

“Did you think that I would be happy to find you on my lawn?” she said, shaking her head. “I mean, I get how popular I am with my fans. I’ve hugged crying women more times than I can count at book signings and in the supermarket and while getting my hair done at Aveda. But honestly, if you’re going to sneak onto private property, you should know there are some consequences. So what do you have to say for yourself?”

Emma removed the gag. Katie sucked in a lungful of air. “Emma, I love you!” she cried, tears falling down her face. “Why are you doing this to me?”

“Oh, I love you too.” said Emma, kissing Katie’s forehead. “I love all my fans very dearly. But the ones who go the extra mile and think their love trumps my personal space must be punished when they step out of line.”

“What do you mean?” asked Katie, but as she spoke Emma picked up a chainsaw from the corner. Seeing it, she realized what was happening. She screamed.

“Oh, don’t scream.” said Emma, pulling the chainsaw’s cord. “It’ll be quick. And besides, you’ll be remembered. Once this kimono’s soaked up your blood, I’ll frame it in my office. I tell people the bloody kimonos I collect once belonged to a little-known pirate who was a terrible sadist. It’s a hoot how they buy it up. And yours make six. One for every book I’ve written! How exciting.”

“But I love you—“ And then there was only pain.