“Only in Legend” Short Fiction by Jennifer Patino

Image by Pete Linforth from Pixabay

Brandon and Jamie shone their lights up into the treetops. The night air was sweltering and David could swear he heard a sound coming from up there. His breathing was bordering on hyperventilation.

“Chicken, as usual,” Jamie sighed, letting her backpack fall to the ground. A dust cloud rose up around it. Brandon shuddered. He was thinking of the ghost story. The old legend that brought them here on this night.

“Well, whatever,” David crumpled into a heap, backpack and all. The dust around him doubled the amount the pack created. “This is the place.” He shone his light upward again as if he were trying to reach his beam to the moon.

Brandon chugged from his canteen and nodded in agreement. He swirled some of the refreshing water around in his mouth before swallowing. “Better start a fire then.”

Jamie was already collecting kindling.

Later on, after a dinner consisting of chips, neon yellow soda, a random baked potato, and king sized candy bars for dessert, the three sat silently by their small fire. David was close to dozing off when Brandon pulled out a book from his pack.

“You don’t need to read it again.” Jamie said.

“I just want to make sure we’re in the right spot.”

“Aww, man,” David groaned. “Like there’s even a right spot! Every part of these woods looks exactly the same.”

“Shut up, you tool,” Jamie reprimanded him. “I told you both that this is the spot. It’s the only place these types of trees grow.”

“Well, while we’re waiting for something to happen, I don’t see any harm in reading.” Brandon pointed his beam at the book in his lap and started flipping through the old sepia tome.

David rolled his eyes and settled back down, using his backpack to rest his head on. The trio sat in silence for nearly  fifteen minutes. Somewhere in the distance, a night bird of some sort squawked. The crickets crooned their nocturnal  lullaby.

Suddenly, the quiet broke with the sound of three gasps in unison. An odd addition to the forest’s symphony along with the ethereal tinkling of faint laughter. They were hearing it at just the right time the old ghost story they all knew by heart said they would.

“You guys are screwing with me,” whispered David.

“No-shh!” Brandon is on his feet and staring off into the direction of the light laughter, which can only be accurately described as ghostly. There was a part of Brandon that wanted to remain skeptical. Then there was another part of him that was deathly afraid. That was the part that wanted to run. He’d never hear the end of it from his friends if he did, so he swallowed his fear and focused on the part of his brain that was able to stay rooted in the logical.

Jamie jumped to her feet, fumbling with her flashlight. Her face appeared paler in the moonlight. Brandon’s hand steadied hers so her beam would stop making those extra shadows dance through the trees.

“Story says we follow it,” Jamie’s voice was monotone.

“Come on,” David whined. “That’s enough proof for me.”

“You said we were in this together!” cried Jamie.

“Will you two shut up!?” Brandon shushed them, still staring off into the depths of the woods, his heart pounding loudly in his head.

The laughter sounded as if it were drifting away from their mini campsite.

“If the other part is true about those were-witches, or whatever they are, hiding out in there, then you guys can forget it-“

“David, seriously, shut your trap.” Jamie flicked off her flashlight and pointed straight ahead with a trembling finger.

They all saw her then. She was standing right in front of them. A woman in white. She was laughing, but the sound of it still sounded so much further away. To their shock, she had drifted closer to them. Brandon’s brain struggled to find a reasonable explanation, but came up empty.

“Stop right there!” he yelled. Some kind of action movie courage invaded him and it seemed like the appropriate thing to do.

The woman in white stunned them by listening to him. She stopped moving. She stopped laughing. Her dark hair was covering her face just as the old legend described.

David panicked then and attempted to turn around and run, but he stumbled. Panting heavily, he spun his head around and saw that the woman had disappeared.

“Where did she go?” Brandon sounded more upset than scared. He hadn’t thought of snapping a picture of her for proof she existed until then. “Great. What do we do now?”

“Check it out,” Jamie turned her flashlight back on and started walking toward where the woman appeared at the edge of a shadowed copse just out of the moonlight’s direct path.

“I’m staying right here,” David insisted.

Jamie was shining her light into the forest. “Oh wow. Come here, you guys,” she called behind her and at that moment her flashlight began to dim. She banged it against her palm.”Hurry! I’m losing light!” She kept moving, much to their dismay.

“Chicks,” David shook his head and Brandon agreed with a sigh. Manning up seemed to be a better option than admitting to each other that they were on the verge of wetting themselves. Not to mention the fact that the “chick” in their group was showing more bravery than they were.

The two trembling boys made their way over to where Jamie was desperately trying to force her flashlight’s bulb back to life. Brandon’s flashlight started to lose power too the closer he got to her. He banged against it with his hand, taking Jamie’s cue, and turned to David to make sure his was working. David’s hands were in his pockets, no flashlight in sight.

“Oh, it’s back there-” he gestured back toward their gear with a tilt of his head.

“Forget it,” said Jamie as they approached. “We know where the fire is. If I can see it, you can too. Way to leave it unattended, you morons.”

“You called us over here!” Brandon protested. “What’d you want us to see?” He squinted to try to see what she was looking at so intently, as if she were in some kind of trance.

“I think you’re both just crazy and we should definitely get out of here.”

Those were the last words of young David.

The woman in white appeared again behind the three and broke David’s neck in one snap. Before Brandon could even try to make a run for it his neck was broken in the same way.

Jamie clicked her flashlight back on and shone the beam upon their horrified expressions. She heard the bristling of many white dresses behind her as the other women in flowing gowns made their way into the clearing. The first woman in white stood before her smiling, her blackened eyes shining in the lunar glow.

“Very well, Daughter. You did very well. Run along now. The rest of the ritual you will learn and experience as each new year passes until your Induction Ceremony. We can handle the rest from here.”

Jamie didn’t argue. “See you next year, Mother.”

The woman smiled and was joined by four other women all smiling at Jamie with the same sense of gratitude.

Jamie walked back and extinguished the fire. She picked up her backpack, readying to make her trek out of the forest.

She glanced back and the shimmering women were still staring at her, making sure she exited their home safely.

Halfway back to civilization, Jamie could still hear the sounds of hungry howling and tearing flesh sloshing in her ears.


Jennifer Patino is an Ojibwe poet living in Las Vegas. She has had work featured in both online and print, including A Cornered Gurl, Half Mystic Press, Font Magazine, and L’Éphémère Review. She shares poetry at www.thistlethoughts.com and on Twitter @thoughtthistles.

“Fishing Buddies” Fiction by Steve Wilcenski

“Harve?”

“What?”

“You seen Winston lately?”

“Yeah.”

“I ain’t seen him in a week.”

“Bastard.  Borrowed fifty bucks.  Said he’d settle when his check came in.”

“He’s been having tough times since Clara passed.”

“Mebee.  Don’t look to get that fifty back.”

“He might come up with it.”

“Not likely.”

“Well, anyway, I ain’t seen him.”

“Sommich had the balls to ask me to take him fishing.”

“You’re the only one has a boat.”

“Fifty bucks!”

“Oooh!  Got something big!  Get the boat closer…  Don’t wanna break this rod…  Wait…  It’s coming… Oh. My. God!  It’s Winston!”

“Yeah. I know.”


Originally published on the Prose website https://theprose.com/ May 22, 2020. Republished on spwilcenwrites November 13, 2020.


SP Wilcenski wrote system software for fifty-three years before retiring to start salvage operations on fifty-odd years’ creative pieces moldering in a file cabinet.  Today, he struggles against the enormity of that reclamation task.  He is unpublished except on theProse and in his blog spwilcenwrites.

“I AM THERAPIST” Poem by Levi Johnson

I am the second edge of a neurotic wedge
for which they feel so numb.
I am the squirm of all their memory worms
sprinting to outrun.
I am the squeaky sigh of unhinging minds
turned over and outdone.

I am a magic wand of a mystery beyond
free spirit that marquees.
I am the time traveller finding cracks in hell
for glorious escapees.
I am the hired hand made of shifting sand
messaging the bourgeoisie.

I am your flirtation looking for salvation
basking in the night.
I am the pulsing waves of your hollow caves
mossed with hindsight.
I am everyday and you are sponge of clay
absorbing new insights.


Levi Johnson is a psychotherapist originally influenced by his 1960s hippy experience in his hometown of San Francisco. These colorful street people sparked his career of operating inside the hearts and minds of others. His verse is a unique blend of psychology and poetry that is existential at it core. He recently published Alter Ego: Poetry for the Hidden Self for those who like to go beyond the surface.
ALTER EGO: Poetry for the Hidden Self

Interview with John DeLaughter, Author and Essayist

John DeLaughter photo

John A. DeLaughter M.Div., M.S., is a Data Security Analyst and Lovecraft essayist, horror, and fantasy author. He lives in rural Pennsylvania with his wife Heidi. His work has appeared in The Lovecraft eZineSamsara: The Magazine of SufferingTigershark eZineTurn To Ash, and The Eldritch Literary Review Journal. John is presently editing his original epic fantasy work, Dark Union Rising.


Bio:

John A. DeLaughter, MDiv, MS is a data security analyst, author, and Lovecraft essayist. Discover his HPL essays in publications such as The Lovecraft eZine, Aphotic Realm, Vastarien: A Literary Journal, Turn to Ash, and Círculo de Lovecraft (Spain). His horror shorts appear in HPL anthologies like “Ancestors and Descendants: Lovecraftian Prequels and Sequels”, “Protector of the Veil”, and “The Fellowship of the Old Ones”.John is also the author of fantasy novels in the Dark Union saga, “Night of the Kwatee and “Dawn of the Dark Union”.  John lives in Pennsylvania with his wife Heidi and two dogs.

What is your greatest accomplishment as a writer so far?

To me, the fun is in when you are asked to join a project out of nowhere. I am not sure that stands as “the greatest accomplishment”. But, it is very satisfying when you have developed a niche with what you have written, and based on whatever reputation that has garnered you, an invitation here and there appears. I think it validates what you have been doing as a writer.

Why do you write?

Once you come to the place where you do write—not just someone who says they want to write “someday” though many of us start out in that category—there is a compelling sense or need to write in order to feel fulfilled in life.

I cannot put it any simpler than that.

Just recognize that your passion to write is not something everyone else, either among your family, friends, or social contacts, is equally interested in or wants to hear you talk about it.

Learn not to be discouraged by that fact. Not everyone is interested to a sport like fishing or Tour-de-France bicycling either.

What is your writing process? (Any favorite places to write? Any interesting quirks, traditions, or rituals you may have? How many times might you revise something before being satisfied with it? Besides you, does anyone else edit your work? Etc.)

Particularly in non-fiction writing, I bone-up on the subject quite a bit before I ever begin writing about it. I accumulate MS word files with notes from what I read. Then I begin to assemble my thoughts based on those notes, and the unconscious ideas that suddenly pop into my head that result from all the reading involved.  I work on the order of the ideas, on catchy titles, for the main title and subsections of the essays, etc. I continue to work a piece until it feels right.

Sometimes, I create a MS word file with two columns using the “insert table” feature, use the left column for the wording of the actual essay, while using the right column to gather facts from my notes and work on assembling the ideas into my words and my order of thought. Plus, always cite your sources with end notes. That shows the work that went into the piece and that you are not plagiarizing someone else’s ideas. Nothing kills your credibility more than not citing your sources.

For horror and fantasy fiction, I like to add true ideas and plausible thoughts that lend an air of authenticity and believability to a fictional narrative. For example, from Lovecraft’s writing, he included longitude and latitude readings in “The Call of Cthulhu” and “At the Mountains of Madness” to lean an air of “the fictional, unknown events portrayed occurred here in the known world…’

Or, if the fabled mountain ranges in the Antarctica that were higher than the Himalayas in Lovecraft’s narrative simply do not reflect our modern map of that continent, come up with a logical premise that is plausible and explains the apparent contradictions. Another such device that Lovecraft and others used was to place their fictional, forbidden magical grimoires along side real similar volumes to lend authenticity to their fictional works and the disasters that resulted from using them. For example, the dreaded but fictious “Necronomicon” exists in some of his stories alongside Cotton Mather’s  “Wonders of the Invisible World.” You can do the same with famous, known events from history and either place a fictious event beside the true event. Or give a fictious, horrific explanation of the known event.

One final thought. After you have gone through and made changes, run a standard spell/grammar check over what you’ve just edited. Sometimes, while you are in the process of correcting mistakes, you unintentionally create others.

Do you have anyone (friends, relatives, etc.) review your works before you publish them?

There are many people in your life, friends, and family, who promise to read and write a review on what you write. But when it comes down to the actual fulfillment of those promises, it doesn’t happen.

In a recent Time Travel project with three other writers – Byron Craft, Matthew Davenport, and David Hambling – we employed a professional editor/proofreader to tighten up the five stories in that volume and split the cost.

That work, “Time Loopers: Four Tales from a Time War” (2020) has Mythos-elements in each story to varying degrees.

If you do not have a beta-reader or reviewer, once you have made changes, put the work aside for a few days to a week. Then pick it up again. It will help you to have a fresher set of eyes looking for mistakes and logic issues.

What is your greatest accomplishment as a writer so far?

To me, the fun is in when you are asked to join a project out of nowhere. I am not sure that stands as “the greatest accomplishment”. But, it is very satisfying when you have developed a niche with what you have written, and based on whatever reputation that has garnered you, an invitation here and there appears. I think it validates what you have been doing as a writer.

Why do you write?

Once you come to the place where you do write—not just someone who says they want to write “someday” though many of us start out in that category—there is a compelling sense or need to write in order to feel fulfilled in life. I cannot put it any simpler than that.

Just recognize that your passion to write is not something everyone else, either among your family, friends, or social contacts, is equally interested in or wants to hear you talk about it.

Learn not to be discouraged by that fact. Not everyone is interested to a sport like fishing or Tour-de-France bicycling either.

What is your writing process? (Any favorite places to write? Any interesting quirks, traditions, or rituals you may have? How many times might you revise something before being satisfied with it? Besides you, does anyone else edit your work? Etc.)

Particularly in non-fiction writing, I bone-up on the subject quite a bit before I ever begin writing about it. I accumulate MS word files with notes from what I read. Then I begin to assemble my thoughts based on those notes, and the unconscious ideas that suddenly pop into my head that result from all the reading involved.  I work on the order of the ideas, on catchy titles, for the main title and subsections of the essays, etc. I continue to work a piece until it feels right.

Sometimes, I create a MS word file with two columns using the “insert table” feature, use the left column for the wording of the actual essay, while using the right column to gather facts from my notes and work on assembling the ideas into my words and my order of thought. Plus, always cite your sources with end notes. That shows the work that went into the piece and that you are not plagiarizing someone else’s ideas. Nothing kills your credibility more than not citing your sources.

For horror and fantasy fiction, I like to add true ideas and plausible thoughts that lend an air of authenticity and believability to a fictional narrative. For example, from Lovecraft’s writing, he included longitude and latitude readings in “The Call of Cthulhu” and “At the Mountains of Madness” to lean an air of “the fictional, unknown events portrayed occurred here in the known world…’

Or, if the fabled mountain ranges in the Antarctica that were higher than the Himalayas in Lovecraft’s narrative simply do not reflect our modern map of that continent, come up with a logical premise that is plausible and explains the apparent contradictions.

Another such device that Lovecraft and others used was to place their fictional, forbidden magical grimoires along side real similar volumes to lend authenticity to their fictional works and the disasters that resulted from using them. For example, the dreaded but fictious “Necronomicon” exists in some of his stories alongside Cotton Mather’s “Wonders of the Invisible World.” You can do the same with famous, known events from history and either place a fictious event beside the true event. Or give a fictious, horrific explanation of the known event.

One final thought. After you have gone through and made changes, run a standard spell/grammar check over what you’ve just edited. Sometimes, while you are in the process of correcting mistakes, you unintentionally create others.

Could you give us an idea of your upcoming works without spoiling anything?

I am presently editing the final book in a fantasy trilogy series entitled, “Day of the Archmage.” The Dark Union Saga Trilogy has some Lovecraftian/Mythos themes to it. I hope to release that in early 2021.

I have the outlines, research, and an identified market for a H.P. Lovecraft essay, tentatively entitled, “Patrick McGoohan’s ‘The Prisoner’ and HP Lovecraft:

Did Rover Arise from a Bloom of Shoggoths?” I hope the title is self-evident as to the direction of the subject material.

Along with both projects, I will be developing promos and sales pitches to post on the various social media outlets where I maintain a presence.

For now, that is what appears on my literary “Drawing Board” for early 2021.

Do you have any writing events coming up? For example: something being published/released? A reading of one of your works? Interviews? Any speeches or talks?

Once it is completed, The Innsmouth Book Club wants to do an interview about “Patrick McGoohan’s ‘The Prisoner’ and HP Lovecraft: Did Rover Arise from a Bloom of Shoggoths?”

The Innsmouth Book Club is associated with two anthologies my horror work has appeared in, “Ancestors & Descendants: Lovecraftian Prequels & Sequels” (2019) and “Weird Tails: a Lovecraftian Cat Anthology” (2020).

And of course, there is this interview for Phil Slattery’s The Chamber an online horror zine.

What do you hope to achieve as a writer?

As a non-fiction writer, there are certain topics that continually come up in my mind that I need to address. Since I write about Howard Phillips Lovecraft, the horror writer, it could surround either an event in his life or letters. Or it might concern so aspect of his fiction, such as similarities between his horror stories and the fiction of others. For example, I wrote an essay that examined whether J.R.R. Tolkien’s work was influenced by H.P. Lovecraft’s fiction, entitled, “Lovecraft and Tolkien: Lovecraftian Horrors in Middle-Earth?” That one got translated into Spanish and appeared in a Horror-zine based in Spain.

My point is, I like to write about issues in horror non-fiction that others haven’t addressed Or I like to add an angle that hasn’t been fully explored.

In fiction, I have horror as well as fantasy aspirations. I try to give voice to both of those motivations, either through horror shorts at the moment, or through fantasy volumes, such as editing the final volume in a LOTR-style trilogy. That book is entitled, “Day of the Archmage.”  The Dark Union saga does feature some subplots that reviewers say lean a Lovecraftian vibe to the series.

What do you think of bad reviews? Are they helpful or harmful to you?

Bad reviews are inevitable. They can be harmful if you struggle to get reviews. Many are over elements in you book that you have no control over it. Disgruntled writers who got rejected from a project write bad reviews about the finished project. People who don’t like the price point or the way the book is formatted, may write a bad review.

If you read a bad review, glance at it, gather quickly any value in it, then move on. Continue to promote the book, because when other reviews come, good reviews will balance out the bad ones.  You cannot let a bad review throw off your composure and your drive.

What advice do you have for novice writers?

Write and get published somewhere. You may write for publishing credits for some time versus pay in order to get a name in the writing arena and some type of following.  That has been my path as a writer, but that may not be everyone’s experience.

Next, you must learn how to deal with rejections. They come as “cattle-call” rejections, rejections you can learn from – the rejecting editor give you some helpful advice on what you’ve submitted, rejections from someone who has previously published your work, etc.

One I have is a partial rejection that’s still up in the air. The editors enjoyed my initial submission, but had some issues they felt that needed to be addressed. They spelt out the issues, I revised the project to tailor it to address their issues, and resubmitted it. I have not heard back from them yet. There was no guarantee that if I revised the submission to their specifications that it would be accepted.

You must exercise patience with publishers. You also need to develop a “live-and-let-live” attitude towards a publisher, who may have published some of your submissions, while rejecting others. That’s part of becoming a professional in your outlook as a writer.

One last thing. You need to develop your marketing skills as a writer. If you get published by a traditional publisher or end up self-publishing that is not the end of the process. It begins the second half of the process—which is peddling your work to the masses. Some type of social media presence is a must. And recognize that not everyone who follows you on a social media platform equals a sale that self-same person.

Use what is immediately available to you. For example, if your book or a book you appear in sells through Amazon, develop a related Amazon’s author’s page.

But do not overdo your social media publishing efforts. For instance, there is a “law of diminishing return” i.e., there is a point where doing additional promotional activities does not equate to increased sales. People can get numb to your wonderful ad promos if you push them too much, too often. Related to that is, do not let your promotional time eat up the time and energy you need to write. You need to discover that balance for yourself.

For me, I have a full-time job and family concerns. So, writing and promoting that writing needs to fit into the other priorities in my life. For instance, I do social media promotions seven days a week. That usually occurs in the evenings. But, sometime I have other things to do at night, so you have to make allowances for the rest of your life.

And a final thing. I am foremostly on social media to promote my writing. As a rule, I do not use social media for the reasons other people use those mediums.

Don’t forget we all have literary influences. Mine include H.P. Lovecraft, Robert E. Howard, C.S. Lewis, Clifford Simak, and J.R.R. Tolkien. If someone reads your work, and brings up “your writing sounds like So-in-So” that’s ok. A writer’s life is constantly developing their own style and voice. Take any such comparisons as a compliment and move on.

What do you feel are the most important resources a writer can use?

Your time, your energy, and your attitude. You need to do whatever you can to “keep your head in the game.” Read things other writers do to keep writing. Hear about their struggles so you don’t think the difficulties you face in writing are insurmountable.

To me, your stick-to-itiveness—meaning dogged perseverance—is your greatest asset as a writer. The odds of lightning striking you—i.e., you becoming a best seller—increase if you are walking around outside in a storm holding a lightning rod. The more you write, the farther afield your work gets published, the greater the chance of getting struck by lightning.

Where can people find out more about you and your writing? (websites, social media, etc.)

I have an Amazon Author’s page: https://www.amazon.com/John-DeLaughter/e/B078ZKDR12

I have a Twitter Author’s Page: https://twitter.com/HPL_JDeLaughter

I have a Facebook Author’s Page: https://www.facebook.com/HPLJDeLaughter/

I have an Instagram Author’s Page: https://www.instagram.com/hpl_jdelaughter/?hl=en