“New England Gothic” Dark Fiction by Elizabeth Gauffreau

Do you remember reading “A Rose for Emily,” in high school English class? You know the story: William Faulkner’s tale of a prideful vestige of a bygone era who kills her lover and lives with his corpse in her house until she dies, the townspeople’s discovery of the lover’s skeletal remains at the end of the story all Southern Gothic and delightfully chilling? Well, our town too has its story of a woman who killed a loved one and kept the corpse in her house as she went about her business–although in our case, there was nothing Southern, Gothic, or delightfully chilling about it. You must have heard about the case. It made the national news.

On a chilly morning in April, we were all in our respective homes in our quaint New England town eating breakfast, reading the morning paper, watching the morning news, when police cruisers came to Sycamore Street. The reason for their arrival could not be determined by looking out the window, and we poured ourselves another cup of coffee. Then a coroner’s van pulled into the driveway of Marjorie Broe’s small, gray ranch house, and, in due course, someone was wheeled out of the house in a bag. Marjorie must have passed away. Sad, we’d seen her working in her yard just the day before, and she’d looked in perfect health. Still, she was in her seventies, so not a complete shock. Then Marjorie herself emerged from her front door with a uniformed female officer, who led her to one of the cruisers and drove her away. Who, then, was in the bag? The yellow crime scene tape went up. The state police crime lab van arrived, followed by the local news vans.

It didn’t take long for the news media to inform us that the person who had died in Marjorie’s house was her eighty-five-year-old sister Anna. We had no idea Anna had been living there. She’d stayed with Marjorie the previous year, but no one had seen her in months, and we assumed she’d gone into a nursing home. Marjorie, the media informed us, was staying with friends while her sister’s death was being investigated.

Something wasn’t right here. The contents of Marjorie’s small, gray house on Sycamore Street were being methodically removed in sealed bags. The circumstances of Anna’s death slowly began to come out. She hadn’t died where she’d been found. She had died well before Marjorie called the authorities. Her injuries were inconsistent with a fall. Marjorie was arrested.

As we waited for the final autopsy results to be reported, we remembered an incident that had happened about six months before Anna’s death, the last time she kept her weekly appointment at the beauty parlor to get her hair done. She was quite infirm by this time, barely able to walk unaided. Her one pleasure left in life was her weekly shampoo and set, done in the old-fashioned way with brush rollers and the big bubble dryer. Marjorie drove her to the beauty parlor as usual, but instead of helping her sister out of the car, Marjorie leaned across her to open the door, pushed her out, and threw her cane out after her. Then Marjorie just drove off. And she never went back to get her. The shop owner drove Anna back to Marjorie’s house herself. Marjorie was none too happy to see either one of the, muttering about never being a allowed a moment’s peace as she slammed the door. After that no one could recall seeing Anna until she was wheeled out of Marjorie’s house in a bag.

In her youth, Marjorie was a beautiful girl, with fair skin, fine features, and dark curly hair that had no need of the beautician’s ministrations. She had a smile I was about to describe as radiant, but, no, I don’t think it was. Marjorie had an impish smile, the smile you see on the face of someone who has never experienced a moment of boredom in her life. Back in those days, she appeared taller than she actually was, with a figure that the older generation described in the old-fashioned way as willowy. She had a real gift for playing the piano. She’d learned to read music before she started school, and she could play any song by ear after hearing it only once. As you can imagine, she never missed an invitation to a party. When she was crowned Miss New Hampshire of 1952, none of us was surprised.

After her reign as Miss New Hampshire ended, Marjorie married Billy Broe and settled into married life. She was active in her church, singing in the choir, serving on the altar guild, visiting shut-ins, contributing her best coconut cake to the bake sales. She volunteered at the school when the teachers needed extra help, and she started a book group at the public library. She babysat our kids when the young mothers among us needed to run errands unencumbered. The kids would come home all sticky from eating graham crackers and molasses because Marjorie was fearful of hurting their little hands and faces if she scrubbed them clean.

Billy bought her the house on Sycamore Street, and she made it into a nice little home for the two of them, picking out the furniture, painting the walls, sewing all of the curtains and slipcovers herself, at last finding a place for all of their treasured wedding gifts. She even painted the exterior of the house herself, faithfully, every five years, standing on a step ladder with her hair done up in a red bandana as she waved her paintbrush at passersby. Marjorie and Billy never had children, and of course there was speculation as to the reason why, but I don’t think we were mean-spirited about it. I hope we weren’t mean-spirited about it.

As for Anna, she was ten years older than Marjorie, so she wasn’t in the picture much. As far as any of us could recall, there had been no animosity between the two sisters growing up. They’d just never been close. As adults, Anna had her life as a single woman earning her living in a neighboring town, and Marjorie had her life with Billy.

In 1984, Billy died of a massive heart attack shoveling their front walk. A neighbor found him face down in the snow with the shovel still in his hand. When the paramedics got there, they didn’t even attempt to resuscitate him. They just loaded him into the ambulance and took him away. Something happened to Marjorie after Billy died. She dropped out of her community activities and stopped attending church. She gained weight. Her features coarsened and sagged. Her hair thinned and lost its curl. Obviously, we tend to let ourselves go when we’re grieving, but this was different. We all lose our looks as we get older, too, but this was different. Something happened to Marjorie.

Years went by. The people on Sycamore Street reported that an elderly woman was now living with Marjorie. This woman could be seen passing in front of the picture window pushing the vacuum cleaner, out sweeping the front walk on warm days, working side by side with Marjorie in the flower beds. We weren’t surprised. Even with the changes in Marjorie following Billy’s death, we’d expect her to take in a relative in need. We’d expect her to be kind.

The news reports were muddled. Marjorie denied to the police that she’d hit her sister. Marjorie admitted backhanding her sister but not killing her. Marjorie admitted killing her sister but not on purpose. Marjorie confessed to killing her sister out of malice to put an end to her constant demands. Marjorie recanted her confession. Marjorie was arraigned to stand trial. Marjorie was found fit to stand trial. Marjorie was found unfit to stand trial.

In the end, none of that mattered. In the end, blood told the story. There was blood in every room of the small, gray house on Sycamore Street: in the kitchen, in the living room, in the hallway, in the bathroom, in the dining room, in both bedrooms, and on the enclosed porch. There was blood on Marjorie’s clothes in the hamper, blood on more of her clothes in the trash in the garage, and blood on paper towels in the trash. Marjorie had followed Anna through the house for the better part of a day, beating her until she went down and then beating her again when she managed to get up, the blows delivered with such force that the diamond ring Marjorie wore punched patterns into her sister’s flesh. When Marjorie finally tired of it, she delivered a series of kicks that left Anna with twenty-two broken ribs, in addition to the two black eyes and carpet-bombing of bruises on her face and chest, finally leaving her on the floor to bleed softly, gently into her brain until she died. Then Marjorie dragged her sister’s dead body across the living room floor and shoved it down the steps to the enclosed porch, where she left it for three days while she puttered about the small, gray house on Sycamore Street, stepping over the body and back when she went out to the porch to water the plants.


Elizabeth Gauffreau writes fiction and poetry with a strong connection to family and place. Recent fiction publications include Woven Tale Press, Dash, Pinyon, Aji, Open: Journal of Arts & Letters, and Evening Street Review. Her debut novel, Telling Sonny, was published by Adelaide Books in 2018. Learn more about her work at http://lizgauffreau.com.


“The Green Road” Fiction by John O’Donovan

     Come rain or sunshine, John Connors wore the same blue denim jacket to school every day. It was a gift from his father when he came home for a visit last Christmas. The jacket had an inside pocket where there was a letter inside an envelope. The address on the envelope: Mr. Joseph Connors, The Green Road, Ballysimon, Limerick, Ireland. On the back of the envelope, the return address: Mr. Michael Connors, 34 Weston Street #4B, London, England. His grandfather gave the boy the letter to hold it and fill his naive young heart with hope.

     “Grandpa, why does Daddy have to go and live in England?” the boy asked his grandfather.

     “Because that’s where the jobs are and he’s a fine, good carpenter with no work here abouts,” the grandfather replied.

     The boy didn’t know much about his mother. It was not talked. He only knew, “She ran off with the tinkers…too young, too wild.”

     The Green Road was named after the Green family; farmers who lived on that road years ago.

The square, two story house was still there, but abandoned, overgrown with vines of ivy, since old Mrs. Green passed away. Vandals had not yet discovered it. The front entry door, and windows shut down tight.  There was a gray stone wall to front, mottled white with lichen, and a large iron gate with plywood attached, to keep people from seeing in.  

     On his way to and from school the boy passed, not seeing, until one day, the gate open just a crack. It called out to him… John, come visit. He squeezed through. There were out houses; stalls for horses, a hay barn made of four metal stilts with a rust ridden galvanized roof. All falling into ruin, but there was something else; something lives, something watching. His skin began to crawl. He backed away. He went to school.

     Inside the house the watcher watched. He watched the boy through the tattered curtain lace. He had been waiting for him. He set the trap. “He’ll be back.” the watcher said aloud  to the emptiness.

     A two room school in a one street village. The girl was there. When they passed, she smiled at him. Dolores, I would die for you, as her green-blue virgin eyes seared his virgin soul.

     Coming home from school, he came again to the Green house. The gate  still open, he entered. There was an old rusted milk tankard lying sideways. He sat on it, as if to ponder. On the floor of the yard, a large crack ran from the main house to a drain hole in the center. A cluster of dandelion grew in the drain hole, bright green leaves and yellow flowers in stark contrast to the gray-black cobblestone floor.

      He took the letter out, to read again. ‘Dear Father, I will be down in your country next week. I will stop in to see my son, for his  birthday, what is he now, twelve? My gosh, he’s almost a man. See you then. Love, Mike.’

     “To see my son,” The boy said the words aloud. “To see my son…I love her.” His words echoed all around the empty yard followed by a long silence. He felt a chill, like something cold caressed him. Suddenly, a wind came up as a large black cloud swallowed the evening sun. He got up to leave, to run…he heard a noise. Someone was in the house.

     Run John, run…but it was too late. An older man was at the back door. They stared at each other.

     The man spoke, “I don’t suppose you have a fag on you?”

     “No sir, I don’t smoke.”

     A small dog, a Jack Russell terrier, came bounding out and ran to the boy with great energy and excitement. 

     John Connors studied the man briefly. He reminded him of his Uncle Ned, his father’s older brother. They went fishing once, down in the big river.

     “’Tis a dirty habit, don’t be takin’ it up. He won’t hurt you, he’s only a puppy. Jim Gorman here, I’m thinking about buying the place, just checking it out,” the old man said.

      “There’s a girl in my school, I think I love her…and my father is coming to visit,” the boy said as he petted the dog.

     “That’s grand, what’s your name?” the man said, “Will you come in and have a cup of tea with me, looks like there’s a shower coming?

     John Connors remembered then, his grandfather’s dire warning, “Don’t ever take up with strangers, you don’t know what they have in mind for you. “ Yet, the fateful words escaped his lips: “John Connors, sure I will.”

     The old man gently put one hand on the boy’s shoulder and with the other, closed the door behind them as the first splatters of raindrops smacked the cobblestone yard.

      Four hours later, John Connors’ blood streamed it’s way along the jagged crack to the drain hole. In the red-black liquid, a crescent moon reflected, dancing with the ripples. Come daylight, the yellow dandelion flowers would be dead; too much iron from the blood.

     A worker found his body in the rock quarry, ten days later. He was naked except for his blue denim jacket. His genitals had been surgically removed and his eyes gouged out leaving two black empty holes. His lips were pulled back into a grimace, and the letter from his father; folded neatly between his young, near perfect teeth.  His father; the fine, good carpenter, had gone back to England. He never came home for the funeral.


John O’Donovan is an emigrant from Ireland to the U.S. He is a retired carpenter, living in Southern California with his wife and two small dogs. His short stories have appeared in Mason Street Review and Brief Wilderness.

“Forever Young” Microfiction by Diana James

Stuart grinned while his heart fluttered in anticipation. The next stage of his project could finally begin—a new statue for his grand collection. He opened the studio window overlooking the garden where his best masterpieces were on display. His personal favorite was still the first, even nine years later. It stood at the garden entrance, beckoning visitors through the rose-covered archway with a welcoming smile.

            Each statue was of a child, forever capturing the innocence that fades away on the journey to adulthood. Stuart whistled a carefree tune as he poured the concrete over the wire base, taking special care to fully encase the young girl’s corpse within.


Bio:

Diana L. James is an author and freelance editor living in New England. She has been crafting stories since she was a young child but did not discover her passion for editing until much later in life. To learn more, you can visit her website at the-write-affair.com.

A Tale of Hell and Other Works of Horror is Available in Print and on Amazon Kindle

My e-book collection of horror shorts A Tale of Hell and Other Works of Horror” is available on Amazon Kindle.  For your copy, go to my Amazon author’s page (amazon.com/author/philslattery) where you can find links to my other works as well.

In this collection of published and previously unpublished stories of horror, I offer a look into the minds of people who perpetrate horrors, from acts of stupidity with unintended results to cold-hearted revenge to pure enjoyment to complete indifference. Settings range from 17th-century France in the heart of the werewolf trials to the resurrection of the Aztec black arts to a medicine man’s revenge in the Old West to the depths of Hell to mob vengeance and modern day necromancy to sociopathic serial killers and on to alien worlds in the distant future.

Don’t forget to show your appreciation for these tales by leaving a review on Amazon, Goodreads, or other social media.

P.S. Winn gave the collection four stars on Amazon, calling it “Great variety”, and commented: “The author has given readers a fantastic collection of varied horror stories. Short stories, flash fiction and even shorter micro fiction tales are included in a collection that might have readers keeping their lights on. I have read other books by this author and love the writing style and the way his words draw one into the tales.”

Comments on previously published stories (which are only a part of those in this collection) include:

Jay Manning, editor of Midnight Times commented in its Spring, 2006 issue: “Wolfsheim” is basically a traditional horror story that tells the tale of a small European village confronted by the threat of werewolves. If you like stories about lycans, you definitely need to check this one out. Great stuff.”

Publisher Charlie Fish of Fiction on the Web summarizes A “Tale of Hell” as a “… chilling vision of hell”. Other comments on “A Tale of Hell” from readers of Fiction on the Web:

“An intense and well paced story, cleverly leading the reader up a number of garden paths before Jack’s reality finally clarifies and appears in all its horror. The writing is focused and spare as Jack’s malevolent characteristics and idiosyncrasies manifest themselves…Overall a strong tale that lingers in the imagination…”

“brilliantly descriptive piece on man´s apparently unstoppable descent, literally into hell,…”

” Enjoyed this story. I thought it was nicely written. Started with a familiar vision of hell, but added several unique treatments; kept me interested in how it all would end. Thanks”

Publisher Charlie Fish of Fiction on the Web summarizes “Dream Warrior” as a “…powerful revenge epic about a man who visits his Mexican grandfather for spiritual guidance after a violent crime results in the death if his fiancée”. Fiction on the Web readers commented:

“quite literally a rite of passage, mystical and with an interesting payoff, one which Miguel may have to reckon with in time. some very good writing and characterisation. well done”

“…this is a rite of passage, complex and rich with significance. The cultural invocations are vivid and intense, the work of a writer in his/her full stride. The future for Miguel, who knows? The readers interest is fully engaged with what is to come…”

“Really enjoyed the story-kept me up past my bedtime reading it!”

“I loved the concept, was fascinated by the almost hallucinatory detail of legend with its fatal shadowlands.”

Reader comments on “Murder by Plastic” include:

“Chilling and brilliantly economical”

“Very well-paced and intriguing”

“Fabulous story! Five stars!”

Follow me using the link on the homepage or check back frequently for updates.

Don’t forget to leave a review on Amazon, Goodreads, or on other social media.

Diabolical: Three Tales of Vengeance and the Sorcerer Jack Thurston is Available on Kindle and in Print

Please go to amazon.com/author/philslattery or Goodreads or any other social media to leave a review.

Jack Thurston is a retired professor of medieval literature and history. He is also a widower and father and a retired sorcerer who has returned to the black arts to exact revenge for the death of his wife, daughter, and brother. He has an intriguing position in the universe at a focal point of life, the afterlife, logic and reason, anger and hatred, the ancient and the modern worlds, grief and his attempts to escape grief through self-destruction. Though he wants to have the peace he once found with his wife, Agatha, he is pulled in many directions by circumstance and by his powerful negative emotions.

I am a fan of the old school horror practiced by such authors as H.P. Lovecraft, Poe, Edward Lucas White, and Arthur Machen.  I endeavor to make a story as terrifying and suspenseful for the reader as possible without resorting to gratuitous blood and gore for a simple shock or quick feeling of disgust.

This collection of three short tales is perfect for those who have only a few short breaks to escape into the hidden world of horror, black magic, sorcery, and anger-fueled revenge.

You can find this and other works at my Amazon author’s page:  www.amazon.com/author/philslattery.

Currently, Jack has a Twitter account (@jthurston666), where he has attracted a small following and where it has only recently been revealed that he is fictional. Jack has his own blog at jackthurstonblog.wordpress.com (a work in progress) and his own e-mail at jackthurston666@gmail.com.

Information on more social media accounts and other characters (as they are developed) can be found at: philslattery.wordpress.com. Please interact with him at any of his social media accounts as you would with a real person.

Show your appreciation for these stories by leaving a review on Amazon, Goodreads, or other social media.

If you enjoy horror, check out my collection of horror short stories A Tale of Hell and Other Works of Horror: Stories of wizards, werewolves, serial killers, alien worlds, and the damned, which includes these stories.

A Tale of Hell and Other Works of Horror is Available in Print and on Amazon Kindle

My e-book collection of horror shorts A Tale of Hell and Other Works of Horror” is available on Amazon Kindle.  For your copy, go to my Amazon author’s page (amazon.com/author/philslattery) where you can find links to my other works as well.

In this collection of published and previously unpublished stories of horror, I offer a look into the minds of people who perpetrate horrors, from acts of stupidity with unintended results to cold-hearted revenge to pure enjoyment to complete indifference. Settings range from 17th-century France in the heart of the werewolf trials to the resurrection of the Aztec black arts to a medicine man’s revenge in the Old West to the depths of Hell to mob vengeance and modern day necromancy to sociopathic serial killers and on to alien worlds in the distant future.

Don’t forget to show your appreciation for these tales by leaving a review on Amazon, Goodreads, or other social media.

P.S. Winn gave the collection four stars on Amazon, calling it “Great variety”, and commented: “The author has given readers a fantastic collection of varied horror stories. Short stories, flash fiction and even shorter micro fiction tales are included in a collection that might have readers keeping their lights on. I have read other books by this author and love the writing style and the way his words draw one into the tales.”

Comments on previously published stories (which are only a part of those in this collection) include:

Jay Manning, editor of Midnight Times commented in its Spring, 2006 issue: “Wolfsheim” is basically a traditional horror story that tells the tale of a small European village confronted by the threat of werewolves. If you like stories about lycans, you definitely need to check this one out. Great stuff.”

Publisher Charlie Fish of Fiction on the Web summarizes A “Tale of Hell” as a “… chilling vision of hell”. Other comments on “A Tale of Hell” from readers of Fiction on the Web:

“An intense and well paced story, cleverly leading the reader up a number of garden paths before Jack’s reality finally clarifies and appears in all its horror. The writing is focused and spare as Jack’s malevolent characteristics and idiosyncrasies manifest themselves…Overall a strong tale that lingers in the imagination…”

“brilliantly descriptive piece on man´s apparently unstoppable descent, literally into hell,…”

” Enjoyed this story. I thought it was nicely written. Started with a familiar vision of hell, but added several unique treatments; kept me interested in how it all would end. Thanks”

Publisher Charlie Fish of Fiction on the Web summarizes “Dream Warrior” as a “…powerful revenge epic about a man who visits his Mexican grandfather for spiritual guidance after a violent crime results in the death if his fiancée”. Fiction on the Web readers commented:

“quite literally a rite of passage, mystical and with an interesting payoff, one which Miguel may have to reckon with in time. some very good writing and characterisation. well done”

“…this is a rite of passage, complex and rich with significance. The cultural invocations are vivid and intense, the work of a writer in his/her full stride. The future for Miguel, who knows? The readers interest is fully engaged with what is to come…”

“Really enjoyed the story-kept me up past my bedtime reading it!”

“I loved the concept, was fascinated by the almost hallucinatory detail of legend with its fatal shadowlands.”

Reader comments on “Murder by Plastic” include:

“Chilling and brilliantly economical”

“Very well-paced and intriguing”

“Fabulous story! Five stars!”

Follow me using the link on the homepage or check back frequently for updates.

Don’t forget to leave a review on Amazon, Goodreads, or on other social media.

Diabolical: Three Tales of Vengeance and the Sorcerer Jack Thurston is Available on Kindle and in Print

Please go to amazon.com/author/philslattery or Goodreads or any other social media to leave a review.

Jack Thurston is a retired professor of medieval literature and history. He is also a widower and father and a retired sorcerer who has returned to the black arts to exact revenge for the death of his wife, daughter, and brother. He has an intriguing position in the universe at a focal point of life, the afterlife, logic and reason, anger and hatred, the ancient and the modern worlds, grief and his attempts to escape grief through self-destruction. Though he wants to have the peace he once found with his wife, Agatha, he is pulled in many directions by circumstance and by his powerful negative emotions.

I am a fan of the old school horror practiced by such authors as H.P. Lovecraft, Poe, Edward Lucas White, and Arthur Machen.  I endeavor to make a story as terrifying and suspenseful for the reader as possible without resorting to gratuitous blood and gore for a simple shock or quick feeling of disgust.

This collection of three short tales is perfect for those who have only a few short breaks to escape into the hidden world of horror, black magic, sorcery, and anger-fueled revenge.

You can find this and other works at my Amazon author’s page:  www.amazon.com/author/philslattery.

Currently, Jack has a Twitter account (@jthurston666), where he has attracted a small following and where it has only recently been revealed that he is fictional. Jack has his own blog at jackthurstonblog.wordpress.com (a work in progress) and his own e-mail at jackthurston666@gmail.com.

Information on more social media accounts and other characters (as they are developed) can be found at: philslattery.wordpress.com. Please interact with him at any of his social media accounts as you would with a real person.

Show your appreciation for these stories by leaving a review on Amazon, Goodreads, or other social media.

If you enjoy horror, check out my collection of horror short stories A Tale of Hell and Other Works of Horror: Stories of wizards, werewolves, serial killers, alien worlds, and the damned, which includes these stories.