Bonus Feature: “Reflections on a Wasted Life” Video by Phil Slattery

As a bonus today, I am posting a video I posted on YouTube on Tuesday. Let me know what you think of it.

I am experimenting with YouTube as a means to attract more readers, but I am not a filmmaker by any stretch of the imagination. Therefore I am experimenting with public domain videos, music, and inexpensive video editing software to develop short but poignant, moving films to feature on The Chamber’s YouTube channel to draw more readers. I have posted on YouTube only a few so far, most of which are experiments. The one above is the best I had made as of Tuesday. These are becoming easier the more I make of them. Soon, I hope to be able to create a a short story using public domain material. I made the one above as an experiment in emotional impact. It doesn’t have a plot per se, just a poignant je ne sait quois.

Let me know what you think of the video above and visit The Chamber’s YouTube channel and let me know what you think of those videos and how I might be able to improve.

Phil Slattery, Founder and Publisher

“Just in Case” Flash Fiction by Garrett Rowlan

The man walked out of the bushes as Paul was walking at twilight along the ravine, the one that ran north toward the Rose Bowl, a mile or so distant. Covered by the stretching shadows of the oak trees, Paul had turned back in the direction of his car, a 1/4-mile away, and out of the corner of his eye he saw the man alter his direction.

Paul didn’t like the young man’s appearance: scrawny, wearing a blue tank top (somehow Paul already imagined giving the police an All Points Bulletin), and dark-skinned, with knotted black hair spun like cotton candy off his skull. Paul increased his stride though his right knee, the one he had injured in high school thirty-five years ago and never fully healed, had begun to ache, the reason why he had turned back to his car in the first place. The man shouted something from behind. He was asking for money, maybe, for a cigarette or yelling from the depths of his hostility or madness. Paul’s heart pumped panic to his limbs as he speeded up his walk and clutched the switchblade in his pocket, the one he carried just in case.

The man’s shrill laugh pierced. He was getting closer. It was a nice neighborhood but quiet at this Sunday, twilight hour. Cars passed infrequently. Paul steadied himself for the encounter that followed. He imagined the response. Paul would not hesitate. The knife would penetrate the man’s flesh. What Paul imagined was the man’s look of surprise and panic filling drug-altered eyes, a second before the pain registered. Oh yes! Paul could imagine it clearly. Oh, he would love to show the punk that a middle-aged white man—somehow he saw the punk as Hispanic or black though he’d only gotten a glimpse in the gloaming—could be crazy too. Oh yeah!

When Paul couldn’t stand the wait any longer, he turned holding the knife.

The man was not there. He was some fifty feet behind Paul and talking on his cell phone. He didn’t notice Paul. “Yeah,” he said, as Paul turned away, “I was fucked up! Fucked up royally on that shit!”

Slipping the knife back in his pocket, Paul turned away, relieved and quizzical, asking himself, Who did the man remind me of? And then he had it, his brother-in-law, Rudy. He was Mexican too. “Hispanic,” he corrected Paul, the first time they met. Rudy had married Paul’s sister, Cindy. They had two kids, Ronnie and Maria, the delight of their grandmother. Cindy had gotten the looks, athletic ability, and ambition: She was a corporate lawyer, the Mexican husband was a high-school administrator. They were cogs in the success machine that had not included Paul.

The kid laughed again, loser, he shrieked.

Loser. It was the word he called himself, pushing fifty and unemployed, drinking on the sly, and watching cable with his mother. His favorite program was Dexter. He never missed envying a guy who had it all, looks, girlfriends, good job, and he could kill anyone he wanted, something that Paul sometimes envied, not that he wanted to be a serial killer, but he could definitely compile a list, beginning with his mother. “I could rent the room for a lot more if you weren’t my son,” she had said, resentfully. He’d kill her then he’d shank his ex-wife, who had cheated on him before leaving him. His father died years ago.

He realized he had been walking in silence for a couple of minutes now. He turned and looked back down the curving street and realized that his pursuer no longer pursued. The kid must have cut east at the narrow cross street. Paul walked another couple of minutes until he reached his car. He saw himself going home and didn’t want to think after that. Starting the car, Paul wondered if the kid wasn’t going to attack someone else, obviously discouraged by Paul’s fast walk and the knife he’d flashed. He drove to the narrow, rising road, and parked. He got out of the car and waited. It was night now and the houses were all quiet, most separated from the street by walls and hedges. A car passed, and Paul crouched down so he wouldn’t be seen. The kid was getting near. No other car was coming. Paul waited. The knife was in his pocket, just in case he wanted to step out and strike and then run away. Just in case he wanted to do that.


Garrett Rowlan is a retired LA sub teacher with seventy or so published stories and a couple of novels. His website is garrettrowlan.com.

“The Cold Spot” Fiction by Janea Speer

“I have a story about ghosts,” Marie said to Dalton and the others while trying to search for something meaningful to say in that awkward moment.  Becky, Davis, Kyra and Dalton looked at her with amusement.  “I mean…I never have seen… a ghost but…I experienced something strange one time.”  She stated as she peered again with hesitation at Dalton and surveyed the darkness of the forest beyond their warm campfire. 

“I was younger.  I went to the city with my Dad.  We went to a summer festival that day.  There were festival tents all around this old Victorian mansion.  It loomed above the wide lawn. It was all brick and three stories tall.”  She paused briefly and looked at the campfire.   

“I didn’t like the house. It gave me an odd vibe I couldn’t shake. But my Dad asked me if I wanted to go on the historical home tour with him.  I said yes.  We got in the house and were led into the living room space.  It was an elegant old home and well furnished.” 

“The tour guide began explaining the history of the house to us.  She talked about the owners and the number of times it had transitioned from family to family.  In the early 1920s, it had been turned into an orphanage for kids after the Spanish Flu epidemic.  Their parents had died from the flu.  The place was run by nuns and priests.  Then for a while, it was supposedly a psychiatric hospital.  In the 1980s, it was turned into a historical home and they began giving tours and stuff.”

She looked around at the others.  “The tour guide began telling us about the hauntings there.  Supposedly there is a Lady in Red that haunts the place, a young woman who had a botched abortion and died.  She is crying and she begs at the front door to see a priest.  There are some other ghosts there too.  There are children from the orphanage.  And they say there is an evil ghost there too on the first floor.  He was a psych patient that committed suicide.”

She reflected on her memory for a moment before continuing, “That day, I followed the tour group into the hallway.  I was standing in the hallway on the wood floor and I felt cold air coming up from the floor.  It felt good cause it was summer.  It was real cold like air-conditioned air.  I felt it all around me but the others didn’t seem to notice it like I did. I remember looking down at the floor thinking the cold air was coming from a hole in the floor leading to the basement. I stood there for quite a while in the cold spot.”

“We continued to the dining room and I stood off to the left of the big table.  The tour guide was talking but all of a sudden, I felt faint.  I felt extremely faint.  I was not sick but like I was gonna pass out. And I was having trouble seeing…. like the room was darkening before my eyes.  I was so worried that I would faint on an antique chair and break it.  So, I rushed over to the next room to the right.  It was a library or den or something. My vision was getting worse and worse and I knew I had to get out of that house immediately.”

Marie no longer looked at the others around the campfire as she talked, “I stumbled my way to the front door, jerked it opened, and rushed down the concrete steps groping for the handrail.  My vision was narrowing, the blackness was overtaking my sight.  I bumped into a few people awkwardly and went around the corner of the house stumbling. With my hands in front of me reaching out to grasp air, I could barely see. My vision was decreasing to a tiny pinhole and then suddenly…… wham!  I hit my face on the concrete sidewalk.  I blacked out about one foot away from a tent spike sticking out of the ground and tied to one of the festival tents.  I didn’t just faint like they do in the movies.  I slammed my face into the sidewalk really hard as if I had been pushed by someone. When I came to, there was a crowd of folks gathered around me asking if I was okay.  I was trembling and the whole right side of my face and neck was bruised, swollen, and bleeding from cuts.”

She looked up now at Dalton and said, “I had barely missed putting my face through a tent spike. If I had hit that tent spike, I would be dead for sure.”

Everyone at the campfire listening to the story was now silent.  She continued, “The cops and ambulance came.  They asked me what had happened.  I told them about the cold air in the hallway.  I told them I thought maybe there was some chemical in the air and maybe there was a hole coming up from the basement.  I asked them to check because I was worried about it. Maybe it was carbon monoxide. They checked the entire hallway.”

Marie shook her head slowly back and forth, “There was no hole in that hallway. There was no explanation for the cold air at all.”

She shrugged.  “I didn’t think much of it.  I figured over the years, I’d just blacked out but one day I told a friend that was big into paranormal TV shows about it.  She said…well, she said I might be something called a sensitive.  She said maybe I was empathetic to ghosts, that I could feel things deeply…more than others.  My friend said I experienced a cold spot in the hallway that day because I felt the presence of a ghost standing beside me, lingering around me.  I felt it but could not see it. And the others, could not feel nor see either. My friend said it might have been the bad one, the evil ghost. It may have been trying to hurt me intentionally and pushed me towards the tent spike on purpose…”

She trailed off.  “To this day, I still don’t really know what happened. I have never ever seen a ghost but perhaps, I felt one nearby that others did not feel. My friend said this ability to sense their presence was a gift.”

She stopped telling the story and looked up to see what the reactions were on the faces of her campfire friends.  No one spoke at first.  They all looked around uncomfortably.  Then Davis interjected with a nervous laugh, “That story is crazy!”   

“Good one, Marie.  How long did that one take you to make up?”  Asked Kyra and she smirked at the others.    

Marie responded timidly, “It’s actually…true.” The others around the campfire exchanged quick sudden glances but said nothing further.  Becky grinned some in disbelief and looked down to hide her expression.  Davis took another swig of the Jack Daniels and looked to the forest to his right.  Kyra pretended to be focused on warming her hands.  Marie stopped smiling and looked down awkwardly.  Dalton placed his hand on hers again and moved closer.  She grasped his hand then and looked beyond the others to the forest and the moonlit sky. 


J. Speer grew up in Lawrence, Kansas and is familiar with the Stull Church legend.  She was later stationed at Germany and Virginia while working for the military.  She now resides in Pittsburg, Kansas and works in photography/art framing.  She has 4 books on Amazon and writes a blog at www.jspeerwritings.com.  

Janea says about this piece:

“These two stories are actually part of a longer story I am working on and go hand in hand.  The overall story is about a young woman who is a sensitive.  She is able to sense or feel the presence of paranormal beings.  The first story submitted is titled The Cold Spot and is a true-life ghost story she recounts to some friends around the campfire on a weekend trip to the lake.  The second story is called Stull and happens the next evening as she and her boyfriend are returning from the lake and encounter the strange and mysterious small town of Stull.  This is a real place located outside Lawrence, Kansas.”

“Stull” Fiction by Janea Speer

smoking ghost

They had come back early from camping at Lake Clinton but it was now dark outside.  It was late October and the autumn breeze was cool on her face as they drove the Jeep Wrangler down the highway.  She held her brown hair back as the curls whipped here and there wildly in the wind.  They were listening to the Red Hot Chili Peppers.  The volume was turned up quite a bit so they failed to notice anything out of the ordinary when they stopped at the little town named Stull.  No one lived there anymore.  It was just old buildings, forgotten and faded with time. 

They had heard the rumors about this place but they didn’t care.  They were young.  Why should they care?  As they pulled into the little gravel parking lot behind the abandoned old grocery store, she looked hesitantly, however, around in the dark.  He turned down the music.  She looked off to the north past the road to the crest of the hill where the ruins of the old church sat solitary and still in the dim moonlight.  She looked again at the dark around them and she shivered a little. 

“We might want to hurry.” she said with a twinge of uncertainty.  With the music turned off, she listened for any small noises around the vehicle.  It was hard to see much past 30 or 40 feet to her right.  Everything was so dark over there, pitch black almost.  The beams of the headlights shone on the exterior back of the old store.  Once again, she looked at the church.  It was the 7th gateway to hell…that’s what the locals said it was.  It was a secret portal according to the rumors.  Supposedly, if you threw a bottle against the wall of the church, it would not break.  The devil’s portalJust an urban legend she thought to herself. 

He got out of the jeep and rummaged among their bags in the back looking for his cell phone. 

“I know I left it in here,” he said as he dug through a camo green backpack.  He found it and returned to the driver seat. 

“Maybe we should put the hard top up,” he said to her. 

She just shrugged, hugging herself a little.  “I’d rather not do it here.”  She smiled feebly.  “Perhaps down the road a bit.”

He smiled at her then and nodded towards the old church.  “Nervous?” he asked with a slight smile. 

She didn’t say anything.  Just shrugged. 

“Relax, there’s nothing to worry about.  It’s just a dumb story.  Nobody even goes up there anymore.  It is fenced off.” He grabbed her chin and tugged her head slightly to the left.  He grinned at her.  “Calm down.”

She smiled bigger this time and leaned in to kiss him.  She closed her eyes as she felt his warm lips on hers.  He cupped her face in his gentle hands.  She placed her hand on his waist and he pulled her in deeper.  They pulled away for just a moment, enough for her to lean her forehead against his and say softly, “I had fun last night.” 

He grinned.  “I did too.” 

They embraced again.  This time with more youthful urgency and passion.  Eventually, he pulled reluctantly away and grinned.   He licked his lip slightly and took her hand in his.  He said, “We need to get back.”

She just watched him in the darkness.  She loved him.  She knew it. 

He turned to start the ignition of the Jeep.  She looked forward to the hill once more.  She shuddered.  As the engine started up and her boyfriend shifted gears, she looked casually to the right.

That’s when she saw it…in the darkness beyond.  It was there maybe not twenty feet from the car.  In the darkness she saw the slight red light.  It was very small.  Silently, it was there…suspended in air.  She blinked.  She looked closer.  It was still there.  She knew instantly what it was.  She watched it more intently.  She kept watching.  She was staring now without blinking and she felt a sudden fear.  And then… it moved.  The light moved with intention, as if making its presence known only to her.  It was just a slight movement but just enough to let her know, they were not alone.   

A cigarette.  It was the light from a cigarette.  Someone was watching, had been watching them silently in the dark distance as they kissed.  Someone was standing right there. 

Her eyes flickered swiftly to the church and then back to that same spot.  The cigarette light was now gone. 

Her boyfriend pulled the jeep out of the gravel parking lot and back onto the main road.  She watched that spot, the spot where the cigarette light emanated briefly.  She watched for it as long as she could until Stull and its eerie presence faded into the dark distance behind them.

As the jeep disappeared into the east, the stranger stepped out of the shadows and onto the moonlit road.  He watched the jeep curiously, studied the license plate numbers, and dropped the dead cigarette butt onto the concrete beside him.  The others were nearby too.  He could sense them behind him.  They could not be seen but they could be felt. 

He continued to watch the vehicle.  His eyes gleamed ever so slightly. 

He had wanted her to see him there in the dark.  There was something different about this one.  Perhaps it was her scent as he stood invisible and next to her door when they first entered the parking lot.  She didn’t notice him there.  They never did….until, it was too late of course.  And yet, she turned her head suddenly towards him as if she sensed him.  He looked right into her light brown eyes as she spanned the darkness with caution.  She looked through him but she seemed aware of him oddly.  She looked frightened…vulnerable.  He watched her eyes.  He smirked and he pulled back, motioned to the others to wait, and they watched deliberately. 

When she saw the cigarette, he had expected her to show fright.  He would have delighted in a scream, in fact, as he cued the others to pounce, to rip her apart.  But she didn’t react…not at all.  She silently studied him even when he moved the cigarette intentionally. 

Smart girl he thought to himself. 

The others were waiting behind him in the shadows.  The jeep was now gone.  No one traveled the dark road.  No one at all.  All was silent in the moonlight.  He remembered the license plate numbers and he figured he would pay them a visit perhaps very soon.  Then, he walked back into the shadows whistling.


Bio:

J. Speer grew up in Lawrence, Kansas and is familiar with the Stull Church legend.  She was later stationed at Germany and Virginia while working for the military.  She now resides in Pittsburg, Kansas and works in photography/art framing.  She has 4 books on Amazon and writes a blog at www.jspeerwritings.com.  

“Big Game Hunter” Fiction by Travis Lee

It’s dusk and no one’s coming.

The damn beast wasn’t supposed to charge me. I paid $45,000 to come hunt it, an albino rhinoceros with a nice horn. They made me sign a waiver. This land is owned by a diamond mining conglomerate, and when Pavel looked at my signature he told me I was going in alone. Once I kill the rhino, contact him by satellite phone.

The phone. In the tall grass, maybe still working, or maybe in pieces along with the rest of me because when the rhino charged I was not prepared. Animals have never acted hostile before. You should see the lions. They tear apart wildebeests and buffalo calves, but when they see me they just lay there as I squeeze the trigger.

My arm is aching. I’m trying not to move but my arm. I shift a little. My gut explodes in pain. Blood attracts predators and there’s a difference between a healthy man aiming a gun and a bleeding man under a tree. One’s an anomaly.

The other’s prey.

I went on my first hunt was when I was twelve. My uncle took me to Yellowstone Park and before we set off he pulled me close and said, Congratulations. You’re now part of the food chain.

I haven’t thought of that in years.

Funny what your mind coughs up.

#

I have some pills but I dare not take any. Night has fallen and I’m alert. I have a .357 Magnum with six shots, well, five. Five for the hyenas.

One for myself.

They sound close. I raise the gun, ignoring the pain. It’s stupid, of course, as hyenas hunt in packs. The best I could do is scare them and if that doesn’t work?

One bullet will.

Hyenas can bite through anything. They’ll start at my legs, ripping me apart beneath the clear savannah sky.

At which point do you die? In the middle or does it happen last, after you’ve been mostly eaten?

#

Night passes. No hyenas.

I’m getting weaker. I sip the canteen. There’s enough water for a day, maybe two if I space it out but it’s hot. The sun breaks through the leaves and a fly crawls around my mouth.

#

The satellite phone is ringing.

Beep-beep, beep-beep, beep-beep. The sound of salvation I spot it in the tall grass, green light flashing.

Beep-beep.

Beep-beep.

#

I’ve spent the day making arguments against going for the phone. My uncle’s words keep coming back, circling me like the flies. I’m already part of the food chain, and it didn’t happen when the rhino charged and I stood there like a doofus, too shocked to do anything. It happened the moment I stepped out of the jeep.

A caw. I look up.

A vulture cruises overhead.

I close my eyes. Vultures can smell the dying from miles away.

I open my eyes and reach for my gun. The vulture. I stare at it, my eyes burning in the unfiltered daylight. The vulture spreads its wings and perches on a high branch.

It’s staring down at me.

I tilt my gun skyward, , aligning the barrel with the bird. I do a silent Mississippi-count to five.

I fire.

The bird drops down beside me. Its wings spread open, covering my legs and I look down and scream, brushing it away and igniting a new series of pain.

I shove the dead bird as far as my arm will allow and close my eyes. The smell. A messy infection below and I can smell myself rotting and I can’t hold it in. I turn my head.

I puke.

#

Laughter cuts through the night. My eyes flip open and I grab the Magnum.

Congratulations. You’re now part of the food chain. I had slipped away to somewhere just beneath the pain. My uncle was leading me through the jungle to where the rhino stood waiting in a long field. I lined up to take my shot while the rhino charged and I took it down, one shot. Dead.

Their laughter makes me want to laugh too and I let go of the gun. I cover my mouth with both hands. I laugh, pressing my hands tighter as they approach.

The hyenas move with purpose through the tall grass. Their eyes shine like migratory starlight as they rush their prey. I know they can see me and smell me but do they understand and I know I should grab the gun because this is it, but I don’t.

I just laugh.

And I’m still laughing when the hyenas ignore me. An elephant herd is on the move. I’m laughing when the hyenas slip between the great beasts’ legs, separating a baby elephant from the herd. I’m laughing when they start with the trunk, one hyena tearing it in half and the rest ripping it off. The baby elephant is screaming as the pack swarms and I have my answer: you die at the very end. The hyenas eat the baby elephant to the bone.

I’m laughing so hard I have a coughing fit.

#

The pain is bad and the smell is worse.

The pills are part of the standard first aid kit they issue all hunters. They give you a vacuum-sealed pack of six. One a day.

Or six.

I tell myself it won’t come to that. I look up. The sun hasn’t crossed the midway point yet and the predators hunt at night. I look out across the savannah. The baby elephant’s bones. I feel a laughing fit coming on and I jab my tongue against my cheek. The laughter rises, falls back. I hold my tongue there until I no longer feel like laughing.

I peel one of the pills free.

It dissolves on my tongue in seconds. I lean back, close my eyes and listen for the phone.

#

Beep-beep.

I open my eyes.

Beep-beep.

I close them.

#

I’m awake. For a second I think there is a bear in the tall grass, guarding the satellite phone. I have to concentrate for several minutes, readjusting my mind to the time and the shapes around me.

It’s night. I slept all day.

I wasn’t supposed to sleep all day. God damn pills are only supposed to knock you out for five hours. But you’re also supposed to eat with them and I have no food. The three emergency MREs they give you are out in the tall grass somewhere, assuming the hyenas haven’t gotten to them.

Flies crawl on my forehead.

#

I turn my head to puke but only dryheave. I have nothing to throw up.

#

I’m awake all night, thinking of my rifle.

My uncle taught me how to shoot. We hit targets on his property. And in Yellowstone, he taught me the importance of stealth.

Since we’re part of the food chain we gotta act like it, he said, outfitting a silencer to his rifle.

We tracked the bear and her cubs for days. We weren’t dumb enough to carry our rifles out in the open and once we were in position for a good shot, my uncle handed me his rifle. He showed me how to steady the aim. The cold cylinder in my hands. The weight that decides death.

I can still see the bear. She looks right at me when I line up my sight. My uncle would have laughed so I never told him but I know what I know, and what I know is that bear saw me. She knew I was there to kill her.

Her cubs squealed afterwards. They crowded around their mother, sniffing her, trying to lick her back to life. My uncle told me not to feel sorry for them: turn the tables, and the bears would have me for lunch.

Let’s go, my uncle said.

We’re not taking it?

Where? To who? He gave me a light smack on the back of my head. Yellowstone’s got too much stick up their asses for that.

We left the bear to rot, her cubs to mourn and on the way back home we bought ice cream.

#

A fly lands on my cheek buzzing I brush it away more on my forehead

#

I drift off and wake up hearing the bear cubs sobbing for their mother. What ever happened to those cubs? Male bears will kill cubs that aren’t their own but the bear would eat me if the tables were turned and besides we’re now part of the food chain so we have to act like it.

I cough. Flies. I can’t wave them away. Something is stalking me through the tall grass. I can’t make it out. Hyena? Lion?

Bear?

Where the hell is Pavel? They should have come for me by now. The satellite phone is working, I heard it beep (yesterday? day before?) so they know I’m here.

Where are they?

I don’t have the strength to move but I do have the strength to think and see and combined I think I see what’s out there in the tall grass.

I grab the Magnum. The movement startles the flies but doesn’t scare them away.

Five shots left.

#

Laughter and it’s not coming from the hyenas.

It’s coming from the bear.

Mama bear is laying in front of the satellite phone. She keeps her paws to the side of the phone so I can hear it ring.

Beep-beep.

Laughter.

Beep-beep.

Laughter. Sounds like hyenas but it’s that fucking bear. Congratulations. You’re now part of the food chain.

#

Fucking bear. You haven’t moved all day. The sun sets and I need another pill for the pain and the flies the itching is driving me crazy the smell makes me gag. I dryheave.

The bear laughs.

And this is it. I won’t survive another day out here. Pavel isn’t coming. I need to get to the phone. That’s him calling. Their equipment is broken. They can’t find me unless I answer.

The bear laughs.

Your cubs are dead, I whisper. My voice sounds like it belongs to someone else.

My uncle is beside me. He swats me on the back of my head and hands me his rifle. The rapport might knock me down, but at least mama bear will die and this time she will stay dead.

Beep-beep.

I stand up. Something’s coming closer. A small stampede. The laughter grows. The bear doesn’t raise her head. I aim the rifle as something tears at my legs. The flies have scattered. I try to squeeze the trigger but my finger is too weak and I no longer feel it.

I feel teeth.

I hear laughter.

And somewhere, the satellite phone is ringing. Beep-beep.


Bio:

Travis Lee lived in China for two and a half years, where his short story ’The Seven Year Laowai’ went viral among the expat community. He currently lives in Japan, working as a weather forecaster. Find out more at https://www.travis-lee.org