The Devil’s Boy

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When John was little, the one thing he loved most in the world were nuggets.

He didn’t know what it was about those little breaded chunks of meat, but once his ma has fried up a batch of those crispy treats and popped one into his mouth, he was hooked. His pop-pop had bought them as a treat on his fifth birthday, but lil’ John always wanted more.
Whether dipped in barbecue sauce, or eaten plain, John loved munching on that sweet savory meat. He could have nuggets for lunch, dinner, and when ma had to milk the cows early in the morning, he would sneak out the leftovers for breakfast. Punishment would follow if he got caught, but he didn’t care. The only thing that mattered were the nuggets.
One thing about nuggets though, there was no way to make them on the farm. So every week, Pop-pop would put the boy in the pickup, and drive down to the city to get a bag of them down at the Safe-mart. It was the only time John got alone with Pop-pop, so he tagged along without fuss. He never liked the city much, and it didn’t like him either. It was loud, crowded, and the people there liked talking too much.
In the city, John would put a hand to his face when somebody got near, he didn’t like them staring, but still he could hear them, whispering and sniggering all round. “Pay no attention to them John,” Pop-pop would say, and the adults would leave him alone. But it was the children who were the cruelest one.
Rat-face, freak-show, retard, just some of the names the children in this accursed city called him. They would point, laughing at his protruding teeth, his sagging left eye, and the constant dribble that went down the side of his mouth. John hated them, and he made up his mind early to never ever live in the city.
Inside the safe-mart, things were no better. The constant stares left him feeling awkward, and there was nowhere in the bright-lit aisles to hide. Pop-pop was friends with the supervisor in the store, and he would go round back with her for a little chat, leaving John to fend for himself in the frozen section. John resented his father for that, but it usually meant a dinner of MickeyD’s nuggets later, so he never complained.
But the safe-mart was also where he discovered kindness. Barrett, the butcher, has noticed the boy alone, and unlike the rest, he would beckon for him to come over, inviting him to watch him work. Barrett would talk, and John would listen. The man would sharpen his blades and chop up the meat, stacking them high on the counter, waiting for customers to pick out the choicest bits.
Sometimes, business in the store was slow, and he would cook up a little something for the boy. He knew John loved nuggets, but he wanted John to experiment. Cutting up meats into the same size chunks as nuggets, he would bread them and fry them up, offering John a little taste of everything. John liked him, and he liked the treats, they soon became fast friends.
Then one day, just like any other, Barrett was slicing up a side of beef. His knife slipped. In the blink of an eye, John watched as the blade severed the end of Barrett little finger, chopping through the bone just below the first segment. The dismembered digit flopped on the table and rolled onto the floor. John looked at it as the butcher stood there screaming bloody murder.
John had no recollection of crying then, he only remembered watching. He watched when the finger bounced and twitched on the floor, its white skin and pink flesh coated in the still-warm blood of Barrett. It called out to the boy, like a nugget. John walked over and picked it up.
“Gimme that son, I need to get it to a… what are you doing…John NO!”
Pop-pop heard the screams, and came charging back into the store, his hands swrestling with the buckle of his belt. He found his young son staring at the stricken butcher, blood stains on his little hands, and a red gob trickling down the side of his chin. John was gnawing on something, he turned around and gave his Pop-pop a happy look.
“The devil! The devil!” Barrett screamed, flailing his arms, trying to get help.
“Oh hell John…” Pop-pop quietly took his son into his arms, and fled away from the store.
News spread like wildfire. By the time they have reached home, TV reporters were already covering the story, calling John the devil’s boy. Soon, Pop-pop knew they would come for him. He got out his shotgun and loaded it up.
The angry mob got there before the police, arriving in cars and pickups that stretched up down the road. The man leading them was their pastor, and he demanded that the boy be handed over, so that the demon can be exorcised.
“But he’s an angel, my angel,” Ma had told them, pleading with the men while pop-pop shoved his gun up their faces.
“That’s up to the good Lord to decide Betsy. I told ya you and Eric were never meant to be, and now you shall know His wrath. Sister should never marry brother, that just ain’t right. Now bring out the boy so that we can do what’s right.”
Pop-pop fired shots into the air, stopping the men’s advance. “RUN BOY RUN!” Inside the house, John heard his father’s cry. “I’m warning ya, take another step forward and I’ll…”
“And you’ll what?” The pastor challenged, walking right up to the barrel of his gun. “In the name of the Father, I command you to bring out the cursed child and…”
A single shot silenced the crowd. Was it his trembling fingers or his anger, John would never know. Pop-pop had fired the shot that would change this community forever. Time stood still as the old man flew off the ground, landing back five feet away with a crunching thud. The crowd went berserk.
John ran. Out the backdoor he went, never turning back as gunshots filled the air. He heard screams, one of them sounded like his Ma. But still he did what he had promised them, he ran. Pass the barn and into rows of corn, he chanced a look back. Ma and Pop-pop were nowhere in sight.
“Where are you devil-boy?” A man in a black coat said, as men swarmed the shack, looking for the boy,
“He ain’t here!”
“Well, what are you waiting for then. Burn him out, burn everything!”
John watched as the men lit up the shack that he had lived in his entire life. The wooded panels caught easily, and soon the fire spread. It became a towering inferno.
“Throw the bodies in,” the man said. “Ain’t no police gonna bother with what happened here tonight,”
“But Remy, the woman’s still moving. Your Pa he…”
“My Pa is dead, they killed him! And I say throw them in!”
John tried to shout, but only a gurgled grunt came from out of his throat. “Mama…” It was one of the few words he knew. He stared at the man giving the orders, burning his face into memory. Then, he heard a rustling before him.
“Hey he’s here! The devil boy is here!”
John ran. This time, he didn’t stop. He ran when the men fired their guns at him, and he ran when they set fire all around him. John never stopped running.

One day he promised, they will be the ones doing the running.

Experimenting With Horror

Can you tell it's going to be a scary book?

Can you tell it’s going to be a scary book?

I’ve been experimenting with horror/monster fiction lately as I wander through the vast fields of literary options, seeking to settle myself into a comfortable niche. So far, I kind of like it here in Scaresville, finding its sweet spot between the need for fanciful creations and tried and tested settings a very appealing one.

Without even noticing it, I’ve realised that most of my last few half-written stories in the last few weeks have been steering towards that direction. More importantly, I also come to see that I’m to focus on the story from the get go instead of trying to describe or make up the world.  I can express my fiction beyond the limitations of natural laws, yet have a grounded setting that can be typical without being branded as overly cliche.

It’s just something that the reader has come to accept and expect in this genre, that it is ok for Regular Joe to have a couple of coffee in the morning, run into some weird monsters in the afternoon, and save the world in time to have dinner. Rinse and repeat. In fact, if you take the same story, change up the monster/ghost/murderer, it will usually still work without any need for lengthy explanation.

My Journey towards Horror

I originally wanted to go with fantasy, but my beef with it is that it’s become boxed in to a expected set of creatures and myths. E.g. a clean-shaven dwarf who wields a mean bow, prancing through the forest and enjoys strawberries immediately breaks the mould, and you have to try to justify it, i.e. he was raised by the elves etc. Wide universe, but extremely boxed-in.

Then I tried my hand at Science Fiction. Immediately, I found it unsuitable for the shorter kind of fiction that I like. The best ones need to be grand, need a lot of believable science or nonsense leading up to the big reveal and are generally one trick ponies as I have mentioned in my Michael Crichton article. If you read those that succeed like Philip K. Dick (Minority Report) or H.G. Wells (World of the Worlds), they’re actually thrillers / war stories with a sci-fi setting.

My last attempt was actually peeking into the realm of superhero fiction. Maybe it’s just me again, but I kept facing the same issues as in Sci-Fi, while basing my characters off popular ones, so that people already have a picture in their head when I mention them. A crutch I eventually felt that I did not like.

So yea horror. Smooth going so far, though my problem now is the climax. Just a series of smaller battles leading to the big one ala Godzilla, or hold off the violence and make the violent erupt as a build up to the climax ala King Kong. I’m not going to try Stephen’s King arbitrary-in-your-head sort of horror for now. Just going to go with something physical first to muddy the waters.

Journey Through The Darkness

Journey Through The Darkness

My thoughts about the Genre

The best ones all play tricks in your head. They don’t always need to be unexpected, as long as it’s screwed up enough such that the twist that eventually comes still feels satisfying enough. That’s the sweet spot I mentioned earlier. People already know what to expect, yet you still have the liberty to throw a few bones at them and make them crave for more. Readers who complain about typical plots / writing shouldn’t be reading books on murder and monsters anyway while still complaining about the plot. That’s like complaining about Dwarves are cliche in a fantasy realm.

–  The monster isn’t important, the story is. Like superheroes, people already expect the monster to be just that, a monster. It kills people, they know. A man with a knife, he’s going to kill someone. I’ve tried to make my creatures sound or scary, and tried to make my setting more fascinating. But in the end, at the meat is still going to be the story. Origins is an extremely popular topic that readers love, followed by the typical agendas on why it does what it does. Whether the freaky clowns nose is red and round or green with snot doesn’t really matter beyond the initial visualisation. Oh, and the gimmick that your creature does, makes the story interesting, but doesn’t make the story.

Always start with the mundane. A fascinating monster in a bombastic setting sort of takes away the focus from the appearance of a monster/killer. Stick with the mundane or a concept that can be easily understood to make your creature and the story around it stand out.

For example:

The Midnight Snack. 

Peter walks into the kitchen, looking for a snack. In the dark, he notices the carton of chocolate milk sitting on the counter and his eyes perk up. One of the kids must have left it behind while they were packing for their sleepover. Without so much as a thought, he unscrews its top off and chugs it straight from the carton, wondering where the hell his wife is. She was suppose to be back from her book club at eleven.

In the dark, he fails to notice that the red liquid trickling down his chin.

This milk tastes a bit salty, he thinks to himself, smacking his lips as he wipes the dribble off with a hand. Probably just another one of those new fangled flavours that the kids love. Satisfied now, he walks back up the stairs to prepare for a good night’s sleep.

Halfway up though, his stomach starts to gurgle and churn. Not feeling so good, he sits on the steps and rubs his tummy. Wait what’s that bump? Lifting up his shirt he stares at his flabby skin and the tiny lump thumping vigorously at him from the inside.

If anyone of you noticed, yes I took the same plot from my earlier story and just plonked it here with a different setting. Still sort of works. 

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