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Tim Ouellette

On writing fiction

An unedited excerpt of a work-in-progress IN THE BELLY OF THE BEAST

“Let me the fuck out! Come on, this ain’t funny! Let me out, Goddamnit!”

In an abandoned shoe factory in the town of Salem, Massachusetts a 4’x4’ square metal box hung suspended twenty feet in the air above a room full of ancient, rusted leather cutting machines. The box was constructed of six sheets of triple-reinforced welded metal with a small six-inch hole cut into the top center. Four padlocks secured the top sheet of metal from inside the box. Light from a single bulb hanging from the warehouse rafters shone down on the upturned face of the box’s inhabitant.

The unfortunate man in the box was ‘Lucky’ Lorenzo Fama. Originally from Dorchester, a rough neighborhood on the outskirts of Boston, Lorenzo had moved to Salem under the auspices of taking care of his aging mother. In reality he was just biding his time till the old woman died; as an only child he was the sole inheritor of his mother’s property, not to mention the sole person named in a very substantial life insurance policy.

Lorenzo, knees bent up to his chin, had woken up inside the box a little over an hour ago. Frantic and panicking he’d shifted his body violently until the box began to sway. He stopped immediately, releasing a stream of obscenities through the hole above. He sat still after that, staring up into the milky light coming from the old light bulb, his throat raw and aching from yelling.

Think, Fama, think. Where were you earlier today? He tried to remember what he had been doing prior to his incarceration. He felt all fuzzy in the head, as if he’d been drugged.

Drugged. Drugs.

I remember! I was buying from someone … fuck, what was his name … Enrico, that’s it! The last thing I remember I was counting the money out for Enrico when we got jumped. There must’ve been five or six guys with guns and masks. Lorenzo reached his hand up to touch the spot on his right temple where someone had rifle-butted him in the head.

“Shit shit shit,” he muttered, trying to shift his body to alleviate the severe cramping in his back. As he shifted his right leg he noticed a piece of paper folded up and sitting on the bottom of the box. Maneuvering his arms he was able to retrieve the paper and bring it up to his face. He unfolded it and read it through once, then again. Folded it back up. Unfolded it and read it a third time.

“Oh my god,” he whispered.

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Flash fiction: Another Fine Day

” … 47, 48, 49, 50. Ready or not, here I come!”
Benjamin Dunnel lifted his face from his arms and stepped back from the old oak tree he’d been leaning on. Hide and Seek was his favorite game in the world; he’d been playing it since he was only five. He was twelve now (at least he would be in three days) and he hadn’t lost a game in almost four years.
The last time that had happened he’d been playing with the Martin twins, Janet and Hillary. They’d been older than Benjamin by two years.
They should have known better.
After all, everyone knew Benjamin was … special.
But Benjamin was also a cute eight year old and they didn’t think much of it when he’d thrown a temper tantrum after they’d won, dropping and thrashing about on the grass behind his house, screaming at the top of his lungs.
His mother Elaine had come running, the fear on her face a reminder of the constant danger in allowing other children to play with Benjamin.
“Janet … Hillary, what have you done?” She’d screamed, self-preservation forcing her to put the blame on them instead of Benjamin.
They’d never had the chance to reply.
Benjamin had grown quiet, had sat up on the grass … and stared at the twins.
“Go away,” he’d whispered, blue eyes blazing.  Something cold and dark passed behind his eyes.
Then quieter, just a whisper of a whisper, a single word:
“Dust.”
A strong wind had begun to blow from some point just behind him. His shoulder length blond hair had flown out before him like party streamers; his over-sized striped tee-shirt billowing out around his stomach.
Elaine had watched in horror as the wind had engulfed the twins and tore them apart, skin flayed and tattered, eyes turning to a filmy white mush in their sockets. They’d opened their mouths to scream and their lips had burst, teeth wrenched from their cavities.

Their hands had flown instinctively to their faces but mid-way had begun to crumble at the elbow and then the shoulder, turning to dust and flying up into the sky above Benjamin’s home.
The twins long black hair had flown backwards, taking their scalps with it, revealing a mess of blood and bone. Then this, two, had begun to crumble, until the whole of their bodies had become particularized and airborne, twirling in the hot summer sun before the wind died down and then stopped altogether.
Elaine stood on the back porch, the events of that horrific day just as present to her today as they were four years ago.
She watched her son finish counting and begin searching for Kaylee and Kyle Waters, the latest children “selected” to play with Benjamin. Kaylee was fourteen; her younger brother Kyle, ten.
Elaine was concerned about Kyle’s age but Kaylee insisted she’d already spoken with her brother about the importance of keeping Benjamin happy. “He won’t be any trouble, Mrs. Dunnel, I promise,” she’d said, a forced smile plastered onto her face.
It was Benjamin, of course, who had picked the children. It was always Benjamin. He’d chosen the Waters children because he liked how both of their names began with a K.
“Like Karate, or Ketchup,” he’d said, staring up at the sky that morning and twirling until he’d fallen, dizzy, to the ground. He’d lain there a moment, smiling and staring up into the sky until a bank of angry looking clouds had threatened to block the sun.
Elaine could see what was coming.
She’d watched as Benjamin’s smile had faltered, then shriveled up and died, his mouth twisting into an ugly sneer as he’d whispered “Go away;” then quieter, just a whisper of a whisper, a single word:
“Fire.”
The clouds had begun turning the blackest of black, roiling and boiling and finally bursting into flame, raining fire down onto the grass and trees. The clouds had dissipated then, smoky tendrils swirling lazily toward the sun.
“I’ll play with them next Saturday,” he’d announced, rising to his feet and walking toward his house.
Lost in this memory Elaine failed to see that Kyle was now standing with his arms crossed in front of Benjamin. It wasn’t until she heard Benjamin’s cry of anger that she realized something was wrong. She ran down the porch steps and toward the two boys.

“You cheated! I know you did!” Kyle yelled, uncrossing his arms and pointing a finger right at Benjamin. Kaylee stood behind her brother, tugging at his free arm, desperately trying to get him to calm down.
“He’s a cheater, Kaylee; a dirty rotten cheater!”
Kaylee gasped, releasing her brother’s arm. “Kyle, no!” she hissed, instinctively taking a step back.
Elaine watched in horror as Kyle poked his finger into Benjamin’s chest and yelled “Cheater!” at the top of his lungs. She was just coming up behind Benjamin when she heard him whisper “Go away,” then quieter, just a whisper of a whisper, a single word …

Food of the Gods

We lie atop the dusty outcrop jutting from the wall of blasted stone and dirt

Like a malformed phallus, razor-tipped edges crusted with the earnest release

Of those whose flesh has long since gone the way of ash and dust.

 

The gods have chosen us, stolen us from among the rest

To take part in this cosmic coupling, this Dionysian debauchery

Designed to echo the divine folly.

 

Arms and legs entangled, the sweat from our naked bodies mixes with the dust of the earth

To form parenthetical patterns, syncopating rhythms that will eventually

Rend both meat and marrow, blood and bone.

 

We exhale as one and breathe the final breath of a thousand dying souls,

Forsaking  forgiveness, denying ourselves a redemption that would never come.

 

Our coupling reaches frenzied heights and we are torn, skin and bones ripped and rent,

Strewn as fodder into the succulent soil, an incorrupt yet decomposing composite of

Sin and life and death.

 

The gods sigh from on high, a preternatural, pregnant pause as

Countless blackened hearts rise through the darkened earth to

Feast on the flesh of their progenitors and we…

 

We…

 

We are born.

An unedited excerpt from my current work-in-progress, BEST SERVED COLD

They came for her in the dark.

Twenty-one year old Marie LaSalle had stayed late at her friend’s dorm room, drinking wine coolers and doing Jell-O shots till the room began to swim and Marie decided it was time to head back to her own dorm. She’d been so focused on finding her way through the maze of half-naked bodies that she failed to notice the four young men gather their coats and follow her outside. They were college seniors but from another school; a friend of a friend of a friend, that sort of thing.

It had all happened so fast.

One minute she was walking along the dorm perimeter, trying to steer clear of the newly planted grass alongside the building; the next she was grabbed from behind, a rough, calloused hand clamped tight to her mouth, a scream locked in her throat.

Hot breath against her cheek. A male voice. Insistent.

“Don’t scream and you won’t get hurt.”

Her head swam as she was hustled underneath a low bridge that joined the two closest dorm rooms.

They forced her onto her back. Hands tugged at her shoes, pants, and shirt. Someone pulled the socks off her feet and stuffed one of them in her mouth.

She lay on her back and stared up at the night sky; the moon was still low but bright. Their shadows flickered across her face as one by one they took their turns with her, fierce grunts escaping small, ugly mouths. She turned her head sideways. Someone’s saliva dripped down, moistening her cheek.

The men (not men, animals, she would have to remind herself much later, if there was a later), pounded her into the hard ground, forcing themselves into her, ripping her apart with each thrust, driving a wedge between her body and soul.

They paused and for a moment she thought it was over…until they forced her onto her stomach, pushed her face into the dirt and she experienced a pain and degradation she didn’t think was possible.

She lost track of time and went away for a while, to the safety of  memories.

But she had to come back.

When they were done they pushed her aside and walked away, laughing.

She lay on the ground and began to shake. She wanted to cry out but she was too afraid they might hear her and return. So she lay there, silent, her self-worth destroyed, her sense of being ruptured.

It had all happened so fast.

 

#          #          #

An unedited excerpt from my latest short story, THE COLLECTOR

Sid Miller was an obnoxious little prick who was used to getting what he wanted, when he wanted it.

Right now he was in the men’s room at Buvette’s, an over-priced French restaurant in downtown Manhattan that his wife, Sheila, had dragged him to for their thirtieth wedding anniversary. His black designer dress pants and silk underwear were down below his ankles, bare ass pushed up tight against the inside of a locked stall door while a cute little French waitress knelt on the floor in front of him.

“Damn, you are good,” he muttered as wave after wave of orgasmic pleasure rippled from his balls on up through his belly.

He leaned his head back against the stall door and closed his eyes.

A loud rap on the other side of the door, a whispered fuck! and he was pushing the waitress out of the way and pulling up his pants.

“This stall is occupied!” he yelled, watching as the waitress wiped her mouth on some toilet paper and rose up off the floor.

“Payez-moi mon argent!” She whispered, smoothing out her skirt. Then, in broken English, “Pay me my money!”

Another loud rap on the door. Then silence.

“Okay, okay, I’m coming!”

Sid unlocked the door and the waitress breezed past him. She stopped, turned and stood in front of him, right hand extended, palm up. He pulled a large wad of money from his pants pocket and peeled off two $100 dollar bills, laying them neatly in her hand. Stuffing the money into her black apron she strode through the men’s room and then back out into the restaurant proper, the door slamming shut behind her.

Sid poked his head out and looked around.

The men’s room was empty.

“Hello? he said, his voice rising just a bit. “Anyone there?”

He knew he hadn’t imagined the knocking.

“Hello!” He repeated, louder this time. He left the stall and checked the remaining three stalls in the room but all were empty.

“What the fuck is going on?”

“That, my friend, is a very good question,” came a voice from the stall he had just been occupying.

Sid stopped in his tracks, a look of confusion on his face.

“Who the fuck said that?”

Sid stiffened as the stall door he’d recently had his ass stuck to swung open, revealing a well-dressed middle-aged man in a black suit and tie.

“So who the fuck are you?”

The man smiled, stepped out from the stall and extended a very polished and manicured right hand.

“Not much of a vocabulary, hm?” he said, his hand still extended.

Sid glowered, reached into the inner lining of his sport coat and pulled out his Glock 9mm. He chambered a round, pointed the gun at the stranger’s head and in a quiet voice he repeated his question. “I said, who the fuck are you?”

The stranger’s smile broadened. The hand remained where it was.

“You may call me M.”

Sid snickered and lowered his gun. “Seriously? M? You want me to call you by a fucking letter?”

M nodded his head in agreement but did not offer an explanation. Retrieving his hand he tipped his hat (as gentlemen must) and then left the stall to stand in front of the men’s room door.

“I’ve had my eye on you for some time now, Mr. Miller. I have a proposition for you.”

Sid chuckled. “Sorry buddy, but I actually like women.”

“It’s not that kind of proposition, I assure you.”

“So what kind is it? And how the fuck do you know my name?”

M tilted his head sideways. It was a sign of inquisitiveness one would expect to see on a precocious six year old. On M it just looked creepy.

“There is much that I know about you, Mr. Miller. I know your strengths: perseverance, dogged determination, to name just two.  I also know your weaknesses.”

Sid pointed the Glock back at the stranger’s head.

“What do you know about me? Is this some kind a shakedown? And just how the fuck do you know so much about me?”

M leaned forward, around the gun, bringing his face to within inches of Sid’s till their noses almost touched. This close Sid could smell something vile on M’s breath, like a rotted, decomposing corpse. Sid made a face and turned his head.

M smiled.

“I am a Collector, Mr. Miller.”

Excerpt from my novella ‘I, Daemon’

Prologue

 

In life I was known as Phaethon, son of Eos, Goddess of the Dawn; my father was Cephalus, head of the great founding family that produced the likes of Odysseus. While still just a child I was spirited away by Aphrodite, the Goddess of love and tasked with guarding her sacred shrines. I grew up among the holy temples, spending my days learning about the people who came to honor and worship the great Goddess while my nights were spent protecting the shrines, safeguarding them against those who would do violence to her holy places.

I lived a life of cautious abandonment, always aware of my dual character as offspring of the union between human and divine.

My life as protector of the shrines was a precursor to my after-life, the proving ground for what I would become upon my death. Yes, though I was a mixture of both god and man the human part of me, the part that was flesh and bone, body and blood, remained alive only for a time, the exigencies of life moving me ever forward toward a time of physical degeneration.

The spiritual part of me, however, was not something that gave itself to corruption; and, because of my mother’s divinity, my own divine character secured a life of immortality only dreamed of by mortal man.

This immortality was supposed to have been spent in humble, loving service to that race birthed by my noble father. I was supposed to command the lesser spirits, guide and guard the children of Man and stand forever as the intermediary between human and divine.

Thus in death I, Daemon, would be born: champion of the lesser, forever enthroned upon my own divinity, loved and respected and never, ever feared.

The gods, however, had other plans.

#        #        #

           “You’re beautiful,” the young mortal girl whispered, laying one slender hand against Daemon’s cheek. The demi-god grasped her wrist gently but did not remove her hand.

“It is a ruse, dear young one; a mask, a mirage. I am unspeakably horrid beneath it. You would do well to stay away from me.”

The young girl smiled. There was a sadness to her smile and it only added to her own beauty. “I shall do nothing of the sort. We were meant to be together.”

She gently removed Daemon’s hand from her wrist, turned and headed for her bedroom door. She stopped in the doorway and turned. “I’ve accepted this. Why can’t you? Or is it that you simply won’t?”

#        #        #

Back to square one

Over the years I’ve spent a considerable amount of time moving between genres in an attempt to find my authentic writing voice. I have started (and stopped) more projects than I care to remember. I’ve allowed my dedication to the craft to deteriorate to the point where I’d almost given up on the dream of writing for a living.

Almost.

My creative well was close to becoming dry. I’d allowed a number of years to pass without reading more than a handful of novels. As a busy field manager I’d allowed that business to spill over into my personal life and let it consume my every waking moment. I ended up a really good manager but a poor excuse for a writer.

I’m working on filling that well again by immersing myself in fiction. I’m giving myself permission to day-dream, to allow my mind to wander wherever the hell it wants to go. I’m reading and studying books on the craft; not just inspirational pieces but actual, honest-to-goodness technical books on plot and dialogue and characterization. I’m working on developing the habit of daily writing by setting a daily writing quota and then convincing myself to stay up with the 5am alarm and get that writing done.

I’m currently re-reading Michael Connelly’s THE OVERLOOK and attempting to take in its structure, how the author strings his words and sentences together, why it is the dialogue works, etc.

I’m going to work at writing day in, day out, strengthening my writing habit till it becomes a part of me I can never let go.

Wish me luck.

An excerpt from a current work in progress titled SKIDDERS

Skidders_Cover

 

“Charlie, what are you doing?”

He stopped mid-swing and froze; with the axe in his hand he looked like a miniature version of Paul Bunyan without the beard. She stood in the doorway to his room; he stood facing the window, away from her.

He answered without turning.

Disassembling,” he whispered.

His bedroom was in pieces; he’d hacked his bureau apart and driven the axe into the sheetrock in various places. His bed lay in ruins, upside down and against his closet door. He was hacking away at his writing desk when she  burst through his door.

“What are you talking about? Charlie, why are you doing this?”

He turned to look at her and she recoiled in horror. His eyes had rolled up so that only the white showed.  They looked like peeled grapes, with small strips of whitened scum glistening on the surface. The skin around his eyes was wrinkled and loose; long, looping folds gave the appearance of melted wax. The worst was his mouth – cheeks sunk, lips tight, bloodless, stretched open wide, a horrific caricature of an opera singer in the middle of an aria from hell.

She stretched a hand out to touch her son, then thought better of it and pulled it back. “Who did this to you Charlie?” she whispered.

Charlie moved toward his mother in shambling, halting steps. He smiled then, a vacant, empty, unholy smile.

Skidders,” he croaked.

Cover reveal & excerpt from HOLLOW MEN!

By the author of MIRROR IMAGE & I DARE YOU

It wasn’t so much the cold, or even the open windows. I had long given up any hope of ever being warm again. It wasn’t the god-awful smell or even the blood pooling on the floor in the corner, dripping from the partially-consumed body lying in a heap on the other side of the room.

It was the waiting.

Not knowing who was next. Not knowing how much time any of us had left.

We’d started the evening with seven: Sean, Phil, and Steve were already at my house when Cheryl, her friend Stephanie, and Stephanie’s boyfriend Chuck had shown up.

Seven friends, a little bored, a little high, looking for some laughs.

Seven friends.

And now we were down to five.

 

Look for HOLLOW MEN on Amazon soon!

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