Deathdream: Guest Post by Thomas S. Flowers

Let’s Talk About Deathdream (1974):
April 2016 Blog Tour
By: Thomas S. Flowers

There is something very intimate going on in Deathdream. Something very personal is going on, and maybe it has to do with the film’s low quality, the early 70s B-movie vibe and dang near grainy steady-cam picture, or perhaps the intimacy has to do with the atmosphere, the utterly believable world, as it is likewise chilling and raw, where a part of you doesn’t want to exist, but it does. Most of the realism is thanks in part to the incredible cast of actors and actresses, taking on the role of characters that are mirror images of people walking the streets in a small town that could possibly exist, because it probably does, somewhere out there. And this is the vibe, the feeling we get. This movie is real. This is real life. And when the supernatural takes hold, turning our blood to ice, we’re caught off guard. These things cannot happen. The dead stay dead, those are the rules. But for Andy Brooks, the protagonist (or is he the antagonist?) in this story, those rules no longer apply. Andy has come home. And I think this is the root of the intimacy. Andy, by all accounts of the rules of reality, should not have come home.

The most second most important scene in the movie, we’re brought into the kitchen of the Brooks family. Mother. Father. Sister. Everyone is merry, or as much as they can be with a loved one deployed to Vietnam. They make small talk. They laugh. Everything will be okay, this scene tells us, so long as they remain strong, for Andy’s sake. And then someone knocks on the door. Who is it? They don’t know. It’s awfully late for a neighbor to stop by. The mood drops temperature. Two uniformed soldiers are standing at the door. It’s a telegram, the worst kind, the one no one at home wants to receive. “I’m sorry to inform you,” the Class-A dressed solider announces, “but your son is dead. Killed in action.” Shock. Cold pricking goosebumps. “My son? Dead?” Its laughable, how could their son, brother be dead? These things don’t happen to them, they happen to other people, people on the news, people far away from the safety of the dinner table. No, not Andy. Not their Andy.

The grief here at the dinner table is very raw and heartfelt. The mother weeping. The sister in shock. The father…doesn’t want to accept the news. I’m not sure how you are taking this scene, for me, this moment in the movie is very real. After serving for 6.5 years in the Army, and having deployed three times to Iraq, watching the Brooks family is how I might imagine my own family reacting to the news of my death. Hence the name, Deathdream. Yes. It’s a horror movie. A 70s horror movie at that. But it is more. It’s real. And director Bob Clark wanted you believe as much.

Now, what happens next is where things get a little odd. There’s a knock at the door. The family, just getting to bed after hearing the terrible news, tread the stairs thinking, “What now?” The father answers. There’s a buildup of suspense, as if something really horrifying is going to be at the door. It’s Andy. “It’s Andy!” they all shout. Everyone is overcome with joy. There must have been a mistake. “Can you believe, they actually told me my son was dead?” the father says. Everyone is happy, and rightly so, but there’s something…wrong with Andy. Something he’s not saying. He’s pale and stoic. He doesn’t want to be around crowds, not even friends or family. Again, they recall the evening’s event, nearly hysterical, “They sent a telegram telling us you were dead.” And Andy answers with, “I was.” And here we get a glimpse of the horror to come, the Brooks family doesn’t know how to react. Andy is different…

Now, as stated before, the above is the second most important scene in the movie. The strange homecoming. As the film progresses, we’re given other little snippets of post-war life. Andy, though we’re not too sure (we weren’t privy to his life before the war), but we’re given the impression had been at some point a very happy go-lucky sort of chap. All the neighborhood is abuzz with the news of Andy’s return, even the local kids want to stop by and say hello. But Andy isn’t the Andy they remember. He doesn’t want to play. He doesn’t want to interact. And everyone is taken aback. They don’t know what to make of this new Andy, in fact, they don’t even want to see Andy as being different. The father gets mad, retires to the local bar, and gets drunk. The mother, keeps vigil, maybe Andy will get better, she promises herself. The sister hides amongst her friends. And the neighborhood kids? Well, they all run away screaming.

I won’t get into all the detail, you really ought to watch this film for yourself, but speaking personally, this scene, among others, also resonates with me. Am I the same Thomas Flowers that existed before the war? Not at all. I’m different, and through the years have come to learn how my experiences have changed me, and I’m still learning, every day. Andy doesn’t have that luxury. Andy isn’t your typical veteran. He’s a ghost. A memory of a shadow, made of stolen blood that somehow keeps him whole, walking amongst the living. His character isn’t going to learn anything or develop or change. There is only one progression for Andy, the ultimate progression you might say. And so, you might be asking, “What’s the point of the story?” Well, being careful not to take the movie out of context, this is a 1972 (74 maybe?) story. Being drafted into the Vietnam War is a huge fear in the minds of most American families, especially for those with sons, brothers, uncles, and husbands already deployed in combat. But, there is also an ambiguous question clawing its way out the grave. What is it, you ask? What is the question?

Let’s talk about another important scene, though certainly not the most important one. When Andy’s father seeks outside help to discover what is amiss with his son, Andy ends up following Dr. Allman, the gentleman who had been working with Andy’s father, trying to solve the proverbial mystery of what was “wrong with him.” Andy confronts the good Doc in his office, stating, before draining him of his blood, “I died for you, Doc. Why shouldn’t you return the favor…? You owe me…” And then, in a scene mimicking the escalation of drug abuse common among combat veterans, Andy “shoots up” the drained blood with a hypodermic needle. This scene, for obvious reasons, is full of dark ambiguous questions. But it’s not the most ambiguous scene. This scene simply lays on another series of questions.

Here we are. The most important scene. Before we move on, I need to mention the ending. I know, spoilers and all, but I need to talk about what happened. Throughout the movie, Andy is slowly decaying. He’s becoming what he already is, dead. After a few murders, the truck driver and Doc Allman, and I think perhaps one more (I can’t quite remember), the cops are now on to him. Delirious, Andy’s mother agrees to take Andy away, but during the chase, Andy directs her to the town cemetery. Cemetery? Why there? The sirens are wailing. Tires screeching. Guns drawn. Will there be a final showdown, man verses monster? No. We are denied such luxuries of simplicity. In the final moments of screen time, Andy, nearly dissolved of energy and flesh, crawls to a grave he had prepared for himself sometime previously. He lowers himself, clawing the dark rich earth, covering his body. His mother watches, in tears, protesting, “Why? Why?” And Andy, unable to speak, gestures to his impromptu tombstone. “Andy Brooks, born 1952. Died 1972.” Slowly she realizes that her son is in fact dead, and helps cover his body. The cops arrive on scene shortly before the final act, pistols in hand, ready to slay the creature. But the creature is already dead. They’ve been robbed this battle of archaic man, of Stone Age man, but their faces are not disappointed, their faces are full of question. And this is why the final scene is the most important scene in the movie. Why? Because it deals with a mother and her son. It deals with our children, the future generations and the things we’ll ask them to do. No. Deathdream doesn’t answer any of these questions. The answers to all these ambiguous questions are up to the viewer. As witnesses, we will have to answer for ourselves.


Emerging FRONT
FREE at Amazon for a limited time, or FREE with Kindle Unlimited! You’re welcome. 🙂 Click the book’s cover to go to its Amazon page.
Author-Pic-Thomas-Flowers-400x400
Thomas S. Flowers is the published author of several character driven stories of terror. He grew up in the small town of Vinton, Virginia, but in 2001, left home to enlist in the U.S. Army. Following his third tour in Iraq, Thomas moved to Houston, Texas where he now lives with his beautiful bride and amazing daughter. Thomas attended night school, with a focus on creative writing and history. In 2014, he graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in History from UHCL. Thomas blogs at machinemean[dot]org where he reviews movies, books, and other horror related topics.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The Support System Struggle: For Writers

9 out of 10 writers will tell you that writing is a solitary endeavor. After just a few years in the game, I think I know why.

As a writer, there’s a part of you-a pretty damn big part, depending on just how obsessed you are with your ‘hobby’-that you have to protect from almost everyone you know. And there are two reasons you have to do this.

1- You can’t share your struggles.

If you complain about how hard any part of this is, you’ll inevitably be met with some variation of this response: “If you hate it so much, why do you do it?” It boggles the ‘normal’ mind why a person who is perfectly capable of pursuing any number of interests would pursue one that challenges them so. You know why you do it. The motivation behind each of us is different, but it all comes down to one very simple thing: you’re simply compelled to write. The world is dark when you keep all your words inside you, and grows darker still the more you force it down. But when you write … bliss. It’s fleeting, like a butterfly that alights nearby but flutters off the second you try to reach out and grasp it. But for that one moment, if you just be still and enjoy whatever small success you have achieved, you know peace. Speaking of successes, that brings me to my next point.

2- You can’t share your successes.

At some point, you’ll manage to pull off something you’re really proud of. Go ahead and tell someone that short story you blogged got 30 likes. Unless it’s a fellow writer or blogger, “they” won’t get it. They may even respond with something like, “Talk to me when you’re making enough money to pay the bills and then I’ll be impressed.” They are effectively telling you that you’re wasting your time by doing what you’re doing and wasting their time telling them about it.

It’s not this way for everyone, but it is this way for enough writers, collectively, that we have accepted that writing is a lonely endeavor. I don’t think I have any advice on how to deal with this. I’m struggling with it myself.

I do have a great support system, just not close by. The online writing community has saved my shattered confidence more than once. And, of course, my #1 fan: my mom. And I do have friends who know, instinctively, that “Congratulations” is the appropriate response when I share news I’m excited about, and that “It’s okay, you’ll get past this” is what I need to hear when I’m venting.

I guess if I had any advice on how to deal with the support system struggle many authors face, it’d be this: protect your successes and your struggles from those who simply cannot understand them. And share them with those who do.

Keep doing what makes you happy. To borrow a line I’m particularly fond of from someone whose name I’ll have to google …

“Don’t let anyone steal your joy.” -[Google was not helpful with this one. Apparently there are many versions of this, and it seems to have originated from the bible. So there you have it. Even God agrees I’m right about this much. :P]

Broken Man

Bent and broken, the man continued to crawl across the dark parking lot. Overhead lights sparkled their reflections in hundreds of glassy shards. They bit into his flesh, through denim and flannel. He dragged himself along, oblivious, leaving a trail of blood and gore behind. Worse than this apathetic creature was what followed his gruesome path.
Armothides. From a distance, one might confuse them with armadillos. That is if armadillos grew to the size of bears and had six appendages instead of the usual four. Its two forearms, giant pincers, remained raised in a boxer’s stance.
No one knows for sure what led or bred these beasts into existence. Of those who survived long enough to give it any thought, some believed God’s wrath had been visited upon the Earth; others that the government’s experiments went horribly wrong. Most blamed aliens. Not that the creatures themselves were aliens. No, just that aliens had visited Earth to try their hand at creation or evolution.
In any event, the three beasts following the emaciated fellow paused. The one in front began a slow rotation. Just before turning the full 360°, it stopped.
Pincers held high, the monstrosity reared up on its hind legs. As it stood, the gray ridges along its back scraped against one another like nails on a chalkboard.
Its two companions turned in the direction their leader faced, rising and adding their shrill grinding to the echoes of the first, even as it returned to its previous posture.
Six pincers clicked.
Three monsters gave chase.
The broken man paid them no mind. He continued on his path, leaving traces and bits of himself behind.

Jessica West (West1Jess) February 10, 2016
Trying my hand at Omniscient PoV. 🙂

♪♫♪♪

I’m a little awkward, full of doubt.

Here is my foot and here is my mouth.

When I get all flustered just look out,

‘Cuz you never know what’ll come out.

♪♫♪♪

tea-party-1138915_640

 

Just having a bit of fun. Photo courtesy Pixabay.

One Last Run

Okay, folks. I had to fight for it, and I had to dig deep, but I got something so I feel a bit better. 🙂 It’s rough–no research or editing or looking back, I’m just getting back into a groove–but it’s something. Here’s to 2016 and writing more stories. Lots and lots of stories that have no purpose other than to sit pretty on this blog because I need them here instead of weighing on my heart and pacing the halls of my mind. And hopefully, it does something for you too.


It’s worth it. In the end, it’s all worth it.

Cowboy Cartoon

Toby sat on the bull, one hand gripping the pomel and the other hanging loose at his side, staring at the last horns he’d ever see, God willing. If he took home the pot tonight, he could buy his little girl that pony she’d been after since her first rodeo.

Her mama didn’t care much for the cowboy kind of life, but she’d let the little one ride. The new had wore off not but three years after little Emma was born. Too many days and nights spent raisin’ a baby alone will do that to a woman.

Shelly had agreed to name her after his grandmother back when she still liked him. She hated him so much now, she’d have changed little Emma’s name if she could have, just to spite him. She tried, but he had a lawyer just as good as hers and she just ended up looking like an ass.

He felt bad for that. Shelly was a hard woman because he’d made her that way. She was soft and generous and everything a man could want in a woman before the rodeo circuit wore grooves into her heart.

No, she didn’t care much for him, but little Emma still said he was her hero. And that was enough to get him through this last ride.

He was gettin’ too old for this shit real quick. When the cold weather set your bones to aching, it was time to hang it up. The dull roar of the crowd sounded like a freight train pulling in and he was ready to ride that train back home. Nothing waited for him but a two-bedroom cinder block house on a piece of land somewhere the world seemed to have forgotten. That and his horse Ben and little Emma. But he was ready to go home. For good this time.

A garbled announcement blared over the speakers and the roar kicked up a notch. Time to get to work.

He adjusted his grip and strained to hear the familiar sound of leather creaking under his fist. Not over this crowd. Seconds away from retirement, he leaned forward, clenched his thighs, and held his free hand aloft. The horsepower thundering in his chest could have beat a Hennessey Venom in a ten second sprint. He only needed eight to win.

With a nod from him, a rodeo hand pulled the latch, the gate swung wide, and the bull shot out. He threw his hand high up in the air, riding the motions of the bull’s battle to throw him.

Eight seconds and he could retire, buy little Emma that pony. His whole body jolted from one impact after the next.

Seven seconds and he’d never have to spend another night so far away from home. Inflamed shoulder muscles begged for release.

Six seconds, just six more seconds. Sweat trickled down his back and made his palm slick inside his glove. He’d have blisters for sure this time.

Five seconds in, his hand sliding inside his glove burned from the heat of friction.

Only four seconds left, the only thing keeping his hand on the pommel was sheer strength and determination. He grit his teeth and held on tight, keeping his free hand high and clear.

For little Emma, he could hang on for three more seconds.

The bull stopped thrashing around, planted its front hooves into the dirt, and kicked its hind legs high up behind them.

The recently healed fracture in his arm screamed a warning and Toby cried out. He was too close, he couldn’t let go now. Win or lose, this was his last rodeo.

He lost count of the seconds. Time was frozen anyway, the excruciating moments stretched out forever. But he’d ride this bull to Hell before he’d let go. Tears sprang to his eyes and heat spread through his arm and up his shoulder.

He closed his eyes and rode the bull. Felt nothing but little Emma’s tiny arms around his neck. Saw nothing but what her smile would look like when she saw that pony. Heard nothing but the squeals of a little girl he hoped like hell would always be so happy to see him.

The buzzer sounded. He loosened his grip and jumped free of the already tiring bull. They knew when the game was up. Toby’s whole right side felt like it was on fire, but it was worth it. In the end, it was always worth it.

But this time, he truly meant it. This was his last ride. He had a little girl to get home to.

 

I'm Stuck.

Hey, guys.

I know it’s been a while since you’ve heard from me. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve opened a document or this dashboard to write flash fiction or a short story. Something just for fun, like I used to. I’m mightily afraid I’ve lost my touch. Funny how it’s almost always fear that tosses a wrench into my writing plans. Sometimes it’s a fear that I can’t do the story I have in my head justice. Sometimes it’s a fear that nobody really wants to read what I write.

This past year, I put my mind to writing for a goal. I had a purpose and I chased that purpose until it translated to words on a page. And I’m proud of all I’ve accomplished. I can’t even tell you how many words I’ve put down. Good ones, too. I didn’t write a bunch of stories, I focused my attention on what I needed to accomplish and got it done. That’s good, but I seem to have lost the ability to write with abandon, like I used to. I have to have a purpose now. I need to get back to the place I was before 2015, the year of big plans, big dreams, and “big” writing. But I need to stay right where I’m at too. I need to do both.

So here I am, just rambling away instead of writing a story (of any length) because I’m stuck and I’m scared. But I’ve been here before, countless times. I know I can do this, I just need to let go. I feel like a monkey reaching into a jar and gripping a cookie, unwilling to let go even though I can’t get my hand out of the jar and come out with that cookie. I know I’ve gotta let that cookie go to get my hand back. But what is that damn cookie? What do I need to let go of so I can have my free-writing spirit back?

Perfection? No, I’m not a perfectionist. I set out to tell the story honestly, as close to how I “experience” it as possible. I’ve always done that, and disregarded everything else until it was time to edit. Maybe that’s the cookie I’m holding on to.

This past year, a good friend of mine trained me to write and edit and write and edit mercilessly. It was thrilling. I could write and edit a first draft simultaneously by the end of the year. Each scene was mapped out ahead of time. Every session was exciting because I could see the story so clearly. I never needed so much beforehand knowledge. I used to could take a prompt and run with it. I want to do that again. But I find myself needing a purpose, a plan.

That’s my cookie.

I’m not afraid to write. I’m afraid to write without a plan. My god, what have I become?

“Well, there’s an eye opener, make no mistake.”

Yep, you’re right Sam. Now what to do about it?

“Do or do not, there is no try.”

Okay, Yoda. I’ll, er, do.

Wish me luck, guys. Or, at least, some words that don’t add up to total suckage.

I’m Stuck.

Hey, guys.

I know it’s been a while since you’ve heard from me. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve opened a document or this dashboard to write flash fiction or a short story. Something just for fun, like I used to. I’m mightily afraid I’ve lost my touch. Funny how it’s almost always fear that tosses a wrench into my writing plans. Sometimes it’s a fear that I can’t do the story I have in my head justice. Sometimes it’s a fear that nobody really wants to read what I write.

This past year, I put my mind to writing for a goal. I had a purpose and I chased that purpose until it translated to words on a page. And I’m proud of all I’ve accomplished. I can’t even tell you how many words I’ve put down. Good ones, too. I didn’t write a bunch of stories, I focused my attention on what I needed to accomplish and got it done. That’s good, but I seem to have lost the ability to write with abandon, like I used to. I have to have a purpose now. I need to get back to the place I was before 2015, the year of big plans, big dreams, and “big” writing. But I need to stay right where I’m at too. I need to do both.

So here I am, just rambling away instead of writing a story (of any length) because I’m stuck and I’m scared. But I’ve been here before, countless times. I know I can do this, I just need to let go. I feel like a monkey reaching into a jar and gripping a cookie, unwilling to let go even though I can’t get my hand out of the jar and come out with that cookie. I know I’ve gotta let that cookie go to get my hand back. But what is that damn cookie? What do I need to let go of so I can have my free-writing spirit back?

Perfection? No, I’m not a perfectionist. I set out to tell the story honestly, as close to how I “experience” it as possible. I’ve always done that, and disregarded everything else until it was time to edit. Maybe that’s the cookie I’m holding on to.

This past year, a good friend of mine trained me to write and edit and write and edit mercilessly. It was thrilling. I could write and edit a first draft simultaneously by the end of the year. Each scene was mapped out ahead of time. Every session was exciting because I could see the story so clearly. I never needed so much beforehand knowledge. I used to could take a prompt and run with it. I want to do that again. But I find myself needing a purpose, a plan.

That’s my cookie.

I’m not afraid to write. I’m afraid to write without a plan. My god, what have I become?

“Well, there’s an eye opener, make no mistake.”

Yep, you’re right Sam. Now what to do about it?

“Do or do not, there is no try.”

Okay, Yoda. I’ll, er, do.

Wish me luck, guys. Or, at least, some words that don’t add up to total suckage.

Dwelling by Thomas S. Flowers

DWELLING by Thomas S. Flowers

Subdue Series, Book 1

Publisher: Limitless Publishing

Release Date: Dec. 8, 2015

: : : SYNOPSIS : : :

 

A group of inseparable childhood friends are now adults, physically and psychologically devastated by war…

A horrifying creature emerges from a sandstorm just before Ricky Smith dies in battle. Forced to leave base housing, his widow Maggie buys a home on Oak Lee Road in the town of Jotham. Maggie is isolated in the historic house…and disconcerted by strange clicking sounds inside the walls.

Jonathan Steele attempts to drink the painful past away…

Jonathan was wounded in that fateful battle and now suffers from PTSD. He wants to put the nightmare behind him, but when Ricky’s ghost appears with cryptic warnings about Maggie’s house, he begins to question his sanity.

Bobby Weeks is a homeless veteran struggling with a lycanthropic curse…

Afraid of bringing harm, Bobby stays far away from those he loves. But after a full moon, a mysterious woman approaches him and reveals a vision about a house with a sinister presence, and he realizes staying away might no longer be an option.

Minister Jake Williams lost his faith on the battlefield…

While Jake will do anything to reconnect with God, he turns to vices to fill the religious void. But a church elder urges him to take a sabbatical, and a ghost tells him to quit the ministry, and his life is more out of control than ever.

When Maggie wakes in a strange subterranean cavern, she can’t deny her home harbors dark secrets. Desperate, she sends letters to her old friends to reunite in Jotham, and events conspire to draw them all to the house…unaware of the danger awaiting them.

The friends have already been through hell, but can any of them survive the evil dwelling beneath the House on Oak Lee?

: : : PURCHASE YOUR COPY : : : 

 

 

: : : EXCERPT : : : 

Chapter One

THE BATTLE OF AL-HURRIYAH

Johnathan

Iraq, 2004

Something caught his eye. A glimmer. A shadow in the dark yellow fog.

The fuck? He reached for his binos in the turret. Across the street, Johnathan spied through the dust scratched lens vendors hastily tucking and clutching whatever goods they could get their hands on. Only the most meager of items remained on the street. Even the sound of the Humvees seemed to fade, as if the entire world was holding its breath.

What’s going on? Johnathan shook, his nerves pricked. Hairs stood on-end. His knees locked. He watched, hands resting on the M2 .50-cal. He searched for someone, anyone to put the tightening in his stomach at ease. Where are they going? Shadows snaked in between the empty spaces and seemed to grow larger. The yellow dust whipped the air. Al-Hurriyah was being consumed by it.

Johnathan could feel the lump in his heart become heavy. He pulled his scarf off. He choked on the dust, tasting all the nastiness of the Baghdad ghetto, but paid little heed. The soldier scanned his field of fire. Anticipation boiled in his veins. Then the yellow sand darkened again.

The glimmer returned, taking shape, forming in the dust. His mouth fell agape. “What the fuck is that?” He screamed inside, his mind rattled and confused and terrified.

From the alley across the road the shadows dissolved, giving form to some massive Thing with skin covered in bristle-like hair as black as tar. The bulking torso hissed, and swelled, hissed and swelled. Its thin, but otherwise muscular, fragile-looking legs twitched in the sand, protruding and stretching out, pulling down the tarps of the vender huts near it.

How many legs does this thing have? What is this? I’m dreaming, have to be. This can’t be…

In the dust-whipped wind what looked to be mandibles where its mouth should have been opened and then snapped shut. It was hissing, but the hissing sounded like clicking, the rattle of teeth in a glass jar or a snake poised to strike. On its head was an unmistakable shape, as frightening as it was. Bulging from its head, two swollen red eyes taking up nearly all of the creature’s face glared in the dust, compound, like the eye of a fly, gazing directly at him.

Its antenna drooped low, and then it began talking to him with a wild rush of clicks in its throat. The sound was terrible, reminding him of spring months back home, the swarms of cicadas that blanketed the canopy in his parents’ backyard every few years or so and the eerie sound they made, the clicking, horrible hissing, just like in that one movie Ricky loved to watch when they were kids around the same part of the year, the 1950s atomic-age science fiction flick, the one with the giant ants.

Partially hidden in the dust, the height of the hideous Thing was hard to guess, but whatever is was, it wasn’t possible. None of this was possible. It couldn’t be real, yet there it was all the same, hulking out from across the street, large and hungry looking.

“Are you seeing this?” Johnathan croaked, his voice pained with fear and doubt.

“What?” asked Ricky. He turned in his seat, looking out the driver’s side window. Searching. “I don’t see anything.”

“Are you fucking kidding me!” Johnathan yelled, panic stained in his voice. He kicked the driver’s seat.

“Dude, we’re about to dibby out. Stop being so jumpy,” Ricky scolded. “I don’t see anything, man.”

“Look, you asshole!” Johnathan kicked the driver’s seat again with his boot.

“Dude!” Smith turned fully around and peered in the direction Steele was gesturing. He fell silent for only a moment and then he yelled, “Get down!”

“We need to do more than—” Johnathan had started to say, but was cut short. He looked back to the alley where the Thing had been, but the monster was gone, replaced by a man with a shaved head shouting something terribly familiar and propping an equally terrifying object across his shoulder.

Is that?

“RPG!” Ricky screamed on the radio.

The air sucked back. Johnathan thought he was going to puke as he watched a plume of white smoke rocket toward him. The world was motionless for a second, perhaps less. In that moment he thought of Karen and Tabitha, he thought of his childhood and his friends that filled it. Then the explosion hit, lifting his Humvee upward into the air.

The large metal behemoth came crashing back to earth with a thunderous moan. He fell inside. His head smashed against the gunner’s platform below. He saw nothing, only white, burning light. Outside, he could hear the crackle of gunfire faintly against the ringing in his ears, like fireworks in a neighborhood a block away.

People were shouting. His squad mates, maybe. Language seemed beyond him at the moment. He could smell sulfur and the awful hint of something else…like overcooked meat on the grill, he imagined, dazed and numb. Through the broken window he watched the battle of Al-Hurriyah with disbelieving eyes.

Another explosion struck somewhere nearby. Pebbles or chunks of the police station perhaps rained down on his truck. The radio was abuzz with noise, fire direction, casualties. Someone yelled through the mike, “Death Blossom.” Death Blossom…? Are we under attack…? Yes…Ricky called it out, didn’t he? His head rung with the battle cry.

Johnathan shifted his weight. One of his legs fell from the strap he used as a seat, the other felt strangely dead. He looked. Among the yellow dust and stars that filled his eyes, he could see, though blurred, the gnarled remains of what was once his right leg.

“Shit!” he screamed, clinching at his thigh. I can’t look. I can’t look. Ricky. Ricky? “Smith? Ricky? Are you okay, man?” he winced, straining to get a look at his friend.

No answer.

More rattling pinged off his truck. Someone nearby yelled, “Got you, you fucking bastard!” Another voice screamed in language not entirely unfamiliar.

Must be some of the Iraqi police, he thought vaguely caring. Death Blossom…those assholes are going to ping someone in the back…

Something was pinching his neck. He reached and felt warmth and something hard. He dug whatever it was out and pulled his hand to see. He glared dumbfounded at what looked like a tooth.

Not mine, he thought, testing his teeth with his tongue. He looked at Ricky, but his form was covered in haze.

Gunfire continued to crackle outside, but in the broken and torn Humvee, the world felt like a tomb.

He could see Ricky now, lying awkwardly in his seat, one hand still clutching the radio receiver. Smoke wafted from his body. He didn’t move. And the smell…the smell was terrible.

Johnathan blinked. Not real. Not real. “Ricky, you son of a bitch, answer me! Are you okay?” he yelled. Hot adrenaline coursed through him like a drug, pooling in a venomous sundry of dreadful sorrow and hate, lumping together in his heart, stealing his breath. Maggie’s face flashed in front of him and then Karen’s, but he pushed them away.

Please, God. No.

“Ricky!”

: : : THOMAS S. FLOWERS : : : 

Thomas S. Flowers is the published author of several character driven stories of fright. He resides in Houston, Texas, with his wife and daughter. His first novel, Reinheit, was published by Forsaken. He also has a short story, “Lanmò,” in The Sinister Horror Company’s horror anthology The Black Room Manuscripts. In 2008, he was honorably discharged from the U.S. Army where he served for seven years, with three tours serving in Operation Iraqi Freedom. In 2014, Thomas graduated from University of Houston Clear Lake with a BA in History. He blogs at machinemean[dot]org, where he does author interviews and reviews on a wide range of strange yet oddly related topics.

 

 

#UnCommonBodies: New Release coming soon…

NEW RELEASE: UnCommon Bodies is a collection of stories curated by Pavarti K. Tyler that span across genres to explore the lives of the odd, the unbelievable, and the impossible

UCB CoverSUMMARY: Step right up to the modern freakshow — We have mermaids, monsters, and more. You won’t be disappointed, but you may not get out alive.

UnCommon Bodies presents a collection of 20 beautifully irreverent stories which blend the surreal and the mundane. Imagine a world where magic exists, where the physical form has the power to heal or repulse, where a deal with the devil means losing so much more than your soul.

PRE-ORDER NOW for Release on 11/24.  FREE on Kindle Unlimited. Amazon.com

INCLUDES STORIES BY: Philip Harris, Sessha Batto, Robb Grindstaff, Brent Meske, Sally Basmajian, Robert Pope, Keira Michelle Telford, Jordanne FullerMichael Harris Cohen, Deanne Charlton, P.K. Tyler ,Bey Deckard , Vasil Tuchkov, Laxmi Hariharan, Samantha Warren, Rebecca Poole, Daniel Arthur Smith, S.M. Johnson, Kim Wells, Christopher Godsoe, and Bob Williams

You can see the full summaries of all the stories on GoodReads: smarturl.it/UCBGoodreads

To Celebrate, the authors are hosting a Facebook Party on 11/24 Join the Fun! https://www.facebook.com/events/495176633996990/

And there’s more!  What?  Yep!  The Authors are also giving away a Kindle!  Enter below:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Twitter's New Moments Tab Missed Its Mark

Have you ever heard anyone ask, “Hmm, I wonder if there’s an easier way to find out what’s trending on Twitter?”

Twitter’s newly introduced Moments tab is the answer to that question. Even before the Moments tab we had THREE ways to find out what was trending on Twitter.

whats trending

And basically, under all the hype and explanations and good intentions, the purpose of this new feature is to search, by category, what’s trending. That’s helpful to some users–those who rely on trending topics to curate content, for example–but that’s not the intention behind the Moments tab.

The Twitter gods have been working hard to introduce new features to make their site more user friendly. Apparently, they’re losing traction despite their best efforts. I think I know why.

“Twitter’s user growth has slowed to a trickle, even as the company released a succession of products designed to increase user engagement.” -Terry Collins, Cnet

People who were using Twitter are going elsewhere to socialize. People who are curious don’t “get it” so they leave almost immediately; worse, they leave frustrated. The Twitter gods decided that problem was best solved with the Moments tab. I disagree.

People who don’t understand how Twitter works do not care what’s trending.

The whole platform looks like a jumbled mess to a new user, and adding a tab (or replacing one with a new tab) doesn’t help that. To bring in new users and bring back erstwhile users, try adding an Advanced Search function. Right now, Twitter’s search function is seriously lacking. Users have to know a person’s handle to find them. (Try finding me among hundreds of Jessica Wests. Good luck with that.)

If users are looking for replies to a specific topic, then they can search for the hashtag. But, the problems with that are new users are just as confused by the mess that pops up when they search a hashtag and they care more about connecting with people anyway. Twitter isn’t the NY Times, it’s Facebook Part II.

wdgaf

I think the Twitter Gods have forgotten what people go there for.

New users will prioritize how they spend their initial moments on Twitter. What’s the first thing you do when you open a new social media account, when you’re just “trying things out?” You create (and personalize) your profile. More options would be nice, but new users may be overwhelmed so I think Twitter is okay on this aspect. The next thing a new user does is search for and “add” their friends. THAT is what you need to improve on, in my opinion.

Even users who have been around awhile need a better search function. Sometimes users leave and come back. It’s almost impossible to remember all your friends’ Twitter handles, but you typically won’t forget their names. Again, try to search for Christopher Smith and see how far that gets you. You’ll give up sifting through results before you find one that might be the Christopher Smith you’re looking for.

Now, this new Moment tab does make it easy to sort trending topics by category and see what’s at the top of the list at the moment. But if you want to keep users and get new users, that’s not actually helpful. The only users who will probably find this useful are those who rely on trending topics to decide which hashtag to use when promoting their product/service. Sounds good, if you have users on the other end of that equation.

Who are they promoting their services/products to?

1- The users leaving Twitter in droves.

2- The potential users who just can’t even.

3- Those of us who use Twitter daily and love it but generally ignore whatever’s trending because WDGAF.

4- The Twitter users who actually follow the trends so they can jump aboard and ride the Trend Train. (I’m not judging, I’ve done it. It’s a fun way to waste time on Twitter when you’re bored or need a break.)

5- And finally the users who follow the trends and click on external links. (What’s your conversion rate on those trending tweets? I’m just saying.)

I can see the potential from a marketing perspective, but I can’t see the benefits to users on the other end of that equation. And without a benefit to them, why would they bother? To be fair, I’m viewing from the outside so I can’t see the whole picture, but I have a feeling this might be Twitter’s missing link. They want to bring in new users and bring back estranged users, but they’re pitching away at their current audience. They’re preaching to the choir. On the bright side, this is a great new tool for them.