Since it’s Halloween, I have another special treat. I’ve invited fantasy/horror author, Vashti Quiroz-Vega to share a terrifying tale with you all. It’s a spooky read, so be prepared to get the shivers! Vashti said, “It’s a story that I wrote years ago (2013), and I’ve completely revised it for your blog.”
But first, let me introduce you to Vashti. I’ve had the pleasure of reading her poetry and stories for a few years now. Vashti and I also share the love of Pomeranians, with both of us owning dogs of this breed. She writes some scary stuff, so grab a cup of coffee and settle in. This is one Halloween tale you won’t forget!
AUTHOR: Vashti Quiroz-Vega
Vashti Quiroz-Vega is a writer of fantasy, horror, and suspense/thriller. When she isn’t creating extraordinary worlds or fleshing out powerful characters, she enjoys reading, traveling, kayaking, photography, and seeking adventures.
An award-winning blogger and writer for over ten years, she is devoted to giving her readers unique, compelling, dark adventures with descriptive narratives sure to make the hairs on the back of their necks stand on end.
Visit Vashti’s blog, The Writer Next Door for a collection of short stories, articles, and poetry available free to her readers. Vashti lives in Florida with her husband and fur-baby, a Pomeranian named Scribbles. Check out Vashti’s new release, The Fall of Lilith.
by Vashti Quiroz-Vega
“Raven, I can’t believe you’re really going through with it.” Nina stared at her openmouthed.
“Once you and Travis leave for college, there’ll be nothing left for me in this small town.” Raven wrapped her arms around herself. “Besides, I’m an artist! I need to expand my wings and fly!” She swung her arms outward and fell back on the grass surrounding Lake Creepy-Crawly.
“But––New York is such a big city. Aren’t you afraid you’ll be swallowed up by the masses?”
“I plan to shine bright like a Nova. By the time I’m through with that town, everyone will know my name.”
Nina glanced at Raven and giggled. Raven joined in her laughter and jumped to her feet.
“Let’s go in!” Raven grabbed Nina by the arm.
“Go in where?” Nina dragged her feet.
“Let’s go for a swim in the lake. For old time’s sake.” Raven bobbed her head, her blue eyes glittering with mischievousness.
“No way!” Nina wrested her arm from Raven’s grasp. “Why do you think the town nicknamed the lake, Lake Creepy-Crawly? If you go in, you won’t be swimming alone. There are things in that lake.”
Raven waved her hand dismissively. “That’s not true!”
“It is!” Nina stared wide-eyed. “No one has gone swimming in that lake for years. Not since the incident.”
“Do you mean when the fish died?”
“It was more than just a few fish. Old man Sam said that the big company out by Expiry road had something to do with it. He saw them dump things into the lake one night. The next morning, the lake’s fish were floating on the surface. Dead.”
“Old man Sam drinks!” Raven threw her head back and laughed.
Nina frowned. “Yes, but he wasn’t the only one who witnessed the dead fish, and everyone knows that nothing grows or lives in that lake anymore, except––except those things.” She shuddered.
Raven stared at her friend’s glum expression. “It’s been a while since that happened. Those things have probably always been there. Besides, they’re tiny.”
“They were tiny. With time, everything changes––and not always for the best.”
Without waiting for the end of Nina’s sentence, Raven ran and jumped into the lake. She splashed around laughing and shouting.
Nina stood near the bank of the lake watching her friend dipping in and out of the water. A powerful feeling of foreboding enshrouded her like a suffocating blanket. She shrunk back and shuddered. When Raven emerged from the lake, Nina let out a harsh breath.
She ran to Raven. “You’re nuts! Sometimes I think you just do crazy things to torment me.”
Raven scoffed. “Who’s being dramatic now, huh?”
Nina picked up the blanket they had been sitting on and tossed it over Raven’s head. They laughed, and Raven pulled the blanket off and wrapped it around her shoulders.
“Ugh!” Raven tilted her head sideways and pounded on it with the palm of her hand.
Nina narrowed her eyes. “What’s wrong?”
“There must be water in my ear.” Raven tilted her head and shook it. “There, I think that did it.”
“I don’t know how you could swim in that murky water. Look at it—it’s black!” Nina crinkled her nose and pointed to the lake.
Raven rolled her eyes. “Let’s go home.”
“Yes! You need a shower.” Nina giggled, pinching her nose and waving her hand as though to clear the stench in the air.
“Give me a hug!” Raven ran after her shouting in a creepy voice. “Me want big hug!” Nina ran from her screaming and laughing.
*Two months later *
“Campus life is great! ” Nina raved on the phone. “I’m really enjoying myself here. I’m doing really well in my classes, and I’ve made some new friends. Oh, and Travis says hello!”
“That’s great. I’m doing okay, too. I’m painting almost non-stop. I showed one of my works in progress to the manager of a posh art gallery downtown. He was impressed and offered to show my work in early November.”
“That’s awesome, Raven!”
“Will you come for the opening?”
“But we talked about me visiting for Halloween, remember? To see how New York celebrates our favorite holiday?”
“You could stay through the first week of November.” Raven’s voice was sullen.
“Nothing. Why do you ask?”
“You don’t sound like yourself. Aren’t you excited about Halloween and your very first art show?”
“Of course I am. It’s just these headaches––I can’t seem to shake.” Raven groaned.
There was a long pause. Nina cleared her throat. “Um. Have you seen a doctor?”
“No. It’s only headaches. Two Advil, and I’ll be all right.”
“But if you can’t get rid of it—”
“The pills will help take the edge off so I can get back to work.”
“Alright, but if the headaches continue, you’ll need to see someone.”
“Yeah, well––If I want to have these paintings done by the opening, I’d better get back to work. We’ll talk again soon.”
“Okay. Bye, Raven. Take care.” Nina hung up the phone and stood by it, fidgeting and twisting the ring on her finger.
*One month later*
“Aaaahhhhhh! Aaaahhhhh! Get out of there!” Raven pounded her head. She collapsed to the floor and pulled her hair with both hands. She screamed and groaned as she squirmed on the floor of her one-bedroom apartment.
A banging on the door did not stop her howling.
“Miss Raven! Open the door, Miss Raven!” yelled a woman’s voice. “That racket is driving everybody crazy!”
Raven opened the door. Her long dark hair was disheveled and covered a good portion of her face. Her shoulders were scrunched around her ears. Her blue eyes, once vivid azures, were now dull and foggy, with intense redness where the whites should be and deep dark circles underneath. Her usually rosy lips were pale and dry.
At the sight of her, the building superintendent flinched and squinted, as though trying not to capture all the unpleasantness at once. “Are you ill?” She glanced sideways at her and wrung her hands.
“No. I’m fine.” Raven looked down.
The woman curled her lip. “You don’t look too good. Maybe you should see a doctor.”
“A doctor can’t help me with what I’ve got!” Raven yelled, startling the woman. “You need to leave me alone.”
The woman’s body stiffened. “I have received countless complaints from your neighbors about screaming, loud banging and crashing noises coming from your apartment.”
“You keep knocking on my door!” Raven clasped her hands over her head.
“And each time you tell me that the noises will stop, but I keep getting complaints from your neighbors.” The woman took a few steps back. “If the noises don’t stop, I’ll have to call the police.”
“I assure you––the complaints will stop.” Raven glanced up and looked right into the woman’s eyes, the smile she wore dripping with a silent threat.
The superintendent turned and rushed down the steps. “Make sure they do. I don’t want to come back here again.” Her voice trembled. Raven followed the old woman with her eyes until she was out of sight.
“Hello, Raven. How are you? I’ve been calling and leaving messages, but you never return my calls.”
“Hi, Nina!” Raven replied in an excited voice.
“Are you alright?”
“Why are you yelling? You sound manic. Are you sure you’re fine?”
“I’m just excited to hear from you. I’m sorry about not returning your calls. I’ve been very busy, working on my paintings. I’m all done now. I have leftover materials, so I’m using them to decorate for Halloween. You’re still coming up, right?”
“Yes, of course.”
“Good! I’m throwing a Halloween party! I’ve invited some friends and neighbors. You’re going to love what I’ve done with the place.” Raven’s voice sounded strained.
*All Hollow’s Eve*
“Raven is going to be surprised to see you. I hope she doesn’t mind that I’m bringing you.” Nina bit her lip.
“Why would she? Travis furrowed his brow. “I’m your date for the party.”
“She hasn’t been herself lately. Sometimes on the phone, she seems despondent, and her voice is barely audible; other times, her voice is excited and shrill. But the last time we spoke, it was more like a groan or a growl.”
Travis tilted his head and shrugged. “That’s weird.”
“She’s been having these terrible headaches but refuses to see a doctor. I’ve been calling her all day, but I haven’t been able to reach her. And yet, she knows I’m arriving today. I hope she’s okay.”
“Well, she’s throwing a Halloween party. How bad could she be?” Travis gave a half shrug. “She’s probably busy putting the party together.”
“You’re right. Halloween was always our favorite holiday. She’s probably knee-deep in Halloween décor right now.” Her lips curved into a faint smile. “Anyway, thanks for coming with me.”
Travis and Nina approached Raven’s apartment building. They rang the buzzer several times, but no one answered. Travis pressed on the inner door, which swung open.
“Hello,” he called.
There was no answer, so Travis and Nina started up the stairs. When they reached apartment 5B, they found the door ajar.
“I was expecting festive lights and blaring music.” Travis squinted.
“Why is her door open?” The door creaked as she pushed on it, and they entered the dimly lit apartment. All the lights were off, except for a small lamp on an end table near the sofa. The curtains were drawn. The smell hit them almost immediately––rancid, jolting—a stench to make the inside of their noses burn.
Travis turned away and covered his nose. “Wow! She really went all out with the macabre theme.”
Nina glared at him. “Something’s wrong. What is that stench?”
“That is one of my best works,” a dark, sinister voice answered. Nina and Travis jumped and looked toward the voice. Nina’s legs faltered. If it weren’t for Travis, she would have fallen.
Nina gasped. “Raven?” When she saw her, she covered her mouth with her with both hands to stifle a scream.
Raven’s skin appeared ashen and leathery. Her ratty, black hair framed her face like curtains. Her eyes were bloodshot, and she wore a raggedy long black dress.
“Do you like my painting?” Raven tottered toward her.
Nina reached for Travis’ hand and gave it a squeeze. “Your––painting?”
“Yes, come and have a look.” Raven beckoned her.
Nina and Travis followed Raven deeper into the apartment. Their hands trembled, and the hairs on the back of their necks stood on end.
“At first, I couldn’t figure out what my series of paintings should be about.” Raven waved a paintbrush like a conductor’s wand. “Then an explosion of light went off in my head.” She turned and looked at her friends with wide eyes and an unnerving grin. “Why not make paintings of my neighbors gathered for a great supper?”
“Interesting concept.” Travis hunched his shoulders and shrunk back from her stare.
Nina stepped closer to the painting to have a better look. She gasped and stumbled away. She retched and covered her nose with the back of her hand. The stench seemed to be coming from the painting itself. Its surface was slathered in dark red paint, and there were rubbery objects attached – no doubt the type of props that gag shops offered around Halloween. Nina rubbed the nape of her neck and looked around. All of the walls were adorned with the dark red paintings.
“So, you like them?” The manic tone was back in Raven’s voice.
“Well…” Nina wrung her trembling hands.
There was a long pause. Travis swallowed hard. “I like your costume, Raven.” He pulled at his collar.
As Raven brought up her hand, Nina noticed that the handle of the wooden paintbrush had been sharpened to a point. Before Travis realized what was happening, Raven had stabbed him in the chest. He stumbled backward and fell on his back. Nina wailed, rushed to him and dropped to her knees. She began to shake him, but he lay still, his eyes wide open.
Nina stared with wide eyes and open mouth at the monster that was once her friend. “Why Raven? Why did you do that?”
“I’m not wearing a costume.” Raven looked at her with an indifferent expression. “Do you like my paintings or not?”
Nina was sitting on the floor beneath one of the paintings. She peered at it through vision blurred with tears.
“Well? What do you think?” Raven’s voice began to take a vicious tone. Nina jolted and wiped the wetness from her eyes with trembling hands. She shuddered as she was finally able to see the painting for what it was. Those rubbery objects attached to its surface weren’t from the gag shop – they were real intestines, brains, hearts, tongues, spleens, and who knows what else. How many people died here? Her stomach churned, and the room began to spin.
“Tell me!” Raven growled and clenched her teeth, as saliva foamed and oozed down the sides of her mouth. Then she became calm. She studied Nina’s face and smiled.
Nina wrapped her arms around her body, shook her head and sobbed.
“Don’t cry. If you don’t like it, I can always improve it.”
Nina wiped her face and stared at her crazed friend.
Raven lurched over to Travis’ body and grabbed his head, lifting it by the hair. She buried the tip of the large paintbrush into the tear duct and popped the eyeball out. She did the same with the other eye to the rhythm of Nina’s wails. She grabbed the eyeballs dangling from his cheeks and yanked them from the optic nerve.
Nina felt an expansion in her head and weakness throughout her body.
She cannot have a fainting fit. She had to get to her feet. She clenched her fists and panted. Her eyes shifted to the door. Raven stood between her and the exit.
“Here we go. Much better, right?” Raven attached Travis’ eyes to the bowl of soup in the painting. The painted bowl was now crowded with eyeballs. “My neighbors were always watching me, so I decided to paint an homage to their prying eyes.”
Trembling, Nina stood up. A shriek escaped her lips. Her hands flew to cover her mouth.
“I knew it! I knew you wouldn’t be happy for me.” Raven stomped her feet and pointed the sharp end of the brush at Nina. “I knew you wouldn’t like my work. Well, I have a few more improvements to make, but for the final touches, I’ll need something from you.”
Raven lunged at Nina, clutching her filed paintbrush.
Nina’s legs started moving, as though on automatic pilot. Raven chased her, howling ghoulishly. Nina ran to the kitchen and grabbed a knife from the countertop. Raven charged and ran into Nina’s extended arm, which held the knife. Raven stared into her friend’s eyes and moaned. Nina thought she heard her murmur, Thank you.
Nina released hold of the knife, and Raven slid to the floor. Nina kneeled next to her and rocked back and forth, bawling. She pressed her hands against the sides of her head.
“Why? Why did you do this? Raven––why? What happened to you?”
She saw the answer to her question as Raven took her last breath. They crawled out of her ear by the dozens—the wiggly wormy things she recognized from their hometown lake. The parasites were vacating Raven’s head, no longer having a live brain to feed on.
©2017 Vashti Quiroz-Vega
*Photo credits: Pixabay.com
Is that a creepy story or what? Yikes! Vashti creeped me out!! Speaking of dark stories – Vashti has a new book out and it’s a dark fantasy. You won’t want to miss this one!
“In The Fall of Lilith, Vashti Quiroz-Vega crafts an irresistible new take on heaven and hell that boldly lays bare the passionate, conflicted natures of God’s first creations: the resplendent celestial beings known as angels.
If you think you know their story, think again.
Endowed with every gift of mind, body, and spirit, the angels reside in a paradise bounded by divine laws, chief of which are obedience to God, and celibacy. In all other things, the angels possess free will, that they may add in their own unique ways to God’s unfolding plan.
Lilith, most exquisite of angels, finds the rules arbitrary and stifling. She yearns to follow no plan but her own: a plan that leads to the throne now occupied by God himself. With clever words and forbidden caresses, Lilith sows discontent among the angels. Soon the virus of rebellion has spread to the greatest of them all: Lucifer.
Now, as angel is pitted against angel, old loyalties are betrayed and friendships broken. Lust, envy, pride, and ambition arise to shake the foundations of heaven . . . and beyond. For what begins as a war in paradise invades God’s newest creation, a planet known as Earth. It is there, in the garden called Eden, that Lilith, Lucifer, and the other rebel angels will seek a final desperate victory—or a venomous revenge.
“[A] compelling narrative that . . . strays far from traditional biblical text . . . A well-written, descriptive, and dark creation story.”—Kirkus Reviews”
BLOG: The Writer Next Door
FACEBOOK AUTHOR PAGE: http://on.fb.me/1g0da7d
HAPPY SPOOKY HALLOWEEN!
Category: author interviewsTags: angels, Author Interviews, Author Spotlight Guest Posts, Dark Fantasy, fantasy, horror, Raven's Masterpiece, The fall of Lilith, The Writer Next Door, Vashti Quiroz-Vega
“A good poem is a contribution to reality. The world is never the same once a good poem has been added to it. A good poem helps to change the shape of the universe, helps to extend everyone’s knowledge of himself and the world around him.”
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Colleen M. Chesebro is an American Poet who loves crafting paranormal fantasy and magical realism, cross-genre flash fiction, syllabic poetry, and creative nonfiction. Colleen sponsors a weekly syllabic poetry challenge, called Tanka Tuesday, on wordcraftpoetry.com where participants learn how to write traditional and current forms of haiku, senryu, haiga, tanka, gogyohka, tanka prose, renga, solo-renga, haibun, cinquain, Etheree, nonet, and shadorma poetry. Colleen's syllabic poetry has appeared in the Auroras & Blossoms Poetry Journal, and in “Hedgerow, a journal of small poems.” She’s won numerous awards from participating in the Carrot Ranch Rodeo, a yearly flash fiction contest sponsored by carrotranch.com. In 2020, she won first place in the Carrot Ranch Folk Tale or Fable category, with her story called “Why Wolf Howls at the Moon.” Colleen is a Sister of the Fey, where she pursues a pagan path through her writing. When she is not writing, she is reading. She also loves gardening and crocheting old-fashioned doilies into works of art.