Monday, July 25, 2016


Genre: Horror


By Daniel Skye

In the cellar, the fluorescent lights flickered as they hummed their insipid tune. Adam Etchison felt a sharp pang in his stomach as he reached the bottom step. He put two fingers to his ceratoid artery and checked his pulse. He counted eighty beats per minute.

Deep breaths, Adam told himself. It’s just a damp, moldy old cellar. Nothing to be afraid of.

Adam had ventured down to the cellar to find the long-box that housed all of the comics from his childhood, the ones he hadn’t sold of yet. Adam was getting older. Too old to still be spending his money on comics and action figures. He had a house now. Sure, it was left to him by his parents when they retired and shipped off to Florida. But he still had to pay off the last of the mortgage and keep up with the rest of the bills.

            Even underground, Adam could hear the howling wind. The lights flashed on and off like strobe lights, turning the cellar into Adam’s personal nightclub. Though to Adam, it was something out of his worst nightmares.

            Cellars are naturally creepy places. And Adam’s constant anxiety would not let him overlook that fact. As soon as the wind picked up and the lights began to flicker, Adam found the box he was looking for and scurried up the stairs.

            The forecast called for torrential downpours and sixty-mile-per-hour winds that would almost certainly knock out the power for a few hours. But Adam was fully prepared. He was going to sift through his old detective comics and read them by candlelight until the storm passed.

            It didn’t take much to scare Adam or make him tense. His list of irrational fears and phobias included spiders, escalators, riptides, clowns, department store mannequins, opera singers, and the music of Nine Inch Nails. But the thing that terrified him the most was the dark. More so, it was the fear of what lurked within the dark.  

            Adam had no affinity for the darkness. Hence the comics. They sparked distant memories from his youth, and alleviated his mounting anxiety. Adam’s immense fear of the dark had carried over from his childhood.

There was no one incident that triggered this fear. It developed at a young age. When he turned four, he began sleeping with a nightlight. He couldn’t sleep without it. And by age ten, he was still using it. His crippling fear of the dark was the most embarrassing obstacle he had to overcome.

And Adam had faced embarrassment before. But this was more embarrassing than wetting his pants on a boy scouts retreat. More embarrassing than seeing his hairy dad wear a speedo at the beach. More humiliating than getting beaten up by a girl in his first and only karate tournament.

            But Leonard assured him that nyctophobia was nothing to be ashamed of. However, Adam was a tad ashamed of Leonard. After all, Leonard didn’t exist outside of Adam’s imagination.

            Leonard was nothing more than a crutch Adam had invented to combat his fear of the dark. But Leonard was always there for him.

            When Adam took up skateboarding because all the other kids were into it, Leonard was there to pick Adam up every time he fell.

            When thirteen-year-old Adam shared his first kiss with a girl, Leonard was there.

When teenage Adam drank his first beer at a house party, Leonard was there.

When Adam went to second base at the drive-in theater, Leonard was chilling in the backseat, enjoying the movie.

            Though, Adam never acknowledged his presence. Adam learned at a young age that having an imaginary friend would eventually cause his real friends to abandon him. So Leonard was Adam’s dirty little secret. An alter ego of sorts. Leonard was wise, strong, and fearless. Everything Adam could only fantasize of.

            Adam cursed himself for being so damn weak all the time. He hated living like this. He hated the perpetual anxiety attacks and being afraid of his own damn shadow. And he hated having nobody to blame but himself. He couldn’t blame his parents. They raised him properly and they never abused him, but they didn’t coddle him, either.

            Upstairs, Adam set the long-box down by the living room sofa. He had the lights on in every single room. The whole house was lit up like Madison Square Garden. But Adam wondered how long it would last. It was raining buckets outside and he had already lost satellite reception. The lights were next to go.

            The wind picked up, heavy gusts slamming against the side of the house. The living room fixtures shook and lights blinked momentarily. Adam planted himself on the sofa and took a deep breath. There were candles arranged in a semi-circle around the coffee table for when the power inevitably failed.

            Adam opened the box and took out the first comic, sealed in plastic. On the cover was an evil looking clown with red eyes and razor-sharp teeth. He closed his eyes and shuddered. As a boy, Adam’s father had taken him to the circus at the Clarksville Coliseum. Adam was never too fond of clowns to begin with. And after that night, he never wanted to see another clown again.

            At one point in the show, several clowns had gone up into the stands to make balloon animals for all the kids. One of them approached Adam and rudely asked, “What frigging animal do you want, kid?” He could smell alcohol on his breath, though he was too young to know what it was at the time. Adam remembered his red tufts of hair and that the white grease paint made his skin look all oily and slick. And he vividly remembered his yellow, nicotine stained teeth that looked eroded from years of neglect and decay.

            “Come on, kid, I don’t have all night,” the surly clown had snapped when Adam had yet to respond.

            “I-I’m fine…” Adam had said and trailed off, sinking down into his chair. The clown shrugged him off and mumbled something under his breath as he stomped away with his flappy red shoes.

            Adam tucked the comic back into the box and grabbed the next issue. The wind growled again and the lights dimmed and faded.

            Darkness engulfed the living room. It was as if a great black curtain had been dropped over the house. His ceratoid artery throbbed intensely. He dug frantically through his pockets, searching for the book of matches he’d saved. He lit all of the candles, picked one up, and walked towards the fuse box, which was in the utility room, just past the kitchen.

            He was hoping it was just a blown fuse. A blown fuse was a quick fix. A blackout meant hours, maybe even days without electricity.

            Adam opened the fuse box and checked each individual circuit breaker. He found the culprits in the upper right hand corner, hit the switches, and lights popped back on.

            And when they came back on, Adam saw something out of the corner of his eye that made him jump. Flappy red shoes, red tufts of hair, greasy white makeup, and yellow, nicotine stained teeth. He turned to his side, but the apparition had vanished as quickly as it had appeared.       

            His lungs deflated. Anxiety can take your breath away. And Adam was on the verge of a full blown anxiety attack. It felt like somebody was stepping on his throat.

            “There’s nothing there,” Adam said aloud, clearing his throat, trying to shake it off. “You’re all worked up and your mind is playing tricks on you.”

            Adam jumped at the ring of the doorbell. He wasn’t expecting company. And in this anxiety ridden state, he wasn’t about to let a stranger into his house. Adam approached the door with caution, but could not see outside. And the front windows offered no vantage point of the front porch.

            “Who’s there?” Adam shouted, loud enough for anyone on the other side of the door to hear.

            “Let me in,” a familiar voice requested.

            “It can’t be…” Adam gasped. “Leonard?”

            “In the flesh.”


            “No, what’s impossible is you still being afraid of the dark. I thought we kicked this phobia years ago. I mean, it was one thing when you were a kid. But you’re an adult now. You have a car, a job, a house, a bank account. And you still can’t conquer your fears.”

            “You’re not real,” Adam said, shaking his head.

            “Are you going to let me in? It’s raining cats and dogs out here. Well, not literally. But wouldn’t that be a sight?”

            “Go away,” Adam implored.

            “If you’re not going to let me in, I’ll have to do it the hard way.”

            “I’m not listening to this,” Adam said, slowly backing away from the door.

            “Let me in, Adam,” Leonard taunted him. “You know you want to. Accept that you need me. Embrace it. Let me in.”

“You’re not real! You’re just in my head! I created you and I can erase you!”

“It’s not that simple, old friend. I’m afraid I’m here to stay.”

“I won’t let you,” he said weakly and unconvincingly, even to himself.

            It soon dawned on him that his mind had possibly snapped, that his sanity had gone out the window. The idea came as a sharp jolt, the mental equivalent of a static shock.

There was nothing on the other side of the door. He didn’t have to open it to prove that. He was having a prolonged conversation with himself. An argument, no less. And on top of that, he was slowly losing the argument.

            Adam retired to the living room and as soon as he sat down and placed the candle back on the coffee table, his phone began to ring. Adam owned a cell phone, but his parents had installed several landlines throughout the house when they still lived there. And one of those phones were next to the sofa.

Adam lifted the receiver to his ear but didn’t speak. Just listened.

            “Let me in, Adam,” Leonard pleaded.

            Adam slammed the receiver down in one swift motion. And it brought him a glimmer of satisfaction. That was the only positive thing about having a landline. He could still slam the phone down out of anger or frustration.

            The phone rang again, but Adam didn’t pick it up. The answering machine clicked on in the kitchen and Leonard’s voice echoed through the house. “Let me in. Let me in. Let me in. Let me in. Let me in! Let me in! Let me in! Let me–”

            Adam picked up the living room phone and slammed it back down, ending the call. To ensure he wouldn’t be hearing from Leonard again, he yanked the cord from the wall.

Then he retreated to the kitchen, to get a glass of water and down some Xanax to alleviate his anxiety. And that’s all the drug really did. It alleviated his symptoms, but it never really cured him. It just made Adam dependent and weak, weaker than he already was.

            Adam had always seen himself as a weakling. The kid who gets robbed of his lunch money. The kid who gets picked last for softball. But even in his weakest moments, Adam had clarity. And now that clarity had become uncertainty as his mind continued to slip.

            Adam hummed a soft tune to fill his ears with nose. To fill his ears with anything other than the unmistakable ringing that could be heard from the living room. There was another phone in the kitchen, but Adam had taken it off the hook as soon as he walked in.

            I know I unplugged it, Adam thought. I know I did. I pulled the cord right out of the wall. I didn’t just imagine that. Or did I? Oh, God, you’re really losing it, Adam. You’re cracking up, buddy. Don’t let this happen. Don’t let the fear consume you. You don’t need Leonard. You never did. Leonard never even really existed. You made him up.

            “Not real,” Leonard repeated. “Don’t be so sure.”

            Adam spun around, but nobody was there.

            “What’s the matter, Adam? Feel like you’re losing it? Your screws need tightening?”

            “Fuck off,” Adam barked.

            “Now is that any way to treat an old friend? And honestly, I’d prefer to stay. You wasted enough of your life away. It’s time for me to assume control.”

            “Over my dead body,” Adam said defiantly.

            “Have it your way…”

            Every light flickered as the wind shook the house from its eaves to its foundation. In seconds, the power was gone. Darkness enveloped the house and everything was silent. So silent Adam could hear the rapid beating of his heart.

            Adam felt the air evacuating his lungs, felt the rush of panic throughout his body. And with that sudden rush of panic came the tingling sensation. Adam compared it to an army of ants crawling around inside his skin. It happened only during his worse anxiety attacks.

            Adam gripped the sink counter to stop himself from falling and tried to regulate his breathing. His knees trembled and his feet felt like they were already off the ground.

            A hand fell over his shoulder and a whisper traveled through his ears. “Let me in.” Adam closed his eyes and slipped into a world of darkness.

* * *

            It had been three days since the storm let up and Adam’s parents were worried about him. His cell phone was going straight to voicemail and they couldn’t reach him at the house, either. So Adam’s mother called Mrs. Glick, who lived across the street since Adam was a teenager.

            “No problem, Martha,” Mrs. Glick had told her. “I’ll go check up on Adam.”

            “Thank you, Shelley,” Mrs. Etchison said. “There should still be a hideaway key under the front porch.”

            Shelley Glick hung up with Martha and walked across the street. She found the hideaway key where Martha told her it would be and let herself in.

            “Adam,” she called. “Don’t be alarmed. It’s Mrs. Glick. I saw your car in the driveway. Your parents were worried about you. Your mom said you haven’t been returning their calls. Adam. Adam?”

            She waited for a response that never came. Shelley eventually wandered through the foyer, into the living room. The first red flag were the candles that had been left unattended on the coffee table.

            The second red flag were the specks of blood that started in the living room.

            A trail of blood droplets led Shelley all the way to the upstairs bedroom. It was a ghastly scene, one that Shelley Glick could only hope to forget over time. She cupped one hand over her mouth to stifle a scream.

            She found Adam curled up in the fetal position, knees pulled up to his chest. His arms were slashed vertically, from his wrists to his forearms. Three words were hastily scribbled across the bedroom wall in all capital letters. Words that the Etchison family would ponder for years to come.

            LEONARD WAS HERE.

Sunday, July 10, 2016


Genre: Horror

By Daniel Skye

            “I heard something outside,” Mona whispered to her boyfriend.

            “It was just the wind,” Bryce reassured her.

            “It didn’t sound like the wind,” she said. “It sounded like a screech.”

            “Just the wind,” he repeated. “We’re out here in the middle of nowhere and you’re mind is playing tricks on you. That’s it. Just relax, babe. I’m not going to let anything happen to you.”

In the backseat of Bryce’s red Toyota, Mona could not see beyond the fogged windshield. But she couldn’t shake the feeling that someone, something, was out there. She was convinced she had heard a screech or a howl. It could’ve been an animal, Mona told herself. For all you know, it could've been an owl hooting. Calm down. Don’t ruin this. Do what Bryce said and just relax.

Making out in the back of Bryce’s car was not her idea of a romantic evening. But they couldn’t hang out at Mona’s house without her dad eavesdropping on them. And Bryce didn’t want to go back to his house and subject Mona to his parent’s nightly drunken squabbles. So this was the next best thing according to Bryce.

But Mona was willing to let it slide if it meant spending more time with Bryce. And it wasn’t like he completely lacked in the romance department.

Bryce first noticed Mona in chemistry class. And he never learned a damn thing in that class, because he spent every lesson staring at Mona, transfixed by her beauty. He found her beauty to actually be quite intimidating, and he was too nervous to ask her out right away.

Before they dated, Bryce used to leave a fresh cut rose on her doorstep every day before school, accompanied by a sappy poem he had written himself. Mona’s mother thought it was so romantic. Her father thought it was trite and desperate, and warned her that Bryce was only interested in one thing. But what boy his age wasn’t interested in the same thing?

It took a week of roses and poems for Bryce to finally work up the courage to ask her out. And the answer was an emphatic yes.

Their relationship had been going strong for eight months, and Bryce had been gently pushing her to take it to the next level. Mona had dated a few boys from Clarksville High, but she had never gone all the way with any of them. And the idea of losing her virginity to Bryce Temple, in the backseat of his 2005 Toyota Corolla, which was parked deep in the woods, terrified her.

Bryce kissed her neck softly, and she flinched when she felt one clammy hand sliding up her turquoise blouse. She jerked away and told Bryce to, “Take it slow.”

“Okay, whatever you want, babe.” He kept his hands to himself, but resumed kissing up and down the side of her neck.

“Do you feel that?” Mona asked, breaking his concentration again.

Bryce stopped kissing her neck and said, “Feel what?”

“You seriously didn’t feel the car rocking back and forth?” Her jangled nerves made her voice tremble, and made her envision every twisted scenario her mind could conjure up.

Mona was not a fan of horror movies, but her father thoroughly enjoyed them. Big budget, low budget, no budget at all. He watched every single one he could find on TV. And as a result of being subjected to these films as a child, Mona knew all the likely horror movie scenarios. And that’s what she was picturing.

A crazy cult or a gang of Satanists looking for a human sacrifice. Deranged hillbilly’s stalking through the woods with gas-powered chainsaws. A brood of demonic children, like something straight out of Children of the Corn. She couldn’t get her mind off these fictitious horrors that potentially lurked in the darkness. These were the horrors that existed only when the nights were at their darkest, even if they only existed in the distraught mind of a teenage girl.

“That was just me trying to rock your world, babe. Look, if you don’t like this spot, we can haul ass. My parents are probably passed out by now. We can go back to my house, pick up where we left off.”

“I think maybe it’s best if you just take me home. I’m not feeling very well.”

“What’s bothering you? I can tell something’s wrong. Do you not want to do this?”

“No, it’s not that. I just…I have this strange feeling someone is out here with us. Like someone is watching us.”

“Is this like that urban legend about the killer with a hook for a hand? Because if it is, I’m not going out there to check.”

“Don’t even joke about that,” Mona chided. “Those kinds of stories give me the willies.”

“Why are they even called urban legends?” Bryce wondered. “It seems like most of them take place in the suburbs or small, rural areas. They should call them suburban legends.”

Something landed on the roof with a heavy thud, and Mona shrieked, then buried her face in Bryce’s shoulder, clinging to him like Velcro.

“Okay, I definitely felt that,” Bryce said.

“What was that?” Mona asked, her voice trembling again.

“I don’t know, but we’re getting out of here.”

Bryce wriggled free from Mona’s taut grip and begged her to stay put. “All the doors are locked. Just sit tight back there. You’ll be safe.”

He climbed over the seat and hopped in front. He wiped the fog from the windshield with his sleeve and peered out.

“I don’t see a thing,” Bryce said.

He jumped when something slapped against the windshield, leaving a huge spider web crack in the glass. A massive black wing, pulsing with veins, enveloped the windshield.

“What is that?!” Mona exclaimed. Bryce recoiled at the sight and jumped into the backseat again.

“I have no fucking clue,” Bryce said. “But I came prepared.” He removed a switchblade from the inside pocket of his jacket, hit the button on the handle, and a long, slender blade with a needle-like point popped out from the side.

A hand with long, thin, claw-like fingers smashed through the back window, tearing the knife from Bryce’s grasp, and tearing off two of his fingers in the process. Mona choked out a brief, dull, muted scream.

And a few seconds later, those same hands were peeling the roof back, turning Bryce’s car into a convertible.

They gazed up at black night sky, at the figure that loomed over the car. The man–if you could call it a man–stood over seven feet tall. His face was pallid, yet ageless.

Its long wings flapped effortlessly in the breeze as it descended upon them, snatching Bryce by the nape of his neck and hoisting him into the air with one hand.

Two jagged fangs pierced his jugular. Mona watched as the life drained from his eyes. His body was paralyzed from fear, and he couldn’t scream, couldn’t even react to the pain. All he could do was endure.

The fangs retracted. Blood rained down in thick jets on a writhing, screaming Mona, who watched helplessly as the creature spread its vast wings and took flight, with Bryce firmly in its grasp.

Tuesday, July 5, 2016


Genre: Horror

By Daniel Skye

James Bullock hated parties.

The fake smiles. The forced, desperate laughter that ensued whenever someone told a lackluster joke. The bland conversation that usually ended up on the topic of the weather. The inane gossip; everyone talking behind each other’s backs, contributing to the rumor mill. James craved no participation in such shenanigans.

Even watching a football game at Ninja Bill’s house was an arduous chore. Ninja Bill’s buddies were a gang of drunken troglodytes that couldn’t even take a swig of beer without getting it all over themselves. Every time the Giants scored a touchdown, Bill’s friends were shouting at the top of their lungs, cheering and celebrating as if they had scored the touchdown themselves.

James honestly preferred to watch the games alone. And he rarely attended parties with people his own age. He turned down invitations left and right.

But he never turned down an invitation to one of Gene Connolly’s socially acclaimed Murder Parties. Gene hosted these parties about once a month, and James was always included on the guest list.

James was not an advocate of murder, but he attended these parties to satiate his fascination with the macabre. James was an avid reader, and he found true crime novels to be mesmerizing. No work of fiction could ever truly capture or depict the atrocities committed in real life.

            Just the name was enough to scare some people away. Gene had to explicitly state that the purpose of these social gatherings was not to celebrate or glorify murder, but rather to rationally discuss cold cases, ongoing investigations, and the horrific events that have plagued their community over the last few decades.

            Everyone who attended Gene’s parties had one thing in common: They were all born and raised on Long Island. And Long Island has seen its share of heinous crimes and unsolved murders. The Gilgo Beach murders are still being investigated to this day, and were often a topic of discussion at Gene’s gatherings.

            Another topic of discussion was Ben Loomis out in Montauk. The papers called him The Surgeon, but the cops had a better nickname. The local authorities dubbed him The Optometrist. Loomis used a scalpel to extract the eyes of every victim he claimed. And he did so with such expertise and surgical precision that the cops were convinced they were hunting for an actual surgeon. They ran background checks on every surgeon in New York, questioned the staff of every hospital, every doctor’s office, any employees who would have access to surgical equipment. Loomis terrorized the small fishing village of Montauk for years. He’s now MIA, presumed dead.

            And of course there was The Gravedigger out in Westlake. Want to guess why they called him The Gravedigger? His M.O. was burying his victims alive in custom-made coffins that he built to their exact specifications. Charles Gein turned out to be a police officer. And he used his position with the police to stalk his victims while he was on the clock. He’d pick them out well in advance, observe them from a distance, learn their daily schedule, estimate their height and weight, and then he’d choose a burial site once the coffin was constructed. He was identified by a would-be victim who managed to escape his grasp. Gein fled to Florida, where he was later apprehended by the police.

            James met some intriguing characters at Gene’s unorthodox events. One evening, he met a man in a suit in a tie who tried to sell James a piece of chewing gum that allegedly belonged to Ted Bundy. But that wasn’t nearly as strange as the woman who insisted she was the reincarnation of the dog that told Son of Sam to kill people.

            It was mid-December when Gene threw another party. James was running late, and he was the last to arrive. The guests were in the living room, warming themselves up by the fire or looking for an empty seat. James walked in, greeted Gene and a few familiar faces, and introduced himself to some of the newer faces.

            That evening’s discussion revolved around The Silent Film killer. James was unfamiliar with the moniker, as the papers had only printed one article. As far as the police could tell, this killer was specifically targeting people who talked on their cell phones during movies.

This fact terrified James, who was periodically checking his phone for text messages or missed calls, or to see if one of his friends added a new photo to Instagram.

James might’ve loathed parties, but he still had a social life. And his phone was what kept him connected to everybody else. He hadn’t even realized how addicted he’d become to his phone, and social media in general. He couldn’t go for more than an hour without sending a text, browsing Instagram or Facebook, or watching funny cat videos on YouTube.

            “The cops aren’t releasing much information to the press,” Gene told his guests. He was older than James by sixteen years. A tall, lean man with a cleft chin and one glass eye. Legend has it that Gene was the only victim to survive The Optometrist. But he had never discussed it with James or the rest of the group. He’d never even addressed his glass eye, and none of them had the audacity to question him about it.

“I think they’re trying to keep this quiet for the time being,” Gene continued. “They’re not even sure if it’s a man or a woman. All we know is that the killer is seemingly targeting people who talk on their phones at the movies. He follows them home, slits their throats, and cuts out their tongues. Even if they survive, they’ll likely never speak again.”

            “It’s definitely a man,” one of the guests interjected. He was a short, abnormally thin man who looked like he still bought all his clothes from the children’s department. “No way could a woman do that.”

            “Why not?” a young woman with shoulder-length red hair asked. There was a scattering of golden brown freckles across her rosy cheeks. “Anything a man is capable of, a woman is capable of.”

            “That’s why there are women playing in the NFL,” one of the guests quipped, and the forced laughter that James dreaded soon followed.

            He was tempted to whip out his phone and check his messages, but the revelation of a killer who mutilates people just for talking on their phones made him reconsider.

            “Let’s not get off track here,” Gene said. “The killer’s gender is irrelevant at this juncture. What is relevant is the fact that there is an active serial killer on Long Island. This concerns all of us. We need to discuss all the necessary precautions. And I think it’s safe to say none of us should go to the movies alone.”

            “Who goes to the movies alone?” one of the guests remarked. James breathed a sigh of relief when nobody laughed.

            The conversation had James trying to remember the last movie he’d seen in theaters. He didn’t have to think that far back. It’d been a week. James had gone with Ninja Bill to see Django Unchained on the opening night.

He remembered receiving a call and answering it during the movie, and he remembered people three rows back shouting for him to pipe down and turn off his phone. And this recollection sent a brief chill down his spine.

            I really dodged a bullet there, James thought. What if the killer had been in the theater with me? What if he had heard me talking on my phone?

            “How many times has the killer struck?” the red haired woman asked.

            “Four times in four different locations, as far as I know. Westlake, Greenville, Cherrywood, and Fairview.”

            James quietly excused himself and wandered into the hall. The first thing he did was check his phone. No texts. No missed calls. He logged into Facebook, updated his status, and signed out.

            On his way to the bathroom, James passed the kitchen. A set of glass sliding doors led out to the patio, where James saw one of the guests smoking a cigar.

            James had been trying to quit smoking for weeks. But he still carried a pack everywhere he went. So on his way back from the bathroom, he slipped out for a quick cigarette. The man was still puffing away on his cigar when James walked out.

“Is this the smokers lounge?” James asked, ready to punch himself for making such a lame remark.

“I suppose it is,” the man said. He was much older than James, his voice gruffer, deeper. “Need a light?”

“Nah, I got one,” James said, a cigarette already dangling from his lip.

“So what do you make of all this?”

“I beg your pardon?”

“The Silent Film killer. Pretty scary, huh?”

“Oh, yeah, it’s terrifying. I’ll never understand what makes a normal person snap and decide to start killing.”

“Maybe they were never normal to begin with,” the man suggested. “Maybe all they needed was a push.”

“I’m sorry, who are you again? Are you a friend of Gene’s?”

“Edward Fish,” the man introduced himself. “But my friends call Eddy. And yes, I met Gene at a convention years ago. And you are?”

“James Bullock,” he said. “My friends call me Jim sometimes. And you can too. Just please don’t call me Jimbo. I’ve got a friend who does that. It’s so juvenile.”

“Nice to meet you, James,” Edward nodded. The cigar was now a smoldering nub between his fingers. He put it out, and said, “You know, as an avid moviegoer, I can’t say I’m too surprised about all this. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve wanted to beat somebody senseless for talking on their phone during a movie.” James chuckled nervously.

“Are you a movie fan?” Edward asked him.

“Who’s not?”

“I know a few people. They’re weirder than any of the people you’ll meet inside. I dated a woman once who didn’t like comedies. I could never wrap my head around it. Who doesn’t love a good comedy?”

“That is strange,” James concurred. “I can watch a good comedy any day of the week. My father was a big John Hughes fan. I saw all of his movies when I was a kid. Home Alone was an annual tradition in our house. We watched it every Christmas morning.”

“Seen any good movies lately?” Edward inquired.

“The only thing I’ve seen recently was Django Unchained. I went a week ago with my friend, Ninja Bill.” James finished his cigarette and flicked it over the backyard fence.

Edward chortled. “Is Ninja Bill an actual ninja?”

“Nah, he barely knows karate. The last time he tried a jumping snap kick, he kneed himself in the chin.”

“So what’d you think of Django?”

“I have mixed feelings towards it.”

“Perhaps you missed some of the best scenes while you were busy chatting on your cell phone?” James thought the man was just kidding around, until he saw Edward’s sinister gaze, and saw the blade glistening in the moonlight. And in that moment, he saw his entire, short, twenty-six-year life flash before his bulging eyes.

This was no ordinary knife. It was a knife used for cutting linoleum. It had a short wooden handle and an even shorter blade. The blade was stiff and curved at the tip.

His lips parted, and he opened his mouth to scream and alert the other guests, but no screams escaped his mouth. The blade moved so quickly, he barely even felt it. But in the moonlight, he saw something land on the toe of his boot. Something soft and pink. The tip of his tongue.

Edward Fish brought one finger to his lips and whispered, “Shhhh. No talking during the movie.”