Wander down the darker paths of the minds of twelve brilliantly talented authors as they conjure stories of retribution, deceit and betrayal.
Would you chance your family’s fate to the gods in return for a favor? Are the finer things in life worth having once you know the cost someone else had to pay for you to indulge in them? Would you give up your most addictive passion so that others might reap the benefits, regardless of the reward? Or perhaps, the chance at a fresh start and a new life appeals to you? Are you prepared to reap what you have sown?
Within this collection, you’ll find tales all too believable and beyond your oddest imaginings. But there is one thing you will not find… In this anthology, there are no happy endings.
Featuring the literary talents of Ryan C. Anderson, Thomas James Brown, Aspen deLainey, John H. Dromey, Amber Keller, Christian A. Larsen, Jeffery X Martin, Lori Michelle, Sergio Palumbo, J. Marie Ravenshaw, Bill Read, and Adrian Tchaikovsky.
Now I Lay Me Down To Reap is available at:
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Fugue State – Christian A. Larsen
“It was Tuesday, August 5th, and now that he knew it, he didn’t know if that information helped him or not. His eyes drifted downward over the text of the top story; something about how one of the candidates was promising tax breaks to gay couples. Was he for that or against it? Was he a Republican? A Democrat? A Libertarian? Constitution? Green? These were the kinds of issues that made people run to their ideological bunkers. He had an inkling that he might have come down hard one way or the other before… well, before he came to in the alley, an alien in his own skin.
His eyes refocused on the glass of the newspaper box, and he saw his own reflection. There was nothing familiar in the face staring back at him, and he was a little distressed to find that he was thinning and graying up top, either prematurely (which he hoped) or right on time for a man in his mid-40s. Either way, he didn’t really feel old, at least until he tried to stand up and his knees crackled like a bowl of Rice Krispies. Did he have bad knees? Some injury from his past (assuming he had a past)…”
Gable’s Leatherworks – J. Marie Ravenshaw
“A shrill scream rang out across the pasture.
Abigail snapped her head up upon hearing the jarring sound. A brisk evening breeze filtered into the room, sending a chill up her spine. She glanced up at the fluttering curtains, pushed out her chair, and stood. As she walked over to the open window, she rubbed her arms trying to stave off the goose bumps.
With her palms resting on the window jambs, she gazed out over the pasture. There was nothing out there that she could see, but she had an unnerving feeling that she was being watched. She knitted her brow and allowed her eyes to scan the field one last time before closing the window and drawing the curtain. Like every other night, the scream had come from the direction of Mrs. Gable’s barn…”
Me and the Monster – Ryan C. Anderson
“There was something sinister about Phil Winikoff, and even though his skin was sun-kissed and he smelled of expensive, French cologne, I could see the darkness that festered deep below.
“Dr. Skidmore, your two o’clock.” My receptionist protracted his neck around the door.
“Send him in,” I said.
Phil passed through the threshold of my office like a wounded creature, being mindful of his steps and careful of his surroundings, fearful of some far off thing beyond the boundaries of my spackled walls. He reached for my hand and thanked me for seeing him on such short notice. “It’s really hard to find good people these days,” he said in shallow utter. His fingers wrapped around mine like tentacles, and I could feel the sweat of his palms mash together with mine. His eyes were beady bloodshot balls of sleepless jelly. We stood there, our hands entangled in a strange, sweaty chimera, until finally he released and I was able to skulk back to the safety of my imported, Carpathian Elm desk…”
Sweet Addiction – Aspen deLainey
“Aeryn peered cautiously around the corner of the schoolyard. Although dusk had fallen, that didn’t necessarily mean they’d be gone. He just had to ensure guardians weren’t nearby.
Standing silently, he considered prancing towards the swings. Two, he counted. Two of the precious things. Just waiting for him!
He shook his mane and tail free of any tangles. He rubbed his hooves on a convenient bush. He licked his lips. He so wanted to look enticing.
A snarl came from directly behind him.
Aeryn didn’t even chance a look. Better safe than sorry. He galloped off, down some alleys, hoping he’d evaded pursuit. Damn he was getting hungrier and hungrier. Finally, he stopped in a shadowy alley, panting…”
Good Taste – Adrian Tchaikovsky
“The instructions said not to eat for 24 hours beforehand, but, seriously? There are articles in the Geneva Convention about that sort of thing. I had a light breakfast; that was all. The appointment was 11.30am and I read somewhere that bacon gets digested faster than most foods anyway. Or maybe I dreamt that.
And if I had a Twix on the tube, well, I have blood sugar issues. A man of certain dimensions needs a bit of an energy boost when he’s out and about. I can’t think that I was setting back medical science a hundred years or anything, not just a few mouthfuls of chocolate…”
The Game – Amber Keller
Stephanie sang the song on the radio like an angel. Her ice blue eyes closed, her head tilted back, the sun glowing off of her cheeks and shoulders, she had her knees tucked up into her chest. Her golden hair spilled down her shoulders in soft waves.
David reached into his pocket and rubbed the small, velvet box. This was the moment he had been anticipating for weeks. He would ask her when they got to the lake.
The winding road was starting to become covered lightly by leaves. With fall almost here, the late afternoon sun warmed the breeze that swirled through the trees, bringing the smells of summer’s last moments. A golden glow cast across the hood of his car as he crested a small hill, reflecting into his vision and temporarily blinding him.
David’s eyes filled with tears and he rubbed at them vigorously to try and clear his vision. White spots danced before his eyes, and he let off the gas, not able to see the road.
Stephanie’s piercing scream suddenly filled the car.
“DAVID! LOOK OUT!”
You Should Have – Lori Michelle
“Henry Jones liked order. His clothes had to hang in his closet a certain way. His coffee had to be made just right. Anything that disrupted his schedule was immediately loathed. This OCD-esque perfection drove everyone crazy and it wasn’t surprising that Henry lived alone. So when he found out that his secretary had to take leave for personal reasons, he wandered through the bank in a haze.
That’s when she walked into his life.
He saw her across the room and tried not to stare. She had an air about her that he hadn’t seen in a woman in a long time. She looked over at him and smiled; he was taken aback by how confident she was. He smiled back and walked over to her.
“Can I help you miss...”
A False Odor of Sanctity – John H. Dromey
“Financial arrangements had been made in advance, so there was no need for conversation. By the flickering light of a lantern, the two men worked in a grim silence, broken only by the susurrus of twin shovels slicing through the packed earth and an occasional grunt of exertion as the loosened clods were tossed high in the air to land outside the pit.
Farther up in the sky, a gibbous moon played hide and seek with slow-moving clouds. Although more than half of the lunar orb he called home was open intermittently to earthly view on this particular evening, the Man in the Moon could bear witness with only one eye. No one else was watching.
When a new sound emerged from the surrounding shadowy darkness—a faint metallic clinking of chains—the diggers were too absorbed in their work to notice…”
Hark! The Herald Angels Sing! – Jeffery X Martin
“One time, when you were little, we were in the car. All of us. You, me and your mommy. Your mommy was messing around with the radio in the car, trying to find some music to listen to. She landed on this one station, far right on the dial, and there was an old preacher, rattling on about the End of Days. I made a face. Your mother giggled a little and reached down to change the station.
You were in back, in your car seat, and you said, “Who’s that man talking?”
Your mommy said, “Just some guy telling stories.”
You laughed and clapped your hands. “He’s funny! He talks funny,” you said. “He says funny things!”
And the guy did have that cadence going on, that deep Southern rhythm, adding extra syllables onto his words. “Jesus-ah! He is-ah coming back-ah! He is coming-ah! To retrieve his people-ah! To take his people-ah! Into the sky-ah! Up to his holy kingdom-ah! The holy kingdom of heaven-ah!”
Beasts of Burden – Thomas James Brown
“Four months ago we could barely afford to eat and now this... By the Seven Courts of the Seven Sins, the land itself would not satisfy you, Frederick!”
For three generations, Hanker Farm had endured in the Dorsetshire region. When just a boy, Coll had watched studiously from the fields as his father managed the land. The lessons in those days were many, and taught the merits of diligence, hard work and glistening sweat, in favour of parchment or prayers.
“As you reap, so shall you sow,” his father used to say, “sow bad seeds and happen you’ll have a bad harvest.” Even in those early days, he had realized his father was imparting more than agricultural wisdom; he was a moral man with just beliefs, which did not indulge slovenliness or ill manners…”
The Fairies in the Wood – Bill Read
“Even from a distance, Edward Carter had no problem spotting her. Every other arriving passenger was garbed in suits, anoraks or tee-shirts - but not his daughter. Even though he hadn’t seen her for six months, there was no mistaking the figure in the dress standing next to an out of date poster advertising a talk at the village library on local superstitions. She was even wearing a straw hat – she looked like a character out of a Pollyanna book.
“Sorry I wasn’t here to meet you off the train,” he apologised giving her a hug. “I took the wrong turning on the way to the station – I don’t know the roads around here yet.”
“That’s all right dad,” replied Maribel pecking him on the cheek. “The train got in at 10.30 and I’ve hardly been waiting at all. A few seconds is hardly a matter of life and death…”
The Eater – Sergio Palumbo
“Only a few people really know the true story of Jenő De Carignano. In fact, he was a peculiar nobleman living in an ancient and windy European seaport. He was born in a northern Italian town in 1800, long ago, but nowadays he doesn’t think much about that city. It has been a very long time since the man was back there and, with the passing of the years, he has almost forgotten its name.
But, the name of the place wasn’t important anyway.
Dark haired, with a bristly, curly beard, and two wild eyes on a face glowing with health, Jenő was 32 years old when he got married for the first time. The birth of his son, Flavio, soon followed. The wedding was expensive and ostentatious, but as he wasn’t from one of the most famous noble families in town, it was nothing like the wonderful marriages of the richest families in that community. Anyway, the man was very relieved about that, as he was mainly an introvert, and very mean in general. He had a lot of reasons to behave that way: Jenő was an alchemist and had discovered something very important while busy with his other studies, something he didn’t want to share with anyone else…”