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Coral – A Short Story

Coral

      I watch from the window as the tall, dark-haired woman walks to her car. She’s dressed smartly for the summer in a cool white dress and matching shoes. Her coral colored toes peek playfully from the crisp, white heels. Coral nail polish is mama’s favorite too. I have a sneaking suspicion that there exists a secret witch’s coven dedicated to destroying children’s lives, all of them standing in neat little rows with coral painted feet. I stick my tongue out and make faces at the woman behind her back. Ms. Cathy’s neat little brown bun, like the last of my hope, disappears into the green ford explorer. The wheels crunching over the gravel sounds like rain beating across our thin roof. This time she stayed less than ten minutes. She spoke in that annoying tone that adults do when they think you are pulling one over on them. Most of the women that came out would simply say ‘mind your mother now and be a good girl’. They have never witnessed mama’s wrath or that look in her eye. The look that could melt all of Antarctica with a single glance.

Katherine-Anne- Thomas you get out here right now.”

      I sulk at Mama’s tone, she always sounds like she is screaming at me to come inside. No matter how far I stand from her. I take my time, dragging my fingers along the familiar dips and bumps on the wall. I pause at the entrance to the living room and then drop down to my knees and peer around the TV stand. Her blonde mane is perfectly groomed, each strand of hair curls to frame her heart-shaped face. Her bangs had been feathered just right to hover over magazine quality blue eyes. The rich seductive curve of her lips is outlined in a fiery red and she is clothed in a silky string top the same color over black slacks. If it is one thing mama is good at, it is finding stylish clothes on a budget. She once found a pair of real leather boots miss-marked at twenty-nine dollars. Not only did she get the boots at a reduced price but also a complementary matching purse and wallet. Mama always wins.

I cringe at the giggles and coos of my half-brother as he stands to point in his bouncy chair from the kitchen doorway. I hadn’t noticed him since he is on the left and mama is on the couch to the right. “Shi-Shi” Logan squeals in full force. His sing-song voice bounds from wall to wall sealing my fate with the happy jingle, tingle of the bells on either side of him.

    “Katherine, now.” More than her usual yelling spree, it was the calm, collected voice she sometimes uses that scares me the most. And today is one of those days. I gulp and rise up on shaky knees. My teeth, no matter how hard I press them down, will not stop chattering. I round the corner I stare up at the fierce, flush face of my mother. I bring my gaze to the floor a millisecond too late and her hand clamps over my cheeks.

Don’t you look at me that way, you know exactly what you did,” she spits, tightening her grip.

I haven’t done anything, it was more than likely our neighbors that called, but there is no

convincing her of that. Besides, apologizing only ignited her anger further. I wisely remained

silent and locked my gaze on the pearly glow of her coral nail polish. Each toe was dug firm into

the ground, straining to break free of their wooden captor. I became mesmerized by the gleam,

the unending sea of peachy-red and I tried to imagine what the color would feel like wrapped

around my arms. Maybe it would comfort and warm me, sprinkle cinnamon and peach kisses

across my face like grandma. Grandma’s kisses were always the best, proud and solidly planted

on my forehead. But grandma was dead, long dead from cancer that had spread throughout her

chest and stomach. There was no sense in wishing for her now. Logan’s preoccupied giggles

peppered through seconds before I felt the repeated pounding of numbing blows. He must have

lost interest and began playing with his toys.

My body lay as still as a statue, not moving until I heard her slowly pad toward the baby.

Cracking my eyes a tiny slit, I watched as she bent down and picked Logan up from his bouncy

swing. His eyes scanned the room and then looked down at me. He made an uncertain gurgle,

patting mama’s face and pointing to me. Laughing she nuzzled him to her face and walked into

the kitchen. I heard him say shi-shi as mama gently lowered him into his high chair.

Now, now” I heard mama coo, “Shi-shi is taking a nap and it’s time for your lunch. How

about sweet peas for my sweetie?”

I counted the grooves in the wood. I looked as

far away as my eyes could without opening further. This was a way for me to gauge time, once I

was able to count them ten times it was okay to get up and go to my room. On the tenth pass, I

heard the key enter the front door and quickly stood up, dusting my arms and legs. Mechanically,

I walked to the front door and smiled as my stepfather came in. He had dark rings under his

chocolate colored eyes and his normal neat crop of black hair was tousled and unkempt. He

smelled of sweat and metal, no doubt from his long night shift. I knew it was almost time for his nap before he had to turn around and go to school.

My stepdad is a good guy; he never touches me or beats me in any way. That makes him

pretty decent in my book. I know that he knows about mom’s beatings but he cleverly avoids the

topic. Mom once confronted him and asked him to use the belt on me, but he said it wasn’t his

place and she snatched the belt away tearing it across my legs and back.

James,” Mama says, her cheeks glowing like the color of her toes. His deep laugh

rumbles through his chest as mama hugs him tight.

I slowly inch toward the hallway as they talk about each other’s day. I am almost to my sanctuary when Mama calls from the kitchen. She must have finished lunch because when I return to the living room my stepdad is flicking through channels on the TV and eating a sandwich. My stomach grumbles in protest as I step into the kitchen. I look down at the off-white tile and marveled again at the

perfection of Mama’s handy work. The toes seem to be getting brighter as the day passed, shining

like the surface of the sun in the afternoon light. I silently wonder if I hack them

into tiny pieces what I would find. I began to seriously believe it

was her natural toenail color. Grabbing a patch of my hair she twists until I am down on one

knee whimpering. I hate giving in, hate it so much I bite down on my tongue and fight not to

scream. I stare blankly at Mama’s blouse, careful to not cry or show anger.

You listen well you little brat. I want you to do the dishes” she yanks harder until

I am sure my whole left side of hair would rip off. “Logan’s father and I are going to sleep, understand?” I nod my head, gritting my teeth through the white-hot pokers in my skull.

Your brother is also laying down, so I expect not so much as a clang from this kitchen.

Are we clear?” She gives my hair one final tug and throws me back into the stove. I drop to a fetal position on the floor and stare forward. She slowly walks toward me, each reddish-pink nail on her pristine feet slowly coming into focus. I can feel her staring down at me, watching every microexpression on my face. Finally, there is a shift in the air and then she is gone. Just to be safe, I slowly count to ten before getting up. I pace back and forth, imagining that each step creates a tiny groove in the tile. That would get her, if I just dent the floor enough she would trip and maybe put a chip in her flawless

toes. I pause as something occurs to me, why haven’t I thought of it before? The color, the c-

o-l- o-r. I drew it out in my mind, each syllable burning worse than the last. I have to rid her of

the nail color. It’s probably filtered into her bloodstream, polluting her mind with its filthy lies about me. A bad, bad girl− it would say. Looks too much like her deadbeat dad, it would snicker in its low

raspy taunt. No, not the sweet warmth of cinnamon and peach, it has tricked me all along. It has to be fooling Mama too.

Tears wet my face for the first time in two years as I pre-rinse each pan, bowl, and plate,

placing them into the dishwasher. It is our newest appliance, one that has eaten up most of my

Stepdad’s savings. I lean over to place the final two bowls in the washer when one

slips from my grasp. I stare in horror as it shatters into a thousand porcelain pieces, dusting the

floor like newly fallen snow. I freeze, my hands clamping over my mouth. I draw a shaky breath, my eyes glued to the doorway. The mountainous roar that follows confirms my worst fear. There is a flurry of movement, all yellow, red and black. Cool, clammy hands wrap around my neck and squeeze. “You-did- that-on- purpose, you little bitch.” I try in vain to speak to her. I try to tell Mama that it was the nails, the vile color she painted on them from the little glass tube was controlling her mind. Instead, the only thing I manage is a puff of air and a squeak as I slowly lose feeling in my legs. I claw at her vice-like grip sinking to the floor. My eyes lock with her tempests of blue. But somehow they look purple now, with ribbons of red snaking through. The coral has won, they have tinged her eyes. I must look like a stranger in our home and she is trying to protect all of us.

Maybe I am in my room, playing with the Barbie she gave me for my fifth birthday. It is probably just a dream and I will wake any moment to my other life. My real life. My lungs are about to burst, I can feel the coral sinking into them through my windpipe from Mama’s fingertips. My vision fades as I hear a soft voice calling to me in the distance. I smile at the calm, beautiful woman that reaches out to me. There she is, my real mother. I can see her in our backyard, looking at me with a profound sense of love. Tears spill down my cheeks as I call to her. From the distance, I hear my stepfather yell. A smile forms on my lips, my vision darkening but still present enough to make out what is in front of me.

I have finally done it; put a chip in the perfect peachy color. Just beneath Mama’s feet a rich, vivid red spills onto the floor. I grin as I feel the warmth of the color wrapping my body and drawing me close. It weeps softly, rocking me to sleep.

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Anime Fest 2017 and Hell’s Gate Updates

I made it, I did it, and whew are conventions hard on me! For those that aren’t aware, I am what’s known high-functioning autistic. (Formerly known as Asperger) Large, crowded events really aren’t my thing. But, strangely enough, I love presentations. For reasons even unknown to me, I’ve enjoyed doing presentations since I was a kiddo. Especially when I get to talk about the things I love. Like scary, spooky things that go bump in the night.

:3

After years of CBT, I’m able to make it through walking around but these events have always felt alien to me and extremely uncomfortable. The only way I can truly be happy is behind a camera, or up on stage. Two extremely odd things for most people─ but somehow, I’m one with the goat and much enjoy sitting in high places above people as I talk about my childhood loves.

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I’ll have con footage up soon, and show all the great people I saw at this year’s event. In all honesty, A-Fest has been one of my all-time favorite shows and still continues to be. It was very well coordinated, and the staff was on top of things and quick to help and answer any questions that I had.

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Book two is finally here! Get ready for its October release in a big way. I had a few people at the convention ask when book two would finally be out and I will have an official release date this week. For those that aren’t aware, Hell’s Gate is a series comprised of three books. You can see my interview covering my adventures here:

Suffice it to say, if you like J-Fashion, J-Culture, Urban Legends and Mythology mixed in with adventures, this is your cup of tea. It is what is known as a Dark Fantasy and because of my love for genre-bending, it has horror elements and urban legends.

If you have an affinity for the dark side like me, you can also find my podcasts and my thriller audiobooks/audio-stories on YouTube

Enjoy, my friends and as always, stay creepy. More announcements on HG coming soon.

xoxoxo

─C.A.

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Live Events, Giveaways, and Anime Fest 2017

One of my all-time fav conventions is nearly here! Anime Fest (August 17th – 20th) has hands-down been one of my favorites since I started attending them some years ago. I am extremely biased when it comes to these sort of events, however, because I’ve always preferred smaller crowds. Granted, the fact that AnimeFest is now being hosted near my home in the Sheraton Hotel certainly means they’ve grown exponentially.

And have you SEEN the guest line up for this year? If you haven’t, seriously go look it up.

Unfortunately, for our team at Dusk Publishing, we weren’t able to snag a table this year at the event─ But, we are doing panels. And a panel I have planned oh hohoho~~

If you aren’t currently watching my Live Events, or are just kind of tuning in, I do live writing panels and stories for DuskLive on FB from 2p.m. – 2:30 p.m. These usually don’t go for more than a couple of minutes, but I like to stay on the safe side, just in case we have people asking questions! Once these live events are finished, I post them on all of my social media pages. So if you can’t attend, no worries─ they are always posted afterward. (like the one this past Sunday about a scary experience I had while I was in Japan doing research for the Hell’s Gate book series.)

For the AnimeFest panel, you can expect to have all my usual bizarre Japanese culture and Urban Legends content that you can find on Soundcloud (now slowly being added to my YouTube channel) and on my Livestream events.  This year, I’ll be covering modern Japanese urban legends and where they come from and also talking about some ancient Japanese urban legends. We’ll all sit and reminisce as I talk about my experiences from Japan (interesting, bizarre─ and the everyday life as a ‘normal’ Japanese citizen)

The panel will be held on Thursday, August 17th from 5 p.m. – 6:00 p.m. in Panel 4. 

For this panel, I’ll have copies of Hell’s Gate readily available, or you can bring your own for signing!

If you aren’t aware, you can actually enter to win a free copy of Hell’s Gate in our contest. (Hurry, it’s only running until 7/27/17!)

This next Sunday, (July 30th) I’ll be covering ways to combat writer’s block and techniques that I use to help. See you guys there!

 

xoxo

C.A. ❤

 

Quick update – Today’s Comic Release

Hey guys! This is just a brief update on yesterday and today. Normally, I release a comic every Tuesday. As most of you know, I have a day job like everyone else.

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Which means my days can go from busy to:

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When you run a company, and work a day job (plus adding a kiddo to the mix 2-4 days a week) let’s just say my life is not lacking excitement.

Yesterday was a day of nightmares.

Finally, after trudging home at 10 p.m. (having worked at my job which currently has me as Marketing Director/CSR/Web Designer) I finally was able to try and finish my comic. Then, the realization hit me. I’d left my file at work and forgot to save it on G-Drive.

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Needless to say, (tl;dr) I’ll have it up today.

Check out my poll on twitter today @chrystal_Annecd at noon─

You all get to vote what my next Urban Legend podcast will be over. :3

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Happy thoughts, children. ❤

─ C.A.

Horror has a Bad Rep – Is that Merited?

From the sub-genre, to main genre, horror has had some pretty great times─

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To downright deplorable moments.

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But if you look at the genre all together, it really does have a bad reputation. Why is that, and is it merited?

The answer is more complex than you think. My personal favorite are thrillers and shows with thriller/horror like elements. For example, in shows such as Westworld, The Walking Dead, or Game of Thrones, the horror elements are fleshed out─ they’re balanced. But notice how I said that. Elements. The average person does not like to constantly be underestimated with cheap thrills, or jump scares. We like depth, we like just the right amount of complexity without over-thinking the scene.

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The director and casting director have a tough job. They have to not only convey the entire story within a reasonable amount of time, they have to embody the feeling through a combination of images, background, and good actors. This is a huge over-simplification of the process, but bare with me.

The main reason for disdain with the genre is the director’s focus. Much like the adult industry, horror gets caught up in ‘the money shot’ if you will and wants to creep-out or scare the audience as much as possible. But there is a huge piece of the picture they aren’t seeming to get.

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Horror fans are changing. We don’t want two dimensional characters as cliche as something you’d see on the CW. (and in my defense, I liked Supernatural so keep your pitchforks at bay.) What does better, time and time again are shows with elements of creepy/unknown because it’s alluring. No one wants to see the whole thing at once. And the whole ‘bad guy coming to get you’ is just over-done. Found footage? C’mon, that died years ago. The problem, I find, is that the whole industry is just outdated.

We live in the information age. If I can pick apart every issue and guess the film’s ending in the first 10-15 minutes of it, there’s a problem. Not everyone has to have that surprise element, or a twist. You don’t have to have a boogie man that just won’t die. Don’t make flimsy characters whose sole purpose is to die. I can’t tell you how frustrated I get with weak/pathetic characters that just stumble around and cry.

“Nope! I’m gonna die. Guess I’ll just walk down this road in a straight path and bawl my pretty eyes out. That’ll work.”

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Build an atmosphere. Make competent characters that try their hardest and still fail. The Green Room actually came pretty damn close to this, and I enjoyed it. The people weren’t helpless, it felt real. Like it genuinely could happen.

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Nightcrawler? One of my all-time favs to date. But, I am admittedly a little biased since I love Jake Gyllenhaal. If you haven’t seen this, do yourself a favor─ watch it, like, yesterday.

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But what do I know? That’s just my two cents.

 

What are some of your favorite horror films? Comment, share! 

 

Hell’s Gate Trilogy

Where did you get your inspiration?

Many moons ago, this lady had a childhood. (Don’t take that tone of thoughts with me, reader, I hear it in your mind words.) For what my mother lacked, she made up with books. Our family loved stories, and my stepfather could spin a tale. I grew up learning about Chinese and Japanese folklore.

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Though I was fond of many, the one that always stuck out in my mind was The Weaver and the Cowherd.

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In book one of the trilogy, Celeste walks the long corridor of Matilda’s home which is filled with intriguing paintings. This section of the story combines the Tale of the Jade Emperor and the 12 signs of the Zodiac as well as The Weaver and the Cowherd.

Similarly, you may have read or heard about the star crossed lovers with the celebration of Tanabata in Japan. The tales are similar, but vary slightly from China to Japan.

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The gist of the tales, is that the Weaver of the stars fell in love with a lowly cowherd boy. Zhinü (or Orihime in the Japanese version) was forbidden by the Jade Emperor (Sky King, or Tentei in Japan) to fall in love with Niulang (Hikoboshi in Japan) and was separated by the Silver River, which represents the Milky Way.

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The only time the lovers are allowed to meet are on the 7th day of the 7th month when a flock of magpies flies down to allow them to rejoin.

I encourage all of you to actually read the tales, they are quite fascinating. But just know that the theme of forbidden love is probably the oldest in human history and still manages to top the charts with sales in the romance section.

On that note, I refuse to write romance. That’s sissy stuff. I easily get annoyed and the eye rolls begin as I’m cringing through most overly-emotional shows or characters. Don’t get me wrong, a little romance never hurts, but when I see people on screen making dumb choices, my aspie self goes bananas. I’ve managed to offend most people with my rants on how Character A should just off Character F because they are a huge risk to the group. Their jaws drop and I get a 5 minute lecture on human compassion. Yes, compassion is fine and good, but senor bleeding heart mc-love machine needs to take a swan dive over the cliff. Love doesn’t cure the badies rounding the corner because some dude is raising a ruckus to save his already-dead gal’s dignity.

 

…um, she doesn’t need that nor can she feel it. She’s dead, lady. She’s dead. /rant.

 

Why am I telling you this? Because I did a little trickses in Hell’s Gate. Besides the hidden meanings and sayings within the passages, I left a bit of an Easter egg in the story. I’m quite fond of superstitions and find them wickedly delicious when playing tricks on others. To top that off, I start the first book in what seems to be a tale of a love-driven main character. By chapter two, the water works end and by the end of the book, we discover a very different side to her love interest. Just you wait until book 2. I’m practically cackling. Next blog? The life that has kicked my arse for the past two years, and up and coming WIP.