Authors: Peter Giglio (Editor)
EVIL JESTER DIGEST
Copyright © 2012 by Evil Jester Press
All stories contained in this volume have been published with permission from the authors.
The Girl Who Drowned” © 2012 Tracy L. Carbone
“Sharpe is Extraordinary” © 2012 David Dunwoody
“Widdershins” © 2012 Hollie Snider
“Dust Devil” © 2012 Gary Brandner
“GPS” © 2012 Rick Hautala
“Look Behind You” © 2012 Eric Shapiro
“Lone Wolf” © 2012 Gregory L. Norris
“A Gentleman’s Folly” © 2012 Phil Hickes
“Dust at the Center of All Things” © 2012 John F.D. Taff
“The End of Autumn” © 2012 Aric Sundquist
Edited by Peter Giglio
Cover art by Gary McCluskey
All Rights Reserved
No portion of this publication may be reproduced, stored in any electronic system, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopy, recording, or otherwise, without written permission from the authors. This is a work of fiction. Any resemblance to any actual person, living or dead, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.
ISBN 13: 978-0615613246
ISBN 10: 0615613241
A Note from the Editor
Tracy L. Carbone
The Girl Who Drowned
Sharpe is Extraordinary
Look Behind You
Gregory L. Norris
A Gentleman’s Folly
John F.D. Taff
Dust at the Center of All Things
The End of Autumn
This volume is dedicated to writers everywhere.
A NOTE FROM THE EDITOR
I had no idea what to expect when I put out a submission call for
Evil Jester Digest Volume One
. I never do. I keep expecting crickets to chirp when I open the floodgates and announce, “Send me your best.” If that ever happens, I’ll stop editing anthologies.
But it didn’t happen. Not by a long shot. Rather, some two hundred talented authors did exactly what I asked—sent me their best.
Let me take this opportunity to thank all the authors who submitted. I had a lot of fun reading your stories, and I have no doubt many of them will find homes in the near future.
But ten stories did stand out. And their home is here.
I love them all.
I hope you love them, too.
I could talk about the stories and why they lit my fuse for hours. I could dissect them, analyze them, and tell you why they work. I could offer insight into the authors who wrote these ten tales.
I could just let you read the damn book. Isn’t that why you bought it in the first place?
When people start telling me they bought a collection of stories because of the introduction from the editor, I’ll be happy to pontificate for hours. Anyone who knows me knows I have a lot to say. But this isn’t my forum; it belongs to Tracy, David, Hollie, Gary, Rick, Eric, Gregory, Phil, John, and Aric.
Besides, you’re all smart enough to figure these stories out and decide what
think of them. If you have a good time, we did our job right.
So, without further ado, enjoy
Evil Jester Digest Volume One
January 31, 2012
THE GIRL WHO DROWNED
Tracy L. Carbone
“Mama, I feel
weak,” Connie said. The tears in her eyes trembled.
Sally sat next to her daughter on the industrial hospital bed and held her porcelain hand. “I know, Honey, I know. It’s time to go to sleep.”
“Not yet. It’s only been a few minutes. I want to smell the brownies some more and watch—” Her eyes closed, though Sally could see her child struggling to force them open. The remote control fell from the little girl’s hand and her head slumped to one side. Her jaw hung open and saliva dripped from her pale lower lip.
Sally sighed and righted her daughter’s body. She lowered the top of the bed, closed the girl’s mouth, and then wrapped Rosary beads around her hands. Perfectly posed, just like every time she fell asleep. The beads were just for show. People liked seeing them, believing the little angel chose to hold them. They believed the beads sustained her life.
She took the plate of cooling brownies from her daughter’s lap. Connie didn’t eat anything and hadn’t since she drowned in the local pond three years ago, but she was hungry all the time. When she awoke nightly from the coma, she liked to smell things. Yesterday it was lasagna and peanut butter cookies.
Sally frowned as she glanced around the room. A spectacle, it was. Sick. A glass partition made up one wall of the room. It was there to allow the faithful to view her but keep the overzealous spectators and psychos away from the child, the people who would rip her skin off as a good luck charm if they could get close enough. They all wanted a piece of Connie. A piece of the miracle.
The mother looked at the opposite wall, shelves of Madonna statues and a three-foot bloody crucifix of Jesus. It dripped real blood and the statues dripped oil. No one could explain it. Except the zealots of course. The priests and the zealots.
“Christ lives in the beautiful little girl who drowned,” the media proclaimed.
Bullshit, thought Sally. She mused about ripping down the “Pray for Her” sign in the front yard that brought people from thousands of miles around, but she was no fool. If she did, the tourists would cease making the pilgrimage. Then Connie would never wake up again. She would die and the checks would stop.
giving up the fat paycheck the Catholic Church sent her every month. She knew her future would be limited if Connie died. Sally hadn’t finished college and apart from having the body of a cheap stripper and a natural affinity for pole dancing, she didn’t have any job skills.
She walked into the kitchen and smelled the brownies herself. Sally barely ate either. How could she when her only child had drowned, had died right before her eyes? Had fallen through the ice in a winter pond and been pulled away by the current while Sally watched wordlessly from above.
Sally had only gotten pregnant with Connie to trap a man, an English professor at Emerson, into marrying her. But he had refused and then had broken off their affair. Sally had been young and stupid and decided to have the baby anyway. Raise her alone. Maybe he’d come back. She shook her head now at her naiveté. She never saw him again and had been stuck with Connie ever since. Some life.
That day Sally hovered over the ice hoping the search for Connie would be fruitless. So much time went by as she waited. Each minute that passed brought her closer to freedom. The rescue team finally retrieved her body; but she was dead.
Unfortunately for Sally, she thought with dismay, Connie didn’t stay dead. Not technically. Machines brought her back to life and kept her there.
After a month though, with her daughter in a persistent vegetative state, Sally was encouraged to pull all the plugs including Connie’s feeding tube.
She played the part of a grieving mother, waiting for her daughter’s death. Just a day or so, they told her, and the girl would pass. Finally.
Visitors came and went, but as the days dragged by, Connie didn’t die. The press showed up. Doctors ran tests and scratched their heads. They called in the priests.
“Do you believe in God?” Father Morrissey had asked her.
“No,” Sally had said with complete conviction. “No, I’m afraid I don’t.”
“Well, you might want to start because we’ve got a miracle on our hands here.”
All of a sudden Connie was his daughter too. The property of the whole parish. Now after three years of existing with no food or water, she was the property of the whole freaking religion, or so they assumed.
Day after day, between the hours of noon and four in the afternoon, hoards of people came. They knelt on the benches Father Morrissey’s church had built on the other side of the glass, and they prayed. And they wailed. There were waiting lists months long for people to see the miracle girl. People who had terminal illness got in earlier. Sally saw to that, and Father Morrissey agreed.
And hallelujah, people were healed! A few people who were probably going to live anyway did, and then it was official: Connie Boucheron was a miracle—Jesus returning, back to finish His work.
Sally wrapped up the brownies and put them on the table for tomorrow’s guests. They got all Connie’s leftovers.
She smirked. The only miracle was that no one had figured out yet that Connie lived by taking other people’s lives.
Sally had been alone with Connie one night three years ago, growing impatient for her departure. Suddenly Connie had woken up. “I took the nurse, but I need more people to wake up.” Then she was gone again.
She hadn’t known what that meant until the next day when her doctor announced that the young day nurse had suffered cardiac arrest and died. The next night another nurse died, and Connie awoke again. “You need to feed me. I need more people or I can’t wake up. Please, Mama. Please don’t let me die. I know you’ve never wanted me but please get me some more visitors.”
Sally should have just refused. But she couldn’t resist when she saw the innocent look in her daughter’s deep blue eyes. Since Connie had been born no one had looked twice at Sally, and that was a problem. But Sally couldn’t ignore the plea. The guilt got to her. So she found a way to procure people for her. Let the church advertise that Connie was a miracle who gave life, and then she could steal their souls.
Sally didn’t care about Connie anymore. That short-lived bonding/guilt-thing only lasted so long. Nevertheless, she had grown accustomed to the money from the church and didn’t want to lose it.
She rubbed her eyes, exhausted by this life. There was no way to keep track of how many people died after they came to see Connie because most of them were terminal patients to start with. When they went home and died later, anyone would assume it had been their time. She didn’t take them all of course. She was fussy, that one.
Causing death allowed Connie to wake up for a half hour or so every night. Today was just a few minutes, which meant Sally had to work harder. Gather more souls. Give her a larger selection to choose from.
She opened her computer and looked at her emails. Two hundred today alone. She put all the local ones in a special folder then scanned those by degree of illness. If she made the calls now, she could get at least ten elderly cancer patients. If five lived and Connie got five, then it might give her extra time. Connie said she wanted sick children, but Sally said no. Connie had started to fight her but then had gotten sleepy.
Something skittered along the kitchen floor and Sally jumped from her desk into the dark hallway and turned on the light. Nothing there. Probably just the wind knocking a branch against the house.
Sally sat back down and started to make the calls.
Sally jumped out of bed and ran down the hall to the viewing room.
Connie was sitting up in bed, had the control in her hand to raise the top. Her face was red and angry. “I wanted a child and you didn’t get me any.” Her eyes narrowed.
“What the hell do you think I am? Some kind of idiot?”
Sally shrank back. Connie was thirteen now so maybe hormones were to blame.
“No, Honey, I—”
“I saw you. I saw you sitting at your fucking computer deleting all the emails that mentioned children. Where do you think I go when I sleep? I watch you and I see you.”
Sally gasped. How long had she been able to see her? Did Connie know Sally had Father Morrissey in her bed sometimes? She got no pleasure out of it, but the money was good, and blackmail was her ace in the hole if she needed it. “I just thought with elderly people it would be easier to take their lives.”
“Liar! Fucking liar!” Connie’s sparking eyes narrowed more. Her cheeks reddened. Gorgeous even dead. A demented angel.
“Get me a child, or you die, bitch!”
Then she was asleep just as quickly.
Sally walked a little closer to her, wanting to put her bed back down, wanting to put the Rosary beads where they were supposed to go, but afraid Connie would spring up as monsters did in horror movies.
So she cowered out of the room and into her own and locked the door behind her. It wasn’t the first time Connie had gotten angry. Until Sally had fully comprehended that she needed to bring her daughter people to steal their souls, Connie had tortured her mother with late night threats, calling her a stupid bitch and asking why she didn’t understand. It had been over two years since Connie had acted out though. People were coming more than ever, but maybe Connie’s appetite was getting larger now that she had been in this state so long.