Scream Reads! #instafreebie #group promotion #free

 

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Choose from eleven short stories that are sure to rattle your bones or raise your goose bumps!  Click the link below to browse and choose the stories that appeal to you, then download and read for free. http://bit.ly/SCREAMREADS

Most of the stories are through Instafreebie, a site where authors share some of their works to spread the joy of their writing styles.  You, as a reader, agree to sign up to their author newsletter.  Your e-mail is not shared with anyone else.  Most indie author newsletters are unobtrusive to your time.  For example, my newsletter gets sent out once every 3-4 weeks.

Your choices range from horror, gore, to paranormal.  Choose from all sorts of things that go bump in the night, tales of ghosts, vampires, Death, etc.  Enjoy!

P.S. My story offers Death as a character, as a dramatically disturbed young woman seeks revenge for the loss of her family.  Sort of has a Godfather/ Book Thief feel to it.  Try it!

“The Gypsy’s Wrap,” an eerie tale of the search for youth. #shortstories

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Originally published, 2006, by Pamela Schloesser Canepa.  All rights reserved.

The Gypsy’s Wrap

Jeff Hayden noticed the alert eyes of a young blond girl watching him from the park bench. They were especially intent for the eyes of a girl of about 5 to 6 years old. Perhaps she knew him? He couldn’t recall, but stopped to say hi.

He was a thirty-five year old journalist, with short dark hair and dark intense eyes. This was the year he finally decided to start running again, since the occasional partaking of beer was starting to show on his waist line. Being a single guy without a serious girlfriend, he definitely had the time. So here he was on this warm October day in Jacksonville, enjoying the slight breeze that motivated his run. He needed to stop and gather his breath.

“Hi,” he said to the little girl on the bench wearing a red jumper and white tights. She had a blonde bob, and deep green eyes. She looked so familiar.

“Hi, there,” she replied, with a smile.

“I had to catch my breath.” He didn’t know how to broach his question without seeming creepy. “Do I know your parents?” He asked.

“Don’t know. But I know you. You’re a journalist, and your name is Jeff Hayden. I’m Renee.”

His jaw dropped. She knows my name, he thought. Whose child is she?

“How do you know me?”

“Aren’t those butterflies so pretty?” She asked. “And my shoes are brand new! My mommy bought them for me yesterday. Excuse me if I get distracted easily.”

These were big words for a girl her age. Why was she out here alone? Where was her mommy now?

“Oh, but your question. Umm,” she hesitated, swinging her legs on the park bench, since they didn’t quite reach the ground. “I have to tell you a story about a teacher I knew. It might explain this.”

“Okay,” he said, perplexed.

“It’s Ms. Finney.”

Jeff recalled Ms. Finney, a teacher he had actually been seeing for a while before he went after a “dream job” in New York, only to return jaded to the arms of a 21 year old college student, a consolation prize. Never did he call Renee upon his return. His memories of her, however, were fond. A good gal, fun sense of humor. She was a romantic conquest that never bloomed into a full-fledged relationship. They had simply fallen out of touch when he moved, and never re-connected when he got back. Something he at times regretted, but only when the fun with 21 year old Cindy faded away. A long-distance relationship was not something he wanted with Renee, and Cindy was a welcome distraction, full of energy, a clubbing gal with non -stop sex appeal pursuing a marketing degree, very bold and confident. He suddenly thought this little girl might be related to Renee. There was an uncanny resemblance.

“Yes, I know her. So, tell me your story.” He stepped over from the water fountain, then returned to the bench, ready for a short break from running. He found himself in awe of the vocabulary this girl possessed, as she looked up and began her story.

     “Ms. Finney was a little bored with her life. You see, she had been divorced 8 years, she was 38, and she didn’t know if she ever wanted to be married again. She knew she didn’t want to be alone. She somehow still wished to meet her “true” love. She enjoyed fun times with her son, and she also had her dancing lessons she took on her own time. She just knew she wanted more. She was pretty open-minded, though not crazy, but very accepting of people different from her. She enjoyed her job of teaching, but always strove to have a life of her own outside of the job also. It was a long weekend in late September when she decided to take a short trip.

     Her son was with her ex-husband for a five day weekend. So Ms. Finney got in her car to drive up to the hills in New York. Her dad lived up there. She thought she might surprise him. On the way there, she stopped in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina to stay for the night. She called her father about her visit. Upon finding out he was yet again traveling with work, she hung up the phone, disappointed.

     There was a little carnival going on there. She walked through, enjoying the sights and smells of carnival food. She found a gypsy’s tent. The sign said, ‘Proven to be able to reverse the aging process.’ Ms. Finney was a fairly curious sort, and she didn’t like the thought of approaching 40. She stepped into the tent.

    ‘Forty dollars,’ said the gypsy, in heavily accented English.

     Thinking that must scare a lot of the customers away, Ms. Finney said ‘What the heck,’ and placed two twenties in the gypsy’s palm.

    ‘You vant the age reversal,’ the gypsy stated, not asking, but declaring.

    ‘Um, yeah sure,’ answered Ms. Finney. Is my age that obvious?

    “Here, for you,’ the gypsy said as she dipped a long scarf into several different bowls of dye. The result was a very colorful scarf.

     “Is perfect for wrap, a shawl, scarf, head wrap. See mine?’ She pointed.

     There is no way she could be a living advertisement for the age reversal, thought Ms. Finney, stifling a giggle.

     ‘The dye is special,’ the gypsy continued. ‘Gives you youth, reverse your aging. Anytime you wear, it takes several years off your age.’

     Ms. Finney smiled and accepted the wrap, noting how it strangely was all dry, no wet dye. She shuddered.

     “No, is good,’ swore the gypsy. ‘I’m 50 year, you wouldn’t know it.’

     Ignoring that claim, Ms. Finney took the scarf and wore it, admiring the colors. It matched, of course, since it contained almost every color imaginable, and it gave her a bit of a bohemian look. She did a little spin. ‘And it’s pretty, too.’ She smiled, thanked the woman, and left.

     Back at home, Ms. Finney didn’t think much about the scarf, until she wore it on a date with her friend Scott. Jan and Myra were also there, at the karaoke bar.

    ‘Sorry, I have check your id,’ the waitress said, when Ms Finney ordered a glass of wine. Smiling broadly, she took out her id with a flourish, thanking the waitress. She also realized no one else had been carded, although two of her friends were slightly younger than she.

     When she got home, she took off the scarf, and thought about being carded. Age is all a state of mind, she thought. When I wear the scarf, I’m going to feel younger. She always took great care to not look her age, to dress slightly more ‘hip’ than a woman of 38 years. At this point, she felt the scarf was well worth the forty dollars she had spent.

     She wore the scarf to school one day. A new student asked her, ‘Where’s the teacher?’ Ms. Finney beamed, and pointed to herself, taking a bow.

     ‘Man, I thought you were a student!’ the new girl said, red-faced.

     Ms Finney, and everyone else, started really noticing a change when she lost her curves. Yes, she had been getting the comments that she was looking radiant and young, but when her jeans starting really bagging in the rear, and she couldn’t fill out her shirts anymore, she remembered the gypsy’s words: ‘Everytime you wear this scarf, you take several years off your age.’ In fact, she felt like she was about twelve. She had been getting positive comments about her weight, and had claimed it was due to kick-boxing classes (purely a fabrication). She had put on the scarf that morning, and quickly tore it off, thinking of the meaning behind the gypsy’s words.”

     The little girl paused, and crossed her arms on her now raised knees. She continued with a far away look in her eyes.

     “By now, she was fully a believer in the gypsy’s magic. ‘Every time you wear, it takes several years off of your age.’ How many times had she worn it? Did it take off five years each time? If she wore it six times, would that add up to thirty years taken away? And her mind was affected. She had a hard time paying the bills, helping her son with homework, remembering things she needed to do for work. She just couldn’t concentrate. She couldn’t enjoy the Anne Rice novels she used to love reading. The whole point seemed to be way above her head.

     She felt she was shrinking by the minute. How could she stop this? Her son started to request staying with his grandmother more often. He was obviously freaked out by the changes in his mother. At this point, she looked no older than him, and he needed, a mother, not another child.

     One morning she threw on the scarf without thinking, then quickly tore it off. Would that take her back another five years? So many details she didn’t ask the gypsy in her doubt. Sitting in the car, she discovered she could no longer reach the gas pedal or the brakes with her legs. She whipped out the cell phone and called in sick to work. Co-workers were already worried about her. She’d overheard someone talking about anorexia. But that didn’t explain her shrinking height. She got out and walked to her mother’s house. Her mom was getting her son ready for school.

     ‘Hi, mom,’ Pete said. He looked at her with sadness. He thought she was sick, too.

     ‘Hi, honey.’ She hugged him, and realized she was now shorter than he was.

     ‘Mom,’ she implored. ‘When you drop him off, I need you to take me to South Carolina.’

     ‘Why, is there some special doctor there?’ Her mom said, looking her up and down. She had been nagging her to see a doctor for days.

     ‘There’s someone in South Carolina who knows what’s happening to me, and why. Maybe she can stop it. After that, I’ll go to a doctor, if you want. But you have to wait outside. I go in, alone.’ Her mom looked wary, but agreed.

     So they dropped her son off at school and headed for South Carolina. But the carnival wasn’t there, neither was the gypsy. They couldn’t get any information from locals. They got home that night, and Ms Finney was even shorter. It seemed like the whole thing was happening freakishly fast. The doctor was not available for a few weeks. ER? They would do nothing. She did not appear sick at all.”

 At this point, the girl, Renee, paused, and looked up at Jeff. He was amazed with how much she reminded him of Renee Finney. They were obviously related; maybe this was a joke of Renee’s. He had heard that his friend Bruce ran into Renee one day and she had asked about Jeff. She always seemed interested in him, but he never really let her in.

 ‘Jeff, do you remember when you and Ms Finney danced at that place by the beach? How you held her face in your hands….told her about your dream of living in Alaska and writing that great novel. Do you remember? Because I remember. I’m sorry we lost touch. I got busy too, but I knew we’d see each other again. I just didn’t know I’d no longer be your equal. This time I’m not too old for you, am I?”

 Jeff felt a lump in his throat. He always hated good byes and had avoided that with Renee. He also avoided serious relationships for that reason. He had never seen this coming.

“I really got myself into deep doo-doo, this time,” Renee declared.  “I have no choice but to let this run its course.

 She took her shoe off and studied it. She stared at a dog being led on a leash, and laughed when it started dragging its owner.   “I get really distracted.”  She giggled.

“Who brought you here?” He asked, avoiding putting the pieces together a little longer.

“My mom brought me because I can no longer drive,” Renee answered in slow, clipped cadences between clenched teeth. “I have lost my life because of vanity.” She declared as a tear slipped down her cheek.

“You’re…..Renee…Finney?” Jeff asked. He was incredulous, yet it all fit in with the story. It would explain those familiar eyes, that chin, the uncanny resemblance, and how she know of his dream of Alaska. He didn’t share that too often. Cindy wouldn’t have listened.

“You’re the last man I kissed, Jeff. The last one I danced with, hoped for. I’ll never love a man again. I’m a child now, but have no future to look forward to. Tomorrow I may be an embryo.” She chuckled. How many five year olds knew that word? He envisioned her becoming a microscopic egg, and then, a mere gleam in her father’s eye, and before that, what?

He was amused at seeing how she looked as a child, and ashamed to think this was once a woman, once his lover. The whole concept was incomprehensible.

“I know it’s strange; would you just let me kiss you one more time?” She asked, falteringly. “Tonight I have one last dinner with my son. I will try to cook.” She stared away at the man and dog again, perhaps distracted?

“I , uh….” He sat on the bench next to her, feeling wrong, awkward, unsure. He put a gentle hand on her shoulder, wanting to reason with her. This simply could not be real.

“Where’s Renee Finney?” Jeff asked.

“It’s me, Jeff.” She stood on the bench, leaned in, closed her eyes and pressed her lips softly to his cheek. Then she leaned back, teardrops rolling down to her chin. He was relieved it was over, yet saddened. A car pulled up and someone sat watching them. Jeff noticed it was not Renee Finney, but a woman in her sixties, who waved at the little girl as if there was nothing wrong with her talking to this grown man in the park.

“I’m glad for what we had,” she expressed.

“Yeah, me too,” he replied, still incredulous but unable to explain it all. Renee stood up, shook Jeff’s hand, and sauntered off, sadly at first, then she started running like mad, perhaps wanting to make the most of her time left. It had started to get dark. He presumed the woman in the car to be Renee Finney’s mother, and there was a child in the backseat. Evidently Renee came here, knowing the places he frequented. It must have been her intention to say goodbye, to her last link womanhood, now gone.

No, Jeff, this can’t be real, he thought. There is some other explanation. He shook his head as if to shake off the whole afternoon as he walked away. But it would haunt his dreams for months. If it were true, then he had just conversed with a dying woman. It didn’t matter that she had found the fountain of youth. She was a woman who was dying in reverse, but still dying just the same.

 

Return to The Post Office Box, a short story reimagined with alternate endings #paranormal #realisticfiction

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by Pamela Schloesser Canepa, copyright 2016. Part 1 originally posted on kurtbrindley.com

Originally a Flash Fiction response in 250 words, now followed by two alternate endings; choose your preferred genre, or read both.  Thank you for reading!

Tussling with the dog. That was Jasmine’s story, this time. The scar would dissipate in a week, she knew. It did hurt. This was so unfair, yet, all too familiar.
Driving to work, Jasmine noticed she’d inadvertently put on one navy blue shoe and one black. An understandable mistake; they were almost identical, and those colors were close. I wonder if anyone will notice?  She realized the light had turned. I sure don’t need a ticket.
To her left was the post office. Darn, I forgot that electric bill. Rick will lose it. Do I go back? She worried it might make her late, yet she didn’t need one more fight about the mail.
Her thoughts drifted to the invitation that had arrived the week before for her ten year high school reunion. Of course, with a four-month-old baby and a full-time job, she hadn’t seriously considered. Still, she had thought of going.
“You just want to see all your old boyfriends! You wench!” Rick had screamed, holding the baby in his arms.
“No, Rick, don’t worry, I don’t need to go.” That’s how it always went. Keeping the peace. When she never received any in return.
Abruptly, she pulled into the post office. “I need a post office box,” she announced to the clerk. JUST for me.  With receipt of the key, she found the assigned box. It was cool inside. She imagined fitting inside of it, this doorway to distant places.

Alternate ending A, paranormal/speculative fiction:

She slipped her hand in a little further.  It seemed to pull her.  Where would she go?  No doubt, someplace cooler than South Carolina.  The pull was quite strong, but she pulled back against it.  The baby!  I can’t leave the baby.

Realizing that this might be even more real than she had imagined, Jasmine slammed the door to her post office box shut.

“Everything okay, Miss?”  A young girl with hair the color of pink cotton candy and earbuds in her ears asked.

Jasmine turned around.  “It’s been a strange day.”

“Your mailbox isn’t all the way closed, by the way.  I’m Wilma, but my friends call me Freddie.”  She held out her braceleted hand.

Jasmine shook it and turned to make sure the post office box was closed all the way.

“That was a nice pinkie ring, your wedding band, too.”  Freddie called.

The wedding band was replaced after Rick had tossed it down the disposal in a drunken rage.  He spent three times as much on it, in hopes that would make his night of terror less memorable.  Of course, Jasmine didn’t say that to Freddie.

“Thanks.”  Jasmine looked around, feeling cornered.  This girl noticed too much.

“If you have that door open too long, it really works.  It takes you away.”  Freddie whispered.  “You only come back if you want to.  I swear.”

It was as if this girl knew her secrets, Jasmine thought.  She also seemed to know her exact thoughts on what was at the other side of that P.O. box.  Jasmine shivered.

“I have to go home.”

“Yes, of course.  But just so you know, it’s here.  It’ll still be here the next time you come back, no matter how long it’s been.  Once you feel the pull, you can’t pretend it doesn’t exist.  I sense you need it even more than I did.”  The young girl put the earbuds back in her ears.    “Ciao,”  she called, as she turned and pulled her hoodie over her head and left the post office.

Jasmine rushed home, but Rick was, indeed, in rare form, ticked off over her being fifteen minutes late.

“I got stuck in traffic.”  She lied.  Telling the truth about what was going on in her mind was not safe at all.

“Yeah, right.  You were probably hanging out, talking to those guys you work with.”

“Rick, I’ll do better.  I’ll find a new way home.  Just let me get the dishes done.  Ross is fine over there in the playpen.  Please, just no more.  Don’t wake him.”

“I’m out of here.  You had your fun, I’ll have mine.”  And he walked out, slamming the door.

Rick came back four hours later, noisily.  Jasmine feigned a deep sleep.

Three days later, Jasmine walked into the post office with her baby, Ross.  The box was empty, of course, but she stuck her arm in as far as it would go.  Then, she had Ross stick his hand in.  “Doesn’t it feel cool, Ross?”

He giggled, taking his hand out and then putting it back in.

An elderly woman looked at them strangely.

“He likes playing, feeling the temperature change in there,” Jasmine explained.  The woman gave a fake smile.  Jasmine asked, “Have you seen that young girl, with the bright pink hair, and….”

“I don’t know who you’re talking about, sorry.”  The woman spoke with a thick accent.  Should I ask where she’s from?  Jasmine pondered.  Maybe that’s where I should go.

Then it hit her.  I’m really considering doing this.  I am thinking of leaving.  How?  How can I leave?  Where will I go?  I guess it starts with daring to think of it, daring to believe I could do it.  How could she turn back now?

The woman walked off and left the post office.  Jasmine was left alone with Ross, and the open mailbox door.  Lights were beginning to dim.  It was late this time.  She’d taken off while Rick was out on one of his drinking binges, to return God-knows-when.  The only light she saw now was inside of the box, on the other side.

Letters, packages, notices all get sent from out here, to in there, ending up with loved ones or important people across the sea, in other states, far-away places.

She closed her eyes and held Ross tightly.  I will never leave you, Ross.  If I go anywhere, I go with you.  But how will I fit this diaper bag full of formula and diapers in there?  Opening her eyes, she saw the light still glowing within.  “Here we go, Ross.”  She put her thin arm into the box, and he followed suit with his chubby little baby arm, a big smile on his face.  She held him close and closed her eyes.

“Mam?  We’re clos-“ Manny, the late shift postal worker announced, to no one.  He had just seen her there, and now there was no one.  Perhaps the dim lighting was playing tricks on his eyes.

He didn’t see the woman on the other side of the box, holding a baby, carefully opening an envelope addressed to Canada.  If he had, he would not have seen it for too long.  She and the baby had disappeared inside of it, arms first, seeming to be sucked in by a powerful light that was nothing more than the power of sheer determination, free will, and a strong ability to believe.

Whatever happened to Jasmine and Ross?  One thing is for sure, Rick never saw or heard from them again.  He seemed distraught at first, and then, just seemed to forget to be distraught.  Meanwhile, Jasmine found herself with very little money in a coastal surfing town called Tofino, Canada.  She made up a believable story since there was still a shiner under her eye that only showed when she went without makeup, something she did a lot more often now.  One call to work, informing them she wouldn’t be back, and a request that her boss call her parents and inform them she was alright.  That was the last time anyone from her old life heard from her.

She took up odd jobs in tourist shops, then found a room above a coffee shop and eventually started working there, pouring coffee in the morning and babysitting children in the afternoons.  It was a very simple life, but this town felt like freedom to her.  She recalled nothing of how she got there.  Nor did it matter.  The memories of who she used to be were fading as well.  Little Ross was happy playing with other children in the cozy little tourist town.  She planned to teach him how to surf one day, as she was taking a lesson on it every week.  She also took up knitting, as the locals informed her it would get quite cold in the next month.   People around town would take to more indoor activities, and that was okay; she loved the people here.  Yes, this sure felt like freedom.  And it was there for her, only because she dared to chase it.

Rumor has it, that every few months, the postal workers at Postal Office B in Charleston, South Carolina, would see a strange glow in the mailroom at night behind the P.O. boxes, just around closing time, accompanied by the sound of a woman and her baby laughing without a care in the world.  Perhaps they were simply between destinations?  Or, perhaps it was a reminder of the power of imagination and belief.  Manny, tired, overworked, and always the stooge of his peer group, was starting to feel the pull himself.

 

Click here for Alternate ending B, realistic fiction following the intro.: https://pamelascanepa.wordpress.com/2016/08/09/the-post-office-box-flash-fiction-limit250-words/

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“The Truth or I’ll Shoot,” Free Short Story, Smashwords Debut as an Author

 

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This is my debut as an author on Smashwords!  I’d love it if you checked out my site and maybe downloaded a free short story!  A review would also be greatly appreciated for this paranormal/detective story, “The Truth or I’ll Shoot,” at http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/651691

I just had to do this, even though it required some self-schooling on formatting.  But it’s a great feeling to conquer something new!  Why should I miss out on a whole other publishing venue?  It’s free to publish.  You don’t need an agent.   They distribute to Nook, Barnes and Noble, Kobo, etc.   I’m in!  So, the plan is, when I publish from now on, I will publish on Kindle and Smashwords.  I’ll probably even get my already published books on there when their 90 day enrollment is done.  Can you tell I’m excited?

In just a few days, I’ve had 26 free downloads of my short story.  This is good news.  Users of Smashwords are meeting me as an author for the first time.  I’d love to get a few reviews of my story, though, and that might also serve to help my visibility on Smashwords before I publish my next book, a novelette, to both Smashwords and Kindle in August.  (Yeah, that’s really soon.  You’ll be hearing more about it in a week or two)!

So, why not give this mysterious, paranormal story of an odd family legacy a try?  It’s around 2,900 words, and free.   I’d really appreciate a review.  Let other people know I’m worth giving a look. Again, you can find the free story here on Smashwords:  http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/651691

Thanks!

Pamela