Seven Deadly Tales of Terror

BOOK: Seven Deadly Tales of Terror
8.15Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub









Bryan Smith



First Digital Edition

All contents Copyright © 2016 by Bryan Smith

All Rights Reserved

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means without the permission of the author. All the characters in this book are fictitious, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, is coincidental.




For Jenn







People reading this introduction will fall into one of two camps. Perhaps you are a casual reader and this collection will be your first exposure to my work. If that is the case, this little explanatory note might not be of much interest to you. Feel free to skip over it. However, if you are one of my regular readers, you will likely be aware that there has been a much longer than usual gap between my last release and this one and may have wondered what happened.

Stuff happened. Mainly one major thing.

Since the passing of my late wife in early 2011, my life had been a non-stop grind of banging out one book after another with little in the way of breaks in between projects. I’d become the novel-writing equivalent of an assembly line worker. I was
a little burned out. Then, quite unexpectedly, I met this really awesome woman and everything changed. I took a longish break from writing as we got to know each other and our relationship progressed.

But writing is how I make my living and eventually I had to get back to it. I wasn’t very excited about some of the potential longer projects I’d had in mind, so I decided to write some short stories to get back in the writing groove. The tales in this collection are the result of that. Six of these are brand new and have never appeared anywhere before. The seventh story, “South County Madman”, has never previously appeared in eBook form. It’d been a while since I last tried my hand at short fiction and I enjoyed doing these stories. There may well be another collection of short tales in the near future.

In the second half of this year (2016, for those of you reading in the future), I’ll be working on a soon-to-be-announced Big Project, a collaborative novel with one of my peers, who happens to be my closest friend in the horror writing/publishing game. I bet a few of you could take a stab of guessing who my collaborator-to-be is.

Because of the way things have developed, any previously announced or discussed projects will be on hold until 2017 while I focus on more short stories and the aforementioned Big Project.

What else?

Oh, yeah. A movie based on my novel 68 KILL, directed by Trent Haaga and starring Matthew Gray Gubler from CBS’s
Criminal Minds
, recently completed filming. So that’s pretty exciting and will be coming before too long.

Until next time,

Bryan Smith

May 24, 2016







Until that night, Paul Maldonado had never gone for walks around his neighborhood. Not during the daytime and certainly not in the midst of the lonely wee hours of the early morning. But he was bored at what felt like an almost terminal level. Bored with everything on the TV. Bored with the vast selection of streaming music available on Spotify. He was even bored shitless with the internet, sick unto death of surfing through the same fucking websites dozens of times a day every damn day.

But Paul’s boredom extended well beyond the array of entertainment choices available to him. Months had passed since the end of his latest failed relationship. With Sophia gone, the house was achingly silent, especially at night, and as a lifelong night owl, he was always up and at loose ends during the loneliest hours of the day. He felt like the walls were closing in on him. He was depressed, which was unusual for him. He’d always been a cheery, upbeat guy, but now the occasional suicidal thought was intruding on his consciousness, which was pretty disturbing.

Something had to give.

And so it was that at just past one in the morning on that night in early June, Paul switched off the TV he’d been staring blankly at for hours, grabbed his keys, and walked out of his house. After locking the door behind him, he stepped down from his porch, strolled out to the street, and took a look around.

The residential street was very quiet at that hour. A streetlight blazed almost directly overhead, illuminating a wide swath of pavement and adjoining yards. The yards were mostly well-tended. His own lawn was the sole exception. The grass was overgrown and should have been mown at least a week ago. A plastic white grocery bag was lodged in a shrub next to his front door. Glancing at it now, it looked like a weird little apparition floating in the darkness, a slightly unsettling impression standing out here in the empty silence.

Paul lived in an area adjacent to the hipster haven of east Nashville. Somewhere out there not too far in the distance was an array of coffee houses, bars, restaurants, and tattoo parlors catering to young douchebags who listened to boring bands, sported excessive amounts of facial hair, and wore stupid nad-squeezing jeans. Paul hated them all.

A turn to the right would take him in the direction of all that commerce. Many of the businesses—if not most of them—would be closed at this hour. Still, he was most likely to encounter other nighttime wanderers by going that way, so Paul went in the opposite direction.

He reached the end of his block in less than a minute, stopping at the intersection of Rosedale and Triumph. Triumph was the crossing street. It was also the name of a band he vaguely remembered from his youth. Well, he remembered the name. He couldn’t remember whether they were any good or not. Not that it mattered. Nothing really seemed to matter anymore.

Paul took a right at Triumph and continued his walk. He’d gone two blocks in that direction when he became aware of the footsteps behind him. Right away he detected an attempt at stealth. The footsteps were faint, yet they almost matched his own step-for-step. There was a sense of the deliberate about this, as if the person following him was doing it as a way of masking the sound. He tried telling himself this was just paranoia stirred by the lateness of the hour, the lack of any other visible human presence in the area, and the dead silence that otherwise dominated the night.

Maybe he wasn’t even hearing the footsteps of a follower.

Maybe it was just some kind of weird echo.

Paul quickened his pace. The abruptness of this led to a disruption of the pace-matching and immediately made it clear that what he was hearing was no echo. Once the footsteps behind him fell out of rhythm with his own, they became more discernible. Not only could he hear that someone was definitely following him, but his pursuer was closer than he’d first surmised. From the sound of it, the follower might be as little as ten longish paces to his rear.

He was moving through a dark section of Triumph, passing beneath the low-hanging branches of a tree. The tree was on the other side of a tall privacy fence, but the branches extended out over the sidewalk. Paul started to get scared for the first time as he ducked his head to avoid the branches and momentarily moved through an even deeper patch of darkness.

The footsteps of the follower quickened.

Fuck this

Paul stood erect again as he cleared the branches. There was another streetlight at the end of Triumph, about another block ahead.

A low, insidious voice whispered behind his back, “
Come here, you. Come taste my steel

A sinister chuckle followed.

Paul didn’t bother with a backward glance. That voice and the evil chuckle were all the confirmation he needed. He’d unknowingly put himself on a wandering psycho’s radar screen.

He took off running.

Paul heard heavier footsteps behind him as the follower gave chase.

At the end of the block, Triumph intersected with a street called Blakemore. Triumph ended here. Paul could only go left or right, not straight ahead. There was no time to think about it or strategize. He turned left simply because it was the opposite of what he’d done last time.

He’d gone less than twenty feet down Blakemore when he decided to finally risk a glance over his shoulder. No one was behind him on this stretch of sidewalk, but he heard the follower coming, the unknown crazy person’s shoes slapping hard against the concrete.

Paul made an impulsive decision to dive behind a bush at the front of the small lawn to his left. He peeked through its thin branches as the follower came pounding down the sidewalk. The racing dark figure zipped right by the bush and continued on another dozen paces or so before slowing and then coming to a halt.

The man stood on the sidewalk, turning in a slow circle as he searched the vicinity for signs of Paul. The man was tall and dressed all in black. A knife with a long blade that gleamed in the glow of the streetlight was clutched in his gloved right hand. He wore a black ski mask, but the mask did not obscure how puzzled the man was. Despite his terror—and despite the scary way his heart was slamming in his chest—Paul almost smiled.

In fact, after another moment, he

He was still scared, of course. The stranger might yet spot the medium-sized bush and deduce the likely location of his quarry. But now another sound had arisen in the night. It was the growing buzz of an engine and not a small one. Paul saw it coming from a block away. A mass transit bus was barreling down Blakemore. Even from this distance, Paul could see it was nearly empty, which was not surprising at this hour.

The psycho was facing the street as the bus approached, scanning the lawns of the houses on the opposite side for signs of his vanished prey. Acting on impulse, Paul slipped out from behind the bush and rushed toward the psycho. At first he moved in a fast crouch. Then he was standing erect and running. He reached the masked predator at just the right moment.

The man let out a sound of surprise audible even over the loud buzz of the engine as Paul rammed the heels of his hands into the man’s back and sent him staggering out into the street. There was a loud splat of impact as the man’s body met the front of the bus. A louder squelch of brakes followed as the masked man’s body went flying down the street, skidding dozens of feet and leaving a wet, red smear on the pavement.

Paul was already running away by the time the driver got out of the bus to check on the dead man. Two days later local news outlets revealed that he was the notorious Nightside Slasher, who’d been intermittently taking victims in east Nashville for several years. This briefly imbued Paul with a glow of civic pride. He’d rid the world of a deadly menace. He was kind of a hero.

There was just one problem—the exhilaration he’d felt in the aftermath of killing the masked man.

It’d been
. He’d never felt more alive. The ennui that had gripped him vanished immediately. After that night, Paul took many more late night walks and soon the city had a new villain to fear.

The media called him The Pusher.







Her name was Claudia and she was the coolest girl Derek Peterson had met in a long time. Tonight was their first official date and he was nervous as hell as he stood on the sidewalk outside the theater waiting for her.

They’d met at a science fiction convention in Oregon two weeks ago, clicking instantly over drinks at an after-hours room party, each of them decked out in cosplay gear. He was dressed like Captain Mal from
, she like Chiana, the blue-skinned alien chick from
. Thereafter there had been many extensive getting-to-know-each-other phone conversations and now they were about to start the dating game and see where it went.

Derek liked Claudia a lot. Like always with anyone new, he was afraid of coming across as too much of a dork and blowing it somehow. Right now, though, his nervousness was more about the time rather than any concern over making a bad first date impression.

The movie was set to start in ten minutes and there was no sign of Claudia. The 9:00 pm screening of the latest
movie would be well-attended, but Derek wasn’t worried about it selling out, having purchased tickets in advance online. At this point, their planned 8:30 meetup time was more than twenty minutes in the rearview mirror. This felt like an apt analogy, because the paranoid part of him felt a bit like Claudia was already slipping away from him. He feared he was on the brink of being stood up. They’d last talked less than an hour ago, but it was feeling like a lot longer ago than that. He was suddenly sure she’d gotten cold feet and had opted to simply not show up rather than bother with the stress and potential drama of an explanatory phone call.

BOOK: Seven Deadly Tales of Terror
8.15Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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