Category Archives: The Writing Life

Just a Taste

Guest Post by Aubrie L. Nixon

The feeling the Iter gives me is unique. I have tried other drugs, of course, but the Iter is specific with its high. I see things that are unexplainable, things that any sane person would call disgusting. But since I am not sane, I continue to crave the dark and disturbing visions that the Iter gives me.

Some of us don’t survive the Iter. You die flying on a cloud of pure bliss as you fade into oblivion. Those of us who survive our first encounter are treated like kings and queens. We are rich beyond measure and could have anything we could dream of. Riches, cars, clothes, mansions, fame–anything we want, it is ours. It is the least they can offer us. But, after having the Iter, we want nothing but to feel the release and music it brings. We are the Iter’s muses, and we need it as much as it needs us. We are one.

I lie there with black leather pants and a dark lacy bra on. My hair is done in an elegant bun, and I have been painted with enough makeup that I might rival them for their beauty. I cannot feel anything from the neck down. All of the feeling in my body is gone. But for the time being, I can see things as they do. The world is brighter. The colors I can see are vast–more than any human brain can even begin to fathom. The first time I tried the Iter I wanted to cry at the beauty that surrounded me. But of course I couldn’t. I have no control of my body. I can do nothing but stare at the lovely room, and them.

The room is a garden in a large greenhouse near campus. The grassy ground is the most lovely shade of pure emerald green. I can see dew drops on the flower petals that surround me. I lie on a bed of fresh, blood-red roses on a table in the middle of the garden. The trees are of varying heights and colors. Pinks and reds, shades that I dream about when I am not here. The night sky is a dark purple, and the stars shine brighter than even the sun. Their beauty physically hurts.

The mirror on the ceiling shows me the scars on my pale skin. They are of varying colors and age. The ones that mark my stomach are many sizes for different organs. I watch as they place plates and trays around my body, filled with bloodied meats and liquids. I am the main event tonight, the center of everyone’s attention. Therefore, my table is the most exquisite. I watch as the masked ones bring in the guests. They are the Elite, the powerful ones. They have paid more money than I could ever accumulate in a lifetime to be here. They are here to see me, to be able to be next to me. It is the highest honor to be the main event.

The music starts as the Iter takes hold, and I become its puppet. I am surrounded by a dozen of them. They are dressed in finery and expensive jewels. They whisper excitedly as they take in the spread on of the table, and their eyes rake over me hungrily. The chef welcomes them and introduces me: Elana Arravey, 22, of Norse descent. Diet: Sparkling water, strawberries, pineapples, and low protein. The crowd applauds excitedly. The chef murmurs a few words in their language, and then she cuts into me. Blood trickles down my chest as she cuts open my skin. Servants catch my blood in champagne flutes, and pass it out to the ravenous crowd. I feel the chef’s hand inside of my chest, as she reaches inside me, through my sternum, and grabs my heart. I watch as she pulls it from my chest. It pulses with life, blood squirting from the valves, painting the chef’s pale, white hand like fondue. It’s beautiful. She places my heart in a bowl.

The bidding starts at 1 million. I watch in the mirror as the heart is bid on by the room. The pulsing never stops, filling the bowl with my blood. The crowd grows frenzied as the bidding war continues. 2 million, 3, 4, 5 million. We are down to three guests left bidding. 6, 7, 8 million. Two guests. 9, 9.5, 10 million. Going once, twice, three times, sold!

My heart, sold for 10 million dollars. A hush goes over the room. It is rare that a heart goes for 10 million dollars, but it is the first time this organ has been touched. It is a trophy to take someone’s heart for the first time. The one that gets to taste my heart comes to claim his prize. I wish I could see him. I hear the crowd murmur their excitement as the chef takes the bowl from the servers and places my heart on a silver platter. I can hear him lick his lips as he reaches for my heart. I smile as he licks it, the blood dripping from his mouth. Just a taste.

It is over in mere seconds, as the chef whispers words in their language again and places my heart back into my chest. She positions her fingers over my wound, and my flesh magically closes. She motions for the servers to carry me away, into the kitchens. I want to cry out because I know my time on the Iter is coming to an end. My legs start to tingle as it wears off, and before I can ask for more, my world goes dark.

I awake in my bedroom, the alarm blaring like a foghorn. I open my eyes, everything around me blurry from the sleep in my eyes. I sigh as I sit up slowly and place my feet on the cold floor. My body is numb except for the dull ache my chest. I smile at the pain, and start the shower.

aubreyAubrie is 24 years young. She plays mom to a cutest demon topside, and is married to the hottest man in the Air Force. When she isn’t writing she is daydreaming about hot brooding anti-heroes and sassy heroines. She loves Dragon Age, rewatching Game of Thrones and reading all things fantasy. She runs a local YA/NA bookclub with 3 chapters, and over 200 members. Her favorite thing to do is eat, and her thighs thank her graciously for it. If she could have dinner with anyone living or dead it would be Alan Rickman because his voice is the sexiest sound on earth. He could read the dictionary and she would be enthralled. Her current mission in life is to collect creepy taxidermy animals because she finds them cute and hilarious. She resides just outside of Washington DC.

Preorder Aubrie’s debut novel DARKNESS WHISPERS, here. 

A Passing Therapist

30484017-368-k42724“Martin,” I hear the voice say. “Martin.”

I raise my head from the desk.

“I’m here to help.” A man stands in my office doorway, but with my lights, off he’s just a backlit silhouette, his face shrouded in shadow.

“I came as quick as I could,” he says.

“Come in.” I blink hard to dismiss the blur in my eyes. “Turn on the light?”

With a flash my vision returns. I squint, allowing my eyes to adjust to the brightness. I see an older gentleman, dressed in a brilliant white suit.

“Please, take a seat,” I say.

He does.

He’s a slender man with glasses and a trimmed mustache; the only indication of his age is his grey hair. He tilts his head back and looks down his nose at me in an uncomfortable stare.

“What’s with the outfit?” I ask, trying to lighten the mood.

He offers a slight smile. “I just came from a funeral for one of my clients, a sweet gal—decided to take her life.” He shook his head unapprovingly.

“Aren’t you supposed to wear black to a funeral?”

“Most do.” He leans forward in his chair. “Well let’s get down to business, Martin. Tell me what’s troubling you?”

As if by command, I shift my gaze from his face to the papers on my mahogany desk. “What do you mean?”

“Obviously, something is bothering you. As a therapist, it’s my job to help with this sort of thing. Have you been depressed?”

I slouch in my chair, the leather’s high-pitch moan expressing resistance. “I guess so.”

“Good. Honesty is the first step, you know. Have you been stressed?”

Many thoughts are muddled in my mind; I try to dissect them, isolate them, but as I do they fade away. I look around my office at the stacks of files in disarray, strewn across my desk and on the floor. In the corner lay a hoard of fast-food wrappers, mingled with junk mail and empty beer cans—traces of my discretions discarded—or collected.

“Yeah. I’ve been stressed,” I admit.

“About what?”

“It’s this damn lawsuit.” Emotion swells in my gut. My jaw clenches and I look at the ground, at anything but him.

“Go on.”

“It’s not my fault,” I say, louder than I expected. “I was cheated, but I’m the one being sued. I’m on the hook for everything—for nothing.” My voice cracks a little.

“I’m not following you.”

I stand from my seat and slam my fist onto a stack of papers. “I didn’t do anything wrong, but they’re taking everything away from me.” In a burst of rage I fling the stack on my desk, scattering documents across the room, a blanket of white covering the office floor.

He looks away, ignoring my action. He waits a moment before returning his gaze into my eyes. “What do you mean by everything?”

“Everything, you moron. I’ve lost the house, the cars, the boat, the land, the business.” I raise a finger each time I name a possession. “I lost everything.”

“So now you have nothing?”

“Are you patronizing me?” I sit down and cross my arms.

“What about your family?”

I think for a moment, trying to summon their image from the back of my mind but it doesn’t come.

He points to a picture on the wall. “Where’s your wife?”

As I stare at the photograph, a longing grows within me. A youthful man embraces a pretty woman, sitting on a park bench, surrounded by fall foliage, while two small children smile and a dog sits guard. That isn’t me. Not anymore.

The therapist persists like a conscience, “where are your son and daughter?”

They’re usually in the house playing, being loud and bothering me but I hear nothing. I’ve been so busy, so engrossed in my task; for a moment I’ve forgotten. I focus on the faces in the photograph and I remember. “They’re out of town with my sister.”

“Did you lose them?”

“I just told you that they’re out of town with my sister?”

“I’m only referring to what you said about losing everything. Did you lose your family too?” He sits in his chair, almost expressionless, too calm, too peaceful, looking down on me, judging me.

“I don’t know, maybe.”

I wait for a reply but there is nothing, only silence—no sound of breathing, no clock ticking. I look at the timepiece; it is still. Batteries must’ve died. The therapist remains silent. I have to fill the void with something, anything.

“Cathy and I have been struggling for awhile now. It’s this lawsuit. It’s destroyed us; it’s destroyed me.” There. An admission, maybe he’ll ease up.

But he doesn’t. His eyes continue to peer, to condemn. So I let it out. “Okay. I’ve probably lost all of them, is that what you want to hear? I don’t know. Maybe I don’t care. She was probably only in it for the money and that’s all gone. And the kids never liked me anyways.” It’s his turn to talk.

“It sounds to me like you’re saddened because of your loss of everything, but everything to you means everything material. It appears you’re trying to minimize the pain of what you’ve really lost.”

“Now you’re not making sense.” I cross my arms.

“Perhaps not.” He leans forward in his chair, looking–peering–into my soul. “So what are you going to do about the depression?”

“Do? What can I do? Aren’t you here to help me? Give me some pills, some advice. Tell me what to do.”

“I don’t prescribe medicine. I’m only here to help you realize as gently as possible.”

“Realize what?” I ask but I don’t mean to. I’m not sure why I continue to play his games.

“You’ve lost everything.”

“I know!” I stand, slamming both hands down hard on the desktop. “Haven’t you been listening to me?”

He doesn’t flinch. “You’ve lost Cathy.”

It hits me like cold water. He’s not really a therapist. He’s here for something else.

“Are you her attorney? Does she want a divorce?”

“Martin, I’m a therapist but not the kind you might think. Cathy’s thought about a divorce, but that doesn’t really matter now.” His gaze shifts away from mine for the first time since we’ve been talking. He’s looking at my desk.

“Why?” I ask. “Because of the lawsuit? Am I going to prison? Are you with the FBI?”

He shakes his head, seemingly surprised with the inquisition. “Unfortunately Martin, your depression will be your prison.”

“If you’re really a therapist, then help me. Please, help me.” The emotion in my voice surprises me. I struggle to hold back tears. He was right. My depression has me bound.

“I’m trying to help you, son.” His eyes look at my desk again. I follow his gaze, looking at my side. Turning my head a little, wiping the tears from my eyes, I see a pistol resting on the desk. I look back at the therapist who offers a soft smile as he nods his head.

“You want to know what I’m going to do about my depression? Maybe I should kill myself and break free from the prison.” I reach for the gun, its handle moist. I look at my hand covered in blood and notice the crimson puddle on my desk, spilling onto the floor.

“Martin,” he says, “I’m trying to help you realize that you already did.”

Jace KillanI live in Arizona with my family, wife and five kids and a little dog. I write fiction, thrillers and soft sci-fi with a little short horror on the side. I hold an MBA and work in finance for a biotechnology firm.

I volunteer with the Boy Scouts, play and write music, and enjoy everything outdoors. I’m also a novice photographer.

You can read some of my works by visiting my Wattpad page and learn more at

Light and Dark: You Need Both

At its root, art is designed to influence people’s emotions. It is especially poignant when the art leads the viewer/reader down a path of emotions they may not have trod before. I’m not saying that some people have never felt remorse or anger or pure bliss. No, it’s the combination of emotions that can strike in black-and-whiteunexpected and brilliant ways.

In the Netflix series, Daredevil, the character of the Kingpin is, shall we say, a little disturbed. We get a glimpse into his past when he buys a painting that is all white. A few different shades, and some texture, but for all intents and purposes, it’s white. Later we find out that it reminds him of white wall in his childhood home. It brought him comfort in a dark and twisted way. Because what’s not light and fluffy about killing your dad for beating your mom when you’re ten?

I’ve thought a lot about this painting and the Kingpin and light and dark. A photographer will tell you that to have a good picture, you need both light and dark. It is the contrast that brings out the small details and uncovers the wonders that lay waiting to be captured in our world.

So how can this work? This white painting.

Look at it from your vantage point. You’re the reader/viewer of the story. You get to see the whole picture, and not just the white painting. With that scope, the Kingpin himself is inserted into the equation, and we easily find the contrast between light and dark. Innocent—the wall—and guilty—the man who will do anything to keep his father’s abusive memory at bay. Comfort—the white—and dissatisfaction—his feelings of ineptitude.

When you are creating art, in our case writing a story, remember to keep contrasts vivid. The light will shy from the dark, and the dark will run from the light. But in the end they will clash, and one will win. The story you want to tell will determine which is more powerful, and all too often, the characters must slosh through a swamp of grays before they find which is their destiny. Don’t be afraid to give your characters dark secrets, insurmountable conflicts and/or a point of view that might not be popular. But also, don’t be afraid to let them experience both light and dark before they become something new.

Creating Dark Creatures

AD&D Monster ManualBack in the late 1970’s, I played Advanced Dungeons and Dragons two or three nights a week. Wait, I should correct that. I worked at AD&D because I was always the Dungeon Master. I had to come up with new quests, places, characters, and even creatures. All of my players had access to copies of the hardcover books like the Monster Manual. The problem with that was even if a party had never seen a Bugbear before, they all magically knew how to defeat one and knew the ballpark of its statistics.

Eventually I had to come up with lots of unique dark creatures for my players to fight. I always enjoyed when I described something weird yet totally outside their experience. Their characters then had to react in a realistic manner, which elevated gameplay. Later on, I would use the concepts I developed when writing stories.

Dark creatures, like villains, need to have a method of sustenance – even if it’s a supernatural method. They also need reasons for evolving, waste management, etc. Many times I kept creatures neutral, with a capability to be either a benefit or a burden, depending on how the characters interact with the unknown beast.

As an example, I had a rare creature called a dunnasae (pronounced “dunna-say”). They dwell in damp caverns at least one mile underground. At first glance, they appear to be thick oil slicks on the walls. They eat primarily silicon, and that’s what they’re doing on the wall. Dunnasae can be peeled off and saved in glass containers for up to one week, wherein they digest their way out of the bottle.

Dunnasae appear to be rather innocuous creatures, about a foot in diameter. They do not talk as far as anyone can tell. They move very slowly, and do not fight back if attacked, although they will do their best to eat any metallic weapons used against them. Fire kills them rather quickly – and it is always a good idea to have an idea of what their weaknesses are before bringing them into a story.

So, what good are stupid oily sheets that cling to walls, you may ask? They do have one interesting property – they live in multiple dimensions. If one comes in contact with a human, it will instantly merge with their tissue. They can swim rather quickly to any portion of the human. It will tend to sink to the soles of the feet, wherein it will feast on the dirt and sand the human walks on.

As I mentioned – it is a multidimensional beast. The main benefit of merging with a dunnasae is it can act as a living portable hole, storing any non-organic material up to five cubic meters. As long as the host allows the creature to eat (and having a small pouch of sand comes in real handy), it will respond to human thought and instantly appear at any portion of the body when directed. The beast can make any stored item emerge from anywhere the host wishes, like a sword “magically” erupting from one’s hand or an eight-foot metal quarterstaff bursting from one’s colon, if the the user wants to impress everyone around them.

As with all things, there must be a risk involved for having such a useful creature. The first one is in order to remove the dunnasae, you must will it to a part of your body and then proceed to burn that body part off. The second is that you must never put organic material into the dunnasae, as it will learn that you are organic and will try and absorb you. This event will drive it crazy and force your body parts to attack things around them (and each other). Organic extends to rope, leather, rations, etc. Wooden scabbards or sword hilts are also not allowed.

I’ve used these creatures in a couple of short stories. One of the darkest ones involved tricking a character into placing organic material inside their dunnasae’s storage space. The rest of the story had the main character getting slowly digested from the inside out and having fits of uncontrolled random violent movements as she set off to get vengeance. It was a quirky tale and was published in a ‘zine around 1983.

If you’re a gamer and you write dark works, sometimes it’s a fun idea to combine your talents from both fields. Just make sure your unique dark creatures are well-rounded and explained thoroughly before deploying them on the unsuspecting public.



About the Author:DeMarco_Web-5963

Guy Anthony De Marco is a disabled US Navy veteran speculative fiction author; a Graphic Novel Bram Stoker Award® nominee; winner of the HWA Silver Hammer Award; a prolific short story and flash fiction crafter; a novelist; an invisible man with superhero powers; a game writer (Sojourner Tales modules, Interface Zero 2.0 core team, third-party D&D modules); and a coffee addict. One of these is false.
A writer since 1977, Guy is a member of the following organizations: SFWA, WWA, SFPA, IAMTW, ASCAP, RMFW, NCW, HWA. He hopes to collect the rest of the letters of the alphabet one day. Additional information can be found at Wikipedia and