The Screech Owls – Chapter II Part I

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I’ve realized chapter two should probably start when they find the food, but we’ll go with this for now.

Novel: Fantasy Horror

They spent the rest of the night wide awake, the screech owls roaming in and out of the floor beneath them, trilling and coming close to the stairs, but not climbing them. In the morning Cole found words on the wall, right beside where the two of them had huddled together. They were etched into the stone, but old and faded, the reason they hadn’t noticed them at dusk. They weren’t in English, and yet Edward understood the words perfectly. At least the words he could read.

Don’t take……GO BACK…….

And then below that, in Chinese,

Keep going.

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The Screech Owls – Chapter I Part VIII

Novel: Fantasy Horror

More trills sounded around them that night, but none found them, close as they came. The ruined house proved a good hiding spot. When the sun rose Edward could see his bruise clearly, black and purple. He had thought up a plan in the night.

“Cole, I’m going to go on ahead and find some food. You’ll wait here and I’ll return with – ”

No,” Cole shouted hysterically, leaping up. “You can’t leave me here.”

“You’ll be safe. You just need to hide here.”

Cole shook his head, his eyes wide and wild like a frightened deer’s. “No. I can’t. I can’t stay here alone. I won’t slow you down, I swear.”

“It’s not that. I just don’t want you expending energy.”

“I won’t. I can walk. Don’t leave me, please.” His tiny fingers grasped Edward’s arm and dug into his skin.

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The Search

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The house walks at night. Great creaking steps, keeping me awake as it stretches its foundations and carries me across the dark landscape. The view of the stars through the window sways drunkenly back and forth, one constellation framed then another. The roof bends close to my face and away again as it looks this way and that, searching for something in the night but I know not what.

It never finds it.

Only at daylight when it returns to its street, to its plot of land and settles do I fall asleep. If only I know what it wanted.

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The Screech Owls – Chapter I Part VII

Novel: Fantasy Horror

They didn’t talk much that day. All their little energy was concentrated on putting one foot in front of the other. Edward put on his armor – minus the helmet – though his shoulders weren’t quite healed. The pain of the armor cutting into them detracted from the pain in his stomach.

Twice they found ruined walls, remains of buildings, stone that in an alive world would be overgrown with vines and weeds but here were only bare stone. It was tempting to break for the day in their foundations, but they had to keep going. They had to find food. The ground several feet around the stream was gravel and rock. There was nothing moving but the water in the stream, which remained thin and shallow. They paused to drink it and Edward chanced a look at Cole. His face was pale, his eyes dark and sunken and hopeless.

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The Screech Owls – Chapter I Part VI

I’m sorry guys.  I still have to write this.

Novel: Fantasy Horror

Edward hugged him closer. He hated seeing Cole so frightened. If only he could take whatever was frightening Cole out of his head and put it in his own. It was too much for the kid, a kid who was too weak to fight what was terrifying him. Edward had the ax; he didn’t have to be scared.

“Go to sleep,” he said. “I’ll keep watch.”

Cole sat up. “No. You didn’t sleep last night. I’ll watch first.”

“You didn’t sleep much either.”

“You didn’t sleep at all. You sleep first.”

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Step Away from the Train


“Don’t stand too close to the tracks. Keep far away. Over here.”

The train is approaching. The wind is splitting around it, swirling and gathering sharp as blades. I stand back. I know it’s dangerous. I once saw that wind chop up a rabbit like a meatslicer.

“It used to be,” Julie goes on “that you could stand beside trains, right up against them if you dared. And the breeze would just ruffle your hair.”

We watch the train pass, and its horn blows sharp in our ears. The current slashes the blades of grass beside the tracks into trimmings.

The Screech Owls – Chapter I Part V

Novel: Fantasy Horror

Cole didn’t complain, not about the environment, not about the lack of food, not about the extreme thirst he must be experiencing. So Edward tried not to complain as well. Still, the conversation turned to food.

“I sure could go for some french fries right now,” he said.

“I want ice cream,” Cole responded.

“But it’s freezing.”

“Then…ice cream on hot apple pie.”

“Okay, I’ll go with that. Or some – ”

He cut off so abruptly that Cole jumped like a startled cat.

“You hear that?”

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The Screech Owls – Chapter I Part IV

Novel: Fantasy Horror

Edward looked down at Cole. He was so tiny. There would have been nothing he could have done against the things alone. Except run.

“Will more come tonight?” Edward asked.

“I don’t know.” Cole hugged his arms around himself. “I don’t know why I know what I know, and why I don’t know other stuff.” He looked down at the body before them. “I know he won’t bleed.”

Edward paused, looked down at the body still encased in armor, resisted an urge to vomit. He didn’t want to see what was in the armor, but he had to check, didn’t he?

Did he?

He bent down and put his hands around the horned helmet, and after taking a steadying breath slid it off.

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Under the Birdhouse


I watched from the woods as the couple stopped on the path and approached the tree. I knew the rumor well. Apparently so did they. If you carved your initials into the bark under the birdhouse, you’d be together forever. They knew the rumor because it had spread all over campus. I knew the rumor because I had started it.

The boy took out a pocketknife, started carving. When they finished, I would follow them to their dorms. Nobody had yet connected the deaths of couples on campus to the tree, but they would when someone checked inside the birdhouse.