Author Lyn Gibson proudly presents “Short & Gory” a collection of twisted and macabre shorts that hale from a very dark place; the Author’s mind!
Lyn, an emerging horror author from Southern Louisiana, enjoys striking terror and paranoia into the hearts of her fans; and the fans love it! Her newest release is reminiscent of Stephen King’s “Creepshow” yet with a twist of a darker hue!
Enjoy the teaser below, the first Chapter of Ms. Callum, the opening story from “Short & Gory”!
Every small town has one, the sweet little old lady that lives in the turn of the century home just down the street from the post office. Every Ms. Callem, regardless of her name, has been around for as long as anyone remembers. Everyone knows and loves her as she is always a pillar of the community, a living relic of a more simple and civil time.
This crisp and bright spring morning finds Ms. Callem hanging a sign on her white picket fence, just behind the blue Hydrangea.
“Morning Ms. Callem” Roland, the mail carrier, tolled.
“Why, Good morning Dear!” she retorted as she turned slowly to acknowledge a familiar voice.
“Rentin’ that room out again I see!” he smiled warmly as he sorted through a stack of mail to find her parcels.
“Yes, Dear, these young folks just don’t stay in any one place for very long” she answered as she crossed her arms over the gate.
“Yes Ma’am, You right about dat!” he nodded as he offered her mail to her.
“As soon as I get to know them, they’re gone, just me and my roses” she smiled fondly as she accepted her parcels.
“And the most beautiful roses anyone has ever seen; Good day to you now!” Roland smiled as he carried on his way.
Ms. Callem waved her mail at him in response and turned to make her way back inside her old family home.
It was a fact, people traveled from Parishes all around just to purchase her roses. They were all handsome breeds, buds nearly the size of her delicate and withered hands, blooms that were enormous, which lasted for weeks; and the most intoxicating of fragrances. The most baffling fact about her roses; they bloomed year round. When asked how she had created such a breed, Ms. Callem would smile and say; “It’s a family secret, passed down by the lady of the house for generations.” Part of the “secret” was an old greenhouse to the rear of her property, rumored to have been slave quarters in darker days.
Though her roses were high demand, Ms. Callem would take on tenants from time to time, both to enhance her income as well as provide company for a lonely old woman. The last of her short term tenants, a young man, fresh from college.
Vincent had drifted in from town just after graduation, in search of a job as the economy had worsened since he began his studies over four years ago. Polite and courteous, yet a bit of an introvert, the young man offered little companionship for Ms. Callem. One would suppose that she had not missed him once he left, however his absence was noticed by some as he had vanished without reporting to work, or returning for his pay checks.
Ms. Callem had just made her way up the steps, across the old wooden porch and was at the door as her phone rang.
“Oh My! Who could that be?” she spoke aloud to herself as she inched towards the phone.
“Hello?” she answered. “Good Morning Ms. Callem, and how does this fine morning find you?”
She recognized the voice immediately. “Well, Father, I’m blessed, and how are you love?” she asked warmly.
“Just fine” he answered with a smile in his voice. “Ms. Callem, as you know Mr. Martins’ funeral is Friday.” “As he was a long time member and contributor to our Parish, I thought nothing would be more fitting than your roses for his memorial” he explained. “Might I come by later this afternoon and purchase one dozen of your’ most magnificent red roses?” he asked.
“Why of course, dear!” she exclaimed.
“Wonderful! I will come by around 2:00 then” he said.
“Very well, I’ll make sure to have coffee ready!” she tolled as she ended the call.
Though everyone in the community always waved and stopped to speak with her during their evening walks, few ever had the time for a sit down visit. Ms. Callem was excited to have a guest call. She would bake cookies!
Rejuvenated, she made her way to the kitchen and began to gather the necessary ingredients for her grandmother’s sugar cookie recipe. Soon the cool spring breeze wafted the aroma of baking cookies throughout her home. Now nearing 2:00 she started her coffee pot and walked out of the back door to fill the Fathers’ order.
“Good afternoon everyone!” she exclaimed as she walked into the decrepit old green house. Row upon row of roses in every color imaginable filled the small improvement. From the floors to the exposed rafters above, buds and blooms grew proudly from the putrid soil beneath them.
“Aren’t we the lovely group” she taunted as she reached for her basket and scissors.
Ms. Callem made her way through the greenhouse selecting the most handsome of red roses, placing them one by one in her basket until it had become burdened with the weight of their massive buds.
“And you make one dozen” she giggled as she placed the last of them in her sagging basket and made her way out of the greenhouse.
As she closed the door she sat her basket onto the ground and placed a large padlock onto the door latch, securing it tightly before retrieving her basket and returning to the kitchen.
She had barely reached the back porch as she heard Father Ryan calling for her. “I’m here Father” she said as she scurried through the parlor to open the screen door for him.
“I was concerned when you didn’t answer” he smiled as she held the door open.
“I’m sorry to have worried you Father” she said smiling, “I was out back cutting your roses for you” she explained.
“Oh, I must see your’ greenhouse some day” Father Ryan said as he entered and inhaled the aroma of fresh coffee and cookies.
Ms. Callem chuckled as she led him to the kitchen. “I’m sorry Father, it’s a family secret; in order for me to allow you into the greenhouse you would have to marry me, and we both know that’s not going to happen” she giggled as she directed for him to sit at the table.
The Father blushed at her comment then, spotted the roses on the counter across from him. “They are truly beautiful” he said motioning towards the basket as she placed the cookies and coffee onto the already set table.
“Those are the St. Vincents” she smiled as she sat and began to pour for them.
Father Ryan stayed for quite some time, they conversed of old times and loved ones long since passed and as expected, the history of her home.
Ms. Callems’ home was one of the first established in the rural parish. As with many old houses, it had a history of odd legends and occurrences. It was also one of the first estates in the area to offer housing to its’ slaves.
Rumors of voodoo and witchcraft had hovered over the home site for many years, but those that knew the tales the best were now long since in their graves. One would hear an occasional whisper of black magic rites that had been held on the grounds many decades passed, only to be scoffed away as folks around here don’t much believe in those things anymore.
The afternoon had grown into early evening. Father Ryan thanked her for the coffee and cookies while presenting her with a check for the roses that he now gingerly lifted from the basket.
“I trust I will see you at Mr. Martin’s service Friday?” he asked as she ushered him to the front door.
“Of course” she smiled warmly, “Mr. Martin was a fine man” she added as the Father stepped from the porch.
“Until then” he said as he nodded to her and made his way to his car, placing the roses on the passenger seat before turning to wave once more.
The old woman, sad to see her guest leave, turned and made her way back into the house in order to clean their dishes. Now nearing sunset, it was time to tend to her roses. She laid the dishtowel down on the counter and made her way to the pantry.
The small musty room was lined with shelves on both sides. One side held a multitude of empty mason jars prepared for use, the other was laden with jars that contained varying levels of some dark liquid. Ms. Callem walked to the rear of the pantry and retrieved several jars, balancing them carefully within her fragile arms as she made her way back into the kitchen and out the back door.
She inhaled the aroma of sweet olives and honeysuckle as she meandered down the walkway to the rear of her property where the old wooden greenhouse sat.
Her back yard, though an oasis during the day, took on an entirely different demeanor in the evenings; Even Ms. Callem did not venture off of the back porch once the moon took over the night sky. The fact of the matter was that the rumors of voodoo rituals were true. Though the old woman had had no part in participating, she being the last heir of her family line was now responsible for maintaining the daily rituals that had been set in motion by her ancestors.
The eerily alit greenhouse, only steps away from her now, beckoned for its’ evening visit. Ms. Callem carefully sat the mason jars on the porch next to the door then fished the key for the lock from around her neck. Soon after, she carried the jars inside and closed the door behind her. Hurriedly she retrieved her water jug and began to pour the contents of the jars into it. Though she had maintained the ritual for as long as she could remember, she could never get used to the stench of the liquid as it oozed from the jars.
With the last of the jars emptied she lifted her water jug and began to tend to each plant individually. She took great care in her pruning, even conversing with each plant as she would portion the mysterious liquid upon its’ roots before moving on.
Though having been grateful for the distraction, the Father’s visit had rendered her later than usual in her tasks. The greenhouse had a very odd air about it this night, triggering an early childhood memory of she and her grandmother as they worked diligently to tend the roses one evening.
Ms. Callem had been late returning home one evening as she had spent the day at the local swimming hole with some of the other children from the community. She remembered entering the house to her grandmother who was quite irritated by her timing. “How many times do I have to tell you, the roses must be tended to before the moon hangs high in the sky?” she scolded as a young Ms. Callem approached. “Gather the jars and meet me at the greenhouse, quickly!” her grandmother ordered before an excuse for her tardiness could be given.
The old woman sat the now emptied jars into the sink and filled them with water as she struggled to recall the entire events of that evening. She could remember that her grandmother was nearly frantic as she appeared at the greenhouse doors with the evenings’ supply of plant food.
“Grandma, what’s wrong?” she had asked as she entered. Her grandmother quickly retrieved the jars and began to empty them into the same water jug that she now used, without responding. Even at a young age, Ms. Callem could remember the feeling of something evil that surrounded them as they worked diligently to tend to each plant. As they made their way to the last row she could remember that the soil was shifting around the roots of the last few plants. A strange mist had begun to accumulate in the tiny structure, and she was certain that she could hear the sound of drums combined with muffled screams.
She had become frightened and frozen with fear as the mist seemed to rise up, enclosing her as it became more dense. She could hear her grandmother in the background chanting as she rushed to tend to the last remaining plants.
As the last of the black liquid was poured onto the soil, the mist began to retreat and the typical sounds of crickets and locusts now rang through the night air. Having completed her tasks, her now frenzied grandmother took her by the hand and led her from the greenhouse, locking the door solidly behind them.
“Sit with me child” she said as she returned the key for the lock around her neck and sat on the steps of the greenhouse. “It is time that I tell you about the rose garden” her grandmother said as the young Ms. Callem sat curiously beside her.
The old woman had now finished washing the emptied mason jars, she sat them upside down to drain. Ms. Callum then gathered the jars from the night before and made her way from the greenhouse, locking the door tightly behind her before returning to the house.
Ms. Callem had been drained from the excitement of her visit and now having completed her evening chores she sat her frail frame upon the antique couch in her parlor. Her eyes alit upon an old family photo that hung on the wall above the fireplace across from her. Pictured within the photo were her mother, her grand parents and her great grandmother. Though the smiles upon their faces told of happy days, their eyes hinted at a deep dark secret that had all but drained them.
The old woman sighed as emotions overtook her; Part of her felt disdain for her ancestors as they had so obligated their descendants with their curse while she also felt an overwhelming sense of bereavement as she looked into the eyes of her mother, still a young child at the time of the photo. She could still remember the details of her passing vividly though at the time, she, at that time, had only been a small child.
She remembered awakening to the sobs of her grandmother emitting from the parlor downstairs. The young Ms. Callem had peeked from the banister above, listening in as her grandfather tried futilely to comfort her. Through the mounting wails, even through the mind of a child, she was able to discern that her mother had been late in tending to the roses; and her body was still in the greenhouse. Stealthily she crept down the stairs to avoid their detection; she would go to see for herself.
She could recall the sense of dread that consumed her as she ran across the dew-covered lawn to see that the door of the greenhouse had been left open. She ran inside to find her mother laying face down on the floor.
The old woman shivered as she continued to replay the scene within her mind. She could recall kneeling at her mother’s side, with every ounce of strength that the young girl had, she strained to turn her mothers’ rigid body over to face her. Her mother, once one of the most lovely young women in the community, now lay withered and blackened, her face frozen in an eternal scream of terror.
She must have fainted at that moment as her next memory was one of her grandmother leaning over her, as she lay tucked safely in her bed. It was not long after that her grandmother had begun to teach her how to tend the roses.
Ms. Callem sighed heavily as she now attempted to wash the vivid image from her mind. She rose from the couch and made her way up the stairs to retire for the evening. As she lay in bed, she stared up at the ceiling above her; What would become of the roses, and the secret that they protected once she was gone? she thought. Her hands were tied, she having been unable to bear children had ended the Callem bloodline.
Short & Gory is now available on Amazon.com!
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