My short dark fiction suspense story, "Family Tradition", officially releases this Friday, but I have a guest blogger then, so I'm posting my good news a couple of days early.
Rick Stanton needs a commission. He faces eviction from his apartment
and his latest project is on hiatus. Worse, his muse refuses to
cooperate. A recent letter may contain the inspiration he needs. Inside
is the photograph of a mysterious woman, her face hidden by an umbrella.
But there’s no identification, no way for him to contact her. A month
later, another envelope arrives, this time with a phone number.
Realizing this may be his last chance, Rick calls her. The woman
introduces herself as Elizabeth and tells him she wants him to paint her
agrees, only to learn there are conditions. Elizabeth is a recluse who
lives with her two servants in a Victorian manor. She never allows her
face to be seen. Not only must he stay at Elizabeth’s residence while
painting her, he can’t leave, nor can he ever tell anyone about the
something isn’t right, Rick is even more disturbed by the sinister
undercurrent beneath the household’s genteel façade. It’s somehow
connected to the family portraits hanging in Elizabeth’s living room.
Could they be haunted? And why doesn’t Elizabeth’s housekeeper want Rick
to finish the painting?
housekeeper waited for me in the corridor. “The mistress requests your
presence.” She pressed her hand against a panel and a heretofore-unseen
door swung outward to reveal a narrow, dark stairwell. I’d no idea if
this hidden room was a common feature of Victorian houses, but given
Elizabeth’s mysterious photograph, a secret room seemed to fit.
“Through here, sir, and up those steps. The mistress is in the room at the top.”
pressed against the door, I looked up the narrow stairwell. Once the
door closed, I’d be in total darkness. I swallowed, apprehension tracing
the back of my neck with icy fingers. Not that I was claustrophobic,
but the thought of being surrounded by such gloom unnerved me. I turned
to the housekeeper. “Don’t suppose you have a light?”
“You’ll be fine.”
What then? I wanted to ask, but the door had already started to swing shut. I made a grab for it. Too late.
I fumbled for an opening, some notch for my fingers to grasp—a knob, latch, anything. Nothing. Not even a light switch.
the passage, the musty odor of old wood and stale air assailed my
nostrils. Tattered cobwebs brushed against the top of my head. Had this
stairwell ever been aired out? Probably not. I guided my hand along the
wall as I edged my toe forward until I touched a riser. I stepped up and
repeated the process, counting twenty steps until my hands pressed
against what felt like wood. I pushed and whatever was in front of me
I recognized Elizabeth’s voice, but her head and face were concealed by a hooded cape.
stepped past me to close the door. I looked back and bile rose in my
throat. Grotesque demons, carved in the wood, glared and leered at me in
various stages of agony and bestial ecstasy. What the hell had I gotten
The story is currently available for pre-order from MuseItUp.