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Latest Stories

July 15, 2021
Crime Stories John Baldwin

Imperfect

The two main characters in our story could not be more different. Stanley Simon was a quiet, rather spindly, nerdy sort of fellow. He enjoyed a modest life with his wife and daughter. You would hardly expect that Stanley is a detective with the San Diego…
July 15, 2021
Science Fiction Stories Milkana N. Mingels

Rite Of Passage

“Are you excited for your birthday?” my mom asked cheerfully, but her half-crooked smile couldn’t hide her anxiety. “You know everything will be all right! You know that, right?” She had asked me this question again and again for the past few days, as if…
July 10, 2021
General Stories Tom Watling

A Drunken Uncle’s Bedtime Story

The children got into their beds on either side of the room. Uncle George pulled up a chair between them, a cigarette dangling from his lips, in spite of his sister’s request not to smoke in the house. Lando and Keira waited patiently, secretly enjoying the…
July 10, 2021
Crime Stories Chris Bedell

Liars

JEREMY Sitting in an interrogation room at the Violetwood Police Department was the last thing that should’ve happened during Jeremy’s senior year of high school. Jeremy should’ve reveled in how Brown accepted him. But Marcia Anniston happened. And Jeremy…
June 28, 2021
General Stories Andrew Hughes

Embracing The Night

Bill Schultz stepped out of the drizzling rain into the bar, Euphoria. It was a busy night. There were half a dozen people sitting at the bar and twice as many spread out at the picnic tables, mostly tourists but plenty of Guatemalan brown dispersed amongst…
June 28, 2021
Flash Fiction Marc Littman

Pixie Pickings

The winged pixie crawled out of the posy of tear-drenched Forget Me Nots and apple tree blossoms on Dan’s kitchen table and confronted the jilted lover. “What were you thinking, Dan?” Dan bolted to his feet. “What the hell?!” Adelina’s diaphanous wings…
June 24, 2021
Crime Stories N.T. Franklin

The Victim

Lindsey dragged herself up to her second-floor apartment after her overnight shift at the ER. The key slid comfortably into the well-worn lock of her door. She stepped inside and let out a sigh. “Home,” she said softly, almost to reassure herself. With a…
June 24, 2021
Horror Stories Austin Spradlin

An Old Friend Returns

Claire was in her bedroom undressing after an exhausting day at the office. She changed into a silk nightgown, looking at herself in the mirror, a tinged look of guilt on her face. Tonight, made the twenty-year anniversary of something horrible.She turned…
June 24, 2021
Fantasy Stories Polina Dolgova

Old Boots

Not so long ago I happened to come across my old sneakers. I was cleaning my room and putting all the trash I could find in a big carton box. At last, I decided to get rid of some old things in my closet, under my bed, on my windowsill, on my desk, and under…
June 14, 2021
General Stories Brian & Michael Turner

A Peculiar Way To Tell A Story

Maria Starflower straightened her jacket, smiled at the ocean of small faces peering apprehensively at her, and somewhat nervously proceeded to commence her first day as a teacher. "Okay, Polly." She pointed at a small girl who reciprocated with a cheerful…
June 14, 2021
Horror Stories Robb White

Stew Meat

Isidro Alvaro de Jesus Dominguez was fifteen but barely tall enough to peer through the hole in the wooden fence surrounding the soccer field. Several times a year, the strangers who descended on his village were rumored to be from Guadalajara, but no one…
June 14, 2021
Fantasy Stories Milkana N. Mingels

Mora's Inn

When I got a call from my friend Martin, who was serving overseas, I thought the worst. “What’s going on, dude? Is everything okay?” I asked anxiously. “Oh, yeah, yeah!” replied Martin. “Listen, I won’t be in Boston next week. I am still in Bulgaria, in the…

Whitechapel District, London ─ 1888

“Murder or no, I’m not going down that alley in the dark,” Constable Barnes insisted. “And you shouldn’t either.”

Inspector Cranford glared up at the man. “In-sub-ordin-ation,” he said, drawing out the word, rain running off the brim of his bowler. Having just returned from her Majesty’s service he’d been newly assigned to this latest in a series of brutal murders in White Chapel Alley.

“Begging your pardon, Inspector, no one who goes into that alley after dark has come out alive. You’ll not be getting anyone to go in there tonight. Best wait for daybreak.”

“I’ll have your pension, man!” He turned to Constable McBurn, who shrank back toward the street lamp.

“Inspector, I have four children,” McBurn begged. “We can go when it’s light and no harm done.”

“No harm done,” the inspector thundered. “Why, the rats will have been at the remains by then. This downpour will wash away evidence.”

“Please, Inspector,” coaxed the taller constable. “Sunup is in less than two hours. We can wait inside that tea shop, where it’s nice and dry, with an eye on the alley.”

By now the rain-soaked inspector was beginning to long for a hot cup of tea and allowed himself to be led through the puddles and into the shop.

The proprietress greeted them with a toothless grin. Without waiting for their order, she placed three steaming cups of strong tea on one of the small tables.

“Thought for a mo, you were actually goin’ down that alley,” she chortled.

“I fail to see the humor,” Cranford snapped.

“Oh, no one ever goes in there after dark. Not if they want to come out alive.”

The inspector grabbed her skinny wrist. “Tell me about it,” he demanded. “Who’s responsible for these deaths?” She twisted frantically, but he held her fast.

“All right,” she moaned. “Something in there. After dark. Like the Ripper it is, but not human.”

“What does this murderer look like?”

“Oh, sir, the only ones who’s seen it is dead.”

He released her. “Claptrap!” He started for the door. The constables blocked his path. The old woman began keening softly.

“What is the matter with all of you?” Cranford demanded.

“Begging your pardon, inspector,” Barnes said, “when you see the body . . . after the sun comes up . . .  you’ll understand.”

Cranford would have ordered them to stand down, but their eyes told him more than their lips ever could. Reluctantly, he took his seat and picked up his tea, wondering if the cup had been properly washed.

With the first rays of sun, the men ventured into the alley. They poked about amongst the garbage and human waste until they came to the corpse. It was a man, lying on his back. His eyes were staring, mouth wide open, as if he’d seen something horrible.

The Chief Coroner’s examination revealed no wounds other than the marks on the victim’s left wrist, as if Death itself had gripped him with one bony hand. The coroner announced all those found in White Chapel Alley had met the same fate. “As if these poor blokes had been frightened to death. Not like the Ripper at all.” And although the good inspector tried valiantly to uncover the person responsible, matters did not progress.

Then a royal summons came to this former colonel, a welcome diversion, asking him to take part in an affair of state, replete in dress uniform and sword. After the event, he departed for home. Despite the thick fog rolling in from the river, he decided not to hail a cab. Deep in thought, he walked without purpose, soon finding himself in the White Chapel section. And he felt compelled to visit the alley.

It was one in the morning as he hurried along in splendid dress, his sword at his side. His footsteps echoed in the empty streets as he located first the dirty, little tea shop and then the alley. Cranford unbuckled his sword and strode up to its mouth. Made confident by Scotch, he shouted to whatever might be lurking inside.

“I am Inspector Cranford and a colonel, late of her Majesty’s Service. Come out now! Let’s have a look at you!”

At first only silence greeted his shouts and he felt foolish. But then he heard it. A rustling. As if someone small and feeble, was shuffling towards him. He froze in fear, under the street lamp, waiting.

To his surprise, a tiny, old woman draped in a shawl crept closer in the dark, stopping just inside the alley and held out one hand. She wore a long dress, with an apron. Her head and face were covered by a ruffled, white-cotton bonnet. She didn’t speak, but Cranford thought she needed help. He took a step closer and still she didn’t move. She motioned for him to come to her. And so he did.

He had no sooner stepped inside the alley, when the creature’s hand lashed out. Just bones it was, without flesh, and it gripped his wrist. He gasped, but couldn’t break free. She began dragging him, into the alley, into the darkness. The darkness from which no one had ever returned.

With a mighty shout, he swung the sword, cleaving the bonnet free. She had no head, no face, and the bonnet fell limply, back into the alley. But still that skeletal hand gripped him, dragging him, step by step, into the darkness. In desperation, he lashed out again, severing her hand at the wrist. As her body reeled backward, Cranford took to his heels and didn’t stop until he reached the coroner’s office.

It took all the coroner’s skill and several trusty instruments to pry that dead hand from Cranford’s wrist. Within 24 hours, White Chapel Alley was ordered bricked solid and Cranford announced he was done forever with soldiering and criminal investigations. Inspired by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, he became an author. His first story for the Penny Dreadful was “The Curious Case of White Chapel Alley.”

 

AUTHOR'S BIO

LOUISE ANN BARTON is a master storyteller from a family of Cherokee master storytellers. She is an author, an award-winning poet, and lecturer, with an MA in business education, a minor in law, and a Master Gardener certification. She has taught at the college level and writes both fiction and non-fiction, including articles, novels, short stories, plays, and children's tales. She edits musical CD inserts and is a ghostwriter. Her works currently appear on Amazon, Kindle, Nook, smashwords.com, Everyday Weirdness, short-story.me, and in various magazines and newspapers. This story is an excerpt from TINY TALES OF TERROR (a short-story collection).

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