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The Forbidden Steps Eddy Clyburn

A Ghostly Informant Virginia Coalson

The Joy of Halloween Wanda Davis

Other Tales Include The Spirit Train Promise Fulfilled

Photographer Spotlight Leslie Neal owner of Nealtography

Showcasing the Writings of Independent Authors

From the Associate Editor Nina Turnipseed

Hello mates, Nina here welcoming you to the Halloween edition of The Corral online magazine. Fall is my favorite time of year and Halloween is my favorite holiday. This special edition is dedicated to the holiday of ghost, goblins and candy. Within the pages of the magazine you will find an array of spooky tales from independent authors, includeing myself and my co-workers. To bring you more stories we had to forego some of our normal features. This issue doesn’t contain Books from the Barn or our Q and A session. The Author Spotlight was replaced by a Photographer Spotlight featuring Leslie Neal owner of Nealtography. Nealtography furnished us with the photograph “Forbiden Steps” that was used for the Halloween Visual Writing Prompt Contest. That photograph along with others from Nealtography will be featured throughout the magazine. Speaking of the Visual Writing Prompt Contest. Eddie Clyburn from Alabama won the contest “Forbiden Steps.” The tale is a great one to share around a camp fire. After you read that story, check out the new Visual Writing Prompt Contest titled “The Ransom.” This issue does contain our regular feature, Book Reviews by Christy. For this special edition Christy picked a book that is perfect for Halloween. Check out her book review of Emerald Street writen by Ross Parkes.

We would like to thank Wanda Davis for her poem, The Joy of Halloween and Virginia Coalson for her spooky tale titled A Ghostly Informant. The staff members who contributed are. Joan Clay our Director of Contests who wrote Promise Fufilled. The tale is base on a true story of Joan being visited by a loved one after his passing. I wrote The Spirit Train. A short story about the magic or curse of Halloween. For those of you who know me realize that I can’t write anything without adding a little spice with an erotic scene here and there. The Halloween issue contains a gift for our readers. To celebrate Halloween we are offering a coupon that reduces the price of the PDF version of Witch’s Dilemma, a novel by our own Joseph Clay by five dollars. That drops the price of the book to .99 cents. Find your coupon in the For the Trick-or Treat Bag section. Contact us at Corral@journalist.com to see how to submit your work or be featured in a Spotlight, a Q&A session, and/or have your book featured in the Books from the Barn section. Till next time thank you for reading The Corral. Be safe and watch out for little ghosts and goblins during trick – or –treat. Nina Turnipseed The Corral Associate Editor


Joseph Clay – Founder/CEO Kay Douglass – Vice President of Operations - The Corral Managing Editor Nina Turnipseed - The Corral Associate Editor Christy Warren – Journalist Joey Edwards – Marketing Joan Clay – Director of Contests Rick Chappell - Graphic Designer ThunderHorse Publishing - Publisher Contact Email’s: Corral@journalist.com

The Corral contains work of fiction. All writings and characters with in those writings are drawn from the author’s imagination and are not to be construed as real. Any resemblance to actual events or persons, living, or dead, is entirely coincidental. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted without permission in writing from the copyright owner ThunderHorse Publishing at ThunderHorsePublishing@consultant.com. The Nealtography photographs were furnished by Nealtography and used with their permission. The photographs are watermarked with the Nealtography company logo and protected under the copy right laws of the United States. Copyright © 2019 ThunderHorse Publishing


Contents • The Joy of Halloween – Wanda Davis (Poem 6 Stanza’s - 217 words) • Book Reviews by Christy – Emerald Street - Ross Parkes • Promise Fulfilled – Joan Clay (Short Story 6,052 Words) • Photographer Spotlight – Nealtography - Owner: Leslie Neal • The Forbidden Steps – Eddy Clyburn (Flash Fiction 994 Words) • Visual Writing Prompt Contest – The Ransom • A Ghostly Informant – Virginia Coalson (Short Story 3,000 Words) • From the Trick-or-Treat Bag • The Spirit Train – Nina Turnipseed (Short Story 7,521 Words.) • A Word From the Founder

The Joy of Halloween by by Wanda Wanda Davis Davis

The moon is full and the bats are out… Jack–O-Lanterns are glowing lighting the night. Zombies and other monsters, Dracula, Frankenstein and Werewolves are walking about... Giving all who see them a freight. A witch flies from tree to tree on her broom… As a black cat laps her milk. Ghost and goblins are floating around in a room… As a spider spins it web made of silk. There is so much to do like bobbing for apples in a tub… Or a haunted house to walk through. Do you dare to give the crystal ball a rub…? Or go on a graveyard hayride just for two. The adults get in on the fun at the costume party held by the church… There you will find Batman and Cat Woman enjoying warm cider with pumpkin spice. A game of twister is under way between Elvira, a Mummy, Batgirl and Lurch… Harley Quinn was in charge of the spinner and for once is playing nice. Sitting on bales of hay around a campfire listening to spooky tales… From the woods an owl hoots and a scream is heard. From nowhere a Raven appears on the bale… Now being scared would be absurd. Door bells ring… Adults responded to greet As young voice’s sing… Trick - or – Treat!

BOOK REVIEW’S BY CHRISTY Emerald Street Ross Parkes

SmashWords Data: Category: Fiction » Thriller & suspense » Supernatural - Fiction » Horror » General Published: Aug. 17, 2019 Words: 89,950 Language: English ISBN: 9780463245187 Dallas has spent years chasing his father’s shadow to understand what lies beneath the grounds of Emerald Street. Only he can stop the deadly rising of Legion by travelling through the nightmares of his dead sister. The borderline alcoholic Dallas Mitchell is plagued by the nightmares of his lost sister Katie. Her demonic visions impact the relationships he tries to build and ultimately lead to his isolation. He spends evening after evening fighting the presence of evil as he is chased by a collection of Demons and law enforcement. After he uncovers truths about those around him he will embark on a journey to the edges of the Earth where he must fight his own demons in order to save mankind from Katie.

Christy’s Star Rating: ★★★★✩ I chose two books to read and review for the Halloween edition of The Corral. I was looking for a tale that would that fit the spirit of Halloween and maybe give me a few goose bumps along the way. Emerald Street was my second choice, the first fell way short of my expectations. The blurb on Smashswords, seen above, is not misleading and an accurate synopsis of what you will find within the pages of Emerald Street. Before I had completed the first chapter of Emerald Street a fight with a demon had broken out and I was hooked. I knew this was the book for the Halloween edition of the magazine. Emerald Street starts with action and carries it throughout the book. The plot is solid and the characters strong and believable, including the demons. The ending well let’s just say it was a surprise! With all books that are in this genre you will come across a scene that is farfetched and unbelievable. That holds true for Emerald Street but it doesn’t take away from the story. The reason I didn’t give the book 4.5 stars was because of spelling errors, names that were hard to pronounce, along with introducing a slew of characters at one time

and formatting. I understand no book is perfect and misspellings are expected. I feel Emerald Street could use a professional editor as there are more than a few misspelled words and/or typos. The Corral’s Director of Contest Joan Clay also read Emerald Street. “Ross Parkes has one heck of an imagination that shows in his writing. I’m not fond of this genre but after reading Emerald Street I highly recommend that the fans of supernatural and horror read this book. You won’t be disappointed.” – Joan Clay – The Corral Director of Contest You can connect with Ross Parkes on the following sites: Twitter: @rosatron20 and/or blog: https://rosatron20.blogspot.co.uk. Emerald Street along with the other works by Ross Parkes can be found on Smashwords. Are you an author who would like your book reviewed by Christy? The best of the best are published in The Corral. All reviews are published to ThunderHorse Publishing’s website. Contact Christy at TheCorralChristyW@journalist. com to learn how to make it happen.

Promise Fulfilled Joan Clay

The trip to Middle Tennessee from South Georgia was not an easy one for Susie. Her knuckles were white from the grip she had on the arm rest of the door with her hand, the other clutched to the edge of the seat. Her husband TJ was tackling the thirteen miles of hair pin turns up and down the treacherous Mount Eagle like a stock car driver at Daytona. They were headed to pay their respects to Dino Coulson, the brother of Susie’s Father and her favorite uncle. “I would like to live to get to the funeral, slow this damn car down. You are going to kill us, kill us all.” Susie snapped while glaring at TJ. “Hell woman, we ain’t doing but 45. I ain’t going to ride the brakes and get them hot cause you think we’re going to run off the mountain.” TJ stated as he glanced at the big rig on his bumper in his rearview mirror. Susie’s grip became tighter as the tears began to flow down her pale cheeks. She closed her eyes as she remembered the last conversation with her Uncle Dino. “Susie, why are you crying? I’m only moving back to Tennessee not across the country.” Dino said as he took the trembling hands of Susie. “I know but I have this feeling that I will never see you again after today.” Susie said through her tears. “Nonsense child, we will see each other again, if not in this world in the one beyond.” Dino said. “You didn’t have to say that…You know death scares me.” Susie whimpered. Susie was remembering the pact she and Dino had made when TJ pressed down on the accelerator, speeding the car up. This broke her thought process as she screamed, “What the hell are you doing, trying to kill us?” “Calm yourself woman, we are on the Nashville side

of the mountain, I’m getting away from all the eighteen wheelers.” TJ explained. *** TJ and Susie were staying with Susie’s brother Bob and his wife Nancy. Bob was also close to Dino and had taken the news of his death hard. Bob and Nancy were under the carport when TJ and Susie arrived. Once everyone was settled, the conversation turned to the unexpected death of Dino. “You know Sis, Uncle Dino had his yearly physical only twos month ago.” “Really? Did they find anything wrong with his heart?” Susie asked. “Not a thing, the doctor reported he was in good health.” Bob said. “I can tell where this is going,” TJ said as he leaned back on the couch while putting his hands behind his head then added. “Remember when it’s your time to go, you go, no matter what your health is like.” Susie nor Bob replied. As Susie was glaring at TJ she asked Bob, “When was the last time you saw Uncle Dino?” “The night he passed in his sleep. He was here at the house, we all were playing Rook. After the game we sat around chewing the fat for about an hour before he departed back to his house. When he left he was in great spirits and told us he would see us soon.” Bob explained as he was sliding to the edge of his chair. “The only thing he said out of the ordinary was about the Thunderbird?” With his fingers interlocked Bob explained the conversation about the classic car, one of Dino’s many cars. “We all knew Dino and his stepson Ralph has never seen eye to eye on anything. Every year when his physical was due he would say the same thing. ‘To the doctor and if he don’t kill me then to the lawyers to draw up a will.’ Then he would laugh

as he invited us to the store for a few colds ones afterwards.” With a tear appearing in the corner of Bob’s eye as he cleared his throat as he took a deep breath. “I was curious if he had followed through on going to the lawyers this year. So joking I asked him if had left the Thunderbird to Ralph or me, which would chap Ralph’s ass.” Robert paused and was reaching for the glass of sweet tea on the coffee table in front of him. After a big gulp he continued. “Sis, we all were laughing and joking and I wasn’t serious. However Uncle Dino’s joyful demeanor changed and his statement was firm as he slammed his fist on the coffee table.” “What did he say Bob?” TJ asked. “He informed us he wasn’t planning on dying anytime soon so there was time for the drawing of a will. Then he blurted out the statement that shocked all of us. ‘Bob I can promise you that whether I’m living or dead I’ll make damn sure Ralph never drives the Thunderbird a day in his life.’” “Damn, someone needs to let Ralph know that. Strange things happen when a Coulson shouts out in anger. I have seen a litter of kittens meowing one night and all dead the next morning” TJ stated. “That’s far enough TJ, and I see where you’re going. You’re about to start in on we are witches.” Susie said. TJ tossed up his hands while shrugging his shoulders as Susie asked Bob. “Well did Uncle Dino have a will or not?” “Nope, Beatrice gets everything.” “So a man in good health dies of a massive coronary and no one is suspicious.” Susie barked. “That is correct, it appears that you and I can only see the pattern.” Bob said. “I guess so. I don’t understand why others can’t connect the dots, the facts are there.” Susie said as she began raising fingers as she stated them. “Uncle Dino was the fifth husband of Beatrice Mavis. We all know her four previous husbands suffered heart attacks. None of them survived and wound up six feet under before their time…like Uncle Dino.” “Oh I agree Sis. For the life of me I can’t understand why she hasn’t been questioned about any of the deaths.” Bob stated. Although there was much more speculation Susie and Bob wanted to cover, they agreed sleep was needed when TJ reminded them the services for Dino were at ten the next morning. *** They all had gathered around Dino’s graveside to pay their respects and bid a final farewell to Dino. Susie looking around noticed the lack of flowers, the coffin was even bare of a spray. Tears were streaming from her eyes as the sky turned black and a cold wind blew over the grave. Goose bumps began to cover Susie’s body causing her to shiver as an uneasy dark emerald green aura arose from the grave, hovered, then vanished in another gust of cold wind. She clutched TJ’s

arm tighter as she whispered. “Did you see that?” “See what?” he asked, his forehead wrinkled. “That dark green mass of gasses or light that rose from Uncle Dino’s grave.” “What? No I didn’t. Don’t be making something out of nothing.” TJ said as he was patting Susie’s hand as he added. “What you probably saw was caused by the thick clouds blocking the sun then uncovering it. The changing of light caused a weird reflection in the lenses of your glasses.” TJ explained. TJ along with Susie and the other attendees jumped and were looking skyward as what sounded like thunder was rumbling across the heavens. “I hope the weather holds till we get Uncle Dino buried.” Susie whispered to TJ. “I don’t know what that was, but I do know it wasn’t thunder.” TJ said as he was exploring the sky and horizon. “Now – Now; let’s don’t be getting paranoid, it was just thunder.” Susie said then snickered. “Cute Susie,” TJ said as he changed his focus from the sky to the people at the grave site. “I have heard of being late for a funeral but this is ridiculous. I see Beatrice but not Ralph. What time you got?” Susie looked down at her watch then at TJ. “It’s only 9:45, so maybe Ralph will get here on time.” Susie answered as she began wiping her tears. Susie gasped as the aura returned and streaked down into the grave as the sky cleared and the bright sunshine returned. The service started on time as a few were still arriving as the preacher began to speak. Two seconds in, Susie’s face showed the disappointment she had with the man of the cloth. He wasn’t giving a eulogy or any type of celebration of life service. There was no talk of Dino that would bring comfort to those that were mourning the loss of him. Instead the preacher dove into a hellfire and brimstone message. The man of God closed his part of the service by offering those attending a chance to escape hell. When no one accepted his invitation his face showed disgust as he was turning the service over to the Mason representatives. They were from the local lodge Dino and Bob were members of. The final part of the service included family and friends returning a shovel full of dirt to the grave after the vault that contained the coffin was lowered. The pattering of the soil was rising from the dark opening in the earth as the shovel was emptied then passed. Bob took the shovel from a lodge brother and retrieved a scoop of earth. Bob started turning toward the grave when he paused and lowered the shovel to the ground. Bob squatted down beside the dirt filled spade. The tears flowing down his cheeks were falling from his face. They were being soaked up by the soil within the shovel as Bob began patting the black earth. Letting out a sigh, Bob eased back to his feet then lifted the shovel from the ground. Bob extended it over the dark abyss, rotated his wrist, returning the dark soil from which it came. Susie was taking the shov-

el from Bob as a ping from the grave reached her ears along with the pattering of dirt. Susie the right ring finger on Bob’s shaking hands was free of his Masons ring. After the service TJ was driving Susie along with Bob and Nancy back to Bobs. Susie turned looking at Bob and asked. “Did you toss your Mason’s ring in Uncle Dino’s grave?” “Sis that I did, but it wasn’t mine. I wanted to throw it as hard as I could and scream, I would rather have you than the damn ring! I figured putting it in the dirt was more subtle.” “I don’t understand are you mad at Uncle Dino or the Masons? Hell if it hadn’t been for them Uncle Dino would not have had a word said about him or a decent burial.” Susie stated. Bob bent over holding his head in his hands sobbing. Nancy began rubbing him across his back as she explained. “No he is not mad at the lodge or Uncle Dino. Grief over took him and I’m suspecting he thought his actions would help him with the hurt.” “Sorry but I don’t understand,” Susie stated. “Your Uncle Dino had told Beatrice that once he passed that Bob was to have the ring. She had the undertaker remove it and give to Bob.” “I get it. Please thank the lodge for us.” Susie said. Bob was nodding as Nancy said. “The lodge was going to play taps on the bag pipes but Beatrice said that Uncle Dino wanted no music, which is bullshit.” “Damn straight it is Nan. Uncle Dino believed in making a joyful noise to the Lord. At least now I know why there were no hymns sung. What a bitch! I watched her, she shed not one tear.” Susie said as she was wiping away tears. “You noticed that also. I started to walk up and slap her silly to see if that would bring a tear to her eye.” Nancy snapped as Bob was raising his head. “I know Uncle Dino and Ralph didn’t get along, but Uncle Dino has kept his ass fed for all these years so he could have at least made an appearance.” Bob said then took a deep breath letting his head fall back on the seat. “I’m going to give that asshole a piece of my mind when I see him.” Susie snapped. “Well here is your chance,” TJ said as he was slowing the car. Susie turned to see Ralph standing in the road beside a fire truck. He was dressed in a suit and tie and was being looked over by a first responder. TJ stopped the car, all four got out. TJ looked at the smoldering metal in the ditch that was being sprayed by a strong steady stream of water. Ralph was quick stepping toward Bob as he said. “Sorry I missed the services, but your uncle is trying to kill me from the grave.” Ralph stopped in front of Susie, Bob and Nancy along with TJ. “No I don’t think so, if that was his intention you would be in the burning Thunder Bird.” TJ said. “Look, as soon as I backed the Thunder Bird out of the drive it stalled. I got out to see what was wrong

and must have forgot to put it in park as the car began to roll. I tried to get back in to stop it, but the door was jammed. The next thing I know the car rolled in the ditch and fucking exploded. I call that a narrow escape of death.” “TJ is correct, if Uncle Dino wanted you dead, you would be dead. Maybe he only wanted to destroy the car.” Susie said. “Yeah, so you couldn’t have it.” Bob barked. “Tell me Ralph, what time was this?” Susie asked. “About 9:40,” Ralph answered while glaring at Bob. Once again the goose bumps began to rise on Susie skin, starting at her neck and spreading over her body. Her vision was blurring as she shivered. Susie. She be began swaying back and forth as the air filled with squealing tires. Nancy turned toward the screeching and shouted. “That bitch Beatrice just almost hit your car TJ. I’m sure she’s own her way to Ralph.” As Beatrice was grabbing Ralph, Susie fell against TJ while wrapping her arms around his neck. “I need to get to the car before I pass out right here in the road.” She whispered. “What’s wrong, you are whiter than normal and trembling?” TJ inquired. “I’ll explain later, right now I need to get to my pills and lay down.” Susie whispered. TJ looked at Nancy as he continued holding Susie up. “Nan can you get the back door open, Susie is not feeling well.” Nancy was jogging to the rear door as Bob got on the other side of Susie helping TJ get her to the car. Over his shoulder he shouted back to Beatrice. “We need to get Susie home…I’ll call later and check on you and Ralph.” Once Susie was comfortable laying in the back seat, Bob and Nancy slid in the front with TJ. Later that evening after a long nap Susie joined the others who were in the living room. “Good evening, we saved you some dinner. Would you like me to heat it up for you?” Nancy inquired as she was rising from a chair. “Not right now Nan, but thank you for saving me some.” Susie said as she sat down beside TJ who was on the couch. “I guess I should explain why I almost passed out and needed a valium to calm down.” “Only if you think it will help you put it behind you so it doesn’t happen again.” TJ said as he took her hand. “I think it will and plus it explains what happened to the Thunder Bird.” Susie said. “This I got to hear?” Bob said as he slid to the edge of his seat. “I believe the sky darkened when Uncle Dino left the grave and the sun returned once he was back in the grave.” She paused and squeezed TJ’s hand as she watched the confusion spread across the faces of Bob and Nancy. “Hold up; before you call the guys with the straight-jackets, let me explain.” Susie cleared her throat and began describing the events she witnessed at the grave of Dino. She added the times the

spirits exited from the grave, the loud boom of thunder and the return of the spirit. The time of Ralph’s accident correlated with the rumbling they heard.” Bob and Nancy looked at TJ. “Hey, I didn’t see this mass that she claims she did.” TJ paused as he took Susie hands with one of his while rubbing her across the shoulders with the other trying to keep her calm as he added. “After we all heard what we thought was thunder I asked her what time it was. So I know the time frame she laid out is right and the way she explains it makes the story plausible.” “Damn, the car exploding in the distance was what we heard.” Bob said as he jumped up and began to pace. The tears were streaming from his eyes as he was wringing his hands. He turned facing Susie and Nancy while sniffling and shaking his head. “What is it Bob?” Nancy inquired as she got up and started walking to him. Every one jumped as Robert raised his hands in the air as he shouted “Uncle Dino kept his promise. Ralph never got to drive the car a day before it was totaled in the fire.” “Bob, you can’t believe all this. Yes it all makes sense, but C’mon. I think maybe your grief for Dino and anger of not getting the car, well… it’s allowing your imagination to get the best of you.” Nancy said with her hands on her hips. “Can you explain why a classic Thunderbird that was maintained as well as a new one exploded? No you can’t.” Bob snapped with tears flowing. “I can’t believe that three grown people believe that Uncle Dino’s spirit left the grave, blew up a car and returned to the grave. I got to have some coffee, anybody else need anything?” Nancy asked. “Hang on Nan I’ll come with you and heat up the left overs and grab a Pepsi. I feel better now that I got that off my chest.” Susie said as she was walking toward Nancy. Before the two made it from the living room a rumble shook the house. The winds began howling and the lights flickering. TJ sprang from the sofa and was rushing to Susie and Nancy as they began screaming while Bob got to his feet and dashed to the end table by the couch. The four began to shiver as the room began getting cold. “What the hell is going on?” Nancy shouted as she eased down on the couch, followed by Susie. Bob was removing a flashlight from the drawer of the table as he answered. “I’m guessing a popup thunderstorm is over the house. Any other time we wouldn’t pay it any attention but all the talk of Dino’s spirit has got us paranoid and a little edgy.” “That makes sense Bob, but doesn’t explain why the house has plummeted from a nice 70 degrees to around 40.” Susie shouted as TJ handed her and Nancy a throw from the back of the couch. “Go check the thermostat Bob, maybe the power going on and off has messed it up.” Nancy said as she was covering up.

The lights were still flickering and the winds howling through the attic vents as Bob was striding toward the hall. He stopped as the wind died down and the flickering lights remained on. The four jumped as footsteps echoed through the room followed by a tap – tap tap. Bob was spinning trying to pin point where the sounds were coming from. The lights without warning went out. The house became dark and once again filled with screams. Bobs shaking hands were wrestling with the push button of the flashlight. With a faint click a beam of light protruded from the lens to the carpeted floor. Bob raised the light, shining it at the couch as he said. “Calm down, the footsteps and tapping may have something to do with us losing power. We can’t tell where it is coming from with y’all two shouting at the top of your lungs.” “Who could be visiting in this weather,” Susie whispered. TJ placed his finger over Susie’s lips. The room was silent as they continued listening. The footsteps couldn’t be heard anymore but the distinctive tap – tap – tap with a distinctive ping was piercing the front door, louder now than before. “TJ you got your sidearm close by?” Bob whispered. TJ was shaking his head as Nancy was removing the blanket. “I bet its Ralph, it would be like him to show up during a storm. He needs to stop hitting the storm door glass before he cracks it.” Nancy said as she was rummaging through her purse. “Ah-Ha” she said as she was removing the twenty five caliber semi-automatic pistol from the depths of the bag. Once on her feet she headed to the door while giving Bob instructions. “I’ll snatch the front door open, you hit it with the light, and I will aim. That will scare Ralph shitless and teach him a lesson.” Nancy eased to the door then slowly turned the knob. Once the bolt was clear from the doorjamb she slung it open as Bob lit up the area with the flashlight. Nancy screamed as she began falling back. The back of her left hand went to her forehead as she discharged the weapon with her right. Between the barrel flash and Nancy’s limp body falling against him Bob didn’t see what had made her fire and faint. A thud echoed through the dark room as Nancy and Bob crashed to the floor. With the flashlight rolling from Bob’s hand Susie began screaming as TJ hurried from the couch. He slammed the front door shut then tracked down the light. With it in his hand TJ found the pistol in the floor and retrieved it as Susie whimpering was checking on Bob and Susie. With the help of Susie, Bob rolled Nancy off him. Together they got Nancy from the floor and were moving her to the couch as TJ was dashing to the door. With his hand on the knob TJ checked to make sure everyone was clear from the doorway. With everyone clear he positioned the light on his shoulder next to his neck and tilted his head over to hold it place. With light and pistol aimed at the door he flung the door open then went down to one knee, ready to fire if the situation

called for it. With the light illuminating the opening TJ gasped then shouted. “What the fuck….This has to be some sort of sick twisted joke.” Shaking his TJ was rising from his firing position. With sweat pouring from his forehead a cold chill ran up TJ’s back causing him to shiver as he mumbled “Or what Susie saw at the grave wasn’t her imagination.” TJ was still gazing out the door trying to rationalize what he was seeing as Bob shouted. “TJ what did you say and what’s out there?” TJ lowered the firearm and removed the light from between his shoulder and neck as he was turning toward Bob and answered. “Nothing, thinking out loud. As far as what’s out here, I would say it’s a special delivery for you, from the grave perhaps.” With the light guiding his way TJ began walking toward Bob, Susie and Nan who was coming to. He stopped at the coffee table and was laying the gun down, pointing it away from everyone as he looked at Susie. “You feel like traveling tonight or first thing in the morning. We need to get back home, I don’t like what’s happening here.” “In the morning I guess, but why TJ? What has you so spooked that you are sweating in a house that is freezing.” Susie said. “There is too much weird shit going on. I’m sure it can be explained, but you don’t need to deal with it.” TJ said. “He is right,” Nancy mumbled as she pointed to the door. “Let Bob handle the door, I suggest you and I turn in.” “No, I appreciate y’all two trying to protect me from having a nervous breakdown but I’m going to see what has everyone looking like they saw the devil himself.” Susie said as she got to her feet. TJ reached up and grabbed her arm, “I would rather you not, I don’t think you brought enough valium to deal with this. Please, you and Nancy go on to bed as she suggested. We will leave first thing in the morning.” “TJ let go of me now! I’m going to that door, come on Bob, it seems to involve you.” Susie said as she jerked away from TJ. “Ok suit yourself,” TJ said as he was handing her the flashlight while Bob was patting Nancy on the arm. Bob leaned back up, Susie gave him the flashlight. Once Bob passed the gun he stopped and leaned down to grab it. TJ said while helping Nancy sit up. “You won’t need that unless it shoots silver bullets.” Susie and Bob were walking slowly to the front door, TJ was close behind Susie. She took her older brothers trembling hand as they got closer to the door. Once they were in front of the opening, four to five feet back Bob began slowly raising the light to see what made Nancy faint and TJ break out in a cold sweat. The two took a couple of steps forward to concentrate the light in the area making the doorway brighter. Susie gasped. With her legs becoming weak, Susie went to her knees. She was heading to the floor face first as a lunging TJ caught her, helping her back to her feet.

Susie was gasping for air as the flashlight was illuminating Dino’s favorite pair of cowboy boots on the other side of the glass storm door. There were no tracks leading to or from the boots. As the light continued to rise Bob’s eyes filled with tears, he gasped as the beam of light began to shake and move sporadically about leaving the doorway unlit. TJ with Susie leaning against him took the flashlight from Bob and aimed the beam of light at the doorway. “God it can’t be…it can’t be,” Bob shouted as he stood staring at a blob of green gases swirling around a Masons ring. The ring was dangling from a fine glistening silver thread. As the wind blew the ring would ping against the storm door window, but never left the center of the gas blob. Bob taking small steps toward the ring as his tears became a steady stream. Once close enough to the ring he reached up. With the ring in his grasp, the gasses shot through the glass of the door and streaked across the dark cloudy sky. Bob opened the door and was retrieving the boots from the porch as the clouds broke revealing a full bright moon. The lights in the house flickered on and the house temperature was returning to normal. Bob with Susie was slowly walking towards the coffee table, both trembling and crying. Bob gently laid the items on the coffee table. He fell back in his chair as Susie and Nancy headed to the kitchen, each with a bottle of pills. Bobs elbows were on his knees, his fingers interlocked and under his chin as he starred at the boots and ring. TJ using his pocket knife was removing the 25 slug from the door jamb. Once he joined Bob the lead clanking on the coffee table broke Bob’s stare. “TJ you are a reasonable person and good at deduction, what do you think of this?” TJ sat on the sofa as he was looking at the boots and ring. Susie and Nancy returned from the kitchen, Susie sat beside TJ, Nancy next to her. “Bob the first thought that comes to mind, is someone is playing some sick ass practical jokes on the family. You and Susie were the closest to Dino.” “Why would they do that?” Susie inquired as she wrapped her arm through TJ’s. “I don’t know, maybe trying to scare the two of you so y’all will not start asking questions.” TJ said as he picked up the ring from the table looking at it closely. “Wait, Bob I know you have looked at the ring but have you examined it.” Bob was shaking his head while reaching for the ring TJ was handing him as TJ added. “My next guess is not a logical one but fits. “Dino delivered the ring and boots for reasons unknown.” TJ paused as he looked at the bottom of the boots then at Susie. “Susie these are the alligator boots we bought Dino last Christmas.” Susie grabbed the boots from TJ as Bob slipped the ring on his finger. Nancy now standing next to Bob asked. “Bob is that the same ring you tossed in the grave?”

Bob nodding removed the ring and handed it to Nancy. “Read the inscription and you tell me.” Nancy began to shake as she read what was written in the gold band. She handed the ring back as she said. “I’m going to need another pill.” Bob got up from the chair and headed to the phone that was on the wall between the kitchen and living room. After dialing he stood silent for a moment. …“Hello Beatrice, just calling to check on Ralph, how is he?” …“That is great. Listen can you tell me what happened to the alligator boots Susie bought for Uncle Dino last Christmas.” …“Really? No that’s ok I’ll tell her. She wanted to make sure Ralph got them, but I guess that’s not possible.” …“I’ll let her know, they are leaving in the morning. Listen if you and Ralph need Nancy or I please don’t hesitate to call.” Bob hung up the phone. Biting his lip he pointed at the boots and cleared his throat. Uncle Dino was buried in the alligator boots. Are you sure that pair is the same pair you gave him?” “Are you sure that’s the same Mason ring you tossed in the grave?” TJ asked. “I have no doubt.” Bob said as flopped back down in his chair. “I can’t believe Uncle Dino’s spirt is roaming the earth.” “That or there is a grave robber running amuck who knew who the ring belonged to and who bought the boots.” TJ said. “Either way TJ, you are right. My nerves can’t handle this, let’s head home at sunrise.” Susie said as she was removing her next to last valium from the bottle. *** Susie and TJ were back in the hot and humid air of Georgia. TJ had taken a week off to make sure Susie was stable before returning to work. Susie’s doctor suggested that she take an additional two weeks off as she was mentally drained and physically beat. Over the last week Susie had resumed helping around the house and returned to being the mom and wife her family was accustomed to. With that hurdle cleared Susie knew that it was time to resume her work life which she found gratifying. The residents of the retirement home she worked at needed and missed her. Susie was glad that she was scheduled to return to work the next morning and ready for the challenge. TJ had taken the boys fishing so that Susie could take her time preparing for her first day at work in three weeks without interruption. Susie had everything done with the exception of ironing her nurse’s uniforms. The non-air-conditioned shotgun home she and her family lived in was like an oven this time of year. Susie had the front and back door open with a fan sitting in front of each, hoping to turn the hall into a breezeway. The sun was setting as Susie was wiping the sweat from her

face with a towel before preparing to press the uniforms. The ratcheting of the ironing board legs being extended echoed in the hall. Once at the height Susie preferred she released the lever locking the legs in place. After placing the protective heat plate on the board, she set the iron in it. The plug was under the wooden hall table that held a picture of her and her Uncle Dino. The picture was flanked by the alligator boots, above the table was a mirror. Susie kissed her finger then placed it on Uncle Dino’s face before bending down plugging the iron in. After Susie set the iron to cotton she was heading to retrieve the uniforms while the iron was heating up. On the way back Susie’s brow furrowed as she noticed the hall was dark, the blue light on the iron was the only light visible. The hum of the fans were silent as she entered the corridor. While laying the uniforms across the board she jumped as the front and back doors slammed shut cutting what sunlight was left of the peaceful Sunday from the hall. With her hands empty she stepped to the switch to turn on the overhead light. She flicked it down then up, nothing happened. Susie along with sweating now began trembling as she hated the dark. Susie with her hand out stretched headed for the blue glow of the iron as a cold wind filled the dark hall blowing her hair while the corridor filled with the sound of footsteps. “TJ, boys is that y’all? We got a blown fuse, outlets work but no lights.” Susie shouted. No one answered as Susie was picking up the iron while shouting. “The iron is hot so stay back whoever you are. I don’t want to brand your face but I will.” The cold wind continued blowing through the hall making her shiver. The hair on her neck began to rise as she felt as if someone was staring at her…from behind. She screamed and dashed across the hall toward a bedroom as Uncle Dino’s voice filled the corridor. “Susie put the iron down, I will never hurt you.” Susie turned toward the voice and with caution made her way back to the ironing board placing the iron in the heat tray. With the light from the iron shining toward the table, she could see the boots. They were walking in place on the table. Susie never took her eyes off the marching boots as she was rubbing her arms trying to get them warm when the boots halted. Susie breathing heavy jumped back as within an instant the mirror filled with the face of her Uncle Dino, surrounded by a bright purple aura. Susie screaming as she began uncontrollable shaking as Dino pleaded. “Calm down Susie, I told you we would see each again. Consider our pact complete,” Dino whispered. “So… So you were behind the incidents in Tennessee.” Susie whispered as she braced herself on the hall table trying to control her breathing as tears were flowing from eyes. “Yes I was, but that didn’t fulfill our pact. You wanted to know if after death one could visit those who are still alive. Seeing my face proves that.” “Tha - That it does, are you in peace and happy?”

Susie inquired. “I am Susie. Till we meet again on the other side, I leave you with my love.” Dino said. Before Susie could reply the face vanished from the mirror. A white mist flowed from the mirror and encircled Susie. The twirling mist that now engulfed Susie brought a peace to her she had not felt since her uncles passing. The mist cloud released Susie and disappeared through the closed front door.

“Authors note: The above story is based on a true account of my encounter with a spirit that I believe was my favorite uncle. I believe he returned to me because of the pact we made a year before his death. The pact was that whoever passed first would visit the other if it was possible. Uncle Dino has not appeared to me since the above encounter. As always the names have been changed.” - Joan Clay –Director of Contests

Zombie Willow – Location: Hollidaysburg, Pennsylvania. Camera: Sony Hypershot 20.2 Mega Pixel Photograph Courtesy of Nealtography

Photographer Spotlight Company Name: Nealtography Owner-Photographer: Leslie Neal Location: Altoona, Pennsylvania

Leslie Neal has been a photographer for 8 years. What started out as a hobby quickly turned to a passion. With more and more people enjoying her photographs Leslie had the desire to become a professional. She began the process of doing that by founding Nealtography, a company based in Altoona, Pennsylvania. Behind the camera Leslie has captured stunning wildlife and magnificent photographs of nature. She can also be seen at events snapping the shutter capturing the action. Her portfolio also contains photographs a people shot in a nature setting and sports. You may have seen one of her photographs as she enters her photography in competitions across the country. Here is what Leslie had to say about these shows. “I’ve been competing in art shows for 2 years and love it, even if I don’t win. Just having my art displayed at a gallery is a winning moment. I’m willing to continue to learn and create new photos every chance I get.” -Leslie Neal, Owner of Nealtography via text. Away from the camera the 35 year old Leslie Neal loves traveling to new places. She also enjoys watching the Pittsburgh Penguins slap the puck around on the ice during hockey season. Leslie likes to watch classic movies also. You can see more of Leslie’s photographs by liking the Nealtography Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/nealtography/ .

From Left to Right – Top to Bottom 1.) Tigers Love - Location: Moraine, Pennsylvania. Camera: Canon Power Shot SX130 IS. This is Leslie’s personal favorite. - 2.) True Colors - Location: Pittsburgh Zoo. Camera: Canon Power Shot SX130 IS. - 3.) Forbidden Stairs – Location: Hershey, Pennsylvania. Camera: Sony Hypershot. 20.2 Mega Pixel. The Corral used this photograph for the Halloween Edition Visual Writing Prompt Contest. - 4.) Dead or Undead – Location: Hollidaysburg, Pennsylvania. Camera: Sony Hypershot 20.2 Mega Pixel - 5.) Witches Demise – Location: Reservoir Park in Tyrone, Pennsylvania. Camera: Sony Hypershot 20.2 Mega Pixel. - 6.) Zombie Willow – Location: Hollidaysburg, Pennsylvania. Camera: Sony Hypershot 20.2 Mega Pixel.

Visual Writing Prompt Contest

The Forbidden Steps - Eddy Clyburn, Phoenix City, Alabama Honorable mentions go to Beth Watson of Salem, Massachusetts; Larry Drake of Clearwater, Florida; Barry Simpson of Waco, Texas; Cynthia Thompson of Weiser Idaho; and Lori Davidson of Carlsbad, New Mexico.

Photograph Courtesy of Nealtography

The Forbidden Steps Eddy Clyburn

Dora and Leon were at the foot of the forbidden steps. Dora turned on the flashlight and ran her hand across a step. “Look at this, Phoebe must have taken the same path up and down the steps. They are made of brick yet these grooves are deep.” Leon nodded as Dora began taking the steps one by one examining each. With the flashlight shining on the steps Leon began to follow. As a cold wind blew down the steps Dora appeared to start floating up the steps. Leon broke out in a run to catch her. He slowed as he scanned the light at the top of the steps. The beam found Dora sitting on a bench made of rocks and a slab of concrete outside the cave opening. “Come on Leon, I’m sure this is

where Phoebe rested after climbing the steps.” “I can understand why, I don’t know how a child wearing braces made it up these steep steps.” “Are you close enough to take my picture sitting on the bench with the camera you brought?” Dora asked as she flashed a smile. “I am. I will use a night setting since you are in the damn dark.” Leon said. “Great, plus that will give you time to rest.” Dora said as Leon began removing his back pack to retrieve the camera. With the camera focused on Dora the stutter clicked. As he lowered the camera Leon began seeing three of Dora then four. Her body was going through a trans-

formation and becoming transparent as she weaved back and forth floating in the air. “Get away from the cave entrance Dora, its pulling your soul from you.” Leon shouted as he dropped the camera as he fumbled to get the flashlight on. Once the beam of light pierced the lens Leon, not taking his eyes off the lighted steps, began to climb them two at a time. Dora was facing the cave as Leon reached the top. As Dora’s head began to spin around Leon let out a blood curling scream. Where a beautiful woman once stood was now a young girl. Her blonde hair matted and she smelled of death and burning skin. The dress the girl wore was made from an old Burlap sack. Her horrid face was void of eyes, the sockets were dark and appeared to have flames flickering in them. What skin was left on the child’s face was pale with seeping sores covering it. Leon trembling began slowly backing up almost tripping over the vines that were growing from the mountain wall toward Leon. They were wrapping around his right leg, like a boa constructor. He bent over and was pulling at the vines, trying to free himself. A high pitched squeak, then another reached Leon’s ears. He looked up and saw the young girl approaching him. With every bend of the child’s knees her leg braces were squeaking. “Phoebe…No it can’t be you … it can’t be.” Leon shouted as he was removing a hunting knife from the sheath on his side. Leon was cutting through the vines as he screamed at the child. “What did you do to Dora, she was only trying to help you.” Once Leon was free from the vines he began backing away. When he turned to see where the first step was before he took off running a pop and a clank filled the air. Leon snatched his head around in time to see the leg braces flying straight for him. Before Leon could dodge them, they locked around his lower legs with a pop and clank. Leon hissed in pain as the braces were tight and limiting his mobility. With sweat pouring from his brow he continued to struggle to make it down the first step. He was wiping his palms on his hiking shorts

as he turned to see what the child was doing. She was pointing at the bench where Dora once sat. There was a crowbar leaning against it and a brick was sitting on it. She moved her finger upward as she did the crowbar levitated. The child then moved her finger rapidly through the air stopping at Leon. The crowbar whistled as it took flight cutting through the air like a boomerang. The curved part caught Leon around the left ankle, pulling him off his feet. Leon went to the ground in a heap as the crowbar returned to the concreate bench. The vines quickly wrapped themselves around Leon. They began receding back toward the mountain dragging Leon with them. Leon was fighting trying to reach his knife. Leon was becoming exhausted as he stopped in the center of the top tier, feet from the cave, and at the young child’s feet. Her breath was hot, smelled of sulfur and was deeper than any voice Leon had ever heard. “Yes I am Phoebe.” Phoebe began licking her cracked lips with her rough tongue that was covered in warts. She turned and summoned the brick from the concrete bench. With it floating above Leon Phoebe said, “Dora, I did nothing with Dora.” Phoebe broke out in laughter as she was looking down at Leon, licking her lips again. She bent down and whispered. “I want your soul and intend to take it.” Standing erect again Phoebe began glaring at the floating brick, the flickering flame in her eye sockets became brighter, the brick began to glow red from the heat. The brick with a thud landed on Leon’s chest, burning through the vines, then Leon’s shirt. He began thrashing and pleading at the top of his lungs. Laughing Phoebe began dancing around Leon. Leon crying out in pain as the brick was sinking deeper in his chest cavity noticed the tattoo on Phoebe’s calf, it matched Dora’s. Still laughing Phoebe dove on top of Leon. She went up in a blaze as she began entering Leon’s body with the brick devouring his soul.


Promote your Business, Book or Writing Related Services. Contact Joey Edwards at Corral@journalist.com with any questions and get a quote.

Visual Writing

Prompt Contest

“The Ransom” The Corral will award a prize of $25.00 to the writer who comes up with the best story (in 1000 words or less) based on the above picture. The winning submission will be published in an upcoming issue of The Corral and on the website. Submissions are accepted via email only. Submit to: Contest_Corral@journalist.com . The subject line of the email must read ‘Contest Entry – VWP. The submission must be an attachment to the email and not written in the body of the email. The body of the email along with the submission must contain: “Ransom”, Author’s Name, email and mailing address. Before entering visit the website https://thunderhorsecorral. com/contest/ for complete rules, writing guide lines and formatting.

A Ghostly Informant Virginia Coalson

Nestled in the cul-de-sac of Bluewater Lane were six two bedroom cottages. The rear of all the properties bordered the back waters of Lake Windsor. The lake was huge and the main tourist attraction in the small town of Lovejoy. The town was always busy as many came to the lake for vacations, weekend get-a-ways, or to retire in the warmth of Lovejoy; like the residents of Bluewater Lane. Those visiting the lake enjoyed wellkept nature and hiking trails and almost two miles of manmade white sandy beach. The tourist could enjoy the sun, build sand castles, and splash in the lake. Lovejoy also was the home of a small nudist resort, One with Nature, which had its own beach, camp grounds, and rental cottages. Those who came to enjoy the water and other activities didn’t bother the residents of Bluewater Lane and mostly stayed to themselves… or did they? The last month had brought an uneasiness to the neighborhood. Several of the homes had been broken-in and ransacked. The thieves didn’t get a lot as the residents were all retired and lived a simple life. What valuables they did have were locked in a safe or in a bank safety deposit box. A normal haul for the robbers was a flat screen, some silver flatware and maybe a laptop. All of the break-ins so far had occurred when no one was home. That didn’t matter to those on Bluewater Lane. They all were on edge worrying what would happen if the crooks returned when they were at home. Someone may be harmed or worse - killed in the process. Harriet Turner, a widow and her fur baby, a pug named Bonkers, lived at 13 Bluewater Lane, the first home before the cul-de-sac began its circle. Harriet had yet to be robbed and was thankful for that. Tony a detective for the Lovejoy police department and her son, made sure his mom had the latest tech

gadgets. He had installed video cameras so his mom could see who was at the door without going to it. He also had an alarm system with a mobile panic button that would notify the authorities. Harriet Turner at 13 Bluewater Lane was at home yet the home was almost dark as the sun began going down. The only sign of light was a dim glow of the dark green pulled curtains of the living room. Behind the door of 13 Bluewater Lane the room was cold and the flickering flames of the candles that were surrounding the Ouija board were the only source of light. Harriett and Bonkers were holding their weekly séance. Harriett was finishing up her conversation with her late husband Isaac as Bonkers rolled over to her back, legs up in front of what Harriett referred to as Isaac’s chair. Once Harriett ended her conversation with the other side, Bonkers got to her feet. Harriett was placing the board back in the box as she said “Bonkers you know Tony doesn’t approve of this, so let’s keep it to ourselves.” Bonkers barked as Harriett was placing the triangle on top of the board. She was placing the top on the box as she added “We enjoy our visits with Isaac and it’s imperative that we continue. Isaac and I always discussed the budget and sought advice from one another. Just because he has passed doesn’t mean that has to stop.” Bonkers barked once as Harriet was pushing the Ouija box under the beige floral print sofa. With the box tucked out of sight, Harriett got to her feet and turned the lamp on that was on the table next to the sofa. Harriet was leaning over blowing the candles out one by one as Bonkers began barking and charging the front door. With the last candle out, Harriett eased down on the couch and was looking at the monitor on the table next to the lamp. The dark screen came to life as the motion sensor triggered and shed light on the front porch. Harriett was watching two men ap-

proach the stoop as she said “Good guard dog Bonkers, we do have visitors.” Bonkers continued barking as Harriet was focused on the monitor. Once the two men in dark hoodies reached the porch, Harriett said “Bonkers I’ve seen these two somewhere, but not sure where… I think it’s safe to go to the door.” Harriet was heading to the door when she felt an invisible force pulling her back. She halted her advance as the room chilled and filled with Isaac’s voice “Harriet, I sense trouble. Don’t unlock the door and call Tony.” Harriet always listened to Isaac in these situations as he was the best at sniffing out danger. She nodded her head as she was removing her phone from the apron pocket. She called Tony as she made her way back to the monitor. While waiting on him to answer, she noticed the two men running from the porch. Bonkers stopped barking and came running toward the sofa. The fawn colored pug hopped up next to Harriet as she said “That’s strange, they didn’t knock or ring the doorbell Bonkers. Maybe they were at the wrong house?” Harriet was petting the dog when Tony answered the phone. She explained the events to him and the dress of the two gentleman. He informed his mother that she was probably right, they were at the wrong house and there was nothing to worry about. He then let her know that he would see if a car was in the area that can ride through the cul-de-sac, just in case. Harriet in haste began clearing the coffee table in case Tony decided to stop by himself. With Bonkers at her heels she was put away the candles, crystal ball, and tarot cards. The last thing to complete the task of removing all evidence of the séance was to get the cushions out of the floor, back on the sofa and in the chair. Once that was done, she and Bonkers settled down to an old western that was showing on TV. As a gun fight broke out, Bonkers got to her feet and started barking “Calm down vicious guard dog, it’s only on TV.” Once Bonkers hit the floor, the barking became constant as she was running for the door. Harriet glanced toward the door noticing the flashing blue and red lights coming around the living room curtains. “Alexa, turn on the front porch light.” Harriet said then looked down at the monitor. Two patrol cars and an ambulance were at the Landrum’s. Their cottage was directly across Bluewater Lane from Harriet’s. “Bonkers, either Tony over reacted or something has happened to either George or Eleonore.” Harriet froze and covered her face as she gasped then squealed “Oh no another break-in…one of the two got hurt.” Harriet’s hands were shaking as she was retrieving the leash from the hook by the door. She was snapping the leash to the collar of Bonkers as she added “Come on, let’s get out there and see what we can find out or if we can be of any help to Eleonore or George. We will be safe with all the patrolmen around.” Eleonore and Bonkers were at the edge of the yard. Bonkers was doing her business as Harriet was looking across the street. The paramedics were removing a

stretcher from the house. The body was covered with a blood soaked white sheet. Eleonore was close behind the stretcher. Her face was red, her hands covered in blood as her voice filled the night air “They robbed us and killed my George! They killed my George!” Harriet bowed her head as her eyes teared up. She didn’t care much for Eleonore but George and Isaac were good friends. After Isaac’s death, George helped Harriet get a lawn care service and helped her pick out a new car when the old Ford stopped running. George was also a good listener and Harriet would bend his ear when they would meet walking the dogs. Harriet’s head popped up as she said “Bonkers, maybe we can help take care of Daisy, George’s dog. You and her seem to get along.” Harriet and Bonkers were watching as the stretcher was being loaded in the ambulance. With the stretcher inside, they helped Eleonore in and slammed the door shut. The ambulance sped off as Harriett and Bonkers headed across the lane; Tony was doing the same. “Mom that’s far enough, you don’t need to see anymore. Come on, let me get you back in the house. I have some questions for you.” “Ok Tony, but Daisy can’t be left alone overnight in that mess, let me bring her home with me and Bonkers.” “Mom, whoever is responsible for this horrendous murder killed the dog also.” “Oh,” Harriet said once again tearing up as she, Tony, and Bonkers headed up the walk. With Harriet and Bonkers on the sofa, Tony sat down in the chair his dad always used. “Mom, you said that you may have recognized the two men that showed up at your door tonight. Have you yet to recall where you have seen them?” “You think they killed George and Daisy?” “Mom, you know that I can’t discuss that with you. Let’s just say that Eleonore swears she saw two men running toward the lake when she arrived home from the store and found George.” “I know I have seen them, but I still can’t remember where, maybe they have cut the yard before.” “That’s great Mom, I’ll check with your lawn service in the morning. You got anymore tapes I can put in the security recorder? I’ll take the tape that has their faces on it with me.” “Yes son I do, they are under the cabinet that the recorder sets on.” Harriett replied. Tony stood up and walked over to his mom. He bent down and kissed her on the forehead. He was patting Bonkers as he said “I love you and need to get back to work. Once I leave, make sure all the doors are locked and chained and you have your panic button with you.” “I love you too and be safe tonight. I’m sure I will be OK, I have Bonkers and plus you all will be in the area most of the night.” Harriett said as she rose to her feet. “You know us well.” Tony said as he headed to the spare bedroom where the security equipment was kept.

“I should. There is over fifty years of police work between you and your dad, God bless his soul.” Harriett said. “That there is mom,” Tony said as he disappeared through the bedroom door. “Tony, I’m going to take Bonkers back out since we will be locked in the rest of the evening.” “That is a good idea since there is a lot of activity out there but make sure you lock up tight when you get back in. I’ll honk when I leave the scene to remind you.” *** Harriett and Bonkers had stayed out till Tony departed from the scene. Harriet waved as Tony honked the horn and waved back. Once she entered the house she locked the dead bolt and was putting the chain in place as her nostrils filled with fresh popped popcorn. Bonkers took off toward the kitchen, her nails clicking as she was dancing on the linoleum covered floor. Harriet, with her panic button in her hand, joined Bonkers and checked the back door. The chain was in place, the alarm had not sounded so she was sure no one had entered the house from the lake. “Hate to disappoint you girl but there is no popcorn,” Harriet said as she inhaled, pulling the aroma deep into her nose. “I’ll admit it does smell good.” Harriet and Bonkers were returning to the living room as the lights went off then right back on. A cool breeze blew through the house making Harriet shiver as she stopped in her tracks. Harriet spotted a bowl full of popcorn and a coke sitting on the table next to George’s chair. Bonkers took off running and laid in the floor in front of the chair. Harriet remained still, watching the popcorn that was slowly disappearing. She let out a slight gasp and was taking a step back as the pop floated from the table, moved over the chair, tilted, then was returning to the table. She watched as Bonkers rolled over on her back, her legs kicking as if someone was rubbing her stomach. Harriet spoke up “Spirit, I know not to fear you as Bonkers is not barking and enjoying your presence. Please make yourself known by name.” A voice came from the chair “I’m thankful you are not frightened as that was not my intent. I’m George Landrum from across the street. Your husband Isaac met me at deaths door and walked me to the other side. He said you could help put my soul at rest.” “Tony is on the case, he will find out who murdered you and Daisy.” Harriet explained as she took a seat on the couch. The popcorn bowl floated over to Harriet “Please have some.” Harriet retrieved a handful of popcorn. Once the bowl was floating back to the table, George said “I have faith in Tony, but I want peace and justice sooner rather than later. My killer will be at the funeral, putting on a show.” “I don’t understand… Were your killers two men?” Harriet asked then placed some popcorn in her mouth. “They were a part of it but the killer was Eleonore.”

George said, his voice cracking. The popcorn came spewing from her mouth as Harriett shouted “What! You must be mistaken.” “I was there Harriet, it was definitely Eleonore who cut my throat.” George explained. “I never suspected the two of you had any problems.” Harriet said as she was cleaning up the popcorn Bonkers had not eaten from the hardwood floor. “We only fought about those two kids of hers. You did know they were my step children? My loins would never produce such lazy offspring. Anyway, they wanted to borrow more money to start yet another business. I had already financed three adventures for those two that fell through. Heck Harriett, they were about to bankrupt us when I put my foot down.” “I did not know that…wait they cut my grass before I was able to get the lawn service under contract. That’s how I recognized them when they came to the door tonight.” Harriett said. “They came here?” George asked as a handful of popcorn disappeared from the bowl. “They did.” Harriett told George of the encounter earlier as the chair began rocking back and forth. She informed George that Tony had retrieved the security tapes that recorded the two. “That figures, they were both so drunk and high the idiots went to the wrong house first. That’s how much sense they got. I shouldn’t have opened the door for them myself.” “I feel responsible, if I had let them in maybe they wouldn’t have harmed Daisy and you and all of this could have been prevented.” Harriet said before taking another hand of popcorn. “Don’t blame yourself, if it had not happened tonight, it would be another night; plus they could have harmed you. Hey, I’m happy and away from her and those two. Now it’s just me and Daisy. Isaac is watching her while I’m visiting you.” “Well it is a comforting thought knowing you are happy and Daisy is with you. I however don’t understand how I can help you.” “I had suspected for a long time those two were behind the break-ins around here. Eleonore was feeding them the information of who was in town shopping or on vacation. That’s the reason we were never robbed and she had informed them about the security Tony had installed here.” “So they left this house alone also.” Harriett said. “That they did. I however expected they were coming in our house when we weren’t there and taking money and my gold coins from our safe. When I would confront Eleonore about it she would claim I was imagining things and the safe count was correct.” “That was awful of her. But once again, how can I help?” “Oh yeah, back to that. I installed tiny pen cameras in the spare bedroom where the safe is and in the living room. The detectives will never find them if they don’t know to look for them. I need you to lead Tony

to those cameras. Once he pulls the memory card, he will see the two boys kill Daisy, tie me to a chair, then Eleonore kill me once she returns, carrying no bags I might add. Harriet opened the drawer of the table the lamp was on and removed a writing tablet along with a pen. George began explaining where the cameras were. He also wanted Harriet to fill Tony in on the arguments, missing money, and coins. Once George, was done the popcorn was gone and the soda can empty. Bonkers began to whine as the chair stopped rocking and the room began to warm up. Harriet remained seated as she stared at the notes while asking Bonkers

“How are we going to get Tony this info without him knowing I have been talking to ghosts again?” She looked up from the notes as Bonkers was pacing back and forth in front of the sofa. Harriett shouted, “That’s it Bonkers! I will tell Tony that I remember where I saw the two young men before and that made me recall the last conversation I had with George. Let’s see…we will make it last week when we ran into him as I was walking you and he was walking Daisy. Once he finds the cameras the case will be solved.”

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Parental Advisory: The following short story falls in the genre of Erotica.

The Spirit Train Nina Turnipseed

Victor and Ashley were jarred awake at 4am by Victor’s mom pounding on their bedroom door. Victor who was supposed to have the day off, flip the covers back and got to his feet. He was stumbling to the door while rubbing his eyes as Ashley pulled the covers over her head. Ashley gritted her teeth as the conversation between Victor and his mom progressed. She rolled over, her face to the wall and slapped the mattress as she heard Victor agree to work for his mother down at the bakery she owned. She knew we had plans to leave this morning to start our vacation. But no she has decided she needs the day off instead. She slapped the pillow under her head as the thoughts continued. Pisses me off that Victor didn’t remind her of our plans and refuse…but no he just agreed without hesitation. Victor not returning to bed as he needed to be at the bakery by four forty five began getting ready. Ashley sat up in the bed pulling the sheet up to her neck as she said. “Vic, we were going to depart around six am, now we won’t be out of here till six pm if we are lucky.” “I know Ash, but you heard, she feels she needs to go to psychiatrist today as she is feeling anxious and nervous.” Victor said as he was pulling on his pants. While

reaching in the closet for a shirt he inquired. “How long did you say the trip was?” “Around twelve hours,” Ashley stated as she rolled from the bed and began walking to Victor like she was walking a runway. Standing in front of him she was helping him with his tie as she said “Leave the BMW here, I’ll get it gassed up, then packed and be ready to leave when you get home.” “I don’t suppose you would consider leaving in the morning and travel as you are now.” Victor said as he popped Ashley’s bare bottom. Why so your mom could do the same thing in the morning as she did this morning, Ashley thought, but said. “I would rather leave tonight. The way I figure it we’ll take our time, enjoy the scenery and talk, something we don’t do a lot of these days without an audience. As for as traveling in the nude, I’ll see what I can do.” The two were kissing as the banging filled the room followed by the voice of Victor’s mom. “Victor, are you ready yet? Don’t want to keep the employees from clocking in on time because you haven’t arrived to open up.” Ashley stomped her foot on the plush carpet, turned

and headed back to bed as Victor shouted “On my way now Mom. I’ll be on time.” *** Ashley still fuming about the events of the morning was determined to keep her temper in check. She desperately needed this to be a pleasurable trip for her and Victor. The two were about to merge on the expressway from the on ramp when Ashley began reassuring Victor that she was not angry for the late start. “I actually think leaving at this time is advantageous to us. The sun will be setting in a couple of hours making it cooler, don’t have to worry about traffic once we get through this rush hour and I can get into your preferred travel attire.” Ashley said as she reached over and began rubbing Victor’s thigh as she whispered. “Plus once the sunsets we can take breaks, and get crazy under the stars.” Victor never looked over at Ashley as he snapped. “I think it would have been better if we had stayed home and left out in the morning. There is no way we can make up the lost time.” Ashley was placing some papers above the sun visor as she said. “Grandma has been notified not to be expecting us till tomorrow afternoon. Since making up twelve hours is impossible we are free to do what we want for the next twelve. That’s the beauty of it Vic.” “I must say you have a great outlook about it. That does relieve some the stress from me.” Victor said still keeping his eyes on the bumper to bumper traffic ahead of him. “Oh my dear Vic there is more. I know we are having problems and have talked of divorce. That doesn’t change the fact that I love you. I wanted to do something special for you…for us. Why? Because I know after working all day you are tired but still agreed to leave today. That meant a lot to me and tells me there is still hope for us, which warms my heart.” “I’m not really looking for a divorce, I think my problem is I don’t know what I’m looking for. I mean I know I want to be with you, but after that I’m lost. Maybe I should go see moms psychiatrist, what do you think.” Victor inquired as the traffic began moving somewhat better. “May not be a bad idea. You and her both are taking the unexpected death of your father bad. Tell you what, I’ll also go and see if he can help me with my mood swings and anger issues.” Ashley said. “Really, you would do that?” “Of course, I want us back to the way we were in the first year of our marriage.” Ashley said. “I know the last two years have been a living hell for both of us. I’m relieved yet shocked that you are admitting that you have issues also and it’s not all my fault. I say we check in to doing just that when we get back.” “Agreed. Now I have a couple of surprises for you. One the owner of the strip mall grandma has her herb shop in passed away. The family put it up for sale and I bought it.”

“What?” “Yep, now we have rental income coming in along with my commissions from reprints and interest from my savings. Plus, if we decide to move there you could start your own bakery, the sleepy little town needs one. Owning the space cuts down on overhead.” “Oh you got that right. Hell Mom’s rent takes around forty two percent of her gross. That’s the reason I help out for a little of nothing.” Victor explained as he took Ashley‘s hand in his then asked. “What other surprises you got?” “I made reservations for us at the half way mark of the trip. We can get some sleep or… make wild passionate love, getting as loud as we want without worrying about your mom hearing us. That would be great wouldn’t it?” “That it would. I’ve been excited since I left you naked this morning. However for now I suggest we share driving duties and drive straight through. After all we do plan on taking breaks on the backroads remember.” “I do and can’t wait to feel the breeze of the night blowing over my nude body as you are pressed up against it pleasing me.” Ashley was shivering and licking her lips as she pictured the actions she just described. She shook her head to clear the visual then said. “Tell you what, let’s go with your plan. We can use the hotel as a backup if we get to the point we can no longer drive safely.” Victor was nodding as a thump – thump – thump came from underneath the car as it began to shake and pull hard to the right. “Fuck I can’t believe it…a damn flat tire.” Victor shouted as he pounded the steering wheel of the BMW M760i as he slowed. With the blinker on Victor began cutting across traffic to reach the emergency lane of the expressway. “Calm down Vic, remember we are not on a time schedule.” Ashley said as she was opening the glove box. She pulled the leather BMW manual that contained the numbers she would need. With it in her lap she inquired. “You want to call Triple A or BMW roadside service?” “Both, whoever can get here the fastest gets the job.” Victor barked. The car was safely in the emergency lane of the expressway. Triple A had the best response time by fifteen minutes and was on their way. That was the good news, the bad was that with the high traffic volume of rush hour they were forty five minutes to an hour away. Victor and Ashley were out of the car and standing in between the wall and the BMW. Ashley began pacing back and forth, shouting so she can be heard. “Vic, Nothing seems to be going right today, tomorrow will be better I’m sure of it…I can feel it deep down in my soul.” She said while stopping at the rear of the car. “I certainly hope so. Maybe this is an Omen telling us we need to head back home after the tire gets replaced. We are only an hour away.” Victor said. With her thin sundress flapping in the wind from the traffic she was heading back to Victor. A gust of wind

from the line of Semi’s that were passing got under the dress and lifted it above her waist. “Wow, what a rush,” she shouted then began giggling. Ashley was fighting to get the dress back down and under control. The truckers were giving Ashley their approval by filling the air with blasts of their air horns. Ashley, heading back to Victor while holding her dress at the sides with her hands was smiling as Victor began screaming. “Took you long enough to get the dress down. Makes one wonder if the show wasn’t planned.” “Victor you can’t believe that my dress blowing up was planned. I was pacing to try and calm my nerves. We were talking and making progress with our problems when the tire blew. That pissed me off so I took a stroll. I didn’t want to take my anger out on you since you had no control over what happened. “I say it was an Omen. We are heading home.” Victor barked. “Vic you don’t believe in Omens. I know Omens when I witness one. Trust me what just happened was only a tire blowing out. Happens to a lot of people every day. We should be thankful it blew during the day and we weren’t traveling at a high rate of speed.” “You may be right, but we are still headed back home after Triple ‘A’ gets here.” Victor said as he was glaring at Ashley with his hands on his hips and added. “See if you can resist from putting on another show while we are broken down.” The veins in Ashley’s temple became visible as she clinched the material of her dress in her fist. She was breathing deep and counting to ten in her head. She made it to six before letting loose. “You asshole, let me demonstrate the difference from and a freak incident and a show.” Ashley snapped as she was stepping behind the BMW and closer to traffic. Once she unclenched her fist she placed her hands on top of her head. The dress began to rise again. With the sunflower pattern cotton material floating in the breeze she began dancing, spinning and gyrating. The air horns mixed with the ones from cars sounded like a symphony as they admired Ashley’s provocative moves while revealing her tanned athletic lower body to the drivers. Victor was dashing to Ashley shouting. “You know you are not wearing panties right.” “That I do and thank you for noticing. You used to like it when I left them at home.” She said while continuing to dance and twirl. “Come on Ash cover yourself and get away from traffic. Sorry about the remark about it being planned.” Victor pleaded. Ashley was working the dress back down while the two were walking back to the wall as Ashley barked. “Victor we have no home. We live with your mom.” Victor with his arms crossed leaned against the wall as Ashley opened the passenger’s side of the car. She was removing a cigar from her purse as she continued. “We were married one year when you suggested I sell my house, which I did. We were going to use that mon-

ey to build a bigger one that we could start a family in. I also agreed with your plan to move in with your mom till we found a spot to build or a house that we liked. Vic that was two fucking years ago. We have looked at a total of four houses and one plot of land in that time.” Ashley squatted down to get out of the breeze and the sudden gust of winds the traffic was causing. She was lighting her cigar as Victor barked. “You know I don’t like you smoking, especially cigars.” “Smoking a cigar calms my nerves.” She said as she stood back up puffing making the tip of the smoke glow. “Vic you forget, I have options in life but chose to marry you. Four years ago I was a high paid fashion model. I could be found in print and walking the runways of Paris, New York and Los Angeles. I can return to the modeling field tomorrow with one phone call. The hundred thousand dollar car you like to drive around town and show off, my name is on the title, not yours. ” Ashley snapped as she took a drag from the cigar. The smoke was rolling from her mouth as she continued. “Since I bought the car with the money earned from my modeling career before we got married there is no court in the land that will give it to you in a divorce.” Ashley paused as she blew smoke straight up in the air before lighting back in to Victor. “I may add the court won’t give you a dime of the money from the sale of my house that was purchased before our marriage. With all that said, if I was you I would stop fucking with me about returning back to your mom’s house.” Ashley once again stopped while pulling in smoke of the cigar. Smoke was flowing from her nose as she said. “Why? Simple. I have the option to leave your ass leaned against that wall and wave by as I drive off.” “Ok Ash… I get it…you have the money. Calm down and enjoy your smoke. I have been under a lot stress lately. Mom is pulling me one way and you the other. She is old and needs me since dad died in the horrible car accident. I can’t leave her all alone.” “Your mom is not old, she isn’t even fifty yet and has done well for herself. She holds your father’s death over your head to get you to do what she wants you to do. After all he was on his way to get you out of jail after a Halloween prank went bad.” Ashley said then took a deep drag from the cigar while looking at Victor shaking her head. “Let me ask you. What twenty three year old man, goes trick - or – treating dressed as the blue power ranger, gets mad when he is run off a porch, then takes a shit in the man’s front yard.” “I use to attend a lot of Comic-cons and have several costumes. My friends and I decided it would be funny if we went trick-or-treating.” “Comic-cons are OK. That’s where we met. But hell Vic you didn’t stop there. You placed your feces in a paper bag, placed it on the man’s front porch and lit it. After you rang the doorbell you didn’t even run. A kid of five, dressed as a princess opened the door and began stomping on the bag. She suffered burns on both legs. Did you not see all the security signs in the yard?” Ashley inquired as she was tapping the ashes from the

cigar. When Victor didn’t reply she continued. “The video from the home owner’s security camera’s captured the whole episode. With that information and the fact you removed your mask while taking a dump made it easy for the cops to track down a six foot two inch blue power ranger.” Ashley said. Ashley dropped the cigar to the pavement. She was twisting the sole of her sandal on it making sure it was out as she stated. “That dumb ass shit cost your mom her husband and a pile of money. She had to cover the medical expenses for the little girl, your court cost and fines along with your probation fees every month.” The Triple ‘A’ service truck with the yellow lights flashing was pulling up behind the BMW as Victor said. “We will talk about this later, Ash. Right now we need to get back on the road.” “So we are continuing our planned trip.” She inquired as she was walking beside Victor to meet the driver of the service truck. “I guess so since I don’t have a choice.” Victor barked. “You’ve got a choice. I’ll take you back to your mom’s, get your shit out of my car and be on my way. What about that choice?” “That’s OK together we will continue. I think we both let the tire get to us. Well that is if you don’t mind?” Victor said as the driver was getting out of the truck. “I would like that. I think once we are back on the road and calm, we will hopefully pick up where we left off, before the tire blew.” Victor was nodding as he took Ashley’s hand as the driver approached the two. *** Victor and Ashley had not said much to one another, but had been civil since the tire had been replaced. Victor was doing what he loved which was driving. He had the powder blue BMW M760i in the wind. The needle of the speedometer was hanging around a hundred and ten miles per hour. A beautiful full moon had replaced the ball fire as the darkness of night arrived. Ashley checked the GPS, they were about fifty miles from the Oklahoma Arkansas state line. She unbuckled her seat built and lifted her bottom from the seat as she grabbed the hem of her dress. With both hands she pulled the garment over her head and tossed it in the floorboard. Victor looked over and smiled. “You remembered my request. You know your dress blowing up by accident earlier got me as horny as hell. I think that’s what made me so angry. I wanted to take you but couldn’t. Seeing you naked now has me aching again.” “But you could have. That’s the reason all I wore was a sundress.” Ashley said as she picked the dressed up from the floor and put it back on.” “What did I say wrong?” “Nothing at all Vic.” Ashley said. A big smile spread across her face as she began patting Victor on the thigh and added. “We are still in Oklahoma so turn on the blinker and ease to the emergency lane.”

Victor did as Ashley wished. With the car in position Ashley turned on the emergency flashers then exited the car. She motioned for Victor to crawl out her side so he wouldn’t open the door into the traffic that was light but moving at a high rate of speed. She maneuvered Victor and sat him down on the concrete wall of the interstate. “Are you erect,” she asked?” Victor nodded as Ashley said. “I guess if I had let you on this earlier we may not have gotten into that awful argument.” Ashley leaned down and unzipped Victor’s shorts. She was removing his erection as she said. “Sex with you calms me better than smoking a cigar.” Ashley turned around and raised the back off her sundress as she began to sit down. Victor was guiding his member as Ashley continued to lower herself. Victor moaned and Ashley hissed as he entered her. Over the next eight hours Victor and Ashley repeated this process in Arkansas and Louisiana. There was no wall in Arkansas so they opened the passenger’s back and front doors. Ashley with a floor mat from the car on the rough asphalt got to her knees. Her upper body was resting in the car seat as Victor took her from behind. When the two reached Louisiana they were on a two lane with no emergency shoulder. Victor set the cruise control, then pushed the seat all the way back. Ashley facing the windshield crawled over in Victors lap. Once they made sure she could reach the brake pedal Ashely grabbed the steering wheel tight as Victor penetrated her. The car was filled with moans as they drove down the road at a steady fifty five miles an hour. When one or the other were not napping after the switch from driver to passenger, they were having productive conversation in between the playful stops. The only glitch in the night were the two speeding tickets Victor received. The first was before they had made it out of Oklahoma after the first sexual encounter. The second in Arkansas, that stop was a close call for Ashley. She was pleasing herself after the quickie on the expressway as Victor drove and watched. The faster Ashley’s fingers moved the faster Victor drove. She was almost there where the flashing lights and siren of the state trooper’s squad car filled the interior of the BMW. Ashley managed to get off and get her dress back on before the trooper got to the window. Neither of the two were convinced the trooper didn’t get an eye full. Midnight was almost three hours in their rearview mirror. Ashley was sleeping as Victor slowed the car as he was crossing over a stone tunnel. The area below the overpass was glowing with many colors. The lights appeared to be coming from neon lights. “Ash, wake up,” Victor said as he nudged her arm. “What is it Vic, my time to drive.” She said as she began to stretch. “No not yet, can you tell me what is causing that glow,” He inquired as he stopped the car and pointed. “That’s an old train dining car. This over pass spans an old train tunnel, the tracks have been long removed. They turned that car into a diner for…” Ashley leaned back over and was rubbing her eyes as a gasp

escaped her lips. Fuck I can’t believe I forgot the date. The sad part grandma reminded me of it. We got to get back to the hotel. The question is how do I get Vic to do that. She leaned down and removed her dress from the floorboard and was putting it on as she said. “Vic we have traveled passed the halfway point. The hotel is back the other way about thirty miles. We need to go there and check in. We’ll come by the diner tomorrow.” “Why we only got about three more hours of driving?” Victor inquired as he placed the car in drive. “We have had so much sex tonight we need showers and some sleep. I know we have been napping but we need some good shut eye in a bed. I think it’s too late to be on these back roads.” The road became curvy as it began to descend from the ridge the tunnel was bored through. After fifteen minutes of turning left then right and back left the road straightened out. The diner with its neon lights came into full view. “That has to be the coolest diner I have ever seen. Look at that it is sitting on an old set of tracks. We have worked up an appetite, what do you say we stop and grab a bite?” With her arms crossed and staring out the passenger window tears started flowing down her checks as Ashley answered. “I would rather not. Please make a U-turn and let’s get to the hotel.” “Look sorry about the tickets, I’ll handle them when we return home and see if there is something I can do to keep them off my record.” Victor said as the diner was getting closer. Ashley reached over to the center dashboard and turned the radio down as she said. “Vic it’s not about the tickets. This is something that is bigger than the both of us.” “Ash why are you crying and shaking.” Victor inquired. “I have got us in a mess by not keeping up with the time.” She whimpered. “Now I am confused. When we left you said we didn’t need to worry about time.” Victor said his brow furrowed. “I know what I said but now I realized I was wrong. I really don’t know what to say or how to explain it. Please turn around, I’m feeling sick.” Ashley said while wiping her face with the back of her hand. “We have discussed a lot and made great progress in our relationship. Let’s talk about this now, before it becomes a bigger issue. I have seen you upset but this is more than that.” Victor said. Ashley turned to Victor as the gravel began crunching under the tires of the car and said. “Why are you pulling in? I told you I didn’t want to eat here. Look there is not one car in the parking lot. That is a sure sign of that the food sucks.” “Ah come on, let’s at least get a cup of coffee and sandwich while we discuss what’s bothering you. Plus you’re getting sick because we haven’t eaten in eight hours. After that if you feel like it, you can take over driving since you know where we are. You can also

make the call whether we continue on or head to the hotel.” Victor said as he placed the car in park. Ashly was unbuckling her seatbelt while staring at the clock in the car. “Tell you what, you run in and grab two cups of coffee and a couple of sandwich’s to go. That will give you a chance to stretch your legs. I’ll walk around out here and do the same and be behind the wheel when you return.” “Why get the food to go?” Victor inquired. “Like you said, I know where we are, we must get back across the train tunnel or the tracks heading to grandma’s house before the Spirit Train comes through. We will never make the crossing before it is blocked. The fastest route out of here is over the tunnel. ” Ashley said as she exited the car and began stretching looking up at the full moon. Victor with his crossed arms laying on top of the car said. “Don’t start that voodoo talk now that were are back in the Bayou. I take it we have a train coming through at what time?” “Damn it Vic it’s not voodoo, just trust me for once. The train is called the Spirit Train for a reason and today is a special day. Run in and get the sandwiches and coffee, get back out here so we can get the hell out of here.” Ashley snapped. “I do trust you Ash, but you didn’t tell me what time the train comes through.” “At three am, the peak of the witching hour.” Ashley stated then let out a sigh. “I thought this had nothing to do with voodoo.” Victor said with a smirk. “Vic, please, do as I ask.” Ashley pleaded. “I take it this train has a lot of cars, so it takes sometime to pass, or maybe stops to switch tracks and blocks the crossing for an hour or so. We counter that by eating inside and hang out till four, then depart. Problem solved.” “No Vic, you don’t understand and we are wasting time.” Ashley shouted as she was tapping her watch then added. “I’ll be pulling out of here no later than two forty five…with or without you. That way I can be safely across the overpass with time to spare.” “Whatever Ashley. Let me ask you a question. If you are so scared of this Spirit Train why didn’t we come through Texas as I suggested?” Ashley was crying and stomping her feet as she was yelling at Victor. “Once again Vic, we are wasting valuable time. It doesn’t matter if we traveled through Texas or Arkansas. Both routes would have lead us here. There is only one way to grandmas and that is coming through the dead zone, then crossing the tracks in to voodoo country. Please hurry.” Ashley pleaded. Victor threw up his arms as he was heading to the diner as Ashley jogged around to the driver’s side. Before getting in she continued jogging in place keeping her eye on the time. With only a couple of minutes left before she wanted to depart she got in the car. With her seat belt buckled and the car running she checked the time and shouted. “Damn it Vic, I don’t want to leave you…but I don’t want to die either.” She

placed the car in drive and began turning around. She was about to pull out on the road as she spotted Victor in the rear view mirror, waving one hand and shouting. Ashley slammed the car to reverse and began speeding toward him. With the brakes being applied hard the car began skidding on the gravel from the parking lot, coming to a stop just short of Victor. He flung the door open and got in. His head slammed back against the head rest as Ashley tried to drive the accelerator pedal through the floor. With tires squealing and gravel flying she left the parking lot with Victor screaming. “Fuck Ash, you almost run me down and now are driving like a maniac. You are scared shitless, what in the hell is going on.” “We got to move Vic, ain’t got time to diddle ass around.” Ashley said as the BMW speedometer was registering ninety and still climbing. “Slow down there is no way you can take those curves at this high rate of speed.” Victor said as he was placing the coffee in the cup holders. With the java in place he began removing the sandwiches as he said. “Ash that was the coldest diner I have ever been in. The people were awful pale and sickly looking almost like…” “Like they were dead.” Ashley said as she backed off the accelerator. “Yeah, like the zombies we see in the movies. Anyway tell me more about this Spirit Train. The staff fell silent and rushed the order through…” “Let me guess when you mentioned you were trying to beat the spirit train. They gave you the food free and wished you luck and hoped they never saw you again.” “Yep how did you know that?” Victor said as he was staring at Ashley in disbelief. “Leave my sandwich in the bag I’ll eat it after we get out of the dead zone.” Ashley said staring at the road in front of her. “Will do,” Victor said as he placed the bag with her sandwich in the floorboard. “Now tell me why this is called the dead zone, how you knew what went on in the diner and about this Spirit Train” “Explaining the train will answer all those questions. The Spirit Train is just that. The cars are being pulled by engine number 7. It carries the spirits of the dead to judgment day. You can see those spirits swirling around in the passenger cars as they pass.” Ashley paused as she turned the radio back up, nothing was heard but static. Pointing at the radio she said. “That’s the reason this is called the dead zone. This is where the dead are transported to and from. As you hear you can’t get a radio signal and we have satellite radio. Check your phone if you don’t believe me.” After taking a bite of his sandwich Victor picked up his phone from the center console and looked at it. “I will be damned, you are right.” Victor said. “If I don’t get us out of here by three thirty am we both will be damned. Like those in the diner.” She picked up her coffee took a sip and placed it back just before going into the first curve. She began to ex-

plain the special events that happened every year at this time. “The Spirit Train pulls engine number 666, the Grim Reaper Express through here once a year. The Spirit Train doesn’t stop at the crossing except on October thirty-first at three am. Once the train stops the passage to voodoo country is blocked. Engine number 666 then disconnects from the rear of the train and travels to the diner car. The dead people in the diner are those damned to hell. That hook up takes place at three thirty sharp.” “Honey I hate to tell you this but you are a day early. Today is the thirtieth of October not the thirty-first.” “That is where I screwed up also. Once I saw the Dining car I realized we left on the thirtieth, after midnight the calendar flipped to the thirty-first.” “Ok so we forgot that small detail. Do you really believe all this voodoo bullshit?” Vic said after swallowing the last bite of his sandwich. “Vic you need to take me serious, your life depends on it.” Ashley shouted then in a calmer voice said. “That’s the reason the waitress at the diner never waited to see you again. They all are hopping you beat death and not suffer the faith they are. Any man, woman, or child in the dead zone when the Grim Reaper arrives dies. “So that’s why we got to be out of here by three thirty am.” “Yes do you believe now?” “Nope and I’m beginning to think my mom was right. I should have never married you as your family is a bunch of devil worshiping Cajun heathens.” Victor barked. “I can’t believe you said that after the night we have had.” Ashley said as tears were streaming from her eyes. Through her sobs she said. “You would rather die, trying to prove me wrong.” “They only way for you to see that all the bullshit your grandmother has been feeding you since you were a child is a pack of lies from the devil is to face it. You would rather tell me that I am wrong instead of proving it.” “If I prove it, you will die.” Ashley said as the tires were squealing as the curves were becoming sharper. “Ash, you use that excuse as a way out of proving it. You don’t want to admit that your devil worshiping Cajun heathen grandma is off her rocker. The only way to prove who is right is to return to the diner. We shall fight the zombies and wait on the grim reaper together.” Ashley pulled up the emergency break as she spun the wheel. She released the brake and floored the gas pedal. The tires were squealing, the smoke bellowing in the air as Ashley was spinning the car around. “I hope my grandma has a few more favors left, if not you just sealed your fate.” She hollered at Victor as she sped back toward the dinner. Ashley slid the BMW to a stop at the diner door. She sprang from the car, rushing for the diner door. Victor was close behind and entered through the door Ashley was holding open. “Hey my lawyer will be contacting you about the divorce.” Victor said.

“Afraid not,” Ashley said. She followed Victor in and took a seat at the first stool of the counter. She removed a glazed donut from the covered pastry stand in front of her. The occupants of the diner stopped all motion and stared into space as a lonely and faint train whistle cut the night air. Ashley turned to Victor and wiped her mouth with a napkin then said. “Sounds like the Spirit Train is only five minutes away.” Victor twisted his head and was looking at the clock above the cash register, it was eight till three. He looked at Ashley and said. “I’m about to prove you are wrong.” “Maybe, we will have to see. I may be collecting your insurance money once they find your body with a severed head at the Spirit Train crossing.” Ashley said with a smile then took another bite of the donut as a waitress was pouring her a cup of coffee. “Explain this to me. My car is the only one in the lot. How did all these people get here? I’m betting there are more now than when we were here ten minutes ago.” Victor began looking around the room. His eyes got big as he started backing toward the door.” See I was right, I hope we don’t have to fight these zombies.” Ashley said as the waitress placed the pot back on the maker. That waitress along with the cook came from behind the counter. The cook was wielding a butcher knife and leading the pack, the waitress and the customers who were not there before fell in behind the cook and began slowly approaching Victor. “Get away from me you coon-asses,” Victor hollered as he was picking up a metal napkin holder. He hurled it striking the waitress in the shoulder. With a pop her arm flew off, hitting the customer behind her. The progress of the waitress toward Victor never changed or the blank expression she had on her face. The customer behind her was now spinning the severed arm over his head while he continued to march. As he got closer he threw the arm at Victor hitting him in the face. Victor stumbling backwards spotted a cup of coffee that was still steaming. Once he regained his balance he pick it up and dashed it in the cooks face. The cook never screamed as the coffee ran from his face so did his skin. Victor dropped to the floor and with a sweeping kick tried to take the knife bearing cook off his feet. A snap echoed as the cook’s upper body separated from the lower, at the waist. Two thuds echoed through the diner as both sections hit the floor. The cook continued swinging the knife at Victor with one hand while using the other to pull himself across the floor. Victor shouted, “Ash you are right I believe you - get us out of here.” The diner began to shake as the squealing of the train coming to a halt reached the ears of Victor. He looked up at the clock that displayed three o’clock. “You came to that conclusion a little late Vic.” Ashley said. The zombies stopped moving and those that were still standing fell to the ground. Their spirits rose and began swirling through the diner. Victor made a dash for the door. He was sliding to a stop as a tall skeleton figure wearing a black hooded robe glided through

the door on a cloud of mist. The figure had burning red eyes and carried a scythe in his right hand. “Back up Victor and let Mister Grim Reaper in.” Victor didn’t respond as he lost consciousness and fell to the floor. Grim Reaper was floating over him as his red eyes were fixed on Ashley. The hooded figure gave a nod and in a voice that rolled like thunder across the sky spoke. “You grandma is worried about you. She figured your husband here was going to be trouble. Shall I spare him?” “Only if he remembers this night and that the dead zone exists. He needs to start respecting its purpose in moving spirits from one realm to the next. I would also like for him to understand the roll my grandma plays in keeping the balance in the dead zone. But that may be asking for too much. I would also like an apology however for the names he called her.” “I shall consider your wishes.” Grim Reaper stated as Victor was coming around, fighting to get to his feet. Grim Reaper reached down and lifted Victor to his eye level then released him. Victor was suspended in air, his feet dangling above the floor as Grim Reaper spoke. “Ashley you know about the diner, train, and engine 666 along with the time frame. If you get caught in the ...” “Yes sir, I understand you can’t guarantee my safety as I will be trapped in between realms.” “Your grandma taught you well.” The voice rumbled. “I’ll let her know you approve sir.” Ashley said as she was walking toward the door. With a smile on her face she paused in front of Victor. “Don’t worry, I’ll fly your body back home for a funeral then collect the insurance money. That’s how this marriage will end. After that I will keep my voodoo Cajun heathen ass that you like fucking so much tonight on my side of the tracks.” Ashley began laughing as she began walking to the door. “No Ashley don’t leave me. You were right and I was wrong.” Victor whimpered. Ashley didn’t stop walking as she said. “Vic although I feel somewhat responsible for this we can’t turn the hands of the clock back. We can’t change the natural order and timing of life and death. The moving of spirits must run on schedule, not waiting on anyone.” Victor’s eyes became wide, his forehead pouring sweat as the sharp edge of the scythe pressed against his throat. Victor with tears in his eyes was frozen as he was watching Ashley walk out the door. “Ashley please come back. I’m sorry about what I said about you and your family. I now believe. Please come back and get me.” Victor pleaded. Once she was in the car the Grim reapers eyes began glowing brighter. Victor began hollering for Ashley once again as Grim Reaper raised his left hand and sentenced Victor to death. A plop was heard as Victor’s head hit the floor, then a thud followed as so did Victors body. Ashley with tears in her eyes was maneuvering the BMW around the curves at sixty plus miles an hour with one eye on the road and the other on the clock. She

was half way up the incline with only eight minutes left to clear the zone. Ashley knew if she was going to make it she must drive faster. She pressed down on the accelerator. When the needle was hovering around eighty, she held it there. Ashley checked the clock she had six minutes left. The car was kicking up gravel as Ashley took the next two corners, but she managed to keep control of the car. “I need more speed,” she shout as she once again eased down on the gas pedal. The needle jumped to ninety plus as she went in to the turn. The car wobbled coming out of the corner and entered the next turn, the last one. Coming out of the corner the car began fish tailing then spinning around in the road. She was fighting to get the car under control before running it in a ditch or worse down the embankment. Her hands were sweating and her heart felt like it was coming out of her chest as the car came to a rest, pointed in the wrong direction. She glanced at the clock, three minutes to get the car turned and across the over bridge. The tires were smoking as she spun the car around. Ashley was

lined up like a plane ready to take off. She slammed her foot down, lighting up the tires again. The car shot forward and reached sixty in no time. She was headed across the train tunnel as the smoke from engine number 666 was rising from underneath it. She looked down it was three twenty eight as she reached the other side. She slid the car to a stop. Hopping out she dashed to the rear of the car, making sure no part of her body entered the dead zone. She was in tears and shaking while staring down at the diner. A loud clank rose from the area. The diner lunged back as engine 666 coupled with it. The whistle of the Grim Reaper Express pierced the night air at three thirty sharp. The train began to move forward. The neon signs of the diner that caught Victor’s eyes flickered several times then went dark. The smoke from the engine engulfed the diner as the train entered the tunnel, but never exited the other side.

Happy Halloween

A Word from the Founder Hello everyone and thank you all for reading the Halloween Edition of The Corral. This Halloween edition is a special edition in two ways. This is the first edition of the magazine and it is the first holiday edition. We issued a sample edition to test the waters so to speak. The data from that edition has been analyzed. The readership numbers for that edition of The Corral was not as high as I would like them to have been. However those numbers are not disappointing by no means. What is disappointing is the lack of participation from the independent writing community. The Corral was not designed to gain exposure for the staff of The Corral. The Corral’s goal for each issue of the magazine is for the pages of the online magazine to be filled with the writings of Independent authors/writers. That is not happening at this time. The Corral was developed for the independent writer. The online magazine features poems, short stories and flash fiction writings of the independent author. Unlike other online and print magazines which only focus on one genre, The Corral accepts and publishes all genres including Erotica. The books we review are written by independent authors. We interview independent authors, feature them in an author’s spotlight, and list the works of independent

authors in what we call Books from the Barn. I can understand if the lack of participation was because The Corral charged a fee for these services, but we don’t it’s all free. We had an independent photographer scheduled to be featured in the winter edition due out in January 2020. I moved that feature to this edition as I’m not sure there will be a winter edition. We are getting more requests from independent musicians, photographers, and artists than we are independent writers. Maybe we should change our focus to that group of independents instead of focusing on the writer. I will evaluate the numbers for this publication in December and see where we are on submissions. I will make a decision then if we move forward, hang it up or refocus our attention. I urge all independent writers of any skill level to visit our website, https://thunderhorsecorral.com/ and enter a contest and/or make a submission. Inquire about being featured in a spotlight, have your book reviewed and/or have the book featured in the Books from the Barn feature. Joseph Clay Founder

Happy Halloween From The Whole Gang At The Corral

Profile for The Corral

The Corral - Online Magazine Issue: 1 Edition: Halloween 2019