“Windows to the Soul” by Ancel K. Houchen
“…There were paintings along the walls, all oddly similar, but Lucille noticed that none of them appeared to have been painted by the same artist. They each represented a broad array of unique styles and methods of visual expression. Some were brilliantly colored with heavy, primitive brush strokes, others were drawn with intricate detail, and there was one minimalist black and white etching that Lucille found striking, but as varied as the paintings were, they all shared a few common and eerie, traits.
Other than the occasional tree or plant in the background there was not one living creature in the painting, human or otherwise. The scenes depicted empty streets, vacant landscapes or long empty hallways. All of the artists were experts in the technique of perspective. They seemed to use the same basic template of parallel lines that met and disappeared at some point in the distance. The images radiated isolation and loneliness but something else too.
Looking at them reminded Lucille of the trick directors used to create tension in movies. They would film a scene of an actor, standing off center of the camera frame, looking in a mirror or standing alone in a room with their back to an empty doorway. It would create an empty space just over the actor’s shoulder. The paintings worked the same way. They were scenes of empty moments waiting for something to happen or for someone to show up to fill in the space, and it was almost always something startling and terrible…”
“The Screaming Hare” by C. A. Griffin
“…I looked over my shoulder, but didn’t see where the hunter had gone and stopped to lean against a trunk of a pine tree. Holding my breath I tried to hear his progress. All I heard was the thundering of my own heart. I continued to look for any sign of him. I knew he was out there. That damned camouflage gear was working like an invisible cloak. I tried to look for flashes of orange from his vest, but saw nothing.
After what seemed like an hour had passed, my heart rate had slowed down a bit, but I still had that ache in my chest and tightness in my legs that let me know I wasn’t going to be continuing at this pace too much longer. Peering around the tree trunk, I still couldn’t see him. I kneeled down and surveyed my surroundings trying to get my bearings. I was near the big rock break; a part of the woods that had a quite a bit of broken rock formations that was close to the outer wood fence. There was less than a quarter of a mile to go. But given the way I was feeling at this point, two inches seemed like too damn far. I had no other choice, without a weapon and no way to call for help I had to run for it.
I got about twenty feet when a shot rang out and my right shoulder burst into hot searing pain. I stumbled forward, working desperately to keep my balance. I tripped over rock debris and nearly fell on my face. The pain was so great it made me nauseous and brought me to my knees. Grabbing my arm and opened my mouth to scream. My arm was a white hot limb of burning pain; the arm of my t-shirt was already soaked with my blood. A shadow emerged next to mine and I knew without having to look up that the hunter had found me…”
“The Bus Stop” by C. A. Griffin
“…The cat had just picked up what had to be a chicken bone (but what actually appeared to be a finger – with sparkly fingernail polish) in its mouth and was limping off with it when something in the darkness caught its attention and it came to an abrupt halt. Hissing…Carlin heard hissing and whatever was hissing sounded massive and was directly behind him. He looked over his shoulder and saw that the rat’s pair of yellow eyes, which previously was no more than a few inches from ground level, had now risen to about a foot in height. The oily black void behind the rat seemed to shift and move as if it were alive, simultaneously revealing and hiding the rat all at the same time.
The massive rat creature emerged from the black void and stepped into the outer perimeter of light from the street lamp where Carlin had now backed up. The hissing sound came again and with it, a flash of what seemed like hundreds of pointy sharp looking teeth. The grotesque thing crept forward and started stalking the cat; its sharp claws scraping against the tarred street. The rat’s ears were flattened against its skull and a long vomit pink tail trailed behind it in its wake.
This time Carlin’s knees did buckle and he scuttled back away as far as he could until he was ensconced in the corner of the bus stop shelter. The distant sound of brakes made Carlin look up to see that a bus was approaching, it was about six blocks away and moving at a snail’s pace but it was coming. He so desperately wanted to run down the street to meet the bus but the cat and the rat were circling each other now and were directly in his way.
All he could do was sit back and watch the maniacal scene play out in front of him and pray that they would attack each other and not him…”