Each time that Sirens Call Publications releases an anthology, we like to delve a little into the minds of the authors whose stories appear between the covers just to find out why that particular story line came to them. In Between the Cracks, twelve fantastic stories appear and each of the authors was asked to write a post sharing their inspiration for it. Seven authors answered the call… Next up is E. F. Schraeder, author of Something in the Water…
What’s in the Water?
Could be if you drove down this street you’d never notice anything wrong. You’d barely notice anything at all. With the windows rolled up in the car, it’s like any one of a million streets in the U.S. You’d never notice anything but the lush green lawns cut at identical lengths, perfectly edged sidewalks, and the great big SUVs and sedans parked in pairs in the cement driveways. Blink and you’d easily miss the welcome mats and flags set outside for the seamless accents and oddly similar personal touches.
Maybe you’d miss that one beautiful monarch butterfly moving across the backyards of this simple suburban street, flitting from purple coneflowers to a clump of yellow black-eyed susans, but I saw him. The lawn mowers are buzzing and the scent of fresh cut grass fills the air. And then another scent comes, pungent. Acidic. Chemical. You’d feel it burn in your nostrils and throat if you breathed it too long.
You’d perhaps see, as I did, children running across a row of bright green front yards, laughing. Jumping across neatly pruned hedges, crushing flowers beneath their feet. The laughter pauses, then their voices pitch, yelling. The game they play seems less and less like tag, more and more like pushing and shoving. Then the screaming. A cacophony of noise erupts from all directions. Whether they are injured or angry is hard to tell, but they’re definitely cruel.
There is a house that looks empty. Foreclosed. The leftovers of the real estate bubble wreckage from Adjustable Rate Mortgage loans that crushed people out of their homes. Look closer, you’ll see a man in one yard gripping a hose with heavy black rubber gloves, spraying an unnaturally demonic blue fertilizer. Beside him in the next postage stamp plot another man rattles a cart of pesticides across the lawn. The smell is easily overpowering if you linger, but you don’t. Two people talk across their driveways, comparing cars like old ranchers sizing up the competition. Are they happy? In their eyes you can almost see glimpses of petty-minded rivalry. You close the window and drive away.
Creepy abandoned houses replete with cobwebs and ghosts, cemeteries and mausoleums, asylums are wonderful settings that conjure up delightful terrors, to be sure. But what of the places where the surface seems smooth and cool? Places like the placid streets and sidewalks of a neighborhood, while the bastion of conformity bursts with unseen pressures, an evil lurking just beneath the veneer.
The suburbs. What could be more frightening than living in close quarters with people obsessed with pretense, themselves, and the next new thing? Pick a row of cookie cutter houses and peek into the chaos of judgmental, nosy neighbors, perfect lawns, and locked doors. Then dare to wonder what happens behind those closed doors and curtains. What if the poisons poured onto the earth are doing more than greening the lawn and feeding the flowers? What’s in that water, anyway? You may want to ignore it, just keep driving. Don’t think about it too long. Maybe you missed the street, or maybe it’s quite familiar. Hell, it’s like any one of a million streets anywhere in the U.S. See that house with the moving truck parked in the driveway? Take a moment to meet the new neighbor…
ABOUT THE AUTHOR – Schraeder’s creative work has appeared in journals including Voluted Tales, Corvus Magazine, Haz Mat Review, Dark Gothic Resurrected, Sirens Call Publications, Clare Literary Review, Lavender Review, and others. Schraeder’s work is also included in these anthologies: Carnival of the Damned, The Kennedy Curse, Kicked Out, and Between the Cracks. Schraeder studied literature and philosophy in graduate school and is author of a poetry chapbook, The Hunger Tree.
And here’s a little information about Between the Cracks…
A crack, a split, a rend, a tear – all of these fissures open up a new world for us to gaze upon. But what if the things we see aren’t friendly? What if the things that spill from beyond are dangerous and unwilling to be contained? What if evil lurks just below the surface waiting for its chance to strike?
In this collection of diverse and multi-faceted tales, you’ll find a computer program twisted into a nefarious tool, elves who are more than mischievous, a Creole House where those who dare to cheat fate meet with an unsavory end, and something evil lurking within the water. Are you brave enough to look Between the Cracks? There is only one way to find out…
Between the Cracks is available on:
And now for an excerpt from Something in the Water…
The truck beeped as Cory backed into the sloped drive, head hung out the window to navigate. “Shit.” The word stung the silence of the otherwise quiet suburban street. She bit her lip when she noticed a blonde man poking his head out of a front door. Watching.
The truck bumped over the stone driveway edging and onto the blonde neighbor’s grass. Cory waved apologetically. Then she pulled forward and backed up a second time, straightening the wheels. Blondie stepped onto his small porch and settled into a green plastic lawn chair as Cory hopped out of the yellow truck.
“Moving in?” Blondie asked. He pushed his hands through the thick mop of luscious hair.
Cory forced a smile. Duh. Then replied, “Yep.” Cory hoped he wasn’t going to be the kind of neighbor who liked to talk. Especially when she was obviously busy.
He stepped off the porch onto the green stairs, dangling a slippered foot over the edge of the last step.
“Alone?” he asked, adding, “I’m Tom.” He held out a soft, tanned hand that briefly hovered in the air.
Cory noticed it looked plump and smooth. The kind of hand that had probably never seen the business end of a wrench. A huge cardboard box pressed awkwardly to her chest. Tom’s hand dropped, and he watched Cory fumble with the door one handed. He smiled, but made no venture to assist with the door. He smacked his wrist and frowned as something bit him.
“I’m Cory.” She sighed, heaving the door open with her shoulder then held open the screen door with her foot as she glanced back toward her neighbor. “Nice to meet you,” she added. The door creaked shut behind her. She set down the first box in the hallway and saw Tom leaning over his porch, peering at her door like a hawk looking for a mouse.
Cory closed the storm door, blocking Tom’s view. She forced a deep breath and eyed the pale, cream hued walls of her empty kitchen. “I should stop assuming the worst before I get to know someone. This is a new start.” She walked back outside.
“How long have you lived here?” she asked Tom.
“Forever, feels like.” Tom set down his newspaper and looked at Cory. “Raised five kids here. Some of ’em older than you, I bet. You married?” Tom peered into her moving van.
She ignored his question. “Wow, five kids. I can’t imagine. You don’t look old enough to have kids my age!” Cory grinned. How Dick Clark. Hope that anti-aging formula is in the water.
Tom smiled. “You don’t look old enough to be buying a house,” he paused, sucking the inside of his cheek, then added, “alone.”
Cory wrinkled her face in a question, half flattered, half aware he was judging. Cory quickly turned back to the truck.
Tom switched subjects. “We’ve got a great family neighborhood. We look out for each other.”
Tune in tomorrow when we’ll hear from Deb Eskie!