Invoking Reader Interest

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: True Confessions  |  House: Booksie Classic
They are drawn to your deepest secrets....

Submitted: May 30, 2019

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Submitted: May 30, 2019



In story writing, some good ways to create tension in order to make readers want to keep reading so they can know what comes after are tempting them with taboo subjects such as rebellion against established customary norms involving social etiquette, personal hygiene, mating practices, traditional family loyalties, and even religious faith.

As a technique of demonstrating by example, I now present to you a heartrending gut-wrenching chapter from the occult pages of the shocking mentally disturbing bestselling novel Bloodstone and Broomcorn: Curse of the W.I.T.C.H.

Broome had no idea what time it was when he woke. It was very dark in his room. Though he couldn’t exactly say why, he had a worrisome feeling that he had not roused from deep sleep on his own. Something had awakened him, he was sure of it. He detected a faint and very foul odor of rotting putrefaction. He heard a slight sound from somewhere in the darkness. Something was in the room with him. He listened intently, muscles taught, ears straining. Silence. He had almost convinced himself that his mind was playing tricks. He was about to rise from the mattress to turn on a light when he heard it again. Something heavy was dragging itself across the floor and it was moving in his direction. He could hear it breathing. Broome was frozen, paralyzed with fear. When he felt the awful thing jerking on his top blanket crawling up at the foot of his bed, the terror that gripped his panicked mind and ripped his sanity to shreds was beyond all description. His heart was racing at a pace which it could not possibly sustain for very long; it would burst in his chest, he would die of a coronary before the thing in the darkness executed some unthinkable atrocity.

Broome felt slime underneath his shirt. Bile rose in the back of his throat. His brain was burning, screaming and shrieking for him to run, but Broome’s trembling limbs were totally immobilized with wave upon deepening wave of debilitating dread. A sound like teeth clicking was near his left ear. The putrid odor was unbearable. Claws lightly scraped across the slimy place on his stomach. Broome’s conscious mind betrayed him. His cogency snapped like a dried twig. He swooned, fell faint, and lapsed into a comatose state of profound unconsciousness.

Sometime later, he had no idea how long, he woke again. Had it all been a bad dream? Had he suffered the most ghastly and horrifyingly realistic nightmare of his life? Moving his hands slowly and carefully, he inspected himself to find out if he was unharmed. He discovered that his shirt was pulled all the way up to his armpits and that the buckle of his belt, though still clasped in place, was covered with an appalling slimy ooze. It had not been a dream. There had been something in his room and whatever it was had done something to him. What had been done to him while he lay totally helpless in unconsciousness? Steroid hormones pumped into his bloodstream from endocrine system glands, causing a tightening sensation in his chest.

There was a scratching sound in the wainscoting. What was in the wall, rats? The scratching stopped. A plank of wood creaked in the corridor outside Broome’s room. He heard the squeaking sound of a rusty wheel as it wobbled by just outside his door. The squeaking sound faded, then a door closed somewhere nearby. Broome thought he heard voices coming from the wall. There must be someone talking in one of the rooms next to his. He sat alone in the shadows of his room orienting his position. Room 13. If he had his bearings aright, the voices were coming from room 13.

Broome listened again, his ears straining to the point of faintly ringing, but the sound of muffled voices faded in and out. A vague, pale green light seemed to float in his room. He couldn’t make out the source of the strange light, but it was enough for him to see where the wall was at the head of his bed. Stealthily, he moved to the wall, pressed his ear against it, and listened intently. A moment of silence, then he heard it again. Voices speaking hurriedly as though some urgent, secretive business were being hashed out. Broome couldn’t make out what they were saying. Then the voices grew somewhat louder whence he could discern syllables and inflections.

Broome pushed his ear hard against the wall. It was of no use. He still could not understand what the voices were so frantically discussing. The rushed confabulation of weird voices was confused and erratic. Broome focused his attention, yet it was difficult at first to make sense of the gibberish. Were they speaking a foreign tongue? That must be it. Whoever was in that other room must be from overseas. They were undoubtedly speaking in the convoluted dialect of an exotic foreign language which Broome could not understand. A feeling of frustration instantly consumed him. Then he heard it. He distinctly heard the word ‘witch’.

This excited the journalist in Broome, and it threw fuel on the flames of his quest for the paranormal. His curiosity was at a thrilling peak. He flicked on the bedside lamp, grabbed his Moleskine notebook from his suitcase, slid the elastic band aside, and opened to a blank page. He clicked the button on his ball-point pen and listened in tingling anticipation.

He thought he heard the word ‘muss’. That didn’t make any sense. What was he listening to, English or a cryptic foreign tongue? His brain wrestled in an attempt to make sense of the confusing gibberish. The slime, which had been emanating the pale green glow, had soaked into Broome’s skin. In his excitement to decipher the muffled whispers seeping through the wall, he had forgotten about the slime which had disappeared from the surface of his skin by seeping into his pores. Broome didn’t realize that the voices weren’t coming through the wall, they were in his head. His mind was roused to immediate action. He had definitely heard what sounded like another English word, ‘muss’. He heard it again.

Muss? Mess? Must? That was it! Must! He had heard the word ‘must’. He wrote the word in his notebook, then pressed his ear back against the wall. The voices were hurried and frantic, but he was beginning to make out snatches of the conversation. The next word he understood from the jumbled chatter was ‘human’. Then ‘embryo’. Then ‘ours’… ‘won’t last’… ‘this side’… ‘salt water’... ‘52’. The muttering continued for a few more minutes, but Broome was unable to discern any further words. Dead silence ensued. Broome listened, but heard nothing. He resigned himself to the fact that the voices had stopped for now. Sitting on the edge of his bed, he reviewed the cryptic collection of words he had gleaned from the eerie voices emanating from the room next door.

Broome could make no sense of it. The words were too random to suggest meaning to his tired mind. He was getting sleepy again. He placed his notebook on the bedside table. He went into the bathroom, showered while wondering why there was no mirror. He dried with a large, fluffy towel, then crawled under the sheet, blanket, quilt, and comforter of the snugly soft bed. Suddenly, Broome’s room was very cold and he was glad for all the thick, heavy bed coverings. The clock on his cell phone wasn’t working. For some reason, the device wouldn’t even turn on. The time, he reckoned, must be in the small hours of the night. He was still very tired from his trip to the island. He didn’t care if he slept till noon. As he dozed off, the scratching sound in the wall started again.

All the guests of Avgrunnen Arms were tossing and turning in their sleep. They were having nightmares about hideous, mutant creatures crawling up out of a bottomless pit of green slime. Rapid Eye Movement cycles were persistently prevalent that long, dark night at the old seaside inn. Alpha waves and Beta waves vied for control of tortured minds. Skin surfaces flushed. Bed covers were kicked to the floor. Incoherent whines and moans issued from half numbed vocal chords. Agonizing brains trapped in the stupor of unrelenting nightmare-plagued slumber strained for consciousness as an escape, but consciousness was denied by an overriding spectral force. The face of a wretched hag reigned supreme over the rooftop of the weather-beaten inn. The most horrifying aspect of the terrifying night visions was the fact that each dreaming person felt a strange kinship with the ghastly freaks that one after the other dragged themselves up out of the glowing green goo. The guests of Avgrunnen Arms felt an inexplicable connection with the revolting, sleep-spawned beasts. This depraved sympathy toward grotesque ghouls of unknown origin was what most turned the churning stomachs of the tormented dreamers.

The gloom of dawn came extremely early. It didn’t seem like morning. The sky was chalky gray and lowering; the sea mist thick and heavy and drifting across the island in roiling masses of humid obscura. The Gothic inn, wrapped deeply in the mysterious fog, was stone still, silent, menacing. Broome’s sleep was restless. His mind was antagonized by horrific visions of earthly apocalypse. People were running and screaming in an endless night. They clawed out their own eyes. He saw the gaping dark orifices of their bloody sockets. He saw flesh falling from bones. Then he saw wave after wave of gruesome, green, freakish, scale-covered creatures with spikes on their backs, blood-red gills on their necks, and webbing between their deformed, claw-like digits crawling from the sea and roaming wildly across the land. An ichthyologist would have classified these gargoyle fiends as a new form a marine life, but to Broome they were monsters. The hideous chimeras were humanoid - stalking and lurching with a slouching, bipedal motion. As his nightmare hammered upon his brain with merciless fury, Broome’s respiration was quick and shallow. His pulse raced. He tossed and turned and kicked the quilt, the comforter, the blanket, and the sheet off the bed onto the floor, finally waking with a violent shriek.

The eerie light of the gloomy dawn crept its way in around the edges of the heavily draped dormer windows. Sleep was not a luxury he was destined to enjoy in spite of the sumptuously soft feather bed. Wearily he swung his feet to the floor. The plush pile rug enticed his toes. He rubbed and slid his feet around and around on the silky, luxurious fibers to activate his senses to full wakefulness. Suddenly, the thought of Dr. Steadman appeared in his mind. He rushed through his morning toilet, dressed hurriedly, realized he had forgotten to brush his teeth, returned to the bathroom, cleansed his pearly whites, then stepped out into the hallway turning the big tarnished skeleton key in the old-fashioned lock when he had closed the door behind him. Quietly, he made his way downstairs and through the lobby. Everyone else must still be sleeping, thought Broome as he noted that not even the bellhop or the innkeeper were anywhere to be seen. The place was as silent as a tomb.

Broome dreaded walking through the front double doors. The egg-shaped gaps in their centers where the frosted glass had been were now crudely nailed over with mismatched pieces of scrap lumber. Broome tensely placed a flinching hand on one of the shiny brass knobs, turned it, ignored the awful creaking sound, and stepped over the threshold onto the vacant front porch. Though the shattered glass had been swept up, a stray shard or two remained as an ominous reminder of Broome’s eerie arrival at the reputedly haunted inn. Glancing to his left, he saw the swing, shaped like a wooden bench, hanging by a set of rusty chains from the exposed joists of the porch ceiling; it was motionless, but Broome had the irksome suspicion that it was occupied by something invisible to the human eye. In fact, Broome felt unseen eyes watching him from all directions. He had the unnerving impression that the front porch of Avgrunnen Arms was not as vacant as it appeared.

With concentrated caution, so as not to slip, he carefully walked down the damp, slick, creaking wooden steps and through the myriad scarlet blooms of the rose garden. There was something ominous about the rose garden in front of Avgrunnen Arms. The sun had not shone since Broome had been on the island, yet somehow those blood-red flowers were proliferating in full bloom. Granted, he had only been here since yesterday afternoon, but nonetheless, the effect was disturbing

Everything was clammy and laden with moisture droplets from all the heavy rain. The fog rolling in off of the North Atlantic drastically reduced visibility. Broome hoped he would find the doctor about whom the bellboy had talked. With his steps crunching the gravel of the parking area, Broome found his car among the others. He unlocked the door and got in. He experienced a momentary relief from the unnameable strain of this strange place when he cranked his V8 engine. The sound was reassuring. The smell and the feel of the interior of his vintage Oldsmobile offered a brief respite of security, but then his mind reverted back to the actuality of his location and the task at hand. He entertained a fleeting thought of returning immediately to the Megalopolis and the assurance of normal reality, but the mystical pull of the enigmatic island of Barrenfield and the ghostly Gothic Avgrunnen Arms was powerful and overriding. This was the type of place that he had been searching for his whole adult life. After finally finding it, there was no way he could leave without the answers he sought. He could not pass up the opportunity to finally prove conclusively, once and for all, that the paranormal really does exist.

As Broome slowly drove from the old inn, the fog thinned somewhat so that he could vaguely discern the faint outline of a short row of buildings along the far side of the harbor. Steering his ’88 along the muddy, tightly packed gravel of the narrow island lane, he retraced his route from the stormy afternoon before. At ten miles per hour he slowly rounded the gentle curve of the harbor where the lane meandered away from the water’s edge to follow its rambling course along the southern perimeter of the broad pasture of the lonely dairy farm.

The few head of Holstein and Jersey that Broome had observed upon his arrival were nowhere in sight. Perhaps they were in another pasture, or maybe they were being milked in the run-down barn. Although, who there might have been to milk the cows, Broome could only speculate because the place was entirely devoid of activity. The farmstead looked derelict, abandoned. The sprawling pasture, scrabbly, stark, and empty, stretched flatly toward the barn and a large house which sat in far away muteness. Partially obscured in a veil of mist, this bleak arrangement presented a ramshackle image, a decaying remnant of what, at some vague period of an unknown past, must have been a thriving dairy business.

Passing the barbed wire fence of the pasture, Broome came under the shadow of Dead Man’s Butte, the bulk of which was rising on his right. His tires splashing through puddles, Broome followed the narrow, rugged lane around behind the granite dome. He drove past the rickety wooden planks of the Pilgrim Bridge, glad he didn’t have to cross it again just yet. He followed the rarely traveled lane on toward the village side of the harbor. The river was on his left opposite the sheer face of the stone butte, and as he passed a clump of juniper that covered a low boulder at the riverbank, he saw the gray, weathered, rotting remains of the Barrenfield forge and the old iron master’s house. The waterwheel that once powered the trip-hammer of the forge was in shambles and it did not turn, though the swift river current swirled at its submerged base.

A 1970s Chevrolet pickup truck, much rusted around the fenders and doors, was parked at an angle by a large opening in the side of the shabby, faded board and batten wall of what remained of the building that housed the ancient forge. A gleaming stack of yellow plywood covered with brand new two-by-fours protruded from the bed of the truck. A few bundles of shingles lay near a set of sawhorses.

“Must be planning on fixing the place up,” Broome muttered to himself, “why would anybody want to sink money into such a badly rotted building? Place must be nearly two hundred years old.” Broome couldn’t resist slowing to nearly a halt for a good, long look at the strange juxtaposition of new building materials in immediate proximity of such a grim and forgotten structure. The new lumber shone brightly against the imposing darkness of the drab, worm-eaten ironworks.

Broome drove on for another few hundred yards whence he encountered yet another unexpected surprise. The road abruptly came to a halt at the water’s edge. Broome parked his ’88 beside an El Camino which looked to be in mint condition. Broome stepped out of his car and walked to the riverbank. Here, the Lost Colony River emptied its turbid turbulence into this far end of Barrenfield Harbor. Another bridge, which would have carried Broome across the mouth of the river, was gone. All that remained of the structure were the rotting pilings that had once supported the timbers and planks of the bridge deck. The waterlogged decaying piling, twisted and bent, jutted up out of the murky, swirling water in a dreary grid of forgotten usefulness.

A raft, about twenty feet long by ten feet wide, was moored to a stout piling at the edge of the bank where Broome stood. The raft had a banister, or railing, on its port side topped with metal rings through which a hefty rope was passed. The rope was strung from the piling on the bank where Broome stood all the way across the mouth of the river to the bank on the far side. Broome had never seen such a primitive ferry before, but with a sense of adventure - and no small amount of nervous trepidation - he gently stepped aboard. The raft shifted slightly with his weight, then settled itself. Slowly and with rigidly coordinated deliberate motion, Broome pulled on the rope, hand over hand, and the wooden raft began to float him across the treacherous current of the two hundred foot wide mouth of the Lost Colony River.

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© Copyright 2019 Sean Terrence Best. All rights reserved.

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