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Our first original! I am so glad to present Choking Instructions by Michael Carter. It’s a piece of fine flash and a very fitting first for the HauntedMTL Original series.
-Jim

Choking Instructions

by Michael Carter

            Running over that little girl as I raced through the intersection was a bad thing, but was it something I should die for?

            I was speeding; yes. The light turned yellow, and rather than risk T-boning someone, I hooked a rookie.

            And there she was standing on the corner, in her pigtails and green dress, in the wrong place at the wrong time. She was with the man in the blue blazer and fedora hat. I clipped the curb and ran over her foot. The light was dead red by the time I made the turn.

            Her screams pierced through the roar of my engine and then the squeal of my brakes. When I approached, she looked up and said, “Why, why did you do this?” as she caressed her bleeding foot.

            The man in the fedora grabbed my shoulder. “You need to slow it down and follow the rules, like the rest of us,” he said as heat emitted from his hand. It burned through my jacket, collared shirt, and undershirt, to my skin.

            “Follow the rules,” he repeated as he pulled up the little girl while she continued to wail. Then they disappeared into the crowd that had encircled the scene.

            “Hey, wait,” I said. But they were gone.

#

            The little girl in pigtails and green dress died that next week. It was all over the news. They said she formed a blood clot in her leg, and it caused a brain aneurysm. “Hit-And-Run Driver Kills Girl Downtown,” the headlines read.

            Wait a minute, I thought. I stopped, and the man left with the little girl.

            Or did I?

            I wasn’t entirely sure what happened. Speeding through town, the stress of the situation, the strange man in the fedora, what he had said to me, it was all too much.

            Had I left the scene without doing the right thing? If so, what was I supposed to do now?

            Follow the rules and turn yourself in. That’s what I kept telling myself. But I couldn’t do it. Why should I ruin my life over a freak accident? The girl was gone. Turning myself in couldn’t bring her back.

#

            I lay catatonic in my bed the following day, paralyzed by what had happened and conflicted about my next steps. I thought about drinking. Instead, I just slept.

            I woke a half day later, hungry. I wasn’t in the mood for cooking, so I looked for something quick in the fridge. A package of hotdogs stared at me from the meat compartment drawer. Precooked and easy, I thought. They may be made of lips and assholes, but they’re protein, and they’ll keep me full.

            As I pulled a hotdog out of the plastic wrapper, I saw a flicker of wording above the list of ingredients, in bright-red letters: “Choking Instructions.”

            I blinked and looked again, thinking I had misread a choking warning. Sure enough, it said what I thought it said.

            “Choking Instructions: For children under 4, cut hotdogs lengthwise and crosswise into small bite-sized pieces. Children should always be seated and supervised while eating. For adults, do not cut hotdogs into pieces. Instead, cram as many whole hotdogs into your mouth as you can. While chewing, pinch your nose shut and inhale deep gasps.”

            “Follow the rules . . . ,” I heard in my head as I stood in the kitchen holding that package of hotdogs. My skin started to burn where the man in the fedora had grabbed my shoulder.

            “Follow the rules . . . ,” I heard again.

            “Follow the rules . . . .”

            I tried to look away, but I could not help but to stare at the choking instructions: “For adults, do not cut hotdogs into pieces. Instead, cram as many whole hotdogs into your mouth as you can.”

            And so I did. I followed the rules and crammed those rubbery meat sticks into my mouth. I kept cramming as my eyes watered and hotdog juice dripped to the kitchen floor. I crammed and crammed and chewed and punished myself like I knew I deserved. Then I grabbed my nose and sucked in air.

            I gasped and choked as pressure built under the skin of my face. When I stumbled, I released my nose. The smell of freshly chewed hotdogs burned into my nostrils as I inhaled.

            I fell to the cold tile of the kitchen floor and gasped for air, like a fish out of water. I reached for my throat and felt many Adam’s-apple-sized bulges.

            Then the tile warmed and the little girl in pigtails and green dress appeared in my kitchen. The man in the fedora was there, too. The tile became hot and seared my cheek as I lay on the floor. My shoulder and nose continued to burn as I choked.

            The little girl and the man in the fedora stared at me. They smiled. I couldn’t be sure, but over my gasps, I think I heard the girl giggle. No, she cackled.

            That’s when I knew I had found my special place, right there on the kitchen floor, that I would never leave. I had found that special place reserved for people like me who don’t follow the simple rules of life and do the right thing.

            It is there that they will always smile at me, and she will always cackle. It is there that I think I will choke forever.

END

Picture of horror author Michael Carter. He is holding a Force be With You cup, which is cool as heck :)
Author, Michael Carter

Michael Carter is a short fiction and creative nonfiction writer from the Western United States. He’s also an attorney, a Space Camp alum, and a volcanic eruption survivor. When he’s not writing, he enjoys fly fishing and wandering remote wilderness areas of the Northern Rocky Mountains. He can be found online at michaelcarter.ink and @mcmichaelcarter.

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Book Reviews

A Murder in Reverse: “Wrong Place Wrong Time”

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The Plot

“A brilliantly genre-bending, mind-twisting answer to the question How far would you go to save your child?”  — Ruth Ware, #1 New York Times bestselling author

Jen watches her son murder a stranger. Stab him to death. She and her husband, Kelly, watch as their son Todd is taken into custody.

The next morning, Jen wakes up and it’s yesterday. Jen knows that at the end of the night, her son kills someone. She is determined to stop it.

Jen goes further and further back in time trying to discover why Todd murdered a stranger and how to stop it.

The Verdict

This book is twisty. Right when you think you know the ending, something else is there to prove that the story is more multifaceted than that. While the premise of the novel is simple, Gillian McAllister elevates a simple concept with deep, dark twists.

It is best that you don’t know too much going into this one. For fans of Blake Crouch, this is such a good thriller with time travelling vibes.

4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)

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Book Reviews

Woom: An Extreme Horror Novel

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“That doesn’t invalidate it,” Angel said. “There’s no statute of limitations on pain.”

The Plot

Angel is a man who knows pain: physical, mental, sexual. The story begins with Angel visiting Room 6 at the Lonely Motel and ordering a plus-size sex worker to his room. What comes next is Angel’s retellings of painful stories while performing sexual acts on the sex worker, Shyla.

The novel reads as a book of short stories, as Angel relays stories to Shyla and she tells him stories back. This is a novel of pain and disgust. Angel’s stories are so dark and traumatic that Shyla can’t believe they are true. As Angel bares his soul, we see a side of him that is melancholy and unable to process hurt in a natural way.

The Verdict

This novel is full of disgusting visuals and isn’t afraid to get dirty. This truly is an extreme horror novel. As a warning, there is discussion of feces, blood, rape, sex, and body horror. This novel is not for the faint of heart. You’ll close this short novel feeling dirty. Angel is a character that begs for sympathy while his stories narrate that he may not be as innocent as he perceives.

When the subtitle says this novel is extreme horror, believe it. Only the strong will survive Duncan Ralston’s Woom. It is more splatterpunk than anything, but true literary quality lies beneath the filth.

4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)

Read it yourself by clicking below!

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Book Reviews

Did She Do It? Stacy Willingham’s “All the Dangerous Things” Asks Us Just This

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One year ago, Isabelle’s life crumbled when her baby was abducted from her home. Her marriage to her husband, Ben, is destroyed as they try to navigate the fallout.

The Plot

Even one year after the abduction, Isabelle seeks answers. She is still doing appearances at true crime expos to get information on the attendees, thinking the abductor will be there one day. Abductors usually revisit their crime and Isabelle swaps her appearances for the event guest list, never taking any money for her talks.

Some think that Isabelle killed her own baby as evidence from the case says the perpetrator came from inside the house. Isabelle hasn’t slept – not fully – since Mason was abducted. Her therapist is worried that she may be having hallucinations. Is Isabelle the killer or is she on a quest for true justice?

The Verdict

I absolutely loved the complication of not knowing whether Isabelle was a reliable or unreliable narrator. This was my favorite aspect of the novel. It made me question everything that Isabelle had to say and the actions she executed.

Isabelle is a character that, as a mother, I really felt for. I wanted to believe that Isabelle was innocent, but I was hanging on the edge of my seat waiting to find out. Stacy Willingham is the master of a story that winds all around, waiting for you to find the truth.

If you are interested in reading Willingham’s first novel, A Flicker in the Dark, check out my review here.

4.5 out of 5 stars (4.5 / 5)

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