A Thoughtful review of my horror short story collection, Twisted.
Sunday, May 22, 2022
Saturday, May 21, 2022
Thursday, May 19, 2022
She tilts me into reckless speeding. We’re out of the empty dining hall, racing down the corridor, where she slows things down to a screech of the wheels for just a second, when all of a sudden, her cellphone rings.
The sounds of hospital staff, running back and forth carrying equipment, mix in with the cries of patients, calling out for attention, for help. The din is deafening, so there’s no need for Betty to lower her voice—but she does.
“Vlad, darling,” she says, under her breath, “I’ll be out in the parking lot soon. It’s hard to find my way here in the dark, but I’ll make it, so don’t you worry.”
I don’t know about him being anxious—but in my case, fretting is all I do. It’s my activity of choice right now, if only because of this bumpy ride. In the lobby, beams of flashlights streak across the walls. The footrests of my wheelchair bang against this piece of furniture and that, which makes me try to shrink back into the seat and tighten every muscle in my ankles, in a feeble effort to protect myself.
Along the way, Betty keeps chatting with him. “Have some patience, will you? Just wait for me outside.”
Despite her chewing gum, or maybe because of it, she sounds like a woman late for a date, what with all those terms of endearment, like that Darling stuff. Ha ha, if I didn’t know any better, I would wonder why on earth she would want me to stick around for a lovers’ rendezvous.
“Yes, the girl is right here, with me,” she hisses, between one chewing chomp and another. “It’s a freaking mess in here, everyone is running in all directions like crazy. I thought I would die laughing, Vlad, when they left her in my hands.”
Cold sweat starts forming on my skin as her fingers drift, ever so lightly, over my bare neck. I have to remind myself that she must hand me over to him, not kill me outright.
As if she’s the one being tickled, Betty giggles. “I’m telling you, Vlad: no one will know, at least for a while, that she’s gone missing. What a stroke of luck for us, right?”
In response to something he says, she gurgles a nervous laugh. “It’s totally dark in here, Vlad, so it’s hard to figure things out for sure, but I think no one’s watching, no one’s following me.”
Too bad. I try to stomp on the footrest so as to spark off some noise, some clangor out of it, but to no avail. The sound is barely audible. It’s lost in the hubbub.
“Yes, thank you for the timely reminder,” she tells him, this time sarcastically. “I know that the power outage will soon be over. I’m not an idiot, you know? Don’t tell me I must hurry!”
Walking and chewing gum seems to be too much for her. Betty spits it out, perhaps because it has lost its sweetness, or else because of having to focus on the task at hand. Having reached the entrance doors, she struggles to push them open using her big butt, while at the same time maneuvering me about with one hand and—just as crucial—holding the cellphone with the other.
“Oh, stop it!” she cries. “Don’t you put too much pressure on me, darling—or I’ll snap!”
Just for the exercise, I push the door open with my foot. I know, I know, I shouldn’t have done that, but it works, anyway. Which is a delightful thing for me, and a scary one too, because who knows what’s waiting for us on the other side.
Thursday, May 12, 2022
My grip on the steering wheel is strong, perhaps too strong—by contrast to my grip on the rolling disaster called my life. I tell myself to just hold on, just be me, but that has never been trickier, now that someone else is a contender not only for my name but also for who I am.
As I drive to Ma’s home, my knuckles turn bone-white no matter how often I try to relax them. Of course, Ms. Voola is to blame. I feel an undeniable urge to wring her neck for stealing my money along with my identity. Who knows what other surprises that woman has in store for me.
Unfortunately, it’s one thing to promise I’ll get my hands on her— quite another to actually do it, especially when all I know about that woman with any degree of certainty is that she has sunken cheeks. That’s the only facial feature she failed to disguise while playing the role of Ashley Winters at the bank.
Clearly, Ms. Voola has a penchant for acting. She’s good enough to be a professional, given her performance mimicking the way I walk and talk, not to mention the makeup and hairdo job that fooled even my own eyes.
I turn a corner and nosedive into sudden despair. What I’m looking for is an actress with sunken cheeks, probably residing in LA. That’s like looking for a needle in a haystack of needles. A prickly proposition. Chances are I’ll come out of it empty-handed.
I marvel at the skill of that woman and fear her in the breath of whispering, “Who are you, Ms. Voola?”
How long has she been studying me? In other words, was it simply by accident that I stumbled upon her during a casual walk on the beach, or did she plan it well ahead of time? Over and over again, I picture her hand reaching into my purse to snatch my driver’s license and health insurance card. Did she pretend to have lost consciousness, knowing I would let her get close to me—close enough to steal what’s mine?
(Volume IV of Ash Suspense Thrillers with a Dash of Romance)