Friday, April 05, 2013

Christine Presents: Friday's Featured Title

An April Fool's Anthology
AnnChristine, K. J. Dahlen, Solstice Stevens
Excerpt Heat Level: 1
Book Heat Level: 3

Sharks by AnnChristine

April 1st 2006


"Shark attack!"

Lifeguards dove, swimming with strong clean-lined strokes and circled the water-treading students.

The students' eyes bugged out. They knew what would happen soon. Everything they had learned would be tested--all physical prowess challenged--every bit of knowledge put to use.

Lilly slanted her BFF, Jacob, a smile saying I can hardly wait for this. Remember when we were challenged this way? She hoped he could still read her mind. He usually could.

She swam water polo style, circling the students, picking out her prey, and trying to find the absolute best way to attack. She needed to weed out the weakest of the large group. It was time to kick butt.

Lilly and Jacob moved as one, each toward the student of choice. Lilly backed off, waiting, intending to watch Jacob and prolong the suspense for the others. The students needed nerves of steel to survive this shark attack. The fluttering in her stomach began--nerve wracking for the instructors as well.

Jacob's arms wrapped around one of the weakest swimmers in the group. He hung on as the young man struggled to break the hold, doing everything wrong. Lilly sensed the panic in the boy whose arms began to flail and thrash the water. He chocked and coughed as his head bobbed below the water level then back up.

"C'mon Jacob, let him go. He can't do this--not today." Lilly waited for what seemed an eternity as Jacob released the young man and pulled him to the side of the pool.  "My turn."

She circled the swimmers, her gaze moving from one student to the next. There…

The girl was not one of the strongest swimmers, but she had a lot of potential--thinking ability--logical. Lilly grabbed the student from behind. When the girl was unable to break the hold in the usual manner, she resorted to another useful technique. Unlike Jacob's prey, this girl immediately did a foot first dive to the bottom of the pool. Yes…

Lilly hung on for a few seconds but knew she would have to surface. Two hands at Lilly's waist, the girl pushed her away and swam out of reach. The pair surfaced and Lilly smiled broadly. "Good job."

"Thanks, I just did what you guys have preached. The last place a drowning victim wants to be is at the bottom of the pool. They want air. When I recalled the info, everything else was easy. Do I pass?"

"This test. But you know there will be more."

The House on Berkley Street by K. J. Dahlen

When Serenity St. Claire arrived in White Oak, Texas she pulled into the first service station. She got out of her car and walked inside. The heat from the outside was cut dramatically as she entered the convenience store. Serenity paused for a moment, thankful for the change in temperature. She'd grown up in Oklahoma but she didn't remember it being this hot. At the counter she asked the clerk for a city map. After buying the map and an ice-cold soda, she put her sunglasses back on and pushed the door open again.

Sitting behind the wheel in her car Serenity started the engine and turned up the AC. She opened the map and began looking for a certain address. When she found it she stared at the street for a moment or two. She was half afraid to go there but knew she would have to face her demons sooner or later.

A few minutes later she pulled her car up in front of the last house on the end of Berkley Street and got her first look at the house her mother spent her first two years in. A shiver snaked down her spine. She could still see some of the scorch marks caused by a fire that happened forty years ago but could also see that someone in the past had tried to repair the damage done by the fire.

It looked like someone was maintaining the yard as the grass was freshly cut and there were flowers planted along the path leading to the front door. But the house itself had a neglected look to it. A couple of the windows had been broken and most of the shutters were missing. Serenity could see gaping holes in the roof and scorch marks marred the outer walls of the house. She couldn't tell if that was fire damage or the fact that the house had stood empty all this time. The front door was hanging kind of cockeyed in the doorframe and there were sections of the railing around the front porch that were missing.

As she stepped out of her car and stared at the house, her heart raced. This place had a tragic history that would give even the bravest cause to think twice about entering. It was rumored that forty years ago on April 1 Jedidiah Monroe snapped and murdered his wife Emily and five of their six children. Then after killing his family he started the fire to hide his crimes. Only two year old Hannah escaped certain death and that was only because she wasn't home at the time of the tragedy. Serenity rubbed her arms to ward off the all-encompassing chill sweeping through her.

No one knew for certain exactly what made Jedidiah snap. Some say it was a result of the heat wave Texas had back then. Sixty plus consecutive days of over a hundred degree heat seared most of Texas and Oklahoma that year, but Serenity didn't believe that story. She grew up hearing how much love Jedidiah had for his family and how he would never have hurt them for any reason. Hannah had been too young to remember her family and after the tragedy, she had lived with her grandparents but her grandmother Karin remembered and it was Karin who Serenity had heard the stories from. Before she died a couple of months ago, Karin asked Serenity to go back to White Oak, Texas and find out what really happened that day. She had made her promise to someday come here and find out the truth so Serenity was here to discover what she could about a forty year old tragedy.

The Placebo Effect  by Solstice Stevens

February 26, 2005--Pandemonium erupted on 67th street at 11:00 AM on Thursday, February 19, when Manhattan resident Jessamyn Hamill, 22, staged an elaborate suicide attempt from her fourth-story balcony. Hamill, eyewitnesses say, fashioned a noose with a long rope, affixed it to the railing of the balcony, slipped the loop over her head, and proceeded to superglue the palms of her hands to the sides of her head. When asked what she was doing, she motioned towards the basketball hoop across the street and shouted into the crowd below, "I'm gonna slam-dunk my head!"

The city fire department was able to forcibly remove Ms. Hamill from the balcony before she could jump. Hamill was discharged from the New York General Hospital on February 23. The family living across the street has been asked to remove their basketball hoop in case of a repeat suicide attempt.

Hamill's attempt on her own life followed an emotional breakdown brought on by the accidental death of stuntman Sebastian Sanchez, her boyfriend of several years, who perished (continued on page 5.)

"You tried to slam-dunk your head?" Dr. Christian Williams stopped pacing the floor of his office and dropped the newspaper in Jessamyn's lap. She backed away from her picture on the front page, sinking into the cushion of the overstuffed armchair. The Jessamyn in the portrait next to the article was all bounce, with life in her eyes and a smile stretched across her painted red lips, winking mischievously at the reader. She had a streak of red, dyed in the front of her curly brown hair. She was the young, vivacious type of woman who partied every Saturday night, singing and dancing on tables.

Not the type who tried to end her life by slam-dunking her head.

God, could the photo really have been that recent? She didn't remember ever being that happy.

"Yes, Doctor," she told the psychiatrist, "I think every reporter in the state has made a point to mention I tried to slam-dunk my head."

"Jesus, what were you thinking?"

Jessamyn deadpanned. "'Jesus, what were you thinking?' Is that any way to speak to a mental patient? Are you sure you're a real psychiatrist?"

Dr. Williams took a step back at Jessamyn's hostility. "Sorry." She exhaled. "It's just…well, I only agreed to see you so my friend would stop bugging me to see a shrink. I don't think there's anything you can do for me."

"If you're insinuating, like so many others, that there's nothing wrong with you, I have news for you: you tried to slam-dunk your head," the doctor reiterated, gesturing towards the newspaper in her lap.

She swallowed and said in a small voice, "I didn't say there's nothing wrong with me."

Dr. Williams clapped his hands together once. "There we go! That's step one, done and over with!"

Jessamyn tried to remain serious, but gave a cynical snicker in spite of herself. "Great. I feel so accomplished. Can I have my Prozac now?"

"Prozac? Why would I prescribe you Prozac?"

"Are you kidding me? I'm depressed! Look how depressed I am!" She held up the newspaper at arm's length for him to see, as if he hadn't already.

"Yes, I can see that," said the doctor, returning to his pacing and stirring the cup of coffee he held in his hands, "but you're in mourning. Of course you're going to be depressed. Now, I don't think doing…what you did…is normal, but nothing you've said in here nor anything from the lab tests they ran at the hospital suggests there's anything wrong with the chemistry of your brain itself."

"Then what do you expect me to do? Sit here and talk out my problems with you?" She writhed in her seat, hating the sound of the medical mumbo-jumbo issuing from the doctor's mouth. She couldn't think of anything about him she didn't hate, from his unkempt blond hair and beard stubble to his casual Friday attire to the way he kept trying to engage her, leaning into the conversation like they were old chums. "It's not going to work, Doc."

"And medication will?"

"I would think so. But hey, what do I know? You're the doctor, Doctor."

Dr. Williams sighed in exasperation. "Know what? Fine. The customer's always right, right?" He set down his coffee, pulled a form out of his desk drawer, filled it out, and signed it. "Here," he said, handing her the completed prescription. He pulled something else from a compartment of his desk--a sample baggie of medication--and tossed it to her. She caught it clumsily. "There. Happy?"


"Good." The session over, Dr. Williams stowed his pen in an inside pocket of his wrinkled corduroy jacket then pulled out a lighter and a joint.

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