Today, we welcome Serena back for a special Halloween short story featuring one of my very favorite characters in Somewhere South of Normal: Granny!
To set the mood...
Trick-or-Treating False Key
by Serena Schreiber
We younger children, I gripping my
plastic samurai sword and Bella tripping on her too-long kimono hem, crept
closer to the dark house while our older siblings lit cigarettes and loitered
outside the garden wall. Lumbering after us in a masked turtle costume, Nick
complained, "Wait up, Tyler!" Bella and I both shushed him.
I heard my brother Xander laugh from the sidewalk. "Later,
losers." Already bored, he and his friends would move on to their teenager
party, leaving us to our fate.
It was a dare, the annual one, to trick-or-treat the Rockefeller
house, and we were the dumb fish who had taken the bait. Proof we'd been inside
the decaying mansion could buy us entry to the older kids' party and games like
Spin-the-Bottle. Reaching the front door was our first challenge, so we made
our way over the coquina pavers, slick with moss, past the sculptures lining
the pathway--nightmare figures screaming, cowering, and kneeling. I checked my
back jeans pocket to be sure my penny whistle was there. At the first rustle in
the underbrush, Nick cried out. "Oh!"
"It's just a cat," Bella said calmly.
"The witch's cat!" His cape fluttered out as he ran for it.
"What a baby," Bella muttered, shaking her head.
Privately, I agreed with Nick. Several freakish cats emerged, meowing
in strangled harmony. So, the stories were true. Three, four, five cats--all
had six toes on their forepaws. What other stories were true about the old
lady? I shuddered. "Come on," I said. "Let's get this over
We climbed the porch steps. A plastic jack o'lantern flickered in the
window.Next to the door, the
shell-shaped name plate read "Rockefeller." With a jolt, I remembered
the family from class--something to do with oil? Supposed to be stinking rich,
weren't they? Couldn't be. The place was a dump. I knocked.
"She's not a witch, you know," Bella said.
"Of course not." I said, my voice edgy. "Don't believe
everything you hear."
"She's a mermaid," she whispered.
I laughed. "Don't be stupid." I knocked again, louder this
time, and rang the bell, but heard no sound.
"No, really. Trapped on land. She sings and carves people."
She hugged her bulging candy bag to her chest. I liked the freckles that danced
across her nose from one cheek to the other and the shiny, red ponytail which
bounced when she talked.
I grinned. "You mean with a great, big knife?" I held up my
"No, like an artist. With a hammer and chisel."
I stared at her, uncomprehending.
Impatiently, she huffed. "We just walked past her artwork."
"Whatever." I shrugged. "She's not home."
"Maybe she's in her workshop. Let's go see."
I shook my head. "No way." I'd seen plenty of scary movies,
and I knew this was the deciding moment. "Let's go the party." Maybe
play Truth or Dare.
Bella smirked. "Baby."
Apparently, Truth or Dare was happening now. Fine. "Where's the
"How do you know?"
"I've been here before."
Admiration battled unease as we followed the wraparound porch to the
back of the house. Maybe this would turn out okay. We'd get some candy and have
an excellent story to tell.
"Okay. And then we go to the party." I'd attempted a
devil-may-care attitude, but her words nagged at me as we picked our way around
the house. "What do you mean, trapped?"
"Crimes against her kind. Using her powers for evil."
The property appeared small from the front, but in fact, stretched way
back into the distance. Between us and the far end, a vast expanse of
underbrush flowed around dozens more weathered, pearlescent sculptures glinting
dully in the moon wash. Beyond these, a long, low shed crouched under live oak
trees. Light streamed from an open door.
"So she is a witch!"
"She's an artist. You know, misunderstood." She stepped off
the back porch and waded through ferns, avoiding the crowns-of-thorn on her way
to the shed. As we neared, I heard silvery singing over a rhythmic tap-tap like
metal on stone--tap-tap, tap-tap, tap-tap, tap-tap. A cat pushed past me, and I
nearly jumped out of my skin. I'd never hated cats before, but I kicked out at
it. It hissed.
Bella whirled around, her pretty face pale against her pink lipstick.
"Tyler, no! Don't touch the cats!"
From afar her came an elderly voice. "Bella, is that you?" A
lady stood outside the shed--white-haired and squinting behind owlish glasses.
She held a mallet and a sharp tool, reminding me of blunt force and stabbing.
Clearly, I play too much GTA.
"What are you doing here so late?" she called out.
"Who's your friend?"
"Hi, Granny. It's Halloween. Did you forget?"
I whispered, "She's your grandmother?"
The woman smiled. "Everyone calls me that. Pleased to meet you,
Tyler. Come on in."
Granny retreated into the shed and I followed her and a couple of the
creepy cats inside. Granny gestured at open bags of candy on a stool near the
door. "Take plenty, I don't get many trick-or-treaters."
Bella said, "Well, maybe you would, if you'd answer the
door." I helped myself to gummy spiders.
"Too much work to do." Granny set to work again, resuming
that rhythmic tap-tap, tap-tap, tap-tap, tap-tap. Her tools moved in millimeter
increments between each pair of taps, chipping along a charcoal line drawn on
the vaguely human-shaped hunk of stone which rested on the ground before her.
I plopped into a lawn chair near the door to watch, working my way
through the bag of candy. The gummies were the best I'd ever had--soft and
fruity. I couldn't stop eating them.
Bella peered into the eyes of a seated sculpture. "Is that the
pizza guy?" she asked.
Granny nodded. "Jeffrey. The cats got overambitious. He'll need a
fair amount of work."
"So, Clara is finished?"
"Completely roughed out. Should be ready for Christmas."
I felt a drowsy and content,
watching Bella and the old lady moving around the shop, discussing the artwork
in varying stages of readiness, and which tools would be used next.
Granny returned to her chiseling, and the tapping sound filled the
shop like a gentle rain. My eyes felt heavy, each blink longer than the
When I opened my eyes, Bella stood at the sculpture called Clara,
running her hands over it. Its arms extended over head as if reaching. The
entire figure leaned forward, as if taking a step toward me. Bella murmured
something--another language? I saw tears welling in the statue's haunted eyes
and running in pearly streams down her face. The statue met my gaze, and I
swear she was begging forgiveness. I blinked, Clara blinked, and the eyes went
Bella whirled around and caught me staring. She looked as shocked as
if I'd watched her undress through an open window. I think she'd forgotten I
was there, and she glared at me. "What are you looking at?"
"Have some more gummy worms," she said, but not at all
friendly. She gave me the half-eaten bag, which had slipped from my fingers.
Granny had stopped chipping. "Maybe he's had enough."
Bella wheeled around. "He saw. He knows!"
Granny put down her tools and turned to me. "Tyler, do you play
music?" She had taken off the owl-glasses and fixed me with her bright
blue eyes. A single word arose in my mind, Run.
"A bit," I said, trying to stand up. "I think I'll head
out now." But the cats encircled my legs, rubbing against me and licking
ferociously at the bare skin between my knees and sneakers. I felt bound to the
"But, Granny," Bella whined.
"No," said Granny. "Off you go." I took the hand
she offered, and with a surprising amount of strength, she pulled me out of my
seat. "And you too," she said, pushing away the cats with her foot."Away with you. Gluttons!"
I chanced a glance at Bella, whose face had darkened like a storm
cloud. The air around her fizzled. "Granny," she began again, but the
old woman cut her off.
"We don't do children!"
I swear blue sparks flew from her eyes, and the steel in her voice
made me flinch, but Bella seemed unfazed.
"Except for the ones you choose, you mean," Bella muttered.
Granny opened her mouth to speak, closed it, and then spoke in a
gentle voice. "Lagom är bäst."
"I'll get my own. I don't need you."
Granny said, "Weren't you going to a party tonight? Let's fix
I lingered, expecting Bella to protest but she perched on a stool and
produced a hairbrush from her tiny purse. Granny pulled out the chopsticks
wedged Japanese style in Bella's ponytail and brushed her auburn hair smooth
until it shone, humming a strange tune as she did so. Bella closed her eyes and
relaxed while Granny did her thing.
"Don't be in such a hurry to grow up." The old woman had
redone Bella's hair. "Plenty of time to learn all you need. And we don't
practice on friends." The piercing blue eyes turned to me. "You are a
friend, aren't you, Tyler."
I didn't think it wise to contradict.
She fished something out of her pocket. "This is for you. Happy
Halloween." In her slim, fair, outstretched hand she displayed a small,
I took it and left the shed--how did it get so late? Clouds scudded
past the bright moon, and shadows crossed the vast yard. Cat tails moved
through the long ferns, bits of movement at the corners of my vision. Granny
started singing the strange melody again, and Bella joined in.
I pulled the tin whistle out of my pocket and matched the notes. The
seated and kneeling figures hummed a deep rumble and swayed with the grasses.
Opening their pearly eyes, they stood. Like marionettes rising they cast
herky-jerky shadows around the yard.
Bella came out to see. "Granny, look!"
By now I had the melody and the magic in my flute. I marched through
the yard. Clara, quicker than the others, fell into place behind me, then
Jeffrey and the other figures trudged into our Conga line, humming a bass
harmony to my piccolo melody. I played, the figures shuffled forward, and our
clumsy procession filed around the house.
Outside the front gate, I turned right toward the party--I couldn't
wait to see the look on Xander's face. Alas, alas, Clara could not pass. Her
pearly eyes implored me.
I remembered Granny's gift and slipped the pearl into Clara's open
mouth. A vertical, hairline crack formed between her eyes, which shone with
hope as the gap lengthened down her face. When it reached her chest and widened
to an inch, Clara's real face, exposed behind the mask, nodded. I jammed my
plastic sword into the split. She gasped. Using my sword like a crow bar, and
praying it wouldn't snap, I levered the crack wider. It extended the length of
her stony torso, splitting her shell in two. I heaved and opened her up like an
Once the main pieces fell away and crashed to the ground, Clara
stepped out of her prison. With her dusty ballerina costume and dazed
expression, she looked like an earthquake survivor.
"What did you do?" Bella loomed like a storm. Jeffrey and
the others retreated when Granny appeared at her side.
"You can't take her."Bella hissed.
But Granny said, "Back by midnight."
"C'mon," I said to Clara. A pack of zombie kids was lurching
down the street to the Roosevelt house, shaving cream cans at the ready. I
grabbed Clara's hand and dragged her away.
Behind me I heard, "Trick-or-Treat."
*Squee* Oh, how I LOVE stories featuring Granny & all her awesome! Check out Granny in Oyster, featured in Somewhere South of Normal--you won't regret it, although it may make you think twice about ever underestimating sweet little old ladies!
5 Question Interview with Amber Garr, author of Ascend
from the Somewhere South of Normal anthology, a
collection of sexy, dangerous, paranormal tales.
In Ascend, Amber crafts one of the most
heartbreakingly beautiful stories. Today, we have five questions
to get inside her tremendously creative brain.
1. Which business establishment in False Key would you most
like to visit?
2. Because Elora is so incredibly brave, stoic, and
powerful, do you think her life-altering choice in False Key could stir some
sort of mystical, underlying energy on the island and/or among its inhabitants?
3. What is one place you would avoid while visiting False
4. We both have a penchant for sea creatures, so I have to
ask…if you could be any mythological sea creature, what would you be?
5. What is your favorite Halloween trick…and treat (costume,
the thing you usually only get/do for Halloween)?
5 Question Interview with John & Diane from Los
Federales, by author Kathy Spalding.
Kathy Spalding has created such incredible characters in Los
Federales that I’ve already not-so-subtly begged for her to turn their
adventure into a series. Without further adieu, please welcome John &
1. John, Diane, how would you describe False Key?
(They grin at each other)
2. Diane, how did you and John meet?
3. John, is life for you always as harrowing as it was in Los
4. How do you two usually spend Halloween? Any special traditions?
5. Let’s say you’re going to a costume party. What would be
your costumes of choice?
GIVEAWAY: *See a breakdown of the goodies, terms & conditions, & pictures here*
We have a big Halloween Party heading your way this Tuesday! Chat with the authors, meet some of the characters, including Snow, Vincent, and Jex (he's ready to flex those wings of his. Um, I cannot be held accountable for what he may say...if you know Jex, you know what I mean). ;) See you at the False Key FantaSea Fest Parade! Costume contests, skimpy
costumes, fantastic food on the Facebook Parade:
October 28 7:00-9:00
GIVEAWAY: *See a breakdown of the goodies, terms & conditions, & pictures here*
Today, we're going to have some fun with the stars of The Water Crisis Chronicles, Vee & Zach! Love these two!!!
1. What are three things you miss most about having plenty of water available?
2. Vee, if you didn't have a sword, what would be your weapon of choice?
3. Zach, when you see Vee swing that sword, what is the first word that pops into your mind?
4. If you could go back in time, what would you do differently to conserve water?
5. At this point in your journey, which would you choose: A tall glass of ice water or a stiff drink?
Annnnd I didn't think it could get any worse than a world without water...until Vee & Zach mentioned ice. Instantly, my brain goes, 'Uh, no water, no ice, no ice bags!!! Huh-what-huh?! Noooo!' No joke, an ice bag is my cure-all. The thought of life without an ice bag makes me gag. For the sake of ice bag lovers everywhere, conserve that water!!!