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From the corner of his eye, Teddy watched the speedometer’s numbers creep past seventy on a winding country road posted at thirty. Tires squealed across uneven pavement and frost heaves, but he barely felt the jolts. The drive was eerily smooth, as though the car was gliding just above the ground instead of traveling over tar. Then the man in the ski mask behind the wheel banked left and the illusion ended. Gravity tossed Teddy against the front passenger’s door. The car shook with a guttural ka-thunk, proof of the wheels striking a rut. Wind shrieked around the car. electricity font generator At first, Teddy thought the scream had come from him, but his lips, like most of his body, were paralyzed.

Frozen until the next second, when his cheek hit the cool glass, even Teddy’s thoughts came with difficulty. The man sitting directly behind him in the black sedan’s backseat, a well-dressed magician, had done something to him. A whammy, some kind of spell, screamed the voice in Teddy’s head. His thoughts unstuck from their disconnected state, sounding as intense to his inner ear as the December wind. He imagined the magician: pallid-faced, with short silver hair, dressed in a pinstriped gentleman’s suit and spats. What was it about those shoes that didn’t seem natural or right beyond their hopelessly outdated style? The man held a wooden walking stick, mahogany or… no, rosewood, like the walls in Clarke’s office. He remembered thinking the heel of the stick was scuffed, showing plenty of mileage, the crown capped by a large red jewel. And the magician wore a monocle.

The monocle! Right as he’d heard the tap-tap-tap of the walking stick on the ice-crusted pavement in the parking lot of Howard, Canley, and Associates, Teddy had turned, and the man with the monocle glided up behind him, perhaps one of Clarke Howard’s clients, a fat cat investor. Or worse, one of the many foreclosed upon former owners evicted from their homes.

A shiver teased the nape of Teddy’s neck, delivered on an icy finger of breath from the sedan’s backseat. Unable to fight it, Teddy surrendered to the ghostly caress, which tumbled down his spine. oil n gas prices Smokey. The Monocle was speaking to the driver, the man in the ski mask. Teddy didn’t know how he got the nickname but guessed the reason was bad. Really bad.

The man in the black ski mask tensed. Teddy imagined him applying the full weight of his foot on the gas pedal while his grip on the steering wheel tightened. online electricity bill payment In his terror, Teddy hadn’t realized how pale Smokey’s fingers were before now. Not simply white, but gray and tattooed in bruises. Smokey was dressed all in black. What Teddy could see of his face through the slits of the ski mask looked worse. Mottled and unhealthy, his was the flesh of a corpse.

Raised on a healthy diet of creature double features and classic SF television, Gregory L. Norris is a full-time professional writer, with work appearing in numerous short story anthologies, national magazines, novels, the occasional TV episode, and, so far, one produced feature film (Brutal Colors, which debuted on Amazon Prime January 2016). A former feature writer and columnist at Sci Fi, the official magazine of the Sci Fi Channel (before all those ridiculous Ys invaded), he once worked as a screenwriter on two episodes of Paramount’s modern classic, Star Trek: Voyager. Two of his paranormal novels (written under my rom-de-plume, Jo Atkinson) were published by Home Shopping Network as part of their “Escape With Romance” line — the first time HSN has offered novels to their global customer base. He judged the 2012 Lambda Awards in the SF/F/H category. Three times now, his stories have notched Honorable Mentions in Ellen Datlow’s Best-of books. In May 2016, he traveled to Hollywood to accept HM in the Roswell Awards in Short SF Writing.His story “Drowning” appears in the Italian anthology THE BEAUTY OF DEATH 2, alongside tales by none other than Peter Straub and Clive Barker. Website | Facebook | Twitter (@NorrisWriter)

“No. No, it’s just that I thought you’d be at least another hour or two.” Ryan stood back from the carnage and wiped his brow. Sweat trickled down his cheek and between his shoulder blades, pooling in the swell of his lower back. It was hot today, uncomfortably, stinking hot, but that was summer in Australia for you. gas up shawty He took a deep breath and then another, fighting not to let the scene he surveyed disquiet him too much.

He was filthy and the room he stood in looked like Dorothy’s tornado had recently blown through. Ryan had been on disaster movie sets that didn’t look as apocalyptic as this. He swept his gaze to Lucifer. The black kitten was reclining on the kitchen countertop like he was a regal deity. His yellow eyes were glaring at Ryan with a look that was a cross between boredom and bloodlust. Ryan didn’t trust that kitten not to sink his claws into him, given half the chance.

Lucifer was supposed to be his cat, a Christmas gift from Lucas, but he was convinced the cat, at best, held mild disdain for him, and at worst, was plotting his imminent downfall. On the other hand, the cat adored Lucas. Its nights were spent curled on Lucas’s lap or in the crook of his neck. He’d hiss and spit at Ryan if he got within a half foot. electricity invented or discovered Their intimate encounters had become less spontaneous and more well-planned undertakings since the obstinate little feline’s arrival in their lives only a week ago.

It had started out as such a simple idea. Something lovers had been doing for their partners since time immemorial. But Ryan hadn’t factored in a tiny black kitten with a superiority complex and a fondness, bordering on obsession, for seafood. Now, thanks to Lucifer, and a little bit of Ryan’s own culinary incompetence, he stood in the ruins of what had once been an immaculate kitchen and their delicious dinner.

They’d been in Australia for three weeks. Lucas had wanted to spend a Christmas “Down Under” and had been able to tie their trip in with a couple of interviews and other publicity work for his latest movie. Ryan liked to think he’d shown Lucas the best of what Australia had to offer for a summer Christmas. Though having never really celebrated Christmas before, he’d had to google the most Australian things to do for the special day.

In the end, he’d taken Lucas to Bondi Beach for Christmas Day. There’d hardly been an inch of sand to spare with all the other revelers. They’d met a lot of people that day and not one of them had been Australian. They may have spent Christmas Day on an Australian beach, eating Australian food, and drinking Australian beer, but they’d done it with a beach full of fellow Northern Hemisphere tourists, who were likewise here for a summer Christmas. The massive crowd had been intimidating at first, but Ryan was an expert at handling his anxiety these days, so he had managed to enjoy the day despite the vast number of fellow revelers.

Lucas had proudly marched onto the sand in his Australian flag board shorts and matching terrycloth bucket hat Ryan had given him for Christmas that morning. npower electricity power cut Gold and green zinc had been smeared across his nose, and he’d looked adorable. His flight through the crowds while being chased by a flock of seagulls he’d foolishly tossed a chip at had been not quite so adorable, but definitely amusing.

Cold meats and salads had replaced Lucas’s traditional turkey and baked vegetables. They’d sipped ice cold beers from their cooler, and Ryan had introduced Lucas to the great Australian pavlova. While Australia and New Zealand had fought for bragging rights over the dessert for years, Ryan had assured Lucas that it was most definitely Australian, which the Kiwis who’d overheard had vehemently, though good-naturedly, argued against. Regardless of origin, Lucas had taken to the dessert with an unhealthy flourish, devouring most of it easily. He’d spent the night nursing an upset stomach and claiming it wasn’t only the animals that tried to kill you in Australia; the food was gunning for you too. But, as much as Lucas had grumbled about the dangers of Australia, Ryan was touched to see his lover embrace his homeland.

Dark sunglasses and large bucket hats had mostly kept them from being recognized, even when they joined a somewhat cutthroat game of beach soccer. For once, they’d simply been part of the crowd. They’d stayed well into the night, only leaving when alcohol-inspired singing had become too painful to bear. It had been a day Ryan was unlikely to forget.

Christmas had also been the day Lucifer had come into his life. He’d named him—unfairly Lucas thought—not long after the tiny kitten had climbed his body as if he were a tree and attacked his exposed throat. Lucas had tried to claim a loud bang had frightened the cat, but Ryan had not heard any bang, and he’d seen the fury and dislike in the pale-yellow eyes. A week later, Lucifer still seemed no closer to tolerating Ryan any more than he had to in order to ensure his survival.

Tonight was New Year’s Eve, and Ryan had wanted to surprise Lucas with a special dinner for two before they saw in the new year together. And he didn’t want to go out to do it. They were staying in a penthouse apartment on Sydney’s North Shore, overlooking the harbor and city. The Harbour Bridge was so close to their right that the giant steel structure took up most of that side view. extra strength gas x while pregnant In fact, it almost seemed like the cars on the Cahill Expressway would burst right through their living room if they veered even slightly off course.