Thursday, January 27, 2011

The Dirty One: Part 1 by Jana Gifford

I am one of the gifted ones. I cry at night because I see things as they really are. I want my pain to go away. There is only one way: I must change myself.

My child’s presence still lingers here, though others have said he did not exist. But I know my five-year-old existed, because I know how he died…

Jason was playing in a well. Neighbors said to me—told the cops even, when I called them—that for over six years I have gone out to the dirty, empty well behind Fred’s and my house, and pretended to drink from it. That is, until Jason died.

I thought it would be obscene to go drink from a body of water in which my child had perished. I heard him screaming, and I thought he was in the woods playing with fireflies (he liked to pretend he was a fairy combing his blond hair with sticks he found in the leaves). I ran out there to comfort him from crying. I found my son hanging on the edge of the well, drinking with only his lips. He told me that he screamed when he saw his face shining on the top of this pool. “Why is it there, Mommy?” He asked. Then he waved, and fell in.

I was devastated that he fell in head first, for the well was narrow, and I didn’t clean it or use the water. The tarp that hung over it was gone, blown away with the wind. I had to run 300 hundred yards from the porch to the boy’s place of drowning.

But the paramedics took me away, instead of exhuming the body, the one I couldn’t find with a long stick even after I had reached in and tried to pull him out. I was screaming and spitting foam nearly, so they loaded me up and told me the well was empty of the water I claimed Jason drowned in. But they did a search of the woods and my house. I guess they got discouraged when they found no toys or clothes belonging to a child, only a bottle of antidepressants on the shelf above the fridge.

Later, when I lay calm and dressed in white with blue dots against my will, I told them I loved Jason. I didn’t know what was happening to me. Why had the doctors kidnapped me? Why had they made this long list of orders? Why had they used the word “hallucination?”

Editors' Note: Read "The Dirty One: Part 2" next Thursday, Feb. 3.

About Jana Gifford:

I am on the Dean’s List at Ashford University. During quiet times, I enjoy reading about psychology and mysterious happenings.

Currently, I am crafting a graphic novel called The Involuntary Vow of Silence, which is coming in June from iUniverse. Also, I am collaborating with a film director from The Art Institute in Portland on a certain script. Slake your thirst for perspective at

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

The Diry One by Jana Gifford

Read "The Dirty One" by Jana Gifford, a murderous tale in two parts. Part One premieres tomorrow.

Winter 2011 Cover

Tainted Tea Winter 2011 will be available this February.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Happy Birthday, Edgar!

This is the 202nd birthday of one of America's most celebrated authors (and a Tainted Tea favorite), Edgar Allan Poe. On October 3, 1849, when he was 40, Poe was found disheveled in Baltimore, ranting.

According to Joseph W. Walker, the man who found Poe, the author was "in great distress, and in need of immediate assistance." He was taken to a hospital, where he died broke and drunk (or poisoned, or of a brain tumor, or of rabies, depending on who you hear it from).

To celebrate Poe's 202nd birthday, here is his most famous poem, "The Raven," first published in 1845:
The Raven
Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered, weak and weary,
Over many a quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore,
While I nodded, nearly napping, suddenly there came a tapping,
As of some one gently rapping, rapping at my chamber door.
"'Tis some visitor," I muttered, "tapping at my chamber door--
                               Only this, and nothing more."

Ah, distinctly I remember it was in the bleak December,
And each separate dying ember wrought its ghost upon the floor.
Eagerly I wished the morrow; -- vainly I had sought to borrow
From my books surcease of sorrow -- sorrow for the lost Lenore--
For the rare and radiant maiden whom the angels name Lenore--
                               Nameless here for evermore.

And the silken sad uncertain rustling of each purple curtain
Thrilled me--filled me with fantastic terrors never felt before;
So that now, to still the beating of my heart, I stood repeating,
"'Tis some visitor entreating entrance at my chamber door--
Some late visitor entreating entrance at my chamber door;--
                               This it is, and nothing more."
Presently my soul grew stronger; hesitating then no longer,
"Sir," said I, "or Madam, truly your forgiveness I implore;
But the fact is I was napping, and so gently you came rapping,
And so faintly you came tapping, tapping at my chamber door,
That I scarce was sure I heard you" -- here I opened wide the door;--
                                Darkness there, and nothing more. Deep into that darkness peering, long I stood there wondering, fearing,
Doubting, dreaming dreams no mortals ever dared to dream before;
But the silence was unbroken, and the stillness gave no token,
And the only word there spoken was the whispered word, "Lenore!"
This I whispered, and an echo murmured back the word, "Lenore!"--
                                Merely this, and nothing more.

Back into the chamber turning, all my soul within me burning,
Soon again I heard a tapping somewhat louder than before.
"Surely," said I, "surely that is something at my window lattice:
Let me see, then, what thereat is, and this mystery explore--
Let my heart be still a moment and this mystery explore;--
                               'Tis the wind and nothing more."

Open here I flung the shutter, when, with many a flirt and flutter,
In there stepped a stately raven of the saintly days of yore;
Not the least obeisance made he; not a minute stopped or stayed he;
But, with mien of lord or lady, perched above my chamber door--
Perched upon a bust of Pallas just above my chamber door--
                                Perched, and sat, and nothing more.

Then this ebony bird beguiling my sad fancy into smiling,
By the grave and stern decorum of the countenance it wore.
"Though thy crest be shorn and shaven, thou," I said, "art sure no craven,
Ghastly grim and ancient raven wandering from the Nightly shore--
Tell me what thy lordly name is on the Night's Plutonian shore!"
                                Quoth the Raven, "Nevermore."

Much I marveled this ungainly fowl to hear discourse so plainly,
Though its answer little meaning -- little relevancy bore;
For we cannot help agreeing that no living human being
Ever yet was blest with seeing bird above his chamber door--
Bird or beast upon the sculptured bust above his chamber door,
                                With such name as "Nevermore."

But the raven, sitting lonely on the placid bust, spoke only
That one word, as if his soul in that one word he did outpour.
Nothing further then he uttered -- not a feather then he fluttered--
Till I scarcely more than muttered, "other friends have flown before--
On the morrow he will leave me, as my hopes have flown before."
                                Then the bird said, "Nevermore."

Startled at the stillness broken by reply so aptly spoken,
"Doubtless," said I, "what it utters is its only stock and store,
Caught from some unhappy master whom unmerciful Disaster
Followed fast and followed faster till his songs one burden bore--
Till the dirges of his Hope that melancholy burden bore
                                Of 'Never -- nevermore'."

But the Raven still beguiling all my fancy into smiling,
Straight I wheeled a cushioned seat in front of bird, and bust and door;
Then upon the velvet sinking, I betook myself to linking
Fancy unto fancy, thinking what this ominous bird of yore--
What this grim, ungainly, ghastly, gaunt and ominous bird of yore
                                Meant in croaking "Nevermore."

This I sat engaged in guessing, but no syllable expressing
To the fowl whose fiery eyes now burned into my bosom's core;
This and more I sat divining, with my head at ease reclining
On the cushion's velvet lining that the lamplight gloated o'er,
But whose velvet violet lining with the lamplight gloating o'er,
                                She shall press, ah, nevermore!

Then methought the air grew denser, perfumed from an unseen censer
Swung by Seraphim whose footfalls tinkled on the tufted floor.
"Wretch," I cried, "thy God hath lent thee -- by these angels he hath sent thee
Respite -- respite and nepenthe, from thy memories of Lenore!
Quaff, oh quaff this kind nepenthe and forget this lost Lenore!"
                                Quoth the Raven, "Nevermore."

"Prophet!" said I, "thing of evil! -- prophet still, if bird or devil!--
Whether Tempter sent, or whether tempest tossed thee here ashore,
Desolate yet all undaunted, on this desert land enchanted--
On this home by horror haunted -- tell me truly, I implore--
Is there -- is there balm in Gilead? -- tell me -- tell me, I implore!"
                                Quoth the Raven, "Nevermore."

"Prophet!" said I, "thing of evil -- prophet still, if bird or devil!
By that Heaven that bends above us -- by that God we both adore--
Tell this soul with sorrow laden if, within the distant Aidenn,
It shall clasp a sainted maiden whom the angels name Lenore--
Clasp a rare and radiant maiden whom the angels name Lenore."
                                Quoth the Raven, "Nevermore."

"Be that word our sign in parting, bird or fiend," I shrieked, upstarting--
"Get thee back into the tempest and the Night's Plutonian shore!
Leave no black plume as a token of that lie thy soul hath spoken!
Leave my loneliness unbroken! -- quit the bust above my door!
Take thy beak from out my heart, and take thy form from off my door!"
                                 Quoth the Raven, "Nevermore."

And the Raven, never flitting, still is sitting, still is sitting
On the pallid bust of Pallas just above my chamber door;
And his eyes have all the seeming of a demon's that is dreaming,
And the lamplight o'er him streaming throws his shadow on the floor;
And my soul from out that shadow that lies floating on the floor
                                 Shall be lifted -- nevermore!

Learn more about Poe here or read Harry Lee Poe's excellent "illustrated companion," Edgar Allan Poe.

Read more of Poe's stories here or in the Winter 2010 Issue of Tainted Tea.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Afternoon Shorts: "Fear Clinic"

Guest post by The Writing Nag

"A word is not the same with one writer as with another. One tears it from his guts. The other pulls it out of his overcoat pocket." ~Charles Peguy

Whether you write horror, suspense, poetry or non-fiction, the words you choose can turn a dull piece of writing into a piece that is powerful, memorable, and exciting. All creative writers can add to their vocabulary by reading and writing across genres, and actively adding new words to their writing. Many creative writing teachers will suggest keeping a notebook with you at all times to jot down words, phrases, and snippets of conversation. I've kept a word collection notebook for years...many times it's this notebook and a favorite word that sparks a writing session.

On Saturday I went to a poetry workshop where we played with words. Using Susan Goldsmith Wooldridge's book Poemcrazy, everyone in our small group wrote nine words on small pieces of paper (Wooldridge calls them "word tickets"). The small pieces of paper were gathered together and we all started freewriting.

As we wrote, the instructor walked around and tossed words in front of each writer. Sometimes one; sometimes two or three at a time. We were instructed to keep writing our piece but to integrate the new words into our writing. Because these weren't my words the new words in front of me felt fresh and exciting. Adding the words changed the direction of my writing but it didn't change my voice.

Consider trying this prompt even if you're not in a group: If you're stumped for new words, try flipping through a stack of magazines and snipping out words or word phrases that speak to you. Practice integrating these new words in your writing when you feel like you've reached the end of a writing session, you may be surprised where a new word can take you.

The Writing Nag blogs about creative writing, poetry, and the practice of writing daily at

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Brinker's Contract: Part 4 by Michael A. Kechula

Editors' Note: This is the final part of "Brinker's Contract." If you missed them, read Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3.

Brinker asked the waiter if the woman was a zombie.

“I’m not sure. Ask her to come closer. The exorcist sprinkled blessed salt around the cafĂ© to keep those monsters away. They cannot cross the salt. If she refuses to come near, she may be one.”

“Hey, lady,” Brinker called. “Come here, and I’ll buy you a drink.”

When she didn’t move, Brinker went to her. “Take me to Zambulu,” he said, waving fifty dollars.

“Do…you…believe?” she asked.

“Believe in what?”


“Yeah, sure. Next you’ll tell me you’re one of them.”


“And I’m Spiderman,” he snickered. “Do you wanna make fifty dollars or not? I don’t have all night.”

As they rode slowly in the carriage along a jungle path, she sang a strange voodoo melody. It was the weirdest thing he’d ever heard. He found himself so unnerved, he wondered if she really were a zombie.

“Stop the carriage!” he yelled. “If you’re a zombie, prove it.”


When her countenance took on a greenish glow and vibrated, he was glad he’d worn the armor.
“If you can make your face do that during the day and in front of a camera, I think you could get an important part in a new movie. How would you like to go to Hollywood and play Queen of the Zombies? Not only that, if you can point out more zombies, I’ll pay you two dollars for each one. Is it a deal?”

When he reached out to shake her hand, she lunged for his stomach.

Slamming her head with a blackjack, he knocked her out of the carriage. When she hit the ground, he heard growls. Dozens of figures with green, vibrating faces came out of the jungle and headed toward him.

As he tried to get away, the horse bolted, throwing Brinker out of the carriage. Dazed and disoriented, he didn’t realize he was staggering toward the approaching zombies.

Mulu knocked him to the ground from behind. Baring mottled teeth, she ripped his shirt open and went for his stomach.

“Stop it!” he yelled, punching her face. “Don’t you wanna be a movie star?”

He screamed horribly when her teeth pierced the armor and slashed his stomach.

His body flooded with so much adrenalin he managed to break loose and disappear into jungle thickets. He ran until he blacked out.

When they asked him at a hospital how he got there, he couldn’t remember.
* * *
Galaxy Pictures paid his medical bills for a few weeks. When he didn’t improve, they canceled his contract.

Medical doctors couldn’t understand why Brinker’s stomach kept discharging pus. Nor could they comprehend why space-age medicines couldn’t stop the flow. They scoffed when he told them it was a zombie bite.

But Haitian folk doctors didn’t scoff. Though they sacrificed countless chickens to jungle gods, nothing stopped the pus or kept Mulu from invading Brinker’s lucid dreams and feasting on him while he slept.

One morning, he woke and found he was hemorrhaging. Mulu was chewing his intestines.

Too weak to fight her off, he groaned, “Please stop…I can…still…get you…to Hollywood. You…can…become…a great…movie star.”

She tore at his guts until he took his final breath.

About Michael A. Kechula
Michael A. Kechula's stories have been published by 134 magazines and 41 anthologies. He’s won first place in 12 contests and placed in eight others. He’s authored three books of flash and micro-fiction: The Area 51 Option and 70 More Speculative Fiction Tales; A Full Deck of Zombies--61 Speculative Fiction Tales; I Never Kissed Judy Garland and Other Tales of Romance. eBook versions available at and Paperbacks at His latest book, Writing Genre Flash Fiction The Minimalist Way - A Self Study Book, will be released December 2010.

Kickass Trailers: "The Troll Hunter"

A group of students investigates a series of mysterious bear killings, but learns that there are much more dangerous things going on. They start to follow a mysterious hunter, learning that he is actually a troll hunter.

Source IMDb.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Ponder this:

Michelangelo said, "Every block of stone has a statue inside it, and it is the task of the sculptor to discover it." Do you think that's the same with writing? Is there a story or poem in every sheet of paper?
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