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Latent Infection and Flushed: Horror Shorts by Cynthia Hilston

 

shortstoriesIn Latent Infection, the Marson family moves into an old, forgotten house, but the house hasn’t forgotten the secrets it hides as the family’s presence reawakens something long dead.

In Flushed, Julia keeps her mother’s ashes in her closed drawer, yet the drawer is open every morning. Has her mother returned to haunt her, or is Julia slowly losing her mind?

 

My Horror Short Stories – Available on Amazon in Time for Halloween!

 

shortstories

In Latent Infection, the Marson family moves into an old, forgotten house, but the house hasn’t forgotten the secrets it hides as the family’s presence reawakens something long dead.

In Flushed, Julia keeps her mother’s ashes in her closed drawer, yet the drawer is open every morning. Has her mother returned to haunt her, or is Julia slowly losing her mind?

Plus, a sneak-peek at my full-length psychological thriller novel, Murder: It’s All in Your Head!

Release October 20. Available for pre-order on Amazon for only $0.99! Paperback available as well.

Excerpt from Murder: It’s All in Your Head (WIP)

Matilda stared back for a while. The clock on the wall to their right ticked away the seconds. The murmur of the few other customers who occupied the teahouse faded into the background.

Finally, Matilda giggled, withdrawing her gaze. “I’m sorry. It’s so odd, but it feels like I know you better than could be possible.”

“Trust me. I know the feeling.” Helen couldn’t believe what she was saying, but it was like the words were forming of their own volition and releasing themselves from their cages after a long captivity.

Matilda’s smile widened. “Do you believe certain people share a sort of connection? Like they were meant to meet, to become friends?”

“I believe there are a lot of things we don’t understand or can’t explain.” Like my mind-switching ability.

“It’s like God Himself put all the pieces in place and intended it. My parents have been married for twenty-five years and have always believed they were destined for each other.”

Helen’s stomach tightened. “And what of people who don’t have such happy marriages? Does God intend for that, too?”

Matilda sighed into her cup, then met Helen’s eyes. “I wouldn’t know. I don’t presume to understand the will of God. What mortal can?”

“You sound like my father.” Disdain dripped from Helen’s words. “I’m not sure if I believe in fate. I’m not even sure if there’s a God.”

LIKE WHAT YOU’VE READ?  PLEASE SUBSCRIBE TO MY BLOG, WHERE I POST AN EXCERPT EVERY SATURDAY. ALSO KEEP UP-TO-DATE WITH MY WRITING PROJECTS!

My new novel, A Laughing Matter of Pain, is now available for pre-order here.My novel, Lorna versus Laura, is available for $4.99 here.

My novel, Hannah’s Rainbow: Every Color Beautiful, is available for $5.99 here.

Excerpt from Murder: It’s All in Your Head (WIP)

On a late summer day, Helen walked through downtown Hurston. She sent a telegram to her aunt and uncle in Pennsylvania, updating them on her mother’s health. Her mother hadn’t been well even since coming down with a severe case of pneumonia back in the winter. She spent most of her time lying down these days, easily fatigued from her chores. Helen picked up the slack where she could, a pang shooting through her heart at seeing her mother’s decline. As much as she loathed her mother for her timidity, she was still her mother.

Just as Helen stepped out of the general store, she bumped into someone. The contact was enough to cause the other person to drop whatever she had been carrying.

“Pardon me,” Helen said, bending down to help the other woman pick up her bundle. Her fingers brushed against the other woman’s. When the other woman looked up, Helen’s heart sped up. “Oh, it’s you.”

Matilda Forkins smiled at her. “I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have been in such a hurry.”

Helen picked up a blackberry. “I’m sorry, too. It looks like these are ruined.”

Matilda shrugged. “It’s not a problem. There are plenty more where these came from. My parents have loads of bushes of them behind their house. I was just bringing some her to share with Mr. Horner.”

“Yes, I know.”

Matilda stopped mid-reach and furrowed her brow at Helen. “You know?”

Realizing her slip, Helen said, “I mean, I assumed that’s what you were doing with such a large bundle of berries.” She half-smiled, sweat beading along her forehead.

A man stepped up behind them and frowned at the pair.

“Um, maybe we’d better step aside and let him pass?” asked Helen.

Matilda glanced behind her and blushed, shooting to her feet. “I apologize, sir.” She stepped aside, as did Helen.

After the man passed, they pick up the rest of the berries.

“Well, thanks for your help,” Matilda said. “I suppose I ought to return home and get a new bundle if I want to get them to Mr. Horner before he closes shop for the day.” She made to leave, then stopped. “By the way, I don’t believe we’ve ever been formally introduced. I’m Matilda Forkins.” She held out her hand.

Helen shook it. “It’s nice to meet your properly, Miss Forkins. I’m Helen Hawkins.”

Matilda studied her. “You’re the minister’s daughter.”

Helen stiffened. “Yes, that is correct.”

“I’m sorry. Did I say something wrong?” Her brow furrowed.

“No, it’s nothing. I just… I’ve lived here my whole life, and I’m guessing we’re about the same age, but we never talked.”

Matilda pursed her lips, then smiled. “Say, would you like to get a cup of tea and perhaps some cakes at Ethel’s Teahouse?”

Every muscle in Helen’s body relaxed as the first true smile she’d known in a long time graced her face. “That would be lovely. Thank you.”

“Wonderful.”

LIKE WHAT YOU’VE READ?  PLEASE SUBSCRIBE TO MY BLOG, WHERE I POST AN EXCERPT EVERY SATURDAY. ALSO KEEP UP-TO-DATE WITH MY WRITING PROJECTS!

My new novel, A Laughing Matter of Pain, is now available for pre-order here.

My novel, Lorna versus Laura, is available for $4.99 here.

My novel, Hannah’s Rainbow: Every Color Beautiful, is available for $5.99 here.

Excerpt from Murder: It’s All in Your Head (WIP)

Her mother was outside feeding the chickens and collecting eggs. She came in with a handful and set them on the table.

“Good, you’re up.”

“Good morning, Mother.” How did you sleep? Did you hear it last night? How can you sleep knowing that? She glared at her mother’s back, willing her to understand or express an ounce of sympathy.

“Yes, good morning, Helen. Now, help me with breakfast. Your father intends to be up early as well. He has several sick parishioners to visit today and then must put the finishing touches on his sermon for Sunday.”

Helen nodded and set some water to boil for coffee. She pulled some bacon out of the ice box.

When her father entered the kitchen ten minutes later, he said, “Smells wonderful.”

Helen poured his coffee as he sat, then went to the front door to retrieve the paper and placed it in front of him. He picked it up and read it, coffee in hand. He didn’t have to look at his daughter. His presence alone brought with it a darkness that even the rising sun couldn’t snuff. The gas lamp over the table burned as bright as always, but in his black garb, Pastor Hawkins was a raven, ever-watching her with his beady eyes.

Helen helped get breakfast on the table and ate mechanically. Silence hung in the humid air like a firecracker waiting to explode. An imaginary rope tightened little by little around Helen’s neck as she forced down the food. The newspaper rustled every time her father turned the page. She quivered with the page, but while her father reset his grip on the paper and stilled it, her body continued to shiver, despite the heat. Sweat dripped from the base of her hairline under her braid and pooled along her collar. Still Helen kept her mouth shut.

The newspaper crinkled as her father closed it and set it on the table. His coffee cup clunked down next. He stood, the chair squealing over the floor.

Helen twitched with every utterance.

“Well, good day to you. I’ll be back late.”

“Have a good day, William.” Her mother stood and pecked her husband’s cheek.

Helen’s father grabbed his hat and briefcase, then left through the back door. Every muscle relaxed with the shutting of that door. Helen released a long breath and slumped her shoulders.

“Whatever is the matter with you?” her mother asked as she grabbed some empty dishes off the table and took them to the sink. “You’ve barely touched your food.”

“I guess I’m not really that hungry.”

“Nonsense, Helen. You have a busy day ahead of you. You’ll need your strength. Now, you have five minutes to finish your breakfast, and after that, you’ll just have to wait until lunch.”

“Yes, Mother.” Helen raised her gaze off a half-eaten piece of bacon and met her mother’s eyes.

“You could at least sound grateful you have something to eat. Some people aren’t so fortunate. Your father works hard to provide and helps those in town who don’t have the means to pay for food. He’s a good man.”

“Who are you trying to convince?” The words were out before Helen realized what she’d said. She covered her mouth with her hands, as if that would somehow reel them back in.

The line between her mother’s eyebrows deepened. The wrinkle became more pronounced on two occasions: when her mother was knitting and when she was displeased. “Excuse me, young lady?”

Helen swallowed and gripped the edge of the table, her back rigid. “You heard me, or did you turn off your ears like you do every time he does that to me?”

Smack!

Helen didn’t cry out as her mother’s hand made contact with her cheek. The sting clung to her skin as she lifted her hand and stared at her mother with a challenge, with betrayal.

“You won’t talk about your father that way. He’s a good man, holy, doing the Good Lord’s work.”

“Only God is holy.”

“You know what I mean. Your father had to pull himself up by his bootstraps from a young age, what with being raised by those hillbillies and a father who drank and beat his children. Be glad you have a roof over your head, a meal on the table three times a day, a father with a stable job, and a mother who is willing to cover for you when you are unappreciative and lazy.”

“Cover for me? You lie to protect him all the time. You let this happen, Mother. I’m your daughter.” Helen stood as an uncommon rage fueled her. She fisted her hands at her sides.

“You will hold your tongue, young lady. You will keep your silence like a woman should. And you would do well to remember that.” Her mother raised the wooden spoon in her hand, her blue eyes flashing.

“Of course.” Helen’s fingers relaxed at her sides, and she turned, leaving the kitchen.

LIKE WHAT YOU’VE READ?  PLEASE SUBSCRIBE TO MY BLOG, WHERE I POST AN EXCERPT EVERY SATURDAY. ALSO KEEP UP-TO-DATE WITH MY WRITING PROJECTS!

My new novel, A Laughing Matter of Pain, is now available for pre-order here.

My novel, Lorna versus Laura, is available for $4.99 here.

My novel, Hannah’s Rainbow: Every Color Beautiful, is available for $5.99 here.

Excerpt from Murder: It’s All in Your Head (WIP)

Helen rested her elbows on the surface of the desk and cradled her face in her hands as she returned her gaze to the window. Her eyelids grew heavy, and she drifted to sleep.

She was walking through the unused field on Mr. Bender’s farm just outside of town. Wildflowers grew as high as her waist as she made a path through them, skimming her hands over the tops. Her hands were a woman’s hands: long-fingered and graceful. Helen grinned as she took in the rest of her body. The curves under the blouse and skirt were a rare treasure. She imagined keeping this gift.

What if I didn’t have to wait to be grown? I could run away and not look back.

She skipped, then ran through the field, laughing. She felt her hat blow off, but didn’t mind. Let the wind claim it.

In the distance, a young man leaned against a tree on the edge of the field. He smiled when he saw her and stood, opening his arms. “Susan!”

Her heart thudded. The blood pumped through her body, and for a moment, Helen believed this was real. She was meeting her lover, maybe in secret. She pranced through the flowers, wondering if she might take off in flight. She giggled and called back his name, unsure of how she knew it expect that it felt right, like it was as much as part of her as this body. “Matthew!”

“Helen!”

She woke, withdrawing her face from her arms, which were crossed on the desk. Sweat covered his skin, drool on her cheek. She sat up and wiped at her face, frowning.

LIKE WHAT YOU’VE READ?  PLEASE SUBSCRIBE TO MY BLOG, WHERE I POST AN EXCERPT EVERY SATURDAY. ALSO KEEP UP-TO-DATE WITH MY WRITING PROJECTS!

My new novel, A Laughing Matter of Pain, is now available for pre-order here.

My novel, Lorna versus Laura, is available for $4.99 here.

My novel, Hannah’s Rainbow: Every Color Beautiful, is available for $5.99 here.

Excerpt from Murder: It’s All in Your Head (WIP)

“What are they?” Helen stared at the strange cookies in front of her on the table.

“I found them when I went into town to get some groceries. They’re called animal crackers.” Helen’s mother kissed her daughter’s cheek and took the bag of groceries to the table next to the sink.

Helen picked up the box and frowned at them. She opened it and nibbled on one. “They don’t taste like crackers, more like cookies.”

Her mother shrugged, her back to her daughter as she washed potatoes. “You’d best put them away in your room somewhere before your father gets home. You know he won’t take kindly to you eating sweets before dinner.”

A shiver shot up Helen’s spine. At twelve years old, she thought herself too old in many ways to be treated like the little girl her mom still thought she was. “When do you expect him home? Isn’t he supposed to be visiting old Mr. Hopper today?”

“Mr. Hopper passed away last night, dear. Your father was busy meeting with the family for most of the day to go over the details of the funeral. The whole town is expected to turn out for it on Saturday. He was mayor back in his prime, a name Hurston was built on.”

Helen made a face. “I don’t want to attend some stupid funeral of a man I don’t know.”

“That’ll be quite enough, young lady. To you room with your treats. Now.”

Helen sighed as she stood. She pushed in the chair, the legs scraping over the wooden floor. Her mother cringed at the sound, but kept working at the sink. The girl exited the kitchen and took the stairs as quietly as a mouse. That was how her mother liked her, after all: as quiet as can be.

When she arrived in her room, she knelt beside her bed as if to pray, but reached under the bed and pulled away a loose floorboard. She hid the box of animal crackers in the secret spot and replaced the board.

She avoided the bed and sat at her desk instead, staring out the window at the branches of the large oak next to the house. She watched a couple of robins flit around each other, as if in a dance, and she longed to be that free, to fly like in her dreams. She kept her eyes on the world outside, anywhere but on the bed.

There are other dreams, too. She smiled. She sometimes imagined she was walking around in someone else’s body, usually as other children in town. While she had no control over where her dreams might take her, her favorites were when she was someone rich like Matilda Forkins or Robert Jenkins. Matilda had all the best dresses and had two porcelain dolls, not just one. Robert was a year older than Helen and had the eyes of every girl in town on him.

But they end, like all dreams. They’re so quick, like a blink. “In the end, I still have to wake up and return here,” she whispered, whisking her gaze from the window and staring at her bed.

The haze of the summer rested heavy on Helen as she sat there, waiting for her father to return home. He would walk in the back door and comment on how wonderful dinner smelled, would kiss his wife, and would straighten his clerical collar. Her mother would make some remark about how proud she was of him for doing God’s work. And Helen would sit there, her mouth shut until she was spoken to by the man.

Helen rested her elbows on the surface of the desk and cradled her face in her hands as she returned her gaze to the window. Her eyelids grew heavy, and she drifted asleep.

Like what you’ve read?  Please subscribe to my blog, where I post an excerpt every Saturday.

My novel, Lorna versus Laura, is available for $4.99 here.

My novel, Hannah’s Rainbow: Every Color Beautiful, is available for $5.99 here.