Return of Writings by Ender

It’s been quite a long time since I’ve posted content on Writings By Ender but I missed it with my entire being. I’m actively writing again and hope to get a short story to you all by the end of next week. Until then I’m trying to decide what other material I should add to the site. What would you like to see on Writings by Ender? What sort of content do you enjoy on other writing blogs? Please feel free to tell me any of your opinions!


Writing Update, Free Ebook

I released Bonds That Bind late last year. It took time for me to realize it but my release of the book was contrary to what I stand for. To remedy this, I am now giving my collection Bonds that Bind for free here on Writings By Ender. If you enjoy it and want to support my writing, you can still by the book but I want to make it accessible to everyone. This is the link. No strings attached, straight-to-download. If you wish to support me and my writing after reading the book, you can buy it on Amazon here(reviews are nice too):

Link for readers in the UK :

Thank you for your time! 

Winner for Prompt on Triumph, Beachwalk by Fran Johns

The only participant from my Writing Prompt on triumph was a short story called “Beachwalk”. I’d like to thank Fran Johns at for writing this work for the prompt and I invite the rest of you to let me know what you think of  Fran’s work in a comment below. And if you would like to participate in future prompts, check out Writings By Ender every Monday morning.

Silence hung damp and heavy, like the fog she could see enveloping the nearby Florida pinewoods, poised to wrap itself onto each still, jagged treetop. Walking alone toward the unrelenting darkness, she felt the silence in her bones, seeping into the marrow of her soul.
Joan had pulled the door shut behind her, slamming it against the brightly lit room and the noise of the garage, against the pulse of the house, the drone of the radio in the corner and his accusing voice:
“You’ll be back,” he said. “Do as you like. You’ll be back.”
He had said it before of course, in the steady, nonchalant manner that he wore like an armor against any threat to his close-wrapped world. Joan had fallen for that armor, with its assurance of security and calm, its promise of a hiding place.
Now, though, she walked in solitude, unhidden, exposed.
For most of her 42 years, Joan had sought a hiding place. A dozen of those years had spun out in a Depression-years marriage that resembled a dual-filament light bulb, electrical currents flying wildly inside the glass, Joan trying to stay upright while someone else controlled the switch. Then there were the six long, frightening years of widowhood, struggling to deal with the mounting bills and slowly mending bones which were all she had left after her husband, numbed with booze, tried to beat the 8:53 freight train to the crossing. She had lived, he had not. Sometimes afterward she thought he might have been the lucky one, because try as she might to find joy, it was repeatedly thwarted by hardship.
A minor hardship – the breakdown of her aging car – had introduced her to Emory. He was slim, taut, prematurely gray and enough older that Joan had no memory of ever having seen him around town.
Emory had come home to Marshallville midway through the war, minus one eye and numb from what that eye had seen. He moved back into the small house where he had lived alone since both parents died, and back into his steady job at Murray & Sons Mechanics. He was there one morning when Joan drove a coughing, sputtering 1936 Ford coupe into the shop.
“What do you think?” she said. “Can you nurse this jalopy along for maybe another few months?”
Emory looked from the car to the bluejeans-clad young woman. He had not quite adjusted to seeing women in bluejeans. Joan’s blond hair was pulled back with a folded bandana, her blue eyes smiling at him above a freckled nose. Emory thought she might have been made out of sunshine.
“I can flat bring it back to life, ma’am,” he said. “I can bring anything automotive back to life. You want to leave it here until tomorrow afternoon?”
“Everybody says I can trust you,” she said, still smiling. “I’ll see you about 4.”
By the time she walked back in, Emory had figured out how to ask her to dinner and pretty much decided he would marry her.
To Emory, Joan spelled comfort and liveliness, someone who would breathe fresh air back into his darkened world. And in him, Joan saw safety. They married at the county courthouse and she moved into the little clapboard home not far from the shop. Neither would have said it was a love match, but in the beginning each found a deep satisfaction that filled the space where passion might otherwise have grown.
Joan planted a flower garden in front of the little house, tried to cook the meals Emory liked, visited with old friends in the languishing afternoons. Emory worked long hours at the shop. When he got home he would shower and change into his pajamas; they would have intermittent dinnertime conversations, listen to music on the radio, go to bed early. Joan had relaxed into the comfort, but felt with it a nagging sense of loss, a weary yearning. Within the first year she had left him briefly, stayed with an old friend just long enough to gather up strength for another try.
When an old Army buddy offered Emory part ownership in a North Florida bait and tackle shop, he and Joan grasped at the offer as if it were a life ring tossed into a dark sea. The little house in Marshallville was traded for a little house near the Inland Waterway. Emory worked at the fishing store with slightly less enthusiasm than he’d had at the auto shop, but there were sandy beaches and sunshine days, moss-hung trees and soft ocean breezes. Joan bought sketchbooks and drawing pencils, returning with a surprising zeal to the art she had loved as a young girl. And for a few months, their little house nestled into its squat palmettos seemed to offer the possibility of new life. By the second year in Florida, though, the old darkness of ennui had enveloped Emory, and Joan began again to struggle against suffocation. Twice she had left, briefly seeking refuge in a nearby motel while trying to work out a way to survive on her own. This time she had slammed the door, propelled by a different kind of strength. It was from some new, calm assurance that had grown triumphant in bits and pieces inside her.
She walked the sandy roadway that led from behind their clump of low, brick-and-masonry houses, toward the river and the beach beyond. It was an old and seldom-used road, overgrown and largely ignored since the new blacktop connecting the development to the town had been completed. Dense scrub and tough palmettos crowded its edges and stretched on either side into the pine forests, making a green-brown tangle that reached horizontally about hip-high until the yellow pines soared suddenly upward, blocking from sight everything but the ribbon of sand below and matching ribbon of gray sky above.
Sand fleas buzzed her bare ankles and the occasional rustle of snakes and marsh creatures in the palmettos broke the stillness.
“You’ll be back,” he had said, because she had always come back. She would grow afraid of the dark, empty roads and the murky river, afraid of the ocean’s roar and the vast unknown—and she would go back. He would simply look up and nod, and they would take up where they left off. Not this time, she swore to the ocean breeze. She saw in her mind’s eye, thousands of miles to the north, the green Virginia hills.
An hour or so after slamming the door she was still walking slowly, deliberately along the river road. The cool, steamy fog that rises mysteriously from the late-afternoon ground had settled along the scrub, the gathering darkness wrapping delicately around her body as she made her way. Twice the darkness had been sliced by headlights of an approaching car, twice she had slipped quickly into the dense growth, snagging her jeans and cutting her hands on the sharp prongs of palmetto leaves but keeping herself hidden from anyone passing. This was a journey she would make by herself, alone in the salty darkness.
A slender new moon began to spin an eerie, gauzy light through the fog, and except for the occasional interruptions of headlights her eyes became accustomed to this slight illumination of her pathway. Another half-hour and she would reach the bridge; across the bridge and a sandspit was the ocean, and she could walk the beaches all the way to St. Augustine if she chose. Maybe she would go to her friend’s house there. Maybe she would get to the highway at daybreak, start hitchhiking north. There were a few dollars in her bank account, if her worldly goods were few. She would not go back.
She walked with her eyes down, focusing on the sandy roadway as it unrolled beneath her scuffed white tennis shoes. The fog was hugging the ground now, the moon shining behind a haze of clouds above, the chill October night threatening rain. She had never gotten used to the lightning-fast changes of north Florida weather, blazing sunshine that would disappear into thunderclouds in an instant, cold rain slanting sideways in gusty sheets off the ocean without warning.
Lost in tumbled thoughts and the dark silence she did not see the armadillo until it appeared in front of her out of nowhere, a scant three or four yards ahead. It was slowly making its way across the sand, toward the shelter of a burrow perhaps, or on a nocturnal search for grass and insects. Joan stood rooted in mid-step, the toe of her left shoe bent slightly into the damp ground, mesmerized by the first creature to intrude into her wanderings that night.
He was about a foot and a half long, bands of scaly armature running horizontally around the plump circle of his body. He made her think of ancient knights readying for battle. His nose kept close to the sand, as if charting a sure course, moving deliberately from side to side but just enough to watch his forward movement. Joan had never seen an armadillo so close. She knew they could move quickly when frightened, or sometimes roll into a ball to protect themselves – she wondered briefly if this were the kind that could do that. She tried not to make a sound.
As the armadillo inched his way across the road Joan heard a faraway piping, the call of an owl from some high perch in the pines, mournful, but somehow reassuring. To-ooh-wooo, it called, peopling the darkness. The armadillo slid into the roadside grass and disappeared under the palmettos.
In another thirty minutes Joan reached the old bridge, with its rickety pedestrian footpath running beside the roadway. The scudding clouds were fast-moving now, creating a strange, silent-movie effect with the moonlight on the black river below. She walked carefully, hugging her windbreaker close against her shoulders.
“You do what you have to do . . .” This time, she had done that. She had gathered up an extra T-shirt or two, a few bars of white chocolate, her sketch pad and some other niceties, her wallet and the extra cash she kept in the kitchen jar. She had stuffed the lot of it into the fishnet carryall now slung loosely over her shoulder. She could smell the ocean now, hear the soft rush of the tides. The breakers danced their eternal dance just ahead of her, washing over the residue of millions of eaten-out shells, erasing the footsteps of the day, smoothing out a pristine pathway. Over a stretch of sawgrass, across a shifting dune she reached the beach and turned north.
Joan walked swiftly along the white sand beach, her stride lengthening, her shoulders erect against the breeze. It blew soft and warm, then sharply cold as the moon darted in and out of the clouds. Her canvas shoes were soaked but she hardly felt the dampness; there was only the firm sand beneath her, moving her along with a comforting, familiar-kitchen sound. She took out one of the chocolate bars and ate it slowly, letting the white richness melt on her tongue and flow through her body.
It was nearly midnight. She reached a place where the beach disappeared into a slight curve bordered by soft, flat rock that separated the ocean from a wide marshland. Keeping close to the water’s edge she rounded the cove, to find herself back on unbroken beach facing an astonishing spectacle of light. As the waves broke gently onto the sand, millions of tiny lights were flashing through the foam, a miracle of phosphorescence churned up by the water. Joan felt it peculiarly for herself alone, a celebration. It sang of the days of her childhood, playing giddily at dusk in the same ocean miles and miles north. She danced into the water, splashing fountains of Christmas tree light around her ankles, feeling like a small child overflowing with delight. Bending straight-legged from the waist, she reached her hands into the cool water, sending it into cascades of more tiny lights with the movement of her fingers. Then she straightened and stood still. On the horizon, when the moon peeped from behind the clouds, she could see the dim shape of a cargo ship, its lights blinking as if beckoning her to a faraway world.
For the first time she became aware of the lights of civilization far ahead and inland. She knew she had passed other inland buildings, and occasional beach walkers; she simply had not been in their world that night. That night it was her world.
She walked a little farther until she came upon the pilings of an old, landlocked pier years abandoned, the poles and boards fallen loosely against the dunes, smelling of salt and long-washed tar. Joan had hardly stopped for more than a moment since she closed the door of an old life behind her, a life more dead than truly alive, a life of rolling into a ball or digging into the sand. Now she dropped gratefully onto the boards, sheltered from the ocean breeze by the sand dunes that had blown around them. She stretched her legs toward the ocean and slept, wakened later by the scrambling sandcrabs, the call of shorebirds coming for their breakfast and the hot, brilliant sun on her face.
No, she said to the sunrise, I will not be back.

Legend, A Short Story

The makeshift arena was made from rusted fencing and rope fishermen once used on the docks. The building housing the arena was a warehouse battered by bombs and melted glass had solidified into pools inside the building. Murk filled the air both in and outside the building and the density of pollution blocked out the sun to heighten the gloom. There was no clean patron of the arena. Men and women came with their clothes caked in a layer of filth garnered from exposure to the outside. All the faces, regardless of race were plastered with grey film and only those who wore a mask or otherwise covered sported a clear face.
The audience arranged themselves in neat rows of chairs with different heights and colors and they were seated based on a simple rule: the strong sit in the front and all others rank up behind them. Seats were contended until the day of the fights and the rankings were respected until the arena fights were over. As such burly men and women sat in the first row surrounding the arena. Conversations among the strength-based castes were boisterous and this was amplified by the presence of the facilities home-brewed liquor.
Donna let the uproar wash over her, she had been in this situation many times over and was no stranger to fighting a man. She sat wrapping her hands with a thin layer of bandage and chanted to herself, “I seek refuge in the perfect words of God from the evil that which He has created.” It was a pre-fight mantra her mother passed onto her and she, without know what God was, latched onto it. It had given her mom calm before she died, and, Donna realized, it brought her serenity as well.
A middle aged man came into the bathroom where Donna was sitting. The man sported a mullet with the sides faded and he’d one glass eye that never looked exactly in the right direction. “Donna, it’s time to fight.”
Donna looked at the man square in the eyes and nodded then got up to follow him out of the bathroom and into the uproar. There was an announcer on stage now, a short statured man standing in the middle of the ring gesturing the masses to quiet down. Quiet settled into the warehouse slowly in little factions. The front row went quiet last and anybody still causing a commotion after the front row would be treated as belligerent. The stout man spoke like a conman in their heyday, “Good afternoon, and welcome to Jaxton’s Arena. You all know who I am. Jaxton Davis and it’s because of me that you can see this fight. So remember when the blood spills who financed this leisure for you.” He paused for a moment allowing anticipation to soak up into the drywall. “Now let’s introduce our fighters,” he announced at last. “Tyson Crews, 6’1 with a dynamite haymaker.” Tyson seemed taller than what Jaxton stated his posture was so immaculate that he would have towered over anyone who approached him. The crowd cheered as Tyson entered the ring with such ease and grace that most people missed him even moving. He was simply suddenly on the stage.
“Another veteran out of the area, Donna Dawson. The fastest fighter alive.” And she was. Speed had nothing to do with grace. Speed was pure depletion of energy and grace was withholding that energy. Donna climbed onto the stage and stood in the corner opposite Tyson.
Jaxton rung a bell and escaped the middle. They didn’t wear gloves, they were fighting until someone refused to get up and if one was too stubborn to stay down they would die. Donna moved into Tyson and delivered a few jabs to the gut. Tyson absorbed the hits and countered with a massive right hook that missed Donna by less than an inch. Donna felt the air from the punch and knew caution would serve her best. Dancing around Jaxton and mocking, Donna taunted Tyson hoping to turn the man’s pent up anger against him. She taunted, closed in the distance and delivered a series of jabs to Tyson’s stomach, and escaped out of the reach of the man. Over and over again until he made a mistake which inevitably came.
Tyson with all his power couldn’t land a solid punch because of Donna’s speed. The punches were starting to slow him down. His breath had become more shallow. Concerned, Tyson rushed Donna and swung wide and uncontrolled. The grace he had at the beginning of the fight deteriorated while the speed which Donna had shown from the beginning had not wanned. When Tyson got close to Donna, she launched two hooks and an uppercut which all landed. Tyson collapsed. Donna watched as Tyson bubbled like a drunk trying to get up but hoped the man would stay down but he rose to his feet. Donna wouldn’t let Tyson get reoriented. A jab to the stomach, hook to the face and Tyson was back down. He didn’t move this time.
After the fight, Donna returned to bathroom and changed. “I fucked up bad,” she said to herself as she changed. Donna opened the bathroom door with her bag slowly hoping not to draw attention to herself but the glass-eyed-man was already there waiting.
“What the fuck, Donna?”
“I did what I had to do?”
“Had to do? We had a deal.”
“And you promised me I wouldn’t fake-lose to a shitty fighter. Yet Tyson was there. So I changed plans.”
The man shook his head, “You have no idea what you’ve done Donna, we’re both screwed. You’ll see.” Pouting like a child, the man stormed off. Donna headed home in the thick of the grime. The wind churned about and grew stronger as the day went. Everything was coated in this grey and blackness that nobody cared to get rid. It was in the air, the particles that coated the world and tasted look soot and dust and coal. Donna yawned and got a taste of the air but it didn’t phase her. Donna walked through a demolished apartment building and she had to be careful over the rubble underfoot. Then she went down a long stretch of black and brown colored road where at the end was a battered building with a once lit neon sign that read “General Store”.The building’s innermost room was Donna’s home and with no one else staking claim to the rest of the building, she owned the entire building too.
After bathing Donna laid on her bed and thought. That’s all there was to do for entertainment that didn’t involve raiding other villages or killing passersby. She imagined a place of green, green floors, on the trees, on the plants and on the mountains, and she knew her naivety but imagined the sky blue anyway. As she thought her foot and hands tapped about on the bed or walls. She thought all day without thinking of the consequences of her rebellion at the arena.
Donna pictured Desmond, the man with the glass eye. He held up a wad of dollars and counted it aloud for her. “One-thousand, two-thousand. Three-thousand dollars. We can rig this fight Donna, just lose to whoever you fight next and I’ll bet this here and we’ll split the money.” Something had went awry, if Desmond had known Donna was fighting an easy opponent he would have better for her instead of against her. Someone else must have gotten involved.
Early the next morning the was a knock at the door which startled Donna out of bed. She thought she was still dreaming as she went to open the door. At the door was a tall man in a suit that faded from grey to a greasy black. Behind him four muscular men stood with their arms crossed and smirks on their face. “You must be Donna, pleased to meet you.” Donna couldn’t swift through the sentence for sarcasm or authenticity.
“I am, and you are? Donna said making sure to keep distance from the man.
The man scoffed and the men behind him laughed but the lack of smile lines showcased that the four men were also intimidated. They were forcing smiles. “Me? I’m Marcus. That’s all you need to know. And you, Mrs. Donna, have screwed me out of a grip. You were supposed to lose that fight and we all knew it. Desmond himself promised all the big time better. So why’d you do it Donna? What money did you earn by winning the fight?”
“Money? I’m the poorest fighter around. I don’t have money just laying around. Feel free to check. My pockets are empty and so is my house.” Donna moved to the side allowing Marcus to see all her home. The goons behind Marcus started forward but with a swift gesture, Marcus stopped them. He shrugged and said, “I’ll see you soon.” The group of gangsters plodded along the rubble of the general store and out into the still air.
Donna rushed to grab a backpack and filled it with clothes and she was out the door. She ran more than walked and if there were people outside she would have looked bizarre. Running in the thickness of the grime, Donna could feel her throat and lungs being coated with the fine particles. Most of what she tasted was dust. It was a the minute jog to a small shack on the outskirts of the devastated town. The shack itself seemed it was built from salvage of the town complete with a sign taken from a pharmacy that now only read, “Jack’s Pharma”. The rest of the word had been cut off in the shacks construction. Donna knocked on the door and Tyson Crews opened it.
“Donna what the hell are you doing here?”
“They’re already onto us Ty, we’ve got to go.”
“Go? I’m not going anywhere.”
“You don’t understand the gang is involved this time.”
“Look, I’m staying here, that’s all I know. Venturing into nothingness like you want is crazy. Here’s your cut and good luck.” Tyson handed Donna a wad of money kept together with a few rubber bands. Donna looked a Tyson pleadingly but only said, “Thanks,” and she was on her way.
Desmond always told Donna if she wanted to escape town that she should head north, that there were rumors of another town a few days walk using the roads. Heading north would mean going back to town, heading north would increase the possibility of running into Marcus and his gang before she’d make off. She went north anyway.
The asphalt below her feet was crumbling and decaying and weeds had grown through the cracks. Every now and then under an especially hot sun, the smell of tar would rise from the asphalt which lead many to call the it Tar Road. Heading north back into town, smelling tar and dust, Donna thought about the city. It had forced her to fight since her childhood and she was tired. She hated the city and the people, they were raiders and pillagers. They were barbarians. Even though Desmond had raised her, he too was a barbarian at heart, he just expressed it differently. Desmond was a savage for money.
The town was baking under the sun and the was hazy in a mirage. Donna walked back into the town and hoped it would be her last, and with each step she took she grew more resolute of the thought. Goodbye town, she thought as she continued on the path. She walked past the small crumbled homes, part of which were used to build shacks like Tysons. Donna was distracted in taking final notes of her childhood home, the intown shacks, the shops, and eventually the arena. All places she once frequented without much a thought and now she would be abandoning them and would let them be consumed completely by savages. Good riddance, she thought as the arena was behind her.
Five figures stood on the road just before the city surrendered to desert, and on both sides of those five were a crowd of people. Donna heard the commotion grow before she noticed the men blocking her path. Donna looked for another path around but this was the only path out of the city, the other ways were blocked by toppled skyscrapers. Each step was laborious and yet she had to take them and had to face the men who were certainly Marcus and his crew. She counted her steps to take her mind off the impending fight. Two. Ten. Twenty. Fifty steps. She was face to face with Marcus now and the chatter that rose to an uproar, fell once again to silence.
“Where do you think you’re going?”
“Away from this shit hole.”
“And taking off with all my money? Didn’t think I’d find out where it went that fast, did you? It wasn’t too hard to figure out. Good lesson for you to learn Donna, always ask the bookie. Knowing that Tyson bet against himself through a third party was all I needed to know that you were involved.”
“So what? You just want the money?” Donna showed the cash bound by rubber bands.
“That’d be a start. Then I’d like a public apology, and we’ll go from there.”
“Fat chance, I’m leaving. Deal with Tyson, he seemed bent on staying here.”
“Tyson will get his, but you’re the one wanting to leave.”
Donna wondered how Marcus had found out her leaving in the first place but the thought wasn’t worth the time. People in the town keep their mouths loose with other people’s business. The rule of the town was to trust no one, after all. Donna squared her shoulders to fight the five men in front of her. There was a commotion on both sides of the road and laughter from Marcus.
“Come on kid, just give me the money and say you’re sorry.”
Donna said nothing. The wind blew sending the fine black particles into Donna’s face, she felt them hit her teeth and tasted coal. The scent of tar rose from the floor and all the while the side chatter grew.
The fight would pass on through drunken night for decades, they would tell it with gleam in their eyes about the gang and the fastest fighter alive. Each time a drunkard told it the wind blew harder, the men grew larger and the odds more frightful. Donna Dawson too grew more extraordinary until it was said she moved like lightning. When Donna Dawson confronted Marcus and his gang crowd was on Marcus’s side. They cheered as his men gained advantage and jeered as Donna made any headway in the fight.
“The wind blew so madly,” one drunkard said “That for a second no one could see Donna or the gang. But just as the dust settled it was only Donna who remained standing. She looked like hell. She was right beaten blacker and bluer than she’d ever been. But she’d beat them.”
The barbarians of the town celebrate the legend of Donna not because she stood up to the gang or because of an morality she might have shown but because her sheer ability. And though no one cheered her on that night, whenever he story is told those in the crowd tell it as if they were cheering. The townspeople had no true alignment to anyone other than to cheer for those who would win. And those townspeople who celebrate her legend, haven’t heard from Donna since.

Writing Prompt Winners, March 13-18

This week’s prompt was inspired by the natural feeling of fear. Fear can be negative or largely constructive, it all depends on how one is able to channel the emotion. Below are the best posts following the prompt that I suggested on Monday. And if you’re interested in participating in the future, stay tuned and watch for any “Writing Prompt:” Posts.

From Hannah at

imagine the feeling is similar, to that of a flightless bird trapped in a cage. Knowing that if the bars should open, there is a more complex notion to escaping than appears. Because, the experience of a sickening bubble, gasp stricken appearance, buried sweaty palms and nerving vibrations, are somehow invisible. Two faces at war exhaust the day, then remain restless at night.

It is said that good friends prevail through sadness as well as happiness. But with an embodiment of melancholy, happiness is like a stranger with flightless wings and unknown. And on the occasion the bird sung, perhaps she only did it without any expectation from those who passed by the cage.

So what mechanism hangs the bird in this stage – is it singing, is it flight, is it the cage? I do not know yet.



Ash stood in the middle of the shop, his muscles frozen. The crackle of flames grew louder as he stood, uncertain of what to do. His face flooded with sweat, his nostrils stung from the acrid smoke and his eyes burned.

He coughed so hard he was sure his lungs were trying to escape his chest cavity. Trying to leave him too, the gaping hole she’d left behind so vast it swallowed him whole. A can rattled down one of the aisles and he squinted into the haze.

A fist loomed into his vision and connected with his face. His head snapped back and he bit his tongue hard enough to draw blood. His body flung backwards, knocking shelved items in every direction. Ash fell to his knees, his head hung low, a steady stream of blood falling to the shiny floor.

“She was delicious.” Jerry taunted. His voice lingering disembodied in the smoky haze. “I should have taken longer with her. Teased her life from her heaving carcass with delicate precision. Made her suffer greatly.”

Ash lunged out, trying to inflict pain. “Fight me like a man!” His hands met nothing but smoke.

Jerry laughed. “You can’t hurt me.” He threw a can of tomato soup at Ash, the metal can hit him in the chest with a dull thud. “Just like you couldn’t save her.”

Ash trembled, coughed and then a howl of rage erupted from him. He lowered his head to the ground and screamed. “You stole her!” Blood and spittle flew from his mouth. The skin of his face mottled from dozens of bruises, cuts ripped open and fresh trails of blood painted him a grizzly mask of pain and fear.

“Yes I did.” A chuckle stole from Jerry’s mouth. “And there’s nothing you can do about it.” He stalked around Ash’s prone form, removing a pick axe from the shelf. “Except die.”

Jerry swung the axe at Ash’s head, but Ash jerked backwards, the metal spike missing his face by a few centimetres. The pick axe buried itself into the shop floor.

Ash jumped up, turning to Jerry and kicked him in the crotch. Jerry dropped like a sack of shit, his mouth opening and closing like an aggravated goldfish. His lungs forgot how to work and it felt like his guts were trying to climb up his oesophagus.

Ash pushed Jerry to the floor, pressing his boot against Jerry’s head. “You were saying?” Ash ground his foot against Jerry’s face. His boot tore and bruised Jerry’s flesh. “Fucker.”

He leant down and grabbed one of Jerry’s fingers, twisting it the wrong way so hard the bones snapped.

A storm of emotions played across Jerry’s face. Ash grabbed another finger and ripped it back until he heard another delightful pop and Jerry’s hiss of protest.

“I’m gonna slit your throat,” Ash dropped his knee into Jerry’s back. “Hear you squeal like-”

“Just like Hetty did!” Jerry ground out between clenched teeth.

Ash reeled as if he’d been struck, pushing himself back until he sat on his butt on the floor. He dropped his head to his hands and fought to keep his mind in the present.

Even fearing for his life could not shake Hetty’s hold on his mind anymore. He slipped into memories of her. The warmth of her love smothered him. Her shy smile and furtive glances entranced him.

The vision of her broken body seared lashes across his memory and stole his breath.

Jerry forced himself to his feet, a bloody grin splitting his face in two.

“Perhaps you’d like to join her?” He grabbed the broken man before him and dragged him across the shop. “After I’ve had some fun, of course.”