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Nov 19 12

The featured free short horror story this month is “Moonlight Sonata,” which won a DemonMinds Award on that site for being readers’ Favorite Monster Tale of 2005. A love triangle that breeds obsession and betrayal is at the heart of this vampire tale. Here’s the opening scene, and if you wish to read more, simply go to the Fiction section of this website, click on Horror/Short Stories, and then “Moonlight Sonata.”

by Debbie Kuhn

Little Havana was a lively place, even on a late Sunday evening.

Pedestrians of every imaginable race crowded the walkways and Latino music filled the air, along with the excited chatter of hagglers at the shop stands. A gentle March breeze spread the scents of spicy food, cigar smoke, and human sweat.

Victoria strolled down Calle Ocho in her clingy, white silk dress and high-heeled sandals. The night gradually became quieter and her surroundings grew more deserted.

The famous street had its lonely areas. Occasionally she would hear a dog bark – followed by its master’s sharp admonishment – and sounds from a Spanish TV show would come wafting out an open window.

The stranger mimicked her pace now, not bothering to soften his footsteps. He had been following her for several blocks.

Victoria paused casually, and then headed down a narrow alleyway. She could feel the baked-in heat radiating off the brick walls on either side of her as she sashayed along, deftly avoiding the smelly garbage that littered her path.

The man turned down the alley after her and quickened his pace. She knew he could still see her tall, slender figure clearly – thanks to the illuminating rays of the bright full moon.

He was close now, so close she could hear his erratic breathing, smell his cheap cologne.

She smiled. It would happen soon.

Victoria nonchalantly removed the white silk scarf from around her neck and let it hang by her side as she walked. Under her breath, she sang the opening lyrics to You Better Go Now, a jazzy blues ballad by Billie Holiday.

That lady had serious style.


The stranger rushed up behind Victoria and put a calloused hand over her mouth. His other hand held a switchblade to her throat.

“My pretty, blond señorita, you will like what I can do.” The man’s breath smelled like the dregs of a beer bottle that had been festering in the hot sun. “There is no need to scream.”

Victoria grabbed both his wrists and pulled them down. “I know.”

She pushed the stocky stranger back against the brick wall and spun around to face him, knocking the knife out of his hand.

He stared at her wide-eyed, his mouth opening and closing like a catfish that had been yanked out of the water.

“You crazy b-b-bitch,” he finally said, lunging past her.

She whipped her scarf around his neck and flung him backwards.

“My name is Lady Victoria.” She lifted him off the ground by his throat and pinned him to the wall. “And believe me, señor, you won’t like what I can do. You won’t like it at all.”

Victoria bared her fangs and moved in for the kill.

Terror filled every crevice of the man’s swarthy face. He let out a weak, strangled cry, his arms flailing against her, vainly trying to push her away.

Victoria wrinkled her delicate nose as a dark stain appeared on the front of his faded jeans. She set his feet back on the ground and moved behind him, gripping him around the waist, pinning his arms to his sides.

The stranger began wailing in Spanish, his voice hoarse and nearly useless.

Victoria sank her fangs into the soft part of his neck, and he struggled even more desperately, kicking her shins.

She forced him to the ground. The blood, so salty and sweet, flowed into her, warming her pale skin, her cold bones. The red nectar sharpened her senses even more – and made her loneliness melt away.

The stranger soon grew limp and quiet, but his heart still struggled. It wanted to go on beating. It wanted the body to live.

Too bad.

Victoria drained her attacker to the point of death, and then released him. She stood and adjusted her scarf before removing the little jeweled dagger from the sheath worn on her upper left thigh.

Quickly, she bent over the man and slashed his throat to hide the bite marks. It was an ugly, gaping wound. She carefully licked the blood off the razor-sharp knife blade and slipped the dagger back in its sheath.

Victoria, my darling, I have found you again. We shall see each other soon.

Damn. She’d let her guard down just long enough to feed, but it had been long enough for the Count – her sire – to succeed in invading her mind for the second time in six months.

It was awfully bloody annoying.

She sighed, and began the long walk back to her hidden Mercedes. She could have sprinted back at preternatural speed, but she was in no hurry to return to the echoey Bal Harbour mansion she now called home.

Her evenings usually began with a drive down to colorful, trendy South Beach. Seeing all those beautiful, uninhibited humans running around half-naked and half-drunk in the Art Deco District never failed to whet her appetite. Tanned skin and sparkling gems went so well together.

Even if one couldn’t worship the sun, living in a balmy climate definitely had its rewards.

An hour later, Victoria cruised past the short, fat palm trees lining Balmoral Court and eased through the wrought-iron gates of her palatial estate. She parked her convertible in the detached garage and headed over to the Mediterranean-style mansion’s rear terrace.

She picked up Rayne’s scent immediately. He was inside, waiting in the darkness.

Smart cop. She hadn’t fooled him after all.

Victoria crossed the uneven flagstones and paused in front of the stained-glass doors. How would it feel to see him again? She had to admit she was pleased at the prospect.

No, more than pleased. She was elated – despite all the trouble that lay dead ahead.

To read the rest of the story, go to Fiction/Horror/Short Stories/”Moonlight Sonata.”


Nov 13 12

Minor spoilers ahead.

As far back as I can remember, there have been new Bond films premiering on the big screen every two to four years. By the time I got into my teens, it had become a tradition for me to attend the latest release with my mother. I had never read the Ian Fleming novels (still haven’t), and the movies I saw with Roger Moore, Timothy Dalton, and Pierce Brosnan, each playing that iconic role, never left me with the desire to investigate the literary side of the world’s top secret agent. Those flicks were fun (campy/cheesy), and really not meant to be taken seriously. (Yes, and all those gratuitous love scenes made me giggle – especially when the useless females would let out a breathless, “Oh, James.”) One never really got to see why Bond became a spy, or why he would be willing and able to kill people for a living.

That changed in 2006 with the release of “Casino Royale.” The franchise had gotten a much needed reboot – thankfully with writers who wanted 007 to come across as a real human being. Of course, many fans had a hissy fit when Daniel Craig was chosen to play a blond Bond. It didn’t bother me one bit. Craig is a gifted actor and, in my opinion, his looks fit the part of a hardened spy much better than the suave, nonchalant Moore, the charming, chiseled Dalton, or the flawlessly handsome, bored Brosnan.

“Skyfall” is the 23rd Bond film, and Daniel Craig shines in his third outing as Agent 007. He is joined by a stellar cast and a worthy director, Sam Mendes. We still have explosive, pulse-pounding action sequences to relish in exotic locales, along with a character-driven plot (courtesy of writers John Logan, Neal Purvis and Robert Wade).

As the new film opens, the latest mission has gone terribly awry, resulting in the exposure of several agents and a bold, unprecedented attack on MI6. Apparently, M (Dame Judi Dench) has a past and now it’s come back to haunt her with a vengeance in the form of a mysterious, diabolical villain named Silva (Academy Award winner Javier Bardem). In my opinion, there will never be another Bond Bad Guy as unusual as Bardem’s Silva. His performance has a creepiness factor nearly on par with Heath Ledger’s “Dark Knight” role. What’s even stranger is the fact that I experienced moments of sympathy for him as his agenda and the reasons behind it were revealed. Once again, it’s all about trust and betrayal.

M goes on the defense and tries to relocate the agency, but meanwhile the Chairman of the Intelligence and Security Committee, Mallory (Ralph Fiennes), steps in to cast doubt on her competence. To say that she and Bond have had “a bad day at the office” is putting it mildly. But despite everything that happens in the first ten minutes of the film, 007 stays loyal to M.  With the help of the new, young computer-whiz Q (Ben Whishaw) and field agent Eve (Naomie Harris), Bond sets out to bring down the criminal mastermind who is hell-bent on destroying them all. It’s no easy task, and that, of course, means those two hours and twenty-odd minutes simply fly by. Or at least they did for this particular fan.

What I appreciated most about the script was the fleshing out of Bond’s character. Secrets from his childhood in Scotland are exposed, thanks in part to a small but significant role played by the wonderful Albert Finney. Finally, we can see more clearly how and why Bond became Agent 007.

As for the obligatory Bond girl, the two sex scenes (not “love scenes,” since Bond refuses to fall for anyone again) included in the movie were shockingly brief. You’ll have to decide whether that’s a good thing or a bad thing. I like to think of it as progress. Also, regarding the movie’s theme song, even though I’m not much of an Adele fan (she does have a golden voice), I have to say the title tune she penned with Paul Epworth couldn’t be more classic. The haunting lyrics and sensuous melody fits the somber mood established at the end of the opening scene, and the macabre animation accompanying it is rather striking.

I must admit that “Skyfall” is my favorite Bond film to date. Some viewers probably will find fault with it, of course – especially the “purists.” An English friend of mine told me he found the sentimentality quite appalling. “But you Americans like that sort of thing, I suppose.”

Yes, actually. In small doses, especially when it’s used to show someone’s vulnerable, flawed, human side. All of us have, at one time or another, trusted someone we shouldn’t have trusted and suffered for it.

But “Skyfall” is still a Bond flick: It’s not so heavy that it brings viewers down, and it still manages to be a game changer (with a salute to the past and new blood for the future). I have no qualms about recommending it because I think the majority of fans will be satisfied – perhaps even splendidly entertained.