Sunday, December 2, 2012

Terrifying Teddies Anthology

Terrifying Teddies
A Satan's Toybox Anthology
As you may know, I am in the third Satan's Toybox Anthology, Terrifying Teddies, which is put out by Angelic Knight Press. Look at the wonderful cover! The artwork alone, which was done by Rebecca Treadway, is enough to give you nightmares. Imagine the terror you will find inside!
I am proud to be listed in this great tome, alongside many authors that are much better at their craft than I am. Throughout the month I will be featuring the different authors and excerpts from their stories so you can see for yourself why I say that I am in awe.
My story, The Mish Mash Bear, was challenging for me to write. Thanks to the editing advice of Stacey Turner and the mythological knowledge of Rebecca Treadway... who didn't hesitate to tell me that I had some of my facts wrong and insisted on them being corrected so I didn't look like a fool, I think I have a story that will leave you more than  a little disturbed.

The Mish Mashed Bear
(an excerpt)by Lisa McCourt Hollar

Claudia stood outside the small store and chewed her lip nervously.

Her mind still reeling from the argument with Howard, she wondered if coming here had been the right decision.

Howard already thought her a superstitious hick. This might reinforce his belief and drive the wedge between them in even deeper.

“If only I could get a decent night’s sleep. Maybe I would be able to think rationally.”

Claudia felt the baby kick and patted her belly reassuringly. All this drama wasn’t good for her and the dreams couldn’t be helping.

She wondered, not for the first time, if her unborn child experienced the same dreams. Claudia shivered. The thought of the disturbing images that kept her from sleeping, invading the baby’s mind, frightened her.

An overpowering sense of danger permeated the pregnant woman’s senses and she grasped the railing next to the store to steady herself.

Shaking from the cloud of dread she couldn’t seem to escape, Claudia looked up and down the empty street. She couldn’t shake the certainty something was stalking her. Glancing back to the store, Claudia made up her mind. If Howard didn’t like this decision, she would deal with the fallout later. He wasn’t the one that needed to get a good night’s sleep. He wasn’t the one carrying their child. Maybe he didn’t understand her fears, but he should at least accept them and be willing to let her do what she needed to do, at least for peace of mind.

Her decision made, Claudia pushed open the door to Lihua Designs and entered the small store. Instantly, a wave of serenity washed over her and she knew coming here had been the right thing to do. A combination of Asian and Western furniture graced the room. The earthy colors reminded Claudia of her home in Louisiana, while the sound of water flowing comforted her. Claudia breathed in a cleansing breath as the negative energy she had been harboring, left her body. She half expected to hear the trill of birds singing and be serenaded by a chorus of chipmunks and rabbits.

“May I help you?”

Claudia turned towards the voice. Even though the woman had come up behind her, she wasn’t startled or alarmed at the unexpected intrusion. The woman was obviously Chinese, though her apparel screamed western. She wore jeans, ripped in the fashion so many wore these days, and a t-shirt displaying the logo of a local rock band. “I hope I didn’t startle you. I am Lihua.”

“Not at all,” Claudia said. “In fact, quite the opposite. Everything in this store makes me feel at peace, including your voice. It’s really quite soothing.”

Having said that, Claudia fidgeted and glanced away from the woman, embarrassed by her thoughtlessness. Her husband’s friends often pointed out her southern accent, sometimes imitating her ‘hillbilly’ drawl when she attempted to converse with them. They thought they were being cute. Claudia thought the teasing rude, emphasizing their differences, as though drawing a line between them. Howard said she needed to stop being self-conscious and get over it. Easy for him to say. He had been born in Ohio and didn’t have an accent that prompted jokes about kissing cousins and inbred marriages.

“I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to be rude.”

The woman appeared confused. “How were you rude? The art of Feng Shui is to bring peace and harmony. You compliment me with what you say.”

An awkward silence followed and Claudia took a moment to gaze around the room some more. She was deep in thought, worried about what Howard would think, when she realized the woman had spoken.

“I’m sorry,” Claudia said, shaking her head, “what did you say?”

“I asked if you were here to get help with your nursery. I couldn’t help but notice your condition.”
Claudia blushed. “Yes, as a matter of fact I am. I ... I,” Claudia’s voice choked up as the memory of the last few months pushed their way into her mind. Lihua took Claudia’s hand and led her to the couch.

“You have been under a lot of stress.” Lihua squeezed her hand. “Pregnancy is hard, but something more is bothering you. Your energy is dark. You are worried for your baby?”

“I’ve been having dreams. I don’t know how to explain it, it’s like something wants my baby. Something dark and evil. My husband thinks I’m superstitious, but the impression gets worse and worse every day. I was reading about ways to protect my baby and I just considered Feng Shui ...” Claudia’s voice trailed off. She sounded silly. She was sure Lihua believed her mad.

“This darkness you think is after your baby, can you describe it to me?”

“I’m sorry, now I’ve voiced my fears to someone other than my husband, I can see how silly they sound.”

“Please, I don’t think you are being silly. There are many spirits that would wish to harm a child. Do you have any impressions that have stayed with you when you wake from your dreams?”

“Bits and pieces ... red eyes ... fangs.” Claudia shivered, one especially disturbing image pushed its way into her memory. “Sharp, hungry teeth, on a woman’s face. Claws. And nine tails.”

“Huli Jing. The fox spirit.”

“What does this thing want with me?” Claudia wrapped her arms around her belly protectively and glanced around the shop as though she expected the fox to leap out from behind one of the furnishings.

“I’m not sure,” Lihua said. “The Huli Jing is a shape shifter, taking on the appearance of a woman in order to seduce men. This is a very evil spirit and loves eating human flesh. For some reason the demon is stalking you ... perhaps it wants your child.” Lihua paused thoughtfully before continuing. “I’ve not heard of any legends where Huli Jing hunted pregnant women, but there is another legend. We must work fast to protect your child. Mother!” Lihua looked towards the back room. “Mother, come quickly!”

An old woman shuffled into the room, one eyebrow raised in question.

“This woman is being stalked by the Huli Jing. You know what needs to be done.”

The old woman motioned for Claudia to come forward. Hesitating only a moment, she stepped towards the woman. Her eyes were a pale grey, nearly white; she reached forward and touched Claudia’s belly. Sucking in a breath, she made a hissing sound and began to chant, words Claudia did not understand. Her eyes opened and stared at Claudia. They seemed to blaze through her and into her soul.

“Can you help me?”

The woman did not answer. Turning, she left the room. A few moments later she came out, carrying a stuffed animal closely resembling a bear. The animal had the head of a traditional teddy bear, but tusks coming out of the mouth, and a body that looked distinctively like a lion. Scales on the ‘beast’ appeared to be reptilian. Perhaps the creature is a dragon? Claudia wondered.

The old lady handed Claudia the bear.

“I don’t understand ...”

“Keep this with you when you sleep,” Lihua explained. “The talisman will protect your child. After the baby is born, you will need to keep it with her when she sleeps.

“What does the Huli Jing want with my baby?”

“To eat her ... and you, I think.”
In the coming weeks I will feature stories from other authors in the anthology, which include:

Rob M. Miller, Phil Hickes, Lisamarie Lamb, Blaise Torrance, Delphine Boswell, Donald Jacob Uitvlugt, Edward Medina, Phil Hickes, Steven Gepp, J.G. Williams, Joe Mogel, Adam Millard, Stacey Turner and Blaze McRob.

Terrifying Teddies can be found at Amazon in both Kindle and paperback version, on Barnes and Noble for Nook, on Kobo and on Smashwords.

Other Satan's Toybox Anthologies include Demonic Dolls and Toy Soldiers.

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