Putting an emphasis on short stories, my latest work is called Dignity Memorial and focuses on Doctor Penghoul, the caretaker of the Boneyard, an infamous cemetery catering to the wicked.
Doctor Penghoul was actually born in an earlier short story called Dead Letter Office (currently in consideration at Abyss and Apex magazine). There, he was merely a bad guy against Vernon Archer…a doctor with a seemingly limitless supply of bodies.
This story begins an hour before Vernon visits him, attempting to prepare for Vernon’s visit, while also trying to solve a murder — his own.
This strategy behind this short story was two-fold; I wanted a story that could be considered horror or fantasy, and I wanted it to come in around 3000 words. The first issue wasn’t a problem, the second was much more problematic. You see, I like to write longer works. Most of my short stories hover around 7000 words.
But 7000 words takes a big chunk out of a magazine. But 3000 words would be much easier to place (that’s my justification, anyhow). My hope is to build some credentials…
The First 400 words…
For the third time this week, I found myself dead on my office floor. My body was splayed in a most immodest way, legs spread, teeth clamped together and lips pulled back so that I grinned at the heavens like a baboon in heat. A nervous glance proved I was alone. Good. Couldn’t have a client mistakenly witnessing the scene of my murder; no salve would ever heal that embarrassment.
I stepped over the deceased Doctor Penghoul, careful not to track blood across my Rosa aurora marble floors — bloody footprints did not convey the dignity of the Boneyard, the most prestigious Golgotha this side of Calvary.
With servant’s bell in hand and ready to summon Robert, I paused.
How did I die this time? I turned on my heel, meeting my dead gaze. The eyes were black marbles sunken in a face seemingly molded of wax, the lips slash marks of red across my sallow complexion.
Everything looked normal.
My other deaths had come by gunshot. This was different. Perhaps that was a good thing. If someone had shot me, it would’ve splattered my brains over my cherished Hemmingway first editions.
Wait, a clue. Clutched in my right hand was an overstitched doll of worn burlap. Though rigor hadn’t set in, I had to pry apart my cold, dead hand to retrieve my last possession. It was a suspicious looking effigy. The eyes were two black slashings of thread. The hair a matting of wool, sticky with my blood.
Voodoo. Interesting. A very telling clue. Few of the Boneyard’s guests could use voodoo. Most were rapists, murderers, butchers. We had several sorcerers but they wouldn’t tarnish their reputations with voodoo. Regardless, I didn’t have time for becoming an amateur gumshoe.
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