Exit . . . Stage Left
Emily took her time applying her makeup, making sure every stroke of eye shadow, every brush of mascara, and every daub of lipstick was flawless. After all her years of acting, this was to be her most memorable performance. She sifted through her jewelry, finding a garnet pendant and matching earrings, and matched them against the scarlet of her lips.
Yes . . . perfect.
She stood, her hands shaking as she wrapped around her a stole she had owned since the ‘50s. Fur was so politically incorrect these days, and for that reason alone she had hidden it away in the back of her closet for many years. Tonight, however, that wouldn’t matter. It was her exit, and she was going to do it her way—in style.
Her manager, a sweet young thing with blond curls and big blue eyes named Joe, entered with a knock. “I told the guy we’d be there at ten thirty sharp. You ready to do this?”
She nodded, taking a deep breath. She took one last look in her lighted mirror, admiring the flawless face in her reflection as she summoned the courage to leave this place for the last time. “I’m going to miss working with you,” she said, wishing there were another way.
“The pleasure was all mine,” he replied as she met him at the door.
He led her outside to the car, opened her door for her, and then walked around to the driver’s side. The engine started with an abrupt roar, then they were on the road heading for the agreed upon destination.
“I’ve never been so nervous in all my life,” she said, and with that, she lit a cigarette.
He glanced back at her though the rearview mirror. “Are you having second thoughts?”
“No, of course not. It’s just. . . .” She shook her head. “I don’t know. This has been my life for over a half century. I can’t imagine living any differently, especially in some obscure country that’s never heard of me.”
“Isn’t that the point?”
She nodded, looking down. I just never thought this day would come.”
He took a deep breath and focused on the road ahead.
“I just don’t know how I’ll sustain myself,” she continued. “I’m sure I can establish myself at some small, local theater once I’m settled in, but I’m used to much larger meals—masses in the tens of thousands at a time. What if I starve to death out there?”
“You’ll be fine I’m sure. Elvis had no problem adjusting, and neither did Marilyn or James.”
She nodded, although her face went tight with the torment of her uncertain future.
She had started her career on stage, finding the energy offered by willing admirers had somehow kept her youthful beyond her years. When she had graduated to film, somehow her fans continued to keep her young, despite the reduced contact. While her peers slowly applied more and more foundation to hide the fine lines, then the crow’s feet and laugh lines, and eventually the heavy wrinkles, performing had offered her a personal fountain of youth. She didn’t know how it worked, only that she was not all that unique in her condition.
The years passed quickly, however, and soon she found herself in a position she couldn’t have foreseen: the tabloids claimed plastic surgery, but anyone who knew her knew that she was living on borrowed time.
There were people who took care of problems like hers, people who helped to contain the secrets of the elite, the secrets of those whose bodies had discovered a means of transforming adoration into eternal life. Their services were not cheap, and successful execution of their work meant disappearing for a good century or two, until they had long been forgotten and their faces were once again fresh and far off the celebrity radar. Still, it meant giving up wealth, love, and everything else that had defined them for previous decades. Unfortunately, there was no other way. A staged death was their only out.
Emily realized her eyes were tearing, and she dabbed them with a tissue before they could run mascara down her face. No, she would go out with dignity. There was no room for tears.
She’d had a choice between a drug overdose, a car or airplane accident, a shooting, or suicide by bridge-jumping, and she had chosen the car accident. She had too much pride to go out by suicide or drugs, and she had always hated airplanes. Buddy had chosen the airplane route, and by a freak accident, his death had gone from staged to very real. No, cars were fairly safe these days, and even a light tap caused their exteriors to cave, making the damage look far worse than it really was. As far as she was concerned, it was the only way to go.
“We’re approaching the intersection,” Joe said, glancing down at his watch. “Right on time. Are you ready?”
She nodded, her throat going tight. “Let’s do this.”
She saw the paid car as it ran its red light, and immediately she felt the jolt of the impact, her teeth clenching with the crunch of metal on metal. As planned, she burst the blood packs that had been left for her, and she lay motionless as the cameras flashed and the ambulance came to take her away. She nearly broke character when she heard the cries of fans, wishing she could let them in on her little secret. Still she stayed to plan. This was how it had to be.
She opened her eyes as the ambulance sped off, just in time to see the EMT on call injecting her IV with a clear blue fluid.
“What’s that?” she asked, suddenly feeling drowsy.
“Goodbye, my dear,” said the EMT.
She struggled to remain conscious. “Goodbye?”
“We can’t just let psychic leeches like you run unleashed across the globe,” he said.
And with that, her world went dark.
Sarah moved close to the well-seasoned cast iron pan to take a closer whiff. “Smells amazing. I’d love to have the recipe.”
Neil smiled as he moved to rummage through his spice rack. “A pinch of this and a sprinkle of
that. I never measure.” He snatched a bottle of coriander and crushed a dash over the braising meat.
She backed away from the stove as he turned to stir the pasta. He leaned over to grab a
colander from a nearby cupboard and she silently assessed his ass in those tight jeans while he was down. It was only their third date, but she could see herself falling for this one despite
the strange menagerie he housed.
Sarah had never much liked reptiles. How someone could love a creature so cold and slithery she would never understand. Still, no one was perfect, and the care Neil took to ensure the comfort and health of each of his treasures was endearing in a quirky, unique way. He had nearly a dozen tanks in all, each a different size and each housing a markedly different animal: the smallest was a miniature chameleon in a misty ten-gallon tank, while the largest was an
enormous python in a two-hundred-gallon mesh enclosure. Heat lamps and broad spectrum lights shone down on them all, making them appear just as much artistic displays as they were pampered pets.
Neil drained the pasta before pouring two glasses of a well-breathed Merlot. “Dinner should be ready in less than five.”
“Good. I’m starving!” she replied as he handed her a glass.
He raised his, and she raised hers in turn.
“To good food and great company,” he said.
“To great food and even better company,” she amended.
The two toasted and sipped at their wine.
She set down her glass and crossed the room as she noticed a small tank that was filled solely with crickets. “I hadn’t noticed this one before. You have … pet crickets too?”
He chuckled. “No, those are food for some of the lizards.” He met her beside the tank as she peered curiously inside.
She shivered. “Creepy. Why do you keep them in their own tank?”
“I’m gut-loading them.”
She raised a brow, silent in her confusion.
“If you fortify the crickets with a nutrient-rich diet before feeding them, all of the vitamins the crickets consume go directly to the lizards.”
She nodded. “Makes sense.” She jumped as suddenly there was a loud thump against the
floor. “What was that?”
He waved off her concern. “That’s just Agatha.”
She followed him as he returned to the kitchen to check on dinner. “Agatha?”
“She’s too big to keep in a habitat, so I let her have free reign of the cellar.”
“What is she?”
He shrugged. “She belongs to a rare genus. You’ve probably never heard of it. Most people haven’t.” He tested the meat and turned off the burner. “Perfect.”
Sarah felt a terrible pang of curiosity and couldn’t help but pry a little deeper. “What’s she
“I’ll show you after dinner if you’d like,” he replied as he set the table.
She considered the offer, unsure. “Maybe.”
“I think you’d like her. She’s much more personable than the rest of my collection.”
She tried her best to feign interest. “Personable, eh?”
He nodded. “Very personable, actually.” He ushered her to the table and pulled out her seat in the most gentlemanly of stances. “I’ll show her to you after dinner.”
She sat down, then sipped casually at her wine as he served them both generous plates of pasta, braised pork, and mixed steamed vegetables. She took another whiff as he set her plate in front of her. “Wow. I’ve never dated a man who could cook before.”
“Then you’re in for a real treat,” he said as he sat down across from her at the small table.
She tried a bite of the pork, which cut like butter and nearly melted in her mouth. An explosion
of flavors, both tangy and spicy, caused her to close her eyes to savor the small sample, chewing slowly and decadently. “This is amazing, Neil.”
“I’m glad you like it,” he said, looking pleased. “Try the pasta and veggies.”
She tried a bite, taking a moment to appreciate the subtle flavors of olive oil, garlic, salt, and pepper. “Very good,”she said while her mouth was still half full.
He took equal pleasure in the meal, smiling as he moved between the succulent meat and perfectly seasoned pasta.
“Who taught you how to cook? Your mother?” Sarah asked.
He shook his head. “An old friend.”
“Self-taught, believe it or not.”
She took each bite as if it were the first, savoring the flavors and voicing her approval. She
washed down the final bite with the last of her wine, then sat back with a satisfied grin. “That was by far the best meal I’ve had in a long time.”
“I’m glad.” He dabbed a napkin against his lips, ignoring another loud thud from below.
She swallowed hard. “How big is that thing?”
He smiled. “Would you like to see?”
She shrugged, making a slight show of her trepidation. “Is she dangerous?”
He scoffed. “Dangerous?” He stood, prompting her to follow suit. “She’ll love you.”
She followed hesitantly as he led her to the cellar door, jumping with a start as the creature below once again hit its ceiling.
He unlocked the cellar door with a key from his pocket. The cellar was dark, save a heat lamp directly below the staircase. Sarah followed close behind Neil as he moved excitedly down the
She gasped as she caught sight of the creature, unable to believe her eyes. “That’s Agatha?”
It hurried to the bottom of the staircase, eager to greet them.
He slapped Sarah hard on the back, sending her reeling forward. “And I’ve gut-loaded her
dinner with her favorite recipes.”
Join me at Apparitions of Terror, hosted by author Erik Gustafson, to discuss the muses and Finding Poe--and the ellusive connection between the two. See you there!
Follow the final moments before Edgar Allan Poe's mysterious death, journeying through twisted bits and pieces of his musings, both brilliant and mad, in search of the truth behind his final, unfinished work “The Lighthouse,” while unraveling the mystery behind the ellusive woman desperately seeking the author for answers behind her husband's haunted death.
“Haunting, atmospheric, lush, and lyrical, Leigh M. Lane's Finding Poe is a haunting Gothic novel which will delight anyone familiar with the works of Edgar Allan Poe, as well as anyone who enjoys an evocative and classic tale of terror.” –horror/mystery author Dana Fredsti.
Scientific breakthroughs have bridged the gap between the human mind and the Internet, but with horrifying consequences. Those corrupted by the technology are left incapable of human emotion, and their plight has spread across the globe like an unstoppable virus. Those who remain intact have been forced to live in fortified camps, and their numbers wane by the day.
Follow one woman’s journey as she endeavors to record what she perceives to be the last traces of the human spirit—and the terrifying last-resort effort her peers are making to destroy the Corruption, which may prove even worse that the enemy they seek to defeat.
Available now at Amazon for $1.99--free for Prime lending.
I want to thank Jonathan Gould for stopping by today to tell us a little about dag literature. When he signed up to be my guest, I asked him if, given the eclectic and interesting nature to his subject matter, he might share his thoughts on the genre. I must say I learned something new and fun from his response. Take it away, Jonathan!
I’m really excited to be here at The Cerebral Writer today. Though I have to say that I feel like I’ve been set a bit of a challenge. Being cerebral is probably not my preferred style – at least not while anybody’s watching. Still, I’m the sort of person who always likes to make a go of things so let’s see how I go.
Eclectic and interesting. I like the sound of that. Mind you, I like the sound of anything that makes what I do seem clever and special. And I’ll never turn down a chance to say a bit more about Dag-Lit. But today, I’m thinking, maybe I should start off by talking a bit about dags themselves.
A dag is the sort of person who just doesn’t care. They don’t care about whatever is fashionable, and we’re not just talking about clothes here. In pretty much any facet of life, dags are the people not paying the slightest attention to whatever the trends are in food or music or (most importantly in my case) books. They choose to wear what they want and listen to what they want and read what they want, regardless of what the magazines or newspapers or any other taste-makers are saying.
So I suppose every dag is daggy in their own special way, and if that doesn’t qualify as eclectic and interesting, I don’t know what does. But there’s something more to being a true dag. It’s not just that they don’t care about whatever is or isn’t in fashion. They also don’t care about what other people think about their chosen style (or lack thereof). So they aren’t hiding the fact that their tastes are their own – they’re celebrating it. They’ll dance down the street, singing along to some twenty-year-old pop song nobody else ever wants to hear again. They’ll proudly display the cover of the book they’re reading on the train, heedless of the scornful stares directed at them. In short, they have, what I think at least, is a really joyful approach to life.
And that, to me, is the most critical aspect to understanding Dag-Lit. It’s not just that they’re stories that pay little heed to literary trends. It’s that there’s an aspect that shares that joyful approach to life. That will (hopefully) make you forget yourself, just for a bit and be immersed in something wonderful and new. Maybe it will make you see things a little bit differently. Maybe it won’t. But hopefully it will be a worthwhile experience all the same.
Before I finish, I just want to add another note to mention the person who has made this tour possible. Donna Brown is a huge supporter of independent writers and it’s thanks to her that you’re seeing me here today. She runs a great resource, The Indie Exchange
, as well as her own site, Books, Bags and Catnaps
. And she’s also a terrific writer – check out her collection of short stories, Double-Take Tales
About Jonathan Gould's comic fantasy Doodling:
Neville Lansdowne fell off the world.
Actually, he did not so much fall off as let go. The world had been moving so quickly lately and Neville was finding it almost impossible to keep up.
Doodling is an engaging comic fantasy which relates the events that befall Neville after he finds himself abandoned by the world and adrift in the middle of an asteroid field. Douglas Adams meets Lewis Carroll (with just a touch of Gulliver's Travels) as Neville wanders through his new home, meeting a variety of eccentric characters and experiencing some most unexpected adventures.
About his Satire/fable/fantasy Flidderbugs
As Kriffle the Flidderbug investigates why his fellow 'bugs find it impossible to agree on the pressing issue of how many points there are on the leaves of the tree on which they live, he finds that the truth is more complicated, and ultimately more terrifying, than he ever could have imagined.
Flidderbugs is a political satire, a modern fable, or maybe just a funny little story about a bunch of insects with some very peculiar obsessions.For more information on Jonathan Gould and his books, check stop by his page on Facebook.
He also has an Amazon author page.
Join me at Carole Gill's website to discuss horror and existential angst!
Stu, the apartment handyman, cannot get Beth out of his mind. She’s beautiful, mysterious, seductive.... The scent of patchouli emanates from her apartment, and he finds it irresistible, but it might be too late by the time he finds out what the odor truly masks.
This story is smart, well written, and thoroughly sensual. Each page threw me in a new direction, so that by the time I reached the end, the final twist came as both satisfying and disturbing. It is a quick read, but it will haunt you long after you’ve cleared the pages. I give this story an enthusiastic five stars and recommend it to all fans of erotic horror.
I can still smell the patchouli within the senses of my mind....
Nestor Cab lives in a world oversaturated with technology and commercialism. A reviewer of reviews by trade, he is disillusioned by the never-ending product placement he sees not only in the media, but permeated throughout everyday society. When he finds a picture of a soldier supposedly fighting overseas, along with enigmatic note on his desk, his quest to find the truth behind it sends him down a rabbit hole from which he will never resurface.
Anderson proves himself a true wordsmith in this breakout dystopian novel, offering a world filled with vivid detail, beautiful word choice, and well-defined characters. While the first chapter did not hook me, the second chapter did, and I found myself eager to find out where Anderson was going with the story’s many twists and turns. My main criticism with this work is there were parts that felt a bit long-winded, with extended back-story given on even minor characters and several monologues that, while making brilliant points, could have been much tighter. Still, I enjoyed this book (I thought the ending was fantastic) and look forward to more of this author’s works. I rate this book 4.25 stars.