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Beyond Bizarre
Stories of the Strange and Surreal
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ISBN-10: 1-89484-194-8
ISBN-13: 
Genre: Supernatural/Horror
eBook Length: 100 Pages
Published: October 2002



From inside the flap

Get ready for a very weird ride with these ten stories. Each is designed to chill your spine as you wander the border land between fact and fiction, reality and imagination, reason and insanity. Aliens, vampires, ghouls, ghosts, zombies and unbalanced lunatics all await you within these pages. A terrific assembly of twisted tales for Halloween or anytime.

Reviews and Awards

Each story will pull you along and ambush your senses with the sharp blade of fear and a jolt of the supernatural. I highly recommend this book for an evening of goose bumps and chills. If you like a really weird mix of horror and science fiction, you'll love this one.
-- Reviewer S. Joan Popek


The highest compliment I can pay to any written work is that, if it's good enough, I become so involved in the plot that I forget I'm reading a piece of fiction - instead, I feel I have walked through a hidden doorway and into a strange, new terrain. Such is the case with BEYOND BIZARRE. Arm yourself with garlic, anti-hex charms and, most importantly, a good, bright light, then set off on this journey. You'll be glad you did.
-- Elizabeth Dearl, author of the Taylor Madison mystery series


I thoroughly enjoyed this book, and I swear I'll be leaving the light on tonight. Maybe even digging out my old teddy bear. My favorite tale was Angels of Another Kind simply because it keeps you thinking... it's a different kind of story until the end.
-- Katharina Katt



Beyond Bizarre (Excerpt)


Introduction


I feel I should begin this book with a few words of introduction about myself. I am a thirty-six year old man who is a lifelong resident of the southeastern United States, and who currently lives in the mountainous regions of western North Carolina. I attended college for a number of years, finally completing an Associate’s degree in liberal arts studies. The diploma looks great hanging on the wall but has yet to impact my earning ability in a positive fashion. I currently work in the field of sales, but hope to one day be able to write full time.

My interest in speculative fiction (horror/SF/fantasy) began as a young child, when I discovered Friday night monster movies on the local UHF station. My impressionable mind was soon filled with images of the Frankenstein monster (played by Boris Karloff) roaming the countryside, of Dracula (Bela Lugosi) stalking his victims, and of Godzilla (played by some unfortunate fellow in a very hot rubber suit) wiping out Tokyo for the umpteenth time. Soon after I discovered comic books, and Captain America, Spider-Man and other costumed heroes captured my imagination. My introduction to worlds unknown was completed when I began watching reruns of the original Star Trek, Twilight Zone and Outer Limits television shows. Since then I have been happily hooked on stories of the strange and fantastic.

As I look back on my years of enjoying horror and SF tales, I must confess that I have become increasingly concerned with a trend I have noticed. Since the early 1980’s I have witnessed both genres slowly deteriorate in terms of story quality. This has been the case in books and short stories as well as motion pictures and TV shows.

In the case of the latter I believe that continuing advancement in special effects is largely to blame, as well as laziness on the part of producers. Why worry about a good story when you can dazzle the audience with all sorts of neat computer graphics? As far as the written media is concerned, I fear that the decline in overall quality may be due to the destructive influence of too little mental exercise. It is no longer necessary for children to use their imaginations to create mental pictures to accompany the words they read. The computer does this for them. That is assuming, of course, that they bother to read at all. Other factors may include a shrinking market for written fiction and failure on the part of schools to teach basic writing skills. In any event, I am afraid that the fine art of storytelling is in serious trouble. This book is my humble effort to maintain the craft, to keep the fire from going out, as it were.

In crafting the stories in this collection, I have employed the fundamentals of good fiction: an intriguing plot, believable characters, and skillful use of words to create scenes of suspense and conflict in the reader’s mind. I consider my approach to writing to be very much a "back to basics" one. I do not seek to stun my readers with the sophistication of my prose or to make the ultimate literary comment on the human condition. I just want to tell good yarns that people will enjoy reading.

To that end I have assembled the following ten tales. Eight of them more or less fit the category of supernatural horror. Of the remaining two, "Gross Profit" could best be described as dark humor or "just plain weird," while "The Invention" is science fiction. My hope is that you the reader will find them worth the cost of the book. I also desire that you feel your own imaginative fires kindled by them. For that is the primary and highest goal of all good storytelling: to keep alive the sense of wonder that first sparked in us as children, and which, if properly nurtured, can enrich and enliven the rest of our days. Happy reading!

-Bill Wilson, July 2002

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Clean Freak


The first time he saw it George didn?t think that it was all that strange. Nothing wrong with a fellow wanting to keep his laundry dry, is there? But the next time, when the sky above was clear, he began to wonder what was going on.

George was an attendant at an all-night laundromat on Atlanta’s south side. The neighborhood wasn?t so great, and he had seen his share of nut cases during his ten months of employment. But there was something particularly disturbing about the individual in question. It wasn?t just that he was odd, though he was definitely that. There was something unnatural about him.

The person in question was actually one of the "Soap & Suds" best customers. He came in ever other night, usually around two AM. George had first seen him right after he started the job, on a cold, rainy evening in January. As the wall clock had struck two, a puke-green AMC Gremlin pulled up to the building.

Its driver, a lean, long, lanky figure, had gotten out of the car and walked over to the passenger side door, opening it. He was wearing a black trench coat that almost touched the asphalt, dark leather boots and gloves, and a tall gray hat with a huge drooping brim. The stinging precipitation pelted him furiously, but he paid it no attention.

He lifted a large laundry hamper from the vehicle and carried it into the building. Paying no attention to George, he went straight to the nearest washer. As he did a peculiar odor followed him, an antiseptic scent that reminded George of a hospital.

He watched his mysterious customer carefully as the fellow lifted a gray sack from the hamper. Slowly and very gently, he began to empty its contents one at a time into the machine. Each was wrapped in a silky, silvery material, some sort of washing bags that prevented George from seeing whatever it was they contained.

After emptying the bag the customer withdrew a small bottle from his coat pocket and poured a thick greenish liquid into the washer, set the controls on the gentle cycle, deposited the change and started the machine.

While it ran he sat in one of the hard plastic chairs nearest the window and

stared outside at the raging storm. When the wash ended he arose, very carefully put whatever it was that he had laundered back into the gray sack and placed it in turn back in the hamper. Hurrying out of the building, he placed his burden on the front passenger seat and drove away quickly.

During the entire course of events he had never said a word, though the laundromat was now saturated with the pungent sterilized odor that the fellow emanated. It stung George’s eyes, and he had to prop the doors open to let it exit.

The stranger returned two nights later, wearing the same weird getup as before, though this time there wasn?t a cloud in the sky. Carrying in the hamper and gray sack, he handled his laundry, again wrapped in the silvery bags, in the exact manner as before. This occurred every other evening from then on, right at two AM. Winter turned to Spring, Spring to Summer, and Summer to Autumn. But the routine never changed, nor did the customer’s attire.

He ignored any attempts George made to engage him in conversation. On the rare occasion that there was another customer in the Laundromat at the same time he disregarded them as well. And the antiseptic smell always accompanied him, though usually not as strong as it was that first evening.

George had never been one to mind his own business. He was fascinated by this odd fellow and became obsessed with discovering his secret. George was curious.

One night in early November he got his chance to find out what was going on. He had been asked by his manager to wipe down each machine with a damp towel, as part of some routine maintenance. Knowing his target would be in that evening, he delayed beginning his task until just after two AM.

While his customer sat George wiped, timing himself carefully. The buzzer sounded, and the strange fellow went to the machine and began placing the wash bags into the sack. George stood beside him, wiping down the unit to his right.

Then he made his move. Pretending to slip, he stumbled into the tall, dark figure, causing him to drop the sack. The silvery bags flew out and hit the tiled floor hard, many of them bursting upon impact. George saw what they contained, and began to scream.

Lying at his feet were various internal organs: a heart, pair of lungs, intestines and other assorted parts. Some had ruptured when they landed. They were oozing a greenish liquid.

Looking at the guy in the overcoat close up, George realized for the first time that his face did not look normal. Instead of flesh, it seemed to be made of a thin, pinkish material, like a rubber Halloween mask.

Opening his elastic mouth, the freak spoke in a deep, hollow voice. "Oooohh, now, that’ss tooo badd, issn?t it?" he said slowly. "Mmy only other sset, ruined."

George tried to run, but found himself restrained by a powerful, gloved hand. His nostrils filled with the acrid smell of disinfectant exuding from his captor. "Tthosse of yyou with sskin, you jusst don?t understand what we go through," said the monstrous figure, spittle oozing down his latex chin.

"It’ss sso important to protect the internals, you know. Wearing one sset for a while, keeping a sspare on hand for wash day. And now my only other oness are ruined."

George glimpsed between the loosened buttons on his customer’s overcoat and began to retch. He saw everything necessary to make a human being except for a layer of epidermis.

"Well, fair iss fair, you know," said the freak, withdrawing a large, gleaming surgeon’s scalpel from his pocket. "Finderss are keepers, and loserss?" With that he began the operation, neglecting to administer anesthetic.

George screamed. He fought. He looked desperately around the deserted laundromat, hoping in vain for a rescuer to appear. The fiery slashing pain he felt slowly faded into a numbing blackness. And finally, his curiosity eternally satisfied, he gave.