Hungry Business: A Short Story
by Maria DeBlassie
GENRE: Gothic, Horror (Cozy)
From the multi-award-winning author of Everyday Enchantments: Musings on Ordinary Magic & Daily Conjurings comes a cozy Gothic short story about searching for connection in a world that’s forgotten the power of everyday magic.
Looking for love can be deadly…
You know how it goes. You go out, hoping to meet someone. You wade through your fair share of brainless automatons, lifeless bodies, and ravenous undead good at passing as human.
The more you go out, the less hope you feel and the colder your body gets. But you keep at it. All you need is one beating heart to match your own before yours stops pumping altogether. How hard can it be to find one living, breathing human in a city full of bodies?
It’s hungry business.
At home, you take a bath as hot as you can stand and read an old bodice ripper until the warmth returns to your veins, and the flames of hope have been fanned enough that you can crawl into your flannel jammies and be grateful you are still alive. The light in your apartment slowly seeps into your chest, and you settle into your perch on the window.
You inspect the damage to your pinky finger as you wait for the cat to appear. The bath stopped the spread of the decay but the tip is gray and blue. There is puss where your fingernail should have been. You smother it in aloe vera, grated ginger, and bandages, hoping it will be enough to bring life back into your appendage. You don’t really know how to treat something like this. You sigh and lean back against the window frame. Your orange tabby cat has made its appearance—yours, yes, thought you know you shouldn’t feel so possessive about a creature you only know from a distance. It’s just nice to know it’s there.
Here’s the thing you love about the cat across the way: It’s proof that there are other beating hearts out there. Cats won’t settle where Hungries live. Perhaps their feline instincts tell them they’re easy prey for the things that are never satiated. That’s why you never see alley cats in the humanless neighborhoods. In fact, it was their strange mass exodus from certain parts of the city that first alerted officials to the virus now plaguing them. And this cat—bright orange like a flame with a soft, full belly—seems happy enough in its home. You wonder what kind of human it belongs to.
Finding Writing Inspiration in Everyday Life
I love everyday life, corny as it sounds. The magic of a Monday, the quiet bliss of an afternoon cup of tea, the illicit joy of reading late into the night…these are the simple pleasures that make life wonderful. It’s easy to overlook them, get swept up in our to-do lists, but when we pause and take in the beauty around us, we remember to be more than that to-do list. We glean wisdom in the whispering trees and the synchronous happenings that punctuate our day. We remember to dream. And that kind of ordinary joy is pure magic.
It’s also the kind of magic that inspires all of my writing, from the cozy Gothic short stories like Hungry Business, to my first book, Everyday Enchantments, which is what I like to call my everyday magic manifesto. You see, as a bruja, I believe in the power of the universe, the seen and the unseen, and the daily spells we cast without thinking—the wishes, thoughts, and actions we cast out into the world to bear fruit. When we’re more intentional about this energy, we can direct it towards hope and healing. I also hoard way too many mason jars, have my own witchy herb garden, deal the tarot, and know that storytelling is one of the deepest forms of magic.
All of that witchy know-how gets poured into my stories. Something as simple as a series of bad dates turns into the ordinary Gothic in my latest short story. The protagonist’s crisis is all the more terrifying for how relatable it is. But there’s also more than a little magic in the form of hope. The Gothic genre is all about facing the darkness so that we can see the light.
I write all sorts of things, from inspirational non-fiction, cozy Gothic stories, urban fantasy, and romance. I find they all nourish one another. My non-fiction books on everyday magic help me craft the enchanting worlds in my fiction and my genre stories guide me deeper into everyday conjuring for my life beyond the written word. Storytelling will always be the deepest spellwork I do. I work through stuff. I allow myself to dream deeply. I let go of old and worn narratives that no longer serve me. I become the heroine of my own life in the pages of books—and extend that magic to my day in, day out life.
So get comfortable. Put on a pot of tea and turn on those twinkle lights. Settle in for an afternoon of deep reading and enjoy the creepy and strangely comforting world of Hungry Business. Who knows what kind of magic it’ll offer up.
AUTHOR Bio and Links:
Maria DeBlassie, Ph.D. is a native New Mexican mestiza blogger, award-winning writer, and award-winning educator living in the Land of Enchantment. Her first book, Everyday Enchantments: Musings on Ordinary Magic & Daily Conjurings (Moon Books 2018), and her ongoing blog, Enchantment Learning & Living are about everyday magic, ordinary gothic, and the life of a kitchen witch. When she is not practicing her own brand of brujeria, she’s reading, teaching, and writing about bodice rippers and things that go bump in the night. She is forever looking for magic in her life and somehow always finding more than she thought was there. Find out more about Maria and conjuring everyday magic at http://www.mariadeblassie.com.
Social Media Links:
The book is $0.99 during the tour
Maria DeBlassie will be awarding a free ecopy of Hungry Business to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour.
<a href=”http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/28e4345f3582“>Enter to win a copy of the short story – a Rafflecopter giveaway</a>
Follow the tour HERE for special content and a giveaway!
Publication date: August 25th 2020
Genres: Adult, Horror
Jealousy. Betrayal. Murder. And a hunger for vengeance that spans the centuries…
History student Alex Palmer is thrilled when his girlfriend, Claire Ryan, buys an apartment in Belle Vue Manor, formerly a Victorian lunatic asylum.
But as Alex begins to discover the dark truth about the asylum’s past, he, Claire, and their friend Marianne find themselves on a nightmarish journey. Each will face the deadly consequences of the evil that began with the construction of the first Belle Vue Manor by an aristocratic French émigré in 1789, as well as the cruelty and satanic practices that continued when it became an asylum for the insane.
As the two strands—past and present—unfold, Alex uncovers a supernatural mystery where revenge is paramount and innocence irrelevant—without being aware of the price he, and those around him, will pay.
Proudly represented by Crystal Lake Publishing—Tales from the Darkest Depths.
Claire and her friend Marianne are driving to see an apartment for sale at Belle Vue Manor, but Marianne has been negative about the property.
“It’s most likely nothing, but I want to tell you a few things about Belle Vue.”
Claire cast a quizzical eye in her direction.
“I’ve been there before,” she said.
“You never mentioned it.”
Marianne ignored the pout in her friend’s voice and continued. “I went there with Debs about eleven or twelve years ago, long before the developers ever got involved.”
As the memories flooded back, she stared unseeing out of the windscreen. “We’d just moved again and on our first day at school, Debs spotted a huge wreck of a building from the top of the bus. For some reason, it fascinated her. She kept bugging me about it and I gave in just to shut her up. I think Belle Vue closed in the fifties and by the time we got there, it was completely derelict.”
Claire pulled up as the lights changed to red. “And?”
“We squeezed through a broken gate. Everything was overgrown, but we found a path that took us to the back of the main building, to a half-open door, its lock ripped off. Of course, Debs said it was as though someone was waiting for us.”
“Sounds like she was winding you up,” Claire said, grinning.
Marianne scowled. “Anyway. We went inside. Two teenagers in an empty old asylum that looked like the set of a horror movie.”
Claire’s grin remained in place. “So, what happened?”
“Debs kept a running commentary like we were on one of those Murder Mystery tours. You know the type of thing, ‘The misery of the lunatics is trapped in these walls forevermore but, on a moonless night, their shadows…’ All the while, I felt like we were being watched. Debra must have felt the same since we stuck to each other like Siamese twins. The place was cold and silent except for our footsteps on the bare floorboards. Every now and then, we’d stop and hold our breaths, straining to catch any sound.
“Then we heard a door slam. Bang! You ought to have seen how high we jumped. We legged it out of there so fast, I got a stitch.”
Pause. Marianne looked across at Claire. “But that wasn’t what bothered me,” she said in a low voice. “Once outside, we followed the path round the main building and saw this chapel. Of course, Debs wanted to go in and, by now, I didn’t. While we were arguing, a woman appeared at the door. The chapel was half-side-on to us, so I couldn’t see if she’d come from inside or walked around it. Talk about a shock. It sure shut us up quick.
“She stared at both of us. From one to the other, as though sizing us up. Then she smiled, which believe it or not, was worse.
“‘Now, who will I choose?’ she said, in this snide tone. ‘You. Or you.’
“We stood there like two dummies, wondering what on earth she was up to.
“‘What’s your name?” she asked me, and when I told her, she laughed like it was some huge private joke.
“‘I choose you then,’ she said. ‘Your fate is now sealed, Mar-i-anne. Poor you, dying slowly is such hell.’”
C S Alleyne grew up in Australia and originally trained as a hotel manager in the UK. After several postings in the Caribbean she changed tack and completed her MBA followed several years later by a PhD in Information Systems. She is a management consultant and also lectures in several universities.
With a lifelong love of reading, anything historical and a fascination with the supernatural and death, her vacations usually include visits to such places as the Pere La Chaise cemetery and the catacombs in Paris, the tombs in Egypt, the Popes’ crypts in the Vatican and any church yard with gravestones – you get the picture…
Cheryl was inspired to write Belle Vue by her daily journey past a block of luxury apartments that had been converted from an old asylum. Like her protagonist, Alex Palmer, she started to investigate its past and learnt that one of the inmates was murdered there in the late 19th century. The victim’s sister was hung for the crime. Cheryl was also thrilled to discover the asylum’s overgrown cemetery in her explorations of the area!
Belle Vue is her first, full length novel. Jonathan Myerson (Oscar nominated, Bafta and 4 Time Emmy winner) says he is ‘blown away’ by Belle Vue – ‘I am hugely impressed by this novel – it’s ambitious and daring and amazingly imaginative’.
Cheryl has a daughter and son-in-law who live nearby and a partner who, since reading Belle Vue, says he now sleeps with one eye open.
She is represented by Gandolfo Helin and Fountain Literary and Dramatic Rights Management.