Copyright © September, 2011 Kathy Linn Nappier
All rights reserved under United States, International and Pan-American Copyright Conventions.
No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, graphic, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, taping, or by any information storage or retrieval system, without the written permission of the author.
This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents are products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events or locales or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.
As with her novels, the short fiction of K.L. Nappier defies the norm. Strange Eight introduces fresh, new tales from the author alongside award-winning short stories reprinted from Double Dragon Publishing’s best-selling anthology series Twisted Tails and Delvling Press’ 66 Tales of Terror. Strange Eight is grouped into an octet of speculative fiction concepts, offering a tantalizing glimpse into how the author combines pure inspiration with modern influences and classic mythologies from around the world.
Strange Eight is an exciting addition to the published works of K.L. Nappier, offering readers another reason to love the author who “never lets genre get in the way of a good story.”
Deep in the Ozark Foothills. Southern Missouri. 1933
How long before she came out of her faint, she couldn’t say. Death was still at the table, watching her. She didn’t know how it could be that she knew who he was. But she did. She pulled herself up halfway and stayed there, unable to trust her legs.
He looked pretty much like Death would be expected to look: rangy, his skin as gray as the fog, his black coat beaded with damp, his slouch hat barely revealing his eyes. There was neither menace nor pity on his face. There wasn’t any feeling there at all.
Emily’s throat felt packed with cotton, but she managed to ask, “How’d you get in here?”
Death didn’t answer.
She asked, “What’re you doin’ here?”
He said, “I’m here for the man named Del.”
Oh, dear Lord Jesus. Another faint threatened, but Em fought it off and struggled to her feet. She staggered backward until she collided with the door.
“You come to the wrong house.”
“No,” he replied, “I haven’t.”
“I’m tellin’ you, you come to the wrong house. He ain’t here.”
“There’s no use in waitin.’ Ain’t nobody here by that name. Why’re you here?!”
“This is where I wait for the man named Del.”
“You got the wrong house. You got the wrong man. Think on it. If you got the right man, then why ain’t you with him now?”
“Because this is where I meet him.”
Em’s knees almost buckled. It was all she could do to stand, it was all she could do to take a few steps toward Death, but she did.
“Why? Why him? Why now?”
Death shrugged, utterly disinterested in her questions.
“What’s he done to deserve you comin’?”
His expression, his eyes, deep beneath the slouch brim, told Em that he didn’t see much point in explaining himself to the likes of her. She took another step toward him and started talking fast.
“See, there’s an old man. He don’t live far from here. Got miner’s lung and he’s sufferin’ and witherin’ away. That’s the shack you’re meant to be at, not this one.”
Death drew a sudden, deep breath and Em scuttled back a couple of paces. But Death didn’t make a move other than lacing his fingers together. Em began to sob.
“But Mr. Hobson’s all but askin’ for you! I seen him myself this mornin’, I seen the look in his eyes. It seems all the same to you, so why don’t you just up outta here and see someone you’d be a mercy to?”
His fingers still laced, Death said, like he was talking to a simpleton, “Because I’m waiting here for the man named Del.”
Could she make it to the door, down the steps, to the path? Could she move fast enough to keep Death from stopping her? Could she make it to the lumber mill, if she ran with all her might? Could she outrun Death and save her husband?
She must have at least run fast enough to escape the shack because there she was charging down the path, nothing in her eyes but her tears and the fog, nothing in her ears but the sound of her lungs sucking air and she was running, running, running to get to Del before Death could.