Taylor Grant had posted an anthology he'd gotten another one of his awesome stories into. (One of the most talented, hard-working, and down-to-earth, nicest guys I've ever met.) Read his work if you haven't, you won't be disappointed.
The thing that caught my eye right away about his post was the cover art, and then it was the title. I took it as a challenge, and for first time ever I felt like, "I HAVE to be in this anthology."
I've never considered myself the "pushy" type and I certainly didn't want to come off as desperate, but I messaged Taylor and asked him about the anthology. He told me to write the editor, Joe Mynhardt who runs Crystal Lake Publishing, and had just put out the anthology, For the Night is Dark, which also has a great cover. Even though I didn't know Joe, I sent a brief bio and introduced myself. But besides my short story "The Eyes Have It" in Horror For Good: A Charitable Anthology, nothing else I'd written had been published yet. I wrote Joe anyway and he told me that the anthology was getting pretty full but he'd look over what I sent him.
I thanked my lucky stars when he said he'd like for me to submit a story to him. The story I wrote that's in the anthology, "Death Squared" has nothing to do with why I had to be in the anthology. That subject is still a little a bit too close to tackle, but hopefully, this very personal blog will explain why.
When my younger sister and I were growing up, we fought nonstop. I was the "nerdy" one who got good grades and awards, was a cheerleader, and for the most part, obeyed my parents. She, on the other hand, skipped school, hung out with the wrong crowd, dropped out of high school, ran away when she was sent to live elsewhere, you name it. She came back to Plattsburgh, when I was in college for nursing. My parents had transferred to Colorado, so each other was all we had, and we tried to care for one another when we could.
Eventually, my sister moved to my parents home in Folsom, California. I'd graduated with my nursing degree and moved to Denver, Colorado where I worked in the Operating Room. It had been about eight years since I'd seen my sister. I went out to Folsom to visit my family in July of 1992. My sister and I hung out pretty much the whole time. My mom even rented cabins in Lake Tahoe where the whole family had fun times. I remember watching ARMY OF DARKNESS with her, and I'm not sure we'd ever laughed so hard. But my vacation ended, and I went back to Denver.
My sister and I kept in touch, though. More so than we'd ever had. She had completed her GED, had registered for college courses, and had just gotten a new job. Things were looking up for her, so I'd send her money when I had it so she could buy books for school. She'd write me letters and tell me about what she was up to. I told her I was going to paint her a watercolor. I taped the paper to my wall and just free flowed what came to mind. The center of the scene was a massive old dead tree. Then I painted a kite stuck in its branches in crimson. In the background, I painted a faint Grim Reaper, complete with scythe. I never told her what I was painting. It was to be a surprise.
About three months later, she was missing. I asked my mom if she wanted me to go out to help look, but she said no. Ten days after that, a surveyor saw bronze rims on a car earlier in the day and went back later to take them off. When he got in the water he realized someone had died in the car. It was my sister. She was nineteen years old, and only two blocks from home. Her car went off the road and hit a tree, then flipped over in the water. The autopsy report stated that she'd had a ruptured ectopic pregnancy that probably had been painful enough for her to veer off, possibly pass out. There was water in her lungs.
My mom called me when they'd found her. I flew out to California.
The whole time was a blur. My mom remembered things that my sister had told her before the accident. She told me that a few strange things happened, and that somehow, my sister thought that she might die.
My little sister's favorite holiday was Halloween. She'd always go out. That year she didn't, and when my mom asked her why, she said it was because she'd been having nightmares about the Grim Reaper. Also, there'd been a black cat that darted out in front of her car.
I've never told anyone about the painting. Especially not my mother. She's really superstitious. When I got back to Denver, I tore it from the wall and threw it in the fireplace. I put all the paint tubes in a box, along with all my brushes, and I haven't painted a thing since. Or ever will.
Do I think that I had anything to do with anything? No. I just miss my sister.
And maybe that free flow thinking had me seeing things I never want to see again. Do I free flow think when I write? Absolutely not.
My little sister feared the reaper. I do not. And so, having a story, a piece of me, in the anthology that I had to be a part of. It was a challenge I took on and don't regret. I look forward to reading the rest of the stories in the book.
Many thanks to Joe, who did more than he ever thought by trusting that I'd do all right by his book.