Welcome to the Chubby Chatterbox Newsletter, where I’ll be posting favorites from the Chubby Chatterbox archives. In addition, my complete thriller Return of the Mary Celeste will soon be serialized here for those who have asked for something beyond a regular post.

My novel is based on a true event, arguably the greatest maritime mystery of all time. In 1872 the crew and passengers of Boston brigantine Mary Celeste abandoned their seaworthy ship and its valuable cargo, vanishing in the middle of the Atlantic. Speculation over their fate has never abated. History records that after the Mary Celeste tragedy no one from that fateful voyage was ever seen again. History is about to be rewritten…

Return of the Mary Celeste

Prologue

Tragedy struck the brigantine Mary Celeste on the morning of November 25, 1872. The hourly log was later recovered from the deserted vessel; At 8 a.m. the last notation was made. By 9 a.m. no one remained aboard to chalk the next entry.

Something had terrified Captain Benjamin Briggs and his crew, prompting the seasoned skipper to make a decision certain to affect not only himself, his ship and crew, but his family as well—his wife and two year old daughter were aboard Mary Celeste. Much ink has been spilled in fanciful and scientific attempts to explain the calamity that engulfed this perfectly seaworthy ship, yet all that is known for certain is this: in a matter of minutes Captain Briggs became convinced that the only way to save their lives was by ordering everyone into a hastily launched lifeboat. By giving the order to abandon ship, he also launched the greatest of all maritime mysteries.

On December 5, 1872, a month after leaving New York Harbor, Mary Celeste was found drifting on a calm and empty sea. The ship was in fine condition, perfectly intact with valuable cargo safely stored in her hold, but the crew and passengers had vanished. None were ever seen again.

Until now….

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Silent Screams

October 30, 2015

 

I’ve been dabbling in fiction, and this piece just won an honorable mention in a short story contest. I’m posting it in honor of Halloween. If you’re terrified of spiders, don’t read this.

 

*********************

 

 

Army brats have no say where their parents are posted. I was miserable when my father, a career officer, was ordered to a base near Berlin. Once again I was torn from my friends, and this time I was dragged to a rickety house at the edge of a dark forest. As always, I held my tongue, all the while wishing for a way to punish my parents, make them pay for all the abuses I was forced to endure.

           

Unlike American houses, the main living space and most of the bedrooms were upstairs, but my room was down a narrow hallway on the ground floor. Shortly after we settled in, my teenage brother horsed around in the backyard, trying to drown spiders with a garden hose. He was pleased to be relocating once more. Unlike me, he had seemed almost desperate to make this move. After a while he wandered away to scrape rust from his recently acquired jalopy, forgetting to turn off the faucet.

           

Later that night after everyone had gone to bed, I jerked awake. The hairs on the back of my neck convinced me I wasn’t alone. I tried to blame the feeling on the erratic hissing of the old radiator in my room, or maybe it was my brother who always claimed to be sleepwalking when he appeared beside my bed. I pulled the string dangling from an overhead light bulb and tried to comprehend the scene surrounding me.           

           

Spiders, projecting nightmarish images and illuminating hoards of creepy-crawlies, clung to the walls and to the light bulb. The pink bedcover—with me for as long as I could remember, had become a sweltering blanket of musky spiders. I remembered the garden hose my brother had been fooling around with and realized he’d neglected to turn off the water, flooding the basement beneath my room.

           

Leggy arachnids, scrambling down the string towards my hand, leapt onto my arm. They found my hair, crawled over my unblinking eyes, inched beneath my nightgown, explored me with bites. My mouth gaped like a harpooned fish, but the marrow-freezing scream rising within me was stifled by a large prowling spider which had found a humid hide-a-way. My love for God and all things good metastasized into rage.

           

No one came to my rescue that night.

           

When my parents found me in the morning, I was unable to speak. By then, the spiders had crept away to mock me from their hiding places. You must believe I tried to get over this trauma, although it pleased me to know my parents were finally being punished for ripping me away from my friends every few years, and for failing to shield me from the constant evil they allowed to live with us.

           

The passing years have not changed things very much. My parents seldom come to sit by my bed, and though I see my brother every day in my mind he has not paid a single visit. However, I’m no longer uprooted; a cocoon protects me from all but the spiders. When not being tormented by them, I’m alone with my thoughts, haunted by the blurry faces of girls on my brother’s arm, girls like me whose smiles died too quickly. I wonder what he said to keep them quiet. Are they also tormented by spiders? I think about all those moves as a child, how eager my brother was to shove his things into a battered suitcase and vanish to places where no one knew him.

           

Outside, I hear voices telling me the spiders are only in my mind, these incidents never happened. They’re wrong. Even now, with eyes clenched, I still see them, feel the heat of the spiders’ bodies enveloping me and seeking refuge in places even I never explored.

           

They’re coming now—look at the size of that one, smiling with my brother’s face, multiple arms and legs tucked beneath a white coat. As always I scream, but no sound escapes my mouth.

 

 

 

 

Wishing everyone a safe and Happy Halloween.

 

 

 

 

 

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Comments

25 Comments
Nice job! I like spiders. Especially radioactive ones. They help me climb walls and do all sorts of neat stuff.
By: Al Penwasser on October 30, 2015
Are you related to Stephen King? Quoting Mr. King... "Monsters are real, and ghosts are real too. They live inside us, and sometimes, they win." Congratulations on your honourable mention... just goes to show just how multi-talented you are.
By: Daniel LaFrance on October 30, 2015
eeeeeeeeeeeeekkkk! This is a very scary story! I can imagine how even more scary if made into a short movie.....yikes.
By: Kathe W. on October 30, 2015
No sleep for me tonight!
By: the broad on October 30, 2015
Thanks for the spider warning. Not terrified, but I do lose sleep. So I will simply congratulate you on what I'm sure is an excellent story,
By: Mitchell is Moving on October 30, 2015
Wow! Fantastic literature. Congrats on the recognition.
By: Scott Park on October 30, 2015
Oh, that's good. Scary good. As a child, I frequently had nightmares about bugs crawling on me. When I grew up, I realized that my itchy eczema gave me the nightmares. Love, Janie
By: Janie Junebug on October 30, 2015
mind spooky. i like it.
By: TexWisGirl on October 30, 2015
While i'm an arachnophile, i can see how this would be utterly terrifying.
By: messymimi on October 30, 2015
Now that was Twilight Zone worthy!! Excellent story.
By: Bouncin Barb on October 30, 2015
Wow - a good treatment of childhood trauma. Were the spiders in her mind, or a response to abuse? We'll never know....
By: The Bug on October 30, 2015
This is a great story! Congratulations on the honorable mention in the contest. This is really odd...last night I had a dream about moving into a new house and as we moved in, I found a really large, unusual-looking spider. It threatened to attack me, but then was eaten by a rattlesnake (with the rattlesnake being in that same house...ugh). And here is your story...
By: Pixel Peeper on October 30, 2015
Nice story... the things our siblings do to us! My brother hit me with a bush of sumac that my mother said was poisonous (I was an adult before I realized that poisonous sumac didn't grow in sandy soil) and was afraid of the plant for a long time...
By: Sage on October 30, 2015
Very creepy but a great story. Tonight I'm keeping a can of Raid by the bed--just in case.
By: Marcia @ Menopausal Mother on October 30, 2015
A well-deserved honorable mention, Stephen. A great, spooky story and I might be sleeping with one eye open tonight as we have a crawl space full of spiders. I was a military brat too so I can relate to all those moves that seemed to come at the worst of times. Happy Halloween.
By: Mr. Shife on October 30, 2015
Awesome! I love the fact you didn't go for just the easy scare but dug deep into psychological territory. Very clever the way you alluded to the brother being a serial killer. I really enjoyed it! Thanks for the Halloween scare! :)
By: Lexa Cain on October 30, 2015
A riveting creep out and a great tale. Spooky time well served with that.
By: Tom Cochrun on October 30, 2015
Congrats on your award! That was creepy.
By: Val on October 31, 2015
This one gave me the heeby-Jeebies.
By: Rick on October 31, 2015
Congrats...an artist and a writer. I hate spiders, but I do try to avoid killing them, because they do a good job.
By: Tabor on October 31, 2015
Well done, especially as fear of spiders is so common...they are creepy. I do sence a trace of reality as I know you did not get along well with you brother...a pity. My older brother was not always nice to me, but no matter what I always knew and know that if push comes to shove we have each others back.
By: cranky on October 31, 2015
I was fine with spiders...until I read this. Now, I'm scared. It's that well written. Happy Halloween weekend, Stephen.
By: Robyn Engel on October 31, 2015
Spooky. Great job.
By: Beckie on November 1, 2015
The world wide web will never be the same for me now! Great tale! Congrads on the mention!
By: John on November 3, 2015
Congrats on the well deserved recognition for fine writing, Stephen! :)
By: Michael Manning on November 11, 2015

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