Three-Sentence Horror Stories

Here at the school where I teach, the Slam Poetry/Literary Magazine Club has signs up asking the students to write three-sentence horror stories. I thought I’d try my hand at it.

Clarice folded her hands primly. Everything was ready. All that remained was for James to take a bite.

I mean, it kind of works, right? There’s a sense of dread there, a sense of anticipation. I think I can do better.

“There’s no such thing as monsters under the bed,” father said as he turned off the light.

“He must be right,” little Johnny said to himself.

“Yes, he must,” replied something.

Let’s try another one:

Charlene cackled. It was time. She lit the fire under the cauldron and waited.


She’d lived in fear for eleven years. Always looking over her shoulder. She should have done that today, too.

And finally:

James’s hands shook, and he took a deep breath to steady himself. His victim already hung from the rack. It was just a matter now of turning the screws.

What do you think? Have a three-sentence horror story of your own? Share them in the comments or tweet them at me @XEYeti with the hashtag #3sentencehorrorstory.

Flash Fiction: Valeria’s Song

The Giant’s Barrel, a rough-and-tumble pub in the worst part of Halftown, was exactly what you’d expect it to be.  The proprietor, Grim Harstaff, saw to it that was the case: he personally sloshed beer onto the half-rotted straw strewn across the floor.  He’d put several of the nicks and notches on the bartop himself with an old dagger from some ancient war campaign he’d fought in a lifetime ago.  The place was kept dimly-lit, smelled of stale sweat and beer, and had air the general consistency of a thin gruel.  Certain qualities were expected, he said, and he wanted to provide the right ambiance to his clientele.

Valeria liked the Giant’s Barrel.  The beer was cheap, most of the men drinking there didn’t try to ogle her, and Grim would occasionally let her play her lute on the makeshift stage Grim and Garric would erect with a few planks over a couple of barrels at one end of the bar’s great room.

Not that Valeria ever understood why anyone wanted to ogle her.  She was a barbarian from the great northern tribes, where they bred their men and women for heartiness, not loveliness.  Her chest was better described as pecs rather than breasts, and she had broader shoulders than almost all of the pub’s regulars.  And, as the Giant’s Barrel was the watering hole for mercenaries and soldiers of fortune, adventurers and treasure hunters, this was saying something significant.

She kept her hair cropped short; she usually cut it herself with her dagger, the same blade that she cut her meat and stabbed her foes with.  Valeria was not picky about her appearance.  She had no interest in attracting a mate or even a brief romantic partner.  Valeria would rather learn a new tune than bed someone.  Yes, she’d had her dalliances as a young woman; she’d taken men and women to bed, searching for that spark that so many others described when engaging in bedroom shenanigans.  But she’d never felt it, and had accepted that it just wasn’t for her and moved on to more important things.

Most important was her music.  Her instrument was meant for delicate, gently-plucked melodies, but she’d always hammered on the strings like they were slabs of metal hot from the smith’s forge.  Valeria’s maestro when she was a young woman – a small, bald old man with nearly-useless eyes and the sharpest hearing imaginable – lamented her wasted talent.  “You could play any song you set your mind to,” he said, “but you always choose these old drinking songs and tavern sing-a-longs.”  And then he’d mutter to himself for the rest of her lesson.

Valeria was also unique in her ability to turn her tunes into magic spells.  The bardic spellcasting skill was virtually unheard of among her tribe; not that there were many bards in her tribe to begin with.  She’d been destined for training as a berserker.  She was certainly built for it, and no one excelled in shield biting like Valeria.  But she loved music more, and snuck away from her martial tutors and made for the city of Melorica, where she found the best musicians she could and started learning everything possible about playing.  Within a few years, she had a reputation as a daring interpreter of existing compositions and a lyrical, innovative composer in her own right.  The fact that she liked to write drinking songs for the common man was a source of some embarrassment among the musical intelligencia, but Valeria did not care even a little.  She loved what she played, and she found a way to turn her music into supportive spells for her allies in battle.

And Valeria was finding herself drawn to battle.  Yes, she’d abandoned her studies with the tribal war master, Carrouk, years earlier, but she still had the blood of the Hoursmooth tribe flowing in her veins, and she still felt the need for glorious battle.

So she’d taken up with the dwarf, Garric, and started adventuring.  And it fulfilled a need she’d forgotten she had, sated a desire that she’d thought she’d buried years ago.  That she got to combine her desire for battle and her love of music to become the world’s only barbarian bard was just icing on the proverbial cake.

Occasionally, though, Valeria felt the need to just play music for the sake of playing music.  On those occasions, she would head to the Giant’s Barrel, have Garric and Grim assemble the makeshift stage, and sit on the stage for hours at a time strumming and plucking the strings of her lute.  She played familiar folk tunes, drinking songs passed down for generations that everyone knew the words to, and original compositions of her own.  The crowds were always appreciative, clapping and hooting and singing drunkenly along.

There was one song, though, that Valeria never played at the pub.  One song that she kept to herself, only played when she was alone.  It was a sad song, a song full of longing and nostalgia and sentiment.  Anyone who knew Valeria would have been surprised she had an ounce of sentimentality in her soul; barbarians were not well-known for their pathos.  It was a song about home, about growing apart from everything you knew, about loneliness and the desire for amiable companionship.  Not about love, not exactly, but about something akin to it, like friendship only deeper.  Someone to share things with.  Garric came close, Valeria would admit, but he wasn’t quite it.

So the song was for herself, and no one else.  Maybe someday, someone else would get to hear it.  Maybe she’d even share it with Garric, if the time was right.  But for now, it was hers alone, and she would sit and play it for herself on quiet nights when no one was around.


Flash Fiction: The Coat, Part 2

Part 1 can be found here!

Krober Pass was a few hours west of Halftown, a narrow, rocky pass through the Reeven Mountains.  In years past, it had been part of a major trade route to the west, to the Kingdom of Marrowdowns, but the kingdom had fallen to goblin raids decades ago, and the goblins were pushing further and further east with every year.  That they’d reached the Krober Pass – so close to the adventurer’s haven of Halftown! – was a sign that things in Marrowdowns were bad.

But it also meant there was plenty of work for folks like Valeria and Garric.  The two adventurers were more than a match for anything the goblins could throw at them.  Valeria didn’t take any chances, though, performing a ballad designed to improve their endurance and damage resistance before they entered the pass.

Things were quiet as they entered the Krober Pass, the only sound the wind as it whistled through the rocks and thin grass.  Valeria had her axe ready, and Garric’s daggers were loose in their sheaths, ready to be deployed at the first sign of trouble.  The two had worked together for so many years, there was no need for conversation between them as they moved through the pass.  Valeria took point, twirling the axe in her hands and humming an old song under her breath that her mother had taught her years ago.

The only warning they had was the faint sound of rocks skipping down the rock wall, dislodged from above by an unseen foot.  Valeria pivoted on her heel, bringing the axe around in a wide arc.  The blade caught the first goblin raider under his arms, cleaving him in half and spraying hot blood across the rocks.  The short, knocked blade the goblin had held over his head clattered to the ground from nerveless fingers.

Suddenly, the air was alive with goblin war cries and crude weapons waved by cruder creatures.  The goblins attacked in waves, falling from above like a deadly rain made of equal parts vile intent, sharp teeth, and rank body odor.  Valeria’s axe carved arcs across through the air, chopping goblins down two and three at a time.  Garric’s twin daggers flashed, picking out vulnerable points in goblins’ defenses, a throat here, under an arm there, the hamstring and femoral artery of a goblin winding up to take a swing at Valeria.  The two adventurers hacked and slashed their way through a small army of goblins for what seemed an eternity, but was really about half an hour.  At the end of the carnage, they were still standing, their arms and legs covered in small nicks and cuts, Garric’s left eye swelling shut where he’d caught the edge of a wooden shield in the face.  Valeria’s arms were heavy, and she felt drained.  Garric was breathing heavily, his barrel chest heaving from the exertion.

“Think that’s all of ’em?” Garric asked, wiping his blades on the edge of his coat and slotting them back into their sheaths.

Valeria shrugged, her shoulders announcing an aching protest at the movement, and stowed her axe on its strap across her back.  She pulled out her lute and strummed a few chords, humming a lilting counterharmony to the melody.  Garric immediately felt the song’s effects: the ache in his muscles eased, his wounds stopped seeping blood, and he felt generally better than he had a few moments earlier.  Valeria put away the lute and took in the terrain of the pass.  “No sign of their warren,” she said.

Garric nodded.  “Think it’s up in the mountains?”

Valeria nodded.  “Of course it is.”

It took them half an hour to pick their way through the massive boulders and shifting gravel of the pass, up the side of an almost sheer cliff face to the cave system the goblins called home.  The place was mostly deserted as they entered, though Valeria could feel unseen eyes on her from the moment they slipped into the cool darkness of the cave’s entrance.

Half an hour of exploring the twisting warren of tunnels and caves finally spit them out in a massive, cathedral-esque cavern festooned with candles and bioluminescent fungi.  The edges of the cavern were surrounded by massive columns of stala-whatevers – stalactites or stalagmites, Valeria could never keep them sorted in her head – and at the front, like an altar, rose a platform of limestone with a wooden rack taking the place of prominence.

On the rack hung the coat.  It had been placed there reverently, as if it were a great, holy relic.  Small bundles were heaped at the foot of the rack.  On closer inspection, Garric identified them as goblin religious fetishes.  “Effigies for the fallen,” he said, stroking his beard.  It was the patchiest beard in dwarven history; the mustache, thin and wiry, didn’t meet up with the beard itself, which was more the suggestion of where a beard could be than an actual, fully-realized collection of facial hair.  It was an aspirational beard, a beard in potentia, but he was terribly attached to it, as all members of his kind were to their facial hair.  Valeria didn’t have the heart to tell him it made him look like wire mesh jutting out at odd angles from his cheeks and jaw.

“I think…they’re worshiping the coat,” Garric said.

Valeria frowned.  “Why?  It’s an ugly old coat.”  She allowed her magical senses to open up to the world around her.  Information flooded into her senses.  “There’s nothing magical about it.  It’s just a plain ol’ coat.”

Garric shrugged.  “Damned if I know.  The old bastard did kill a lot of goblins in his day.”  Valeria nodded.  Everyone in Halftown knew, if there were no other jobs available, you could always kill goblins.  The man in the coat had been well-known for taking that job even when other, more worthwhile endeavors were available.  An idea, a terrible notion, formed in her mind.  She didn’t care for it, though it made a certain amount of sick sense.

“They started thinking of him as a god of death, didn’t they?” she said.  Though the tone was one of question, it was really more an uncertain-at-worst statement.  “They think they killed a god, and they took a holy relic as a sign.”

Garric shrugged again.  “Stranger things have happened.”  He glanced around the cavern.  Like Valeria, he couldn’t shake the sense that they were being watched from every dark corner.  “So, what do we do?  We takin’ the coat back?”

Valeria shook her head.  “No.  There’s no point.  It’s just an old damn coat.”  She stretched, arching her back, and turned back to the entrance they’d come in through.  “Let’s get back to the Giant’s Barrel.  I need a drink.”

Garric grinned.  “That’s a damn fine idea!” he said in agreement.  “We’ll hoist a tankard to…um…”  Garric scratched his chin.  “Say, what the hell was the guy’s name, again?”

Valeria shrugged.  “I dunno.  Dave?  Saunders?  Caulder?  Who knows?  Better, who cares?  I need a damn drink.”

Flash Fiction: The Coat, Part 1

It was black leather, faded with years of neglect and abuse.  It hung heavy across his broad back and shoulders, the hem of the coat hanging down to mid-thigh.  It slapped against his legs as he took each step, as though the edge of it was weighted somehow.  The coat was festooned with pockets, though no one knew quite how many or what their contents might be.

It was worn in a patch around back, where the leather had scrapped against booths and benches and the rough brickwork of city alleyways for years and years.  It was a hard-worn coat, full of secrets and dried blood.  He’d been stabbed three times while wearing the coat; shot with arrows at least twice as many times as that.  He survived, and so did the coat.  Some new stitching, and each were patched up again.

Folks around the city recognized the coat and its wearer.  They became something of an institution, a familiar, mobile landmark in the city that wandered the streets in search of work and adventure.

Some coveted the coat, not because it was a particularly appealing piece of sartorial splendor, but because it represented something primal and daring and great: the coat was as much an adventurer as its wearer.  The coat had survived just as many narrow escapes and famous last stands as the man who wore it.  The coat was a piece of history, one that could be passed on like a torch or a crown or a family heirloom.  The man had no children – none he knew of or was in contact with, anyway – so the coat would just be buried with him when he died, assuming he was buried and not just left on some desolate battlefield or deep in some dank dungeon to rot.  It would be a damn shame for that coat to not go on, these folks reasoned, and so they tried to steal it and discovered the man who wore the coat was not an individual to be trifled with.

No one could say for certain how old the man was, or when he’d first appeared in the city, but everyone agreed they’d never seen him without the coat.  It was as much a part of him as his arms or his eyes, as important a tool in his arsenal as any sword or dagger.  He wore it during the defense of Halftown, and the brawl in the Giant’s Barrel that followed the glorious victory in that battle.  He wore it when he explored the fabled Catacombs of Meril Catharak, where he defeated the Lich Lord of the same name.  He wore it when he wooed the beautiful princess of Dorivo Tower, though he declined to ravish the princess in favor of ravishing her brother, the tower’s defender.

The man wore the coat everywhere, regardless of weather or circumstances.  It was like a uniform, a second skin, an indispensable garment by any measure.

So it came as some shock to everyone when he died without it on.

It came in the fourth month of the Year of the Notional Serpent, deep in to the sweltering summer season in Halftown, the city of heroes and adventure.  The man came stumbling into town one evening near dusk, blood matting his hair and the coat nowhere to be seen.  He collapsed in front of the Giant’s Barrel, bleeding from more wounds than any living person could reasonably expect to survive, and the life ebbed out of him as adventurers stepped over and around his prone form to reach the bar inside the Giant’s Barrel.

Only two individuals stopped to check on the man: Valeria, a tall woman from the great northern barbarian tribes, and her stout dwarven companion, Garric.

“He’s dead,” Garric said, straightening up from a stoop next to the man, though it hardly seemed worth the effort given how minor the effect of standing was on his overall stature.  Garric was, to put things bluntly, short.

Valeria nodded.  She’d assumed as much.

“No sign of the coat,” Garric muttered, eyeing the dusty street.  No one else was around; even at dusk, the city was so stiflingly hot that most people were quietly suffering indoors.

“That damn coat is more trouble than it’s worth,” Valeria said.  She didn’t put much stock in the legends and stories surrounding the coat.  Many thought it was enchanted, spelled against blades and blows.  Valeria was convinced it was just an old, ugly coat, but she also knew you couldn’t discount an item’s magicalness when so many people believed in it.  Belief had a power that was hard to beat.

“What job was he on?” Valeria asked despite herself.  She didn’t want to try to find the coat, but she could see the shape of the narrative forming around her.  Someone was going to go out and find the damn thing; it might as well be someone competent.  It might as well be her and Garric.  The man in the coat had always been known for taking on challenging jobs, and it was better that professionals take up the task than some amateur with delusions of grandeur.

“Clearing out the goblins in the Krober Pass,” Garric said immediately.  His memory for little details – like who had taken what job on the Adventurer’s Community Board – was sharper than most.

Valeria hefted her axe over one shoulder and her lute over the other.  There weren’t too many barbarian bards out there, and she was easily the best of them.  Garric rested his hands on his daggers, arching his back until the vertebrae popped one after the other.  “Right, then,” the dwarf said, a grin splitting his bearded face, “let’s get to it.”

Continue on to Part 2!


Another short vignette from a few years ago that I thought you all might enjoy.

“God, today fucking sucks,” Walter said, collapsing into his chair at the cafeteria table like the fall of empires.

Molly sat silently for a moment, expecting Walter to elaborate.  Clearly, he wanted to say more.  You could see it in his face.  And though she was curious, she would not give him the satisfaction of asking why.

“Why?” she finally said, despite herself.

“It’s Tuesday, Molly,” Walter replied, as though the answer were self-evident.

Molly pondered this for a moment, probing the statement’s depths and finding them unfathomable.

“Okay, I’ll bite.  Is it this particular Tuesday that sucks, or Tuesdays in general?” she asked.

“Tuesday,” Walter said, with the air of someone about to impart great wisdom, “is the worst day of the week.”

“That seems…well, that just doesn’t make any sense,” Molly said, frowning.

“It’s quite simple,” Walter replied, wagging a finger at her.  “Mondays, for all of their horror and frustration, are really not to be feared.  Most folks are still too hung over from the weekend to really notice Monday is even happening.  We have the afterglow of the weekend to keep us warm on a dreary Monday.”

“I’m not entirely sure I agree with that, but I’ll give it to you for the sake of argument,” Molly said doubtfully.  “What about Wednesday?”

“Wednesday is New Comic Day,” Walter replied bluntly, as though no one could possibly not know that.  “Thursday, of course, is the day before Friday.  There’s anticipation.  There’s light at the end of the tunnel.  There’s hope.”

“And Friday, of course, is Friday,” Molly finished for him.

“Of course,” Walter said.  “Which leaves only Tuesday, that poor, misbegotten naïf with nothing to recommend it.  Think of it.  Every other day has at least something happening.  Tuesday is the week’s equivalent of an hour spent in a doctor’s waiting room.”

Molly considered Walter’s assertion.  “I still maintain Monday is pretty horrible,” she said tentatively.

“Oh, I’m so sick of everyone going on about Monday!” Walter cried, rising to his feet and startling people around them.  Molly scrabbled at his arm, trying to drag him back down into his chair and mentally willing everyone in the cafeteria to look the other way.  Walter returned to his seat without appearing to notice.  “Monday is a much-maligned day, I tell you, a day with much to be joyful about!  Why, it gives you the opportunity to reconnect with comrades, to discuss the events of the weekend and dissect them with excruciating detail among friends and confidants.  Monday is the chance to strut back into your place of work or what-have-you and proclaim, loudly, ‘I got laid on Saturday, even with this haircut!’  Monday is the weekend’s not-quite-sober victory lap.”

Molly’s brow furrowed, her left eyebrow arching in barely-sustained suspension of disbelief.  “Okay, so let’s say Tuesdays are as bad as you say,” she began.  “For the sake of argument, we’ll go with that.  If your big problem with Tuesday is that it’s got nothing to it, why not give Tuesday some deeper personal meaning?  Why does it have to be the ennui of the work week?”

Walter gave Molly a look of mixed sadness and condescension.  “Molly, my dear, dear Molly, it does not work that way,” he said pityingly.  “One cannot simply ascribe any old meaning to a day and expect it to stick.  Reality is not so easily convinced.

“Let us say I were to, as you put it, ‘give Tuesday a deeper personal meaning.’  What then?  Will everyone else take up the change?  Will Tuesday become a personal day for the whole world?  And if it does, how do we benefit?  No, Tuesday must remain as it is, unloved and unfulfilling.  It provides the context for the rest of the week, and nothing more.”  He sighed as a Byronic poet might, gazing off longingly into the middle distance.  Or possibly he was staring at the pudding, Molly couldn’t be sure.

“Whatever,” Molly replied, giving up on the conversation and gathering her empty lunch things onto her tray.  “I’m off for Physics.  You coming?”

“What’s the point?” Walter asked somberly.  “It’s Tuesday.”

“Well, we’ve got that test today…” Molly said.

“Oh, right,” Walter said, his eyes suddenly refocusing.  “Off we go, then.”

My Story

While I attempt to dig myself out of my depressive funk, enjoy this thing I wrote years ago that I re-read the other day and didn’t hate.

When I write my story, there will be no hero.  There will be no happy ending.

There will be an infinite sadness, a streak of pain painted across the night sky, an arc of red against a field of black.

There will be blood, and a wailing, and a gnashing of teeth.

And ponies.  There will probably be ponies.

* * *

My main character will not be a white male.  No, my protagonist won’t even be human, or sentient, or recognizable as a character.  It’ll be a bacterium, or a fugus, perhaps a particularly plucky protozoa.

There won’t be a determined, independent woman in the story, either.  No humans at all, except maybe as the setting.  Or the antagonist.  We’re pretty antagonistic towards every other living thing in existence, it seems, so we’d make pretty damn convincing antagonists.

* * *

I don’t really think I’ll have a theme, or follow much in the way of writing conventions.  Everyone’s done pretty much everything you can with stories that make sense, that follow narrative structure.  Hell, everything’s been done with stories that don’t follow narrative structure.  I’ve read Joyce and Bely, I know all about that whole stream of consciousness nonsense.

My story will be told through pheromones and suggestive twitches of flagella.

* * *

It won’t be a long story.  There’s no need to go on for thousands and thousands of pages, hundreds of thousands of words stacking up like bricks in a wall or CDs on a club kid’s nightstand.  There may only be a single word to my magnum opus.  It’ll be a word that rolls over the tongue, one that lolls about in the mouth, coating everything in a thin film.  Something like “lugubrious,” or “gibbous,” or possibly “sumptuous.”

Or maybe it will just be a description of some hardcore bestiality for a thousand pages.  I’m not set on anything just yet.

* * *

Ultimately, no one will read my story.  It will exist only in my head, if even there, and only for a short while if at all.  I’m not entirely certain the world is ready for my work of speculative flash fiction featuring an unknowable protagonist and us as the antagonist.  It’s a bit of a stretch, really.

Also, I haven’t found a publisher, and I’m sure as hell not gonna self-publish this mess.

Flash-Fiction Friday #1: Snake Handlers


There are basically two types of tent revivals.

First, there’s the hoopin’ an’ hollerin’, hallelujah-callin’ jumped up revivals, where everyone is dancin’ in the aisles and throwin’ their hands up in the air and shoutin’ praises.  There’s lots of singin’ – some of it is even on-key – and folks sharin’ their stories and their joys and their lives.

The other kind is all fire and brimstone, hell and damnation and suffering eternal.  You’re a sinful creature and you rightly belong in the deepest pit of hell for all of eternity.  The preacher wants you to know you’ve done wrong, and there ain’t nothin’ you can do to overcome your depravity.

But they’ve both got the same message, the Good News, capital letters an’ all.  In the good times tent revivals, it’s all about celebrating that fact, reveling in the joy of salvation.  In the darker sort of revivals, it’s the spark of hope, the single lifeline to grab hold of an’ cling like the Devil his-own-self was tryin’ to drag you under into darkness.  But you can only get there if you repent, if you accept your depraved nature and strive to earn that hope you can’t ever possibly earn.

When I was a kid, we had more of the latter kind of revivals than the former.  My daddy wasn’t much for softness, either physically or emotionally.  He’d hide us good when we did wrong – and my daddy could always find things you did wrong, even things you weren’t aware you’d done – and drive us hard even when we were doin’ the right thing.  He drove himself even harder, though, preachin’ as though there was a fire in his belly eatin’ him from the inside out.  He’d shout and holler and accuse, hurl invective and judgment from the pulpit like he was God sittin’ in judgment from His throne.  My daddy’d sweat and spit and near as like to catch fire; he’d work himself up into a frothing lather, foamin’ at the mouth like a rabid dog, screaming at the depraved congregation.

And they’d take it, accept his judgments as God’s own truth.  And they’d strive to be better folks.  They believed every word my daddy told ’em, all evidence to the contrary.

When I was 16, daddy decided to try snake handling.  He’d seen another preacher do it down in Okemah in early June, and he liked how it grabbed everyone’s attention.  So daddy found a snake wrangler and bought a whole mess’a snakes and put them all in a glass case and brought them to the next revival.

Daddy was a good preacher, full of fury and fire and passion, but he weren’t the smartest guy around.  He didn’t pay real close attention to the snake handler he’d seen, didn’t notice that the guy had only used harmless, non-poisonous snakes for his bit.  Daddy missed that part, and ended up with a whole bunch of poisonous snakes.  I dunno if the snake wrangler he used was stupid, too, or just didn’t care much for daddy’s preachin’, but he loaded daddy up with a couple dozen cottonmouths and a copperhead or two.

The night daddy tried out the snake handling, the tent was packed.  Every makeshift pew – usually made with a couple of boards and a few barrels – was stuffed so full the boards sagged and groaned.  People stomped and clapped and hollered along to the hymns, and the heat in the tent was so great that a couple of folks in the back passed out.  Daddy said it was just the Holy Spirit takin’ hold of ’em, but of course he’d say somethin’ like that.

It was gettin’ towards the end of daddy’s sermon, and he was tellin’ everyone their faith weren’t strong enough.  “But if you believe with all your heart and soul, the power of our Lord Jesus will descend upon you, and you can do wonders!”  And he reached into that glass case and pulled out a handful of angry snakes.  I remember watchin’ ’em writhe in his hands, coiling and hissing and lookin’ none-too-happy about the whole situation.

Of course, when a snake ain’t happy, it’s only got one way of lettin’ you know.  An’ these snakes sure let daddy know.  They sank their teeth into the flushed flesh of his hands and forearms, pumpin’ venom into him faster than the dickens.  Daddy yelped and tried to rip them snakes off his arms, but it weren’t no use.  They weren’t gonna let him go.

Daddy collapsed beside his pulpit and went into convulsions, shakin’ and shiverin’ like a body possessed.  Folks cried out in fear and surprise; some figured it was the rapture, others thought it was demon possession, and some folks with a bit of know-how recognized it as the venom killin’ daddy.  No one wanted to get near him, not with all those damn snakes sittin’ there, so we all just watched in fear and anguish as my daddy died.