The Dichotomy of Monsters by C. Dennis Moore by C. Dennis Moore - Read Online

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Summary

Horror author C. Dennis Moore returns to the short story form with this latest collection, THE DICHOTOMY OF MONSTERS, fifteen terrifying tales of things that aren’t what they seem.  Moore’s reality will leave you questioning your own senses and doubting the proof right in front of your eyes.

In “Reckoning”, Jody returns to his old home after his mother’s funeral to find some of the memories he thought he’d left behind aren’t so quiet nor so forgotten.  Fans of his haunted house novel The Third Floor will find Moore’s take on ghosts in this story to be anything but typical.

In “Timesmiths”, Moore ponders the question of time travel and what happens to the perceptions of those being affected when alterations are made.  In “Broken Man”, poor Mr. Sumner saw angels take away his dying wife and now he thinks he can bring them back for him if he makes himself suffer enough.

In the title story, an escaped Mr. Hyde sets out for America in search of a permanent cure to his weak alter-ego.  But he soon discovers the real monsters are not quite as obviously recognized as he is.

In “Monday”, the one C. Dennis Moore calls “the best story I’ve ever written”, Maddy has only one goal today: die.  But an old custom and a deep-rooted sense of routine keeps her locked in an unending cycle until she can figure out the key to breaking her pattern.

These are just some of the fifteen stories in THE DICHOTOMY OF MONSTERS, but each one offers its own unique view of hell and the monsters that dwell there.  Leave your preconceptions at the door and let C. Dennis Moore show you just how beautiful monsters can be and, as in the story “The Garden”, how monstrous the beautiful.

Published: C. Dennis Moore on
ISBN: 9781513076638
List price: $2.99
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The Dichotomy of Monsters - C. Dennis Moore

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Fiction

INTRODUCTION

You can’t make money as a writer with short stories.  It’s an unfortunate truth, but a truth nonetheless.  At least, not in today’s world.  Readers want novels, something that’s going to be worth the money they paid.  So any writer who writes a lot of short stories, you really have to love doing it, and that has to be reward enough.

I love writing short stories.  I love so many things about the short story.  I love how much easier it is to experiment with short stories, like I did in this collection with The Room, a story told in reverse.  That’s the order the story needed to be told for the fullest effect, but try something like that in a novel and you’re going to turn off a lot of readers, because it all relies on the reader’s ability to remember what came before, or after in this case, to get the full effect of what can after—or before!

Or try a story like Monday, which is really a short story on a loop, but different aspects of the full narrative are revealed in each subsequent retelling so that, in the end, you finally grasp the details in a more complete way.

I love the impact a short story can have over a novel.  In my story, The Prisoner, I took an old idea, beginning with my favorite movie, The Exorcist, and built a new story around that.  Possession stories are nothing new, but the impact of this story is in that final scene, a scene that even now, nearly a decade after I wrote it, still gives me chills because, as anyone who reads or writes can tell you, the ending is the key.  The ending to The Prisoner was definitely the key, and had that story been written as a novel instead of a 3000-some word short story, it wouldn’t have had near the impact.  A good novel will stick with you for years afterward, but a great short story packs a punch that can knock you flat, a punch few novels, when read over a period of days or, in some cases, weeks, just can’t equal.

You’ll find a lot of unexpected endings in these stories.  As I said, the ending is key, and that was a realization I came to much later in my writing, and I won’t use the term twist ending because none of them are twists; the endings are there in the stories all along which, in these cases I think lends this collection of stories a good deal of re-readability.  Several of them were crafted with the specific intention of giving the reader even more pleasure the second or third time around because the endings, in stories like The Dichotomy of Monsters and Baby Pink Lipstick and Purple Haze, reveal so much about what came before, subsequent readings suddenly contain even more detail, more story elements you hadn’t noticed the first time through.  You can do that in a novel, too, but honestly, how many novels do people re-read over and over again?  I believe a good story, like a good movie, should be something you want to return to, so I try to reward the reader with even more story the second time around.

And that brings me to the title of this collection.  The Dichotomy of Monsters is one of the short story titles, this particular story serving as my version of a sequel to Stevenson’s The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, which is another story that reads one way the first time and reads a different way the second time.  But The Dichotomy of Monsters is also an idea I’ve long been fascinated with.  Who is the real monster in Frankenstein, the patchwork beast, or the deadbeat dad who gave him life, then threw him away?  As we’ve seen in real life time and time again, the oft-repeated phrase it’s the quiet ones you have to watch out for becomes more and more relevant as loud-mouthed tough-acting gangbangers, sure they’ll  rob you, maybe even beat you up, but the quiet neighbor who always keeps to himself?  He’s trying to figure out how best to cut up your body, mount your head on his wall as a trophy while he cooks your organs for Tuesday night’s dinner.

The monster, as an idea, is a funny thing, because, monstrous, much like beauty, truly is in the eye of the beholder.  In most cases, in fiction at least, it turns out the monster is not what you’d expect it to be, and in most cases the true monster is so much worse.  Much better the devil you know than the one you don’t, and that’s also an idea that’s played out often in fiction, especially horror fiction.

I’m offering in this collection fifteen short stories—most of them unpublished before—that all, in one way or another, play on the theme of the title, stories that will, I hope, challenge your perceptions and your expectations, stories I hope you enjoy enough the first time and want to read again.  I’m not saying you have to read them twice, but if you do, I hope the experience is even more rewarding the second time.  I want these short stories to act as a celebration to everything the short story is capable of, spotlighting its strengths over the novel.

A word on the cover.  There’s a story in this collection, The Room, about a small room located behind an upstairs bathroom, a sort of storage room where all kinds of junk is stored, where things just happen to appear.  In that story, many of the things the main character finds are things I myself found in the storage room behind the upstairs bathroom in the house I lived in when I graduated high school and started writing.  One of the things I found back there was a 2 1/2-inch tall headless baby doll.  Considering my mother is terrified of dolls with parts missing, I adopted it and put it on my desk.  One day while stuck for the next part of the story I was writing, I started fiddling with the doll.  For whatever reason I also had a box of sewing pins on my desk.  I inserted one into the doll’s bellybutton.  Then I kept going until the headless baby doll was covered in a grid of sewing pins.  It looked pretty cool and it’s been one of the constant items on my desk ever since, a totem against boring ideas and, hopefully, bad writing.  Given the doll’s purpose in my own life, and the idea behind the theme of this collection, it seemed only fitting he take the cover spot. 

THE INSANITY DANCE

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Officer Dwight stepped from his cruiser and looked around the neighborhood.  All his neighbors were outside, some dressed in clothes from two days ago, some in pajamas and nightgowns.  Eddie Jordan was naked.  No one noticed.  They flung their bodies around, flailing their arms, jerking their heads  Everyone, except Officer Dwight, did the Insanity Dance.  Their bodies jerked and convulsed of their own volition, the minds inside the bodies dead.

He went inside.  No point locking the cruiser; these people were no harm to anyone.  They couldn't even form complete thoughts, the Dance had them.  He glanced back at his whirling friends and closed the front door behind him.

Upstairs, he put his uniform coat over the banister, rolled up his sleeves, and went into Anna's room.  She hadn't moved all day.  He'd hoped she'd uncover, shift her legs, turn her head, anything.  Immobility was a sign of the oncoming Dance.  Before the body began its perpetual jumping and twisting, it went into a kind of coma in which—it was theorized—one could see and hear, but the body was frozen.  And by the time the immobility disappeared, the Dance was upon them and their minds were gone, given to the motion, so there was no way to prove the theory.

Anna would be dancing in a day, two at the most.

Officer Dwight sat on the edge of the bed and rubbed her forehead.  She felt warm, and he quickly wiped his hand on the cover.  The insanity had buried itself in her and was ready to be passed on.  He made sure not to let Anna's sweat touch him.  He watched her closely, praying she'd blink, or twitch, any sign that she knew he was home.

Officer Dwight's daughter remained frozen.

He got up and stood at the window.  Eddie Jordan was in the backyard, dwindling with the exhaustion of Dancing.  He figured Eddie hadn't eaten or slept in a couple of days.  That much constant flinging and flailing wasted a body quickly.  The speed with which it consumed a person was the worst part of the Insanity Dance.  He looked back at Anna and hoped it would give her another few days before it took her.

He looked back out the window then heard a crash behind him.  He whirled, hoping Anna had woken up, had beaten the Dance.  He took a step toward her and crunched broken porcelain under his work shoes.  He removed his foot from the shattered lamp.  Anna's arm hung straight out from her body.  Her legs twitched under the blankets, and she sat up.

Officer Dwight cried, No, Anna, lay still.  Just another day, please, one more day.

But his daughter flung herself from the mattress and twirled out the room.  She Danced into the hall, her face blank, back and forth, sometimes just jerking against the wall, trying to Dance through it.  Somehow, she made it down the stairs without falling, leaping the last few steps.  She danced on.

Officer Dwight followed her out to the porch.  She Danced along the railing, then leapt off, rolled in the dirt and bounded to her feet, arms out, legs kicking.

He wanted to restrain her, tie her to a post if he had to.  He would do anything to keep her from Dancing.

His mind had slipped enough when the realization sunk in that most everyone in town had been infected, and that the epidemic was spreading.  Officer Dwight's town of Copley and every town immediately surrounding it had been quarantined off from the rest of Missouri, like a retard son who's hidden in the attic when company comes.  Every Dancer was kept within the limits to avoid spreading the Insanity Dance—whatever it really was—and every uninfected person was trapped inside, just in case.

The Dance had an incubation period of a month, so it was impossible to tell who had it until the coma set in.  There were no other warning signs, and by that time it was too late.  Since no one had been able to discover the Insanity Dance's origins, they couldn't fight it.

Anna danced around her father, her fingers coming too close to his face.  He flinched back, then hated himself for it; this was his daughter.  He stepped back and bumped something.  Turning, he saw Roger Apple's blank face, Roger's body jerking to some inaudible tribal beat.  Roger's brow shone with sweat.  He flopped his arms out and they slapped Officer Dwight's arm and chest.

Officer Dwight stepped away and moved toward the house.  The front steps were crowded with sweating dancers, bumping into each other, knocking each other over, knocking themselves over.  He moved toward his cruiser instead.  He needed to get away from here, anyway.  With Anna Dancing, he needed to collect himself.  When he'd found Anna in the coma a few days earlier, he figured this would be the last straw of his own sanity, but he seemed to be holding on, somehow.  He just needed some distance now, and time.

The cruiser was surrounded.  A circle of Insane Dancers, twisted, jumped, jerked all around the car.  In the fading light of evening, he could see their hair sticking to their foreheads.  He quickly looked around for somewhere they wouldn't be able to reach him, but when Officer Dwight scanned the yard and street, all he saw were twirling heads, blanks eyes, sweating faces.  And Anna's was among them.

Every step he took was in the direction of a Dancer.  They all seemed closer, every Dancer, his infected friends, neighbors, now family, converging on him.  Surely he'd be able to find a weak spot, an empty space where no arm flailed and no body swung, to get through.  But everywhere he looked only yielded more sweating bodies, more empty faces.  He found himself shrinking back from hands that came too close.  Roger Apple jerked toward him.  Eddie Jordan bopped from behind the house, not exhausted after all, but still naked and glistening with sweat.  Anna shuffled her feet in the dirt, stepping toward her father.

Officer Dwight had three square feet of space to himself.  He felt his heart quicken, and his own skin breaking out with sweat like the Dancer's, his uninfected—for now.  He looked down the street and saw people as far as four houses down Dancing away.

Officer Dwight felt something cool on his face.  A sweaty hand.  Whose didn't matter.  He jerked back, knocked his elbow against Eddie Jordan.  Anna grabbed his hand in hers and twirled herself under his arm.  A hand rubbed his back, a finger slid down his neck, a cheek pressed against his.

The weight of so many sweating bodies brought him down, each mingling their sweat with his, transferring their Insanity Dance to him.  He would have screamed if there'd been oxygen in the piling mass to scream with.

BLUE MOON

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Two and a half years, that’s how long I’d been after this guy.  He had taken everything from me when he killed my wife.  March 30, 2010.  I’ll never forget the day.  I’ll never forget the carnage, the way he butchered her, the blood everywhere in our living room.

Rita had been the love of my life, and this piece of shit took her, just like she was nothing.  Worse than that, he slaughtered her and left me and the clean-up crew behind to deal with the aftermath.

I lost my place on the squad six months after Rita died.  My captain said I’d become obsessed with finding the murderer, and I didn’t deny it.  Who wouldn’t?  If you’re a cop and someone does to your family what had been done to mine, you don’t stop using all of your resources until you find the son of a bitch and make him sorry he was ever born.  Which was exactly what I devoted every second of my day to.

There was no evidence left at the scene, at least nothing we could use.  What little there was had become contaminated, therefore useless.  I had to start nearly from zero in building my case against this guy.  Never mind the captain constantly feeling like he had to remind me this wasn’t my case and, for the sake of the integrity of the investigation I better step back or else.  I pretended to drop what I had going on, pretended to get back to my own work, my own cases.  But my thoughts never left the task of finding the person who did that to Rita.

It wasn’t just that she’d been killed.  In fact, what happened to her couldn’t even be called a butchering, really.  That would have been too neat.  This was, like I said, a slaughter.  Whoever did that to her hadn’t acted alone.  I was searching for a man with dogs.  The neighbors claimed to hear snarling and roaring coming from my house and the bite marks on the wounds were from a dog, and although I didn’t know what kind, it obviously wasn’t a pug.

So I wanted someone with big dogs, mean dogs, someone who trained them, maybe even someone who fought them.  Because when I look at the photos from that day, at the pieces of my beautiful wife strewn about the room like that, chunks torn from her body, parts of her missing, assumed eaten by whatever attacked her, it had to be someone with access to that kind of dog who wasn’t afraid, who knew how to control them.

You won’t see ads on TV, nor pop-ups on your browser, but they have websites for stuff like that.  You have to dig for them, and they don’t make it easy, but we’re talking about an entire subculture with its own code words and signals.  After all, dog fights aren’t exactly legal.  They weren’t going to come to me, so I had to do the digging myself, and when my captain realized I’d only pretended to drop my investigation—right around the time I fucked up one of my own cases so bad the perp walked on a technicality even though he was dead to rights when we caught him, even though he’d confessed everything, but my mind had been on the evidence in Rita’s case instead, on a photo of my wife’s face, torn open like a melon.  I forgot to Mirandize him.

That was the final straw for the department and I was off the force before you could say do-over.

I draw a decent pension, though.  Enough for one guy living in a small apartment by himself anyway.  Rita and I would have been struggling on what I make now, but she’s not here anymore, is she?  And it’s this piece of shit’s fault.

I found him, finally.

Saul Galloway ran dog fights two towns over out of a barn.  He raised pit bulls and Dobermans, and he raised them mean.  He’d been picked up two months earlier on assault charges when one of his dogs got loose and attacked a guy who owed Saul money.  The guy ended up not pressing charges—like I didn’t see that coming—but at least I had a suspect now.

I started watching Galloway every second of the day, hoping to find something other than a couple of vicious dogs to tie him to my wife’s murder.  But he knew how to work the system and watching him from afar wasn’t working.  I had to take things a step further, and that’s where it got complicated because as an ex-cop my sins in relation to Saul Galloway were doubled, at least. I had to remind myself it was for the greater good, it was for Rita, and that eased my conscience and gave me the resolve to wait until Saul was out of his house before sneaking in.

The dogs started going crazy almost as soon as I set foot on the property, but they were locked up in the barn.  Still, the noise did nothing to help the headache I’d been nursing all morning.  I thought I was coming down with something, and it felt like it was gonna be pretty bad when it hit.  My focus was for shit.

His house was the kind of place I had expected it would be.  I had been on the force long enough to know what to expect when you went into places like Saul Galloway’s out of the way farmhouse.  The mess was typical of the lifestyle Galloway led.  When his buddies came over to watch the dogs, there was plenty of drinking and smoking to enhance the mood and Galloway wasn’t much for cleaning up afterward.

I knew finding anything in the living room would be nearly impossible, so I headed for the bedroom where I hoped he might keep things in just a little more order.  The bed was unmade, but otherwise free of debris, just a wadded up stain-covered sheet and a flat pillow.

The top of the dresser was covered with junk, but not so much I couldn’t make out evidence of enough broken laws to get him off the streets for a long time.  Unfortunately for him, a long time wasn’t enough.  And honestly at this point, I couldn’t just walk into the station with him.  I’m not a cop anymore, and me being in his house at all was just one more of those technicalities.  I couldn’t risk that.  If I found evidence in here that linked him to Rita, I’d kill him, simple as that.

I’d have closure,