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The Green-Eyed Monster: Enigma of Twilight Falls, #1

The Green-Eyed Monster: Enigma of Twilight Falls, #1

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The Green-Eyed Monster: Enigma of Twilight Falls, #1

Length:
339 pages
3 hours
Released:
Sep 9, 2020
ISBN:
9781622537624
Format:
Book

Description

Twilight Falls is just your standard northern California town, right? It's not a playground for anything dark and unfathomable, right?

  • WINNER: Pinnacle Book Achievement Award - Best Horror Fiction

Editor's Choice at HorrorNovelReviews.com: "Among the Top 10 Horror Novels of All-Time"

"Absolutely magnificent." ~ Shannon McGrew, Nightmarish Conjurings

"Literary horror... Every page is full of insight, matched only by the high standard of the writing." ~ Tom Conrad, The Indie Pendant

Martin Smith and John Becker: bestselling authors with ordinary names and extraordinary minds. Rivals since childhood, they are natives of the northern California town of Twilight Falls, and famous for their uncanny similarity in both physical manner and literary voice. When one of them ends up dead at the other's home, an investigation is launched into their dark past, revealing a series of troubling stories from their childhood, adolescence, and careers.

All throughout, there lurks a sinister presence—an authorial entity with roots beyond our time or dimension, an entity with far-reaching designs.

EVOLVED PUBLISHING PRESENTS the first book in the chilling "Enigma of Twilight Falls" series, where dark, terrifying, unimaginable events will rise up to haunt your dreams. [DRM-Free]

BOOKS BY MIKE ROBINSON:

  • ENIGMA OF TWILIGHT FALLS – Book 1: The Green-Eyed Monster
  • ENIGMA OF TWILIGHT FALLS – Book 2: Negative Space
  • ENIGMA OF TWILIGHT FALLS – Book 3: Waking Gods

MORE GREAT HORROR FICTION FROM EVOLVED PUBLISHING:

  • The "Lorestalker" Series by J.P. Barnett
  • The "Writer's Block" Series by A.K. Kuykendall
  • The "Big Sky Terror" Series by D.W. Hitz
  • "The Holocaust Engine" Series by David Rike & Stephen Patrick

 

Released:
Sep 9, 2020
ISBN:
9781622537624
Format:
Book

About the author

A writer since age six and a professional one since nineteen, my initial editing experience came in the swarms of prose I pumped out into the world, only occasionally into the world of actual magazines, anthologies or e-zines. Soon, as I began selling more regularly, and as publishers took note of my longer works, I began freelance editing. In the past eight years, I’ve edited screenplays, memoirs, novels, children’s books and, would you believe it, epic narrative poetry. One of the novels I edited, Under the Tamarind Tree, was shortlisted among nine others for the 2014 Dundee International Book Prize. A charter member of The Greater Los Angeles Writers Society (GLAWS), I am also the managing editor of the organization’s official publication, Literary Landscapes, which features stories, excerpts, articles and poetry (see issues here). In addition, I belong to the editing collective Write For Success, for which I perform manuscript critiques and consultation. As an author, I have published nine novels and almost fifteen short stories.


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The Green-Eyed Monster - Mike Robinson

0: WRITER’S BLOCK

Chapter 1

This happens. This happens to them all.

Just not you.

Just not me.

The phone rings, but he ignores it.

Martin Smith has never had a case like this before. There’d been hiccups along the way, places to pause, turn over words, spat with particularly lively characters that refused the next sentence, but this.... This is not the kind of nuisance obstruction typically associated with writer’s block. Rather, it’s a terrible vacuum that has seen his thoughts, his career, his creations, his soul torn away and ground to emptiness.

Becker is dead, too, so the words are his own now. The people are his now, the one major impediment gone.

You should have no problem with this.

The phone continues to ring, clanging into his brain. A headache blooms.

His mind reruns the week. The police had hauled him in after the incident, and questioned him, but that was all they could do. After a program of systematic stalking, Becker’s maniacal actions had culminated in his attack, his attempted murder, of all things. Smith had merely defended himself.

What happened to people like that? What drove them?

You know.

I know, he thought. Simple. So why the emptiness?

The crown sits only on his head now, the focus entirely on him. The kingdom stretches before him, but it’s barren and uninteresting, fraught with arduous uphill slopes.

The phone finally ceases to ring, giving him peace.

Smith remembers the Old Man, and the minute all had been revealed. Inside the seconds and milliseconds he’d discovered eternity.

Yet even now, he doesn’t believe what the Old Man said.

He opens a small drawer and begins digging through a pile of newspaper articles, some old, some recent, highlighting a career of eighteen novels, the last word of which had been put down mere weeks ago. No more had come since.

The New Voice of Speculative Fiction, proclaims a fifteen-year-old headline from the Boston Globe.

Martin Smith: The Millenial Author, says one from the San Francisco Chronicle. The headlines had only fed his widespread adoration, an outcome predicted long ago by his mother, whose voice still echoes in his mind.

You’re like a machine, Martin. You’re going to be brilliant. You’re going to be famous. Never let anyone get in your way.

He hadn’t. Not really. Of course, those articles had compared him to John Becker, a trivial note and a hackneyed exercise. He’d hastily crossed out these passages, rendering them inky tumbleweeds on newsprint—little black holes in his history.

Smith gathers a chunk of old book reviews and thumbs through them like a flip book. Pictures of him smile back, grainy mirrors to better days, as do images of him meeting fans at the rare times he did a book signing. Swell times. Becker might have had more fans in numbers, but Smith’s were of a certain caliber, appreciative of things only he could bring them.

Never ceases its white-water terror, the Los Angeles Times had said of Smith’s last book.

What had they said of Becker’s book?

Doesn’t matter. Not now.

Their works had shifted considerably over the years. Having begun with short noir detective stories in high school and college, the fiery tide of their ambitions had swept them from simple mysteries to fevered nightmares that, for many readers, would not end with the bookmark or the final period. Outrageous rumors grew—at least they were largely dubbed outrageous—culminating in that woman who’d sued Smith, claiming she’d been terrorized by a creature from one of his novels.

Woman Suing Author Judged Mentally Ill, said the headline.

In that eternal minute, the Old Man had told him of his power, a power that reached further than even he could ever have imagined. But it was too late now. He had failed, shaved the power bald.

But we weren’t going to listen to good ol’ Grandfather, were we?

He pops an aspirin, nestles it between his teeth and bites down. The pills help to calm the drumbeats in his temples, but not soothe the rest of his body. He can’t recall a time when he’d been truly relaxed, and reaches the conclusion that maybe that state of mind had never existed while he was conscious, that the only time he’d truly rested was while babbling away in a bassinet. For even his dreams were scarred by his own creations, all staring at him through gilded eyes. They accosted him, they flagellated him, they wanted him....

A bath would do him good about now.

Smith makes his way through the winding corridors and enters the bathroom. He turns the knob and water vomits into the tub. He walks to the kitchen, where a glance at the clock shows it’s almost ten to one. It is getting late. Monday is dead, given birth to Tuesday, yet still he has the remnants of the Becker dinner to clean up. It has now been exactly a week since Becker turned the friendly invite into a life and death struggle, since the Old Man and the eternal moment thereafter, and Smith still has not cleaned the glasses and washed the dishes, or gotten rid of the flies humming ceaselessly over them.

On the floor lies the small box his father had given him, its top flapped open in a wooden scream, frozen in time. Its lone content has no use anymore—it served its purpose well. Smith still remembers the day his father, smiling, had presented the gift to him. It hadn’t really been his father that day; the gilded eyes had shone in the man’s scalp, and Smith had known in that moment that it was not his father because those eyes had been so much grander than they’d ever been prior. Like his mother, his father had been Regular: adept at running errands, running forms, running a basic life—not much else. They’d been creators, too, but like most people, they’d created in a most rudimentary sense.

As if gathering their voices in protest, the cuts from Becker’s blade begin throbbing in unison.

In the bathroom, water continues flowing. A police siren blares in the distance. Smith returns to his den, and sees his computer.

The room swirls around him. He clasps both sides of the monitor, rips it from its base amid flailing wires and sparks, and heaves it across the room. It pounds against the wall and tumbles lamely to the floor, its screen a fractured memory.

Smith pops another aspirin, crunches it between his teeth.

The dizziness heightens. He’s wrapped in an unknown heat. All his life, he’d felt the heat—of the Muse, of competition, of an imagination that tackled trees and buildings, could transcend this space, this time—but this heat surpasses all else. It’s the heat of terrifying confusion, of panic at being hopelessly, completely lost.

He fixes a drink. The cool bite of alcohol feels good now, but it cannot prevent the unpreventable. It acts merely as a bittersweet epilogue to his life as a creator.

The creator.

Smith takes a few gulps and moves down the hallway. He passes the bathroom and looks in to check the progress of the bath.

Almost full.

-2: CRIME SCENE

Chapter 2

Detective Richard Porter could think of no other way to describe the feeling of first meeting someone like John Becker. After respecting and admiring the man for so many years, after knowing him only through his words and the black-and-white photo displayed on the back of every hardcover, Porter had only giddy—once uttered with some macho shame—to describe the sensation that had swelled him that day years ago.

Now Becker was dead, his corpse lying a few feet away from Martin Smith’s mantel. Becker’s glasses hung bent and shattered, the lenses cracked from the blow of the bullet to his forehead. Rickety fingers of blood stretched across his scalp.

This was it. Porter stood inside one of the complexes, one of two such buildings in Twilight Falls owned and inhabited by singular persons. That John Becker and Martin Smith lived in their own apartment complexes had long been a notion caught in the limbo between truth and rumor, playfully speculated, though unverified. TwiFalls residents knew the locations well, though few had ever stepped inside either complex, both of which had for years been popular Halloween dare spots for mischievous kids. Of course, there were also the tourists, something Porter had once been, stopping for a glimpse and a photo.

None of this activity seemed to perturb Becker or Smith, as those who approached too close felt their security—an alarm in the soul, as someone had once put it—a word-defying terror that undermined all impish or groupie curiosity.

There were only words, though, and so whatever it was, whatever people felt—and by no means did all people feel it—would again be diluted in stories, would again titillate, feed rumors, bring new regretful seekers.

It surprised Porter that the other rooms in Smith’s complex were so well-furnished. They felt lived-in, scuffed with daily movement, though no one lived there. More, care had been taken to infuse each with a different personality. In his swift initial survey, Porter happened by an apartment of grandmotherly décor, with polished wood furniture, archaic in design, Persian rugs, tea set out, no television, musty. Down the hall sat another of far more modern sensibilities, with two high-end computers, translucent furniture, music posters, and everything sleek and silver and black. Another had a strong family vibe, with toys littered on the floor and the air ripe with some dish of gooey, cheesy preservatives, where the television even played a muted Sesame Street.

Yet he saw no one.

Then came Smith’s own apartment, with three bedrooms, though he lived alone, a prevailing aesthetic—if it was an aesthetic—of bone-white minimalism allowing nothing beyond a table, single reading chair and lamp, a vast bookshelf of hundreds of editions of his own work, two typewriters, and an outdated personal computer. There were no photographs, no pictures, couch, or television, and nothing of any expected amenities. With his ability to buy a damn complex, Porter mused, Smith could afford to turn a three-bedroom apartment into a mere study.

What’d he do with all those other rooms? Porter’s partner, Ted Harris, remarked. You’d think these guys would have swinging social lives, guests in and out.

Porter stared at the corpse of John Becker—John Becker, the main deity of Porter’s life in words and pages. For decades, books like Spirit of Dreams and Brute Force had been what he liked to call ‘portable escape pods.’ It had even been the lure of the author’s home, this place, Twilight Falls, which had prompted his transfer from the Baltimore precinct to California. A writer at heart, Porter had never really left the pen, and thought perhaps, with all the stories of the Falls, his own stagnant career as an author might emerge from its dreary winter.

Despite his queasiness, unusual in itself—after all, he was a seasoned cop—he couldn’t take his eyes off the body.

They take Smith? Harris asked.

Porter thumbed toward the door. Yeah. ER for check-up, then to the station for more questioning. Couldn’t get much out of him now. Figured he’s still pretty much in shock about the whole thing.

The dark heap of Becker’s body continued to command Porter’s attention. Something much bigger than the man’s flesh had died here. He sensed a cloud of Becker’s orphaned characters in the room, surrounding the author from whom they were now isolated, speaking like ghosts amongst themselves—creations like Sheriff Gabriel North of Brute Force, Porter’s fictive idol.

In his mind, he reran the calls they’d received earlier that night, reports of a single gunshot. Some of the calls had been so cocksure, almost unalarmed. He imagined the elder witnesses were, given TwiFalls’ sad history with gun violence, perhaps well-accustomed to what they’d heard. There’d been the schoolteacher who’d decades ago murdered two people, and the even more brutal incident with the teenager—Zeeg or Zwieg was his name?—who’d pulled a Columbine at a fellow student’s party.

With all the stuff you’ve seen in Baltimore, Harris said. You shiver at this guy?

Porter shrugged, strapping on gloves. It’s different. I wouldn’t be standing right here if it weren’t for this guy. ’Course, maybe that would’ve been better. A headache hit him, like a batch of needles thrown at his skull.

This town’ll recover, Harris said. It’s been through worse. Two words: Harold Zwieg.

Porter nodded. He remembered hearing about the Zwieg murders, which had made national headlines. Thankfully, an entire decade had passed between his move to Twilight Falls and the Zwieg incident, which had happened in the mid nineteen-eighties. Upon hearing of the tragedy, Porter had wondered if Becker had known Harry Zwieg, since they’d attended the same school. Perhaps they would’ve even graduated together, had the kid not carved out sixteen graves, one of them his own.

Harris began making the rounds, occasionally glancing at Porter. He stopped to analyze a wooden box on the floor, intricately and ornately carved. Good candidate for Antiques Roadshow, he thought. Inside was a recessed outline of the older-model Smith & Wesson at the scene, the one Porter now held open-chambered in his gloved hand.

There was only one bullet in here, Porter said.

Harris narrowed his eyes. That was lucky, if it was self-defense.

Porter remained silent.

You think it was self-defense?

Wouldn’t be surprised, Porter said.

Really? Harris said. I’d think of all people, you’d be the one defending this Becker fellow.

He was unstable. That’s known.

So what do you think happened? Harris’s voice conveyed his doubt.

Can’t say for sure. Not yet. Porter bagged the pistol. These two had a major beef with each other—

It’s what’s for dinner, Harris quipped, looking at the remnants of the short-lived meal.

Porter glared at him.

Sorry. The grin crumbled from Harris’s face. Continue.

When I saw Becker speak, I could tell he was trying to hold something back. He was a stormcloud, swollen, repressed. People would ask him all these questions—

Including you, Harris interjected.

Including me, yes.

Gorgeous metaphors, by the way. Harris smirked. Can tell you were a writer in a previous life.

Porter ignored the comment. "Anyway, all these people would ask him questions, and he’d either avoid answering them or try to get by in this kind of calm, disconcerting tone. He seemed angry at the world, bothered by it. When he was signing copies of Spirit of Dreams in New York, some guy asked him his opinion of Martin Smith’s new book, since it was similar, like always, and he just up and exploded—went supernova on the guy."

Harris walked closer, interested. You see this yourself?

Not directly, no. Only read about it the following day. Becker made a huge ruckus, threatened the guy, and had to be restrained by the security officials there. He was ready to kill the guy. Kept shouting about how the book was his and his alone. Something like that. Porter paused. He was off his rocker. That’s what made him friggin’ good, though. I may have been a writer in a previous life, but give me five lives and I couldn’t do his stuff.

Now his genius is all over the place.

They took in the spindly vines of blood stretched up the walls.

Porter’s thoughts were now a cyclone of locusts, buzzing through past and present. Doubtless there had been a significant metamorphosis in Becker’s writings within the past year. His style had grown darker, more erratic. In fact, Porter had suffered the unsettling notion that the gifts were slipping away from Becker, mutating somehow.

He recalled the experience of reading the writer’s last book, the brazen brush of each word on his eyes, the tangible pulse of Becker’s imagination in his own, shuffling around, making room for itself. It was all part of the experience. The inspiration. The chaos of Becker’s dreams.

Cleanliness did nothing to diminish the volcanic impact the bullet had left on John Becker’s skull. At that range, the force of the shot had blown his head nearly in two.

Moving about the periphery of the autopsy table, where the body lay stretched and nude, Porter considered the manner of death almost execution-like. If Becker had been after Smith, Smith would have tried to move away from him, and the shot wouldn’t have been so close as to leave powder residue on Becker. What’s more, Smith would have been moving; not a situation conducive—for an amateur marksman—to a precision headshot, regardless of range.

Harris orbited the table, snapping pictures.

The coroner, a soft-eyed young doctor named Greene, with a manner as cold and metallic as the table propping her subject, surveyed the body curiously, scalpel in hand.

What’s the matter? Porter asked.

This body is unusually slow in its decay, said Dr. Greene. Rigor mortis has scarcely set in. Same with algor mortis.

Algor mortis?

Cooling. The body is still observably warm. That’s very strange.

Porter had noticed similar oddities but had said nothing, preferring to wait for medical confirmation. He wasn’t sure what it meant, if it meant anything.

What would cause that? he asked.

Nothing that I know of. Any type of embalming wouldn’t correlate with those qualities.

This is wrong, Porter thought. In Becker’s transcendent presence, this more or less routine autopsy took on a violent and penetrative aspect, something almost sacrilegious, as if Zeus himself lay on the slab, dissected—grim science sucking out more of the world’s awe and wonder. As an added insult, Becker’s genitalia was displayed and astonishingly small. It looked unused, an evolutionary holdover no longer necessary.

Porter had a sudden vision of Becker wrenching from his position, in classic zombie or Frankenstein horror-movie fashion, except he wouldn’t attack them. He would instead place his still-warm feet on the floor, and drift in a myopic haze to the nearest typewriter or computer, and resume writing. Porter held to this absurd notion. Somewhere in that tissue, perhaps life still thrived. Maybe this death had not yet wiped out all the extraordinary surplus of movement and thought that had composed John Becker.

Greene extracted the bullet, a .38 special round, and dropped it in the tray.

Harris photographed it.

We have the one bullet, Porter said.

Greene moved gingerly to the mouth, which was stained with congealed blood from the entry wound and nose. The instruments made soft metal clicks against his teeth.

Suddenly she recoiled. Oh my God.

The detectives steeled, looked at one another.

Porter leaned in. What is it?

Greene picked up tweezers and, with delicate tenacity, rummaged about in Becker’s mouth, clipping and unclipping, as if working with fragments. When she had a grip on it, she extracted it in full.

This was under his tongue, she said, holding the object directly beneath the lamp.

Too transfixed to take a photograph, Harris just stared. With the fibrous, colorful object held in the tweezers, the world lost a little more logic.

A butterfly.

Dr. Greene said, Any takers?

-1: THE INTERROGATION

Chapter 3

Richard Porter thought Smith looked like a nervous patient, shivering while awaiting care. No doubt the incident had shaken him up. Yet Martin Smith didn’t look so much scared as he did sick, eager for alleviation, for release of something.

They decided it was better to let him calm down before they questioned him.

So strange, Harris said, standing next to Porter and sipping a cup of black coffee. His eyes came together in a bitter squint.

Porter looked at Smith through the interrogation glass again. What? Smith?

Harris finished a swallow. Both of them. Becker too. You’ve read their books.

Yeah.

Smith shuddered violently, like a series of small spasms, his skin a tooth-yellow pallor.

When was the last time you wrote anything? Harris said.

The question surprised Porter. Christ, I don’t know. Used to a lot in college. It was an excuse not to date. That was the year I had a lot of one-night stands with a lot of majors. I became an English major, and the next three years ruined the written word for me—haven’t really done it seriously since. He took a

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