From the multi-award-winning author of Everyday Enchantments: Musings on Ordinary Magic & Daily Conjurings comes a cozy Gothic short story about searching for connection in a world that’s forgotten the power of everyday magic.
Looking for love can be deadly…
You know how it goes. You go out, hoping to meet someone. You wade through your fair share of brainless automatons, lifeless bodies, and ravenous undead good at passing as human.
The more you go out, the less hope you feel and the colder your body gets. But you keep at it. All you need is one beating heart to match your own before yours stops pumping altogether. How hard can it be to find one living, breathing human in a city full of bodies?
It’s hungry business.
At home, you take a bath as hot as you can stand and read an old bodice ripper until the warmth returns to your veins, and the flames of hope have been fanned enough that you can crawl into your flannel jammies and be grateful you are still alive. The light in your apartment slowly seeps into your chest, and you settle into your perch on the window.
You inspect the damage to your pinky finger as you wait for the cat to appear. The bath stopped the spread of the decay but the tip is gray and blue. There is puss where your fingernail should have been. You smother it in aloe vera, grated ginger, and bandages, hoping it will be enough to bring life back into your appendage. You don’t really know how to treat something like this. You sigh and lean back against the window frame. Your orange tabby cat has made its appearance—yours, yes, thought you know you shouldn’t feel so possessive about a creature you only know from a distance. It’s just nice to know it’s there.
Here’s the thing you love about the cat across the way: It’s proof that there are other beating hearts out there. Cats won’t settle where Hungries live. Perhaps their feline instincts tell them they’re easy prey for the things that are never satiated. That’s why you never see alley cats in the humanless neighborhoods. In fact, it was their strange mass exodus from certain parts of the city that first alerted officials to the virus now plaguing them. And this cat—bright orange like a flame with a soft, full belly—seems happy enough in its home. You wonder what kind of human it belongs to.
Hungry Business: A Short Story
By Maria DeBlassie
GENRE: Gothic, Horror (Cozy)
The book is $0.99 during the tour
Amazon buy link: https://www.amazon.com/Hungry-Business-Short-Maria-DeBlassie-ebook/dp/B08L48MVHD
The first book that made you realize reading means a lot to you by Maria DeBlassie
It’s hard to pinpoint the first book that made me realize that reading meant a lot to me. That’s in part because I grew up surrounded by books. I have fond memories of my mom reading Lord of the Rings and the Chronicles of Narnia to my siblings and me on long summer afternoons, plus many a day spent perusing my illustrated copy of The Hobbit and dreaming about living in Bag End. I mean, the adventures were cool and stuff, but that hobbit hole was swoon-worthy!
We had this delightful library filled with leather-bound books and cheap paperbacks, classics and pulp fiction, collections of poetry and philosophy, history and art. It was a literary wonderland! Still is, actually. Then there were all the piles of books scattered throughout the house. Each room has its shelf or stack of paperbacks, each table had its art books and when it seemed we’d filled up all the book nooks in every room of the house, books spilled out into the hallways.
This meant, of course, that I was never without a good story.
I devoured Goosebumps and the Little House or the Prairie series as a child and then graduated to the leather-bound classics in that magical library. Half the time, I didn’t completely understand what I was reading, to be honest, but I felt marvelously sophisticated lugging around those big fancy hardbacks. Of course, that never stopped me from devouring my fare share of Louis L’Amour, Luke Short, Rex Stout, and Agatha Christie, or getting lost in the enchantments of a good fairytale. I devoured noir mysteries by the likes of Dennis Lehane and Raymond Chandler, and even went through the obligatory Shakespeare phase.
I spent my teens feeling VERY sophisticated reading Henry Miller, Collette, D.H. Lawrence, and Anais Nin, along with bodice rippers disguised as historical fiction and old Harlequin romances I picked up in used bookstores mainly because I liked their pulpy covers. I read sexy books. I was cool. I was mature. I was Adult. I had a lot to learn, as it turned out—about writing and adulthood, although my love of pulpy covers remains eternal.
I discovered the occult detective genre, thanks to the purple paperback of Algernon Blackwood’s John Silence stories that always sat on my father’s writing desk. To this day, I am an avid reader and writer in the genre. I devoured urban fantasy from Jim Butcher and so many others, paranormal romances, steampunk, and erotica. I even read some poetry, when I was feeling fancy, and more than my fair share of cookbooks and travel literature, spirituality and the occult. There was a time when sword and sorcery series by Robin Hobb, Robert Jordan and others sustained me. I came into the likes of Jane Austen and the Brontes later when I was trying to figure what it meant to be a woman in the world, right around the time I came to terms with the fact that I wasn’t as cool as Collette.
You see the trend here? No genre was off limits, no topic censored. I was merely encouraged to explore the world through the realm of books and ask questions. Granted, I’ve since learned that some of these books have their problems. I’m lookin’ at you Little House, with your erasure of Indigenous communities! Though that is not the only series with its problems. Still I have to acknowledge that all those books were formative for me, even as I’ve come to terms with their very real issues.
It’s become fashionably “woke” to insist you’ve only read the most progressive and enlightened of books. That you wouldn’t dare touch an outdated and regressive piece of prose. Do such things even exist? And at what point to those “perfect” books themselves become dated? Even the classics, for all their timelessness, reinforce many outdated social norms. I’d rather read flawed books, understand the historical and social climate in which they were produced, and think about how they can teach us to write better stories and live better lives. Even the stories haven’t enjoyed have taught me much about life and writing.
I don’t think I realized what a privilege it was to grow up in a home that valued books and reading as much as mine did. Or that I could freely talking with family members about what I read and safely ask questions. But I do now. I’m profoundly grateful to have always been surrounded by such magic. And also more than happy to carry on the tradition in my own home.
Maria DeBlassie, Ph.D. is a native New Mexican mestiza blogger, award-winning writer, and award-winning educator living in the Land of Enchantment. Her first book, Everyday Enchantments: Musings on Ordinary Magic & Daily Conjurings (Moon Books 2018), and her ongoing blog, Enchantment Learning & Living are about everyday magic, ordinary gothic, and the life of a kitchen witch. When she is not practicing her own brand of brujeria, she’s reading, teaching, and writing about bodice rippers and things that go bump in the night. She is forever looking for magic in her life and somehow always finding more than she thought was there. Find out more about Maria and conjuring everyday magic at http://www.mariadeblassie.com.
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