The Horror Zine
Christian Riley

The December Featured Writer is Christian Riley

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Christian Riley

by Christian Riley

The Gothic Volunteer Alliance is an action league of individual volunteers who conduct humanitarian acts for the betterment of the local and global community. By exposure, people abandon their fears and accept that while people are different and have different lifestyles, they are people nonetheless, and there is value to everyone’s existence and individuality.

Man, I certainly hope they mean all that. I hope these guys are for real. Because if they're not, all this preparation will be for shit. That said, I know I should at least try and reach out to these folks. To this "Gothic Alliance."

I'm considering volunteering because...well...truth be told, things have been rather difficult for me lately. I've never really had any friends to invite over to my place for a couple of beers, or to watch TV. Never been much into entertaining people, really. I guess you could say I've always been something of a hermit.

But this lifestyle of mine needs to stop, as I can tell from the look in Melody's eyes, it's begun to take a toll on her. Slowly, it's begun to pull from her all that lively warmth and ruddy color I've always known, and always cherished. The softness of her skin is something I've idolized with a crazed passion ever since I first felt it, when I peeled her long black hair away from her face, and the back of my hand had brushed against her delicate cheek. I'd become mesmerized on that day, and at that moment. Spellbound. Listless with love...and I knew it.

But now, those delicate cheeks of hers, and her skin, and even her eyes, have all distorted into some kind of strange texture. A texture that...well... Well, I suppose Melody just needs to be exposed to something other than what the limits of my trailer, or property will allow. I suppose she just needs to be around other people again. And who knows, maybe it'll even help me a little bit as well.

Oh, but don't go getting me wrong now. Even though I'm as reclusive as a black widow, and Melody herself is rather unique in her own way, we're certainly no sticks-in-the-mud, that's for sure. For the past few months that I've known her, we've managed to keep ourselves entertained quite well, actually.

My trailer sits smack-dab in the center of a four-hundred acre stretch surrounded by a national forest. Beauty itself, can't even hold a flame to the sights and sounds we experience around here. On most mornings, Melody and I pass the time away by simply watching countless butterflies as they flutter about, drunk-like through the air. That's how we often begin our day, actually; sitting on the picnic table in my front yard, drinking coffee, spotting butterflies. What could be better?

After breakfast, we usually watch the woods, and rave about our undying love for each other. We discuss our future plans of marriage, sometimes talk about having a family. And over each passing minute, while we make our talk, we're constantly surrounded by such magnificent treasures of nature, such God-fearing tapestries of artistry all teeming with life, that I often find myself weeping in joy from it all.

We see squirrels as they scamper across the yard, chattering their approval of our presence, while deer stand in the meadow beyond, chewing on pine cones, staring with admiration. Even bears and bobcats don't seem to mind us being around. And birds are always whistling in the trees above, singing the gospel of nature. I swear, sometimes it amazes me how much I've let slip past my life without the glory of love being so close to me, and in my heart, as it is now. How much of this world around me, with its overabundance of life, and its delectable juices of tranquility as found from a single caterpillar on a leaf, to the flowers growing right outside my kitchen window--how much of it I have taken for granted for so long, all up until Melody had come into my life. But I ain't missing nothing now, that's for sure. Shoot; it's almost as if I'm at one with the universe. Like I'm a little Buddha, or what have you.

For months now we've lived this life of ours, Melody and I. And if we're not staring at the forest in the early morning, taking it all in, lovers lost in love, then most likely we'll still be sitting on the porch, where I'll be reading some of my favorite books to her.

In the afternoon, we often play horseshoes at the pit next to the barn, and Melody just sits there, smiling in her chair as she watches me bend over with my cackling laughter, hair flopping against the jerks of my uncontrolled excitement as I stomp my feet, and score ringer after ringer after ringer. I know I look like a fool out there, tossing those horseshoes and laughing the way I do, but damn if ain't a blast. "You've always been the best at this game, sonny," my Momma used to say.

Oh, but if Momma could only see me now.

Sometimes Melody and I just lay on the grass and hold hands while we stare up into the sky, dreaming. Seems like we dream about everything, really. And of course, we share the same dreams also. We'd like to own a big ranch one day, with sheep and cattle. Horses, definitely. And I'll build us a big ol' house with huge bay windows overlooking a daisy-spotted green pasture, with grass rolling in the wind like distant waves heading for the shore. That's where we'll have the wedding. But sometimes our dreams get a little ambitious, also. With my portable radio next to us playing country music, I often like to sing the day away as I think about becoming a famous musician. Melody never seems to mind though.

In the evening, I give Melody a hot bubble bath, and scrub her back with a sponge, because I know she just loves that. Afterward, we sit in front of the television while I brush her long black hair, sometimes for what seems like hours on end. Who doesn't like to have their hair brushed, right? And for dinner, it's always our favorite; a steaming bowl of chili with honey and cornbread for dessert. Melody just loves my chili. And of course, we wash it all down with a case of PBR.
I'll admit, sometimes I get a little rowdy later in the night, with all that beer in me. Sometimes I think I hear stuff outside, and that'll get me all jumpy and shit, such that I take to running out there in the front yard, blasting away into the surrounding darkness with my shotgun, drunk as a hillbilly in a rooster fight. But once again, Melody never seems to mind.

And how do I know this? Because when I finally come straggling back into my trailer, ears ringing from all that shooting, greasy hair stinking of sweat and gunpowder, looking like the dumbass that I am, I always find Melody sitting right there on the couch wearing nothing but lingerie and silky panties. But I'll skip past the details on what happens next. "A gentleman never brags about his woman." Once again, as Momma used to say.

But despite the glory of our relationship, I know Melody now needs something more. And so that's why I've contacted this Gothic Volunteer Alliance. I'm hoping these people will be as committed to their pledge of acceptance as they claim. I hope they'll accept us, me and Melody, just the way we are. I don't see why they wouldn't.

"Well, what do you mean you guys are strange?" asked the GVA representative over the phone.

"Like I said, I'm something of a hermit. I don't get out much. And of course, without me, Melody can't go anywhere."

"And why can't she go anywhere?"


"Do you mean to say, she won't go anywhere?"

"No. I mean she can't go anywhere."

"Well why not?"

"Oh, I don't know. It's like she's depressed or something. Maybe she's sick. Her hair's been falling out by the handfuls, and her skin has begun to peel away a little bit... Well, a lot actually. And she can't really move much either. In fact, she can't move at all, now that I think about it. And then there's that...smell. I think she's embarrassed to go out in public really. She hasn't said this of course, but I think she is."

We must've gotten disconnected somehow, 'cause the phone just went dead after that. But that guy seemed to be pretty understanding.

Anyways, I certainly hope these Gothic characters mean what they state on their website, because quite frankly, I've been a nervous wreck about taking Melody out and away from here. Taking her out there, with everyone else. And I think she's been a little bit anxious herself, as she wasn't quite...cooperative with getting ready this evening.

But I know in the end, it'll do her good to get out. I hope it helps to bring back that color in her face. Or that liveliness in her eyes, like she had when we first met. We can certainly use the company of other people, if nothing else.

Well, she's in the truck waiting for me now, so I guess I should get going. I'll make sure to bring the hairbrush and a blanket just in case these people turn us away. There's a park around the corner from where they meet that I know of, and I think Melody would like it there. She'll definitely enjoy the slide. And I should bring the radio too, now that I think about that. I've never sang the night away to her before. Perhaps that'll be the ticket to cheering her up, if these Gothic folks can't.

Beginning at 5:00 a.m., Chris spends the only available lot of solitary time he gets in a day feeding his addiction to writing. If he's lucky, he'll get two hours in before "they" wake up, after which he lives a wonderful life as a family man. His stories have been accepted at a number of publishers including Short Story.Me, Bete Noire, The Absent Willow Review, and Underground Voices.