Last year I wrote a fun little flash fiction piece called ArayA. A story that takes place in the 80s during the satanic panic. Some of you may find the title familiar. That's because it's the last name of Tom Araya, who was the lead singer of one of my favorite bands, Slayer.
I had fun with this one, and I hope you have fun reading it.
The 1980s were a decade of teased out hair, of partying, and of slasher films that hacked their way into the hearts of pimple-faced kids everywhere. It was a time of serial killers, Dungeons & Dragons, of heavy metal, and of the Satanic Panic.
And Troy Silt loved it all.
Pages torn from metal magazines such as Circus, Hit Parader, and his favorite, Heavy Metal, wallpapered his bedroom walls. LPs of various bands sat on the crushed carpet, piled in the corner next to his stereo system. His mother hated those records, with their gross covers and horrid names. Those filthy bands that infiltrated her son’s soul with names like Demonic Fetus, Sacrificial Lambs, and Hell’s Children.
But those weren’t Troy’s favorites. He bought those ones to piss off his mom. (There were perks to working at a record store.) His favorite band was ArayA. They played beyond human capabilities as if demons played through them.
At sixteen, Troy wanted nothing more than to sit in his room, drink beer, and headbang until the hot July night faded into the hot July morning. But instead he had to babysit his little five-year-old sister, Winnie.
The uptight mother who despised his musical taste, and who gave up threatening to burn his records after countless arguments, had a second date with a heavenly man who, if everything went right, would fulfill her life. She would have the husband she always wanted, replacing the memory of the weak man who took his own life a few years ago.
After putting Winnie down at seven, which took thirty minutes, Troy called his best friend, and neighbor, Calvin, and asked him if he wanted to hang out. And if he did, then steal a few beers from his dad’s stash. Calvin showed up at eight with three cans of Bush.
“Can’t stay long.”
“That’s cool,” Troy said, grabbing the beer from Calvin. “My sister’s sleeping, so let’s go to my room. If she wakes she’ll rat on me.”
While listening to Araya, Troy drank all three cans in quick succession, leaving Calvin with none. His head filled with a weightlessness that gave him a sense of freedom he couldn’t have otherwise, because his mother didn’t give him much freedom unless she had to like tonight. But when his dad was alive, they had a shared freedom in ArayA. It was his dad who turned him on to the band and it gave them a connection that would last. Troy played air guitar, headbanging to the music, with his long hair whipping up and down.
“These guys are insane,” Troy said over the musical assault coming from his speakers.
“Ya should listen to them backwards.”
Troy stopped. “Backwards?”
“You never did that?” Calvin lifted the needle from the album and hit the off switch to the record player. “Listen to this.” He placed the needle at the beginning of the record, and with his pointed fingertips slowly spun it backwards.
A low, guttural growl bled from the speakers. The music was a demented concoction of guitar, bass, and drums oozing into the room with an intelligible voice that sounded beastly.
The ceiling light flickered, pulling Troy’s attention away for a second. He leaned in to a speaker, his brain heady from the beers he drank, listening. “Sounds like it’s saying something.” He focused as best as he could, trying to isolate the lyrics.
The lead singer’s voice boomed with a monstrous, “He comes…!”
“Holy shit!” Troy turned to his neighbor. “Did you h–?”
His best friend was gone.
With no one spinning the record, it continued playing by itself, defecating words of evil.
“…from the land of Tartarus!”
The bedroom light turned orange and strobed, causing Troy’s buzzed vision to see his sister standing in the center of the room. Flames flicked around her.
“…To devour your sooouuulll!”
Something grabbed Troy’s ankles.
Clawed hands protruding through the carpeted floor gripped him in place. Troy pulled, trying to take a step toward his little sister, but couldn’t move.
“Worship me…,” the song continued.
With a toothy grin on her face, Winnie clapped.
“…sacrifice for me.”
The demonic hands squeezed harder, skin chipping away, sending searing heat up Troy’s legs. He screamed and fell to his knees.
The strobing light sped up, casting dancing flames around the room.
“He’s dead.” His little sister jumped up and down. “At home. Dead.” Winnie stopped and headbanged her tiny head. “Dead. Dead. DEAD!”
“No!” Fighting against the buzz and the pain, Troy struggled to stand, grunting as he pulled one leg free from the hands. “Who are you? What did you do?”
In the flashing light, his five-year-old sister’s face contorted to an image of Calvin, with his neck slit, covered in blood, and said, “Sorry man. Wish I was a better friend. I’m dead, dead, DEAD.” Then it twisted to his mother’s face. “You lack God! Just like your father!” And then to his dad’s face. “Come to Tartarus, son. Be free.” In an instant, the strobing light grew bright and then cooled to a burnt orange.
No longer did Winnie stand in the flickering flames. In her place was a crooked man in black, smoke rising from his naked, cracked skin. Long stringy hair lay over his face like torn curtains. As flames danced around him, he held out a long butcher knife and said, “Sacrifice,” and revealed a toothy grin.
The ArayA record slowed, “Tartarus awaaaaaits…,” and stopped.
Dazed, he found himself staring at his mother.
“Drop it, son,” she said, her voice stern.
He looked at the butcher knife in his hand.
“What…? What happened?”
“For the love of God, give it to me.”
Behind her, Winnie stood in the doorway.
“Please,” his mother said.
A toothy grin appeared on his little sister’s face, and she said, “Sacrifice.”
Written By Sheldon Higdon © 2020
In the Summer of 2021, Sheldon will have two short stories out!! One in a top-notch magazine and the other in an anthology.
In early 2022, Sheldon will have a short story appear in an anthology.
Sheldon has been brought on board as an Interviewer for
Weird Tales magazine's website. His first interview will be live soon.
This is not to be confused with the Interviews tab above. Clicking on that tab will land you with links to interviews with Sheldon.
Tales from the Lake, Vol. 4
Drowning in Sorrow
"…the story is so beautifully written, and so heartfelt, and the character evolution is so seamless. A terribly beautiful and beautifully terrible tale, this is one of my favourites in this volume.” - Reading Reindeer, Goodreads Review.
“His use of well-rounded characters makes him an authority on how to develop personalities within the fiction world. Beautifully written and a stand-out tale in this precious anthology.” - Lee Francis McCabe, Pop Horror.com
Writers on Writing, Vol. 4
Are You in the Mood?
“Are You In the Mood? explains mood better than any professor I ever had. He takes Shirley Jackson’s Haunting of Hill House and explains how mood is used. I must re-read it with these new ideas in my head, because, well to me it was “just” a horror story. Now I know better.” - Tere Fredericks, Goodreads Review.
"...a great horror short story.... If Abner were to ever show up in another Sheldon Higdon story I’d buy it. Even if he doesn’t, this is a writer to keep your eye on." - Undead Rat (Horror Books w/ the Undead Rat)
Where the Dead Go to Die
"Sheldon Higdon has written a short story titled "Where the Dead Go to Die," which has been placed on the "HWA Stoker Recommended Reading List." As soon as I started reading it, I realized something. This is not your normal zombie story. It's weird, it's creepy, it's freaking twisted, but it also rocks. Watch out my fellow writer friends, Sheldon knows how to get into our minds and twist our neurons so they spark, sending us into his crazy world with some great story telling. I must warn you, this can be visually disturbing. hehehehe! Two bony thumbs up from the evil little jester and myself." - Charles Day (Author & Owner of Evil Jester Press)