Sample chapter from Strange Stories


He felt his loneliness like a shroud, making him invisible and blocking anyone who tried to get close. No one said hello or smiled at him. No one was glad to see his face when they entered his shop. He was just the convenience store owner, there to sell beef jerky, slushies, and scratch tickets. He was a cog, a workhorse, a nameless gear with only one real function: to sell these odds and ends to others in the middle of this large metropolis.

No wonder I’m invisible. With seven million people in the city, who’s going to notice me?

Sighing again, he closed up his place of business for the day and walked the 362 steps back to his hovel across the main square. He barely noticed the other people around him, focusing more on his own world of loneliness, regret, and missed opportunities, staring at his worn, scuffed shoes and the uneven bricks over which he walked.

He heard music and looked up. Set back in the square, where grass and trees were allowed to grow, performers in costumes of bright blue and yellow, tossed green juggling pins, did sleight of hand, and mimed actions. Harlequins? They must be new in town. Is it time for the circus?

His question faded from his mind almost as quickly as it had come. He sighed and resumed his trek back home, returning his gaze to the ground again. His loneliness flared up and consumed him. He looked blankly at the uneven masonry over which he walked.

So he did not see the young woman who approached him. Not at first, anyway. She had to stand directly in front of him. Even then, it was only when he saw her red shoes that he looked up from his path to notice the bright blue eyes smiling at him.

He stopped finally and noticed her wild black tresses, her smooth skin, her inviting pink lips, and her red and black dress. She looked like a flamenco dancer he realized slowly and found himself staring at the dress. The bodice was a fiery red while the skirt, shoulders, and short sleeves were black with ruffles edged in red. All she was missing was the rose in her hair and the castanets.

Was she one of them? His eyes shifted to the performers on the green lawn briefly. He shifted his gaze again, this time to some passersby, sizing her up in an instant, the way he did everyone who came into his store.

Average looking. Probably wants money.

Finally his eyes fell on her again, but when he looked back the woman had moved off to the left a little ways towards the lawn in the square and motioned him to come with her.

He paused. What was she up to? No woman had ever given him any attention before. Certainly his female customers didn’t, although he wished they had. The image of the brown-eyed lady who had come into his shop for years before moving away appeared in his mind’s eye followed swiftly by the raven-haired woman with an accent so thick he could barely understand her. He had ached to touch them, to kiss them, to be close to them. But he couldn’t ask them because for them he was a friend, a nice guy, a merchant, an acquaintance. Not a lover.

Maybe this time will be different. This woman wants me to come with her. And despite her average looks, something inside him stirred; he ached again for physical contact and he followed the strange woman in crimson.

Several tents were pitched along the far left edge of the square and they went into one of these. In the dim light, he stood waiting for her, not knowing what to do really. She stepped towards him and he could feel her heat. She was like a fire, scarlet and glowing with warmth. She touched his hand; it felt like electricity running up his arm. His eyes widened. She placed both of her hands on either side of his face, grasping his head, and kissed him. Slowly the loneliness he felt ebbed and his world dissolved into oblivion.


The tent was dark now and he stood in it alone, unmoving and amazed. He felt nothing except his own astonishment that he could be without loneliness. He stood there in the dark staring out, seeing nothing but darkness, hearing no sounds, and smelling no aromas.

He was hers now and he thought about what that meant. What would happen when he did not go home? Nothing. There was no one to miss him. The next day, some of his customers would be surprised that his shop did not open, but they would find somewhere else to go. Eventually his landlord would come looking for the rent. He would be evicted from his home.

Panic rose in him and faded just as fast. This was his home now. This tent. Her tent. He was hers. He knew it. He felt it. And it warmed him.


She stood outside the tent and licked her lips. He had been like a beacon illuminating the night with his loneliness. She had seen and felt it. It had tasted so sweet and delicious. She never knew it could be so rich, thick, and deep with despair. She had savored each morsel, but now she wanted something else. A different sensation to feed on. Perhaps hatred or guilt or pride. Yes, pride, that would pair well with loneliness.

She turned and headed for the other tents nearby.