Halloween ritual

Strange things happen when the moon is full, especially on nights like tonight—Halloween night—on Franklin Street.

Kevin is dressed as a devil. Interesting that the one night we can be whatever we want he chooses to take off his mask.

“You coming to Franklin tonight? It’s gonna be wild.”

The last time I attended a “wild” party with him, I woke the next morning with ripped panties. Post Roe v. Wade, I won’t risk fate again.

He shrugs. “Your loss.”

But he’s wrong. It will be his. I’ve waited a year for this revenge.

I bind straw bristles from my broom with twine, adorn the figurine with cloth I tore from his shirt last Halloween night, when I was nearly passed out, and hang it by a string outside my dorm room window.

On the news tonight, campus police report, “Demonic rapist levitates during attempted assault, snaps his neck. Body found at the intersection of Franklin and Columbia.”

I chuckle at how the moonlight illuminates the grisly scene.

© 2022 Nortina Simmons

Damned resurrection

The morning my husband drew his last breath, the funeral director came to the hospital to make final arrangements for the service. We talked about life after, of heaven and hell, the resurrection.

“Most people have the wrong idea about the resurrection,” he said. “They pray to an unseen god and await his bastard son’s return on a cloud. Sounds more like drug-induced delusions to me.”

“Blasphemy! I will hear no more of this!” my father shouted and stormed out.

I should have followed him, but my desperation to see my husband alive and well again overcame me.

“Just one bite, and he will rise and be yours forever.”

I nodded, and he bared his fangs.

Of course, the resurrection didn’t happen immediately. We buried him three days later, placed a lantern next to his grave so that when he rose again, he could find his way home.

Midnight, the fourth night, a knock on the door lured me out of bed.

He stood at the threshold, receding gums revealing sharp edges of newly grown teeth. “Won’t you invite me in?”

© 2022 Nortina Simmons


I never heard my son scream like that—if you could even call it a scream. It was more like a guttural lamentation that escapes from deep within you when you’re forced to witness your own murder play before you like a movie.

It had to be a dream—mine, not his. But when I awoke, he was still screaming.

I sprinted for his room and nearly let out my own terrified yelp when I spotted the man with a wolf for a face standing in the window.

It took a few minutes for my eyes to focus, but when they did, I recognized my husband instantly.

I told him not to wear that damn mask.

I approached the window—fight or flight guiding my steps. My son and I will be witnessing a murder today after all. Just not our own.

© 2022 Nortina Simmons

Ghostly lake

photo of two white ducks on water during fog

He invited me for a picnic on the banks of Lake Menace.

The name alone struck suspicion. Allegedly, it was the scene of a gruesome Civil War battle—word-of-mouth smalltown legend—you won’t read it in the official history books.

Years later, it is said the faceless ghosts of the Union and Confederate soldiers lurk near the still waters of their mass grave, hidden by a perpetual fog.

Ghosts or fog, there was something creepy about that lake.

When he broke off half his sandwich to share with me, his cool, moist fingers lingered as I brought it to my mouth and took a bite.

Only, he hadn’t moved, and I didn’t dare look down to see who was still holding my hand.

© 2022 Nortina Simmons


jack o lantern decor

face carved in pumpkin
mocks me—nightfall, shadows dance,
spice up my bedroom

© 2022 Nortina Simmons


brown house under aurora lights

The northern lights don’t come this far south,” he said.

“If not the northern lights, what else could it be?”

We were both thinking it, but I refused to admit it out loud—didn’t want to see the smug satisfaction on his face.

I didn’t care how nonsensical it was for the ancient Egyptians to build the Great Pyramids with the tools they had at the time or that the gods of the ancient world sounded more like visitors from outer space.

Did we not read the same Bible after morning prayers? He would so quickly believe in aliens over angels and demons?

Suddenly a disc-shaped object flew overhead.

“Should I tell you what I see?” he asked.

“No.” I stormed inside, began my daily devotion.

© 2022 Nortina Simmons

Mirage or escape

brown wooden opened door shed

When the door to my freedom finally opened, the blinding light fooled me into believing it was only a dream. I remained in the cool, wet corner of my stone prison until nightfall.

The ocean’s breeze lures me from my sleep, and I discover the door is still open.

I can barely stand to my feet—my legs, my back, weak from nonuse. I don’t know how long I was trapped, why he took me captive if he was only going to leave me to rot.

But I won’t stay to find out. Gaining balance, I run for my escape.

© 2022 Nortina Simmons


She strikes the match. A spark of light ignites the end of the cigarette perched between her lips.

“I wish you wouldn’t smoke,” he says. “It’s not ladylike.”

“What do you know of being a lady?” She blows smoke in his face, laughs when he inhales and coughs for air.

She needs something to laugh at. After the week they’ve had. Police in and out. Guests confined to their rooms. Bodies in bags wheeled through the rotating doors.

It’s the first day she doesn’t see a news van camped outside her hotel. She’ll savor this moment of peace and quiet.

“Why do you think he did it?” he asks.

She shrugs, takes another drag. “Why does any husband kill his wife?”

“But Maria, too?”

She closes her eyes. She will choose to ignore the pain in his voice at the mention of the second-floor maid. Especially since she’s not supposed to know about the affair. As far as he, the authorities, the hotel guests, and the rest of the staff are concerned, Maria was strangled after she walked in on the man finishing off his wife.

And that’s how she wants to keep it.

© 2017-2022 Nortina Simmons

Originally published October 20, 2017

Casting out demons

His dog is possessed. Sounds crazy—demons possessing pets—but if it can happen to pigs, it can happen to anyone.

“Your reasoning.” My sister sighs. “Not everything in the bible should be believed.”

I squint at her. “That sounds like something a devil would say.”

“God, now I’m possessed?”

Actually yes. It stands behind her as a looming shadow. but if I tell her, that’s another 72-hour psych hold.

So I silently pray and cast it into the black cat by her feet.

Tonight, it’ll have an accident. Over the cliff and into the sea. Just like the pigs.

© 2022 Nortina Simmons

Pit stop

gasoline station during nighttime

Mama told me never to stop at gas stations at night, but I’ve been driving for hours, it’s the first sign of civilization in miles, and I really, really have to pee.

“In and out,” I encourage myself as I wiggle in place until my bladder calms down. Then I dash inside, hurry past what I presume is the attendant behind the front counter, and into the bathroom at the back of the store.

Immediately I’m greeted by a knife to the throat.

“I didn’t see anything!” I shriek. My mind is on the warm sensation spreading down my leg.

© 2022 Nortina Simmons