Just in time for your holiday shopping, my shared universe-science fiction-fantasy-horror anthology is out in paperback! You can find it at CreateSpace, Amazon, and Barnes and Noble.
What's it about?
Most storage units hold furniture, books, clothes, and all manner of junk, old and new. The Braxton family’s Storage World provides all that plus storage for … a different kind of goods. Behind the doors of Storage World one can find things magical, mythical, fantastic, and terrifying.
In this collection of stories by Albuquerque’s Cyberscribes writers group, the dark emanations from the weird things stored behind Storage World’s carefully guarded doors reach out into the ordinary world, tempting and ensnaring mortals, and even bringing on the end of the world.
Some doors shouldn’t be opened. Will you look inside the mysterious vaults of Storage World?
Includes stories by Truemy Brewer, Hans De Leo, Gail Gottlieb, Mark Harris, Linda Mason, Julia Perkins, Asha D. Pollem, Beth Bernier Pratt, Christopher Wertman, and C.M. Wilkins.
And here's an excerpt, my own story that started it all, the eponymous Storage World.
by Beth Bernier Pratt
Clayton Weber sat back in his oversized executive chair, purchased to cut egotistical clients down to size as they sat in the diminutive but extremely plush visitors chairs. He watched his client settle into his seat. Clayton had last heard from Vinny Braxton several years prior, when he helped Vinny successfully sue his brother Joe for full ownership and control of Storage World. Then, Vinny had looked like a man on top of the world, with flashy suits, an expensive haircut, and an all-new plastic surgery-enhanced body for his longtime girlfriend. Now he looked different. If the day's appointment book hadn't said Vinny Braxton and if his assistant hadn't announced Vinny by name, Clayton would hardly have believed this was the same man.
He had gone from muscular if slightly overfed to gaunt. His hair had grown out into a wild tangle of curls that stood out in every direction, and his face was fuzzed with a mangy-looking beard. His clothes looked to be one of those flashy suits after several trips through an alligator-infested swamp. It didn't bear mentioning how he smelled, but Clayton found himself considering the merits of air fresheners versus incense. Most striking was his change in demeanor. Where the Vinny of old had walked into every room like he owned it, this Vinny perched on the chair as if ready to flee, jumping at every sound and compulsively checking over his shoulder.
"Mr. Braxton, welcome back," Clayton said, "And what can I do for you today?"
"You gotta help me. I can't take it anymore."
"More trouble with your brother? Something with the business?"
"Both! Remember what you did for me? You gotta undo it. I told Joe he could buy the place offa me and he just laughed. Then I said he could have it, no charge, and he told me he'd take it over my dead body."
"I'm not sure I follow. Over his dead body?"
"No! Not his dead body. Mine. He knows what's in there and, oh god you have to help me. Don't let it get me!"
Clayton steepled his fingers and looked at his former client in silence. His expression had prompted many a guilty conscience to unburden itself.
"Are you drunk, Mr. Braxton?"
"Drunk? This is way worse than drunk. With drunk you sober up again. With this, well. Did you ever come out to Storage World?"
"I believe we primarily met in my office or in court."
"Never? I thought I took you out there one time. Get some papers from the safe, something like that."
"That may be so. Your case was a number of years ago." Clayton wasn't in the habit of lying, but in this case it seemed prudent. He did remember his visit to Storage World. Something about the place had felt wrong, like none of the corners were quite square. He'd gone out drinking that night, drank til he was blackout drunk and could write off his anxiety to his divorce proceedings, which were pending at the time.
"No, you were there. You were there. You knew something was wrong. You even asked if I was sure I wanted to go on with the lawsuit. I shoulda listened to you! I shoulda listened. But no, I had to stick it to my big brother."
Vinny jumped out of his chair and paced around the room checking behind decorative tables and lamps. He shoved his chair back up against a wall and sat on it, drawing his legs up under him. Clayton stared for a moment.
"I fear, Mr. Braxton, that this doesn't sound like a legal matter. You may require the services of another professional. I'm sure I could recommend several excellent psychiatrists. It's not unusual for the aftermath of a lawsuit to be quite stressful."
"You think I need a shrink?" Vinny laughed. "I ain't crazy, no matter how I look. I need a lawyer. A good one. I know you can help me."
Clayton sighed, wishing Vinny had bitten at the notion of therapy. "What can I help you with, Mr. Braxton?"
"You can make him take it back. Joe. You can make Joe take it. It was supposed to be his inheritance anyway. I never shoulda took it. Firstborn son gets the protection. But I didn't know."
"Protection from what, Mr. Braxton?"
"The Doors? Jim Morrison?" Before he could stop himself, Clayton hummed a bar from 'People Are Strange'.
"My family has been in the storage business a long time. Storage World doesn't hold old Christmas decorations and out of style clothes like your neighborhood U-Stor-It. Most of our clients are different. They want secure, private storage for their... things."
"Old things. Nameless things. Secret, horrible things. I never shoulda took Joe's inheritance. And I really never shoulda opened any of those doors. But I couldn't help myself. Please, make him take it back. Withdraw the lawsuit. Find a loophole. Anything!"
"I'm afraid, Mr. Braxton, that it's simply not possible. Anything I filed at this date would simply waste your money. I'll show you out." Clayton stood. He wanted Vinny out of his office.
"I can pay! The money's no object. I can pay anything you ask. Please."
"I'm sorry, Mr. Braxton. You're going to have to go now."
"No! Please!" Vinny leaped from the chair and grabbed Clayton's arm, clutching it with desperate strength. "Once they've seen you, they never forget."
Clayton wrenched his arm away and called security. They quickly hauled Vinny out, leaving Clayton alone in his opulent office.
He took out a silk handkerchief and dusted off his sleeve where Vinny had touched it. It didn't help. He took off his suit jacket. Perhaps if he burned it. He looked at the wall and knew he would go out drinking again tonight. The corners didn't quite look square. Damn that Vinny Braxton.
Get your copy here or here or here.