I wrote "You're Next" at the request of Richard Huss for the Fall 2013 issue of Pulse the Magazine.

You're Next!

It began with an e-mail from Richard Huss, editor of
Pulse the Magazine. "I would like to feature one of your creative writing pieces in the fall issue of Pulse," he wrote. "It comes out in mid-October. Please call me if interested."

Of course it was something that I
wanted to do, but could I do it? I am a novelist. It takes 120,000 words or more for me to tell a story. Richard had space for 650 words. I can't even properly introduce a secondary character in so few words, let alone tell a complete story.

I do like to see my work in print, though, so with no ideas at all I called Richard and agreed to write something for the Fall issue. "Great," he said in his usual friendly but rushed tone. "Deadline is coming up, I'll need it within a week. Gotta take another call. Bye."

I spent the next few hours listening for my Muse, but her voice was silent. That was no surprise, as we hadn't been on speaking terms for months.

I then closed my eyes and journeyed to that distant ether that has been the source of many of my creative ideas over the years. I returned with empty mind and broken spirit. The rest of the night was spent staring at the clock, and with each maddening tick Richard's deadline drew one second closer.

The next morning I read his e-mail again, and for the first time the words "it comes out in mid-October" registered. I could do a scary Halloween story!

But about what?

I thought of a recent photo I had seen of Mount Dora's mayor and city council members. They had shovels in their hands and they were breaking ground on the latest city improvement project. Or maybe they were repairing a sinkhole, I can't remember. Anyway, the digging reminded me of graves, and graves reminded me of coffins, and coffins reminded me of vampires. What if the mayor and council members were vampires who served the citizens of Mount Dora during the day, but preyed upon them at night?

And the amazingly coincidental part is, if you take the first three letters of each council member's last name and rearrange them, they spell "We want to suck your blood." What are the odds of that?

But vampires have been so overdone the last few years, and I don't like to ride anyone's coattails. Or use clichés, either.

Zombies? Nah, same as vampires. Enough already. Besides, the snowbirds start returning in October, and sometimes it's hard to tell an elderly snowbird from a zombie. At least that has been my experience.

Maybe I could use a Tavares setting, and write about the captain of a Dora Canal tour boat. He takes two unsuspecting women on a tour to a secluded area of the canal where he plans to kill them and use them as gator bait. No, that's probably been done already.

Perhaps I could write about the Baystreet Players in Eustis. I could have them performing
The Rocky Horror Picture Show on Halloween night, and…no, that's a bit too much. Eustis is still trying to get over that show with the naughty puppets.

I've seen the Walking Ghost Tour weekend nights in Mount Dora and taken little notice of them. But what if they weren't looking for ghosts, what if they
were ghosts? Okay, maybe not.

Wait, I've got it! A masked psycho Halloween killer writes "You're Next!" in red on page 6 of a copy of the Fall issue of
Pulse, and puts it back in the rack. He watches until someone takes that particular copy, then follows the person home. After reading my story, the unsuspecting victim turns to page 6 and sees "You're Next!" in red.

At that moment the psycho killer comes around the corner with knife upraised…

"You're Next" © 2013 Rick Cooper
all rights reserved • do not reproduce or distribute without permission of the author