Now Available, M.A. Beghtel's book of short thrillers:
"'From The Corner of My Eye' and Other Tales From The Dark Recesses of My Mind"
Three boys test the truth of a dare; a family longs for the chance to say goodbye to a loved one that has just died; a young girl and her father try to survive in a post-apocalyptic world; a writer somehow opens the barrier between fiction and real life; imagine a magical world where everything is green, and time turns in a circle; a middle-aged man battles with his own conscience over whether he should kill his evil wife or not.
These and more in a volume of short thrillers that will make you laugh, cry, maybe lose your lunch, but most of all, they will make you think.
Also features three stories by the Author's sons and a special sneak peek of 'Gemstorm 2, The Gathering'.
Here is an excerpt from the book:
From The Corner of My Eye
It was a dark and stormy night. I’ll bet you didn’t see that one coming did you? ‘How cliché,’ you say? Well, it doesn’t matter what you say, because it was a dark and stormy night. Ha!
The rain was coming down in great sheets. There was no moon visible because of the cloud cover, and the only light I could see anything with was the lightning flashing every few seconds. It was close, too. I would see the flash and start counting; one-one thousand, two-one thousand, BOOM! Yeah, that was close. About a half-mile away. Another flash, and before I could start counting, BOOM! Okay, that one was waaay too close.
I was in Cooper’s Park, hiding under a small bridge over Preeney’s Creek, keeping as dry as I could, and trying to avoid God’s defibrillator. I had sprained my left ankle tripping over a curb and I was looking forward to my nice dry bed on the other side of town. Whether I could get to my bed alive would be a whole other story, altogether. But, maybe I should start at the beginning…
My name is Nathan Harding, and I’m an alcoholic… whoops, wrong group. I’m actually a member of a tech-support team for a major security system manufacturer. I typically sit at a desk all day, and when technicians from different security companies call in with a problem that they can’t figure out on one of our panels, I help them troubleshoot the problem and fix it. I know, that makes me sound like some kind of a genius or something, but believe me, everything is laid out in a computer system in front of me. It tells me what questions to ask, and as I type in their answers, the computer makes the suggestions that I repeat to the technician. A monkey could just about do what I do. One that could read, anyway.
Now the technicians don’t know that, and most of them thank me profusely for the help, and call me a life saver. If they only knew…
My best friend, Billy Thorpe (not the singer) also works there on the same shift that I do, and a lot of days we go out for a beer after work. It’s not like that’s all we do, though. We’re not just beer-drinking rednecks that spend all our free time getting drunk. On a typical night, we usually just nurse a couple of beers each while we discuss everything that’s wrong with the world, and then go to our separate homes. (I thought it was important to mention the word ‘separate’ there.)
One particular Wednesday night, Billy headed off on one of his wild tangents that his mind carries him to sometimes, and suddenly I found myself drawn into his world.
“So, what if there are ghosts all around us right now?” Billy asked. “You know, invisible to most of us.”
“Oh, come on,” I said. “Right here, in the bar with us?”
“Yeah, right here. Look… do you remember when that guy got shot right over there beside the bar, about four years ago?”
“Yeah, that was Ruth Barger’s big brother, right? Man, she still looks good. Have you seen her lately?”
“Yeah, she does, but that’s not the point. You know how sometimes if you turn your head quickly, you catch a glimpse of someone or something out of the corner of your eye, and when you turn to look, nothing’s there?”
“That has happened before, yeah.”
Billy looked around to make sure no one was listening before continuing. He leaned closer to me and spoke a little more softly. “I have seen Ruth’s brother over there next to the corner of the bar.”
“Yeah, I did too, before he got shot. That was his favorite spot.”
“No. I mean I’ve seen him standing there recently.”
I just looked at Billy. Sometimes it’s hard to tell if he’s telling the truth or not. Usually, I just wait to see if a punch-line surfaces at the end of his story.
“You don’t believe me. I knew you wouldn’t, man. You’re just always so skeptical.”
“Well, that’s what makes us good buds, Billy. We compliment each other. I’m a skeptic, and you’re an oddball.”
“Look, let’s just try a little experiment, okay? I see you shaking your head, but just try it, alright?’
“Alright,” I said, tentatively. “What do you want me to do?”
“Okay, first, close your eyes for about a minute.”
Grudgingly, I closed my eyes; the eternal skeptic waiting for Billy’s finger to thump me in the forehead, poke me in the chest, or something like that. After a moment, he told me, “Now, when you open your eyes, I want you to turn your head to the left, and then quickly turn back to look at me, but don’t really look at me. Pay attention to your peripheral vision and what you see out of the corner of your right eye. Are you ready?”
“Yeah,” I told him.
“Okay… now.” I opened my eyes and turned my head slowly to the left while I got used to the subdued lighting in the bar again, then I looked quickly back at Billy. I tried to concentrate on the figures off to the right of me. I could see some figures standing next to the bar.
“Now, what?” I asked Billy.
“How many people do you see over next to the bar?”
“Four.” He sat back with a satisfied look on his face and motioned toward the bar. I turned my head to look, and there were three people standing there. I looked around quickly, but I didn’t see anyone walking away. I looked back at Billy, and he was grinning.
“See what I mean?” he asked. I sat there with an incredulous look on my face. I didn’t know what to say, and I know that if I opened my mouth to say anything right now, nothing would come out that made any sense. My thoughts were so scrambled that my brain felt like it was going in sixteen different directions at once.
“I felt the same way when I first noticed it, too. Just sit there for a minute. Your brain will reboot momentarily.” He was smiling that goofy grin of his.
I picked up my beer and drained it. I motioned to the waitress to order another one, and when it arrived, I put half of it away, too. I took my glasses off and rubbed my face with my hands. “What the hell just happened?” I asked when my tongue started working again.
“You just saw Steven Barger.”
“Naw, man. He’s dead.”
“Exactly. But he was killed at his favorite spot, and he’s still hanging out there.”
“No, this is crap.” I said, looking away from him. But was it? I asked myself. What if Billy was right on this one? He had some pretty hair-brained ideas about things sometimes, and I know I saw four people standing there. I tried to shake the cobwebs out of my head.
“Now, you’re having that internal discussion about whether I’m right about this or not,” he said. Obviously, my friend knows me all too well.
“You want to test it again? You’ll see him over there every time you do it. And there are other ghosts around town, too. Anywhere where someone has died suddenly or violently. Just try the experiment again in different places. Soon, you will be able to see them without turning your head.
“I’ve studied this quite a bit,” he continued. “As it turns out, we are born with the capability to see these ghosts, and as children, we can. But as we grow up, we’re taught that there’s no such thing as ghosts, so the mind gets convinced that they’re not really there.”
I was still trying to get my thoughts back into some kind of logical order, but something he said caught my attention. “What do you mean we can see them as children?”
“Have you ever held a baby, and it suddenly started laughing at something over your shoulder? I noticed this when I visited my brother. He and his wife have an 18-month-old daughter, and when I was holding her, she was staring intently over my shoulder. When I turned to look, nothing was there, but she started laughing and cooing and reaching at something. I think that one or both of my parents were there, talking to her and making her laugh.”
“Come on, man, that’s really out there.”
“Is it? You remember that they died in a car crash, right?” I nodded my head, the memories flashing through my head of the pain on Billy’s face at the double funeral. “Dude, they were on their way to see my brother’s baby for the first time when the accident happened.”
That hit me like a ton of bricks. I knew that little piece of information, but putting it together with what Billy had shown me tonight was a major shock. I wasn’t sure I liked the way that the puzzle pieces were coming together right now. Frankly, it was scaring the hell out of me.
I finished my beer and headed home. It was still early, and Billy complained that I was wimping out on him, but my brain was now too frazzled to continue any kind of conversation.
I was so freaked out by our conversation that I couldn’t sleep at all that night, and it was obvious to Billy the next day at work.
“Man, you look fried,” he said at our lunch break.
“Yeah, buddy, thanks for the help sleeping last night.”
“You look like you didn’t get any sleep at all.”
“I didn’t. After your little ‘experiment’ last night, I couldn’t get my brain to shut down at all. I kept thinking about the possibilities of who was around me, who might be looking over my shoulder at any time, stuff like that.”
“Man, now it sounds like paranoia. Maybe I should call the men in their little white coats,” he said, laughing.
“Yeah, you laugh now, but when I go completely schizoid, you are on the top of my list of people to aim at.”
The rest of the day was pretty typical, and I got enough calls to stay busy enough to keep my eyes open. When Billy suggested having a beer, I turned him down. He even offered to buy, and I still said no. That’s totally unlike me, though, because he never offers to buy, and I swore a long time ago, that if he did, I sure wouldn’t refuse.
I went home, checked my mailbox, and unlocked the front door. The mail was all bills, and I tossed them on my desk, thinking that I would look at them later, after I got some rest.
I grabbed a beer out of the fridge and relaxed on the couch, turning on the TV. I started surfing through all the channels, and after surfing through about 150 of them, I realized that nothing was on, and decided to finish my beer out on the back patio.
I was just settling back into my lounge chair when I heard a loud crash at my neighbor’s house. I turned my head quickly at the sound, but his privacy fence prevented me from seeing what was going on. I was just opening my mouth to call out and ask Mr. Johnson if he was okay, when I saw a girl out of the corner of my eye, standing in the middle of the backyard, watching me.
I turned my head to see who it was and there was no one there. I stood up quickly, my bottle of beer slipping out of my hand and shattering on the bricks of my patio. Luckily, I was almost through with it, so I would mainly only have glass to pick up.
Mr. Johnson’s head appeared over the top of the fence then, and he hollered out, “Hey, are you okay?”
I slowly turned my head, but words weren’t ready to form yet. I just stared dumbly at him.
“I said, are you okay? I heard something break.”
“Uhh… Yeah…” I finally began. “I dropped my beer. Uh… I heard a crash, too.”
“Yeah, I was moving some of my potted plants around, and I backed up into my grill. I knocked it clean over. I hope it’s not broken.”
“Yeah, me too,” I managed to get out. “Well, we’re both okay, and I have some things to do,” I told him, as I turned toward my patio doors. “Good luck with the grill.”
“Thanks,” he said, and I couldn’t help but notice the quizzical look on his face as he dropped back out of sight. He and I get along pretty well, and normally we can talk across the fence for hours, just like Tim and Wilson on ‘Home Improvement’.
I went into my house and grabbed the waste basket and a cleaning sponge out of the kitchen. I brought them outside after wetting the sponge, and started cleaning up the glass and beer mess. I found it hard to concentrate on what I was doing though, because I kept watching for any motion in the corners of my eyes.
I finally got it cleaned up and took everything back in the house. I sat back down on the couch. This is nuts, I thought. Why is this making me so crazy? Nothing had ever affected me like this before. I picked up my phone to call Billy. I was halfway through dialing his number when it occurred to me that this would give him a good laugh. I turned off my phone.
I leaned forward and put my elbows on my knees. I put my head on my hands and closed my eyes. I’ve got to get a handle on this. It’s just not possible. I sat back and shook my head, and then I opened my eyes and jumped. Someone was on my right, standing outside my patio doors, looking in at me. With my heart pounding in my chest, I turned and they were gone.
I sat there staring out through the sliding glass doors. It had been her; the same girl that I saw in the back yard. What does she want? No, she’s not there. This is just my imagination running away with me. Then I saw her on my left, standing next to my TV.
I jumped to my feet, shrieking like a little girl, and ran into my bedroom, slamming the door. I jumped onto my bed, face down, and buried my face into my pillow. The hair suddenly stood up on the back of my neck. No, she’s not in here. She’s not in here, she’s not in here, I kept telling myself. I’m NOT going to look. I’m NOT going to look. I’m NOT going to look...
Want to read more of the story? Click on the "How to Order" link at the left side of this page, above.
Below is my first novel, published in August, 2009.
Gemstorm, The Comet's Tale
When a comet passes too close to Earth and its gravitational forces affect the rotation of the planet, hardly anything is left standing in its wake. But add to that the gem-like alien DNA that is dropped from its tail, changing everything and everyone that it comes in contact with, and mankind is plunged back into the Dark Ages. A New York cop, a Marine, a Geneticist, and a pregnant singer, all led by an autistic 12-year-old boy, try to survive, while being pursued by an evil sociopath and his soldier and also battling a mutated populace on the way. But the members of this mixed group have a few new tricks, too. Join our fast-paced adventure as they try to survive in a world gone mad.
Mike Bernard – NYPD Detective
Tommy Fournier – 12 years old, autistic, Mike’s nephew
Brian Daily – Master Sergeant, USMC
Samantha Marks – Singer, 6 months pregnant
Trevor Farringer – Geneticist
Bobby – Samantha’s fiancé
Bruno – Mob hit man
A multitude of Crazies…
Here is an excerpt from
Gemstorm, The Comet's Tale:
Samantha picked her way slowly and carefully down the street, stepping carefully over the debris, while keeping her eyes and ears open for any sight or sound that would indicate she had company. The world was no longer what it used to be. There was no longer any such thing as law and order. It was every man (or woman) for himself. As she edged her way past a department store, she suddenly heard the sounds of breaking glass inside, and stopped dead in her tracks, ducking down. She heard wild, cackling laughter, and then a couple more breaking sounds, and decided she had better move a little faster. Keeping her head down, trying to keep from showing herself through the broken front windows, she moved as fast as she could past the store, pausing only for a moment at the corner to check the alleyway, before moving across the mouth of it. She found an alcove, where the doorway of the next store was recessed, and took a moment to catch her breath, absentmindedly rubbing her swollen abdomen to try and calm her agitated baby. She listened for more activity, and when she was certain that no one was following her, she moved on. She could see the sign of a grocery store ahead of her, and decided she would try and find some food inside. She crept past several more stores and then moved quietly up to the door, listening carefully for any sound. The doorway was partially open, held that way by a crushed, cardboard box, and there was just enough room for her to squeeze through. She held her breath, listening hard for any sound that would convince her to quickly leave. She stepped over the box, and nearly bolted back out the door when some broken glass crunched quietly under her own shoe. Realizing that she had made the sound herself, she took a deep breath, calmed herself, and took another step into the store, and then another, until she had to stop for a moment to let her eyes adjust to the darkness. Her heart was pounding so hard, she thought it was going to jump out of her chest, and she was sure that if anyone was in here, they could hear its drum-beat echoing out of her. She almost turned and ran back out of the store, but her own hunger and a need to make sure her unborn baby had some nourishment kept her moving on. She carefully made her way down one aisle, noticing that it was all paper goods; toilet paper, paper towels and such. She reached the end, seeing the dairy section in front of her and not even checking it; she knew that nothing there would still be any good, since the power had been out for a couple of days. She turned to the right to head down the next aisle, and that’s when an arm quickly went around her chest, and a large hand clamped firmly over her mouth, choking off the scream that was trying to force its way between the fingers.
Want to read more of the story? Click on the "How to Order" link at the left side of this page, above.