by Jude Matulich-Hall
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Her breath rose in small bursts of grey, dissipating quickly, becoming just another billow of fog forming about the dark, sleepy street. Lydia stopped abruptly, her heart quivering within her slight chest. Turning slowly, she gazed hard through the oppressive stillness, listening for what might be there – hoping that there was nothing.
Greeted by silence, she laughed, a small, sardonic sound, which rang hollow in the midnight air. Surely it would not come to this neighbourhood; how ridiculous to think such things. Yet, she continued cautiously, attempting to quiet the clatter of her shoes upon the red brick darkening from the settling mist, toward her destination: Safety.
The doorway engraved in her mind, though she could not yet see it across the courtyard. The street lanterns flickered through the haze like fireflies, unable to fend off the cloudy vapors with their illumination. She argued silently with herself, how silly for a lady to be walking home alone from the theatre. Yet, she had so many times before. Besides, the beast only hunted in the lowly parts of the city; the docks, the redlight district, the slums, the opiate dens. It had for years. As it should, for those places marred this glorious city, making it dirty and unwholesome. Those in power had conjured it to take care of such riffraff. Those that do not abide by the law shall be punished. Bolstered in her piousness, Lydia slowed in her step.
A rage erupted… too close. She whirled around as the bewailing reached her ears, searching the deadly silence that settled in the call’s wake. It was here!
She fumbled for her small pocket watch, tucked discreetly in her sleeve. Confusion encompassed her, for it was before the curfew. Her brow glowered as she held the fob to her ear. It was not ticking! Only a short distance, her steps quickened once more, their sound pulsing, echoing around her. Lydia gathered her dress and sprinted toward the doorway in which she would arrive any moment, any moment, now, there, within her sight. She would reach it in time. She must!
It was getting closer. Gaining quickly. Its ferocious snarls deafening. It was furious, cursing loudly. Its screams bellowed throughout the streets, claws raking the cobbles.
She reached the door and permitted herself a triumphant smile over her shoulder. As her hand wrapped around the latch, her thumb pressed… it was locked.
Its cold breath of decay washed across the back of her neck. She did not turn to face it. Sliding down into a crouch, huddling, Lydia made herself as small as she could; whimpering, pleading as its shadow covered her.
©️ 2021 by Jude Matulich-Hall
“Like Any Other Night,” by Jude Matulich-Hall, was first published on September 23, 2021 in Love Letters to Poe and can be found in Love Letters to Poe, Volume I: A Toast to Edgar Allan Poe.
Interview with Jude Matulich-Hall, Author of “Like Any Other Night”
What inspired your story?
I rewrote this from a college exercise. I changed the title and the era and played with the words a bit. We were told to tell a short-short story conveying an intense emotion. I chose fear, but I didn’t want to show what was causing that fear. It needed to be invisible, unknown, but also something that just exists in this world, almost like it’s natural and no big deal that this monstrous thing is lurking the streets, and no one’s done anything about it. In the story, the MC is fine with the monster hunting others, until she becomes the hunted. And even at the end, we still don’t know what it is. It’s just a huge shadow over her shoulder. It can be anything! Somehow, I think that makes it scarier and more personal for the reader. I’m really excited about this, because coming back to it after so long has prompted me to write a longer story based on it that takes place in my Eversteam Universe.
What’s your favorite gothic story or poem and why?
I can only choose one? Argh. That is tough! Anything by Edgar Allan Poe! I even love his boring essays. I think it would have to be The Pit and The Pendulum. That’s what jumps out in my mind. It was the first thing I read by him. You can’t see anything in that story! It’s all sounds and smells and textures. It’s beautiful and brilliant!
How long have you been writing?
I remember writing poetry at a really young age, and then I started to write stories in high school. In college was when it really took shape. Sadly, I quit writing after college because I believed in what some naysayers said was too competitive of a world and that I wouldn’t succeed. I went on to run my own business and have a family in my mid-twenties. That took up my life. I was forced to close a successful business, and I turned 40 in the same year, both huge turning points in my life. Something amazing happens when one has to close a door (literally) on something successful. It was unexpected, it hurt like hell, but it broke my heart and mind open; creativity started to flow and I started to write. I’m now 45 and I haven’t stopped!
Do you have a theme you return to time and again?
Demons, Hell, Death… the usual gothic tropes. However, in my novels, I will often slip in the ideas around mindfulness and meditation, practices that have helped me in my own life, I pass on to some of my characters.
Do you have a favorite quote that inspires you?
The good writers touch life often. The mediocre ones run a quick hand over her. The bad ones rape her and leave her for the flies.~Ray Bradbury
It’s a bit harsh, but speaks volumes!
What are you working on now?
I am preparing for my debut novel, The Eversteam Chronicles – Small Demons, to be published this October. It is a Gothic Steampunk adventure through Hell! I’m getting an Eversteam anthology wrapped up to be published in January, and almost finished editing my second novel, a prequel to the first, (working title) The Pirates of Eversteam, an Epic Fantasy. All of these are being published by White Cat Publications. Once those are out of my hands and in the publishers, I will be embarking on turning one of those novels into a screenplay!
What else would you like people to know? Where can people find you online?
I have a degree in Art and Creative Writing. I grew up in Colorado and New Mexico, but now live in the hauntingly beautiful and grey Pacific Northwest with my hubby and son. When I’m not writing I teach yoga and meditation for pain management, play the violin in North Oregon Coast Symphony, and have a vegetable garden when it’s nice outside.
You can subscribe to my channel on Youtube, follow me on Amazon, Twitter, and other such places. Join me at Facebook group – JMH Writers & Illustrators, and check out my website www.JudeMatulichHall.com.