The cold air was refreshing as she sprinted to her Ford Mustang in the parking lot. After she sat down in the driver’s seat, she opened Windows Maps on her cell phone to search for the address her evil handler had texted. Since Microsoft stopped
supporting Windows Phone, she couldn’t use her voice to enter the address in
the navigation app of her cell phone. It felt weird to go unarmed, on a mission unknown, while the navigation calculated the best route from her current location. Whoever captured Harry held all the cards. At the moment, she had no other choice but to follow up on their instructions. She started the car and drove off. Luckily, there wasn’t much traffic on her way to the mansion.
Since the pandemic, life was slow. People had more time on their hands, working from home, distracted by their kids and spouse. Eating more comfort food—watching TV all day, or in Sybil’s case, spending time with her pet rabbit, Max, and trying to avoid the news. She didn’t have a TV. Well, she did, but she used her 70-inch display as a monitor. It was connected to a Windows 10 laptop with an external soundcard attached to a Dolby digital surround set. Felicity installed the equipment and showed Sybil how to use her dinosaur cell phone as a remote control for the
The laptop offered her a safe window to the world. She had online meetings once a week, on Sunday night at eight, and sometimes she watched the news on CNN. Most of the time, she used the laptop to binge-watch streaming media. Prime video, Netflix, Disney Plus, and reruns of her favorite TV shows: Body of Proof, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and she loved movies starring Denzel Washington. My life during the pandemic.
She wanted to floor the gas pedal, but then she noticed a police car and she slowed down considerably. The police vehicle turned left at the intersection. She glanced over her shoulder. A truck came into sight, and a few more cars appeared on the street ahead of her. Morning rush hour was about to begin, even though she hadn’t
Sybil reached her destination in twenty-six minutes after she floored the gas pedal when she reached the outskirts of Boston. She had some time to kill, but she didn’t want to waste it by sitting in her car. So, she explored the area. The mansion
didn’t stand out by itself. It was a wooden, two-story building, Victorian architecture style, late 1800s, set in a rural landscape outside Boston, normally a thirty-five-minute drive if she hadn’t gone way above all posted speed limits. Its shingles used to be white at some point.
She exhaled and contacted Vanessa Dogscape—an ATU data analyst, and currently married to her friend and coworker Felicity Walker. Perhaps Vanessa could help her—off the record. She didn’t want to involve the ATU. It took a while before Vanessa answered the phone.
“Sybil. You know what time it is?”
“I’m aware of what time it is. Look, I need your help. Harry’s been kidnapped by—I don’t know who. Anyway, they want me to do some errands.”
“My God!” Vanessa replied in a worried voice.
“I need you on this. But please, keep it off the record. I don’t want to endanger Harry’s life.”
“Sure. How can I help?”
“Perhaps you can pinpoint them somehow and get their location so I can kick some ass?”
“I need more intel before I can do anything,” Vanessa said.
“They contacted me via my cell phone and sent me a text message. Oh, and a picture of Harry’s battered face.” She gritted her teeth at the thought.
“Send the text message and the picture to me. And please activate the ATU app Felicity programmed three years ago for your Windows Phone, so I can tap into each conversation and perhaps ping their location while you talk to them. Are you sure you want me to help you off the record? It’s better to make this an official ATU investigation. At least, let me inform Jack.”
Sybil closed her eyes for a moment. If the criminals found out she had informed the ATU, it’d complicate things. Perhaps endanger Harry’s life. But then again, she sure could use all the help she could get. Otherwise, she wouldn’t bother Vanessa with it. Taking that into consideration, and the knowledge that Jack was a professional, Sybil agreed to Vanessa’s suggestion.
Despite the sun in a clear, blue sky, her body responded with a shiver that ran down her spine. She did not know what to expect as she stood near the abandoned mansion with its weather-beaten, cracked walls covered in pointless graffiti. But she knew she had to go inside as she sat down on her haunches, studying the rusty sword
lying in the mud. She took a deep breath before she carefully touched its sticky
handle. Blood! Clotted blood.
Her stomach gnawed at the sight. She smelled. It wasn’t human. She stared at the mansion as she heard a strange sound she couldn’t identify. Immediately, her old instincts kicked in—weird sounds coming from an abandoned mansion equals danger. She grabbed the sword in both hands, jumped up, kicked the battered door wide open and ran inside. It was time to act; this was no time to be cautious. Lives were at
The wooden planks creaked under her feet as she rushed into the dark hallway. The sound of rasping breathing reached her eardrums when she entered a dark room with just enough light to see the overturned furniture and the bloodstained, fractured walls …
What do you love most about the genre you write?
I love to combine multiple genres together as one. For instance, one of the main characters in my book: “Pandemic: Chaos is Bleeding” is Sybil Crewes. A vampire who hates being a vampire (horror genre). But she’s also a part-time ATU (Anti-Terrorism Unit) agent, to keep America safe from terrorist attacks (thriller genre).
Combining these two genres makes a story more vivid. Rather than fighting monsters, Sybil also faces terrorists with the help of her friends from the ATU and from a Medical Examiner working for the coroner’s office in Boston.
Blending two genres into one makes my books unique. I don’t use classical horror themes—no religion, no vampires turning into bats, or sleeping in a coffin during the day. Sybil clips her fangs and use liquid silver (kind of like colloidal silver, but with a higher percentage of silver particles) daily to pass on for a human and eat solid food.
Where do you find inspiration for your stories?
I find my inspiration in the news. The news is my most important tool to blend reality with fiction. If I find an interesting article on a news website, I do a lot of background research. Like the pandemic and fake news—before I write. I love to combine reality with fiction. I also use personal elements in my story.
I see you like Edgar Allan Poe. If you had to pick one of his stories as a favorite, which would it be and why?
I grew up reading books from Edgar Allan Poe. As a kid, I enjoyed watching movies starring Vincent Price adaptations of The Pit and the Pendulum, Tales of Terror, The Raven, and The Masque of the Red Death.
The story I loved most, back in the days, is “The Pit and the Pendulum.”
It’s a story about the torments endured by a prisoner of the Spanish Inquisition. The narrator describes his experience of being tortured. What I liked about it, is that the story is effective at inspiring fear in the reader because of its heavy focus on the senses, such as sound…
Can you tell us about your furry writing companion?
Max is a three-year-old free roam small tan rabbit—our condo is bunny proof—and he loves to be petted on his head. He’s my best friend, and he asks daily for attention. I love giving him that. He follows me around like a dog when I stand up from the couch to get something from the fridge. Max doesn’t like carrots. When I try to offer him a carrot, he gives me the look. Which is a good thing because I read carrots have too much sugar in them. His favorite snack is Timothy Hay.
Before I go to bed, or when it’s 7:30 a.m., I lie down next to him and talk about anything that bothers me. He’s a great listener, and he knows how to keep a secret.
And I partly wrote my book on my cell phone while lying next to Max.
If you could give one piece of advice to anyone pursuing their dream in the creative arts, what would it be?
The best advice I can think of is this: write everything that pop-ups in your head. Don’t overthink it. Just write. Read it back the next day, scrap the parts you don’t like, rewrite some of it (don’t overdo this), and prepare yourself to send your story to a few people. Listen to what they say about your writing. And don’t be annoyed about critics.
Ms. Fridsma’s writing career started after a handicap in 2014—she has a tremor in her right hand, numbness in the fingers, and pain in her wrist. She had to give up her other creative outlets, such as photography, computer programming, and gave up on juggling, so focused on what she could do rather than what she couldn’t do. Besides writing, she sometimes plays guitar—in Jimi Hendrix style.