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My new Hudson story

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    Posted: September/09/2007 at 3:33am
I took a break from my novel to write a new Hudson story, he of "The Room Where No One Died" and "Breaking Up is Hard to Do." Here is it, for anyone who wants to read it.

     It was after midnight and Hudson was in bed, but he was not asleep. The bedside lamp was on, and Hudson was sitting against the headboard with a book opened on his lap. The Turn of the Screw by Henry James.    More of a visual man by nature, Hudson actually preferred the film version, The Innocents.
     Giving up on the book after half an hour, Hudson tossed it to the foot of the bed and swung his feet out onto the floor. He had an eight a.m. appointment to meet with a potential client, but Hudson wasn’t worried about not getting enough rest. He could function quite well as long as he got at least four hours of sleep.
     Intending to have a post-midnight snack, Hudson was halfway down the stairs when someone began pounding on his front door. He halted, standing as still as a statue, and glanced down into the darkened foyer. He could see the door rattling with the force of the pounding. There was no pause in the assault, just a continuous hammering that boomed through the house like small explosions. Hudson was just considering going back upstairs for his pistol when he heard a familiar voice call his name from outside.
     With an exasperated sigh, Hudson continued the rest of the way down the stairs. Unlocking the deadbolt, he left the chain on and opened the door a crack. Through the gap, he could see a tall, scrawny man with thin brown hair and an acne-scarred complexion standing on the stoop. The man continued battering the door for a full minute before realizing it had been opened.
     “Oh, thank God!” the man gasped, sagging against the doorframe. “I was afraid you wasn’t home. Hud, man, you gotta let me in.”
     Hudson cocked an eyebrow. “Do I?”
     “C’mon, man, it’s freezing out there.”
     “It’s late, Pete. You shouldn’t be here.”
     “I didn’t know what else to do. I done left you about a half dozen messages.”
     “And the fact that I didn’t answer them should have been a clue.”
“Don’t be that way, Hud,” Pete said, shivering in his light camouflage jacket. His breath steamed out of his mouth in little puffs. “We brothers, after all. Family ought not treat each other this way.”
     “But family should show up uninvited at almost one o’clock in the morning and expect a warm welcome?”
     “I didn’t know where else to go, man. I got a real emergency.”
     “Then I suggest you call 911.”
     “It ain’t that kind of emergency.”
     Hudson had started to close the door but stopped, his curiosity aroused despite himself. Finally he said, “What kind of emergency is it then?”
     “Your kind of emergency.”
     Hudson closed the door, leaned against it for a moment, then released the security chain and opened the door wide, letting in a cold gust of wind and his brother. Pete was jittery and fidgeted around the foyer, a bundle of nervous energy as if he were amped up on caffeine or some other stimulant. “Nice place you got,” he said, bouncing around like he had springs on his heels.
     Hudson, wearing only a pair of boxers, crossed his arms over his bare chest and pinned his cousin down with a sharp glare. “You’ve got five minutes.”
     “It’s Shelia, my old lady. She’s…well, there’s just some strange (censored) happening to her, Hud.”
     “I didn’t realize you were married.”
     “Married? Hell no, but we been living together going on six years now.”
     “And what is this ‘strange (censored)’ you say is happening to her?”
     Pete ran a shaky hand through his mousy hair and let out an even shakier breath. After a momentary hesitation during which Hudson grew increasingly impatient, Pete finally said, “I think she’s possessed, man.”
     Hudson couldn’t repress a derisive snort. “That’s impossible.”
     Pete’s face fell and for a moment he looked as if he were going to cry and was about ten years old. “I thought you of all people would believe me, Hud. I mean, this kind of freaky cluster(i'm 12 and just learned how to swear)’s right up your alley, ain’t it?”
     “I guess you could call me an expert in freaky cluster(i'm 12 and just learned how to swear) situations, and I’m telling you as an expert that it is impossible.”
     “The spirits of the dead do not possess the bodies of the living,” Hudson said mechanically, as if reciting facts memorized for a lecture. “That just isn’t the way ghosts work.”
     “Well, maybe it ain’t a ghost. Could be a demon or something.”
     “Demons are merely myths; I’ve seen nothing in all my years in the field to suggest that they actually exist.”
     Pete twined his fingers into his hair and looked as if he were at the point of ripping it out by the root. “Look, I don’t know exactly what’s happening to Shelia, okay? But something’s happening to her, and whatever it is, it ain’t natural. All I’m asking is for you to come take a look at her. I live no more than twenty minutes from here. C’mon, Hud, just come look at her.”
     “You have any money?”
     Pete blinked and actually recoiled a step as if slapped. “Money? You gonna charge me?”
     “Well, this is what I do for a living.”
     “Yeah, but, I’m your bro, man.”
     “So if I were a doctor, you would expect free medical care?”
     “Of course.”
     Hudson opened the door and said, “Good night, Pete.”
     “No, man, you gotta help.” Now Pete was crying, and he made no move to leave. “I ain’t got much. I got laid off from the textile plant last month and I ain’t been able to find work nowheres else. I got nothing to give you.”
     “Like I said, Pete, good—”
     “My car,” Pete practically screamed. “It’s all I got to my name besides the trailer, and the trailer ain’t paid for yet. I’ll give you my car.”
     Hudson glanced out the door and saw a bucket of rust on wheels parked at the curb, the engine sputtering while thick smoke coughed out of the exhaust. Hudson turned back to his brother to say no, but what he saw there made him pause. He felt no sense of family loyalty—he and Pete had never been close, and the two rarely saw one another these days—but the desperation and fear in Pete’s eyes was quite real and difficult to ignore. Hudson looked back at the car; maybe he could get a couple hundred bucks for it by selling it for scrap.
     “Fine,” he said, turning back to his brother. “Wait here while I throw on some clothes.”
     “Oh thank you, Hud, thank you.” Pete made as if he were going to embrace Hudson, but Hudson sidestepped him and hurried up the stairs.
* * *
     Less than five minutes later, they were in the car, pulling away from Hudson’s house. Hudson sat in the passenger’s set, feeling the car shudder and rattle around him. He wouldn’t have been surprised if the car had simply fallen apart; it seemed to be held together by nothing more than glue and hope. If he’d had his own car, he would have insisted on taking it, but it was in the shop having work done on the transmission. Hudson was going to have to take the bus for his meeting at eight.
     Pete, seemingly oblivious to the fact that his car was on the verge of utter collapse, drove with his hands gripping the steering wheel so tightly that the veins in the back of his hands stood out like ropes beneath the skin. He stared out the windshield with a look of fierce determination. The road ahead was illuminated by only one working headlight, and Pete inched the car’s speed up ten miles above the speed limit, causing the car to shudder even more violently.
     Hudson said nothing. He wanted to ask about Shelia, get a better idea of what kind of situation he was about to walk into, but he sensed that Pete was not ready to talk about it. Whatever it was, Hudson was confident he could handle it.
     “You know,” Pete said suddenly, not bothering to look over at Hudson, “I been thinking a lot lately about back when we was kids.”
     “That was a long time ago.”
     “Yeah, I know. Remember when we used to spend the summers at Grammy Bethel’s house?”
     “If you can call a four-room hovel a house.”
     “Better than the shack we lived in, huh?” Pete said with the ghost of a smile. “We had to share a room and a bed.”
     “A bed?” Hudson said with a humorless laugh. “It was just an old mattress laid right on the floor.”
     “Yeah, and at night the rats would come out. Remember, we came up with the system where we’d sleep in shifts to keep ‘em off us.”
     Hudson didn’t reply, but his silence had substance and filled the car with a dangerous atmosphere like the electricity that charges the air before a storm. Idly, he rubbed at a faint scar on his right elbow. He’d fallen asleep on watch one night when he was nine, and a rat had sneaked up and sank its teeth into his flesh. No trip to the hospital for a rabies shot; his mother had merely slapped a Band-Aid on it and told him to stop being such a crybaby. Hudson didn’t like to think about those times, had built a wall out of time and money between himself and his past.
     “Anyway,” Pete said, apparently sensing his brother’s desire not to go down this particular branch of Memory Lane, “I been thinking about that summer at Grammy Bethel’s right after Grandpa Earn passed.”
     “I was seven,” Hudson said right away, surprising himself. He remembered that summer well; it was the summer that changed his life, that set the course for who he would become as an adult.
     “Yep, you was seven and I was five. When we first got there, Grammy told us that even though Grandpa was dead, he wasn’t gone. That if we saw him roaming around the house, we shouldn’t be scared of him. ‘Course, we thought she was pulling our legs at first.”
     “Grammy Bethel always was a strange one. With her homeopathic remedies and astrology charts. I used to think she was a witch.”
     “Me too. But she was right about Grandpa. The first time I saw him, I’d got outta bed late at night to use the outhouse, and I saw him walking along in the field behind the house. I wet my pants right then and there. I was terrified for the rest of the summer.”
     Hudson laughed again, this time with genuine humor. “I remember. You made me follow you out to the outhouse every time you had to take a water.”
     “But you wasn’t scared, I remember that. Even that time we woke up and saw Grandpa standing in our room, just staring at us, you wasn’t scared. You just said, ‘Hey Grandpa Earl,’ rolled over, and went back to sleep.”
     Hudson shrugged and said, “Grandpa Earl had never hurt me when he was alive; I had no reason to think he’d hurt me now that he was dead.”
     “And then near the end of the summer, he disappeared. Grammy blamed you, said you’d sent him away, and she was royally mad.”
     “Gave me the worst spanking of my life with that old wooden paddle she kept next to her bed. Hell, sometimes I think my backside has never stopped stinging.”
     “What really happened? Did you send him away?”
     “He made his own decision; even ghosts have free will. I simply told him that he wasn’t needed anymore, that his work here was finished and it was okay if he wanted to move on.”
     “And he listened to you?”
     “Grandpa Earl was always a reasonable man; death hadn’t changed that.”
     Silence settled back between them like an old friend. Hudson glanced surreptitiously at Pete, musing that his brother was like a stranger to him. They’d had little contact with one another over the past three years, ever since Pete had asked for a loan of four thousand dollars and Hudson had vehemently refused. That was the reason Pete had kept his distance these last several years, but Hudson had distanced himself from his family ever since he left home at the age of seventeen. They were nothing but a reminder of a life he’d rather forget. Still, Pete was his blood, and he thought maybe he would help out without demanding the car as payment.
     “So you and Shelia have been together for six years?” he asked, trying to sound interested. It had been so long since he’d taken a genuine interest in his brother’s life that it felt a little odd, like walking backward.
     “We been dating off and on since high school, but we been shacked up for six years, yeah.”
     “Why not get married?”
     Pete looked at his brother as if Hudson had just asked him why he didn’t shave with a chainsaw. “Why rock the boat? You know how the saying goes: if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”
     “I hear that.”
     Pete got quiet for a few minutes, his eyes fixed straight ahead but looking somewhere a million miles away. “I gotta say, though, I did thinking about asking Shelia to marry me when I found out she was pregnant.”
     “You two are having a baby?”
     “Was. Shelia lost it in her third month.”
     “Oh,” Hudson said softly, wishing he’d never brought up the subject. “Sorry to hear that.”
     For a frightening moment, Hudson thought his brother was going to start crying, his face working as if overcome with muscle spasms. Finally he seemed to regain control of himself and said, “I wasn’t there when it happened. I’d gone out hunting with some buddies for the weekend. Shelia was all alone, and I came back to find out I wasn’t gonna be a Daddy no more. I ain’t never gonna forgive myself for not being there with her when it happened.”
     Hudson could think of nothing to say, so he opted to say nothing. He had never been good at giving comfort, and he figured it would be best not to even try. Besides, what comfort could be given in a situation such as this? None that he could think of. Time was the only panacea for that kind of pain.

The rest continued in the next post...
We are not strangers to ourselves, we only try to be. --Odd Thomas by Dean Koontz
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote FinalExam Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: September/09/2007 at 3:34am
Silence filled the car once again, and this time it stuck around. After a while, Pete turned the car onto a narrow road of loose gravel. A faded sign at the head of the road read, “Happy Valley Trailer Park.” Hudson stared out his window as they bounced along the rutted trail. The land was flat for miles around, they certainly weren’t in any valley that Hudson could see, and there was nothing about the dilapidated mobile homes they passed that seemed remotely happy.
     The gravel road continued for almost a mile then abruptly dead-ended at a rock pile. To the left was a lone trailer sitting several hundred feet apart from the others. It seemed to be slanted, the right end slightly higher than the left, cardboard and plastic covering over one of the windows.
     “Ain’t much, but it’s home,” Pete said with an embarrassed laugh, apparently reading the disgust on Hudson’s face.
     They got out of the car and headed across the dirt lot to the trailer. Cinderblocks had been laid underneath the door to create a makeshift set of steps. Pete unlocked the door, having to jiggle the key in the lock for a full minute before getting it to turn, and Hudson followed him inside. They were in a cramped living room stuffed with thrift store furniture, dirty dishes and empty soda cans littering most surfaces. Inexplicably, the far side of the room was dominated by a large, flat-screen television which Hudson was sure must have cost close to a thousand dollars. The room was dark excited for the muted light from a lamp in the corner.
     “She’s in the bedroom,” Pete said and led Hudson through the living room into a small kitchen approximately the size of a postage stamp. Pete stopped at a closed door, knocked lightly and said, “Baby, it’s me, I got my brother with me,” before opening the door and stepping inside.
     Hudson crossed the threshold then stopped rather abruptly. The overhead light was on, shining down on a room that looked like a cyclone had hit it recently. Clothes—clean and dirty—strewn about the floor, more dishes crusted with old food sitting on a simple wooden desk, an old exercise bike with clothes thrown over it, a bed with no headboard shoved against the wall by the closet, a woman with stringy blonde hair and a careworn face lying atop the bed in a shapeless housedress.
     But what had stopped Hudson in his tracks was the woman’s stomach. In all other proportions she was a small woman, petite even, but her stomach was large and swollen, a huge mound bulging at her dress.
     “Hud,” Pete said, “meet Shelia, my old lady.”
     “I thought you said she miscarried,” Hudson said, turning toward his brother.
     “She did, six months ago.”
     “I don’t understand. She got pregnant again?”
     “Guess again?” Shelia said, pushing up on her elbows until her back rested against the wall behind her. “I been to the doctor; he insists I ain’t pregnant.”
     “He said it was something called an ‘hysterical pregnancy,’” Pete said. “Something about her being so traumatized from losing the baby that her mind and body are reacting as if she still was pregnant.”
     Hudson nodded, unable to take his eyes of Shelia’s stomach. “I think I’ve heard of that before.”
     “But that ain’t what this is,” Shelia said, wincing as she readjusted her position. “I can feel the (i'm 12 and just learned how to swear)er moving around inside me, kicking up a storm. Come feel for yourself.”
     Normally Hudson was not the type of person interested in touching pregnant women’s stomachs, but this time he hurried to the bed, sat down on the edge, and placed his hand over Shelia’s belly. After only a few seconds, he felt movement beneath her flesh, a distinctive kick.
     “Incredible,” Hudson mumbled to himself. “When was the last time you saw a doctor?”
     “Four days ago. I don’t think he was even buying his ‘hysterical pregnancy’ theory anymore, but all his tests showed that I wasn’t pregnant. Think I freaked him out, he couldn’t get me out of his office fast enough.”
     Pete had walked up to the foot of the bed but seemed reluctant to come any further. “What is it, Hud? Any ideas?”
     Hudson realized that he still had his had splayed on Shelia’s stomach and he removed it. “If I had to hazard a guess, I’d say that the ghost of the child Shelia lost has not moved on but has stayed behind.”
     “Inside me?” Shelia yelled. Sweat had broken out on her face, dampening the hair at her temples and beading on the tip of her nose.
     “Ghosts tend to haunt the places where they died. Technically, this child died inside you.”
     “Can’t you perform an exorcism or something?”
     “This isn’t a demon.”
     “Well, something else then. Can’t you do anything to get rid of this thing?”
     “I’m not sure.” Turning to Pete, Hudson said, “If this has been going on for six months, why did you only now come to me?”
     Pete glanced at Shelia then quickly away, as if the sight of her hurt his eyes. “Something, uh, something happened tonight.”
     Shelia suddenly let loose with a high-pitched scream that reached a crescendo that could surely have shattered glass. Hudson looked down at her, and she was writhing on the bed, clutching her stomach. When the episode passed, leaving her even more drenched with sweat, she lay gasping for several seconds. Finally she turned to Hudson and said, “Two hours ago my water broke. I’m in labor.”
* * *
     “I don’t get it,” Pete said for the hundredth time.
     He was sitting on the edge of the bed next to Shelia, who was propped up on her elbows, her knees bent and legs spread wide. Hudson kneeled on the bed between her legs, with no idea what he was going to do.
     “I don’t get it,” Pete said again.
     Hudson growled in frustration. “I told you, this baby is ready to come out, and since we can’t very well take Shelia to a hospital to deliver a spectral infant, we’re going to have to take care of it ourselves.”
     “But you said there wasn’t no baby.”
     “There isn’t, not in the physical sense, but the child’s spirit is still here, and it has manifested itself through this phantom pregnancy.”
     “Oh God it hurts!” Shelia moaned. She was soaked with sweat now, looking as if she’d been dunked in a pool, and she seemed weak, on the verge of collapse.
     “What’s gonna happen?” Pete said to Hudson. “I mean, when the baby comes…what’s gonna happen?”
     Hudson just shook his head. “I don’t really know, Pete.”
     “You ever done anything like this before?”
     “As far as I know, no one has ever done anything like this before.”
     “I’m being punished,” Shelia said suddenly. “That’s what this is, I’m being punished.”
     Pete took a damp washcloth he’d brought from the bathroom and began dabbing sweat off Shelia’s forehead. “Shhh, don’t be silly. You ain’t done nothing to be punished for.”
     Shelia looked up at Pete, and her eyes were glassy with pain. “I got to confess something to you.”
     “We can talk later—”
     “No, now!” Shelia said, and there was steel in her voice. “I didn’t miscarry.”
     Pete leaned back away from Shelia. “What do ya mean?”
     “I never wanted a kid,” she spat. “You were all excited about it, but I certainly didn’t wanna have some little parasite leeching off me for the rest of my life. I ain’t never wanted to be no Mamma. Then you went off with your buddies for the weekend, and I saw my chance.”
     “What are you saying?” Pete said, and Hudson noticed that he was squeezing the washcloth so hard that water was dribbling down his arm.
     “I had an abortion,” Shelia said through gritted teeth, cords standing out in her neck as another labor pain wracked her body. “I had an abortion then told you I’d lost the baby when you got back.”
     Pete looked too stunned to speak, and Hudson was pretty damn stunned himself. This changed the equation quite a bit. Spirits by and large were benign entities, but the ghosts of murder victims could be vengeful, looking for payback from those that murdered them. Hudson wasn’t some right-wing nut who equated abortion with murder—as far as he was concerned, until birth the baby was part of the woman’s body and she had every right to do with it as she pleased—but from the baby’s perspective, Shelia could be construed as its killer.
     Pete opened his mouth, seeming about to say something, when Shelia let out her loudest scream yet, arching her back and digging her nails into the mattress. Hudson could see her opening up before him, skin ripping at the edges, and he thought he heard the distinctive crack of breaking bone. Blood and mucus sprayed his hands. It was time.
     “Can you see anything?” Pete asked, an edge of hysteria in his voice. “Can you see the baby?”
     Pete’s may have seemed like a stupid question, but Hudson knew it wasn’t. Some ghosts manifested themselves as fully corporeal, others were insubstantial wraiths, and still others were completely invisible. There was no way to know how the ghost of the baby would appear, or if it would appear at all.
     Shelia continued to scream, and Hudson leaned forward, snatched the washcloth from Pete’s hand, and stuffed it in Shelia’s gaping mouth, muffling her cries.
     “What’d you do that for?” Pete asked.
     “Do you want the neighbors calling the police on us? She’s screaming like someone’s killing her, and if things don’t go well…”
     “If things don’t go well what?”
     Hudson looked his brother steady in the eye and said, “We’ll have a dead body on our hands.”
     Even in the grips of her pain, Shelia seemed to hear this and started thrashing her head back and forth, hair whipping around her face, biting into the washcloth. Blood and other fluid continued leaking from her as her skin stretched wider, and Hudson held out his hands. It was instinctual but impractical; he knew that ghosts had no substance, so even if the baby was corporeal, he wouldn’t be able to touch it.
     A shrill crying filled the air, and for a moment Hudson thought Shelia must have spit out the washcloth, but then he saw that her stomach was rapidly shrinking back to its original proportions, like a deflating balloon. The crying was all around him, coming from everywhere and nowhere at once. The baby had been born.
     Shelia lay flat on the bed, panting and feeling of her stomach. She removed the makeshift gag and started laughing, the sound hoarse and raw. “It’s over, it’s out.”
     Hudson looked up at his brother and was shocked to see him staring down at Shelia with unadulterated hatred and rage; it was rather frightening. The crying continued around them. “Pete,” Hudson said tentatively, “you okay?”
     “Give us a minute,” he said flatly, not taking his eyes off Shelia. “I wanna talk to my old lady alone.”
     Hudson didn’t argue. He climbed down off the bed and left the room, closing the door behind him. He stopped in the kitchen and washed himself as best he could in the sink before going into the living room and sitting down on a hard futon that smelled unpleasantly of sweat and Cheese Doodles.
     Hudson could still here the crying in the living room. It seemed to fill the whole trailer, having no one particular focal point of origin. After ten minutes, Pete joined him. He looked exhausted, as if he were the one who had just given birth, and there was something dead in his eyes.
     “Everything okay?” Hudson asked, and was surprised to find that he was sincere in his concern.
     “Told her I wanted her out. I’ll give her a coupla weeks to heal up then she can pack her (censored) and get out.”
     “Where will she go?”
     “You think I give a (i'm 12 and just learned how to swear)? She knew how bad I wanted to be a Daddy, and she took that from me.”
     The two sat together for a while without saying anything, nothing but the phantom crying breaking the silence.
* * *
     Pete drove Hudson back home. It was almost four; Hudson wasn’t likely to get any sleep before his meeting later in the morning, but that was okay. When Pete pulled up to the curb in front of Hudson’s house, Hudson turned to his brother and said, “I’ll try to figure out some way to get rid of the baby.”
     Pete jumped as if he’d forgotten Hudson were there. “What?”
     “Well, ghosts can usually be reasoned with, convinced to move on, but this is the spirit of an infant, and infants lack the intellect for advanced reasoning. But don’t worry, I’ll find a way.”
     “Don’t what?”
     Pete looked over at Hudson, and the deadness that had been in his eyes earlier had been replaced by need and longing. “Don’t get rid of it. I don’t want you to.”
     “Why not?”
     Pete said nothing for a moment then looked away and muttered, “I always wanted to be a Daddy.”
     Hudson got out of the car without another word. He stood on the sidewalk and watched his brother drive away. After the taillights had faded in the darkness, Hudson turned and went inside.
Mark Allan Gunnells
We are not strangers to ourselves, we only try to be. --Odd Thomas by Dean Koontz
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Oddy View Drop Down

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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Oddy Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: September/15/2007 at 5:05pm
Very creative, I loved it.

I changed had to hand for you in case you send this in to a magazine.
"Hudson realized that he still had his hand splayed on Shelia’s stomach and he removed it. “If I had to hazard a guess, I’d say that the ghost of the child Shelia lost has not moved on but has stayed behind.”"
"I'm not superstitious, but I am a little stitious"
~Michael Scott in The Office
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote tasha Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: September/16/2007 at 12:45am
Another great Hudson story, I'm probably repeating myself, but you really should write a full length Hudson story, you've created a brilliant character.
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Thanks guys, appreciate your words, and appreciate your correction Oddy. Don't worry, before I submit to magazines I do a thorough and extensive read-through/edit/polish. I just put this up here on this site the morning after I finished before I proofed it.

Hudson is only the second "series" character I've ever done. The first was a series of over a dozen stories and novellas about a writer named Nigel. Some are not horror at all, others include vampires/ghosts/time travel/body switching/voodoo...totally insane stuff, but he was fun to write over the years. If Hudson seems like a bastard, you would really hate Nigel because he prides himself on being a bastard, and he is a lot of fun to write, I'll tell you that. Anyway, I didn't intend to repeat Hudson, but after the first one I just really liked the concept and it seemed ripe for others. Maybe one day I'll get a novel idea for Hudson and he'll lead me to the big bucks. lol
We are not strangers to ourselves, we only try to be. --Odd Thomas by Dean Koontz
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