Category Archives: Short Stories

“The Impossible House,” A Robert Asher Story

The Impossible House, by Adam Casalino

The Impossible House
by Adam Casalino

     Robert Asher fell down the porch steps.  He crashed against the sidewalk, his face and palms landing in a puddle.  Pushing up on his elbows, he looked back at the front door.  He caught one last glimpse of the man who ejected him, before the door closed with a snap.

“You’ll never get in.  If they don’t want you to get in, you’re not getting in.”

Phillip Pettigrew stood over Asher in his tailored suit, walking stick, and fedora.  A cigar was in his mouth.  He did not help Asher up.

“Thanks for the pep talk,” Asher said as he stood.

“Trust me, Robert.  This is a fool’s errand.  You can spend all night trying to get into this house.  You’ll keep failing.”

Asher glared at his fair-weathered ally as he dusted himself off.  “My client hired me to get into that house.  I don’t fail my clients.”

“Obviously your client had no idea what was inside this house,” Pettigrew said.  “If he did, he might not have contacted you.”  He drew a handkerchief from a pocket and gave it to Asher.  “You have some… on your face.”

Asher took the embroidered cloth and dabbed his mouth.  Blood soaked the handkerchief.  “Anywhere else?”

Pettigrew gestured at his own face.  “Yes.  Everywhere.”

Asher snorted a laugh as he wiped his brow, cheeks, and chin.  “Been a rough one.”

“It has made you considerably uglier,” Pettigrew said.

“And it hasn’t even started yet.”

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“The World Within,” An Occult Detective Tale

robertasher-worldwithin

The World Within
by Adam Casalino

“You’re doing it all wrong.  You need to focus.”

“Stop telling me what to do.”

“Somebody needs to.  How else are you going to pierce the astral plane and gain a higher level of consciousness?”

“That’s not what I’m trying to do.”

“Clearly.  You’re not doing anything.”

Robert Asher sat on a park bench.  He was uncomfortable.  His acquaintance, Phillip Pettigrew, stood a few feet away.  Pettigrew watched him, arms folded across his chest.  Although his eyes were closed, Asher could feel Pettigrew’s stare.  It was like a drill boring into his skull.

“You know, I’m starting to wonder why I asked you for help,” Asher said.

“Because you have excellent taste,” Pettigrew said.  “And–as one of the precious few who understands your abilities–I can help you.  That is, of course, if you bother to listen to me.”

“It’s too cold,” Asher said.  “I can’t concentrate.”

“That’s part of the lesson,” Pettigrew said.  “Ignore the cold.”

“It’s snowing, Phil.”

“Is it?”  Pettigrew looked around, noticing for the first time the snowflakes that were falling to the ground.

“I’m not sure you really can help me,” Asher said.

“That’s because you’re not focusing!”

Asher grumbled.  This was becoming difficult.  He was not used to things being difficult.  At least, a thing as second-nature to him as this.  Since he was a boy, he had the power to sense the presence of the dead.  Specifically, he could read the thoughts and feelings of ghosts as well as detect traces of their presence.  With this power, he worked as an occult detective, solving cases the police off as impossible.  It was there that he found, the real challenges.

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“Longshanks,” A Robert Asher Story

robertasher-longshanks

Longshanks
by Adam Casalino

Robert Asher was sitting up in a tree.  It wasn’t his idea.  Nor was it his idea to handle the awkwardly designed crossbow that was nestled against his shoulder.  He wasn’t a very good shot with the bow; after all, he had only practiced using it for a few hours before he got into the tree.  When he had to use a weapon, he preferred a gun.  Given the circumstances, however, that wouldn’t have worked; bullets don’t come in silver.

Asher shifted his weight in the blind.  The whole tree shook.  For a moment he questioned the wisdom of putting a man of his size twenty feet up an oak.  The hunter who had hastily instructed him on the matter assured Asher it was fine.  At that moment the detective wasn’t so convinced.

He had no way of consulting the old hunter, though: he had been eaten a day ago.

Pulling back his glove, Asher checked his watch.  In the thin gleam of the moonlight he saw that it was two o’clock.  His breath curled away like smoke, fogging up the watch face.  He let the glove fall back over it and looked out at the woods around him.

He was somewhere in the Appalachian Mountains.  Asher wasn’t certain where exactly; he had been moving for days and was sure he crossed state lines more than once.  All he was confident of was that it was night and there was a rancid smell in the air.

It reminded him of blood and feces.  The stench had been growing for the last hour.  Asher was no outdoorsman; he wasn’t familiar with the scents of nature.  But this was not a natural smell.  It was ripe and thick.  He could taste it on his tongue.  It was a smell he knew all too well.

The creature appeared, slowly moving down the slope.  Asher narrowed his eyes as he watched it move.  The creature clung to the ground like a spider.  Its arms and legs were splayed out, making it almost flat.  Asher didn’t believe something that was once a man could bend like that.

Head forward, it slunk from tree to tree.  Asher held his breath and listened.  He heard a low, snuffling sound.  It was searching for his scent.  Asher wondered how the monster could smell anything over its own stench.  But he knew that its sense of smell was preternaturally keen.  It could have picked Asher out from a mile away.

The thing paused by a tree only yards away.  The detective watched as the creature studied the trunk.  The large arms reached out, clamping onto the tree with both hands.  Its breathing grew louder as the creature exerted its strength.  With a crack, the tree broke in half.  Asher watched chunks of truck slide down the mountainside.  The thing hunkered down beside the shattered stump, almost gloating.

Asher laughed to himself.  “Showing off, you son of a bitch?”

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“Blood of the Saint,” A Robert Asher Story

Blood of the Saint

March 7, 1936:

Robert Asher wasn’t feeling well.  His head was throbbing and his vision was blurred.  Every subtle noise would send stabs of pain through his skull.  A glass of Alka-Seltzer was foaming beside his hand.  He absentmindedly rubbed the welt on the side of his face as he glanced at the morning paper.  Last night did not go as planned.

The footsteps screamed at him.  Harsh steps echoed down the hall, doing little to alleviate his condition.  Two sets of patent leather shoes squeaked and snapped at the hardwood floors outside his office.  A third pair was a little more forgiving, stepping lightly behind.  The noise wasn’t helping Asher’s mood.  It got even worse when the feet stopped at his door.

They hesitated before knocking.  Despite the effort to whisper, Asher heard them plainly.

“I don’t know about this, Tom.”

“Don’t be a fool, Patrick.  We came all this way to talk to the man.”

“You can’t really believe what they say about him,” said Tom.  “About what he can do?”

“Of course not,” said Patrick, “but I’m not going back to Washington empty-handed.”

Asher sat up in his chair and focused his eyes on the door.  Washington?  This was getting interesting.  The men called Tom and Patrick continued to bicker, until the third man intervened.

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The Ghost Bride, A Rober Asher Story

The Ghost Bride, A Robert Asher Story

The Ghost Bride
by Adam Casalino

June 1, 1952

Jonathan Lewis paced back and forth in his room.  For the fifth time that morning, he checked himself in the mirror.  The flower in his lapel was crooked.  His hair wasn’t right.  The suit felt baggy, then too tight.  There wasn’t enough air in the room.  Jonathan ran to the window and flew it open.  It made him cold.  His agony was saved by a knock at the door.

“Yes, come in.”

Michael, the best man, poked his head in.  He smiled, stepped inside, and tried to reassure the groom.  Jonathan shrugged and slumped down in a chair.

“The day’s finally here,” Jonathan said.  “I don’t think I’m ready.”

“Of course you are,” Michael said.  “You are Angela are made for each other.”

“I thought that once before.”  Jonathan’s face grew dark.

Michael reached across and put a hand on his shoulder.  “Stop that.  The past is behind you.  You deserve a new life, with Angela.”

The groom smiled weakly.  “You’re right.”  He stood up and straightened his jacket.  “How do I look?”

“Like a champ.”

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