Gabriella Balcom lives in Texas with her family, works full-time in the mental health field, and has loved reading and writing her entire life. She writes fantasy, horror, sci-fi, romance, literary fiction, children’s stories, and more, and loves great stories, forests, mountains, and back roads. She has a weakness for lasagna, garlic bread, tacos, cheese, and chocolate, but not necessarily in that order, and adores Chinese, Italian, and Mexican food. Gabriella has had 350 works accepted for publication, and won the right to have a novel published by Clarendon House Publications when one of her short stories was voted best in the anthology in which it appeared. Her book, On the Wings of Ideas, came out afterward. She was nominated for the Washington Science Fiction Association’s Small Press Award, and won second place in JayZoMon/Dark Myth Company’s 2020 Open Contract Challenge (a competition in which around one hundred authors competed for cash prizes and publishing contracts). Gabriella’s novelette, Worth Waiting For, was then released. She self-published a novelette, Free’s Tale: No Home at Christmas-time, and Black Hare Press published her sci-fi novella, The Return, in 2021. Five other novellas pend publication. You are invited to visit her Facebook author page: https://m.facebook.com/GabriellaBalcom.lonestarauthor
“I stand before you with a heavy heart,” Pastor Nebbens began. “With tomorrow being Thanksgiving, this is usually a happy time, a time to count our blessings. But today the death of a loved one has brought us together. Our dear sister Martha Price has departed this mortal coil… Our congregation and community were blessed to have her as long as we did, and she was a true example of compassion, kindness, and charity. She will be greatly missed.” He continued. “Our thoughts and prayers go out to her husband, Thompson. May God watch over him and his family and see them through this dark time.”
When the memorial service ended, people flocked to Thompson, shaking his hand, hugging him, and offering their sympathy and best wishes.
“I’m dying inside,” he sobbed to an elderly lady. “She was my world, and I’m just miserable without her.”
“You poor boy,” she sympathized. “Call me anytime you want to talk.
He nodded, wiping his eyes.
Once Thompson got home, however, he crumpled his copy of the service program, tossing it in the trash. He ransacked his wife’s jewelry box, tossing inexpensive pieces away, and making a pile of valuable ones to sell. Afterward, he boxed up her antique glassware and lamps to dispose of, along with a sword belonging to her great-great-grandfather, who’d fought in the Civil War.
Then he drove to the funeral home. He’d made special arrangements to “spend more time with my sweetheart” in a private room before she was transported to the cemetery for burial.
Closing the door behind himself, he locked it, opened Martha’s casket, and removed her large, diamond-studded earrings, replacing them with fakes.
He frowned at her suit, wishing he’d managed to get to it before her sister had. He bet he could’ve returned it to the store. It had cost a little over $2,500, and he wanted to accumulate every penny he could. Needed was more accurate, since she’d cut him out of her will after catching him with another woman.
“Miserable bitch,” he muttered, glaring down at her body. “If I’d known you would do that, I would’ve poisoned you much sooner.” He was tempted to slug her, and more than once. She wouldn’t feel it, but hitting her would make him happy.
A glint from her hands caught his attention, though, and he noticed her rings. He’d forgotten about them.
Thompson took Martha’s left hand in his, smirking at the brilliant emerald she wore. He began sliding it off but flinched when her finger twitched. Surely he’d imagined it. He snorted but froze when it moved again.
Her hand shot toward him, grabbing and squeezing his throat.
He tried to pry the appendage loose, but it tightened, pinching off his airway.
Raspy sounds filled his ears. His chest tightened when he realized it was him, and horror sent his heart galloping. Fear and adrenaline made him stronger, enough to pry the hand off.
Gasping air into his starving lungs, he couldn’t move, let alone run. Martha sat upright, head swiveling in his direction, eyes popping open. They were no longer gold, but a disturbing red.
She parted her lips slightly but didn’t speak. Her mouth rapidly expanded past what was humanly possible, and she grabbed Thompson, yanking him toward her.
Her mouth became a gaping hole, enveloping his entire body.
All he could manage was a faint burbling sound before her teeth pierced his body. She chewed rapidly, then gulped him down.