Now that you’ve heard so much about The Hook by Michael Leonberger from our Legendary anthology, are you ready for a taste?
Michael took the urban legend about the man with a hook for a hand who terrorizes young people on lovers lane and gave it a new twist, mixing in some romance and a character who needs to overcome her own fears to move on with her life.
THE HOOK (excerpt)
By Michael Leongerber
Tilly lost her hand and her dad in a ditch off Route 1134 and walked through the rest of her young life with that residue of guilt and shocked sadness. It clung to her like waste and she couldn’t quite scrub it away, because it should have been her.
It should have been her.
This she kept quiet about. She hid the bitter, black seed of self-hatred way down, where even if it bloomed, it would take years for anyone to see. The pouchy, ashy sprout of her torture, her guilt.
The Jaws of Life had wrenched the vehicle apart, but Dad was already gone. She could tell from his eyes that he wasn’t there anymore and it was an image she couldn’t blink away, even now. It sometimes waited for her when she fell asleep.
Her hand was gone, too. Crushed beneath the dash and where the tire had come up, all crushed steel and fire and screams and smells…
And if she thought about it too hard, it froze time. Trapped her in the past, in something like quicksand, in guilt, in horror. In mind numbing fear that she was only now, just now, finally getting through.
Not getting over, but getting through.
You don’t have to get over it, her therapist had told her. You have to get through.
So she could sit in the passenger seat and steady her jangling nerves so the driver couldn’t see her shake, for example. Pretend she wasn’t thinking that at any moment the car might flip and the driver might die and this was the last moment they’d ever share together. Pretend that her skin wasn’t tingling all the time with terror, that it wasn’t trying to bunch off and creep away from her.
No, instead she could learn to control her breathing.
To occasionally enjoy her dreams.
To even talk about her dad. Hold onto him, hold onto her memories, before he snapped into a million brittle pieces.
Hell, with enough time she could even talk with other people about their parents and keep her upper lip stiff, like the little soldier he would have wanted her to be.
The little soldier he’d groomed her to be.
The little soldier big Dad soldier had been so excited to see when he’d returned home. They hadn’t gotten him over there, no sir, not one bullet, not one scrape, and then little whiny bitch soldier had wanted to go to the mall, to buy something stupid and small and trivial, eye shadow or leggings, and she had no idea, no idea the cost, God help her, no idea…
But that was how it went. Her thoughts would slip away to that day and she’d have to steel herself back to the here and now, clawing the nails of her right hand into the nervy flesh on her left forearm. Above the sock which wrapped around her stump, between the straps of the harness of her hook, where the skin was open and aching to feel. Pain, she figured, is what it deserved.
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Urban legends. We’ve all heard them, we’ve all told them. They fill the role that fairy tales once held—morality tales meant to frighten us into sticking with the herd, obeying society’s rules, and not taking any chances. In most urban legends, once someone transgresses, we know things won’t end well for them.
But what if the bright spark of romance also common to these stories refuses to be snuffed out? What if it bursts into a love that fights for its chance to burn? Can love triumph over evil? Forgive any trespass? Heal any wound?
Set off into a dark wood with a young love that won’t go quietly into the night. Bait a vengeful ghost to find family, and love. Ride along with a hitchhiker who won’t vanish for long. Learn to love a touch that is not human. Find passion beneath the scars. Dive into five tales that speak to the heart of myth and find love that is nothing short of legend.
Featuring new stories by Sara Dobie Bauer, Wendy Sparrow, T. R. North, Aisling Phillips, and Michael Leonberger.