Dominick Nole

The May Featured Writer is Dominick Nole

Please feel free to email Dominick at: neversleeps26@yahoo.com


by Dominick Nole

The dim hospital room smelled of a recent cleaning. Sarah listened to the steady beep of her mother’s heart monitor, a worried expression on her face. Not worry for her mother, though—she would be fine. The surgery went great and she was recovering nicely. No, she was concerned about…

There was a thin rasp from the sheets as her mother shifted a little, her dulled blue eyes opening slightly as she offered Sarah a limp, drug-induced smile.

“Hi, honey,” she whispered and licked her lips. “Thirsty.”

Sarah grabbed the cup of water from the table next to the bed and inserted the flexible straw into her mother’s waiting mouth. “Only a little, Mom.”

She nodded and sipped once, delicately. Sarah pulled the straw out and her mother once again licked her lips, moistening their dry, cracked canyons. She stared at Sarah for a moment, making her feel uncomfortable. Sarah knew she was assessing her outfit, a simple black blouse and pants. After a minute, her mother nodded in approval. “You look well.”

“Thanks,” Sarah said, brushing her hair behind her ear. “How are you feeling?”

For a moment Sarah thought her mother had fallen back asleep, then saw her shrug one bony shoulder. “I’m okay. Groggy. Doctor said I’ll be fine in a few days. I just wish—”

“I know, Mom. I know.”

“You’re a good girl. Doing this for me.”

“Yes.” Sarah clenched her fists. When her mother said nothing else, she rose from the uncomfortable chair and shouldered her purse. Soonest begun, soonest done.

“I’m gonna go, Mom. Okay?”

There was no response.

Sarah brushed the hair from her mother’s wrinkled brow and planted a kiss there before deciding to leave. When she reached the door her mother’s voice floated over her shoulder.

“You tell everyone I wish I could be there, okay?”

Sarah kept her back to her mother, not wanting her to see the grimace on her face.

“Okay, Mom.”


She looked over her shoulder.

“You make sure to give Nona a kiss goodbye for me.”

Sarah swallowed hard, one eye twitching in uneven jerks. “I…” She took a deep breath and steadied her voice. “I will.” She shut the door and hurried away.

“Good girl,” her mother said to the empty room as she drifted off.

When she left the hospital, the car’s engine droned down the suburban streets as Sarah drove at a leisurely pace to the funeral home. She hated driving at night. Besides, it’s not like her dead aunt would be going anywhere. She turned the heater on low to chase away the chill, her stomach a mass of wriggling worms one minute and an empty pit the next.


Give Nona a kiss for me.

Tears stung her eyes, her head and heart reeling from her mother’s request.

Nona was Sarah’s great aunt. Before her death she had been a large, troll-like woman with rotten teeth who delighted in tormenting a young Sarah. Of course, no one but Sarah and Nona knew this; well, and Uncle Henry. Sarah had once confessed to her mother about the things Nona did to her, but she accused Sarah of lying and made her apologize. And Nona…well, Sarah had never told anyone again.

Sarah squeezed her eyes shut, a single tear slipping down her cheek like a dying breath. She wiped it away. Best not to think about it.

Her stomach dropped further as she pulled into the funeral home parking lot and saw her Uncle Henry’s beat up, rusted pick-up. Oh God, not him too. But God ignored her, and Uncle Henry’s truck remained.

She parked the car. Her hands gripped the steering wheel so hard her knuckles grew white. Nona was the worst, even if she was dead. But Uncle Henry as well; it was just too much.

Her Uncle’s disembodied voice rose from the dark recesses of her troubled mind. Hey Sarah, wanna play a game?

What kinda game?

It’s about Nona.

The revolting slurping sound Uncle Henry made when he drank his beer flooded her mind, and she flinched. The sound made her think of a man-sized mosquito drinking blood from a large puddle.

“Stop it!” Sarah yelled at herself, banishing the black childhood memories. She drew a deep, shaky breath as she exited the car. Her heels clacked in a quick rhythm on the blacktop as she rushed to the front entrance, her breath puffing out in little clouds.

Just lay down on the altar like a good girl, Sarah. Nona is gonna draw a picture on your belly. It might sting a bit, but if you’re a brave girl, you’ll have a pretty picture on your stomach.

Sarah halted and hugged her purse to her chest. The funeral home looked inviting: clean, trim lawn; two stories of new egg-blue siding, and the warm, soft glow of light behind the curtains of the windows. But, Sarah thought, no matter how much they tried to make funeral homes look like homes, there would always be a cloud of death that surrounded them. Invisible, but—even on the clearest, sunniest day—not imperceptible.

The pungent odor of funeral flowers hit her like a punch when she opened the door; she tried not to gag on their thick, sweet scent. The funeral director (who could have been a double for Lurch on the Addams Family) nodded at her and offered a thin smile, his hands clasped at the front of his dark gray suit.

“Here for the Monticello funeral, Miss?” he asked in an odd, high-pitched voice.

“No, I came here to enjoy the upbeat, lively atmosphere,” she snapped at him. She felt a tinge of remorse as he frowned and unclasped his hands.

“Miss, have I offended in some way?”

“No, I’msorry,” she sighed. “I’m not feeling myself.”

He nodded gravely, once again clasping his hands together. “Yes, the death of a loved one is always hard on us, is it not?”

“Yes,” Sarah lied through gritted teeth, “it is.” She looked to her right. There was a low arch, and beyond it she could see a small room with chairs set up in rows. The candles that peppered the room threw shadows on the bare, off-white walls, shadows that danced like unthinkable creatures committing unspeakable acts.

“In there?” she gestured at the arch.

He nodded.

“Thank you,” she told him in a failing voice as she heard someone coughing, a cough she remembered all too well. She clutched at her throat as her Uncle Henry appeared in the archway.

Emaciated, his skin hanging from his crooked face in brown-spotted wattles, Uncle Henry looked like a dying goblin. He smiled at her with drippy, dark brown eyes, his five or six remaining teeth loose in their pus-infected sockets. She could hear phlegm rattling in his chest; that wretched, ugly pendant of his rising and falling on his black shirt as he struggled for air. How many times had that pagan stick figure pendant dangled above her face?

Sarah, me and Nona gonna play a game with you now. Draw a picture on your belly.

“Sarah.” His words came out in a low gurgle, startling her out of the memory. “Didn’t expect to see you here.”

His familiar smell preceded him as he drew closer, the stench stronger than that of the funeral flowers, and her gorge rose. Stale cigarettes and cheap beer, and lurking underneath that was a musty old piss smell, one she associated with nursing homes and the elderly.

She returned his gaze, not giving him the satisfaction of her fear. “Uncle Henry. I didn’t expect to see you here, either.”

He stopped in front of her, a once imposing, strong man, now with a back bent enough that he had to look up to meet her eyes. “Oh, you thought I’d be too drunk to be here, din’tcha? Too old. Too old and drunk.”

“I didn’t say th—”

You didn’t have to!” he snarled at her. “I could see it in your eyes.”

“You can think what you want,” she said as she stepped around him, “but if you don’t mind, I’d like to do as my mother asked and pay my respects.”

She walked slowly up the aisle between the chairs, thankful to be away from the rank-smelling demon.

“Sarah. Wanna play a game?”

Eyes wide and hurt, she turned and saw him open the front door of the funeral home, probably to go outside for a cigarette. “A secret game,” he said with a wink as the door closed.

Sarah turned into a little girl again, the same little girl with the messy auburn hair and big brown eyes that would lay on the concrete altar—so cold her skin would erupt with goose pebbles—while her Uncle Henry’s pendant swayed back and forth in front of her eyes as he chanted strange words, her fat Aunt Nona coming towards her holding a strangely shaped knife, other shrouded figures holding candles and swaying at her peripheral vision; Nona would cut that weird-looking symbol on her soft belly, and then…

Stop it! Sarah scolded herself. That’s over now! You’re a grown woman and Nona is deader than dog shit. She began walking again, the casket growing closer. There were no wreaths of flowers or other gaudy final farewell baubles surrounding it. Just a plain black casket.

It was open.

There were people sitting in the chairs, familiar to her somehow, six to the left and five to the right. They wore mysterious Mona Lisa smiles and began to whisper to each other as she peeked at them from the corners of her eyes.

Cloaked bodies swaying, gleaming eyes and grinning faces, Nona’s cold blade caressing her bare skin.

She almost bumped into the casket. She looked inside and gasped.

Nona had always been a fat woman who stomped about on tree trunk legs. But the thing in the casket… it couldn’t be.

Her wretched aunt had withered like a dead plant. She had transformed into a skeleton wearing nothing more than loose skin and a faded violet dress, and her once luxuriously thick hair was now a ratty tumbleweed. Previously thick lips were now shriveled and sunken into her gums. The fingers on the hands clasped at her stomach were entwined twigs.

Sarah could hardly believe it was the same Nona who had showed her a secret game that involved blades and cutting and chanting. The same Nona who had sometimes drank her blood. The same Nona who had—

She stopped the tears before they could begin. No, she would not cry in front of this horrible excuse for a human being, even if she was dead.

“It’s over,” Sarah sighed. “Finally over.” She turned to leave.

Give her a goodbye kiss for me.

Sarah turned back around. Could she do it?

A cloud of formaldehyde made her wrinkle her nose as she leaned down, her lips hovering near Nona’s ear, the heavy powder of the mortician’s makeup blowing away in little puffs as Sarah’s breath escaped her nose in quick bursts. She leaned closer still, her lips pursed.

“I hope you’re burning in Hell, you old witch,” she whispered into the hair-filled cup of Nona’s ear.

Nona growled.

Sarah bolted upright and away from the casket, a scream barely locked behind her lips. She saw Nona’s mouth twist and curl like an angry dog‘s.

The familiar strangers seated in the chairs began to speak in hushed, excited voices, pointing at the casket, winking at Sarah. The room spun and there was a moment where Sarah was sure she was going to faint. It passed. She took one last terrified look at the grinning, chattering people in the seats, then fled the room.

“Miss, is everything alright?” the funeral director asked in a concerned tone as she rushed past him.

“I think I’m gonna be sick.” She slammed through the door and out into the night, taking great gulps of fresh, cold air as she bent over with her hands on her knees. A gnarled hand caressed her shoulder, and this time she did scream.

“There, there, Sarah. Everything will be okay.” Uncle Henry leered at her, too close for comfort. She shoved him away, hard, and was disappointed that he did not fall and crack his head open.

“Why child, whatever is the matter?” he smiled at her. “See something that upset you?”

Sarah backed away from him, wild-eyed and shaking. “You just stay away! Stay away from me, Uncle Henry!”

He frowned at her. “Why would you say such things?”

“Y-you know why!” she sobbed, her keys jangling out an atonal tune as her shaking hand struggled to fit one into the lock on the car door.

“Sure you didn’t forget to do something in there? Maybe something your momma asked of you?”

She turned to him, her eyes glaring. “I forgot nothing! I never have! I paid my respects and now I’m leaving.” She jerked the door open and nearly dove inside. The engine rattled to life, and as she put the car in reverse there was a sharp rap on her window. She yelped and looked to her left.

Uncle Henry goggled at her, his eyes running, runnels of yellow drool dangling from the corners of his mouth. “You forgot!” he yelled, spraying her window with his curdled spit. It looked like piss-colored magma running down the glass. “You forgot! But I didn’t! You owe your Nona a kiss!”

Sarah had had enough. She punched the accelerator, her tires screeching and smoking. The car sped away down the street, her Uncle Henry yelling after it like a mad prophet.

“We used to play a game! But we never finished it, Sarah!” He grinned. “We never finished it.” He watched until he could no longer see her car, then hobbled back inside to tend to Nona.


Sarah had originally planned to go back to the hospital, but not now. She went home instead and took a shower, as hot as she could stand, but she knew from experience it would not be hot enough to burn away Uncle Henry’s touch or the kiss of Nona’s blade.

Her flannel pajamas kept her warm as she poured herself a bourbon. She plopped onto her bed, the alcohol burning pleasantly on its way down her throat. Her fingers tapped on the night stand next to her bed and she bit her lip.

Screw it.

She opened the drawer. The prescription pill bottle gave a slight rattle. Valium. Should help with the anxiety, the doctor had told her once upon a time. DO NOT TAKE WITH ALCOHOL was written at the bottom of the label. She shrugged, popped one in her mouth, and chased it with more bourbon. Maybe not such a good idea, but after the horror of her Uncle Henry and growling, dead aunt she needed something.

Her bedroom was a jumble of soft shadows cast by the light of her reading lamp. She sank into the bed, which had never felt more comfortable, and the pills and booze began to wash over her in slow, violet waves; her brow grew heavy, her mouth hung open. She fell in love with the increasing numbness. The smooth, silky arms of chemically-induced sleep began to enfold her.


Her eyes shot open. The bottom step, it always creaked like that. She held her breath and waited. There was nothing. She was being silly; she had had a bad scare tonight, sure, but she was being silly.


That was the top step. Someone had just walked up her stairs.

Sarah struggled to push herself up. Her arms weighed a million pounds and her head felt like an anchor. She only succeeded in knocking the lamp over, breaking the bulb. The pale, silvery moonlight coming through her windows was the only light she had now. Again and again she tried to pick her head up, but it only lolled from side to side.

Her bedroom door cracked open to display a shadowy, hunched figure standing in the hallway.

“Whooo?” Sarah murmured through rubbery lips, and then the odor of stale cigarettes and cheap beer filled her bedroom. She tried to scream, but could only manage a weak moan.

Uncle Henry shuffled into the room like a mummy.

“Sarah,” he said, laughter brimming underneath the words. “Wanna play a secret game?”

The drugs continued to work on her, getting stronger, pummeling her into submission. A clammy hand clamped down on her wrist like a vice. She turned to see her Uncle Henry.

“Sarah,” he said again. His stick figure pendant waved in front of her eyes as he leaned closer, his stench assaulting her nostrils.


“Got a visitor,” Uncle Henry cooed softly into Sarah’s ear. Her eyes rolled in her head, her fear beginning to fight with the drugs.


She finally found the strength to struggle, but Uncle Henry squeezed her wrist harder, almost breaking it, and he whispered some strange words into her ear. She relaxed against her will.

A gaunt form stepped into the room, and the dead reek of formaldehyde and funeral flowers replaced that of cigarettes and booze.

Nona jiggered and twitched as if she had a hard time keeping her feet. Her pupils glowed a dark, poisoned green. She inched closer, moving from shadow to shadow. Her jaw lowered and her wrinkled, folded lips fell from her mouth, still stuck together. Clawed hands rose to her face and began prying them apart. A dull tearing noise, almost like velcro, filled the room. The lips hung like torn mats once they came apart. There was no blood, just pale red under-flesh that contrasted with the dusty makeup.

She smiled at Sarah, revealing a mouth full of grimy shark teeth. Gurgled laughter came from her throat, followed by a stinking jet of formaldehyde. She wiped a skeletal arm across her mouth as she arrived at the side of the bed.

Sarah moaned again. It was becoming harder and harder for her to breathe, there didn’t seem to be enough air in the room.

“Sarah,” Nona rasped in a ghoul's voice, stroking Sarah’s hair, and Sarah felt all her fears and worries fading away. She couldn't understand why she had been so afraid. It wasn't so bad. It was time to finally finish the game.

“I think,” Nona continued as she leaned closer and pulled a blade from her funeral dress, those razor teeth filling Sarah’s vision, “that you owe me a kiss.”

Dominick Nole was born in 1984. He lives in Pennsylvania where he divides his time between horror movies, writing, playing guitar, cooking, hiking, and fishing.