Kristen Houghton

The March Featured Writer is

Kristen Houghton

Please feel free to email Kristen at: Krisnalan2@msn.com


by Kristen Houghton

It was remarkable, thought Lucien as he surveyed his home from the front yard, that he was able to buy this stately old house in this quiet, beautiful neighborhood. The fact that it was perfect for everything he needed and wanted in a house never ceased to amaze him. That basement room for example.

“It’s a perfect find, Lucien,” said his oldest friend Marco when Lucien had shown him the room. “I wish I had a place like this. You’re lucky to live here. It will make it easier when you have to, uh, I mean when you’re, you know—away—for those monthly business trips.”

And Lucien did indeed consider himself lucky for finding and purchasing this house, even considering the indisputable fact that he was cursed.

He had taken the morning off from work so that he could be home for that delivery from Home Depot. He’d been meticulous about what materials he had needed. A heavy steel door, double dead-bolt locks, thick steel rings and chains, and sound-proofing materials for that room he’d refurbished in the basement. His quiet room so to speak. A deep sigh escaped him when he thought about how he would use the room but still, it had to be done. Had.To.Be.Done.

As he screwed the heavy metal rings into the cement wall, Lucien knew that he had to be quick and secretive. He couldn’t take the risk that his wife of just one year, a beautiful woman named Skye, would find out what was going on. She was gone for the next two weeks visiting and nursing her brother who had broken his leg in a soccer match. All to the good. Lucien didn’t want her to know what he was doing, not yet. She might be repulsed, might get hysterical about the cruelty of it all, might spoil all his carefully laid plans. The place, that room, had to be kept a secret. Soundproof. No one would hear any sounds coming from there, no one would know what he was doing.

He’d found out about that hidden room when they’d toured the home during an open house. While Skye had been checking out a pottery shed in the backyard, he’d wandered into the basement. Plain, unfinished, and empty, it was nothing to see really. But then, as he’d walked around the room touching the foundation near the walls, looking for any sign of the mold usually found in basements, he’d bumped into a wall that didn’t feel solid. It looked like the other three walls but it wasn’t like them at all. Intrigued Lucien had inspected it and found that the wall slid into a hidden pocket on one side. Pushing it open he was amazed to see that, behind the wall, was a small room, an obviously long unused, hidden room filled with dusty jars for canning. After carefully inspecting the room, he met his wife in the backyard.

“Oh Lucien, the potting shed is a real gem for me. There’s even an attached greenhouse. I can really attend to my plants there. It’s absolutely perfect and, best of all, it has a lock and key. I won’t have to worry about any thefts.”

Lucien smiled indulgently. Skye and her plants! Most of them looked as if they should be in a jungle setting. She was passionate about her plants and she had some rare, expensive ones. Lucien assumed that it was a good thing that the shed and greenhouse had a lock and key. Believe it or not, there were some people who would actually steal the rare plants and sell them to the highest bidders. Who knew that plants could be so lucrative? Suddenly he was glad that Skye had this interest in growing huge displays of tropical vegetation. It was a time-consuming hobby that would keep her distracted and out of his way.

“It’s so beautifully secluded too, Lucien. I like that. We’ll have all the privacy we’ve always said we wanted. No one for miles around. I can attend to my planting business in peace.”

Privacy, thought Lucien. All the privacy I need.

After they bought the house and moved in, he kept the knowledge of the room’s existence from Skye. Luckily his wife hated basements—she wouldn’t come into the basement of her own accord. She called them “musty, smelly, spider-web-filled horrors”. She’d hated doing laundry in the basement of their old house and was thrilled that she now had a laundry room equipped with a new washer and dryer on the first floor next to the kitchen. Plus, she was busy cleaning and refurbishing the potting shed and greenhouse. That took a great deal of her time.

That dirty little room was his and he set about cleaning it up whenever Skye was not at home. He wanted the quiet room to be as comfortable as it was secure. To that end he had painted the walls in soft pastel colors, colors that were soothing and peaceful, and installed a Bose system that would, among other things, play the sounds of nature—gentle summer rain, the chirping of crickets, and soft noises of a forest at night. “These peaceful sounds will help soothe the savage soul,” said the cheery advertisement he had seen at the store.

Soothe me! Oh God, if only something could soothe my fevered, tortured soul, the soul that compels me to act out in the vilest ways imaginable.

After the delivery from Home Depot, Lucien got to work and worked feverishly through the night. When he was finished he went outside for some air. Glancing at the cloud-covered night sky, he sighed deeply. Soon. What had to be done, had to be done. He was compelled to do it.

Cruel or not. Torturous or not. Screams and all.


Everything was secured. The sliding wall was firmly in place. It looked like the other walls in that empty basement. There was no sign of the heavy door hiding behind it. Lucien had tested the soundproofing by playing a Creedance Clearwater Revival song on the Bose at full blast, shutting the steel door, and going upstairs. He walked quietly around the house stopping in each room to listen; just listen for any sound from the basement.He heard absolutely nothing. No sounds could be heard coming from that room. His quiet room. No sounds at all. Lucien breathed a sigh of relief. No one would hear the cries.

He walked in the backyard late that night, glancing, always glancing, up at the night sky. Night sky. His wife had told him that she’d been named for the night sky that loomed majestically over Big Sur. “The night I was born, the moon was full and there were so many brilliant stars out. My father told me that the stars spoke to him and he just knew that I had to be named for the sky. His divine night sky, he said.”

The night sky, Lucien’s nemesis. How ironic that his wife was named after the very thing that contained something having the power to torment him.

His own Skye, his beautiful unsuspecting wife, so trusting, so innocent—she was a gift from the gods. A special, tantalizing gift so to speak because in some strange way she was an enigma to him. There was a subtle age-old mystery about her. At the beginning of their relationship, Lucien had spent many nights trying to figure out what made her mysterious. Finally, he had put her mystery down to a shyness and reserve that was rather old-fashioned, qualities that made her all the more enchanting.

Lucien had met her at a museum where they had both attended a show on Western Asian art. The art was exquisite if not a bit frightening in its detailed sketches of ancient Mesopotamian demon gods destroying humanity. Skye had been fascinated by it all. Lucien had been fascinated as well but also sad and just a bit repulsed by the horrible nature of those demon gods. He knew all too well the horror of his own nature.

Ah, my beautiful wife. Lucien dreaded when he had to tell her the truth about—he sighed—the truth about that quiet room and—everything he was going to do there. Everything his nature compelled him to do.


His cell phone buzzed and he saw it was a call from Skye. Watching the clouds drift slowly past the moon, Lucien answered, making his voice sound as if he didn’t have a care in the world. “Hello my love; how are you doing? How’s William?”

“Lucien, I love hearing your voice. I miss you. I’m okay—finally got William’s apartment straightened out. He takes bachelor life to a whole new level of messiness! Anyway, he’s fine and lying on the couch watching some horror movie. I’m hoping to return next week. William’s fiancée should be back from her business trip by Tuesday. I have to be here when she arrives.”

“Of course you need to be there. I understand. I miss you too, Skye.”

“And speaking of business trips, I know you have one coming up soon, so I want to make sure I’m home before you leave. I want to make that special dinner you love so much. You always seem to be ravenous the night before going on a trip.”

Ravenous, yes, ravenous. Lucien held his breath for a second. “Yes, of course, but listen Skye, I…um, I wanted to talk to you about my uh, well, my future trips.”

He’d often wondered how Skye passed the time when he was away. She did have her plants and all. Still, he imagined she was lonely and missed him as much as he missed her. When he’d ask her how she spent her time she always smiled mysteriously and told him not to worry about her. She had things to do; things that needed her attention.

There was a soft laugh. “Why Lucien! Are you suggesting that I accompany you on those trips that you say are oh, so boring?”

“Well, not exactly but, listen we’ll, we’ll definitely need to talk about—about everything when you come home next week. It’s very important to me that we talk.”

“Everything?” Her voice sounded strange—too alert as if she already knew his secret. Lucien shook his head. No, no, of course she doesn’t know anything. I’ve been careful.

“Should I be concerned, Lucien? Is there a problem? Have I done something to make you angry with me?”

Her hastened to reassure her. “Oh no, my love, of course not. I simply meant that we should talk about everything that’s important to you, to us—everything that’s needed for us to have a good life together.” Lucien found that he was sweating profusely.

There was a pause and then a deep sigh of relief before she answered him. “Lucien, you are so sweet. We are going to have a wonderful life. Okay, when I return we’ll sit, snuggle, and talk.” She laughed again and began to talk about what it was like staying at her brother’s condo. “Guess what I did yesterday?”

Lucien sighed and listened to her talk. He adored the sound of her voice, a combination of breathless excitement and girlish innocence. He had truly believed that with her he could have a semblance of a normal life, a peaceful existence—but he was what he was. He could not deny his true self.

They talked for a few more minutes about ordinary things and then Skye had to hang up to give her brother his meds. “Bye, Lucien. Talk soon. I love you.”

Loves me, thought Lucien returning the sentiment as he clicked off. How much would you love me if you knew what a monster I am? Oh Skye!

Thinking of his wife, Lucien went to the quiet room to check the steel rings in the wall to make sure that they were strong enough to hold the heavy chains he would attach to them.


Skye had been home for two days when Lucien spoke to her about his ‘business trips’ and what he now wanted, needed to do. How he had decided that he had to do what he did at home, had to take care of his needs, attend to his business, so to speak, here where it was safer.Where no one would know what was happening, where there was no chance of anyone discovering the truth about what he was compelled to do. Skye sat and listened quietly, wide-eyed at first, and then surprisingly calm as Lucien described what he needed.

“Show me, Lucien,” was all she had said when he finished talking. “Show me what you want from me.”

Gently, silently he led her to the quiet room and stood back as she examined it. His sweet, innocent Skye surprised him. She showed more compassion and more understanding than Lucien had any right to expect. With interest and curiosity but no revulsion, she inspected the chains hooked by heavy metal rings embedded in the cement walls of the quiet room. Turning to Lucien she said, “They’re strong. They will hold no matter how hard one struggles.”

She walked around the room as he explained to her that it was thoroughly sound-proof. What went on here would not be heard by anyone else. He told her what to expect. The pain, the agony, what his needs and wants were. How he had to do what his mind compelled him to do and how she had to be a part of it.

She wasn’t disgusted by what he told her as he had feared she would be, and—here Lucien had to breathe a sigh of relief—nor was she afraid of him as she had every right to be. She accepted the situation as it was. As. It. Was. No one…no one had ever done that.

She was truly his mysterious gift from the gods.

That first night they were to use the quiet room, Skye walked hand-in-hand down to the basement with Lucien. It was empty of any furniture. The only items in the room were a large container of water near the wall where the shackles were to be used and a pile of blankets.

She fitted her slim wrist into the shackle as Lucien watched, then she cried softly for a few agonizing minutes. How horrible to be shackled, she thought, how awful to have to fight against one’s own natural instincts.

Finally, she looked at her husband and whispered, “I’m ready now.”

“My dearest love,” said Lucien as he approached the chains. “You have no idea what your willingness to do this means to me.”

Wrists were shackled to the thick chains, each one kissed gently before the locking mechanism was clicked.

“It’s time,” whispered Lucien. “Are you sure you’re ready?”

“Yes. Now I know what you are.” She kissed him and held him for a long time. “We can begin.”


Standing in the doorway, Skye watched as Lucien began his change into a fierce, enormous wild-eyed wolf. He struggled mightily against the heavy chains to no avail. His breath came in gasps and his eyes—oh, his lupine eyes still had a look of humanity in them as he looked pleadingly at her. Skye’s own eyes watched calmly at his frenzied desire to break free.

Break free. Freedom. One’s own nature. She knew, oh she knew!

She turned on the Bose and played the song Lucien had requested. Giving him one more loving look she said, “I’ll be back for you in three days, Lucien. I will be back and then we’ll talk again about the new path of our life together.”

A howl escaped from Lucien and then another and another. She was grateful that he had the quiet room and no longer had to hide in a dirty old root cellar in the woods on his monthly ‘business trips.’ Here, in their own home, he was finally safe.

But still—the horror of having to hide one’s own natural self. That was always the hardest thing to do in life. Hide one’s true self from the world. She sighed. Lucien’s fevered werewolf’s brain would cause him to struggle and howl in agony in his quiet room. His curse. Her gentle Lucien a raving, tormented creature during the full moon, hiding what he really was.

Ah, Lucien. I have always looked forward to your business trips, always treasured those few days of the month when I was alone to do what I had to do, what I needed to do. Skye shut the door behind her and bolted it closed.

It was time now for her. She had to attend to her own—business.


Standing in the back yard, Skye watched the moon rise to its majestic fullness. The moon: the mysterious full moon. Funny how it affects all creatures, she thought. She moved to the shadows by a tree and began her monthly chant to the night sky.

“Hear me, night stars, hear me as I stand now under your canopy of light and speak my truth. All humankind must fear me for I am Lamashtu, the ravenous hunter, the most terrible of all female demons, the daughter of the thunderous sky god Anu and Ki, the fiery lightning goddess of destruction.

“I, who hunt humans to drink their blood and eat their flesh, praise the night sky in all its glory. Hear my call and witness what I do this night. I am Lamashtu, the sky demon to be feared by all. Under the full moon of night, I give free rein to my own nature.”

Giving a fierce cry, Skye began her own change. A thick and glorious mane began to surround her head as her teeth grew long, pointed, and savage. Her skull moved agonizingly as her bones changed shape and her face morphed into a lion’s head. A loud roar escaped her lips as she gave one last look to the stars. A full moon, a bad moon. She growled with delight as the words to the song Lucien had requested she play for him sang in her mind.

I see the bad moon arising.
I see trouble on the way.
Well, don’t go around tonight,
‘Cause it’s bound to take your life,
There’s a bad moon on the rise.*

“A bad moon indeed, Lucien. A bad moon for you but not for me. For me the full moon is a time to be my true self. To satisfy my strong needs.”

Purring deeply, the lion-headed woman walked slowly to the potting shed where her brother’s fiancée awaited her surrounded by large plants native to old Mesopotamia and the old gods. Awaiting her, bound and ready, to have her blood drunk and her flesh eaten. Lamashtu salivated in expectation.

Tonight her hunger was great and she, Lucien’s sweet, beloved Skye, was her true self: Lamashtu the ravenous one.

*Written by John Fogerty

Kristen Houghton is the author of nine novels, two non-fiction books, a collection of short stories, a book of essays, and a children’s novella. The first four books in her best-selling series, A Cate Harlow Private Investigation, are now available in a box-set. The series has been voted one of the top five mystery/thriller series by International Mystery Writers. She is also the author of the Horror Book Club award-winning Quick-Read, Welcome to Hell.

Her latest book, Lilith Angel, was released in April, 2019. A sequel is slated for release later this year. “Her parents are vampires, her boyfriend’s a werewolf, she has untried witchy powers of her own—but teenager Lilith is just trying to live a “normal” life and pass advanced calculus! Life can be difficult for the otherworldly.”

Kristen Houghton has covered politics, news, and lifestyle issues as a contributor to the Huffington Post. Her writing portfolio includes Criminal Element Magazine, a division of Macmillan Publishing, Hartford Woman, Today, is head writer and senior fiction editor for Mused Literary Magazine, performs interviews and reviews for HBO documentaries, OWN, The Oprah Winfrey Network, and The Style Channel.