WHAT HAPPENED WAS IMPOSSIBLE
AMERICAN PSYCHO meets WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT KEVIN
First, our hours at the bookstore are slightly different this week. We are still open Tuesday-Saturday, except on Wednesday we are closing 90 minutes early so I can participate in a FREE Zoom presentation about publishing during COVID. (On the website, the event is scheduled for 2pm-4pm PST, so that would be 4pm-6pm CST.)
So this week our hours are as follows:
MONDAY | CLOSED
TUESDAY | 10AM - 5PM
WEDNESDAY | 10AM - 3:30PM
THURSDAY | 10AM - 5PM
FRIDAY | 10AM - 8PM
SATURDAY | 10AM - 8PM
SUNDAY | CLOSED
Our latest publication through Ghoulish Books, E. F. Schraeder’s What Happened Was Impossible, is officially available today. Here it is, posing under our green neon sign in the front lobby of our bookstore:
Here’s our brief back-cover copy describing the book:
Everyone knows the woman who escapes a massacre is a final girl, but who is the final boy? What Happened Was Impossible follows the life of Ida Wright, a man who knows how to capitalize on his childhood tragedies…even when he caused them.
We’ve been pitching it as American Psycho meets We Need to Talk About Kevin.
Check out Matthew Revert’s full jacket art:
If you haven’t already, you can order What Happened Was Impossible directly through our webstore. It’s also available at our physical bookstore (9330 Corporate Drive, Suite 702, Selma, TX 78154) or through Bookshop.org.
A little bit about the author:
E.F. Schraeder is the author of the Imadjinn Award finalist Liar: Memoir of a Haunting (Omnium Gatherum, 2021), As Fast as She Can (Sirens Call Publications, 2022), a story collection, and several poetry chapbooks. Schraeder’s first full-length poetry collection, The Price of a Small Hot Fire, is forthcoming from Raw Dog Screaming Press. Part time librarian and full-time horror fan, Schraeder is also a hot pepper enthusiast who believes in ghosts, magic, and dogs.
And now, an excerpt from What Happened Was Impossible:
How She Died
Fay Parker, Medical Examiner
A lot of stories like this start with the body of a woman. This time, the body belonged to a mother. That made it different than the usual dead women I stare at. I knew this one’s name and address before taking a look at her.
She was no schoolgirl nabbed by a dangerous, psychopathic stranger or handsy neighbor. She wasn’t an anonymous college woman who stayed out late partying too hard with the wrong friends or taking risks on the streets. She wasn’t an offbeat loner roaming the edge of town at night looking for drugs or other sorts of trouble that happens. Murder was never anyone’s debt for poor choices.
No. But this body belonged to a woman who’d followed the rules. Made safe choices. Lived up to expectations. At least until the point where she separated from her husband. He’d be a suspect, of course, but still. Staring at it for the first time. This body pushed against the script, and therefore threatened to make less sense. Yet somehow, this body ended up just as dead.
Caroline Wright. Fifty-four. About five foot six inches tall, Caroline was a white woman with a medium build and long, light auburn hair twisted into a tidy bun. A smear of crimson lipstick on her parted lips. Caroline was ultimately, quintessentially average. A middle-class white woman living on a cul-de-sac like a hundred other houses in a colorless suburban street. Hers was the kind of development that came out of redlined districts back in the day, surrounded by comparable houses each of which looked a little outdated. This body belonged inside one of those houses doing dishes or making dinner, not twisted in a sticky swirl of blood and sour puddle of urine.
Until this morning, Caroline’s body was that of a comfortable wife and mother of two teenagers: one boy and one girl, Ida and Jade. Two average kids who, from the awards lining the hallway, I suspected got decent grades. Also from the photos I figured there were very few distinguishing interests or features about them other than matching waves of strawberry blond hair. Two bland kids with bland lives, few extracurricular activities, and perhaps even fewer problems. Until now. Starting tomorrow, their lives would be permanently scarred by this scene.
The only curiosity about her children was how two well-off kids could manage to be so completely uninteresting and uninspiring. The mother who produced those kids seemed like part of some kind of abstracted, imaginary U.S. average. That of a good life.
That body wasn’t supposed to be so miserable she’d slice open her own throat.
But that’s exactly what appeared to have happened with Caroline Wright. On the day she died, Caroline was alone in her bathroom. She must have suffered at the time of death. According to her children, husband, co-workers, and neighbors, and everyone the cops spoke to, no one in her life could have predicted, imagined, or remotely suspected she was on the verge of committing the ultimate irreversible act. Suicide wasn’t something she spoke of.
But that’s what I was probably going to declare it. Suicide. Though it seemed improbable, Caroline’s suicide was not impossible.
What I knew was this: Caroline left no note at the scene. But there was also a lack of struggle, no defensive wounds to suggest she’d fought anyone or tried to protect herself. The house showed no signs of forced entry. In fact, there was a complete lack of evidence of any kind. Nothing indicating an intruder or even a guest had entered the house on the morning of the incident. All the fingerprints belonged to family members. And all of those family members provided completely verifiable alibis during Caroline’s estimated time of death.
Suicide. Because there were no signs of an intruder and because nothing was missing. Without an attempted burglary, there was no reason to suspect any wrongdoing or robbery gone wrong.
Suicide. Because the husband was where he claimed to be and the kids were at school.
Suicide. Because Caroline had no rivals at work, no hidden romances, no conflicts with neighbors or anyone in her life. Everyone spoke about her with a restrained disinterest. Restrained because it seemed rude not to care about her now that she was dead.
Suicide. Because there were no other options.
Just the same, the death and the scene of the event seemed unusual. Self-stabbing wasn’t exactly a popular way for middle-aged women to kill themselves. Poisoning was the common choice. Statistically. Not women like Caroline who were settled into the grooves of their lives. Not women who were dressed like they were going on a mid-day luncheon date with friends. Not women who had played all the odds and found comfort. It was girls who were at risk of suicide because by the odds, among the female of the species, it was teenaged girls who were most likely to die by suicide. Probably because girls were so fucking impulsive.
In most countries, suicide was more successful—meaning more effective—for men. Sure, women made almost double the attempts to off themselves, but the common assumption among us medical professionals was that those were manipulative gestures that sometimes landed them in hospitals. The point was, women usually failed at it.
Men knew how to do that shit. Men died more than twice as often as women by suicide. Men made capable, fast, irreversible decisions. Also because men made solid choices when it came time to pick a lethal method.
Not so for this woman. Caroline lived up to her name. Caroline Wright did suicide right.
A spatter of blood coated the tiled walls. Red dripped from the mirror, and pooled on the floor by Caroline Wright’s head. But that wasn’t the ugliest image at the scene.
The slipped-open flesh of her neck left a gaping wound, with a small lesion exposing her trachea. On inspection, the wound displayed hesitation marks. That meant she’d paused at some point, then pressed deeper, cutting in and pulling up. She jammed the blade along her throat, and the slice lines showed every moment of her decision.
From the polished appearance to the attire, this didn’t look like the typical image of someone in a state of despair. Prone in a pool of her own blood, though she was wearing a fancy black dress and a good pair of heels, like she intended to go out. But that wasn’t the worst part, either.
Although the agony in her contorted mouth suggested tremendous pain, and the twisted position of her arms indicated a degree of uncontrolled convulsions or twitching, the worst part wasn’t the expression even as she lay there bleeding, face up, her mouth curled in terror. The worst part wasn’t that one wedge-heeled black shoe, half off her foot. A recent pedicure obvious from the deep shiny red polish on her toenails. Not even those half open eyelids, drooped with a mist of silver-green eyeshadow bothered me. The worst part wasn’t even the fly that landed on the pinch of rouge smudging her motionless cheek.
The worse part was the fucking bathmat. Specifically, the way the blood sank below the fuzzy sky-blue thing, sticking to the rubberized backing. The thick fibers curdling with organic matter, drenched as it soaked up her blood and piss. Right in front of the basin sink. The bathmat, no one could doubt, had been carefully selected to match the hint of flecked color in the subway tile around the soaker tub. Every element of the newly update room—other than the corpse—was a testament to expensive taste. This was a goddamned nice bathroom. The bathmat had been meant as a finishing touch. Her finishing touch.
The worst part was knowing Caroline had picked that thing up at a store and paid a nice penny for it before she bled to death all over it.
Order What Happened Was Impossible here.
Okay, that’s it for now. You can support us on Patreon, browse the books in our webstore, and follow us on Instagram, YouTube, Facebook, TikTok, and Twitter (PMMP | Ghoulish Tales | Ghoulish podcast | Ghoulish Books | personal).
My new book, Abnormal Statistics, is out now through Apocalypse Party.
Or just click on our LINKTREE for all relevant links.
You can also join us on the Ghoulish Discord.
See you next time, ghouls.