From the Vault: Bizarre Deaths/ Edgar Allan Poe

Bizarre Deaths
by Guy Portman

Edgar Allan Poe

Edgar Allan Poe

(January 19th 1809 – October 7th 1849) 

Notable works: The Raven, The Masque of the Red Death, Tamerlan and Other Poems

Poe was an author, poet, editor and literary critic, whose tales of mystery and the macabre are still widely read to this day.  One of the earliest American practitioners of the short story, Poe is also widely considered as being the inventor of the detective fiction genre.  Evidence of the writer’s enduring popularity is the fact that an original copy of Poe’s Tamerlane and Other Poems sold at Christie’s in New York for $662,500, a record price for a work of American literature.

The bizarre events surrounding Poe’s death were as mysterious as the nature of his writing.  On October 3rd, 1849 Mr. Joseph Walker found Poe wandering the streets of Baltimore in a delirious state.  The writer was taken to hospital but was unable to give an accurate account of what had occurred before his demise four days later.

There has been much speculation surrounding Poe’s sudden deterioration and death.  Due to the fact that he was found wearing someone else’s clothes, it has been argued that he was the victim of cooping, a practice in which citizens were attacked, absconded, plied with alcohol, and forced to vote for a political candidate.  His sudden deterioration and demise have also been attributed to alcoholism, TB, epilepsy, diabetes, and even rabies.

**********

Guy Portman is a writer currently residing in London, the city of his birth.  Guy’s next book, Necropolis, is a work of dark fiction about a psychopath, who is employed at his local council’s Burials and Cemeteries department.  Necropolis is due for release in late April 2014. For more info on Guy, go to: www.guyportman.com

Free Fiction : Hallowed Cliff By Dylan Thomas Lewis

The archway stood firm under the shroud of night, its heart spelled in dripping letters: Hallowed Cliff Cemetery. He could still discern the entrance atop the sodden hill despite the starless sky, through the rain and sweeping winds. The image had been blistered into his unconscious. He marched on through the marshy soil as if he could rid himself of it by way of physical exertion, or perhaps cleanse his spirit with heaven’s baptismal waters. He dared not stop for fear of sinking through the earth and residing himself to an unceremonious yet eternal tomb. Though the world would not make it easy. Several times he lost his footing and slid upon the mud before slamming the shovel head into the ground and forcing himself up, carrying on with stubborn consternation. 

He wiped the muck on his pants as he passed under the arch and trudged forward among the aisles. Over the fresh and dying roses, the pink and purple larkspurs. Past endless processions of graves. Stones of granite. Stones of marble. Sandstone and slate. Some brandishing themselves to the eye, almost arrogant in their novelty. Others having been neglected for centuries, their texts gone as if washed away by Mother Nature for some unutterable slight against her. He eyed the years as he went, capricious, interchangeable; like philosophical tauntings from beyond, calling to him, demanding he decipher their unanswerable ponderings. 

The shovel struck into the ground as he removed a pewter flask from the inside of his shirt, then took a swig and stepped to the grave before him. He looked upon the head with bloodshot eyes, compelled to take in the marking over and over again by the light of Zeus and Selene; inconstant; uncertain. 

Eva Meridian Mara

February 21st, 1981 — July 8th, 2021

A Mother 

A Friend

A Person

Rest in Peace

Could’ve thought of better

He drank, then replaced the flask and stepped to the grave opposite. He unbuckled his belt and pissed into the sloshy soil. 

“Apologies, miss — errr — mister.”

He flicked his member clean and redid the front of his jeans, then took the shovel in hand and returned to the opposite grave. With a last look at the stone, he stabbed the shovelhead into the mud and lifted a mound of green and black muck from the earth, tossing it to the side and splattering little balls on the opposing marker. Shovelful after shovelful. Foot after foot. He spent an hour laboring deeper and deeper into the earth, stopping at several points to pour water from his shoes. Finally, he was done, breath unsteady, a salty sweat amongst the rain on his brow. 

A great hole sat before him, four by eight in dimension with a depth of six feet, the lid of a dark red casket peeking out the bottom. He lowered himself in and dug along the side until he found the latch. A light hiss escaped as he undid it, like a snake warning him from its burrow. It drew his thoughts toward the darkness within. Toward the all-knowing nothing entrapping the poor soul inside. It struck him with what he felt was an unnatural reverence. A connection and understanding unique to him and him alone. 

He’d always found an allure to such things. A morbid, yet uncompromising curiousness for the shadows — of both sight and mind. For the implications they presented. The universal and contradictory lessons that fed him without frame left him frozen in place, unable to comprehend what lay before him, regardless of what his conscious mind would admit. The horror. The humor. The eternal void just below the surface of all. 

He lifted the lid by a foot and shined his phone inside. He saw an arm veiled by a wispy white dress, stiff and pale like a cheap manikin. Spitting onto the earth wall opposite, he slid his phone in and let the lid drop, removing the flask and downing what remained. He washed what mud he could from his hands, limbs, and torso, then rubbed his hands across his face and put his head back to run them through his hair. With a final breath, he gave a glance toward the waning moon in the east and crawled inside.

He set the still shining phone on the cadaver’s stomach and burrowed his way next to it, snuggling close with his arm under the neck. His hands grasped the rigor, the penetrating cold. His eyes traced up and down the ghostly vessel. He imagined her origins, physical and ethereal. Tried to unweave the mysteries and intricacies of her being as well as those who’ve come before and will come long after. The marks of his existence and what it all amounted to. The incalculable sum rendered indistinguishable from its antecedents. 

Rubbing his fingers across her cheek, he stared at the unflinching eyelids, decorated with red and black eyeshadow. At the plush raven hair, the light reflecting off it like stars in the vacuum of space, ever-expanding, shifting further and further away. His body began to shake. He smashed his eyes shut and swallowed the snot creeping down the back of his throat. Tears of regret leaked onto his cheeks. A great breath entered his lungs and returned as if unsure of the vitality of its own purpose. 

He reopened his gaze to the eyelids. He reached with trembling hands and placed them directly under. He moved to lift the lids from their perch, but shot back upon touch, reeling as if scorched by some invisible spark. His head hung, he cried harder than he’d ever done. His eyes, half drowned in tears, stared past the light into the darkness and beyond. It stared back. He clutched the body close, burying his head into the bosom as his weeps filled the tomb, echoing back into his shattered sense of self. 

________________________________________________________________________________________________________

 

 

Dylan Thomas Lewis was born in Kirksville, Missouri. He graduated from Central Methodist University after serving as co-editor of Inscape magazine for two years. He writes short stories, screenplays, and music; and is the guitarist for the Electronic Rock band Secular Era.

Spooky Locations: Big Ridge State Park, Maynardville Tennessee by J. S. O’connor

It’s getting cold outside and if you are looking for one last outdoor excursion, you might want to skip Big Ridge State Park in Tennessee – or just the Ghost Trail, Indian Rock Trail, and Old Mill Trail. 

Big Ridge State Park is a 3,687-acre park near the Appalachian Ridge, full of heavily forested areas, beautiful campsites, and miles of hiking trails. 

One trail called the Ghost Trail is a 1.2-mile loop with a few sinister legends. The first is that of the Hutchinson family home and cemetery. One such story is that of Mary, the daughter of the Hutchinson family. It’s said that in the mid-1800s, Mary died of tuberculosis and her screams still echo from her room in the Hutchinson home. There are also stories of people hearing the sound of a panting dog charging in their direction near the house. Other stories are of Matson Hutchinson, the father of Mary, still walking through the woods in search of something.

And of course, there is the Norton Cemetery, which is said to be haunted. People claim to have captured dark, sinister figures while taking pictures near the cemetery.  

There are also reports of Indian Rock Trail and Old Mill Trail being haunted as well. Indian Rock Trail is the spot where a man named Peter Graves was ambushed and scalped by Native Americans. It’s said that he still walks around the area. Old Mill Trail is said to be haunted by a young girl who was hung by her father after being accused of witchcraft.

If you were to decide to venture off the trail, be warned that you may meet a middle-aged man who simply appears and vanishes without a word.

Big Ridge State Park is a beautiful park, no doubt filled with some great trails and camping spots. But behind everything beautiful, there is always something ugly. In this case, it is a few trails that are witness to some horrific events. 

Historian of Horror : Sutch a Bother

I have previously admitted in this space to there being at least one area of popular culture in which I enjoy no expertise, that being heavy metal music. Following an enlightening conversation with our very own Ro Merrill (all praise and laudation be unto her name), I have been granted the gift of a brief introduction, albeit not necessarily an indoctrination, into the mysteries of the several genres that comprise such endeavors. I’ve been listening to a fair amount, not only of the form as currently practiced but to its forebears and influences. Along the way, it occurred to me that there was at least one performer whose active period began prior to anything recognizable as heavy metal who has not of late received his due attention. 

And so, I went digging into my nearly half-a-terabyte of genre related music and found the subject of our Essai du jour, the English musician and failed parliamentarian, founder of the Official Monster Raving Loony Party, Screaming Lord Sutch.

Before Arthur Brown, before Iggy Pop, before Ozzie Osborne, before Alice Cooper, decades before any of the growling, snarling death metal performers of recent years, there was Sutch. Born David Edward Sutch in 1940, he took on the stage name as above, with the title amended thereunto of 3rd Earl of Harrow. You will find no sutch (sic) listing in Burke’s Peerage. The first part of his nom de scène was inspired by the 1950s novelty performer, Screamin’ Jay Hawkins. The second was made up out of whole cloth.

His 1963 novelty song “Jack the Ripper” is the prototype for a great many of the tropes common to heavy metal, and made a sufficient splash in his home country that a short documentary was made about him and his band, The Savages, which concluded with a full version of the song including the simulated disembowelment of a mannikin.

Sutch’s tune, by the way, bears no relation to the surf guitar standard composed by Link Wray that same year. In case anyone was wondering. “Jack the Ripper” a la Sutch bears a more than passing similarity, structurally and musically, to the Hollywood Argyles’ 1960 hit, Alley Oop, based on the American comic strip. Thematically, however… 

Yeah. Not a thing like it.

The putative 3rd Earl of Harrow ran for Parliament nearly forty times, with what can be charitably characterized as limited success. He did garner more votes on occasion than actual, legitimate political parties, including in 1990 when the Social Democratic Party responded to losing to him by disbanding. There’s at least one modern political entity that might want to take note and follow this example. 

Later in the decade, Sutch performed on stage and on vinyl with a variety of major rock ‘n’ roll musicians, including the Who’s drummer Keith Moon, Deep Purple guitarist Ritchie Blackmore, Rolling Stones drummer Charlie Watts, and several members of Led Zeppelin. The album he recorded with the Zeppelinists, Lord Sutch and Heavy Friends, was declared in a 1998 poll conducted by the BBC as being the worst album of all time. Not a high watermark in the legendary band’s repertoire.

Despite his exuberant stage presence, Sutch battled depression in later years. He committed suicide by hanging in his late mother’s house on June 16, 1999. He was fifty-eight years old.

A word about His Lordship’s inspiration, the aforementioned Screamin’ Jay Hawkins, seems relevant at this point in the proceedings. Hawkins was born in 1929. Inspired by both operatic and blues singers, he began performing his piano act in the early 1950s, during which period took to wearing leopard skins and red leather, and other outrageous costumes. His most influential recording was his 1956 hit, “I Put a Spell on You”, a performance of which is in the link above. The piece has since been covered numerous times, including by Creedence Clearwater Revival, Nina Simone, Carlos Santana, and Marilyn Manson, and by Bette Midler et alii in the 1993 film, Hocus Pocus. He passed away in 2000 at the age of seventy. 

Arthur Brown, Screaming Lord Scutch’s first significant follower down that dark, flamboyant musical path was born in 1942 in Whitby, England, the very town in which the Demeter ran aground in the novel and several film versions of Dracula, precipitating the Vampire Lord onto British soil. Brown still performs his wild and crazy act at the age of eighty, although perhaps a bit less frenetically in these latter days. 

Our lagniappe this time is from one of my favorite groups of the 1970s, English folk-rockers Steeleye Span. A few days late for Halloween, but you are welcome to put “The Twelve Witches” aside for next year. Just don’t forget where you stashed it.

And so, until next time…

Be afraid.

Be very afraid.

Author Interview : John James Minster

What is your name and what are you known for? 

John James Minster, author of horror stories.

Tell us about one of your works and why we should read it.

The Undertaker’s Daughter

A Novel of Supernatural Horror

Don’t play with dead things.

Anna Dingel is an introverted, socially inept 18-year-old raised in the family funeral home. And for some reason, her classmate Timmy—the one in the band—likes her too.

After a makeover from her best friend Naomi, Anna breaks away to see him perform live, but the leader of a bad school clique attempts to assault Anna in the parking lot. Once the leader is released from jail, so begins an ever-widening maelstrom of cruel retribution, turning Anna and Timmy’s summer of love into a nightmare.

In an attempt to frighten the bullies into peace, Anna and Naomi experiment with recently revealed old Jewish magic. But this ancient Abrahamic ritual doesn’t go as planned. The eldritch power Anna has unleashed takes dark and unexpected turns, endangering those she loves and forcing her to decide who she is and who she wants to be.

This spine-tingling supernatural horror story is about love, forgiveness, and consequences. Expect surprise twists throughout, as children learn not to play with dead things.

What places or things inspire your writing?

Supernatural beings described in The Old and The New Testaments.

What music do you listen to while creating?

Downtempo electronic and melodic deep house beats.

What is your favorite horror aesthetic? 

Animated decomposing corpses.

Who is your favorite horror icon?

Edgar Allan Poe.

What was the scariest thing you’ve witnessed?

My infant son getting wheeled into surgery.

If invited to dinner with your favorite (living or dead) horror creator, who would it be and what would you bring?

Edgar Allan Poe: matcha green tea, a bamboo whisk, and two porcelain mixing bowls (no, not brandy: I would never do anything to contribute to his untimely death of which alcohol likely played a part.)

What’s a horror gem you think most horror addicts don’t know about? (book, movie, musician?)

A movie I saw in a drive-in theater when it first got released (the year I got my driver’s license.) Two friends of mine and our dates watched it. Our girlfriends were terrified. I absolutely loved it. Lucio Fulci’s Italian film Zombi 2 (also known as Zombie, Zombie Flesh Eaters, and Woodoo) is a 1979 Italian zombie horror film directed by Lucio Fulci working from a screenplay by Elisa Briganti and Dardano Sacchetti. Probably the best-known of Fulci’s many genre films and it made him a horror icon. When the film was released in 1979 it was condemned for its extremely bloody content, notably by the UK’s Conservative government. It grossed the Euro equivalent of nearly $3 billion dollars, yet of all the many people I ask, not one has seen it. Please do.

Have you ever been haunted or seen a ghost?

Not personally. But I did help an old man solve his house haunting.

What are some books that you feel should be in the library of every horror addict?

Every horror book published by Stephen King, Clive Barker, Neil Gaiman (contemporary), and Peter Straub; travels back in time to H.P. Lovecraft, the entire works of Edgar Allan Poe, and Frankenstein, by Mary Shelley.

What are you working on now? 

Polishing up three complete new works: The Vengeful Dead, The Hand of Hubal, and Rise of The Golgoths.

Where can readers find your work? (URL #1 place for them to go.)

Bookstores took a major hit in the pandemic and desperately need some love. I would buy or order The Undertaker’s Daughter from your local bookseller. You can order it directly from the publisher, Hellbender Books. Then of course the usual online sellers. The number one URL to get inside my haunted head or to communicate with me is my aggregated links site: https://linktr.ee/johnjamesminster

From the Vault: Morbid Meals – Tribute to Misery – Tomato Bisque

MorbidMeals2

EXAMINATION

Misery is probably my favorite of the movies based on Stephen King’s novels. It is a taut thriller with no supernatural elements, which is uncommon for his adaptations. My favorite scene is the one where Annie serves Paul some soup as she discusses his latest manuscript. When she gets overwrought over the book’s profanity and spills a little soup on him, it makes a powerful bit of bloody red foreshadowing that always gives me chills.

Warming up a can of soup can do wonders for fending off the chill of a long winter’s night, but I always imagined that Annie, knowing how much she admired her best-selling author she was nursing back to health, would cook no ordinary tomato soup. Rather she’d serve him up a hearty tomato bisque.

Traditionally, tomato bisque tends to be tomato soup that was cooked with ham and cream added. I think most people who eat tomato soup or bisque would prefer a vegetarian version, so I adapted some recipes to this one below.

20160411_183231

ANALYSIS

Servings: 4

Ingredients

2 Tbsp canola oil
1/2 onion, diced
2 cloves of garlic, peeled and crushed
2 Tbsp cornstarch
1/2 tsp seasoned salt
1/2 tsp smoked paprika
2 cups vegetable stock
1 14.5 oz can of diced tomatoes (with liquid)
2 fresh thyme sprigs
1 bay leaf
1/2 cup heavy cream, or coconut cream
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Apparatus

  • Large soup pot
  • Immersion stick blender or regular blender

Procedure

  1. In a large pot, add the oil and onions and cook over medium-high heat until the onions soften, about 5 minutes.
  2. Add the garlic, cornstarch, seasoned salt, and smoked paprika. Stir to evenly cook for 2 more minutes.
  3. Add the broth and tomatoes. Raise heat to high and bring to a boil. Whisk constantly to break down any lumps that might form from the cornstarch.
  4. When it reaches a boil, bring the heat down to low. Stir in the whole herbs. Simmer for about 30 minutes.
  5. Remove the herbs and puree the soup with your blender.
  6. Stir in the cream and add salt and pepper to taste.

DISSECTION

We found a can of fire-roasted tomatoes that gave a wonderful flavor to the soup. We recommend it if you can find it.

If you’d rather use fresh tomatoes, you will need 5 or 6 medium-sized ripe tomatoes. Boil them for about 1 minute, let them cool then peel and chop them.

POST-MORTEM

This is a delicious, hearty soup that will instantly warm you up on a cold night. Share some with your family or your favorite author tonight. Just try not to get so worked up about things while serving it.

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Free Fiction : Death Job Cover Letter by Bob Gielow

 

November 19, 2021

Lord Hades, God of Death

4 Everlasting Ave

Camden NJ  08104

Dear Lord Hades,

Please accept this cover letter and accompanying resume as my application to become Intern for the Assistant to Death, North America – Region 14.  I learned of this position from a posting I found online at HellJobs.com.  

In addition to being dead myself (obviously), I have significant experience caring for and supporting those who are dying.  After earning a Master’s Degree in gerontological nursing, I spent 18 years offering palliative and hospice care to dying patients at three different homes for the elderly.  At Visiting Angels Senior Home Care in Las Vegas, I was selected “Caring Nurse of the Month,” by staff and families, eight times.  At Elder Care of Bemidji, Minnesota, I was selected to train and lead a group of between 15 and 22 hospice volunteers who spent countless hours with our patients and their families.  At Compassionate Care Senior Services in Conway, South Carolina, I was asked by the Director to inform families whenever their loved one died because I “had such a good rapport with families and always knew the right thing to say that would bring them comfort.”  

Although the job description for this Intern position said very little about the qualities for which you are looking, I believe the work in which you are engaged requires a calm demeanor (to help avoid any hysteria from the pre-dead), a facility with language (to clearly explain what is happening), a confident decision-maker (to act, when necessary, without having to always check in with a supervisor), and an ability to look “death in the eye” (if you don’t mind my using this phrase).  I believe that I possess all of the qualities listed above .  

Although it may or may not be smart for me to admit this, I feel I should acknowledge that I also have experience moving the death process along more quickly than would have been the case otherwise.  As you may know if you can access my life records, I was occasionally suspected but never charged by law enforcement for helping terminally ill patients “slip away” more quickly than they might have otherwise.  Over many years of practice, I became adept at applying a combination of increased pain medication (usually Darvon or Demerol) and/or holding my hands/fingers over the person’s mouth and nose to kill folks who were more than ready for their suffering to end.  If an Intern for the Assistant to Death, North America – Region 14 needs to periodically expedite the death process for a human, which I assume will occur for a variety of reasons, then I am your gal.  

Lastly, I think I am qualified for this work because of my recent death experience.  When I tested positive for COVID-19, at home last week, I was told by my doctor to not come into their offices or visit the Emergency Room unless I “was having difficulty breathing.”  I was breathing OK at the time, but respiratory symptoms escalated very quickly overnight.  I woke before dawn the next morning coughing and sputtering, and remembered that my phone was charging downstairs.  I had given up a phone landline several years ago and was trying to not look at my phone screen right before bed or right when I woke up.  Those decisions became fatal when I started coughing halfway down the stairs and fell down so hard I was knocked out.  I must have broken several bones because when I awoke, I could not move my body enough to reach my cell phone.  At one point, my cat Skittles just looked at me lying there and walked away.  I eventually died in pain, not being able to breathe properly, and feeling very alone.  If I am able to, as Intern for the Assistant to Death, I’d like to bring some amount of comfort to those who are experiencing death without any support from a living human.  

Thank you for considering my candidacy for this position.  I look forward to hearing back from you and the hiring committee.  

 

Claire Mortja

claire.mortja@hellmail.com 

______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

A college administrator by day, Bob Gielow (he/him) spins tales in formats we all use when communicating with each other: text messages, emails, fictional Wikipedia posts, and diary entries all allow him to be clinical and thorough in describing his characters, their thinking and actions … without diminishing his ability to explore the resulting human emotions. Bob utilizes these epistolary styles, and others, to tell tales that frequently explore the most common of human experiences, death.  https://twitter.com/bob_gielow

Author Interview with Nick Roberts


What is your name and what are you known for? 

My name is Nick Roberts, and I’m known for my novels, The Exorcist’s House and Anathema. I’ve also had several short stories featured in anthologies from Sinister Smile Press, J. Ellington Ashton Press, and Dead Sea Press and literary publications such as The Fiction Pool, The Blue Mountain Review, Falling Star Magazine, Stonecrop Magazine, and Haunted MTL.

Tell us about one of your works and why we should read it.

My novel, The Exorcist’s House, was released by Crystal Lake Publishing in May 2022 and is available now in paperback, hardback, Kindle/KU, and Audible. It has since become Crystal Lake Publishing’s best-selling novel to date. Here is the official synopsis: 

In the summer of 1994, psychologist Daniel Hill buys a rustic farmhouse nestled in the rolling hills of West Virginia.

“Along with his wife and teenage daughter, the family uproots their lives in Ohio and moves south. They are initially seduced by the natural beauty of the country setting. That soon changes when they discover a hidden room in the basement with a well, boarded shut and adorned with crucifixes.

“Local legends about the previous owner being an exorcist come to light, but by then, all Hell has broken loose.

“This 1990s horror novel is perfect for fans of family thriller books, stories of demonic possession, exorcism fiction, the occult, or thrillers like The Exorcist, A Head Full of Ghosts, and The Amityville Horror.

What places or things inspire your writing?

Both of my novels take place in West Virginia, and many of my short stories do as well. It’s the perfect setting for a spooky situation. The terrain is so versatile; there are cities, suburbs, rolling hills, woodland areas, and much more. I prefer my horror to be remote, so I veer toward the rural countryside. 

What music do you listen to while creating?

I live with my wife, two young kids, and a bunch of animals. Noise-canceling AirPods are essential. Any music with lyrics distracts me, so I tend to listen to classical music, instrumentals, and movie scores. I’m currently listening to the soundtrack to Requiem for a Dream if that gives you any indication about the tone of my next novel. 

What is your favorite horror aesthetic? 

I love creepy chamber pieces. Give me a cabin in the woods or an abandoned mental institution or a haunted hotel room. As far as films go, I love what Jason Blum and James Wan are doing. Movies like The Conjuring, Sinister, Paranormal Activity, Insidious, and Saw are all brilliantly inventive in their minimalism. Both of my novels have one major setting for the most part. I love to settle into one location and get cozy. 

Who is your favorite horror icon?

Leatherface. The Texas Chain Saw Massacre is a perfect film and has the most shocking introduction to the big baddie. When Leatherface jerks open that sliding metal door and thwacks a dude on the head with the mallet sending him into violent spasms gets me every time. The icing on the violent cake is when he drags the body in, slams the door, and that GONNNNG sound effect kicks in. I love his different ideations throughout the years, but the central concept of a human face for a mask and a chainsaw is the definition of iconic. 

What was the scariest thing you’ve witnessed?

When I was around twelve years old, I watched The Exorcist for the first time. It traumatized me, of course, but the real horror happened a few nights later. 

I have twin sisters who had seizures when they were younger. One night, I woke up to use the restroom. I was creeping down the hallway when I heard a bed shaking. I looked into my sisters’ bedroom and they were each in their beds violently spasming in unison. It was Regan MacNeil times two, and I’ve never fully recovered from it. 

If invited to dinner with your favorite (living or dead) horror creator, who would it be and what would you bring?

Jordan Peele. Not only is he a brilliant director, but he’s a horror fanboy. It would be fantastic to discuss his films, and geek out over classic horror movies. I would bring Cuban cigars. I have no idea if he likes them but puffing on a stogie and going on deep dives into obscure horror subgenres is my fantasy.

What’s a horror gem you think most horror addicts don’t know about? (book, movie, musician?)

The Telltale Lilac Bush and Other West Virginia Ghost Tales by Ruth Ann Musick is a childhood favorite of mine. It’s packed full of spooky stories that not only showcase the ghostly side of West Virginia, but it also contains some haunting illustrations. 

Have you ever been haunted or seen a ghost?

I’ve never witnessed anything paranormal. I’m a skeptic, but I want to believe. 

What are some books that you feel should be in the library of every horror addict?

The following books should be in the library of every horror addict:

The Exorcist by William Peter Blatty

American Psycho by Bret Easton Ellis

The Shining by Stephen King

The Complete Works of Edgar Allan Poe by Edgar Allan Poe

Books of Blood by Clive Barker

What are you working on now? 

I’m currently working on my third novel. It has nothing to do with the previous two, but it is similar in tone and structure. Although I can’t reveal much about the plot at this point, I will say that it is supernatural horror that I know will make readers lock their doors at night.

Where can readers find your work? (URL #1 place for them to go.)

You can follow my future exploits and purchase signed copies of my books at www.nickrobertsauthor.com.

I’m also on the following social media platforms: Facebook @spookywv, Twitter @nroberts9859, Instagram @spookywv, and TikTok @spookywv.

From The Vault: Odds and Dead Ends: Scene Analysis – Michael’s escape in ‘Halloween’ (1978)

Most of us have probably seen 1978’s Halloween a million times. When we think of the film’s beginning, we think either of the opening credits, with the long track into the pumpkin’s eye, or the famous long-take opening scene. However, the murder of Judith Myers is just back-story for the film as a whole. The story really begins with Michael Myers, now twenty-one, escaping from Smith’s Grove Hospital. This is the scene I want to examine, taking it step by step, shot by shot, and looking at how Carpenter constructs this famous, if often overlooked, scene.

First to notice is the weather. This isn’t necessary for the scene from a storytelling standpoint, but it adds to the atmosphere, if in a slightly clichéd fashion. It’s an additional air of menace. It’s not up to King Lear levels of pathetic fallacy, but it’s still there, ever present throughout the scene. It also adds some visual interest, in much the same way that Ridley Scott would do four years later, with the shimmering water on the walls of the Tyrell building in Blade Runner. Of final note for the weather, compare the slashing of the windscreen wipers in the rain as a visual foreshadowing for Michael’s slashing knife, with a similar shot in Psycho of Marion Crane driving through the rain, with her windscreen wipers foreshadowing Norman Bates’ knife slashing through the shower. Remember that Psycho is a movie which obviously had a profound influence on Halloween and the budding slasher subgenre.

In the car, we are introduced to Loomis, Michael’s doctor. Pleasance plays him as a brooding and serious, if superstitious, man, bordering on obsession. Alongside we have Marion, who is not only dismissive of the patients she looks after but woefully underprepared, having done “only minimum security” before. This conversation between them not only brings us up to speed as to Michael’s condition, “he hasn’t spoken a word for fifteen years,” but also sets up a motif that will play throughout the movie. Those that don’t take Loomis and Myers seriously, end up attacked and often dead. Loomis says for Marion to “try to understand what we’re dealing with here. Do not underestimate it.”

The line “Do not underestimate it” is one of the most important lines in the scene, and perhaps the entire film, and the following remarks of “Don’t you think we could refer to ‘it’ as ‘him’?” “If you say so,” is crucial to our understanding of Myers. He is not so much a man as a manifestation of evil inhabiting the body. Before we even see the old Myers, he has been taken to a realm beyond the human, back into the land of something much older and more terrifying. Loomis wants Myers trapped forever, but the law, thinking that he is still ‘him’, wants him moved. In later scenes, Loomis shouts that he warned everyone about Myers but nobody listened. Only Loomis, who truly understands what Myers is, knows to keep him locked up. The dialogue between Loomis and Marion is expertly written to give exposition, build character, and raise tension, all in small, economical snippets, and all at the same time. This exchange should be studied further by any screenwriting student to see just how brilliant it is.

Then the headlights illuminate the patients in the white robes walking around in the rain, an eerie sight in itself. The music kicks in, the famous piano and synth combo, which warns of impending danger. We’ve had the build-up, our fears raised, and now the film begins to play on them. When Loomis gets out of the car to open the main gate, a figure clambers onto the roof. Myers strikes when Loomis is out of the way. This begins the cat-and-mouse that the two will play throughout the film. That the rear lights paint Myers in a blood-red glow as he climbs onto the car is symbolic of his intent. He means murder.

What is interesting about this scene is that we begin to see Myers’ method of killing. He isn’t just a hulking mass, but he is quiet, methodical, and will only use brute force if he needs to. When Marion first rolls the window down to see who is on the roof, he brings his hand down to attack her. Only after she drives the car into the ditch, closes the window, and scurries to the other side, does he take to smashing the window. He is like a cobra, striking when he needs to but holding back otherwise.

When Myers does smash the window, it’s interesting to see how Carpenter constructs the scare. He uses Hitchcock’s theory of suspense (affectionately known as his ‘bomb theory’), in that he alerts us to the looming threat of Myers smashing the window before Marion is alerted to him. His hand appears in shot, giving the audience a moment of ‘he’s behind you!’ before it disappears for a few seconds. The tension is raised as we wonder exactly when the attack will be, and then a second or two later, the payoff. This simple, few-seconds scare, is a full construction, methodically thought out in all its beats, has rises and falls in its narrative, and is light-years apart from the false scares of many horror movies.

In horror movies today, one might expect Michael to kill the nurse before escaping. However, this original Michael doesn’t need to kill Marion, because his goal is the car. He attacked Marion when she was inside the vehicle, but now that she’s fled, he doesn’t need to pursue her. She isn’t a threat. This is something that the new movie, Halloween 2018, also subtly picks up on, in that Myers doesn’t just kill indiscriminately; he specifically targets. Evil has its own agenda, and it is perhaps something which makes Michael scarier. If he was just a killing machine, you could deal with it. But there is thought behind his eyes, calculated thought, and death is just one part of it.

In the final moments of the scene, we have Loomis’ line, “the evil has gone”. Described as ‘evil’ for the first time, we have Loomis’ superstitions on full display, and our understanding of the scene catches up. That was Myers, as we feared, and not just a random patient, and the sinking feeling in our stomachs ramps up as it drops another notch. All the precautions Loomis asked for, all the connotations of a silent, deadly mass of inhumanity, that we were given in the car,  has all come to fruition. So awful is this realisation that Loomis doesn’t stay around for much more than “are you alright?” to Marion, before rushing off. Once he knows she’s not in danger, she is disregarded. The evil must be stopped at all costs.

This is a perfect example of a well-constructed scene, with its personal rises and falls, and specific story construction. Attention is paid in all areas to ensuring that the filmmaking and storytelling come together in a beautiful composition with every subtlety pulling its weight. Carpenter has created a wonderful scene that sets loose upon the film a carnage that will terrify us long after the credits have stopped rolling.

-Article by Kieran Judge -Follow him on Twitter: KJudgeMental

Bibliography

Blade Runner. 1982. [Film] Directed by Ridley Scott. United States of America: The Ladd Company.

Halloween. 1978. [Film] Directed by John Carpenter. United States of America: Falcon International Productions.

Halloween. 2018. [Film] Directed by David Gordon Green. USA: Blumhouse.

Psycho. 1960. [Film] Directed by Alfred Hitchcock. United States of America: Shamley Productions.

Shakespeare, W., 2000. King Lear. Second ed. UK: Heinemann.

From The Vault : Top 5 Oldie Halloween Songs

 

I just can’t get enough of these oldie Halloween songs.

  1. “Riboflavin-Flavored, Non-Carbonated, Polyunsaturated Blood” by Don Hinson & The Rigamorticians
  2. “Skeleton in the Closet” by Louis Armstrong
  3. “Headless Horseman” by Bing Crosby
  4. “Grim Grinning Ghosts (From Haunted Mansion®)” by The Mellomen, Paul Frees, Betty Taylor, Bill Lee, Thurl Ravenscroft
  5. “Coolest Little Monster” by Zacherley

Do you have a favorite? Please share!

Free Fiction : Till Death Do Us Part – by C M Lucas

A posh café bathed in the dwindling sunlight as blue skies gave way to brilliant orange and red. La Fin du Soleil: an outlier in this small rural and very American town, was not only a tourist destination but a bit of a local hot spot. This quaint little café was a spot where potential lovers gazed into each other’s eyes, waxed poetically, and fell head over heels for the stranger sitting directly in front of them. Strangers like Linda and James. 

One Year Ago 

Linda Muller loved La Fin Soleil. A talented artist and self-described creative spirit, Linda would often find herself sipping a café Late while dreaming up her latest piece. Typically, while sipping her late, Linda would glance at the café’s patrons, often making quick sketches of them while they enjoyed their coffee. On one fateful Tuesday, Linda happened to meet the gaze of a ruggedly handsome, down-on-his-luck somber soul. Ordinarily, James wouldn’t give the French café a second look, however, on that Tuesday, James felt almost obliged to enter La Fin Soleil. Upon entering the small café, James ordered a regular dark roast with double cream and took a seat at the far end of the café beside a large window. Linda glanced at James as he continuously stirred his coffee while peering out the window. Linda observed as James’ pale blue eyes seemed to express sadness. Shaking her head softly before running her fingers through her hair, Linda got up from her chair and, with coffee in hand, made her way over to the somber man. 

“Penny for your thoughts,” Linda whispered. James glanced up at the petite woman. The sunlight bathed Lina from behind; her auburn hair looked as if it were ablaze as a large smirk formed on her face.

“I’m sorry?” James said, squinting. 

“Look, I know that’s cliché, but I, you know, I’ve never seen you in here before. You kind of stand out; you don’t look like the type of guy to stop in here, you know,” Linda explained, “and… I don’t know, you look… Is everything alright?” James continued to glance at Linda, furrowing his brow. 

“Am I alright? Uh, I… Yea, I guess. I’m sorry, what is this?” James asked. “I don’t know, you just have this sadness about, you know? I just thought that if I don’t come over and save this guy from whatever-” James shook his head before meeting Linda’s gaze. “Uh, ok, I gotta say, this is a little weird. I mean, I’ve never had anyone come up to me and ask me if I was ok,” James explained, “I mean, what are you, like the nicest woman on the planet?” 

“Yes, but only during the day. At night, I fight crime. They call me The Auburn Altruist,” Linda said with a smirk. James furrowed his brow before chuckling and shaking his head. “That was really corny. I can’t believe I laughed at that,” James said. 

“I can,” Linda said before the pair busted out laughing. 

“Thank you. I, uh, I needed that,” James admitted. 

“I know. I’m Linda,” Linda said, extending her hand. 

“James,” James said as the pair shook hands. 

“Care to sit?” 

The Present. 

Inside Las Fin Soleil, the dusty, undisturbed tables and chairs sat quietly as a small beam of sunlight shone through a crack in the plywood nailed to the window. In the far corner, sat James. Sitting almost motionless, James glanced out the tiny crack between the boards across the

window as the sun shined against his pale blue eyes. A rhythmic sequence of knocking at the boarded-up front door snapped James out of his daze before he headed toward the door. James grabbed a hammer from the floor before removing the boards from the door. James opened the door with a quivering smirk. 

“A regular knock would’ve been fine,” James said before Linda stuck out her tongue. Linda and James embraced before the pair boarded the front door. They made their way over to the far end table as James retrieved two coffee cups and placed them on the table. Linda smiled as she took a seat. James scurried over behind the counter and pulled out two candles. Lighting the candles as he made his way over, James placed the candles in a makeshift holder. “Care to sit?” Linda asked. 

One Year Ago. 

Inside La Fin Soleil, James and Linda laughed and smiled, while drinking their coffee. Minutes turned to hours as the pair continued to delight one another with conversation. “No, I’m serious. She actually said, ‘hit the bricks.’ It’s funny now, but at the time, it didn’t register, I guess. But, yea. ‘Hit the bricks.’And just like that, I was fired after, what? Nine years?” James explained as the pair continued to laugh. 

“Well, It’s great to see you laugh at the situation. I don’t know, It’s like they say, ‘If you don’t laugh, you cry,’ right?” Linda asked. James smiled before shaking his head. “You’re a walking book of clichés, aren’t you,” James asked while smirking. Linda nodded before finishing her late. James and Linda shared a moment of silence while gazing into each other’s eyes. 

“Can I buy you another coffee?” James asked.

“I’d like that,” Linda answered with a smile. As James attempts to get the waitresses’ attention, both James and Linda notice most of the café patrons are distracted by the events on the TV. 

“What the hell?” 

The Present. 

Within the La Fin Soleil, Linda and James both run their hands along the boards fixed to the café’s loan window. 

“Ready?” Linda asked. James nodded before beads of sweat began to form on his brow. The pair pried at the boards with hammers before the boards gave way, crashing to the dusty tiled floor. The dwindling sunlight burst into the café, illuminating everything. 

“Alright, Ms. Muller. After you,” James said before Linda once again took a seat. James smiled before passing in front of the window. Where once one could view the town’s quaint brilliance, rows of charred, dilapidated shops and houses now stand. The partially devoured bodies of the townsfolk lie scattered and still, as bodily fluids filled the streets. One Year Ago. 

“Everybody, quiet,” the waitress shouted before turning the volume up on the TV. Linda, James, and the rest of the patrons watched in horror as the live news broadcast displayed hordes of the undead filling the streets. The reporter began to run for his life before being consumed by the horde. The patrons within La Fin Soleil frantically began to rush toward the exit. Linda 

grasped James’ hand tight as the pair sat still with shock. 

The Present.

“I’ll never forget the first time I saw the light hit your hair. It looked like your head was on fire, but in an angelic way,” James mused. Linda smiled before taking James’ hands into hers. The pair gazed out the window as the last rays of sunlight peaked from behind the clouds. 

“Here’s to the end. I couldn’t imagine being anywhere else,” Linda said with a quivering smirk. James lowered his head as a deep sadness washed over his face. Linda peered over at the saddened James. 

“Hey, come on. It’s… Look, I… I don’t know, I’m a fool sometimes. But, you love me for it,” Linda said, winking. James continued to hang his head before Linda gently touched his dimpled chin, lifting his head to meet her gaze. A tear began to stream down James’ cheeks. Linda tried in vain to keep her emotions hidden, but as she glanced into James’ eyes, her golden amber eyes began to well up with tears. 

“They’ll be coming,” James said. 

“… I know,” Linda answered. James gazed deeply into Linda’s eyes, grasping her hands tight. 

“I love you, Ms. Muller,” James said, weeping. 

“I-I-I know. H-How could you not?” Linda said before weeping. 

The pair tightly embraced. James ran his hands along Linda’s back, caressing and softly touching every inch. Linda closed her eyes tightly as tears streamed down her cheeks. Intense pounding on the entrance door echoed through the small café, as Linda and James continued to embrace. The boards began to give way before the café door flew open. 

Linda began to loosen her grip before grasping James with an intense grip. James closed his eyes as Linda began to twitch and flail. Linda’s eyes became vacant and bloodshot as all the colour began to drain from her face.

“Shoot it!” 

Linda lifted her head as frothy mucus spewed from her mouth. James closed his eyes before pressing a small revolver to Linda’s temple. As he fired the revolver, Linda fell to the ground. Linda’s lifeless body lay at the feet of the surviving townsfolk. Each member of the mob stood silent, brandishing weapons and assorted body parts displayed in trophy fashion. James stood trembling in front of Linda. His tears continued to stream down his face as he made his way toward Linda’s lifeless body. Retrieving a wilted daisy from his pant pocket, James reached down and placed the daisy beside Linda’s arm. A wilted peddle fell along a large bite mark that ran along the length of her arm before falling to the floor. James rose from the floor before pushing his way through the mob. 

One Year Ago. 

“What’s her problem? Damn waitress just lost her tip-” James abruptly stopped upon peering over at Lindaas he noticed her attention was elsewhere. 

“Wow. First the waitress and now the very woman who rid me of the blues?” James joked. 

“Huh? Oh, I’m sorry. Do you see those?” Linda asked. 

“The Daisies?” James asked. 

“Yes, I… I don’t know, I have a thing for daisies. They always bring me to a special place, you know? I, uh, yeah, I love them,” Linda said, a slight smile forming on her face before the waitress began to alert the patrons of La Fin Soleil.

Author Interview: Gwendolyn N. Nix

What is your name and what are you known for? 

My name is Gwendolyn N. Nix. I’m known for my science fiction and fantasy writing, particularly my new release, I Have Asked To Be Where No Storms Come, which is a weird west horror likened to Clive Barker’s Imagica and Stephen King’s The Dark Tower series. I’m also an editor with Aconyte Books where we create world-expanding fiction, notably for Marvel, Ubisoft, and Arkham Horror – to name but a few! 

Tell us about one of your works and why we should read it.

I Have Asked To Be Where No Storms Come is a weird west dark fantasy horror about fate versus freedom, about no-good brothers, and what it means to sacrifice all you have for power and love. When a demon bounty hunter comes calling, Domino, a witch surviving in the depths of Hell, pairs up with his mother, who died too young and carries the witch lineage in her veins, to survive. Soon the two of them are Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid running from whatever torture awaits them and whoever wants to harvest their magic. At the same time, Domino discovers his brother, Wicasah, has concocted an ill-fated deal with an ancient being of lightning and thunder that will take both his sanity and soul.

 

Overall, I consider my work to slipstream in a way, borrowing pieces across genres and melding them into one big story. I Have Asked To Be Where No Storms Come is an amalgamation of horror, alternative history, dark fantasy, and weird western, which can really cause havoc when trying to pin down where it exactly fits on the shelf… and to me, that is some of the best kind of fiction out there. The best example of what this book comes from a fellow reviewer, “like Stephen King and Cormac McCarthy teaming up to reboot Dante’s Inferno as a Western.” However, it also brings that wide-sweeping epic feeling with prose that will stir the heart and is rooted in Americana horror where demons are cowboys and the landscape has a revenge of its own to enact on those who have abused it. All of that ticks off boxes that draw me to certain books and stories and I hope it will do the same for you.

`What places or things inspire your writing?

I consider myself a magpie writer. I take my inspiration aka “shinies” from everywhere – conversations I’ve privy to, lore and culture, traveling, and exploring the natural world. This novel was heavily inspired by the national parks that I’ve visited and the old stories associated with them, in particular, the Badlands in the Dakotas, alongside the flat plains and dinosaur history native to my home state. I’m heavily inspired by experience and require getting out and experiencing the world to create my unique settings and characters. I hoard these “shinies” and soon enough, the pile of inspiration grows so large that I have to excavate them to make space for the new… resulting in a genre-bending novel. I love exploring historical sites, but sometimes the natural world is the best source of inspiration, overall.

What music do you listen to while creating?

Crafting a playlist about the novel I’m writing is, in itself, a work in progress. It usually starts with a song that has one line of lyrics that catapults my imagination into a new realm. Genre-wise, it can be anything, but I tend to generate mood music, symphonic/orchestra pieces around it. Right now, I’m heavily inspired by The Amazing Devil and have something in the works while listening to that. While I was writing I Have Asked To Be Where No Storms Come, I had a lot of Southern Gothic music playing in the background – Delta Rae, The Brothers Bright, The Civil Wars, a lil’ Johnny Cash.

What is your favorite horror aesthetic? 

I love creeping horror, cosmic horror, weird horror, and folklore horror. Essentially, I look for that creeping dread and unusual twisting of the known that only the absolute unknown can create. I love monsters emerging from the woodwork that stalk their prey, perhaps opening up an entrance into a cosmic otherworld. I really enjoy historical horror, too – I’d love to read a book about pilgrims landing in a strange, unknown world that’s full of horrific things.

Who is your favorite horror icon?

I have a great love of Ash Williams from the Evil Dead franchise. He’s raunchy and weird and just totally oblivious, but he exudes this confidence that somehow lets him slay Deadites in a bumbling hilarious way. I also love The Gentlemen from The Buffy Vampire Hunter episode “Hush.” Such a unique way to present a monster to the audience and the exact type of creeping monsters that intrigue me.

What was the scariest thing you’ve witnessed?

The scariest thing I’ve witnessed happened while I was in Belize conducting shark conservation research. I had an afternoon off and took a swim in the bright blue ocean waters. While I was there, I noticed a barracuda swimming close, but paid it no mind. However, I soon noticed it was swimming closer and closer. I raised a fist – as if a punch would stop the snaggle-toothed fish – when I soon realized I was surrounded by a whole school of barracuda, all of them slowly making a tight circle around me. I swam for the dock and got out of the water as soon as I could, but that hunted feeling was terrifying. 

If invited to dinner with your favorite (living or dead) horror creator, who would it be and what would you bring?

This one is difficult! I’d love to have dinner with Mary Shelley and ask her to take me on a graveyard walk where I’d bring pencil and paper and make gravestone markings for fun. I’d want to know everything she had going on in her head and future stories that she was mulling over. I’d want to ask her about genre and understand the intimate details of her work and imagination. 

Realistically, I desperately want to meet Jonathan Sims! He’s part of The Rusty Quill, which created one of my favorite podcasts of all time, The Magnus Archives. 

What’s a horror gem you think most horror addicts don’t know about? (book, movie, musician?)

An amazing horror gem I don’t hear about enough is this wonderful indie film called Pontypool, which has a unique take on zombie media. It’s black and white and takes place at a radio station in winter. The reveal is so unique and there is a hidden ending that makes you rethink the meaning of language.

Have you ever been haunted or seen a ghost?

Not too long ago I would’ve said no! I’ve always considered myself a supernatural dead zone. However, while I was on a ghost hunt in Butte, Montana, we were exploring an old tin shop that had also a house of ill repute in the 1800s. And, while I was upstairs listening to our guide, I heard someone climbing the stairs with what sounded like steel-toe boots with spurs. Of course, there was no one there as we were the only tour that night! And, my friend heard it too, so I knew it wasn’t part of my imagination.

What are some books that you feel should be in the library of every horror addict?

Ooo this is a good question. I like my horror with a good dose of fantasy or science fiction. Some of my cherished books are The Fisherman by John Langan, The Only Good Indians by Stephen Graham Jones, Bunny by Mona Awad, and House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski. However, I really love supporting short story outlets and have found some of my favorite scary stories within their pages. These stories are both inspirational, shooting for what I want to create with my own work, and they also give me chills! Check out “Bride Before You” by Stephanie Malia Morris and “Leviathan Sings To Me in the Deep” by Nibedita Sen.

What are you working on now? 

Currently, I’m working on the third and final installment in my Celestial Scripts series. But because I have way too many ideas and not enough time, I’m also writing a standalone book about a city made from the bones of a dead god of magic.

Where can readers find your work? (URL #1 place for them to go.)

You can find my work anywhere online, but check out my website for direct links to my books, ongoing projects, book reviews, and general thoughts and musings on writing: https://gwendolynnix.com/books-projects/

 

Author Interview : Paul DeBlassie III

What is your name and what are you known for? Paul DeBlassie III, Ph.D., psychologist/writer of metaphysical thrillers to pop off the top on the head with trickster mischief and magic and spinning out this interview for HorrorAddicts.net – great to be with u!

Tell us about one of your works and why we should read it. I’ll go with my latest metaphysical head spinner – Goddess of Everything. Be careful! Folks/readers/reviewers have said it has triggers aplenty, a psychic dynamic I think is a bad/good thing since badness looms large so we can better see what’s behind it, a catch-you-by-surprise, mind-blowing reality. It’s a really decent story – 100 4.5-star Goodread reviews!

What places or things inspire your writing? I’m totally into New Mexico, my homeland with ancestral DNA going back 1000 years. So, plenty of mystery, magic, religion, witchcraft, and horror are floating through the ether sphere. It births the stuff infused in my three horror novels: The Unholy, Goddess of the Wild Thing, and Goddess of Everything.

What music do you listen to while creating? John Lee Hooker is my man for all things conjuring and mystic making, the beat and rhythm and drone of the tunes setting me into a headspace that drives my supernatural narratives into weird dimensions.

What is your favorite horror aesthetic? Well, gotta admit it’s the supernatural thriller razzmatazz that sets my psychic fires going, the works of King, Blackwood, and Lovecraft are major sources of literary fuel.

Who is your favorite horror icon? Without a doubt, no way anyone else compares to the touch, mystery, and metaphysical intrigue of Algernon Blackwood, a true pioneer, and eternal spirit in the world of supernatural storytelling.

What was the scariest thing you’ve witnessed? Oooooh….I’m a clinical depth psychologist who treats the transpersonal unconscious mind, so there’s a storehouse of scary, spinetingling, and horrifying experiences I’ve gone through in forty years of psychotherapy practice I bring to the phenomenological collage painted onto the pages of my novels – wicked archbishops unwittingly or deliberately employing dark magic to access power, patients who willfully have engaged the spirit world for egoic purposes that inevitably scar the mind and generate frightening encounters with the dark side of the Great Unseen. And then there comes to mind the time I permitted a personal lapse of consciousness: I entered a haunted home I shouldn’t have gone into. A spirit attached itself to my shoulder and followed me home – had to do a bit of an exorcism to banish that foul presence – ugh! So, I once heard Stephen King say on a podcast interview, he’d never had experiences with the supernatural; but, for me, it’s quite the opposite. Supernatural occurrences manifest regularly in my life and generate enormous psychic oomph for my novels.

If invited to dinner with your favorite (living or dead) horror creator, who would it be and what would you bring? I wouldn’t go. It’s like Gabriel Garcia Marquez said when asked what he’d do if while walking on the streets of Mexico City, he saw Hemmingway on the other side of the road. Would he cross over and introduce himself and meet the famous man? He said no. He wouldn’t want to confuse the man with the work. Besides, those who’ve passed on – Blackwood and Algernon – hover in my study, whispering plot points and wicked ideas as I write. So, you don’t need dinner when there’s ready access to the ever-present reality of the Unseen World.

What’s a horror gem you think most horror addicts don’t know about? (book, movie, musician?) My surrealist artist wife, Kate, and I are finishing Dark on Netflix, a multi-layered horror flick that dips into alternate realities, choices, and fate. It’s mystifying, mind-bending, and a gem in the horror genre.

Have you ever been haunted or seen a ghost? Oh yeah! We all have been. Sometimes we allow our psychic eyes to open to the fact, and sometimes we don’t. Maybe we don’t want to see into the mystic, fearing what’s there. Depth psychology says shifts of mood and energy indicate psychic triggering of the spirit world, ghosts called forth. Sometimes you see them through the corner of your eyes, or they manifest as a startling mental image (S. King expertly taps into this phenomenon). At times, they work behind the scenes via synchronous events or scary happenings like thinking evil thoughts about someone you’ve held bitterness against and a bird splatters against your car windshield while driving. Ghosts can be bloody!

What are some books that you feel should be in the library of every horror addict? Select volumes of Stephen King (what’s stayed with you over time), and all of Black and Lovecraft. Then, on the contemporary scene, there are so many good writers, I’d say go with and keep on your virtual or literal shelf whatever has had soul nourishment and you feel drawn to pick up again and again over time, open at random, and discover new little supernatural jewels. I just finished, The Exorcist’s House by Nick Roberts. Well done!

What are you working on now? I’ve got Seer: The Case of the Man Who Lost His Soul sizzling on my literary cast iron griddle. You can lose your soul. It’s a tough and scary world that a person trips into when they’ve traded the soul, thinking they can simply get it back by reforming their evil ways, making resolutions, or getting religion. Hah! Not so, my friend, not so. Seerdelves into the phenomenon of evil set against the reality of natural magic and how it plays out with Dr. Ernesto de la Tierra and an arrogant, wealthy patient. They thought playing with dark metaphysical realities was no big thing. Surprise . . . there are no small things with little consequences when it comes to toying with the supernatural.

Where can readers find your work?  I’m a one-stop shopper for all things metaphysical, supernatural, and horrifying – Amazon Author Page: https://amzn.to/3GCBuNL

From The Vault : The Inspiration Behind “The Bell” – from Dark Divinations

The Inspiration Behind “The Bell.”

By Jon O’Bergh

During the nineteenth century, epidemics like cholera periodically swept through the population and brought reports of premature burial. Although most of these reports were undoubtedly fake news, the resulting fear of being buried alive fueled a demand for “safety coffins.” I initially wrote a story about one such burial, told by an omniscient narrator but focused on the graveyard watchman, in which a wife deliberately buries her sick husband before he is dead.

When I saw the Dark Divinations call for submissions, I realized my story had the seeds of something ideal for the anthology. I’ve always loved the Victorian style of writing: the fancy turns of phrase, the old-fashioned word choices, the heightened emotionalism. I thought it would be fun to craft a story using that kind of voice—a Poe-esque story told from the perspective of the person trapped in the coffin. What would he experience? What thoughts would go through his mind? How would he deal with the situation?

Of course, that meant writing the story in the first person and completely re-working it. I decided it would be even more interesting to invest the character with occult abilities, another fascination of the nineteenth century. Not an outright charlatan (although there were plenty of those), but a flawed yet sympathetic character with some amount of real ability. The transformed story now had only a superficial resemblance to the original. Dark Divinations had inspired me to write an even better tale, one I hope is worthy of comparison with Edgar Allan Poe.

 Jon O’Bergh is an author and musician who loves a good scare. He grew up in Southern California, where he received a Bachelor of Arts in Music from the University of California at Irvine. A fan of ghost stories and horror movies, Jon came up with the idea for his horror novel “The Shatter Point” after watching a documentary about extreme haunts. He has published four books and released over a dozen albums in a variety of styles, including the album “Ghost Story.” After many years living in San Francisco and Washington, D.C., he now spends his time in Toronto.

Author Interview : Isaac Thorne

What is your name and what are you known for? 

 Isaac Thorne. I started out trying to make myself known as an author of short tales of dark comic horror in the vein of stuff like Tales From the Crypt and Creepshow. After writing my debut novel, The Gordon Place, my attention shifted away from that and toward horror with a social commentary edge.

Tell us about one of your works and why we should read it.

Hell Spring is my new novel (released Sept. 21, 2022). It’s not a direct follow-up to The Gordon Place, but it is set in the same fictional small town of Lost Hollow. Eight people in 1955 get trapped in their local general store by a thunderstorm and flash flooding. One of the eight is a supernatural predator in the guise of a famous sex symbol of the time. She’s a demon who feeds on the toxic guilt and shame of those with whom she is trapped. 

The commentary component of Hell Spring is a bit less overt than the antiracist message of The Gordon Place, but it does address some stuff we all deal with throughout our lives.

What places or things inspire your writing?

I’m not sure I believe in inspiration as far as my work is concerned. My ideas are prompted mainly by the news, though. I’ve always been a bit of a news junkie. The nightly catastrophes and disappointments there are fuel for the more esoteric components of my work, the stuff that people reading at the surface level might not get right away. More than that, my lifetime of horror fandom, the area I live in, and the interesting, unique people around me typically swirl around in my head while I’m working.

What music do you listen to while creating?

That totally depends. Sometimes I need absolute quiet, especially if I’m working on a particularly challenging scene that has little basis in reality. For Hell Spring, I spent much of my writing time listening to oldies, shit from the late 1940s and early 1950s. I tried to put myself in the mindset of the era by listening to the types of music the residents of my little town might’ve heard when they switched on the radio on any given day.

What is your favorite horror aesthetic? 

This depends on my mood. For movies, I’ve lately been drawn to early 1970s Giallo as well as the old Hammer films. The bright colors, the melodrama, and their uninhibitedness appeals to me. That said, I also love a good 80s slasher from time to time. Regarding books, I’ll read just about any type of horror. I’m most drawn to realistically depicted, character-driven stuff, though.

Who is your favorite horror icon?

Edgar Allan Poe. As much as I’d like to provide a more modern answer to that, I’ve probably read and reread Poe more than anyone else. Sure, he was the father of the modern detective story, but his gothic horror stuff always deserves another look.

What was the scariest thing you’ve witnessed?

Shit, man. Everything’s scary. Life is scary. On a more personal note, that would be a car versus motorcycle accident I witnessed one summer day. The dude on the bike was struck by the car at an intersection. He flew off, lost his helmet, and tumbled through the air like a stick thrown by a child. He survived, fortunately. But I’ll never forget seeing that burly man’s body spinning through the air like that.

8. If invited to dinner with your favorite (living or dead) horror creator, who would it be and what would you bring?

Dead: Edgar Allan Poe and a bottle of Stonehaus Davenport.

Living: Stephen King and a cherry cheesecake.

What’s a horror gem you think most horror addicts don’t know about? (book, movie, musician?)

Tennessee Gothic, a movie based on the horror-comedy short story “American Gothic” by Ray Russell. I had the good fortune to review that movie for TNHorror.com a few years ago. It ended up winning the Hubbie Award at Joe Bob’s first Drive-In Jamboree.

Have you ever been haunted or seen a ghost?

I don’t think so. When I was a small child, I saw some weird shit in the first house I remember living in (like a pair of jeans walking around the bedroom on their own). I’ve always had a lot of trouble sleeping, though. It could’ve been exhaustion or sleep paralysis.

11. What are some books that you feel should be in the library of every horror addict?

You need to have one or more Richard Matheson books. Preferably a novel and a collection of short stories. Peter Straub’s Ghost Story should be there as well. And Stephen King’s Cujo.

What are you working on now? 

The next Lost Hollow novel. Nope, I’m not done with that little town yet.

Where can readers find your work? (URL #1 place for them to go.)

https://www.isaacthorne.com

Beware the Bottom of the Sea!!! by Kate Nox

Most of us will never see the bottom of the sea. Although recent drought and heat warnings in multiple locations around the world and the ever-rumored possibility that California will one day fall into the sea,(I first heard this in 1968), we all may see the bottom before we know it!  So, to help inform you, my fellow HorrorAddicts, I offer the following sea creatures for you to avoid – if you can!

The Vampire Squid

Should you happen to be 3,000 feet below sea level you might spy one of these large red Cephlapods named Vampyroteuthis Infernalis (Vampire from hell), with its huge red body webbed tentacles, and big blue eyes! Added to its possible bioluminescence, this creature could be a frightening sight! Should it feel threatened by you, it would perform the unheard-of feat of turning itself inside out to expose sharp-looking spines located on the underside of its tentacles. Should you imagine yourself being caught on said spines, you cacatapult it’s jaws forward to capturen then envisage that it would turn itself back inward, trapping you in with the webs between its tentacles like a cacoon and sucking all the blood from your veins before eating you! Add to that the fact that the animal uses very little oxygen and will not swim to the surface to catch a breath, affording you the opportunity to swim away to freedom! Oh my, this is something from my worst nightmare!  However, the truth is, the creature actually is neither a squid nor is it a vampire! It eats Marine Snow and has no interest in your blood or body parts. Whew!

 

Goblin Sharks

Recent news reports have detailed lots of shark bites happening in strange places. Reporters attribute these to the warming of the tides and increased visits to the beach by overheated residents. Because of this increase in catastrophes, the goblin shark becomes, even more, a frightening being!

This shark can grow 10 feet long whereas the average man is less than 6 ft., so it is doubtful it could swallow you whole, it’s the look of the beast and its method of attack that should give you fear. Because the creature is no a fast swimmer, it will most likely seek to ambush it’s prey.

From the look of it you would think that it’s long snout would get in the way of it’s ability too bite with it’s nearly 200 teeth. But this shark has the ability to catapult it’s jaw forward to the end of the snout to grab it’s prey and then retract it to complete the capture. This action takes place at the speed of 7 miles per hour, faster than any human can swim. But the job is not finished with merely catching the prey. After closing down, the bottom jaw can snap open and shut to effectively chew the captured portion of the prey off. Sounds painful, doesn’t it?

Probably you won’t be down at 4500 feet to encounter a mature goblin shark, but do be aware, my friend, that juvenals, like teenagers at the mall, do hang out at 40 to 150 feet below the surface. And who can predict youth?

Zombie worms

Don’t fear for your brains with this tiny creature. Zombie worms are a swarming creature that first appeared to be” a red flowing substance” on a dead whale carcas when first observed in 2004 by the scientists from the Monterey Bay Aquarium. Further inspection found that they are much like a plant with a root. They have no mouth or stomach yet they “eat ” the bacteria that feeds on bone of dead carcasses. The root of the female burrows it’s way into the bone to the marrow and attaches there, the plant part stays on the surface tocollect oxygen and protect the root.  and commonly called boneworms, zombie worms, or bone-eating worms. From the bone the creature obsorbs  lipids, on which they rely for sustenance.

The male burrows into the female of the plant-like worm to provide sperm and reproduce. Here’s where the story is a little different. If the root connects and bores into a  bone it becomes a female and if it bores into a female it becomes a male. And so the story continues until the carcas is covered by swarming hoards these worms. Once all the nutrients and bacteria are depleted, the swarms themselves will die.

If you should fall lifeless to the bottom of the sea some day, expect these creatures to come swarming your way for a feast!

Until then, beware the bottom of the sea!

Perfect Dark Interview – by William Zimmerman

What’s the meaning behind the name, Perfect Dark?

No deep meaning other than in the late 90’s I needed a cool sounding name to fit the style of music I was DJ’ing and eventually producing. I thought the Nintendo 64 game name Perfect Dark was cool. And since they own the copyright in the game sector and I am not a video game, I would adopt it as my identity in the music industry.

Who are your favorite artists today?

Currently Ghost. My publicist is laughing at me right now.

What’s upcoming for Perfect Dark?

Putting out singles and remixes. The days of albums are over. Although I eventually will be re- releasing for free my 2002 debut vinyl record “Here I Stand” digitally. 6 tracks all revamped and remastered.

What Album/Song/Tour are you excited about right now?

Even though it’s not EDM-related, right now metal festivals are going on in full force and I had my eyes glued to the YouTube uploads of many great performances at Hellfest in France. Especially Nightwish. Sadly, Ghost was cut short due to Tobias Forge blowing out his vocal cords.

What TV or film horror character could you most identify with and why?

Josef from the found footage movie “Creep”. He’s a playful lunatic and very random. I love having a random personality so watching him create these out-of-nowhere moments in the movie is great. Honorable mention: Dexter Morgan from the TV show “Dexter”.

What are your favorite horror movies?

I LOVE found footage films. I love many Horror movies in general, but I gravitate to the found footage style. I am proud to have a treasure trove of these types of films stored on my hard drive. Many that are well known, but equally many that are little diamonds in the rough. I do want to say though I am still torn on if “Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon” is truly found footage style. I mean, it’s found footage up until the last 24 minutes of the movie and then goes to traditional set-up shots. So, is it still found footage? My mental debate continues.

What was the scariest night of your life?

I just spent about 5 minutes sitting here trying to think of an answer. I practically replayed most of my life in my mind trying to bring up a truly scary moment, at night, or even in the daytime, and I can’t think of even one thing to bring up. I have failed you. I apologize wholeheartedly. Oh wait!… eh, I thought I had something. Nope. (I am sure when this gets published, I will have since thought of like 5 things I could have mentioned)

If you could bring back greats who have passed on, who would be your undead

opening band?

John Denver. Granted he would not even remotely fit the genre of music I play out and produce, but he has been my favorite solo recording artist for most of my adult life so if someone can bring him back from the dead, great! He will be my opening act. — Who am I kidding, I will be opening for him, but then he will hate me for clearing out the crowd before he goes on. Oh, man. This was a bad idea. No win situation. I guess it will have to be David Brockie from GWAR instead.

Final thoughts for Horror Addicts readers?

Since this is a horror movie-themed outlet, let’s end strong with it. A lot of people associate horror fans as weirdos or full-blown whackadoodles. It’s a stigma that sticks in the minds of the lesser mortals because whenever there’s a nutjob on the news that did something bad, usually the attributes that flash on the TV screen are that of them having a metal music fandom or obsessed with horror-themed materials like movies or fashion. (Emo kids don’t count, go back to your safe space). Embrace this stigma. Be the weirdo that quotes Freddy Kruger anytime someone tries to speak to you in a serious way. Don’t fit the mold of the society we hate expects you to fit in. Be You.

All my social media and music resource links (as well as other interviews etc.) can be found at:

www.therealPerfectDark.com

 

 

Merrill’s Musical Musings

Greetings Horror Addicts! As I work on this collection of tracks for you to check out, it is indeed foggy and overcast outside, blanketing my neighborhood in that gray tinge that hurts your eyes and makes you long for a fire or for an afternoon curled up in bed with a good book. I hope wherever you are, and whatever you are doing, you’re staying healthy and safe and listening to some good tunes. Looking for new music? I’ve got a bunch of artists to share with you!

Ro’s Review

Amulet hails from Washington D.C. and will appeal to fans of Concrete Blonde or current rockers Dorothy as well as Coyote Kid as reviewed here on Horror Addicts last year. Their bio on BanCamp states that Amulet is bass-driven, dark alternative rock with powerful female vocals. With a theatrical performance ranging from high-energy post punk to soulful a cappella movements, Amulet is a ride through the emotional journey that is the dark side of the human experience. Their latest album, House of Black and White has some fabulous tracks such as “Valentine’s Day” and the title track “House of Black and White.” The album contains several solid rockers for the goth set. The band would be right at home on a dark bar stage belting out “Ghost of You” and I’d personally love to catch their live set someday. 

Shout Outs

New remixes are out now from industrial outfit Panic Lift’s Disease of Kings for you to check out. The Hate Club manages to sound just as heavy and fierce in an unplugged format. Check out their Unplugged Pt. 2 EP. Xenocide, the latest project from SINthetik Messiah, is a sci-fi-influenced EP about the end of a world and the life within, a topic many of us have likely pondered over the past three years. The songs all have a steady beat and a compelling hook. Check them out on BandCamp. And last but certainly not least, Blazer Jacket, a retrowave artist from Ukraine, brings us the powerful track “Get Out.” Excellent production quality, heavy vocals, and a clear message give this track it’s heart. It is a call to arms for the artist’s people who are currently engaged in the fight for their lives. Please show some support for Blazer Jacket during this bleak time for their country. 

Ro’s Recs

I have two recs on this occasion, and both are not what you’d consider horror when you look at their face value. Falling in Reverse are best known for their early emo anthems like “I’m Not A Vampire” and “Don’t Play With Ouija Boards”…wait, okay maybe they’ve got some horror themes in their repertoire. I first heard their new track “Voices in My Head” this week, and I was curious about lead singer Ronnie Radke’s latest hijinks. I looked up the video and was impressed with the level of production which has been improving with each new offering. FIR never shies from the darker side of humanity and sanity, but this particular video finds Radke’s many personas killing each other off. It’s quite graphic and brutal, but compelling to watch. If darker action flicks a la John Wick are your jam, check out this video. 

And then I came across the latest from manic pretty boy Brendon Urie and Panic! At The Disco…Again, Urie and co. are known for their emo gems like “I Write Sins Not Tragedies” but if you watch their videos, or if you’ve ever watched any of Urie’s Vines, you’ll notice that he’s got a delicious dark side. Just check him out in the video for “Emperor’s New Clothes” in his devil disguise and you’ll love it. In their new track, “Viva Las Vengeance” Urie becomes the victim of his…piano. You gotta watch it. The track is peppy and pop-punky, but the video is dark. And bloody. And I loved it. Check out these offerings on my YouTube Music Playlist and Stay Tuned for more

Horror Writers Association MENTAL HEALTH INITIATIVE

Reports suggest that 10.7% of the global population suffers from some form of mental illness (Our World Data, 2017). Those who endure mental health issues can often feel alone and disempowered by societal misguided perspectives of what mental illness is, often leading to social exclusion and stigmatisation. 

The association between mental health and creativity is one that is often cited in studies and is certainly raised as an issue amongst the HWA membership through social media. An important aspect of mental health recovery is the fostering of hope. This is achieved by offering opportunities for empowerment. 

With this in mind, the HWA Wellness Committee has developed a Mental Health Initiative to raise awareness of mental health and mental illness, exploring ways in which the membership can feel empowered and informed. The official launch will be on June 1st, 2022 and will include the following exciting features:

A Dedicated Mental Health Initiative Webpage where members can access centralised information relating to the initiative including the Mental Health Initiative Charter, a series of statements from the Wellness Committee clarifying the aims of the project and how we as an organisation intend to achieve them. There are 3 pages: > main intro page: https://horror.org/hwa-mental-health-initiative/ > resources page: https://horror.org/hwa-mental-health-initiative-resources/ > charter page: https://horror.org/mental-health-initiative-charter/

The ‘Holistic Horrors’ News Column featuring a monthly round-up of mental health-related activities conducted by the HWA Wellness Committee and the wider membership. This will be published in the HWA Newsletter. 

The ‘Holistic Horrors’ Blog Post where guest HWA members share their experiences and insights into writing and mental health and, in some instances, share their own personal experiences of mental health issues. 

Of Horror & Hope, a curated anthology featuring original flash fiction, poems, and personal vignettes from HWA members that will be available for free as a downloadable eBook from the dedicated webpage. Excerpts and teasers will also feature heavily on the HWA social media platforms. 

Dedicated resource links to external mental health charities and professional organisations both in the US, UK, and other territories where the HWA has membership representation. This will be accessible via the dedicated webpage. 

Panel Discussions have been scheduled at StokerCon 2022 & ChillerCon UK 2022 and will feature both in-person and virtual elements. Panel reports will be published in the monthly HWA newsletter so that members will be able to see what themes and topics were discussed.

Community Engagement is intrinsic to promoting the initiative and many high-profile genre sites have agreed to support the launch by either publishing the HWA Press Release, releasing mental health articles from HWA members, or interviewing members of the Wellness Committee.

Through this initiative, the Wellness Committee hope to provide members with a sustainable platform – a ‘go-to’ place – where they can access features that will inspire, motivate and offer a comprehensive list of resources that may offer support when needed. 

HWA President, John Palisano, welcomed the initiative, stating, “The HWA’s Mental Health Initiative is exactly the sort of support and resource the organization should be offering members. It means a great deal to me personally to see this come to be, as it’s as important as things get. I’m beyond grateful to those putting so much effort into this and I have all faith this will be an extremely helpful initiative for many.”

The initiative’s logo, created by Australian horror artist, Greg Chapman, features Poe, arguably the father of horror, bathed in comforting yellow light, with the HWA’s raven on his shoulder. “The concept of this logo and, by extension, its committee, and services, is to be a guiding light, and for the HWA to always be there on members’ shoulders supporting them,” says Chapman of his design.

As an organisation, and a community, we can help support each other, and give everyone struggling with their mental health, and those who want to know more on the subject, the means to do so. Together, let’s make the stigmatisation of mental illness a thing of the past by empowering our members who endure it on a day-by-day basis. 

Let’s keep talking about it. Let’s give people hope. 

Author Interview : With Naching T. Kassa

Naching T. Kassa https://nachingkassa.wordpress.com/ is a member of the Horror Writers Association, Mystery Writers of America, and a staff writer at Crystal Lake Publishing. She resides in Eastern Washington State with her husband Dan. They are the proud parents of three children and a dog. 

NOX: Our readers may know you as a runner-up in the Great Horror Writer’s Contest, a staff member, writer, and publisher for HorrorAddicts.net.  But a search of the internet shows so much more! Can you give us a rundown of your major accomplishments from your viewpoint? And where you are now?

Naching: Well, I wrote a story called, “The Darker Side of Grief,” which appeared in Arterial Bloom, https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B085QLBYSS an anthology edited by the amazing Mercedes M. Yardley and published by Crystal Lake Publishing, and that book was nominated for a Bram Stoker Award ®. And, I’ve been writing and editing stories for Crystal Lake Publishing’s Patreon series, Still Water Bay, https://www.amazon.com/Guild-Small-Horror-Still-Water/dp/B09MG866BM and producing audiobooks for the series. I’ve also had several Sherlock Holmes stories published by Belanger Books, MX Books, and Mango Books. And my poem, “A Home to Those Who Fly,” appeared in the Blackspot Books Poetry anthology, Under Her Skin. https://www.amazon.com/Under-Her-Skin-Marge-Simon-ebook/dp/B091ZH59G2  

It’s been a pretty exciting time!

NOX: Tell us a bit about your writing history. What made you decide to be a writer? What did you write at first? 

Naching: Oh wow. Let’s see. I’ve always wanted to write, ever since I was little. When I was eight, I used to draw and illustrate monster books for my second grade class. One was about a monster called Henry, who was so ugly, that he had to wear a paper bag over his head. 

In high school, I was very into fantasy and I wrote that for a while. When I had my first child at 33 and decided to be a stay-at-home mom, I started writing horror and mystery. I’ve been writing in those genres ever since.

NOX: Why the horror genre for you?

Naching: I have always enjoyed frightening things so it was natural I would gravitate toward the horror genre. Dean Koontz is a particular favorite. He really inspires my writing. 

Nox: In the Anthology, Crescendo of Darkness, your story, Audition, is a great piece.  The characters are so real and reminiscent of musicians we have heard stories about. Will you share your methods of character development?

Naching: Sure! All of my characters–even the villains–have a moral code they follow, a list of things they will and will not do. This gives them dimension and makes them who they are. Some characters have a flexible moral code, one they can adapt to their experiences, while others have a rigid one they won’t violate.  

A character should also learn and grow during the arc of a story. Ideally, the person they are at the end of the story should be different from the person they were at the beginning. 

NOX: What kind of challenges do you face as you write? Any stumbles along the way?

Naching: Oh goodness, I’m always stumbling. My editing process is a long one. Haha!

NOX: You have written, edited, critiqued, and published. Which part of the literary life do you like best?

Naching: Writing is my most favorite part of the literary life. I just love the creative process. 

NOX: Have you any advice or encouragement that would be helpful for horror writers reading this interview?

Naching: My advice comes in three parts. First, read. Read absolutely everything you can. Read new authors, old authors, authors in and outside of your genre. Just read. Second, learn to accept criticism. Nobody on this planet is a perfect writer (though some do come close!) Put your ego on the back burner. And Third, never ever give up. If you get a rejection, just keep going! The publisher or editor isn’t rejecting you as a person. Keep going, keep learning your craft and you will make it!

NOX: Good advice! Thank you so much for talking with us today but before we go, can you tell us what’s ahead for you. And where can we read more of your writing?

Naching: I have a new episode of Still Water Bay coming out in a few months and John Linwood Grant, Angela Yuriko Smith and I have a Sherlock Holmes book coming out from Crystal Lake Publishing next year. I’m afraid the rest of my projects are secret right now!
You can find my work on Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Naching-T-Kassa/e/B005ZGHTI0 

Thank you, Nox! It’s been a pleasure!

Merrill’s Musical Musings : Bourbon House

Ro’s Review

Bourbon House is one of the most exciting bands to come across my Horror Addicts Music Desk and their new album Into the Red is not to be missed. They are described on their website as “Forever passionately in love with the classic ’60s and 70’s hard rock sound of pioneering artists like Led Zeppelin, Janis Joplin, Deep Purple, and Black Sabbath, bourbon house are on a mission to create music that is timeless and infectious.” 

Oh, yes! Give me all the female-fronted grungy bluesy hard rock please and thank you. Fans of The Dead Weather, Dorothy, and The Kills will dig tracks like “Devil On My Heels” and “Dead In The Water.” These tracks would have fit right in on the True Blood soundtrack and are perfect for road trips, whiskey drinking, and good times with your friends. I look forward to more!

This week’s Shoutout is for Neonpocalypse and their new EP -Ish. This is the first-ever solo project by Then Comes Silence frontman Alex Svenson. It’s an apocalyptic EP for the ambivalent set. “Lips” is a gloomy jam that stands out from the rest of the tracks. 

Ro’s Recs 

Dream Widow is the metal band you’ll die for, but have never heard of…

Foo Fighter’s frontman Dave Grohl never does anything halfway, so when the band recorded their 10th album, Medicine at Midnight, they rented a house that allegedly had some extra ghost hosts living in it, and apparently, the band had some interesting experiences—which led Dave to decide, “we’re going to make a horror movie!” Studio 666 was born, and Horror Addicts, believe me when I say you will not be disappointed. I’ll work up a review for the film, but it was this strange appearance of a new artist on my YouTube Music recommendations that had me wondering…who is Dream Widow? The answer is, you guessed it, Dave Grohl and the Foo Fighters. They recorded a full-length super heavy metal album to go along with the film and I am so in love. They drew on all of their influences dating back to Black Sabbath, Ozzy, and Motorhead but the sound is refreshingly new. Yes, you can tell the Foos are behind it, and sometimes you can recognize Dave’s voice, but just like they did with their Bee Gees tribute album The Dee Gees Hail Satin, they went all in to make a fantastic record. I highly suggest you check out the movie and the Dream Widow album. What better way to honor the memory of recently deceased drummer Taylor Hawkins? It was tough to watch as my heart is still hurting for the band, but I laughed and cried along, and I’m sending a big hug to the band and all of the fans missing Taylor.

That’s it for this time. Check out this week’s tunes on the Playlist and Stay Tuned for more…

The Last Stop – by CM Lucas

Dust devils encircle a dingy blue Pontiac Sun fire as the summer sun’s rays reflect off the few exposed areas of clean finish. The looming shadow of The Last Stop diner begins to overtake the Pontiac. The antiquated eatery bakes in the scorching New Mexico heat, while inside hungry patrons fair no better.

The buzzing of a single osculating fan blows hot, dry air in customers’ faces; perspiration dripping from every inch of exposed skin, relief from the heat only coming from tepid ice tea and warm root beer.

Swaying back and forth on his stool sits a man fidgeting with his paper napkin. Sitting at the center of the counter, the man periodically peers up from his napkin, glancing at the various customers, peering over at the entrance and back to his napkin. The man wipes the excessive perspiration from his brow and runs his trembling hand along the scruff that adorns his scarred chin.

“You ready, darlin’?” asks the waitress with a large, comforting smile.

“Uh, y-yea, Um… I-I’ll have the s-strawberry sundae,” says the man, briefly making eye contact before returning his gaze to his crumpled napkin.

“Ran out about two hours ago. Ice cream’s a hot commodity in heat like this, darlin’. Anything else?” asks the waitress as she fans her freckled skin with a menu. The man shrugs his shoulders and continues to fiddle with his napkin.

“You ok, darlin’? You seem a little nervous,” asks the waitress, flashing her comforting smile the man’s way. The man rises from his stand, reaching into his pants to retrieve a large pistol.

“Everybody, get the fuck down. Now!” yells the man, waving his pistol wildly in every direction. The customers begin to scream with fear. An elderly couple freezes in place, the businessman within the far corner drops to the floor, and the newly-wed couple close to the window embraces as the man jerks violently within the diner.

“You. G-get your hand up w-where I can see them,” says the man; his hands trembling. pointing at the register, the man aims his pistol at the cowering waitress.

“Start emptying t-the register,” demands the man. The waitress, wide-eyed and frozen in place, struggles to respond.

“Do it! Now!” yells the man as his pistol gets closer to her face. Tears begin to stream down the waitress’ face as she empties the contents of the register into a plastic bag. The man twists around to survey the diner. Spotting the businessman with a cell phone in his hand, The man rushes over; his pistol now directly in the businessman’s face.

“Put that fucking thing down!” screams the man. The businessman drops his phone and begins to cower in his chair. The man turns his attention to the newly-wed couple as the young bride begins to wince in pain. the man moves toward the woman with a furrowed brow. The young bride drops to the floor, revealing her enlarged stomach. She clenches her stomach as her husband rushes over to his bride.

“Hey, hey, hey! Get back to your-” the husband throws his arms in the air.

“Please, My wife’s pregnant,” says the husband, cradling his wife’s head as she moves to her back, panting and moaning.

“Oh, God. I think she’s going into labour!” Yells the waitress.

“E-everybody, shut up,” says the man, moving around frantically.

“You have to do something,” says the waitress. The man continues to tremble.

“W-what?” asks the man.

“To help her. You have to help her,” screams the waitress. The diner’s begin to panic as the young bride’s contractions being to worsen.

“Shut up! Everybody, s-shut up!” shouts the man as he makes his way over to the pregnant bride. As the man’s heart pounds within his chest, he glaces down at the bride, moaning in pain. The man kneels to the floor.

“What d-do I have to d-do. I’m not a fucking doctor. You do something,” says the man, pointing at the husband. The husband begins to move toward his bride’s legs, but his wife firmly grasps his arms.

“No, John! Stay… Ah! Stay h… Ah,” says the bride as her contractions worsen.

“You have to help her,” screams the waitress. The man wipes the sweat from his brow and moves toward the bride’s legs.

“W-what do I do?” asks the man as he trembles in place.

“Talk to her. Make sure the baby doesn’t fall to the floor,” says the businessman.

“… You’re going to b-be ok. Y-you’re doing good,” says the man softly. The bride begins to wince and gyrate; his screams echo through the diner as the man positions his hand beneath the bride’s legs. The young bride continues to moan as the contraction worsens.

“T-that’s It. Y-you’re ok,” asserts the man; his hands trembling. The bride gives a final push as the newborn’s head emerges. The rest of the body begins to show with the final push until the newborn is within the man’s shaky arms. The bride begins to sob with joy, as does her husband. A collective sigh of relief washes over the diner as they temporarily forget the situation they are in.

The man hands the newborn baby over to its parents. He rises to his feet and begins to weep uncontrollably. Suddenly, the police burst into the diner. With their weapons drawn, The man puts up no resistance, placing his hands behind his back as the police place him in handcuffs. The man is placed in the back of the squad car. As the squad car begins to pull away, the man glances at the diner. Paramedics being to arrive at the scene, escorting the newlyweds out of the diner.

The bride glances at the man in the back of the squad car. She smiles and mouths ‘thank you’ at the man before the police car pulls away. The man begins to well up before he smiles back and nods.

No. Don’t you do it, you fuck. You can resist, the man thinks to himself as his pulse begins to race. Suddenly, the man begins to sweat profusely, his heart smashes against his chest. The man closes his eyes tightly as he struggles to conceal his pronounced canine teeth. A deluge of perspiration pours down his forehead as the narrow slits that are his pupils dilate as the man focuses on the diner. The man breaks free of his restraints, reaching through the cage that separates him from the officers in the front of the police car. The flesh on the man’s arms rips and tear as his talon-like fingernails plunge into the neck of the officer driving the police car. Blood sprays across the windshield as the police car collides with a telephone pole. The fire from the exploding squad car gains the attention of the patrons within the diner.

The new mother grips her child as she rushes toward the diner’s window. Her eyes well up as she glances into the vertical pupil eyes and panting tongue of the man who minutes ago helped bring her newborn baby into the world.

End

Book Review: SAIR BACK, SAIR BANES by Anthony Engebretson

A book review by Renata Pavrey

With a catchy title and cover, Sair Back, Sair Banes certainly piques the reader’s interest. I love books about folklore from around the world, and this novella set in Scotland was placed on my to-read list as soon as publisher Ghost Orchid Press mentioned it.

Genevieve takes a trip from America to connect with an old family friend of her now-deceased parents. Her father loved the outdoors and adventure, and often spoke about his love for the Scottish people, customs, lore, and legends. He also regaled Genevieve’s childhood with stories of the kelpie – shape-shifting horses that inhabit water bodies.

Genevieve’s host lives right next to a loch, and she encounters a drowning horse on her first day. But no one else was around to see the horse struggling and disappearing beneath the cold, dark waters. Nobody owns a horse around here, as far as anyone can tell. Was Genevieve imagining it, was someone playing a prank on her, or is there more to the legend of the kelpies? An over-friendly bartender, an icy pub owner, people going missing, a killer on the loose, trauma of parental abuse and suicide – Sair Back, Sair Banes packs a punch within its few pages.

The phrase ‘Sair Back, Sair Banes’ comes from an old folk curse, about a problematic horse in Scottish history. Blending folklore and legends with modern themes of loneliness, isolation, mental health, along with family history and relationships, Anthony Engebretson takes the reader on a trip through the Scottish landscape and culture. His story has one story and many stories; where the protagonist could be anybody, as could the antagonist. A place where spirits could be good and people could be bad; where there’s more to our ancestors than the stories they pass on. I loved this interweaving of themes and emotions – a well-written story that gives the reader something to ponder upon, much after having finished the book.

Sair Back, Sair Banes is Anthony Engebretson’s debut book, although he has written short stories for several anthologies. This was my first time reading this author, and I’ll certainly look forward to more from him. Ghost Orchid Press is known for featuring unpredictable, but brilliant writing. From the body horror Blood and Bone, to the eco-terror Chlorophobia, and the haunting collection Palimpsest, I look forward to their new releases. Sair Back, Sair Banes is another stellar book from their repertoire.

Spooky Locations: The Axe Murder House of Villisca, Iowa

By J.S. O’connor

When thinking of a “Spooky Location”, it’s easy to think of the paranormal. However, a real-life tragedy can be more terrifying than the paranormal. The Axe Murder House of Villisca, Iowa is both – a paranormal location as well as a real tragedy that took the lives of eight people and still remains unsolved over a hundred years later. 

Villisca, Iowa is a small town with a population just over one thousand located in southeastern Iowa. It fits the definition of a “blink and you’ll miss it” town. It’s a peaceful-looking town with the exception of one house with a bad reputation.

 The story of the murders is as follows: Lena and Ina Stillinger spent the night at the Moores’ house after church on a Sunday. The next morning, the Moores’ next-door neighbor, Mary Peckham, had not seen the Moores and placed a call to the brother of Joseph Moore. When they entered the home, they discovered the bodies of Joseph Moore, his wife Sarah, and their six children: Herman, Katherine, Boyd, and Paul, and the Stillinger Sisters. The children were between six and twelve years of age, with the murders estimated to have taken place after midnight. All had been brutally butchered with Joseph’s own axe. The murderer has never been found. The list of suspects for the murder is long, including a serial killer Henry Lee Moore to a State Senator Frank F. Jones, who may have hired someone to carry out the murders, and everyone in between.  

Even though the house has been renovated a number of times since 1912, the current owners have been hard at work returning the house to its former self. Currently, the owners offer paranormal tours and overnight stays to the curious. Some may say that turning a tragic murder into a paranormal tour is an insult to the people who tragically lost their lives. Others would say that it is a way of keeping the memory of the Moore family and Stillinger sisters alive and never forgotten. Whichever you believe, it’s important to remember and honor the people who have lost their lives.  

Work Cited:

 The Official Site of the Villisca Axe Murders of 1912, https://www.villiscaiowa.com/index.php. 

Book Birthday : HorrorAddicts.net Press presents…Clockwork Wonderland.

 

HorrorAddicts.net Press presents…Clockwork Wonderland.

HorrorAddicts.net Press presents…

Clockwork Wonderland.

Clockwork Wonderland contains stories from authors that see Wonderland as a place of horror where anything can happen and time runs amok. In this book you’ll find tales of murderous clockworks, insane creations, serial killers, zombies, and a blood thirsty jabberclocky. Prepare to see Wonderland as a place where all your worst nightmares come true. You may never look at classic children’s literature the same way again.

Edited by Emerian Rich
Cover by Carmen Masloski
Featuring authors:

Trinity Adler
Ezra Barany
Jaap Boekestein
Dustin Coffman
Stephanie Ellis
Jonathan Fortin
Laurel Anne Hill
N. McGuire
Jeremy Megargee
James Pyne
Michele Roger
H.E. Roulo
Sumiko Saulson
K.L. Wallis

With Foreword by David Watson

Hatter’s Warning by Emerian Rich

Starting off with a poem from the Mad Hatter who warns us, our time is running out and Alice the queen of Wonderland is after our heads and our souls.

Jabberclocky by Jonathan Fortin

A drunken clock repair shop owner and his abused son receive a visit form the Mad Hatter who has an evil plan to bring a murderous Jaberclock to life. Only the Cheshire Cat can save the day or is he as mad as the Hatter?

Hands of Time by Stephanie Ellis

The Queen of Heart’s executioner and timekeeper are looking for an apprentice and a new set of hands to kill and kill again to run the queen’s clock.

Clockwork Justice by Trinity Adler

With only one day and two clues, a bloody torn card and carrot tarts, Alice fights to prove she’s innocent and avoid losing her head to the Red Queen’s executioner.

My Clockwork Valentine by Sumiko Saulson

Unlike the White Rabbit, Blanche Lapin does not carry her timepiece in her pocket, but in her chest. It’s a Victorian-era clockwork pacemaker and if it’s not wound every forty-eight hours, she will die. When the key is stolen, the thief who has it will let her die if she doesn’t declare her love and stay with him forever.

Blood will Have Blood by James Pyne

There are many Wonderlands and a young woman is trapped in one where she is expected to be the new Alice. It’s a place where the rivers are filled with corpses and that’s not even the worst of it. The only way out is by wearing a clock necklace that needs blood for fuel, but what happens if it runs out?

Midnight Dance by Emerian Rich

Wonderland is being overrun by zombies. Mr. Marsh and The Mad Hatter are in a race against time to jam up the clockmaker’s clock and stop the undead apocalypse. If they can’t the apocalypse will start over and over as the clock strikes one.

A Room for Alice by Ezra Barany

When Alice is locked in a blood-splattered room and poisoned by D, she must behead the Queen of Spades within fifteen minutes in order to get the antidote. Can Tweedle help, or is he part of the problem?

Frayed Ears by H.E. Roulo

Caught in a child’s fever-fueled dream, The White Rabbit, The Scarecrow, and other storybook characters soon discover that story time is coming to an end and maybe so are they.

King of Hearts by Dustin Coffman

A prequel story to Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, this tale explains how the Queen became mad, and why she hates the name Alice so much, though it has nothing to do with the real one.

Riddle by N. McGuire

A steampunk take on the infamous tea party, with a killer twist.

Tick Tock by Jaap Boekestein

To hear him tell it, a heroic wild card fights against the usurper Alice and puts Mary—the true Queen Of Hearts—on Watch World’s throne. Is that what’s really going on?

Gone a’ Hunting by Laurel Anne Hill

Alease goes rabbit hunting, but she’s the one caught in a place where she will have plenty of time to think about what she’s done.

The Note by Jeremy Megargee

Cheshire Cat tells a story about the changing, horrifying world of Wonderland and why he has to leave it.

Half Past by K.L. Wallis

A woman follows a mysterious man though the subway and travels back in time to the late 1800s, where she finds that instead of the patriarchal norms of the past, she is in a Wonderland where women are the superior sex and moral boundaries cease to exist.

Ticking Heart by Michele Roger

A woman on a train goes to visit Alice in a war-torn steampunk Wonderland, which is very different than the one we know.

To read the full story and more Clock-inspired, Alice Horror, check out Clockwork Wonderland.

Free Fiction : Seeing Out the Monkey by Ann Folks

Alice showed me into the Medical Sciences Research Institute. The pouring rain outside ran in sheets down the floor-to-ceiling windows. Lightning flashed far away in the dark sky.

She handed me a key card and we walked to the elevator that went down to my janitor’s closet in the subbasement. Taped on the back of the door was a calendar and newspaper clipping about the previous janitor that just retired on his 67th birthday, October 1, 2021.   “No more crazy monkeys!” was scrawled across the calendar.  

     Upstairs, Alice explained, “You are almost the only one in the building, the other cleaner quit already.  Phillip works on the animal cages on the       top 3 floors. Your card won’t work on those, put his phone number into your phone. When you need to clean those floors, call him and he’ll               unlock the doors. So just pull the trash, push in the chairs, questions?”

     “Do the keypads on the swipe boxes have codes?”

     “Only for an emergency. Do the month and year, so this being October, the code would be 1021. Again, the top three floors have a different,              longer code. Only Phillip knows it, don’t try to guess, three wrong tries, and you’re locked out or in, depending on where you are. “

     “Leaving…”.  And she was gone. 

Pushing in the chairs was easy, pulling the trash, was somewhat difficult. Some of the trash cans were overflowing. These labs hadn’t been cleaned for days. The lights flickered; beeping came from some of the equipment. On the 7th floor, scurrying footsteps of animals upstairs rattled.  The storm grew closer, the lightning lit up the lab.  I called Phillip. He answered panting.

     “Yeah?” 

     “Hi, I’m the new cleaner and …”

     “On my way down”. He hung up. 

A thirty-something man, of large build, with a limp, walked out of the elevator. He was sweating.

     “Look, I have a situation with Nero. Here’s my card. Just open the doors as you need them.  But do NOT come up to 10.  Nero always acts                freaky during storms, but this one is the worst.  They adjusted his meds and he’s almost uncontrollable.  I’ll find you when I get him back into        his cage.”

He turned around and got back on the elevator. 

     “Remember. Stay off 10”.  The doors closed.

***

On 8, the lights were out. I turned on my phone flashlight. Cockroaches and mice scurried into dark corners.   Puppies and kittens with electrodes attached to their heads whimpered and mewed.  Water was dripping somewhere. Lightning illuminated the lab. I screamed when suddenly something jumped on me, and claws dug into my back. It was just a cat, as scared as I was. It jumped off. I ran out of the lab.

On 9, still dark. Lights flickered on and off.  Open cages were perched on stainless-steel tables, but no animals.   

I was happy to be finished.  I turned to leave the room when I heard Phillip scream from above on 10, the forbidden floor. Another scream emanated from upstairs, furniture was being overturned and something crashed to the ground.  In the elevator, I pushed 10. I had to see if I could help Phillip.

When the elevator doors opened, it took a minute for my eyes to focus. Blood was everywhere. Bleeding from a large wound on his thigh, Phillip sat propped by a desk.  A monkey with a prosthetic leg and one real and one fake eyeball was staring, grinning wickedly, blood dripping from his mouth. I saw a cabinet with glass doors and fruit inside. I threw some grapes at Nero. He ate the grapes, staring back and forth at us. 

     Phillip said, “he’s going to kill us.”

I tiptoed towards Phillip, past Nero. He kept staring at us, back and forth.

I used rags from my cart to try to stop the bleeding. We struggled into an office and locked it. 

     “I’ll call the police and wait with you”. 

      Phillip whispered. “No, you have to let them in. No access.”

      I asked, “Why is Nero so crazy?”

      Whispering again, “Afraid of lightning. The code, it’s his ‘rith day”

He passed out.

I dialed 911.

***

Outside of the office, I blocked the door with a desk.

Lighting flashed again, the room went dark, and uneven footsteps and screeches followed me. 

 I screamed when Nero suddenly jumped on my back. His hand reached around and yanked at the key card from behind. The lanyard started to cut off my air. Searing pain shot through my shoulder as his teeth sunk into my collarbone.  Still screeching, he bit the lanyard and it snapped off my neck, letting me take a deep breath. His jaw moved down to my forearm and spinning around I slammed him against the block wall. He fell down.

I ran to the stairwell and found the code box. I had three tries. I tried today’s date, nothing. The newspaper clipping said he retired on 10/01/2021. Nothing. He was 67. 10/01/1954. It clicked and flashed green, and the door to the stairwell unlocked.  

A searing pain shot through my other shoulder. He was on my back and wouldn’t let go. I ran down the stairwell, slamming him into the walls, the railings, even the steps when I fell. He still wouldn’t let go. Finally, I saw his head leaning way over my shoulder as if he was trying to see where he was going. I ran towards the wall at the 4th floor landing and cracked his head as hard as I could into the block wall. He went limp and fell from my body. I picked him up and threw him down the rectangular hole the banister made down the levels. He landed with a metallic thud on the concrete below. 

I limped as best as I could to the front doors and let waiting police in. They found Phillip, they loaded us in the ambulance. 

It’s the last time I’ll work in the same building as a monkey. 


 

Ann Folks is a beginning writer and so far has only entered her stories into writing contests. I really liked this one and it’s been entered into a contest but it didn’t place. I got some decent reviews on it so I tweaked it and I’m submitting it here to see if I get some good input. All comments are welcome.

Terror Trax: Interview with Amulet by William Zimmerman

  1. Where did the project name, Amulet come from?

Stephanie Stryker: I’ve always wanted my band to be called Amulet. It’s mystical, fancy, and mysterious.

  1. Who are your main inspirations?

MJ Phoenix: Punk, new wave, reggae, and funk genres. Also, Stephanie herself.

SS: NIN and Manson are in my musical DNA, along with goth classics like Sisters of Mercy.

  1. What non-musical things inspire your music?

MJ: Heartbreak, each other, despair, general dissatisfaction, darkness.

SS: Beauty in darkness, esotericism, and occultism. Mysteries of the unknown and exploring those topics.

  1. What actor/actress could you most identify with? Why?

MJ: Leonardo DiCaprio he’s a great environmental advocate.

SS: She’s just a character, but Lily Munster. I love her dark housewife lifestyle and she cared deeply for her family and home. She’s got that take-no-shit sass to boot!

  1. Where was the coolest place to play? Where did you enjoy yourselves the most?

MJ: Small venue with a packed house and good vibe. Public Bar Live in DC was great, so was Ottobar in Baltimore.

SS: 100% agreed with MJ. The vibe of a crowd enjoying the music is the best part of a venue.

  1. What are your favorite horror movies?

MJ: Nosferatu. Not a horror movie, but I love Cat People.

SS: I love witch, occult, ghost, and vampire-themed movies. I also love all the dark fantasy classics with Vincent Price, Christopher Lee, and friends.

  1. What was the scariest night of your life?

MJ: When I was marooned on a roof rack of a speeding car going between Nepal and Katmandu. Long story…

SS: I saw Limp Bizkit in 1999 and was very close to dying in a mosh pit. Thankfully, someone pulled me out, but I lost my JNCOs and chain wallet to the pit. Can this story be any more 90’s?!

  1. If you could bring back greats who have passed on, who would be your undead opening band?

SS: David Bowie and Type O Negative, but we’d be okay opening for them ;).

  1. Final thoughts / Anything you want to tell the Horror Addicts?

MJ: If you feel like writing a song, do it! Go with your inspiration.

SS: Be true to yourself. Authenticity is so valuable and it helps people relate to you.

Join our mailing list and follow us on social media to get updates on upcoming events and releases. We are coming out with new music, photography, music videos, live shows, and more.

Our website is amulettheband.com, and follow us on Instagram and Facebook at @amulettheband.com

(Fan contacts…)

Website/Twitter/Facebook/Instagram/Bandcamp?

Music video for our track Vampire:

Free Fiction: Long Time No See by James Peace

It had been at least three years since I had last seen John. I wondered if “best friend” was still applicable, given the circumstances. Somehow semantics were the last thing on my mind. Who left a voicemail in this day and age, anyway? Only John. His social and emotional ineptitude let him feel, think and act with not a single care for what others found acceptable or “in”. I admired that in him. He was the opposite of me, as I was confident and outgoing. I went to the parties, did the drugs, drank the shots. I had my own place way before he even considered leaving his parents’ home. Yet still, in a way, he had always been far more “free” than me.

Of course, that was back when we were in college. After we parted ways, the journey of life took…different routes for each of us. I ended up enlisting and following a boot’s lifestyle for a few years. John collected degrees like stamps and hopped between part-time jobs. We tried to meet up and connect for cultural events or each other’s birthdays. Life inevitably takes its course, though. Over time our get-togethers dwindled from once a month to once a year. For a long while, not even that. By the time I was 26, I hadn’t spoken with the man I loved as a brother in two years. We met at his family’s summer house by the northern coast for a pair of days. Bars, a casino, the beach, and a penthouse all to ourselves. Still, it hadn’t ended on the best of terms.

Three whole years had passed since then and here I was, tripping over every piece of furniture in my house. I dodged the third lego piece behind the corner of the stairwell, saving myself quite a bit of grief, and went down into the basement to get my duffle bag. At times, I had to question whether my son left these out of negligence or if he was trying to show his old man that he could hunt “big animals” too. Adorable little runt.

Throwing the duffle bag over my shoulder, I dialed my wife’s number into my phone. Life in the army, both during and after Bootcamp tended to prepare one for pretty much anything. The habits of getting up early, making one’s bed, and keeping a bag ready for sudden departures hadn’t been lost on me. With the house locked, the dog fed and the woman of my life appeased with promises of a weekend getaway, I threw the bag onto the backseat and left. Unlike my 99 Astra, life sure had a way of coming at you fast. Much like said Astra, though, I took pride in being a tough bone to chew on. After the dishonorable discharge, bouncing back wasn’t the easiest thing in the world yet I did it nonetheless. I took a couple of swigs from my pocket flask to steel myself against the cold and carried on.

On the way, I lost myself to the roads of memory. The teenage years spent with John, playing video games and geeking out with the other nerds in our group of friends. The wild nights of college when I ran out his patience with the latest of my dramas and mischiefs. I remembered the nights I spent having dinner at his place, his parents still sent me a gift when my birthday came along every year. Great people, all of them odd in their own harmless way. These had been some of the best times of my life. Sure, there were mistakes made along the way, but I for one never liked to dwell on the past.

I found the town by sundown and the coastline was deserted as I’d expected. With the rain and the cold, nobody stepped foot in it. His house was pretty isolated, a couple of miles away from the center. It was very characteristic of his family to keep a comfortable distance. As I slowly rolled into his driveway, I could see the lights were already on. I parked the car and took in a deep breath.  I forced down over half of the contents of my flask, replacing the sobering chill with a vigorous burn.

I stepped outside the car, shaking off the tension in my legs and back, and looked over to his porch. There he was, waving down at me with a big grin on his face. His hair was oily and black, his features rough and germanic. You could see a hint of eastern in his eyes. He wore the same black button-up shirt and brown chinos he’d worn three years before when we “made it big”. I missed him with all of my heart. I didn’t bother waving back as I opened the backseat door. Reaching my duffle bag, I grasped around for a small box and cold steel. As I pulled the Winchester M21 out and closed the door, I slid the two slugs into their respective barrels, glancing at the corner of the yard. The small dirt mound was still where I left it. Where I’d left him. I was holding in my right hand the same gun that had blown a hole through John so cleanly that a dessert plate could have easily fit through. Right through his trusting heart. Right through the shirt that thing, whatever it was, was wearing. I’ve never considered myself a man of prejudice, but dead things should stay dead and certainly not leave voicemails to their former friends.

Turning my attention back to “John”, I could see he was no longer waving at me. In fact, he was no longer smiling, either. Swallowing my fear, I took aim.


 

A young author from Western Europe, 24 years old, fascinated by all things horror and interested in publishing his own horror novel. Currently in the military, pursuing future involvement in Special Forces. Loves people, dogs, and the three F’s of life.

Free Fiction : Come Dine With Me by Pete Kijek

I never imagined in a million years that when I submitted the advert in the local paper asking to have someone for dinner, that someone would actually respond!

The advertisement was only short, necessity and a price per word dictated that. ‘Lonely 41-year-old male seeks like-minded individual for evening meal. Non-smoker, pref. non-drinker, must enjoy secluded weekends away and keeping fit.’ I must confess to being somewhat hesitant to submit, yet submit I did and paid for a four-week run. 

Towards the end of the third week, I received a response. A woman from Tettenhall had written back, saying that she wanted to meet! I read through her profile. She was thirty-five, single, no children, and had recently moved to the Midlands from Durham as a mature student. She sounded ideal! 

I wrote back, asking if she wanted to meet for coffee first, as I understood that simply going for dinner with someone could be a bit daunting for a single woman these days. She replied saying that she would be up for coffee, and we arranged to meet the following Saturday in Coffee Moments in the Wulfrun Centre.

I will confess right now, I have never felt so anxious as I did that Saturday sitting at the shopping centre waiting for her to turn up. I had lost count of the number of times I had re-positioned the little Chicaboo monkey on the table in front of me, propped up on the sugar dispenser.

I knew it was her the instant she stopped outside the shop. Light brown hair tied in a loose ponytail, stonewash blue jeggings and a camel-coloured turtle neck jumper, and a purple cross-body tote bag. She wasn’t fat, but not entirely slim either – I guess the politically correct way of putting it was that she had curves, the classic hourglass figure. In short, she was gorgeous! Far too good for the likes of me.

She grabbed herself a cappuccino and came and sat down at my table. Her name was Lauren, and we sat for hours just talking to each other. I had never known anyone to be so attentive in their listening, so engaging in their conversation. I honestly believe that right there and then was the moment I fell in love with her.

We arranged to have dinner the following weekend, at my place. Now, I must confess, I have never hosted anything like a dinner date before. I mean, I’ve seen stuff on TV, but this was the first time I had ever tried something like this myself. Our first meal together had to be something truly special and unforgettable. I even managed to coax the twins from Number 16 down the road to be a part of it, and when they turned up that afternoon, already dressed in smart, waiter/waitress-y clothing, I could not have been more excited!

The doorbell rang just after 7pm, and I went to get the door. Lauren was there in the most stunning little red number, and I ushered her through to the lounge whilst I ran her coat upstairs quickly.

Coming back down, I entered through the dining room, bringing two flutes and a bottle of prosecco with me, the cork already popped. Lauren took a glass, and I poured the fizzing liquid, eliciting a small giggle as I accidentally spilled some on my hand. 

Holding my eye contact, she softly took hold of my hand, bringing it to her lips and lightly licking the prosecco from my skin. To say the evening was already perfect would be an understatement. I had never known a woman like her. She was entirely bewitching, and I was held entranced by her spell.

I beckoned to her to enter the dining room, where I placed the bottle and my glass down on the table before seating her as every gentleman should.

Disappearing briefly into the kitchen, I returned with a small bowl of tomato soup in each hand. I placed Lauren’s bowl before her, then sat down to mine. 

The conversation was magical. I can honestly say I have never laughed so much – we just clicked, if that makes sense? It was like we had known each other for years, for centuries. 

With the soup course over, I stood placing my napkin carefully on the table and suggested she come with me into the kitchen, as I had a surprise for her. This main course would be to die for! Everything had happened so perfectly, running smoothly and according to plan.

Lauren stood and took my hand, as I led her into the kitchen. 

Taking care to walk over the plastic sheeting that covered the floor and every work surface, I led her to the chest freezer on the far side of the kitchen, being careful not to knock the bags containing the somewhat sanguinary corpses of the house’s previous occupants.

Opening the freezer, Lauren’s eyes widened with anticipation as the chilled but very much alive twin children looked up at both of us, abject horror and despair displayed on both their faces. 

Lauren indicated the boy, which was ideal as I had already provisionally hoped to have the girl. Taking them from the chiller, we led them to the huge island table in the centre of the kitchen, laying them down side by side, and taking hold of the knives with which we would prepare our feast.

“You’ve really outdone yourself this time, Claudio,” said Lauren, as she pierced the flesh of the boy, his screams muffled by the tape around his mouth.

I simply looked at her, lovingly, the charade of being strangers evaporating as I opened the girl from collarbone to navel and started peeling the skin back to reveal the tender morsels within.

“Well,” I replied, “I’ve got another hundred and fifty years to think up the next dinner.”


 

 

Once, many moons and 1 failed marriage ago, I started writing a high fantasy novel, on the urging of my now ex-wife. I really enjoyed what I was writing, and probably would’ve carried on had things not gone awry at home. It is now 2021, I have a new wife, and a new novel idea to write about, which I am currently writing. I have also found a penchant for writing horror. I live with my family, emotional support hound, Fallon, and am addicted to Coco Pops and Hula Hoops

Interview with Eugen Bacon by Renata Pavrey

 African-Australian writer, Eugen Bacon, whose works span across prose and poetry, fiction and non-fiction, talks to book blogger and staff writer Renata Pavrey.

 As part of the upcoming release of her latest book, Mage of Fools, I got the chance to interview author Eugen Bacon, thanks to the publishing house Meerkat Press. I have read and loved other books from this publisher that specializes in speculative fiction, and had also interviewed Bacon about her previous books. Here, I get to talk to her about her newest dystopian novel that revolves around storytelling.

        From the blurb:

       In the dystopian world of Mafinga, Jasmin must contend with a dictator’s sorcerer to cleanse the socialist state of its deadly pollution. Mafinga’s malevolent king dislikes books and, together with his sorcerer Atari, has collapsed the environment to almost uninhabitable. The sun has killed all the able men, including Jasmin’s husband Godi. But Jasmin has Godi’s secret story machine that tells of a better world, far different from the wastelands of Mafinga. Jasmin’s crime for possessing the machine and its forbidden literature filled with subversive text is punishable by death. Fate grants a cruel reprieve in the service of a childless queen who claims Jasmin’s children as her own. Jasmin is powerless—until she discovers secrets behind the king and his sorcerer.

Renata: Hi Eugen, Congratulations on the release of your latest book. You have written The Road to Woop Woop – a collection of short stories, and Speculate – a co-creation of vignettes with Dominique Hecq. Mage of Fools is a dystopian novel. What’s your experience switching between writing forms and styles?

Eugen: I’ve always found it natural to switch mid-text across forms and genres, wearing different faces, hats, and cloaks.  I think it’s because of the immersion I find in writing, and our world is not black and white. I love experimentation, bending boundaries. I tend to resist boundaries that restrict text, and I approach a work with an openness to how a story may morph and shape itself. 

One of my recent stories is a blend between a short story and a script. Some of my short stories have prose poetry hidden in them. Some of my novels have short stories hidden in them. Some of my creative nonfiction—like ‘Inhabitation: Genni and I’ (Sydney Review of Books), where I talk to my other self, or ‘The New Seduction of an Old Literary Crime Classic’ (LitHub), where I pay homage to Peter Temple—integrates excerpts of fiction or poetry in it. 

I love the fluidity of text, as a literary enthusiast, Roland Barthes would have it.  

Renata: Your books fall under the umbrella of speculative fiction – alternating science fiction, fantasy and horror. Is there a genre you prefer, both as a reader and writer?

Eugen: My favourite genre is literary speculative fiction, where imagination is the limit. An introduction to my upcoming collection, Chasing Whispers by Raw Dog Screaming Press, describes my work as ‘towards an Afro-irreality’. Except for a time travel novel (Secondhand Daylight) that I am co-writing with a European slipstream author, Andrew Hook, I never start a story thinking that this is going to be science fiction, fantasy, or horror. 

Renata: Stories occupy an important place in Mage of Fools, where reading is banned and characters try to sneak in their daily dose of storytelling. The novel is peppered with the names of authors. Who are your favorite authors? Any favorite books you would recommend?

Eugen: I was only recently talking about Anthony Doerr and look forward to reading his latest historical and speculative fiction Cloud Cuckoo Land. Peter Temple’s dialogue is genius. 

And Toni Morrison is subversively in Mage of Fools, where I imagine her language in my stories. Anyone who hasn’t read all this Nobel prize-winning author’s fiction is missing big time. 

I am inspired by selfless people, like Nelson Mandela, who give of themselves so generously. 

I also have on my reading list a hardcover copy of Parable of the Sower: A Graphic Novel Adaptation, written by Octavia Butler, adapted by Damian Duffy, illustrated by John Jennings.  

Renata: When writing speculative fiction, what goes into world-building? How do you balance imaginary scenarios with real-world issues; the new with the familiar?

Eugen: The reader must find familiarity in the worlds we create, however strange, through the nature of our worldbuilding, whose intent is to demystify. Credibility is a necessity in any imaginary world. 

It all depends on the size of the story, its nature or setting, where it wants to take me, to determine whether it is a primary world (that resembles our real world) or a secondary world (mostly invented and dissimilar from our real-world). 

But even in a secondary world, an author may want to introduce themes and issues pertinent in our world today, and how the protagonists in those invented worlds deal with them. This is the author as an agent of change.   

Renata: Your writing is often poetic and lyrical, starkly contrasting the dark themes explored. Is this merging of prose and poetry deliberate, or does the narrative lead you?

Eugen: The narrative talks itself, the characters guiding it. Language is important and, in my mind’s eye, is always the musicality of the text. 

Renata: The cover of Mage of Fools mixes the traditional with the futuristic. Could you tell us about the story behind the cover?

Eugen: Ask the publisher, Tricia Reeks of Meerkat Press! She’s the closet designer, discovering herself. She asked for my art preference, and I said something African, maybe a mask. 

Renata: Thank you, Eugen, for taking out time for this interview. We wish you all the very best with Mage of Fools, and other books that follow.

Eugen: The pleasure is entirely mine. 


About the author: 

Eugen Bacon is African Australian—her books Ivory’s Story, Danged Black Thing, and Saving Shadows are finalists in the British Science Fiction Association (BSFA) Awards. Eugen was announced in the honor list of 2022 Otherwise Fellowships. She has won, been longlisted or commended in international awards, including the Foreword Indies Awards, Bridport Prize, Copyright Agency Prize, Horror Writers Association Diversity Grant, Otherwise, Rhysling, Australian Shadows, Ditmar Awards, and Nommo Awards for Speculative Fiction by Africans. Eugen’s creative work has appeared in literary and speculative fiction publications worldwide, including Award-Winning Australian Writing, BSFA, Fantasy Magazine, Fantasy & Science Fiction, Bloomsbury Publishing, and Year’s Best African Speculative Fiction. New releases: Danged Black Thing (collection), Saving Shadows (illustrated prose poetry). In 2022: Mage of Fools (Meerkat Press), Chasing Whispers (Raw Dog Screaming Press) and An Earnest Blackness (Anti-Oedipus Press). 

Website: eugenbacon.com / Twitter: @EugenBacon

 

Free Fiction: This Year’s Costume by Peter Kijek

 

     “Alice! Where’s my costume?” Danny shouted to his sister from upstairs in his room, “I can’t find it?”

     “Down here, on the sofa, where you left it,” she yelled back as she gathered the suit hanger from the back of the dining room chair. “Come down and get it yourself!”

Danny raced down the staircase and into the lounge with all the haste a nine-year-old boy could muster.

     “This was such a great idea Mum had for Halloween this year!!”

Alice had to admit, this idea did go one better than last year’s costume, where they pretended to be mini demons whilst Dad sat in the car, and they beat the roof with his ‘severed head’. They loved to go all out to provide a real scare for the neighbourhood, and last year’s was horrific but immense fun. They’d moved to a new area shortly after, just before Christmas, and this Halloween was a great chance to not only top last year, but to show the new neighbourhood kids what Halloween was all about.

Upstairs in her room, a typical bedroom for a twelve-year-old girl, she unzipped the case and carefully took out the hanger that held her costume in place. It was perfect, absolutely historically accurate to the turn of the century period. It was a replica of the clothes worn by Susan Buckley who, along with her brother John, was reportedly photographed outside their house with their mother sat between them, axe in Susan’s hand, their mother’s head in John’s. The photograph had since been debunked, with experts claiming to know how the original portrait had been doctored to make it look like the kids had decapitated their poor mother. Whether it was real or not didn’t matter, it was a great urban legend and a great idea for a Halloween costume!

With the dress on, Alice pulled on the boots that came with it and dusted herself down in front of the mirror to flatten out any last-minute creases. Her hair was already tied up in an untidy bun. Brilliant, she thought, I look just like Susan Buckley! She grabbed the small axe from her bed, already stained with blood for that authentic look, and stepped out onto the landing. 

     “Are you ready yet?” she called to Danny, knocking on his bedroom door.  The door opened, and he stepped out, pulling at the collar with one finger to loosen it from chafing him. 

     “This shirt itches,” he complained.

     “That’s the starch,” explained Alice, “It helps with the authenticity.”

The children made their way downstairs, excited at the prospect of their costumes this year. Such a shame that their father wouldn’t be there to see the fruits of their labour, but that was okay, they understood the time of year and that he’d no doubt be buried in something keeping him extremely occupied. 

     “Is Mother ready?” asked Danny as he grabbed the shopping bag from the table.

     “She’s outside, sat on her chair,” replied Alice as she moved towards the front door, “She’s waiting for us. Now, come on! Some of the local kids are coming, I can see the lights from their mobiles.” Opening the door, she ushered Danny outside to the chair on the front lawn where their mother sat.

     “Here they come,” she whispered to her brother, “Get ready! As soon as they see us, they’ll want to take photos, just like the Buckley children!”

Standing on the opposite side of his mother to where Alice was, Danny reached into the shopping bag and pulled out his mother’s head, blood still dripping from the ragged flesh where Alice had hacked it off earlier that afternoon. 

Alice quietly moved her head to one side, to whisper to Danny. “I don’t know how we’re going to top this next year? Here’s hoping Uncle Mark has some good ideas….. ?”

_________________________________________________________________________

 

Once, many moons and 1 failed marriage ago, I started writing a high fantasy novel, on the urging of my now ex-wife. I really enjoyed what I was writing, and probably would’ve carried on had things not gone awry at home. It is now 2022, I have a new wife, and a new novel idea I am currently writing. I have also found a penchant for writing horror. I live with my family, emotional support hound, Fallon, and am addicted to Coco Pops and Hula Hoops. Find Peter on Facebook.

Free Fiction: A Handful Of Bones by Anita Dénes

Bird bones, bird bones, rattling in my hand. Small and brittle. I listen to the soft clicking sounds they make as I shake them, cast them like dice on the worn carpet to tell me answers.

They’re not really the bones of a bird, though, they belong to a child or used to. A child with black curls and a quick smile. I’m holding her finger bones, or maybe a part of her foot.

Does that frighten you? Then you’re in the wrong place, love. And anyway, I lied. They’re squirrel bones, you can see a rib, can’t you, and children don’t have ribs that small.

Well, not once they’re born, anyway. Maybe these are child bones, after all, dug up from a worse place than the wet earth.

You decide what they are and what I am, if what I tell you is a lie or a truth. They called me Lügner, back in the old days – it means ‘liar’. Amazing how much a truth can sound like a filthy lie if you decide you don’t like what you’re hearing.

So what do you want to know? Your future? Someone else’s? Do you want to hear how to stop a treacherous heart without being discovered, or give life to a dry womb?

No. You wouldn’t have journeyed this far for that. Mother Lügner’s home is hidden in the whistling reeds, the capricious swamp, and it takes a brave one or a fool to find it. Or someone who has burned every single bridge, even the one she’s walking on.

Tell me, love, or I can’t help you.

You’re so young and lovely like I never was even when my hair was still dark and I had all my teeth. I should hate you for that. But how could I hate you when you sit there crying?

Don’t waste water like that. We don’t have much of it. Wipe your eyes, now, quiet down, and tell me what you want.

The creatures from the mountains, yes, of course, I know them. If you want to know how to avoid them, you need more than my words, I have no power over something that is not human anymore.

You… want to become one?

Oh, I haven’t had a laugh like that since the ash began falling from the sky. Tell me what you really want, and I will grant it to you just for cheering me like that.

Oh.

You were not joking.

You want to cast away your humanity, all you have left in these black days. You want to become mindless, a slave to hunger and cold and nothing else. A beast preying on the few of us that are left, your own family, maybe. You are running from something, but why do you want to run that far?

What have you done?

Ah. So that is why you went so pale when I said I was holding a child’s bones. Hard times beget harder measures, and hunger is the lord of us all.

Did you hold your brother’s bones when your stomach was full?

Don’t run away, love. You will drown in the swamp if you stumble around sobbing like that. I couldn’t care less about what happens to you, but I don’t want the carrion birds near my house. Or your… friends.

Yes, I will help you, if only just to get you out of here. Let us hear what the bones have to say.

Click-click-click, the sound of your future. A handful of bones finding you the road to damnation.

What is that little smile I see on your lips? Are you that eager to throw away all that you are, just to forget?

I cast the bones from my hand. Let us see.

That rib pointing at your foot, that is the direction you will have to go in once you leave my house. Through swamp and wood and snow, follow the line even if the path curves away from under you. Don’t lose it! Straight on until you run into this little vertebra, see? That will be a hill.

You will need to go into that hill, down in its hollowed-out stomach. Just follow the staircase, long ago laid bare by storms more vicious than you have lived to see. You will find a doorway at the bottom of the stairs, the door ripped off its hinges before you were born.

That is where those things came from. The first they feasted on were the people who made them.

You will find the cache in the secret room, untouched inside the hill. Untouched because no one in their right mind would open one of those crates, but you are not in your right mind anymore, are you, love?

They will look like little bottles of clean, cool water, but make no mistake. They are what you need. Open one and drink from it.

It will hurt.

Five of those bottles emptied into a city’s water tank were enough to wipe out thousands of men, women, and children. Drink only enough to moisten your mouth. Even I don’t know what will happen if you drink more.

No one can tell what you will look like once the agony passes. Eight limbs, maybe, eyes all over your skin, or a snout to crush a skull with. All of those at once, even. The tumors will kill you in a few years, of course, but for those few years, you will be free to roam and forget.

You are smiling once again. You disturb me, love, and few things disturb Mother Lügner these days.

You have not told me everything.

Oh. Oh.

That taste of flesh… You cried because you hated it.

And you smile now because you crave it.

Get out.

Get out!

My old heart races so. She will go where I said, no doubt, and destroy herself.

Man on the cross, forgive me. I should have lied to her.

______________________________________________________________________________________________

 

 

Anita Dénes grew up in Transylvania as an avid reader, and later writer of strange stories, both in English and Hungarian. She published her first short story in a Hungarian magazine at the age of 20. Now, at 23, she is an aspiring author dreaming of publishing a full-length book one day and working on mysterious and macabre tales in the meantime.

Free Fiction: Pockets of Posies by Nexie Maryln

Remember that one nursery rhyme Ring Around the Rosie? Well in this case two kids were in the woods when they heard the nursery rhyme through the wisping fall wind. Here is their story.

One day in October near Halloween, Lyla and Kyla were walking in the woods as the wind picked up putting an utter chill in the fall air when the twins heard a faint sound of a music box and as they neared the end of the woods the sound grew louder and louder so before the twins left the woods, they went exploring and found an old plantation style house was the source of the music. They ventured into the gate with a loud creak. The music stopped and they saw a little girl emerge from the broken door. She couldn’t have been any older than 4 or 5 years old. She looked very scared and was in ripped clothes.

     “Maybe she is homeless?” Lyla asked Kyla.  

Unbeknownst to the girls, the little girl Rosiee was the victim of a game of ouija board Ring Around the Rosie, where they summoned a demon who wanted to “play” with the little girl and her family. As they followed her in, they felt this unfamiliar feeling that made them uneasy. They ventured further into the home not trusting their gut to leave immediately.  Once they caught up to the little girl, they looked at the room and realized that they had fallen into a trap of the demon that possessed Rosiee. With her head cocked to one side, Rosieeand giggled as her eyes turned black and her face slowly began to slide off as her body grew two feet taller. By the time the girls turned to run Rosiee took the form of the demon that possessed her.

As soon as the girls got to the door it slammed shut, trapping the girls who were now cowering in fear. The demon rushed over to the girls and consumed them just like she had the family. 

So if you see three girls beckoning for you to come in. Run for your life before it is too late and you fall victim to the demons of Ring Around the Rosie. 

_________________________________________________________________________________________

Nexie Maryln is a short story author that wants to do this full time.

Free Fiction: He is Coming by S.Tierney

Under bough and moonlight, we bide, the twilight breeze fluttering the hems of our white cotton gowns. Behind us, staving the chill while preventing retreat, a semicircle of elders support burning torches, their grimaces of paternal anticipation veiled behind a portrait mask. 

Before us, awaiting us, beckoning us: a fruitless and endless and altogether lifeless density of brambles, an entwined jungle of octopus tentacle with talon-like thorns for suckers. The wind causes the vines to grind together, sounding a scratching akin to a butcher’s tools being sharpened – yet shortly we must attempt to achieve what the moonlight cannot. Upon the dimming of the moon behind a cloud we must penetrate this barbed mass, run headlong into its jagged crush without a moment’s hesitation, all in an attempt to reach the other side. 

This is the way of it–

And so we are away. Gowns flapping. Faces preemptively scrunched. The initial thorns cut the deepest, fangs puncturing, biting our momentum. Immediately we are lodged, imprisoned within nature’s chains. In animal reflex one cannot help but raise their hands to their face, fearing scars and lacerations and the likely loss of an eye. But this is a mistake. Although we are all virgins to this ceremony and therefore inexperienced, the best of us know instinctively that one’s hands are better put to use not in preservation but in parting. Reach for those brambles! Tear them from their roots! Yes, just as our cheeks, our palms will soon be glossy with blood, that loose skin between the fingers spliced from so much snagging; yet these torments must be ignored. We must hasten. Endure. Suffer. Clench. Scream if you must, cry out! But whatever you do, do not hesitate, not even for a moment.

For He is coming.

He moves faster than us, compelled by a purpose comparable with a predator’s lust. He carves through the brambles with all the impulsion of a stag trampling roses, following those paths of least resistance which we have so courteously made ready. Yes, we benefit from a head start, that interval between the thinning of the clouds and the returning of the moon; but He has strength on His side, power, size, and a rampant desire to capture those laggers who have fallen behind. 

Dare you look over your calloused shoulders you would see that His lumbering structure is barnacled with faces. Masks, to be exact, sunken wicker skulls with only a lacquer of meat depicted across the bone. Not only is His face concealed as per the elders; He is draped in masks as though a stone clustered with oysters, His ribs and shins and forearms and spine consumed beneath armor-like myiasis of haunted expressions, each more pained and repentant than the next. This spore of woven faces seems to cry out as He thrusts them through the brambles, the wailing mill of thorn against willow akin to teeth down a blackboard – not that He fosters any heed. The thorns are nothing to Him. He feels no pain. He only wills the chase. His chase. Our chase. With each stride, He surges faster, grows more determined–

Should you maintain the inclination to escape, you must do the same.

It is impossible to know how deep you are into the brambles – it is all one endless, seizing tract. You may have grappled through an acre or an inch of it, for an hour or a lifetime; and all you have to show is a gown torn to ribbons. Your flesh fares little better, gashed raw that it is. At least be thankful that you are still moving, still breathing, even writhing – which is more than can be said for your fellows…

Having previously been cocooned within a company as numerous as a flock of doves, now the flock is dissipating, His ravenous hawk bringing down you fledglings beak by beak. A begging squawk is stifled within the brambles, snuffed out like a candle. Moments later and out goes another. Then another. Between the vines, you catch a flash of cotton as it is snatched away, pale and bloodied. You feel yourself alone, isolated; you fear you too will soon be snatched, for you are freezing and fretting and all-but naked and exhausted to your soul – yet you must endure, just a little further. Another inch. Another lifetime. Look, the brambles are thinning. The light beyond them swells! Of this, you convince yourself if only to drown out the howling reality that He is almost upon you. Within the reflective beads of blood and sweat and dew and tears which cling to the vines ahead, you see His charging form glinting in the moonlight, unblinking eyes staring hungrily, bared teeth snapping like those of a pack of hounds. As though an extension of his wicker the brambles seem to harden, converge, wrap around you. The light…it is so close now. One final push. One final tolerance of laceration and suffering and-

You collapse to a bed of wild and welcoming grass, the brambles renounced behind your swollen ankles. Your breath is hurried, moist exhalations swirling around the smoke from the semicircle of torches which stand over you. An elder in a red gown lifts your head and presses a chalice to your lips. You swallow as best you can – the tart fluid bubbles over your chin. A mask, a robe, and a torch are awarded – and a second sip.

Thankful, you roll over and glance behind you; each indistinguishable from the other, His wicker masks peer out from the brambles, more innumerous than before. 

And then, in accordance with the moon, they recede.

____________________________________________________________________________________

 

 

S. Tierney is an author of novels, comics, and several acclaimed short stories – which have been translated into audiobooks – and the novella ‘Kin’. Find more of his work on Amazon at: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Scott-Tierney/e/B00J21D0O6?ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_1&qid=1641651813&sr=8-1

 

Free Fiction: It’ Hard Out There For A Cryptid by Andy Martin

Devil let Dogman push his advantage, his strength, his reach, but Dogman’s big haymakers were too wild to really connect, claws too short and too dog to do much damage, and when Devil felt Dogman’s whole weight shift forward for the kill Devil dropped back on his wings like he was done for but then kicked out with both hooves, catching the mutt high on the chest. Dogman hit the sand like there wasn’t a bone left in his body.

Devil followed through and landed more or less upright on his hooves, that spot on his back, right above his tail, absolutely screaming. He’d feel that one in the morning.

     “Welcome to New Jersey kid,” he said, wisps of smoke and sulfur for punctuation.  

Dogman’s eyes were rolled over white but he was whimpering so he’d live. 

     “Don’t feel bad. I’ve been pulling that move since the 18th century. One time I turned a grass ape’s head completely around like that, so count       yourself lucky.” He grabbed a handful of Dogman’s pelt and dragged him toward the creek. “Let’s get some water in you.”

***

     “Anything?” Buddy said, his phone on selfie mode as checked his headlamp.

     “I’ve barely got any bars, no, wait, wait, I got it. You’re good,” Steve said, turning his phone with the aftermarket lighting and stabilization rig             toward Buddy. He got Buddy framed up, the pine trunks behind him looking like rotted teeth in the glare of the big light. “Rolling.”

     “What’s up Youwatch, this is Cryptid Buddy coming from deep in the Jersey Pines, but tonight we’re not talking about Jersey Devil, tonight             we’re talking about-”

***

Dogman was on the shore, shaking cedar water from his fur and spitting blood. Devil hopped off a stump and stretched hard, maybe too hard, because Dogman flinched and whined.

     “Relax pal. We’re good.” Except for my back, which is not good, Devil thought. “Friends?” Devil said and offered a claw. Dogman shrunk and           Devil turned his claw palm down, let him come in for a sniff.

     “Good boy. See? We’re fine. Look kid, I was young once too, I get it. 1909? I was all the rage. People were so scared of me, they couldn’t keep       my name out of their mouths. I was chasing trollies and closing schools. I mean, it wasn’t quite the 18th, when I was eating babies and                  burning churches, but I loved it…until some kid in California willed me into existence and a Bigfoot kicked my ass.”

***

“Dogmen. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, the Devil of Ben Franklin’s day is no match for these carnivorous Cano-sapiens, and I have exclusive information that animal mutilations are on the rise in the Pine Barrens and there have been numerous sightings of large humanoids-”

Steve was fighting to keep up with Buddy in the soft sand, the pines crowding the road and throwing menacing shadows in the camera light-

***

Dogman stopped licking his paw and made a little whine.

     “Look, I get it. You’re holed up somewhere, sleeping that deep sleep, and you feel it, or smell it, or whatever. That scared, eager mind. That            delicious belief. But kid, we’ve all got our patches. I still feel that pull from all over the country, not like ’09, but it’s there. Maybe it’s because          everyone, everywhere, is from New Jersey, but either way, lots of people, all over the place, they step in the woods at night, they think of me.”

Dogman whined again and looked anywhere but at Devil.

     “But you know what? Colorado ain’t my patch. Florida ain’t my patch. Bodwin Moor ain’t my patch. Jersey is my patch, and I still get plenty of         Boy Scout trips out here to keep me going strong. I need a pick me up, I just land close to one of those little circles of tents and scream like         hell, plant that seed of terror that those kids will carry for the rest of their lives and years from now, they’ll be around a campfire and telling             their own kids about what they heard one night, and that’s me, going strong for another few years. You try to be everywhere where someone         thinks they see a Dogman and you’ll burn out. Or some old-timer like me or the Opogo is gonna clean your clock-”

Devil snapped a claw at Dogman.

     “Hey! There’s places you’re meant to be and places you ain’t. The Pines are mine. I’m not pissing on hydrants in Michigan, so do me the                 same      courtesy, you get me?”

Dogman nodded, his eyes still anywhere but on the Devil and skulked into the night.

***

      “What was that?!”

Steve did like he was supposed to and whipped his phone back and forth across the logging road, the sand wetter now, like maybe this was a bad idea and they were walking into a bog.

      “I heard it too!” Steve hissed, but it wasn’t only a stage whisper. Somewhere way out in the night, he’d heard some sort of low moan, half-animal, half-human but all hurt. It left his balls crawling. 

     “There! There!” Buddy shouted and backed up, squelching in the wet sand, banging full on into Steve, the camera spinning, Steve sick to his         stomach and cold all over at the same time. 

Steve heard wings beating, big ones.

     “Buddy, we gotta go,” he said. 

     “What is it?” Buddy asked, more a moan than words, all the bravado gone and then the moon winked out and winked back on, something                huge and black flying over the road, the shadow bending off to the right like it was circling back-

The scream hit them, and Steve pissed Mountain Dew in his pants and they were both running, no thoughts of Dogmen anymore because only one monster rules the night in New Jersey.

 

——————————————————————————————————————————-

 

 

 

Andy Martin is an archaeologist and musician living in South Philly with his girlfriend and cat. He sings songs about shipwrecks and survival cannibalism for the band Clamfight. His fiction has appeared at Cultured Vultures and Necrology Shorts, and he’s authored or coauthored archaeology articles on both sides of the Atlantic.

Free Fiction: Wolf by JS O’Connor

You embrace me like two long-lost lovers meeting once again. But as I embrace you, I can feel you change. I release you but your arms are strong and I am trapped. 

“Please,” I beg. But you tighten your grip.

Your hands grab my arms. Your nails are daggers. I begin to cry. But I can’t look away as you show me your face. Gone are the beautiful green eyes. Gone is your handsome and soft face. Gone is your short blonde hair. Gone is the man I fell in love with. Gone is the man I married. Red eyes look at me now. A face like a dog, or coyote, or maybe a wolf look at me now.

Tears roll down my cheeks. I know what’s about to happen. “I love you,” I whisper. “I will always love you.” But you are silent.

Soon I feel your teeth enter my flesh. Blood runs down my chest. I look to a photo hanging on the wall. A happier time. A time you no longer remember. I try to speak your name, but I can’t. I struggle to breathe. The light begins to fade and soon all is dark. 

_______________________________________________________________________

 

 

J.S. O’Connor is a staff writer for HorrorAddicts.net who currently lives in Bettendorf, Iowa. He lives with his wife, three cats, and one dog. He writes during his free time.  you will also enjoy reading his “Spooky Locations” Features here on our blog.

Historian of Horror : The Prehistory of the Horror Comic Book; or, Ten Cents a Scare

As I have already pointed out in this space, the first continuing original horror anthology comic book was American Comics Group’s Adventures into the Unknown, which debuted in 1948 and ran for 174 issues. But, you might well ask, surely there were spooky comic books before then?

And so there were, starting all the way back in the days even before Superman debuted in 1938, buried in the middle pages of anthology titles, nestled between the superheroes, cowboys, and ace aviators. There were legions of ghost detectives, beginning with DC Comics’ Doctor Occult, along with a variety of second-string sorcerers, magicians, and prestidigitators all more or less based on the newspaper comic strip, Mandrake. Captain America and the other superheroes at Timely Comics regularly fought vampires, mummies and reanimated corpses on their way to becoming the stars of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Charlton’s Yellowjacket Comics began inserting brief adaptations of the short stories of Edgar Allen Poe beginning with the third issue, cover-dated November, 1944. I’ve already written about the four-color muck monsters inspired by Theodore Sturgeon’s short story, It. And so on. Monsters and other supernatural menaces were, until after the end of the Second World War, regularly used but not deemed worthy of being featured in their own titles.

With one exception – Classic Comics #13. This Gilberton publication, later known as Classics Illustrated, adapted the great works of literature into comics format well into the 1970s. The August 1943 issue featured Robert Louis Stevenson’s horror novella, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde – the first comic book devoted entirely to horror. But not original horror, and not an anthology. Not yet. That took four more years.

Avon Comics began around 1945 as an off-shoot of Avon Publications, a paperback and digest-sized magazine house specializing in speculative fiction and suggestive love stories. Eerie Comics #1 was an early effort, cover-dated January 1947. Legendary comic book artist Joe Kubert and Airboy artist Fred Kida contributed, along with Bob Fujitani, who also created the cover. Despite the provocative image on the front of the book, sales were poor and no follow-up issues were published. 

By the time the title was revived in 1951 for a seventeen issue run, it was only one of dozens, if not hundreds, of horror comics of its time, distinguished only by its inclusion of early work by artist Wally Wood. Avon never became a major player in the comic book industry, despite some very attractive publications, including a one-shot adaptation of the 1932 Boris Karloff film, The Mask of Fu Manchu, in 1951. Wood contributed both cover and interior art. There was also a backup story drawn by African-American penciller Alvin Hollingsworth, who not long afterwards left comics to become a noted fine artist. By the mid-1950s, Avon Comics was no more. Avon Publications survives to this day as a romance novel publisher.

But they were the first to envision the future of horror comic books. Before Tales from the Crypt, before House of Mystery, before Strange Tales, before This Magazine is Haunted or Ghostly Tales from the Haunted House or Creepy or Chilling Adventures in Sorcery, Avon established the format for so much to come. 

Well, somebody had to get things started. A minor player does something that has a major impact – isn’t that the essence of what we like to think of as being the very story of America? 

 

I do have a lagniappe to offer the populace this time out – a follow-up to my last post. It never ceases to amaze me how often things come to my attention almost immediately after I hit that old ‘send’ button, things that are vitally relevant to the post just submitted. Case in point, my tardy discovery of The Hound of the Baskervilles comic strip adaptation in January. 

And so it was within a few days after shooting off my post on the French-language Angoisse publications. I only just now learned of a website from which English translations can be purchased of some of the volumes I wrote about previously. Black Coat Press has a massive catalog of French novels, anthologies, and collections for sale both as e-books and dead tree editions. I am seriously lusting after their Maurice Limat volume, Mephista. I encourage the populace to browse around their website if they are so inclined. There’s bound to be something to pique the interest of the discriminating reader. 

Next time, we’ll venture into the realm of popular music, and drop in on a Haunted House inhabited by numerous recording artists, including Johnny Fuller, Jumpin’ Gene Simmons, and Sam the Sham himself. Ought to be fun.

And so, valedictorians of the vile, until we meet again…

Be afraid. Be very afraid.

Free Fiction: Last One Alive by Kiera S. Ray

On a bright and early Sunday morning in Chicago, everyone disappeared except one person his name was Bret. He woke up to silence and looked around with the strangest feeling that he was alone. He shouted “MOM” then “DAD” but no one answered.  The only thing he could hear was his heart beating with excitement. In the end, Bret didn’t know what was coming later on that day.

Bret was cleaning and decorating getting ready to throw a party he then called his mom and dad to see where they went, but the phone went straight to voice mail and then blew up in his face. His heart sunk. He quickly ran to the house phone to try again but the same thing happened, it went straight to voicemail.

Bret was frightened and quickly ran outside to see the streets empty.  All he could hear was silence. He freaked out but quickly calmed down so he could see what was going on.  He turned on the TV to watch the news. Nothing popped up.

Bret was starting to worry that he was the last one alive on earth. But then he thought to himself,  This is awesome!

Later on that day a zombie outrage would be happening and Bret didn’t know anything about it. Time passed and Bret decided to take a nap. He was woken up to a siren going off. He quickly got out of bed to see ships coming out of the sky with zombies all wanting his blood.  He freaked and quickly thought to block off all doors but the zombies were stronger.

Bret quickly ran out of the house, jumped his former neighbor’s gate, and quickly ran up the next street thinking he had escaped, but he only ran into trouble. The zombies had the whole street blocked off and the only thing Bret had was a knife that he picked up along the way. He started to kill the zombies and eventually he killed all of them with his strategic thinking.

Bret went to find a hiding spot but that wouldn’t stop anything because he was the last one alive so they could smell his fresh human blood anywhere. He went to an old cabin of his grandfather’s to hide there and was surprised to see his older brother Lucas hiding. With a disturbing look on his face, Lucas was rocking back and forth freaking out about what was going on and where is everyone? That’s when Bret told him that they were the last people on earth. Lucas’ mouth opened and he screamed in terror, “ THIS CAN NOT BE REAL PLEASE TELL ME THIS ISNT REAL”

Bret responded,

“I’m sorry Lucas but this is real and now is not the time to lose yourself. We have zombies to kill… “

They went to find weapons and they were ready to fight …

They went to find the zombies and started killing them brutally because they were fear-driven. Lucas didn’t last long before a zombie tore him apart. Bret saw it and broke down to his knees with anger and regret. 

He quickly got up and started slicing and shooting zombies one by one, but he wasn’t good enough and he eventually died a hero right along with his brother. During that time he didn’t forget that he left his precious home earth to a family of cold-blooded, killing zombies.

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Kiera S Ray is 18 years old and resides in Memphis, Tennessee. She recently took on a passion for writing short stories of any genre but loves romance stories most. She loves that we are taking a chance to read a short story she has written. We look forward to reading more and wish Kiera much writing luck in the future.

Spooky Locations : Joplin Spook Light

Joplin Spook Light

by J.S. O’Connor

Growing up in rural Missouri, I heard of all sorts of spooky locations: the woods outside of town when the sun goes down, a lonely dirt road at night, a bridge that is falling in on itself, and many abandoned buildings that are explored by the local youth. All of these can be spooky in and of themselves but none are quite as spooky or unexplained as the Joplin Spook Light.

The Joplin Spook Light, also known as the Hornet Spook Light, or the Tri-State Spook Light is a phenomenon that takes place along the Oklahoma-Missouri border on a gravel road near the small town of Quapaw, Oklahoma.

The Spook Light is a ball of light or orb that can be seen off in the distance with the size of the light varying. The mysterious light travels up and down the road or hovers high above the treetops. It has also been known to appear within vehicles or above passing people as they walk along the road. 

The origin of the spook light has rational explanations as well as paranormal ones. It’s easy to say that the light can be from the headlight of a car off in the distance or even a natural light from one of the nearby towns. But according to legend, the spook light was seen in the location before cars or any other man-made light brightened the area. It could also be explained as ball lightning or some other natural explanation such as electrical discharge. However, the oldest legend of the spook light is that of the spirit of a young Native American and her lover leaping to their deaths after eloping and being pursued. Another legend is that of a miner looking for his wife and children who went missing after being attacked by Native Americans. 

Whatever the explanation of the Joplin Spook Light or Hornet Spook Light, whether natural or paranormal, if you find yourself driving along a gravel road along the Oklahoma-Missouri border and see a light off in the distance, I wouldn’t stop and investigate. But again, that won’t stop the Spook Light from investigating you! 

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Work Cited:

The spook light: Joplin, Mo – official website. The Spook Light | Joplin, MO – Official Website. (n.d.). Retrieved February 18, 2022, from http://www.joplinmo.org/575/The-Spook-Light 

  

      

Free Fiction: The Mighty One by P. M. Thomas

My mind is like a record, left on playback, constantly looping, never stopping, always repeating the same notes, over and over and over. Ad nauseam.

I’m amazed I’ve lasted as long as I have. Most men would have lost it in less than a year. But not me. For over two decades, I have been hearing the same record play the same tune. From the tender age of a boy, it began – a small note, something others would have ignored, but not I.

I listened to the melody, got caught in its vicious trap, its intrusive cycle. Sealed in the routine of the song, the melody grew stronger every day and thereon, it took total control, dominated my mind, controlled my life.

It almost destroyed me on several occasions. Luckily, I managed to survive; luckily, I managed to hold on to the slither of strength I had left.

I suppose you’re wondering, why don’t I just switch off the record and stop listening to it? I have tried, believe me, dear reader, I have tried.
Every time I attempt to block out the endless loop, it always comes back, louder and louder.
What does my mind play, I hear you ask?

Words. Words of great disturbance, words of darkness, words that must be purified. Cleansed of their evil. Decontaminated with the light of goodness.

Now, I hear you say, they are only words … Can words cause harm?

Oh, dear reader, I shall shed light on why these dark words must be purged of their vileness in order to prevent any harm that their wretchedness could bring.

It’s because of the Mighty One.

Who is that? I hear you wonder. Allow me to explain. The Mighty One is a being of omnipotent power, a being that processes my thoughts in a heartbeat and can make them happen.

The Mighty One resides in the far reaches of my consciousness. We are linked – we are one, it and I. We both determine the fate of the world.

I did not ask for such a heavy responsibility, the Mighty One chose me and made me the guardian of all life. You can’t even begin to imagine how hard it is having to hold all our lives in my mind.

My mind. The battlefield. Where every minute of every hour of every day is spent battling the dark words with the words of salvation.

I know what you’re thinking: I’m crazy.

You could be right. Of course, you could be wrong.

Who’s to say that my mind doesn’t have the power to cause pain and misery if the dark words were ever processed by the Mighty One?

The world is a mystery; who knows what incredible things lurk behind the veil of reality, the mask of sanity, the logic of reason?

There is a good chance it all could be in my head. Maybe I have a disturbed mind that needs to make an average guy like me seem important to the world. Or could there be a phenomenon that this mind of mine contains? My mind … the key to the destruction of someone, of everyone and – worst case scenario – of the whole wide world.

Not to mention, the key to destroying my very self if the words wished to.

Might I be a man with an overactive imagination sparked into overdrive, no longer able to tell reality and fantasy apart? Or might I be a guardian, keeping the world and all lives within the world existing every single day, non-stop?

Whatever I am, I stand on the fine line between life and death, good and evil, light and darkness, purity and corruption, peace and mayhem, hope and doom, existence and oblivion.

I suppose you are wondering by now… what are the dark words that may or may not cause catastrophic effects?

You’re not going to like the answer but I can not tell you what the words are. To even speak of them or write them could cause the catalyst. The dark words must remain sealed in my head.

You may not care about risking the possible end of your life, another life, my life or all life in the world, but I do.

I’m afraid I can not take such a risk to indulge your curiosity.

Fret not, dear reader, for while I am unable to give you the apocalyptic words, I can give you the words of salvation that were given to me by the Mighty One.

And when you read these words, think of the difficult struggle that I, your sole protector, must do to keep you going to bed, safe and sound, every night.

There is no rest for me, there is no peace for me. I have a duty that I must uphold till the day I die.

And to you sceptics out there, those who do not believe me, those who feel I am mad or making this up: continue to live your life as you wish, in bliss.

Whether I am a guardian or not, these are the words I must repeat endlessly to keep you all alive and well as I sit here on my own, day in, day out, locked in my little white room.

 

Oh Mighty One, protect the world.

Oh Mighty One, protect all life.

Oh Mighty One, protect me.

Oh Mighty One, do not unmake the world.

Oh Mighty One, do not unmake all life.

Oh Mighty One, do not unmake me.

Oh Mighty One, never forsake the world.

Oh Mighty One, never forsake all life.

Oh Mighty One, never forsake me.

Oh Mighty One, have mercy on all life.

Oh Mighty One, have mercy on me.

Oh Mighty One, give all life strength.

Oh Mighty One, give me strength.

Please, Mighty One, please.

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P.M. Thomas is an author from Birmingham, UK. He has always had a love and passion for the art of storytelling, especially when it’s associated with horror.   Find more of his work at: https://philipbrocklehurst3.wixsite.com/p-m-thomas

HorrorAddicts.net Press Presents: Two Book Birthdays Today/Horrible Disasters and Plague Master Sanctuary Dome

Horrible Disasters

hahdfront-coverA Horror Disaster Anthology
Available now on Amazon.com

HorrorAddicts.net proudly presents Horrible Disasters. Thirteen authors from around the globe share their visions of terror set during real natural disasters throughout history. Travel back in time to earth shattering events like the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79 A.D., the San Francisco earthquake of 1906, and the Winter of Terror avalanches, 1950. What supernatural events went unnoticed? What creatures caused such destruction without remorse? Stock your emergency kit, hunker in your bunker, and prepare for… Horrible Disasters.

Cover Art by: Thierry Pouzergues

Edited by: Larraine Barnard

authors:
Emerian Rich
H. E. Roulo
Dan Shaurette
Steve Merrifield
Mark Eller
Laurel Anne Hill
Timothy Reynolds
Ed Pope
Jennifer Rahn
Chris Ringler
Philip Carroll
Mike McGee
Garth von Buchholz

Proceeds to benefit Disaster Relief by way of the non-profit agency, Rescue Task Force.

Historian of Horror : Boo-La-LA!

I am obliged to admit to being at a bit of a disadvantage this time out. While I did take one year of French in the ninth grade, that was almost fifty years ago. The next year, I switched to German. I took three years of it in high school and another couple in college. Although my Deutsch is very rusty after not using it for so long, I can still usually parse out fairly simple passages. I’m way past being able to read philosophical treatises, but I could probably manage the back of a cereal box.

On the other hand, I find I have to rely on what shared vocabulary English has with the Romance languages to make much sense of them. There’s a bunch, thankfully, so I can sometimes get through extremely simple bits, especially if I have some understanding of the context. So, when I chose to write today about a French publisher of horror novels, I was forced to call on whatever residual skills and knowledge I possessed along those lines because there is darn near diddly on the history of that enterprise in English on the internet. 

What in the world was I thinking?

Oh, well. Here’s what I’ve been able to piece together…

Our story begins in 1949 with Fleuve éditions, a publisher of popular novels. Their subsidiary imprint, Fleuve noir, specialized in a variety of genres arranged in separate collections – Spécial Police and Espionnage, which are pretty much self-explanatory; Anticipation, which was for science-fiction; and Angoisse, horror. Angoisse roughly correlates to the German word, Angst, which most English readers will no doubt recognize as being a component of that essential ingredient of horror, le frisson, that I keep going on about, that anticipatory shiver we all crave when delving into our favorite genre.

Angoisse was active from 1954 to 1974, with 261 books published. Based on the fewer than half of the novels I’ve been able to track down any information on, their most popular authors included Maurice Limat (September 23, 1914 – January 23, 2002), who split his efforts between Angoisse and Anticipation; Marc Agapit (pseudonym of Adrien Sobra, October 12, 1897 – September 21, 1985); Dominique Arly (November 8, 1915 – November 8, 2009); André Caroff (February 8, 1924 – March 9, 2009); and Dominique Rocher (July 6, 1929 – September 13, 2016). There were also occasional translations of American stories, including Donald Wandrei’s 1948 novel, The Web of Easter Island, published as Cimetière de l’effroi.

Limat was a prolific writer in several genres. His detective character, Teddy Verona, debuted in 1937 and became an occult detective when Limat went to work for Angoisse, beginning with 1962’s Le Marchand de Cauchmars (The Merchant of Nightmares). Limat wrote twenty-four Teddy Verona books for Angoisse, thirteen of which pitted him against the very naughty Mephista, beginning in 1969. Limat continued to write his adventures until 1981.

Agapit’s first novel for Angoisse, Agence tout crimes, came out in 1958; his last, Le Dragon de lumière (The Dragon of Light),  in 1974, a total of forty-four books. If he ever wrote a series with continuing characters, I can’t tell.

Dominique Arly wrote nineteen Angoisse books. Five featured one Rosamond Lew, all published in 1970 and 1971. Dominique Rocher contributed ten, none in any series that I can figure out.

Caroff had a series about the nefarious Madame Atomos that ran to seventeen volumes, plus one novel published under the Anticipation imprint, Les Sphères Attaquent (Attack of the Spheres), in which she was renamed Madame Cosmos. Along the way, she created a younger version of herself, Miss Atomos, who switched sides and fought against her ‘mother’. Comics publisher Aredit put out twenty-four issues of a Madame Atomos comic book beginning in 1968, most based on the series novels, the remainder adapted from other works by Caroff.

There were others, of course, including the house name Benoit Becker, under which several writers wrote pseudonymously; André Ruellan, who wrote under the name Kurt Steiner; and Agnès Laurent, which was the pseudonym of Hélène Simart. And so on for 261 volumes of scary French goodies. 

One of these days, I really need to drop around at some community college nearby and take a few courses in that most lovely of languages so I can finally read some of the books I’ve alluded to above. Might as well brush up on my German while I’m there since there are similar houses on the far side of the Rhine River that not only reprinted the Angoisse books but published long series of their own horror titles. But that’s another column, for another day.

 Next time, we’ll take a look at the very first horror comic book, Avon’s 1947 one-shot, Eerie Comics #1. Until then, aficionados of angst…

Be afraid. Be very afraid.

Free Fiction: Seconds Left For Tomorrow Melissa R. Mendelson

The clock hands rested across the nine and the eleven. The red second line convulsed, struggling to break in-between. It pushed forward, then fell back. It refused to give up, shaking so hard that it might just snap, but it slipped forward. An inch forward. It was stuck again.

I closed my eyes. The hum of the lights overhead did not help. The breakdown of the seconds did not help. The shouting outside did not help. If only the world could just stop. Stop for one damn minute.  Let me concentrate, and I closed my eyes, drawing in a breath. Come on. Focus. You can do it. Just focus.

“Damn it! Will you all outside shut the fuck up?” I stared at the thin walls, knowing that they heard me. “Thank you. I need to concentrate.” I sat back in my chair and closed my eyes. “Someone turn off the fucking lights,” and the hum died.

I could see it now. The black, square object spinning wildly. Its hum was silent but deafening. It could not leave its orbit. It was stuck like that red second line, convulsing, threatening to break. I slipped forward, pushed back by its electric field. Never had I dealt with such resistance. I reached for it. My hand touched it. I was thrown against the wall, and the wall cracked.

“What is the obstacle here?” the suit asked.

“The obstacle?” I laughed, wiping the blood from my nose. “It won’t let me near it.”

“So, what’s the problem?”

“Are you deaf, man? It won’t let me near it.”

“Don’t you control that thing?”

“There is no control,” I said. “We have a mutual relationship. At least, we did.” I looked down at the blood on my hand. “Something’s wrong,” I said.

“No shit, buddy. We’re on the brink of war, and we’re barely surviving the viral outbreak. You were our last resort.”

“I’m sorry.” I waited for the suit to help me up. Instead, he sat in my chair. “Sure. Just leave me on the floor,” I said. “I’m fine here.”

“None of us are fine, if we can’t see tomorrow. We need to… I need to know. You’re the man that can see the future, and you need to see if there is a tomorrow.”

“I’m trying! I never had this obstacle before. I could always see tomorrow and the tomorrows after that. Too much is happening right now.”

“There is always something happening in the world,” the suit said.

“No. Not like this. It’s like the floodgates were thrown open, and there are too many variables in play. There might be a tomorrow, but what kind of tomorrow? There might not be a tomorrow, but then what did we do wrong today? What did we do yesterday that set off the end of the world? Let’s face it. We are at the end.”

“Try again. Take a moment, and try again.”

“I’ve been at this all day. I just have this really bad feeling.”

“That it’s over?”

“No. There will be a tomorrow, but not our tomorrow.”

“What does that mean?”

“It means buckle up. Whatever is coming our way, there is no stopping it.”

“So, you’re giving up?”

I didn’t answer him. I knew what I had to do. Something bad was coming. Something really bad, and I didn’t want to see it. There was only one thing left then to escape that fate. I found the black, square object spinning wildly in its orbit. I grabbed hold with both hands this time, and I didn’t let go. The electric field pierced through the fabric of my being. My mind split apart. Before I snapped into oblivion, I caught a glimpse. I saw the world from yesterday, and it was burning in orange flames.

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Melissa R. Mendelson is a horror, dystopian and science-fiction author,                                                                        whose short stories have been published in Sirens Call Publications,                                                                                        Dark Helix Press and Transmundane Press.

You may find her work at: http://www.melissamendelson.com

Free Fiction : The Glubb by Brittanty Erickson

The Glubb

There once was a lady with no hair. She smoked 5 packs a day in front of endless Golden Girl marathons. She ashed on the couch, ashed on her carpet, her sink, her cats, the parrot ate butts as a snack. She loved to ash in her tub while she sat on the loo. She never used the tub, but once in a while, she’d pour the rest of her Old Milwaukee down the drain, which was clogged with food and ash. The smell was more than rancid. She would often see a mass move in the corner of her eye but always disregarded it as her own mind playing tricks.

She had no kids. Her parents had passed. But, this was more than depression and misery. A spiral of emptiness, a void. She began to think, “Why would anything be real?” 

With her cat snuggling her, fur matted with ash, she stroked his tail. She was laying on the couch, waiting for ‘The Price is Right’ to end. Then she heard a slurping sound. She ignored it as the building’s pipes were in bad shape.

In the bathroom, the mass began to grow. The parrot had disappeared the day before. She figured, “He must have flown away when I chucked out the cans.” She went to have another loo. Walking down the ash-ridden hallway, cancerous dust puffed from her feet. She angled her arm around the corner to turn on the light. It was covered in a moist, unfamiliar material. She reached for her smartphone and clicked the power to light the screen. She heard a loud POP and saw ash fall from the walls. 

“Grhhh-ggh,” came from the tub. She found herself unable to move when she noticed feathers plastered to the walls.

The mass continued down through her tub, into the lower pipes. A man was bathing below, getting ready for work. When he raised his razor to his cheeks, he felt a tickle on his foot. He jerked, cutting his cheek down to his chin. 

“Dammit!” He screamed. The bath began to fill with a black substance. Touching his cheek, he saw red, not black. The water became a dark grey and began to gurgle. It slipped into his pelvis and used his gut to travel through to his wound. The man felt dry, too dry to move. His skin began to shrivel, his hair fell out. The cut on his cheek began to ooze black.

The mass traveled back down the drain, searching for an exit. The pipes of this complex led to the sewer. Soon the city was to become monotone.

Frightened by the explosive amount of ash, the lady was in disbelief. “It’s not real, it’s not real,” she said to the ash. 

The lady laid back down on her couch. She stayed inside her home until she needed groceries 2 weeks later. She never ran the water, and lived strictly on diet-soda. She grabbed her one key and began her walk out of the door. No point in locking it, nothing to steal. 

As she walked, ash flew from her toes. It was such a normal, homely feeling.

It was unusually quiet inside the building, but outside was unusually loud. A gurgling, burping could be heard from the sewer grate under her apartment. She trembled and hugged her flannel jacket closer to her skin.  

She lived only 2 blocks away from her grocery stop. Instantly, she noticed the market had no employees. The food was starting to rot. There was a rancid smell coming from the shop doors. She grabbed a bag and started stealing cans and boxes of non-perishables. On her way back home, no one passed her, no one was walking across the street. She could only hear the “grubble-glubb,” from the sewer beneath.

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Brittany Erickson is a 30-year-old mom who enjoys writing stories and poems. She lives in rural Iowa, USA, always has.

Free Fiction: The Buck by Sam Clattenburg

The Buck

When Amanda awoke all she could think of were those sharp hooves breaking through her windshield. Lying next to her in her overturned pickup truck was a bloody mess of hair, glass, and blood. So much blood- everywhere. She felt a prick in her arm. Antlers. Attached to those antlers was a set of stone-cold dead eyes. Life completely drained; pupils mid-dilated. For a very brief moment, she felt compassion because this wasn’t in her plan. As she admired those eyes and lifted a hand to stroke its face, an unexpected kick of the beast in her car knocked her out once again.

This time when she woke, the buck had disappeared. Like it had never been there in the first place. Broken glass shards remained but no blood. Had she dreamt it all? Didn’t she just hit a deer?

She unbuckled her seatbelt brushing off bits of glass shards, all the while looking around to get a sense of her surroundings. But there was nothing particular that stood out as familiar to her. In fact, when she looked one way it was just a  crumbled up unkempt dried out old paved road lined with a multitude of trees with multicolored leaves all in varying stages of decay. A glance in the other direction offered the same exact view. Same cracks in the same dried-up old pavement. Same trees. Then she saw it. Standing across the road with not a scratch was the buck. Easily a ten-pointer. She knew because her Daddy hunted her whole young life and the ten-pointer was the coveted prize of hunters.

How can that be? Must be a different deer. She looked over to where her car lay crumpled up in the ditch. Damn Japanese cars ain’t worth a shit, she heard her father’s voice in her head. He had died three years prior from lung cancer. Then she saw it. She saw herself lying on that seat, face pushed up against the driver’s side window. She was still in that car. 

Amanda looked herself in the eyes. One had started to turn black and bloody- clotted with blood. Lying next to her was the eviscerated buck. She turned quickly to where she had just seen the buck only seconds before. It was gone. 

She heard what sounded like hooves clacking on that crooked busted up road. She turned around slowly in fear of what she may see…

Expecting to see the deer she had seen only moments before, instead stood before her some kind of blasphemous beast. Something straight out of the Old Testament. It… He must have been at least eight feet tall. From the waist down it was almost humanoid, only more grotesque. Transparent skin revealed giant green and blue pulsating veins in those muscular legs housing hooves at the ends instead of feet. The top half could only be described as a wolf/man, easily five-six hundred pounds of pure powerful, frightening muscle.  On top of its head were those giant horns, the ones that belonged on that buck.  A long dog-like snout drew her eyes up to meet its own yellow shining eyes.

The smell hit her in the face like a pound of sulfur, wet dog fur, and feces. It leapt forward stopping inches from her face where it let out a terrifying howl. Emitting the foulest smelling breath you could imagine. Like hot garbage, complete with fish rotting out in the desert sun. It took Amanda’s own breath away as she coughed, gagged, and screamed. 

Out of instinct, she turned to run. She would run into the woods amongst the trees for safety. Before she got six inches away she felt the hairy, inhumanly strong arms of that beast pull her back. Back… back… It was now running with her; her face being gashed open by branches and foliage. She had no idea where she was going… But she knew she wasn’t going to be coming back. She knew she only had herself to blame. She had been killing since she was a teen. Her Daddy showed her how to hunt and gut.  Hunting became her obsession. It began small with neighborhood cats, dogs, then finally and inevitably that escalated to some children going missing in her small town.  No one will ever find them.  That was her plan. Her plan was to leave before she was caught. People were talking and in small towns…  Rumors hold weight.

In the end even, when her Daddy was sick, she felt the most compassionate thing to do would be to slit his throat and end his suffering quickly. She knew he appreciated it even though he seemed unprepared, maybe even a little shocked. But she knew.. He knew. He always knew. 

This was her fate.

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Sam writes mainly short fiction and horror reviews. I’ve been previously published in the 2013 Anthology by HorrorAddicts.net titled, “A Horror Addict’s Guide to Life”. I can be found posting movie review reels on IG lesgeek or on TikTok or blog  shereallyneedsapriest

INTERVIEW WITH CAITLIN MARCEAU –WRITER OF ‘PALIMPSEST’

For Women in Horror Month, short story writer, poet, and creator of the horror collection Palimpsest, Caitlin Marceau talks to book blogger and staff writer Renata Pavrey.

Renata: Hi Caitlin, Congratulations on the release of your latest book. While you have been featured in anthologies before, what made you come out with a collection of your own?

Caitlin: Thank you so much! I’m over the moon by the reception this book has had so far! It’s such a dream come true for me and I’m so grateful to everyone who’s helped make this book a reality. 

When it comes to why I wanted to put this collection together, I think it was exactly that: because I’ve been in so many anthologies before. Some of the books are out of print, others are pretty hard to find, and I hated the idea of these stories being so scattered. I wanted to centralize my work while giving these stories new life. 

Renata: Several stories from Palimpsest have been published in other books and magazines, and even performed live. How did you decide which stories and poems to pick for this book?

Caitlin: Oh man, picking the stories for this collection was like pulling teeth. I struggled, doubted every single one of my choices. Ultimately, I tried to focus on the stories I was most proud of, stories that had gone out of print, and—most importantly—pieces that I felt best represented my body of work. I wanted them all to be diverse enough so that everyone could find something to enjoy, but cohesive enough that they complemented each other. 

Renata: You are a prominent name in the contemporary horror writing scene. Your stories range from supernatural and paranormal events to domestic violence and body shaming that are rooted in reality. How do you strike a balance between real versus imagined horrors?

Caitlin: First, can I just say that that’s an incredible compliment to be given? I’m absolutely honoured by it.

As for finding a balance between real versus imagined horror, I wish I could say there was a formula for getting it right, but I really just go with my gut when I’m writing. I believe that the real world is already pretty scary and doesn’t need too much help from me to be terrifying. So, kind of like cooking, I season my stories sparingly when it comes to imagined horror and add more in if there’s not enough kick to it. 

Renata: The stories in Palimpsest are set around locations in your native Canada, but there’s a universality in the topics you cover. How challenging is it for a writer, to write local while addressing a worldwide audience of readers?

Caitlin: I think the great thing about storytelling is that so much of it is universal. Everyone understands loss, love, family, individuality, and all those fun foundational themes we see in writing. I think the same can be said about what scares us. So, for me, although it has its tricky moments—like when I use regional language people outside of Quebec might not know—it’s not as difficult as people might think! 

Renata: Your writing is impactful in few words, and your poetry is often a class apart. Do you prefer writing prose or poetry? How do you decide which form would be better suitable for a particular theme/story idea?

Caitlin: Thank you so much! That’s so kind of you to say! 

Truthfully, I’ve always been partial to prose. Usually, when I’m deciding how to approach an idea, I’ll write an outline, and then—depending on the length of the outline—I’ll know whether it needs to be a short story or a poem. I’ll also opt for poetry if I have a really strong emotional connection to the material or if I’m in the mood to play with form. 

Renata: Are there any favorite books or writers in horror you would recommend we read? Who are your literary influences?

Caitlin: There are so many incredible authors out there that it’s hard to pick a favourite, but I can tell you some of the authors I’m loving right now! Off the top of my head, I’d probably encourage people to check out Sonora Taylor’s Someone to Share My Nightmares, Hailey Piper’s Queen of Teeth, anything and everything by Antonia Ward (the brilliant editor of Palimpsest), and I’m a huge fan of the talent that’s appeared on Mark Nixon’s Shadows at the Door: The Podcast. (Hannah Butler and Christopher Long’s stories are especially brilliant, as are Nixon’s Professor Troughton tales and “Slender Chances.”)

When it comes to literary influences, it would probably be Tamora Pierce because of the advice she gave me when I was a kid. She told me to write the stories I wanted to read, and that’s what I’ve done every single day since then. 

Renata: Running is a common activity across some of the stories in Palimpsest, along with ice hockey, video games, and hiking in the woods. What are your hobbies – any sports or creative pursuits besides writing?

Caitlin: Plenty, but as the least athletic woman in Canada, I can promise you that almost none of them are sports-related! I really love playing video games and right now, for some reason, I can’t get enough of Back 4 Blood. When it comes to art outside of my writing, a lot of people don’t know this about me, but I’m also a visual artist so I draw all the time.

Renata: Palimpsest is striking from start to finish. What’s the story behind the title and the cover?

Caitlin: Thank you so much! I’m delighted you think so! 

For the title, I really wanted something that conveyed the idea that a lot of these stories were previously published but had been given a second chance. Eventually, I settled on Palimpsest, which means “something reused or altered but still bearing visible traces of its earlier form.” 

As for the cover, I knew that I wanted a white background because of all the snow in my stories and I loved the idea of being able to incorporate a silhouette somewhere, but that was it. Antonia Ward (editor at publishing house Ghost Orchid Press) is super talented because she took all nine million of my vague ideas and made them into something beautiful. 

Renata: Thank you, Caitlin, for taking out time for this interview. We wish you all the best for your newest collection, and look forward to more of your writing. 

Caitlin: Thank you so much for having me! It was a blast and I really appreciate it! 

About Caitlin Marceau:

Caitlin Marceau is an author and lecturer living and working in Montreal. She holds a B.A. in Creative Writing, is a member of both the Horror Writers Association and the Quebec Writers’ Federation, and spends most of her time writing horror and experimental fiction. She’s been published for journalism, poetry, as well as creative non-fiction, and has spoken about horror literature at several Canadian conventions. Her debut collection, Palimpsest, is available from Ghost Orchid Press and her second collection, A Blackness Absolute, is slated for publication later this year. For more information, visit her at the links below. 

Social media/website links:

caitlinmarceau.ca

twiter.com/CaitlinMarceau

facebook.com/CaitlinMarceau

instagram.com/CaitlinMarceau

Book links: 

https://geni.us/palimpsest

https://ghostorchidpress.square.site

 

Free Fiction : Susurration by Jarred Allen Schulte

             Awake. 

             Cold. 

             Numb. 

Rolling to his side and scrambling to his feet he took in his surroundings. 

A dark and terrible thing had taken place here. Black and red candles, burned to their nubs, were strewn all around. The charred and broken remains of disfigured beings, their sizes and shapes leading him to believe they had once been children, were arranged at each point of a strange and mesmerizing pattern that had been drawn upon the floor. 

At the center of the cryptic symbol lay a makeshift altar of wood and stones, upon which sat what remained of a skull. The face bloated and sloughing off, the lips peeling back in a permanent grimace, neck ragged and torn. 

Aghast at the scene, he stumbled from the temple to find the surrounding town in ruins. The light was beginning to drain from a sickly sunset. Dusky yellows and oranges painted the surrounding miasma casting a dull glow all around. 

The ground surrounding the temple and spreading in every direction as far as the eye could see appeared foul and blighted, the houses and shops in a state of extreme disrepair, as if left to rot for ages. Possessions inside homes seemingly left where they were last used, pots on stoves with molding meals, brackish water pooling in bathtubs half drained through evaporation.

No other remains could be found, human or otherwise, no one squatted in the rotted-out hamlet. He came to realize something even more disturbing… no animals wandered the streets, rats didn’t skitter between cupboards, no crows lined the rooftops. There was nothing making even the slightest of sounds beyond the rotting leaves blowing through the ruined dirt paths. No grass had grown up, and vines did not choke the lattices. The town was not just abandoned, it was utterly, and completely devoid of life. 

As night gripped the hamlet tighter, he continued his desperate search. 

Wandering the streets and peering into the blackness of doorways whose doors had fallen from their hinges he caught the glint of a torch. 

Or so he thought. 

Darting across the street to where he had seen the fleeting glow in the window of a home whose glass still remained, he rushed inside only to find no traces of passage in the layer of filth and dust that caked the floors. But in the dark closeness of the small entryway, he could see the glow again. 

The wind blew a shrill whistle through the home’s jagged wooden teeth. Upon the left wall was cast a faint and putrid glow, dim at first but growing brighter as he moved closer to inspect the source. 

Only, there was no visible source. The glow seemed to move as he moved, growing dimmer and vanishing as he moved further from the wall and into the house. Moving across the room and toward the window, he saw the glint once again, this time with a clarity that made his chest catch. 

Reflected in the window was the form of a man, his clothes in tatters, a sleeve missing to reveal a sickly and pale arm, grizzly carnage appeared to have dried over his chest and shoulders. What had caused the man’s shock was not the state of the other man’s dress, but rather the head that crowned the gore coated shoulders. 

The swirling mass that sat atop the ragged neck could best be likened to thick steam the color of spoilt custard. Putrid, shifting tones of yellow, brown, and green coalesced into a vaguely head-like form. Opalescent shapes shone in the dark recesses where eyes belonged, the creature seemed to grin as it was noticed by the man. 

It was horrific, but mesmerizing at the same time. 

The man attempted to take a step back to put more distance between the creature and himself when his heel caught on the remains of a woolen rug causing him to tumble backward. The shape in the window lurched out of sight and the man searched the floor for a makeshift weapon in anticipation of the creature’s attack. The sleeve of his torn shirt catching on the splintering edge of a brittle but serviceable table leg, he clambered to his feet brandishing his makeshift club at the doorway.

No creature bounded through the darkness; no fiend fell upon him. He was alone and frightened. 

And yet…

His pulse did not quicken, no adrenaline raced through his veins, he didn’t even draw the gasping breaths of a terrified man. His body was still, completely. 

Chancing a glance at the window again he could just make out the shape of the creature, fainter with distance but still there. It seemed to be waiting for him to come charging through the doorway to attack it. 

Then it dawned upon the frightened man… the creature held in its hands a length of what seemed to be rotting wood. Rotting wood that could very well have once been the leg of a table. 

The man turned fully to see the creature. The creature turned with him. It lowered its club as the man lowered his. 

Moving nearer the filth-coated window, the creature followed suit. Leaning in closer to each other, the light becoming brighter as the face of the creature neared the glass. 

He raised his left arm; it raised the right. Both arms wore a sleeve of torn cloth hanging by shreds to the shoulder and the wrist. The man’s pale hand went to his mouth to stifle his own scream, finding only empty space. All the while his horrid reflection seemed to be stifling a maniacal burst of laughter. All the while he had no throat from with which to let loose his anguished cry of horror. 

All that could be heard throughout the town was the rustling of leaves scratching and scrabbling across the empty streets. A dry and raspy screed, as though the town itself were issuing a cry of anguish from its own ragged and dusty throat.

___________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Jarred Schulte, while new to the world of fiction, is not new to the written word. Having spent the last four years using his skills with the written language to help others find love in the high-pressure Online Dating industry, this Kansas native turned Floridian, is finally getting to flex his muscles in a more creative manner. Growing up on a steady diet of thriller, fantasy, and horror novels, Jarred credits his stylistic tendencies to the likes of King, Koontz, Jordan, Lovecraft, Goodman, and Hill.

To find more of Jared’s work: https://medium.com/@jarreds1 

Historian of Horror : Unnatural and Unkind


Oft have I digged up dead men from their graves 

And set them upright at their dear friends’ doors, 

Even when their sorrow almost was forgot. 

And on their skins as on the barks of trees, 

Have with my knife carved in Roman letters, 

“Let not thy sorrow die, though I am dead.” 

The old question of who wrote the works of William Shakespeare has a simple answer: It was a guy named William Shakespeare. Although there are a few plays on which he might have had some help from a collaborator or a mentor, the vast majority of his oeuvre is his and his alone. The base canard that Francis Bacon or Ben Jonson or someone else wrote his stuff was made up out of whole cloth a century and a half after he died and was thoroughly discredited by the 1950s. His contemporaries, including the insanely jealous yet utterly adoring Jonson, certainly thought he himself wrote the thirty-nine plays.

That said, there is at least one for which a collaborator does seem likely. His sixth play, Titus Andronicus, is so unlike any of the other tragedies that it almost seems as if he did make use of a partner with a special interest in what centuries later would be regarded as Grand Guignol theatrics. Not that the others weren’t bloody affairs with graphic deaths aplenty, but there is a gruesome mean-spiritedness about Titus that sets it apart from the relatively restrained Hamlet or Macbeth.

As well, its ridiculously convoluted plot seems more in keeping with some of the comedies, in so far as time and space and even perception seem to have a malleable quality that forces events into a structure that is not altogether reasonable. War, conquest, human sacrifice, a contrived marriage, murder, mutilation, the framing of innocent victims, and a back-and-forth of revenge and counter-revenge culminating in the villainess dining upon the corpses of her sons baked into a pie comes across as less Richard III and more Theatre of Blood. And indeed, food critic Robert Morley suffered much the same fate as the Empress Tamora in that classic Vincent Price film. Thankfully, Diana Rigg escaped the fate poor Livinia had inflicted upon her in Titus Andronicus.

Scholars suspect that one George Peele, a dramatist known for excessively gory plot contrivances in his own plays, was Shapeapeare’s partner for this Roman bloodbath. Given the state of copyright protection in Elizabethan England, in that it did not exist, there is no way of knowing how much, if any, of the mayhem was contributed by Peele, or even if Titus is more Peele than Shakespeare. Meticulous records simply weren’t kept, as there was no financial incentive to do so.

In terms of a more modern comparison, think of what might have resulted had James Fennimore Cooper collaborated with Edgar Allen Poe. Or David Lean with David Lynch, or Spielberg with Cronenberg. Seemingly discordant combinations, granted, but given the talents involved, not without interest.

I suggest the populace decide for themselves. Director Julie Taymor’s 1999 film Titus, starring Anthony Hopkins and Jessica Lange, is available on YouTube. In the manner of many Shakespearean adaptations of that decade, Titus is set in an ambiguous period filled with anachronistic artifacts and has a very stylized presentation, so be ready to have your notions of what is and is not Shakespearean challenged. Which is a good thing. Don’t bother listening for grand declarations a la Hamlet’s Soliloquy. The best lines go to the very bad person Aaron, Tamora’s Moorish consort, who relishes his myriad misdeeds maybe a little too much. Indeed, his cheerful villainy presages Othello’s Iago, although that unworthy at least required an actual motive to rain down chaos and death upon the unsuspecting head of the Moor of Venice. Aaron is a firm believer in evil for evil’s sake. 

In Hamlet, Shakespeare managed to winnow the large cast down to only two named survivors, Horatio and Fortinbras. In this much earlier play, there were three – Titus’s brother, one surviving son, and young grandson Lucius. I suppose the Bard needed more experience to get rid of that additional victim. 

I bid the populace to return to this space in a fortnight’s time for an overview of the history of French publisher, Editions Fleuve Noir, and their horrific output by authors such as Maurice Limat, Dominique Arly, and Benoit Becker back in the 1960s. I might have to brush up on mon Français, as the last time I studied that language was in 1971. I will, however, endeavor to persevere. I do hope the populace appreciates the lengths your Historian of Horror is willing to go to to bring you enlightenment, education, and entertainment.

Anyhow. 

Until next time, my fellow tourists in the tombs…

Be afraid. Be very afraid.

Book Review : PALIMPSEST BY CAITLIN MARCEAU

Review by Renata Pavrey

I was introduced to Caitlin Marceau’s writing through her short story, Gastric, from Blood & Bone – a body horror anthology, where she addressed fatphobia. In limited words, Caitlin created an impact with her take on body shaming and the horrors of superficiality. When I heard the same publisher, Ghost Orchid Press had signed Caitlin on for a collection of contemporary horror, Palimpsest was immediately put on my to-read list.

With a mixture of prose and poetry, Caitlin takes the reader across the Canadian wilderness, canals and bridges, frozen landscapes, and frosty tales that chill to the bone. The stories range from diseases of the mind and body, encounters with demons and ghosts, bullying and domestic violence, werewolves and shapeshifters, ice hockey and distance running. Caitlin’s prowess as a writer illuminates every page of Palimpsest, with every story different and outstanding in its own way. You know her settings are local, but her stories have universal appeal.

My favorite from the lot was Stuck – the perspective and narrative were just brilliant. There’s absolutely nothing happening and everything happening. It reminded me of Shirley Jackson’s covert style of horror, where the real terrors are what happens between the lines. Jackson’s wry sense of humor also finds its way into some of the stories. A few of my other favorites were Infected (about ill people in denial of their illness, only to go around spreading diseases in their stubbornness), Conqueror (an ode to video games and online players, and the person behind the avatar), The Midas (the supernatural world is no match for the real world, as a deep-sea diver faces off nature’s watery inhabitants), Hunger (very real horrors of cabin fever, frostbite, and hypothermia).

The stories and poetry have all been featured in other anthologies, magazines, and performed live over the years. Besides Gastric, I had only read one other piece from Caitlin – the poem Metamorphosis from the horror poetry anthology, Under Her Skin. So, I was thrilled that she put together this collection of some of her finest writing. I usually space out anthologies and collections – reading a story or two between other novels. Palimpsest is one of those books that keep the reader hooked throughout. You want to spend more time in Caitlin’s world, with its horrors and everything she offers the reader. Every single story warrants its own review. They’re all so good! And the cover is stunning, too.

My rating – 5/5