The Dead Lands : Directed by Tao Fraser

The Dead Lands – Directed (2014) by Tao Fraser 

Reviewed by Kate Nox

When warriors from a rival tribe commit sacrilege in his tribe’s burial ground, Hongi (James Rolleston), son of a Maori Chieftain reports the act to his father. When questioned about the act, the rival crew of hot heads declares war on the village, killing all but Hongi who has been knocked down a ravine and forgotten.

Coming to and finding himself the only survivor he pursues the killers into a forbidden area (the Deadlands). There he meets an invincible ghost warrior who is rumored to haunt the land. 

Hongi discovers that the ghost is in fact, a fierce warrior, (Lawrence Makoare) although throughout the film there are times you wonder if the frightening warrior is truly a ghost or still human. Either way, he is tormented by a ghastly memory of loss in his own life which gives him a thorough understanding of the young boy whom he teaches to fight, and they join forces to hunt down and destroy the rival killers. 

If you are a fan of action films, you will appreciate that The Dead Lands, in fact, follows the action film formula. There is plenty of bone-cracking, slashing, and gore to keep you interested.

If you are bothered by horrific characters who battle in close and bloody conflict, taunting their opponents with insane faces, wagging tongues, stomping, screeching  and other acts designed to instill fear in the opponent, then I’d advise skipping this one. It is one of those movies where you want to reach out and smack the evil characters just for being so overwhelmingly nasty!

As for telling the story of loss, revenge, and horror lying in the psyche of both main characters, this movie is a winner.

The writers and director use a mix of tradition, mythology, and visions of dead ancestors to produce a truly spiritual “other-world” ending which will make you question what you’ve seen.

Thumbs up on horror and realism!

From The Vault: Daphne’s Den of Darkness: 10 Drinks to Pair with Horror Movies

From the Editor: Just in time for the hot days of Summer, we rerun this cool ghoul article ~

Sometimes, I like to wind down from the day with a little horror movie and a nice drink to go alongside it. And, hey, did you know there are LOADS of recipes out there for Horror Addicts to try? Sure, you may have heard of The Zombie or The Vampire’s Kiss (and who hasn’t had a Bloody Mary?), but I found ten recipes that are a little off the beaten path.

The Lady in White
1½ oz gin
¾ oz triple sec
½ oz lemon juice
Shake with ice and strain into a chilled cocktail glass.
Pair with The Curse of La Llorona (2019)

Moonlight
2 oz apple brandy
¾ oz lemon juice
¾ oz simple syrup
Shake with ice and strain into an old-fashioned glass.
Pair with The Wolfman (1941)

The Obituary
2 oz gin
¼ oz dry vermouth
¼ absinthe
Stir with ice and strain into a chilled cocktail glass.
Pair with The Invisible Man (2020)

Satan’s Whiskers
¾ oz gin
¾ oz dry vermouth
¾ oz sweet vermouth
½ oz orange liqueur
½ oz orange juice
1 dash orange bitters
Shake with ice and strain into a chilled cocktail glass.
Pair with The Uncanny (1977)

The Victor (Frankenstein)
1½ oz gin
½ oz brandy
½ oz sweet vermouth
Stir with ice and strain into chilled cocktail glass.
Pair with The Curse of Frankenstein (1957)

Black Devil
2 oz light rum
½ oz dry vermouth
Garnish: Black olive
Stir with ice and strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Add the olive.
Pair with Drag Me to Hell (2009)

El Chupacabra
2 oz blanco tequila
¾ oz grapefruit juice
½ oz lime juice
½ oz Campari
½ oz simple syrup
1 dash Angostura bitters
Shake with ice and strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with lime.
Pair with Indigenous (2014)

Black Magic
1½ oz vodka
¾ oz coffee liqueur
¼ oz lemon juice
Shake with ice and strain into ice filled old fashioned glass. Garnish with lemon twist.
Pair with The Craft (1996)

The Headless Horseman
2 oz vodka
3 dashes angostura bitters
Ginger Ale
Pour vodka and bitters into a Collins glass, add ice, fill with ginger ale, and stir. Garnish with orange.
Pair with Sleepy Hollow (1999)

Little Devil
¾ oz light rum
¾ oz gin
½ oz lemon juice
½ oz triple sec
Shake with ice and strain into a chilled cocktail glass
Pair with The Omen (1976)

Do you have any drink recipes you want to share? Or maybe there’s a must watch movie that pairs well with one of these? Be sure to tell us in the comments!

Merrill’s Musical Musings : Vexillary

Greetings HorrorAddicts I bring you some groovy reviews and righteous recommendations this year to keep your tuneage vibing. Or something like that. Despite the insanity that was 2020, many artists were able to come up with inspired material and I’ll share some great picks with you over the coming months. 

Vexillary is an instrumental project by New York based Reza Seirafi that was influenced by the artist’s love of blending components to create something new. A chemist in his other life, he likes to take seemingly inharmonious sounds and make them fit together. Tracks like “Maritime Panic” offer additional sonic adventures with each new listen. “Annihilation” has a manic feel that leaves the listener grasping at the elements and trying to find something to hold onto. There is a feeling of doom, especially in the opening notes of “Forged Skies” but this offering of electronica is never gloomy, and by the time you reach “The Geneticist,” the mad scientist vibe of the SurViolence is complete.

Vexillary is music for those who need an intense infusion with a side of chaos to make their aural journey complete. Give it a listen and let us know what you think. 

Want to share your favorite music from 2020? Comment below or email me at rlmerrillauthor@gmail.com. The next Ro’s Recs will be less of a “best of” and more of a “here’s what you don’t want to miss.” I’ll see you soon, my HorrorAddict Darlings. In the meantime, Stay Tuned for more Merrill’s Musical Musings…

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R.L. Merrill writes inclusive romance with quirky, relatable characters full of love, hope, and rock ‘n’ roll. You can find her at https://www.rlmerrillauthor.com and on the socials as @rlmerrillauthor. You can also find her Hope, Love, and Queeromance posts over at www.queeromanceink.com

Historian of Horror: Busted in Budapest

They say it’s less the things you do that you regret than the things you don’t do when you had the chance.

This is absolutely true. 

You’ve probably seen the commercials, either on television or online, for Viking river cruises. A very long boat putt-putts slowly in front of a large, ornate, white, domed building in the opening scene. That’s the Danube River, which really is blue when seen from above. The building is the Hungarian Parliament. The city is Budapest, pronounced Buda-Pesht by the locals. The Hungarian capital was assembled when the cities Buda, Óbuda, and Pest were united in 1873. Buda is on the western side of the river and is hilly and high-rent. Pest is on the eastern side, flat and less expensive. All that’s left of Óbuda is an island in between. Parliament is on the Pest side. I suspect the film might have been shot from the spire of the 14th Century late Gothic style Matthias Church, on the Buda side, which overlooks Fisherman’s Bastion and several other popular tourist attractions.

In the middle of town is City Park, created for the Hungarian millennial celebration in 1896. There, after passing through the entrance from Heroes’ Square, you will find Gundel Restaurant, home to the most lubriciously delicious crepes you will ever put yourself on the outside of; the zoo and botanical gardens; a shallow lake full of mallard ducks; and Vajdahunyad Castle, a collection of recreations of various historical buildings from around the Austro-Hungarian Empire.

One thing you’ll notice about the older buildings all around Eastern Europe is that there are almost always little niches set into the corners and walls for statues. Most are filled with lovely little sculptures. Saints, dragons, horses, whatever strikes the fancy of the locals at the time. On the corner of one building in Vajdahunyad Castle, a niche was empty in 2003 when a German artist by the name of Hartmut Zech was looking for a spot to place a bust he had made and hoped to give surreptitiously to the city.

He had done this before, in other parts of Europe. Most of his gifts had been removed, but he and his friend were undeterred. They snuck in one night in July of that year with the bust of Hungarian-American actor Bela Lugosi that Zech had been lugging around. They put it in the empty niche. It was not removed, and is still there.

And I missed it. The one time I was ever likely to be in Budapest, and I did not see that bust. I didn’t even know it was there.

In 2011, my wife and I celebrated our 30th anniversary by spending a few days in London. We spent half of our first full day at the Tower, ogling the Crown Jewels and the headsman’s axe, block and mask, and other artifacts. Then we rode a double-decker bus around Trafalgar Square, stopped in at St. Paul’s Cathedral, toured the Globe Theater, and rode the London Eye, that huge Ferris Wheel on the banks of the Thames opposite to, and taller than, Big Ben. We walked back across Southwark Bridge to Westminster, then on to our hotel.

The next day, we strolled over to Buckingham Palace, but President Obama was scheduled for a state visit the next day and access was restricted. We did watch the changing of the guards and toured the Queen’s Gallery and Mews, ate bangers and mash at a pub, and sacked out early, as we had to leave for Heathrow at 4:30 to catch our flight for Frankfurt-am-Main, Germany.

We joined a two-week tour of Eastern Europe there, traveling in a very posh Mercedes-Benz bus from Frankfurt to Berlin, then on into Poland. We lunched in Poznan and dined in Warsaw. Then on to Krakow, with a side trip to Auschwitz. That nearly broke me. I stayed on the bus while the others toured its sister camp, Birkenau. I’d had more than enough. Some horrors are just too real.

Then, it was on into Slovakia, a land full of lovely forests and more castles per capita than anywhere else in the world. Not far into the country, we passed by Orava Castle, maybe a mile or two to our right. I took pictures, but from a moving bus in a light rain, it’s hard to make out what they are of. F.W. Murnau filmed part of the classic silent horror film Nosferatu there in 1921. We didn’t stop for a closer look, alas.

We came into Budapest at the end of our first week on the tour. We checked into our hotel and boarded a boat for dinner and drinks on the Danube. At river level, it’s actually more brown than blue, but nobody cared much. The food was good and the champagne flowed freely. Frivolity ensued.

We got up that Monday and went to Heroes’ Square. A military unit was rehearsing for the city’s Memorial Day ceremonies later that day, so we could only look at the square from the perimeter. We went on to tour the Parliament and St. Stevens’ Cathedral, then dinner and drinks and so to bed.

We got into Vajdahunyad Castle the next day and wandered about the buildings, especially admiring the replica of Hunyad Castle, which is in Transylvania and in which Vlad Dracul II was imprisoned in the 15th Century. Transylvania was, in 1896, part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. It’s now part of Romania. We stopped in the Romanesque chapel for an organ recital, and then on to Gundel for hedonistic pleasure on a plate. 

Our tour guide was an otherwise exceptional Danish gentleman, but he apparently he didn’t know about the Bela Lugosi bust, or I’m sure he would have pointed it out. I’ve checked and rechecked the myriad photographs I took in Budapest, but Bela is not there. I would definitely have taken a picture of him, had I seen him.

Very disappointing.

We went on to Vienna, where we toured the Kaisergruft, the crypt where the Austro-Hungarian royal family was interred in sometimes grandly ornate sarcophagi, from 1633 until the last member of the Hapsburg dynasty born before the Empire’s dissolution following World War I was placed in the last remaining spot just a couple of months after we were there. I have a future column on that deliciously gruesome place in the plans. Stay tuned.

Then lunch in Brno, a couple of days in the gorgeous city of Prague, a look at the Glockenspiel in the town hall of Rothenburg and back to Frankfurt, then London, then home. A most satisfying trip, for the most part.

For the most part. For all the wonderful things we saw, Alas, I regret missing the only chance I will probably ever had to see the bust of one of the seminal figures of horror movies in its natural environs. I hope some of you, dear friends, have the opportunity to travel to Budapest and will take that opportunity to drop in on Bela. It is one of the most beautiful cities in the world, and worth seeing for many other reasons, but please don’t omit, as I was inadvertently obliged to do, the chance to venerate so important a figure from the history of our genre. You will regret that omission, as do I.

And so, until next time, fellow denizens of the dark…

Be afraid. Be very afraid.

Merrill’s Musical Musings: Dissonance

Greetings HorrorAddicts. This month we’re listening to the Dark Wave artist Dissonance. Cat Hall has a new maxi-single that’s perfect for fans of bands like GARBAGE, NINE INCH NAILS & INFORMATION SOCIETY. Precipice is a techno-moody piece that is very personal to Hall. Music helps us heal from the tragedies in our lives, and for Hall, it’s been a form of catharsis. After a serious health battle, she’s come out on the other side to share her emotional experience in these three pieces. With remixes by Joe Haze, Diverje, Junior Kain, and Machines with Human Skin all add layers to the composition. Reminiscent of Tubular Bells or early Depeche Mode, Precipice is music to sit with and contemplate. Each element woven together, whether it be effects or harmonies, all evoke feelings of loss and yet are ultimately hopeful. 

Thank you for joining me this month. I hope you and yours are well. I’d love to hear what kind of music is getting you through this tumultuous time. If you want to hear what I’ve been listening to, you can check out my #SpotifyWrapped. If you’re not on Spotify yet, you might want to change that in 2021. Getting a report on your listening habits can be…creepy, but also a great trip down memory lane. Stay Tuned for more Ro’s Recs and Merrill’s Musical Musings… 

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R.L. Merrill writes inclusive romance with quirky, relatable characters full of love, hope, and rock ‘n’ roll. You can find her at https://www.rlmerrillauthor.com and on the socials as @rlmerrillauthor. You can also find her at www.queeromanceink.com writing about Hope, Love and Queeromance. 

Free Fiction : The Letter by J.S. Occonor

The Letter

I sit here at my desk writing my final words for I fear that I shall not live to see the sunrise. The evil that has lurked in my home has become increasingly bold and the scratching on my bedroom door just last night tells me that it is my time.

 But before I get ahead of myself, a brief introduction should be in order as to how this all may have happened. I am Emmitt Newgate, a professor at the local university – a professor of anthropology and archeology, which fate would have it, would be my own downfall. As is one of the boons of my chosen field, I had taken a trip six months ago during the summer for academic fieldwork. Myself, a few colleges in the department, and three of our most successful students found ourselves granted an opportunity to travel to South America to study a number of ancient ruins. 

The trip itself was not unique, and I have been to places far more dangerous and more exotic. But this location was unique in that in my long history of study, there have been none that we brought more from. The number of relics and artifacts that were discovered exceeded all expectations. The last number that was reported to me was one hundred thirty-three thousand forty-two. A number that has no doubt continued to rise and bring about the undoing and death of all who were and still are involved. How unfortunate that a once-in-a-lifetime discovery would result in the death of so many.

The first death was two weeks after we had returned from our trip. The victim was another professor by the name of Edgar Washington. He was an elderly man but despite his age, he was healthy and fit. Edgar was found in his home, laying in his bedroom his face frozen in agony. And as I write, his cause of death yet remains unknown. The second death worth mentioning was Sidney Davis, the only female student who we brought along with us. She too was found in her bedroom with a similar agonizing look on her face and once again, her cause of death is unknown. Over the next six months, the remaining members of the expedition would die, all in a similar fashion, leaving just myself remaining.

The most recent death happened twenty-seven days ago. Why I know this is because it was a favorite student of mine, Michael Seymore, and his death may have revealed a clue. Or rather what he wrote. Michael Seymore was found in his bedroom in the same fashion as the others that I have mentioned, but he was clutching a journal to his chest. A journal that has come into my possession by means which are not entirely legal, I admit. And while I wish for my reputation to remain as unsullied as possible after the discovery of this letter, I needed to know what Michael had written. It concerns my own death, you see, and a man should know what fate awaits him. The first third of the journal was what you would expect of a man with a sound mind. However, as I turned the pages the words of Michael Seymore become less and less coherent until there was nothing but the ramblings of a lone mad man. The last third of the journal was nothing more than a single phrase written over and over again: “It comes from the darkness, look to the shadows.” A phrase in which the meaning remains lost to me and the limited amount of time I have remaining means that I shall never discover its true meaning. And an unknown fate still awaits me.

After the death of Michael Seymore, the evil turned its attention to me, the last member of our expedition. I had been aware of the deaths since the death of Edgar Washington. However, I did not notice the similarities until the death of Joseph Linkletter, who was the third to die. Had I discovered the link earlier, I might have been able to alter the course or to keep the deaths from happening. When I knew it was my turn, I immediately noticed it following me, but any and all research led me to dead ends.

The first time I saw it was late at night, three days after the death of Michael Seymore. From the corner of my eye, I saw a shadowy shape standing across the street from my residence. It would remain there every night for the next two weeks. Was it watching me? I believe it was. 

The first night it entered my house was a week ago, and I have not left my room since, with the exception of a daily visit to my kitchen, as the activity is minimal during the day. Maybe it does not like light. I have fired the house staff, in hopes to keep them safe, and I have formally resigned from the university to distance myself from everyone. It is my hope that I will be the last to suffer such a fate, but if I am not the last, I hope that this letter may help the next person who is being stalked by this evil being. I know nothing of this being – if it was released from our expedition, then I do not know-how. It may be tied to one of the relics that we returned with but again I cannot be certain. Along with this letter are our expedition notes, books on ancient civilizations, as well as books on evil, books that make mention of dark figures, and the last piece that I leave is the journal of Michael Seymore. I leave these things behind for the next person.

Soon the sun will perish and my candle will burn out leaving me in darkness. I have failed in this life and if I am responsible for this evil, then know that I am truly sorry for what we have unleashed. I will know my fate soon enough. 

My final words,

Emmitt Newgate    


 

J.S. O’Connor currently lives in Bettendorf Iowa where he writes in his free time.

 

 

 

Free Fiction: Undone by P J Curtis

Undone by P.J. Curtis

I lost something in the woods. It hurts my head every time I try to remember what exactly I lost, but there’s an emptiness that must be filled before it’s too late. I am not getting any younger and these trees are only growing taller. 

I would’ve driven through these woods considering how wide the path was, but at its entrance, I decided to leave my car. I wouldn’t be needing it any longer. I don’t need any protection for what I’m doing today. However, when I exited my car, I looked at the sky and noticed how dark it had gotten despite it being early in the day. The once welcoming pink sky has transformed into a coal-stained canvas, just ready to be presented by its maker. At first, it alarmed me how sudden the change was, but I didn’t think too much about it since I needed to find what I lost. 

As I walked down the dirt path filled with moss-ridden stones and rotten bark, my legs began to tremble. It felt like hours since I started my journey to find what I’ve lost but something in my chest was pulling me forward. I figured it was strong conviction but another, deeper part of me, felt as if something was truly pulling me. 

The path seemed endless and less of the already dying light from the sky was sinking through the trees. In fact, I could hardly see the sky. I couldn’t stop and fully take in what had become of my surroundings but it felt as if the trees were closing in on me. Almost as if they were forming a tunnel, the trees began to bend like fingers trying to touch the palm of a hand. There was barely any light but no matter how dark the tunnel of trees made my venture, I knew I would find what I needed.

I kept trudging along the dark path with a shortness of breath. I desired to keep going but my lungs were burning so hot, I thought they would burst from my chest. Even my legs had given up and my knees finally buckled. I figured I would collapse completely but as I fell, I realized my chest hadn’t hit the path. Almost as if I were begging, only my knees kissed the ground. My upper body was completely erect and my chest began to protrude outwards. The pulling sensation had only grown stronger as I was dragged along the path with no visible force tugging at my chest. 

I was dragged for hours. The knee part of my pants has disintegrated and had been matted with blood and mud. I felt weaker the farther I went down the tunnel. I could barely keep my eyes open but an unusual clutter of small voices prevented me from going completely adrift. The deeper I delved into the dark path, the clearer the voices sounded. I could make out what they were saying and frankly, it was nothing special. All I heard were average conversations layered on yet more average conversations. It was incessant but comforting. 

Eventually, the speed at which I was being dragged had come to a halt as I entered a different part of the woods. The tunnel had opened in a circular fashion above me as if the trees morphed into a colosseum. With this newfound exposure to the sky, the moon shone light on something I had never seen before. 

Before my eyes, I saw an old woman in worn rags sewing herself what appeared to be a red scarf. The old woman looked grotesquely thin and feeble yet she used her needle as if it were a mighty sword when she struck the yarn. It was a beautiful stitch, a work of art to say the least. I began to wonder why she wore such hideous and worn rags but I was interrupted by her gruesome gaze. 

She did not say a single word. The old woman stopped sewing for a moment as she brushed her matted wisps of hair over her shoulder. She then pointed at my chest and that’s when I saw it. A long strand of red yarn had come out of my chest and had been linked to her soon-to-be scarf. My eyes widened as she fiddled with the string with her long nail as if it were a banjo. Before I could process what was happening, her eyes rolled back into her skull and her twisted smile grew as she continued sewing. With every passing stroke of her needle, I began to unravel. Her scarf grew longer as my body began to diminish into nothingness. I couldn’t tell if I made a single noise because the conversations only grew louder as I became more scarf than human. 

The process was extremely painful, as my skin was being ripped off but I have to say…it was worth it. I feel warmed not only by the fabric I’ve become but also by the voices I am surrounded by. I can now intermingle with whomever I’m woven with. 

I finally found what I have lost. 


Author Bio: 

P.J. Curtis is a fan of fiction that disturbs readers to the core. Whether he is reading or writing it, Curtis believes we all should take a moment to appreciate what lurks in the shadows. Being primarily inspired by the works of Junji Ito and Franz Kafka, Curtis delves deep into the brink of human absurdity through the exploration of the unexplainable. Right now, Curtis is studying at Montclair State University to become a high school English teacher, but that has never stopped him from exploring what makes us scream.

 

Free Fiction : In the Winter Forest by John Drury

In the Winter Forest by John Drury

Before the man stood a large monolithic slate constructed with a dark abyss-like cosmic sludge, ever moving and crawling like one thousand termites upon the carcass of a long-deceased animal.  Each character shifted and writhed through the sludge, eternally fighting for release from the confines of the monolith but forever holding their distinct and awe-inspiring shape with both grandeur and solidity. The alien etchings presented themselves to the world like the proclamation of some unholy deity, warning those of the unspeakable sufferings that laid in wait for any who dared step foot upon this god-forsaken land.

All around D’Hiver, a cold winter wind blew, the screams of the wind creating a cacophony that was further amplified by the large monolithic structure that laid bare before him. He awoke sprawled before the structure on his hands and knees in a position of prostration with no remembrance of his past or identity. Only a brief recollection of a life previously lived presided within his now deteriorated mind. Within that memory, a single visage presided but had now been smeared away from his mind like the smudged face of an ancient painting that has long been lost to the sands of time.

Visions of preconceived understandings and depictions of Purgatory and Hell raced through his mind in a desperate effort to attribute their characteristics with those of the world that now laid claim to his soul. All around snow-covered plains laid barren before the man, and far in the distance, a ring of monstrously large tree-like structures surrounded the plains, almost like the gates into a more hellish landscape. No sign of life was evident, both on the plains and through the trees far in the distance. Outside of the harrowing screams of the bone-chilling wind, there existed only silence which echoed through his mind almost as loud as the hallow wind itself.

One last look upon the monolith filled the man with an existential dread of the future that invariably waited for him—still, all the while providing no understanding of who could have potentially created such a horrific structure.

The reverberating black energy of the monolith drove D’Hiver forward, pushing him towards the ring of trees. With no apparent motive or direction, the man went onwards for what he believed to be hours or potentially even days, as there were no stars in the sky, no sun or moon to guide his path or provide any structure to the time spent pushing forever onwards. The only light apparent on this world was an unearthly white glow that cast itself from high above onto the snow below, calling him forward and forever guiding his path.

With each step, the journey away from the monolith became increasingly more difficult, the physical and psychological pain pushing D’hiver far beyond his breaking point. The man’s hunger and need for rest had been exonerated, replaced with a pang of gnawing unfound existential torment and guilt that tore away at his heart perpetually. With each step forward, the more the jagged ice ripped the skin from his bare feet, leaving a trail of blood upon the plains. When inspected, his feet showed no sign of trauma or deterioration; only when set upon the earth, did they begin to bleed and toil away upon the endless void of snow once again. Visions of the wasted body of Prometheus chained to the rocks of Caucasus raced through D’Hivers mind as the man began to feel as if he had been sentenced to a fate similar to that of the bringer of fire.

He stood before the immense trees that seemed to move and sway in a way similar to that of the wordings etched into the monolith. Once the man mustered the strength to pass through the gates, he found that the ground below the trees was barren, inexplicably protected by the vastness of the sprawling canopy of pine-like branches miles above the surface. Once his feet left the snow, the pain immediately subsided, and instantly the air had become completely silent; the halls of the forest seemed to eliminate the horrific screams and bellows of the plains that now lay a mere foot behind D’hiver. Just as the cries of the plains had echoed through his skull like the strokes of a bell, the silence seemed to permeate through the entirety of his body, slowly filling every crevice and niche until his entire being had become a well of pressure ready to burst at the seams. Unsure of which pain he found worse, he continued onwards, blocking the new sensations that at first felt like a relief but now felt like a fire from which the frying pan had directly delivered him. 

The sensations of hunger still seemed to escape him, but the starvation of days without rest seemed to catch up with D’hiver finally. Immediately he fell to the forest floor, cushioned by a bed of ancient pine needles, which ushered him into a deep, dreamless sleep.

For years the man slept, always without movement or breathing; he laid there, becoming endlessly covered by the falling pine needles which stabbed into his body relentlessly until there was no skin left to puncture. A deep guttural calling finally awoke D’hiver from deep within the forest itself, which harked him onwards in the same ancient language that briefly graced the foggy mind of the wayward traveler from long ago when he traveled the plains of the ancient monolith.

And once more, his journey continued. 

Scorched by the fires of some unholy force, the building lay before D’hiver, small in size when compared to the vastness of the trees, which D’hiver had called his own for what had become years now. The building, constructed in the same material as the monolith, and shaped like that of a church, presented the man with a single doorway, for which he slowly approached. With each step, the calling grew more vigorous, D’hiver felt as if his journey had finally reached its conclusion.

The inside of the building was black as night. Every particle of light was absorbed and crushed under the enormous weight of the darkness. From deep within the shadows, a figure walked forward towards D’hiver. With hands outstretched and body prostrated towards the unholy figure, D’hiver presented his unwavering love and commitment the same way he had towards the monolith all those years ago when he had first awoken. 

With each step the figure took, the pressure lodged deep within D’hiver’s soul continued to grow, and the guttural voice’s call grew louder and louder. At last, before the figure was just about to present itself, D’hiver realized that the call was never a call; it was, in fact, a cry, a cry of warning, the same cry of warning that the monolith had attempted to communicate to him all those years ago. He should have never come here; his lack of purpose and direction mixed with the years of physical and psychological torment blinded him to the truth. The enticing possibility of some form of reward or fulfillment laying in wait at the end of the trail kept D’hiver moving.

However, he was wrong, and it was too late to go back now.

The creature took its last steps, and once D’hiver’s eyes bore witness to the abomination that had laid claim to his soul, the well of pressure lodged deep within D’hiver’s body finally gave way. In that very instant, all of the unholy white light absorbed by the pitch-black walls that surrounded the two figures finally collapsed upon the body of D’hiver.

Thousands of miles away, far beyond the towering trees and into the unholy snowcovered fields the man awakes, once again, before the great monolith.


John Drury is a High School student with a soft spot for horror and writing that’s just trying to get his voice out there. . “Over the past couple of years, I have been invested in listening to experimental music and watching older horror movies, which have played a vital role in the desire to focus my time on the creative process. I am only a student right now, but I hope to get my voice heard while developing my ability to create exciting stories. In the future, I would like to publish an anthology or potentially even a full-length story. Unfortunately, I only have one piece of writing under my belt, so my main focus will be on developing my craft and finding new and exciting stories to share.” If you enjoyed this story, watch for more from John and follow him at https://linktr.ee/JohnDru

Book Review : Clockwork Wonderland

Clockwork Wonderland Review by Ariel Da Wintre

I really enjoyed this Anthology. The book consisted of 14 stories and a poem. It has something
for everyone; scary, intriguing and creative. All the stories have the theme of clocks and Alice in
Wonderland characters. The writers added new characters, taking the classic story and
giving it a horror element. I think this works really well as parts of the original story could be
considered scary all on their own. I found the stories very original and some I didn’t
want to end.

The book starts with a poem by Emerian Rich, “Hatter’s Warning”, and it reminded me of the poems in the original Alice in Wonderland.

The first story is, “Jabberclocky”, by Jonathan Fortin. This story is about a boy named Henry and his unexpected visitor,  the Hatter. I really liked this and I was completely drawn into Henry’s story and the scary Jabberclocky. I loved the end but I didn’t want it to end.

I am still tripped out by the very scary, “Hands of Time” by Stephanie Ellis. It is about an apprentice named Rab who meets an executioner and the timekeeper. I don’t want to give anything away but if you like a bloody good time this is the story for you.

Next, “Clockwork Justice”, by Trinity Adler, is another thrilling story. Alice finds herself in Wonderland and accused of murder. Who did she murder? I won’t say but will she keep her head? Will she solve the crime? All my favorite characters are part of the story Mad Hatter, Cheshire cat and more.

The story, “My Clockwork Valentine”, by Sumiko Saulson is about a girl named Blanche and what happens to her. I loved the imagery in this story and the concept of time. You will get swept away by the story and hope our heroine survives.

“Blood Will Have Blood” by James Pyne, starts with the main character, Alicia, getting pulled into Wonderland and being told she is the new Alice. I think you can see where this is going. I found this story creative and different and it is about a blood clock. It is pretty scary I don’t want to be part of that Wonderland.

I loved “Midnight Dance” by Emerian Rich. This story follows the Mad Hatter and the March Hare. It has a very different twist but with characters we all know and love from the book and Zombies!

The next story, “A Room for Alice” by Ezra Barany, is a scary story that follows Alice as she wakes up in a scary place and meets Tweedle D. I enjoyed this story it had lots of plots and twists and left me thinking for some time afterward. It had a lot of creepy elements and I found it very descriptive.

“Frayed Ears” by H.E. Roulo is a story I loved. It has a Rabbit going through many childhood fairy tales. I couldn’t wait to see who would show up next to help the White Rabbit and will he make it on time and who is causing this to happen.

The next story is “King of Hearts,” by Dustin Coffman. This story had a great twist, a guy goes down the rabbit hole instead of Alice. Lenny is checking the closet for his daughter who hears a strange noise and finds himself in Wonderland. He meets the White Rabbit and other characters. Watch out for the Queen of Hearts!

“Riddle”, by N. McGuire, is about a young lady named Alice. She follows the white rabbit on a train and she is drawn into a very strange situation with different Wonderland characters.  Will she solve the riddle?

The next story is, “Tick Tock”, by Jaap Boekestein. This story has all the characters you love but they are not the way you remember them. Wonderland is at war and you don’t know who are the good guys and who are the bad guys. This story will keep you intrigued.

The story, “Gone A’ Hunting,” by Laurel Anne Hill, follows a young lady named Alease who is chasing the White Rabbit for dinner. She gets more than she’s bargaining for and needs to escape. Will the White Rabbit help her after she was just trying to kill him? Great story, scary to the end.

I really liked “The Note”, by Jeremy Megargee. It had a great concept. Wonderland is not the same and the character telling the story seems so lost and sad. The story has a lot of suspense. I enjoyed the whole vision of this scary wonderland.

The next story is “Half Past”, by K.L. Wallis. This story follows a girl named Alyssa. She is bumped into by someone who drops their pocket watch. She tries to return it and finds herself traveling on a train to Wonderland with Albert Hare. Alyssa ends up going with the hare to his sister Hatty’s home where everyone keeps calling her Alice. There are great twists and turns in this story. The Queen of Hearts in this story which keeps you wondering until the end; will Alyssa/Alice survive.

The final story is, “Ticking Heart”,  by Michele Roger. The story is about a friend of Alice’s coming to visit her in Wonderland and something is very wrong. The Queen of Spades wants to take over and it’s going to be bloody. Will the good guys save Alice and Wonderland?

I enjoyed this collection of short stories thoroughly. I also found myself looking at the cover thinking it really fits this book. I could read these stories over and over again. I couldn’t put the book down until I finished it.

Chilling Chat: Episode #192 Nicole Givens Kurtz – Slay Book Launch

chillingchat

Nicole Givens Kurtz is the author of eight novels, and over 40 plus short story publications. She is a member of SFWA and her science fiction novels have been named as A Carl NGK2017Brandon Society Parallax Award’s Recommended title-(Zephyr Unfolding), Fresh Voices in Science Fiction finalist (Zephyr Unfolding), Dream Realm Award Finalist in Science Fiction (Browne Candidate), and EPPIE Finalist in Science Fiction (Browne Candidate). Her short works have appeared in, Serial Box’s The Vela: Salvation, Baen’s Straight Outta Tombstone, Sycorax’s Daughters (Bram Stoker Finalist in Horror), and White Wolf’s Vampire the Masquerade Anthology. 

NTK: How old were you when you discovered horror?

NGK: I discovered horror when I was about 10 years old. The teacher read us the woman with the silk scarf around her neck during Halloween. I immediately fell in love with the story, and I sought out other scary tales. Because I’m an 80s child, that search led me to Stephen King.

NTK: Who was the first horror character you felt represented you, the one you could identify with the most?

NGK: The first horror character I felt represented me was Susannah in King’s Dark Tower Series. She was the first Black woman I read. Although aspects of her personality and her treatment plagued me for years, I still felt represented in that she was Black, I was Black, we were both women and she was her authentic self.

NTK: Who is your favorite horror author?

NGK:  My favorite horror authors are Ed Kurtz, Joe Hill, Shirley Jackson, and L.A. Banks.

NTK: What is your favorite horror novel?

NGK: My favorite horror novel is We All Live in the Castle.

NTK: Favorite horror movie?

NGK: The Crow.

NTK: Favorite horror TV show?

NGK: The Dark; Lovecraft Country.

NTK: How did the idea for the anthology, SLAY: Stories of the Vampire Noire come about?  

NGK: SLAY came about due to many conversations I have had with authors about the lack of Black vampire stories in the wake of L.A. Banks’s death. Sure, there have been other Black vampires, but they remained on the perimeter, in the background, window dressing. We wanted stories like Banks wrote, that centered Black people, Black vampires, and Black slayers in the forefront. What would that look like now? So, the idea was born to seek out short stories for an anthology to answer that question and to fill the void.

NTK: What was your slush pile like? Was it difficult to choose stories from the ones submitted? 

NGK: It was incredibly difficult to choose stories. It is likely they’ll be a volume 2 at some point because I had more solid stories than I could fit into the anthology. It’s already 29 stories strong.

NTK: Putting you on the spot here, which story of the 29 is your most favorite?

NGK: Oh, this is definitely asking a mother to pick her favorite child! I loved them all, for various reasons, but the stories that lingered the longest after I read them were, Craig L. Gidney’s “Desiccant,” Steven Van Patten’s “The Retiree,” L. Marie Wood’s “The Dance,” and Alledria Hurt’s “Uijim.”

NTK: What’s it like running a small press? 

NGK:  It is incredibly stressful, especially in the challenging times we are in now. It is also rewarding in so many ways. The flexibility to tell stories that otherwise may not have made it past the gatekeepers of large publishing houses, is why I do this work.

NTK: Who did the cover art for this anthology? It’s terrific!

NGK: Taria Reed did the cover and it was one she had created as a pre-made cover. She has semi-annual sales and I selected it and another one for my personal horror stories, but when the idea for SLAY came about, I thought this cover would be perfect. Taria also came up with the title of the anthology, SLAY. I added, “Stories of the Vampire Noire.” Taria is a true talent and if authors need cover art, she’s one of the best around and a mainstay on my list of artists.

NTK: As a person of color, how has your experience in the horror writing community been?

NGK: I have developed solid relationships with people in the horror writing industry, like Anya Martin and Linda Addison. But the writing community in horror as well as other genres, are reflections of what is happening in the United States. The acceptance of racists, misogynistic, and hate-filled attitudes and beliefs are allowed, even encouraged in some circles, to be out and proud. The horror writing community is reflecting that, because people who embrace those beliefs write horror (and other genres) too. I have encountered racists attitudes in the community. Yet, I know there are writers actively combating these ills, just as there are people in the U.S. actively protesting and battling the celebration of hatred.

NTK: What does the future hold for you? What works do Horror Addicts have to look forward to?

NGK: I’m actively working on the sequel to my fantasy mystery, Kill Three Birds: A Kingdom of Aves novella. I am also working on revising my science fiction opera, Zephyr Unfolding. I don’t have any horror topics on tap for now, but that can easily change as my Muse’s first love is horror and suspense.

NTK: It was a pleasure chatting with you, Nicole!

NGK: Thank you for having me, Naching and Horror Addicts.

Addicts, you can find Nicole on Twitter, Facebook, Other Worlds Pulp, Patreon, and you can subscribe to her newsletter.

TBM HORROR EXPERTS-Mocha memoirs press - SLAY tw banner white 2

 

Free Fiction:Broken Marble Cherry Bowl by Dan A. Cardoza

Broken Marble Cherry Bowl By Dan A. Cardoza

Grande Nonno died making a living, like Papa. He was born with his blue denim sleeves rolled up. 

He and Grande Nonna are buried just a few miles south of the Apuan Mountains on the Alps’ Italian side. They’ve been rotting away in a small village cemetery near the town of Caravaggio. Caravaggio, Italy, is in the province of Bergamo, in Lombardy, Italy, 40 kilometers northeast of Milan’s municipality. 

Carrara is in central Italy. Carrara is in the provinces of Massa and Carrara. The region is famous for the white and blue-grey marble quarried there. The brilliant, almost translucent blue and grey exist as arteries and veins, frozen in memoriam. The Carrione River gushes in the winter through the canyons of the region. Flash floods in the spring have been known to cleanse citizens clear out into the Ligurian Sea. 

At first glance, the Apuan Alps of northwest Tuscany’s Carrara region are pure white. You can imagine snow being born in the high castle crags. 

Early train travelers through the regional mountains had been cautioned of the risk of blindness due to marble dust and glare from all the whiteness. The talc of powder is said to be under the control of no other than the wind, a stiff wind that wants nothing to do with humankind.

Most travel guides, even today, will tell you the Carrara region is famous for three things: marble, anarchy, and pig fat. This unlikely trio is intertwined as deeply as the mineral veins striating the marbled mountains. 

Since ancient Roman times, Carrara’s Apuan Alps have supplied marble for some of the world’s most prized sculptures. Carrara is the marble of Michelangelo’s Pietà, Jean-Antoin Houdin’s George Washington, and New Delhi’s vast Akshardham Temple. The stone is blessed with luminosity, its networks of blue arteries and veins, nature’s psychological Rorschach test ranges from grayish to purple. In monolithic form, it can support the sky, like Half-Dome in Yosemite, California. It has been winnowed down into the translucence of light itself in thin slabs, a fitting lid on an iridescent coffin. 

My name is David. I’m a little softer than marble but much colder. It’s taken a while to get here, but that’s what you get when you grow up in the middle of a nightmare.

This story isn’t so much about me. It’s mostly about us. Yes, dear reader, you and me, us humans, with all our ugliness, beauty, and pain. It’s about the idiosyncrasies and occasional flaws of raising children, children whose only intent is to live, once born. There’s not one baby book available online or in a storefront about how to raise a monster. I can assure you, the parents that know how-to, don’t need any damned instructions.

Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy a wonderful life, especially now that I’ve lived alone for just over a decade. Papa and Mamma are back in Northern Italy, going on eleven years now. They will be back, not to worry. In most ways, they’ve never really left. They are like shadows that remain hidden, but for midnight. 

When I say that they are not really being gone, by that, I mean there are very few places in this run-down house where they don’t exist. And, outside, they are out there too. 

Papa is in the drippy faucet, the one he couldn’t fix. And so I put up with it, and wait. It’s just off their bedroom, on the second floor. Now that they’re gone, I sleep in their queen. Papa is in the crazy garden. Jesus, it’s insanely productive. Most of us Italian’s are birthed with green thumbs. He’s no exception. Hell, he’s placed enough bullshit in the dirt to turn the backyard into a greenhouse. The soil can’t help itself. It’s rich and loamy. 

He’s in the tomato stakes, the ones he used his machete to ax into six-foot lengths. The stakes are round and made out of two-inch dried bamboo. He uses four to stand up the cages, cages meant to confine the beautiful green and red of the plants. Papa makes the wire cages too. It seems he makes everything except the water. In July, once the plants have taken hold, he uses the iron enclosures to jail all the tomatoes with cheap labor until they are forced to ripen. 

The rake, he’s damned well in it. Papa’s in the sweaty oil on the tacky handle. He’s also in the missing hickory slivers that have ended up in his callused palms. I can even feel him in the shovel, the square, and the round one. Papa’s strong hands are there, the ones that he’d forced around my throat. 

The rounded shovel has a grave digger’s blade, having killed a rat or two. It acts as guillotines and can be used to take out Napoleon’s armies of screaming tomato worms, as well as any meandering garden snake.  

Father is in the pantry, more stubborn than any simile. I swear to it. He’s in the ugly green wooden cabinet, the cabinet built onto one of the garage walls. He had inherited from the previous homeowners. Papa was there when he smashed the planked wooden door on my curious fingers after he’d carelessly left it unlocked. He was as quiet as a panther in the single-car parking space. 

He’d reinforced the shelves, “extra support never hurt nuthin’, he’d said. If I catch you climbing up them again, I’ll crack your eardrums open like a walnut shell.” 

Brandied cherries, thorny blackberries, and drunken raisins, a container of bay leaves, dried leaves broad enough to cover your crotch, they’re all in there, his damned pantry, canned jars of minestrones soups, pickled venison with bone broth, broth he’d used to boil meat off a cats ribs. 

I love Papa. I can’t get enough of him, even though he’d never taught me a damned thing or showed an ounce of affection. He’d beaten me so hard once. He used a messy summer fly-swatter. The kids at school teased me for more than a week. They’d called me porch-face because of the clumsy screen door in the back of the house. I wouldn’t dare tell them the truth. Don’t get me wrong, I truly love him, Papa, way over in Italy, but if not for the distance, I’d kill him.

Trouble in Italy

It’s like when ivory Domino’s fall, Italy. 

One after the other, first cousin Adrianna broke her back. She’d been living taking care of Nonno and Nonna in their two bedroom inherited cottage. Winter had been a bastarda that year. Those cloudy Cumuli scoundrels just wouldn’t let up or leave. 

The storms had come over the ice-box Apuan Mountains like some uninvited frost-bitten diesel train. They huffed and puffed their swollen blue faces, clean out of Switzerland and Austria. The back stoop and steps had frozen. 

In the last atmospheric disturbance, Adrianna had forgotten all their scratchy linens she’d hung out on the clothesline in the AM. When she’d clipped on the wooden clothespins, there had been sunshine, clawing itself over the horizon. The landscape was frozen, but the fragile sunrays had been as dry as a church mouse fart.

She’d seen them as flags, all the sheets, and towels. They’d flapped parallel in the same direction of the sleet. If the sky hadn’t been so windy, they might have frozen all their stiffness in place. 

Both feet had come out from underneath her hefty girth. She attempted to scoot across the stoop and down a short run of stairs. Adrianna’s heard the crunch before, the time she’d chopped fresh kindling for the cottage’s cast iron stove. She’d cracked her cervical spine in three places.

The medicohe had ordered rest and that she lay as stiff as a corpse for at least two months. I don’t know what in the hell they call them in Italy, but the doctor had also thrown a shitload of Benzodiazepines at her to “uplift her mood,” he’d said. 

Adrianna had sounded as if she was a happy zombie. She’d begun to slur her words. So, she used the neighbor on the other end of the phone. This neighbor lady, Arelia, was one of a few in the village who knew broken English. Adrianna had stirred up the whole neighborhood with her high maintenance and melodramatics, most likely from her being high. 

In short order, Arelia, the helpful neighbor, quit. She’d had enough of nursing Arianna, as well as cooking and feeding Nonno and Nonna. She’d shouted in Italian when she’d left the cottage for the last time, “I’m not going to be used as some kind of crazy finger puppet.” That’s when mother and father’s trip was a done deal.

Hearing all this, mother and father had jumped on the first international flight out of San Francisco to Milan. Apparently, Caravaggio, Italy is another Hotel California, like the Eagles’ hit song, once you arrive, you can never leave. 

By god, nothing was going to happen to Nonno and Nonna. My parents had too much invested, not the least the thirty-odd dollars they’d sent to Italy every month.  

I’m sure their leaving had nothing to do with any future inheritance. 

Back at the House

Although Mamma is in Italy, she’s never really left the house. 

She’s in the pasta sauce she taught me to make: Butt loads of fresh garlic, a pinch of brown sugar, a teaspoon of vinegar, fresh basil, Papa’s rusty tomatoes, and her secret weapon, Italian ground sausage with fennel. There are enough jars of Mamma’s pasta sauce in the green pantry to fill up a Venetian Gondola. I almost forgot, add about ½ cup of tawny port wine, not the cooking kind. In Northern Italy, that’s how we roll.

She’d used her intoxicating pasta sauce and pasta to keep papa fat and uncomfortable, too uncomfortable for kinky sex. 

Mamma had been the Comet shine in the scratched porcelain sink. I’m messy. She cleaned the kitchen floor good enough to eat off, vacuumed the rug in front of the big screen TV, left wheel marks resembling perfectly furrowed OCD rows of corn, truer than any in Kansas. I have stacks of dirty dishes on the coffee table. The washer broke, and now I’m using the dishwasher to clean all my clothes.  

I almost forgot, Mamma is down the drain in the bathtub and out the sewer pipes, swimming toward the mainline. Everything she ever did is out there. I hope the witch stays in Italy, never comes home.

Mamma’s into saving. She’s a penny-pincher. 

She’d hoarded change, mainly the spare dimes she could fit into Papa’s discarded whiskey and cognac, Toro Gordo see-through tubes. The nasty cigars never left his mouth. Each tube was gifted at storing their designated dimes, each dime held snugly in its place. Dimes were tight, seemingly pinching themselves into place, each dime a fool, should they even think of leaving the nested affection.  

I’ve spent every one of those Mercury-headed sons-a-bitches, those President Franklin D. Roosevelt, In God We Trust counterfeit dimes. Money is evil. It needed to be punished. I gave them all away at the Thunder Valley Casino, just north of Sacramento. It had taken a lot of liquor, anger, and time to spend the forty-eight tubes of stolen dimes. Losing had never felt so good. Returning at 3:00 AM Saturday morning, I’d slept most of the weekend away, having gorged on an all-you-can-eat buffet.

Canning

With COVID and all, and since Mamma’s cooking is in Italy, I’ve taken up canning. 

Canning has become extremely popular with my generation. I am a millennial. It’s a safe, effective, and simple process, and it’s crazy inexpensive. Mother made me inexpensive, cheap enough to toss away if she could have gotten away with it. She gave me to Papa, expecting he’d use me up. I hate her as much as sin, with her all her paternal conspiracies. 

People can take advantage of canning to preserve just about anything: fruits, peaches, plums, thorny and bloody blackberries picked in the boiling sun, along the Yuba River, vegetables, soups, sauces, and meats, damned right, all kinds of proteins.

In the late 1700s, that crazy war genius, Napoleon Bonaparte, commissioned a regional search for a better method to preserve food. He believed that “An army travels on its stomach.” 

He was looking for a less expensive and more efficient way to feed his armies. He intended to make food last longer and give his armies nutritional food, meat to build up their strength. Their heritage of strength is what allowed the troops to perform more of their carnage in all the battles. And so Napoleon proposed a hefty bounty to anyone who could come up with a better method of preserving food in quantity, with a long shelf life, even though most of Napoleon’s soldiers had a limited expiration date. 

A genius named Nicholas Appert had claimed the prize, though it took until 1810 for him to perfect his discovery. But like most time-proven inventions used for the military, it would take about fifty years before the methodology and know-how would trickle down to the average family. Think of Ronald Reagan’s Star Wars. 

By 1858, this brilliant, cylindrically shaped man, John Mason, had invented the iconic, reusable “Mason Jar.” The Mason jar is the gold standard of canning, even today.

The best thing momma taught me before she left was how to can. I do thank her for that if nothing else, and I will be grateful to her for the rest of my life.

The Supplies:

  1. Boiling water bath canner or a large, deep sauce pot with a lid and a rack
  2. Glass preserving jars, lids, and bands (always start with new lids)
  3. Common kitchen utensils, such as a wooden spoon, ladle, and paring knife
  4. Quality ingredients (fresh fruits and vegetables)
  5. Jar lifter
  6. Home canning funnel
  7. Bubble freer and headspace tool

I admit it’s become an obsession, canning. It’s been more than a hot minute, well, over ten years now, since Papa and Mamma left for Italy. I might have to whisper, but I think I’m a better canner than my missing Mamma. You heard me right. Mamma went missing while in Italy. She’s still missing. 

If I sound a little matter of fact, well, for Christ-sakes, I am. I don’t miss her a bit. Hell, she’s everywhere I turn in this two-story falling apart clapboard house.

Let’s get back to canning. I don’t have time for terribly long stories. 

Bitches, I am the RuPaul Andre Charles of canning. I’ve got canning game. Over the years, I have mastered the art. Yes, you heard me correct. It’s an art: Squatty Stainless steel jar lids, lids that stack in gorgeous, shiny rows in Papa’s garage pantry. Tall, long Masson jars, the glass of stars, full of peaches, their skin’s sloughing off. Don’t you just love the word slough? I eat the juicy peaches, skin first. I’ve preserved Kidney beans and canned eggplant, the kind that resembles the Emoji penis. I’ve canned olives, as dark as jackal eyes, red pimento’s for pupils. Green-fingered asparagus, some as thick as longshoremen’s thumbs, the rest, as long as your middle finger, I’ve stored them all. 

I figure all the canned goods in Papa’s green cupboard should last at least five freaking years. Think about it, not having to shop for food, all the plague masks, all the germs, the disguising people?  

I Quit my Job

I worked for the State of California in IT. My employer was the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation. It was a nice fit for the longest time, the past twenty years. But, with all the write-ups, suspensions, and disciplinary action, I told the governor of the golden state of California to shove his state job up his Department of Controller’s ass. I’d had it. 

The talking behind my back and taunting had gone on for months. I was accused of sexual harassment, gender insensitivity, and for keeping less than standard hygienic practices. 

It was never written up formally, by my immediate supervisor had also accused me of excessive flatulence. He’d said, “I’ll save you all the embarrassment by not having it on the record.” 

They assumed father had simply disappeared in the woods. He’d been hiking a lot after Mamma’s disappearance. Well, he’d disappeared too. It was in early February. Ah, em, it had been snowing a lot. The Apaun forests were deep and dark, all that bullshit. 

Think of me as the red stapler man in the hit movie Office Space. I’d been placed in a corner, next to a dingy wall, at the end of a long row of cubicles. I’d been made fun of for the longest time. There had been food on my shirt that I’d made sure to wash at least once a month, the broken clip on my suspenders, my olive oiled hair, a litany of complaints. 

They’d said, “He’s a pig, eats most of his food out of jars, he farts like a bull in a software China shop. He scrambles and breaks every damned software application and Microsoft Excel spreadsheet account that he touches. His math is sloppy. He doesn’t add up.”

“Fuck you,” I shouted when Kevin won the yearly IT award. I wouldn’t have been so bad, but I used the third floors intercom. 

This girl named Nancy had turned me in for wearing real pig’s ears for Halloween. I thought It was appropriate. I used elastic and Velcro and had dried them out. “Fuck you,” I’d shouted when they’d told me who it was that complained. “Fuck all of you, Nancy,” I’d said. “You bitches are going to end up in a Masson’s canning jar.” I was fired the very next day. They walked me clear down the block to the bus stop. 

Ok, I get this feeling that you are making fun of me too. This is so personal, and I have been sharing so much of myself. I know you think I’m crazy, reader. You can’t fool me. Don’t flatter yourself, smarty-pants. You think I killed my mother and father and jarred them. No, and No, and hell no!

I’m in Papa’s garage. He won’t mind. I’m using his workbench vice. Grande Nonno had a workbench, too, over there in Italy. He’d used it to sharpen all his slaughtering tools and wheat scythe. Grande Nonno and I had always gotten along. I loved him. He’s the one that taught me why the sheep in the foothills of the Alps have two downhill legs shorter than the other, walking the hills and all, in one direction. 

Papa did everything big, including installing a commercial-sized workbench vice. His vice is industrial red and shiny as glass. I tighten it, tighter and tighter. Nothing ever escaped father. He held me down, two knees on my back, both hands in my long pissy hair, I’d wet the bed again. 

As I grew older, he’d do this, but for other reasons. 

I turn the handle. I have the vices dog fixed in place. I watch as the moving jaw moves in the direction of the stationary jaw. The main screws seem to elongate as the vice grips tighter, one of life’s paradoxes. I crank and crank until Papa’s double-barreled shotgun is fixed in place.

I saw and saw, using the hacksaw. 

As the storm shakes the rafters, I play Papa’s favorite CD using his cheap flea-market vintage player. How he loved him some Brahm, especially the classic-haunted lullabies, steeped in all the Mephistophelian memories they evoked. He loved the anxious melody, all the nervous piano keys, the white noise that kept my–his demons at bay. 

Piano Concerto Number Two was his favorite, with its assemblage of Stradivarius violins fluttering their hyaline wings off. How it reminds me of the times, I’d torn the wings off the butterfly’s whenever the pain ferreted itself into the light, sniffing for vengeance.

Most of the cold steel barrel falls to the floor. I sand and sand what’s left of the barrel until it’s smooth to the touch. It never heats up. It remains cold. 

I snap on the TV in the family room. It takes a while to find the channel with only white noise. Next to me, on the make-shift end table is a mason jar. It’s filled to the brim with pickled pig’s feet broth, mostly bitter vinegar. I grasp the jar in my sweaty palm. I swish the dog’s eyes in a clockwise direction. I place the vacuum-packed jar back on the card table next to the couch. 

The age-darkened sheep’s eyes spin and whirl in a circular motion of sight, no longer tethered to their brains by any pesky optic nerves or even semblance of reality. 

I pick up the jar again. I stare back and spin the wolf’s eyes in a counter-clockwise direction. I smile. I place the cyclone of deception and conspiracy back on the table.

Now I can use my index finger on the trigger. The shotgun barrel is so much shorter now. Using my toes was unrealistic since I’ve gained so much weight after being terminated. Terminated, what a harsh word, isn’t it? Because of all the nutritious canned protein, I’ve become a little cherub. There’s no way my chubby two toes were going to blast me over the moon. 

Dear reader, if you’ve gotten this far, I’m truly sorry. You will have to sit on the couch now, directly across from me, and watch.

You’ll have company. They are watching me too. The feral eyes are strobe lights, a horrific merry-go-round of sight, the son’s-a-bitch, around and around they go. The room fades to black, the TV splatters.

You know most of the rooms in the house by now. After you puke your guts out, you run toward the leaky shower in the master bath. The blistering hot water can’t rub your bloody skin off fast enough, “Fuck the crime scene,” you shout at the top of your lungs, into the ceiling. You contemplate how your pretty world has just shit its pants.

You exit the shower. The room has turned into a psyche ward spa. Everything is a vapor. You splash ice water on your face over the sink in front of the massive mirror. You rub and rub at the steam on the glass.  

Directly behind you, in the mirror, is your new reality. You can see it clearly now. It stands bleeding, broad-shouldered. Somehow the brawny shoulders are holding up a broken marble bowl of cherries. The bloody cherries are globing over the rim of the bowl. 

After you’ve determined the broken bowl is what’s left of my skull, I make you feel the icy barrel against your flesh, directly behind your pounding heart. 

Now, Son’s-a-bitch, the lights really do go out. 

The End


Dan’s most recent fiction has been published in the 45th Parallel, Allegory, honorable mention, Aphelion, BlazeVOX, Across the Margins, Bull, Cleaver, Close to the Bone, Coffin Bell, Dark City Books/Magazine, Door=Jar, Dream Noir, Entropy, Flash Bang Mystery, Gravel, Literary Heist, Mystery Tribune, O:JA&L/Open: Journal of Arts & Letters, New Flash Fiction Review, Overstock, Spelk, Variant, Visitant, Your Impossible Voice, The 5-2. Dan has also been nominated by Coffin Bell for the Best of the Net Anthology, 2021, and best micro-fiction by Tiny Molecules.

You can read more of Dan’s work at https://www.dan-a-cardoza-literature.com,

Twitter: @Cardozabig 

https://www.facebook.com/ 

 

New HorrorAddicts.net Podcast Season 16 to Begin


Interview with Creator and Horror Hostess of HorrorAddicts.net, Emerian Rich. 

Interviewed by Kate Nox, Blog Editor

Nox: Emz, the new podcast season is about to begin. On April 24th we can all tune in and hear the show. I imagine this is an exciting time for you?

Emz: Exciting and busy. The staff and I are all working hard to collect information and create new content for the listeners.

Nox: And how many seasons have you been doing this?

Emz: This will be our 16th season.

Nox: Share with us the theme for this season and some of the reasons it was chosen

Emz: We wanted to really highlight POC voices this year, so we made a call to share with us horror in cultures from around the world. We’ve got some really great authors involved and we’ll be covering horror from all different countries. We made it a goal to populate our bookings with 50-75% POC voices and we ended up surpassing that with over 79%.

Nox: Can you let us in on any of the exciting items the season holds for our listeners?

Emz: We have three anthologies to highlight. SLAY from Mocha Memoirs Press, Haunts and Hellions coming out in May from HorrorAddicts.net Press, and ON TIME from Transmundane Press. We’ll have readings from the authors of those books. We’ll also be hosting a Wicked Women Writer’s All-Star competition for our 200th episode, so the listeners will get to hear from the winners of our contests over the years.

Nox: I’ve heard rumors you have new theme music this year?

Emz: Yes! Our favorite band, Valentine Wolfe, has returned to theme our show with their song, “I Felt a Funeral”

Nox: What will the audio drama be this year?

Emz: The Deadbringer, an audio dramatization of E.M. Markoff’s novel. It’s sure to be exciting!

Nox: Remind our listeners when they’ll be able to tune in for the first episode.

Emz: The first episode premieres April 24th and we’ll start with the black vampire theme. Authors from Mocha Memoirs’ SLAY will be reading their work for us. A full list of themes and guests can be found at: HorrorAddicts.net and you can also listen on all the podcasty things including iTunes, I❤Radio, Stitcher, and more. I can’t wait to talk to my addicts again!

Guest Blog: Shakespearean Horror / It’s a Thing by L. Marie Wood

Shakespearean Horror: It’s a Thing

By L. Marie Wood

Shakespeare is a pioneer of what we now consider horror fiction.

That’s right.  

I said it.

Before you recline away from your laptop or iPad or whatever you are using to read this article, consider this… the realism that Shakespeare infused in his work – his use of ghosts, his regard for psychological torment, even his sporadic employ of physical pain – is indicative of the horror genre and its many sub-genres, tropes, and tenets.  

Curious, no?

Many think that Shakespeare’s alignment with the horror genre is coincidental, however, I posit that it is a natural kinship. Shakespeare does what all writers do, both in literary and genre fiction: Shakespeare reports the state of the world through his writing. This is the very definition of art imitating life. 

Shakespeare was not the first to do it. Even before his most graphic depiction of what would be considered visceral horror by modern sub-genre definitions, Titus Andronicus, Sophocles had introduced audiences to psychological and physical torture in Oedipus the King (circa 430 BCE) and an unknown poet had dredged a mythical beast from a dark corner in the universe in Beowulf (circa 8th century). Indeed, some might suggest that the Christian Bible is rife with depictions of horror and trauma to rival later genre offerings.

The horror genre lends itself quite neatly to these suggestions; the genre is a veritable playground for campaigns of all kinds.  The unique canvas it provides allows for revealing social injustice and calling for change to be laid out at its most base level and in gruesome detail.   Shakespeare’s connection with the unnamed, burgeoning genre that would gain a stronghold centuries after his death is evident in his proclivity for speculative writing, which leans decidedly towards the supernatural rather than the cosmic. 

Shakespeare’s depiction of human nature and its consequent relationship with what we now call horror is more a sign of the times than literary coincidence.  The psychological warfare that Shakespeare engages his characters permeates his body of work, most notably illustrated in Iago’s manipulation of Othello. On close review one can find reflections of this kind of turbulent undercurrent in many modern horror works, whether using the mind against itself or man against man – an example of this is the slow build in The Graveyard Apartment by Mariko Koike.  Books of this nature reflect inner turmoil, blatant manipulation, and, sometimes, a ghost of two.

Sound familiar? 

Shakespeare is a pioneer of what we now consider horror fiction… When I said it this time it didn’t sting as much, did it?  This paper made you see his writing through a different lens – at the very least, made you think about the possibility of its truth, didn’t it?  For you Shakespeare fans, perhaps this assertion pushes the horror genre into review as more than just a genre intended to frighten or one focused on social commentary and/or judgment without redemption; maybe this will entice you to peel the onion a bit.  For you horror fans, I know… we already knew.


L. Marie Wood is an award-winning psychological horror author and screenwriter. She won the Golden Stake Award for her novel The Promise Keeper. Her screenplays have won Best Horror, Best Afrofuturism/Horror/Sci-Fi, and Best Short Screenplay awards at several film festivals. Wood’s short fiction has been published widely, most recently in Slay: Stories of the Vampire Noire and Bram Stoker Award Finalist anthology, Sycorax’s Daughters.

http://www.lmariewood.com

From The Vault for Religious Horror Month: Kbatz / Apparitions

Re-blogged from 10/14/2014

Apparitions is a Fine Spiritual Thriller

By Kristin Battestella

apparitions

What if Mother Teresa was possessed and died during an exorcism? So begins Apparitions, a 2008 6-part British tale chronicling a modern day exorcist caught between the bureaucracy of Rome and the demons running amok in London. Who knew?

Father Jacob (Martin Shaw) tries to help a young family in fear of demonic possession, despite Cardinal Bukovak’s (John Shrapnel) insistence that Father Jacob is over stepping the bounds of his archaic exorcism office. Sister Ruth (Siobhan Finneran) is placed as Father Jacob’s secretary to keep an eye on him, but she begins to question the strange goings on around their parish – and their mysterious patient Michael (Rick Warden), himself a victim of possession in Satan’s master plan to birth new and powerful evil on earth. Can Father Jacob unravel these demonic intentions and save the lives and souls of those around him, or will his own institution and the non-believers inside and out inadvertently allow evil to triumph?

Blasphemous suggestions, debates on canonization, and behind the scenes church happenings are immediately intriguing to start Episode 1 of Apparitions. However, series writer and director Joe Ahearne (Ultraviolet, Doctor Who) and co-creator Nick Collins (Murder in Suburbia) also smartly endear the cast and plots with quickly relatable young girls with possessed dads and seemingly inspired Leprosy healings. There’s a pleasing attention to detail as well through battle of wits dialogue, historical dates, and specific examinations. Are the saints as active in earthly work as demons – even in prisons and with rapists seeking repentance? Perfumes versus foul scents, appearing and disappearing eerie figures, and more devilish implications create a paranormal but religious CSI design with no need to resort to nasty priesthood innuendo. The flaws of the church, however, are certainly acknowledged; exorcisms are recognized as medieval hokey, and the misbelieving even make some Hammer Horror jokes. Are such non-believers all possessed by evil? Of course not, but are all men of the cloth touched by grace? Nope. Apparitions confronts the whole lot of grey in between thanks to multiple storylines and layers of legion; the longer serial format gives room for deeper demonology dimensions, legal issues, social services, church hierarchy, government battles, and family debates by Episode 2. A film would have one monstrosity excised with the confrontation against evil resolved in several hours, but Apparitions offers a possession infrastructure to mirror the church’s chain of command. Who knew being a priest was such dangerous work? Apparitions remains self aware with quips – “Don’t make many enemies in your line of work?” “Only Satan.” – and provides fantastical but honest discussion on humanity being the battleground between good and evil where our flaws, temptations, and those to which we would or would not do harm are used against us. Casualties and sacrifices happen in this spiritual warfare, and Episode 3 raises the stakes as Apparitions uses its individual hours or multi part arcs to tie its larger plot together. It was probably tough to watch Apparitions from week to week thanks to the somewhat rolling cast and changing righteous or evil affiliations, but binging several episodes at a time keeps the soulful character dilemmas in focus.

Demonic pregnancies and abortions gone awry push the exorcism twists further in Episode 4, but these upsetting, controversial themes remain delicate and compelling. Where is the line between deformity or evil showing upon one’s person, disability, mental illness, and possession? Do we encounter demons daily but remain unaware as we argue the fine line between medical rights, patient privacy, and religious need? No one wants a priest interfering with healthcare, but interesting commentary on how medicine was once thought of as superstition helps plead the spiritual case. Demons, of course, thrive on perversion and seek to be born in emulation of John the Baptist and Jesus Christ. Even people who think they believe are shocked when they encounter the possessed on Apparitions. Episode 5 mixes Islam and supposed visions of the Blessed Mother with hopeful, miraculous moments, and this good standing tall balance keeps Apparitions from being too somber or serious. Can we recognize these good or ills among us? Do we invite the devil in while supposedly differing religions recognize our common evil enemy? Apparitions poses a lot of questions and can be lofty at times in hypothesizing whether humanity is inherently bad or good, and some secondary people or plots end up forgotten and unresolved by the Episode 6 finale. Several excellent supporting players don’t have any follow up time, and this one series could have perhaps been 8 or 10 hours instead of 6. Fortunately, great guest stars and core characters facing their own demons provide more thought provoking muster. Could you work for evil just once to save millions? The needs of the masses certainly outweigh the cost of one’s own life – or soul. The finale pieces together all the significant dates, anniversaries, and births to up Apparitions’ ante, testing its faithless by having them perform exorcisms and face their own catastrophes. Once you open the door to hell, can it be closed? Does God let evil in only to prove good’s triumph? For all its doom and gloom on evil and possession, Apparitions is a powerful spiritual show about the underlining good needed for the job, cloth or no cloth.

Apparitions producer and star Martin Shaw (Judge John Deed, Inspector George Gently, The Professionals) looks the mature, priestly part as Father Jacob and is certainly up to the credible, experienced, and soft spoken but kick ass task. His rapport with young Romy Irving (Public Enemies) overcomes her fear and ours as Father Jacob puts pressure on and pursues his investigation for the true cause – there’s no time to pussyfoot around when souls are at stake! Father Jacob firmly believes Satan is amidst our daily lives but must continually defend his exorcism office even to fellow church members who think he is relic of the past. Father Jacob embodies an interesting debate – he doesn’t want people to suffer to prove his point, but the possessed are the exact people he must excise. How much pain is saving the world going to take? You don’t need to believe to enjoy Apparitions thanks to Shaw’s everyman alone style and the doubts cast upon him by others. Why do so many immediately resist the opportunity for his help or take extremes to spit in his face? Is it easier for people to run from faith when they should fight evil or help good to happen? Father Jacob is an anchor for his office, yet Shaw also provides excellent internal conflict and silent reflection. His line of work always leads to death, but Father Jacob must continue to fight the good fight. A very strong script also helps Shaw take it to the next level – he always has a good comeback or the right thing to say to the possessed, the believer, or the church that is both for and against him. Father Jacob has to break the rules and does what he has to do, and Apparitions is a worthy ride because we want to see Father Jacob succeed against all this dang earthly red tape just as much as we root for his quest against supernatural evil.

Are these miracles on Apparitions done for good or ill? Guest priest Elyes Gabel (Game of Thrones) adds more conflict and temptation while addressing homosexual ideologies within the Catholic Church. Are the ones concerned with what is thought to be the unclean or questioning their faith and role in the church the ones closest to God that the demons seek to trick and enter in? David Gyasi (Interstellar) as prison chaplain Father Daniel wants to take action and is a resourceful ally for Father Jacob, but doubts what he witnesses during exorcisms. Wouldn’t you? Shaun Dooley (Red Riding) also represents a realistic father trying to handle divorce and parenting before possession becomes a factor. Why does he have to justify his family to the church, indeed? Rounding out the ensemble is Rick Warden (Band of Brothers) as the perfectly disturbing, demonic, and desperate Michael. His Holocaust parallels and waxing on why God allows evil to happen are sickly good television. The devil is, after all, a master wordsmith and persuasive little fellow who exploits our fears and weaknesses. Michael’s struggles with his possession are eerily correct in many aspects – cast out one demon on Apparitions, and another takes his place. Ultimately, Satan wants your soul, or better yet, the best soul he can find. The higher evil can climb, all the better. Thus is the battle on Apparitions.

 

Some of the female characters on Apparitions, however, are somewhat under written as either helpful, bitchy, or obstacles as needed and could have stayed around much, much longer. Sassy nun Michelle Joseph (Eastenders) feels under utilized as the good counterbalance to numerous cliché non-believing beotches, but detective Stephanie Street (20 Things to Do before You’re 30) does better as a strong sensible lady seeking answers to these crimes. Can justice be served legally and spiritually or does one office trump the other? Likewise, abortion clinic doctor Claudia Harrison (Murphy’s Law) is willing to consider Father Jacob’s theories whilst also seeing to her patients needs, and psychologist Claire Price (Rebus) seems objective but her atheist stance and evaluations for the church clash just a bit. Cherie Lunghi (Excalibur) also provides a very interesting debate on the devil as seduction, and it is such a loss that Apparitions didn’t continue for a second season. Just seeing Lunghi and Shaw go toe to toe in this ongoing good versus evil war would have been delightful enough! Thankfully, Siobhan Finneran (Downton Abbey) is a strict but fun Sister Ruth with worthy wit to match Shaw as Father Jacob. She starts out an unofficial spy for the suspicious, jerky but juicy, and career advancement seeking John Shrapnel (Gladiator) as Cardinal Bukovak, but Sister Ruth is wise enough to make up her own mind in whether she is for or against what’s happening. She certainly plays with that vow of obedience as needed! Again, this evil fighting priest and nun tag team antagonism would have been fun to see in a Series Two. Pity.

The look and feel of Apparitions is appropriately foreign and ecclesiastical, too, with plenty of priestly robes, aged buildings, and inspiring or brooding locales from London to Rome. Smart uses of Latin prayers and Italian dialogue also accent the drama, which doesn’t go for shocking full on horror in its solid 55-minute shows. Of course, there are disconcerting touches of gore, blood, and skin – and not as in nudity skin, either – and subtitles will be necessary for these soft-spoken accents and multiple languages during the tense moments of exorcism, violence, and surprises. Despite old world candles, chapels, and rituals, the medieval rite in the modern realm also makes amusing appearances. Oh, a second priest isn’t handy for an exorcism? Let’s just call him up and put on the speakerphone! Excellent intercutting, uses of light and dark photography, colored lighting, and zooms up the intensity, and music, prayers, and near chanting rhythms heighten simultaneous action. People do shout or talk over each other, but this works when the languages or prayers are being translated – or when taunting demons are causing mayhem while those unseeing speak on, unaware. Fiery fantastics and walking on water spectacles do have their moments in the final two episodes, but most of Apparitions relies on the cast in action or reaction before special effects. Sometimes the imagery of the possessed tapping on the church gates waiting to enter in is really all you need to send your demonic tale home.

 

Some audiences may be put off by the totally steeped in religion setting of Apparitions, and the variously heavy subject matter is obviously polarizing. This is however an intelligent presentation of a frightening implication, a word of warning on the dilemmas both internal and external akin to the classic “The Howling Man” episode of The Twilight Zone. Despite sensational topics and a dabble in the supernatural realm, Apparitions does not go for the scandalous or shocking but remains a mature analysis on body, mind, and soul – you won’t find everything wrapped in a pretty bow here like other exorcism films that declare all is well. The plots remain personal with small people amid the institutional framework solving mysteries and using clues in this tormenting game against evil – a game evil wants to play with you. Mainstream sophisticated viewers, casual horror fans, and even the non uber religious can enjoy the good versus evil drama of Apparitions.

Book Birthday: Horror Addicts Guide to Life – Available now!

FinalFrontCover

Published by Horroraddicts.net April 3, 2015

Horror Addicts Guide to Life

Available now! 

Cover art by: Masloski Carmen

Editor: David Watson

Do you love the horror genre? Do you look at horror as a lifestyle? Do the “norms” not understand your love of the macabre?

Despair no longer, my friend, for within your grasp is a book written by those who look at horror as a way of life, just like you. This is your guide to living a horrifying existence. Featuring interviews with Midnight Syndicate, Valentine Wolfe, and The Gothic Tea Society.

Authors: Kristin Battestella, Mimielle, Emerian Rich, Dan Shaurette, Steven Rose Jr., Garth von Buchholz, H.E. Roulo, Sparky Lee Anderson, Mary Abshire, Chantal Boudreau, Jeff Carlson, Catt Dahman, Dean Farnell, Sandra Harris, Willo Hausman, Laurel Anne Hill, Sapphire Neal, James Newman, Loren Rhoads, Chris Ringler, Jessica Robinson, Eden Royce, Sumiko Saulson, Patricia Santos Marcantonio, J. Malcolm Stewart, Stoneslide Corrective, Mimi A.Williams, and Ron Vitale. With art by Carmen Masloski and Lnoir.

From The Vault : Kidnapped! (Love)crafting the Perfect Monster

Reblogged from3/3/2018

(Love)crafting the Perfect Monster

by Kevin Holton

We all love a good monster story, no matter how loosely you define ‘monster.’

To some, ‘monster’ is exclusively a lab accident, cryptid, or some other big, nasty, never before seen (or, at the very least, only mentioned in mythology) creature. The Minotaur, or a Gorgon, would both probably fall under even the strictest definition of the term. A half-human, half-animal, supernaturally charged hybrid generally makes the cut (although, it’s interesting to note how unusual powers push a being toward monster status, even if relatively human).

On the other hand, there are those who don’t mind applying the label to pretty much any not-quite-human to stumble, squirm, or slither. Frankenstein’s Monster, as he’s commonly known, was just a human being assembled from other human beings. Some might consider vampires, werewolves, zombies, and similar horror classics to be monsters. Then there are also humanoid creatures, like the creation from Splice (2009) and alien horrors, like The Thing. Many Marvel and DC characters would fall under this looser interpretation.

So what makes a monster compelling? What drives us to say, “Damn, I’d read that again,” or “Let’s binge the series” or “No, let’s put on The Simpsons, I can’t sleep after watching that.” Why are Xenomorphs, or The Predator, so compelling and beloved? What leaves people staying up all night, terrified of Pennywise, when other clown-based horror titles get laughed at (and not for the good reason)?

Most people think life is about balance, and a good monster design is no different. Let’s break down what makes these Big Bads work.

The “Army of One” Balance

We’ve seen this before. Alien. Predator. The Terminator. There are few ways of making a creature more terrifying—or more interesting—than making it unstoppable, but alone. Granted, yes, the Alien had many eggs laid elsewhere, and Dracula had a harem, yet you don’t think about these when you’re busy watching or reading the latest exploit. It’s why the Alien: Isolation game was so successful, but Alien: Colonial Marines flopped (well, in fairness, it wasn’t the only reason). These creations are great for building suspense, because the only weakness they apparently have is the fact that it can’t be everywhere at once. Hide out in a secure enough corner, and you’ll be fine—until it realizes where you are. That’s what makes these so much fun.

The “Unyielding Loner” Balance

Dracula. Frankenstein’s Monster. Virgil from Devil May Cry. The Cyclops, and pretty much every other mythological beast. These are the entities that are perfectly content to go it alone, even though they aren’t all-powerful. They simply assume they’re all powerful, or so highly skilled, that nothing can stop them. These are great for character development, though they often lead to some degree of moralism and preaching at the end, since this arrogance, combined with some other fatal flaw, is usually how they’re defeated. The charismatic, eccentric, or identifiable elements of someone so unflinchingly confident are hard to ignore. Give the readers a monster they know is deeply, tragically human. Although, I suppose Frankenstein’s Monster wasn’t technically defeated.

The “Beyond This World” Balance

Demons. Ghosts. Mama from Mama. Diana from Lights Out, who technically wasn’t either. It’s far too easy to make these overpowered. After all, if a spirit, entity, whatever, comes back from the grave, or Hell, or another dimension, how are you supposed to even remotely fight it? One of my favorite movie scenes—ever—has to be when a police officer fires at Diana in Lights Out, only for her to disappear in the flash of the muzzle, teleporting just a little bit closer every time. But, she’s not invulnerable. Her inability to stay in lit areas is how most of the characters survive, finding new, clever, last-second ways to brighten things up and escape. It’s also how they beat her. The trick to this category is that the source of power is also the source of weakness, i.e. how Mama is lulled into pacifism by her need to nurture, or the demons of The Conjuring series being inevitably defeated by the weird, specific rules of their occult nature, like how knowing their name allows you to command them. Survival usually involves the death of your expert, since that’s the first person these creatures will go after, then placating them with a ritual or sacrifice. Nobody’s a winner here.

The “Sweet Holy Hell, What Are You?” Balance

It’s in the name. Whenever you have no idea how to fight something because you have no idea what you’re fighting, you’ve landed in this category. Slenderman. The Thing. The Thing from It Follows. Any other creature known as ‘it’ or ‘The Thing.’ Sephiroth. The Endless Thing with Piebald Sides, from Lisey’s Story. Pennywise. The Bodachs (Odd Thomas). There aren’t rules. Nobody has any clue as to what’s going on. Maybe it’s supernatural? Maybe it really was just an accident. All anyone knows is that you’re screwed, so you better learn quick, because there are rules, and following them is the only way to survive. Admittedly, this isn’t balance so much as it is loosely structured chaos. Creating a good story with this type of monster is about pacing. Let the characters learn one rule at a time, and let them learn it the hard way. Readers will keep following that blood trail to the end.

There are, of course, more ways to build characters, but these are the tried and true methods—these ways don’t simply get people paying attention, they glue them to the seat with their eyes pried open like in A Clockwork Orange. I’ve used all of them to great success in the past. Which did I use for my newest novel, At the Hands of Madness? You’ll have to read and find out.


Kevin Holton is the author of At the Hands of Madness, as well as the forthcoming titles The Nightmare King and These Walls Don’t Talk, They Scream. He also co-wrote the short film Human Report 85616, and his short work has appeared in dozens of anthologies.

He can be found at www.KevinHolton.com, or on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Patreon @TheHoltoning.

Monster Madness Month: What Monsters Scare Our Staff

We surveyed our staff to see what Monsters scare them.

Mark Orr – Historian of Horror

When I was maybe three or four, my dad was watching a show about the Golden Age of Hollywood on TV. This would be in the very early 60s. I sat down with him but when it showed Lon Chaney Jr changing into the Wolf Man, I ran out and hid under my bed. So, yeah, werewolves.

Daphne Strasert – Review Director/ Daphne’s Den of Darkness

I HATE zombies. I don’t need hoards of the undead running after my tasty tasty brains, thank you. If the zombie apocalypse ever comes, I’m out!

Naching T. Kassa – Head of Publishing/ Chilling Chat

The monster that scares me most is the Teke-Teke. It’s a Japanese Urban Legend about a kid who was cut in half by a high-speed train. The kid became the Teke-Teke, a creature without legs who drags what remains of its torso behind it. The torso makes a “tik-tik” sound so you know the creature is coming to get you and make you a Teke-Teke too.

Kate Nox – Blog editor

The monster that scares me most is Old Baldy, the former caretaker of a camp I attended in the mountains of Northern California. You can hear him rustling through the trees at night waiting to kill campers and staff who cross his path.

What monsters scare you? Leave us a comment below!

From The Vault: Midnight Syndicate’s Monsters of Legend

 

MOL

 

Reblogged from 12/14/2013

If you are a fan of the classic Universal monster movies, like Dracula, Frankenstein, and the Wolf-man, then I think you will enjoy Midnight Syndicate’s latest album, Monsters of Legend. Listening to the tracks, one cannot help but feel the stirring moments from these classic films. In fact, as an experiment, I watched the great silent classic “Nosferatu” with this album in the background acting as a soundtrack, and I thought it provided some amazing atmosphere. It just lends itself so well to the genre, no matter what was playing.

My other Midnight Syndicate albums typically get played only around Halloween, and it is obvious this one will join them in such a rotation. However, I think a good classic horror tale can be watched anytime, and I dare say the same can be said for this album.

It’s very hard to pick out a favorite track on a collection like this. I will say that all of the tracks have been very inspirational for background while I am writing. This is something I have done with other Midnight Syndicate records, but this one by far has the most cinematic feel of them all and lends itself the most in my mind.

Edward Douglas and Gavin Goszka have outdone themselves with this album, and after all of the years of gothic goodness they have produced, that fact really shines. Whether you are a new fan or old of Midnight Syndicate, or you are a fan of classic horror movies, Monsters of Legend will not disappoint.

Midnight Syndicate

Monster Madness From The Vault: Why Zombies Are The Worst Monsters of All by Janiera Eldridge

Reblogged from 1/21/2015

Why Zombies Are The Worst Monsters of All by Janiera Eldridge

If you have even the slightest interest in zombie culture you’ve received the question, “Why are you so interested interested in zombies?”

I usually give the short and sweet response, “Because they’re the scariest monsters of all.” Surprisingly, people don’t ask anymore questions after that as they’re already on to thinking about the next mundane question to ask a horror fan. However, my answer will always remain the same.

Zombies are the scariest monsters of all because simply, they’re made up of fellow human beings. Zombies are not mutated animals like the always elusive Bigfoot or a gigantic dinosaur like Godzilla. If a zombie apocalypse were to pop off tonight, the enemy would look just like you and I.

Most scientists agree that the closest we will come to a zombie apocalypse is if a rabies outbreak took place. Rabies can’t be cured. Sure if you get it from a dog or cat bite you can receive a series of shots to stop the virus from taking hold, but if it settled in to your system it will be devastating. In the case of a rabies outbreak, the infected would not die right away. They would display aggressive behavior that includes biting and wounding people due to delusions as well as paranoid behavior. Now, think of the drooling and foaming of the mouth that takes place after a while. Yeah, the rabies would spread like wild fire.

Sure, you’d like to be bad ass like the people in The Walking Dead or the sub-par Z Nation, and just shoot the zombie right in the middle of the forehead or slice their head clean off. But what if the enemy was your mother or your dad? If you’re in any way normal, you might find putting a bullet through their head if you need to a tad difficult. I would imagine many of us would die before we killed our loved ones, even if they were drooling, incoherent, disgustingly infected with disease, monsters.

And then there are those relatives where…lets just say it be a lot easier to “defend” yourself against the zombie enemy if you really had to.

Depictions of the living dead always show monsters with gaping wounds that ooze pus and blood and skin that sheds like slime. However, I believe all of these disgusting antics are done to make you believe that what you’re seeing (or reading) is some how inhuman when actually zombies are simply “humans gone bad.”

If you like the Gothic and macabre like I do (which I assume you do or what are you still doing here reading this depressing post?) then you already know there are parasites (such as toxoplasmosis)  that can make its way into your brain and can take control of it, literally. It can cause inflammation in the brain that can lead to delusions and paranoia just like rabies. It’s very easy to get too as it can be be contracted by simply drinking contaminated water.

See how easy it would be for the world to go completely mad? Now isn’t that much scarier then some green guy hobbling along trying to strangle you with bolts in his neck?

Don’t let this article be a reminder of all of the ways the human population can go to hell, let it serve as an explanation of why you’re addicted to and get super creeped out at your favorite zombie shows. It’s all because: zombies are the scariest monsters of all!

We like reveling in our own demise, don’t we?

*****************

kindle copyJaniera enjoys feeding her book addiction when she not writing books that always feature ethnic leads(part of her own personal quest to bring more diversity to the paranormal and horror genre). Writing is therapeutic to her during her struggles with Fibromyalgia. Being unable to work a normal 9-5 is what encouraged her to write full time. When not reading or writing she is freelance writing web content or articles on a variety of topics. Freelancing for 5 years has made her an expert on how to give her clients the very best content possible. She also loves writing the synopsis for other author’s books on Fiverr. When trying to relax she likes a huge yard sale on a Saturday morning, rainy days to read by and nacho cheese is her kryptonite. Soul Sisters is her debut novel. Janiera’s horror/erotica story “Halloween Seduction” was featured in Blood Reign Lit Magazine, the “Bloody Valentine” edition.

Zombie Cruise is her fest zombie short story.

Monster Madness Month: What Monsters Scare our Staff?

We here at HorrorAddicts.net have decided to celebrate those things real or imaginary that creep into the back of your mind and hang in your dreams. The beast in the forest, the rattling thing under the bed, the scratcher at the window. Creatures, behemoths, demons, and denizens of the dark are our subject for this month!

We asked our staff what scares them most? Here are a few of their repoies:

Don Pitsiladis – Nightmare Fuel

Shadow people terrify me. Anytime I’ve seen them, it’s been when I am experiencing sleep paralysis, which in itself is beyond frightening

Jesse Razorr – Staff Author

Demonic possession has always been more horrifying to me than any creature

Kristin Battestella  – Frightening Flix / Kbatz Crafts

People scare me the most. I enjoy horror for the monstrous examination and mirror to nature the genre represents. Evil among us…shudder.

Could be you agree? Leave us a comment about what scares you! We’re waiting to know!

From the Vault : Ghosts, Monsters, Aliens, and Other Dreadful and Dangerous Creatures: Why We Love Scary Stories

Reblogged from 02/08/2015

Ghosts, Monsters, Aliens, and Other Dreadful and Dangerous Creatures: Why We Love Scary Stories

by Kerry Alan Denney

1422136945..and lions and tigers and bears, oh my! We may as well toss vampires, dragons, werewolves, demons, chimera, zombies, and shape-shifters in the mix too. Why do we love to tell scary stories? Better yet, why do we love to be scared by them? What’s with the rampant worldwide fascination with being creeped out, thrilled, frightened out of our wits, given nightmares, and being filled with dread of the unknown? It’s much more than just a pop culture phenomenon; it’s a timeless fascination with all things morbid and freakish that has been passed down from generation to generation ever since we lived in caves and gathered berries and hunted game for all our food.

Humans have been entranced by the unknown since ancient times when storytellers sat around campfires and mesmerized their captive audience with stories meant to frighten them. It’s in our basic nature, as irrefutable and irresistible as the urge to procreate. Here are a few of my own answers to the age-old question “Why do we love to be scared?”

Humans are naturally curious. As evidenced by mind-boggling advances in technology, we constantly strive to learn more about how our universe works. Only a few short years ago, the Hubble telescope took pictures of billions of galaxies never before seen and barely even imagined, proving the universe is far more vast than we can even comprehend. Dark matter and dark energy were only recently discovered, and quantum physicists are working overtime to unlock the nature of their previously hoarded secrets. Even the vacuum of space between the stars has a life of its own! We want to know more about the unknown, and learn the secrets of that which cannot be readily perceived with just our five senses. As Shakespeare so famously said, there are more things in Heaven and Earth than are dreamt of in our philosophies. We want to open that locked door and get a peek inside to see what exists beyond.

We’re adrenaline junkies and thrill seekers. Anything that gets our blood pumping faster and our spines tingling with chills also gets our minds thinking harder. We constantly test the perceived limits of our abilities and awareness. Jules Verne wrote a wildly fictional story about a manned submersible craft, and someone decided to invent one. Wilbur and Orville Wright decided that man should be able to fly, and made it happen in 1903. U.S. Air Force Captain Chuck Yeager flew in the X-1 aircraft that broke the sound barrier in 1947. And despite the supposed mathematical impossibility, scientists, engineers, and physicists are constantly seeking to achieve faster-than-light travel. New species are being discovered every day, from the darkest, deepest fathoms of our oceans to the frozen wastelands of the Arctic. Maybe somewhere in our world there be dragons and monsters. Sometimes it seems we need only to imagine possibilities, and some intrepid explorers discover them or some amazing geniuses make them come true. Who knows what astounding discoveries or fantastic inventions may come next?

No other subject is more fascinating to the human mind than the possibility of some form of life after death. It’s the greatest, biggest secret we can imagine, and because of our natural curiosity, we seek to breach that barrier. From classic ancient literature to modern day fables, stories of an afterlife abound, with ghost stories at the top of the list. I even wrote a novel about the afterlife world, and am seeking to get it published. Some people spend their careers and even lifetimes trying to prove the existence of ghosts, because doing so would prove the irrefutable existence of an afterlife. It would not only change the world, it would also change the entire basic nature of humankind. Even life itself would forever after be perceived differently. Maybe, if we knew for a certainty that an afterlife existed and if we were lucky and smart as a species, we would even stop killing each other and embrace and cherish this too-brief existence we call “life.” If we did that, we might even wake up from the primitive, barbaric infancy of our evolution as a species and learn how to explore the universe together. Maybe not, but that is the nature of dreamers such as myself: In order to make the big dreams come true, we must dream big. And I freely and happily admit I’m one of the biggest dreamers of all.

Scaring each other is fun! That cannot be denied: the proof is all around us. Creating a story that fascinates and enthralls the masses for multiple generations is a hallmark lifetime achievement, a watershed accomplishment that leaves a legacy that survives well past the short lifetimes of their creators and endures beyond into that afterlife that so many of us spend our lives trying to prove exists. This is historically proven by the likes of Edgar Allan Poe, Bram Stoker, Mary Shelley, Charles Dickens, Dante Alighieri, Robert Louis Stevenson, and even by the fear-inducing classic paintings of the likes of Hieronymus Bosch, among countless others. And it’s a perfect example of how words have the power to outlive their creators and survive even the test of time, the legibility of the paper, or the decay of the computer files on which they’re originally written. What writer wouldn’t want to be remembered as the man or woman who nearly scared the world to death?

Finally, I’m going to use one of my own personal examples to answer the question. In a sci-fi/ horror novel I wrote—whose title is too cool to share until it’s published—one of my young protagonists named Cyndi, who writes monster stories, asks her friend Mick, another protagonist who takes her under his wing, “Who needs creepy stories when they’re happening all around you?” Here is Mick’s answer: “The world will always need stories. And people will always need to be scared, so they’re reminded of what’s precious. And be better prepared to fight to preserve it, when the time comes to stand or fall.”

And that, my friends, is why we’re so in love with scary stories, and having the dickens frightened out of us: They remind us of what’s precious, of everything in our lives that’s worth fighting for and preserving.

I’m happy to hear you share YOUR ideas and answers! Please feel free to post your replies in the comments section below this article. And keep your eyes peeled, your mind open, and your senses alert: you never know when the monsters may be coming for YOU!

Kerry Alan Denney aka The Reality Bender_jpegColleagues and readers alike have dubbed Kerry Alan Denney The Reality Bender. The multiple award-winning author of the post-apocalyptic sci-fi/ horror thriller JAGANNATH and the paranormal thriller SOULSNATCHER as well as six more novels and numerous short stories, Kerry blends elements of the supernatural, paranormal, sci-fi, fantasy, and horror in his work. With joy, malicious glee, and a touch of madness, he writes reality-bending thrillers—even when the voices don’t compel him to. His protagonists are his children, and he loves them as dearly as he despises his antagonists… even when he has to kill them.

http://www.kerrydenney.com/

 

Free Fiction: The White Wood by Carlos Ruiz Santiago

The White Wood by Carlos Ruiz Santiago

Corpses make an odd sound when you step on them. Wet, crunchy. Funny, if you are really twisted. Not the case of Ronel, of course; for him, corpses weren’t more interesting than a piece of dogshit. He knew how that sounded but he didn’t care about it either.

Truths are something twisted themselves, they emphasize pragmatic facts that could crash against feelings. That was why soldiers like him needed to be practical. If your country needed or wanted, something, you bought it. And, if the inhabitants didn’t want to sell, you killed them. As simple as that, anything more complex is philosophical gibberish that makes you miss the opportunity of getting things.

He looked at the horizon, appreciating the orangish sun falling in the cloak of dead savages and their saurian mounts. That nameless island in the middle of the nameless ocean was full of them, like sewer rats, like infection in a wound and prejudices in women. He tidied up his bushy mustache. Yes, like a woman, he giggled. The inhabitants were a tribe of warrior women and emasculated men. Pretty pathetic if you asked Ronel. In the deep soggy jungle, they hid, fought and died. When you fight with bone swords and axes against muskets and blunderbusses it’s what tends to happen. They charged, and men shot and the beasts screamed and men shot again and they howled in terror, mount indistinguishable from rider. A beautiful symphony, monsters dying by the power of the civilization.

Later, men had raided their tribe. Just small children, cowardly males, crowns of fruit, rock and wooden temples full of plants, weird and smelly shit you could expect from savages. If Ronel didn’t burn them it was just because of fear that fire will eat the whole island before they got their reward. Maybe before leaving.

A savage made a hiss from the ground. She had a long scarlet wound all over her side, getting dirty her dark-green skin, almost amphibian. Her eyes were deep orange, shining, and certainly beautiful. Her legs were trapped by the head of an enormous bipedal feathery monster, with the sharp-teeth mouth wide open and the eyes looking at the rotting sky. The lips of the warrior were thin, almost nonexistent. She whispered words in a forgotten language. A soldier sunk his bayonet in her chest, ending her life.

They had killed them all. That was pretty impressive, especially considering women. They didn’t capture anyone, all dead, fighting until their black rotten souls fell to the hells. Just monsters, bloody stinky monsters all of them, but pretty tough ones. Ronel looked for his pipe. Just slimy irrational savages in a forgotten place. There were also dead from his side. Ronel was equidistant: he didn’t care about them either. Why should he? Soldiers die, that’s part of their job. Axes had removed parts of their skulls, impaled by spears of long reptilian bones, the guts out by an irregular cut. A bloody sacrifice. However, it had its rewards, he though, looking in front of him.

The white wood.

There was an immense tree over there, really tall and, especially, wide. The branches were like a hundred hands imploring the demons in the sky, the roots like a thousand tentacles of gods- who knew what kind of pelagic deity. Quite impressive. The amphibian whores adored it like a god. In front of him, all of them had died. A pretty worthless god, if you asked Ronel. They had been looking for that wood for ages, only sparse remains until now. That was, apparently, the only living one. A good reward for the blood spilled. The white wood was harsh to burn, both hard and flexible. His king will have the best warships in the world. And all thanks to him, to people like him. That’s how progress is achieved because blood is the favourite drink of the welfare god.

Then, someone interrupted his peace, smoking from his pipe after the glorious battle. A young one, surprisingly alive, claiming that the tree was hollow. Ronel raised an eyebrow. Nevertheless, and despite the desire of some public punishment to relax the troops after a won battle, the soldier was right. An enormous crack in the tree and, inside of it, only roots and blank spaces, like maggots in a corpse.

Ronel entered the first one through that natural tunnel, two soldiers behind him. It was a straight path, not too regular or wide, but a path nonetheless. Soon, gloom was around them. The walls felt like they were made of insects, of moving and mushy parts, things that crawled through you. Things that fed on your corpse. Or maybe they were too impatient for that. Maybe they could begin now and he will become a corpse, eventually.

Or maybe not, maybe that’s the destiny that Ronel couldn’t stop thinking of now. Dying without dying. Eternal life of the soul, jail of flesh and bone, eternal suffering. Like going through a hole in a tree, not alive or dead. It was the throat of a monster, something wet and hellish, warm and hungry.

They ended up in a wider space. Ronel did all he could to normalize his breath, so no one noticed his rising dread. In the center of the structure there was an irregular rock where the roots came from. He got closer.

Impossible. Senseless. Demented.

Then, from one of the many cracks, an eye looked back at him. Like a cosmic sentence from a monstrous trial. Like the end. Inhuman, immortal, unbearable eyes. Fathomless abyss from the stars.

Not a tree, just like a tree. A parasite. A monster. Something worse. A herald. A newborn god. He tried to shout, to warn that the savages weren’t praising him, but guarding it, that they shouldn’t touch it, shouldn’t move it.

His words were nothing more than the growling of a frothy mouth of a crazy man in the ground, killed for the respect of his figure.


Carlos Ruiz Santiago is a Spanish fantasy and horror writer with two published novels ( Salvación condenada and Peregrinos de Kataik) and a participation in the anthologies Dentro de un agujero de gusano, Mitos y Leyendas and Devoradoras. He is an editor of the website Dentro del Monolito. He has written for magazines, such as Morningside and Exocerebros. He also has content around cinema, with the podcast Pistoleros de Gilead and the blog La Horroteca de Darko. He also organize talks and workshops around cinema and literature in various libraries.

https://darkosaurvlogs.wixsite.com/carlosruizescritor

Monster Madness Month: Review of GROTESQUE : Monster Stories by Lee Murray

GROTESQUE: MONSTER STORIES 

A book review of Lee Murray’s Bram Stoker Award nominated collection

Reviewed by Renata Pavrey

“Generosity could be as contagious as the plague, as long as enough people were willing to be carriers”, is a quote that opens the book and sets the tone for the kind of writing one is in for. A collection of eleven tales narrated as flash fiction, short stories, and novelettes, Grotesque spans the horror landscape from mythological creatures to contemporary social media addictions, as the reader travels across France, China and New Zealand, meeting everyone from Maori warriors to zombies, spirits and sea gods and gods of earthquakes and volcanoes, Leonardo Da Vinci and Tangaroa, tin soldiers and kaiju. A taut collection I came across in a horror literature forum, the book is in equal parts thrilling, dark and educative, an action and horror fest, with layers of historical references and cultural influences.

The titular story opens the collection with an archaeological find transporting us to the 16th century to reveal its secret. As we move back and forth from the 1500s to present day, fantasy elements of horror merging with historical roots made Grotesque one of my favorite stories and a fabulous one to start the collection as it set the pace for what lay ahead. History is followed by mythology that serves to remind and educate about the stories of lore, as Hawaiki takes us through Chinese mythology, Taiwanese history, and the Maori immigration story; as does Maui’s Hook, another monster story with its foundations in Maori mythology. I love mythological retellings in literature as they teach you so much about different cultures around the world; legends and folklore containing treasures of life stories through the ages. The kaiju story was another one of my favorites.

The New Breed is a post-apocalyptic zombie story, while Cave Fever merges science fiction with horror through a two centuries-old storm that forces mankind to seek refuge underground into a claustrophobic cave existence. Selfie and Dead End Town are out-and-out horror fests. I loved Lee’s take on the millennial social media obsession with her twisted spin on selfies in the former, while addressing domestic violence in the latter. Edward’s Journal was another stunner of pure horror – an epistolary story of colonialism featuring a British soldier from India helping white settlers in New Zealand, while Heart Music takes us through the restless spirit of a fourteen-year-old dead child. Into the Clouded Sky is a novelette of adventures in New Zealand – a ride through action, thrills, and monsters all the way, and Lifeblood pits marginalized groups against each other to detract from their actual problems.

Every story offers a unique reading experience, and encourages you to read between the lines into the theme being expressed in each one. Grotesque is a splendid collection to note the range of the writer’s prowess in relaying stories across genres and themes, having relatable elements as well as something new to learn wherever in the world you might be reading the book. Lee’s dark and disturbing tales cover commonplace topics like clicking selfies, address issues like dementia and child abuse, and turn the spotlight on immigrants and grave robbers – causing the reader to ponder upon who the real monsters are. Grotesque is a collection filled with monsters, but through an array of science fiction, fantasy, horror, mythology and more, Lee reminds us that we have already encountered many monsters; with many more still to be met.

In an increasingly dark and ominous world, monster stories force us to challenge our fears. 

~Lee Murray

This book will delight horror fans and is a magnificent collection for those new to the genre to explore. I would also recommend it to readers of mythology – there’s much information to be gleaned about world cultures. The Maori glossary is a wonderful touch to familiarize readers with terms and phrases in the stories, although Lee does a splendid job in explaining them through the context of the story itself. Lee’s creations are out of this world and each one surprises in its own way. There’s an aftertaste that you could read an entire novel surrounding each plot.

Lee Murray is an award-winning writer and editor with several novels and series to her credit. Grotesque is her first short story collection, which has been nominated for the Bram Stoker Awards this year in the category of collections.

My rating of the book: 5/5

Renata Pavrey

March 2021


Renata Pavrey is a Nutritionist by profession; marathon runner and Odissi dancer by passion; driven by sports, music, animals, plants, literature and more. She reads across several genres and languages, and loves the world of horror – in both, books and movies.

https://tomesandtales365.wordpress.com/Asian

 

Monster Madness From The Vault: Monster Erotica, Really? – It’s a Thing

Reblogged from 2/22/2015

Monster Erotica, Really? – It’s a Thing

by Dee Blake

tlflatearthWhile some people don’t like to admit it, many have read some form of erotica in their lifetime.  Sometimes it’s racy modern BSDM, other times it’s historical bodice-rippers, or maybe even madame ” tell-alls”.  But you’ll also find cross-genre offerings of this type as well: fantasy, paranormal or horror erotica in a variety of themes and formats.  Erotica is for everyone who happens to be interested – including those who prefer speculative fiction.

Amongst novels and anthologies of this nature, there’s a niche sub-genre that appeals to those who like their sexy scary and scaly or hairy, an interesting domain known as cryptozoological or monster erotica.  What exactly is this and where might you find it?  Read on and I’ll elaborate.

We’ve all heard legends of vampires, demons or certain fairy creatures getting down and dirty with the common man or woman.  They are the seducers of lore, luring potential prey in with their magical charms, bewitching their victims with their sexy wiles.  That’s the traditional monster erotica fare that you’d expect to find in trendy paranormal romance.   But monster erotica also involves something of the unexpected as well.

My first introduction to this type of erotica was via the tamer folk tales of fairy intruders making nightly visits to human lovers and the dark fantasy of Tanith Lee’s Flat Earth Series which delves into the realm of demon lovers.  It does have glimpses of demon passion, but the story is more fantasy than erotica (recommended reading).

I also encountered the occasional monster tale in the Hot Blood horror erotica anthology series, but the stories in those books are not exclusively monster-themed.  They are, however, a lot of fun.

Beyond that, I discovered the monster-exclusive erotica books out there, dedicated to naughty close encounters of a different kind – and apparently, they sell like hotcakes (see the i09 article and Goodreads has a list dedicated to it) And writers don’t stick to the traditional legendary seducers either.  You’ll find a diverse offering of creatures, from well-endowed yeti to shape-shifting dragons, from melancholy mermen to monsters under the bed (I mean, if they’re hanging out there, why not invite them up? Right?)

Despite its apparent popularity, the sub-genre has not been without its controversy.  There are those out there who see it as odd, disturbing or questionable to some degree, and Amazon has played hardball with authors, questioning whether or not their content was in violation of Amazon content guidelines.  That may have slowed production down somewhat, but it certainly hasn’t stopped it.  It’s a matter of demand and supply, after all.

Obstacles aside, I believe monster erotica is here to stay.  Silly or serious, it offers a novel form of escapism that is both titillating and a little terrifying. As long as readers keep asking for it, I think writers will be willing to provide.

I mean, if you’re going to fantasize, why not go all the way?

*****************

DBDee Blake is an emerging erotica writer whose work has been published on breatlessnights.com and in Apokrupha’s Fur and Fang anthology. She aspires to be the next Anais Nin.

Guest Blog : Mr. Mercedes’ Latest Season Premieres and It Brings the Feels by Rebecca Rowland

Mr. Mercedes Latest Season Premieres on Peacock on March 4, and It Brings the Feels

by Rebecca Rowland

In the first fifteen minutes of the third season of Mr. Mercedes, Bruce Dern is murdered. 

Dern plays a best-selling, reclusive writer, and this revelation is in no way a spoiler: not only is the crime the catalyst for the season’s story arc, but it is also the basis for Stephen King’s Finders Keepers, the second in the horror scribe’s Bill Hodges trilogy. According to King, Dern’s John Rothstein is not an alter ego but a mishmash of J.D. Salinger, John Updike, and Philip Roth, but let’s face it: Robert Frost insisted until the day he died that “The Road Not Taken” was not an allegory of selecting an extraordinary life path but only a plain ol’ poem about walking in the woods. Any high school English teacher would beg to differ. 

As a reader of King’s for more than thirty years, I admit to having felt a bit unnerved when Rothstein bit the dust specifically because I equated the fictional author with King himself. Shared grief when a celebrity dies is not a new phenomenon. When the grunge god’s suicide splashed across radio and television, someone spray-painted C-O-B-A-I-N across the interstate exit near my childhood home. When David Bowie, Prince, and Tom Petty were picked off by the Grim Reaper in what seemed like the trifecta of musical rapture just a few years back, I tore their glossy magazine photographs from their media memorials and taped them to my office wall. Watching the first third of season three’s lead episode, I considered what it will be like when King himself takes a final walk down the mile. 

I could track my life based on the release dates of King’s books. I was one of those kids who loved to read; my parents had to lock me outside in order to keep me from hunkering down in my room, my nose buried in a book. Because my father was a diehard Stephen King fan in the 1970s, I, of course, became instantly curious about his books, and at the age of ten, I was allowed to read Thinner because my parents had determined that it was the least nightmarish of King’s works up to that point (body image of a tween girl, be damned). I immediately moved on to The Shining and promptly had trouble sleeping, the obvious culprit being the clear view from my bed of a shower curtain in the night-light-lit bathroom. At the age of twelve, I went to the movies with a boy named Jimmy, and after we watched Silver Bullet, he gave me my first kiss. Throughout my teen years, I favored King’s short fiction, and it is because of Night Shift’s “The Boogeyman” that I insisted my college dorm room’s closet door always be shut completely, much to the vexation of my freshman-year roommate (who, incidentally, went on to executively produce not one but three of the CSI series as well as Murder in the First. I’d like to think my closet fixation takes partial credit for her career success with suspense, but it’s probably just a coincidence…).

After focusing my graduate degree in English on feminist theory, I based my thesis on the portrayal of female characters in popular horror fiction using Stephen King’s most recent releases at the time: Insomnia, Gerald’s Game, Dolores Claiborne, and Rose Madder. After entering the workforce for the first time as an adult, I read The Green Mile in its original serial form and sobbed uncontrollably on the subway after the initial demise of Mr. Jingles. Many years later, while working as a librarian in Western Massachusetts, I had to laugh when I read “Big Driver” in Full Dark, No Stars: maniacal main character Ramona Norville was a librarian, and the story was set in the town in which I was living at the time. 

When I tell people that I write dark fiction—psychological horror, in particular, I am more often than not met with a roll of the eyes or a patronizing tone. Genre fiction, it seems, lacks the street cred inherent with traditional literary fiction. Stephen King is popular, but he’s no Dostoevsky or Dickens, they say. I beg to differ. A professor once told me, a classic is a work of literature with themes and relatability that supersede time and place. There is humanity in horror, at least in well-written horror, that could go toe-to-toe with any stuffy college literature course tome. Although we read horror primarily for the screams, what keeps many of us coming back, no matter at what stage in our lives we are, is the sympathy its characters bring out in us.

And so, I return to the latest television installment of King’s Hodges trilogy. The now defunct Audience Network shuffled the novels of the series, choosing to base its second season on the third book, End of Watch, to mixed reviews. Although there is little to top the show’s first foray, season three captures much of the dread and believability that were often absent from the second ten episodes. Brett Gelman, always a scene stealer in comedy funfests such as The Other Guys and Fleabag, displays dramatic range as attorney Roland Finkelstein and potential love interest for Holly Gibney, but it is Breeda Wool’s portrayal of Lou that is most impactful. Wool inhabits the imprisoned assassin of Brady Hartsfield so strikingly that I’ve added most of her other work to my watch list. 

Season three is aglow with plenty of gruesomeness, from a spontaneous hatchet to one unsuspecting character’s head to a pick-axe being inserted and dragged through another’s, but perhaps the most chilling scene occurs in the final episode of the season, one that brings to a head the mysterious dream sequence Bill Hodges has been experiencing. For me, it is this scene in particular that solidified what the third installment of Mr. Mercedes seemed to be proselytizing all along, that the best writers are the ones whose work continues to impact our lives long after they have left this earth. Was it morbid for me to ponder Stephen King’s eventual demise? Perhaps. On the other hand, it’s possible that horror literature’s crown prince will outlive all of us, Mother Abigail-style. Regardless, for horror fans, he will never really disappear.

 



Rebecca Rowland is the dark fiction author of The Horrors Hiding in Plain Sight and Pieces and curator of the horror anthologies Ghosts, Goblins, Murder, and Madness; Shadowy Natures: Stories of Psychological Horror, The Half That You See, and the upcoming (June 2021) Unburied: A Collection of Queer Dark Fiction. Her work has appeared in venues such as Bloody Disgusting’s Creepy podcast, The Sirens Call, Coffin Bell, Curiouser, and Waxing & Waning and has been anthologized in collections by an assortment of independent presses. For links to her latest publications, social media, or just to surreptitiously stalk her, visit RowlandBooks.com.

Book Birthday : #NGHW Editor’s Pick: New Publication and Blog Tour

 

The following is an Anniversary re-post of an article presented on March 2018

HorrorAddicts.net continues our Horror Bites series with a bundle of new fiction by our Next Great Horror Writer Contestants.

Featuring work by:

Jonathan Fortin
Naching T. Kassa
Daphne Strasert
Jess Landry
Harry Husbands
Sumiko Saulson
Adele Marie Park
Feind Gottes
JC Martínez
Cat Voleur
Abi Kirk-Thomas
Timothy G. Huguenin
Riley Pierce
Quentin Norris

With an introduction by Emerian Rich.

 

HorrorAddicts.net is proud to present our top 14 contestants in the Next Great Horror Writer Contest. The included stories, scripts, and poems are the result of the hard work and dedication these fine writers put forth to win a book contract. Some learned they loved writing and want to pursue it as a career for the rest of their lives. Some discovered they should change careers either to a different genre of writing or to a new career entirely. Whatever lessons came along the way, they each learned something about themselves and grew as writers. We hope you enjoy the writing as much as we did.

Just 99 cents at Amazon.com

 HorrorAddicts.net

for Horror Addicts, by Horror Addicts

Listen to the HorrorAddicts.net podcast for the latest in horror news, reviews, music, and fiction.

HorrorAddicts.net Press

www.horroraddicts.net

Monster Madness: From The Vault/Ghastly Games: Monster Fluxx

GhastlyGames2

Reblogged from August 25,2016

On episode #133, hear Emerian Rich talk about Fluxx, Monster edition

fm fmFluxx is a card game where the rules keep changing and the excitement never stops. You still start out simple: draw one card and play one card, changing the rules as you go, while collecting up different cards to combine into the goals. Changing Goals will keep you on your toes as well, and Action cards are still shaking things up! Monster Fluxx takes classic monster movies and TV shows and adds them to the basic Fluxx deck. With the prominent monster presence, this deck is designed to introduce new players to the Fluxx system and has it has just four main card types.

 

Find out more about this awesome game on Episode #133, coming September 3rd.

Monster Madness Month: From The Vault/You Might Be A Monster Lover If…

 

Reposted from10/26/2015 by Malcolm Stewart


halogokidnappednotdate

Hey, there Horror Addicts, guess what? It’s Halloween Time!

I know, I know, you can hardly contain your excitement…. Especially as we horror minded people wait all year for the outside reality of the mainstream  to meet our internal reality. Now that we’ve made it to the day  of the year where the carpet matches the drapes, it’s time for an admission…

You’re kinda of a Monster Lover, aren’t you?

Now, I know you don’t normally go around and say that out loud to people… Makes for some uncomfortable dinner time conversation. And I’m not saying you’re doing anything wrong either. This isn’t the opening to a recovery intervention. To paraphrase Billy Joel, we like you just the way you are.

But maybe you’re just not sure about your status. I mean, it’s not everyday you get slapped with the stark, cold reality of your addiction.

Fear not! We’re here to help! Especially when it comes to slapping you with stark, cold reality… We horror addicts live to serve.

So, without further ado, the 15 reasons you might be a Monster Lover in 2015:

  1. If you’ve ever been caught lurking around the Dollar Tree on Oct. 1st looking to score some brand new, skull studded, black paper plates… You might be a Monster Lover.
  1. If you have two packages of matching skull napkins in a closet at home from last year’s Halloween party… You might be a Monster Lover.
  1. If you are already planning your Dec. 4th Krampus viewing party…. You might be a Monster Lover.
  1. If you have purchased Krampus Holiday cards… You might a Monster Lover. Or you’ve spent too many dark nights in Bavaria, which is almost the same thing. (Either way, no card exchange this year, please!)
  1. If you are already making bets that Crimson Peak will end up ripping Tom Hiddleston’s million-dollar-face clean off his skull at some point… You might be a Monster Lover (Or you hate Superhero-themed blockbusters. Or some combination of the two).
  1. If you’ve had the random thought “That whole meat dress thing was just an elaborate audition ploy by Gaga to get on American Horror Story…” You might be a Monster Lover (you cynic).
  1. If you at any point wished that dress was made of fresh Kardashian… You might be a Monster Lover.
  1. If you can’t walk by a dollar movie bin without digging in it for old-school, black-and-white horror movies… You might be a Monster Lover.
  1. If you did the Nae-Nae in celebration when you found a double DVD copy of both Cat People and The Curse of the Cat People… You might a Monster Lover ( And, without a doubt, have impeccable taste in movies and are extremely culturally aware).
  1. If your spell-check knows how to correctly change Cthulhu… You might be a Monster Lover.
  1. If you can correctly spell Cthulhu without spell check and without peeking… You might be a Monster Lover (and no asking Siri).
  1. If you’ve ever spent an afternoon at work considering the most efficient method of destroying a Zombie Horde only using stuff from CVS… You might a Monster Lover.
  1. If your final answer came down to a case full of Aqua Net and 20 Bic Lighters… You might be a Monster Lover (and you will likely survive the Zombie Apocalypse).
  1. If you plan to stay in this Halloween and take the Horror Movie Marathon Challenge from The Horror Addicts Guide to Life (plug plug, plug)…. You might be a Monster Lover (as well as smart, attractive and in good company. Bonus points if you sneak in the debut of “Ash v. Evil Dead”).

And the Number One way to know if you might be a Monster Lover:

  1. If you at any time in your life have had cats named “Louie,” “Lestat,” “Claudia,”  “Anne” or “Memnoch” either separately or all once…  Well, congrats, my friend, you are a Monster Lover and probably can make a mean pot of tea and/or a batch of gumbo.

Happy Halloween!

J. Malcom Stewart

 

Free Fiction Friday: Thirsty by Alan Moskowitz

THIRSTY

Written By Alan Moskowitz

           Alyssa loaded the revolver with one bullet.  She spun the cylinder, covering it with her hand making sure that neither she nor David could see in which of the six chambers the fatal bullet waited.  She put the gun down between them, the cylinder facing away from them.  She picked up the coin, held it out.  “Heads or tails?”

David’s mouth went dry, “Come on Alyssa, we don’t have to do this.  We can just keep sharing, the way we have been.”

           Alyssa shook her head.  “Rescue’s at least two weeks away, we both can’t last that long.  At least this way one of us will survive.  “Call it.”  She flipped the coin, David watched it spin up and then drop to the metal table with a clink.  She put her hand over it, “call it, honey.”  David remained silent.

Alyssa studied his once handsome face, remembering, the monumental exploration they’d launched themselves on, their falling in love, sharing everything equally. And now they’re stranded on this godforsaken waterless planet, and forced into a horrible decision.  “It’s only fair.” 

David swallowed hard, “Heads.”  Alyssa lifted her hand revealing “tails, you first.”

She slid the pistol over to David.  He took it in his hand, studied it for a moment.  “We’ll each drink less, a lot less, share fifty-fifty.” Alyssa sighed with resolution, “Then we’re both dead.”  A tear formed in David’s eye.  Alyssa watched it trickle down his emaciated cheek followed by a second drop.  He put the gun to his head.  His finger gripped the trigger, his hand shaking.  He looked into Alyssa’s calm and resolute eyes, and lowered the gun.  “I can’t.”

Alyssa understood. “I can.”  She took the gun from his shaking hand, checked the cylinder, turned it a few notches until the fatal bullet was next up.  She raised the gun to her head. 

“I love you!” David cried.

“I love you too,” Alyssa answered, and then shot David in the head.  She leaned over and wiped the telltale tear streaks from his face.  “There wasn’t enough for both of us David because you didn’t play fair.”  She sat back and studied his corpse, oddly feeling very little about killing her one time lover.  She considered putting on her suit and dragging him out into the red dust but didn’t have the strength.   She clutched the last bottle of water, opened it, took a small cautious sip and sat back to await the rescue craft.

__________________________________________________________________________________-

 

 

Alan Moskowitz is a retired screenwriter staying sane in Colorado during the pandemic writing genre fiction.  He can be reached at mosko13@aol.com.

 

 

Monster Madness Month: From the Vault/The Wendigo

NightmareFuel

Hello Addicts,

This week we take a peek into one of the more famous legends of the Algonquin tribe, the Wendigo.

Wendigo-beastThe Wendigo, or Windigo in some translations, is a tale prevalent in the Northern United States and Canada.  It is viewed by some as a demonic spirit capable of either possessing a human or taking the form of one.  Other legends claim that people are cursed to become the creature by the simple tasting of human flesh.  The latter version of the legend depicts the creature as over fifteen feet tall and gaunt with deeply sunken glowing eyes, an overly long tongue, yellowed fangs, and yellowing skin, either in the process of decay or covered in fur.  They are almost impossibly thin with an unending hunger for human flesh.  There are also some who claim that the creature is so thin that you can only see it when you are looking at it directly in the face.  It is believed that to become one of these creatures is so terrible, you are better off killing yourself than to resort to cannibalism, even when your survival depends on it.

These tales are commonplace in locations where a combination of food scarcity and long harshly cold winters make survival a dire challenge.  There are even some reported cases where people with access to ample food supplies become so overwhelmed with desire for human flesh, they will kill their own family for it.  These cases are what psychologists refer to as “Wendigo Psychosis”.

Sightings of the beast still occur to this day, mostly in the northern Minnesota plains and in Canada.  Some see it as a simple superstition or warning to dissuade people from the practice of cannibalism.  Others say that the creature lives on; killing any it comes across.  For those of you enjoying a campout this summer, be careful when wandering in the woods, lest you become the Wendigo’s next meal.

Until next time Addicts…

March is Monster Madness Month!

We here at HorrorAddicts.net have decided to celebrate those things real or imaginary that creep into the back of your mind and hang in your dreams. The beast in the forest, the rattling thing under the bed, the scratcher at the window. Creatures, behemoths, demons, and denizens of the dark are our subject for this month!

To get us started today, we asked some of our staff to give us an idea of what MONSTERS scare them.

Here are just a few:

  • Emerian Rich , Creator/Owner/Publisher/Hostess of all things HorrorAddicts:

“Banshees scare me the most. I don’t know if it has to do with a video game I played a few years ago that I couldn’t get past the scary banshee girl or if it’s the thought of something standing in my path, screeching so loud and horribly that I can’t concentrate to figure out a way out. They also seem scarier than ghosts and like they might be made of ice and might be able to suck out your soul, like the Dementors do on Harry Potter. They freak me out!”

  • R.L. Merrill, Merrill’s Musical Musings and Ro’s Recs Blogger:

“I know it’s silly but zombies scare the shit out of me. The thought of slowly being eaten alive terrifies me!”

  • Lionel Ray Green, The Bigfoot Files Blogger:

“Inbred redneck hillbilly cannibals in the woods scare me. There’s just something about their horrendous killing methods and reckless abandon on unsuspecting folks that’s just so terrifying. I think they horrify me the most because they’re humans, and and they could be out there.”

We will share more as the Monster Madness continues, but we would love to hear from you! Tell us about your monster fears in the comments below.

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.

Women in Horror Month: Always the Fool by Melissa R. Mendelson

Always The Fool by Melissa R. Mendelson

I was meant to be home today, but they called me in, ignoring the pass day. The operator was vague. Some kind of babble about someone calling out sick, but we were all assigned to certain days. If something came up, if someone was sick, the deliveries would be held until the next day, but if I dared question the system, the fine would be heavy. I was already broke.

I reported to the dock at nine a.m. My pay was docked one hour. The system did not care for traffic or construction or any other kind of delay. Work started at eight a.m., and my locker was stuck. It took forever to jar the door open, throw my stuff inside, and slip into that uncomfortable, gray plastic suit. The gloves were even more uncomfortable, and I couldn’t find my face mask. But they didn’t punish me for that.

“One delivery,” the guard said to me as the door opened. “Take it down to the inferno.”

“One delivery? I was called in on my pass day for one delivery?”

“You got a problem with the system?” The guard watched me shake my head. “Good, and where’s your damn face mask? Those fumes will kill you.”

“I don’t know. I think someone was in my locker.”

“Well, you got one delivery, and then you’ll be sent on your way. Just hold your breath.” He signed the clipboard that he held, making a strange, red mark by my name. “Cart’s waiting.” He raised his eyebrows up at me, and I slowly moved away. “What a waste,” he muttered.

I steadied my hands along the cart. Sometimes, they were so heavy to push, but this one was light. The grab slab on the flatbed was the same size, width and height, but it weighed nothing. I was tempted to open it, but I never wanted to look inside those things. I never wanted to know what it was that I was pushing into the inferno. I would not question the system. One delivery, and then I would be on my way like the guard said.

I stepped into the warehouse. I pretended that the cart was heavy, taking my time to the inferno. I could smell it already, an ugly, burnt smell. Where the hell did my face mask go, and who would have taken it? I glanced up at the corridors along the warehouse, spotting others pushing their gray slabs to the inferno, some returning this way with empty carts to reload. One delivery. What a joke.

“Put a face mask on,” a youth remarked as he skid by. This did not bother him. Instead, if he racked up enough deliveries, he could leave early and game all night. That’s what he lived for, but those older knew better. There was no escape from the system.

“Delivery.” I finally made it to the steel doors. Maybe, I should have quickened in pace. I wanted to go home not to game but to sleep. My dreams were pleasant, unlike this harsh reality. I swiped my badge over the panel, but it did not turn yellow. “What the hell? It worked yesterday,” and I swiped again.

“Supervisor notified.” The operator’s voice boomed overhead. She was always cold, indifferent, hardly human, but that’s how she survived. “Please, wait,” she said.

My stomach flipped. I had the rationed meal. One bowl of oatmeal and a glass of milk with a few lumps. I was not privileged for more better quality food or drink. Sometimes, after a successful week, I would be rewarded with a chicken or fish dinner and not that gray stuff that they called meat. I haven’t had that kind of dinner in a long time.

“Collar?” The supervisor appeared on the scene. He stood six feet back. “Collar,” he repeated.

“6543219,” I said.

“Right. Pass day?”

“Today,” I answered, and he caught the annoyed tone. “Called in,” I said. “One delivery.” I hid my tone that time. “Here to deliver.”

“Come inside.” The supervisor swiped his badge, and the steel doors opened. “No face mask?”

“No,” I answered.

“Try not to breathe.” He smiled as he said that, and I did not like that smile. He followed me inside. “You were here for the visit last week?”

I pushed the cart into the dim room, pretending it was still heavy. I felt the fires from the inferno, an ugly machinery with various doors for various floors, all leading to the same end result. Burned. “Yes, I was here,” I said, trying to hold my breath, but I could already taste that smell.

“And you saw him?”

“What?” I realized that the supervisor was close, and I cringed. “Saw who? The Auditor?”

“No. Not the Auditor. Him.”

I knew who he was talking about. I passed by the dining room and saw all that food stretched out on the decorated conference table. I was so hungry, but I did not dare to venture inside, even for a bite. That’s when I realized that he was there at the head of the table, eating like a pig.

“You saw him.” That was not a question. “You watched him eat.”

“Okay. Yeah. I saw him, and I watched him eat. Can I throw the delivery in now?”

“He didn’t like that. You watching him eat.” The supervisor walked away from me. He approached the gray slab on the flatbed. “He reported you, and that’s why you are here.”

“That’s why I was called in on my pass day for one delivery? Because of that? Watching him eat?”

“Yes.” The supervisor did not look at me. He stared at the gray slab. “Do you ever question what it is that you are always burning?” He watched me shake my head. “These gray slabs are large, large enough for a human body.”

I paled at his words. “Excuse me,” I said.

“They are large enough for human bodies,” and he threw open the gray slab, revealing nothing inside. “Get inside,” he said.

“What? Wait. We’re burning people? Alive?”

“Get inside.” I noticed the gun in his hand. “Your choice. Alive or Dead.”

“For what? Watching him eat his fucking food?”

The supervisor’s finger wrapped around the trigger. “You offended him, and this is your punishment. Get inside the gray slab.”

“There has to be another way. Please,” I begged, and the gun went off. The bullet pierced my leg. The next hit my shoulder. I realized that he did not want to kill me. He wanted to burn me alive. I burned so many people alive, and I never realized it. But my supervisor knew, and he knew exactly what he was doing now. And for what? The system? “Please,” I screamed as he lifted me up and threw me into the gray slab.

“Save it,” and he slammed the gray slab shut.

_________________________________________________________________________________

Melissa R. Mendelson is a Horror and Science-Fiction Author.  She has been published by Sirens Call Publications, Dark Helix Press and Transmundane Press.  Her short stories have also been featured on Tall Tale TV.  She is currently working on completing her Horror novel, Ghost in the Porcelain, which surrounds an evil, porcelain doll.

Merrill’s Musical Musings: Ro’s Recs /Women Get Spooky

Ro’s Recs: Women in Metal 

Heavy Metal and Horror will forever be intertwined. Ever since the first notes were played by founding fathers Black Sabbath and Led Zeppelin, the two genres began a relationship that is symbiotic. Women didn’t always have a role front and center in the music, but that, my fellow horroraddicts, is changing. 

The women carrying the dark torch in music these days are inspirational and powerful. Their musical styles and their backgrounds may vary, but they’re continuing to prove that women can rock hard and they continue to explore the dark recesses of society that horror fans love to dwell in. Check out these bands and find some new favorites. 

Spiritbox, hailing from Vancouver, British Columbia, features lead singer Courtney LaPlante, whose voice is absolutely mesmerizing. From their name to the imagery in their videos and their dark lyrics, Spiritbox is a horror fan’s dream band. I guarantee if you give a listen, LaPlante’s vocals will have you spellbound. 

In this Moment from Las Vegas, Nevada, are veterans of the metal scene. Rock Goddess Maria Brink not only brings her unique vocal styling full of emotion and drama to the band’s hard rock sound, but her lyrics explore everything from the horrors women experience to dark fairy tales and pagan symbolism. If you EVER have the opportunity to see the band live, do not miss out. Here is a clip from a collaboration with the Metal God, Rob Halford of Judas Priest.    

 The Napalm label’s artist Tetrarch has a sound that will appeal to fans of Linkin Park as well as heavier metal bands like The Amity Affliction. Hailing from Atlanta, Georgia, and now LA-based, the band features guitar player Diamond Rowe who proves that chicks can rock hard! She was also the first Black female lead guitarist to be featured in Metal Hammer magazine. Their video for I’m Not Right has a horror feel to it that I can totally vibe with. Anyone who’s been bullied can relate! 

Code Orange, from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, is a band I discovered after hearing Corey Taylor from Slipknot rave about them. Their music has an intensity to it that reminds me of Slipknot and is filled with time changes, unique sounds, and creepy effects that make my black heart happy. The video for Underneath, which features guitarist Reba Meyers on vocals, is a sci-fi/horror show that all of my fellow horroraddicts will dig. Check out the band and the video, which was directed by @maxmoorefilms

 

And on the harder edge of the metal scene, you can find long-time metalcore veterans Straight Line Stitch from Knoxville, Tennessee. Lead vocalist Alexis Brown is fierce. Her vocal stylings travel effortlessly from screams to melodic choruses. Check out their video for Black Veil.

I am always seeking out the best in new music and you can read my reviews and recs here on HorrorAddicts.net as well as on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter @rlmerrillauthor. Stay Tuned for more Ro’s Recs and Merrill’s Musical Musings… 

______________________________________________________________________________________

R.L. Merrill writes inclusive romance with quirky, relatable characters full of love, hope, and rock ‘n’ roll. You can find her at https://www.rlmerrillauthor.com and on the socials as @rlmerrillauthor. You can also find her Hope, Love, and Queeromance posts over at www.queeromanceink.com

 

HOW CON: How to Plan a Workshop

How to Plan a Workshop
by Kate Nox

As an author, publisher, or event coordinator, you may be called upon to provide a workshop or in some way fill a time slot on a subject you know (expertise). You may be an expert in your field, but many of us have no idea how to pull a presentation together. This HOW Workshop will give you some guidelines to help you master this task with greater ease and aplomb.

Imagine with me:
You have been asked to provide a workshop for a group of 40 persons on a given subject.
You will have a time period of 40 minutes for your presentation.

Absolute step ONE:
Get the facts about what is desired by the group inviting you to present. Just like in the advertising class you took in college or high school, you get the 5 basics – Who, What, Where, When, How many?

Who – Is it a group of newbies to the subject or a group of your peers who will already know a bit or even more than you? You will want to tailor your information to your crowd.

What – is the subject the group is wanting you to present? Have they chosen a theme? (ie. Do they want your view on 14th century Ghost Exploration?)

When – is the workshop to take place? Include time and time frame. (40 minutes? 2 hours?)

Where – will it take place, what kind of room is the workshop to take place in? I once had to provide a craft workshop for 30 women sitting on half-log benches in a dusty outdoor amphitheater without electricity! Now is the time to find out if there will be projection equipment, a loudspeaker, or a podium.

How many – people will be in attendance? One of my pet peeves is attending a meeting or conference where there are not enough handouts for the crowd.

Step Two:
As soon as you get the topic plant it in your head – Tape it to your mirror, pin it to your car sun visor, log it on your phone, tack it on a bulletin board and exchange topics with a friend.
I have done these things for years and have even had several years of themes written where I can see them readily. I worked in a job where I was required to train and inspire people. Having the topic in my face frequently helped me to focus and catch the topic when I heard it or saw it elsewhere. It is amazing when reading an article in the newspaper or even seeing a billboard, or watching a TV show can spark an idea that becomes the direction for a presentation.

A friend of mine in a similar position and I always exchange what we are working on for the next year and often were able to provide information to help each other flesh out the post-it – notes on the mirror into a full presentation. I think we call that networking.

Step 3: Take a large piece of paper and just brainstorm. Write down everything you can think of that fits the subject. Cross off what is not helpful, then circle the important. Do your research, amass important information. Gather whatever you need to provide the information.

Step 4: 
After you have researched – Weed through and select the most important points you want to relay to your audience and write each on a 3×5 inch card.

Step 5: Use the cards to lay out the points in a logical flow toward your conclusion.

Step 6: Now that you have your topics and the information for each, work on connection lines. This is how you will get from one point to the next. These can be elaborate or as simple as “in light of that” or  “in conclusion”. This is one hint that will make you sound like the smoothest presenter on earth.

Step 7: Write your introduction last. You cannot know what you are about to say until you have decided what your information is.

Step 8:
 Talk it through with a timer and allow time for questions. The more you do this step, the more you will know your material and it will be more natural to talk about it.

Step 9:
 Prepare handouts, bibliography, and any video presentations.

On the day 
– Always take a few minutes in-the-space. Sit in the furthest chair, observe anything that may be blocking the view. Take a few minutes to stand behind the podium or wherever you will speak from. This time will give you the opportunity to change anything that makes you uncomfortable before your listeners arrive.

Presenting a topic is a privilege. Enjoy your opportunity!

HOW CON: Top 10 Things To Remember When Planning a Writer’s Event

Top 10 Things To Remember When Planning a Writer’s Event
by Kate Nox

1. Consider your audience – Who will be there? This will determine everything else, venue, speakers, entertainment, everything starts here.
2. Reserve your venue early – Many venues sell out fast, so get the place settled. Your advertising and attendance depend on it.
3. Set a firm deadline for registration – This is for your sanity more than anything else. It should be far enough in advance for you to alert your venue, your caterers and your workshop presenters as to numbers. If you just can’t say no, then anyone who tries to register after the deadline goes on a waitlist in case there are cancellations.
4. Think about comfort – make sure your attendees will be comfortable. Is the room big enough, can they hear, is it too hot or cold? Are there tables to be comfortable writing? If they are to be there more than an hour, will they need a break? Is the restroom nearby? Are there sleeping accommodations if it is a multiple day event? Will water or other refreshment be furnished by you or the venue?
5. Provide a contact  – A phone number or email address where attendees can ask questions. There will be questions! Make sure someone answers.
6. Fit speakers to the crowd – Workshop or keynote; the speaker should be of interest to your crowd. As a teenager I was part of a church group that would advertise teen crusades and when we arrived the speakers would invariably be in their sixties! Not a fit.
7. Add a little for expenses – Nothing is worse than arriving at an event and realizing something is missing. A few dollars extra in the kitty can be a lifesaver. Just a couple of dollars per attendee is all it takes.
8. Remember you are working with human beings – People need time. Time to walk or drive from event to event, time to network, time to use the restroom. When making your schedule, leave time for human needs.
9. Communicate with your audience – Make sure your attendees know if the weather could be chilly, if the hotel has wifi, if they will need to provide their own meals. Help them be as prepared as possible when they arrive for your event.
10. Thank everyone – your speakers, the facility, anyone who helped you in any way and all who attended.

Women i n Horror: Infection by E. A. Black

Hello, Horror Addicts! I write horror as E. A. Black. I’m on social media as Elizabeth Black. I live in Lovecraft country on the northeast coast of Massachusetts. If Innsmouth were a real town, it would be a ten minute drive from my home.

My story, “Infection”, which appears below, originally appeared in the anthology “Teeming Terrors”. Here’s the blurb for the book:

Nature. Filled with wonder, beauty, majesty and mystery. Also filled with things that want to kill us. Normal things, little ordinary things. Things that creep and crawl. Things that fly, swim, scuttle and slither. Things that you might expect and be rightfully phobic about … as well as things you may have never imagined as a threat. Individually, maybe they wouldn’t be. But that’s just it. They aren’t coming for you individually. They’re coming for you in swarms, in flocks and hordes, in masses and multitudes. They’re coming for you by the thousands. They are … TEEMING TERRORS.

“Infection” is one of my favorite stories that I have written, and I’m happy to share it with Horror Addicts for Women in Horror Month. Enjoy!

Infection

By E. A. Black

April Jones was cursed with a stubborn husband. John Jones had been weeding the garden and mowing the lawn this hot July 1st when he ran over strange circles in the grass. Fearing a wasp infestation, he dug into the grass around the circles and poured bug killer into them, despite Mrs. Jones telling him she thought that was a very bad idea. As usual, he wouldn’t listen to her. At least a swarm of nasties didn’t emerge from the grass and sting him.

Oh, no, it was worse than that.

The wound on his calf started as a rash accompanied by fever and chills. A day later, the flu symptoms had passed but his lower leg swelled up, and it was painful to put any weight on it. Tiny pustules erupted where she presumed the bite originated, but there was no bull’s eye so it wasn’t a brown recluse bite. Maybe there were wasps in the grass and one of them stung him, but she had never seen a wasp sting as angry as this. She begged him to go to the doctor but he refused, having the temperament of a mule.

By dusk on July 4th, the pain was excruciating and she finally succeeded in talking him to going to the emergency room. The wound nurse took one look and immediately ordered him to a room overnight for observation. She feared MRSA. Being ordered to stay in the hospital terrified Mrs. Jones. She wasn’t used to being on her own, and who knew how long her husband would be hospitalized? This wound could have been more serious than she and Mr. Jones had originally had thought, and MRSA was nothing to sneeze at. The nurse also ordered a CAT scan since she suspected he had an abscess. Mr. and Mrs. Jones waited in his room for the CAT scan results when he began to squirm with an uncomfortable look on his face.

“April, something’s very wrong. It feels like something’s moving in there.”

“What do you mean, moving? Why didn’t you tell the nurse?”

“I was too scared. It’s probably just my imagination. And the rash is warm to the touch. Are rashes normally like that?”

“None that I’ve seen. I told you to not dig up the lawn. You never listen to me.”

“Don’t nag me now.”

“Something stung you?”

“What else could it be?” He doubled over, gripping his belly in his arms. Mrs. Jones placed a hand on his shoulder to comfort him, but in her fear she really had no idea what to do to help him. She had never before felt so useless. “Oh, God, I’m gonna be sick. Something’s wrong. It’s bad. I don’t like this.”

Blood erupted from the center of the boil to trickle in a thin line down his leg. Pus oozed from the small opening. The tissue around the wound had darkened, turning nearly black. In a panic, since she knew enough about wounds to know black tissue meant dead tissue, Mrs. Jones rushed into the hallway to see if the doctor was on his way. She overheard the nurse said something to the doctor about necrosis, and her stomach seized in fear. The doctor turned her way and caught her eye. She saw alarm and concern on his face as she waved him down.

He quickly made his way to Mr. Jones’s room with the wound nurse on his heels. Mr. Jones had turned on his side on the bed, clutching his stomach. All the color had drained from his face, and Mrs. Jones knew the color had drained from her own as well.

“I think I’m going to throw up. It’s open and I’m bleeding. The pain is terrible. Can’t you give me something?” Mr. Jones wailed.

“I’m Doctor Frisorra, Mr. Jones. I’m going to open it up and scoop out the infection.” The doctor said. He was a surly sort but his caustic demeanor didn’t hide the alarm in his eyes. “The CAT scan revealed an abscess about the size of a baseball, but your entire lower leg has swelled up. I don’t know why you feel sick. You shouldn’t, but once the infection is gone I’m sure you’ll feel better. We’ll put you on an i.v. of antibiotics and keep you here overnight for observation. Let me get it out of you first and then we’ll give you some painkillers.”

“Something’s moving in there. I feel it crawling around, lots of things, tiny things. Oh, God, it hurts.” Mr. Jones buried his face in his pillow. “Please, get it out of me. Now!”

“Okay, Mr. Jones, I need you to calm down. I can’t open your leg with you thrashing about. Lie on your back and I’ll get started.” The doctor said.

“John, lie back.” Mrs. Jones said. “You’re going to be alright but you have to do what the doctor says.”

He turned onto his back and shoved a fist in his mouth, squinting his eyes in pain. The doctor turned to the wound nurse.

“Gauze and alcohol.” He said.

She handed him both. He poured alcohol onto the gauze and then swabbed the wound and the rash around it. Then, he tossed the waste into a trash can with a red bag inside with biohazard symbols on the plastic.

“I’m going to inject a numbing agent into your wound, Mr. Jones. This will help you with the pain. It’s a topical painkiller.”

The wound nurse prepared the injection and handed the syringe over to the doctor, who injected close to the wound’s opening. A high-pitched but faint buzzing droned around Mrs. Jones, as if it came directly from the wound but much like a cricket’s chirping it was hard to tell exactly where it came from. It sounded similar to air being let out of a balloon. The noise was shrill and angry, but so faint she thought she imagined it. Maybe it was an I.V. alarm going off down the hall. The nurses let those things beep forever, but somehow, Mrs. Jones doubted that was the case. That noise came from her husband’s wound, and it scared her.

“Did you hear that?” Mrs. Jones whispered.

The doctor looked up. “I’m not sure what that was. Let’s get the wound opened and cleaned out. Scalpel.” He said.

The nurse opened a small package to reveal a sterile scalpel, which she handed to the doctor. Mrs. Jones held her breath as the doctor’s steady hand approached the wound, which by now had turned a deep shade of rose with black edges and yellow pustules erupting on the surface. Mr. Jones gripped his t-shirt in his fists so hard his knuckles had blanched. Terror etched across his face. What the hell was wrong with his leg? Was it a brown recluse bite after all?

The doctor leaned over his leg and cut down the center of the boil. Blood gushed out, running down his leg and staining the bed linens. Creamy yellow pus filled the wound. As the doctor picked up the instrument to scrape out the infection, that shrill keening sounded again, coming directly from the opening he had cut.

Mrs. Jones backed away, closer to the bathroom.

The doctor inserted the instrument into the wound, and Mrs. Jones was shocked to see it disappear nearly an inch into his calf. When he scraped along the inside, Mr. Jones cried out in agony, but Mrs. Jones barely heard him. Hundreds if not thousands of tiny mites flew from the wound’s opening, covering the doctor’s white jacket so thickly it appeared to be crawling. They flew onto the nurse, who swatted at them, screaming and howling with surprise and terror. Mr. Jones screamed and crept up the bed towards the wall, but the mites surrounded him, flying in his face and against his arms and legs until they held fast.

Then they began to bite.

A cloud of the creatures attacked Mrs. Jones, but she managed to swat them off as she ran to the bathroom and shut the door. They nipped at her arms and face, biting her with their sharp, tiny teeth. They tore into her skin, drawing blood and stinging her as if she were dying by a thousand paper cuts. She slapped at them, pulled them from her hair, stomped them onto the floor. 

As she wrestled with the creatures, the screaming started outside the bathroom door. She recognized her husband’s shrieking and feared opening the door to rush out to help him. What were those things doing to him? Getting a closer look at the ones she had swatted, she leaned over a dead one on the sink.

The creature was about an inch long and dark green. It had two legs instead of the usual six or eight she expected from an insect or arachnid. It also had two tiny arms with fists it held into balls. She pried one fist open with a fingernail to reveal talon-like claws, sharp as needles. What was left of its head sported blonde hair and a strangely humanoid face. Gossamer thin crepe wings folded along the back.

What kind of insect was this? Was it an immature locust? These creatures moved in swarms, just the way locusts did. The problem was she’d never seen a locust that looked like this. She’d never seen a live locust period, but she had seen pictures of them. This was no locust.

She thought back to the rings her husband found in the grass as he mowed the lawn, and how he dug into a few of them to see the damage they did to the soil. She wracked her brain until she remembered where she had read about rings in the grass.

Fairy rings. Her husband had disturbed a nest of fairies. She stared at the creature as if she viewed a particularly noxious bug. These were not the sweet little Tinkerbelles of Disney movies. These fairies were the vicious and malevolent beings from folklore – and they took up residence in her lawn and in her husband’s leg.

And now they were loose in the hospital.

Screaming in the room and down the hall intensified until it reached a crescendo. Heart racing with dread, she leaned against the door, holding it shut as tiny bodies slammed into the opposite side. Scraping sounds like needles being dragged along the door grated from the other side as if they tried to claw their way in. She stared at the tiny being on the sink, wondering how something so small could cause so much damage.

It twitched.

She wailed.

It shrieked a sound like a tea kettle boiling. As it reared up it split open down the back. Another larger creature emerged from the shell. Now, it was nearly three inches long. Mrs. Jones wondered how many others had molted. She recoiled from it, fearing to even approach it, but as it cried in outrage she gathered her resolve and picked it up between thumb and forefinger by the hair. It writhed in her grip, wings flapping, jaws snapping, trying to claw her with those talons. Glaring at her, it hissed the word “die” over and over again. She started at the sound of its high-pitched voice hissing in English. She nearly dropped it, but she held fast.

Her fingers felt sticky, as if they were covered in slime. The same sticky substance smeared on her arms, legs, and face. She used her free hand to wipe it off her cheek only to streak it further along. It smelled of violets. In fact, the fairies themselves smelled of wildflowers. Mrs. Jones wore a perfume similar to the scent. Could the stickiness have come from their bodies as they rubbed up against her? 

The screaming from the other side of the door had stopped. Fearing what lay behind the door but knowing she had no choice but to free herself, she opened the door. As she took her first two tentative steps out of the bathroom, the fairy in her hand ceased struggling and became quiet. When Mrs. Jones looked into the room, her heart nearly stopped in shock.

The stench of gore and feces slammed Mrs. Jones in the face amid that strange scent of wildflowers. Doctor Frisorra lay on his side, hands clawed in front of his mangled face. His white lab coat was covered with so much blood and tissue it had turned crimson. Heart racing with dread, she looked to the hospital bed where her husband lay. His mouth was open in a scream cut off by violence. Lips and nose decimated and eyelids gnawed away, his face forever would hold a surprised and outraged expression. The skin had been clawed and eaten away from his forehead, cheeks, and chin, leaving muscle and tendons exposed. His hands could not protect his face from the onslaught, since his fingers had been gnawed down to the bone. Blood covered the bedsheets. Mrs. Jones clamped a hand over her mouth, trying to hold back a wail of grief and horror. In her fear, she let go of the fairy in her other hand, and it flew out of the room and down the hall. 

Following the creature, she walked into the hall to be greeted by carnage. Moans of pain and wails of terror echoed along the blood-smeared walls. Nurses crawled along the floor, many with their eyes gouged and eaten out, groping about blind. Stunned, Mrs. Jones made her way down the hallway dodging bodies and slipping in blood. She never before felt so alone. Normally her husband took charge, but now she had to fend for herself. She didn’t think she’d last long, not in her frazzled and frightened condition. She paused by every open door, expecting a wall of the detestable vermin to attack her. She sped down the hallway until she reached the Emergency Room exit. 

The creatures were gone but they couldn’t be far. Where did they go?

An ambulance idled in the entryway. Two EMTs sprawled on the ground at the back of the vehicle. The sky was strangely dark. When she took a closer look upward, panic took over and she urgently sought a place to hide. The creatures filled the sky, blocking the setting sun. They swarmed like insects, attaching themselves to the hospital buildings and rapping their soft bodies against glass. Several grasped rocks and slammed them into windows, attempting entry. Red brick teemed black with the creatures. 

She froze in place, fearing if they noticed her they’d attack. Where had they all come from? They certainly couldn’t all have come from her husband’s wound. She didn’t have time to ponder. What to do, what to do? Her car was in the parking lot across the street. If she walked slowly they might not pay her mind. It was only 50 feet away. If she could make it inside her car and drive away – maybe home – she’d be safe.

Maybe. It all depended on how widespread their reach was.

She held her arms against her body and cradled her head close to her chest, trying to make herself look as small and as unassuming as possible. The creatures flew above her, making a high-pitched humming sound presumably from the flapping of their wings. A few zoomed in front of her as she walked, and she gasped at the sight of them, but they ignored her. She wasn’t sure why, but they had sniffed at her and then went their merry way. Maybe her violet perfume and the residue they left on her skin sent them away? Could they have mistaken her for one of their own?

They flitted about in a hurky-jerky motion like hummingbirds, but not nearly as endearing. Several of them dive-bombed her, nearly getting caught in her hair. It took all her resolve to resist swatting them away. One stopped long enough to give her a quizzical look. It hissed at her, tossed a pebble at her face, but then it flew away, paying her no more attention. 

That one was much larger than the one she held at in the hospital bathroom. It was at least four inches long and a vivid blue. Most of the ones flying about her were the size of the palm of her hand. She passed a tree and saw bodies clinging to it, but upon a closer look she realized she gazed at empty shells – molted skin left behind as the creatures grew.

Finally reaching the road, she was about to take a step into it when a Toyota roared past, wavering all over the asphalt and even jumping onto the sidewalk. Mrs. Jones leaped out of the way before the car could hit her. As it sped by, she saw the driver inside fighting a cloud of creatures so thick the inside of the car had darkened to pitch black. The car zoomed past only to crash into a utility pole and burst into flames. The explosion hurled Mrs. Jones backwards onto the grass. Human screaming amid the shrill cries of the fairies assaulted her ears, and she clamped her hands over them so she would not hear the terror in that person’s voice. The clouds of creatures overhead flew to the wreckage, giving Mrs. Jones time to race to her car without being noticed.

She fumbled with her keys, her fingers not working well enough to grip them. She dropped them as she watched the creatures wailing around their fallen comrades. Stooping over to pick up her keys, her trembling fingers dropped them again. Damn it, woman, get your act together! One last time, she gripped the entire keychain in her hand and shoved the car key near the lock but missed, scraping the blue paint on the door. Finally, she aimed the key at the lock and nailed her goal. Turning the lock, the audible click attracted the attention of the creatures. 

She tore open the door and hauled herself inside just as a swarm of bodies reached the door. Three of them were caught on the door, hissing, spitting and cursing her. When she slammed the door shut, they sliced in half. Their bodies fell to the car’s floor, convulsing in their death throes. The rest slammed against the door and window, howling their outrage at her getting away from them. A cloud descended upon her car, slapping the glass and banging their fists against the sides and roof. Thankfully, they had grown so much they were too large to fit into her ventilation system so they didn’t get into the car through the air conditioning and heating vents. She put her key in the ignition, turned over the engine, and high-tailed it out of the parking lot. 

She needed to get home. Alone, she cried as she drove, not sure what to do to get herself out of this miserable situation. If only Mr. Jones were with her. He’d know what to do.

With a start, she remembered her 24 year old son Paul was home. She grabbed her phone and dialed his number but he didn’t pick up.

Oh, God, I hope he’s alright. 

It was hard to see the road through the bodies but she drove in as straight a line as she could. Turning on the windshield wipers, she shoved fairies aside until she could see her way in front of her. Fireworks celebrating Independence Day lit up creatures that flew overhead. She hit the accelerator until she reached 40 MPH and then hit the brakes. Bodies hurtled from the car, landing on the road in front of her. She pressed down on the gas again and drove over a multitude of little bodies, the car bumping as she drove. They crackled and squished as she drove over them, and she used her squeamishness to continue on her journey. The clouds of creatures seemed to go on forever. Could she safely make it home? First, get onto the main road into town, and then she could worry about her son.

More fireworks burst overhead, competing with the full moon. Mrs. Jones turned on the radio, hoping for some answers.

‘… lock yourself in your homes and board up all entryways including doors and windows. The cause is unknown. The Army has been notified and is on its way to town…”

Switch to a different station.

“… seems to be contained to Norwich, Massachusetts. There are no reports of infestations in nearby Rockport, Ipswich, and Gloucester…”

She lived on the edge of Norwich. If she could get home, get Paul, and get out of town they might be safe.

The ten minute drive home seemed to stretch on for hours. A yellow corona exploded overhead followed by myriad red starbursts. The fireworks provided a strange backdrop for the clouds of fairies following her home. They slammed into her windshield, grasping at the wipers and trying to break them off but they did not succeed. Spraying them with windshield washer fluid only pissed them off even more. Why did John have to go dig up those infernal rings in the grass? 

If he hadn’t, would they have only emerged later to catch them even more unawares?

Neighbors had been ravaged as the creatures had attacked. The Clark children two doors down from her home lay sprawled in the grass, bodies torn as they had played with a Frisbee. The scent of burned meat wafted from a smoking grill. Mrs. Clark lay facedown on the porch, her head on the bottom step and her feet on the top. A tray of burgers spilled onto the ground. The paperboy’s bike lay in the middle of the road. The boy himself had made it as far as the tall oak in Mrs. Jones’s front yard. Fairies squatted on him, tearing at his clothing and chattering amongst themselves. They stopped chattering to watch Mrs. Jones drive by. The sight sickened her. She knew the paperboy quite well. Gave him a gift every Christmas. She didn’t get along with the Clarks but no one deserved an end like that.

She pulled into her driveway, crushing the creatures beneath her tires as she put the gear into park. Paul’s car was in front of her, and it was covered with bodies that by now had grown to be nearly a foot long. They gaped at her from inside the car. Only a half hour ago they were the size of mites. Molting and growing quickly, their formidable natures astounded her. How much larger would they get? Their colors ranged from vivid blue to deep hunter green and violet. Some stretched their wings and wrapped them around their bodies as if they were chilled. Every one of them stared at her from the porch, the stairs, inside Paul’s car, the sills and the roof. Thousands of glowing eyes glared at her. How was she going to get into the house? And was her son alive?

The shutters on both floors had been pulled and locked. The creatures had torn her prized rose bushes to shreds, and she felt a pang of sadness over the loss. There would be many losses today. Before stepping out of the car, she doused herself with perfume hoping to keep them at bay. Fearing her son had succumbed to their attacks, she unlocked her car door and quietly opened it one inch.

The fairies didn’t move. They only continued to stare at her. Why were they so quiet? Was it her perfume? She could only hope.

She opened the door, gently moving several of them out of her way. They appeared to be resting, as if exhausted but not exhausted enough to sleep. Dormant, their hive mind dozed enough for her to emerge from her car and take tentative steps to the porch. One or two lashed out with their sharp claws, drawing blood on her ankles, but she didn’t flinch. With slow movements she took five excruciating minutes to make it to the porch and the front door. She took her key, turned it in the door’s lock, and opened the door enough so she could slip inside her house without the creatures following.

The living room was quiet and dark. No fairies lurked within. Smoke filled the first floor. Ah, Paul must have cooked steak again. He always smoked up the house when he cooked beef. The smoke may have repulsed the fairies enough to keep them outside.

There was no sign of Paul. She resisted calling out his name or making any noise out of fear she’d attract the creatures’ attention and they’d swarm again. 

The only way to find him was to go door to door until he revealed himself. What if she found him as mangled as she found John? No, don’t think about that. Just find him. 

She walked through the empty kitchen and opened the bathroom door to find no one. That left the second floor. She climbed the stairs, careful to not make the third step creak the way it always did. Moving with stealth, she reached the landing and heard thumping sounds coming from one of the back bedrooms. Fearing Paul was being mauled, she raced to the door, opened it, and went inside.

“Paul, we have to get out of here…”

Fairies perched on tables, chairs, and shelves. They clung to the curtains in front of a broken window. When they heard Mrs. Jones’s voice, they came to life and flew from their perches to swarm around her, clawing at her face, her hands, and her bare legs. Wailing, she waved her hands in front of her to fend them off but they only came on stronger; wave after wave of bodies crashing into her. Sliding down the wall as they tore at her hair and bit her forearms, she crumbled in a ball on the hardwood floor. They pushed on the door behind her, slamming it into her lower back and causing pain to shoot into her spine. Then, she felt two large hands grab her feet and pull her through the door’s opening.

“Mom, are you hurt?” Paul said as he shut the door and locked it. The fairies beat against the frame from the other side in a futile attempt to get out.

“I’m okay. What are we going to do?”

“I’ve packed for us. I called you but you didn’t pick up.” He pointed to two suitcases. “Where’s John?”

Mrs. Jones cried. “He didn’t make it.”

“The radio says they’re only here in Norwich. If we can get in the car and make it out of town, I think we’ll be fine.”

“I hope you’re right. I told John to leave those grass circles alone but he wouldn’t listen to me–”

He squeezed her shoulders. “They’re coming from those holes in the back yard. I watched them from the window. I already called 911. The Army is coming to plug them up but we have to get out of here. Now.”

They quietly walked downstairs, Mrs. Jones holding one suitcase and Paul holding the other. More than anything, she wanted to hole up in her house and wait until the Army dealt with the miserable vermin, but she no longer felt safe in her own home. The only thing to do was to leave with her son and wait until it was safe to return, assuming it would ever be safe. She’d never feel safe in this house again.

Before he could open the front door, Mrs. Jones explained their curious behavior in light of her perfume and the sticky substance they left on her skin. She sprayed Paul all over with violet scent. She prayed the fairies wouldn’t attack.

Paul opened the front door, drawing it out as slowly as he could. The bodies on the porch had increased. To her surprise, the creatures had moved but they continued to sit as if dozed. Some sprawled in circles on the porch – large circles, small ones, several where they sat stacked atop each other. They chanted in a language she couldn’t understand, but what they sang resembled an incantation. While they acknowledged her presence as well as Paul’s, they neither attacked nor lashed out. It was as if they operated from one mind and that mind was too preoccupied to pay any attention to the two humans who made their way to Mrs. Jones’s car.

Mrs. Jones swept them aside in slow motions with her feet as she made her way the four feet to the steps. She gazed at her destroyed garden in the direction of the holes where her husband had dug out the fairy circles. Rather than pour from the holes as she expected to see, the creatures flew into them, searching for what remained of their stomping grounds. Fireworks continued to illuminate the clouds of fairies that flew overhead. Such a strange sight – a festival of independence marred by creatures that rendered all humans in Norwich helpless to defend themselves. 

Once they reached the car, Paul placed the suitcases in the back seat, all the while moving as slowly as possible. Neither he nor Mrs. Jones called attention to themselves lest they attract unwanted and tragic attention. Rather than slam the door shut, he closed it with a gentle click. The sound boomed in Mrs. Jones’s ears, and she watched the fairies but they did not attack. Mrs. Jones walked to the passenger side, opened the door, and took the front seat. Paul made it to the driver’s seat without difficulty. Once inside, he placed the key in the ignition, turned it, and the car roared to life.

They sat in total silence, watching how the creatures reacted to the car’s engine. A few pounded on the windshield and stomped on the roof. One stood in front of Mrs. Jones, gnawing at the windshield wiper and scratching its substantial claws against the glass. It was nearly a foot long with filmy wings the hue of an oil slick and a body the color of brick. The malevolence on its face terrified Mrs. Jones, but she clenched her jaw in silence. Paul put the car in reverse and pulled out of the driveway. 

“Let’s head to Gloucester.” Mrs. Jones said. “The radio said they didn’t get that far.”

Paul turned the radio knob.

“… have invaded Rockport, Gloucester, and have been seen as far as Beverly Farms.” Beverly Farms was 15 miles away. She checked the gas gauge.

There was less than a quarter tank of gas in the car.

Maybe by the time they reached Beverly Farms the creatures would have moved on. She gazed out the window. Fairies converged on the grass, tore apart bushes, and danced on telephone lines. Starting up the car must have roused them from their stupor. She turned her head away in horror as a gang of them attacked a German shepherd chained to a pole outside a split-level. Paul drove along the narrow one-lane road out of town, and Mrs. Jones closed her eyes in her futile attempt to ignore the sound of bodies crunching beneath the tires. Her heart raced and she picked the cuticles on her fingernails as they drove in silence save for the radio that just announced the fairies had been seen 40 miles away in Boston.

Maybe they’d make it safely out of town before they ran out of gas.

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The idea for this story came to me after my husband spent some time in the hospital with an infection in his leg. It was pretty gross. I based John Jones in the story on him, and he got a major kick out of me killing him off, LOL. We have very bent senses of humor. Here’s a conversation we had about his leg.

Me: “Your wound is really disgusting. Make sure you do what the doctor tells you. Don’t be stubborn.

Him: Me? Stubborn? Never!

Me: Yes. You. Stubborn. That thing looks like it’s going to burst any moment. You know what’s going to come out of it?

Him: Puss?

Me: Spiders!

Him: You have watched far too many horror movies. That’s why I love you.

Me: I love you, too!

Here’s where to find me on the web:

Elizabeth Black – Facebook https://www.facebook.com/elizabethablack

E. A. Black – Blog and Web Site http://eablack-writer.blogspot.com

E.A. Black – Amazon Author Page https://www.amazon.com/E.A.-Black/e/B00BBWHMFM

E. A. Black – GoodReads (I didn’t create this page. I’d like to thank whoever did, if I knew that person’s identity.)

https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/6468111.E_A_Black

Elizabeth Black – Newsletter http://eepurl.com/b76GWD   

I’ve just started a new writing gig with a game company. It’s so new I don’t have much to report yet, but I will say I’m having a blast. I’m now a game developer! I’m also finishing my first horror novel. Here are my latest appearances in anthologies:

Jester of Hearts – my story is Trailer Trash Zombies

Wicked Women: An Anthology of the New England Horror Writers – my story is The Fetch

The Horror Zine’s Book of Ghost Stories – my story is The Storm

Horror For Hire: Second Shift – my story is A Job To Die For

Fark in the Time of Covid: The 2020 Fark Fiction Anthology– my story is A Skirmish Outside Beaufort

 

 

 

Merrill’s Musical Musings : Vexillary

Greetings HorrorAddicts and welcome to a new year! I plan to bring you some groovy reviews and righteous recommendations this year to keep your tuneage vibing. Or something like that. Despite the insanity that was 2020, many artists were able to come up with inspired material and I’ll share some great picks with you over the coming months. 

Vexillary is an instrumental project by New York based Reza Seirafi that was influenced by the artist’s love of blending components to create something new. A chemist in his other life, he likes to take seemingly inharmonious sounds and make them fit together. Tracks like “Maritime Panic” offer additional sonic adventures with each new listen. “Annihilation” has a manic feel that leaves the listener grasping at the elements and trying to find something to hold onto. There is a feeling of doom, especially in the opening notes of “Forged Skies” but this offering of electronica is never gloomy, and by the time you reach “The Geneticist,” the mad scientist vibe of the SurViolence is complete.

Vexillary is music for those who need an intense infusion with a side of chaos to make their aural journey complete. Give it a listen and let us know what you think. 

Want to share your favorite music from 2020? Comment below or email me at rlmerrillauthor@gmail.com. The next Ro’s Recs will be less of a “best of” and more of a “here’s what you don’t want to miss.” I’ll see you soon, my HorrorAddict Darlings. In the meantime, Stay Tuned for more Merrill’s Musical Musings…

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R.L. Merrill writes inclusive romance with quirky, relatable characters full of love, hope, and rock ‘n’ roll. You can find her at https://www.rlmerrillauthor.com and on the socials as @rlmerrillauthor. You can also find her Hope, Love, and Queeromance posts over at www.queeromanceink.com

Women In Horror Month: Why Do Women Writers Write About Monsters or Ghosts?

Why Do Women Writers Write About Monsters or Ghosts?

Why would women write about monsters or ghosts? I am sure some readers say stick to writing romance or fantasy. But women have just as much right to write the scary stuff and about monsters as do their male counterparts. After all, in the long run, it’s all about the story.

At BBC.com, an article mentioned how women writers “often found the supernatural a way to challenge and condemn their role in society.” It seems male writers have dominated supernatural fiction, like M R James, Edgar Allan Poe, HP Lovecraft, Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu, Oliver Onions, and others. But female writers have been on the horror scene in the past, too. Shirley Jackson, for instance. She wrote The Haunting of Hill House, the only story that has scared me in the daytime, in a room full of people. Others had to do it at night, with me in a room alone. Susan Hill, who wrote Woman in Black, is another. A classic ghost story from 1892 is Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s “The Yellow Wallpaper.” The author’s nameless narrator, suffering from post-natal depression, is confined to bed rest under the care of her doctor husband, when begins to lose her mind. Confined to an old nursery with ghastly wallpaper, she sees strangled heads and unblinking “bulbous eyes” in its pattern. Eventually, a skulking female figure appears, seemingly trapped behind the bars of its design. Is it the narrator’s own hidden self? When her husband enters to find her tearing down the wallpaper, she tells him, “I’ve got out at last. And I’ve pulled off most of the paper, so you can’t put me back!”

Do women authors use ghost stories to exorcise their resentments over societal restrictions? The ghost in their tale is the ultimate outsider – an absent presence, all-seeing and yet unable to partake of life in any meaningful way. Do we have insight differently from male writers? Can what a woman writes be more downright frightening than what a man writes? Does the way we pen the words on paper or type onscreen haunt the person as they read? Maybe we even make the monster sympathetic. Still horrifying, but a monster the reader will care about and cheer on. Or not.

Looking for some great spooky reads? Next time, check out female horror authors. I am sure readers already know about; Anne Rice, Sarah Pinborough, Laurell K. Hamilton, and Caitlin R. Kiernan. Others you can check out are Tanith Lee, Elizabeth Massie, Lisa Morton, Yvonne Navarro, Carrie Ryan, Cherie Priest, Chelsea Quinn Yarbro, Kari Kilgore, Susan Schwartz, and much, much more. Take a step away from traditionally published authors and try out indie writers as there are great reads by them, too. An excellent place to find more women horror writers is at Horror Writers Association. Try someone new today. 

Instead of picking up the latest Stephen King novel or of books written by other male horror authors, try several feminine writers instead. We just might bring “SCARE” to a whole new level.

Journey to worlds of fantasy, beyond the stars, and into the vortex of terror with the written word of Pamela K. Kinney.

Https://PamelaKKinney.com

Bio:

Author Pamela K. Kinney gave up long ago trying not to listen to the voices in her head and has written horror, fantasy. science fiction, along with six nonfiction ghost books ever since. Her horror short story, “Bottled Spirits,” was runner-up for the 2013 WSFA Small Press Award. Her horror poem, “Dementia,” included in HWA Poetry Showcase Volume VII, won “Best Poem: for 23rd Annual Critters Readers Poll (2020).

Besides writing, Pamela has acted on stage and film and investigates the paranormal for episodes of Paranormal World Seekers. She is a member of Horror Writers Association and Virginia Writers Club.

WOMEN WRITING HORROR: A Listicle of Women to Read

WOMEN WRITING HORROR by Renata Pavrey

Horror is my favorite genre in fiction and I read across all of its sub-genres including true crime, psychological horror, comedy horror, from novels to short story collections, dark poetry and anthologies. A random search for horror books throws up the usual fare from Stephen King, Joe Hill, Josh Malerman, Kealan Patrick Burke. While I have loved books by all these writers, women authors in the genre don’t show up as easily, with the exception of Shirley Jackson and Mary Shelley for their classic works. I thought back to all the books I’ve read and the ones in my to-read list and came up with this listicle of horror stories from women writers. These include translated books as well as original language ones, novellas, novels, collections, prose and poetry, fiction and non-fiction by writers, translators, editors, and publishers who create terror through words. From historical fiction, science fiction, young adult, satire, to mythology, folklore, speculative fiction, re-telling of true events, and dark verses – take your pick. Since February is coming up, I compiled a list of twenty-eight women in horror – one book recommendation for each day of the month.

  1. Agustina Maria Bazterrica – Tender is the Flesh

A virus has eradicated animals, and humanity turns to cannibalism for its source of meat as humans are domesticated, mass produced, and slaughtered. Translated from the Spanish, a nauseating and provocative satire that blends science fiction with horror.

       2. Ally Blue – Down

An underwater, paranormal suspense fest surrounding the discovery of a rock-like sphere that causes humans to mutate and turn into horror versions of themselves.

       3. Alma Katsu – The Deep

Historical fiction horror set around the events of the Titanic and its sister ship the Britannic. The maritime disaster and World War I are caught in sinister happenings in this supernatural thriller.

       4. Cassandra Khaw – Rupert Wong, Cannibal Chef

A novella about the dual life of a sorcerer and soldier, combining horror and comedy with Malaysian and Chinese mythology.

       5. Christina Henry – The Ghost Tree

YA horror about missing people and terrifying visions of monsters dragging remains. Ghostly trees, creepy children, witches and curses – almost like watching a horror movie.

       6. Christina Sng – Dreamscapes

Horror, fantasy, and science fiction come together in this poetry collection that addresses the darkness within. Verses that serve to unsettle and terrify, proving how poetry can be more impactful than prose.

       7. Elizabeth Kostova – The Historian

A historical fiction Dracula story moving across time and place with shifting narrator perspectives. A debut vampire novel that interweaves history with folklore and makes for a riveting read.

       8. Fernanda Melchor – Hurricane Season

Mythology and terror from Spanish literature, with the English translation maintaining the grim, intense and graphic prose of its original source in this portrait of a Mexican village and its witch.

       9. Francine Toon – Pine

A haunting tale in the Scottish highlands, filled with intrigue and eeriness, alternating between terrifying and heart wrenching, spooky and suspenseful in equal measures.

       10. Gemma Amor – Dear Laura

A novella of lifelong obsession, this dark, twisted tale about penpals stands out for its brilliantly atmospheric writing.

       11.Jennifer Hillier – Wonderland

Psychological thriller, amusement park, serial killer – gruesome and wicked as you set out to solve crimes.

       12. Jennifer McMahon – Winter People

Historical fiction meets fantasy in this chilling story of missing people and secrets galore.

       13. Joyce Carol Oates – The Doll Master

A collection of short stories that borrows its title from an obsession over dolls, and leads into an unsettling world of abominations and mystery.

       14. Kaaron Warren – Into Bones Like Oil

A haunted house novella with an unconventional narrative and storyline, and an interesting take on the ghost story.

        15. Kathe Koja – The Cipher

Winner of the Bram Stoker award for Best Debut Novel, The Funhole does not live up to its name. A black hole that calls out and launches a journey of obsession, darkness, and blinding terror of classic horror in spectacular prose.

        16. Laura Purcell – The Silent Companions

There’s nothing like historical fiction for a dose of gothic horror. An asylum, a haunted mansion, intriguing journals, hidden secrets – a creepy ghost story that grabs the attention from beginning to end.

        17.  Laurel Hightower – Crossroads

An exceptional novella dealing with the horrors of heartbreak and grief, and things coming back from the dead. An emotional and devastating read that shows you just how diverse the horror genre can be.

        18. Lee Murray – Grotesque

A collection of monster stories that range from mythology to legend and science fiction offering a dip into Maori folklore and French history, zombie attacks and adventures. Packed with action and gore, the stories are a delight for monster fans.

        19. Lisa Kröger – Monster, She Wrote

Why read one horror story when you can read about them all? A non-fiction horror book about women who pioneered the genres of horror and speculative fiction; writers who defied convention and crafted some stellar spooky tales. From ghost stories to psychological horror, intriguing trivia and reading recommendations, a book about books not to be missed.

        20. Lucy A. Snyder – Sparks and Shadows

A dark fantasy collection of short stories, poems, and essays. Twisted tales in myriad settings, witty and diverse, horrifying, amusing, and thought provoking.

        21. Mariana Enriquez – Things We Lost in the Fire

A short story collection of the macabre, mixing magical realism with gothic fiction in this astonishing treat from Spanish literature brought to us in English by translator Megan McDowell.

        22. Mariko Koike – The Graveyard Apartment

Detective fiction and horror writing come together in this translation from Japanese literature of psychological horror set around a graveyard. Deborah Boehm brings this to us in English.

        23. Michelle Paver – Thin Air

A historical fiction ghost story set in the Himalayas. Nature can be brutal enough, but what if it isn’t the only thing you’re battling? Subtle supernatural elements, more psychological rather than physical, can be more horrific at times.

        24. Nalo Hopkinson – Skin Folk

A short story collection of magical realism, science fiction, fantasy, and speculative fiction interweaved with horror. Storytelling at its best.

        25. Samanta Schweblin – Fever Dream

Some more magical realism from Spanish literature is this surreal nightmare of an otherworldly story. Menacing, unsettling, and thoroughly absorbing in its usage of horror to explore current world issues.

        26. Taeko Kono – Toddler Hunting

An exceptional collection of Japanese short stories that explore the dark side of human nature and antisocial behavior. Lucy North translates to English to bring us a startling and disquieting world.

        27. Yoko Ogawa – Revenge

Another dark treat from Japanese literature in an experimental format of seemingly unrelated short stories coming together to form a larger novel. Bland settings and ordinary people up the ante of terrors lurking in everyday life.

        28. Yrsa Sigurdardottir – I Remember You

Scandinavian Nordic noir of isolation and remoteness; horror based on true events. Translated from the Icelandic, a ghost story that proffers the chills.

~Three bonus books for the women who lead the way as editors and publishers~

  1. Lee Murray and Geneve Flynn – Black Cranes

A collection of short stories by Asian writers, highlighting the dual themes of women in horror and Asian women writers. A smorgasbord of mythology, legend, folklore, science fiction, comedy horror, satire, dark fantasy.

       2. Aiki Flinthart – Relics, Wrecks, and Ruins

A collection of science fiction and fantasy with horror to showcase the remnants of humanity and celebrate a legacy. 

        3. Tricia Reeks – Meerkat Press

The publishing house comes out with some very different but very good books, in equal parts weird, unique, and dark.

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Renata Parvey is a Nutritionist by profession; marathon runner and Odissi dancer by passion. Driven by sports, music, animals, plants, literature and more. Reads across several genres and languages, and loves the world of horror – in both, books and movies.

URL:

Women In Horror: Regrets by Jess Chua

Regrets by Jess Chua
“Sophia was a bohsia, okay? End of story.”Irfan put out his cigarette as he strolled home with his best buddy, Dinesh.“What is it with girls and women nowadays?” Dinesh said sadly. “They used to be so sweet and gadis baik (good girl types).”

“Nowadays, love stands for legs-open-very-easily.” Irfan looked around at the leaves rustling in the breeze. “Glad Sophia was just a one night stand. That’s all she was worth.”

Sophia, he thought. Pretty face…cute curves…and a little bit of a birdbrain.

She had a thing for bad boys with motorcycles. Irfan was the hot bad boy that many girls found irresistible.

It was too bad that she had recently gotten into a terrible highway accident involving a drunk rider. Sophia hadn’t made it out alive.

“Do you have any regrets?” Dinesh asked.

“About?”

The two young men let the silence in the air do most of the talking. Sophia had become a stage five clinger relatively quickly after hooking up with Irfan. Perhaps her absence was somewhat of a relief if Irfan wanted to be honest about it.

“Anyway, I’ll see you tomorrow. I—” Dinesh froze for a second as he felt something ice-cold rush through his body. The impact was almost enough to knock him off his feet.

The voice of a banshee screeched: “The baby was YOURS!!!”

When Dinesh turned around, Irfan was lying eviscerated on the ground. A pale ghostly image with Sophia’s face and bloodied hands hovered over Irfan’s dead body before vanishing off into the woods.

Perhaps Irfan would have expressed some regrets, if he was still able to respond.

###

Author Bio: Jess Chua is a writer and editor for a personal development podcast. Her microfiction was a runner-up in the Mysterious Photograph contest at Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine. She enjoys yoga, healthy cooking, and spending time with her pets. Her website is www.jesschuabooks.com

Women in Horror Month

 

This month we are celebrating Women in Horror Month here at HorrorAddicts.net. This month we will bring you contemporary women writers, women writers of old, women movie directors, actresses, characters, and even artists who have brought to life some of those scary monsters we have nightmares about.

You’ll meet women who look like demure housewives but pen horrible, frightening beings who suck your blood! You will read some newly written material and some treasures from the vault.

You’ll hear some of the joys and the challenges of being a woman trying to make her way into the genre, let alone getting to the top of the gravestone.

Join us daily as we celebrate Women in Horror during February.

Meet the Author: Brian Craddock

Brian Craddock is widely published in horror anthologies, establishing a lead in character Richard Dalziel to navigate the majority of his short fiction. Collected, these stories are The Dalziel Files, set around the globe. Of these, “Ismail’s Expulsion”, set in Pakistan, won the Long Fiction Award at the 2018 Australian Shadows Awards. Brian has two novels available: Chuwa: The Rat People of Lahore (set in Pakistan) and Eucalyptus Goth (set in Australia).
CHUWA: THE RAT PEOPLE OF LAHORE
This novel is set in Pakistan, about a woman caught up in conflict between mafia and monsters. The book was shortlisted in the 2019 Aurealis Awards.
I have a sequel in development.
THE CEMETERY CHILDREN
This horror/sci-fi short-story is set in Indonesia, in the future. I was inspired after meeting a group of children in Jakarta who use their local cemetery as a playground, due to lack of public parks to play in. They would put “makeup” on the angel statues, using chalk and crayons.
THE DALZIEL FILES
My collection of horror short stories (free to read on Kindle Unlimited), nominated as a finalist for Collected Works in the 2018 Australian Shadow Awards. Several stories are set in Asia:
  • Ismail’s Expulsion is set in Pakistan (inspired by alleged true-life vampires told to me by a local when I first visited Lahore)
  • Ikiryo is set in Japan (about the Japanese legend of the Ikiryo, the living-dead)
  • Masala Nightmares is set in India (demons and body-snatching)
ATISHFISHAN
A short story, using Lovecraft’s mythos, set in the southern deserts of Pakistan, included in the Lovecraft tribute magazine The Arkham Diaries.

Asian Horror Month – First Ever Ghost Story Game – Angela Yuriko Smith

First Ever Ghost Story Game

Happy Halloween!

Six authors got together to play an impromptu story telling game. Join us and laugh as we try to make up spooky tales on the spot. Thanks to Kate Jonez and Omnium Gatherum for helping bring the Ghost Story Game to life… and thanks for the brave participants: Geneve Flynn, Lee Murray, Austin Gragg, Ryan Aussie Smith and Eric Shapiro.

About Angela Yuriko Smith

Angela Yuriko Smith is an American poet, publisher, and author with over 20 years of experience in newspaper journalism. She co-publishes Space and Time magazine with author husband Ryan Aussie Smith. For more information visit SpaceandTime.net

Historian of Horror: All Are Mad But Me and Thee-and Sometimes I Wonder About Thee

All Are Mad But Me and Thee — 

And Sometimes I Wonder About Thee.

by Mark Orr

At the end of the silent movie period, French film director René Clair went on the record as being very skeptical of sound, feeling that it was “an unnatural creation” Cinema as its own art form was a purely visual one, he thought, and the introduction of sound would make films nothing more than recorded stage plays. He relented, and made some truly great sound films, but watching what is, as far as I’ve been able to determine the earliest surviving Japanese horror film, Teinosuke Kinugasa’s Kurutta Ippeji (A Page of Madness), one might wonder if he wasn’t on to something. 

Not that Kinugasa was aware of Clair’s opinion in 1926, or even of his work; there’s no indication that he saw any western films at the beginning of his career. He started in the industry as a female impersonator in 1917, then switched to directing once Japanese studios began using female actors in the early 1920s. It wasn’t until 1929 that he had the opportunity to travel abroad and encounter European films, which makes Kurutta Ippeji all the more remarkable. Stylistically, it would fit very nicely into any one of several European traditions, particularly German expressionism. There is in Kinugasa’s picture more than a trace of what the French called Caligarisme, that most extreme variety of expressionism exemplified by The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, to be sure. However, it’s purely a parallel development, as Kinugasa wouldn’t have known Caligarisme in 1926 if he tripped over it. He was talented enough to discover it on his own.

A more impressive achievement is that it truly is a silent film, even more so than any that Clair had directed in France up until that time. There are no intertitles, those cards that pop up periodically in almost all silents with bits of dialogue or expository material. Kinugasa was able to tell a coherent story with no dialogue, no expository material. The images are the story, and they need nothing else. 

The story is, to be sure, a simple one. A man hires on as a janitor at the insane asylum where his wife is an inpatient. He loses contact with reality himself while attempting to extricate her from the asylum against her will, plus deal with his daughter’s disintegrating marriage. His own mental state comes to mirror that of several of the other inmates, and it is in the presentation of their madness and his that Kinugasa creates some truly horrific imagery. It possesses a poetic subtlety that possibly doesn’t translate well into our time for most modern horror fans, which is a damn shame. 

Like almost all early Japanese films, it was thought lost until Kinugasa came across a copy in his garden shed in the 1970s, a few years after his long and very productive career had come to an end. He died in 1982, at the age of eighty-six.

Edgar Allan Poe’s birthday was yesterday as I write this, an anniversary that should be near and dear to the hearts of all horror fans. Poe is also revered by the mystery buffs, who named their most prestigious award the Edgar in his honor. And in his honor, the second part of this celebration of Asian horrors is herewith presented unto the populace.

Japanese mystery writer Tirō Hirai adopted the pseudonym Edogawa Ranpo (sometimes written as Rampo) in 1923. If you say that new name fast, it sort of sounds like Poe’s full name, which was the point, I do believe. Regardless, he had a long and distinguished career as a mystery author, penning numerous novels and short stories.

Which has what to do with horror, Asian or otherwise? you may well ask. Well, like many writers, Ranpo had difficulty playing in his own sandbox. On occasion, he would tinker with other genres. One such time, he came up with what might well be the creepiest tale I’ve ever read. 

A prominent lady writer receives a manuscript from an aspiring author. In it, he tells of his life as a hideously ugly and poverty-stricken chair-maker, a man whose carpentry skills are as great as his social skills are poor. Having received a commission for a large chair to be installed in a fancy hotel, he decides to build one that he can hide in so that he can sneak out and steal from the wealthy clientele. He spends months living in this chair, emerging from it at night to pilfer valuables. He waxes rhapsodic on how various people sit on him during the day, how he could differentiate one type of person from another by how their bodies press down onto his.

After a long time, the carpenter writes, the hotel decided to redecorate, and the chair was sold. And guess what! You’re sitting on me now! The lady author freaks and flees, only to receive a second letter telling her that the manuscript is pure fiction, ha-ha, just kidding. Did you like it and would you help me get it published? It shall be called, “The Human Chair”. This seems like a cheat on a par with The Wizard of Oz having all been a dream. If the second letter is true.

If. 

If not…

Well?

See? Creepy, right?

Ranpo published his story, also called “The Human Chair”, in 1925, in the October issue of the literary magazine, Kuraku. I first read it in David Alexander’s 1962 paperback anthology, Tales for a Rainy Night

It can also be found in Peter Haining’s 1972 anthology Beyond the Curtain of Dark and in Ranpo’s own collection, Japanese Tales of Mystery and Imagination. And no doubt in others. I encourage all and sundry among the populace to seek it out, in order to see for yourself if it delivers the same frisson to you it did to me the first time I read it. 

And, as always, be afraid. Be very afraid.

Negan at Nekhen by Michael Fassbender

 

Negan at Nekhen by Michael Fassbender

I tend to be a Johnny-come-lately to famous TV programs. I don’t maintain cable or streaming subscriptions, so I catch up with the programs I choose to watch after they come out on DVD, sometimes years later. This year, I am getting caught up with The Walking Dead, and at the moment, I am watching season seven. I am now getting to know Negan.

I knew that Negan was a controversial character. Some fans hated him enough to abandon the series entirely after his brutal debut. Others have considered him the best long-term villain yet; for my part, I haven’t formulated my opinion on that. I’ve been too busy noticing something else. Negan shows how far people have descended from civilization as we know it by serving as a throwback to a style of leadership as old as the late Neolithic. Specifically, he breathes life into something I have read about only recently. 

Since childhood, I’ve maintained a fascination with ancient Egypt. I’ve kept up, more or less, with major discoveries and at least the outlines of Egyptian history as our understanding has shifted over the years. The Egyptians were a civilized and humane people, comparing favorably with most of their neighbors, most of the time. At the earliest stage of their history, though, even they practiced a form of human sacrifice. The burial of a king’s retainers with him after he died went on through the end of the second dynasty, before the first of the pyramids was built.

More recently, I became aware of even darker currents in the predynastic period. Two years ago I read the first two volumes of John Romer’s History of Ancient Egypt. This was a fascinating and thought-provoking work, but the most intriguing of all was his reconstruction of the predynastic, about which we have learned so much in the last thirty years. Alongside the more benign notes, like the importance of cylindrical seals to the formation of Egyptian writing, came the startling revelation of the more brutal side of early chiefdoms in southern Egypt, above all in the important town of Nekhen.

Nekhen, later known as Hierakonpolis, was a major predynastic site that may have set many of the patterns of later pharaonic civilization. It is generally thought that the unifier of Egypt, Narmer, had come from Nekhen, and its patron god, Horus, became the first king of the gods under the unified state. Nekhen provides the earliest example of tomb paintings, significantly including boats as a major image. We also find the earliest examples of the royal Smiting motif in connection with early Nekhen chiefs.

The Smiting motif presents the king with his right arm raising a mace above his head, and his left hand grasping the hair of a kneeling foe. It is understood that the king is about to deal a crushing blow to the head of his enemy. In this historic period, this image was understood symbolically; it represented the king as the champion of the forces of order (a word synonymous with truth in Egyptian) defeating the powers of chaos. 

Primitive versions of the Smiting motif were found at several predynastic sites in Egypt, with at least one estimated to around 3500 BC. While nineteenth-century scholars often thought the image suggested military conquest, more recent scholars tended to assume the motif held the same symbolic significance as it did in later centuries, until it was noted that a number of bodies found in predynastic graves near Nekhen showed the evidence of a crushing blow to the head. The Smiting image was therefore no mere symbol in the predynastic period, but a harsh reality for some members of the population. As this predates the written word even in Egypt, it is unlikely that we will ever know for sure the context of these killings. They may have been human sacrifices, or criminal executions, or something else entirely. The one thing we know with a high level of probability is that they were members of the same population, not foreign captives. Their bodies were buried in the same cemeteries with the same kinds of grave goods as those who died from natural causes, indicating membership in the same society.

In short, the predynastic people of Nekhen witnessed the same grim political theater that Rick Grimes and his team suffered when Negan killed Abraham and Glenn with Lucille. One or more people were killed by crushing blows to the head by a strong man who used the exercise to demonstrate his supremacy, or establish his dominion. With this as the true subtext of both cases, the introduction of Negan in The Walking Dead serves as an eerie parallel to real events taking place half the world and 5500 years earlier.

One might call it a striking resemblance.

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Michael Fassbender is a part-time writer in the Chicago area. His story Inmateappeared in Sanitarium Magazine in 2016; The Cold Girlappeared in Hypnos Magazine in 2016 and has resurfaced in October 2019 in a volume entitled Re-Haunts. But Together We Are Stronghas appeared in the February 2020 issue of Horror Magazine, Miroir de Vaugnacfound its place in Dark Divinations on May Day, and Schattenlenkers Hidden Treasurewas revealed in The Nightside Codex in August. This Halloween, Old Growthbegan spreading in Scary Stuff. You can read about more of his work on his website, michaeltfassbender.com.

Asian Horror Month: What’s Your Lens? by Geneve

Geneve Flynn is a freelance editor from Australia who specialises in speculative fiction. Her horror short stories have been published in various markets, including Flame Tree Publishing, Things in the Well, and the Tales to Terrify podcast. She loves tales that unsettle, all things writerly, and B-grade action movies; if that sounds like you, check out her website at www.geneveflynn.com.au

 

What’s your lens?

By Geneve Flynn

There are rules of craft and objective reasons why a story works and why it doesn’t. Without interrogating which lenses we see through, it can be easy to assume that what makes a story good is universal.

However, writing and editing is very much subjective. There are stories that resonate with me that ring false for you. So much of the reading experience isn’t just the text on the page, but all the stuff you bring to it as a reader. What you’ll imagine will be different from what I imagine, simply because your life experiences, your lenses, are different from mine.

For avid readers, a good chunk of our experiences are based on what we read. The problem is that much of what’s been published historically has been limited in diversity. When we only see stories that show the world through a monolithic lens, we can start to think that’s the only way to read and write.

That can be particularly harmful for a writer, even more so for an editor. There’s a risk of guiding and limiting a narrative to characters, settings, and storylines that are familiar.

When award-winning author and editor Lee Murray and I got chatting at the biennial Genrecon convention in Brisbane, we realized that there were few stories that truly reflected our experiences. We’re both of Asian descent, both women, both writing horrorwhere were those stories? There was an absence of perspective that we wanted to answer.

We went digging and unearthed a wealth of fiercely talented Southeast Asian horror writers, and set about putting together an anthology. Black Cranes: Tales of Unquiet Women was published this September through Omnium Gatherum, and to our great delight, the reviews showed that the anthology was doing exactly what we hoped.

The unique anxieties experienced by Asian women were so masterfully penned here that reading it really was an eye-opening experience. Gingernuts of Horror

“The preconceived notions of both the authors’ identities and of the limitations of the horror genre itself will be smashed to pieces, to the delight of readers.” Library Journal

One of the benefits of fiction from diverse perspectives is that it makes us acutely aware of our own perceptions. It helps us examine how we experience a story. There’s an opportunity to become cognizant of the lenses we carry within us, and to magnify them, or switch them out for something new.

Black Cranes and other publications like it, written by and centering diverse voices, are holding up lenses that show readers, writers, and editors new ways to see. They’re expanding the boundaries of what’s possible, and that can only be a good thing.

If you’d like to read Black Cranes: Tales of Unquiet Women, head over to OmniumGatherum’s site: https://omniumgatherumedia.com/black-cranes

Here’s a list of the authors who contributed to Black Cranes. Check them out if you’d like more brilliant dark fiction.

Contributors

Nadia Bulkin: https://nadiabulkin.wordpress.com

Grace Chan: https://gracechanwrites.com

Rin Chupeco: https://www.rinchupeco.com

Elaine Cuyegkeng: https://twitter.com/layangabi?lang=en

Gabriela Lee: https://sundialgirl.com

Rena Mason: https://www.renamason.ink

Lee Murray: https://www.leemurray.info

Angela Yuriko Smith: http://angelaysmith.com

Christina Sng: http://www.christinasng.com

Foreword by

Alma Katsu: https://www.almakatsubooks.com

Asian Horror Month: Book Review/REVENGE by Yoko Ogawa (Japanese)

Book Review – REVENGE by Yoko Ogawa (Japanese)

(English translation by Stephen Snyder)

Review by Renata Parvey

Yoko Ogawa is one of my favorite contemporary writers, and I love how her writing covers a range of genres, all brilliant works in their own way. Revenge is a peculiar book, written in the form of short stories, where each story connects to another – in no particular order – culminating into a larger tale somewhere down the line. More recently, Jane Borges’ Bombay Balchao was another book written in the experimental fiction format – a collection of seemingly unrelated short stories woven together to form a novel. Both Ogawa and Borges are a pure delight to readers with their literary prowess in taking writing – and reading – to a different level.

Coming back to Revenge, it can be termed as a series of dark tales, with sinister elements binding them to one another. The protagonist of one story can be a minor character in another, at times not even named – leaving the reader to decipher who we are reading about, what role they play in each story, are they even connected or does the reader feel so because we assume the stories are strung together. The eerie world created by Ogawa moves across generations, time spans, places – past, present, future, the real world and the supernatural, fact and fantasy all drawn in as well as apart from each other.

An aspiring writer, a murderous landlady, an obsessed bag maker, a singer, a surgeon, a Bengal tiger, a mother, strawberry cake – crossing paths and converging their fates in this dark web of vengefulness. Ogawa can be emotional and unsettling, impassive and heartbreaking, creepy and gentle. Her macabre take on relationships and emotions make this book effectively terrifying. Revenge is not horror in the traditional sense. A passenger train, a bakery, home gardening – the fact that her settings are so bland ups the ante of the terrors that lurk within. Ogawa’s writing can transform a normal scene next door to something downright horrifying – nothing seems out of the ordinary, and you can’t tell when and how the horror crept up on you. The best part is connecting the stories, navigating clues as you wander in this strange world.

Of course, Ogawa’s frequent English translation collaborator Stephen Snyder deserves as much of credit as the writer herself, for marvelously bringing life to her stories. Revenge is a disturbing collection for those who revel in the written word and the beauty she creates with literature.

My rating – 5/5 

Renata Pavrey ~ December 2020

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Renata Parvey is a Nutritionist by profession; marathon runner and Odissi dancer by passion. Driven by sports, music, animals, plants, literature and more. Reads across several genres and languages, and loves the world of horror – in both, books and movies.