Dark Dreams Excerpt Fiction Friday Emerian Rich

Read a free excerpt from Mark Slade’s anthology Dark Dreams.

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Through the dark recesses of the dreamworld come strange stories of horror, terror and wonder, with a mysterious question: how can so many people have the same dreams?

Read Emerian Rich’s “Vampire Therapy” in this anthology of dream terror, Dark Dreams from Rogue Planet Press

Here are the stories from the minds of: Mark Slade, Thomas M. Malafarina, D. S. Scott, John C. Adams, Emerian Rich, Jason Norton, P. J. Griffin, Mr. Deadman, David Ludford, Joseph J. Patchen, Mark Tompkins, E. S. Wynn, Shawn Clay, Kevin Rees.

Cover and Art by Cameron Hampton

Read a free excerpt from Emerian Rich’s story, “Vampire Therapy” below.

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Vampire Therapy

by Emerian Rich

“And how’s work?”

“Crap, as always.” Amy sat back on her therapist’s couch with a definitive slouch.

“And the dreams? Still the same?” Dr. Whitefield studied her with the same non-judgmental, impartial serenity she always did.

“Yes,” Amy answered. “I mean mostly, yes.”

“How do they differ?” Whitefield shifted in her chair and leaned forward. Perhaps interested in the change, or just interested to hear something—anything—different after three years of therapy. Maybe grasping at a straw, a small sliver of hope that she’d helped.

“Well, it still starts with Thomas. He’s in the park, it’s snowing as always and he is happy, walking through the winter wonderland. But he realizes the snow falling is ash and he runs. What’s different is now, when he turns the corner in the path to go through the tunnel, you know, where I am and he can’t ever get to me, there is a bed. One of those royal beds with curtains and all done up in red velvet.”

“Interesting.”

“And I’m there on the bed and there’s a man looming over me. He’s got long auburn hair and these eyes that…Well anyway, he’s good looking and he keeps covering me so Thomas can’t see.”

“And?”

“And that’s it. I wake up.”

“How does Thomas respond?”

“I don’t see his reaction. I just feel the man hovering over me.”

“Well, Amy, I think this is progress. I think your dreams are telling you, you are ready to think about dating someone new. As if your subconscious is telling you it’s okay to move on.”

“You think?”

“Yes, I do.” Whitehead sat back, a self-satisfied grin on her lips. “The next step for you, however, is to allow yourself to explore the possibility that there could be someone else in your life.”

Amy smiled even though she had no hope of shedding her grief. She wanted to tell the doctor that when she wakes up, she sees the man’s face in front of her. He looks her in the eyes and she feels herself lose all willpower. Those prismatic golden eyes. Then he plunges to her neck and disappears.

A chime from Whitehead’s desk signaled the session over and she stood to shake Amy’s hand.

“You’re doing very well. I’m proud of you. You’ve turned a corner, and I’m excited to see where this breakthrough will take you.”

“Me too.” Amy shook hands and stood, moving to the door.

“See you next week. And good news, soon we could be meeting less frequently.”

Amy smiled and turned on her heel. It had been three years since Thomas… Her nose started running before tears streamed down her face. Well, that was new. Usually her tears were the first to come. Thomas was gone. Passed away when terrorists targeted his law firm’s building in an attack. Everyone kept giving her the same line. She should be happy, they caught the bastards. But where did that leave her? Just because the criminals were caught didn’t mean her pain suddenly disappeared. She hadn’t even been able to bury her husband, there wasn’t enough left to recover. It was almost like Thomas would walk through the door at any moment. Like he left to pick up milk and just took the long way home.

“Sweet-ums, I’m home and I brought cookies!” she could hear his voice in her head as clear as day, but it was just in her head. Thomas was gone.

As she readied for bed, she remembered the first night without him. It had been horrible sleeping alone. Her therapist suggested a full body pillow to make it seem like someone was there, but no one was there. Dating or finding a new man was out of the question. Thomas had been her soul mate. They met in their thirties, both knowing they had never met anyone like each other.

“One of a kind,” he used to say. How would she ever find another one of a kind?

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Amy stared up at the ceiling for thirty minutes, forty, fifty. The clock ticked by. When she hit the hour mark, she turned on the light and switched on a meditation CD her therapist suggested to calm her nerves.

Lights off, she closed her eyes and took a deep breath. The sounds of flute and ocean waves did, if not calm her, give her something to concentrate on besides the fact the only person who made her life worth living had died.

The waves reminded her of the summer before Thomas’ death when he took her to the beach off the coast of Mendocino. They walked the sands, held hands, and at sunset, he took her in his arms and kissed her. She felt a tear run down the side of her cheek. There was no reason to wipe it away, it would have brothers. Perhaps the only children she would ever have, the tears of her grief.

She heard someone breathe and her eyes flew open, staring blindly into the darkness before her. It was just her own breath.

She reached over and turned on the light. She’d leave it on. No reason to worry about the electricity bill. She had nothing extravagant left to spend her paycheck on anyway. She closed her eyes and thought about the ocean again.

“Enough, Amy. Remember…focus on the future, not the past. The future not the past. Future not the past…”

She floated into a light sleep. She didn’t want to overreact, but this was the earliest she’d been able to sleep yet. As soon as she began to relax, she felt the heaviness from her dream. A kind of pressure and coldness came over her.

Her eyes flew open and before her was a man’s face, so close she couldn’t focus. It was blurry, but it looked like the man from her dream, the one who was always kissing her neck.

“You’re real?” she asked.

His eyes widened and he drew back, sitting so quickly in the chair next to her bed, she thought she must still be dreaming. Yes, he was there, real, and she was awake. She stared at the man.

You can see me? He had a British accent.

“Who are you?” She drew the covers up to her neck, feeling more naked than she was. She had on Thomas’s Giants T-shirt, it wasn’t like she was nude. But there was a man in her bedroom! “Why are you…how did you?”

Good God! She can see me and she’s wondering how I got in? He laughed. Priceless.

“Hey, buddy, you can’t just… I’m calling the cops!” She reached for her phone, but he was at her side in a moment and grabbed her hand. Or tried to grab her hand. She felt a cold breeze as his hand passed right through hers. She drew in a big gulp of air. “You’re a…a ghost?”

Damn it all to hell! He turned and paced the room.

It was her turn to laugh at him as he attempted to kick the garbage can, the chair, and the bed. None of his effort caused the items to budge. He whipped around and came close to her, the look of fury causing her laughter to stop. Her breath caught in her throat.

Don’t you dare laugh at me, do you hear me? Or I’ll…I’ll never let you sleep!

“You can’t threaten me.” She scowled as he backed away. “You can’t do anything to me! You can’t even touch me!”

Oh yes? How’ve you been sleeping lately, eh? Had any good dreams?

“You! You’ve been causing my insomnia?”

Well it’s not Thomas, whoever the hell he is.

“Shut up! You don’t know anything about him.”

Happily. He rolled his eyes.

“How dare you speak of my deceased husband like that! Get out!” She grabbed her lotion from the bedside table and hurled it at him. The lotion flew right through him and landed on the floor. “Get out!” She picked up a magazine and it joined the lotion on the floor, never touching him.

Now who’s frustrated, love?

“What do you want?”

I’m really just here to steal your energy, but now you ask, I do have a message for you.

“You’ve seen Thomas? Where is he? Is he here? Why can’t I see him?

No. Cease your needless mourning. If he’s gone, he’s better off, believe me.

“Bastard! He loved me!”

Sure he did, but anyway—

“Shove it up your—”

Careful now. He stood close to her again, giving a serious threat stare. She felt a coldness emanate from him and pulled the covers up.

“This is my house. You need to leave and find someone else to keep up at night.”

Ah, but you’re the only one who can see me, so you’re the one that will do an errand for me.

“You mean, you steal others energy too?”

What, are you hurt? How quaint. Little Amy’s dead husband left her and now she’s being two-timed by her resident ghost. What do you care if I suck a couple of zaps off Mrs. Murphy?

“Mrs. Murphy down the hall? Yuck! No, not really?”

Yes, and Pam and Stella downstairs, and a few of the girls in that college apartment, you know the one with the strapping young buck who beds them and makes them get their own brekkie? Now he’s a man after my own heart.

“Why don’t you go suck from him, then.”

Him? No, no. My tastes have never run to the male persuasion. Plus, his little conquests come so full of energy, I nearly have my fill every time.

“You’re sick.”

No. I’m dead. And don’t have a choice. I’m trapped here.

“How are you trapped?”

I can go about town, but every evening I wake in the spot I died.

“You died in my apartment?”

Not technically. In the hall, in front of 6B.

“This must have been ages ago, I never heard of a murder in this building.”

It was but two months ago. That brat Sammy did it.

“Sammy Olsen killed you? I don’t believe it. He’s seven years old.”

He’s a slayer. He used a common everyday Number 2 pencil, the blighter.

“Wait. Huh?”

Keep up, love. He smirked. Not the sharpest nail in the box are you?

“You’re talking nonsense.”

I’ll spell it out for you. I was a vampire. He opened his mouth and tapped a fang. Sammy punctured me, stabby, stabby, yeah? With a bloody pencil. Now I’m stuck outside your door for eternity.

She stared, unsure she was really awake. Was this some kind of elaborate dream?

Hello? He snapped his fingers in front of her face. “Jesus…what a waste. You know, you aren’t bad looking, but this dense stare has got to stop. You’ll never get a new husband if you—”

“I don’t want a new husband. I want Thomas.”

Clearly, he’s gone.

She just stared, he was right. Thomas was truly gone.

Blimey, she’s gone rigid.

“What do you want from me?” Amy asked, defeated. “Oh yes, energy.” She laid back spreading her arms out as if on the cross. “Go ahead, get it over with.”

Just what a guy likes to hear. You take all the fun out of it. When I come back to flesh, I’ll be sure to kill you first so you can be with your beloved Thomas. You are truly a waste of life, you know that?

“You’re dead. There’s no coming back.”

Watch me. I did it once, I don’t see why I can’t again. I’m getting stronger every day. Why last Thursday all I could do was sway the curtains, now you can see me and I knocked over the plant in the hall. Soon, I’ll have enough power to kill the slayer and return to my throne.

“Kill little Sammy?”

Why not? He killed me didn’t he?

“You’re right. He can defend himself. Perhaps he’ll have his pencil with him again.” She smirked, happy for once she got a cut in on him. He looked burned. She’d really hurt him. He swished to her side and stood very close, still intimidating in his translucent, ghost form.

He won’t have another chance. His voice rattled out from the grave. Coldness wrapped around her like a glove, sending a chill up her spine and causing goosebumps to break out all over her body. Before her teeth chattered, she clamped them shut, trying to think of another jab that would piss him off enough to go away.

“The way I see it,” she said, her voice shaking despite her attempt at control. Her breath puffed out before her as if it were the middle of winter. “You weren’t a very smart vampire if a seven-year-old could outsmart you.” Amy saw a flash of anger on his already enraged face. Fire burned in his eyes and his jaw clenched. A sudden whoosh sound signaled him entering her body and she felt a pressure in her brain, as if it were too full, like a sinus infection, hangover, and being underwater all at the same time. His echoing voice came from her lips.

Listen here, you dimwitted, widowed, sadsack. I am Jamison, Baxter, Antonio the Third, King of Vampires, and I will suck you dry. Suck you dry!

The pressure in Amy’s brain reached an unbearable level and just as she gasped for breath, blackness overtook her.

Find out how the story ends in Dark Dreams from Rogue Planet Press.

Kbatz: 666 Park Avenue

666 Park Avenue Had Spooky Potential

by Kristin Battestella

Yes, I am superstitious about the number, and 666 Park Avenue probably began with one foot in its 13 episode grave thanks to its polarizing name. Though flawed with an unclear theme and a rushed rectification, this 2012 limited run remains a frightfully fun marathon.

New building managers Jane van Veen (Rachael Taylor) and Henry Martin (Dave Annabel) move into The Drake, a historic complex owned by penthouse living Gavin Doran (Terry O’Quinn) and his wife Olivia (Vanessa Williams). As Gavin uses his wealth and influence to advance Henry’s political ambitions, Jane renovates the building, finding unusual secrets alongside fellow resident Nona (Samantha Logan). Neighbors Brian (Robert Buckley) and his photographer wife Louise (Mercedes Masohn) encounter the unexplained at The Drake themselves, as does Louise’s sultry assistant Alexis (Helena Mattsson). Ghostly phenomena, suspicious residents, and past mysteries escalate as Jane digs deeper into the building’s history – and discovers her own deadly secrets.

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Although 666 Park Avenue is loosely based upon a book, the series ironically shares several similarities with the equally ill fated series The Gates, which aired two summers prior on ABC. Our new tenants move into a luxury, too good to be true apartment building, taking a working position in a community where their predecessor left under unusual circumstances. The ridiculously short credits also flash a lone title card before the listings scroll over the opening action, making who’s a regular or who’s merely recurring tough to deduce. Like The Gates, 666 Park Avenue also pads its short 42 minutes – or less – with unnecessary song montages, and despite a classy billionaire interracial couple at the top, diversity is lacking elsewhere. Does ABC keep repeating this formula hoping to get it right? The numerous writers and directors have no consistency for 666 Park Avenue, and the characters are their roles rather than truly bloomed personalities. The mismatched couples are unevenly developed and only seen hurrying home or leaving late. Some are in on the spooky while others are not, and most of the residents only interact for a hello or goodbye in the surprisingly tiny lobby. The Drake seems more like a hotel thanks to a weekly revolving door where regulars are left hanging for other going nowhere spooky. People are being sucked into the walls for goodness sake but 666 Park Avenue moves away from its scary core for irrelevant corporate schemes, Madoff name drops, and political double talk. Instead of sullying evil with the same old prime time hitmen or political assassinations, maybe not being so New York City steeped or having been period set may have let the building intrigue shine. The wicked blackmail in the second half of the series does better, but the ridiculous need to have an upscale party literally every other episode gets old fast. Truly, no one episode of 666 Park Avenue is all super, the audience never receives the answers we really want, and poor structuring muddles the quality paranormal pieces.

Fortunately, 666 Park Avenue is more spooky than nighttime soap opera with an adult cast, mature situations, desperate pleas, eerie phone calls, and mysterious contracts due. Thunder, spooky zooms, and ominous doors lead to residents with suspicious blood on their hands, petty thefts, and one creepy laundry room. The Pilot gets to the ghostly prospects early alongside deadly quid pro quo requests and a nefarious Order of Dragon past. This first hour feels like a decent haunted house movie, showcasing the eponymous elevator mishaps, spooky stairwells, and murderous flashbacks. Perhaps episode five “A Crowd of Demons” uses a Halloween party excuse too soon – we don’t know the players enough to see them dressed up yet – but this is an atmospheric good time once the ghosts break loose. After an uneven first half, “Downward Spiral” begins to get to the bottom of The Drake only to have its reveals delayed until Show Nine “Hypnos.” Stock crashes, evil men in suits, sacrifices, and past rituals pepper the upscale where we least expect it. Play up those literal trips down memory lane, the mental hospital scares, bricked up fireplaces, and spooky books! “The Comfort of Death” toys with ghosts in the mirror and long lived curses while “Sins of the Fathers” adds priests and more 1927 living history coming back to rent an apartment. Reappearing pills taunt an addict, a knightly organization battles The Drake’s Order of the Dragon – a lot of should have been there all along paranormal is tossed in too late along with a halfhearted evil topper in the “Lazarus” finale, and those dangerous bathtubs, past drownings, and bricked up bodies make viewers wonder why 666 Park Avenue wastes so much time on shopworn auxiliary in its early episodes.

Where the eponymous complex’s supernatural threats are quite interesting, our would be heroic couple Rachael Taylor (Jessica Jones) as Jane and Dave Annabel (Brothers & Sisters) as Henry are a touch too innocent, plain, and naive for 666 Park Avenue. They don’t seem like much of a pair, just New York ambitious with lots of parties interfering while Jane’s connection to the building – which should have been immediately solidified – is strung along until the seventh episode. There’s generic architecture talk, but Jane merely breaks a few things and knocks down some walls in her haunted house reveals without finishing projects or following through on the top to bottom explorations. Eventually, it seems like the idea of Jane and Henry being building co-managers is dropped altogether, as the totally unaware of the paranormal Henry doesn’t seem to care about Jane’s pleas to move or her fear for her life until she goes missing and ends up in an institution. Of course, Jane has no right to complain about Henry’s politics getting shady when she has been keeping secrets about The Drake the entire time, and these plots that should be powerful are erroneously intercut with weaker B and C stories. William Sadler (Death in Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey yes!) is great as Jane’s estranged father, however, his horror heavyweight potential comes to 666 Park Avenue too late. Likewise, Henry’s spooky dreams don’t happen until the finale, as if the potluck writers simply forgot that Jane had the supernatural visions. It’s not the actors’ faults, nor the dozens of writers and directors who otherwise do fine work, but it seems like there was no character bible for this duo, leaving the audience anchorless to the very persons for whom we should cheer.

13th floor penthouse power couple Terry O’Quinn (Lost) and Vanessa Williams (Ugly Berry) certainly have the slick and suspicious afoot capabilities, but once again the mixed motivations on 666 Park Avenue hamper their scene chewing. At once, Olivia seems like a clueless fairy godmother lavishing on the newbies. However, one too many times she deus ex machina conveniently helps Gavin out of an evil jam before being unaware again by the next episode. Gavin, of course, threatens someone every hour to prove he is the top of the top, using politicians to get rid of mysterious rivals or swiftly dealing with dangerous minions. He knows all along about some secrets yet is blindsided by other evil trickery. If he’s so powerful, why is his demonic brand such a slippery slope under constant threat? The rug is cut out from under the viewer when his evil hierarchy, past Order of the Dragon connections, and good versus evil religious aspects are never fully explained. 666 Park Avenue plays with pedestrian dirty politics too long, and I swear they literally pull a Seven from Married…with Children and send the Dorans’ pointless daughter down the stairs to never be heard from again.

 

Sadly, I’m not sure the yuppie marital discourse of Robert Buckley’s (One Tree Hill) struggling playwright Brian and his wife Mercedes Masohn (Fear the Walking Dead) as bitchy photographer Louise are necessary at all. Sure, they add bubble bath steamy and voyeurism, but oddly, 666 Park Avenue remains tame in the would be saucy affairs. Paranormal drug addictions and fatal attraction with Helena Mattsson (Betrayal) as Louise’s assistant Alexis become completely uninvolved with the aforementioned characters’ storylines, and although the gambling debts being tattooed onto Enrique Murciano (Without a Trace) as romantic Doctor Scott are a neat Karma twist, it never goes anywhere. The paranormal stamp on Brian’s writing is late in the game to save the wishy washy between his women, and we don’t know what’s really going on with Alexis and her debt until Episode Ten. Rather than juggling too many superfluous paranormal residents and their wannabe The Devil’s Advocate deals with Gavin and compromising the series, 666 Park Avenue should have combined these plots for just one strong younger couple, thus earning a second year to introduce some deadly love triangles.

But wait, there’s more trite with the stereotypical magical negro psychic and rebel teen Samantha Logan (Teen Wolf) as Nona. Not only do redundant ghosts also impart similar mysterious warnings, but Nona doesn’t always share what she knows, inexplicably leaving only the audience aware of the clairvoyance. Of course, Nona also has a magical negro grandmother in a wheelchair, and Ghost Guinan herself Whoopi Goldberg also makes an appearance as some kind of Matrix Oracle where, I hate to say it, she seems more like she’s just talking on The View. Erik Palladino (ER) as doorman Tony is also treated as a subservient ethnic minority picked over for a higher position but used as a thug or handyman and deliveries as needed. 666 Park Avenue also has a black widow obsessed with youth, an obituary writer who changes people’s lives with her pen, and two detectives snooping about The Drake. Well, one detective anyway – Teddy Sears (Masters of Sex) continues as another going nowhere side plot while his female black partner is never shown again. Typical.

 

Thankfully, symphony moments and ironic classic tunes add upscale accents to the blackmail and violence on 666 Park Avenue while creepy dream travels, phantom hallways, and hidden aspects of the building slowly reveal some sinister. It’s frustrating when something spooky happens only to be cut away for an ominous commercial edit, but distorted wide lenses and through the keyhole photography add a sense of askew not found on your typical New York drama. The women’s over-arched eyebrows give them a perpetual wow face, people researching their family history never bother to use ancestry.com, and some special effects look mighty poor. However, folks being sucked into the floor is pretty darn cool, and the 1920s styles make up for the contemporary lookalikes and lacking attention to detail. 666 Park Avenue has too many people, side politics interfere with the paranormal goods, and it takes half the thirteen episodes to really get going. The Drake’s spooky promise is never fully refined, and the episodic dragging once again proves that network television needs to catch up with today’s tightly paced shows and no time to waste storytelling. 666 Park Avenue should have been a taught 6 episodes rather than bloating itself with broad filler. Ironically, while improving on The Gates with its more spooky adult drama, these same pitfalls that shuttered The Gates condemns 666 Park Avenue.

It’s annoying when such creepy potential and likable actors don’t get the well thought out summer event series they deserve. Could have, should have – 666 Park Avenue is by no means great. Yet despite my negativity on the show’s never quite hitting the right notes, it was indeed entertaining to marathon for the weekend, and 666 Park Avenue fits well for viewers new to horror, budding paranormal teens, or those looking for something upscale and spooky but light on fear.

Free Fiction Friday: Dark Soul by Emerian Rich

punkprintThis is a throw back… reaching into the writing crypt for my very first publication credit. A poem of my youth that can still make me feel like I did back then. I’ve since realized, this is a symptom of our age. For many of us Dark Souls… we’ve had to come a long way to be comfortable with ourselves. For some of us, the path was to much to bear and we miss you dearly. For others, they are still trying to drown themselves in poison to be able to function in our world. For us rare few who have seen it to the other side, stay strong!

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Dark Soul

By: Emerian Rich

If the world was as dark as my soul…

But it isn’t, I’m isolated.

 

What a powdered, pink mother

Gives birth to is all her

Fear of death.

 

But we aren’t scared anymore, are we?

 

A childhood of fear has turned into

Hopelessness,

Helplessness,

Finally, fearlessness.

 

We are strong aren’t we?

We are jaded and mean.

We are heartless and rude.

 

Sometimes I cry at the things I’ve done,

For loving myself,

For doing what I want.

 

Where do I go to get rid of the guilt

From that house with the white picket fence?

 

I try to drown it in all types of poison.

Torture to my body and soul.

 

But there’s no hope at last

I’m dying from it.

The guilt of my mother’s past.

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If you have poetry to share with us, please send it to: horroraddicts@gmail.com

Free Fiction Friday: Her Eyes Were October by Chantal Boudreau

Her Eyes Were October

 by Chantal Boudreau

Her eyes were October

With a harsh and chilly stare

Rejecting what I’d done

Her look letting me know it

 

Her eyes were October

With no April found in there

Don’t forget, don’t forgive

She would never move past it

 

Her eyes were October

With a suffocating glare

Punished me at each turn

I just couldn’t escape it

 

Her eyes were October

With a cold I could not bear

Needing warmth, needing love

I somehow had to claim it

 

So I brought winter to that gaze

Frozen death, end of days

Time bled away in liquid red

And now I’m truly free

 

I’ll find spring thaw in other eyes

No more ice, no more lies

The bliss of March, all fresh and new

That’s what I’ll finally see.

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zombiemepicAside from being a long-time fan of the zombie genre via books, movies and now TV, Chantal Boudreau began her existence as a published author with a zombie short story named “Palliative” in an anthology called “Vampires, Zombies and Ghosts – Oh My!” published by Notreebooks.  This was followed by the publication of several other zombie shorts: “Just Another Day”, “Waking the Dead”, “Escarg-0”, “Life and Undeath on the Chain Gang,” and “One Lonely Night” in the May December Publications’ anthologies “First Time Dead, Volume 1”, “Hell Hath No Fury” (all women writers), “Zero”, “Zombie Lockdown” and “Let’s Scare Cancer to Death” as well as “What a Man’s Gotta Do” in the anthology “Undead Tales” from Rymfire Books and “Deadline” in the anthology “Zombie Buffet” from Open Casket Press.  She has done extensive research for her blog series “Chantelly’s Field Guide to Zombies” and a non-fiction article on Zomedy – the dark humour in zombie fiction.  She is currently shopping a full zombie novel, Sleep Escapes Us, set in ancient Thrace and involving the myths surrounding the death god, Zalmoxis.

Without a Map by Nikki Harlin

Without a Map

by Nikki Harlin

 

i only know who

i am in the stairwell, in the basement. there—

the hand tearing through the floor boards

gropes for an ankle

to love

in the corner i tell myself

that is a portrait

when it is clear

it’s not

a mirror

i know

i’ve passed before

footprints appear behind the sound of circling hooves

in a dry field I cannot find

the door out. a scare crow leans in the wind, its hair a fire

i started to see in the stalking dark.

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Nikki Harlin is an MFA student at Cal State San Bernardino where she writes poetry and is a staff editor for Ghost Town Lit Mag.

Kbatz: House of Dark Shadows

House of Dark Shadows Creepy Fun for Long Time Fans

By Kristin Battestella

Naturally, House of Dark Shadows- the 1970 big screen debut of the hit soap opera- is essential for fans of the series.  All the scares, screams, and treats are here with an extra dose of theatrical panache.  Woohoo!

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Collins handyman Willie Loomis (John Karlen) is obsessed with finding the family jewels- especially after Roger Collins (Louis Edmunds) fires him for his angry behavior.  Unfortunately, Willie discovers the family secret is not riches, but the vampire Barnabas Collins (Jonathan Frid).  Once released from his chained coffin by Willie, Barnabas preys upon Carolyn Stoddard (Nancy Barrett), the daughter of matriarch Elizabeth Collins Stoddard (Joan Bennett).  Although Resident doctor Julia Hoffman (Grayson Hall) believes she can cure Barnabas of his vampire affliction, he plots to make governess Maggie Evans (Kathryn Leigh Scott) his vampire bride- something he was unable to accomplish with his lookalike love Josette 175 years before.

Of course, this cinematic update is a redo of the 1967 Barnabas introduction, and it is sweet to see it all in color and without television restrictions.  The camerawork is horror film perfect- cut off points of view and askew angles up the scares with claustrophobic and intimate photography. The intense vampire filming wonderfully contrasts Jonathan Frid’s nonchalant onscreen arrival, but we should know better than to believe this ‘cousin from England’ story!  Though the pacing and editing is well done, the plot and style is perhaps slow to those who don’t know the tale whilst also seemingly rushed for familiar viewers.  Director Dan Curtis (Burnt Offerings) and house writers Sam Hall and Gordon Russell have to tweak and condense months of storyline after all, and these ninety minutes do pack a lot.  Barnabas’ rising, Carolyn as a vampire, a romance with Maggie, and a vampire cure all at once; it’s a bit like the 1991 Dark Shadows: The Revival actually.
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It is odd though that characters originally present for this TV plot are absent- namely Victoria Winters, Joe Haskell, and no mention of Jeremiah Collins’ relations with Josette nor Angelique’s foil of Barnabas. Instead Maggie Evans and Jeff Clark are combined into an awkward couple. Barnabas’ love obsessions and motivations, though great and more malignant than could be shown on the show, are also a little uneven thanks to this summarizing in House of Dark Shadows. Fortunately, it’s totally amusing to see police arming with crosses and handling out silver bullets montages.  Fuzz standing guard against vamps, no questions asked!  The stakings are bloody like the likes of Hammer Horror, too- again without the hampering from television restrictions.  However, the swift filming is blessedly more for the drama then the sensational. Vampires love, feed, die. Fin.

The transferred cast for House of Dark Shadows also has its fun and drama. Even knowing what Barnabas is- or perhaps even if you don’t- Jonathan Frid is slick as always as our favorite sad and lovelorn vampire. He’s tragic, and yet Barnabas must continually cover his bloody indiscretions. Early in the film, its great to see the humble changes to John Karlen’s Willie and the violent abuses he suffers thanks to Barnabas’ unglamorous vampire rage.  The rapidly aged Barnabas segment is also disturbing, again showing the dark side of twisted vamp love. This is how a real vampire would be, after all- old, nasty, lurching towards the luscious necks for blood! Kathryn Leigh Scott is of course lovely as Maggie, but she screams an awful lot and doesn’t look quite right with any of her leading men. Thankfully, the innocence and naivety of the ladies are great against their own hot and bothered jealousies.  Nancy Barrett, usually a straight Carolyn or another demure and ditzy role in the series’ period storylines, makes a great slutty vampire! Likewise, Grayson Hall gets to play Julia Hoffman as a little more creepy.  She chain smokes and practically stalks her unrequited vampire love. Thayer David is also his usually cucumber cool Professor Stokes, but eh Roger Davis as Jeff Clark is quite the yawner as our good guy. Everyone else is on form, subdued in the scares, and delightful without the famous Dark Shadows same day tape flub ups and obvious glances towards the cue cards. Yet Davis is still over the top.  Did know one else notice?
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Don Briscoe also gets some big and sexy action for House of Dark Shadows as Carolyn’s willing jugular, but I don’t understand why the character’s name is some sort of Tom Jennings/ Todd Blake combo.  Who the heck is that?  Lisa Richards (Sabrina Stuart in the series) is also a fun wink to the audience in playing a Collins secretary named Daphne before Kate Jackson entered the series as Daphne Harridge.  Mrs. Johnson, however, looses a bit of fun with fill in actress Barbara Cason (It’s Garry Shandling’s Show) instead of regular Clarice Blackburn.  Collins staples David Henesy, Louis Edmunds, and the ever-classy Joan Bennett also don’t have much to do beyond some cursory scenes in the first half of the picture. Nevertheless, it’s fun to see other stock players in quick cameos- including wicked Reverend Trask actor Jerry Lacy as a minister, the devil’s henchman himself Humbert Allen Astredo as a doctor, Quentin’s love Terry Crawford as a nurse, and gypsy henchman Michael Stroka as a pallbearer. Even Dennis Patrick (on the show as Jason McGuire) as Sheriff Patterson gets into the vampire chase- he comes into the ladies’ bedrooms to check the garlic strands!

In addition to cast and character juiciness, House of Dark Shadows looks so, so sweet.  Though the voices are low and tough to hear, some scenes are a bit dark, and opening and closing credits strangely run over some of the action; the now period design, great nighttime suspense, red coat symbolism, and wolf howls and spooky sounds set the mood perfectly. Everything looks old and dirty as it should- not TV low budget hokey or 70s stink.  The Lyndhurst Castle and Sleepy Hollow Cemetery locations are excellent, too. I should know- I visited there last year.  No, not solely for a Dark Shadows pilgrimage, but that was certainly reason enough!  A serious scholar could have a lot of fun studying scenes versus locations frame by frame. Yes, some of the interior filming might seem crowded- most of the scenes are comings and goings in the hallway around people and through museum like antiques.  Others might also find it incredibly odd to see Dark Shadows without the familiar Collingwood and Old House sets.  Fortunately, candles, cobwebs, and a scary pool house add heaps of atmosphere.  Robert Cobert’s music is also wonderful as always- perfect for a 70s horror film. You’d never know it was originally scoring for a 60s soap!  Although I could do without a brief but dated costume party scene and annoying evil echo effects, the gore and sexy of House of Dark Shadows looks dandy. Though perhaps still too gory and mature for kids even if it’s all tame compared to today, the lengthy bites and bright red blood are just a tiny bit naughtier than the series proper.  Men rip open their shirts; victims tear off their neck bandages and submit willing for the bite!  There’s even man on man vampire attacks, too- a little homoerotica television couldn’t quite touch. There aren’t any hokey bats in House of Dark Shadows, either. Well, almost!
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Despite being a flashy consolidation feature, this is not an introductory piece.  New audiences perhaps can’t appreciate all the bells and whistles similarities and/or differences, and that’s part of the fun of House of Dark Shadows.  Certainly, some fans might also disown this theatrical adaptation thanks to the ending.  However, longtime viewers can eat up this or the sequel Night of Dark Shadows for a quick fix.  In fact, I would like to see Johnny Depp and Tim Burton’s upcoming Dark Shadows film have a similar plot and style to House of Dark Shadows.  Seventies horror film fans familiar with the series can enjoy the ride here purely as a juicy vampire movie, and I hope the remake can tie together both the essentials of the soap and the spirit of great horror cinema of the decade.  None of that Alice in Wonderland hokey this duo keeps re-treading, please!  Fortunately, it looks like a proper DVD release of House of Dark Shadows is finally forthcoming ahead of the remake- but I’d hang on to my VHS copy or catch an October airing just in case.  Fans of the gothic soap or vampire film can have a lot of fun in the House of Dark Shadows!

Band Contest – HorrorAddicts.net Theme Song

offhabandsfPRESS RELEASE
September 21, 2014

Contact: http://www.horroraddicts.net
Email: horroraddicts@gmail.com

Every three seasons, HorrorAddicts.net chooses a new theme song.

Bands / Musicians are now welcome to submit their song for possible use on the show. If chosen, your song will be played as the theme song every show for three seasons.  Your band name will be mentioned on every show to thousands of listeners across the globe. HorrorAddicts.net is an international podcast with our largest fan bases located in: UK, USA, Australia, Canada, and South Africa.

The song submitted must be in mp3 format.
Send us an email to: horroraddicts@gmail.com

Email must include:
*Your band name

*Short (100 words or less) bio.

*An mp3 of the song you’d like considered

*Contact email

*Picture of the band in png, or jpg format.

ckgbadgeThis contest closes Dec 31st, 2014 and winners will be announced publicly in 2015.

The new theme song will debut on Season 10 of HorrorAddicts.net starting in 2015.

By entering this contest, you are agreeing to allow your song played for three seasons of HorrorAddicts.net.