Logbook of Terror: Dean Can’t Drive Sixty-Five

Russell Holbrook

Startled by the roar of an engine and the screeching of tires, Dean looked up and nearly spilled coffee down the front of his partially wrinkled button-up shirt. He sputtered and coughed as the hot liquid went down the wrong way. The car charged toward him until its driver slammed on the brakes and swerved to a stop mere feet in front of him. The car door flew open. The driver leaped out. Stomping toward Dean, she yelled, “You have to do something with this goddamn car!”

Bewildered, Dean said, “Excuse me, miss, I-”

“It’s the car!” The woman screamed, cutting Dean off in mid-sentence. “You have to get rid of the car!”

Dean examined the woman, observing the fear in her eyes, hearing the sincerity in her voice. He glanced at the car which sat idling before him. He knew it instantly. Holy shit, a Delgorian 130, just like in the movie! Dean held out a hand to the woman. “I’d love to help, if you could just-”

The woman cut him off again. “Just get rid of it! Put it somewhere no one can find it!” She pulled an envelope from her bra and slammed it into Dean’s chest. It was the first time he’d been touched by a woman since his divorce six months earlier. He flinched and spilled his coffee. His eyes watched the envelope fall to the pavement below.

Several potential customers and employees who were milling around the used car lot stopped to observe the commotion.

“You deal with cars,” the woman shouted, “You deal with this one!”

She took long, deliberate strides back to the car, reached inside, and snatched up her purse. Throwing the strap over her shoulder, she glared at Dean, let out a heavy sigh, and then said, “And for God’s sake, whatever you do, don’t drive it. Don’t let anyone drive it. Please.” She stepped closer to Dean. “Do you understand me?”

Dean fixed her with a blank expression and squinted.

“Do you fucking understand me?!” She shouted.

Dean gasped and stepped back. He nodded. “Y-yes. I understand you.”

The woman stepped within inches of Dean. She lowered her voice. “No one drives this goddamn car, especially not you. Got it?”

A soft wind blew the woman’s scent of perfume and fresh shampoo up to Dean, stirring bleak memories and sorrow within. He nodded again and said flatly, “Yeah, I got it.”

The woman turned and hurried away, the short heels of her shoes clacking harshly against the pavement. Dean’s thoughts caught up with themselves and he realized how attractive he found her. He wondered if she was an actress or a model. He picked up the envelope and opened it. Inside were several folded papers. Dean glanced up, intending to call after the woman, just in time to see her ’round the corner out of the lot and head down the sidewalk. He looked at the car. It idled calmly. Dean suddenly felt like it was staring at him.

“Fuck me, man, a Delgorian 130!” An excited voice declared. “Where the hell did this come from? Don’t tell me someone was dumb enough to fuckin’ trade this in?”

“A woman just dropped it off,” Dean said to his co-worker.

“What?! You gotta be shittin’ me!” The co-worker boomed. Alec was loud, almost all the time.

Dean raised his eyebrows and shrugged. “Yep, she just left it, just like that.”

Alec looked around. “Well, where’d she go?”

“Fucking took off,” Dean said.

“What?!” Alec yelled.

Dean winced at Alec’s volume. He explained, “Yeah man, she roared in here –literally- scared Beelzebub outta me, told me to take the car and get rid of it, slammed this envelope on my chest, made me spill my coffee, and took off.”

“Dude,” Alec said, “She made you spill your coffee?”

Dean nodded. “Yes, that she did.”

The car’s engine revved and sputtered. The two used car salesmen started at the sound.

“A Delgorian 130,” Alec said, his tone nearing reverent awe. “On the shittiest car lot in the shittiest part of town. What the actual fuck, man.”

“I know, right,” Dean said.

The late afternoon sun sparkled off the spotless silver hood of the car. Dean saw his and Alec’s images reflected in the dark, tinted driver side window. Their reflections bent and warped. Their bodies curved in the middle. Their faces melted. Their mouths opened and stretched as if in a silent wail.

Dean jumped back. “Did you see that, man?”

“See what, dude?” Alec gave Dean a look of concern. “I didn’t see anything other than a badass car, man. What’d you see?”

“I…” Dean began. He stopped. “Nothing, man, I think it was the light or something.”

“Alright, man,” Alec said.

Dean cleared his throat and straightened his tie. “Um, let’s get this car moved off the lot before Hinland comes out here and starts giving us shit. We can explain it to him later.”

“Good deal,” Alec agreed.

With a foreboding feeling in his gut, Dean walked toward the car. The engine cooed in a low idle. Dean approached the door, which the woman had left wide open. Get in, a voice said in the back of his mind. Dean’s brow wrinkled. He stopped. The woman’s admonition rang loud in his memory: No one drives this goddamn car, especially not you. He quickly reached in, killed the engine, and tore the keys from the ignition. They dangled loud as he stuffed them in his pocket.

“Um, hey man,” Alec said.

“Yeah?”

“I thought you were gonna move the car.”

“The lady said not to drive it.”

Alec scoffed. “What?”

“Yeah, she said no one should drive it, especially not me.”

“Dude,” Alec said. “Why would she say some shit like that?”

Dean shrugged. “I dunno. She just did. And it gave me this weird feeling too, you know. Let’s just get Tony to move it with the wrecker.”

Alec shook his head and held out his hand. Dean sighed and turned over the keys. “Don’t be superstitious, dude,” Alec said.

Dean eyeballed Alec as he slipped into the car and brought it back to life. He revved the engine and lowered the window. “Hear that?” He shouted over the revving engine. “That’s power, dude!”

Alec stuck out his tongue and hooted. Dean chuckled and felt a bit of his apprehension slip away. Maybe that lady was just some whack job, he thought. Dean watched the car purr its way up the hill to the garage and he walked back to the showroom to get a new cup of coffee.

***

He hadn’t been able to stop thinking about the car. When Dean found himself in the garage standing in front of it that evening, he wasn’t so surprised. Alec had hung the keys with all the other sets after he parked the car in the farthest stall of the garage, after which he’d seemed to forget about the car altogether. Inexplicably, none of the other employees seemed to notice that it was there. None but Dean, who now held the keys tight in his right hand.

The woman’s stern words from that morning rang loud in his memory. A feeling in his gut and a fear in his heart told him to heed her warning. There seemed to be something wrong about the car. But what could be wrong about such a beautiful, perfect creation? Was this even a machine? It just seemed so… alive.

Dean’s pulse quickened. His mouth watered. His thoughts raced. It’s just a car. It’s just a car. It’s just a –

A sudden rush of pain registered in Dean’s mind. He opened his hand. He’d squeezed so hard that the car keys had cut into his palm. Blood glistened on the silver metal of the keys. “Ow, fuck!” He said.

Broken from his trance. Dean hurried out of the garage.

***

Dean was late to work the next morning. He slouched into the break room and grabbed a mug from the pantry. Alec stood near the coffee maker finishing the last bite of a doughnut.

“Dude, you look like roasted shit,” Alec said as Dean poured his first cup of coffee.

“Wow, thanks, fucker,” Dean returned.

The two chuckled and sipped on their coffee.

Dean said, “Hey, did Hinland mention anything about the car?”

“Um, which one? We work on a car lot.”

“You know, the Delgorian 130,” Dean said.

Alec laughed. “Yeah right, as if one of those would ever be here!”

“What the fuck do you mean? You drove it into the garage yesterday. Remember, that wacko lady left it here?”

Alec looked puzzled. “Uh, what lady? You alright there, buddy?”

“Of course I’m alright, I’m fucking fine!”

“Hey, dude, no need to raise your voice.”

“I’m not!” Dean screamed.

Alec stepped back and took a deep breath. Exhaling slowly, he said, “Dude, I don’t know what the fuck this is all about, but I think you need to walk outside and cool off, and I think you need to do that right the fuck now.”

“I. Uh. Gree.” Dean said through clenched teeth. He took his coffee, left the breakroom and stomped out onto the lot. Two minutes later he was standing in front of the Delgorian 130, eyes wide in terror, wondering why the front of the car was covered in blood.

***

“Hey Dean, what’r ya lookin’ at?” Tony said.

Dean stuttered. “Th-th-the c-c-car. Th-the b-bl-blood.”

“The what?” Tony said, “There ain’t nothin’ there, bru. That stall’s been empty all week.”

Dean stopped breathing. His coffee mug fell from his hand. The mug exploded on the concrete floor. Tony stepped back.

“Hey, watch it, bru!” Tony exclaimed. “You just got frickin’ coffee all over my new work shoes!”

Dean faced Tony. The salesman’s mouth hung open. His skin was pale and clammy. Sweat was breaking on his brow.

Tony recoiled. “Jeez, bru, what the frick is wrong with you? You need to go to the doctor or sumthin.’”

Dean’s eyes jumped back and forth between Tony and the car, the car and Tony. His lips trembled. He babbled nonsense under his breath.

Tony reached out a hand. “Bru, lemme help you, c’mon.”

Dean yelped, turned, and ran out of the garage.

***

Reaching the showroom entrance, Dean slowed to a brisk walk. Trying to be inconspicuous, he slipped into the building and headed straight for his desk, where he collapsed into his chair and buried his face in his hands. He took deep breaths to slow his heartbeat, inhaling and exhaling slowly. Above the sound of his own breathing, he heard the showroom television. Someone had turned on the news. Dean tuned in to the droning voice of the reporter.

“It was here, in this off-ramp tunnel referred to locally as ‘bum alley’, that a classic sports car roared through the tent city at approximately two o’clock this morning, killing seven and wounding three others,” the newscaster said.

Dean raised his head toward the mammoth television. The screen cut to an eyewitness. A haggard woman dressed in varying shades of camouflage said, “It was a Delgorian 130, just like from the movie. I’d know that car anywhere! It came flying into the tunnel, musta been doin’ over a hundret, and ran everybody down and just kept on goin’. I didn’t see the driva, though, cause the windas was all kinda black. I was lucky I was over here and they didn’t see me and try to get me too.”

Another cut brought back the on-location reporter. “Lucky, indeed,” he said. “Police are asking that any sightings of the car in question -a silver 1985 Delgorian 130- be reported immediately. This is Leslie Keene reporting live for Action News. Back to you, Cindy.”

Dean puked in the plastic wastebasket by his desk. Tears streamed down his face. “What the fuck what the fuck what the fuck what the fuck oh god oh god what the fuck,” he whispered to himself.

With a trembling hand, Dean opened the top left desk drawer to retrieve the package of tissue he kept handy. Through blurred vision he saw the envelope the woman had left with him the day before. He opened the envelope and removed the car’s registration, bill of sale, and title. Dean frowned. His eyes watered anew. He let the registration and bill of sale fall back into the drawer. He held the title in his shaking hands.

“Oh God,” he sobbed.

On the title, on the line marked “New Registered Owner”, Dean saw his name, in his handwriting, written in what looked like dark red ink. He glanced to his right hand. A dark red spot bloomed on the white bandage that covered the gash in his palm. Dean dropped the title into the drawer and slid it closed. He remembered the keys in his pocket, and suddenly, he felt like going for a drive.

Merrill’s Musical Musings : Ro’s Recs June 2020

June is the month we typically celebrate our LGBTQ community, Juneteenth, Father’s Day, Graduations, and the Summer Equinox. This year it’s been a time of reckoning in our nation. This month I want to spotlight Black artists that I love, as well as explore some I haven’t listened to before. As a result, this edition of Ro’s Recs is going to take a deep dive into some incredible offerings by Black artists. It’s important to remember that all of our popular music is influenced by Black music. Without Gospel, Soul and the Blues we would have no rock’n’roll, no hip-hop, and no pop music. So sit back, relax and enjoy some recs to start your summer…

Okay, maybe don’t relax, as this first one will scare the pants off you. As a special treat to my fellow HorrorAddicts, I HAVE to start out with this frenetically creepy band called…get ready…HO99O9. Yes, they are literally called Horror and they have created a blend of punk, electronic, hip-hop and metal with imagery that will make all you HorrorAddicts drool! Check out Street Power:

Their song “Plexiglass” is eerie goose-bumpery that you will love as well. I desperately wanted to go on Slipknot’s Knotfest cruise this summer and getting to see this band would have been EPIC. Alas, there’s no traveling in my near future. Sigh. 

Another artist I’ve recently discovered is Danny Denial from Seattle. His voice has a smooth quality to it that adds weight to his atmospheric indie-rock sound. “Am I Cool Enough For Your Love” and “I’m Not Your Type” are standout tracks. I found Danny Denial after reading this article. Check it out for more recommendations. 

One of my all-time favorite metal bands is Sevendust. Lead singer Lajon Witherspoon has one of the most incredible voices in rock and the band has created a solid sound over the years that is instantly recognizable and groove-worthy. Here’s one of my favorites. 

And I can’t leave Nonpoint off this list. Elias Soriano is an incredible vocalist and frontman and the band’s music has kept me company and inspired me through both good times and bad.

They are high on my bucket list to see in concert as every time I’ve had the opportunity, there’s been a cancellation or I’ve been sick. Someday! 

While watching footage from the recent #BlackLivesMatter protests, I heard a speech from a man called Killer Mike. I was moved by his words so I looked him up. I discovered that he was part of the group Run The Jewels, who were touring with a favorite, Rage Against The Machine, this year. I actually had tickets to see them and had planned to check them out before the world caught on fire back in March. They quickly became one of my repeat-plays on Spotify. I HIGHLY recommend your listen to all of RTJ 3 and RTJ 4 from start to finish!  This video has some cool imagery HorrorAddicts will appreciate. 

There are so many contemporary Black artists that should be on your must-listen list and I could go on forever. Perhaps I’ll have to post a follow-up to this list! In the meantime, remember…one of the most important ways we can support artists is by buying merch, streaming their music, and recommending them to friends. If there are other Black musicians you think I should check out, let me know ESPECIALLY if they are rock ‘n’rollers or have a horror influence! I’m here for it! Post a comment or hit me up at www.facebook.com/rlmerrillauthor and Stay Tuned for more Merrill’s Musings and Ro’s Recs! 

 

 

Logbook of Terror: Debbie’s Box

Russell Holbrook

A chilly wind brushed Debbie’s hair back from her shoulders and caused her eyes to water as she stared down at the box in her hands. Children and their parents milled around her, exploring the items strewn across the tables at the yard sale. Low thunder rolled across the gray sky and Debbie’s mother appeared at her side.

“Whatcha got there, kiddo?” Debbie’s mom asked.

Debbie successfully repressed the urge to roll her eyes at her mom’s use of the word “kiddo” and replied, “It’s some kind of weird box.”

Without asking, Debbie’s mom took the box from her teenage daughter’s hands. Thunder cracked again and the wind picked up. Her mother squinted at the box, a rectangular chest that looked like it could’ve been built by a high school shop class dropout. It was composed of ill-fitted, matte black planks of wood held together by tarnished silver corners, hinges, and clasps. Both the sides and top were adorned with symbols that leapt and curled in bright, sparkling purple. Painted in pink cursive, the proclamation “Debbie’s Box” was plopped down into the scrawl of symbols that covered the top of the lid.

“Huh, look at that,” Debbie’s mom said, pointing at the lid. “It already has your name on it.” She added sarcastically, “It was meant to be.”

This time Debbie let her eyes roll while her mother laughed at her own joke.

“You want it?” Debbie’s mom asked.

“Yeah, I can keep my tapes in it,” Debbie said.

Debbie’s mom chuckled. “It’s 2020 and cassette tapes are making a comeback. I didn’t see that one coming.”

Debbie frowned. “It’s an underground movement, mother.”

Debbie’s mom smiled and handed the box back to her daughter. “I’m sure it is.”

Another clash of thunder reverberated overhead. Debbie’s mom looked up. “That one was closer. We better settle up and get back home before the rain hits.”

Twenty minutes later Debbie was sitting on her bed, staring at the box, wondering what -if anything- might be inside, and who the other Debbie was; what was she like, and what did she do? Where was she from and where did she go? The woman running the yard sale hadn’t had had any answers to the questions that Debbie asked her. She’d claimed she didn’t even know where the box had come from and assumed that one of the other three yard sale participants must have brought it. There wasn’t even a price tag on it so the lady had just accepted Debbie’s mother’s offer of five dollars.

Debbie reached out and flipped the dull silver clasps. She lifted the lid and leaned over to peer inside. A putrid stench wafted up out of the box. Debbie coughed and recoiled, covering her mouth and nose. With eyes watering from the odor, she slowly moved closer and looked into the box.

There were teeth. They covered the bottom of the burgundy velvet-lined box. They looked human. Debbie’s brow crinkled. She looked closer. Mixed in with the teeth were locks of hair, all blond and all held together with pink bows. Debbie counted the clumps of hair. There were thirteen. Beneath one of the locks of hair was a folded square of notebook paper. Debbie brushed the hair aside and picked the paper up. She unfolded the square and read.

Dear Debbie,

             If you are reading this note, you have found the box and been led to open it. That also means you have been chosen and you are now the new Debbie. The burden and chore which were mine are now yours, may you carry them well until the time comes for you to pass them to another.

             Sincerely,

             All my love,

             Debbie

            

“What in the…?” Debbie gazed at the box and its contents, confounded and bewildered.

Footsteps echoed in the foyer. Debbie’s mom called her name from the bottom of the stairs.

“Yeah, mom?” Debbie answered.

“Soup’s ready!” Her mother yelled.

“Okay, I’ll be right down!” Debbie replied, even though she thought it might be difficult to eat with so many questions brewing in her mind.

******

The soup was terrible, as Debbie’s mom’s homemade soup always was, but Debbie choked it down and felt grateful to have a mother who would cook her something warm to eat. An hour later she was hungry again. She found her mom in the den watching TV and told her she was heading out to the supermarket to get her favorite, frozen cheese pizza. Her mom told Debbie that she was nuts to go out in the storm but handed over the keys anyway, gave her a kiss, and sent her on her way.

The supermarket was empty. The standard pop fare flittered out of dull, hidden speakers. Debbie stood in front of the frozen pizza selection, wondering if she would try a new brand or just go with the usual. She heard a voice next to her. A man. He said, “Can’t make up your mind?”

Debbie turned and their eyes met. He’s cute, Debbie thought, looking into his blue orbs, taking note of his clean, blond hair.  She smiled.

Holy fuck I can’t wait to get this one back home and take my hacksaw to her filthy baby maker, the man thought.

Debbie gasped. Her face hardened. “Excuse me?” She said.

The man grinned and held up his hands. “Woah there, I was just saying it looks like you can’t make up your mind on which pizza to get.” You dirty goddamn slut.

The man’s thoughts and intentions invaded Debbie’s mind, heart, and soul, cutting her, bleeding her spirit. She felt tears well in her eyes. She remembered the note. The burden and chore which were mine are now yours.

Debbie cleared her throat. She chuckled nervously. “Oh, yeah, just trying to decide if I should try a new brand or stick with the old reliable.”

The man grinned again. Suddenly, Debbie saw the smile through the eyes of another woman, and another, and another, and still yet another and another. Blood dribbled from the thin lips, trailing down the chiseled, handsome chin. The smile widened and revealed sickeningly white teeth. Debbie saw what the teeth had done. She blinked. The visions faded.

“I think it’s healthy to try new things,” the man said, still smiling.

Debbie’s mind focused. A bright, new power bloomed inside her. She felt a smile of her own growing across her lips. She opened the freezer door and grabbed the first cheese pizza she saw. It was a brand she’d never heard of before.

“You know,” she said. “I think you’re right.” She dropped the pizza into her basket. “How do you feel about frozen cheese pizza?”

The man seemed to smile even wider. “I think I love it.”

“Good, because I don’t like to eat alone,” Debbie said, simultaneously marveling at the words coming out of her mouth and the confidence with which they were being spoken.

“We can go to my place, it’s just around the bend,” the man said.

“Wonderful,” Debbie replied. “I just need to swing by the hardware section and pick up one last thing.”

“Oh, what’s that?” The man scoffed.

“A hammer,” Debbie said.

“What for?”

Debbie let her own smile widen and fill with mischievous glee. “I’ve got some work to do.”

The man shrugged and followed Debbie out of the frozen foods aisle.

Merrill’s Musical Musings: Justin Symbol/ Candyman

 

Party songs for the end of the world?

Greetings and Salutations, Horror Addicts. When last we visited, the world was headed into a shelter-in-place that has lasted longer than many folks anticipated. While it’s been a mixed bag of despair and uncertainty, there have been glimmers of hope that I’ve been hanging on to, and of course, music has been there in new and exciting ways to ease my soul. I’ve found tunes for every mood and put together a few playlists that I’ll share some of on my next edition of Ro’s Recs. But this month I had a listen to Justin Symbol’s latest work and I gotta say, it’s pretty damn reflective of our current state of affairs. 

Justin Symbol’s opening track to the new album Candyman, “End Times,” sets listeners into an anarchist’s vibe for the end of the world, which might seem fitting to some right now. Often sounding like a Marilyn Manson of old, Symbol has girls “shaking their tits” in celebration of the apocalypse, and you know what? Why not? What are we supposed to do when it seems as though the sky is falling? Candyman contains some juvenile lyrics that are sprinkled with wit and overlaying horror-inspired effects and beats that sometimes miss their mark. At times the album feels like a promising industrial album with songs like “Prophets of Nothing” and “Lust.” These particular tunes feature engaging guitar tracks and lyrics that come close to being a snarky riff on life. ”Mothra” creates strong imagery with lyrics such as  “blackout the sky,” “sorting out the bodies” and “curl up inside a cocoon of flies,” but as the album continues, Symbol delves into extremely graphic sexual content that some may find offensive. If that’s your kink, you may feel right at home. Symbol straddles the line of rap and rock with interesting verse, intriguing riffs, and creepy atmospheric sounds. “The Devil You Know” was a standout for me. Give the album a listen and see if it’s your jam. You can find Justin Symbol on Spotify and Apple Music. 

That’s it for Merrill’s Musings this month. Be sure to check out my next Ro’s Recs, where I will share with you the best songs for surviving the shelter-in-place. Take care, be safe, and Stay Tuned for more Merrill’s Musings…

Logbook of Terror: Ranger Danger

Russell Holbrook

The park ranger crouched in the bushes. Moaning voices echoed from a nearby tent. Black clouds collected overhead and the thick aroma of a gathering storm filled the night air. The ranger smiled. Roy had been doing this for years but it never got old. He looked up. A flash of lightning lit up the sky. Roy felt the familiar, electric buzzing in his bones. With stealth that was practiced and perfected, he crept up beside the tent. The mercury fillings in his teeth hummed. Roy stood up straight, right next to the tent. A woman in the tent announced that she was coming. A man testified in agreement. Their voices rose in tandem. They called out to God. Thunder roared. And a furious bolt of pure, white lightning hammered the tent. 

The lightning bolt pierced the tent’s ceiling. Burning heat struck the lovers. Electric waves fried their insides while their screams echoed in Roy’s ears. Flames danced inside the tent, growing and spreading over the thin fabric to create a funeral pyre. The bodies of the man and woman bounced in the fire. Their screams echoed through the mountains. Roy drew his gun. He waited. 

The woman sprung out of the fire, her skinned blackened and her hair ablaze. Roy shot her in the forehead. She stumbled into the brush and collapsed. The man followed. His arms flailed. He shouted and ran toward Roy. The ranger shot the man in the stomach. The young lover collapsed and Roy shot him two more times in the back of the head. Roy looked down at the young man’s charred skin. It glistened in the moonlight. “Barbeque for the bears,” he sneered.  

After watching the burning tent dwindle down to a smoldering pile, Roy stomped out the embers and strolled into the woods. 

***

“Yo, this weed is the bomb,” Mickey said. He coughed out a monster cloud of smoke and passed the joint to his left. Jane handled the fat spliff in her nimble fingers. She took a long drag and broke out in a coughing fit. Mickey giggled and took back the joint. “Damn, you’re gonna be so fried.”

Jane snickered. “I’m toasty.”

The two teens laughed and swung their legs from the tailgate of Jane’s truck. Leaves rustled and twigs snapped in the darkness behind them. 

“What the eff was that?” Mickey said, looking around. 

“What the eff was what?” 

“What?”

“That’s what I just asked you.” 

“Oh,” Mickey said.

“Oooohhhh!” Jane exclaimed.

Guffaws pealed from Mickey and Jane, covering up the rustle and crunch of approaching footsteps. 

Thunder cracked and shook the forest around them. Lightning burst through the sky, lighting up the dark, revealing Ranger Roy standing in front of them, his beady black eyes peering out from behind his thick glasses. His singed ranger hat sat snug on his head. A crooked smile crossed his face. 

Mickey and Jane started with a screech. Pure reaction caused Mickey to toss the half-smoked joint onto the ground. The ranger stepped closer.  

“Hey, kids, great night for a smoke, ain’t it?” Ranger Roy bent down and picked up the smoldering doobie. Smirking, he put the smoke to his lips and inhaled deep once, twice, three times. He held in the smoke and then let out a great plume into the air. The wind blew and carried the white cloud away. Another peal of thunder rattled the pines. “Ah, that’s a fine flavor there.”

Ranger Roy handed the joint back to Mickey and retrieved a cigarette from the pack in his shirt pocket. “Helluva storm brewing,” he said. “You kids might wanna find shelter or head on home.”

Jane stared at the forest ranger through the thin slits that her eyes had become. “Old dude?” She said.

“Yes, young lady.”

She pointed at the black mark that covered the top of Roy’s hat. “What happened to your hat?”

“Oh, that’s just where I got popped with a bit of lightning,” Roy answered.

“Shit, man, I’ve heard of you!” Mickey piped in. “You’re that ranger.”

Roy grinned.

“What, is he like… famous?” Jane asked as Mickey passed her the joint.

“This old dude has been struck by lightning seven times!” 

“No shit?” Jane said.

“Seven times!” Mickey repeated. “He’s like, a fucking legend. You’re a legit legend, aren’t you, old dude?” 

The ranger cleared his throat and spit. “My name’s Roy, young man.” He straightened his hat and pulled his shoulders back. 

Jane elbowed Mickey. A deep, intoxicated smile came over her face. “Seven times… Seven times!” She fell into Mickey, laughing uncontrollably. 

Mickey sputtered and his sputters became wide, echoing booms. He and Jane clutched each other, wrapped in hysterics, oblivious to the lightning crisscrossing the sky overhead. 

“Seven times!” Mickey shouted, doubling over and nearly falling off the truck’s tailgate. “How does that even happen?”

Ranger Roy felt indignant. “Just an occupational hazard, that’s all.”

“Maybe you should get a new job, idiot!” Mickey howled.  

As the teens made fun of Roy, he felt the same, reliable buzzing in his back teeth. A pulse of electricity tickled his veins. The rolling chortles from the stoned teenagers punched him in the heart. He screamed, “Shut up!” 

 A monster bolt of lightning shot down from the clouds, forking just above Mickey and Jane, striking each of them in the face. Like melons under a jackhammer, their heads exploded. Blood and flesh and gore showered ranger Roy. Spewing blood from their necks, the teens’ headless corpses swayed and fell off the tailgate. 

“That’s what I’m talking about!” Roy shouted at the sky. He cackled triumphantly and skittered off into the trees. 

***

“Really, seven times?” The man asked.

Ranger Roy nodded from across the campfire that burned in the center of the small clearing. The man on the other side appraised the ranger.

“How’d you get all that blood on you?”

“Exploded teenagers.”

“Yeah, that happens.”

The man wore a careless, disheveled appearance. Roy figured him for either a weekend camper or someone on the run from the law, or, maybe even one of those hippie vagrant types. Ugh, hippies. The man took a long swig off the whiskey bottle and passed it to Roy, who allowed himself a generous gulp. He winced as the liquor burned its way down. Thunder struck above them, close. 

Ranger Roy glanced up. “Storms almost here.” 

The camper joined Roy in gazing up into the night sky. “Yep,” he added. 

Roy handed the bottle back to its owner. The man gripped the bottle and turned it up before setting it down at his side. He coughed and cleared his throat.

“So,” the camper began, “If you don’t mind me asking, why are you still out on the job if you’ve been struck by lightning so many times? I mean, considering the probability, seven times is a high number.”

“I’m just doin’ the lord’s work,” Roy sighed. “Someone’s got to, you know.”

The camper snorted. “The lord, yeah right.” He spit into the fire. “I always wondered about you rangers. Are you protecting nature from us, or us from nature?” 

Roy grimaced. “Nature don’t need my protectin’, I’m just doin’ what’s asked of me, that’s all.” 

“What did nature… ask of you?” The camper said. His eyes glazed over as the whiskey took hold and slowed the man’s words. 

Roy looked at the man with hard, serious eyes. “Just to help maintain the balance. That’s what I do. I help.” Roy pulled out a cigarette and lit up.   

“Sure you do, old-timer, sure you do.” The camper eyeballed Roy’s cigarette. “You got another one of those?”

Roy reached into his front shirt pocket. The camper leaned forward and reached out his hand. A crack of low thunder bounced through the trees. A jagged streak of lightning shredded the darkness. The white-hot bolt stabbed the camper’s outstretched hand. A second flash lit up the pines and a ribbon of light nailed the man in the back. He cried out in agony. Electrical currents filled his body. Foam poured from his mouth.  

A third firebolt struck the camper on top of his head. Bright bolts of electricity bounced over the man’s convulsing body. He surged forward and fell face-first into the campfire. Ranger Roy stood up slowly. The camper’s body spasmed and became still. Roy threw his cigarette down on the man’s burning corpse. He removed a piece of paper from his pocket and unfolded it. He grimaced.

“I thought I recognized you,” Roy said, looking from the paper in his hand to the man in the fire. 

In stark black and white, the leering face of the camper stared up at Roy from the flyer. Above the photo, bold letters announced that the man was wanted for the murder of a family of four. Roy tossed the flyer into the flames and watched it change form. He reached into his pants pocket and retrieved a short newspaper article. The headline read: After Killing Five Year Old Child in Hit and Run, Marijuana Using Teens are Released on Technicality. Roy thought of the teens’ exploding heads. He grinned and dropped the column of paper into the fire. For a third time, Roy reached into his pocket. Another article. A malicious husband and wife burned down a nursing home and eluded police. “They didn’t elude me,” Roy muttered. He tossed the paper into the fire. 

Roy lit another cigarette and listened to the quiet of the forest, of his home. He smiled and looked up into the dark sky. “Nice workin’ with you tonight.” 

A bright star peeked out from behind the cloud cover. It glimmered in the dark and seemed to wink at Roy. The tired old ranger laughed to himself and shuffled into the darkness, satisfied with a job well done. Once he was deep under the canopy of trees, the first drops of rain began to fall. 

Merrill’s Musical Musings : Ro’s Recs May 2020

“There’s nothing on TV. I’ve got nothing to read. All the good snacks are gone. I’m BORED.”

Raise your hand if you’ve heard any of those sentiments during this stay-at-home time. Thankfully, my kids know better for the most part because I will either shove a book in their faces or give them chores to do. 

One of the things that have kept me sane while locked down is music, as usual. I’ve been having so much fun with the musicians that are putting themselves out there on social media with new projects, quarantine videos, and special interaction opportunities. On Instagram, I have notifications set up for artists like Tyler Glenn from the band Neon Trees (@tylerinacoma), and Franky Perez (@frankyperezofficial) who has performed with all kinds of folks including the symphonic metal band from Finland, Apocalyptica.

 Both of these artists frequently do acoustic performances on Instagram/IGTV that are tasty morsels. They keep me going when I need a pick me up.

Recording from home when your band is not with you can be a challenge, but several artists have done a great job. The first video I saw that really touched me was twenty-one pilots who put out a new song and video called “Level of Concern.”

 

While they’re not my usual level of heavy for music, I do admire them and I thought this was a super creative way to get around quarantine separation. Twelve Foot Ninja, a metal fusion band from Australia—they are brilliant and have a horror fan’s sense of humor for sure—and they took on the classic Stuck With You by Huey Lewis and the News

Stevic McKay did a Zoom interview with Huey Lewis too where they talked about their cover of the song and Huey was such a sweetheart

 

 I highly recommend you give both the video and the interview a watch, especially if you’re a fan of the film American Psycho. Papa Roach—yes they are still around and continue to put out phenomenal music—embraced the insanity of lockdown with kids and recorded this fantastic video for their latest hit “Feel Like Home”

 But the clincher came for Mother’s Day…Ice Nine Kills—the horror fanatics I have absolutely fallen in love with over the past year—did a parody cover of Fountains of Wayne’s “Stacy’s Mom” called “Jason’s Mom” and, well, you have to watch. Best Mother’s Day Gift!

Musicians have also taken to new platforms to engage with their fans. Twitch and Discord, which are usually populated by gamers, have become a place for musicians to stream the creation of new music as well as a place to meet up with other musicians and tell stories from days on the road, etc. Matt Heafy from Trivium, Brandon Saller from Atreyu, Shim Moore, and Rob Ortiz from Escape the Fate are a few that I’ve checked out and they’ve got interesting things going on. If you are an Amazon Prime member, you can link your Twitch account and subscribe for free! 

There are plenty of ways to pass the time during this period of shelter-in-place, so tell your kids to quit bothering you so you can check out all this fun music stuff! And if your “kids” have four legs or if it’s actually your spouse, well, good luck. And if you would like to share your music finds during quarantine, I’d love to hear them! Also…I would love for you to follow me on Facebook (www.facebook.com/rlmerrillauthor) if you hang out over there, even if it means losing my current count…3,666 followers! How metal/horror is that?

 

Stay Tuned for more Merrill’s Musings…

 

Logbook of Terror : The Tree That Shot Henry

The Tree That Shot Henry by Russell Holbrook

Al had seen a lot in his three-hundred and eighty-seven years. Too much, he felt. But, such was the life of a tree; besides watching and occasionally swaying, there really wasn’t much else to do. Of all that Al had observed in his life, the creatures called humans were what fascinated him the most. As repellant and absurd as he found most of them to be, he couldn’t help becoming enraptured in their daily dramas. There was one human Al found particularly fascinating. His name was Henry, and Al lived in his yard. It was a nice yard on a nice farm and Henry was a nice enough man. One day Henry brought home a very nice girl, who had long blond curls and called herself Carrol.

Henry and Carrol spent many summer afternoons in the cool shade of Al’s branches, laughing and talking, having picnics, and enjoying each other’s company. One night when the moon glowed bright and full, the couple gathered under Al’s arms to play with the Ouija Board. Carrol had been talking about it for weeks but Henry had protested, saying that he thought the Ouija board was boring and pointless because most spirits were bad conversationalists who talked too slow. Still, Carrol persisted until Henry relented and on that night of the full moon they sat under their favorite tree, their hands on the planchette, looking into one another’s eyes. And Al looked down from above. 

After several dud attempts at communicating with whatever spirits may have been around at the time, Carrol and Henry got a response. Carrol gasped. Her bosom heaved. 

Henry felt a stirring in his groin. Hmmm, heaving bosoms

A peal of thunder sounded in the far distance, and Carrol began her questions. 

As it turned out, the spirit didn’t want to talk about their favorite color, their favorite food, or whether or not they liked Ferris wheel rides on brisk, fall evenings. The spirit said their favorite color was hate, they preferred murder over pancakes, and the only ride they liked was the ferry over the river Styx. Henry was both aghast and offended by the spirit’s sarcastic answers which did not produce any further bosom heaves from Carol, who simply felt disappointed. 

“This spirit is a smarty-pants jerk,” Carrol said.

Henry nodded in agreement. 

“Why don’t you ask a question,” she said to Henry. 

Henry sighed but agreed. After a moment’s contemplation he said, “Spirit, is there buried treasure in my yard?”

The planchette moved. Yes 

The couple’s eyes lit up. They smiled together. 

“Spirit,” Henry said, “where is the treasure buried? How did it get here? Can you provide exact coordinates?” 

And the planchette began to move as the spirit began to speak. 

Long, long ago there was a farmer who lived on this very land. The farmer was very poor, and being poor made him very, very sad. Although the farmer had a loving wife and a kind-hearted son and a working farm, he wanted money and riches above all else. One day the farmer’s teenage son came home from the market with a large goat who had a coat blacker than a starless night, a fierce gray beard, burning red eyes, and long, gnarled, pointy horns. The sight of the mysterious animal filled the farmer with trepidation. Upon the father’s inquiry, the boy revealed that the goat had been given to him by a fellow farmer, a haggard man whom the son had never seen at the market before. Happy that the farm would have a buck, the son gladly accepted and brought the goat home. He named the goat Black Francis and gave him his own room in the barn. 

A week later the farmer was watching Black Francis wander around the yard. When the goat stopped to poop, the farmer noticed something peculiar: Francis’s waste seemed to sparkle in the sun. The farmer went over to inspect and discovered that Black Francis had expelled a small pile of gold. He was a very special goat indeed. 

The farmer became obsessed with Black Francis. He neglected everything and everyone but the goat, and spent every day following him around the yard. And every time Black Francis made a pile of gold, the farmer would bury it where it fell. 

Henry interrupted the spirit’s tale. “But why would he do that? Why not collect all the gold and store it somewhere safe?”

The planchette moved, spelling out: I do not know; I was not there.

“Spirit, you don’t have to be rude! Please finish your tale,” Carrol said. 

Okay, the spirit replied, and the planchette resumed its slow movement over the board. 

For days and weeks and months, the farmer stayed by Black Francis’s side, barely eating, hardly sleeping, simply watching, waiting, digging, burying, hoarding every single drop of the golden dung. The farmer became consumed with paranoia, believing that everyone was out to get his gold, even his family. His dear wife, frightened and having lost all hope, took her teenage son and fled to her parents’. 

The following evening the farmer sat beneath a grand old tree that stood in a corner of the yard. While trembling in his delirium, the man had a sudden and striking moment of clarity and he knew what he had to do. The time had come to claim his rightful fortune, to leave the farm and his family and start a new life where no one would bother him or try to take his riches. Surely there would be so much gold that he would never have to work another day in his life. His mind beamed with the prospect. So the farmer fetched his shovel and he began to dig. 

All through the night the farmer dug for the gold he had buried and when the gray dawn broke, he still hadn’t found a single bit. Exhausted, he saw Black Francis leisurely chewing on grass in the early morning light. The farmer cursed the odd buck and went to the barn to get a length of rope with which to lead the goat back to the market and pass him on to another hapless fool. When the man returned with the rope, the goat was gone. The farmer searched the property and the neighboring farms but the goat was nowhere to be found. Flustered and enraged, the farmer returned home and did the only thing he could think to do: keep digging. And he dug and dug and dug until, after three days of non-stop digging, with his hands bloody and raw, he collapsed in the field and died. And there was never any gold to be found, not even one little bit. The end. Copyright 2020, Azazel Beelzebub Azaroth McAllister-Smith. 

Carrol clutched her side and fell over laughing. “A goat that pooped gold! Ouija Boards say the craziest things!” 

Henry’s eyes were wild with excitement. He panted.

“What is it, Henry?” Carrol asked.

“Gold!” Henry whispered. 

“That was just a story, dear.” 

“No, not just a story!” Henry snapped, “I know there’s gold here. I can feel it! Your magic board was actually telling a truth!”

Carrol sat up. She inched back, looking closely at Henry’s face. His features seemed to blur in the moonlight, as if shadows were gliding over him. Her breath hitched in her throat as a glint of red flared in his eyes. 

“Henry, are you alright?”

Henry dug his fingers into the earth. “Gold!” He whispered again. He laughed to himself. “I’ll be rich!” 

“What has come over you? Why are you…?”

Henry lept to his feet, cutting Carrol off. “There’s no time!” He shouted, adding, “I’ll call you tomorrow!”

He ran to the tool shed to get a shovel.  

“Goodnight, then!” Carrol called out after Henry as he ran away. Then she packed up her Ouija Board and walked home. 

*

Henry didn’t call the next day, or the next, or even the one after that. Filled with anxiety, Carrol went to Henry’s house. When she arrived, she found him wearing the same clothes she saw him in last, covered in dirt and sweat, digging in the yard. Small, shallow holes dotted the yard for as far as Carrol could see. She brought her hand to her mouth. Slowly, she approached. 

“Henry,” she said, “what are you doing?”

He kept his eyes fixed on the earth and rammed the shovel down. “Digging. What else would I be doing?”

“Didn’t you go to work today?”

“This is my work,” he grumbled. 

Carrol stepped closer. Softly, she ventured, “Why don’t you come inside and have a rest? I’ll fix you a cool glass of lemon pepper soda.”

Henry grunted and replied, “There’s no time for rest; I have to find it!”

“Find what, dear?”

“The gold!” Henry roared. He turned toward Carrol. His eyes burned a deep red. “Don’t you remember, you stupid bitch!?” 

Tears flooded Carrols eyes. Henry is a kind man; he never speaks to me this way!

“The spirit of the magic board told me there’s gold buried right here and I know it’s true, I know the treasure is here- I know it!”

“Henry, the board, that was just a game!” Carrol sobbed. 

“That wasn’t the game! This is the game- you and me! You’re playing me! You just want all the gold for yourself, you goddamn, lecherous cunt!” White foam and dry spittle flew out of Henry’s mouth. “I fucking hate you! I hate you I hate you I hate you!” He screamed. “You don’t care about me, you just want my gold! My gold!” 

His face turned red. “Get out now or I’ll fucking rip out your entrails and ram them down your throat!” He raised the shovel and stepped toward Carrol. 

She screamed, “Henry, please, I love you!”

“I hate you and I want to fucking kill you!” He howled.  

Henry swung the shovel. Carrol lunged back. The shovel flew past her face, its tip nearly grazing her lips. She whirled, caught her balance, and sprinted across the yard. Henry slammed the shovel’s head on the ground over and over again, screeching curses and insults and horrible, unforgivable words that grew and towered and chased Carrol from the yard. Once she was out of sight, Henry returned to digging.   

*

Carrol burst through the front door, startling her mother, father, and brother who were in the den playing a late-night game of Shark Versus Swimmer. Before her family had time to react, Carrol stood before them with her father’s revolver pressed under her chin. Her father cried out for her to stop, to please, God please put the gun down. She simply screamed, “Henry!” and pulled the trigger. 

Blood, bone, and brain painted the ceiling and walls. Carrol’s parents and brother wailed. Her mother fell to the floor weeping. Her father and brother ran to Carrol’s fallen body. Her father cradled Carrol’s exploded head in his lap, calling out, “My Carrol, my dear sweet child!” over and over. 

Carrol’s brother took the gun from his sister’s dead, still-warm fingers, and promised to bring vengeance down upon Henry’s house. With the cries and protests of his parents ringing in his ears, he ran into the night. 

*

When Carrol’s brother arrived, Henry was digging beneath Al’s limbs, his shovel clanging against the giant roots of the great tree. 

Carrol’s brother raised the gun at Henry. He shouted, “You monster! You broke Carrol’s heart and she took her life because of it!”

Henry looked up from his work. He smiled. “Carl, what are you doing with that little gun?” 

“You’re the reason my sister is gone! It’s your fault!” Carl roared. 

Tears blurred his vision. Carl pulled the trigger and the second bullet of the night hurled straight toward Henry’s head. 

Henry spun and fell face-first into the dirt. Carl trembled. Sweat poured down his face. He’d just killed a man. His vengeance was complete, and since there was nothing more he could do, he turned the gun on himself.  And Al, the great old tree, watched in distress as young Carl blew his own face off and fell to the ground. 

For a long while, Al contemplated how a person so young could end their life in such a rash and sudden manner, especially when Carl hadn’t even completed his task. He had simply knocked his intended victim unconscious; the bullet that was meant to kill Henry was lodged painfully in Al’s trunk.

*

In pain and confused, Henry opened his eyes. The first rays of dawn were puncturing the dark canvas of night. He sat up and touched his face. A bloody gash ran the length of his right cheek. He thought back. He remembered: Carl, the gun, the shot. He tried to kill me. He missed! It was then that Henry noticed Carl’s corpse lying nearby in the grass. He giggled. His eyes flared red. I have to find my gold! I’ll clean that mess of a dead body up later. 

Henry stumbled to his feet and started digging. A breeze blew and a leaf lilted onto his filthy shirt. Henry frowned at the leaf and shucked it off. Another leaf fell. He looked up into Al’s branches. 

“Stop it,” Henry said to the tree. 

Another leaf glided by on the wind. Clouds were gathering, blocking out the morning sun. 

Henry stomped on the ground and glared at Al. “I said stop!” 

A gust of wind blew a handful of leaves out of the limbs. They sailed past Henry. 

“Stop mocking me!” Henry screamed. He flailed and slammed the shovelhead on the ground. He stared up at Al, the old and patient tree. Henry’s eyebrows curled. His chin dropped. “It’s you, isn’t it? You’re doing it; you’re hiding my gold! You’ve got it all under there, under those roots!”

Al’s branches swayed in the wind. Gray clouds turned black. 

“You’re not going to do this to me. It’s my gold and you can’t have it!” Henry shouted. 

Henry struck Al’s great roots with the shovel. He dug fiercely into the soil surrounding the base of the tree. It was no use; he could barely even break the ground. Henry cursed, threw down his shovel, and rushed to the shed. Moments later he was pushing a wheel barrel full of dynamite toward the tree while lightning and thunder filled the sky. 

“You can’t have my gold!” Henry shouted. He tied the explosive sticks together and lined them around the base of the tree. 

Al watched Henry with sad amusement. I suppose this is it for me, he thought. 

The wind died down for the briefest of moments. Henry struck a match and put it to the fuse. The fuse lit and Henry stumbled away. Seconds later, a mammoth explosion shook the sky.  

Shards of wood flew through the air. Al creaked and groaned. His mighty trunk faltered and snapped and a report echoed above the noise of cracking and breaking wood. Henry felt a sharp sting between his eyes. The sting was followed by liquid. The wet ran down Henry’s face. He grabbed at his head and, upon pulling away his hands, saw that they were covered in his own blood. He remembered the sound, the report. He looked up at Al. The great tree was falling straight toward him. “You shot me,” Henry mumbled. 

A great and mighty limb struck Henry on the top of his head. Al put down his full weight and crushed the tiny human into the dirt. Ah, a satisfying conclusion to a glorious life, Al thought as his life-force slipped away and his spirit went back into the earth. And three counties over, as dark rain began to fall, a curious black goat grazed in a farmer’s field. 

My Darling Dead: Bastards Episode 3/ Council Rules

Orteg’s favored tavern was situated in the forest proper. A small dirt road led from the stone-paved thoroughfare to its front doors, the road flanked by huge trees older than time itself. A bird familiar with cartography would see the tavern at the center of a hundred little paths wending their way towards it through the forest, like the center of a spider’s web. It was down one of these paths that Zavier and Orteg now walked, away from the main thoroughfare. 

Orteg gaped. “Who are you? How do you know of all this?”

“I am the son of the counsel to King Wendell, the wizard Sapius was my father and shared with me your entire pathetic history,” Zavier said, waving a hand impatiently. “I have long been searching for you to tell you this, and to tell you: you must be made king!

“When the princess Alasin, your half-sister, was born, she was the recipient of a dreadful curse by a fairy at her christening ceremony. As revenge against the king for two-timing the fairy, the princess was doomed to continually suffer the loss of the one she loved most, which, at the time, was the king. He died as a result and the steps the queen took to preserve her own life ultimately drove the princess mad, though she was none too stable, to begin with. 

“Alasin took a love potion before looking in the mirror beside her mother, and, falling in love with both of them, sealed their fate. The curse dispatched them that night but was never broken by her dying a natural death. Which is the plague, the rat creatures, rampant filth, all the side effects of the curse, are going to continue on and on until a new king is christened, properly. You are that king!”

Zavier halted, breathing heavily, staring at Orteg with hot, unblinking eyes.

“So…what am I supposed to do?” asked Orteg, feeling foolish. 

“You must get to the castle. The council which has attempted to govern in light of a real king will be gathered. In their presence, I will perform a spell which shall reveal your lineage. They will have no choice but to crown you king!” Zavier cried, spittle flying from his mouth in his ardor. “The entire kingdom will fall under your rule, with your divine right as Wendell’s heir a new era will come to the kingdom, one of lawful productivity rather than the dark squalor of insanity, a strong, new…”

They continued down the path, Zavier extolling the upcoming Orteg Era of the kingdom as its namesake listened in a daze, only catching half of what was being said. As the wizard’s voice began to fade, in the foliage of one of the branches looming over the forest path, what had once been a human female crawled from a tree limb. Her eyes glowed with a crazed fire and her matted hair was crusted with dirt and sticks. She had long ago lost the power of speech, but her subconscious retained enough of the language skills she had learned as a child to understand it. She knew the information she had heard would be worth something to the council, and that meant food. After waiting for the sound of footsteps to die away, she slithered headfirst down the tree and set off in the direction of the castle, giving the two men a wide berth. 

The Honorable Prefect Mosh Barris sat at the head of the long council table in the courtroom of the castle, pulled up to the table as close as his ample stomach would allow. Three of his six chins wobbled as he chewed the mouthful of roast oxen with relish. Six men sat to his left and six women sat to his right, making up the government of the kingdom. All were well-fed, though none so well-fed as Barris himself, all were wearing wigs and all were staring down their noses at the little man cringing before them, wringing a filthy hat in his equally filthy hands.

“Farmer Ellis,” Barris rumbled after swallowing, taking care to keep the smile from his meaty features, “The effects of the rat creatures upon your farm is not the concern of this council. The pestilence is your responsibility to control to the best of your ability and is not to interfere with your tithings. Therefore, your request for an extension on your land tax is denied.” 

“But… Your Honor, my entire family has been taken by the pox or the rat plague. It is only me to care for them all and to maintain the farm.” Tears were coursing down his gaunt cheeks as he fell to his knees, beseeching each member of the council in turn. “I beg of you, have mercy.”

“Exceptions cannot be made,” said the woman immediately to Barris’s right. “Any exception would result in the same request being made a thousandfold.”

“Quite right, Agathas,” said Barris, favoring her with a thick-lipped smile. “At any rate, the kingdom needs taxes, not excuses. You may go, Ellis.”

The farmer got to his feet and jammed his hat on his head. Turning to go, he was halfway to the door, before he spun around and threw his hat to the ground.

“Barris! You and your council of toads are nothing but bloated bags of gas feeding on the misfortunes of others! May you one day face the same mercy you have shown!” Ellis shouted, his voice shrill. “There will be others, and before long, you will be buried by them! Selfish pigs—”

“BAILIFF!” screamed Barris, crashing to his feet, his own large features turning a dark purple. “Take this man away and execute him for treason! To speak against the governing faction of the kingdom is to speak against the kingdom itself.” He slumped back in his chair, breathing heavily. 

Before Ellis could react, his arms had been pinioned behind his back by a hulking man in a gray smock who had been standing unnoticed in the corner. The hulking man gave a sharp jerk upward and a wet popping sound filled the room as the farmer’s arm was broken from its socket. Ellis screamed still louder. The woman Agathas watched with rising color of her own, her tongue moistening her lips. Barris could feel himself getting aroused. 

“On second thought, bailiff,” Barris said with a grin, watching Agathas. “Execute him here, for our amusement.”

Ellis began to blubber through his tears and screams, begging and pleading, words about his family, sick and dying without him. The hulking man stunned him with a rap to the back of the head. “As you wish, sir. Would you like it to be quick, or slow?”

Barris looked at Agathas and raised his eyebrows inquisitively. 

“Slowly,” she said. Her hand was already between her legs and her breathing ragged. “But not too slowly.” 

 

 

Logbook of Terror : Just a Scratch!

Just a Scratch

By Russell Holbrook

Devon’s appearance was plain and unremarkable, and that’s the way he wanted it to be. He believed that blending in helped him move through life without being noticed too much, which made things easier for him. But Devon’s appearance wasn’t what the strangers he met on dark streets were thinking about. They were usually wondering why he was plunging a meat cleaver into the side of their neck. Well, sometimes it was a hacksaw or a plain, old-fashioned butcher knife. That last one was an undeniable classic, and besides, Devon wasn’t too picky about his instruments. He liked having variety in his work. He was saving up to buy a chainsaw.

It was on a Thursday evening that Devon ran into his arch-rival, Mach Tudor, at the local Slurp Fountain and Elixir Emporium. Devon fixed his enemy with a harsh glare. “I thought I told you to stay out of here, Mach.”

Mach returned Devon’s glare with a grin. “I can go where I want.”

“That’s not a reasonable explanation.”

Mach stared at Devon and sucked bright blue Slurp through an orange straw. 

Devon stepped closer. He clenched his fists and whispered, “Get out. This is my spot. It’s where I go to think and right now you’re interrupting my thinking.” 

“I like it here,” Mach replied. 

“If you don’t leave now, I’m going to make you,” Devon said, fire burning behind his eyes. 

Mach leaned his lanky frame against the counter and took another casual pull off his Slurp. “Yeah, I’m sure,” he said. 

Devon fumed. “You arrogant prick! You know how much I need a Slurp after I…” he looked around and lowered his voice. “After, you know… I’ve been out… working.”

“Uh-hu,” Mach said. He took another drink. “I needed one too. I just did my sixth one of the night.”

Devon’s nostrils flared. “Six!? In one night?! That’s impossible!” 

“Not when you’re as good as I am. Everyone knows I’m the best in town.” Mach’s voice lowered. “Maybe even the greatest of all time.” 

Devon frowned. He looked Mach over, taking in the tall, trim man’s swagger and appearance. He’s so cocky, so self-assured, Devon thought. But I have to admit, he really is well put together. Then, something caught Devon’s eye: a bloody rip across Mach’s tight, ironed, otherwise spotless gray slacks. Devon could see through the tear, which was near the top of his right thigh, about three inches across. He pointed at the wound. “What’s that?”  

 Mach looked down, following Devon’s finger. “Oh, that?” Mach said. “That’s just a scratch.”

Devon grinned wide. “They fought back?”

Mach nodded. “Hard.”

“I like it when they fight,” Devon said. 

Mach shrugged indifferently. Devon felt outraged by Mach’s flippant attitude toward the work that he himself had dedicated his life to. He shook his head and plowed into Mach’s personal space. His broad, muscular shoulders edged Mach out of the way. “You take no pride in your craft. You have no respect. You don’t care about anything. Get the hell out of my way.” Devon grabbed an extra-large cup. 

“They’re out of grape,” Mach said lackadaisically.

“Dammit!” Devon cursed. He threw the cup on the floor and watched it bounce away. “I was having such a great night before I saw you!” 

Devon stomped away from the purring Slurp machine and picked up the cup. He slammed it into the trash can. “Six? Really?”

“I have their heads in my trunk if you don’t believe me,” Mach said.

“I thought you drove a hatch back.”

Mach slurped the last of his drink, dragging his straw over the bottom of the plastic cup. He swiped the back of his hand across his mouth, sat the empty cup on the counter for the clerk to clean up, and walked past Devon toward the door. Devon followed. 

Out in the murky night, in the empty rear parking lot, Mach popped the trunk. There, spread out on black plastic trash bag, sat six severed heads. Devon leaned in and inspected them under the trunk’s dim light. Dammit, they’re fresh

“Told ya,” Mach said. His upper lip curled like he was about to do a Billy Idol impersonation. 

For a moment Devon was speechless. He had no idea of what to say. Then, a new perspective, sudden yet welcome, came upon him. He turned to Mach. “You really think you’re hot potatoes, don’t you?”

“The hottest.”

“You’re an idiot,” Devon spat, “an arrogant, reckless, idiot. You think you’re invincible, but you’ll get caught and that’ll bring the heat down on the rest of us, and then everyone’s work will be in danger.”

“Shut up! I’m never gonna get caught!”  

Devon sighed. “We’ll see.” 

“I’m too good to get caught,” Mach asserted. 

Devon walked away to begin the long trek back to his basement apartment. He hung his head and mumbled to himself, “We’ll see.”

Mach considered yelling a sarcastic remark or an insult at Devon’s back, but then felt that it wouldn’t be worth the effort. He reached down and plucked one of the heads out of the trunk. It had belonged to a student who was taking night classes at the community college. Her name was Sandy. She had been pre-law. Sandy’s mouth was locked in the scream position. Her canines protruded out beyond her thin, bloodless lips. Mach held the head up to eye level. “Hey there, little fighter,” he said, just before he shut the trunk and hopped behind the wheel with Sandy’s head cradled in his arm. The night clerk of the Slurp Fountain and Elixir Emporium found Mach’s empty cup and cursed the lazy customer’s insolence just as Mach squealed out of the parking lot. 

Cool night air rushed in through open windows. Sandy’s head rested in Mach’s lap. His favorite band, The Power Trippers, came on the radio and he turned it up. As the chorus kicked in, Mach felt something cold and slimy sliding across the wound on his upper thigh. Ugh, what the… His eyes left the road and shot down to his lap, where Sandy’s head was tonguing the gash in his leg. He screamed. The car swerved. Reflexively, Mach’s leg bounced. Sandy’s head sunk her canines deep into Mach’s flesh. His scream turned to a wail. He slammed the break and slid the car off the road. He lept from the car with Sandy’s teeth still buried in his leg. Running into the woods, with a howl Mach tore Sandy’s teeth from his leg and threw her head into the trees. Pain radiated through his leg and lower body. 

“I give you the honor of being a part of my work and this is how you repay me!?” Mach shouted into the woods at the severed head which he could no longer see. “You can just stay out there all alone forever!” 

Grumbling to himself, Mach got back into his car and drove home. When he reached his house, he carefully placed the other five heads in the freezer and went to sleep. 

Five Days Later

The headline surprised Devon so much he had to read it twice. House of Horrors Discovered on East Side. Devon’s eyes jumped down to the front page article. Gripping the paper between shaking hands, he read:

When local, award-winning jewel thief Kristen Calle’ entered 618 Maple Street on a routine heist this past Friday night, she found something most people hope to never see during the course of their lives. It was a sight so grisly, so macabre, Ms. Calle’ ran from the residence and didn’t stop running until she burst through the front doors of police headquarters in tears. Officers and CSI units were immediately dispatched to the scene and, following a routine survey, investigations began in earnest. Over the next five days human remains in varying stages of decomposition were discovered throughout the home, which CSI veteran Pauline McCabe called, “A museum of grotesque depravities.” She went on to say, “In all my thirty-seven years on the force, never have I witnessed such a vile display of human carnage.” 

Devon was spellbound. He read on. 

To date, the remains of three-hundred and sixteen victims have been discovered, having been found buried in the backyard and cellar, boxed up in the attic, hidden between walls and beneath floors, and stored in the refrigerator. The kitchen pantry was full of dried and cured skin, and a bedroom had been converted to a walk-in freezer which was dedicated entirely to the preservation of severed heads.  

“Nice touch,” Devon said to himself. He turned the page and straightened the paper. 

Investigators have linked the crimes to the home’s owner, local tennis shoe model MachTudor. Mr.Tudor was found unresponsive in the master bedroom, the apparent victim of an infected leg wound. As the number of remains discovered continues to grow, investigators suspect that Mach Tudor will go down as one of the most prolific serial killers of all-time, if not the most prolific, ever. Lead investigator Saul Grey stated, “All he needs is a spooky nickname and he’s ready for the true-crime history books. This guy was a true sicko; clearly, he really loved his work.”

Devon’s face turned red. Trembling, he ripped the paper in half and threw the pieces to the floor. He fell out of his easy chair and rolled across the floor, beating his fists against the hardwood floor and screaming, “Dammit!” over and over and over again. Disturbed by the violent outburst and annoyed by the noise, his upstairs neighbors called the police. Half an hour later, two officers knocked on Devon’s door. 

Merrill’s Musical Musings : Ro’s Recs April / In This Moment

Ro’s Recs April In This Moment Review 

What better way to spend our time on lockdown but by discovering new music? Artists all over the world have been doing live streams, living room concerts, and performing special acoustic tunes. I’ve found some amazing new artists like Tami Neilson, Devon Gilfillian, and Ida Mae as well as hearing some of my old favorites playing some incredible music like this collab between Machine Gun Kelly and Travis Barker covering Paramore’s Misery’s Business and Tyler Glenn from Neon Trees (http://www.instagram.com/tylerinacoma) doing his regular Songs from the Red Chair performances on his Instagram Live. Metallica is even streaming concert performances on YouTube and Facebook Monday nights. Let some good music into your lives and I promise it will make you feel better. 

Releasing a new piece of art during this unprecedented time is a scary proposition. I released a new book Friday, March 13th, just before most of California went into a mandatory shelter-in-place. Thankfully, my family is doing okay, but for musicians who have lost revenue from touring, releasing an album could be the only way for them to stay financially afloat. As artists, many of us are giving away our creations for free or at a discounted rate to keep shut-in folks entertained, but for musicians, losing money from canceled or postponed tours means taking a huge hit. SiriusXM is streaming FREE for this month, which is a HUGE opportunity for you to discover new music and I encourage you to get out there and support your favorite musicians however you can! Recommend their music, stream their albums on a platform like Spotify or Apple, and buy merch from their websites including CDs and vinyl if you have machines with which to play them. 

In This Moment, a phenomenal female-fronted metal band from Las Vegas, Nevada released their latest album Mother at the end of March and it is a deliciously decadent mix of original and cover songs. You’ve never heard “Fly Like An Eagle” performed quite so sensually as when Maria Brink stretches out those lyrics. Their last album, 2017’s Ritual, was filled with ruminations on witchcraft and dark elements, and that theme continues on the new record. Mother promises to be just as addictive as their previous material. Already I’m repeat-playing “Holy Man,” “God is She,” “Hunting Ground,” and the title track. So listen to the album, several times if you will, and then make sure you add a notification through Bandsintown or whatever source you get your live music recommendations from because you will NEED to see Maria Brink and Co. the next time they come through your town. They are one of the most exciting live acts on the road today. I’ve seen them at least three times and the theatrics Brink and her maidens bring to the stage, as well as the power and excellent musicianship the band exudes will provide a show like you’ve never seen before. Don’t believe me? Check out this live clip from the Loudwire Music Awards. HorrorAddicts, you will fall under the spell of In This Moment, I guarantee. 

That’s it for now, but I promise to bring you more of Ro’s Recs and reviews to keep your soul satisfied. Stay Tuned for more of Merrill’s Musical Musings… 

Logbook of Terror : Call Before You Dig!

 By Russell Holbrook

Jay squinted his eyes and stared at the small sign and its simple admonishment. Know what’s below. Call before you dig! He turned to Carl.

“Management approved this dig site, yeah?” 

Carl nodded. “And our coordinates are correct. This is the place.”

Jay stepped toward the sign. He scratched his chin stubble and looked closer. The sign, attached to a bright orange pole, suddenly looked like an almost perfect imitation. 

“This isn’t an official county notice,” Jay said.

Carl huffed and looked the sign over. “I think you’re right. The number’s 611. Shouldn’t it be 811?”

“Yeah, it should,” Jay answered.

“Call it,” Carl said.

Quickly, Jay punched 6-1-1 into his company cell. It rang. A pleasant female voice picked up on the other end. Carl watched his partner inquire about the signage. Jay shot Carl an incredulous look. He shook his head. “This is a joke, yeah?” 

“What is it?” Carl whispered.

Jay waved a hand for Carl to be quiet. 

“Sorry,” Carl said.

Jay gripped the phone. “I understand that miss, but we’re official employees of the County Archeology and Treasure Hunting Division and we have our work orders.”

Jay listened. He closed his eyes and sighed. “I appreciate your concern, miss, but our work is very serious. If we don’t dig -now, today- we’ll be in deep with our employers.” 

Jay listened again. His eyes rolled. Carl stood by, tapping his foot, watching, and waiting. Finally, Jay said a word of thanks and hung up. 

“So?” Carl asked.

“So, this is some bullshit,” Jay replied. 

“What kinda bullshit?” 

Jay kicked a rock and mumbled under his breath.

“Come on, man, what?” Carl said.

Jay sighed. “The woman on the phone said we’re on consecrated ground that can never be disturbed.” He stopped and raised his eyes to his partner.

“And?” Carl said.

“And…” Jay shook his head.

“And…” Carl repeated.

“And that anyone who digs here will be cursed, even official county workers.”

Carl scoffed. “What the hell? Why?” 

Jay felt his face flush with embarrassment before the words even came out of his mouth. “Because a powerful child wizard, who just happened to be her only son, buried his collection of two-thousand plastic toy soldiers here on this very spot before he ascended to heaven at the age of thirteen.” 

A second of silence breathed between the two men before Carl burst into an exaggerated belly laugh. Jay smiled. 

“Now that is some serious bullshit!” Carl bellowed. 

Jay began to laugh. “It really is, yeah?”

“Hell yeah!” Carl shouted. “Gimme my goddamn shovel!” 

The two men laughed heartily and began to dig. Thirty minutes and two feet later, Carl brought up a shovel full of dirt and tiny, green plastic soldiers. 

“Look at that!” Carl said. “They’re just shitty little toys like you get from the dollar store.”

“I used to melt those kinds when I was a kid,” Jay said as he heaved up a pile of the plastic soldiers and tossed them to the side. 

Carl pulled up two more hefty clods of dirt and little plastic men. “Say, what’re we supposed to be digging for anyway?”

Jay shrugged. “Dunno, man; didn’t ask, don’t care.”

Carl added his own shrug and he and Jay plunged their shovels into the dirt. 

The fabric of Carl’s white t-shirt ripped. A massive wound appeared across his belly. He screamed and fell back as his insides fell out in a torrent of blood. 

Jay’s eyes went wide. A scream tore halfway out of his throat, cut short by the deep gash that appeared in his neck. He gargled as his head lopped to one side, held on by mere strands of flesh and sinew. 

The two men shared a final glance at one another and collapsed into the freshly turned earth. 

Moments later a black SUV arrived at the dig site. A woman, a man, and a young boy exited the vehicle and eagerly stepped to the blood-soaked bodies of the dead county workers. The trio wore lab coats and the woman carried a clipboard. The man smiled wide and surveyed the scene while the woman hastily scribbled observational notes on a legal pad.

“Brilliant!” The man said. After donning plastic gloves, he pried the shovels from the hands of each of the dead workers and held them up for the woman and the boy to inspect. A toy soldier was impaled on the end of each of the shovels, one through the stomach area and the other through the neck. 

“The curse is a success!” The woman said with a note of triumph in her voice. 

“Yes! This will surely give us the competitive edge over Mallocorp and their simple machines!” the man added.

The man and the woman placed their hands on the shoulders of the young boy. 

“We’re so very, very proud of you, Jeremy,” the woman said. 

The boy smiled. “Thanks, mom. I like making curses for you and dad. It’s fun!”

The man and woman laughed heartily and drew their son in close for a hug. 

“That’s my special boy!” The father said with pride. 

And the little family hopped in their giant black SUV and drove away, filled with the excitement and joy of another successful experiment.

Merrill’s Musical Musings: The Music of Sharone

The Music of Sharone 

sharoneGreetings and welcome to another issue of Merrill’s Musical Musings. Today I’m checking out Denver Goth rocker Sharone. She started her career inspired by the haunting rock of Evanescence and has since created a sound that is unique. She’s opened for popular rock bands like Fuel, Saving Abel, Tantric, and Stitched Up Heart. Fans of bands like Nightwish and Lacuna Coil may enjoy her melodic tunes, which are full of deeply personal lyrics. Known for her energetic stage show, the artist experiments with different instrumentation and vocal styles and sounds creating a collection of stylistic songs. Her third album Reflection, which came out in December 2019, dances between gentle, mellow piano to hard-hitting and metal-infused beats that will catch the listener’s attention. “White Witch,” “Closer to Love,” and “Final Reflection” are high points on the album. Keep an eye on her social media for performances in the Denver area this spring. She’s working on new songs with her band and promises a great show.

 Social Links:

https://sharone-music.com         

https://www.facebook.com/sharone.official/      

https://mobile.twitter.com/sharone_music         

https://www.instagram.com/sharone_official/   

Download / Stream

https://music.apple.com/us/artist/sharone/1444696312

https://open.spotify.com/artist/3AmKAuGRZ8Ir8XTRl2IlXp

https://www.amazon.com/s?k=Sharone&i=digital-music&search-type=ss&ref=ntt_srch_drd_B004RP63DW

https://play.google.com/store/music/artist/Sharone?id=Axh2g6cipumpvbu3cshwjqqtnva

 

My Darling Dead : Bastards – Episode 1 The New King

 

Orteg slammed open the door of his hut, a gust of cold wet air following him into the sitting room. The meager fire his wife Dashani had managed to coax from their remaining splinters of wood was almost extinguished by the blast. Orteg, groping with his foot, managed to shut the door behind him without dropping the armful of wood he carried. His three children huddled beneath a moth-eaten bearskin rug beside the smudge of fire. Their mother looked up as the door latched and Orteg stomped over to the fireplace, leaving muddy footprints in his wake. He dropped the pile of soggy logs and wiped his hands on his dirty trousers with a disgruntled sigh.

“Could you get no more?” Dashani asked, her voice sharp and accusatory. She prodded at the pile of wood with a finger. “These’re soaked through.”

Orteg didn’t answer. He had gone into the corner of the sitting room which served as their kitchen and appeared to be tearing it apart, tossing things from their places onto the floor where they rolled until his feet kicked them aside. The children withdrew further into their bearskin sanctuary, becoming little more than brown lumps as the clankings and crashings continued. Dashani pushed herself to her feet with a sound of exasperation and limped toward him. Her leg had been savagely gashed in a fall and the infection was beginning to smell. Orteg attempted in vain to withdraw from her even as he upended a basket. 

“What in the devil are you doing?” she snapped, leaning against the counter as he reached behind a cupboard. “You know no whiskey remains after you drank it all last night. Is this ache not enough to remind you?” She reached up and rapped her knuckles on his skull.

“Devil take you, woman!” he snarled, slapping her hand away and stepping back. “Curse your infernal tongue, why not use it to clean out that festering hole in your leg, that you might stand a prayer of it remaining, and leave me in peace?”

“Do not be speaking to me that way, Orteg Bluenote,” Dashani shrilled, waving a finger in his face. “If you had been better than a no ‘count lazy good-for-nothing drunk you would have seen the morning’s sunrise and I’d have not needed to be crossing the ravine to check your traps, that we might have food for another night for the children you were so keen to put in me that you now scarcely look at! This is all your doing and don’t you forget it!”

Orteg’s hand moved like lightning, connecting with Dashani’s face and sending her sprawling. The lumps under the bearskin let out small cries, mixing with her own cry of pain as her back collided with the bed frame in the other corner of the hut’s single room. Tears rolled down her face unbidden as she cowered on the floor while her husband advanced on her, roaring “SILENCE! By all the gods that are, woman, you will give me peace or I will take it!” He raised a hand again and when she flinched but said nothing, he grunted in satisfaction. 

“Snake-tongued devil bitch,” he flung over his shoulder as he left, allowing another cold blast of wet air into the hut. This time, the fire went out. The children began to weep in earnest, their cries joining in with their mother’s as all four sobbed into the uncaring darkness. 

Orteg stumped through the woods, his feet following the path they had made with no conscious thought required from him. The palm of his hand stung where it had collided with Dashani’s face and he flexed it, relishing its sting. It was difficult for Orteg to remember the fiery young peasant girl he had fingered in the hayloft and impregnated that same summer. Though it had been less than three years ago it seemed as though a lifetime. Now, all he could think was…

He heard the sound of laughter and music up ahead and hastened his footsteps, his mouth-watering. The tavern was well lit, cheery and inviting. Orteg slipped into its comforting bosom and once again, all his cares evaporated. 

Hours later, Orteg stumbled up to the bar, nearly losing his footing and catching himself on it. “Barkeep, more whiskey,” he slurred, rapping his mug on the bar. Holding it out, his bloodshot eyes roved around the bar, taking in its clientele and sifting them for availability, desirability, ease of access and past experience. There was the usual menagerie of rough trade; farmers with dirt crusted so thick on their faces that what lay beneath was a mystery, hags seeking companionship, tavern wenches looking pretty but resigned, the usual riffraff. Further down the bar, a trio of dwarves were laughing uproariously at something. A table of what appeared to be elves were deep in conversation at a table in the corner, a beautiful blade on the table between them. 

Orteg dismissed them as immaterial as his eye made contact with one of the tavern wenches he had known many times, frequently when Dashani’s less than welcoming nature had sent him to the tavern. Sarina had just returned to the main room from the upstairs, where private business was transacted. She straightened her bodice as a man followed her, a silly grin on his features and walking unsteadily. He went to kiss her and she turned her head with a smile, deflecting it to her cheek as she winked at Orteg with one soft brown eye. The man chortled and pecked her on the cheek before stumbling to the bar. Behind him, Sarina beckoned to Orteg, sliding a finger down the center of her décolletage and licking her lips. Draining his glass, Orteg stood and lurched toward the girl, bouncing off another patron with a curse. Attempting to bypass the stranger proved impossible, for he moved to block Orteg. 

“Away, fool,” Orteg muttered thickly, attempting to walk through the man. “Can’t you see what awaits?”

“I would speak with you, Bluenote,” said the figure from beneath its cowl. “What I have to say to you, I daresay you will find more engaging than pleasures of the flesh.” 

Orteg, who could think of no such thing, grunted laughter and attempted again to pass the figure. “I doubt that very much, sir.” The tavern wench grinned, lifted her skirt a little and turned to mount the stairs. 

“Son of Wendell, you must heed me!”

The dead king’s name floated before Orteg’s bloodshot eyes for a moment before vanishing. Sarina smiled prettily, lifting her skirt still higher. Calf gave way to thigh and Orteg felt his own member responding. She grinned and rubbed a hand over her crotch. 

“Outta my way,” Orteg grunted, shouldering the figure aside. The world had dwindled to the tavern wench and Orteg smiled oafishly at her. “‘m comin’ with you.” 

“It is so,” Sarina said with a musical laugh, dropping her skirt to take his hand, rubbing her other hand under his nose. “You like this?” Her smell overwhelmed him. 

“Yuh,” he said, his tongue thick and his hands busy. She slapped at them. “Come,” she said, and turned, ascending the stairs. In a stupor of lust, Orteg followed, panting. 

She slipped into the first door at the top of the stairs and with a giggle ran to the bed. Flouncing upon it, she looked at him prettily as he stumbled through the doorway. He shut the door behind him, turning the key in the lock as he grinned, absently rubbing his crotch. 

“Aren’t you coming?” she asked, her voice demure as she patted the bed beside her. 

“Sure am,” he slurred, and with a stagger, fell onto the bed atop her. 

As he did, the door shuddered as it was splintered by a savage blow. Orteg floundered on the bed, the girl beneath him, unable to get his balance. With another mighty crash, the door caved inward and three scrawny figures on all fours scrabbled into the room. Orteg screamed, trying to get his feet underneath him and stand but Sarina held on, her fingers clutching at his back with sudden needlelike claws. She grinned at him, and Orteg felt a whole new level of fear. Her teeth were now long and sharp, her eyes feline slits. Her expression made him feel like prey.

“Son of the king, I have long awaited my day of reckoning with you,” she rasped, in a voice unlike her own. 

The next moment, he was forcefully yanked off of her and thrown to the ground by two of the thin figures. The third stepped hard on his chest, knocking the breath from him, as the other two held his arms out to his sides. Orteg thrashed his lower half around for a moment until the increasing pressure on his chest compelled him to cease. 

“That’s better,” Sarina said, rising to her feet and moving toward him. “Many years ago, your kin did away with me. Your sister, to be precise. She stabbed me and I bled to death, or so she thought. Now I shall have the pleasure of doing away with the last of her bloodline.” She raised a hand, clawed fingers reaching for Orteg’s throat. 

From the doorway, a firm voice said “Not while I breathe, Esemli, Fairy of Darkness. Stand away from the king’s rightful heir!” 

Orteg jerked his head to the side, seeing the hooded figure which had attempted to detain him on his way upstairs, even as his brain sought to interpret the words he had heard and make sense of them.

King’s…heir?? But…

The fairy wench spun, hissing. “Fool! Leave, while you are still able. This does not concern you.” She pointed a clawed finger at Orteg. “The man is mine!”

“It concerns us all, and he belongs to the kingdom. Now begone!” thundered the hooded man and made a downward slashing gesture with both hands. The figure standing on Orteg’s chest was knocked back against the wall. Blood spurted from its nose and it made desperate moaning noises, eyes bulging before slumping over onto its face. 

Orteg felt the other two release him as air flooded back into his lungs. The fairy wench screamed and leaped for him just as Orteg felt something pass him with frightful speed and strike the woman between the eyes. They met Orteg’s as she flew backward, he seeing the feral slits return to their normal soft brown and her teeth retreat from their sharp points just as she hit the wall with a sickening crunch. Sliding to the ground, she did not move.

With fierce chattering noises, the other two shapes charged at Zavier. The latter raised one hand before him and shut his eyes, screwing up his face in concentration. The air grew very hot, stinging Orteg’s face, causing him to screw up his eyes as the two shapes halted as though they had been frozen. When Orteg opened his eyes again, they were gone, leaving only shimmering air where their bodies had been.

 “They are gone,” Zavier said, breathing hard, “But they will return. My power will only remove them for a short time.” He gestured. “Now, come. We must go. There are things to be said which should not be said here.” Swirling his cloak around him, he was out the door and gone before Orteg could do more than gape. 

After a moment, Orteg blundered to his feet. Trying not to look at the two dead bodies in the room, he stumbled to the door and looked out warily. Down on the main floor, immobile in the sea of bodies in motion, stood the hooded man, staring at Orteg. 

His mouth formed words:

Follow.

Orteg followed. 

HorrorAddicts.net Season 15, Theme Announced

In these uncertain times, it’s important to know what NOT to do to keep yourself safe.  But we aren’t talking about hand sanitizer, face masks, and bleach. We aren’t even talking about the virus. We’re talking about the very real danger of being CURSED.

For the past two seasons (13 and 14) we’ve been telling you all about cursed objects and places, how they got cursed, and what’s happened to people who’ve crossed their paths. Season 15 will bring you cautionary tales of those who have fallen prey to the curse and how NOT to become one of them.

Each episode, we’ll be talking about ways you can protect yourself against curses such as:

*Don’t be a boasting jerk. Learn about the dude who just couldn’t win gracefully and carried his rivals head around to boast about it. The curse got him in the end.

*Don’t board a boat with Violet. Learn about the woman who survived three boat sinkings and the hundreds that died in her place.

*Leave well enough alone. Learn about the dude who missed being shot, but was shot by the same bullet while attempting to remove it from a tree.

Learn these warnings and more during the 13-episode Season 15, coming in April 2020.

The Horror Seeker : Give me the power I beg of you! / Bayou Berserk Month

“Thank you, almighty Damballa for life after death…”

Not exactly the kind of thing you’d expect to be based in reality. You know what they say, the truth is sometimes stranger than fiction, and this is apparently the case with Child’s Play, rather the chant that Chucky needs to transfer his soul out of the infamous good guy doll.

Not so much the act of transferring a soul, but to my surprise, I found that Damballa, in Haitian and Louisiana lore, is known as the “sky father”. One might consider him to be on par with God, as he’s often synchronized with St. Patrick, Christ the Redeemer, or even Moses.

It’s interesting to note that he is referred to as ‘sky father”, as we all remember the rolling storm that would loom as Chucky recited his chant. Nowhere have I found that this is any kind of myth, or truth to Damballa, so I guess it’s safe to say it’s pure fiction. More so, I think the fact of him being sky father is nothing more than a coincidence, as the element of Voodoo was one of the last things added to the film, which admittedly helps it stand out amongst the horror community, even today.

Many aspects of Voodoo were used in the film: we see a Voodoo doll being executed to kill Chucky’s mentor… and, this one I just learned while penning this article. If you go back and listen to Chucky’s dialogue when he first meets John as the Good Guy doll, he presents himself by saying: “What do you think? The Gris Gris (gree-gree) work?” John nods but is terrified all the same, almost as if he can’t believe what happened. And neither did we… in Bride of Chucky.

Those familiar with the film can all agree, the sudden macguffin of the film, the amulet which Chucky and Tiffany are now after was in no way referenced in the original 1988 film… or was it?

No, we never see Charles Lee Ray wearing, or using it in any way when he’s killed, even though it’s made clear it was around his neck the night he died. It has been written off as a lame plot device to service the fourth installment, and I’m here to tell you that the filmmakers may have once again stumbled onto a bit of fortuitous history here, as well. As it turns out, a Gris-gris is indeed a Voodoo amulet based in Africa that is said to protect the wearer from evil, and or bring good fortune. It is something that has been found not only as a wearable charm, but any sort of intended stone put on buildings, etc. for the same reason.

Mind blown! Further, it’s entomology has best been traced back to the French term Juju, meaning fetish, or alternatively ‘doll” or “plaything”. You can make with the jokes, by all means, but it’s still quite interesting the speculated unintentional accuracy these films had!

Voodoo has a long and rich history, no doubt, but it is only a religion through and through. Like any ancient beliefs, I’m sure that much of its truths are beholden to those who are truly devout. For the rest of us, Voodoo has always had an ominous haze overhead which I guess you could say is due to our lack of modern understanding. Many who are nervous about it make jokes, are not informed, and are influenced by pop culture which isn’t always the best resource. I myself have always found it an interesting subject and look to read into it, for nothing more than curiosity, really. But what do you think? Are you familiar with the practice? If so, share below, and until next time my children… this is The Horror Seeker!

Haunt Jaunts : Haunted by the Voodoo Queen, Marie Laveau

With Courtney Mroch

How many years had it been since I’d been to New Orleans, specifically the French Quarter? It was perhaps best measured in decades and it’d been at least a few.

I’d been a pre-teen sent to stay with relatives for the summer the last time I’d been there. They lived in a small town near Lake Pontchartrain about a half an hour from New Orleans, but we’d made several trips into the city that hot, steamy summer.

And now I was back, in the land of my ancestors. My grandma and her sister had been born and raised there. They came of age there just after the turn of the twentieth century, in the early 1900s.

Gram had long since passed. Her sister had passed long before her. But I felt them as I walked the streets. It was as if their ghosts were guiding me to all the places they knew I wanted to see most.

Yes, I had been there before, but not to the places I went now. My relatives hadn’t taken me past Madame LaLaurie’s house. Discussing a serial killer wouldn’t have been age-appropriate subject matter back then. But I wanted to see it now, and with ease, no directions needed, there I was.

Same for when I wanted to visit St. Louis Cemetery No. 1 in search of Marie Laveau’s grave. My relatives wouldn’t have thought to take me to a cemetery back then. If they had, I probably would’ve thought it was weird and ended up with nightmares for a week.

But now I felt my visit to NOLA wasn’t complete without seeing it. Again, I felt my ancestors with me on my quest to find the grave.

Everything was perfect until we got to Marie Laveau’s House of Voodoo. It was just a tiny little shop on Bourbon Street. I went in, had a look around, noted –and respected– the “no photos” sign, bought a couple postcards to send to friends, then left.

But before I did I wanted to get a photo of some kind. I turned to take a photo of the store’s facade. That’s when I was blasted, for lack of a better word, with an angry energy.

It wasn’t evil or demonic. It didn’t feel hate-filled exactly, but it sure contained animosity.

But just as soon as it hit me, it evaporated. I didn’t think any more about it other than maybe I was hot and in need of a cool drink, some A/C and a little rest. I’d hit the ground running early that morning and hadn’t stopped since.

I thought about it again later that night, though, when I had a horrible dream.

In the dream, I was still asleep in my hotel room, but as dreams do I could see multiple perspectives at once. I also saw the outside of Marie Laveau’s House of Voodoo as I had that day, and I once again felt that angry energy, but this time it was accompanied by a scream. One so loud I covered my ears and closed my eyes and that’s when my mind’s eye saw the Voodoo Queen hovering horizontally against the ceilings of both the shop and my hotel room, her mouth twisted in a snarling growl from whence emerged the ear-shattering scream.

Which was bad enough, but her eyes were boring into mine…even though mine were closed. My eyelids provided no protection at all. There was nowhere to hide.

It was her eyes that told me her anger was personal. Marie Laveau hated me. She wanted me gone. Not gone as in dead, but out of her city.

When I woke up, I was glad it was just a dream, but…it didn’t feel like just a dream. The residue stayed with me the rest of the day. Even now, years later, the feeling still persists.

But what could I have done to Marie Laveau? Angered her because I was one of the tacky tourists curious to see her grave? That seemed unlikely.

Besides, as I said, the anger felt very personal and intimate. Like I’d done something very egregious to warrant her wrath.

A few years later one of my cousins emailed me excited about a discovery she’d made during genealogy research. I’d never shared the Marie Laveau incident, so she blew me away with what she had to say.

“You’re going to love this. I think I may have found a connection between our family and Marie Laveau!”

“What do you mean by connection?” Laveau

“As in we might be related to her!”

“I see,” I said doubtfully. For one, Marie Laveau was a woman of color. Where was that color in our family?

“No, I’m serious. I know what you’re thinking. I don’t have all the facts yet, but I think one of our great-great somebodies might’ve married one of her daughters or granddaughters. Big scandal. He got disowned. When I find out more, I’ll let you know.”

She still hasn’t let me know, but was that why I felt Marie Laveau’s wrath? Had my great-great somebody really married one of her offspring and perhaps caused chaos of some kind for her too? Maybe he hadn’t provided for her like he needed to because of getting disowned?

I still don’t know, and I have to admit as much as it thrilled me at first to think we may be connected to the famous Voodoo Queen, I knew it was most likely wishful thinking.

Until I decided to take a DNA test and received some surprising results: 8.1% of my ancestry hails from Sub-Saharan Africa. 

Huh. Didn’t see that one coming.

But even more interesting was the timeline that detailed how many generations back my most recent ancestors came from each ancestry composition. My African ancestors were from the 1700s to the early 1800s.

Marie Laveau lived from 1801-1881. She had two daughters with her husband Jacques Paris: Felicite (born 1817) and Angele (born 1820.) It’s possible they died because there is no further record of them after the 1820s.

When Jacques died, she had formed a “domestic partnership” with Christophe Dominick Duminy de Glapion and had at least seven children with him. Some reports say they had as many as 15, but some of them could’ve been grandchildren.

However, it’s thought only two of her children survived to adulthood, Marie Euchariste Eloise Laveau (1827-1862) and Marie Philomene Glapion (1836-1897). One of these Marie’s became Marie Laveau II, but it’s not clear which one.

Marie Laveau was born in the French Quarter but her mother had Native American, African and French ancestry.

Perhaps one of my ancestors hooked up with one of hers in the 1800s? Perhaps we’re the result of their offspring?

Which would mean I have Marie Laveau blood in my veins, if only a little bit.

Before the DNA info, I doubted it was possible. Now? I’m not so sure.

I’m continuing to dig to see if I come across any connections, and I’m still hoping my cousin’s research will prove something. Either one way or the other.

Until then, the mystery of it all haunts me –both whether I’m related to Marie Laveau and if my overactive imagination dreamed up the anger I felt her directing at me.

 

 

 Gargoyles a Review :  Bernie Casey’s Unsung Role 

Gargoyles : A Review or Bernie Casey’s Unsung Role

by James Goodridge    

Premiering as a television movie the evening of November 24, 1972, on the CBS Network Thursday Night Movies series, Gargoyles was amazing in that a generation of preteens have fond memories of having the bejeezus scared out of them back then.

Considering the glaring budget constraints that showed in the production, it is considered a frightful oldie but goodie. Directed by B.W.L. Norton, written by Elinor and Stephen Karpf, music by Robert Prince and doing the best he can, costume designer Tom Dawson the story is set in the American southwest.

Anthropologist/paleontologist Dr. Mercer Boley (Cornel Wilde of the cinematically provocative Naked Prey 1966) and his daughter Diana played by Jennifer Salt (Who would years later in 2011 would be a producer/showrunner for American Horror Story) are invited to Willie’s Museum run by Uncle Willie played by Woodrow Chambliss, (If you stood at the intersection of TVland and Metv and threw a rock you would hit a TV Western he was in. You have seen him on a dozen shows and never knew his name.)

A young Scott Glenn appears as dirt biker James Reeger. Low and behold Grayson Hall of Dark Shadows has a part as Mrs. Parks the Motel owner always with a glass of something in her hand, Dark Shadows had ended the year before in 1971 on ABC. 

Then you have Bernie Casey. Uncle Willie is incinerated after an attack on his museum during which the Boleys escape with the bones of a fellow gargoyle that’s when we first glimpse them. Their purpose: every 500 years they appear on the earth’s surface to hatch gargoyle eggs.

I must say I can’t remember when I first saw this movie and confess never paid attention to the opening or closing credits but loved whoever the actor was who portrayed “The Gargoyle” so it was a shock for me to find out on IMDb, that it was Casey.

 Bernie Casey’s (6/8/39 – 9/19/17) initial fame was as a high hurdler during the U.S. Olympic trials in 1960. Then as a wide receiver for the NFL’s L.A. Rams and finally the San Francisco 49ers from the mid-’60s. 

Catching the acting bug over the years he appeared in Hit Man (1971), Dr. Black and Mr. Hyde (1975), The Martian Chronicles (NBC 1980), Spies Like Us (1982) and Deep Space Nine season two, guest-starring as Calvin Hudson in “The Maquis” part one and two episodes just to name a few.

The subplot about a Gargoyle with a thirst for knowledge of the surface world to me is along with that 70’s feel it has is a good grindhouse gem to watch.

While Mr. Casey didn’t have what one would call range as an actor I would give it to him in Gargoyles in that under Mr. Dawson’s make up work he was able to give the character life.

Merrill’s Musical Musings : Ro’s Recs

Ro’s Recs

Many great albums were released in 2019, and while I’m not a big list maker, I thought I’d share a few of them here. Some bands have been with us for decades like Slipknot and Korn and others were new to me. Bands like Papa Roach, Sleeping with Sirens, Volbeat, and Bring Me The Horizon took big risks on a new sound that paid off well. We lost Vinnie Paul from Hellyeah, but the band gave him a beautiful sendoff with Welcome Home. Motionless in White and New Year’s Day put out powerful albums that cemented their status in the rock community as artists that have fought long and hard to be there. Baroness returned from a harrowing tragedy to put out a strong album. I Prevail had a fairytale beginning with a cover of Taylor Swift and this year they’ve been nominated for a Grammy! And lastly, The Hu, Fever333 and Bad Wolves were all new bands to me that I am glad I took a chance on. I hope you will too. 

Slipknot – We Are Not Your Kind

Bring Me The Horizon – Amo

Papa Roach – Who Do You Trust?

Hellyeah – Welcome Home

Motionless in White – Disguise

New Year’s Day – Unbreakable

Volbeat – Rewind, Replay, Rebound

Korn – The Nothing

The Hu – Gereg

Baroness – Gold and Grey

Bad Wolves – N.A.T.I.O.N.

Fever333 – Strength in Numb333rs

Sleeping With Sirens – How It Feels To Be Lost

I Prevail – Trauma 

There’s a wide variety on this list, a little something for everyone, so as we prepare for a new year of music, give some of these a listen.

What are you looking forward to in 2020? Leave a comment and let me know what music I should be looking out for in 2020. And with that, Stay Tuned for more of Merrill’s Musical Musings…

Book Review : Knowing When To Die by Mort Castle

Review – Knowing When to Die by Mort Castle

Review By Chantal Boudreau

I volunteered for this review because the premise of this short story collection, stories about death, intrigued me. I especially like what I refer to as “real-life horror,” tales with no supernatural element so I don’t have to quash the skeptic in me while I’m reading, and I was hoping I’d find at least a few of these within the collection. I wasn’t disappointed.

I’m not sure I would describe all of these stories as horror. They do all deal with death, as promised, in many instances suicide, and at a minimum have an element of the startling or disturbing, but many of them did not chill or scare me. They were beautifully written, with a keen awareness of language and a plethora of metaphor, so they were definitely worthy of being read, but I was looking for something a little more scary. The stories I would describe as horror I would define as “literary horror” and play with the ideas within them. Some of the stories were concept stories, without an expected start to finish approach but more of an exploration of theme.

I did have some favourites amongst the collection. The opening story hooked me. I’m not a big celebrity fan type, and I think Marilyn Munroe has been overdone but found the novel way of presenting her death fascinating. “Guidance” is one of the scarier stories, and I liked it even though I usually find stories involving ghosts not all that frightening. I considered “Robot” quite entertaining and I’d like to see more stories with seniors as protagonists. It is one of the better character studies in the collection. And lastly, the story I enjoyed the most — the one that seemed the most chilling and jarring and is based on a real-life event — is “Prayer”.

If you are the type of person that looks for pulpy, gore-filled horror anthologies, this collection is probably not for you. On the other hand, if you are looking for something a little more subtle and intellectual, I would recommend this as a good read. It is certainly thought-provoking.

Merrill’s Musical Musings – HorrorAddicts.net Season 13’s Best Band of 2019

Greetings HorrorAddicts! This year has already been chock-a-block full of great music, but today we’re going to revisit a highlight from 2019. The Lords of October were the reigning champs in the HorrorAddicts.net Best Band competition from Season 13 and we have a quick interview with them to catch you up on all the latest news. 

How has winning Best Band of HorrorAddicts.net Season 13 changed your life? At the very least, how does this impact you as a band?

We are terrified by and excited for this news! It’s an honor to be recognized for this and to be held in regard by Horror Addicts.net. We feel as though we are on the right track with such a vote and we look forward to making more monster music that will be —hopefully—loved by those who are our brothers and sisters in horror! This, in our opinion, gives us further horror cred and is exactly the type of award we would strive for. We thank you all!

-Uncle Salem

What’s your latest news? Any new adventures? When can fans expect new material?-

The latest music is going on a record inspired by tales of cryptozoology. You know, like hidden creatures and wild mythos and stuff. We have some tunes that are inspired by the Mothman, Loch Ness, the Mongolian death worm and other such things. I have always loved monsters and consider myself a bit of a cryptozoologist, but I was truly inspired after attending the Mothman festival in West Virginia this past summer. It was a lot of fun, but also where the tragic deaths occurred. 

We are always working hard at new ideas and music, always bringing new stuff to the table. For this new one, we are attempting a more collaborative songwriting effort. We shall have a little more of all of us in the entire creative process. So far, I have written 5 songs for it and Aleister has come up with a couple. We will mix and match and see what happens. 

We will probably have it out around fall of 2020. It all depends on the daily goings-on of everyone and what we are able to do. We are always looking to play some great shows and make some new videos. Taking it all a day at a time!

-Lucifer Fulci

Best Horror Movie/TV Show/Book of 2019 in your humble opinion?

I saw It Chapter 2 this year and I thought it was fantastic. Best horror movie of the year in my opinion. The acting was great and Bill Skarsgård’s performance as Pennywise creeped me to the bone.

-October Phoenix

What title would you most like to earn/award you’d most like to win moving forward in your career?

Best KISSfits band ever.

-Aleister Kane

Anything to add?

Lords of October is a hell of a great band and I love to play with these guys. There is a very eclectic influence that plays into some of the styles that you can hear in the music. I enjoy writing music and seeing how these guys interpret it and make it their own. I also like when they bring stuff to me and allow me to add something to it. I have been making music a long time-a lot on my very own and I enjoy the solitude. (I will have a new solo record out in 2020, also- www.LuciferFulci.com) But to play with Lords, its very special. Like, literally and figuratively, I get to come out and play! 

-Lucifer Fulci

Congratulations to Lords of October and we can’t WAIT for more creepily delicious music! 

That’s it for today. Stay Tuned for More Merrill’s Musical Musings…

Haunt Jaunts : Voodoo and My First Horse-Drawn Carriage Ghost Tour

With Courtney Mroch

The first thing I spotted as we took a jaunt to scope out the Jekyll Island Club & Resort’s surroundings was the A-frame sign listing all of the horse-drawn carriage tour options. Of course, the ghost tour caught my eye.

“A horse-drawn carriage ghost tour?” I exclaimed to my husband. “I’ve never taken one of those before. In fact, have we ever even taken a carriage ride together?”

“I’m sure we have.”

“Where?” I challenged, pretty sure we hadn’t.

He thought about it for a second.

“I don’t know, but it seems like we did once upon a time.”

“Well, to make sure we do, can we take one tonight if they’re offering the ghost tour? Wouldn’t that be so romantic?”

His expression answered better than any words could. His idea of romance and mine were very different.

Begrudgingly he agreed to the tour, though. Probably for a few reasons.

  1. We were only there the one night.
  2. We didn’t have anything else planned that evening, so he couldn’t very well make excuses for why we couldn’t.
  3. I think he was hoping that since it was past spooky season, as well as being the island’s offseason, there wouldn’t be a ghost tour.

Sadly for him, but lucky for me, there was. We made our reservation and then continued our exploration.

Along the way, we passed a shiny ebony horse pulling a white carriage whose occupants were getting a history tour of the island. I heard the driver call out, “Whoa, Voodoo, whoa!” as she maneuvered the carriage off the trail in front of one of the millionaire’s cottages.

At the same time that my husband said, “Did you hear the horse’s name?” I said, “Voodoo? I hope that’s the horse we get for our tour!”

I’ll save you the suspense. We did.

I’ve taken a few ghost tours in my day. Ones on foot, some by car or bus, but never in a horse-drawn carriage led by a horse named Voodoo.

Jekyll Island is nestled along south Georgia’s coast. It was a crisp late November night that we met the driver (who also served as our ghost tour guide) at the designated pick up point. We climbed aboard where a seat with thick, heavy blankets waited for us to bundle ourselves under them.

Our guide was wonderful. I wish I could remember her name. I thought I had written it down. I guess I was so excited about Voodoo and my first horse-drawn carriage ghost tour that I didn’t.

To my surprise, she had a plethora of stories to tell. I knew the Jekyll Island Club where we were staying for the night was rumored to be haunted. That’s why I’d booked us there.

I also knew from a previous visit to the island that the former cottage that had once housed the bookstore allegedly had a ghost. The last time I’d visited had been with my sister. Like me, she couldn’t pass a bookstore and not stop in.

It had been my sister’s birthday. She loved riding bikes, so my present to her was taking her up to Jekyll, renting bikes for the day and cruising all over the island.

Stopping in the bookstore also allowed us a little rest stop. That’s how my sister got to talking to the owner and somehow it came out the place was haunted.

This was years before I started my site, Haunt Jaunts, but it was another reason why I did. Back then I was always going on unofficial haunt jaunts. Except for that day. Ghosts hadn’t been on my mind. Yet, a story of one still fell in my lap.

I’d forgotten about that until our guide related a story about Phoebe, a little girl of one of the staff members back in the day who allegedly disappeared from the island. Her body was never found, but that’s who some think they see when they spot a child spirit in a couple of places on the Jekyll Island Club’s property. Among them being a small cottage that used to be the bookstore, which had since relocated and its former building now stood vacant.

But before we got to the part about the bookstore, our guide shared a little history about the island and its former inhabitants.

It had started as a private hunting club for America’s elite, such as Rockefeller, Pullitzer, and even the Macy family. However, they soon decided it would make a fine place to get away with their families in the winter, so several of them built “cottages.”

Their idea of a cottage, however, resulted in stunning seaside mini-mansions in a variety of architectural styles.

I have been enamored (and obsessed) with the cottages ever since I first saw them back in the late 1990s. I had only seen them in the daytime previously, though, as I’d never been fortunate enough to stay overnight on the island — until the night of the tour.

Voodoo led us down the live oak-lined trails where Spanish moss created a canopy above us that fluttered in the breeze. One of the first ghost story stops was the Hollybourne Cottage.

It would turn out to be my favorite stop.

Almost all of the cottages have lighting illuminating them at night. Hollybourne was no different. However, when Voodoo circled the carriage around the drive, the light cast a marvelous silhouette of his head against the cottage’s grey tabby facade.

For a moment I felt I had leaped back in time. Except I remembered what age I was in and that we had cameras on our phones. I scrambled to pull mine out so I could capture the sight of Voodoo in the light because it was Gothic and haunting and I wanted to capture that memory.

If ever there was a time for a ghost to appear, that would’ve been it. One did manifest — by way of the ghost tour guide’s tales.

Allegedly a little girl died in the house. Some claim to have seen her face appear when they stand before the home’s glass front door.

I didn’t have time to test it then, but I made a note to go back and try the next morning. (She didn’t appear for me, but that’s okay. Perhaps she sensed I might not have been as impressed by that as I was by the site of Voodoo in the light the night before.)

As we pulled away from Hollybourne, our guide asked, “What room are you in?”

I told her and she said, “I always ask because the little girl’s mother haunts room 3101 in the Annex.”

I think I surprised her when I said, “Darn. That’s just down the hall from us.”

I don’t think she meets many people hoping to stay in a haunted hotel room.

She shared other tales of the island’s ghostly inhabitants, like the helpful phantom bellman who assists wedding parties staying at the hotel.

The island had been abandoned during the Civil War and the animals had all been left behind. After the war, when people returned, they were trying to round up the animals, including a white stallion, but he kept eluding them. While chasing him, he ran into the water and drowned. Some say disembodied horse noises coming from the water belong to him.

She even showed us the photo of a ghost face in the Sans Souci, which was essentially an apartment building Rockefeller built. His quarters were on the top floor.  Some report smelling cigar smoke. He had a penchant for smoking them.

Does his restless spirit still roam there? Our guide believed he does. She showed us a photo of the building. It was taken during the daytime, but she zoomed in to show us a white specter’s face looking out of one of the top floor windows. (I spent a great deal of time the next morning trying to recreate the shot, to no avail.)

But the scariest part of the night was when Voodoo led us around a curve and not even five feet away stood a deer. Not that I’m afraid of deer, and maybe “startle” is a better word, because that’s what happened. It startled me to see the deer appear seemingly out of nowhere.

It was real, though. Not a ghost. It stood contemplating us inquisitively, its ears twitching a bit, its tail flicking a time or two. Voodoo clopped away, leaving the deer to watch us as we drove off.

As ghost tours go, it was short. Only about 30 minutes. But it couldn’t have been more perfect. A chill in the hushed air. Snuggled up next to the love of my life. The gentle glow from the few street lights interspersed with the carriage’s lantern. A perfect romantic atmosphere for listening to ghost stories.

And then there was Voodoo, who added an extra bit of pizzazz to make the evening pure magic.

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.

Merrill’s Musical Musings: Cellmod Review

Merrill’s Musical Musings – Cellmod Review 

Greetings and salutations. Welcome to March! It’s nearly Spring, Daylight Savings Time is just around the corner, and in California, the trees are blooming, the sun is shining, and the primary election is happening soon.

Many things are afoot in Ro’s world and things are about to get hectic. I’ve got a new supernatural suspense novel—Healer—releasing on Friday, March 13th, and then I’m off to Nashville for the Book Lovers Con March 18-22.

I plan to do some music-related visits such as Third Man Records—Jack White’s record label and vinyl factory—and southern songwriter and alternative rapper Yelawolf’s Slumerican made flagship vintage clothing store and barbershop. I’m also going on a bus tour with a bunch of drunken friends where we’re supposedly getting some history of the town, but if you have suggestions of can’t-miss music locations—bonus points if they’re haunted—please leave them in the comments or hit me up at rlmerrillauthor@gmail.com or www.facebook.com/rlmerrillauthor. I’ll be posting pics on my author page as well as my Instagram @rlmerrillauthor and I’ll tag you if you leave me a suggestion. 

This month’s review is of EDM/Trance/Trip-Hop artist Cellmod’s new album The Dissident. According to his bio, “Cellmod was born to display an adaptation to his surrounding environment. The name itself signifies a desire to unify with the very roots of one’s physical being, or in simpler terms, Cellmod is taking it back to the vibe and pulse of the music.” I can definitely feel that vibe as I listen to standout tracks such as “Ransacked” and the naughty, old school sci-fi tinged “Harder Serum.” I can picture a woman with dark hair perched atop dramatic stilettos in a fitted pencil skirt and blazer as she walks with purpose down a stark white hallway, passing unmarked doors. The clack-clack of her heels is drowned out by the ominous sound of “The Machine” as she enters a laboratory where classified experiments are being done on unsuspecting young male subjects. Oh…did my imagination carry me away there for a minute? Fine. I will say that the track “Let Them Sleep” gives me a very Nine Inch Nails groove that I dig very much. If electronic music is your jam and you like to have some well-produced, good quality background music to do your…experiments to, Cellmod is your guy. Check out The Dissidents today!

Stay tuned for more Merrill’s Musical Musings… 

March Theme: Bayou Berserk and New Orleans Horror

March Theme:  Bayou Berserk / Bizarro / Mardi Gras / Plantation / Swamp / Cemetery / Voodoo

Say that again three times fast! It’s a mouth full! More importantly, it is a month full of creepy, scary, frightening, and deadly tales that we hope you will enjoy. 

Whether you’re a fan of Anne Rice’s Louisiana horror or an enthusiast of voodoo legend, the bayou holds a certain air of mystery and dread. 

If you have traveled to New Orleans you have likely seen the signs outside the cemeteries. “Don’t go in alone!” We’ll help you see what even the tourism bureau makes sure to warn you of, and it’s not just to sell tours! 

If you prefer to read spine-tingling tales of ghosts in vine-covered plantations or you’re a fan of Bizarro fiction, our Bayou Berserk month will give you a fright! 

Merrill’s Musical Musings: Her Despair

Her Despair 

Greetings and Salutations for a brand new year and decade that I am confident will be filled with amazing music. I’m Ro, your musical tour guide, and today I want to introduce you to a Goth rock outfit from the UK called Her Despair. Their music will take you right back to those 80s afternoons sitting in your bedroom listening to cassettes—or perhaps your vinyl collection—waiting for the night to fall and bring with it the creepy darkness where anything can happen and life is just a little more interesting. 

 

Her Despair melds together sounds of Peter Murphy and Sisters of Mercy as well as current artists like Nightwish and HIM. Their latest release, Exorcisms of Eroticism, was released in summer 2019 and contains melodic jams like “Pandaemonium” and “The Exorcism,” which has an appropriately dark music video to go along with it. “In That Moment” is my favorite track on the EP. The haunting, romantic vocals dance over the dichotomy of the synthesizers and guitars, giving it a nostalgic sound, but you could also expect to hear it on a modern-day alternative rock station. “Like a Crucifixion” is another excellent example of their sound. A steady rock beat with powerful lyrics make for an enjoyable combination and will have you slipping into Her Despair like a comfortable pair of black fishnets…or a worn pair of Doc Martens. 

For more on Her Despair, check them out at the links below.

https://www.facebook.com/herdespair/

https://www.instagram.com/herdespairband/?hl=en

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCVZhKFjVsq1Wpbruy-dryuw/featured

See also my companion article this month: Ro’s Recs Best of 2019, here at Horroraddicts.net

Multimedia Opportunities at HOW Con 2020!

Don’t have time to read everything at the HorrorAddicts.net Online Writers Conference this week? Prefer to Learn with Audio? Enjoy Video Workshops instead? HOW has you covered for a Multimedia Writing Experience!

Browse a variety of Technological Teaching Tools including:

Next Great Horror Writer Podcast Series

HorrorAddicts.net African American Multimedia Conference Video Coverage

Horror Podcasting with Nancy Kilpatrick

Back to Basics: Writing Like We’re 10 Video Prompts

SecondLife Workshops with Sumiko Saulson

Even when our Live Conference Events end, HOW remains as an Online Archive to browse Chat Transcripts, Author Panels, and Writing Workshops brought to you by HorrorAddicts.net!

 

This Week! : HOW CON 2020 Coming February 25-27!

We’re BACK and once again The HOW Conference is open to Any Genre and General Writing Topics, not just Horror!

Authors, Editors, Agents, Publishers, Readers, and Writers are invited to be part of The HorrorAddicts.net Online Writers Conference February 25-27, 2020. Learn HOW to hone your literary craft thanks to interactive online forums, live chats, writing exercises, and more FREE opportunities to sharpen your skills wherever you are and whatever you write.

Workshop Submissions for HOW are Currently OPEN!

What kind of workshops are we looking for at HOW you ask?

~Interactive forum based workshops, worksheets, writing exercises or prompts in any genre or writing skill level
~Articles and essays with writing tips, experiences, or references, again in all genres or on technical tips, formatting, grammar, etc
~Editor, Agent, and Publisher essays, experiences, or feedback
~Articles and tips on marketing, networking, promotion, and social media for authors
~Genre-specific essays, tips, trends on world building, characters, genre perimeters, etc.

If you are an author, editor, agent, or publisher and would like to do a Q&A, chat, or live audio/visual event, let us know! Shoutbox Chats and Live Events are currently being scheduled for Tuesday, February 25 and Wednesday, February 26. Have an idea? Don’t hesitate to ask! If it is technologically possible, we want to do it at HOW!

Register now on our Free Forum at horroraddictswriters.freeforums.net for more information. Don’t worry, it’s free and Easy! Workshop submissions can be done directly through the forum system or by emailing your workshop proposal no later than February 7 to horroraddicts@gmail.com. Please use the subject heading ‘Horror Addicts Online Conference Query’ so we recognize your message.


To participate in HOW, you must register at our Online Writers Conference Forum. During the week of the conference, the Workshop boards will be open. Each board will contain the workshop threads, conveniently sorted by genre so our experts can present their tips, worksheets, brainstorming, and more. All you have to do interact – host your workshop, browse the forum, participate in one, two events or as many aspects as possible and get inspired with HOW!

Thank you for your participation and we look forward to seeing you at the Horror Addicts.net Online Writers Conference!

 

Revisit the Writing HOW-tos from Last Year’s Conference:

HOW Video Workshops

HOW Guest Authors

HOW Chat Transcripts

 

Haunt Jaunts : Ghoulish Goodies Mystery Boxes

Satisfy Your Dark Craving for Specialized Spooky Gifts

What tickles your ghoulish fancy? Witches? Halloween? Killer clowns? Horror movie villains? Just something gothic in general? Imagine receiving a mystery box in the mail from a company called Ghoulish Goodies filled with creeptastic themed items.

Well, you don’t need to imagine it. The company really exists. They specialize in crafting mystery boxes filled with “the most ghastly and gruesome goodies to soothe your black heart and satisfy your dark soul.”

Ghoulish Goodies has themed boxes of all kinds. It’s a mystery exactly what’s in each one, but they’re filled with things like candy, trinkets and individually wrapped gifts –in custom made paper.

Kevin, the company’s owner and Head Ghoul, attempts to capture the magic, mystery and excitement of Christmas morning and Halloween night.

I think he nails it.

I gifted a Haunt Jaunts reader a Budget Black Cat box as part of a contest. Here’s what she wrote to me after receiving it:

It was the best present I got in 58 years.

Here’s what she wrote to Ghoulish Goodies:

I was amazed at all the surprises that were in the box. It was opened and i saw cobwebs and spiders. Then all the goodies were wrapped up nicely. Lots of black cats that were stuffed and glass. Pencil cases, lots of candy, more bugs. My cats are enjoying those. Stickers, and many more items. I was very pleased with all my things.

Other reviews left on Ghoulish Goodies Facebook page reflect the same sentiment:

From Christina M.

One of my best friends bought me a custom made box of “all things gore” for my birthday. It was seriously one of the best gifts I’ve ever received. Lots of things to open. It was so fun to see what was inside! My friend also got an “Exorcist” themed box for her husband. I watched him open it and it was equally as fun as the one I got! 10/10 would recommend. A lot of work, thought, and care are reflected in each of these boxes. Because of this gift, Ghoulish Goodies has a new customer

From Kimchi A.

Talk about presentation, personalization and the best bang for your buck you could ever hope to find, The Exorcist deluxe box was an absolute treasure trove! For the collector, there wasn’t anything left out. Pictures, posters, postcards, memorabilia, toys and rarities in personalized wrapping paper. All this surrounded by Red Hots and Hot Tamales candy boxes, complete with Exorcist lip balm (Lick me! The power of chap compels you!) and a single solitary can of split pea soup. Out of 5 stars, you get 666 for this effort!! HIGHLY recommended!

From Amber S.

Received my box today, I loved it “alot”. It was fun and was one of the best mystery boxes I Received so far. I mostly loved how everything was individually wrapped, but could have done better without the candy. Also i know it’s always random stuff in the boxes but if a pop figure is in one of these boxes please make sure to be careful with the pop boxs because it did have some damage. Overall I loved the box and I WILL BE GETTING MORE.

Christmas has passed but Valentine’s Day is coming. And yep. Ghoulish Goodies offers Bleeding Hearts boxes in their Holiday Themed Mystery Boxes section.

But of course you can send any type of box any time you want, no holiday or special occasion needed. You can even treat yo’ self!

They have three tiers of box types to choose from:

  1. Budget Boxes for $69.99
  2. Biggie Boxes for $110
  3. Deluxe Boxes for $159.99

The more you spend, the bigger the box and the more impressive the goodies inside. All prices include shipping.

For More Info

Visit Ghoulish Goodies: http://www.ghoulishgoodies.net/

Disclaimer: This was not a paid endorsement, but I am friends with the company’s owner. I really believe in him and the passion he pours into putting his boxes together. People don’t take the time to gift people gifts like this anymore with all the wrapping and thoughtfulness. I think that’s why his boxes make such a huge impact when they’re opened.

 

Mocha Memoirs Press : Tell Your Story Regardless

Telling Your Story Regardless
by Nuzo Onoh

A while ago, a lovely literary agent had this to say about my manuscript when I contacted him for representation. It is impressively wrought and fully realized. I am sorry to say that I don’t have a clear vision for how to break it out in a very crowded and challenging market for fiction.

Ouch! Needless to say, I was gutted by the rejection. Without him telling me, I knew without vanity that my story was indeed impressively wrought and fully realised, but just like several other agents before him had stated, they all lacked the courage to take on something so different from the current market trend, that it was simply easier to pass.

Did I sit down and fold my hands and cry, chuck my manuscript into a drawer and leave it to collect dust and wallow in hopeless despair? Hell no! What I’ve done is take control of my writing and my destiny. I knew I had a story to tell, a rich African culture to share with a wider audience through the medium of horror.

Growing up, my earliest African horror influence was a book by Amos Tutuola titled, The Palmwine Drinkard. The book was a brilliant narrative of folklore, told in the authentic pidgin English of the average uneducated Nigerian, and it resonated so much with me that I knew I wanted to write and tell my own story, one laced with African lore but embodying all the modern elements of a good horror story. I wanted to write African ghost stories, supernatural narratives that will induce feelings of dread, suspense, terror, revulsion and shock, stories that are unsettling and unexpected, yet showcasing African culture and lore.

In time, as I started discovering other works of regional horror, from Japanese horror to Scandinavian horror, I realised there was no market for African horror in the literary field, even though there were a few results for African horror film, thanks mainly to the Nigerian Nollywood industry and the South African horror film fest. It wasn’t because Africans weren’t writing horror; rather, it was simply because no African writer had opted to market their work under that genre. Worse, the popular press had already cannibalised the phrase so negatively, that a google search for African Horror inevitably came up with negative results about the African continent, covering stories about wars, famine, Aids and every other evil they could report. Needless to say, similar or worse events taking place in Europe and America were never covered under the heading of American Horror, British Horror or Spanish Horror etc.

So, when I started writing my stories, I decided to reclaim that heading and turn the phrase, “African Horror” into something horrifically positive. Firstly, I set up my own publishing company, Canaan-Star Publishing, UK. I had no idea about publishing. It wasn’t one of the things we were taught during my masters degree programme in Writing. But I was determined to tell my story nonetheless and so, spent endless hours poring over internet articles on publishing and marketing.

My first African Horror book, The Reluctant Dead, was finally published in 2014 and I undertook a vigorous marketing strategy using the phrase, African Horror” for my book’s category. It worked. By the time I’d published my third book, The Sleepless, in 2016, not only was my name coming up in google searches, but other African writers were now using the same category to market their work! I have since been invited several times to either give talks, deliver lectures or contribute to anthologies by people who googled the phrase, African Horror and discovered my name.

My journey is not over yet. My story is not done yet. I still have many characters begging me to tell their stories, to bring them to life in the pages of a book. My stories may not be commercially viable for agents to represent, but as long as I have a story to tell, I will continue writing. The good news for me is that today, almost 6 years since I first wrote and published my first African Horror book, and despite the fact that I’ve not carried out any promotions or published a book in two years due to some health problems, my books continue to sell and my desire to share my unique story remains as strong as ever. This just shows that a good story will always connect with someone, somewhere, somehow.

So, if you have a story to tell, if you hear the voices of those characters who won’t give you any rest till you tell their stories, then just write. Just write regardless of rejections, regardless of financial constraints, regardless of self-doubt and regardless of the commercial market. Just write because if you don’t, you’ll never know what could have happened if you’d taken the risk and followed your dream.


Nuzo Onoh is a British Writer of African descent. Popularly known as The Queen of African Horror, Nuzo is the writer of horror fiction from the African continent. Her works have featured in multiple anthologies and magazines, promoting her unique genre, African Horror. Nuzo holds both a law degree and a Masters Degree in Writing from The University of Warwick, England. She lives in Coventry, from where she runs her own publishing company, Canaan-Star Publishing. Now recognised as the front-runner of African Horror, Nuzo is the author of the bestseller, Unhallowed Graves, a collection of African ghost stories, amongst other works. Her books are available from Amazon.

Reminder : HOW CON 2020 Coming February 25-27!

We’re BACK and once again The HOW Conference is open to Any Genre and General Writing Topics, not just Horror!

Authors, Editors, Agents, Publishers, Readers, and Writers are invited to be part of The HorrorAddicts.net Online Writers Conference February 25-27, 2020. Learn HOW to hone your literary craft thanks to interactive online forums, live chats, writing exercises, and more FREE opportunities to sharpen your skills wherever you are and whatever you write.

Workshop Submissions for HOW are Currently OPEN!

What kind of workshops are we looking for at HOW you ask?

~Interactive forum based workshops, worksheets, writing exercises or prompts in any genre or writing skill level
~Articles and essays with writing tips, experiences, or references, again in all genres or on technical tips, formatting, grammar, etc
~Editor, Agent, and Publisher essays, experiences, or feedback
~Articles and tips on marketing, networking, promotion, and social media for authors
~Genre-specific essays, tips, trends on world building, characters, genre perimeters, etc.

If you are an author, editor, agent, or publisher and would like to do a Q&A, chat, or live audio/visual event, let us know! Shoutbox Chats and Live Events are currently being scheduled for Tuesday, February 25 and Wednesday, February 26. Have an idea? Don’t hesitate to ask! If it is technologically possible, we want to do it at HOW!

Register now on our Free Forum at horroraddictswriters.freeforums.net for more information. Don’t worry, it’s free and Easy! Workshop submissions can be done directly through the forum system or by emailing your workshop proposal no later than February 7 to horroraddicts@gmail.com. Please use the subject heading ‘Horror Addicts Online Conference Query’ so we recognize your message.


To participate in HOW, you must register at our Online Writers Conference Forum. During the week of the conference, the Workshop boards will be open. Each board will contain the workshop threads, conveniently sorted by genre so our experts can present their tips, worksheets, brainstorming, and more. All you have to do interact – host your workshop, browse the forum, participate in one, two events or as many aspects as possible and get inspired with HOW!

Thank you for your participation and we look forward to seeing you at the Horror Addicts.net Online Writers Conference!

 

Revisit the Writing HOW-tos from Last Year’s Conference:

HOW Video Workshops

HOW Guest Authors

HOW Chat Transcripts

 

February Theme : Black Horror/Women in Horror/ Horror Online Writers Conference

February promises to be a full month here at HorrorAddics.net!

First, for Black Horror History Month, we have special guests, Mocha Memoirs Press.

Mocha Memoirs Press is a publisher whose mission statement reads: We believe representation in speculative fiction (science fiction, horror, fantasy) is not only important but a necessity. We publish engaging stories that amplify diverse experiences with vivid storytelling, robust protagonists, and fearless voices.

We here at HorrorAddicts.net enjoy bringing diverse voices to you, but this month, we reach further to find out more about black history that maybe you did not know. Not only will we have articles from some of the authors of Mocha Memoirs Press, but we’ll also have historical pieces by returning authors.

Second, as you may know, February is also Women in Horror Month. We’ll be exploring some of the women horror writers that you’ve come to enjoy, as well as some you may not have encountered before.

To round out the month, our very own Kbatz has created the HorrorAddicts.net Online Writer’s Conference (HOWcon) from Feb 25th-27th. To find out more, got to: http://horroraddictswriters.freeforums.net

We hope you have a very spooky Valentine’s Day and enjoy our February month exploration.

~Nox

Blog Editor

From the Horror Seeker: Gozer the Gozarian

Gozer, for all its wonder, seems to be a Deity without any definitive form or essence of its own, coming to our plain in a predetermined form given to it by its followers, then surrendering its essence to a champion of its worshipers to choose the form by which it will destroy the earth. As we have come to know it, Gozer came to us in 1984 in the form of a Serbian actress Slavitza Jovan, where it was to be chosen by the Ghostbusters to destroy the earth in the form of the Stay Puff marshmallow man. Wait, what?

Yeah, it no doubt got our attention then, but when compared to the ancient tellings of Gozer, as it was by Egon in the film, Gozer has had many other, more intimidating figures it has brought upon humanity in the past.
Gozer came into pop culture as the main antagonist in 1984’s Ghostbusters. An ancient, but obscure God worshiped by the Mesopotamians, Sumerians and the Hittites somewhere around 6000 B.C.

Gozer was banished by the followers of an opposing force in Gozer’s sibling, Tiamat where it was exiled and left to roam the universe and its many dimensions, hence one of its many names as “The Traveller” Gozer spent many eons exploring and conquering world upon world until finally being summoned back to Earth more or less by a then strengthening group of followers headed by Dr. Ivo Shandor who went on to erect a building in NYC as an antenna to focus the spiritual energies of the plain and bring forth Gozer to take over the earth.

I thought it’d be an interesting look into an underappreciated antagonist, what with the 2020 Ghostbusters film on the way this summer. It has been rumored that Gozer will be making a comeback of sorts, and it will be very curious to see in what respect it will return; what form will it take now?

I have always thought Gozer to be something of an interesting character, not just for the sake of the film, but for inspiration. It is very clear that the Stay Puff Marshmallow Man is pure, uncontested fiction, obviously, however, a deity of Gozer’s like is nothing too obscure in history. As long as there has been man, there have been those man has worshiped. Regardless of a God/Deity’s intent, it almost seemed necessary for man’s survival, and I found myself wondering which God or Gods come closest to that of Gozer. Upon much digging, I have found it quite difficult to find anything close, until I uncovered an obscure Mesopotamian Deity known as Enlil. His roll in Mesopotamian mythology is power and authority, as such he has the ability to create and “destroy” – Gozer the Destructor.

An interesting passage I found here: Enlil was a provider, and as such he was declared the “Lord of abundance” in a hymn for Šu-Suen (2037-2029 BCE) (ETCSL 2.4.4.a: 20-21). However, Enlil could also take such plenty away and devastate the land, e.g., in The Lament for Urim, he is said to have “brought the storm of abundance away”, to have “annihilated the land, silenced the city” (ETCSL 2.2.2), and destroyed their houses and demolished their walls Enki and the World Order (ETCSL 1.1.3: 245).

There was nothing significant, however, about the timing of Enlil’s reign when compared to what we know, thanks to Egon. Nor was there anything relevant to a pairing of demi-gods in order to bring Gozer forward. However, further reading on Enlil will see he is also known as the “decreer of fates” and the holder of the “Tablet of destinies” to which the possessor would command the worlds. It becomes apparent why there would be such a devout following, and why Ivo Shandor would want to worship such a deity.

It has become a very interesting read though and I’d love to get some more of your thoughts on what you think of Gozer, as well as any further reading or discoveries you may find on anything closer resembling Gozer. Tell me what you hope to see in the upcoming film; if Gozer should return, and in what form?

From the Horror Seeker, we ask you to choose the form of the destructor—and perish!

Reminder : HOW CON 2020 Coming February 25-27!

We’re BACK and once again The HOW Conference is open to Any Genre and General Writing Topics, not just Horror!

Authors, Editors, Agents, Publishers, Readers, and Writers are invited to be part of The HorrorAddicts.net Online Writers Conference February 25-27, 2020. Learn HOW to hone your literary craft thanks to interactive online forums, live chats, writing exercises, and more FREE opportunities to sharpen your skills wherever you are and whatever you write.

Workshop Submissions for HOW are Currently OPEN!

What kind of workshops are we looking for at HOW you ask?

~Interactive forum based workshops, worksheets, writing exercises or prompts in any genre or writing skill level
~Articles and essays with writing tips, experiences, or references, again in all genres or on technical tips, formatting, grammar, etc
~Editor, Agent, and Publisher essays, experiences, or feedback
~Articles and tips on marketing, networking, promotion, and social media for authors
~Genre-specific essays, tips, trends on world building, characters, genre perimeters, etc.

If you are an author, editor, agent, or publisher and would like to do a Q&A, chat, or live audio/visual event, let us know! Shoutbox Chats and Live Events are currently being scheduled for Tuesday, February 25 and Wednesday, February 26. Have an idea? Don’t hesitate to ask! If it is technologically possible, we want to do it at HOW!

Register now on our Free Forum at horroraddictswriters.freeforums.net for more information. Don’t worry, it’s free and Easy! Workshop submissions can be done directly through the forum system or by emailing your workshop proposal no later than February 7 to horroraddicts@gmail.com. Please use the subject heading ‘Horror Addicts Online Conference Query’ so we recognize your message.


To participate in HOW, you must register at our Online Writers Conference Forum. During the week of the conference, the Workshop boards will be open. Each board will contain the workshop threads, conveniently sorted by genre so our experts can present their tips, worksheets, brainstorming, and more. All you have to do interact – host your workshop, browse the forum, participate in one, two events or as many aspects as possible and get inspired with HOW!

Thank you for your participation and we look forward to seeing you at the Horror Addicts.net Online Writers Conference!

 

Revisit the Writing HOW-tos from Last Year’s Conference:

HOW Video Workshops

HOW Guest Authors

HOW Chat Transcripts

 

Review: Coven’s Hornbook by Frank Coffman

Review by Marie RavenSoul of The Coven’s Hornbook and Other Poems, by Frank Coffman

 

I HAD to read this book. The intriguing title drew me in like a moth to a flame. Knowing that within its pages were poems about the weird and supernatural made my dark heart leap with joy.

In his introduction, Koffman explains that the title was inspired by Leah Bodine Drake’s poetry collection A Hornbook for Witches. The preface is written by Donald Sidney-Fryer and the illustrations are by Yves Tourigny.

There are fifteen sections of the book, including Witchcraft and Warlockry, Sorcery and Summonings, and The Lycanthropicon: Werewolves and Their Ilk. The poems have numerous origins including Welsh, Spanish, Russian, and Korean. Many are sonnets, and others are long, randomly rhymed, and poetic narratives.

It begins with— A Meeting of the Coven.

       “Then, as the balefire glows

       And flames lick at the sky

       And embers crack and fly,

       A summoning is nigh!

       Soon, called forth by their cries,

       A Demon does arise.”

 The second poem called The Witches’ Sabbats has great meaning for me. I can picture the scene where the Witches are gathering in the forest to celebrate. The following lines gave me chills as they remind me of when I was blessed by Satan-Lucifer. 

       “A Circle round the central Fire as Demon’s called advance

        To join us—baptized in the light of Lucifer.”

Heritage: An Old Country Legend is a long poem. It tells the story of Caleb, his wife, and his children. How one-night Caleb’s wife went up to the graveyard to read poetry—or so she said. It became a regular occurrence until Caleb found her dead with the book, along with a note, by her side. Chilling events continued to happen to the family, making me read as fast as I could with anticipation.

Those Days in Salem Town is about the Salem Witch Trials. When accused of Witchcraft by young girls, members of the town were put on trial and then hanged. It is a compelling story and the following last lines are powerful.

       “But some few know the truth, 

        Fallen spellbound, enthralled.

        By the Dark One we’re called:

         And now—We rise!”

Legend: Archer Avenue, Chicago is a long poem and is about a man who sees a beautiful young girl, dressed in white, as he is driving down a long road. He takes her home, but when he returns to visit, he is in for a shock. The author uses description well and I loved how I could see the girl in her flowing white dress and her light coloured hair. It is the perfect ghost poem that also touches the heart.

I enjoyed Neophyte’s Lesson as it speaks of Baphomet, Crowley, black candles, and bloody letters. A story of a man who studied well-known occultists but got no results. Then when he began to practice, he got more than he bargained for. 

I love the poem Halloween. It has fun rhymes and is about goblins, warlocks, pumpkins, black cats, and spider webs. Children will find it enjoyable to read out loud, especially as part of their Halloween celebrations. 

Ring of Horror is a creepy poem which is one of the reasons why I like it. It makes me feel nostalgic as it reminds me of a circle of stones in a park that I visited a lot as a teenager. Just as in the poem, no one seemed to know how long the stones had been there, and it was rumoured that rituals took place there at night.

Nosferatu is about the vampire film with the same title. It describes Nosferatu in a compelling way to where you can picture his hairless head and pointed ears. He states:

       “This is a vampire from a different realm

       Than Stoker outlined on the classic page. 

       Though sepia black and white, in darkly contrast,

       The Mind’s Eye fills, with colourings of Horror

       At the creature’s form, indelibly to last—”

Another poem that I enjoyed was The Ways Poems Come to Me. It talks about how a poem is put together, beginning with the form in which the poem will be written in, parts of speech, verbs, nouns, what inspired it, and more. It is quite long, but it is worth the read. If you are a poet, then you will be able to identify. 

Great poems to read out loud are The Witches’ Rite at Beltane, The Fateful Flower, Vengeance, and At the Gravesite. The words rhyme in a way that makes them fun to say while adding unique expressions to each line.

A ‘Glossary of Forms’ gives detailed explanations of the many kinds of poetry forms that exist in this book. This includes the ‘Cynghanedd Sain,’ which is when two words in a line rhyme and the second rhymed word alliterates with the final word of the line. The Pantoum, which is a Malaysian form that I recently started using, is fun to write. It is a way to strongly express a feeling or idea as the second and fourth lines of each quatrain are repeated as the first and third lines of the next one. I appreciate all the effort that Coffman put into the glossary, and it will be something that I will return to often to assist with my poetry writing.

 An ‘Alphabetical Index of Titles,’ an ‘Acknowledgement—with Thanks,’ and a ‘Colophon’ concludes the book.

The only gripe that I have with the book is that there are quite a few stereotypical references to Satan and Demons. No, Witches and Satanists do not sacrifice babies nor do the Demons desire it. Unfortunately, these are common themes in horror, but I wish that people would stop using these old myths. 

Overall, this was a good book and I recommend it to those who love horror. If you know someone who doesn’t usually like poetry, you might want to use this book to spark their interest. I suggest taking your time reading this by enjoying one poem at a time, not rushing through the book like it’s a novel. 

Frank Coffman has published fiction and speculative poetry in numerous anthologies and magazines. His writing goes beyond the weird, supernatural, and horrific. He founded the Weird Poets Society Facebook group and is a member of the Horror Writers Association and the Science Fiction and Fantasy Association. He is a retired professor of college Creative Writing, English, and Journalism.

10iversary Feedback From our Friends

 

“Horror Addicts creates amazing content for authors and readers while also supporting the careers of up-and-coming talent. We’re proud supporters, fans, and colleagues.” 

 Crystal Lake Publishing  

*******

I was voted Best In Blood for the fourth season of Horror Addicts and it was and remains a huge honor. As an author that has been working at this for a very long time with not a lot of notice it was great to get that recognition and boost and I cannot thank Horror Addicts enough for that opportunity, which lead to me contributing to two of their book releases as well.

Huge honors that I remain grateful for. 

Chris Ringler 

*******

HorrorAddicts.net kickstarted my writing career with its Next Great Horror Writer Competition, which earned me a novel contract with Crystal Lake Publishing. I’ll forever be in its debt!

Jonathan Fortin – Winner, Next Great Horror Writer Competition

*******

I’m honored to be a part of the 10 year anniversary celebration! It’s been a few years since I’ve been a part of the HorrorAddicts team. But I will never forget my time as the Blog Editor and Interviewer. Emz is so kind and patient, she put a lot of faith into a high school student to hold such an important role. I enjoyed every minute of it and learned so much from her.

The 13 Questions interview series was an amazing experience. As a naturally curious person, I loved getting to talk to the various authors, musicians, and movie producers about their projects. The HA community is full of wonderful and inspiring personalities, it is no surprise that I am a Horror Addict for life!

Thanks,

Sapphire Neal

HOW CON 2020 Coming February 25-27!

We’re BACK and once again The HOW Conference is open to Any Genre and General Writing Topics, not just Horror!

Authors, Editors, Agents, Publishers, Readers, and Writers are invited to be part of The HorrorAddicts.net Online Writers Conference February 25-27, 2020. Learn HOW to hone your literary craft thanks to interactive online forums, live chats, writing exercises, and more FREE opportunities to sharpen your skills wherever you are and whatever you write.

Workshop Submissions for HOW are Currently OPEN!

What kind of workshops are we looking for at HOW you ask?

~Interactive forum based workshops, worksheets, writing exercises or prompts in any genre or writing skill level
~Articles and essays with writing tips, experiences, or references, again in all genres or on technical tips, formatting, grammar, etc
~Editor, Agent, and Publisher essays, experiences, or feedback
~Articles and tips on marketing, networking, promotion, and social media for authors
~Genre-specific essays, tips, trends on world building, characters, genre perimeters, etc.

If you are an author, editor, agent, or publisher and would like to do a Q&A, chat, or live audio/visual event, let us know! Shoutbox Chats and Live Events are currently being scheduled for Tuesday, February 25 and Wednesday, February 26. Have an idea? Don’t hesitate to ask! If it is technologically possible, we want to do it at HOW!

Register now on our Free Forum at horroraddictswriters.freeforums.net for more information. Don’t worry, it’s free and Easy! Workshop submissions can be done directly through the forum system or by emailing your workshop proposal no later than February 7 to horroraddicts@gmail.com. Please use the subject heading ‘Horror Addicts Online Conference Query’ so we recognize your message.


To participate in HOW, you must register at our Online Writers Conference Forum. During the week of the conference, the Workshop boards will be open. Each board will contain the workshop threads, conveniently sorted by genre so our experts can present their tips, worksheets, brainstorming, and more. All you have to do interact – host your workshop, browse the forum, participate in one, two events or as many aspects as possible and get inspired with HOW!

Thank you for your participation and we look forward to seeing you at the Horror Addicts.net Online Writers Conference!

 

Revisit the Writing HOW-tos from Last Year’s Conference:

HOW Video Workshops

HOW Guest Authors

HOW Chat Transcripts

 

10iversary Feedback: From Our Readers

Thank you to the following for sharing:

I adore HorrorAddicts.net!  The podcasts are fascinating, like nothing else I’ve come across. The sheer variety of items covered is amazing, and all of it horror related!  Wow! I’ve been especially grateful to HorrorAddicts for embracing my work, with a number of wonderful reviews of my novels by Daphne Strasser, an interview with the fabulous Naching Kassa, and the kind support and encouragement of Emerian Rich, the dark horror goddess herself!  Oh, and Nightshade, my ever-patient go-between!  lol, I’m so glad HorrorAddicts.net exists; if it didn’t, I’d have to dream it!  May the next 10 years be even more intriguing for all of us and especially for you who create our dark genre’s moonlight.  – Nancy Kilpatrick, Award-winning author

HorrorAddicts.net has been an amazing ally in promoting the many horror-related music and press campaigns that we’ve had the pleasure of working with! – Tracy George, High Road Publicity
The best part about HorrorAddicts.net is learning about new-to-me authors and reading one (or more!) of their books. Jeff Strand, for example, Michaelbrent Collings for another. And the craft posts are really fun. – Priscilla Bettis – Horror Novelist
~~~~~
Has HorrorAddicts made a difference to you? Share your thoughts with us at HorrorAddicts.@gmail.com

Nightmare November : Night Terrors by Daphne Strasert – Part 2

Night Terrors by Daphne Strasert

I think there might be a problem with the lights in the house. I never see them flicker, but the light isn’t constant the way that it should be. It’s worse at night, though I can’t figure out why. All the lights are off, there’s nothing that should be coming in. No streetlamps through the curtains, nothing through the living room pane doors. Why do I keep seeing shadows shifting across the room?

No, not shadows. The shadows just react to it. Something else is there, something that pushes the shadows aside like a gauzy, black veil. Miela shifts beside me, not a terror, just a normal repositioning in her sleep. I sit up in bed – I don’t try to sleep anymore – and stare at the wall of the bedroom, watching the darkness ripple like lake water when something massive passes beneath. How am I supposed to sleep when the lights keep moving where there is no source? The longer I watch, the more I see. My eyes adjust to the darkness and forms take shape. Not forms, not really. They only seem to be in the corner of my eye. When I focus on them, they sink back under the shadows.

But there are sounds. Sounds that don’t belong in a house. Rasping, like sandpaper on the stairs. Or a rattle, like dice on a table. I slide from under the covers, pursuing the sound. If there are mice in this house, I swear to God…

As I get closer to where the sound emanated, it seems to shift position, coming from somewhere else, coming from everywhere in the room at once. I twist to follow it, but can’t get a bearing.

Miela jerks in the bed, jack-knifing in the covers. The shrieking starts, muffled by the pillows. I watch, bile rising in my throat. I won’t go to her this time. I don’t care if she does bruise her hand on the headboard.

In medical school, I studied hallucinations and delusions. I read studies and attended lectures on the effect that sleep deprivation could have on the mind. By all accounts, that must be what’s happening to me. It can’t be real, the form that slinks around the room at night, always just outside my line of sight. But it’s there. I can feel it, hear it, smell it. Like baby powder… or dried paste. Too sweet to be healthy. A toxic sort of sweet.

Perhaps it’s better that I can’t see it. Who knows what horror my mind would conjure if I did? Maybe I don’t want to see the thing that rattles in the room, that vanishes when I fix my attention on it.

It can’t be real. I can’t see anything in the inky darkness of the bedroom, so I shouldn’t be able to see the subtle shift of the shadows against the wall, like the branches of a tree dancing through their reflection in the window. But there are no trees in our yard and no light comes from outside the window. And yet the shadows move.

They are real. They are moving. Miela says she can’t see them. But I can. I always can. The scratching and rasping of something moving along the wall. The way reality seems to bend around a monstrous something that comes out from the wall.

I had one of the doctors in the ER prescribe me sleeping pills. I’ve taken three. I should be out like a light. I should sleep through the next week. But I can’t close my eyes. Whenever I think that I will be able to, Miela moves. Or the shadows move. What is it that moves them?

Nightmare November : Dare to Dream from the Horror Seeker

Dreams are one of the most mysterious functions of the human mind, and we all have them. Many we can’t remember, but of the few we do, dreams are nothing short of an amazing experience in all their form and splendor, and none so profound as a vivid nightmare that wakes you out of a sound sleep.

Growing up, I became a fan of Nightmare on Elm Street at 3 years old, thank you, Aunt Liz, ha! But it has always been a foundation of inspiration for my writing. Could something like Freddy actually exist? As any fan of the franchise knows, one of Wes Craven’s inspirations in creating NOES was one of the many cases known as Asian Death Syndrome, or more commonly referred to as Night Terrors. These were only called Asian Death because during the 1980’s a sudden wave of sleep-related deaths had occurred amongst a number of healthy middle-aged Asian men in the Chicago area.  Much of the details we see in the movie are direct from his life, according to Wes; Nancy hiding a coffee pot to stay awake, the notion of some real entity trying to kill him, the screams and thrashes during sleep. Though, I think it’s safe to say nothing was brought out of a dream. Ha, oh what a life if that were a possibility! But I digress.

In my continual search for material, I keep a notebook at my bedside in case a potent dream manages to stick long enough for me to write down. However, it is the dark ones I hope to catch, and unfortunately, as we get older, I feel that nightmares become few and far between, but they never stop completely.

So, what are dreams? Well, they are attributed to the processing and organizing of the thoughts of the day, and they are vital in our brain’s ability to recover and recharge. One of the best ways I’ve heard it described is, imagine your brain is a warehouse. On one side all the material (thoughts, etc) are coming in and being shipped from one side to the other. As your day wears down your brain begins to process the material. Now, when you fall asleep its as if a door dividing the warehouse in two closes and our awareness is left on the empty end of the warehouse. Whatever the process is that organizes our brain’s activities we can not see, we can only listen. Dreams, as it is told, are our brain’s interpretation of those sounds. A loud bang, say, could have been anything really, but the experience is subjective to us all, perhaps influenced by our own unique programming. This description has stuck with me for a while, and really, it’s the one that excites the most intrigue. That being said, I’d like to leave you with the last memorable nightmare I have had in recent times.

Like many dreams begin we simply just happen into them with no real awareness of a beginning or an end. See Inception. In this case, it “began” in my car, dawn or dusk, I’m not really sure which, but it was stark, blue, like the fading or coming of a summer sun. Almost immediately I was aware of a presence next to me in the passenger seat. I say presence because, well, you’ll see. There were no words exchanged, no real movement. Only when I was aware, as if it could sense as such, the figure turned and leaned in as close to my face as it could without touching me. It was a faceless thing, dressed normally. It’s head cast in a hooded sweatshirt as Death would look if he were a skateboarder, ha! It said nothing, it did nothing, but it felt as though it was looking into my soul, deep and invasive! I remember being as terrified as ever, indescribable, and dangerously hyperventilating. The most horrifying thing was, I was aware of this on a conscious plane as if I were awake and asleep at the same time and unable to scare myself out of it. Only when my girlfriend at the time who had been awoken by my hysteria, shook me violently for several seconds did I snap out of it.

“Was it the shadow man?” She asked the next morning.

I hadn’t told her a thing up until that point, and yet somehow she knew what I saw. I could think of no better way to describe it. It was A Shadow Man. Having experienced that, I can say it is exactly the kind of dream I hope for and the exact kind of dream I never want to experience again!

Do you remember your dreams, your nightmares? If so, please share. I’m always on the lookout for a good tale to tell. Thanks for reading!

Guest Blog: Review of The Witch by Ronald Hutton

The Witch Reviewed by John C Adams

This non-fiction book is subtitled ‘A History of Fear from Ancient Times to the Present’.

I first came across the author and historian Ronald Hutton fourteen years ago when he appeared as a guest in ‘Tales from the Green Valley’, a BBC TV show featuring a year-long project to re-establish a working Elizabethan farm in Wales using genuine techniques. He provided good-natured expert analysis of the Christmas traditions of the time, and it was apparent that he really knew his stuff.

Last year, I was delighted to receive a copy of this book as a birthday present from my teenage daughter (make of that what you will). I was intrigued when I realised that the author was the same expert on pagan custom and history I’d enjoyed watching a decade and a half earlier. The starting point in reading my daughter’s gift was therefore that Hutton would demonstrate the same thoroughness of expertise and knowledge here, and I wasn’t disappointed.

The book is divided into three sections – deep perspectives (on global, ancient and shamanic contexts in the history of witchcraft), continental perspectives (including the legacy of the Egyptians, the reception of witches in the Middle Ages and the early modern patchwork including the Shakespearean age) and, finally, a section on British perspectives on witches and their relationship with fairies, Celticity and animals.

It would probably be helpful for me to point out that Hutton’s book is a history of how witches (including shamans and service magicians, so the term here is used for both male and female practitioners) are perceived by the wider societies in which they reside, rather than a history of witchcraft itself. To that end, excellently researched and thoughtfully presented though it is, readers seeking a practical history of how witchcraft has been practised or even a how-to manual would be best advised to seek out other titles. On the other hand, as histories of witches and their treatment go, it is impeccably argued and detailed.

I’m a great believer in academics presenting their findings impartially and being careful to explain objectively the limitations of their sources, be honest about the extent of our current knowledge, and highlight areas where further research would help. This, as well as the diligence of decades of in-depth research, is where Hutton’s strength lies. He gets right down into the detail, lays it out and provides a justified conclusion, all in very cool, precise language which doesn’t force on the reader a particular point of view based on preconceived notions. Not all histories are created equal! Instead, Hutton goes where the facts take him and gives the reader space to reach their own conclusions as they make that journey with him.

For all the research and detail, this was far from being a dry read. It was fascinating and informative, and I enjoyed it immensely.

Enjoy!

__________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

John C Adams is a reviewer and writer of horror fiction. Souls for the Master is available for free on Smashwords and for 99p on Kindle.

http://johncadams.wix.com/johnadamssf

My Darling Dead: Episode 13 / The Fairy’s Laughter

The queen’s face was white as she looked at her daughter standing in the doorway behind the fairy’s still bleeding body. Alasin looked back at her mother, breathing heavily and shaking with rage and shock. 

“Cursed…? My whole life I was cursed and you never saw fit to tell me?” Alasin’s voice trembled as well. “All this time and I find it out from the very…creature to put the curse upon me, told as she mocks you with what she has done to the kingdom?” Alasin gestured at the dead rat woman on the ground, revulsion in her voice. “I have seen it. There are more of them. Many more! If not for the kindness of one person, I might have been set upon by them and torn to pieces. But that would likely be a worthy price for you to pay, mother, to get your filthy cursed daughter out of your sight at last!” Her voice had risen steadily until she was screaming. 

Her mother stood impassive, letting her daughter’s words wash over her as any parent does when ignoring the tantrums of their child. Hespa half expected Alasin to begin storming around the room, breaking things and rending hangings from the wall.  

“And yet, I still have no idea the nature of this curse,” Alasin finished at the top of her lungs, her fingers curled into fists. “Tell me what damns me!”

“The fairy said that the one whom you love the most would perish.” Hespa looked at her daughter with something like pity. “Poor thing. It wasn’t your fault.” 

Alasin scarcely heard this last. Her mind was whirling with this latest revelation, much of her life coming in to focus for the first time. Her revolving door of nannies, her mother’s constant icy indifference toward her, some of her earliest memories were of attempting to forge a bond with Hespa only to be coldly rebuffed. She would take solace in the arms of one of her nurses, only to be told the next morning that the nurse had been called away forever and she would be meeting her newest nanny shortly. This new nanny would be an unknown quantity and Alasin would shy from her for some time before trust was built and inevitably love, then the cycle would repeat itself. 

In particular, she was reminded of the way Madam Flood and the blacksmith had met their ends. She particularly remembered the blacksmith and tears of hot shame and regret came to her eyes. 

“Tears won’t help you, my daughter. They did not help me, though buckets of them I cried to watch my only child being raised by others.” Hespa’s face trembled. “It was a pain unlike any other I have borne.”

“Your pain did not stretch so far as to preclude you from sending your only child from all she had known into the world with such a curse attached to her!” Alasin shrieked. “There is blood upon your hands, mother, the blood of innocents!” Her eyes were wide and rolling as she pointed at Hespa with a quivering finger. 

“Blood is upon the hands of your dead father, you little brat!” screamed the queen, for the moment, looking just as unhinged as her daughter. “I was not the one two-timing one of the most powerful species to ever exist even as you were being born! I did nothing I did not have to do in order to preserve the kingdom so you could grow up as a spoiled little hellbitch!” She shrieked this last with such force that it lifted her to her toes. 

Alasin felt burning tears leap to her eyes as she glared at her mother, fists clenched so hard she could barely feel them. “At least now you don’t have to worry about dying because I love you,” she hissed through trembling lips, her cheeks shining. Without another word, she turned and left Hespa staring after her, shaking. 

The wizard sat at his workbench, his great book of spells open before him. The book was very old and had been given to him by his master before the elder had succumbed to the Darkness and departed this realm. Sapius had asked his master to whom the book had originally belonged and the old man had struck him upside the head. He had not dared ask again. All the spells in the world were said to be in that book, and Sapius had been poring over it with increasing desperation in the recent weeks as reports of the rat people increased and the rumblings from the townsfolk grew ever louder. The queen was in denial as the castle staff continued their spiral toward outright mutiny and rebellion, prompting Sapius to redouble his efforts. 

So engrossed was he that his chamber door swinging open scarcely registered on his fevered consciousness. Not until the princess was standing right in front of him did he realize with a start that she was there. 

“By the gods,” he gasped, putting a hand to his heart where the belabored organ pounded frantically in an attempt to recover as he stood. “You gave me a fright, Princess.”

“Wizard, what know you of love potions?” she snapped. 

“They are divided in kind,” he said, remaining standing as he did. He did not care for the look in the eye of the princess at all. It was the look of madness. 

“There are those which provide only a subtle nudge of the heart and take time to build to the desired result. Others are limited in scope to one person for whom the drinker feels amorous. Most dangerous of all are the ones which provide immediate, permanent infatuation to the first person the drinker sees. These are the most risky because there is no way to undo the enchantment and if circumstances go awry, the drinker may fall forever madly in love with the wrong person.”

“I require one of the latter,” said Alasin. “Immediately.” 

Alarm bells were ringing in the wizard’s head. “Might I ask why, Highness?”

“Do not question me!” she shrieked, striding forward and leaning over the workbench in his face. Tiny droplets of her spittle peppered his face. “I am the princess of the realm and it is not your place to question me, wizard! Obey my command or I will see your head on a spike!” 

“Your will, Highness,” said the wizard, unwilling to show her just how disturbed he was by the lack of sanity in her voice and her eyes. “Although if I may caution–“

Her fist pounded the workbench, sending a beaker crashing to the ground. “I will not command you again.” 

Never taking his eyes off her, Sapius reached inside his robes and brought forth a small brass key which he used to unlock one of the drawers in his workbench. Reaching all the way to the back of the drawer, he brought out a vial filled with a purplish, glowing liquid. The color reflected in Alasin’s eyes as they fixed on it. 

“I only have but one, Lady,” Sapius said, holding it out to her. “Have a care, for it takes many turns of the sun to create more.”

She snatched it from him and turned on her heel in the same motion. She was gone before he could do more than blink. The feeling of disquiet settled deeper within him, along with the sensation that inexorable events had been set in motion. 

******

Queen Hespa stood at her window, staring at her kingdom. Even from here, she could see the small shapes of rat people scuttling around the buildings below. Screams filtered up from the ground and she fancied she could hear the sounds of cracking bones and rending flesh. She had no idea what the rat people actually did to the living but her fertile imagination was only too happy to fill the gaps in her knowledge. 

The smell of the dead rat woman and the blood of the fairy still hung in the air, though their bodies had been removed by two servants who were clearly very reluctant to do so. Hespa thought sourly of the blood, both woman and fairy, that had puddled on her floor. It would need scouring before it faded even the slightest bit and a hundred years from now there would still be some caked in the cracks between the stones. 

A sound made her turn. The door was opening and Alasin came in. Hespa tensed. 

“Are you here to spew more vitriol in my direction, daughter?”

“Mother, please. This bitterness gets us nowhere.” Closing the door, Alasin moved to the cart on which Hespa’s goblets and wine were stored. “All I want is for us to share a glass of wine and make peace together.” 

With her back turned to Hespa, Alasin pulled the tiny flask from her bodice. Setting her nails into the cork, she pulled it out without a sound. 

“Why?” Hespa’s voice was weary but Alasin could tell she had not moved from her place by the window. Alasin upended the flask over one of the goblets, sending bright purple liquid cascading into the glass. 

“You are my mother,” Alasin said. “If you cannot love me, at the least, I wish for you to not hate me.” Stowing the flask back in her undergarments, she poured wine. The purple liquid at the bottom of the glass was swallowed by the dark red wine without a trace. 

“A fine sentiment,” the queen said, turning from the window. “But you and I both know the dangers that lie therein.”

“Come, mother,” said Alasin, lifting both glasses and offering the unadulterated one to her parent. “Taste this wine with me and let us embark upon a new chapter in our lives.” She met Hespa’s eyes unblinking over the goblet, holding it between them. 

For a moment, the queen held her daughter’s gaze. Alasin held her breath while maintaining her contact with her mother’s eyes until the glass was taken from her hand. 

“I say, mother, come look at this with me,” Alasin said, gesturing at the mirror hung on the back of the chamber door, stepping toward it. In her periphery, she could see herself moving in the reflection but refused to focus on it. “If you stand here with me, over a century of the kingdom’s rule will be represented in its reflection.”

The queen joined her daughter before the mirror and stood looking. She saw herself as she always had, an inflexible example of authority and power. Beside her, for once, stood her daughter.

“New beginnings,” Hespa said, raising her glass to the mirror and draining it. 

“New beginnings,” Alasin echoed and drained her own. The potion was barely discernible amid the wine and gave it a sweeter flavor than the dry red taste that Hespa preferred. 

The queen smiled. “It’s good wine, isn’t it?”

Alasin raised her eyes to the mirror just as the wizard’s potion took full effect. What she saw in the mirror was more perfect than anything she could have ever imagined. Her mother seemed almost to glow. Her own smile lit up the room, and in that moment, she felt her heart fall for the figures in the mirror. 

“Very good,” murmured Alasin. “I love you, mother.”

EPILOGUE

Sapius the wizard had lived in the kingdom for many years. He had served the monarchy for most of his adult life and would not have hesitated to use some of his darkest magic on anyone who threatened it. So when the castle guards came pounding at his chamber door the next morning, he was flabbergasted to find their swords drawn as he opened the door. They poured in through the entrance, surrounding him with their sharp steel before he could react. 

Bortix the Captain of the Guard strode forward and struck the wizard full in the face with a mailed glove. Sapius could taste blood in his mouth and felt it trickle from the corner of his mouth. Bewildered, he could do no more than gape at Bortix, with whom he had often shared his dwarf’s tobacco in exchange for the guardsman’s secret recipe mulled mead. 

“What…why…” he managed to stammer, but the look Bortix wore on his face robbed him of any further questions. 

“Save it, wizard,” Bortix spat. In a trice, a dagger was in his hand and the point was under Sapius’s chin, forcing his head back. “We know what you did.” 

“Pray, then, enlighten me,” Sapius managed to choke out, his eyes staring at the ceiling. “I have no idea what I did.”

“The princess and the queen have died at your hands and you dare to play the fool to me?” Bortix roared and punched the wizard square in the face, his meaty fist wrapped around the dagger handle.

Sapius went flying backward and would have certainly hit the floor had one of the guards surrounding him not pushed him back toward Bortix who responded with another fist to the wizard’s face. This time the guard moved to the side so Sapius fell all the way to the floor, where he was greeted by an army of kicking, stomping boots. One collided with the side of his head and a black cloud enveloped him, even as the words echoed in his head. 

Bortix stood over the unconscious wizard, his great hands balled into fists, glaring at the prone figure with hate in his eyes as his guards took turns applying their boots to the fallen man. Normally one of the most rational and level headed men in the kingdom, Bortix made no move to stop his soldiers beating the helpless body. 

When the day had passed its noon and the queen had not stirred, Bortix had entered the queen’s chamber after knocking progressively louder until he was pounding at the stout timbers. The queen lay on her bed, a peaceful smile on her face. Bortix had seen many dead bodies in his time and he did not need to shake the queen by the shoulder or shout her name to know that she had departed this realm. He did so anyway, shouting for the castle medic with tears growing in his eyes and a great sinking feeling in his chest. The medic had arrived and given the sad pronouncement before Bortix thought of the princess. Or, he thought, as she would be known henceforth, the queen. 

Giving strict instructions to the medic to let no one into the queen’s chamber in his absence, Bortix hastened to the room of the princess. His adjurations to open the door resulted in nothing but silence and the door was locked from within. Bortix threw his entire body weight at the door again and again until it yielded to his bulk. There lay the princess on her own bed, arms at her sides, an identical expression of peace on her face. The only difference between her and the queen was the object in her left hand. Bortix had availed himself of the potions the wizard concocted and knew the shape of the glass bottles well. He had no trouble recognizing the bottle in the dead princess’s hand as coming from the chambers of Sapius. 

When the wizard had been burned at the stake, Bortix, yielding to the clamoring of his guards, crowned himself king. This did not sit well with the subjects of the kingdom, who, having tolerated the rise of the rat people and the unwillingness of the crown to address the issue, mobilized enough to storm the castle and slaughter all of the guards. Bortix ultimately threw himself from the tallest tower after a long and protracted battle with the villagers, unwilling to let them have him. The leader of the rebels crowned himself king, only to be slain at his own coronation by what had once been his best friend, who ascended to the throne in his stead. He lasted several days before the new captain of the guards murdered him, plucking the crown from his severed head and settling it atop his own at a jaunty angle until he too was slain. 

The crown passed from hand to hand with its subjects fighting tooth and nail among themselves for it. The rat people flourished and spread, until the land was covered in darkness and filth, the deluded self-proclaimed monarchs afraid to sleep nights lest they wake up dead. 

Underneath it all, with the right ears, could be heard the laughter of the fairies. 

 

Logbook of Terror: Ruins Of Castle Rocca Sparviera!

The ruins of Castle Rocca Sparviera!

After a frightful and dreary travel in which I mistakenly visited the wrong location and was chased from a decaying castle by the rotted corpses of a mob of re-animated skeletons, I finally arrived at my destination: the ruins of Castle Rocca Sparviera. A chilly night had fallen and a storm brewed overhead, hiding the moon and stars behind layers of thick, foreboding clouds. Thunder cracked nearby and with only the light of my electric lantern to guide me, I set out to explore the ruins. 

I walked the perimeter of the formerly grand castle, treading carefully over rocks and desolate mountain terrain, wondering what lonely spirits might be left wandering these hills. After hiking to what seemed to be the edge of the property, I turned and strolled along the inner side of a disintegrating wall. After several minutes I halted to take stock of my surroundings and, up ahead, saw a spot of soft light swaying in the darkness. Could it be a fellow explorer making camp and a fire for the night? I hurried on my way to find out. 

Upon drawing closer, I saw that the light was pouring out through a doorway in another crumbling wall. I stepped through and found myself in a great dining hall. My head swam in disbelief, for the hall and all its contents were in pristine condition. The stone walls and floor were clean, polished, and intact. High wooden beams secured the solid ceiling and the entire room was alight with the soft glow of a myriad of candles. The luscious aroma of fresh cooked meat, bread, and vegetables drew my eyes to the huge table in the center of the room. A disembodied voice called out to me, welcoming me home, inviting me to feast. The ghostly voice spoke in French, a tongue completely foreign to me, yet I understood the voice’s every word.  

Smiling guests materialized around the massive banquet table, their regal clothes in tatters and covered in dust and cobwebs. Their gray skin was spotted with deep holes, from which worms wiggled in and out, and blood and pus trickled in rivulets over decaying flesh. With loud, hollow voices the dinner guests beseeched me to join them. Entranced, I approached the table. 

Thunder crashed over the high ceiling. A fierce flash of lightning lit up the table and I saw before me, two children, their flesh roasted, their small bodies chopped in pieces and placed carefully on garish silver platters. Their heads were intact. The two dead little girls turned their eyes to me. Help us! Help us! They pleaded. 

Lightning and thunder exploded. Rain poured from the ceiling. The pieces of the children joined and melded together, forming the hacked children into morbid wholes. Once reformed, they rolled off the great table and crawled toward me. The dinner guests sang a church hymn while their bodies melted in the rain. I felt the children’s small, dead hands grasp my ankles. Feast with us! They screamed at me. Feast with us! Their small eyes burned bright red with horror. I gasped. Shocked out of my trance, I broke the children’s hold and ran. 

Once out of the banquet hall, I ran to the path at the edge of the property. There, I saw a woman in royal dress. She stood upon a large rock. Tears stained her face. She held her arms high and screamed a curse into the night. I felt a sudden surge of heat behind me. Turning, I witnessed what surely could not have been: a fully intact castle engulfed in flames of grief and fury which were so intense, not even the deluge of rain could quench their angry burn. The royal woman turned her fierce eyes on me. I knew at once –it was Queen Jeanne! With terror in heart, lantern in hand, and my satchel over my shoulder, I sprinted away down the mountain, desperately hoping to outrun the curse that the queen was casting. 

I do not know how long I ran. Dawn seemed to arrive without warning and I was back on a road with the warm sun drying my sopping clothes. Not far into the morning I was able to secure transport with some locals who were en route to a nearby village. They spoke clear English and we began to converse. When I remarked on the previous night’s storm their faces turned grim. They inquired if I had been at the ruins during the night. I confirmed that I had. The driver shook her head and said that the region had seen no rain for over a week. The driver’s companion held up her left hand. Her skin was maligned, covered in burn scars. She said that she too had seen the queen, apparently too closely. 

After the kind couple dropped me off, I acquired proper food and lodging. I have resolved to stay in this quaint and pleasant country village until I receive my next assignment. The past several nights have been difficult. Sleep eludes me, for whenever I close my eyes, I see those of the dead children staring up at me.

Book Review: A Winter Sleep by Greg F. Gifune

A Winter Sleep Author: Greg F Gifune
Reviewed by Ariel DaWintre

I liked this book it was easy to read and kept your interest. It had elements I love; winter, Eerie Hotel, and Crazy people. The story has Horror, Psychological Horror and just plain crazy. I kept thinking I had figured out this story then the author would change it up on me. When I got to the end I was still doubting what seemed to be the end wondering if there will be a sequel and he will explain it to me in an epilogue.  Then I was just, “Whoa okay that is just crazy,” and I don’t know if it was the story or me.

I loved the main character, Ben Hooper. I don’t want to give away too much and ruin the story but you get that he is going somewhere and through the story, you find out what happened and what he is doing. He ends up at an old Hotel called the Monarch, this hotel made me think of another famous hotel “The Overlook” and even the song, “Hotel California”.  He meets a group of strangers at this hotel and they have what appears to be nothing in common, but something is keeping them all there. In the story Ben’s past and present intermingle and you wonder what his future holds.

The story has all kinds of things going on and it keeps you engaged to the end. You get crazy, horror, ghost, spooky something for everyone. The real question is it real or all in Ben’s mind. I am still wondering! Thanks for a fun read. I might have to read it again!

Logbook of Terror: Alloa Tower

Alloa Tower, Scotland

Why do I always seem to end up being chased by the ghosts of dead children? What did I ever do to them to deserve their seemingly endless scorn? Perhaps because I often end up at their haunting grounds? Whatever the reason may be, I hadn’t any time for further contemplation. On that terrifying night in Scotland at the fearful Alloa Tower, all I could do was run for my life.

After taking the official tour and listening to the tour guide’s tales of the Curse of Alloa Tower and its accompanying paranormal legacy, I was left to my own devices and I wandered the grounds aimlessly, soaking up the eerie atmosphere. I was having such a relaxing evening that I began to think that the grounds might not be cursed or haunted after all. However, when I stumbled upon the dungeon, the curse, in fact, became all too real. 

The dungeon was awash in the soft light of candles on each wall. Shadows played on the ceiling, distorting my view of the room. A cold breeze whispered over my shoulders. The hairs on the nape of my neck stood on end. I shuffled backward to leave the dungeon and collided with something soft. I spun ‘round. Before me was a monk in tattered black robes, hovering several feet off the floor, his face hidden in the darkness cast by the hood of his robe. He pointed a rotted, decayed finger at me. A voice bellowed forth from the figure. The words swirled around me, echoing off the chamber walls in ancient Latin. The dark monk floated toward me, pointing and chanting. I ducked and ran around his side, exiting the room through the arched doorway from whence I had entered, and bolted up the stairs.

The stairs emptied out into a long, pitch-black hallway. Was this the way I’d followed to the dungeon? Peering deep into the darkness, a dim light appeared at what I thought to be the end of the hallway. Cautiously, I held out my hands and walked forward. The light began to grow larger and brighter as I advanced. Perhaps it was someone with a flashlight or a lamp? Then, I saw the light quiver and wave. And then I heard it: horrid feminine shrieks of agony screaming forth from the flames. Then there were footfalls. And again: the light -shining brighter than ever, smashing through the dark, making everything all too clear with an overwhelming suddenness that threatened to shatter my sanity. With arms outstretched, a burning woman hurled herself down the hall, faster than I had ever seen any human move. Having only the dungeon stairs at my back and the woman ahead, I feared this was my doom, and that I would perish in agonizing, phantasmal flames. Closing my eyes, I pressed myself tight against the wall and waited for the end. A blazing wave of heat swept past me. My heart stopped. I opened my eyes to see the burning woman descending the dungeon stairs. Torturous screams and cries erupted from within the dungeon, flying up the stairs and filling the hallway. I was spared! I turned away from the dungeon and fled. 

As I ran further down the corridor, the screams from the dungeon were soon replaced by the sound of pounding hooves. Beating out a rhythm on the stone floor, closer and closer they came, until they were right on my heels. My foot caught on an uneven stone. My body pitched forward and I crashed to the floor. Instinctively, I threw my arms over the back of my head. The ghostly steeds passed over my trembling body and the sounds of hooves, neighing, and snorting faded into the all-consuming darkness of the hallway. Gathering my wits, I got to my feet and pressed on. I had to find a way out of this dreadful passage. 

I felt my way along the stone wall, placing my footfalls with care. My hands slipped, I fell into an open space, and I was engulfed in dismal, horrible black. No sight, only the dank smell of the centuries old structure accompanied by the sound of my own short, rapid breaths. Then, three tiny dots appeared, hovering before me. The dots grew into shining orbs, illuminating the surroundings. 

I stood in the center of a large room which may have been the great hall at one time. The orbs bobbed up and down and then floated away toward a towering, arched doorway. Perhaps a way out! My heart pounded and my mind gave thanks to these mysterious new friends who were leading me to safety. I followed the floating orbs through the doorway. 

We passed through the doorway and walked along another corridor. After turning a corner and entering another room, the orbs began to grow and change shape. As they danced and jittered and pushed and pulled at their form, something else began to grow out of the stone floor. Miserable cries bounced off the stone walls, coming from a man growing out of the floor. He wore the pitch-black abbot’s robe and glared at me with sinister blood-red eyes. The morphing orbs cast an eerie white glow over the risen clergyman, who towered above me. A scepter grew out of the palm of his right hand. Blood dripped from a large crystal attached to the end. He pointed at me and recited his famous curse. Reasoning that he must think I was the Earl, I knew that I had to make a hasty escape lest the curse befall me. Quickly, I backed away. Noting the light in my peripheral vision, I turned toward it.  Where the orbs had been there were now three ghastly children, dressed in regal splendor, glowing, a pale white luminescence emanating from their bodies. They screamed and ran at me. 

I ran with the cries of the children spurning me on, fleeing down hallways, twisting, turning, hurling through dark, empty spaces until by some miracle I spilled out of the tower and collapsed in its surrounding yard. The ghost children were nowhere in sight, nor was the abbot or the monk or the burning woman or the horses with their hooves of hell. I was alone. The night was silent. I gazed up at the tower. Feeling as if I’d run for miles upon miles, I pondered how so many rooms, and the labyrinthine passageways, could possibly be contained in such a structure the size of which I saw. There was only one answer: they could not. Unless… 

No. No, no, no, no! I could not ponder the possibilities or the depth of the dark magic that the abbot left on these grounds when he shouted forth his curse. With all my remaining strength I left the grounds to seek residence for the remainder of the night. In all my days, I pray that I never return to this cursed abode. 

My Darling Dead : Episode 10 | The Blacksmith

As Alasin fled the hut, she forgot that it was not sitting on the ground, but raised on stilts three steps high. She flew out the door and the ground rose to meet her sharply.  Tumbling end over end she landed in a heap at their bottom. She lay there, winded, her eyes unfocused as the cloud of dust she had raised settled in the early morning rays of sunshine. 

There was a scuttling noise from under Madam Flood’s hut that slowly acquired her attention as her eyes began to focus. Finally able to breathe, Alasin pushed herself up as she turned to face the noise. As her eyes focused, at last, she froze, her heart hammering in her chest. 

A small, thin woman had come out from under the house and was creeping toward her, crouched low, eyes bright and teeth bared. Her hair was matted and thick with dust, as were her clothes. Her nails, long and broken, reached out to Alasin, who could smell the foul creature from where she lay. The rat woman let out a high pitched cackle that sounded devoid of sanity and pounced. 

The woman was in the air for the briefest instant before a large hammer swung out of the blue and pulverized her face. Alasin, who had opened her mouth to scream, was showered in bloody chunks of skull, brain and flesh. She spat as though her tongue were afire and finally laid eyes upon her rescuer. He was a large man, thick shouldered with a blacksmith’s apron over a muscled chest. A dripping blacksmith’s hammer swung from one huge arm.

“Strewth! But that’n almost had ye! Still, no harm done, I’ll reckon. Up y’come, miss!” He said, and extended a hand to her with a smile. 

Alasin wiped her hand on her skirt and gave it to the man with a shaken smile. “Thank you, sir, and thank you for dispatching that…what was that?” she asked as she was pulled upright as though she were a feather. 

“Oh, ar,” the man said darkly, swinging his hammer over his shoulder, unmindful of the muck coating its head. “Them’d be the changed ones. Rat people, I call ’em. Best to do is put ’em down before they hurt somethin’.” He sighed. “Even though some of ’em be my best o’ friends.”

“Madam Flood mentioned something about them last night.”

The man’s face brightened. “Ma’am Flood! That’s right, this be her place, don’t it? How be she?”

“She’s, er… fine,” Alasin stammered, hoping he wouldn’t insist on speaking to the old woman.

“She in?” inquired the man. “I hain’t seen Ma’am Flood in an age, and I be–”

“No! She, ah, said she had somewhere to go this morning and left before I woke, so I took myself for a walk and fell down her stairs because I wasn’t used to them you see and then the creature came from under the stairs and–”

“Ne’er mind,” the man boomed, his chuckle cutting off Alasin’s frantic blather. “We best get ye where ye wish to go, little miss, lest one more of the nasty rat people get ye. Strewth!”

Alasin awoke in pitch darkness, a giant weight upon her chest. Her head was pounding and her mouth tasted of rot. She pushed at the weight. It felt like a dead animal, cool and smooth-skinned with a light coating of hair covering it. It was large, and heavy. Her fingers explored down its length. Her heart shot into her mouth as her fingers touched a palm, then fingers. She was able now to identify the giant weight as an arm, slung across her, as she lay in this bed. 

HIS bed, she realized as unbidden, memories began flooding into her fevered brain. Going off with the jolly blacksmith(whose name she could not recall) after he had saved her life, finding out that she really liked him, turning aside his questions about who she was and where she was going so she could spend longer with him, until he finally stopped asking. Becoming tipsy as they dined and drank as the sun first rose and set in the sky, finally a fog of stumbling back to his own hut and going to bed together. Now she could tell that beneath the arm and the animal pelts that served as a blanket, she was naked. 

Whimpering, she pushed at the arm which held her in a death grip, immobile in its deathly contraction. Finally she was able to wriggle out from underneath it and fall to the floor, sobbing as she pushed herself to the farthest corner of the room, wrapping her arms about herself against the night’s chill. There she sat, struggling to produce silent tears as she wept, for her own terror, for poor Madam Flood, for the unnamed blacksmith, before turning her tears back upon herself. 

When she awoke again it was the gray light of dawn, the sound of birds filling the silence that comes when most people are still asleep. Her neck ached from where she finally fallen into a doze, huddled in the corner hunched over. She was still nude, and shivering violently. Her gaze fell upon the corpse in the bed, face frozen in a peaceful expression, massive arm extended over where she had fallen asleep beneath it.

Unbidden, the tears started again, but she knuckled them aside and pushed herself up, hobbling on stiff legs across to the bed and pulling the bearskin blanket off of the blacksmith’s body, wrapping it around herself as she tried not to look at what remained of her lover. She stooped, picking up her scattered clothing piece by piece. As she did, her little bottle of wizard’s powder and chain dropped to the floor with a clink. With a happy swoop of her stomach, she dropped to her knees beside it and availed herself. 

“Farner! Hey mate, ’tis Bron! Yer not at yer shop! What gives?” 

Alasin’s head jerked up at a pounding from the door, white powder coating her nostrils, her eyes wide. She jammed the lid on the bottle and grabbed up her clothes while the pounding increased before the latch was pushed open from the outside and the door banged open. A small squat man stood framed in the early morning light, his face nothing but a silhouette.

“C’mon, I needs me sword t’day, Farn! Git yer…hoho, what’s all this then?” he said, noticing Alasin, looking frenzied as she clutched her clothing to herself. An ugly grin spread across his face. “Well hey there sweet’eart, me name’s Bron and I guess my man Farn’s been stickin’ it to ya, eh?” 

Alasin’s eyes were huge as she did her best to sidle sideways to block Bron’s view of the bed and Farner’s lifeless body. Bron was fortunately too busy examining the curves of the sheet Alasin draped around herself to notice the bed. 

“Porked ya good did ‘e?” giggled Bron, grabbing his crotch and making exaggerated grinding movements with his hips. 

Alasin’s eyes flashed with temper but Bron sniggered and to her great relief turned to leave. As his body moved, the shadow he had cast upon Alison moved as well, letting a slab of sunlight smack her in the face. “Well I’ll not begrudge ‘im a lie-in after a night wid a beauty like you. Yew tell ‘im Bron stopped by, an’…”

He trailed off, eyes widening. He took a step forward and looked more closely at Alasin. 

“You…” he whispered. Alasin’s heart, hammering like mad, simultaneously froze. 

“Yer…yer the princess!” Bron blurted, raising a hand to point at her. 

“Yes, you festering sore,” Alasin said, drawing herself up to her full height and looking down her nose regally at the little man. “I am Alasin, Princess of Dandoich, and I command you to depart from here immediately and speak of this to no one. Is that clear?”

“Yer… the princess,” the man said, a stupid grin spreading over his face. “Huh… what are you doing here?” His eyes crawled over her, insolent in their lingering. His tongue wet his lips. 

“Dog!” shouted Alasin. “How dare you look upon me! You have been given a command and you will obey at once. Leave!” She raised a hand and pointed to the door. The clothing she had clutched to herself slipped and fell to her waist, exposing a breast. 

“Whoaa…” Bron said, his eyes huge. Alasin swore and snatched the clothes to herself again while attempting to maintain her composure. She saw his grin had become nasty. He stepped inside and shut the door. 

“No one knows yer ‘ere, or yew wouldn’t be wid ‘im,” Bron whispered, gesturing to Farner’s still motionless body. “And that means, I can do what I likes wid ya. Farn won’t mind.” He was beginning to breathe heavily, massaging his trousers as he moved toward her. “And you can’ stop me, Princess, wee slip of a girl like ye.” 

Alasin did not move as he advanced. The rage in her at being spoken to thus had completely blotted out any hint of fear. In one move, she dropped all her clothing and stood before him completely nude, sending his jaw dropping. 

“Hear this, you squalid peasant,” Alasin said, her voice like iron. “If you come for me, you will end. Heed my warning, and desist.”