Odds and Dead Ends : Precursor to Weird Fiction: William Hope Hodgson’s ‘The Derelict’

Any fan of horror fiction has at some point or other, like him or not, read some of the works of H. P. Lovecraft. Known for popularising the term ‘weird fiction’, strongly through his association with the magazine Weird Tales, many of his stories revolved around a distinctly un-caring threat, one that dispensed with petty grudges and malevolence. Yet Lovecraft had many who went before him, with famous names such as Algernon Blackwood, Lord Dunsany, and my fellow Welshman, Arthur Machen, some of the most prominent names in these discussions. One of my favourite stories to come before Lovecraft has to be The Derelict, written in 1912 by William Hope Hodgson, and it is this tale which I wish to introduce.

Framed as a story-within-a-story, it follows a doctor recalling an encounter with a derelict ship, whilst on passage from England to China, presumably sometime in the late 19th century. The derelict is surrounded by a thick, treacle-like scum, and when they finally clamber aboard, they find the whole ship covered in a thick mould, which seems to ripple, pound, and be strangely sentient. It’s an intriguing, simple premise, but one which touches upon the distinctly gothic idea of the origins, and form, of life, combined with a careless, deeply impersonal threat which would characterise much of Lovecraft’s weird and cosmic horror in later years.

Gothic short stories commonly have a little discussion on some point about life, or the human experience, or something similar, before delving into the main narrative. Anyone who’s read some Edgar Allan Poe in their life will know this almost too well; it’s seen in ‘Murders in the Rue Morgue’, ‘The Premature Burial’, and takes up roughly a third of ‘The Island of the Fay’. Being short blasts of terror, these stories use the device to ground their narratives in a tangible context of theme or premise, that we might treat it as something more serious than just someone rising from the grave, or a shaking silhouette of a tree reminding us of a long-dead wife and scaring us to death. In fact, this scene is so similar (in setup if not theme) to the beginning of Conrad’s Heart of Darkness, just swapping out ‘I saw things on the Congo’ to ‘I saw things on the high seas’, that it’s hard to imagine Hodgson not being inspires in some way by Conrad’s novel. In ‘The Derelict’, Hodgson uses his introductory discussion between the doctor and the unnamed overall narrator to introduce the doctor as story-within-a-story narrator, but more importantly, to set up the main discussion of the story; the malleability, and distinctly un-divine origins, of life.

The setting out of the stall, of the origins of life, and how it can inhabit anything, ‘“…if given the right conditions, make itself manifest even through so hopeless seeming a medium as a simple block of sawn wood”’, works to present us with the idea of change; of something from inanimate to animate. It’s this idea, of the anthropomorphising (to give human traits to something non-human; literally anthropo – human – and morph – form -; to morph into humanness) of the ship and its fungal mass, which pervades the story, but also the thing which helps build tension and suspense before the inevitable reveal of the mould’s animation. When approaching the ship, it is described that, after propping up an oar against the derelict, ‘The oar had made quite an indentation into the bulging, somewhat slimy side of the old vessel.’ The wooden hull of a ship now has flexibility to it; it is malleable and can be shaped by the pressure of an oar leaning up against its side, with the aid of the mould which covers it, just as life can change something which was rigid and dead to being alive. Remember, it is ‘a simple block of sawn wood’ which is used as an example, and what is an old ship’s hull made from?

And when we finally arrive onboard the derelict, we find the mould has taken on a life of its own, as a sucking, flesh-eating mass. But what is remarkable is that Hodgson doesn’t pose this threat as particularly malevolent, though uncertainly threatening towards our protagonists, as others might do to create a scare. Earlier on in the story we have been told that three pigs in a sty has washed overboard from the ship heading to China, which has gotten washed up in the sucking scum, pigs which are specifically announced as now being dead. And later on, when finding the Cyclone, there are “‘the bones of at least three people, all mixed together in an extraordinary fashion, and quite clean and dry’”.

We have here what seems to be just a natural trade of energy, the mould simply eating what washes into its vicinity in order to survive. There’s nothing which suggests that it actively hunts across the seas, and in the final moments of the doctor’s tale, though it lurches out after their vessel as it tries to row away, once free of the scum it retreats back to the derelict and stays there. There’s no shadow of Cthulhu racing under the waves after them. They’re gone, the fly having escaped the spider’s web, and so it’s happy with whatever it’s managed to catch in the meantime. This is simply nature taking its course.

This lack of specific evil is something Lovecraft tapped into in his mythos. One could never say that Azathoth deliberately went after one soul in any kind of revenge or grudge-match. Nyarlarthotep just treated us as toys. The color out of space is just something which happens. The penguins under the titular mountains of madness just come after what’s stumbled across them. This kind of existential realisation, that we are not as important to those beings greater than us beyond the gulfs of understanding as we think we are, is exactly what lurks behind the spongy threat on the derelict. It’s not specifically out to get us, nor does it harbour some kind of emotive response to the explorers’ presence. They’re just food that must be eaten because it’s there to eat.

And none of this even gets close to touching upon our fear of germs and dirt and grime, which goes without saying. Interestingly, the story is written about sixty years after Darwin, and sixteen years before the discovery of penicillin (and three decades before it was widely used). So we have the conditions here for breeding (in the story, though pardon the pun) a fear of germs taking on a life of their own, under purely scientific circumstances, with no way to kill them. Note also that the main protagonist is a doctor, used to treating infections, and even he can’t kill the mould, and must resort to running away instead. You may read into these ideas what you will, and form your own interpretations of how they would have enhanced the horror to readers at the time, and how it may be similar or different to our own reading today.

If you want to, you might see ‘The Derelict’ as a link between those sea-faring tales such as Moby Dick, or even Twenty-Thousand Leagues Under The Sea, and the cosmic horror of later Lovecraft-inspired fiction. It’s a wonderfully fun, and perhaps even pulpy, tale of oceanic terror, with a threat that one could see as natural, or unnatural, as they see fit, and be sure to find something horrifying about it as a result. A criminally under-appreciated piece of writing, and definitely one to check out on a stormy night in an armchair. You might want to do some spring cleaning before reading it, however, just in case.

Article by Kieran Judge

Twitter: @kjudgemental

Author Interviews at the Mount Holly Book Fair Part 2

 

Witches, Time Travel, and Shapeshifters!

 

Kristin Battestella aka Kbatz was on the windy scene April 29, 2018 at the Mount Holly Book Fair to interview several Local Horror Authors…

 

Author JL Brown talks about her book The Burning Arbor, witches, tarot, and magic on and off the page. For more visit https://www.facebook.com/AuthorJLBrown/

 

 

Author Gary Frank talks about his book Forever will you Suffer, short fiction versus novels, time travel, the business of writing, and horror. For more visit http://authorgaryfrank.com/

 

 

Native American Storyteller Laura Kaign chats about her Earth Child series, science fiction, natural versus supernatural, dreams, YA, and storytelling. For more visit http://ladyhawkestorytelling.com

 

 

Special Thanks to the Mill Race Arts & Preservation for hosting The Mount Holly Book Fair.

 

Stayed tuned to HorrorAddicts.net for more Author Interviews and let us know what kind of video/media content you would like to see!

Book Review: Varying Distances

The first page of a fiction collection is an introduction to a writer’s mind. The further you go, the deeper you delve into their psyche. In this manner, you can reach any world of their invention and join any journey they imagine. Ray Bradbury and Somerset Maugham were masters of short fiction. If you were to combine the work of these authors with a dash of Rod Serling, you’d have Varying Distances by Darren Speegle.

Speegle’s stories range from the bizarre to the fantastic. He is well traveled and the stories reflect several cultures, both in setting and flavor. The first forays into his collection seem to begin with his unconscious mind and slowly work forward to the conscious. It’s much like a sleeper awakening from a dream. The first story in the collection, “In the Distance, a Familiar Sound,” is as poetic and disjointed as the character searching for the meaning of consciousness. Linear time doesn’t exist.

Each story gains clarity as you move through the pages. Against his will, a painter is commissioned to capture the soul of his subject on canvas, contractors in Iraq encounter a strange and menacing vehicle, Halloween is explored through the eyes of a god-like being, a hitman has trouble discerning between human and machine, a man finds he cannot escape the horror of his past or the people who populate it, an addict sees parallels to his life no matter what country he visits, a woman leads a man to Germany and a haunted house, a man searches for the beast which murdered his aunt, and a confused taxi driver must take a man to his destination.

My favorite story, “For Love of War,” falls in between the fog and clarity. The contractor in the story falls in love with the woman who saves him and discovers she’s more ethereal than mortal. Speegle’s prose borders on lyrical and you can easily imagine this story as a ballad.

“A Puddle in the Wilderness,” is a frightening story. In this tale, aliens masquerade as backwoodsmen alà Deliverance. Pity the poor couple who fall prey to them. (Warning: mature themes are addressed here.)

If you’re a lover of the bizarre, you’ll love this collection. Step inside Speegle’s mind and stay a while. The worlds within are amazing.

Kidnapped! Trick by Selah Janel

I don’t mind quiet Halloweens at home, but they’re not everyone’s thing. I wouldn’t have liked it as a teen, and I think sometimes it’s hard to make that transition from kid to an adult, especially if things feel out of your control. Especially when things are most definitely out of your control.

Trick

Tandy hated staying home on Halloween, but there was no point going out. She hadn’t been invited to any of the good parties, and she sure as hell wasn’t going with her parents to their couples club…thing. She was too old to trick or treat, not old enough to hit the bars, so horror movies and candy duty were the only options left.

Which was why she was curled up on the couch with Baxter the dachshund. Even he looked bored with the B movie on TV. “It isn’t fair. Halloween used to mean magic, like anything, could happen. Now it just means making sure the house doesn’t get egged and pretending to care about whatever the hell the kids are supposed to be,” she grumbled. “Or maybe I just fail at this growing up thing. I seem to fail at everything else,” she sighed, cringing at the memory of failing her Algebra test and how well her parents had taken that. Or her midterm grades. Or losing the money she’d been given for volleyball fees. She dug through the candy bowl to fish out the good chocolate to make herself feel better.

The doorbell rang and she sighed. “I can’t believe this is my life,” she grumbled and opened the door.

And stared at herself. She wasn’t wearing a costume, unless Tandy, herself, was suddenly it costume option this year. No, the girl in front of her had the same long dark hair, the same pajama pants, the same hoodie she was wearing.

She even had her freakin’ face, down to the very same acne scars. It was freaky as sin to see every detail up close in something that wasn’t a mirror. But it wasn’t staring at herself that was the worst thing. No, the small, wicked little smile that had never appeared on her own face was worse. The fact that Baxter went right to her and didn’t growl or even acknowledge the fact that she, herself, was the real Tandy was worse. The words she spoke in her own voice before she stepped inside and raised the knife were the worst of all.

Good, because it’s my life now.”

***

Selah Janel writes weird stuff, both short and long. She has stories in several anthologies and magazines and co-wrote the collection Lost in the Shadows. Her fantasy/cross-genre novel Olde School combines a lot of fantasy and horror elements together (along with fairy tales and the just plain strange), and her shorter e-book only titles explore a range of genres and ideas. Catch up with her and see a full list of her titles at http://www.selahjanel.wordpress.com http://www.facebook.com/authorSJ or follow her on Twitter @SelahJanel

David’s Haunted Library: Dead Over Heels

David's Haunted Library

33115353Veronica is looking for true love, it hasn’t been easy and now she thinks using a little magic may help. It works in the form of Sebastian and they hit it off instantly. Their first date is in a haunted restaurant and as luck would have it their romantic dinner is the scene of a supernatural encounter. They notice a young couple dining, but no one else does, and Veronica along with an apprehensive Sebastian decides to investigate further. They discover that they have a connection to the couple in question and they may be the only ones who can set the ghosts free.

Dead Over Heels by Theresa Braun is a paranormal love story with  elements of horror and mystery. There is a lot going on in this book in a short period, and I loved how the story begins with a little foreshadowing to let you know this love affair is not your average affair. Everything was described in great detail from the characters emotions to the various settings.

I enjoyed how the couple’s relationship developed from the description of their first date to the point of when they realize that something strange is going on in the restaurant. My favorite part was when Veronica sees a couple very much in love and wishes that someday she can have something like that, not knowing what’s coming to her. There was also a scene where Veronica compares being abandoned to putting on a worn pair of jeans. With this line, I felt fully invested in this character and was hoping for a happy ending.

I loved how the author got you to like the two main characters before anything bad happened. During the second part of the book you get to witness the two changed by a paranormal revelation and they realize nothing will ever be the same. My one problem with the story is how it ended, without giving much away, it felt like there was no closure.  With that said, the writing was very good and I like how what happens in the past affects what happens in the future, showing that some things and people are connected. This is a good little ghost story and I would love to read some longer works from Theresa Braun.

 

The Girl in the Lake by Alex S. Johnson

The Girl in the Lake by Alex S. Johnson

Sam looked exactly–I mean, the resemblance was uncanny–like a little kid who’d woken up extra-early Christmas Day so he could get a sneak preview of the presents piled in front of the hearth. He was about to reach forward and touch the black streak on the pine’s bark when Jeremy cut in.

“Dude, maybe you should just take a picture or something. Shit looks toxic.”

Sam shrugged and withdrew his hand, wiping it off on the front of his t-shirt–made of hemp fiber, naturally–which was a blazing fluorescent green and featured a picture of a bear smoking a bong.

“I guess you’re right, Jer.” He shrugged off his small backpack, covered with patches from various jam bands, and set it on the ground in a bed of needles. “Then again, all this land is saturated with poison.”

Scott coughed. His dad was one of the biggest investors in Green Chemical, and besides, they were trespassing on private property. If his dad even suspected what he’d been up to, he’d wind up losing the last privileges he’d been able to hold on to, and spend every day till his 18th birthday locked in his room puzzling over the higher math. For some reason his dad and I got along fine, even though he liked to call me a “socialist wingnut.” But he hated Sam and Jeremy with a passion.

The sun was setting, shafts of amber light flickering through the pine forest. Beyond the clearing, Lake Soutaine cut a big bite out of the woods, a darker, evil shade of green. Two summers ago it had been pure blue, and not off limits. We used to go there all the time. There was even an ancient tire swing hanging over the water, but the rubber was flaked,  and covered with some kind of white fungus.

“You guys mind if I blaze one?” Sam asked. He passed his arm through the tire before anybody could stop him. “For old times?”

“Jesus, Sam…” Scott started. He slumped his shoulders with a defeated look. I could see in his eyes the flicker of rebellion begin to grow. “Yeah, it’s chill. Fuck it, you know? We’ve come this far.” Then he pulled his polo shirt over his head. Damn, he was cut.

“Don’t even think about it,” Scott added. I smiled. My friends could be dicks sometimes, but they were totally cool with my sexual preferences, and that pretty much trumped any of the crap they gave me. They were dicks to everyone, and to themselves. Sam retrieved a baggie from his pack and plucked a joint from the nest of sticky. “So you guys remember that little girl who disappeared a couple of years back?”

The air was growing cold, and I wished I’d brought my jacket. For some reason Scott was strutting around shirtless like the cock of the walk. I didn’t mind at all. Sam was oblivious as he flamed up the J and wrinkled his nose. It was some old school skunk. I could tell we were all getting a contact high. And just a bit of the paranoia. Which was perfect for Sam’s purposes.

I told you my friends were dicks.

“Let’s make a drum circle,” he suggested. Scott started to laugh, so hard he was choking and red in the face. “Are you fucking serious? Dude, you’re a walking cliche. Don’t we need a drum or two for that?”

“Figure of speech, dude.” Suddenly I think we all realized how long a day we’d had. It felt right to sit down, get comfortable and listen to a scary story. After all, the initial purpose of our expedition–Sam’s idea, of course–to investigate, document and blog about Green Chemical’s despoilment of nature, seemed more and more naive. Of course GC was taking a giant dump on the planet. That was a no-brainer.

“Her name was Tanya,” Sam began. “She was 11 years old when she went missing. You remember her mom going on TV and pleading with the kidnappers. But there was never a ransom note. The case is still open with the police, but most people think she’s dead.”

“Very sad,” I said. “She was a beautiful kid.”

wp-1459269747286.jpg

“That she was,” Sam agreed. “But I have a theory. Tanya loved swimming in Lake Soutaine. The day she went missing, the last time she was seen…” Suddenly there was a plop and splash from the lake, as though an enormous fish had jumped. My blood turned to ice. This wasn’t fun any more.

“I think we should get the heck out of here,” said Scott, standing up.

“Oh come on, dude,” said Sam. “It’s just a story. Anyway, my theory is that Tanya drowned. She was a great swimmer, but something got her. Pulled her down. A week later, if you remember, the county closed off this section of the woods and all of Lake Soutaine. I don’t think that was a coincidence.”

“You’re freaking us all out,” said Scott. “Besides, I might as well face my punishment now. My dad’s going to love this–staying out all day on a weekend before finals, stumbling in reeking of weed.”

“No one’s stopping you, dude,” said Sam. “How about you guys?” I shrugged. “Even if I wanted to go, I couldn’t. Basically paralyzed with fear. Please continue.”

“That’s the spirit! All right. So Tanya drowns, and obviously, she dies. But she doesn’t die all the way. The chemicals somehow reanimate her, turn her into a zombie. And she’s…”

“You’ve been reading too much R.L. Stine,” said Jeremy, who up to this point had been silent, his eyes glassy.

“Right behind you.”

I couldn’t move. I felt like some kind of morbid looky-loo at the scene of a traffic accident. Of course there was nothing there. Sam was making this all up; he’d admitted as much.

Because if he wasn’t, then the little girl standing behind Jeremy, half her face rotted off, shiny with algae and glowing like a halogen lamp, wasn’t just some kind of hallucination from the angel dust I suspected the weed was laced with. If he was reporting the empirical facts, as I now believed he was, the blood spurting from Jeremy’s neck stump now was as real as the crater Tanya had scooped from Sam’s face, and the sparks–like a handful of glitter–drifting in the girl’s blind eyes as she turned towards me with a lipless grin.

 

Free Fiction…Tuesday! We Have Always Lived in Our Heads by Alex S. Johnson

We Have Always Lived in Our Heads

by Alex S. Johnson

giantskullAt first it seemed that we were lost. Abandoned first by our captain, then the first mate, and speedily, the entire crew. Something had spooked them on the shore, in the fog, and they couldn’t wait to scramble down the jointed gray steel ladders into the dinghies and rowboats. Whatever siren or ghost or devil beckoned them from tortured dreams, I still don’t know. But I have my terrible suspicions.

When the storm hit, churning the water into a froth, the skies vast sheets of blackness stuttering flames, we saw them drown. One by one the tiny crafts capsized, and we were helpless as the fierce currents formed whirlpools, sucking the boats in our wake down into a vortex, as tons of water cascaded onto the toy vessels and crushed them like matchsticks.  There was nothing we could do to help them.

Then lightning seized the tackle, and fire streaked down like rivulets of gold. The forecastle began to burn, and the deck smoldered and crackled. The fire seemed like a living thing, so quickly did it consume the wood and canvas. Thick smoke moved through the cabins, and all around me sounded the panicked cries of the other passengers.

I quickly seized a bucket of water and dipped rags, passing them out to my fellows. But they were adults and could endure more.

What worried me most was the children below decks; I feared they would not survive.

They already suffered much terror on the journey, and I thought I could hear them wail through the thick walls of the hold. But I was already delirious from smoke inhalation and could barely keep my head up.

I told myself I needed to keep moving, to save myself before I could render aid to anyone else.

The ship then struck the rocks and the passengers were thrown to the deck, skidding sideways down the slippery planks as the ocean seeped in, and the flames sizzled and snuffed out. The ship groaned and shuddered as it crumpled in on itself.

There was no time left to escape. Those that remained were doomed like the captain and crew to a suffocating, watery death.

Quickly, I grabbed the hand of the passenger nearest me, a young woman named Chelsea–pale skin, ash-blonde hair, sorrowful deep blue eyes. We clutched one another, our hearts beating fast, the water rising on the deck, a ripple of rents yawning in the wood, splinters flying like sparks. The ship lurched again and I must have struck my head on the rigging, because all I remember between that moment and awakening was a merciful dark cloak of unconsciousness.

We had to leave the bodies on the shore; there was no other choice. At first it seemed that without them our tender, smoky forms would simply evaporate, becoming one with the sky and sea. As we proceeded along the sands, the bodies looked like stranded wrecks, flesh sculptures hung thick with draperies of plankton and algae. We couldn’t see our smoke-selves, but found we could communicate telepathically.

And that is when we discovered the heads.

They were titanic, curiously mustachioed and large as houses. We thought they might have been the heads of giants the rest of whom were sunk deep in the surf, but after we had determined that the heads were, if not dead, frozen as in trance, we grew bolder and began to dig around their circumference.

Nothing lay beneath. The heads were self-contained, and whatever life had animated them did not require oxygen or blood flow to thrive.

One of the passengers, a slender young man I came to know as Tony, suddenly cried out. Several of us looked over and saw what had excited him: a passage between the thick, fibrous ropes of mustache hair. Cautiously, we peered within the darkened interior. Expressions of shock, joy and wonder burst from our lips.

These were not merely mammoth heads; they were homes. We found fully equipped kitchens, bathrooms, bedrooms, attics, crawlspaces, even cozy nooks and dens. We had no idea what material composed the furnishings and rooms; all we knew was it had to be organic.

Over time we settled in, began to build families. Generations of beings made of our smoke-stuff, puffed from vaporous loins, grew from the seeds we planted then. It was clear almost immediately we would have to find other dwellings; if not heads, then at the very least as comfortable and habitable as our original domiciles.

But there were only so many heads. We had a serious housing shortage on what might have been our hands, had we physical form.

Then we remembered the bodies, long abandoned. They would be rotting hulks by now, piles of slick bones. But surely there were others, fresher, to house us.

We selected a small group of our wisest and eldest to make a reconnaissance trip. Their mission was to look for bodies, preferably empty.

When they returned, their report was discouraging. To find untenanted bodies, we would have to turn ghoul, waiting for the moment of brain death to squat inside a new corpse, hiding out until the soul escaped and we could claim residency. As spirits ourselves, this hardly seemed like an ethical course of action. We weren’t cuckoos, after all, just houseless ghosts.

As we stood on the beach deciding on a further course of action, the landscape began to digest itself. The long strip of shoreline vanished; the sky overhead drew close like a drawstring bag, the ocean glimmered like a vast pool of mercury, became a single dot and disappeared, swallowing up the skeletons that had become host to a variety of crabs and other, unknown, jellied things.

Then the head houses slowly faded away, with just a scrap of nose or a bristle of mustache remaining before these too dissolved into nothing.

All we had known for eons suddenly revealed itself to be a mirage. A dream.

The dream trapped in the skulls of explorers who had dared the Sea of Darkness, to find not treasure, honor and reward but permanent incarceration in an astral museum gallery, sitting in boxes of alien glass and metal, gawked at by the descendants of the gibbering, tentacled horrors that had ambushed our expedition and taken trophies.

Our previous existence is not even a memory now. For all intents and purposes, we have always lived in our heads.

 

 

 

Grant Me Serenity: The End Part 2

gms

“Well now,” Len said pleasantly, not moving. “I see we have quite a quandary.”
“Yeah?” Harding sneered. “I don’t see a quandary. You don’t get moving, there’ll be a bullet in your head before you can think about saying goodbye.”
“How are you going to do that without having to explain a lot of things to them?” Len nodded at the door leading to the hallway which opened to the parking lot. Decent group tonight, judging by the amount of door-slamming and the volume of residual chatter as the AA members who smoked lit up around the ashtray. “I don’t see a silencer on that gun of yours. Your arm must be getting tired, by the way.”
Harding’s face was frozen in the sneer but his eyes had filled with an uncertainty Len recognized. His arm, whether genuinely tired, or inspired to be so by the power of suggestion, began to tremble.
Len began to move forward, hands held out to his sides, a placid smile on his face. Harding raised the gun anew. “Get moving out that back door motherfucker, I swear to Christ I’ll blow your fucking head off. Don’t push me.”
“Oh I’m sure you would,” Len replied, still coming forward, still with hands out. “I’m not as heavily armed as that man but my pockets are full of shadows. Who knows, one of them could be an automatic.”
“Shut up!” Harding’s gun pointed at Len’s head, then his stomach, then his chest. “Just shut the fuck up and get out the door!” His voice had risen noticeably.
The smile dropped off Len’s face. Only some had seen the look which replaced it, most of whom were dead. “Last chance, EX-detective. Put your gun away and leave. You can continue being whatever you are now instead of what you will become.”
“Fuck you!” Harding raised the gun again and aimed it between Len’s eyes. “This is your last fucking chance!”
Len sighed, and plunged his hand into his pocket. Harding, his nerves strung tighter than a guitar string, fired.

“The jury finds the defendant guilty of the charge of murder in the first degree.”
The words hung in the courtroom, leaden. Guilty. Murder. Harding could scarcely believe it. Hearing the jury recommend the death penalty was even more surreal. Death penalty? For him? What the fuck had happened? How had he gotten here?
His mind whirred through the past like a flipbook. Yesterday’s meeting with his lawyer. Good record, recovery, acquittal is a sure thing, blah blah blah. The weeks leading up to that meeting, the trial, the hell of being torn apart in front of crowd, a judge, a newspaper, with the press, always the press out for his blood, and some days those four smirking faces from the church in the crowd, right there but unattainable. The months of incarceration prior to that whole media frenzy, pacing his cell, desperate for time with his lawyer, because then, only then, did he feel like he was making progress, moving forward. The weeks immediately afterward, when he had been in the purgatory of jail, not knowing what was coming, only knowing it was taking its sweet time and that it was going to be bad, then being proved correct in his worst assumptions. That horrible night he had been taken into the police station in the humiliating perp-walk, handcuffed past his peers, some of them gawking, some shaking their heads, some smirking like the pieces of shit they were. His mug shot, the most painful moment of all, somehow, was when they had fingerprinted him. Finally the ghastly night in the basement of the church when he had somehow, like a fucking idiot…

A small round dot appeared between Len’s eyes, visible for a split second before his head jerked back and threw him to the floor, arms flying out, hands open, nothing but emptiness inside. Unarmed.
“No,” Ed groaned, dropping to his feet beside Len and dropping his gun. “No, oh God oh God NO!” he screamed, pawing desperately at Len’s hand, as though by magic he could make a weapon appear in it. He slapped Len’s legs, hoping to manifest a gun in a holster, a knife in a pocket, something, anything, oh holy fuck not again…
“Oh my God!”
This new hellishly unwelcome voice cut in. Ed jerked his head around, eyes bulging, staring at the first alcoholic to enter the room, a matronly woman in a pink pants suit, whose face was hidden behind her ringed hands, horror in her eyes.
Ed held out his hands to her, numbly glad he had dropped the gun, his mouth working on excuses, somehow blurting out, “I can explain…”

His last meal was a big decision, and Ed thought about it long and hard. Finally, he settled on Shepherd’s Pie, sauerkraut, and pistachio ice cream, washing it down with two cans of Mountain Dew. He immediately regretted it upon finishing, wishing instead he had ordered beef stew, or ravioli, but that was just who Ed Harding was. Had he ordered all three, he would have wished for something different. As he sat there, tasting the sauerkraut and fishing errant strings of it from his back teeth, a guard appeared at his door. It was time.
As he was being strapped in to the chair, trying to keep from hyperventilating, the door in the back of the death chamber opened. Dr Pudge entered. Missy followed. She looked straight at him, with not a hint of recognition. His jaw dropped.
“Hey…”
The guard, moving so swiftly he seemed not to move at all, fixed a gag across Ed’s mouth. The room returned to its normal silence as the necessary plumbing was hooked up to Ed’s body. His eyes grew huger as he saw Jerry, Jessica and Paul sitting in the gallery. No one else was there. Paul smiled and waved. Jessica glared. Jerry’s face was a mask.
The guard, seeing the prisoner was ready for execution, made his speech. “Edward Harding, you have been sentenced to die by a jury of your peers. Do you have anything to say before sentence is carried out?” The guard removed the gag, and Ed filled his lungs.
“Listen to me. This is the truth. That crazy bitch there,” he nodded in Missy’s direction. Her face didn’t move. “and those three assholes–” nodding toward the gallery, “are psychopaths! Murderers! I killed one of their little group after they sat around telling stories about how they’d done it as kids! Ask them! Go on!”
The guard nodded as though he believed every word. This was not the first time someone in the chair had screamed accusations with their last breath. It would not be the last. He looked at Missy. She nodded in return, and began opening valves in her deadly dance. Ed was still ranting as he noticed his eyes growing heavy. He began to yell, but by then, it was over.

Until his eyes opened.

“Oh, there he is, I told you he’d wake up, didn’t I?” A woman’s voice, nearly crowing with delight. Horrible to hear. Horribly familiar.

“Well done, Missy,” a male voice said.

Ed was shivering, but could not move. Was he still in that god damn death room? Was his execution still going on? Then why did the ceiling look so much darker?

A stinging smack on the side of his face brought the ceiling in to focus. He shook his head and looked around him just in time for the rolled up towel someone was snapping to take him in the eye and nearly gouge it out by the feeling, holy shit he had never felt that much pain in an eyeball and what the FUCK was going on..?

“Did that rouse you a bit honey?” Another female voice was crooning next to his ear. “Wouldn’t want you to sleep through Len’s memorial now would we?” She had just finished the last word when a fist smashed into Ed’s nose, bending it to the left with a crack. Ed howled.

“Cool it,” the first woman said. “There’s no rush, and we want him to stay conscious at least for a little while.” Harsh laughter.

The abuse ceased and Ed shook his head, trying to clear his vision. His right eye was a stinging slit of agony misted with red, but the left was taking things in all too well. His mind began to process them.

He was in a chair, arms behind him, stripped to the shorts and soaked. Apparently he’d been doused with water to wake him up. He tried to bring his hands around front and found, to no real surprise, that they had been restricted behind him. He pulled, expecting to hear the clank of chains and heard… nothing. No movement either. They had glued his hands together behind his back, as though he were rubbing them together. He could not move so much as a finger.

They stood around him, over him, surveying him. Missy still wore her business suit but her hair had come out of its bun.

“Curious? I bet you are.” A hand dropped into her pocket and procured a little glass vial. “I just switched out the deadly stuff for some sugar water and switched you for some other corpse on the way out of the morgue, once I declared you legally dead.” She grinned, and Ed felt his blood run cold.

“Brilliant, doctor,” Jerry said, and applauded her. Paul and Jessica joined in, giving Missy a well deserved ovation.

“Thank you,” she said, giving them a curtsy and turning to give one to Ed as well. “Len has been cremated long since, but we waited to have the memorial until you could join us for the fun. It wouldn’t be the same without you.”

Ed could only look on in dumbstruck horror as she picked up the briefcase sitting beside her and turned to place it on a counter nearby. She opened it.

Fluorescent light ricocheted off the angles of the cutting tools filling the briefcase. Razor blades, scalpels, assorted knives and something which looked horribly like a cheese grater grinned at Ed with shining teeth.

Ed began to blubber.

Jerry reached forward and took a scalpel. Jessica grabbed a razor blade. Paul took a large butcher knife. Missy took her favorite, the cheese grater, and the small salt shaker that came with it.

Ed began to plead, to threaten, to bargain, forgetting that for all intents and purposes, to the world, Ed Harding was already dead.

The four of them lined up, Missy at their lead. They would continue taking turns, until the sport had worn off. But it would take a while. They were in no rush.

Ed began to scream.

Missy walked forward, her eyes searching for the perfect patch of skin to begin her ministrations. Behind her, she heard them praying.

Grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change
the courage to change the things I can
and the wisdom to know the difference.

THE END

**********

Jesse Orr was born and raised in Alaska and has no idea, nor do his parents, when or how he began reading and writing; as is the case with so many things, they just are. Moving to Seattle in 2007, he settled down to a life of recording and performing music as well as writing whatever caught his fancy. He has a dog named Mr Dog and lives in West Seattle.

https://www.facebook.com/murd3rweapon5

Kidnapped Blog: Michele Roger

halogokidnapped

Who’s Afraid of Edwin Pool?

A short story by Michele Roger

“Hello?,” groaned Molly, reluctantly picking up her cell after the fourth ring.  She was awake in the sense that a phone to her ear elicited a groggy greeting; but not much more.

“They caught him!  I mean, well,” Jasmine was stumbling over her words with excitement.  Molly looked at the clock.  Eleven-thirty suggested her excitement probably involved a night spent with Prince Vodka. “He’s dead!  Your stalker guy.  I just saw it on the eleven o’clock news.  They just identified him.  He tried robbing a liquor store down on Mac Ave.  He went from holding the night manager at gun point to pointing the gun at police when they answered the silent alarm.  Molly, they shot him!”

Molly sat up trying to wake herself from an exhaustion-induced sleep.  Had she heard that right?  After  two years of changing her phone number, taking short apartment leases, moving every six months and three personal protection orders, could it really be all over?  In her sleepy confused state, she looked for the remote to turn on the news.  A moment of clarity came as she looked around at her most recent apartment, stacked from floor to ceiling with fresh packing boxes newly delivered by the movers.

“That’s great news, J,” replied Molly.

“What’s wrong with you?  That creep ruined your life.  You should be celebrating!  As a matter of fact, I’m bringing over a bottle of champagne right now.”

“Hold on, hold on,” Molly struggled.  “I really appreciate it J, but the movers arrived today and I’m spent.”  In actuality, she needed to think.  There was no instant relief, no overwhelming sensation of a weight being lifted.  Was he really dead?  Somehow, this moment wasn’t turning out how she had dreamed it.  Something in her voice was pleading and Jasmine recognized the sound of insomnia and fatigue.

“Fine,” Jasmine growled.  “But I’m dragging you out for drinks tomorrow.  No excuses.  We are going to dig through your boxes until we find your hottest outfit.  And then you and me are hitting the town to enjoy your new-found freedom!”

“How about dinner at The Bay, instead?” Molly countered.  She hadn’t been out without some form of security or a heart pounding sense of fear in two years.  Dinner with her best friend sounded like a much more feasible first step towards enjoying her liberation.

“You know you’re the most boring musician on the planet, right?”

“And for your relentless patience and willingness to show your face in public with me, I will let you engrave that on my tomb stone.  It will read, ‘Molly Brennan, the world’s most boring musician.’ How does that sound?”

“Prince Charming never kissed a sleeping princess, you know.  How can Mr. Right find you unless you’re out there calling for him from some high tower, or beating him in an archery contest?  How are you ever going to have a love life eating at The Bay and wearing your faded jeans?” Jasmine asked, hoping to break Molly in her half asleep state of mind.

“I will read Sleeping Beauty to you at dinner.  See you then.”  Molly hung up.  She walked to the box-filled kitchen and looked for anything labelled ‘cups’.  No luck.  Her tv, radio and lap top were also still somewhere in the post-move heap.  Making her way to the bathroom, she stuck her head under the sink and drank.  Then, she crawled back into bed and clicked on her phone’s news app.  She read the words for herself, “Local man suspected of several stalkings of Metro-area musicians shot dead in altercation with police tonight at a Mac Ave liquor store.  Edwin Pool was pronounced dead at Detroit Medical Center…”  The article continued but Molly read and re-read the same five words over and over again.  “Edwin Pool was pronounced dead.”  Dead!  She started to laugh and to cry all at the same time and immediately fell into a worry-free sleep that she had not felt in two years.

Molly woke late the next day.  She stumbled into the kitchen and prayed to find the coffee maker easily.  As she rifled through boxes, opening them by peeling off the tape, rummaging through haphazardly and moving on to the next.  By the time she had reached box six, she decided it would be far more productive to just call for delivery.  Was there delivery coffee like there was delivery pizza?  There must be, she assured herself in a sleepy fog.  Molly plopped back on her bed and reached under the pillows to find her phone.  It wasn’t there.  She flipped over the empty laundry basket working as a makeshift nightstand but nothing.  It wasn’t under the bed.

Beginning her search in less likely places, she went into the bathroom. It wasn’t on the counter or in the medicine cabinet.  She scanned the hall.  Maybe she had dropped it?  No sign of the phone.  Moving on to the ridiculous, she looked for it in the refrigerator, next she opened each of the kitchen cupboards.  Nothing.  With a desperate need for coffee and connection to the outside world, she threw cushions off the couch, opens both doors of the washer and dryer and peek in the garbage can.  Nothing.  Molly sat on a box and replayed the night in her head.                  A faint knocking sound broke the ticker tape of unlikely spots yet to check.  Molly went to the front door.  When she opened it, no one was there.  Dear God, she thought, I’m loosing it.  She laughed out loud.  As she stood in the silent apartment, surrounded by stacks of boxes, Molly retraced her steps from the night before.  Jasmine had called, she had looked up the news report on her phone.  Edwin Pool was confirmed dead.  With that thought, a small trace of fear that she couldn’t explain ran down her spine.  He’s gone.  For good.  She had to reassure herself.

The faint knocking started up again.  This time, Molly walked slowly, listening to each rap before taking steps to locate its source.  Rap, rap, rap.  The sound was dulled and yet slightly metallic.  Rap, rap, rap.  She walked through the kitchen and into the small, box-laden dining room.  She waited and listened.  Rap, rap, rap.  It wasn’t in the living room.  She stepped into the hall.  Her heart pounded harder and it made a ringing in her ears.  Rap, rap, rap.  She followed the knocking to the bathroom.  Quickly, she threw the switch for the light and held her breath.  Everything was normal and empty, just as it had been when she walked through it with the landlord.  Her eyes searched every corner, she peeked behind the door.  No sound.  No mice.  Nothing out of the ordinary.  She stared at herself in the mirror, searching for visible signs of mental breakdown.  The lines around her eyes looked a little deeper.  Was her hair a little thinner?  She leaned over the sink, closer to the mirror to look in her eyes and the knocking came again.  She jumped back, wide eyed.  With each rap, the mirror moved ever so slightly, making her reflection minutely blurred for a split second.  She went to reach her hand out to touch the mirror when a huge thud made her jump.  The sound of Jasmine’s voice immediately followed.

“Molly?  Molly are you ok?” Jasmine called out.  Without a word, Molly ran through the kitchen and to the front door and wrapped her arms around her puzzled best friend. “I’ve been trying to get a hold of you all morning.  Your phone just rings and rings.  Did you forget to set up your voicemail for this new number?”  She pushed Molly off, detaching herself from her intense strong hold.  “Here,” Jasmine handed Molly a paper cup.  “I figured you could use a cup, in the event you didn’t find the coffee maker.”  Molly stood silently, watching her friend flit like a hummingbird from one thing to the next.  “I also got cleaning supplies, a new playlist on my iPod to inspire happy organization and, of course ‘Vogue’, ‘Cosmo’ and to humor you, ‘The New Yorker’.”  When she took a breath, Jasmine stood slowly and stared at Molly.  Her demeanor changed instantly as she looked at her friend standing stiff and pale.  “Oh God, what is it?”

Molly opened her mouth and instead of hearing a voice of reason and logic, she heard herself begin to cry.  Her hands began to shake.  “I can’t find my phone and I swear I left it on the nightstand after I talked to you last night.  And then,” Molly grabbed Jasmine’s hand and the two ran into the bathroom.  “Listen,” Molly whispered.

The two women stood silently in the bathroom.  Molly stood intently before the mirror, her eyes wide with anticipation.  Jasmine, bewildered whispered, “What are we listening for?”

“There’s a knocking sound coming from my mirror.”

Jasmine dropped Molly’s hand.  Her normal, indoor tone of voice returned.  “What the hell are you talking about?  It’s probably the thin walls and the neighbors having sex.”

The neighbors aren’t behind my bathroom wall, my bedroom is,” Molly replied, looking more terrified than ever.

Jasmine snorted.  “Well we all know nothing ever happens in your bedroom.  It’s gotta be your pipes.  Come on, let’s drink some coffee and look for your best Girls Night Out dress.  You clearly need a night out.”

“Seriously?” Molly asked incredulously.

“Mol, I love you but look, you’ve been on edge for a long time.  Rightfully so, in my opinion.  You’ve had a whack job following your every move and it’s enough to make everyone a little paranoid.  Your phone is somewhere in all of those boxed chaos known as moving.  Your pipes shake when too many tenants take late Saturday morning showers.  In a week you’ll be talking to me on your phone laughing about the whole thing.  Now come on.”  The two drank their coffee while sitting on boxes and staring at the enormity of the job ahead of them.

Jasmine laughed.  “Most people unpack their kitchen first.  Not my Mol.  She unpacks big Bertha and the sheet music.  Who needs necessities as long as there is beautiful music.”  She waived her hand in the air for added effect.

Molly scowled.  “My harp isn’t Bertha.  Don’t call her that.  You’ll hurt her feelings.  Her name is Bellissima.  It means ‘most beautiful’ in Italian.  For short, I’ve been calling her Bells.”

“Yeah, because naming one musical instrument after a completely different musical instrument isn’t weird or anything.”

“You’ve never liked Bells.”

“I don’t like anything that is even remotely attached to you know who.”

“I know,” Molly said quietly.  “It’s not her fault though.  Edwin Poll was just the delivery guy.  Who knew he used his job in order to meet and stalk women?”  The two were quiet, staring at the large floor harp.  The sun streamed in from the window, reflecting off its guilder gold column.

Jasmine broke the silence first, saying what they both were thinking.  “I’m glad he’s dead.”

“Me too.”  The moment was awkward.  Molly pushed a box up to the harp and started to play.  A huge smile spread across Jasmine’s face.  She tried to figure out the song as Molly’s fingers floated over the strings.

“Let me guess,” Jasmine smirked, “Handel?  No, uh Rockmoni-something.”  They were the only two classical composers she could remember from the program from Molly’s last concert.

Molly giggled, “You Are My Sunshine.”  Jasmine burst on laughing.  Molly’s giggles turned to a screech as the thick, lower octave string suddenly broke and caught her in the face.  The wire breaking under such tension recoiled and cut Molly across the face, just under her eye.    She cupped her face and went to the bathroom.  Jasmine followed.

“And you wonder why I don’t like her?” Jasmin spat.

“Strings break.  Call it a job hazard.”

“They cut you in the face?”

“Well no, that’s never happened, I admit.”

A sick sounding melody, much like that from a broken, worn down music box came lilting from the living room.  The two peered around the corner to hear the sick sounding music and watched as each string vibrated and unravelled, breaking one by one.  With each pop of the string, the two jumped.  Molly began to hyperventilate but Jasmine held her ground.

“I’m calling Jack at the studio and telling him to pick up the harp and repair it there.  You and I are going to find the antiseptic, clean you up and unpack this mess.  When the going gets tough, the tough get going.”

In four hours, the two friends had managed to unpack nearly the entire apartment.  They had a system down to a science thanks to Molly moving so many times.  With nearly everything sorted and put away, they headed into Molly’s room to decide on the outfit for the night.  Molly flopped on the bed! in a passive aggressive protest.  Jasmine ignored her and slid hanger after hanger from the left to the right.  With each swipe of the hanger she passed judgement, “boring, outdated, your mom bought it, boring, boring.  God Molly, do you own any evening wear that isn’t black?  Go crazy, try green or blue for a change.”

“Orchestra requirement. Besides, what’s wrong with black?”

Before she could answer, Jasmine swiped a dress on its hanger only half way and smiled at the possibility.  “Firstly, how about this one? Secondly, how have I never seen this before and stolen it from you?  This dress is fabulous.”

Silver and sequined, the dress sparkled making tiny rainbows on Molly’s ceiling.  “That’s not mine.  I would never, in a million years wear that,” Molly argued.  Jasmine started to protest but Molly insisted.  “Seriously, that isn’t mine.  I wonder if the movers gave me an extra box by mistake.”

“All the rest of your clothes are here.  I don’t see anything else that I don’t recognize.”  She swiped the clothes again, this time in the opposite direction and much faster.  “Weird.  All yours but this dress.  Sure you don’t want to wear it tonight?”

“More than sure,” Molly insisted.

Jasmine hung the dress back up on a hanger and proceeded her inspection of black dresses.  The silver dress fell off its hanger and Jasmine picked it up and put it back on the hanger reflexively.  Then, she started again looking through the close.  The dress fell off its hanger again.  This time, falling outside the closet.  Molly sat up and watched as Jasmine replaced it on its hanger again.  As Jasmine began to pull out a sleek black semi-formal, the window flew open opposite the closet, letting the wind blow through.  Wind swept abruptly through the bedroom and the silver dress was caught up in the air currents and landed in a wad up on Molly’s bed.

The two women stared.  Jasmine smoothed out the dress on the bed and saw there was still a tag.  She turned over the tag and there, spelled out on the Manila cardboard of the tag was the note written in bold red letters, “To Molly, Love E.”

Furiously, Molly crumpled up the dress and threw it in the trash can in the kitchen.  Jasmine was speechless.  “When was he ever in your closet?  You never told me he sent you clothes.  Why would you save that dress if it was from him?”

Molly leaned up against the kitchen counter, her head pounding as she tried to find a logical explanation.  “I didn’t save it, J.  Today is the first time I’ve ever seen that dress.”  She began to cry.  “I’m never going to be rid of him.”  Jasmine sat next to Molly, rubbing her back.  She was beginning to feel strange in the apartment.  She didn’t want to leave Molly alone.

“Its been a long day of hard work.  How about we order a pizza and have a slumber party?  I will look for your phone one more time.  Half the fun of a friend who moves all the time is discovering the best pizza place that delivers.”

As Jasmine looked for the phone, Molly stared at the dress in the trash can.  She listened for the knocking on the mirror.  Had she dreamed it all?  She rubbed the cut on her cheek.  What logical explanation was there?

“Found it!” Jasmine hollered from the kitchen.  “Woo hoo!  You left it on the stove.  God knows you can’t cook so who knows why it would be there,” she teased.  She handed Molly the cell phone.  “It says you have one recent photo.  Open it, let’s see what pictures you take while sleep walking!”

Molly stared intently at the photo she had opened.  Jasmine could have been saying any number of things, but Molly heard none of it.  She stared for several very long minutes trying to find a logical explanation.  Finally, she slid her thumb over the phone screen.  Molly opened her mouth and her voice cracked when she spoke.  “The time stamp on this picture is from twelve thirty last night.”

“Hey, you look pretty good, all sleeping and gorgeous.  It’s actually a great picture of you.  Maybe you could use it on your next album cover or something,” Jasmine smiled.  The irony was lost on her.

Molly made the situation clear.  ” J, this picture was taken at twelve thirty last night. While.  I. Was. Sleeping.”

“So?”

“So, J, I live alone.  I sleep alone, as you so gently reminded me today.  Who the hell took this picture?”

Flash Fiction Friday: David Watson

chippewa 286

Photo by Amber Williams

 

Esmeralda The Great Once Lived Here
by David Watson
 

This is the end. She saw it coming but no one believed her, they never did. She lived at the amusement park for seven years and was always happy there. Her name was Esmeralda The Great and she told fortunes but no one believed them. They thought it was just for fun but Esmeralda told the truth. She knew what the future held and could tell you what you should do.

No one believed in her abilities, no one except Xander the magician who owned the small amusement park on the ocean. He saw the truth in Lita and renamed her Esmeralda and gave Lita her first real job. Esmeralda loved her work, everyone who came to the amusement park was always nice and she had many friends. People listened to her tell what the future held for them, but they dismissed it as cheap fun.

A few months ago her readings changed, she saw no future for anyone. She saw hair covered creatures with fangs ripping people to shreds and feasting on their body parts. She heard the screams but there was nothing she could do. She told people what she saw but they all laughed. Even Xander said she was working too hard and needed a vacation.

She started to believe them, but one night death came to her amusement park on the ocean. Their eyes were blood-red, they smelled like rotting flesh and they were so fast no one knew what hit them. There were so many, no one at the amusement park could escape, except Esmeralda. She fled to an old underground bomb shelter in the park and stayed there for days or maybe months.

She didn’t want to leave the shelter but she was lonely and out of food, she really had no choice. The amusement park is a different place now. Its quiet and the weeds are getting long. There is dried blood on the pavement and a horrible smell still hangs in the air. This is no happy place anymore, it’s a place of death and now its time for Esmeralda to move on.

The streets are quiet but Esmeralda knows there are still people out there. She can feel them and they’re in danger. She will find a way to help and restore her happy home. Once she finds out what happened she will rebuild and her amusement park on the ocean will live again.  

——————————————————————————

David Watson is a staff writer at horroraddicts.net and plans on continuing the story of Esmeralda in a book he is working on called The Saturday Night Monster Club. You can also find him at theallnightlibrary.wordpress.com

Deeply Twisted by Chantal Noordeloos

18747855Horror is meant to shock and disturb us. It’s also meant to show how strong people can be when faced with something that is truly terrifying. Horror stories don’t often have happy endings and if someone does get a happy ending they most likely suffered along the way. Horror can be a lot of things and Deeply Twisted by Chantal Noordeloos offers up 20 short stories that show what horror is really all about.

This anthology has a lot to offer, there are stories about witches, alien creatures, the devil at a dinner party, sea monsters, a man who collects souls, a mysterious clock tower, grave robbers, zombies and much more. This is a great horror anthology, some stories are better than others but even the ones I didn’t care for had some great ideas and we’re well written.

One of my favorite stories in this book was the zombie tale: Victims Of Evolution. I loved how Eloise describes her family then describes being bit by a zombie, changing into one and evolving into something else. I loved this concept and it was an original take on zombies. Another great tale is Death Awaits You which has a great twist and some disturbing imagery with some gory descriptions of dead bodies.  Out Of The Storm was also a story that had great imagery with its descriptions of a monster storm and a haunted hotel.

Dinner Date was a fascinating story with a good twist. One of the main characters in this is a woman named Lucretia who has some interesting insights into everyone around her but she isn’t taken seriously because of her personality. She is the only one who notices the truth behind the blind date that another character set her up with. What I loved about this one is how if you scratch the surface of each character in the story you see a different person and that’s not necessarily a good thing.

Deeply Twisted also includes two stories about grave robbers which is a subject that fascinates and disturbs me. The first one is The Angel’s Grave, I loved the character of Duff and how he ends up having to rob graves. He doesn’t have a choice but he has to pay for his sins anyway courtesy of a vengeful spirit. The other story is called Jade, despite having the same subject matter it is a very different story and I loved how the man telling them they shouldn’t be doing this gets called a fool and it shows what happens when you get too greedy.

I can’t think of many bad things to say about Deeply Twisted, Chantal makes each story come to life through spooky imagery and memorable characters. If you love short horror fiction then this is a must have. One thing that made this anthology excellent is how some stories are connected. For instance the story The Widow talks about a ghostly urban legend and the children who don’t believe. I thought this story was good but I didn’t understand the ending. Later in the anthology there was a story called Deeply Twisted that gets into how the legend started and added a lot of depth to The Widow. Reading Deeply Twisted reminded me why I love horror fiction and it also made me want to buy Chantel Noordeloo’s novel Coyote: The Outlander. Horror fans don’t pass this book up.

Alexis and the Alien Tentacle

91qGrWytqeL._AA1000_

Press Release

Announcing release of latest Jake Keplin short erotic fiction story

Fourth in the series

Los Angeles, CA, January 22, 2014:  Sumaire Press has just released the fourth story in Jake Keplin’s erotic horror series, “…and the Alien Tentacle”, “Emily and the Alien Tentacle”. It is currently available for Amazon’s Kindle and on Smashwords.com for multiple e-reader formats.

The “…and the Alien Tentacle” series relates the misadventures of humans who are unfortunate enough to encounter a tentacled alien species who want nothing more than to multiply and propagate their species across the universe. Previous entries include “Bella and the Alien Tentacle”, “Candi and the Alien Tentacle”, and “Alexis and the Alien Tentacle”.

The Fool’s Illusion

Fool's Illusion BookCover FrontThere are a lot of illusions in our lives. Books, movies television and advertisements all ask us to believe in something that is not necessarily true. Sometimes they say the illusion is real. While other times media is just asking us to suspend our disbelief. If we believe in an illusion we are a fool.  For example we might think people who believed in ancient mythology are fools. Some people who don’t believe in bigfoot might call people who believe in him, fools. There are also times that we create our own illusions like when we dream and wake up thinking the dream was real.

Another  example of a fool believing an illusion is when you see a magician sawing a women in half. It might look like the woman is really being cut in two, but its a magician’s trick. One person may know its an illusion but another may believe it. Illusions are all around us, even what we think is reality may really be an illusion.

Figuring out the difference between illusion and reality can make for great storytelling. This is the main theme in The Fool’s Illusion by Steven Rose Jr. This anthology begins with a great non fiction piece on what illusions are, which was well written and really set the mood for the following stories. I really liked Steven’s observations on how sometimes we think something will make us happy and in reality they don’t and how we deceive ourselves with drugs or television to escape everyday life. In the intro Steven points out that everything is an illusion and its up to us how we interpret it.

I thought all the stories in this collection were good but there were five that really stood out. The first one was The Inheritance. This was a horror story about a man who inherits the family estate and  has to deal with the curse that comes with it. He is warned to ignore the sounds coming from the cellar but curiosity gets the best of him and he finds the reason why college students around town are dropping like flies. This story mixes humor and horror with a great protagonist.

Another story I liked was Coming Out. Puberty is a rough period in your life and its even worse when you have a second one and become a different thing all together. I really enjoyed the relationship between the young boy and girl in this one and watching him figure out what he truly was. I would love to see this one expanded into a novel.

I also enjoyed Digital Love At First Sight which is about how one person manages to fall in love with someone who is a billboard model and not a real person. There is  a good theme here about how you can’t have love without pain. My favorite in this anthology was the futuristic Planet Of The Dead which is about a murder mystery on a cemetery planet. I’ve never read a story that combines Science Fiction and gothic horror but this one manages to do it.

Another one not to be overlooked is The Bazaar which takes a humorous look at mass consumerism.The Fool’s Illusion has a little something for everyone.  I enjoyed the concept behind this anthology and look forward to seeing more fiction and non-fiction by Steven Rose Jr.