Book Review: The Fisherman by John Langan

 

Review by Hana Noel

“I’ve been fishing for a long time now, and as you might guess, I know a story or two. That’s what fishermen are, right? Storytellers.”

The Fisherman by John Langan is composed of 3 parts. The first part is about our main character Abe, his love of fishing, and the grief he feels after his wife succumbs to cancer. It also entails his unlikely friendship with his coworker Dan (who also lost his wife and kids) and how they started to fish together. Part one is excruciatingly descriptive and slow in my opinion. It sets out to build up character development with Abe and Dan and the whole tone of the novel, but the pacing is painfully sedated.

The second part starts to pick up a bit. Dan and Abe are heading to a new fishing spot, Dutchman’s Creek. They stop at a diner on the way and are told by Howard a very long story about the history of the town, the river, and why it isn’t a place to frequent. The story Howard tells spans a majority of the book and what starts as a history lesson quickly morphs into a Lovecraftian tale, one with a dead woman walking around, bones broken, whispering people’s secrets, another about a house with a whole black ocean in it.

“Splashed by the water the man vomited for his trouble, the brother said that the water was full of tadpoles. Only, they were such tadpoles as no one among them had ever seen before, black strips of flesh one or two inches long, every one capped by a single, bulbous blue eye, so it seemed as if the fellow who’d thrown them up had swallowed a bucketful of eyeballs.”

The third part is the best in my opinion. They get to the Dutchman’s Creek despite Howard’s warnings and, as they’re fishing, pull something horrific out of the water. This leads to what can only be called a haunting, both men seeing things that aren’t there, that aren’t quite right.

I chose to reread this book as it’s been a long time since I last visited it. I hailed it as one of my favorites. Though the second time reading it I found more faults within its pages.

Langan is a fantastic storyteller, there’s no doubt about that. My qualm is that this work is overly descriptive, to the point where I found myself skimming. It absolutely drags on about things that don’t seem pivotal to the story. Quite a bit of it feels like filler, in-depth descriptions of trees and telling rather than showing. By this I mean, writing every single action down that happens. Rather than just showing the reader, it spells things out.

Another issue I have with this book is the pacing. It is unhurried, almost technical. The second part, the little history lesson on Dutchman’s Creek, though interesting, takes up a majority of the book. It is told at a snail’s pace, with a few exciting and spooky encounters sprinkled throughout yes, but not enough to truly redeem it.

The story itself is good. You understand, as you finish the book, that the history lesson and the agonizing world building and character study did actually serve a purpose in some ways. That doesn’t make it any less boring though.

Like I said, this is a re-read of a previous favorite book. Originally I rated it 5 out of 5 stars. I’d say now I rate 3 out of 5.

If you can make it through the dry descriptions and the heft of the prose, the overall tone and message of this book can be thoroughly enjoyed.

Free Fiction : Everything Moved Two Inches by HeavyRadio

The discovery was first made on June 2nd, 2015 by a man named Jaylen Walker, a man plagued with severe OCD. According to him, he noticed the change when the steps to get from his house to the nearby gas station were slightly less than the usual 1,374. Alarmed by this since Jaylen always made sure to retrace his steps. He did so twenty more times until he was positive that it now took 1,373 steps. After police were called into the gas station to perform a wellness check on the man, Jaylen insisted that the city check their census records and that once they did they would see he was correct. One week later, after receiving a hundred calls reporting similar circumstances in their neighborhoods, the city planner Rachel Hennley decided to look into the rumors in order to put the public’s mind at ease. However once doing so, Mrs. Hennely was floored to find that the city did indeed move two inches south since 2012.

Thinking that this could be a result of a major water line rupturing, a small crew was tasked to investigate the source of the movement. Led by Mrs. Hennely, it would take nearly a week for the crews to find anything out of the ordinary. Then on June 16th, one of the contractors named Jackson Lee found a small fissure roughly 2 inches in size roughly a half mile from the initial sighting. It is reported that once Mr.Lee had found the fissure, he had shined his flashlight down the fissure. We do not know this for sure, as shortly after finding the source, Mr.Lee would become inconsolable. After several days, he finally was able to say a single sentence.

“Close… the… gap…”

Unfortunately, Mr.Lee would go on to commit suicide after being released from the hospital. 

Curious as to what had made Mr.Lee so distraught, Rachel Hennely and local geology professor Dr.Neil Gallaghar decided to investigate the fissure further. Once down there, they discovered that the fissure had separated by over a foot since Mr. Lee’s report. Wanting to investigate further, Rachel decided to repel down into the fissure while reporting everything she saw to Dr. Gallagher. As she descended, she noted that the fissure seemed to go down almost indefinitely and would become incredibly spacious. After she reached the end of her rope, Rachel reported that she could no longer see the walls of the fissure and that she was above a massive open space. After pulling out her camera and taking several photos, a scream could be heard echoing from the chasm. Quickly looking at his computer, Dr.Gallagher’s eyes widened. It was a massive, perfectly symmetrical face. He scrolled to the next photo, but before he could look at it, his walkie-talkie exploded with sound.

“IT JUST BLINKED”

He looked back at his computer and screamed. The face was now staring directly at him, and to his horror began to smile. 

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HeavyRadio is a horror writer out of Boston. Currently, in a Master’s program,

I write all my stories in my free time.

I am most inspired by Clive Barker, H.P Lovecraft, and Stephen King.

Author Interview : John James Minster

What is your name and what are you known for? 

John James Minster, author of horror stories.

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

The Undertaker’s Daughter

A Novel of Supernatural Horror

Don’t play with dead things.

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

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

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

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

What places or things inspire your writing?

Supernatural beings described in The Old and The New Testaments.

What music do you listen to while creating?

Downtempo electronic and melodic deep house beats.

What is your favorite horror aesthetic? 

Animated decomposing corpses.

Who is your favorite horror icon?

Edgar Allan Poe.

What was the scariest thing you’ve witnessed?

My infant son getting wheeled into surgery.

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

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

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

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

Have you ever been haunted or seen a ghost?

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

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

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

What are you working on now? 

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

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

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

Author Interview with Nick Roberts


What is your name and what are you known for? 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What places or things inspire your writing?

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

What music do you listen to while creating?

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

What is your favorite horror aesthetic? 

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

Who is your favorite horror icon?

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

What was the scariest thing you’ve witnessed?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Have you ever been haunted or seen a ghost?

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

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

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

The Exorcist by William Peter Blatty

American Psycho by Bret Easton Ellis

The Shining by Stephen King

The Complete Works of Edgar Allan Poe by Edgar Allan Poe

Books of Blood by Clive Barker

What are you working on now? 

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

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

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

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

Free Fiction : Eternally by Michael Tennant


He sat calmly, peacefully, on the tree branch. It seemed quite sturdy. It would have to be; it was about to experience a heck of a force. Over a thousand pounds, if his memory wasn’t mistaken. He couldn’t recall which page he’d seen that number on. Maybe it was the rope that would be subjected to that strain. Whatever the case, he was confident that both the branch and the rope were up to the task.

He looked at the knot securing the rope to the branch and hoped he’d tied it well enough. He didn’t subscribe to a belief in a higher power, so he wasn’t worried about an afterlife. Likewise, he gave no credence to the metaphysical, and was thus unconcerned about being cursed to haunt the living with any sort of unfinished business – not that he could imagine what business that might be. He’d prepared a will, had his signature witnessed and notarized, listed his life insurance information, and made sure his passwords and PINs were documented. It wasn’t stories about after death that gave him pause; it was dread for the idea that he might screw this up, as he’d been so good at screwing up in life. Being a statistic, he could handle, as long as that statistic didn’t include the word “attempted.” Failing at life was par for the course; failing at death would be the final push to drive him fully mad.

He checked the knot one last time and felt reassured that it would hold. He slipped the loop over his head, positioned the hangman’s knot beneath the left side of his jaw, and snugged the noose against his throat. The apprehension he’d felt for so long slipped away, and he felt relief, knowing that the end he’d craved for decades was finally upon him. He took a deep breath, let it out, and slid forward off the branch.

Almost too quickly to notice, he’d fallen the five feet and six inches that he’d measured out for the drop. As the knot was pulled violently upward beneath his chin, it snapped his head up, back, and slightly to the right. There was an imperceptibly brief flash of pain as vertebrae separated and his spine was crushed and severed, and then he felt no more, but simply hung there, open eyes turned to the sky. He didn’t feel his lungs expel their last breath, nor did he take notice of his heart’s final beat. He simply watched a dew drop grow fat as it neared the point at which it would drip from a leaf just above him, as he awaited the unconsciousness that should overtake him. But the blissful sleep did not come for him, and the dew didn’t drip.

There was no blackness to envelop him, no light for him to go toward. A hundred, a thousand, a million ideas humans had about what happens after death, but none of them had prepared him for the horror of staring up at that dew drop hanging from the tip of that leaf, eternally.

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Michael Tenant I was an enthusiastic fiction writer and poet in high school, and utterly failed to pursue it in any fashion. I’m now trying to rediscover my imagination and creativity, 30 years later.

Author Interview: Gwendolyn N. Nix

What is your name and what are you known for? 

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

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

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

 

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

`What places or things inspire your writing?

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

What music do you listen to while creating?

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

What is your favorite horror aesthetic? 

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

Who is your favorite horror icon?

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

What was the scariest thing you’ve witnessed?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Have you ever been haunted or seen a ghost?

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

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

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

What are you working on now? 

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

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

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

 

Author Interview : Paul DeBlassie III

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Author Interview : Isaac Thorne

What is your name and what are you known for? 

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

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

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

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

What places or things inspire your writing?

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

What music do you listen to while creating?

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

What is your favorite horror aesthetic? 

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

Who is your favorite horror icon?

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

What was the scariest thing you’ve witnessed?

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

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

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

Living: Stephen King and a cherry cheesecake.

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

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

Have you ever been haunted or seen a ghost?

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

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

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

What are you working on now? 

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

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

https://www.isaacthorne.com

Shadows Love Chapter 9 : Tortured

Lastor lay there with Audrey wrapped around him, lost in the past as she dozed. He stroked her hair and she shifted, drawing closer to him, soft sounds coming from whatever dreamland she was inhabiting. 

Lastor remembered the tears she had cried, telling him things she had never been able to confide in anyone else. He remembered how she clutched him to her as she sobbed, desperate to know someone else was there for her, someone who would never hurt her, always protect her. He remembered her cries of fear in her sleep, her fitful whimpers as she tossed and turned, tortured by unknown demons.

Many had tried to “fix” her with counseling, medications, and therapy, but everyone knew there had to be something wrong. In looking, Lastor could not see anything amiss but unhappiness and unnecessary medications clouding her mind. 

She had been off the meds and unhappiness merely a day before the change was noticeable. Lastor had not been surprised. She was giddy, bubbly, and full of life, giggling like a schoolgirl as silly jokes rolled off her tongue. 

Lastor knew his life was nothing special. Spending most of every day in solitude, locked inside his own head, being forced to look in the workings of his mind for entertainment was his choice. Having never been impressed with the intelligence of most of humanity and not enjoying the company of most other vampires left him with little option but to become self-reliant. The numerous times he had associated with others of his kind had led him to the conclusion that excluding him, vampires lorded their status over others, and that biologic superiority demanded respect beyond their years. Disagreeing with the estimations of his kind’s worth and living inside his head sometimes for days on end without speaking a word had left its mark. Lastor had developed very little patience with others, abhorring crowds and keeping his back to the wall at all times. Indeed, it was common for him to be seen in a public setting only as long as it took him to be seen. 

Lastor had more or less resigned himself to being alone for eternity, before happening upon Audrey. All the humans with whom he had attempted to forge any relationship had not lasted longer than a weekend before infuriating him and forcing him to end them. The female vampires he chanced to meet and bring back may have been initially enamored of him, but when they saw the extent of introspection in his life, they left him, talking amongst themselves of how strange he was, even for a vampire. Lastor for his part watched them go, sighing inwardly as his opinion of his own kind was lowered once again, and once again he was left alone, sitting in the dark, chasing his thoughts one by one around his head until they vanished into the nothingness that was there. 

Someone had finally smiled on him. He had simply catered to a whim and indulged in a night of innocent blood, and he had found someone who loved and accepted him for who he was, who he wanted to be, without attempting to change him to fit their notions of what someone should be. This was the sort of thing that happened in bad fiction. Occasionally one might hear of someone taking a chance and having it pay off, but that’s all it ever is, just hearing of another’s luck. Lastor kept expecting the worst, having been bitten enough times to question luck. The surrealism of the nights kept mystifying him. The way time ceased to exist, how the night would fly by until the sun chased them into the dark recesses of the mansion, the hours they spent wrapped in each other’s minds through their eyes, unwilling to look away. When things seem too good to be true, they usually are. 

It came to pass that this was one of those times.

“AARRGH!!!” 

Lastor jerked awake as if trying to stop himself from falling. Breathing hard, he stared unblinkingly at the ceiling, willing the image in his mind to fade. His pulse began to drop, and his breathing slowed. Looking down at the silver ring he still wore on his right hand, he saw his fingers unconsciously curled up into fists. Opening them hurt; the long nails had dug into his palms. Trickles of blood ran down his forearms. 

Reaching for the bottle beside the bed, he squinted at the clock and it’s winking red light. Nine in the fucking morning. Why did the dreams have to wake him so early? Now it was another day of forcing himself to sleep through the world’s waking life from behind shades that only marginally succeeded in blocking out the sun. The residual glow gave him a headache, which another mouthful of brandy did nothing to fix. His unfocused vision lit upon the corpse on the couch, her eyes staring in horror out through her bloody face. He had met her last night, in hopes that she would be capable of taking Audrey’s place. She proved…unworthy.

Standing unsteadily, Lastor moved along the wall clutching the bottle, making his way toward the windowless bathroom, avoiding the blocked portal of light. Locking the door and staunching the gap between the bottom of the bathroom door and the floor exhausted him, and he slumped over once it was done, his heart racing again. Scrabbling weakly across the floor for the bottle, he took a deep drink and exhaled shakily as the warm liquid crept down his throat. Curling up against the glow that remained, he fell into a fitful sleep, haunted by nightmares of memories.

Shadow’s Love : Chapter 7 / Addiction

Lastor looked down at the girl, hesitantly approaching the man standing against a shadowy building. He had not counted on this. The man was evil, his black thoughts fairly radiating off him. Lastor had seen his eyes following the girl since she had turned the corner and the thoughts had been broadcast on a plain wavelength even some humans were tuned to. As she approached, Lastor could fairly smell the man’s arousal heating up. Lastor’s lip curled. This girl was his. He had scented her and he would have her. No pervert was going to usurp him.  

He watched as the exchange went on beneath him. The man’s barely concealed glee at her agreement to accompany him screamed joyfully beneath his carefully controlled facade. As he turned to start leading her away, Lastor saw a sinister grin playing at the corner of Joe’s mouth.

Joe’s ugly smile as he stroked her face, was rebuffed and pushed her to the wall practically gleamed in the night. Lastor had waited, just long enough to satisfy his curiosity. He knew Joe‘s plan, but the means to the end intrigued him. And besides, he rationalized, the girl needed to learn. Maybe now she wouldn’t be so quick to trust the next friendly face. But when Joe leaned in to kiss Lastor’s prey, he could not suffer the pervert’s existence any longer. 

Dropping down two stories, Lastor landed soundlessly behind Joe. He reached around Joe’s throat, arresting the latter’s attempt to kiss the girl. A little squawk escaped Joe‘s throat as tiny muscles in Lastor‘s fingers contracted, as he stabbed his nails into Joe’s throat and ripped it out, dropping the mass of flesh and tissue on the ground atop Joe’s body as he let forth a last gurgling wail. The blood smelled foul – tainted. Lastor could smell the AIDS virus. It was not a new acquisition; Joe had been infected for at least a year. Lastor wondered if he had even known.  

He turned his attention to the girl crouched on the ground, shrinking against the wall to avoid both the growing pool of Joe’s blood and Lastor. He was struck by how much prettier she was up close, even in a state of fear. 

“What is your name?”

She gulped, her terror almost palpable in the cool night air. “A-Audrey…” she managed to stammer out before her eyes rolled up and she slumped forward, her mouth agape, right into the pool of Joe’s blood. 

Lastor looked at her for a moment. He had not expected Joe’s intervention, nor his viral condition, and least of all her nosedive into a pool of infected blood. He had originally intended to merely play with the girl, feed from her, and leave her for dead. But now that she was very likely infected with an incurable disease, pity was speaking to him. It did not seem right that an innocent girl, guilty of nothing more than a misplaced trust in a stranger should be condemned to a fatal disease with such a negative stigma attached. 

Maybe as a vampire, she would be more interesting.

Audrey awoke the next night, stretching luxuriously. She looked across the bed at her lover. Lastor was awake, gazing at her through half-lidded eyes, idly toying with his fangs with a long nail. He grinned at her and ran the nail up her spine, causing her to shiver.

“Hungry?”

Brad was a skateboarder, and not entirely awful at it. He could hold his own in the pitched battles that took place in the skate park, but knew when to bow out. He was about to attempt a fakie big spin when he saw a fine piece of ass approaching. She was wearing a slinky black dress and a lot of makeup, which was an instant turn-on for him. He looked her up and down appraisingly as she approached and whistled as she passed by. “Hey babe, lookin’ fine.”

Instead of throwing him a dirty look or pretending not to hear and picking up her pace like most girls, she turned to look at him, staring straight into his eyes, and blew him a kiss, grinning. “Thank you,” she said coyly and continued walking.

Brad looked around at his friends, Jay gave him the thumbs up and Sam waved him on. “Go on man, hit that! She wants you!” Jake whooped, grinning as if he were the one getting laid. Brad grinned and dropped his skateboard, pushing off after the girl.

Before he knew it, he was rolling down a dingy alley, surrounded by trash and cardboard boxes. Not stopping to consider what such a pretty young girl would be doing there, he kicked his board up and called out, “Hey babe!”

She stopped, and slowly turned around, raising an eyebrow questioningly. “Yes?”

Brad smirked, confident in his charm. “Man, your ass is fine, I noticed as soon as I saw you.”

It happened in a blur. Suddenly the girl was on top of him, pinning him to the ground, the look on her face a mixture of revulsion, pity, anger, amusement, and… hunger? He only had time for a quickly muffled scream before her fangs sank into his throat and the world exploded in a spray of his own blood as Audrey jerked her head to the side, ripping his throat out.

 

HorrorAddicts.net at BayCon, Happening Today!

Come to BayCon and hang with HorrorAddicts.net!

baycon ha

Here are just a few of the panels you can see us on. For a full schedule, go to  BayCon.org

Sunday 3 July, 2022

HorrorAddicts.net – Geek Out Horror Style!

1:00 PM / Synergy 1

Emerian Rich, Loren Rhoads, R.L. Merrill, Laurel Anne Hill, Mark Orr, MD Neu

Come geek out with us horror-style! We will also be talking about our new book Horror Addicts Guide to Life 2, a mostly non-fiction horror anthology. Prizes and spooky fun to be had by all!

Readings – Emerian Rich and Kim Fielding

4:00 PM /Connect 5

Kim Fielding, Emerian Rich

For a full schedule, go to  BayCon.org

 

HorrorAddicts.net at BayCon, Happening Today!

Come to BayCon and hang with HorrorAddicts.net!

baycon ha

Here are just a few of the panels you can see us on. For a full schedule, go to  BayCon.org

Saturday 2 July, 2022

10:00 AM / Connect 5

Confessions of a Slush Pile Reader 

Rebecca Inch-Partridge, Emerian Rich, Lillian Csernica.

Editors and slush readers discuss what gets a story rejected and what they look for in a story to be considered for publications. Does and don’ts of cover and query letters can also be covered.

1:00 PM / Engage

Creating Your Own Anthology 

Emerian Rich, Loren Rhoads, J.Scott Coatsworth.

How do you get submissions, where do you advertise, how do you handle the subs when they come in, how do you vet the subs, should you do blind submissions, how do you pay and contract the authors, and how to do a charity anthology? Whether you want to start a small ‘zine, publish a print book, or go eBook format, this panel will discuss all the ins and outs.

Sunday 3 July, 2022

HorrorAddicts.net – Geek Out Horror Style!

1:00 PM / Synergy 1

Emerian Rich, Loren Rhoads, R.L. Merrill, Laurel Anne Hill, Mark Orr, MD Neu

Come geek out with us horror-style! We will also be talking about our new book Horror Addicts Guide to Life 2, a mostly non-fiction horror anthology. Prizes and spooky fun to be had by all!

Readings – Emerian Rich and Kim Fielding

4:00 PM /Connect 5

Kim Fielding, Emerian Rich

For a full schedule, go to  BayCon.org

 

HorrorAddicts.net at BayCon, Happening Today!

Come to BayCon and hang with HorrorAddicts.net!

baycon ha

Here are just a few of the panels you can see us on. For a full schedule, go to  BayCon.org

Friday 1 July, 2022

Time Zone: PST 4:00 PM / Synergy 5

Everything you wanted to know about modern romantic fiction but were afraid to ask 

Emerian Rich, R.L. Merrill, Kim Fielding, Sue Brown-Moore.

Romantic fiction is so much more than the genre of “romance”. Like science fiction, romance is a vehicle for progressive thinking, for empowerment and pushing boundaries, particularly in the realms of SciFi and Paranormal Romance. The vast array of sub-genres, tropes, themes, and archetypes in a romance writer’s toolkit can be both daunting and exciting.

Saturday 2 July, 2022

10:00 AM / Connect 5

Confessions of a Slush Pile Reader 

Rebecca Inch-Partridge, Emerian Rich, Lillian Csernica.

Editors and slush readers discuss what gets a story rejected and what they look for in a story to be considered for publications. Does and don’ts of cover and query letters can also be covered.

1:00 PM / Engage

Creating Your Own Anthology 

Emerian Rich, Loren Rhoads, J.Scott Coatsworth.

How do you get submissions, where do you advertise, how do you handle the subs when they come in, how do you vet the subs, should you do blind submissions, how do you pay and contract the authors, and how to do a charity anthology? Whether you want to start a small ‘zine, publish a print book, or go eBook format, this panel will discuss all the ins and outs.

Sunday 3 July, 2022

HorrorAddicts.net – Geek Out Horror Style!

1:00 PM / Synergy 1

Emerian Rich, Loren Rhoads, R.L. Merrill, Laurel Anne Hill, Mark Orr, MD Neu

Come geek out with us horror-style! We will also be talking about our new book Horror Addicts Guide to Life 2, a mostly non-fiction horror anthology. Prizes and spooky fun to be had by all!

Readings – Emerian Rich and Kim Fielding

4:00 PM /Connect 5

Kim Fielding, Emerian Rich

For a full schedule, go to  BayCon.org

HorrorAddicts.net at BayCon, Come see us!

Come to BayCon and hang with HorrorAddicts.net!

baycon ha

Here are just a few of the panels you can see us on. For a full schedule, go to  BayCon.org

Friday 1 July, 2022

Time Zone: PST 4:00 PM / Synergy 5

Everything you wanted to know about modern romantic fiction but were afraid to ask 

Emerian Rich, R.L. Merrill, Kim Fielding, Sue Brown-Moore.

Romantic fiction is so much more than the genre of “romance”. Like science fiction, romance is a vehicle for progressive thinking, for empowerment and pushing boundaries, particularly in the realms of SciFi and Paranormal Romance. The vast array of sub-genres, tropes, themes, and archetypes in a romance writer’s toolkit can be both daunting and exciting.

Saturday 2 July, 2022

10:00 AM / Connect 5

Confessions of a Slush Pile Reader 

Rebecca Inch-Partridge, Emerian Rich, Lillian Csernica.

Editors and slush readers discuss what gets a story rejected and what they look for in a story to be considered for publications. Does and don’ts of cover and query letters can also be covered.

1:00 PM / Engage

Creating Your Own Anthology 

Emerian Rich, Loren Rhoads, J.Scott Coatsworth.

How do you get submissions, where do you advertise, how do you handle the subs when they come in, how do you vet the subs, should you do blind submissions, how do you pay and contract the authors, and how to do a charity anthology? Whether you want to start a small ‘zine, publish a print book, or go eBook format, this panel will discuss all the ins and outs.

Sunday 3 July, 2022

HorrorAddicts.net – Geek Out Horror Style!

1:00 PM / Synergy 1

Emerian Rich, Loren Rhoads, R.L. Merrill, Laurel Anne Hill, Mark Orr, MD Neu

Come geek out with us horror-style! We will also be talking about our new book Horror Addicts Guide to Life 2, a mostly non-fiction horror anthology. Prizes and spooky fun to be had by all!

Readings – Emerian Rich and Kim Fielding

4:00 PM /Connect 5

Kim Fielding, Emerian Rich

For a full schedule, go to  BayCon.org

 

Free Fiction : Seeing Out the Monkey by Ann Folks

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

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

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

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

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

     “Leaving…”.  And she was gone. 

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

     “Yeah?” 

     “Hi, I’m the new cleaner and …”

     “On my way down”. He hung up. 

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

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

He turned around and got back on the elevator. 

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

***

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

      I asked, “Why is Nero so crazy?”

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

He passed out.

I dialed 911.

***

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


 

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

Free Fiction: Long Time No See by James Peace

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


 

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

Free Fiction : Come Dine With Me by Pete Kijek

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


 

 

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

Interview with Eugen Bacon by Renata Pavrey

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

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

        From the blurb:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Eugen: The pleasure is entirely mine. 


About the author: 

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

Website: eugenbacon.com / Twitter: @EugenBacon

 

Free Fiction: A Handful Of Bones by Anita Dénes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tell me, love, or I can’t help you.

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

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

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

You… want to become one?

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

Oh.

You were not joking.

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

What have you done?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It will hurt.

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

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

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

You have not told me everything.

Oh. Oh.

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

And you smile now because you crave it.

Get out.

Get out!

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

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

______________________________________________________________________________________________

 

 

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

Free Fiction: Pockets of Posies by Nexie Maryln

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

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

     “Maybe she is homeless?” Lyla asked Kyla.  

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

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

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

_________________________________________________________________________________________

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

Free Fiction: He is Coming by S.Tierney

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

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

This is the way of it–

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

For He is coming.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

____________________________________________________________________________________

 

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

***

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

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

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

***

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

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

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

***

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

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

***

Dogman stopped licking his paw and made a little whine.

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

Dogman whined again and looked anywhere but at Devil.

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

Devil snapped a claw at Dogman.

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

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

***

      “What was that?!”

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

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

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

Steve heard wings beating, big ones.

     “Buddy, we gotta go,” he said. 

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

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

 

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

 

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It’s because of the Mighty One.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Oh Mighty One, protect the world.

Oh Mighty One, protect all life.

Oh Mighty One, protect me.

Oh Mighty One, do not unmake the world.

Oh Mighty One, do not unmake all life.

Oh Mighty One, do not unmake me.

Oh Mighty One, never forsake the world.

Oh Mighty One, never forsake all life.

Oh Mighty One, never forsake me.

Oh Mighty One, have mercy on all life.

Oh Mighty One, have mercy on me.

Oh Mighty One, give all life strength.

Oh Mighty One, give me strength.

Please, Mighty One, please.

_____________________________________________________________________________________________________________

 

 

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

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

Horrible Disasters

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

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

Cover Art by: Thierry Pouzergues

Edited by: Larraine Barnard

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

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

Free Fiction: Seconds Left For Tomorrow Melissa R. Mendelson

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

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

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

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

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

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

“So, what’s the problem?”

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

“Don’t you control that thing?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“That it’s over?”

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

“What does that mean?”

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

“So, you’re giving up?”

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

________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

 

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

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

Free Fiction : The Glubb by Brittanty Erickson

The Glubb

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

_______________________________________________________________________________________________________________

 

 

 

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

Free Fiction : Susurration by Jarred Allen Schulte

             Awake. 

             Cold. 

             Numb. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Or so he thought. 

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

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

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

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

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

It was horrific, but mesmerizing at the same time. 

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

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

And yet…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

___________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

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

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

Interview with Daphne Strasert – Wicked Women Writers Allstar Winner – 2021

Interview with Daphne Strasert – Wicked Women Writers Allstar Winner – 2021 – Interview by  Blog Editor Kate Nox.

NOX:  Congratulations Daphne, on being the Wicked Women Writers Allstar Winner of 2021! How does it feel to have your work honored in this way? 

Daphne: Thank you so much! It feels really great to have done well, especially against such a great group of competitors. I’ve come a long way since I did my first writing competition with Horror Addicts (The Next Great Horror Writer Contest in 2017) and I was happy to be able to share my growth as a storyteller.

NOX: Tell us a bit about your writing history. What made you decide to be a writer? What did you write at first? What are your proudest moments/ awards won/ stories published?

Daphne: I started writing when I was in high school. I wrote fanfiction at first but gradually realized that I had my own stories and my own characters that were waiting to come out. I finished my first novel, Lunatic, right after college. Joining the HorrorAddicts.net Next Great Horror Writer contest was a stroke of luck. That was where I wrote my first short stories. I’ve since had many short stories published (including in the last FOUR anthologies for HorrorAddicts.net!). Most recently, my story “Swipe Right”–about a werewolf on a date with a sasquatch–won an honorable mention in a contest for On The Premises (you can read it here).

Nox: Your winning story, The Blood of Sorus, is a great piece.  How did the idea come about and how long did it take you to write it?  

Daphne: The idea for The Blood of Sorus came about fairly quickly after I was invited to join the Wicked Women Writers All Star Competition. Brazil was assigned as my cultural component, so I researched various aspects of the culture, history, and environment there. I became enraptured with the Amazon Rainforest and how it seemed to have a life of its own. While the concept took only a few weeks to fully form, I didn’t finish the final draft of the story for nearly six months.

NOX: Reading The Blood of Sorus, I particularly enjoyed your descriptions of the dark temple and could feel the danger lurking. Do you have a secret for making such descriptions work?

Daphne: Especially with horror, less can be more. The reader’s mind is always able to fill in something far darker and scarier than I could ever describe. By supplying just enough details (the drip of the water, the rustling of the vines), I can suggest far worse things. In horror, the reader always knows that something scary is just around the corner. I like to make use of that preexisting fear.

NOX: I love your thoughts on the reader! ! Did you find any challenges as you wrote? Any stumbles along the way?

Daphne: In order to create the appropriate length audio fiction, the story itself had to be SO SHORT. The Blood of Sorus came out at just about 1,300 words, which is very little space to do the sort of expansive world-building that science fiction horror requires. The story just kept growing, wanting to be a longer work. I had to chop a lot of good ideas out to keep it the correct length.

NOX: Winning this contest secures your title of Wicked Women Writers ALLSTAR! What are your plans going forward after winning this unique competition?

Daphne: I am still writing, though I’m focused more on novels right now. I have a few novels close to completion that need editing before I submit them to publishers. Of course, I’ll probably write a short story or two as a nice break! Hopefully, those will be published this year.

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

Daphne: Keep writing! You have wonderful things in your mind just waiting to get out. The best way to get better is to write them down. No one writes something perfect on their first try. Find some writing friends who can give you honest, constructive feedback. And submit your work! You may not think it’s good enough to be published, but you would be surprised. Don’t reject yourself from a submission call if you feel you have something that fits.

NOX: Thank you for talking with us and congrats once again on being The Wicked Women Writer’ Allstar 2021 Winner. I  know you also have been a finalist in the Next Great Horror Writer Contest.  Tell us what’s ahead for you. And what else can we read of yours?

Daphne: Hopefully, the next big thing for me is a published novel! But until then, you can always read more of my writing on my website www.DaphneStrasert.com and follow me on social media as @daphnethewriter.

PROJECT GEN-X – AN INTERVIEW WITH REBECCA ROWLAND

PROJECT GEN-X – AN INTERVIEW WITH REBECCA ROWLAND

By Renata Pavrey

In a unique anthology of monster, folk, paranormal, and psychological horror as glimpsed through the lens of the latchkey generation, twenty-two voices shine a strobe light on the cultural demons that lurked in the background while they came of age in the heyday of Satanic panic and slasher flicks, milk carton missing and music television, video rentals and riot grrrls. 

These Gen-X storytellers once stayed out unsupervised until the streetlights came on, and what they brought home with them will terrify you. 

Featuring brand new fiction from Kevin David Anderson, Glynn Owen Barrass, Matthew Barron, C.D. Brown, Matthew Chabin, L.E. Daniels, C.O. Davidson, Douglas Ford, Phil Ford, Holly Rae Garcia, Dale W. Glaser, Tim Jeffreys, Derek Austin Johnson, Eldon Litchfield, Adrian Ludens, Elaine Pascale, Erica Ruppert, Kristi Petersen Schoonover, Rob Smales, Mark Towse, Thomas Vaughn, and Thomas K.S. Wake.

As a follow-up to my wonderful reading experience of the book, I interviewed editor Rebecca Rowland, for an insight into how Generation X-ed was conceived, created, and curated.

Hi Rebecca, Congratulations on the release of your latest book. How would you describe the experience of working on a project with other writers, versus individually writing a book?

It’s a completely different animal. In the first anthology I edited for Dark Ink Books, I included one of my own stories; I haven’t done that since. It’s too difficult wearing both hats: as an editor, you have to see the work through the eyes of the reader while simultaneously having the backs of the authors who have contributed to the project. With my own stuff, I just write what I like and rarely consider how readers might respond: I trust in the editor and the press owner to assess and dress it properly for public view. It’s much more exhausting to be an editor, unfortunately, but it’s even more rewarding on some levels as long as I know I’ve done right by those who’ve contributed their work.

Generation X-ed is a niche genre: horror stories set in the eighties and early nineties. How did the idea for the anthology come about?

A few years ago, I made a conscious effort to read and review more independent dark fiction. I also tried to break out of my (painfully awkward, typical writer-introvert-) shell and get to know some fellow independent horror writers. What I found was that more than three-quarters of those horror authors were my age: we shared the same formative experiences in media, music and culture. I was born smack in the middle of Generation X, a group I didn’t really understand the significance of until I was well into my thirties and forties. Now, I look at my generation and I realize, there are touchstones we share that helped shape us into the people we are as adults: the satanic panic, the latchkey phenomenon, the Challenger explosion (witnessed live in our classrooms), the emergence and disappearance of Mtv, and so forth. I happen to think our formative experiences are the most nefarious, which might explain the wealth of horror fiction that has sprung from Gen Xers!

The stories cover a range of horror sub-genres from psychological and paranormal, to comedy and sci-fi. Was this intentional, to feature stories across the horror spectrum?

The Renaissance of the slasher film occurred during Generation X’s childhood/early teens, and the birth of cable television and VCRs (coupled with looser supervision by our parents), made access to hardcore horror relatively easy. When I first conceived the collection, I did imagine it would be focused on the splatter and gore of that subgenre: the X lends itself so well to that, visually and thematically. However, the more I thought about it, the more I realized that our influences weren’t limited to slashers. Each of the authors chose an individual (real or fictional) who had an impact on him/her as a horror writer. The range makes me realize I did the right thing broadening the parameters of the fiction I wanted to include.

All the writers belong to the latchkey generation and have explored their personal experiences with movies, books, music, political and historical events from the era. How did you gather stories and authors for this project?

I wrote up the call for stories, letting writers know the word count range and that we were really only requiring two things: that the writer be a member of Generation X and that the horror story include something (subtly or otherwise) specific to the generation. As the submissions came in, I was pleasantly surprised: the caliber of writing and the uniqueness in story arcs made whittling the final count down to twenty-two very difficult. There were definitely some stories that it pained me to turn away, but the ones I selected all had one thing in common: they were exceptionally well-written, and they stayed in my head hours or even days after I first read them. I wish I could give a more objective analysis of why these twenty-two ended up together, but my best explanation would be it’s part luck that these gifted authors chose to trust me with their creations, and it’s part my own gut reaction. 

While readers born and growing up in the 70s and 80s would find resonance in the references, the stories are so well written and compiled to be enjoyable for everyone. Did you have a reader audience in mind while conceiving this anthology? As an editor, how challenging is it to cater to different reader tastes when curating a collection?

So far, I’ve been fortunate enough to curate collections where the focus has been something to which I am already drawn, and I know readers are going to choose a book based on whether its nucleus is something that already jives with their preferences. I know putting out a collection that appears age-specific is risky; however, one of the nicest feedbacks I’ve received from reviewers is my commitment to diversity in style and approach, and therefore, I’ve always kept that in mind when I am cutting down the “likely yes” pile to the final lineup. 

I am drawn to read anthologies myself because of the variety: I don’t expect to love every entry, and I don’t expect readers of the anthologies I curate to love every story. However, I never want a reader to find s/he doesn’t respond to multiple stories in a row. Even if the stories have a common thread, I take care to either follow one story with another from a completely different subgenre, or, if the subgenres are the same, make certain back-to-back tales utilize different points-of-view, or possess similar narrators who make very different choices. That way, there really is something for everyone. There are sly winks in Generation X-ed that will resonate specifically with those who are a part of the generation, but the heart of the collection, the things that creep and unnerve and scare the bejesus out of us no matter when we grew up, is what gives it life, so I hope everyone who enjoys good storytelling will take a look. 

Generation X-ed releases on January 26, 2022. 

Links to purchase:

https://rowlandbooks.com/generation-xed#f5bed466-d8ae-4abf-a6cb-8b7d887bb01c

 

Guest Blog: “The Asian Myths and Monsters of Tortured Willows”

“The Asian Myths and Monsters of Tortured Willows

Featured Author: Geneve Flynn

Southeast Asian mythology is much less familiar territory for many horror fans. While vampires, werewolves, and zombies are well-known, creatures such as the tiyanak, the penanggalan, the pontianak, and the nukekubi are less so. Does that make them scarier? Let’s dive in and see. 

  Tortured Willows is a newly released collaborative collection of sixty horror poems by four of the authors from the Bram Stoker and Shirley Jackson award-winning anthology Black Cranes: Tales of Unquiet Women. Angela Yuriko Smith, Lee Murray, Christina Sng, and Geneve Flynn showcase some of these creepy critters in their poetry. In this blog series, we chat to each of the contributors about their monsters.

Please say hello to Geneve Flynn.

LM: Please tell us a little more about the themes you explore in this collection.

GF: There were a few things happening in the cultural and political spaces in Australia when I was writing my poems. There had been allegations of rife sexism, sexual misconduct, and assault within our parliament, and there has been growing fury at how gendered violence has been handled by the press, the justice system, and the government. Tortured Willows offered a place for me to express some of my own anger and frustration at our very “blokey” culture. I also wrote about my experience of racism as part of the Chinese-Malaysian diaspora. They were the some of the same themes I touched on in my stories in Black Cranes; but, in Tortured Willows, using poetry, I was able to explore these themes from different angles and in a more targeted way. 

LM: Your poem “Penanggalan’s Lament”, a favourite of mine, features one of the most gruesome creatures from Southeast Asian mythology. Please tell us more about her and what she symbolises in your work. 

“penanggalanfullj.jpg” by Kurt Komoda is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

GF: The penanggalan is a Malay vampiric creature that is thought to be a woman who accidentally curses herself with black magic in the pursuit of beauty. She is supposed to soak in a vat of vinegar and eat no meat for forty days. However, she breaks her fast early and becomes monstrous. At night, she detaches her head from her body, trailing organs as she seeks out newborns and pregnant women to feed on. 

I immigrated to Australia only a decade or so after the White Australia Policy was abolished. I was often one of the only Asian kids in school, so I faced racism and abuse. I spent a lot of my childhood and teen years wishing I had blue eyes and blond hair. The idea that you could damn yourself in order to look a certain way resonated with me. Here is an excerpt from my poem:

“All you have to do: soak in vinegar,

hide in a vat; no meat for forty days.

You’ll be blue-eyed, fair, perfect, regular.”

The girl agrees, wakes up, still in a haze.

She’s one of them, not chink: so white, all ways.

Goodbye past, so long; she’s full ABC.

But she forgets: each deal you buy, you pay

your life, if you want to have that body. 

 

LM: Hungry ghosts feature in your poem “Inheritance”, a text which I found both evocative and insightful. What are hungry ghosts, and how did you showcase them in your work? 

“The Realm of the Hungry Ghosts, Photo 6” by feministjulie is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

GF: Hungry ghosts are said to arise when a person commits an evil deed or suffers a terrible death. When they die, they are tormented by insatiable desire for the one thing they sought most in life. The hungry ghost has a swollen belly and a tiny mouth, and can never be fulfilled. I wanted to write about the opportunities denied to Chinese girls and women, simply because they are often viewed as only fit for filial duty. What does it do to a person to be continually told, no matter your potential, you are only good for one thing? Would it turn you into a wraith, forever chasing validation? Here’s an excerpt from my poem:

Was that when you first

began to swell? Your stomach

bulging and burgeoning,

swallowing the bitter,

the burden, the second-hands,

the not-for-yous? 

Did your mouth begin to draw 

closed like a miserly purse

when you were left behind,

your splendid mind with  

only hunger and no choice

but to turn upon itself?

LM: Thanks so much for introducing us to some of the mythology that features in your poetry. If you’d like to read the poems mentioned in this blog series, Tortured Willows is available from Yuriko Publishing.

Praise for Tortured Willows:

“It’s clear Murray, Flynn, Sng, and Yuriko Smith are nowhere close to finished sharing all of the poems within them, but this is a fine rare gathering you’ll want to revisit time and

again.”—Bryan Thao Worra, former President of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Poetry Association

“Women live with spectres gifted to us by our experiences. Tortured Willows breathes life into these shadows, reminding us that what has shaped us has not broken us.”—Piper Mejia, author of The Better Sister & Other Stories

“A haunting, harrowing exploration of obligation, expectation, and sacrifice, poetry as unquiet fury and a lens on both past and present. Told in four unique voices yet speaking for countless silent generations of Asian women, Tortured Willows grips you by the throat and screams into the night, demanding to be heard.”—Dan Rabarts, award-winning author of the Children of Bane series

“This collection of poetry, without a doubt, will forever remain one of my all-time favorites. No matter how hard I pulled at the reins, I could not stop until every last poem was inside of me.” —Cindy O’Quinn, two-time Bram Stoker Award®-nominated author

Tortured Willows

Bent. Bowed. Unbroken

The willow is femininity, desire, death. Rebirth. With its ability to grow from a single broken branch, it is the living embodiment of immortality. It is the yin that wards off malevolent spirits. It is both revered and shunned.

In Tortured Willows, four Southeast Asian women writers of horror expand on the exploration of otherness begun with the Bram Stoker Award-winning anthology Black Cranes: Tales of Unquiet Women.

Like the willow, women have bent and bowed under the expectations and duty heaped upon them. Like the willow, they endure and refuse to break.

With exquisite poetry, Christina Sng, Angela Yuriko Smith, Lee Murray, and Geneve Flynn invite you to sit beneath the tortured willow’s gravid branches and listen to the uneasy shiver of its leaves.

LINK: https://www.amazon.com/Tortured-Willows-Bent-Bowed-Unbroken/dp/1737208334

Geneve Flynn is an award-winning speculative fiction editor and author. She has two psychology degrees and only uses them for nefarious purposes.

She co-edited Black Cranes: Tales of Unquiet Women with celebrated New Zealand author and editor Lee Murray. The anthology won the 2020 Bram Stoker Award® and the 2020 Shirley Jackson Award for best anthology. It has also been shortlisted for the British Fantasy Award, Aurealis Award, and Australian Shadows Award. Black Cranes is listed on Tor Nightfire’s Works of Feminist Horror and Locus magazine’s 2020 Recommended Reading List

Geneve was assistant editor for Relics, Wrecks, and Ruins, a speculative fiction anthology which features authors such as Neil Gaiman, Ken Liu, Robert Silverberg, James (SA) Corey, Lee Murray, Mark Lawrence, Mary Robinette Kowal, and Angela Slatter. The anthology is the legacy of Australian fantasy author Aiki Flinthart, and is in support of the Flinthart Writing Residency with the Queensland Writers Centre

Geneve’s short stories have been published in various markets, including Flame Tree Publishing, Things in the Well, and PseudoPod. Her latest short story, “They Call Me Mother,” will appear in Classic Monsters Unleashed with some of the biggest names in horror, including Joe Lansdale, Jonathan Maberry, and Ramsey Campbell.

Geneve loves tales that unsettle, all things writerly, and B-grade action movies. If that sounds like you, check out her website at www.geneveflynn.com.au.

Free Fiction: Bliss by Webster Grubbs

A man walks silently down an abandoned dusty road. Along the path are vast oceans of waving grass. He paces slowly in silence, focusing on the road in the distance, watching it curve over the horizon. The sun above him crossed over and soon set, drenching the man in blinding shadows. He continues, wading through the drowning darkness. A shimmer of light dances across the field, cast by the full rising moon. 

Over the horizon comes a pair of bright lights, undoubtedly headlights of an approaching vehicle. The man walks on, taking note of the lights as they approached. Soon it was within sight and he stepped to the side of the road, stopping and watching. Upon seeing him, the dusty truck pulls to the side of the road. A lone man exits the vehicle, approaching the stranger slowly.

“Hey, you alright? It’s awful late to be wandering around the back roads.” He says, receiving no response. 

“You deaf or somethin’? It’s dangerous out here. You wouldn’t be the first to get lost out here.” Again, he receives no answer. He approaches the stranger, looking at his face.

“Or maybe you know that. Have I seen you before?”

The stranger turns back to the road and resumes walking. He speaks finally as he leaves. “Maybe so. Been around here for a while; Lotta people seen me here or there.” 

A sheet of rain settles over a small town, filling the air with sounds of water on rusting sheet metal roofs. A hooded man follows the road into the street. He finds his way into the local pub, taking refuge from the rain at a small back table. The locals take note of his presence but ignore him. The few visitors look over their shoulders, curious of the man. No one in the room speaks to him, and they only speak of him in hushed whispers between fleeting glances. 

The man sits, silent and unblinking, staring at the wooden corner wall. He remains deathly still as he waits. An elderly lady gathers her meal and slowly makes her way to the man’s table. She sits across from him and smiles warmly.

“Hope you don’t mind me takin’ a spot here with ya. You seemed kind of lonely. I know people don’t typically prefer to be alone. Tell me, how are ya doin’ ?” She asked, looking up to the man’s young, bearded face. 

He remained silent but did glance at her as she sat.

“Not much of a talker? That’s fine. Some people go on blabbering for too long anyways. Get themselves into all sorts of trouble. Sometimes you just gotta know when to hush up.”

The man nodded slowly, looking back up to the corner of the room. 

“I guess you’re waiting on the rain to stop, yeah? I’ll let you be then.” The lady said, turning to stand.

The man shook his head, looking back to her. “Before you go…would you like to hear an old song? It’s from my childhood, and I quite like it.” He spoke in a half-whisper.

The woman turned back to him and listened as he began softly humming an ancient tune. The old woman found herself enchanted by the song, getting enveloped by the notes of the man’s humming. Moments later the siren’s call was over, and the lady snapped from her trance. 

“Oh, that was pretty.” She exclaimed, looking across to the man. Across from her, however, was an empty seat. Shocked, she looked across the bar, finding it desolate. She looked out the door and saw but a muddy road leading to the building surrounded by carpets of shining broken glass. 

_________________________________________________________________________________________________

 

 

I’m a small-time horror author, writing when I have free time from a busy life.

Free Fiction: Manny and the Machines by Marc Dickerson 

The father rapped his knuckles lightly on the door. 

     “Manny?” 

Waited a moment before turning the knob and stepping inside. 

Manny lay in bed, blanket pulled up to his chin, staring at the ceiling. The father could  see that he was shivering beneath the covers. 

     “It’s okay, son. It’s just me.” 

     “Dad. I can’t sleep.” 

The father nodded, moved to sit gently on the end of the bed. 

     “Why is that, son? Is something wrong?” 

     “Of course.”

     “Of course?” 

     “Yeah.” 

     “Son, I—” 

     “It’s the machines.” 

The father sat for a moment, looking first at the shadows on the curtains, then at the child. As softly as he could, he said,       “We’re not supposed to talk about them, son.” 

The son stirred a bit, looking uncomfortable. Quietly he uttered, “I know…” Then he lay still again. 

     “They keep us safe. You know that.”  

Manny sat up, loosening his grip on the blanket a bit. “But they’re so loud, dad. Why are  they so loud?” 

They had always been there. For most of his life, for all of his son’s life, their presence was a constant. Always felt. But always tolerated, never questioned. Though now he could hardly remember how it’d gotten this way, how life had become like this. 

This is the way it is, his own father had once told him when he was a boy. 

Since then, it had become second nature to block them out, to ignore them. He didn’t  even notice the sound anymore. 

But now, in the stillness of the bedroom, the father leaned forward, listened, tried to do this with his son’s ears, tried to remember being young and confused, afraid. Staring at the long creeping shadows on the curtains, listening. 

There it was. Faint at first, then fading up like some mysterious hand slowly turning a  dial. A continuous squeal, low and distant. Metallic, cold. Screeching and grinding. Horrible noises, he knew. He remembered. The spectral shriek of steel along the rails, slow and threatening, around the perimeter of the town. Motorized guards patrolling. Watching. Then the dial was adjusted again, the sound fading back into the stillness of the room. 

The father turned to his son. “Now, Manny…it’s only at night. We have the entire rest of the day. Remember what I told you last time?” 

     “I know. Pretend they’re trains.” 

     “That’s right. Trains help people. Just like them. They help us. Keep us safe.” “You always say that. Safe from what.”  

The father pressed the palms of his hands into his knees, gazing down at the floor.  Finally, he rose from the bed to look down at his son. Manny seemed so much older than even this morning. Yet he knew the boy still had much to understand, much to learn about the way things worked. 

     “I’ve forgotten, son. And that’s good. That’s a good thing. See. They make it so we never have to find that out. Which is       why we should be grateful. Why we don’t mind the noise. Talk  about the noise.”   

He looked over toward the window again. Stared at the curtains. The sound came back, echoing in his head. The grating of gears, the harsh mechanical wail echoing around the town.  Steel ghosts. Watching, circling. He pictured them, tried to picture them (it’d been so long since he acknowledged their existence, let alone dare gaze upon them). What he could remember was only a gray blur of machinery. The frightening deliberate speed of efficiency. And above it, a coughing cloud of steam rising into the night sky, obscuring everything, every star. Dark.  Endless, suffocating. He couldn’t even remember what the moon looked like. Had forgotten the moon. 

The father looked back at his son. Felt his composure, his sanity return. The rational  constitution of adulthood. He felt himself ease back into it. He was a parent. And Manny was a  good boy. Curious, like all boys.  

     “Have I answered all your questions?” 

      “I guess…” 

      “Good.” The father rustled the son’s hair. “That’s what I’m here for.” 

Manny stared up at him like he wanted to say something. Then it was gone, the look, the thought. Vanished, like most irrational young childhood thoughts. The father smiled. 

     “Goodnight.” 

He moved across the room, quietly closing the door behind him.  

The father got into bed. Heard his wife’s voice, raspy with sleep. 

     “Is Manny okay?”

The father smoothed out his pillow, settling under the covers. 

     “He’s okay. He’s going to do just fine.” 

In the dark, he could make out the faint image of the mother’s face smiling. “I don’t want him to be afraid,” she said. “He’s such a good boy. Just scared.” 

     “Like all kids.” 

     “Yes. But I worry sometimes. They don’t tolerate it well. Fear.” 

     “No,” the father said, reaching for the lamp on the nightstand. “No they don’t.” The father turned off the light. “But he is      a good boy. Manny is a good boy.” 

     “Yes. He’ll be okay.” The mother lay still for a moment before leaning in, kissing him on the cheek. Then she turned on her side, away from him. He turned away from her, facing the window. The curtains were drawn. Only shadows. 

Shadows and something else. 

The noise. He could hear it. Far off in the night. 

He shifted to lie on his back. Stared up at the ceiling and listened and did not close his eyes. 

Dark, covering everything. 

The father stayed up all night listening to the sound.

____________________________________________________________________________________________

Marc Dickerson is a writer and filmmaker from Philadelphia, PA. He has written short stories, graphic novels, screenplays, and now his first novel, ART FARM. Marc also hosts a podcast about cult/b/underground films called Cult Movie Cult. His work has appeared online and in publications such as Culture Cult Magazine and Burial Day. He currently lives in Bucks County, PA with his wife and daughter.

https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/21183349.Marc_Dickerson

Free Fiction : Midwinter Terror – by Leonardo J. Espinal 


And as the crescent moon reigned over the starry night, offering a post-impressionistic painting of midwinter gloom chaperoned by the phantasmagoric wind, I direly realized that the grotesque silhouette in the corner of my bedroom, which at first sight seemed to merely be my coat hanger, indeed was that of a malignant creature. Excruciating in the eyes as it was rife with all things ill and heinous while wearing the darkness as an extension of its skin. This dweller of nightmares, bearer of a set of dimly lit, red eyes that lusted for no blood other than mine, slowly made its way towards my impotent body from the most treacherous depths of my psyche.

In the midst of it all, the wind bashed my window relentlessly, akin to a distress call from Mother Nature herself. And to make matters worse, even at the sight of such an abomination, my muscles remained unbothered, for the horror was of mental nature alone.

Thankfully, the illusory Frankenstein, the torrid sweating, my drowning chest, my obstructed breathing, the torture of being unable to move anything but my desperate eyes, and the subsequent agony that the former causes were but a devil I knew like the palm of my hand. Therefore, the following routine was deeply engraved both in my brain and muscle memory: 

  •   Keep my eyes wide open and fixated on the approaching demon, for closing my eyes or in other words, relaxation      only serves to prolong the sleep paralysis. 
  •   Try my hardest to take exhaustively quick breaths in order to elevate my heart rate.
  •   Once my heart rate is adequately elevated, some parts of my body will start to react.
  • That’s when I proceed to wake my body up by focusing all my sheer energy on moving either my toes or pinky       fingers; one of the two because my capabilities while in sleep paralysis often vary.
  •  Hope that my body wakes up from its deep slumber before that monstrosity gets too close. I had always been  f  fortunate enough to wake up before its elongated, sharp fingers reached for me.

A familiar hell indeed, but hell all the same because no joyous dream is too long and no nightmare is short enough. Thus, an extra set of claustrophobic seconds went by in a manner that felt like manually counting each falling grain in an hourglass. Nonetheless, I was able to move my pinky fingers, although moving them while in that state always felt like it required all of my tangible focus and then some.

All while my eyes were laser-focused on the bogeyman whose truculent face had now partially abandoned the darkness and was instead dimly lit by the moonlight cascading through the window. But not to worry, even though my heart may have very well been on the verge of collapsing every time that devil took another step forward, there was light at the end of the tunnel since everything was going down as usual. I could feel my body steadily recovering the most precious scantlings of consciousness, which meant that I was at the cusp of finalizing this ever distressful process. A few moments later, I exhaled the densest petrification of agony one could ever withhold, followed by a cathartic inhale while I closed my irritated eyes in an apotheosis of relief.

At long last, I managed to recover my indispensable consciousness, thus bringing the nightmare to a prosaic end, or so I thought. Just as if Poe himself had delivered the pen and ink of my terror, I reopened my eyes to a vivid Beksinski painting that maimed the latent heart of my senses in a fleeting blink of an eye. Both escaping and screaming proved to be futile, for the certainty of my Kafkaesque demise had rendered my body soulless and my screeches were turned hollow by the wolflike winds of that most wretched midwinter night. This last time around, my ocean of nightmares had spilled over into reality.

_____________________________________________________________

Leonardo J. Espinal is a twenty-one-year-old Honduran, bilingual writer who is currently undergoing his bachelor studies in Argentina. As of today, he possess ten literary publications (articles, essays, and short stories) in American, Spanish, and Argentine magazines. To find more of his work please see: https://www.flowcode.com/page/leonardoespinal

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

https://drive.google.com/open?id=12vo_cARkcmlbeKerhGTJjRXX6d19KOI0

 

Free Fiction : Hungry by Alan Moskowitz

 

Other than a bottle of curdled milk, there was nothing left in the refrigerator.  Desperate, Reynolds grabbed the bottle with a skeletal hand and drank the brutally smelling mess down, hoping for a least some nutrition.  It only took a few moments for his stomach to give it back.   His wasted lungs screamed for air as he coughed up the remains of the milk and sucked in the fetid air.  He threw the offending bottle against the kitchen wall, taking some little pleasure in watching it smash to bits.  He staggered over to the cupboard, his stick-thin legs and exhausted muscles forcing him to maintain his balance by grabbing the edge of the rotting counter as he opened the door. 

Bugs scattered, too fast for his weakened fingers.  He swept the inside of the cabinet, hoping beyond hope that one full precious can of anything may have been missed.  All he felt were the brittle carcasses of dead insects. He moaned in disappointment.

The pain of trying to use his emaciated limbs became too much to bear.  He collapsed onto the floor, surrendering finally to the knowledge that there was no more food, the planet was barren and sterile, and he, like the rest of humanity before him, would starve to death.   He smashed his fists into the floor, raging at the horror of mankind’s stupidity. 

Reynolds woke up screaming, jerking up from the bed, heart pounding in terror.  He looked over at Maria, curled up, peacefully asleep, blonde hair cascading over the blanket.  A dream, only a dream, and a nasty one at that. He took in several breaths, lay back, calming himself.  He gently pulled the cover from her and gagged;  Marie’s rotting skull stared back at him, her once vibrant body withered and emaciated, her wasted flesh sloughed off into puddles of ichors on the blanket.  He moaned in terror, too weak to scream, his vocal cords ravaged.  He looked down at his own devastated body, felt his cold gaunt face.  He tried to cry, but he had no tears left.  

_____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Alan Moskowitz is a retired screen and TV writer living in Colorado enjoying creating genre fiction.

 

To find more of his work see: mosko13@aol.com

Free Fiction : It Came To the Window by J.S. O’connor

“I’ve seen it, Jim. I swear to God, I’ve seen it. Get me a drink to settle my nerves. I would prefer whiskey, but I’ll settle for anything strong and keep them coming. What’s that? I don’t know what ‘it’ was or is, but I’ve seen it just outside my window and I don’t think this is the first time it came to the house, but this is the first time I saw it. Another please, no ice this time and I’ll tell you the story. 

“It was nearly a week back when I first saw the tracks walking my property after work. I guess you could describe them as a large chicken with talons the size of a pocketknife. They were up near the tree line in some mud. Didn’t think anything of it. See a lot of tracks living that close to the woods. I believe that was a Monday. Tuesday the tracks were by the garage, but I still didn’t think anything of it. It wasn’t until I heard it. That’s when I thought something strange was happening.  

“Give me another Jim. Nothing like a good whiskey to settle the nerves. I’ll tell you what I heard. 

“It must have been Wednesday night. It was a hard day of work up at the factory and when I got home, I soon found myself at the bottom of a bottle. I’m not proud to say, but the bottom of the bottle is where I find myself most nights. Well for the last two years … but I don’t need to tell you that story. I reckon the entire town knows about it. But it’s the truth. Sitting by the fire in my chair, I remember it being pretty cold and I fell asleep. Don’t know what time Kirby started barking, must have been close to eleven-thirty or midnight and the dog is just sitting there going crazy at the screen door. 

“Got to admit something Jim, had a funny feeling that night but I played it off that I had too much to drink. I got up from my chair and stumbled to the back door. That damn dog shot off into the night barking. Didn’t think nothing of the dog running off, it’s what he does, and he comes back when he’s good and ready. But that’s when I heard it. I swear, Jim, I don’t know how to describe it. But I heard it. Now I know what you’re thinking, but I have heard every animal from those woods. The sound echoed through the darkness. It’s been three days and I still haven’t seen Kirby. Didn’t sleep the rest of the night. Just sat by the fire with my rifle. 

“Next morning before work I went looking for Kirby. Nothing. No trace. It was like the damn dog just disappeared. No dog tracks. No weird chicken tracks. It was like the night before never happened. When I got home, I picked up where I left off looking for that dog. Still nothing. Didn’t sleep that night and had no bottle and no strange sounds. Everything was silent. 

“Sorry, I’m shaking. No more Jim I think that was my last tonight. Four is enough. 

“Last night was when I saw it. It was at my window, Jim. I sit here not wanting to believe it myself. I had my bottle and my rifle, and I sat myself by the fire. The night was getting late, and my eyes were getting heavy. I must admit that the whiskey kept me from sleep’s grasp and that’s when I saw it. It was looking through my window. Its eyes were a pale blue, I don’t know how else to describe them. Its face was a light grey, but it had no mouth or nose it was just blank. 

“I jumped from my chair, the bottle broke on the floor, and I fired at it. My aim was off and the glass shattered just above its head. But I scared it off, and I ran towards the window. I could see it clearly even though it was pitch black. It ran on all fours like some damn animal, but it wasn’t no animal. Its body was the same color, that light grey, but the body looked more human than the face. I watched it until it got to the tree line and there it stopped and looked back at me.  

“You must think I’m crazy for telling you this and if you don’t, then what I’ll say next will make you think I’m crazy. It spoke to me. How? I don’t know the thing had no mouth, but I heard it. Or maybe it was all in my head, but I heard the word inside enter my brain. I don’t know what it means and I don’t think I do. Then it disappeared off into the woods, and I didn’t stay long either. Got in the truck and drove away, stayed the rest of the night at the motel – most of today too, now that I think about it. Been thinking long and hard about what it told me last night and I got me a feeling that when I get home it will be waiting for me inside my home. 

“Here’s the money for the drinks, Jim. Thanks for listening to an old drunk ramble. Be seeing you soon, maybe.”  

Free Fiction : El Dorado by Tawana Watson

I didn’t sleep well last night.  I have so much on my mind that turning off my thoughts was impossible, so another sleepless night. 

I can’t believe how bad my insomnia has gotten over the past few weeks and there is not a medication that my doctor has given me that works, it seems sleep for me is a distant memory.  I turn and look at my clock that is sitting on my bedside table, I have to squint to see the time, just like I feared it was time to get up.

Every day is the same thing. I get up, get dressed for work, and leave the house forgetting my breakfast.  However, today, as I drove down the street something inside me, told me that today was not going to be a typical day.

I got to the office with two minutes to spare, I sat at my desk in my small cubicle, and as my computer powered on the word El Dorado appeared on the screen.  I stood up and quickly looked around at my coworkers as they did their morning routine and nothing seemed out of place so I sat back in my seat.  

The word El Dorado glared back at me, so I started pressing keys to try to remove it from the screen but nothing worked. It just stayed there.  After unsuccessfully trying to remove the word with my keyboard skills, I ducked down under my desk and unplugged my computer.  The computer turned off and after I counted 20 I plugged the computer backup and turned it back on.  Unplugging it did the trick and I got to work on my everyday task list.

My day was dull and boring, I thought as I sat at the traffic light heading home. My whole life is dull and boring I thought as the light turned green and I continued on my way.  As I pulled into my yard I noticed a package at my front door, it was strange because I was not expecting anything. So before pulling completely into my yard I put my car in park, got out, and went to retrieve the package.  As I bent down to pick the package up I noticed in red bold letters someone wrote across the top of the package the word El Dorado.

Once in my house, I dropped everything except the package at the back door.  I went into the dining room, sitting the package on the table before going back into the kitchen to get a knife so that I could open it.  At first, I had a strong urge not to open the package, to just throw it away but curiosity got the best of me.  I took the knife and opened the package. 

The only thing I found was a folded piece of paper.  I  took the paper and opened it.  What was written on it gave me chills, it read;

Once you start this journey you can never turn back. There’s much more to life than the things you can see, and to have a glorious life all you have to do is find El Dorado

There are those words again; El Dorado. 

I dropped the paper and before it hit the floor it was consumed with fire.  I stood there in awe for a second or two but then shook it off and remembered I haven’t slept and I could be in the middle of a dream.  So I pulled myself together and continued with my evening.

I turned my bed down and prepared myself for another sleepless night. My cell phone which I left downstairs began to ring. I hesitated about going downstairs to get it but every time it stopped ringing, it would start again so I went to get it.  

When I reached my phone, I saw that the caller id didn’t show a valid number but a weird number of all 6s.  I pushed the talk button, holding the phone to my ear, and before I said hello I heard a voice  in a low whisper say, 

“You can’t turn back, you have to find El Dorado.” 

I dropped the phone and as the phone hit the floor it started ringing again. I cautiously picked the phone back up and held it so gently, taking the phone into the kitchen, then putting the phone in the sink. As I ran water on it, the ringing faded until it completely stopped. 

I started back to my room and as I went up the stairs I had a sense that I was no longer alone. As I reached my room, I saw a sight that I didn’t expect. 

There I was laying in the bed, and my wrist had been cut. I couldn’t believe what I was looking at and as I stood there trying to figure out what was going on, a hand touched my shoulder and a voice said in a whisper, 

“It’s time. I am here to take you to  El Dorado.”

Free Fiction : It Came To The Window by J.S. O’Connor

“I’ve seen it, Jim. I swear to God, I’ve seen it. Get me a drink to settle my nerves. I would prefer whiskey, but I’ll settle for anything strong and keep them coming. What’s that? I don’t know what ‘it’ was or is, but I’ve seen it just outside my window and I don’t think this is the first time it came to the house, but this is the first time I saw it. Another please, no ice this time and I’ll tell you the story. 

“It was nearly a week back when I first saw the tracks walking my property after work. I guess you could describe them as a large chicken with talons the size of a pocketknife. They were up near the tree line in some mud. Didn’t think anything of it. See a lot of tracks living that close to the woods. I believe that was a Monday. Tuesday the tracks were by the garage, but I still didn’t think anything of it. It wasn’t until I heard it. That’s when I thought something strange was happening.  

“Give me another Jim. Nothing like a good whiskey to settle the nerves. I’ll tell you what I heard. 

“It must have been Wednesday night. It was a hard day of work up at the factory and when I got home, I soon found myself at the bottom of a bottle. I’m not proud to say, but the bottom of the bottle is where I find myself most nights. Well for the last two years … but I don’t need to tell you that story. I reckon the entire town knows about it. But it’s the truth. Sitting by the fire in my chair, I remember it being pretty cold and I fell asleep. Don’t know what time Kirby started barking, must have been close to eleven-thirty or midnight and the dog is just sitting there going crazy at the screen door. 

“Got to admit something Jim, I had a funny feeling that night but I played it off that I had too much to drink. I got up from my chair and stumbled to the back door. That damn dog shot off into the night barking. Didn’t think nothing of the dog running off, it’s what he does, and he comes back when he’s good and ready. But that’s when I heard it. I swear, Jim, I don’t know how to describe it. But I heard it. Now I know what you’re thinking, but I have heard every animal from those woods. The sound echoed through the darkness. It’s been three days and I still haven’t seen Kirby. Didn’t sleep the rest of the night. Just sat by the fire with my rifle. 

“Next morning before work I went looking for Kirby. Nothing. No trace. It was like the damn dog just disappeared. No dog tracks. No weird chicken tracks. It was like the night before never happened. When I got home, I picked up where I left off looking for that dog. Still nothing. Didn’t sleep that night and had no bottle and no strange sounds. Everything was silent. 

“Sorry  I’m shaking. No more Jim I think that was my last tonight. Four is enough. 

“Last night was when I saw it. It was at my window, Jim. I sit here not wanting to believe it myself. I had my bottle and my rifle, and I sat myself by the fire. The night was getting late, and my eyes were getting heavy. I must admit that the whiskey kept me from sleep’s grasp and that’s when I saw it. It was looking through my window. Its eyes were a pale blue, I don’t know how else to describe them. Its face was a light grey, but it had no mouth or nose it was just blank. 

“I jumped from my chair, the bottle broke on the floor, and I fired at it. My aim was off and the glass shattered just above its head. But I scared it off, and I ran towards the window. I could see it clearly even though it was pitch black. It ran on all fours like some damn animal, but it wasn’t no animal. Its body was the same color, that light grey, but the body looked more human than the face. I watched it until it got to the tree line and there it stopped and looked back at me.  

“You must think I’m crazy for telling you this and if you don’t, then what I’ll say next will make you think I’m crazy. It spoke to me. How? I don’t know the thing had no mouth, but I heard it. Or maybe it was all in my head, but I heard the word inside enter my brain. I don’t know what it means and I don’t think I do. Then it disappeared off into the woods, and I didn’t stay long either. Got in the truck and drove away, stayed the rest of the night at the motel – most of today too, now that I think about it. Been thinking long and hard about what it told me last night and I got me a feeling that when I get home it will be waiting for me inside my home. 

“Here’s the money for the drinks, Jim. Thanks for listening to an old drunk ramble. Be seeing you soon, maybe.”  

Free Fiction Week: The Invitation by Alice Paige

The Invitation by Alice Paige

The dinner table is set. The two face each other, both smiling sharp smiles highlighted in red lipstick. A smile is a weapon. Both women knew this from childhood. It’s a kind of truth men aren’t aware of. They see the smile, but not the tongue curtained behind the teeth. 

The two women, both with too pale skin, lean forward in their wicker chairs. The blood-red dresses they wear shine and shimmer in the candlelight cast from a ring of quickly melting candles rimming the room. No light shines from the table. There is no room on the table for light as this is where the corpse lies flat on its back, dressed in a black see-through shroud. The corpse’s face is gaunt and grey, desiccated. The old corpse is set out, as if for a funeral viewing. What is a viewing if not invitation to grieve? 

“But this is no funeral,” one of the women says, or perhaps, both the women say at once. They glance towards the single curtained window in the room. 

Outside, the snow falls. It is not a kind snow; it is a hungry snow that drinks sound from the air. The abandoned London streets are swallowed in a blanket of white. This snow mutes sound and is an offering of violence. A silencing. The streets are abandoned, a feat in the heart of London with its sickly, sprawling populace. 

The two women smirk as they stand from the table. Slowly, they walk across the room, bare feet slapping against the dark, wooden floor, the candlelight flickering between their toes. Quickly they move from candle to candle burning clippings of the corpse’s hair. 

“In case you are wondering,” one of the women begins, “this is for you. A welcoming,” the other woman finishes. Each candle flairs as hair burns and smokes. The room is a mix of sick sweetness. There is the potent stench of corpse flesh and burnt hair, but the candles provide a stark, contrasting smell of sweet honey. 

The room fills with a startling sound like rubber bands snapping. The corpse on the table spasms again and again under its shroud as the final clippings of curled, grey hair burn. The legs of the table hop and scrape against the floor.

The two women hurriedly walk to the curtained window together and throw the curtains back. Sickly, grey light spills into the room. The window faces out upon a small, abandoned city square. Both women grab the base of the large window and lift. Painfully chilled air rushes into the room. The sound outside is still muted but, just on the edge of audible perception, there is a labored breathing that seems to invade the room as the window opens. 

The two women walk back over to the table and place their hands atop the corpse. Their fingers slowly intertwine atop the soft, black fabric and their hands rise and fall with the corpse’s chest. The women’s skin goosebumps. They look at one another with cautioned excitement.

 “Are you ready?” they ask the empty room. It is unclear who or what they are speaking to. They wait a moment, and, despite the lack of answer, they seem satisfied. Slowly each woman leans backwards, fingers still locked, and they begin to chant. The two chant in unison at an alarming pace, their bright red lips quickly enunciate each word with a labored intensity. 

“It juts its fingers into the dirt, finds the face beneath, the orbital, the mandible, 

cracks the ossuary, slithers into this shattered church, makes a blasphemous home 

of once  priest, rips the faith root and stem, hungrily gorges on intently scarified 

meaning, is pulled, is plucked, is jutted like sharpened weapon, we call, we demand, 

we twinned sisters, given twinned names, we control the star pointed razor, 

the space beyond space, we space behind face, we who have pulled host from holy grave to give you shape once again demand you take shape once again.”

The twin voices drone on together, echoing off the bare, wooden walls and spill into the town square. 

And that’s when I feel it. A tug in my guts. Not that I have guts. 

It’s a strange sensation, to not have a sense of self until I suddenly have a sense of self. To be thrust into “I” once more. It’s as if I have been here the entire time, watching, but have only now just arrived. The two women fall into silence. I recognize them. We were friends once. Before. Before what? My mind feels like a waterfall climbing to be a river. Entropy turned on itself. A collecting.

My vision shifts as the room rotates, turning on its head. I feel my chest heave and my ribs crack. I cough because I can cough. 

“You’re here,” Emily says. She is the woman to the left of me. Her voice is slightly softer than her sister, Emilia. I could always tell the difference. 

I try to speak but my throat refuses to move. I am on my back. How did I get on my back? I was watching the room from above.

“You need to give it a moment. The body will be able to speak soon,” Emilia says. 

 I glance down to see the shroud covering the corpse’s body. No, not the corpse’s. Mine. My body. I inhabit the corpse. I can feel it around me like swimming in muck. Its skin is so tight. I try to move the tongue in its mouth and the tongue shifts slightly. Suddenly, I can taste. Its mouth, my mouth, tastes like ash and copper. Emily places a hand on my forehead. Her skin is so soft. So alive. 

“We told you nothing would keep us apart Dahlia,” Emily and Emilia say together. 

I scream in this body that is not mine. The corpse’s vocal cords hiss.


Alice Paige is a trans woman, poet, and essayist living in St. Paul, Mn. Her writing largely focuses on topics like mythology and queer love. Her work can be found at FreezeRay Poetry, Crabfat Magazine, Coffin Bell, VASTARIEN, Button Poetry, Luna Station Quarterly and Take A Stand, Art Against Hate: A Raven Chronicles Anthology. She is also a co-host for Outspoken, a Queer Open Mic.

 

https://www.instagram.com/alicegpaige/

Free Fiction Week: The Get Together by Prapti Gupta

THE GET TOGETHER by Praptui Gupta

“Mom are you ready?” I asked.

“Yes dear, let’s go” she replied.

Today my mom and I are very excited. Today we are going to meet with our father after a long time. I can’t really explain how happy and excited I am. After a lot of struggle and patience, we are getting to meet him. But the sad part is the meeting period is very short, just 10 minutes.

On our way, I was thinking what questions I will be asking him. There are so many but I can’t ask all of them. We reached the place after some time. Mr. Morgan was waiting for us. He was the medium through which we are going to talk with him. 

 He was seeing us in a very strange manner as if he hasn’t seen people like us before. Yes, I admit we are different because we are new to this place but yet we look like human beings. 

“Good morning Mrs. Evans, I was just waiting for you and your son,” he said to us.

“Is everything ready? We can’t wait to meet him; hope you can understand” my mom said to him.

“Yes. The whole process is to be of 20 minutes and you can talk to him for about 10 minutes, not more than that, otherwise, it can be risky for me” he said.

Though we were disappointed upon hearing the time limit, we nodded.

Then he took us inside a room. It was a dark room, in fact very dark.

Okay, let me clear the fact. We are going to do planchette. This is the only method and medium of our contact with him.

My mom and I haven’t talked with him since the day we two died in a road accident a year ago but my father survived!!!!

It’s really a special day for both of us. 

THE END


Prapti Gupta is an 18 year old writer from India.

 

To read more of her work: Wattpad

Free Fiction Week: The Smoky Mountain Monster by Terry Pierson

The Smoky Mountain Monster by Terry Pierson

The Smoky Mountains, full of shadowed silence and untouched grandeur, hum with stories and legends. There was a little log cabin in the woods that was said to have belonged to Davy Crockett. At night a deep mist would form over the leaf magenta grounds but no one was ever there to see it. A big rock rose like a monolith from a dirt patch where nothing else had grown for a long time. 

No one ever saw it.  A volcano could have splintered from the ground and moltend the forest while turning the sky to ash and it would be days before someone drove by an adjacent road and noticed. There was no one back here, the world had moved on and left this little stretch of existence to stagnate and freeze in time, with nothing to disrupt its trajectory. It slumbered. 

So it sat for decades, time unfolding with callous change all through the world. Yet these few acres of country stayed oblivious. Technology pushed, leaders grew and died, empires boomed and collapsed, but the few miles of trees around Limestone in southeast Tennessee rested in tranquility without any concern for what was happening beyond the borders. It felt at ease with its place in the world; a soft warm blanket for those who knew it. 

This seemed destined to continue until suddenly it didn’t. Some ambitious men decided to expand the real estate market further from the nearby market center.  In less than a year, something that had been the same for lifetimes, secluded and undisturbed, was abruptly and violently uprooted, dug, plowed, shoveled, ripped, paved, molded, and shaped to be an entirely new area of the world fit for civilization and pleasant circumstances. The land did not agree and moaned its disapproval. 

Families moved in fast and it wasn’t long before the surrounding area was filled with gas stations and school buildings and soccer fields and fast food establishments. Year after year marched forward and before long the place the area had been for so long was forgotten, washed away in a tide of habitation. The development was a success but the earth did not reserve its protest.

The land grew haunted, wrecked by spirits and atrocities. Nothing else was allowed to inhabit this space. The very fiber of existence twisted in repulsion at its new form. There was something that revolted against what destiny was dictating. The new orchestra of everyday life – with all of its humanity and confinement – chafed against the fiber of all that had come before. 

It was calm at first, residential troubles and local folklore. There was a haunted house or vengeful spirit. An entire barn of animals all perished overnight with no discernible cause. Some thought the lake was cursed. A family of five died in a fiery car crash on an unmarked road. A deranged man from a nearby slaughterhouse assaulted an elderly woman in her home. There was something damned in the space itself and it would endlessly produce whatever menace fit the void. 

Generations disappeared down the family conveyor belt and the daily troubles of the place turned to twilight. Rumors of a ritualistic cult rooted in the community took hold. A flesh-eater preyed on the town. Some unknown beast, described in wild testimonies and interviews as a horned slug the size of a dog, turned the area into a tourist spot. 

The 21st century had begun to wane when the fissure finally erupted. A great mass swelled in the land; bony, titanic shoulders lifted the earth into an illusion of mountains where there had been none. In the very spot where Davy Crockett’s log cabin had sat the ground split and a tremor propelled through the surrounding countryside. A creature, unlike anything, ever rose to the sky, carrying the homes and barns and utility poles up to the clouds. All of that cursed land was swept up in an instant and crumbled to pieces on the back of the mile-high gargantuan. It fell back to the land and crashed like haunted meteorites cratering in the surface. 

The mammoth could not be. Its presence stained and contaminated the dimension of humanity. No reason or spirituality could support its nature. The thing was an intruder that trekked its cosmic mud across the carpet of conceived existence.

The impossible monstrosity evaporated to space in a fantastic fog. Time and gravity warped around it in a spectacular display of color that broadcast against the Smoky Mountain landscape. Geography twisted on itself in impossible spirals. Deep recesses swallowed rolling mounds. The seams of reality frayed and stretched as the entity joined the stars. The monster was never there, it couldn’t be. Everyone already remembered the Tennessee canyons as all the land had ever been. 


 

Terry Pierson creates creepy content as Something Spooky on social media. His signature style blends campfire story spirit and prestige horror sensibility.

https://amzn.to/3rHGom7

Free Fiction Week : I Am Afraid…by RAJALAXMI BEHERA

I AM AFRAID ……. by RAJALAXMI BEHERA

I opened my door, it was dark outside,

I turned on the lights to quit my fright.

The lights glimmered directly on my face,

I rubbed my eyes, my neck did ache.

 

I was tired of the day, I sat on the couch,

Something hit me, I cried out “OUCH!!!”

 

I moved a little, I hardly turned back,

There was a book on the floor, perhaps it fell from the rack.

 

I felt uncomfortable, I went for a shower,

My heart was filled with an unknown terror.

 

And I could hear some strange sound,

But the sounds stopped when I turned around. 

 

 There was a scratch mark on my mirror,

I was shocked, those marks were everywhere.

 

I exclaimed – “  What the hell is happening to me ? “

The next very second, the marks were nowhere to see.

 

I thought I was hallucinating out of my fatigue,

But it could be that there might have been some rogue,

Who might have entered my house to rob,

But I just fearfully thought to stop.

 

My mind was whirling due to all stress,

My eyes fell on the pocket of my dress.

 

There was a note, I read it, it was written – “ GOODBYE “

I did not know who put it there and why.

 

Then came to my sight, my perfume potion,

I could see, in the clear surface, my own reflection.

 

I could see a figure coming towards me,

On the surface of the potion, I could see.

 

Then all at once, I was struck by something heavy,

I turned back, only a MAN IN BLACK I could see…….

ONLY A MAN IN BLACK I COULD SEE…….

ONLY A MAN IN BLACK I COULD SEE…….


 

 

RAJALAXMI BEHERA is a student and writer of poems and short stories

To find more of her work: www.rajalaxmi2365.blogspot.com

Free Fiction Week:The Tomb of the Red King by Hank Belbin

In the Tomb of the Red King by Hank Belbin

The sarcophagus screeched open. Wafts of ancient dust spewed from the yawning blackness within.  Something else came rushing out too. Francis Aberdeen felt its dark presence as soon as he’d pried the lid from the thing. He had felt it as clear as he felt the ripping winds battering the Cornish coastline above the cave. He felt it like he felt the salty spray of the sea as he descended the cliffs to the entrance of the tomb itself. Something evil and old. Something dark. 

So bizarre to find such a coffin in Cornwall. Such practises were seldom discovered this far north of the equator. But there it was, just like the stranger had said it would be. After hours of crawling on his hands and knees through narrow tunnels by candlelight, Francis finally came into a vast domed chamber with a single white light beaming down onto a stone tableau ahead. The tableau was a  huge scalene triangle of ebony stone that raised up in the centre of the cavernous gloomy crypt. The triangle was surmounted with graphite plumbago shards that all pointed northward like rows of serrated teeth on a great dragon. Along the rim were esoteric carvings, hieroglyphics, and other depictions of demonic entities upward reaching to the coffin’s lid—none of which Francis could understand. It was beyond being prehistoric. Judging by the stratum of rock, Francis put the crypt’s age at somehow being of the late Cretaceous period. The walls of the tomb sloped down and back,  headlong into pitch-black nothingness. Around the sarcophagus itself were dusty old black jars containing a fetid red liquid that smelt like rotten meat. Everything in the chamber pointed towards mummification. But there was no body in the sarcophagus. The room was far too old for that.  Francis paused as he considered what to do next, his heart beating hard in his chest. Thick grey mud from the climb down into the tomb clung to his clothing like a cold blanket. His hands shook, and he felt the chill in his bones.  

Although he was positive he was alone, he distinctly felt the air grow tighter the instant he had unwittingly opened the coffin. A gnawing tingling sensation rose from the base of his spine and up into his neck, and it whispered to him softly that he had made a grave error. He knew it too.  Reckless pride and the desire to discover something unknown had blinded his pragmatism. And now the casket in the dark was open. What have I done? Francis cautiously leaned over the edge and gazed down into it. As he did, he felt the lingering thought that something was alive in there. Its aura impossibly glaring back at him from the abyss somehow. He didn’t know how to describe it with mortal words, but he was steadfast that he felt this lean and hungry stare of a spectre looking back at him from down there, in the pit of the coffin that seemed to stretch inward for eternity.  Something had been waiting for this. 

As he stood over the open chest, the damp air descended languidly all around him, laden with primal particles of disease and unknown threats that had seldom felt any other air for aeons. The darkness drew nearer, clutching up from the corners of the forlorn tomb with wide-open talons of shadows. All that was old and mystical was awake once more. All that once was—would now be again. In a flash, his mistakes came tumbling down to him. How could I have been so foolish? 

Days of hiking, hours of precarious scrabbling down the cliffs, even more, indeterminate time going lower into the caves had brought him to this moment, and in one nauseating instant, he regretted all of it. Some things are better left unknown, he thought to himself. How could he have been so careless? Why had he come into this tenebrous little hole in the earth? In the pit of his stomach, he already knew why. 

A tip-off from a dark-eyed stranger in the local tavern had sent him on this quest, bringing him here;  that was what started it. His shadow had crawled across the table as he approached. The hooded stranger had sat himself down opposite Francis in the meager tavern, offered to buy him an ale,  asked him if he was an archeologist; then proceeded to tell the most vivid tale of a seldom-talked about tomb near the tavern that supposedly held one of the last old spirits of the world. A spirit of great decadence. Beside the twinkle of the candle on the table, Francis could’ve sworn deeply that the stranger’s eyes were glowing faintly red—like the blood-thirsty anticipation of some starved hyena.  

But that wasn’t what brought him down into the cave. The real reason why he’d brought himself to the tomb was he had to see for himself if the fable was indeed true. He wanted to discover it for himself, to brand his own mark upon its finding. And with all the deathly stillness of the tomb around him, he had discovered it. Some unexplainable presence was there in the tomb, next to him,  over him, in him. Something unseen. But something that reared up and climbed inside his mind. It clung to him like cold tar. Whispers of all things primordial and malevolent swam through his thoughts—ancient days of death and blood.  

It wanted to be found, the force murmured to him. Of course, it did. It was all so clear now. The expedition was far too easy, the navigation of the unknown tunnels leading down to the stygian crypt even more so. The map was precise, the weather conditions favourable. All that was needed was for him to undertake the route. All it needed was a vessel. All of it made sense to Francis why.  He felt strangely heavy at the revelation. As if cast-iron weights had been suddenly tied around his shoulders.  

The hooded stranger from the tavern whispered one name to him before he departed. Izuzu. The  King in Red. Francis only knew of the title in passing. The King in Red was an old mystic fable that had only been passed down through subdued whisperings and superstitions in various isolated  Cornish villages such as Boscastle. In the tales, it was always associated with death and disease. A  great horned figure who loped between the shadows and spaces. He who controlled life. Something that betwixt all things that are and all things that never will be. Wherever it would roam, decaying slow death would follow. Its cape soaked in the crimson from the blood of the fallen wherever it had trodden. Legend has it that he was entombed in an impenetrable block of ice by the Old One for his amoral acts upon all things living. If he were to be released once more, he would bring with him the black clouds of death to all things. 

In one sickening realisation, Francis knew why the stranger in the tavern had told him about it. He knew Francis was a greenhorn archaeologist. He knew the young clear-skinned boy could not resist the opportunity to make a name for himself. He knew Francis, the naive 20-year-old, would take the bait. He wanted Francis to open it for him. And Francis did. Without hesitation, Francis Aberdeen of Leicester University had unwittingly unleashed all the eternal gloom of Izuzu, the King in Red, unto the world. What would become of the earth next he would never see. Because in the Red King’s steed, Francis would be trapped in the crypt forever. The darkness closed in. The candle flickered nervously then went out. The crypt sealed once more. He tried to scream, but it was cut short.  

_______________________________________________________________________________

I am a semi-professional writer who has published one novel and several short horror stories. I currently write screenplays and offer script treatments also. I am based in the UK and specialise in gothic and folklore horror set in the United Kingdom.

 

http://www.hankbelbin.co.uk

Free Fiction Week: The Blood of the Guilty by Carlos Ruiz Santiago

The blood of the guilty by Carlos Ruiz Santiago

When people complete their revenge the blood just runs in circles but, when Danya Tebens did it, it rained from the sky.

The sword, twisted and rusty, was creating a trembling path in the ground. The tremulous steps of the woman made her moves slow in the land full of bumps. Sacred stones around her, mortuary monoliths of the ones that had fallen before her, empty ground for the ones that will fall after her. All dead despite the blood, the ichor of life, poured grotesquely over them.

Her sight was lost, full of gore. The red crimson blood that fell from the sky was creating puddles of misery. The red scarlet blood that covered her weapon and her ragged armor, blood thrown by something that shouldn’t be able to bleed. The dark blood from her many lethal wounds.

She fell on her knees in front of one of the many tombs. Probably, the most important tomb in the history of dead people. Only a few words carved.

Belen Tebens. Loved son. Gone too early.

Something fell from the sky. Something thick and monstrous. A gigantic feral arm, full of shattered armor. Chains falling from the sky, colored in red godly blood. The vermilion storm was getting worse, the clouds darker, the wind fiercer, the sun barely showed a pair of ruby agonizing light arms that were fading in plain sight. The world itself was howling in agony.

“What have you done?” screamed a terrified voice of some poor fool at her back.

She hesitated a bit. Her mouth was dry, pasty, the acrid taste of her own guts in her mouth. She felt heavy, dizzy. Far away, the ground was pouring black dross. Part of the sliced skull of something that shouldn’t be able to die fell to the ground.

“I found the guilty” she answered in a reedy voice. “We had a few words.”

Then, she fell to the ground, her world quickly becoming black as the world of the living was becoming red with godly blood.

______________________________________________________________________________

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

https://darkosaurvlogs.wixsite.com/carlosruizescritor

Free Fiction : RELEASING ANGER by Alan Moskowitz

RELEASING ANGER~Written by Alan Moskowitz

Willem looked up with trepidation as the Father swept into the ornate office and took his place behind the worn oak desk, a tight smile on his weathered face.  Willem forced his body to remain still and upright in spite of the nervous energy flowing through him, urging him to leave, to run away.  To make matters worse the Elder ignored Willem as he fussed with the papers, notes and unopened envelopes strewn across the desk.  A bead of sweat rolled down Willem’s face, but he dared not raise his hand to it.

 “Wipe it,” the old man’s voice cracked.  Willem quickly brushed the offending drops away.  The Elder’s mouth twisted into what passed for a smile. “No call for nervousness Son, that is unless you’re not ready for this final meeting.”

Willem remained silent.  Father snapped, “You may talk.”

“I have studied the Book, Father.  I have prayed with the Flock.  I have fasted for a month.  I have stood vigils in the freezing cold, seeking donations, and I have raised many funds for the Holy See.”

“Yes, yes, I know all that. You would not be here otherwise.  Willem, are you still angry?  Do you still hate?  Is there still, after all your training and sacrifice, is there a part of you that hurts that drives you to self-harm?  Think on these things, use what you have learned from the teachings of our Lord, and answer me truly. ” He picked up an ornate letter opener and slit open one of the envelopes on his desk.  He unfolded the paper within and set to reading it, ignoring Willem in the process.

Willem’s lips moved in prayer as he sought that place inside of himself that knows his true self.   He had hated his parents.  Does he still?  They did their best, they said, in spite of his issues.  Their best consisted of locking him in a closet for behaving like a “demon child” as his mother put it; getting “the belt” across his back for a variety of transgressions from breaking a dish to wetting the bed to being a coward, a loser, and “a no-good waste of sperm.” His so-called normal siblings hopped on that bandwagon and teased and tortured him unmercifully until at sixteen, he ran away.  No one searched for him.

Pain, massive pain, mental and physical traveled with him into the streets, where his life only became worse.  He sought refuge in the alleyways and fetid tents of the homeless and useless, an outcast and a pariah.  First, he blamed himself.  But the continued abuse turned that self-loathing into seething anger, a burning hatred for his family and for all those who still spit on him, kicked him and laughed.  It was only a matter of time before he exploded. 

And one night a young woman walked slowly by his filthy hovel and glanced in at him; one more so-called human being dismissing him.  Not this time, he murmured.  He crept after her, bent on doing her harm, making her pay for his lifetime of hurt.  He came up behind her, hands reaching out to strangle her when she suddenly turned and met his red-rimmed gaze.   Her eyes told him that she knew his pain.  And then she smiled at him, pulled him to her, and told him he was wanted and loved.   

She brought him to the Flock and the Father.  He was nurtured with kindness and love and shown that he didn’t need to carry all that pain, hate, and misery.  That The Lord of us all would show him The Way to a better life, through kindness, forgiveness, and passing the word to others. And it was so.  After a year of study, love, and sacrifice and he was complete.

  The Father’s voice broke through his reverie, “Well, my son, as our Lord has said, ‘now or never.’ He chuckled, a thick deep raspy noise, with not a hint of humor.

Willem’s eyes opened wide and bright, the excitement of knowing he would be granted his place in Flock.   “I am ready to forgive all who have harmed me, Father.  I will do our Master’s work for the rest of my life and pray He will welcome me into his arms.” 

The old man stood, that crooked smile curling his lips as he held out his hand to the boy.  “Welcome Son, I see great deeds are to be done.” 

 Willem stood and gripped the Father’s leathery hand in his. “Thank you, Father.”

‘Now go, begin the work, we are eager for you to do the Flock proud.”  Willem bowed once, turned, and left the sacred office.

Willem stood for almost a minute just staring at the familiar door before he pressed the bell.  He twitched at hearing the familiar ring.   Part of him wished no one would answer, but he quashed that idea and stood fast, his duty clear.

The door opened and his mother stood before him, her mouth opened in shock, “Willem?  What is this?  What are you doing here?” 

“I forgive you, Mother.”

She scowled, “for what?”

“The Lord of us all forgives you too.”

“You went and joined a cult?  My God, you’re still an idiot.”

“Not your God, My Lord.  He has cleansed me, taken my pain, so I can forgive you.” 

“Isn’t that nice; tell your Lord I said thanks for nothing,” she muttered, the familiar sarcasm dripping from her mouth.

Willem brought the razor-sharp letter opener out from behind his back and drove it between the two upper left ribs as taught, twisting it as it reached into his mother’s heart.  His mother’s shocked look, fade with her life force as she dropped to the floor.   Willem pulled the opener free, stared down at his mother’s face contorted with pain and confusion.  “Our Lord forgives too, but He does not forget.”

He stepped over her body and went inside, wondering who else was home.


 

Alan Moskowitz is a retired screen and TV writer living in Colorado enjoying creating genre fiction.

 

To find more of his work see: mosko13@aol.com