Posts filed under 'Original Fiction'

Seems Only Right at Dead Lines Magazine

Back in 2008 I won the British Fantasy Society’s short story competition with my entry, Seems Only Right.

Dead Lines 4But it sort of got lost… it wasn’t announced at the Fantasycon Awards of that year, and maybe somebody read it in the BFS’ New Horizons journal in which it appeared, and although I read it at a couple of Horror Reanimated nights my gut feeling is that very few people know of its existence.

I’m happy to say that Dead Lines an American online horror fiction magazine has picked the story for its latest issue, together with the wonderful illustration that Robert Elrod crafted to accompany the piece. The magazine also has fiction from Graham Masterton, JF Gonzalez and John Everson, amongst others, so I’m in good company.

Check out Seems Only Right here.

Add comment October 26th, 2010

Download Echoes for free!

hr-echoesThe 200 numbered hard copies of Horror Reanimated I: Echoes are gone.

Bill, Mathew and I had mixed emotions about where they went. Some of them did find their way into the hands of horror enthusiasts, collectors and those few lost souls who count themselves among our fans. I suspect more of them, however, ended up in the bin unread. We handed copies to anyone who talked to us on the Horror Reanimated UK tour – those were the rules.

Some of those folks took the chapbook and bought copies of either Bill’s or my novels. Others just took the chapbook and walked away delighted, knowing they’d got something for free. A terrifying number hadn’t mastered spoken English, let alone the written kind. Beings who had no place in a bookshop. Men with missing teeth and unwashed hair barely contained by black baseball caps. Yeah, see me? Yeah? I fucking love horror, me. Saw. Hostel. Fucking love it. Then these dirt encrusted individuals would about face with our rare, precious volume and leave the shop without another word. And you just knew they were taking it home to use as a crossbow target in the backyard because all the local cats were already dead.

So, if you managed to get one, great. And if you didn’t, well, all is not lost. We’re now making the chapbook available as a pdf download. Right here. Right now. And we sincerely hope you enjoy it for things other than target practice.

Let us know!

Click on the title to download the chapbook: Horror Reanimated 1: Echoes

11 comments August 27th, 2009

Not a creature was stirring… by Bill Hussey

Twas the night before Christmas, and deep in the Abysssantagrave4

Cthulhu Called Out: ‘Something’s amiss!’

Trans-dimensional stockings had been hung up with care

But dear old St Nick just plain wasn’t there.

 

Bloodsuckers were nestled all snug in their crypts

With visions of virgins in white lacy slips

And zeds on the lawn with monotonous tone

Had just settled in for a long winter moan.

 

But where was that jolly, fat, bearded old fella?

And why had the snow ‘neath Rudolph turned yella?

I’m afraid that the truth will come as a blow:

The fact is that Santa has ho’ed his last ho.

 

He’d made a mistake on his list, don’t you see?

What should have read ‘naughty’ read ‘nice as can be’

But whose was this house with its gargoyle gables?

‘Who cares?’ thought St Nick, ‘There’s mince pies on those tables’

 

He laid down his sack and crossed the room in a trice

It was a mistake he wouldn’t make twice

His foot caught on the cord and the axe fell in a rush

And off came his head with a guttural gush

 

Later that night, as they tucked into their roast

Bill turned to Joseph and raised his glass in a toast

‘Joe, I propose, if you’ll give your permission

 We should make eating Santa a Christmas tradition!’

 

Merry Christmas from all at Horror Reanimated!

3 comments December 24th, 2008

A tale for Halloween by JD’L

Lights Out

by

Joseph D’Lacey

Outside the Benedict house on Birch Avenue, the daylight died so quick it was as though its throat were cut. Night was the one who did it. The lights inside were dim behind closed curtains, a weak yellow glow struggling to keep out the darkness.

            In a small upstairs room a father sat on the edge of his son’s bed with a story book open in his hands. The boy interrupted the tale.

            “Daddy?”

            “What is it, Joseph?” sighed the weary man, putting his finger to the last sentence he’d read and looking at his boy. Joseph, so bold when he’d cut in, now lost his confidence. His words came out a croak.

            “I…I get scared sometimes,” he said.            “You do? When?”

            “In the dark. When I know I’ll be alone. I’m scared right now, Daddy. When this story’s over and you go, I’ll be here in the dark-” and here the boy whispered “-on my own.”

            The older Joseph, Joe Benedict, let the book fall shut in his hands sending its fairy tale words back to sleep. He placed a large, work-toughened hand on the boy’s knee through the red and white coverlet.

            “It’s okay to be scared,” he said. He felt the night shouldering the windowpanes, the glass bending inward. “We all get scared from time to time. Wouldn’t be normal if we didn’t.”

            “It’s normal? You swear?”

            “Course it is,” said Joe putting his hand over his heart and, lowering his own voice, continued, “I swear it on my mother’s blood. Better not tell mom I said so, though.”

            Joseph smiled, proud to be in on the manly conspiracy.

            “I won’t,” he said.

            “Want to tell me what it is that scares you about the dark?” asked Joe senior after a while. 

            Joseph’s eyes widened as though he’d never told anyone and wasn’t sure he could let it out. Maybe he was afraid that if he shared the secret, whatever it was that scared him would hear and come for him. He looked towards the curtained window as if he too felt the night’s eagerness to break in. He held his hand up and beckoned his father closer. He cupped his hands around the edges of his mouth and hushed the words into Joe Benedict’s ear.

            “I’m scared of the thing under the bed, Daddy. It wakes up when you say goodnight and turn out the light. It wants to eat me.”

            Joseph’s dad might have smirked at his son’s crude imaginings but he didn’t. The boy sat back quickly after the secret was told and pulled the blankets up around his shoulders watching his father’s reactions. Joe Benedict forced a look of experienced wisdom onto his face, followed it with a knowing smile.

            “There’s nothing in this entire house that could hurt you, Joseph. And there sure as diamonds isn’t anything under the bed. I’ll prove it to you.”

            He slid down onto his knees and whipped up the bed covers where they trailed down to the floor. Joseph held his breath as his father’s head disappeared from view. It was gone a long time. There was a sudden strangled gasp and Joe Benedict’s face came up again, changed.

            “I was wrong, Joseph,” he said. “There is something under your bed. Something terrible. It’s…”

            He held up his right hand and in it a dark rumpled thing. Joseph shrank away, hands over his mouth to keep the scream from coming out.

            “…a dirty old sock!”

            Joseph’s mouth dropped open and his half-serious punches came in a whirlwind flurry.

            When Joe turned out the light and left him, his son was smiling again.

 *

At 2.17 a.m. Joe Benedict lay awake staring at the ceiling through layers of blackness. There was no way to count how many nights of sleep he’d lost over it. Except perhaps to count every night of his life since he could remember. The maths of it didn’t interest him. He told himself instead one simple, pertinent fact:

            There was nothing under the bed.

            Joe Benedict knew this the way he knew the sun would come up next day. But at two in the morning things were always different. It was easy to believe that the sun might never come up. Easy to imagine that Zelda, sleeping so surely on his left, might stop breathing and make a widower of him. And it was easy to suspect that a cool muscular tentacle might snake up from the shadows below, encircle his ankle like a constrictor and haul him down towards some huge jagged mouth.

            He tucked the duvet in around his feet. As pathetic a gesture as it was, it made him feel more secure. He snuggled closer to Zelda, careful not to wake her, and was comforted by the mingled scent of jojoba and oily secretions from the roots of her hair.

            The problem was that even though Joe’s own father had checked under his bed when he was scared, he had always suspected the old man was lying about what he saw there. Something lingered unspoken in his father’s eyes each time he turned out the lights and pulled the door shut. Joe knew how childish his fear was. Yet all the knowing in the world didn’t stop the idea from returning whenever he awoke to the lifeless hours of the night. Anchored a hundred miles from the shores of sleep, floating on that unseaworthy bed with only his imagination for company, Joe’s mind tuned in to the dark, unknowable space beneath him. He thought about what lived there.

            And he tried not to think about it.

            Trying not to think about it was like being in McDonalds and not thinking about Big Macs. There’d been something under the bed ever since he was a kid. At first it had been a small something. A scaly, many-legged creature with teeth so sharp you wouldn’t feel them until they snicked right through your finger bones. Aged five he’d lain alone and wide-eyed waiting for the tug on the edge of the blanket that signalled the spiderlike thing’s ascent. Then there would be the drumming of aberrant footfalls as the thing pattered lightly onto his chest hungry for eye jelly, nose gristle, lip flesh and tongue meat. He’d covered his face with his hands, prepared to lose his fingers instead if need be. The tug on the bedclothes never came.

            At fourteen, still living at home but becoming an adult in the slow, stupid way boys do, the creature was bigger. It lay coiled like a spiked anaconda in the darkness only inches under his back. Its fat, slug-like body was barbed and black. It gave off a faint smell of decaying fish and its attack method was different. It would wait, psychically, until Joe was asleep. As soon as it sensed his guard was down it would worm its way under the covers from the distant end of the bed, all the time sniffing for a special, one-time-only meal. Lying lazily and undefended, legs apart, Joe would be oblivious to the smell and the spikes until that moment when the giant barbed leech attached its vacuum mouth over his penis and testicles.

            Then Joe would wake, but by then it would be too late.

            The suction would increase until the thing sucked his new manhood deep into its stinking belly. And it would keep sucking, inhaling his intestines, his kidneys, his spleen and liver, his stomach, his heart, his lungs and finally his brain. It would suck until there was nothing left of Joe Bendict – but it was his newly ripened cock and balls the thing really wanted. Joe slept with his legs pressed together and his fists thrust into his crotch until well into his twenties. The leech bided its time.

FACE by Allison Theus

FACE by Allison Theus

            Now the thing under his bed – the thing that was not under his bed – had grown up just like he had. Now that Joe was older, though, he could no longer imagine too clearly what form the thing would take. It would be bigger, naturally, and stronger. It would be hungrier too, after stalking his nights all these years without success. Or maybe, thought Joe, alone in the blackness each night, maybe the creature was still waiting; growing fat off his fear and putting off that delicious moment as long as possible. Fear was justified in a child but now that Joe was a man, a married man with a son of his own, it was a sin. Perhaps the creature loved the taste of that adult fear even more than the fear of a child.

            Seconds, minutes, hours snail-crept past, leaving their viscous mark upon him as a slimy exhaustion.

            It had to end. He had to beat the fear. It was merely an obsession, an indulgence, a psychological wrinkle and nothing more. He would stop it. He would take steps. For in his heart, Joe Benedict knew that he had passed his fear to little Joseph, that he had already harmed his own son with his stupid sickness. He promised himself right there in the silence of the bedroom where night tried so hard to stare in through the drawn curtains. There had to be a way and he would find it. He vowed that he would best his fear and the creature forever, that he would set his son and the generations that followed him free. Soundlessly whispered, he swore it on his mother’s blood.

            With a palpitation or two of anticipatory delight, Joe saw a faint light around the edge of the bedroom curtains. Dawn, his rescuer, was galloping toward the horizon to protect him. Morning, the signal of his temporary salvation, was Joe Benedict’s high time, the best part of his day. Nightmare creatures disappeared in daylight. Netherworld portals healed shut.

            Finally, he slept.

 *

Joe saw the fear in his son’s hitched-up shoulders and the way he zipped his jacket right up to the neck. But the boy ran out the door to catch the school bus like all the other kids. Zelda smiled at Joseph’s departure. Joe did not.

            She placed his breakfast in front of him: eggs scrambled, toast burnt, see-through coffee, orange juice without pulp. She kissed his ploughed up forehead.

            “You look like shit, honey,” she said.

            He shook his head.

            “Wrong. I feel good today.”

            She folded her arms.

            “Dream anything I should know about?”

            He shook his head.

            “Huh uh. I got some good sleep.”

            “About time.” said Zelda.

            “I plan to be getting more of it too.”

            “Oh yeah? How’s that?”

            Joe smiled.

            “You’ll see.”

 *

The new bed arrived in several bulky packs and was assembled by the deliverymen after they’d dismantled and removed the old one. The Dream King wagon was too big to park on their drive, so everything had to be carried back and forth from the street. Everyone on Birch Avenue knew about the Benedict’s new bed. It was something worth speculating over.

            Zelda watched half-amused by the serious, almost devout workmanship of the Dream King employees. They erected the bed as though it were some kind of religious altar, refusing coffee and cookies until the job was complete.

            “I got me one just like this,” said the one called Rudd. “I never could sleep worth a damn before. Now I wake up and I feel younger. I’m telling you, ma’am, I wake up like a man of twenty-one.”

            Rudd, patently a man of fifty-one, did seem to have plenty of pep and snap about him. Zelda remembered, with a private smile, how Joe had woken up when he was a man of twenty-one. Rudd’s sidekick, Roy, a younger, quieter man, also had a tide of energy within him. He could hardly stand still.

            “I guess you’ve got one too?” said Zelda.

            “You bet.”

            When they’d left, she went upstairs to clothe the new bed in fresh linen. It had a cushioned headboard that had been screwed to the wall. The base of the bed was a solid frame of oak, with two drawers on each side for storage – something the old bed didn’t have – and there would be no need run the vacuum cleaner underneath it; the wood met the carpeted floor tight and heavy all the way around. She sat and tested the mattress, which was lain upon broad, thick oak panels with barely an eighth of an inch between them. It was firm and comfortable, totally different to the old one. She bounced and the bouncing was silent. Not a whisper or a creak. She smiled. This was a good bed. A bed that would change things for them.

 *

Coming back to consciousness in the pale, scented, airy space that was his hypnotherapist’s treatment room, Joe felt calm.

            “You went very deep today, Mr Benedict,” said Primrose Prosser, in her beguiling tones. “And you’ve shown every sign that you were in a highly suggestible and receptive state. I’d be willing to make a bet that you’re sleeping right through the night in less than a month.”

            Joe was reserved in his response. There was no point building himself up to a fall.

            But his counsellor was just as positive. Dr. Grace’s room was stark in black, white and grey. Hard lines and edges defined every angle and shape. Even the client’s chair was stiff and unyielding. The man’s stern face softened at the end of their uncomfortable hour together.

            “I am amazed at how you’ve committed to facing this fear of yours, Joe. I wish all my clients had your determination. It’s been two appointments and I’m already seeing a difference in your responses. Another few weeks and we’ll have this licked.”

            Joe thanked him.

            That night, on the new Dream King bed, Joe bounced Zelda silently until she cried joy-tears into his neck. She squeezed close to him afterwards and he fell asleep within minutes. He slept through until two a.m. but only lay awake for an hour afterwards. Eyes closed in the dark, he repeated the suggestions that Primrose Prosser had given him and thought about the things he’d discussed with Dr. Grace. Long before dawn he was asleep again.

 *

The first time the Benedicts felt autumn in the air was a Friday evening late in October.

            Joe sat on the porch with a beer and watched night play its cruel game. It inhaled the light and turned everything grey, weakening the power of the day-world. It threw a damp blanket over the town and sat down hard. Joe shivered.

            He was fuller of face and rounder of shoulder, the coils of readiness gone from his muscles. His cheeks and gut had risen from hollowness into contentment. But the way night gutted and bled the light still disturbed him. He drained his Coors light and slipped indoors, locking the dark outside.

            In Joseph’s room he read a chapter from The Wind in the Willows. The boy’s appetite for fairy tales had waned in favour of animal stories. His fear of solitary gloom had also abated, but Joe still tested him from time to time.

            “Want me to leave the door open?” he asked, as he kissed Joseph goodnight.

            “Nah. It’s okay.”

            “Good. G’night, sport.”

            “’Night, Dad.”

            Joe caught the mood of the night as he turned out the lights and shut the door: on the other side of the curtains it forced its face against boy’s window, its black teeth frustrated by the glass.

            As he spiralled down into sleep beside Zelda – it was habit with him now, no different from brushing his teeth – he was sure he sensed the night relinquish its siege on his house. It relaxed, let go, gave up. The only muscles that didn’t relax when he lost consciousness were the one’s holding Joe Benedict’s mouth in a peaceful smile.

 *

He awoke not to his imagination or the heart-swelling strands of a nightmare. Still loud in his ears was the fleeing echo of a crash.

            Intruder?

            He listened. Nothing but his aching, throbbing heart; the blood river, running high in the canyons of his ears. Zelda slept on.

            A thief? Murderer? The returning night, capitalising on his unwariness?

            Christ Jesus. He put his hand over the left side of his chest. He could feel the beating right through his own ribs. Calm down. Breathe. For God’s sake, Joe, get a hold of yourself.

            He breathed: Tense, hitched sighs. The timpani in his chest cavity receded a little and he listened again. He tried to recreate the sound he’d heard. A bang. Not a gunshot but an impact. There was a feeling too. Yes! Movement; like a jolt. An earth tremor – that was it. It had happened two or three times since they’d moved in. With this knowledge, his breathing and heart took heed. They slowed and quietened.

            He listened to the night but it was not leering and prancing beyond the walls of his home. It was bored. No more sport to be had with the Benedict’s. Joe was proud of himself. Already he was falling back into sleep. There was a pleasant sensation: he was afloat on their bed in a tranquil lake. Not waves but ripples rocked him into the safety of sleep. Buoyant and fluid, Joe slipped away.

            Zelda’s feet were hot. The touch on his ankle was cool, like liquid inside rubber skin. He didn’t flinch. There was nothing to fear. The coolness closed his lower leg in a stealthy coil. The touch became possessive; a grip. Joe opened his eyes and saw only blackness or was there something else? Yes, a light, a nauseous emanation from the floor. But they had no lamp on the floor. The grip tightened. Joe could feel the glee in it, the triumph and fulfilment. His open eyes widened. This could not happen. This could never be real. The sheets moved against him creating friction. Something was pulling him to the edge of the bed.

            The night was a time for silence and quiescence, for restfulness and respect of peace. Joe couldn’t believe how hard he found it to scream; it seemed so inappropriate. He reached out his hands, embarrassed, at first, that he might wake Zelda. Taking a hold of the top of the mattress did no good. He might as well have grabbed at tissues with wet fingers. His leg slipped off the bed and he followed too quickly.

            “Zelda?” he whispered urgently.

            She did not stir.

            “ZELDA!” he screamed.

            The chill coil around his calf drew him down. He slipped over the edge.

            “No,” he pleaded with himself. “NO.”

            He felt his own full weight then as gravity took him and he hung upside down over tainted yellow clouds in a vast sky. The bedroom was gone but above him he could see the bottom of the Dream King bed and the solidity of its construction. A gargantuan tentacle held him at its very tip, the body to which it belonged remaining hidden in the clouds far below. He thought he saw a huge dark shape there, something the size of an oil tanker but sinuous and pulsating. Then he saw the beds.

            Scattered like rectangular balloons throughout the many layers of sickened, luteous sky they floated in this land where night was the grimmest day. And each of them was attended by some creature of this nebulous bajo-mundo. Some of the creatures he recognised from his own imagination. Each one had overpowered its own human victim. Joe saw the red and white pattern of his own son’s bed covers and cried out.

            “Joseph!”

            But Joseph did not hear. If he did, there was no sign.

            The boy could not move.       

            A shroud of untidy web held him tight to the bed and on his chest sat a monstrous scaled spider the size of a tyre. It had at least a dozen legs. It padded up to the boy’s face, the boy whose eyes were so wide they seemed pure white, and then, briefly, it looked up at Joe, as if smiling from its shiny mandibles. It crouched over Joseph’s face and Joe saw blood run in innocent trails down the boy’s cheek and onto his neck. He thought he heard a muffled scream but it could have come from any of the thousands of beds that floated both above and below.

            Joe Benedict cried like a child, like his own boy must be crying, and knew that fear was in the blood, in the parallel spirals of ancestry, and no fancy mind trick could ever beat it. The tentacle that held him sank down towards the leviathan form, shadowed within the clouds.

 *

Zelda stirred but did not wake. There was plenty of space for her to stretch out. The solitary sound of her breathing was the only noise in the house. Outside, the night rubbed its hands together before nosing once more at the cracks, keyholes and windows of every home.

3 comments October 30th, 2008

A Most Illustrious Client (a bit of whimsy) by Bill Hussey

Mr Sherlock Holmes, who was usually very late in the mornings, save upon those infrequent occasions when he was up all night, was seated at the breakfast table. I stood upon the hearthrug and picked up the article our visitor had left behind him the night before. Embossed in crimson upon the calling card was a gothic letter ‘D’.

“Well, Watson, what do you make of it?”

Holmes was sitting with his back to me, and I had given him no sign of my occupation.

“I believe you have eyes in the back of your head,” I remarked.

“I have at least a well-polished, silver-plated coffee pot in front of me,” said he.

As my eyes shifted to the pot, Holmes reacted with lightning speed and threw his napkin over it. Still, I had a fancy that I had glimpsed something curious before the napkin descended. I had the strange idea that, although the chair in which he sat had been reflected, the face of Sherlock Holmes was missing.

“Watson,” he said, dragging me from my reverie, “would you have any objection to drawing the blinds?”

“None at all.” I crossed the room, all the while keeping a concerned eye upon my old friend. “Tell me, Holmes, are you afraid of something?”

“Well, I am.”

“Of what? Not air-guns again?”

“No. I no longer fear air-guns.”

The detective gave a dry chuckle and curled up in his chair. Despite his good humour he was even more gaunt and pale than usual. I crossed the room, took hold of his wrist and attempted to gauge his pulse. I could find none. Similar difficulties had perplexed me when examining him after one of his cocaine binges, the soporific effect of the drug having depressed the rigour of his circulatory system. He did not protest as I rolled up his sleeve and checked for the telltale signs that his miserable addiction had been indulged. Again, I could find nothing. And then I noticed something very strange: there were two puncture wounds, but not upon his arm.

“What have you been doing to yourself, old fellow?” I exclaimed.

“Peace, Watson,” Holmes muttered. “You will be pleased to hear I have no further use for the cocaine bottle.”

“Humph. Well, something very odd has happened since I saw you last. Perhaps it is all to do with your visitor of last night. I am sorry I could not be at your side. My practice is busy of late, you understand. But come, tell me about him.”

Holmes stretched his long legs towards the fire. A great shiver ran the length of his body.

“Can’t get warm for the life of me,” he said. “As to my client: he was a nobleman of eastern extraction. A Count, no less.”

“Indeed? And what did this Count want with you?”

“A trifling business of persecution. He had arrived in Whitby some weeks back and was immediately set upon by a ragtag band made up of a wild frontiersman, an asylum psychiatrist and the eldest son of one of our noble families.”

“Good God, what had the man done to attract the hostility of such an unlikely crew?”

“That is somewhat unclear. He is a foreigner, of course, and that may have been against him from the first. The Count is of the opinion that, as dangerous as these men are, their leader poses a far greater threat to his safety.”

“Who is this other man?”

“A Dutch professor with a very particular idée fixe that borders upon insanity. He is, however, a brilliant man with half the letters in the alphabet after his name.”

“Hmm. Well, it seems a most interesting case. Shall I leave you to ruminate upon it?”

“No, Watson. I should like you to stay and give me your assistance in certain matters.”

Holmes’ eyes glowed with a sudden fire. He rose and slipped across the hearthrug. Within three steps he was at the door of our Baker Street sitting room, turning the key in the lock. Then he span around and, fixing me with a peculiar smile, he said:

“Indeed, I fully expect this to be a three pint problem…”

2 comments October 8th, 2008


Categories

Authors

Powered by Authors Widget

Recent Posts

Recent Comments

Blogroll

Meta