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The Gremlins #2

I apologise for SUCH a long delay. I have been going through some things… Moving house… twice… other things. Anyway, no point saying any of that now. I’ve finally started writing again. Here’s the second part and final part to the short story The Gremlins.

The first part can be found here.

It can be found for kindle here.

 

 

They have been around since before the time of the dinosaurs.

Back then they were kinder, peaceful creatures, living free as individuals, without any hive mind. Then Homo sapiens came and exerted dominance and, with a surety and indomitable force of will that had never before been seen, the gremlins were nearly exterminated.

They do not hate us because we nearly wiped them out.

They hate us because we did it without having ever realised.

Once gremlins lived in the light of the sun and the moon, in the woods and the grasslands and the lakes. Homo sapiens took the environment for themselves, and the gremlins, invisible to the humans who trod with their thoughtless feet, and raked the land with their thoughtless machines, were driven out of their homes, and died in droves.

They were naïve, and they were weak, and they were frightened, and they were unprepared. They did not know where to go, and they did not know in which direction to move. They starved, they were crushed, they drowned, they were wiped out by our diseases by the trillion. They ran into death, and they died quickly.  They were stupid.

The gremlin population sank from a population close to that of ants to around one hundred. Never in history has there been such a genocide. And the perpetrators remained completely oblivious.

They would grow again, now underground.

Gremlins are hermaphrodites and, when they feel like it, when the environment can support them, each one can have a hundred children.

 

Humanity has the arrogance to believe that it can fight anything. We write stories and make movies about fighting against huge monsters, against incredibly destructive alien forces. We are always the underdogs. And just when things look bleak, our greater numbers, our unconquerable spirit and determination for survival, and the combined forces of all our weaponry, take down even the biggest of monsters, and we are victorious.

It is easy to point your guns up and shoot something.

It is much harder to point them down, and shoot something you can barely see. When you are the monster, you are the giant to take down, when you are the one hopelessly, impossibly outnumbered.

We brush off insects, and we often think nothing of them. You might laugh at the idea that we, as an enemy, would be utterly pathetic to them, even if they were only a little bit unified and only half desirous of our destruction. That we could win such a war, whether it would be easy or terribly long and terribly difficult.

It is estimated that there are 170 million insects to each person.

There would be no war. There would be a massacre.

When the time comes, when the gremlins are done playing with us, done stretching our minds, confusing and corrupting our reason, making us doubt ourselves, making mistake after mistake, when humanity is tired and half-broken, pinpricked with holes from ever increasing suicides and murders, when every other human is paranoid and neurotic, trusting nobody, not even themselves – when the gremlins are done torturing and weakening us, when they are so strong and vast that they will roll over us like a wave rolls over pebbles, that is when humanity will have had its last days on this earth.

 

There are the ancient ones. Who knows how many there are. It is not clear if they are gremlins or not, only that they are on the same side. They do not die each year like the others. They know of us just like they knew of the dinosaurs.

They are bigger, much, much bigger than ordinary gremlins. They slumber in enormous subterranean caves, and at the bottom of unexplored ocean trenches, too deep and dark for divers or their machines. Sometimes they come closer to us, watching us, thinking. If you are swimming, perhaps you have had that uneasy feeling of a shadow below you, a shadow that filled the sea.

It is not simple paranoia. Paranoia is the word given because we don’t know about the gremlins.

The ancient ones guide the hive mind. They will not come up when the second stage – SLAUGHTER – begins. They are not stupid. They know they can be harmed when all guns are brought to bear. No, they will come up and walk the streets when humanity is broken, when it is a shadow of a shadow of its strength. When there is no unity, merely those that die as they flee. Then they will crush and they will rend, and they will know that those with the longest patience have the biggest payoffs.

 

The gremlins will rise up, from the floorboards, from the corners, from the shadows and from the sewers, from the cracks in the plaster, the underside of tables and chairs, from behind the pictures on the walls, from between the books on the bookcases, from under your fingernails, and from in your hair.

They will pour in their thousands from your attic and they will swarm onto you.

In one long night, a night that crosses the world, a third of humans will die, most in their houses, most in their beds. A billion will die before anybody knows what is happening, snuffed out, no time to even scream.

You cannot win. They are already here. They’ve always been here.

When you feel that shiver up your spine – that’s them crawling up your back. The itch in your hair, that’s them. The tickle on your bare skin that you slap away: that’s them, but they’ve already moved. Some of the smallest ones nest in your mouth while you sleep, or in the hairs of your nostrils during the day.

You can’t win against an enemy that you can inhale, that can hack you apart from the inside. If you shut your mouth and clamp your nose, they will push through your eardrums, or wriggle under your eyeballs.

The second stage has not yet begun.

But it will.

The gremlins chitter in their thousands, in their millions, in their trillions upon trillions the world over. They all say the same word, ukta.

It means, ‘soon’.

 

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The Gauntlet of Gore #2

The Gauntlet of Gore is a strange and bloody short story/novella about a competitive school sport where players punch opposing players in the stomach with a powered gauntlet, which makes the person explode.

There is also a pervading supernatural horror element –  and some of the creepiest team captains you may ever encounter…

You can find it on Amazon here.

Here is a second extract to read. This extract does not follow on from the prior one.

 

Extract #2:

 

She ran.

She ran from the battle.

She ran from her team mates.

She ran from Mike.

‘Sarah!’ she heard the cry behind her, but she didn’t look around; she was too busy jumping fallen branches, ducking and dodging, and putting her screaming legs to the limit as she sprinted through the darkness.

Gotta stay alive, she repeated to herself, and even the disembodied voice in her head was panting the words. Can’t win if I’m dead, it shifted to, and she began to convince herself that this was strategy, and not a cowardly, selfish flight.

The trees clustered in closer, and she slowed, eventually coming to a halt when she could no longer hear any signs of pursuit. She walked among the bones of black trees, feeling sick and empty. She snapped off some broad leaves from a plant and tried to wipe some of the muck off her face.

She had lost all sense of direction. She didn’t know if she was heading back to the field, or deeper into the woods.

It was starting to get cold. While it might be daylight outside, in here it might as well be night. She inspected the trees closely, but she couldn’t see a single camera, and she had a chilling feeling that nobody knew where she was, that she was entirely alone.

The noise was like the creak of a door, or a slowly falling tree, except it wasn’t natural, but came from a mouth. It rose in volume, a harpy screech that seemed to come from every nook and pore of the forest.

‘Who’s there?’ Sarah called out, not caring anymore about revealing her position to another player. She wanted to surrender. She wanted to put her arms up, take her gauntlet off and give herself up.

But she knew that you couldn’t surrender. Not in this game. If you put your arms up, you were dead.

Then someone, something came out from behind a tree, a tree so thin it seemed impossible it could have hidden her, it. The woman was completely naked, pale as death and almost skeletal. Her bones gleamed slightly, with an almost sickly wet pallor. There was nearly no light, but the woman’s popping, owl-ish eyes shone black and white, like polished snooker balls.

The creature was the Stonewaters captain, and she was smiling, impossibly wide and stretched, her rubbery lips coming almost up to her eyeballs. The teeth had come out from the gums, and were now as long as fingers, as thin as twigs and as sharp as stakes.

Sarah couldn’t breathe. Her feet were stuck to the ground. She saw the pale monster reach out her spindly arms, holding them outstretched before her. The fingers, like the teeth, were longer than before, and were growing before her eyes. The fingers came out like a network of roots blossoming in fast forward through the earth. They crept through the air towards her, multiplying in crooked joints with every few inches gained. As they grew, they creaked and rasped.

Sarah screamed then, trailing off in a whimper when she saw the huge eyes light up, as though inner delight fed the torch that burned behind those black-white bulbs.

The creature licked its lips with a slimy black tongue.

‘We took care of the cameras, dearie,’ said the creature in a voice like a saw. ‘Nobody sees when we don’t want them to.’

The two other captains appeared from behind poles of bark to either side of the woman, both as naked, like sharp white stick figures animated out from black line trees.

They were smiling too.

Sarah heard the drone, the sound that had replayed in her head since yesterday, since listening to the captains stood tall and grinning on that stage. That flat buzzing sound that now came from everywhere, came from inside her, trembling like worms in her veins and flies in her guts.

She put her hands over her ears, but the droning, the creaking, the screech of the captains was not muffled. The woman’s fingers had reached her now, tickling her chest and neck. The fingertips curled and tried to hook her, to snag her flesh.

The droning was increasing in volume, and Sarah imagined a brush in her mind, a hard thin broom with fingers for bristles, sweeping away the clutter of her thoughts, sweeping away her horror, slowly leaving her mind’s corridors and halls polished and empty, with only the scrape of fingernails to mark them.

The terror faded, and numbness washed through her. The woman’s groaning fingers tickled her mouth, trying to pry her lips open so they could come inside.

The finger-broom in her mind opened the doors to her memories, and advanced.

 

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The Gremlins

Another delay! Perhaps it should be taken for granted now that I can’t keep to the more regular posts of before. In part because of now writing a novel  – my ambitious fantasy/comic/’gritty’/sci-fi/western ‘The Wulf and the Tiger’ – rather than short stories.

Here is an extract – about the first half of the story, to be fair – of a short story I promised I while back, called The Gremlins. It was the last to be written for my Faces in the Dark Compilation.

It can also be got independently here.

 

All around the world, things go missing. Some of the time they inexplicably reappear, hours later, after the whole house has been turned upside down. Then, there they are, in a place you had checked four times over, looking smug.

Some of the time they don’t come back. You know, you know for absolute fact that the item could not have left the house, perhaps not even left the room where you last saw it, maybe only a few minutes ago. Keys, a TV remote, a pair of glasses, a bookmark. They have nowhere to go to, no means of escape, and yet gone they are.

This is not a story about the things that go missing.

This is a story about what takes them.

 

The headphones in your coat pocket. You spent five minutes at the beginning of your last walk into town untangling them. Three days pass. You take them out, and lo and behold, they are tangled again. No, not merely tangled, but tied in knots. Actual knots. How did this happen? It’s almost, you think, with an expression a mixture of annoyance and amusement, as if somebody was, when you were fast asleep, taking the wires out of your pocket, looping and knotting them up with fiendish glee and putting them back. But you shake your head, unscramble the wires again, and go about your day, not for one serious moment entertaining the prospect that your previous flight of fancy might be true.

This is what they want you to think.

 

They vary in size, most of them anywhere from the size of a fingernail or a bogey to the size of a large hand. They have two arms and three or four legs, and they move like spiders.

They are often a muddy, greeny-brown colour, but they have a natural camouflage that turns them into a mere blotch on the environment. They do not have nails, but have long fingers, very thin and sharp as needles. They can climb anything, completely vertical and upside down. They can climb up your plug-hole. They can crawl across the ceiling, above your head while you sleep.

They say that, in the city, you’re never more than six feet away from a rat. Well, you’re never more than six feet away from at least a hundred gremlins. Six feet above and six feet under.

They wait like spiders too. They can stay perfectly immobile. Your eyes cross over them all the time. They’re in the shadows, in the corners of things. They’re clinging to the downside of the desk you sit at. They wait in the cracks in the armchair.

When they move, they’re fast, very fast, like very small things with legs often are. If your eyes detect them at all, they’re nothing but a blur, the idea of motion, the tick in your vision.

If you ever saw one, your brain would not register it. The mind convinces itself too firmly against the existence of countless little undiscovered creatures hiding and sneaking and scampering silently around us. You would simply see a bit of dirt, a ball of hair, a thick stain, a bulb of mould, and your eyes would move on instantly and your mind would not remember.

Maybe you touched one, without thinking. Most of them are slimy, and greasy, like wet frogs. They trail mucous like snails in the hot sun, invisible to the human eye. Some of them have scales, like lizards or fish. Some of them are hairy, not a soft cat-like fur, but hair like tarantulas. It is the kind a hand might touch without looking and instinctively pull back, an immediately recognisable bad touch, and yet when the eye looks for the culprit it finds none.

They are very patient, and when they are not being patient, they are being quick and invisible. The smaller ones do not need to wait for you to leave the room to sow their discord. They can steal things from under your noses. They could re-arrange half the room in the time it would take some old biddy to notice something was wrong.

They live short lives, a year at most, but their ancestral memories run long and deep, right back to the beginning. They are made up of individuals, countless individuals, but they also share a hive mind. They are directed, they are completely unified, and things always go According To Plan.

If you ventured underground, to the places where the very walls are made of them, where they seem infinite in their numbers, you would see the same three words scrawled over and over. They are written in their language, their alphabet, a cluster of sharp points like tally marks scratched on the cave walls. Translated they would read:

 

DISARRAY                                   GATHER

                               RECLAIM

 

In their alphabet, however, a scratch can mean more than one letter, and a word can have more than one meaning. These words could also be read as:

 

MADNESS                                   HARVEST

 

                         SLAUGHTER

 

This is the Plan. The first stage, Disarray/Madness, and Gather/Harvest, is in motion, and has been in motion for thousands of years, always growing in efficiency and strength. Disarray involves the taking and movement of our possessions, and other small, interfering activities, a great host of tricks to play on the unsuspecting humans to slowly, but surely, drive them mad. Each year things are ramped up a little bit more from the year before. And in their malice, they think it hilarious we have not noticed anything amiss, but blame ourselves and each other every time.

You may say it is having little effect. It is not. It is having an ever growing effect, simply one that humans do not recognise. For every murder and suicide, there are the prime reasons, of course, but there are also the little things, the mounting up of endless little annoyances that serve one consolidated purpose: to drive you over the edge.

These little things are the work of gremlins.

Gather works in partnership with Disarray, and involves stealing our things, and keeping them for themselves. Some of them are useful as they are; most of them are made into new things, bigger things, dangerous things. Gremlins are very good at building, at making crude but terribly efficient things out of gizmos, doohickeys and thingamajigs. Things that will make them stronger, things that will come into their own when the time comes to Reclaim.

The second stage has not begun yet.

 

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The Gauntlet of Gore

The Gauntlet of Gore is one of my longer short stories – a similar length to The School of Necromancy, if you read that. It is also, perhaps, my bloodiest, and one of my strangest.

It is about a competitive school sport where players punch opposing players in the stomach with a powered gauntlet, which makes the person explode.

There is also a pervading supernatural horror element –  and some of the creepiest team captains you may ever encounter…

You can find it on Amazon here.

An extract:

 

The grass were iron blades burnished under the heat of the midday sun. Millions upon millions of little knives, all thirsting, ready to whet their whistles on the redness of humans.

The grounds for play covered the field, the central mud banks where lives were often lost, and the sparse yet dark forests around the fringes, where each team would begin. That’s where they waited, so tense you could cut yourself on their muscles. Some shivering, some breathing deep, some with eyes closed and praying to the gods of slaughter.

In no time at all, each of them would look a horror, team colours almost indistinguishable under slopping coats of mud and blood. Fighting, frenzied and frothing, lost in the berserker hazes of battle lust and battle terror. The tactics drilled into them could never last forever, could never be present when you were staring into the rolling whites of enemy eyes. Then, it was just you and them, and your death hung on a seesaw.

The woods were thin, but most of the trunks were wide. In the later stages of the game, sometimes called the hunt, sometimes called clean-up, they would hide players, players shivering and scared, putting off the inevitable, and players silent in their concealment, waiting to assassinate their hunters. Overhead the canopy was thick and heavy from these trees, filling in the gaps and shutting out the sun. The experienced players stood and crouched like panthers in the darkness, feeling the dirt under them and stroking the bark of the trees with their free hand.

You couldn’t see the cameras unless you were looking for them, but they were there. They had their places. In the field the cameras were long-range, pointing in at the action from the sidelines, but here they sneaked in among the trees, flicking on and off with night vision to the rapt, hungry attention of their audience.

The spectators sat in their stands on the only side of the field not bordered by woods, munching their processed meats and gurgling beer, keeping eyes on the huge screens that showed the choice views from the cameras, field and forest. The audience who watched at home slunk lower in their fat armchairs, or indulged drunken bloodlusts perched on barstools with their chattering, gasping brethren.

No spectators would cross the boundaries and come onto the pitch. There would be no streakers, no attention-seekers. If you passed the boundaries, your life was forfeit. Neither the Organisers or any player were held responsible if you were hurt, or if you died.

The audience stayed put.

This wasn’t as polished a set-up as the Nationals, or the World Titles, but a lot of people preferred the Locals, the inter-school matches. They were amateurs, technically, but the orgy of violence suited them, suited the dirt and roughness of the grounds. There were only a handful of pro stadiums – called Coliseums these days – out there. The players didn’t play on fields and in forests and sliding up and down mud banks, but on laminate flooring. Obstacles were varied, with new ones introduced in each game, keeping a novelty element for the audience and a surprise element for the teams. Regular obstacles included a simulated forest made of branchless, leafless poles to dodge, a waxen floor to slip and slide on, and a crowd favourite, an area of connected trampolines. You hadn’t seen anything until you’d seen two players jumping towards each other, fists connecting in each other’s stomachs, and exploding in mid-air.

Sarah checked her gauntlet for what seemed to be the twentieth time. There was no such thing as over-checking, not when your life depended on it working and staying strapped tight around your hand. She opened the small protective casing, flicked the switch and felt the familiar thrum, the vibrations coursing through her fingers and up her arm. When it hit the spot, a stomach, the vibrations, tuned to the perfect frequency, would multiply over and over, rumbling their way through the gauntlet and rippling the enemy’s (you better hope they were an enemy) stomach. And then they exploded.

She moved to switch it back off, when a siren sounded, sharp and angry, emitting from every camera. Now she could see them, blinking black and sullen in the trees.

‘Switch ‘em on!’ she shouted, and those players that needed telling did so.

She looked over at Mike, who nodded at her, his face hard. She turned to see Joseph, who had his eyes closed and was muttering fast to himself. She was relieved to see his gauntlet was on and working.

A couple of steps before her, Freddy was stretching. You better be good, she thought.

A second noise, higher than the last, and ending faster.

‘Everybody!’ Sarah shouted. ‘You’re here now! If you want to turn back, it’s too late, you’ll just have to fight your way out! Remember your training! Remember your teammates! Fight for your team, fight for your life, fight for William Howard! Give ‘em Hell!’

A cheer, desperate and aggressive, was echoed by some, and was quickly swallowed by the darkness. Some of them were gulping repeatedly and some were shaking their heads, as though wishing the dream away.

The third call.

They ran.

 

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Faces in the Dark horror story collection

Good evening!

Four things have come available to download all within short space of each other.  There is the short story The Half School, which I posted earlier on this site, there is the long short story The Gauntlet of Gore, another short story called The Gremlins, and a collection of paranoid horror called Faces in the Dark, which includes The Gremlins.

I’ll focus on Faces in the Dark for this post, and make separate posts in the near future for The Gremlins and The Gauntlet of Gore, and give you something to read of them.

Faces in the Dark primarily features the novella and hallucinogenic road horror The Violet Dark, of which there are a number of consecutive parts to read already up on my site. It also includes all of my ‘paranoid horror’ short stories: The Watcher, Keep it Clean, Anamia, The Gremlins and Dead Streets.

You can find it on Amazon.

Here are the blurbs for each of them, see if I can arouse your interest…

The Violet Dark

When you leave the paths of light, you fall and you fall forever.

A man finds a woman crouched over the body of her murdered father. The man is hallucinating on a liquid drug called violet, and offers it as a promise of escape. The woman, numb with shock and grief, takes it and soon finds herself in a ‘beautiful nightmare’, the shadowy world of the violet dark. They ride the endless roads on motorbikes, lost in the drug and almost lost to reality…

Terrible, grotesque things are hunting them. If only she could convince herself that the danger was all in her head…

The Watcher

The air is black, and I do not sleep. The hours tick by. I do not sleep because someone is watching me.

Keep it Clean

Have you ever been swallowed by a public toilet?

No? This man was.

A scatological horror so odious you’ll be showering non-stop for days.

Anamia

Assorted entries from the Anamia Diary, found among possessions.

Care is advised before reading, especially for those who have or have had an eating disorder.

The Gremlins

All around the world, things go missing. Some of the time they inexplicably reappear, hours later, after the whole house has been turned upside down. Then, there they are, in a place you had checked four times over, looking smug.
Some of the time they don’t come back. You know, you know for absolute fact that the item could not have left the house, perhaps not even left the room where you last saw it, maybe only a few minutes ago. Keys, a TV remote, a pair of glasses, a bookmark. They have nowhere to go to, no means of escape, and yet gone they are.

This is not a story about the things that go missing.

This is a story about what takes them.

Dead Streets

It was between Hallowe’en and the advent of Christmas, that half-haunted and melancholic time of year when spirits and ghasts one by one went to their slumber in the hidden places. I had spent the night drinking and smoking with a friend, and now in the small hours I set off on the pale roads to home.

 

Faces in the Dark coversmaller

 

The Violet Dark #5

Here is the fifth little part of the hallucinogenic road thriller/horror The Violet Dark. You can buy the full novella for mere pennies/cents/whatever on Amazon.

 

No Ordinary Man

 

You cannot share a voice

 

He put his hand on her bare arm, and she shuddered as if struck with some kind of charge. Her flesh seemed to give way before him, and she tried to stiffen, but her body was relaxing, pooling itself. Her skin spongelike as it bathed in darkness.

‘You are not like ordinary men,’ she murmured, and as she saw the crescent grin of bone she thought of men, men in herds, trampling the jungle and raising barrels of dust on old tracks. Men with their trunks and horns of all sizes waving and cutting through the air. And then, her eyes deeply closed, she saw their sight, their destination, and as if some cabaret parody of the reverse she saw the women, the lithe vulpines, twitching their tails and swaying serpentine, ballooned calling cards on their chests and lower backs, and the herds of men and women raised up their voices in song and shouts and screaming and roaring, all notes of chaos, pleasure and pain.

And then her eyes snapped open, the herds of the sexes snapped out of existence, and she knew how wrong it all was.

‘You see that it is wrong,’ he said, as if courtesy to her visions. ‘I am not like ordinary men because there are no ordinary men. There are no men and women. There is just a man. And there is a woman. And another man, another woman. Do you see? We belong no more to these groups than a cast rock belongs to the hillside. Society feels the need to categorise, and especially for the biggest groups of all, splitting the world into a mere two. But nobody is alike. There is nobody, no individuals or committees who can speak for these groups, because they are chaos. The wall of sound gibberish of billions speaking is the same as having no voice at all. There will be no agreement. Never.’

He paused to smoke. ‘I do not understand these gender wars. You look at me and say no ordinary man. I say no ordinary woman and I could say that to any woman anywhere. There is nothing in gender. You have the animal sex of your body. Beyond that two possibilities. No gender at all. Or every gender, an individual gender for every person that ever walked the earth. Either way it is meaningless. Your gender is your personality. You hold no membership cards to these sprawling groups. They are not your team. You cannot win, you cannot lose.

‘These women and men are shapeless, allowed to become a brick in a living, pulsating wall. They defend “their own”’ – he danced his fingers in the air – ‘by attacking the other side. Us and Them . . . the most primitive of human behaviours, so regressive as to be embarrassing. There are no sides! No sides but every side for every one. Too many sides. You are on your own, do not permit someone to speak for you. You are an individual. You are never a group. Anything more put on you is a direct insult.’

Alright, calm down, she thought. Barely talk and then it all at once. Didn’t ask for an essay. And you’re still no ordinary man.

 

He touched the skin of her arm, and felt it ripple. He closed his eyes and saw the throbbing wetness between her thighs. Under her flesh, the pump of hot blood.

He moved his face closer, and she turned her head, shaking.

‘What?’ he said.

‘I don’t know,’ she said. ‘I’m struggling to keep hold . . . after what’s happened . . . I don’t know you, I don’t understand what’s changing . . .’

‘I don’t know you either.’ He spoke softly, purring the words. ‘You do not need to struggle. Let life wash you away. Nothing has happened. The past has no existence.’

He took her by the face. ‘Look. Look around at the serenity violet gives you. This gothic theatre. A lurid opulence. This is where you are needed.’

‘Needed by who?’

‘By yourself . . . By me.’

She tried to smile and yet turned her head away again. ‘I need time.’

He inclined his head. ‘Of course. I know that. Time to develop, time to grow, to fall away . . . Time to love again. It took me long, too long.’

He moved away from her, closing an imaginary door behind him. He sighed, reaching for a cigarette, and stood smoking in the cool dark. Clad in a shroud of deep sea blues and the side of his vision bleeding garishly from the bright spectre of the moon.

‘Need,’ he whispered. ‘There’s all the time about us, she won’t be needing that. She’ll be needing a lot more soon. She will be needing me.’

The thought didn’t make him smile.

 

The First

 

What is left when all things are empty

 

They saw the first one when they were on their backs. Lying on a quilt of grass in the hole of the night, loomed over by the skulls of houses.

The air was brittle, and from time to time he would reach out with piano hands and snap it. Fingers ivory keys in the blackness. Palms of the dumb. He’d grope up blindly, eyes tweaking like a pink mole rat rising from the earth. Fat raw limpdick. Loin maggot. Wait till you’re out of your infancy. Snuffling round holes laid in the dewy dawn.

His silverback hands rustling the tins hidden in the sheets of the wind, which hugged and poked them relentlessly, attention-seeking. His fingers curling, crab-like, scrabbling at the elements above. Finding a purchase among the nooks.

She felt it snap. A bone of air. She could hear it, like the click of fingers in her earlobe.

She shuddered, as he did it for the fourth time. ‘Please stop.’

He turned his head on daggers of grass, and looked at her, holding a grin. Werewolf-in-tow. ‘Am I breaking it?’

That’s when it came. Slipping from the edge of a wall.

She shot up, the rush of new perspective disorientating her and she staggered. He took her arm.

 

There’s one there looking at us. No sudden movements. Don’t want her to –

He saw her rise to her feet like a pillar birthed from the soil. His eyes hooded and he climbed to his feet slowly, carefully, just in time to catch her stumble.

The shadow listed closer to them, hugging the wall. It was making sounds. Submarine sounds of the unconscious. They had always sounded so far off, incoherent. Drowned whale songs.

‘I’ve got a gun,’ he said.

 

The thing in front of them, a cut-out of the paper maps of the world and all its inanimates. Only oily space beyond.

The thing moved as if it was falling and melting through the landscape. A handpainted nightmare tripping between the pages of a comic book. Moving in slides. Falling apart and gathering in patches in a Rorschach mime.

She shivered in disgust. There was something deathly about it. Something corpuscular and yet without body – an un-thing, a gap in things. Negation in shape.

When she started registering the sounds she took a step back and gave a little helpless cry of fear. The sounds of dull rotting pines banging together in an empty forest. The foghorns of old animals crawling and crashing out the mountain. Booming and braying at the pus of the moon.

‘Stay back,’ he said. She didn’t know if he was talking to her or it.

‘What is it?’ she whispered, and she noticed he was pointing at it with a twisted metal stick, some set-eyed guru shaman holding the demon back with voodoo.

She blinked and looked between them and saw a shotgun aimed at a quivering, crumbling blur. The noises gibbering and sullen.

‘Don’t shoot,’ she said instinctively. He glanced at her, eyebrows furrowed, and his arms lowered.

In an instant so vacuous, so robbed of living moment, the shadow jumped at them. It was a window pane of time that smashed them in the face, the flesh of the world in the shutter frames of a strobelight. It touched her; some greasy black flap waved over her bare skin. Its huge and hideous face garish in ugliness, in its spits of soot, its streaking lines of black blood. A face amorphous. Porcine and canine and that same naked mole rat twitching its eyes.

She fell back and her spine cracked the grass.

All eyes, mouth eyes. All mouth, eyes mouth.

A second had passed, and yet the scene moved in waves, slow laps at the shores of consciousness. The shape was wrestling with the gun, and her man – person, beautiful real person! Her man! – was roaring angry and wretched. He kicked, and the demon fell. Its shifting coal features once more a smudge. No-face, no-body.

 

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Keep it Clean

Hallo. Keep it Clean may just be the vilest thing I’ve ever written. Well, I suppose it depends on who you are. It’s certainly a little gross.

It is, to put it bluntly, a short pulp horror story about a man and a public toilet.

Still reading? Good. If you like this extract and want to read the rest, you can find it as an ebook here.

 

Keep it Clean

 

He’d have liked to say that from first look it was just an ordinary toilet, no more homicidal than any other, but he’d have been lying. It was, in fact, the lord of toilets, or its most low-born, its befouled emperor or its most grotesque assassin. Was it cherished, worshipped and obeyed? Did it head the assembly, chair the meetings? Or was it tolerated – barely – by the others, only as needs must; kept in the dark, in the shadows, ugly and deformed even by its own kind. Perhaps it was both, for in such an underworld the forms of power come naturally feculent, a triumph of disgust to the masses that lurked there in their cubicles and private rooms. The gilded and implacable, perfumed and cushioned at the foot, lid closed in deference as much as the fetid sinkholes with their vacant dribbling stares.

Whatever its position among them it was one powerful and feared. Its mouth was wide open in a toothless yawn, beckoning him on. He almost made to turn and leave, to hold it in, but he was desperate. If only the pub’s bathroom hadn’t been out of order. His friends were the ones who had told him to go to the public toilet in Piss Alley – that’s what they called this stretch of lightless cobbles, on account of all the homeless were scared of the toilet too, rather letting their urine run down the street than open that door. They knew better.

He’d had to walk past them, and they’d stretched out their hands to him, trying to tug on his jacket. They weren’t the usual fallen on hard times, but elephant men, leprous deformities huddled in rags untouched by moonlight. This was their Piss Alley and in the small hours he knew they prostrated themselves before the toilet; their whimpers reached him even in his dreams.

Call it a dodgy curry, IBS, or a reaction to the alcohol: a cauldron of vomit mistakenly travelling the wrong way. Either way he couldn’t make the journey anywhere else, and he banged the door shut behind him and closed the latch, a movement it seemed all too eager to make.

He surveyed the squalor, face twisting in nausea and fear. The cracked lid was pulled back like lips drawn back on chimpanzees. The rim was stained all shades of brown, caked on and smeared, and dribbled down to the foot. The floor sodden with tissues of muck, holes in the tiles where fat black slugs curled and roamed up the walls and squirmed, half-dropping off the ceiling, their feelers contemplating the suicidal dive into the pool below that sang songs to them with basement witchery.

A cluster of moths flicked their wings against the bulb that hung like a corpse from the lid of the place, its glass bruised and choked into giving a green light that cast the room in seasickness. Every gnarl of dirt – and was that blood? – given its time, its torture-den glow. The only thing left unfouled was the roll holder, a bowed metal head that made him of think of H.R. Giger as it shone with menace, curling its dry paper intestines and keeping them tight and guarded like a baby in the womb.

He had barely summoned the courage to touch the lid when it clanged down, sending him jumping back. The lid was not as filthy as the rim, but still shit-lined and worn patches of what could be rust, could be faeces, could be dried blood. He reached to the metal holder and snatched a sheet of paper before its jaws could clamp shut on his fingers. It cleaned nothing; all marks long made and resistant to his touch, and he shivered as his fingers felt the bumps in the porcelain scars.

The toilet regarded him as every toilet regarded every human: with cold silence. They endured, they waited. He knew their patience, stretched thin and twisted. They spoke to each other, you see, sometimes whispering along the pipes but only when they meant to scare him, for they had a hive mind, and they always knew. He heard them, not through his ears but in his head, or rather he heard the things left unsaid, the silent things.

 

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The School of Necromancy #2

Good eve to you.

As a further taster, here is the second little part to the short gothic story The School of Necromancy. It seems to be a mite more popular than my other stuff, so thought I’d give it another push. This part is more of a brief background/explanation of the school and its subjects.

You can find it for Kindle here (or, as usual, on your local Amazon, if you are not American).

 

The School of Necromancy

 

The S.O.N. functions as a school and university both. It teaches students aged, with exceptions of mature students and gifted young prodigies, fifteen to twenty-one or twenty-two; a degree, to those staying on past the age of eighteen, being either a three year or four year course.

The subjects we teach are many, but you will, perhaps, sense a common theme. The first couple of years are chiefly theoretical, apart from groundswork, which is, when you rub away the bullshit, gravedigging. Like most schools and universities, nobody takes first years seriously, no matter how lofty their ambitions. You do the work, and you do it well, without complaining, and you just might rise in estimation.

Apart from groundswork, you will study necrochemistry and necrobiology (nec-chem and nec-bio for short), anatomy, mortuary science, embalming, dissection, cremation, history, gothic art, forensic pathology, elementary reanimation, elementary occultism, and so on. Fairly basic stuff, looking back, and some of us, myself included, felt pretty held back. But of course a lot of us had our wild ideas, and without a solid framework to base them on we may have failed later on.

For every year, including the degree years, you will study and take notes from the many-volumed Necronomicon. Not Abdul Alhazred’s book, of course, but the Necronomicon textbook, 7th edition. In its weighty pages contains just about everything, up to a professional level, to do with treating, understanding, raising, and controlling the dead.

If you choose to do a degree (and some of the less gifted or less ambitious students don’t, instead becoming our laboratory assistants or gravediggers), you have a range of subjects to undertake, including: History of the Dead (fusty), History of Necromancy (almost as fusty), Toxicology (poisons), Theoretical Homicide (not strictly theoretical), Demonology (a farce), Black Tarot (don’t get me started), Mortuary Surgery, Reanimation, Experimental Necroscience, Vampiric Studies, the ever-popular Necromancy, and Necromonology (my chosen degree, which involves the study of and establishing control over the dead, the latter being, in my opinion, an ingredient much missing from my peers’ experiments).

The School itself is like an underground castle, or rather network of dungeons, seeing as it is without a top. All work is engaged in underground, with many layers of soil and stone pressing down upon us. Many first years, and some second years, experience what we refer to as ‘the underlows’, as in ‘he can’t come to class, he’s got a bad case of the underlows’. Eventually almost everyone gets used to it, and you get enough night-time fieldwork (mainly in cemeteries) to give you some fresh air. I never had much problem myself – some of the halls are so huge that you may as well be outside, and I never did miss the sunlight.

Allowing for our various racial skin colour differences, we are by and large a pasty bunch, as you might expect. We get what we need from various tonics and pills, but as the food we acquire (don’t ask – you’d be surprised how many associates and graduates of our school are among you) is so excellent, and our scholarly and personal pursuits are so involving (some would say obsessive, and they’d be right), we don’t want for much, beyond what we need for our work.

Roam the stone corridors and halls, the tunnels and staircases, the laboratories and cellars and libraries, the crypts, morgues, test chambers, operating theatres and black chapels, and you will cross many paths with the School’s prowling cats. There are three of them, or three named ones at least, each as dark as the night. The fat, sluggish one with the unfortunate limp, squashed face and mismatched eyes is affectionately named Igor (and I will happily poison any student who picks on him). Then there are the siblings, Minas and Morgul. Minas is the female, quick and sleek; she sees all, hears all, and every intrepid risk-taking student (the majority of them) who wants to last the course should learn who she’s loyal to.

Morgul is the male, and he is really quite huge, more like a panther than a cat, and if you try to kick him you are likely to end up on a dissecting table within the hour.

The students themselves are a mixed bunch. Most of them have black hair, but not as many as used to. In my day it was various shades of black, grey, silver or white, or perhaps, in the case of eccentrics, a very dark brown. These days you’ll often see a student with purple, red, green, blue hair and so on, or only streaks of these colours. Some are undyed, and come as blondes and brunettes. I’m not wholly prejudiced, so don’t treat them too differently, but I will say if you rock up to a forensic pathology class with bright pink hair, don’t be surprised if old Master Scrimpot directs all his most difficult questions to you.

We wear a lot of black, true, but there are also a lot of white lab coats worn out of class (some bloodstained), and brown tweed isn’t out of the question among some of the more mature students and masters. There are coats and cloaks, robes, three piece suits, shirts and jackets, skirts and dresses, corsets and bodices, lace and leather, soft velvet and jangling chains, and even some bare chests here and there, particularly among groundworkers. Styles are all over the place, though usually on the more gothic, formal, or macabre (if you’re trying to be edgy) end of the spectrum. Victorian and Edwardian fashions clash with new pagan which clash with shinobi which clash with new romantic which clash with seventies librarian which clash with thirties suits. And some of us just look like your average Joe/plain Jane. Those are often the ones to watch.

We are generally old-fashioned and semi-traditional, so some of the more radical newer styles are frowned on, and while the dress code is very relaxed, it is there. Cybergoggles will be taken off you in class. All in all though, we all look the same in a lab coat and gloves, up to our elbows in body parts.

 

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The Watcher

Here is a complete short story, which will feature in the upcoming compilation Faces in the Dark: A Short Compilation of Paranoid Horror.

It is also available as a standalone for Kindle.

I wrote this quite a long time ago now. It’s inspired entirely by not being able to sleep. I hope you enjoy it.

 

The Watcher

 

The air is black, and I do not sleep. The hours tick by. I do not sleep because someone is watching me. The hours toll by and my eyes are open.

In the dark, clouding my vision, I sense his presence. Like a reflection in a mirror he just watches me, hovering, or crouched, at times only inches from my face. He waits for me to look at him, but I never do, and so I never sleep. I fear him in the night, but in the light, when I am brave enough to look, he is never there. He is gone.

I know my surroundings out of the day, but through my imagination they have changed in the night. There are the walls, cracked and bleeding plaster, and the floor, rough, thick and scarred. The pictures around my room leer down at me, faces twisted like demented effigies. The room is no longer the semblance of order and right; it has spiralled down through waves of unease into a macabre cage, a prison of the dark.

My imagination runs further, deep into aberrant horror, and I see above me large black spiders crawling over the ceiling, the size of children’s hands. Their legs are permanently crouched and bent, as if ready to spring down onto me. They are shadows and nothing. They are the focal point of my hallucinations. He can control them, make them spring, with a word, but for now he says nothing.

I never look at him, I never know his name, but I always feel it is on the tip of my tongue. He makes no sound, but I can imagine it, should he ever open his mouth, as an ethereal moan, or a throaty racking groan. They would be at turns sadistic and pathetic. I pity him. He is a ghost. There is no corporeal body; he never truly belongs to this world.

The air is black, and still do I not sleep. There is no promise of a dawn; perhaps it may never come. Perhaps I will remain stricken to this bed forever, my eyes always open, and someone always watching me and my fear. I long for an end, for some burning light and sanity to sear me into reality.

I think I know what he looks like. He is clad in ragged cloth, which in the day would shine lurid white, but which in the night is merely images and shapes, fleeting and cowardly. His hair is dank and matted, strewn over his ragged face, and his eyes are worn and tired, the eyes of someone who never sleeps. Behind his eyes can be seen worry, and some semblance of neglect, and also evil, and anger, and hate. He is angry at me, for I never look at him, and for this he hates me; yet he must also love me, for he never leaves while the night still reigns. He knows nothing of the goodness of love.

The black air starts to scare me now, and I want him to go away. Terror is like a rolling wave washing over me and sending me shivers and cold clarity of the threatening silence that tries to engulf. I switch on the light by my bed, and the soft glow throws shadows around like paper. I dare a quick glance around my room to see if he is gone.

He is still here, but he is hiding in the shadows. I think he is close. I breathe in dryly and then I cannot resist as he climbs in my mouth and into my body, where he whispers to me, so quietly I cannot hear any words, just morbid intentions and whining pleas.

He cries out deep in the abscesses of my mind; he calls for rebellion and misanthropy, for anger and disgust, for guilt and the ending of all things that are good. I try to push him out but he has set up throne; he is reigning in demons and ghouls. He is everybody now. I have never known anything else.

Eventually he leaves, to wriggle into a gap under my bed, into the welcoming gloom. I can still feel him boring into me, puncturing my life. An hour creeps slowly and agonisingly past, and then another, with every second like a dead weight on my chest, until dawn finally seems to come, the thin sun slowly burning its way through my curtains. I crawl out of bed and open them, to flood the room with a dreary grey fire, to chase the shadows and the darkness away. Simple and natural illumination to destroy the phantasms of the night.

My room looks normal by day. The pictures are all blank on the clean walls. The floor is simple carpet. The ceiling is bare. There is nothing frightening anymore. There is nothing to fear anymore. He is gone.

I hear, or think I hear, a knock on my door, as the birds chirp their dawn chorus. I open it but there is no-one there. I look around the corridor but it is empty and barren.

Perturbed, I step away from the door, which quietly closes before me. I shrink back further into my room, feeling a slight chill, and a small sense of unease creeping up my back. Too many nights without sleep, I think.

There is another knock. I open the door again.

He is there, in the day. He has taken control now. It has taken time, but he has broken me. He is there, in the day, clad in white rags, with his arm outstretched. Maybe he has come to shake my hand. Maybe he has come to kill me.

 

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Ianthine Interviews: Michael Frost

It was my pleasure to interview the horror author Michael Frost.  You can find him at his website, where you can read a wealth of his stories,  or by following him on Twitter.

 

What do you find inspires you most for writing horror? Do you find the real world has more inspiration to offer than your imagination?

I knew it; it would be the very first question which I would have difficulty answering. HA!

What inspires me? Hmm, more often than not it’s a single verse or the melody of a song which tends to manifest creative visions, but more so, ideas just sort of come to me all different times of the day whilst doing just about anything. On a few occasions I will dream it and wake, but I don’t keep a steno pad near my bed. I have always figured that if I can’t remember it come morning, then it simply wasn’t worth writing in the first place.

When it comes to real world I try to leave it be. True crime, real horrors and documentaries of such don’t interest me in the least. I find my imagination to be more frighteningly detailed and I am quite happy that those thoughts are not actually happening in the real world.

What are your favourite horror movies? Favourite director?

I will give you one of my all-time faves and I know your blog readers may hiss and boo, but The Blair Witch Project really got under my skin. It was fresh and original, and spooky-eerie as hell. Did you know that people who saw the movie actually got angry and felt ‘lied to’ when they found out it was just fiction. HA! Anyways, with that flick I just don’t know; there is something about it…

I also love the original Evil Dead.

One of my favourite directors is Guillermo del Toro; so visionary, great stories/writing as well.

Why do you think people like scaring themselves? Guillermo del Toro described horror movies as “roller coasters of the soul”. Would you agree with this when it comes down to scary stories (in whatever medium)?

I think people are generally suckers for it. We feed off the adrenaline rush it produces, just like the disgust we get from the morbidity of gawking at a nasty traffic accident. We are drawn to it, yanked to it to be more to the point. In both comparisons we get to witness horrors and terrors, but we ourselves don’t actually experience it. We do this when we cover our eyes at a really scary part in a movie, but don’t we always peek? Surely a haunted house during the Halloween season scares the crap out of us, and we shift our feet more often as we near the entrance in anticipation of what lies beyond (usually drawn by the screams of folks already inside blasting outward), but we still hand over our ticket and enter regardless, right?

When it comes to Guillermo del Toro’s quote I would say he’s pretty dead on balls with a sledgehammer (he’s one of my favourite faves by the way).

Do you aim to scare and otherwise provoke yourself with your own writing, or does your own writing not affect you like that? Should a horror author try and scare themselves first if they wish to scare their audience?

Oh I do try to scare myself, or at least freak myself out! If I can scare myself—there are very few things in this world I am fearful of—then I am doing something right. There has been many-O-times in the past which I freaked myself out enough that I start turning on lights, my writing is done for the evening and I go watch a comedy or a nature program (lights still on mind you).

What are your favourite ever books (of any genre)? Favourite author?

Some of my favourite ever books would be The Good Earth, by Pearl S. Buck; Philip K. Dick’s Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?; IT and Needful Things by Stephen King; the Hunt for Red October, by Tom Clancy and Jackdaws, by Ken Follett. Hmm, did I mention just about everything written by (Sir) Terry Pratchett? Love his works!

Do you have any favourite evocative words to use when writing horror fiction, that you keep using because of their effect/way they sound?

I like the word ‘caligionous’; I have used that one often. ‘Whisper’ is a good one too, quite flexible, oh, and ‘teeth!’ Yeah, no one likes the idea of ‘teeth’ in any horror context.

Do you think horror relies on as much as having a ‘good story’ as other genres, or can it rely more on having a certain ‘feel’ or atmosphere to it that other genres can’t?

In all aspects, the horror genre is not much different than any other (albeit the occasional monster in the cellar surely sets a rather disturbing and poignant definitive line in the sand). A story—a real story—has to be there, if not, it’s just pulp. Much akin to a real horror film and a gore-fest film (i.e. Saw, every Friday the 13th movie after part 3, etc.). The feel and the atmosphere—as with any genre—must be present as well. If you do it right, this should be established straight away—the ‘hook’— with an opening which clearly informs the reader that something really bad is about to happen.

In short? All of it.

Who is your favourite villain that another author/director/actor has created, and your favourite villain that you yourself have created?

My favourite made-for-me-villain? Hmm…In horror I would say George Stark in Stephen King’s book The Dark Half (he was just wicked-evil); non-horror, but dark noir/thriller nonetheless [I like conjunctive adverbs too btw per question #5], I would go with Harry Powell from the movie The Night of the Hunter played by Robert Mitchum (amazing lighting effects in that flick too).

There are many, never just one, sadly.

My favourite made-by-me-villain would be Staad (from a novel of the same name [unpublished; in the process of]); he’s a very bad man.

Do you prefer visceral gore horror or psychological horror? Which of these do you think better suits books as opposed to their translation in movies?

I prefer the psychological; that’s where true horror lies and can translate well into movies with limited special effects (i.e. The Exorcist). It’s easier to crawl under the skin and into the human soul of fears and phobias this way. When it comes to splatter-fests, albeit at times psychological might require the gore), it’s a visual necessity in the long run. Sure, one may write out the gore and have the reader squirm, but are they afraid, or simply grossed out?

Do you think horror can ever go ‘too far’? Whether in movies or books. Do you try and push against boundaries yourself? And have you ever held back?

Yes, it can clearly go way too far. Take the banned movie Siberia [Set: I think Michael means A Serbian Film, on which specific example I happen to disagree with him on!]; supposedly horrific, but it was just sick, sick, sick. Personally I do try to push socially acceptable boundaries and ‘Political Correctness’ is a lame-ass farce which people should stop using in daily speak and attitudes. When it comes to holding back I only did this when I started writing horror in my latter teen years, only because my mother read a lot of my works so I suppose I would feel ashamed at what came from my noggin. In time, well, the gloves came off.

Do you see your characters as your playthings, and you can exact whatever horrible acts you like upon them, or are you more sympathetic to their (fictional!) desires for life and freedom and try to write them as though you want them to succeed and pull through?

*Shrugs* If my characters wish for sympathy they can look in the Webster’s Collegiate dictionary between the words Shit and Syphilis and they’ll find it. Now, before I call myself Master of Fictional Puppets, I will say that like most of my writing, the characters come through in the end when I originally planned on bumping them off and vice versa. In my world of authoring, stories whisper to me what happens; my job is to simply write them down accordingly. This is why I never use outlines (quite against them actually), for a real story needs space to stretch and grow; to develop on its own. It doesn’t need me hindering it by predetermining the Five W’s and the acceptable: How.

The ‘creator’s curse’ is the idea that one learns and improves while developing a project (in this case, writing a book), and so always finishes a step ahead from when they started, thus are always disappointed with the strength of their previous project, now and always believing themselves of doing better than before. Are you familiar with this curse with your own writing? Are you always pursuing producing something better than your last?

Familiar, yes, but nothing I practice.

I have spent a good long time developing my writing style, my voice, and with this voice/style I write one story to the next with only the current idea before me. Whether it is better or worse, or in a horror-writer’s case, scarier or milder than the last is not a notion I am ever preoccupied with. In truth, I look at a story once I have completed, reread and edited on whether or not it is marketable or not. If so, it is submitted, if not, it is kept personal, or shared on my blog or one of the writing sites I belong to.

My advice to any writer so to avoid the ‘curse’ is to never judge your own work. I have written things I thought was amazing and received a moderate acceptance, where on the other things I have stories out there I HATED and were well welcomed. In the end, to fall victim to the ‘curse’ is much akin to a heroine or crack user chasing the dragon. You are going to get your highest high the first time out, and by chasing it to get that original high again is futile because One, it will never happen and Two, you will eventually OD.

Do you believe that contentment is the enemy of invention?

I feel that it is one of Inventions many enemies out there lurking, but I feel the true enemy, the very worse one of all, is self-doubt. Forget doubt! Screw that! Write that book/novella/story/poem and be done with it. When you finally type the words, ‘THE END’, you can breathe with a sigh of relief, pat yourself on the back and grow a smile. Who cares if it doesn’t satisfy the masses? Hell, most people out there can never say they have ever written a book, so you are surely a leap ahead of the average bear.

How long have you been writing for? Did you always want to be an author?

I have been writing now for nearly 31 years, so since age 11; 25 years as a horror writer. Originally I wrote fantasy (I was a big D&D and Tolkien fan; long before they became popular in the theatres), but then the Darkness found me.

Yes, from the age of twelve, being an author was all I ever wanted to be. I packed away the visions of being an astronaut and banged away at the keys on the big Royal manual typewriter my dad got me from a resale shop. Loved that beast (rest in peace).

When did your obsession with horror start, and what were (and are) your biggest influences for your own writing (whether other authors, films, music, art etc.)?

To answer this would be rather long, and a bit personal, but the skinny of it was when I was 17 years old. Nothing or no one directly influenced it; to be quite honest I hated horror of all kinds until one day the Horror Michael simply woke up and started whispering to me. Besides developing other personas over the years, each with their own genre, I have never looked back in terms of my passion for horror. I suppose one day I will tell the whole story of Why, How, When, Where…very few people know this, only two people know every detail of such. I am content with that for now.

What do you think the worst thing is about modern horror fiction?

Ooh, this is a toughie and can potentially be a long answer, so let me state flatly: Originality.

Sure, the common dialogue is: “There’s no originality left in the world…it’s all been done before!”

That’s bullshit. IF all of it has already been done before, then there’s no reason at all to read or write the latest greatest of anything by anyone! Let’s face it, there are some stories that will be revisited (Dracula, Frankenstein and his monster, and so on), but they are done differently, yes? If they were not, outside of friends, family, or self-publishing, no one would read it because no one (publishers) would buy it.

Oh! A close runner up would be the Twilight series…I think just mentioning it speaks for itself (effing sparkling vampires…PFFFFT!)

Do you ever find real world people creeping into your novels in the guise of fictional characters?

All the time, but they never ‘creep’; I intentionally use people I know or have met in my stories. Depending on how well I like you will equate to how I will kill you in my writings. I mean, I may let you live (rarely), but yeah; often I do this.

Which of your stories would you most like to be made into a movie? Any thoughts as to who would play the main characters?

A few of them actually. Happy Springs, When Madness Calls, Sowing Seeds, several others. When it comes to actors/actresses, the only story I actually visualized someone would be Happy Springs. The female County Sheriff I pictured Cherry Jones who played Officer Paski in the movie, Signs. Yeah, she’s tough!

I nearly always write a story while visualising it as a movie. While writing, do you visualise the scenes played out as if you were watching a movie?

No, never as a movie, per se, but when I have crossed the eliminator line between writing the story and breathing the story, I no longer see the screen before me. No more blinking cursor, or margins or the words appearing magically before me; none of it. When I am completely engrossed in it, I often close my eyes and let my fingers work, allowing the words to become crystal visions as if it was happening. Sadly on more than one occasion, I gave myself the heebie-jeebies many-a-night doing this. The writing screeches to a halt for the evening, on comes the lights in my home office, as well as any room I venture; erasing every shadow.

Are you disciplined with your writing? Do you make yourself write every day? Or are you a brilliant procrastinator?

Hmm, disciplined? HAHAHAHA! Well, in all honesty the more you become proficient in something, the more corners you learn to cut, or at least, play hooky. I do tend to write something daily, or at least edit, but once I am into something new or returning to something old I have let simmer, then it’s on and that’s number one to me until it’s done.

What is your personal most effective remedy for writer’s block?

I use several methods, but the most effective is that I take walks. Since I tend to only write at night, walks at two or so in the morning seems to help. The city is quiet, the air seems cleaner and depending on the seasons only the night-bugs and/or an occasional raccoon or rabbit is about. Sometimes I envision they are plotting to mug me and leave me for dead; this at least sparks the creative juices.

A bit of an ambiguous question: ebooks or print books? Would you always prefer something that you can hold in your hand?

Printed books; hands down, bar none. Just the feel of a book in your hands is like a fountain of magic, a whole world in your palms! You don’t need to charge them, you can drop them, get them wet and dry them off, use them as step stools if you stack them and they still work! Try that with a hundred-dollar Kindle. HA!

My favourite comment ever made to me about one once was, “Well I can keep a whole library on here!”

Yeah? Well I have a library at home and you only can read one at a time (monkeys!).

What is a passion of yours that has absolutely nothing to do with horror?

Cooking, classical music, travelling, photography, and making my own wine.

If you had to be one of the classic Universal monsters for the rest of your life – The Mummy, Dracula, Frankenstein, Wolf-Man etc. – which would you be?

The Blob. I mean, they dropped that puppy off in the arctic so it’s in stasis and well, with Global Warming, I’d come back! Those other creature-creepers? They were all vanquished. HA!

Most overrated monster stereotype and most cliche horror trope?

Romantic vampires and zombies, albeit The Walking Dead kicks major ass! I love it!

What did you get up to this last Hallowe’en?

Scaring both children and adults alike and then gave them candy as they cried on the porch. I really think one child peed. Good times, yeah, good times. <Insert wicked smile here>

My dear old mother just can’t understand how people can be attracted to all these dark, bloody and morbid stories, whether it is books, movies, videogames or art. Would you have an answer for her? Why are you drawn to such things?

Sounds like my mother in the past at times (rest in peace). For her I would shrug and simply tell her: ‘One can’t have light without the dark, and if you could, it would certainly be a rather boring place, wouldn’t it.’ In the case of my mother, she would just look at me silently, shake her head and then sigh. She wanted me to write mysteries; she was a big-time avid Agatha Christie reader and fan.

For me, I really don’t have an answer to this. This question stumped me for a couple days and I even asked myself, ‘Self? Why do we write this shit?’ Self simply shrugged and said: ‘Because we can.’

HAHAHA! I know that’s not really a suitable answer, but in all fairness and truth, it’s the best one I can ever give. I didn’t seek out horror as I stated earlier, it did me, and to this day I don’t know why. Most people don’t believe me when I tell them I tend to not read any horror, and watch very few horror films these days (save the classics). To give an example, the last ‘new’ Stephen King book I read was Nightmares & Dreamscapes a few years after it came out in 1993! Now, it’s not because I don’t want to read King or any other horror writer therein, but instead it’s ANYTHING; any author, any genre, just anything. The way my odd brain works, it is so easy to start picking up and adapting another’s writing style as easy as picking up a southern accent if you stay there long enough. It simply happens, so when I am in the process of writing something new, all books and stories are forbidden.

Zombie survival situation. You get a ranged weapon and a melee weapon – what do you choose?

Ranged: .30-06 (I am a surgeon with one of those [but of course in the TWD Universe they would hear the report, so a nice compound bow)

Melee:    Hatchet

You’re suddenly inside your own stories. Fight or flight?

I’m a fighter.

Heroes or villains?

Villains!

Werewolves or vampires?

I guess I will have to say Vampires here. (Do Werepires exist!?!?).

Finally, are you working on something new, and what can you tell us about it?

Yes, I am. I started something new a few weeks ago which I figured would just be a short story, but it has left that realm and is now a working novelette, quickly becoming a novella with a whispering hint of a novel length. Basically there’s no end in sight. Currently untitled…I just call it, ‘The Story’.

It’s about every horror writers past time: Death.

Thanks for the interview Michael!

Once again, you can find the nightghast Michael Frost on his website, or on Twitter.

 

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